Some would argue from the “clear” language of the passage that we must submit to the clearly stated commands of God. Of course, these same people don’t honor the even clearer commands for women to wear veils, for men to lift holy hands in prayer, or for women to wear no jewelry. And they certainly don’t greet one another with a Holy Kiss — even though these passages are stated in clear, unambiguous language.
Rather, for those clear commands that run contrary to our traditions, we correctly reason that each command has both a universal principle and a local, temporary application. The commands to greet one another with a Holy Kiss is how the universal command to treat each other as deeply beloved brothers and sisters in Christ was applied in the Roman world, and much of southern Europe and the Middle East today.
But when the clear command aligns with our traditions, we become blind to the same principle, insisting that we have no option but to do what is plainly commanded. But the requirement to do sound exegesis in light of textual and historical context doesn’t stop at the boundaries of our traditions.
Rather, ALWAYS the test is how congruent a proposed interpretation is with the great, over-arching principles of scripture: the character and nature of God, Jesus, and the Spirit, the grand narrative of scripture from Genesis to Revelation, the chesed and grace of God, the love of Jesus, the gifting work of the Spirit, the atonement, salvation by grace through faith in Jesus. The BIG doctrines.
And where on earth in those doctrines do we find a command that women be silent in the assemblies but not the Sunday school classes? Show me how that’s a logical corollary of any great biblical principle.
Well, in First Century Corinth, it was — because the surrounding culture considered it grossly immoral for women to speak with another woman’s husband. And the women of Corinth were likely highly uneducated and illiterate — incapable of engaging in meaningful, profitable Socratic discourse with the local, inspired teachers — who were all someone else’s husband.
In such a setting, love required that the women be silent in the assembly — except when speaking by the power of the Spirit, and even then, they must control their spiritual gifts as Paul directed.
That fits the narrative of scripture. Nothing else I’ve heard does.
Or maybe the verses aren’t even authentic. Or maybe Paul is refuting a Corinthian argument that women should be silent. Maybe. But while I find the arguments that Paul is quoting a Corinthian position very tempting, I’m not convinced.
I find a stronger case for the verses to be inauthentic, based on the arguments of Gordon Fee and other conservative experts in the text. But this argument has not persuaded most scholars, and so, like N. T. Wright, I’m inclined to accept the verses as authoritative, but badly misunderstood.
What is certainly not true is that the modern church is bound by the particulars of these passages. The state of women has greatly changed, the culture has changed, and so there no longer a need for us to give up freedom in Christ for the sake of the local culture. In fact, our treatment of women is considered by most outside the church as grossly immoral — and so things have turned around entirely. The culture is now actually ahead of Christianity, because once women were given equal opportunities, they proved their abilities beyond all doubts. I’m old enough to have seen it happen.
God gives gifts to his children by the Spirit as he wishes, including the gifts of leadership, teaching, and encouragement. And if he gives a gift to a woman, he expects her to use it in his Kingdom.
The notion of “spiritual leadership of men” is a nice argument, but it has zero support in the Old Testament. It is not to be found in Genesis 1, 2, or 3. It’s just not there. And since Paul always says that his conclusions are built on the Law, he must not be teaching what we sometimes call “spiritual leadership of men.” In fact, that’s a doctrine invented to allow our women to be leaders in the secular world and not in the church world — a near-Gnostic teaching if ever there was one.
I mean, how do justify saying that there are two standards for right and wrong between the secular and spiritual? I was always taught that such a distinction is false. If it’s wrong to cuss in the church building, it’s just as wrong to cuss in the schoolyard. God is the same God is both places. But evidently God doesn’t care how our women behave outside the confines of the church organizational chart.
So it just makes no sense to me to refuse to allow women to serve using their gifts wherever they can profitably serve the Kingdom. Who am I to tell the Spirit whom to gift?
(Act 11:17 ESV) 17 “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”