Thinking Out Loud

April 14, 2018

When Religion Capitulates to the Broader Culture

We often encounter discussions under the general category, “Women in Ministry” and even the most staunch complementarians have to agree that in Christianity as a whole, changes are certainly afoot. While I lean more egalitarian, I do believe there are God-ordained differences between the sexes which could manifest themself in differing church leadership roles depending on the dynamics of the local church.

So it was with great interest this week that I came upon two different articles revealing that similar changes are happening in other faiths.

The first one was in our Wednesday collection of news stories. Mayim Bialik, an actress who played the lead in Blossom and also acts on The Big Bang Theory, is Jewish. She asks the question, “Ever heard of an Orthodox woman who holds a clergy position?” She then proceeds to profile “B’nai David-Judea, the only Orthodox synagogue in Southern California which employs a female clergyperson.” She speaks of “Using our evolving sense of obligation to modernity to find ways to let in more voices.”

Read that last sentence again. You don’t need to be Jewish to see the parallels between that perspective and what’s taking place in Mainline Protestantism and Evangelicalism. You can watch Mayim’s video at this link.

The second one was at Religion News Service, Jana Riess reporting on the Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Annual General Conference.  Among the takeaways she noted, “Sister Bonnie Oscarson, the outgoing Young Women president, gave a heartfelt plea for the Young Women to have important responsibilities in church and to feel that their contributions are valued;” and “Women spoke in three of four sessions…In the April 2017 conference, which featured thirty total speakers over four general sessions, only one woman—Primary president Joy Jones—spoke. One LDS viewer suggested on Twitter on Saturday that it would be great to hear from one woman during each general session, bringing the ratio of male to female speakers to something more like six or seven to one. For this modest entreaty she received significant hateful pushback from some on Twitter as well as support from others.”

The rest of Jana’s article is at this link.

…So returning to Protestants and Evangelicals, inasmuch as we see a broader trend taking place, we have to ask ourselves if we move with those trends simply because we are caving into societal pressure.

For Evangelicals, the bottom line is always, “What does the Bible teach?” But with, for example, the Apostle Paul’s statements on women, some will easily prefer to choose the interpretive analysis as the reason for opting out of traditional teaching. ‘Yes;’ we will say, ‘This is what the church has commonly understood this passage to mean, but we now understand the Greek word [insert Greek word here!] actually meant something in that time closer to [insert different meaning here!].’

This same reasoning is used with the very same apostle when it comes to homosexuality. Without taking sides on this, presently it’s clear that many contextual studies and word studies are brought forward which suggest that Paul was speaking to something other than that which is usually assumed and, Voila! We suddenly find ourselves in a different paradigm.

But that doesn’t mean everyone buys in. These issues can be quite divisive.

In the Roman Catholic Church, change is more stringently created and applied. The Pope merely needs to publish an encyclical redefining the role of women (or other such issue) and the new guidelines would be in effect overnight, but basically there would also be an appeal to a newer, higher understanding of the original Greek or Hebrew texts. He cannot just change the rules out of nothing — out of thin air — there would need to have been significant study.

So again, it’s interpretive.

But how does the book on which we base everything so important and so vital to our faith lend itself to so much interpretation? When absolutes are crumbling? Is this what Jesus means by “knowing in part and understanding in part;” or what Paul himself means by “seeing through a glass darkly;” the still-used KJV rendering of a metaphor in 1 Corinthians which has a variety of expressions.

Are we capitulating to the culture? Or is the culture a catalyst for an awakening of sorts?

The related question: While the deity of Christ and his death and resurrection are absolutes, are there other things which are negotiable?

 

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March 12, 2011

The Lie That Women Shouldn’t Teach Men

Several years ago I had a conversation with someone who told me about the monthly editorials by J. Lee Grady in Charisma Magazine.  I immediately became a fan.  In an environment often characterized by excesses, Grady is a balanced Pentecostal.  As such, he has my highest respect.

I should say now that this isn’t a book review, but rather a chapter review from his latest, 10 Lies Men Believe: The Truth About Women, Power, Sex and God, and Why It Matters; the final chapter, which is titled “#10 – A Man Should Never Receive Spiritual Ministry from a Woman.”

Grady begins with the story of the famed Southern Baptist event where guest speaker Anne Graham Lotz was met with the commotion of many men turning their chairs in protest so that their backs were to her as she spoke.  Class act, huh?   He then goes on to present a rather convincing case that this viewpoint, that a woman should never teach the Bible where men are present, not only has no support in scripture, but that the Bible shows the very opposite to be true.

“While they praise mothers in the natural, they leave no room for spiritual mothers.” (p. 171)

Grady is convinced — and convincing — that the admonition against women in the New Testament is an isolated case.

“While Paul once clamped down on a group of women in Ephesus and forbid them to teach; if we look at the women who served with Paul in gospel ministry, it is obvious that he empowered men and women and invited them to be part of his team.” (p. 172)

Then he provides a list of some standout examples:

  • Priscilla (Acts – note she is always mentioned before her husband)
  • Phoebe (deaconess of Romans 16:2; word is prostatus, which means presiding officer)
  • Nympha (Col. 4:15; no other leader mentioned)
  • Junia (Romans 16:9; not Junias, the male form, as some translations tried to change it to fit their theology)
  • Euodia and Syntyche (who Paul describes as ‘fellow workmen’ in Phil 2:3)

He then refers to Old Testament examples such as Sarah, Deborah, Hannah and Huldah; and then jumping to modern day examples notes that both Bill Bright and Billy Graham cite Henrietta Mears among their greatest spiritual influences.

At the end of the chapter, he concludes that I Tim 2:12, the verse that says,

NIV I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

  • conflicts with the Old Testament
  • conflicts with Paul’s own practices
  • conflicts with his writing in other places which encourages women to participate

# # #

Because some of you are no doubt curious, here is the list of the ten lies covered throughout the book:

  1. God made men superior to women
  2. A man cannot be close to his son
  3. A real man is defined by material success
  4. A man is the ultimate boss of his family
  5. Sex is primarily for the man’s enjoyment
  6. It’s OK for a man to hit or abuse a woman
  7. Real men don’t need close male friends
  8. A man should never admit his weaknesses
  9. Real men don’t cry
  10. A man should never receive spiritual ministry from a woman

10 Lies Men Believe is available in paperback from Charisma House, at 14.99 U.S. and went on sale last month.  To learn more about J. Lee Grady’s Mordecai Project, a ministry to empower women around the world, click on the book image above.

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