31.8.09

It's all about hermeneutics. Don't fight with me about inerrancy.

There is a good debate going on at Hermeneutics and Human dignity. It is interesting to me because I was just taking a break from reading about this very issue in Gordon Fee's 'Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics' to look at the net and I came across Peter's post.

Peter Carrell writes about how he supports

"... the ordination of women as a recognition of calling...the church should not ordain women as a matter driven primarily by justice considerations but foremost as a matter of responding to the discernment of the will of God."

I couldn't agree more and when people begin to realise that this is all about God and nothing to do with making accommodations to the prevailing culture the better. Why those who support women's ordination are always accused of succumbing to social mores, I do not know. It is faulty reasoning and something I have come across so often. Fee describes how:

'The so-called women's issue is a hermeneutical question, and we will have differences here. But those differences are not questions of the authority of scripture... They are questions of interpretation...' p.20

'Unfortunately, in an area where hermeneutics is in fact the key issue, some have taken a rigid stance on the basis of their own hermeneutics that they have accused others of believing in an errant Bible because they do not hold to the same interpretation.' (p.2)

Whenever I see arguments based on one party proclaiming to have the 'plain' reading, I think of Fee's words.

Is not the universal principle of 1 Tim 2 11-15 more to do with the fact that anyone teaching false doctrines (whether they be male or female), who has usurped established authority is to be corrected, no, indeed, silenced? This is what we should concern ourselves with. If the devil has anything to do with it, he has succeeded indeed in having us all preoccupy ourselves with worldly antagonisms to offices and titles and gender, when it is those teaching an anti-gospel that we should be concerned about. We all need to wake up! But as for that reading, it is hermeneutics, interpretation. I refuse to make claims that it is the plain reading. You know, our ability to read infallibly, God's infallible word was destroyed by the fall. We will all struggle where there is ambiguity. Thankfully about primary issues, there is consensus but about secondary issues, we will have to be prepared to wait until we meet him face-to-face, until then we carry on with our consciences clean and with the church recognising two integrities on this issue and if we are really going to imitate Christ by the power of his Spirit, let us try for the sake of the gospel to be of one accord, in so much as we love each other, despite our differences and all press-on with kingdom building for the Lord's sake.

10 comments:

David Ould said...

"... the ordination of women as a recognition of calling...the church should not ordain women as a matter driven primarily by justice considerations but foremost as a matter of responding to the discernment of the will of God."

I couldn't agree more and when people begin to realise that this is all about God and nothing to do with making accommodations to the prevailing culture the better.


I'd argue slightly differently. First, we should realise that an appeal to "calling" is an appeal to experience, not to Scripture. So we are saying "what I experience is authentic, thus it must be responded to".
I would suggest that that is faulty reasoning. We are, surely, driven from Scripture not anything else.

Is not the universal principle of 1 Tim 2 11-15 more to do with the fact that anyone teaching false doctrines (whether they be male or female), who has usurped established authority is to be corrected, no, indeed, silenced?
Hardly, Paul makes no mention of the subject in that section. FALSE doctrine is not his concern. When he is concerned about a false doctrine being taught, he makes it clear that he is.

Again, I would suggest this is not a "difference" in hermeneutic - it's not reading at all - it is, once again, the imposition on the text to make it deal with something it's not actually dealing with.

Rachel Marszalek said...

I think that you are splitting hairs when it comes to the word 'calling'. Were not the apostles called? Did not Paul have an encounter with the living Lord Jesus? You are sounding like a cessationist. The scriptures are all about experience!

Anglicanism is about tradition, reason and experience. I thought you were an Anglican evangelical, evangelical Anglican, no priority intended by order (! ;-)

Rachel said...

David, you are simply practising a different hermeneutic, as many churches do who have this become a rule which prohibits women from teaching men and becoming ordained. You must allow for my interpretation too, for it is widely held. Indeed, I am part of a denomination which accepts women teachers of the scriptures and that women can be ordained. My passion is the gospel and obedience to it. I am glad you articulate your own hermeneutical model with confidence, as do I.

G Fee is excellent on '1 Tim 2:8-15 as a test case'. You'll find his work in 'Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics'

A cheeky aside, David. Does your church also support all its widows who are over 60, have no family and have not remarried? Does it insist that all the younger ones are to be married?

Most strikingly, David. If this has nothing to do with calling, then why have some parts of the Church turned it into something that has everything to do with church offices and used it to prohibit some women from becoming ordained!?

