Monday, March 15, 2010

Skeptic Month: Hey, Babe, Shut Your Pie Hole!

Continuing with the skeptic theme here at Pastor Kip, we come now to a very uncomfortable section for the conservative fundamentalist: the issue of a woman's place in the church. According to the critic, this one issue deals a serious blow to the Bible's claim to both relevancy and inerrancy.

The Declaration
In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, the Apostle Paul clearly states that he does not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man, She must be silent and learn in quietness and full submission. Paul remains consistent on this teaching in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, going so far as to say it is "disgraceful for a woman to speak in church."

The main reason for the woman's subordinate role, and a passage that you'll rarely hear preached on, is that, while man was created in the image and glory of God, woman wasn't. She is the glory of man. This according to 1 Corinthians 11:7-9.

As you can imagine, this ruffles quite a few mother hen feathers.

The Response
The Biblical inerrancy crowd has several different reactions to this one. Some take it for what it says and do not allow women to hold authority over men in a church. It's fine for them to change diapers, run the children's ministry, and oversee the activities of the Women's Auxiliary, but their privilege of service ends there.

Then there are those more progressive types who teach that Paul's admonition isn't applicable today since it dealt with a situation specific to the culture at that time. Women, emboldened by the liberation given to them by Christianity and apparently insensitive to the most basic sense of decorum, had begun to ask questions of their husbands in the midst of the church service. This was distracting to say the least, since (according to some sources) men and women were seated on opposite sides of the room, the questions had to be shouted across the aisle.

Then there are the liberals who teach that, ages ago, church officials actually changed the language in the Bible in order to subjugate women. They claim that wherever the word "man" is used in this context, it should more appropriately be translated "husband". In other words, Paul was merely setting forth the order of accountability in a Christian home, not the administration of church leadership. I sat under a pastor who taught this, and I asked him if he was bothered that this might bring the whole authority of Scripture into question. He admitted that it was a risk, but he felt it was worth it to correct the teaching.

The Critic's Response to the Responses
The first response is both the least acceptable and the most honest. These people teach the inerrancy of Scripture and are determined to follow every jot and tittle in spite of social and political objections. And why shouldn't they? They are following the word of God.

The second response of cultural differences must then concede that, at least on this issue, the Scriptures do not apply to this day and time. In other words, the infallible word of God has failed to be relevant to our culture.

The third response is the most damaging to the integrity of the Scriptures. The preacher who holds to this teaching - that the Bible has been vitiated by human bias - has seriously weakened his ability to teach anything from Scripture with any authority. He cannot honestly claim to believe in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.

Finally, not one of these last two responses deals with the basic reason Paul gave for the woman's subordinate role: she was created subordinate.


Kristin said...

You just HAD to go there, didn't you? :D

So, I'm not so sure I agree with your last statement. While women were made to be a 'helper' and companion to men, after the fall, God pronounced that her desire will be for her husband and he will rule over her. Now, I don't think God was simply restating how things already were. It was a difference - something resultant from her part in the Fall. God's indication of how things would be going forward, and assuming that it would be different from pre-Fall order, would mean that women were NOT created to be ruled. It is the curse from the Fall that made it thus.

I think this is an interesting post. It is one close to my 'mother hen' heart, of course. I don't believe that it is so cut and dried as the scriptures you used would indicate. There are women in the Bible whom God used to effect the Israelites, and in some cases, to save them. It would be short sighted to simply take the scriptures (as, it seems, many churches do) as saying that women should just follow whatever men say and should not give opinion, thought or teaching. It even upends the order of the family to do that! Would a mother never teach her teenaged son?

The verses in 1 Corinthians strike me as troubling. I see in them the root of the sort of blind, deaf, & dumb following the 'good' wife is told she should have regardless of her husband's treatment of her. Regardless, they are speaking about the propriety of worship practices in a church. I take from it that some rituals should be observed to keep decorum within worship; it's more of a commentary on keeping worship orderly. This is true of the 'women silent in church' mantra too. There are a good many men who ought be silent as well - if they are taking away from the orderliness or someone else's ability to hear a message, for example. (Snoring is included.)

Pastor Kip said...

Hey, Kristin - I giggled thinking about you as I wrote this post. It reflects real criticisms I've read skeptics make and I do think it's an embarrassing topic for fundamentalists.

You're right to point out the numerous ways the Bible exalts women.

The book of Acts refers several times to the influence of "prominent women" and Paul even calls a couple of women his partners in the ministry who, "labored with me in the gospel."

These have to be factored in to the critic's argument.

Kristin said...

I get the feeling I've been baited!! Haha.

Kip, I think that skeptics sometimes get a controversial bit of scripture through an extreme viewpoint and immediately toss it out. It is sad.