Continuing yesterday’s discussion about the interaction between Scripture and the culture in which it was written, I think we need to recognize that there was some interaction. I think that the Bible talks about many natural things in ways that people would understand, such as references to the four corners of the earth, to storehouses of hail, and to the sun standing still. The Bible expresses things in ways that the original readers could understand.
I think there are many things in the Law of Moses that reflect the culture in which they were living. Many of the prohibitions of that law had to do with things which the nations around them were practicing. Some of those are identified as such, others aren’t.
In a missions class with Dr. Ed Mathews, he made the point that one way we can identify teachings that transcend cultures is to look at things in the Bible that are taught consistently in different cultural settings. And, although people talk about “the culture surrounding the New Testament,” the fact is that the New Testament was written to people in different cultural settings by people with different cultural backgrounds. Galatia was not like Rome. It definitely wasn’t like Jerusalem. Crete and Ephesus were not the same. There were similarities throughout the Roman Empire, yet there were great differences.
Look at how Paul was misunderstood in Lystra. That time was because of language. Then he was misinterpreted in Athens, even though he spoke the same language. The worldview of the Athenians was very different from Paul’s.
If we take the Bible as a whole, then we get still more cultural settings. The world of Genesis differs from the world of the judges; life in Egypt was not like life in Babylonia.
Some of those settings were completely male dominated. As Jr pointed out in the comments yesterday, other cultures gave much more public participation to women.
In none of those settings does God call for egalitarian leadership. He does specify male leadership on several occasions. We see the exception being practiced here and there, but never taught explicitly.
I think women have often been mistreated, abused, and wrongfully treated as second-class citizens of the Kingdom. I think that the whats and hows of their participation in the Body need to be examined with an open mind. But I’m not ready to join those who say, like Mark Love, “I am for full gender equality in congregational practice. Period. Everything. Preach. Teach. Eldering.” I don’t think that’s what we see in Scripture.