We Lutherans all want to argue on the basis of God's revealed truth in the authoritative Scripture. Yet all of us come to this debate with our own personal history and agenda. My own history includes aversion to women in the public ministry as a result of experiences, first as a teenager, then as a student in Germany. More recently, I have developed a growing understanding of the just claims of Christian women who have been disempowered and marginalized in the church and a horror for what has been perpetrated in the name of male headship. A re-examination of the texts and another (this time happy) experience of having a woman as my pastor in the United States about a decade ago led me to abandon my previously held view that the ordination of women is not the Lord's will for his church today. I am now convinced to the contrary, although I do not like using the broad term feminist. My own personal pain is not only that close friends and relatives hold an opposing view, but that I fully understand that view as one who once held it (this is not said in any spirit of superiority).
While it is now generally agreed that 1 Tim 2:8–15 is directed against the heresy that had taken hold within the Ephesian church, the key question is whether the passage is directed against the content of the heresy or is concerned to establish a process that will eventually see the victims corrected and the heresy expunged. If concerned with the content of the heresy, the instructions may be directed at restoring a hierarchical framework. If the passage is concerned with process, however, Paul’s demands are shaped by the particular nature of the heresy and its form of transmission in Ephesus.
In every corner of the world, religious teachings on gender and power have an enormous impact on human lives, especially those of girls and women. For this reason, Christians have a responsibility to accurately critique biblical teachings on gender. This booklet summarizes the egalitarian position of Scripture—that Christians, both female and male, are equally called to exercise their God-given gifts with equal authority and equal responsibility in the church, home, and world.
To understand 1 Timothy 2, we need to overcome our blindness to women. We need to see Priscilla, a wise and strong leader and teacher; Artemis, the goddess whose female-centered religion would have normalized female religious dominance; the unqualified women usurping authority and spreading false teachings; and those being deceived by those teachings.
Paul is concerned with gender in 1 Timothy because the women at Ephesus were individuals whose leadership did not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. Paul is objecting not to their gender, but to their leadership that domineered over men. We understand this because of the unique verb Paul selects for “authority” (1 Tim 2:12).
Rather than using the most common Greek terms for authority or oversight, like exuosia or proistemo, Paul uses the term authentein—a term that would have caught the attention of first century readers! Why? What does this word mean?
When the curtain on male headship is pulled back, it shrinks from the light of logic and truth. Consider the most recent defense of male headship by John Piper. He offers three reasons why he believes it will endure, but in pulling the curtain back, we find each deeply flawed.
The battle over women leaders and the church continues to rage unabated in evangelical circles. At the center of the tempest sits 1 Tim. 2:11-15. Despite a broad spectrum of biblical and extra-biblical texts that highlight female leaders, 1 Tim. 2:11-15 continues to be perceived and treated as the great divide in the debate. Indeed for some, how one interprets this passage has become a litmus test for the label “evangelical” and even for salvation.
Some of us come from traditions where you don’t ask questions of the text. If you ask questions, that means you are questioning God, and that’s not allowed. I want to expose you to the two typical ways this passage has been understood.