Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Friday, April 20, 2007

Letter to Ruth & Karen

This is in response to your inquiries to expand upon what was spoken of in Sunday school. This is my attempt to clear up what my verbal communication was unable to supply.
As I looked at the passage in 1 Timothy 2 and thought of Paul, it seemed evident to me that when he writes he looks at the issues of faith through the eyes and filtering of his knowledge of the Old Testament. As an example of that thinking I think you can refer to his treatment of the idea of grace as compared with his thorough understanding of the law. With that in mind I went to the Book of Genesis from which we see the development of the male/female relationship through the creation story and the subsequent events which seem to further define the interplay of the man, woman, God and culture.

In Genesis we have points of interest to the discussion of the male/female relationship that must be expanded. First we see in creation that Eve was created a helpmeet for Adam, I prefer the use of the KJV word because of its greater ability to express the intent in creation for God to provide for Adam a suitable partner, a co-sojourner, a co-traveler, much the way that a person on a journey who crosses paths with a fellow traveller and they join together for the support, camaraderie, protection, encouragement, etc. The word helpmeet is more often translated helper, it is from the Hebrew word ezar, a derivative of this is Ezra, the word ezar is also indicative of surround and wall. As I picture this I see the idea of a mother hen sheltering her chicks under her wing, also the wall or hedge which stands as a defense from enemies. It is in this context that the helpmeet definition has it strongest sense in application to the role of the woman. The idea of the wall will be played out further in this discussion.

Another point has to be made in understanding the deception/abdication aspect of the sin which was committed in the Garden of Eden. Although the deception of Eve is loudly touted as the bane of women forever in that they are the gullible and less intelligent of the genders, this is not the intent of Paul's references to this event in 1 Timothy 2:15. The abdication by Adam of his position of authority and dominion placed him in a position of culpability which is brought forth, although rather weakly in the use of the English language, but as powerfully as can be expressed. The strongest of emphasis should be placed on the phrase Adam was not deceived, the import is to place emphasis on the fact that Adam willingly, with eyes wide open, without objection, took from Eve. This places Adam in the direst of predicaments as the one who is to be held accountable for the introduction of sin into the human race.

Another point that has to be made in relation to this discussion is the statement by God that the 'seed of the woman will bruise Satan's head'. This is a strong messianic prophesy, however it does translate well to current and historical events as well as to the character of woman and her role in the family, church and the propagation of the human race. By this statement God is placing woman as an moral authority, her nature is such in the nurturing and closeness of the relationship with her children that this is a natural extension or property of her character.

Another point is made in reference to the passage that states the woman will desire after the man (all the men say I wish) which is an indication of the struggles contained in the relationship between the man and the woman. When the man abdicates, falters in his leadership, perhaps is weak in areas which concern the woman, then the woman will step into that position left vacant and fulfill the role as leader. This usually happens when decisions made by a man jeopardize the health and well-being of the woman and her family.

There is contained in 1 Timothy 2:15 the reference to a woman being saved in childbirth. I believe the word used here for saved may be more accurately translated restore,(see James 5:15) the only redeeming (saving) factor that may be assumed is in the sense of the righting (redemption) of the relationship between man and woman. It is in the act of childbirth that we find the indications of the yielding, submission (i.e. the act of conception), we also see in the process the obedience (coming under authority) that is required of a woman in nurture, necessity, and faithfulness in fulfilling her duties as a mother. I believe every woman who has bore children comes to a realization that for a time her body is not her own and that whole concept is what is incorporated into my understanding of Paul's intent in making this statement.

The controversy has and probably always will lie with the opportunity that is presented to oppress women with a misguided interpretation of the role of man and woman together, serving God in life,family and Church. To blanketly proclaim that women have no purpose but to remain silent, without ability and input into life family and Church is to create a travesty of the ordained order by God.

The reason for this stymieing of the women in the Church at Ephesus is very similar to the situation society and the church face today. The dress code and speaking rule was put into effect to address and control a problem. The problem was that women were attracting to themselves attention in a manner unbecoming and undermining of their moral authority. Throughout history the last bastion or fortress or wall of defense against the prevailing and insistent advances of Satan against man has been the woman. Her moral integrity until compromised, ensured the survival of each civilization. This last vestige of decency when finally downtrodden meant the decline of that era. As I look around I see us in a very similar predicament, not unlike the days of Caligula and Nero.

