A Bone of Contention

What do you do when the Bible contradicts your deeply held spiritual belief about what the Bible teaches? You could examine the Scriptures’ original languages, historical and cultural setting, verify historical accounts, and come to the conclusion that one of the two is incorrect and if it’s not the Bible, then it can only be your deeply held belief. Or you can heavily modify comments that don’t agree with you so that never hear a discouraging word and you can pretend that nobody disagrees with you on anything.

So the question was: “Is it OK for Christian men to read Christian women’s blogs?” It’s not the first time I had seen the question or some variation of it – but it’s just so out of the realm of normalcy that I was drawn to give my two cents. I spent awhile crafting the perfect comment, pointing out a number of things: Priscilla taught Apollos, Junia and Phoebe held the titles of apostle and deacon – therefore teaching was naturally involved, culturally speaking – Middle Eastern societies don’t always treat rules as if they apply to everyone equally – many rules are soft and even though they are enforced there are exceptions which are perfectly acceptable. I mentioned that there are accounts of women such as Marcella who taught the elders of the church; Jerome, a church father, referred them to her because she could explain it to them far more easily and clearly than just any teacher he knew of. I pointed out that likewise, the author of the post in question treated her answer as a “soft rule” as well, that while 1 Timothy 2:12 teaches that women aren’t to teach men, she sees nothing wrong with men gathering information for her blog in order to have a feminine perspective or to teach their wives something or other. It sounded to me like she was saying: “No, women cannot teach men. But men can learn from women (so long as they’re not being taught) in order to teach women.” Somehow, this “soft rule” in the Bible had it’s exceptions IN THE BIBLE of all places, it’s exceptions were IN CHURCH HISTORY, and now here we are 2,000 years later and it’s become a “hard rule”.

Obviously, the only logical course of action is to deny that your deeply held spiritual belief could be incorrect, heavily moderate dissenters and delete any information that disagrees with what you say the Bible says, even if it’s in the Bible. After all, we can’t have a contradictory Bible.

That’s why so many people have made such an effort to pretend that under no circumstance whatsoever have women taught men in the Bible-era, in Church History, in the Reformation, in the Great Awakenings, and up until now there had never been a single one – but now that there are women teaching, then they’re all Eves – each and every one of them the product of deception whose ministry multiplies deception just because they’re women and rightly diving Scripture is above their purview.
Even though Scripture says that the Bible can never return void; women seem to be some exception – as if women will breathe heresy with every quote from the Word; as if they’ll mishandle the fragile promises of God and break it as if it were a glass sculpture. Never mind that the vast majority of false teachers who spread heresy like the plague have been men – they’re always just an isolated case. One man doesn’t represent Adam’s wilful rebellion. But every woman is an Eve, a deceiver.

Now it’s true, in the Bible women mainly taught women – after all, women were so prevalent in the early church that the need arose for the Church leaders to ask the governing officials to change the rules so that the women could marry outside of their class – as there were never enough men in each class to marry all of the woman off to. That left a large number of women who were unmarriable for the time being. So it makes sense that a woman’s ministry would primarily be to the most prevalent members of the congregation – other women; but that doesn’t mean that women never, ever, under no circumstance whatsoever taught men in the Bible, outside of it, and for two thousand years of church history. And since Christianity was the religion of “slaves, women, and children” it wasn’t as if there were a whole lot of powerful men who wanted to sign up for that – strategically speaking, the Emperor’s cult or a warrior’s cult or a trade guild cult would give them a vital opportunity to network with other powerful men who had influence and in a stratified society where class and gender were but two factor’s of one’s social prestige – there was little point in getting involved in such a backwards cult unless you really were a believer. If you really were a believer, then you might think that Jesus’ exemplary kindness, graciousness, and unusual benevolence to women was an example to follow and it would be following in his footsteps to be respectful of women – even the ones that have been a believer for far longer than you and are better educated than you are who could teach you a thing or two. After all, the early church did tell the believers to treat older women as mothers and we all know there’s nothing wrong with a mother teaching her son no matter how old he is.

