It was 1851, at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio that a former slave stepped up to the platform and became one of the most powerful voices for Abolitionism and Women’s Rights of the era.   Her chosen instrument of liberation?  The Bible.   Without any historical, literary, or hermeneutical expertise she discovered in its pages a message that would turn a male-dominated culture on its head.  As she declared in that famous “Ain’t I a Woman ” speech,

“…that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.  If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.”

Some may dismiss this as simply one voice crying out in the wilderness, but these are exactly the kinds of voices that the Bible schools its readers to listen to.  The God of Biblical witness is one who hears the cries of slaves, outcasts, and the marginalized and who demands justice on their behalf.  But to read a recent piece by Emmanuel Christian Seminary professor Christopher Rollston, one would hardly know that the God of the Bible had anything but evil in mind for women.

Before enrolling at Emmanuel School of Religion (the seminary’s previous name) ourselves, we attended Milligan, a small liberal arts college just across the street.  It was here that a wise professor of philosophy taught us to call into question the language of “values.”  Anybody can have “values” that don’t actually play out in the way that one lives life.  More interesting are virtues and vices, the patterns of excellence and corresponding deficiencies of character that one shapes and learns in the course of one’s life.  There are virtues appropriate to particular areas of living, virtues of general moral character, and intellectual virtues.  Among this last group was the virtue of intentional listening, which our professor taught us was the willingness and patient capability not to take written and spoken language as pre-text for one’s own performance but as the articulated shape of another human being’s soul.

We point this out because a text like Rollston’s makes listening hard.  As far as we can tell, his article seeks to reduce the Bible to something which simply degrades, excludes, and silences women.  Even worse, because it is a ‘holy book’ it gives such mistreatment divine sanction.  In making his case for the moral bankruptcy of the Bible Rollston seems uninterested in listening either to those he calls the ‘exceptional voices’ of Scripture (one of whom he identifies as the Apostle Paul, the writer of much of the New Testament) nor to the long and diverse history of Biblical interpretation which surrounds those texts he criticizes.  He also chooses not to give voice to those alternative interpretations concerning women that are by no means novel but which have followed the Bible across the centuries as Rabbis, theologians, and ordinary folk have grappled with these sacred texts.  Despite the fact that Rollston is himself seminary-educated and privy to the many ways the Bible has been understood throughout the ages, he seems to want us to believe that “what the Bible says” about women amounts to only what the most trenchant fundamentalists would today take to be its meaning.  While Rollston believes he is showing us what some of the Biblical authors originally intended in their writings (and attempts such as this are important) in any tradition as rich as Christianity or Judaism speaking for these “original” voices amounts to speaking for only a few – even if an important few – among many.  The Bible itself is a collection of voices expressed through innumerable stories, literary forms, and linguistic devices many of whom give voice to the dignity and integrity of women and other marginalized persons.  Rollston seems uninterested in these other voices, however.  He seems more concerned in perpetuating an especially constrictive (and ugly) debate about “what the bible says,” the rules of which have been drafted between fundamentalists and those who regard fundamentalist readings the only ones worth mentioning.  If Rollston’s essay seeks for possibilities other than this, none of us have the power to discern them here.

The pity of such broad omissions is in the riches that Rollston discards.  If only he could recall some of the readings that he most surely picked up along the way he might remember that some of the earliest stirrings of what would afterwards be called feminism happened through people’s engagement with the Bible.  He might recall the strong mix of Roman and Biblical imagery that lent Mary Wollstonecraft’s “Defense of the Rights of Woman” its power.  He might give a thought to the Quaker women who boldly stepped forward to preach the very Bible that Rollston blames for the oppression of women (they did not do so disingenuously).  For that matter, he might remember that the early Church, Old Testament and all, was sneered at as a religion for slaves and women.  These observations might lend a bit more nuance to his broadside.

To mention such examples is not an attempt to whitewash the history of Christian (or Jewish or Islamic) biblical interpretation.  Throughout its long and complex history the Bible most certainly has been used to justify the marginalization of women.  There are many scriptural texts that have been appealed to time and again to sanction male superiority and justify exclusion.  And yet it is only historically responsible to note that this same text has, time and again, also been one of the most important sources for resistance to this same mistreatment.  To borrow a term from the philosophy of history, the Bible has often if not always been part of a dialectic, moving in the name of the God who would order the world and at once moving in the spirit of a God who would take a stand in behalf of the oppressed.  It was slave-owners who used the Bible to salve their consciences, and it was slaves and women who turned to the Bible as a guide and inspiration for social change.

Rollston may of course respond that he was not speaking of the history of Biblical interpretation but only of those specific texts in their original historical contexts.  The question remains, however, when speaking of issues of such vital importance as the place of women in the Bible, is such a limited reading ultimately adequate?  Would we, for example, consider this same kind of reading of The Declaration of Independence to be fair?  Rollston accuses the Bible of being “written by men and for men.”  Could not the same be said of that founding document of the American republic?   Its enshrined declaration that “All men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was certainly not intended by its authors to apply to women and slaves, and yet this document stands today as one of defining texts for modern liberty and equality.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just to cite one memorable example, grabbed hold of that document’s powerful phrases (and those of the Bible) to combat the injustices perpetrated in his own day.  Rather than dismiss the Declaration as a document by slave-owners for the sake of slave-owners, King (among others) saw in the document a spiritual force, one that could turn against even its original situation for the sake of a better America.

If one were to ask how The Declaration of Independence should be evaluated concerning the question of women’s rights certainly one would find it necessary to consider how it actually has been used throughout its history of reception and interpretation.  One would need to ask how this document was read as part of a tradition of law and a history of social change. How did it come to be read differently amidst changing conceptions of personhood?  It would also be important to recognize that this document, while “foundational” and “normative,” is also “living” for what it is believed to say grows and changes as part of the history of those people who are committed to it.  Generations turn over texts like The Declaration of Independence and The Bible as they are presented with new challenges and discover in them new possibilities and new self-understandings.  That is in part what makes these texts exceptional.

What we find lacking in Rollston’s comments is not only a willingness to listen to history but also to theology.  For persons of faith the Bible is always read as part of a larger collection of beliefs, actions, and ways of life.   Certainly there are those who neglect this larger picture, but they do so at the expense of intellectual breadth.  Rollston seems to assume that reading the Bible by separating it from its context of faith and speaking of it as an isolated artifact is the only way that’s worth mentioning.  But surely this is questionable.  Approaching a text that people claim to be holy because it is an important part of their lived relationship with God, and then reading it by bracketing out this relationship, is odd.  Surely the faithful’s confessions as to the nature of God should be taken into consideration when interpreting texts that are attributed to him.  For example, when asking whether “the Bible marginalizes women” certainly it is also important to ask, “And what does the God of the Bible charge us to do concerning those who are marginalized?”  The answer to this is one that anyone who has spent time in Sunday School should be able to answer.  This response, of course, doesn’t get the Bible off the hook, but it certainly shows that the matter is much more complex than whether the Bible deserves a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” when it comes to women.

Concluding Rollston’s article we were left wondering whether Rollston had really lost sight of such basic observations in the rarefied air of specialized ancient history (he is one of the world’s leading authorities in his field) or whether his apparent ignorance was feigned.  Either possibility is a painful one, an indictment of the scholarly guilds’ prominence in the life of the seminary as much as a warning in the person of Rollston.  Either way, in Rollston’s article, there’s no history, and there’s no theology.  But finally, there’s no reverence.  And reverence (despite the fact that it is often scoffed at today) remains one of those postures that is most important for listening well.  Certainly one would expect that an atheist writer like Richard Dawkins would ridicule the Bible as a litany of backward and offensive opinions.  Reductivism is the modus operandi of the irreverent because it enables them to level their own best attacks against said reductionist reading.  But Rollston is one of the main teachers of Old Testament at a seminary, a place dedicated to the training of Christian ministers and leaders of faith. This is a seminary in a tradition that holds the canon of Holy Writ to be not only the core of Church authority but also the primary the critiquing agent of theology, that which can call into question any doctrine or ideology or practice of the Church.  Rollston’s public attack on the text of the Bible therefore amounts to a radical rejection of his very professional raison d’etre.