Rachel Marszalek said...

About 'calling' again, biblically, all believers are “called to ministry”. We are all priests (1 Peter 2:9), all “preachers” (Mt. 28:19), all servants (Acts 2:18, Rev. 1:1), all “called” (Eph. 4:1, 2 Thes. 1:11, Heb. 3:1, 2 Peter 1:10).

We are all to serve, both men and women.

Excuse the rambling collection of thoughts.

SueM said...

Just posted a response and lost it ( annoying!)
I really need to read or study more the specific texts, but it seems to me that, given the position of women at that time, that the gospel is positively radical in promoting their ministry and position. I don't see why certain texts ( such as 1 Timonthy 2 ;11-15) should be promoted without looking at the whole thrust of Christ's teaching and conduct and at the context of the time. It is also true that they are given precedence when other teaching ( such as advice about widows) is seen in the context of the time and rarely mentioned. Issues such as human rights and justice do have a part as scripture promotes these values and we must balance our knowledge and humanity with scripture, otherwise it can verge upon idolatry.

Rachel Marszalek said...

David Ould has left a new comment on your post "It's all about hermeneutics. Don't fight with me a...":

'I think that you are splitting hairs when it comes to the word 'calling'. Were not the apostles called?'
Yes, and the Scriptures are very clear on what that calling constitutes.
In the case of the Apostles it was a personal call by the Lord Jesus Christ to act as Apostles.

As for your specific texts...

all believers are “called to ministry”.
Yes, no disagreement.
We are all priests (1 Peter 2:9),
Yes, no disagreement.
all “preachers” (Mt. 28:19),
Except that the great commission doesn't actually describe it that way at all, does it? The Eleven are told to "make disciples" and to "teach". It's a massive gap from there to argue a universal ministry of "preaching".

all servants (Acts 2:18, Rev. 1:1),
No argument.

all “called” (Eph. 4:1, 2 Thes. 1:11, Heb. 3:1, 2 Peter 1:10).
Yes, to salvation! But that is not how you used the language of "calling". Plus, the use of καλεω is all about God doing something and nothing about the "experience" of call that you are talking about. Once again, you're employing texts in ways that are alien to their intention.

That's not called a different "hermeneutic". It's something very different to that.

As for the widows list, good of you to ask. Yes, we do have a mechanism in place to deal with such situations with the following caveats.
1. There is no actual "list" but we are well aware of those that need looking after.
2. The cut-off is substantially above the age of 60, given the social strata we are living in here.

We have no younger widows although there is one lady I can think of that may soon be in that position. It occurs to me that in years to come that if she is lazy in the way that Paul describes that perhaps we may have to do what he also suggests. However it remains hypothetical at the moment and I prefer not to use the imminent grief of members of my congregation as sport for your accusations of pharisaism.


Would you like to have the telephone number of the last old lady that I visited so you can check upon the facts or is your accusation of hypocrisy (which is what it is, despite labelling it "cheeky") exhausted?

Most strikingly, David. If this has nothing to do with calling, then why have some parts of the Church turned it into something that has everything to do with church offices and used it to prohibit some women from becoming ordained!?

I'm afraid I don't understand the question. I'm not sure what the antecedant to "it" is in your sentence.

Posted by David Ould to Re-vis.e Re-form at 01/09/09 13:45

Rachel Marszalek said...

David,

Christians sometimes adapt the gospel to 'social strata' and sometimes choose to take the gospel absolutely literally. Interesting.

'It occurs to me that in years to come that if she is lazy in the way that Paul describes that perhaps we may have to do what he also suggests. '

What would this 'having to do what he suggests' look like, in practice?

'I prefer not to use the imminent grief of members of my congregation as sport for your accusations of pharisaism.'
You are absolutely right not to use the imminent grief of members of your congregation.

I apologise if you suspect that for 'sport' I was accusing you of 'pharisaism'. I was actually ruminating on these things because I have just read this from Gordon Fee:

'The problem here (re 1 Tim 2:8-15) is exacerbated in part by our own inconsistencies. For example a considerable literature has emerged over verses 11-12, pro and con, as to whether women may teach, preach, or be ordained; but there is not a single piece that argues from 5:3-16 that the church should care for its widows over sixty or require the younger ones to be married. One can understand the reasons for this, of course; our agendas have been set by our own cultural or existential urgencies. But the inconsistency is there; to get those who are doing battle over 2:11-12 to own up to it is extremely difficult.' (Fee, ''Gospel and Spirit: Issues in New Testament Hermeneutics')

No need to give me the telephone number. I suspect I made you a little angry here, judging by your response, sorry about that. It wasn't intentional. I am sure you are a very nurturing pastor to your flock, seriously. You obviously have fire in your belly too and enjoy a good debate - that's quite a combination ;-).

