The Need

There are these two things I’ve been wrestling with…things that I need to find answers to, or at least to learn to be content without having the answers to. Two things that I was going to base this blog post on as I exposed my struggles to the world. These are subjects that I’ve mentioned here before briefly, yet never delved into. But, instead of focusing on that today, I’m going to focus on the need. In some ways I am not a very contented person. I am always wondering, wishing, and seeking more because there is always more to seek: another wall to scale, another door to try, another something that I want to know. And sometimes there are things that I’m not just curious about, but things that I need to know deep in my soul in order to be ok. In order to keep fully believing this doubting Thomas asks God to prove Himself again, and although never in the same way, He always does.

These needs strike deep. They’re important. I feel that I must to know these things; they’re a part of me. This time it’s women in God’s eyes. What does God say? What does man say? I know that I don’t believe in a God who devalues, and suppresses the gifts of women. God’s word is being misquoted against women-that’s what I believe, but I need to prove it. And so I am doing research. This book, and this book have helped me on my way. Prayer, deep thought, hope…I’ve been trying to make time for these things because I need to know what my Savior says. The other struggle is harder to put a name to. I could say whether or not I believe in works based religion, but that wouldn’t be accurate because I know I don’t. It’s more like trying to find the line between faith without works is dead, and grace covers all without making it all about my works, or the extreme opposite: making works unnecessary. Guilt is good, but falsely placed guilt can be detrimental. I can’t be perfect.

I said this post wouldn’t be about those struggles particularly. It’s not because last night something in a passage that I’ve read multiple times recently hit me with new meaning, and although it didn’t entirely satisfy my needs (and I will still be searching) it  reminded me that there is more than this. I know that, of course. There is more than fulfilling this need to the journey, but sometimes the need becomes obsessive. The verse that hit me is the ending of the very last verse of Ephesians one. It’s talking about the power God vested in Jesus, and it says “…the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” All in all. That reminder that God is enough, and He is to be my all in all even when I don’t know the answers. The reminder that although faith is a tricky substance, it is real, and it needs to be acted upon even when I’m questioning, and even when I don’t understand.

So despite the need to understand, I will continue to step out on faith. I will say, as the father in Mark “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!”  Trust, vulnerability, risk… these are all things necessary to successful relationships. Why should the biggest relationship be any different? This curiosity to gain fuller understanding is both a blessing, and a curse. Sometimes it keeps me trying in my own strength when I should be leaning on the everlasting arms. It’s easier to be independent; to trust in myself, and my box of answers. It’s fuller, and more amazing to trust in the Father, and let Him be enough as the all in all. It’s another balance I need to work on: the one between faith, and comprehension. I still have so far to go. There is always another door in my heart to give to God, and another door of  His person to explore, and enjoy. He fulfills all of my needs now and always.

Categories: My Life, Ponderings | Tags: , , , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “The Need

  1. Nastya Andreyevna

    Thank you for always having the same problems (and questions) I do, haha. What a relief. 😉

    One suggestion on the women in God’s eyes thing – have you read Captivating by John & Staci Eldredge? If not READ IT. IMMEDIATELY. Don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but it helped me SO MUCH and just…made me feel so much better. No more feeling stifled and second-hand and unnecessary (like a superfluous whim of God’s imagination or something). And it will definitely add perspective to your search. (We can also discuss it in *that future letter*.) Seriously – one of the best books I’ve read.

    • It never ceases to amaze me…

      I’m in the process of trying to get it thanks to you. Thanks for the imput by the way; there’s a crazy lot of books out there, and a little narrowing down goes a long way.

  2. Your first paragraph to this post drips with evidence that God has set eternity in your heart. Ecl 3. The longing for something more, fulfillment. Yes, God is our all in all. Yes, faith is half the test of obedience – obedience to God’s word and His Truth. Desire for discernment. Refusal to believe that what we know of our great God could somehow lead us to the conclusion that women are not fully human. Confusion at Biblical arguments that don’t reference the times, but God’s created order, yet make us feel lacking-in-worth. And then the wondering what your role in all this really is – and the confusion over what it means to be a woman muddies the waters even more. You and I think alike more that you or I know. I wish we could be friends! Whenever I get hung up on things like David’s many wives or having to be silent when I have Truth before men just because I’m a woman, my husband reminds me I am a follower of JESUS – and to remember how JESUS treated women. A bit different than some of our spiritual forefathers!

    • Thank you so much for your comment! It is good to know that I am not alone. It is good to recieve the reaffirmation that this deeper longing is normal. I wish we could be friends too.

      I keep coming back to that truth: Jesus treated women so counterculturally. I do believe that much of the church has a wrong view of Jesus view of women, and I’m still learning to accept that with grace. Again, I appriciate your comment, and it’s stirring remarks. I hope to hear more from you in the future!

  3. Good questions here. Continue with the thinking.

    sometimes there are things that I’m not just curious about, but things that I need to know deep in my soul in order to be ok.” Yeah, those are the gut-punch times–well, at least that is how it seems to me. Those times are when you really find yourself crying out to God.

    In some ways I am not a very contented person. I am always wondering, wishing, and seeking more because there is always more to seek: another wall to scale, another door to try, another something that I want to know.” In a lot of ways I am not a contented person. It is a continual sin I must contend with in my life. But I want to make an important point in this matter of contentment. It is entirely possible to be completely content in Christ and yet maintain a wondering and seeking attitude. Wondering, seeking, questioning, climbing walls–whatever term you want to use–is not the problem itself. Discontent comes when you or I do not accept God’s timing or method in the provision of answers. To use an analogy, being hungry (asking, seeking, wondering) is not the problem. God designed us to be hungry. It is when God gives you manna and you discontentedly tell Him that you wanted meat instead that we have a big problem.

    Now you ask, “Is needing wrong?” (I paraphrase). To answer that question we need to ask ourselves, “What is the spiritual attitude behind that term?”

    By “I need” do I mean “I demand” or do I mean “I desire“?

    Of course we don’t want to admit that we ever demand anything of God (Oh we wouldn’t do that!) but in truth so often when we say or think “I need” our spiritual attitude is demanding of God. In contrast to that common fleshly attitude, the psalms provide us with a good modeling of a right attitude of deeply desiring God and waiting (sometimes waiting in agony) for God to answer that desire.

    Job is a good cautionary example of the demanding attitude. Job was hurting and he didn’t understand, and so he demanded answers from God. While Job is commended in the Bible for his perseverance and his steadfast refusal to abandon God, he was rebuked for his demand for answers. At the end of the book of Job God shows up and says, “Who are you to demand anything of me? Could you even comprehend the fullness of my reasons or my answers?” (I summarize the gist of it.) So often our problems or desires are much more petty that Jobs, and yet in our hearts we have the same demanding attitude toward God.

    So is needing wrong? No, we were created to need God. But we are also commanded to receive Him as He gives Himself, not as we demand. Contentment is not always saying or feeling that you don’t need anything (contentment is sometimes misconstrued in this limited way). Contentment toward God can often be admitting that you do need, and waiting patiently for God to provide for that need–physical or spiritual–in His good time. Asking and then waiting patiently is hard, very hard.

    This wrestling between the fleshly demanding and the spiritual desiring is a part of the walk with God. You don’t do it once in your life and get done with it–no, it’s a daily thing. The flesh is always demanding, the spirit always desiring. We cannot know ourselves so perfectly as to be able to sort out all the right desire from the wrong demands–and thanks be to God that such is not required of us. We aren’t required to get ourselves perfect–God is working His perfection in us by His Spirit! Sometimes we feel so mixed up and confused about what we feel and what we want that we don’t know how to pray, or what to say. And so we find hope in these words, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom. 8:26-27). We’re all screwed up, completely and utterly, muddled, and confused. Thanks be to God that our walk with Him is not dependent on us getting all our desires and needs straightened out, and figured out! God is fixing us, and even when we are completely confused about our desires and needs, still God’s own Spirit intercedes on our behalf for our good–and He perfectly knows our needs!

    There is no neat formula for this, of course. We’re not going to have this all figured out in one day, or even in this life. It is a daily growth, a life-long growth. It is day by day that you see more clearly by the Spirit in you, and desire more rightly. Some times you stumble and fall and go down the path of fleshly demands and wants, but God picks you up. I think it is right to say that self-examination and spiritual sensitivity are good things in this matter (but things only God can truly give.) So in our life with God, our walk with God, in each day we express our spiritual desires to God as best we can express them, and confess the sinful demands that we recognize in our heart by the Spirit’s light and conviction. As we grow in maturity in Christ we may come to discover ten years down the road that something we thought was a spiritual desire was actually a fleshly demand and so we then fellowship with God in that greater knowledge. But you live today in what God has given you today–in understanding of your spiritual desires to be fed (and so you ask) and fleshly demands to be put to death (and so you confess). And you continue on in the knowledge and hope that God continues His good work in you.

    The whole issue of demanding of God was at the forefront from the very beginning of my walk in Christ. I wanted to demand things of God–“You have to save me in this way, with these feelings, this knowledge, etc, etc–and God worked to humble me to recognize and acknowledge that salvation comes in His ways, not the ways I would demand. Honestly, after all these years I’m not done learning that, or being disciplined in those things. I am still constantly demanding of God that He give me certain feelings, knowledge, strength, power, etc, you name it. I think they would be good things to have, and so I think He should give them to me now!

    By faith I believe that God’s good and holy desires are also at work in me by His indwelling Spirit so that I also desire and seek good things in the midst of the fleshly faults. But I must admit and acknowledge that I see the flesh working in me, which thinks (foolish flesh!) to demand that God meet me on my terms. Some times when I see that small and wretched fleshly nature shaking its fist at God I tremble, how I tremble, and I must run to take refuge in the hope that is Christ Jesus.

    Something I went back to read recently, and seems very appropriate, is the encouragement given in 2 Cor. 2:7-9 where Paul says, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” We are not now jars of stone, or iron, strong and immovable. Nor are we jars of silver, gold, or jewels. How wonderful we think it would be to be those kind of jars! We want to be those kind of jars. But no, we at this present time are jars of clay; weak, crumbly, unimpressive jars made from dirt. But within us is a treasure of God, and God would have us be these weak jars of clay to show His great power.

    Those are some thoughts I would offer in response to your pondering about the issue of need. A lot more could be said, but perhaps something in what I’ve said will spur you in a good direction.

    Now, as I have understood your current post it is focused it on the broader issue of need itself and only in a sort of oblique way mentioned two particular instances of need that currently burden you, them being (a) A need to know the place of women in Christ and in the church, and (b) A need to know the meaning/substance of faith.

    Since you have remained somewhat vague on these two subsidiary points in this present post, I will also limit my remarks. If you decide to pursue either topic further in another post, perhaps I will find I can offer more detailed, helpful, comments.

    On faith you ponder, “It’s more like trying to find the line between faith without works is dead, and grace covers all without making it all about my works, or the extreme opposite: making works unnecessary.” That is an important issue to wrestle with, and any short answer would almost do an injustice to your ponderings here. Your question is important, and there is quite a bit of material in the New Testament addressing this seeming quandary, which benefits from much study. I will try a very brief comment.

    One place a person could start would be in Eph. 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” This gives us a sense of priority. Faith is not a work, not something we produce. It is purely a gift from God. Then we can ask, “What about works?” Works do have a place, but it is a subordinate position. Elsewhere in James we are told (as you make passing reference) that works are a product of faith. Elsewhere in the NT the term “fruit” is used. We can say that works are a fruit of faith.

    We cannot divorce a faith in God from a love for God. When we do something for a person we love, we do it because we love them, not because we are seeking to earn anything. Since we love them we desire to please them. An act from love is not for earning a reward, but simply an act of love. So in pertaining to God, an act of faith is an act of love, an act not to earn, but the overflow of a heart toward the ultimate object (God). Similarly, right guilt (conviction from the Spirit, not accusation from Satan) can also be seen as a fruit. Again, a right response of a heart toward God–in this case in response to a sin.

    Those comments are very general, and only just scratching the surface. I don’t think what I said really answers your pondering as it applies to your personal life and the deeper struggle with this topic. But that deserves more extensive discussion, which I will not attempt here, especially when it wasn’t the focus of your post.