Throughout our theological and pastoral training at this same seminary we were schooled to understand the Bible as a complex, multi-layered, and hermeneutically “open” book.  It has been subject to diverse conflicting interpretations as it has been read throughout countless cultures and historical settings.  It has been appealed to for just about every cause around which people have rallied.  It has been wielded by the powerful to sanction their power, but it has been upheld by the powerless as a source of strength and resistance.  And yet, in all its complexity, its troublesome and awe-inspiring character, almost never have readers so readily dismissed it.  What we found so disconcerting about Rollston’s essay is that it seemed to encourage such dismissiveness.  He “listened” to the Bible in order to condemn it.  Ultimately we found it difficult to believe this was not an effort to marginalize the Bible itself from its revered location as the central moral guide for people of faith.  In doing this Rollston expresses little of that virtue which we have been speaking of and which has been so central to the cultivation of the Biblical faiths: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.”

[Update 9/19/2012: Nathan Perry has posted an interesting “atheist response” (his phrase) to our piece at his site.  I encourage our readers to take a look.]

212 thoughts on “Listening to the Bible when You’re Hard of Hearing: A Response to Chris Rollston by Nathan Gilmour, Wes Arblaster, and Micah Weedman”
  1. This brought tears to my eyes.  What a brilliantly articulated piece, that outlines what responsible theological interpretation of the Bible really entails.  You guys were paying attention in class.

  2. Excellent piece, gentlemen. I am please to see such a philosophically astute and theologically rich piece coming from our tradition. Keep up the good work!

  3. After reading your article, and re-reading Rollston’s post a few more times, I think I finally understand why you all are so offended. That said, I think the way that you have read Rollston’s article was not what he intended. Being an alumnus, I would have hoped that you would give him the benefit of the doubt, or at least asked him to clarify his position before publicly calling into question his “professional raison d’etre.”There isn’t a professor at Emmanuel with a greater personal investment in his students than Dr. Rollston, period.

    1. JackWeinbender So what you’d like us to do is to consider the history surrounding the text at hand rather than assuming that it’s merely a defective version of what we consider ourselves to be doing?  I like that idea.  Perhaps I’ll write an essay calling for just such an ethics of reading some time. ;)On a more serious note, just as HuffPo is a public forum, is open for business.  If Rollston would like to respond, he’s just as free as we were.  Obviously I’m not privy to another mortal’s intentions; all I gots is the text.

        1. JackWeinbender  ngilmour There certainly have been lots of committed teachers at ESR, so I am dubious of “he’s the most…” kinds of claims.  I am sympathetic to some of what Rollston is after, but the longer I sat with the article, the more offensive it became.  Had it been something original, it might have garnered more benefit of the doubt.  But this is well-worked material, and there was a politics and a theology implicit in it that seemed questionable.  So we questioned.

        2. MicahBWeedman Fair enough–it is your prerogative to do so. I would simply caution impugning the religious and professional reason for being of a seminary professor based off of a 1200 word Huff-Post article–especially in the context of a small and close-knit community like Emmanuel.

        3. JackWeinbender ngilmour An interesting turn of phrase, no doubt.  Care to say what you mean by that?  Also, if you’ll note, there’s a whole paragraph leading up to the phrase you quoted.  If you’d care to address that as well, it’d make things much clearer for a humble English teacher like myself.And just to repeat my initial note, the comments section is open.  Any response to the text of this piece is welcome.

  4. Thank you, Micah and friends, for offering a commentary on what I found to be an unfortunate characterization of the biblical texts by Dr. Rollston.  I’m befuddled at the “win”  he was looking for in  his article.  I am  heartened by your response.  Thanks. Ben Cachiaras

  5. Makes me glad I have a son graduating this year and another son started his first year at ECS.  Excellent critique of an unfortunate (hopefully) misstep by Dr. Rollston.  I do share with Dr. Blowers a real concern regarding the forum selected for the original article.  Shared within an informed readership I would still have issues with its simplistic reduction of diverse biblical materials in the service of a personal agenda.  But, in an appropriate setting, that’s the kind of dialogue expected of scholars among scholars.  In the HP, it’s just fodder for the already well tendered flames at antichristian rhetoric.

  6. Well done, I’ll buy you a pint at the Eagle & Child next chance I have! Voices such as yours need to rise up. You exhibit a well-reasoned challenge, thus restoring faith and reverence in the study of scripture (and arresting the ossification of places like Emmanuel Seminary into another “Ichabod Cemetery”). -A pat on the back from a dad of one of the lads, Paul Arblaster.

    1. At the risk of derailing the conversation and shifting the focus away from Dr. Rollston’s HuffPo article and the response of Gilmour, Arblaster, and Weedman, I’d like to take issue with one element of your comment.  As a senior M.Div. student at Emmanuel, and one encouraged greatly in both my ministerial and academic pursuits by the Emmanuel faculty and staff, I would urge you to rethink your understanding of our school. We are not an institution ossifying into a so-called “Ichabod Cemetery” — rather, we are a vibrant community of scholar-ministers and ministering-scholars (I speak as a preaching minister and a thesis student) seeking to serve the church and world. Your comment is disheartening to me, as I love my school and I love the opportunities and tools it has provided for me in my continued ministry, and I know I am not alone in my gratitude. Emmanuel is not perfect — truly, no seminary can be — but it has stood, and continues to stand, as a wonderful place to prepare for a lifetime of ministry and, if current ministerial involvement of its students and faculty is any indication, is in no danger of ossification or decay.Grace and peace,Danny Yencich

      1. Danny Yencich I whole-heartedly agree with you about our school. While I’ve been here I have grown in expected and unexpected ways theologically, spiritually, and pastorally. Comments like the above from Paul are discouraging to me. Emmanuel is a community of present and future ministers of the church devoted to worship and study. I have seen and been blessed by the excellent work being done by the professors and students of Emmanuel.

        1. StephenLawson Danny Yencich I’ve only ever met Paul Arblaster a couple times, but I don’t take his comment to be one rooted in hatred of the school.  As he noted, there’s always the danger of ossification, and checking that movement is always before us.  One needn’t take a warning always as a condemnation.

  7. I too also met some lovely profs and fellow students whilst attending ESR so take the comment as a cautionary call to strengthen that which remains and challenge that which is unhealthy.

  8.  I’m a little surprised we inspired tears.  I never expected that our little response would prompt such a reaction.  To reply to your criticisms let me state a few things.  First, each of us read the article from beginning to end multiple times so we did encounter all those statements that you quoted.  We also considered them.  You are correct that Rollston didn’t suggest the Bible was entirely univocal regarding the marginalization of women.  He did note a few exceptions.  As I read the article it seemed to me that these exceptions were noted merely substantiate the rule, however. But strictly speaking, you are correct.  Therefore, I can accept that it would have been better to write “As far as we can tell his article seeks to reduce the Bible to something which (with a few noted exceptions) degrades, excludes, and silences women.” Concerning our statement about “the moral bankruptcy of the Bible” this is obviously not a quote from his text.  Nor need it be.  Our statement concerns what we understood to be the implications of his essay rather than a reference to any particular claim.  It was our understanding of the central argument of his essay was, to quote verbatim, “to embrace the dominant biblical view of women would be to embrace the marginalization of women.”  This was written in the concluding paragraph and was the closest thing to a summary statement that I could find.  This was followed by the concluding sentence which states, “the next time someone refers to “biblical values,” it’s worth mentioning to them that the Bible often marginalized women and that’s not something anyone should value.”  What is Rollston suggesting here, especially when one takes into consideration his audience?  Can it be anything other than ‘the Bible is highly questionable as a moral guide generally, and especially when considering the case of women.”  This was not followed by any constructive comments regarding how the Bible might in fact serve as a moral guide when it comes to these issues.  In fact, he implies that we stand upon higher moral ground when it comes to these issues.  He notes that the Bible “sacralizes patriarchy” (his terms) and that that is “just wrong.”  I recognize that Rollston is a historian and not an ethicist, but we must ask where this moral ground is upon which he stands to issue the claim that this is “just wrong?”  This question of course is not about the assertion but the grounds upon which the assertion is made.  For a Christian to suggest that “the dominant Biblical view” is “just wrong” on anything is to beg the question of where one stands to make such judgments.   One of my purposes in introducing some of the examples throughout our response was to show that the Bible has operated as a legitimate moral guide when it comes to the question of women and it can continue to do so if its readers read well and are properly disposed.  It was therefore to rebut the dismissiveness of Rollston’s take away suggestion.And your critique of our statement that Rollston “discards” other voices?  I imagine you believe our criticism was unfair because being only a 1,200 word article he could not possibly have spoken of the history of interpretation.  His argument was one with a defined purview and our charge that he did not include enough was overly critical.  My response to this is when you write a 1,200 word essay to be read by thousands of diverse readers such brevity is simply a matter of being responsible.  If you do not intend to include such brevity, then make your qualifications up front.  This is a basic practice of any scholar who wishes to be constructive and responsible regarding his statements.  Otherwise, you lead your readers to conclusions which are unbalanced and unhelpful.  This was why we included the point about the Declaration of Independence.  It would be simply irresponsible to speak of that text as a document driven by a patriarchal and racist worldview without also observing its broader history.  Certainly making this clear is worth as much ink as mentioning the Hebrew sage Ben Sira.I could go on and on but I really don’t want to bore anyone more than necessary.  All of this said, I believe our criticisms stand.  In all my engagements with people following our response however, I have never heard anyone provide an interpretation of his essay that shows it to engender the posture and convictions of one who has accepted a vocation dedicated to the training of those who uphold the Bible as, “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” to quote that O so problematic Pastoral letter.  

