One of the things that bugs me when Christians have discussions about the women’s issue is the point when they are at loggerheads regarding “proof texts”. One person says they have their “proof text” scripture and so they are not willing to listen to what the other person has to say. The other person also has their “proof texts” and also isn’t willing to budge. However proof texting is simply not good enough. While you may have one verse that seems to agree with you, you also need to deal with the texts that don’t agree with you. This is the point where many people give up. They hold onto their proof text and stubbornly refuse to look outside of their already made-up mindset.
So how do we handle the situation when we come up against someone who is holding onto a wrong interpretation because of their “proof text”? What we need to do is to look carefully at their proof text and examine it within its entire context. That entire context may be broader than the chapter it is in and may include the entire book of the Bible that it is included in. Why is this important? It is important because if we do battle with our “proof texts” we are in essence saying that the Bible contradicts itself. Do you believe that? I don’t. So now here comes the challenge – instead of retreating to your corner with your proof text, how about proving that the Bible doesn’t contradict itself?
There are three things that one must arm oneself with when looking at the opposition’s “proof text”.
1. A good Greek/Hebrew dictionary that can help you look up the words in the “proof text” to see if the words mean what the challenger says they mean.
2. A willingness to dig into the larger context to see if the challenger’s interpretation of their “proof text” is consistent with the meaning of the complete context.
3. Most important of all, pray for wisdom and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the correct understanding so that you will know what God’s will is.
While I was researching the women’s issue, I found that most of the proof for women being allowed to teach the Bible to men was done through looking at Biblical examples of women who were in leadership positions or who were called to give out God’s word through prophecy or through judging the nation. There were also a lot of sound arguments given for why God uses women in ministry and why women shouldn’t be silenced from giving out God’s word to people today. Those were very good reasons, but I found there wasn’t as much work put into some of the hard passages that seem to forbid women from ministering. Some people just said that Paul was a misogynist, or he changed his mind later, or we should just ignore these passages as they have no meaning for today or that these passages were not truly scripture. I found that unsatisfying because I believe that each word, each piece of grammar and each passage is God breathed and is in the Bible for a reason. So I set out to find out what each disputed passage meant in its context that would allow no word or piece of grammar to be disregarded. My research was made into a script and then into a DVD series called “Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?”
One standing challenge that I have towards complementarians who believe that women are not allowed to teach the bible to men, is to show me from the complete context of 1 Timothy chapters 1 and 2 how they can fit into that passage the interpretation that God is not allowing godly Christian women from teaching correct biblical doctrine to men. My exegesis of the passage in point form is found here.
So does the Bible contradict itself? Absolutely not! Next time we will discuss some key questions from the scriptures that complementarians need to answer instead of just retreating to their “proof text” corners.