It is amazing to me that nearly two thousand years after the Day of Pentecost we in the church continue to marginalize the voice of women. As a young man in Pentecostal circles I heard this passage from the Book of Joel quite often:
“It will come about after this that I will pour out my Spirit on all humanity,
and your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
and your old men will dream dreams,
and your young men will see visions,
even on the male and female servants I will pour out my Spirit in those days.”
Immediately the prophet shifts into apocalyptic discourse after this statement. What I find most amazing is how the Apostle Peter is described as applying this to the Day of Pentecost. He sees that outpouring of the Spirit as the eschatological act of God inviting men and women into full participation as children of God.
Often women are presented various passages of Scripture that seem to indicate that they are inferior and therefore subject to men. What I find most amazing about this is that the same evangelical types who will teach a hermeneutic which avoids the obscure in favor of the more clear passages of Scripture flip the script aiming to undermine the more universalizing statement regarding women’s role in the church using more obscure passages.
When the Apostle Paul is cited we do not find Galatians 3.28 taking front and center where Paul proclaims his vision of gender in Christ, but rather obscure words about women being silent in places like 1 Corinthians 14.34 or 1 Timothy 2.12. We find these passages taking precedent when the first one seems to be foreign to the flow of the text (Gordon D. Fee argued that it isn’t original with Paul) and the second is from a letter considered by many to be non-Pauline at worst, secondary to his main corpus at best. I hear evangelicals quote 1 Corinthians 11.1-10 to me as if it is a proof-text on male authority forgetting that Paul is promoting women using their gifting, that of prophecy, in the church! Likewise, it is prophecy, which is inspired God-speech to the church (what is a homily today?) wherein respect for the audience is all that is required. Oddly enough, if Paul is talking about “authority” alone his statements in vv. 11-12 where he takes a step back and completes the circle of gender interdependency doesn’t make much sense, especially since he speaks of origins. Even more odd is the same people who harp on this passage as showing male superiority ignore the proscribed head coverings showing a sort of pick-and-choose fundamentalism. Likewise, the same people who are hard core about women learning submissively in 1 Timothy 2.11 don’t mind that their wives braid their hair, wear gold and pearls, and shop somewhere other than Target as vv. 9-10 should attack if we are going to be legalistic about Paul’s words ignoring the spirit of the text.
If our daughters can prophesy why do we limit them? Why do we create artificial definitions of church authority to say a woman can be A, B, and C, but not D (especially when the New Testament shows no coherent model for church leadership and offices)? Why do we say they can’t preach behind pulpits as if pulpits existed in the first century?
To borrow from Michel Foucault I think the answer is easy: “truth” is power. Many don’t exegete the texts of Scripture seeking the overarching motifs, but rather the texts that provide power. Those proof-texts are pre-texts for control. We ignore that in Genesis 1.26-27 God makes human, male and female he makes them. They are his icons, his image. They are his representatives to creation, together. God’s image being male and female together. Paul argued in Romans 1.18-32 that it is a danger to ignore the image of God in the opposite gender deciding to look into the mirror seeing one’s own image. Often this text is used to harp on homosexuals, but I know plenty of conservative evangelicals that freak out when someone mentions God’s “feminine side”.
We live in a “Genesis 3 World” where the fall dominates our worldview. We ignore the intention of creation in Genesis 1-2 where we have shared image bearing in Genesis 1 and woman as equal partner/helper (ezer) in Genesis 2 for her described (not prescribed) oppression in Genesis 3. We act as if the cross of Christ brought down barriers between Jews and Gentiles alone, but not men and women. (Sometimes we get the master-slave implications.)
Our daughters are precious. This isn’t simply because “behind every great man is a great woman” but because there are great women. As long as we deny this using a hermeneutic that we would never use for other subjects we will deprive ourselves of half the church’s voice. We will harm our world by affirming their abusive patriarchies. We will someday have to explain to God why we ignored the Spirit’s choice of prophetesses and our pious exegetical excuses will be exposed as our power-seeking hearts are set before the throne of Christ. Evangelicals, we need to rethink our view of women.