'I'm afraid I don't understand the question. I'm not sure what the antecedant to "it" is in your sentence.'

The 'it' refers to 1 Tim 2: 8-15 passage, which is often used to prohibit women in certain ministry roles.

Peace brother
Rachel

I am still hoping that if we met each other in person, we would be able to shake hands and not slap each other across the face ;-)

Thank you Sue, you make many of the same points as Gordon Fee who I am currently reading on this topic.

Thanks for the contribution. As regards you reading up more on these scriptures, take care, once you start engaging in this debate, it is hard to stop ;-)

SueM said...

I can imagine! It really saddens me that some people are prepared to squander the gifts of women in order to ( well, this is what I think...) bolster up their fear that they are not man enough to swallow their pride and benefit from the guidance and ministry of women.

I'm not saying that in bitterness or anger - but I do find such men have as much of a problem with who they are as men than who we are as women. I don't really have the time or energy to pander to those attitudes.

David Ould said...

Christians sometimes adapt the gospel to 'social strata' and sometimes choose to take the gospel absolutely literally. Interesting.
I don't really understand what you're saying here. The gospel, surely, must always be applied (not adapted - I think I want to be careful about the language there) to local situations. More so when the Scriptures give us a clear instruction then we want to work hard at applying it into our contexts. That's not a dichotomy between "literal" and "applied". It's just sensible Bible reading. We work hard at understanding the instruction and what lies behind it and then apply it.

If anything, I would suggest the "so why don't you make women wear hats" kind of approach to conservatives is, itself, a naïve literalistic reading of the text.

As for lazy younger widows, I have to say I haven't ever had to give the matter much consideration. I imagine it begins with telling the woman that it is wrong for her to bludge off the church. Where you go from there is something I've not thought about yet.

FWIW, I think Fee is right that there are many who are quite happy to take one instruction seriously and yet disregard another. I trust he (nor you) would include me as such.

I am sure that when we finally meet it will be nothing but amicable. But that doesn't detract from our need to be working hard at exegeting, not eisegeting the Bible. I have to say that some of what you've written even in this thread is pretty poor reading of the texts. It is also the case, if I might be so bold, that every time so far I have pointed out in detail what is wrong with the argument you are making from the Bible that you have never responded to it. I wonder if it is because you realise that the correction is actually correct and that the Scriptures simply aren't saying what you have initially claimed they do.
(now that was cheeky)

SueM
I do agree with you. There are so many of us who believe "Equal but Different" in theory but have not lived it out. We all have a lot to learn. At time it may be pride, other times (I would suggest to you) it is simply the consequence of not thinking hard enough about what our actions are indicating.

Rachel Marszalek said...

Yes David,

re 'It is also the case, if I might be so bold, that every time so far I have pointed out in detail what is wrong with the argument you are making from the Bible that you have never responded to it. I wonder if it is because you realise that the correction is actually correct and that the Scriptures simply aren't saying what you have initially claimed they do.
(now that was cheeky)'.

Cheeky indeed.

I think my post-modern response to this will have some suspect that I think truth can not be arrived at. On the contrary, I believe in the inerrancy of the scriptures.

Problematic, I know, and I do have to think through what I am going to say now because I like to think that the Holy Spirit has very much inspired our translators but I do have problems accepting the inerrancy of some of our translations. The human element at work in our interpretation of God's word fallible as we are since the fall, means that for me, because there are so very many interpretations of the problem passages and so many ideas on secondary issues, at this point in my journey with God, I am not prepared to claim one particular reading of, say, for example, 1 Tim 2:11-15. I think it will take me a life-time to think it over. In the mean-time I enjoy learning and conversing. Thanks for engaging with me on these topics.

For now I continue my best to do what I believe the Church which bears His name is calling me to do: teach, nurture and encourage people. I am hoping training will equip me to do this more effectively. I have to trust the church know what they are doing. I am open to God changing over time what the shape of what my ministry will look like. God's in charge!

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A little background reading on the two theological integrities in the Church of England regarding women in ministry.