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Tuesday, June 04, 2019


I'm teaching a group of adults at church. They're adults; in fact, the older adults. They're mostly church people -- for-as-long-as-anyone-can-remember church people. They've been in church most or all of their lives and they've heard most if not all of it. Good people. And I'm teaching them. This next Sunday we're going to hit the second chapter of Paul's epistle to Timothy. And, frankly, I'm scared. Okay, not scared actually but ... apprehensive? You see, the longer you're in church, typically, the more females there are than males. Maybe it's because women tend to live longer these days. Maybe it's because church stereotypically tends to draw more women than men. Deny it if you want, but facts and figures will tell you that there is something of a masculinity crisis in the American church today.

So, here I am, going up in front of a group that is maybe 85% women and who've already heard this stuff. Now, I taught a study back in the late '80's. We got to the 14th chapter of Paul's first epistle to Corinth where he says the always-irritating "Women should keep silent in the churches" followed by "If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home" (1 Cor 14:34-35). My plan was to glide right over the "It is shameful for a woman to speak in church" and focus on the idea that husbands needed to be responsible, to be the spiritual leaders, to be ready to answer any question, that sort of thing. Focus on the guys, you know. Never got there. Never even finished the chapter. The explosion of outrage from the ladies in the group drowned out the rest of the conversation. So I can be fairly confident this next Sunday that when we get to "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness" and "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet" (1 Tim 2:11-12), this will not be pretty.

How did we get here? We know that "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts'" (Isa 55:8-9). And we know on the other side that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick" (Jer 17:9). Given these two clear facts, how could we not expect to run across things in God's Word that disagree with the world's thinking and our own thinking? If we are commanded to "be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom 12:2), how could it be even remotely possible that we wouldn't need to have our thinking changed?

Yet, here we are. We think, using the current example, that today's version of feminism is God's version and our world's morality is God's morality. What they say is right we say is right because we're pretty sure God thinks it's right, right? So when Paul calls for "submissiveness," either Paul is wrong or Paul is wrong today. (I've heard the argument, quite popularly, "Well, sure, that was in Paul's day, but women aren't the same today as they were back then, so it no longer applies." That is, "Paul was right then, but no longer.") So strong is the response to a text like this that we will never hear, "I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling" (1 Tim 2:8) because it is followed immediately with offensive dressing tips for women -- "Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire" (1 Tim 2:9). We won't learn that when Adam (whom God holds responsible for bringing sin into the world (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21)) sinned, he was not deceived; he was in knowing rebellion. We will not learn that Scripture holds women in high regard, of equal value to men, worthy of equal honor. Because we'll be fighting over a false idea our world has perpetrated on us that submission is subjection, that it is a demeaning devaluation, and that it is not God's idea of good. Why? Because it doesn't fit with our ideas, and we know that God thinks like we do, right?

I don't know how I'll handle this coming up this Sunday. Maybe I'll just call in sick. No, that's not right. But surely you can see that trying to maintain a biblical perspective even among Bible-believing Christians can sometimes be more difficult than you would have thought as the church sits immersed in modern thought and values.

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