    Now, as to the topic of women: Again, I will limit my comments on this for the present since it wasn’t the focus of your post. You haven’t said much in detail regarding what you have seen and heard. The opinions on this topic are legion so you could be exposed to any number of different teachings. What have you heard? I am curious. What parts of the Bible are used to (supposedly) support such teaching that you have heard?

    I have surely heard the opinions you have been exposed too so I wouldn’t need a big long explanation to understand what type of teaching you wrestle with. A short summary would give me the idea. But I need some sense of what particulars you have been exposed to, and what you wrestle with, before I can offer any helpful reaction.

    In all the teaching out there on women the errors ranges from really crazy, to slightly misguided. Views range from extremely conservative to exceedingly liberal and from the extremes at either end of the spectrum come statements and opinions which plainly contradict what God has said in the Bible. Then there are plenty of people in the middle who are trying to muddle through the mess.

    My position is somewhat nuanced, and (I hope) accurate and faithful to what the Bible says. I think most people would not be entirely happy with my view. Perhaps that is a good thing. I get exasperated with a lot of teachers out there who seem to have more of an agenda than a desire to carefully read scripture (this goes for a lot of teachers on both end of the debate).

    In your response to my comment in your previous post you said, “The fact is that the Bible is alive and active, sharper than a two edged sword piercing between bone and marrow; heart and soul.” I agree with that 100%! In fact I think that truth is greatly applicable to this topic. There is so much clamor of people saying what they think the Bible should say, or twisting the Bible to say what they want. This obscures and deafens so much of what the Bible is saying. What people need is a desire to know and understand what God has done (and is doing) in Jesus Christ.

    Anyhow, it is good of you to wrestle with these things. If you decide to share anything further, I will read your writing with interest.

    • “To use an analogy, being hungry (asking, seeking, wondering) is not the problem. God designed us to be hungry. It is when God gives you manna and you discontentedly tell Him that you wanted meat instead that we have a big problem.”
      True. I have done both, although I know that the latter is not right. Good reminder. Also, on the topic of Job. I love that book; it’s odd that we often ignore it as Christians, or maybe it is just us being typical and avoiding the hard topics.

      That balance between demand, and desire is a tricky one. I greatly desire answers, yes, but sometimes I demand. Sometimes I doubt and become a Gideon. And Romans eight is a solace in those times. I have clung to that verse more times that I can count. I am so far from Godly. I am so thankful God will guide when I ask for direction.

      This jars of clay verse was reaffirmed to me recently also through Emily’s blog here: . That metaphore is so powerful

      Now, as to the two specifics…
      Yes, I did remain kind of vauge here. My opinions on these topics change from day to day as I explore them, and I thought it would be wise not to pin myself to one certian view here. Also, I did want to focus on the needing so it would be more broadly applicable. However, I would value the opinions of other Christians, as well as their counsel on these issues.

      Your response to the faith versus works one…
      Your point is what I keep coming back to. Works out of a love for God, and a faith in Him. Though, I am continually stumped there because I truly believe that Christianity is not based on only feelings (and neither is love for that matter) so in some ways works can be performed out of responsibility. And how far is too far in that direction, etc. It is very difficult for me to frame this discussion in words because it is in some ways a vauge thought. Baily probably says it best in two of her latest posts here: (I Can’t, and I Don’t Feel You) which have helped me along this journey.

      The topic of women…
      First, I wish to make it clear that none of the assumptions, and interpretations I am struggling with have come from my family or my church. My family is fairly open to discussion, and I find that my church just avoids the issue. Certian Bible passages I have read which I will expound upon later, certian people I know mostly of the homeschool and Mennonite variety, and certain online discussions have spurred my interest in this topic. I want to be able to always have an answer prepared, and what is often believed about certain Bible passages seems to me to contradict the message of freedom for all found in the gosple. Also, as I have sought answers this has turned into a very personal quest, which of course explains the ‘need.’

      As far as the exact beliefs I’m wrestling with I’ll point you to this discussion, which has kind of reached an impasse, but will serve to illistraite the kind of beliefs I can’t agree with: . Scroll towards the bottom of the page and I think you should find it. That discussion also does well in illumating the passages I’m struggling with. There are many, but I think the primary three are from the Corinthians, Ephesians, and second(?) Timothy.

      I really want to have a scripturally based view, and have tried to view both sides of the coin, and not seek the answers that I want, though I am sure that I am still slightly biased. I would be interested in you views after the little I have said above. I could go on all day about htis topic. I do plan to say more about it here, though my plans don’t always happen. I am actually in the beginning stages of writing research paper on this topic, and I’ve considered posting it on a new page on my blog.

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply; I look forward to hearing more of your opinions.

      • Thank you for the long reply, and especially the links. I checked out the links (and read the entire thread of comments on that post at the “Thine is The Kingdom” blog). I wanted to quickly let you know that I will be responding–but a complete response may be a little tardy. I expect I will break up my response into several comments which will appear as time allows me to write them, and it possibly could be a number of days (depending).

        More later….

  4. You are a pleasure to read. On a personal note, God recently opened my eyes to what it means to simply be at peace as a sheep in his flock. Now please understand that as a cowboy, sheep are not high on my list of desirable images. (Unless it is a Ram.) However, I am amazed at what God is showing me, and I have fallen in love with the revelation of God’s word through the eyes of a sheep. Isn’t it amazing how God can surprise us by opening a new door, we walk through like Alice on a trip down the rabbit hole, and we are amazed. I love your words and your questioning mind. When the heart is right, all questions are allowed. I believe God delights in each and every one.

    • Thank you.

      It’s interesting of you to say that. My family recently acquired sheep, and it’s been interesting to see just how dumb they are…and then go read scripture, and be humbled. Sheep are such a flock animal, they will follow each other into anything. We actually have one (mine) that will look at you and stomp it’s front leg when it’s really mad. It’s kind of funny, but it’s also a really great analogy of what people (including me) do at God sometimes.

      You’re right, it is entirely amazing how we can continually read the same scriptures, and continually discover new and amazing things. It is good to see people that are older than me who are ok with questions. I appriciate, and agree with your viewpoint. Thank you for commenting!

  5. First, I enjoyed the writing of Bailey over at the “Big House in the Little Woods” and perhaps I “wasted” a little too much time reading some of her archives. The dangers of blog reading.

    Also, as you say I agree the book of Job is avoided in the church and by many Christians. That is very unfortunate. It is a important book to read, and study, and reflect on (and find comfort in).

    Leaving those little tangents aside, on to the discussion of the day…

    My opinions on these topics change from day to day as I explore them, and I thought it would be wise not to pin myself to one certian view here.” I understand, and that is perfectly okay. A doctoral thesis requires a definite idea and position, defended with rigor and precision–but you’re not presenting a doctoral thesis. You are struggle with something, and pondering the issue. It is natural and expected that your thoughts will go back and forth. Since you are still trying to form your thoughts and consider the matter it is wise to not pin yourself to one certain view at this point.

    You may have slightly misunderstood my prodding for a little more clarity. I was firstly looking for some sense of what type of other people’s opinions you had faced and were struggling with. I wasn’t trying to make you delineate a position of argument. But all is good–what your wrote in the comment above, and the links you supplied, gave me the context I was seeking. Thank you in particular for providing the link to your exchange on that particular comment thread over at “Thine is the Kingdom.” I enjoyed seeing how you handled yourself in speaking with those people, and it gave me a better sense of where you are coming from. All together what your provided has given me sense of context for what you are thinking and how you are wrestling with on this topic. I hope this will enable me to intelligently interact.

    I am going to start by quoting from the Big House in the Little Woods “Believe” page ( Since you showed me that blog, I am sure you have already read the page. However, I found that page to be a well written piece of thoughtful, careful, serious, and compassionate (and even funny) writing. I think it stands in marked contrast to the tone of writing in the blog post and comments you linked to over at “Thine is the Kingdom.” Kudos to Bailey. But more to the present point, something she said there I want to highlight (hopefully the block quote will work in your comments):

    So are there any definite things girls must be and do in order to be Biblical?

    Girls must learn to strip empty of pretense and self-righteousness, sin and guilt, fear and try-hard, and surrender themselves to the grace and guidance of Christ. Everything about womanhood must whisper the grace of God and the gospel of Christ. I fear that many girls are trading in a deep, life-altering relationship with Christ for man-made rules, however based off Biblical truth. Here we want to come together on the rock of Christ Himself, not lifestyle choices and convictions.

    Girls must embrace the beauty of womanhood as an expression of God’s image. I don’t believe there is necessarily a list of activities that make a girl more womanly — crocheting, cooking, etc. — or less womanly. But I do believe the Bible teaches distinct femininity. The most beautiful adornment for women, by the way, is not baking skills or pink dresses, but a meek and quiet spirit — a heart that is at rest with the Lord. I think the best way to cultivate one’s own womanhood is to get to know the God she’s reflecting and to be at peace with Him. [Bold emphasis mine.]

    I want to say a big amen to that. What Bailey says there is so true. I find often in the debates about male/female roles that both men and women fall (in word and deed) into the very problems of pretense, self-righteousness, sin, guilt, fear, and try-hard, so I find her words very salutary.

    But it also applies to the first topic of faith and works, and that is where we will start. On that you said “Your point is what I keep coming back to. Works out of a love for God, and a faith in Him. Though, I am continually stumped there because I truly believe that Christianity is not based on only feelings (and neither is love for that matter) so in some ways works can be performed out of responsibility. And how far is too far in that direction, etc. It is very difficult for me to frame this discussion in words because it is in some ways a vauge thought. Baily probably says it best in two of her latest posts […]”

    Those were good posts by Bailey. She is quite the thoughtful and talented writer. I would highlight a bit of what she said in “Because I Can’t” where she says,

    Pressure has no place in this sort of Christianity. We don’t fret about looking Christian enough to a watching world. We don’t chew our nails off over a stupid answer, an unkind glance or a horrific thought that never should have come ten miles close to our minds. We strive to downplay our own talents and our own weaknesses so that Christ comes across loud and clear.

    This is why, I think, Christianity isn’t a set of rules but a relationship with God and the indwelling of the Spirit. […] that Christianity doesn’t become a spiritual equivalent of Star Wars clones but living, breathing, unique examples of Christ. […] I simply let Him do His Christ-like thing in me. And He’s got being Himself down just fine.

    I know what you mean when you say, “I am continually stumped…” because time and again I find myself back in that place in relation to so many thoughts and feelings and their/my relation to God. You are correct when you say, “It is very difficult for me to frame this discussion in words because it is in some ways a vauge thought.” It is good to think about these things, and I hope you continue to do so. It is good to discuss them, and I hope you continue to do so. But I think, perhaps, it is something we are called to wrestle with all our lives. If we had clear answers to the questions of heart motivations, their outward manifestations, and their relation to God honoring conduct–then it would, in a way, become a standard of works which we could measure and use to justify ourselves. But what God would have us seek is not a rule, but a spiritual sensitivity to His leading in that vagueness which is the experience of living this life. As we go forward I think there are certain times we are given clarity on particular matters. There are times of struggle with a particular issue when you realize you should (or should not) do ABC, or that attitude XYZ is wrong. But often God leaves us without such immediate clarity so that in the normal stream of life we must come to Him ever asking and ever seeking.

    Part of what is playing into this, I think, is a pondering of the motivations of the heart. We ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this? Am I being a fraud? A hypocrite?” We know it is said,

    The heart is deceitful above all things
    and beyond cure.
    Who can understand it?

    “I the Lord search the heart
    and examine the mind,
    to reward a man according to his conduct,
    according to what his deeds deserve.”

    (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

    So we must recognize that we cannot, in the end, rightly judge of and by ourselves “how far is too far in that direction” or any such matters of the heart. At the end of the day we must commit the matter to Him who knows our hearts far better than we do, works in our hearts in ways we cannot, and judges justly, in mercy, grace, and truth.

    So keep pondering these things. There is no neat little answer to this question, but God reveals Himself to those who seek Him–though not necessarily in the ways and times they expect. In the struggle that can give hope.

