Paul makes an interesting series of statements in I Corinthians 14:34-35 that have been debated many times, I’m sure.
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
We already know Paul talked about the fact that women should wear head coverings when prophesying or praying, and that he also advised women to have long hair; however, this is the broadest statement that he has made so far regarding women in the church– that they should be silent in church, and learn from their husbands at home.
A God-sent pastor would accept and apply the truth that women are not to speak in the congregations, they are to remain silent, and if they have a question they are to ask their “man” at home.
We can easily discern why this could have been a problem in the time period in which Paul was in. First, we know that the church in Corith was having trouble with all sorts of spiritual gifts being used out of order. Second, during that time period, men more than ladies had education in not only reading but in culture and religion. They would definitely have more questions as they had new status as equals in Christ.
But is this something for today?
I think that the principle is for today, if not the injunction. What’s the principle that Paul is trying to get across? The same one that he’s been working at in all of these rules: that God made the man the head of the home, giving roles to the men and women that should be followed and celebrated, and not confused.
Note, As it is the woman’s duty to learn in subjection, it is the man’s duty to keep up his superiority, by being able to instruct her; if it be her duty to ask her husband at home, it is his concern and duty to endeavour at lest to be able to answer her enquiries; if it be a shame for her to speak in the church, where she should be silent, it is a shame for him to be silent when he should speak, and not be able to give an answer, when she asks him at home.
and he continues:
Our spirit and conduct should be suitable to our rank. The natural distinctions God has made, we should observe. Those he has placed in subjection to others should not set themselves on a level, nor affect or assume superiority. The woman was made subject to the man, and she should keep her station and be content with it. For this reason women must be silent in the churches, not set up for teachers; for this is setting up for superiority over the man.
Wow. And here we are at a dilemma of sorts. You see, it is easy to see this pattern: Paul states that God has placed the man as the leader of the household. It is man who is to lead the wife who is in submission to him. It is he that should be the leader, the educator in spiritual things. It is he that has responsibility of the upbringing of the child. Only men can can be pastors and deacons, etc.
As a fundamentalist, I can dogmatically pronounce that God does not want female pastors— why? Because Paul said that a Pastor or Bishop should be a husband of one wife. A woman cannot have a wife (Biblically!). However, it is this same line of reasoning that Paul is using to say that women should be silent in church, should have long hair, and wear hats. And yet all of these things we don’t hold to as much weight as God does not want female pastors. Why?
Again, I see two scenarios:
- In this day and time men are encouraged to treat women as equals– it’s the current trend. Feminism has told us that we are equal in all things– equal pay for equal work, etc. So, anything that we can deem cultural (things that people can reason away as preference or something that’s just “a nuisance”) we will push aside, but those that are more public (i.e. the pastorate) we will enforce.
- Paul may be using two different contexts or appeals here to make these points– so the link that I believe I see isn’t really there. For example, Paul appeals to Creation to establish the order of the family. Here in this passage we do not see him appealing to a higher arching ideal, but instead appealing to shame.
One last comment. I have, as a song leader and sometimes speaker in churches, seen that some women do not like being called on or leading in prayer. Would this be something that demonstrates that the shame is still felt? Should we be encouraging someone to keep doing this if they display shame?