Category Archives: Women

Let’s give Huldah her due… and just that

Woman with Bible

Huldah has become a new heroic figure to those promoting full egalitarianism. Frankly, I think that by overemphasizing this minor character from the Old Testament, they’re actually hurting their case.

I was in a couple of discussions lately where I saw this. One was where someone on Facebook asked what was some basic general Bible knowledge that we should expect of our adults; the other was a discussion of key points from the Old Testament that should be taught.

In both cases, Huldah was mentioned.

Huldah is an interesting case. If you aren’t familiar with her story, you can look in 2 Kings 22 and 2 Chronicles 34. These are the accounts of the temple reforms under King Josiah. When those restoring the temple found the book of the Law, they weren’t sure what they had. So they took it to an expert. That expert was Huldah, the prophetess.

For those who say that God never uses women, that can be problematic. So Huldah’s story is definitely an interesting footnote in the Josiah story. The Josiah story is an important one in the Old Testament, so that gives Huldah’s participation some importance.

7 verses worth in 2 Kings. 7 verses in 2 Chronicles. While you can’t measure everything by the length of stories, there is some indication of significance there. Or lack of it.

At a time when God’s people were in disarray, where the Law had been lost among the leadership, a woman took a leading role. She speaks to canon, stating whether or not something is legitimately God’s Word; I think she’s the first person to do that.

She deserves a minor place in our telling of the Bible story. She shouldn’t be left out. She shouldn’t be pushed to the forefront. Unless, of course, you’re trying to push an agenda.

Proof texts, women judges, and pushing our own agendas

The Old Testament character Deborah is a hero to many who want to expand the role of women in the church. In many ways, she has become to feminist groups what Nadab and Abihu are to legalists; each group uses these stories in ways that the Bible doesn’t, just to promote a certain agenda.

The Bible never points back to Deborah, neither for good nor for bad. When her time is remembered, she isn’t mentioned; Barak is. (1 Samuel 12:11; Hebrews 11:32) That’s really, really significant… and never mentioned by those using Deborah for their own means.

There is no evidence that anyone in Bible times saw Deborah as setting a precedent that should be followed. There don’t seem to have been any female judges after this. When the monarchy is established, the female rulers are not selected by God and are uniformly bad. There’s no clamoring in the book of Acts to name a woman to replace Judas. When there is a problem with food distribution regarding women in the church, men are named to oversee the effort; Acts 6 would be the logical time for the church to embrace the “obvious teachings” about women, but it doesn’t happen.

The book of Judges depicts a chaotic time in the history of Israel; the chief description of the atmosphere is “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.” Judges is full of stories where God works through this chaos, using unlikely people in unlikely ways.

I don’t believe that Balaam’s donkey presents a case for animals participating in our assemblies. I don’t think the witch of Endor appears to lead us to change the Bible’s stance on sorcery. I don’t believe Rahab’s story teaches anything about the acceptability of prostitution, nor does Samson’s frequenting a prostitute justify our doing the same.

If you want to pick out proof texts from the Bible to support a certain agenda, it’s easily done. But just because it’s easy doesn’t make it right.

image courtesy yoministry.com

Culture: The Uninvited Guest

Three_wise_monkeys_figureWe’ve been talking about Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience as they speak to us about religious matters. They form part of what is come to be known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. But as David noted last week, there’s another voice that speaks loudly as we discuss spiritual things: Culture.

If Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience are we voices that we accept and choose to listen to, Culture is all too often the uninvited guest. I’ve come to believe that when someone says, “Culture has nothing to do with this discussion,” that’s when Culture is playing its biggest role. Its influence is most effective when it goes unseen and unnoticed. Culture thrives on denial.

