Monthly Archives: October 2009

New Creation: No Jew/Gentile, Male/Female, Slave/Free

laughingThis last Saturday was our last week studying the debate about women’s roles. Its hard to summarize both the weeks discussion and the entire 5 week series, and of course different people had different ideas, but here are a few things.

The debate seems to be mostly about whether or not there are universal gender specific roles which determine the structure, decision making, leadership and organization of the family and the church. Piper and Grudem call themselves complementarians, because they think a woman’s role is to complement the man by being his helpmate, submissive partner, and to help primarily in raising children and nurturing. This position is sometimes called the hierarchicalist position, because it seems to hold to a particular hierarchy. They might not like that label, as it may seem to imply that a woman is not equal in worth to a man, and they do believe in equal worth, although not equal function or role.

The other side (groothius et al) are often called egalitarians, because they think that women are equally capable of taking on leadership and decision roles in the church and home. Rather than restricting what a woman can or can’t do based on her gender, they think both that a. women may as women have unique giftings that help them to lead, encourage, or do other things in unique ways men cannot and at the same time b. each woman has particular gifts given to her, just like each man has particular gifts given– on an individual basis. They believe that women can complement men. Egalitarians don’t think women are not different than men– they accept that they each have differing strengths in many cases, although egalitarians are slow to make any universal gender pronouncements: (“all women do things this way– all men do things this other way”) A woman may lead an office or a meeting or a board differently than a man would, and she brings different strengths and weaknesses to the table.  So the egalitarians wouldn’t restrict someone from a role simply because of their gender, or expect that they are suited to a role merely due to their gender (in terms of church and family– and of course they do realize women can have babies and men can’t…) 

Non-egalitarians often think that egalitarians are bowing to culture and going along with current feminism, and believe that Christians must stand firm against this worldly doctrine.

Egalitarians think that non-egalitarians are merely supporting traditional status quo cultural mores held over from the Greek and Roman culture, and think that Christ has brought redemption from those cultural prejudices.  They see the non egalitarians entrenchment on this issue to be similar to the difficulties women face in getting equal pay for equal work, and the challenges faced by women trying to succeed where men have been dominant in society for centuries (corporate world, academia, etc etc)

One of the more interesting points which Gordon Fee brought out in his article this week was that the passage about now there is no Jew nor Gentile, Male nor Female, Slave nor Free is NOT talking about salvation (no one thought males were saved and women werent!) but rather its about Christ upsetting the old world order of prejudices based on race, gender, and economic/political standing. The seeds of this revolution were sown by Jesus, although it took years to fulfill (slavery was not done away with until 1800+ years later in the US civil war)

We noted that the traditionalist complementarian viewpoint truly believes that real freedom will come as we realize our God-given purpose and role through discovering our gender specific parameters. We also noted that the egalitarians desire to seek status for women is often rooted in a genuine desire to not waste or crush the God given gifts with which he has endowed some women. To stiffle giftings which could greatly benefit the church body simply on the basis of gender seems fruitless. Fee says, “And to give continuing significance to a male-authority viewpoint for men and women, whether at home or in the church, is to reject the new creation in favor of the norms of a fallen world. It is to give a significance to being male that in the end usurps the work of the Spirit not onlyin the wife and her relationship to God but also in the church–the expression of the new order and new humanity that is already present, even while it is yet to be.

