Would you want to become a Christian if you were told that your role in church would be limited, solely because of your gender?
That because of your gender, you would never be allowed to teach or to lead in any strategic way.
That because of your gender, you would be expected to wait for others to initiate?
I think that many people view the church as archaic/medieval because of its traditional views of a woman’s role. Paul said he became all things to all people that by all means he might save some. (See 1 Corinthians 9:19-23) I think he would be appalled that something he wrote might be a barrier to people becoming followers of Jesus.
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28 replies on “Because of your gender…”
that’s right–the love of God should be wide open to anyone no matter what or who
HERE IS A CONVERSATION I PICKED UP ON ‘FORMERLY FUNDY’ BLOG SITE THAT SEEMS RELAVANT TO ME
Greg Crofford; If we narrow our focus to “Jesus is the hermeneutic,”
where does that leave doctrine that is informed by Paul? His writings make up
about 1/3 of the New Testament, after all. Practically speaking, does
“Jesus is the hermeneutic” de facto narrow Scripture from 66 books to
Benjamin L. Corey; Certainly not, I would affirm the inspiration of all scripture.
However, we STILL interpret all of it through the lens of Jesus. We filter Paul
through Jesus instead of Jesus through Paul, if that makes sense.Al Cruise I
think its quite the opposite, the doctrine of Paul has narrowed the teaching of
what the Kingdom of God is by Jesus. Because of this, millions of people,
especially the poor and powerless, have paid an awful price throughout history.
Livin; So is Paul a false apostle to you?
Al Cruise; That’s your call. When Jesus was asked “Which are the two great commandments that
contain the whole law of God?” He answered ” Love the Lord thy God
with all thy self” and love your neighbor as yourself. ” It is mostly
Paul’s teachings that are interpreted to give exceptions to what Jesus said.
Much to the detriment, of the poor, women, people with dark skin, even people
who had a different interpretation of what Paul said. Wholesale slaughter of
people could be done in Jesus’s name with a clear conscious, if you believe you interpretation is correct.
Ron McPherson; I’m a little unclear where you’re going. Are you
suggesting that Paul’s teaching are contrary to Christ’s?
Al Cruise; I am merely stating facts
that can be proven by history. I leave it to the reader to draw their own
Ron McPherson; I guess it just boils
down to whether one believes that Paul’s writings were inspired by the Holy
Spirit of God. If so, then they cannot be at odds with Christ’s.
Benjamin L. Corey; The way some people interpret them certainly do become at odds with Christ. This is why we filter Paul through Jesus and where there is
tension, go with what Jesus made clear. (i.e, we filter Paul’s gender
restrictions through Jesus’ gender inclusivity, and realize that we’ve
understood Paul wrong since Jesus is the ultimate reflection of God)
I think this makes a good point–especially that Jesus is the ultimate reflections of God’s view of women. We need to view Paul’s writings through the lens of Jesus’ teaching and practice. Personally, I don’t believe that Paul wrote against women teaching and leading. After all, 10 out of the 29 individuals specified in Romans 16 are women (if one assumes that Paul wrote Romans). I think we’ve viewed the challenging Scriptures through a patriarchal lens. They can be equally interpreted, with great integrity, quite differently.
I lean towards the instructional rather than remedial view. Paul was instructional for the Corinthian ecclesia towards women gossiping and being distractive, not stating commandments to them and the wider ecclesia remedially. Paul in the preceeding verses was addressing disorder when coming together but clarifies that ALL may prophesy (including women) 1 Cor 14:34-35
Nahiri, I agree with this view. There are other of Paul’s teachings that need to be taken within a cultural context too–like his teaching on slavery.
With respect, obviously many, many women did, in fact, embrace the New Testament church in spite of this very fact: God has defined separate roles for men and women in the church. As a passionate God-loving female, I’m okay with that. My role isn’t limited any more than a man’s role is limited in that he isn’t called to birth babies and tend the greatest mission field on earth. In fact, I don’t know any man who teaches or leads in a more strategic way than the mother who diligently teaches her children and is a godly helper to her company.
