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Context is Key

Context is Key

Context is Key on WIM by Cheryl Schatz

CONTEXT is Key

Recently, I listened to a pastor describe the context of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. I was very interested to hear what he had to say since I had never heard anyone explain the context of 1 Corinthians to show how there is support for the silencing of women. I was quite surprised when he claimed the context of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was 1 Timothy 2.  I had heard him emphasize the importance of context, context, context many times. However, his explanation of what qualifies as context was always the same as mine. The context of a disputed verse are the verses and chapters that surround it. It is never a passage in another book. While another passage in another book can be related, it isn’t the context. So I asked him again. Could he please give the direct context from the book of 1 Corinthians that supports the silencing of women. I have not yet heard back from him, but I thought it would be a good idea to go back through the entire book of 1 Corinthians to gather all of the evidence that Paul documents for why the two verses of 1 Cor. 14:34-35 were added to his letter. I found so much more than I expected from looking at a wider context! There is way more material than I could put into one article, so I am going to try to distil the evidence into categories and then I will give a conclusion of Paul’s reasoning. I will challenge anyone who thinks I have not considered the entire context. I welcome you to bring me correction and show me the supporting context from the book of First Corinthians that defines and upholds the silencing of women in the church.

CONTEXT: The Corinthian’s Letter to Paul – Questions and Claims

  • 1 Cor. 1:11 Paul reveals there are quarrels among the Corinthians – information passed on to him from Cloe’s people. The key purpose of the book is to deal with these conflicts and quarrels. Watch carefully throughout the book of 1 Corinthians how Paul ties in his correction with the source of the conflicts.
  • 1 Cor. 7:1 Paul mentions a letter that the Corinthians had written to Paul. The letter from the Corinthians to Paul plus the report from Cloe’s people bring to Paul information about the quarrels.
  • 1 Cor. 7:25 Paul moves on to another area of concern; “Now concerning” virgins.
  • 1 Cor. 8:1 “Now concerning” things sacrificed to idols.
  • 1 Cor 16:1 “Now concerning” the collection for the saints. All of the “now concerning” references are Paul answering what had been sent to him in writing.

Other comments that Paul makes do not directly reference the letter from the Corinthians, but they appear to answer challenges, claims or arguments. For example, 1 Cor. 6:12 says:

1 Corinthians 6:12 (NASB) All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.

Are “all things” lawful for Paul? The negation that follows appears to be Paul’s answer to the writer of the letter who claims not to be under any law. “All things are lawful for me,” the letter says, but Paul answers “BUT NOT all things are profitable.” Again, “All things are lawful for me,” the writer concludes, but Paul answers, “BUT I will NOT be mastered by anything.” Paul’s testimony in all the churches is that we are under the “law of Christ.” We can fulfill the duty to Christ through love and service to our brother (Gal. 6:2.) Anytime a statement is made in 1 Corinthians that appears contradictory to Paul’s known position we can suspect that Paul is dealing with issues that were presented to him, for Paul does not contradict himself. The fact that Paul consistently speaks about setting aside what is good for oneself and aiming for what is helpful for others as the “common good” should tip us off that the arrogant claim that “all things are lawful” is part of the quarrel among the Corinthians.

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Taking the place of sole Master of the home – by law

Taking the place of sole Master of the home – by law

Taking the place of master by law on Women in Ministry blog by Cheryl Schatz

The Bible records a law that requires men to take the place of sole master in the home. We find this law in the book of Esther chapter 1 verse 22.

Let me first give a little background.  King Ahasuerus was a very wealthy and powerful king who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces.  In the third year of his reign, he made a huge banquet for his nobles and officials as well as military leaders.  Then for 180 days he displayed his great riches and all that went with the majesty of his position.  At the end of all this exhibition of the king’s splendor, he threw a seven-day banquet for all the people who were present in his capital city, both the greatest of them to the least of them.  It was at that time, after seven days of partying, that the king became joyful from the wine that was served at the banquet, and in a hasty decision to showcase all that he owned that was magnificent beauty, he ordered that queen Vashti be called to appear before the king wearing her crown in order to parade her beauty before the crowd. Vashti refused to have her person put on display and this caused the king to feel great wrath and he called his wise men to find out what could be done by law to punish queen Vashti for refusing to obey his command.  In verses 16 to 19 Memucan, one of the wise men said, 

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Do egalitarians twist the scriptures?

Do egalitarians twist the scriptures?

twist on Women in Ministry blog by Cheryl Schatz

The charge is often laid that egalitarians twist the scriptures.  I would like to apply a saying that I read recently.  Here it is:

(Complementarians) are quick to accuse of foul play but there are no rules that they have to follow.

What egalitarians are trying so hard to do is interpret scripture with scripture and take the full context instead of isolating scriptures from their context.  Let’s see if complementarians play by the same rules or if they hold themselves as exempt from their own rules.

1.  1 Timothy 2:11-15 is used as a general principle that forbids godly Christian women from using their God-given gifts for the benefit of their Christian brothers.  If this is true as complementarians assert it is, can you please tell me why Paul uses singular and a plural grammar in verse 15?  Who is the “she” who will be saved in the future if “they” continue on in faith, love, holiness and self control?  Isn’t it a twist to ignore the specific grammar of verse 15 which is the conclusion to the prohibition?  How can we know who Paul is prohibiting in verse 12 if we do not know who the “she” and “they” are in verse 15?

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Let her learn….or not?

Let her learn….or not?

In our continuing discussion of 1 Corinthians 14:34-36, we come to the problematic area of learning.

