Not Because She Is Inferior To Man


Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898):

A second answer is seen to this plea in the nature of the apostle’s grounds for the law. Not one of them is personal, local, or temporary. Nor does he say that woman must not preach in public because he regards her as less pious, less zealous, less eloquent, less learned, less brave, or less intellectual, than man. In the advocates of woman’s right to this function there is a continual tendency to a confusion of thought, as though the apostle, when he says that woman must not do what man does, meant to disparage her sex. This is a sheer mistake. His reasoning will be searched in vain for any disparagement of the qualities and virtues of that sex; and we may at this place properly disclaim all such intention also. Woman is excluded from this masculine task of public preaching by Paul, not because she is inferior to man, but simply because her Maker has ordained for her another work which is incompatible with this. So he might have pronounced, as nature does, that she shall not sing bass, not because he thought the bass chords the more beautiful- perhaps he thought the pure alto of the feminine throat far the sweeter- but because her very constitution fits her for the latter part in the concert of human existence, and therefore unfits her for the other, the coarser and less melodious part…

Every true believer should regard the scriptural argument as first, as sufficient, and as conclusive by itself. But as the apostle said in one place, that his task was “to commend himself to every man’s conscience in God’s sight,” so it is proper to gather the teachings of sound human prudence and experience which support God’s wise law. The justification is not found in any disparagement of woman as man’s natural inferior, but in the primeval fact: “Male and female made he them.” In order to ground human society God saw it necessary to fashion for man’s mate, not his exact image, but his counterpart. Identity would have utterly marred their companionship, and would have been an equal curse to both. But out of this unlikeness in resemblance it must obviously follow that each is fitted for works and duties unsuitable for the other. And it is no more a degradation to the woman that the man can best do some things which she cannot do so well, than to the man that woman has her natural superiority in other things.

~The Public Preaching of Women

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4 thoughts on “Not Because She Is Inferior To Man

  1. In that concert, man sings one way and women another. Should women who sing bass not sing at all? Or because men sing should women not sing? I think that women were meant to teach just as much as men are because it’s a human task. Women should preach because their goal is to be christlike … and any one, man or woman, who wants to be like christ must preach and teach like he did.

    • Thank you for your thoughts! By your logic, though, every single Christian would have to be an itinerant preacher with no career or family. I don’t see that being taught in the scriptures but maybe you have a verse you can point to that supports your position?

      • Isn’t that the gist of Jesus’ teachings? That people can’t take their families with them to heaven? That anyone who left behind their flesh-and-blood family would find a spiritual family in the church? The problem with Dabney’s concept is that it’s framed in his time where singleness was practically unheard of – in a world where 50% of the population is single, it creates an awkward question about what to do about women who have no men to complete them; and what do to with men who have no interest in marriage. Then again, Christians aren’t called to marriage and birthing new believers into the world – but reaching the ones that are already here and that can only be done by going to where they are.

      • Well, if you take the New Testament as given, there is no problem with singleness. Some people are called to be single. That said, being single doesn’t mean one is automatically called to be a preacher.

        As for marriage and children, you will have to elaborate on where you are getting the idea from that Christians are not supposed to marry or have children. Except for the Shakers, I haven’t come across this teaching before and find it at odds with what Scripture teaches.

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