Should a woman head the government?


I've perused your answered question section, and though this "Does I Timothy 2:11-12 only apply to the assembly?" answer touches on the subject somewhat, it doesn't specifically address a question I have.

What do you think the Bible's teaching is on whether women can participate in government? With figures like Mrs. Bill Clinton and Sarah Palin recently all over the news, I find more reason to consider the question than I have in the past.

I know some Christians will argue that women cannot ever have authority over men and thus that having women in government at all is wrong.

Thanks for your thoughts.


I'm more surprised that this hasn't been debated heavily in the past. After all there have been numerous women serving as councilwomen, mayors, representatives, governors, and senators. The current speaker of the house and several on our supreme court are women. In England one of the more famous prime ministers was Margaret Thatcher and in older days that country had been ruled numerous times by women. I can't begin to list the number of countries around the world who are or have been ruled by a woman. What I'm saying is that I get suspicious when the issue is just now brought up and I can't help noticing that those raising the issue tend to be people on the opposite side of the political spectrum of the woman being talked about.

Issues like this ought to have been considered and debated when there isn't anyone in particular in mind. At least then you would get a more objective discussion.

"Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. But I don't permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness" (II Timothy 2:11-12).

The topics prior is that of prayer (II Timothy 2:1-2), conversion (II Timothy 2:3-7), men praying (II Timothy 2:8), and women dressing modestly and adorning themselves with good works (II Timothy 2:9-10). So my first question is what topic or topics is a woman learning in II Timothy 2:11?

From several passages, it is clear that God is concerned that women present themselves in a quiet manner. It is commanded of women in their dealings with their husbands (Ephesians 5:22-24; Colossians 3:18; I Peter 3:1-6). But it is also to be a general display (I Corinthians 11:1-16). So while quietness is to character of Christian women, I don't think Paul was particularly concerned about topics such as applied mathematics. In the worship service a stronger restriction is placed on women: "Let your wives keep silent in the assemblies, for it has not been permitted for them to speak; but let them be in subjection, as the law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to chatter in the assembly" (I Corinthians 14:34-35). Notice that learning is also mentioned in this passage. The context here demands we are discussing religious learning. While II Timothy 2:10 isn't as tightly bound by the context, it seems clear to me that Paul is also discussing religious learning.

If we accept that then the teaching is also one of religious teaching and not necessarily the teaching of English on a college campus. Proper decorum should always be kept but in religious matters, a woman is not to teach a man because it places her in the wrong role. Even here we understand that Paul isn't forbidden women to help teach non-Christians since Priscilla, along with her husband Aquila, taught Apollos in a private setting (Acts 18:26).

Paul also forbade women from other forms of domination or positions of authority. Teaching is one, but there can be other ways a woman could exert authority over men.

The fact that teaching is the primary example, again leads me to see this in the setting of religion and not the secular world. If I were to list secular ways a women could dominate, I would proceed to list running a government or a business.

Within the church there several jobs which carry measures of authority with them: preachers, elders, deacons, and teachers. Holding a position of teacher over men is ruled out by the first phrase and the other positions are ruled out by the second phrase. Again, it is not all positions of authority, but those placing woman over men. We recall "I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also" (Romans 16:1-2). Phoebe clearly was doing work for the church and Paul expected the brethren to help her in her business while in Roman; many writers believe Phoebe is the one who carried Paul's letter to Rome. Obviously some authority is implied in her work. Also we must consider that some women were prophetesses (Acts 21:9). That implies they taught, though who they taught is not stated. Still, being a prophetess for God would carry some measure of authority.

It appears to me that in our zeal to follow God's commands we sometimes make God's commands more narrow than God stated. Some state that a woman cannot have any authority over any man, but then they run into problems explaining how the prophetess Deborah could be called a judge of Israel. Though she did not lead Israel's army, it is clear she held authority. "Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment" (Judges 4:4-5). A woman cannot give rulings without people accepting her authority.

Some try to ignore this seeming anomaly by claiming that there were no capable men at this time, so God chose the next best. While Barak does demonstrate a lack of confidence, his lack does not prove all Israelite men at this time were similarly lacking. The conclusion is not a necessary inference and is more a judgment based on a lack of information. In other words, it is pure guess work.

Another argument is that all of Israel's queens were evil. Actually there was only one woman who ruled without a king. I will grant you that Athaliah, who is never called by the title queen, was a very evil creature (II Kings 11). Yet there are numerous kings whose record matches her own in evil. Jezebeel is often cited, but she did not rule on her own, but under her husband Ahab and later as queen mother. She too was wicked, but there are numerous other queens and queen mothers who appear to be good: Abigal, Bathsheba, and the Shulamith are three who come to mind. Plus there are queens in other countries who are mentioned favorably: The queen of Sheba, Queen Vashti who refused to be degraded, and Queen Esther who was herself an Israelite. Again, just because one woman grabbed power for a short while, it doesn't prove that all women rulers are bad. By selecting only the bad examples and ignoring the good examples, it demonstrates a bias in the attempted proof.

In a long winded way, I end up with no solid evidence that God has forbidden a woman from ruling in the secular world. If a woman ends up ruling in the United States, it will be by God's decree anyway. "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves" (Romans 13:1-2). While we as citizens have the privilege of voting for who we desire for our leaders, the result ultimately remains as God's choice. Sometimes God puts into power poor leaders and other times great leaders, but always the world leadership is manipulated to accomplish God's will.