Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Women in 1 Timothy, Closing Remarks (W)

If you ever go to modern Israel, you will find some interesting practices in relation to the Old Testament Law.  One fascinating one is the fact that you cannot get both meat and dairy products with the same meal or in the same store in Israel.  I once saw a young man ushered right out of a restaurant that primarily served lamb meat because he had brought in pizza from across the alley.  Pizza has cheese and was not allowed in the same shop.  Why, you ask?  It is because of a verse in Exodus that forbids boiling a goat’s kid in its mother’s milk (23:19; 34:26).

Now whatever this verse was originally about—probably against some Canaanite practice—it was not about eating pizza and lamb meat in the same meal.  It highlights the fact again that the books of the Bible just were not written to us originally.  When passages seem to make the least sense to us, we are often looking at words that spoke directly to the time they were written but not so clearly to our time and context.

I am convinced that the teaching of 1 Timothy on women falls into this category of things locked up in the past, despite the fact that many segments of the church are comfortable with its instructions.  For example, most Christians today would be hard pressed to think of why it would be preferable for a widow not to remarry or why she would need to get remarried because of an inability to refrain from her sexual desires.  We assume these instructions made perfect sense in their first century context, but it is not at all clear they do now.

And most Protestant churches have not seen any virtue in a man needing to be married only once to be an effective leader, especially if his first wife died.  True, the Orthodox Church still holds to this requirement, and many Protestants still have problems with a minister who is divorced.  But it is not clear what intrinsic reason we could come up with today that would make much sense.  Why would a widowed minister who remarries be less wise or less effective than one who remained single?

The position of many segments of the church today on women, both women ministers and women in the home, also strikes of the Jewish rule against eating pizza and meat in the same meal.  I like to think of it this way.  Let us say we are on a plane whose pilot is incapacitated, and we have a choice between having a woman take over who actually knows how to fly a plane or having a man take over who has no knowledge of flying whatsoever.  Of course we would have the woman fly the plane, because she is the most competent to do so.

In our current context, insisting that a man be the senior pastor or the head of the home simply because of his genitals makes about as much sense.  Let us speak plainly.  This is plain irrationality.  It makes a mockery of the idea that God is all-wise and omniscient.  It makes a mockery of God and Christ before the world.

And what is worse, this headship for its own sake, this genital-based leadership—not a theory you will find in any book on leadership, mind you—is headed in the opposite direction of the kingdom.  It is, in the words of Colossians, to submit to the “elemental spirits of the world” (Col. 2:20) rather than see the trajectory of the kingdom, where wives are not given to men in marriage (Mark 12:25) and there is not “male and female” any longer (Gal. 3:28).  It is to approach blasphemy, as if Christ only died for some sins but not all, not the sins of Eve.  Indeed, we can tell we are in the age of the Spirit precisely because our sons and daughters prophesy (Acts 2:17).

We have shown in these two volumes that no Scripture, rightly interpreted, prohibits women from any level of leadership and ministry in the church, indeed, that we find such women in the New Testament.  Let us be clear on this score.  Paul did not see husband-headship in conflict with the prophetic ministry of a woman, which 1 Corinthians 11 proves. And, therefore, the silence of women in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, if these verses are even original, cannot be about spiritual speech but only about disruptive speech. 

Now we see that 1 Timothy 2:12 is also about the husband-wife relationship and thus does not have any bearing on a woman’s prophetic ministry.  And in any case, surely Paul’s central writings and Acts have a better claim to stand at the center of our understanding, rather than some interpretation of a writing that is in so many ways the exception in the Pauline corpus rather than the rule.  All we have left to debate is whether husband-headship is timeless or, like eating pizza with meat, is a feature of Paul’s ancient context.  Since it is irrational to base leadership on genitals—physical organs not particularly known for their wisdom—I have little doubt personally where God is leading his church today.


JohnM said...

Even supposing a trajectory of the kingdom approach to interpreting scripture is the correct approach, I don't quite see how you connect some of the dots.

In this life people do marry, circumstances in the next life not withstanding. Males marry females. Oops!, I mean, used to be pretty much exclusively that way. Was that wrong, since there is no longer male or female?

My point is not about homosexuality though. It is that until a trajectory (kingdom or our own personal)takes us where we rise from the dead, here in this life we, male and female are. We marry and are given in marriage, which scripture teaches us is honorable.

Does Gal. 3:28 really mean there is no such thing as men and no such thing as women, distinct from one another, this side of Calvary? Of course, whatever it says, to be consistent mightn't we consider, the words were written to someone else in a different time and context?

Rick said...

"this genital-based leadership"

I am not saying your overall position is wrong, although JohnM has some good thoughts, but do not the differences between men and women go beyond what you are claiming?

Complimentarians usually point to such things a "wired-differently" (not better/superior, just different) in describing some of the differences.

Ken Schenck said...

John, the difference I'm pushing is between things we can't change (e.g., gender, at least not without surgery ;-) and things we might artificially maintain (gender-based leadership).

Rick (is this Rick in Kentucky?), I'm not saying there aren't statistical differences between males and females (although I wonder what those really are). But I don't think reality will support comprehensive or absolute differences on the topics under discussion. There are lots of specific women who make better leaders than lots of specific men, and this fact completely deconstructs the complimentarian claim here, IMO.

JohnM said...

Ken, I can accept the idea of exceptions, or maybe more accurately put, fairly broad parameters to a general rule when it comes to applying the rule. From your perspective that's the good news I suppose.

The bad news (well I suppose you figure just too bad for me :) ) is I'm still convinced the rule exists. I also don't see that Gal. 3:28 or Mark 12:25 support your point, whatever it's merits otherwise. You'll have to look elsewhere for scriptural support, if it's there.

Ken Schenck said...

Thanks for the "loyal opposition" ;-)

Ken Schenck said...

By the way John, are you thinking that in the kingdom, women will be subordinate to men? That is really all I am saying of the Mark passage.

JohnM said...

Ken, No, I'm not thinking that, but I didn't take it to be all you meant. Thanks for the clarification on that point.

FrGregACCA said...

Gender, and marriage, is obviously rooted in creation. Patriarchy is not. Patriarchy, according to Genesis 3:16-19 is a result of the fall as are ethnic and socioeconomic differences and oppression. Thus, it is in this context that St. Paul writes that these differences are no longer decisive in the Church, that "all are one in Christ Jesus".