The Children Watch, Learn, and Inspire

The Women and the Men

Calling and Sola Scriptura

Teresa Irizarry
Aug 31, 2014 · 12 min read

My daughters were raised in a church led by a Pastor that supported women called to ministry. They never knew of anything else. A female intern from seminary served during their youth. Talented female preachers served as visiting preachers and pastoral support. To them there was no controversy, it just was. These women and the men in similar capacity served as role models. Being full children of God made in His image was built in from the ground floor up. Our church, however, is small and in their high school years we sought to join with another church to enable broader Christian Fellowship for the youth.

Both churches firmly believed in Sola Scriptura, that Scripture is the THE final authority and all teaching, preaching, prophesy would be measured by scripture.

One evening my elder daughter and I were at the local grocery store and encountered one of the youth’s supporting cast of adults, a woman from the “other” church. Over casual conversation she mentioned that she had visited our church and rejected it because when she attended at some point in the service there had been all women on the stage: in the pulpit, as worship leader, and choir director. While that would have been unusual (the senior Pastor is male) I could imagine when this could have been so, and had not thought anything of it, and her rejection seemed curious but more about her than our church. My daughter however was completely taken aback. It was as if she’d been told for the first time she was a black slave and not entitled to enjoy the fruits of the estate on which she’d been raised as much as the non-slave children she played with. Upon returning to the house a long discussion ensued, and my son, also in high school and a leader, rejected a relationship with the “other church” if that how his sisters would be treated. He did not believe upon prayer and given what his studies of scripture had been that the position was scriptural. Shortly after that our youth group formulated itself separate from the other church.

Sola Scriptura as the correct final authority became my position only after many other studies, i.e. later in life. The rational for it is described in Part 1 of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology[1], as well as in N. T. Wright’s book Scripture and the Authority of God[2]. As a result I have been an advocate for women in business, church, and family life for much of my life before studying the issue as a result of this incident. I believe it is critical for the future women in my life to document why my son and I can believe in Sola Scriptura and simultaneously believe women are called to leadership roles in some businesses, churches and families. Sola Scriptura means to me that though my conviction on this topic was born of experience before study, it would not be relevant or from God unless supported in scripture.

We live in a fallen world. We suffer the consequences of 1000’s of years of sin and are only in the middle of God’s recovery plan. Scripture is a combination of history and description of the ideal. We have to hold both the ideal and the practical aspects to gain perspective on any situation, as described in Andy Stanley’s lecture series Future Family [3].

Ephesians chapter 5 describes the ideal family structure. Andy Stanley’s lecture series [3] as well as Wayne Grudem’s essay on Manhood and Womanhood [4] treat this topic well. Wayne Grudem would conclude from scripture that a woman when married owes support and respect to a man as head of the family out of respect for Christ and to reflect the relationship of the church to Christ, as well as for the flourishing of the family. Similarly they owe deference to governing authorizes, in the church and in the civil government (male or female). An excellent reference on why this does not translate to all women showing deference to all men is written by Russell Moore, “Women stop Submitting to Men”, Dec. 5, 2011 [5]. Wayne Grudem in [4] on page 91 says that single women may find a source of counsel in their church elders, and do not owe submission to all men, not even church-men. They may however properly show a slight deference that falls well short of “submission”.

In today’s world not all families have men at the head. This is not ideal, and is due to the Fall in the form of the curse of death, of prior (even repented) sin, or of disease. Sometimes it may simply be in our society, when the woman far out earns the man due to society’s value to different trades, that where the path departed from ideal is no longer clear. Whenever it occurs the family leader must assume additional roles, and God will help with that, just as He helped Tamar [6], when her menfolk did not act in accordance to God’s will. There are examples in the Bible of women in business and civil leadership roles, and as heads of family. One is Lydia of the purple cloth [7]. A merchant by trade, she leads her household to Christ.

The scriptures most often quoted for why women cannot be on the stage, lead groups including men, or preach in a mixed gender church however are not from Ephesians. They are 1 Corinthians 1 14:34–35, and I Timothy 2: 11–12. Take each in turn.

