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


A question on Facebook stirred up the discussion about a woman’s role in the Church and home. Apparently there are two distinct schools of thought: egalitarianism and complementarianism. I’ll be honest. Much of the time I don’t pay attention to the debate. To me Scripture is clear and I’m not the least offended that God saw fit to give me the role as “not spiritual head.”

But some people come at this from a different perspective. My conviction is to see what God’s word says on the subject. A few years back I did some study of one particularly clear passage of Scripture which not only says women are not to be pastors but gives reasons why. So I’m reprising the article (with a little editing) that came out of that study:

I recognize that I am out of step with my culture (like the poor woman in the picture above, off by herself). 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 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. Apart from the created order, 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, since women are to experience such pain, the logical answer would be simply to not have children. Except, this thinking goes, there is this desire she has for her husband.

It’s a possibility. Of course 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. I take the latter to mean the way a hungry lion tears into a gazelle he’s just brought down.

So the woman’s desire in that connotation would be to stalk a man and tear him from limb to limb!

OK, that’s not a nice picture of women, I agree. But neither is the picture of women wanting to take charge and rule men. Truth be told, 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 exclusively—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.

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