Does Scripture Prohibit Women from Doing Apologetics?

Often the idea of doing apologetics evokes the image of men debating on a stage, or speaking to or teaching an audience. Because of a misunderstanding of what apologetics is, some Christians who believe scripture passages such as 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 do not permit a woman to speak in the church worship setting, or to teach or exercise authority over a man in the home or church argue that these passages also prohibit a Christian woman from doing apologetics.

But do they really?

My purpose here is not to debate the correct interpretation and application of 1 Timothy 2:11-12 or 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, but to point out that if these passages do prohibit these ministries for Christian women, it does not follow that women cannot do apologetics. Here are a few reasons why.

1. The command of Christ calls Christian women to disciple-making (Matt 28:19-20). If every woman is called to share the Gospel message with her family members, her friends, and her co-workers in order to obey Christ’s Great Commission of Matthew 28, then every woman is also called to share the rational evidences for her faith in Christ as a part of that evangelistic message. Apologetics enables her to explain why a rational person should consider the truth claims of Christianity and has been characterized as pre-evangelism, since it entails sharing logical, historical, scientific and philosophical reasons for believing Christianity is true in order to dismantle objections (2 Cor 10:4-5) and open hearts to receive the Gospel. Multitudes of godly women throughout history have died as martyrs alongside their brothers in Christ for their defense of the Gospel, and we mock their sacrifice if we fail to bear witness to the evidences supporting the truth claims of Christianity.

2. The heart of apologetics ministry beats within one-to-one relationship. Though on-stage debates and conference or church classes certainly fill an important place in the overall apologetics ministry, most apologetics interactions take place in one-to-one relationships with family, friends and co-workers. Even if a Christian woman never taught in any assembly of believers, she would still have numerous opportunities to share good reasons for believing Christianity is true and also would be held accountable to God for the stewardship of that knowledge.

For example, when a co-worker asks me how I think the world began and I say I believe God created it, he is likely to ask me why I believe that. He may think my belief is unfounded and expect me to respond with, “You just have to have faith.” As a Christian man or woman I should be prepared to share the evidence supporting my assertion in order to earn a hearing regarding the Gospel’s claims about Jesus Christ.

3. The reach of a Christian woman’s apologetics ministry is vast. If a Christian woman never teaches a conference or church class in which men are present, her potential audience still consists of the majority of the human population: all other women and children. Since Paul in Titus 2:3-5 commands mature women to mentor younger women, teaching younger women apologetics is a legitimate pursuit to equip younger women to love their husbands, their children, and their neighbors as themselves. The women she mentors return home equipped to share with their unbelieving husbands the reasons belief in God makes sense based on evidence and are able to answer their college students’ questions about whether truth is relative and evolution is supported by evidence.

It’s not a matter of whether she is permitted to do this sort of ministry, but that she is commanded to do so, as verified by Paul. In 2 Timothy 1:5 Paul commends Timothy’s grandmother and mother for taking seriously the task of passing on the rich heritage of their faith to their children and grandchildren. Christian women answer to God for the stewarding of their knowledge of the Gospel and the evidence supporting its truth claims.

So, regardless of one’s interpretation of passages discussing the woman’s role in the home and church, a Christian woman not only can do apologetics, but must, in order to obey Christ’s authoritative command to make disciples.

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7 replies
  1. Luke says:

    I wish I could say this argument is thorough and convincing, but I’m just not convinced. Obviously this is a quote from the Bible that many find troubling, but unfortunately, it’s not that easily explained away.

    On point 1, I think it’s worth mentioning that the verses you mention from Matthew 28 are spoken to the disciples not to everyone as you claim. Obviously many interpret this as a commission to everyone, but as a form of argument, you can’t really say:

    1. Jesus told Bob and Tim to jump up and down.
    2. Since Jesus told women to jump up and down, it must be okay for women to jump up and down.

    Furthermore though, I think you limit how broad Paul really is in this letter and on this issue. First Paul talks about dressing modestly. Do you believe this only applies to women on stage, conferences, or in church? There is nothing in the text which limits modest dressing to these settings. Likewise there is nothing saying “I do not allow a woman to teach… but to remain quiet in church or in the classroom”. (Though this is mentioned in Corinthians.) In Timothy though, Paul goes on to say what women should do: “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” (In Titus, women are told to teach how to love their husbands, be kind, be workers at home, etc.; teaching scripture is not mentioned.)

    I wish we could say otherwise, but it’s just hard to take:

    1. Women should not teach or exercise authority over a man.
    2. It’s a shame for a woman to speak in church.
    3. Women will be saved through having children.

    and conclude that women should teach in places other than in church and in conferences.

    Again, I really do wish we could say that, but the evidence, as given in the argument above, is just not there.

    Reply
    • John says:

      (15) but if I am delayed, [I write] so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. [1 Timothy 3:15 NKJV]

      This comes after his instructions that started in chapter two. Most of the (non-egalitarian) scholars I’ve read on this issue believe that this limits the context of the command in 2:11-15 to “the house of God,” or “church,” whatever that may mean.

      Reply
    • Jana says:

      First, I appreciate your gentle and kind way of stating your points, it was a good and godly way to approach it. My question involves your interpretation methods of the Scriptures…if Jesus’s command in Matthew does not apply to us because (I am assuming it was written to the Jewish disciples at that time?) then why would 1 Corinthians apply to us? Paul was not writing it to my church. Also, what do you do with women like Amy Carmichael? Corrie Ten Boom? Would your belief turn them away and forbid them to speak in church because there are men in the audience? I don’t recall that either one “bore children” or just stayed at home and kept house…were they out of favor with God? Out of His will for them as women? Also, does not 1 Corinthians state that women are welcome to pray and prophesy in church? There are five divisions to the definition of prophesy in the Strong’s and each of them denote “speaking forth” something received or revealed to someone from God…So silence or absolute denial of a woman to instruct on spiritual matters doesn’t match up with the whole counsel of God it doesn’t seem…Final question for clarity on the statement that Paul to Titus never said that women were to teach the Scriptures…are you really saying that women are not Biblically permitted to expound (teach) on the Scriptures? That their conversation should only be about the things listed in Titus? What do you then do with Priscilla and Aquila?

      Reply
      • Jeannie E says:

        I’ve always found it interesting that those who limit women’s ministries overlook two glaring weaknesses with their viewpoint.

        1) The cannot agree with one another on just how much authority women are allowed to have in the home, in church, and society.

        2) They cannot come to a consensus on what age a boy becomes a man.

        I’m not saying these disprove their view, but it does point out how inconsistent such a view is.

        Reply
  2. Mark M says:

    I believe you to be correct in saying, “to point out that if these passages do prohibit these ministries for Christian women, it does not follow that women cannot do apologetics. “

    Reply

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