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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Can Women Teach? The Theology

"Theology is the art of making distinctions."  This statement, passed down from Theologian to Theologian was a common mantra for Dr. Jack Cottrell in the classroom.  He was right. Theology is an art.  While Biblical Studies students learn to properly interpret a passage of Scripture in it's context, Theology students learn to compare these Scriptures (and corresponding interpretations) to others throughout Scripture for consistency.  Since God knows everything (1 John 3:20) and cannot lie (Titus 1:2), then any contradiction in Scripture is not a problem with God's Word but with our interpretation.  In other words, Scripture always fits together with the rest of Scripture in one big "picture."  Theologians compare the part with the whole picture.  Distinctions and word-choices are crucial to properly explaining how the pieces fit together.  The result of a Theologian's process, then, is usually some summarized, easy-to-understand, statement that holds true throughout Scripture...not just with one passage.

The theological statement I was taught about women teaching and/or having authority over a man in Church went something like this:
"God does not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man because Eve was created second and sinned first.  Women need to be protected from the enemy by men.  They are equal before God in position, through Christ, but not in their role in the Church.  It's a command that dates back to before the law and the fall, so it remains God's command until Jesus returns."

My struggle with this statement is simple.  "What, then, changes for Eve when women live a holy life?"

The result, then, of my long process (which is, I'm sure, boring you by now) is a different summary statement:
"Men and women have equal standing before God through Christ.  Each person has a different role based on the gifts and calling given them by God through His Spirit.  Leadership in God's Church is not about power, position, or politics.  It's about walking with God and helping others get there.  Limitations placed on women and slaves were not about Holiness, but effectiveness in spreading the Gospel in the culture of the day."

This long statement begins to connect the Scripture in 1 Timothy to passages throughout the Bible.  I won't attempt to make every connection out there, but I will list some of them to show you how the picture starts to fit together.

"Men and women have equal standing before God."
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 NIV)
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV)

"Each person has a different role based on the gifts and calling given them by God through His Spirit."
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7 NIV)
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. (Romans 12:6a NIV)
for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. (Romans 11:29 NIV)

"Leadership in God's Church is not about power, position, or politics.  It's about walking with God and helping others get there."
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9:35 NIV)
He also told them this parable: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. "No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." (Luke 6:39-49 NIV)

"Limitations placed on women and slaves were not about Holiness, but effectiveness in spreading the Gospel in the culture of the day."
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? (1 Corinthians 14:34-36 NIV)

In this passage, Paul doesn't refer to Eve, creation order, or first sin as the reason for the command.  Instead, he refers to "the law."  The problem with this being an eternal argument is that Paul himself doesn't believe we, as believers, are under the law anymore.  He spends time through the whole book of Galatians making this point.

So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (Galatians 3:24-25 NIV)
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18 NIV)

We are not under the law any more.  We are under grace, the temple of His Spirit, and called to walk by the Spirit.  The law argument, then, makes more sense as a way of helping Gentile Christians get along with Jewish Christians who had grown up with the law.  It's roughly equivalent to trying to get Acapella Hymn-singing Christians to get along with Instrumental Chorus, Rock, or Rap Music Christians today.  It's about culture and preference, not Holiness.  Fighting one another over such things, though, is an issue of Holiness.

You see how this starts to work?  Putting together a Theology of Women in the Church is not quick and easy.  It also cannot be tied to a single passage of Scripture.  It all needs to fit together into the overall picture: His Picture.  That's the picture we are all trying to see more clearly so we can enjoy walking together with God and empower one more to do the same.

Tomorrow, I will finally summarize and wrap this all up.