  9. Since I am the obvious target of what former student 54Husky54 calls “those who have supposedly been trained to be able to read critically who actually think that Gilmour, Arblaster, and Weedman’s post has been cogently argued,” I feel constrained to muster a little defense.  The issue of historical-critical reading of biblical texts is really a very small part of the controversy over Chris Rollston’s article on Huffington Post.  That said, I totally agree with Wes’s point that, in the overall essay, a fraction of countervailing evidence was drawn from the NT, and it is unconscionable that nothing whatsoever was drawn from the Gospels and from Acts.  The more serious issue is seen in 54Husky54’s insistence that Rollston has just handed us straight facts from the Hebrew Bible indicating the marginalization of women in ancient culture, really no more no less, and that his purpose had nothing to do with the history of interpretation. This is the naivete of biblical higher criticism.  It’s never “just the facts, ma’am.”  The minute a text is written, edited, or promulgated it becomes the subject of a history of interpretation (read Gadamer). Indeed, the history of interpretation begins within Scripture itself if we take the whole canon into account, and for Christians precisely what counts is “canonical” interpretation in the context of the church. Rollston is himself already engaged in the history of interpretation by calling the marginalization of women a “biblical value” pure and simple, and by making modern judgments about the egregious social evils enshrined in ancient texts.  But he has reoriented that interpretation into the blogosphere, presumably (it’s obviously implicit in this piece) to make points against those conservatives or fundamentalists “out there” who are naïveabout “biblical values.”  Of course, those kinds of folks don’t read the Huffington Post anyhow, and certainly not for instructions on how to interpret the Bible. Instead—and here’s my greatest concern—a new trajectory of interpretation is generated by Rollston’s post, among many already embittered against the Bible and all things Christian. If you don’t believe me just read the many responses to the Huff Post essay, a veritable cacophony of voices.  How can this not disastrously complicate and problematize the church’s ability to communicate to a secular culture a Gospel that liberates women and men to a new creation? At the end of the day, however, the single most tragic thing about the Huff Post essay is that, for so very many, the ultimate takeaway will be “TheBible hates women” or the marginalization of women is an invariable and immutable “biblical value.”  Meanwhile,in our postmodern context, “authorial intention” can get lost oh so quickly.

  10. Nathan et. al.,  Brad and I discussed Rollston’s article the other day.  I thought Rollston’s argument was lacking, though I’d guess I’d have some different reasons for thinking so than you.  I haven’t had time to read this full blog entry yet, but I wanted to ask how you decided which version of Truth’s speech to use.  I appreciate that you didn’t use Gage’s version, but I wonder if you considered Robinson’s version.  See Kay Siebler’s article “Far from the Truth: Teaching the Politics of Sojourner Truth’s ‘Ain’t I a Woman?'”  Sojourner Truth’s speech is one of the few instances in American literary history where historical/textual literary criticism can be as challenging and as loaded as historical/textual biblical critcism.-Adrienne

    1. AdrienneAkins Honestly, Adrienne, I didn’t even know that there was a text-critical question with that speech.  Since Wes wrote the excerpt in and I did the hyperlinking, I suppose we’ve created another layer of slipperiness. 🙂

      1. ngilmour AdrienneAkins   Oh yeah, there’s a huge debate (well, I say “huge” because it ought to be huge, but I’ve only ever found a couple of academic articles addressing the subject) over which speech version is the most accurate.  The most-commonly cited version (Gage’s) was written way after the speech took place and is basically, to oversimplify things, really racist.  Among other things, it makes Sojourner Truth speak in Southern black slave dialect when she was born in New York, lived in the North, and spoke only Dutch until age 9.

        1. ngilmour Here’s the Wikipedia version of the debate, which honestly seems pretty accurate to me: “In 1851, Truth left Northampton to join George Thompson, an abolitionist and speaker. In May, she attended the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio where she delivered her famous extemporaneous speech on women’s rights, later known as “Ain’t I a Woman”. The convention was organized by Hannah Tracy and Frances Dana Barker Gage, who both were present when Truth spoke. Different versions of Truth’s words have been recorded, with the first one published a month later by Marius Robinson, a newspaper owner and editor who was in the audience. Robinson’s recounting of the speech included no instance of the question “Ain’t I a Woman?” Twelve years later in May 1863, Gage published another, very different, version. In it, Truth’s speech pattern had characteristics of Southern slaves, and the speech included sentences and phrases that Robinson didn’t report. Gage’s version of the speech became the historic standard, and is known as “Ain’t I a Woman?” because that question was repeated four times.[10] Truth’s own speech pattern was not Southern in nature, as she was born and raised in New York, and spoke only Dutch until she was nine years old.[11]In contrast to Robinson’s report, Gage’s 1863 version included Truth saying her 13 children were sold away from her into slavery. Truth is widely believed to have had five children, with one sold away, and was never known to boast more children.[11] Gage’s 1863 recollection of the convention conflicts with her own report directly after the convention: Gage wrote in 1851 that Akron in general and the press in particular were largely friendly to the woman’s rights convention, but in 1863 she wrote that the convention leaders were fearful of the “mobbish” opponents.[11] Other eyewitness reports of Truth’s speech told a calm story, one where all faces were “beaming with joyous gladness” at the session where Truth spoke; that not “one discordant note” interrupted the harmony of the proceedings.[11] In contemporary reports, Truth was warmly received by the convention-goers, the majority of whom were long-standing abolitionists, friendly to progressive ideas of race and civil rights.[11] In Gage’s 1863 version, Truth was met with hisses, with voices calling to prevent her from speaking.[12]”

        2. AdrienneAkins ngilmour Nope, never knew any of that.  I could say a thing or two about the texts of the Gospel of John and of Beowulf, but I never knew this speech to be debated until just now.  Thank you.

        3. AdrienneAkins ngilmour Adrienne:  Keep this up because I too am learning things about the Sojourner Truth quotation that I’d never heard before.

        4. PaulBlowers AdrienneAkins ngilmour Paul, my boyfriend Brad Warfield, a former student of yours, said to tell you hello!

        5. AdrienneAkins PaulBlowers ngilmour Alas, say hello to Brad as well.  Give me an update on what he is doing.  Also, how long have you been at Mars Hill. One of our finest students at Emmanuel is Serena Jarvis, who is also a gifted preacher and has represented us at the Academy of Preaching in Louisville. She is a relatively recent Mars Hill graduate.

        6. AdrienneAkins ngilmour Adrienne:  Brad was one of the kindest, most sweet-natured persons ever to come through Emmanuel in my time here.  I miss him.

