Recently Pastor Doug Doyle preached a sermon at his Church, and I was quite pleased to listen to it. I had been following the CMA’s journey and theological movement from its former position to its current position for some time now, and it was heartening to see the Church discuss its stand publicly, and then go into some depth to explain it and offer a robust defense of the evolution of this position. Seeing as how I’d written about this before from this blog, and have made more than my fair share of observations regarding the issue of women in leadership, I thought it worth some time to examine this a bit more closely and make a few observations. Pastor Doug and I have not had the pleasure of meeting in a Christianly/brotherly context, but based on what little I know of him I figured he would appreciate a bit of friendly dialogue directed his way.
To that end, this is not a sermon review, in the historical sense of how I’ve traditionally done them, but rather a commentary on a few things that he has said, and a desire to flesh them out a bit more. Not all points are those of disagreement- some merely exist to offer a different perspective and nuanced position. To fully appreciate this post and to get the most out of it, [and not get lost] I would direct you to this link, and then come back and read.
“God says it, I believe it, that settles it.”
Early on, at the 3 minute mark, Doug talks about how we don’t follow everything the Bible says, from a “God says it, I believe it, that settles it” perspective, such as gouging out or eyes if it causes us to sin, wearing clothes made of two materials, stoning adulterers, etc. Doug and I have some shared history here, in the sense that I’ve also heard this as well. And yet I do take a ”God said it, I believe it, that settles it” take on everything the Scriptures states. I believe all those things…so long as they are in their proper historical and theological context. I think if we were being thoughtful, intrinsic in the phrase “God said it” is the understanding that he had a particular audience in mind to the exclusion of others. For example, God told David to kill the Amaletike babies and infants some three thousand years ago. God said it. I believe it. That settles it. It was a good and right action for David and his men to do, and there is no ability or suggestion on my part to pick and choose to do that, because God never offers the choice to me. God told the Israelites to stone adulterers, but he never directed that towards me that as a choice to which I must accept or decline to believe and put into practice. If I think that I have to pick and choose whether or not I need to follow that, then that’s on me, not on God.
Related to this…Scott McKnight
I like Scott Mcknight too, and think he’s probably my favourite egalitarian writer, even though I consider him to have a few serious flaws with both of his books. In any case, he asks the question ‘Which of these Old Testament commands are for us that we need to obey today? Let me ask you if the phrase ‘God says it, I believe it, that settles it’ applies here or not”. Cribbed from Leviticus 19, we see things like being holy, regulations on harvesting and gleanings, don’t spread slander, don’t plant fields with two kinds of seeds, don’t eat meat with the blood still in it, don’t clip the edges of your beard, stand up in the presence of the ages, keep all my laws and decrees, etc.
“We don’t follow all those commands…so why is all that non-compliance with the Bible ok? Because we believe that while God’s holiness doesn’t change, his will for his people does, and that causes us to say “that was then, and this is now“. That was then, and this is now. God’s holiness doesn’t change, his will for his people does change. How he works with people does change through the ages. So what we have done in order to honor God and to honor the authority of the Bible is we have learned from the New Testament patterns of discernment of what to do and what not to do.”…”All of us, no matter how conservative and fundamentalist we might be, all of us, no matter where on the scale we are, we practice a little bit of picking and choosing when it comes to following the Bible. [From both the OT and NT] So the issue is how do we discern in a God-honoring and biblical consistent way what we pick and choose to do and not to do… We practice biblical discernment that comes from reading the Bible from cover to cover in order to interpret the hard passages of the Bible that dont always seem to fit.” And this is the issue that pertains to women in leadership …“Its an issue of understanding certain what appear to be straightforward texts that restrict what women can do, over and against the overall story of what’s going on in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation”
I think this is a succinctly stated framework by which we put things out there, from the Egalitarian perspective. I would like to prod the idea that God’s will for his people doesn’t change. I think we can be more nuanced than that, because here’s the thing, I cannot be lumped together as one of God’s people like everyone else in the Bible in the same way. For example, God’s will for me, specifically and individually, regarding Leviticus 19, has not changed. The Lord has never willed that I follow that Law or that I subject myself to it. While I am one of “his people” in a general sense, I was not one of his people in that specific sense back then. There is no one asking me to have to make a choice on whether or not I follow Leviticus 19 and clip my beard or plant mixed seeds. My default is not that I am in that paradigm and then having to pick and choose to follow it or not. Rather my default is someone born under and after the new Covenant, and that is the basis for any ongoing choices I have. Right? In terms of the “that was then, this is now” that was never then for me.