I’m no complementarian, but your explanation for their view seems a bit heavy handed to me. The truth is that no matter what church you are a part of, very few men OR women get to stand behind the pulpit. If this is a male power trip, it is only for a few men. The whole power trip explanation sounds more like liberation theology than anything else. Why can’t we realize that people are going to differ on their understanding of the Biblical text without making one side or the other the heavy. If you are a woman who wants to get behoind a pulpit, find a church that will let you — there are plenty around.
Two sentences in this post paint the picture spot-on:
1. “These proof-texts are pre-texts for power.” Love the way that’s put; so very true.
2. “We ignore the intention of creation in Genesis 1-2 where we have shared image bearing in Genesis 1 and woman as equal partner/helper (ezer) in Genesis 2 for her described (not prescribed) oppression in Genesis 3,” specifically the described/prescribed difference. It is so very important to know that God was never laying out woman’s oppression as His punishment for her sin, but rather stating the facts of the consequences for her sin.
I’ve been studying the Hebrew Bible, especially Genesis 1-11, since one of your posts about Peter Enns’ book, “The Evolution of Adam,” and all throughout what I’ve studied thus far is that there never should have been an implication of a male authority as the original intent for humanity. As you say, man and woman were created together, sinned together, and then suffered their consequences together. Why should it be so difficult to imagine a church community wherein they serve, pray, and prophesy together? It seems if we want to counteract the consequences of our own sins, we must work together as one unit (kind of like what Paul suggests 😉 ).
Thanks for posting this, Brian!
Brian, I personally believe that in this debate the opponents speak across each other (kind of almost like Calvinist supremely interested in preserving the integrity of the sovereignty of God, against Arminians supremely interested in preserving His grace). You say: “… inviting men and women into full participation as children of God.”
Does that mean that those who you argue against are saying God is only inviting women into a partial participation as children of God? I would hazard to say that neither Piper, nor, dare I say it, even Driscoll would argue that. Rather, their view differs from yours in that they recognize a more robust view of the body of Christ which treats all of its members as equal, though with different function.
Yes the bible has many women prophets, OT and NT. It also has many men prophets. The OT also had both women and men judges, but did it have even one woman priest? If we consider [1 Cor 12:16] which is in the midst of the [1 Cor] argument you cite, it makes it clear that the body of Christ has many parts (roles), and that we are not to envy the other role’s functions in terms of value to the body of Christ.
If God allowed women prophets, and judges, (and even women to stand in for the inheritance of man: see daughters of Zelophehad), does that mean he also would have allowed women high priests who may have been prevented by the conventions of men?
The answer to that depends upon how you define ‘equality’. Does equality require (in a strict sense) that men and women become indistinguishable in what they can do, what roles they fill? Some definition of equality must be agreed upon before either side can realistically have traction in advancing their side.
Look at [Gen 3:16]. Apart from the reality that men will never be equal to women in a physiological sense, [Gen 3:16] makes it seem as though women have been appointed a unique and separate role in shouldering the burden of sin, just as men have (equally) been burdened in [Gen 3:17]. Without judging either role as inferior or superior, we can recognize that these burdens are equally burdensome, albeit different. This makes it seem, at least, as though part of this debate begs the question as to whether both sides understand ‘equality’ in a common sense.
Can the body of Christ have ‘ears’, performing the functions of ears, and ‘eyes’ performing the functions of eyes, and still have equality between ears and eyes. As [1 Cor 12:16] says, if the whole body were an eye, where would be its sense of hearing? Does this mean, equaliy is not possible then?
While I agree with you that a woman should seek a church that honors her unique calling it seems unfair to ask women on the basis of their gender to just get on with it and relocate. It ignores how a church could be a major part of a given woman’s life. The attitude of “if you don’t like it here, move along” isn’t one that should satisfy us. Let me be clear that I say this as someone who has been a submitted member to a few churches and an educational institution who have not taken an egalitarian position on women. I have not worked to divide or disrupt, so I am in agreement with you that we need patience with each other when it comes to hermeneutics, but the simple “live and let live” approach works only for those of us who aren’t impacted directly.
Well said, and you’re welcome!
