Miscellaneous thoughts on gender roles in the church

Bible by fireplaceOK, time to make a totally different group of people angry. Let me tell you some of the ways that I know that my views on gender differ from the traditional view. I’ll do it by quickly reviewing some of the main texts that usually come up in these discussions:

  • I think that 1 Corinthians 11, where it talks about head coverings for women who pray and prophesy, is talking about a public setting. If not, why would they need the head coverings? The whole discussion seems to suppose a non-private context. I think that women in the first century prayed and prophesied in church, with full apostolic approval. I have no problem with women praying in public. What about prophesying? I think that’s most closely related to Scripture reading in today’s church, though some would interpret it more broadly.
  • I think the “keep silent” passage in 1 Corinthians 14 related to a specific problem in the church in Corinth. Just as tongue speakers are told to keep silent and prophets are told to keep silent, the women who were interrupting with questions (to their husbands?) were told to be silent. Just as the prophet is reminded that his spirit is hupotasso, under obedience, so the woman is to practice hupotasso. The passage very much fits with the context, and that context is dealing with specific problems.
  • I think that 1 Timothy 2 tells men to pray instead of arguing. It doesn’t say for men to pray instead of women praying.
  • I also understand 1 Timothy 2 to speak of women learning in quietness (same word used in verse 2 of that chapter), not silence.
  • I believe that 1 Timothy 3 allows for deaconesses in the church.
  • I think that the church needs to emphasize the ministry of widows (1 Timothy 5) in the church as much as we do that of deacons/deaconesses.

OK, that’s a start. I plan to explore several of these ideas more, but I wanted to further reveal my views before we progress.

47 thoughts on “Miscellaneous thoughts on gender roles in the church

  1. Jeanne Mohundro

    I believe women can be deaconesses, but not in a “title” sense. Everyone is supposed to be a servant for Christ, and that is not a “title” we have, just a loving response to His sacrifice. When a woman feels inferior to men, she looks for a way to make herself feel important, which is sad. We have so much we can do without the need for “titles.”

  2. Jr

    Good stuff. I would disagree with just one thing here (and it’s a point on the periphery of the main topic). I believe prophesying in the context of the NT is receiving and speaking what is supposedly direct revelation from God. It is this that should be weighed. Though I understand the position “post-closed-canon” that prophesying has ended and therefore “prophesying” is reading God’s Word. I’m just not there in my thinking and this is not a discussion on 1 Cor 13:8-12 and continuationism/cessationism. :)

    Otherwise, and more to the main topic, it is obvious from Paul’s instructions that women prayed and prophesied in the assembly. It was only at the point of spiritual headship that Paul drew a line (again, based on pre-fall creation decree).

    Grace be with you –

  3. Lucas Dawn

    I agree that 1 Cor. 14 relates to a specific problem in the church, yet Paul introduces the “silence” verses in 14:34-35 with “as in all the churches” (in 14:33b). I think the key to this problem is seeing who Paul addresses in 14:26 when he writes “brothers” and who Paul means by “women” in 14:34-35.
    When Paul uses “brothers” he usually means “brothers and sisters.” He never uses the plural sisters, and in Rom. 16:1-16, where he refers to sister Phoebe, he goes on to greet many women and men. Then in 16:17 he refers to them all as “brothers.”
    So in 1 Cor. 14:26f. Paul says that each of the brothers and sisters has something to contribute to the gathering. In 14:31 he writes that they can all prophesy one by one so all may learn.
    If so, then who are the women that are supposed to be silent in 14:34-35? It appears that they would not be sisters but wives of brothers, who attend the gatherings with their husbands. Paul says that if they have questions about what is said (by the brothers and sisters) they should ask their husbands at home. He also says it is shameful for (such) a woman/wife to speak in church. Evidently they were saying things like “Jesus is cursed” (see 12:3, which introduces this section of 12-14 on spiritual gifts).

  4. John Gaines

    Ah, Tim, you had been doing so well . . . . :-)

    Actually, I am more in agreement than disagreement with much of what you say. I do quibble about the setting of the first part of 1 Corinthians 11. I do not see any way that it can be limited to the assembly (but an argument can be made that the assembly could be included in Paul’s instructions). My strongest disagreement comes with your conclusions about prayer in 1 Timothy 2. Paul clearly does contrast men and women in verses 8-10. Men are to pray; women are to dress modestly. There is room for discussion about women praying based on 1 Cor 11 and other passages, but 1 Timothy 2:8 is still addressed to men. We can infer that men should also dress modestly, but that does not mean that 1 Timothy 2:9 is written to men.

    I do believe that you are correct regarding 1 Cor 14 referring to situations in the Corinth church (and by implication other places that faced similar conflicts). It’s hard to rationalize a situation that puts women under a rule of absolute silence in the assembly.

    All the best, brother. I’m looking forward to reading more as you continue exploring this subject.

