Why Women Should Still be Silent; Why Men Should Too (Part 3)
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
In respect and submission to the context of theological and ethical powerlessness, what does Timothy then offer as an alternative lifestyle of worship to the coercive, graceless political powerfulness of this world to his sisters in Christ? He beckons her to good works.
Why is this?
Because for Paul, there is a relationship between “good works” and the rejection of a spirit of worship that rejoices in powerfulness and gracelessness. Therefore, there is a connection between doing good to your neighbor and powerlessness. In fact, Paul communicates here that there are no good works that are powerful in a sense of the graceless and powerful cults of the world.
Therefore, neither it is not acceptable that a sister in Christ be coercive in her presence for G-d’s liberation to be manifest in her life; this is even in the wake of there being injustice that only a woman could know. Therefore, as a way of vanquishing a religious spirit of powerful gender politics, she is asked to deny her powerfulness and take up her cross by performing good works in remembrance of Christ. Therefore, take notice to the theology that contextualizes what an appropriate expression of “good works” is here — they are works submissive to the peculiar claims of the gospel that they should overcome the world by refusing to enter into its cycle of political domination and revolution.
In submission to this theology, she is, once again, a model of godliness. In submission to this distinctly christological commitment, she is the greatest of Christian leaders in a way that proclaims great authority in her community.
Nevertheless, how should we then understand verses 11 and 12 that proclaim it is not permissible for a woman to be the teacher of a man? The answer is simple. It is unacceptable for Christian worship to act in “authority over” one of their equally powerless brothers in Christ– it is, once again, their place to be in silence and in a mode of listening that does not act in “power over” another but out of grace, powerlessness, mercy, silence, and love for her brothers. Therefore, a newly liberated female from the tyranny if the cult of man should not use her freedom to become the new dictator– she should sit in silence and pray for the repentance of herself and her brothers in Christ of which there is no distinction between male or female but only worship of the powerless Christ.
And so, set in this context of sound Christology, this completely reframes how we understand holy gender relations in the community of Christ. Thus, we are faced with the grave reality that we, as Enlightened Westerners, have failed to set our communities is a context of powerlessness and, thus, lust for political power despite each other in the slirit of the self-justified cult of gender. Thus, because of this exegetical failure, we read the Timothian letter as if it were some primitive expression of dangerous patriarchy. But as we have seen here, Timothy is not advocating for patriarchy at all; but an ethic of powerlessness normative for how the community carries on relating to each other.
Therefore, I can do nothing here but agree with Paul, and I call you to agree with him too. It is essential to Christian worship that we should seek the fruit of powerlessness in our communities. And so, we should consider the possibility that simplicity (v. 9), good works (v10), silence before G-d (v.11), listening to each other (v.12), that the “knowledge of good and evil” is why we cannot know G-d (12-13), and that those who live powerfully and gracelessly will be saved by their children– because the children of the powerful will eventually come to reject the arrogance of their parents’ power-mongering as G-d rescues them from the tyranny of their gracelessness (v.15).
And so, may you be silent, powerless, and graceful before each other; and it’s damn time we decided this is still how we should act with each other.