This distinction enables someone to affirm a “God says it, I believe it, that settles it” approach to everything in Leviticus 19 and the rest of the Bible without having to believe that it has to apply to us today. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” and picking and choosing are not inextricably bound. I think there is an effort being made to tie these close together, whereas a thoughtful, reflective hermeneutic and theology would see that they can and should remain far apart, and that no one is helped when they are kept so intertwined. If we know who things are being said to, there is no choice for us to have to make, and so we can affirm everything in Scriptures as believing and settling what God says. Also note that I’m not saying that we don’t pick and choose some things, specifically some New Testament practices. But when we understand the difference between descriptive and prescriptive in the Scriptures, [what people did, verses what we ought to do] there really isn’t a whole lot that we are picking and choosing from, and these things are definitely not equal all across the testaments.
Pastor Doug talks about the culture in which the Bible was written, and how in that patriarchal system, women were not equal, and in many cases were considered inferior to men. I agree with him here, and have no point of disagreement, but I did want to offer a thought into an oft’ quoted prayer, which is the Tosefta Berakot 7.18. In it we read “Praise be Thou, O lord, who did not make me a gentile, Praise be Thou, O Lord, who did not make me a boor; Praise be Thou, O Lord, who did not make me a woman.”
He quotes this without comment, but I would argue that this prayer has much more nuance going for it. From a Jewish perspective, this is really a combination of appreciation and humility which captures the Jewish soul, which they believe is often best expressed through the negative. [Verses the positive, which would read something like "Praise be though Lord, for making me a man".] These verses aren’t saying that there is something intrinsically evil or tragic about being a woman, but rather, the three concepts strung together help a Jew express gratitude for his or her particular lot in life. The men are praising the Lord because from their perspective, they are being placed in a position to perform more mitzvot [obligations] than women, since Torah assigns them a greater number, and because woman are more burdened with household activities and their particular role to be able to be as fully engaged as the men are. Simply put, this particular prayer is not as awful as people make it sound, but Doug could have easily grabbed a handful of other sources to show that he’s right in his understanding that the system was built for and geared around the men.
“Young, Restless and Reformed”
I would have to see that picture of God’s chain of command for the family, but I would suspect that I would have similar feelings about it as he does. He says that this image of familial community has been ressurected with nicer words by John Piper and Mark Driscol. “Mark is part of a movement called YRR, or young, restless and reformed, and its a movement that’s full of passion- passion for what’s called called reformed or Calvinist theology, combined with a prohibition on women as equal leaders in the home and church.”
I think that’s kind of an unfair way to say it, and probably could have been worded a bit better. Most reformed people are complementarians, this is true, but its incidental, and not because its a concept rooted in historical reformed theology. Its a slight mischaracterization. It would be like me saying “The Canadian Missionary Alliance is a movemnet full of passion- passion for Missions, combined with a commitment to speaking in tongues.” Yes, speaking in tongues does happen, but that’s not a really big plank in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully he does say some kind words after about how Reforemd peeps are his brothers, so that was good.
1 Corinthians 14:33-35.
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
Doug says that he doesn’t know anyone who would take that passage and make it one hundred percent normative for today.
“What many scholars think might be happening is that Paul was addressing a very specific issue of a particular group of women in a particular Church setting. These women, because of the culture they were raised in, were not allowed to be educated about the Bible or really educated about anything else, but now they’re allowed to go to Church. And now, they’re hearing stuff they’ve never heard before and they are excited, and they are asking questions, and they are disrupting the service.
The Greek word used for speak here is the word, is only used once in the entire Bible, and its meaning is not fully understand, but it also carries with it the connotation of the babble of the carry on, and so these women were really getting excited about the new oppertunities they were having. And so what Paul is actually suggesting here is actually counter-cultural. He’s saying “lets get women educated about the Bible. Let’s liberate women and allow them to study the Bible, but lets not totally disrupt the Church service to do that. Lets break some of the social norms, get women educated, and then you can assume from that that when they are educated in the scriptures that they no longer need to remain silent.”
Here is where I would take some exception, because there are no facts to support this scholarly hypothesis. There’s no information in the letters to the Corinthians to support this, nor is there any data in extra-biblical sources such as early writings, letters from the church fathers, apostolic and patristic history, etc to corroborate this theory.
