Buried Talents: Hermeneutics and Such Like, Part 1

Before we begin this study in detail, we must remind ourselves of certain key principles:

1. Grace extends to this area too. A Christian will not be lost if he or she in good conscience violates God’s will regarding women. Such a Christian will be wrong, will have sinned – and will be forgiven. Nowhere does the Bible say that God will not forgive or will apply a stricter standard in this area.

2. The biases we discussed earlier, being the biases that we all have, are particularly strong in this area. The relationship of men and women is very, very strongly influenced by culture, and it is very hard to avoid reading popular culture into our interpretation of the Bible.

I remember reading an article first published in the Gospel Advocate in the early part of this century written during the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The author was convinced that it would be sin for a woman to vote, because submissive women should not be allowed to decide things that may affect men. He then pointed out that a submissive wife would have to vote as her husband voted, and therefore giving the women the vote would only double the votes received by each candidate, but could never change the outcome!

When was the last time you heard a sermon against women voting? Or instructing women to vote as their husbands vote? Has the Bible changed — or our culture?

Similarly, when I was a child the Bible taught that women must wear hats in church. Now it no longer does. Did the Bible change — or did we? Did we change due to closer Bible study, or due to a change in popular fashions? If our reading of the Bible in the 1950’s was influenced by the latest fashions from Paris, why should we suppose that we are now immune from such influences?

3. However, the scriptures are true without regard to culture, and the truths in them can be ascertained. Our difficulty is often not the vagueness of the scriptures, but the fact that we often try to find answers to problems that are not really problems. If we read the Bible looking for the limit on what women can do, we have assumed that there is such a limit! If we read the Bible looking for the rules on how to conduct a Sunday morning assembly, how to handle church funds, or what institutions a church may support, we have assumed that there are such rules.

Do I deny that such rules exist? The answer is that I have no opinion at all — until I read the scriptures. The life of a Christian presents enough problems without us inventing new ones of our own. Let’s please be careful not to assume that there are rules and then go looking for them. The rules that matter are indeed discussed in the Bible, and they are discussed plainly enough. If we can’t find a clear answer to the doctrinal problem, maybe — just maybe — there isn’t a problem.

4. Whatever the Bible teaches about the role of women is a part of the gospel — and not an exception to the gospel. If what we believe about women contradicts the gospel, our beliefs about women are wrong. We should find that the Bible’s teachings on women are a natural, spiritual consequence of God’s good gift of grace and the gospel.

5. Whatever the Bible teaches about the role of women is a natural consequence of the perfect law of love. We must be able to derive our conclusions about women from “Love thy neighbor” (Matt. 29:39-40; Rom. 13:9-10; Gal. 5:13-14; James 2:8). It is not enough to claim that our conclusions are consistent with “Love thy neighbor,” rather they must derive from the command to love. Jesus says that the Law and the Prophets “hang” from the command to love. Paul says that nothing else matters (Gal. 5:6). We cannot add to the Bible.

6. Whatever the Bible teaches about the role of women is a natural consequence of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is mentioned hundreds of times in the New Testament. Paul, especially, repeatedly refers to the Spirit as the basis on many of his teachings. The Bible’s doctrine of women cannot contradict the doctrine of the Spirit.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink.My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Buried Talents: Hermeneutics and Such Like, Part 1

  1. josh says:

    You might as well reword your first point there by adding the bold phrase "A Christian will not be lost if he or she in good conscience violates God’s will regarding women, therefore let us all willingly violate God's will." Because that is what you are really arguing.

  2. josh says:

    It just hit me and I should add to my point above, the following. Paul does in fact judge and essentially pre-excommunicate those who deny his commandments on prohibiting women from teaching.

    He first commands "Let the women keep silent in the churches" then asks of those who try to argue against him "Did the word of God originate with you or only come to you?" As if to say, do you think of yourself as an apostle and indeed as the only apostle? If not, why are you arguing against me, who am an apostle of Christ? Then he says "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandments." But he doesn't stop there. He rather goes on to pass judgment and excommunication in advance on all who reject what he is teaching here "But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized." That is, if anyone refuses to recognize that when I said "Let the women keep silent in the churches" I was issuing a commandment of the Lord, then that person is not to be recognized. Certainly they are not to be recognized as spiritual nor as prophets. But his phrase "But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized" seems more severe than that. Especially in the KJV, where it is "But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant." It seems more as a statement of totally giving up on the person. Almost as if he were saying "If someone chooses to be so ignorant as to argue against the apostles of Christ and reject the commandments of the Lord when given in such plain languages and attended by such a warning, leave them in their ignorance and folly to destroy themselves and don't drag the rest of the church down into stupid disputes with such evil and self-condemned men."

