Thursday, June 11, 2009

Guest post

Here's my first guest post - From Harriet. A couple of book reviews and some helpful ideas.
1. The most helpful book I read was called "The Ministry of Women in the Church - Which Way Forward" by Ward Powers (former NT and Greek lecturer at SMBC, also a linguist!). He starts with a broad picture of how radically counter-cultural Jesus' and Paul's attitudes to women were, then goes through all of the relevant NT passages in detail. I found his discussion of 1 Timothy 2 particularly helpful. He points out:

a. The text could faithfully be translated 'a wife' and 'a husband'
b. Most translations add it the heading 'Instructions on Worship' (NIV) etc. but there is no evidence that the context is public worship. In fact, the references to prayer 'in every place' (v8), modest dress (vv9-10), Adam and Eve (vv13-15) and childbearing (v15) all suggest that the context is actually the one flesh marriage relationship in the home.
c. The text bears remarkable similarities to 1 Peter 3, where the same words are translated as 'wife', 'husband' and 'quietness' rather than 'a woman', 'a man' and 'silence'.

2. There is also a good discussion on this in John Stott's book, "Issues Facing Christians Today". I tend to follow the guidelines he formulates for whether or not I should preach in a particular context:

a. Do I believe I am gifted to preach?
b. Am I adequately trained to preach?
c. Am I faithfully teaching the apostolic gospel, as recorded in Scripture?
d. Am I in willing submssion to the senior minister? Has he invited me to preach? Is he happy with the content of my sermon?
e. Am I in willing submission to my husband? Am I showing respect for him in the way I preach?
f. Am I preaching in humility and not seeking glory for myself?
g. Do I have the consent of the congregation to preach?

For these reasons, I preach in the morning services, but not in the evening service. There are some people in the evening service who would not be comfortable to have a woman preach.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The difficulty of 1 Tim 2:11-15

