When a man 'corrects' or instructs a woman who is not his wife

Discussion in 'Church Order' started by Tim, Feb 18, 2010.

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  1. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    How should men approach the situation when in the course of normal Christian conversation a woman makes a theological error or says something that might be challenged? Of course I recognize that this scenario could go in reverse.

    I keep in mind this text:

    Here, I am only referring to the principle of the wife seeking council from her husband, as opposed to anyone else. Lately, I have become careful if I am speaking to a woman and her husband is not with her - I would not want to correct her, would I?

    How should I treat single women? Sometimes young women don't see their fathers as their spiritual head, but I still don't want to stomp on that position of authority.

    What are my boundaries, since as a single man, I have no spiritual authority over any woman?
  2. calgal

    calgal Puritan Board Graduate

    Not to be rude but are you their pastor or an elder? If not, why do you feel it is necessary for you to correct their theology? If you feel she has an aberrant theological view in your opinion, would not the correct course of action be to discuss this with your elder?
  3. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    It's good to carefully consider everything Scripture says.

    My understanding would be you engage someone (man or woman) God brings to you with any erroneous belief. God ordains the circumstances, and He is responsible for the results.

    Ask God for courage, and grace to do so cheerfully, and out of love for Him and concern for the person.

    The other day a young lady was in line getting a grocery cart outside at a grocery store. She asked me for help pulling out the cart and took the Lord's Name in vain. I helped her, smiled, looked at her and said, "Now let's not blame God," and gave a short explanation. This person was very likely not married, but one could not know positively- I don't think it matters.

    The world through pop culture, news media, and personal contacts to "instruct" people in falsehood and sin regularly so use your life to be faithful to do the opposite. In this way, good overcomes evil. God's Kingdom is advanced.

    Make the most of every opportunity.

  4. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Please read my post again. I tried to make it clear that I am trying to be sensitive to such situations, so I don't inappropriately correct someone when it is not my role. Speaking with an elder is a good idea.

    ---------- Post added at 09:18 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:15 AM ----------

    But surely there is a point where this is inappropriate, right? Am I not stomping on the role of her husband or father?
  5. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    I'm thinking that chance, incidental, occasional encounters are not in any sense authoritative situations (though we know nothing is really "chance," God ordains it).

    If you know them more than that, I would still, engage them to the point God has brought to you. If you know them well enough, you can later speak with someone you also know who might influence or authority over them (parent, Pastor, husband, etc.).
  6. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    I understand the hesitance and the need for wisdom and caution: but I would be equally hesitant to assume that women must stay in theological error unless their husband or father corrects them -- this seems to make their husband or father almost a mediator between them and Christ, who is truth. Would you never witness to a woman whose husband didn't approve of her hearing the gospel? Our model of submission is always 'as to the Lord' for each of us, directly?

    I have understood that the verse is in the context of the public worship of the church -- then the ramifications it has in male/female conversations in the rest of life are not necessarily the same as the order that is enjoined on us in the assemblies?

    I think we can treat one another as brothers and sisters when we discuss spiritual things in a context like this, always preserving respect for one another's created place, because family is what we are, in reality. The blood relations we have are an illustration of our blood relation in Christ.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
  7. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    There are all sorts of places in the Bible where non related women are corrected. Christ and the woman at the well, woman taken in adultery, Paul telling two women to stop with their mouths just to name a few. And the reverse as well, when a non related man praises a woman.

