“EGALITARIAN CLAIM 7.4: NOBODY OBEYS 1 Corinthians 14:34: COMPLEMENTARIANS CAN’T BE CONSISTENT; 1 Corinthians 14:34 REQUIRES THAT WOMEN BE SILENT IN CHURCH, BUT EVERYBODY DISOBEYS THAT COMMAND TODAY, BECAUSE WOMEN CAN SING, PRAY, READ SCRIPTURE, AND SO FORTH. SIMILARLY, OTHER NEW TESTAMENT RESTRICTIONS ON WOMEN WERE FOR A PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCE, NOT FOR ALL TIME” (Grudem, 232).
Grudem responds with the following:“Answer 7.4b: This passage requires women to be silent with respect to the activity under discussion, which is the judging of prophecies…what is the topic under discussion in the context 1 Corinthians 14:33? The topic in verses 29-33 has been prophecies and judging prophecies, beginning with verse 29, ‘Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.’ In fact, verse 29 is a general principle about prophesying that divides itself into two halves, with (a) the first half talking about prophesying (‘Let two or three prophets speak’) and (b) the second half talking about judging those prophecies (‘and let the others weigh what is said’) (233).
Let me say first off, as I’ve said in other blog posts, that I’m not a masculinist (for all men), but I’m not feminist (for all women) either. I believe that God calls both sexes and uses both male and female for His glory.
In this post, I’m dealing with the response of Wayne Grudem (as I’ve done in other posts). While Grudem tries to remain theologically conservative (which is what I am as well), he and I differ when it comes to the giftedness of men and women in ministry. As a result of his inherent bias, Grudem tends to make “simple” mistakes in his interpretations, even when he tries to uphold the correct position theologically. Grudem interprets 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 to say that women should be silent when prophecies are being judged.
But Grudem’s position is all based on 1 Timothy 2. In fact, at the end of his answer against the egalitarian position that complementarians are inconsistent in their application of this text, Grudem states, “This passage is consistent with other New Testament passages THAT RESERVE THE TASK OF TEACHING AND GOVERNING THE WHOLE CONGREGATION TO MEN” (235). Lest someone think I’m too paranoid with Wayne Grudem (and could use a “chill pill”), note Grudem’s argument after the above answer:
“It is not surprising that Paul would say only men can give spoken corrections to prophecies. Such correction is part of the task of ‘TEACHING AND HAVING AUTHORITY’ over the congregation, the task that Paul reserves for men in 1 TIMOTHY 2:12. For Paul to restrict this ‘doctrinal guardianship’ job to men is entirely consistent with what he does in 1 TIMOTHY 2, and also consistent with his expectation that elders are men (“husband of one wife” in 1 TIMOTHY 3:2; Titus 1:6; compare ‘men’ in Acts 20:30)” (235).
Did you notice that the ENTIRE final comment Grudem makes with regard to the egalitarian claim, involves 1 Timothy 2 and the offices of teacher, elder, and pastor? The passage of 1 Timothy 2 seems to be Grudem’s response to everything. Nevertheless, let’s look at the letter of First Corinthians itself to see how Grudem’s bias stacks up.
The context of the letter, starting in chapter 14, is the public church setting. Notice that in 14:23 Paul writes about the condition of “if the whole church assembles together…” Verse 26 shows the interaction that believers have in the gathering: “What is the outcome then, brethren? WHEN YOU ASSEMBLE, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”
In verses 27 and 28, those who speak in tongues and interpret are being addressed. Verses 29 and 30 refer to those who prophecy: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.” Here, the prophets are the ones speaking—but ONLY THE PROPHETS can pass judgment. This is reinforced in verse 32: “and the spirits of the prophets are SUBJECT TO PROPHETS...” Here, only those who prophesy are those who get to judge the prophecies.
But if we don’t read the passage carefully, we’ll miss something. Let’s read verse 32 in context with verses 33 and 34:
“32and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33for God is not a God of (BC)confusion but of peace, as in (BD)all the churches of the (BE)saints. 34The women are to (BF)keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but (BG)are to subject themselves, just as (BH)the Law also says.”
If we look at these verses from Grudem’s standpoint, then women are not to judge prophecies. But….WAIT A MINUTE! Didn’t Paul say in vv.29-30 that the “others,” being OTHER PROPHETS, could pass judgment on prophecy? And if Paul said that prophets could pass judgment, doesn’t that INCLUDE WOMEN? For Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11 that “5But every (I)woman who has her head uncovered while praying OR PROPHESYING disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is (J)shaved” (1 Corinthians 11:5, NASB).
The issue at the church involved WOMEN WHO PROPHESIED, so women were also involved in PROPHESYING and JUDGING prophecies. The problem with the women of verse 34 is that they were not prophets, and were asking questions regarding prophecies. Grudem states that the women were not supposed to judge prophecies (233), but if women were prophets, then wouldn’t that include women among those WHO JUDGED PROPHECIES? Grudem fails to take the context into account and simply ends up with the idea that women can’t judge prophecies because of a “1 Timothy 2” bias. As I’ve stated before, in Grudem’s eyes, this passage is the “goal” of all the others: no matter what the other passages say, they will always have to conform to 1 Timothy 2 (which Grudem interprets incorrectly).
Last but not least, “judging prophecies” IS NOT why Paul reminds women of what the Law had to say about being silent in church—but their asking questions is! And this is why Paul issues the suggestion in verse 35 that if the women wanted to learn what was being said, or what revelation was being given, they were to ask their own husbands at home. Notice that Paul doesn’t discredit their wanting to learn; he just simply suggests a more civil and organized way to allow them to ask the questions of which they desired to know answers. If Deuteronomy 27:9 was one of the verses in the Law that Paul appeals to, then being silent and listening to God speak would have been to be quiet and listen to the prophecies being made and judged. The women asking questions were not prophetesses (who would have understood prophecies and judged them), but instead, women who didn’t understand what was being said (or simply had an enquiring mind about something that was said).
Context is key to any passage—not just on the subject of men and women in ministry, but on all other subjects of the Bible as well. Grudem butchers context in order to save his own gender bias of women in ministry. If context is discarded for "proof-texting," then ANY passage that says ANYTHING can be used out of its situation at any time...and I shudder to think of what the outcome of our churches may look like in the future...