Saturday, December 8, 2012

The church fathers were biased against women

One of the little problems I have with putting too much weight on the 'tradition' of the church is that it is  mixed bag. If, to take an instance relevant to this week here on ADU, we ask whether the church fathers who did not agree that a woman could be a priest or bishop were biased for or against women, or even just plain neutral, then the evidence mounts up that their bias was against women:

From Wikipedia:"

Woman as the root of all evil

Tertullian's views on women went further: "The curse God pronounced on your sex still weighs on the world. …You are the devil's gateway…. You are the first that deserted the divine laws. All too easily you destroyed the image of God, Adam. Because you deserved death, it was the son of God who had to die".[5]
St Jerome, the well known Biblical scholar and translator of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate) had a simple view of women. To him "woman is the root of all evil." [6] Like all the early Christian theologians, Jerome glorified virginity and looked down on marriage. He reasoning, was also rooted in Genesis: "Eve in paradise was a virgin ... understand that virginity is natural and that marriage comes after the Fall." [7]
Firmilian tells of a woman who went into an ecstasy and came out a prophetess. "That woman who first through marvels or deceptions of the demons did many things to deceive the faithful, among other things... she dared to do this, namely that by an impressive invocation she feigned she was sanctifying bread, and offering a sacrifice to the Lord." [8]

[edit]Women as the weaker sex

John Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople at the beginning of the 5th century, said of biblical women that they "were great characters, great women and admirable…. Yet did they in no case outstrip the men, but occupied the second rank" (Epistle to the Ephesians, Homily 13). Commenting on 1 Timothy 2:11-15,
Chrysostom said that "the male sex enjoyed the higher honor. Man was first formed; and elsewhere he shows their superiority…. He wishes the man to have the preeminence in every way." Of women he said that "The woman taught once, and ruined all. On this account therefore he saith, let her not teach. But what is it to other women, that she suffered this? It certainly concerns them; for the sex is weak and fickle, and he is speaking of the sex collectively." (1 Timothy, Homily 9).
Augustine elevated the contempt of women and sex to a level unsurpassed before. To him, women's inferiority to men was so obvious [9] that he felt that he had to ask the question: "Why was woman created at all".[6] He concluded that woman was created purely for procreation and for nothing else.[10] The expulsion of Adam and Eve from paradise, according to him, was purely the fault of Eve.[11]

[edit]Women as creatures of lust

Gregory of Nazianzus, the Bishop of Constantinople had this to say about women, "Fierce is the dragon and cunning the asp; But women have the malice of both."
According to the theologian Origen, women are worse than animals because they are continuously full of lust.[12] Origen does not approve of the sexual act even in marriage and taught that although widowers can remarry, they are by no means crowned for this.[6] He also argued in his commentary on 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 that female prophets never spoke publicly in the assembly.[4]
St. Clement of Alexandria had such a contempt for women that he believed such a feeling must be universal. He wrote, in his book Paedagogus that in women, "the consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame". He also suggested that women should also fetch from the pantry things that we need.[13]
Gregory of Nyssa taught that the sexual act was an outcome of the fall and that marriage is the outcome of sin.[6]"

Even the great John Chrysostom was clear, women occupy "the second rank." There is no way to women being ordained presbyters and bishops from a point of view that women occupy the second rank of humanity. It is beholden, I suggest, or, the burden of proof falls on those who still will not admit women to the priesthood and episcopacy, to distance themselves from any thinking that women "occupy the second rank." Conversely, it is worth asking if the church fathers had had a view of women as of the same rank as men, whether they would have admitted women to the orders of the church as they were clarified in that era.

(If you don't like Wiki; try here).

The inferiority of women in the minds of some Christians is still being played out today in the Western world. Recently the Bristol University Christian Union has made the news for a partial ban on women speaking at their events. In keeping with the thinking of some here, the ban didn't apply if women were accompanied by their husbands. Following uproar the partial ban has been lifted. See here, here, and here. The Times also has reported, as conveyed in our Press today (but no links, as behind paywall). In the Press re-carried article a letter to the Bristol Uni student newspaper is cited, written by 'A True Christian':

"Women shouldn't have the opportunity to speak at meetings due to their inferior relationship with God. Eve was the first sinner and so all women are born with original sin. Therefore they should not try and tarnish the men with this sin and should not be able to teach at meetings." [B4, The Press, 8/12/2012].

Those thoughts are straight from the Church Fathers!!

I am very glad the BUCU has changed its mind and do not agree with 'A True Christian'.

I am very sad that some people in the church today have drawn up a rule (from the historical report of Priscilla and Aquila working together) that women may teach if their husbands are present. There is no such rule in Scripture and we should lay that canard to rest. The BUCU would not have gotten into the messy situation it has been in if it had not accepted this false rule in the first place. (Incidentally, headship means that Priscilla the teacher is as much under the headship of her husband if he is two metres from her when she teaches as when she is two hundred miles from him teaching at a conference: his husbandliness and her wifeliness have nothing to do with geography!)