        7. PaulBlowers AdrienneAkins ngilmour Brad is doing well; he is leading a new 7th-8th grade Wednesday program and teaching 9th-10th grade Sunday school at Crossroads Christian Church in Gray, TN while reffing soccer games and delivering papers for JC Press.  I have only been at Mars Hill since August 2011, but the name Serena Jarvis sounds familiar.  I will pass your greetings along to Brad!

  11. Okay, I’ve read the blog post, and I think you make good points up until the last two paragraphs, which take a sharp turn for an incredibly uncharitable reading of Rollston.  I would have liked to see you engage with the specific points and specific gaps in his argument more and make fewer sweeping claims. Also, and please don’t take this personally, but I think it’s pretty significant that besides me, all of the people discussing and debating this question both here and in the thread I saw on Facebook are male.

    1. AdrienneAkins All are welcome to comment; not all do so.  Certainly your observation on the demographics of our commenters is true in historical terms, and I don’t claim the contrary.

      1. ngilmour AdrienneAkins I wasn’t saying you don’t welcome all comments, but given that the issue is the lack of women’s voices in the Bible, I would encourage you to think more deeply about why the dialogue on the issue seems dominated by male voices.  It is sort of shirking the issue to simply say “your observation on the demographics of our commentators is true in historical terms.”

        1. Well, in regards to the blog post itself, I think Nathan Perry makes good points in regards to your failure to address the specific texts Rollston addresses.  In regards to the question of demographics, I said I thought the lack of female voices in this dialogue is significant.  Do you this it is significant?  If so, in what ways?  If not, why not?

        2. ngilmour AdrienneAkins Well, in regards to the blog post itself, I think Nathan Perry makes good points in regards to your failure to address the specific texts Rollston addresses.In regards to the question of demographics, I said I thought the lack of female voices in this dialogue is significant. Do you think it is significant? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

        3. AdrienneAkins ngilmour I’ll grant that our essay is more concerned with questions of hermeneutics than with commentary.  Were I to take a swing at Exodus 20 or 1 Corinthians 12, that would be a blog post in its own right.  Perhaps I’ll do so at some point.With regards to demographics, I took your comment to mean that there was something in the way that I and the other writers proceeded that shut women out.  If you’re making a larger systemic point, then sure, I grant the historical observation.  If you’re exhorting, then exhort in a manner that I can do something with.  I’m happy to be taught, but I’m not sure what I should do differently in future encounters of this sort that will move counter to the trend you (rightly) name.

        4. ngilmour AdrienneAkins Nathan, I do not think there is anything specific in “the way that [you] and the other writers proceeded that shut women out,” at least, nothing that is not connected to the larger tradition from which you speak (the Judeo-Christian tradition in general, and the Restoration movement Christian Church denomination in particular).  My comment regarding demographics was not intended as a critique but as an observation.  The irony is what struck me mainly.  I hope this makes sense, and I am happy to discuss the issue further if you would like.  I certainly wasn’t trying to imply that any of the writers of this piece were sexist.I did appreciate the blog post up until the last two paragraphs, and I understand your concerns with Rollston, though I also have concerns with the “circle the wagons” mentality that seems to be the modus operandi among Christians with “outsiders” such as the Huffington Post readership is presumed to represent.  I can elaborate on all of these points more, but as you know of my teaching/service load this semester, it may take some time for me to give cogent responses.  

        5. ngilmour Also, to the point of the “circle the wagons” mentality, I’d ask you to elaborate on what I assume (unless there are other English teachers named Nathan in this discussion?) is your comment on N. Perry’s blog post: “I’m not sure why ‘an atheist response’ is all that concerned with the public standing of Christianity, but I’ll go ahead and speak only for myself to say that I could do without that sort of help, thank you kindly.”  This comment quite frankly shocked me.  

        6. AdrienneAkins ngilmour Sure.  I was responding (perhaps badly, I’ll admit) to the condescension in the tone of the piece.  I took him (perhaps wrongly, I’ll admit) to be offering his services to make me more “presentable” in “civilized” company, and frankly, I don’t want none of that. 

        7. ngilmour AdrienneAkins Interesting.  I did not take his blog post in that way at all.  Do you know this person, or he is a random blogger who has responded to your piece?  

        8. AdrienneAkins ngilmour I haven’t met him, or at least I don’t think I have.  As I said, I took that point to be an “If you would learn not to talk like a hick, you might be able to come into town” sort of jab.  But I don’t suppose I’d be averse to revisiting the post, once I whittle down some of this paper-grading of my own. 🙂

        9. ngilmour AdrienneAkins I thought his post was poorly-written from a grammatical-stylistic standpoint, but I didn’t take nearly as much offense at his tone as you; granted, he was not responding to me, and I can’t know what I would feel like were a random person to write a long public criticism of an article I had worked hard in writing.  I guess from a scholarly standpoint, I was surprised that you seemed to be saying that Christians stand to learn nothing from the arguments of non-theists, and from an evangelical standpoint, I was surprised at your lack of, um, for lack of a better term, evangelistic graciousness in responding to him.  

        10. AdrienneAkins ngilmour Can we learn things from atheists?  Certainly.  As I’m always saying, I love teaching Nietzsche to Christian college students.  Am I interested in becoming more socially acceptable in certain social circles by holding myself morally superior to the Bible?  No.  I’m more interested in the dialectics inherent in the Bible and persisting through the history of Biblical interpretation, in learning to struggle with the Bible and with the God who reveals God’s self there rather than dismissing the whole lot as “just wrong.”  Perhaps it’s an artificial distinction, but I’m still convinced it’s a valid one.

        11. ngilmour AdrienneAkins I totally agree, and many postmodern theologians have been engaging Nietzsche because his critique of Christianity was very important and influential.  What Adrienne seems to be describing sounds in many ways like the principle of the sensus plenior, that the church is always seeking the “fuller meaning” of Scripture as disclosed in the lived life of the Church.

  12. Can anyone else see 54Husky54’s latest comment?  I can’t find it here, and I can copy and paste it from the dashboard if it’s not showing up for other folks.

  13. I have had to post in stages.  The comments section seems to be experiencing difficulties.First, I am stunned at the way in which the authors of this article go after Dr. Rollston personally. If one disagrees with the thesis of another’s work, an appropriate response is simply to lay out a counter argument with alternative evidence. It seems that because these three authors miss the point of Dr. Rollston’s article — which is a discussion of the biblical text itself and not the way in which this text has been reinterpreted and appropriated by later readers – that they are unable to formulate an appropriate counter argument and instead must attempt to dazzle their readers with classless and un-collegial attacks on Dr. Rollston’s very person. This sort of rhetoric is not scholarship.

    1. Furthermore, I find the following irreconcilable with the posture of this article. I took my very first class at Emmanuel Christian Seminary (then Emmanuel School of Religion) with one of its authors. In this class, I, as a freshman student, was encouraged by this individual, along with the instructor (not Dr. Rollston) and other students in the class, to view the Biblical text critically and to recognize and acknowledge the violence present within some of its passages. It was also in this same class that another student disclosed that his father used the book of Hosea as a justification to abuse him, his mother, and his siblings. How short is our memory?

      1. Some biblical texts are violent, and because these texts are sacred literature, they are used by some to justify immoral behavior. This is the point of Dr. Rollston’s article. It is to our peril, especially to the peril of the weak, if we do not continue to acknowledge this point, because even though many have been able to reinterpret and appropriate some of these texts for more moral purposes, such is not the case for everyone. This is not just an old problem that scholars and theologians put to rest years ago and that Dr. Rollston has drug out of a dusty drawer. It’s a problem, a living one, as the above testimony of my fellow student makes abundantly clear.

