Bespoke Epistles.

In Straining out gnats I noted that the CBMW’s argument for reinterpreting 1 Tim 2:12 is so weak, even people who prefer their interpretation avoid trying to defend their argument.  But there are other ways to create wholly new meanings from existing Scripture.  The most flexible method is to create a zany backstory that causes the existing text to have a whole new meaning.  For example, take 1 Cor 14:33b-35 (ESV):

As in all the churches of the saints, 34the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

At first glance, this is devastating to an enterprising feminists looking to rewrite Scripture.  But what if you cook up a kooky backstory, claiming that the Apostle Paul’s letter to Corinth was in response to a secret letter from Corinth to Paul that when considered, changes the whole meaning of the offending verses?  This example appears to come from a now deleted FAQ by Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church:

Question: I was reading in 1 Corinthians 14:34 that women are not allowed to speak in the church. Whoa– what’s up with this!?

Answer: Historical perspective really helps with this one. In that day, men and women sat on different sides of the church. For a woman to ask her husband a question she would have to shout it to the other side of the church or disrupt the church service by getting up and walking over to him. Apparently, this is exactly what was happening in the Corinthian church, and their worship services were becoming a zoo. Paul is saying, “Listen during the worship service, and talk about your questions on the way home.”

Note how much more freedom this method offers than chiseling around the edges using creative translations.  Using this method, you can make an Epistle appear to say anything you want it to say, by creating a tortured backstory instead of torturing the text itself.  All it takes is a convincing bluff and a gullible mark willing to buy it.

New commenter Derek Ramsey tried his hand with this same technique to create a new meaning for 1 Tim 2:11-15.  Here is the original Scripture for reference (ESV):

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

As you can see, Ramsey has his work cut out for him if he is going to bluff his way into claiming that the Apostle Paul was actually saying that women can preach, and can exercise authority over men.  He needs to make the Scripture appear to say the opposite of what it actually says.  Yet this method is so powerful,  in the hands of a skilled manipulator a semi plausible BS backstory can be crafted:

The Ephesians were dealing with the cult of Artemis which taught that woman was the originator of man. These women were trying to assert their dominance over men by teaching that man comes from woman. Verse 12 instructs the woman not to teach that she dominates a man due to the superiority of her gender. Now the applicability of verse 13 is obvious: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” directly contradicting the cultist teaching. Verses 14 and 15 states that Eve was deceived, cursed with painful childbirth, and will be saved through faith in Jesus Christ (a man who came through childbirth).

It all depends on your presuppositions. The woman (singular in the text) is supposed to be quiet in direct contrast to making her specific aggressive false teachings. The instruction to be quiet has no bearing on the broader issues of women teaching. The text is silent on that point.

As Ramsey notes, the key in this method is not to change the text itself, but to create the right presuppositions to change the meaning of the text into whatever you want to change it to.  One other key strength of this method is it is impossible to disprove, so long as the backstory you create doesn’t violate our historical understanding of the time and place involved.  Ramsey explains that his backstory not only gives the answer he wants, it doesn’t violate our historical understanding:

Timothy was in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3). There is no historical question that Artemis was the fertility goddess of Ephesus. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus is one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world. This isn’t even remotely controversial.

If you decide to create your own new meanings for the Epistles, you will need to do as Ramsey does and make up a story that fits with history.  From here, the critical next step is to be unshakable in your bluff.  This method will only work on the easily deceived, but for Ramses’ purposes this is all he needs.

Impressed with Ramses’ skill, I was inspired to try my own hand at this method by creating my own entirely new meaning for 1 Tim 2:12.  Note that I’m not actually trying to con my readers into a BS reading of the passage, so I’m not presenting this in a serious way.

——————————–  BS Backstory ——————————–

As we all know there was a famous library in ancient Ephesus.  It turns out that Paul was responding to a problem of Christian women talking loudly in the library in an effort to teach some of the men in the congregation.  Even worse, the women were being especially rude by loudly ordering the men to pay the fines for books the women hadn’t returned on time.  The librarian was upset and wrote to Paul begging him to solve the problem plaguing this magnificent library.  Therefore, Paul’s instruction to Timothy was not instruction on how women should conduct themselves in church, it was a lesson in how to properly behave in a library:  Be quiet in the library and always return your books on time!  That this was needed may seem strange to us in our modern era, but at the time libraries were still quite rare, and not everyone learned proper etiquette while growing up.