I put it again, and I feel now I will not cease from doing so: when we interpret Scripture to yield rules which constrain the ministry of women but not of men, even worse when we invoke the Fathers in support, we implicitly subscribe to notions that women ARE inferior to men, because we are accepting that they are a 'class' of humanity that should be constrained when men should not.

This class distinction within humanity should stop: in Sydney, in Rome, in REFORM and in Forward in Faith. To so interpret Scripture is a betrayal of the fundamental truth of the gospel that we men and women are one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), and it is a fundamental misunderstanding that this basic creed only about our baptised life in Christ in general. This basic creed drives a gospel understanding of our life together in Christ in all its dimensions, including ministry and mission.

There is neither inferiority in women as teachers nor inferiority in women as representatives of the God who made them and the Christ who created them nor inferiority in women as sinners compared to men. There are no roles in the life of the church laid down in Scripture for women or men which only one sex may have, save from the biological roles of mother and father.  

If it is not obvious that the application of the creed 'equal but different' (which has no actual underlying text in Scripture) results in a plethora of rules for modern church life which are both an incoherent mix and a construction of a 'new Law' for gospel people, then I accept that the creed and its resultant rules will govern large sections of Christianity for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless I put it to all readers here who sincerely and respectfully read Scripture as teaching 'equal but different' that this reading of Scripture has had its day. For those who also see it as a reading commended by Tradition, a massive rethink is needed given the bias of the Church Fathers against women. It is a reading which is bringing the gospel into disrepute. Let us give it a decent burial.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn’t it clear from the debates on your site that one of the little problems you have with putting too much weight on the Bible is that it is a mixed bag?

Once again, everything you write can be tweaked to argue for gay marriage.

Susan

BC said...

Peter, as you have so robustly demonstrated, the Fathers did indeed have a view of women that was often sexist. However, much like aspects of Scripture (!), the question to be asked is, 'does this cohere with the Fathers' (or Scripture's) Trinitarian and Christological centre?'

In this light, we see the sexist view of women often present in the Fathers to be an aspect of their teaching which fell short of the Tradition which they proclaimed and passed on.

Brian

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Susan,
What would be the specific tweaks you would make to the arguments?

Once again you have repeated this assertion here but have not disclosed to us what the tweaks would be, let alone the grounds on which they would be made.

I am working from the central core of the inclusive and universal gospel (per Scripture) to challenge the universalizing of local, cultural applications of the gospel (within Scripture, applied to today).

What is the central core of marriage (per Scripture) which you would use to challenge the de-construction of Old and New Testament teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Brian,
I am more than willing not to throw the christological, trinitarian bathwater out with the misogynist, sexist baby of the Fathers.

If we ask the question about whether their understanding of gender-and-ordered-ministry coheres with their Trinitarian and christological centre, then I think it impossible to answer because they were antipathetic to women. In the nature of things I do not think we can guess with hindsight where they might have gone re gender/ministry if they had not relegated women to the second class of humanity.

MichaelA said...

"It is beholden, I suggest, or, the burden of proof falls on those who still will not admit women to the priesthood and episcopacy, to distance themselves from any thinking that women "occupy the second rank"."

Sure, in the same way as it is beholden on you, Peter (and on every other proponent of women's ordination) to distance yourself from every extremist view that has been expressed in favour of women's ordination, throughout history.

I hope you can see the utter unreasonableness of the burden you attempt to lay on others, and we can go back to reasoned debate.

"Conversely, it is worth asking if the church fathers had had a view of women as of the same rank as men, whether they would have admitted women to the orders of the church as they were clarified in that era."

Why is it worth asking? If our view on admission of women to holy orders is based on scripture, why would this be relevant?

"I put it again, and I feel now I will not cease from doing so: when we interpret Scripture to yield rules which constrain the ministry of women but not of men, .... we implicitly subscribe to notions that women ARE inferior to men, because we are accepting that they are a 'class' of humanity that should be constrained when men should not."

I see - everyone who holds the view that women may not be ordained as priests and bishops believes that women are inferior to men.

You do the very thing that you have complained about in others on this blog - you impute motives to others based entirely on the positions they hold.

Nice.

"This class distinction within humanity should stop: in Sydney, in Rome, in REFORM and in Forward in Faith."

Given the manner in which you have argued your case, I doubt that your view will carry the slightest weight. Nor should it.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael,
I may have argued my case poorly; and I may have (once again) fallen into a trap I do not want to fall into, that of ascribing poor motives to those who disagree with me.

Perhaps another way of putting the point could be this: if we subscribe to scriptural teaching that men may minister in ordered (presbyteral, episcopal) ministry but women may not, is there a reason for this which can be explained, or is it just one of those things that God has prescribed for us to accept?

