Friday, December 14, 2012

My submitted clarifications may not be equal to your critiques

Some comments have come in the last few days, with such nuances and subtleties that a quick sound bite from me in response would only have been commensurate with my busyness and/or lack of connection to the internet and not with the importance of the critiques. So I am going to pull the "I get to post" here card and offer a post in which I reply to the critiques I think deserving of a reply, or, at least to the portion of the critiques which I am most engaged with. (Other critiques may be important but if I don't respond then I am letting them stand as they are. In inferiority of commenter implied by unequal treatment of comment!!). In no particular order of importance or urgency ...


From Mark (13/13/12, 6.13 pm, re WO): "If the Son’s equality is compatible with his subordination (not my preferred term, but seeing you’ve chosen it) to the Father, then a case has to be made to show why the two are incompatible for human beings.  
The argument from the Godhead does not establish women’s subordination to men - which would be a direct application from the Son to women and from the Father to men. 
Rather, it works indirectly. It counters the heart of the WO case – that women (or any other class of human being) are not fully equal if they are in any sense subordinate to somebody else. That liberal democratic assumption is not biblical or Christian but cultural, and the compatibility of equality and subordination in the Godhead demonstrates its unbiblical provenance. 
That doesn't prove that women are subordinate to men, or that any other class of human beings are subordinate to any other class. What it does do is cut off this highly damaging argument that if people are subordinate then they are not really human beings, and if people have authority then they are some kind of super-person - an argument that makes authority and submission highly problematic for loving relationships between free equals and offers us only friendships or servility as our models of human relationships, but never the free submission of an equal, or the loving authority of someone whose authority is ordered to the end of the other's good and not their own."


Reply:I am happy to accept that in my contributions here I have been less clear than I would ideally like to be. I shall try again! Two observations (only, many more could be made):

(1) The argument I am attempting to make (insofar as it attends to equality v subordination, Trinitarian relations v male/female relations) is not that if human beings are subordinate then they are not real human beings. That would be absurd. If I am a slave, or an employee, or even a licensed clergyperson beholden by canonical law to submit to the authority of General Synod and of my bishop I am a subordinate human being who is no less equal to my master or employer or bishop in regard to our humanity. The argument I am attempting to make is that if we regard one group of human beings (e.g. women) as always subordinate to another group (e.g. men) then we raise questions about the possibility of experiencing elements of our humanity fully.

In your comment above you rightly speak about the importance of 'free submission of an equal.'

If I am a slave and you are the master, we are both human beings. But if you always have opportunity to exercise a freedom to choose how to be a master while I have no freedom except to submit to your authority (whether or not it is exercised lovingly) then our experience of being human is differentiated and you have an unequal opportunity to exercise choice compared to me. I cannot be, in short, as fully human, as you can be. (I suggest, in passing, that it is this inequality which Christianity exposed, and thus (to pick up something below) a cultural time bomb was planted by the gospel which eventually exploded and led to the banishment of slavery).

In respect to ordination women and men are unequal in respect of experiencing their humanity fully. A (gifted, called, equipped) man may choose to be ordained or not, and once ordained may choose to freely submit as an equal to his bishop or not. No bounds, re ordering, are placed on their engaging with the full expression of their humanity in the exercise of that ordered ministry. By contrast a woman has no choice in a church without WO: they can only submit to the authority of men, whether they freely choose to or not. Further, a gifted, called, equipped woman who might in a specific ministry situation be better gifted and equipped than a man (or even than a non-existent man, i.e. a lack of men applying for the situation) is denied service in God's church solely on the grounds of being a woman. I am suggesting that in such ways, women are denied the possibility of experiencing elements of their humanity fully, such as experiencing the joy of serving a congregation through the utilisation of their God-given gifts.

All this, on my part, re seeking that women (equal with men in status) might be equal with men in opportunity to serve God's people is founded on our being one humanity in Christ, and, secondly, does not ask of any of us that we be not submitted or subordinate, as we should be, to one another, to God, and, in Anglican settings, to our ecclesial authorities.

(2) I want to challenge you (and other commenters recently here) who invoke 'liberal democracy' as a kind of bad thing, a cultural construction which distorts our view of God and the Trinitarian relations within the Godhead. First, all language is expressed in a culture in which elements reflect orthodox theology and other elements do not. The language of the Bible and the language of the fourth and fifth century fathers is no more or less good as a language in which to express truth about God. Insight is possible in 'liberal democracies' which were denied to our forbears in the faith. In particular, I suggest, within liberal democracies we are better able to appreciate the mutuality of the Three Persons in their unity and their indwelling of one another than in cultures marked by imperialism and hierarchy.

Secondly, I think we should ask whether liberal democracies mark a certain stage in the growth of the kingdom of God - a kingdom which Christ said would grow and flourish like a tiny seed becoming a big tree. Where is the kingdom of God today? Is it in Assad's Syria or Mugabe's Zimbabwe? Or is it in countries to which the oppressed of those countries flee? Countries where a fuller expression of humanity is possible, because in liberal democracies people can more fully enter into the human experience of making choices, utilising God-given gifts and so forth. To relate this to women: is a woman entering into the fullness of humanity when bound to cover her face and thus not to engage in face to face social intercourse with fellow human beings? I suggest not. And I thank God for liberal democracies. As our forbears rightly decided, liberal democracies were worth fighting for in 1939-45.

In other words, or another perspective: the submission of Son to Father models the submission of humanity to God. The question WO raises, within the context of being one humanity in Christ (and that itself incurs our submission with Christ as Son to the Father) why one part of humanity is then asked to submit to the other part. If we are one humanity, why should that be so?


From Susan (13/12/12, 8.38 am, re WO in relation to SSM): "Peter, I was looking for a translation of Bryden not Malcolm. I had thought Rosemary was also. 
"The second half shows an ignorance of the recent revival of the doctrine of the Trinity these past 50 years. Take for example Karl Rahner (although it was that other Karl, Barth, who humanly speaking kicked off the revival). As he wisely sought to pay close attention to the actual shape and content of the economy of salvation as enacted by the triune God, he gives this summary among others: “Grace gives rise to not-appropriated relations of divine persons to man [sic].” (The Trinity, p.25) What this is implying is this.
Each of the divine ‘persons’ has their own specific identity, each their own proprium in the Latin scheme, their idiotēs in the Greek. That is, they are uniquely differentiated, one from the other, so that, in Athanasius’ language (for example), the Father is the Father of the Son and the Son is the Son of the Father. These non-interchangeable relations are what distinguishes them as their very identities, marking them off from one another. In addition, it is this that then enables us to categorically say: the Son is ever the Incarnate One; and the Spirit specifically the One who, in a “quasi-formal” as opposed to “efficient” way, causes humans to participate in the very life of God. Or again, noting a key feature of the entire NT, the Holy Spirit is the eschatological gift of the Messianic Age.
The upshot is crucial when we NB human being in the Image of this God. As Rowan Williams once remarked, the Christian Gospel has planted cultural time bombs in our midst, and the doctrine of the Trinity and its corollary, Imago Dei, is just such a thing: that Ultimate Reality is personal and relational (or, Beyond Personality, as CS Lewis once put it, referencing explicitly the Trinity), and human being is uniquely endowed with the quality of personhood are gifts of the Christian faith to the world. One fruit of which is the sense, not at all obvious from other perspectives, of human rights. 
A tragic irony however occurs when we try to extrapolate from all of this and conclude - try to conclude - “same-sex marriage” and all the rest is a good idea and most to be desired. For the reality is same gender relations indeed parody the genuine image of God; there is quite simply not the mirror of adequate differentiation when we compare this to traditional marriage between a man and a woman. Rather, the premise here is classically modern and postmodern, where human being is now viewed to be a self-positing autonomous personal subject. Here ethics have become a function of self-creating subjectivity, a veritable social construction. 
The tragedy is highlighted when such a view tries to counter the likes of a Mahathir, who claims “civil rights are but a western social construct”. For what criteria are we to use to discern between such a western social construction and an Asian one?! Move away from the sheer ontological depth of the created order, Susan, derived from the Bible’s Grand Narrative and the Christian Tradition, and we are literally doomed - in the long run.""


Reply: I understand the above citation to mean, the distinctive Persons of the Trinity, the significance of which we grow in our appreciation of through time, generates an understanding of humanity (of each human being) as personal and relational beings who are most fully human when acting and being in the image of God (who is Trinity, three distinctive Persons in One being). The personhood ascribed in this way to our understanding of humanity on the one hand undergirds human rights (e.g. to be treated with dignity and equality) as integral to being human (and not something which a society might or might not construct); and on the other hand places limits on what is ethical behaviour. In respect of the former, we can genuinely protest at (say) Assad's treatment of civilians in Syria - to do so is not merely to act out a construction of Western culture and society. In respect of the latter, we can geuninely disagree with same-sex 'marriage' as a matter deemed to be good, or even a human right, because the ascribing of 'marriage' to a relationship between two same gendered human beings falls short of a proper reflection of the image of God which is an imaging of the distinctive Persons who are also One being, diversity in unity.


From Mark (13/12/12, 11.36 am re Sydney's synodical grace) "I suppose the stronger analogy to the motion would be you supporting a motion along the lines of: 
Noting that it is the anniversary of deacons officiating at Communion and giving thanks for the ministry of deacons in all areas of the church's life.
You personally might well support that motion, but lots of Anglicans throughout the world would not, I think, for the way it implies some support of the practice being noted. Sydney Synod's practice of not supporting motions that could be read as giving thanks for a practice they think is wrong is hardly unique here."


Reply: Hi Mark, the question of grace here includes the question of gracious participation in the body of Christ, not just grace about an 'issue.' The Diocese of Sydney has not seceded from the Anglican Church of Australia: it remains involved with and committed to that greater body, even as it is also in severe disagreement with the larger church on some matters. The motion put to the Synod of Sydney asked it to note an important anniversary in the larger church while also giving thanks for all ministry of women. The refusal to countenance even a 'note' of that anniversary was an ungracious acknowledgement of the life of the wider church to which Sydney belongs and remains thoroughly involved with. I still find it extraordinarily ungracious, despite your and other protestations here. I think for example of my friends and colleagues in my own NZ church who disagree with WO: I cannot imagine for a moment that they would share in a similar lack of grace towards the ordained women they work with, support and cherish. (Just to be clear, by 'similar' I mean in relation to the motion and its treatment, I am not making here any implied imputations about any Sydney Anglicans re their general attitude to ordained Anglican women in ACA).

On the matter of your analogy re deacons presiding (which, indeed, I heartily disagree with), you have failed to offer a strict analogy because you continue not to acknowledge the matter involves the fellowship of the diocese with the larger church. The strict analogy would be if ACANZP authorised deacons presiding at the eucharist (say, twenty years ago) and the diocese I were in maintained a steadfast opposition to that authorisation, refusing to permit it to be so in my diocese, even as it permitted deacons to minister in other ways traditionally associated with diaconal ministry. In that context I would not blink in voting for a motion along the lines brought to the Sydney synod recently.

95 comments:

Ian Paul said...

Some other things to note wrt relations in the Trinity and relations between genders:

1. If you are ordained subordinated to Canon law, or a slave subordinated to a master, this is strictly functional, and not related to the essence of who you are. You can resign your orders, or run away or be redeemed as a slave. It is not possible to resign as a woman.

2. In the Opponents' argument, the subordination of the Son to the Father is eternal. If gender relations are modelled on this, why are they not eternal too?

3. You can only be a Father if you have someone who is your Son, so there is a symmetry here in the development of a mutual sense of identity.

4. Opponents' arguments I have read say that women are subordinate to men as Christ is subordinate to 'God' (ie Father, though Paul does not say that) from 1 Cor 11. But also women are subordinate to men as the Church is subordinate to Christ from Eph 5.

This means in the former, it is *women* who take the role of Christ, but in the latter it is *men* who take the role of Christ. This seems an odd argument to me, and certainly won't pass muster as a supposedly coherent theology in the mind of Paul

Shawn said...

Some very good responses and clarifications Peter.

One point. Why assume that our only two options are tyranny and liberal democracy?

And is it possible that liberal democracy is in practice a thin facade that hides a tyranny every bit as oppressive as a dictatorship?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the translation of Bryden, Peter. Now that it is in English, clearly (again drawing from Bryden himself) it shows an ignorance of actual couples, and is also typical of most western Christians, whose legacy these past few centuries has virtually no room for personality differentiation. I fear you have merely defaulted to your own favourite approach re gender-and-role, an approach which I find most suspect frankly! Sorry about that! Move away from the sheer ontological depth of the created order, derived from the Bible’s Grand Narrative and the Christian Tradition, and we are literally doomed - in the long run.

One does not need to have lived long, studied much, or travelled far to have experience of some actual heterosexual married couples who are so alike in personality, and even looks, as to appear as siblings or even twins. At the same time committed same-sex couples may look extremely different, and have personalities and interests so different as to make people wonder how they manage to hold their relationship together. Bryden’s argument would mean the church could not bless the heterosexual couple’s marriage. Two such similar human beings fall short of a proper reflection of the image of God which is an imaging of the distinctive Persons who are also One being, diversity in unity. But that the latter, the committed same-sex couple, would be an ideal marriage in the church’s eyes, a reflection of the image of God which is an imaging of the distinctive Persons who are also One being, diversity in unity.

Susan

Peter Carrell said...

I do not assume they are the only two options, Shawn.

Liberal democracy can hide tyranny, but the experiences I have had of liberal democracies have generally involved a lack of fear of the police or secret police, a confidence in having a fair trial (though perhaps not if my surname was Bain (father or son, take your pick) or Thomas), elections in which the votes are counted honestly, and a press which is so free that it tends to abuse that freedom.

I will take my chances in a liberal democracy any day compared to any tyranny. (I have lived in a tyranny, but as a Westerner I had certain privileges).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Susan,
I mean this politely but I seem to live in a parallel world to yours. Its not just that I cannot off the top of my head think of any married couple I know who are so alike in personality and looks etc, but I also cannot think of any married couple I know whose complementary genitalia have not been integrated with their attraction to each other, drawing them together as man and woman into the unique one flesh relationship which is constitutive of marriage.

If, as 'one flesh' some couples take on a degree of similarity, then, I suppose, that is only to be expected.

