Women’s Role In The Church — A Consequence Of The Fall

I recognize that I am out of step with my culture. It’s not an easy condition. I’d much rather be part of the “in crowd,” but reality is, Christianity is counter cultural. One of the things that makes us so is that we believe in grace. We don’t believe we earn our way into God’s kindly treatment of us. We believe that we do not merit His love or forgiveness or the hope of heaven, that we receive His favor only because He loves us and chose to give us what we cannot obtain for ourselves.

Another point that separates us, especially from those shaped by postmodern thought, is that we believe God spoke authoritatively through men of old, a process we refer to as inspiration. The Bible is the result, and we hold it to be God’s public declaration about His person, His work, His plan in the world.

Because it is from God and about God, we aren’t free to pick and choose what parts we like, which things we agree with and want to follow. That means we take the hard things (e.g. “I am the Potter, you are the clay”) along with the easy things (e.g. “I love you with an everlasting love.”)

One thing that has surfaced in the last fifty years as a hard thing for some people is the statement in several places in Scripture stating that men, not women, are to be in the role of pastor-teacher in the Church. 1 Timothy 2 goes so far as to give some explanation as to why God has ordained men to this role instead of women. One reason is simply the order of creation. The other has to do with Eve’s part of the Fall of Humankind.

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. (1 Tim. 2:14)

The Holy Spirit, through the human author of the letter, then alludes to the punishment God gave Eve as a result of her part of bringing sin into the world.

As a reminder, this is what God told Eve:

To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.” (Gen. 3:16)

The first part we have no trouble understanding. And the last part seems all too clear. But what about that “your desire will be for your husband”?

Before I continue, let me point out something that might slide by unnoticed. Before the Fall, there apparently was no husband head or ruler of woman. Adam describe Eve as bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. God said they were to cleave to one another. There was a unity, a bond that did not subjugate either person. But then sin …

But back to this troublesome “desire will be for your husband” line. I’ve heard some say this referred to her sexual desire, tying it to the pain in childbearing issue. I mean, if she would have such pain, the logical answer would be simply not to have children, except there would be this desire she has for her husband.

It’s a possibility. Except the reality seems to be that the desire is more on the side of the husband than on the side of the wife.

I think another possibility is to understand the phrase in light of what follows. He will rule over her … but now her desire will be to rule over him. It’s a possibility because the word which means desire, longing, craving is also used of a beast to devour.

OK, these are not nice pictures of women, I agree. But sin does not make us nice people. There’s one more piece to this puzzle. Back in 1 Timothy 2, there’s one of the most troublesome verses in Scripture, at least for women:

But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. (1 Tim. 2:15)

What? But notice, this verse follows right after the one stating that women are not to be pastor-teachers because of Eve’s deception leading to transgression. The Holy Spirit seems to be answering the question, This mess we’re in because of Eve, is there hope?

But what mess? We have the same sin nature as men and are saved by grace just as they are. Childbearing certainly doesn’t save women from the pain of childbearing. And anyway, the subject is who is to have the role of teacher in the church. So it seems to me, taking Genesis 3:16 with 1 Timothy 2:15, that childbearing, being the role of women, nullifies the something in us that wants to countermand the consequence of sin — that man would rule.

In the sixties when women were “liberated” and childbearing could be regulated to a degree, women then did begin exerting this very desire to be in control. The unique role God gave to women, we undermined.

I could be all wrong in my understanding of these verses, but honestly, I don’t see a Biblical reason why this interpretation isn’t viable. And it seems to fit the facts.

All of that to say, the gender issues of today are a result of sin. But maybe that’s self-evident.

Published in: on March 12, 2012 at 7:10 pm  Comments (9)  
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9 Comments

  1. Is it acceptable for women to teach in the Church? To teach men, even?

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  2. Wow, you just blew me away. I’ve never heard that interpretation of being saved by child bearing, but I have to say it makes more sense than the three that I’ve always seen discussed.

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  3. Hmm. Except, women do still want to control their husbands even after they have children. Often the biggest fights between husbands and wives are over how the children will be raised.

    So maybe that is why they have to continue in faith, love, sanctity, and self-restraint. But what is with the child-bearing bit?

    Maybe it’s that women have the wombs and the milk and so they are tied to the children, or used to be, for several years while all their babies are small. So they may still want to rule, but they don’t have the time or the wherewithal. If they left the babies and went out and earned enough money to give them power over their husbands, the children would die. Well, they had wet nurses if they were rich. But most women had to stay with the babies. And that would keep them from ruling. That kept them dependent on the husband to bring home the food.

