“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my Spirit” (Joel 2:28, 29).
Although we may idealize the early church, most of us would not have enjoyed a visit to a worship service at Corinth. The impression which one was most likely to receive was that of chaos and delirious insanity.
At the evangelical colloquium on women and the Bible, I introduced the section on biblical hermeneutics (the art of interpreting Scripture) by saying that the most crucial issues for evangelicals in the modern world of biblical studies were not in the arena of the so-called "Battle for the Bible" (inerrancy and authority). Important as these considerations may be, the hermeneutical issues are still more critical.
This passage in I Timothy has caused much confusion about what women can or cannot do in church services or in teaching. In the oft-heated discussions, a verse or two, or even a single phrase is sometimes selected and the rest of the passage ignored.
We turn our attention to the presence or absence of the Greek article in the crucial passages that have been used for centuries to limit the participation of women in teaching and leadership in the church.
The two divergent approaches to the question of the role of women which are common among contemporary Evangelical Christians we might call the Traditional View (the majority opinion) and the Egalitarian View (the minority opinion).
The God presented by the biblical authors and worshipped in the Church today cannot be regarded as having gender, any more than God can be regarded as having race or color. In recognizing this truth, we will be more free to use inclusive metaphors for God.
Many contemporary evangelical Bible scholars and theologians, not to mention ordinary lay men and women, are convinced that attempts to use the Bible so as to exclude women from positions of leadership for which their Creator has made them and to which their Lord as called them – whether in society, home or church – is flawed.
I believe that we need to come to the Bible with just such a faith when we deal with the hard issues – not only those of doctrine but also those of Christian behavior. If we can develop a hermeneutic of faith which will apply to a better understanding of gender roles in the economy of God, perhaps the same methodology can serve us in circumstances which the church of Jesus Christ cannot now fully envision.