    I do want to emphasize that I agree with you very much that Christianity is not based only on feeling, and neither is love. Christianity does not consist of a feeling of euphoria, and neither does love consist of feeling “lovey-dovey.” Both Christianity and love are filled with the gamut of emotions (both pleasant and unpleasant–love and our relationship with God can bring us to both the heights of rapturous emotions and the depths of painful emotions depending on time and circumstance), but it is a great failure of modern popular American Christianity which puts so much emphasis on emotions to the point of using them as the metric for measuring one’s relationship with God. That kind of teaching leaves people unprepared to face the stormy emotional seasons of life which invariably come. Sadness, pain, loneliness and emotional suffering do not equal being on the outs with God. That pattern of thinking is exactly what Job’s friends wrongly used against him.

    Interestingly, last night I read an old post by someone who hit on the very issue of feelings: ( Ideally, I would have liked that author to bring a bit of Scripture in to illustrate the point he was trying to make. But at the end, even as nothing more than a personal riff he makes a true point: Our feelings change all the time. Our relationship with God is not based on our feelings.

    Curiously, I find myself returning to the book of Job. Christians can put such emphasis on emotions or intellectual thought–and Job was stripped of both. In his suffering he found himself emotionally alienated from God and intellectually God had become a great enigma. But still, with both emotional and intellectual comforts stripped away, he would not curse God and die. Job clung to God in spite of his loss of emotional and intellectual moorings.

    …I guess as interesting as that is it is getting a bit adrift from the heart of your first topic. I don’t think I have really added to what you already know, but perhaps at least it was nice to hear what you know re-emphasized.

    Coming up next I will begin to address your question on the place of women. Hopefully I will have (at least a portion of) it done in the next few days.

    Until then…

    • First, I want to apologize for not replying to your first comment. Doing it in incramints is absolutely fine. In fact, I’m sure I will get more out of what you say by reading it a little bit at a time. I appriciate that you’re taking the time to respond to this.

      On another note… Yes, Baily is very wise, and fun to read. Hers is one of the better blogs I’ve discovered lately.

      Thank you for being able to accept that I’m not really ready to present a solid opinion yet. You didn’t come across at all as if you wanted me to argue my views. I really appriciate that. I’m glad the link I gave helped give context; I was hoping it would do that. I’ve seen views similar to those expressed on Gabe’s blog throughout the homeschool community, and thought that our discussion was a nice way of outlining their position.

      Again, Baily’s words hold power. It’s been a while since I’ve read that section of her blog, so I went back and reread it. It’s interesting, going along with what you said: I think in the first paragraph you could replace every time she says girls with guys, and still have it hold true. Our calling in Christ is not as different, I think, as many people make it out to be. One other thing that I believe that I’ve mentioned before on here is my struggle with the word meek. I think we as Christians have often altered the meaning of to such that I at least do not want to be put under that category. At my church we define it as power under control which I have an easier time accepting. This correlates well with what Cowboy for Christ is writing about regarding the church being a samuri sheep over at his blog.

      Regarding the faith works balance. Yes, I’m beginning to accept that this will be a continual struggle. Though I will say that I’ve had had a certain revelation on a rabbit trail off of this regarding consistancy which may be the topic of my next post. But, back on topic: The heart is impossible to devine the motives of the heart by one’s self, and I think that keeps us continually leaning on God because He is the only one who can truly know us fully.

      It’s good to see someone who agrees with this. Often I have to try and convince people (especially those of my generation) that Christianity is not feeling-based, although in some ways I think that is what the Church at large has inadvertantly led them to believe by not answering hard questions like the one’s I have presented, and instead focusing on big worship, big ‘get togathers’, and big alter calls. ALl of those things involve feelings, and I don’t nececcarily think that any of them are bad, but it is where we put our emphasis. That post was very accurate, though I agree he lacked Scripture to back his thoughts up. I probably stand lacking in that sometimes too though. 😉

      Job is a powerful account of one man clinging to his faith despite the odds. It is sad that we undermine it by not studying it more, though I wonder if it has to do with the fact that it contradicts our over-influence of feelings that I described above.

      Again, thank you for your reply. Re-emphasising is absolutely fine: I am human and I forget so much of what I think I know very quickly. I look forward to your commentary on the place women. I must say that this quest for answers has led to some very interesting conversations in multiple places which I think has been good for me.

      • “[…]although in some ways I think that is what the Church at large has inadvertantly led them to believe by not answering hard questions like the one’s I have presented, and instead focusing on big worship, big ‘get togathers’, and big alter calls.

        Yes, I agree with you. That is a very apt observation. There is a lot more I could say in agreement, but I probably should save that for a different time!

        I think in the first paragraph you could replace every time she says girls with guys, and still have it hold true. Our calling in Christ is not as different, I think, as many people make it out to be.” Yes, I agree with your first statement. I cannot think of any sin or weakness that is unique to a particular gender.

        As to your second statement–it all depends on how someone means “calling” and “different.” In one sense, we each have a unique calling to follow Christ as he leads us in our individual lives entirely different from anyone else. In another sense we all have exactly the same calling to serve God in Christ Jesus.

        But you were probably thinking about the idea of “gender calling” wherein people say men have a particular calling and woman another. Beyond the obvious fact that men cannot be wives and women cannot be husbands (har) I see scant NT support for the whole distinct “gender calling” idea as relating to spiritual callings. So I think I agree with what you were saying.

        As for the term “meek” I think I understand where you are coming from. Today, in culture the term can seem to have associations with weak-willed, back-bone-less, craven, perhaps even cowardly behavior. That is not the biblical idea. However, I’m not really sure if your Church’s definition of “power under control” really does full justice to the idea being conveyed, either. Jesus said the meek will inheirit the earth (Matt. 5:5) and I don’t think his primary idea was that “those with power under control” would inheirit the earth.

        In the Bible meekness is associated with humbleness and gentleness. A powerful person may be humble and gentle (thus meek) but a weak person may also be humble and gentle (meek). My understanding is that when Jesus said “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth” he meant those who humbled themselves and trusted in God for deliverance instead of being proud, arrogant, and trusting in themselves.

        An inner heart manifests in behavior.

        Proud heart = Arrogant, boastful, loud behavior

        Humble heart = Meek, gentle, quiet behavior.

        In all of this I think it is important to recognize that Jesus is our example for meek. Therefore, our understanding of what meek is should be guided by how Jesus acted. Jesus wasn’t some quiet little sheep, and the idea that meekness means “Shut up and be quiet” does an injustice to the term. All Christians (not just females) are called to be meek like Jesus. Too often meekness is used to try to make female Christians adhere to some certain “idea” of behavior.

        Certainly a lot of people would not call Jesus meek, so I think that indicates they don’t have a good understanding of meekness!

      • First off let me apologize for not replying sooner. I have read and considered each of your comments as they came out, and though I cannot hope to do justice to this subject in my answer I deeply appreciate the amount of time your posts must have taken. Though I disagree with you on some points I think you have handled this subject well, and would like to commend, and thank you. Also, I would like to ask permission to quote some of what you have said here in my upcoming essay. It may take me a long time to finish it, but your thoughts as well as those of Cowboy for Christ, Gabe, and even Brytni Jade have really helped me to develop, and flesh out my thoughts on this issue. Finally, before I get into actually replying to, and discussing what you have said I will say that it is highly probable that I will reply in increments due to time issues, and because I want to deal with these things well.

        I will first respond to your comment directly previous to the first numbered increment (good idea by the way, it makes them a lot easier to read back over.) Yes, that definition of calling is what I was getting at. I apologize for not making that clearer. I find that gender calling is often a big part of the suppression of women. When we acknowledge that beyond the calling of some to be husbands and wives (lol) there aren’t specific callings for specific genders in the Bible I think it actually frees many from the oppression that they face. Both men and women. Interestingly, in one of the books I am reading on this topic the author discusses how Roman gender roles shaped the early churches definition of what men and women should be within the church. I do not remember the full details, but I do remember that the romans tended to respect men for public things such as honor, and strength, while valuing silence, and such as traits to be respected in a woman. While I believe what the Bible says (“the glory of young men is their strength”), and would agree that men reflect the strength of God while women reflect the beauty of God I do not see gender roles beyond that in the New Testament. I do not find the Roman-like restrictions often practiced by fundamental Christians today.

        I’ve had several people contest that meaning of meek, and in one way I do agree with what you said. However (I think) what they mean by that phrase is that every believer has the power of Christ within us. We have all been lavished with immeasurable gifts from Christ (Ephesians 1), and we must learn how to humble ourselves, as you said because we didn’t deserve those gifts. Meekness is humility, and gentleness, but those both equate to power under control because we have been given power by grace lest any man should boast. Meekness is humility about our salvation because it was a free gift. That doesn’t clarify quite as much as I would like it to, but hopefully you get where I’m going with that. I think that we agree, but come at it from different ways.

        I like your point that Jesus should be our example for meekness. Jesus was by no means a quiet little sheep, but he did put others before Himself, and He was most definitely gentle. Unfortunately I am out of time. I hope to reply to your numbered points soon!

      • No need to apologize for not responding sooner. I don’t consider you under any obligation to reply, so you can take what time you want.

        You are more than welcome to quote whatever you want from what I have written here. It is impefect (I keep finding grammitical errors in what I wrote, not to mention things I think should have been said better/differently) and so I am slightly embarrassed by the imperfections but you are free to quote whatever you would like in what I have written, or might write in the future. Consider this your blanket permission.

        It is completely okay for you to reply in increments–like I said, I don’t consider you under obligation to reply. I am certainly interested in what you have to say so I consider a reply a gift, not my due.

        One question: Would it be better for me to refrain from replying to your upcoming incremental replies until you have finished responding to everything that you want to address in what I wrote so far?

        On the one hand I am afraid that if I start replying to each of your incremental replies as they come out the discussion will get bogged down before you even finish your analysis of my first presentation. On the other hand, I don’t want you to take my silence (if I were to wait until you are completely finished) as disinterest. So you tell me what route you think is best.

        I do think I understand what you are saying about meekness. I am not sure I was really contesting what you first said, or more offering a minor quibble. I suspect you may be right that we are mostly agreeing on that point and just coming at it from different directions. In any case, if we agree that at the end of the day Jesus’ actions define meekness for us then I think there is no real disagreement at all.

        I am glad that what I wrote has been of some help, and I look forward with interest to anything you have time to write.

      • Thanks for the permission. I always find more grammer problems too. I reread my about page the other day, and lo and behold, there was a glaring error. I guess I’m not perfect after all…;)

        It’s good to not have obligation, though I do plan on responding to all of these eventually. In answer to your question: you can do what you like. I can see both options being good. It may take me quite some time to get to all of these, and it’s good to discuss before the topic is old. But I can also see us getting sidetracted on another conversation if you did reply sooner, though I’m sure that conversation would be interesting and edifying too.

  6. WOMEN IN THE CHURCH PART 1: Introductory Context

    For ease of future reference, I am numbering these.

    First, I want to say I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk with you about these things. But I ask that you might extend to me much grace, because I fear I am putting my weaknesses on display by writing so much. I am passionate about the things of the Bible, but in that passion and haste of writing I can write poorly, un-clearly, and with ill chosen words. I hope that you will be able to over-look such faults as the following sections make their way into daylight, and in spite of any failing you might find something in what I say to spur you on in an eagerness and desire to know the truth. I certainly do not know all things, and so would gladly accept any questions or objections you might come upon in searching the scriptures.

    First, I wish to make it clear that none of the assumptions, and interpretations I am struggling with have come from my family or my church. My family is fairly open to discussion, and I find that my church just avoids the issue. Certian Bible passages I have read which I will expound upon later, certian people I know mostly of the homeschool and Mennonite variety, and certain online discussions have spurred my interest in this topic.

    Thanks for giving that context. It is nice to know you have a family life which is fairly open to discussion on this topic. As you have probably seen on the internet, some do not have that luxury. Having been homeschooled and living on the fringes of homeschool society myself, I have also seen/read the spread of views on this topic. At one point we had a country neighbor family who had become involved in a quasi Mennonite church. I ended up killing a number of trees in paper (well, not quite literally) trying to explain to them a number of weaknesses and errors in their view on women in regards to certain passages in Corinthians and so forth.