——————————– End of BS Backstory ——————————–

As I noted, I’m not offering this seriously.  This is the first problem with my bluff.  The other problem is that construction on the Celsus library didn’t begin until 117 AD, decades after 1 Timothy was written.  However, this was my first attempt, and if I had more carefully researched the history before creating the backstory I could have come up with a more convincing one.  In the comments section feel free to offer your own favorite BS backstory you’ve heard others use to redefine Scripture, or try your hand at creating one yourself.  Most importantly, understand what hucksters are doing when they use this method and don’t be taken in by them.

Posted in Complementarian, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Feminists, Rationalization Hamster, Rebellion, Satire | 13 Comments

Man up and share your feelings.

I mentioned UNCOMMEN in Hair Shirts and Chest Thumping last week.  One of their recent blog posts is Her Needs Above Yours, which claims that God orders husbands to follow pop psychology and become “emotionally available” to their wives:

God does not make this command to men lightly. If a husband wants God to hear his prayers, which he is going to need to be doing a lot to learn to be emotionally available to her, then he will seek to open his heart to her in an open and honest way.

Despite the allusion to 1 Pet 3:7, this supposed biblical wisdom in fact comes from the Book of Oprah, an entirely new book created in the 1970s by sensitive new age guys and the women who dominate them.

Note that the fundamental problem would exist even if the blogger weren’t putting bad pop psychology into God’s mouth.  This would be no less of a misrepresentation of Scripture if he instead claimed that God commands husbands to run Game.


Posted in Attacking headship, Book of Oprah, Disrespecting Respectability, Game, Honor Your Father Today | 71 Comments

Straining out gnats.

But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

–1 Tim 2:12, KJV

While researching for yesterday’s post I came across a complementarian controversy regarding the NIV translation of 1 Tim 2:12 back in 2010.  Denny Burk, who has since gone on to assume the role of CBMW president, strongly objected to a change of a single word in the NIV’s translation of the verse.  The 1984 and 2002 NIV translations were:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

But in 2005 the NIV changed “have authority” to “assume authority”:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;1,2 she must be quiet.

Burk smells a rat, as he sees this as feminist translators at the NIV opening the door for churches to ordain women and place them in leadership roles over men.  He sees this as encouraging churches to read this only as a prohibition of the woman assuming the authority of her own decision, leaving open the option for churches to place her into a position of authority.

Dr. Douglass Moo of the NIV translation team appeared in the comments to defend the change, arguing that the phrase assume authority can be read multiple ways.

As one of the NIV translators, let me just make four comments….

Third, the footnotes were dropped in the updated NIV simply because the translators believed that “assume authority” could be taken in either direction. We often use this phrase in a neutral way (e.g., “When will the new President assume authority”?).

What is so strange about all of this is that complementarians gutted this verse of nearly all meaning decades ago.  What we see here is merely fighting for the scraps.  If complementarians hadn’t gutted the verse of nearly all of its meaning, the controversy over “have” vs “assume” would not really matter.  The Apostle Paul instructed Timothy that women were not to teach, and they were not to have authority over men.  In 1991 the founders of the CBMW decided to abandon the long accepted meaning of this verse for a feminist friendly interpretation.  The new CBMW interpretation claimed that all Paul was prohibiting was women having authority over men in the church.  The claim was that when Paul wrote women were not to teach, he really meant teach men, because teaching men meant assuming authority over men. To get here they had to entirely ignore the last part of the verse:

…she must be silent

Moreover, they had to torture the verse that immediately follows, which explains why women are not permitted to teach nor to hold authority over men.  Paul explains in 1 Tim 2:14 that it was Eve who was deceived.  The CBMW recognized that the traditional (and obvious) reading of 1 Tim 2:14 was that women were more prone to being deceived than men, but they didn’t like that reading because it meant that clearly Paul was saying women couldn’t teach/preach.  They came up with a new feminist friendly interpretation, claiming that when Paul mentioned Eve being deceived what he really meant was that Adam was created first:

28. Do you think women are more gullible than men?

First Timothy 2:14 says, “Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Paul gives this as one of the reasons why he does not permit women “to teach or have authority over a man.” Historically this has usually been taken to mean that women are more gullible or deceivable than men and therefore less fit for the doctrinal oversight of the church. This may be true (see question 29). However, we are attracted to another understanding of Paul’s argument. We think that Satan’s main target was not Eve’s peculiar gullibility (if she had one), but rather Adam’s headship as the one ordained by God to be responsible for the life of the garden…

If this is the proper understanding, then what Paul meant in 1 Timothy 2:14 was this:  “Adam was not deceived (that is, Adam was not approached by the deceiver and did not carry on direct dealings with the deceiver), but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor (that is, she was the one who took up dealings with the deceiver and was led through her direct interaction with him into deception and transgression).”

