Wednesday, October 31, 2007
1 Timothy 2:9-15
1 Peter 3:5
These verses above are generally the most referenced passages involving gender roles in the church. Feel free to add passages that you think are relevant.
For some of us, the issue of gender roles involves studying Greek, which is often helpful and sheds light on many things we don't understand. Some of us do intense word studies, cultural studies, even study the theological impetus for the gender debate in order to find out what the Bible teaches. In my own experience, the question that is often missed is "why?" Why do we study a passage and debate over its meaning without pausing to ask why it's even there? While not the magic key to understanding all, finding out why the Bible says what it says certainly should be a part of the discussion.
I'll take the more controversial passages and add a why: 1 Tim. 2:12-15 (actually just the second half of the passage)
Why were women not allowed to teach or have authority? Why must they be silent? I go with Bilizikien on this one when he offers that the prohibition was situational, which seems to make sense. The text strongly indicates that women were disrupting church/Sabbath with their uneducated insights and perhaps claiming special knowledge from God. Why would you want uneducated and inexperienced women teach and preach what they do not know fully? Such women should be silent. Vs. 13 is sticky, I'll admit. But if you look at it in light of the fact that the first limitation and revelation was given to Adam, who was then should have protected Eve from deception with that revelation, then women have no business citing special knowledge from God that contradicts what God has already revealed.
This is just one way of looking at it. So, what's your why?
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
This summary does not include complementarian beliefs about the different roles men and women have in the church. These beliefs can be summarized, I believe, with the following statement:
The first two chapters provide a description and positive case for the Complementarian view. Following that foundation, Grudem analyzes Egalitarian arguments and objections through eleven chapters, with a concluding chapter summarizing the current controversy in evangelical circles. The following is a summary of chapter 1: A Biblical Vision of Manhood and Womanhood as Created by God, which explains six key issues revolving around creation and marriage.
Key Issue #1: Men and Women Are Equal in Value and Dignity
All discussions of gender should start here since this is where the Bible starts (Gen 1:27)
Key Issue #2: Men and Women Have Different Roles in Marriage as Part of the Created Order
Grudem puts forward ten arguments from Scripture (some stronger than others) that there was male headship prior to the Fall; thus distinct roles from creation.
- “The order: Adam was created first, then Eve (note the sequence in Genesis 2:7 and Genesis 2:18-23).” (p30) Paul saw this as important- 1 Timothy 2:12-13.
- “The representation: Adam, not Eve, had a special role in representing the human race.” Eve sinned first, but Scripture says we fell in Adam- 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45-49)
- “The naming of the woman: When God made the first woman and ‘brought her to the man,’” (31) Adam named her- Genesis 2:23. Naming is a function of authority- See God’s naming creation Genesis 1:5-2:20.
- “The naming of the human race: God named the human race ‘Man,’ not ‘Woman.’ (34)- Genesis 5:1-2 “Does this make any difference? It does give a hint of male leadership, which God suggested in choosing this name. It is significant that God did call the human race ‘Woman.’” (35)
- “The primary accountability: God spoke to Adam first after the Fall…. It indicated a primary responsibility for Adam in the conduct of his family.” (36) Genesis 3:9
- “The purpose: Eve was created as a helper for Adam, not Adam as a helper for Eve.” (36) She was Adam’s helper by virtue of creation, not in certain situations, but in a normative sense. Genesis 2:18, 1 Corinthians 11:9
- “The conflict: The curse brought a distortion of roles, not the new introduction of roles.” (37) Genesis 3:16 is not how the roles ought to be, but is how the created roles were distorted.
- “The restoration: When we come to the New Testament, salvation in Christ reaffirms the creation order.” (40) In Christ the curse is reversed and the created roles are restored- Colossians 3:18-19.
- “The mystery: Marriage from the beginning of Creation was a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church.” (41) Paul makes this point in Ephesians 5:31-32, and it is applied in 5:23.
- “The parallel with the Trinity: The equality, differences, and unity between men and women reflect the quality, differences, and unity in the Trinity.” (42) See issue #3 below.
This Biblical model can only be worked out when husband and wife each avoid errors of distortion in either being too passive or too aggressive with their roles. Apart from headship, the man’s responsibility is to provide for and protect his family. Apart from support, the woman’s responsibility is to care for the home and nurture the children.
Key Issue #3: The Equality and Differences Between Men and Women Reflect the Equality and Differences in the Trinity
See 1 Corinthians 11:3, “’head’ refers to one who is in a position of authority over the other, as this Greek word (kephale) uniformly does whenever it is used in ancient literature to say that one person is ‘head of’ another person or group.” (45-46) So the principle of headship and authority did not begin with the advent of theology, but is rooted in the eternal relationship between the persons of the Trinity. Contra culture, authority can be (and is in this case) a good thing.
Key Issue #4: The Equality and Differences Between Men and Women are Very Good
Since the equality and differences are part of the created order, God’s judgment that it is very good applies (Genesis 1:31) This order is fair because God it is God’s decision, not that of sinful man. Because God is all-wise, this order is also the best for us.
Key Issue #5: This is a Matter of Obedience to the Bible
“I think… God has allowed this controversy into the church to test our hearts. Will we be faithful to Him and obey His Word or not?” (53)Key Issue #6: This Controversy Is Much Bigger Than We Realize, Because It Touches All of Life
Only men are ordained by God to have authority roles in the church. Women must not function in any role in the church where they would have authority over men or teach men.Feel free to comment in case anything was left off either of these two summaries, or in case anything was worded in a way that does not reflect your understanding of complementarianism.
