Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Friday, December 01, 2006

Egalitarians Covered by Culture?

As I have stated previously (and here), there are certainly passages where we must defer some of the application to the cultural setting. This does not diminish God's Word, if done properly it reinforces the sufficiency of God's Word. But it also does not give us a license to claim cultural refuge from application in any passage. We seek to understand God's Word within the culture it was written, and when we do that, we often see the application actually transcends all cultures.

As before, there a couple of non-primary issues I'd like to lay out:

Paul's writing cannot be regarded as chauvinistic by a believer.--This does not mean you find it easy to swallow. (Much of Paul greatly convicts both genders.) But it does mean, if you hold to an orthodox perspective of inspiration, that the Holy Spirit would not allow a sinful attitude toward women to be inflicted upon Scripture. Therefore, if Paul's words must not be chauvinistic, they must be understood in a different light. (And if Paul's words are the only way we have to evaluate his character--and his words are not chauvinistic--we really have no ground to call Paul a chauvinist, as I've heard some do.)

Go elsewhere.--There are a lot of better and more comprehensive examinations of the egalitarian/complimentarian debate. I don't wish to exhaust the topic, but my goal is simply to show the nature of 1 Timothy 2 is quite different than the nature of 1 Corinthians 11. If you'd like to read more about complimentarianism, read Women's Ministry in the Local Church, reviewed by MercifulGrace.

Why I am Confident that 1 Timothy 2 Cannot Be Dismissed as Cultural

1. Well Taught!--There really is not mystery surrounding "didasko." Paul uses the word 5 times in the Pastoral Epistles alone, each time clearly speaking of doctrine (The one time in Titus he uses it as a negative, of those who teach bad doctrine). This is not an overarching statement that women are not able to teach anything ever in the prescence of men, but instead is speaking of doctrine. (And yes, I believe application is included in doctrine.)

2. Poorly Taught.--The biggest defense for egalitarianism is the presupposition that women were not educated, so that is why Paul didn't want them to teach. Quite honestly, this perspective is a fabrication. First of all, Paul gives a different reason altogether for his instruction (we'll get there in a couple of points). Second, Paul actually appeals for women to be educated! In verse 11, Paul wants women to receive instruction. Women may have been disadvantaged toward education, but Paul does not desire the church to be this way. He says he wants women to be alloted the same learning privileges as men. However, he does not appeal that once they receive some instruction they should teach. In fact, he does the opposite. Paul says educate the women, but they should not educate the men.

3. Trouble with Authority.--"Authenteo" is also a hapax legomenon, which I stated before, can make things tricky. What really does Paul mean by the word since he only uses it once. I think the text gives us a couple of clues. First, Paul calls women to submisiveness (hupotage) in the preceding verse. Secondly, I Timothy 5:17 seems to be a direct parallel. The elders who rule well are considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching (emphasis mine). What does Paul say a woman shouldn't do? Exercise authority or teach. What does Paul say elders do? Exercise authority and teach. We should be able to get a pretty good understanding of "authenteo."

4. Every Culture Shares Eve.--To a proper exegete, the "gar" (for) in verse 13 is a flashing light. Why does Paul not permit a woman to teach? This small word is an indicator that Paul is about to tell us. Adam was created first. Whether they deny it or not (evolutionists), every culture shares the same ancestory. Women are not to teach or exercise authority over men because Adam was created first. How does Adam being created first make men better teachers? you may ask. It doesn't. This is not an appeal to pragmatism (It works better with men, so we do it that way). It is an appeal to the created order. Man is to be the spiritual head and the authority because God orchestrated it that way. To suggest God establishing a system of authority must be based on ability or worth is to wreak havoc on the Trinity. (Is Christ really less of God when He submits to the Father?) God wants the picture of authority present in male/female relationships, that's why Adam was created first. It's simply not about culture.

5. Want an Example?--In verse 14, Paul gives us an example. Eve fell into deception. The question is, where was Adam? Adam was not taking his responsibility seriously to serve as the authority in the relationship, and Eve responded outside of that design. If you need a reminder of the outcome, read Genesis 3. It wasn't pretty.

6. You Think the Debate is Hot, Just Wait.--Verse 15 is certainly a difficult verse to understand. However, it is more troubling from the egalitarian perspective. If 1 Timothy 2 is simply cultural, was God saying He preserved first century Ephesian women by their having babies? What in the world would that mean? (And don't give me this, "Paul was speaking about Mary, the one who carried Jesus" argument. If he was, what do you do with the word "they" in the second half? Was there more than one Mary?) However, if verse 15 is not cultural, then Paul is instructing women everywhere that their greatest gift to the church is their nurturing and discipleship of the children in the home. Paul is stating a woman's most sacred task is not a job, a career, or even influence in the church...it is the influence she has on her home. (And with that sentence, I kissed any expanded readership goodbye!) It really is beautiful if we obey it. (I see the most marvelous example of it daily in my own home with my beautiful bride!)

