I’ve appreciated reading everyone’s answers to the questions from the last post. In this post, I’ll attempt to answer my first question, which I think is the most important one.
Q - Do you think Titus 2 gives us a MODEL and a CURRICULUM for women's ministry, or just a MODEL, or something else or maybe neither?
I think Titus 2 certainly confirms for us the natural model of older women teaching younger women. I don’t think Paul’s original readers would have found this to be a revolutionary idea. And it really isn’t revolutionary to us either. All of us have picked stuff up from older generations. For better or for worse, much of how I operate as a wife and mother has come from watching my own mother in action. Everyday, without even meaning to, I copy her. I just do what she did.
I don’t think that Paul’s big point here is that older women should teach younger women. I think Paul’s point is that they should teach them what is good. The older women are to be reverent in their behaviour, not malicious gossips and not enslaved to wine so that what they teach the younger generation will be good, not bad. Their good example will encourage the younger women to live God honouring lives.
I think example is the key idea here. Why? Look down to verse 7. Titus is to urge the young men to be sensible by setting the example.
“6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified...”
The word ‘example’ doesn’t appear in the older/younger women section, but looking at the NASB (I’m no greek scholar!) it seems that the strongest verb in vs 3 is ‘be’ not ‘teach’.
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good...
What the older women ARE will teach the younger women. So there is an model in view here, but the model is that of older women teaching the younger women what is good by setting a good example.
But do these verses offer us a ‘curriculum’ for women’s ministry? I don’t think so. Three reasons.
1. I don’t think that Paul has any up-front formal teaching role for women in mind here. I think it’s much more organic than that. Older people will always set an example to younger people. The older women are to make sure that in the way they live, the younger women are encouraged to live out their faith well.
Also, did you notice that older women are to encourage younger women to ‘be subject to THEIR OWN husbands’? Why is the phrase ‘their own’ included? I wonder if it is because of the Cretan situation where false teachers are upsetting whole households (see 1:11). How does one upset a ‘whole household’ except by driving a wedge between husband and wife? Is this like the situation of the weak willed women in 2 Tim 3?
“For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses.”
Instead of doing what these false teachers say, women are to be subject to ‘their own’ husbands. They are to listen to their own husbands. Not to someone else’s. This explanation is a little tenuous but I think we should think more about the inclusion of the words ‘their own’. I suspect that Paul is thinking a little differently to Eph 5 and Col 3 here.
3. Seeing these verses as a prescriptive curriculum is dangerous. The inherent danger in seeing these verses as a curriculum is that we rip them out of the context of Titus causing us to wrongly apply them.
I think, for example, Titus 2:5 does not justify a 12 week course on how to be a ‘worker at home’. I don’t think that any theology of stay-at-home mumdom should be developed from here. I suspect that the ‘at home’ bit is in contrast to being malicious gossips going around to other people’s homes making trouble.
As soon as we start thinking ‘curriculum’ we tend to stop thinking careful exegesis. We make jumps from the bible to the latest christian how-to book. There is a danger of reading far too much into each phrase (particularly in the name of developing a theology of ‘biblical womanhood’). We need to apply these words, but the best (and most cutting) application will come when we look very carefully at the original context, see how it would have cut in that context, and only then think about our own context.
That’s probably enough for now. To summarize:
The model is that of older women teaching the younger women what is good by setting a good example.
It’s not helpful to see this as a prescriptive list of what older women are to teach the younger women because Paul has in mind primarily leading by example and because these things are more situational than they might initially appear and so we need to apply them with caution.