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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, April 30, 2015
Why I am not an Egalitarian (Part -II-)
Recap

In my first post (here), I explained that the verse most often cited as foundational in an argument for an egalitarian position, is Galatians 3:28 ("There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [ESV]).  I explored the context of that verse to unfold for the reader, the point that Paul was supporting, and in doing so, to limit the scope of what Paul wrote, to the intention that Paul wrote it for, specifically, that every person whose faith is like Abraham's is a spiritual child of Abraham, and therefore an equal partaker of the promise God made to Abraham.  Paul was arguing that this promise was not dependent upon physical ancestry, so it didn't matter if you were a Jew or a Gentile (and for the sake of hyperbole, a free man, or a slave, a man or a woman, etc.), your physical birth adds nothing to your spiritual birth - that is the point Paul was making.

Once this is understood, it becomes self-evident that Paul is not jumping out of that context to arbitrarily suggest that Christians are unilaterally equal in all things. The implied equality in that verse is linked in the context the idea that the Jew and the Gentile are on equal footing with regards to becoming partakers of the New Covenant, i.e. entrance into the promise given to Abraham. 

Think of it this way, if you were a Jew and believed yourself to be a recipient of the promise given to Abraham, it didn't matter if you were a slave or free, a man or a woman - you were a "Jew" - and as such you were a partaker of that promise.  Paul is saying that the promise isn't based on ancestry, but on faith, so you're a "Jew" (by this definition) regardless of whether you're a man, woman, slave, free, or of Jewish ancestry or not.

This is not unlike what Peter is recorded (by Luke) as saying to the congregation at Jerusalem concerning the salvation of the Gentiles in Acts 10:34-35, "So Peter opened his mouth and said: 'Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."

Like Peter, Paul is simply saying that God shows no partiality based on nationality, gender or  liberty when it comes to who is acceptable to Him - this lack of partiality is not connected to roles in the church, but rather to entrance into the church - where such circumstances are no hindrance whatsoever.

So when Paul states years later in a letter to Timothy explaining how church is supposed to be organized, that he (Paul) does not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather she is to remain quiet. (c.f. 1 Timothy 2:12) he is not saying something here that contradicts what he said to the Galatians.  Christian women and men are equal partakers of the promise made to Abraham, because they are equally qualified through grace by faith.

But being equally partakers of the same salvific promise does not mean that women and men may hold the same offices in the church - and frankly, our culture frowns on such "archaic" distinctions.

Have you heard a preacher read more into Paul's words to the Galatians, in order to make less of Paul's words to the Church through Timothy?  They will say they are interpreting scripture through the lens of scripture, but rather they are taking a very clear passage, and attempting to obfuscate its clear meaning, by taking another passage entirely out of context.

Since it is almost impossible to do that with just these two verses - an appeal must be made to bolster the notion that men and women have always enjoyed the proposed "equality" that a shallow, context ignoring reading of Galatians 3:28 suggests - and this appeal is what I want to talk about today.

What about all those women in scripture who did great and marvelous things?

The teaching that God makes no distinction whatsoever when it comes to various ministries within the church, is easily frustrated by the text of 1 Timothy 2:12, and the context that qualifies it.  In order to dismiss the text, an appeal is made to Galatians 3:28 - which will inject into the text a foreign, but nuanced emphasis on gender equality in roles in the church.  Since that point cannot be made from the context the verse is being pulled from - the verse is held up outside its context, then bolstered with every (apparent) exception to the "rule" the scriptures can muster.

Many have been so influenced by the philosophies of our culture, that their default position is that Paul was being a bit draconian (at best) and more likely a little bigoted or even misogynistic.  He was a cave man, surrounded by other cave men, and these restrictions are not so much inspired by God as a product of the repressive culture of first century Palestine.

But even this notion, which sits right with so many, cannot easily wipe out the clear words of Paul in his letter to Timothy. 

I should say that a great many sincere believers are paying lip-service to the notion that scripture should interpret scripture.  They do compare scripture with scripture - but they compare the scriptures with the same care in which they read them - which is to say, void of, or at least with little or no regard to, context. 

Interpreting obscure scripture through clear scripture involves comparing what is being discussed, and not the wording of a particular snippet pulled from its context.  Proof-texting only works when the passage actually means what you are using it to prove. 

So consider with me the handful of passages that will typically be used to bolster the notion that women and men can hold the same offices/roles in the church "according to Galatians 3:28):

"Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment." - Judges 4:4-5 [ESV]

"So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter), and they talked with her." - 2 Kings 22:14 [ESV]
"Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. And Miriam sang to them: Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously;the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea." - Exodus 15:20-21 [ESV]

"And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz;" - Isaiah 8:3 [ESV]

"And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin," - Luke 2:36 [ESV]

"On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied." - Acts 21:8-9 [ESV]

"And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;" - Acts 2:17 [ESV]

You'll note immediately that none of these verses actually support an egalitarian position.  No woman mentioned in any of these verses is described in terms of being a pastor or an elder in a church - and you will note that not one of these verses has anything to do with how we are supposed to organize ourselves as a church. 

These verses show that long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers through various means - including *gasp!* through a few specific women in very specific situations.

Twice in the book of Judges we read, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (c.f. Judges 17:6, 21:25).  Consider in this light, that two women Deborah and Huldah, were judges in Israel.

Yes they judged Israel, and make no mistake - the Lord raised them up as judges - but what exactly was a judge?

