Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Hermeneutical Violation

In this post we reach the end of Andreas Kostenberger’s and Thomas Schreiner’s book called “Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15.” I have spent quite a bit of time showing how Schreiner’s arguments (and some of Kostenberger’s) don’t make any sense from a biblical standpoint. You would think, however, that, after all the loopholes in their argument (which we have seen), that the ending of their book would throw us a punch, would leave a huge impact on the reader. After all the attacks and assaults they throw at egalitarians and their “progressive hermeneutic,” that they would end the book with an effective defense for the complementarian position.

Who do they pick for this task? The honorable Dorothy Patterson, wife of the distinguished and honorable Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Dorothy Patterson is quite a heavyweight in her own right: she holds a PhD as well as a Doctorate of Ministry degree (not to mention her Masters and undergrad degrees. Make no mistake—she’s no novice when it comes to education; but I doubt if Kostenberger and Schreiner made the right choice when they selected Dorothy Patterson’s chapter as the LAST of the book!

I’m in no shape, form, or fashion disrespecting Dorothy Patterson. I think she is a phenomenal woman and should be commended for her educational achievements. However, Kostenberger and Schreiner chose a chapter to end their book that works against everything they claimed they stood for throughout the book. They wanted to provide us with “an analysis,” as the title of the book suggests; but what happened? Instead, they provide us with a chapter titled “One Woman’s PERSONAL REFLECTIONS!” A woman’s personal reflections? What is this—another “what does it mean to you” Bible Study session? It seems as if even Kostenberger and Schreiner succumbed to hermeneutical violation—for a good rule of thumb in hermeneutics is to never OVERSTAND the text (to STAND OVER it), but to UNDERSTAND the text (STAND UNDER it, and let the text preach to you). When a person stands over the text, they tell the text what to say (instead of letting the text stand over them), and impose their own meaning on the text. And it is because of such hermeneutical violation that our churches are in such dire straits today! Is there ANYBODY out there who is tired of age-old hermeneutical gymnastics? I know I can’t take it for much longer…

Well, on to the task at hand: facing the one and only Dorothy Patterson. In her concluding chapter in Kostenberger’s book, she tells women about what tasks they should hold in the church:

“How much better it is for one to miss an opportunity for service than to cause confusion through her service. A wise woman would rather GIVE UP AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW AND USE HER GIFTEDNESS if by using that giftedness she would risk bringing dishonor to God’s Word and thus to him (Titus 2:5). A woman committed to the Lord Jesus DARE NOT DO EVEN WHAT SHE IS TRAINED OR GIFTED TO DO IF BY SO DOING SHE IS DISOBEDIENT BY CALLING INTO QUESTION HER ACCOUNTABILITY TO A CLEAR TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE” (152).

Let’s examine this excerpt of Dorothy’s chapter. First, she states that a woman should give up an opportunity to use her giftedness “if by using her giftedness she would risk bringing dishonor to God’s Word and thus to Him.” When did a woman using her giftedness bring dishonor to God in Scripture? When did a person using their gifts bring dishonor to Christ in Scripture?

The first statement doesn’t really sting; but the last one does:

“A woman committed to the Lord Jesus dare not do even what she is TRAINED or
GIFTED to do if by so doing she is DISOBEDIENT by calling into question her ACCOUNTABILITY to a CLEAR TEACHING OF SCRIPTURE.”

I took time to italicize certain words to show how illogical this argument is. First of all, giftedness is from God. According to 1 Corinthians 12:11, the Spirit gives the gifts “as He wills.” If a person is given a gift by the Spirit, then he or she is to use that gift as the Spirit would have them use it. To fail to use it is to disrespect the Spirit of the Lord, who is God! It is the equivalent of a child who destroys the Christmas gift they received from their parents right in front of their parents!

Next, she opens up the possibility that a woman could be DISOBEDIENT by using her gift. What a laugh! When was a person ever labeled disobedient in Scripture because they used their gift? I don’t read of such a case. But I do read of an account where someone was chastised and punished by God because they failed to use what God had given them. Let’s read the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25: 14-18 (ESV):

14(O) "For(P) it will be like a man(Q) going on a journey, who called his servants[c] and entrusted to them his property. 15To one he gave five(R) talents,[d] to another two, to another one,(S) to each according to his ability. Then he(T) went away. 16He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. 17So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. 18But he who had received the one talent went and(U) dug in the ground and hid his master’s money.”

