Monday, October 5

women, church and letters cont.

So I got a reply. At last. You know I hate to admit that I would think something like this, but when I first read the response I felt like my email had been sent to a Moore college student and they had written a response for her and then sent it on to me. How horrible of me is that!!? The problem with these emails that we spend a lot of time deliberating on is that we work them so to death that they no longer contain any of our own voice because we are trying so hard to sound official in our opinion.
Anyway. This will be the last of the disscussion (mostly because I'm over it and I feel it has reached it's end), but I didn't want to deprive the blogesphere of the wrap up so here it is:

Her reply to this:

Dear S,
And this is indeed a discussion, and I am already finding hearing your opinion personally very beneficial and challenging, as I hope hearing mine is for you. Am I sounding like a theological student? If this is a bad thing then please forgive me, however on this note I would like to ask you a question: do you believe that the Bible is the word of God? Or do you believe that it contains the words of God?

This is an important distinction, because the answer may help a lot in explaining how I think. I believe that it is the word of God. I want to obey it, and it is by the Bible that I try to make my judgements as regarding what is truth and what is not. I want to understand it, to know God's word, to have it etched so deeply on my heart and mind that I will never forget it. Don't get me wrong, I am totally an average, sinful, human being who is in no-way perfect and nor will I fool myself into thinking I am or sounding like I am. But I earnestly want to know and to do God's will, and so that is why I listened to the podcast you sent around, in order to hear more about some part of God's word I had not heard before.

What's more, I think we should measure our actions against what the Bible says and teaches: we should be judged by IT and not ourselves sitting in judgement on it, picking out what we like and ignoring or trying to explain away what we don't like. Of course, it's all very well to say all this theory, but then comes the whole issue of understanding the Bible, which I by no means suggest is totally easy, and here comes the problem of all the different interpretations... (and I do totally understand that the principles behind head-coverings may have quite a different application today) So, how do I decide what is truth and what is not? well, my opinion is certainly a work in progress, but I know my teachers. I KNOW the Bible teachers who have a strong influence on my position on a lot of things PERSONALLY and I know that they themselves are very competent, well-researched people who grapple and think through the hard questions relating to Christianity - heck, they have to give tough answers to a bunch of theologically and not-so-theologically minded university students on a regular basis! I know their way of life and their families and I know they truly love Jesus (even though of course they are repentant sinners). I know they read, read, read, testing what they hear and searching for the truth, and I know they are faithful and always desire to instruct others faithfully. They may have an opinion on debatable matters, but it is a well-thought out position and I trust them (my opinion varies from theirs on some things but they do provide a Biblical reference for the things they teach, and so in everything they help me to think Biblically). I never make ANY judgements about theological issues by having a 'cursory glance around the internet'!!! please don't assume that I'll trust and indeed seek after an anonymous opinion on the internet that says what I want it to say! I have never ever done that and never ever will.

When I thought about the questions regarding truth that your email raised I was reminded of a passage that I quoted in 2 Timothy in my last email, and indeed the whole of ch 3, but especially vs 14, 'But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it...'. Despite the confusion that my mind can be thrown into, once again the Bible helps me think, and I remember that I know personally the dear brothers and sisters by whom my faith has been nurtured. This doesn't mean that I don't think 'for myself' - of course I do all the time! but who's ideas are not influenced by anothers'? (and does the fact that Duke University is claimed by men (and/or women) to be 'the leading university on theological studies in the world' mean that someone who comes from there is somehow more approved by God to interpret and teach the Bible?)

It's interesting, Mark Goodacre is a guy with his opinions and he acknowledges the difference in opinion of one of his friends who commented on one of the podcasts. Like you said, everyone has differing opinions, however I think in Christian circles some issues are more valid issues for differing of opinions (like sabbath-keeping) and others should not be disputed - like Jesus being the only way to God (and heaven) for he himself said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the father except through me."

I have a feeling that your declaration that no-one is 'wrong' in regards to what they believe and truth is probably a way of coping with the fact that so-many people think different things and they don't fit the worldly definition of a 'bad person' (did I read that correctly?) which is fair enough, as there are a lot of really nice people out there who don't believe in Jesus. However, I don't think that just because someone is nice means they are saved - you know Romans 3:10-12 that says 'all have turned away'. (and then there's the interesting passage in Romans 2:12-16 that sort of talks about what happens to godly people who don't have the law).