Talking with Graham Cole the other day, he gave me some new words with which to think about 1 Tim 2 - here are some:
Enthymemic: An argument which doesn't state the assumption.
1 Timothy 2 is an enthymemic argument in that the reason that vv13-15 are relevant to what he has said in vv11-12 are left unstated. Why does Paul say "for Adam was formed first, then Eve"? Why does he talk about Eve being deceived? Why does he talk about being saved through childbearing? And what does all this have to do with women teaching men?
All that is left (frustratingly!) unstated.
The problem (for us) with enthymemic statements, is that they can be very persuasive, and they can persuade people to believe an unstated premise which is not true, more easily than if the premise were stated.
Some more terms which I learned from Cole which are helpful in my thinking
Creation Order and Analogical.
These describe two of the main schools of interpretation on this text, which give meaning to the unstated premise.
1. Creation Order
I used to think that this was the only way to think about this text. My understanding is, that this is the argument which says "Paul cites an example from creation so this applies for all time...".
The reason "for Adam was formed first, then Eve" is relevant, is because it refers to primogeniture. The practise of the first born son having the rights and authority. So, this argument claims that Paul is saying that since Adam was born before Eve he is endorsing Adam having the authority over Eve, and by implication men over women.
But what about "for Eve was deceived" how is this relevant?
Proponents of this view, in my conversations and reading, seem to be very keen to say that it is not women's inferior intelligence or lack of gifting or skill which is being discussed here (though some do). They claim that male authority is simply God's good intention for creation, no matter how much we understand it or not. I'm not sure really how they explain vv 13-14. Can anyone enlighten me?
2. Analogical
I first came across this argument a few weeks ago in this paper (found on this page).
This argument says that the reason that all of vv 13-15 is relevant is because it is summarising the Genesis passages (Gen 2 til the start of 4). Why does Paul want to summarise these passages of scripture? Because it is analogous to what was happening in the Ephesian church at the time.
You'll notice, reading through Ephesians that it is largely about teaching. In chapter 1 Paul tells the men to stop teaching, in chapter 2 he tells the women to stop teaching, and in the final chapters he's putting in a place a system of leadership which will teach the correct doctrine. The people in the Ephesian church should only listen to Paul, Timothy, and the elders of whom Timothy approves because they are teaching sound doctrine.
How might this situation be analogous to Genesis? The women might have been deceived about the correct teaching. At the time it was rare in Jewish circles for women to be trained in the scriptures.
Women were less likely to be literate than men, were trained in philosophy far less often than men, were trained in *rhetoric almost never, and in Judaism were far less likely to be educated in the *law. Given the bias against instructing women in the law, it is Paul's advocacy of their learning the law, not his recognition that they started as novices and so had to learn quietly, that was radical and countercultural. The IVP Bible Background Commentary
This gives credence to the idea that both women and men were teaching, but women were relatively more deceived, at that time, as to the true gospel.
Given women's lack of training in the Scriptures, the heresy spreading in the Ephesian *churches through ignorant teachers (1:4-7), and the false teachers' exploitation of these women's lack of knowledge to spread their errors (5:13; 2 Tim 3:6), Paul's prohibition here makes good sense. His short-range solution is that these women should not teach; his long-range solution is "let them learn" (2:11). The situation might be different after the women had been instructed (2:11; cf. Rom 16:1-4, 7; Phil 4:2-3).  The IVP Bible Background Commentary
How do we know that Eve was deceived? She told something to the serpent which was not true - that God had said that she may not even touch the tree or she would die. Adam who was with her at the time, was led astray by Eve, even though he knew the truth.
The analogy with the Ephesian church is that women were teaching and leading men astray by their teaching, so Paul was instructing them to stop teaching, and instead to learn.
If we see vv 13-15 as a summary, we can see a point which Paul might have been making - that God judges those who disobey God, both those who lead others astray, and those who go along with it.
If we see 13-15 as a summary the reference to childbearing also makes more sense - at the start of Gen 4 Eve, though childbearing has been cursed, she still safely gives birth to a son. The allusion to this by Paul is a statement of God's grace - that he has cursed one of woman's primary functions, but still God is present with her in that suffering and saves her through it. Though women (and men!) in the Ephesian church have led other's astray - led them to disobey God as did Eve - there is still grace in the midst of judgement for them.
In verse 15 there is a switch from the singular language of verses 11-15a ("he" and "she", "a woman" and "a man" * ) to the plural "if they remain in faith, in love and holiness with propriety". I wonder if these are the conditions of the grace which Paul has referred to in the previous verses... one question is who are the "they" it is referring to. I think it's most likely referring to Adam and Eve, in the context of the analogy, and therefore to both the men and women in the Ephesian church.
Here's one question I had with the "analogical" argument:
The analogical argument implies that the real meaning of "gar" at the start of v 13, is more like, in English, "it's the same as the situation where..." I wondered whether there was any other use in Paul's writings of the use of "gar" to obviously introduce an analogy. I didn't have to look far... 1 Tim 5:17-18 is a clear analogy linked by "gar".
In summary, I'm much more convinced by the analogical argument than the creation order argument. It seems to explain more about the text in question, and fits in better in context with the entire letter.
It's interesting to note that both of these views are represented side-by-side in some study bibles, but not all.
* Many English Bible versions translate these verses in the plural (eg. NIV, NLT, CEV), and I think this is a mistranslation which hides, instead of reveals, the meaning.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Just within the church context?

