Friday, May 6, 2011

The Great Apostle Paul or The Misogynist ?

Do the pages of Holy Scripture ever refer to a situation as being a cultural circumstance and not applicable to the 21st century? Are there cultural issues in the Bible that perhaps might be changeable for our “day?” I think in answering this question one has got to exercise a great deal of exegetical wisdom and apply a remarkably reliable hermeneutic to come up with the answer. And, how exactly can we know the difference? How can we be sure what we are looking at in Scripture so we do not become guilty of bringing into question the infallibility of the “God breathed” (inspired) Word of the Living God?

A text that some take as being cultural is found in 1 Cor. 7 regarding marriages. Paul's exhortation to remain single seems to be tied to the persecution of the times. Another text, and in my view a stronger one, is the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Regarding head coverings in 1 Cor 11, Paul even says, “judge among yourselves” whether it is proper for a woman to wear a head covering (verse 13). The thing to realize is Paul appeals to custom or tradition if it is not in conflict with the imperative principles of Holy Scripture.

Matthew Henry says: “The Christian religion sanctions national customs wherever these are not against the great principles of truth and holiness; affected singularities receive no countenance from any thing in the Bible.” 1

A text that is NOT speaking to a cultural issue, but is often thought of being just a “cultural thing,” is found in 1 Timothy 2:11-15:

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.”

How do we know this is not some misogynistic ploy by the Apostle Paul to bring those rebellious women under control? Why isn't this a trick to make all Christian women into some inferior beings subservient to all those nasty men in the church?

In other words, if the biblical passages merely reflect the chauvinism of a first century rabbinic Jew, they are unworthy of our acceptance. If, however, Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and if the New Testament is the Word of God, then the charge of chauvinism must be leveled not only at Paul but at the Holy Spirit Himself - a charge that cannot be leveled with impunity.” 2

I can give you the answer in three words how we know we are not dealing with the culture of the first century: Creation Ordinance Hermeneutic.

Hermeneutics is defined as: “the study of the methodological principles of interpretation (as of the Bible) ” 3

The 1 Timothy 2:11-15 text is an excellent example of Paul presenting a truth of Scripture and appealing, not to culture, but to Creation itself as the basis for his Divinely inspired, infallible, and Apostolic teaching.

Rejection of this passage as anything other than what it is, absolute Truth, stems out of liberal theology. “Of course Paul would say this. He is a man.” It is relegated to the boondocks of the cultural boogeyman by those who don't think it is “fair.” When has “fairness” ever been a valid hermeneutic for exegeses of Holy Scripture? (I'm just saying.)

Paul's hermeneutic is to use Genesis chapter one through three as the basis for what he has just said. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in exercising his Apostolic authority, says women are to keep silent in the church and uses the Creation Ordinance in Genesis as his Divinely inspired reason. He gives no cultural “judge for yourselves” in this text.

R.C. Sproul said:

One of the chief considerations in determining the question of principle or custom is whether the matter involves a Creation ordinance.”

And, my dear readers, 1 Timothy 2:11-15, as distasteful as liberal theology regards it, is tied directly to a Creation Ordinance.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible Public Domain
2   R.C. Sproul