We've had some helpful posts and good comments. But we have also had many exchanges which have not lived up to the biblical ideal of "speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). I realize that negativity is common in discussions about men's and women's roles. But I really want to believe that it is possible to rise above what is common and have more respectful exchanges. If we listen better to each other, respect each other more, we can, at minimum, learn what each person believes and what they base their beliefs on. I have found that when I understand what another person believes and why they believe it, I often have more respect for that person, even if I still disagree with their conclusions.
One of the reasons I thought of starting a blog like this is that some other blogs that post on these topics do not allow any comments. I do not consider speculating about motives to advance dialog, so I won't speculate about why they do not allow comments.
I believe we should take the risk of having comments. We really can learn from each other. We may not convince each other but we can grow as people, yes, as Christians, in the process even if we do not convince someone to believe as we do.
Another technique used on some blogs is to moderate all comments. We could do that here, as well. Comment moderation slows down dialog, but it does raise the level of discourse if no comments are approved which are not respectful or kind. Comment moderation requires that one of the blog administrators be available to approve comments. When administrators are gone to meetings or on trips, comments do not get approved quickly unless the number of administrators is increased.
So far, egalitarians seem to outnumber complementarians on this blog. As I noted in a comment, I have tried hard to balance things out by recruiting bloggers from both sides of the debate. I do not know why our complementarian bloggers have not written much lately. I do know that two of them, at least, have been, or are about to be, involved in conferences, so that would keep them from blogging. I hope that they can return energized and ready to post from their point of view.
Growing pains are inevitable, especially when something is new such as this blog. It takes time to increase the number of visitors. It takes time for self-moderation, group moderation, or administrative moderation to bring an atmosphere to a blog where those who are not posting feel safe to comment without fear of being put down.
- How we can improve the level of exchanges on this blog?
- What communication techniques have you noticed that help improve dialog?
- Would you all prefer that we go to comment moderation?
Sunday, October 28, 2007
In this post, Mike mentions that one commenter responded to the phrase "equal but different" with this remark. (see the World on the Web, comment #2) The entire comment thread is fascinating.
- “Separate but equal” is a colloquial phrase ridiculed for good reason. I am, personally, baffled by the idea of a Christian woman (or a woman engaging any of the three great monotheisms).
Why embrace a theology (or any other set of ideas) that makes a nonsensical claim to one’s perpetual second-class nature?
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Basically, I tried to look at the big picture and not get too bogged down in the minute details, while at the same time addressing the key passages used by both sides of the comp/egal debate. As I say in the article, books have already been written about those details, and I just wanted to summarize my overall view.
The Genesis creation account never says the woman was created to serve and obey the man. When God formed the woman out of the man, the man did not see her as his subordinate. No, the man identified the woman as one who was like him—in contrast to the animals, over which woman and man had joint authority. Yes, the woman is a help (Hebrew: ezer) to the man, but God is also an ezer to humans; yet God is not subordinate to humans!HT: Mike Aubrey
The idea that God created the woman to serve the man and the man to have decision-making authority over the woman logically entails that women are not equal but are necessarily and intrinsically inferior to men (see Discovering Biblical Equality, chapter 18).
“Equal but different” makes a good slogan, but it doesn’t make good sense.
Friday, October 26, 2007
What on earth would that have to do with how we conduct ourselves in a sinful and imperfect world, where Adam doesn't have the remotest idea what the other person wants, and Eve doesn't either.
Here is Francis Schaeffer on living with sinful reality.
- Equally as Christians, sin in our lives is also a serious business. We are never merely to explain it away in ourselves, in our group, or in our family.
On the other hand, knowing that all men are sinners frees us from the cruelty of utopianism. Utopianism is cruel, for it expects of men and women what they are not and will not be until Christ comes. Such utopianism, forgetting what the Bible says about human sinfulness, is hard-hearted; it is as monstrous a thing as one can imagine.
The Christian understanding of men is not just theoretical. Christians should also be able to show more understanding to men than can either the cynic or romantic. We should not be surprised when a man demonstrates he is a sinner because, after all, we know that all men are sinners. When someone sits down to talk with me, I should convey to him (even if I do not express it in words) the attitude that he and I are both sinners.
And immediately, when I communicate this perception, a door swings open for dialogue. Nothing will help you as much in meeting people, no matter how far out they are or how caught up they are in the modern awfulness, than for them to perceive in you the attitude "we are both sinners."
Utopianism is terribly cruel because it expects the impossible from people. These expectations are not based on reality. They stand in opposition to the genuine human possibilities afforded by the realism of the Scripture.
Utopianism can cause harm. In the home, in the man-woman relationship, nothing is more cruel than for the wife or husband to build up a false image in his or her mind and then demand that the husband or wife measure up to this false romanticism. Nothing smashes homes more than this. Such behaviour is totally contrary to the Bible's doctrine of sin. Even after redemption, we are not perfect in this present life. It is not that we avoid saying sin is sin, but we must have compassion for each other, too. Francis Schaeffer. No Little People. 2003.