1 Corinthians 14:35 And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home…

What can we pull out regarding “learning” in this verse?  We can see that if a woman has a desire to learn, she isn’t encouraged to do it in church.  Where is she supposed to learn?  Her learning is to be done under her husband’s permission and it is to be done at home.

The requirement that a woman is not to learn in public is not a Christian regulation but a part of the “law” of the Jews.  Women were not to be taught the scriptures according to the oral tradition of the Jews.  Why?  Because she was not allowed to touch the scriptures and so she didn’t need to be a rabbinical student and publicly learn.  She also would have no one to teach the scriptures to since the men were considered to be the ones who had the responsibility to handle and teach the Torah.  Women need not learn.  They were not qualified to learn.

In previous posts we have been listing the markers in 1 Corinthians 14:34, 35 that prove that Paul was quoting from the Corinthians and then refuting their claims in verse 36.  The wording about women learning at home (v. 35) instead of in the assembly once again ties these verses into man-made tradition.

But this isn’t Paul’s way nor is it God’s way.  Paul had just told us in verse 31:

1 Corinthians 14:31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted

Not only were all allowed to prophesy in the assembly, but the public prophesying was so that all may learn in that public assembly.  The learning was done by all just as the prophesying was done by all.  All may learn publicly.  Paul does not relegate women to learning at home.  He allows them to learn in the assembly since it is the body of Christ (not just a woman’s husband) who are responsible for helping her to learn.

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Three spheres of subordination shrinks to two

Three spheres of subordination shrinks to two

In my last post I pointed to USA Today’s editorial that challenged complementarians who are willing to accept a woman as the Vice President of the country, that they should admit that they are full fledged egalitarians in the realm of society, the workplace and public life.

Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, an organization that believes the bible forbids women from voting, has taken CBMW (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) to task saying that Dr. Gushee is right in his USA Today challenge that people like CBMW have experienced an historic change in their theological position.  He writes:

Dr. Gushee’s point was essentially this: Christians must formally acknowledge that a historic change has occurred in their theological commitments and policy objectives, or reasonable observers must conclude that that their position lacks intellectual integrity.

While I do not agree with Doug Phillips at all regarding his very legalistic interpretation of women’s “roles”, he is right in pointing out that if one interprets the distinctions between male and female as rooted in the creation order itself, then it is inconsistent to not apply that principle to all three realms – marriage (home), church and society – instead of just in marriage and the church.  If we are going to remove the realm of society and civil government, then we need to rethink our interpretation of Paul.

CBMW states that they are being consistent and that:

God’s design for male headship in the home and the church does not require the exclusion of women from leadership in public life, where spiritual headship is not involved. Such extrapolation carries the biblical teaching about the role of women beyond the Bible’s own application.

The apparent inconsistency according to CBMW only comes when one overlooks the priority of the church:

Complementarians only seem to be inconsistent if one overlooks the priority of the church and misses the distinction between the church and and civil government.  This confusion is resolved when one understands that complementarians simultaneously hold a high view of Scripture, a high view of women, and a high view of the church.

I think it is time that we test CBMW’s claim to consistency and see what they have taught in the past regarding the role of men and women in Society.

In 1987 CBMW formed as a concerned group of individuals and in that year they created the Danver’s Statement which is a list of CBMW’s core beliefs.

Point 1 under Rationale, CBMW lists a concern:

The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;

Note that the concern is not just about the home and the church but about “our culture”.  Did CBMW believe in 1987 that the difference between masculinity and femininity would necessitate different roles in society?  Their Danver Statement affirmations make it clear that they believe the “created order” that was ordained by God and it goes past an application to Christians because it is to be found within every human heart:

Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).

We find in CBMW’s 1991 book “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” that there is a “breaking point” of femininity that makes some “roles” for women inappropriate, unproductive and unhealthy:

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Questions of faith for semi-egalitarians

Questions of faith for semi-egalitarians

USA Today has an editorial written by David P Gushee in which Mr. Gushee challenges complementarians that they are actually semi-egalitarians and they should be willing to openly acknowledge this.  Gushee says that he writes about this issue as a moderate evangelical Christian.

Gushee writes that there are many theologically conservative Christians who accept Sarah Palin as the Republical vice presidential nominee.  Yet at the same time:

…at the local church level many congregations would not accept Palin or any other woman even as associate pastor, or deacon, or youth minister or Sunday school teacher in a gender-mixed classroom.  The most conservative would not consider it appropriate for her to stand behind a pulpit and preach a sermon, or teach from the Bible, or lead a praise chorus, or offer a prayer, unless her audience consisted entirely of women or children.

He notes that even CBMW (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) who Gushee calls “an influential advocacy group” and who are against women teaching men in the church, have no problem in allowing for a woman to serve as vice president of the country.  CBMW has replied to the article welcoming Gushee’s questions:

Dr. Gushee is the Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University and challenges complementarians with many questions in the September 15, 2008 issue of USA Today.

CBMW writes:

While we are honored that Dr. Gushee considers CBMW “an influential advocacy group” on gender issues, we don’t claim to represent the “evangelical voting base,” or even all complementarians.

It certainly is a fact that CBMW does not represent all complementarians.  There is a group called Vision Forum who were formerly associated with CBMW from its beginning, but who have since separated themselves from CBMW now calling CBMW in actuality semi-egalitarians.  Vision Forum has written that Dr. Gushee is “spot on”.  In an article regarding USA Today’s editorial, Doug Phillips writes this about CBMW:

It is our view, however, that they have erred by overtly embracing an egalitarian perspective of the roles of men and women in the public arena.

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