  5. Don Middleton

    Good thoughts my friend…hope you have an op to view some of my thoughts on the subject in recent posts on my blog, as we have been dealing with it in our Sunday morning class. Saw that matters got a bit excited on the FB post…guess we can consider the bear poked, right? :-) I appreciate you.

    Blessings, Don

  6. Paul Smith

    Tim, now that you’ve “let the cat out of the bag,” can you explain how your position differs from that of Mark Love, whom you quoted a couple of posts back?

    If we recognize that Paul’s identification of the problem of church divisions is situational yet we view his corrective as universal; if we recognize that his identification of sexual immorality and congregational discipline is situational yet view his corrective as universal; if we recognize that his identification of marriage dysfunction is situational yet view his corrective as universal; and if we recognize that his description of a misunderstood doctrine of the Lord’s supper or the resurrection is situational, yet view his corrective as universal; then why is it that when we recognize the situational aspect of a disruptive worship service that we have to wait for an exact replica of said disruptive worship service to invoke his corrective?

    That having been said, if we view any or all of the above *correctives* as being strictly situational (as apparently Dr. Carroll Osburn believes), then your conclusions have more merit.

    But, why, with 4 explicit and one implicit references to his teachings as being “everywhere and in every church” do we limit 1 Cor. 14:34 to a disruptive gaggle of women in Corinth and therefore we can dispense with his corrective?

    If you set out to defend the spiritual leadership of the male, it would appear that in this post you have rendered that defense rather Pyrrhic. (Hence, I note Wendy’s support with a wry smile). One, it seems to me that you have made the distinction between what women are allowed to do or what they are limited from doing even more problematic; and two, it seems to me that you have arrived at a very tenuous egalitarian position, arguing for a theological distinction of the headship of the male, yet on a practical level blurring that role of leadership so as to make it indefinable.

    I recognize and admire your ability to summarize your thoughts in such a neat and tidy manner – but in this instance you did leave me straining for more explanation.

    I hope you follow this post with a description of your hermeneutical model that you use to arrive at your conclusions. Try as I might, I simply cannot see the contextual marker that unambiguously identifies 1 Cor. 11:2-16 as being an assembly situation, and two, I likewise cannot see the contextual marker that identifies 1 Cor. 14:34 as being a small and specific group of women who are apparently hijacking the worship service. You may be utterly and completely correct on both accounts, but to my knowledge no one has demonstrated how both conclusions are textually mandated. Both conclusions demand a fair amount of interpretive creativity, and before I can lean on either conclusion I need some more solid foundation under my feet.

    By the way, I am not angry, but I am totally mystified. Nothing that you have said in your previous posts has hinted at these conclusions. I just wonder what hermeneutic you are using to arrive at these conclusions.

  7. Tim Archer Post author


    I do intend to explain more. Let me attempt to deal with your summary of 1 Corinthians. (nicely done, by the way)

    This is top of my head, so please forgive if I miss some specifics. I think that in each of the cases, what is universal is the principle behind the corrective, not always the corrective itself. Take the instructions about marriage. I think Paul’s correctives, encouraging people to remain unmarried when possible, are bound to the situation. The principles remain, but the specific instructions don’t always fit.

    Most people don’t apply the specifics of the first part of 1 Corinthians 11 as being universal, though I have an aunt who insists on wearing a hat to church for that very reason. Most see a universal principle of submission and respect for cultural norms.

    Similar things could be said about church discipline (disfellowshipping lacks the teeth it had in Paul’s day, but the principle of not tolerating sin remains) and fleeing idolatry (if the application is universal, then we basically only have to worry about food offered to idols; if the application is specific, while the principle is universal, then we have to flee all forms of idolatry)

    So I’m not sure that the inconsistency you warn of actually exists. [Shall I also note that strict application of 1 Corinthians 14 leaves no room for women to sing in the assembly? Silence is silence.]

    I’ll try and spell things out more fully as we go along. And I’m definitely open to learning and growing in understanding on all of this… at least I hope I am!

  8. Paul Smith

    Tim – I appreciate the response, and look forward to your future additions. As I mentioned, part of the goldenness of your posts is their brevity – “brevity is the soul of wit” or some such saying. Therefore, I know there is more lurking than this very brief summation.

    I hope you (and no one else, for that matter) took my questions as broadsides. I do appreciate the conversation you started and I am thankful to be a part of it.

  9. Don Middleton

    I have seen a number of comments that have indicated that “as in all of the congregations of the saints” 1 Corinthians 14:33) should automatically be coupled with “women should remain silent in the churches (14:34)…and yet, it makes more sense…theologically, culturally, not to mention grammatically…for it to be included with v. 33, as is attested by the NAS (a more respected “literal” translation) and other sources. I do believe that this thought is a significant contributor to the argument both ways, but still just a contributor to the overall argumentation.

