Women: Quiet Please…(not really :)


S (Scripture): 1 Corinthians 14:26 What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church. 14:27 If someone speaks in a tongue, it should be two, or at the most three, one after the other, and someone must interpret. 14:28 But if there is no interpreter, he should be silent in the church. Let him speak to himself and to God. 14:29 Two or three prophets should speak and the others should evaluate what is said. 14:30 And if someone sitting down receives a revelation, the person who is speaking should conclude. 14:31 For you can all prophesy one after another, so all can learn and be encouraged. 14:32 Indeed, the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, 14:33 for God is not characterized by disorder but by peace.

As in all the churches of the saints,   14:34 the women   should be silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak.   Rather, let them be in submission, as in fact the law says. 14:35 If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home, because it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church.

O (Observation):  In 1 Corinthians 11:5, 10; 14:3-5, Paul makes it clear that women are indeed encouraged to be a part of public prayer and prophecy.  In this text, however, some difficulty exist in figuring out how to deal with Paul’s words about women keeping quiet in the church.

The disruptions that might occur in worship seem to be the only real problem that Paul has.   In Paul’s times, it was morally indiscreet for a wife to publically question her husband.  To keep the peace during a time of worship, Paul encourages these women to keep the silence and perhaps inquire more discreetly.  (Note, however, that Paul does encourage all to participate in v. 26.)

A (Application):  I see a big divide in Christianity, which comes down to the interpretation of Scripture.  We can’t deal with the issue of women having to keep silent in church, unless we first deal the interpretation of Scripture.

One school of thought is that the Scriptures are inerrant…that we must take, word for word, the instruction and admonition and invitations in Scripture.   I have trouble with this way of interpretation.  Taking Jesus at his word is fine.  But the further we move away from Jesus, the muddier things get.  What about creation?  Was it 7 literal days?  Perhaps.  But I won’t teach that as doctrine.  Instead, I see that God created and rested at the end of it.   What about Revelation?  I do not see a literal battle coming, but rather, this is a story of how Jesus wins in the end.

Those who see the Scriptures as inerrant also see verses like those I selected today to make it rather clear that women should be silent in church.   The inerrant viewpoint has problems, then, because Paul clearly invites women to be involved in other areas of faith development and worship, including names of women in his greetings and salutations in several of his letters.

The inerrant view also does not allow for context to be included in interpretation.   Including context seems a sinful way of interpreting the Scriptures (from an inerrant viewpoint).  Paul lived in a very different time and culture than that in which we live, though.   Separating a cultural matter from a doctrinal matter should be given quite some discernment.   Speaking about Christ as the body of which we are the members is very important doctrinally.  But women speaking in church seems to be more of a contextual issue that should allow for interpretation.

Seeing the Scriptures through the lens of Christ is the key for me and many others.   How would Jesus encourage us to see women in the church?   In Jesus we are one…men and women.  We are no longer slave or free, male and female… Oh, wait…Paul said that, right? (Galatians 3:27-28).  How would an inerrant viewpoint allow these two opposing views?

I’ll hang out here in the tension…in the Scriptures being the source and norm of our faith.  And I’ll enjoy the many female leaders in the church that have shaped my life and my faith these 38 years…

P (Prayer):  Lord, thank you for the many female church leaders you have sent into my life.  Amen.



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