This week at Common Ground we took time to introduce the new leadership team, the people who will shape culture and lead us next year:
- Hunter Jamieson–Chief Servant
- Kyndall Erisman–Communications
- Maggie Brister–Outreach
- Anna McNeil–Fellowship
- Caleb Cummins–Missions
- Liz Clements–Prayer
Afterwards, we dove into 1 Corinthians 14 with a quick overview of the chapter and a deeper look at verses 34-36. Most of the chapter is given to the discussion of spiritual gifts that the Apostle Paul began in chapter 12. Specifically he takes pains to ensure that the church understands the value of all gifts while addressing what appears to be abusive treatment of the gift of tongues in particular. His point is that the gifts of the spirit are intended for the common good of the church and don’t forget it! Then, near the end he introduces another touchy subject, women’s role in the church:
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. 36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?
Ouch. Well, that’s sure not in tune with 21st century American culture. What to do, what to do… There is no way to unpack that in a couple of short sentences, but the basic gist is that there are three main camps:
First, dismiss it and move on. It is the liberal answer. There are several ways to arrive at this conclusion, but none of them are academically responsible. If you believe the Bible is inerrant and/or authoritative, you have a problem.
Second, read it with a different emphasis, as if 34-35 were a Corinthian position that Paul is snarkily attacking in verse 36. Not bad. Kind of a middle road, theologically speaking. Easy to see and culturally appealing, but it does seem slightly out of tune with other passages around it. Critics might say it also lacks punch in the sense that it perhaps oversimplifies a much deeper issue.
Third, dig deep into cultural and textual context, split a couple of hairs and come back with the idea that Paul does allow women to pray and prophecy (1 Corinthians 11:5). He is only prohibiting women from publicly evaluating prophecies given in church because that might undermine the peace and order that is properly modeled through the marital relationship of husband and wife. Also not bad, but highly complex. Definitely the conservative answer.
In the end, the first approach is easily dismissed. The second and third approaches are both viable, but no approach to this controversial passage is without difficulties. Good godly men will disagree.