There are some conversations that keep coming around and around so I blog about them again and again. Reformed theology used to be one of those but I haven't bothered in a while because it has been hashed over so many times that it just wore me out and the Arminian answers are just so awful. So now I write about things like non-violence which also gets a visceral reaction and of course gender. Today was one of those gender days and as usual the discussion has gone around in circles, circles based on whether we should examine what Scripture says to inform our decisions on application or whether we should look to see what Scripture doesn't say to override what it does. I know that is a loaded and smarmy statement.
One of the common arguments against the historical and I would say glaringly clear teaching on gender in the Bible is the notion that Paul is addressing an issue in the culture of the day, making concessions or teaching for pragmatic reasons or dealing with some specific problem. The accuracy of this is pretty easy to ascertain by simply reading what Paul wrote. What is Paul's reasoning for his teaching on gender (emphasis mine)?
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Tim 2:12-14)
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:3)
For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. (1 Cor 11:7-9)
So we have the creation order. We have the relationship between Christ and the church. We have man as the glory of God but women as the glory of man. An image of male headship that is not incidental or cultural but intentional. God could have created Adam and Eve simultaneously but He did not. He made Adam, declared him incomplete and in need of a helper and created Eve out of Adam. There is a very explicit pattern here that is repeated in 1 Corinthians 11:7-9 and it deals with the order and method of creation.
So what we have to work with is sufficient to inform our interpretation and application but what we don't have is almost as important. No hint of the culture of that day. No suggestion of pragmatic reasoning. Nothing that implies that this is something only for this time and place, having no universal application. I have said this all before but many who find the Biblical teaching on gender odious and embarrassing in our enlightened era simply refuse to accept it.
Here is what is so troubling about this to me. Because we can't get past our institutional religious setting we think that "If you ain't a pastor, you ain't nothing". The only service and leadership in the church that matters is "preaching". Ironically "preaching" as we understand it doesn't even appear in Scripture so we have elevated an extra-biblical practice to a position of overwhelming prominence and in doing so have diminished every other calling in the church and especially diminished the calling of wives and mothers. This is true even among those who, on the surface, reject institutional religion but still can't let go of that need for ecclesiastical recognition.
Being a mother and raising children. Caring for the home. Submitting to a husband who is often an idiot but needs your support anyway. Those are infinitely more important and difficult than preparing and delivering a 45 minute sermon once a week that no one will remember next month anyway. The church should be doing everything in our power to support and encourage our sisters in this noble endeavor. Instead we subtly look down on them and say they are not good enough. You need a career! You must be allowed to "preach"! You must be granted a religious title! Being a mother and wife is hard enough without piling on extra expectations. The simple fact of human beings is that we cannot do it all. We are not made to do it all. There are 24 hours in a day and about a third of them we need to sleep. There are only a limited number of years to bear children. We exist in time and space so if you are in location A doing activity Y you cannot also be in location B doing activity Z. We should encourage wives in what they already have on their plates instead of piling on more.
Being a mom and wife is stressful enough without making our sisters feel like they are not doing enough. If you care about women, care enough to affirm and support their calling as women and quit trying to make them into something that God never intended regardless of what the culture around us might say.