Posted by: minnow | February 24, 2010

A Character Issue

Some issues are just harder for me to drop than others.  The existence of hell and the disallowing of women in leadership roles within the Church are two such issues.  On the P&P blog over the course of several days a lengthy discussion about the latter issue took place.  I read nearly all the 632 comments.  I even added a few myself.  And, I continued to check in right up to the point it was closed.  Why?

When more than once a commenter cautions that such a long, forceful, and at time repetitive discussion could be harmful, felt unproductive, or bordered on the ridiculous, why did I keep jumping in the ring?  When I knew certain commenters were beginning to get my goat and I was a breath away from being unable to ignore them any longer, why did I go back for more?  When no one seemed to understand my point of view (They would change their position if they did, right?) and my sincere questions seemed to be ignored, why hang in there, why keep trying to clarify my point?  Why go back?  Are these types of dialogues, in the end, not just fruitless banter?  After all, most of the time it appears that two sides are drawn and no one is undecided or willing to change.  We are simply throwing stones, right?

Inevitably it seems, when these debates go on long enough, someone from the “women should not be allowed to have authority over men” side of the issue asks the question: “So, if Paul himself appeared before you and said he meant what he said (note the subtle assumption that the other side is not reading the scripture correctly), that all women for all time should not have authority over men, would you humble yourself, admit you are wrong, repent, and submit?”  Most of the time I take this question as a lightly veiled attempt to put me and the other egalitarians it addressed in our place by suggesting we are un-submissive.  So, I tend to ignore the question.  Once, a year or more ago, when that question was specifically addressed to me and I was continually pressed for an answer I responded with a perfunctory: “Yes I would.”  And then added something to the effect of, “Now can we get back to the topic and avoid further discussions of my character, please?” 

When this question was asked in the most recent dialogue it was addressed to another person.  The intended target ignored the question.  The questioner pressed.  I found myself wondering what the person would say.  Then I asked myself what I would say and realized I could no longer give the response I once did.  You see, I can not even entertain that question as a possible reality and making hypotheticals from situations that cannot happen, in my opinion, simply makes no sense.

“Rather sure of yourself aren’t you, Minnow ?”

Yes.  Yes I am.  Because for me we are talking about a character issue.  What is the true character of God?

I believe God loves me, even when I screw up.  I believe He sent His Son to show me the way–both the way I should live my life and the way back to the Father.  I believe Jesus defeated death and intercedes for me in heaven.  I believe He sent the Holy Spirit to be my counselor, guide, and teacher.  I believe God created me, that He has given me my unique bent (gifts, interests, abilities, passions).  I believe He was talking to me, and not just my male counterparts, when He instructed His disciples to go, to preach the gospel, to serve the least of these and there by do for Him.  I believe the instructional words from Paul and others–to be ready in season and out, to eagerly desire the spiritual gifts, and to use them in the portion we are given to edify the body–were written to the whole body.  I believe examples of women in the roles of teacher, prophet, and apostle while not plentiful are included in scripture because allowing women in these positions given the cultural obstacles of the time was necessary to illustrate just how radically Jesus changed the world.  I believe Paul meant what he said when he wrote to the Galatians, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

This is a picture of the God in which I believe.  This is a picture of my loving Father, who has pursued me and wooed me as He does you. 

It is a cruel and ugly tyrant others paint.  Only a controlling, hateful being would gift part of His creation, pour passion into them to follow hard after Him but then forbid them enter when they try to obey His command to use their gifts for the edification of the Body.  I cannot believe in the God painted by even the most amiable and selfless non-egalitarian for such a God cannot be obeyed.  In the end I can not both speak (teach, witness, edify, prophesy, encourage, admonish, pray, praise, restore), and be silent.

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Responses

  1. I think every egalitarian that enters into discussions with complimentarians are brave souls. I am more of a lurker who has been reading these type of interactions for years and must say I havn’t seen alot of progress. What seems to happen is that comps dig deeper into thier theology with the end result for them being the need to convert egals. I am not just talking about conversion to compism but salvation (sozo). This is sad as then both parties are effectively divided by an ideology of a secondary issue.

    The Jerusalem Council provides a paradigm for resolving a textual dispute among believers. The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses (Acts 15:5). And I am sure the believers of the Pharisees could quote volumes from the Old Testament supporting thier position. The Judaizers clearly had the scales tipped in thier favor. The much discussion of Acts 15:7 dealt first with, What does the text of scripture say? The Judaizers answered one way; Paul and Barnabas the other. How do you affirm truth when believers are throwing texts at each other? The scriptures tell us that there had been much disputing (sound familiar) Peter rose us and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by me should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the necks of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? Then Peter precedes to tell of the miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them (Acts 15:7,8,9,10,12). Peter quoted NO scripture, he simply restated his experience.

    The discussion of the inclusion of the Gentiles is relevent to the issue of women in ministry because we learn from the New Testament itself the process by which the early church resolved issues when texts appeared to collide. Thier understanding of the text was impacted by thier experience in the Spirit. When texts are thrown against us such as 1 Cor. 14:34,35 and 1 Tim 2:11-15 our experience tells us that these texts must be interpreted in light of Joel 2, Acts 2 and Galatians 3:28.

    Had the issue of Gentile inclusion been presented for debate prior to Peter’s going to Cornelius’ home or prior to Paul’s Gentile mission, the Jerusalem church would have voted against both endeavors of bringing in the Gentiles without prior observances of Jewish law and culture. But, the debate took place after the endeavors of Peter and Paul- thier experience helped the Early church reach an appropriate understanding of the text. Some Christians are just not taking the experiences (Deborah, Anna, Priscilla, Phebe, etc. seriously, and because of this women will continue to suffer injustice and inequality in the Church.

  2. I cannot believe in the God painted by even the most amiable and selfless non-egalitarian for such a God cannot be obeyed. – me either.

    the Kingdom of God is EEO.


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