Wednesday, September 28, 2005

11. Women's Role. What an explosive topic right? Women's role is certainly not an isolated topic. It is interwoven with our emotions, cultural norms and.......our egos. This discussion is emotionally charged because it goes down to the very heart of the way we view the world and find order in our social systems. I am sure that you are aware of the feminist movement and all of the agendas it has pushed and is pushing in our culture. I instantly think of the show Commander in Chief which I am suspicious of being propaganda for Hillary Clintons intentions of running for office.

I myself was very apprehensive when I becam eaware of the ideas about women's role emerging in our culture and the church. When it came to the church, my first thought was, "Come on now, how are you going to get around this one?" My skepticism was based upon my interpretation of the text and my cultural bias to the topic. Turns out, I have completely changed my mind on the subject. It is not that I do not respect Biblical authority, or am oblivious to the issues at hand. I have a deep respect for scripture and its authoritative voice for the church. The critical factor is: interpretation.

So, where do we start on a topic like this? Well, it must begin with hermeneutics. To save time and space, the pivotal hermeneutical question is "What is cultural and what is eternal?" These texts on women's role must be confronted with this question. To engage this topic without discernment of the texts historical and cultural context is to do grave injustice to the hermeneutical task. As one of my mentors, Dallas Burdett, says to me, the three rules of Bible Study are 1. Context. The second one is ........Context. The third one is........Context. This of course alludes to the surrounding verses, chapters and themes in the book. But it also encompasses the "real time" context of the passage. The "real time" context has to do with the historical, cultural and political context of the original audience. These documents are "on target" forms of literature adressed to a specific people, in a specific place and a specific time with a specific purpose and agenda. We have to admit that we are reading other peoples mail.

This necessitates asking questions like, "Who is the audience he is writing to?", "What is the local situation he is dealing with?", "Who are the opponents in the passage and what is the substance of their contentions with the author", "What is the cultural situation of their day and how does that shape their worldview?." All of these questions must be taken into account when interpretting documents that are 2000 years old.

These texts that we read were born within a particular time and place. The carry with them particular cultural, social and even political "baggage" if you will, that is characteristic of documents from previous eras. We must respect their context if we are to faithfully interpret their content.

There will be more posts on this topic, but for now, let me point out a paradigm shifting theme in the text. The first is Joel 2:28-32. This passage is quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost as he alludes to the Holy Spirit descending upon the 120. He clearly states that the outpouring of the Spirit is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:28-32.

So lets take a look at the passage. 2:28 And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. 30 I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. 31 The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. 32 And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.

The question I want to ask is this: Does God want women to prophesy? This is an important question because it focuses the discussion on the will of God. Does God WANT women to prophesy? From looking at the text, it appears that he does. God is the one who sent the Spirit. He is the one who wrote the prophecy. He is the one who directs where the Spirit will go and what he will do when he abides in someone. The reason why this is a crucial point is because often in entering into this discussion about women's role, we approach it in the framework of what I call "last resort" theology. We feel as though God really did not WANT the women to prophesy, but that he sort of put up with it because of special circumstances. This is soooo not what the text reveals. God desires women to prophecy. It was his idea. It is his initiative. It originates with him!

This is amazing to me. It is in the heart of God for women to prophesy. What a powerful concept to begin this discussion with. Now, if you are not open to women prophesying, I am sure your mind is being flooded with reasons why God does not want it today, or even, why the text is not saying this. This is understandable. We all resist new ideas and concepts when they have the potential to bring about major change in our lives. But we must be vulnerable to the text and allow it to shape our theology. This is a difficult task, but possible none the less.

So what is the point? Well, I think the foundational thing here is that God is not against it and has no reservations about women prophesying. He is actually for it! This passage needs to serve as one of the filters when engaging other texts. It is not that I am trying to sneak in the back door or even break in through the window of God's church by promoting women should prophesy. God has already built a front door for this to come in. The question is, will we lock the door and board it up, shutting the women out of opportunities to use their God given gifts.

More to come on this topic. However, let me suggest a few websites:

Christians for Biblical Equality International
Egalitarian Christian Alliance

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