    The harder question come up when interfering in a family problem.
  8. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Does 1 Cor. 14:35 refer to a situation in which a woman has a question about some teaching during public worship? That is what I was thinking. If it does, then I see this as relating to my question. Perhaps I need to do further exegesis on this passage, but it would seem to suggest to me that the wife would go to her husband first if she has a question/problem.
  9. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Tim I wonder about this a lot too: I'm very blessed to have a husband who is almost always right :). But at least as far as outlining the boundaries in which my own confusion lies, I don't think Scripture, as the other Tim pointed out, presents a model for us where women are kept in theological subjection to one man? Our allegiance is also primarily to Christ, and to His doctrine.
  10. ubermadchen

    ubermadchen Puritanboard <strong>Outlaw</strong>

    Looking at the context of the passage, it seems clear to me that Paul is referring to order in public worship. If we were to take the passage in the context that you seem to be applying it to, it would seem most appropriate for women to keep silent for the rest of their lives and for men to never to speak to any woman who was not his wife, so as to not even be tempted to usurp the authority of the father/husband and accidentally instruct or be instructed. I guess it would make for a more quiet life for everyone!
  11. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    The context here is helpful. It is addressing several things, including a disorderliness in corporate worship, and particular form and authority relationships.

    The immediate context would seem to be in the context of corporate worship, and on point to something authoritatively done as part of corporate worship. It would not at all seem to be addressing informal, incidental contacts between people, not even fellowship between believers.

    Contrast this with a general exhortation to speak truthfully in many informal (outside of corporate worship) situations:

  12. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Okay. All this being said, there is still a principle of headship and roles, isn't there? Would it be possible to discuss this further without making use of 1 Cor. 14? I think that we can.
  13. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Patricia, that would probably also have to apply to books?

    (emphasis mine, obviously :)

    That's very helpful to me, thank you. It's not simply a matter of the orderliness with which our public worship is conducted, but the authority with which the speakers etc. are invested in public worship, then? Would you say that a man correcting a woman in regular conversation has that same authority? (or that she is taking the sort of authority involved in public worship on her, if she disagrees with him?)

    (Incidentally, I wanted to add to my comments above that I am always nervous discussing this sort of thing lest someone should think that I'm advocating being unsubmissive to one's husband in the name of submitting to Christ -- when submission to Christ teaches us to submit to the authority He has given to us -- or think that I am somehow discontent with Batman's spiritual leadership :), and I would be distressed to give either impression. I don't know what I would do without my husband's wisdom in helping me daily to understand and apply things which would I would otherwise probably have wrested to my own destruction long ago. I'm also so very grateful for my brothers, and have reflected on the help they have been to my faith and joy many times.)

    [edit: sorry Tim, I didn't see your post above before posting mine. If mine now constitutes a rabbit trail, please feel free to disregard me :)]
  14. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    The Scripture seems to indicate that most Scriptural duties are duties that all believers share. Elders and deacons do not have additional responsibilities, but rather the same responsibilities to a heightened degree.

    The whole church is involved in instruction:
    Romans 15:14 14*ΒΆ I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.

    The whole church is involved in discipleship, both negative and positive aspects:
    1 Thessalonians 5:14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.

    The whole church is involved in spiritual restoration and strengthening:
    Galatians 6:1-2 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

    Surely, God has ordained church leaders, who have special authority and are accountable to God for how they exercise it. But individual believers ought to be involved in each others' spiritual lives. I think simply looking up all the "one another" passages in the NT (and weeding out the irrelevant ones) would put this question in a broader biblical perspective. Individual believers have a measure of responsibility and ought to take it seriously, even where they do not have an authority position such as father, husband, or elder. Think of it this way. If even your pastor or father were sinning grievously or holding to a dangerous doctrinal error, wouldn't you have an obligation to share your concerns and make the best case you can from the Bible?
  15. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    Tim, your desire to make sure you aren't acting out-of-place as an authority in a woman's life is very commendable. More men should be this concerned.

    But Heidi and Scott are right when they say (as I read them) that casual discussions of theology between two believers don't generally carry that kind of authority. It's more of an "iron sharpens iron" situation. We can learn from each other and encourage each other, sometimes including gentle confrontation, without taking a position of authority over each other.

    It takes wisdom to see when we may be usurping a husband's or father's voice in a woman's life, at which time he should be brought into the conversation. And if a situation requires church discipline, this should also go through the proper authorities. But not all theological or life-issue discussions reach this level.

