Women more easily deceived?
Another reason some complementarians claim for denying women opportunities to minister in the church is that it is said that women are more easily deceived than men so men alone are permitted to minister in the church. A good example of this kind of rationale is found here with this excerpt:
But why should Eve’s being beguiled in the Garden of Eden cause Paul to say that women should be silent in church? The answer must be that women in general have a tendency to be more easily duped than men. Because of this tendency, they are not to be teachers, or preachers, or hold an office (which implies authority) in church. …
…we must remember that Paul clearly states that women are to remain silent in church because of the creation order and because Eve was deceived.
Is Paul really saying that women are more easily deceived than men? Let’s examine the text:
1 Timothy 2:14 (NASB) And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
Paul clearly says that “Adam was not deceived” but in 2 Corinthians 11:3 Paul specifically lists Eve by name as the one who was deceived:
2 Corinthians 11:3, 4 (NASB)
4 For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.
3 But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
So is Paul really saying that Eve was created with a “tendency” to be easily deceived? No, that would be reading into the text something that is not there. Rather than describing a flaw in God’s design of the woman that provided for a deceived Eve, the emphasis is on the cunning, craftiness and trickery of the one who deceived her. She was not created as one who was easily deceived. She was deceived through the cunning, manipulative trickery that was a masterful job in deceiving the very first woman.
Instead of Paul warning that all women have a tendency to be easily deceived, Paul warns the entire church in 2 Corinthians 11 that all of them could encounter the same deception and be led astray by a counterfeit Jesus, a counterfeit spirit and a counterfeit gospel. It would have been so easy for Paul to focus in on just the women, but he does not do that for it is not a fact that women are created with a flaw that makes them easily deceivable. Rather than focusing on any one gender, Paul said that it is “your minds” that may be led astray. Paul is speaking to all of the Corinthians. So much for men not being able to be deceived!
It appears that the complementarians who believe that women are more prone to deception have not thought this one through. If women are more easily deceived and fall prey to the enemy’s deception easier than men, then why would the church allow women who are easily deceived to teach little children who by their childish nature are easily manipulated and deceived? Also why would the church allow women to teach other women who would supposedly also be ripe for deception? Wouldn’t the best ones for women to teach be men who would easily recognize deception and thus be able to correct them? Yet men are the only ones who are forbidden to have women teach them if we believe the complementarian understanding. It just doesn’t make sense. If the Bible really does teach that women by nature are more easily deceived, then the church has not gone far enough. Women should be stopped from teaching anyone if this line of reasoning is true, don’t you think? But complementarians don’t carry this reasoning through all the way to its natural and logical conclusion. There is a flaw in their reasoning.
But Paul isn’t reasoning that one gender has a flaw or that easily deceived women can teach only other easily deceived people. Paul is dealing with deception due to lack of sound doctrine. Paul first of all commands that “a woman” is to learn (1 Timothy 2:11). Why the command to learn? Because learning sound doctrine is the first thing that combats deception. The second thing that combats deception is self-control. Salvation from deception must also come with self-control.
1 Timothy 2:15 (ESV)…continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
Paul isn’t setting up a universal prohibition to stop one gender from using their God-given gifts in their maturity for the common good. Paul isn’t attaching all women to Eve’s deception. Instead, in 2 Corinthians 11, Paul is warning all the Corinthians about deception and false doctrine. He isn’t warning the Corinthians about women teachers.
So why is it so easy for some to see all women as prone to deception? To be frank, I would suggest that it is easy for some to believe bad things about women because our world is so prone to prejudice especially toward women. So when Paul said that Eve was deceived, many people will read into this scripture that “all women” are easily deceived. But if all women are so easily deceived, then how come most cult leaders are men?
As we continue discussing common objections to women in ministry, we will be answering many more false interpretations on the hard passages of scripture on women in ministry. In the meantime I would request that complementarians who are reading these posts to think these things through. There are many questions offered in this post. Are you able to answer these questions or are these questions too difficult to answer with your current view of women in ministry?
One last set of questions – are people deceived as a result of their God-given design or are they deceived because of their lack of knowledge and/or their failure to love and embrace the truth with self-control to stay away from error? If people are deceived because of their design, then who ultimately is to blame for their deception?