Christian Theological/Philosophical Book Club discussion

The Table - Group Book Reads > Is God A Moral Monster? Chapters 9-11

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message 1: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments Some odds and ends...

Top of page 98, I'd be curious to hear what others think of the Spirit of the Lord in these passages.

Regarding women as chattel, it seemed to be simply the way it was in the minds of many, though many took a dim view of this perspective. IMO, the scripture shows clearly that many, long before Jesus, were disgusted by this and considered women as equals.

"An offhanded excursis"...I gotta blog about that one soon!

message 2: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle I think the Spirit of the Lord was for a specific purpose. Not a blanket righteousness.

Samson had the Spirit - He got the job done.
Jephthah had the Spirit - he got a job done.

They also both abused their positions. The Holy Spirit does not fail. But men sure do.

If only we could get those T.V. preachers to stop abusing the Holy Spirit.

message 3: by David (new)

David In response to Lee's question about the Spirit, I'll go ahead and agree with Rod. I suppose God gave the Spirit for a particular reason but this does not mean every single act they made was Spirit-driven. Maybe it sounds like a cop-out - the good stuff is from the Spirit, the bad stuff is their own human nature.

message 4: by David (new)

David On the question of women (and we should have some female voices in this group to balance it out) - Copan's basic point seems to be - the Old Testament has some pretty horrendous stuff about women but as bad as it may sound to us it was actually good compared to other cultures surrounding Israel. In other words, given the choice it is better to be a woman today than in ancient Israel...but it is better to be a woman in ancient Israel then anywhere else on their radar.

I would be curious to see if Copan carries this through into the NT and beyond. He mentions great women leaders in the Old Testament like Huldah and Deborah, people who broke out of their culturally confined status. But many Christians limit what women can do in the church, even though there were many great Christian women in the NT - Mary Magdalene, the apostle to the apostles; Junia who was excellent among the apostles (Romans 16:7); Priscilla, Phoebe.

If the people of God always honor women above the surrounding culture (not just in the OT as Copan demonstrated, but I'd also say in the NT) then shouldn't the church do the same today?

In other words - let women lead!

I've been reading Rachel Held Evans' posts on this all week - here's one -

message 5: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments Evans has some interesting viewpoints. But the patriarchal setting of the O.T. has not gone away. Even today it's still around, and religion seems to be the primary deterrant to equality.

This argument about the role of women does carry over into the New Testament, as David hints. Jesus' entourage included women, though none of them were among the Twelve...does that send a mixed message?

Isn't it Paul who wrote "there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female?" In fact, Paul established many female leaders in his churches: Junia, Phoebe, Prisca, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Yet several Pauline passages are not inclined to equality. Women gotta keep quiet in church, etc. Textual scholars will argue that this passage (1 Cor 14:34-35) isn't authentic to Paul, and the later epistles displaying even more suppression weren't written by him, but SOMEBODY wrote these things, indicating that even the Jesus movement didn't manage to erase the issue. We're still trying to work out the kinks and decide if women are human, too.

message 6: by David (new)

David Lee, do you mean patriarch is around today worldwide? Some specific place? In subcultures here in the US, such as among some Christian groups?

I think Jesus having 12 disciples goes along with the progressive ethic. If the 12 disciples symbolize Jesus re-forming Israel around himself (12 tribes) and his primary ministry was to Jews in Galilee and Judea, then he had to have 12 men. It is not saying men are better. The fact he had ANY women around him, the fact he encouraged Mary to sit and listen at his feet, was radical enough.

I think this is Copan's point - the Bible is cultural but it is radical - some want it to be more radical (as some atheists say, if God was real then why not give women equality in the OT rather then just take them one step above?) and some miss the cultural aspect (if Paul said women be silent, women must be silent forever!).

Your point that someone wrote those things makes me think that even among the early church, they fought against the expanding of ministry.

On one hand, 1 Corinthians 15 ignores the women who witnessed the crucifixion. It reads like an early-creed so we can say the "official" creed was that Jesus appeared to Peter, the disciples, etc. But when the gospels were written they were forced to include the fact that women were the first witnesses (which I think is a point in the gospel writers' favor as reliable). The place of women in the early church was scandalous and from early on some in the church opposed it and eventually the anti-women group won out so only men could be priests.

