Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Wives, be subject to your husbands ...

Disclaimer: I am aware of the other biblical verses that assign an equal status to the man/woman or husband/wife. And I do wish that the Christian churches had focused more on something like Galatians 3:28, with everyone the same in Christ. Unfortunately, it hasn't, and the Ephesians verses is one of the reasons why.

The reason why I'm not addressing those other verses is because they seemed to get used a lot to soften what's going on in this Ephesians verse. Ephesians says what it says, and below are all the things I found buried in the verse. Softening them, or using another verse, does not eradicate what is in the Ephesians verse itself.

Yes, I'm aware of the irony, given that I don't hold God ordering much of what happened in the Tanakh, but rather people struggling to understand God. But Christianity tends not to focus on those, because Jesus set a new era. One of the verses in this new era is the Ephesians letter.

End Disclaimer

... if I was someone who believed that there were no such things as coincidences, I'd start questioning why I'm seeing Ephesians 5:22-34 pop up a lot.

It's a familiar verse, with advising women to be subject to their husbands. It's a verse used to show how women are considered secondary in the Bible. The common response to this is that the verse goes onto to tell men to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up, and for men to love their wives as themselves. It's "mutual submission."

I have a few difficulties with that response

1) There is a definite hierarchy established in this verse. Man is head of the woman, just as Christ is head of the church, so as the church submits to Christ, so must the woman submit to the man. The basic principle behind Christ being in authority is that Christ knows all, and humans are to bow to his will. In this comparison, it's establishing that the man knows better than the woman, and ultimately the woman must bow to the man's will.

2) Nowhere does it say for the man to submit to the wife as well. It says for the man to love his wife as Christ loves the church, but the man does not submit to the wife. Ever. It ends with saying that man must love his wife, but the woman must respect her husband. Now, it could be argued that "love" automatically entitles the woman to submission and respect, but that's an inference, and that depends on the definition of "love." For some men, loving their wives means they completely control their wives, because their wives aren't smart enough to guide their own lives. And this is not a "radical" view for Christianity -- from what I've seen of the early church fathers, they weren't all that thrilled with women as a whole.

3) The man is to love his wife as he loves his body. This can too easily reduce a woman to "property," much like the man's body is his own property. It is also saying that a man is to love his wife as his own self. However, self-love can often be egotistical, and self-focused. My version even says that "In loving his wife a man loves himself." In a lot of ways, the woman is almost seen as the extension of the man.

4) Only the man is compared to Christ. The woman is compared to the church. The church and Christ are not equal, so under this comparison, the man and woman are not equal, either. As the church is subject to Christ, so is the woman subject to the man. And how often do we hear that is no longer the person who lives in the body, but Christ? If that's applied here, the woman is not independent, but again -- seen as the extension of the man. The verse does go on to describe how Christ gave himself up for the church and cleansed it. But that comparison leaves us with the man needing to "save" the woman and presenting her with no stain or wrinkle. Plus, the whole purpose of Christ was that man was incapable of saving himself, so God had to step in. In the comparison, woman is incapable of overseeing herself, so the man has to step in.

I've also seen a response for this that the man and woman are equal, they just have separate roles. Yet that strays too far to the "separate but equal" line of thought, and history has shown how well that's worked.

Overall? I still see this passage as a means of controlling women. They aren't given an identity in this passage like men are.

Edited to add:

Another interesting thing I've noticed about this verse -- the wife isn't called to love the husband, simply submit and respect (Now, one can say that both are indications of love. But I also have a healthy respect for the Great White Shark, and not because of any love, but because of how quickly it can kill me. Submission and respect are not synonymous with love). If I'm remembering my history correctly, weren't there a few Greek philosophers that debated if women even had souls the way men did?

This verse almost seems to be classifying love in two different ways. Men can love, and women ... can't? Or have a substandard sort of love? It just seems to assign very clinical aspects to what the wife should do, with almost no emotion involved. It's like there's nothing of the soul involved, in what the wife is called to do. Which, in a lot of ways, would work really well with saying that the husband should love the wife as he loves his own body.

35 comments:

Mystical Seeker said...

I agree, it is a pretty bad passage.

It also doesn't seem consistent with some of Paul's more progressive comments elsewhere. A lot of scholars doubt that Paul wrote that epistle.

StaCeY said...

Somehow when I was all "pious" and "religious", stuff like this made sense. Now as I reread these passages I say to myself "what a waste of my time and brain cells". Yuck. I'd rather be doing just about anything else in the world than reading "Paul".

(Maybe Heather... you could write up a post about the validity of paul ... and the "cannon" as a whole. I think that would be very interesting.)

