Friday, June 6, 2014

Usurping Authority

A very interesting debate is emerging among Australian Anglicans over women teaching men. No, I am not now talking about the 'breaking ranks' Michael Paget, but the debate over John Dickson's book, now in two editions, Hearing Her Voice which has provoked a responsive book featuring lead teachers on the staff of Moore College, Women, Sermons and the Bible.

From Adelaide, Bishop Tim Harris (who was at Moore College himself with some of the writers of the latter book) takes on Women, Sermons and the Bible in a series of posts on his New Anglicanism blog - three parts so far, more to come. Below I cite one part of one post which demonstrates the exegetical carefulness of +Harris.

My interest in the debate is this. Sydney Anglicanism exerts considerable influence across the Communion, including among Anglicans who do not agree with the predominant Sydney Anglican view (i.e. that women ought not to teach men which, in turn, seems to be an expression of a theology of headship of household and church which belongs exclusively to men - hence women in Sydney may be ordained as deacons but not as presbyters or bishops). In this influence Sydney Anglicanism seems to be offering a prevailing approach to engagement in Western culture that makes no accommodation to changes over the past few hundred years, including changes to roles of women in family and society.

+Tim's critique, Michael Paget's "breaking ranks" could be signs that the theological underpinnings to this prevailing approach are now being pressed hard and weighed in the balance. Many evangelicals around the Communion are simply not in agreement with the prevailing approach of Sydney Anglicans and would be pleased to find some shifts going on over the next few decades.

A question I have as an observer across the Ditch, and as someone who thinks Sydney is an amazing city, is this: should the mission to a large city such as Sydney be propelled by a theology which is both Scriptural and geared to make better bridges into contemporary society - the bridges which were hallmarks of Jesus' and Paul's own missions?

Here is +Tim Harris at the end of Part 3 of his emerging critique:

"My final focus will be on Bolt’s treatment of 1 Timothy 2:12, where he resorts to sweeping statements that are surprising, to say the least. To quote Bolt:
It is a common strategy to suggest that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not clear. However, the only possible element that is unclear is the presence of the word authenteō, since it does not appear elsewhere in the Bible—even though, thankfully, it occurs frequently enough outside the Bible to remove any real doubt as to its meaning (‘to have authority’). In this verse, Paul prohibits a woman from teaching or exercising authority over a man, and from the context, this relates to what is going on in the public assembly. There is no need to go digging below the text here to understand what is forbidden, for the teaching that is being forbidden is that done by a woman towards a man.’ (288-289)
Where to start with such a sweeping summary? Let me list some of the interpretative issues that Bolt’s summary overlooks, and eclipses from view from the general reader:
1. The verb ‘I am not allowing’ is in the present tense – the interpreter or translator must decide if it refers to a specific circumstance (as it does usually for Paul), or is of universal ‘all times and places’ significance. Grammatically it can be either.
2. Despite Bolt’s (astonishing!) assurance that authenteō occurs ‘frequently enough’ (well, only if you tally up about a thousand years of later usage), the verb appears to have been very rare at the time of 1 Timothy 2:12 – why such a rare verb, and does it have any distinctive nuances when considered alongside more common terms for authority? It has a wider range of established meanings than ‘to have authority’ (to limit it to this is a form of the ‘root fallacy’).
3. Does the verse refer to ‘woman’ and ‘man’, or more specifically ‘wife’ and ‘husband’? The Greek terms can refer to either.
4. Dickson has raised the valid question as to what activity ‘to teach’ refers to.
5. 1 Timothy 2:12 may only be considered essentially ‘clear’ from an interpretative point of view (notwithstanding the above), but only if you detach it from its immediate unit. Once we ask how this verse relates to the explanatory verses that follow (note the ‘for’ that links verses 13 and 14 to v.12), things are far from ‘clear’. When verse 15 is included (and not conveniently detached), understanding verse 12 within the full unit in which it is immediately located is even less clear.
6. What are we to make of ‘For Adam was formed first, then Eve’? And why does Paul mention that Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and became a transgressor? How do these explain the injunctions in verse 12? I would be genuinely interested to hear how Bolt understands verse 14.
In brief, to suggest that all this is really ‘quite clear’ is misleading. Is this ‘digging below the text’? No, it is taking a close look at the text in front of us, and exploring it in context.
One of continually repeated statements regarding authenteō is to quote a 1984 NTS article by George W. Knight, who concluded that the term essentially means ‘to have authority’ in a neutral sense (a conclusion supposedly confirmed in a couple of subsequent studies).
Köstenberger is frequently cited in this regard, who in turn quotes Baldwin, who quotes Knight, who quotes linguistic specialist J. R. Werner’s conclusion: authentein essentially means ‘to have authority’ in a neutral sense. Except that Werner didn’t conclude this. Werner subsequently made it clear he has been misquoted, and that Knight substituted his own conclusion and for some reason attributed it to Werner as an independent authority (see Philip B Payne, Man and Woman: One In Christ. Baker, 2009, pages 365-369 for details and documentation).
Does all this matter? I would suggest it is highly significant, and all-too-often repeated as a ‘given’, an assured result of research. Yet this overlooks key questions. Why did Paul use an extremely rare verb when he had far more common terms to use if he simply meant ‘authority’ in a straightforward sense. To repeat my quote from Claire Smith on such matters: ‘it is at the very points where the meanings of words do not overlap that we find the distinctive contribution that a chosen word makes to the meaning of a sentence. It helps tell us why the author chose this word and not that word’ (121; emphasis original).
Bolt’s approach ends up placing enormous emphasis on the notion of ‘authority’’, and I argue that this rare verb cannot bear the weight of this as an interpretive crux. One thing that emerges from lexical research into the usage of authenteōis that it does reflect distinctive elements (perhaps influenced by the noun), including the capacity to prevail or to dominate – ‘to have one’s way’.
What would be my rendering of this passage? It is something like this [with my contextual reading in square brackets]:
A woman is to learn in peace and in all obedience [in contrast to those women stirred up by the false teachers]. I am not allowing [in these circumstances] a woman to instruct or dominate over a man, rather she is to be in peace."


