WOMEN ARE TO BE SILENT

The issue of the (married) women in the church of Corinth being told to “keep silent” during their worship service is one of a cultural issue and should not be taken as a universal principle. Paul is addressing a problem of a group of women, because of their too much excitement in their new freedom in Christ were unruly and too outspoken disrupting the worship service in their gathered fellowship. Paul is limiting women, not in public prophesying, but in criticizing other prophets’ (male prophets) messages, thereby implying an authority over them. However, some denominations pick on this issue and forbid women no matter how theologically articulate they are to take active roles in church ministry. They proof-text one verse, 1 Corinthians 14:34, “women are to be silent in the churches…”, and ignore the five verses below it where Paul says “do not forbid them to speak in tongues”. They’ve taken one verse in Paul, proof-texted it and ignored other verses in Paul, and said, “God says it, that settles it”. They never think through Paul’s flow of textual evidence; what he’s talking about, who he’s talking to, and why he’s talking. They just pulled one verse out and make it a universal principle for all people in all areas.

I am reminded of Gordon Fee, who in his book ‘How to read the Bible for all it’s worth’, made a point and it was a good point when he wrote, “If the Bible speaks with one voice, whether in the Old or in the New Testaments about an issue, it’s probably a universal issue, but if the Bible seems to speak with two voices, it’s probably a cultural principle. The ‘women’s issue’ is a two voice issue, and if you will read the literary unit beginning in 1 Corinthians 11 through 1 Corinthian 14 you will understand what i am talking about. I believe godly women have a very important role in church ministry, and there are areas where they are more effective than their male counterparts in so far as permeating our culture with the Gospel. And i believe Ephesians 4 does say that the gifted leadership in the church is meant to train and equip the laity to do the work of ministry; which means there is no clergy and laity dichotomy, no male and female dichotomy. All-male minister ordination is a denominational issue, not a biblical issue. Every one of us are called, gifted 24/7 ministers of Jesus Christ.