Many of the books I have been reading as of late have been about the subject of women’s role in the church. A while back I decided that I was going to engage in an in depth study on this topic for several reasons. First, up until now, I have never given much consideration to the opposing arguments to what has become known as the traditional view. Like many people, I was fed a few passages: 1 Cor. 14:34-35, and 1 Tim. 2:8-15, and was basically brainwashed into believing these were the trump verses that decided all matters when it came to the role of women in the church and I interpreted the Bible accordingly. Therefore, when I read Gal. 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I read it through the lenses of my trump verses ( 1 Cor. 14:34-35; and 1 Tim. 2:8-15).
Likewise, when I read in Scriptures that women prayed and even prophesied in the early church (1 Cor 11:5; Acts 2:18; 21:9), taught men (Acts. 18:24-26), and serving in various capacities (like Phoebe and all the other women mentioned in Rom. 16), I finagled everything around my trump verses so it made sense (well, sort of made sense anyway). It never even occurred to me that I may have misunderstood my trump verses.
My second reason for examining this is because of the inconsistencies in our practices based on the doctrine. For instance, if a woman is to remain silent, when does she have to be silent and when can she speak? Can she make announcements? Can she sing along with the congregation? Can she ask questions in a Bible Class? What about serve communion? Few have a problem with women preparing communion, or even passing the tray to one another as they sit in the pew, but she better not stand up and pass the tray. Where is the Scripture for that? Since when does serving somebody in any way threaten authority?
A third reason for the study has to do with the overall view of women. Are women inferior to men? Are they less intelligent? Do they falter in their ability to lead? Are woman more sinful than men? Based on experience, I would have to answer each of these questions with an emphatic NO. What really is the teaching of the New Testament on this matter, and have I been led astray by traditional thinking of patriarchal society? I haven’t finished my study, and so my conclusions have not been formed. For now, I simply have a lot of questions for which I am searching for answers.
So, from time to time, I will share my comments on some of the books I have read, as well as the ones I am planning to read, for your consideration. Today, I wanted to write about C.R. Nichol’s book: God’s Woman, simply because I just finished it the other day.
C.R. Nichol is a very well known name among Churches of Christ. He has written a number of books and articles that are still widely circulated today. One of the main reasons I considered Nichol’s book is because of his reputation as being considered on the conservative end of Churches of Christ. Nobody would label this man “liberal” or “progressive.” He was stern, serious, and had a very high view of the authority of Scripture.
Today, most people in the Churches of Christ are unaware of the movement’s history. Therefore, it is commonly thought that the women’s issue is a new controversy. Well it’s not. In the early days of the movement, there were several women leaders before and after the division took place in 1906. Several women served as evangelists and were responsible for converting thousands. They planted churches, taught in the churches, preached the gospel, and even baptized those who responded. Eventually, one side of the issue was able to gain control for the most part and solidify what has become known as the traditional view. However, there have always been people like C.R. Nichol, who believed women could take a much more active role in the church.
C.R. Nichol firmly believed that God designed men for the role of leadership at creati0n. He also was convinced women were to be in a submissive role among God’s people. Women were not allowed to usurp man’s authority. But he is also convinced that women are often called to teach and even lead men without violating their authority. He starts the book by referencing several woman who were specifically identified in Scriptures as prophetesses. This is true in both the Old and New Testaments. Women could serve God in a variety of ways in the early church without threatening a man’s authority.
Nichol is very practical as well as Scriptural in his handling of this topic. He doesn’t go into much detail exegetically, but I appreciate his insights on Scriptures he writes about. Nichol does not in any way diminish the responsibility of male leadership, but he also has a very high view of women as well. So do I. Women are to be submissive, but they are not inferior. Therefore, Nichol does not take an egalitarian view of woman, but I did find his comments credible, respectable, and quite refreshing.