Lydia the Snail Farmer

Mark Driscoll recently made a statement indicating that men should not be stay-at-home dads. He went on to inform his listeners that if anyone did to choose such a lifestyle they would face church discipline. Although the comments were mainly aimed at men, career women were obviously included as a target.

It is hard to think that such statements would be made this far in to the twenty first century yet we should not be too surprised. This offering comes as part of the general backlash being raised against the rising tide of a more progressive approach in the evangelical scene.

The forthright pastor used 1 Timothy 5:8 as his proof text, a verse that records the Apostle Paul saying ‘Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.’

I could spend most of my time commenting on his lack of understanding of the text or the fact that he takes the whole thing out of context but I think there is a deeper issue here. I will, however, briefly point out that the preacher ignores the earlier reference to widows and places the emphasis upon men when the Greek text does not.

I need to mention at this point that I am the father of four beautiful daughters and I am proud to be so. Their mother is also beautiful and somewhat feisty and together we have raised our girls to be capable young women. You may think that this would make me somewhat biased when it comes to talking about such things. I will admit to the potential for bias if you will concede that my circumstances may well have focussed my mind a little sharper on the issues involved.

My wife and I dealt with the egalitarian argument and women in leadership some years ago when we took the time to read every available book on the subject and speak with many church leaders from a variety of backgrounds. My bride of thirty years is a capable preacher and leader in her own right and, I might add, has changed the mind of more than one theological seminary teacher on the subject.

As we studied the material and reflected on the biblical texts we were mindful that we wanted to get this right for our daughters. We were determined to face up to the truth we found which ever way it went.

What we discovered was a shocking display of bad exegesis and bias from some of the world’s leading theologians and systematic teachers. They approached the key texts on such matters in ways that they would never approach other parts of the bible. We were left slightly shocked as we heard such arguments as the following examples.

In answering how God can use a women to lead in the mission field and yet not in the church we heard; ‘God will sometimes use a woman until he finds a man to take over the lead role.’

In answering the question about women who write books we were offered; ‘I prefer to not see these books as teaching and view them more like a conversation over coffee.’

There were, of course, some on the opposite of the argument who spent their time deconstructing the Apostle Paul, trying to say that we should ignore some of what he says because he was biased.

So what were we to make of it all in the light of our own experiences, our reading of scripture, and the future of our four young daughters?

There were several things that struck us during this time that helped us to form a view.

1 We have to allow for some contextual understanding of the texts. Everybody does this even if they declare otherwise. Most evangelicals view Luke in a different way than they see Leviticus for example. We had to try and understand what was being said to the original hearers.

2 We had to allow the life and teaching of Jesus to help us interpret the rest of scripture. This sounds like basic stuff but as we researched we realised that most of our doctrines had been based upon the letters of Paul with only a cursory glance back to the teaching of Jesus.

3 We had to realise that God did not make us to be church members primarily; he created us to be children of his kingdom. In this respect God does not differentiate between what happens inside the church and outside of it. We tend to ask ‘How can we be good Christians?’ when the Holy Spirit is urging us to be good human beings.

From these thoughts we decided that Jesus affirmed and released women. He included them at the most important parts of his life and ministry. We also saw some of the best examples of obedience from the female members of the cast.

Added to this were some of the revolutionary ideas found in the very verses that have become a difficulty for us. 1 Timothy 2 tells us that ‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.’ The church has focussed on submission without seeing the almost culturally offensive idea that women should, in fact, learn. Quietness and submission were a mark of learning for men and in this sentence Paul includes women at a level that would not have been generally accepted by his community.

We also began to realise that God has a holistic approach to our lives. If, as we see from examples like Lydia the Snail Farmer in Acts 16, God is pleased to have women lead in business, medicine, education, politics, and most other arrears of life, why would he confine them in the church.

Granted, these few thoughts might not be enough for your to make a decision about such things, but for us it felt like a release.

So, if one of my daughters wants to pursue a career and let her husband raise the kids then they will receive my support. If one of my son-in-laws is better equipped to run their family home, then so be it.

And if any of them, male or female, feel that the Holy Spirit is guiding them towards church leadership I, for one, will say a loud and hearty Hallelujah!

- Posted from my iPhone

1 comment:

John Hayes said...

great blog - I am surprised that no-one has commented.
It shows that if something is so ingrained (such as women as a gender have a place)then even the intelligent will not give it much thought. I am sure that we are all guilty of careless exegesis from time to time - but this is a systematic denial of God's true desire. All are created uniquely different but all are equal in God's sight. I pray that you and your family continue to live out this truth. God bless.