In examining Ephesians 5:22+ we noted that the context of the passage was that it was about walking in love and mutual submission (v2, v21) Women are asked to submit to husbands as the church does to Christ. That analogy may be read in a skewed way since the church is notoriously imperfect and Christ is God (men aren’t, obviously). But at any rate the point seems to be that women should not be domineering. Husbands are to love their wife both as Christ loved the church and also as the man loves himself. He is the head of the wife, yet they are one flesh, and he loves his wife as himself. This, some egalitarians say, is a subtle directive to help undermine the traditional domination of man over the woman in Jewish and Greek culture. Fee points out “Paul radicalizes this norm in a countercultural way, by insisting that the believing husband love his wife– which had very little to do with marriage in that culture.” Fee goes on to say: “Socrates used to say every day that ‘there were three blessings for which he was grateful to Fortune: first that I was born a human being, not one of the brutes; next that I was born a man, and not a woman; thirdly, a Greek adn not a barbarian.'” Fee points out that “This obviously influenced the famous rabinical prayer “Blessed are you, O God…that I’m not a brute creature, nor a Gentile, nor a woman.” (180)

One of the most powerful things for some of the people in the group was the realization of how radical Jesus interaction with women really was.  Once you understand that a rabbi should not have been caught dead speaking alone with a gentile woman, it makes the woman at the well story much more meaningful.  When you realize he shouldn’t have been touched by a gentile woman, the story of the woman grabbing his robe is much more powerful.  When you realize women’s word would not have been admitted in court in his day, it makes it all the more noticeable that women are the one’s who return from the grave to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection from the dead to the disciples.  When you realize that women were in Jesus day considered property, it makes it all the more astonishing that Paul tells husbands to love their wife as themself.

The thing I still struggle with the most is the fact that at some churches you could have a woman member who is a corporate CEO, a woman who is a Federal Judge, and a woman who is Chancellor of a Medical School, and none of those women would be fit to help make elder decisions for the church, but they would be considered ideal candidates for teaching/leading second graders.  That does seem inconsistent.  It seems like such churches will have a more difficult time keeping our best Christian woman leaders around.  But women are used to it I guess.  Its the way things have been done for years.

As I try to apply this in my own life, I am begining to think this way more and more: if men often have a role as head over a woman– if that is the default, then they should use that to empower the woman through encouraging her to be more and more used by God in ways outside of her own self-imposed limits. I regularly find that my female students have less self confidence than the guys (when the opposite would be the case in many of those cases if confidence was based on skill and real talent) So if I am culturally looked to to head the situation, I will do whatever I can to serve women as Christ loved the church to help her be everything she can be (spotless, etc). At the same time, as women find themselves more empowered, they need to be sure to not become domineering and oppressive in that way which women can be. I hope this is how my marriage looks when I get married– me supporting and encouraging my wife to step out with confidence into roles she may not have otherwise, and her supporting and respecting me along the way. 

Perhaps the most encouraging thing I read this week was from Alice Matthews article where she laid out three things that must be done in the current debate. They were encouraging, because it seems like they were exactly what we have been doing as we did this issue study:
1. First we all must continue to explore honestly the competing paradigms, using the tools of biblical theology, logic and courtesy.
2. Second, we are obligated to explain the competing paradigms at many levels.
3. Third, while the first two steps are being carried out, we must acknowledge the chasm between the paradigms and embrace as fellow believers those on the other side of the chasm.

Hopefully we have done that in our study. One thing we did note, in relation to this last third point, was that you can’t merely say that both sides in practice are basically doing the same thing, and you can’t say within a congregation that you agree to disagree necessarily. Either you disallow women to take on particular leadership roles due to their gender, or you do not disallow them based on their gender. Now obviously if a non-egalitarian went to an egalitarian church, they wouldn’t be told that the woman can’t stay at home with the kids, or that she has to be an elder. In fact most women may not want to be elders in some congregations for whatever reasons. But a church which endorses a traditionalist complementarian viewpoint will not allow women the egalitarian option. So egalitarian fellowships allow one to be complementarian in your family, although they may allow women in church leadership roles which traditional complementarians would consider unbiblical.   The fact of the matter is that a lot of women don’t seem to want to be elders or pastors in evangelical churches, although in other conservative churches (like some presbyterian churches or reformed churches I know of) they’ve had female elders for years, and no one thinks twice about it.  This makes me think that its more socialized than anything.   We have women in our fellowship that have shown great leadership abilities but have never stepped up in church because they’ve never been given the opportunity.  Honestly, one of the key considerations we’ve been thinking about is that having female elders would potentially undermine our reputation with other church brothers and sisters in other congregations.  So the passage on eating meat sacrificed to idols seems relevant to our decision to have female elders– we feel we are free to do so, but would this go against someone elses weaker faith?  But the difference here is that that was about eating delicious meat, while this is about unleashing the God given gifts which we currently do not allow to see the light of day due to our gender specific role guidelines.  But again, the people who are non-egalitarians support those specific role guidelines not merely because they don’t like change, but because they honestly feel convicted that that is what Scripture teaches… 

