Just two quick notes here today. First, a few have made comments about specific verses, offering different interpretations of what Paul is saying in various passages. I’ve even offered a higher level view of how I think Paul does theological reasoning in a kind of ad hoc way. And my hunch is that if we had 30 different people all give their opinions on what Paul is doing in the “gender” texts, we’d have 30 different interpretations. Some are undoubtedly better readings than others, but there is hardly consensus.
Often critics of my position charge that I’m making difficult what is simply stated on more than one occasion in Paul–women should be silent. The problem is, these texts are anything but simple. We’ve got practices obscure to us that are given very little explanation by Paul. He can assume the Corinthians know to what he is referring, but it’s not obvious to us. What is going on with the language about the “head” in 1 Cor 11? Why are women praying and prophesying in chapter 11 and then silenced in chapter 14? The word for “authority” in 1 Timothy 2 is a rare word, not the usual word for authority. What does Paul mean by it? The word that is translated often “silence” has a wider range of meanings and is not typically translated silence. How should we translate hasuchia? There is a significant textual variant in 1 Cor 14, which has led some scholars to conclude that it wasn’t part of the original letter. Regardless, where you place those words affects the interpretation of the text. So, for my friends who want it simple, you’ll have to look for other texts. What is the setting of 1 Cor 11, 14, 1 Tim 2? Is it worship? Is it a general principle?
My point is this: if you’re taking a dogmatic position on one of these texts, you’re way overconfident. This problem is not an exegetical one. We won’t solve it through word studies or even discourse analysis. But this is not to despair. While it is important to struggle with these texts, it is more important to ask how our understandings of God influence our understandings of gender. This is properly a theological issue. And I think you’re always on better ground when you’re seeking understanding of the living God than when you’re basing practice on biblical precedent.
Second, I perhaps overstated things a bit in my last post on the cultural. What I meant to communicate was summarized well by my friend Brian Stogner on my Facebook page, “research in human cognition would suggest it’s certainly possible to think without language. However, some kinds of thought may only be available with language. I’d also say that any perception (maybe not sensation) of reality is mediated by experience. Any concept (such as “transcendence”) is also experientially (perhaps “culturally” in the context of this discussion) mediated. Any experience that is interpreted has been mediated by experience/culture.” Or as Gadamer puts things, understanding requires prior understanding. Certainly by the time you’ve written something down, its been mediated by cultural factors such as language, worldview, etc. And there is no place that we can stand outside of our own cultural frameworks and read these texts. The point I was trying to make is that when Paul says “do not conform to the world” he can’t possibly simply mean don’t adapt to the cultural. This is simply unavoidable and the biblical writers themselves do it all the time and so do we. What Paul means by world is not the same thing we mean by culture. Are some of our adaptations “conforming to the world?” Yes. But are all? No.
OK, now I’m going to figure out who is teaching Intro to the Christian Faith in the Spring.