Saturday, August 25, 2007

Women and the Word--Paul's position?

I look forward to spending time with women—especially with my wife Nancy, my daughters Kendra and Meryn, my sisters, and my Mom. As a guy I am drawn to women for the usual reasons, but there are many other attractions. Much of that appeal comes from what I experience as a common progression when conversing with women. Many men are happy to surf along at the lightest levels of conversation--sports, politics, and the latest in plasma displays.

Women, on the other hand, usually relish the opportunity to take a conversation to a deeper level. Their honesty is frequently disarming, they teach me things about relationships, and their hearts are soft. More often than with men I get the sense of connecting with another soul--a punctuation point in the flow of my existence.

This connectedness with women gives me considerable pain when I meditate on some passages in the Bible. These passages are charter members in my list of verses I wish weren’t in the Bible. Consider 1 Timothy 2:11-15:

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women will be kept safe through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.” (NIV)

It’s amazing how disconcerting 5 sentences can be. It is tempting to attribute this passage to an episode of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers—the Apostle Paul’s husk, lying shriveled up next to this imposter. How could the man that wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28) give us this apparently misogynic paragraph?

If you have read some of my other posts (Authenticity.., Did God really say) you know that I am not inclined to take the easy way out on this passage (e.g. a writer other than Paul , or a rogue scribe injecting a passage). It's tempting for me to drop a cultural filter on this, writing it off as a message intended for a different place and time—after all braided hair is forbidden in I Timothy 2:9 as immodest. However, what gives me pause is the universalistic rationale Paul uses to defend his statements. Even in Paul's time the Genesis story was thousands of years old. By linking to this essentially timeless story Paul buttresses his arguments against the flow of time. In that context, Paul the man who in Acts 17 debated the Athenians at Mars Hill, lays out two powerful arguments:

1. I got there first (verse 13)
2. She made me do it (verse 14)

Then in an astonishing finale, Paul appears to link a woman’s salvation with childbearing and vigilant good behavior. I am aghast.

It’s encouraging that the Amplified New Testament manages to rehabilitate this final verse (all punctuation is theirs):

"Nevertheless (the sentence put upon women [of pain in motherhood] does not hinder their [souls’] salvation), and they will be saved [eternally] if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control; [saved indeed] through the Child-bearing, that is, by the birth of the [divine] Child."

That’s a nice touch--our salvation does come from the Son of God that was born of a woman. Unfortunately the Amplified New Testament doesn’t regenerate the other 4 verses.

I don’t have an answer to this passage. God’s Word is in this book, and God's Word, Jesus Christ, is in my heart. My heart hurts, my logic fails, and I am speechless.