1 Corinthians 14:34–35 are part of a larger text dealing with a disruptive and contentious situation in the Corinthian church. The punctuation in many translations did not come from the original source but from the hands of dominant men with a vested interest in preserving female lower status. Like those churchmen that supported slavery they squelch Paul’s full message. Another variety of scholars [8] lean toward verses 34–35 being a quotation from prior law though from tradition not Old Testament scripture, which Paul then debunks clearly in verse 39. It is possible even that the quote is said by Paul with some added sarcasm, because the word Paul uses for silence is σιγη which means silence unto death, not even a breath [9]. In the second sentence, Paul is trying to address a condition where women and men were seated apart and women were shouting across the aisle, some have proposed. The women of Corinth had until recently been white witches and some may still have been, and their shouts may have been highly inappropriate. From the NIV, with boldness and {} added for emphasis and context respectively to help see what I believe is the intended message, especially given that verse markings were added later, periods earlier. Here is Paul, in the passage from the NIV:

[34] {“}Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak but must be in submission,

[35] as the law says.

If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a women to speak in the church. {”}

{Paul’s commentary on the quote}

[36] Or did the word of God originate with you {male Corinthians}? Or are you the only people it has reached?

[37] If anyone {this would include women} thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you {in the following verses} is the Lord’s command.

[38] But if anyone {this would include women, as he clearly assumes in 1 Corinthians 11:5 prior} ignores this they will themselves be ignored.

[39] Therefore my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.

[40] But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way {e.g. no shouting across the aisle, no tongues w/o interpretation, and for us who live after the canon is closed, no inconsistencies with Scripture}.

To reiterate the obvious, prophecy and speaking in tongues are not silent. Note he does not counsel women to teach or preach in verse 39.

Sometimes we learn from watching actions, as much as through commands. With respect to teaching and sharing revelations from women to men, Priscilla and Phoebe are documented by Luke and Paul as role models. Priscilla is married to Aquila and they serve together. Yet in 50% of the appearances her name occurs first, a very unusual indication of respect. Priscilla with Aquila taught Apollos in Acts 18:26. Priscilla did Bible studies with Aquila and Paul, and had a gifted knowledge of scripture. In Romans 16:3 Paul refers to both as co-workers in Christ, and in fact lists Priscilla first. Nowhere does it say that Priscilla’s insights come through Aquila to others, it appears both of them are present and speaking, representing their insights.

Phoebe has unknown marital status, but no husband is listed along side her. In Romans 16:1 Phoebe is listed as a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. Not a deaconess — those are not invented yet — but a full deacon. Phoebe, listed ahead and commended to them by Paul, is a woman deacon in the 1st century. It is said she is the benefactor of many people, including Paul himself. While her role in the church is not further defined, the church is asked to give her whatever she needs. To do this she would need to speak up in some way to ask for her needs. The most famous of the other deacons in the early church is Stephen, who was preaching when he was stoned.

Some believe deacons held action related positions — speaking and other ministries, while elders held the directional internal leadership of the church. Phoebe was not referred to as an elder. The qualifications for elders include that they are a man heading a household of children that believe the gospel[10]. Since it is ideal for a man to head a household, it makes sense then that the ideal elder is a man, it is not just a cultural statement given then times in which it is written. So it would seem counter to scripture to consider women, unless one had run out of blameless men. In such a case, one would want to come as close as possible to the scripture, ideally seeking a woman that is a blameless clear head of a family (e.g. deceased or incapacitated spouse).

1 Timothy is written by Paul as old man to a much younger man. His advice is often specific to a practical situation. While those that would keep women off the stage love to quote 1 Timothy 2:11 and claim because the reasoning is from Adam and Eve it must be for all time. However if these same people cannot explain verse 15 in any way consistent the gospel, or make the passage fit together. They take each verse separately but not the passage as whole. Here is the passage as a whole as it is in the NIV:

[11] A women should learn in quietness and full submission.

[12] I do not permit a woman to teach or assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

[13] For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

[14] And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the women who was deceived and became a sinner.

[15] But women will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.

Some would toss this scripture aside as added later, but Albert Mohler often says every bit of scripture is needed, and is meant to be understood for our edification. Here is my attempt.

Paul obviously knows that Adam also sinned and was in fact also cursed in the fall. Whatever he is saying, he isn’t claiming men are sinless. He is pointing out some crude realities of life that I imagine haven’t changed much over the years.

What did he mean in his time?

Paul is an old, single man, fighting to share the gospel amongst stronger more attractive younger false teachers. The false teachers have apparently got followers amongst the women. To bring this into today’s environment thousands of years later, consider what I was told by an experienced sales person when I was a young technical person supporting a large sell in a corporation. Wear your highest heels, a tight pencil skirt and guys in charge won’t think too much about what you are saying, but you will make the sale. Paul is saying something similar I think, but in reverse. These guys are deceiving the women first. Then the ladies are getting their husbands to follow. It is just hormones, but it is in the way we are made. It is a below the belt move, but it has to be stopped by Paul to preserve the gospel for all time.