NOW JESUS'LIFE AND WORDS!!! That's engaguing stuff! How come paul sounds ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like Jesus to me. I figure, in life, we all read authors who we ENJOY!
Authors who compel us! So why is it that we are EXPECTED to rack our brains out figuring out what the hell this guy was talking about... for FEAR of HELLFIRE... if we don't. (get it right that is).

UGGG! I wear my hair in tiny micro braids too. I'm hellbound for sure. (she rolls her eyes...)

Jesus' life, words and teaching are enough for me. I'm too busy conversing with my FATHER to be wrestling with some guy named paul.
Jesus followed no one but Father.
I have moved deep into that cleft.

jim said...

(Stacey) "So why is it that we are EXPECTED to rack our brains out figuring out what the hell this guy was talking about... for FEAR of HELLFIRE... if we don't. (get it right that is)."

Good point, what an amazing amount of time and energy is spent on that... sigh.

Well argued Heather... it just doesn't line up.

joeyanne said...

I'm not here to oppose your argument as a whole. I enjoy reading your posts to challenge my thinking, but rarely comment. But I must make at least one adjustment. You said "the man knows better than the woman, and ultimately the woman must bow to the man's will." This verse has nothing to do with man and woman. It has to do with husbands and wives. No where is woman told to submit to man. She is told to submit to her husband. That's a huge difference. I don't intend to explain the healthy, beautiful way I view this, or the way it plays out in my personal life, mostly because I am not an intellectual debater. But because I usually enjoy the challenges your well thought-out posts afford, I felt it necessary to point out the way this one went astray at the very start. I don't mean any disrespect, as I really enjoy your blog.

DagoodS said...

Believe it or not, I think the Author of Ephesians did O.K. in attempting to provide some principles of Marriage. Still not correct, but hey—at least he tried!

In the Twentieth Century we have seen an explosion of books, articles and media all talking about how men and woman relate differently. (“Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus” comes readily to mind.) And I am personally convinced that men crave respect; not love. And women crave love; not respect. (Of course this is a generalization.)

When I ask my wife to please hang up the towels after using them, and she does not, the harm to my ego is one of respect. That she doesn’t think my opinion or desires are worthy of taking note, and going out of her way to demonstrate she respects them. Likewise, if my wife asks me to hang up the towels, and I fail to do so, she takes that as a lack of love for her as an individual.

There is a great deal of truth in the concept that men go looking for affairs with the line, “My wife doesn’t understand me.” If you want to snatch a married man, just start telling him how great he is, boost his ego, and treat him with respect.

And, men are failing to love their wives. They fail to say it. They fail to appreciate the new hair-do. They fail to recognize their efforts in taking care of the children.

What the author should have said was:

“For women only! Wives, what you husband is looking for is respect. You cheer him on. You encourage him. If he asks you to do something, show him that you appreciate who he is enough to do it. You do that—your marriage will be like a steel fortress. He will literally move mountains for you.

“For men only! Husbands, give your wife love. Rub her feet after a long day. Recognize all that she does for you and TELL HER! Tell her you love her every single day. Give her what she needs. You do that—your head will explode with how great your marriage is. She will rock your world.

True—he failed to accomplish this. The best he came up with is “submission” (which is NOT what men want) and sorta did O.K. with Love.

If one uses Ephesians 5:22-33 as an explanation of what the other sex should be doing—it is terrible application. (As you point out.) If one uses the same passage as a mandate of what oneself should be doing—it is O.K. But if one uses the verses as insight as to what the other sex is craving—in my opinion that is the best one can do with it.

What is also interesting to me is to watch the different development of Pauline theology. Ephesians was written by a disciple of Paul. What did the author take from Paul, as to what marriage should be like?

Paul treats marriage almost ambivalently. His longest passage about it is 1 Cor. 7—in a book in which he was dealing with specific problems within a specific church. Paul himself notes that he has his own opinions on the subject, whereas God has some “mandates” regarding it.

But if one just read Paul, one would be left with the impression that marriage is merely a necessary inconvenience by which horny people can get together and bang like rabbits. Paul is clear that he prefers unmarried people, and that unmarried people are more dedicated to God. (Thus assuring the institution of Priesthood and Nunnery for 1000’s of years! Imagine!)

Further, Paul treats “one flesh” of Gen. 2:24 as meaning sex, and nothing more. (1 Cor. 6:16) He fails to appreciate (as every Pastor who mentions this at a wedding) the sense of unity of purpose, or commitment or complementary identification that comes with marriage.

Paul: That “one flesh” thing? Oh, that is just sex. Look, if you don’t have the self-control to abstain from sex, like I do, you should get married. I would rather you don’t, ‘cause you are more effective with God, but I can understand why you can’t hold out, I guess….

And I should note that Paul makes a complete screw-up when he attempts to use Marriage as an analogy in Romans 7.

So now we have the disciple of Paul, writing Ephesians, and to the topic of Marriage. While, as I say, I don’t think he hit the nail on the head, at least he takes it to another level of what to actually do in a Marriage, rather than merely the demarcation as to whether one is married or not. In my opinion, he softens Paul’s bright line division of “Married vs. Unmarried” and marriage for the sake of uncontrollable libido.

What makes it more curious, is to see how another disciple of Paul, the author of 1 Timothy, takes it. He turns it to a more vicious misogynist position.

Paul says that women can’t speak in church. 1 Cor. 14:34. The 1 Timothy Author takes it up a notch and says the reason for this is that women are to blame for sin even being here in the first place! (1 Tim. 2:12-15) Paul likes women with long hair. 1 Cor. 11:15. The Author of 1 Timothy pulls women up short by saying, “No braids, no gold, no pearls.” 1 Tim. 2:9

This disciple does not want widows under 60 to be included in the membership, and even then, only if they have had one husband. (1 Tim. 5:9) He, too, views younger females as lust machines. (1 Tim. 5:11) In fact, he all but states the old adage “barefoot and pregnant” in 1 Tim. 5:14! (Not to mention that their “salvation” is by producing children. 1 Tim. 2:15)

In looking at the two disciples of Paul, the Author of Ephesians vs. the Author of 1 Timothy, I find a fascinating contrast. One seems to be extrapolating some principles on marriage, and taking it farther. Another seems to be saying Paul didn’t say enough about the women’s inherent failings.

Maybe that is why I give a nod of sympathetic vote to Ephesians. He did the best he could with what he had…

Heather said...

Mystical,

**It also doesn't seem consistent with some of Paul's more progressive comments elsewhere. A lot of scholars doubt that Paul wrote that epistle. **

No, it doesn't seem consistent at all. Given what Christianity has done with some of his teachings (those teachings based on the geniune letters), I think he'd be appalled.

Stacey and Jim,

**So why is it that we are EXPECTED to rack our brains out figuring out what the hell this guy was talking about... for FEAR of HELLFIRE... if we don't. **

It's interesting, isn't it. And often if we reach a different conclusion based on what we plainly see in the Bible, we're told we're wrong. It comes down to trusting one's own abilities, against trusting another. When something doesn't add up, you almost have to divide yourself in order to follow tradition.

Joeyanne,

** This verse has nothing to do with man and woman. It has to do with husbands and wives.**

This post wasn't meant as a comment on men and women in general, or on overall gender roles. The men/women used here was meant to be interchanged with husband/wife. So where 'man' is used, it's standing in for 'husband' and where 'woman' is used, it's standing in for 'wife.' I didn't want to constantly type husband/wife because I was trained in college not to use the same word too many times in one paragraph. :)

Heather said...

DagoodS,

I can see how the verse would work under your translation, because it approaches it from how the man/woman is designed. It also eliminates the whole hierarchy aspect, and secondary comparison of wife to church, while man is compared to Christ. If the verse were as you have it, I don't think it would've caused complications (well ... maybe I'm giving some too much credit with this).

The problem just comes from the "submit" and the comparison, with woman/wife never aligned with Christ. There's just a lot of underlying "husband is superior to wife" going on here, and it's been used to keep women in a harmful position (I'm not saying that every woman who submits to her husband is being harmed, because wives and husbands submit all the time. I'm talking about those who had no voice, who had to do what the husband wanted no matter what it was, and how this can be used to justify abuse and so on).

**But if one just read Paul, one would be left with the impression that marriage is merely a necessary inconvenience by which horny people can get together and bang like rabbits. **

Yup. If anything, Paul seemed to have a more realistic understanding of the sexual drive compared to many Christians afterwards -- because a hormonally driven teenager, and even adults, don't have an easy time stopping that, which Paul acknowledges.

Of course, as you stated, this is also reducing marriage to an institution in which having sex is okay, and not addressing the other much more meaningful purposes behind marriage.

**The 1 Timothy Author takes it up a notch and says the reason for this is that women are to blame for sin even being here in the first place! (1 Tim. 2:12-15)**
Which some early church fathers had a field day with.

**He, too, views younger females as lust machines. (1 Tim. 5:11)**
Which is hilarious, in retrospect.

SocietyVs said...

I like Dagoods interpretation this issue and his stories about him and his wife - dude it's the same in my home (but I'm an idiot to my wife sometimes).

I think the passage is cultural and as Dagoods points out - Paul was not married - and irregardless - these are just letters. Now if someone wants to develop their marriage on this - that's up to them - but I find very little problem with it personally - but I am quick to point out this is a cultural belief of the time (wives submit to the husband - men love the wives) - maybe it was even a step up for the time (I am not sure). But it nowhere in that teaching makes the woman's treatment worse than it should be (she is not commanded to be beat into subservience, she is not forced into something, etc)...basically she is asked.