My question then would be whether we [no motives being imputed] are implicitly conveying a doctrine of God in which God has deemed that men are of one class of humanity (not requiring constraints) and women are of another class (requiring constraints).

Certainly we could debate [were you to agree to this point] whether the two classes are equal or unequal. But I would be arguing that it is unequal, I would be pointing out that hearers of the gospel perceive it to be unequal [which seems to bring the gospel into disrepute], and I would wonder if our doctrine of God should be of a God who does not divide humanity into two unequal classes.

Where (on the case outlined here) would you specifically disagree?

Shawn said...

Susan,

No, Scripture is not a mixed bag, but the Word of God. If we start picking out of Scripture only that which suits us, then we should stop pretending that we have any revelation from God at all, just a stew of human opinions, in which case we have nothing at all on which to base our faith.

Peter,

Susan has a point. If you put the word "inclusive" in front of "Gospel" then what is the difference between that and the pro-homosexuality approach?

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
I do not see why liberals should have all the good words, and inclusive is one worth conserving conservatively as a characteristic of the kingdom of God as seen in the gospels.

But I readily concede that it comes with post-modern theological baggage.

I would take care myself around not being seen to be "pro-homosexual" in all sorts of ways, as in the way God is "pro" people who are different, on the margins, wrestling with difficult life issues and so forth. But, again, it is difficult these days to be pro-people and contra-behaviours as we take sides and sloganise issues.

Anonymous said...

Oh dearie me! I have had to conclude that a fully orbed Trinitarian theology will resoundingly endorse WO, just as it will resoundingly endorse same-sex marriage: bottom-line.

It is all too tempting to get involved in the details of debate over same-sex marriage. The details have importance because, in the end, Scripture is made up of sentences, verses, chapters, 66 books. But part of being Christian is to hold the big picture in tension with the details and to resist the details driving the big picture askew: when Jesus took on the scribal culture of the Pharisees and Sadducees he was challenging them to find God among the details instead of making a god of the details.

Out of the God-centred, details-flung-to the margins mission of Jesus as told to us in the quadriscopic (? what's the fourfold word for stereoscopic) vision of the gospels we meet the God of Jesus Christ who is biased towards the people on the margins and against the power-brokers and people controllers of an allegedly God-centred society. The details had pushed people to the margins, so Jesus got rid of the details!

A problem with arguments against same-sex marriage is that they make much of the details (*put favourite verse here) as though the most important thing is to find reasons not to marry people of the same sex. Is not the most important thing to find God and the gospel? And what is the gospel but a message of freedom in Christ from details, openness to the life of the Spirit, and restoration of the image of God in humanity, an image experienced in being male and female, straight or gay.

The gospel message is biased towards inclusion of people in the kingdom of God, not towards exclusion of people. A recurring theme of stories of Jesus is the breaking down of barriers which excluded people from living under God's rule. Healing on the Sabbath is forbidden? Let's bypass that rule. Gentiles are not part of Christ's mission? Let's make them a part. A serially polyandrous Samaritan women worshipping at the wrong temple? We'll send her to be an apostle to the Samaritans.

Etc. etc. etc.

One of the little problems I have with putting too much weight on the 'tradition' of the church is that it is mixed bag. If, to take an instance relevant to this week here on ADU, we ask whether the church fathers who did not agree that same-sex couples could marry biased for or against homosexuals, or even just plain neutral, then the evidence mounts up that their bias was against homosexuals…

I put it again, and I feel now I will not cease from doing so: when we interpret Scripture to yield rules which constrain the marriage of those of the same sex but not of heterosexuals, even worse when we invoke the Fathers in support, we implicitly subscribe to notions that homosexuals ARE inferior to heterosexuals, because we are accepting that they are a 'class' of humanity that should be constrained when heterosexuals should not….

There is neither inferiority in homosexuals as couples nor inferiority in homosexuals as representatives of the God who made them and the Christ who created them nor inferiority in homosexuals as sinners compared to heterosexuals. There are no roles in the life of the church laid down in Scripture for homosexuals or heterosexuals which only one group may have, save from the biological roles of mother and father…

Nevertheless I put it to all readers here who sincerely and respectfully read Scripture as teaching homosexual activity in a married gay couple is wrong, that this reading of Scripture has had its day. For those who also see it as a reading commended by Tradition, a massive rethink is needed given the bias of the Church Fathers against homosexuals. It is a reading which is bringing the gospel into disrepute. Let us give it a decent burial.

Susan

Peter Carrell said...

Heh. Very, very clever, Susan :)

I accept, indeed am glad that my arguments make the case that we treat all people, women and men, gay and straight, with respect, dignity, and equality.

If my arguments are wrong - I think better to put it that way, as it may be my lack of cleverness that is the problem - then they are wrong in respect of their analogous application to homosexuality:

(1) Gender does matter to marriage which is between a man and a woman in a way that does not matter to ordination.

