In my last post on this subject, I listed some of the areas where women are given opportunities for teaching in a Christian context. Since then I have thought of another one. Certainly evangelism is a form of teaching, and all believers are called to this: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).
But now I’d like to address the stickier subject of just what kind of teaching is biblically excluded for women. 1 Timothy 2:12 is our main text: “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
Before trying to apply this verse, I’d like to look at the overall context of Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul is laying out instructions on how to be a good pastor and a faithful teacher. He gives detailed instructions on many church-related topics: church government, prayer, church leadership, qualifications of church officers, what to teach, how to treat the church members of different ages, and specific instructions regarding men, women, widows, elders, slaves, and the rich.
The recurring theme in this letter is the central duty for a minister: faithful teaching. Paul addresses Timothy repeatedly about this: “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ…” (4:6); “These things command and teach” (4:11); and in 6:2, “Teach and exhort these things.”
Backing up to the opening chapter, we see that Paul had given Timothy directions earlier (1:1-7) regarding appointing others to teach: “…that you may charge some that they teach…”
Paul identifies himself (2:7) as “appointed a preacher and an apostle….a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth,” and related to this is his grave concern regarding false teachers and false doctrine in the church (chapters 1, 4, and 6). Seeing this thematic background to the letter (Paul’s dual concerns about faithful teaching and guarding against false teaching) will help us as we look at his strong stance against women teaching and having authority in the church. But first let’s look at the references to teaching, both faithful and false.
In 3:2, the rulers of the church (a bishop or overseer) must be “able to teach.” These are the men (we know they are men because they must be “the husband of one wife”) who are given authority in the church. They must be qualified, appointed, and able to teach. This is important. Paul has instructed Timothy previously on this topic (1:3) and he is laying out more details in this letter on appointing qualified men.
In chapter 4:6 Paul shows Timothy how to be a good teacher: “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.”
This exhortation to instruct the brethren is sandwiched between a description of the bad doctrine of those who have departed from the faith (4:1-2) and of profane and old wives’ fables (4:7).
Those who have left the faith are now “giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (4:1-3). Sounds like these guys were, first, eager to get the microphone; second, they assumed authority by “commanding” others; and third, they had an agenda (doctrines of demons). They taught false things with false authority.
In 4:7 Paul says to “reject profane and old wives’ fables.” This is similar to 1:4 where Timothy is to charge those who are teachers not to “give heed to fables and endless genealogies which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.”
These false teachers (1:5-7) are hungry to teach with authority from the law: “…some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.” These guys are idle and have no idea what they are talking about.
Paul gives instructions on how to handle these false teachers: “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself” (6:3-5).
So I hope you see now that this is a letter devoted to guarding both the office of teacher and the purity of the content of the teaching. This is Paul’s central concern for the church.
Given the context, when we look at his directions regarding women, we can see it is not just a random verse dangling out of nowhere. Paul wants good order and faithful teaching. He wants the women to dress in a way that is consistent with their profession of Christ, and he wants them to be learners, not authoritative teachers “over a man.” His justification for this is the creation order (Adam being formed first) and Eve’s vulnerability to deception.
Now remember that the church had been hassled with false teaching. Some of the young widows in the church (5:12) had learned to be idle busybodies, which would set them up to be misled by false teachers: “For some have already turned aside after Satan” (5:15).
If we look at Paul’s second letter to Timothy, we see that some of the women have been deceived by false teachers. (Read verses 2-5 to get a description of these bad guys.) They are the kind “who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:6-7).
Timothy had his hands full, and in 2 Tim. 3:13-15, Paul tells him it’s just going to get worse: “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from who you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (I referred to this verse in my last post in which I pointed out that Timothy’s mother and grandmother had instructed him in the faith.)
It seems to me that forbidding the women to teach or have authority over the men is a safeguard for Timothy. It’s bad enough having male false teachers running around, and it’s likely that some women must have also been teaching bad doctrine with false authority, or why would Paul address this so directly? Add to this that the women need protection because they are more vulnerable to deception.
Because these are directions for a pastoral ministry, I don’t think it’s a leap to assume that it covers all the general teaching activities of the church community. The men who are targeting weak women by creeping into households are not leading a Sunday school class before worship. They are out and about, looking for takers. The message of the “profane and idle” (2 Tim. 2:16-17) “will increase to more ungodliness” and “spread like cancer.” So this does not look like Paul is only concerned for church sponsored events and Wednesday night Bible studies.
When we read these instructions, we obviously have to use wisdom to interpret our own application of them. Do false teachers set up blogs? Yes. Do false teachers write books, teach conferences, and send out mass emails? Yes. Pastors should be warning their congregations against such things. How? By using blogs, writing books, teaching conferences, and sending out mass emails. And of course they can use their pulpit for such things as well.
Can women teach? I’ve already devoted a whole article to the many opportunities open to us for teaching. Do I put up posters downtown announcing that I’m going to teach Philippians to anyone and everyone? No. Not my job. Do I lead a parish Bible study where we go over the Sunday sermon? Nope. We have elders who do that. Do I speak to mixed groups? Sometimes, depending on the topic and the setting. Is it always crystal clear? No. I often need to think about it, pray for wisdom, and talk it over with my husband first. Then we make a decision, taking into account the authority of 1 Timothy 2:12, and having no problem whatsoever with 1 Timothy 2:12.
42 thoughts on “Women Teaching Women Part III”
thank you for these clear words. after the discussion here, I took out a book that i had sitting around that is trying to convince that yes, women should lead and teach, but when i skipped through it i found that really it was mashing up all the different jobs ( deacons, pastor,…) and using this as a base to say that women indeed should teach even in authority over men, which i simply do not find in scripture, even when considering the different interpretations of the greek words used for wife/woman etc.
so thank you for writing this out clearly. it just makes so much more sense than trying to bend the Word until we have gender equality. who cares if there is a 50/50 quota of men/women in teaching positions? we should be where we were called to be.
Thank you for this. It is much needed to be said and taught as there are enough books, blogs, conferences, and bad examples out there muddying the waters.
Personally, I find it challenging enough to do whatever very clearly laid out for women to do without trying to add some position outside of that to the list. Although I must admit, in my early days I did try to sidestep into things I should not have. Thankfully, an older woman grabbed hold of me and sat me down and taught me as a woman should teach a younger woman. God’s plan works.
First, I want to thank the Presiding Minister and his wife of the denomination in which I am a member for these constant posts on women and submission. It has, by God’s kindness to me, made me desirous of devouring the Word of God to find the truth. As my husband will attest; I have been so thankful for a clear understanding that I have woken him in the middle of the night to tell him of my joy in being free from this teaching called “patriarchy.”
This Part 3 in a series brings to conclusion the problems with the interpretation that I’d like to address. Nancy states that, “Before trying to apply this verse, I’d like to look at the overall context of Paul’s letter to Timothy.” But I don’t see any overall context in the post. So let’s start there.
One consideration is the historical context in which Paul was writing his letter. It was a very scary time for women. Religions of the day were rife with combining sexual intercourse as religious acts. To list just a few, the worship of Bacchus, the god of wine and fertility, of Cybele, the Mother Goddess, and many of the mystery cults often took on an orgiastic display. There was a “reenactment” yearly of the rebirth of vegetation and hope for abundant fertility of cattle and wives. There were temple prostitutes. The god Marduk had his sexual desires fulfilled when women were expected to spend the night in a room at the top of a tower to satisfy the god. According to Herodotus, every woman was required to go to the temple of Ishtar in Babylon at least once in her lifetime and engage in sexual intercourse with a stranger.
During Paul’s time in particular, Corinth was known as a center for religious prostitution. In Ephesus “female temple slaves or ‘priestesses’ who came as virgins were here dedicated to service in the temple which may have included ritual or cultic prostitution.”
Logically when Paul instructs women to keep silent- context matters. Women’s safety absolutely depended upon a bit of seclusion and silence when he wrote this letter. For safety sake, women needed to be out of the limelight. But it actually might not really have been all about that either.
Second problem with this post is that the one sentence- women are to keep silent- is dangled out there all by itself and doesn’t make sense when put in the context of the entire Bible.
Paul says, “Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as THE LAW SAYS.” (1 Cor. 14:34) Not one trace of such a command can be found in the Bible. 1 Timothy had not yet been written by Paul. And no Corinthian would have been familiar with the trendy new interpretation used today in patriarchy circles. (You can read all that in my blog by searching Genesis 3:16) So logically, this law to which he refers is not biblical law. And oddly it’s not a state law either. There was one law however that would have made sense- the “Golden Rule,” the idea of “hupotassomai”- a voluntary submitting to the orderliness of the meeting. That same word used in Ephesians 5:21- “Be subject (hupotassomai) to one another, out of reverence for Christ.” That the Christian church even allowed women to worship was a crazy new idea in that time. Women were used to being excluded, they needed to learn “the rules;” and one of the rules was “no talking in the service,” decent and orderly. Understand where women’s place had been prior to being admitted to the service; of course interrupting and speaking up would have been a normal activity.
If we conclude from that single verse that Paul is closing the mouth of every Christian woman, what do we do with the myriad of faithful, devout, godly women written of in the Bible. And it really will not do to cheapen their work with “the men were weenies so the women had to step up”:
Miriam- Exodus 15:20
Deborah- Judges 4 & 5
daughters of Zelophedad- Numbers 27:1-7
Huldah- II Kings 22
women who prophesied in song- 1 Chron. 25
and to women who “prophesy out of their own hearts” NOT the prophesying itself- Ezekial 13:17
Women prophesying- Joel 2
And then the New Testament too:
Anna- Luke 2:36-38
The women CHRIST called to SPEAK in public- Luke 8:47, Luke 13:13
Peter to a woman prophesying Acts 2:16- 18
Peter exhorts the praying and prophesying woman- I Cor. 11:5
Paul approved of women praying and prophesying during worship. He insisted that men and women should be together, and that in Christ they are one- “neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Paul was a renegade in a time when Aristotle, Aquinas, and all philosophers had disdain for women. Paul raised women up and gave them a place and a voice in the Christian church.
