Epistle: Why Women Should Still be Silent; Why Men Should Too (Part 1)
8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety— I Timothy 2:8-15
Let me first say that I write as a slave of Christ to all of you and with good faith that you all treat each other likewise.
What we are venturing into here is probably the most feared passage in scripture, as it is generally read to support a Pauline form of patriarchy and the divination of its practice. But I write to you with the assurance that the attempts to do this are not only blatantly wrong, but they are still idolatrous, poisonous, and in denial of Christ (much to many of our suspicions).
However, let me also admit that I agree with what is written in Timothy wholeheartedly. It is my belief that what Paul says is representative of the sort of spiritual discipline we all need in order to be people who confess Christ and his saving grace and practice his way in community together. And so, in no way is this scripture contrary to the desires of our hearts for female liberation from patriarchy or our call to be people of justice in any way. In fact, I will advocate that this is a radical expression of these things.
Therefore, let me ask: Could we not just as easily give this sort of advice to men given our current circumstances? I think in light of our patriarchal tendencies, its damn time we did.
Nevertheless, I suspect that, by now, you are all wondering why someone who drifts toward more egalitarian thought (like myself) would find scripture like this interesting. It seems to underscore patriarchal social structures to speak to women in this way and enslaving to have these sorts of expectations for them. This is what motivates many of our Liberal friends to advocate we ignore 1 Timothy 2:8-15 or possibly even change Scripture that precludes a violent silencing of the Spirit on the altar of Liberal enlightenment. However, I assure you that the answer is not throwing it out of Scripture or striking even one word from our canon of Scripture. The answer is exegeting Timothy well by first allowing Scripture to hold us to the liberation and powerlessness that motivate its writer(s) and how they are characterizing Christian worship thenceforth. From this context we will find there are no reasons to be rebellious to some “Pauline patriarchy” or coerce his voice by silencing him in the name of Liberal enlightenment– for there is no reason to be ashamed of Scripture here.
The context of chapter two is a discussion of worship and prayer. Paul writes to both men and women, has different instructions for each, and yet they have the same ruling ethic– the powerlessness of Christ.
In verse eight, Timothy writes to men that they should “lift up holy hands” without anger or disputing. In the early church, lifting palms to the sky was an expression of crying out for G-d’s rescue. It is representative of the socially “liberal” (small “l”) manifesto so to speak, because it is the believer’s cry for G-d’s liberation from the Powers of the world. However, notice how men are instructed to pray for liberation– “without wrath or disputation.” Men are called to pray for and seek G-d’s rescue in powerless ways. Furthermore, notice this sort of powerlessness is to be done “everywhere”– that is, in both public and private places of worship and prayer. Men are, therefore, instructed by Timothy to seek the rescue of G-d in powerless ways at every opportunity of worship and prayer to G-d. These men who have been the venomous oppressor throughout history are instructed that the terms any notion of “male headship” is to be tempered by the practice of powerlessness performed exhaustively– for they are not the oppressed in a patriarchal culture but the oppressor!
Therefore, Paul’s call is quite simple for men; that they would discipline themselves to be powerless in every act expressed to G-d and each other. Therefore, the instructions given to men are exhaustive so that there would be no mistake that they should worship in ways that extinguish their powerfulness through worshiping and instructing in humility and grace… ceaselessly! It is a simple instruction given to a gender of which has not been the minion of gender coercion but have been the proprietors of it. And so, Timothy’s instructions are clear– be powerless in all things!
(To be Continued. Part 2 coming soon!)
Be Powerless with Each Other,