It is true that Piper and Driscoll wouldn’t argue that women aren’t given full-participation as children of God, but it is fair to ask if that is the inevitable implications. Likewise, I agree that the body has many roles (in fact, I am arguing that very point stating that one’s gender is secondary to their unique calling). In some sense God has made the very move you suggested: he has welcome women into the priesthood when he removed such designations inviting all believers into that very role underneath Christ, the high priest, in whom all humanity finds their identity.
When it comes to Genesis 3 we must ask how prescriptive or descriptive this passage is. I find it odd to argue that Genesis 3 tells women how it will be for them when most men don’t suffer the unique punishment of Genesis 3’s working in the field and many women do share in that. Should we interpret it hyper-literally that God wants all women under the curse to live subject to men and all men to be workers in the field? I work in an office, so I think I’ve already found a way around the curse if the particular elements are to be interpreted hyper-literally.
Again, this isn’t about whether there are different roles or calling. This is about whether someone is automatically disqualified from doing this or that in the church because their gender predetermines that they are unfit.
The problem with your argument is that Joel 2:28 is found within a context that is decidedly more eschatological than ecclesiological as it refers to the fact that the blessings of the Spirit normally associated with prophets in the OT (cf Num 11:29) would rain down upon all Israel in the time of her restoration (cf Isa 45:1-3); similarly, Gen 1:26-27 and Gal 3:28 are also found in non-ecclesiological contexts. On the other hand, the same cannot be said for 1 Tim 2:11-12, which is part of a larger unit that ends with 1 Tim 3:14-15. And that’s really your problem, church tradition plus the ecclesiological 1 Tim 2:11-12 will always be a better argument than references to the non-ecclesiological Gen 1:26-27; Joel 2:28; Gal 3:28.
The only good point you made (or implied) is that many complementarians claim to follow 1 Tim 2:11-12 because it’s there and yet choose not to follow 1 Tim 2:9-10 because…well, just because! Come to think of it, I wonder what Piper and Driscoll would say if pressed on this point.
“We will someday have to explain to God why we ignored the Spirit’s choice of prophetesses and our pious exegetical excuses will be exposed as our power-seeking hearts are set before the throne of Christ”
If complementarians will have to answer for such things I can only imagine what’s in store for more liberal evangelicals who will need to explain their tacit support of the slaughtering of God’s unborn offspring (Acts 17:28). By the way, did the killing of God’s unborn offspring make the agenda of the “Justice Conference”?
Yet you ignore that there is a “already, but not yet” aspect of Pneumatology thy cannot be ignored, especially in the Lukan paradigm of the Book of Acts. This work presents the eschatological work of the Spirit as beginning at Pentecost. The words of the Book of Joel are moved forward in time just like the resurrection of the dead was moved forward in time, in part, through Jesus’ resurrection.
There is a strong connection between eschatological Messiah and eschatological Spirit in the New Testament. What must be shown, and I think you’ve failed to do this, is not that the Book of Acts interprets the Book of Joel as you indicate it should, but that the Book of Joel is interpreted through the resurrection of Messiah and his sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.
The ecclesiastical elements forbidding women to do this or that make better sense if we see them as a sort of “current distress”, especially as Paul mentions a handful of women leaders in his epistles, is depicted as working with them in Acts, and and shares a Pneumatology much like Luke seeing the eschatological Spirit as functioning now, even now, in the church.
I grant your point about the “already, but not yet” eschatology at work in Acts (in fact, I agree with it), but that doesn’t change the fact that Joel 2:28 (or Acts 2:17) remains a fundamentally eschatological passage whose ecclesiological consequences are far from obvious.
“The ecclesiastical elements forbidding women to do this or that make better sense if we see them as a sort of ‘current distress’…”
I would like to see egalitarians advance the argument that the NT was not intended to commit us to any particular ecclesiology. Yes, we are given brief glimpses of the ecclesiology of the early Jerusalem church as well as that which Paul taught in the churches he founded, but this witness is only preserved so that we may imitate the spirit of their example if not all the particulars. Surely, ethics and eschatology are much closer to the heart of the NT than the “ecclesiastical elements” under discussion.
The real problem with Piper and Driscoll is that their doctrine of Scripture is too high, for them some form of complementarianism must be true because 1 Tim 2:11-12 are the very words of God himself (which is why their nonobservance of 1 Tim 2:9-10 is such a subversive observation).