    Regarding headship in general, we all have those in authority over us to whom we must listen. A woman has her husband or father, the elders and Christ. But this does not mean she can't also learn (in a less authoritative way) from the rest of the church body, nor that they can't learn in the same non-authoritative way from her. In fact, much of what we do on this board is exactly that.

    Now if you got some male blowhard who thinks he gets to instruct all women just because he's a man and they aren't, well that would be wrong. But it doesn't sound like you're in danger of becoming that guy.
  16. TexanRose

    TexanRose Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think it really depends on the context--are you talking about a mere acquaintance, or a good friend with whom you communicate on a regular basis?

    I don't think that it would be right to let an egregious error stand uncorrected in the context of a conversation with a friend. Keeping silence might imply agreement. However, depending on the circumstances, it might be best just to say something like "Hmmm, I would disagree with you on point X," and leave it at that. Perhaps she would ask you to clarify, or perhaps she would choose to ask her husband/father/pastor about the topic on her own, depending on the nature of your relationship.

    I would hope that if I were to say something erroneous during a conversation, someone would be kind enough to point out my error immediately, providing they could do it tactfully. Perhaps if *everyone* were there listening, I would prefer to be pulled aside. But my situation is a bit different; perhaps if I were married, I would see things differently.
  17. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    Jack then it is no more of an issue really in normal conversation for a man to disagree with a woman, than for another woman to do so? (precisely because a woman is to submit to her own husband, and not to every man? -- in other words, proper submission to legitimate authority actually makes it possible to discuss things more conversationally and freely with other people?)
  18. Pilgrim72

    Pilgrim72 Puritan Board Junior

    I'm not sure why this is even an issue. What kind of correcting do you mean?

    If it's something she said, I wouldn't hesitate to speak my view on the subject. It wouldn't matter to me if the person was a man or woman. It's just conversation, right?
  19. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Professor

    That sounds about right to me. I like your observation that this actually makes us more free.

    Some qualifications: I'd say I'm probably more careful in discussions with women than with fellow men. I do believe there's a place for general chivalry, all men toward all women. I wouldn't want to speak into the life of a Christian brother's wife or daughter in a way that would be interfering. I do think our God-given masculinity and femininity will and should come out in normal conversation. And I think our abuse of gender roles has created hurts we need to be sensitive to.

    But generally, if we're sensitive and respectful, Christian men and women ought to be able to encourage and correct each other outside of authoritative relationships.
  20. a mere housewife

    a mere housewife Not your cup of tea

    I agree with your qualifications: and in the same way I think women should behave with courtesy to men.

    I was thinking how typical of my experience on the board it is, that men here have enough chivalry to be protective of women in areas where they must submit to their husbands -- that there would even be this sort of concern. I don't think it's a non-question, personally, and think it's an evidence of how kind the men here want to be. We've had somewhat similar questions in the tea parlor about how much a woman is allowed to say to a man when she disagrees, without crossing a line into perhaps speaking ungraciously or assuming authority she doesn't possess etc.
  21. calgal

    calgal Puritan Board Graduate

    In conversation (not small group, bible class or any formal setting) I can't see the need to correct or instruct a man or woman. Asking someone what they mean might help avoid misunderstandings in this setting. Scott gave a great example that does not cause contention or insult either party.
  22. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Most serious conversations involve some sharing of information, and some exchange of ideas. So if, in ordinary serious conversation, someone says, "With all my trials lately I feel that God is mad at me", you might think of it as encouragement rather than correction if the interlocutor replied that Proverbs 3 and Hebrews 12 teach us to regard discipline as a proof of God's love; but whatever you choose to call it, a wrong idea was corrected. If that sort of thing can't be done in ordinary serious conversation, then there's not much point to it.
  23. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Gail, you give a good suggestion to ask for clarification first. In my experience, this can often resolve issues cleanly.

