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There is much debate, and bad feelings, over what Scripture says about the role women should have and can hold in the Church. Tags: Apostle Paul, Bible, Bishops, Christianity, Church, faith and gender, marriage, preaching women, Submission, women, women in ministry, women pastors, women preachers Published by Stephen J. Ardent in Christianity on October 11, 2009
Author clafleur recently wrote an article, Women Pastors, in Charge and Out of Order: From The Theologian’s Corner, which is generating quite bit of debate. (This article was posted here last Sunday)
I am writing this article, not as a refutation or rebuttal, but rather as an alternative look at the same issues. While not as seasoned or scholarly as his, I hope you will take something away with you from reading it. Women in Scripture
There are many who lay women’s status in society, being listed among the downtrodden, bereft of rights, treated like property, etc., at Scriptures doorstep. But this is simply a lie. Scripture paints a picture of women that is all-encompassing and runs the gamut from the moral failures of Jezebel and Herodias; to the flawed yet faithful like Rahab; to the clueless like Eve and Hagar; to the stalwart faithful like Phoebe, Prisca, and Junica. In other words, women come in as many varieties as men Indeed, Scripture paints a picture of women as completely and utterly human. Scripture also paints a picture of women as having a high and valued place in the mind of God.
That accounts of the lives of women of faith are included is unprecedented considering the society where these things take place. Eve, Sarah, Ruth, Esther, Hagar, Mary, Margaret, Phoebe, Junica, and Prisca…
Important. Fully a part of the history of man. Fully a part of the unfolding of God’s plan. A pivotal part of the Gospel account.
Women were not considered capable of being a witness by the society of the time. They were unable to give legal testimony. Yet God sends not men, but women to be the first ones to witness the Resurrection miracle, the first ones to tell others.
This is important and sets the stage for the societal and cultural changes Christianity was about to bring to these people and to the civilizations of the world. The Church at Ephesus
In Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians he speaks to the church at Ephesus. The church at Ephesus had problems. They were no longer behaving in a loving manner towards each other, which Paul says is because they have lost sight of their first love, and what that first love delivered them from. Paul then goes on to talk about not behaving like children, about growing in faith and maturity, about not behaving like the secular world. To speak the truth and not lies. To have good interactions with their children, for wives to submit themselves to their husbands, and for husbands to love their wives like Christ loves the Church.
We’ve got TROUBLE!!! Right here in River City!!! And that starts with “T” and that rhymes with “D” and that means DRAMA!!!
We have a whole lot of drama going on in the church at Ephesus. Drama between church members, within families and their children, and between husbands and wives. We have people interfering with other people’s lives, complaining, lies, people being busybodies…there was a whole lot of drama going on. It wasn’t just threatening the message being given out by the church, but the church itself was screaming towards destruction if this wasn’t brought under control.
So what does this have to do with the subject? What we want to know about is that letter Paul wrote to Timothy. That’s where the problem is.
I know…I know…but you see, Timothy was the pastor of the church at Ephesus. Paul’s Letters to Timothy
1. Paul wrote a letter to the Christians of the Church at Ephesus. 2. Paul wrote a letter directly to Timothy as pastor of the Church at Ephesus.
So what we are reading when we read the Letters to Timothy are instructions to Timothy as pastor of church in turmoil. Now I’m not saying that they do not contain good advice for every Christian, but one must keep in mind the context the letter is written in if we want to understand it, and not read things into it that it doesn’t say.
So let’s take a look at clafleur’s first requirement – “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” Well, it certainly does say both man in the first part, and he in the second. Or does it. Let’s look at the Greek: “pistoV o logoV ei tiV episkophV oregetai kalou ergou epiqumei“
The relevant portions here are “ei tiV” – If a man, and “epiqumei” – he desires. The problem here is that what we are looking at is simply an act of loose, or culturally relevant translation. The words “man” and “he” may be used generically to imply anyone and everyone. “ei tiV” translates as whoever or whatever, while “epiqumei” translates as longing, sincere desire, I want, he wants, they want, we want, you want, etc. If you are part of a culture that does not value women, holds them to a lesser estate than men, you would of course, translate them in that context, or a culture for which they generically refer to an inclusive all, translate the words as man and he, meaning anyone and everyone.
The simple fact is that women were an important part of the early church and held positions of power, and considering the freedom enjoyed by the saved, tells us what is the proper way to read this passage.