That said, I think explaining 1 Cor 14:34-35 is easy. Unless Paul is contradicting himself (1 Cor 11 he allows women to prophecy) he does not mean ALL women be silent, I think he is talking to a specific group who had husbands and who were disruptive in worship. I think the 1 Timothy 2 passage is more difficult. But no matter your position, a few passages do not fit easily.

message 7: by Justin (last edited Jun 07, 2012 01:31PM) (new)

Justin | 37 comments There's a lot of interesting stuff about women in the NT. I agree with David, however, that the 1 Cor 14 verse is a lot less difficult to deal with if read in context. If you read chapters 12, 13, and 14 it seems obvious to me that this is about the gifts of prophecy and tongues, and the interpretation thereof. It was part of the protocol of giving prophecy and interpreting tongues in the church, and is not a flat, unqualified statement that women should remain silent in church.

Also, an interesting quote from Dorothy Sayers that was pretty thought-provoking for me, and the more I think about it the more I see what she's getting at in the gospels:

"Perhaps it is no wonder that women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man--there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made jokes about them, never treated them either as "the women, God help us!" or "The Ladies, God bless them!"; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-consious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything "funny" about woman's nature."

message 8: by David (new)

David Love that quote from Sayers!

message 9: by Lee (last edited Jun 09, 2012 08:31PM) (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments In the Christian sect I grew up in (a non-denominational, worldwide fellowship) women are granted roles in leadership, but at the top will always be men. That is the structure God approves of (or so we understand). Much like the Twelve--I don't buy David's suggestion that they must be men to complete the symbolism. Moreover, whether in practice or only in theory, this church recognizes the man as the head of the family.

Mind you, I'm not complaining. In fact, if we are going to vote on the issue, I propose we do so quickly, before any women show up to distort the vote.

No, seriously...much progress HAS been made, though IMO it has been made at the expense of recognized Biblical doctrine. As I indicated earlier, I think the Bible displays contrasting opinions...some who felt suppression of women was appropriate, some who fought against it. We have progressed, and I hope to see more progress, even if being Christlike requires ignoring or reinterpreting certain Bible passages--Jesus certainly did his share of encouraging people to rise above the scriptures of his day. The matter of prejudice against gays comes to mind, that seems like a good test for Christians of our age, to see if the Church continues to grow more Godly. Can we keep the growing in the Christ-direction by overcoming our scripture in that arena?

message 10: by David (new)

David Just to clarify what I meant, because I did not mean it was 12 men to "complete the symbolism". I never thought about this before though, so I am working it out in my mind.

I meant that, like most other ethical cases, who was following Jesus was both a step above culture but also an acceptance of culture. On one hand, Jesus did go along with some cultural mores: having his 12 primary disciples be male was one of them. I would guess a reason for this is that had his closest disciples included women, he would have been rejected a lot sooner or simply not gained as much of a hearing. On the other hand, he stepped above culture by accepting many women, some very close.

Same thing goes for resurrection stories: on one hand it was women who first reported it, on the other hand the church quickly made their official statement be the men who witnessed it (1 Cor 15).

If you were a Jew living back then and thought Jesus was too progressive - see his 12 male disciples.
If you live today and think Jesus is too backwards - see his many female disciples.

message 11: by Lee (new)

Lee Harmon (DubiousDisciple) | 2112 comments :) Sorry, David, I can be dense at times.

message 12: by David (new)

David You're fine.

message 13: by Alford (new)

Alford Wayman (wayman29) | 20 comments I think a large part of the issue is plainly the early Hebrew law code 's retaliation to the matriarchal. The patriarchal and matriarchal are always in competition. We see this in the Babylonian creation, and even the the Greek Theogony by Hesiod. Such retaliation is built into the law codes and theologies of the Ancient Near East. Enkidu is changed from a man roaming among animals after he has intercourse with the prostitute the deities sent. Also in the same epic, Gilgamesh's speech to the goddess Ishtar was anything but flattering, but that speech possibly defined how the attitude towards the matriarchal. I think even though the law code of the Hebrews were somewhat strict, within the accounts of the birth of the hero the matriarchal is able to shine through.

message 14: by Rod (new)

Rod Horncastle I don't look at the Paul's orders to women as restrictive. Like most people do.

I look at it as a personal favor to God to keep his Church congregation running smoothly. Men can't handle women teachers. Women can't even handle women teachers (that's what my MOM says anyway.)

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