    But, haven't you ever been talking with someone and you start to see that there is a major flaw in their theology that led them to say something that is incorrect? Doesn't this bother you, and make you wonder what good you can do in this situation to help a fellow believer? I am not talking about a haughty sense that one is always correct, but rather a humble desire to make the truth of the Bible known for the spiritual benefit of others?

    ---------- Post added at 04:11 AM ---------- Previous post was at 04:08 AM ----------

    I think what you may be leading to is that there is ordinary conversation that is appropriate for all sorts of people, and there is conversation of such depth and fundamentals that it is not appropriate for just anyone to do the correcting. Is this at all what you mean?

    ---------- Post added at 04:14 AM ---------- Previous post was at 04:11 AM ----------

    I guess an example could be if someone has a flawed view of baptism, and you think that this is because of a flawed view of the covenant(s), and that this is because of a flawed view of ____.... In this case it would be inappropriate for me to attempt to overhaul someone's theology, especially if she is a married woman who is submitting to the spiritual leadership of her husband.
  24. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    No, what I mean is that ordinary serious conversation is immensely hampered if there can be no correction or instruction. Because since a serious (as opposed to a lighthearted) conversation involves communicating information and airing ideas, there are only a few cases where it's going to involve no one in any kind of correction, whether with regard to the facts or to the theory. If I feel that I can't instruct or correct, or that I can't bear being instructed or corrected, by ordinary people, the only conversations left open to me are lighthearted, because I can only talk seriously with my authorities.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2012
  25. Bern

    Bern Puritan Board Freshman

    I think there's a difference between "correcting" a serious error (especially if the woman is married) and just presenting a different view of a subject you think the woman is wrong about. If you think someone is wrong about an issue, I don't see how it can be a bad thing to present them with another viewpoint. If you really wanted to press the issue because of its serious nature, then you'd approach the husband and /or elders.
  26. Montanablue

    Montanablue Puritan Board Doctor

    I agree. When I read the op, I assumed Tim was talking about a serious and formal correction - not just bringing up a different viewpoint in a conversation. A "formal" correction should only be done by elders, but I any type of serious discussion, as Ruben notes, is going to involve the discussion of differing views.
  27. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    I would think of it this way: as a Christian, how much do I have to hate someone to not tell them the truth when given the opportunity? Man woman, or child, it makes no difference. Especially if they are of a different church, where the truth will not be found from elders or pastors.
  28. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    I am not so much talking about an unbelieving woman, but rather 'in house' issues. For example, I go to a Baptist church, but am Presbyterian. There is a woman who goes there who grew up liberal/non-believing/paedobaptist. When she got married, she submitted to her husband and adopted Baptist beliefs. I suspect that she doesn't understand that there are Bible-believing paedobaptists. Issues of 'me vs. the Baptist elders' aside, would it be proper for me to challenge this woman in her baptism beliefs? I don't think so because I would then be undermining her husband's leadership.

    Perhaps I should have used this example in my original post.
  29. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    The situation you describe here, a woman in your church, whose husband you have reason to believe is broadly evangelical, the wife likely outwardly compliant broadly evangelical.

    I would simply use "chance" or incidental encounters where God presents opportunity to engage to do so. I don't see this as being "authoritative" (in a sense that violates the husbands headship of his family, nor the church officers appointment of authority).

    So, if you are in situation where this person says something in front of you like,

    Broadly evangelical assumption: "More and more people are finally seeing that they can't live their lives without God's help," ... use it as an opportunity to engage that.

    Reformed response: Discuss scripture tells us, people do not, in their fallen state seek God- their sin blinds them to that... it's only when God intervenes in the life of someone not seeking Him that a person is saved... and then they persevere until the end because God did it, not their decision, etc.

    Be faithful in these kind of encounters every day, praying God will use you, and trusting Him for the results.

    Who knows, maybe they will go home and have a good discussion with their husband or God will send along someone to re-reinforce the truth, or deal with their pride, etc.
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