We have regressed.
Thank you for being a faithful teacher, Nancy.
I am also thankful for your teaching! I have been blessed by you and your girls over and over!
Thanks for the post. Terri covered most of my questions, but there are a couple things I’m still a little puzzled by and hope you can clear up.
1) Wouldn’t the logical corrective for keeping women from teaching falsely be to prohibit them from learning as opposed to preventing them from teaching? Or since the letter and your post both imply that the false teachers were mostly men, maybe women should barred from learning from men? Yet Paul says none of that and he specifically says in verse 11 that women are allowed to learn.
Further than that, if the point here is that women are learning and then teaching bad doctrine, then why in the world would they still be allowed to teach other women and children? Wouldn’t men be the very least likely group to be able to discern these problems and so avoid being deceived? Yet this is not the case as your last post about women teaching women and children points out.
2) None of this answers the examples of women teaching men, even authoritatively teaching men the Bible, that Terri points out. What of Deborah? What of Huldah? What of all the others? How do they fit into the interpretation that you have laid out? I get the feeling that you think they are exceptions; but when I look at them, they seem to comprise examples of virtually every authority position that a man can hold except for priest and it’s successor, elder.
You say that the examples you list are the ones you see, but I’m beginning to feel a little like you are leaving pertinent cases out of your data set because they don’t support your conclusion. You know, sort of like ta da! All the data proves Global Warming! I’m not trying to mis-characterize what you are saying. You just haven’t said anything at all about those cases, and I really would like to know how the women on that list fit into your interpretation, specifically Deborah, Huldah, Miriam, and Anna. Thanks again for your time.
I wanted to throw in my two bits if I may. First, I find it a bit ironic that you feel my mother is trying to stifle, muzzle, or otherwise oppress women. She’s clearly not saying women can’t teach . . . I mean, on the face of it that’s absurd. She’s a teacher herself, is fairly well known for it, and has been for years! Take a glance back through the archives . . . how many thousands of words has she spent on teaching? She’s put her teaching out there on the world wide web and on the shelves of bookstores – and I haven’t seen her panicking that maybe a man might have read or learned from something she wrote. How many books has she authored? And they weren’t silly romance novels – all of them are books that teach the word. She’s spoken at conferences for years, and now that she’s going to speak at another one, people seem to worry for her that she might be being stifled. To be honest this just seems funny. All the women you mention in your comment who were given the chance to influence and teach – my mom would fit right in with those ladies!
Secondly, I wanted to nit-pick just a bit with regard to your historical context. Firstly, any glance through ancient lit will tell you that when it came to the worship of Bacchus, it was the women you had to watch out for. Rather than that being a bit of ancient misogynist oppression, the Maenads were actually the ones rushing about the countryside, pulling the men limb from limb in a bloody frenzy. It was the men who wanted to run inside and shut the drapes when the Bacchic rites rolled around. And the worship in Babylon that you cite, as recorded by Herodotus, is half a millennia (and geographically over 1,000 miles) away from the setting of Paul’s writing. So it’s a bit funny to bring it in as a sample of how you set the context for his letter. That would be like me trying to frame something that you said by supplying the historical context of a quote from a Mexican author in the 1500s. It seems to be a bit provincial to think that all ancient authors were from the same “world” just because they all lived a long time ago.
And finally, Aristotle was 300 years before, and Aquinas was 1200 years after Paul. To say, “Paul was a renegade in a time when Aristotle, Aquinas, and all philosophers had disdain for women” seems to also display a somewhat confused idea of who was saying what and when.
Also Terri, Paul being a renegade in Aquinas’ time would require one or the other of them to time travel over a thousand years….
Oops, somehow missed that last bit of bekah’s above.
Someone told me the wagons were circling and this will be it from me. I stand by my comment here and you can sort out the minutiae of dating and get all distracted by that and miss the MAIN point of the comment if you’d like with a red herring here about dates and piddly stuff. Or you can stick to the main issue- Patriarchy is not in keeping with scripture.
Or you can understand that there has been a very heavy emphasis throughout time in cults and false religions of keeping women down :
The interpretation of scripture- concerning patriarchy in particular- that I read from your dad, the Presiding Minister, and your mom does not reflect what Christ or Paul said about women. And yay, you and your family of females write stuff and talk. But posts like this about women make me squeamish:
It is a bit like Obama being for his healthcare system and for public schools for everyone else and then choosing for his family elite health care and Sidwell Friends. Because, well, the apple tree.
I haven’t seen you comment yet on any of the three parts in this series, and I don’t know how closely you’ve been following it, so I just wanted to recap for you real quick.
First, no one, not your mother nor Terri nor anyone else is claiming or even implying that women cannot teach at all. Part II covers several instances of women teaching, and your mother has taught for several years as you noted.
This issue specifically came up in response to the fact that although there are women speaking at the pre-conference, no women at all are speaking at the main conference. No women speaking at a conference on marriage is a very puzzling choice, especially considering that the keynote speaker is married to a woman who has been teaching and writing on the subject for years. So, that was the prompt for this series of articles.
Your mother’s position, and I hope that this is restating it accurately, is that I Tim. 2:12 prohibits women from publicly teaching the Bible to men or from holding authority over them.
Several commenters including both Terri and I have pointed out multiple instances that seem to directly contradict this interpretation. Deborah is high on the list as one who judged Israel, held court and decided cases between people (which since the law book was the Bible, meant she was explaining the Bible to both men and women with all the authority attendant to her position as leader of all Israel), and led the army. Huldah also was a prophetess whose authority on Scripture was recognized and sought out even by the reigning king. These are two examples, but they are not the only ones.
These examples and others that Terri mentioned above and other commenters have mentioned on the other two posts seem to contradict your mother’s interpretation of the passage, but no further explanation that would include these examples instead of including only the examples of women teaching women and children has been forthcoming.
So, that’s kind of the impasse this seems to have arrived at. I hope that helps.
I feel like this is actually much more simple than you’re making it. The Scriptures aren’t wooden, and there are numerous examples of laws which we should live by, but which, under specific extenuating circumstances need to be broken. And in those cases I wouldn’t call it disobedience, I would say that obedience took on an unusual form in that instance.
For example, I teach my kids to tell the truth because the Bible tells us to. On the other hand, the Hebrew midwives were a fabulous example of lying to the glory of God. I wouldn’t, however, take the Hebrew midwives as the basis for then ignoring the rest of the Scriptural teaching and tell my kids it doesn’t matter if they tell the truth or not “because midwives.” That would be to miss the point of the Scriptural teaching on lying, and also miss the point of the midwives’ obedience.
The Bible is likewise pretty clear that women ought not to become prostitutes. On the other hand, Tamar showed her faith through her adopting the role of a prostitute, and I have no problem applauding her faith without now deciding that prostitution is the way of the future and all Christian women should have the right to do it. That would be to misunderstand both the explicit teaching of Scripture and also radically misunderstand what it was Tamar was actually doing.
In general the Bible teaches that a wife should be loyal to her husband – Abigail confirms rather than overthrows this teaching, going behind her husband’s back notwithstanding. Read rightly, the story of Abigail is the story of a deeply loyal woman – not a wife who disrespected her husband and so hey, why can’t I do that too?
I believe that lying, prostitution, and sneaking around behind your husband’s back (directly contradicting his wishes) are in general, bad things to do. The Bible is clear there. On the other hand, if I was a Hebrew midwife, or Tamar, or Abigail, stuck in their situation, I hope I would have the courage to show my obedience the way that they did. In each of those instances we are shown that they were wise women who knew how to think critically and make distinctions. They knew the weightier matters of the law, and they understood when to make exceptions to the ordinary rules of life.
In the same way, Deborah in no way makes me panic about Paul’s clear teaching – anymore than the Hebrew midwives make me question my instincts to tell the truth. Good for Deborah. She was obedient, and I would also argue that she was submissive. She was standing courageously where she needed to stand, where God had placed her, and that was good. Life is complicated, and sometimes there are curve-balls thrown. A wise woman can adapt and obey in the midst of a complicated moment without losing track of the deeper principle, or throwing out important loyalties.
We need to be able to make distinctions – not rush to blanket extremes in either direction. Paul’s pretty clear on the role women are to have in the leadership of the church. Can I imagine that somewhere in the universe there might be an extenuating circumstance that requires a woman to step in in an unusual way and show her obedience by doing something different? Totally. But that’s not where any of us are standing at the moment. And God will judge us on our obedience to his word – not judge us according to what a hypothetical someone technically could have gotten away with if their circumstances were different.
So basically I think it’s pretty simple. If we find that God has placed us in Deborah’s position, then we act like Deborah. And if we’re a Christian woman in a healthy congregation, then we act the way God said we should act – Paul spelled out what that looks like pretty clearly.
