Opinions on faith and life

Boundaries

2011-02-11

Any of us who grew up with siblings know all about that inviolable invisible line separating a shared bedroom into two domains. Touching the “line” was a capital offense and crossing it was an act of war.

We can laugh about that now, but in some respects Christianity never outgrew this childish concept. Many believe that there is in fact a sharply-defined boundary marking the difference between being “in church” and being outside of it. That is, while being a Christian is affirmed to be a life, there are different rules and structures for the “church”, and these differences are etched in stone and anointed with divine oil.

This issue comes up often on the topic of women in Christianity. I have been volunteering for the past five months at a “Christian answers” organization that had given me high marks for my answers, but today I told them that I would no longer volunteer because of their stand against women in ministry. The curt response I received included the justification for them letting women teach men in this venue: it isn’t “church” and the Bible denies women teaching men only in a “church” setting.

But Jesus said that the “church” is meeting even when “two or three” gather in His name (Mt. 18:20); no mention of clergy or officers or rituals or buildings. While all would agree that the Body of Christ is composed of true believers everywhere, there is still this cognitive dissonance over what’s “official” and what isn’t. Even within these alleged church spaces (whether dedicated buildings or even house churches), there are areas of increasing “sacredness” such as building --> sanctuary --> stage --> pulpit, much like the outer court, inner court, and holiest place in the Jewish Temple. I’ve heard of some people taking this to the extreme that a woman standing too close to the “sacred pulpit” while singing would be guilty of “usurping authority”!

This sort of demarcation of domains or sacred zones lacks support from even a superficial reading of the New Testament. It is the hierarchy of the world, the elitism of culture and society, but put Christian terminology on it and somehow it doesn’t violate the kingdom model Jesus gave us (Mt. 20:20-28, Luke 22:24-27). Jesus is the new High Priest (Heb. 7) and we are the new Temple (1 Cor. 3:16, 1 Peter 2:5), such that the old religious models of sacred spaces and furniture and offices no longer apply. So if a woman teaches or preaches scripture in mixed company, she is doing so “in church”.

The argument for “sacred zones” also ignores the fact that by their own definition a Christian marriage/family is outside of that zone. So why do they insist that this authority issue applies there as well? If “church” only exists when there’s a clergyman and congregation, then marriage and family aren’t it. Yet male supremacists routinely mix the two indiscriminately, with their interpretation of Eph. 5 being a prime example. But somehow a woman teaching men at a seminar for Christians doesn’t fall under the “sacred space” rule, because it isn’t a “church service” led by an ordained clergyman.

This is exactly what the Pharisees did with the Mosaic Law. Exactly. And like those Pharisees, today’s male supremacists obsess over the tiniest legalistic details but ignore “the weightier matters” (Mt. 23:23); they stress a few debatable proof-texts but ignore all the passages about the nature of the Body of Christ, as I’ve written many times before. And just as even these male supremacists shake their heads at the blind Pharisees of old, we “mutualists” shake our heads at today’s male supremacists and wonder how they can read scripture’s message of freedom from old laws and religious rules and fail to see how their defense of a chain of command so thoroughly clashes with it.

Jesus came to remove such fleshly boundaries and free us from these legalistic chains. Those who would elevate themselves (or put one who does so between themselves and Christ) know nothing of the kingdom of God, a kingdom whose only boundary is between saved and lost.

20 Comments

SaberTruth

In another comment in that same board about Lara Logan, chief foreign correspondent for CBS News who was gang-raped and beaten to a pulp by the "peaceful" crowd in Egypt, a WOMAN said "screw feminism" because this allegedly happened due to allowing women to be reporters. But she completely ignores the fact that this only happened because of the PATRIARCHAL CULTURE there which views women, esp. western women, as whores. It it not "feminism" that is to blame but male supremacism.

SaberTruth

Good thoughts, Hannah. To help illustrate the mentality we’re up against, here are some verbatim statements in a political board I’m in, from 3 different men: "I’d like to thank the 0% of feminists I’ve encountered who actually respect my right to privacy. How did "I feel sorry for every woman who’s ever put up with you, blah blah blah" become a valid argument? When politically correct, squat-to-pee, emasculated, limp-******, reach-across-the-aisle, "can’t-we-all-just-get-along?" types took control of the public psyche. Have we, or at least, our "representatives" become too emasculated to take them on? If so, I’d say much of the right is to blame as well. At least center-righties and those conservative at heart but too limp to fire back." And yet in that same thread these guys extolled the virtues of Sarah Palin. Can’t they see how ridiculous it is to use every feminine trait as a curse and then hold up Palin as good? She does everything they say women shouldn’t: hunt, fish, govern. Yet they don’t accuse her of being un-feminine. But they still spew out these curses.