What evangelicals badly need is a new doctrine of Scripture that simultaneously reflects the realities of Scripture while still allowing them to preach and teach much in the same way they have been.
I agree that evangelicals need to reevaluate our doctrine of Scripture. I think some are in that process. It is ironies like the 1 Tim 2.9-12 one that point to the fallible nature of many of our views on this matter.
Hey Brian – hope you are well. Congrats on moving toward completion of the ThM. I still have a book of yours on Augustine I need to return. I’ll put it in your box this week – thanks for letting me borrow it.
I don’t think it is entirely true that we live in a Genesis 3 (hermeneutical) world. In fact while it is true Eve is the ezer, it is also equally true that she is named by Adam (and not vice-versa). That is a pre-fall situation. Obviously, they are both image bearers, equal in dignity, and called to fulfill the mandate of 1:26-28. But Adam named Eve (before and after the fall, btw), and this is a function of his headship (they didn’t name each other). And Paul explicitly refers to the pre-fall situation as part of his argument in I Tim. 2:13.
In his argument in 1 Tim 2 he has many things to say that I am sure most evangelicals don’t implement in their churches. We can’t slice and splice his argument saying he used his Adam/Eve contrast for all times, all places in vv. 11-12 and then argue for culture relativity in vv. 9-10. Even more apparent is that Eve is the exemplary woman for Paul’s critique of the women of this church not because she is a woman, but because she was deceived, i.e. she was ignorant. If 1 Cor 14.34-35 is authentic with Paul I think this sheds further light: go learn.
If a woman is learned then she is not liable to Paul’s critique, plain and simple. If a man is ignorant, then Paul’s use of Scripture won’t work since he adapts Scripture to address particular situations, but the principle Paul made stands.
Brian, another one of these issues where there isn’t one biblical position that can be parsed if only we could figure it out. People can argue all day about whether the patriarchal passages trump the egalitarian passages, or vice versa, but nobody will ever win that game because people see what they want to see. The fact is that there are multiple biblical positions that represent the different views of the different authors at different points in time.
There is no way, for example, to square Paul’s view that there is no male and female in Christ with the arguments made in Timothy about the inferior nature of women. The most simple and logical explanation is that Timothy was written at a much later date (let’s face it, if Paul died in the 60s, the ecclesiastical structure that is described in Timothy did not exist) by someone who was opposed to the equality of women.
You’re correct that people will find what they want to find. What we have is biblical passages that can lean either direction. My argument is that the greater motifs and central trajectories aim toward equality in Christ, but as seen above, especially from those who hold more of a “verbal plenary inspiration” view of Scripture, all Scripture is seen as created equal. I don’t hold this view. I think the pastorals are subject the the core of the Pauline corpus and should be interpreted through that core, not equal to it.
@Brian: You wrote ” … he has welcome women into the priesthood when he removed such designations inviting all believers into that very role underneath Christ, the high priest, in whom all humanity finds their identity.”
That is the very thing being debated, I think Brian. It is possible, but not established as a given. The argument raised though was does ‘equality’ require all men have access to all roles women have access to, and likewise, do all women require access to all roles men have access to. (Does the ear need to be able to see, to have equal worth to the body of Christ as the eye?)
You also wrote “. I find it odd to argue that Genesis 3 tells women how it will be for them when most men don’t suffer the unique punishment of Genesis 3′s working in the field and many women do share in that. Should we interpret it hyper-literally that God wants all women under the curse to live subject to men and all men to be workers in the field?”
In responding to me previously, you’d raised the issue about how literally we are to take the bible (on other occasions). This leads me to believe you see my position as ‘more literal’ than your own. Let me say, for the record, that although I take the bible very seriously, I see figurative and metaphorical speech within (for example, I believe in ‘old-earth’, and take the author’s meaning of יום (yowm H3117) as ‘division of time’ rather than literal 24 hour period). Even so, I see figurative speech and metaphor as consistent throughout the entire text (in homogeneous usage), limited meaning generally, but bound by the intent of the author; which I believe the Holy Spirit reveals.