As it were, this whole theory attempts to make the church in Corinth a special one, when I would argue that Paul applies his rules to “all the churches” . [1 Corinthians 14:33. I think the verse placement is unfortunate] and again “in the churches” [1 Corinthians 14:34]. Because of this, his rule cannot be restricted to one local church where there were supposedly problems. Rather though, Paul directs the Corinthians to conform to a practice that was universal in the early church. Moreover, this “noisy and disruptive women” theory either doesn’t make sense of Paul’s solution, or it makes his remedy unfair .
First, it really doesn’t make any sense. If the women were indeed being disruptive, Paul would just tell them to act in an orderly way, not to be completely silent. In other cases where there were problems or disorder, such as with tongues or prophecy or with the Lord’s supper, Paul simply prescribes order. If noise and interruptions had been the problem in Corinth, he would have explicitly forbidden disorderly speech, not all speech. Right? It doesn’t make sense that Paul would tell them to treat a paper cut by putting them in a full-body cast.
Second, it would be unfair. If Paul held this view, then he’s pretty much punishing all women for the misdeeds of some. If there were noisy women, in order to be fair, Paul should have said “the disorderly women should keep silent” not “no woman is allowed to speak”. And so when you say that Paul was telling all women to stay silent, because a few women were acting up, you’re ascribing to him a very unjust and ill-thought prescription. Also, Paul would be unfair to punish only the disorderly women and not any disorderly men. And to say that only women and no men were disorderly and disruptive is again merely an assumption with not a single fact to support it.
And lastly, we need to look at the reason Paul is giving for this instruction. He’s not giving “noisy women” as a reason for his instructions, but rather he references the Old Testament law. He says “For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the law also says. [1 Corinthians 14:34] The law mentioned here is a general reference to the Old Testament law. And so he gives the law as the reason for his statements, and so I don’t see the value in remove from our explanation of Paul’s instruction the reason that Paul does give [the law] and replace it with a reason he does not give [loud, disruptive women]
Paul isn’t saying “let the women be silent, because they should not be asking disruptive questions” or “let the women be silent, because God wants orderly worship services” but rather “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.”
So while the idea of disruptive Corinthian women is pure myth and speculation, [And I note that Doug never said that that is what he personally believed, but rather simply spoke of what many scholars believed] I would argue that this verse does not mean that women should never say a word in church, especially in light of 11:2-16, which gives permission for women to pray or prophesy in the church meetings. I personally do not use this verse to advocate for women not being allowed to teach authoritatively in Church or as some means to demonstrate that women should not be pastors, and in fact would actively debate who tried to use this passage to say that.
Paul isn’t speaking here about disorder, but about the principle of submission. In this case- submission to male leadership among God’s people. I believe a better interpretation of this passage comes from the very context of these verses themselves. Paul is speaking in this context about people giving prophecies and others giving prophecies“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.” [1 Corinthians 14:29] In the context of judging prophecies, Paul says “the women should keep silent in the churches” He does not allow women to speak out and judge prophecies in front of the whole congregation, but he leaves that governing task to men, which is consistent with what he says in 1 Timothy 2:12, about women not having authority over a man. The verse says nothing about noisy, disruptive women, but the context clearly talks about judging prophecies.
“Laleo, to Speak”
Pastor Doug says that
“The Greek word used for speak here is the word, is only used once in the entire Bible, and its meaning is not fully understand, but it also carries with it the connotation of the babble of the carry on”
I would have to see what sources he is using for that, as nothing I can see indicates that that’s the case. In regards to the word speak, the word used is Laleo, [Strongs 2980] Its meaninsg are
1) to utter a voice or emit a sound
2) to speak
a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech
b) to utter articulate sounds
3) to talk
4) to utter, tell
5) to use words in order to declare one’s mind and disclose one’s thoughts
a) to speak
In fact, this word is actually used 16 times alone in 1 Corinthians 14 alone, neither meanings of which are unclear. It means to speak. For example, we see the same word in Matthew 12:46, where speaking of Jesus, it says “While he was still speaking [Laleo] to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak [Laleo] to him.” Do we say that Jesus was babbling and carrying on, and that in return his mother wanted to babble back at him? No.
There is some discussion between what the word means in classic Greek literature vs NT Greek. BAGD tells us that while classic Greek Laleo can mean babble, we see from Thayer that the Biblical Greek is essentially free of all suggestions that it means babble or carrying on. So I think that’s worth pointing out, and note that there are several major difficulties with the aforementioned statement.
“End of Part 1″
That’s all for now. I’ll publish the conclusion to this next week sometime, God willing.