And here's a quote from C. S. Lewis, in an essay on "Equality," written in 1943:
I am a democrat [believer in democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. . . . I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. . . . The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters. ("Equality," in C. S. Lewis: Essay Collection and Other Short Pieces, ed. by Lesley Walmsley [London: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000,] p. 666). Cited by John Piper.Possibly both Schaeffer and Lewis believed in male authority. I really don't know. I do know Schaeffer looked downright spiffy in his Swiss mountain climbing knickers. (That's American for pants that end just below the knees for all you Brits.) I think my only interaction with him was pointing out where the toilets were. I'm not sure. I lived in Switzerland for a year and he came and went from our Bible School every so often. But he didn't expect me to give the bathroom directions in a particular way so as not to compromise his masculinity. (Sorry, I know I am supposed to be good here - but I am a sinner.)
Thursday, October 25, 2007
In order to compile the chart, I will need input from both sides. First, a list of pertinent topics. Then, each side should submit scriptures they consider of primary importance to each topic, and last, briefly explain how the scriptures are to be interpreted.
Something like this:
The idea is to see whether a given side has a consistent approach to scripture, or rather that it has to make exceptions depending upon the topic. So let's have some comments and try to have each side reach a consensus on what accurately represents their view.
- 1. The order of creation is fish, birds, animals, man, woman. Quotes in the NT do not always reflect the semantic content of the OT. See Eph. 4:8.
2. Adam may represent the human race. No one submits to Adam.
3. Hagar names God in Gen. 16. This involves recognizing the qualities of the person.
4. The human race was called Adam which normally means “human”. In Gen 5:2 the word “Man” was not used until 1952. Grudem did not check this point when he said that it was “man” until the 1980’s. It was not.
5. Sapphira was accountable for her own sin.
6. “the fact remains that in any given situation, the person doing the helping necessarily places himself in a subordinate role to the person needing help.”
In fact, the person who assists in the scriptures is the one who is a superior position. That is why it is used of God. That is why the King James said that Phoebe was a succourer of many. To succour means to assist someone in danger out of ones own resources, or from ones own position.
7. “This desire is to interfere with or distort the role of her husband.” The scripture does not say that.
8. There is exactly one time only in the NT when one person is given authority over another. It is completely mutual and reciprocal. This is in 1 Cor. 7. There is no other mention of authority of husband over wife. It does not exist.
9. It is extremely dangerous to equate sinful men with Christ. Women are still abused at the same rate in Christian homes as anywhere else.
10. This goes far beyond what the scriptures say. Adam may be the head of the human race, in that he is the representative progenitor. God is the representative progenitor of Christ and Christ of man.Christ teaches that you should love your next one as yourself. There is no greater law than this.
Ochuk responds at greater length here. I was particularly interested in what he had to say about #4.
- 4) The naming of the human race. It is not at all clear that the Hebrew ‘adam has any “male-oriented aspect” in this context. Certainly, it is used as a name of the first man, but it is being used as a generic which implies no male-orientation. To make such an inference fails to understand the nature of generics. In Numbers 31 we read of the spoils of war brought back by the Israelites were 32,000 women. These women are referred to by the Hebrew generic noun ‘adam no less than six times (28, 30, 34, 40, 46, 47). Therefore, no “male-oriented aspect” should be inferred when ‘adam is used as a generic as it is in Genesis 1.
I also receive email. From someone who wrote to me today.
- If the church has kept women from participating in ministry because of a misunderstanding of Scripture, there is a lot of repentance and change that will need to happen. The most important thing is that everyone involved (male and female) seek to know the truth of the Scriptrures for our life with God.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
the fact that women are to submit to their husbands is not merely the product of the Fall of the human race into sin, but is a product of God’s creation. Even if sin had never entered the world, a wife would still be expected to submit to her husband. Having studied this issue I believe that is a fair statement and wrote this brief article in an attempt to prove my understanding.I have also found it helpful to read through the comments on Tim's post. Some agree with Tim; others do not. Yet all the comments I read seemed respectful of one another.
HT: Gender Blog
Have you ever noticed how much we depend on labels when dealing with differing viewpoints, and how much those labels tend to take on a life of their own? In many cases, we may choose to describe our own position with a label which we see as completely positive and to which no-one could conceivably object. Yet before we know it, that label comes to represent something very different than we intended.
For example, who could object to the term "egalitarian"? It means someone who believes in, favors, and works toward "equality." An egalitarian is one who seeks fairness, who pursues justice for all, and who works toward the common good. Implicit in those ideals are a deep humility and selflessness.
I am sure that those who first used the term "egalitarian" in the context of a debate about gender roles within Christian marriages and Christian churches did so because they thought it sounded relatively innocuous. They wanted to avoid the negative baggage often associated with the "feminist" label and emphasize that their position was more moderate and more positive.
Similarly, those who coined the term "complementarian" were seeking a label which would be entirely positive and which they couldn't imagine anyone objecting to. After all, "complementary" means "to complete and bring to perfection," "to combine in such a way as to emphasize each other's qualities," to be in a state of harmony and mutual fulfillment. The term was no doubt chosen to disassociate from positions of male domination, on the one hand, while emphasizing that the sexes are nevertheless distinct.