Hannah Thomas

’’’I can feel some real anger and resentment from the post and comments and wonder why you would let such a little thing draw you away from ministering to those who are not mature in the Word? "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." (EPH 4:26) There is a righteous anger, but do not allow it to consume you into the next day. Seems there is an awful lot of name calling and not honoring the very thing you support; "not so among you...." ’’’ It seems people get confused when there is a disagreement at hand. When will concept of labeling people along the lines of ’feminize’ also be considered name calling? Disagreement doesn’t equal ’anger and resentment’. Disagreement can stand all by itself without the ’anger and resentment’. If people seriously wish to debate ’disagreements’ on such things? We also need to stop the ’assumptions’ that people that ARE in disagreement are angry and resentful. If we feel the need to speak out against ’name calling’ we need to recognize others that do the same when they use ’female’ attributes in a negative light to make point about how the church, world is going down the tubes due to them. If you can’t admit those tactics do have a ring of ’male supremacist’? You don’t see how it is not just a ’small thing’ either. Its disrespectful towards all women, and when are those parties going to be labeled ’angry and resentful’? Its strange how people get up in arms over using opposite term to make a point, and yet those same people also use female attributes as a weapon. Funny how that is acceptable, and not seen as ’angry and resentful’ isn’t it? Are we telling people its okay to use some people ideas of women’s attributes to show the negatives in the world as acceptable, but we are angry and resentful when opposite terms are used to make a point about such attitudes shouldn’t be with ’men’ like terms? When you place such opinions out there as such? You fail at what you seem to be asking of others - don’t let this draw you away, etc. You tend to stop all dialog, and make a clear statement that no compromise, dialog, or resolution will be available. I will admit the way people are shown to use the weapon on ’angry and resentment’ does seem to be a very effective diversion tool. Then you have to stop and wonder - is diversion all they are after?

Truthseeker

Appalling article...and it just continues to astound me that WOMEN fall for this stuff!!! I type this as I silently sit by a young woman who has bought into this whole ’women of the lesser gender’ garbage. I can only assume it is because it is familiar or comforting somehow. Gross-just gross-to revert back to terminology from my youth. And that is even an understatement.

SaberTruth

I hear ya. I can’t imagine either how women can do that. It would be like "the happy slave" knowing his/her place and serving massah. It’s just revolting.

SaberTruth

If you can stand it, here’s a post that proves it isn’t just us mutualists who understand that standard MS theology makes men little gods over women: stomach-churning article.

SaberTruth

Tanx Mabel!

SaberTruth

Excellent article on the only named church leader in the NT: by Philip B. Payne

Lydia

"How do you interpret 1TIM 2:11-15; "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. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety" Debbie, a "plain reading" of that passage says you must bear children to be saved. Do you really believe that? If you do, I can only say I am in sorrow for you because you believe in a work of salvation. Just briefly because this passage takes a lot of understanding the Greek...and you should read Paula’s link. But if you don’t...remember, the Greek in this is "singular" as in A woman. Also remember that Paul uses the word "Authenteo" (translated wrongly as usurp authority) which is only used ONE TIME in the NT. Because of that, it deserves some study. Calvin translated it as "domineer" which is better. But the meaning is very sinister if you check it’s usage in Koine Greek. A clue is that John Chrystosom wrote around 300 AD, in one of his homilies, that a man should not "authenteo" his wife. So, we know it is something very bad a man should not do nor a woman should do. Chrystosom was a typical patriarchist so we know he was not advocating for women leaders when he wrote that. Childbearing is a noun so we know Paul is referencing "The Childbearing" as in Messiah. Most likely a reference to the cult of fertility at the pagan temple of Artemis in Ephesus that taught that Eve was created first. There is more but I hope that will get you started.