I know that post I wrote ages ago about a contentious wife really bothered you and continues to bother you. Since I write to women, I look at verses that call women out, and that was one case where I was trying to show what a contentious wife might look like: she follows her husband around nipping at his heels at every turn, even over something as mundane as planting an apple tree. You jump to conclusions and assert that if I point out that women can be bossy, then I must want women to shut up entirely and never give their husbands input. This is the straw man you invent. You put words in my mouth and argue with those words rather than engaging with the actual content of what I’m saying. There are enough references to contentious women in Proverbs (21:9, 21:19, 25:24, 27:15-16), that it certainly bears mentioning. They don’t just exist in history. There really are contentious women who make life miserable for their husbands. Some are compared to bone cancer (Prov. 12:4) and even (11:22) a gold ring in a pig’s nose. God is not trying out for a part in our lives. He is our Maker and Redeemer. He gives us His very pointed Word for good reason, and we don’t have to be afraid of His Word if we are His. But we may not stand in judgment on His Word, deciding whether it passes the test of our approval. You accuse both me and my husband of holding positions we do not hold, nor ever have held, and I’m not sure why you persist in this. But, as we’ve both told you before in person and in emails, we’d be happy to talk with you about what we actually believe any time.
Hi Rebekah and Nancy Ann (yay! I’m glad you’re hear. I would like your opinion on this stuff),
Anyway, I’m glad this seems simple to you. It seems simple to me too, just in the opposite way it does for you. I’m hoping this will help. At the risk of being entirely redundant, I’m going to go through a list of examples from the Bible that would seem to fall into the category of exceptions to what I understand to be your view. If some of them aren’t, that’s fine. I’m not trying to pick a fight here, just establish an outline for a narrative throughline that I’ll get to in a minute.
1. The creation mandate in Genesis to fill, subdue, and exercise dominion over the whole earth is given to both Adam and Eve, not just to Adam. Genesis 1:28-31
2. The redemptive promise, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel,” says nothing whatsoever about Adam, but is made regarding Eve’s offspring, “her offspring” (Genesis 3:15). God uses that term “offspring” with Abraham and elsewhere in Genesis to signify covenant language that God uses with Abraham and elsewhere in Genesis as well.
3. Miriam was a prophetess, led singing and dancing, had a part of her song recorded in the Bible (Exodus 15:20,21) and is listed in Micah 6:4 as leading before Israel with Moses and Aaron. Did she get in trouble in Numbers 12 for griping about Moses’ Cushite wife? Sure. But that’s not a reflection on her gender any more than Aaron getting in trouble in Exodus 32 for that whole golden calf thing is a reflection on his. Actually, this not being a gender issue is probably to the men’s advantage since the golden calf was unarguably a far bigger problem.
4. When Ishmael makes fun of Isaac and Sarah wants Abraham to throw Hagar and Ishmael out of the house, Abraham is grieved and doesn’t want to do it. But God specifically comes to Abraham and tells him to obey his wife on this one because the covenant will be fulfilled through Isaac. (Genesis 21:8-13). Paul directly quotes Sarah’s words here in Galations 4:30.
5. Deborah we’ve already talked about some. I’d just like to address though the idea that God’s using her was because no good men were around. The reason God raised up every single one of the judges was because the people were doing evil in his sight. The fact that Deborah was a woman was no more reproach to the men of Israel than the fact of the rest of the judges being there at all already was to the whole of Israel. Besides, there is no indication that the men in Deborah’s time were being any flakier than the men at any other time. I would cite verses, but they would comprise the entire Old Testament.
6. Esther was a captive Jewish orphan who rose to become Queen of a foreign empire and save the Jewish people, all of the Jewish people in the entire empire, from a violent death through judicious use of her high position.
7. Huldah we have already discussed, but it bears repeating that even the King recognized and respected her teaching and authority on Biblical matters. The argument that God chose her because no men were available is completely nonsensical in this case since both Jeremiah and Zephaniah were her and Josiah’s contemporaries. Surely either one of those guys would have been able to verify the text for for Josiah.
8. Prophetesses – We’ve already talked about a few of the main ones, but I just wanted to point out that the Bible actually talks quite a lot about prophetesses and it never implies that women filling this role is somehow a negative thing. Nine prophetesses are mentioned in the Bible (the three here plus Anna, Isaiah’s wife, and Philip’s four daughters) plus a few more who are commonly considered to have spoken prophetically but aren’t specifically listed as prophetesses (Rachel, Hannah, Abigail, Elisabeth, Mary) and two false prophetesses (Noediah and Jezebel).
Joel talks about women prophesying in Joel 2:28,29, which Peter then references in Acts 2:17,18. No one really disputes that there were many women prophetesses in the Bible or that women prophesying was predicted in Joel and came to pass at Pentecost. But the we get to Paul and everything gets a little squishy because…
9. In Paul’s section in I Corinthians 14 about orderly worship he talks about women not speaking in church (vs. 34, 35) but those two verses are sandwiched in between several verses on how everyone is supposed to bring a hymn, a word of instruction or revelation a tongue or an interpretation and how every one is supposed to take turns prophesying in church (vs. 26-33). This doesn’t sound quite like a description of women being silent. Then he closes in vs. 39 by saying everyone should be eager to prophesy and they shouldn’t forbid anyone from speaking in tongues. Again, this doesn’t seem quite like “shush, you womenfolk!”
10. Even less convenient is that three chapters before in I Corinthians 11, Paul also talks about a few things regarding women in the service. This is the whole passage about head covering, and people seem to get so hung up about the whole who is the head of whom and what does a woman have on her head that they miss the conditional nature of the head covering in verse 5, “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.” These women were praying and prophecying in church, and Paul has no rebuke for that at all. (Also interesting is that he explains in vs. 14,15 exactly what he means by a head covering. It’s hair. He’s talking about hair. “Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.”) So, he doesn’t seem to have a problem with them speaking in church here either.
So, then we get to I Timothy 2. In your and your Mother’s view, Paul’s admonition that women are not to teach or hold authority over a man are consistent with his instructions for women to teach other women and his positive examples of women teaching children and it all seems very simple. However, to make all of these other examples throughout the Bible of women ruling and leading and teaching and prophesying fit in with this, you have to say that those women, particularly the strongest examples of them, are really examples of how bad the men were or how God uses even his second best or how the circumstances were extraordinary or whatever. You have to somehow equate Deborah with Tamar (!!!) when prostituting yourself is everywhere consistently described as not only immoral but also illegal under the Law while a woman judge is nowhere described as either.
To me this seems not only unsupported by the text in every one of the cases mentioned above but logically strange and unnecessarily insulting to the women who did such good work and to the wonderful example each of them set for Christian women everywhere. Here’s what I mean. We’ll use Deborah again as our example, but it holds for the others as well. If God were going to rebuke or curse (many people say that women rulers are a curse) the Israelites and having a woman ruler was going to be his preferred method of doing so, what might that look like? Well, presumably like it usually does when he curses people. They die or their children get carted off or they get sick or taken captive or slaughtered on the battlefield. The point is, when God curses people, it’s usually pretty obvious that they are being cursed. The entire population knows it and feels the weight of it until they cry out for relief.
This is not the case here. Deborah is not the rebuke, not a curse. If anything, she’s the relief. When Deborah leads, they win on the battlefield. Her reign is marked by justice and results in forty years of peace. If this is what the rebuke of a woman ruler looks like or an example of what God’s plan doesn’t look like, then perhaps the weak Israelite men should have prayed that God would rebuke them in that manner more often instead of blessing them with so many abysmal male rulers. Yikes! Even the ratio is better. Of the women rulers/leaders mentioned, Deborah and Esther and Jezebel, two of them are great and one is horrendous. That two thirds ratio is far better than the ratio of the good to bad kings and rulers among the men. In the Northern Kingdom alone, every single king was bad, and in the Southern Kingdom about half of them were. So no, it makes no logical or Biblical sense to say that in a general sense, a woman leader is a rebuke.
With the simple view of Timothy that you adhere to, you essentially are saying that many, many of the strongest examples of Godly women in the Bible are not part of what God really has planned for women but are exceptions to that plan and not people to look at as role models for women or as women whose roles we should aspire towards and that the same is true for any woman that God might call to similar service today. In fact, your view seems to preclude the idea that God might even call any woman to a similar role today as both your Mother’s three posts and your two comments amply demonstrate.
What I see when I look at this list is something entirely different. I see a long history of God calling women to take dominion in whatever area God calls them to just as he calls men to do the same. Sometimes that is teaching women and children or serving meals to shut-ins or cleaning the church building or other things, and in those places you and I agree. But sometimes as all these other women in the Bible demonstrate, God calls women to other things and there is ample place in his kingdom for that as well. None of these women are exceptions. So, in the simple view I adhere to, Paul’s one or two verses themselves are the exceptions instead of the multiple examples of women leaders (I didn’t even bother putting in the New Testament references to all the women Paul names and praises and greets and what those were about).
So, what is Timothy talking about? Well, that’s a good question and one that has a few possibilities. We’ve covered yours. My opinion is that his prohibition is about women elders teaching during the service and I think that is backed up by the prefiguring of no female high priests and of the fact that the rest of the section about men praying and other things appear to be referencing what is happening during the service itself and the fact that the next chapter talks about elders has no “likewise” stipulation for women while the section following on deacons does provide for women (I assume you feel differently on that, but I’m willing to save the argument for another day if you are). It is also consistent with Paul’s teaching elsewhere on women praying and prophesying in church, so he clearly doesn’t have a problem with women taking an active role. Probably part of the confusion of what is and isn’t okay is related to the fact that today’s church services seem to look nothing whatsoever like the ones Paul describes in the letters, so we are trying to apply directions into situations they were never designed to direct.
Anyway, this view manages to make all the women in the Bible fit within Paul’s directive instead of having to list so many of them as exceptions.
