1999 James A. Fowler
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WOMEN IN THE CHURCH
I. Representative Biblical references
A. Jesus' treatment of women
for and healing of women
Peter's mother-in-law - Mk. 1:29-31
Jairus' daughter - Mk. 5:35-43
Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter - Mk. 7:24-30
Mary Magdalene - Lk. 8:2
Widow at Nain - Lk. 7:11-15
women alongside of men
Mary and Martha - Lk. 10:41; Jn. 11:20-29
Large gatherings - Matt. 14:21; 15:38
Samaritan woman - Jn. 4:1-30
Prostitute - Matt. 26:6-13; Mk. 14:3-9; Lk. 7:47; Jn. 12:1-8
Adulteress - Jn. 7:53-8:11
of resurrection - Matt. 28:1-10; Mk. 16; Lk. 24:1-11; Jn. 20
of the gospel - Matt. 28:10; Jn. 20:17
B. Women serving in the early church
with disciples in prayer - Acts 1:14
as fellow-ministers - Rom. 16:3,6,12
in ministry of hospitality - Acts 16:13-15
in charitable ministry - Acts 9:36,39,41
daughters, as prophetesses - Acts 21:9
as a teacher - Acts 18:2,18,26
as a deaconess - Rom. 16:1
as an apostle? - Rom. 16:7
C. Limitations on women serving and leading
11:2-16 - "I want you to understand that Christ is the head
of every man, and the man is the
head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. Every man who
has something on his head
while praying or prophesying, disgraces his head. But every woman
who has her head uncovered
while praying or prophesying, disgraces her head..."
14:33-36 - "Let the women keep silent in the churches; for
they are not permitted to speak,
but let them subject themselves, just as the Law says. And if
they desire to learn anything,
let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for
a woman to speak in
2:9-15 - "Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire
submissiveness. But I do not
allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but
to remain quiet..."
3:2 - "An overseer must be...the husband of one wife..."
- "elders...the husband of one wife..."
II. The effect of the gospel on the treatment of women
A. Admitted positive benefits
of Western world affected by Christianity have allowed for and
effected more freedom
for women than ever previously known in human history.
rights of women today are greater in those societies influenced
by Christianity than in those
molded by other religious and cultural ideologies.
B. Alleged negative effects
(145-220) remarks about women often cited:
do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God
on this sex of
lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You
are the devil's gateway; you
the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter
of the divine law: you are
who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack.
You destroyed so
God's image, man. On account of your desertthat is, deatheven
the Son of God
dominated social institutions throughout history, including the
not readily implemented fair and equitable gender relations and
III. Ontological equality as revealed in Gal. 3:28
A. Touted by some as foremost verse
for understanding social relations
Charta of humanity" - Jewett
break-through verse" for social relations - Stendahl
B. Interpretational cautions
not abolish, obliterate or eradicate all distinctions men
are still men; women are still
slaves are still slaves; masters are still masters; Jews are
still Jews; Greeks are still
not mandate abolition of slavery, gender-roles, religious diversity,
or recognition of
function roles and relationships are not the contextual theme
of this verse; rather,
is addressing the common and equal ontological or spiritual reality
of being "in
C. Exegetical details
probably echoes Gen. 1:27 - "male and female He created
thus ties the creation text to the concept of the "new creation"
(cf. II Cor. 5:17;
the male and female operational roles indicated by creation are
not erased or eradicated
the new creation dynamic of grace in Jesus Christ.
are all one in Christ Jesus"
addressing Christians "you (who are) in Christ Jesus"
context is theological, rather than sociological
"justified by faith" - vs. 24
"sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" - vs. 26
"baptized into Christ" - vs. 27
"belong to Christ...heirs according to promise - vs. 29
the oneness can refer to the objective position, standing and
status that every Christian
in common before God by the imputed righteousness of Christ.
the oneness can refer to the subjective ontological presence
of Christ by the Spirit
indwelling every Christian; the imparted righteousness of the
very Being of God
the oneness thus would refer to the restoration of "the
image of God" in both male and
allowing for the visible expression of His divine character in
the oneness can refer to the unity that all Christians share
in the organism of the Body of
Christ, of which Christ serves as authoritative Head.
