Monday, December 14, 2009

Not on a Book: On Life

I am writing this by the glow of my lovely Christmas tree. It is the wee hours of the morning the day after friends of mine had a baby--their first, a son. I think of these beautiful friends and this wonderful, horrible responsibility they have been given, and I really don't know how to process it all. But, being Christmas time and this blog being about women, I thought it might be a good time to bring up the issue of childbirth. As much as Christmas is about Jesus, the time of Advent makes me think most of Mary. Oh, how she must have been feeling--big and round and just full of promises from God.

This is one area in which I think there are clear gender distinctions: women carry another life inside of them, give birth to it, and literally feed it from their own bodies. What these differences mean, I don't quite know yet. I don't want to say that God "obviously has created women to be givers of life" and not men, because I do not want to negate the (what I would consider) important role of the man in reproduction. But, it is true that these are very different roles, and they are real and beautiful and mysterious.

I watched a documentary a few months ago on childbirth and I discovered something that I had never known. Apparently, just after delivery, the mother is supposed to undergo a rush of hormones unlike any other time in her life. The hormones aid in the deep, protective attachment of mother and baby. And it occurred to me that while fathers undergo a huge rush, too, they are chemically very different experiences. His connection to his child is, during pregnancy, only through the mother. And after delivery, his connection to the child is not absent of her. The mother will go through months of thinking about everything she eats and how it affects the baby; the father will not. Her body is still connecting with the child in a relationship of dependency; his is not. It is not until the child grows that the role of the mother dims within the father-child relationship.

All that to be said, I am pondering the process of bringing new life into the world and how it informs our design, purpose, and roles in life as men and women.

(Actually written on Dec 4th, 2009)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Slaves, Women, & Homosexuals: Criterion 2, Seed Ideas

Seed photo © 2010 tom heyes | more info (via: Wylio)Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis, by William J. Webb

To read the setup for this post, go here.

This criterion is classified as persuasive for the issues of both women and homosexuals.

The basics of seed ideas:

"The seed idea describes something at an early stage...In some respects, it is merely suggestive of what could be" (83).

So, in the example of slavery, Webb quotes F.F. Bruce who says, "[Scripture] brings us into an atmosphere in which the institution [of slavery] could only wilt and die" (84).

In the case of women, Webb claims that Scripture sets up the same environment, planting seeds of gender equality. He argues that perhaps God, being all omniscient, knew that "for Paul to press for social implications in the slave and the female categories might have been detrimental" to the Gospel (86).

And in the case of homosexuality, Webb states that the silence of Scripture regarding seed ideas for non-marital, non-heterosexual sex is a loud silence. In fact, if seed ideas are present in regard to sexuality, the seeds that are seen are ones that would bear fruit of committed sexuality only between a man and a wife in a strong bond of marriage. While I'm not a huge fan of arguments from silence, I realize that this is only one of his 18 criteria and that the sum is greater than the parts.

This issue of "seed ideas" is actually quite helpful to me in my larger readings of Scripture. I've been doing a study of Hebrews this semester, and so much of Hebrews is the author trying to explain the seeds in the Old Testament that set an environment in which Jesus could be fully appreciated and glorified. When Scripture talks about people of faith being in stages of development (infants, adults, etc), I think this points us to the reality that God is patient with us individually and collectively to be slow to learn. Seed ideas seem to be manifestations of this reality: as a people and as souls, we are slow to see, slow to learn, and slow to apply God's eternal truths. But He is patient, and He seeks truth and justice no matter how long it takes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Slaves, Women, & Homosexuals: Criterion 1, Preliminary Movement

directionphoto © 2011 Chris McClanahan | more info (via: Wylio)Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis, by William J. Webb

To read the setup for this post, go here.

The criterion of "preliminary movement" is judged as "persuasive" for the issues of both women and homosexuals.

Webb's first criterion, "Preliminary Movement" is very helpful to me. The basics of this analysis lie in the direction in which the Scriptures are trying to move culture. In the case of slavery, Webb illustrates how compared to the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) culture, the Old Testament moved in the direction of equality, fairness, and justice for slaves. And furthermore, the New Testament moved even further to declare not only practical laws to protect slaves, but spiritual laws that applied to all men, slave or free. Hence, we can safely assume based on these "preliminary movements" that God is moving culture in a certain direction in regard to slavery. Where His movement stops, we don't know. But we can tell He is moving it.

Now, in regard to women, Webb concludes that "the Biblical material is headed toward an elevation of women in status and rights" (76). He makes this conclusion in the same way, by comparing Biblical mandates to those of the cultures in which the Scripture existed. Scripture added safety and respect to women in the Old Testament, something ANE cultures did not accomodate easily. And during the time of the New Testament, in a culture that had moved a bit in regard to women's rights, Scripture challenged the culture to move even further. This can best be seen by husbands and wives being called to submit to one another, husband's "belonging" to their wives, women leading the early church, and the explicitly stated equality of the genders.

Dealing with homosexuality, we see what feels to be a reversal in Biblical movement. Unlike the cases of slavery and womanhood, homosexuality is consistently referred to as sin by the Biblical authors, holding a firm line against the ANE and Greco-Roman cultures. Within the ANE, deities were often portrayed as homoerotic, and even some temple worship involved same-sex sexual encounters. And in the Greco-Roman context, Scripture stands just as firm against any homosexuality. We see no movement here other than the maintenance of homosexuality as sin while the preliminary movement only promotes distance from the surrounding cultures.

In his own words, "Scriptural movement relative to the original culture does not answer the question of whether the movement should be viewed as preliminary or absolute, but it does raise that question. More important, however, scriptural movement provides a crucial factor for setting the direction of movement should further movement be appropriate. In this respect, the women texts, like the slavery texts, are generally "less restrictive" or "softening" relative to the broader culture, while the homosexuality texts are "more restrictive" or "hardening" relative to the surrounding environment" (83).

I will not be blogging about all 18 criteria, but only the ones that strike me as interesting, helpful, or note worthy. I would love feedback as well. I want to express what Webb is writing without just pulling quotes and giving you a boring synopsis, but really, he explains it pretty well. I am beginning to feel I need an editor to help me draft these blogs. I will NOT do that, however, as that will make this a lot less fun and a lot more like work for me.
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