Culture vs. Timeless Principle

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by PreachTREE, May 31, 2006.

  1. PreachTREE

    PreachTREE
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    How do we differentiate what is cultural in the New Testament versus what is timeless. For example, how do we know that women can't preach?
     
  2. Ransom

    Ransom
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    PreachTREE asked:

    How do we differentiate what is cultural in the New Testament versus what is timeless. For example, how do we know that women can't preach?

    Here's a summary of some class notes I took in a moral theology class last fall, which give a few guiding hermeneutical principles for determining the scope of biblical commands.

    1. Determine the intended audience for the text.
      • Who is it addressed to? Israel? A particular church or individual? The Church Universal? Humanity in general?
      • What category of people is it addressed to? Am I a member of that category?
    2. Determine the basis of the command.
      • What is the logic behind the command? Is it based on the created order? Custom? Timeless principle? The nature of God or of man? Positive law (i.e. to be obeyed simply because it is written)?
    3. Determine the progress of revelation on this topic.
      • Is it consistent throughout Scripture, modified later, frequent or occasional, or interpreted in a particular way by Christ or the apostles?
      • Scripture is analogous to a transcript of God speaking to his people over a long time, as a child maturing to adulthood.
    4. Is the text normative, or merely narrative?
      • Some texts are descriptive, but not prescriptive.
      • Narrative does not always imply that we should "go and do likewise."
    5. Interpret imperatives in light of their literary genre.
      • Proverbs, for example, consistes of true generalizations, not law.
      • Parables are stories with a point; they aren't intended to give us a pattern for living. Some characters in Jesus' characters act poorly (e.g. dishonest businessmen).
      • Jesus also employed hyperbole: gouging out our eyes, lending to everyone who asks. Again, he's making a point: we're not mean to read such exaggeration straighforwardly.
    6. A specific context may contain both timeless and temporary forms.
      • John 13: Footwashing (temporary practice) is an example of humble service (timeless principle).
      • 1 Cor. 16:20: "Greet each other with a holy kiss" is an expression of love for the family of God, which in that day and culture was expressed with a kiss. Different cultures greet each other in different fashions; for us it would be to "get up and shake half a dozen hands before you sit down."
      • 1 Cor. 11:1-16: The veil for women symbolized something about the male-female order of modesty. Because what he writes is somewhat cryptic, it appears that Paul was working with some shared cultural assumptions.
      • Prov. 23:13-14: The Bible advocates physical discipline for children. In this culture, however, it would be quite unwise to beat them with a rod, at least unless you want a vist from the Children's Aid Society.
    7. The principle of antithesis
      • A particular imperative might be limited by the evil to which it is opposed: that is, if we are told to "do A as opposed to B," that does not necessarily translate to "always do A."
      • Matt 5:34-37 opposes deceitful oaths by saying make none at all, but it does not necessarily preclude making oaths in good faith. (Jesus himself testified under oath in Matt. 23.)
      • Matt. 5:39 opposes trading insult for insult (retaliation in kind) with non-resistance to evil. It says nothing about self-defense against attack.

    Legalism

    Legalism is a misuse of the moral law that occurs in several forms:

    1. An attempt to become right with God through meritorious obedience. (Rom. 3-4)
    2. Imposition of the Law on Gentiles, for whom it was never intended (Acts 15, Gal. 1-4). Paul argues clearly in Galatians 3 that the Law was intended to be temoporary and that its time was over.
    3. A focus on minor matters of the Law as a way to justify failure to reflect bigger, less explicit matters, e.g. in Matt. 23:23-24, Jesus attacks the Pharisees for using assiduous tithing as an excuse to avoid justice.
    4. Elevation of pious application of the Law to the level of Law itself (e.g. Matt. 15:1-9, Mark 3:1-6).

    On the other hand, seeking to obey specific commands of Christ is not "legalism," no matter how many evangellyfish throw the term around arbitrarily.

    Summary

    Use of imperatives of the Bible is enduring for us if:

    • it is addressed to an enduring audience
    • it is based on a permanent relationship
    • it is repeated, especially transculturally
    • it is supported by prescriptive, and not merely descriptive, passages
    • it is supported without abusing its literary genre
    • it is taught as principle, not merely a manifestation of a principle.
     
  3. Ransom

    Ransom
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    With my above notes in mind, then, how does the traditional prohibition against women preaching score as a permanent rule for the church?

    • Who is the audience?

      It's Paul's protege Timothy, whom Paul has tasked to plant churches. By extension, therefore, the audience is the local church, because Timothy's instructions are the rules for church organization.
    • What's the basis of the command?

      Paul grounds male headship of the church in the created order: Adam was created first; conversely, Eve was deceived first. Adam and Eve are paradigmatic for all of ongoing life. Had he wished, Paul could have said, "As it stands now, men are educated and women are not, but this may change in the future." But instead of grounding his instructions in a specfic cultural context, he grounded them in our first parents - the ultimate transcultural context.
    • What is the progress of revelation on this topic?

      Paul consistently argues for male headship in the church.
    • Is this passage normative or narrative?

      It's a letter with instructions to Timothy: unquestionably normative.
    • What is the genre of the passage?

      Again, it's part of a letter in which Paul passes specific instructions to Timothy about how to plant, organize, and regulate local churches.

    Based on the hermeneutical principles I listed above, therefore, I would conclude that the prohibition against women preaching is a timeless and enduring rule for the church.
     
  4. PreachTREE

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    good post....thanks
     
  5. annsni

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    Thank you for that very clear instruction. I'm on another board that's a more liberal Christian mother's board and keep getting reemed for thinking that women are to not teach men or have authority over them. It's nice to hear something clearly Scriptural!

    Annie
     
  6. UnchartedSpirit

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    I think some mediums we're using to reach culture should just be left to ourselves instead. "Living" like Christ seems to be emphasized than how you package or even debate the gospel. Evangelistic Comics, for example...seem to be producing a bad responce over all. I think that's mainly because people tend to be more "Drive-by evangelists" with them instead of personally witnessing. Now there's a challange: Create a graphic novel on your experience with meeting Jesus and send it to people....that could work better than a generic pamphlet. Hey, that would be great for a webcomic along with your blog....
     
  7. Sister Robin

    Sister Robin
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    Ransome, I love the way you've broken that down. :thumbs:
    But like the OP, I have wondered how to determine those things as well. I agree with you that women not preaching applies to the structure of the church, forever. But what about the headcoverings? This has always been confusing for me. I've read those who are for and against, it was cultural, not for today; it means hair, it does not mean hair... Can you help with this?
     
  8. Ransom

    Ransom
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    Sister Robin said:

    But what about the headcoverings? This has always been confusing for me. I've read those who are for and against, it was cultural, not for today; it means hair, it does not mean hair... Can you help with this?

    My reading of the passages concerning head coverings is that Paul is speaking, again, of a hierarchy of male/female authority and modesty. As I wrote, he appears to be speaking of a shared cultural assumption - note he doesn't have to explain head coverings so much as basically remind the women to wear them as their "authority."

    Evidently in that culture, the veil was a symbol of female modesty and submission to her male authority, just as it still is in many parts of the Middle East today.

    Today in our Western culture, even though we don't have a corresponding visible symbol, we can still recognize the principle that God has ordained the male as the head of the household. We don't need to invent a symbol.

    That's my take. I know some will disagree.
     
  9. Salamander

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    Well, when it goes against my liberty to be as immoral as I want to be, it is cultural, but when it goes against what I want to belive, it is timeless.:sleep: :rolleyes: :tongue3: :p
     

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