Thursday, April 01, 2004

1 Timothy -- Passing the Baton (7)

What Paul says next is one of those passages we like to read quickly and move on, before we have to think and deal with what he says.

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. (1 Timothy 2:11-15)

In this generation, such instruction causes great concern among many Christians. You can read no end of reasons for why Paul did not really say what the plain text in these verses says he said. They will tell you that Paul was reaching into a specific situation, although there is little by way of connecting with primary sources for their assertions. Others would claim that Paul was speaking in a cultural context that has no bearing on our current culture. But Paul does not base his instruction on 1st century Roman/Jewish culture, rather he appeals to the creation in its unfallen state.

This is a big topic, and one that I will pick up more fully some day. In the meantime, I offer up a few hopefully helpful thoughts.

First, Dan Wallace has an excellent and short write-up of the different approaches to men/women issues in the church today. I would encourage you to read his paper Biblical Gynecology. In the Church today, he writes, there are those who approach this subject from an egalitarian view. In this view, there must be no restrictions on the roles to which men and women may aspire. There are others who approach this subject from a complementary view. Here men and women have complementary natures and the division of roles is according to true natural design. I find this paper particularly valuable for some charts that he has that point out the differences, which charts peg me as a moderate complementarian.

Second, we should expect to find that Scripture at least challenges some aspects of modern culture. Jesus told us that the world will hate us, so there would be a problem if there were not practices and attitudes that the Scriptures advise us to take on that cut across the grain of life around us.

Third, Scripture lights the path of blessing. I have a personal testimony here on this subject. I met my wife Stephanie in 1972. Neither one of us were raised in a way that presupposed us to adopt the Biblical role models for men and women. Indeed, I was saved as a hippie and moderate campus radical. I was fully, to my sorrow now, into the freer sexuality that was emerging at that time. Modern feminism was in the ascendancy and the right thing for young women my age was to pioneer and enter the work force. In short, it was the beginnings of the challenge to the wisdom of Paul's words to Timothy prohibiting women leadership over men. But I was saved, in part, because the Scriptures described who I was (Romans 7) and offered an answer. I was saved by the message of the Scriptures and I purposed to make them the rule of my living. Stephanie did the same. We purposed to establish a home where the wife respected the husband and the husband sacrificially loved the wife. We purposed to have her raise our children in the home. To that end, when we married, we lived off my income and purposed to save hers. The arrangement did not last long, our first born came along pretty quick and we lost her income. That meant the loss of our savings program, but not our way of living. By the way, she made more than I did. 

Looking back over 30 years, I will attest to you the value of following the Scriptures. My wife is my best friend. I have 5 children of whom I am most proud. They are strong, stable, and content. They are strong Christians. The attitudes that Stephanie and I brought into the marriage and home that we established has extended to unite the extended family. 30 years ago we balked at the trend of our generation and have reaped a blessing.

As for the rest of my generation, we have aborted millions of babies in the name of freedom and privacy. Violence among very young people is on the rise. Divorce continues to rise. Marriage is losing definition.

I say that following the Scriptures was the correct choice for me 30 years ago.

There is one hard to understand phrase in Paul's words, "But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint." For this I have several comments:

First, there is a real sense that men might rule their current generation, but women rule the next. In this way, women have a great purpose in keeping society going forward and preserving it. The entire gains of the gospel can be lost in a single generation and the mother is a key to passing on the knowledge of godliness to her children.

Second, the egalitarian movement in contemporary culture has not benefited all women. Husbands may now more easily abandon their wives and families. Single parent homes abound and most of them have a mother and a missing father. In my Alpha classes, I have heard more than once the words of single moms who would love to have a husband who worked and allowed them to continue to raise their children in the home. Women, more than men, have taken the changes in society on the chin.

In your home and in your church, think about following the plain text of Paul's words here. By them Stephanie and I and our children have found blessing. Others, choosing differently, have not found those blessings.

Tomorrow: Elders

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>

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