If God’s designated roles for women in the church family (and the home family) has become a barrier for people coming to the Lord, perhaps that’s because they don’t want to accept the Lord as He is?
Thank you for your thoughtful contribution, FarmSchoolMarm. I agree with you that for a woman, raising children is her highest priority–at least for a certain period of her life. But that shouldn’t prevent her from taking a strategic role in the church. My problem is when a woman’s giftings are not recognized because of her gender–which I think brings disrepute on the Gospel of Christ. When God created man and woman, he created them as co-equals to reign and rule. It’s the Fall that changed everything. Jesus came to redeem us from the effects of the Fall.
Thank you for your reply! I think Scripture is clear that men and women are equal heirs to the kingdom, but I’m not sure that means we have equal access to the various roles God has created. For instance, before the Fall God said:
Genesis 2:18 “18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
I note that God created a “helper” for man. It seems to me that implies a role of leadership for the man, and a role of assistance for the woman.
There’s another passage (post-Jesus), that unnerves me, but since I believe the Word of God to be true, I have to accept it – though I honestly don’t relish the implications…
In explaining (in 1 Corinthians 11) that God requires man to uncover his head while praying and prophesying – and requires the opposite of woman (in and of itself indicating that God does, indeed, make a distinction between the genders when it comes to exercising these gifts), Paul says two things that clarify that. It’s the latter that unnerves me.
1) 3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.
This seems to say that in whatever way that God is the head of Christ and Christ the head of man…whatever those things mean…the same is true for man being the head of woman.
2) 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
Honestly, I am sure I don’t understand the ramifications of this – but I do know that it is telling us that there *is* a distinction – not in our worth or our standing before God – but in our roles as man and woman.
I’d love to hear what you make of those passages of Scripture. Thank you for your time!
“I note that God created a “helper” for man. It seems to me that implies a role of leadership for the man, and a role of assistance for the woman.”
As I understand it, the word translated “helper” here (ezer) is also the same word God uses to describe himself in relationship to his people! Does that imply people should take a leadership role with God, with him assisting?
I have read that too, Living Liminal, and I definitely find that interesting!
Certainly we can have “helpers” that are our equals – even our “superiors”…but God wasn’t “created” for the purpose of helping us as woman was created for the purpose of helping man.
I think that distinction is important. That is, my boss at work used to help me on occasion, but when she did so she was in a much different role than the woman I hired specifically to be my assistant. No one would have said that I was the leader in my relationship with my boss – nor would anyone have said that I wasn’t the “leader” in my relationship with my assistant.
I’m definitely not trying to argue with you or Felicity, I just have a hard time reading something different in what appears (to me) to be straightforward teaching on the roles of men and women. I don’t mean to be difficult – I just mean to be true to the Word (even if I don’t always relish it’s implications).
Thank you for your response – and I would love to hear more of your thoughts on the subject!
Actually, I really appreciate being able to share our differing understandings. Thank you for your grace.
My own understanding has shifted over the years as I’ve read and studied. I’m no longer certain that the teaching (particularly as interpreted by ‘the church’) really is as straightforward as it has been presented.
That said, I genuinely honour your willingness to be true to what you have understood 🙂
To me, the example of Jesus who came, “not to be served, but to serve” is of much greater significance than whether someone is regarded as a ‘leader’ or ‘helper’.
And I believe we are all created in God’s image, whether male or female, and have equal significance in his creation. So it troubles me to think that people who bear the image of the Creator God are denied expression of who they are based solely on gender.
I am so sorry – I meant to get back to you days ago. My daughter gave birth to our first grandchild on Monday and while I am tickled that she and my son-in-law have wanted me around for some assistance, it has kept me from the computer.
I absolutely agree that every Christian is to be a servant – and that that is the mark of a Godly leader.
I also agree, of course, that we all have equal significance before God -regardless of gender or anything else, but I’m not certain I would say that the traditional view of gender roles in the church denies expression of who a person is.