Father Ron Smith said...

" There is no need to go digging below the text here to understand what is forbidden, for the teaching that is being forbidden is that done by a woman towards a man.’ - Mr.Bolt

Bp.Tim is quite right to oppose the assertions of Mr. Bolt, who quote his version of the teaching of Saint Paul on the ministry of women. He has need to balance Paul's other exhrotation that "In Christ. their is neither male nor female". Either that applies 'in toto' or not at all. Can't have it both ways.

In any event, I believe that the teaching and example of Jesus has to trump the apparent misogyny of some of Paul's instructions

The case of the Risen Christ commissioning Mary Magdalene to tell of his resurrection to the male disciples is just one instance of Jesus affirming the ministry of women.

Patriarchy still rules in the majority Sydney Diocese - largely as a result of the teaching at Moore College. Thankfully, some of its graduates, like Bishop Tim, are beginning to think for themselves - in transition from theory to praxis.

I would not agree, Peter, that the Sydney diocese has a particularly large influence in the Communion. Maybe its voice is felt within ACNA and GAFCON, but not in most of the Western Provinces, where the old patriarchal system has been largely put to death.

mike greenslade said...

Kia ora Peter,

Welcome to pro-wrestling. Sydney Anglicans, Dawkins Devotees, Boko Haram, Bob Jones vs John Minto, Cathedral smashers and Anderton's apoplexy...

And now, to increase ratings, we reintroduce the Diva's Debate. Can you smell what the Rock is cookin'?

Peter Carrell said...

Well, Mike, ADU was 34th most popular blog in NZ last month which is, I think, the highest rating ever. A long way behind Liturgy mind you, but I need to do more liturgical homework before moving into that controversial area :)

Andrew W said...

So, does Ron hate his family? How is his passionate opposition to them all and things about them revealed in practice? Either that applies 'in toto' or not; can't have it both ways.

mike greenslade said...

Austin 3:16 would be a good place to start...

Peter Carrell said...

That wuss, Mike?

I could beat him with one hand tied behind my back ... at chess.

mike greenslade said...

ADU 34th best blog in all of Kazakhstan! Great success!! High Five!

Father Ron Smith said...

Oh Dear, Mike. What has Kazakhstan done to you to deserve that libel?

Didn't you know that it's one of the charismatic gifts to stir the pot.

camostar said...

I hope you don't mind contributing something that isn't mine but I read this earlier this year and found it raises some good points!

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Camo
Some of those points are less persuasive than others.
But one point is touched on which I tend to think is paramount: is there enough in 1 Tim 2:12 to provide a universal rule for all contexts, all congregations and all generations.

Andrew W said...

A reconciliation between Gal 3 and (say) Eph 5 can be found in 1 Pet 3:1-7. Focus on v6-7:

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."

Peter sees no inconsistency in asserting both that a wife is under her husband's authority and that she is just like him as an heir to the promises of Christ. Indeed, in saying "so that nothing will hinder your prayers", Peter is likely reminding husbands to exercise authority over their wives with the same gentleness and love that God exercises over them (cf Eph 5:25).

Now, if Peter C is suggesting that an inclination to abuse authority lies in every human heart, then I agree with him. But the solution is not to repudiate authority, but to learn to bring it under the ultimate authority and discipline of Jesus Christ.

Jean said...

True Andrew W but one must always acknowledge Christ's concept of Authority. 'Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Although submission is always a struggle submitting to authority in this context is easier, just as the church submits to the authority of Christ for they know He was willing to give everything for them.

I am fortunate enough to know a young but passionate follower of Christ who when considering moving to his wife's home, NZ openly said he did not want to - to leave His family and country, but meditated on the above verse and chose to go anyway.

Aside I believe the authority to teach and preach is a different kind of authority from household headship. It is God given, and simply implies God has endowed a person with the authority of His spirit to act on His behalf in a particular area of ministry. Once again, I say if you doubt women are called by God in such a way - study the life and ministry of Jackie Pullinger; I doubt you will find it difficult to believe God has not did not call her or give her His authority to minister in His name.

Father Ron Smith said...

With Andrew W. in the Church - at least, according to his statement here; patriarchy is not dead!