The Donahue - Miles Debate

Miles’ Second Negative

Pat is a formidable debater and did a good job challenging the "assembly only" position. Here are some reasons I am not convinced that he has proven it wrong.

Pat argues that because the passage "does not specify the assembly … neither should we assume such." Yet Pat seems to agree that 1 Timothy 2:8 refers to "leading prayer" even though the text "does not specify" such. Just because the text does not specify something does not mean we cannot draw a logical inference.

Pat insists that if Paul’s instructions on modesty apply outside the assembly, so does the rest of the passage. This is a non sequitur. Most readers are well acquainted with James 1:27. Our institutional brethren argue that if the local church can practice pure and undefiled religion, the local church can visit orphans and widows. Does that follow? No, because the wider context refers to individual action. We can agree that women should dress modestly outside the assembly without agreeing that a woman is forbidden to exercise authority over any man anywhere.

Please note that in my first article, I only assumed for the sake of argument that verses 1-2 may apply outside the assembly. I gave the likely alternative in the next paragraph. Who does Paul tell to pray in verse 1? Verse 8 says "males."

The "assembly only" position makes sense to me because 1 Timothy addresses spiritual or congregational matters (1:3; 3:14), and the assembly is where you would most likely observe all four subjects in this passage: men leading prayer AND women over-dressing AND spiritual teaching AND exercising authority.

But even if Pat is right that the scope is wider than the assembly, his conclusions are still wrong. Here is why.

First, the Bible gives examples of women teaching men spiritually and exercising authority over them in secular matters. Although Pat could not find any examples of women exercising authority over men in my list, I am confident the reader sees them. Was Deborah judging only women or all Israel (Judges 4:4)? Does "sons of Israel" (v. 5) mean "daughters"? When Deborah summoned Barak and told him what God commanded (v. 6) was she not acting with authority? When she told him to "Arise" (v. 14)? Why did God tell Abraham to do whatever Sarah said (Genesis 21:12)? Did Esther give an order to a man in Esther 4:10 and again to men and Mordecai in vv. 15-16? Were all of Abigail’s servants female? Did she act with authority in contradicting her husband’s wishes? Did Huldah not exercise authority when she instructed men in 2 Kings 22:15ff.?

Second, the context deals with spiritual teaching. The context of verses 11-12 includes chapter two, the whole book of 1 Timothy, and the whole Bible. We agree that men should lead prayer at ball games, at home, in the assemblies and everywhere. But Pat is making "every place" in verse 8 the focal point of the passage when "prayer" is the focal point. Paul is telling Christians how to pray not what to do "in every place."

Prayer is a spiritual activity. Why does Pat think Paul stopped referring to spiritual matters in verse 9? From verse 1, Paul has discussed spiritual matters. He commands women to dress modestly in verse 9, because this is part of their spirituality ("making a claim to godliness," verse 10).

What kind of teaching is Paul referring to in verse 12? How would Timothy have understood it? Notice how "teaching," "teachers," "instruction," "commandment," and related words are used in 1 Timothy: God’s commands (1:1; 6:14); false teaching (1:3; 4:1-3); teaching the Law (1:7) sound teaching (1:10; 4:6; 6:3); prophecy (1:18); spiritual discipline (1:20); teaching the gospel (2:7); elders teaching (3:2; 5:17); public teaching in the assembly (4:13); evangelists teaching (4:16); the teaching of this epistle (4:11; 5:7; 6:2,17,18). Do any of these refer to secular teaching? Is Paul condemning false teaching of mathematics? Must elders be able to teach geography? No, the book consistently uses "teach" to refer to spiritual teaching. Why would we think Paul addresses something different in 2:12? He tells us what kind of teaching he has in mind in 2:7. Paul taught in a "college" once, but not math. Pat gave ten verses that show that 1 Corinthians 14 speaks of the assembly. Above are more than ten references to spiritual teaching in 1 Timothy. Paul deals with teaching spiritual truths not teaching polynomial equations.

