Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Matter of Opinion?

Have you ever been in a discussion about a particular teaching of the New Testament and heard someone say, “Well that was just Paul’s opinion”? I have heard people say this with regard to homosexuality. And the qualifications for elders. But most often it is used as an attempt to refute the biblical teaching about the role of women in the church, particularly 1 Timothy 2:12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” There is similar teaching in 1 Corinthians 14.

Ignoring a biblical command due to the belief that it is merely “Paul’s opinion” is fraught with theological pitfalls. It seriously challenges the doctrines of inspiration and apostolic authority. It puts one on a slippery slope toward biblical irrelevance. If a doctrine can be ignored and written off as someone’s opinion , then almost nothing is off-limits (except perhaps the red-letter words of Jesus).

The Holy Spirit anticipated the “matter of opinion” issue. In 1 Corinthians 14:37 (in the context of women being silent in the churches), Paul writes, “If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command.” In other words, he is saying “This is NOT merely my opinion.”

However, for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that the teaching in 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Corinthians 14 is simply Paul’s opinion. The opinion of the apostle Paul should carry much weight with those who want to follow the Lord. We are talking about a man who was perhaps the godliest person to ever walk the earth (next to Jesus). He was someone who preached the gospel, healed the sick, raised the dead, and penned two-thirds of the New Testament. He was imprisoned for his faith; stoned, beaten, shipwrecked, and left for dead. Isn’t his opinion something that should have great influence over us?

The person who says, “That was just Paul’s opinion” wants me to reject what Paul says and listen to what she says. As former President Bush used to say: "Not gonna do it!"


Anonymous said...

Actually the "red letters" are opinion as well. Or at least the opinions of the evangelists (source: Jesus Seminar)

Anonymous said...

But what if it isn't the opinion of Paul, and in fact, are not even the words of Paul--that is, that the verses were an interpolation from a later time (1 Cor. 14.34-35). Can we then debate the issue?

Soren said...

Can we debate the Pauline authorship of 1 Corinthians and the Pastoral Epistles? Many have done so already. Most good commentaries deal with it.

David H. Willis said...

The "Paul's opinion" nonsense drives me crazy! It's funny how some of these same people welcome "Paul's opinion" when it's compatible with what they already want to believe.

Wendy said...

Mike, I believe that women can teach and speak in the assembly. I do not "get around" the Scriptures you have posted by calling them Paul's opinion but by considering the context in which they were written. Royce Ogle says it better than I could: