This is the last post on Scot McKnight’s discussion of women in ministry in The Blue Parakeet.
Following on from yesterday’s post, Scot fleshes out the ‘local problem’ interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:5-8. ‘Context is everything’ he says.
And the context was that in Paul’s day there was a gender and sexual revolution going on in many of the major cities of the Roman empire. What some scholars call today the ‘new Roman woman’, namely:
– Immodest, sexually provocative and extravagant dress
– aggressively pursuing influence and power, including teaching and public address
– associated with the Artemis fertility cult with implications for elimination of normal sexual relations – a negative view of marriage, childbearing and childrearing.
If this was the case, is Paul, a liberationist in the Spirit, but also a wise missiologist, plotting a path that ensures new women converts influenced by such ideas do not import their activities and attitudes into the church and thus discredit the gospel.
Thus the main focus in Timothy is propriety and modesty and learning before teaching.
And this makes good sense of the rest of Timothy where Paul is concerned with the ‘sensual desires’ of young widows where they are abandoning faith in Christ to pursue a promiscuous, sexual lifestyle (5:11-12). This, suggests Scot, sounds a lot like the ‘new Roman woman’. Such women are also ill equipped to teach – revealed by their ill chosen destructive words (5:13). Rather than pursue a lifestyle that despises family and childbearing, Paul promotes the virtues of marriage and family – again sounding like a dialogue with the new Roman women. And such a context makes best sense of that most difficult of all verses – 1 Tim 2:15 and women being saved in childbearing.
So – a local context, addressing specific cultural trends, in this case addressed to the issue of women in Roman society and the need for Christian women to be counter-cultural.
How does all this apply in our culture?
Well, here I think Scot has wise words. He is NOT suggesting that a full egalitarian position MUST be applied for all in all places. Just as Paul engaged with this question in cultural and missiological terms, so must Christians today. Paul responded with teaching that would ‘protect’ the good name of the gospel. It is perfectly possible that too much equality too fast in Muslim and Asian contexts would endanger the church’s witness – and even people’s lives.
But in our western context, too little too slow will leave the church unnecessarily trailing behind the wider culture. That’s what I meant yesterday that by ‘missiologically disastrous’ – as well as pastorally damaging to women who are just as educated, who enjoy full equality in the wider culture, who are just as intelligent and just as gifted by the Spirit as men.
Comments, as ever, welcome.