RSS

Tag Archives: Bible

What good ole days?

While conservatives insist that the Bible would have women remain silent, (except for Sunday School and serving men), we suggest that the origins of that notion may be a little less clear.

At the same time as the following two newspapers clips (1950s) two Australian synods were negotiating very slowly towards union.   Is it surprising that the two synods did not include in their discussion the possibility of women’s ordination?  The clips demonstrate how women were treated as children at best.

The New York Mirror from the 1950s

The New York Mirror from the 1950s

The politics of the oppression of the female gender are vast and insidious.  In the first centuries after Christ women had a seat at the table of church leadership.  Christians remembered the relationships that Jesus had with women and they knew that it was not for them to keep women from pastoral leadership. 

Ah, but with the passage of time, time-worn traditions kicked in and women were once again relegated to lower status, and in some cases a status even lower than animals.

Thankfully in recent decades there is a new awareness about bullying in schools and workplace.  There is a new awareness of domestic violence, but it would be naive to say that women are given equal respect and access to power in our society.  Julia Gillard can vouch for that. 

Some time ago, at a domestic violence workshop an older man related the advice that was given to him on the day of his first marriage.  He was told by a respected elder that early in the marriage he was to give his wife a good thrashing.  When she asked what it was for he was to say, “Just so you know”.   Blood runs deep. It’s the stuff of tradition, power and even culture.  It’s the stuff of gender oppression. It is passed on easily from generation to generation.

That was just how it happened in those days.  Don’t believe it?  Talk to your elders and hear how people knew who were the wife beaters in their churches and social groups, how they didn’t talk about such things, how they couldn’t report it to the police because nothing would happen, how they thought it was somehow the woman’s fault and how “That was how it was in those days”.

Of course, misogyny is much more than wife beating – libraries have been written about the politics of gender oppression.The physical violence that was meted out towards women is for some only a few decades ago and for others it has never stopped. 

Violence against women persists today in many forms.  In our church, the Lutheran Church of Australia, misogyny is still observed in how men meet together in groups called Pastors’ Conferences, with many not even stopping to think that something is awry.  It persists in how Pastors’ Conferences will discuss women’s ordination in this current Synodical term without women even being present to provide some sort of accountability. It persists in those clergy and laity who can only read the Bible through the eyes of Law rather than Grace. It persists in how women don’t qualify for the same education at our Australian Lutheran College. It persists in how women cannot be pastors in an ailing church. It persists despite women being the backbone of our Lutheran Education system. 

It is shameful that our institutional Church, so proudly proclaiming grace as central to its creed and doctrines, manages to shield God’s grace from women when it comes to pastoral leadership.  

Read the rest of this entry »

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 4, 2013 in history, sociology, women's ordination

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Choosing hell over a misogynist heaven

sense

We would not worship a God who is misogynist.  It doesn’t make sense.  It doesn’t matter what verses anyone may provide as proof – it just doesn’t make sense that God is misogynist.

We are not interested in arriving in heaven to find that women somehow have a different role. We would refuse to participate with cliques, patriarchs, theocracies, boys’ or girls’ clubs or tradition.

We are interested in equality before God.

But, you insist, the Bible doesn’t allow leadership from women.  While we disagree, we do concede that there are verses that can be used to sustain an argument to support your thesis. So, how do we arrive at consensus on this divisive issue?  We don’t, for the time being – we should just live with each other, despite the tension. Agree to disagree. Grow together, over the generations.

This issue need not divide us, like the many other issues that we rarely highlight, but on which we disagree.  For instance, we rarely talk about or expect miracle healing, speaking in tongues, the handling of scorpions (Luke.10.19), the drinking of poison and the handling of snakes (Mark 16:18)… and so on.  They are contentious and too strange, too divisive or too confusing.

Then there’s the ‘texts of terror’ in the Old Testament that we can’t attribute to the will of God. We just don’t believe that God condoned the terror in the Old Testament: the slavery, the abuse, the rape, the murder, the racism …  We don’t name the violence for what it is.  We avoid the issue.  It need not divide us.

