June 16, 2024

Should Women Keep Silent in Church?

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.

It is here that we may have found the first true failure by the ordinary Pastor to live up to Harry Bethel’s checklist:

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.

Matthew Henry brings out this point about the man’s obligations here:

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?

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29 thoughts on “Should Women Keep Silent in Church?

  1. I have actually had this type of post on my blog a while back and I got a huge response from it.

    I am definitely in the minority on this but I believe that women were not called to pastor churches. Yes, be teachers and help pastors but that is all. Not running churches. I believe God called the men to be the leaders as they are in their homes we are the helpmates.

    It sounds old-fashioned, but that’s how I feel. I had a very very hard time accepting my pastor’s wife, when she began to preach in the evenings. It is still an adjustment.

  2. I definately agree that women are not to preach, and are not to have authority over men. I think that women should be wearing headcoverings, if only to be prudent adhereing as closely to the understandable Word. I think that they shoudl not be asking pastor’s things, though, I’m sure I have been guilty of such. I think the reason that a woman is not to ask the pastor but to ask her husband, is because if she has to ask the pastor, she is implying to him that her husband does not know these things. That would shame the husband.

    A woman should also dress femininely as is pleasing to her husband, since her body is her husband’s and no longer her own. (Still guilty of this one, I dress as I please, primarily because to not do so would require an entirely new wardrobe.) She should have a joyful countenance, and kindness shoudl be on her tongue.

    I definately support women being silent in church. Though I define this as not gabbing during a service, not asking leaders (except older women) for knowledge regarding the Bible, (or anything else). I draw the line at being able to converse with other women and some men after service in a friendly fellowship sort of way. I don’t see any place that the Scripture says we are not to do that.

    Of course women can learn from other women, as specified in Titus 2… “let the older women teach the younger” and I seem to recall that there was a female Deacon. Though personally I would avoid that, since in our times it would be seen as giving her authority over men.

    I really hate that this is even a question! I mean, it really frustrates me when people have to ask “is this for our time?” Everything in the Word is true and useful for teaching etc. None of it ought to be left out. Since there are no verses that nullify this teaching then, well, obviously it is still for today.

    Mrs Meg Logan

  3. While I agree that women should not be pastors, teach, or have authority over men, I also see something else in this passage. You know how women have this tendency when listening to a speaker to respond by leaning over to their neighbor and whispering, either a comment or a question. Then they both don’t hear the rest of what’s being said. 😉

    I never had really considered, though, MML’s excellent point that asking questions of the pastor could shame the woman’s husband. I LOVE that I’m always learning new things to think about that can bring glory to God.

    All that said, I once was an elder … but I wouldn’t do it again.

  4. We attended a Baptist church a few years ago for a short time, and during that time, a woman led adult SS. The pastor claimed that she did it “under his authority” so that made it okay. I don’t know…it didn’t seem right. Especially as the church had plenty of men who weren’t going to step forward as long as “somebody” (woman or otherwise) would step up and take the pressure off.
    I’m not at all for women pastors, or for women teaching adult men. And here’s another thought…have you ever noticed that at a women’s Bible study, the actual study is sometimes repeatedly put off due to all the conversation rabbit trails we women love to follow? Fellowshipping is great, but it shouldn’t take priority over the lesson. I think men are more likely to get to the point and get into the topic at hand.

  5. Very sensitive subject. In whatever way one looks at it, there will be controversies. I personally have no problems with the biblical order of authority and with pastors being men. But I think that applying the “silence rule” in church 100% is ‘in absurdum’. Those who teach and preach are to be humble servants of the Word, and ready to explain when asked. I do not ask questions during the sermon, though some men do, but I put them down and ask them afterwards, and it is not my husband I ask, but pastor – the one whose sermon awoke those questions.
    The truth is – my husband is not a believer, so he is not with us in church, in fact, he is the reason of my grief and sadness, and my true understanding of what “crucible of Grace” really means…
    Another truth is that asking pastor is my only alternative, in the situation of me living quite far away from other brothers and sisters and not being able (because of the lack of time) to spend long hours talking to them instead.
    You see, not everything is so black&white as we would like it to be. But this is good, I think, because it forces us to think and scrutinize everything. As long as we do it with love, that is.

