Women and the Bible – Christian Atrocities

Prior posts on Feminism and the responses to Annie Laurie Gaylor’s article (the article can be found in the first link):

Feminism and the Bible

Women and the Bible – Genesis 3:16

Women and the Bible – Church Roles

Women and the Bible – Heroines?

In this segment, I am focusing on one major complaint from Gaylor: the oppression of women under the hand of humans who are claiming to be doing the work of God.

 I think the very first sentence of her article is enlightening: “Organized religion always has been and remains the greatest enemy of women’s rights.”  She says organized religion is the enemy of women’s rights.  This may be at least partially true, but God is not to fault for that.  Humans are.  I will elaborate more fully after we look at the next section of her writing:

 “Church writer Tertullian said ‘each of you women is an Eve . . . You are the gate of Hell, you are the temptress of the forbidden tree; you are the first deserter of the divine law.’  Martin Luther decreed: ‘If a woman grows weary and at last dies from childbearing, it matters not. Let her die from bearing, she is there to do it.’  Such teachings prompted 19th-century feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton to write: ‘The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of woman’s emancipation.’  The various Christian churches fought tooth and nail against the advancement of women, opposing everything from women’s right to speak in public, to the use of anesthesia in childbirth (since the bible says women must suffer in childbirth) and woman’s suffrage. Today the most organized and formidable opponent of women’s social, economic and sexual rights remains organized religion. Religionists defeated the Equal Rights Amendment. Religious fanatics and bullies are currently engaged in an outright war of terrorism and harassment against women who have abortions and the medical staff which serves them. Those seeking to challenge inequities and advance the status of women today are fighting a massive coalition of fundamentalist Protestant and Catholic churches and religious groups mobilized to fight women’s rights, gay rights, and secular government.”

It’s a common argument against God and Christianity:  “Look at all of those horrible Christians and what they have done – what they continue to do.” 

Part of the problem is that it would seem in order to have a case against Christianity, Gaylor would have to assume that all Christians agree on everything and blindly follow every church leader you can name.  Trust me, this is not the case.  So, whatever Tertullian and Martin Luther said, it does not follow that all of Christendom is on the same page.

In addition, if you follow the logic of “Christianity must be false because of all of the bad things Christians have done” then it also follows that non-Christianity must be false because of all of the bad things that non-Christians have done.  You may reply that people who are not Christians have never claimed to be good, whereas Christians do.  I beg to differ.  In fact, all of the arguments against Christianity would be pointless if those people did not think that non-Christianity led to a better life than Christianity.  For this particular argument, that is their main point: if there were not Christians, none of these bad things would have occurred, because non-Christians wouldn’t have done that.  I ask, what about all of the bad things that occur at the hands of others?  The basic answer is this: none of these bad things would have occurred if there were not any people, at which point it would not matter because there would have been no one for the bad things to happen to.  And that’s about as far as you can take this logic.  If you want to start generalizing what is true and false by whether the people who believe in it are good or bad, then nothing in the world will ever be believed, because there are both good and bad people to be found in any belief system.  So, what we arrive at is this: there sure are some bad Christians out there.  And I concur. 

But here’s the main problem: God is not a tyrant.  If He was, we would all be forced to do what He wants all of the time.  Christians would all be perfect and they would never say or do anything stupid.  But He’s not a tyrant, and therefore, a whole heck of a lot of us screw up.  I screw up.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, although I know a few people who try to pretend like they don’t.  Some of us screw up worse than others.  God has forgiven us (ALL of us – some of us just haven’t accepted His forgiveness). 

 

But I think if you look at the “problem” logically, you will see that there is not really an alternative.  People complain that God is too strict, too demanding, too forceful…always pushing His supposed agenda (I purport that God has no agenda except to love us and give us the best).  He has too many rules.  You want a softer God.  But when it turns out that He IS a softer God –  meaning, he does not strike us all dead to clean up the streets when we start messing things up – you do not like it.  People think things like, “If God were God, He would have stopped that.  He wouldn’t let His followers act like that.”

 

Unless my logic is bad, I don’t think you can have it both ways.  You want a softer God when it comes to your own life – one that will be sort of hands off and not really bug you about what you’re doing wrong – but you want a tougher God when it comes to those evils that you happen to be against.  Or perhaps it is more a question of the level of evil that you think is being done – if you want to lie to your neighbor about “borrowing” the rake he left outside, you want God to keep quiet.  But if someone is going to steal your car, you want God to step in.  God doesn’t see sin in degrees.  And if He did, then His scale would most likely opposite ours based on Jesus actions in the Bible – the most notorious sinners were the ones that He extended His love to with such mercy.  It was the falsely pious religious leaders that He seemed to have the biggest problem with – the ones who didn’t know that they were also part of the problem.  So, if you want to consider yourself above a car theif when you just stole your neighbor’s rake and you wish that God would stop the greater evils, then you had better watch out.  Theivery is theivery, and you just added hypocrisy to it.

 

The point is that God is at neither of these extremes.  He does not let us get by with things, nor does He stop us from committing any evil.  There are definitely consequences for misrepresenting God; we don’t get off scot free.  There are natural consequences from any negative behavior, and God also works in our spirit.  But at the same time, He does not reach down His hand and physically stop us from doing something bad every time we begin to.  We would all be puppets on a string.  Yes, He can intervene in such a manner, and He has in particular instances.  I can’t answer the question of why sometimes He does and sometimes He does not. 

 

So, all I can do is apologize for the atrocities committed by Christians down through the ages.  I can apologize for my own part in misrepresenting God’s character.  I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t happen.

 

What I will say is that God is not to blame; God is on the side of the victims.  And what He does do is offer healing to those who are wounded, afflicted, oppressed and underprivileged.  The Christians are supposed to be the hands and feet of this healing, not the administrators of the wounds, but unfortunately, as I said above, we often fall short.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD [is] upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound.”  Isaiah 61:1

 

“He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.”  Psalm 147:3

 

God also specifically calls us to minister to widows and orphans in multiple locations in the Bible (below).  I don’t see how a God who seems to care so deeply about providing for widows can be painted as a God who does not care about women – or worse, a God who wishes women ill.

 

“At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the aliens, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”  Deuteronomy 14:29

 “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.”  Psalm 68:5

 “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”  Isaiah 10:1-2

 “Leave your orphans.  I will protect their lives.  Your widows, too, can trust in me.” Jeremiah 49:11

“’So I will come near to you for judgment.  I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurors, against those who defraud labors of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive aliens of justice, but do not fear me’ says the Lord Almighty.”  Malachi 3:5

And as for the “organized religion” that Gaylor complains of, Jesus complained about it as well, and even in the context of their oppression of women:

 

“And as He taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law.  They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted in the market places, and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.  They devour widow’s houses and for a show, make lengthy prayers.  Such men will be punished most severely.’”  Matthew 12:38-40  This text goes on to discuss the giving spirit of one widow in particular, who Jesus points out as an example of faith to his disciples.