(2) When Scripture speaks directly about life in the kingdom of God, then we have moved away from detail to God's big picture of salvation, thus I would not suppose for a moment that my arguments (albeit in the handy form you have given them) move beyond 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

I am genuinely uncertain, Susan, whether you are poking holes in my arguments because you are for WO/SSM, or against WO/SSM, or for one and not the other. To help me improve my arguments, what are your arguments for whatever view you are supporting? Poking holes in my argument tells me I can do better. Giving your arguments could assist me in finding the way to do better.

Anonymous said...

Peter, there was nothing clever at all in what I did. It is just reading your posts and trying to make sense of the logic. You just continue to make assertions in your own circle A is B because B is A. Why? Because A is B…

(1) Gender does not matter to marriage which is between two human beings in a way that does matter to ordination.

(2) 1 Timothy 2:12 is for you a “detail” but in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “we have moved away from detail to God's big picture of salvation”.

Let us just humor you to see where this new circle leads. Can you honestly say that you are 100% certain that every couple you have married if one or both were divorced were divorced according to what the Bible allows for, so that you have never blessed adultery? Or is the adultery ruling in the Bible conveniently “detail” again for you?

Susan

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Susan,
I have no problem in owning that I may have blessed adultery. I would not say that the teaching of Jesus on divorce and remarriage is a convenient detail. I think I have already said here that Jesus' teaching on marriage was one thing where he agreed with the Pharisees (actually, one might more accurately say that he went beyond the Pharisees).

I imagine your point might be that if I can bless adultery then I ought to consistently bless marriages which do not involve a man and a woman. Is that your point?

If it is, I do not think it a terrifically good one, as it has an air of "if one does one wrong, why not do two wrongs"! One might undo the possibility by repenting of the first wrong.

But none of that changes whether one can call a relationship between two people of the same gender a marriage.

What are your grounds for calling, or not calling a relationship between two people of the same gender, a marriage?

PS 1 Tim 2:12 is a detail if it is a local instruction or an instruction for a particular rather than general circumstance. What is it for you? One or the other or something else? 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is universally applicable. As is the teaching of Jesus on marriage.

Rosemary Behan said...

I believe you are correct in so many ways Peter, the battle of the sexes is wrong, it is contrary to the wonderful Good News we have been given and you’re aware of that. Your sympathy towards women is evident. There have been many, many men who have had it sooooo wrong over the centuries, giving just slightly the wrong message to women, not teaching them how loved and beloved they are in Christ when they worship and love God. However I believe deeply that those who promote WO will have to answer one day as to why they didn’t encourage the giving of the correct message either, because in my opinion they still don’t value women as they ought. Women are to be treasured, valued as they are in Psalm 31 which doesn’t constrict them at all, but not told or taught what I consider to be the opposite of what Scripture teaches, that they should become men. I say that as starkly as that, because at base, I think that is what is being said. In my opinion, women should be valued by the church for their value as women. It’s a generalisation, but for their compassion, their nurturing qualities, their patience, their marvellous perseverance in prayer etc. Instead you try to promote them as .. well as men, which in today’s church means that you burden them, asking of them qualities/roles/characteristics/responsibilities that they don’t necessarily have. And if they do have them, you confuse them about why God created them for, by seeking to give them responsibilities that God has NOT asked of them. That’s why I asked you that question the other day Peter .. why did God create women.

I’m not a theologian, but I DO depend on them to help us understand, which is very difficult with so many varying points of view. As I understand Genesis .. before the Fall .. and before God’s curse on our failures .. man and woman are completely equal, but He assigns them different roles .. and that is where they will not only be happiest, but most fulfilled. That is not putting either sex down, both are onerous tasks and both of us should be constantly seeking to BE that pre Fall Christian person. Men should be trying so very hard NOT to dominate while having dominion and women should try so very hard to be helpmeet to their men, in particular their husbands, and their church fellowship. In particular, older women should care for and teach younger women who may be going through the same things they went through .. but don’t realise we failed too. In my humble opinion we are NOT asked to lead or have ‘authority over,’ .. that particular onerous task is given to the male gender, but he must have our [woman’s] full support, help and encouragement.
[continued]

Rosemary Behan said...

We must all stand in amazement at the completely successful submission of the Trinity, one to another, and I’m sure that many men are seeking that in what they teach on WO .. but as I say, I think that’s off the mark. Isaiah tells us that unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. Jesus has been given to us. He has a role. He is fully equal with the Father and the Spirit, but His role is different. He is a gift .. our Saviour, our Creator. We didn’t create Him, or indeed them, the Trinity .. but as they have different roles, so do we. If we ignore the fact that Jesus didn’t give the teaching/leadership [and onerous] task to women, why is it said these days that we should ignore Him .. when He is everything to us and we should strive to be like Him, even though we fail?

