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Christians for Biblical Equality

The great error of history

"So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them"(Genesis 1:27, TNIV).

A noted church historian once observed that the great error of history is presumption-presuming that one has grasped the necessary facts related to a person, a group or situation when in reality one is largely uninformed. Perhaps you can recall a time in your own life when presumption led you into deep waters. I certainly can.

Some of the deepest waters in American history are the result of acting on presumptions rather than facts. Consider the presumption that created and legitimized American slavery. Slavery in the US was based on the mistaken belief that Africans as an ethnic group were inferior. In his towering book, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis, historian Mark Noll said that “so seriously fixed in the minds of white Americans, including most abolitionists, was the certainty of black racial inferiority that it overwhelmed biblical testimony about race, even though most Protestant Americans claimed that Scripture was in fact their supreme authority in adjudicating such matters” (Noll p. 73).

The topic tonight is whether women should be permitted to teach men and the immediate corollary of this, whether they can be ordained to the ministry of word and sacrament. Both issues are related to the issue of women exercising leadership in the church. I will deal only tangentially with gender relationships within the family viz: submission of women to men. The key areas to be covered are the individual Scriptural texts, the example of Jesus and Paul and theological reflections. At the end of this paper it will be evident that the topic has raised deeper issues of whether women are fully human and whether our particular personal theological home is willing and capable of incorporating an alternative theological view even if it is derived from Scripture.
The aim tonight is not to give a highly detailed exposition of individual texts. There is simply not enough time. What I want to do is give a clear, concise and coherent overview of the main Biblical texts which are usually disputed.

By Gordon Fee &Mark Strauss

The meanings of words change over time, and translations must be periodically updated to keep up with these changes. One of the most significant changes in English over the last quarter century has been related to gender language. While it was once commonplace to refer to people as “men” and all fellow Christians as “brothers,” such usage has declined significantly in recent years. More inclusive terms like “people” and “brothers and sisters” are used more often today. Bible translators, seeking to stay current with contemporary English, have adapted to these changes. Over the past thirty years, almost every English Bible version either produced or revised has adopted this kind of “gender accurate” language (TNIV, NET, NLT, GW, CEV, NAB, NJB, NRSV, REB, NCV, GNT, NIrV). This is in line with the goal of translating words according to their meaning in context.

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Discipleship and active/passive gender distinctions in the Gospels


Are you a princess or a pirate? Earlier this year I was touring a children's play centre in Tasmania when one of my colleagues asked me this very penetrating question – well Megan, are you a princess or a pirate?

What a choice! If I were a child having my birthday party at this church-run venue, would I choose the beautiful, pink and silver princess room, taking for myself as party girl the glamorous and exalted role of the princess wearing her tiara, or would I choose a party on the pirate ship, playing the part of the cut-throat and adventurous Blue Beard, with my parrot on my shoulder, and wielding my swashbuckling sword?

To complicate matters, my choice was extended beyond just parties, because in the play area were two giant posters, listing affirming adjectives for boys and girls. He is… the first poster declared, courageous, strong, and honoured. She is… precious, beautiful, and loved.

Did that "she" describe me? On the one hand I certainly hoped so – as a person in Christ I know I am precious in God's sight and loved beyond my imagination. And yet, something didn't sit right, and not just with my all-girls private school education, I hoped. There seemed to be something amiss in the way that the boys were being encouraged in the name of Jesus to value their active, outward looking traits, and yet the girls… well, the girls were given more passive, inward-looking attributes to embrace. Beauty. Status. Value.

WOMEN TEACHING MEN THE BIBLE: WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?

I first became aware very early on in my Christian life that women's ministry in the presence of men was controversial. As a new Christian in a Brethren assembly I found myself in the midst of a debate as to whether women could pray aloud in the morning meeting (communion) in the presence of men. The elders resolved eventually that they could not because of the Bible was against it. In particular, 1 Timothy 2:8 shows – so the argument ran - that Paul believes that only men (tous androus) should pray in the assembly: "I desire that in every place men should pray" (ESV). That was in the 1960s.

Many years later, in the 1980s, I was on mission with a team of theological students in Sydney. I asked one of the senior students, a woman, to speak evangelistically at a girl's high school. It seemed to make a lot of sense. But she was not only reluctant but became extremely anxious. I had a pastoral situation on my hands. I soon found out that she had been taught that it was against the bible for her to preach in the presence of any males on the team.

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