We have a God who is much larger than we imagine: more loving, more compassionate, more gifting, more affirming, more justice-centred than we might ever imagine.  Let’s not bicker on our understanding, for, by any measure, our understanding will presumably be sadly incomplete.

Whatever the reason, the LCA, in its youthful almost adolescent years, has clung to simplistic Biblical understandings and literal translations.  Increasingly over the years, many of us have confessed certain things but experienced a growing unease with the position of the Church. It is time to bring our beliefs and theology into harmony.  It is time to embrace a larger theology, a larger view of God and a larger view of each other.

It is with thanks that we celebrate the installation of Bishop John Henderson, who has declared that his ministry will be one of listening. Only in allowing space for voices to be heard is there any possibility that the LCA will be able to respond faithfully to the issues of today, and the concerns of those who come its doors.

Reference and inspiration    Bishop Desmond Tutu

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Should the Bible be interpreted literally?”

Fundamentalism

Image from Resurgence: A Ministry of Mars Hill Church

We confess that we are driven to distraction when engaging in conversation with those who claim that they interpret Scripture literally.  A literal interpretation of Scripture demands that every text is interpreted in the same manner.  The following quote highlights the difficulties of this approach:

Over the last several years I have wrestled extensively with what Phyllis Trible memorably called the “texts of terror” in the Bible. Texts that narrate slavery, genocide, assassination, beheading, cannibalism, rape, and many other heinous acts. Some of these texts depict Yahweh commanding, commending, or himself committing violent acts. In other texts the actions are of humans alone but the narrator develops an infuriating neutrality in his narration of them. (Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter [Judges 11:32, 34-40]  is perhaps the paradigm case of problematic narratival neutrality.)

People should be allowed to believe what they wish, however, there’s a certain piety of fundamentalism that’s hard to live with.  It’s a piety that insists we all should all hold the same simple, folksy interpretations that refute scholarly research and confirm church beliefs and customs.  I understand that fundamentalists feel the same frustrations with those of us who long for reform, but the difference is that we are calling for our Church to live with diversity of theology.

This post is largely a re-post of an excerpt of a webpage on the history of how Scripture has been interpreted. We found the origins of Fundamentalism interesting.  Certainly the Copernican theory of the planets orbiting the Sun (which Luther considered idiocy), Darwin’s theory of evolution and Higher Criticism presented major hurdles for the church. It looks like the ripples from these understandings are still impacting us today.

Should the Bible be interpreted literally?

Historical Background

The Middle Ages and earlier
Throughout most of the Christian era, Bible reading and Bible interpretation were confined to religious professionals. Until the fifteenth century, the Bible was available only in Latin. Even when the Bible was translated into other languages, the scarcity and high cost of Bibles kept them out of the hands of ordinary people. Availability of Bibles was also restricted by church officials1.

During this era, the Bible was interpreted according to church beliefs and traditions. There was little or no attempt made to determine the original meanings of the Scripture. Difficult passages “were interpreted as having a figurative meaning, so that they convey, through a kind of code, deeper truths about God, the spiritual life, or the church2.”

Sixteenth to eighteenth centuries
Galileo.
Christians have always believed the Bible is inspired by God and is authoritative on spiritual, moral and ethical matters. It wasn’t until science began to develop in the 16th century that questions and arguments arose about whether the Bible is also authoritative on scientific and historical matters.

The first major conflict was between the ancient view of the earth, as reflected in the Bible, and the Copernican theory, which held that the earth and the other planets revolve around the sun. The astronomer Galileo, using his telescope, found evidence to support the Copernican theory and began publishing his results in 1611. Church officials were alarmed because the Copernican theory seemed to contradict the Bible, and in 1616 Pope Paul V ordered Galileo to abandon the Copernican theory3.

