Being a biblical woman outside the church and home

For interest’s sake, on the Victorian household structure I alluded to previously, see the pic below from here. The housekeeper (and ultimately all of the various roles) answered to the Butler, from what I understand.

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Precisely. Not to mention that if the home and it’s production and relations are the foundational model for the rest of society then that must extend back to the man having the mission/goal and the woman being a helpmeet in it. The fact of the matter is that the economic work being described in Proverbs 31, for example, is not divorced from the man’s creation ordinance to rule the earth and provide food for his family.

To point out that there are examples of women helping with that work and instructing/directing men in the process is no different than to point it out of military/spiritual leadership in Deborah. If you want to draw a conclusion from one then you better be willing to draw a conclusion from the other. Either that or have a pretty good reason why not to.


Right, which is why I went to the distinctions between prophet, priest, and king. There is a principled difference at work between a female manager and a female ruler (unless I be mistaken). That difference does seem to fade the higher up you go, presumably because a business is most analogous to a household, so the higher you go the more the roles merge. But I do think the general point is reasonable: “mere” instruction is a prophetic role, which is open to women, though it is less common. The priestly and kingly offices, however, are off limits to women.

I suspect that the point about propriety is a reflection of this fact. While it may be lawful for a woman to exercise certain kinds of authority over men at some times, it may still be improper for her to do so, given that her actions don’t exist in a vacuum, but rather in the shadow of the priestly and kingly offices forbidden her.

Then again, perhaps I’m approaching this from the wrong side. Perhaps we should be looking first at general male/female propriety, and then inferring specifics like prophetic/priestly/kingly/whatever else roles from there. But that doesn’t seem to be the direction Scripture moves, right?

Paul just goes back to the order of creation and the particulars of how the fall happened and reasons from that. Not nearly as complicated.

Do you have any examples of historical works that reason along the lines you are, particularly bringing in prophet, priest and king distinctions? I don’t think I’ve read anything like that.

The problems seem significant to me. Off the top of my head…

  1. The prophets were the closest thing the Israelites had to a king prior to Saul. In other words, I don’t see how the work is separated from fatherhood any more than kingship is.
  2. The “king as father” doesn’t seem to accomplish the proof you want, because it is also makes the country into a family. That leads to the necessary conclusion that there is no civil position or work that would be inappropriate for women (the kingship excluded). That doesn’t seem to be your position. But perhaps?
  3. It’s an argument from implication (there are no priests implies something about the nature of the work) to analogy (fatherhood) to principles (women are therefore excluded from father-roles), which is quite weak. What you want to start with is principles. (To reiterate, that’s what Paul does.)
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Agreed. The principle isn’t complicated. Creator order and fall applied everywhere. If there are complications it may be because of a few things (randomly ordered and thinking out loud):

  1. While Scripture clearly gives the principle, we don’t have the kind of clear and explicit application to life outside the church and home as we do to the church and home. We do see examples, both negative and positive, in narrative portions of Scripture, but Paul’s letters don’t address the workplace (etc.) like he does the home and the church.

  2. There hasn’t been, at least that I’ve run across, much written on this outside of Scripture.

  3. Church members, especially hard women, react negatively, often with scoffing against this teaching no matter where it is applied (at least in the churches I’ve been in, E-Free and non-denominational, baptistic, Bible church sorts), but ESPECIALLY if we dare try to apply this teaching outside of the church and home.

Because of the above reasons, and likely more, the complications are often, at least in me, due not to the clarity of the principle, but to the cost and related reluctance to apply it. I found that where I am reluctant to apply Scripture, Scripture becomes conveniently “complicated.” I have to fight with myself more in relation to this issue (applying the principle outside the home and church) to convince myself that the text and applications are plainly what they are. This is hard pastoral work, really hard.


A post was split to a new topic: Why do we move things around & split conversations?

Pastor @tbbayly can we expect a book on the topic of women inside and outside of the church. You might take a public flogging for it, but it would help us all know where our pastors stand :smirk::wink:. No more good ol’boy coverups.

Kind of like what Douglas Wilson was saying about the Presbyterians just wanting to manage crisis rather than do the hard work of standing up for an unpopular biblical truth.


Sorry, but I doubt it. What really commands my attention is the church and her shepherds. Sexuality is just a case study of the death of authority on every level, as well as the death of preaching to the conscience and faithful pastoral care. Abortion demonstrates the same. In other words, working on abortion/imago dei and sexuality is the way to lead the reform of the Church, today. Love,


Just want to throw in here (haven’t read the whole thread yet) - Christopher (C.R.) Wiley’s book Man of the House which talks about household unity/function. Many of his Facebook posts are also on this theme.