    Most people today would find it appalling that I think women should be forced to stay with their husbands, but I think we’d be in so much better shape if we didn’t have so much freedom. All our wealth and free-time has caused us a world of grief. But…we’d find a way to sin no matter what, I guess.

    What an interesting post, Beck. Thanks.

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  4. Those interested in this subject might want to read, Beyond Sex Roles, What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family, by Gilbert Bilezikian.
    The author drills down in the Word to really examine interpretation and traditions. It’s a life-changing book, ladies.

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  5. Bram, as I understand Scripture, women are not to be pastor-teachers, responsible for instructing the body of Christ. I think there are lots of other opportunities for women to teach in Bible studies and such. Are home Bible studies part of “church” and therefore off limits for a woman teacher, should men be part of the group? I guess, since I don’t believe “church” happens in a building, then, yes, I think women should not be in that teaching role either.

    I actually addressed this subject directly in my last post ” ‘The Woman’s Role,’ An Anathema?”

    Becky

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  6. Sally, you said Hmm. Except, women do still want to control their husbands even after they have children. That is the curse and it won’t go away, but as you said further down, having and raising children makes that hard.

    But in these last times, as so often happens with sinful Man, we’ve found a way we think makes it possible to circumvent God’s plan.

    I hadn’t thought about how the next part of that verse explains how women are to overcome the desire to control their husbands, which, of course, existed long before feminism came onto the scene. Women have long used “feminine wiles” to get what we want. Manipulation instead of domination. Neither is pretty and both are sinful. God didn’t design the Man/Wife relationship to work that way, but then came sin.

    Becky

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  7. Deb, thanks for stopping by. I’ve not heard of this book before or the author. I wonder what his understanding of Scripture is and what his credentials are for interpreting Scripture.

    I find more and more these days the propensity to take verses out of context and examine them from tradition. A good exegetical preacher (and I’ve been fortunate to sit under the teaching of some good ones) will look at the cultural certainly, but also the entire Bible.

    Scripture more often than not interprets Scripture. We don’t take one passage and interpret the entire Bible based on it, especially if it seems to clash with other verses.

    This issue of women’s role in the church is like that. Paul clearly says there’s no distinction between male and female when we come to Christ, so it may appear that instructing women to refrain from taking on the pastor-teacher role is a contradiction. But we don’t pick one side or the other. We take the whole counsel of the Bible and understand the complete picture, not only the cultural aspects of one verse or another.

    Would that all churches had pastors who taught in this way!

    Becky

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  8. Rebecca,

    Why not? You’re doing a pretty admirable of teaching on scripture and faith issues among this group, which appears to be, predominately, Christian believers. I assume I’m not the only man in this group to follow your blog. Should we not listen to you when you speak your mind on the Word of God? Should we not give consideration to your thought; wisdom; insight?

    I think you make a mild logical fallacy – ‘counter-culture’ to the current humanistic culture does not necessarily mean true, goldy culture. If Jesus has truly fulfilled and completed the mosaic Law, and we hold to him, then we are not beholden to IT. We are truly free to explore together what freedom in Christ means in this generation. What roles and cultural elements conform to the laws of the Spirit written on our hearts, and not force old forms on new revelation. new wine/old wineskins.

    In this case I see you demeaning your own God-given gifts in your pursuit of genuine obedience. It’s an odd irony to me, and one I see being replayed in a lot of quarters right now. If God has ordained you to teach, then teach you should without semantic gymnastics.

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  9. Bram, as I said, I addressed this in more detail in the previous post.

    I realize, however, in trying to be clear to you, I left a false impression. I was pretty sure you had in mind teaching in a broad sense, such as writing blog posts and/or other articles. Since no one is gathered here to my blog in the same way that believers are to gather together for worship, fellowship, and instruction, and since no one here is under my authority, what I, or any other woman who speaks out about God, am doing, is quite different than what the pastor-teacher of a congregation does. That is not “semantic gymnastics” but a Biblical acceptance and understanding of what the gathering of believers is all about.

    You seem to be under the impression that the injunction for men to be pastors, not women, is part of the Mosaic Law. It is not. It’s detailed in several places in the New Testament, including the verse I quoted in the post from 1 Timothy.

    You’re certainly right that we are not to be beholden to the Law. However, our obedience to Christ shows our love for Him.

    I’m pressed for time right now, but would be happy to discuss this further if you’re interested.

    Becky

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