May God have mercy on us all as well continue to think through and pray through these things…    — Andy Gustafson

If you want to check out the readings for the group, feel free to go look at our group facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/event.php?eid=158015542456&index=1

The books we used were: DISCOVERING BIBLICAL EQUALITY: COMPLEMENTARITY WITHOUT HIERARCHY by Pierce and Groothius and RECOVERING BIBLICAL MANHOOD AND WOMANHOOD by Piper and Grudem

STUDY GROUP ANNOUNCEMENT: we are planning to do two weeks of study on eldership, then switch gears and study evangelicalism in the 20th century.  We will be looking at the video series KNOWING YOUR ROOTS and reading from a couple books including J I Packer’s “Fundamentalism and the Word of God” (written in 1958).

Is Evangelicalism Dead?

reforming fundamentalismI’ve been reading a book lately about the history of Fuller Seminary in the context of the Evangelical/Fundamentalist divide of the 1950s.  That sentence alone was probably enough to make 95% of people stop reading, because people in general and evangelicals in particular usually don’t know and don’t care about the history of the evangelical movement.   But I love to read books like this by George Marsdon. He is a leading church historian who was at Duke and is now at Notre Dame (the Catholics sponsor evangelical church history!) whose specialty is 20th century evangelical and fundamentalist movements. But the strange thing about writing books about the history of evangelical thought for evangelicals is that evangelicals aren’t usually the type to really care about history.  Evangelicals tend to be very pragmatic– concerned about results and effects, not history.   I remember when I was in seminary at Trinity a long time ago, overhearing one of the M.Div students studying to be a pastor saying to his group of friends, “I do not understand why we have to read all these european theologians views– why don’t we just read what the Bible says?” (The european theologians he was referring to were Luther and Calvin) This kind of lack of concern for our history keeps us from understanding not only theological concepts, but it keeps us from realizing how often our mistakes and debates are repeats of the past. 

Fuller seminary was staffed originally by a faculty of very conservative fundamentalists, and more progressive evangelicals.  Both had a high view of the Bible, both wanted to preserve the faith, and both believed in the ‘fundamentals’ of Christian faith and doctrine.  The fundamentalists tended to circle the wagons to preserve the truth against ‘modernism’ and other attackers, while the evangelicals tended to emphasize reaching the culture and society through real engagement, honest listening, and charitable thinking.  One of the early presidents of Fuller– Ed Carnell–  struggled to satisfy the fundamentalist constituents while also developing an institution of higher learning that would have the respect of the larger academic world.  While Fuller eventually succeeded as an institution in doing this, he was not able to deal with the stress of his job and eventually the stress got the best of him.   There were really two camps in the faculty– the more progressive evangelicals, and the more conservative fundamentalist evangelicals.   Among the conservatives were Woodbridge, Archer, Carl F.H. Henry, Wilber Smith and Charles Fuller.  Among the progressive ‘new’ evangelicals were George Ladd, Ed Carnell, Paul Jewett and others. 

