I enjoy the late John Stott’s work. I think he has a lot of truth in him and expounds it in a very clear and detailed manner so his teaching can be understood by the least educated among us. In fact, I would recommend his book Guard The Truth to anyone who is interested in studying 1 Timothy and Titus. It is a great read, informative and each point is well argued.
But I do not blindly accept everything he says, which means I will disagree with him on certain points and one is his view of Paul’s words found in 1 Timothy 2:11-15
11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first [h]created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, [i]fell into transgression. 15 But women will be [j]preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with [k]self-restraint. (NASB)
I do not completely disagree with him as he makes a lot of good points on this issue but even the best of us err at some point.
#1. The first may be called the principle of harmony. Those of us who believe the Bible to be the written word of God also believe that when God spoke, he did not contradict himself. (pg. 74)
And I agree with Dr Stott here so we must look back into the OT to find what God ordained for the smooth operation and leadership of his temple. Let’s see what God said back then and compare them with Paul’s words:
You shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and bind caps on them, and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute. So you shall ordain Aaron and his sons. (Ex. 29:9 NASB)
the woven garments as well, and the holy garments for Aaron the priest, and the garments of his sons, with which to carry on their priesthood; (Ex. 31:10 NASB)
So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.” (Nu. 3:10 NASB)
So Paul’s words are not contradictory to what God had said when he established the OT priesthood. Women are not to hold such positions of leadership.
#2. There is no difference between the sexes either in divine image we bear or in our status as God’s children through faith in Christ. (pg. 74)
Again i agree but I do not hold that this equality allows for both sexes to adopt the roles specifically designated for the other gender. Equality does not equate to fulfilling the same roles or duties in the church.
#3. Secondly, we must seek to apply the principle of history. That is, God always spoke his word in particular historical and cultural settings…No word of God was spoken in a cultural vacuum, every word was spoken in a cultural context. (pg. 74)
Here is where I will depart from Dr. Stott. I disagree with this point because it makes culture ruler over God’s word and makes God’s teaching subjective and dependent upon which culture is the dominant one of the times. N0, God did not speak in a cultural context but he spoke in order to direct how culture is to operate and give it its direction to proceed in.
In other words, God is informing us of what is right and wrong and culture has nothing to do with that determination. Culture must change to meet God’s standard not vice versa.
#4. First, there are some who enthrone the cultural form, and incest it with the same normative authority which they attribute to the truth it expresses…So they adopt a rigid literalism. (pg. 75)
Again, I will disagree with Dr. Stott here as that conclusion is very erroneous. No one who holds to Paul’s words as clear instruction as saying that the culture is right. We are saying that Paul recorded God’s instruction correctly and gave them to the church in general so the church knows what it should do in order to please God and keep the church on the right track.
Dr. Stott is also saying here that in reality we do not have God’s instructions for the church any more because culture has changed. God now has to write new instructions for the modern church to follow and that would be unfair to the women of Paul’s time and every other culture who was paternal in nature. It is also insulting the men who follow God by saying they are no longer good enough to lead the church and women must now take over or be allowed to take their role.
#5. Since God’s word is clothed in such ancient cultural dress, they argue, although it may have spoken to people long ago, it is now completely out of date and irrelevant. (pg. 75)
This is not Dr. Stott’s position as he is merely outlining a second point of view held by some concerning Paul’s teaching about women and the church. These people forget that God does not change thus what he said thousands of years ago still apply to today. His words are not out of date or irrelevant for his teaching is not restricted or influenced by ever-changing culture and its selfish demands.
#6. But Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 ‘is specifically related to the problem in Ephesus. He obviously did not take this position about women in general’. (pg. 76)
I use the quotes here because Dr. Stott is quoting Dr. Gordon Fee and the words belong to the latter person. I am not disagreeing with Dr. Stott here but with Dr. Fee. There are two concerns that need to be addressed here. First, Paul may have been writing to Ephesus but his instructions are to the church in general so he is talking to all women here. Second, we may not find these instructions in all of Paul’s letters because the women in other churches were already aware of God’s rules for them and instead of being rebellious and disobedient, chose to adhere to God’s rules thus Paul had no cause to write this message directly to them. The women of Ephesus, most likely were rebellious and disobedient and needed a reminder to follow God’s rules for the church.
