And it is clear that the rule of the soul over the body, and of the mind and the rational element over the passionate, is natural and expedient; whereas the equality of the two or the rule of the inferior is always hurtful. The same holds good of animals in relation to men; for tame animals have a better nature than wild, and all tame animals are better off when they are ruled by man; for then they are preserved. Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.
Where then there is such a difference as that between soul and body, or between men and animals (as in the case of those whose business is to use their body, and who can do nothing better), the lower sort are by nature slaves, and it is better for them as for all inferiors that they should be under the rule of a master. For he who can be, and therefore is, another’s and he who participates in rational principle enough to apprehend, but not to have, such a principle, is a slave by nature.
(Aristotle, Politics, V)
2:8 Â Â Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument. 9 Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense; not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, 10 but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God. 11 A woman should learn in silence with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. 13 For Adam was created first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. 15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense.
(1 Tim 2:8-15, HCSB)
Difficult texts, hey?
This past week hasn’t seen much activity ’round here. I’ve been coming and going all week from a conference being held down the coast at Stanwell Tops for AFES senior staff.
Part of my interest in attending this week, and one of the highlights, has been being able to eavesdrop on some great discussion and reflection on how gender shapes our ministry together. Regardless of the content of this discussion (which was extremely important), it showed in a beautiful way, how Christians should approach difficult and sensitive issues of theology and practice.
The sessions on Gender were held on Tuesday and Thursday nights, I travelled down with a few people from Moore College, including one of the College lecturers who was giving the talks.
(I won’t give his name out of respect for his privacy. Gender is one of those issues… he’s a good mate. Hi, if you’re reading)
The first evening was a very close and careful reading of the text of a crucial passage: 1 Timothy 2:8-15
Most of the AFES staff are pretty handy with Greek and so the exegesis was done with the Greek text of the Bible up on the projector screen. Different possible interpretations were raised and discussed in the light of scholarly understanding of the meaning and syntax of the Greek. It was brilliantly presented, the lecturer knew the passage inside-out and was able to provide really helpful clarification. The result of this was that in having the bigger discussion about how gender shapes the practice of ministry, everyone is able to operate from the same understanding of the text at issue. Not only was the presentation thorough and clear, it was warmly pastoral. The exegesis was interspersed with pastoral comments and applications, that kept reminding us that this isn’t merely a theoretical enterprise but a properly Christian theological one: resulting in better knowledge of God and love for each other.
The Thursday night session was a broader, theological reflection on Gender as presented throughout the Scriptures. The centrepiece of this was an interaction with the work of Kevin Giles, an Australian theologian, around the interplay between Trinitarian relationships and Gender. Giles claims that ‘conservative evangelicals’ have redefined the trinitarian understanding of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son, in order to justify the subordination of women. It’s a weighty charge. Again, the way in which this discussion was handled was brilliant. Our lecturer was wonderfully gracious in his interaction with Giles, giving him due credit for good arguments, and being careful not to engage a straw-man. Discussing the eternal relationships among the members of the Trinity is not light material, yet everything was clear. And his critique of Giles was devastating. He’s thinking about writing a book, which would be really helpful. I think I disagreed with a couple of his alternative propositions, but I thought his critique was one of the best examples I have seen of graceful disagreement.
Following the theological presentation, people were invited to talk together about some the practical implications for Campus Fellowships flowing from the discussion of Gender. Then people were invited to share their thoughts and practices together. At a point at which their could have been considerable tension, there was graceful attentiveness, and loving truthfulness.
I haven’t told you anything about the content or conclusions of these discussions. I can’t, that’s AFES business. But this week I’ve been reminded how the Spirit transforms our minds, how the people of God feed each other with the Word and with godly wisdom, and how to disagree.