So let’s look at the second part in 1 Timothy 3:2 “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober–minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach…“
It does indeed say husband of one wife. And here would be a good time to mention the fact that the Greek does not differentiate words for “man” and “husband”, or “woman” and “wife”. The translation relies solely on the context it is used in. In 1 Timothy 3:2 there are some who argue that the translation should be read using the generic form indicating a group of people of either sex. This may or may not be the case. However considering what we have learned about verse 1, this would follow in traditional biblical style of explaining something generally, and then going on to explain it in detail. In verses 3-10 we have a description of what constitutes a righteous man, and then beginning in verse 11 and following a breakdown of what a righteous woman is. Apparently listing the attributes required to be considered for the role of bishop.
In the original quote, Paul refers to Adam and Eve, the married couple. What do you think he is talking about?
Personally, using Scripture as a guide to understanding Scripture, the meaning is clear. Jezebel
So what is the problem with the woman Jezebel? Was it that she was a woman? Doubtful. It is clear that the problem was two-fold. Firstly, she was a prophetess who used her position as such to lead the people away from the One true God, and lead them into blasphemous practices. Secondly, the church allowed it. Which was their sin, becoming secular, and adopting secular ways.
Any movement away from the Truth in Christ leads us away from the freedom in Christ we have. I, Paul
I want you to compare two verses for me will you? The first is 1 Timothy 2:12 -
“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man.”
The second is from 1 Corinthians 7:12
“I Paul, not the Lord, say this to the rest: If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her.”
Paul is a very ego-specific writer. When he speaks he uses the word “I” quite a bit. And since this is a personal letter to Timothy, a rescue-peptalk letter to a pastor who has lost control, it is up to the reader to determine what he means without including his usual disclaimer when speaking.
Look at 1 Timothy 2, the entire chapter. It’s a laundry list of how Christians, men and women, should behave. Remember the letter to the Ephesians, Paul is addressing to Timothy some of the problems that are tearing the church at Ephesus apart. Misbehavior, becoming too secular, becoming legalistic, adopting pagan practices, people not honoring the relationships in their lives. Specifically here, the one between husband and wife.
Compare what Paul says here to 1Timothy 2:8-15 and 1 Peter 3:1-7, here the admonitions are clearly talking about marriage. As a matter of fact, wherever Paul speaks about men and women, he is almost always speaking in terms of husband and wife.
Which leads to my next point… Submission, Women, and the Church
It should be noted that wherever Scripture talks about women and submission, it is ALWAYS in regards to the marriage relationship. As we learn when we are told that after Jesus returns, men and women will be like the angels, being neither given or taken in marriage. The marriage hierarchy is for here, for this world, under these circumstances. The actual word used is “schema“, a woman submitting to her husband, the man being the head of the household, is God’s mandated scheme of things for here.
Since Ephesus was having drama with the relationships between husband and wife, that they were being drawn into secular and pagan practices, or going back to legalistic religion, and from Paul’s comment, it is apparent that the women of Ephesus were using their new found freedom in Christ to create quite a stir. Those more knowledgeable lording it over those less so, women creating strife in their own and others marriages.
A clever woman married to a simple man now having the opportunity to manipulate him in the name of the Lord. Does Paul’s comment seem a little clearer now?
Tell me honestly, tell me you don’t know at least one woman who does not terrorize her household with an iron hand and a bible verse?
Tell me you don’t know at least one family where the wife has taken over the man’s duty to be the spiritual leader of the family? Whether by default or not.
Tell me you haven’t seen these kind of interpersonal dynamics in a church?
That’s what I thought.
Are you getting a picture of what was going on in the church at Ephesus now? Now re-read both Ephesians and the Letters to Timothy in light of that understanding. Aside from Ephesus and Timothy
Timothy and Ephesus weren’t the only ones who were having problems with freedom. Paul had to confront Peter and chew him out. Peter and other Jews were enjoying the freedom of Christ, but had fallen into the practice of making Gentiles obey Jewish laws in order to be Christians. Paul set him straight right quick. You can read the account in Galatians 2 – “I spoke up to Peter in front of them all: “If you, a Jew, live like a non-Jew when you’re not being observed by the watchdogs from Jerusalem, what right do you have to require non-Jews to conform to Jewish customs just to make a favorable impression on your old Jerusalem cronies?” We Jews know that we have no advantage of birth over “non-Jewish sinners.” We know very well that we are not set right with God by rule-keeping but only through personal faith in Jesus Christ. How do we know? We tried it—and we had the best system of rules the world has ever seen! Convinced that no human being can please God by self-improvement, we believed in Jesus as the Messiah so that we might be set right before God by trusting in the Messiah, not by trying to be good.”
