Mark Blain

Hermeneutics (S.1.5., “b”), by Mark Blain

(email attachment to S.1.5., “b”, “Reader’s Response”, “Using Woman” By Nancy Hardesty, to Edwin Yamauchi’s article, Aug., 1972)

“Using Woman” – By: Nancy Hardesty

Edwin Yamauchi’s use of the woman issue to illustrate the problems of “Christianity and Cultural Differences” was quite apt. Unfortunately, however, he seems to have succumbed to the temptation he was warning against: making our own cultural ideas the norm for the NT or uncritically transposing first century norms into the twentieth century.
Most scholars will readily admit that First Tim. 2:11-15 is ambiguous, to say the least, in regard to woman’s role. To say, as Yamauchi does, that it “stresses woman’s preeminent role as a mother” is highly selective. If indeed the passage does teach that (the assertion is highly debatable), the rest of the NT doesn’t support it.
While the Gospel does not downgrade motherhood, it nowhere teaches that this is to be woman’s only role or even the predominant one as Yamauchi suggests. Christ never taught that woman’s salvation was in childbearing (though in the OT her hope, as did that of all Jews, rested in the coming of the Messiah). Rather, woman’s salvation was accomplished once and for all in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Her calling is to commit her life to Him and to serve Him — whether in marriage or celibacy, in rearing children or pursuing a career. To follow Yamauchi’s suggestions would be to deny full Christian personhood to all single women or barren wives.
Likewise the phrase, “to usurp authority over the man”(v.12), is a unique one, ambiguous in its meaning, and thus should not be used alone to establish any major teaching. Yamauchi would be on more solid ground if he took his stand on Gal. 3:28 and stayed there. By labeling that passage “ideal” and declaring woman to be in “subordination to her husband” two paragraphs later, he has vitiated (weakened the effectiveness of) any equality. In a modern democracy where woman (as an outgrowth if NT teachings) is seen to be a full person in her own right, are we to impose a role on her which is left over from the days when women, like slaves, were considered the property if the master? After 1,800 years Christians managed to decide that the Bible no longer decreed that we must live in a slave-master culture. When are we going to apply the same kind of thinking to the woman issue?
And how can Yamauchi cling to women’s subordination in marriage while blithely (without thinking) labeling as cultural the injunctions that she remain silent in church? Both positions could be argued equally well from NT evidence. Is this just another proof that when it comes to the woman issue (as with many others) we pick and choose which Scriptural paths we wish to follow? Just as modern society offers woman “a more equal public role with men,” so we have found (as the Bible tried to teach us, esp. in Gen. and the Song of Songs) that a more equal marital role for women builds the strongest marriages. God created men and women to compliment one another, not to dominate or submit to one another.
It’s about time evangelical scholars and laypeople stopped relying on personal prejudices and biblical prooftexts and seriously looked at what the entire Bible teaches in regard to full Christian personhood.
— Nancy Hardesty (Mundelein, Illinois)

Mr. Edwin Yamauchu’s response:
Apparently the key sentence to which Ms. Hardesty objects is my statement: “I believe that what Paul taught about a woman’s role as a mother and her subordination to her husband is still quite valid.” I did not mean, as Ms. Hardesty…infers, that “this is to be woman’s only role or even the predominant one.” Nor would I deny “full Christian personhood to anyone.
(. . .)
Where Ms. Hardesty may disagree is in the matter of a wife’s subordination to her husband, which she believes vitiates (weakening the effectiveness of) any equality. Her basic point is “God created men and women to complement one another, not to dominate or submit to one another.”
There is a question of semantics here. I believe that it is possible for a wife to be subject to her husband without being inferior to him, to be obedient without being obsequious (servile), and to be submissive without being passive.
The more substantive issue is whether or not the subordination of wives to their husbands in such passages as 1Tim.2:11-15; Eph.5:22-33; Col.3:18-25; and 1Pet.3:1-8 reflects an intrinsic, transcultural duty, or a conventional, cultural pattern?
An indication that this is not simply a cultural pattern (although the degree of the dominant patriarchal authority in Biblical times was culturally informed) is the appeal in these passages to the pattern of primeval marriage of the first man and woman in Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18, 20-25, cited in 1Tim. 2:13-14; and Gen. 2:24, cited in Eph. 5:31.
As E.O. James points out:
“The obedience demanded of the wife, however, (is) based on the underlying theological conceptions in which human relationships were interpreted in terms of God’s relationship with man. Thus, for the Christian, obedience is the supreme virtue, valuable for its own sake when freely given, not from (a standpoint of) weakness, but from strength, as exemplified in the perfect self-oblation of Christ, wherein was manifested the highest expression of love. It is aonly when it is deprived of its theological foundations, in a secularized societal viewpoint, that it loses its spiritual significance and degenerates into an act of degradational submission, involving a loss of personal freedom — a derogation from personality rather than a means of attaining the subsistence of the spiritual self by way of love.” (Marriage and Society, 1952, p. 99).
(End of email attachments “a”-“aaaa” and “b”)(Next up is cont. of Reading Assignments for S.1, “Ann’s View On Divorce Saddens Pastor”)(12/27/72)

Mark Blain
DOC #1154225

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