    You said, “I want to be able to always have an answer prepared, and what is often believed about certain Bible passages seems to me to contradict the message of freedom for all found in the gospel […] I really want to have a scripturally based view, and have tried to view both sides of the coin, and not seek the answers that I want, though I am sure that I am still slightly biased.” First I want to say how happy I am that you are taking this path of seeking answers, and a scripturally based view. It is often not an easy path, or a comfortable path, but God is pleased by those who seek Him. But the example we have from scripture is also that the closer we come in conformity to Jesus the more hostile people become. It is good that you are on this search, but it is not going to win you friends. Easy to say, we like to think easy to live. (Or, at least that we are capable of living it.) But what are you willing to give up, and what are you willing to suffer to know and obey the truth? The scorn of your social circle? The contempt of those in position of “spiritual authority”? Isolation, loneliness, and rejection? (I ask this rhetorically, not literally. None can answer in truth until put to the test.)

    That rejection is the lot of those who cling close to Jesus–in ages past, and even today. I don’t mean that to discourage you, but to warn you not to be shocked if you find your studies bringing you into a view increasingly at odds with the supposed “Christian” world of this present day.

    Just something to think about as you ponder these things.

    Before I get into the Bible passages in Corinthians, etc. I would like to make a few initial statements about some broader observations to provide some context of my own.

    First, from my studies of the Bible I believe the institutional church of today in western civilization has misconstrued the role of women. However, this is only part of a larger problem. The institutional church of today has misconstrued the role of all the members of Christ’s body, the church. It is all bound up in one big problem, and you can’t rightly address the issue of women without addressing the larger endemic problem of the entire institutional body.

    Second, a person’s understanding of a Christian idea of family greatly impacts how they view the role and function of women (and men) in the church. On that comment thread you linked too over at “Thine is the Kingdom” you saw how quickly patriarchy was thrown into the argument about women. Whether it be patriarchy or some other concept, women’s role in the church goes hand in hand with arguments about women’s role in the family. A strong view of patriarchy in particular makes it impossible to fully address the role of women in the church without addressing the errors of Christian patriarchy as well.

    Not so obvious to many but of equal importance is how people’s preconceptions about the nature and function of the church itself presupposes and shapes the debate and conception about the role of women within the body of believers.

    Common conservative Christian views about patriarchy–and nearly universal modern westernized Christian conceptions on the nature and the function of the church–present a wrong view on the Biblical New Testament role of women. But we must not stop there. Those same viewpoints present a wrong view on the role of men. The problem is bigger than many realize. It is not just an issue of the role of women being distorted. The role of everyone–man, woman, and child, has been twisted. To be sure, a person relegated to the role of unimportance within the church (women) may feel a worse practical sting, but a person elevated to the role of a tyrant within the church (man) suffers no less damage to his spiritual well-being, and the distortion of both roles does grievous harm to the church body.

    However, I would observe that in practical reality even most men have been regulated to roles of unimportance in the church. The structure goes (1) The important few (2) the rest of men –> (3) women.

    I make mention of those realities because I think it is important and helpful for us to keep our eyes open to how those wrong preconceptions and teachings lead people to make assumptions and hasty and wrong conclusions about what the Bible says and teaches. One cannot (I think) engage meaningfully with someone like Brytni Jade over at “Thine is the Kingdom” because her preconceptions about patriarchy are presumed as unarguable and read into the NT text. Everything has to be read a certain way to fit her word-view. While the same might not be readily apparent in regards to present day ideas about church structure and function it does under-gird so much of how many people think about the topic. I have seen arguments about how woman should not hold certain roles and act in certain ways within the church–but so often the activity being described has no place in the church in the role of men either! We need to be careful to not accept the wrong presumptions that other people bring to the table, or else it will be that much more difficult to sort out the truth.

    It would not be fair of me to hi-jack your question about women and turn it into a discussion about the church as a whole, so at present I am not going to expand upon those thoughts. But I think it is something that should be kept in mind as we continue on.

    Third, (and this is much more minor than the above) I think modern conceptions of femininity need to be handled with care. I strongly affirm that the Bible makes clear distinctions between the roles of men and woman in life and in the church. Unfortunately, I find a lot of people when they talk about femininity list off ideas or traits that find their roots in Victorian (or more modern) ideas of femininity and have scarcely anything to do with the Bible. The women of the Bible were hard-working people who got sweaty and dirty. Ruth the Moabitess was no wimp. She worked long hard days out in the field. The woman of Proverbs looks nothing like the rare-ified, silly, and ignorant woman that so many seem to paint as a picture of femininity. So often when I see conversations about femininity it seems there is a good dollop of gross caricaturization going on. People invent a fiction of female nature which does an injustice to true womanhood, and encourages woman to be less than God created them to be–in intelligence, thoughtfulness, hard work, and ethics.

    Fourth, (again, this is more minor than my earlier points but worth keeping in mind) as we consider this topic we need to be sensitive to the human tendency to imagine cultural superiority. We all naturally think our culture is better than those that came before. It’s natural. My mind falls into the same rut. But sometimes I catch myself, and I cringe when I hear someone say in regards to Christian spiritual matters, “Thank God we live in a more advanced and enlightened culture.”

    Do we?

    Scour the NT for a verse that says, “Future cultures will be more enlightened on Christian spiritual matters.” It doesn’t exist, believe me. Such people might find this verse, “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good […]” (2 Tim. 3:1-3, etc). That is hardly a glowing recommendation of these future cultures in which we now live. The Bible doesn’t have good things to say about the direction of human civilization so we need to be careful about becoming comfortable in our cultural values and preconceptions.

    We should not boast in our cultural enlightenment. It is no better to exalt the culture of the past either (whatever age). All cultures are broken and failed. God has burst into history to show us what is right and true and good, and to judge all cultures for their failures. The Bible judges the culture in the days of Jesus and the Apostles, and it judges our culture too. The problem is that we can comfortably observe how Jesus and the Apostles went against the culture of their day, but have a much harder time admitting how their teaching goes against certain cultural norms of our day too. The sword cuts both ways.

    Fifth, appropriate sensitivity to the ambiguities in language–and the Greek language in particular–is helpful in a study of the passages we will look at. On the one hand some people like to make overly much of one aspect of a word’s possible meaning in an attempt to make one particular understanding of a biblical passage seem like the foregone theological conclusion. On the other hand, some people are unaware, or ignore, the semantic range of meaning in a word and so miss potential variations in meaning which might provide better clarity to a passage.

    The only example I will point out at the moment is the following: (a) Greek anér (Strong’s 435) is used as both a term for man in general, and also for a husband. For example, in Luke 2:36-37 we read, “And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four.” and in Matt. 7:24 we read, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” The same root Greek word underlies both but has two different meanings. (b) Likewise, the Greek guné (Strong’s 1135) covers both the meaning of woman and wife. In Matt. 1:20 we read “behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife;’” Then also in Matt. 26:6-7 we read, “Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume, and she poured it on His head as He reclined at the table.” Again, the same Greek word underlies both different translations. If you look at the two links I gave above, you will see more examples of the differing usage.

    For the Greeks, the context provided their understanding of whether woman/man or wife/husband was meant. When translators convey the passages into English they must make a judgment call about what is meant in the context and then use the appropriate English word (man or husband, woman or wife) in place of anér or guné. Sometimes context is plainly obvious, other times it is more ambiguous and perhaps they made the wrong choice. It is important to keep this in mind.

    And I suppose that is enough context before I get started! None of those points were meant as any kind of criticism of you. They were inspired by what I have learned from other experiences in the hopes that it will provide you with a richer and more thoughtful context for considering the issue at hand.

    In the next part I will begin examining the Biblical passages in question. (Sorry it is taking me so long!)

    • (reply to) WOMEN IN THE CHURCH PART 1: Introductory Context

      Thank you again. This is the best way to learn as Christians in my opinion: with our weaknesses on display, and our passions blazing. I do have some objections, but I certainly respect your view, and find it interesting as it is unlike most of the other views I have found.

      Ok, now I’m going to jump a little and respond to your fourth paragraph. I realize that you were being serious, but I have to say that it made me laugh. The truth is that I have very few, if any close friends. And those that I do have are mostly online, and seeking too. I try always to come at things from a scriptural perspective, and though I often fail miserably I haven’t found many that I am able to easily relate to. I have yet to understand why God has not answered past pleas for companionship, but I trust there is a reason somehow. That said, your cautionary word was taken. I realize that many will disagree with me. I have already had some difficulty with some of my Mennonite acquaintances (not all of them) regarding their interpretation of certain scriptures.

      I have never fit well with the “Christian world.” But there are some seeking ones that I relate to. I owe you a thank you for directing a bible study that
      i do bi-weekly with a couple to discuss this topic. I think that much will come out of it, and it was your commentary that started it. Thanks. 😉

      Now, to respond to your first point. I definitely agree. This reminds me of Rich Mullins’ wonder than God has left no plan B. He has left the church to represent Him, and though we fail horribly He still shines through!

      To the second point… I liked this sentence: “A strong view of patriarchy in particular makes it impossible to fully address the role of women in the church without addressing the errors of Christian patriarchy as well.” because I strongly believe that Christian patriarchy in the sense we see it on Gabe’s blog is in error. I do believe in male headship, but I also think that many men have abused that right, and also read their own meaning into the Bible. I believe it is the Ephesians passage that stresses this the most.

      Also, I agree that our “preconceived notions of the church” effect how we see this issue. Two things I have been intrigued with in this area recently are the priesthood of all believers, and the activeness of the early church in Acts. Also, how these things correlate with or contradict what we see the church as today.

      Addressing your third paragraph under the second heading, again, I agree that all Biblical roles within the church have been distorted majorly. My mother and I have had many deep conversations regarding the lack of male leadership in Sunday school, and such (areas regarded as women’s domain) and the negative affect that this has on young men attending Sunday school, and other such programs. If the only man teaching is the pastor that has negative connotations, I think.

      Ah, presumptions. They are what makes this topic so difficult I think. As I’ve discovered in one of my books people’s opinions on this often go back to their childhood, and the way they were raised. And also culture. Another significant issue that goes deep, and is hard to avoid. There is an element of being open yet guarded on this topic which I have not yet mastered.

      third“So often when I see conversations about femininity it seems there is a good dollop of gross caricaturization going on. People invent a fiction of female nature which does an injustice to true womanhood, and encourages woman to be less than God created them to be–in intelligence, thoughtfulness, hard work, and ethics.” Yes, I have found this as well, and agree that it makes finding truth to live out very difficult. Often that which feminism is ranting against is not a Biblical view of women, but some odd Victorian stereotype.

      I kind of combined the second, and fourth points, so see my response to your fourth point under the second one.

      Finally, and \fifth I did not know that! I agree that studying the original language is very important, and I think that your point is a very important one to consider when reading Scripture. Preconceived notions, and culture I’m sure shape each Bible translation weather we want them to or not. I wonder if that is why Brytni Jade sticks to the King James?

      Anyways,yes, this response to context may be unnecessary, but basically I agree with everything that you’ve said here.

      • this response to context may be unnecessary, but basically I agree with everything that you’ve said here” While perhaps not strictly necessary, I appreciate you taking the time to express what you do agree with. That provides context for the points on which you disagree. It may not be “necessary” to express your agreement but I think it is valuable that you have done so.

        This is the best way to learn as Christians in my opinion: with our weaknesses on display, and our passions blazing.” Yes, I agree, and that is part of why I am so happy to engage you on this and other topics. However, the exposure of weakness and the exercise of passion does make one needful of grace–it is letting down the guard to talk about things that might hurt us, make us uncomfortable, or not be what we want to hear.

        I do have some objections” I’m dying (in that metaphorical sort of way) to know your objections. In thinking through my conclusions I considered some objections (as one will do if they are seriously considering a position). Some objections that occurred to me I tried to address after a fashion, others I simply overlooked in my initial presentation for the sake of brevity. I am curious if your objections are ones I have already considered in my own thoughts, or if they are some that have not occurred to me. Well, they say patience is a virtue, so I shall wait to see what is the case in regards to your thoughts.