Oh, ouch. Ain’t that the truth.


Hey guys, I’m not sure the complication is in my position. I think it might be in your thinking about my position :slight_smile:

Fundamentally my view is very straightforward:

The original family was also the original government and the original “business.”

Everything flows from there.

Adam was a prophet, priest, and king. I’m not arbitrarily applying those distinctions; they’re just there in Scripture. That said, perhaps they’re not the right categories to use in this case. I’m not sure.

What I am fairly sure about is that it’s safe ground to say Adam was made as a human father to represent the heavenly Father in ways Eve was not. Eve represented God (she was also his image), but she didn’t represent his fatherhood.

The difficulty I have is figuring out where the line is between fatherly and other representation. That’s why I find the prophet/priest/king distinctions helpful. For instance, is it ok for a woman to teach art to a bunch of men? I’m not sure why it wouldn’t be (but perhaps that is culturally conditioned; perhaps it really isn’t). But assuming it’s ok, why is it ok, when it’s not ok for a woman to teach Scripture or politics? The prophet/priest/king distinctions seem to help there (as general categories) in demarcating father-rule from other kinds of authority. But perhaps I’m on the wrong trail. Perhaps the teaching of men by women is actually too fatherly regardless of the content matter. I’m open to that; I’m just trying to fit the principles together.

I don’t think that can be supported biblically. Also, not just content but context does matter. (Edited to add: reading this just now it sounds like I’m arguing with you, so just clarify, I was trying to say that I agreed. There is certain content and contexts where women can teach men. This seems clear from the Bible.)

Doesn’t the priesthood of all believers mess your theory up?

You’re close to the truth here, but still a coloring outside the lines in ways that are not helpful.

Paul is pointing at this difference between men and women 1 Corinthians 11. He does not deny that women have God’s image, but he insists that man has a glory (which Paul says is the glory of God) and woman has a different glory (which Paul says is the glory of man).

If man is the glory of God, then woman is not the glory of God.
If woman is the glory of man, then the man is not the glory of man.

These glories are what distinguish the male from the female!

Indeed, Paul mentions three glories in this passage - man (who is God’s glory), the woman (who is man’s glory), and the woman’s hair (which is her glory). In a gathering with a purpose of glorifying God, it is fitting for God’s glory to be exposed, and everyone else’s glory to be veiled. The cover in 1 Corinthians 11 covers two glories - the man’s and the woman’s. Only God’s glory is uncovered.

This excursus seems, at first, way down an interesting [but otherwise irrelevant] rabbit hole. But it’s not. The social implications of what Paul is driving at appear everywhere, not just at the Sunday church service. There are implications for how the man and woman relate in the home, as well as the church. And, because these distinguishing features of man and woman are constitutional - involving WHAT they are - it’s impossible that there be no implications for society generally, whether or not that society is Christian.


Hey Bill, I agree…but not sure where I was coloring outside the lines in view of this?

This is the error. The original authority and submission is not institutions but persons. Not institutions but individual. Not structures but Adam and Eve. Not spheres of authority but order of creation. Adam first, then Eve. Man first, then woman. Everything flows from this. As our Lord Himself declared, from the beginning, God made them male and female. The beginning is not family, but man and wife, man and woman, male and female. Love,


Perhaps “coloring outside the lines” is stronger than necessary. I was wanting discussions such as you were engaging in (throughout the discussion here) to rely on Paul’s concepts in 1 Cor. 11. Man and woman are identical so far as the image of God is concerned. They are distinguishable from one another so far as their glories are concerned.

In all the discussion in these areas, image gets mentioned lots and lots and lots. Glory (as Paul is using the term in 1 Cor 11) is never a term of art for the discussion. The result is lots of confusion and/or hemming/hawing and/or yinging/yanging.

So, the egalitarian says that all the virtues are identical for both sexes. Then he goes on to insist that sex-based roles betray this fundamental equality between male and female. The complementarian is tepid in his response, because he’s not throught through what Paul is discussing in 1 Cor 11.

It is true that image of God is a feature or mumanity that is sexless. No one on our side of the debate wants to speak in those terms. But, God has made those who bear His image to be of two types - each bearing a different glory. Men are the glory of God, by which Paul means that when God is mentioned, a man comes to mind. That’s why man is God’s glory.

When God is mentioned a woman does not come to mind (if we’re thinking God’s thoughts after Him). That is why she is not God’s glory.

