23.9.14

Beyond fissiparousness

These have been interesting years within evangelicalism. The tendency toward fissiparousness is abating and the tendency now is towards facilitated conversation and generous listening. My conclusion here is that together we can learn better how to serve the church and submit to her teaching and I reassert that Christianity is about servant-hood and not authority.


Too many times in the women Bishops debate issues of 'authority' have been the focus. About servanthood, all Christians are agreed but advocates of women bishops must better stress this aspect of Christian distinctiveness as they explain from the scriptures that women and men should serve the Body of Christ in the episcopal office because of their spiritual gifts and in submission to God, the church and one another.

Such submission does not differ in accordance with your gender!

Texts important to evangelicals in the women bishops debate are 1 Corinthians 11:3-12 and 14:34-38; Ephesians 5:21-33 and 1 Timothy 2:9-15. It is certain that different interpretations of Genesis 1-3 shape interpretation.

A short appraisal

I Tim 2 11-15
With women being given 'oversight of the Church, speaking in the name of God and expounding the gospel of salvation,'1 at first glance here the teaching of Paul appears to have been contavened. Paul's words compound for many conservative evanglicals their interpretation of Genesis in which Eve is to submit to Adam. Elaine Storkey, a voice for many open evangelicals like myself, describes how 'our translations deprive us of the full impact of what Paul says.'2 It is interesting to consider the NIV footnote which explains that the reference to 'women' (1 Tim 2:15) should be translated as 'she'. Paul' is not prohibiting women in ordained ministries, just one particular woman from teaching falsely (didasko) because, like women of her day, she lacks appropriate education. Paul is being counter-cultural with his 'Let her learn'. It is only because she has been bullying her husband and teaching false doctrine that she should be rebuked. The word authenthein has the sense of a usurping of authority3 in the Greek and whatever their gender, Christians should not lord it over each other. Despite error and because of faith, this woman is assured the same mercy Paul received, who was himself the 'the worst of sinners' (1 Timothy 1:16). 'She' (this wife) is assured salvation as they (the married couple) continue 'in faith, love and holiness with propriety' because she is saved (sozo), not through her own bearing of children, but through the teknogonia (noun: childbearing), the ultimate childbearing, the birth of Christ, which has come about through Eve's descendants.

Paul's 'Let a woman learn', in the epistle to Timothy, echoes Jesus' own affirmation of Mary when she sat at his feet to learn (Luke 10:42). Kenneth Bailey describes how Mary is 'seated with the men and...the traditional cultural separation between men and women no longer applies.'4. Tom Wright describes how you would do this 'in order to be a teacher, a rabbi yourself.'5

Ephesians 5:21-33
Many conservative evangelicals are proponents of male headship. That 'Christ is the head of the church' is read in Ephesians as indicative of Christ's authority and that 'the husband is the head of the wife' confers on men authority over women in the church. The meaning of the word 'head' here (kephale) is understood to mean 'authority over.' Grudem and Piper argue that because Paul calls 'the husband “the head” of the wife...this section can not be teaching only mutual submission...'6

Open evangelicals on the other hand and Gilbert Bilezikian, Gordon D. Fee and Catherine Clerk Kroeger conclude that kephale means 'source.' People thought that the body grew out of the head, its source. Head was not a metaphor for rule or authority because the ruling organ was thought to be the heart. Bilezikian explains how mutual submission, not headship, is being described in Ephesians 5:21-33. Verse 21 is the context within which the rest of the advice should be understood. The husband and the wife are to be mutually submitted to each other. Paul overstated the husband's submission to the wife to counteract the authority men had over their wives in the first century. Bilezikian highlights the 'succinct, formula-like definition that goes to the heart of the matter: “Christ is the head of the church”. Paul adds this explanation: “He is himself the saviour of the body.” If Paul had meant to imply authority, this explanation would have been rendered, “He is himself Lord of the body”...''7 Christ is the life-giver. The sense of kephale as source or origin rests in an interpretation of Genesis where Adam is the source of Eve and his being made first does not make her subordinate. Eve is a 'helpmeet', accurately translated from the Hebrew word ezer to mean 'rescuer'. Ezer is attributed to God and out of its 19 uses, 15 are about God bringing help to needy people.

It is also important to understand correctly the word 'submit' (hupotasso) which denotes voluntarily asserting the needs of another person above your own. This is a call to all Christians. It should not be confused with being subordinate. It is about being active, not passive and the English translation fails to capture this.

1 Corinthians 11:3
At first glance it seems as though man is under Christ's authority, woman is under man's authority and Christ is under God's authority. Open evanglicals, on the other hand, deny that Paul presents a hierarchical sequence of relationships here because he doesn't arrange his sentences to denote this. Instead, God is the source of the incarnate Christ, Christ the source of humankind and man the source of woman because she was made from his rib. Paul's 'the woman is the glory of man,' captures Adam's joy at how perfectly Eve completes him: 'bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh' .