I think one can say these things without implying any devaluing of the good things in a same sex couples' relationship, good things which reflect the character of God (faithfulness, love, self-giving, etc). But the coming together of two people in a same sex relationship does not a marriage make since what is not constituted by their coming together is the one flesh of one man and one woman being bound together as a differentiated couple in which their differences are enfleshed (man, woman) and their one flesh (in sexual intercourse) is precisely the ground from which new being issues (procreation).

To fail to define marriage in terms of differentiated bodies being united in one flesh is to move the definition of marriage in directions not sustained by the Bible, let alone by Christian tradition. Some call this direction 'gnosticism.'

Shawn said...

A married couple who are very much alike in looks and personality are still a man and a women. Gender difference is ontological, similarities in appearance and personality are only superficial.

Two men or two women have no ontological difference, no matter how different their personalities.

Even if we took God out of the equation this would still be true. Gender difference, which is NOT about "roles", is an observable fact of the natural order.

Which is why every society we know of throughout history, even those that were otherwise friendly to homosexual sexual behaviour, understood marriage as between a man and a women ( or several women). Every society understood gender difference as fundamental to marriage.

Same-gender marriage has no basis in the natural order and no basis in Scripture. It has been invented out of thin air to suit the fashionable idolatries of Cultural Marxism.

Mark said...

Hi Ian,

2. In the Opponents' argument, the subordination of the Son to the Father is eternal. If gender relations are modelled on this, why are they not eternal too?

As I argued in the extract quoted by Peter above, I think very few complementarians who have done any serious work on the doctrine of the Trinity think that any human relations are 'modelled' on the subordination of the Son to the Father.

That kind of thinking - of applying the Trinitarian relations directly to human relations,such that the Trinity becomes our social project is more a feature of pro-WO theologians such as Moltmann and Volf.

I think what the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father shows is that equality and subordination are not always incompatible. That's huge for our context, but that's all. It provides a model for our relations only the way that all of God's acts do - in an analagous and conditioned sense.


3. You can only be a Father if you have someone who is your Son, so there is a symmetry here in the development of a mutual sense of identity.

That's an issue I'm still thinking about. At the moment my impression is that this idea first occurs in Tertullian's Against Praxeas and went on to have a lively history in western theological thinking from the middle ages on. I think in the context of that work it was an effective tool to demonstrate the Son's equality with the Father (Tertullian in places falls short of that by later standards, but it's still an impressive work, and well worth a read) and existed in that work alongside arguments derived from a emanational understanding.

But it's not the understanding inherent to either the Nicene or Chalcedonian Creed, which rely exclusively on an emanational understanding of the Trinitarian relationships. It's certainly nowhere in Athanasius' writings, from what I've seen, and I can't recall any patristic scholars claiming it's there in the Cappadocians - although my knowledge of them is far more limited.

Given that we claim to adhere to the ecumenical creeds, I'm reticent at this point to draw too much on this more relational approach as it is hard to reconcile it with an emanational understanding - and that's the understanding that is foundational to both Nicea and Chalcedon.

4. Opponents' arguments I have read say that women are subordinate to men as Christ is subordinate to 'God' (ie Father, though Paul does not say that) from 1 Cor 11. But also women are subordinate to men as the Church is subordinate to Christ from Eph 5.

This means in the former, it is *women* who take the role of Christ, but in the latter it is *men* who take the role of Christ. This seems an odd argument to me, and certainly won't pass muster as a supposedly coherent theology in the mind of Paul.


It's less a 'coherent' theology as a 'biblical' one - seeking to have one's theology arise from reflecting upon Scripture, rather than seeking to make everything look a philosophically grounded explanation of everything.

Given that Christ is related to both the Father and to the church, why is it so surprising that he might model one kind of relationship at one point (submitting his will to the Father in the case of Jesus Christ), and model another kind of relationship at another (being Lord of the church and so demonstrating how authority is used in the kingdom of God)?

It would then follow that those under authority (of any kind) would follow Christ's example at one point, and those exercising authority (of any kind) would follow his example at another.

To see this as incoherent is somewhat strange, I'd have to say. And I wonder if it would be thought strange if it wasn't connected to the WO issue.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I had not noticed the necessity of complementary genitalia as going to the heart of what was being referred to as a reflection of the image of God which is an imaging of the distinctive Persons who are also One being, diversity in unity. Please help me see how you move from the distinctiveness of three Persons, traditionally all referred to by the male pronoun, to this being only appropriately reflected in two humans with complementary genitalia.

Shawn, please clarify at which point gender difference is ontological, similarities in appearance and personality being only superficial. If chromosomally two people are different (one is XX the other XY), but their external and internal reproductive organs are the same – is their gender difference ontologically different, and their similarities only superficial and hence they can marry?

As you know, Chromosomal, Gonadal, Phenotypic, self-perception, and sexual attraction do not all always “align”. Peter appears obsessed with getting the Phenotic right. At which point do you see the ontological residing, Shawn?

Susan

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

With regards to the issue of ‘grace’, I think we have here the reason why Sydney is aligned with the Jerusalem Declaration section of the Anglican Communion, and you are in favour of the covenant and the instruments. Most graduates of Moore College, like me, had a big dose of the Reformers – Luther’s three basic reformational tracts, Calvin’s Institutes and even Calvin’s Reply to Sadaleto. You see their act as lacking grace. They, like the Reformers, would probably see your willingness to support a motion being ‘gracious’ about a practice you see as deeply wrong simply because it has been hallowed by widespread and long-term use, as corrupt and unprincipled. That's strong language, but given the weight of saying that someone is 'lacking grace' has in Western Anglican circles, I think it's roughly parallel.

There’s nothing ‘gracious’ about positively noting something in the context of thanking God that you think God explicitly and clearly forbids, no matter how much or how long the broader body of which you are a part practices that. That’s not ‘grace’ in any biblical sense of the term. It’s not even love.

Based on what you’ve written, I suspect that you think that the Reformation was a bad idea (if you don’t, I’m not sure what the reason you would have for treating that situation differently to this). The Reformers should have noted all the teachings and practices that they saw as unbiblical and harmful, and graciously taken note of the role of such things in the life of the broader body of which they were a part and given thanks.

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

First, all language is expressed in a culture in which elements reflect orthodox theology and other elements do not. The language of the Bible and the language of the fourth and fifth century fathers is no more or less good as a language in which to express truth about God. Insight is possible in 'liberal democracies' which were denied to our forbears in the faith.

We are better able to appreciate the mutuality of the Three Persons in their unity and their indwelling of one another than Scripture could, because the language of the Bible denied it insights possible in liberal democracies.

If you were serious about you question in an earlier post as to why people are opposed to WO, what you’ve written here is not why I’m opposed, but it (along with the damage that it does to our ethical thinking and our understanding of the Trinity, as this post of yours also demonstrates) is why I’m so strongly opposed to it. WO supporters almost invariably articulate some kind of view of Scripture like the one you just put forward there – and I think it would be hard to have any kind of a classical view of the sufficiency of Scripture, or even of its infalliblity, and probably not even of its inspiration when you think that the culture of the Bible prevented it from having insights into the character and nature of God that we are able to have because of our culture. Schleiermacher (and Hegel) would welcome such an idea with open arms as a good expression of his theological project.

Secondly, I think we should ask whether liberal democracies mark a certain stage in the growth of the kingdom of God - a kingdom which Christ said would grow and flourish like a tiny seed becoming a big tree. Where is the kingdom of God today? Is it in Assad's Syria or Mugabe's Zimbabwe? Or is it in countries to which the oppressed of those countries flee?

I realize, given the cultural restrictions on Scripture to have these important insights that our culture permits that this may seem like a retrograde question but still: Where is any Scriptural support at all for the idea that kingdom of God is linked to any kind of human political structure? Especially one grounded in the self-conscious rejection of any claims of the true and living God as a factor in the public life of the state? Even Miroslav Volf, who skirts as close to an overrealized eschatology in his thinking about the church as any contemporary theologian doesn’t go that far even in speaking about the church, let alone the state. He is only prepared to describe the church as a broken anticipation of the kingdom – which is several steps further back than you saying that liberal democracies are the current form of the kingdom of God on the earth.

That’s not the kingdom of God you’re seeing there, it’s idolatry – of treating something creaturely, a form of government that has done a lot of good, as though it is somewhat divine. And to the degree that liberal democracy itself encourages this confusion of creature with the Creator (which it most certainly does in having people believe that citizenship in a liberal democracy, and not faith in Christ working through love, is the path to the good life) it is not the sign of a certain stage in the growth of the kingdom of God but in the growth of the antichrist.

That's why I at least am raising question marks over liberal democracy values. I thank God, and am grateful for living in a liberal democracy. But I recognize that it is a two-edged gift, and the gifts it offers comes with steep price tags. It is not the kingdom of God, and precisely because even leaders as sober as yourselves can even suggest such a thing we all need to be on guard for the way it distorts our theological and ethical thinking. The early church was far more conscious of its need to stand against the assumptions of its culture than contemporary Christians seem to be - especially when they start linking the kingdom of God to their preferred politics and political structures.

Shawn said...

Ontology resides in normal men and women, that is in men with the XY chromosome and male genitalia, and women with the XX chromosome and female genitalia.

Deviations from that God given norm are a result of the corruption of the Fall.

Human sexuality, as with every aspect of human nature, has been corrupted by the Fall. Thus the mere fact that humans experience sexual attraction outside of the God given norm is neither surprising nor relevant.

Science must be grounded in a Biblical worldview, as must the Churches definition of marriage and sexuality.

Peter Carrell said...

I guess, Mark, I might take a backward step re the synod of Sydney if it really and truly believes that WO is not only a bad idea but also 'harmful.' I had not actually grasped that antipathy to WO might extend to seeing it as harmful.

In that case, I suggest the critique of Sydney shifts to another question. If it is not ungracious to refuse the motion because WO is harmful, then why does Sydney remain part of ACA which continues to cause harm by continuing in the majority of other diocese to ordain women? (This is a serious question. I am not trying to be smart/facetious).

I would not have expected the Reformers to have 'noted' in a context of giving thanks that which is harmful.

I am a fervant supporter of the Reformation and consistently see being Anglican as a matter of being both 'catholic' and 'reformed.'

But I am not without reservations about the Reformation and the Reformers. Luther on Jews (to say nothing of the Epistle of James or his siding with the princes against the peasants), Calvin's role in the burning of Servetus, the excesses of the Anabaptists: there is plenty in the Reformation/Reformers which needs noting (for future avoidance) and not necessarily for giving thanks!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Susan and Mark re comments I have not yet responded to. Too meaty for a quick reply. Later. Maybe tomorrow even!

Shawn said...

Hi Mark,

As a supporter of WO I do not nor will I ever use the kind of argument that Peter has in this instance, so please do not assume that we all make the same arguments.

I believe in the innerency and full sufficiency of Scripture.

I despise with every fibre of my being both liberal democracy and the modern world. In total opposition to Peter's claim, I believe that people in a liberal democracy will have LESS insight than our forebears, to the extent that they think at all. Personally I think most people in LD's are mindless sheep.

So again, please do not tar all supporters of WO with the same brush.

Shawn said...

"Where is the Kingdom of God today? Is it in Assad's Syria, or Mugabe's Zimbabwe? Or is it in countries to which the oppressed of those countries flee?"

None of the above.

"My Kingdom is not of this world.". Jesus.

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

No problems with delays in responding - I'm relatively 'time rich' for the first time this year and am dumping far more content onto your threads than can be easily responded to.

I agree with you also about not being uncritical about the Reformers, and would be critical about all the things you list.

Although I'd note that 'Sydney' doesn't agree with you that Anglicanism is about being Reformed and Catholic, it sees Anglicanism as defined by the Articles and the Prayer Book - both of which are Reformed and decidedly not Catholic, so there's going to be sigificant differences at important points.

I think you'll find that almost all of us who oppose WO think that it is not just wrong but harmful - that's why there's so much heat in this debate. People like you think that not doing it is harmful. People like me think that doing it is harmful. If it was 'merely' wrong I would find it hard to care - there's so much error around it's hard to know where to start. It is a triage situation in the modern church - we (if we're sensible) only fight the battles we are willing to die over. And most of us are only willing to die on hills that instatiate something substantially honouring to God and good for his people.

As to why 'Sydney' continues to be in the Anglican Church of Australia, you'd need to ask them. My impression, from my few years of being with them, is that while they see WO as harmful, really, truly harmful, it is not the gospel, and while the ACA of Australia does not deny the gospel in its teaching or practice, and does not compel the Sydney Diocese to do something that that Diocese considers to be significant sin, then it has no reason to leave. And without a reason to leave doing so would be somewhat schismatic (and while concern about schism is IMO attenuated in Sydney, I don't think it is entirely absent). You don't leave a community of churches just because things are strained and they are doing harmful things. That simply isn't Christ's way.

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

In other words, or another perspective: the submission of Son to Father models the submission of humanity to God. The question WO raises, within the context of being one humanity in Christ (and that itself incurs our submission with Christ as Son to the Father) why one part of humanity is then asked to submit to the other part. If we are one humanity, why should that be so?

No, Christ’s submission to the Father models the submission of humanity to God. The submission of the Son to the Father models the submission of the Son to the Father. The submission of God to God – as Barth so eloquently articulated in (IIRC 4.1 of Church Dogmatics). The submission of Christ is an expression into the creaturely realm of the eternal submission of the Son to the Father, but the eternal relationships of the Godhead are not modelling anything for us creatures, they precede us.

So your other perspective is wrong from its starting point. If eternally in the Godhead one person has another person as his source, and submits to that person (understanding that the reality behind such language has profound differences than our experiences of those realities, but that enough is common ground that God chooses to use the same terms) then why do we need a justification for why some humans are asked to submit to other humans? The Son is not degraded by his origination from the Father – in fact that is the reason for his full equality with the Father. Nor is he degraded, or less free, than the Father because he submits to the Father.

The existence of submission and authority in human existence no more need a justification than love does. To paraphrase your statement:

Why should one part of the one humanity love another part if we are one humanity?

In all three cases (love, authority, submission) one member of the one humanity acts towards another member and the other member is acted upon, in a way that has some similarities to the Godhead.

These are all good gifts that enable human life to flourish, and have their source in God himself. Authority and submission are not the ‘odd man out’ here, something highly problematic which requires extensive justification no matter how much our present culture finds them problematic – at least, that’s not how they are presented in Scripture.

Mark said...

Hi Shawn,

The qualifier "almost invariably articulate" was intended for people such as yourself. In my experience, people such as yourself exist, but are a small minority of WO supporters. Most, even in evangelical circles, display a doctrine of Scripture that would be hard to map onto evangelicalism in previous centuries, onto the Reformers, or even onto the Fathers.