For a while I've been uneasy about the position that there is a restriction on women teaching men, and that this restriction only applies in a church context. But I haven't been able to pinpoint what it is. Here's an attempt.
The argument goes that "Paul was writing to a church" therefore it applies only to the church context, and that he cites the example from creation, therefore it applies in ALL church contexts.
Is there any other command which applies in all church contexts and doesn't apply outside the church context?  At the moment I can't think of any.
If we take the previous verses 1 Tim 2:8-10 ("I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God.") The application from these verses are not restricted to a church context. Women should dress modestly inside and outside the church, men should pray without anger and arguing inside and outside the church..
Seems to me that the people who hold that Paul was restriction women teaching men in all churches but only in church contexts are using a different hermeneutic than for the other verses here where Paul gives instruction for behaviour. Surely if Paul's reason for citing an example from the creation story is to show that it should apply for all time - surely it applies in all areas of life as well. It women not teaching men is God's good plan for creation, shouldn't we be doing that outside as well as inside the church?
I'm not convinced at all that Paul was intending to restict all women teaching men in the church context and only in the church context.
I think that the debates that we sometimes have over whether it is permissable for a woman to teach mixed audiences based on whether the gathering is a "church" or not (Is bible college a church? Is a convention a church? Is a Christian school a church?), are discussions based on a misreading of the text.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What are our positions?

People in Sydney take many different positions on this issue - here is my attempt to clarify what they are, in decreasing order of "restriction". If I have missed out a position, let me know and I'll add it.

Practical positions which people hold in Sydney:
1. Women may not have authority over men in any circumstance.

2. Women may not have authority over men in a church context
This has many different interpretations:
Women may not lead a church or congregation, but may preach.
Women may not preach regularly, but may preach occasionally.
Women may not preach, but may lead the service.
Women may not lead a service but may lead the singing/worship time.
Women may not lead worship, but may lead a mixed bible study.
Women may not lead a bible study, but may co-lead with a male leader.
Women may not co-lead a bible study, but may lead a youth group.
Women may not lead a youth group, but may lead Sunday school... etc
And there are many variations on the above applications.

3. Women may lead men, but wives are in submission to husbands. This can in some way extend into the church context. (In practise this can look like any of the options given in point two.)

4. Women and men are equal in terms of authority, and there is no restiction based on gender. Women are given positions of authority based on gifting and accceptability for the task (as are men).
When I thought about it some more, I realised that the first position also has many questions of practice (similar to the second). If women are not to have authority over men in secular contexts as well then is it OK to vote for a female politician? Is it Ok for a woman to give directions to a man if he is lost? Is it Ok for a woman to be a teacher in adult education? ...etc. These are questions which are legitimately being asked by evangelicals who hold that women mustn't have authority over men in any circumstance.

Are there any other positions to add?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Moving forwards

In the last week I've been making some progress in crystalysing my thoughts on this issue. I'll be posting them in the coming days. I feel that I'm starting to lean in a particular direction and that it is a biblically faithful interpretation.
Very exciting! 

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Paper on women preaching

My plan is to direct you to relevant papers and books as I find them.
This paper was shown to me today.
I met the author himself today at my church weekend away. We asked his thoughts about these issues, and we talked in as much detail as time would allow about his interpretation of the 1 Tim 2 passage. I was impressed with his knowledge, scholarship and submission to the Word.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

To lead? Or to love?

I hear lots of people say that the men are to "lead". I can't find that anywhere to be biblically mandated.
I can see many places where wifely "submission" is contrasted with husbandly "love" but never leadership.
Can someone point it out to me?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A bit about me