Church history talks about Hilda, a woman who founded a monastery that became a leading center for the instruction of theology and literature whose students went on to do great things. Juana Inés de la Cruz was famous for her knowledge – her voice was almost lost, until a Mexican president upheld her work as worthy of being teaching material and she found a new audience some four centuries after her time. I doubt that this piece was meant for women to learn from women and not for men:

“You foolish men who lay
the guilt on women,
not seeing you’re the cause
of the very thing you blame; …”

Seriously, go on the read the rest and you might find yourself asking how can a 400 year old poem speak so skillfully today to the tension that exists between men and women. (“You Foolish Men” by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz or “hombres necios” in the original language.) Augustine once declared that any old Christian woman was far better educated on spiritual matters than philosophers. But since women cannot teach men, then Lois and Eunice greatly sinned in their instruction of Timothy when they instilled their faith in him from a young age. That education must therefore go to waste, because women – easily deceived as they are – can only teach other women – who are also easily deceived because they’re all women. While women won’t deceive each other, it’s somehow impossible for women to not deceive men because the Word of God returns void when women teach it even if a woman teaches another woman perfectly the same exact thing she teaches to a man imperfectly.

Paul and Jesus both agree, doing anything to dishonor God in our culture is a bad idea. In our increasingly Egalitarian society, a religious group that doesn’t permit women to equal the men in power / authority / leadership / teaching / position isn’t going to be the sort of thing that people are going to say “sign me up for that!” You’ll find precious few women who want to attend a church where they’re required to be silent and must keep their opinions to themselves in the decades to come. While you’re at it, why not adopt dress-only requirements and a a minimum hair length of long and require it must be covered up? Why not go all the way if you’re so stuck on these ancient ideas from another culture? If you want to be different, then don’t stop at forbidding women from teaching.
Where was I? Oh, it’s almost as if Christianity has taken this approach to the “woman teachers” question:

“Here, If discovered appropriating classified documents at a foreign consulate reception you should A)Express concern B)Act surprised C)Deny everything and D)All three. The answer is D)All three. It’s common sense stuff.” – Spies like Us

A) I worry that women teachers will spread heresy and deception. B) What? The notion that women did teach shocks me! C) Of course women have never, ever taught the Bible!
D) I worry that women teachers would spread heresy and deception. What? The notion that women could even teach shocks me! Of course no woman has ever taught from the Scriptures!

Yep, modifying and deleting comments, pretending they never even existed, solves everything; it’s a shame the original comment is gone because it was a good one.

10 thoughts on “A Bone of Contention

  1. Posted this comment over there…


    Do you also delete or edit comments that question the premises of your post or challenge your conclusions? An honest question from a recently deconverted Christian.-kia


    1. Sorry for not getting back to you sooner – it was well into the night by the time I finished my post. I just don’t understand this rabid hatred in Christianity against the precepts of the equality of women and men. Some seem to treat feminism as if it’s the same enemy as abolition would have been in pro-slavery regions. The OP of that post reminds me of the accounts of slaves that were pro-slavery because they were well-treated and couldn’t imagine being responsible for their own shelter, food, and clothing. Even the mantra: “equal but different” rings of “separate but equal”. The parallels are just too many to ignore.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not sure I’d call it hatred for equality. Most western Christians accept equality and egalitarianism personally, but when dealing specifically with their religious contexts, they are forced to deny what they know is right and proper to maintain the image, inner as well as outer, to their own communities and community at large, of obedience to gods commands. It’s another self imposed blindness and brainwashing


      2. I guess the anonymity of the internet allows them to let their true colors shine – there’s no shortage of anti-feminist sentiments on Christian websites. It’s as if Christians have painted feminist teachings as the enemy because they’ve run out of other enemies to rally against. I think that most of them are reasonable in public when they’re actually personally accountable for what they say / do / think whereas the internet gives them the ability to be outrageous and yet perfectly acceptable and appear zealous for “God’s truth” as they define it to be.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s what worries me. So many people look around at marriage equality and LGBTQIA rights issues and feminism as if they’re all works of the devil designed to erode the authority of the Bible and their gut reaction is become even more fundamentalist. Too many see themselves as the small remnant of true believers whose duty is to take a stand for God. In this region, some churches demand that it’s women have long hair and wear long-sleeve shirts and long denim skirts at all times. It’s a whole lot of “adding to” the Bible that amounts to using the Bible to control other people.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s