But it certainly isn't everyone who supports WO; as with all important movements, there are always important outliers - people with a classical view of Scripture who support WO, and highly liberal people who oppose it. But both groups are rare, in my experience.

But in a comment thread, I'm going to focus on the majority case, and acknowledge the minority case as best as I can in passing. The format doesn't lend itself to addressing every possible permutation that exists around these questions. Similarly, when people attack 'my side' for things I don't hold to, I just wear it (although I might indicate that what they're criticizing isn't my view).

Shawn said...

Thanks for the clarification Mark.

I find many of the arguments used in support of WO extremely frustrating, especially when they are used by evangelicals, who should know better. But there is little to do to continually point out the weakness and problems of such arguments, and encourage better ones.

I do not mind being in a small minority. In this current decadent and degraded age in the West, I would be worried if I was not.

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

Without animus, I’m going to pass on your argument in your post that refers specifically to WO, as my impression of your recent posts is that you’ve told people to not waste your time with the various reasons often given for opposing WO, so I can’t see much point in discussing the specifics of that issue with you – pretty much anything I’d say would be wasting your time. But I do want to pick up (over a couple of comments, alas - blogger appears to be counting its 4, 096 characters increasingly miserly, something I've noticed happens occassionally with it) the fundamental principle behind your argument at point 1) in the above post, which is articulated in this paragraph:

If I am a slave and you are the master, we are both human beings. But if you always have opportunity to exercise a freedom to choose how to be a master while I have no freedom except to submit to your authority (whether or not it is exercised lovingly) then our experience of being human is differentiated and you have an unequal opportunity to exercise choice compared to me. I cannot be, in short, as fully human, as you can be. (I suggest, in passing, that it is this inequality which Christianity exposed, and thus (to pick up something below) a cultural time bomb was planted by the gospel which eventually exploded and led to the banishment of slavery).

So you think other people have offered comments of significant subtlety and nuance and yet you say that it is absurd to say that if a person is subordinate then they are not a ‘real’ human and offer instead that if they are subordinate then they are not ‘fully’ human as they can be. That really is parsing a lot of difference in making the shift from ‘real’ to ‘full’. If I am not ‘fully’ human, that would tend to suggest that I am, in some significant sense, sub-human. You’re not simply speaking of some kind of value added self-actualization here, you see this ‘fullness’ as for more substantial than that. And you can ask embryos how thin the line is from being recognized to be humanish but not ‘fully’ human to then not being acknowledged as being a ‘real’ human and so denied basic human rights by people in support of abortion. I say ‘real’ you say ‘fully’. It’s a “I say a toe-mat-o, you say to-may-to” thing, not an absurd versus reasonable thing here in the words you and I have chosen to describe your position on this.

My response is that there is nothing Christian or biblical about any of this vision of what it means to be human. This is purely an embracing of one of the cardinal ethical principles behind our liberal-democratic societies and one that its own proponents in the 18th and 19th centuries – the various figures from the Enlightenment and English and Continental philosophy – were well aware was a complete repudiation of the fundamental principles of Christendom, and especially the link between God and human social life. Where in the beatitudes is the ability to have wide freedom to choose held out as a cardinal principle of being blessed? Where in the wisdom literature? Where in the example of Jesus Christ is he held up as an example of a fully human person because of his wide range of opportunities to exercise choice? Where do the church fathers, or Aquinas, or Luther or Calvin hold up having a wide range of opportunities to exercise choice as a necessary ingredient to being as fully human as one can be? It is an idea that is simultaneously a fundamental assumption of our society and has no purchase at all on Scripture or the mainstream Christian ethical tradition.

Mark said...

And it is a damaging principle, because ultimately it means that only the intelligent, educated, wealthy, and powerful people can be fully human. All of those are factors in the range of choices that people are able to exercise in society; they are conditions for having a wide range of choices. And the vast majority of human beings will never, and never has, had them. And so are consigned to being less than fully human on this principle.

Which is no surprise because, for all of its genuine strengths, liberalism has always been a worldview that privileges the educated and reasonably wealthy; the freedoms it offers has benefitted the middle class far more than any other group. It is an ethical and political approach that claims to be for all humans, but in practice is only for the reasonably wealthy, intelligent and educated who are the only ones in a position to take advantage of the freedoms that it offers without being destroyed by the choices that others are making.
That’s why in the U.S. – the country that, more than any other, has social liberalism in its DNA on both sides of the political aisle – it is the religious right (who are active in rejecting key aspects of liberalism’s legacy) and the progressives (who embrace it wholeheartedly, but who are invariably university graduates and professionals with wealthy jobs, and so are able to pick and choose from what liberalism offers and the price tags that go with that) who are doing the best in social outcomes – marriages, families, education, children, stability, happiness. It is the rest of society who have neither the faith, nor wealth and education, to mediate liberalism’s impact who are being increasingly overthrown by the triumph of the ‘fullness of humanity is to be able to have choice’ principle and where marriage is collapsing and family life is becoming highly unstable where it exists at all. Liberalism strengthens the hand of those who are already strong (and I’m one of those, so I’m very grateful for its gifts—I’m better off than any other political system). The rest it throws under a bus in the name of choice, but not coercively through tyranny or oppression, simply by dissolving the ties that bind us together in order to preserve room for individual choice.

It’s also an immoral principle that has fed into our crisis over relationships and communities. If I have to have a wide range of choices available in order to be fully human, then I need to hold myself back from the kinds of relationships that could impose obligations upon me that would reduce the range of choices available to me. No ‘in sickness and in health’—because to care for a spouse who is sick for the rest of his or her life eats away at the fullness of my humanity, no children for the same reasons. One of the price tags of liberalism, with its promotion of this vision of freedom, has been the cost in relationships: in children being born, in marriages occurring and lasting, in people forming genuine communities rather than Friends pseudo-communities, and we are reaping a harvest of this holding back from being bound to other people (as opposed to voluntary friendships) in order to promote the fullness of our humanity by preserving the wide range of choices available to us in more and more mental illness – depression now apparently second only to back pain as the most common ailment world-wide.

Luther grasped the vision of full humanity far more thoroughly in his maxim ‘Live by faith in God and by love in one’s neighbour’ – it’s not about the range of my choices, but about how I relate to others whatever range of choices I do or do not have. And the call to faith and to love is not 'voluntary' but an obligation, something that binds us from outside.

Mark said...

Finally, I find it strange that you state to Shawn that there are more than just two choices – liberal democracy and tyranny – but use the most tyrannical social relationship of all, master-slave, to make your point for the kind of liberal democratic freedom that is needed for full humanity, and hence WO. Why not argue from the parent-child relationship, or the husband-wife, or the pastor-congregation, all of which are far less tyrannical in the underlying expression of authority than master-slave, and where the basic goodness that authority is ordered towards is more easily seen? By making master-slave the starting point for our thinking about authority, you’ve made the same basic move that I have witnessed in most of the proponents in 18th and 19th century philosophy of the kind of freedom you seek—certainly Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche all make this move. And it makes sense if you see it as a choice between only two options—but you’ve claimed you don’t see things that way.

But, to play the ball where you placed it, is the slave ‘fully’ human, or only the slave’s master as you argue above? Does the slave have no choice but to submit to the master's authority, but the master has the choice whether to use the authority lovingly or not?

The epistles in their instructions to slaves and masters do not agree with your vision of freedom, Peter. They call (particularly in 1 Peter 2:13ff, but also in Ephesians and Colossians but less developed there) on slaves to submit to their masters not out of fear of punishment but as serving the Lord, and to do so as free people—that is a free submission by slaves, not a subordination that has no choice but to be swept along by the master’s authority. And they do not give the masters the choice to sin or not sin in their exercise of authority but call them to the narrow path of doing right or facing the judgement of God (a point pressed far more on masters in Ephesians and Colossians than on slaves).

It is a completely different vision of human flourishing that is able to occur even when a slave, and is not contingent on the range of choices open to one. All you need is faith in Christ and love for one’s neighbour. Whether you are slave or free, under authority or exercising it, you act for the good of the other and not your own, you are simultaneously a free person and the Lord’s slave, and your works will be judged by the one who judges all people’s works with integrity.

There’s no question that that transforms all relationships of authority and submission. But I contest your assertion that it puts us on a trajectory where maximum opportunity for personal choice is a precondition of fullness of humanity. I think it puts us on a very different trajectory altogether – one more like the Son of Man who did not come to be served, or to be fully human through maximum opportunities for choice, but to serve and give his life as a ransom.

Shawn said...

"Hierarchies are celestial. In hell, all are equal."

Nicolás Gómez Dávila

Tim Harris said...

As someone trained at Moore College and schooled by both Broughton Knox and Donald Robinson, I can say that both would be thoroughly dismayed to hear Anglican graduates of the college deny being both 'reformed and catholic' in equal measure - 'catholic' understood in its truer sense of the term. Therein lies a marker for a significant drift in Sydney's theology in more recent time...

I must say the heat over WO in Sydney is also extraordinary (as is the claim that there are few evangelicals with a high view of scripture who support WO - the commentator clearly moves in very limited circles).

I have read much from evangelical quarters regarding WO over the past 30 years, and still find myself in disbelief over the confidence expressed in a position grounded in such slight and tenuous biblical interpretation. I wonder if anything like this great edifice of gender hierarchy would be even considered, but for TWO verses (1 Cor. 11:3 & 1 Tim 2:11) - both (IMO) frequently exegeted out of context and with little regard to the units considered as a whole. And both contain uncertain elements at key points.

At the heart of the interpretation of these verses lie dogmatic claims about the metaphoric sense of one term (kephale) - in itself used as a pun for Paul's concern for male and female coiffure, and capable of a significant range of metaphorical senses (there is no singular sense). This is a slim base to build the whole 'headship' theological construct which is proclaimed (it seems to me) as second only to the gospel itself.

Similarly, the interpretation in 1 Tim. 2 turns in large measure around a particularly rare verb, and again often exegeted with little reference to specific context noted in the PE's and the unit as a whole (eg. verses 14&15).

I (and many others outside the hothouse of Sydney) do wonder how such an issue has come become such a defining test of orthodoxy and focus of so much energy and heat... I am not alone in seeing many, many instances of ordained ministry by women which are clearly blessing others and evidence many fruits of the Spirit - and far from 'harmful', an accusation I regard with great concern.

Bryden Black said...

Phew ...! Thanks Tim (Harris). And I do trust these wise words are not mangled by devious insinuation ...

Shawn said...

Hi Tim,

Good post. I agree that the exigesis of 1Timothy 2 by opponents of WO is shallow and arrived St on part by ripping it out of the overall context of Paul's argument, which is not leadership of the local church.

I also share your concern about Marj's claim that it is harmful. The arguments sometimes used in support of WO can be harmful, and I agree with Mark's concerns about those.

But to claim that WO is in itself harmful is bizarre.

Personally I think male liberal ministers and theologians are harmful, and between them John Spong, Loyd Geering, Don Cuppit and their ilk have done far more harm than all the ordained female ministers put together.

Mark said...

Hi Tim,

My comment that Sydney would reject 'Catholic' was, I would have thought, reasonably open to the intrepretation that the term was not being used in its 'truer' sense, and so my statement was saying that the church is not sacerdotal in any sense. I mean, seriously mate, do you know anyone who rejects the idea that the church is one, universal, apostolic and holy? Is your antipathy, which certainly shows through, so strong that it leads you to think that I would deny the creedal descriptions of the church?

I think to offer this riff on my words to attack Sydney says less about the supposed developments in the hot house of Sydney in the last twenty years, and more about your attitudes towards Sydney.

And I didn't say that there are few evangelicals with a high view of scripture who support WO. Everyone has a high view of Scripture these days. It's one of those Yes Minister irregular verbs that only ever exists in the third person. Even Spong has a high view of Scripture. A "high view of Scripture" is almost a motherhood statement these days.

What I said is that the number of those with a fairly classical view of Scripture are a small minority of supporters of WO. Most evangelical supporters of WO tend to adopt some version of Webb's book, or run some kind of cultural limitation argument, or hold that only some of Paul's teaching is binding and the others were only for limited and specific contexts (FF Bruce's kind of argument many moons ago), and these are reasonably incompatible with a classical view of Scripture IMO.

Given how many evangelicals support WO, my statement is true even with a fair number of evangelicals in the mix on the pro-WO side with a genuinely classical view of Scripture and not simply another 'high' view of Scripture that pretty well everyone today has.

It's hardly even just my own observation - Shawn, who is someone who is both pro-WO and has a classical view of Scripture, has already commented in this thread on how frustrated he gets with most arguments in favour of WO offered by evangelicals.

So your statement that my claim is 'extraordinary' is itself 'extraordinary' and suggests that you might be in your own epistemic bubble on this question.

Anonymous said...

I see Mark’s arguments as being understandable and consistent. I have not been able to understand Bryden. I look forward to Peter’s explanation. Shawn, you have stated you can demonstrate things from the Bible – but you haven’t. You have stated that the chromosomal and phenotypic not “aligning” is the result of the fall (I’m not sure how you know this, did all aspects align prior to the fall? Again how do you know this?). Shawn, you did not answer my question: If chromosomally two people are different but their external and internal reproductive organs are the same can they marry? I do not understand your statement that “Ontology resides in normal men and women”. Are you saying that the others have no gender? That only those in whom all five aspects I have listed align have an ontology? That the church should test for all aspects prior to blessing a union? I am really lost in your points. I also notice that you see some arguments as being harmful. Which is more important, the way we get to a conclusion, or the conclusion we get to? It is the latter that I see as prevalent here. People have concluded for or against gay marriage, for example, and come what may, will argue to get to their conclusion.
Susan

Shawn said...

Apologies for the poor spelling/formatting in my recent posts. I am dealing with fairly constant chronic pain in my right arm which does not make typing on an iPod easy at times.

Shawn said...

There are a number of issues in the Church that lead to poor arguments for otherwise valid theological positions.

One is the general level of Biblical and Theological ignorance amongst both laity and ordained.

As far as Evangelicalism is concerned, I have long since realized that being evangelical is not automatic protection against the idolatries of the modern world. This is in part a failure of church leaders to define and teach a Biblical/Theo-centric worldview.

And I suspect it will not get any better soon, with younger evangelicals being influenced by the likes of Rob Bell and Brian Mclaren, who both promote what is little more than repackaged liberalism, thinly, very thinly, disguised as Evangelicalism.

