Thursday, November 03, 2011

Scot McKnight on Junia - Part 3

As I wind down my reflections on Scot McKnight's discussion on Junia last week, I recognize that the topic of Junia is one that generates a fair bit of discussion in academic circles. Having talked about Junia's place in the early church, and how other women in Biblical history have similarly had their contributions silenced and forgotten, it's appropriate to ask "so, what do we do about it?"

But before we get to actual action, a more... intellectual point is in order. Christians, especially those of who claim the label of "evangelical," understand the Bible to be our ultimate authority on matters of practice and doctrine. An appeal to any authority other than the Bible tends to make us nervous. This is why it's important that we spend the time going through what the Bible has to say, both about Junia in particular, and about the stories of women in general.

Many of those who believe that the Bible does not allow women in offices of authority appeal to what is often called a "plain reading" of the text. The accuse egalitarians, for example, of violating the "plain reading" of I Timothy 2 when we suggest that women are not required to be silent, and that this text is not intended to exclude women from offices of authority. Scot McKnight responds both by demonstrating how a "plain reading" of all the available data on Junia insists both that Junia was a woman and that she held the office of apostle. Furthermore, McKnight suggests that if it was indeed the same human writer (Paul) who wrote I Timothy and Romans (where Junia is mentioned), and also wrote passages such the one in I Corinthians where women who prophesy are given instructions not to stop giving prophecy, but how they should give their prophecy, then the silence of I Timothy can't be intended to be a universal silence, unless you want to assume that Paul was double-minded and self-contradictory.

But enough with the intellectual stuff. Discussing the biblical texts, however important, remains just an academic exercise. The point of this post is action. How do we do more to give women a voice? One thing McKnight discusses may seem obvious, but it is simply to state that women called to ministry will have to respond to that call and fill more pulpits. This may seem like the cart coming before the horse, but for many people, it is upon hearing a woman preach, or seeing a woman perform the duties of some Christian office, that they realize that God does indeed gift woman to these positions just as men are gifted. It is only then that such people begin to recognize that it is not a sense of "rebellion" that drives a woman to do such things, but it is indeed the deep calling that God has given them. As more women are seen in ministerial office, more Christians (both men and women), will come to understand that God really does gift women in these areas.

However, because so many refuse to listen to the voices of women, or who won't believe the evidence of their own eyes when seeing a woman do these things, there also remains a place for egalitarian men to speak out on these matters, and to actively work to provide space for women to exercise these gifts. Find ways to hire women, both in paid staff (and all the way to the top when possible!) and volunteer positions. Give young girls, as well as young men, chances to lead during youth events.

Also, as discussed in yesterday's post, share the stories of women in the Bible and through church history, so people can see how God has used both men and women in God's redemptive story. Finally, as opportunities arise with those who may not already be on the same page, but who might be teachable, share your own experiences with women in church leadership. No one strategy is going to work on all people, but a combination will help to reach as many as possible, and with God's help, the silence on women in the church might finally be lifted.

McKnight's lecture is now available online as an e-book. Here's a link to it via Barnes and Noble, but it is sold via other outlets, if you prefer.

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