Yet as much as we try to come up with innocuous labels to which no one should object, in the process of debate those labels tend to take on more polarized meanings. To many egalitarians, "complementarianism" is merely a whitewashed term for "patriarchy" and "male superiority." To many complementarians, "egalitarianism" is largely synonymous with more radical forms of "feminism." Consequently, each side ends up feeling as if their views are being misrepresented and distorted. Conversely, each side sees the other as representing a slippery slope toward a more nefarious extreme.
So while I think it is helpful to define terms and identify what we mean by the labels we use, it is even more important that we not use those labels as a way to cram our theological opponents into a box, refusing to listen to them carefully because we think we already know where they are coming from. In any theological debate, we must be careful not to devote ourselves to the promotion or demolition of an "-ism." Rather, our goal must always be to develop and communicate a clearer understanding of what the Bible teaches.
Monday, October 22, 2007
These are definitions for egalitarian which I have found on the web and elsewhere, which represent what I believe it means to be egalitarian.
- a society without formalized differences in the access to power, influence, and wealth
- relating to the principle of equal rights and opportunities for all
- a person who believes in the equality of all people
- classless: favoring social equality; "a classless society"
- Egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level) is the moral doctrine that people should be treated as equals, in some respect. Generally it applies to being held equal under the law, the church, and society at large.
- A term referring to societies that do not have a graded order of inequality in ranks, statuses, or decision makers
I would be interested in hearing what it is exactly in egalitarianism that some might disagree with, and then I would be happy if someone would present a definition and examples for complementarianism. Thanks.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
An example of what I mean by "patriarchal" might be how I believed (though not all patriarchalists agree) that women's headcoverings were literal and "for today," a sign of female subjection and "covering" (protection through her male authority). Another example might be how I felt that my purpose for being created as a woman was 100% "to help," which I believed meant to further the vision of men, a husband if one was married, or godly-men-at-large if one was not.
I felt that God created me as an extension of my husband, as it were. I was the vehicle that made his thoughts take shape and form, his field that he could plant with whatever he wanted. Whatever was in my husband's heart needed to be in mine, and whatever my husband wanted accomplished was my task to help make a reality. I was a body to a head---interpreted by my Western mind to mean the (non-thinking) apparatus that makes the brain's decisions happen.
From my reading of Scripture, I believed that Adam was made first, perfect. Eve was made out of Adam, a copy of a copy, as it were. Adam was like the sun, shining pure glory, whereas Eve was the moon, shining the glory of God as it reflected off of Adam.
I didn't exactly like this at first, probably in part due to a personality that tends to lead without even trying to, but I loved God, so the desire for His glory caused me grow into accepting my newfound place of subjection without complaint--and even with pleasure. Knowing I was following God's wishes helped me to put aside my own personal feelings and thoughts, helped me to embrace my role as a subjected woman joyfully. (If a frog is a frog, it is ridiculous for him to bemoan his frogness and try to aspire to sparrowhood, right? Much better for the frog to accept his nature and glorify God by being what he was made to be).
I didn't just embrace my subjected womanhood on a personal level, but also helped spread the "gospel" of gender order in public ways, through Bible studies I taught, articles I wrote and websites I ran. The way I read Scripture, I felt that female rebellion was no different than the rebellion Lucifer formented in heaven (it was all spawned from the same thing, a desire to *not* be what God said one should be and to grasp after something else), therefore it stood to reason that female submission was the primary way women were to glorify God on earth, especially since that was our created purpose.
I based my conclusions on the Bible, the content of which I knew well (through a fundamentalist childhood, three years in Bible College, much personal study and through being in a variety of ministries that required Bible familiarity). But the funny thing was, it ended up being that very same Book that began to cause me to question my patriarchal assumptions.
I was an avowed literalist, when it came to Scripture. If Scripture said it, then to "culturalize" it was to water it down. God's Word was for all time and for all people, right? So what it says, it says---and to throw "culture" into the mix simply means a person is trying to escape obeying the plain words.
But, eventually, I began to stumble over my own policy. Clear-cut literal commands like the one in Acts 15 ended up tripping me up. Here was a passage that said one thing (in a very commanding tone), a rule given by both the apostles AND the Holy Spirit about NOT eating food sacrificed to idols, which Paul gladly agrees to obey and teach, and yet Paul says something completely opposite later on (look at 1 Corinthians 8, for example).
How to make sense of that? It seems to me that the "rule" given in Acts 15 was a command, yes, but was also clearly for a specific TIME, given due to cultural conditions, NOT because abstaining from idol-meat was a "for all time" law of God. 1 Corinthians 8 helps to explain the heart behind the rules--that if a lawful actions means causing a weaker brother to stumble, we will give up our "rights" until such a time as they are able to see through more mature eyes. Love is the rule, in other words, not eating or not eating.
Could the same thing apply to passages I'd formerly used to "prove" patriarchy? Could the fact that the Roman and Jewish cultures of the time were highly patriarchal have anything to do with some of the "women" passages in Scripture, and could ignoring that cultural backdrop be a little presumptous of me when it came to interpreting those same passages? After all, isn't a major point of the Incarnation that God actually comes and lives WITH us, in our culture, in our world?
I began to really study, to re-look at a lot of passages (that I'd quickly literalized before and then rarely gave a second thought to). What I read was astounding. The creation of woman, for example. I'd decided what helpmate meant based on my own 21st century reading--I'd never actually studied the word ezer (help), I'd merely assumed. Imagine my shock when I realized I'd assumed terribly wrong.