IV. Operational order as revealed in I Tim. 2:9-15
A. Dismissed as irrelevant by some,
on basis of
of Pauline authorship and canonicity
bias progressively superseded by more enlightened texts
relative occasion not to be universally applied
to marital relationships in the home, rather than church
B. Interpretational cautions
keep in mind the greater context of advice about prayer in the
public services of the church.
is not issuing legalistic directives about
feminine attire, hairstyles, cosmetics, or jewelry
subjugation of women
gullibility of women
keeping women barefoot and pregnant
does, without a doubt, have an underlying presuppositional premise
of God's sovereign
determination and directive concerning functional authority and
order within His created
avoid undue generalizing and universalizing by recognizing that
Paul is addressing
men and women.
C. Exegetical details
8-10 Men, and "likewise" women, are to approach
the Holy God in prayer with a
and concern for conformity and manifestation of His Holy character.
male anger and disputation are not consistent with holiness.
female cosmeticizing and attire which draws attention to oneself,
ostentation or dowdiness, does not serve to draw attention to
11,12 Women will exhibit God's Holy character when they
accept God's functional
with a quiet, respectful demeanor.
Women are not to be muzzled in mute passivity.
Women are to be receptive and teachable "disciples"
The Holiness of God is not evidenced in women when they are brash,
brassy, boisterous, brazen,
head-strong, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, overly-talkative, having
to have the last word,
challenging, controlling, manipulative, critical, conceited,
arrogant, aggressive, assertive,
strident, interruptive, undisciplined, insubordinate, disruptive,
or clamoring for power.
Rather, women accept God's holy order and character by being
humbly and unobtrusively
respectful and receptive in functional subordination to God,
Authoritative public proclamation to men in the public services
of the church is not consistent
with such a functional role.
Assumption or usurpation of ultimate authority over men in the
context of the church is not
consistent with such a functional role.
13,14 The rationale for acceptance of this functional order
is based upon the original created
order and intent of God.
The explanatory and causal reason is not based on:
the curse that resulted from the Fall of man in sin
Divinely determined creational order of function is based on
chronological primacy that posits
that that which precedes has precedence. Principle of primogeniture.
This was true in the leadership of first-born sons
This was true in the leadership of husbands
Illustration of the devastating effects of violating the Divine
functional roles of order can be
seen in the original temptation account.
Adam abdicated his male leadership, passively refusing to assert
Eve subverted God's order by usurping leadership, attempting
to deal with diabolic false
teaching by herself.
The role reversal contrary to God's Divinely determined operational
order was devastating.
15 In their distinctive physical role of child-bearing,
women will also discover the psychological
and spiritual fulfillment of accepting God's operational order
for human functioning.
Women will be "made safe" from the dysfunctionality
of selfish, manipulative, and controlling
clamoring for attention and authority, through the humiliating
process of bearing and rearing children which require constant
and total attention
to their needs.
This is conditioned by the need to be constantly spiritually
receptive to the love and holiness
of God's character in the propriety of God's intended feminine
role and function.
V. Maintaining the tension between "Ontological equality"
and "Operational order"
A. Ontological equality has to do
with the "Being" of the persons
is no superiority or inferiority in the value, worth, dignity,
importance of men or women
egalitarian assertions are based on false premises
Absolute equality of rights, privileges, responsibilities and
authority produces the chaos of
no one having ultimate responsibility or authority.
The egalitarian premises of socialistic communism and radical
democratization are equally
Identity, value and worth are not found in gender-function, but
in a personal Being beyond
B. Operational order has to do with the
functional interaction of relationships
operational order of function is Divinely determined
Not expediently determined
Not subjectively determined
Not culturally determined
Not democratically determined
revealed order of God's creation is the basis for the God-ordained
hierarchical structure in
familial and ecclesiastical contexts.
of sin, there will always be the abuses of male-chauvinism and
C. Ontological equality and Operational
order are not mutually exclusive or logically incoherent.
creation grace provides the dynamic of old creation order.