by C Michael PattonMay 7th, 2008 40 Comments
1 Timothy 2:12-14
“But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet. For Adam was formed first and then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman, because she was fully deceived, fell into transgression.”
There are a few ways in which this passage has been taken. These go from the most conservative (hard complementarian) to the most liberal (hard egalitarian):
1. Under no circumstances can women teach men in any setting.
2. Under no circumstances can women teach men spiritual truths.
3. Under no circumstances can women teach men theology.
4. Under no circumstances can women teach men the Bible.
5. Women can teach men when there is no male who is willing and able to teach, but this is not ideal (i.e. Deborah as a Judge).
6. Women can teach men in the church but should not be the primary teacher of men.
7. Women can teach men, but they should not hold a position of authority (i.e. elder) in a church setting.
8. Paul did not let women teach due to the often combative nature that teaching must entail concerning the confrontation of false doctrine, but this is limited to similar contexts.
9. Paul did not let women teach, but this was more of a proverbial suggestion rather than an absolute command. This would be likened to Paul’s suggestion that people remain single (1 Cor. 7:26) due to the “current distress.”
10. Paul’s command was purely cultural without any necessary abiding or eternal principles. Because the culture of the day was not prepared to tolerate women teaching men, Paul accommodated the culture by restricting all teaching of men to men, but this is not how God intends things today. Therefore, all teaching roles are equally accessible to both women and men.
My position is a combination of 5, 6, and 8. I reject all the others.
Focusing in on 8 for a moment:
8. Paul did not let women teach due to the often combative nature that teaching must entail concerning the confrontation of false doctrine, but this is limited to similar context. Therefore, men must be the teachers only when combating false teaching. However, because the role of a teacher in the church is so often to combat false doctrine, and because false doctrine is always a problem, generally speaking, the principles are always applicable. The “exercising of authority” is inherently tied to teaching and its necessary condemnation of false doctrine, not administration of those within the church.
The combative nature of teaching is particularly relevant to a broader understanding of the characteristics of men and women. The other day, my wife was confronted by another couple who did not believe that she was doing what was right. She used to do princess parties where she would dress up as a princess (Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) and go to little girls’ homes and entertain them for an hour or so. She was really good at this. After we moved from Frisco to Oklahoma, she still had one party on the schedule. She called her boss and let her know that she could not do it since we had already moved. Her boss became very angry and began to threaten her. She also said that she was going to bring in her husband (who was a lawyer) and sue Kristie. Kristie became very scared and did not know how to handle this situation, especially since her boss was now using her husband as part of the threat. She told me about this and I told her not to speak to her boss anymore, but to let me handle it. I did. I stepped in and confronted both her boss and her husband’s threats concerning the issue. In the end, they backed off.
I felt that it was my duty and obligation to step in and be strong on behalf of my wife as the situation became confrontational. Kristie is both tender, gentle, and, in those situations, frightened. She was going to give in and travel back to Texas to perform this last party even though she would lose money in the gas it took to go there and back. Her boss refused to pay her mileage.
My point is that men are conditioned to handle confrontation better than women. It is not that Kristie could not have done the same thing as me, it is just that this was not her bent. Women, generally speaking, are not bent to deal with confrontation the same way as men. Teaching in the church involves, more often than not, confronting false understanding.
Can women teach? Absolutely! Can women understand and think as well as men? Most certainly. But the bent of a man is better able to handle the type of teaching that is always necessary in the church.
Would I let a woman teach from the pulpit from time to time? Yes. Paul is not restricting women teachers over men in the absolute sense. The infinitive here, “to teach” is in the present tense which suggests the perpetual role of teaching which exercises authority (confrontation).
I also believe that with the way that most elderships are set up in the Evangelical church today that women can and should be elders. I believe that women should be ordained into ministry. And I believe that women can have the gift of pastor/shepherd and carry this office, understanding that the office of pastor does not necessarily mean primary teacher.
OK, I am now going to get it from my strong complementarian friends and from strong egalitarians friends alike. At least you can say that I am not trying to be a people-pleaser!!
- Why Women Cannot Be Head Pastors
- Men and Women: What they like and don’t like—and why it matters
- Male/Female Equality: A Plea for Honesty
- Top Ten Reasons I am a Chauvinist
- Yes, We Should Follow ‘Man’…But ‘Man’ With Understanding