 

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep onself from being polluted by the world.”  James 1:27

 

Incidentally, James 1 also speaks against anger in us…”Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God describes.”  So, when you see Christians responding to any group by taking personal offense and responding in hatred or wishing another ill-will, you can know it is not God’s will.  The sin that the Christian is opposing may actually be a sin, but their response to it is also sin.

 

And if you continued on to read James 2, the entire chapter speaks against oppression, against assigning varying degrees of importance to people, against men pronouncing judgment on other men.  God is for equality. 

 

When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus said, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

 

What we are commanded to do is love others as we love ourselves.  It is the second greatest commandment because it flows out of the first.  We are only given the strength to love others in this manner if we are first committed to loving God unreservedly.  We don’t have that kind of power within ourselves.  And all of the disturbing things that Christians have done over the years have come from failing these commands.  Loving another human being as you love yourself leaves no room for any type of oppression or any lording over another, whether it be because of gender, class, race, age or infirmity.  Loving someone in this manner means defending another’s rights as you would defend your own.

 

Christians fail this in more than one way – we often do the opposite, as discussed above…creating more rifts and more oppression.  But we fail it in another way as well, and that is that when we see it, we too often turn our faces from it, deny it, ignore it, treat it as if it is not our problem.  But it IS our problem, and this commandment to “love each other as we love ourselves” proves it.  We are supposed to care about others as if the injustice befalling them were on our own heads.  Can we commit to do this so that we can stop providing people like Gaylor with ammunition against God?  If we did these things, Gaylor probably would not even want to write her article, she would be content to let us continue being loving…if that’s what we were largely doing.  She may even start wanting to believe in what we have.

 

And in Matthew 25:33-43, God even says that acts of kindness performed to the poor, the imprisoned and the sick will be considered as acts towards God Himself.  We need to get on the ball.  And, don’t worry, I’m talking to myself here as well.  

Circus Christianity

This morning as I was sitting in church, an image popped into my head.  It was the image of a clown.  This particular clown had a sad face with tears painted on, but was still doing its silly clown show to make people laugh.  And I thought about how Christians do this…how there are Christians who act like clowns.  They might vary in how they look – some of them may have the sad faces, but some have happy ones and some just look a little crazy.  The common denominator is that each of them has painted on a persona that is not their own – a persona that, in fact, hides what each of them really is.  Have you ever seen a movie or a TV show portraying a clown that ends his or her act, then when they no longer have an audience, they begin treating everyone like scum or you find out that they are a raging alcoholic?  It’s a ridiculous analogy, I know, but this style of Christians does the same ridiculous thing.  Their real character is completely incongruous with what they try to portray, leaving people disillusioned and disappointed when they find out the truth.  They thought those Clown Christians had it all together, but turns out, that’s only while they were on stage. 

 

Christianity is not about faking it.  Some people may say, “Well, we have to look cheerful or act cheerful or do something to make everything look great.”  I say this is one of the best ways to chase people away from Christianity.  It doesn’t take a very long look for anyone to tell that everything is not always great for anyone.  It’s hypocrisy at its grandest.  So, if people do fall for it initially, they drift away easily after coming to the truth of the matter: that Christians struggle and mess up, too.  Even the clowns with the sad faces are going through the motions of making people happy…a performance they’ve often been rigorously taught.  People pleasers rarely please people.  Let’s be real, Christians.  The clown act doesn’t become us.

 

And as I thought through this, I realized it was more than just clowns.  There is an entire Christian Circus going on all around us. 

 

There’s the guy/girl walking the tight rope.  It doesn’t take long to spot this one.  These guys are in shape.  They’ve worked hard.  They probably even have a little talent.  And now they want to show it off.  “Look at me – I can walk this rope.  It’s a fine line, but I can do it.”  They put themselves way up there…they are the elite.  They’re not going to fall…falling is not an option.  I mean, if you fall, you die, right?  There’s no net.  God’s not big enough for me to fall.  These are the legalists.  There’s no room for error, and anyone who can’t do what they can do has not quite got it all together.  What happens with them?  They crash…and burn.  They live in fear of stepping one toe out of line, and inevitably find out that they can’t stay up there forever.  It’s a lonely road.

 

Christianity is not about fear.  And all this act does is scare people.  “Ooh, I could never do that.  I might as well not even try.  I’ll just stay down here and walk around on this dusty tent floor.  You have to really work too hard…and it’s dangerous, too…I mean, what if you fall?  You’re done for.”  When are we going to learn that it’s not about what we can do, but about what God already did?

 

And now we have the lion tamer.  This is the dude with the whip.  He is all about beating everyone into submission.  There’s no love in this act.  It’s all force: conversion by conquest.  And then once you get them conquered, you make sure you keep them controlled.  He’s not getting people to follow God; he’s getting people to follow him.  It’s all about the power.

 

Christianity is not about force.  The lion tamer eventually gets his head ripped off when one of the lions he thought he had tamed suddenly realizes this guy doesn’t have its best interest at heart.  He’s just a mean guy with a whip on a power trip.  If conquest were the answer, then the whole world would’ve been Christian after the Crusades.  Let’s stop pretending we can hold people down until they say uncle…or Jesus.  This would only establish that the strongest guy wins.  It says nothing about truth.

 

Then we have the guy who eats fire.  He’s a showman.  He uses a lot of slight of hand, illusions, tricks.  The Christian fire-eater is really not much more than a magician with an agenda, but he sure does make it look exciting.

 

Christianity is not about the hype.  Hype goes away.  People get tired of watching him eat fire every day…he’s a one trick wonder.  They lose interest.  There is no substance to his message.  People don’t get tired of watching someone who is living the abundant life that Christ offers us to the fullest, day in, day out, in every area of their life.  THAT is something to see.

 

The next one is more like a category.  It includes the bearded lady, the tattooed man, etc. – the pejorative “freak show.”  These are the Christians who have embraced their fears and insecurities.  They have accepted the lie that they have nothing to offer anyone, except as a novelty, and therefore have retracted from normal daily interaction with people.  They get mocked a little bit and just take it as their lumps in life, figuring this is the price you pay for being different.  You may as well just own it, right?  Their inability to fit in has become their identity.  It’s an excuse not to become something else, something more.

 

Christianity is not about hiding behind your insecurities.  It’s about facing them head on, and allowing God to make something of you in spite, or possibly because of them.  When we, as Christians, retreat because we feel inadequate, that says to the world, “Look, they really don’t have anything to offer.  They don’t even believe in the power of it themselves.”  God has promised that He will make something of us, and we need to start acting like it!

 

There are probably more, but this is as far as I got on the performers in the circus.  However, there’s one more I want to mention: the ringmaster.

 

You might think that I’m going to say the ringmaster is God.  Not in this case.  In the case of Circus Christianity, the ringmaster is Satan.  He is standing in the middle of that big red tent, directing the performance.  “Yes, that’s right,” he says.  To the clown: “Don’t you dare show your true colors.”  To the tightrope walker: “You (and everyone else) must be perfect or it was all a complete failure.”  To the lion tamer: “Anyone who disagrees with you should be treated as a hostile.”  To the fire-eater: “Give them a good thrill!”  To the bearded lady: “You are not worth anything.”  Satan applauds it all…anything that makes us ineffective, impotent Christians.