In Exodus, Moses "judged" the people - that is, he sat down and listened to various legal complaints, and judged between the two parties as to what ought to be done.  He was, for a time, the only judge amongst the whole of Israel.  Finally when his father-in-law Jethro saw him doing this in Exodus 18, he gave Moses this instruction, which we can assume was inspired instruction, since Moses heeded it: 

"Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you." - Exodus 18:21-22 [ESV]

We see from Exodus 18:21-22, that from the beginning, the role of a Judge was supposed to be limited to men, yet many decades later, when Israel had put aside the teachings of Moses to pursue what seemed right in their own eyes, God raised a "prophetess" named Deborah the wife of Lappidoth to judge Israel.

Any honest reading of the account will suggest that Deborah was aware of Barak's call to deliver Israel when she sent for him.  The fact that Barak came at her summons tells us that she truly was given the respect and courtesy of a judge in Israel. We would be remiss to note that Deborah did not appoint herself a judge - but earlier in the book of Judges, we read that after Joshua died, God Himself raised up judges for Israel.

So one might be inclined to say, "Because God raised up Deborah to be both a prophetess and a judge in Israel, it shows that God makes no distinctions between men and women, and therefore the restrictions Paul makes concerning the roles of women in the church, should be relaxed."  But this is not a logical argument.

Recall from the opening passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews: that God spoke to the fathers through various means long ago - but now speaks to us through His son.  (c.f. Hebrews 1:1-3) In other words we can say, Yes, Deborah was a prophetess, and a judge.  It was exceptional because God called her contrary to the pattern given to Moses - but the pattern given to Moses was set aside by men who chose to do whatever seemed right in their own eyes, and so the fact that God raised up a woman to be a prophetess and judge in Israel, marks something God did, in His mercy, for His people who were ignoring the directives He had given them. 

It falls under the umbrella of God having spoken through a variety of means, none of which (we are told) represent the means that God uses today. 

We know even less about Huldah, but same goes for her.

Then we have Isaiah's unnamed wife, and Moses' older sister Miriam, both were called prophetesses, but neither uttered any words of prophesy.  It seems likely that their title was honorary, given their close relation to a known prophet.  We can say nothing of gifting or office, since neither of these is recorded as having either.  They are mentioned, but their does not nothing to support the claims that a womans ought to be allowed to become an elder in a church.

Having exhausted the Old Testament, we come to the New Testament.  Here we find Anna in the temple the daughters of Philip the evangelist - all of whom prophesied.  We also recognize that this period was unique in human history - the Old Covenant had been abolished, and the New Covenant was being established, the whole matter of which had been prophesied before, by the prophet Joel as being a time when sons and daughters would prophesy.

Think that through.  If it was "normal" for sons and (especially) daughters to prophesy, then (good gravy!) Joel's prophesy would be utterly useless - since it would fail miserably to identify the time of our Lord's coming.

The only way Joel's prophesy makes sense is if sons and daughters were historically -not- prophesying, such that one would know the time by the fact that something -exceptional- (out of the ordinary) was happening.

So even if we collect every text from the scriptures that might possibly bolster the notion that Galatians 3:8 promotes egalitarianism we find instead that most of the texts do nothing of the sort.  They show only that God has been merciful to Israel in spite of it's rebellion -  and that God has used women to do this.

That all falls under the same umbrella: "In various times and in many ways". Not to put too fine a point on this, but the logic being employed to make the Egalitarian argument is that if God has spoken through women in the past, He will speak through women in the future, therefore women should be allowed to be pastors.  The same logic is applied to this argument: God has spoken through burning bushes and talking donkeys in the past, therefore regular bushes and all kinds of Donkeys should be allowed to become pastors/elders in any church.

Do you see what I did there.  Not every bush burned without being consumed in the Old Testament, nor was every Donkey given the ability to speak - yet the fact that there are these rare exceptions in scripture cannot be funneled into a serious argument for a rule of conduct elsewhere.  To argue that the exception is actually the rule is a faulty argument.

God spoke through various (exceptional) means in the past, but the message to the church is not that what was formerly exceptional and rare is now common and plentiful.  The message is rather that God doesn't do that anymore.

Women and men stand on the same ground in Christ when it comes to their inclusion in the promises that were given to Abraham: they are standing in the righteousness and merit of Christ Jesus and they are fellow heirs with Christ.  Amen.

The New Testament teaching on who can and cannot become an elder in the church doesn't contradict the fact that we stand (in Christ) on equal ground.  Not everyone is qualified to be an elder, and if God Himself decrees that women cannot be elders, then the question before is not whether or not that agrees with our culture - it is a question of whether God's word has more authority than our culture.

The reason there have been no women pastors or elders until only recently (historically speaking), is not because our generation is more enlightened than previous generations, or even because our bible are better translated, or because this generation finally understands what the scriptures really meant.  There probably isn't any single reason above all others.  Certainly the fact that pastors are being academically qualified rather than biblically qualified plays into it.  The fact that fewer and fewer Christians are biblically literate is a large factor as well.

Whatever the reasons are, the fact remains - a great many people think it is okay for a woman to hold the office of elder in the church - not because of what the bible says or doesn't say - but rather because they are so sold out to their culture, or alternately afraid to offend it, that refuse to stand on the clear word of God, because that would mean rocking the boat.  The idea that only men can be elders is to them an antiquated, out of style notion that has no place is the "enlightened" church age.

If I go onto a third part in this series,  I'll address the appeal to modern knowledge - the kind that says, "oh no, the text doesn't actually mean what it says, it means the opposite, you're just misunderstanding it."



That is typically the third cord in the rope that binds this nonsense to some people's conscience.  No promises though.


posted by Daniel @ 2:52 PM  
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