So in my opinion .. and a quick read of recent posts on your blog shows I’m not alone, it does NOT bring the Gospel into disrepute .. quite the opposite. You make it sound as if we’re deliberately trying to undermine the Gospel when the opposite is true. It’s your blog, but you pick us up if we contravene the rules of comment and attack the person or persons .. but I’m afraid that is what you have done to us. AGAIN!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
I am very sorry if I have given the impression I think those who do not support WO are deliberately trying to undermine the gospel. Far from it. Which is why I have talked about 'implicit' or 'unwittingly'. But I accept that, nevertheless, I have given another impression and for that I apologise.

I should probably leave off the question of WO, at least for a year or so: it is a difficult one to tackle without some element of 'ad hominem' intruding. And, as often remarked here in comments, 'ad hominem' is not healthy, and certainly not edifying.

I really like your two comments in many ways, perhaps most of all because you are supportive of men teaching God's truth. Believe it or not, I feel supported by you!

Anonymous said...

This is what the Church of England has had to say in response to the determination by the British Prime Minister to bring in same-sex marriage:
"To remove from the definition of marriage this essential complementarity is to lose any social institution in which sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged. To argue that this is of no social value is to assert that men and women are simply interchangeable individuals. To change the nature of marriage for everyone will be divisive and deliver no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships.

We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone by excluding the fundamental complementarity of men and women from the social and legal definition of marriage."

I think Susan is ahead of the game in recognising that by denying outright that gender has or could have anything to do with the call to presbyteral ministry it is quite easy to make a parallel argument for homosexual marriage - even more so in a world where IVF, gamete donation, surrogate motherhood etc have superseded the old need for mothers and fathers, while social disapproval of homosexuality has greatly lessened. The presbyteral ministry *is the call to spiritual fatherhood and spiritual husbandhood - but who needs fathers and husbands today?
The 'burial' Peter calls for will, alas, by the burial of the Protestant Church, and it won't be decent.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
Many are the afflictions of the Protestant Church!

I am not trying to argue against spiritual fatherhood and spiritual husbandhood in the presbyteral ministry. I am trying to argue that spiritual motherhood and spiritual wifeliness also have a place in presbyteral ministry. Not least does a place exist for women in the presbyteral ministry because aspects of that ministry are genderless: "ability to teach" is not a prerogative of males.

However I am clearly pretty useless as a male teacher offering this fatherly guidance, as neither you nor Susan nor MichaelA are prepared to listen to it and to follow it.

The irony is that you appeal to a higher authority in doing so than my fatherhood and husbandhood: you appeal to Scripture itself.

All I am asking is that women be able to teach Scripture authoritatively!

Anonymous said...

Martin has it quite right.

“To argue that this is of no social value is to assert that men and women are simply interchangeable individuals.” This applies either to both or to neither – women’s ordination; same-sex marriage.

Those who think otherwise cannot produce any strong objective reasoning. All we get are ad hominems about thinking more deeply, more orbed, and reading more widely.

Your acknowledgement that you may have blessed adultery is not at all about "if one does one wrong, why not do two wrongs". This is about finding a consistency. Your special pleading with 1 Cor 6:9-10 is strongly, clearly against adultery; but what "malakos" and "arsenkoites" actually mean, you will certainly know, is much disputed – pretty sad for you if this is what you reach for where “we have moved away from detail to God's big picture of salvation”.

Your acknowledgement that this subject is a difficult one for you to tackle without some element of 'ad hominem' intruding is refreshing. It is the same as has appeared throughout the discussions here on same-sex marriage, to the point of threats of legal action! If there was actually some sound, objective reasoning, which could be applied to both subjects, ad hominems need not arise.

Those who advocate for women’s ordination and same-sex marriage have consistency. As do those who advocate against both. I am not surprised that you are seeking help to refine your weak arguments for one and against the other.

As for ordination being about “All I am asking is that women be able to teach Scripture authoritatively!” This is a new definition! Many people teach Scripture authoritatively without being ordained, and you don’t have to look far to find people who are ordained who don’t!

Susan

Peter Carrell said...

I must be obtuse, Susan, just to be a little 'ad hominem' against myself: I do not see that ordination requires one gender rather than another (unless one takes, say, a strong priest/bishop = father-figure to congregation(s) line).

Of course I am aware of arguments over 1 Cor 6:9-10, though I think there is an interesting reluctance (whoops, ad hominem) to read "arsenokoites" for what it is: a reference to Lev 18. It may be a detail and I may be over estimating. But I am chary of leading people astray when I am uncertain of my grounds and on the kingdom of God and entering it, I would wish to be surer than I am. I suspect you are sure about what is what and what is not re 1 Cor 6:9-10.

Incidentally, I may have mangled the words but 'authoritatively' is an aspect of ordination (absolution, presiding, teaching)so I scarcely think I am coining a new definition.

Anyway, you are very coy, and I still haven't worked out whether you are for both WO and SSM or against both. Why won't you come clear?

Mr. Mcgranor said...