1 Corinthians 11:4-12
Regarding male and female appearance Piper and Grudem advocate that women are to conform to their pattern at creation and be distinct from men. Because woman is the glory of man, and created for him, she wore the veil as a reminder of the fact that she was under his authority. If she failed to do this 'she brought shame both on herself [head] and...the man [her head].'8 The verses are cited to support male headship and a prohibition of women in episcopal oversight. Modern commentaries including the Sacra Pagina on First Corinthians and open evanglicals believe instead that Paul is citing the Corinthian Judaizers' legalistic arguments in order to correct them. There is that natural change of tone at verse 11. Paul, after repeating their Judaic thinking back to them, gives his answer: that 'in the Lord', this is not to be the case. He exhorts the Corinthians to look to nature. God has seen to it that the women are covered, by their long hair (verse 15) rendering any veil unnecessary.

1 Corinthians 14:34-38
Similarly, in chapter 14, Paul quotes the Corinthians' false practice in verses 34 and 35 and then corrects their thinking. They considered it appropriate to silence the women to alleviate the disordered nature of their worship gatherings. This is not a suitable recourse and their appeal to the law does not fool Paul who knew his scriptures. There is nothing in Mosaic law requiring the silencing of women. The correction begins at verse 36 and was originally introduced with an exclamation like 'What?!' but this has been lost in copying. The change in tone signals the correction with Paul shocked that this church dares to think itself more spiritual than any other and create its own rules, when the guidance that he has for their church supersedes anything that they might glean from the law because it is 'of the Lord'. He warns them that if they fail to recognise this, they too will be unrecognised.

Conclusion
Proverbs 18:17 describes how 'The first to present their case seems right-- till another cross-examines them.' It is still difficult for evangelicals to come to any kind of consensus. Personally, I wonder whether at the very core of the debate is a confusion over the concept of submission. Christians can not deny that Christianity is about submission: submission to the Godhead, the gospel and the Church. In Grudem and Rainey's 'Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood', they describe that the 'Biblical View of Submission ...requires her to submit to him..., while no passage indicates that a husband should be subordinate to his wife.'9 It is in the casual exchange of the word submit for subordinate that significant problems lie. These two words are not synonymous because the former is theological and about 'dying to self', the latter is worldly, denoting inferiority. Where a woman's Christian submission is also subordinationism to men, she has thus far been denied the role of oversight in the Church by many conservative evangelicals. I feel the need to reassert that Christianity is about servanthood and not authority to counteract this. About servanthood, all Christians are agreed but advocates of women bishops must better stress this aspect of Christian distinctiveness as they explain from the scriptures that women and men should serve the Body of Christ in the episcopal office because of their spiritual gifts and in submission to God, the church and one another. Such submission does not differ in accordance with your gender!
Bibliography
ASHLEY R., 'Can a Woman Have Authority Over a Man?', in HARRIS, H. & SHAW, J.,The Call
for Women Bishops, London, 2004

BAILEY, KENNETH.E., Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. Cultural Studies in the Gospels, London, SPCK, 2008

BELIZIKIAN, G., Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible says about a woman's place in church and family, 3rd edition, U.S.A, Grand Rapids, 2006

BLUM, G.G., 'The Office of Woman in the New Testament' in BRUCE, M & DUFFIELD, G. E.,
(ed.s), Priesthood & the Ministry of Women, Berkshire: Marcham Books, 1976

GROOTHUIS, R. M., The Bible and Gender equality

GRUDEM, W. & RAINEY, D. (ed.s) Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood, Illinois, Crossway Books, 2002

MARSHALL, I.H., 'Mutual Love and Submission in Marriage', in Discovering Biblical Equality,
ed.s) R. W. Pierce and R M Groothuis: IVP, 2005

PIPER, J. & GRUDEM, W., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, A Response to Evangelical feminism, USA, Crossway Books, 2006

STORKEY, E., Created or Constructed. The Great Gender Debate, Cumbria, Pasternoster Press, 2000

WRIGHT, N.T., Women's Service in the Church, The Biblical Basis, A conference paper for the
Symposium, ‘Men, Women and the Church’ St John’s College, Durham, September 4, 2004

Scripture quotations are from the NIV.

2 STORKEY, E., Created or Constructed. The Great Gender Debate, p.82
3 GROOTHUIS, R. M., The Bible and Gender Equality, P.6
4 BAILEY, K.E., Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes. Cultural Studies in the Gospels, p.193-194.
5 WRIGHT, N.T., Women's Service in the Church, p.4
6 PIPER, J. & GRUDEM, W., Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, A Response to Evangelical feminism, p.168,
7 BELIZIKIAN, G., Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible says about a woman's place in church and family p121
8 PIPER,. & GRUDEM, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, A Response to Evangelical feminism, p.132
9 GRUDEM W & Rainey D (ed.s) Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood, p.203-4

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