Mark has a point about the number of people who claim to have a high view of Scripture. A lecturer at an Anglican college made that claim after I challenged his view that most of the OT and parts of the NT were mythical. He was also a devotee of that silly 19th century German bowel movement known as the 'Documentary Hypothesis' which is anathema to a genuine high view of Scripture.

I don't bother with the term anymore for that reason.

Nevertheless I would fire a friendly challenge to Mark that even the best view of the nature of Scripture is not automatic protection from error. We just have to look at the number of Protestant Christians both in the past and now who nevertheless reject the clear Biblical teaching on charismatic gifts, exorcism and spiritual warfare.

Cessationism is a position every bit as shallow, self-serving and un-Biblical as any liberal one.

Hence the need Semper Reformanda.

Shawn said...

Hi Susan,

If I do not always get into a point by point Biblical exegesis on some issues it is in part because, with the issue of WO, those points and arguments are already well known to most of those participating in the debate, and because as I said I am dealing with chronic pain which makes long periods of typing difficult. However, see Tim Harris' post above for an example of what I am talking about.

As to "how I know", concerning the effects of the Fall, well that is taught in Scripture. In the beginning God made men and women, and instituted marriage as a covenant of one man and one women for life. Jesus strongly reaffirms that in his response to the issue of divorce.

Thus any deviation from the God-given norm with regards to both gender and marriage is a result of the Fall and sin respectively.

Now, your turn. On what Biblical theological basis do you affirm dame-sex marriage?

Shawn said...

Susan,

Ontology resides in the gift of gender as I said. And I explained clearly what that means. The results of the Fall mean that human nature is corrupted and thus prone to various forms if degradation, but that does not mean that there is no such thing as identifiable gender.

As to coming to a conclusion first, I haven't, the Bible has. Homosexuality is condemned in Scripture clearly. That may he inconvenient to some, but is nevertheless true.

Now I am not saying our understanding of Scripture is perfect, or that we don't sometimes get it badly wrong.

It IS possible that we have it wrong on homosexuality. But, in order to prove that the onus is on those saying that we have, not on me or Peter. They are making the claim, they must make their arguments.

If they can make a theologically sound argument that is consistent with Scripture, then well and good.

But I have never seen one.

Do you have one?

Andrew W said...

Some fascinating analysis of liberal democracy there, Mark. As a corollary, I've in the past few years often wondered whether Maslow's "hierarchy of needs" was a post-hoc justification of his philosophical bias rather than the result of scientific investigation.

Bryden Black said...

Mark - “What I said is that the number of those with a fairly classical view of Scripture are a small minority of supporters of WO. Most evangelical supporters of WO tend to adopt some version of Webb's book, or run some kind of cultural limitation argument, or hold that only some of Paul's teaching is binding and the others were only for limited and specific contexts (FF Bruce's kind of argument many moons ago), and these are reasonably incompatible with a classical view of Scripture IMO.”

Some cards on the table: I am a supporter of WO; I am also one who sees, observes and practices a range of charismata - all of which I find perfectly compatible with “a classical view of Scripture”. BTW: wherein the word “classical”? Reformed? But which reformers? Or, what about that magnum opus of Henri de Lubac, Medieval Exegesis? Or again, Christopher Hall’s Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers? Yes; those Fathers who gave us the Creeds of 325 & 381 and the Definition of 451, about which we have had a couple of wee rounds.

While I would therefore most certainly disagree with Susan’s view that Scripture is a “mixed bag”, most of us do have certain blind spots when it comes to allowing the fulness of Holy Scripture to determine both our processes of discernment and the outcomes of these processes. This I have had to learn too! These are highlighted whenever we spend any length of time in cross-cultural environments, which I have much of my life. For, given the fact we are also social creatures, our cultural setting will determine to a degree just such processes and their outcomes. For to a degree again, everything is socially mediated (I deliberately do NOT say socially constructed!). Christians and their respective social settings, both ‘worldly’ and ‘ecclesial’, are never immune to any of these things. Just so, I am happy enough to sit with your “small minority”, reading Scripture both in its details and its “grammar”, in order to conclude a strong argument in favour of WO, and also in favour of fostering the full range of the Spirit’s charismata in the Church today - with due “order” naturally!

Why speak like this? Partly in defence of Peter C, and partly to deny that just because some folk come to certain conclusions (re WO and the charismata, two I have picked here), this does not necessarily mean our hermeneutics are irredeemably corrupted by liberalism. To be sure; I have seen many an argument re both WO and the charismata that ARE premised greatly by e.g. experiential theses, as well as major traits of Liberalism. That is why I find Oliver O’Donovan’s opening chapter of A conversation waiting to begin: the Churches and the Gay Controversy, “The Failure of the Liberal Paradigm” just so insightful and helpful. It too is the outcome of a discernment process that engages deeply a cross-cultural assessment, one that just happens to be more diachronic than synchronic. So to conclude: our readings of others’ readings of Scripture often take longer to assess than allowed by a blogger’s sound-byte ...

Shawn said...

I was thinking about the issue of cessationism that I mentioned above.

One of the problems the Church has faced since the 18th century has been the rising dominance of the modern "world" based on an excessive rationalism, the so-called scientific method, the dethronement of God and the desacralisation of the world. (some of the roots of this problem may go back to some of the Fathers, but that is an issue for another day).

This process has had a negative effect on the whole Church, including traditionalist and conservative evangelical forms.

One of those effects is that we forget that the worldview of the Bible is totally pre-modern.

In that pre-modern worldview the importance and role of the Spirit was paramount. In fact I will take the risk of asserting that the Biblical workdview, spirituality and practice may have more in common with shamanism than with modern (or for that matter classical Greek) rationalism.

Whatever it's faults and excesses, Pentecostalism's gift to the Church is to remind us that real Christianity us deeply pre-modern and is grounded both in Scripture, and in the sovereign Lordship, leadership, gifting and power of the Spirit.

Which brings me to my point. The Bible clearly days that the gift of prophecy and the office of the prophet is open to both men and women.

Scripture also teaches that prophets speak the Word of God to the Church, for instruction and guidance.

Yet if that is so, then surely that office is one of authority, and that the Word spoken and discerned is to be obeyed by both women and men.

That would seem to undercut the view that in 1 Timothy 2 Paul is saying that women can never hold positions of authority over men or never teach men, which means that Paul is actually dealing with a different issue altogether.

One of those

Tim Harris said...

Mark: 'Although I'd note that 'Sydney' doesn't agree with you that Anglicanism is about being Reformed and Catholic, it sees Anglicanism as defined by the Articles and the Prayer Book - both of which are Reformed and decidedly not Catholic, so there's going to be sigificant differences at important points.'

Mark, with all due respect you are simply being disingenuous here. Your comment was in reply to Peter's earlier affirmation: 'I am a fervant supporter of the Reformation and consistently see being Anglican as a matter of being both 'catholic' and 'reformed.'

There is no hint that Peter is affirming catholic in sacerdotal terms here, but clearly using it in the classical Anglican sense of 'reformed catholicism'. To specifically express disagreement with Peter at this point in the terms quoted above are indeed alarming.

Your disclaimer that you don't know any evangelicals who would deny 'catholic' in the truer sense is also less than convincing, when you (and all too many others) appear to believe that 'universal' is a simple lexical equivalent to 'catholic'. The term has a historic reference that is not conveyed by 'universal', and is increasingly lost by an unwillingness to identify as 'catholic'.

As to my relations with Sydney Diocese, they are actually positive, ongoing and warm. That doesn't stop me from engaging in substantive critiques and questioning whether some SA positions are less than biblical - as I do (in all seriousness) with regard to prominent SA views on women.

As for preferring a 'fairly classical view of Scripture' over those affirming a 'high view' - perhaps, but the former is so loose a term that I wonder whether it is helpful - it seems to evade as much as it provides any clarity. As I hear it in your comments above, it seems to imply quite a subjective tone - you will only allow others to use such a term if they agree with your particular lines of biblical interpretation.

What you are not naming in such a term is the development of varying hermeneutical approaches, and seem to assume a 'fairly classical' hermeneutic. If that is the case, you should name it and compare it with other hermeneutical considerations.

Finally, your summary of evangelical arguments in favour of WO strike me as very reductionist and narrow. You note Webb, but what about the likes of Grenz, Perriman, Fee, Scholer, Payne, Keener, Witherington and Howard Marshall - all of whom have made critiques at the exegetical level, as well as hermeneutical (and in some cases textual)? Alongside this, a growing consensus about the voice and role of significant women in the life of the NT church and amongst Paul's co-workers has become well established academically (even if ignored by many in Sydney).

Things have moved on since Bruce, but the import of Gal. 3:28 has regained significant attention in Pauline scholarship in recent times.

You may take all this as yet another ex-Sydney person with a chip on their shoulder - which just goes to show you don't know me. I have many friends and colleagues in ministry in the diocese, and I participate in national evangelical forums without reservation. I am happy to self-identify with being evangelical in the diocese of Adelaide and in the national church (which is costly...). I have taught biblical studies at tertiary level for decades, and engage with Scripture whenever I get an opportunity to speak to issues of the day - again at some cost.

So to me to have a 'high view of Scripture' is more than a tokenistic line but a position I affirm without reservation and in depth - you may make of that what you will. But at least let your response to my comment be at substantive levels rather than personal snipes ("says less about the supposed developments in the hot house of Sydney in the last twenty years, and more about your attitudes towards Sydney")

Mark said...

Hi Shawn,

I agree with you that having, for want of a better term, a 'correct' view of Scripture is no guarantee that any conclusions one arrives at are right. Nor does having a good view of Scripture and a good method of reading it. We are all dependent on God to shed light upon our darkness, and the 'prize' doesn't simply go to the stronger or the faster. I hope I've never implied that someone in this thread is wrong because of their view of Scripture, or that I am right because of mine. If I have, then I apologize for giving that signal off.

And I'm puzzled as to why it is such a suprise to Peter, bizarre to you, and so concerning to Tim that those of us who oppose WO think it is harmful.

Do you really think that opponents would have a fight over something they thought was not harmful? Is your view of us so cynical, or so condescending, that you think people would be part of the open sore that is the WO debate within evangelicalism over some fairly esoteric principle with little cash value for the common good?

Do you really think that your side is the only side that is motivated by a concern for the substantial good of people? And that our side is motivated by, what? Either fighting for no reason, or simply because we hate women or someting?

This is not meant as a dig, but genuinely - if it's news and strange to you all that we think our stand embodies real good for the church, I think you and Peter and Tim should all consider the possibility that you might be in a log/speck in the eye situation. Because it certainly isn't concerning, suprising or bizarre to me that you guys think that your position embodies real good for God's people. I think I could even do a reasonable job of stating what you think the good of WO is in ways that you would agree with.

It concerns me that being able to do that - which is a basic empathic skill that is fundamental to genuine conversation - apparently is not there in all three of you. And that's despite the fact that all three of you display evidence of having engaged with your opponents (and in Tim's case that he's been reading such for thirty years).

Mark said...

Hi Bryden,

Thanks for saying where you are coming from. I find it entirely conceivable (and know others like yourself) that you are pro-WO, are charismatic, and have what I am calling a 'classic view of Scripture'. Thanks for letting me know that's your position - I think I was seeing you as somewhere around there, but it probably would have taken me a while to twig to the 'charismatic' bit, given the topics of the threads.

'classical' is my own creation, because doing that has less baggage. I'm gesturing at a view of what Scripture is (not so much reading strategies - so I think Hall's book might not be relevant, but feel free to push back on that if I've misunderstood your point there) that would be broadly agreed to by the fathers, the reformers, and post-reformation evangelicalism up until say, somewhere around the 1960s or so. While there's a lot of diversity between those groups, and within them, I think there's features of how they see what Scripture is, that were reasonably common - which is why the Reformers could appropriate a lot of the fathers, and their disagreements with them were over the details of how the read Scripture, and sometimes their reading strategies, and not more fundamentally about how the Fathers saw Scripture, and likewise for evangelicalism in relationship to the Reformers and the Fathers.

The term is deliberately trying to avoid getting bogged down in more contemporary terms like inspiration, infallibility and the like, but to avoid the fairly useless 'high view' terminology by pointing us back to something more concrete and historical as a plumb line for comparison, even if it gets that by sacrificing the precision of that terminology.

That's not to say that the "classical" view is automatically right, just that at present I'm finding this terminology sheds a bit more light and a bit less heat.

And I'm not saying that everyone who supports WO is a liberal. I am saying that some key arguments used by the majority of evangelicals in support of WO seem to encode principles that are hard to reconcile with the kind of view of what Scripture is that seems to be there in our tradition and that generated their various (and at times contradictory) reading strategies.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Mark,
Re 'harmful':
1. It is news to me that Sydney et al think WO is 'harmful'. That is a strong expression and I have not heard it used before. (Just to give a gist of where I am coming from, I have visited Sydney as a guest of ++Peter, stayed at Moore College, been a reader of the Briefing for many years ...).
2. It is not news that those against WO think the church is better off with male presbyters and bishops. But does that amount to saying WO is harmful? (Apparently it does but I had not thought that before. I think the church would be better off if we had more money, better heaters in winter, shorter (but more effective) sermons etc ... but I do not run around describing the opposite as 'harmful'!)
3. A useful (but also debatable distinction) in WO discussions, especially in and around Sydney has been that WO is a 'second order' issue. I am genuinely shocked that any 'second order' issue in the life of the church is also about what is 'harmful'.
So, if I am critical, negative and lacking empathy re your use of 'harmful' then, yes, I am critical, negative and lacking empathy for your use of the term.

I think Sydney in its official literature and through an organ such as The Briefing (yeah, I know, it is not a Sydney publication per se) should 'come out' and tell the rest of the evangelical world what you say it really thinks: WO is harmful!

Mark said...

Hi Tim,

Having spent some years in the UK mixing with a wide range of English Anglican evangelicals, the predominant fashion in which they meant linking the term ‘Reformed’ and ‘Catholic’ in the way Peter did, when they self-identified as a centrist evangelical, was to mean that Anglicanism is a fusion of Protestant and (Anglo)Catholic. My statement was saying that Sydney does not see Anglicanism as having that kind of ‘Catholicness’ in its two basic documents – the articles and the prayer book.

