Monday, November 30, 2009

Operation Giftedness: Resolving the Presumed Contradictions

It is through dialogue over the last few days that I have found the inspiration and idea to write this blog post.

I’ve been talking a lot at my other blog, the Center for Theological Studies (CTS), about contradictions and how to resolve them. In addition, I’ve also dealt with the contradiction here of “equal essence” but “subordinate function” as well when referring to Christ. The Law of Non-Contradiction states that two opposing concepts or things cannot co-exist in the same way at the same time. This means that “short and tall” cannot co-exist peacefully...unless we define “short and tall,” such as “she is shorter than her aunt but taller than her grandmother,” or “she is shorter than her aunt without heels, but taller than her aunt with heels,” etc. Either way, two opposing concepts or things must have “qualifiers,” more information in order to resolve the blatant contradiction.

And this concept of resolving contradictions is a good one to use when it comes to interpreting Scripture. I’m sure you all have run into the problem of what happens when someone says that there are two passages that “seem to be opposed” to one another. Complementarians have done this with regard to 1 Timothy 2 (see my post under the section “1 Timothy 2” titled “In The Name of 1 Timothy 2” for more information).

Here at “Men and Women,” we’ve been tackling the issue of Christ’s equality in essence and His subordination in function. What do you do when you find that, just as you emphasize the equality of Christ, someone else emphasizes the subordination of Christ? I initially tried to solve that thorny problem with the passage of Hebrews 5:8. The person I dialogued with conceded that I was right on that issue...but this still did not keep him from heaping up a dozen verses where Jesus exalts the Father above Himself.

I can’t promise you that attempts to reconcile Scripture will convince other people. In fact, I don’t think anything here at the blog is one-hundred-percent convincing to every single person! Complementarians, for instance, will most likely find none of my arguments appealing in any manner. Therefore, my goal is not to make you 100% convincing...but to give you sound argumentation and evidence so as to face someone who thinks that the egalitarian view is liberal and historically progressive with little to no backing...

Today’s topic is on “Operation Giftedness.” That’s right! I am writing another post where we are looking at two or more passages. 1 Timothy 2 will continue to be tackled here at the site because there are so many theologians and Christians alike who believe this chapter prohibits women from serving in the church. But, to counteract this passage, I will use other passages, such as 1 Peter 4 and Romans 12.

Let’s first place 1 Timothy 2 side-by-side with 1 Peter 4:

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I DO NOT PERMIT A WOMAN TO TEACH or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control” (1 Tim. 2:11-15, NKJV).

“As each one has received a gift, MINISTER IT TO ONE ANOTHER, as GOOD STEWARDS of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:10-11, NKJV).

Do you see the problem? In 1 Timothy 2, Paul is prohibiting women from teaching, but in 1 Peter 4, Peter himself is giving license to those with spiritual gifts to exercise them in a godly manner. How do we reconcile both of these passages? Is everyone to use their gifts—-- or only men? Which is it?

If that doesn’t disturb the atmosphere a bit, read Romans 12:

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given us, LET US USE THEM: if prophecy, LET US PROPHESY in proportion to our faith; or ministry, LET US USE IT in our ministering; he who teaches, IN TEACHING; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:6-8, NKJV).

This is even more disturbing to the text of 1 Timothy 2 than 1 Peter 4 is. Paul says here that if we have a gift, “let us use” it. But this poses problems for 1 Timothy 2, which Paul also wrote to the church at Ephesus. How then, do we reconcile both 1 Peter 4 and 1 Timothy 2?

I think the answer can be found in not so much the use of gifts as in the MANNER of how the gifts are used. Look back at Romans 12, and this is what you’ll find:

(a) “if prophecy, let us use prophecy IN PROPORTION TO OUR FAITH” (Romans 12:6; the manner in which prophecy is used).

(b) “he who gives, WITH LIBERALITY; he who leads, WITH DILIGENCE; he who shows mercy, WITH CHEERFULNESS” (Rom. 12:8; the manner of giftedness)

Someone might say, “Well, what about verse 7? What does the “it” of verse 7 refer to? the answer can be found in verse 6: “if prophecy, let us prophecy IN PROPORTION TO OUR FAITH...” Further back in the passage lies verse 3: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one A MEASURE OF FAITH” (Rom. 12:3, NKJV).

In whatever gift we operate, let us use our gifts according to not only the grace we have been given, but our faith as well (Rom. 12:6).

What about 1 Peter 4? The answer of how to reconcile that passage with 1 Timothy 2 can also be found in the manner of how the gifts are used:

(a) “as each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as GOOD STEWARDS of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10, NKJV).