        The truth is that I have very few, if any close friends. And those that I do have are mostly online […] I have never fit well with the “Christian world.”” This is very true for me as well. Interesting. I figured I was the oddity, and so presumed otherwise for the rest of the world. What can I say? Welcome to the club, there is plenty of room here! I also have prayed to God about this isolation, and it is certainly a puzzle, and a struggle. The fleshly mind thinks answering that sort of prayer for friends, fellowship, and companionship is exactly the most God honoring kind of prayer for God to answer. But I also recognize that whether we are talking about David, Elijah, Jeremiah, or many other people of God, they all had times in their lives–sometimes long periods of time–when they had to walk mostly or entirely alone. We can say such aloneness is to teach us to rest on God alone (and that is true) but I don’t think it makes it feel any less mysterious or difficult.

        I owe you a thank you for directing a bible study that I do bi-weekly with a couple to discuss this topic. I think that much will come out of it, and it was your commentary that started it. Thanks. 😉” Well thank you. It is always nice to hear when something you have said/done has made a positive impact, so thank you for telling me that.

        Two things I have been intrigued with in this area recently are the priesthood of all believers, and the activeness of the early church in Acts. Also, how these things correlate with or contradict what we see the church as today.” Great topics, and central to the conviction I have on the larger issues. My study of the NT has lead me to the conclusion that much in the church today contradicts what the NT teaches–both explicit instruction and by example.

        If the only man teaching is the pastor that has negative connotations, I think.” Yes, exactly. It is said, “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged” (1 Cor. 14:26-31). The very thing that Paul instructs is for everyone to partake in all of the activities–though he does set limits on how that is to be done with decency and propriety. In my understanding, the modern day church “service” blatantly contradicts this (and other) examples from the NT.

        I would further opine, that there is no role of pastor (as a separate person) defined in the NT at all! The Greek word poimén (Strong’s 4166) means “Shepherd” and if you look at the link supplied you will see that in most places it is rightly translated to the English word “Shepherd.” It would be more appropriate if this was done always. “Pastor” is simply the Latin word for Shepherd, so where “pastor” is used, the translators are simply translating from Greek to Latin instead of English. “Shepherd” is obviously a term being used metaphorically for the activity undertaken in a different role. In Eph. 4:11 a Teacher does the activity of Shepherding. Elsewhere, the idea of shepherding is associated with Elders, who are supposed to be able to teach, thus the shepherd/teach role of elders. The duties of Elders and Deacons are defined and stated clearly. There is no distinct separate “office” for a shepherd (pastor) nor a “preacher,” either. Preaching is an activity performed by various people–apostles, evangelists, and teachers being among them.

        The picture presented to us in the NT is of a plurality of elders teaching, but not only them teaching but others in the congregation as well. (Teaching is not limited to elders, it is simply a requirement that they also be able to do this role). For all their flaws, some parts of the Mennonite/Amish tradition retain this plurality of elders as teachers better than most (all?) other denominations. The clergy/laity distinction in existence today is without biblical support. Many godly pastors of today and ages past have found it so difficult to fulfill their role because it isn’t a role designed by God, but rather invented by men.

        There is a long history behind the change of the church from what it was in the days of the Apostles to what it is today–but I am dragging this conversation away from the original topic, which was women, so enough of my rambling.

        I wonder if that is why Brytni Jade sticks to the King James?” There are various reasons behind the King James Only position. In the case of Brytni Jade, I suspect it is simply the way she was raised (denominationally). For such denominations and sects the most strident view comes down to the assertion that the King James translation is the divinely inspired text (unlike the rest of those poor translations) and therefore is the word of God. There is no basis in scripture itself for such a claim (obviously, since the King James translations came about well over a thousand years after the last Apostle passed from this earth) and so really there is little one can say to such people since logic, argument, and scripture itself has no place in their assertion. For some, this springs from a sense of superiority regarding the English language (as if God liked English better than all the other languages of the world, and so decided that His infallible word would only reside in the KJV). For others, it has root in an intellectual and spiritual laziness–if you assert that scripture is only understood through the KJV, and assert that you perfectly understand the KJV, you can pretty easily shut up (in your own mind) anyone who disagrees with you. You can simply say, “KJV says xyz and I know what xyz means, so you are wrong.” That sort of mindset “saves” Brytni Jade and similar people from the uncomfortable (but far more healthy) task of dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty.

        Whatever the particulars for various individuals, neither of us, thankfully, fall into that camp of KJV only, so we are spared that contention.

        Guess I’ve said enough and should wait for your further writing 🙂

  7. WOMEN IN THE CHURCH PART 2: Silence and Speaking

    It is important to take scriptures first as they explain themselves, and not as people presume upon them.

    We begin in 1 Cor. 11:3-16:

    Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

    In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

    Some important points as follows:

    The context of the larger passage (next discussed in chapter 11 is the Lord’s Supper) makes it evident that corporate worship of the church is in view, not private activity. Both men and woman are presented as participating equally in the same functions of prayer and prophecy. Both men and woman are presented as having limitations on how they can participate. The men are told they must not cover their heads, and woman are told that they must cover their heads. Paul explains these requirements as coming from the original creation order. The question Paul addresses is not who is smarter, better, or more spiritual, but simply in what manner they were created and what obligations this puts on them. He says, “A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man” To summarize, a man must not cover his head and a woman must cover her head to give proper witness to what God did in creation.

    Having said that, it is noteworthy how carefully Paul balances out the roles of man and woman. He states that man was created first, but he quickly balances by saying that while in the beginning woman came out of man, man now comes out of woman. I think there is the unstated reminder that it was woman, not man, who gave birth to the Messiah. But least either gender start thinking too highly of themselves against the other, he offers the reminder, “But everything comes from God.” Paul explains how men and women ought to recognize and honor God’s creation, and creation-role, for each gender, but likewise admonishes them not to think more highly of their gender (for whatever reason) because everything comes from God, and so before Him they are equal.

    It is important to point out that in this passage neither man nor woman is granted the right to do any more (or less) than the other. Both may equally pray and prophesy. They simply must attire themselves differently while doing so to give a proper witness. In an (imperfect) analogy, if we recognize that God is not pleased by cross-dressers, we can see this passage as an extension of that idea. Each should properly acknowledge who God has created them to be.

    The application of this passage is universal. First, it is evident that it is not only a matter of the Corinthian church because Paul says that none of the other churches of God had any other practice. Second, the universal application is made clear by Paul’s reference to the creation account. This is important. Jesus referred to the creation account to answer the question of marriage and we understood him to be speaking of a universal principle, not just something for first century Christians. For someone to claim Paul’s reference to the creation account was to make a limited first century point is hardly being consistent. Third, angels are also mentioned as witnesses, hardly a category of beings which judge matters based upon local taste.

    In my last comment I made the point that the Greek term for man was also used for husband, and the Greek term for woman was also used for wife. Some commentators (and perhaps some translations–I have not checked them all) present this passage as speaking solely about husbands and wives. The attempt (it seems) is to imply that this is a marriage issue, not a gender one. While the Greek anér and guné may mean man/husband and woman/wife depending on context, the context here clearly indicates a proper understanding of “man” and “woman” as gender roles respectively. Paul is not speaking about wives coming out of husbands, but woman (gender) coming out of man (gender). The point is not how husband/wives are to act because they are married, but how men/women are to act because of their creation history.

    I will say (since Brytni Jade over at “Thine is the Kingdom” asserted contrary) that prayer and prophecy remain as proper activities in the church today, and the instruction of this passage in Corinthians remains applicable today. A few years ago I wrote on that topic of prophecy and tongues, and that writing (which languishes on my hard drive) is available upon request for the interested.

    One could go on for some length about the details of this passage, but for our present overview I hope I have covered the most germane points. Any questions on details are welcome. For now I will move on to the next relevant passage, that being 1 Cor. 14:33-35:

    As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

    I am amazed at how badly some teachers and preachers have handled this passage.

    What are we to make of this instruction from Paul? Has he lost his mind? In chapter 11 he is telling the Corinthians that in all the other churches women pray and prophesy with their heads covered and so Corinth should too. Now is he saying that as in all the other churches women are silent so the women in Corinth should be silent? Is he making this up as he goes along? Did he change his mind halfway through writing and forget to go back and scribble out his earlier fabrication to avoid contradicting his later statement?

    No, of course not. And yet plenty of people are willing to accept that Paul will say two utterly contradictory statements in the space of a few pages.

    But Paul hasn’t forgotten what he wrote a few chapters ago, and he is not contradicting himself. What he wrote to the people of his day (in the language of the day) made sense. If it does not make sense to us, it indicates we have not properly understood what Paul is saying. Instead of assuming Paul was a very contradictory and confused person, we ought to apply ourselves to understanding what he meant.

    Interestingly, I would point out that Brytni Jade seems to think that claiming prophecy has now ceased removes the supposed difficulty between the passages, but that is not true. In Paul’s day prophecy was most definitely taking place (after all he wrote about it in Chapter 11!) and yet he makes this “silent” command in chapter 14. The fact that Brytni Jade wants to say one half of the equation is no longer a reality today doesn’t make them stop contradicting (supposedly) in the day they were written. Her supposed solution is no solution at all.

    But Paul is not contradicting himself. Of this I am quite confident. What he says should be read in its context, not ripped out of its context and made to dance upon the strings of our whims and fancy. What Paul says should be taken in the context of how he meant it.

    As anyone familiar with Paul’s writing knows, he can be very elliptical. (In the context of writing style this means to employ an economy of style which leaves certain things unstated, and to be inferred.) Some modern readers are remarkably insensitive to this reality even while they are actively supplying their interpretive opinion on what should fill out Paul’s elliptical statement.

    Observe carefully: As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches.

    If you are paying careful attention, you will notice Paul does not say in that sentence how often the women must be silent. Must they be silent always? Every other Sunday? And must they be silent for the entire gathering, or only part of it? This must be inferred.

    Some supply (as if it were obvious!) the following interpretive expansion to Paul’s elliptical statement. They make it thus: “[Always] as in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches.” That is presumptively reading a meaning into the text which has no support in the text itself. The only support such an interpretation has is within the imaginations of the people thinking it.

    People brazenly act as if that is what Paul must mean, but their presumption is blatantly contradicted by what Paul said previously! Before we start adding our own clarification to a text we must recognize what clarification the author’s own words supply. In this case in chapter 11 Paul has already made clear that women will be speaking in the church, so he doesn’t mean here in chapter 14 that they always will remain silent. That is pure exegetical nonsense. The qualifying statement for women not speaking must, by Paul’s own argument, but something other than “Always.”

    What Paul is saying is something like this: “[In the above described situation/context] as in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches.” To better understand what he means, we simply need to look at the proceeding context, and then we will know the scope and nature of women’s silence.

    In 1 Cor. 14:33-35 Paul is not uttering a command out of thin air. He is building naturally upon a previous statement. To understand the context of 1 Cor. 15:33-35 we quite rightly should look at what he said just previously. While in chapter 11 Paul provided clarity and instruction to the Corinthian church on how men and woman should conduct themselves in the process of uttering prayer and prophecy, in chapter 14 Paul has moved on to a slightly different topic. Nonetheless, once again he is providing clarity and instruction as to how men and woman [the church as a whole] should conduct themselves.

    What is the topic? The topic or context is made clear a few verses earlier when he says, “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” He goes on (briefly) to discuss the process of weighing prophecy. Now, on the one hand Paul has stated quite plainly that women may participate in prophesying (see chapter 11). Here he adds a different injunction, saying they must keep silent during the weighing of the prophecy. They can prophesy, but they must hold their peace while prophecy is being weighed.

    These aren’t contradictory statements. To say someone is allowed to drive a car does not mean they are allowed to drive a plane. They are two distinct activities. But we still might ask, “why must women keep silent during the weighing?”

