Robert Lewis Dabney (1820-1898) on how the prohibition of female preachers is not a statement on women’s worth:
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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