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Friday, July 28, 2006

Modes of Communication III

In Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Grudem outlines restrictions on the roles women may fill in the church. If I analyse this list in terms of the mode of communication it gives me certain insights.

    Areas of greater teaching responsibility and influence on the beliefs of the church to areas of lesser teaching responsibility and lesser influence on the beliefs of the church.

    1. Teaching Bible or theology in a theological seminary
    2. Teaching Bible or theology in a Christian college
    3. Preaching (teaching the Bible) at a nationwide denominational
    meeting
    4. Preaching (teaching the Bible) at a regional meeting of
    churches
    5. Preaching (teaching the Bible) regularly to the whole church
    on Sunday mornings
    6. Occasional preaching (teaching the Bible) to the whole
    church on Sunday mornings
    7. Occasional Bible teaching at less formal meetings of the
    whole church (such as Sunday evening or at a mid-week service)
    8. Bible teaching to an adult Sunday school class (both men
    and women members)
    9. Bible teaching at a home Bible study (both men and women
    members)
    10. Bible teaching to a college age Sunday school class
    11. Bible teaching to a high school Sunday school class
    -----------------------------------------------------------
    12. Writing a book on Bible doctrines (Explanation: I have put
    four examples of writing activities here on the list because
    the author of a book has some kind of teaching authority,
    but it is different from the teaching authority over the
    assembled congregation that Paul prohibits in 1 Tim. 2. The
    teaching relationship of an author to a reader is much more
    like the one-to-one kind of teaching that Priscilla and Aquila
    did when they explained the way of God more accurately to
    Apollos in Acts 18:26. In fact, with a book the element of
    direct personal interaction is almost entirely absent.
    Moreover, the book comes not only from the author but also
    with input from the editors and publisher.)
    13. Writing or editing a study Bible
    14. Writing a commentary on a book of the Bible
    15. Writing notes in a study Bible
    16. Writing or editing a study Bible intended primarily for
    women
    17. Bible teaching to a women’s Sunday school class
    18. Bible teaching to a women’s Bible study group during the
    week
    19. Bible teaching to a junior high Sunday school class
    20. Teaching as a Bible professor on a secular university campus.
    (Explanation: I have put this here on the list because I see
    this task as essentially a combination of evangelism and
    teaching about the Bible as literature, mainly to non-
    Christians. Even though there may be Christians in some
    classes, the professor has no church-authorized authority or
    doctrinal endorsement, as there would be with a Bible
    teacher in a church or a professor in a Christian college or
    seminary.)

    21. Evangelistic speaking to large groups of non-Christians (for
    example, an evangelistic rally on a college campus)
    22. Working as an evangelistic missionary in other cultures
    23. Moderating a discussion in a small group Bible study (men
    and women members)
    24. Reading Scripture aloud on Sunday morning
Grudem draws the line between item 10 and 11, with this caution,

    I do not think it would be wrong for a woman to be a Bible teacher in a high school Sunday School class. However, many churches may well think it preferable for a man to teach a high school Sunday School class, because of the modeling of male leadership in the church that these young adults will grow to appreciate and in fact to imitate.
So, if we understand that the line may be at #12, it becomes clear that speaking is considered more authoritative than writing. Writing a book on theology or doctrine is acceptable for complementarian women, but teaching the same material to adult Christian males is not.

I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately on whether the spoken or written word of God is more authoritative. God spoke the ten commandments to Moses, and they were written down. The sermon on the mount was first spoken and then written. But is this division between the two modes of communication part of the way God views a message? Is it different in his perspective? Is the written less authoritative?

My personal feelings are this. I am probably able to express myself in writing better and to more people than if I were speaking. However, if I knew a woman who was well equipped to teach in a seminary, I would never say to her, you must not teach an adult male Christian truth, but I may write as I like on the internet.

And yet, woman do this. They write theology and they know men are reading it, and then they say, "but a woman may not teach." What assumptions they make! Do they not know that in the traditional role a woman may not write, she may only translate a work written by a man?

How quickly they forget George Elliot. When she translated Feuerbach’s Essence of Christianity from German into English, she signed her own name, Mary Ann Evans; but when she wrote original novels, she signed a pen name, a man's name. Complementarian women today sign their own names, they write their own theology, and they claim that they owe little to the feminists of the 18th century. They do most certainly forget George Elliot and what she gained for women!

At the end of his article, Grudem writes,
    I know I speak for the entire membership of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood when I say that it is our sincere desire to “open the doors wide” to all the areas of ministry in the church that God intends for women to have.

And I, too, as a woman would like to reach out and open a door wide for other Christian women, to teach where I write, to speak where I type, to lead and influence and encourage and serve. Isn't freedom given to us to serve others? Isn't strength given to protect liberty?

Note: The article found in this journal (pdf format) is a chapter from Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth. The material used in this post was taken from this article.

