Sunday, March 30, 2008

CULTURE INFLUENCING HOW WE SEE SCRIPTURE

Some things are a given for me. [That I will interrupt a series of posts on relationships because of a pressing thought is one. But I will get back to looking at the dark rooms I've discovered inside me later.]

It is a given for me that culture is NOT to influence our understanding of the text of scripture any more than our present inability to be totally sure of the meaning of all scripture will permit. We must faithfully work with carefulness to see that it doesn't happen as much as in us is possible. [There is that 'glass darkly' thing now but then we will know even as we're known, fully and completely.]

It is also a given that I don't like labels. Egalitarians/Complementarians both have some things right and some things wrong. When we join a side of an argument, however, we, all too often, become blind to any wrong on our side or any right on the other. That's dangerous it seems to me. We all would probably wish to stake a claim [and both sides do generally] to being biblicists anyway. Let's agree that that is the healthy place for us all to be for sure.

Another given for me is that there is a difference between discrimination and differentiation. To differentiate between male and female as to public restrooms or certain birthing services [since men don't give birth to children] would not be diminishing to one or the other. It is recognizing differences. I AM glad that the diaper changing stations have been added to men's facilities now since we are fathers to our children and need to know how to do our share of parenting to them. [Every dad needs to know how to change his kid's dirty.] I'm even glad birthing rooms now permit fathers [if they can handle it] to be present and wish it had been so in our time. It wasn't.

That said, to make artificial differences like "a women shops but a man hunts" when in a department store, is to make a general statement that may not be true at all. It is the opposite with my wife and me. I'm the shopper. She's the hunter. I'm more emotional. She's more logical. [Though she is quite emotional at times and I'm even logical at times..but we're both a little bit surprised and are likely to call attention to it when either happens. :)] I'll stop there before someone thinks she's Paul and I'm Mary.

So there are differences between male and female but to teach in marriage seminars that it is "always" this way or that way for men or women may do a great disservice to some marriages. But that's differentiation. It is not wrong and can be helpful when not pressed as absolutes.

However, discrimination is a different animal. It is more of a judgment made about differences that produces the demeaning of someone BECAUSE of differences and a robbing them of their value as a human being because of that judgment.

Racial and gender discrimination are the two classic examples. There can also be, of course, discrimination based on social or wealth standards such as one demeaned because they live in a trailer or because they happen to be a street person without home or money and are treated disrepectfully and in a demeaning manner because of that status. [I'm aware other factors often come into play with these examples but you see what I mean I'm sure.]

It is this discrimination that is blatantly unchristian and anti-scriptural to the core. [James mentions giving the preferred seat to one of wealth as opposed to the poor as a no-no.] Jesus certainly refuted this in His life and ministry when the poor as well as the wealthy were called and men as well as women followed and served with Him. It was even stated in Acts that the New Kingdom would find "sons and daughters" sharing equally in Kingdom stuff.

One final given for me. I'm convinced the work of Grace God does in us as we are redeemed by the Cross work of Christ restores us to that relationship God originally intended and had accomplished pre-fall in Eden with Adam and Eve relationally. In other words, we, because of Grace, return to the original plan and purpose of God and it will be on display, not in culture where sin still reigns generally, but in the Church where Christ reigns most certainly. It is this Christian pre-fall relationship to God, the world, and each other that is in process now in all christians and will be until He comes to break the curse on creation. It is that relationship with God, this world, and each other that is to be effective in us as we live all of life as Kingdom livers right now. [This is not to lose sight of the coming King concept at all. But for us, He reigns in us now.]

So what does that Kingdom present and Christ reigning in us now look like? That's the message of the bible with it's descriptions of the Body/Church and it's Head, the Lord Jesus, as it functions relationally, gifted and serving as salt and light within society . But...are we correctly interpreting that message of how we should live and be as christians? Or are some in danger of letting culture /society dictate how they read that message instead of being faithful to the text?

Has culture caused Egalitarians [used to identify people with a certain view particularly about women] to think it's OK for women to teach men and even Pastor churches when the scripture clearly says they should NOT? Or have Complementatians/Fundamentalists [used to identify people with a certain view particularly about women] bought into the fallen state of a misogynistic [meaning the 'hatred of woman'] culture and are not willing to be different in the treatment of women?

Have the feminists given birth to some christians going against scripture and what it says about women so they [those christians] will be liked and well thought of? [This is the claim of many Fundamentalist/comlementarians against egalitarians.]

Or has the feminist movement arisen because the Church has failed to truly set the pace against discrimination of women because of their gender.? [Much as the Church didn't set the pace in facing and denouncing discrimination against African-Americans years ago. This is the claim of Egalitarians against Fundamentalists/complementarians.]


So..does culture influence one side or the other? If so, which side? Is there a cultural influence that causes some to fail in their willingness to stand on scripture about certain truths? If so, which truths? Am I, if I'm an egalitarian, liberal and sold out to culture, or, have I, if I'm a Fundamentalist, bought into a cultural christianity that denies the dignity and freedom won in Christ for people of all age, gender and race?

In fact, how are you to live in culture as a citizen and yet live as a citizen of another country [heaven] too, believing the bible all the while?


So many questions. So much thought needed. So little time and space to write.

It is here I will focus next time with what little personal insight I can give recognizing my own bias and limitations. But attempt it I will.


Paul B.

PS
I'm using 'complementarianism' as distinctive from 'Fundamentalism' because some non-fundamentalists are complementarians. There is legitimately an argument that the two are NOT bed-fellows at all. I would agree. I do believe one could be just a milder version of the other however, and, unless careful with the scriptures, will wind up making the same mistakes about women. I'll let you figure that one out.

7 comments:

traveller said...

Paul,

Thanks for these words and questions. I think these are important.

Your touching on the point that we are to show in our individual lives and as the ekklesia what restored and recreated relationships are to look like is so very important. Unfortunately, far too often we, individually and corporately, fail to show this transformation. I know we are not yet what we will be but sometimes I wonder whether we have even started being what we will be.

Looking forward to your next post.

Strider said...

Dude, after reading other comment streams on this subject this post is water to my soul. Thanks Paul.

Paul Burleson said...

Traveller and Strider,

I've produced a big menu..let's hope the meal matches the menu to some degree. [I'm thinking of those great pictures on a menu and when the sandwich comes you wonder..."What happened?" :)

I do think a lot of issues would be answered to some degree were we able to understand my premise here.

Thanks to both of you for stopping by.

Lin said...

Oh boy, I hate labels, too. It seems they have been forced upon us in order to have a conversation.

I can remember sitting through so many men/women role sermons cringing because the pastor was NOT describing me at all. I certainly cannot remember such sermons growing up. It has become a cottage industry to assign roles, feelings, needs and motivations of men and women.

How much has culture influenced both sides? Totally! Ever since Genesis 3, I believe.

But, now that we are redeemed, we should strive for the 'one anothers' taught to us in the NC.

Now, if only we can get people to stop reading INTO Genesis 1-2 what is not there! :o)

Paul Burleson said...

Lin,

Watch it....you're stealing my thunder for an upcoming post. :)

Ruth said...

Paul,
I've just come over here from a different blog and, well, you are speaking (much more eloquently than I could!) what is on my heart as of late.
Thanks!

May I say, I agree with you and your reasoning. Keep at it!

Paul Burleson said...

Ruth,

I appreciate you stopping by.