faith, myths

Am I Violating the Bible for Speaking out Against Sinful Men?

I have been quiet on the blog for a number of months. There is more than one reason for this.

First of all, I’ve had some serious health complications over the last few months and took a break from blogging at the advice of my doctor.

And, second, I also have been thinking about the future of the blog, because I have been frustrated over one specific issue I’ve experienced.

I can talk about my chronic health problems, ADHD, homeschooling, or mental health, but as soon as I start talking about the most important thing to me, my faith, other Christians –particularly Christian women– start screaming that I am teaching men and in violation of scripture.

I even took a few of my posts off the blog until I could review scripture and reread the posts. I heard the objections, but I need clarity of mind to address this issue, clarity of mind that I did not have in the middle of my health complications. This post is my answer to those accusations. The short story is that I’ll be putting those previously-removed posts back up soon.

In this blog post, I am going to answer three primary questions: Does the Bible command women to always be silent? Does the Bible forbid women from speaking negatively about men? Do my posts on this blog qualify as teaching men and therefore they’re in violation of Bible commands?

Now, I actually agree with the objectors that women should not teach men. The scripture is very clear that within the context of the church women are not to be pastors and in authority positions. I am fine with that and have no plans to ever become a pastor. I have made that clear more than once and even put that in my bio …which seems to have disappeared after I updated the blog. I’m off to find my missing bio after I finish writing this.

“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” 1 Timothy 2:11-14

The entire book of Timothy was written from Paul to Timothy about how a church should be run. This passage is written specifically about how women within a church service should behave.

It doesn’t even make rational sense that this passage would apply to women everywhere and in every situation. If it applied to women in every situation, then a women would not even be able to teach her husband to fold a sheet, teach her teenage boys anything since biologically they’re men even if they’re not adults according to the laws of the local government, and even women who have male employees or hired services like a gardener or plumber would be wrong to tell them what to do.

That’s ridiculous.

I know people who believe that women should never have any authority over a man. I even know men who quit their jobs when a female got hired in a position over them. This is not what the Bible is talking about –and it is frankly misogynistic. The Lord has a specific reason for putting men in authority in the church and that reason goes back to Eve being deceived by Satan as referenced in the passage above. I know some women view it as an unfair punishment, but the fact is that the command is there and those of us who love Jesus choose to follow His commands.

But, nowhere does it say that women are not allowed to have opinions and not allowed to voice those opinions. It does not say we have to be silent everywhere. It only specifies where those opinions cannot be expressed: during the church service. The Bible doesn’t censor what women say –only where they say it.

I reject the notion that godly women are supposed to quiet, timid, silent little mice who have no opinions and no voice. I actually have opinions that differ from my husband. I’m very open with him about those opinions. He doesn’t have a problem with me having my own opinions and being my own person. As I’ve mentioned before, if we disagree on an issue, I defer to his judgment. This idea that women are supposed to be timid little mice comes from a misunderstanding of scripture which I will address at another time.

It is a foolish man who doesn’t at least consider his wife’s opinion and perspective. God gave the husband a built-in advisor in a wife.

“Without counsel, plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

Why would you marry someone you couldn’t trust? And, if you have a trustworthy partner, why would you ignore their counsel?

“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” Proverbs 31:11-12

There’s no indication in scripture that women are to always be silent. Those who say such things are taking passages that are specifically talking about a church service and removing it from its context. The context is quite clearly within the church service. By removing it from the context, they strip away the mean, stealing the truth. Do they really think they know what God intended to say better than God himself? There is a reason that we interpret scripture literally and within its context –it helps us avoid abusing passages in the Bible or twisting them to mean whatever we want them to mean.

I know women who will not tell others about Jesus but instead leave the job of witnessing only to the men so that they don’t accidentally tell a man about Jesus and be guilty of teaching something to a man.

First of all, our lives and lifestyles speak far louder than our words ever will. I guarantee you can’t keep your life from teaching others even if your life is just a cautionary tale. Secondly, there’s no indication in the Bible that a woman giving an answer when asked why she has hope in Jesus would be a sin if she were speaking to a man.

“…be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15

Nothing in that passage in 1 Peter 3 says, “except not the women.”

