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Women(Status) In Christianity.

Discussion in 'Biblical Debates' started by samgeorge11, Jun 20, 2005.

  1. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    Lovelly post! - fruballs to you FTH.:)
     
  2. magnolia

    magnolia Member

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    I would have to say that there is a very big distinction between humanity and its cultural problems and what the Bible acutally says.

    The Bible tells us that Men and Women are equal in nature, but they have different positions. We are the same in salvation in God's eyes, but because the woman was first in the transgression, the man has a Positional authority over her, JUST as God the Father has over God the son, Jesus Christ. Christ does not feel inferior to the Father because of his posistion because he is just as much God as his Father is. Women should not feel inferior because they are in a submissive position to men because they have just as much opportunity to have a relationship with God as men do. 1 Timothy 2:9-15

    People on the other hand have abused what the Bible says about women just as much as they have abused what it says about everything else- like drinking, salvation, baptism, church attendance, etc. We shouldn't get all huffy about what people think because people didn't write the Bible, God did.
     
  3. samgeorge11

    samgeorge11 Member

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    Well you are right but not 100%. Women are not inferior at all, neither has man made them, its just the point of view. For e.g take into consideration an answer sheet of two candidates. Suppose both of them score 80%. But their marks distribution is different(they score differently in each question but add up to 80). Likewise are the lives of men and women.
    If an intruder comes, the man gets an upper hand here because of his naturally bestowed strength. Similarly, women have the tendency of being loved(as much as 3 times more) by their children. So its equalized with a 1000 other egs.
    But the point I want to make here is that Bible(despite of its saying which I believe in to a large extent) couldn't save the subverted women. It was only by the coming of The Holy Quran(1400 years ago!) which uplifted them.
     
  4. Voxton

    Voxton ·

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    Would you mind expanding on that thought, please? There are some Christian dogmas that haven't been too good on women, but to claim that Islam has done better seems quite a stretch, to me.

    Covering women up in burquas doesn't seem too uplifting to me.
     
  5. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    To recap, and state the history................

    The Role of Women in the Church

    In Christianity women have often been denied the more prominent spiritual roles in the Church (E.g. Vicar, Priest, Bishop, Pope etc.), and have been largely assigned 'jobs' which are often perceived to be an extension of their homelife (E.g. Putting out flowers, cleaning, teaching children in Sunday School). Critics of this scheme of things claim the Church is patriarchal (serves male needs only), and as such needs to revise its structures (see Feminist Theology). Others claim that the Church should not bow to the 'whims' of society and needs to remain firm to the clear teaching of Scripture which, according to them, denies women equality with men in these matters. They would argue that although the Bible acknowledges a women has spiritual equality with men, they are in fact assigned different roles in the Christian community (equal but different - complementary roles). A third group could be said to represent the middle ground between these two 'extremes'. These are people who claim that although the Bible looks like it denies women equality in Church matters, when certain key texts are understood in their social and cultural contexts, it can be said that in the Church both men and women are equal in all matters before God. However, before discussing some of the key issues in the debate here we need to consider the relevant biblical data.​

    Some important biblical texts

    In the first creation account in Genesis we read that when God created humanity they were created equal in all matters.​

    'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them' (Genesis 1:27)​

    Although Genesis 2 subsequently introduces the notion that man was created before women, (and so could introduce the idea of a hierarchy in human relationships), this latter account needs to be seen in the context of the former. Thus Genesis 2 seems to refer more to the notion of humans being created according to their own kind (NB. Genesis 1:25, 5:1-2) and that that they are unique in that no suitable helper (co-worker/mate?), could (or should), be found for man from among the animals.​

    In Genesis 3 the Fall of humanity from their initial state of perfection ('in the image of God'), is described. As a result of this fractured relationship between God and humanity certain curses are brought to bear on both human and non-human relationships. One of these is against the woman.​

    'To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you."' (Genesis 3:16)​

    Although these verses are important, and will be referred to later, the most controversial and developed statements concerning what should be the role of women in the 'Church' are found in Paul's letters. The most significant for our discussion here are these.​

    'For God is not a God of disorder but peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak but must remain in submission, as the Law says. If they want to enquire of something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.' (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)​

    'A women should learn in quietness and in full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, and then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.' (1 Timothy 2:11-15)​

    'There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' (Galatians 3:28)​

    At first glance these latter teachings attributed to Paul seem controversial and present a view of women which is 'out of touch' with the modern mindset. So before we begin understaning the relevance of these verses today, as with all biblical texts, we need to understand the social situation into which Paul was writing in order to reveal the most likely meaning behind his comments. ​



    Background notes for exploring the Pauline material on the role of women in the Church






    Paul’s letters (Epistles) to the young churches in Asia Minor have been the source of much debate with regard to what the role of women should be in the Church. Even more problematic is that Jesus seemed to have an entirely different attitude towards women than the Apostle Paul seem to have later on. Was Paul developing Jesus’ own beliefs and practice with regard to women or was he introducing ideas of his own?



    Jesus and Women​





    At the time when Jesus lived society had a generally negative attitude towards women. Both Jews and Greeks believed women should be limited to the domestic roles of wife and mother and also believed that they were responsible for most (if not all) sin (especially sexual temptation – NB. Jewish men thanked God they were not born a woman!). However, despite the cultural limitations imposed onto women a quick glance through the gospels will reveal that Jesus had a very positive attitude towards them. He accepted and affirmed women who were neglected by society and declared them people of value. Jesus healed women who were considered ritually unclean and forgave women guilty of sexual sin. Jesus both taught women and included them amongst his followers/disciples. In his teaching they are often used as examples of people living a life of faith. Although women were not generally educated at the time of Jesus he allowed them to sit at his feet (the traditional posture of a disciple – Luke 10:38-42), and taught them. We should also note that it was women (including a reformed prostitute Mary Magdalene), who first witnessed and told the twelve male disciples about the resurrection of Jesus.



