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February 23, 2016

Comments

A few thoughts come to mind.

If (a) has headship over (b) = (a) is more valuable (what exactly is meant by that word here?) than (b), then God's "headship" over Christ means that God is more valuable than Christ, which means Jesus isn't God. But Jesus is God, therefore headship doesn't equal value.

Evolving social norms do not determine objective truth. They demonstrate a society's deviation from or adherence to objective truth. The fact of the matter is, God DID predict that societies would develop the views they do, and to help us, He told us what the objective truth was about man's relationship with woman, and humanity's relationship with God in the Bible. Majority opinion doesn't determine reality.

The Bible teaches (from a complementarian perspective) that man and woman have equal value and dignity before God and before each other, but they have different roles, and those roles are given by God as a blessing to help us understand the church's relationship with Jesus, to create the best environment for families to flourish, and to create healthy communities.

Well, for starters, the statements above do not represent biblical teaching. You can't glean from the verses quoted that men are superior to women, in that men have more worth than women. Genesis states that God created both male and female in his image. Scripture does not view marriage as a "master and a helper", as nowhere is that ever implied. The Bible also tends to teach that marriage is a "team" as well. This challenge can be completely dismissed as never understanding what scripture teaches about marriage. You really have to twist things in order to state that men are superior to women in the Bible. What people find offensive is that Paul teaches women to submit to their husbands. In our modern feminist USA, this is outrageous, and this has caused people to somehow assume that the Bible teaches women are less valuable than men. I highly disagree that the Bible even explicitly teaches this. In fact, there are both direct and indirect teachings otherwise.

Interesting. Here's what John Gill's exposition on the bible say about 1 Corinthians 11:3

"The man is first in order in being, was first formed, and the woman out of him, who was made for him, and not he for the woman, and therefore must be head and chief; as he is also with respect to his superior gifts and excellencies, as strength of body, and endowments of mind, whence the woman is called the weaker vessel; likewise with regard to pre-eminence or government, the man is the head; and as Christ is the head of the church, and the church is subject to him, so the husband is the head of the wife, and she is to be subject to him in everything natural, civil, and religious. Moreover, the man is the head of the woman to provide and care for her, to nourish and cherish her, and to protect and defend her against all insults and injuries."

http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/1-corinthians-11-3.html

Clearly John Gill thinks the this passage of the Bible says men are superior to women. So I dont know where that leaves you? Picking cherries perhaps?

Mike:

Corinthians 11:3 is about female dress impropriety in worship at church meetings. Some women in the church were dressing in a way that was causing conflicts. We are not actually sure 100% what they were doing. Here Paul makes the argument that they should submit themselves to the hierarchy in the church. This is a hard passage to interpret and understand because we simply do not know what was going on. It's quite a stretch to make it mean anything about if women are worth more than men or not. I have read some journal articles on this passage, and we actually do not know for sure what the women were doing; whether they were cutting their hair, braiding it, not wearing a veil, etc. We just don't know. So this was actually a 100% terrible commentary on this particular verse. I'm not sure how John Gill got all of these things from these particular verses.

John Gill (John Gill is not someone authoritative and I actually have no clue who he is) has misunderstood some key components of the verses that he is referencing in making his commentary on Cor. 11:3. The Bible does teach that women are physically not as strong as men, and therefore the husband needs to physically take care of his wife and be aware of this. This is especially true in ancient societies, where without men to do the physical tasks for labor, it would be hard for women to survive. So, the Bible teaches that women are physically weaker than men. Isn't that basically true? I mean, we can find exceptions I guess, but for the most part, men are physically stronger than women. So, the weaker vessel part is a reference to a passage referencing this fact. John Gill may think that the word in Greek for "weak" might mean more than it actually means. It means physically weaker.

Second, it is true that scripture teaches that the husband is the head of the family, and that wife should submit to the husband. So what? Does that in anyway imply that women are worth less than men? No, it only implies that in familial relationships, the wife should regard her husband as in charge. To say that in familial relationships that people have roles, does not imply lesser or greater, especially not in Christian scripture. Is the life of the CEO of the company worth more than the janitor? Although the CEO is in charge, the CEO's value (as a human) is not more than the janitor's. Each has his role in the company, but they both have equally intrinsic value as human beings (and please don't take this analogy too far).