But as I said, the best way to understand Scripture is to look at Scripture as a whole and understand things in light of Scripture. For example, when writing to the Church at Rome – Romans 16:1 Paul writes that – “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea.“ What is important about this verse, which has been corrected in some translations, is the word being translated as servant. The Greek word “diakonon“, the masculine word normally translated as “deacon“. This word, or the gender neutral version “diakonoi” is used throughout the New Testament when referring to deacons. There is no reason, other than inherent gender bias to not translate it as deacon. Freedom in Christ
The message of the risen Christ is one of freedom. When it comes to the rights, responsibilities, and status before God, we look to Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise…“
We are free.
Paul does say it is better to be single than attached. But there is no sin in being married, just that ones priorities are different. The single person may devote them self completely to what God wants. The married person, by God’s command, must devote them self to their partner, and obey God by fulfilling the role that comes with that partnership.
In marriage, the woman does not hold authority over the man, nor is she the spiritual leader of the family. It is not her role to instruct her husband (or someone else’s husband) in what God wants. That is between her husband and God. If you have any “But what if’s…” with that, I would have to ask if you chose your man wisely, and whether you trust God to fulfill His part of the relationship? Conclusion
But what about the question? Can a woman be a pastor?
If she is a single woman, is she complying with the list detailing what righteousness consists of, is she devoted to the Lord, studied, on the watch for error, trained in truth, chaste, modest, has a servants attitude?
If she is married, is she completely fulfilling her God mandated role as wife?
Will she be able to not interfere with the spiritual relationship between other couples in her role as a pastor?
Well, I’d say those are questions for you to answer.
For anything else, we walk by faith. II
Stephen Ardent's contribution this week. Stephen Ardent's Triond profile. Scripture states quite plainly that even those who have never heard the Gospel are without excuse. How can this be? Published by Stephen J. Ardent in Christianity on October 3, 2009
A non-believing acquaintance of mine recently asked me why a good God would create so many outright horrors in the natural kingdom. In particular he pointed out to me the Ichneumonoid Wasp. If you are unfamiliar with this wasp it is from the family Ichneumonoidea. It’s most compelling feature is that it is parasitic, in that it seeks out other creatures, usually caterpillars or spiders, and lays its eggs inside the other creatures bodies. The larvae when they hatch will then consume the creature as food. In the case of the Ichneumonoid Wasp, the larvae do not kill the host outright, instead eating the fat and lesser organs first, keeping the creature alive until the last possible moment. The it emerges leaving only an empty husk behind.
Such is the stuff nightmares are made of (or low-budget horror flicks). Image Via Wikipedia The argument is – If God is so good why would He make such a creature, so cruel, so lacking in compassion, so grotesque? The Parable
The Ichneumonoid Wasp is a physical parable here to teach us.
Scripture says – “…that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.“–Romans 1:19-20
The Ichneumonoid Wasp is a perfect representation of the natural man. A creature by itself and outside of the peaceful harmony God had intended. Machine-like self-assertion, above all else. The pursuit of self-will, no thought of others except as objects to be used. Death to the competition. The only harmony, the stillness of death and loss.
The pursuit of selfish goals being our only concern.
So? What is OUR real problem with the Ichneumonoid Wasp? I’ll tell you what it is. Ethics free efficiency. Image via Wikipedia The Law of Good
“…I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts.” Hebrews 8:10
Ethics, morals, goodness, virtue, all these things are apparently in direct violation of universal law as we know it. Lessons of conduct that fly in the face of the tenets of the natural world.
Discipline, restraining the ego of self, learning how to let go of self-will for higher pursuits.
The Ichneumonoid Wasp doesn’t know what the term “good Samaritan” means. Helping others in need. The concept of self-sacrifice.
Laws, morals, ethics, virtue, are the antithesis of natural evolution.
Now is it clear when Scripture says – “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools,and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.“
How many people, how many families, do you know who behave like the Ichneumonoid Wasp in their daily lives, at work, or at play?
That’s why it bothers and behooves us.
That’s why we approach it with horror.