That is, I actually tend to be a leader. I have decent administrative as well as speaking skills. I don’t feel that I am denied expression of who I am by what seems to be restrictions within church leadership roles, only that I find forums in which to exercise those gifts where Scripture doesn’t appear to restrict my participation. (Sorry, I’m not sure I could have worded that more awkwardly.)
I am also enjoying this conversation. Thank you very much!
Congratulations on the birth of your first grandchild! What a wonderful distraction – definitely more important than being on the computer 🙂
I’m genuinely happy to hear you don’t feel restricted or denied expression of who you are, and it’s great that you can find forums which are in keeping with your reading of scripture.
And I guess that is the crux of the issue for both of us – how we have read and understood scripture. But we have a God bigger than our limited understandings and, though we differ, I love that we can still honour each other and engage with grace.
“But we have a God bigger than our limited understandings and, though we differ, I love that we can still honour each other and engage with grace.”
If I may interject….
Living Liminal, I think, is on to something in pointing out ezer. Our English word “helper” has the connotation of assistance much as you are using e.g a woman is an assistant to a man. However, the Hebrew roots, as I understand has a militaristic connotation. Ezer means a strong aid and is used of God and of nations, e.g our “help/ezer” (strong aid, strength of deliverance) comes from God and of a nation allying with another to offer military aid (ezer/help). It is not exclusively feminine, either. It is used in names such as Eliezer (Help of God) in the bible of three different *men*.
I don’t believe man needs an assistant or that woman is a supporting actress in a man’s drama. Man needs an equal ally with mutual responsibility to bring to bear her strengths and energies to fulfill the Creation Charter of tending and caring for God’s cosmic temple (Ge 2) and for being on Jesus’ mission in New Creation. A male-female partnership in which each respect the image-bearing and vice-regency of the other is a Blessed Alliance, (HT: Carolyn Custis James), a Power Team. Jesus is the lead actor in God’s story, and male and female are the supporting cast members. Females are the strong aid, drawing from the militaristic imagery, the warriors, if you will, that complement males.
Thank you for your thoughts.
I definitely agree that the other references to “ezer” in Scripture seem to be related to “help” against enemies – often references to weapons, etc… However, that fact doesn’t seem to imply that our conventional understanding of roles in marriage and church life are incorrect. That is, when I read the Scriptures that reference God as a helper, I see nothing in there that would warrant reading in anything contrary to what Scripture seems to say about what we would call “gender roles.”
“…God was my helper…” “You are the helper of the fatherless…” “the Lord is my helper…” “I will make a helper suitable for him…” “Have every man and his helper stay inside…” “He is your shield and your helper…” “You have been my helper…”
Even though most of these refer to God as the “ezer,” I am just having a hard time seeing how that negates what Scripture seems to say about roles within the Christian family and/or church.
You and I agree that the male-female partnership is a blessed alliance – even a “power team” – but Scripture seems to say that is true when we are respecting the roles God seems to ordain in His Word. With that in mind, Angie, I am sincerely curious what you make of 1 Corinthians 11:3 and 7. These seem to speak very strongly of distinct (though equally important roles for men and women).
Thank you for your very thoughtful comment!
From what I understand of your position, women are inherently born to be assistants, therefore this makes them inferior in essence in their position relative to men. I base this on my reading of the following from your larger context: ” It seems to me that implies a role of leadership for the man, and a role of assistance for the woman” and “…woman was created for the purpose of helping man.”
I do not affirm ezer in Hebrew means an “assistant” i.e. the common English connotation of “helper”. Rather, drawing from its etymology and other uses in relation to God and nations, I affirm ezer as more of a connotation of an ally, aid, strong help, strength, rescuer, and power. I also don’t interpret it alone. The Hebrew kenegdo qualifies ezer even further. Kenegdo is translated “meet’ (KJV) but means like facing opposite, fit to, corresponding to. Female is an equal ally, strong help that corresponds to, a strength that fits to male. The male is not given a greater dominion in Creation, but both are given equal dominion (Ge 1:26-28) of God’s cosmic temple. In the Genesis 2 narrative, the Adam needs a strength, an ally, a strong help, a power accomplish the task of guarding and keeping the garden. This is what the Adam recognizes when he breaks out in poetry, ““bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Ge 2:23). Though the physical difference was obvious as they are naked, it was the similarities, their shared humanity, and identity as image bearers and vice-regents that the Adam enthusiastically extols. The Adam does not stake a claim over the female but embraces her as one like him, an equal, a co-image bearer, a co-vice regent.
