Woman, thou art loosed!
I borrowed the title for this post from one of the largest women-led Christian conferences in the world hosted at The Potter's House, in Dallas, Texas, where Bishop T.D. Jakes serves at Lead Pastor. And, I love it.
For far too long, and for a variety of reasons, most of which are rooted in a certain strand of biblical interpretation, women have been forced to sit on the sidelines, vocationally and in life generally.
Rather than being released to embrace their God-given gifts as God's co-image bearers, and to freely-function in those giftings, women have often been subjected to a male-dominated culture, and Church, where men lead and women follow.
However, such a view is seriously flawed. And, it is flawed precisely because it rests on a faulty set of preconceived ideas about what people often think the Bible teaches on this subject, and not on what it actually teaches.
The traditional reading is based on and read through the conditions set about at the Fall (Genesis 1-3) and not on the ideals of New Creation, which seeks to restore pre-Fall creation conditions, and the mutuality inherent in human relationships within the Creator's design for all of creation.
Rather than take our cues from pre-Fall and New Creation realities, the Church, and society, have often locked on to fallen realities and made those realities out to be the norming norm for all male and female relationships.
However, as Scot McKnight wrote in a highly recommend book on biblical reading, The Blue Parakeet,
The good news story of the Bible is that the fall eventually gives way to new creation; the fallen can be reborn and re-created. Sadly, the church has far too often perpetrated the fall as a permanent condition. Perpetuating the fall entails failing to restore creation conditions when it comes to male and female relationships. This is against both Jesus and Paul, who each read the Bible as a story that moves from creation (oneness) to new creation (oneness). (Pg. 165 - emphasis mine)
Passages that seemingly teach female subjugation to men, in letters written by the Apostle Paul, (i.e., 1 Timothy 2:8-15, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35), are often read through the lens of the Fall, and not pre-fall, New Creation realities, which were always meant to frame our entire reading of Scripture, as well as our interpretation and application of it.
However, when we read those same passages in light of pre-fall and New Creation realties, the texts most often used to silence woman can and should be read not as prescriptive for all time, but time-sensitive, and case-specific instructions to help further the cause of the Gospel in those regions. They were never meant to be seen as commands for all time, but time-bound instructions meant to address questions and concerns in local congregations.
When we read these and other passages in the New Testament in isolation, forgetting the larger realities of New Creation, we can read, interpret, and apply those passages in ways they were never intended, giving them meaning they were never meant to have and convey.
While there are other contextual considerations that should inform our reading of these texts, the larger context is New Creation and the pre-fall, male and female realities as God's co-image bearers (Reference Part 4 in The Blue Parakeet entitled, Women in Church Ministries Today, for a fuller treatment - pgs. 153-207).
However, when we anchor our reading of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments alike, in light of the hopes and dreams of New Creation, where we will one day all be one in Christ (Galatians 3:28), a world that will reinstate the co-image bearing realties of Genesis 1, such a reading will forever change our perspective on this important issue and many other matters as well.
As Bruxy Cavey has often said,
Our story begins not with total depravity, but with God's image, abused but not lost. Everyone we meet is first a precious image of God.
While we should never ignore the passages that have often been used to silence women, we should learn to read them a-new, in light of the larger context and hope all of Scripture points to - the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God, where Jesus is King, and the New Creation that can be witnessed in part, even today. A kingdom that will be fully realized at the appearing of Jesus the Lord.
As Cavey said elsewhere,
Christians are, in a sense, time travellers from the future setting up communities in the present as examples of what the world will become.
And, it is to this larger kingdom-shaped, Jesus-centered, New Creation reality we will collectively speak about throughout the course of this week.
Stephen Bedard will lay out a short biblical basis for women in ministry that will build on and further anchor my introductory work here.
Then three outstanding female Christian leaders, Leanne Friesen from Canada, Jory Micah from the United States, and Karina Kreminski from Australia, will write on these topics: the need for Sabbath rest, a call to reconsider traditional gender roles, and embodying a Gospel that looks and sounds like Jesus.
And, when they do, they will all reflect New Creation realities as God's co-image bearers and co-labourers in the Kingdom of God, where Jesus is King.
Woman, thou art loosed!
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