Research‎ > ‎

Thoughts on #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear

posted Apr 21, 2017, 10:05 AM by Nathan Wheeler   [ updated Apr 21, 2017, 5:23 PM by Nathanael Wheeler ]
So, it came to my attention this morning that someone came up with a lovely idea to have women vent all of their frustrations with their churches online via Twitter. Never mind what those frustrations look like, whether they're rooted in your humanism, or if there's a real problem. Because today, it's all about YOU. Hopefully, some women are still reading, and I'd like to address you first. In fairness, I've spent several hours following and interacting with those who are posting about #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear, and I know this is lengthy, but I'd appreciate it if you'd take just a few minutes to read my thoughts on it - at least the first 5-6 paragraphs.



Women: There's a Biblical prescription for dealing with errors in the church:

"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." - Matthew 18:15-17 (NASB)

These are the words of Christ. They are prescriptive for solving all manners of problems in the church. The key here is that these issues should be taken up with your leadership privately, then get a couple more people if they won't listen. Don't make threats, don't whine, just present the facts, and back them up with evidence. If your leader still won't listen, take it up with the entire church. This part is key. If you can't get the church to agree with you that your brother is in error (even in majority, and not unanimously), you're going to fail right here. The vast majority of the Tweets I've read would end before they began with this simple step of addressing the issue with the church. Especially in America, churches are, for better or worse, a democracy. Anyone can get two or three people who share their faulty viewpoint, but convincing more than half of a church is a lot more tricky. And if more than half the church sides with you on the issue and your leadership still won't listen, then you should find a new church. If you can't get half the church to agree with you, then you're probably wrong in how you're viewing things, in one way or another.

Unfortunately, ladies, the vast majority of you have skipped over this entire process, and now you're bashing the faith that you claim as your own because your feelings were hurt. You were hurt, so, now you're shooting yourself in the foot. You were asking to preach, but you've proven unable to follow God's commands. You were asked to lead a Sunday school class, but now you're not really qualified to do that. You wanted to be a leader, but now you're just part of a mob. If you want to lead in Christian ministry, you have to follow the Christian manual. It's that simple. For the vast majority of you, any church you try to go to that checks your background will probably not really be interested in having you serve in any great capacity until you've proven you can serve with humility, the way that God commanded. You can now expect to be relegated to serving in the soup kitchen, greeting, or some various other important, but non-leadership-of-any-kind role. 

Now that that's been settled, let's move on to the kind of things that are being Tweeted. Christians for Biblical Equality took the time to "keep a record of the profound and heartbreaking stories women and male allies are sharing" and "collected some of the most powerful tweets so far in a list." I feel like it's important that we address four of the fifty-five tweets first. These four actually are meaningful, and heartbreaking:

19. “If the pastor fell into sin and raped you it was you who seduced and tempted him.” –Sierra White

22. “’The ultimate healing would be if you two were married’-- said by the mom of my rapist.” –Tracy

32. “If you stay with your abuser, you might bring him to the Lord.” –Sarah Bessey

37. "If [abuse] is not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, I think she endures being smacked 4 a season." –Angie Sanderson

I think these comments should have not been put on Twitter in this manner, as a lashing out against the supposed misogyny of the church, but nonetheless they do require special attention. I have personally witnessed two churches who have covered up (or attempted to cover up) spousal abuse and child molestation. I think that the leaders who stood by and did nothing, except to try to keep the victims of these tragedies with their abusers, should be tried as accomplices after the fact. I have never been a victim of abuse or sexual assault, but I have witnessed in my own extended family the damage caused by rape and child molestation. As Christians, we are called to protect the weak and innocent. Any time a person puts their hands on another person to harm them, no matter what the reason, there is no rational individual who would encourage them to stay with their abuser. I am all for reconciliation if it can be made, but I am positively against shaming the victim or protecting the perpetrator.

Sadly, those four Tweets are buried under a mountain of moaning. Thirty of the fifty-five "most powerful tweets so far" are essentially all the same, and all have to do with Federal Headship in one way or another. For those who don't know what "Federal Headship" is, it has to do with imputation - from how sin was imputed through Adam to how righteousness is imputed through Christ. See, Eve actually sinned first. The devil deceived Eve. However, the Bible clearly states that sin came through Adam (Romans 5:12). Why? Federal Headship. Adam was expected to be Eve's leader. He was expected to enjoy Creation with Eve, protect her, and lead her spiritually. She fell first, while away from Adam, but then she took the fruit to Adam, and he ate the fruit also. Humanity was not fallen until Adam sinned. Then God came, and He didn't call for Eve - He called for Adam (Genesis 3:9). Adam was the representative of the human race - the "Federal Head." Fast forward a few thousand years, and Christ dies on the cross for the remission of our sins. Christ becomes our new "Federal Head" (Romans 5:18-19).

So, those thirty tweets about Federal Headship ranged from complaints that women couldn't be preachers to complaints that women aren't seen as heads of their households. Now the most commonly quoted verses saying that women can't be preachers or heads of their household are:

"I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet." - 1 Timothy 2:12

and

"Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." - Colossians 3:18

While these verses are representative of Federal Headship, there are many arguments against them - things like: "Women were yelling out in church" and "That's not relevant to our culture." Bad news for those of you who hold to those arguments... Paul actually continues to explain his position:

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor." - 1 Timothy 2:11-14.

