Yesterday, I pondered for a while the command of I Corinthians 14:34, namely that “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.” I have often wondered about this topic, but have never taken the time to think it through. A few weeks ago, I got the opportunity to have a breakthrough in my thoughts on this topic. This is a tough topic for me because I have always appreciated the insight that women have into various topics. Flat out, I believe that men and women are different and have different perspectives on many topics. The insight women have is often valuable, so the thought of excluding them from teaching roles was hard enough to bear, but this says that women should be ‘silent’ in the church.
First, there is something to be said for just being obedient and submitting to the Word of God. There are many instructions in the Bible that may not make a whole lot of sense, but when we just obey God, there is blessing that flows from it. A few examples: Old Testament hygiene laws — many of these laws are actually quite beneficial to the health and welfare of a community, but modern science didn’t understand until just recently (within the last 100 years or so); Tithing — it is counterintuitive to think that giving away at least 10% of your income will free you from bondage to money, but it does; and Headcoverings(?).
Second, the typical argument in favor of obeying this instruction is that if women are silent in the church, this allows man to step forward and exercise his God-given authority. God set man as the spiritual leader of his household. This is not a task that many men accept and perform, probably because of feelings of inadequacy. Most men would rather someone else stepped forward and took charge and led family devotions. The same is true at church. Men would rather fade into the background than step forward and lead as they are called to lead. So if the men lean against the walls of the church and a woman steps forward to lead, they are all relieved, in their own minds, of their obligation to lead. In reality, they are robbed of their opportunity to lead.
The other week, it was made clear to me the further implications of women being silent in the church. I was at a meeting of men (the leadership) at a small church and there was some discussion about how to run something in the church. This was a meeting of men because this church believed and practiced that it was the men who were to run the church. There was some discussion, but then it was realized that there should be input from the children on this matter, as well as the mothers. So all the men agreed to go home and discuss it with their families and return the following week for further discussion on the topic.
Do you see it? If a woman is silent in the church, this encourages discussion at home because that is the woman’s way to be heard. If a woman is silent in the church, this brings families closer together and helps families to model the plan laid out by Paul. The father listens to the desires and concerns of his family, but then he decides what inputs to give to the church community.
I don’t have answers. These are just my thoughts. In fact, I probably have more questions than answers. Like, what about music? I wrote some of my thoughts down while listening to a very good female musician perform at a local church. Does woman’s silence in the church mean that women cannot lead worship? Does it mean they can’t participate? There is no exception in the scriptures, but there are few things that show the glory of God better than a woman’s voice singing.