An irrational bias, not supported by scripture; shows its pathology. Still realizing a women's distinction--is quite justifiably sexist.

Shawn said...

On this issue Martin is very wrong, and setting up a false connection.

First, the argument that those who support God's blessing of women's leadership in the New Covenant are thus supporting the cultural Marxist notion that gender is a social construct and that the gender's are interchangeable is not a credible claim. We might as well argue that because both men and women can drive cars then those who support women being allowed to drive are eradicating gender distinctions, and that women driving cars will lead to acceptance of homosexuality.

I do not find that to be a remotely reasonable argument.

It ignores the fact that many evangelicals who believe that in the New Covenant God has opened the way for women to exercise authority in the Church also believe that men and women are different, and that gender distinction is a gift from God.

Susan's claim that all we have is ad hominem is ludicrous nonsense.

For a start I find the claim that those evangelicals who support WO are unwittingly supporting the eradication of gender distinctions and opening the way to acceptance of homosexuality little more than ad hominem. As an argument it is no better than accusing those who do not of simply being sexist.

Now to be fair, and I'm sorry Peter but this has to be said, Susan may be operating under the assumption that Peter's arguments are all we have, but that is not the case, and in fact I find those arguments little more than repackaged liberalism and extremely unhelpful and even damaging to the WO cause.

But evangelicals who have done the hard yards of serious Biblical exegesis on the issue have mounted a far more serious challenge to the anti-WO case than she imagines.

No argument is ever perfect or without fault, but I would point in particular to the work of Gilbert Bilezikian, who grounds his arguments solely on Scripture and imo demolishes the anti-WO case by showing that it is based on ripping individual passages from the narrative context and thus totally misunderstanding the point that is being made.

By studying that narrative structure of over several paragraphs and chapters he argues convincingly that Paul is not even dealing with the issue of female leadership of the local church in 1Timothy.

He works through each and every individual passage that has been brought up here, as well as the overall Biblical story, thus dealing with both the details and the big picture.

Nor is Bilezikian the only evangelical to do this kind if work.

Susan complains about being told to think more deeply, and I totally understand and share her frustration at that kind of argument.

But might I please suggest that those who claim that evangelicals who support WO have nothing but fluff, ad hominem, and repackaged liberalism may perhaps need to read a little more widely.

Those who have regularly read my posts know that I am not a fluffy, vague, centrist evangelical. I hold strongly to the Westminster Standards and to old fashioned confessional clarity and commitment, as well as catechetical memorization. And my political views make the.hard right of the Republican Party look like a bunch of San Francisco liberal socialists.

So please, no more " your just a liberal in disguise and unwittingly furthering the cause of cultural Marxism" arguments from the anti WO people. But equally no more "your just a sexist who does not value women's ministry" arguments from the pro-WO people, even if they were not intended.

Neither argument is helpful.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Shawn,
I like your car illustration!

Notwithstanding any liberal errors I have made, one of my core points is your point: it is not proven that ordination is a gender-defined office.

Anonymous said...

I do not know what Susan believes, though I had better clarify what I at least believe (which I think is probably fairly close to John Richardson's views).

1. I have no doubt that Christian marriage is between one man and one woman.
2. Breaking a marriage is a sin but I do not believe Scripture teaches the intrinsic indissolubilty of marriage.
3. Churches should not solemnise second, third etc marriages, simply as a matter of prudence. Whether they are true marriages or adultery observing the niceties is for God to judge.
4. I've never had a problem with women preaching and teaching orthodoxly from the Bible. It is the Word that has authority, not the speaker.
5. I have heard numerous sermons from men, lay and ordained, which have been trite and sometimes bordering on heresy.
5. I have no problem with lay-led communion services either, though I recognise this troubles some people's conscience.
6. Pastoral leadership of a congregation is a matter of divine call, and is not be second-guessed or 'corrected'.
7. Evangelical women missionaries have played an outstanding role in the spread of the Gospel in the world.
8. Women ministers have not brought new life to the old churches of Christendom. These chuches have become more feminized and liberal, have aged and declined in numbers. They have lost their missionary edge.

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

It sounds, Martin, that with the exception of 5b, we are in substantial agreement.

And if we could have more of 7's missionary spirit in place of 8's tired spirit, then a church we ran together would run very well!

Anonymous said...

OK, so Shawn claims Peter’s arguments are not just weak (as I have been suggesting) but “little more than repackaged liberalism and extremely unhelpful and even damaging to the WO cause”.

Then, as if to reinforce what I have said (“All we get are ad hominems about thinking more deeply, more orbed, and reading more widely”), Shawn agrees with me but then goes on to advocate that people need to “read a little more widely”! [Surely Shawn is joking in lifting the very words from my comment!]

“Susan complains about being told to think more deeply, and I totally understand and share her frustration at that kind of argument.

But might I please suggest that those who claim that evangelicals who support WO have nothing but fluff, ad hominem, and repackaged liberalism may perhaps need to read a little more widely.”

