A friend of mine alluded to a famous quotation in the comments section of the last post. The quote runs like this, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”
Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” (1 Tim 2:12).
Some people and churches have decided that as long as women are under the authority of the senior pastor, if they have the blessing of their husbands, they can teach men. They then say that since this isn’t the deity of Christ, we can agree to disagree on this issue and allow for liberty.
I think this is a misappropriation of this famous quotation. Sometimes showing charity—which has to be defined as Christian love not just being nice—means that we “hold firmly to the trustworthy word as taught, giving instruction in sound doctrine and refuting those who contradict” (Tit 1:9). Sometimes this is the most loving thing for us to do. I think this is one of those times.
Jesus said, “whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:19). Paul said that elders (pastors) must “hold firmly to the trustworthy word as taught” (Tit 1:9).
Would Jesus consider an explicit biblical prohibition a “non-essential”? If Paul saw people doing exactly what he told them not to do, would he say it was “non-essential”?
It seems to me that this wise statement about showing liberty in “non-essentials” was never meant to be applied to things that the Bible explicitly commands or forbids. Note that there is a command in 1 Tim 2:11. The statement “let a woman learn in quietness and full submission” is an imperative. This is immediately followed in verse 12 by the words, “But I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.” Paul is saying women can learn but they can not teach men.
The “non-essentials” on which we should show unity are all the things on which the Bible does not give explicit commands.
I want to believe everything the Bible teaches, do everything the Bible says to do, and to the best of my ability by the power of the Spirit, I want to avoid doing things the Bible says not to do.
It seems to me that calling an explicit biblical prohibition (like 1 Timothy 2:12) a non-essential comes close to subjecting the Bible to the authority of the interpreter rather than the interpreter subjecting him or herself to the authority of the Bible.
The authority of the Bible is not a non-essential.