Again this is not a 'commandment' - this is a letter from Paul to a church - and it addresses marriage (and again - maybe this is a step up for the time) - setting the precedent - as Christians we need to step up our efforts in marriage to be better than the cultural standard.

Heather said...

Society,

**But it nowhere in that teaching makes the woman's treatment worse than it should be (she is not commanded to be beat into subservience, she is not forced into something, etc)...basically she is asked. **

I understand what you're saying, but this passage still isn't an equal comparison between husband and wife, and therein lies the danger. How often have people done horrendous things to others for "their own good?" Or even out of a sense of love? As the church submits to Christ, so is the wife to submit to the husband. Where in this example does it say that the wife's behavior is a mirror of Christ?

DagoodS said...

Whoops!

I better clear something up. The concept of husbands respecting wives and focusing on what the other person desires is something I said the Author should have done. Not something he did do.

It is neither my “translation” nor my “interpretation” of what Ephesians 5 actually says. In this regard, I quite agree with heather—it is a tale of a woman submitting to the man, directly in line with Paul. (1 Cor. 11:1-12) I simply found it fascinating that a disciple of Paul, while keeping with the Pauline notion of God over Man over Woman, attempted to define out the roles one plays in a Marriage better than Paul.

As I said, I try to give the poor author at least the nod that He did better than the author of 1 Timothy (granted—not by much) and at least attempted to fit Pauline theology into an area Paul did not discuss.

You are right, heather—submission is submission. A Pauline disciple would never place a woman on equal footing, and (unfortunately) would never use my preferred word of “respect.”

And societyvs; Sadly the author of 1 Peter DID take it that far and DID say that, even if forced, she must submit. It logically flowed from the premise.

Mystical Seeker said...

Dominic Crossan distinguishes between the radical Paul, the liberal Paul, and the conservative Paul. The seven authentic epistles represented the radical Paul; the three dubious epistles (including Ephesians) are the "liberal" Paul; and the three pastoral epistles (definitely not written by him) the "conservative" Paul.

Heather said...

Mystical,

**The seven authentic epistles represented the radical Paul; the three dubious epistles (including Ephesians) are the "liberal" Paul; and the three pastoral epistles (definitely not written by him) the "conservative" Paul. **

It sounds like we can see the effects of the surrounding culture through the letters attributed to Paul. He starts out as radical, and then others step in writing letters for him, to bring Christianity in line.

DagoodS,

**A Pauline disciple would never place a woman on equal footing, and (unfortunately) would never use my preferred word of “respect.”
**

And this is the frustration I was hinting at in my previous post -- to me, this Ephesians verse is very straightforward. Husbands and wives do not hold equal status in the marriage, wives submit and respect/revere the husband, whereas the husband is like Christ and must love the wife, just as Christ loved and saved those who couldn't save/clean themselves. The 'love' has a touch of superiority to it. Yet it often comes across as this verse has to get re-interpreted in the sense that it doesn't mean what it actually says, in order to make the verse more "acceptable" to modern society. And this isn't the only verse or event that gets re-worked.

And, in case this comes up later --my discomfort has nothing to do with a desire to lord over my husband. I have no problem with mutual submission, so long as the husband is entitled to that through character and behavior.

Samanthamj said...

In my previous life as a born-again - the church, using scripture, made it quite clear that women in general, were "beneath" men. Not just in a husband/wife context. You would have to dig pretty deep and where pretty big blinders to think it was "good to be a woman". After all, Eve committed the "orginal" sin of taking that first bite of the apple and it was all downhill after that. They had lots of other bible facts to back it up.

I wrote about this a little, from a personal level in this post on my blog stating:

"When I was teen, we were going to a church where all the women wore these doily things on their heads - especially for prayer time. It was to symbolize that they recognized that they needed something between them and God - something to do with the original sin of Eve. The men didn’t need to wear them. You can imagine how well this went over with a teenage girl who was trying to prove she was just as good as her brothers."

Lucky for me, I stopped believing that everything in the bible is true and/or holy.
~smj

Heather said...

Samantha,

Have you read 'Dance of the Dissedent Daughter' by Sue Monk Kidd? She was in a situation a lot like yours, in that women were bad because Eve was the second to be created and yet the first to sin. And this was only about 20-30 years ago. She eventually broke free of that.

It's a really good book, and I highly recommend it.

Samanthamj said...

Heather -
No - I hadn't heard of that book, but just checked it out quickly on Amazon, and it does look very interesting. (and cheap!) I'm sure I will relate to it, as I started off Baptist... then was Pentecostal/Full Gospel. I have been reading a lot lately about mental illness, and growing up with a mentally ill parent, and parenting without religion, etc., but, this looks like one I should add to my collection for sure.
Thanks! =)
~smj

Kay said...

Have you read 'Dance of the Dissedent Daughter' by Sue Monk Kidd?