  6. It is good to read accurate doctrine concerning the men’s role and women’s role in the church. I believe men are leaders and teachers by nature because that is the way God made man in the beginning. Adam named all of the animals and managed the garden. He did this not because God told him to act this way but because it was the very nature inside of him that caused him to lead. This nature was given him by God when He created Adam. You can only do what is natural if life is to be fulfilling. When we live outside of our natural design then there is always disharmony. Women were not created to have authority over man or to teach them because God gave them a different nature. The Bible says in 1 Peter Chapter three that women received a meek and quiet spirit. Women are not to act meek and quiet because that would be a law but they are to live out of the new nature given to them by Christ Jesus when they were born-again. You will live the way you believe. When women believe that the new nature that they have is a meek and quiet one then that is the way they will live. I love Biblical truth. Thank-you for receiving my comments Bill Naugle http://www.billnaugle.com 🙂

  7. As I was reading through this, I noticed that many of the posts were last fall when this was first published. Some things may have changed since then, but I do address this to ann_in_grace. I started praying for your husband’s salvation as soon as I was reading your comments. I pray for you as you live your daily life with your husband. I think of 1 Peter 3:1-7, especially the first verse. How wonderful that God is gracious to us!!

  8. Jesus told us to spread the Good News of salvation. He also taught us to keep His Commandments. I am teaching this to others and writing a book regarding same. Can you discern whether I am a woman who speaketh or a man who speaketh ( or “writeth” )? What will you do now (gulp)?!

    Signed, D.A. Brewer

  9. Grammatically speaking to this Website: Do not replace my end-parenthesis with a “face” after the word “writeth.”

  10. You people are sick and should be ashamed of yourselves. You’re degrading women as second class citizens because of a book written in the bronze age. Shame on you all!

    Religion is bunk, but your religion is also chauvinistic and disgraceful. To believe any of that stuff and live by it is absurd in this day and age.

  11. DelusionalCrowd,

    is there any alternative you would be kind enough to share about as an alternative?
    Judging from your tone and language, what you have to offer is ten thousand times mote shameful than even your sick imagination about Christianity.

    Moreover, your ignorance about historic periods is stunning. But tputting that aside – some arguments would be appreciated.

  12. I’m doing nothing of the kind– nowhere will you find a degradation, but a question of defining roles. If a woman chooses to subordinate herself under a man, why is that a problem for you? We each choose who we will submit to and will not submit to (where you work, where you live, etc.). So, why is it wrong if a woman chooses to (a) submit to Bible teaching and/or (b) submit to her husband? Why should she submit to you?

    Is it any better to live with no guide other than self? How is that superior to living according to a faith that says that we are to love others over self?

  13. DelusionalCrowd,

    Unfortunately, I have family members that believe the same way you do. For some reason they are just as intolerant and angry as you seem to be.

    If we Christians are put down for believing God’s Word and living our life by it, why are we the ones that are much more tolerant and praying for you? I would not go to your blog or others that believe the way you do and express myself in such a hateful way, but you feel the freedom to do it here. Isn’t it wonderful that God is gracious and merciful and gives you the volition to do that? Isn’t it wonderful that He gives me the volition to ‘turn my cheek’ and pray for you?

    And if you are anything like my family that believes as you do…that statement will make you even more angry. But, I will be praying for you and the ‘unveiling’ of your eyes. The Bible is a very old book, and if you’ve done any studying at all, you know that much of it can be proven…even more so than evolution. It’s a very interesting read. 😉

  14. Dear Mr Crowd,

    Whilst not all Christians come to the same interpretations on whether God wants female pastors, I note that

    (a) the implication that such a theology is degrading to women can no mre be inferred than that the inability for men to be mothers is degrading to men. The implication of the theology is not that women must be denied a pastorate, but that no such office or function exists.

    (b) “Religion is bunk” does not follow from your summary dismissal of the point of view.

    (c) That you are bringing your cultural assumptions to the argument and are not testing them. The Bible teaches the equality of men and women, but differs from you – apparently – on the assumption that men and women are essentially the same (which is obviously wrong).