        1. HeatherDanaDavisParker My memory, in the literal sense, tends to be too short.  If I don’t remember being in class with you, all apologies.  I think your reading of our essay is problematic for a few reasons, three of which I think bear mentioning, if only because they might shed light on what we’re up to in it.  First, re: “which is a discussion of the biblical text itself and not the way inwhich this text has been reinterpreted and appropriated by later readers.”  Our point is that Dr. Rollston is  one of those later readers, whether he wishes to be or not.  There is no magic space one can occupy that allows one to declare “what the text says.”  In light of this, we felt that any attempt to do so had serious implications that we sought to name.Second, re: “I am stunned at the way in which the authors of this article go after Dr. Rollston personally.”  Other readers have expressed this as well, so I wish to be open to the reality that our essay is overly difficult on this point.  Still, though, I don’t see it when I re-read it.  ‘Personally’ seems to suggest that we attacked his person–his character, his relationships, his psychic make-up, even his choice in football teams.  I don’t at all read the essay this way, and I certainly know it was not our intent.  We did question his professional sense of who he was, but see my point below for more about that.Third:  re:  “This sort of rhetoric is not scholarship.”  I don’t think its fair to read the essay as anything but rhetoric.  It doesn’t read like scholarship on purpose; it is rhetoric.  Perhaps it is my liberal arts background, but I find much to commend about rhetoric.  So, for example, the sentence about Rollston’s professional raison d’etre is a rhetorical critique; it is what we see as the conclusion to the implications left unaddressed in Rollston’s essay.  It is not a personal attack on Rollston himself nor an attempt to undermine his craft as a teacher.

        2. MicahBWeedman HeatherDanaDavisParker For what it’s worth, chapter 2 of Brueggemann’s Theology of the Old Testament sets out a very nice, readable introduction to rhetoric as a core reality of all Biblical interpretation.  It’s worth a read.

        3. ngilmour MicahBWeedman  Similarly, if you haven’t read Phyllis Trible’s Texts of Terror, I recommend you familiarize yourself with it. You may find Rollston more privy to modern theological appropriation of the Bible than you thought. It’s required reading for all of his OTI students.

        4. JackWeinbender ngilmour MicahBWeedman I can’t remember whether I’ve read that particular Trible book or just remember other folks’ treatments of it, but OTI is more than a decade ago now.  (I took those two semesters from Owens and Werline, before Rollston came on board.)  That said, when the current storm of paper-grading subsides I might put it on ILL. 

        5. JackWeinbender ngilmour MicahBWeedman There are some who might ask you to refute your claim that Dr. Rollston deals with theology in his courses.  Your suggestion likely surprises them more than it does me.  At any rate. I cannot discern in Rollston’s essay to what extent he has heard Trible’s call to “appropriate such texts poetically and theologically”

        6. JackWeinbender ngilmour my own grammar is horrible here:  “There are some who might refute your claim…”sorry, but I had to fix that.

    2. ngilmour HeatherDanaDavisParker Nate, I assume you’re being sarcastic here, but it does not become you.  HeatherDanaDavisParker did not mention Thom Stark, so your reply is a red herring at best.  

  14. I do apologize for the technical difficulties with the comments, folks.  If any of your comments has gone missing, email us at and let us know, and we’ll try to fix it as quickly as we can.There is one comment that I’ve spotted so far that won’t appear, despite my best efforts to make it do so.  54Husky54 posted it at 12:47 AM on September 24 in response to Paul Blowers, and it reads thus:PaulBlowers I really don’t think I need to say anything more than“BOOM.”

    1. ngilmour “BOOM” implies something instant, efficient, and wholly devastating.  I’d wish for a more accurate descriptor.

      1. MicahBWeedman ngilmour Unless that’s describing the sound of the printer finally giving out.  Word of the day friends? “palaverous”

    2. ngilmour Alas, my former student 54Husky54 has posted Thom Stark’s blog which sets forth the narrative that this has all been an orchestrated attack on the reputation of Dr. Rollston and that the “literal” sense of the Huff Post has been lost in the fray.  I’m happy to report that Thom and I had a wonderful, redemptive phone conversation about this the other night, as I tried respectfully to respond to his concerns (as Thom is a very intelligent and articulate guy, and didn’t try to hide his identity).  At least, unlike 54Husky54, who has chosen for some reason to remain publicly anonymous even though I know his identity, and to cut me off and refuse me the same opportunity to communicate with him, Thom was willing to interact with me even when he disagreed with me.  As a doctoral student, meanwhile, 54Husky54 certainly needs to realize that before he draws conclusions, he better have all the evidence, otherwise his dissertation will be a disaster. 

      1. PaulBlowers ngilmour Well, for what it’s worth, you’re not the only one who figured out it was Ned.

  15. At 10:58, PM, in response to Paul Blowers, Danny Yencich wrote thus:PaulBlowers ngilmour Well, for what it’s worth, you’re not the only one who figured out it was Ned.Something is happening in Paul’s comments that’s bugging things out.  I don’t know if I’ve got the .css savvy to fix this, so I might have to keep posting things manually here.

  16. Hi friends, just want to say that I appreciate this dialogue and have the utmost respect for my fellow ESR grads who penned this article. That being said, I commend Dr. R for his piece in the Huffington Post and applaud him for pointing out how biblical scriptures present patriarchal and discriminatory texts about women. This sexism is found not only in Christian texts, but in most sacred texts of the world. Growing up as an evangelical in this tradition, it was an overwhelming relief and ray of hope to read Dr. R’s article. Honestly, his was the first piece I’ve read from a man in this movement that defends and advocates for women. Where are the men in this tradition speaking up for womens rights and equal participation? Why criticize Rollston on the basis of rhetoric when he is pointing out factual truths about harmful and violent texts toward women in Christian scriptures? Why are these truths, the real point of his article, being minimized and turned into a debate about interpretation? When 1 in 3 women suffer sexual violence and rape, when women still make 72 cents per every mans dollar, why can’t this conversation be lifted up as an opportunity to illuminate the pragmatic, real life issues facing women who are still denied the basic rights men have always enjoyed? Women around the worId are not only denied rights, but are suffering violence at this very moment based upon the fact that they are women. I find it disappointing that three men wrote this response piece without considering the need for a women’s voice in the authorship of an article about women in sacred scripture. It is this type of subtle yet culturally normalized dismissal of women’s participation and voice that repeatedly broke my heart and eventually nudged me out of the denomination into which I was born. Do issues of interpretation really supersede the fact that women around the world continue to suffer violence and that this violence is an egregious offense to God?

    1. AlisaMRoadcup Alisa, thanks for your thoughts, and I certainly respect your concerns (especially in the context of your new vocation), but they betray how long it’s been since you were a student at Emmanuel.  There are several others besides Dr. Rollston who have spoken up about the issue of marginalization and subordination of women within and without the church–believe it or not, from the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ in which you grew up!  Dr. Bob Hull, Emmanuel’s Emeritus Prof. of NT and former Dean, has written on this subject consistently and has taught a course with Dr. Miriam Perkins of Emmanuel on “Men and Women in Christ” which deals with the difficult texts from the Hebrew Bible and the NT.  Dr. Hull has done numerous seminars in local churches on this issue and has been a tireless advocate (as our whole faculty has been) for women in all aspects of Christian ministry.  Dr. Jeff Miller of Milligan College has also written on the subject, as has Dr. Rollin Ramsaran of Emmanuel–both of them in the various issues of the journal Leaven which have focused on gender and the church’s struggle to take responsibility for the kinds of texts that Dr. Rollston has identified.  So there are definitely men in our tradition who are proactively engaging the issues and hardly ignoring the hermeneutical dilemma and the ugly saga of violence against women in all its forms.  Indeed, Emmanuel has put its reputation on the line in support of the equality of women and the breaking down of barriers to their participation in ministries of any and all kinds.  And at the end of the day, as I’ve said repeatedly, the issue in all this controversy is not the evil of the marginalization of women, nor is it that of not taking responsibility for “owning up” to troubling biblical texts; it’s the problem of doing so in he Huff Post (hardly a “neutral” forum) without any really serious engagement of the countervailing evidence in the NT or of the many responsible voices (feminist theologians and others) who, have stepped up to the plate to refocus on the liberating power of the Gospel.  Indeed, the Gospel, and Jesus himself, are totally absent from Rollston’s article, which makes the reductionistic claim that the marginalization of women is a “biblical value” pure and simple.  I’m still shaking my head trying to imagine how, given the broad audience of the Huff Post, that the takeaway of this essay for so many is that the Bible is simply a misogynistic book.  You, having some theological education, may not take it that way, but so many more will.  On yet another note, the Stone-Campbell tradition of which Dr. Rollston has been a part has already had its hands full dealing with the latent “Marcionism” of our tradition, the urge to overlook or ignore the OT as having value as “Christian” and not just Hebrew/Jewish Scripture.  This rather imbalanced essay on the marginalization of women as a “biblical value” will do nothing to help the process of embracing the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament as “living” Scripture, not simply an irrelevant, ancient cultural artifact to use in proving how much more “progressive” we are than the ancients.  We’ve proven in the modern era that we have some pretty egregious sins of our own for which we need repentance.

