I have noticed this week that WATCH have come under heavy fire, that many people are cross with Watch and feel as though they are arguiing their cause from a secular standing, that they are all about 'society'- that they use the ideas of discrimination, suffrage, feminism, 'girl power' etc. I really don't feel as though this is the case and is only a way for others to debunk the integrity of the position they hold. Evangelical women do not argue from their society's point of view at all but from scripture. I have already posted work regarding 1 Tim 2 11-15 on this site in June and now I would like to draw your attention to a post discussing another passage from scripture that is often brought up to defend the position of those who prohibit women in ministry.
We all mis-read scripture and the reason why there are arguments in the church, and particularly this week, over women in the episcopate is because we take sections of scripture out of their context and then we get into such a mess. I was quite alarmed when I saw this idea being promoted on babybluecafe.blogspot and I was going to write in with a reading of this passage by Gilbert Bilezikian until I scrolled down to see that the idea had been challenged already and John Howe's work on this passage was being explored.
Here's how the discussion went:
Robin says 'The primary objection to women pastors among those Protestant denominations or groups that object to the ordination of women ... is based upon Paul's prohibition in his first letter to Corinthians:
"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church." (1 Corinthians 14:34-35 ESV)
Robin, you ended the passage too early in the 1 Corinthians 14 passage. As we learned from John Howe twenty years ago, it appears that Paul is quoting what is going on in the Corinthian church and then giving his instruction. The next line after the passage about it's shameful for women to speak in church, Paul admonishes the men for falling on their jobs of preparing their wives for worship - not keeping them out:
36 What? was it from you that the word of God went forth? or came it unto you alone?
37 If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things which I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord.
38 But if any man is ignorant, let him be ignorant.
39 Wherefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
40 But let all things be done decently and in order.
I Cor. 14:36-40
Paul's point is that things should be in order, not that only men speak and teach. He says, "What! was it from you that the word of God went forth? or came it unto you alone?" He's just dripping with sarcasm. "What? It came to you and you alone????" Hah!
The answer is no - God does not just speak to men and men alone, God does not expect only men to speak and men alone, but He gifts men and women according to His purposes and expects us all to do things decently and in order - that's the point. Because women had for so long been cut off from full worship privileges they did not know what to do - and Paul is telling these husbands to teach their wives before they get to worship so they aren't interrupting or carrying on because they don't know what's going on. You can totally see it. Everyone is excited, but it's out of control. And the men are doing nothing to help their wives understand.
Paul has no intention to shut down the ministry of women - quite the opposite. Once again, it's important to read the entire passage and not pick out the bits.
That "what" is one of my favourite lines in scripture. Thank you, John Howe.
And thank you, St. Paul.
Personally, I am amazed that Robin's kind of mis-reading can occur. I guess our Bibles don't help because they do not put quotation marks around the passage that Paul is quoting back to this particular church - no such punctuation mark existed in the Greek, so therein lies the problem. Even so, it seems simple to me to understand that where Paul quotes the LAW, it is then obvious that what he says over-rides legal applications because what Paul writes 'unto you', 'are the commandment of the LORD.' (my capitalisation).
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Groups like WATCH read scripture in this way and so must find it very hard to agree to safeguards that protect the many who mis-read scripture.
Also I have felt really irritated this week by the way in which many people argue that the women in ministry issue is bound up with the same sex relationship issue. The two are completely separate issues and many evangelicals like me just can't understand where the prohibition on women in ministry comes from, apart from when it comes from tradition alone.