It is in the woman that the power to bruise Satan's head lies, it is in the authority of the man and it is his mandate to ensure that the moral authority of the woman is never placed in a position where it will be compromised. Man does this by first maintaining his own purity and not requiring the woman to behave in a manner which either by force or compulsion require her to behave in an ungodly manner. He also has within his authority that of being a protector of the widow and fatherless, not forcing them into places of poverty where options are such that prostitution, pornography or other vices become a mainstay. It is a twofold mandate and requires the most diligent observance as to his own posture, as well as the posture of the culture in which he lives. this can be further emphasized by adding to the aforementioned co words the word co-empowerer, a role in which the man walks beside his wife empowering her in her giftedness to fulfill God's calling upon her life.

It is clear from history and a defining aspect of most male/female relationships, that when the male abdicates from his role of leader, the woman must then step up.

It is in this environment that Paul speaks, seeing the opportunity for women to be placing themselves as objects of desire in dress, appearance and notoriety. It is in this type of environment where we see the greatest opportunity for men to abdicate from there role as protector of the morality of the day, as protector of the family, as protector of the widows and fatherless, as fighters against poverty and injustice to becoming victims of that lascivious lifestyle and subsequently the loss of their authority base to actively speak into the lives of the culture. It is also in this environment where the woman can exercise her feminine wiles in the subjugation of the man.

The role of man and woman has to be based on a level of trust whereby the woman understands that the man is going to make decisions which will always have at their heart the protection and security of her well-being and that of her family. It is in this context of authority that true leadership is performing it's ordained function. Ephesians 5 declares the role of the man as being compared to that of Christ's role in the redemption of His church, that of a willing sacrifice for the attainment of the best that can be achieved. When a woman can believe that this is the basis of her relationship with a man there is now no longer fear for the consequences of the decisions made.

In a perfect world this happens, in reality we see this happening very little, hence we see the divorces, affairs, use of pornography, drinking, etc,. As the church we have the greatest opportunity to model something in this world that stands as the last line of defense in the decline of society as we now know it. We have the right way by God's grace to impact culture with a proven, viable alternative to the militant left-wing agenda that declares fatherhood and the role of man as an authority a conservative, Judea-Christian ethic demeaning to woman and an offense to all who are striving for equality and tolerance. We have the mandate to declare to the world and model consistently and in a unified manner the God-ordained relationship of man under the Lordship of Christ, and woman under the authority of man. Living together without fear, oppression or dishonour.

I may have left some items on the table, unresolved, I hope that you will have the opportunity to look over what I have written and understand where I was coming from in Sunday School.


Anonymous said...

Looks like I missed a great SS class last week! I like what I'm reading in this blog re the chapter you discussed. I like what you are saying. Jill

Anonymous said...

An investigation of the Biblical material reveals that there are judgesses and queens in the Bible, and though there are not many, nobody seems to be surprised about it. There are also prophetesses, and again though they are few, nobody seems to be surprised about it. But there are no priestesses. The reason for this is found (as usual) in Genesis 2 and 3.
The woman was made to be a helper to the man in his work. That work was the work of dressing the garden, understanding it, ruling over it, seen first of all in the naming of the animals (Gen. 2:15-20). Man's second work was to guard (in English Bibles, "keep") the garden (Gen. 2:15). The woman at his side was part of what he was supposed to guard; indeed, the woman is a kind of symbol for the garden as a whole, as the analogies in Canticles make clear [I like this bit!!]. When Satan attacked, however, the man failed to guard his wife (though he was standing next to her during the whole conversation - Gen. 3:6, "with her"), and thus failed to guard the garden (Gen. 3:1-6). As a result, man was cast out as guardian, and angels took his place (Gen. 3:24).
Guarding is man's priestly task, as shepherding is his kingly task. It is precisely because it is the bride who must be guarded, that the woman cannot be a priest. She is not the priest; rather she is what the priest (imagine the Divine Bridegroom) guards and protects. Thus, the woman may not take up a leading liturgical role in worship, for she cannot represent the Groom to the Bride (1 Cor. 14:34).
In the Bible, sexuality goes all the way down. The woman is made distinct from the man, altogether. Thus, there are not female prophets in the Bible, but rather there are prophetesses; there are not female deacons, but there are deaconesses (a separate group); there are not female judges, but there are judgesses. The male prophet and the male king both stand as representatives of the Groom to the Bride. The female prophetess and queen cannot take that position, but stand within the Bride as counsellors. Since all humanity are feminine before God, as the Bride, there is nothing wrong with a queen or prophetess giving direction to men. The one thing that is excluded is the central liturgical function of imaging the Groom.
Thus, there is nothing wrong with women as rulers in any area of life except the Church. And there is nothing wrong with women as teachers in any area of life, including informal teaching in the Church. Women may teach men in Sunday School, but they may not assume the liturgical/symbolic role of leader in formal worship, in the presence of the sacrament, before the throne of God.