Christians will always be under attack for their beliefs, particularly in an increasingly secularized and feminized culture. Biblical Christianity is the only worldview that actually views women with the essential dignity and spiritual equality with men that they have been given by God. Feminism pushes women into a culturally generated and problematic mold that militates against their fearful and wonderful design and God-given place of protection. The lines concerning the differing roles that men and women possess from God are not only blurred in a culture impacted by the noetic effects of sin, but in the church as well. Sadly, when a church moves away from a position influenced by that culture to a biblical stance, it comes under attack from within and without.
According to Yahoo News, in Watertown, N.Y., The First Baptist Church dismissed Mary Lambert from teaching Sunday School after adopting an interpretation of the Scriptures that prohibits women from teaching men. The church cited 1 Tim. 2:12 in support of their position: "I do not permit a woman to teach nor to have authority over a man; she must be silent."
"The Rev. Timothy LaBouf, who also serves on the Watertown City Council, issued a statement saying his stance against women teaching men in Sunday school would not affect his decisions as a city leader in Watertown, where all five members of the council are men but the city manager who runs the city's day-to-day operations is a woman. 'I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that she desires to' outside of the church, LaBouf wrote Saturday."
"Mayor Jeffrey Graham, however, was bothered by the reasons given Lambert's dismissal. 'If what's said in that letter reflects the councilman's views, those are disturbing remarks in this day and age,' Graham said. 'Maybe they wouldn't have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are now.'"
Of course, it is politically correct to say that LaBouf’s statements are "disturbing." The very word puts a sinister face on a position that has been held as orthodox Christian teaching for over two-thousand years. To say that a woman cannot teach men in the church is commonly viewed as extremist and those who hold to such a position are to be marginalized in this progressive culture.
Biblical teaching so often goes against the cultural grain. The difficulty for churches is only compounded when evangelicals themselves are divided over the issue. Many conservatives have adopted unwittingly (or perhaps not) an egalitarian position that undermines the authority of Scripture, the headship of Christ Himself, the distinction between gender roles, and ultimately the nature of sexuality itself.
R. Albert Mohler points out that "the postmodern worldview embraces the notion of gender as a social construct. That is, postmodernists argue that our notions of what it means to be male and female are entirely due to what society has constructed as its theories of masculinity and femininity. Of course, the social construction of all truth is central to the postmodern mind, but when the issue is gender, the arguments become more volatile. The feminist argument is reducible to the claim that patriarchal forces in society have defined men and women so that all the differences ascribed to women represent efforts by men to protect their position of privilege."
Mohler then makes a salient connection. "Of course, the pervasiveness of this theory explains why radical feminism must necessarily be joined to the homosexual agenda. For, if gender is socially constructed, and therefore differences between men and women are nothing more than social convention, then heterosexuality becomes nothing more than a culturally-privileged form of sexuality."
This gender confusion is not only destructive of society, but pushes even the church into the abyss of relativism. The reality is that Christian women are not to act like those women of the pagan world who are rebellious and have cast off authority. God is to be reverenced for who He is, thus, He demands submission. A woman who learns in quiet submission in the context of Christ's gathered body is a woman who recognizes who she is before God (1 Tim. 2:11) and one who will receive what the Master has for her.
Part of Paul's point is that preaching or teaching men is not a woman's God-given role in the context of the church. He grounds this point in the created order. "For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve (13)." God created man before He created woman. The prohibition on women teaching men in the church is not cultural. The prohibition is grounded in God's creative activity. Eve was to help Adam. Only when a woman follows the Lord through following her husband, will she have peace. She will not have peace in leading her husband around, nor will she have peace in not submitting to the Lord in her role in the context of the church.
Of course, Paul makes clear the fact that women are not to be disparaged. He finishes with saying, "But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint (v. 15)." He has made the point that Eve was deceived and led her husband into sin (14). Yet, women may lead the human race into righteousness through the bearing and raising of godly children. This verse does not teach spiritual salvation through childbearing. Nor does this verse teach that all women should bear children. This verse simply affirms that the stigma of Eve is removed as women, in general terms, bear and raise godly children. In that sense are women delivered from the bondage of Eve's sin, namely pain and suffering in childbearing. While there is pain in relation to childbearing, joy follows. Greater joy follows as women are delivered through this dynamic. They will be delivered in this manner as they live in faith, love, holiness, and propriety. Of course, that includes finding fulfillment in their God-given role.
The culture will always seek to push the church in its own autonomous direction. Let us not be pushed. Rather, let us stand firm and seek to win this culture through winsome men and women sharing their faith and the resulting experiential fulfillment that flows from it. In the Christian context, let men be men and let women be women. Then, we might just see some cultural push of our own.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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