The third option is of the translation itself. This verse is the only one in the whole Bible containing the word translated “have authority” and the other contemporary sources trend much more towards the idea of “domineer” or “dominate.” The “have authority” meaning does show up but not until after the time of Paul’s writing. On top of that, the words for “man” and “woman” here can alternately be translated here and “husband” and “wife” and are translated so in many other places. For this reason many of the more recent commentators admit that the passage could also accurately be rendered, “I do not permit a wife to teach or domineer over her husband.”
In any case, it seems like a strange decision to relegate the undisputed contributions of so many Godly women of the Bible to exception status over a very small number of verses with disputed meanings. I know, I know, you don’t think the section(s) are disputed. Well, three posts on the topic and a whole bunch of comments on each would argue otherwise. However, no matter what you think of whether or not Deborah and Huldah and Miriam are exceptions or proofs, I assume neither you nor I would dispute that they all did mightily contribute to the good of Israel and the furthering of God’s kingdom. So now, which part is disputed and which is not?
Oops! Grammar mistake on the very first sentence: “hear” instead of “here.” Sigh.
Wow! Rachel that was simply wonderful. The thought and time you put into these comments is amazing. I come back to these posts just for your comments. Thanks so much for the insight.
Thanks for weighing in, Nancy, Rebekah, and Rachel Shubin! I see the discussion about the original verse from I Timothy 2 as being primarily a discussion about the liturgical place of women.
James Jordan’s discussion of Deborah in the book of Judges (http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/pdf/jjju.pdf) has been very helpful to me:
“This brings us to the thorny question of explaining (or explaining away, as the case may be) how a woman might judge
and rule over Israel. The text is quite specific about this. The
New American Standard Bible says for verse 4, “Now Deborah,
a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that
time,” but the Hebrew text literally says, “Now Deborah, a
woman, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth. . . .” The emphasis
is on the fact that we have a female judge here.
“An investigation of the Biblical material reveals that there
are judgesses and queens in the Bible, and though there are not
many, nobody seems to be surprised about it. There are also
prophetesses, and again though they are few, nobody seems to
be amazed at it. But there are no priestesses. The reason for this is found (as usual) in Genesis 2 and 3.
“The woman was made to be a helper to the man in his work.
That work was the work of dressing the garden, understanding
it, ruling over it, seen first of all in the naming of the animals (Gen. 2:15-20). Man’s second work was to guard (in English Bibles, “keep”) the garden (Gen. 2:15). The woman at his side was part of what he was supposed to guard; indeed, the woman is a kind of symbol for the garden as a whole, as the analogies in Canticles make clear. When Satan attacked, however, the man failed to guard his wife (though he was standing next to her during the whole conversation – Gen. 3:6, “with her”), and thus failed to guard the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). As a result, man was cast out as guardian, and angels took his place (Gen. 3:24).
“Guarding is man’s priestly task, as shepherding is his kingly task. It is precisely because it is the bride who must be guarded, that the woman cannot be a priest. She is not the priest; rather, she is what the priest (imaging the Divine Bridegroom) guards and protects. Thus, the woman may not take up a leading liturgical role in worship, for she cannot represent the Groom to the Bride (1 Cor. 14:34).
“In the Bible, sexuality goes all the way down. The woman is made distinct from the man, altogether. Thus, there are not female prophets in the Bible, but rather there are prophetesses; there are not female deacons, but there are deaconesses (a separate group); there are not female judges, but there are judgesses. The male prophet and the male king both stand as representatives of the Groom to the Bride. The female prophetess and queen cannot take that position, but stand within the Bride as counselors. Since all humanity are feminine before God, as the Bride, there is nothing wrong with a queen or prophetess giving direction to men. The one thing that is excluded is the central liturgical function of imaging the Groom.
“Thus, there is nothing wrong with women as rulers in any area of life except the Church. And there is nothing wrong with women as teachers in any area of life, including informal teaching in the Church. Women may teach men in Sunday School, but they may not assume the liturgical/symbolic role of leader in formal worship, in the presence of the sacrament,before the throne of God.”
Thanks, Meghan. 🙂
Thanks for posting that, Rose! Very helpful. 🙂
Thanks again for taking the time to engage with my original question that stemmed from the Grace Agenda conference/pre-conference differentiation in this series of posts. I have followed your reasoning and the discussions in the comments with great interest.
Rachel Shubin has covered the counter-points and -arguments to your (and Rebekah’s) perspective far better and more thoroughly than I could, so I don’t have much to add. But I am more persuaded by the interpretation that 1 Tim. 2:12 is referring specifically to women teaching and having authority within a worship service, rather than in general–because of the context of both that passage and the Bible more broadly. I.e., I am still not convinced that the Bible/Paul teaches that women may never, to use your phrase, “open the Word” to men in a non-worship context (whether that be in evangelization, Bible study, a theology class, or a conference on marriage).
I’m afraid I really didn’t follow your line of reasoning on the contextual basis for your interpretation of 1 Tim. 2:12. The heart of your argument seemed to be that Paul is writing to Timothy in the context of a proliferation of false teachers, and that this somehow necessitates the silencing of women teachers. You say,
“It seems to me that forbidding the women to teach or have authority over the men is a safeguard for Timothy. It’s bad enough having male false teachers running around, and it’s likely that some women must have also been teaching bad doctrine with false authority, or why would Paul address this so directly? Add to this that the women need protection because they are more vulnerable to deception.”
I don’t understand the connection between the (likely mostly male) false teachers that Paul mentions, and the “safeguard” of avoiding *women* as teachers. And what does the fact that women are more vulnerable to deception by *male* false teachers have to do with the question of women teaching? Isn’t the real problem the “false” part of “false teachers”? I guess I just don’t see how these two concepts–(mostly(?) male) false teachers teaching bad doctrine, and women teaching (at all)–are connected in the book of Timothy.
Finally, you say “Because these are directions for a pastoral ministry, I don’t think it’s a leap to assume that it covers all the general teaching activities of the church community.”
See, this may be the heart of the divide between you and your family, and Rachel, Rose, and perhaps others of us who are trying to give you a fair hearing and are (I assume) also trying to come at this from a Biblical perspective: I DO think it’s a leap to assume that Paul’s words in this particular verse cover “all the general teaching activities of the church community.” I don’t think that’s the most sensible or straightforward reading of the verse, for all the reasons Rachel unfolds; I think Paul is here repeating what he teaches elsewhere: that women should not preach in church worship. Making the leap to the expanded conclusion that he is here prohibiting women from all mixed-audience teaching related to the Bible seems to me to be going down the road of adding rules and restrictions that are not there in Scripture–something that has gotten the Church into a lot of trouble over the course of its history.
A huge thank-you to Rachel Shubin, Rose and Rowena for sound, wise, thorough unveiling of scripture. The careful research must have taken hours and hours.
Nancy, I am lazy. The easiest thing in the world is to cut and paste an old blog post to my comment which is what I did. But I hope you go there and read my post and see that my parsing is about the undertones, the between the lines of what you say which of course matters very much. It is why we write precisely and carefully- because between-the-lines matter.
I didn’t want to take the time to comb through all your posts and all the Presiding Minister’s posts to prove my point- that patriarchy treat women as second-class. I do not believe it is biblical. Even a cursory look at recent patriarchal pastors will point to a problem with the “system,” Mark Driscoll, Doug Phillips, Bill Gothard. Their very actions hinged upon their ill gotten power.
I have counseled women who have lived under patriarchal teaching and are filled with undeserved guilt. These women are not outliers; they are sisters in Christ who have come to believe they deserved second-class status, they deserved to be ill treated. They received constant teaching that replaced the understanding of mutual love and respect with wifely submission.
Which is probably why Rebekah got overly excited about the minutiae of my comment. Truth is, I didn’t care about the minutiae I cared about the big “E on the eye chart. Truth of the Bible, truth about women.
Truth matters because it changes what we believe, what we do.
Nancy, I should have scoured your writing and your husband’s writing and quoted directly from your books, your blogs. Truth is I was lazy. So here’s a smattering to give you an idea of what makes me squeamish. Of course the blog post I already linked. But further, you wrote in True Companion, addressed to wives of pastors:
“Do you do what he says? Remember your vows… What has he asked you to do that you haven’t yet done? Are you letting things slide or cutting corners and not telling him? Are you open and honest with him about everything? Does he know about that charge on the credit card? Are you quick to do what he asks? Do you keep confidences?”
Can you see how saying something like that seems to accuse the wife of wanting to do otherwise- of not remembering vows, of being a slacker, of being dishonest, of overspending, of not obeying, of being a gossip. If that is not what you intend to convey perhaps it needed an editor.
In Rules for Reformers written by your husband, he writes:
“Use irony, satire, and ridicule, as appropriate. Whether or not it is appropriate should not be determined by the target. The target never likes it” ( p. 78).
Is that a good rule of thumb for a Presiding Minister? Does this help the church, does it advance the kingdom when he says things like:
“So feminism — smash the patriarchy feminism — wants us to be ruled by harridans, termagants, harpies and crones. That sets the tone, and the pestering is then made complete by small-breasted biddies who want to make sure nobody is using too much hot water in the shower, and that we are all getting plenty of fiber.”
“… surly feminists. And I stand by the phrase surly feminists, despite the redundancy.”
“the clueless women who blindly liked Wilkin’s article on Facebook, but who are themselves pushy broads, twinkies in tight tops, or waifs with manga eyes.”
(And off subject, but, the attacks are mind boggling- homosexuals, gluten/ celiac, non vaccinators, midwives, worship that is not like his. And I could find a quote on all of those, but the length.) Do these attacks ever bring people around?
I am guessing that the ladies who have commented on this post are hoping you will really read what they have written, that you will give it serious thought. Maybe change your mind.