Even if there was a break-down in communication due to contexts, I find it hard to see how you could have gotten your meaning from my words. Name any mainstream Reformed theologian over the last centuries who would see that ‘Reformed’ does not include ‘catholic’ as part of what it means to have a genuinely ‘reformed’ view of the church. You can’t have a reformed view of the church that denies its catholicity, anymore than you can have one that denies its apostolicity or holiness. So, I took Peter’s words the way I’d heard them used repeatedly in England and not in a sense that I'd consider a tautology. If that’s not the sense in which he meant them, I apologise for imputing a meaning he’d reject.

On a side-note, and to satisfy my interest, what do you see as not captured by ‘universal’ for ‘catholic’? I’ve been reading in the fathers for the last five years (predominantly Athanasius, but dipping in elsewhere, and writing on his view of the relationship of the Trinity and the church as we speak), and worked through Book IV of the Institutes again this year. If I had to find a quick way to describe ‘catholic’ – a term and concept important in both, then ‘universal’ would seem to do a reasonable job to capture what I’ve seen in those writings. What do you think is so critical to the concept that isn’t there in ‘universal’?

And I think there is (again) a breakdown in communication over my references to Webb and the like. I wasn’t attempting to offer a summary of all the scholarly arguments offered by evangelicals in support of WO. I was pointing to the ones I thought encoded a view of Scripture that wasn’t compatible with what I think is a classical view of Scripture. And I was suggesting that in my experience most of the arguments I have heard from evangelicals – (and this is extra information as to what I had in mind there: not scholarly papers, but in person, or in posts or comment threads, or on Facebook when the vote for women bishops in CoE failed)—most of those arguments draw upon a subset of the various scholarly arguments offered, that subset that I think can only be used if your view of Scripture is significantly different from the Reformers, Father etc. While not all of that information was there in that comment, enough was there that I think both Bryden and Shawn got the sense of it (they can correct me if I've imputed something to them there isn't accurate), and didn’t take it as me saying that the arguments I pointed to was the sum total of all evangelical arguments in favour. Again, breakdowns in communication like this usually point to other factors going on.

I appreciate your invitation to engage with your comments more substantially than with personal snipes, but, honestly and from my point of view, you started off by sniping me, I returned the favour, and you've repeated it again in this second comment, and the existence of the sniping on both sides, the fact that you seem blind to the fact that you begun and have now opted to continue it for a second round and speak as though I'm the only one doing it, and the miscommunications, doesn't lead me to think that there are conditions for substantial discussion between us at the moment. None of that is saying that I'm pure in anything that's happened either. And I'm happy to be corrected on any of that, and for that to be just my misunderstanding.

But substantial discussion requires different conditions than what seems to me has occurred between us both so far.

Peter Carrell said...

Of interest, Mark, both here and elsewhere as you write about evangelicals interpreting Scripture in ways which (arguably) are (so to speak) 'not evangelical', is what is the difference between one way and another.

For instance, you are critical of Webb who has offered the idea of a trajectory from Scripture out to developments in the life of the church (attractive to many evangelicals, including me). But what would be the substantial difference between Webb and Anglican Reformers-through-to-modern-Anglican evangelicals who continue to espouse infant baptism? (Given there is not a specific text commanding the baptism of infants, I would argue that the Scriptural grounds for infant baptism involve 'trajectory' from the hints in Scripture to the full-blown practice of Anglicans).

Shawn said...

Hi Mark,

I have met many evangelicals who disagree with WO but nevertheless see it as second order issue and would not view it as harmful, so your explanation does not cut much ice with me, as I think it your personal opinion rather than, as you claim, the view if all who disagree with WO.

There are a growing number of conservative evangelical churches that allow for both pov to co-exist, including but not limited to the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, and the newly formed North American Lutheran Church, which broke from the Liberal ELCA.

Are you claiming that the ministers and laity who disagree with WO in those churches, but also see it as a second order issue and are happy to be in communion with those they disagree with, seriously view WO as harmful?

I do not think you can make that assertion with any credibility.

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

Regarding ‘harmful’

I think you’re right that they don’t use the word 'harmful'. I think it is the first time I’ve used it, to be honest—spelling things out so baldly and ungraciously never seemed necessary before. So ‘harm’ would not be the kind of language that I think leaders in Sydney would usually opt for.

Honestly, I only went there because I was struggling to come to grips with the outrage I was feeling over your accusation that they were being ungracious and coming up against what felt to me like ‘ships passing in the night’ between you and me in communication over the issue in trying to get their point of view across.

I’m fairly sure if I showed what I wrote to, say, most of the faculty at Moore, or some of the bishops, or the guys at Matthias they’d say, something like, ‘well d’uh’. But I could be surprised, and I think they’d be loathe to use such language themselves as it would tend to shed more heat than light in the way statements from Sydney tends to get ‘heard’ by people outside who disagree with them on a range of issues.

As for your three points, I’m basically sympathetic.

Where my ‘harmful’ comment is coming from is that it seems to me that in this debate we (ie. all of us) are saying that there is something good here. And it’s clearly not a minor good. You, for example, have sought to tie WO to the implications of the gospel and a Christian view of humanity. That’s pretty big guns for an issue. I think there’s relatively few things that we’d say are potentially closely tied to the gospel and a Christian anthropology—lay administration? Bishops? Infant or believer’s baptism?

If that is the kind of stakes that we are playing for—and increasingly people on the WO side seem to be saying that it is, that that is what is at stake in this question, then that works both ways. There’s no ‘moral hazard’ in theology, where you get to ante up against your opponent if you’re right and they’re wrong, but if it turns out you’re wrong and they are right then the stakes, so to speak, is much lower. The stakes are always the same in both directions in serious theological questions.

If WO brings a whole lot of good if it is right—which its proponents argue it does, then, given the way things work in the world God has made, it likely will bring a whole lot of harm if it is wrong. That’s how things have been with every other serious theological debate in history—the issue is equally good or harmful whichever way it cashes out, the only question is where the truth lies.

As you reflected on in point 2 – if something is good, then its opposite is harmful, even if we don't normally put it that way. And however strongly we weight the good, its opposite must be roughly in the same ballpark of harm. If this is an important issue that will bring much good, then if I’m wrong on this question, I’m not just wrong, but I’m doing something harmful. If you’re wrong the same logic applies.

I would have thought that was consistent with it being a second order issue. First order issues are the really scary ones. They’re things like the Trinity and the gospel. Get those substantially wrong and your hope of salvation shrinks markedly because they bear directly upon faith and repentance.

Second order issues aren’t salvation issues. But it doesn’t mean that aren’t really important, and can have huge effects for good or ill. I think you might be thinking of something more like third or fourth order issues for that—where I’d put something like lay administration or whether a group of churches has bishops or doesn’t, immerses or pours in baptism.

And thanks for letting me know where you’re coming from, Peter. I’ve always taken you to be on the side of the angels, your pained expressions of disbelief towards Sydney nothwithstanding, and a man worth listening to and (sometimes, as time permits) talking to. The strength of my comments reflect partly how I see these issues, and partly an attempt to match what feels to me was the tone of your earlier posts. It wasn’t a reflection on how I saw you.

Mark said...

Hi Shawn,

I think you and I are talking at cross purposes here.

You are speaking of people who disagree with the issue but don't see that much hangs on the question. Kind of like how there's people around who would rather have WO but aren't prepared to make any waves over the issue and are prepared to live without it.

I'm speaking of people who more actively oppose the issue. Fight to stop WO in their diocese, denomination, institution or the like, blog about it regularly, and the like.

I'm not saying that that second group is the entire group of people who disagree with WO, any more than I think those who agree with it are only found in the ranks of those who expend energy trying to introduce WO into areas where it hasn't reached yet.

There's supporters of WO who broke ranks over the vote for women bishops because they saw the provisions for opponents as insufficient. There's groups trying to find a way for both sides to live together in the same institutional network in various locations. But those groups, as you note, aren't really what I'm referring to when I'm speaking of people who are opposed to WO - by which I meant, dig in and fight to stop it occurring in their area.

Anonymous said...

I thought I had made it clear that I do not hold the positions that people continue to attribute to me. I have on more than one occasion taken a point that someone made and I repeated it but altered maybe a word or two. I did this when I thought that the statement was made without any foundations given - to show that, for me, the opposite could be just as true. I had clarified this, for example with Shawn, but he appears to have forgotten this. And others haven't read that. I find it a valuable way of thinking - to look at something from different sides. Others obviously do not.

Currently, I continue to find Mark makes the most sense by far.

Susan

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Mark for helpful and "non-harmful" elucidations!

Mark said...

Thanks Mark for helpful and "non-harmful" elucidations!

LOL. Nicely played :)

Tim Harris said...

Mark, with reference to the notion of 'catholic' not being adequately conveyed by 'universal':

In brief, the sense of the ‘church catholic’ conveys not only the extent and chronological continuity of the one church of God, but also the wholeness and completeness of doctrine derived from Christ and mediated through the apostles. It designates that which is universally accepted – and necessarily so (in contrast to heretical views and beliefs which over-emphasise some truths, create or omit others).

J. I. Packer has a helpful explication with reference to Cranmer: “To him, as to all the Reformers, Protestantism (unlike Anabaptistry) was precisely a quest for catholicism – that is, for solidarity with the church that Jesus founded… To the Reformers, as to the Fathers, catholicity was a theological and historical concept before it was a geographical or statistical one [ie. all believers throughout the world]; they saw the essence of catholicity as lying in faithfulness to the gospel word and sacramental usage given to the church by Christ through the apostles at the beginning.” (Packer, Honouring the People of God, 237)

What you appear to have misunderstood in my original comment was not intended personally. It does offer the substantive criticism that much of your commentary seems to imply that exegesis is on the side of those opposing WO, and that any 'classical' treatment of Scripture would arrive at this conclusion (a small minority aside). I debate that, and have pointed you to a number of major NT theologians who adopt a more positive view - at an exegetical level, as well as raising hermeneutical issues.

I would also point out that most anti-WO exegesis of 1 Tim 2 coming out in recent decades is historically novel and a departure from earlier interpretations ('classical views?'). Prior to about 1970, almost all interpretations understood 1 Tim. 2 to imply women's inferiority and proneness to deception - even Douglas Moo writing in 1980 spoke of women's 'susceptibility to deception' (he has since modified his view).

My point is that the basis for a good number of advocates for WO is not so much around 'egalitarianism' as such (I am wary of this particular label - it is no more helpful than 'equal but different'), but simply out of being quite unpersuaded by the exegesis put forward to prohibit WO in the claim of being 'biblical'. I have simply pointed out to you that significant biblical scholarship argues otherwise.

MichaelA said...

"I wonder if anything like this great edifice of gender hierarchy would be even considered, but for TWO verses (1 Cor. 11:3 & 1 Tim 2:11) - both (IMO) frequently exegeted out of context and with little regard to the units considered as a whole. And both contain uncertain elements at key points."

Tim, what really worries me is that you do not appear to understand the consevative evangelical position at all, yet you are very confident that you do understand it. I don't mean to pick on you personally, because I have found that most proponents of women leaders of churches suffer from the same defect of understanding - they criticise the position of those against women priests and bishops whilst only demonstrating a hazy understanding of it.

Good biblical exegesis always tends to move from the specific commands of Christ and his Apostles outward. The conservative evangelical position on woman leaders starts with specific commands, for example the following:

(a) In 1 Timothy 3, Paul teaches that only men are permitted to be overseers (episkopoi). This is in context of his teaching in the previous chapter that he permits no woman to teach a man or hold authority over a man.

(b) In Titus 1, Paul teaches that only men can be elders (presbyteroi).

Passages like the teaching on headship in 1 Corinthians 11, or the teaching on headship within the family in Ephesians 5 are useful to teach us the background to those prohibitions. So for example are the many passages in the Old Testament which illustrate the principle of headship.

I hope that assists to clarify the position.

Shawn said...

MichaelA

THE conservative evangelical position? Since when?

I hold to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Innerancy. I am a conservative evangelical. And I support WO, as do many others who are conservative evangelicals.

Your understanding of headship is based on a faulty understanding of Kephale, which does not denote authority, but means source or origin.

Shawn said...

Deborah was a prophetess and Judge of Israel, which means she both held a position of leadership and spoke the word of God. Thus she commanded authority.

Anonymous said...

Pharaoh held a position of leadership, while Balaam spoke the word of God. So did Balaam's ass, come to think of it.
Never shortchange the sovereignty of God.
If the Anglican Communion wishes to discuss the Ordination of Civil Magistrates and the Ordination of Prophets and Prophetesses in the Church of God, well - the former already happened under Constantine and medieval Europe (the Investiturstreit), while training programs for Prophets/-esses might be a little hard to arrange! :)

Martin (not a prophet nor the son of one)

Anonymous said...

"Your understanding of headship is based on a faulty understanding of Kephale, which does not denote authority, but means source or origin"

Not so - that meaning is almost unheard of in the period 300 BC - AD 300, and makes almost no sense in 1 Cor 11. Listen to Don Carson on the subject in 'The Geneva Push' - via ACL link.

Martin

MichaelA said...

Shawn,

The term "conservative evangelical" is regularly used on liberal blogs to refer to those who oppose the ordination of women. I use it because that's how many others use it. If you don't like my copying their usage, then I suggest that you go onto those blogs (e.g. Thinking Anglicans) and complain. I am more concerned about the substance of arguments than labels.

You wrote:
"Your understanding of headship is based on a faulty understanding of Kephale, which does not denote authority, but means source or origin."

Respectfully Shawn, you know virtually nothing about my understanding of headship. The point of my post above was that many people don't really understand the position of those who disagree with ordaining women. If you now want to debate "headship" I am happy to do so, but you really ought to ensure that you understand my position before attempting to critique it.

"Deborah was a prophetess and Judge of Israel, which means she both held a position of leadership and spoke the word of God. Thus she commanded authority."

So what? That is not a rhetorical question. Your sentence above just hangs in the air - why is the fact that Deborah was a judge an example that we in the Christian Church must follow? Samson also held office, and he slept with any woman he could find - if he had been considered for ordination as an elder in the NT by the Apostles he would have fallen at the very first hurdle: "husband of one wife"! We can't just assume because something is described in the book of Judges that it is normative for the Christian Church.

But it goes further - note that Deborah did nothing to overturn the male headship on which God based Israel's government: that priests could only be men, that elders could only be men.