For a while, I could barely breath, so afraid that I was walking in the rebellion I'd so carefully avoided. I did not want to be like the kings in Psalm 2, who angrily shook their shackles at the Lord of Hosts, chafing at the restraints He put on them, rebels whom the Lord held in derision. I still do not want to be like them.
If God put shackles on me as a woman by subjecting me to the authority of men or the authority of a husband, saying, "This is your place, go no further," then I want to kiss His shackles and be at peace with where He has placed me. His yoke is easy and His burden is light--if the shackles are His, then they will be the very thing that I find freedom in. Yet, if I am shackled and passively acceptancing bonds that are OUTSIDE of His will, held captive by deception and miscomprehension, then that is equally problematic. So I studied in earnest, determined to get to the bottom of my many questions.
And, admittedly, my gender-ordered clearly-divided world began to implode. I found more and more things in the Scriptures that seemed to be in direct contradiction to the "godly" patriarchy I'd embraced. It was like a snowball rolling downhill. I would study and study some more, pray and pray some more, and in so doing, I watched most of my assumptions about patriarchy burn up like so much smoke (specific details of which I hope to share in future posts).
Today, I tend to lean towards egalitarianism, a viewpoint I once thought birthed by Satan himself. I do want to stress that I am not entirely convinced-- just "mostly." Scripture still has me asking some questions and so I'm yet unwilling to settle on a firm position of egalitarianism, though I'm certainly far from my former position of patriarchy.
I do believe there are things in the Bible that most certainly are for all people and all time. When Yahweh says, "I am the LORD and there is no other," He's not just saying it to Israel 3,000 years ago but also to you and I today (and we can hang on His promise of sovereignty today just as much as they could then). But I also believe that the Bible was written to particular people in a particular culture, and it helps us better understand God's breathed words when we see the backdrop against which He spoke.
God is a real live God who supercedes (for He created) space and time, and yet has chosen to work within the contraints of space and time. The incarnation took place in a very real space in a very real time, markedly different from the culture within which we find ourselves today. I only stand to gain by learning about the culture Jesus walked in. Otherwise, when I read about Him healing a leper, I only faintly understand. Reading about the disease of leprosy and the cultural treatment of lepers during the time of Christ helps me comprehend the absolute shockingness of His hand touching the lepers body.
I think it is no less important to understand the cultural backdrop of patriarchy within which the Bible was written. To to so can only cause us to gain in our comprehension of this God of ours who so often breaks all the rules of human convention.
For those interested in learning more about the expanding patriarchy movement, Recently, (through the vision of ThatMom) there's been a series of podcasts done focusing on this growing theological outlook. That Mom is a complementarian, as is Karen Braun (Spunky), one of the women she interviews, but is disturbed about the sharply increase trend of the more severe versions of female subjection (ala groups like Vision Forum, the Pearls, Douglas Wilson, Ladies Against Feminism, etc, all former favorites of mine), a theological outlook that appears to be growing leaps and bounds in the homeschooling movement and in ultra-conservative camps. (An aside, an interesting conversation about this trend is found here over at True Womanhood, with a discussion worth wading through, as many participants were former patriarchalists).
I was an avid defender of those groups, both online and in my real world. Sheesh. Talk about a 180 degree turn. I admit (a little shamefacedly, er, given my former zeal) that I now wholeheartedly agree with ThatMom's concerns. Like her, I feel that such teachings are putting heavy burdens on the backs of God's people instead of setting them free.
Within patriarchy, I was taught that all who question or argue do so because they are "feminists," a word signifying evil and rebellion or because they are simply not Christians at all. Because of that, I want to emphasize one more time: it was not been a desire to rebel that caused my questions about the nature of female subjection, but the Scriptures themselves and, I believe, the Spirit who breathed them.
"If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed."
Friday, October 19, 2007
I am Molly: a home-school mother of five (ages 2-9), wife to an entrepreneur and builder, partner in our family greenhouse business and dweller in the Far North. I take college classes full-time online (so there goes my spare time, if indeed there was much leftover in the first place), read voraciously when I am able (currently am working through G.K.Chesterton's, "The Complete Father Brown," for my fiction, and have 3-4 non-fiction books piled up from the library by my bed). I really enjoy thinking and wondering and studying and doing, whether for a "credited" class or for whatever captures my (ever-changing) interests.
This is my family, all of whom I am so thankful for. What a gift from God people are! My kids are all weird, which they get from their parents, and I'm so glad for that, since I'm not sure I'd know what to do with normal, anyhow.
I love God. I don't ever remember a time not loving Him. I remember plenty of times I've questioned Him, ran from Him, ran straight back to Him, sobbed in His arms, jumped for joy in His smile, raged at His decisions, sighed with relief at His decisions, felt His presence tangibly, felt far away from His presence tangibly, etc, etc, etc. (In short, all of the experiences that most of us go through, the whole roller-coaster ride of being an earth-bound human being following a God who's kingdom is most decidedly not of this world's ways, who's thoughts are an entire realm above our own).
I loved God when I was a five year old kid, loved Him when I was a fightin' fundie, loved Him when I was a liberal charismatic, loved Him when I was a "pastor's wife" trying to be good at running VBS's and whatnot, loved Him working on the streets and in prisons, loved Him while birthing/nursing babies and being fairly isolated from the "outside world," and I love Him now as an emerging/emergent/missional (whatever) Jesus-follower [who's currently in a place of personal pain---btw, I'm battling a severely debilitating problem with my health, so, er, if you feel like writing my name down on your prayer list for healing, I'd be SO appreciative].
