Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tough verses in the Bible

I love the Bible. I haven't always loved it, but I really do love it now. For much of my growing up years, reading the Bible was a duty-filled process, a guilt laden thing that I "needed" to do. It was not the source of great life and joy for me, nor did I really see it as all that necessary for growing in my Christian faith and knowledge of God. I can even remember a time in college when I was talking with my roommate, who was very committed to the necessity of Scripture for all of life, and asking him if a person could preach a "biblical" sermon (meaning true to God's Word) without using the Bible. He basically said that it's hypothetically possible but there's no reason for anyone to do it. I have come to see that he was right - no one should preach without the Bible being opened, studied, and interpreted accurately with a dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Anyways, while the Bible is absolutely necessary for our knowledge of God, since it is his primary method of revelation, it is also filled with many difficult passages. One such passage is I Timothy 2:8-15, where Paul teaches on women in the church. It's one of those passages that sort of makes you cringe when you read it. It's also a big reason Paul is unpopular, among Christians and non-Christians alike. But just because it's difficult, like other texts, doesn't mean it isn't valuable. If anything, the resistance we feel towards some of these difficult texts shows our commitment to rebellion and our sinful nature's continual hold on our mind.

Without going into every detail, Paul makes the case that women are not to "teach or exercise authority" over a man inside of the church. He also talks about the necessity of modest dress, but for this post my main concern is with the roles inside of the church. The first thing that needs to be made clear is that Paul is not saying women never teach - clearly they do, and should, teach their children, teach other women, and so forth. This is very important. Paul's emphasis is on the authoritative teaching, in a permanent sense, in a church. Simply put, that is not a role God has designed women to have in the church.

But how can Paul say this? What authority does he stand on, besides being an Apostle, to make such a claim? Often times when we make an argument for something we look around us, to the culture, and make our defense from there. Not Paul. He immediately goes back to the creation account, with Adam and Eve. He makes a defense based on the way God created the world to operate. Adam was made first, then Eve, Paul says. This has wrongly been taken to mean Paul believed men were better than women. This is simply a matter of fact, if we take Genesis 2 to be a truthful account of things. Man was created, like the rest of the creatures, from the dust - and woman (Eve) was created "out of" the man, from his rib. We are equal as image bearers of God and yet distinct in the roles we play. God's order in family and in the church are similar - men and women are equal in importance, yet men have been given the greater responsibility in leading, protecting, and teaching. Women also lead, protect, and teach, but are to do so in different ways than men.

Finally, v. 15 is a very difficult one if we don't keep it in the context of the creation account. Paul continues with a reflection on creation and says "she will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control." WHAT?! Does Paul mean salvation as in forgiveness of sins and eternal life? No, for "saved" isn't in a spiritual sense here. Think about it... after the fall, a curse was put on all of creation, and on man and woman. Man's curse was that the ground would war against him as he worked, and woman's curse was the increased pain in childbearing. I believe a good explanation of this verse is this: Christian women ("continue in faith" indicates Christian women) who go through childbirth will grow in respect to their salvation and Christian maturity, and will find great significance/importance in their God given role as child bearers.

These are difficult verses, and I'm learning a great deal by studying them. Do you have any other thoughts about them? Do you disagree with where I've gone in interpreting them? I'm open to disagreement or other views. Remember, I'm just another beggar trying to show other beggars where bread is - so, show me some bread!

Soli Deo Gloria

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