I second the recommendation of this book!

SocietyVs said...

I'll have to check into this issue a little more - to be honest - I haven't read that passage very much - so if I am off - my bad for that.

Dan Marvin said...

Yes woman submit to the husband and husband submit to God. See we are playing the role of the marriage that will happen in heaven with Jesus and his believers.

"Many women don't like what the Bible says because it calls wives to "submit to their husbands." However, submission is not limited to wives submitting to their husbands. We are told to submit to God, governmental authorities, our boss, and leaders in the assembly. We are also told to submit to one another, which includes men submitting women and vice versa. God is a God of order. In a sinful world, submission to those in authority is the only way to maintain order."

Genesis 1:27  "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."

Traits from man and woman equal make up "image of God"

What about Genesis 2:18 where it says it is "not good" for man to be alone.

How did God treat women? Remember story of Esther?

You then have to ask, How did Jesus treat women? Like the woman at the well or Mary Magdalene or even the prostitute about to get stoned.

"The women described in the Bible are not always homemakers and mothers. Obviously, the biological function of women is to produce children. However, Deborah was both a judge and leader of Israel.(Judges 4:4) Other women were involved in ridding Israel of her enemies.(Judges 4:21) Quite a number of women are described as being prophetesses.(Exodus 15:20,2 Kings 22:14,Luke 2:36) Other women in the Bible were involved in teaching the Word of God(Acts 18:26)"

Countless other verses point to Jesus holding high regard for women.

Personally my own wife is an accomplished Graphic Designer and won 18 advertising awards and a television award. We made an agreement that whoever can earn the most money would work and the other would raise the children. I lost, now I am homeschooling our three kids and wouldn't trade it for any amount of career money. (I realized months later that I actually won).

I am still head of house but hold my wife with respect and love for the gift she gave me and allowed me to truly enjoy my children, I digress.

"God's people are referred to as female, not male. In the Old Testament, God's people are the "daughters of Zion." The Body of Christ (including us men) is referred to as the "bride" of Christ and God is said to be our "husband." Whenever referred to by sex, the assembly is described as "she" or "her." (Ephesians 5:25,27)"

In conclusion we have one verse that sums it all up: Galatians 3:28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."

Amen

Resource: http://www.godandscience.org/

Heather said...

Dan,

The problem is that the attitude of equality, and equal submission, is not seen in this Ephesians verse. After all, the comparison is Christ-to-husband, and wife-to-church. Christ and the church are not co-equal. Christ does not submit to the church.

This is not ignoring the other verses that you've submitted, or the fact that the geniune Paul letters and Jesus didn't segregate due to gender. Yes, women had other roles. But if a comparison was ran, the focus on men would far, far outweigh the focus on women.

The problem is that none of those verses address the line of authority outlined in Ephesians. We can say that there are no male or female in Christ. That's fine. But that does nothing in terms of addressing this verse in Ephesians, and the fact that the husband and wife are not equal.

SocietyVs said...

"The problem is that the attitude of equality, and equal submission, is not seen in this Ephesians verse." (Heather)

Whoa...whoa...whoa...what makes those verses in Ephesians the highest authority and the final groud for women in this faith? (either way I pointed out earlier they make women equal to men or part of man - which is the same to equating them a piece of the same pie). No one has shown why Ephesians is the final resting ground for women in this faith - personally in my church I used to attend - Corinthians was the main example - and even with that women held prominent plaves in the church because most men were not sure of Paul's intentions.

Heather said...

Society,

**Whoa...whoa...whoa...what makes those verses in Ephesians the highest authority and the final groud for women in this faith?**

I'm not saying it does. But verses like these have been used as the highest authority in terms of the woman's position. Verses like the Galatians one should be the highest.

**either way I pointed out earlier they make women equal to men or part of man - which is the same to equating them a piece of the same pie**

You pointed out your perspective, yes. And I pointed out why I disagreed. :)

timothy_steve said...

Hey guys, I'm new. I was pointed this way by a friend of mine, Josh, of whom is one of the bloggers on seminarianblog.com

Anyways, I'm very intrigued by all of your posts and life experiences. It seems like topics like this can go on forever.

Because I'm new, I don't know what your view of scripture is. What I mean by that is: Do you see scripture as authoritative and inerrant given by the One and only Christ, or as a piece of historical literature that is filled with good morals and a picture of different people in their walks of life?

Heather said...

Timothy,

Thanks for stopping by.

I don't see the Bible as inerrant, or really "given." Rather, I see the inspiration used in the same way that I would be inspired by a sunset to write a poem. The writers had encounters with the Divine that they tried to put into words, and their understanding of God developed over time.

Pastor Bob said...

Hi Heather

I popped over from John Shuck's page.

