This post is the second in a series evaluating the role of women in ministry (first post). Before we get into understanding and interpreting the relevant passages in relationship to women in ministry, we need to address two big enemies to us having an open mind to this topic, the first being tradition. Tradition can be an enemy to properly understanding what the Bible says because it tells us that the issue has been settled a long time ago. Indeed we may already think we know what the Bible says about the issue, because our church, parents, or leaders have told us what we should believe based on their traditions. Unfortunately, tradition is not necessarily biblically derived, and conclusions can often be based on faulty logic or cultural preferences. This is why tradition can be difficult to wade through for us seeking to understand the Bible in context.
A second enemy to our study here will be that many of us are not trained in how to properly understand the Bible and apply it in the modern world. I don’t want to alarm anyone but we very rarely do direct application of practice in the New Testament church to ourselves. That is because one of the rules of proper biblical application is to understand what the basis of practice was described as in the New Testament, derive the principles that are present in these practices, and use the principles to guide our modern church practices. A proper analysis of a text has to take into account what the writer of the passage was trying to communicate (and what the people they were writing to understood them to mean), the location and customs of the recipients, the situation of the recipients and purpose of the writing, as well as any difficult to understand terms, and incorporated literary devices (yes, things like sarcasm existed in the Bible and we have to be able to recognize it without a sarcasm font). That may sound complex, but it gets even worse. Generally speaking, we don’t always know the answers to these questions. This is one of the reasons that we have wide varieties of understanding and application of “very clear” biblical texts. We as Biblical exegetes (and if we are to have an opinion on the Bible we better be exegetes) have to carefully study all these factors to engage in a meaningful way with the Biblical text. Misunderstanding context, culture, and meaning have led to more divisions and heresies than any other practice.
Defeating these enemies will not be easy for some. I would like to say that enemy number 2 will be the most difficult one to overcome, but for most of us it will be enemy number 1. I will attempt to walk us through the difficulties of interpretation and various understandings of the Biblical texts after having studied it quite a bit. That does not mean I will not be wrong, but hopefully through the exegesis you will see that and be able to draw your own conclusions. By contrast, I cannot do anything to change your pre-conceived notions about what church should be like, just like you cannot change mine. Tradition will be our biggest challenge as we seek Biblical understanding. For example, if we are not used to seeing women preach and teach, it may strike us very wrong (even if it isn’t); if we are used to it, and we find the Scripture to teach that it is wrong, we may not be willing to accept it. Tradition has consistently been the biggest problem to reforming failing and un-biblical practice in the church.
In our next installment we are going to look at the big picture that God had in creation and try to derive His plan and purpose for it. We will begin to challenge some of the assumptions we have and start laying the groundwork for where we are going to go in the future. With that, let’s get Biblical (sung to the tune of Olivia Newton John)!