Building Bridges on the Women in Ministry debate
Today is the first post of a discussion between Mike Seaver and Cheryl Schatz on the issue of women in ministry. The discussion will take the form of five questions posed by Cheryl Schatz with answers by Mike Seaver and then five questions posed by Mike Seaver with answers by Cheryl Schatz. The format will be as follows:
Post 1 – Question #1 by Cheryl then answer by Mike
Post 2 – Response to Mike’s answer by Cheryl and rejoinder by Mike
Post 3 – Question #2 by Cheryl then answer by Mike
Post 4 – Response to Mike’s answer by Cheryl and rejoinder by Mike
This format will continue until all five questions have been posed and answered with responses by both parties. After this Mike poses questions to Cheryl, and the order above will be reversed until all five questions have been answered and responded to by both Mike and Cheryl. Mike and Cheryl will both be posting the discussions on each of their blogs. Cheryl’s blog is Women in Ministry, and Mike’s blog is Role Calling. Mike’s corresponding post on debate question #1 is here.
We hope that the respectful dialog that Mike and Cheryl have will be thought-provoking. Both of our blogs will be open for comments although our ability to respond to the comments may be limited due to our busy schedules. We just ask those who would like to comment feel free to do so making sure to keep on topic and with no personal attacks. God willing the discussion will be Christ-like and respectful even though both of us will be passionately arguing from our own viewpoint. We are hopeful that this will be a step towards building bridges between the two sides so that if nothing else at least complementarians and egalitarians will see the other point of view presented in a respectful manner. After all, we are all in the body of Christ, and despite our differences, we are to love one another because we belong to one another in Christ.
#1 Question by Cheryl Schatz:
Complementarians tell us that God has established a law that forbids women from teaching the bible to men. They say that 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 identifies the law requiring silence in the congregation, while 1 Timothy 2:12 specifically forbids teaching men in the congregation.
Can you tell me when this law was established that forbids women from teaching the bible to men? Was this law established before or after Paul wrote these two passages? If it was written after Paul, then why would God allow the women under the first covenant to be free up until the time of Paul, but restrict Christian women after Paul and after the establishment of the church? If it was a law established in the Old Testament, please show me where this law is located, and then please tell me why Priscilla did not adhere to the law when she taught Apollos? Also, explain why Priscilla was never disciplined for breaking God’s law nor was she chastised in scripture for breaking such a serious “law”?
#1 Answer by Mike Seaver
Cheryl, thanks for the question. First off, let me say that I do not speak for all Complementarians in my answers. I speak for the way I interpret and teach the texts, so I may, at times differ in thoughts from what other Complementarians say…I’m not sure. I also want to say that I believe men and women are created equal and we are equally image bearers of God. I do not think women are lesser than men. I just think that the bible spells out differing roles (not better or worse roles) for males and females.
The 1 Corinthians 14 passage has to do with the corporate worship setting and specifically the judgment of prophetic words, so I would never use that passage to say that a women cannot teach men in a church. I don’t think that is the context or desire Paul is making in the passage. I do think that this passage shows is an ecclesiastical authority that is by men and that the men are to publically correct an errant prophetic word primarily because the women are not the elders/pastors. If a woman feels that a prophetic word is errant, she should not publically correct it, but speak to her husband about it. If he agrees, I think the husband (or husband and wife) could go to the elders to discuss it. Paul’s desire in this passage is to establish order in the Corinthian church. Chapters 12-14, and specifically chapter 14 are seeking to discuss the errors that the Corinthians were making in the area of spiritual gifts and orderly corporate meetings.
Apparently, Paul is referring to the way this should have been going on…thus bringing correction, so it appears that the “Law” that he is talking about was previously laid down prior to Paul writing this letter.
In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” I link this passage to 1 Timothy 3:2 (which is actually only a few sentences later) when Paul says that one of the requirements for an overseer is to be “the husband of one wife/woman.” I think these two passages show that the position of overseer is to be a man and that the man is to be the teacher. He is to be “able to teach” and the woman is to “learn quietly” (1 Tim. 2:11). I don’t think that means a woman can’t talk in church, make an announcement, give a prophetic word, read the bible publically, or pray, but I do think that Paul is saying the exercising authority is not what God desires of a woman in a church.
I think a woman can bring questions and even correction to her husband and I think a woman could bring questions to a male pastor/elder/overseer. I think if a woman in the congregation heard me speak heresy, it is her right and obligation to come to me privately and ask questions about my teaching. I think this is what Pricilla was doing. She was helping a brother out who did not know doctrine the way she did. She wasn’t publically teaching or preaching. She was coming to him privately, being a helpful sister in Christ. This is why she was not disciplined. She did not break any law.
As far as the term “law” goes, I think Paul is simply referring to the Old Testament law; possibly the Pentateuch.
I think the ESV Study Bible has a helpful note on this passage that I agree with: “14:34-35 Since Paul seems to permit wives to pray and prophesy (11:5, 13) as long as they do not dishonor their husbands by the way they dress (11:5), it is difficult to see this as an absolute prohibition (cf. Acts 2:17, 21:8-9). Paul is likely forbidding women to speak up and judge prophecies (this is in line in the immediate context; cf. 1 Cor 14:29) since such an activity would subvert male headship. ‘ Law also says’. Paul is probably thinking of the woman’s creation “from” or “for” the man. (see 11:8-9; Gen. 2:20-24) as well as a general pattern of male leadership among the people of Israel in the OT.
Cheryl’s response and Mikes rejoinder will be in the next post.