Sunday, October 26, 2008

Corinthian Women

I somehow found this link and as I was reading some posts it was good to see issues ironed out. It made me think of a question I have that I figured I'd find a better answer to later if I read some commentaries or invested more time in researching but since you seem more knowledgeable than me I'll ask you and maybe you can direct me where I should go for more info. Anyway, its 1 Corinthians 15:34-35,(1 Corinthians 11:13-15), I think those right now are good there's other little things you know I don't think I would know what to say if someone said hey were not the "weaker partner"(1 Ptr 3:7) but anyway I'm asking because one of my friends belongs to an apostolic church so there's all these rules for women and I kind of want to start dialogue going on interpreting the bible and giving these verses the proper context they deserve. Okay thanks.

9 comments:

Daniel Kim said...

Very tough question. I know that a scholar from Intervarsity relatively recently published an article about the role of women in the church, but I can't seem to find a link now. I just remember that it was a pdf file.

Just curious - does the apolostic church that your friend attends have the women in their congregation wear a head veil? I just wanted to get a feel for how they are reading this.

Vanessa said...

Hi Daniel

I have a similar question. I attended an apostolic church growing up and I have some family members and friends who still attend. Very frequently I am asked about the role of women, woman's attire and a woman's overall appearance. Women wear veils to service. Women typically do not have short hair, don't wear any type of jewelry, and woman do not wear skirts. I am not sure how to approach conversations with the people I know in regards to this topic. Any suggestions would help. Thanks.

Daniel Kim said...

Well, my approach would be to simply let people do that. I wouldn't try to show them that they are in the wrong or anything.

If they ask about why women are allowed to take more prominent roles in other churches like our church (although we don't have women preachers), then I would just point them to all the passages (like Colossians 4, which we're going through right now) and Romans 16 (the list of prominent women who were in Apostle Paul's life and ministry, including a particular "Junias" who is considered to be one of the "apostles").

So what he said in 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14 regarding the silence of women should be understood in light of what was happening in the early church, especially as Gnosticism was encroaching upon the church.. (which encouraged gender-neutrality, cross-dressing or sometimes immoral lifestyle). Because if we treat those passages as if they were universal principles of behavior, we would also have to conclude that Paul's ministry seemed to have not followed his own commands... and not only that, Paul seemed to commend and encourage these women who were taking some prominent roles in the church.. which would be odd indeed.

I think the situation is kind of similar to the issue with slavery, so perhaps a helpful analogy can be drawn. Apostle Paul, given the specific cultural context of the times, tells masters to take good care of the slaves and slaves to obey their masters. Should that be treated as universal principles, which would then legitimize slavery? Or should we take that command in light of the cultural context and perhaps contrast it to Paul's personal command in Philemon to take back his runaway slave not as a slave, but "as a brother"? So what is the role of "slaves", exactly? Should we take a verse telling slaves to obey their masters as proof that slavery is supported by the Bible, or should we take a look at Philemon and see how things actually worked out regarding slaves and masters in the early church?

Sue said...

I had questions about things like this too... how do we know when Paul wrote things that were specifically meant to address that particular context (like women not speaking in church) and which ones are crucial principles that should still stand in any time period? (e.g. submission of wives to their husbands) And I do see how the same issue comes up with slavery.

And in general, when do you conform your behavior, appearance or standards to the context of your time (for the sake of being winsome or respectable as a witness or something like that) and when does it become proper to rebel against the culture of your time?

Daniel Kim said...

It is a tough line to draw, and each issue has their own reasons on why something would be considered universal while something would be considered cultural.

For women issue, it's a bit easier, because we can look at Paul's ministry and Jesus' ministry, and how they seemed to have a lot of women in their midst who were far from being silent.. So unless we're going to say that Jesus violated a universal law of God, we would have to conclude that Paul must have been talking to a very specific cultural context. But when it comes to the dynamic between husband and wife, some scholars point to the fact that this seems to be found all the way in Genesis (e.g., God seems to talk to Adam as if he's supposed to be point person, the representative of the newly created family, God gave him the commission to work, God comes to him after the Fall, etc.)

I'm not talking about some kind of ruler-servant relationship between men and women.. that kind of power struggle came after the Fall (God spells this out to Eve as a consequence of the Fall). This is a bit involved, but the universal principle regarding men and women should not be thought of as "women submit to men, and men rule over women." It is more of a complimentary view of men's role and women's role being different, rather than seeing things in terms of power. Well, whole books have been written about this issue, so obviously I can't go through all the arguments, but that's the gist.