 

How many spectators of a circus do you know who watch it, and then decide they’re going to go join up and become part of the circus, too?  It’s just a show; something to do…see what those crazy Circus Christians are up to now.  There is nothing remotely desirable in it.

 

So, this is a call to all Christians – step out of the circus!  Stop doing tricks and putting on shows.  Become a real person with real purpose as God has called us to.  Be engaged with those around you and with what you believe.  Don’t be afraid of people questioning things; know that God is big enough to handle their questions as well as your own.  Don’t pretend to have it all together; if you don’t know, say so.  Respond to people with the love that God asks us to respond with.  Don’t focus on your own insecurities or other people’s faults; focus on God’s strength and the way He can make something out of anyone – just like He does over and over again in the Bible.

Women and the Bible – Heroines?

Prior posts on Feminism and the responses to Annie Laurie Gaylor’s article (the article can be found in the first link):

Feminism and the Bible

Women and the Bible – Genesis 3:16

Women and the Bible – Church Roles

In continuing with my discussion on Gaylor’s article, I’m not necessarily going to work in the order of the questions she raises. I find that my adherence to attempting to follow something letter for letter too often results in my not completing a task at all, since what I want to do at that moment (or for this task, what I want to answer) is too far down on the list for me to feel motivated. This is not to say that I am still not planning on attempting to respond to all of the points in question; just that I may skip around a bit, instead of taking Gaylor’s points sequentially from her article.

This post is in response to a statement that she makes about the heroines of the Bible in general. Her quote: “The few [female] role models offered are stereotyped, conventional and inadequate, with bible heroines admired for obedience and battle spirit. Jesus scorns his own mother, refusing to bless her, and issues dire warnings about the fate of pregnant and nursing women.”

I’ll be honest here – I’m not sure what Gaylor wants from a heroine. I find a wide variety of heroic female figures in the Bible, and would honestly like to hear how she is able to discount each of them as not worthy of being considered an adequate heroic figure. Also, her assertion that there are “female role models” in the Bible concedes that the Bible does esteem some women. They just don’t happen to be esteemed for something that she wants them to be esteemed for. Now, she has put herself into a difficult position. Because it would seem that she has asserted that women are only worth of being venerated when they fit her mold of heroism, and therefore any respect from the Bible for anything not deemed heroic by her own assessment should be completely disregarded. The truth is that different people find different qualities estimable. Apparently, Gaylor does not believe that 1) obedience and 2) battle spirit are worthy characteristics at all. And this does not even speak to the fact that, as I mentioned above, there are many more qualities than just these two attributed to female figures in the Bible. So, we can agree, by her own assertion, that none of these women have met Gaylor’s requirements for a woman worthy to be recognized as a role model. This seems to indicate that Gaylor’s own opinions of what it takes to be a respected woman are much higher than the Bible’s, and that if I can only find qualities in myself that are found in the Biblical heroines, then she would discount me, as well.

I am going through and listing women that are looked up to and praised in the Bible as well as a few women that were just treated well in general. I will include the Biblical reference, but not necessarily the text, as I’m sure my post will be long enough as it is, and putting in the entire books of Esther and Ruth seems like it would be overkill. So, I will give a very brief synopsis of the woman’s story, and list some qualities I recognize in her. This is not to say that my list will be comprehensive. Feel free to contact me with more if you see something or someone I left out.

  • Rahab (several times in Joshua 2; Matthew 1 – genealogy of Jesus; Hebrews 11:31 – woman of faith; James 2:25 – for good works) – a harlot who helped the Israelite spies when they entered Jericho. Because of her actions, she and her entire household was spared when Jericho was destroyed. I have to mention a little more about this story. Gaylor also discusses in her article how women are frequently referred to as harlots. “Harlot” in the case of Rahab is not derogatory, in the sense that she is not being judged or condemned in the text. In fact, it is telling us of her bravery, faith and good works. Not to mention that she ends up being one of Jesus’ forbears. Note that harlotry itself is condemned by the Bible, but so are many other acts that are committed by people who go on to become remembered as heroes and leaders in the Bible. In this case, is simply stating the fact that she is a prostitute. Nowhere in the text about Rahab does it demean her – quite the opposite. The Bible is not a book about perfect people. In fact, I find only one perfect person in it, and that is Jesus, who is the only one acknowledged to be perfect. Instead, the Bible is a book about how imperfect people are not a lost cause, and we see this theme occur time after time in its pages. It’s a story of redemption, and that redemption is open to ALL people. So, any time the Bible does mention someone’s sin, it should be understood that redemption and forgiveness is offered to them. It is their choice to accept it or not. If you doubt this was the case before Jesus’ coming, Rahab is the perfect example. She was a foreigner and a notable sinner, but was granted safety, forgiveness, and ended up in the lineage of the Son of God – hardly discriminatory.
  • Deborah (Judges 4 & 5) – she prophesied and went into battle in order to defeat an enemy of her people. She showed courage, discernment and faith.
  • Jael (Judges 4 & 5) – killed an enemy battle chief, in order to aid the Israelites. She showed courage, ingenuity and initiative.
  • Ruth (The Book of Ruth) – who took care of her mother-in-law with no apparent thought to her own comfort. She showed loyalty, unselfishness, faith, initiative, perseverance and diligence.
  • Hannah (I Samuel 1 and 2) – was barren and prayed to God for a child, promising that she would dedicate the child to the service of God. God answered, and blessed her with five more children. She showed faith, integrity and gratitude.
  • Abigail (I Samuel 25) – righted a wrong that her husband had committed. Her action also kept David from shedding unnecessary blood. She showed courage, wisdom, good judgment, fairness, honesty, humility and foresight.
  • Esther (The Book of Esther) – who saved the Israelite people from death due to a government conspiracy. She showed courage, composure, faith and patience.
  • Mary, the mother of Jesus (namely: Matthew 1 and 2, Luke 1 and 2) – was willing to undertake public disgrace in order to allow Christ to be born to her. She showed courage, peace and humility.
  • The Bleeding Woman (Matthew 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48 ) – a woman who had been suffering a bleeding illness for twelve years simply touched Jesus’ robe, and was immediately healed. Jesus, sensing someone had touched him, told her that her faith had made her well.
  • Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27:56&61; Matthew 28:1; Mark 15:40&47; Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2; Luke 24:10; John 19:25; several times in John 20) – Jesus freed her from demonic possession and she was a faithful follower from then on. She showed loyalty, gratitude and the heart of a servant.
  • Mary, Martha’s sister (Luke 10; John 11) – was praised for prioritizing correctly. I have to expound a little bit here as well, and say that the Luke 10 story of Mary and her sister Martha is big relief to me. I think that most women, in general, have a tendency to do – to work and work and always have a list and never feel like everything is complete enough to stop and rest. This story is like permission. It’s not only permission, but stopping to take the time to rest, learn and replenish my spirit is required and respected, whether I think everything is complete or not. Martha was in the kitchen preparing things for Jesus. Presumably, Jesus was willing to do without whatever she was preparing to serve him in order to allow her time to rest and learn. This is a great story about the essence of what Christianity is as opposed to what we have made it. It’s not all about us and how hard we need to work for God. It’s about loving Him, receiving His love and listening to what He says to us.
  • The Samaritan Woman (John 4) – Jesus reached out to this woman when there were three reasons others would not have: 1) she was a Samaritan and Jews did not associated with Samaritans (the woman herself even asks Jesus about this, 2) she was a woman, and the disciples wondered him talking with her when they came back out from the city and 3) she was living in sin, as Christians would call it today, having been married five times, and now living with a man who was not her husband.
  • Priscilla (Acts 18; Romans 16:3; I Corinthians 16:3&19) – was a respected fellow worker with Paul, and referred to as such.
  • Elizabeth (Luke 1) – referred to as a righteous and blameless woman and conceived John the Baptist when she was apparently well past child-bearing age.
  • The Crippled Woman (Luke 13:10-17) – Jesus healed a woman who had been crippled for 18 years. He healed her on the Sabbath day and was reprimanded by the church leaders, whom Jesus answered in turn by calling him a hypocrite for thinking the rules of the law were stronger than the compassion of love – another cry against the idea of false religious piety. For as Jesus said in Mark 12:29-31, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
  • The Adulterous Woman (John 8 ) – a woman caught in adultery was being stoned. Jesus stepped in and stopped those stoning her, asking which of them was sinless. OK, time for another tangent. This is an illustration of Jesus’ points in the Matthew 7:1-5 (and similarly in Luke 6:37-42) where he states:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

