Tag Archives: gender roles

Replacing biblical authority with that of experience

Let me get back to a topic from last week. I was talking about Christians and churches accepting an additional authority in spiritual matters, that being the authority of experience.

Jay Guin is doing a series of articles on church trends. The first trend he discusses comes from an article by Philip Jenkins and focuses on “gender revolutions.” Let me quote a few things from what Jay says; listen to see if you can hear the voice of experience dominating the discussion in churches:

But there was an even bigger revolution that I’d date to around World War II. Pre-WWII, most conservative churches considered the biblical passages thought to prohibit women from having authority over men (primarily 1 Tim 2) to apply universally — in the secular workplace as well as church and family.
However, by the early 1960s at least, the commentators were limiting their arguments to the church and the family, largely conceding that women may have authority over men in the secular workplace — but more by omission. They just dropped the secular workplace side of the question. Why?
Well, first, women were busily proving their competence as principals of schools and administrators in other fields. And they were bringing home much larger pay checks because of it. And so the old argument of female gullibility was disproved by experience, and few men were willing to give up a 50% raise in their wife’s pay just to make a theological point.

The near future trend is that the complementarian (hierarchical) position will continue to erode as experience shows the competence of women as supervisors and as a generation that has never known the discrimination that I grew up with become church leaders and elders.
Now, for non-Christians, anything short of full equality for women is considered grossly immoral. Millennials consider the notion that women shouldn’t be full partners in a marriage or church laughable and deeply wrong. This is going to become less of an internal debate within the church and more a question of our ability to evangelize the lost, because few unchurched people will be willing to accept imposing a subordinate role on women.

To be fair, let me note that Jay makes powerful arguments for egalitarianism based on Scripture and theology. He is not one who has accepted the authority of experience over the voice of Scripture. But many in our churches have done so. For most, a desire to change the church’s stance on women does not arise out of Bible study or new insights into the text. It comes from experience, both personal experience and observed experience.

Interestingly enough, Jay included point #2 in the same post. (I don’t think the grouping was intentional) That point deals with “Revolutions in sexual identity.” I find that interesting because I can’t help but feel that we’re going to see the exact same thing happen in the church as regards sexual identity. Experience will cause us to return to the Bible and massage the text until it finally says what we want it to say.

Note what Jay says:

While some congregations are choosing to accept gay couples or else to take an agnostic position (same difference), most churches consider homosexual sexual activity to be sinful. And, indeed, I think this is what the Bible teaches (as we’ve covered here many times). But there will be a price to be paid as homosexuals push for legislation that punishes those who refuse to adopt their agenda. I’m sure that at some point the tax exempt status of churches will be challenged if they don’t submit to the gay agenda. And some churches and related institutions (universities, publishing houses) will capitulate rather than close their doors with the loss of tax-deductible contributions.

In both cases (gender and sexual identity), Jay notes that the church will have to pay a price to hold to traditional views. I’m less optimistic than he. I think few Christians and few churches are willing to pay that price. We’ve seen it in gender discussions. We’ll see it with conversations about sexual identity.

Give experience a voice equal to or greater than that given to Scripture, if you choose. Just be honest about it. I think you’re damaging the church by changing your source of authority. And I think generations in the future will return to Scripture and marvel at the choices we made.

Why the ad hominem attack on Paul?

We’ve been discussing the concept of “Jesus vs Paul” or “the gospels vs the epistles.” There’s one other observation that I want to make, even though I doubt it will be a popular one. Who is trying to demote Paul’s theology to second class? That is, who wants the words of the epistles to carry less weight than they traditionally have?

In my experience, this view is promoted by basically two groups, who share a common argument (though they rarely admit it). In churches of Christ, it’s primarily those who hold to an egalitarian view. In Christianity at large, it’s also those who no longer see homosexual behavior as a sin.

I rarely hear people saying, “Jesus emphasized baptism more than Paul did; I take Jesus much more seriously.” Seldom is the argument: “Jesus taught a works-based justification while Paul emphasizes grace; I take Jesus much more seriously.” (And yes, those claims are debatable… like the idea that Jesus promoted egalitarianism more than Paul did.)

I’m very open to correction on this point. Feel free to point me to people who are de-emphasizing Paul for reasons other than the ones I’ve mentioned. My experience is naturally limited.

For now, I’m very uncomfortable with any attempt to not take a biblical writer seriously, especially one who wrote as much as Paul did. Yes, many have over-emphasized Paul in the past, many have stripped his words of all context, many have built ridiculous arguments based on proof texts. But none of that calls for us to demote apostolic teaching to a second tier.

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!

Coffee and headship

Coffee ServiceWhen I get up in the morning, I make coffee. It reminds me who I am.

I’m not talking about the need for a caffeine fix. A lot of times the coffee sits around over an hour before I drink any. Caffeine doesn’t particularly wake me up. I don’t drink coffee as a drug.

But I prepare coffee for my wife. And I wait to drink it with her. I get out two mugs that match. Not the same mugs every day, but I want our mugs to be the same.

Most of our mugs have been in our home for a decade or two, so they show some wear and tear. I pick out the better of the two mugs and use that for my wife’s coffee.

Most of the time, I prepare both cups and serve her hers, putting in the sweetener and milk that she uses.

So hooray. I do a chore around the house. Am I looking for a medal?

No, it’s not about that. This little morning ritual reminds me who I am. I take seriously what the Bible says about me being the head of my family. (Feel free to argue about whether head means “source” or “leader” or whatever you choose) As head, from what I read in Ephesians 5, I’m called on to do several specific things.

  • I’m to love my wife (and family)
  • I’m to serve her
  • I’m to sacrifice for her

To me that’s what it means for me to be the head of my family. And making coffee in the morning reminds me of that.

Image from MorgueFile.com