Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Women Teaching Men, Oh My!

A lot of people don’t like I Timothy 2:12-15 because it begins, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Of course, there’s a lot of discussion about whether this passage is referring to a woman teaching any man or just her husband. And we might also ask whether a woman should be teaching at all. Based on other passages, we know that this isn’t talking about women not teaching at all. In Titus 2, Paul instructs the older women to teach the younger women, so it is clear that women are to teach.

The issue people find the most sticky has to do with who women aren’t to teach and just what we mean by teaching. At the very least, women aren’t to teach or usurp authority over their husbands, but does that mean that she can’t tell her husband anything for fear she might teach him something? That would be silly. Given the context, I think this passage has more to do with authoritative teaching within the church. It has a similar context to I Corinthians 14:34. As such, I think we have to apply this passage to women teaching any man, not just her husband.

From a practical standpoint, what this means is that women aren’t to pastor churches, they aren’t to teach Sunday school classes with men in them, they aren’t to teach Bible studies with men in them, and for that matter, they probably shouldn’t be the primary leader of a ministry that involves men. The reason Paul gives for that is that Adam was created before Eve. As you recall, God created Adam and then he created Eve to help Adam. Applying that concept to Christian service, the woman isn’t to be leading a ministry and expecting her husband to be supporting her in that ministry. For that matter, it shouldn’t be his and hers ministries either, in which he is serving God in one way, she is serving God in another and they cross paths in the bedroom at night. In the ideal situation, the man is serving God and knows what God wants him and his family to be doing. The woman should be serving God by supporting her husband in that ministry.

Another reason Paul gives is that Adam wasn’t deceived but Eve was. He may be describing a type in which if Eve had been in subjection to her husband instead of listening to Satan she wouldn’t have sinned. But in verse 15 Paul offers some hope in that “she shall be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobermindedness.” As the saying goes, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” Women have the opportunity to teach children and that is very important.

We know that women aren’t to be teaching and leading men, but what’s the cutoff point? It seems to be okay for them to teach children. Certainly, we would draw the line at eighteen—some men have pastored churches before they turned eighteen—but some people would draw the line at an even younger age. Some have drawn it at around twelve years old. I can see good reason for that, since that is about the age that children begin to reach physical adulthood—immature adults, but adults none the less. As for me, I don’t know the answer. What I do know is that God wants the older men to teach the younger men. God wants men to lead and for that to happen, some women are going to have to get out of the way.