  10. Paul Smith

    Don, the grammar of 1 Cor. 14:33 is notoriously problematic. However, v. 33 is the *fourth* time that Paul mentions that what he is writing is for all the churches (see 4:17, 7:17 and 11:16 as well), so its placement here does not seem to me to be exceedingly critical. While we should never lose sight of the fact that Paul is addressing specific situations in Corinth, he appears to be going out of his way to teach the Corinthians that he is not just “willy nilly” making stuff up to answer their questions. He is teaching them that it does not matter if they live in Corinth, Athens, Rome or Jerusalem there are basic fundamental truths that God (or Christ, or the Spirit) has communicated to him and he teaches them uniformly in every situation. Some specific applications may differ (ergo the different list of qualities of leaders in the letters to Timothy and Titus) but the *essential* truths do not change. Our attention should not primarily be focused on the differences of the specifics until we can come to grips with an understanding of the *essence* of the basic truths. And if our application of the “specifics” is diametrically opposed to that essential teaching then something is horribly wrong – either we have utterly and completely missed the essential teaching, or we have corrupted that teaching in order to make that teaching palatable for our hyper-sensitive and increasingly syncretistic culture.

    I hate to be a “gloomy Gus,” but simply saying “the times have changed, get with the program” does not cut it with me. I need something just a little more substantial.

  11. KeithBrenton

    Paul, a hundred fifty years ago, Americans began to decide that “the times have changed; get with the program” with regard to slavery; that even though scripture said more in favor of apparently maintaining the institution than it does against it, slavery was not compatible with the spirit and nature of Jesus Christ.

    Were we wrong to conclude that?

  12. Paul Smith

    Keith, Paul emphatically says that slavery or freedom has *nothing* to do with one’s relationship to Christ. To compare slavery in the 18th and 19th century America with the slavery that Paul (and his predecessors) were addressing is simple sophistry. The two are not equal.

    Second, are you suggesting that women are being lynched today simply because they are women? That they are arrested and summarily executed because of their reproductive organs? Are you seriously equating slavery with the ability to preach teach in a mixed classroom, or serve as an elder?

    Third, since you brought up civil rights, what is your position on the acceptance and ordination of practicing, active homosexuals? I ask because the arguments used to defend same sex marriage, the acceptance (even welcoming) of active homosexuals and the ordination of practicing homosexuals to church leadership positions are 100% the same arguments used to promote the feminist agenda as it relates to leadership roles in the church. If you view homosexual activity as a sin, on what basis do you make that judgment? If you would not officiate at a homosexual or lesbian marriage, why would you decide to deprive a loving couple of their God given rights? If you would not lay your hands on a practicing homosexual, or lesbian, and ordain him or her as an elder in the church simply because of his or her homosexual behavior, on what basis can you make such a discriminatory decision?

    Those who argue for full leadership roles for women in the church must, by every rule of logic, accept practicing homosexuals for the same roles, or they must somehow draw a razor thin line between passages that condemn homosexual behavior and passages that teach male spiritual leadership, as both can be found in the same letters of Paul. Homosexuals use the same arguments to reject Paul (and, by extension, the Old Testament) that are put forward by the feminists. And, to be sure, Galatians 3:28 clearly says, “neither male nor female…” Gender neutral means gender neutral, not just gender neutral when we want it to be and gender specific when we want it to be.

    Thank you for the question. But to me, if you are going to draw a social parallel, you must find a subject much closer than that of slavery. There are simply too many differences between the American experience and that of ancient Israel and the Greco/Roman world.

  13. Keith Brenton

    First, I am a simple person. I major in sophistry. I ask simple questions.
    Second: no.
    Third: You’re off-topic.
    Fourth: You’re welcome. It was a good question, and simple, and you evaded it. I understand that you didn’t like it, but you didn’t make any attempt to answer or actually address it.

  14. Keith Brenton

    I can’t seem to get my response to post, but I’ll try once more and apologize in advance if it already did, but won’t show up on my phone.

    First, I am a simple person. I major in sophistry. I ask simple questions.
    Second: no.
    Third: You’re off-topic.
    Fourth: You’re welcome. It was a good question, and simple, and you evaded it. I understand that you didn’t like it, but you didn’t make any attempt to answer or actually address it.

  15. Paul Smith

    Keith, we were discussing women’s role in the church and YOU introduced the topic of slavery, but then accuse ME of being off topic??? Slavery (which has nothing to do with gender) has everything to do with women’s role in the church, but homosexuality (which is entirely related to gender) is off topic? Really?

    I evaded YOUR question?? Where did you answer mine?? I DID answer your question – the topic of slavery is (a) far too varied and the circumstances of the American experience of slavery is too far removed from slavery as practiced in ancient Palestine, Egypt or the Greco/Roman world of the apostle Paul and (b) there is no legitimate parallel between slavery and women’s role in the church anyway.

    How could I have answered any more directly?? By agreeing with you?

    Sheesh. Really. I do not mind conversations, but it takes two to converse.

