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Articles

Women Writing About Spiritual Things

Women Writing About Spiritual Things

By Paul R. Blake

            (I received the following question from a faithful sister in Christ in September 2005. It was published in a magazine the following year. I received a similar question recently. It appears this question is often of interest to faithful Christians everywhere. - prb) A sister’s question: “I got an invitation to contribute to the women's section of an on-line publication this morning. I'm flattered to be invited, but I'm afraid many people have scruples against a woman writing in a public forum about spiritual things. What do you think?”

            My answer: To answer your question, it is necessary to know whether you are asking if the practice of women writing about spiritual things in a public forum is good and right, or whether one should avoid the practice because others have a scruple of conscience in the matter, or whether this practice troubles your own conscience.

            As to whether or not it is a good and right practice, consider the New Testament instructions for women teaching:

            1) Older women are commanded to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-5). The forum and means are not specified in this context, nor are they modified in any other text. Therefore, we can conclude that any legitimate means of instruction would be acceptable when teaching younger women. That would include published material, printed or electronic, that would be used to fulfill the work of admonishing the young women.

            2) Pricilla and Aquila both took Apollos aside and taught him the way of the Lord more perfectly. Since they both were involved in the work of completing Apollos' understanding of the truth, and since this is a Divinely approved example of such work taking place, we can conclude that a woman may share in the work of instruction with other men in teaching other men. However, the context has a limitation. The forum of instruction was private, not public.

            However, one must be careful to avoid a falsely semantical argument over the words “public and private.” Public instruction, without exception, involves a forum in which other persons are present in sufficient quantity to identify the collectivity as a gathering with the purpose of instructing multiple persons, including men. Private instruction is an informal association of a few. Public instruction has an obvious guide or teacher whose role is to lead the discussion. Private instruction is an unstructured sharing of knowledge.

            When one reads material written by another, he does so as an individual guiding his own instruction and choosing to learn (or not) from what he is reading. He is not under the authority of the author (man or woman); he is directing his own learning by using study materials. To test the logic of this reasoning, apply it to other matters. Let's assume that a man cannot read material written by a woman, because she may not teach a man (1Tim. 2:12). Well, the New Testament forbids Christians to be guided by false teachers, too (2John 9-11). Therefore, I must never read or reference any religious material written by anyone but a faithful brother in Christ. The same logic structure applies to both. Yet this reasoning falls apart in view of the apostle Paul's reading and quoting of pagan scholars in Acts 17:28. We can conclude that even though one is writing in a public forum, the instruction is received by the reader at a private, individual level.

            To be in violation of 1Tim. 2:12, a woman would have to address men from the authoritative position of being a teacher. She would have to purpose to teach them, and they would have to yield to her as students.

            No faithful Christian, man or woman yields unquestioned homage to any author, man or woman, faithful or errorist. The only reading we view as authoritative and wholly instructional are the scriptures. Nor can I imagine any other sincere, dedicated sister in Christ writing for the purpose of instructing and directing men. Therefore, we can conclude that it is not error for a woman to write material intended for other woman that may or may not be read by men.

            Practically speaking, is it wrong for a mother to instruct, correct, or discipline her baptized, teenaged son? Is it wrong for a woman to use a public, godly example to teach her unbelieving husband? Is it wrong for a devout older sister in Christ to ask a question or make a point in a Bible study that enlightens me on the issue? The inspired apostle limited the role of sisters in Christ to forms of teaching that did not involve her publicly exercising authority over men as their spiritual instructors; he did not silence women outside of such gatherings.

            Now as to the question of scruples of conscience: this will have to be in the realm of your own judgment. To be in violation of the principles of love in Romans 14, you as a writer would have to be judgmental in your treatment of a sister who is opposed to writing published material. If you are being judgmental and divisive toward weaker sisters and brothers, then you should eschew writing. If you treat them without setting them at naught, then you are not in violation of Romans 14.

            In order to be in violation of 1Corinthians 8, the following would have to occur:

            1) You would have to write in spite of personal knowledge of sisters who have tender consciences,

            2) They would have to be emboldened by your example to the point where they engage in writing,

            3) And in so doing, violate their consciences, thus making you a partaker in their sin.

            So, have you met the criteria of 1Corinthians 8?

            1) Do you write in spite of personal knowledge of sisters with tender consciences?

            2) Have they been encouraged by your example to write articles themselves, and have consequently sinned against their own consciences?

            Unlikely. More often than not, I have found in my many years as an evangelist that those who protest that your practice offends them, do not mean they were emboldened by your example, practiced the matter, and sinned against their conscience. Usually what they mean is that they find your practice offensive to their understanding of the matter, and are attempting to change your practice to be more in keeping with their own. This is in violation of Romans 14; they are condemning you for your practice in a matter of Divine liberty. The apostle Paul said he did not waste an hour listening to such folk (Gal. 2:3-5).

            Occasionally, those who practice a matter of Divine liberty are overly conscientious when dealing with persons who object to the exercise of that liberty. While the scriptures tell the strong not to practice his liberty if it will lead the weak into practicing it too (thus violating his conscience), often the strong will forgo his liberty even it simply bothers the weak that the strong practice it. We are not commanded to abandon a liberty just because a weak brother doesn't like it. Romans 14 commands him not to judge the strong, just as it commands you not to judge the weak.

            Again, let's test this. The most commonly practiced scruples of conscience among disciples are the wearing of veils and objection to military service. Suppose that it troubled my conscience to see sisters wearing veils in worship and to see brethren refuse to serve their country in military service. Would the sisters remove their veils; would the brethren join the military because it bothered my conscience? Of course not... instead they would tell me that I do not have to practice those things, but that they will continue to do so. And that is how it should be. Likewise, brethren who practice matters of liberty cannot allow the personal judgment of others determine our practice in any matter of Divine liberty.

            It is possible that a weaker sister would say that you are being divisive by practicing your liberty to write. In reality, she is being divisive by binding her practice in an area of Divine liberty. If someone objects to your writing, he or she does not have to read it, just as someone objecting to Sunday night communion does not have to partake of it himself, but at the same time cannot be allowed to elevate his objection to dictate what other saints will do.

            You asked for my thoughts. I do not believe it is in error for women to write and publish material intended for other women, nor would it be wrong for men to read it. Nor do I believe you would lead others into sin by writing. The only question that remains is one that I cannot answer for you: Does it trouble your conscience? If so, then forbear. If not, then write. I appreciate your good question.

Test Your Bible Knowledge

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4. Who was the first person to invent musical instruments? __________

5. What was the difference between the sacrifices of Cain and Abel? __________

6. Why did Lamech name his son Noah? __________

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