It’s people who have decided to take the job of judgment on; God says we are supposed to leave it to him. Humans were never meant to. The consequences we receive when God is the judge are always just; it’s people who are to blame for all of the shameful acts perpetrated by Christians down through the years:

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 19:18 )

“To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

  • The Sinful Woman (Luke 7:36-50) – this woman was apparently a notorious sinner – that’s how she was described – and she came to Jesus to wash his feet with expensive oil and humble herself by drying them with her hair while she wept, presumably from guilt. When Jesus heard someone speaking against this display, he spoke up and defended her. In this defense, he again points out the false religion of the hypocritical church leaders, and stresses the poignancy of forgiveness.

Now, let’s move on to the next point where Gaylor states that Jesus “scorns his own mother, refusing to bless her.” On this one, I’m not sure exactly what she is referring to. The only thing in the Bible that I know if that can be even construed to mean something close to this is Luke 11:27&28 which says, “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” If this IS the passage she is talking about, I would say it’s a far cry from Jesus refusing to bless his mother. It is more of a call to the correct perspective. He is saying that someone is not blessed because of a position they hold or because of their particular importance to you; a person is blessed because of their faithfulness to God. You cannot be innately “blessed” simply because of something that you happen to be; it’s a responsibility you must uphold that provides the consequence of your blessedness…or not. In these verses, Jesus does not even say that Mary is not blessed. He is simply using the moment to clarify what “blessedness” really means.

Gaylor goes on to say that Jesus issues dire warnings about the fate of pregnant and nursing women. I am also not quite sure exactly what references she is talking about here. I do find in Mark 13:37 when it is discussing the tribulation in the end times that it says, “But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!” If Gaylor meant what she said about it being a “warning,” then I agree with her. The entire chapter is a warning to all people. If you read the rest of Mark 13, you would indeed never want to be a pregnant or nursing mother during those occurrences. However, I think she is trying to intimate that this is a threat. But He does not say, “Woe to you because you are pregnant or nursing.” He is simply stating a fact. Whatever is hard for anyone during those times will inevitably be harder for pregnant woman and those with nursing babies. I’m not sure how this is a reflection on what he thinks about women in general.

If anyone finds my information incorrect or my logic lacking, please let me know. My only desire with these thoughts is to defend a loving God against the common misconceptions about Him. I’d love to hear thoughts.

 

Answers for Atheists – Faith or Evidence?

Someone commented on my blog the other day, and I followed the comment to her blog, A is for Atheists. She seemed to have real questions for which she sought real answers and respected those who had a faith, and just wanted to know their thoughts. She had one post called Questions for Christians. I sort of felt led to try to answer those questions. I sent her an e-mail response to her first question, which was, “Is your belief based on faith or evidence?”

I’ve decided to post my responses here as well, although, I will say, I tweaked this one a bit beforehand. It WAS midnight when I wrote it. 🙂 I decided it could be a little more clear.

Question 1:  Are your beliefs based on faith or evidence?

My beliefs are based on both, which I tend to think is the case for more things than we recognize in our lives. There are many things that we take for granted as truth, but for which we have never seen concrete evidence for ourselves – things that we just trust experts in things that we don’t know about to tell us, hopefully honestly, about. Example: people trust medical doctors every day to treat conditions they have never heard of with medicines that they have never heard of, many without a second thought – this requires faith. And even my own personal distrust of mainstream medicine leads me to seek knowledge from other sources – people that I have deemed reliable – this also requires faith. People trust doctors (or whatever type of medicinal expertise they seek) because they have seen enough evidence to believe that these sources are trying to help them, that they know about things that the individuals don’t and, hopefully, because they have heard testimony or seen evidence that at least some of the things these medicinal experts recommend are effective. So, their faith in the doctors is based in evidence. This evidence does not factually prove that all of the medicines the doctors give them will cure everything that needs curing. The patients don’t read all of the FDA reports for every medicine to check its safety or reliability. So, their attendance to the doctor is based on evidence for some truths which leads to faith in others. That is the point I am trying to get to with my convoluted explanation here. If we tried to live life operating on the same amount of factual evidence and expertise that we ask people to provide for their faith, we would all go insane.

Example:

Man 1: Is your house safe?

Man 2: Yes.

Man 1: How do you know?

Man 2: Because I live in it, and it’s never fallen on me.

Man 1: Did you meet the architect?

Man 2: Not in person, but I know who he is.

Man 1: Did you work with the builders?

Man 2: No, but they have good reputations.

Man 1: Then how do you know they were reliable?

Man 2: Because my house continues to stand, and I trust those who told me they were.

Man 1: Well, I’m not coming in until I see the architect in person.

You get the point. It’s just not possible. If logic required us to KNOW everything in order to BELIEVE anything, then none of us would be able to go through one day of life. This is not to say that the answers are not out there…just that it is impossible for one person to know all of them.

I have seen enough evidence that the Bible is true to make me believe that it IS true. I can’t prove to you that every word in it is true, but I can show you some of the things that prove to me it is more than just a book. Granted these are based on my belief that the different parts of the Bible were written when it is said to be written – if that is under debate for you, let me know, and we will discuss it later – I know some people have doubts about this.

1) In Genesis 5, there is a genealogy listed – Adam through Noah. It’s pretty boring stuff, until you look at the meanings of the names of each of those characters, and list the meanings in sequence in order to read them as a sentence. Here goes: Adam = Man; Seth = Appointed; Enosh = Mortal; Kenan = Sorrow; Mahalalel = Blessed God; Jared = Shall Come Down; Enoch = Teaching; Methuselah = His Death Shall Bring; Lamech = Despairing; Noah = Rest or Comfort. If you read the meanings of the names, it is as follows: Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.

