The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.1 Corinthians 14:34-35
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.1 Timothy 2:11-12
For years I struggled with my calling in life because of these scriptures. I felt that God had given me the gift of teaching and I was told that leadership is in my future, but these verses suggested that I could not be used to teach or lead. What was even more confusing for me was that I grew up in churches that had women in every tier of leadership. Could they be out of the will of God for pastoring a church?
I had only found these verses in my adult life, while I was trying to establish what I believed based on personal study and the leading of the Holy Spirit. This particular belief would make or break my future. What if the plan I thought God had for me isn’t scripturally supported? Then what would I do?
Several years ago, I debated with someone who believed the principles of the scriptures above. I was told that I could teach, but it had to either be children or a women’s group. I didn’t see myself leading a women’s ministry for the rest of my life. What I had didn’t feel specific to women. I had already seen women operating in ministry at large, so I knew it was being done, but I was more concerned about God approving what I did. I didn’t want to be disobedient, regardless of what everyone else was doing.
My day of liberation
A year or so later, I sat in a Bible study where a guy was sharing his interpretation of the scripture we were studying. For so long the Bible was known to me as God’s word and I believed it was all true and flawless. But on this day, I was introduced to a new concept of the Bible. It is simply a book of stories and letters, written by humans about humans, inspired by God. I still believe the miracles and stories found in the Bible are true events, but my eyes were opened to the “God inspired” aspect. The people in the Bible weren’t perfect, but their God is, and that’s what makes it a good point of reference. That’s why if you read the right parts, you’ll see those humans committed many errors.
A Brief Bible Background
Much of the New Testament is comprised of letters from the Apostle Paul to the churches he oversaw and people he mentored, like Timothy. The letters were his words, his perspective, and his instruction. Paul’s words aren’t necessarily “God’s commands”, they are principles inspired by words God had previously established, made relevant for the situation. So, Paul’s letters are equivalent to a sermon we might hear today. God’s inspiration has to come through the channel of the mind, and spirit of that spokesperson, and we can only pray that God’s inspired word is not tainted by their view. We trust that the speaker is being led by God, but sometimes their own ideas are offered in the mix.
My Liberating thought
So if God didn’t say that women should be quiet in church, that means, if I did teach a group of people about God, it wouldn’t make me disobedient, unless I was trying to do something God didn’t lead me to do. What a relief that was for me. I love studying God’s word, pulling out life principles and sharing them. I would have felt so stifled if I had to live my life without the freedom to share my God inspired thoughts.
Then, who was Paul talking to?
If God didn’t say that women should be silent in church, why would Paul say that? I’m sure Paul had a legitimate reason to give that instruction, which was relevant in the culture of that time and place. Perhaps Paul was reinforcing the social structure at that time within the church. Women were not of equal status to men during that time, and still aren’t in many places. That system may be based on this.
For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.1 Timothy 2 : 13-14
Man was first and woman was second, so the man leads and woman follows. Woman and man mess up, woman is silenced and man continues to lead.
Me: Who makes these rules!?
Adam and Eve were put out of the garden. It seems to me that God would remain the leader, and the woman and the man would follow God. That’s seems fair and logical to me.
The idea that the fall of man was Eve’s fault is oppressive in nature, especially considering that God told Adam what to do and he was a victim of peer pressure. I didn’t come to place blame though.
I believe in order and I do believe that men are supposed to lead. However, it is hard to believe that God wouldn’t want women to lead at all, but would allow for the mental capacity and capability to do so.
Oppression vs. Ability
Ability is determined by skills and knowledge, thus inability would be the lack of those things. Oppression however, restricts a capable thing from doing what it has the ability to do. It’s not that women do not have the innate ability to lead, they were restricted from doing so, perhaps to prevent any further “falls” or misleading. Men are just as capable of misleading or abusing power. Men don’t have a lesser chance of misleading than women. We’re more than likely pretty equal because we have to go through the same process of building character, which prevents the bad leadership.
Women have great ideas, too. Women have people skills, too. Women have vision, too. Women can lead and can do so without oppressing or dishonoring the man.
However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.1 Corinthians 11:11-12
So let’s have a conversation about women in ministry and other positions of power. Let’s talk about the pros and cons. Let’s talk about oppression. Let’s talk about the scriptures that have us bound. Let’s get free!