Peter now agrees that “Churches should not solemnise second, third etc marriages”. I look forward to him advocating for this massive change – as he has acknowledged until now his practice, but also the church’s. It certainly would bring a little more consistency to the discussion.

To bring another part of Peter’s same-sex marriage argument to bear and picking up his original post – Peter views tradition as the ongoing interpretation of the Bible. From the very beginning women did not hold the type of leadership that he would now like them to have. Where in the early church is there any single evidence of women priests or bishops? If there was the equality Peter and others imagine into the New Testament – why did it suddenly stop in the early church? Why is it that the only place women had such leadership was in heretical groups?

As with all the other approaches, you cannot use the tradition argument for same-sex marriage and then discard the same methodology for women’s ordination. Your arguments for women’s ordination are arguments for same-sex marriage.

Susan

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Susan,
I do not think I have quite said that churches should not solemnise second and third marriages. All pastoral care around people and their relationships is fraught with difficult questions, ethical, personal, ecclesial. I am not going to be boxed in by you or anyone on what I will or won't do in the service of others, even if I am sinning in the process!

The simple response to all your points above about weak and/or inconsistent arguments is that our search is for the truth of God's Word and its application to life today. If I am wrong, I am wrong. If my arguments are weak, can they be strengthened? If my arguments are inconsistent, can they be improved?

In short, you have given me (as others here have also) much to think about and I will keep thinking.

To be clear: I am not determined to find a convincing argument for WO and a convincing argument against SSM because I am determined that those outcomes must be achieved, come what may. I am determined to understand God's Word.

What you and others have exposed is that I am not a particularly good understander of God's Word.

Nevertheless nothing said here has yet convinced me that, defective though my arguments are, the ordination of women is wrong and same-sex marriage is right.

Perhaps that is my problem. But then I find a lot of people around me share similar convictions. I wonder what it is going to take to shift those convictions ... or to improve our arguments!

Peter Carrell said...

PS Susan,

The point about equality and the NT, whether there were or were not women bishops in those days is relatively simple to deal with: the trajectory was there, within the example of Jesus and the universalising of the gospel by Paul, for women to be equal with men in ministry office. The trajectory stopped because the expansion of Christianity lost sight of its radical commitment to the kingdom (cf. arguments about the charismatic church becoming the institutional church).

You could reply to that by saying that the same trajectory should lead two thousand years later to SSM. But if you do, perhaps you could tell us what in the Bible and in the life of the charismatic church are the leading signs which tell us the way the trajectory was intended to head?

Shawn said...

Martin,

thanks for that clarification. It would seem that we are pretty much in agreement as well.

I suspect the reason for number 8 is that over the past decades the women being brought to ordination in the older mainline denominations were largely of a strong liberal bent. Liberal churches wither and die, whether they are led by women or men.

Shawn said...

I have no intentions of responding further to Susan's posts until she can put her own views and arguments forward. Those who are keen to critique other peoples arguments should have the guts to put their own on the line.

Shawn said...

As theologian William J Webb has shown in his book 'Slaves, Women and Homosexuals', a "big picture" redemptive hermeneutic does not give any comfort to the pro-homosexuality lobby.

Using a redemptive movement hermeneutic he traces the trajectory of Scripture with regards to slaves and women, showing that from Torah to New Testament the arc of scripture is from restrictive to liberatory. But the trajectory goes in the opposite direction with regards to homosexuality. While Scripture is uniformly negative to the practice, that negativity moves from mild on the Torah to severe in Paul.

The bottom line is this. Evangelicals who support WO can mount a robust and Biblically grounded case for that. Not everyone will agree with the conclusion that the Bible allows for WO, but at least the case can be made.

The pro-homosexuality lobby on the other hand does not have a Biblical leg to stand on. I have read the pro literature extensively, and none of it is even remotely convincing.

Shawn said...

Some research into past threads has revealed that Susan consistently attacks and/or critiques those who oppose the acceptance of homosexuality in the Church.

MichaelA said...

"As theologian William J Webb has shown in his book 'Slaves, Women and Homosexuals', a "big picture" redemptive hermeneutic does not give any comfort to the pro-homosexuality lobby."

Shawn, "big picture" theology can give comfort to all sorts of people, on all sorts of issues. I am not saying we shouldn't analyse theology at a higher level, but sweeping statements like this are yet another example of "big picture"!

I find it helpful, whenever I look at the "big picture", to also look at what the Bible tells us about details (or, equally important, what it doesn't tell us). That's a good way of keeping myself grounded in hard reality.

Note that I do not mean my foregoing comments to apply to the ordination of women issue, particularly.

"The bottom line is this. Evangelicals who support WO can mount a robust and Biblically grounded case for that. Not everyone will agree with the conclusion that the Bible allows for WO, but at least the case can be made."