I am thankful for the opportunity to wonder and wander on this blog! The place of gender in our faith is something that has always captured my interest, and I've experienced a well-rounded gamut of personal conclusions from both sides of the spectrum. Thank you for including me here, Wayne and all. I look forward to getting to know everyone and the sharpening and nurturing that always comes when Believers are respectfully sharing thoughts, observations and questions together. :)
In a nutshell, here they are:
Lie #1: God Created Women as Inferior Beings, Destined to Serve Their Husbands.
Lie #2: A Man Needs to "Cover" a Woman in Her Ministry Activities.
Lie #3: Women Can't be Fulfilled or Spiritually Effective Without a Husband or Children.
Lie #4: Women Should Never Work Outside the Home.
Lie #5: Women Must Obediently Submit to Their Husbands in All Situations.
I find the last one the most problematic for a couple of reasons.
First, the wording that women must obediently submit is curious. The word "obediently" is either reduntant or meant to change the word "submission" to mean something that it does not. Bohlin doesn't adress this, but the phraseology of this sentence, if accurate, belies a misunderstanding of submission in our churches on the whole. In scripture, submission is a call to respectful and humble unity, before other connotations. In light of Paul's directive in 1 Peter 5:5 (Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility.--NKJV), 'to submit' does not mean 'to do whatever your husband says,' which is basically what Lie #5 advocates.
The second point springboards from the first. Lie #5 adds "in all situations" pointing to when wives should do what their husbands say, which, in this case, is all the time. Clearly, this is unscriptural. The Bible commands women to sumbit to their husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22). One can interpret this verse in different ways, though I would clarify wifely submission to apply as long as her husband is behaving as the Lord. No woman should accept demands from her husband that lead to sin, which include demands that serve no leadership or edifying purpose in the kingdom of God (other than to indulge the husband in some sinful stroke of the ego or something related). To submit in this way would clearly violate a woman's first submission to God, and the woman is not obliged to accept his demands.
Having said all that, I would follow it with the caution that if a husband is acting in accordance with the scriptures and asks his wife to submit in some necessary action either in will or deed (or both), God has not given her the option to refuse.
Of course, I am completely aware that Lie #5 may be phrased in exaggeration, in which case I'd like to add "Whether Waking or Sleeping" to the end. Exactly to how many churches or individuals does this really apply, I wonder?
Walking the narrow path is hard, and this issue is about as narrow and hard as it gets.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
doesn’t teach women’s subordination or that women can’t be pastors and leaders (and it doesn’t teach that they can either.) It teaches that false teaching should be addressed and the best remedy is sound instruction. It affirms women as siblings with men in Christ who are to be instructed in the Word and be held accountable for their spiritual training and witness.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
"Christian women should know their place."
There, I said it. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that if they don't "know their place" they cannot minister effectively.
Of course, I could also say the same thing of Christian men. They must "know their place" if they are to minister effectively.
Now, by knowing one's place, I am not talking about knowing which, if any, roles in marriage and the church are the exclusive province of one gender or the other. That's where there is certainly room for reasoned debate. But there should be no debate about the importance of knowing our place as believers. In fact, it is only when we know our place in that sense that we can find the humility and security we need to debate the "complegalitarian" question constructively.
It seems to me that too much of this discussion centers around men and women trying to tell each other to "know their place" in the first sense of knowing one's proper role. But the places, the spheres, the stations, and roles we are concerned about defining, however important those may be, are not the ones which will ultimately help us to reflect Christ in our marriages and in our churches.
One of the most fascinating passages to me has always been John 13:3-4, which tells us that Jesus was able to wash his disciples' feet precisely because he knew his place:
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. . .
Jesus was able to humble himself, serve, submit, and lay down his life for his church precisely because he knew who he was and that he ultimately had nothing to lose. In Christ, we ultimately have nothing to lose. We have come from God (been "born from above") and are returning to him. Consequently, whatever we understand the Bible to be saying about leadership and gender roles, our own calling is clear: "not to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28).
Ephesians 5 clearly describes the Christian marriage as one where husband and wife are not serving themselves, but one another. This is only possible when we realize that in Christ we ultimately have nothing to lose. We can afford to put the other first because we know that even if they do not reciprocate in kind, God in Christ has already given us everything we need.
Likewise, 1 Corinthians stresses the importance of "one anothering" in the context of the church. It is not that we don't have the "right" to eat, or drink, or speak, or exercise our spiritual gifts; it is merely that we are called to set those rights aside whenever they would be disruptive, harmful to others, or harmful to the name and reputation of Christ.