Paul has a critical function assigned to him by God to document for us all much of the New Testament teaching. He is old, he is seeing what looks like the message getting diluted or slipping away. He is making an analogy to how Eve was deceived first in shutting down the women first, so that this history would not repeat. Even so the word for silence that he uses is ησυχια which means peaceable, or with reverence [9].

Paul knows the sentence is sharp, and I believe he knows that women (e.g. Priscilla) are given revelations sometimes not visible to the men. He knows a called woman cannot easily refuse her call, and he even qualifies his statement with I, as in he’s not sure it is from God, it is for practical purpose. There has to be a way out for her to be true to her call.

Does Paul see ahead 400 years to when the canon will be closed, the scripture will be the only authority, and men will also lose the ability to teach, preach without reference to scripture as the final measure of the worthiness of their edification? He may just as he knows Adam also sinned, and needed to be controlled by law. But it is dimly inferred.

Paul says childbearing will save women. Despite this harsh and perhaps desperate move to prevent a recurrence of the Eve phenomenon, women of Paul’s day with a call will still be able to teach the children. And revelation will still have a path through the sons of that day to publication. And in that sense they will be more powerful than Timothy will ever be, as they will have more exposure for longer periods with the carriers of the gospel to future generations. Paul as a man who was called to remain single, and is old now with no children to succeed him, is saying also others may not want to discard as of light value the women in their midst. Their value to man, to the Gospel and to God remains even after this harsh sentence, given role in creating and their influence on the future through their children. This would have been a later learning on his part, as earlier he had expected the second coming within the generation.

What did he mean for all time?

In 1 Corinthians 15:45 and Romans 5:12–18 Christ is described as the new or last Adam. Often things in the Old Testament prefigure the structure of the new. In this typology, picked up in Ephesians chapter 5, marriage prefigures the relationship between Christ and the Church. In John 3:29 and Revelations 22:19, among other places, the bride of Christ is the church as a whole. One way to read the passage for all time is so consider what it means in this representation. Because Paul uses the word for all women, or women as a type, and the church is Christ’s bride, he may be thinking himself in terms of type as he writes. If not, the Holy Spirit may be speaking through Paul, ahead to something he can only dimly see, as through a glass darkly.

Paul says women, i.e. the Church are to learn in reverence and full submission. This submission is to Christ, as we know Him in scripture and through the Holy Spirit.

Paul points out Adam was first. Christ existed before the world began, before the Church began. He points out that the sin of Eve is that she let herself be deceived. This is her sin, because the serpent has twisted the command of God when he claims to be quoting God, and she misses the twist, and she believes the serpent. We are expected to know the commands of God in detail, and to beware misinterpretation. Paul does not want the Church, Christ’s bride, to be deceived.

Continuing this typology, He then says the Church, represented by womanhood (as a type) will be saved by childbearing. Recall John 3:3 where all Christ’s disciples are spoken of as reborn. The church will be saved through the generations by spiritual birth of born and reborn children.

Conclusion

How does this impact us? We are all (women and men) to learn in full submission to Christ, who today commonly speaks to us via the Holy Spirit when we read the scripture with a stilled heart. Women were first to be asked to submit to authoritative teaching; they were not only. A woman does not have final authority over a man, but Christ through scripture does. A man does not have final authority over a woman, but Christ through scripture does. If we have learned in this manner, we are enabled like Priscilla and Phoebe and Lydia to speak wherever we are called.

Sola Scriptura.

1) Systemtic Theology, Mobipocket Reader Format, by Wayne Grudem, ISBN 0–3102–6252–6, 1994, Part I.

2) Scripture and the Authority of God, N. T. Wright, 2011, Harper Collins, ISBN 978–0–06–201195–4.

3) Futurefamily.org

4) http://www.waynegrudem.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Biblical-Foundations-for-Manhood-and-Womanhood.pdf

5) http://www.russellmoore.com/2011/12/05/women-stop-submitting-to-men/

6) Genesis, chapter 38.

7) Acts 16: 14,15

8) http://godswordtowomen.org/Preato2.htm

9) “Biblical Teaching on Women in Ministry”, by Rev. Paul de Vries Ph.D. Accessible at www.BiblicalWomen.info , 2014.

10) Titus 1:6–9

    Teresa Irizarry

    Written by

    Author of Rekindled, a historical fiction about Roger Williams.

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