Besides all that, what's your definition of a 'bad person'? every single person under the sun (not including Jesus) is a 'bad person' in the sense that we're all sinners and we all need forgiveness through Jesus (eg, when the some guy askes Jesus,
'good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' and Jesus first responds by saying, 'no-one is good but God alone.')
I think it is absolute truth some things are wrong, and the Bible does specifically say they are wrong (eg, committing adultery or stealing), and if a brother or sister in Christ is doing something that is wrong then it is perfectly right and good to show them their error - in fact it would be un-loving to not do so! Both Jesus and Paul bring this matter up (eg, Luke 6:42, and 1 Corinthians 5:12). I would do it for you, and I'm sure you would do it for me.

Ponderings on change... "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands for ever." (1 Peter 1:24-25) Human culture and society will always change (and our cultural assumptions will always influence how we read the Bible) but the words of the Bible itself won't. Here's a question: if parts of the Bible are fallible, who decides what is fallible and what is not?

Women are considered equal to men now, and that is good indeed! I am totally for that, and I think that needs to be the case in more countries. However, I don't think that we can make the same feminist (anti-patriachal) reading of a spirit-inspired extract from the Bible as we can of a text written by some average patriarchalist dude. Our culture is wrought with sin, Paul's culture was also wrought with sin and he was too a sinful human being. However if he is indeed speaking the words of God (is spirit-inspired), which I think so, then what he is talking about is a way that is right and good and pleasing to God, and should not be subjected to feminist criticism (at least, criticism that is taken as a valid interpretation).

Yes Jesus loved equality, but in thinking about your email and the whole women teaching thing, why did Jesus not appoint any women in his twelve chosen disciples/apostles? It's just something that genuinely jumped out at me. If Jesus is for women having that position in the church, then why oh why didn't he appoint any women to that position himself? Instead he let women do other things, but not that... just something that I thought was interesting to ponder. Have you heard that line of thought before? I don't think I have.
Love from your sister in Christ,
And my response:
Dear J,
So, No I don't think the Bible is the word of God. And I know that it is an important distinction. I don't think we should measure our actions against all the Bibles teachings. I think we should measure our actions against the life of Jesus. I know this is a very contraversial view point. And unfortunatly for me I realise this means my entire opinion about women teaching is pretty invalid in your eyes becaue of this. I wish I did believe the same thing about the Bible as you so that my view on women would be as valid. However, I take comfort that a lot of people who do have the same view about women as I do also have the same view about the Bible that you do :) Plenty of them go to our church in fact.

I'm glad you won't just use the internet to find the answers you want to hear.

You didn't understand what I meant by saying no one is wrong. I mean no one in their own eyes are wrong. Please don't assume my beliefs are a "coping" mechanism for anything. They are simply my beliefs.

You are reading way to much into the phrase "bad person", of course everyone is sinners. I just mean that because people think differently to you doesnt mean you have any right to judge them.

Absolutly some things are flat out wrong like stealing, murder adultary etc. Incidently every other religion in the World (well most..) say they are wrong too. Interesting huh.

I don't understand how you dont think parts of the bible are falliable but are still happy to eat shrimp, not stone people, and not wear a head covering in church.

I don't know who decides whats falliable or not. I think we as falliable humans just give it our best shot and try and live like Jesus. The Bible doesn't have all the answers to everything. And we still manage to make decisions. Who decides if they are right or wrong? We just kinda know in our guts I reckon. And we subject our decisions and thoughts to critisism, research, prayer and reflection.

Everything should be subjected to critisism in my opinion (be it feminist or not). It's how we think. It's what makes us human. (FYI I am not a feminist.. I hope you know that)

Thanks for asking your final question. That was something to ponder. I don't think Jesus appointed any of the 12 disciples as women because in the society at the time they wouldn't of been heard. I think the women doing other things with Jesus were leaders also. I also think that if Jesus were here today he would appoint women as leaders.
I also think he would tell us to stop picking over the little things and get out there and love people. Be you male, female, straight gay if you believe Jesus is the way the truth and the life, then, as you say, there's not much more to it.

I don't know who your Bible study leaders are, but if they are all men I suggest you find some inspiring women for your life as well (after all its okay for women to teach women :) ) And if they are women then sweet.

So end of conversation? Thanks for sharing your views with me, I feel I understand where you are coming from a bit better. Its been fun.
Love S

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