The Donahue - Miles Debate

Miles' First Negative

Pat Donahue’s experience in debating coupled with his fairness and intelligence leaves one reticent to take him on, yet those same characteristics compel me to take up the gauntlet. Pat and I did not draw up any guidelines for this discussion, but have simply agreed to discuss the issue in Faith and Facts. We both know how to engage in honorable debate, and we will.

As we study (as Pat also stated), let us decide from the text and its context what this passage teaches. Please remember that a passage often seems difficult because we all have prior prejudices and thus (subconsciously) resist changing our minds.

Why is this subject important? If it is unscriptural for women to teach high school and college or to exercise authority as an employer or boss, then Christians who find themselves or their children learning or working under women in these circumstances must decide how to react. I could not conscientiously work in a congregation with a female preacher or female elders because I believe it would involve me in sin. Would learning under a female college professor or working under a female boss involve me in sin? It is an important subject indeed.

I believe that the context of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 proves conclusively that the passage does not include instruction for secular activities, and I will begin by responding briefly to his ten arguments.

Argument 1: Brother Donahue notes that "the context does not specify that only spiritual matters are under consideration." This is unquestionably the "first" and "foremost" of Pat’s arguments. All of his arguments are based on this premise. However, I believe the context is limited not only to spiritual matters, but to the assembly just as is 1 Corinthians 14. 1 Timothy 2:8 shows that Paul is referring to conduct in the assemblies: "Therefore I want the males in every place to pray . . . ." I have substituted "males" for "men" in this verse, because the Greek word for "men" is not the generic word for mankind, but the specific word for males, excluding females. We can also deduce that this is Paul’s purpose by noting that "the men" are contrasted with the "women" of verse 9. Paul is not saying, "All Christians should do these things (verse 8), and female Christians should do these other things (verse 9)." Rather, he is saying, "The males [among you] should do these things, and females should do these other things." Is Paul indeed saying that only males should pray as he has described? Yes, he is. Only the males may pray this way in an assembly of God’s people. Logically, the restrictions on women also refer only to the assembly. Instruction for men and women outside the assembly on these subjects or others must be found in other passages or deduced from a general principle in this passage.

Argument 2: Verses 1-2 may instruct all Christians to pray, but verse 8 instructs only males to pray. In what context and manner would only males pray?

Argument 3: The argument is the same as above. Either verses 1-7 are an explanation of how and why men are to lead prayer (verse 8) or a slight change in the subject occurs in verse 8. Either way, what Paul says in verses 8-15 is a contrast between what males and females are to do. If verses 9-15 applies in all situations, so does verse 8.

Argument 4: Still the same argument, except this time Pat uses a doubly prejudicial statement that proves nothing. He argues that preachers have often used this passage to condemn immodest dress on the beach. That proves nothing. Maybe a preacher who has not so used this passage has studied the context too carefully to do so conscientiously. Such a soldier is worth his pay. Dressing modestly applies to men also, but Paul says, "I want women to adorn themselves . . . modestly." You cannot prove that men should dress modestly by verse 9, because the passage addresses women. If the context is limited to the assembly, you cannot prove that verse 12 applies outside the assemblies.

Argument 5: By his admission, this proves nothing.

Argument 6: Pat’s explanation of "saved in childbearing" is excellent: write it down in your 1 Timothy notes! However, I do not find Paul’s use of a non-spiritual activity strange at all. If he can use boxing and racing as illustrations of spiritual principles, surely he can use child-bearing.

Argument 7: Yes, women are "to demonstrate faith, love, and holiness in their secular activities also." These are general principles which apply across the board. They require different actions in different situations. Paul has just described some of the ways they apply in the assembly.

Argument 8: 1 Timothy 2:11-12 will take care of instruction for the assembly, and 1 Corinthians 11:3 will take care of instruction for the husband-wife relationship.

Argument 9: Pat’s argument remains the same throughout. His argument is that since some of the things mentioned in the passage apply outside of the assemblies, they must all apply to things outside the assemblies. This is simply untrue. Here are two examples: 1) The admonition in 1 Corinthians 14:9 to speak so that all can understand should be practiced everywhere, but that does not mean 1 Corinthians 14 is talking about what Christians do everywhere. Just because a passage teaches a doctrine that applies in other situations does not mean we can take everything in that passage to refer to other situations. What each passage teaches is necessarily limited by the context. Yes, these things are true in a wider context, but you can’t prove them by this passage. 2) Romans 13:4 teaches that government is a minister for good. But everyone should be a minister for good. Since being a minister for good applies to individuals not working for the government, "bearing the sword" as "an avenger who brings wrath" on evildoers also applies to individuals not working for the government. This is faulty interpretation.

Argument 10: Same argument. Paul’s use of "everywhere" seems to make a strong case, but I’m sure Pat realizes that even such seemingly all-inclusive words are limited by context. Just as the "everywhere" of Genesis 13:10 means everywhere in the valley of Jordan, "everywhere" in 1 Timothy 2:8 means everywhere God’s people assemble. There are many such examples.

Other considerations: Pat must be wrong because Acts 18:26; 1 Samuel 25:19; 2 Kings 4:22-24 show that women can teach men. Pat also sets the instruction in 2 Timothy 2:11-12 against a mother’s responsibility to exercise authority over her baptized son.

Short Exposition: Focusing on verse 8, Paul not only addresses males, but "the males." Which males? The men of the local church or assembly is a logical conclusion. Paul instructs men, as opposed to women, to pray. Why? Women should pray when certain conditions are met. So why would Paul direct this instruction to men? Because only men may lead prayers in an assembly. In verse 9, Paul addresses "women." Which women? The women of the local church in Ephesus. Since women are not to take leadership roles in the assembly, what is their role? It is one of submission. They should show their submission in the way they dress (verses 9-10) and participate in learning (verses 11-12).

Since they were not to lead in worship, perhaps they were tempted to call attention to themselves with showy clothes. However, submission requires not drawing attention to oneself. Since that is the general principle, a woman should not call attention to herself in the assembly by the fancy (or skimpy) clothes she wears. Women should be submissive in every assembly, whether saints are assembled for a Bible class, lecture, Lord’s Supper, etc. Their main role is submission not teaching or exercising authority over a man.

Finally, whatever Paul is teaching has always been true by virtue of the order of Creation (verse 13). Is it true that women have never taught or exercised authority over men with God’s approval? What about Deborah (Judges 4:5,6,14); Sarah (Genesis 21:12); Esther (Esther 4:10, 15-17); Priscilla (Acts 18:26); Huldah (2 Kings 22:15ff.; cf. Jeremiah 1:1-3 with 2 Kings 22:3, 13-14); Abigail (1 Samuel 25:18-19, 23ff.)?

Conclusion: Pat contends that 1 Timothy 2:12 applies to secular activities because other parts of the chapter to secular activities. This will not suffice. Just because some instruction applies to secular activities does not prove that Paul was making that application. In this passage, Paul taught men to concentrate on properly leading prayer in the assembly. This is a spiritual matter. He taught women to concentrate on subjection via modesty in dress and submission in receiving instruction. The spiritual context having been determined, this also applies in the spiritual realm. We must also reject Pat’s conclusion because it does not harmonize with other Biblical teaching.

--Oscar Miles



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