Deborah and the Gender Debate image

Deborah and the Gender Debate

Here's a very thoughtful article on Deborah, and the way she gets (mis)applied in the gender debate, by our friend Phil Whittall over at The Simple Pastor. Phil holds a wise middle line between rampantly complementarian interpretations of the story (Deborah only led God's people because all the men were incompetent duffers) and rampantly egalitarian ones (Deborah was a prophet, so women can be elders, QED). After carefully explaining the role of the judge in the book of Judges, and explaining what Deborah does and doesn't mean for today, he concludes:

So what do we do? The dangers are obvious: play her down and diminish her, or play her up & make her out to be what she was not. The uncomfortable path is in the middle, as you upset both sides - but it seems to be the most responsible course. Her spiritual gifts, both prophetic and wisdom, are gifts that are not gender restricted, so she clearly serves as a powerful role model there. Her charisma shouldn’t be doubted or made less of by focusing on Barak, and there seems to be no good reason to be worried by strong, charismatic women exercising their gifts today.
However, Deborah wasn’t a priest, she wasn’t a queen, she wasn’t a prime minister, she wasn’t lots of things, and an OT judge (male or female) is not a precursor to a New Testament church elder, so she is an uncomfortable fit if you try and do that. As would Gideon, Samson and every other judge be, except for possibly Samuel. So we carry over what should be carried over, we leave behind what shouldn’t be, and we give thanks to God for the life of Deborah.

The whole thing is worth a read - and if you have the inclination, Phil’s tone and clarity in the comments is also a model of how to do this sort of thing.

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