I Asked Jordan Peterson: Women Preaching & 1 Timothy

Women Preaching/Teaching Debate Background

We know the debate about women preaching/teaching in church is at the forefront of today’s discussions. Before we get to Jordan Peterson’s comments, I’ll provide a brief recent history overview. Back in June of 2019 Dwight McKissic debated Tom Ascol and the title was, “Should Women Preach in Our Lord’s Day Worship?” Part of Pastor McKissic’s argument was to cite the point of the late Dr. R.C. Sproul. R.C. argued what Paul forbid was women teaching and/or holding authority over a man from a position of juridical authority. R.C. taught women can, in some settings, speak on Sunday. What they cannot do in the church is hold juridical authority and preach/teach exercising that authority. The teaching from R.C. was titled, “The Role of Women in the Church” and was said it dates perhaps to the early 80’s. This was according to a statement made from Ligonier Ministries. After the debate, many from Ascol’s position, along with R.C.’s family, lobbied to have Ligonier remove the teaching from their website. They asserted R.C. no longer held that view – I might add no conclusive evidence was produced to show that was true. (I may write on that in a future post).  

Out of that came an article I wrote called, “Why Biology Shapes Juridical Roles in the Church”. You can read it, but for those who choose not to, here is the synopsis. The reason Paul grounds the 1 Timothy mandate in the creation order is because, at root, men are biologically disposed to defend a truth (doctrine) in a way which is different than women. I concluded, at root, this was because on average men are more interested in things and women are more interested in people. Therefore, God instituted those who at the biological level was more likely not to relent on doctrine because in their minds they saw it as a “thing”. That was my conclusion and still is, but I did not know if the psychological literature supported the conclusion. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I asked Jordan Peterson what he thought of that analysis.   

Question Set-Up:

A few things you should know. We were in the large Chicago Theatre with no microphone. I used my iPhone to record his response and with coughing and rustling I lost some of his words, however I captured most of his replies word for word. When you see below (…inaudible) this will indicate that a word or two dropped. I typed everything that was said. I did not edit it to make it flow better, so if it is clunky, know it is what was said. Also, a friend of mind asked about part of my phrasing. Since she had the question, I thought others would too. In my question, I state Paul said men are to protect the doctrines of the church. I phrased it that way for time’s sake. That does not mean women are not to defend doctrine and I want to make that point clear. Finally, I want to call out that after I asked the question, Dr. Peterson paused for 31 seconds pondering and staring and I find that fascinating. Why do I? No idea, but I do.

Michael Goff Question:

“There is a theological question I have been wrestling with and I want to get your thoughts from a psychological perspective. In 1 Timothy chapter two the Apostle Paul states the juridical authority within a church should be held by men, that is the doctrines that are protected, should be led by men and he grounds that in two ways. He said in the beginning Adam was created first, not Eve, and I take that to be an argument from responsibility, it was his responsibility. And two, Eve was deceived, not Adam. You said in one of your talks this, “neither medicine nor clinical psychology are sciences, they are variances of engineering. They are attempting to build something, there is an end in mind, there is an ethical end in mind.” My thought was, is there any psychological data that says men process the defense of a truth, like doctrine, in an engineering fashion, so that they see it in their mind as a “thing”? Which, if you are trying to protect the doctrines of a church you would want the person at the biological level who is more interested in things, which are men generally, than women, who are more interested in people. What are your thoughts on that?

Jordan Peterson Response:

“I am at a loss really (… inaudible) you might think well, that might mean the church is, one of the things it might mean, is if a culture is open to the possibility of rectifying the situation with these roles and open to new ideas (… inaudible) the same thing… really let an outsider in so that is one question. There is big literature that shows that the education success of a child, the education success attainment of the mother, is a better predicter than the education attainment of the father. In fact, the data I know shows if you control for the mother’s education the father’s education (… inaudible) in addition to that, so that’s interesting – so that’s on the plus side. On the negative side, the research we did does indicate that being female was a much bigger predictor of the likelihood of holding politically correct views. So, we have no idea what large scale institutions run by women would look like because we have never had them before, and it could easily be that it would work just fine, and it could easily be that it would be a big bloody disaster and the truth of the matter is we don’t know. So, what do we do about that? That’s a good question, I really don’t know the answer to that, ya know. It looks to me that female dominated professions tend to place extraordinarily high emphasis on the virtue of compassion and that would be in keeping with temperamental differences between women and men. And it isn’t obvious to me that compassion is the right basis to run large scale social organizations. It could be a virtue (…inaudible) that is more suitable for (…inaudible) we don’t know… I can tell you something we do know though. If you look for what predicts performance in large scale social organizations it’s not compassion, it’s conscientiousness. Now men and women are both conscientious (…inaudible) so. I don’t think anyone knows the answer to your question, but that’s the best I’ve got – that’s a two-sided answer… There is a puzzle there and I am not quite sure how to address it, so.”

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