When I laid out the CBMW argument for women preaching in March of 2016, many of my readers liked the CBMW’s claim that women are permitted to preach to other women.  However, none of these same readers could bring themselves to swallow the CBMW’s absurd rational for coming to this conclusion.  They liked the reading because it would feel weird not to allow women to preach to women, but they could not bring themselves to defend the CBMW’s argument as to why Paul wasn’t telling women to remain silent (not teach) when he said they were to remain silent.

Paul says women are not to teach three different ways in the segment of Scripture in question:

11A womana should learn in quietness and full submission. 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;b she must be quiet. 13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

If there was any question over what Paul meant when he said women were not to teach, the fact that he opens and closes by saying women are to remain quiet should settle all doubt.  And again, verse 14 also removes all doubt by explaining that it was Eve who was deceived.  Lastly, after explaining what women should not be doing (preaching, leading the church), Paul explains what women should be focused on (having and raising babies).   Paul couldn’t have been more clear, but complementarians want to read this as feminist empowerment so badly they came up with an absurd and novel interpretation.

One thing feminsts never tire of reminding us is that the accepted roles of men and women were very different in the patriarchal ancient world.  This fact ironically is yet another piece of incontrovertible evidence that Paul was telling Timothy that women were not to preach.  How else would you expect the men of the ancient world to interpret verse 14, but to see it as an explanation that women are more easily deceived?  Grudem and Piper’s novel interpretation only makes sense if you assume Paul only expected his first century letter to Timothy to be understood two thousand years later!  The whole argument is nonsense, which is why everyone in favor of women preaching to women wants to avoid defending it.

Ironically, when Grudem and Piper wanted to advance this radical, feminist friendly interpretation of 1 Tim 2:12, the man they brought in to make the case is the same man who leads the NIV translation team, Dr. Douglass Moo.  As Kevin DeYoung at The Gospel Coalition pointed out at the time, this is a debate not between complementarian and feminist scholars, but between different factions of complementarian scholars:

Craig Blomberg and Doug Moo, for example, maintain that the NIV rendering does not tip the scales one way or the other. Their goal was to stay neutral and bow to no theological agenda.

Blomberg and Moo are among evangelicalism’s best scholars (and complementarians too).

Yet complementarians like Burk have to fight this last remaining battle with their fellow complementarians, because having gutted the verse twenty five years ago, the question of “have” vs “assume” is all complementarians have left.  Having swallowed a camel, they are forced to strain for gnats.  Complementarians already claim that Paul meant women can be preachers when he said they were not to teach, and instead were to remain silent.  Complementarians accept women as preachers, not just preaching to women, but preaching to men.  All that is left of this shredded Scripture from the complementarian perspective is the question of whether women can be ordained as preachers.

As Dr. John Piper explains, it is fine for Beth Moore to be a preacher.  It is even fine for her to preach to men.  But according to Piper, Paul didn’t want Beth’s preaching to compromise her and her audience’s manhood and womanhood:

The Bible is clear that women shouldn’t teach and have authority over men. In context, I think this means that women shouldn’t be the authoritative teachers of the church—they shouldn’t be elders. That is the way Rick Warren is understanding it, and most of us understand it that way.

This doesn’t mean you can’t learn from a woman, or that she is incompetent and can’t think. It means that there is a certain dynamic between maleness and femaleness that when a woman begins to assume an authoritative teaching role in your life the manhood of a man and the womanhood of a woman is compromised.

Posted in Beth Moore, Complementarian, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Dr. Denny Burk, Dr. Douglass Moo, Dr. John Piper, The Gospel Coalition, Traditional Conservatives | 144 Comments

It is all about clarity.

Recently The Atlantic ran an article crowing about the feminist victory at the Southern Baptist Convention.  Southern Baptists Embrace Gender-Inclusive Language in the Bible*:

Last fall, the publishing arm of the 15-million member Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) released the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). LifeWay Christian Stores, America’s largest Christian retailer, which is owned by the SBC, sells the translation at hundreds of its locations nationwide and touts it as a work of superior scholarship. But patrons are largely unaware that the denomination-approved translation is gender-inclusive.

Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) President Denny Burk was incensed at the accusation, explaining:

The CSB is not a gender-neutral translation of scripture, nor were the CSB translators trying to produce one. On the contrary, the translators intended to produce an accurate translation that faithfully renders what the authors of scripture intended to communicate. The CSB has admirably achieved this goal. The critiques of Merritt and Robinson in The Atlantic are completely off-base.

According to Burk this is a made up controversy.  Burk contrasts this with the NIV translation, which he opposes for being gender inclusive.  He also points to the Colorado Springs Guidelines as the gold standard for the Complementarian position on the right and proper way to replace masculine terms with gender neutral ones in Bible translations.