I’m not actually sure what your goal was in making the argument you did. Your response seems to miss the point. You seem to be suggesting that whether we take the text figuratively or hyper-literally our understanding of the text influences whether or not God burdens men and women un-equally either with curses or with blessings or if God differentiates between the genders. I believe the bible is clear about God’s differentiation between the genders whatever our interpretation. The core issue is if God Himself differentiate between men and women, does that differentiation preclude gender ‘equality’? You seem to be suggesting the only way for there to be ‘true’ (or actual) gender equality is for God to NOT differentiate between genders (in some gender agnostic sense), even if He treats them evenly in all other respects. This is really a world-view question about the character of God.
More succinctly then; if you have a son and a daughter, and purchase them both toys, do you need to purchase them the same toy for there to be equality, or is it sufficient you purchase them both toys of the same value? The issue you haven’t addressed is, does God need to burden men and women with exactly the same curse/blessing (however you understand that curse/blessing to be) for there to be true equality? Or, can equality be such that God can curse/bless men one way, and women another, and as long as the burden of the curse/blessing is the same for equality to exist? Is there a biblical precept that defines equality as ‘same-role, same burden/blessing’ or as ‘different-role, same burden/blessing’?
I sense that you’re not understanding my point about Genesis 3. I am pointing out that the language of the curse upon men is purely agricultural. Yet we don’t expect men to be the only ones who work in fields nor do we argue that it is the will of God that men do such jobs. We wouldn’t suggest that a man is outside of the will of God if he works in the office and we know women work in the fields and women have done those types of jobs for a very long time.
Yet suddenly we find it our task to enforce the curse language upon women as if this is what God demands of women everywhere for all times and all places. What if a woman works in the field, is she absorbing the curse of man? What if she doesn’t have a child, did she avoid the curse?
I am not arguing that there is no difference in gender. I am arguing that gender doesn’t prohibit women from any and every role in the church. The body image is not gender based, but gifting based.
@Brian: I understand your point, however I don’t take Gen 3 to be about agriculture, and I don’t opposing you portraying it that way.
Here’s how I take it (just to be clear):
In [Gen 3:14] God speaks to the snake about the consequence of his causing Adam and Eve to sin. Specifically verse 15 is the curse that Christ would have victory over Satan albeit at some cost. This is not a conversation between God and a snake.
Likewise verse 15 segues (or segway (TM) for you Americans) into verse 16 (the verse I cited) and is a curse and a consequence of Eve’s roll in sinning. If Eve is not historical, this would be figurative, but it doesn’t matter one way or the other if she is.
Verse 16 is God speaking to Eve as a woman.
Verse 17 is God speaking to Adam as a man. Verse 17 is not agricultural being God’s expulsion of man from a ‘perfect creation’ (i.e. Eden as paradise) into an imperfect creation (not Eden). In Eden Adam did not have to work for the fruit of the trees, God providing him with everything, while Verse 17 all that changes).
The point is, that even if you treat verse 17 as purely agriculture, God spoke to Satan, God spoke to Adam and God spoke to Eve. Three curses, for three beings. God differentiated between genders and between angel and man. In [Gen 3] Satan is clearly treated as an archetype, just as Adam is, and Eve is. Paul treats Genesis 3 the same, so I’m not being incoherent with the rest of the bible in my treatment of this.
You are arguing “I am arguing that gender doesn’t prohibit women from any and every role in the church. The body image is not gender based, but gifting based.” This much is clear. However, these are your presuppositions (says your opponents). You’re being asked to show that ‘gender equality’ before God requires women to be able to fill the same roles as men.
I’m not quite sure what you mean by body image, but if by that you mean ‘body of Christ’ image, you have to show that God appoints role only by ‘gifting’, and that God must ignore gender in his considerations (else face the accusation that you’re sense of ‘equality’ is what is defective, rather than God’s)
@Andrew T. Forgive me but I am finding your argument somewhat difficult to follow. Are you saying that in order to have access to all roles within the church, men and women have to be equal and equality means the same as – so, for example, they suffer the same consequences of the Fall? In essence, that if God permits women to lead in a church as an elder/pastor then God must ignore gender altogether – because the female is inferior/ unequal to the male right from the start of creation because the female is not the same as the male?