Mabel

"...men in an exclusive place of authority. This teaching has done extensive, horrible, devastating damage to both men and women in Christ; do a search on "spiritual abuse". Men are damaged by never having to practice the kind of submission they demand of women, and of course women are never allowed to be independent adults at least spiritually. Men can enjoy in this life all the benefits of freedom in Christ, while women are forever held responsible for Eve’s sin and all regarded as deceivable, while men are somehow not rebels as Adam was. There are many, many such double standards in MS teachings, and this abuse of half the Body must stop. I tried to explain that it is as repulsive to allow male supremacy to be tolerated as it would be to tolerate white supremacy." Bravo, Paula, you put it so eloquently and so clearly. Debbie, if you sense that egalitarians are angry sometimes, please understand where that anger comes from. That anger comes from seeing so many sisters being hurt, and hurt badly, by this teaching of male superiority. I don’t have problem with roles, I just have problem when you have gender specific roles. Roles can change. Have you ever read Suzanne’s blog? she finds it hard to dialogue with male supremacists. I hope that, for the sake of the Kingdom of God, that this gender prejudice and false interpretation of bible verses out of context will cease to hurt and divide the body one day. But for that day to come, we all need to humble ourselves in front of God, to put down our prejudices, and to learn in submission to the Holy Spirit, not to the male flesh. http://powerscourt.blogspot.com/

SaberTruth

Sad but true, TS. But even then some people still won’t get it. I heard of a "Christian" man who regularly beat his wife and then was beaten and robbed one day. He still didn’t understand why he shouldn’t beat his wife. And you’re very welcome. :-)

Truthseeker

SaberTruth, I think the people who ’don’t get it’ will simply have to experience something similar themselves. Sometimes blind eyes won’t understand until they are forced by being in the same type of oppressive, abusive situation. Thank you for your patience in continuing to respond to these issues as you do.

SaberTruth

Debbie, As long as MSers keep using the gospels to argue their position (e.g. "Jesus had all male disciples among the 12"), I can use them too. I’m only meeting them on their own terms. But if we can throw out everything before the cross as not applicable to the church, then that includes what Jesus said to the woman of Samaria, to Peter about building His church, the disciples concerning the Last Supper, the Beatitudes, and everything else He said about the kingdom of heaven before the cross. There are of course contextual issues that help us see what applies and what doesn’t, but there is no difference between the things I just listed and "not so among you". As I keep pointing out, Paul cited Jesus’ example in Phil 2:5-11 as applicable to all of us post-cross. The argument about Luke 22:26 is not that it’s future, but how far in the future. Was it for the impending church age, or was it (as many at GQ clam) not meant for this life at all but only for heaven? So the future tense here does not change the question at all. I also marvel at the ingenuity of someone there in saying that even if Jesus did turn the world’s hierarchy upside down, there’s still a hierarchy! (Which means, then, that whether it applies to us or not, "lording over" remains; it’s an unfalsifiable theory). But if your position is that this does not apply to the church, then I presume you don’t take Jesus’ prayers before He was arrested as applying to us at all. In those so-called "pastoral" epistles (they never mention "pastors"), I agree that Paul made several significant analogies to the human body as a picture of how the church is organized. He went to great lengths to explain that no part is superior to another, but that all get their life from the Head, which is Christ. This in turn parallels the "vine and branches" analogy Jesus used. This stands in stark contrast to the deafening silence about specific roles and ranks; if they were vital or ordained or commanded, Paul was strangely silent about them. Again, I challenge you to find a chain of command there; all I see is leadership by example. Authority is in the scriptures and the Spirit who inspired them, not the flesh. Perhaps you missed the two occasions on which I gave a link to my thoughts on 1 Tim. 2, but here it is again: my comments on 1 Tim. When you say "how do you allegorize them away", you presume from the outset that I am approaching all of scripture as a lump of clay to be made as I see fit. Yet it is MS which does exactly that, only taking "the plain reading" when it suits them. As I explained in the GQ blog, they keep the male-centric aspects of qualifications for guardians but ignore the other equally-emphasized requirements: being married and having well-behaved children. Debbie, what I sense from you is a need to keep men in an exclusive place of authority. This teaching has done extensive, horrible, devastating damage to both men and women in Christ; do a search on "spiritual abuse". Men are damaged by never having to practice the kind of submission they demand of women, and of course women are never allowed to be independent adults at least spiritually. Men can enjoy in this life all the benefits of freedom in Christ, while women are forever held responsible for Eve’s sin and all regarded as deceivable, while men are somehow not rebels as Adam was. There are many, many such double standards in MS teachings, and this abuse of half the Body must stop. I tried to explain that it is as repulsive to allow male supremacy to be tolerated as it would be to tolerate white supremacy. Check my older post here called Sound Familiar for a detailed comparison between the two. The arguments for blacks being made to serve whites "as God’s divine order" are identical to those being used now against women. It is a travesty and a great evil. Should I not be angry? How can the love of Christ be in me if the subjugation of all women does not drive me to rage? And you call this "a little thing"! There is simply no way to rationalize or excuse the demand to retain authority over other believers. It erodes the very foundation of the gospel message of "the last Adam" and robs women of what Jesus died to give them. I will not shut up about this or any other great injustice and twisting of the Word of God. "A little thing"... wow.