I know of women in abusive situations who went to their local church and simply asked for prayer. These churches were not fringe churches or cult churches; they were mainstream, evangelical churches. These women were told that they were not even allowed to ask for prayer, because that would be disrespectful to their husbands and indicate that they were being unsubmissive by speaking negatively about men.

I have not only spoken negatively about men, I have called them out for sinful behavior.

And, I do not believe I’m wrong to do so.

Incidentally, neither does my husband.

It is not wrong for me to have opinions that align with scripture and voice those opinions. That is not exercising ecclesiastical authority over men or teaching men in a church service. It’s just me, having opinions and saying what I believe.

Let me explain what I mean. Let’s say that my husband and I have a couple over for dinner. After dinner, we are sitting in the living room discussing current events, and the visiting husband compares a recent news story to something in the book of Revelations. I mention that the parallel isn’t biblical because the current event does not match up with prophecy in Revelations, and I explain why. The husband thinks about it for a second and decides that what I said is right. Guess what? He just learned something. So technically, I just taught him something even though we’re just having a conversation in my living room.

Did I just break the command not to teach a man or have authority over him? No, because we are not in a church service. I’m not exercising ecclesiastical authority over him. I don’t have any authority over him at all. I’m just stating my understanding of the Bible.

The Bible actually instructs women to not ask questions during the church service but says that she should ask at home indicating that it is fine to have Biblical discussions at home. This command is specifically telling her not to interrupt the service. It doesn’t say that she cannot have opinions and voice those opinions. It only specifies where she cannot voice them and why. It also never says she’s only allowed to discuss the Bible with her husband. It only tells what to do if a woman is thinking about interrupting a church service to ask questions.

“As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” 1 Corinthians 14:33-35

In the above passage, Paul was addressing a problem of complete chaos in the Corinthian church service. Women interrupting the service was only one of many issues that were causing problems in the service which you can see if you go back and read all of Corinthians 14. The women were not the only ones causing problems in the services, either. Instead of interrupting, which apparently had become a significant issue in the service, Paul says that the women should discuss it with their husbands when they get home (i.e. outside of the service).

I’m totally onboard with that. Imagine that I’m in church service, and the pastor is preaching along. I stand up and interrupt his sermon to ask him to clarify one of his points –or, worse yet, argue with him. That would be incredibly rude and disrespectful. This is the kind of thing that was happening in Corinth. If my husband is sitting beside me in church then I can easily ask him to clarify when we get home. If I was not married or if my husband wasn’t at the service, I could ask the pastor or a friend after the service as long as I’m not interrupting the service which is what this passage is specifically about. To say it is broader than that it to take it out of its context and to abuse the passage.

It also doesn’t make sense that women cannot ever ask questions except to her husband. What if she’s not married? What if her husband is an unbeliever? If she is not allowed to ask questions, then she is stunted in her understanding of scripture with no one to ask? That also doesn’t make sense. It makes sense when you understand that this passage is talking specifically about asking questions in a church service.

Now, imagine that I have a brother who is abusing his wife. (To clarify, my brother is a very sweet guy who doesn’t abuse his wife, so this is just an example.) I find out about the abuse, and I know that my brother professes to be a Christian. I decide to write my brother a letter explaining why he is in sin for how he treats his wife and calling him to repent.

Am I in sin for doing this? No.

That letter to my brother would not be teaching. It is not ecclesiastical authority or church service preaching. It is a rebuke. Rebuke is completely different from teaching. Galatians 6:1 instructions all members of the church –brothers and sisters, male and female Christians– to work to restore those who have fallen away. You can see the Strong’s definitions and uses of the words, particularly how the word for “brothers” can be used to mean all believers in Galatians 6:1 at this link. This command was not given only to men in the church –it applies to all believers. I did a fair amount of searching on Google and couldn’t find any Christian groups claiming that women were excluded from this command.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

According to Merriam-Webster, to rebuke is “to reprove, implies an often kindly intent to correct a fault, gently reproved.”