Moreover, Deborah did her best to encourage a man to take the leadership:

"She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men ...'. Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
“Certainly I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honour will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” [Judges 4:6, 8-9]

As a man, Barak's role was to lead. Note how Deborah laments the failure of men to lead in Israel at that time:

"Villagers in Israel would not fight; they held back until I, Deborah, arose, until I arose, a mother in Israel.
God chose new leaders when war came to the city gates, but not a shield or spear was seen among forty thousand in Israel.
My heart is with Israel’s princes, with the willing volunteers among the people." [Judges 5:7-9]

Tim Harris said...

Hi MichaelA,
I understand the complementarian views on these passages all too well - I used to hold them myself, until I decided in my final year of Moore College to explore each passage in as much exegetical depth as possible. I have read and digested every major complementarian contribution from James Hurley, Paul Barnett (who argued the 1 Tim. 3 line), Douglas Moo, Wayne Grudem, Peter O'Brien, Phillip Jensen, Don Carson, Wayne Grudem, George W Knight III, , Kostenberger, John Piper, John Woodhouse (back in the '80's, and more recently on 1 Tim. 2)... believe me, I know the cases inside out.

It is not that I'm unfamiliar with the range of arguments (and it is a range - the 'complementarian' stance actually has a significant range of diversity and internal disagreement). And I can just as easily cite treatments by Leon Morris, F.F. Bruce, R.T. France, Francis Foulkes, Gordon Fee, David Scholer, Kevin Giles, Andrew Perriman, Philip Payne, Stanley Grenz, Ben Witherington III, Craig Keener, let alone pretty much every major critical commentary on the passages up you cite - and I have published exegetical studies on these passages myself.

Despite the quantity and quality of so much scholarship, I still hold that far too much 'headship' theology (which goes well beyond the semantic range of kephale understood as a metaphor - which al acknowledge has a range of possibilities). The simple fact is that no differentiation of role is indicated in 1 Cor. 11 - males and females both pray and prophesy - it is just how they are attired that is at issue, and the emphasis in the passage (signaled by 'plen') is found in vv.11-12. In my view, this 'in the Lord' perspective should guide our exegesis of the passage as a whole. The RSV setting these verses in parenthesis is pretty awful.

I have signaled my views on 1 Tim. 2 elsewhere, but other than noting the acknowledged rare verb authentejn (upon which too much should not be placed), the 'logic' of the passage has to grapple with v.14 (which is especially 'soft' in complementarian exegesis), and struggle with v. 15 as well. I published an article on this some time back, and still pretty much hold the same view now. You could consult Howard Marshall's ICC commentary, and Philip Paynes monograph for substantial consideration and rebuttal of complementarian exegesis.

With regard to 1 Tim. 3, you are pushing the conclusion too far. It does not forbid females in leadership specifically, and you might push the literal line regarding males to argue that those in leadership must be married to one wife (which would eliminate evangelical leaders throughout the ages...). In other words, in addressing the circumstances of those males who are married and exercise some oversight, Paul does not limit the ministry necessarily to only married men.

TBC...

Tim Harris said...

(Cont.) Alongside all this is significant NT evidence of women as prophets (a significant ministry in the NT church - despite Grudem's attempt to strip it of any authority - but compare Peter O'Brien's comments regarding prophets in Eph. 4 in his commentary); also Phoebe as a patroness and deacon (also a more authoritative ministry than allowed), Junia as an apostle (more than likely), a number of women who did teach in one context or another, and so on. Now attempts to minimalise the role of women I find curious, especially alongside significant women in authoritative roles in the OT, and also in the Gospel narratives etc.

I do wonder whether this whole determination to press male - female relations into roles (and hierarchical ones at that) would have anything like the currency it does if not for 1 Cor. 11:3 and 1 Tim. 2:12. And as I note, I am not suggesting we put them aside, but consider them in the context of the units they occur as a whole.

There is much more to be said (whether reference to kephale is applied to women's roles anywhere, or more specifically to husband - wife relations; and also the whole social context of wives engaging publicly with other women's husbands etc. - the focus of 1 Cor. 14:34 etc).

My point overall is that much is built on relatively slim exegetical grounds - IMHO. However, I do respect and acknowledge others who conclude otherwise. I just wish that respect and acknowledgement was reciprocated...

Peter Carrell said...

I would add, Tim, that curious hermeneutics are advanced. On a woman must not 'authentein' and only men may be overseers line, women should have long hair and wear a head covering. The latter in my experience is nearly always missing in conservative evangelical churches in NZ - even the Exclusive Brethren have all but dropped the head covering!

Shawn said...

I have read Don Carson on the issue. I have also read Gilbert Bilezikian's response to Don in the appendix to his book 'Beyond Sex Roles' and IMO he presents a pretty devastating critique of Don's claims, and cites a number of ancient sources, including Philo, Plutarch, and Plato, amongst a number of others to show that Kephale was used as origin without any heirarchical connotations, well before 300.

I get very tired if "you just don't understand my position" arguments.

Rubbish.

I have spent the last four years living in a theological college with an outstanding library. I have read Carson, Grudem, Piper and many others and I understand exactly what MichaelA means when he talks of headship.

And I understand the "complimentarian" arguments. But like Tim I think they are building a mountain out of a molehill, and not accurately identifying the molehill in the first place.

So please, no more "you just don't understand" arguments.

I have three books of systematic theology on my shelf and my two favorites are both written by "complimentarians", Wayne Grudem and Michael Horton.

And MichaelA, why on earth would you let a bunch of liberals at a place like unThinking Anglicans to define anything to do with evangelicalism, let alone who is or is not conservative?

Shawn said...

Hi MichaelA,

"So what? Why is the fact that Deborah was a judge and example that we in the Christian Church must follow?"

So your picking which bits of Scripture are relevant and which are not?

That's not a very conservative evangelical approach to Scripture.

The "so what" is this.

First, Deborah was both a Prophet and a Judge, which means she commanded a position of great authority which cannot be so easily dismissed, no matter how inconvenient to you.

Secondly, you yourself made the claim that your view on headship can be found in the OT. I was pointing out that it is not nearly that simple.

So if your going to cite a source (like the OT) as proof of your position, you can hardly then say "so what" when that is challenged by an example from the very source your using.

You cannot have it both ways. That's just skewing the rules to suit yourself.

Shawn said...

The model of leadership in both the OT and the NT us charismatic, that is, leaders are called and anointed by the Holy Spirit, who, in His Sovereign Lordship calls, gifts and anoints whomsoever He wills, with no concern for the rules of man.

That make leadership was the norm in the OT is true, as MichaelA points out. But "norm" and ironclad law are not the same thing. In times and seasons of need the Spirit sovereignly raises up whom He will to lead God's people and to act as prophets, a position of great authority as a prophet speaks the Word of the Lord. God's choice iof leaders may offend modern complimentarians, but God is sovereign.

In these last days God has announced both men and women as prophets, and thus as leaders, just as He did in the time of Deborah, to fulfill Gis mission.

As soldiers of God our job is to obey God!s charismatic, Spirit-centered leading, not block that leading by imposing man made rules that derived from sloppy and shallow exegesis.

God is no respecter of our traditions.

Anonymous said...

Shawn, to translate/interpret 1 Cor 11.3 as: 'The source of every man is Christ, and the source of the woman is man, and the source of Christ is God' leads to an odd result, and it's not clear what point is being made here. Is it to answer questions of origins or to say something a bit more substantive?
How Paul uses 'kephale' is the surer guide to his meaning.

Martin

MichaelA said...

Tim Harris you have covered a lot of issues, hence please excuse the length of my response:

1. "... believe me, I know the cases inside out."

I too could give a long list of the works I have read and the people I have debated, but neither you list nor mine would add anything relevant to this discussion.

2. "The simple fact is that no differentiation of role is indicated in 1 Cor. 11 - males and females both pray and prophesy"

How does that help your position? The word used for "pray" does not indicate of itself that the woman is leading the worship service – quite the contrary. For example, the "place of prayer" in Acts 16:13 where only women gathered uses the same word.

There is no point trying to read into 1 Cor 11:1-16 more than is actually there: Essentially, Paul emphasises to the Corinthians that they should not suborn the principle of headship by flouting recognised dress codes. There is nothing in that which is inconsistent with Paul's teaching in 1 Tim 3 or Titus 1 that men should lead the congregations.

3. "I have signaled my views on 1 Tim. 2 elsewhere, but other than noting the acknowledged rare verb authentejn (upon which too much should not be placed), the 'logic' of the passage has to grapple with v.14 (which is especially 'soft' in complementarian exegesis), and struggle with v. 15 as well."

Others would not see any grapple or struggle at all. Those verses fit logically within Paul's thesis.

4. "I published an article on this some time back, and still pretty much hold the same view now. You could consult Howard Marshall's ICC commentary, and Philip Paynes monograph for substantial consideration and rebuttal of complementarian exegesis."

Why? I have read a great deal on this topic, and there are hundreds more works (if not thousands) – I am confident that no single person on earth has read them all. But in the end they are all a re-hash of a quite limited set of substantive arguments. On this blog I am happy to consider and respond to any argument that is put forward.

5. "With regard to 1 Tim. 3, you are pushing the conclusion too far. It does not forbid females in leadership specifically…"

I disagree. I think both 1 Tim 3 and Titus 1 leave no room for women as the leader of a congregation or group of congregations.

To be cont.

MichaelA said...

My response to Tim Harris cont.

6. "In other words, in addressing the circumstances of those males who are married and exercise some oversight, Paul does not limit the ministry necessarily to only married men."

I agree, I don't think he does. Hence this point does not refute my position.

7. "Alongside all this is significant NT evidence of women as prophets (a significant ministry in the NT church"

Sure. What is the relevance of that to women leading churches?

8. "Also Phoebe as a patroness and deacon"

Again, I am left wondering – why is either function a difficulty for Paul's direction that women may not be elders or bishops?

9. "Junia as an apostle (more than likely)"

No, more than unlikely, in any sense relevant to women leading congregations.

10. "A number of women who did teach in one context or another"

Such as whom? E.g. Priscilla, who took a leader to her home to teach privately – why is this an issue for women leading congregations?

11. "Now attempts to minimalise the role of women I find curious, especially alongside significant women in authoritative roles in the OT, and also in the Gospel narratives etc."

Who is attempting to minimalise the role of women? Certainly not me. And I disagree that any of the women in OT or Gospel narratives assist your position, but if you would like to put forward specific examples, I am happy to discuss them.

12. "I do wonder whether this whole determination to press male - female relations into roles (and hierarchical ones at that) would have anything like the currency it does if not for 1 Cor. 11:3 and 1 Tim. 2:12."

Hmmm, by "currency" are you talking about the fact that the Christian Church for some 2,000 years has held that only men can be priests or bishops? Interesting definition of "currency"!

You do seem to want to keep the debate revolving around only 1 Cor 11:3 and 1 Tim 2:12, but unfortunately there is a lot more to it than that.

As for "hierarchical" – why is that a difficulty? That word has a broad meaning but whatever you mean by it, I think you will be hard-pressed to show that "kephale" in 1 Cor 11 has NO hierarchical connotations.

13. "There is much more to be said …"

No doubt, but it is not clear to me how the additional points you outline relate to the issue of whether the church should ordain women as priests and bishops.

14. "However, I do respect and acknowledge others who conclude otherwise. I just wish that respect and acknowledgement was reciprocated..."

Good. I am sure you will agree that my comments above have been quite a reasonable response to your accusation that those who believe as I do are guilty of "slight and tenuous biblical interpretation" which engenders in you "disbelief". You are entitled to say that – equally we are entitled to call you to account. You have set yourself a high bar.

MichaelA said...

Peter Carrell wrote:
"women should have long hair and wear a head covering."

I suggest that would be news to most evangelical Anglicans through the centuries, including Matthew Henry, George Whitefield and many others who considered that Paul is quite clear: his specific commands to the Corinthians were intended to put into practice the principle in 1 Cor 11:3.

I believe their iterpretation is the correct one, but if you believe that women should wear headgear regardless of what that says in our culture about the principle of headship, then I would be happy to read your reasons.

MichaelA said...

Shawn wrote:
1. "Kephale was used as origin without any heirarchical connotations, well before 300."

Thank you for finally putting your own position forward, instead of making assumptions about what I believe. You still are not very clear and even though I am quite familiar with the literature on this subject (including original sources) this makes it difficult to respond to you. But I will do my best:

I disagree with any assertion that "kephale" in 1 Cor 11 has no "hierarchical" connotations, essentially for two reasons which the authors you refer to either do not confront, or gloss over:

(a) The apostle Paul makes it clear that he understands "kephale" in a particular way, and it is his usage that is most important in understanding what he means – usage (or non usage) by pagan authors at other times is of extremely limited relevance.

(b) Secondary (but still important) evidence comes from the usage of "kephale" in the Septuagint. Paul and his readers were very familiar with this translation. Kephale is used on several occasions in LXX in a sense which can only be "hierarchical".

3. "And MichaelA, why on earth would you let a bunch of liberals at a place like unThinking Anglicans to define anything to do with evangelicalism, let alone who is or is not conservative?"

Why not? These things do not bother me.

4. "So your picking which bits of Scripture are relevant and which are not?
That's not a very conservative evangelical approach to Scripture."

I am not "picking" anything, but following scripture on its own terms – standard evangelical exegesis.

5. "First, Deborah was both a Prophet and a Judge, which means she commanded a position of great authority which cannot be so easily dismissed, no matter how inconvenient to you."

Since it is not at all inconvenient to me, I have no need to dismiss it. How does Deborah being a prophet and a judge assist your argument? Neither relates to those roles that were reserved for men in the Old Testament.

6. "Secondly, you yourself made the claim that your view on headship can be found in the OT. I was pointing out that it is not nearly that simple. So if your going to cite a source (like the OT) as proof of your position, you can hardly then say "so what" when that is challenged by an example from the very source your using."

The reason I wrote "So what" is because you never explained how the example of Deborah is supposed to contradict something I believe. Deborah did not purport to overturn the principles of headship in the Old Testament – she did not claim the right to be a priest, nor an elder of Israel, nor a clan leader.

7. "The model of leadership in both the OT and the NT us charismatic, that is, leaders are called and anointed by the Holy Spirit, who, in His Sovereign Lordship calls, gifts and anoints whomsoever He wills, with no concern for the rules of man."

Are you suggesting that the teachings of Moses or Paul are "the rules of man"? The Holy Spirit never called any woman to be an OT priest, because only men could be priests. Nor did He ever call a woman to fulfil levitical functions, because only male Levites could do so. Nor to be an elder in Israel, clan leader etc. Your "model of leadership" is not one that is reflected (at least in the sweeping terms you have used) in the OT.