Apparently your husband’s mind was changed about a post he wrote about wives. So it can happen. To mention and quote it is to be hopeful for further change:
“He should want to address the problem in principle, not in toto. The purpose of this discussion is not to present a twenty-year-old list of grievances–love does not keep a record of wrongs–but rather to help her learn to do her duty, and to lead her as she learns what is, for her, a difficult lesson. She can learn on a representative problem. She would be overwhelmed with a requirement that she change everywhere, all at once. If, for example, the problem is one of poor housekeeping, he should require something very simple, i.e. that the dishes be done after every meal before anything else is done.
The first time the dishes are not done, he must sit down with his wife immediately, and gently remind her that this is something which has to be done. At no time may he lose his temper, badger her, call her names, etc. He must constantly remember and confess that she is not the problem, he is. By bringing this gently to her attention, he is not to be primarily pointing to her need to repent; rather, he is exhibiting the fruit of his repentance.”
So why have these women spent so much time politely addressing your stance? Because truth matters. And this issue directly affects 50% of the church.
So, yes, Nancy, let’s talk sometime. All four of us. I do pray you and your husband will come to see the truth these women have spelled out. It could happen.
Aagh! Rachel! I just typed up a huge long response – saying that I actually think we agree on a whole huge ton . . . and the computer just ate it! I’ll try and circle back around in a bit after I finish teaching. But your comment was super helpful and think that we’re maybe talking past each other just a bit. Thanks – and I’ll try and get to it shortly!
I had that same thing happen when I was typing that big post up. It was right around #5. Was rather grumpy about that. 😉
Ok Rachel! Here’s take 2.
First off, I really found your comment helpful in that I think it cleared up for me some confusion in where I think we may be talking past each other. But before I attempt to explain that, I think I need to clarify my earlier comment about Deborah. I was not intending to imply that Deborah’s situation “as judge” was the part which appears to run against Biblical principles the way Tamar’s actions did. I was referring to the specific instance of her leading the army into battle – because that specific instance comprises most of what we know about her. You’re totally correct that there’s no textual evidence that her holding the office of judge was a problem. However, leading the army in war – that does run contrary to scriptural norms . . . but I was trying to explain why I thought her actions were obedient. I don’t think that interpreting her military action as somewhat unusual is a stretch at all – even she herself tells Barak that his refusal to go without her was the action of a weeny, and because of his cowardice the glory of the win would go to a woman. That on its own seems to show us that this was abnormal – but I was pointing out that like Abigail, Tamar, and the Hebrew midwives, Deborah was a woman who could see when apparent breaking of the rules is actually faithfulness. Hopefully that makes sense.
I think that we actually agree on quite a lot of ground, and I think a good bit of the confusion could be cleared up if we were to be more careful with how we treat the various governmental spheres of the family, church, and state. If we talk across those boundaries without defining our terms I think it just muddies the water. As far as I can make out, the area of discussion is the role of women in the church – so I think it may be easier if we leave the civil sphere out of it. Before taking it completely off the table however, I would just say that I have no problem with Deborah being a judge, but it does seem only fair to point out that she was the exception rather than the rule. Out of the fifteen judges we know about, only one was a woman. It appears that when God raised up a ruler to deliver his people, most of the time that deliverer was a man. And as far as Esther goes, she was obviously a faithful woman who exercised a huge amount of power. But I would also just note that she had that power because she was the favorite wife in the harem and had the ear of the king – not because she went to law school and then went on to become a congresswoman. Her power looked different than the king’s. But like I said, I’m not sure that we disagree at all on the subject of women in politics, and even if we did that isn’t really the question under discussion. So I wonder if it wouldn’t be easier if we took the civil sphere off the table.
As far as the role of women in the church, the obvious question then is that of all the prophetesses. I would just say that of course God was speaking through those women, and of course it would ridiculous to say he only did so because there were no available men. I mean, if God had wanted a man, he could have found one. And as you mention, the New Testament includes instructions on how women are to prophecy. All of this tells us that God obviously spoke through prophetesses because he wanted to – and it would be ludicrous for me to get all holier than God and have a problem with that. So if I see no problem with prophetesses, then what’s the deal?
I think that this isn’t actually a gender issue – I think it’s a cessationist issue. I don’t think there are any prophetesses right now because I don’t think there are any prophets right now. I believe that office is no longer required in the church. If the canon was still open, if God was still speaking to us through prophets, then I would expect there would be women among them. If I had to hazard a guess though, I would imagine that the prophetesses would probably be fewer . . . simply because it seems as though, in the same way that judgesses were a rare species, prophetesses seemed to be a bit rare as well. Although parts of Scripture were written by women, the vast majority is written by men, and we know much more about the prophets than we know about the prophetesses. However, that is obviously neither here nor there. I have no issue with prophetesses.
Now – even though I believe that office to be no longer functional, prayer in the congregation is obviously still a thing. Which is why I have no problem with a woman praying in church as long as (as you pointed out) she has long hair.
This leaves the question of the pulpit. And if I’m understanding you rightly I think we’re agreed there as well? From what I gathered from your comment, you seemed to be opposed to women preaching.
So, if I’m hearing you correctly, I think we’re agreed on an awful lot. We come now to the question of the life of the body, outside Sunday morning worship. That would include things like conferences. Just to get a few more agreements out there – if the conference was on English grammar, or computer repair, I would have no problem with a woman teaching men in that context either. Both my mother and I have spoken and taught men before. So that leaves the question of conference talks on spiritual things – basically conference talks which are, to all intents and purposes, sermons, with the only difference being that they weren’t delivered on a Sunday morning. In those situations, the times where a woman gets up, opens the word, expounds on it, applies it – those would be the times where we would want to be cautious, given Paul’s teaching, and we would prefer to have the audience be women. Having said that though, we wouldn’t care if a man watched the video afterwards, or read the book or blog post which was directed to women. And if he learned something from it – well, awesome. The point is that when we speak in that way, we want to be aiming at an audience of women, because we want to honor the spirit of Paul’s teaching, while acknowledging that conference talks were not perhaps the main focus of Paul’s exhortation! We’re reasoning by analogy, and trying to be submissive to his teaching, honoring the principle, and not trying to get off on a technicality so that we can grab the mic.
However, there are other, more informal settings in which I believe it is entirely right and proper for a woman to “instruct” men on spiritual things. For instance, both Priscilla and Aquilla took Apollos aside and helped get his doctrine sorted out. So here’s an example of something I think would be quite similar to that scenario. This last week my parents hosted a regular Bible study on marriage for the ministerial candidates in our church and their wives. They all come over, have a glass of wine, and my dad leads the study. Even though my dad is the one leading, my mom has plenty to contribute. And in that kind of setting, there are a lot of men (and pastors) who have been taught on spiritual things by my mom.
Hopefully that helps clarify?
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Rebekah, that is so good to hear! It sounds then that, if Nancy is in agreement with you on your last comment, that the idea of women not talking at something like the upcoming marriage conference is an *application* you are taking away from the I Timothy verse, but not what you think the verse itself actually teaches. Is that a fair statement?
If so, it seems that maybe Nancy’s original post should be clarified. It is dangerous to call things wrong/sin when the Bible doesn’t call them that. It seems like the Biblical principle would be women cannot be pastors and teach in a worship service, and perhaps your particular method of working that out is to not have women teaching men in conference or Bible Study settings?
I am hugely appreciative of Nancy’s ministry (I thought her post about the contentious wife and the apple tree was great). But I also quail when I see postings that seem pharisaical–binding burdens on people that God never did.
And I think it is important to think about how Nancy’s stance on women’s roles affects other people in the Reformed community. For example, my husband and I were recently reading through Putting Feet on the Trivium: A Handbook for Administrators of Classical Christian Schools, written by, I believe, the principal at Logos School in Moscow. In the beginning section it stated that it is not God’s plan for women to be school administrators. Sometimes schools, of necessity, start out with a woman in that position, but as soon as possible, she should be replaced by a man. My husband and I were both appalled and couldn’t read any further (although, I’m sure we could have gleaned a lot of good things from the book if we had). Where does the Bible teach that a woman cannot be a school administrator?
It is worrisome that there are a lot of teachings on women coming out of the Moscow community that are being presented as “Gospel-truth” instead of “individual application of what the Bible says that good people frequently disagree on.”
Hi Rose! Good to e-chat with you!
So here’s the thing. Again I’m wondering if there’s some talking past each other. I went back and re-read my mom’s initial article, and I think I know where things might be getting muddled. So let me try and re-cap, and point out where I think people started getting wrong impressions.
But first, an apparently unrelated story, but which possibly will help explain my point! When I was a senior at NSA, I did my thesis on the relationship between a culture’s religion and its treatment of women. In order to make my argument, I did a survey of four separate cultures, focusing on their theology, the rights and treatment of women in that culture, and the relationship between them, building up to my argument that the two things are directly related. So – four cultures. I tried to pick four very different cultures, which would be representative enough to make my point. Then it came to the public defense. One of the men on my panel (not a fellow of NSA but faculty from a nearby university) wanted to know why I hadn’t chosen to discuss Reformation France. I answered him . . . told him I was trying to pick four representative cultures and I had already covered early modern Europe in my treatment of Reformation Holland. A few minutes later he asked again why I hadn’t wanted to talk about France – it would have been a really good study. At this point it was just being silly – he was asking why I hadn’t decided to write a different thesis than I did – one that happened to align with his particular pet interests. I tried to answer him again – and throughout my defense he just continued to circle back around again to why I had decided to leave France out. It really was quite comic. I wasn’t trying to slight France – but he seemed to take my exclusion of France as an insult to his home-away-from-home. I never really engaged with his question – I just kept telling him that I only needed four cultures and I didn’t have the space to add more. But – let’s say I had. Let’s say that I had stopped and engaged with the question. Let’s say that I tried to enter into the argument and maintain that Reformation Holland was a better choice than Reformation France – and started to list all my reasons. That moment of the conversation – if we were to clip out that interaction – that’s what I think this entire brouhaha on women teaching has been about. And I think if we frame the conversation better, pan back just a little bit, we would see the context of what my mom was saying.
