Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Concluding the Critique of Cole's Paper

This concludes my critique, of Cole's paper 'Women Teaching Men the Bible: What's the Problem'.  Responding to Cole's consideration five dominates this post and is Cole's longest argument. Consideration six is a weak argument although I find myself in general agreement with Consideration seven.

Consideration 5: 1 Timothy 2:12 Not a Barrier

Cole tackles this infamous passage: I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man (2 Tim 2:12) with several layers of argument, some of which works others of which fail, making the cumulative effort unconvincing.

Cole says Paul is making an analogical argument not an ontological one, which is partly true.  However the Paul's argument uses ontological evidence, ie the creation order. or Adam was formed first, then Eve ( 1 Tim 2:13). Cole then goes on to suggest the Apostle Paul is providing only "occasional" instructions, that their is no universal principle to applied from these verses.  The difficulty with this is that there are no indications of a localised restriction in the text, it requires conjecture.  Furthermore why aren't theological commands and explanations occasional? Then there are subsequent problems of who gets to decide which are occasional and which are universal. Finally Cole "Technically Paul's argument is enthymemic-like or, put another way, elliptical and allusive in that a number of steps have been left out because presumably Timothy being Paul's associate could easily put them in as one familiar with his teaching."  Again the same criticisms apply. However more significantly His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) which means we don't need a Timothy-of-the-gaps theory, Scripture is sufficient for faith and Godly living.

A better explanation for 1 Timothy 2:12 comes from George W. Knight III's (you gotta love those American names, what will he call his son?) commentary on the Pastoral Epistles in the NIGTC series. Paul grounds, the instructions about church leadership in regard to women, in the creation order. The example of Eve's deception substantiates his argument and the reference to child birth is about women manifesting "an abiding trust evidence in a life that does not overthrow God's order." (p139)

Consideration 6: The Problem of Primitivism

Cole argues that we shouldn't be guilty of "ecclesiastical primitivism," attempting to set up our modern in exactly the same way as the early Church.  This is partly true, there were some unique features about the early church, such as Apostles that set it apart.  However this is ultimately a flimsy argument if applied too comprehensively because where would it end, is every theological idea and ethical command to be sidelined as "primitivism"?  Cole makes this mistake himself in this consideration by making the argument against ecclesiastical primitivism with an ethical example, mixing categories in the process.

Consideration 7: Dogmatic rank

Cole argues rightly that on the scale of things, this issue isn't a test of orthodoxy.  He correctly describes the gender roles and church leadership discussion as an "inhouse debate."  However reducing this to a question of church practice downplays the significant differences in interpretation and theology that either give rise to this question or flow from this question.  Cole concludes with an overemphasis on gifts as the sole criteria for leadership, which gender aside, creates an over-reliance on a complex theology of gifts.

A Final Word

In Cole's conclusion he says about Complementarians need to "reckon with the invention of the printing press."  An argument he didn't successfully make with consequences that aren't good.  However I agree that "godliness" should be a requirement of our leaders and that the best way to check an argument is from Scripture.  Overall I don't understand why these seven considerations are held up as a the gold standard of Egalitarian argumentation. I expected to swayed back to the Egalitarian position by this paper when I first read it but instead remain convinced my switch to the Complementarian position nearly ten years ago was the correct one.


Jon said...

I've been enjoying this series of posts Luke, thanks very much. it took a while for the penny to drop that there was a conference covering this issue in Melbourne this week, and that's why a few people I read are posting on it. Perhaps Brisbane is even more isolated than Hobart.

I don't have much more to add to what I've said already really, but I think your point is a valid one - if you have a few of scripture as "inerrant" in the sense you describe (which I think of probably slightly rudely as "inerrancy lite"), then you logically would be complementarian. Incidentally I never knew there was such as word before this week!

On the other hand if you don't have that view of biblical inerrancy (like I don't), there is no reason to be complementarian. Obviously I don't see any great need to persuade you over to my viewpoint, especially since your views don't prevent you from being a good husband and treating women with respect. However, I think its just as hard to apply the principle of inerrancy consistently as it is to make judgements about which parts of the bible to apply to now and which ones not to. The search for certainty is always elusive, because God wants us to have faith.

Luke said...

Good to have provided someone with a small measure of enjoyment. You said: Obviously I don't see any great need to persuade you over to my viewpoint, And vice versa. However I didn't want Cole's considerations go unchallenged, it bothered me that they were held up as good arguments. You've hit the nail on the head though with Scripture, our starting points would need sorting out before we'd meaningfully discuss things further down the line of interpretation and application. I'm also fascinated by the implications of this debate, many of which you've alluded too.

I think you can have working certainty, the glass is grimy, the halls dark but that doesn't mean you see rough shapes and know which way the sun will rise.

Andrew said...

I think that a good follow-up series would be to look at some of the theological presuppositions at work in each position. Even a basic question like why complementarianism is so strong in Reformed circles while Pentecostals are almost all egalitarian.

I have a theory that behind a lot of the intractable nature of the debate are incomplete Trinitarian theologies. Complementarianism is a very Christologically focussed position. The emphasis is on the 'created order' shaped by the logos of God, and on the implications of the masculinity of Christ and the relationship of the Son to the Father. Egalitarianism is very Pneumatologically focussed. There is much talk of the gifts of the Spirit and of the eschatological freedom opened up for humanity by the Gospel. It would be good to see those things brought together and see how they interact. At the moment they are being pulled apart unfruitfully. Sounds like a good PhD for someone to attempt that reconciliation. :)

Good to disagree with you as always. Shame about the troll, who made me get a google account.


Luke said...

Hi Andrew,

Thought provoking comments as always, and don't feel bad about disagreeing, we're making a fine art of it. Your like the other edge of sword, keeping me honest, I'd become dull and ugly without contrary opinion.

(That is interesting, the emphasis on the Holy Spirit and gifts on one side and the Christological emphasis on the other. A generalization of course but a trend none the less.)

Actually that goes for anyone who disagrees, if you post politely like Andrew please post more-often and disagree with me.