The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith. Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.
Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors. I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.
Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today
Women’ Role in the Church (3): “Male Headship in the Church—Are You Serious?”
1 Timothy 2:11 (ESV)
“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
1 Corinthians 11:3 (NASB)
“But 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.”
Among the hundreds of pastors in Mexico whom the Lord allowed me to teach the Bible for 10 years, several were female pastors—mainly from the Assemblies of God and United Methodist denominations. This posed a problem for me—not because I didn’t believe women could teach men the Bible—but because male headship in the church and in the home, I think, is biblical. The issue, then, was whether I ought to train and teach ordained female pastors who headed their own congregations which included men.
Obviously, this isn’t a dilemma to the complementarians, since they believe that male headship and women teaching men in the church are mutually exclusive, since Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man.” But I respectively differ on two accounts: First, the conjunction “or” implies that teaching men and having authority over men is not the same thing. Paul certainly prohibits both here, but while male headship is consistently upheld elsewhere in Scripture (Eph. 5:22-23; 1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Pet. 3:1-5), we do see women speaking God’s Word to men in the Bible. Note that prophetess Huldah spoke to king’s men, no less, “concerning the words of [Torah]” (2 Chron. 34:21-28); Priscilla, along with her husband, taught Apollos (Acts 18:26); and the Corinthian women prophesied over a congregation that included men (1 Cor. 11:5). Nevertheless, I still need to consider what Paul tells the women in the Ephesian church (pastored by Timothy) “to remain quiet.”
The Greek for “quiet” in 1 Timothy 2:12 is hēsuchia—meaning, stillness, ceasing from bustle—which is also used in 1 Timothy 2:1-2, where Paul exhorts the Ephesians to pray for kings so that they “may live peaceful and quiet lives.” Evidently, this word refers to “a person’s inner being characterized by tranquility that causes no disturbance to others” (Vine 1985:503). Thus, “she must be silent” (NIV) likely means that the Ephesian women ought to refrain from an activity—teaching in this case—that was disturbing the church. As alluded yesterday, if Paul meant complete silence, as in “mouth sealed with tape,” he could’ve used phimoō, which means to “muzzle,” like an ox while it is treading out the grain (1 Cor. 9:9).
In view of this, there are two possible interpretations of what Paul might’ve meant by using hēsuchia instead of phimoō in 1 Timothy 2:11: One, women everywhere should never open their mouth to teach men in the church; or two, those women teaching in the Ephesian church should no longer do that because what or how they taught caused disturbance to others. No one can be sure the nature of this disturbance, but it’s possible that because these women were new converts and uneducated, they didn’t yet have the necessary experience or knowledge to teach others (Life Application Bible 1993: 2218). This is to say, if they were mature and competent, Paul would’ve allowed them to teach under Pastor Timothy’s leadership.
Then, how did I resolve the dilemma I faced in Mexico? Because the Assemblies of God and United Methodist (still conservative in northern Mexico) denominations had male superintendent and bishop, respectively, I accepted that as satisfying the male headship requirement in the church. It helped that I knew these two leaders personally—men of deep biblical conviction who simply recognized a call to pastoral ministry that certain women received from the Lord. Put differently, it had nothing to do with promoting the feminist agenda. So, while these women pastors certainly had spiritual jurisdiction over their own churches, they were under the authority of their superintendent and bishop—meaning, the women pastors, along with their male counterparts, were answerable to the latter.
I’m sure complementarians (and some egalitarians as well) disagree with my understanding of Scripture on this issue. Thus, we must continue to dialogue, but let’s also “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).
And of the five teachers whom I selected out of many as the official instructors for my courses in Mexico, one is a woman—Señora Hortensia—who has been teaching my Missiology course at her denomination’s Bible institute for several years now. Hortensia recently sent me a picture of a female instructor whom she trained, who now teaches the same course at a Bible institute in another state (2 Tim. 2:2). Since Hortensia has turned out to be a very effective teacher, I wish I had trained more women to teach God’s Word during my tenure in Mexico. Perhaps, that’s why I find myself inviting several women in my organization to teach at our 2-week long AMI Institute held annually. May the trend continue!
Prayer: Father, shed Your grace and wisdom on us so that, instead of foolishly arguing about who serves and submits to whom, we recognize that everyone and “everything comes from God” (1 Cor. 11:12a) and we ought to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 27
Tomorrow’s Blog: Male Headship at the Home (1): “Are You Kidding?”
Lunch Break Study
Read Hosea 1:2:
“When the Lord first spoke through Hosea, the Lord said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of whoredom and have children of whoredom, for the land commits great whoredom by forsaking the Lord.”
Lev. 21:7: “They [priest] shall not marry a prostitute or a woman who has been defiled.”
Ezekiel 4:12, 14: “And you [Ezekiel] shall eat it as a barley cake, baking it in their sight on human dung” . . . 14 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I have never defiled myself. From my youth up till now I have never eaten what died of itself or was torn by beasts, nor has tainted meat come into my mouth.”
Judges 4:4-5: “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment.”
Questions to Consider
- How do you think Hosea and Ezekiel, respectively, felt when God told one to marry a whore and the other to cook his meals over human dung?
- What does that tell you about God?
- There is no doubt that Deborah served as the leader of Israel during the time of judges. A queen named Athaliah ruled the Southern Kingdom (very badly, like all the kings of the Northern Kingdom) for 6 years as well (2 Kings 11:3). Thus, one could poke a hole into my argument that male headship is consistently affirmed throughout the Bible. So, how would you counsel someone who believes the way I do? What do you believe? Why do you believe the way you do?
- They might have doubted that this was from God, since this did not seem like something a holy God would command.
- It certainly suggests that we shouldn’t put God in a box, theological or otherwise, for He can choose to do things that would shock us, making us feel quite uncomfortable in the process. Isaiah 55:8 comes to mind: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”
- “Mr. Ryun Chang, the next time God makes an exception and raises female leaders over men, don’t resist, don’t object, and don’t disobey. Don’t put God in your theological box!”
Are you feeling uncomfortable from reading the morning devotional? I do agree that male headship can be difficult to accept by many Christian women. (I will talk further about this matter in tomorrow’s blog.) But the way God expects male headship to play out in the homes is not what you think. Ultimately, the husband and the wife are to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 4:21); more importantly, both spouses are called to submit to the Lord. Take a moment to examine your heart—How has your submission to the Lord been? Are you loving your wife as you are told to do so by God (Eph. 5:25)? Are you respecting your husband as you are told to do so by God (Eph. 5:33)?