Micheal Goff wrote an interesting article called, “Why Biology Shapes Juridical Roles in the Church.” Biology and the interplay between culture, creation, and faith is pretty much why I began this blog, so now I am compelled to respond.
The essence of his article is that there is a biological argument to be made in favor of Paul’s words in the Bible, if we are believing that Paul’s words forbid women from teaching, preaching, speaking in the church, and pastoring. He then tosses in a bit of Jordan Peterson and RC Sproul to shake it up.
It is a good effort, however the biological argument that tries to suggest women are not competent or biologically equipped to have scriptural authority, doctrinal authority, or really any authority at all, begins to totally break down when one considers the actual nature of men. Women are incompetent compared to whom??
That is one aspect of what makes applying biology to human men and women so challenging. Yes, we are biological creatures. No, we do not behave accordingly. Instead of honoring our evolutionary roots, following the correct behavioral models, and allowing science to reign triumphant, we tend to break all the rules and leave everyone scratching their heads. Or as a good friend used to say, “wolves are rational, people are fools.”
All in good humor here, but there is no one more invested in the fantasy of men as resolute, as contending for the faith, as clearly being more biologically equipped to protect both women and the gospel itself. I’m quite delighted with the fantasy and content to just let it be.
But it isn’t actually true! Also the first person Jesus chose to reveal his Divinity to, happened to be female, the woman at the well. Then He sent her off to evangelize her whole village. At the resurrection, it is once again women whom Jesus reveals Himself to first. Jesus Himself did not look at women and go, you know what, Adam was made first and Eve was deceived, so you women are out. In fact He did the precise opposite, He singled the women out and chose them. He actually chides the disciples for not honoring their authority when they brought their brothers news of the resurrection.
So not only do we not have a sound biological explanation for Paul’s words in the specific way we are trying to interpret them, but we really don’t have a Biblical one, either. I found it interesting that Michael wrote, “Third, when discussing this subject many make an error. The error is insisting we need to go outside the logical bounds of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 to other texts of Scripture to understand what Paul is saying.” It never ceases to astound me, we’ll carry on about the significance of Biblical context, be amazed by the continuity of Scripture, and yet when to comes to things like “wives submit” or “women be silent, ” suddenly those verses just stand alone disembodied from the rest of the Bible and need no other explanation.
I did have a bit of a wry chuckle reading about how women are more relationally oriented. Our desire to preserve relationship, to be more compromising than men are, is part of what allegedly makes us unsuitable to engage in things like church discipline or doctrinal purity.
A wry chuckle because God always gets the last laugh. And I, more than content to just leave the pastoring and the doctrine to men, and to learn in all quietness and submission, has thrice, that’s 3 times now, been forced to confront the reality and the implications of my own beliefs, my own comfort zone, which believe it or not, is actually a place where I don’t have to bother my pretty little head with such complex theological problems.
‘The last pastor I smiled at politely and agreed with on doctrine, abandoned his wife and young children and ran off with his boyfriend. I was left completely voiceless in that situation unable to really object, lacking any authority. The elders, deacons, indeed, the majority of the congregation, mostly men, all praised him for being so brave and just declared any scriptural objection to be well, basically heresy. Authority is a funny thing, if you have enough of it, the truth can be anything you want it to be.
And if you haven’t got any authority, the truth is in danger of dying in quiet obscurity.
The complimentarians among us, and the women-must-be-silenced-folks, will be quite pleased to know that I still have no voice, while he has been promoted, elevated in his own church, and is still preaching and teaching to his heart’s content. He is one of many, many men who disapprove the suggestion that men are somehow biologically designed better to contend for the faith.
With a just a wee bit of residual bitterness here, I have watched one too many men seek to preserve their relationships over truth, when said relationships were about their own status and well being. I think the sexual abuse cover ups in both the Catholic church and SBC pretty much offers us observable evidence than men’s biological skill set to protect women and children does not always reign so supreme. It’s not that men are more rationally driven and less inclined to compromise and preserve relationship, it is that men will often only protect those relationships that have the most status and value to them. Sadly in the case of so many sexual abuse scandals and cover up, the relationships they cared about, valued, and desired to protect, were not relationships with the victims of abuse.
Let’s discuss Jordan Peterson for a moment. I like Lobster man a great deal. I think he is interesting and entertaining. However, his ideas about lobster hierarchies simply do not translate well over to human biology and socialization. Like, people are just not lobsters. Also, Jordan Peterson was recently near death, totally incapacitated by a really nasty benzo addiction and immune reaction. Who had to search the world for a cure and eventually take him to Russia? The women in his life. Women with huge health challenges of their own. Those same women allegedly not biologically designed to teach mixed gender Sunday school to grown ups.
It really makes me a bit angry, I know women holding things together and facing insurmountable challenges that would have crushed a lot of grown men, and we’ve got a church here actually trying to suggest women aren’t biologically equipped to teach Sunday school to men?? She’s probably also not equipped to watch her children die or to raise special needs children alone, or to struggle with cancer, but it is what it is.
That’s real life for you. And biology too, I suppose! It would be quite lovely if men never got sick, depressed, suicidal, addicted, dysfunctional, abusive, or dead. Seriously! It would be quite lovely if men never abandoned women and children, never bailed on them, never abused them and never perverted the gospel to justify it. Unfortunately they do all of these things.
Maybe if Michael had sat in on enough genuine conversations by men attempting to explain that women are only saved through childbirth and not by blood of Jesus, he would have a better understanding of where I was coming from. He addresses that issue, implies that no one misunderstands Paul’s words in that way. I assure you, they do. I recently groaned and walked away from a discussion asking in all sincerity if infertile women can go to heaven. One of my “favorite” bits of heresy is the suggestion that Eve sinned, before sin ever entered the perfect garden. She lusted for power, envied Adam, and wanted to be like God, before she ever even ate the apple. Eve is now allegedly permanently cursed for all of eternity and men’s job is to keep her contained so her curse doesn’t curse us all. Very prevalent teaching. Very unbiblical.
So, biological truth and evidential reality around us does a lousy job of validating Paul’s words in the manner we are trying to interpret them.
I’m a big fan of, “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.” So the problem is not in Paul’s words, but in our own interpretation and understanding of them. We sometimes forget he is actually speaking to a specific group of believers with a specific set of issues. We often assume without any evidence at all, that he is speaking of a church service, as in worship. Then for some mysterious reason, we also insist his words be disconnected from any other context, like women having their heads covered while praying and prophecy, which seems to indicate they actually do speak, and Priscilla and Aquila are then found to be correcting a man’s doctrine. Is Paul contradicting himself? Because surrounding his one admonishment for silent women we also find a whole lot of empowered women with voices out preaching and teaching all over the early church.
He calls those women, my beloved, as in my beloved Phoebe. In fact, Paul’s words stand in such stark contrast to some of the unkind harshness towards women coming from places within parts of the SBC and the Reformed world.