    To begin answering that question let’s look at the meaning of the word translated “weigh” in the quoted section above. The root Greek word here is diakrinó (Strong’s 1252). The NAS Exhaustive Concordance gives the short definition as “to distinguish, to judge” but I think your understanding of exactly what is meant by that is enriched by the HELPS Word-studies which offers the following:

    1252 diakrínō (from 1223 /diá, “thoroughly back-and-forth,” which intensifies 2919 /krínō, “to judge”) – properly, investigate (judge) thoroughly – literally, judging “back-and-forth” which can either (positively) refer to close-reasoning (descrimination) or negatively “over-judging” (going too far, vacillating). Only the context indicates which sense is meant.

    [1252 (diakrínō) “literally means, ‘to separate throughout or wholly’ (dia, ‘asunder,’ krinō, ‘to judge,’ from a root kri, meaning ‘separation’), then, to distinguish, decide” (Vine, Unger, White, NT, 125).]

    So what we have going on is a prophet speaks, and then what he/she has said is judged by a through back-and-forth close-reasoning and discrimination. This is, (I think it is safe to say by the meaning of the word used,) a pretty intense and rigorous process. Whom may participate in this process? Since Paul has clearly stated that woman may prophesy, one might naturally think they can participate in the public weighing as well. But Paul says women are to remain silent and not partake in the weighing.

    There is another thing we need to consider. We have already noted how in Chapter 11 the use of anér and guné referred (in that context) to men and women as genders, not husbands and wives. What about here in this passage of Chapter 15? Here we read, “women should remain silent […] they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” Since they should go home and ask their own man (husband) the context indicates that we are supposed to understand the “woman” here to be explicitly speaking of wives. The widowed and unmarried do not have a husband at home.

    Does this mean that while on the one hand it is inappropriate for married women to speak in this situation, (and Paul thus forbids them) it is on the other hand acceptable for the unmarried women to speak? That is a difficult interpretive decision to make based upon this passage alone. Certainly there is strong evidence that in this case Paul only speaks of married women (who have a husband at home) and so the unmarried women are not included. However, one might also argue that while Paul explicitly states that married women should not speak in this “weighing,” the unmarried women are implicitly included in this injunction.

    In my opinion, 1 Tim. 2:11-12 provides additional clarity on this question, but I am getting ahead of myself.

    For the moment let us leave that further question aside and simply take the matter as addressed to married women. Why has Paul told them they must remain silent in this situation? “It is disgraceful,” he says. (Or “shameful,” depending on translation.) But we might ask, “Why is it disgraceful for them to speak during this weighing?” To which Paul says, “Because they must be in submission.” Since we are speaking about wives, this statement should come as no surprise. The issue of wives submitting to their husbands is one repeated in the NT (Eph. 5:22,24, Col. 3:18)

    Now we might ask, “How is speaking up in this context not submissive?” Paul does not provide an explicit answer here. We can explore the matter further by (a) looking at what light other scripture might shed on the matter, and (b) pondering the situation as we already understand it a little further.

    Clear statements from other passages of scripture which elucidate this situation further are obviously the most authoritative. But first let’s do the second activity and simply ponder the matter as we currently understand it. We have already seen how after a prophet has spoken the prophecy is then weighed and judged by a back-and-forth dialog as it is measured and considered. Now let us imagine that John Doe stands up and says, “I think the prophecy should be understood as XYZ.” Then his wife stands up and says, “No, I think the prophecy should be understood ABC.” What do we have here? A dispute between a husband and wife in front of the entire church. Based upon how the NT admonishes husbands and wives to relate, it is evident that it is not appropriate for them to be disputing before the church. On topics of dispute a husband and wife ought to hash out matters between themselves at home. I think one can equally conclude that it does not honor husbands to have their wives arguing with other husbands, or husbands arguing with someone else’s wife. In a matter of examination before the church the husband should then act as the spokesman for the couple as he is the “head” and they are one flesh.

    I think what I have said, up to this point, is fairly clear. (If something is not, please speak up.) However, plenty of puzzling questions remain. It might seem odd that while Paul gives such liberty to women in partaking of prophesying, he restricts them so firmly in the matter of weighing the prophecy. We might ask, “Are the two activities (prophesying and weighing the prophecy) so really different?” The answer is yes. I will not go into the nuance of what prophecy is, or might be, now. If you are curious for my views you may ask for the paper I wrote a few years ago, which focuses on the topic of the nature of prophecy. For the moment I will let what prophecy is stand unexplained, and instead take a further look at the weighing of prophecy.

    What is it about the weighing of prophecy that makes it inappropriate for women to publicly partake?

    The answer I would supply is that weighing of prophecy is a form of teaching, or a duty of teachers.

    In 2 Tim. 2:15 we read, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (That is NKJV, others translate as “rightly handling.”) The Greek word behind the text in bold is orthotomeó (Strong’s 3718) The HELPS Word-studies offers the following:

    3718 orthotoméō(from temnō, “to cut” and 3717 /orthós, “straight”) – properly, cut straight (on a straight line), i.e. “rightly divide” (correctly apportion).

    This is not the same Greek word as diakrinó mentioned earlier. But notice the similarity of ideas underlying both. Of diakrinó we read earlier, “literally means, ‘to separate throughout or wholly’ (dia, ‘asunder,’ krinō, ‘to judge,’ from a root kri, meaning ‘separation’), then, to distinguish, decide.” So one word means “to cut” and the other “to separate.” In both passages of 2 Tim. 2:15 and 1 Cor. 14:29 the examination of words is in view. (For Timothy, scripture, for the Corinthians, prophecy.) In Timothy’s case he is admonished to rightly divide/handle scripture so as to teach others. This suggests that the activity going on in the “weighing” (separating) of 1 Cor. 14:29 may also be considered part of the teaching activity.

    This suggestion gains weight when we consider that Paul says just a few verses later in 1 Cor. 14:35 “If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” In place of “learn” other translations have “inquire.” The same root Geek word here is found in the later passage of 1 Tim. 2:11-12 where Paul says, “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” The Greek word is manthanó (Strong’s 3129, for a list of occurrences see here). Interestingly, that word is derived from the Greek word for disciple.

    Where learning is in view in 1 Tim. 2:11-14, teaching is also in view. It does not, then, seem too far fetched to suggest that as learning is in view in 1 Cor. 14:35 so also the activity of teaching is bound up in the “weighing” that takes in 1 Cor. 14:29. As the word of God is “rightly divided” to properly teach, so prophecy is rightly “weighed” to properly teach.

    This brings us fully to 1 Tim 2:11-14, where we read, “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

    The point I made in the earlier passage of 1 Cor. 14:34-35 about silence applies equally here. We have to ask how extensive is the silence being commanded, and based upon Paul’s other teaching we know he does not mean universal silence. The silence required is that of not speaking as a teacher.

    Again, in the matter of the Greek terms for men and women we ask “Is Paul here speaking only about wives, or about woman in general?” Since he bases his comments on the formation of the genders (Adam was formed first, then Eve) it seems appropriate to take his use of the Greek words as meaning men and women in general, not husbands and wives. Is Paul speaking about something that is only applicable to a particular time, or universally for all men and women? Since he refers to the Genesis account as his basis we are right to understand the application as universal.

    As I have already mentioned, you can see a parallel between 1 Tim. 2:11-14 and 1 Cor. 14:34-35 where both passages have the woman learning in quietness and submission. I would suggest that so also the second part in 1 Tim. 2:11-14 helps illuminate the disgraceful/shameful in 1 Cor. 14:35. For, in 1 Tim. 2:13 Paul states “Adam was formed first, then Eve” as the reason women must not exercise the office of a teacher. This creation norm which Paul appeals to helps illuminate the passage in 1 Cor. 15:29-35. Since the public weighing of prophecy is the activity of teachers, for the woman to participate vocally in public would be to take on the mantle of a teacher, with Paul says they should not do, and so that ultimately, is the reason why it is shameful/disgraceful for women to speak in that context. Is it not shameful for men to dress up as women, and women to dress up as men?

    In 1 Cor 14:34-35 one may say that Paul focuses particularly on the impropriety of a wife not honoring her husband’s place in their marriage, but the relation of 1 Tim. 2:11-14 to that passage indicates that we can rightly understand the same admonishment (on the slightly different reason of gender, not marraige, roles) applies to all women. However, I would suggest that Paul’s statements in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 does not support the idea that men/husbands have all the answers and women/wives are the ones with all the questions. The husband and wife are to discuss at home–the husband may have no more answers than the wife, bit it is his duty (not hers) to bring the unresolved questions before the church. The issue in consideration is not intelligence but responsibility.

    This does not mean unmarried women are sold short, unable to speak with anyone, trapped in isolation. Since unmarried women do not have a husband to whom they ought to maintain a proper bond, they may discuss these matters outside the public assembly with whomever is most appropriate. In such a non-public conversation they would not be dishonoring their husband (they have none) nor would they be seeming to usurp the role of an official teacher in the church.

    If you have followed me this far, then you see we have reached something of a middle ground in the great debate about women. On our left are people who insist that women have the right to do all things that a man do in the church–even holding the office of a teacher. On our right we have people who insist that the silence and exclusion of women is nearly universal. Both do equal injustice to what the NT teaches.

    At the end of the day Paul is quite succinct about woman as teachers; “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man […] Adam was formed first, then Eve.” The restriction is plan, the reason simple and straightforward. The nature of creation restricts women from the official role of teacher over men. People may not like it, or they may not understand why it is so, but that does not give us grounds to disregard the instruction.

    Likewise, those who assert some broad or extensive shackling of women based on these NT passages do equal violence to the text. Paul is very specific in his limitation, and it is not an extensive limitation. They shall not hold the position of teacher. But that is only one slice of the great variety in the body of Christ. Lest us consider:

    To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. (1 Cor 12:8-10)

    Are women excluded from any of these? Certainly not! No such word is stated anywhere. And again:

    Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. (1 Cor. 12:27-28)

    We have already seen that women can be prophets, and in this list prophets are held in higher esteem than teachers. In light of this a person cannot (rightly) say women are regulated to less important roles. As Paul says elsewhere “Eagerly desire the gift of prophecy” (1 Cor. 14:1). We could go on, looking at every list of the gifting of believers–of which there are a great multitude of gifts–and the only limitation put on women in their expression in the body of Christ is that they may not hold the position of a teacher. One–just one!–role out of all those listed in the NT. I think this provides some perspective on the limiting of the role of women.

    Also, I think it is worth pointing out that Paul said women must not hold the position of a teacher over men–not that women are devoid of insight or that they must always keep all insight to themselves. The husband and wife team of Priscilla and Aquila together explained the way of Christ to Apollos more accurately (Acts 18:26). They didn’t take on the role of official teachers over Apollos, but simply “on the side” as it were, clarified matters for him. This is not shocking, nor problematic. What Paul limits is the public roles and public conduct of women in the assembled church–namely public activity that would fill the role of, or be construed as, teaching and exercising authority in that role. I think based on what Paul says a Christian woman need not fear “accidentally sinning” in the course of speaking privately with fellow Christians and in the course of events perhaps happening to enlighten a male to some aspect of the truth in Christ Jesus. There is no sin in that. Casual conversation does not anoint a person as someone’s official teacher.

    In this understanding I do not see any conflict between the various statements about women in the NT. Deaconess? No problem. The Greek word underlying “deacon” means “one who serves” not “one who teaches.” Women hosting churches in their house? Not a problem. That is the gift of hospitality and generosity, not teaching. Of all the many roles women are mentioned as filling (either directly or indirectly) within the church I cannot, at the moment, recall any that conflict with how I have explained these passages written by Paul. Women were expected to be vibrant, active, members of the church. This is a radical departure from Jewish thought where women were regulated to the Court of Women at the temple and not consider worthy to be disciples. In all of this the one (and only) limitation put on women was that they could not hold the position of teacher or hold authority over men. It is a very real and important limitation, but as we should not ignore it neither should we blow it out of proportion.

    There is much more that could be said about all aspects of this topic. I have rather rushed through the scripture in question and there is so much more that could be said. I hope my haste in handling things has not come across as contemptuous. I realize there are many questions I have not answered, and that is not because I think they are unworthy questions. They are not unworthy. Many more questions could be discussed as time permits and your interest dictates. I trust that where you have questions you will ask, and I will gladly answer as best I am able.