So. To re-cap. My mom posted an ad for the Grace Agenda conference. Just a simple invitation – a “Hey everyone! Do please come! We’re offering a free conference for women, and the next day you can also attend a free conference on marriage!” Then the questions arose, “Why aren’t you speaking at the main conference?” (“Why didn’t you decide to write about France?”) She could have ignored the questions, or she could have done what I did in my thesis defense which was basically to not engage . . . but people began to start extrapolating out from the choice of conference talks and speakers that we in Moscow like to marginalize women. So when mom sat down to write her article on women teaching women, she was answering a particular question regarding our interpretation and application of that verse, with regards to a very particular situation – the upcoming conference. In your final paragraph you say that lots of teachings on women coming out of the Moscow community are being presented as “Gospel-truth” instead of “individual application of what the Bible says that good people frequently disagree on.” However – that’s exactly what she was doing. People had called out her application of that verse, so she sat down to explain our application of that verse . . . and she was doing so in the context of a very particular situation.
Also keep in mind that, mixed in with honest and sincere questions regarding her views on women conference speakers, there are also some very dishonest representations of what she believes and teaches. She’s trying to answer everyone’s questions and accusations at the same time – and I think it’s super important for people who actually want to know what she thinks to keep the context of her posts in mind. She did not sit down one day, out of the clear blue, and write a post entitled, “Why Women May Never Be Conference Speakers” – she was giving her “individual application of what the Bible says” and explaining why we do things the way we do.
Does she think she’s right? Or course she does! Don’t we all? People wanted to know what she thinks and why – and she told them what she thinks and why. On the other hand, she would never claim that the issue of women conference speakers is of primary importance and right at the heart of the gospel. Again, it’s important to read it charitably. If someone were to ask you your opinion of a secondary doctrine, and you clearly spelled out what you think about it, giving all your reasons – I’m sure you would see how uncharitable it would be if they then ran off saying that you think this is “Gospel-truth” and you don’t think there’s any room for disagreement among Christians on this topic. Does that make sense?
Oh – and regarding the book on administration . . . I never even knew of the existence of that book until now! So I don’t want to take it upon myself to defend of deny anything there. However, I’m quite curious about your summary that he claimed it is contrary to God’s plan – I’ll see if I can rummage up a copy and take a look! Thanks!
I hope it is not coming across that I am trying to misrepresent your mom. I truly want to engage with what she is actually saying. I understand that her first post was a history of where she came to hold her position. I guess where I ran into disagreement is the ending paragraph of her first post:
“A Christian conference is not church, that’s correct. But if it is a conference that is teaching from the Word, then it is the men who should be doing it. I have no desire to elbow my way in. Why? Because I love God’s Word and I do what it says.”
What this said to me is that a woman who does teach from the Word at a Christian conference is “elbowing her way in” where she doesn’t belong and not doing what the Word says. Am I wrong to read it this way?
It’s a very relevant topic. At our church (and full disclosure, Rachel Shubin and I go to the same church), women are invited to teach co-ed Sunday Schools or give talks at our church camp on Biblical subjects to a co-ed audience. I read Nancy’s ending paragraph as saying that this is wrong.
Perhaps a related question is whether a talk at a conference is actually the same thing as a sermon because I can see that if you’re equating the two, you wouldn’t want a woman talking in a non-liturgical setting. I don’t see the two as the same (and few one would quibble if an un-ordained man was speaking at a conference or leading a Bible study).
*few would quibble
No – you don’t at all come across like you’re trying to misrepresent anything! It’s clear that we have differing views on the application of Paul’s teaching, and it’s not wrong to notice that – and this has been a great discussion! My only point is that we need to keep the whole conversation in context. My mom was carefully explaining her “interpretation” and then it sounded like your takeaway was that she wasn’t acknowledging that this was her interpretation. My point was that she did not sit down to the computer one day and type, “Thus sayeth the Scriptures: Women speaking at conferences are always in sin.” She was answering a particular question.
Also, because of my understanding of Paul’s teaching, I would be quite uncomfortable with a woman getting up to deliver a sermon-like conference talk on the book of Ephesians to a male audience. And I would be uncomfortable with it for all the reasons that have been laid out. But there’s a big difference between me being uncomfortable with that (based on my understanding of Scripture) and someone else being very uncomfortable with the “lack” of a woman standing up to do that. Which is where this whole thing started. You may disagree with our application of that verse – you may think that there’s more leeway there than we think there is, but it’s much harder to come up with a verse which says that, “in any contexts outside of Sunday morning worship, make sure the women are given equal opportunities to teach the men and if you don’t give them equal air-time they are being wronged and marginalized.” That’s where this whole thing started – and we were defending ourselves on that charge. If you believe that women are “permitted” to teach men outside of Sunday morning, that’s a far cry from saying that women are “required” to teach men outside of Sunday morning – and that’s what people were claiming. They were offended by the lack of women speakers – and to be honest I just think that’s a very difficult Scriptural case to make – certainly a funny thing to make such a hue and cry about. That’s why I likened it to the “But why didn’t you pick a different thesis topic?”
Thanks for commenting. I still don’t think we are quite as close here as you think we are though. If you would like to leave the civil sphere off the discussion, then I think we can take out Esther, but I think we still have to leave in Deborah due to the nature of theocracy. Judges 4 talks about Deborah holding court and deciding disputes for the Israelites for them there. What legal code would she be using to do so? The Pentateuch. The Bible. The Law. They were one and the same, which means she was sitting up there publicly explaining the purpose and intent of the law to all the Israelites, and her words carried the authority of her position as leader of Israel. For all intents and purposes, these would be similar to sermons (think Supreme Court decisions now: lengthy missives on the law, which in this case would be the Bible) with the only difference being that they weren’t delivered on a Sunday morning. This would seem directly contrary to your interpretation of the application of Timothy.
Huldah too was doing something similar. Huldah did not go seek out Josiah and say, “Hey, you don’t know what you’re doing. Let me take over.” Josiah sought her out because he knew that she could speak godliness on the subject she was well-informed on. It would be more like someone inviting a long-married woman with a track record of speaking wisdom on the subject of marriage to speak at a marriage conference.
One more point on those two. Although both women were married, both of their husbands are mentioned only in passing and there is no indication at all that they were in any way involved in their wives’ teaching or instruction about the Bible. If you want to say Priscilla was okay because she was helping her husband teach (which I think only as textually sound as inferring that Aquila was helping Priscilla teach, especially since when Paul mentions them he mentions her first five times and him first twice), that’s fine, but there is no textual support at all to claim that for either Deborah or Huldah. They were authoritatively teaching the Bible to men on their own in very significant, public or publicly relevant ways.
Then we come to prophetesses. Even if we posit that this is a cessationist issue and there are no prophets anymore, this brings us to another issue. In the Old Testament, women served at the door of the Tabernacle (Exodus 38:8), they could take they could take the vow of a Nazarite (Numbers 3:2), we have already discussed that they prophesied. In the New Testament, women continued to prophesy, they prayed aloud in church, they held the office of deacon (not only is textual evidence for this pretty convincing, this was well-recognized and implemented in the early church and was even codified into Canon XV at the Fourth Council of Chalcedon), and Paul regularly greets them and cites them as his co-workers (I don’t think he means “cooks and awesome housekeepers” here when he says “co-workers”), and these are just the things that the N.T. specifically cites women doing without even counting the liberties that are gender neutral. So, my questions is this: where in the CREC do we see any or anything remotely resembling these things or a successor to them implemented or even encouraged today?
So, no I don’t think we’re essentially saying the same thing in different ways. I think our underpinning views are fundamentally different. Here is a short, three question summary to narrow it down. I’ve posted this one about Deborah and Huldah three times now and still have gotten no direct response on it, so I hope very much that you’ll be able to explain your opinion on it to me. The questions I’m hoping you’ll respond to are in bold (hopefully) so they don’t get lost (just so you don’t interpret the bold as yelling).
a) Your mother says this (both in Part I):
“As it is with so many things in God’s Word, there’s a no and a yes. Though the women are not to teach the men from the Word, we are instructed to teach the younger women a whole slew of stuff. And that’s what we want to do at the Femina conference.:
“But when we discuss whether women ought to be teaching men the Word, it is not just another “tradition” like all-male football teams. Though the Bible has not spoken about women on submarines or women on football teams, it has spoken about women’s roles in the church. I think it’s simple and clear.”
How do the teaching and authority aspects of both Deborah’s and Huldah’s examples not directly contradict your Mother’s interpretation of I Timothy 2:12?
b) Your mother’s entire third post was on the context of what was happening in Timothy’s church at the time and how the directions Paul sent to him about women speaking in church directly related to the situation. With that in mind, would it not seem equally logical or at the very least plausible that Paul’s directions in 2:12 were also directly related and applicable to the situation and not meant to apply to the church at large since the situation the directions intended to remedy were not present in the church everywhere (and are arguably even less present now since women have far more access to both education in general and Biblical teaching in particular now)?
When you combine so many different, equally likely, and textually and contextually sound ways to apply this verse with the examples that appear to contradict your application but fit well within mine (and Rose’s and others here), how can you make sweeping statements such as “women are not to teach the men from the Word”? Would you not agree that other interpretations appear to fit at least equally well or even better?
