Sunday, March 30, 2008

Because I Don't Know Any Better I Want To

Sleeveless dresses? Who knew?

Peg and I signed up for, and went on, a mission trip in June 1970. Our first, and it was a lulu. It was to Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. When we arrived, the director of the trip told the ladies that they shouldn't wear any sleeveless dresses unless they were either covered up, or something with sleeves was worn underneath. It seems that a sleeveless dress was a sign of, shall we say, a slatternly woman in Haiti.

If I'd been a Baptist then, or hadn't known the director of the crusade, I'd have been all "freedom in Christ" oriented and would have pitched a fit (on behalf of all those oppressed females on the crusade); as it was, I didn't know the difference. And I was always a compliant child, anyway.

The crusade director was correct, of course. Our witness was important to them, and hopefully to the Haitians around, and we needed to adapt what we did in light of the Haitian standards (without, of course, compromising Scriptural standards).

When I read the Bible, and go back a couple thousand years, I wonder if the same sort of thing went on back then. And if so, would God's instructions to the people back then have been to take the societal context into consideration in what they did?

Would God have wanted Peg to put on a sleeveless dress in Haiti, and tell the locals to wise up and quit majoring on the minors?

I don't think so.


So why all this flap about women in the ministry? What's the deal?

Most of the controversy connects to Paul's statement to Timothy that HE (Paul) did not permit a woman to teach, or usurp authority over, a man. Well, I wonder why Paul would've said that. Perhaps the women around Paul, who would've been the ones teaching and/or usurping, weren't the sort of women of whom God would approve. Perhaps in that society, such would have been unthinkable. Perhaps that would have been the social equivalent of sleeveless dresses in Haiti.

I won't even broach the subject of why Paul didn't INSTRUCT Timothy not to let women teach. Nobody seems to want to even TOUCH that!

I am overwhelmed at the instances which reflect that women were "second-class" people back in biblical times. And the advent of Jesus wouldn't have immediately changed those views overnight, would they? Wouldn't the assembly of scripture and its dissemination have been required before a whole society would change its views?

WOW. With just a tiny bit of looking, I got more stuff than I can type in a month, so I'll just hit a few highlights.

  • Men could have all the wives they wanted, but women were not so free.
  • Sarah told Abraham he could have sex with her handmaiden Hagar, but doesn't seem to have consulted with Hagar about it. Care to try that with your wife or your maid today?
  • When the men of Sodom mobbed Lot's house and wanted the good-looking angels (men) to come out so they could "know" them (check the Adam & Eve story for the meaning of that little gem...), Lot offered his daughters to them, for sex, and was still considered an honorable man worthy of saving.
  • Men (who were presumably pigs, like we are today) could have all the concubines they wanted, but it seems to have been a no-no for a woman to have a lot of whatever the male equivalent of a concubine was.
  • Pharaoh ordered killing of the male children. Women didn't count, apparently.
  • The census seems to have counted men only. That even carried forward into the New Testament accounts of feeding 5000 with a small sack lunch. That was only the men!
  • The last commandment is not to covet a lot of stuff of your neighbor's, even his wife. She's apparently in the same class as his house, his servants (female AND MALE!), and his 1969 Z28 Camaro (that goes double for a ZL-1).
  • Slaves got to go free every 6 years. But only if they were men. If they'd married, the wife didn't get set free.
  • If a lady was expecting, and some guy hit her in the tummy and she miscarried, the malefactor had to pay a fine. TO HER HUSBAND!! What .. she didn't count?
  • A man who had sex with his neighbor's wife apparently committed a grievous offense against his neighbor. NOT against his own wife! I mean, hubbies could go visit prostitutes and apparently not offend their own wives.
I could go on, but Mr. C. (for Carpal) Tunnel is begging me to stop. But it's clear (to me, anyway) that THIS is the society into which Jesus was introduced, and I'm sure that a lot of what He taught was oriented at setting some of those things right. But as I said, that'd require the completion of Scripture.

And that was the society into which Paul told Timothy that HE didn't let a woman teach. Since he didn't tell Timothy not to do that, I presume there was reason, where Paul was, with the women in his presence, that Paul didn't do that.

**Edit Note** I knew I'd forget something, so let me add this: Check out Miriam, Huldah, Deborah, and Noadiah. They're referred to as Prophetesses. And that word [HT: Strong's] seems merely to be the feminine form of Prophet, and we know what their function was, I suppose. AND, God says Deborah judged Israel. Hmmmm.......

So I am forced to wonder .. did God make a mis..... a mis .... uuhhhhh ... uuhhhhh ...

NO, doggone it, I can't even say it. **End Edit**

Someone made a comment on a blog somewhere about "Let's be consistent". To that I say "Amen". So .... which is it going to be.......

____ Women are to be treated in accordance with all scripture, including the OT references alluded to above, or....

____ Women are to be granted honor as a fellow heir of the gift of life, and in accordance with the sovereign gifting and inheritance of God Himself.

You needn't actually cast a vote ... your actions will do that for you.