Don't know if this will make any difference or not given what the rest of the passage says but in the Greek the whole passage is a series of dependent clauses that modify verse 21: "Submit one to another out of reverence for Christ." That's the NIV. Don't have my Greek NT with me right now and the translation doesn't sound quite right to me.

Anyway, do you think adding verse 21 as the context makes any difference?

Heather said...

Pastor Bob,

My New English Bible has "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ."

I would say it wouldn't -- and I'm sure you're not surprised. ;) Mostly because the author goes on to clarify what he means by "subject," which gets regulated to the wife, while the husband is the head.

It basically comes down to how the culture worked in those days. Women were accepted as less than, slavery was the norm and so on, and we can see this in how Paul addresses this topics: they are what they are, and when the kingdom of God arrives, they might be eradicated. But while it's still a partial future event, one basically just lives with it.

timothy_steve said...

Hey Heather.

In a response to my earlier post you said "The writers had encounters with the Divine that they tried to put into words, and their understanding of God developed over time."

Okay, before I start any more posts I would just like to say that there is a flaw that I hate about texting/blogging/etc, which is that emotions/body language/facial expression/voice inflection cannot be understood. I say that because I don't want anything that I say to be mistaken for sarcasim, personal attacks, or just plain meanness. So, yeah, FYI.

Anyways, I wanted to know what you meant by "had encounters with the divine that they TRIED to put into words." I guess I just understand how you arrived at that conclusion. Do you have information/support/evidence for this statement?

Thanks for your time.

timothy_steve said...

...sorry..."i guess i just don't understand"...not really used to this keyboard yet....

Heather said...

Hi, Timothy.

I appreciate the clarification, as you're right: it's very easy to get angry in the internet world, because of the lack of tone. If it helps, I always try to give the other the benefit of the doubt.

To answer your question -- the divine is pretty much outside the material condition. Whenever I've had an encounter with the divine, or talked to others, it was really hard to put the experience into words, because it went so far beyond words. Hence the "try" portion.

I also say try because the writers were working with what they knew, and some of what they knew was wrong: the Bible is written from a flat-earth, three-tiered perspective (Jesus' ascension is one such example, with him literally raising into the clouds, and then a cloud hiding him from sight). The earth is not 6,000 years old, there were people and death around before Adam/Eve, the creation story mirrors creation stories of that time, the Bible was written in a time when slavery was an acceptable practice, there were different views on gender and so on. That's also what I meant by "try." They were encountering the divine while stuck on those beliefs, and it would've colored how they interpreted everything.

timothy_steve said...

Hey Heather

Okay, I see what you mean now. Thanks for the clarification.

I know that there where times in my life that really seemed to me that divine encounters with Christ produced divine qualities. However, these qualities that were produced were through someone affected by the fall. Therefore, though I am saved by grace through faith, I still have this remaining "self" in my life.

*side note* I'm not being Gnostic here when I say I have this remaining, fallen self left. I'm not trying to say that my actual flesh is what's causing me to sin, but that, since the fall of mankind, my "self" (volition, intellect, emotions) has fallen as well.

Anyways, Truth through divinity is spoken to me, and remains to be truth, but how I output this truth is what remains in the equation. So we have divine input, which is truth, then we have output, which, depending upon our spiritual maturity, is subject to a certain amount of sin. I hope I'm making sense...

Now, take Abraham from the OT right quick. Through what the Bible says, we know that Abraham was just a man in culture, with no specific rights, authority, or value. He was just there. God called him, so we read, to be the Father of many, though his wife Sarai was barren. Abraham, living in the culture where women were seen as baby makers and little beyond that, and Sarai, using this cultural view, acts against faith in God and tells Abraham to "go into" another women. So he does so. Now, God still fulfilled His promise to Abraham, bearing Issac, and having him have as many children as the grain of sand.

Input - God's promise and Abram's instructions for him to act upon by faith

Output - Abram becoming worried, Sarai becoming frusterated, Abram giving up and having sex with another woman, producing a child

God's goodness - Still fulfilling His promise in an unlikely event with Sarai, and as generations pass, we see Abraham becoming the father of many and many to come.

Now another example.

As we read, God tells Abraham, a man in culture, to sacrifice his only son to God. He also tells Abraham that He would provide when the time is right. Abraham doesn't wavier this time. He takes his son along and builds an alter. He ties his son down and readies his knife. Lo and behold, a ram, caught in a thicket, is in his sight, and he sees that God has provided. He takes the ram and sacrifices it, builds an alter to God and God tells Abraham that He will provide this sacrifice in a date set for another time, yet this was to test Abraham's faith.

Input - God telling Abraham to sacrifice his only son, of whom was promised to be the son that would innumerate his offspring, and then saying not to worry, that He, Himself, will provide when the time is right.

Output - Abraham does what he's told to the degree God told him to do it.