The hot topic at my home congregation is the role of women in worship. Everyone wants to claim that culture has nothing to do with their viewpoint. And that’s a big part of the problem. Let me explain:

  • Culture is a big part of the Bible. The Bible was revealed in cultural contexts, across many years. It was written in human language, not divine language. It addressed people living in a cultural context and expressed itself in ways they could understand. The New Testament letters, especially, were occasional documents, written to address a specific situation. That situation almost always had something to do with culture: misunderstandings of doctrine due to culture, churches following cultural practices, churches deciding how to resist cultural practices. Then add to the fact that we read the Bible in a translation in the language of our culture!
  • Some of the instructions about women were specifically tied to cultural things. The discussion of head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11 is an obvious example.
  • Those of us who read the Bible read in terms of our culture. When we read “church,” we think of a group of people that gather in a large auditorium, even though such things almost certainly didn’t exist when the Bible was written. We read “preach” and think of a man standing before an audience. We read “Scripture” and think of the bound Bibles that we hold in our hands.
  • The traditional view of the role of women is full of cultural influences. We’ve made standing in front of the assembled church, such as standing to pass communion trays, a sign of leadership. We’ve created, please note, we’ve created a Sunday assembly where there are song leaders, communion leaders, prayer leaders, and preachers. That’s not straight out of the pages of the Bible. That grew up out of culture.
  • The move toward an egalitarian stance has been heavily influenced by culture. Had there been no shift in the view of women in our culture, these discussions would not be taking place. It’s silly to deny that. I wouldn’t argue that the influence has been greater nor lesser than that on the traditional side; both sides have gotten where they’ve gotten with the aid of culture.

That’s just one example. The same happens with almost every Bible discussion. The question isn’t whether or not Culture will influence. The question is to what degree we will recognize and try to temper that influence. We don’t want to be led or controlled by Culture. But we do want to take a message from thousands of years ago and apply it to our current cultural situation.

Maybe Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Experience can lend us a hand.

Male leadership a consequence of The Fall? Where’s the biblical evidence?

So yesterday’s question was: “Can you think of a New Testament writer who described the current (in their day) state of male-female relations as being a result of The Curse?” I’d still like to hear from anyone who can think of an example. Because I can’t.

There are some references, though largely symbolic, to God’s words to the serpent:

“Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” (Revelation 12:17)
“He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:2)
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20)
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” (Luke 10:18–19)

There are references to God’s words to Adam:

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:20–22)
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.” (Romans 5:12–14)
“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21–22)

The New Testament argues that the curse on the ground will be lifted. The punishment of death, that came through Adam’s sin, will be undone. (Will there be a lifting of the curse on the serpent? Maybe, if you take Isaiah 11:6-9 as a description of the fulfilled Kingdom)

What I don’t see is any reference to the creation story followed by an indication that the relationship between men and women should be changed because of it. Sin is said to have come in through one man, as is death. There’s nothing saying that male leadership, male headship, women’s submission, or anything related came about because of the Garden. In fact, I can’t think of any Old Testament passages that make such an argument, either. (Again, with the possible exception of Genesis 3:16, though I find that interpretation to be forced on the text rather than read out of it)

I think anyone wanting to make that argument should do so with caution and humility. At most you have a possible interpretation of one less-than-clear text on your side.

Men, Women, and The Curse

Adam and Eve in the GardenWith the general feeling that I’m prying open a powder keg with a lit torch in my hand, I want to look at another aspect of the issue of gender relations in the church (And yes, I still lack a good way of referring to that topic). I want to talk about The Curse.

When discussing women’s roles in the church, one often hears a reference to male headship/leadership as merely being a result of what God described in Genesis 3:16. A friend of mine was discussing how churches limit the participation of women, and he said, “They don’t realize they’re just prolonging The Curse.”

A question came to mind. Can you think of any place in the New Testament where this argument is made? That is, can you think of a New Testament writer who described the current (in their day) state of male-female relations as being a result of The Curse? What scriptures would you offer to support such a view?

I’d just as soon we didn’t wander too far afield from this particular question. If you were going to prove the validity of this argument (male leadership began with The Fall and is a consequence of The Curse), what biblical texts would you use? Let’s leave out Genesis 3 for now. What does the rest of Scripture say about this?

Thanks for your input!