7. But there's culture there!--First, McDuda is right. (I get the feeling he never expected to see that sentance on my blog.) Culture cannot be avoided. The Word of God was not written in a vacuum. So the argument that there is heavy doses of culture found in verse 9 does nothing against the text. Second, let's examine closely just how culture is used in the passage. Women in Ephesus in that day were using braided hair, gold (often woven into the hair), pearls and costly clothing to bring attention to themselves. Paul was not happy with this process. Is Paul condemning braided hair, gold, pearls and nice clothing for everyone? Not really. Paul's concern was that women dress modestly and discreetly. Braided hair, gold, pearls and expensive clothing are just examples he gave of this violation. If you say the whole thing is cultural, then you would have to say that God doesn't care if women dress modestly or not in our era (A thesis I think many actually believe, based on some things you see today!). Of course that's not what Paul was saying. The over arching principle is modesty and discretion.

(Incidentally--and this is just a rabbit trail rant--but most preachers I've encountered (either in person or over media) that wear flashy clothes and expensive jewelry while preaching and teaching are egalitarian. I've had many conversations with nonbelievers that even they realize the preacher should not be directing attention to himself/herself by their apparel. Maybe they really do throw the whole thing out as cultural. But if so, why do so many of them encourage men to raise their hands (verse 8)? Wouldn't that be cultural too?)

8. Hardly Alone--Whereas 1 Corinthians 11 is the only place regarding head coverings, 1 Timothy 2 has support throughout the Canon. In the Old Testament, only men were priests and Levites. (Yes, we see Deborah and prophetesses, but those are the exception, hardly the rule.) The 12 disciples were all men. (A decision Jesus easily could have thwarted had he wanted.) Only men were installed as elders in the New Testament. (This is not to say women did not have a significant role, the most certainly did, but not as elders.) Paul's instuctions about elders are targeted toward men (1 Timothy 3:2). Paul also tells the Corinthian church that women should remain silent (1 Corinthians 14:34).

9. A House Divided--Sometimes we get so focussed on the institution of the church, we forget to notice the original institution formed. God did not nullify the home when He established His church. To allow for women elders either Ephesians 5 must ignored, and the husband is not to lead his home, or our ecclesiology is distorted. We're either forced to believe Ephesians 5 is cultural (but Christ being the head of the church is universal), or we must define church as only a specific time period within a specific building on a specific day. How does a woman elder preach and exercise authority over her husband and yet honor what the Scriptures say about marriage? Certainly, God would not endorse a system that distorts the institution of marriage (especially His gospel presented in it).

I understand this passage is counter-cultural, but isn't the gospel as well? I understand the application can be difficult. Genesis 3 says that women are going to struggle with the authority structure God has established. Women are sinners, therefore obeying God's order is going to be difficult. Not helping them any is that men are sinners! Now the very people they are to submit to are sinfilled creatures. Add to that a society that has for millennia has tried to usurp this order, and it becomes difficult for us to apply.

However, we must be careful that we do not release ourselves from obedience simply because the call is difficult. I believe that much of our gospel light has been diminished because we have been unwilling to obey that which the Lord clearly called us to. Possibly, head coverings would fit into this category too (for it is also a picture of submission)?

1 Timothy 2 is difficult to apply. 1 Corinthians 11 is difficult to understand. That difference should not be confused.


  • At 12:32 PM, Blogger matt morrison said…

    I agree danny. I am in a class this semester on women in scripture and it seems to me that they mostly present the egalitarian and the liberal complementarian view. I know what I have been brought up on and believed and I do not see that view presented in this class at all. I hold the same view as you so it is refreshing for me to see someone who I look up to hold the same belief that I do, because it is frustrating at times in class to see only the other views.

  • At 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Excellent post!

  • At 9:31 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    that's unfortunate matt.

    are you saying the book is written from an egalitarian perspective bu the professor isn't... or are you saying the class as a whole presents mostly an egalitarian perspective?

  • At 12:50 AM, Blogger matt morrison said…

    the class as a whole tends to lean more in favor of the egalitarian/a liberal complementarian view. the professor never completely states where she is on the whole subject but my guess by looking at the class is that she is more of a liberal complementarian. I don't think she would profess to be an egalitarian but her views would be more on the liberal side.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home