Whether we are men or women, as believers we have been wonderfully exalted with Christ (see Ephesians 1). We have come from God, are returning to God, and have graciously been given everything we need, both in this life and in the one to come. Yet we have been exalted not so that we can clothe ourselves in purple and carry a scepter. On the contrary, we are to clothe ourselves with a towel and carry a basin. Whether men or women, egalitarian or complementarian, that is our place as believers. Until we know it, we cannot minister to one another effectively.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
We are now thinking in class about ethical issues related to sex, gender, marriage, divorce, and remarriage. To aid you in your ongoing work, here are some website tips related to gender and sexuality. I will deal with divorce and remarriage issues in another posting.Prof. Beverley's next post is about divorce and remarriage for Christians.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Since this blog is about the complementarian/egalitarian debate, I'll come right out with it: I'm a complementarian. By this, I understand there is one certain function within the Body of Christ that God wants only men to operate, that of pastor/bishop/elder. I believe this is the clear teaching of scripture. I do want to note that I do not take a traditionalist position. I do not take complementarianism liberally to extend to deacons, teachers, missionaries, or administrative positions within the church.
In the family, God places the husband as the head of the household. I take exception to the idea that this means "dictator, ruler, boss, king, whatever". The way I understand it, the husband is the one ultimately responsible for the household, the one God will demand to answer for the state of the family. The wife is the partner, uniting with her husband in forming a family that glorifies God. She is not, then, a doormat. God is the boss of the wife, who commands her to be a good partner, not an adversary in the relationship.
Obviously, my statements need a lot of unpacking. I will get into this later on.
Most importantly, I believe that taking the Bible seriously means wrestling with difficult passages and accepting hard truths even if I don't like them. I'm naturally rebellious which has a lot to do with that.
Feel free to peruse the following positions on male eldership from Acts 29 and my church, The Journey, which I pretty much agree with.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
He finds in the first part of the passage (5:21-33) the central paradigm which he uses for understanding it, that the "head" and "body" metaphors relate to the underlying unity between husbands and wives, as he explains in the second post:
Paul is making the combination of "head and a body” parallel to the “two becoming one.” There are two visually distinguishable entities united into an inseparable whole where the nature of the functioning is so thoroughly melded you can’t isolate distinct functioning.Here is how he concludes the last of the three posts:
Now we see Paul’s answer to the problem of how to work out the fictive family status-neutral relationship of siblings in Christ in the context of the husband wife relationship. Mutual submission captured in the metaphor of being an organic unit. The husband with power submits to his wife and makes sacrifice his mission, while the wife who was previously without status and now has it places her status in service of her husband and the Kingdom of God.
In one sense, the surface behavior of the wife may not look very different. However, she is enormously empowered. No longer does she submit as one of inferior rank, forced to obey. Now she chooses to submit as a full missional partner in the Kingdom of God. I think we can imagine what changes in attitude would accompany her actions.
It is the husband for whom we might expect to see some observable difference and he is the one who must actually part with something for this new perspective to work. He no longer gets to play the status card to get his way. But imagine what other men in this culture would think when they observed the loving respectful attitude this man’s wife showed him as he lived out sacrificial love toward her. And imagine what other women would think when they observed the love and care extended to this woman by her husband. This is missional stuff!
What we don’t have here is a command to husbands to be the “head” (read “ruler” or “authority over”) their wives. We do not have a teaching on maintaining a divinely ordained family hierarchy. We have an injunction of mutual submission and then a metaphorical teaching on how that looks in a first century Greco-Roman household.
What we also don’t have here is a teaching of egalitarian family decision-making. There is still a patriarch and there is a wife. But neither do we have a teaching of a divinely ordered patriarchy. That the “two become one” in marriage is a culturally transcendent reality. Paul is applying it to the Greco-Roman context of patriarchy. I’m not sure if Paul had a specific vision in mind of exactly how his teaching could change patriarchy into something else but I am thoroughly convinced he had a vision that patriarchy would radically change.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
- Putting all this together gives us a clear and consistent set of rules for divorce and remarriage. Divorce is only allowed for a limited number of grounds that are found in the Old Testament and affirmed in the New Testament:
* Adultery (in Deuteronomy 24:1, affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19)
* Emotional and physical neglect (in Exodus 21:10-11, affirmed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7)
* Abandonment and abuse (included in neglect, as affirmed in 1 Corinthians 7)
Jewish couples listed these biblical grounds for divorce in their marriage vows. We reiterate them as love, honor, and keep and be faithful to each other. When these vows were broken, it threatened to break up the marriage. As in any broken contract, the wronged party had the right to say, "I forgive you; let's carry on," or, "I can't go on, because this marriage is broken."
Therefore, while divorce should never happen, God allows it (and subsequent remarriage) when your partner breaks the marriage vows.
I agree. True biblical submission is not just something to take place within a marriage. To really understand it, it needs to be viewed as something which God desires of us within the Body of Christ, as we interact with each other. Submission is an act of love. So is sacrifice. Each virtue focuses on benefitting the other person. And, somehow, as one of God's paradoxes, when we benefit another, we ourselves benefit also.
one of the virtues that often gets overlooked is submission. but perhaps no virtue is as important in living in community (think, in your family, church, neighborhood) than submission. submission moves past the talk of “my rights,” “what i’m due,” “my want” to concern, deference, and support for the other. in fact, submission is paramount to a healthy marriage, and it’s not just wives submitting to husbands. the apostle paul instructs couples to “submit to one another” (Eph. 5.21 TNIV). it’s a two way street.
but submission isnt only a position of weakness. it isnt just giving up the sock because someone stronger than you won. submission is most powerful when it’s willful, when it’s sincere and not begrudging. submission can be demonstrated by letting someone go in front of your in line/traffic, changing the channel to what your spouse likes on TV, or dying in humiliation on a cross while people laugh and your friends abandon you.
