Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Women in the Church - Part 2 of 3

Title: Women in the Church - Part 2 of 3
A Three Part Series on women in leadership and women ministering in the Church
Text: 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 12 Oct 2010

Yesterday, I introduce the first problem with regards to women in the Church, whether women should shut up when in the Church. Today, I deal with two more questions.

PROBLEM #2 – Can Women Teach in the Church? (v12)
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”

CONCERN: Why is Paul discriminating against women here? Isn’t it true that women play such a huge role in society nowadays, especially in the area of teaching and education.

CONTEXT: Again, remember that the women in general in society are uneducated. It is not a question of capability, but one of a culture during that time. Go to some of the poorer societies in the world, in Asia, Eastern Europe or Africa, and you can still find that most of the privileges and leadership still belong to men. Note that the translation can also be as follows:

In my opinion it is right for a woman not to be a teacher, or to have rule over a man, but to be quiet.” (1 Tim 2:12, BBE)

This highlights at least two things. Firstly, the ruling is not “God says” but “Paul says.” It is based on what is the best instruction pertaining to that situation. Paul is applying what he deems best at that time. Secondly, the emphasis is ‘domineering’ manner whose attitude is similar to parents not exasperating their children, or wives not pulling their husbands’ ears to force compliance, or an army commander ordering his troops to do hundreds of sit-ups.

CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: In our modern day and age, women in the Church have been such a big blessing to all kinds of Christian ministry. Go to any Church. Enter any Christian fellowship. More likely than not, you will see a faithful band of women servants, people who are passionately helping to strengthen rather than weaken the Church. I cannot imagine a Church that excludes women from Christian service. I remember teaching in Sunday School. The number of women outnumbers the men by a factor of at least 5 to 1. In some Churches, there are Sunday School classes packed with women teachers without even a single male in sight. I believe women ought to be allowed to teach in the Church. However, in line with the spirit of Scripture, they are not to teach in a ‘domineering way’ that seems to say: “Me Tarzanie, You Jim.” That will be injecting a form of Amazonian woman culture as superiors and lords over men. In truth, no one except Jesus can lord over us. On earth, men and women are expected to treat one another with mutual respect, and loving correction when needed. Abusive behaviour from any sexes is prohibited.

Personally, I believe that having more teachers willing to contribute their gifts and talents is a good ‘problem’ to start with.  It is simply ridiculous to stop anyone from teaching simply because of gender. Perhaps, the presence of female teachers in our society has less to do with women per se but a veiled reproach on men who fail to step up when they are able to. In other words, men ought not to blame women when men themselves shirk away from their responsibilities. It is like Deborah, who became an unwilling leader of Israel when men like Barak shrugs away their responsibility.

Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”

Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will hand Sisera over to a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, (Judges 4:8-9)

CONCLUSION: I have no problems with women teaching in religious settings. In fact, the Church will be blessed to have more good teachers, regardless of gender. I have encountered many excellent women teachers and preachers. We have a lot to gain and to learn from them. Not allowing them to speak and exercise their gifts simply because of gender is not only unfair. It is downright silly. That said, there is still a place for male leadership. If the situation arises, where the women in ministry start to boss men around. When they devalue the worth of men, and treat them disrespectfully. When they run the Church in such a domineering manner, that dissolves all gender differences and lead to a confusion of gender roles, I think the line has been crossed.

PROBLEM #3 – "An Unfair Hierarchy?" (v13)
For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” (1 Tim 2:13)

CONCERN: Is it a problem when God chooses to make man first, and woman second? Does that mean that man has a ‘higher’ level of importance than women?

CONTEXT: When Paul raises the example of Adam and Eve, he is going back to the creation account that reflects a certain order of things. Paul is walking a tightrope in providing some teaching in the Church as well as order in an increasingly chaotic situation. With the threat of false teachings as a background, Paul needs to assert an authoritative voice, since the New Testament are not available to them at that time. Tough times require tough control, which is what Paul is doing. Moreover, it becomes necessary that Paul puts down his feet to stamp out heretic noises and all kinds of confusion going on then. We in the 21st Century need to be careful not to assume that readers at that time have all the Bible materials like we have now.

CONTEMPORARY APPLICATION: Make a distinction between ‘role’ and ‘importance.’ The verse about Adam and Eve is not saying that Eve is of ‘lesser importance.’ Instead, it is reminding us of our specific roles according to our backgrounds, our calling, our giftings, our situation and our contexts. When we serve the Lord, it is not the position of our hierarchy that matters. Rather it is the posture of our hearts. Do not interpret this verse in terms of bloodline of importance. View it in terms of the roles that we play. We are equal in importance but differ in roles we play.

CONCLUSION: Being formed second does not necessarily means lower importance. Paul is talking more about specific ‘roles’ rather than hierarchical superiority.

Look out for Part Three tomorrow, where I deal with verses 14-15.


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