How I Became an Egalitarian: First Encounter with 1 Tim 2:12

This is Part 2 in a series that started here.

When I became a Christian at the age of 16, I started reading through the Bible, one chapter at a time from Matthew to the end of the New Testament and then the Old Testament.  This is how I experienced God.  This is how I met him, face to face — by reading the Bible every day.  Without having to read the verse about it, I knew that Scripture was God-breathed, living, and active.  Multiple times, the Bible passage of the day would address something that was happening in my life that day or that moment.  I really loved reading the Bible and everything in it!

Until that first time when I read 1 Timothy 2:12 —

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man.”

It stopped me in my tracks.  Is this for real?

I emailed my then pastor (Ron Rothenberg) my questions about this passage.  I’ll always remember what he told me.  The Bible was written in different genres, at different times, and for different purposes.  When you read the Bible, you need to ask this question:  Is this a principle that was just for that group of people for that time?  Or is this a principle that is for all people for all time?

Hrm.  That’s a good question, Pastor Ron!  But how do I figure this out?

In pursuit of the answer, I got in my car, drove through Mira Mesa Blvd to this little Christian cafe that used to be there.  Intent on my purpose, I dove right into all the “study Bibles” and commentaries I could find in the little bookstore.  As I pieced it all together, I could see both sides of the argument.  I mulled over notes for a few days until, finally, I had a conclusion.

So what was my conclusion at the age of 16 or 17?  From this very cursory study, I concluded that Paul’s statement was a principle for just that group for just that time.  (We will return to this passage in greater detail later in the series.)

Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to conclude that women could be pastors, but my reason had less to do with the Bible and more to do with tradition.  What I saw modeled in churches was that men were pastors and women were not.  I also had this notion that men should be the spiritual leader.  I later looked up “spiritual leader” in my Bible concordance and realized that this phrase is not in the Bible. But I didn’t think about this then.  I just thought I had landed on a happy medium, even if that medium was inconsistent with itself.  I also didn’t know at that time how controversial this topic was, how many times my conclusion would be challenged and revised over the years, and how much of an impact this verse would have on the rest of my life!

Click here for the next part in the series.


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