The part about superior gifts and excellencies is something that John Gill made up. The Bible does not say that mean are superiorly gifted than women anywhere. It only implies that their gifts are different, but does not even state that explicitly, or at least as far as I am aware of.

It is true that Paul claims women were made "for" men. This is also what the Biblical text would imply in Genesis 1 to 3. But, I would encourage you to also look at the context of the verse and what Paul is saying. Paul's argument is always in the context that both women and men have been given certain roles by God, and that they should not go outside these roles (men are also called to some difficult things).

Our culture wrongly considers that assuming people have gender roles is wrong and evil. But, if you stop to thing about this, it is completely nonsensical and silly. It's like if you took a lion from the wild, and tried to domesticate it. You would never be able to domesticate a wild animal, and then, imagine for a moment, that you pretended like the lion was domesticated. One day you go out to pet it, and it eats you. This is the way our society works nowadays. It tries to claim that a father can somehow be the mother, or the mother viceversa.

That people somehow believe that genders should determine our role in family hardly adds up to the belief that women are somehow worth less than men. Scripture explicitly states that women are created in the image of God. God creates Eve as Adam's helpmate (and in no way in Hebrew does this word imply that women are "less" than men.).

I'm afraid that you, Mike, are picking cherries.

As is obvious from the first verse given, superiority is not in view here. Even if you go as far as John Gill (which isn't the Pope of anything, as far as I know, so we might not want to claim too much authority for his opinion, Mike), even his view does not entail superiority in value.

There is no question that man is "superior" in strength, is there? Well, how can a man be superior in strength without being a superior (of greater value) human being? Easily, since we're dealing with two separate categories: strength & value. Well then, what about "gifts and excellencies, and endowments of mind"? Putting aside whether or not such a statement is justified, does it imply the woman is of lesser value? Certainly no more than the obvious fact of her physical weakness makes her of any less value as a human being. In fact, the implication I see, is that the man's "headship" is to be directed in such a way as to put her value above his own, so if you were to draw any conclusion about comparative value, it should be that the woman is of more value than the man. This too would be wrong, but if you had only commentary to make your judgment you could be excused for coming to that conclusion.

Challenger: The Bible says men are superior to woman.

Response: Define superior.

Challenger: Valued more as a human being. Better than women.

Response: Where does it say that? Oh. Wait. It doesn't.

It's very clear.

There's no need for all the heat and emoting from our Non-Theist friends. My wife is to give up her life for me to X degree. And I'm to give up my life for her to X times infinity -- as Christ gave Himself for us. A bit unfair but hey, big deal. The only difference according to Scripture is that if she fails there God still hears her prayers whereas if I fail there it has a direct and negative impact on my prayers and God's Hand relative to said prayers. Again unfair but hey, big deal. Other than that we're joint heirs in the Kingdom of God. Now, sure, our Non-Theist friends may fuss and emote that such language is highly offensive to first century Jewish Male sentiments but hey, oh well.

Easy-peezy .


KWM is on the right track, but let's go further.

The scriptures are quite clear that the husband is superior to his wife*, the parents are superior to their children, and the master is superior to the servant (e.g. Col 3, Eph 5-6). And by "superior", I mean "in authority over".

But look closer at Paul's writing in (say) Ephesians.
- Wives, obey. Husbands, love your wives as your own body.
- Children, obey. Fathers, teach and train your children, and do not exasperate them.
- Servants / slaves, obey. Masters, treat your servants as you want your heavenly master to treat you.

The Scriptures are quite clear that with authority comes responsibility for the good of those under that authority. They are not given into their master's hand to be used or discarded on the master's whim. Rather, masters are answerable to the most superior authority - God himself - for how they wield their lesser authority. And God continually reminds us humans that our true nature is particularly revealed in how we treat the weak and the helpless.

* the bible doesn't say much about authority of men over women beyond husbands and fathers. Spiritual authority within the church is generally vested in men, and the OT at several points suggests that it is shameful for women (or children) to lead or be the vanguard in battle. There is no broad principle that women (in general) must obey men (in general), and while it is usually considered bad for a wife to usurp her husband's authority, there are several positive references to women acting for their husband in his absence.


But let's turn the question around. In an atheist world, why should we object to one person being superior to another? If I am mightier than you, why should I not enslave you to the general betterment of society? If I am more fit than you, why should I not maximise the benefit of my family even if it costs you and yours?