This era of evangelical history may be mostly forgotten by all but a few academics within another generation.   I wonder if perhaps the term evangelical will eventually be a term like ‘shaker’ which some know to have a unique place in history as a long gone movement, but which few really connect to or identify with.  In another book I was reading recently, “The Courage to Be Protestant” David Wells of Gordon Conwell actually proclaims the death of the term ‘evangelical’ saying that it has lost its usefulness as a distinguishing word, since it means so many things to so many.  He claims that too many different types of Christians claim to be evangelical, from glammy megachurches to emergent church groups to very conservative Bible churches, so that its a name without clear referent:

“Those who still think of themselves as being in the tradition of the historic Christian faith, as I do,may therefore want to consdier whether the term “evangelical” has not outlived its usefulness.  Despite its honorable pedigree, despite its manyoutstanding leaders both past and some in the present, and despite the many genuine and upright believers who still thinkof themselves as evangelical, it may now have to be abandoned.”(Wells, 19)

This may seem dramatic, but he give his reasons for giving up the term.  First, “In Britain, in 2006, a survey revealed that only 59 percent of evangelicals wished to be known as such.”  He goes on:

“The truth is that evangelicals have brought this bad press upon themselves.  There have been just too many instances of obnoxious empire-building going on, too much in evangelicalism that is partisan and small, too much pandering to seekers, and too much adaptation of the Christian message until little remains.  Too many of its leaders have been disgraced.  There have been too many venal television preachers.  There are  too many of the born-again who show no signs of regenerate life.  For many people, the word “evangelical” has become a synonym for what is trite, superficial, and moneygrubbing, a byword for what has gone wronge with Protestantism.” (19)

Wells sees the evangelical church today as lacking definition and lacking authentic conviction:

“If we mute the biblical gospel by our misunderstanding, or by our practice in the church, we destroy the possibility of spiritual authenticity in the church.  In theory, most evangelicals assent to all of this. In practice, many evangelicals– especially those of a marketing and emergent kind– are walking away from the hard edges of these truths in an effort to make the gospel easy to swallow, quick to sell, and generationally appealing….The problem, however, is that this spirituality is highly privatized, highly individualistic, self-centered, and hostile to doctrine because it is always hostile to Christian truth.  Evangelicals gain nothing by merely attracting to their churches postmoderns who are yearning for what is spiritual if, in catering to this, the gospel is diluted, made easy, and the edges get rounded off.  The degree to which evangelicals are doing this is the degree to which they are invalidating themselves and prostituting the church.”

A key practical reason for the demise and irrelevance of the evangelical term and in some sense movement is a lack of concern to take God or godly living seriously:

“Why do some in the church wander from the core doctrines of the Bible and have to be rebuked?  Why do some carry on sexual affairs as if they were purely a private matter and irrelevant to their Christian lives?  Why is it that some pastors yearn for preeminence, demand attention, are authoritarian, build careers and empires, or are moneygrubbing?  Why are some church members so disagreeable that they are th esource of constant grief and divisions?  The simple answer to all these questions is that the holiness of God is not a pressing concern.  It does not have the power to wrench around the disposition of people.  It is not a present reality.  At most it is a doctrinal point to be agreed to, but it is not a searing reality that enters our hearts like a sword.  That is why we have no compunction about engaging in sexual immorality, self-serving and obnoxious behavior, or embracing beliefs that are unorthodox, biblically speaking.  It is as if, in our minds, God is off in a distant realm, utterly pure though he migh be, and we are in our own realm, living our lives as we want, giving expression to some of our dark impulses whenever the urge creeps up on us.  And why not?  God is there and we are here.  That, no doubt, was the psychology present in ananias and Sapphira when they engaged in their deception, and that was the reason for their rather drastic discipline (acts 5:1-11).” (Wells, 239)

I find these words convicting, and in some ways discouraging.  I see in myself the lack of vital concern to BE a Christian in my attitudes, behaviors, and desires.   I like doing things to serve the poor– this seems commendable and is sort of a fad currently in our culture.  I like being concerned about justice, and helping children (who doesn’t like children) and being for womens rights and against racism– all noble, commendable pursuits which are as popular with non-christians as Christians.  But when it comes to my own personal habits and desires– the inner life of discipline and faithfulness to God– that is not as sexy, not as publically commended, and much easier to ignore and put off while maintaining an outer appearance of having-it-together.  But this empty shell of evangelicalism is not a full bodied Christian life and practice in the traditional sense of the original term “evangelical”. 

