Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Life Setting? Maybe...Maybe Not!

Andreas Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner are co-editors of a book called “Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Tim. 2:9-15.” In Schreiner’s chapter, titled “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” Schreiner writes regarding the life text of this passage:
“In the case of 1 Timothy, IT IS CLEAR that the letter is written to counteract false teaching (1:3-11, 18-20; 4:1-10; 5:11-15; 6:3-10, 20-21). Indeed, the transition between 1 Timothy 1:18-20 and 2:1 indicated by “therefore” (oun) shows that the following instructions relate to the CHARGE TO RESIST FALSE TEACHING (cf. 1 Tim. 1:3, 18). The letter is designed to CORRECT THE ABUSES INTRODUCED BY THE HERETICS INTO THE COMMUNITY. Nevertheless, caution should also be the watchword in explaining the nature of 1 Timothy. Even though the presence of heresy is evident, it does not follow that every feature of the letter is explicable on the basis of the false teaching. Paul probably included some material for GENERAL PURPOSES THAT DID NOT ADDRESS THE DEVIANT TEACHING DIRECTLY…After Paul had functioned as a missionary and church planter for so many years, he likely had at least a general vision of how churches should be structured” (87).

Paul, as an experienced missionary and church planter, very likely had this. But even when Paul mentions the requirements for offices (and thus, organization) in the church, the requirements are always tied to the situation in Ephesus that the church was faced with in the first century—that of false teaching. For example, in 1 Timothy 3, when one reads about the qualifications for overseer, note that the overseer must “not [be] a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome” (v.3). In addition, the overseer was not to be “a lover of money.” This last mentioned qualification is important, because the false teachers were greedy for money. Regarding the false teachers, Paul wrote,

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Tim. 6:10).

Therefore, there were requirements for the offices Paul established whose roots came from the situation that the church was facing. Why? So that the leaders over the church could be “above reproach,” above the current situation, above being labeled a “false teacher,” above being influenced by the first-century heresy at Ephesus.

Along these lines, let me say that we still adhere to the requirements for the offices of overseer and deacon in 1 Timothy 3. However, in order to properly apply them in today’s time, we must place them back in their first-century context. Once we place them in their first-century context, in order to determine what God is trying to tell us in the requirements, we need to look at the rest of the canon of Scripture and see how these requirements line up. For example, Paul writes that the overseer [must] “not [be] a drunkard” (3:3). Now, while this requirement was placed there because of issues in the first-century, we have the rest of the canon of Scripture. We have, to attest to 1 Tim. 3 and its prohibitions on drunkenness, the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:18—“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT” (ESV).

The rest of Scripture speaks on drunkenness as well. For instance, there is Proverbs 20:1—

“1(A) Wine is a mocker,(B) strong drink a brawler,and whoever(C) is led astray by it is not wise.[a] ”

The verse tells us that wine and strong drink are deceivers, and that the foolish person lets them get the best of the individual’s own mental and physical faculties.

Then, there’s Proverbs 23:20—

“20Be not among(A) drunkards[a]or among(B) gluttonous eaters of meat…”

Proverbs 23:20 tells us not to invest great amounts of time with drunkards; do not be known as the closest friend of a drunkard.

Then, there’s 1 Corinthians 5:11—

“11But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone(A) who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”

The Bible, however, is pretty consistent in its view of drunkenness, despite the context of 1 Timothy 3. Nevertheless, the proper hermeneutic consist of placing the Pauline epistle (or any passage of Scripture) within its immediate context and, afterwards, using the immediate context of the ancient day to arrive at the proper modern-day understanding.

So, while there are universally-applicable principles in the book of 1 Timothy, those universal principles can only be interpreted upon deciphering the first-century context.

Schreiner also seems to contradict himself. On page 90 of he and Kostenberger’s book “Women in the Church,” Schreiner writes:
“Nor is it clear that 1 Timothy 5;13 demonstrates that women were TEACHING the heresy.” But then, on the same page, Schreiner contradicts himself to bring in his presupposition and inherent gender bias:

“Perhaps women BEGAN TO ENGAGE IN TEACHING because they had fallen prey to an overrealized eschatology. They may have believed that the resurrection had already occurred (2 Tim. 2:18) and thus THE DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN WERE ERASED
since the new age had dawned.” Schreiner does admit that the evidence for this isn’t there, but it’s remarkable that he actually spends time trying to SUGGEST what a plausible explanation could have been. Notice that his presupposition shines through: “THE DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN” are not mentioned in ANY of the Pastorals, but yet, Schreiner throws this out as what he calls a “plausible” explanation for 1 Timothy 2. This idea of distinctions is Schreiner’s conservative presupposition. Quite naturally, this distinction refers to roles in the church (and also the home). The only problem with this is that Paul is writing to the churches in Ephesus, and, therefore, would give advice to the churches (this is why Paul calls the church “the household of God”).

When writing on the prohibition on page 101, Schreiner explains the prohibition in this manner:
“The prohibition against women teaching is not absolute and is probably given BECAUSE SOME WOMEN WERE TEACHING BOTH MEN AND WOMEN WHEN THE CHURCH ASSEMBLED.” What makes me laugh most is that Schreiner argues earlier in the chapter that women were not known for “teaching” a false doctrine, but instead, for being influenced by it. However, now, women WERE teaching in the church when Paul wrote the letter! I mean, which is it?
It seems that complementarians don’t know how to make an assumption and stick to it. However, Schreiner’s inconsistency on the life setting shows us something: if women WERE teaching when Paul wrote the letter, and they WERE teaching both MEN and WOMEN, then Paul’s prohibition to them must have a local, temporary reason or justification—and we must find out what that was. And once we know the reason for Paul’s temporary prohibition, women’s doors in ministry will be open before them.

After attacking various egalitarian views, Schreiner concludes,
“The COMPLEMENTARIAN view has the virtue of adopting the simplest reading of the text. Paul maintains that the Genesis narrative gives a reason why women should not teach men: Adam was created first and then Eve. In other words, when Paul read Genesis 2, he concluded that the order in which Adam and Eve were created signaled an important difference in the role of men and women. Thus, he inferred from the order of creation in Genesis 2 that women should not teach or exercise authority over men” (105, 106).

I have a question: if Paul inferred this from Genesis, why is it that he spent so much time acknowledging women, their giftedness, and their God-given positions in the church?
The truth of the matter is that the complementarians have the HARDEST explanation regarding this passage. And this is the reason why, for instance, when they refer to Eve’s deception, they justify their belief by saying that God gave women such biological differences so as to make them more relational and nurturing than men and less likely to combat error in the local church.

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