Women speaking in para church organizations and churches: Timothy 2:12

How should we biblically approach the situation of women speaking and preaching in para-church organizations? And in Church? Is there a difference? Can there be a solid argument for women being able to preach in a para-church organization vs the church? Thanks

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@jeremiahschuler 1 Timothy 2 is actually a difficult passage to exegete and there is disagreement over what it actually means. N. T. Wright and Craig Keener make a strong case that the point of this passage, in its historical context, is not for women to be quiet in Church but rather is a point made in relation to a female led cult in the area. Whether or not this is the ‘right’ explanation, I think the main point we need to take away is that this passage is not easy to interpret - and we should not make strong prohibitions on behavior based on uncertain interpretations.

So I would say that there is no solid argument against women speaking either in Church or in parachurch organizations. However, I think that there may sometimes be cultural reasons that we must take into account - if we are trying to reach a culture we should be a Greek to the Greeks and Jew to the Jews, as Paul himself did.

Now if you were writing a letter to someone in a small, new religious movement with a base in Ephesus, and wanted to say that because of the gospel of Jesus the old ways of organising male and female roles had to be rethought from top to bottom, with one feature of that being that the women were to be encouraged to study and learn and take a leadership role, you might well want to avoid giving the wrong impression. Was the apostle saying, people might wonder, that women should be trained up so that Christianity would gradually become a cult like that of Artemis, where women did the leading and kept the men in line? That, it seems to me, is what verse 12 is denying. The word I’ve translated ‘try to dictate to them’ is unusual, but seems to have the overtones of ‘being bossy’ or ‘seizing control’. Paul is saying, like Jesus in Luke 10, that women must have the space and leisure to study and learn in their own way, not in order that they may muscle in and take over the leadership as in the Artemis-cult, but so that men and women alike can develop whatever gifts of learning, teaching and leadership God is giving them.


Paul tells women to learn in quietness and full submission in the worship service, thus refraining from teaching. Elsewhere he expects that women will prophecy during worship— yet prophecy is both vocal and includes a teaching component (see 1 Cor. 11:5; 14:1-18). How can a woman prophecy, and so edify others publicly, when she is also expected to remain quiet? This indicates that Paul’s instructions are not universal and absolute, but contextual and time-bound.

An additional logical problem is that Paul seems to blame Eve, who was deceived, more than Adam who was not deceived but evidently disobeyed with full knowledge of what he was doing. Why is it worse to be deceived than to disobey blatantly? Are mistaken teachers worse than corrupt ones? Again, something is going on here, beneath the surface of the text, that Paul is doing when he draws on the creation account in Genesis.

Finally, is Paul here suggesting that women in general are more naive, more easily deceived, than men? I hope not. That’s a testable hypothesis and one, it seems to me, that does not fit evidence and experience. (My guess is that women, in general, score at least as high if not higher in emotional intelligence than men). Women are not inherently more easily deceived.

Great Summary This Issue by Mike Day

Levels of Doctrine

Not all doctrine is equally important. Some beliefs are at the very center of our Christian faith and to deny them is to deny Christ. Other beliefs are important to how we practice our faith and are therefore the cause of disagreement between many denominations, but these beliefs do not place us outside of Christ. Still other doctrines, such as eschatology, are difficult even for very learned and godly people to understand clearly and are therefore a matter of opinion.

I think women teaching is not an absolute - we can disagree and still all walk out our faith together. I would say many people hold it on the level of a conviction, though I personally do not think there is sufficient textual evidence to hold much more than an opinion. The texts on this issue are notoriously hard to exegete.

The below article offers a fuller explanation of levels of doctrine and gives a helpful summary list of 4 levels of doctrine.

  1. absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith;
  2. convictions , while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church;
  3. opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and
  4. questions are currently unsettled issues.

The ekklhsia (“church”) is the gathering of the people of God, in the New Testament. It does not refer to a building, or a denominational organization. Any gathering of Christians, is a “church.”

There is the ongoing struggle among Christian groups (coming out of different worldly cultures) to try to identify what we must leave behind, from our worldly culture. This presents in discussions of what is merely a “cultural” command in the Bible. Unfortunately, conclusions along this line of reasoning are more a function of the local worldly culture (and what local Christians feel comfortable with), than conclusions based on biblical teaching.

Commands in Scripture that involve behavior that is culturally uncomfortable to local Christians, should not be evaluated on the basis of local discomfort. Whenever the Scriptures use universal arguments, we should accept the command as applicable today. God is sovereign. Our local customs and traditions (or commentaries) are not sovereign.

Speculation about why Paul commanded certain behavior, and deciding to set aside his commands based on speculation, is a terrible way to study Scripture. I really don’t like N.T. Wright’s approach to this topic, for this reason.

Many different Christian groups differ on the importance of a specific teaching. Also, many different individuals also differ on the importance of some specific teaching.

I think that it’s important to recognize that we need to find biblical priorities (if they exist) for a specific teaching. And we should not confuse an individual’s personal opinion about the priority of a teaching, with the Bible’s priority about that teaching. Nor should we take some denomination’s priorities for specific teaching, to be the Bible’s priorities for that teaching.

A group’s definition of what is an individual opinion, may be nothing more than a collection of individual opinions that happen to coincide with one another.

Christians need to be conscious of the need to verify that what some group calls core theology, is really a core teaching in the text of the Bible. This is one of the problems with memorizing an answer from a denominational theology, without learning the core Bible study skills to verify (or refute) that these priorities/categories are actually what the Scripture presents.

@Stephen_Wuest I agree we must differentiate between what information we actually find in Scripture and what our tradition may teach. Learning to be able, like the Bereans, to search the Scriptures to see if what is being taught is true is indeed a critical skill for the Christian walk.

I agree.