There are encouraging things going on, and those shouldn’t be forgotten.  There are churches pursuing Christian life and practice through accountability and mutual encouragement– trying to live out the gospel in the way they live on a day to day basis.  Also recent evangelicalism has become more concerned with social justice concerns, and that in itself is a good thing (even if it can distract us from pursuit of inner holiness).   Not all evangelical churches are market driven or fearful of proclaiming an authentically transformative gospel. 

Learning more about the history of the evangelical movement will not necessarily bring about a renewed inner life pursuit of God, but it may help people to understand what it is that makes evangelicalism unique, at least historically.  I am thinking this November we will do a study group on evangelical thought, maybe watching some videos together and doing a few brief readings like Carl F.H. Henry’s “the uneasy conscience of modern fundamentalism” (1947) http://liberalevangelical.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=163:the-uneasy-conscience-of-modern-fundamentalism-by-carl-henry&catid=67:reviews-classics&Itemid=122

If anyone might be interested to participate, let me know. 🙂

Andy

References:

Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism by George M Marsden

The Courage to Be Protestant by David Wells

Link to the Carl FH Henry center where you can watch the video series Knowing your Roots about evangelicalism:   http://74.125.113.132/search?q=cache:vwEn1BMXh_EJ:www.henrycenter.org/media.php%3Flink%3Dall+knowing+your+roots+henry&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

faceless evangelicalism

Pragmatic Christianity: Monks and Megachurches

180px-StAnthonyThis morning I was reading Oswald Chambers, a British Christian writer from about 110 years ago. He wrote, “The central thing about the kingdom of Jesus Christ is a personal relationship to Himself, not public usefulness to men” Evangelical Christianity has often been pragmatic– concerned with immediate practical results, not with aesthetics or historical theology or history. The protestants– particularly the protestants who protested against other protestants (like free churches) have never been as concerned with the longstanding history of the church as with what must be done. Some of that comes from their lack of historical connection. For example the Free Churches in scandanavia who formed house churches in opposition to the spiritually dead state Lutheran churches had little history, as they met in houses of like minded Christians.

Today a lot of pastors come from seminary trained to learn how to DO a lot of practical things– how to attract new people, how to grow programs and run them effectively, how to use corporate management techniques and marketing strategies to increase numbers and to find a ‘successful growth plan’ for their churches. Now these things are often pursued in good faith by people with good intentions. The problem Oswald Chambers had with this mentality was that it seemed to focus on the results or ends instead of the healthy means to the ends.

Chambers says, “We have to get rid of the plague of the spirit of the religious age in which we live. In Our Lord’s life there was none of the press and rush of tremendous activity that we regard so highly…” We find that often when Jesus was surrounded by crowds, he would try to find a way to escape and retreat away so that he could pray alone. He didn’t put that off for the sake of the great ‘success’ he was having in attracting crowds. I think its especially easy for leaders to live their lives for the public eye. A friend of mine was telling me last night about their grandpa who married a woman in the church who was known for her Bible studies and her leadership in the church. But she had the wool pulled over everyones eyes and was really quite abusive to her husband and her kids. One day some members of her Bible study came over early to the house for bible study and came in without knocking and found her actually beating her husband. Of course this was an awkward situation, and this woman’s response was to go upstairs, pack, leave, and she was never heard from again. She had developed a sort of schizophrenia between what she projected to others and what was going on inside her, and it is likely that this happened because she became more concerned with the end appearances than with the inner life which is really important. Again, Chambers says, “An active Christian worker too often lives in the shop window. It is the innermost of the innermost that reals the power of the life.” We have to beware of living our spiritual lives for public approval and practical recognition.