When a man is mentioned his wife ought to come to mind. She is his crown (a cardinal glory of a King). When man-kind is in view, feminity or womanhood come to mind, for she is the pinnacle of the creation of the race, and through her come all the living.

If the concepts and terms of reference St. Paul uses in discussing man and woman and their deportment in worship were used throughout all the discussions of the sexes, there would be far less confusion, and those defending Biblical teaching would have far more “heft” in their defense of what the prophets and Apostles are conveying to us.


@jtbayly, I don’t think the priesthood of believers affects my proposal, because Israel was also called a nation of priests, yet women were not allowed to actually serve as such. But perhaps I’m off base. Perhaps women do perform priestly roles. Certainly my wife intercedes sometimes to me on behalf of our children. Is that not priestly?

Maybe I’m looking at the idea of father-rule through entirely the wrong lens, and I should be listening to @Fr_Bill and thinking not about the role being performed, but whose glory is being served. Then the question would be more along the lines of whether a woman CEO is the glory of her husband, or the glory of herself (the Proverbs 31 woman is the glory of her husband). But that also comes with confounding questions, because what do we make of women who—perhaps through no fault of their own—are not under a man? I’m sure we agree that marriage should be normal, but we’d hesitate to mandate it, right? So then, must we conclude that a woman is either under a husband or a father, or failing that, a surrogate of some kind? I’m open to that, but it seems odd.

@tbbayly, I don’t think I’m following you. Surely it’s just a straight truism that Adam and Eve were a family? And that they were also the government? Adam was a king; a viceroy of God. Can you expand on the error you see me making?



I suspect it’s at least as priestly as Adam’s work pre-fall. And pre-fall matters for this conversation a lot, as the NT makes clear.

Sure, but the question is what is the fundamental level that we are reasoning from. The point is that those things flow from the lower-level truth that they were male and female. Adam was the father of the race because he was man, not vice versa. So you’re reasoning from consequences, whereas Jesus and Paul appeal back to the original male/female principle when they are dealing with matters of sex. That and the fact that they Paul puts his reasoning onto the fact of headship, order, glory, and the specifics of the fall means that unless we tie what we’re saying to those things, we are missing the fundamentals and ripe for error.

I don’t think there is so much a disagreement per se about what conclusions and applications you’re coming to, but rather the shakiness of the foundation. At least that’s my thinking.

@Fr_Bill, what you’ve written here about glory is helpful, but I’m also seeing a refusal of “our side” (as you put it) to embrace the “head of” language in 1 Cor 11 and the consequences of how the fall went down that Paul appeals to elsewhere. Do you really feel like glory is the primary missing key to the puzzle?


“That Paul appeals to elsewhere” - you’re thinking of 1 Timothy 2:14?

Even if you’ve got another passage in mind, these two passage 1 Cor. 11: 3 and 1 Timothy 2:14 are - as you note - not embraced by our side. When they come up for exposition, our side almost always (1) slides over them as if they weren’t really there, or (2) turns exegetical and/or expositional cartwheels in order to explain why they do not seem to mean what they obviously require any sane reader to see in Paul’s statements.

Why does this happen?

Well, in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul tells us that Christ is the head of every man. And, the woman? Isn’t her head Christ too? Evidently not, as Paul immediately goes on to say that her head is the man. Taken together, these ideas - every man has Christ as his head, while woman has (some) man as her head . . . well, we all know how that idea fares in this fourth-wave feminist climate!

Moving on to 1 Timothy 2:14 - well, dang it! Paul says Eve fell into transgression because she was deceived, and for that reason all women in the church are by Apostolic prohibition constrained from teaching men.

Why that constraint? Is it a punishment? How unfair to penalize all those sisters with the spiritual gift of teaching!

Or does the prohibition look to her being deceived?

Religious feminist: “You’re not saying that women are by nature more deceivable than men, are you?”

Complementarian: "Oh no, no, n!. Paul didn’t mean that!

Religious feminist: "Well, then, why does Paul fault Eve for being deceived? What’s that got to do with anything anyway?

I’ve seen this dialog play out ad nauseum for decades now.

So, yes - our side has some work to do, and that work needs to be different from what complementarians have done since the Seventies (i.e. to retreat, shilly-shally, and so forth). Our side needs expound the NT’s teaching on the nature of the sexes (here’s where an exposition of the glories in 1 Cor 11 is ground zero) and also the relationship between the sexes in marriage, family, church, and society (and there are differences of kind and degree, depending on the stage where the sexes are relating to one another).


As you point out, most “complementarians” start sounding like Pirky Pig when this objection arises. What’s your response to it?