What follows is the first of what I am anticipating to be a several part series on the topic of the place of women  in the world, based on the Biblical Account.  This has been an interesting week, as I helped my Dad research 1 Timothy 2:9-15, a passage infamous for rankling feminists and the modern sensibility of the equality of women in general, due to its imperative from Paul, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”  Currently, the men of Dad’s Bible Study are working through this passage and Dad wanted to rely upon my “expertise” to study this area. I have done some research on the issue of “Women and Theology,” for school this past year and so wanted to see how I could contribute to the conversation, particularly from the perspective of a woman. For the Bible Study, my task was to complete several (Greek) word studies on key words in this and several other passages that also speak to this issue. However, I also had a series of discussions with my Dad as to what these passages could possibly mean. Out of this conversation flowed a great deal of thought, and the following posts are some fo my musings, discoveries and reactions to the project. Enjoy:

The result of the conversations with my Dad this week puzzled me. Not our tentative conclusion, mind, but rather, my reaction to him talking about this topic. I thought that I had somewhat settled this issue in my mind and that I was content with the fact that men are in authority over women and are thus able to preach while women are not. However, I found that this issue is still a sore spot for me. I found myself rankled by Dad’s comments, even though they were more or less what I affirm to be the thrust of the passage. It seems ridiculous in my mind that God would give women the skills to do the task of Pastoring (particularly teaching) better than men and then prohibit them from that task. Further, the question of  how context affects what is being said in Scripture seems to be a major issue. The opression of women was common in Jesus’ day and Jesus’ interactions with them seemed to move in a trajectory toward treating women equally with men. Thus, my thought was that one ought to conclude (like William Webb in his book) that women in the modern context ought to be permitted to teach authoritatively in the church.

 When I tossed this objection my Dad’s way, he said  he hadn’t considered/been familiarized with the background issues, so he couldn’t comment on them. But he suspected that they had little to do with what was going on in the passage. He further rejoined that this wasn’t a question of natural skill and ability, but rather of role. Men were given authority by God. Women were created for Adam, to be his helper and companion. This is not something I wanted to hear. Deep down, I found myself thinking, “I was supposed to be subject to men the rest of my life just because God chose to create woman second… uh, False.”

But as I thought about what Dad had said, I realized that there was wisdom to what he said. The Son submits to the Father, even though he is not lesser in any way. The Spirit is in some sense submitted to the Son and the Father, and He is not a lesser person either. They submit as part of their role in the Godhead. Thus, there must be something about submission that is intrinsically good, even if my pride does not like it. In 1 Peter 2 and 3, one sees that Christ’s submission to the Father’s will is actually held out as a model for slaves and women. Slaves and Women form a loose chiastic structure around the example of Christ, which serves to highlight it. In this highlighted portion, one finds the following verse (2:21) of Peter’s first epistle. There, he writes “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” A professor of mine in undergrad explained that he thought that Peter highlighted this, not to note that women were the same as slaves (though that would have been an appropriate association in that society), but rather to highlight the unique opportunity that women and slaves had (and have) to display Christ, by submitting to their God-given authority: elders (seen in the following passages in 1 Timothy) and husbands (at least, in their immediate context).

That was a stunning thought. Women are to submit to men not because men are intrinsically better, but because that is the order of authority that God made in the cosmos and because women then have a rather unique way of reflecting Christ. Also, it is a way to crucify the pride of women and submit ultimately to the authority of Christ. If I am willing to say that I am not going to follow my flesh’s desire to rule over (or at least be equal in authority with) men and pick up my cross (i.e. die to that fleshly desire) and follow Christ’s example, then I will have submitted to God’s authority. Ultimately, I think this is the greater good. Submission to God ought to win out over my pride.

Ah, Pride. That is the issue here. I don’t want to be submissive because it grates against my pride. Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

I also think that part of my issue with submission is that my idea of submission is wrong. I wonder how many young girls in Christian homes are growing up to be feminists and to spout women’s rights (neither of which are bad, but if their basis is poor then it produces bad feminists) purely based on the fact that their ideas of submission are false. Submission often connotes images of men forcing themselves as taskmasters over their wives, or women as meek doormats for men’s wishes and pleasures to walk all over. However, as a blogger over at theresurgence.com  so poignantly said (I highly recommend you read this post) a few months ago, submission is all about reflecting Jesus, and not many of the false things the world has hoodwinked us to believe. If our perspective is off of ourselves, then we will be willing to look to the needs of others and serve others, that is where submission to Christ’s commands naturally flows out. Women’s task then is to submit to God’s authority further by submitting to the earthly authority He has put over us (which often translates into a husband, but certainly translates into the male elders He has established over the church). I think that if children were taught a healthy, biblical view of submission, then in a generation, we would see a much different church than we see today (More on that later).

I have to admit that some of this comes with a large amount of frustration because so little is said on the topic in the Bible and what is said often is contradictory (i.e. They can speak {pray and prophesy} in 1 Cor. 11, but not in chapter 14 and in 1 Timothy). But I guess that this is where faith and humility come in. God might not have delineated all the details, but I need to trust that somehow this system works and leave the results to him. Again, I need to submit to His authority. Lord, please help me in this endeavor.

Grace and Peace.