A Jesus-centered hermeneutic as well as my understanding of the Creation accounts are my guiding hermeneutics for understanding male-female Imago Dei, vocation, and relationships. If someone interprets “helper” as an assistant, again not a definition or connotation of the Hebrew word, we are going to come away with different understandings because the starting point of our exegesis of a word and text are significantly different.
I also don’t approach the Bible as a manual, recipe book, or textbook for “gender roles,” so I don’t perceive the Bible to be intending to reveal God ordaining roles for all people and times. If teaching hierarchy and gender roles was the intent of the Bible, there were plenty of words available to them and used by their contemporary philosophers to teach male authority. The Bible does this no where. Hierarchy in marriage is based on conjecture of “symbols” and dubious interpretations of metaphor. The only place in scripture where authority is discussed between a husband and wife, it is *mutual* (1 Co 7).
I approach the Bible as God’s holy, inspired telling of His self-revelation through the people of Israel with Jesus as the hero, and his death, burial, and resurrection as the climax of the story. Within that meta-narrative, are micro-stories of real people in real time navigating their cultural, geo-political, and other contexts in the unfolding of God’s grand story. Consequently, I don’t see situational instructions or teachings as establishing new Torah for all people and times.
I said all that because it relates to your question about 1 Co 11:3 and 7. First, I don’t form doctrine from two verses in isolation. Second, this is a much debated passage on which there is not a monolithic understanding on either side of this issue. For that reason, I wouldn’t form a doctrine on which to divide. I strive as much as possible to ascertain the overarching point and abstract a principle for application. It seems within this specific situation, Paul is most concerned with propriety in worship not the establishing of gender specific roles. Within his instructions about propriety in worship, he establishes the interdependence of the genders which is significant to note while also sayings some things that we just don’t understand.
Lastly, couples are free to choose their relationship paradigm, at least in the West. I deny, however, that patriarchal, hierarchical models or unilateral male leadership-female submission are inherently godly or are “God ordained”. However, I think Dale in this post is on to something. For evangelistic purposes and to thwart reproach in the eyes of an adversary, first century Christian wives and women are to maintain an acceptable demeanor (1 Pe 3:1-6) and to marry, bear children, and guide the house (1 Ti 5:1). In their context, a woman independent of her husband embracing something other than his household gods is reproachable, seemingly insubordinate, hence the instruction. Not in our context. In their context, young women or widows going to college, getting vocational training, or working independent of the household would be a reproach on the gospel because of how far diverges from culture. Not today. In the same way, I think requiring a hierarchy or unilateral male authority/leadership and female submission can bring a reproach on the gospel of Christ, at least in some cultures, and inhibit its advancement.
I hope this is clear. I am trying to reply quickly. Thank you for the respectful engagement. I hope I have returned in kind despite my haste.
Hi Angie. Thank you for taking the time to respond.
I think your response was clear – and certainly kind. Thank you.
With regard to ezer, however we would like to interpret the implications of the word, what we know is that it means “helper.” It seems to me that Scripture interprets the meaning for itself with regard to the relationship between men and women.
You say, “If teaching hierarchy and gender roles was the intent of the Bible, there were plenty of words available to them and used by their contemporary philosophers to teach male authority. The Bible does this no where. ”
I think that’s the crux of this discussion: since the inception of the church until recent times, most have believed that Scripture does seem to do just that. E.g:
The different commands given to what the older are to teach the younger is defined by gender in Titus 2.
The previously noted passages in 1 Corinthians 11 (while the passage is controversial today, it hasn’t always been – and we, of course, cannot dismiss Scriptures simply because we find them to be controversial). More on that in a minute.