God's goodness - He provides for and teaches Abraham

Now these are stories we read. Yet in both of the instances we see, of the same man, that a divine experience can produce different output. One based on the culturalistic views and vices of the time, and the other based soley on faith through obedience.

Sorry this is so long, but I promise there's a point to all this :). So, we see two different encounters of the divine. However, one was done justly, the other, done poorly. So I don't think it would be right to assume that what the writers write is automatically wrong because of the culture they are in. Instead I would make a comparision. I would say something like this. Writer is to pen as God is to the writer of the book(s). Whereas the pen could be a gel pen, an ink pen, a fountain pen, man could be in a society dominated largely by sexual scandels, gender roles, slavery, and so forth. Yet, the writer still uses the instrument to do His bidding.

So, if God wants people to know truth, if He is Truth and no error can come from Him (for how could be be divine if He was fallable?), then wouldn't he give us the Truth though His instruments of which, is so taken by the divine, that they cannot help but to write what's perfect?

Thanks again for listening, or I guess, reading. This was long. Sorry...

timothy_steve said...

By the way, I'm interested in getting to know about your background. Were you ever in a church? How's your life story pertaining to the church and Christianity in general?

Thanks Heather!

timothy_steve said...

Hey Heather

"Orthodox Judaism has the saying I mentioned earlier, about thanking God for not making them a Gentile or a woman. If someone truly, truly believes that women are inferior and that God designed it as so, then anything that God sends in terms of gender equality will be dismissed, because "of course" God wouldn't send a message like that."

I'm afraid I don't think I understand what you are saying. Here's what I think you are saying and I'll respond to that, and if it's wrong just tell me and my response can be negated.

Okay, if I'm hearing you correctly, here's what I see...

Within the above quote is contained the elements of truth and opinion. Yet, are you saying that truth is opinionated? In other words, "I think therefore I am?" Though we can see in many ways that theory is false. We look at a child in kindergarden, and he says, "I'm a policeman" and we look at another and he says, "I'm a robber " and so they persue in their game. Now, they really think they are policemen and/or robbers, though it doesn't change the fact that they are not.

So there has to be some line, however thin or thick it may be, between opinion and truth. I see God as one who gives Truth and cannot not give it (double negative, sorry). He is incapable of not giving truth, for if He did, He would cease to be God, therefore making Him a little "g" god, and not Yahweh. And if He is a little "g" god, then christians, above all people are to be pitied, for we lay down our lives and defend him unto death, and if He is errant, then I have nothing, but I digress.

So can we conclude, if not by my Yahweh example then by my little kid example, that there is a line between the two said elements, opinion and truth? And if there is such a line, then whatever God says, man canNOT re-interpret it. Oh sure, he may love to do so, and who wouldn't. We all have been in embarassing situations where truth was called out upon us in the time where we didn't want to hear it. A wrong letter during a spelling bee, a bad swing at a baseball game, a power struggle between two people on a common subject, a "you shouldn't have done that" or "i told you so" statement after an error. The point is, we don't want to hear that truth at the moment, because it hurts us deeper, whether through embarassment, humilation, shame, an effect of broken pride, etc. I'm not saying that that the "i told you so" and "you shouldn't have done that" statements are righteous in their doing, for they could have been born from a selfish, dogmatic heart.

All I'm saying is that, yes, man does have a choice, once he gets truth, to do what they may with it, by sloughing it off or by acting upon it (as my abraham examples provided eariler). However, if there were errors in the Bible, they would be apparent. We are told to measure scripture with scripture to make sure that we do not make assumptions with something that doesn't make sense with the whole of scripture. In doing so, we find that our human minds often tend to take things errently. But when we measure truth (scripture, God breathed) with our opinion (fallen mankind, errent) we notice our fallacies and re-read, re-assess, and correct our errors the best we can.

In accordance with the writers of scripture. We are told in 2 timothy 3:16, and we've all heard this before, that "all scripture is God-breathed..." Therefore, there are two ways to take this.

First, one could take this and say, sure, all scripture is God-breathed. God used man to write His truths so that humankind can benefit from it. And God, in His eternal and indescribable goodness, made it so to where the writers didn't produce error, ie. He controled the pen.

Second, one could take this passage and say, well, Jesus had some great things to say. He was definately Christ, but Moses, well, that's a different story. And what about this Paul guy? Wrote most of the new testament? yeah sure, where's Jesus in that?

Saying the latter, however, produces doubt. Doubt in God, for He could not control His pen, doubt in scripture, for 2 tim 3:16 is apart of scripture and therefore, scripture is wrong in itself, and doubt in Jesus as Christ, for if scripture is errent, how can we know for sure that Jesus is Christ. Which leads me to this. If entire law and the prophets are subject to errency, then the gospels are subjected to errency, which means, Christ is an opinion. And if Christ is an opinion, then why are there Christians, and why would you profess to fall under the category of Christianity?