You don't like it? That's hardly an argument.

An egalitarian society is better than a hierarchical one? Really? Most of the world's greatest empires have been very hierarchical, and many of our greatest experiments in "egality" have lead to remarkable bloodshed, violence and suppression (e.g. revolutionary France, soviet Russia) - not that there's anything wrong with that. As far as I can tell, most atheist arguments for egalitarianism being better start by begging the question, and do little more than argue that egalitarianism produces more egalitarianism (that is, they are just smoke and mirrors for "I prefer ...").


(As an exercise for the reader, consider the above in the light of Amy's recent post on Dignity)

Just read a couple verses further down. Verse 11 & 12 "But among the Lord’s people, women are not independent of men, and men are not independent of women. For although the first woman came from man, every other man was born from a woman, and everything comes from God."

That sounds rather like equality to me.

Look at Galatians 3:28 (also Paul) "In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female" That sounds rather like equality across ethnic, economic, and gender boundaries.

Or go back to the beginning where "God created man in His own image. Male and female he created them."

As to Mike's citation of John Gill, an English pastor and theologian who lived over 300 years ago (from 1697 to 1771), Gill is reading the common cultural opinion of women into the text. You can find similar opinions in the atheists of the time as well (Google Rousseau's view of women, for example). The idea that women are "the weaker sex" (by which they mean "inferior because they aren't as physically strong as men") is a common idea found in most human cultures. The Bible actually stands as a corrective to that view.

The challenge claims that societies "the world over have bent over backwards to give women equal status and opportunity". And yet, it is interesting to note that the societies that have done the most to advance the idea of equality (abolishing slavery, giving women equal rights) are the nations most influenced by the Bible. Many of the societies "the world over" have not "bent over backwards". To the extent that they have acknowledged the equality of women, say in Asia or the Muslim world, they have largely been coerced into it by America and Western Europe.

A couple of additional notes:

Part 1

Is this really even a challenge in the true sense? First, isn’t the challenger just saying he doesn’t like something in the Bible? In other words, let’s say you have a Christian husband and wife that are perfectly fine living under the beliefs taken from the Bible as it relates to roles. They love the setup. Even in a very earthly way, they love it. It works for them. What problems are they faced with in the here and now in our supposed ‘live as you want’ society? I don’t see any.

Part 2

The sticking point is that a real God and those he allegedly inspired would have foreseen this ultimate evolution of societal mores.

This is the sticking point? - that societal mores have evolved enough to present a problem to the Bible in that God did not foresee this change? So humans get to decide? What else do we get to decide through our changing mores?

Is the challenger saying that changing mores are always right? What if changing societal mores eventually outlaw, say, abortion? Good? Bad?

Let’s assume that the challenger is right about the Bible stating that men are more valuable (which is absolutely wrong). Why would it follow that God didn’t foresee a view that is commonly held today? It could be the case that foresaw it and said what He wanted to anyway.

The list of changing societal mores is significant, erratic, and ultimately interpreted through our individual moral views. Asserting that your preferred societal mores are not properly addressed in the Bible and therefore God has the problem is not a challenge to Christianity at all. If anything it’s the opposite.

Finally,

Is there anything…..I mean anything communicated to us in the Bible that wasn’t true at the time it was written but is true now?

In other words, the whole challenge is a straw man argument. It misstates the Christian position on the equality of the sexes, then accuses God and Christians of being sexist and morally backwards.

But the view that humans are fundamentally equal across gender lines, across economic/class lines, across racial lines is an idea that has only arisen in one culture. The line from the Declaration of Independence "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" is only "self evident" in one culture. Every other culture: Ancient Greece, Rome, China, India, the cultures of the Native Americans, even the goddess worshiping pagan/animist cultures the world over, view women as second class humans valuable primarily as sex toys, breeding stock, or maids. Only in cultures influenced by the verses a couple lines down from the out-of-context quotes in the challenge developed a view of equality that includes women. And they have encouraged this view by their example and imposed this view via law onto the cultures around the world that still lag behind the Western (that is Christian) world in viewing all humans as equal.

So his "sticking point" that God didn't foresee this change in morality is utterly wrong. God and the people He inspired LEAD this particular change in the equality of men and women (as it lead in the equality of humans across ethnic and class lines, too).

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