OMITTING WEIGHTIER MATTERS
T. PIERCE BROWN
Ever so often, when I think I can properly “give answer to every man that asketh — a reason concerning the hope that is in me, yet with meekness and fear (1 Peter3:15), the quality of my answers decrease, and my meekness and fear increase.
I became aware many years ago that many persons phrase a question asking for a simple “yes” or “no” answer with the same motive those had who asked, “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not?” Even when that is not the motive, one may get himself into a dangerous trap, mentally and spiritually, when he assumes that complex problems can always be answered with simple answers.
A study of 1 Timothy2:12brought forth the following questions, along with almost that many more, which every “teacher ofIsrael” (John3:10) is supposed to be able to answer “yes” or “no” and prove from the scriptures.
It is reported that one of our “successful” preachers was asked, “To what do you attribute your great success?” to which he replied, “I am a most powerful preacher, and I am a most humble man.” If any of you are in that category — wise enough to know all the answers, and humble enough to share them with others — you might try your hand at these. When you have answered them all properly, if you can find a way to put them into a form to submit for the approval of some “brotherhood authority” (in case you are not already IT), please do.
The following are some of the questions. Remember that although only a “yes” or “no” answer is wanted, you need to have all scriptures, syllogisms, inductive or deductive reasoning ready to present at a moment’s notice, if it should be required.
Does 1 Timothy2:12(or any other scripture) forbid a woman to hold a public office in which she might have authority over man? May she teach a college class in English where men are students? May she teach a college class in New Testament Greek to Christian men? If a question came up in such a class concerning how some principle of grammar applied in a New Testament passage, would she be allowed to answer? If the Greek were an advanced course, where the study involved an analysis and/or exegesis of selected New Testament passages, do the scriptures allow her to teach it? Does any passage forbid her teaching a college class in English to men? If the scriptures allow or forbid her to teach a class in English, would the same scriptures allow or forbid her to lead a prayer in that class (presuming it were legal to do so)? If she can teach a class in English and/or Greek, can she teach Bible? If not, could she teach English literature, if one of the passages studied was the story of the Prodigal Son, or Paul’s Sermon on Mar’s Hill? If so, could she teach Bible (as such), if she only taught it as literature, and not as God’s Word? If she should teach it merely as literature, would that transgress God’s law, since it is not merely literature?
Is it proper, from scriptural principles, for a mother to pray aloud with her 10-year-old son? If he obeyed the gospel, would the answer be the same? Is the age of her son a determining factor in whether or not it is proper to pray aloud in his presence at home? Does any scripture forbid (or allow, or encourage) her to pray aloud in the presence of her 12 year old son who is a Christian if his father, who is not a Christian, is present? If her husband were a Christian, would that change the answer? Does any scripture throw any light on the propriety of Christian parents asking their non-Christian offspring to offer thanks at the table? Would this include male and female offspring? Does any scripture forbid (or allow or encourage) young brothers and sisters praying aloud in the presence of each other in a family setting? Would the presence of their parents change that answer? Would the answer be the same if their grandparents were there? If a friend (a visiting neighbor) were there? Is it scriptural for a child to pray in the presence of men, if both child and men are Christians? Would the child, in such a situation, be exercising dominion over the men? Would the answer be true whether the child was a male or female? If a child would not be exercising dominion over a man by praying in his presence, would an adult who leads in prayer be in a position of authority by leading in prayer? If not, would the adult be in such a position by preaching? Whatever your answer was to the question about a child praying in the presence of adults, would the answer be the same whether the boys were in a teen-age boys class or in the public assembly for the whole congregation? Does any scripture prohibit, either directly or by implication, a young Christian boy leading prayer for the whole congregation? Would the same be true for reading a Scripture? For making a talk (preaching)? Is it a violation of any scripture (or principle) for a young (3rd grade) non-Christian boy to pray aloud in a boy’s training class conducted by the preacher or an elder of the congregation? If such a class were merely demonstrating what they had learned, would it be scriptural for him to do the same in the presence of the whole congregation?
If males and females go on a “campaign” and set up home Bible studies, do the scriptures forbid two women to knock on doors and set up studies? After it is set up, no matter by whom, is it scriptural for two women to conduct such a home Bible study? Would the fact that Priscilla was withAquilaas they taught Apollos (Acts18:26) authorize a woman to teach a man in such a home Bible study, as long as she did not teach “over him?” Can she teach without teaching “over him?” What is the difference? If there should be a congregation (perhaps likeLydia’s household) made up entirely of women, and a non-Christian man attended, would it be scriptural for the women to do any praying or teaching? If that non-Christian man should decide to obey the gospel, with or without the public teaching of any of the women, could one of the women baptize him? If so, would he then, if he wanted to meet with the women, be required by scripture to do all the leading of discussion, prayer, and singing?
If an elder in a local congregation is teaching a teacher training class in which both men and women are learning by “practice teaching,” do the scriptures forbid a woman to demonstrate how she would teach a class of 3rd grade students if men are present in the training class? Can the elders authorize a woman not to “be silent in the church” (1 Cor14:34), or to “teach over a man” (1 Timothy2:12)? If so, can they authorize her to do anything else contrary to the scriptures? If so, what? If 1 Cor. 14 has to do with an assembly where speaking in tongues was practiced, and no such assembly exists today, does the prohibition about women in v. 34 apply?
If the answer to any of the above questions is “It is not unscriptural, but inexpedient,” what makes it inexpedient? If everyone in the congregation came to your knowledge and therefore believed that it is scriptural, would it then be expedient? Should a question of fellowship ever be raised over a matter that is merely expedient, or inexpedient?
Recognizing that even to present for publication a list of such questions will probably cause one group of persons to think, “He is undoubtedly a liberal — at least highly suspect — who is trying to advance woman’s lib — or something else equally suspect,” and another group to think, “He is surely an arch-conservative, nit-picking, mote-finding person who is trying to bind some little man-made rules on the church while omitting weightier matters of the law.” There may even be others who think, “I don’t know what he is trying to do, but he is raising foolish and unlearned questions that do gender strife, and should not do it.” In spite of all that, I still submit the foregoing. It may humble you, humiliate you, or make you proud that you have the answers. If it helps you to probe more deeply into God’s word and not omit the weighty matters of the law, we shall be grateful.