    Now – grant me the courtesy of answering my questions and we can have a conversation.

  16. Paul Smith

    Keith, after thinking about it all night I have decided to give your question a more detailed answer, although the conclusion will be the same:

    The connection between slavery and women’s role in the church is invalid because:

    …the American slavery experience was totally racial in nature. Slavery in biblical times was varied – but mostly was due to conquest or economic hardship. Israelites were forbidden from owning their own people as slaves. This has absolutely nothing to do with leadership roles in the church.

    …the Israelites were to release all of their slaves every seven years. This was obviously not the practice in colonial America. Once again, no connection with leadership roles in the church.

    …Paul did address the relationship of slave owners to slaves, and it was to be one of Christian brotherhood, but the *legal* relationship was never abrogated.

    …in the American experience both sides (Union and Confederate) swore that God was on their side. This is especially egregious knowing what Sherman did during his rampage of rape, burning and pillaging of the south. As someone recently pointed out, it is impossible to be on the “wrong side of history” as history is always written by the victors. Hence, had the Confederacy won and the southern states been allowed to keep their slaves, that outcome would have been hailed as the “righteous judgment of God.” That the Union did the same does not make God a Yankee. I fail to see any connection to the roles of leadership in the church.

    …the civil war did not begin as a slavery issue, at least for many people. It was an issue of states’ rights v. federalism. It is true that many saw slavery as a moral issue, but it was not until the war was well underway that Lincoln attached emancipating the slaves to the outcome of the war. Once again, I see no connection to leadership roles in the church.

    So, you see, when you bring up the issue of slavery I see nothing but a “red herring.” The Sophists were well known for their ability to win arguments by bringing up extraneous and basically meaningless issues that confused their opponents and allowed them to gain the upper hand. Hence the term “sophistry.” If, perhaps, you could draw a direct connection between slavery and leadership roles in the church, then maybe we could debate it. Simply saying “slavery proves my point” does nothing of the sort.

    I eagerly await your responses regarding homosexuality, same sex marriage, and the ordination of persons (male and female) who are actively involved in homosexual relationships to leadership roles within the church. These are issues directly related to the question under discussion, and I hope you will take the time to answer my questions listed above.

  17. Paul Smith

    Wendy, exactly. Keith introduced the topic of slavery thinking that he had trumped my argument regarding leadership roles in the church. The argument follows that, if the United States was smart enough to end the slavery of Africans, the church should be smart enough to end the “slavery” of women. I reject that argument, not because I am trying to defend slavery (a horrid moral evil) but because there is no connection between American slavery and the slavery that was discussed in the Bible, and also because there is no connection between slavery and the roles of men and women in the church.

    I responded with a series of questions trying to elicit a response from Keith as to whether he is truly egalitarian (welcoming of homosexuals into every form of church life and leadership) or whether he is simply a gender egalitarian (allowing women, but excluding homosexuals). He has yet to respond.

    So, to answer your question, I am not only seeing slavery from a USA perspective. That was Keith’s argument. I believe we need to discuss the issue of slavery from (1) the biblical context in which it was addressed in the pages of Scripture and (2) from the American experience which was radically different and in my mind, completely different from what we read about in the Bible.

  18. Paul Smith

    Wow, that last sentence makes no sense…it should read “…radically different and in my mind, completely separate from the issue under discussion.”

  19. Keith Brenton

    Paul, I didn’t actually make an argument. I asked a question. If there is a difference between slavery in the first-century Middle East and slavery in nineteenth-century America, the fact remains that people owning other people is either morally right or morally wrong. Slavery is slavery. (I believe it’s wrong. Always was. Always will be. To me, that’s the whole point of the Exodus.)

    It’s also either morally right or morally wrong to withhold rights, privileges and responsibilities from certain people based on their gender. (I believe that’s wrong. Always was. Always will be.) There are, as you point out, basic and fundamental truths that God has communicated. The question of times changing is irrelevant, as I’m guessing you would agree. Morality isn’t determined by era. But era may provide opportunities to re-evaluate what we regard as moral. And in this case, as was the case with slavery (which, whether a flawed argument or not, many Americans defended from scripture in that era), it is possible we have been wrong in our perception of what is morally right with regard to gender.

    If you think my example is flawed because you perceive two different definitions of slavery, then for you it’s flawed. That doesn’t change the facts that we have an opportunity to re-examine questions of gender and repression; that God either is or is not a respecter of persons as His word claims; that He permitted and sometimes encouraged women to speak for Him; that there were abuses in the churches to whom these instructions were originally given; and that for the most part, those abuses don’t exist in the same severity in today’s churches. Women are now educated, including training in the gospel. There’s not generally a problem with services being interrupted by questions or chatter. Now what we have to determine is whether Paul’s instructions on women speaking were intended for all churches for all time or for these churches at that time, even though they might temporarily restrict the freedoms of abusers until their education and behavior was more conformed to the nature of Christ.