Friday, October 5, 2007
The complegalitarian debate is highly divisive in some churches. In other circles there is freedom to disagree on some aspects of the debate, while highlighting the large amount that we already agree upon.
I don't know how many readers this new blog has yet, but rather than me suggesting topics on which we agree, I'd rather just open up the floor (or at least the Comments link!) to anyone who wants to mention points in the complegalitarian debates on which "we" mostly agree.
Feel free to start by trying to define who "we" are, a subject on which we probably don't all agree, but which it would still be good to explore.
(Sure, we can have plenty of posts in the future about where we disagree, but I just thought it would be helpful to start with where we agree. It helps set things in perspective.)
Thursday, October 4, 2007
This evening I realized that I may need to wake up and realize (again) that it is God’s job to be perfect, and my job to chill the heck out and just show up.
I do feel a bit nervous about writing on a topic that I know is a touchy one for many people, even though I am eager to communicate.
So, instead of writing something perfectly brilliant, I am going to write something that will hopefully be sufficient to get things started.
I believe that women serve well wherever and however God has called them, including in leadership and in preaching and teaching. I believe that as Christians, the whole of the Bible is our authority, and that it has sufficient, if occasionally paradoxical texts for us to work things out on any issue.
I believe that any time there is a paradox (or what some may call a tension) in our Biblical texts, God is trusting us to be gracious with each other in our differences in interpretation.
The next time I post, I'll dig into some Biblical texts and maybe even discuss hermeneutics. There will be citations! and fun things like that, but for now, I thought I would introduce myself in this very basic way. Imperfectly!
* I know this might be a slightly different term than others use on this website, and in general. For me, “women in ministry” is vague. The ministry of the body of Christ (the church) means any ministration. All ministry is meaningful. Ministry might be a hug of support or words of encouragement – or it might be leading a church of a thousand souls. I have yet to meet anyone who has any issue with women giving encouragement to someone in the body. That kind of ministry is accepted. It seems to me that it is leadership, preaching and teaching that are the core issues.
PS - if you'd like to know more about me, please feel free to visit my blog: http://www.ipreferuphill.wordpress.com. I warn you, though, I have been known to ramble about Wheat Thins and my smelly old dog.
(UPDATE: Thanks for the suggestions so far--keep 'em comin'. I have added them, as well as others I am familiar with, to the Bookshelf in the margin. If you like freebies, the books promoted by CBMW can be downloaded for free. Click on our Bookshelf book links to find the free ones or click here to see the CBMW list. For some books on the CBMW list, you have to click on the name of a book to get to a page from which you can download it for free.)
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Stinson said, "What is at stake in the Gender Battle is much more than who can preach on a Sunday morning. This issue has spread its tentacles throughout many aspects of the Church." He went on to describe how errors in our biblical understanding of gender threaten the health of the home and the local church. Even how we address God in worship and our ability to accurately represent the Gospel are affected by our understanding of biblical manhood and womanhood.Comments are not enabled on the Gender Blog, but you are welcome to post your comments to what Stinson said here.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
One of my goals in this blog is to clarify the arguments on both sides of this controversial issue and to invite thoughtful dialogue from both sides. It helps me orient my own view in the context of the wider spectrum of thought and the interaction helps all of us grow in our personal convictions. I also enjoy seeing what I can learn about people in general by the nature of their responses (What do people seek? What do they react to? What emotions drive their reactions?)I share his goals and I hope that our new Complegalitarian blog can contribute to meeting those goals.
Monday, October 1, 2007
I grew up in a Christian home, but it was also a time when females still weren't allowed to do a lot of things. We couldn't play many sports, had to take Home Ec instead of Shop, and were generally not given equal privileges to males. Even today, women still lag behind in equal pay for equal work and are held back in many spheres of politics and business. But above all, women were-- and still are-- simply not allowed to have any "authority" over men in the church. For this and many other reasons I began a long quest of self-study in the Bible. Too many Christians were content with ignorance of all but the most basic teachings, so I started scouring every bit of material I could find on what the Bible taught.
Gradually I learned to distinguish good exegesis from bad, good logic from poor logic, and the paramount importance of context. This journey spanned many topics, including prophecy, cults, science, and everyday living. No matter what the topic at hand, I learned that nothing in the Bible was written in a vacuum, so no subject should ever be considered an isolated teaching. This is the crucial consideration when attempting to understand the Bible, and the failure to remember it is the root of many false teachings.
So for me, the issue of women in the assembly and the Christian home is important for two main reasons: it is one of many issues that is fraught with misunderstanding and prejudice, and it hamstrings half the body of Christ. We Christians seem to have gotten over the idea of the superior race and the superior class, but not the superior gender. And this is part of the larger problem of the very concept of hierarchy that makes its own class distinction between "clergy" and "laity".
We have been silent for too long while hierarchy and all its ramifications wreaks havoc on the health of the body of Christ. I believe God is moving in these last days to wake up the sleeping and confront those who "beat their fellow servants".
From the time the first feminist (Eve) came on the scene, until now, we have been in a cosmic battle against the flesh and Satan because he hates the image of Christ and His Church. We await the final consummation of the good work that was started by King Jesus on Calvary. With the curse came the promise. Feminism was, and will finally be, defeated when the Seed crushes the Serpent (Gen. 3:15). And that’s good news for recovering feminists like you and me.