Regarding your second question, I think that's another hard line to draw, of course.. I think one very simplistic way to look at it would be to say, "if it involves sin or even the connotation of sin, then we should not do it." The first part of that answer seems straight forward, but the second part - regarding "connotation" - is harder, because it's relativistic to the time that we find ourselves in. It does matter how the world perceives of a particular action, and even if it might not be objectively wrong, if the world associates a particular action with sin, then we should not do it. It's the same principle that Paul used in saying that if eating meat sacrificed to idols (which he thought was fine, since those gods don't really exist) is going to stumble someone, then he wouldn't do it.

In our culture, I think this has implications on issues like drinking, wearing certain types of clothing, etc.

Ray said...

re Sue's question: when do you conform your behavior, appearance or standards to the context of your time, and when does it become proper to rebel against the culture of your time?

My brother and I had a pretty vigorous discussion (almost argument) about this issue with regards to gambling. He's a xian, and a lot of people at his church would play Texas hold-em (a popular poker game), and some even went to Vegas once or twice a year. So it seemed like in his "context," he was doing nothing wrong.

When I brought up the example of APaul not eating meat sacrificed to idols, he asked, "But what if the people I could potentially stumble are not around, and there's hypothetically no way they would ever know about it, is it still a sin to gamble?" Aside from the argument of bad stewardship with God's money (which he counters with his smart investor approach to gambling, with drop out points where he's committed prior to going into the casino to pull out at a certain cut off line), is there anything else I could have told him?

I did say, "Your hypothetical is impossible, because it usually leaks out somehow, and you don't want to be avoiding questions when it comes to people. An open, transparent life is the best." But regarding his hypothetical situation question, and if he handles it in a very methodical way as to not lose money in the long run, what else could I have told him?

Daniel Kim said...

I don't think whether you win or lose is really the issue at hand here. The poor stewardship issue is just a small point in this ethical issue, and it should not be pushed.. because it seems to suggest that if you actually WIN money, then it's suddenly ethically okay to gamble.

I think you were headed in the right direction when talking about the whole image of gambling stumbling people. When talking about ethics on the basis of "stumbling others", though, we do need to provide a disclaimer that we're not talking about some weirdo getting stumbled by some random action. We can probably find at least one person in the world who would be stumbled for any kind of decision that we make. This principle should be applied if a significant percentage of the Christian and even secular world would raise an eyebrow. And I think when it comes to gambling, it would definitely apply. All that I've said, it doesn't really apply to your brother, since it seems like he already agrees that he shouldn't stumble someone. I'm just saying it for my own internal need to say that disclaimer.

Another problem with gambling is the fact that it is undoubtably a huge source of problems and tragedy for many people. We're not saying that your brother would fall into that category, but I don't think anyone could argue against the fact that gambling, along other highly addictive behaviors, have been the downfall and ruin of many people. So given that gambling has ruined so many lives and have been the scourge of communities all over the world, why would you contribute to that financially and implicitly by participating in the very act that ruins people? One could object and say that you could say that about so many companies like Nike.. where buying their shoes contribute to some sweatshop in a third-world country. But gambling is different in its degree and closeness of association. When you buy shoes from a particular company, the consequence of someone working in a sweatshop is a secondary or tertiary consequence. The company is the entity that is doing wrong by using child-labor, and your action of buying shoes is quite different from child-labor. (I'm not advocating that we blindly buy whatever we want without any ethical consideration. I think we should be mindful of the ethical actions of the companies and be discerning.. But my point is that the action of buying shoes is quite different from the wrong action taken by the company). But when we look at gambling, the action/behavior that you're engaging in is the very action that ruins people. So in that sense, there is a much tighter association between your actions and this great problem and wrong in society.

Daniel Kim said...

Now, when he argues that maybe he can do it if no one is watching, therefore no one can be stumbled... That's ethically a little more involved to argue against... So I think the best way is to give an analogy. The whole approach to your brother's ethics is that if I KNOW that there's nothing wrong with it, and it's just an unfortunate negative interpretation by others, then it's okay for me to do it when I'm alone... that's his moral reasoning, correct?

So here's a scenario. Let's say he's married, and he is thinking about having dinner with his old ex-girlfriend. He himself is convinced that this doesn't mean much.. And let's even say that he's right. It doesn't mean anything. But his wife interprets this as something very hurtful and wrong.. So because it would hurt his wife, he would not do this.. correct?

Well, what if he's on a business trip, and his wife is not with him, and she's never going to find out? At that point, would he have no qualms about having dinner with his ex? What would he think of someone who did that? Most people would say that he's being at best dishonest and at worst a creep.

This example goes to show that a part of being an ethically upright person is not only to seriously consider the negative interpretation of others, but to live a consistent life in accordance to the negative interpretation.. To admit that a particular action would be considered by many to be morally questionable, yet do it only when no one is watching... that picture is inherently dishonest, no matter what your personal moral take on that action might be.

Well, that was very long. Hope that helps. If you can think of counter-examples or have further questions, please comment.

Daniel Kim said...

Garrett actually found a good article by Greg Koukl on this topic. Here is the link.