    I’m not going to comment on your question because it is off-topic. We’re discussing gender in scripture. If Tim wants to post about sexual preference in another series, that’s up to him and we can discuss it there.

    So, as you can see, you have mis-characterized the arguments presented in an attempt to minimize them by reducing them to simply “times have changed; get with the program.”

    Times have changed. That’s not the reason for us to change what we believe. But it is a reason to re-examine what we believe.

    “Prove all things; hold fast what is good.” This is advice that knows no season.

  20. Tim Archer Post author


    I’m not in favor of slavery, but I’m not in favor of rewriting history, either. Abolishing slavery was NOT the main purpose of the Exodus, except in Cecil B. Demille’s version. The Book of the Covenant, the heart of the Torah, contained provisions for slavery.

    If slavery was always wrong, was this one of those “hardness of your hearts” situations? Curious how you see it.

    Grace and peace,

  21. Paul Smith

    Keith, thank you for your extended answer. I believe in all candor we must agree that we will never agree on this question. I give my reason below. But first…

    If it has always been wrong, is now wrong, and will always be wrong to differentiate between the genders then (a) Paul was clearly NOT led by the Spirit when he penned 1 Corinthians, Timothy and Titus or (b) the Spirit clearly led Paul to write something that God determined was always and will always be wrong. Even if the Spirit merely led Paul to write something confusing, He still misled Paul. We cannot re-write the text based on what we assume to be “always was and always will be.”

    If slavery always was wrong, and always will be, then why did God not only allow it, but actually give specific laws that legislated it? God condemned murder, lying, stealing and committing adultery – why not just flat out say “Thou shalt not own another human being.” Oh, that’s right – He actually did! It was against the Mosaic law to own another Israelite as a slave. This is why many suggest God is a xenophobe as well as a homophobic misogynist.

    God emphatically communicated to Peter and to Paul that Gentiles were to be accepted into the household of faith – but this was not due to the Spirit’s arrival on the day of Pentecost – it was a fulfillment of instructions and prophecy that went all the way back to the promise to Abraham and the words of Isaiah and Micah.

    And, try as you might, you cannot dodge the issue of homosexuality and the inclusion (even ordination) of homosexuals because it IS a gender related issue and has far more pertinence to the question under discussion than the issue of slavery. If, as you suggest, “repression” based on gender was wrong, is wrong, and always will be wrong, then you MUST answer the question of the inclusion of homosexuals because the argument that they have put forward is the exact same argument as that of the feminists: (a) Paul was a homophobic bigot (just as he was a patriarchal misogynist) and (b) you cannot go back to the creation account because it is irrelevant to the current discussion and, (c) if you must insist on any overarching passage of Scripture it has to be Galatians 3:28. If God said gender does not matter, then gender does not matter. Galatians 3:28 either means what it says or it does not.

    I find it interesting that you used the words “rights, privileges and responsibilities” in regard to roles in the church if you would deny any or all of those concepts to a practicing homosexual based solely on his or her sexual orientation.

    As I have mentioned earlier, I think what your answers reveal, and I assume what my answers reveal, is that we view Scripture in two entirely different ways. At its most fundamental level this is not a question of women’s role in the church. It is a question of hermeneutics. If we cannot agree on HOW to interpret Scripture, then it is hopeless to try to come to an agreement on WHAT it says.

  22. Keith Brenton

    Surely you understand there are plenty of conventions of man that God permits in scripture, yet does not necessarily approve. Bigamy. Divorce. He waits patiently for us to mature, seeking His face, comprehend His nature.

    And, yes, that is at the heart of the different ways we view scripture.

    I do not see it as a set of inchanging commands for all time, as if we had nothing more to live for than following the rules. If I see it incorrectly, and it is no more than just another rule book, please set me aright; I have no way of knowing how You see it.

    I do, however, see it as a revelation of God’s inherently good and perfect nature, His desire for us to study, meditate on it and emulate it, and His gracious/just nature accommodating for our imperfection and growth by virtue of His Son, Jesus, the Christ.

    I think He dearly wants us to grow out of selfish pursuits like greed, murder, slavery, polygamy, divorce, racial-, ethnic- and even gender-based prejudice. He wants Eden for us again. He wants His kingdom to break through in this world and for every knee to bow equally because He knows that is what’s best for us.

    That’s the big picture I find scripture revealing to us.

  23. Keith Brenton

    Oh, and by the way … I MUST answer your question because one group forms their argument the same way another does? But you don’t have to answer mine?

    Then let me answer mine: “We were not wrong to re-examine slavery as a practice in nineteenth century America and stop defending it based on biblical verses specifically written to different circumstances in another era.”

    Nor are we wrong to re-evaluate our practice of denying women the opportunity to speak for God now.