I thought that before I continue posting, I'd let you know where I'm coming from on this issue.
I went to a Uniting Church during my primary school years, a Baptist Church during High School. At that time I made a conscious decision to follow Jesus at an SUFM while my family was on holidays. When I went to uni in Sydney I started going to an Anglican Church and I have stayed at Anglican Churches ever since.
I see that there is debate on these issues going on in Anglican Churches and other denominations in Sydney as well. Two basic sides of the debate seem to have formed - but I (I think with quite a few people) am uncomfortable in different ways with both of these sides.
What I love about the complementarian side is that they are trying to remain true to the text (see for example Grudem and Piper's Blue book). The Bible remains the source of authority and they attempt to submit every area of their life and theology to it. I certainly applaud that. What I fear is that this side may have overread some portions of text, to find something in there which the author may not have intended. I'm not clear on what I mean about that, hence my own investigations into the text, which I hope to continue posting. They also may downplay the role of culture in interpreting the text on this issue.
What I love about the egalitarian (and often liberal) side is that they want to value both sexes equally, in their theology and practise - and they believe that God values them equally too. They also understand the importace of understanding biblical and present day culture in their interpretation. However, many books which I have read from this perspective (for example this book) seem not to have as high a standard of scholarship as those on the complementarian side.
What I don't appreciate about this debate is that often people are intrenched in their own side, and the debate becomes very partisan (see the reviews for what I call "the orange book" edited by Pierce, Groothuis and Fee which tries to pursue an evangelical middle ground - the reviews are quite polarised). I won't point you to some blog posts which I recently stumbled upon which have been far less gracious in their tone when discussing women being invited to a speaking event.
So I mainly want to deal with the bible, and find out as much as I can about the relevant texts, but if you have any recommendations of articles or books to read, I'd be happy for you to comment on that as well.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More about silence

Following on from my previous post - I noticed a few things about this word.
For example in Acts 22:2 the crowd became "even more quiet" . Here the word "silent" in English is not appropriate translation of this word - because silence in English doesn't have degrees. It's hard to be silent, and then be even more silent. You're either silent or not. So this word ηεσυχια has degrees, which are not so appropriate in English.
In the previous post, I gave the NRSV examples. The ESV more consistently uses the word "quietly" for this word, but even the ESV was not able to coherently translate the Luke 23:56 example with "quiet". The ESV also has "On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment." This word has a range of meaning which doesn't easily fit with any English word. It seems to imply orderly behaviour which is submissive to God. I don't know of any English word which includes all these meanings - do you?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Quiet? Silence? Or something else...

When it comes to the question of whether a woman should be allowed to preach to men in a church context the key verses have to be 1 Tim 2: 11-15.   
I've been thinking a bit about the specific Greek words in these verses and here is what I've found out so far:
I've looked at the word which is often translated "quietly" or "in silence": ησυχια  (apologies, I don't yet know how to add the breathing marks etc.)  and it doesn't seem to mean what lots of English translations translate it as.

I've searched for this word as a noun, adjective and verb and here are the places it's found in the New Testament. Bible text is from the NRSV.




Acts 22:2

"When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, they became even more quiet."

1 Thess 4:11

"to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands,"

2 Thess 3:12

"Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living."

1 Tim 2: 11, 12

"Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent."



1 Tim 2:2

Pray "for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity."

1 Peter 3:4

Do not adorn yourselves by braiding hair … "rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight."



Luke 14:3-4

""Is it lawful to cure people on the Sabbath, or not?"  But they were silent."

Luke 23:56

"On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment."

Acts 11:18 

"When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, "Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.""

Acts 21:14

"Since he would not be persuaded, we remained silent except to say, "The Lord's will be done."." (Note: "except to say" is literally ειποντες).

1 Thess 4:11

We urge you… " to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you,"

I think this gives a sense of how the words in 1 Tim 2:11 and 12 should be understood. I don't think it's talking about "not talking" at all. See, for example,  the verbs in Acts where they were silenced, but were still able to speak praising God!
It seems to me that here it is argumentative speech -  that speech which is not submitted to God - which is silenced. But speech praising God is not inconsistent with the use of ησυχαζω. But rather it's about a state of not arguing, and about being orderly, and restful.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Why this blog?

Ive been thinking about the place of women's ministry in the evangelical church over the past few years. I know I often learn best in a group, so I thought a blog might be a good place to have a discussion.
Two sides of this issue have been defined, but I'm not sure that either is completely right.  I am neither a staunch complementarian nor egalitarian. I want to look at the biblical text and trying to work out what I think on this issue. I also want to think about how we can apply what the bible says in our present church context.