    In summary, this present section I have focused on explaining what Paul said. But with all that has been said so far, one might still ask (as you have) “certain Bible passages seems to me to contradict the message of freedom for all found in the gosple.” Even if we grant that I have rightly explained what Paul has said in those passages, one can still ask how such a restriction on women agrees with the statement of Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Are we really all one in Christ Jesus if there is a restriction on women that is not placed on men?

    I will attempt to address that question in my next section–whenever it is finished!

  8. WOMEN IN THE CHURCH PART 3: Freedom in Christ

    In Galatians 3:28 we read “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Are we really all one in Christ Jesus if there is a restriction on women that is not placed on men?

    That is where I left off my previous comment, and that is where I will pick up now.

    To start, let us take the most extreme type of argument. In this argument a person would say that since Gal. 3:28 declares male and female as one, all of our present distinctions between men and women are the bondage of Old Testament Law and not the freedom of grace. Therefore (such a person would say) these distinctions between men and women should be discarded. Since (they say!) there is no longer male or female, the transvestite is acceptable in the body of Christ, and homosexuality is not a problem. As a result, those who do not embrace the cross dresser and homosexual have not recognized the freedom of the gospel of Jesus. Same sex marriage is as good as any other marriage because “you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    So such people say. Sadly, there truly are people who make exactly that sort of argument.

    Such a line of thinking is patently absurd to anyone who knows the true gospel and teaching of the NT. However, the error illustrates two points: First, verses from the Bible should not be pulled out of their context to justify a point–either the immediate context of the book/letter or the larger context of the full message contained in the NT. I harp on this warning, I know, but I do so because I see it constantly ignored by people who take verses and misuse and abuse them. Second, this example of failing to acknowledge the true meaning of the message of liberty should serve as a warning to us. We should not read our own desires or thinking into the message of freedom of the gospel.

    There is a tension in the gospel message which we need to recognize. People complain about how Paul seems contradictory in his talk about women and liberty–but that same apparent contradiction is true in many other cases.

    Paul said Jews and Greeks were one, but he also said elsewhere,

    Nevertheless, each one should retain the place in life that the Lord assigned to him and to which God has called him. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised (1 Cor. 7:17-18).

    Likewise, Paul told slaves and free men that they were all one in Christ Jesus but he also said, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ” (See Eph. 6:5-7, Col. 3:22-25) Even more, he said,

    All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them (1 Tim. 6:1-2).

    And again, “Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them” (Tit. 2:9)

    So where is this “There is neither slave nor free” in all of that? Some might say (and some have) that Paul talked a nice theology, but in practice he simply reinforced the status quo. How can you call slave and free equal, and equally free, and then turn around and talk about the slave submitting to his master? The same question applies to men and women.

    A lot of Christians today have trouble with this teaching. In regards to slaves they can ignore it–because slavery is not a daily part of life for Christian’s in the USA–but in their hearts is the thought, “That isn’t right. Christian slaves obey their Christian masters? Isn’t the gospel a message of freedom for all? Shouldn’t Paul instead command that slave owners set all of their slaves free?”

    Our flesh does not like the message of the gospel. The flesh rebels against a salvation by grace and through faith, not of our works or merit. The flesh also rebels against the call to humility and service. The Jews rejected Jesus and his gospel because they were unwilling to let go of their own idea of righteousness by works. They also rejected Jesus because he was not the conquering Messiah come to throw off Roman oppression that they wanted.

    For this reason I am not comfortable with what is sometimes termed today as “the social gospel” today. Both at the present time, and in the past, Christians have taken up the cause of the socially oppressed in the name of freedom. They champion the economically disadvantaged, those in slavery, and oppressed women. They say the message of the gospel is to bring economic assistance to those in poverty, freedom to those in slavery, and equality to women so that all may experience the “freedom of the gospel.”

    But what is the freedom of the gospel? Is it to be free of physical poverty, slavery, and oppression? This is the very mindset of the Jews who wanted a Messiah to free them from the oppression of Roman rule.

    Instead, Jesus came and died.

    What good is that?

    Even more, we have been called to live as Jesus did. (Note: On the chance someone might misundstand me, I am not saying it is wrong to give to the poor. James wrote specifically admonishing us to answer the physical needs of others. But there is a difference between being generous, and claiming the freedom of the gospel is freedom from physical want and limitation.)

    It wasn’t that Jesus was too weak to save the socially oppressed–the poor, the slaves, and the women. He had thousands and thousands of angels at his disposal. He could have overthrown the Roman empire. He could have stripped every slave holder of their slaves, and elevated every woman from their social oppression. But he didn’t do those things. He certainly did love the oppressed. He showed great personal compassion and love toward all of the oppressed–whether women, prostitutes, tax collectors, or the sick. But rather than preaching a gospel of social justice, or instituting social change, Jesus preached a message of repentance and faith, lived a life of humility and service, and died on the cross for our sins. And we have been told,

    Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

    Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
    but made himself nothing,
    taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
    And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to death—
    even death on a cross! (Philip. 2:5-8)

    There is a difference between what we are in Christ, and what we have been called to be on this earth. We are exalted in Christ, and eventually our gospel will be fulfilled in the removal of all physical limitations and opression. But in this present time we preach, and we are called to live, humility and service in this present life.

    The day will come when Jesus will return with the thousand upon thousand of holy ones and overthrow all authority and rebellion by the breath of his mouth and the splendor of his coming. On that day all rule and authority of this present created order will pass away, every scrap of Jew and Gentile, slave, free, man or woman vanishing into the full reality of unity in Christ. Then we will be “like the angels” neither marrying or giving in marriage, being of no race or social class, for this present creation will have then fully passed away. But that day has not yet come. For the present time we have been called to live as Jesus did during his walk upon this earth, which is a life of humility, service, and suffering.

    This is the tension of the gospel. While all things are ours in Christ Jesus–and we will judge the world and angels with him–yet for the little while in the time which is this present life we suffer all things for the cause of Christ.

    One might ask, “Then is this supposed gospel of freedom meaningless for this present life? We are are all still imprisoned in our present roles–be it man, woman, slave or free, great or small.”

    No, the freedom of the gospel is not meaningless. We are truly set free to serve God in Christ Jesus. But we are set free to serve God as He has called us. We are not free to do whatever we want. As Paul says, “For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord’s freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ’s slave” (1 Cor. 7:22). The Jew who received the gospel knew he was free because he understood his service and acceptance before God (and fellowship with God) was not dependent upon his own works and goodness in keeping the Law of Moses. He had joy because he knew he was made fruitful by God working in him. Similarly the slave who received the gospel knew he was free because he knew (by faith) that his outward slavery (after the flesh, before men,) would be the very means by which God would bring glory to Jesus in his life of slavery. Similarly, the free man who came to believe the gospel knew that he was not free to do whatever he wished, but was in fact a slave to Christ’s will and glory.

    The same principle applies to the place women find themselves in.

    The freedom of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a freedom to serve as we are called–not the freedom to live as we want.

    The flesh does not want humility, service, self-sacrifice, and suffering. That is why the New Testament is filled with admonishments about submitting–to governments (Rom. 13:1,5, 1 Peter 2:13), leaders (Heb. 13:17), husbands (Eph. 5:22,24, Col. 3:18), masters (1 Peter 2:18), and to each other (Eph. 5:21). This is not an easy thing. I have no doubt that it was incredibly difficult for many Christian slaves to submit to their masters, all the more so when those masters were unfair or unkind. And it is not easy for women to submit to their husbands. Peter says, “They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear” (1 Peter 3:5-6)

    Submission can cause fear because you may be called to submit to someone very unpleasant. I agree with your statement that the biblical idea is “a good man will pray, and discuss matters with his wife, and they will come to conclusions togather” (as you put it over at the “Thine is the Kingdom” blog). But the reality is that submission often requires submitting to what is less than ideal. There are plenty of governments that are bad, masters that are cruel, and husbands that are–to put it mildly–jerks. Submission has a real cost, whether it be to bad governments, cruel masters, or the petty tyrants that call themselves husbands. Submission is not because it is pleasant, but because it demonstrates and faith and reliance upon God. (Not a reliance on the government/master/husband!)

    Paul says, “But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Rom. 8:10). This is the tension we face in the present time. Christians spiritually partake of the new creation life in Jesus, but our flesh has not yet experienced that renewal. As our flesh is still subject to sickness and death, this testifies to the fact that our present bodies are still subject to the ordering of this present creation. Each of us has our own cross to bear, whether it be Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman. The requirements of marriage that Jesus laid out was such that his disciples burst out, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (Matt. 19:10).

    That is looking at one side of the coin–to use your phrase. In ordering this present creation, God gave the male gender the role of exercising authority. For a woman to take up that role of authority is to show disrespect for God’s ordering of this present creation. The freedom of the gospel is not impinged by this limitation, any more than the gospel is impinged by Christian slaves being required to submit to their masters, or Christian citizens being required to submit to the government. The freedom of the gospel is a freedom to live in Christ and serve God no matter what role in life He has called us too–Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman.

    But there is another side of the coin. Women are equal to men in Christ. All (men, women, Jew, Gentile, slave, free) have equal access to God and receive the spirit equally. This will be manifest physically when Jesus returns and we are all given new bodies as part of the new creation, but it is a spiritual reality now as Gal. 3:28 and 1 Cor. 11:11-12 emphasize. It is a pernicious and abominable false teaching that implies or states (implicitly or explicitly) that women are inferior to men in Christ. While in theory Patriarchy would deny this error, in actual practice a full expression of so-called “Christian Patriarchy” makes woman’s walk with God dependent upon man. Ultimately, they make men the mediators of God and His truth to women! Man in this role over women is made to be as like the Law of Moses was to the Isrealites (in the nature of their bondage and rule).

    This is a complete and utter distortion of the gospel. The arrogance of this teaching is that by it men usurp the place of God. Unlike what some think, women do not need men to know God or His truth. What women need to serve God (and fellowship with God) is God’s Spirit, and that alone. Men are not the enlightener of women as to what is right and true, or the mediator of women’s relationship with God God convict’s and enlightens women in their own spirit by His Spirit. Man is not woman’s spiritual protector–Jesus is! Jesus is the husband, protector, and guide to each one who has received of His Spirit, whether their present gender is male or female.

    Man in this present fleshly creation has been given a typological role that illustrates the spiritual reality of God’s relation towards us all–both men and women! A wise and spiritually mature man recognizes this and fulfills his typological role in the flesh of this creation with great humility and reverence toward God, and with great respect toward women, knowing that before God they are equal. Likewise, women do not throw off all earthly authority, but submit to it out of reverence for Christ while living their lives with great boldness for God, knowing that they are equal before their Father in Heaven and that they have received all the fullness of Christ from Him. We are free and equal in Christ Jesus, and from that place of freedom we willingly serve God in the roles of the earthly bodies He has called is too in this life. And that involves humbling ourselves, though we be exalted in Christ Jesus.

    I feel like I have rushed through a lot of material to reach this point of concluding my train of thought. Nonetheless, I have felt some compulsion to bring my initial series of discourses to a timely conclusion. I have already dragged out the length of my initial sharing. I understand you have many obligations on your time, and what I have said at present may be sufficient for your interest. That is perfectly acceptable. However, if you would like to continue the discussion on this topic please know that I would be happy to hear what you have to say whether it be in agreement, disagreement, or questions.

    I would like to add a final thought (for the moment) as something of a postscript:

    Jesus said, “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.” Matt 23:8-10. I am convinced that the institutional church of today does not live in obedience to this command or in realization of its impact. (The idea of “Christian Patriarchy” doesn’t either!) Jesus spoke against the religious structures of his day, and the same problems remain and his words speak in condemnation of much that is perpetuated within the institutions of church-dom today.

    Human nature aggregates authority and power to itself, not wanting to leave such things in the hands of God. This sinful inclination crept into the church very early, and has only grown more entrenched with every passing generation. It infects how people think about the roles of both men and women within the church. I have focused my comments on the role of women because that was the topic you wrestled with, but it is my conviction that even the very positions of authority in the church themselves have become distorted (and multiplied) by worldly thinking.

    There are really two questions here: (1) What are the roles are freedoms given to men and women in the NT, and (2) Can those roles be properly exercised in the institutional church existing today near you?