#7. I share their concern that this text has been improperly and oppressively used to deny women legitimate ministries. (pg. 76)
While I agree that this and other passages in the Bible have been used to deny many people their rights, justice, freedom and so on but at the same time, its inclusion in the Bible tells us that there is a limitation on the roles women can assume in the church and obedience to these words are not oppression but obedience to God’s will for the church.
#8. We might call them literalism… and liberalism… The third and mediating position is cultural transposition. (pg. 78)
This is Dr. Stott’s alternative to this discussion and though I understand what he is getting at, it still has its weaknesses and one is that it is not really biblical. it requires an acceptance of modern cultural practices and demands plus it removes the aura of right and wrong from the issue as well as diminish the rebellious label of those who do not wish to adhere to scripture.
It is more of a compromise than a correct solution as Dr. Stott says a few sentences later,
Then we are in a position to preserve the former as a permanent and universal, and transpose the latter into contemporary cultural terms.
In other words, we get to accept Paul’s words as God’s revelation but we are allowed flexibility and can change the practice of those words according to what modern culture demands. That is just not acceptable for it diminishes God and his will while promoting culture and its desires.
#9. Similarly, women teaching men does not necessarily symbolize taking authority over them. Teaching can be given in different styles, with different meanings. Thus public prophesying by women was not regarded as an improper exercise of authority over men. (pg. 80)
This is another area where I depart from Dr. Stott’s point of view. he was a good teacher and he should know that teaching comes with an inbuilt authority and if teaching is to be successful that authority cannot be abdicated or transferred to anyone else. A teacher has authority over their students, telling them what to do, what is important and so on. Parents constantly tell their children to obey their teachers because it is commonly known that teachers hold authority over their students.
Prophesying is not teaching, it is communication from God directly to his people. That gift does not hold the same authority as teaching or the pastorate does and we would have to determine if the gift of prophecy we are to yearn for today is the same as the position held by God’s prophets of the OT. Were those prophets holding temple and teaching authority or were they holding a spiritual, moral authority where they reminded people of God’s will, presence and power.
I feel comparing this issue of women in the pulpit and teaching men with the act of prophecy to be misleading. It is comparing apples to oranges as all of these offices contained different instructions guiding their members. Prophets had to be 100% correct and everyone had to know they were the words of God. We also see no biblical restriction withholding this office from women whereas we have biblical teaching withholding leading the church, having authority over men and teaching them from women.
As in the very first point, we have to look at the rules God gives for the offices and who they apply to before we can begin to consider if a comparison is warranted.
#10. In the end, our decision whether women may ever teach men, or be ordained to the pastorate, or exercise other leadership roles in the church, will depend on our understanding of the nature of pastoral leadership. (pg. 81)
This is where Dr. Stott’s compromise fails, for it allows for subjective ideas to be entertained and considered in this issue. It is no longer God’s decision or understanding that matters but our own fallible human’s ideology that comes to a decision.This thinking makes the church man’s domain instead of God’s. Instead of obeying Peter’s ‘we shall obey God over man’ declaration we are reversing it and saying ‘we will obey man over God.’
I can say this because culture, if it does not follow God’s teaching is solely the construct of deceived humanity. God’s instructions are not subject to secular culture but provide the light unto culture showing it the right way to go. This is one of the major failings of Dr. Stott’s thinking. He is not taking this divine instruction into account when he discusses this issue.
Since Dr. Stott has stated that God will not contradict himself his arguments about God speaking in cultural contexts are misleading for his third point to this issue has God contradicting himself because culture demands it. Point one shows that God has not contradicted himself when it comes to who holds the leadership and teaching roles in his church. God is being very consistent in his instructions to both his people of the OT and to his people of the NT.
He is not oppressing women but setting out a harmonious order for his church to follow. It is not God being rebellious or mean to women but those who oppose God’s instruction for his church that are being both mean to God and rebellious to his will. We tell our children that we give then restrictions because we love them and want them to grow up to be good adults. Well we cannot deny God that same right. He wants us to grow up spiritually correct so that we can be good warriors for the faith but we cannot do that if we do not follow God’s instructions correctly.