One woman was married at age 18 to a 28 year old man that she hardly knew, and she had no interest in marrying him. It was a marriage arranged by her dad, and she thought women are easily deceived, while the man of the house is the one who hears from God.
It turned out to be an abusive marriage in which her husband used her for his own pleasure without caring for her. She stayed for years, believing it was the right thing to do, but eventually the abuse took a toll on her health, and she had physical symptoms of trauma, so she left. Seeing the outcome, it looks like her dad was mistaken and had not truly heard from God.
Interpreting 1 Timothy 2:14
Although I am a complementarian, I believe that women are not necessarily more deceived than men, as long as we follow the Holy Spirit rather than emotions and feelings. We may be more vulnerable to deception, but there is a way out, as we choose not to rely on ourselves, but take everything to God in prayer. We have equal potential for knowing Jesus and discerning truth as we depend on His wisdom.
The concept of women being easily deceived is an interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:14: “the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”
This verse had me stumped, because I see men with every type of belief within and outside of Christianity, sometimes changing their minds. Women would have to simply follow the views of the men they are closest to. That would mean whenever a man changes his mind, she has to change her mind, too– and what if it’s heresy?
In Timothy’s experience, his mother and grandmother were the ones to lead him to the truth.
If we are easily deceived, and we are entrusted with teaching other women (Titus 2), we would be the blind leading the blind.
So I asked my husband about this, explaining the problems, and he said, “Where does it say women are easily deceived?” He explained that Eve was in the transgression through deception, and because of it, men are in the lead. The lightbulb came on: maybe the two reasons are not Creation and deception, but rather Creation and the result of the Fall.
Thanks to his answer, I see that it may not mean that women are automatically and helplessly stuck in deception, but that women should be submissive per Genesis 3:16. We are under the leadership of our husbands. This does not in any way take away our autonomy or ability to discern truth.
In other words, a woman can be under a pastor’s teaching and not have to believe everything he believes, and she doesn’t have to believe everything her husband believes. She could actually be less deceived than her pastor and her husband (keeping in mind that not all men agree with each other), but that doesn’t mean that she should take the lead. In her personal life, she can follow Jesus.
To go further with my husband’s explanation, and to answer why it would even mention deception at all, it’s because some people may say, “she shouldn’t be accountable, because she was innocent; she couldn’t help it that she was deceived.” Eve wasn’t innocent. Ignorance is not innocence.
There are deceived Hindus, Muslims, and atheists, and they are accountable. They have a choice to seek God for answers.
In the same way, Eve should have sought God. She was not helplessly lost in deception to the point that she had to sin; she could have prayed. God would have given her wisdom (James 1:5).
By thinking we cannot know the same truths as men, it opens the door to women being more gullible and less discerning. We would be “tossed to and fro, carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
It also creates unnecessary inferiority, being dismissed when we study the Bible in the same ways that men study. I frequently come to the same conclusions as men. Often as I listen to preachers (men), I find that they think the same things I’ve been thinking.
We can believe in roles without needing to think that women are deceived. The other way doesn’t make much sense; if a deceived woman teaches non-deceived men, they are going to be okay, because they are supposed to already see the truth. Within that paradigm, the only people that would be deceived are other women, but we are already teaching other women anyway, based on Titus 2.
It is an either/or fallacy to think of spiritual inferiority as the reason for women not teaching, and to think that letting go of that belief means that we must believe in women preaching.
We can still be complementarian without believing that women are more easily deceived. The idea of women’s spiritual inferiority is not essential in order to believe in men’s leadership. Rather, we can simply believe in roles.
Men and women both have access to God–and both can be deceived
Women have access to God, in the same way that men do. Women were the first witnesses of the resurrection, chosen by God.
As part of two ministries that are focused on evangelism, I see men and women equally having questions in their relationship with God. One time a man called, complaining that God was not giving him salvation in answer to prayer. I think we were discussing Romans 10:13, and he answered that God was saving those who were not seeking Him, while He was rejecting those who were seeking Him. I pointed out that the second half of his statement was not true (because of Romans 10:21) but he answered, “Well, Honey, I don’t see it that way.”
It is worth mentioning the story of Lucy Harris who hid 116 pages of Joseph Smith’s manuscript, knowing it was false. She was not deceived.
Sometimes women leave Christianity — and regardless of our doctrinal views on whether they were saved in the first place, the principle is that men and women can both be deceived. I heard of a woman who left Christianity and became involved in Buddhism. Her husband wondered if he should use his spiritual authority over her.
The problem is that for every woman who departs from Christianity, there seems to be another man departing as well. Sometimes men think they are saved, and end up turning to other religions or atheism. Most atheists are men (68%). Bart Ehrman became an agnostic, while his wife did not.
So considering these reasons, the idea of depending on men for spiritual beliefs is a faulty foundation. If a woman marries a man who is a professing Christian, but then he wants to become a Mormon, is she meant to follow him?
Yet we see in the Bible that women had their own relationship with God.
I do believe that men are meant to lead spiritually. In my own life, I frequently tell my husband about problems I’m dealing with, not simply to be heard, but also for answers. One example is when I struggle to see the positive in situations, and ask for his counsel. To me, finding solutions to problems from a Biblical perspective is the best part of a husband’s leadership.
Ephesians 5:26 speaks of Jesus cleansing the church by “washing of water by the Word.”
It may possibly mean rebuke, as I heard from one man, but it may not mean that. Colossians 3:16 shows another way: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”
This happens to be only two verses before instructions for marriage.
That is very much like John 15:3: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” That ties in perfectly with “washing of water by the Word.” We are clean by the words that Jesus spoke.
In the same way, a husband can lead his wife through speaking truth, especially in the times when she most needs guidance and support.
In John 9, Jesus healed a blind man. The blind man testified to the Pharisees. Then the conversation turned to spiritual blindness:
39 And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.
40 And some of the Pharisees which were with him heard these words, and said unto him, Are we blind also?
41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.
Jesus was not making people physically blind, but He was giving spiritual blindness to those who were proud, as we also see in the second half of John 12. Their problem was that they claimed “We see.”
Revelation 3:17–18 is similar. The nominal church-goers were claiming to be rich, while Jesus saw them as poor, and to get their sight from Him. To be poor in spirit is to acknowledge that we are not wise, and to be completely dependent on Jesus.
What did Eve do wrong? She didn’t wait on God’s timing for the knowledge of good and evil, and she didn’t go to Him for wisdom for what to do in her moment of temptation. As her Creator, the one who gave her life, He was trustworthy, yet she relied on her own wisdom instead.
That is a warning for men and women alike.
Proverbs 3:7 and Romans 12:16 warn against being wise in our own eyes.
Maybe there is some truth to the concept of women being more vulnerable, but it is not a helpless state. To be childlike toward God is an advantage.
There is a saying that children believe whatever they are told. However, it does not mean they are hopeless. From a young age, children can begin the habit of praying “is this true?” They can learn not to lean on their own understanding but to seek Him. I heard a story of a young boy in a Muslim family who felt Islam was wrong. Even a child is not far from the truth and can learn to seek God.
As women, maybe we are vulnerable, or maybe not. If it is true, we are not hopelessly prone to deception. We still have a moral choice and the same potential to seek Jesus. All of us, men and women alike, should come to Jesus humbly, acknowledging that we know nothing by ourselves. We have to depend on Him for discernment and knowledge, and He will guard our hearts.