G. Fee’s textual comments with regard to 1 Corinthians 14.34-35 look like a desperate attempt to get rid of a bothersome detail. The real (secular) feminists seem to understand Paul better than the evangelical egalitarians. What were the chances of finding a woman rabbi in synagog in the first century, zero. The secular feminists (some of them) read Paul in his historical framework, why can’t the evangelical egalitarians just take what Paul says at face value. It really isn’t all that difficult to understand Paul’s position on this.
I am not promoting Piper, Grudem, Driscoll’s agenda. Don’t have much in common with them. I am just wondering if all the multiple layers of obfuscation that have been put between the common readers of the NT and the text of the Paul’s epistles might look pretty silly to anyone from a time and place where gender issues were not a major focus. This obfuscation is really totally unnecessary.
Again, I am not denying that Genesis 3’s curses follow from the events of Genesis 2. What I am saying is that the particular consequences of the fall are very limited, figurative, exemplary, and by no means universal descriptions of what must be because God cursed creation. I agree that God cursed creation, and I think in Romans 8.18-25 even Paul uses this narrative to establish his eschatology, but the particulars of the curse cannot serve as you’d like them to serve. To be consistent we’d have to mandate that all men work in fields, pretty simple.
That the unique roles are regarding gifting is self-evident. Re-read Paul, this is exactly what he is addressing.
I think Fee’s work is an insightful acknowledgment that 1 Cor 14.34-35 is completely out of place and nonsensical in light of 1 Cor 11. That said, it isn’t that I deny that Paul acted out of his cultural norms at times, but I find these passages sub-servant to his proclamation regarding the implications of the Gospel, even if Paul himself did not connect the dots as he should have. He didn’t connect the dots with slavery on all occasions either for what seems to be pragmatic reasons (he does go a different course when mediating between Philemon and Onesimus). Paul established the principle by which we can ponder and critique his very outworking.
@ C. Stirling Bartholowmew: Trouble is, what we read in English is not necessarily what the Greek or Hebrew meant. We are trying to tease out what the original meaning is from the text. It is as easy to argue that those taking the complimentarian view are the ones who are practising obfuscation. There are arguments and counter arguments for every point that both sides can make on this issue (as well as a lot of others). I think that on this site at least we are all trying to shine torches on the texts attempting to read them properly, to enlighten rather than confuse.
If you want to read the Bible literally – what you see in English on the page in front of you is enough for you – fine, go ahead but you can’t expect everyone to be satisfied with that.
I want to know what the original text meant in its context to the original intended readers as well as how it fits with the rest of Scripture. And this issue matters enormously because if we take Scripture seriously enough to want to obey it then it affects how we relate to each other and conduct ourselves as believers in and out of church.
“I think Fee’s work is an insightful acknowledgment that 1 Cor 14.34-35 is completely out of place and nonsensical … ”
The information structure, specifically what the disciples of S.E. Porter (the Roehampton Circle in the late ’90s) called “texture” supports the text as found in the critical editions. One significant feature of texture is the repetition of keywords from the co-text, including, LALEW, EKKLHSIA, particularly hUPOTASSW and SIGAW. A. Thiselton (1Cor, p1152) cites E. Ellis and B. Witherington in support of this.
One of the members of the Roehampton Circle, Cynthia Westfall, PhD. was working on a book concerning Paul and Gender, haven’t heard anything recently about this.
While these observations are valuable I see Fee’s basic point about the slow of the text being disrupted by that short aside. Maybe Paul had a side point to make, but there is no doubt that it is an odd thing for him to say contextually and only a short while after permitting women to prophesy in that very chapter.
@Ali: If there is a defect, it is in my ability to type or convey ideas, and not in your understanding.
To answer you, I am NOT arguing that ” … in order to have access to all roles within the church, men and women have to be equal and equality means the same as .. .. they suffer the same consequences of the Fall.”
I am trying to get Brian to be more explicit in his understanding of (gender) ‘equality’. Specifically, he’s argued Jesus has given both men and women access to all roles within the church. Is this argument a presupposition though, is it a requirement of what (gender) ‘equality’ means, or does he recognize that equality does not necessarily imply ‘without distinction’? For my position, I pointed out [Gen 3] which he has taken issue with. (His most recent post has posed a good counter-argument, which i will attempt to consider).