10 Comments:

At Fri Jul 28, 03:18:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

This list has some interesting consequences. Grudem claims to be talking about "Areas of greater ... and lesser influence on the beliefs of the church" but in fact he seems concerned only with the beliefs of male church members. Women, according to him, cannot be trusted to teach men because they might lead them astray, but they may teach other women. Doesn't it matter if women are led astray? On this model a woman may teach all kinds of errors to other women, even egalitarianism or radical feminism, and this could be multiplied among women's groups worldwide, but that is OK - indeed no man will ever find out about it because no man is allowed to listen to the woman's teaching. The problem comes only when one of the women writes a book about it. Mind you, there does seem to be an implication in the note on item 12 that there will be men among the editors and publisher and they will pick up any errors in the publication, but in the modern world that can by no means be counted on. So, it seems to me, the list is clearly empirically flawed. As for its biblical basis or lack of it, I have dealt with that elsewhere.

 
At Fri Jul 28, 05:22:00 AM, Blogger Light said...

I wish I had a link to give you, but I can't dig one up. But it was earlier this year, I believe, that RC Sproul Jr (now defrocked, by the way) condemned women bloggers who blog about theological matters. He said it was the same as authoritative teaching, and they weren't supposed to be doing it. If I recall correctly, he exhorted all Christian women to stop blogging about anything theological. If anyone remembers this differently, or can find a link, that would be helpful.

 
At Fri Jul 28, 02:35:00 PM, Blogger A None ymus said...

R.C.Sproul Jr. was defrocked. I'd be interested in that story.

As for women not being allowed to talk about anything theological, how ridiculous. I eavesdrop on a patriarchal women's list and there is a heavy fear about the women discussing Biblical issues. It's like confining women to the carnal physical aspects of life, leaving the wonders of understanding God and the spiritual to the more privileged.

How sad that so many women have believed this. And I speak with some experience. I believed this way for almost half my life. I truly feel remorse for the women believing these lies.

 
At Sat Jul 29, 06:30:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Sat Jul 29, 07:12:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I note a fundamental contradiction between the approaches of Piper and Grudem to deciding which roles are appropriate for women. Piper approaches this largely on the basis of his own conservative upbringing and related experiences, and he also appeals to secular psychological studies. This leads him to question whether women should be college teachers or even bus drivers, roles in which women have some kind of authority or leadership over men but in the entirely secular domain. Grudem, by contrast, seems to accept that women may have authority over men as long as "it is different from the teaching authority over the assembled congregation that Paul prohibits in 1 Tim. 2." In other words, he does not appeal to nature or psychology as Piper does, but only to the Bible - or to his limited understanding of it.

As on the issue of gender generic language, it seems that we have here an uneasy alliance between conservatives such as Southern Baptists who hold to traditional language and practice, and Grudem and his supporters who are promoting novel theology and practices on the basis of their misunderstanding of the Bible through relying on older English Bible versions.

 
At Sat Jul 29, 07:43:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Interesting Sproul screed against women bloggers. But not the Grudem line. I note:

People are teaching who shouldn’t be teaching. And people are learning where they ought not to be learning. A husband who loses his wife to a hook-up with some internet Lothario is probably better off than one who returns from work to find his wife safely at home, but having been seduced into Rome by some charming blogger.

Is this charming blogger a man or a woman? Does it matter? Sproul seems to worry about women being seduced to Rome, but Grudem doesn't seem to care about women receiving false teaching. Of course whatever Sproul says he is not going to stop male or female Catholics propagating their faith on the Internet, so I suppose the logical conclusion of his position is that the husband should not allow his wife to access the Internet at all!

 
At Sun Jul 30, 06:08:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At Sun Jul 30, 08:56:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

This isn't all that funny. When I was young I had two friends who were not allowed to go to university at all because they were girls. One of them was not allowed to read any novels either. She was an only child so I don't know whether a son would have been allowed or not. However, the other girl told me explicitly that her parents wouldn't allow her to go to university because she was a girl. She only wanted to study Spanish! I do know that one of her sisters worked to put her husband through medical school, so in that case, they weren't against a university education for men. That was just the way it was. A girl couldn't really aspire to anything. These women are my contemporaries.

There are blogs today that mourn the loss of the time honoured home economics program which was acceptable for a girl to study and would not give her wrong ideas about what she was and was not suitable for.

On a slightly different topic, there is an interesting article quoted yesterday on the Christians for Biblical Equality website providing empirical data to support the notion that egalitarian marriages are happier, apparently at a 4:1 ratio!

Since we don't discuss marriage on this blog, although occasionally people do ask about this, I would highly recommend the CBE post and the article it quotes.

I think the Christian community has been aware for quite a while that conservative Christians do not have a lower divorce rate. This article goes even further.

 
At Mon Jul 31, 12:20:00 AM, Blogger Tim said...

How about Televangelists, are "good" complementarian women allowed to make a dishonest buck or million speaking via television, if they are allowed to write because that's niot live face to facfe teaching?

 
At Sun Oct 22, 03:12:00 PM, Blogger Kathryn said...

I was brought up in a traditional world. Although it has become popular in Christian circles to call it "complementarian", it isn't complementarian at all; it is patriarchal. "Complementarian" is a nice word for a system that is sinful. There are levels of patriarchy. It can start out soft, but usually hardens over time. Many "soft" patriarchs are horrified at domestic violence, never equating it with the patriarchal structures of society and church. The thing that all levels of patriarchy have in common is that men rule, women obey. It is at this point that I find this system to be unscriptural and particularly contrary to Genesis 1:26 and the Gospel message.

 

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