This topic has come up twice in our recent service/discussions at Oak Life church on Sundays – first as a discussion via Father’s day and its meaning for participants; the scond in reference to ways in which we feel at odd explaining the faith in light of some embarrassing eras in our collective history.
First let us acknowledge that if people in the general populace have any notions of Church history at all it is a vague sense of where we have catastrophically blown it on the world stage. Thus they pipe up loudly about “The Crusades” or some who used the Bible as a defense for slave ownership and they often point to it as a means of subjugating women.
All of these things have happened in time and space, but simply ignore that at the same time other things were transpiring that were equally as powerful and which contradicted these abuses of power like the Abolitionist Movement to risk their lives to free the slaves; the Monastic movement in the 1100-1300s (during the Crusades) as well as the formation of the Carmelites, the Dominicans, the work of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Francis of Assisi’s famous crossing of the battle lines in the fifth crusade to sit speak with Sultan al-Kamil and ended up sharing a meal with him before being returned unharmed.
People will always misuse the Gospel – will always make its “Good News” into “Bad News” via power. But this is not the way of Jesus, nor is it taught in scripture. It is the way of the world plain and simple. And it is important to get used to it – and get used to parsing the clear difference between the two if you are to be a thinking Christian and not just a dumb sheep playing after every cultural whim.
John Newton was a slave-ship owner until he read closely the Gospels and Paul. Then he repented and stopped sinning as a slave-trader and wrote “Amazing Grace” – which we all know and love.
Being Chosen by God; not Choosing Who God will be
In a Postmodern context I am not surprised that people feel they can choose Who God will be for them. One wonders how this is supposed to work. If one cannot find success in doing this with a mate (and one surely cannot -despite all attempts to conform them) – what possible success can we have with God? “I Am that I AM” can also be translated “I will Be What I will Be.” and if God has chosen to reveal God’s own self as “Father” – well we just have to deal.
Is His “fathering” anything like our own fathers? I doubt it. If so my experience would be very different. No, most often God’s way is utterly counter-cultural: Everything we expect is out upside-down on its ear.
The “First shall be last;” the “way up is down:” “Blessed” are all the wrong people – not he rich, powerful and famous.
And this happens fast. I blinked at 32 and now I am almost 59. I’m not gonna blink again anytime soon – I have a few last things to do and I am still too young.
But let’s take men – husbands for example. They are supposed to be leaders right? Well most of them are simply not at all. So fearful of being domineering they simply either never grew a pair or had them removed. But the problem is that they were never here for dominance – they are here for service – as “Christ loved the Church” – you see that kind of “dying-to-self” commitment takes cajones. It takes grit and a steely-eyes toughness with the world – not with a woman.
The result is joy. A man alone can draw out the glory of God/female out of his wife just as she alone can draw the glory of God/male out of him. They are both image-bearers male/female.
As for cosmological placement? Oh this is really fun! Every one of those male misogynist men in church leadership? They all have to wear a white wedding dress in the final banguet – the Wedding Feast (Rev. 19). I once did an article on this (I cannot find the art) where I depicted Dr. James Dobson in a stunning wedding dress (he was quite fetching)- because that is what all us men have to show up in given the Final Wedding where we – as the Church – are given to the Bridegroom (Christ).
You see our earthly wedding are really not as big a deal as we make them out to be. The are meant to simply be a snapshot – a Polaroid of the Big Event – or so says Paul,
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church andgave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He mightpresent to Himself the church [q]in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she [r]respects her husband. ~Ephesians 5:25-33.
This mystery is great “but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the Church.” (v.32)
So all this talk of “loving each other forever,” and then reading 1 Corinthians 13 out of context (as if it were about romance) is all fine and good for show..but the guy still has to die to himself and love as Christ loves and that never means lording it over his wife – ever.
He is called to the greatest humility – that of the cross.
And that requires really being a man – not the fear-driven kind of dominance expressed by men who have never matured.
Now as to the outside world and how it creeps into the Church – we have all seen it and it always has to do with power and never love, faith or hope.
There any number of passages that people need to hold in a kind of tension or stasis for a richer biblical understanding for they present differing contexts. It would seem the ones which urge silence for women (and also for some men and false teachers in the same letters) are communities in some real chaos (like Corinth or Ephesus) where the instructions should be localized not made universal.
This is especially true when we elsewhere clearly see women actively functioning in leadership as deacons (Pheobe), Julia, Priscilla and others as “co-workers,” and Junia, an actual apostle. Most notable (from the Gospel of Luke) we learn that the early ministry of Jesus was supported by women (no mention of men at all). That women were leaders in the early Church is really beyond question.
La Jeunesse de Bacchus – William Bouguereau
Bit in certain circumstances like Corinth where the cult of Diana had taken especially deep root, and the Dionysian frenzies of Bacchus led to utter confusion when compared to those now “speaking in tongues” in a chaotic order – it was all too confusing and Paul shuts it ALL down. He wants a clear demarcation between things like temple prostitution (in the name of Diana) and the chaste call to women now free in Christ.
To other communities he says nothing at all.
Logic dictates that Paul would not work with women in leadership roles – and certsainly not call them out but name (sometimes repeatedly) if he had any problem with them speaking out and leading in general).
His vision is, of course far beyond this. He sees that sexual differences is temporary, as are ethnicities.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is [a]neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. ~Galatians 3:28
That men have taken these few passages for specific situations and codified them for universal application – and that we have – as the Church – accepted such is really on US.
Because we as “the Church” have allowed and accepted being biblically illiterate as a way of life.
We have accepted that we can actually pick and choose what we like and don;t like in the Bible at first glances rather than study it at exactly those points where we find ourselves at “seeing” conflict with it. I say “seeming” because we will find most often that there is no conflict at all – just a deeper truth behind a superficial reading.
It is exactly at that the point where we find a “problem” that we are on the verge of the most exciting discoveries! It is right THERE that we stop and put on our scuba gear and dive down and explore!
I can assure you, the Fundamentalists will never do this. They will keep twisting scriptures to make them conform to their bad ideas – bad ideas like male dominance, war, greed, a success-oriented/betterment selfish “Gospel” all about them.
If you don;t like something in the Bible I suggest you may not have dug deep enough – or you may be asking the wrong questions. And the beauty is this is a church where you can ask pretty much any question you like and no one will ever think badly of you in the least.
Hey – I am wrong all the time. I like it. I like the exploration. I like the discovery and the “ah-ha!” experiences. And it matters because I might get married next year – and as such I need to be a servant leader who loves like Christ loves His Church – and He never dominates, abuses or disrespects my personhood. No one treats me better than Jesus.