I’m assuming you know the basics of the gospel, and that is the story of our redemption through Christ in a nutshell. Some conspiracy if that was thought up thousands of years before Jesus was even born, and spelled out in the names of men from 10 generations.

2) For this one, you’d probably get a better explanation of it if you followed this link: http://www.khouse.org/articles/1998/73/
It has to do with the genealogy of Jesus himself, and the way he fulfilled a seemingly contradictory prophecy. To try to outline it succinctly, Jesus was prophesied to come through the royal line of David. However, come Jeconiah in Jeremiah 22:30, there is a blood curse placed on the royal line of David that states: “Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.”

This is a little quandary since Jesus is supposed to come from that line. The solution comes from tracing the genealogies of Jesus listed in the New Testament. In the book of Matthew, it takes us through Jesus legal lineage, which comes down through Joseph, who IS of the royal line of David. However, Jesus was not of Joseph’s biological line, so the blood curse was not applicable to him. The book of Luke takes a turn in the genealogy of Jesus, however, and at David, he splits off and follows Jesus line down through Mary, who is ALSO of the line of David, but not of the line with the curse. Pretty fascinating how that all worked out.

3) All of the prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus – quicker to follow a link or two: http://www.christiananswers.net/dictionary/messianicprophecies.html
http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/prophchr.html

From here on out, this is less about the veracity of the Bible specifically, and more about my belief in God in general.

You mention in one of your other posts that you wonder why Christians feel so threatened by evolution. I do not feel threatened by it. I believe if God wanted to cause the universe to form slowly, he could have. And honestly, I don’t know or care whether he did it slowly or in 7 days or not. What I do believe, based on the intricacy of our universe, of the human body and of every system I have ever learned about, is that there is NO WAY it happened by accident, whether slowly or quickly. It is a process of logic to see that things do not accidentally fall into order. You would never stop folding your laundry, and instead, just began throwing it across the room expecting it to fall down on the floor folded neatly. And from everything I know, that would be infinitely more possible than everything we live in every day having occurred by chance. To continue along this thought, as silly as the above analogy sounds, it sounds even more ridiculous to begin expecting your laundry to throw itself across the room and fall into a pattern of order, which is essentially what scientists who purport a purely naturalistic evolution seem to want you to believe.

You also mention in one of your posts that coincidence happens. I fully agree with you that it does. However, I wonder if you recognize how much in your own life, you fully acknowledge things as being caused by intelligence when you have no real proof of that. Think about it – there is the inference of intelligence in order everywhere around us. If you look at someone’s yard, and see 5 of the same type of trees planted in a perfect line, all growing at about the same height, you infer and fully believe that some intelligence planted those trees that way on purpose, because they wanted them to be in order. You never saw anyone plant those trees. Is it possible that those trees could grow that way by simple chance or coincidence? Of course it is. But you would think it silly to assume so, because there is order. I am sure that you understand the complicated nature of the human body, and of the rotations of the planets, the tilt of the earth, the distance of our planet from the sun…in any of those things, there are innumerable things that if changed, even the slightest bit, would make our planet unliveable, our bodies unusable. That is FAR more complicated than 5 trees neatly planted in a straight line, which almost anyone would never give a second thought to being the result of intelligent design. In addition to that, here is a link to a great movie that only addresses ONE tiny thing – the bacterial flagellum – and how the chances of it occurring randomly are basically unfathomable. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5585125669588896670

And then there is my personal experience, possibly the most convincing, at least to me. I am fully aware that you have no reason to care about or believe my personal experience, but I am throwing it out there anyway, because I feel that I couldn’t really make this answer complete without it. I believe that God speaks to us, if we are listening. He does not necessarily speak to me audibly, but I believe he could if he chose.

Here goes: When I was 19, I was going through a particularly difficult time with my belief in God. I was having serious doubts. I used to climb up on my roof to watch the stars. One night I was doing this, and I saw a shooting star. The only prayer I had prayed for months was, “God, if you are real, show me.” So, I’m up on the roof, and I see this shooting star. So, I prayed the same prayer I had been praying for months, but for the first time, I gave God stipulations. I said, “God, if you are real, I want to see ten shooting stars tonight.” Well, the one I had just seen was the ONLY shooting star I had ever seen in my life thus far. Ten shooting stars seemed like a tall order. So, after a few minutes consideration, I lowered my expectations. I said, “OK, God, ten might be a little ridiculous – three shooting stars. I just want you to show me three shooting stars.” I hung out on the roof for a while longer, but what I can tell you, and you can choose to believe or not, is that before I got down, I saw not three, not ten…I saw eleven shooting stars. I had put an expectation on God, and then lowered it because it seemed like I was asking something impossible…and he exceeded it. That’s when this verse became real to me: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” (Ephesians 3:20) I learned the next day that there had been a meteor shower the night before, but I didn’t know that…and the fact that it was a major cosmic occurrence only makes it bigger to me – because either God knew that I would be on my roof that night, asking him to show me ten shooting stars, and planned the cosmos out in order to appease my doubt, or else he put me on the roof that night and prompted me to base my belief on him in whether I saw ten shooting stars or not, all because he knew that there would be more than that. Or what I really believe, is that God did both of these things, he was working in me and working in the cosmos concurrently, and brought us together at this portentous moment.

Another more recent occurrence is as follows: It happened in May. I had been purposely trying to make sure I “listened” to promptings (i.e. from God) that seemed outside of the range of what I would naturally do if I were just going about my daily life as usual. I had a few friends coming over for supper – I was not sure how many. I kind of just threw the invitation out there. So, I was cooking a Thai chicken pasta. When it came time to put it all together and I got to the chicken, I hesitated. I felt like I was supposed to leave some out in case a vegetarian came. I have never in my life worried about whether I had a vegetarian dish when having people over. Not because I am discriminatory against vegetarians, mind you, I’m more vegetarian than carnivore myself half the time – just because I never think of it. When I first felt like that was what I was supposed to do, I thought I was just being silly and I actually went to add the chicken anyway, but I felt it stronger. So, I thought, “Well, it won’t hurt to leave some pasta out,” so I pulled some out, and added chicken to the rest. Two people ended up coming over for dinner that night. One was a friend of mine, and one was her friend, whom I did not even know. Her friend turned out to be a vegetarian, and there was no way I could have known that. My story above about the stars had a rather large, overarching purpose that anyone can see why, if there IS a God, he would want to do something like that in order to secure my belief in him. It benefited HIM to show me those eleven shooting stars. But this? It was just proof to me that he cares. He cared that this woman got to eat a portion of my main dish.

The things I’ve discussed here are in no way the only evidences that have led to my faith. They are just the ones I felt compelled to elucidate here. I’d be happy to hear thoughts, criticisms and questions.

As a disclaimer, I do not necessarily promote the websites I have linked to as far as doctrine or any other specific beliefs. I am just using them as a reference for factual information.

Sadness

I am writing this post, because I saw something that made me sad.  I saw an article about a man who is suing a few publishers of the Bible for “emotional distress” because of its disapproval of homosexuality.