20 Comments:

At 12:08 PM, March 31, 2008, Blogger Debbie Kaufman said...

Excellent post Bob. I believe you to be correct in your assessment. Any men want a woman's life in the OT? Interestingly many of these things you posted were carried into the future centuries. Early writers were not always kind when speaking of women. Thanks Bob. More of this please. :)

 
At 1:36 PM, March 31, 2008, Blogger Chandra said...

I really appreciate this post. How do you think the relationship that God established between husbands and wives applies to men and women in general?

I ask because I struggle with the idea of women in church leadership for several reasons, not all of which I can properly articulate. I'm sure there's some level of unfamiliarity involved so I really am trying to be logical :)

If the husband is the spiritual head of the household, it would seem like men in general should be the spiritual leaders of the church. Not as master to slaves, but as one who loves and takes care of her.

If we discount the "cultural" times that you talked about in your post from the Bible, should we also discount the instruction for men to be the leaders of the household. How do we pick and choose what is cultural and what we should take at face value?

 
At 3:05 PM, March 31, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Chandra: Thanksalotlady. You ask some serious questions, there.

First, the Bible is clear that the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the Head of the church. There's also the verse calling for "submission" on the part of the wife, but that must be viewed in the context of the instruction to the husband to be the "head" of the wife (and, IMO, the children too) AS Christ is the Head of the Church. And His Headship was entirely sacrificial.

The word "as" there, as I understand it, doesn't mean "since", but rather "in that manner".

He's responsible for the souls given to Him., despite the fact that He doesn't seem to force us to conform to His will. I view the husband's role pretty much the same, in the context of the marriage. It's a pretty tough model to follow.

As to what's cultural and what's not, I have no real idea. But I know the same passage which says that Paul didn't let women teach, also says women must learn in complete silence and submission. There are also verses that say women should be quiet in church and ask their husbands when they get home, if they need to know something. That seems consistent with the culture then, and seems reason why Paul might not let women teach in a place they weren't supposed to speak.

I don't think we're going to tell women to keep silent in church any time soon. Worship time would be really, really dull if we did.

:)

Thanks for reading and commenting.

 
At 10:47 PM, March 31, 2008, Blogger Debbie Kaufman said...

In relation to asking one's husband, it would have to apply to a husband who has Christ as his Savior. 1 Peter talks about the wife to the unsaved husband. It would be rather hard to get Bible teaching from a husband that is lost. In that case a woman would have to go another way for her Biblical information.

 
At 1:17 PM, April 02, 2008, Blogger Kyddryn said...

Goodness, what a post! I wish I could add something truly constructive, but only two things sprang to mind, and I don't know if they'll be at all useful:

First, should you ever want for another example of gender iniquity, remember Abraham and Isaac? Now go look up or ask about Jeptha's daughter. Mercy, it seems, is reserved for male children. I hope I spelled all of those names properly - it has been a very long time since I actually studied the bible.

Second, I think the closest thing to a male equivalent for "concubine" would be "consort", although I could be mistaken (as I often am).

Thank you for popping by and commenting from time to time - I am always happy for visitors and other points of view. I hope I may have more to offer you in the future, but I admit to being a bit out of my depth when it comes to the detailed workings of Baptistry...still, reading your posts is an interesting window to a (slightly) foreign world to me. Cheers!

Shade and Sweetwater,
K, who hopes never to offend, and asks forgiveness if she managed to anyway

 
At 2:11 PM, April 02, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Hi Kyddryn,

Actually a consort is simply a companion or associate. I cannot find any single word for a "male concubine", which says something in itself.

That may even further prove the point!

As to examples, those were the few I chose out of four printed pages of examples......

 
At 5:49 PM, April 02, 2008, Blogger Kyddryn said...

I wonder, too, if some of the reasoning behind women's "place" as defined in the bible didn't come from the fact that most women were illiterate. It's only relatively recently in human history that we've been permitted an education commensurate with men's. It might have been awkward to be peppered with questions in the midst of a sermon, and how could a woman teach what she couldn't read?

Just a thought...I have so many of them crowding my noggin, I find it's best to let a few out once in a while to save having headaches or drooling.

Shade and Sweetwater,
K

 
At 6:53 PM, April 02, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Uhh .. I always found drooling attractive in a lady, myself.

 
At 1:05 PM, April 03, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Bob,
As always your comments are stimulating and thought provoking. I commented on Wade's blog earlier that to me the real issue in the convention is that we have crossed the line and started giving out official interpretations of Scripture. And we have ignored the right of individual churches to choose who they want for whatever jobs they deem important. I totally agree that service trumps office when it comes to figuring out who can do what in the church. The problem comes when some are never given the chance to exercise their gifts and calling. Practically that means many of our brightest and best have fled to other places where they are at least given an opportunity to serve. One of my theology teachers told us how his daughters proudly wore buttons which read, "If you won't ordain me, don't baptize me!"
And that is not to mention how it is a not so veiled slap in the face at all those ministers in other denominations who happen to be female. But again for me the real underlying departure from our historic baptist roots is to begin to offically pronounce the only appropriate interpretation of Scriptures which are obviously open to varying interpretations. That and the fact that many missionaries and teachers have had to resign or have been forced out for not simply going along to get along. Thanks for your musings. Tommy

 
At 1:23 PM, April 03, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Tommy,

Thanks, I appreciate your words.