One of the problems I’ve found in trying to practically control or manipulate what my Christian pursuits will accomplish is that I am not in control really, and God’s ways are not my ways, so I’m often somewhat caught by surprise by what God ends up accomplishing despite my best intentions.  Again, Chambers says, “You have no idea of where God is going to engineer your circumstances, no knowledge of what strain is going to be put on you…and if you waste your time in over-active energies instead of getting into soak on the great fundamental truths of God’s Redemption, you will snap when the strain comes; but if this time of soaking before God is being spent in getting rooted and grounded in God on the unpractical line, you will remain true to Him whatever happens.”  

The desert monks were probably some of the less practically minded Christians of our tradition.  They were perhaps the extreme opposite of overly-pragmatic christians, and some might wonder (rightly) if at times they avoided the world rather than deal with changing it, yet there is something beautiful about their rejection of being concerned with the worlds ways of doing and thinking.  Something beautiful about their wholehearted devotion to spiritual pursuit, and their complete disassociation with the worlds concerns for practical pursuits. 

I am not planning to give up my day job and move to the desert.  I do find fulfillment in seeing things happen and the practical results that come about through faith and commitment to what I think I am here to do.  That is human, and I don’t think it is inherently wrong.  The danger though, is to live for those results, and to let those results guide your decisions about how to spend your spiritual life.  Chambers is pushing us to spend our spiritual life with a sort of reckless abandon– not expecting to be able to know ahead of time where God is leading us or what is happening for sure.  The beauty of being human is that we don’t have to be God.  We are to pursue God in hope and faith, not by sight.  It is not our task to control the universe– and that is a relief, not a problem.  Our concern for practical results can lead us to neglect what is really important, and that is to soak before God: “Be still and know that I am God.”  ag

Women Teaching Men

otherShould women be allowed to teach men or be in authority over men in church? This was the topic of debate in two essays we read for this week– one author Doug Moo (the complementarian/ hierarchicalist) claiming it NOT OK, and Linda Belleville (the egalitarian/feminist) claiming it IS OK. Some of us felt like the Belleville article was perhaps the best one we’ve read so far. (It is online at our women’s study group site**)

The pasage in question is I Timothy 2:11-15 where Paul says

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quitness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority oer a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was th ewoman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be kept safe through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

The Moo article against women teaching said women may of course teach, but just not men. And they must not exercise authority over men. Moo points out that I Thessalonians speaks a lot against ‘false teachings’ going on in the church in Ephesus, and Moo says “The false teachers were encouraging women to discard what we might call traditional female roles in favor of a more egalitarian approach to the role relatinships of men and women.”

Belleville, the egailtarian, agrees that THessalonians is written about false teaching, but sees the false teaching not to be that women are equal to men, but that they are superior to men and should domineer over the men. She believes “The women at Ephesus (perhaps encouraged by the false teachers)) were trying to gain an advantage over the men in the congregation by teaching in a dictatotial fashion. The men in response became angry and disputed what the women were doing. … This interpretation fits the broader context of I TImothy 2:8-15 where Paul aims to correct inappropriate behavior on the part of both men and women. It also fits the gramatical flow of I Tim 2:11-12: ‘Let a woman learn in a quiet and submissive fashion. I do not, however, permit her to teach with the intent to dominate a man. She must be gentle in her demeanor.’ Paul would then be prohibiting teaching that tries to get the upper hand–not teaching per se.” (223)

Belleville thinks Ephesian women “were influenced by the cult of Artemis, in which the female was exalted and considered superior to the male. Its importance to the citizens of Ephesus in Paul’s day is evident from Luke’s record of the two-hour long chant, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28-37). IT was believed that Artemis (and brother Apollo) was th echild of Zeus and Leto. Instead of seeking fellowship among her own kind, she spurned the attentions of the male gods and sought instead the company of a human male consort. This made Artemis and all her female adherents superior to men. This was played out at the feast of the Lord of Streets, when the priestess of Artemis pusued a man, pretending she was Artemis herself pursuing Leimon.” (219) So the women identified with a Goddess who lowered herself to consort with mere mortal men. Ephesus was, in that sense, a unique culture and one which perhaps nurtured in women a tendency to domineer over men.