8. "In these last days God has announced both men and women as prophets, and thus as leaders, just as He did in the time of Deborah, to fulfill Gis mission."

Prophets are not necessarily leaders, in fact they rarely are, in either OT or NT.

Shawn said...

"essentially for two reasons which the authors you refer to either do not confront, or gloss over:"

Neither. I think they deal with it head on.

"I am not "picking" anything, but following scripture on its own terms – standard evangelical exegesis."

Not really. If you badly misunderstand the meaning of a word then your not dealing with Scripture on it's own terms at all, but on yours.

"usage (or non usage) by pagan authors at other times is of extremely limited relevance."

Then why do "comlimentarians" keep bringing up the issue, as Martin did, as Carson does?

Lot's of "this is really relevant, oh know wait, it's really not" going on. Perhaps complimentarians" could make up their minds on this?

Historical evidence of how words were actually used is vitally important, no matter how, whats the word I'm looking for, oh right, inconvenient, it is.


"Are you suggesting that the teachings of Moses or Paul are "the rules of man"?"

No, I am suggesting your interpretations of them are.

"The Holy Spirit never called any woman to be an OT priest, because only men could be priests"

Priests were not leaders. Judges were.

"How does Deborah being a prophet and a judge assist your argument?"

By proving that women can be leaders.

The reason I wrote "So what" is because you never explained how the example of Deborah is supposed to contradict something I believe."

Because it does.

"Deborah did not purport to overturn the principles of headship in the Old Testament"

Probably because they did not exist in the way your claiming. She was a Judge. That was a leader. In fact it was God's preferred form of leadership, not male only Kings.

"she did not claim the right to be a priest, nor an elder of Israel, nor a clan leader. "

No. She was a Judge, which was a leader over both men and women, a point you keep avoiding.

"Prophets are not necessarily leaders, in fact they rarely are, in either OT or NT."

They often are, as they are often the only true leaders of God's people when institutional leaders are corrupt.

Tim Harris said...

Hi again MichaelA,

Thanks for your detailed responses - I am far from convinced, but your line of argument is clear. My noting of the extent of my reading over the years was not designed to prove anything - except respond to your charge that I didn't understand complementarian lines of argument (nothing more).

While it would be tempting to respond in detail (for instance on your reply to Shawn that Deborah had not authority akin to male leaders - the role of 'Judge' was very much an authoritative leadership role - even over her generals whom she dispatched).

However, rather than our arguning around in circles, let me keep it to one point and question.

With regard to 1 Tim. 2:14, why do your think Paul mentioned Eve's deception? How does it contribute to the 'logic' of the unit?

I am genuinely interested in your view - what point is Paul making?

Just to be upfront with my own thinking on this - there are only two avenues of interpretation of 1 T 2 available to us (although happy to hear a case otherwise). We either exegete it as an 'all times and all places' instruction, grounded in creational order and applicable regardless of context, or it is a specific injunction in the sense of 'in these circumstances', and addresses the scenario outlined in ch. 1, but not intended for 'all times and all places'. If it is the former, then Paul's reference to Eve's deception must infer a creational proneness to deception, and Paul's argumentation is rather weak (as Calvin concluded if memory serves) - for what mode of 'teaching' and exercise of general 'authority' did Eve display when she didn't even speak, instruct or order Adam (in terms of the narrative)? - and being a creational issue, the 'logic' must apply throughout society at large and any measure of authority exhibited by a woman contravenes this (claimed) creational order. Now I don't believe this is what Paul is arguing at all. If the reference to Eve's deception is addressing the present circumstances in which women were being targeted by FT and displaying behaviour of propagating such (false) teaching and domineering over men, then the passage makes much more coherent and contextual sense.

Now my point is not that everything is clear, but that there are significant interpretative problems with more recent complementarian approaches than is usually acknowledged (and such interpretations are historically novel in any event), and the passage as a whole (including v.15) is far from clear and raises a number of interpretive challenges - on any reading.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi MichaelA,
I am thinking of the way in which Paul invokes 'nature' itself as teaching about short/long hair; also the strength of language used re 'disgrace' and the like. I am unfamiliar with what evangelical Anglicans such as Matthew Henry (wasn't he a Presbyterian?) have to say, but I am wondering if there is an interpretation at work among non-head covering, short haired Anglican women which suggests a certain adroitness at handling Paul's instructions!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi MichaelA // Tim
I agree with Tim: it is very important to hear what an argument for 1T2:12 applying universally has to say about the meaning of 1T2:13-14, and a thought about 2:15 would be good too. The four verses, 2:12-15, are incredibly difficult to work out as a whole unit (see any decent commentary as it twists and turns its way through variant understandings of 'child-birth'). But the unit becomes a little easier to understand if the circumstance is local, around false teachers teaching sex/body is bad (so affirming child-bearing is an antidote to that), and the specific action prohibited is 'usurping authority' rather than 'exercising authority according to proper appointment.'

It is, incidentally, a reading into the text that 1T2:12 only prohibits women teaching mixed congregations but not Priscilla teaching a man privately with her husband present. It is the inconsistency between 1T2:12 and Priscilla's valued-by-Paul ministry which leads me to the conclusion that it does not constitute a basis for banning all women, in every generation, across every culture from ever teaching men in a mixed congregation!

MichaelA said...

Tim Harris, you wrote:
"With regard to 1 Tim. 2:14, why do your think Paul mentioned Eve's deception? How does it contribute to the 'logic' of the unit?"

I think he is reminding the reader of how the proper order was twisted in Genesis 3. Its not just that Adam and Eve sinned - Eve shouldn't have been taking the lead in debating with the servant. She made all the decisions, and Adam just stood there mute (note that he was with her - despite the popular myth that the serpent spoke to her in Adam's absence). But that was a perversion of the created order: Adam should have been the leader, the namer, the head (Gen 2:23) and Eve should have been the helper fit for him (Gen 2:21) to whom he could turn for godly counsel.

Therefore God explicitly condemns Adam in Genesis 3:17 for two reasons, and the first of them is not because he ate the fruit, but because he wimped out from his godly duty of headship: "Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you...".

You also wrote:
"If it is the former, then Paul's reference to Eve's deception must infer a creational proneness to deception"

I do believe it is the former, but I don't think Paul is thinking of a creational proneness. Rather, he is pointing out what the roles are and telling us to stick to them. Adam and Eve were equal in just about all respects, but when it came time to make a decision that affected their destiny, Eve should not have been making a unilateral decision. Eve did all the talking with the serpent, and then took action, and Adam just stood there and let her.

Peter said: "...a thought about 2:15 would be good too."

The thing that leaps out at me about 1 Tim 2:15 is the obvious reference to the woman's punishment in Genesis 3:16. There is a curse on Adam - Paul goes into that in great detail in other places; but there is also a curse on Eve and in this passage that is what he is exploring. I believe he is making the point that believing women are freed from the eternal side of the curse but conversely they should not repeat that sin which was purely Eve's - taking over beyond their allotted role.

MichaelA said...

Peter,
You've got me there - yes Matthew Henry was a presbyterian minister! I guess I join the long list of Anglicans like Whitefield and J,. C. Ryle who would subconsciously like to appropriate him, but we are caught out yet again.

Henry is worth discussing because his influence on evangelicals of all stripes has been vast over the past three centuries. In his comentary on 1 Cor 11:1-16 he emphasises verse 3 as being the principle on which the whole passage turns.

FWIW, I agree with him. In a society where wearing uncovered hair is a sign of women's submission, I believe it would be perverting the intent of Paul in 1 Cor 11 to insist that women cover their head while praying.

Tim Harris said...

MichaelA,
Thanks for the reply, but with respect, you haven't answered the key question. I'm not asking whether Paul may (or may not) have been appealing to some creational order and perhaps Gen. 3 more generally. I'm asking why does he refer to Eve's *deception*, and not Adam's? It is not Eve's sin, but her *deception* that in the logic of the passage has some ongoing significance that is true if women as a whole, and the reason they should not be teaching.

The interpretation of this passage for millennia has been that women are more prone to deception and therefore not equipped to teach - I'm wondering whether you agree...? The interpretation you outline above (but avoiding reference to deception) is historically a novel one (only advanced in recent decades - that it is about roles and not creational ontology.

MichaelA said...

"Thanks for the reply, but with respect, you haven't answered the key question."

Tim, I think I have, but I appreciate this type of argument is not easy to follow in a blog format. I will expand, but first note that I disagree with you that Eve's sin does not have ongoing significance – I believe it is the primary focus of Paul's discourse, but not her sin of eating the fruit; rather her sin of perverting the proper order (and Adam's sin of letting her do it, but Paul is focussing on Eve at this point, not Adam).

Paul knows that Adam sinned in eating the fruit – his point in saying Eve sinned not Adam is that he is referring to a different sin, referred to in Genesis 3:16b-17. Eve sinned by taking the lead, not only in arguing with the serpent, but also in eating and in directing her husband to eat.

Therefore from my perspective, 1 Tim 2:13-14 make perfect sense: "For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And [Yet] Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner [i.e. by usurping his headship]."

[Note the reference to deception again takes us back to Genesis 3, this time verses 12 and 13 – the woman's excuse is that she was deceived, but the man's excuse is that the woman gave it to him, i.e. directed him to eat]

Paul's emphasis is not on Eve being more *prone* to deception, but on Eve having overturned the proper order and taken a lead which was not hers to take. Hence the point of the following sentence, verse 15, which culminates in the crucial adjective sophrosune – NIV "propriety" is a really inadequate translation – Sophrosune was the goddess of restraint, temperance and moderation. With this word Paul is referring (in an opposing sense) to the second part of Genesis 3:16, i.e. telling women to do the reverse of Eve's sin.

You wrote:
"The interpretation you outline above (but avoiding reference to deception) is historically a novel one (only advanced in recent decades - that it is about roles and not creational ontology."

Actually, I think my view has a good pedigree, and it is a pity that it has been forgotten in the last few decades: (a) Matthew Henry on this passage refers only to authority and the created order, nothing at all about lack of capacity. In fact, he emphasises that women can be perfectly good teachers, they just may not do it in the assembly. (b) John Calvin also does not refer to any tendency on the part of women to be deceived, but bases this passage on Eve's usurpation of authority.

MichaelA said...

Peter wrote:
"It is the inconsistency between 1T2:12 and Priscilla's valued-by-Paul ministry..."

A point to consider: Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:14-15 that his foregoing instructions were for public worship. Therefore I would only see an inconsistency between 1 Timothy 2 and Acts 18:26 if Priscilla had tried to instruct Apollos in the assembly of believers.

MichaelA said...

Tim Harris, this excerpt from St Gregory of Nyssa (4th century AD) is also interesting – sounds very similar to Mathew Henry's and John Calvin's arguments re Eve's disobedience in 1 Tim 2:14:

"And the fact too that this grace [Christ's resurrection] was revealed by means of a woman, itself agrees with the interpretation which we have given. For since, as the Apostle tells us, “the woman, being deceived, was in the transgression,” and was by her disobedience foremost in the revolt from God, for this cause she is the first witness of the resurrection, that she might retrieve by her faith in the resurrection the overthrow caused by her disobedience, and that as, by making herself at the beginning a minister and advocate to her husband of the counsels of the serpent, she brought into human life the beginning of evil, and its train of consequences, so, by ministering to His disciples the words of Him Who slew the rebel dragon, she might become to men the guide to faith, whereby with good reason the first proclamation of death is annulled." [Against Eunomius, Book XII, 1] See http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf205.viii.i.xiv.i.html

St Cyril of Jerusalem lived at the same time as Gregory. He cites 1 Tim 2:12 as a reason for young women to keep their voices low in church while men deliver the teaching, but he never refers to women being vulnerable to deception as a reason for this. See http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf207.ii.iv.html

The above is not meant to prove my point, just a response to your query re how long this line of teaching has been around.

Peter Carrell said...

I like that quote from Greg Nyssa. He sounds like a WO man!

Tim Harris said...

As with Peter - an interesting quote from St. Gregory of Nyssa (I appreciate your drawing it to our attention). However, (at first glance - I will need to check the context) I think it suggests something quite different to your line of interpretation - and in fact supports my side of things. Eve's sin was indeed a rebellion against God (no argument there) - but not against some 'order of creation'

The quote seems to be quite clear ''by making herself at the beginning a minister and advocate to her husband *of the counsels of the serpent*. It was the act of being 'being minister and advocate' in itself (as sin against order), but the content of such ministry.

This is clearly paralleled by another (commended!) ministry becoming 'to men a guide to faith' which forms part of women's redemption.

The warning and focus in understanding Eve's sin is in the danger of passing on or ministering false teaching - precisely Paul's concern in the PE - where reference to 'deception' is consistently referring to the danger of FT (hence the contextual link and clue to understanding Eve's deception).

As far as I have been able to trace the 'transgressing the order of creation' line of interpretation, I have only been able to trace it to the 1980's and in some measure relating to an article on Gen. 2-3 by Jerome T Walsh where he proposed a synchronic reading of the second creation narrative (and picked up by John Woodhouse).

As interesting as I find the quote from Gregory of Nyssa, I read it as very much part of the 'Eve' speculations and mythology that were prolific from the late first century on - with the focus on how Eve's error was in teaching dangerous errors and evil - the content of her 'teaching', not the act in itself.

Either way, the commendation of her redeeming role in becoming 'to men a guide to faith' sounds like a good precedent for WO to me!

Tim Harris said...

Just to clarify the mistyped paragraph (previous typed on an iPad):

Corrected: "The quote seems to be quite clear ''by making herself at the beginning a minister and advocate to her husband *of the counsels of the serpent*..." It wasn't the act of being 'being minister and advocate' in itself (as sin against order), but the content of such ministry. "

The sentence has two examples of ministry by women set side by side - one negative, the other positive. The structure makes it clear that it is not the ministry per se at fault, but the content of the message.

Anonymous said...

Shawn writes: "If you badly misunderstand the meaning of a word then your not dealing with Scripture on it's own terms at all, but on yours.

"usage (or non usage) by pagan authors at other times is of extremely limited relevance."

Then why do "comlimentarians" [sic] keep bringing up the issue, as Martin did, as Carson does?"