It violates the laws that God has written in our hearts and minds.
It’s the mirror in which we see ourselves.
Shelly Barclay had this to add this week. Shelly's Triond profile. Fundamental Differences Between Monotheism and Polytheism
How monotheistic beliefs and polytheistic beliefs differ more than just in the amount of deities they worship.
Published by Shelly Barclay in Religion on June 29, 2009
By definition monotheism is the belief in, and worship of, one god only. Polytheism is, by definition, the belief in, and worship of, many gods and/or goddesses. Both polytheistic and monotheistic religions have existed for thousands of years. At this time, there is no way of knowing which came first. However, this is the subject of frequent debate. There is, and always will be, many events in history that modern man is unaware of. Therefore, this matter will probably never be decided on. Even if we label the oldest known religion on Earth as the certain victor, there will always be a difference between oldest known and oldest.
In ancient and modern times groups of people have practiced both monotheistic and polytheistic religions. Not all religions can be labeled as either monotheistic or polytheistic. However, these two beliefs are the most fundamentally different of all beliefs. This does not include atheism, which is, in essence, radically different from both of these beliefs.
The following are examples of popular monotheistic and polytheistic faiths. Monotheistic Religions Christianity Image via Wikipedia
Christianity and all of its denominations are monotheistic religions. Though followers of these religions may worship Jesus Christ or Mary, they believe in only one god. Followers of Christianity believe that God created everything and that his son, Jesus, died for our sins. Catholicism was the first of the Christian religions, but there are currently many Christian denominations.
Judaism Image via Wikipedia Judaism predates Christianity; it was founded in Mesopotamia. Judaism is similar to Christianity in that theirs is a monotheistic faith and they believe in the same god. For the most part, the similarity ends there. Jews do not believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins. In fact, Jews believe that God hates human sacrifice. Adherents to Judaism also do not believe in original sin; they believe that we are all born without sin. Unlike many other religions, you cannot simply “believe” in Judaism to become Jewish. You must either be born Jewish or go through the complicated task of converting to Judaism to become a Jew. Jews are also interesting in that their label denotes both a religion and a nationality. Islam Image via Wikipedia
Islam is currently the largest practicing religion in the world. Muslims are the followers of Islam and are strictly monotheistic. Their god is, what they believe to be, the one true god. The god of Islam is called Allah.
Other popular monotheistic faiths include Sikhism and Rastafari. Polytheistic Religions
Buddhism Author Tevaprapas Makklay
Buddhism is around 2,500 years old and has its roots in India. Most Buddhists are polytheistic, while others practice their religion exclusively though meditation. At the heart of Buddhist beliefs is the belief in reincarnation, or rebirth. Buddhism has the fourth largest number of adherents of any religion on Earth. Author Nyo.
Wicca is a polytheistic or sometimes pantheistic religion. The workings and worship of nature are at the heart of Wicca. Wiccans practice their religion by performing spells and rituals, each of which has its own specific purpose. Some Wiccans adhere to the belief that there is the God and the Goddess, while others believe that there are many goddesses and gods. Wiccan belief places a strong emphasis on the free will of all men and women.
Other widely-known polytheistic beliefs include the religions of the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Greeks, Romans and Aztecs.
Aside from the obvious differences between monotheism and polytheism, there tend to be other fundamental differences between these two beliefs. Moral standards, perception of the afterlife (if any), and the means of worshiping their god or gods are just of few other areas in which monotheistic religions and polytheistic religions differ. Sometimes these beliefs have quite marked differences, and some of their adherents can be forceful and vocal about their beliefs.
For example, certain monotheistic faiths believe that homosexuals have earned themselves a ticket to hell. Wiccans, on the other hand believe (correctly) that the act of even concerning yourself with someone else’s choice of a partner goes against their free will, and that goes against Wiccan principle.
Another example would be that many monotheistic religions believe that reincarnation cannot happen because it is not God’s will. On the other hand, many polytheistic religions believe that reincarnation is inevitable. In fact, Buddhists believe their actions in this life, up until the very moment of death, will affect the manner of their reincarnation.
All in all, there are simply too many differences between these two beliefs to have an exhaustive list here. The question of who is right and who is wrong has no place in this article. There are enough people fighting about this all over the world, some even have the same fundamental belief systems. We will not argue with them today.
Special thanks to Angelique, no matter how far away you go, my heart follows you. Sources