Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"wives submit" ...in context

Andrew Perriman, besides being the apostolic genous between the now in limbo (pray to get it out!) "open source theology | collaborative theology for the emerging church"  website (ironically oin hold due to not enough submissions), is one of the most helpful bloggers out there on reading Scripture.

Here's an example.  I agree it's true that "wives, submit to your husbands" taken out of context doesn't honor the egalitarian context of other Scriptures.  .  But we need to be just as careful about "proof texts"  and "eisegesis for Jesus" as "the other side".

I am all in favour of a biblical egalitarianism grounded in the conviction that the people of God as new creation does not need to live under the curse of patriarchy. I don’t think that under Christ the man is mandated to rule over the woman or that the woman is relegated to the position of mere helper. I warmly endorse Daniel Kirk’s chapter on the place of women in the story of God in his book Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? I think “headship” in Paul is not a metaphor for the authority of one person over another or others, and that Paul’s requirement that women should learn and not teach is a response to practical contextual problems. I also disagree strongly with John Piper that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel”.
However, not every egalitarian argument is a good one.,,,

Be submissive to one another? No, but…

...Paul urges the Ephesians not to get drunk, to sing Christian songs, to give thanks for everything, and to submit “to one another out of reverence for Christ”. He then instructs wives to “submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (5:22), children to obey their parents (6:1), and servants to obey their earthly masters (6:5). Egalitarians would like to think that Paul is advocating mutual submission, but this seems unlikely. In the three categories of relationship that follow submission or obedience is in one direction only, which suggests that “to one another” means “according to the relationships of inequality that prevail amongst you”. However, I think Paul’s language does push us to ask why such submission is enjoined:
The particular emphasis of verse 21 extends into verse 22, where the omission of the verb indicates quite strongly, I think, that subordination within the household is more an accepted fact than a deliberate objective, and that it is rather the indirect object (‘to their own husbands’) and in particular the manner of subordination (‘as to the Lord’) that are of primary concern to Paul. So his argument is not, ‘Be subordinate rather than equal or independent’ but ‘Be subordinate as to the Lord, rather than resentfully or from some less worthy motive’. He is not teaching them to be subordinate but how to deal with the subordination that society generally expected of them. Norbert Baumert… says, ‘The actual ethical-theological statement of the apostle is probably: “accept the position appropriate to you under the contemporary circumstances”.’[fn]Andrew Perriman, Speaking of Women: Interpreting Paul, 1998, 53.[/fn]

              ( HT, Covenant of Love )

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