    1st Corinthians 14:34-38 "Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. {35} And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. {36} Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? {37} If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandments. {38} But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized."

    Nick Gill says:

    Recognize what, Josh? Or, since you prefer, ignorant of what?

    "Let the women keep silent in the churches…"


    "Any woman who prays or prophesies…"


    "One who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation"


    "prophecy is not for unbelievers but for believers…"


    "When you come together, EACH ONE of you has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation…"

  3. Alan says:

    Hi Jay,

    You wrote:

    Grace extends to this area too.

    To which I add, "Amen!"

    While I have a deeply held conviction that is (here, as most other places these days) a minority point of view on this topic, I also recognize the obvious fact that this is a disputable matter. I don't say that because I think the scriptures are ambiguous, but because I recognize that two honest students of the scriptures are coming to opposite conclusions. This matter is disputable because honest students disagree. I don't think either of us considers an honest error on this matter to be a salvation issue.

    I recognize my own fallibility. I don't attribute the potential for error only to those on the other side of the issue. But both of us must live by what we think the scriptures teach. And at the same time we both must accept one another. I'm convinced weboth wholeheartedly intend to do exactly that. Ironically, our disagreement creates a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that virtue.

  4. josh says:

    “When you come together, EACH ONE of you has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation…”

    That's what they WERE doing, but he adds "Let all things be done for edification" here in the same verse (verse 26), and "Let all things be done decently and in order" at the end of the chapter (verse 40).

    That decency and order must be interpreted with all that has been said already in the chapter. If I have an hymn, but it's in Latin, and the church speaks English, it would not be decently and in order to sing that hymn, just as it would not be decent and in order for a woman to present a doctrine when he says it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church.

    But can you imagine a woman reading this chapter in the assembly anymore than you can imagine a man reading this chapter in Latin without an interpreter??? Let the babblers get up and read 1 Corinthians 14 in babbel, and let the woman preacher get up and read it too!

    That would be very edifying after all, since we would all get a huge belly laugh at the errors of the world. The Right Reverend Kathy Smith reads 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

    "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church."

    She proceeds with her commentary "Paul was a woman hating chauvinist and we don't listen to him anymore."

    And a heckler from the crowd (or perhaps we can imagine this as a responsorial reading) reads "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant."

    And the Right Reverend Kathy Smith replies "If any MAN be ignorant let HIM be ignorant, but it is impossible for a woman to be ignorant."

    Then the responsorial reading is 1 Tim 2:14 "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression."

    This would be a delightful little interchange. Indeed this must be the decency and order that Paul would have us implement in the church.

  5. Nick Gill says:

    Yes, I can imagine it being done in good conscience — if those in the assembly in Corinth recognized the words of their own letter being read back to them, followed by the powerful chastisement about the source of GODLY teaching.

    It is a good thing Chloe didn't know that she wasn't supposed to teach a man anything… otherwise Paul would never have found out about all the problems in Corinth.

  6. Mark says:

    It's also a good thing that Priscilla didn't know, or she wouldn't have been able to teach the great Apollos. Fortunately, Euodia and Synthyche didn't know, or they wouldn't have been able to work side by side with Paul for the sake of the gospel in Philippi.

    Josh is right. We ought to keep the women in their place in the church. They may be created in the image of God, but they, obviously, don't know diddly. 🙄

  7. Jay,
    I really appreciate you point 5 — it is my working principle for everything. In my view, ultimately, we must be able to get to any position we take, in any situation, from Jesus command, not simply to love, but to love as Jesus loved us (John 13:34) (which strikes me as a higher standard than just "loving one another".

    However, I think you should develop some material on "church." It's obvious that is a horrible translation of ekklesia, but more than that, I think it has created some of the trouble we have with issues such as gender as well as instrumental music.

    "Church" is seems has become more than a gathering of believers — it has become something else. You've used "community", which is good. I prefer fellowship — but in strictly modern terms, it's an association.

    I hope you'll add this to your topic list.