Nineteenth and twentieth centuries
Darwin.
By the nineteenth century, most Christians had come to accept the Copernican theory of the universe because of overwhelming scientific evidence. But a new crisis arose with the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species in 1859. Darwin proposed that species of plants and animals evolved through a process of natural selection. Darwin observed that there were variations among individual plants and animals. He proposed that, in the struggle to survive, the better adapted individuals would be more likely to survive and reproduce their characteristics in succeeding generations. Thus, over many generations, species would change by a process of evolution. Further, the process was said to work automatically, seemingly leaving little room for Divine guidance or design.

Darwin’s theory was seen by some Christians as a direct attack on the story of creation in the Bible book of Genesis (Genesis 1:1-31). It also spawned a number of atheistic movements both within the natural sciences and the social sciences that saw the universe as created and ruled simply by the impersonal forces of nature. “Darwinism” became associated with atheism in the minds of many Christians, and rejection of all of Darwin’s theories became almost a creed for some Christians.

Higher Criticism. In the late eighteenth century, scholars began studying the Bible as literature rather than as divine revelation. New techniques of literary analysis, archaeology and linguistics were used to study the Bible. Some in this “Higher Criticism” movement asserted that the Bible stories were little more than mythology, and by the end of the nineteenth century these ideas had become quite popular4.

Fundamentalism. In 1910, in reaction to Higher Criticism and Darwinism, a group of Presbyterian theologians proposed five essential beliefs of Christianity:

  1. the inerrancy of Scripture,
  2. the virgin birth of Christ,
  3. Christ’s atonement for our sins on the cross,
  4. His bodily resurrection,
  5. the objective reality of His miracles.

These became known as the The Fundamentals. They were widely distributed and formed the basis of the Fundamentalist movement within Christianity5.Literal Bible interpretation. Many fundamentalists believed the Holy Spirit dictated the Bible to its human authors word-for-word. They reasoned that “inerrancy of Scripture” meant that everything in the Bible must be absolutely, literally, scientifically and historically true. Anything less would be unworthy of God. According to this view, the Bible, in all its detail, is inerrant on matters of history and science, as well as doctrine. Any apparent conflict between the Bible and another source (science, history, etc.) should be resolved in favor of the Bible because of its Divine origin.

Bible verses such as these are often quoted to support the literal view:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: (KJV, 2nd Timothy 3:16)

But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (NAS, 2nd Peter 1:20-21)

However, interpreting the entire Bible as literal divine revelation poses severe problems for serious Bible study. Besides the apparent conflicts with science and history, there is evidence within the Bible itself that it has both human and divine origins. Luke attributed his Gospel to his own research:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. (NIV, Luke 1:1-4)

Paul’s letters (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, etc.) were originally written as letters to churches he had founded, not as part of Scripture. They dealt not only with divine revelation but also with many mundane matters like disputes among church factions. Paul often stated his own personal opinions:

To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. (NIV, 1 Corinthians 7:12)

There is also evidence within the Bible that portions of it are intended to be interpreted figuratively rather than literally (John 16:25, Galatians 4:24, Revelation 1:20, 17:18, etc.)

References
1Herbert Lockyer, Sr., ed., Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1986, pp. 166-176.
2James L. Mays, ed., Harper’s Bible Commentary, Harper, 1988, pp. 8-9.
3Encyclopedia Americana, Americana Corporation, 1971, vol. 12, pp. 240-244
4Karen Armstrong, The Battle of God, Ballantine, 2000, pp. 95, 140.
5ibid., p. 171.               Source

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 12, 2013 in Hermeneutics, theology

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Busy at Home”: How does Titus 2:4-5 apply today?

Greek-woman-with-loom

Sometimes there are posts which are very important to share.  This is one of them, but it must be said that everything that Margaret Mowczko provides much to think about.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The President has not passed away

At synod the outgoing president advised delegates against saying that a person had passed away, when they had simply died. He decreed that nobody was to be heard saying of him that he had passed away after he died. This is the kind of clear lead the church is looking for from its president. Call a spade a spade, not a soil-turning device.