I am usually more saddened by cases of people within the homosexual lifestyle than many other things because in this particular instance, this is where those people feel like they receive love and acceptance.  They are not out doing it because it is fun or in order to get under someone else’s skin – they just want to be loved.  I’m not condoning it – I still believe it is wrong, but for the most part, the typical Christian’s reaction to it just drives them farther away from where REAL love and acceptance comes from. 

Having said that, here is what I think about this particular lawsuit:

The Bible is a book which delineates, in many different areas of life, right from wrong.  We can all agree that people everywhere have a different idea of what right is.  This is why we have wars, why we have different political parties, etc.  Most people are not out to do something because they think it is the wrong thing, unless they are sociopathic.  But, to presume you should be able to live in a world where no one’s disapproval of your own explanation of right can touch you in any way is to call for a totalitarian world that is able to tell you how to think and what to say.  If this is how things should work, then there should be NO books written about how to do right as opposed to wrong in any category, i.e. health, raising children, etc.  Because you cannot have a book about doing right without at the very least inferring what is wrong, and, apparently, you cannot say anything about someone else’s wrong behavior unless no one in the world would be offended by what they may be doing wrong.  As you can see, this is clearly impossible.  I could sue a doctor for writing a book in which he states that drinking coffee is the worst thing you can do for your health if it makes me feel like a bad person.  Indeed, I should sue the Bible, because it says that liars are sinners, and I have definitely lied in my lifetime. 

One of the main points of the Bible is that we are ALL sinners – it says it outright.  And then it offers God’s forgiveness and redemption from that.  So, I will be the first to tell you, if the thought of being called a sinner causes you emotional distress, then the Bible and its publishers are the people to sue.  Because it includes YOU.  And me.  And your neighbor. 

I have discussed in previous posts how the ideas of “equal” vs. “same” have been confused in our society, and this is another severe indicator.  We, as a culture, think we are being tolerant when we ask everyone to agree with everyone else.  This is not tolerant to anyone except for those with the pervasive political and socially accepted viewpoints.  Those who vary from that have to keep their mouths shut for fear of being dubbed politically incorrect.  Our country was not founded on the principle that everyone must believe the same things.  It was founded on the idea that we should recognize the differences in people, and be able to love them anyway, live shoulder to shoulder with them anyway. 

I want people in all walks of life to be able to feel love from me, because that is what God asks us to do, but this does not mean that I condone every act each of them performs.  I hope that we can all recognize that, and respect that a world where people are allowed to point out their idea of right from wrong (whether I agree with it or not), is the only way to keep a society from total anarchy.  You calling me out for disapproving of homosexuality is exactly the same as me calling you out because I think homosexuality is wrong.  You have the right to tell me that you think my disapproval is incorrect; please respect my First Amendment right to speak what I believe is right as well. 

It is a basic idea – if you have a child, you do not love it by letting it do whatever it wants to without explaining to it the consequences of poor decisions, training it to know what will hurt it and what will not – “Don’t touch that stove – it will burn you; Don’t have sex before you are married – it hurts your heart, and exposes you to other, possibly serious and dangerous, consequences.”  You get the idea.  Clearly, disapproval of actions does not have to equal hatred.

I’m sure from this, I could be dubbed a gay-basher, and I assure you that is far from the truth.  No more than I am a basher of those living in bitterness, because I wish they would come out of it – or a basher of those living in alcoholism because I wish they would get free.

I have gay friends, and although each of them know my stance on it, I believe they could say that they have never felt my love for them waver.

Hatred of any people is against the tenets of the Bible – but real love can continue to love, even when it does not agree with actions.  I am sorry that Christians themselves have also attached themselves to the belief that love=approval and vice versa.  It does not, and was never meant to.

Hi

What’s up, y’all?

Sorry haven’t written very prolifically (is that a word?) lately…I have had tons going on!  I just now finished making a very large batch of fresh salsa.  Mmmm.  I missed that from my tomatoes last summer!  I’ve just started getting enough in my CSA to get back into it, and this year, my CSA program included a “swap” section at the pick-up.  If they have something extra, they bring some, and if you would like that instead of what was allotted in your box, you just trade it in approximately equal amounts, which in turn adds to the variety of what you can swap for.  This week, apparently, some people did not want their tomatoes, and as I don’t like carrots, I made the switch with visions of fresh, chunky salsa in my mind!  So, I have a good sized bowl of it as you can imagine since I used 8 tomatoes, 5 peppers, 1 onion and 1 bunch of cilantro, plus the appropriate spices and liquids of course.  I go through phases when I just want to eat chips and salsa for dinner, breakfast, whatever.  OK, enough about salsa.

What has been keeping me so busy?  Well, I started the tent thing on Sunday.  Don’t get too excited…I managed 4 days of it, but am staying the weekend with a friend.  It was all going wonderfully until it rained.  I made it through 2 small showers, although I did learn through those that I had a leak problem.  The second one clued me in as to where it had been leaking.  I was confused before because it seemed like it leaked in a lot of places, but I couldn’t find any holes.  Hmmm.  But I learned that it was leaking at the pole connector at the very top of the dome on the tent, so the water would come in there underneath the rain fly, and then drip down the underside of it until it just fell off wherever it got too heavy.  And that is why there was water everywhere. 

So, Wednesday night I went to bed, knowing it was supposed to rain, but not having had the chance to fix the tent, hoping I’d be able to make it through whatever we got.  No such luck.  I woke up about 1:30 AM to POURING down rain.  I adjusted things in the tent, because there were a few areas that would stay mostly dry, due to how the rainfly sits…I tried to lay down and go back to sleep.  But it poured for 2 hours, and it was still going, and by this time, all of my bedding except for one blanket was pretty well wet.  The dry spots are not large enough for my bedroll!  I decided to call it a night, got up and went to a local 24 hour coffee shop.  I hung out there from about 3:30 in the morning until 7:30 or so, at which point I went to work (early).  I even washed my face and brushed my teeth in the bathroom there, and put my make up on at my table.  Appropriate, I know.  It’s kind of fun being homeless.  🙂 

I should tell you that the people whose back yard I am staying in have an outdoor building with a couch in it that they have said I could use in the event of bad weather.  (Not to mention they’ve said I can really just come in the house if I want to.)  I don’t have a reason I didn’t go in there.  It just seemed fun to go to the coffee shop by then, I’m not sure why. 

What did I do at a coffee shop for 4 hours?  Well, I can (and have) sit at a coffee shop for much longer than that, but this particular time, I was writing.  Which is another reason I have not been posting very much.  I am writing a book.  This is one of the reasons I wanted to live in a tent – to have time/inspiration to write the book that has lain dormant in my mind for years.  Even though I am still working, somehow the adversity of tent life makes you feel like you are supposed to be writing.  I am writing a fictional story – probably really for youth.  It is sort of along the lines of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series or C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia.  Books like those have always been my favorites, and to this day, are the books I will read and re-read again and again.  So, I decided I should write one of my own.  I was talking to a friend one day, and thinking about how I always say I want to write a book, but I never start it.  And it hit me – if I wanted to write a book, I would write one.  And if I didn’t write one, then I didn’t really want to…if I wanted to bad enough, I would make it happen, regardless of whatever 10 minute windows I would have to work on it because of time constraints.  So, I started it, and it definitely digs into my bloggin’ time.  Sorry ’bout that, guys.  I’m 37 typed pages into it.  Woo hoo!

I love to write on it, because I don’t plan ahead what will happen.  I know that sounds crazy, but I literally decide as I am writing what will happen next.  So, when I get to a turning point, I’m excited to “find out” what does happen next.  One day my un-boyfriend (that’s sort of like an un-birthday, which is where it is not really your birthday but you treat it like it is) was sitting next to me while I was writing, and happened to read a paragraph where my characters were about to enter a door behind which something was happening – you know right at the literal threshold of suspense.  He read the one paragraph one the page, and asked me what they were going to find when they opened the door.  I said, “I don’t know.  I haven’t written it yet.”  He looked at me like I was a little crazy, but later I read the follow up to him, and he got on board with thinking that doing it that way was probably good. 

I really do think God works through that, because after I write something, I always think it is way too good to have just come out of my own head, especially with no forethought.  It is not meant to be just a silly book of entertainment, but to really make readers think and engage, so if it becomes that, I will know it is God who did it.

So, there – that’s what I’m up to.  Hope you are all well.

Later,

Connie

P.S.  I’m not sure why I felt the need to write this as if I were writing a letter, but I did.

Women and the Bible – Church Roles

If anyone remembers, a friend of mine and I took on the task of combating the accusations in an article by Annie Laurie Gaylor, which can be found in the following post: Feminism and the Bible. I’ll be the first to admit that both of us got seriously side-tracked from this project, as you can see from the date of that post, a little over one year ago. I could make excuses, but I won’t. Let’s just work on into the article by Gaylor.

Other posts related to this issue:

Women and the Bible – Genesis 3:16

Women and the Bible – Heroines?

After her comments on Genesis 3:16, and the consequences for women she based on this, which I covered one of the the posts listed above, the next issue Gaylor brings up is I Timothy 2:11-14: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.”

Ouch. Admittedly, that is one of the most difficult Scriptures pertaining to women in the entire Bible, and I am not going to pretend to have the definitive answer on its meaning. I have read commentaries and conjectures on what it may mean based on cultural interpretations, but I have not heard anyone (who was credible and whose logic was viable) who gave an explanation of it, claiming to have the final word. Pretending like you understand something just so that you have an argument to present does not make you look more intelligent, nor does it grant any redemption to your viewpoint. Everyone sees through conjecture, and so I am not going to do it. I will state some facts, give some opinions, and try to delineate between the two.

What I believe it does NOT mean is this: that a woman is to sit quietly and never speak in church because she has nothing to offer. The two main reasons for this belief are this: 1) the literal translations of some of the words and 2) inferences from other Scriptures.

The literal definition of the word used for silence used in both instances in this verse means something more like desistance from bustle or language; peaceable, undisturbed. The connotation is one that is more of resting, being still and teachable rather than just keeping your mouth shut.

Bear in mind that it also says, “But I suffer not a woman to…usurp authority over the man….” That’s kind of a no-brainer. It’s a pretty Biblical precept that one is not to usurp authority at all. The definition of the Greek word used there is this: to act of onself; dominate. If you have not read my post on Genesis 3:16, now would be a good time. In it, I discuss a portion of the consequences of sin that are listed in that passage. The woman’s “desire” for her husband in that passage is an unhealthy “stretching out after” (literal definition), and by giving in to the nature of pride that Satan exploited in Eve’s deception, it seeks to elevate one’s own self over another by control or domination. That “stretching out after” has occurred in our broken system from then until this day, and is wrong no matter who the perpetrator is.

I mention that many people often use cultural interpretations to explain this passage away, but this does not mean we should not look at it through the appropriate cultural lens. We should simply never use it as a means to twist what is there. I do believe that the discussion of “submission” in the I Timothy passage should be viewed through this cultural lens. The education of women common in that day was severely lacking. Most women who were not in the aristocracy were only given a lower education, and that was basically focused on learning the duties attributed to wifedom or on the things they needed to know in order to educate their own children in basic knowledge or sometimes in something that could be turned into a trade. Even the education for the women in the aristocracy, though somewhat different, was focused on educating them for the purpose of being more satisfying partners for their husbands, studying things such as literature and music. Though their studies extended longer than the lower classes, it still ended far before their male counterparts, and left out education innately for the respect of a woman’s intellect. So, the discussion of women learning at all in I Timothy is a statement that women should be allowed to continue their education, giving no stipulations as to age or status or the purpose it would serve to men. So, while distasteful to us, it was probably necessary for the women to “learn in submission” at this time, being less educated than the men doing the teaching. They had some catching up to do. Perhaps this was part of the problem being addressed – that the women, though not considered inferior, were less knowledgeable, and trying to take over teaching before they were sufficiently prepared. Admittedly, there is some conjecture in this paragraph, and I could never represent this theory as fact. It is, however, a logical deduction based on the times.

Let’s also speak to the fact that if the author of I Timothy was speaking to the lack in the women’s education, this does not mean that he was stating that the less educated have less rights. A child is less educated than an adult, but may, in fact, be far smarter than said adult, and no one would say that a child should have less rights; just that their rights are more supervised until the time they are learned and mature enough to be responsible with them. Anyone in a learning stage on any particular subject needs supervision in order to grow.

I think it is also important to note that God does not view importance and worth in the same way we do. I Corinthians 1:27 states, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” It also says in Luke 14:11, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” and in Matthew 20:16, “So the last shall be first, and the first last….” We should be able to recognize that in the Bible, most of the figures that God uses to do mighty works are in the most unlikely of vessels – weak, broken, sinful. As Christians our place is to humble ourselves, regardless of gender. And by this, I mean not attempt to assert our own importance over another’s. Unfortunately, that is not in our human nature. But, honestly, women have the advantage here, being, albeit unjustly, pressed down by most societies, we are more readily open to being the humble vessel God can use, unless we let this brew bitterness in us instead of true humility. We can still stand up for what God has called us to (and more successfuly so!) without becoming embittered, angry and defensive.

I cannot move on without addressing the verses preceding the portion that Gaylor included in her article. Verses 9 and 10 of I Timothy 2 speak to a woman’s modesty: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”

Just to clear something up before continuing, “shamefacedness” here means something like awe or reverence. One can infer fairly conclusively from this passage that the women were attempting to substitute high fashion for good works. If this were the case, it would obviously be distracting to an atmosphere of learning, and would further validate the need for their subjection mentioned in verse 11. The writer of I Timothy could have simply been trying to get their priorities straight.

So, you viewed I Timothy 2:11&12 based on these views, in modern English, it would read something more like this:

Let the woman learn, undisturbed, with humility. But do not allow a woman to teach taking authority away from a man, but to learn in peace.

And though this will be unpopular, I will reiterate what I spoke in my discussion on Genesis 3:16. I do believe that there is an order of authority that God intended, and we broke it with our choice to step outside of His will, which also takes us outside of His protection. I believe wives are actually to be in submission to their husbands, but not in that pandering, servant-like way that we imagine today. Their submission is first to God, and the submission to their husbands is a responsibility of helping. God says in Genesis 2:15 that He is making Adam a “help-meet”, which means counterpart or to view from the other side. It does not say anything about servant. God wanted Adam to have someone who could look at the other side of things along with him, challenge him, encourage him. And again, if you understand what God asks of husbands, which is to “love your wives even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25) and to “love their wives as their own bodies” (Ephesians 5:28). Submission hold absolutely no fear when you are submitting to someone who loves you in this manner. It is not a punishment, but a gift of love, a gift of someone who is commanded to love you more than he loves himself. And based on this explanation, I maintain that even if the passage is referring to submission, it is not the kind of submission you have any reason to be offended at.

Let’s move on to verses 13 and 14 of this passage. I will also be including verse 15, as I believe they are all needed in order to grasp a few important things.

“For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”

So, “Adam was first formed.” What does this mean for us? I don’t, personally, think it means much. I could be wrong, but I just think it means that he was formed first. It may have something to do with the order of authority I mentioned above (which in the Biblical sense is in NO way discriminatory), but “first” should never be confused with “better”. Going back to the adult/child reference, is an adult “better” than a child because they came first? Not in the sense of being more important, that’s for sure. The adult may be better at playing chess or better at balancing a checkbook, but “better” in the sense of a higher being, no. So, men may be better at some things than women, but women are also better at some things than men. And “first” is just first.

I think now is a good time to integrate the meanings of “equal” and “same”, as well. Our society, as a whole, confuses the two. People think that because someone may be different, they deserve less – or more – rights. Different is feared and looked down upon. Therefore, our tendency is to try to make everything equal by making it the same. This is a huge mistake. Women should not have to prove their worth as people by showing how like men they can be, and this is, if I may interject an opinion, what the feminist movement encouraged. It maintains that women should be treated equals, and tried to attain this goal by proving that women can do everything that men can do. This does not heighten the importance of women, but simply creates more man-like figures in the world. It is, in a sense, stating that women are innately less important, but answering to that something like, “But, look! If we do all of the things that men can do, we can make ourselves just as important!” I maintain that women should be treated as equals because they are human, not because they are the same. Because they are not the same. No one can, in reality, pretend that they are. I am not trying to imply that they should be limited in their pursuits by outside forces denying them rights and privileges, because they are “different” and not suited for some tasks. This is what discrimination does, as a whole, to any minority. I am, however, stating that a woman’s nature is something beautiful that should be taken into consideration when life decisions are being made, and that this choice has actually been taken away by the feminist movement. I agree that women should be allowed to join the work force, and that before the feminist movement, this was unjustifiably looked down upon. However, the end result is that women, by and large, no longer have the option to choose. Most families require both incomes for a family to manage their finances. The women who do not feel the emotional need to enter the workforce and have a desire to care for a family instead are largely denied that option, resulting in many women who are over-worked, dissatisfied and under excessive stress. The “equality” we have gained is not equality, as statistics will show. Even in two parent homes where both parents work full-time, the most recent figures from the University of Wisconsin’s National Survey of Families and Households show that the wife does 31 hours of housework a week, while the husband does only 14. That’s hardly equal in my book. Note that the men have never pushed for the same type of “equality” that women did, which entails the “privilege” of taking over all of the opposing gender’s responsibilities. I would have been happy to stick to my own responsibilities, thanks. The point is that both roles are necessary. One person was never meant to have to do the work that was intended for two, and without roles or “job descriptions”, no union, relationship or business runs smoothly. You can redefine the job descriptions as you like to suit personal preferences in your own marriage and family life, but there still must be roles, and “equal” as “same” has simply muddied the waters.

I got a little off track there, so let’s get back to the Bible. Moving on to I Timothy 2:14, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” This verse cannot be used to imply that Adam did not transgress, because he did, and was given the consequences of his choice, just like Eve was. In fact, if you look at it logically, is it not worse to choose to sin knowingly, rather than being deceived into thinking it is a good idea? Eve had a good excuse; Adam just followed the crowd.

And then we are up to Verse 15, “Notwithstanding she shall be saved [preserved, healed, made whole] in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” Verses 13, 14 and 15 when taken in context with one another are obviously sort of a shadow referring to Genesis 3, because he incorporates the fall, and then the woman’s consequence because of it. However, the writer is explaining that the consequence can be undone and redeemed. He is, in no way stating that women must have babies in order to be granted salvation in the Kingdom of God. He is stating that despite the transgression, childbearing does not have to be thought of as that negative consequence, but that a woman will be preserved in it through her faith and love and holiness and sobriety or “soundness of mind”. He is encouraging women not to revel in their misfortune, but to grow in God’s truth, and redeem their circumstances. He could just as easily say the same thing to men about their travail in the work world – and He does, in more generic terms all throughout. “Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:9) If we do labor, man in work or woman through childbirth (referring back to the consequences in Genesis 3), if we do it for Him, the burden of it is lifted. Verse 15 is a promise, not a punishment.

And now that we have worked our way through my commentary on the verses, I will list some Bible verses from which we can determine what I Timothy 2 does not mean.

Judges 4 and 5 – Deborah is identified as a prophetess and listed as a judge over Israel and even goes to battle. This is most definitely a position of authority, and she was respected enough by the leader of the battle (Barak) that he said he would not go into battle unless she would accompany him. I am uncertain whether she actually fought in the battle.

Acts 18:26 – Aquila and his wife Priscilla are equally mentioned as instructing a pastor named Apollos more perfectly in the way of God.

Acts 21:9 – in which four young women prophesied (defined as: “speaking from inspiration”), so, clearly, speaking is allowed.

Romans 16:1 – Phebe is referred to as a minister or deaconess, using the feminine form of the same word used to refer to male deacons, so she was even serving in a position.

Romans 16:3 – Aquila and his wife Priscilla are addressed equally as Paul’s helpers, which is translated “fellow worker”, which denotes no lower connotation for Priscilla.

I Corinthians 11:5 – This verse addresses the apparel of a woman, and is a disputed passage among some denominations. However, it clearly states that a woman will be praying and prophesying in church.

Galatians 3:28 – I will quote this one, as it is more of a broad statement than a specific example of one thing. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” If this verse does not promote equality on all faces, I don’t know what would.

I think this will do for now. I will end with the repeated disclaimer that I am not the final word on any of this. This knowledge and these opinions have been gathered from various sources, and I have attempted to represent everything as accurately as I can.

My closing thoughts are as follows: Through other verses and reading, I still have some idea that there may be limits to the leadership roles a woman should take. However, I have not found anything that can clearly delineate what these limits may entail. There are so many times when women were the vessels through which Christ was made known, and the Great Commission is clearly for every believer. Here, Jesus commands: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you….” (Matthew 28: 19-20)

What I do whole-heartedly believe is that if there are, in fact, limitations, viewed from God’s point of view, they are not meant as restrictions, but as gifts, much in the way that submission to someone who loves you above his own well-being would be no sacrifice.