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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Clarifying the Discussion

I wrote a post on the problem we face sometimes in being unable to talk about certain issues. One of the obvious ones for men is the issue of women as pastors. That post produced a brief dialog, which included this comment from The Median Sib:
I firmly believe (based on the Bible and words of Jesus) that God never intended for women to NOT be ministers and work fully in His service. I've known too many wonderful and spirit-led women ministers to believe otherwise.
Now, be it known that I have often enjoyed reading The Median Sib blog, and be it further known that wading into this debate is a foolish idea on my part (as in trying to resolve the questions to everyones' satisfaction). However, there is something here that bespeaks a miscommunication, and I'd like to clear it up.

In the strongly "anti-traditionalist" (my word) article by Cindy Jacobs of For His Glory entitled Women In Ministry, Cindy assures us:
We must open our eyes to the fact that when God anoints women with the gift of teaching, He is releasing great revelation and blessing to the church through them.
She seems fairly sure that the wording of 1 Tim. 2:11-15 was aimed at not teaching an extremely specific heresy that Eve was the source of Adam, and perhaps even aimed at a specific woman. Women today, she is quite sure, are not under this "obscure passage". Fortunately, it seems, the Church has finally, after nearly 2000 years, figured out what God really intended (with the help of the Women's Liberation Movement) and the Church has been either ignorantly wrong all this time or, perhaps, suffering from a male conspiracy against women.

Both The Median Sib and Cindy Jacobs suffer from a misunderstanding of "the traditionalist" view. Let me say that a different way. I am somewhat of a "traditionalist" on this topic, and I agree with the two quotes from these two ladies. No one as far back in history as I can see has ever suggested that 1) women are not gifted to teach or 2) women are not allowed to teach. I have never seen anyone (except, perhaps, the lunatic fringe) suggest that women cannot minister. I have never seen a version of 1 Tim. 2:12 that says, "I do not allow a woman to teach -- period, end of sentence, that is the complete thought, please stop here."

The "traditionalist" view has always seen the verse as a linked thought. "I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." The question, traditionally, has been one of women's authority over men, and specifically in terms of the church structure. No one of whom I am aware has ever suggested that women cannot teach ... women. I've never seen any suggestion that women cannot teach ... children. My point in these two statements is not to offer limits, but to indicate the problem with the statements above. Can women minister? No one has ever suggested that they cannot. Can women teach? Absolutely! No one (at least no one that we all, traditionalists or anti-traditionalists, don't dismiss out of hand) has ever suggested either prohibition. So when people today who have gained new enlightenment on Scripture that the "traditionalist" hasn't are complaining that we are trying to prevent women from ministering or teaching, this is not the case.

As I said, for me to try to clear up the argument to everyones' satisfaction would be a fool's errand. You will all come to your own conclusions. I'm not trying to sway anyone here to my way of thinking. I am simply trying to point out that we need to be careful about our language and rhetoric. If we attack a false position, we waste our time and fritter away our arguments. These types of disputes typically produce only heat and no light. And perhaps heat in the winter is nice ... but this kind of heat doesn't seem to warm anyone.

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