But the passage of Paul speaks to this sort of attitude says Belleville: “An Artemis influence would help explain Paul’s correctives in I Timothy 2:13-14. WHile some may have believed that Artemis appeared first and then her male consort, the true story was just the opposite. For Adam was formed first, then Eve (I Tim 2:13). And Eve was deceived to boot (I Tim 2:14)– hardly a basis on which to claim superiority. It would asl shed light on Paul’s statement that Christian “women will be kept safe through childbirth” (I Tim 2:15) presumably by faith in Christ. Thus they need not look to Artemis as the protector of women, as did other Ephesian women who turned to her for safe travel through the childbearing process.” (219-20)

SO again, while Moo sees Paul to be preaching against egalitarianism, Belleville sees Paul to be preaching against a female domineering over men which was perhaps a natural result of the cult of artemis preoccupations in ephesus among women.

Moo thinks that Paul is arguing for male authority over woman on the basis of man being created first. We’ve discussed this in previous weeks, but Belleville sees this to be merely a temporal sequence restatement, not a basis for ontological status or authority.

In discussing the statement of women not having authority over men, Moo says this is straightforward and clearly to be seen as “having dominion over” not as ‘lording it over’. (219) Belleville, in a very detailed analysis of contemporary usage of the word “authentein” argues that the word which has in NIV been translated as “to exercise authority over” was traditinally (from the 2nd century until WWII) rendered (and should be translated as) “to dominate”. On this more literal translation then, Paul says that he does not allow women to dominate or domineer over the men (I think here of the stereotypical Jewish mother domineering over her son) but if we read this as Belleville says we should, then the focus in on women not being domineering over men– not that men have authority over women. SO the result is then that Paul is trying to maintain a pattern of healthy cooperation, without gender domination or unfair power relationships.

One point of Moo’s which struck me as especially interesting was that he said women can of course vote in a congregational church, and should not be prohibited from doing so even though “the congregation as a whole can be said to be the final authority”. So although women cannot have authority over men, in a congregational church where there are more women than men, the women could effectively control a. who the elders are b. who the pastor is and c. any decisions made by the congregation. But they would not be allowed to teach men or hold authority over men otherwise. We decided in our group study that this may not be as much of a problem as it appears on first glance if the women, as complementarians, submit to their husbands in voting matters, effectively giving their husband an additional vote.

It is essential to submit to Scripture, and both of these authors attempted to do that. The additional interesting empirical non-scriptural  consideration for me personally when this issue arises is the simple fact that we have absolutely no problem in any other facet of society with women teaching or having some authority over men.  (We do have a problem with women domineering over men or visa versa) In the university it is no problem. In consulting or work training, it is no problem. Women exercise authority over men as doctors, judges, bosses, police officers, etc etc in all aspects of our culture, and there is no issue with this. Of course in Pauls day this would not have been the case. But to say today that women may exercise authority over men everywhere except in the church seems to be a somewhat peculiar view. I have said this before, but it seems that churches who hold such a view would be more consistent holding to this if they also prohibited their female church members from holding positions of authority over men as doctors, judges, bosses, policewomen, etc. That would seem more consistent to me, but I am willing to think otherwise if someone had some convincing reasons…

As always, may God have mercy on us all.  –Andy Gustafson

PS:If you want to see the passages check out:
http://www.andygustafson.net/net/simple%20church/articles/women%20teaching%20men.pdf

If you want to be a fan of simple free church do it at:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=100998097389&ref=ts