    As to what is absurd: How about the opening paragraph of your website:

    “Naturalism is the hypothesis that the Universe is a ‘closed system’ . . . so naturalism entails the non-existence of supernatural beings, including thge theistic God.”

    The naturalism *hypothesis* can entail what it likes, if it defines its hypothesis in that manner, but then the argument is petito principii – an assumption from the beginning (the begging the question fallacy). You assume the non existense of a supernatural God, you certainly do not derive it.

    But as expressed, the argument is also wrong, because you argue that the non-existence of the theistic God is implied by the “closed system” hypothesis. This argument is proposed in ignorance of the Christian theology of immanence. That God remains within every part of his creation, and that each atom, quark, superstring or brane is sustained by him, is essential to Christian theology.

    God is the only one for whom it is literally true that when he leaves a room, the room ceases to exist.

    So the theistic God is not outside of your closed system. He is within, holding it and sustaining it. Therefore it does not follow that naturalism entails the non existence of the theistic God, even if we accept the “closed system” hypithesis.

    “To believe any of that stuff and live by it is absurd in this day and age.” 😉


  15. In re D.A. Brewer:
    Who authorized the demonic face? I was speaking of the Lord God – the Holy One of Israel – The One Whom You Will Bow Down To in His Kingdom – the return of Y’eshua ( Hebrew for “Jesus” ). And this Website usurps my comment with a demonic face to depict me? Tell me, who is more hateful? You keep trying to hang the hatefulness on the Christian. (Look in the mirror, beloved, without those rose-colored glasses you have on.) I speak of the Lord’s Kingdom to Come with Great Joy and Love. You people (Website) seem to loathe the One Who Made You. There is Good News for the those who really want to be set free, and free indeed. There is Good News people! Take this challenge and seek Him out – really, really Seek the Lord God. (Sidebar: Lucifer counterfeits as an angel of light. Be careful, he’s not as stupid and ugly as people think. Why do you see the masses of people following him? He has even snaked his way into many of the churches. Jesus said it would be so. Therefore, you better be careful who you are listening to. Know the Lord’s Voice, because counterfeit will not do.)
    Praying for you…
    D.A. Brewer

  16. At the bottom of this screen it says, “Worng protection code….” What’s a “worng”?
    (I assume it is bad spelling on your part.)
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Also, take the “crinkle face” out from behind the name Jesus. I never put that in there.
    Do you always usurp a comment with whatever you choose to do? :silly:


  17. Mr. Brewer,

    This site is in no way as malicious as you suggest.

    #1. Some emoticons are automatically converted to smilies since people know the emoticons better than their colon counterparts. So : ) when put together becomes 🙂 and ” ) becomes “). When I’ve seen it in a comment and had the chance, I’ve gone back and fixed it (like you see in your previous comment) by adding a space after the “.

    #2. The plugin that I’m using for Avatars came with a set of images that are randomly selected for people that have not commented before. Below the comment box is a link that would let you select your own avatar from a list after one comment– so you are certainly free to select a different one, or, if you e-mail me one that you would like, I will make it so that you have that one.

    As you can see, you are no longer the Devil symbol, and that avatar was purged from the system. That was an oversight on my part– I should have done a better job of making sure that all avatars (though they may be ugly) are not offensive. I guess I need to put a higher priority on finding some new ones.

    So no, I only get involved with editing comments when something goes wrong (like your propensity to put things with quotes in parenthesis), and I am glad that you come by and read and comment here. Anything else that I can do to make your stay more enjoyable, let me know.

  18. I’m a man, so all you women better listen :biggrin:

    Did the Pharisee’s reject Christ’s birth because it was spoken by a women?

    ‘And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem’ Luke 2:38 KJV

  19. what about those who have no husbands? i have no husband, and what if ur husband is not saved or knows anything about the bible? when i became a christian (born again) i became wiser of what kind of husband or boyfriend i would get, and it would be a a born again, preacher, wise man in the word, very kind and loving to his wife, and be the leader and head of the house, he would be the teacher, leader and preacher of my children, cause men are to teach their children, and what if i never have a husband or decide not to? who do i ask? are my only duties in a church to prophesy and pray like anna(the one who was in the church dat and night praying?) for she was a prophetess? the only husband i had was the lord, because the word says “the virgin seeks to please the lord”, i have 2 children and have no husband or boyfriend, but have the lord so what i do is pray to God to give me wisdon to raise my children in his way because there is no father figure to teach them but you know what? God is my husband, so he brings them up in his way through me, thank you

  20. You ask a good question, Dee. I’ve seen some say that a woman that’s not under a husband’s authority is under her parents authority still. I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the statement, but I can see where they get it Biblically.