  24. Paul Smith

    Keith, was the eventual result of ending slavery a good one? Absolutely. Was the decision to kill tens of thousands of young men and destroy an economy for generations to come a good one? Not in the least. The Union military victory ended the Civil War and the slaves were freed legally, but intellectually and socially they remained, and arguably still remain, slaves to certain limitations and prejudices. I am not at all sure that the overriding reason for freeing the slaves was a religious one. Historically a case could be made either way. Ending slavery would not be the only issue that was solved on purely economic and political grounds and then “baptized” with a spiritual meaning to give it legitimacy in certain circles. Seeing as how it was not until the mid to late 1960’s that most southern churches even considered integration I find the “spiritual” argument a tough one to sell.

    There is little, if anything, in your last two posts that I would disagree with. I think you stated eloquently how we are to grow in grace and truth in God.

    My question is then “how” are we to read his word? Is it inspired, or simply inspiring? Are its truths timeless or are they to be re-written every generation with every new twist and turn of human interaction?

    I pressed the homosexual question for one reason and one reason only. Feminists say, “women should be allowed to lead equally with men because Paul’s teachings in 1 Cor., Timothy and Titus (and the O.T.) are time bound and reveal his patriarchal and misogynist background. We have moved beyond his prejudices and therefore those passages simply are no longer to be viewed as Scripture.” The LGBTQ promoters say, “homosexuals should be allowed every right and privilege granted to heterosexuals because Paul’s teachings in 1 Cor., Timothy and Titus (and the O.T.) are time bound and reveal his homophobic and bigoted background. We have moved beyond his prejudices and therefore those passages are no longer to be viewed as Scripture.”

    You are asking me to accept the feminist viewpoint. (In fact, in an article I linked in another one of Tim’s posts, I am no longer a Christian because I deny that position. I am a heretic, twice cursed and bound for the fiery pit of hell. Oh, well. Que sera, sera) I merely asked you if you accept the LGBTQ viewpoint. If you do not, I would like to know how the feminist viewpoint can be correct and the LGBTQ viewpoint can be incorrect. The Anglicans, Lutherans and Presbyterians (among others) are splitting over this very issue. In your opinion, who is correct?

    I view the feminist/LGBTQ hermeneutic to fall in the category of Marcionism, to be honest (although, of a clearly different motivation). It fits the story of Jehoiakim and his famous Scripture cutting knife. Quite honestly I do not have the faith in human intellect, reason, or morality that you seem to hold. Maybe I should. I see nothing in our world in the 21st century that is more moral, more advanced, more spiritual, or more “reasonable” than the 1st, 10th, 15th, 19th, or 20th centuries. If we are so advanced, I sure wish we could show some fruit from our advancement.

    And – something that I have been forgetting to mention – you keep speaking of the “repression” and “prejudice” that is keeping women in the 21st century from living up to all of their gifts and abilities. One argument that I have not ever seen addressed by any egalitarian is this: Some of the strongest defenders of male spiritual leadership are female. If they are so repressed, abused, spat on, ratted on and otherwise mistreated, why would they feel they they are obeying God’s command to fulfill their “gifts” in a myriad other ways other than preaching and teaching in a mixed audience? And why do they so completely reject the feminist hermeneutic that I have described? These are not ignorant women, as you point out. Many very highly educated, eloquent, and spiritually minded women disagree with their feminist sisters on this question. Are we to disregard *their* voices just because they do not fit the model of postmodern feminism? Are you not *repressing* the voices and conclusions of these women?

  25. Keith Brenton

    Give me a break, Paul. How have I been forbidding anyone, male or female, to speak for God or repressing them? I reserve the right to disagree, but I can’t agree or disagree if a position isn’t expressed. Part of the process of meditation should be dialog. I never discourage dialog. Though I may withdraw from it when it devolves into baseless accusations, judgment and baiting.

    So, thanks for the conversation.

  26. Paul Smith

    Keith, point made, and I admit to poor phraseology. If you notice I said, “are we to disregard their voices” before I used the second person “are you not repressing their voices.” I should have made it the generic third person. If I am accused of “repressing” females (and, I am not accusing you of accusing me, but I clearly have been by others, and admit it, YOU used some pretty descriptive verbs as well), then why is it inappropriate for me to raise the question of “silencing” the women who speak very clearly on the issue, but from a male spiritual leadership angle?

    If you notice, I have tried very hard in this conversation to ask you to state your position. I would very much like to know how you determine what is determinative in Scripture and what is merely suggestive or time bound. In your reading of Scripture are their any timeless commands or truths, or is everything in Scripture simply suggestive of a general direction God would like us to take, and He leaves us to sweat out the “small stuff?” Or, is there a third or fourth option?

    Once again – my apologies.

  27. Paul Smith

    Wendy, your point is taken, and it would have more influence with me IF you could prove that submission to men is a sinful behavior. My point is that many females interpret the relevant Scriptures and conclude that it is *precisely* their role, in specified situations, to submit to male leadership. It is not a *repressive* action on males at all.