While in-the-church-service teaching was given to men, nowhere in scripture does it say that rebuke is only given to men. Nowhere are women forbidden from rebuking. I know some people will probably disagree with me, but it cannot be backed up with scripture. You only come to that conclusion if you jump through hoops and try to make the Bible say what it doesn’t.

The key to the passage in Galatians is not male or female but maturity. Those who are mature are to do the rebuking because rebuking needs to be done in gentleness, and those rebuking need to be founded firmly in Jesus so they aren’t tempted by the rebukee’s sin.

Now, in the culture that was prevalent in New Testament times, a woman probably couldn’t have gotten away with rebuking a man. But, the Bible is not dependent upon the culture. It transcends the culture. We can look at the culture’s history to better understand the Bible and what’s happening in a passage, but we are not bound by that history or culture. Culture is created by sinful man, and we are in error if we idolize it. We are not commanded to imitate it. We’re even more in error if we try to say that a certain culture (that of first-century Israel, for example) is Biblical truth.

We do not live today in a culture where women are expected to not have opinions, and scripture certainly doesn’t say we cannot have opinions or voice them.

The same commands are given to women as are given to men regarding opinions and voicing rebuke. In Ephesians 4, Paul lists spiritual gifts (which, again, are not limited to just men) and instructs Christians to “Speak the truth in love.” I would be in sin if my above-mentioned theoretical letter to my brother was not written in a loving way. But, just because it is a woman rebuking a man doesn’t make it a sin.

“He gave the apostles… the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ….” Ephesians 4:11-15

I know a lot of people who believe that any woman speaking negatively to or about men is in sin, but it simply cannot be backed by scripture. Just because something is repeated over and over doesn’t make it true. Unfortunately, when it is repeated over and over people start believing it –even if it is false teaching.

By holding to the idea that all negativity about men is a sin, Christians perpetuate abuse. I have watched women who hold this view ignore the cries of their fellow sisters for too long. I have even spoken out against women who perpetrate abuse.

This blog is not a church. A lot of people read my blog –people from all backgrounds and beliefs. The church is specifically a gathering of Christians in one location, and a Biblical church according to scripture always has a leader, a male leader to be specific.

I’ve always compared my blog to a journal. Basically, I write about things I care about and let others read it. It is kind of like you coming and sitting in my living room while I discuss whatever is on my mind over a cup of tea.

Honestly, in some ways, blogging is more like standing on your front porch yelling about whatever you’re fired up about… but, I digress.

What perplexes me so much is that many of the same women who would have no problem discussing these issues with me in my own home will freak out as soon as I write it down. That doesn’t even make sense. As long as I’m writing about things that are temporal, these women don’t care. But as soon as I write about eternal things, the things I really care deeply about, I’m accused of being a false teacher because somehow by posting online I’m suddenly “teaching men.”

If I’m going to spend the little time and energy I have on this earth before I succumb to these diseases in my body doing something, I would like to spend it making an eternal difference in other people’s lives.

And, Christian women trying to silence other Christian women just infuriates me.

It is so wrong –on so many levels.

I’m all for living our lives according to the Bible. What astounds me is women who perpetuate abuse –especially spiritual abuse– by trying to silence women who are crying out for help or by trying to silence those who are coming to the aid of those crying out for help.

The command to help others doesn’t go away just because the woman who is hurting happens to be married. Woe to us when we ignore the cries of the hurting because it is inconvenient to realign our beliefs with scripture and defend those who needed help.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

Too many Christians are quick to try to help unbelievers in need but notoriously ignore the hurting in their own churches –or worse yet refuse to even allow the hurting in their midst while embracing the abuser instead. I wish I could say that never happens, but it does. Way too much.

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:10

Do they really think we are supposed to help each other and bear each other’s burdens except for when it is a married woman asking for help against her abuser? Then, we can ignore it because we cannot speak out against any men?

How can we call ourselves Christians while ignoring our hurting brothers and sisters? I challenge those who believe such things to reread their Bibles, particularly the epistles of the New Testament.

Heaven forbid that we abandon those who come to us for help and defend their abusers!

I will not stop speaking the truth.

I will not stop defending the hurting people in our churches –and wherever I see them.

And, above all, I will not be silenced.

Blessings,
Sarah Forbes

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