      1. AlisaMRoadcup Let me correct one thing in my last post:  the Gospel is not “totally” absent in Rollston’s article, given his mention of Paul’s great statement in Gal. 3:28, but the countervailing evidence in this essay is a pathetic whimper compared to the barrage of texts demonstrating the marginalization of women as a “biblical value”

    2. AlisaMRoadcup I’m with you, Alisa. What an article like Rollston’s does well is to contrast the assumptions we bring about the world with the biblical text. In other words, the gender issue is, to some degree, just a foil—a way to illustrate that most everyone ‘disagrees’ with the text at some point. While they may uphold a ‘biblical’ view of marriage, they may not wish to uphold the dominant view of women in the Bible, just as they likely don’t uphold a ‘biblical’ view of slavery, interracial marriage, divorce, or any number of other issues.Dr. Blowers is right that the issue isn’t really one of gender and the Bible—it’s about how we all read, interpret, filter, and re-appropriate the text for our own use. Just because it’s the dominant voice in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s the ‘right’ voice. The work of Drs. Hull, Perkins, Miller, et al. rightly emphasizes the voices of liberation and equality found in the text and offer these as good news for the community of God. But that was not the intention or scope of Rollston’s article. Instead, Rollston offered a critique—a social critique—of the cultural milieu out of which our biblical texts sprouted—an intentionally anachronistic foil to highlight the way that modern “Bible-thumpers” likewise anachronistically re-appropriate the text and construct “biblical” values. The reason he mentioned so few texts that proffer women as equal to men, I suspect, has to do with their relative paucity in the biblical text.As important as the above is the fact that the article was only the *beginning* of the conversation. It was not a papal encyclical. It was meant to raise questions and eyebrows—to undercut fundamentalist approaches to the text by following their same logic ad absurdum.As a current student, I hold in high regard all of my teachers and find their respective disciplines and approaches mutually illuminating—this, I believe, is the single greatest strength of Emmanuel. However, I’m disheartened by the vitriol that seems to have surrounded this article (happily, much of it seems to have subsided) and remain skeptical that the primary concern of Rollston’s ‘detractors’ are anything but apologetic.

      1. JackWeinbender AlisaMRoadcup I appreciate the spirit of Jack’s post.  I know he is bright and conscientious and he raises some good points.  But–and Jack, you can help me with this–I’m not at all sure why one posts a critique of “Bible-Thumper” or Fundamentalist approaches to “biblical values” on Huff Post.  They don’t read it.  They’re not listening.  They’re not the ones looking to Huff Post for insight into how they should be interpreting Scripture.  It’s one of the last sources they’d be consulting. So if the mission of the article is to chasten them, it fails from the outset, and it only “benefits” or “edifies” cultural or theological progressives/liberals who already believe the Bible is a misogynistic book and who will be likely, then, simply to thank their lucky stars they weren’t born in the ancient world.  In other words, the article preaches to the choir.  Jack, I would like to hear more from you and others about what is accomplished here if the Fundamentalists are not listening.

        1. PaulBlowers It is certainly valid to question whether the HuffPost is a good point of contact with those of a fundamentalist ilk. But there are two points that I would push back against:1. *Current* fundamentalists almost certainly aren’t reading the HP, except perhaps to fuel their own fire. That said, I think there is a not inconsiderable number of disenfranchised former-evangelicals—particularly the so-called ‘Millennials’—who grew up in a religiously conservative home and have since left the faith. A recent article in my alma mater’s alumni propaganda entitled Missing the Millenials (by Gary Weedman) discusses concisely some of the possible reasons for this. Whatever the case, many leave the church during their university studies—and one major cause, I would argue, is the lack of transparency and critical reflection in many evangelical (or whatever) churches. These, I think constitute a group of very likely HuffPost readers. In other words, while they may not be “fundies,” their theological background may very well be. So I don’t think it’s inappropriate to start from that biblical predisposition, and for some of these, I think Rollston’s approach may be refreshing.2. The internet is a strange thing. And while the particular site on which an article is posted often does communicate a particular political, religious, etc. ideology (the HuffPost being a perfect example), the venue does not actually restrict access to content, it merely serves content. In a “print-world” the venue makes all the difference—when one publishes in Leaven you can expect CC/CC folks to read it, and assume that folks from other traditions won’t (with some exceptions, of course). But the internet isn’t confined in the same way—there are no [meaningful] physical artifacts to distribute, lose, buy, sell, etc. The point of entry to the HP is every article. For that reason, to some degree, the venue doesn’t matter—the venue is the internet. And sure—this is the sort thing the HP loves to push—but it’s a drop in the pond. And of course, as with all things religious on the internet, both extremes (that is, the ‘you’re going to hell’ and the ‘yeah, God sucks’ people) became loud and ridiculous in the comments section—with only a few exceptions. This is just how the internet works.Anyhow, just a couple things to chew on—I must to bed.

      2. JackWeinbender AlisaMRoadcup This is the best reading of Rollston’s article articulated yet.  It’s not about gender or the liberation of women, but rather the slaying of fundamentalist presumptions to the text.  As you said, Jack, the use of gender and the oppression of women is just that–a use.  A foil.  A means to the end of destroying fundamentalists.  Rollston could be read, in fact, to use the issue of oppression of women in the text as a mere context in which he can enact said disabusing of fundamentalists.I’m all for disabusing fundamentalists, and on occasion I’m all for abusing fundamentalists (I’m Episcopalian, for God’s sake).  But as our essay sought to articulate, Rollston ignored a considerable amount of feminist critique–including those that seek to give voice to the oppressed women in the bible, and according to you Jack, even those he uses in his course–in his quest to highlight how dumb fundamentalists really are. On the rhetorical path to his conclusion he declares that the women of the text have no voice.  Others (and not evangelicals) have argued differently.  Some among us raised our eyebrows at precisely that–not because we wish to defend fundamentalists and their oppressive use of the text, but because we thought it was problematic to use gender and women’s oppression as a foil to disabuse fundamentalists.  Keep in mind that our essay was the one that invited, if not a female authorship, women’s voices.  In fact, we started not with the “bible-thumping” boogey-man of a country club, for Christ’s sake, but a woman, giving voice to how she reads the bible and the oppression of women. 