    Remember that Paul told men to love their wives “as Christ loved the church.” If this is the guiding principle by which all men love and respect women, then the question of “repression” is eliminated. This has not always been the case, I admit. That is why when I preach or teach on this issue I direct more of my attention to the males than I do the females. You touched on a sensitive issue with me – I will not defend abuse of women. However, I cannot see where biblical leadership rises to the level of abuse.

  28. Paul Smith

    I have already used up far too much space on Tim’s question.

    “Never pass up an opportunity to keep your mouth shut” – sage advice I never pay any attention to.

    regards all…

  29. Nick Gill

    Paul did address the relationship of slave owners to slaves, and it was to be one of Christian brotherhood, but the *legal* relationship was never abrogated.

    There’s a reason why, in his big new book on Paul, NT Wright begins by exegeting Philemon. That little letter is hugely important to the canon.

    Because you’re right — nowhere is a slave owner commanded to free his slaves. But Paul does everything in his considerable rhetorical power to convince Philemon that owning Onesimus is not in accord with their new relationship in the kingdom of God.

    The sheer number of texts available to us in the Scriptures describing spiritually-gifted women acting in leadership, teaching, and prophetic roles leads me to believe that the same is true of males and females in their new relationship in the kingdom of God.

    For it is not *merely* an issue of “time-bound” texts, for there is considerable evidence to show us that even in the 1st century (and even in Israel!) women were prophets, teachers, and leaders. The message on homosexuality is univocal.

  30. Paul Smith

    “The sheer number of texts available to us in the Scriptures describing spiritually-gifted women acting in leadership, teaching, and prophetic roles leads me to believe that the same is true of males and females in their new relationship in the kingdom of God.”

    Nick – can you list some of those “sheer numbers?” I am aware of relatively few, and even those are marked by questions or differing interpretations.

    “For it is not *merely* an issue of “time-bound” texts, for there is considerable evidence to show us that even in the 1st century (and even in Israel!) women were prophets, teachers, and leaders. The message on homosexuality is univocal.”

    The message on homosexuality is only univocal if you maintain that Paul was inspired, that the texts he penned are authoritative, and that he is not writing from a homophobic, bigoted cultural and personal viewpoint and that the Old Testament passages to which he refers are equally authoritative. The feminist argument is that Paul was either (a) not inspired, or that (b) the texts he penned are not authoritative, and/or that (c) he was writing from a misogynistic, patriarchal cultural or personal viewpoint; therefore we can simply excise those texts in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the letters to Timothy and Titus where Paul tells men to take the leadership role in spiritual matters.

    I’ve heard the argument before, and to me it simply does not hold water. We cannot argue for *progressive* revelation that eliminates any distinction between the genders on the one hand, and then shut out the homosexual argument by saying that the words recorded in the same biblical texts we have dismissed as being irrelevant are now somehow relevant and timeless simply because we are uneasy with homosexual behavior. We are applying two different hermeneutical processes on the same texts, and it is no wonder that the LGBTQ coalition views Christians who make this distinction as nothing but pure hypocrites.

    I am really working here to see how the two are related. I am open to hearing more.

  31. Tim Archer Post author

    The sheer number of texts available to us in the Scriptures describing spiritually-gifted women acting in leadership, teaching, and prophetic roles leads me to believe that the same is true of males and females in their new relationship in the kingdom of God.

    I’ve got to push back a bit on this one. The “sheer number” is a handful at best. It’s far from egalitarian, far from what people are crying for today. Look at how upset people have been about only 19% of major conference speakers being women. You can’t tell me that you believe that 19% of the spiritual leaders named in the Bible are women.

    I believe that there were many women working actively in the Kingdom, in prominent roles. I don’t believe they were in positions of authority over men.

    Grace and peace,

  32. nick gill

    The feminist argument is that Paul was either (a) not inspired, or that (b) the texts he penned are not authoritative, and/or that (c) he was writing from a misogynistic, patriarchal cultural or personal viewpoint; therefore we can simply excise those texts in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the letters to Timothy and Titus where Paul tells men to take the leadership role in spiritual matters.

    Sorry, Paul. I’ve read and discarded those arguments as well, and I still question whether my DNA entitles me to authority over those with XY chromosomes. There are many other writers smarter than me (I’m doing my best to avoid the “arguing from authority” fallacy by posting a list of names, but NT Wright is the best-known of them) who reject all that foolishness and still persist in believing that in the age of the Spirit, the roles of males and females are defined by giftedness rather than DNA.

  33. Tim Archer Post author


    Like in the discussion of genitalia that came up before, I think we need to guard against viewing biology as just an accident of evolution. We aren’t carbon-based machines. We are humans, made in the image of God. That DNA was given to you by God, part of the pre-Fall creation of mankind. You are gifted with DNA by your Creator; let’s not make a Platonian schism between biology and spirituality.