Even in that circumstance, why would anyone follow anyone or thing if they did not know that what they were following wasn't, in fact, truth? Because then, they would be following someone else's opinion, and that, is obsurd. We see an example of someone following someone else's lead...

When Uriah followed orders in Davids army that ultimately got him killed, because of David's treachery with Bathsheba, do you think he was following David? By all means no. He was following God, because he knew that God had appointed Him king and it was God's will that David would be the leader of the army, and nothing, not even being put in the front lines of David's army (a sure death), would waiver his love of his God. He took God seriously and what did Uriah get for it. A wonderful life. For now he was no longer bound by fallen man, now he was no longer in the snares of satan. Now he is a free man basking in the presence of the Almighty everyday (if there are such things as "days" in heaven).

Now is this obsurd? By no means. For the one Uriah was placing his trust in wasn't ultimately David, for Uriah, having been with him for a long time and fought many battles together, knew about David and his errors, his sins. Yet, Uriah placed his trust in Truth ultimately, in God.

This is long again. And again, I apologize. Anyway, thank you for opening up to me a little about your background. Right now, it's midnight, and i'm tired, so, i'll be talking to ya later.

Thanks Heather!

Heather said...

Hi Timothy,

What I'm saying is that any statement of truth is filtered through a person's knowledge and culture. Today, we hold a truth that racism is wrong. 100 years ago, we might not have, and thus is someone told us that God said racism is wrong, we would say that the person has no connection to God. Same with the Christians who supported slavery -- they felt slavery was a God-given institution which matched the Bible, and anyone who defied that was defying God. As it is, a member of the United Church of Canada staff, Vaughn Roste, said, "If we apply sola scripture to slavery, I'm afraid the abolitionists are on relatively weak ground. Nowhere is slavery in the Bible lambasted as an oppressive and evil institution."

So when the Bible was written, slavery was a fact of life, and regulated in the Bible. If the writers received a message that slavery was wrong, it's doubtful they'd take the message as genuine.

God is incapable of imparting error -- but that does not automatically mean that those who receive God's message are incapable of misinterpreting it, or applying cultural context to it. Again, we would have barriers set up in order to determine if the message in fact came from God, and if something tried to override those barriers, people would say God is not the one speaking. Take yourself, for example: if you got a clear message that Islam was the true path, you'd say that the message was not from God, because it doesn't match up what you hold to about God. Even if God was truly giving that message, you wouldn't take that message as true, because of certain mental barriers.

**However, if there were errors in the Bible, they would be apparent.**
There are, though, and I'm sure we'll disagree on this. The Earth is not 6,000 years old. Death was a part of this planet long before Adam/Eve. The earth is not flat, and heaven is not directly above us in the clouds. Paul was incorrect in his belief that the second coming would occur in his lifetime.

**First, one could take this and say, sure, all scripture is God-breathed. God used man to write His truths so that humankind can benefit from it.**
Even here, there are going to be complications. The "scripture" in those times was the Tanakh only. To say that it applies to the NT is an assumption. Even to say that all scripture is inspired does not mean that all scripture is literally true: I could be inspired by my encounter with another person to produce a story. Did the person directly control how I wrote the story? No.

**He took God seriously and what did Uriah get for it. A wonderful life. For now he was no longer bound by fallen man, now he was no longer in the snares of satan.**
Even this doesn't work -- the concept of Satan evolved throughout the Bible, as well as the concept of heaven/hell.

Pastor Bob said...

Okay Heather, next little Greek note:

What if the word "head" in Greek did not mean leader or in charge of but rather part of the body?

Heather said...

Pastor Bob,

Even as part of the body, there's still what the "head" represents: it's where the decisions originate, it's where the intellect is and so forth. It's like a dominant body part, such as Christ being the head of the church. The head dictates where the body goes (both literally and figuratively).

roy said...

Heather...
another nooby to your blog here
so
no, Paul didn't write it
it is not normative for gender relationships in and of itself
that said, let me add one more comment regarding "head." Another option is that it is a reference to the source as in headwaters and is assuming the Genesis story where the man was the "source" of the woman. That explains a bit about the "like your own body" part... because she had been. It has less to do with authority and more with ontology I think. And I think Bob's observation that all of these examples are subordinate to vs. 21 is important. Obviously there is some difference between "wives, to your husbands" (the verb doesn't actually appear in the Greek, showing tat the verse is tied to the one before) and "husbands, love your wives," but I think it is less than implied in the English translation.
Finally, we have to be aware that especially the letters in the New Testament are contextual. They were written to deal with specific people with specific issues in specific settings. While there are "universals" in there but implicitly and explicitly, one does need to be careful with their applications.
looking forward to more interactions here in the blogosphere