My own position is that men are not superior to women, or women inferior. I’m interested in this discussion because I see God as timeless, changeless, without shade or variation, and not whimsical. Fundamentally, when considering ‘progressive revelation’, do we recognize increasingly clear revelations of one timeless intent (which is the object of the revelation); this in opposition to the idea that newer revelations somehow differ from older revelation; somehow God has tinkered, making things better, newer and different.
Given such a presupposition, when considering God’s treatment of gender, I am compelled to understand this in a way that is consistent between the testaments. Brian’s position is interesting because he argues, though Jesus is God, Jesus’s approach to gender is more progressive than what we see in the OT. Either that is because the OT does not reflect God’s true intent (perhaps the writers have dominated the text with their own character over that of the Holy Spirit) or God has changed his approach.
I am not advocating “common sense realism,” which I understand might be inferred from my previous comment. Paul can be exceedingly vague and occasionally opaque. In his epistles we often find a long strings of genitives which are multivalent. We also find lexical ambiguity, terminology used with intentional polysemy. Paul’s epistles are bristling with semantic indeterminacy.
The obfuscation I am objecting to is a feature of our current cultural situation where feminism in both secular and religious forms has caused us to reject a reading of Paul which might make him sound like a first century Pharisee. Elizabeth Wire, (Corinthian Women Prophets, 1990) attempts to read Paul within his first century Pharisee framework. Evangelical egalitarians get caught up in trying to make Paul sound like an egalitarian Professor at Westmont or Fuller. I am not embracing Wire’s reading of Paul without qualification, however I think her approach illustrates what is fundamentally wrong with the egalitarian Professor model.
@Brian, I disagree with your understanding of Paul. Your understanding of Paul is a function of presuppositions, just as mine are, so I’m trying to get at your presuppositions. I understand Paul differently. My understanding of Paul is heavily bound to fulfillment of OT messianic prophecy, and the reunification of the House of Israel with the House of Judah (see [Eze 37:19-20] for example)
Without necessarily agreeing, I’m willing to consider your counter-argument, that [Gen 3] is too limited to be considered in resolving this issue. Ok, so lets look elsewhere. Do you believe [Gal 3:28] says that God is gender agnostic entirely, or gender agnostic wrt to some specific question (such as ‘the promise’)?
I see God as not limiting people to various roles and callings because of gender. There are some things inherent about gender (e.g. only women are born with a womb for childbearing). There are many more things which we created socially on the basis of those inherent differences, but that are not essential to the gender (e.g. in some societies it is seen as OK for men to play violent games with a ball while women are asked to avoid such behaviors). But I do not see this as determining whether a woman can pastor, prophecy, learn and teach Scripture, et cetera from a prescriptive basis. I see most of Scripture prohibitions against women as prescriptions based in temporal, though not necessary, descriptions.
I would clarify that I don’t see Paul as the egalitarian professor either. I see his pastoral approach as much more fluid. We may argue that his forbidding of women in this or that context are acceptable, temporary, pragmatic aversions from the implication of his Gospel which he may or may not have recognized as being so. My argument is that his primary assertions regarding there being neither male nor female in Christ transcend these temporary aversions.
@Andrew T – thanks for your helpful clarification.
Just a thought – rather than the OT writers not reflecting God’s true intent or God changing his approach, could it simply be that we aren’t understanding the OT correctly?
@C. – thank you for responding. I haven’t heard of Wire but I will now look her up.
@Ali Griffiths: Oh I believe that is exactly the case!
Christian’s tend to ignore the OT. They fail to see that what is reflected in it is also reflected in the NT perfectly. They fail to appreciate it’s purpose in the entire body of God’s word, and see it instead as ‘quaint stories’ of less value than the NT.
However, I’d say the same about the NT. Although Christian’s love the NT, and study the NT, they don’t appreciate that it’s foundation is not of itself. They do not see that the image found there is the perfection of the image of what came before (seeing the shadow and the thing casting the shadow as unrelated). We read within the NT quotes of the OT but ignoring the context of the quotes themselves by ignoring how they were used in the OT.
We focus on the bridegroom (who is glorious) while ignoring what the word says about His bride, and indeed the marriage. We take as literal things which are figurative, and take as figurative things which are literal.
Indeed, I think you’re correct.
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