Regarding Informal Theological Discussion: Where do We Draw the Line?

February 2015 035

If women shouldn’t speak during the church service, is it okay for them to speak during an informal, mixed-gender Bible study? Is there some way of delineating where it is proper for a woman to express her opinion on theological matters, and where it is not? Join me as I think this through!

If you haven’t done so yet, please read the following passages from your Bible:

  • 1 Corinthians 14:34-37
  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15
  • 1 Peter 3:1-6

You might also want to refer to my post Verses on Feminine Quietness for some background before we begin.

~~~~

For the longest time, even though I thought that women shouldn’t speak during the church service–as in women shouldn’t be preaching to or teaching mixed groups of people–I still believed that it was okay for them to voice their opinions informally during Bible studies and door-step discussions. Lately, I’ve had the opportunity to scrutinize my thinking.

Apart from the pastor, nobody speaks during the church service. There may be some exceptions, such as the one who reads the announcements, leads in prayer, or directs the singing. However, none of the other men usually speak. All others remain silent, in order to help the service run along smoothly, and to give attention to the message. So, for a woman to remain silent during the church service is really not much of a sacrifice at all.

What would be the point of commanding women to “learn in silence” (1 Tim. 2:11) if everybody else was also silent? I think there were a couple of applications for that command: 1) It was to clarify that women should not be preaching or teaching like a pastor would do [one of the few who were not silent], 2) It was to clarify that women should not be participating vocally in the informal get-together.

I have never had a problem accepting point #1. Let’s take point #2. This has been the hardest point for me to consider. What? Not say what I think? What if I disagree? What if I could contribute to the discussion? What if I (think) I know the answer to what everyone else is trying to figure out? What if I would enjoy the conversation? So, do I just sit there like a mannequin? Like a dummy?

Before, I would have said, “Because it’s an informal discussion, it’s okay to voice your opinion respectfully. As long as you are not doing the teaching, you are on safe ground.” But, is that true?

To begin with, the church didn’t start out meeting in huge, steepled, auditorium-type buildings. They met in homes. So, when women were told to “keep silent in the churches” (1 Cor. 14:34)  the context was the home church, and that would have typically been an informal gathering, right?

The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.

1 Cor. 16:19

The Bible is referring then, not only to large, formal gatherings, but to small, informal gatherings as well, when it says for women to keep silent.

Also within the realm of “informal discussion,” is asking questions in order to learn. Where would we normally ask questions? In the formal church service, or in the informal Bible study-type gathering? In the more informal setting, normally. Yet, the Bible says

And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

1 Cor. 14:35

Asking questions, even innocent “I just wanted to know” questions are not allowed. Why? The way I see it, asking questions can sometimes be a form of challenging someone else’s viewpoint. It raises contention. It can be disrespectful. It is also a way of taking leadership in the conversation.

One question leads to another’s answer. Then, that person asks you a question, which you answer. Now, you’ve started a debate. At that point, it’s very hard to just let it lie still. You feel the need to continue the discussion in order to reach a satisfying resolution. Now, you’re the one heading up the discussion. See what’s been started?

Either that, or (could it be possible?) the question you ask is an ignorant question, and just detracts from whatever it is that the male teacher is trying to accomplish. I know how very biased that sounds! I am not dumb! And neither are the Christian sisters that I am close to! But, it wouldn’t be good to interfere with the teaching, and we need to consider whether that might be what happens when we ask questions that could have waited to be asked until we got home.

Another thing that strikes me: we’re supposed to ask our husbands if we want to learn something. Hmm, now that’s interesting! Why our husbands? Surely our husbands don’t know as much as some man who has a Doctorate in Theology and has written many books. Maybe, God is telling us to respect our husband as our primary spiritual leader, and not other men. Perhaps God is telling us to depend upon our husband’s judgement more than on that of other men, no matter how learned they are. It could be a way of unifying the family.

These are a few of the thoughts that have been rattling around in my head, lately. What do you think?

 

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24 thoughts on “Regarding Informal Theological Discussion: Where do We Draw the Line?

  1. Dear Jessica,

    Jessica, I tell you that I read this post at midnight, in the midst of mental struggles regarding the very issue which you are speaking here.

    “The way I see it, asking questions can sometimes be a form of challenging someone else’s viewpoint. It raises contention. ”

