By William Edgar, Crosswalk.com
The following is a [transcribed] Video Q&A, so the text may not read like an edited article would. Scroll to the bottom to view this video in its entirety.
The Bible, while fully recognizing the basic distinction in maleness and femaleness, talks about both genders having equal status before God because both are image-bearers. So, the same as race issues, though a little different but the same idea, the essential message of the gospel is to abolish differences that put barriers between people and the covenant Lord. As Paul famously said to the Galatians, “in him there is no Greek, Jew, man or woman.”
At the same time the Bible gives men and women somewhat different functions in life. One of the terms out there is complementarianism, which means we are equal but we complement one another. You have to be careful with this, though, because it is easy to read into Paul a kind of concept of male leadership that makes him harder than he is. But he does tell us in Ephesians that in a marriage the man is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. That means giving up everything for her. It is a leadership kind of love. It is not a general and his army or a corporate CEO leading the company it is loving leadership. And the wife is to submit. The word is there, you cannot get around it. But biblical submission does not mean lying down and being walked on. The best marriages, as Paul says in many places and the apostles as well, are the marriages where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And in most happy marriages, such as mine, I cannot remember much of a time when I said to my wife, “sorry but we are going to do it this way”. Maybe there were those times, but I was very reluctant to exercise that sort of leadership. First, because she is wiser than I am and secondly because I do not think that is what is meant.
Now you raise the thorny passage, or passages, where a couple times Paul says that women should keep silent in the church. These, you may know, are hugely debated texts. My understanding that the silence he enjoins there are not “lips-sealed don’t say anything”. In fact, a couple chapters before 1 Corinthians 14 he said women when they prophesy should wear a veil (if that’s what it means). And in 1 Timothy it seems likely to me that the women of some churches were using their newfound freedom in ways that cut against some of the acceptable social mores and were shocking. And he is saying, “in this case, just ask your husband at home.” He is not forbidding women from teaching or talking in church (we have a wonderful woman teacher here) the last thing he is saying is that. Because in other places he tells women how to instruct. And in the book of Acts there is an extraordinary passage where a young man is preaching, Apollos, and a couple women take him aside and correct his theology. So, this is not a question of top-down hierarchy, even less is it patriarchy in the worst sense. But there is a priority in some areas as well as responsibility for the man and a priority in other areas for the woman that you cannot quite blend together.
The Bible is absolutely not misogynistic. I cannot think of anyone who supported and defended women more than the Lord Jesus himself. He was all alone in the middle of the day speaking to a Samaritan woman at a well—which is completely socially uncouth, and he explained the gospel to her. And this woman who came to a dinner party and started lavishing costly oil on him and the dinner host was saying, “don’t do this, get away from here, this is inappropriate.” Jesus said, this woman has done a beautiful thing. She has made a memorial for me. In other words, she understood the gospel and the death of Christ in a way that those other people didn’t. And he said, “therefore wherever this gospel is preached she will be memorialized” and every time someone preaches on that passage her name is exalted. So, the Bible is the greatest friend that women ever had.
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