Paul links it all the way back to the Creation and fall of man - notice the phrasing of Genesis 2:18, where God "makes a helper for him", along with God's command to the woman in Genesis 3:16 that her "desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." Was the curse lifted when Christ was crucified? Does the ground still bear thorns and is there still pain in childbirth? Then apparently not. Additionally, these verses don't exist in a vacuum - there are plenty more:

"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct." - 1 Peter 3:1

"The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says." - 1 Corinthians 14:34

"But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God." - 1 Corinthians 11:3

"Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands." - Ephesians 5:22-23

Now, yes, the entire context of these verses give commands to men as well, to love their wives. These verses also give commands to be compassionate toward one another. Women never historically took a back seat because of this - they simply had to live under their husband or father's leadership. Proverbs 31:10-31 even describes a woman who is trusted by her husband to buy and sell property, and to essentially run the entire household as she pleases. A Samaritan woman became the first soul-winner, inviting others to Christ (John 4:29-30).

The more recent battle cry has been heard shouted on the Twitter feeds of women hurt by this Biblical truth, "But what about Junia!?" Now, if you're not out battling mindlessly against the perceived injustices of the "oppressive, white males" who simply quote Scripture at you to back up their claims, then you may not know who Junia is in the Bible. She appears at the end of Romans as Paul gives his customary closing to specific individuals in the church:

"Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me." - Romans 16:7 (ESV)

Now, the problem with this verse is that some versions of the Bible say "of note among the apostles," rather than "They are well known to the apostles." This makes it sound like they're part of the apostles, right? Well, there's actually a Biblical outline for the requirements of an apostle when the eleven were looking for a replacement for Judas:

"Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." - Acts 1:21-22.

So, the requirements are to have been with Jesus from His baptism until His ascension, and ordination by the other apostles. So, based on this verse, the "apostles" were limited to the twelve originals, and any replacements necessary, much like Paul took the place of Stephen. Translating this even loosely to say that apostleship belonged to all who met the criteria, and not only those who were ordained doesn't win you this case. Junia, then, was at best an apostle as a state of being, and not as an elected or selected role - an apostle was just anyone who met some requirements and not someone who was actually called or allowed to do anything specifically as a result.

The next big group of Tweets we on modesty. Oh, how we love to complain about men wanting women to look modest. I once did a poll, to see what women's reactions would be to their husband or a close male friend or relative informing them that their apparel was immodest. The very notion of it was met with hostility. Ladies, no matter what you may think, your body isn't yours:

"The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife." - 1 Corinthians 7:4

If your husband tells you to cover it up, it's not yours, it's his, and you need to cover it up. And ladies, you have the right to tell your husband what he can and can't do with his body as well. Now remember, we are supposed to do everything in love, so we should be reasonable about this. My general rule on this would be that if I wouldn't want to be personally seen by Jesus wearing something, then I don't wear it. If you would wish you'd put on a long shirt over your yoga pants if you ran into Jesus at the grocery store, then you should have. If you would feel like covering up your bikini with a towel on the beach when Jesus showed up, then you shouldn't be wearing it. Modesty is absolutely taught throughout the Bible. You get some freedom in how to interpret this, but just because it's comfortable doesn't mean you get to wear it. Remember:

"But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience - I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience? If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved." - 1 Corinthians 10:28-33

"Why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience?" Profound question, and profound answer. If you're doing something that someone has informed you causes them offence, stop. No, it isn't your fault that a man lusts - men lust because men are part of fallen humanity. But if a man is actually willing to admit that he has a problem and would like you to help him with it by wearing something different, why on earth would you shame him and refuse? You aren't showing humility. You aren't acting out of charity. You're saying that your freedom is more important than helping a brother out. You're being selfish, and a stumbling block. Trust me, it takes a lot of nerve to actually admit to a woman that you have a problem with lust. Men are not proud of this, and the general reaction to men when they tell someone is nothing short of revulsion - "Ew, I don't want him thinking of me like that! Pervert!" Then help him out! He's actually sharing a struggle that he has in his life with you!

And finally, we come to the last group of Tweets. Everybody hears these things - men, women, Christians, and non-Christians. "You just need to be patient and wait for a mate. Someone will come along.", "I felt like God wanted me to pray for you.", and oddly enough, "We need you to teach a Sunday school class." The first two, I've been told more times than I can count. I'm married now, so I don't hear the first one any more. The second one, fantastic! You're praying, which is good, and prayers are being said for me, which is also good. This is good for both of us! Now the third. I've been asked this multiple times, at nearly every church I've attended. Every church is looking for Sunday school teachers. Parents want a break from their kids, so they don't want to. People without kids don't want to deal with "other people's brats," and why should they, they don't have kids of their own...

Honestly, I'm always very honored to be asked to teach Sunday school, even if I have to decline at the time. To me, it's a higher honor than even that of "senior pastor." When you're asked to teach a Sunday school class, you are being asked to shape the very pliable minds of the youth of the church. You're teaching tomorrow's leaders. It's both fearful and wonderful at the same time - I have the opportunity to lead every one of these kids to Christ, but what if I teach them something wrong? How can you possibly be offended by that? Oh, you wanted the title and prestige of "pastor" or "elder." What if God had something bigger and better planned for you? And you're just stalling and delaying what God wants to do in your life because you're quibbling over a title. God said if you were faithful in the little things, you would be faithful with much (Luke 16:10), but instead you got offended and decided to go somewhere else to church because teaching Sunday school wasn't prestigious enough for you - you were more important than that. You wanted the honor. But that's not even a Christian attitude to have:

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going." - Ecclesiastes 9:10

I've been in ministries where I felt like I could just do so much more if more authority was handed to me. In some cases, I may actually have been able to do more, but the authority isn't mine to take. God gives the authority. If it isn't given to you, then it has not been granted by God. Period. As we so often tell children, "You get what you get, and don't throw a fit." You bring shame upon yourself, the group you represent, and the name of Christ with this sort of behavior. Stop it!