And last, here is why I don’t think we’re talking across each other. Here is why these questions matter.
c) In light of the numerous opportunities for women and examples of many sorts in the Old and New Testament churches, why is it that our churches have fewer examples or opportunities for serving in almost any of the ways described above? Why do we not encourage women towards these things instead of actively discouraging them both directly through the explicit teaching like we see in your mother’s posts and indirectly by omitting virtually every example of these things in Scripture or by passing them off as examples not of a woman fulfilling her Godly calling but as a man abdicating his? Should this not be the reverse? Although when looked at individually, these cases seem like sporadic examples, when examined as a whole they reveal a complete picture of women occupying virtually every office that a man does except for priest and elder. How do you see women serving now in the body or in the CREC in ways that reflect the combined intent or sphere of the Biblical examples of women in service that are mentioned above?
So, those are the main areas that I think we see very differently. I’m looking forward to your comments on them. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this.
Hi Rachel – thanks again for the interaction. If you still see us as being fundamentally on different pages, I’ll defer to you on that! You’ve listed three questions, so I’ll include them here for clarity’s sake.
1. How do the teaching and authority aspects of both Deborah’s and Huldah’s examples not directly contradict your Mother’s interpretation of I Timothy 2:12?
You gave your take on both Deborah and Huldah earlier in your comment, so my answer to the above question is basically responding to your descriptions of both these women’s situations. First, Deborah.
I’m completely on board with Deborah delivering judgements, and of course while she was doing so she would be applying God’s law to the situation in front of her. On the other hand, that’s exactly what I would hope a Christian judge would do now – apply biblical principles to the issue at hand, whether that judge was a man or a woman. You seem to want us to be saying something we’re not saying – at no time have we been arguing that only men are allowed to let the Bible inform their decision making, or verbally explain their rationale for their actions from Scripture. I would hope that is something all Christian women do on a regular basis, no matter what their rank or job description. If a woman was the mayor of a town, or the CEO of a company, or the mother of small children, I hope that all of her decisions would be guided by Scripture. And if someone asked her reasons, I’m assuming she would tell them – or, better yet, she could tell them in advance! However, you’re arguing from silence quite a bit here to say, “she was sitting up there publicly explaining the purpose and intent of the law to all the Israelites . . . these would be similar to sermons (think Supreme Court decisions now: lengthy missives on the law.” There’s absolutely nothing about that in the text other than the small phrase, “the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.” It takes quite a bit of extrapolating to decide what format that took, and what it looked like. I have no problem with Deborah judging Israel, I have no problem with her rendering decisions based on God’s law, and I have no issue with the fact that she was a married woman when she did so. But I think it’s dodgy exegesis to claim we know things that are just flat not in the text – especially when we’re using our own imagined details to try and refute a very plain reading of a New Testament verse that’s much more clear. I think it would be more honest to say, “We know that Deborah was a faithful judge of Israel and we have no idea how that looked in practice on a day to day basis. What we do know, is that it’s possible for a woman to occupy a position like that and be in submission to God’s word. Therefore, we should look at other passages to help inform us on this question.”
On the question of Huldah, I think we’re at a similar impasse. You seem to be assuming that Josiah sought her out in order that she could lead him through an inductive study of the Torah. What the passage actually tells us is that during the reign of Josiah, they accidentally found a dusty old copy of the law which had clearly been forgotten and neglected. When Josiah was read the words of the law he rent his clothes, and said, “Go ye, enquire of the LORD for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that is found: for great is the wrath of the LORD that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not hearkened unto the words of this book, to do according unto all that which is written concerning us.” The men were then sent to “enquire of the Lord” because they needed to know the extent to which they had incurred God’s wrath by neglecting his law. They needed a prophet who could ask God this question for them. Josiah wasn’t having a hard time understanding the law – he totally understood it, and that was his whole problem. What he didn’t know was how much trouble they were in for having disregarded it for so long. So he sent messengers to Huldah, a prophetess. She inquired of the Lord for them. And then she delivered the news . . . it was a NEW prophecy, a new word from the Lord, specifically regarding the fate of Judah, and the fate of Josiah. She answered the question they had come there to ask. There is absolutely nothing in that passage about her sitting them down and explaining the law to them, and we know specifically that the reason she was sought out was because of her prophetic ability to inquire of God – there’s nothing whatever about them going to find her “because he knew that she could speak godliness on the subject she was well-informed on.” And I’m afraid I can see absolutely no resemblance between a prophetess delivering a message from God to the king regarding the coming fate of the nation, and asking a woman to speak at a marriage conference with a mixed crowd.
I did have one other little quibble before going on to the next two questions. I’m afraid it’s a straw man to act as though we interpret Paul’s use of the words “co-workers” with regard to women as meaning “cooks and awesome housekeepers.” That’s just manifestly silly. I would assume that when Paul talks about the various women who were co-workers he’s referring to women doing things like, oh I don’t know, Phoebe delivering the book of Romans. Stuff like that.
Here’s your second question:
2. When you combine so many different, equally likely, and textually and contextually sound ways to apply this verse with the examples that appear to contradict your application but fit well within mine (and Rose’s and others here), how can you make sweeping statements such as “women are not to teach the men from the Word”? Would you not agree that other interpretations appear to fit at least equally well or even better?
On this question, I actually am not entirely sure what you mean. I’m worried that if I begin trying to answer it, it will turn out you were asking something different. So I’ll move on to question #3 . . .
3. How do you see women serving now in the body or in the CREC in ways that reflect the combined intent or sphere of the Biblical examples of women in service that are mentioned above?
I guess that if you see us as fundamentally opposed, no answer of mine will satisfy you. There are loads of things I could say here – I could point to my mom’s ministry, to the stack of books she’s written, marriages she’s helped save, conferences she’s spoken at. But I don’t think any of that will actually convince you that the CREC isn’t trying to muzzle and marginalize women. Is that a fair assessment?
The Hebrew distinction I was referring to is reflected in most English translations. So when Deborah is described as judging it says she “was judging” see here:
Whereas the men who serve as judges for Israel are always described as “x Judged”
Moreover, the root “judge” is used over 200 times in OT, but only once of a woman (in Judges 4:4). From this, exegetically it should be concluded that Deborah’s tenure was a special dispensation and not normative practice. Which lead to the question what was the context in Israel at the time of Deborah that required such a special dispensation? Well in 4:3 we see that there was severe oppression of the Israelites, which was the capstone of an intensified period of oppression. In 5:6-8 Deborah’s song demonstrates the peril faced by Israel. And this is backed up by the fact that only 4 out of twelve tribes go with Barak. It is in these trying times that Deborah judges. She was a judge not to teach the fact that it was normal for a woman to rule but to the shame of the people of Israel. This demonstrates the moral and spiritual condition of Israel that there were no men to fight and lead. God raises up prophetesses, whenever God wants to raise up man in shame. And Deborah understands this (look at 4:6,9). Deborah notes in 4:6 that Barak was called to leadership but he hesitates and she shames him for his lack of leadership. In Barak we see a lack of male leadership (interestingly Deborah is the only one of those judging in Israel who is not leading the people into battle. She must rely on Barak– because ultimately there is a difference between her and her male counterparts).
As for Huldah, I am sorry, I was being slightly hyperbolic. Of course there were male prophets in Josiah’s reign, and indeed Zephaniah does interpret the recovered scrolls (much of his prophesy draws on Deuteronomy 28). The point I was trying to make was again this is an extraordinary situation. Prior to Josiah’s renewals, Manasseh had made such a massive mess of things that priests were reduced to hiding God’s word in the walls. During Manasseh’s reign much of Israel’s religious infrastructure-all of which was male led– had become apostate. And it was in this context of persecution and infidelity that Huldah rose up as a prophetess. What I was trying to demonstrate is that neither Huldah nor Deborah are examples of norms to follow, but rather are examples of exceptional women, who responded faithfully in exceptionally fragile times.
Hope this helps to clarify.
Thank you for the reply! I do appreciate that. For Deborah, Judges 4:5 says this:
“She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.”
This doesn’t seem complicated to me. It sounds like the Israelite version of we do: go to a particular place or court to have a judge decide our disputes for us. Our legal standard is our United States set of laws. Theirs would have been the Bible. Thus, she would have been deciding the disputes according to God’s law as you said. This isn’t the same as a mayor of a U.S. town being guided by Scripture or allowing his decisions to be guided by Scripture. For a U.S. Supreme Court judge, who would be a more equivalent post for this particular part of her job, to be guided by Scripture is fine. Once it becomes their primary official legal reasoning for his opinion instead of our actual laws, it becomes a problem. For Deborah, there was no conflict. The Bible was their actual law. To explain her decision was to explain the Bible.
And even, even if you disagree about how much or what or whether she was teaching or not, she was clearly doing whatever she was doing with authority over men. This same is true for Huldah no matter what she was doing. Both Josiah the king and Hilkiah the High Priest (2 Kings 22:4) whom he sent to Huldah seemed to recognize her authority. Or are we now skipping that half of I Timothy 2:12? You seem to have no problem with a woman having authority as long as she’s not teaching the Bible to men or with teaching as long as she’s not teaching the Bible to men. But the plain reading you claim plainly says “or.” Here’s the verse: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” So why do you have no problem with Deborah having authority over men? Or why do you think it’s ok to teach things other than the Bible to men? I don’t see that anywhere. And what happened to the being quiet? If the “plain” or normative reading of the rest of the verse means women should not teach the Bible to men unless normally never (or from what I can see, teach anything at all to men), then why shouldn’t women also not assume authority over men unless normally never, and what justification can women have for talking at all if this verse universally applies to all or even most situations? You’re right. It does seem very plain. What was I thinking?