Third, 1 Timothy 2 is dealing with the basic character or role of Christian men and women and not giving absolute prohibitions or instructions. Women should pray as well as men. Women may even lead other women and children in prayer. Men are to be in subjection also -- to God, government, etc.

Just as other passages tell us more about prayer, other passages define the sphere of subjection for women. Paul is speaking generally of a woman’s role. In general, her role is to be in subjection to her husband: Ephesians 5:22ff. I am the head of my wife, Melanie (Genesis 3:16; Ephesians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 11:3; 14:34). Neither the male Amway salesman, credit card solicitor on the phone, Osama bin Laden, or Pat Donahue are heads of my wife. The church has one head; so does my wife. A many-headed creature is a monster.

Even if Pat’s main proposition is true, it means only this: Melanie is to demonstrate faith, love, holiness and subjection to me in the secular realm as well as the spiritual. She is not to exercise authority over me even in the workplace. She is also not to exercise spiritual authority over men, because this would accord to her all authority (Titus 2:15), and the divine example of male leadership in spiritual matters is without exception.

"Saved through child-bearing" is a synecdoche for a woman’s role, but Pat incorrectly states that "child-bearing is part of the woman’s . . . relationship to man ‘everywhere’"? Melanie and I have three children. We both consider her child-bearing to be part of our relationship, but not part of her relationship to any other man. Pat is greatly mistaken.

Paul even switches from the plural (men and women) in verses 8-10 to the singular in verses 11-15. Did he do so accidentally? (Pat’s questions use the plural throughout.) In verses 13-15, Paul gives reasons for the instruction in verses 11-12, and all his reasons deal with the husband/wife relationship.

Finally, let us consider a point of grammar. Paul is not forbidding a woman to teach but is using an ellipsis with the "not . . . but" construction. Jesus used this figure of speech in John 6:27, telling His disciples, "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life." Did He forbid them to work for food? No, He denied the lesser to emphasize the greater. (See also 1 Corinthians 1:17; Philippians 2:4, and many others.) It is a matter of comparison, of emphasis. God did not make women primarily as spiritual teachers or people with authority but as helpers of their husbands. Every woman needs to keep in mind the main role God gave her, established from creation. While I deny that God has prohibited some of the activities Pat lists, I affirm that men are generally more effective leaders in every area of life because of the way God made men and women.

I argued that Paul’s teaching has always been true by virtue of the order of creation (verse 13). Pat denied it, citing two examples where God made appeals to creation. He cited the covering of 1 Corinthians 11, but this is only true if his interpretation of the covering is true. If the covering is hair or if it is figurative, such coverings indeed have been true from the beginning. The other example he gives is the Sabbath. God paralleled his resting on the seventh day to the Israelites keeping the Sabbath Day. But in 1 Timothy 2, Paul is not using a parallel or type-antitype argument as in Exodus 20. Instead, Paul tells women that they must be submissive because of a principle true from the beginning. Exodus 20 does not argue that not keeping the Sabbath would violate God’s original purpose for creating a seventh day, but 1 Timothy 2 does argue that an unsubmissive woman violates God’s original purpose for creating a woman.

In summary, Pat is wrong because the context of the chapter and book deals with spiritual matters, spiritual teaching, and spiritual authority. He is wrong because even if it applied to secular matters, the Bible does not teach the subjection of every woman to every man.

I have answered Pat’s questions above. His questions are a non sequitur argument that if most of the text can apply outside the assembly, the whole passage applies outside the assembly. That is flawed argumentation. But I have shown that even if he is correct, his conclusions do not follow.

Pat might explain how women like the worthy woman (Proverbs 31), Lydia, and others conducted business without ever exercising authority over any men. What are the practical implications? Who would stay in a church where a woman is ordained as an elder? What then will Pat advise when a woman Representative, Senator or President is elected? What if I have a woman boss? Etc.

--Oscar Miles



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