    3. AlisaMRoadcup Hi Alisa. You may not remember me; by way of reminder we had a meal together in Johnson City with Troy Justice. I had an overpriced burger, and the service was lousy. More importantly, your post asks, “Where are the men in this tradition speaking up for women’s rights and equal participation?” Excellent question. Below I’m going to list some of the answer. I’ll limit my list to writings by men (because of your precise question) and to piano-accepting non-Disciples because that is your (and my) specific heritage within the Restoration Movement. And, of course, my list is quite incomplete and only comprised of published materials. Surely most of the speaking up has happened in unpublished form.Baker, William R. 1 Corinthians. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15.Tyndale, 2009.Baker, William R. “Let’s Work Together.” Christian Standard 128/44 (31 Oct 1993): 4-6.Bartchy, S. Scott. “Power, Submission, and Sexual Identity Among the Early Christians.” Pp. 50-80 in Essays on New Testament Christianity: A Festschrift in Honor of Dean E. Walker. Ed. C. Robert Wetzel. Standard, 1978.Blackburn, Barry L. “The Identity of the ‘Women’ in 1 Tim. 3:11.” Vol. 1, pp. 303-19 in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity. 2 Vols. Ed. Carroll D. Osburn. College Press, 1993.Crouch, Owen L. “The Image and Likeness of God.” Christian Standard 124/45 (5 Nov 1989), 9-10.Estep, James Riley Jr. “The Problem with Women.”Christian Standard 127/35 (30 Aug 1992): 13-15.Hull, Robert F. Jr. “1 Cor 7:4—Authority Over the Body.” Vol. 2, pp. 239-59 in Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity. 2 Vols. Ed. Carroll D. Osburn. College Press, 1995.Lawson, LeRoy. Galatians/Ephesians. Standard Bible Studies. Standard, 1987.Magness, Lee, “The Christological Motivation of Christian Ministry in 1 Timothy.” Leaven 13/1 (2005): 8-13.Miller, Jeffrey D. “Asking the Wrong Questions.” Priscilla Papers 24/3 (Summer 2010): 4-8.Miller, Jeffrey D. “Close Only Counts ….” Christian Standard 143/34 (Aug 24, 2008): 6-7.Miller, Jeffrey D. “Translating Paul’s Words about Women.” Stone-Campbell Journal 12/1 (spring 2009): 61-70.Miller, Jeffrey D. “What Can We Say About Phoebe?” Priscilla Papers 25/2 (spring 2011): 16-21.Miller, Jeffrey D. “Women Count,” Leaven 19/4 (2011): 222-26.Miller, Jeffrey D., and Frank Ritchel Ames. “Prayer and Syncretism in 1 Timothy.” Restoration Quarterly 52/2 (2010): 65-80, reprinted as pp. 94-111 in Women in the Biblical World: A Survey of Old and New Testament Perspectives. Vol. 2. Ed. Elizabeth A. McCabe. University Press of America, 2011.Staton, Knofel. The Biblical Liberation of Women for Leadership in the Church as One Essential for the Spiritual Formation of the Church. Wipf and Stock, 2003.Staton, Knofel. First Corinthians. Standard Bible Studies. Standard, 1987.Staton, Knofel. Jesus and Paul Agree: You Don’t Have to Stay the Way You Are. Standard, 1976.Staton, Knofel. Timothy-Philemon. Standard Bible Studies. Standard, 1988.Stepp, Perry L., and W. Hulitt Gloer. Reading Paul’s Letters to Individuals: A Literary and Theological Commentary on Paul’s Letters to Philemon, Titus, and Timothy. Reading the New Testament Series. Smyth &Helwys, 2008.Stuckenbruck, Loren T. “Why Should Women Cover Their Heads Because of the Angels? (1 Corinthians 11:10).” Stone-Campbell Journal 4/2 (fall 2001): 205-34.Wead, David W. “Reconsidering Male and Female Roles.” Christian Standard 121/18 (4 May 1986): 12-13.Webb, Joseph M. “Where is the Command to Silence? A Reexamination of Women in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.” Part 1 of 2. Christian Standard 124/21 (21 May 1989): 4-6.Webb, Joseph M. “Where is the Command to Silence? A Reexamination of Women in 1 Timothy 2:11-15.” Part 2 of 2. Christian Standard 124/22 (28 May 1989): 7-8.Womble, T. Scott. Beyond Reasonable Doubt: 95 Theses Which Dispute the Church’s Conviction Against Women. Xulon, 2008.

      1. Jeff Miller AlisaMRoadcup I highly recommend Jeff’s article “Women Count,” a magnificent treatment of the story of Jesus’s encounter with the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15 (and par.)

        1. WesArblaster PaulBlowers Jeff Miller AlisaMRoadcup leaven is available online. Google leaven & Pepperdine. Leaven’s site has a link called “electronic resources.”

    4. AlisaMRoadcup Your response is interesting on many levels, and while it threatens to personally offend me when I read it, I do have one question I’d pose to you:  two nights ago, I was at a fundraiser for IJM, listening to Gary Haugen speak about the plight of women who are victimized globally in the industries of slavery and prostitution.  What set this apart from other IJM events is that Haugen had just been in Washington, D.C., advising President Obama on this speech:'m fine with your conclusion that our essay fails in its non-mention of these kinds of issues.  But can you honestly say that Rollston’s article would have been aid to the work of IJM?  I can’t speak for IJM, of course.  But I fail to see how disabusing them of their sense that the Bible is a text that calls them to the global and longsuffering work they do on behalf of women is in any way useful.  And so I don’t know how to reconcile this with your assertion that our call to consider that the biblical text–even the horrible parts of it–can and are used as a call to work for justice on behalf of women somehow falls short of  Rollston’s call to see the text as oppressive, no more and no less.  Forgive me for being such a pragmatist, perhaps. 

    5. AlisaMRoadcup  Good to hear from you Alisa, I hope life is treating you well. It’s nice to see you weighing on the discussion. That being said, I have to say I find several of your remarks surprising. First, I’m not quite sure how you could understand what we are doing as “criticizing Rollston on the basis of rhetoric.” The basic case of our essay was that the Bible has been and continues to be hermeneutically “open” – for good or ill. To illustrate this we made several historical and hermeneutical arguments.   If you didn’t recognize them that is unfortunate, but they’re there, and they’re pretty straightforward. I also find it bizarre that despite the fact that we mentioned several times the violence done to women in the name of the Bible, along with deliberately introducing womens’ voices into the conversation (specifically those who have suffered gravely within patriarchal and racist forms of social organization) you suggest we “supersede the fact that women around the world continue to suffer violence” with “interpretive issues.” How is introducing marginalized womens’ voices into a conversation about how we read the Bible superseding the issue? And how is suggesting that the Bible has been and can continue to be used by women to strengthen their voice not taking seriously their plight? Is it better to just let professional academics like Rollston interpret the Bible for them? I fail to see it, just as I fail to see how Rollston’s approach brings hope to the basic problem of the marginalization of women. How is it hopeful for the billions of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish women around the world when they are told that the Scriptures they affirm by faith overwhelmingly condemn and marginalize them? How is it hopeful for them to believe that being faithful “people of the book” means that they must essentially reject the equal dignity of women, or visa versa? If anything, this just gives more sanction to oppressive and patriarchal forces at work within these traditions, because it legitimizes their interpretation as “authentic.” As I see it, Rollston’s words are only hopeful if you believe that the path towards the full dignity of women requires the marginalization of much of the Bible itself.  Once one recognizes that academic voices like Rollston’s have no way to speak above the fray as to “the real meaning of the Bible,” but are themselves only yet more voices seeking to be heard within traditions of interpretation, then it becomes clear that, hermeneutically and ethically speaking, Rollston’s article serves more harm than good. The fact that he fails to show how people of faith can read the Bible in such a way that upholds the dignity of women fails to aid those billions of women who actually look to the Bible as a source of hope and guidance.

      1. WesArblaster AlisaMRoadcup Funny to think that ALL this discussion would’ve knocked Alexander Campbell’s socks off.  LOL

  17. Once again, folks, do let me know if anyone’s comment disappears in the course of things.  We’re a small operation by ‘web standards, and between paper-grading and committee work, I’m always at risk to miss a straying comment if nobody points that out to me.

  18. Dr. Rollston told the truth in a very well researched and well-written article. He was then chastised for telling the truth because his institution has an agenda that Dr. Rollston went against.  ECS wants to fire Rollston and has been looking for a way to do it. Their main reason is money; they are being squeezed, and so they picked him as the sacrificial lamb.  It is difficult to fire a tenured professor without cause, so the Seminary invented a cause.  Dr. Rollston has many friends and professional colleagues who will stand with him. Should he be fired, ECS will reap the whirlwind.

  19. The first and foremost problem is the misunderstanding of the biblical text containing the commandment ‘thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife…’ it is not listing her as property but making a list to get the idea across that what your neighbor has is NOT yours to desire. There is nothing in that passage that indicates that women are being listed as property but those who, like Dr. Rollston, have a feminist agenda or listen to secular culture over God’s word are reading into the text what is there.
    grubbsey is wrong. Dr. Rollston did not tell the truth and in fact skipped passages where it teaches how women are to be treated. Eph 6 comes to mind as Paul tells the church at Ephesus that men are to love their wives as Jesus loves the church. In reading Dr. Rollston’s paper it is quite clear that he has gone over to the heretical side and does not belong in any christian institution or even a Sunday school class until he repents and returns to God.
    Dr. Rollston uses a lot of techniques to dissect the Biblical passages but one he forgot to use is the one Jesus said to follow–The Holy Spirit. John 14 & 16 speak of this.  This is the most important aid a believer needs when looking at God’s word. Without the Holy Spirit as your guide, then all the tools in the world used for biblical exegesis are useless.