Dr. Wayne Grudem explained how the Colorado Springs guidelines came to be created in Personal Reflections on the History of CBMW and the State of the Gender Debate:

Eventually Dr. James Dobson called a meeting of twelve people at Focus on the Family in late May, 1997. It included representatives from CBMW, World magazine, the NIV’s Committee on Bible Translation, Zondervan (the distributor of the NIV), and the International Bible Society (the copyright holder for the NIV), and some others. But just before the meeting began, the IBS issued a statement saying they had “abandoned all plans” for changes in gender-related language in future editions of the NIV. So we thought the controversy was done and the NIV would remain faithful in its translation of gender-related language in the Bible.

Little did we know, however, that the Committee on Bible Translation for the NIV had not “abandoned all plans”! Far from it! Unknown to anyone outside their circles, for the next four years the Committee on Bible Translation, apparently with the quiet cooperation of people at Zondervan and the International Bible Society, continued working to produce a gender-neutral NIV. They had publicly “abandoned all plans,” but privately they were going full-steam ahead.

The distinction Burk and other Complementarians are making is that there are good Complementarian gender neutral translations (CSB), and bad feminist gender neutral translations (NIV).  The difference is that the Complementarian gender neutral changes are only made to make the Bible easier to understand, while the wily Committee on Bible Translation at NIV is caving to feminist pressure and sneaking in feminist changes.

But the line demarking feminism and complementarianism is much more blurred than Burk and others will admit.  From the very beginning, the CBMW has tried to split the difference with feminists.  In their founding book, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, the CBMW presented a new interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:13, one that turned the Apostle Paul’s words upside down in order to allow women to preach**.  They brought in Dr. Douglass Moo to write an entire chapter justifying this new feminist friendly interpretation of Paul’s prohibition on women preaching.

Twenty five years after Grudem and Piper brought him in to provide a new feminist friendly interpretation of 1 Tim 2:13, Dr. Moo is still on the cutting edge of scriptural interpretation.  He is now the Chairman of the Committee on Bible Translation for the NIV, chairman of the same committee that lied to Grudem in 1997***.  Just like Burk defends the latest gender neutral CSB, Dr. Moo defends the latest gender neutral NIV.  The whole controversy over the NIV gender neutral translation is made up.  There is no feminist agenda, as the wording is only being changed to make it easier to understand:

Books At a Glance:
Okay, if I may, I’d like to turn to a question a bit more controversial and give you opportunity to respond. There has of course been a lot of noise made over the question of the NIV’s “gender neutral” translations, some people even contending that the CBT has an egalitarian agenda. Would you speak to this for us? And from a translator’s perspective, just what considerations give rise to this issue in the first place?

Doug Moo:
Our decisions about gender are part and parcel of our fundamental translation philosophy: figure out what the text is saying, then find a way to express that meaning in natural, contemporary English…

To put it simply: our “agenda” on the CBT is clear and single: to put the meaning of the Scriptures into accurate, natural, and contemporary English. We view our gender decisions in this context – and only in this context. To render expressions in the original text that clearly refer to human beings in general with words such as “man,” “he,” etc., is to betray our mandate to put the Bible into accurate English.

The fundamental lie that complementarians like Moo and Burk are telling themselves is that there is no feminist rebellion.  They deny the envy and temptation to usurp that motivates feminism inside Christianity, and therefore pretend that all they are really doing in accommodating feminists is helping readers understand what the Bible really meant all along.  But the feminists at The Atlantic and Slate know exactly what is going on, and they are ruining the whole charade.

*H/T Vox Day.

**The CBMW claims women can preach, but with nebulous restrictions.  As John Piper explains, women like Beth Moore can preach to both women and men, so long as the men she is preaching to don’t see her as a leader:  “there is a certain dynamic between maleness and femaleness that when a woman begins to assume an authoritative teaching role in your life the manhood of a man and the womanhood of a woman is compromised.”

***Dr. Moo joined the NIV Committee on Bible Translation in 1996, the year before Grudem says NIV publisher lied to him by claiming they had abandoned the project.  Moo has therefore been involved with the gender neutral translation from the furtive (according to Grudem) beginning.

Posted in Beth Moore, Complementarian, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Dr. Denny Burk, Dr. Douglass Moo, Dr. John Piper, Dr. Wayne Grudem, Envy, Feminist Territory Marking, Feminists, Focus on the Family, The Real Feminists, Traditional Conservatives | 100 Comments

The first commandment with a promise.

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

–Exodus 20:12, ESV

Posted in Beautiful truth, Father's Day | 81 Comments