    This is so true. I’ve been experiencing it right now,, and you know what, it is really damaging my female sensibility and modesty as well. I wrote “modesty” here in a sense that now I feel myself so vulnerable and too much exposed in public that I feel like I want to run away somewhere in a cave. I feel insecure and unprotected.

    *Jessica, I think God is teaching me the lesson and I am learning it in a hard way! Please stay with me! Also, please pray for me that I will not go to the other extreme (from too much active to too much passive.) Priscilla, along with Aquilla, did speak something to Apollo (Acts 18), so I am telling myself that I shall take the totality of what the Bible is saying regarding this issue.

    * Another impressive point is about your saying regarding the reason why He says we should ask our own husbands.I was impressed by your view.

    And then one questions raised; what if a husband of one Christian woman is not a believer? Of course, in this case, she cannot ask her husband at home. What do you think about it?

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    • Thank you for sharing your experience!
      Your question is similar to one that Sanae asked. I would like to tell you what I think in an article, later on. Hope you don’t mind waiting.
      As for learning the hard way–yes! I can totally identify with that! I think that most of the lessons God has taught me, have been the “hard way.” Ouch! But, better to learn it the hard way, than not at all, right? I’m going through much the same things as you are; I’m glad we can go through this together. 🙂
      Jessica

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The case which Kinuko points out..christian wives who have non christian husband are so common in Japan.

    My husband admits Jesus,but are not baptized. Several years ago,female missionary(pastor’s wife) of my church said to me that my faith position and my husband’s one are different,so that I should obey God more than he does. I agreed with her opinion.

    I think it is more difficult in case of christian husbands who have non christian wife.I know that some of them are apt to be apart from church service after marriage,even they don’t lose their faith.They have to work so hard for their family, to have time with their kids.For example in Japan,most husbands do’nt have enough time,are so busy.If their wives do not willingly accept him to go to church,it is so hard to keep on attending service.

    I think that USA is a christian country.Is this issue..marriage with non christian spouse ..there also in churches? If there, I want to know how believers in USA deal with it.In Japan,most of all churches have this.

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    • Thank you, Sanae, for your reply!
      I would like to answer your question, but I think this topic deserves a post of its own! So, if you don’t mind waiting, I will let you know what I think later, in another article.
      Thank you for telling us about the situation in Japan. It is always good to know about what is happening with our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.
      Thanks!
      Jessica

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  3. Wow, Jessica – this post was awesome. Just awesome. GREAT points.

    “What would be the point of commanding women to “learn in silence” (1 Tim. 2:11) if everybody else was also silent?”

    I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed that point before!! I like your point about informal house church meetings being the early norm.

    Two examples come to mind:

    (1) In my former church, one of the Sunday School classes was an “ask the pastor questions about the sermon” class. It was mixed, i.e. both men and women. So it was a place for people to ask clarification questions about the pastor’s points, or to challenge him on points they didn’t agree with. After I started pondering this passage more deeply (the one about wives asking their husbands at home), I realized that this violated Scripture, because it encouraged wives to be vocal, to start arguments, and to take their questions to the pastor rather than at home to their husbands.

    I actually wrote a post several years back about learning to sit under my husband’s guidance (i.e. learning to ask his advice and take it, rather than looking toward other men’s advice – pastors, celebrities, etc. – or ignoring/dismissing my husband’s advice). I have learned that God really blesses the outcome when I ask my husband’s advice and take it. I think that’s the blessing of being under one’s husband’s covering! Unfortunately I simply cannot find the post now – if I ever run into it, I’ll send you the link.

    (2) Some time ago, I began attending some church board meetings with my husband. And I found that once I started chiming in on the conversation, it was nearly impossible to stop. I finally had to learn to say NOTHING – i.e. learning in silence – because there was no middle ground. It’s been a good lesson for me.

    Love this post!! Have a great night!
    Diana

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Diana,

      I was impressed and edified by your following sharing!
      “I actually wrote a post several years back about learning to sit under my husband’s guidance (i.e. learning to ask his advice and take it, rather than looking toward other men’s advice – pastors, celebrities, etc. – or ignoring/dismissing my husband’s advice). I have learned that God really blesses the outcome when I ask my husband’s advice and take it. I think that’s the blessing of being under one’s husband’s covering!”

