Women & Ministry, pt 2: Exegesis

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This is part 2.

In 2009, I co-authored a commentary on the Pastoral Epistles and Philemon, published by Smyth & Helwys, Reading Paul’s Letters to Individuals.  In it, I argued that Paul’s prescription in 1 Timothy 2.12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to usurp authority over a man”) is medicine for a sick church, intended to meet the crisis the Ephesian church was facing, and NOT a universal principle for all Christians everywhere.  This conclusion is borne out by texts from Acts and Paul’s other letters that paint a more complete picture of Paul’s ministry, where women were clearly activate in leadership, including teaching.

Let me turn that inside out & unpack it.

1. From Acts, Romans 16, etc., it’s clear that Paul had women in important positions, leadership positions, in his churches.  Acts even shows us a woman in a teaching position, correcting a male church leader, and her actions are depicted positively.

2. The two passages that complementarians find most supportive of their position are 1 Cor 14.34f and 1 Tim 2.12.  The complementarian universalizes these passages, and claims that these are Paul’s eternal instruction for all churches everywhere.

3. 1 Cor 14 is not safe ground for the complementarians, because 1 Cor 11 (which clearly and positively describes women prophesying [which involves ministering by speaking] in the public worship service) undoes the simple understanding of 14.34f.  This leaves 1 Tim 2.12.

4. 1 Tim 2.12 prohibits two activities: teaching and usurping authority.

4.A: The Greek infinitive that some translate “hold authority” does not refer to every exercise of authority.  That word (AUTHENTEIN) refers to “taking authority for oneself, usually by force”; “rebellion”; “overthrowing authority.”  Paul is not prohibiting women from exercising any kind of authority, he is prohibiting the women IN EPHESUS from rebelling against the leadership of the church.

4.B: Paul IS prohibiting the women in Ephesus from teaching in the church.  But WHY?  Because the church was corrupted by false teaching, some of it having to do with women’s roles, which was causing disruption in the church and damaging the church’s reputation with the community around it.

5. When you get down to it, both Ephesus and Corinth were sick churches.  Paul’s instruction to them is like chemotherapy that attacks a cancer.

What does chemotherapy do?  It makes the patient extremely sick, poisons him or her nearly to death, so as to make their bodies inhospitable for the cancer.  This makes the environment so unhealthy for the cancer that the cancer shrinks, goes into retreat, and can be surgically removed.

Why don’t we give chemotherapy to people who don’t have cancer?  If someone is in a high risk group a cigarette smoker with a family history of cancer: why not start chemotherapy NOW, so they won’t develop cancer later?

Because chemotherapy is POISON.  It would make a healthy person extremely sick and weak, and lead to other health problems, some of them quite severe.

The risk that chemo presents is only acceptable when the confirmed presence of cancer makes chemo “the lesser evil.”  So it is with Paul’s instructions regarding the women in Ephesus, and to a lesser extent Corinth.

Don’t universalize Paul’s chemotherapy for sick, cancer-ridden churches.  Follow his example of including women in ministry and respecting and using their gifts, instead.

Reforming Education: Questions that Give Pause

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Today, Scot McKnight posted a set of questions regarding educational reform from dianeravitch.net: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/11/19/educational-reform-some-caustic-questions/

The author, Robert Shepherd, confronts with apparent anger the assumptions of “the corporate reformers who think they know how to reform American education.”

I’m the academic VP at a small Christian liberal arts college, the second such post I’ve held.  Altogether, I have eleven years experience in higher education.  I’m NOT expert in most of the things Shepherd addresses, but his leading questions make a great deal of sense to me.  And I DO know a few things.

I know that some school systems have taken the easiest path by teaching nothing but standardized test content that would affect their funding.  I know this, because I saw it in the school systems my own children went through, in Kentucky and Texas.

I know that my students’ reading and writing skills dropped precipitously from 2003 to 2009 (my last year full-time in the classroom), the aftermath of No Child Left Behind.  Am I committing a post hoc, ergo propter hoc error? I don’t think so.  I’m persuaded that the emphasis on standardized tests and test content is at least partly to blame.

Even in 2003, I had college freshmen telling me that my class was the first time they’d ever read a book cover to cover.  The difference: by 2009, they were telling me the same thing.  But they were incapable of reading the book their counterparts had read in 2003.

The Theological Dimensions of the Gettysburg Address

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Thomas Kidd has a great, brief piece about the theological dimensions of Pres Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/anxiousbench/2013/11/a-new-birth-of-freedom-the-gettysburg-address/

Pres Obama’s handling of the Gettysburg 150th anniversary observance–deciding not to appear, even though most previous Presidents appeared, choosing to read a version of the speech that did not include the words “under God”–makes Dr Kidd’s observations even more interesting.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Pastors, Obamacare, & “No Comment”

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Scot McKnight makes some lucid observations re John King’s recent CNN report on Evangelical pastors & support for Obamacare: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/11/18/a-comment-on-no-comment/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PatheosJesusCreed+%28Blog+-+Jesus+Creed%29

I’ve argued here & elsewhere that the stated goals of Obamacare could be better & more cheaply achieved through other, simpler, less drastic means. Christians are obligated to provide for, to meet the physical needs of the poor. Don’t just say “We oppose Obamacare.” Propose an alternative!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Obamacare & Health Insurance

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The purported rationale for Obamacare was: we need to do this to provide healthcare for 20 million (or 30, or 40, or 50 million; the number kept changing) who do not have health insurance.

I say “purported,” because the sprawling nature of Obamacare makes it clear that this is about much more than providing access to healthcare for people who don’t have it.  Obamacare isn’t about coverage, or healthcare for those who don’t have it; it’s about control.

Here’s what I mean: If Pres Obama wanted to do simply give health insurance (which we’re assuming is necessary for access to healthcare, a faulty assumption) to every American–he could have accomplished this with a narrow, focused set of legislative measures.

(Arguably, America already has universal access to healthcare.  Anyone who needs immediate medical attention can go to the emergency room at thousands of hospitals across the country and not be turned away.  But granted: there is no access to rehabilitation, preventive care, etc.)

Pres Obama COULD have simply asked congress to levy a $125 per family per month surcharge on every American with health insurance, something like the Universal Service Fund, the extra fee on your phone bill that the government supposedly used to expand wired telephone coverage to all communities in the country.

Here’s the math:

1. Say there are 35 million Americans without health insurance. Say it would cost $300/month to buy Blue Cross for every one of them.

2. Multiply 35 million uninsured by $300 per month = $10.5 billion per month, $126 billion per year.

3. If 35 million don’t have health insurance, and the population of the US is 315 million, then 280 million Americans HAVE health insurance.

4. Divide $126 billion by 280 million. We could pay for universal health insurance by charging every person (not family, every individual) who currently has health insurance an additional $35 per month.  Average that out: it comes to around $125 per month per family.

You can say that $125 per month per family sounds expensive.  Compared to what we’re going to be paying with Obamacare?  It’s peanuts.  You may think $300 per month is too low; plug in your own numbers, I guarantee it will cost less than Obamacare.