I doubt that will cause Susan a problem. If I read her correctly, she was making a point about the particular way in which the "big picture" was being applied on this and other threads, not with its application in all circumstances.

I actually thought Peter answered her pretty well.

Shawn said...

Hi Michael,

In an earlier post above I referenced the work Gilbert Bilezikian who addresses both the big picture and the details.

The Story is however the message, the Gospel. While we must not use that to ignore the details, the details without the overall Story are meaningless.

It would be like trying to understand the Lord of the Rings by only reading a few sentences here and there.

And the Big Picture does not give comfort to all sorts of people. It does not comfort polytheists, atheists, secularists, Buddhists, or, as Webb shows, homosexuality advocates.

The Big Story does in fact make many deeply uncomfortable. Including perhaps those who oppose WO.

Anonymous said...

Peter, I took your substantial agreement with Martin to include his point (3). Why do you now dispute that with me – but did not do so with him?

Shawn, so you only discuss things with people who have a firm, clearly expressed position, not with people who are examining different positions and looking for one that is actually consistent? That fits. The evidence here is that those with firm positions continue in that conviction, whatever is presented to them, and all that happens is there is a lot of anger generated and expressed. That fits too.

As for a robust and Biblically grounded case for same-sex marriage, it seems that Shawn just isn’t reading widely, deeply, nor orbed enough. To say that he is not convinced is not surprising, but may say more about him than about the material. Tobias Stanislas Haller and the Bed Keeper site are two that spring to mind with different approaches both robust and Biblically grounded.

Susan.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Susan,
I apologise. I think I misunderstood what Martin wrote under (3) so I did not dispute that with him. If he is reading here, I would ask to expand a little for clarity. The first part seems to be, "the church should not solemnise" but the second part makes me wonder if "the church could solemnise ... Leaving to God whether it would be solemnising true marriages or adultery."

By contrast your statement re solemnization was pretty clear and I refuse to be boxed in by it!

Anonymous said...

"I think I misunderstood what Martin wrote under (3) so I did not dispute that with him. If he is reading here, I would ask to expand a little for clarity."

It was an argument for prudence (or possibly cowardice!). If we accept (as I do) that remarriage after divorce in some circumstances is envisaged by the NT (see David Instone-Brewer's work), churches should not then be put in the invidious situation of deciding which remarriages are OK and which aren't. A blanket rule is better. In the end it is couples who marry each other, not the church.
Martin

MichaelA said...

On the issue of whether the UK parliament is likely to intervene to bring about women bishops in CofE, there is a very interesting series of posts by "primroseleague" on the Thinking Anglicans website at http://www.thinkinganglicans.org.uk/archives/005796.html#comments

See the second last post (at time of writing this) and two more at about the half-way mark.

As best I can tell, primroseleague is in favour of women bishops, but he/she pours cold water on the idea that either of the major parties in the UK Parliament will ever intervene on the issue. PL appears to have considerable political savvy, and his/her reasoning makes sense.

If PL is correct, then CofE is going to have to sort this one out on its own.

Shawn said...

Hi Susan,

Deepest apologies from me with regards to my faulty assumption. I had assumed your convictions were already set. If your just examining different approaches and trying to work things out for yourself then of course I am happy to dialogue and debate with you.

I would like to make a few things clear on my own position.

I have spent the last four years studying theology at a NZ Anglican College. That gave me access to one of the best theology libraries in the country, a real blessing for a theology nerd like me!

I used that blessing to read widely on a whole range of theological and moral issues, including homosexuality. I always make a point, with any issue, to read both sides of a debate. So I have read a fair deal of the "pro" side. Even prior to my studies I had been reading both pro and con arguments, in large part because, despite what may seem the case with my posts here at ADU, I do struggle with the issue.

I have and continue to have deep personal friendships with men and women who consider themselves gay. My best friend and best man at my wedding struggled with his own sexuality, and sadly ended up committing suicide, in part I suspect over that struggle.

So I have not come to the position I hold lightly, and I am always striving to re-examine myself and my theology.

But I hold myself bound to Scripture, and so far I have just not come across an argument in favour of changing the "traditional" Church position that I find convincing, including the work of Tobias, who has posted at ADU in the past and engaged in debate with us.

But I welcome challenges to my position, on any theological or moral issue. Being challenged and critiqued, so long as it is civil and polite, is always a blessing as it helps me to examine my views and strive to better understand the issues.

So please feel free to debate or question me as much as you like, if you still want to.

Bryden Black said...

I think I slightly resent Susan’s misquote of an earlier post of mine, rendering it a pseudo parody of reality (December 8, 2012 1:03 PM). For the reality is really rather different, as represented in my original. I will address only the second half, as the first half is correct.

Susan: “Oh dearie me! I have had to conclude that a fully orbed Trinitarian theology will resoundingly endorse WO, just as it will resoundingly endorse same-sex marriage: bottom-line.”

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 idiot─ôs 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.