    The Apostle Paul and Women​





    Paul’s comments about women are often understood as sexist and at first reading we can understand why. However, Paul, like Jesus, was a man of his time and needed to be sensitive to the opinions of society whilst also trying to work-out the new Christian faith. Paul’s letters to the young churches in Asia Minor were written in response to real issues facing them at the time. When Paul writes about women he is obviously responding to questions being raised about their role and place in the new church structures. In his world, as in Jesus’, society had largely negative attitudes towards women and men were considered head of the household. Roman law gave a man complete authority over his wife and her quiet submission was considered her greatest virtue. Most men married when they were in their thirties and usually to girls in their teens. As such their wives would be less intellectually challenging for them and this mainly because women were largely uneducated. There was also a concern, at the time of Paul, that new religious groups would challenge traditional Roman values. The new Christian faith liberated both men and women but if this was not to get out of hand it needed to be ‘controlled’ and developed in an acceptable and responsible way.
     
  6. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    Pt 2

    Interpreting the biblical material on the role of women in the Church

    Using the background information it seems Paul was giving instructions to the Church which, although on the surface it looks like it denies women the right to teach and have spiritual leadership in the Church, now looks more like Paul was actually empowering women and giving them a status denied to them by society. Despite the fact that women were not held in high regard Paul taught that they were equal with men (Galatians 3:28). Far from denying women the right to have spiritual leadership Paul in fact wants women to be educated first before this happens (1 Timothy 2:11-15). Until such time Paul sets out some basic rules which will enable women to learn ('A women should learn in quietness and in full submission'). Elsewhere in the New Testament Paul acknowledges that women can have (and are having), a spiritual input into 'services'. In a letter to the church at Corinth he writes, 'And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head...' (1 Corinthians 11:5 - he also says exactly the same about men in verse 4!). Notice he does not say women should not prophesy (or preach/teach) in Church services but only that they should have their head covered when they do. Thus even Paul acknowledges and allows that women should exercise spiritual leadership in Church.​

    Now one could insist that the texts quoted above should be interpreted so that women have no spiritual leadership in Church but this would require taking the words literally without accounting for the context into which they were written. Obviously Paul's reference to the Genesis account in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 implies that the texts should be taken this way but there are other factors to be accounted for as well if a literal interpreation is to be insisted upon.​

    1. Is the reference to the Genesis text to be taken literally? If it is then what are we to make of the curse on the woman in Genesis 3:16. Is this prescriptive or descriptive? In other words, does it say what God commands to happen ('Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you') or what will naturally happen as a result of disobeying God? If we say it is prescriptive (i.e. God commands it), then we should be denying women the right to pain relieving drugs when giving birth because God must want women to suffer ('with pain you will give birth to children'). Thus if Paul is using Genesis 3 literally to make the point that women shouldn't teach because they sinned first then according to this they should also suffer maximum pain when giving birth to children. Clearly few Christians would agree with denying women pain relieving drugs when giving birth so we need to question Paul's use of this passage in his letter to Timothy.
    2. If women are not to speak in church but are to ask their husbands if they do not understand something (1 Corinthians 14:33-35), what happens to single women? The verse does not account for their needs which implies it cannot be taken as a statement about all women.
    3. If the passage in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is to be taken literally then what do we make of verse 15 which says women will be saved through having children ('But women will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety')? Although some take the verse to speak of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the verb for childbearing here is plural and implies many children (or women gen. having children). This raises the problem of women who cannot have children. If the verses here are to be taken literally then are we saying that women who cannot have children will not be saved? Obviously not for Galatians 3:28 says that all men and women are equal. Salvation is not restricted to men only. So this passage seems not to be speaking about all women but only the women under Timothy's care (or in his 'church') and as such sets out advice applicable for a specific time rather than for all of Church history.
    There are other passages which need to be taken into account when discussing the role of women in Church (E.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-13), however it is our contention that these must be understood in the context of this discussion in order that consistency in interpreting the Bible is maintained.​

    The role of women in the Church today

    In the USA Barbara Harris became the first woman Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 1989. In November 1992 the Church of England Synod (general council) voted that women could be ordained as priests. Although the Anglican Church now accepts that women can be ordained to the ministry not all its members agree this to be the best decision and deep divisions remain. In Catholicism women are still not allowed to be priests as the Church believes only men should represent the congregation before God (NB. Jesus was a man and there were twelve male Apostles (first leaders of the Christian Church)). In fact, priests are not even allowed to be married thus providing a further means to keep women separate from Church matters. In other Protestant traditions women are allowed to exercise spiritual leadership (E.g. The Salvation Army, Methodists), whilst others still believe to do so is unbiblical (E.g. The Brethren, some Evangelical Christians). Where women are denied spiritual leadership in the Church they are often allowed to share testimonies, lead the singing, teach in the Sunday School and read the Bible (except in Catholicism where neither men nor women are allowed to read the gospels and The Brethren where women are not usually allowed to speak at all during the service). Where women are allowed some input into the spiritual life of the Church (E.g. Reading the Bible etc), those who oppose women's ordination will not allow them to preach or take any position of spiritual leadership (E.g. Elder, Pastor). This is because to do so will require them to make decisions concerning spiritual matters (or teach the congregation regarding spiritual matters), and to do this will put such women in a position of spiritual authority over men which, according to them, the Bible denies them (E.g. 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Where women have been appointed to positions of leadership in the Church this has been largely due to a recognition of spiritual gifts and this seems to be the important factor in raising the status of women in the Church today (i.e. Is it better to appoint a gifted female leader rather than an ungifted male leader?). ​

     
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