(b) “If anyone speaks, LET HIM SPEAK AS THE ORACLES OF GOD. If anyone ministers, let him do it AS WITH THE ABILITY WHICH GOD SUPPLIES, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ...” (1 Pet. 4:11, NKJV)

As demonstrated with the above passages of Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4, the issue seems to be “how” the gifts and abilities are being used, not the giving of the gifts or even types of gifts (although they are mentioned).

Someone could say, “Well, I’ve seen all your evidence above. But how do these two passages meet head-on with 1 Timothy 2?” The problem in the church at Ephesus in 1 Timothy 2 was the “manner” in which the church was operating:

(a) “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, WITHOUT WRATH AND DOUBTING” (1 Tim. 2:8, NKJV).

(b) In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in MODEST apparel, WITH PROPRIETY AND MODERATION, NOT WITH BRAIDED HAIR OR GOLD OR PEARLS OR COSTLY CLOTHING, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, WITH GOOD WORKS” (1 Tim. 2:9-10, NKJV).

(c) “Let a woman learn IN SILENCE WITH ALL SUBMISSION” (1 Tim. 2:11, NKJV).

(d) “Nevertheless, she will saved in childbearing if they CONTINUE IN FAITH, LOVE, AND HOLINESS, WITH SELF-CONTROL” (1 Tim. 2:15, NKJV).

Notice that the men were praying with angry hearts (wrath and doubting); the women were dressing immodestly, which is why the emphasis is placed on “modest” apparel. In addition, Paul also wrote that they should do what is “proper,” which is “good works.” This is because what the women were doing in the church was anything but “good” work.

Then, there comes verse 11. Women are to learn “in silence with all submission.” This is the best way for learning to take place, but since the women need to know what “good work” is all about, Paul states it here: the women are to pay attention and submit to what they are being taught.

The question then becomes, what about vv. 12-15? First, let me point out that the word “authentein” does not mean “to have authority.” Although the NIV has put out this definition, modern research shows the word to mean something “other” than “to have authority.” For instance, my “A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament,” by Michael H. Burer and Jeffrey E. Miller, states that the word means “to give orders to”...this shows that the women in Ephesus were out of order, not that Paul simply was against them having a position of authority (Michael H. Burer and Jeffrey Miller, “A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament.” Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2008, page 398).

Burer and Miller both put out a definition that I think in some ways would work, but I don’t think fits the context. However, I’ve actually done some research on this subject (search for my posts on “Authentes” and “Authentein” in my section labeled “1 Timothy 2.” My word study will prove particularly helpful to those who desire to know more on this subject. In addition read Katherine Kroeger’s study of the word “Authentein” as well. She has some interesting insights. If you have any further desire to read on the subject, I suggest you read “Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy” by Pierce and Groothuis. Linda Belleville has done quite a study there and, while I disagree with her conclusion, she demonstrates (as do Burer and Miller) that the word “authentein” does not mean “to have authority.”

Next, what about verses 13 and 14? Do they appeal to some inherent “creation order”? Or is Paul just upholding the Law? My answer: the latter----Paul is defending the Old Testament Law from the heretical interpretations being tossed around in the church.

Someone may easily object and say, “Wait! How do you know this?” well, this is where context comes to the surface. Look back at 1 Timothy 1:

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia— remain in Ephesus that you may charge SOME THAT THEY TEACH NO OTHER DOCTRINE” (1 Tim. 1:3, NKJV).

The problem in the church involved the teaching of “other doctrine.” This is Timothy’s whole reason for staying in Ephesus and not going to Macedonia with Paul. They were also paying attention to “fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification...” (1 Tim. 1:4)

In verse 7, we discover that there are those “desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm...” these believers want to teach the truth, but they confirm by their very words that they don’t know it themselves.

But verse 8 ties this passage with that of 1 Peter 4 and Romans 12:

“But we know that THE LAW IS GOOD, IF ONE USES IT LAWFULLY...” (1 Tim. 1:8)

So the law is good “if one uses it lawfully.” What Paul was saying to Timothy here is that the law is good when it is used in a GODLY MANNER. Teaching, then, like the other gifts mentioned in 1 Peter 4 and Romans 12, is a good thing when it is done in a godly manner, in a way pleasing to the Lord. When it is abused, however, it then becomes a tool for evil and wickedness, and must be suppressed. This is the reason for why the women of 1 Timothy 2 are being told they cannot teach. Unlike the complementarian view, women are not told they can’t teach because of a creation order, but because they do not understand what they are saying (1 Tim. 1:7) about the law. Paul has to defend that “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam WAS NOT DECEIVED, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13-14). Paul is only defending the events as Genesis records them--- not prohibiting women to serve because of some “creation order” in Genesis that automatically disqualified them from serving.

I will continue to use 1 Timothy 2 in relation to other passages to show the folly of those who base their view of women in leadership on one passage. Proper hermeneutics demonstrates that, when context is examined, reality is not what it seems to be at first glance...

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