We’ll skip #2 because I’d have to go back and compile the explanation again from a bunch of previous comments and I’m already losing an hour of sleep with daylight savings tonight. 😉
For #3 though, you are mistaken. Your Mom clearly has a long history of ministry and has served and helped many people. I don’t think the CREC is purposely trying to muzzle or marginalize women. But neither do I feel like we adequately reflect the breadth and strength or opportunity for service that I see when I read the Bible and the stories of all the valiant women there. This frustrates me very much, and my hope and prayer is that we can begin to do better.
Hi Rachel! So, I know this looks like I’m skipping church to stay home and type comments, but I’m stuck at home with pink-eye in BOTH eyes which is horribly insulting when you’re older than eight! So anyway, rest assured I’m not typing from my iphone in my church row instead of listening to the sermon . . .
As far as Deborah goes, your translation says,
“She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.”
And the King James says, “And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment.”
So what we know from this verse is that Deborah either holds court, or she lives, or she hangs out under a palm tree in the mountains of Ephraim, and people came up to her there to be judged, i.e., to have their disputes decided.
What we don’t know, are details like how often this happened, how big of a crowd there was, how long you had to wait in the waiting room, how she delivered her verdict, whether she hosted disputes in her small living room, or in a massive country villa, or in a “courtroom” setting, or just picnic-style right there under the palm tree. We don’t know what she wore. We don’t know where her husband was. We don’t know that her verdicts were delivered like sermons. We don’t know that ancient Israelite verdicts “probably” would have been just like our modern American supreme court decisions – lengthy discussions of the law. We don’t know lots of things in fact.
I’m sure you would see the weakness of the “filling in details” argument if I was to try it . . . you would point it out immediately! What if I was to say (I don’t think these things by the way) that it’s entirely likely she only ever decided two or maybe three cases. And probably she decided the case quietly in the house and then sent her husband out with the message. And probably she just received a direct word from the Lord and didn’t have to do any thinking of her own because she was a prophetess and God just told her the answer. And probably . . . you see the problem. If you can come up with hypothetical details to suit your argument, I could come up with some to suit mine – but I don’t think that’s an honest way of handling the text . . . and, not to be rude, but that kind of sloppy exegesis isn’t going to convince anyone that, “Wow! Here are a group of women who are so careful with the text that we should put them in charge of teaching the word to more people!” If a minister was making arguments like this, I would be saying to myself, “Holy cow, make him sit down. Who put him in charge?”
Just to be clear, I have no problem with trying to piece together arguments from Scripture, and lots of times we have to infer things from the text. My problem is with saying, “I imagine that it probably would have been like . . .” and then including that “probably” as an axiomatic piece of a dogmatic argument, especially when not one bit of evidence has been brought in outside of what you personally think it probably would have been like. It’s bad historiography, it’s bad logic, and it’s bad exegesis.
Now, granted, ancient Israel didn’t have a hang-up about separation of church and state the way we Americans do, but I think because of that you’re blurring what was still a very real distinction between governmental spheres. Just because they didn’t have separation of church and state in our modern sense (where we stupidly insist the two spheres have nothing to do with each other), the Israelites still very much had a distinction between the civil sphere and worship. Of course Deborah, in her civil capacity, was rendering her decisions based on God’s word. And obviously she was in authority over men. But she wasn’t the priest, and she wasn’t leading them in worship. She was up in the mountains of Ephraim rendering biblical decisions on civil disputes, not down at the tabernacle offering sacrifices. Even in ancient Israel there was a big distinction between the two. As far as I can recall off the top of my head, the only two who did both were Eli and Samuel.
That’s why I said initially that we need to leave the civil sphere out of it. We’re not talking about the civil sphere, and it just muddies the water. I don’t believe there’s any problem with a “woman” teaching biblical truths and having authority over a “man” in the family sphere (“Do not forsake the law of your mother”) and I have no problem with a “woman” applying biblical truths and having authority over a “man” in the civil sphere – as witness Deborah. I believe it’s obvious that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not a blanket statement referring to all areas of life. As my mom pointed out in the above article, 1 Timothy is all about the spiritual life of the church – and in that context, women may teach other women, not men.
The Huldah example I don’t believe pertains to the argument, because, as I said, the fact that I’m a cessationist means that I don’t believe we have a corresponding office in the church now. You say that both Josiah and Hilkiah recognize her authority – I would say that it’s clear they recognize her office. She was a prophetess, and they needed a word from God. But as I pointed out, she delivered a prophecy to them directly from the mouth of God and there’s no hint of any spiritual mentoring beyond that. Again I would say that it’s a weak argument when it has to be based on imagined details.
And as for the CREC – I would totally agree that there is a world of opportunity for the women to step up and be used mightily in the kingdom. But it’s not exactly like we’ve exhausted all the opportunities God has placed in front of us for ministry and now we’re just twiddling our thumbs because we’re not allowed to teach the men. There’s still an endless amount of work to be done, and I’d love to see the women do much, much more. But I also think that the feminist agenda is the fastest road to making the women irrelevant, and of no service whatever to the kingdom. The feminist lie is like the shiny golden apple tossed out distract Atalanta and keep her from winning the race – and if we fall for that ploy we will show ourselves to be both foolish and easily deceived.
It seems to me that Rebekah says that women should not fulfill the priestly role, and Rachel S. agrees that women should not fulfill the priestly role. Is the disconnect here partially the definition of what the priestly role is?
As a related question, is the disconnect here about what constitutes “worship”? Rebekah, you say “the Israelites still very much had a distinction between the civil sphere and worship. Of course Deborah, in her civil capacity, was rendering her decisions based on God’s word. And obviously she was in authority over men. But she wasn’t the priest, and she wasn’t leading them in worship.”
I totally agree with the above statement. But I don’t think Rachel is arguing that women *should* lead men in worship. Rather, I think Rebekah is expanding the definition of worship beyond formal worship.
I think this whole discussion is more about authoritative relationships between men and women throughout the whole of Christian living. Worship, business and government. The rules aren’t exactly the same in each sphere.
Ack! Rose, you get the award for conciseness. I think I’d been staring at this so long, all of a sudden all I could see were trees. Anyway, thank you and yes to all of that.
Rebekah, as far as your last paragraph goes, of course there is always more work to do training women. There is always more work to do in every sphere there is. I don’t look around at any sphere and think, “Well, God’s work is finally completely done here. Now for the thumb twiddling.” What I see is, as you said, endless amounts of work to be done. When I look at the work, I think we do tend to restrict people whose giftings and interests would make them extremely effective in particular roles simply because they are women when in the Bible I see women filling the same role or a similar one or at least there being no restriction on a woman being able to take it on. I don’t see it as her trying to usurp authority. I see it as her wanting to fulfill the job God has called her to do, as all Christians should, and I don’t see that calling as explicitly tied to gender as you do. The secular feminist agenda really has nothing to do with it.
Hi Rose – yes, you’ve put your finger on the nub of the disagreement. That’s why initially I was trying to tell Rachel that I actually think there’s a good bit of common ground. You all seem to think Timothy’s prohibition applies ONLY to official Sunday morning worship, we would argue it applies to any formal Scriptural teaching situation in the life of the church body. (Although, I’m not expanding the definition of worship or the priestly role, I just think Timothy is writing instructions to a minister regarding the whole life of the church body, not simply instructions that only apply for an hour and a half per week.) That’s what the whole 3 part series was – presenting why we read it the way we do. It’s been a great discussion though, and I’ve appreciated your contributions! And thanks Rachel for the interaction!
Hi, all. Thank you for this engaging and encouraging discussion! It has been fruitful! I do have a question though: who is responsible that the content what women teach each other is Biblical sound? I know that in church, what the preacher exhorts of the Bible (preaching/teaching) is overseen by the elders. But if no men should (as a rule) be present where women open the Bible to other women, who is overseeing what women teach? Am I missing some piece of Scripture that will explain this clearly OR alternatively making to too difficult? 🙂
I know that women are to be submissive to their husbands and in their roles in church to the group elders. So maybe this overseeing is accomplished by two things?
1. By the elders choosing specific women “in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women…” as Paul is instructing Titus (Titus 2:2-5).
2. By the elders setting guidelines/rules/curriculum of what women can teach, like the doctrines and believes of the church (which would in effect be submissiveness to the elders).
In both these cases, the overseeing is then actually not in what IS taught, but in what is expected to be taught?
Please correct if I’m misunderstanding?
So what do we do with this, obviously doctrinal teaching not limited to an audience of women, quoted by Douglas Wilson on his blog, Feb. 13, 2007: “The Christian affirmation is, however, that the Trinitarian structure which can be shown to exist in the mind of man and in all his works is, in fact, the integral structure of the universe, and corresponds, not by pictorial imagery but by a necessary uniformity of substance, which the nature of God, in Whom all that is exists” (Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker, p. xiii).
Or this from March 27, 2008: “John Schneider continues his good work in chapter four, and reminds me of another book I am currently reading (and which I would recommend), which is Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth. She says that when evangelicals begin their presentation of the gospel with the fact and reality of sin, they are presenting the gospel out of context. The basic reality is not sin. That is not the foundation. The presentation of the gospel needs to be creation, fall, and then redemption. If we begin by assuming the fall, then we are skewing the nature of the universe before talking about the Lord of the universe. Everything was foundationally good, man rebelled, and God has provided a way back.”
Are Dorothy Sayers and Nancy Pearcey, when they share theological insights in their books also exceptions, like Deborah? Who decides?