    The answer to the first question is timeless and universal and I have tried to expound that glorious truth as found in the teaching of the NT. The answer to the second is difficult, and obviously depends greatly on the exact nature of the local church in question. In my personal experience as a man I have found that my faithfulness to the teaching of Jesus and his Apostles has put me at odds with the traditions which men perpetuate. I hardly expect you to find it easier to square your life and obedience to the Bible with the institutional church.

    Finally, I would like to close with a word of encouragement. In 2 Cor. 12:9-10 we read,

    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

    I get the sense that–whether in person or in your reading online–you have been exposed to a lot of hurtful, (if not downright slanderous,) statements made against the female gender. Many of such come down to some variation of “Women are weaker/stupider/lesser than men.” Some such statements–if said in a better way with greater care–may have an element of truth. Others display a heaping load of hubris and worldly attitudes. I think a spiritually mature view to such accusations is to recognize that whatever our gender or personal weakness may be, if we rest in the grace of God then His power will be made perfect in our weakness. That is a comfort we can take refuge in when people whisper accusations about our weaknesses and shortcomings. And so we can delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties. Yes, because when we are weak, then we are strong.

    I hope all of what I have written has spurred you on in hard thinking, earnest searching, and the joy and hope of growing in a knowledge of God. Thanks for taking the time to read.


  9. Just listened to this tonight and thought I’d tack it on to the discussion here: John Piper answers the question “Would you read a commentary written by a woman” but goes on to explore the larger issue a bit. I thought you might enjoy having another view to interact with. It was thought provoking.

    • Hmm. Yes, that is interesting. My struggle with what he said is that it would be hard to put into actions. The examples he listed are so far apart in nature, but what if I asked about ones on the line? What about a woman (Beth Moore for example) who has been recorded speaking to a group of women, would it be okay for a man to watch that? What about playing it in church?

      Thanks for linking me up to that though. I’m finally starting to write my report, though I’m struggling. I hope to start on a reply to your second post here soon!

      • I don’t think Scripture is always clearly and easily applicable. If everything was clear and easy then wisdom and discernment wouldn’t be required. There are many difficult passages or instructions in Scripture (on various issues) which require prayerful study to understand what particular obedience is required in situations as they comes up in our lives. I don’t think we can boil down how men or woman are supposed to act into a nice set of rules which cover every possibility. I think we do need to study what Scripture has said, and to understand the meaning of what was said, as best as possible–and recognize that application to the many varied circumstances of life requires the insight of the Spirit within us to understand how what we have read applies to the place we are at.

        I don’t claim to know how women should conduct themselves in every and any possible situation someone might be able to imagine. I am confident that in the lives of individual women their are times they should be silent when they happen to speak, and times when they should speak and happen to be silent. The same could be said about men in their lives. Being sinners, we all make poor judgements. But I am confident that those who are earnestly seeking to please God will grow in their understanding and maturity. God is pleased by those who are earnestly seeking him, not by those who think they have figured out the rules and are following legalism. So I think it is possible for people to become too caught up in trying to figure out of their toe has crossed some invisible line when they should be focused on seeking God.

        I try to understand what Jesus/Paul/Peter was saying to the people in his day, and why he said it, and thus understand the timeless truth being conveyed. Applying it rightly to the varied situations of life requires the gracious Spirit actively revealing the truth of scripture in the right way of the present moment. Some things, or situations, are obviously right or wrong. But then there are places that appear uncertain, and require much prayer and discernment. I try to remind myself to avoid casting too much vociferous judgement on uncertain situations.

        I agree with the sentiment of John Piper’s concern–I don’t quite agree with how he cut the cake, so to speak. I shared what he said because I thought it a good trigger for thought, and conversation. It is not entirely fair of me to criticize him too closely since that was a five minute sound bite and not an entire argument–but it did bother me that most (all?) of what he said was based on his feelings about the matter. Now it may be that his feelings on the matter are close to what is true but plenty of people feel all sorts of things on this topic. The point is not to find an opinion which accommodates our feelings, but to understand what was said in Scripture and obey it even if that means bringing our feelings into submission.

        I think I understand John Piper’s position fairly well. I think there is a fair amount of clarity in his view–but I think that comes at the expense of a proper understanding of the function of the church as a whole. John Piper is a traditional preacher, and the mindset of that tradition conceives of church in a very hierarchical and structured format–a format which, I believe, is not supported by the New Testament.

        To boil it down, John Piper says women cannot be preachers, and only preachers can talk in church. Thus one man (preacher) is talking, and everyone else–both men and women–must be silent. Anything that is not preaching–and thus is outside the church–both men and women can do. Authoring books, writing opinion pieces, etc is fair game for everybody. Obviously I have simplified it somewhat, but John Piper has created a narrow view of authority and its place of exercise to create clear lines so everyone “knows their place.” That’s nice–except in making his pretty little boxes he has exclude from the church function many things the Bible explicitly said should be included. It is clear many activities take place within the assembled church beyond preaching (or singing hymns) and it is clear many more people than just one preacher are speaking. John Piper resolves the difficulty of women in the church by throwing everyone out. It makes for a neat and tidy solution but I don’t think it does justice to what scripture reveals.

        I admit that what I see scripture saying is more murky and difficult to lay out clear lines on every possible conceivable situation–and that lack of clear lines and neat boxes can really annoy people. But I think it is far better to admit the ambiguity that is present, and to honestly try to live with it, rather than attempting to make things more comfortable and tidy by throwing out, or ignoring, the bits that don’t fit our preconceptions.

        In the two particular examples you bring up, I think John Piper’s position is clear. He clearly states that there is no problem reading a book/commentary written by a woman. He says that creates enough distance–your have not flesh and blood placed yourself in proximity under a woman. By his reasoning, watching a video or listen to a tape would be no different by his reasoning. The man would not be putting himself in the physical proximity–as with a drill Sargent in Piper’s own analogy–by watching or listening to such a recording.

        In the second analogy, from what I have briefly seen of Piper’s views elsewhere he appears to be someone who strongly views it as a preachers duty to speak (preach) in the church service and that nothing else should substitute. He would not believe it right for a recording of a woman to be played in church–or a recorded man for that matter–because he sees it as required for the church service that a living and breathing Preacher Man being led by the spirit in that moment. Nothing canned is allowed by anyone.

        I could come up with more grey area situations that might be even more difficult to determine, but I think basically once you understand the strict hierarchical functioning of the church that John Piper envisions it isn’t too hard to guess how he would cut the cake for each particularity he might imagine.

        Of course I have already pointed out that I don’t think John Piper sees the assembly of the church as I recognize it in the New Testament so his nice little boxes don’t really help me. I agree that the New Testament teaches that women are not to hold the role of Elder–but the NT teaches that more than elders speak, and more than preaching goes on within the church. I think he hits on a true point when he says women should not act like men (and, the opposite being true, men should not act like women) but the true question is what do we understand as appropriate womanly activity within the church?

        John Piper has made this easy on himself, because he has excluded everyone except the Preacher from speaking. I disagree with that premise so I can’t go along with the rest of his arguments, though I think he has touched on some elements of truth.

        Have you seen, or are you to any degree familiar with, the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood? I have not read it, but I know it is written by a compilation of authors (including a number of women) that cover the spectrum of what would be considered more conservative Christian circles. I gather from what I have read about the book that it is something of a thorough presentation of the “Complimentarian” position in the whole debate. Link:

        Having not read it, I can’t comment on it being “good” or “bad” but if you haven’t taken a look and are seeking some broader exposure you might want to consider a read. If you have read it, I would be curious on your opinion & reaction.

      • Your first paragraph…yes I would definitely agree that scripture cannot be boiled down to easy answers. It does take discernment to comprehend the Word. Even so I struggle with the vagueness of his answer. I struggle because I need something that is applicable now, and though much of Scripture is difficult to discern the message is not beyond us. Many parts of the Bible are straightforward, and the part of me that is hands on prefers those, though my inquisitive side likes to wrestle with the difficult passages.

        “But I am confident that those who are earnestly seeking to please God will grow in their understanding and maturity.” Yes. That is what I try to do. I can get caught up in legalism (I am not infallible), but it is not one of my worst faults. I generally tend to hate legalism too much to be caught up in it.

        Your fourth paragraph I agree with completely. It is not fair to judge his views on five minutes of speech, but the fact that he stated that his view was based on his feelings is a big trigger for doubt in my mind.

        Your view on preaching intrigues me. I agree that pretty little boxes are the easy way out. Also, as a side tangent I recently discovered that my church has “elderesses”, but their duties are not the same as the elders which I thought was interesting. To your point that women should not act like men…that is true to an extent, though it could be taken too far. Honestly, I enjoy some of the freedoms which have been brought to me by a ‘femenistic’ culture. I can play sports, I have the opportunity to work, and I have a voice in public affairs, and yet I am not looked down on if I am ‘girly’ (play instruments, be emotional, etc.) whereas my brothers have been looked down upon for their interest in such things.

        I have not read that book yet, though I came upon references to it in my research. As I am currently taking a complementarian stance I will add it to my ever growing to-read list, though I may not get to it soon. If you read it I will be interested in your opinions and thoughts as well.

  10. Even so I struggle with the vagueness of his answer.” Yes, I certainly don’t suggest you be satisfied with his answer–obviously I am not!

    I struggle because I need something that is applicable now, and though much of Scripture is difficult to discern the message is not beyond us.” I agree–with a slight qualification. God gives us the understanding we need of scripture–not always the understanding we want. For example, everyone wants to perfectly understand all of Revelations. To those who earnestly ask God and seek, He will surely give them the understanding of Revelations that they need for their lives and circumstance, but that is not necessarily the complete understanding they want. With that slight qualification in mind, yes, I agree 100% that you should wholeheartedly seek your answers in God’s word, being confident that it is not beyond you, and that God is pleased to teach.

    “[…] my inquisitive side likes to wrestle with the difficult passages” I like that about you, and please don’t take anything I say as a criticism of that. I think it is very good that you are wrestling with difficult passages and I wish more people would wrestle with the difficult passages instead of ignoring them. My slight caution was just that when we take up such wrestling sometimes God doesn’t give us all of the answers in one package deal. He will certainly give you what you need in this matter now if you seek him, but it may not cover every jot and tittle that you want.

    but the fact that he stated that his view was based on his feelings is a big trigger for doubt in my mind.” I agree.

    Also, as a side tangent I recently discovered that my church has “elderesses”, but their duties are not the same as the elders which I thought was interesting.” So long as the role of “elderess” does not contradict the explicit teaching of scripture, I see no problem with that. There is certainly a role for older women in the church. However, I am cautious about that term (elderess) because many attempt to use that to say that the role of elder and elderess is one and the same. That conflation of roles flies in the face of the distinctions made in the NT, and even in the particular teaching about elders. It sounds like your church is trying to avoid that conflation.

    To your point that women should not act like men…that is true to an extent, though it could be taken too far Yes, though I would say the problem is people applying their own ideas of masculinity and femininity where the Bible is silent–or even contradicts their ideas. Nowhere in the Bible does it say it is unfeminine for women to play sports or work. And in the positive sense, the Bible is rather explicit that one can be very manly and yet play instruments and be emotional. King David was a very musical and emotional man. Just about every time you turn around you’ll find him making songs and weeping and bawling over something. He was called a man after God’s own heart. I think that gives some indication what attributes God finds pleasing in a man.

    I have not read that book yet, though I came upon references to it in my research. As I am currently taking a complementarian stance I will add it to my ever growing to-read list, though I may not get to it soon. If you read it I will be interested in your opinions and thoughts as well.” You have a deal. 🙂 Though, I have a feeling I probably won’t get around to reading it any time soon either. If I were pressed, I would say I also am on the complementarian side of the debate. I guess the reasons I am a little uncomfortable putting myself in that group because some (not all!) men in the complementarian camp strike me as a bit chauvinistic and I dislike be associated with such individuals. Also, more importantly, it bothers me how complementarianism is used by many of its proponents to support the standard hierarchical view of the church–and I think that association is wrong so I am reluctant to buy wholesale into their camp.

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