It's the egalitarians who bring up the issue, not the complementarians. In no way do I claim to be an expert, but I have studied NT Greek off and on for over 30 years, and Classical Greek rather intensively in the past 4-5 years, along with a longstanding interest in diachronic and synchronic linguistics. (Moises Silva is a great place to start for students of the Bible.)
Words have their meaning in (1) a writer's normal usage; (2) the wider contemporary usage.'kephale = source' strikes me as odd and forced for 1 Cor 11, and I struggle to follow Fee here. Context is king. Recently I watched David Lean's 1946 'Great Expectations' where the characters say they 'will go to London and be gay'. I don't imagine the new version just released has that line in it! All the same, I think 'gay' was even then beginning to acquire its modern (exclusive!) sense.

Shawn has not answered the repeated observations by MichaelA and me that the OT and NT charismatic offices of prophet have no bearing on the NT ordained ministry of presbyter-teachers of congregations.

Martin

Martin

MichaelA said...

Tim Harris,
1. We appear to be running off at a tangent. You asserted above:

"The interpretation you outline above (but avoiding reference to deception) is historically a novel one (only advanced in recent decades - that it is about roles and not creational ontology)."

I was surprised at your confidence, as I have found "my" interpretation to be a common and unremarkable one over many years. In response, I pointed out that this interpretation is found in John Calvin and Matthew Henry, who may not be valued in your circles, but for millions of evangelicals around the world are basic texts.

You haven't responded to this, but instead claim that "I have only been able to trace it to the 1980's". Perhaps that is so, but I fail to see the relevance.

2. Re Gregory of Nyssa – I pointed this out as an interesting passage from the 4th century. Gregory says nothing about deception, nor is there any trace of "creational ontology". Same for Cyril of Jerusalem.

3. I note that you now want to assert that this passage from Gregory can be made to agree with your position on the ordination of women! I will guarantee that it can't – we have quite a lot written by Gregory of Nyssa and he never hints that he thinks women should be ordained. Like all orthodox fathers, he is quite at home with the teaching about Mary carrying the news of the resurrection to the apostles and does not consider it inconsistent with the requirement that priests and bishops be male.

4. You wrote:
"As interesting as I find the quote from Gregory of Nyssa, I read it as very much part of the 'Eve' speculations and mythology that were prolific from the late first century on - with the focus on how Eve's error was in teaching dangerous errors and evil - the content of her 'teaching', not the act in itself."

Really? Do you have any references to these alleged "speculations and mythology"?

And I am sorry, but I find your assertion that Gregory's refutation of Eunomius can be classified in such a way to be laughable.

5. You wrote:
"Either way, the commendation of her redeeming role in becoming 'to men a guide to faith' sounds like a good precedent for WO to me!"

To someone who is determined to find precedents for WO in anything they read, regardless of its content, I am sure it does!

However, to someone who reads objectively, there is nothing in this passage to indicate that Gregory of Nyssa thought that women could be ordained as elders and bishops.

Shawn said...

Hi Martin,

First, I am not an egalitarian. My support for WO has nothing to do with notions of equality.

Secondly, I thought I had answered the claim by your good self and Michael on that issue, but if not I will state it again.

I do think the the office of Prophet has bearing, for the same reason I think the example of Deborah has bearing, because both are examples from Scripture of women having teaching and leadership authority.

The NT has a very fluid and unfixed approach to Church leadership. It is pragmatic, contextual and Spirit led. You yourself have pointed out that the concept of ordination is not in the NT.

If the anti-WO position is to maintain consistency, then it must assert that women can never have any authority over men in any circumstances, and it must be able to prove that from Scripture.

But I think anti-WO advocates play a shell game with the issue, and I see that in MichaelA's posts.

When clear examples of women exercising leadership in the community as Judges or spiritual authority through the office of Prophet are brought up, then it is claimed that these examples are not about elders/ministers in in the NT church.

But that undermines the very argument being made by "complimentarians", because that argument is based on reading Paul as saying that women must never exercise such authority. Note that in 1 Timothy 2 Paul does not mention the office of elder/presbyter. So if the "complimentarian" reading of Paul is right then it is a blanket ban on women exercising authority under ANY circumstances, through ANY office.

But such a blanket ban is, I assert, contradictory to the witness of Scripture, where in fact we DO have examples of women teaching men and/or having authority over men, Deborah and the office of Prophet being just two examples out of many.

And because of those examples we get this shell game from "complimentarians" which gies like this: "Sure Deborah exercised authority over men, but that is not relevant because it was in that particular office, not this other one. And sure women Prophets speak the word of the Lord which all God's people must obey, but that is ok because it's done through this office and not the other one. And sure there are examples of women teaching men, but that's ok because their husbands were with them at the time."

But to me all of this seriously undermines the "complimentarian" position.

First, if the comp reading of Paul is right, then none of the examples of women teaching, speaking the word of the Lord, acting as Judges, and commanding whole armies of men should exist in Scripture at all. The fact that they do forces "complimentarians" into impressive displays of mental gymnastics to try and explain them away.

Secondly, if the comp reading of Paul is right then women should NEVER teach or exercise authority over men through ANY office. Saying it's ok in one office but not in another totally undermines the comp argument, and in fact at that point it begins to descend into absurdity, surrounded by so many caveats that it is rendered meaningless. This is what Jesus meant by "straining at gnats and swallowing camels."

Shawn said...

The reason that I have put the lable complimentarian in scare quotes in my previous posts is that I consider myself to be a complimentarian, rightly understood, and in an older, more traditional way than is used by the anti-WO proponents, whose notions of strict gender "roles" owes more to the Victorian age and the industrial revolution than to a genuinely pre-modern traditionalism. In fact the term "role" for understanding gender is an invention of modern theater ( as in "playing a role" ) and not in any way traditional.

I reject the lable egalitarian totally.

As anyone familiar with my posts will know I oppose notions of equality and egalitarianism as contrary to the created natural order, and the spawn of the modern world, which I despise.

Tim Harris said...

MichaelA, I suspect we have pushed some of these barrows far enough on this thread. I will let much that you have noted 'through to the keeper' - including your note that Calvin and Matthew Henry wouldn't be valued in my circles... given that I am a conservative evangelical I am not sure what you are implying. I continue to commend Calvin to my students (especially his commentaries), and often consult them. Matthew Henry I have on my shelf, but he hasn't featured much as an exegete in my circles - Moore College and the like...

You seem to have taken very seriously my (somewhat obvious) tongue in cheek comments about Gregory of Nyssa's support for 'WO' - just to clarify, I am not seriously suggesting anything of he sought, other than to note that he appears to affirm women's ongoing ministry to men in proclaiming the resurrection.

Whilst I have read (and occasionally re-read) the Cappadocian Fathers, I claim no particular expertise in this area. However, you do ask about speculations regarding Eve, her deception and status in Jewish and gnostic mythology. If you want details, you might consult A. T. Hanson's classic text 'Studies in the Pastoral Epistles' (1968), 65-77, where he has treatments of a range of texts. The reference to FT in terms of 'myths and endless genealogies, ... speculations' in 1 Tim 1:4 certainly suggests something of this background.

A number of passages in Philo - to quote one example: 'Questiones in Genesis', 1:33 'And woman is more accustomed to be deceived than man'

See also 'Life of Adam and Eve' (Apocalypse of Moses - 29:9); 2 Enoch 31:6; 4 Macc 18:6-8; and a number of gnostic texts (cited in K. Rudolf, 'Gnosis' ((1983), 211-2, 215-6, 270-2.

My historical reading is far from exhaustive, but I do detect a connection between the way creation or nature has made woman inferior and weaker than men - e.g.. John Chysostom 'the female sex is weak and vain' (Homily 9 on 1 Timothy); which is not dissimilar to Calvin's 'the weakness of her sex makes woman more timorous and timid' - in contrast to possible confusion 'even the most manly minds' (on 2:15); compare on 2:12 '...women who by nature...are born to obey', and the 'government of women' an 'unnatural monstrosity' - referring to society at large. Do you follow Calvin in the above?

No need to reply - up until this point it has been a genuinely interesting discussion, but I suspect we are losing steam somewhat...

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn (12.20am)
I agree with you on a very important comment which hit several nails on the head. There is (indeed) a strange focus on the offices of presbyter/episcopos as fixed from day one as "male only" and "never can be a male" when the NT's witness is fluid and incomplete re ministry orders. I also like your point re the authority displayed by judges and prophets: it is inconsistent with 1 T 2:12 if that verse is taken as both an absolute and a universal prohibition.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tim,
Ditto re Greg Nyssa's comment as supporting WO but he himself would not have.
I like your hint that when we laud the commentators of the past we are not acknowledging their larger world view which placed women as inferior to men.
If today we accept the authority of women over us (writing as a man) as our doctor, lecturer, accountant, even Prime Minister, then we are living in a world very different from the Cappadocians, Calvin and even most commentators up to the 1950s/60s.
To accept that women are capable of teaching us correctly which medicines to take, which theory of nuclear physics is correct, how to invest our money, and what to do with an over supply of uranium ore [ :), only in Oz!] and then assert women are not capable of teaching theology correctly is a bifurcation of the reality of our world which the Cappadocians and Calvin would not have comprehended in their day.

Now let me be quite speculative, but building on the insight of Greg Nyssa as discussed above: they were very clever and adept exegetes and hermeneuts, those blokes: I suggest they would, were they theologising today, be quite able to draw a consistent interpretation from Scripture into the context of today's world, without bifurcating either their interpretation or their experience of this world.

Anonymous said...

Peter, you are talking about Christian 'teaching' as if it were primarily the imparting of doctrinal information. It isn't. It's about the ongoing formation of Christian character and the call to Christian obedience (warfare, even). I have known a number of female preachers, a few of whom have been reasonably good at exegesis, but I confess to having a hard job learning about being a Christian man / husband / father from them. Maybe women would make the same comment about men. Did you read the link I gave to titusonenine about the heavily feminized churches of Canada? The feminine psyche is different in many ways from men.

Martin

Anonymous said...

Shawn, I didn't call you an egalitarian, I was answering your question about complEmentarians (I hope all men are complImentarians to their Christian sisters!)
I think MichaelA (along with my own 2 cents' worth) has adequately answered the question of judges (an office not found in the NT) and prophets - which is not a teaching or ruling office in the NT but a charismatic endowment of the Spirit. I don't know any prophets myself, just one or two who think they are.
Peter's comment at 6.04 am (get some sleep, man!) that NT offices 'are fluid and incomplete' is a standard A. T. Hanson line but would be rejected by Roger Beckwith in his little monograph 'Elders in Every City' - and if true, basically torpedoes Anglican ecclesiology and sacramentalism. The Brethren would rejoice to read this!

Anyway, I am glad we have been able to have this debate without ad hominems flying. As evangelicals our united concern has been to exegete Scripture in a unified way, not to dismiss it.

Martin

Ma

Shawn said...

Good point Peter about doctors, scientists and Prime Ministers.

My master plan for right wing global domination involves cloning a whole army of Margaret Thatchers and setting them loose on the world!

I'll be getting to that once my preparations for the invasion of Poland are in order.

My wife thinks I have too much time on my hands.

Can't think why.....

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
A desire to learn how to be a Christian man/husband/father is laudable and properly met by learning-in-a-formational-way from a male teacher. But arguments for WO are not arguments against such formation.

Arguments against WO are not arguments for women learning how to be Christian women etc from men and there is no reason why arguments for WO should be arguments against men being formed Christianly by men. I have never personally encountered an ordained women vicar who inhibited men's ministry to men.

MichaelA said...

Hi Tim,

Point taken - I think I stayed up too late the other night, alternating between work and blogging - never a good idea.

Thank you for the references. I think we would have material for a long discussion on what Calvin (and some others) is/are actually saying, but I agree our discussion seems to have moved right away from the original issue.

MichaelA said...

"If today we accept the authority of women over us (writing as a man) as our doctor, lecturer, accountant, even Prime Minister, then we are living in a world very different from the Cappadocians, Calvin and even most commentators up to the 1950s/60s."

Peter, I suggest you have a quite unrealistic view of ancient and medieval society!

You also appear to make no distinction between the "authority" of a doctor, of a lecturer, of an accountant, and of a national leader. Seriously?

"To accept that women are capable of teaching us correctly which medicines to take, which theory of nuclear physics is correct, how to invest our money, and what to do with an over supply of uranium ore [ :), only in Oz!] and then assert women are not capable of teaching theology correctly is a bifurcation of the reality of our world..."

I must have missed the bit where someone asserted that women are not capable of teaching theology - where did this come from?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael,
We are talking about women teaching men. I think they are capable of teaching theology to men. As far as I can tell you do not think they should do that. I am arguing that we live in a world which does not have the suspicion of women that the Church Fathers had, a suspicion that gave rise to some execrable things they said about women. In this world, outside the church, and inside it, there is no particular reason why women should not teach men or have (proper, appointed, that is not-usurped) authority over men.

If we are agreed that women are capable of teaching theology, then is there any reason why they cannot teach men in a world which sees no reason why they cannot exercise authority and teach in other areas of life?

MichaelA said...

"As far as I can tell you do not think they should do that."

I am just at my wit's end Peter - how often can I write something and have you apparently not even read it?

I have REPEATEDLY made clear my view that scripture teaches that Priscilla was quite within her rights to teach Apollos, just not in the assembly of believers. And yet you still turn the views of others into the only thing you can understand. I suppose its a good substitute to actually listening to them.

"I am arguing that we live in a world which does not have the suspicion of women that the Church Fathers had, a suspicion that gave rise to some execrable things they said about women."

Peter, really. The church fathers are not a monolith. They held a range of views on most issues, and that particularly applies to their views on women which you somehow manage to throw without distinction into a single basket (even the limited number of passages of the Church Fathers that you refer to).

"If we are agreed that women are capable of teaching theology, then is there any reason why they cannot teach men in a world which sees no reason why they cannot exercise authority and teach in other areas of life?"

Gee, I don't know - do you think the command of God in scripture might be relevant?

And, is there any reason why you are bringing up "a world which sees no reason why ..."? We are to conform to the world - okay, got it.

MichaelA said...

Peter,

I must apologise for the tone of my last comment. You don't deserve that, particularly as you go to the trouble of making this conversation possible, through hosting it. I am going to give this a rest for a while. Have a Happy Christmas.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi MichaelA,
No problem :)
The question(s) which sits in the air for me (and I am NOT asking you to answer it, both in view of your discussion to date and your having a rest) is this:

Women can teach theology, even to men, but not in a public, mixed gender setting: why is that? If the command of God is against that, what is God up to in giving that command?