Mabel

the president of gotquestions said: the prohibition against women "teaching or having authority over men" is clearly taught in the Bible, but is solely in the context of the church. .. Nothing in Scripture prohibits women from teaching men outside the church. If it did, I wouldn’t be doing what I do and we wouldn’t be hiring women writers. Priscilla taught Apollos the things she learned from Paul, along with her husband (Acts 18:24-26). Surely she was not acting inappropriately or Paul would not have commended her for doing so. As for conveying your message to GQ, if your message is that women are indeed eligible for the pulpit in the local church, we have heard that argument too many times to count. We reject it as unbiblical and we stand by our articles and our doctrinal position. If we are wrong, we pray God will correct our thinking. Until He does, we will continue to exegete the passages according to the illumination He has given us. So, the church is a building. It is too ridiculous for words.

SaberTruth

It certainly is, Mabel. How can this be Christianity? How can people have such a warped view of what it means to worship and follow Jesus? They obsess over what people believe but have no idea why!

Bwebaptist Women

I don’t think that Paul and the new Christians had a brick building with a mortgage. Apparently to these people, it is the brick and mortar that make a church.

SaberTruth

I’m guessing they’d say it isn’t the building (since they let the women speak at seminars), but whether it’s labeled a "church service" and a "pastor" is presiding.

Male Supremacist

I notice you are using Scriptures from the gospels to defend the belief that roles no longer exist. At that point in time, the church, as opposed to the synagogue in bodily form did not exist. MATT 20:26 uses the verbs "to be" in a future, middle, indicative. I would think the future point in time was Pentecost, yet, the body of Christ as an organism and organization has been growing and changing since the Book of Acts. LUKE 22:26 uses no verb, making it a very emphatic statement, but the future tense is inferred. The only written instructions we have are written between ACTS and the Book of the Revelation. Would you agree with the following: The Pauline Epistles of Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans have very little detailed instruction about the local or universal church organization. The Prison Epistles of Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon stress the universal aspect of the church and the beginning of the local church organization. The Pastoral Epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus give detailed instructions for the local church organization. The General Epistles of 1 and 2 Peter, Hebrews and Jude contain detailed references to the local church organization. The Johnine Epistles of 1, 2 and 3 John stress the importance of the local church organization after the apostles are gone. When it comes to salvation God is no respector of persons. That is clear in Scripture. All are eligible. How do you interpret 1TIM 2:11-15; "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. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." The Holy Spirit working through Paul, then goes into 1TIM 3 and launches into a discourse of the attributes a "shepherd" in a local church body should possess. Do you interpret these Scriptures literally and if not, how do you allegorize them away? I can feel some real anger and resentment from the post and comments and wonder why you would let such a little thing draw you away from ministering to those who are not mature in the Word? "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger." (EPH 4:26) There is a righteous anger, but do not allow it to consume you into the next day. Seems there is an awful lot of name calling and not honoring the very thing you support; "not so among you...."

SaberTruth

For more mind-bending ignorance of the very basics of Christian theology, check this out (but not on a full stomach!): GQ blog. The comments from the male supremacists are even worse. A sample:

I wonder if the trouble with coming to an agreement is more about Kingdom now verses kingdom future. If the kingdom was now, all would be equal, no male or female. If the kingdom is future, then we are kingdom citizens living in a still fallen world under the old order, here, we still use seperate restrooms. Because God is just, there will be a difference in rewards and placement in heaven.
This level of desperation to deny the very nature and form of the Body of Christ just defies description, not to mention its ridiculous implications. If everything is yet future and nothing changed at the cross, then Jewish believers are still under the old law, Gentile believers are still excluded from the Promise, and we are not yet "a new creation". But scripture says we ARE one in Christ Jesus, not we WILL BE. In fact, there is no purpose for anything but the Gospels since we all apparently go under the Law as the Jews had done all that time. Honestly, I can’t fathom how it’s possible to read the whole NT and think this.

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