      Thank you!
      from Kinuko

      Like

    • Whenever you find that post you wrote, I’d love to read it! And, I can totally relate to it being nearly impossible to stop once we start participating in a conversation. Happened to me so many times! I’m learning so much from my mistakes. At least I’m learning!
      Thanks, Jessica 🙂

      Like

  4. One of the requests god put on us women i dont enjoy much.
    But still want to take literal. At church i dont find it challenging to be quiet as it is one of the things that our Denomination (still) refers to.
    The challenge i find tough is #1 to stay alert in meetings and prayerfully be IN it. I find it is sometimes a bit hard for me.
    #2 to remain silent when i (think) i know the answer and again pray that the outcoming of the discusion is after Gods will. #3 My husband is not the study type of man while i have LOTS of time to think and ponder on issues while peeling potatoes and cleaning the house :-). So i am learning to not think i’m smarter because i read more- because i’m NOT ;-).

    Liked by 1 person

      • Kinuko, Love from my part ofthe world. We may live far apart but only a prayer from the one who is the reason for our life our Saviour Jesus Christ. He loves us so much.

        Like

    • Thanks for your input, Ruth! I enjoyed reading your response! I wonder if the reason we don’t find God’s requests for women very enjoyable is because we haven’t yet discovered the secret joys waiting for us! Though I admit I’ve felt the same as you have many times, I’m trying to be hopeful, patient, and full of anticipation for the blessings God has in store for us!
      Jessica

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  5. Pingback: How do you “ask your husband at home” if your husband isn’t a believer? | TRUTH AT HOME

  6. Jessica,
    Thank you for sharing! I am blessed by your study. One of the reasons I believe this counsel is hard to accept for many people is that in our society women are bold and encouraged to speak their mind. It is so easy to “leave our husbands’ side” so to speak to say what we think and to act independently of him rather than to in all aspects of our lives to maintain the order God has established.

    If we think about it, Christ demonstrated total submission to His father throughout his lifetime. In no instance did He go apart from what His Father directed. As Christian married couples we are to reflect the heavenly order to the world. As Christ was WILLINGLY submissive to His Father so we as women are to willingly submit to our husbands. Also, I think about the fact that the whole sin problem started because Eve “taught” her husband about the benefits of the forbidden fruit and was an agent to her husband’s fall. She disobeyed the divine order in the beginning, as God designed her to be a helpmeet and in a submissive role even before sin.

    Having said that, God has given us ladies a sphere to speak and that is to teach the younger ladies to love their husbands and children, to be keepers at home, to be chaste and obedient to their husbands, and to be teachers of our children. See Titus 2:4,5.

    God has given us a different role than men. Men are called to be the pastors and evangelists to the world. Yet we as women have the blessed privelege of helping our sons to be godly young men so that when they are grown they can faithfully fulfil the calling God has given them. There is much said about the faithfulness (or lack thereof) of the mother in Scripture, especially with reference to the kings of Israel. If we as mothers would focus upon our duties of training our children, then I believe our faithfulness could have a dramatic effect upon this world as our children go forth to be salt and light.

    Just a few thoughts! Your study has set my mind to thinking. I hope We can become more well acquainted. I am always interested in friendship with ladies who seek to honor God in every area of their lives, as I do. It’s a blessing and an encouragement. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, of course, Celina! I feel the same way about wanting to get to know other ladies who share similar beliefs!
      I completely agree with your comment!–so much depth and wisdom in it.
      I tend to be that “bold, independent” woman sometimes; but I’m trying not to be! It really has been, and continues to be, an uphill journey for me, to put into place new habits and attitudes with which to replace the old. I sometimes see myself falling back into old patterns, and have to ask God’s help to get back on track. But, I’m so glad to have friends to encourage me along the way!
      I also love what you brought up about women having the privilege of teaching future leaders and evangelists, as we train our children! Yes–absolutely!
      Thanks a bunch,
      Jessica

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I think this issue is easier from a Catholic view point. Firstly because there is an absolute acceptance among Catholics of a male priesthood and secondly because certainly among traditionally minded Catholics theology and moral guidance is pretty much fixed.

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  8. I often think that the main problem with the Church (as a generality) is that they are more concerned with encouraging people to attend than on following Biblical teaching.

    Like

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