1 Corinthians 14 in which we learn that women are not to participate in the worship service in the same manner as men.
1 Timothy 2 that says women are not to teach men.
I disagree that 1 Corinthians 7 is the only place that discusses authority between husband and wife…
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Of 1 Corinthians 11 you write, “I strive as much as possible to ascertain the overarching point and abstract a principle for application. It seems within this specific situation, Paul is most concerned with propriety in worship not the establishing of gender specific roles. Within his instructions about propriety in worship, he establishes the interdependence of the genders which is significant to note while also sayings some things that we just don’t understand.”
I would (not surprisingly 🙂 ) disagree with your assessment. This passage is clearly about men not covering during praying and prophesying (no mention is made of the worship setting – and there are a couple of clues that would indicate that Paul was dealing specifically with the non-worship setting) and women covering during those activities. This is clearly gender-based instruction – and the reasons given for it are not time or location specific.
I don’t think it’s a fair reflection of the passage to say, “Within his instructions about propriety in worship, he establishes the interdependence of the genders which is significant to note while also sayings some things that we just don’t understand.””
Yes, he does note the interdependence of the genders, but to highlight that while downplaying what he said about the distinctions of the genders in how they are to conduct their giftedness and, especially, the distinction of the genders before God, seems to be handling the passage without due respect. God is communicating some very serious information here and it seems to me that it should be handled with some fear and trembling. (That said, even in the groups with whom I have worshiped, this passage is set aside and virtually ignored…and they are complementarian groups.) To be blunt, I am not sure that we (1st world Chrisitans) “don’t understand” the verses as much as we “don’t like” the verses.
Finally, with regard to whether or not the conventional approach to gender roles in the church brings a reproach upon the Gospel of Christ, For me it still comes back to what I said in my original comment:
“If God’s designated roles for women in the church family (and the home family) has become a barrier for people coming to the Lord, perhaps that’s because they don’t want to accept the Lord as He is?”
I am sorry – I am in a great hurry to get out and do my chores before the flies and the sun make them more burdensome than they need to me. I don’t mean to be disrespectful of your perspective or argumentative – and I very much enjoy the dialogue.
Have a wonderful day.
You have expressed this really eloquently. I totally agree. Thanks!
Totally agree, Living Liminal
I totally agree that with you that there is no difference in our standings before the Lord, but where I have difficulty is when verses are used to limit the role of a woman. There are too many examples of women being used in extraordinary ways in the Bible for these to be universally applicable truths (think Deborah, Esther, Huldah, Junia, Priscilla etc.)
Living Liminal and Angie have expressed my views on “ezer” very well.
When it comes to the word “head” in 1 Corinthians 11, the problem comes with the English. In English, the word head (meaning the literal anatomical head) can also mean leader. That is not true in Greek. The word kephale (head in Greek) also refers to source, as in the source of a river.
There are a few verses, like the ones you mention, that go against the whole tenor and trend of the Bible. Those verses can, with equal integrity, be interpreted differently.
We see God using women in extraordinary ways all around the earth. He doesn’t go against his own principles. So let’s rethink our traditional interpretations of the challenging Scriptures.
The only attraction to “become a Christian” is Jesus Christ and the cross. If a person comes for any other reason, they will not be accepted/endure. If they stay away because they feel limited in personal ambition, they never came for the right reason anyhow and it’d be better if they didn’t tag along. Christ didn’t try to appeal to the carnal nature and appease it, he called it to follow Him and die with Him. He called us to death in Him and life through Him. If a person truly accepts and embraces Christ it is because He is a Wonderful Savior and can/will/has set them free. This is the draw and only attraction, the glory and knowledge of God and the joy and liberty that is a result of knowing God.
Thank you, Forrest, for this reminder. Any other enticement toward than Christ Himself, is, I suggest, simply a huge mistake — leading away from Him, and substituting merely self-pleasing trinkets.
Thank you brother. I hope not to come across as unduly harsh, but Jesus Himself used strong language in reference to being His disciple and following Him. It is used (as I understand) by Jesus out of necessity, because it is the truth of the matter and to soften it would do the hearer harm and not good.
Thank you everyone for a stimulating and respectful discussion. Outstanding!