    As far as who to ask and what to do– I would start with your pastor/parents. I would seek to do those things that honor and glorify God, but I think your biblical status would be more along the lines of a widow in context– since you have children but are not married– and a lot of the unmarried Scripture have more to do with those without children.

    So, as far as I can tell, you’re doing right in your actions, and may God bless you in your desire to serve Him.

  21. These posts fills me with fear,. The concepts of equality and freedom held so dear nd fought for so hard in the last century are being undermined in a two prong attack from fundamentalists in the West and fundamentalists in the middle east.

    There is no real difference between you all..fundamentalism is just what it says…whether you are a jihadist or a misogynist, religion creates intolerance of each other…

    My wife is a Muslim, she believes wholeheartedly in her creator, but she lives freely and is able to choose her role, now that she lives in a secular nation.

    She is now free to choose her spirirtual path, and her personal choice about her personal religion will always be decided by herself, freely, and I hope that no man will dictate to her silence.

  22. I’m sorry the posts frighten you, Alex. I believe my post references a Christian Church and discusses who should minister in the Christian church. What document, but the Bible, dictates what should happen inside of a church building? Certainly the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom of assembly allow any group of people to assemble under any given rules they want. If I want to make a club where all members have to wear red shirts and dye their hair red I should be allowed to under the Constitution.

    I am by no means saying that all women every where have to wear burqas, or else they will be imprisoned. I’m not advocating the government (or even a local assembly) enforce a law that no woman speak or she be barred from worship. I’m simply asking the question about what the Lord thinks is glorifying to Him in His church.

    Certainly, there is much difference between me– who is attempting to live by the Word of God but I am not forcing it on anyone, am not in a position of power or authority to demand that it be followed, and certainly will not kill anyone for it, and a regime that demands certain dress codes by even non-believers in society

    As a Muslim, I do not have any problem with whatever you wife wants to do wherever she is. I believe that she doesn’t possess saving faith, I don’t think that she will go to Heaven when she dies because it takes a belief in Christ as Savior to do that, but I’m not forcing her to go to my church, pretend to be a Christian, or even to be silent in a church.

    So how is that not different?

  23. If we should keep silence in churches ,would every men in churches be able to teach ? but now we found
    most women being a beleiver than men. Even with Jesus
    women was arround him ,he was the teacher,but now some women have to prophetise to men since some of them are unbeleiver ,the one that are use the Bible as theire advantage,we should not speak at churhc said Paul did he also say we should be working to pay all or some of the bills when men failled to kept his duty ,we open our eyes then we all have our soul thanks to Jesus now even we are on our monthly period we can still go to church are you going to try to saet us down also on our period.

  24. Yes I do believe in woman pastor long that a man over them is ok for them to preach. paul did not talk about every church in the world. I disagree with some people statement. I go to full Gospel baptist chuch yes we have woman who preach.

  25. RE: Dixon: As in ALL the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says …what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:33–34,37).

    “All” means all churches everywhere and at every time. The Bible is not a book useful only to the first century church or to Christians only in Corinth. The Bible instructs and is the final authority for the 2nd century church, the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, 19, 20th and yes, also the 21st century church.

    If God wanted women to speak in church He might have just said nothing and gotten the result he wanted for, having said the opposite, and as plainly as possible, most modern churches STILL believe it’s ok with God for women to speak in church.

    Obviously, women have a dog in this race, as they do in the submission issue, hence they resist this teaching the most. It’s akin to our inability to understand what Jesus said about whoever wants to be the greatest (among the apostles) must be the servant of all.

  26. What I mean is that women (who oppose this teaching) don’t believe in the value and greatness of submission and servant-hood. Our society does not value submission, nor does it value humility.

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