Everybody ought to have the chance to sit and talk to some of the people who have been "edged out" of service. I am fortunate in that I have a 14-year missionary, similarly pushed out, living less than a block from me, and we get together every now and then.

The Powers will have to explain why some careers and lives were so badly messed up on the way to a summit of egos.

 
At 7:45 PM, April 04, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post man.

 
At 10:32 PM, April 05, 2008, Blogger Richard J said...

Bob--I just wandered over here from Boo Mama, and I know now it was God leading me over here. It's great to read someone who is serious about applying God's word correctly in today's world.

I wonder if sometimes we forget that the epistles were written to actual people in actual congregations that had specific problems. Paul was writing to give instructions in those problem areas.

Also, of course, I wonder how often we read the Bible through the lens of our own cultural biases. Women have been second-class citizens in our culture for years; therefore, it must be scriptural. At least that's the assumption.

Anyway, thanks again for some great food for thought!

 
At 12:12 PM, April 06, 2008, Blogger LindaSueBuhl said...

I've stayed away from commenting because as I've made so clear - I am NOT a baptist nor would I play one on TV. Today - my mindset is - no good deed goes unpunished so in I plunge. My particular church body doesn't permit women to be preachers or in the elders/deacons categories. They also don't allow divorced men to be ordained leaders - that said I don't feel neglected all that much. I'm well aware of my value in the Lord and since I choose to attend a non denominational church with these "rules" - so be it. Does seem silly at times for people to narrowly grasp descriptions by Paul - who was not apparently giving commandments but illustrations on how to establish a well run church. Perhaps it is because I've been a rebel or maverick (or some other example of a burr in the saddle blanket of a very irritable horse) most of my 60 years - doesn't matter much to me what a denomination or group of people decide the scriptures say. We are given the bible to study as a guide for accepting salvation, understanding our history (and future) with God and knowing how to live. Nothing added to it ever lasts whether from denominations, cults, church bodies have all tried to say "this is what HE really meant" - only to be cast aside eventually. The word remains. Whew - I'm up on a soap box now - dang - makes me SUCH a target. I believe I understand the blog post,sorry for those who feel disenfranchised. Glad you are ready to charge into the fray Bob - be sure to have on the full armor 'cause it looks like some of the opponents are riding shetland ponies rather than battle stallions.

 
At 12:31 PM, April 06, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Hi Linda, and thanks.

The most important thing you said is that you're aware of how the Lord values you. That trumps anything any other humans can say about you.

Our church doesn't ordain women either and I do find support for the pastor/elder role (same word in the original languages) being limited to men. If a woman has a message from the Lord, in our church, then she could, to me, preach it but she'd be doing so under the authority of our pastor.

There's no biblical prohibition against women as deacons or in other forms of leadership such as our Worship Leader. Ours is a lady and is absolutely God-blessed in it.

 
At 12:35 PM, April 06, 2008, Blogger LindaSueBuhl said...

Aha and as I recall - I had a request in for what your blessed and anointed woman worship pastor did for resurrection Sunday? As becomes evident - my approach to church is increasingly the KISS approach. We make too many interpretations and rules. It is easy to be sidetracked (wonder what spiritual entity likes it for churches to get away from preaching to the lost and sustaining the body of Christ?) our purpose in banding together isn't to DO church - it is to BE church and women make up way more than 50%. Nuff' - I'm going to be doing real work instead of enjoying myself on the internet. Thanks for a lively topic.

 
At 1:26 PM, April 06, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Linda;

The real special was "Listen to the Heartbeat" and I couldn't speak when they were done. I've asked for a video .. it wasn't anything that was a "program" so wasn't duplicated. I'll put it up when I get it.

 
At 1:36 PM, April 06, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Richard J,

Thanks for looking in and commenting. I really appreciate it.

I'm probably going to put up a post about "The Chickenwire Cages of Prejudice" concerning the exclusion of women in a lot of roles, here shortly. If my wise counsel doesn't shoot it down for being over the top.

If I put it up, I expect a touch more controversy. But I can always blame it on age.

:)

 
At 7:23 AM, April 08, 2008, Blogger CB Scott said...

There is much here to think bout. One thing that needs no thought at all is the fact that Jesus did set women free.

Also, Paul did much for women in letting the church know they were worthy of love, care and respect.

cb

 
At 4:18 PM, April 08, 2008, Blogger foolery said...

Bob, this is SUCH an unfortunate place to leave a silly comment, but . . . I think your source was correct that Richard Anderson was 6'3". I remember him as towering over us.

YIKES! What a bubblehead I must look like. Thanks for stopping by, as always!

-- Laurie

 
At 4:39 PM, April 08, 2008, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Laurie,

Bubblehead? Not on your life. I'm a tad more perceptive than that, young lady.

 

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