Jesus is telling a parable here, a story that involves a situation the masses could understand. This one involves a master, servants, and money (what was known as “talents”). Notice that the Master gave to each servant “according to his ability” (Matt. 25:15). All three servants were not given the same amount of money; but each servant was given an amount of money. The Lord Himself gives to each individual a certain amount of gifts and talents to use for His glory.
The first two servants made gains on the money they had been entrusted with. But what about the last servant? “But he who had received the one talent WENT AND DUG IN THE GROUND AND HID HIS MASTER’S MONEY” ! (Matt. 25:18)

How did the last servant respond to the gracious money given him by his master? With contempt! He went and hid the money. Whatever his reason, we don’t know—all we know is that he threw it away.

This last servant is the equivalent of those who adhere to Dorothy Patterson’s advice. Dorothy Patterson actually had the CAHUNAS to write that if a woman is gifted, no matter how endowed by God she is, she shouldn’t use her gift. And why? because of a faulty interpretation of 1 Timothy 2.

Let’s see what happens when the Master returns to check on the servants:

“19Now(V) after a long time the master of those servants came and(W) settled accounts with them. 20And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.' 21His master said to him, 'Well done, good and(X) faithful servant.[e](Y) You have been faithful over a little;(Z) I will set you over much. Enter into(AA) the joy of your master.' 22And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, 'Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.' 23His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.' 24He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, 'Master, I knew you to be(AB) a hard man, reaping(AC) where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here(AD) you have what is yours.' 26But his master answered him, 'You(AE) wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29(AF) For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30And(AG) cast(AH) the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'”

The first servant is rewarded for multiplying his talents—he received the right to enter into glory. The next servant multiplied his talents and received the same reward. But the third servant got anything but a joyful reply from his Master—instead, all he got was discipline and punishment. What did the master call him? “You wicked and slothful servant!” What happens to him? His talent is given to the one who had ten talents, and the wicked servant is cast into Hell.

The problem with the complementarian view is that, if you listen to Dorothy Patterson, you’ll end up like this wicked servant. And there are gifted, God-called women out there in the world who say to themselves, “I don’t have to step out on God’s calling: there are men out there who can do the job.” Others say, “I don’t have to worry about pastoring a church—I’m sure God has a man somewhere who can do it.” I’m sure God does: but what about if God is calling you at this time for His purpose? Remember Esther’s thought about going before the king: she thought that she would die if she went before the king because he hadn’t called her in. Protocol dictated that she stay out of the king’s presence; but Mordecai’s words awakened her from her fearful position:

“14For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14, ESV)

Mordecai reminded Esther that God would deliver His people, for He would always come to their aid; but what would happen to Esther? According to Mordecai, God forbid the king should find out that his own queen was a Jew! If the king found out, Esther stood to lose everything—including her life. What did she have to lose? If the king found out she was a Jew, Haman’s edict would cost Esther her life; and if she tried to fight for her people and the king didn’t wanna grant her request, she would lose her life. It seemed that death was the worst for Esther, either way.

But what I love about Mordecai’s words to Esther is that he made it clear to her that Providence was responsible for the very moment she was in—and that, God could very well have placed Esther in the queenship for this time. God could have put Esther in this position of standing so that she, a woman of authority, could save her people against evil Haman and his anti-Semitism! Who knew? But Esther realized that she had the power to save her people—and, if not Esther, then who? Who was to come to their aid? She knew the courage and strength to defend the Jews came from within herself. And she believed that her God was strong enough to use her in that way.

Who knows, women, if you aren’t where you are FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS? Who knows if God doesn’t have you and your giftedness where you are for this moment in time? Who knows if God gave you the ability to teach and preach His Word for this time, to turn the hearts of men and women back to Him? Who knows where your giftedness and calling from God will take you? You never know. But you won’t know if you let Dorothy Patterson and her inconsistent hermeneutic influence you.

Remember, the wicked servant was not chided for his gender, but his slothfulness, his laziness. And, despite the inconsistency of complementarians, God is the opposite—He is ALWAYS CONSISTENT! And the same thing He expected of Esther and the servants, He expects of you! Be an Esther—go and do likewise…

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