This Letter is in Response to Rebekah Merkle’s “I’ll take Whiskey.” (Found Here).
As a small child, my father read me the Bible most nights of the week. I watched him preach God’s Word for as long as I can remember. My dad has a charismatic personality and a background in theater, which he brought with him to the pulpit. Needless to say, he is a great preacher. I learned from birth that the Word of God is God breathed and true. This truth was embedded into me and I am sure this same truth was embedded into you Rebekah.
I enjoyed your response to my last post and especially the clever title, but what I did not enjoy was your assumption that my feelings control how I interpret the Bible.
When I was in Bible school and seminary, I was taught to separate myself from my feelings when interpreting God’s Word. I learned not to cherry pick Bible verses and that the best resource to use when interpreting the Bible is the Bible itself.
In graduate school, my focus was Christian doctrine and church history, so I became well aware of New Testament culture and learned how to study the original languages that scripture was written in before making final judgements. I understand the complementation argument well because I combatted it in my master’s thesis (Found Here).
I respect that you believe that the complementarian interpretation of scriptures is the correct one, but the truth is that there are many interpretations of God’s Word because we are all doing our best to understand an ancient book that was written to an ancient audience in ancient languages.
As much as you and I both don’t want to admit it, our feelings and experiences (and what has been embedded into us by our parents) will always creep into our interpretations of the Bible.
“Gender roles” are a tricky biblical topic, no doubt, so for either of us to believe that we have found the absolutely correct interpretation is quite prideful. The Word is clear,
Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely (1 Corinthians 13:12).
To be truthful with you, I understand how complementarians can believe what they believe concerning gender roles because when one reads the Bible without deeper study of surrounding context, it seems plain and clear. It is only after years of research that we can let go of what our parents have taught us to some degree and see the scriptures for what they really are.
It is difficult, but in order to truly let go of our personal experiences and feelings concerning gender roles, we have to somehow try to put ourselves in the Apostle Paul’s shoes. Once we realize that patriarchy was the backdrop of the Bible and not the message of the Bible, we begin to realize that Paul was an advocate for female equality in both worth and authority.
As stated in my previous letter, there is little to no evidence that “kephale” (head) means “authority over.” The ancient texts are simply not there to prove this. Most egalitarians argue that “kephale” means “source,” meaning man (Adam) is the source of woman (Eve), but the ancient texts to prove this are limited as well (although “source” does have more evidence among ancient texts than “authority over” does).
The truth is that “kephale” is an extremely unique word and although “head” often means “leader” in English, it is a mistake to apply our language to scriptures that are written in ancient Greek.
Since we cannot depend on ancient texts to interpret the word “kephale” we must depend on the surrounding verses in the Bible and historical background. Since husbands are compared to Christ metaphorically and we know that women were treated no better than slaves in Paul’s world, could it be that Paul is asking husbands to sacrifice their cultural privilege and dismantle inequality in the home? The “marriage passage” in Ephesians 5 does begin with this verse:
21 And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
I love Sarah Bessey’s words on this matter:
“And so we discover the great paradox hidden within these hotly debated passages of Scripture, tragically misused to subject and berate and hold back, to demand and give place to pride – however benevolent the intention. If wives submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ, and if husbands love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, and if both husbands and wives submit to one another as commanded, we enter a never-ending, life-giving circle of mutual submission and love.” (excerpted from Jesus Feminist).
“But what about 1 Timothy 2:12?” is always the next question complementarians dart at me as if they have won the day by killing me off with this verse. I explain this passage, as well as other controversial Pauline passages in my master’s thesis in great detail, so for the sake of this letter, I will keep things relevant.
The verse states: “I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.” Here is my issue with your situation. You do teach high schoolers, right? At what age is a high school male considered a man? Since the Bible does not tell us that answer, who gets to make that answer up?
Some may say that a boy becomes a man around puberty (13 or so). Some may say a boy becomes a man at 18-years-old, since that is what our American law says. This leads me to another hypothetical situation; if we are going to go with 18, then what happens if you have a high school student who is 18 (which happens often)?
And if we are going to make the argument that a high school is not “the Church” then I would have to say that “the Church” is not a building with walls; but rather, the makeup of men and women of God. It is also strange how complementarian men are allowed to read your blog and learn from your teachings, but you are not allowed to teach them from behind a human made idea of a pulpit.
When legalism abounds, confusion and hypocrisy abounds further.
Lastly, if the Apostle Paul has given a timeless and universal truth that women should not teach or lead men, then why did he praise the female apostle Junia as outstanding among them (Romans 16:7) along with many other female leaders in the New Testament? Why did he call women his co-workers in Philippians 4:3 and if they were simply leading other women and children then why is there a substantial amount of sociological/historical evidence that women hosted and led “house churches” within the first and second centuries of the early church? Surely both men and women attended these “church gatherings.”
Further, if God chooses whom He wills, then why did He choose Deborah as judge to lead the Israelite Army of mostly men (Judges 4)? Because there were no Godly men around? If that was the case, why did God not raise up a godly man to do the job? The truth is that you don’t have the answers to these questions because no complementarian does. When any complementarian is asked these questions, they either ignore them or they do some sort of far-fetched, theological gymnastics to try and answer them.
Again, I am going to use the word “audacious.” It is quite audacious for you and your camp to assume your biblical interpretation that limits half the Church is the correct one and that evangelical feminists are operating out of their feelings. Generally speaking, Christian feminists are highly educated and filled with the Holy Spirit (as I am assuming you are) and although we may be both snarky and sensitive at times, most of us regard the Bible as being the highest authority on this matter (just as your camp does).
So, again, if you are going to take us on, you are going to have to do some legitimate biblical/contextual/historical/sociological/linguistic research that is not based on your “feelings” or “experiences” with evangelical feminists.
Blessings in your journey sis. I love you and I actually like you too, but I am going to have to stick to “light beer,” whisky is too heavy and gives me a headache.
Jory Micah 🙂