While we are at it, we need to get rid of all other euphemisms for death. Let a decree go out that there shall be an end to such expressions as: she’s cashed in her chips, he was called home, she bit the dust, he’s pushing up daisies, she has shuffled off this mortal coil, he has croaked, carked it or snuffed it, she has fallen off the perch, kicked the bucket, gone the way of all flesh, gone to a better place or been called to his/her eternal rest. We need to revert to saying what we mean and meaning what we say.

As for Ecclesiastes, what was the writer thinking when he/she spoke about the silver cord being snapped, the golden bowl being broken, the pitcher being shattered at the fountain, the wheel being broken at the cistern, the dust returning to the earth where it came from, and the spirit returning to God who gave it. Let’s excise Ecclesiastes 12:5-7 from the Bible, lest we be tempted to return to such round-about ways of speaking. Would anyone grieve their passing, if we pulled the plug on all circumlocutions for death? The president has spoken. Let’s do it.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on April 30, 2013 in theology, women's ordination

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Women in the synagogue

Women in the synagogue

Women in the synagogue

In 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Paul speaks about women remaining silent in the church. At this time, Christians still used synagogues for worship. Have any of those who oppose women’s ordination been to a synagogue, or been part of a Jewish bar mitzvah in a synagogue? I suspect not. I found attending a bar mitzvah a very interesting experience, and it explained Paul’s words to the Corinthian women.

The synagogue’s “place of worship” and teaching was in the centre front of the ground floor. Here all the men and boys stood together while the rabbi addressed them. There was an upstairs gallery surrounding the sides and back of the building where the women sat, including the boys’ mothers, whose bar mitzvah it was. The mothers and the other women were completely segregated from the men and none of them understood, including the mothers of the boys, what was happening with their sons, or what they were being told because it was virtually impossible to hear what the Rabbi was saying to the men. The women were bored so they started chatting amongst themselves. But the talking and then laughing became increasingly louder, and was starting to intrude on the service below. The Rabbi suddenly stopped talking, turned around and looked upstairs to the women, and commanded them to stop making a noise. The women became silent for a short time, then through boredom, started to chatter again. They were reprimanded by the Rabbi 3 times during this bar mitzvah which I attended.

Suddenly it dawned on me – this is what the apostle Paul was talking about! The women were not an integral part of the service – it was for men only – and this would have been the custom in the early church. Of course it would have been disruptive if these isolated women tried to call out or say anything. When we got back to the host family, we  women had to ask the father what was being said. If any woman had called out for an explanation of the events, of course it would have been disruptive! So now, because some Christians don’t understand the Jewish customs or culture, they read words at face value in the Bible without understanding, and then stand against women’s ordination in the Lutheran church – using this scripture to say Paul forbade women to speak in church – without understanding why he said it.

1 John 4:18 tells us: “Perfect love casts out fear.” Why then are some Lutherans showing fear of women’s ordination? Why are they trying to hinder the preaching of the Gospel?

May the love of those in the Lutheran Church who favour women’s ordination grow and spread into the hearts of those who appear to be putting ‘law before grace’ and are hurting the Lutheran church and the spread of Christ’s love to the lost.

1 Corinthians:7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”              God is love.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Women of the Bible

Screen shot 2013-04-04 at 9.19.42 PM

The following brochure has been prepared by the All Saints group on behalf of the LCA clergy and laity who support the ordination of women in the LCA For further information on the theological arguments for women’s ordination and motions submitted by St Peters and St Andrew’s for the 2013 LCA General synod please go to www.wmn.org.au

The brochure is a summary of CTICR, 2005. ’A Case for the ordination of women and men’, Lutheran Journal of Theology, 39/1,37-56.

A4 Women of the Bible    Women of the Bible A3

As we seek the will of God for the role of women in the church, let us consider the witness of scripture as a whole. The sacred texts of the OT and NT record stories of many women who actively worked for the kingdom of God, who were given authority over men, and who proclaimed the gospel of Jesus. Here we highlight examples of women who acted confidently in particular situations and who fulfilled roles similar to those taken by men. 1.  More: Women of the Bible

A4 Women of the Bible    Women of the Bible A3

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: