Whilst I could blog on and on about this topic, I’m going to leave it for the time being after this post. This final post is going to explore my thoughts on the following verses:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must remain silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
I grew up in a church that interpreted this verse to mean that women do not teach authoritatively when there are adult males present, but they are able to teach other women and children (both male and female).
After my systematic theology study, I still hold this view.
The rationale for this position is given within the above quoted verses: created order and the first sinner.
After doing a systematic theology of Biblical Femininity, I also believe that it sits neatly into the whole package deal of womanhood presented in The Bible. Other interpretations in my mind don’t sit in neatly – something like the wrong puzzle piece trying to be shoved into the image.
Of course, there are plenty of people within the Church who do not hold this interpretation. One main reason people don’t hold this interpretation is because they believe these verses are bound to the cultural context in which The Bible is written. My personal opinion is that it’s not bound by cultural context and it’s actually timeless.
Now of course, there are many people who think whether women preach to adult males or not isn’t actually that big a deal and it really doesn’t matter what you think about it all. I also don’t hold to that interpretation, because the verses quoted above have that confusing sentence about women being saved through childbearing.
When you get strange verses like this you have to compare them with other verses that give you other ideas that are held across The Bible.
This brings me to the conclusion that the verse cannot possibly be saying that women have to give birth to be Christians because that goes against the “It’s OK to be single” verses and the entire doctrine of salvation by faith (not by doing stuff).
However, it does connect to that whole “faith without actually doing something isn’t actually faith” idea.
My personal opinion (remember it’s not worth much but I give it to you as a bonus deal anyway) is that this means a woman should accept the roles assigned to her by Biblical Femininity and continue walking by faith, love, holiness and propriety.
This demonstrates that she has true faith. This means it’s not a little issue.
This means it’s a salvation issue. For it says “women will be saved…” etcetera.
I acknowledge straight away that this is a highly controversial interpretation, but it’s the one that I hold.
One New Testament passage that talks about wifely submission uses Abraham’s wife, Sarah as a model. It concludes by saying to women:
You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
For me that’s a brilliant verse because it summarises at least one reason why women would not wish to submit to their husbands or be restricted from preaching in certain contexts.
They’re terrified of what might happen as a result.
And I completely understand their fear. The sad fact of the Church is that it contains men (and women) who are less interested in leading people to The Lord and more interested in lording themselves over people.
How much more so in the home, behind closed doors.
However, I look at those words above about Sarah in context, which means I read the next verse also:
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
My personal experience of discussing this verse with people who aren’t Christians is that they get all hung up on that whole weaker partner bit and miss the whole point of the verse.
I don’t think the verse is offensive to women. I actually think it’s the anti-domestic violence verse in The Bible (should you be looking for one).
Personally I’ve never had a problem if the verse is talking about physical weakness, because I know that compared to most men I am physically weaker and I think it’s great that The Bible commands not to take advantage of me. However, I question whether the verse is actually referring to physical strength and is more talking about weakness in the sense of vulnerability.
Because everyone, regardless of gender, is vulnerable at some point in time. If I was someone’s wife, I could see where my husband was vulnerable and take advantage of him. (NB: The Bible says that wives are to respect their husbands; so being that sort of manipulative cow isn’t Biblical Femininity)
And the Bible verse is actually commanding – not suggesting – that husbands must be considerate of their wives and respect them (just what Aretha asked for). Considerate and respectful husbands do not engage in domestic violence.
And there’s good reason for a husband to behave in this way, beyond the obvious consideration of his wife’s welfare. Whilst there may be differences in commands on earth, when it comes to a spiritual perspective, husbands can claim no greater standing because wives are heirs with you of the gracious gift of life.
They’re on an even keel. Unless of course he decides to not be considerate or respectful of his wife. If he does that, he’s in a spiritually dangerous place. The verse says that his prayers will be hindered.
I take that to mean that if a man takes advantage of his wife, God won’t listen when he prays – that’s HUGE.
I also take this to be a Biblical principle that can be applied within the Church whenever men take advantage of women who aren’t their wives. I can’t believe that God would suddenly change his mind about people being abused just because it’s not in a marriage situation.
I also think there’s enough verses in The Bible that suggest this is how God operates when anyone abuses someone in the Church – regardless of what genders are involved on the side of perpetrator and victim. Don’t think you’re OK because of the job you have, the title you hold or the reputation you’ve gained – God ain’t listening when you pray.
This post has gone on a little longer than most because there are things that needed to be said. However, let me return to my original Bible quote from the start of the post.
When I look at my interpretation of these verses about preaching and the parameters they give for what a woman can and can’t do, I don’t feel worried or restricted. This is for three reasons:
- There is just simply so much else that a woman can do instead, that there will simply not be enough time to do it all.
- Whilst there may be jerks in the Church, (some of whom might not preach as well as they think they can) ultimately they will answer to God on Judgement Day. They may think they are in a position of power now, but I believe God sees everything and it’s them who should be giving way to fear.
- And, last but certainly not least, I don’t think it means there’s no channel for me to express what I think about all things Jesus.
Welcome to my blog friends.
Yours in controversy,