    A holistic view of Christians would see our roles defined by DNA and giftedness, rather than an artificial choice between the two.

    Grace and peace,

  34. nick gill

    Tim, I have never claimed that the 1st century church immediately began implementing an egalitarian worldview, any more than you would claim that YHWH immediately implemented a pacifist worldview upon Israel when He saved them from Egypt.

    The way that you believe God is graciously and gradually leading his people towards pacifism is the same way that I believe He has been graciously leading them towards a place where the roles people fill.in the kingdom are based on giftedness rather than gender, race, or social class.

  35. Tim Archer Post author

    Actually, I believe that warfare was a part of God’s plan in the Old Testament, a necessary part of obtaining and guarding the Promised Land. I see that Promised Land as symbolic of the Kingdom that is no longer based on physical territory. That’s why Jesus’ followers needn’t fight for their Kingdom, at least not with the weapons of this world.

    So I’m not a “progressive revelation” guy when it comes to pacifism.

  36. Paul Smith

    Nick, I am just now discovering N.T. Wright, and am enjoying him immensely. But I have already caught him in some leaps of logic that I find more fanciful than fact based, so I am not going to sell my house and bet on all of his conclusions quite yet.

    However, Paul too was living in the “age of the Spirit” and if we accept his writings as inspired and authoritative, we must come to grips with his instructions regarding male leadership and female “silence” (whatever conclusion we come to in regard to the precise definition of that word, Paul attaches it to the female and not the male) in letters as diverse as 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the Pastorals. (And yes, before you ask, I am aware of the other groups in 1 Cor. that Paul also instructs to keep silent.) In other words, Paul did not just mention this concept once, it was for him a universal concept, that is, if we take the passages in 1 Corinthians 4:17, 7:17, 11:16 and 14:33 seriously.

    It just seems to me that before we can make some conclusions based on information that we do not have, we need to come to a better consensus about the information that we do have.

    Thanks for the peaceful conversation.

  37. nick gill

    I don’t necessarily mean the warfare – I mean the retributive justice and the passages like the psalm about shattering baby heads… Elisha summoning the bears to kill people who mock his baldness…

    I don’t know how I feel about the warfare specifically, but if the peace Jesus calls us to live by is an essential characteristic of God, then YHWH tolerated a great deal of violence on the way to His essential rejection of it as a means of living in the world.

  38. nick gill

    Paul, I agree that whatever Paul was teaching to the folks at Corinth can be applied anywhere else. I don’t think the Corinthian congregation had a unique set of problems unlike other congregations where Christian monolatrism encountered a culture of diverse pagan idolatries.

    Where we disagree is not on Paul’s authority or his consistency, but on the meaning we believe he intends to convey by the words he uses, given the historical setting and the nature of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and beyond.

  39. Paul Smith

    Nick, thank you for the follow-up. It is refreshing to know someone who disagrees with my conclusions actually agrees with my fundamental (not fundamentalist) viewpoint.

    I’m not sure what to do with it, but it sure is nice to hear! :)


  40. Nick Gill

    So I’m not a “progressive revelation” guy when it comes to pacifism.

    I’m not really comfortable with the progressive revelation concept — I think of it more in terms of God’s gracious patience and accommodation for the mindset and worldview in which his people lived.

    Another example that gives me pause is God’s relationship with divorce — it was clearly never his intent for human relationships… it is something that he hates because of the chaos and devastation it wreaks upon people’s lives… and yet he makes room for it. Leaves a lot of room for it in Deuteronomy, while adding protective language for the female that was radically different than the divorce law of surrounding cultures. Jesus leaves, as is his custom, considerably *less* room for it in the New Covenant, while pointing towards the other-centered heart of faithfulness that is the goal towards which Torah and the prophets pointed.

    Abram was called out of a culture that had been fallen, terribly and woefully fallen, for many generations — likewise the culture out of which Israel is rescued in the Exodus. Yet when God reveals his law to them, that law bears remarkable parallels to the laws of the surrounding cultures, but also with even more remarkable protections and allowances for women that did not exist in the other law codes that we’ve been able to study.

    And we have the aforementioned appearances — anomalies from a cultural perspective, to be sure — of such women as Miriam and Deborah and Huldah, who are raised up by God as prophets and leaders and teachers of Israel. If the argument is that God only gifts men with the spiritual gifts of leadership, or that God only permits/authorizes women to exercise leadership over/on behalf of other women, I think we need good answers to these counterexamples.

  41. Tim Archer Post author

    As to the examples of women, I don’t know that Miriam is pictured as having authority over men. She was definitely under Moses and legally under Aaron (since he was high priest).

    Deborah and Huldah seem to rise via a vacuum, that is, the men weren’t doing what they were supposed to. (It should be noted as well that Deborah did not supplant the priests in their duties)

    Grace and peace,

  42. Pingback: Focus on differences and seek common ground | The Kitchen of Half-Baked Thoughts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.