  20. The first and foremost problem is themisunderstanding of the biblical text containing the commandment ‘thoushalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife…’ it is not listing her asproperty but making a list to get the idea across that what yourneighbor has is NOT yours to desire. There is nothing in that passagethat indicates that women are being listed as property but those who,like Dr. Rollston, have a feminist agenda or listen to secular cultureover God’s word are reading into the text what is not there.grubbseyis wrong. Dr. Rollston did not tell the truth and in fact skippedpassages where it teaches how women are to be treated. Eph 6 comes tomind as Paul tells the church at Ephesus that men are to love theirwives as Jesus loves the church. In reading Dr. Rollston’s paper it isquite clear that he has gone over to the heretical side and does notbelong in any christian institution or even a Sunday school class untilhe repents and returns to God.Dr. Rollston uses a lot oftechniques to dissect the Biblical passages but one he forgot to use isthe one Jesus said to follow–The Holy Spirit. John 14 & 16 speak ofthis.  This is the most important aid a believer needs when looking atGod’s word. Without the Holy Spirit as your guide, then all the tools inthe world used for biblical exegesis are useless.

    1. Dr David Tee I don’t see how people like you actually function in life.  You seem to live in a bubble. “gone over to the heretical side” – good grief; is this Star Wars?  Anyone with a sense of objectivity who reads the Bible from cover to cover can see that women are given a raw deal, overall. True, there are a few rare exceptions, but in the main, women are second class citizens in God’s Word. I am quite correct when I said that Dr. Rollston told the truth. Like any literary work, what he wrote is open to fair criticism; to peer review.  However, to brand him a heretic makes me think that if anyone is a heretic, it is Dr. David Tee. Let’s burn him at the stake.

      1. grubbsey There is no “Dr” in David’s life. Dr David Tee He is an internet troll that goes from blog to blog to blog proclaiming that he alone is right.

      2. grubbsey There is no “Dr” in David’s life. Dr David Tee He is an internet troll that goes from blog to blog to blog proclaiming that he alone is right.

        1. eJoelWatts grubbsey Dr David Tee Thou shalt NOT bear false witness. Please stop lying about me.

        2. Dr David Tee eJoelWatts grubbsey Who are you then, Dr. David Tee?  Do you have an earned PhD? If so, from what institution in in what field?  What is your interest and intent in this discussion?  Do you have any connection with the Taliban?  Would you like to institute sharia law in the U.S.?

      3. grubbsey Dr David Tee What raw deal? Eph. 5:25 instructs men to love their wives as Christ loved the church, that is a pretty good deal.  No just because you, Dr. Rollston and those who support him read into scripture what isn’t there and then draw conclusions from your assumptions doesn’t mean women got a raw deal.
        He wrote a very heretical paper, one that leads many to sin. That is not something to be applauded. True Christians are to follow the Holy Spirit to the truth and then proclaim that. Doing anything other than that means that they are not the light unto the world like Jesus said they were to be and the world suffers for it.
        Dr. Rollston basically told the world that God was wrong, and that man’s ideas were greater than His. He also said that the Bible was worthless and not the standard for the world to follow. That is heretical and very wrong. Dr. Rollston did not tell the truth but enabled attacks upon God and the Bible to be refreshed and renewed.
        P.S.  Objectivity is impossible and NOT a command from God or Jesus. Try honesty instead and then maybe you will see something you missed.

        1. Dr David Tee grubbsey I’m not going to waste my time on a fanatic like you. You have no idea what the truth is; you live in your own personal darkness.  I hope you wake up and see the Bible for what it is. Actually, I think you are just pulling my leg.  Good luck.

        2. grubbsey  What a weird person you are. If you have nothing to contribute to the discussion, why post? Why would I be a fanatic? Is it because I disagree with you?  
          I do not see where women are marginalized in the Bible? There can only be 1 leader and in the family, in the church, in life God chose men. That does not make women second class, it simply means that they have a different role. Just like baseball, not everyone can be the captain of the team, there would just be confusion.
          The same goes for life. We do not elect 2 presidents, 3 prime ministers etc., we elect 1. The same for the family and church. There cannot be 2 leaders or confusion will reign.
          Women are not demoted but again, simply given a lesser role. If men make women second class then that is man’s choice not God’s command.

        3. Dr David Tee grubbsey  Would you be happy if your wife was the family leader, God made you for her, you had the babies, she loved you as Christ loved the church, but you had to obey her. You have to be silent in church and ask her any questions you have after church. She can have leadership positions in church, but you cannot.  She can teach in church, but you cannot.  There have been many matriarchal societies over time – I guess they didn’t get the memo. Oh, and you are the weaker vessel.  Any way you slice it, women in general are secondary and inferior so says the Bible and God’s command.  Give it up, Mr. “T”.   I till think you are kidding around – no one would be as blind to the truth as you.

        4. Dr David Tee  Mr. Tee, your problem is that you are trying to make God’s voice univocal when, if the Scriptures teach us anything, it’s that the textual remains or interpretations of God’s voice can only be found in the plural. Scripture doesn’t speak monolithically about this, or really any, subject. At times within the biblical witness, I am sorry to say, women are treated as chattel (cf. Dr. Rollston’s HP article). At other points along the trail, however, they are lifted up. And the fact that this happens most notably in the gospels and Paul is a happy one, setting quite a standard for Christian egalitarianism. The Bible is a conversation — life, theology, and ministry happens when we join in.Oh and I just can’t resist. Mr. Tee, if you keep trolling this thread (and others) as you have been, this will continue to be a pretty darned apt meme:

        5. grubbsey That is a moot point and you are not providing anything constructive. Just because there have been matriarchal societies doesn’t mean they are right or the correct way to go. 
          Women get to teach women so they are not deprived of that profession, women get to work and there are so many other ways for them to contribute. But you make it sound like women were mere ornaments pulled out to be shown off when the husband’s friends came by.
          you and rollston are so far from the truth especially given the definition of a good woman in Proverbs. there is a lot women can do but you do not see it as you want women to become men.

        6. Danny Yencich Its Dr. tee and if you want me to take you seriously then use the title. I earned it. Oh and I am not a troll but you want to place labels on me so it is easier to dismiss what I have to say and so you can continue to pursue your sinful lifestyle.
          I have yet to fin din scripture where women were treated as chattel, second class or as inferiors. Jesus certainly didn’t teach it, God didn’t nor did the disciples or Paul. There is order in God’s kingdom and leadership was determined by God thus advocating that God lied or is wrong is sin. 
          The Bible applies to all aspects of life today just as it did 2, 000 years ago.

        7. Dr David Tee grubbsey You didn’t answer my questions, Dr. Tee. You brushed aside the other points. You cannot face reality, Dr. Tee, the reality that you are wrong.  God wants you to be honest, Dr. Tee and you are being dishonest; therefore, you are repugnant in his sight. You will burn in Hell forever and ever and ever and ever and ever; you are a heretic. Just kidding – just like you.

        8. grubbsey Haven’t done anything. the discussion is not about me but rollston and his rejection of the bible.

  21. I should note, for clarity’s sake, that the grubbsey commenting below is not identical with David Grubbs, one of our podcast’s hosts.

  22. I have to say I think this conversation is a good thing. I agree with the three responders that the scriptures are redeemable. Any attempt to say “this is what the Bible says” (if it comes from a position of faith or reason) is unhelpful. As far as the Huffpost piece, I am glad someone from ESR/ECS is taking a feminist position, although he might have been a little unhelpful. The larger issue for me is the full equality of women in the Church. The Scriptures will do this if we let the Holy Spirit speak through them. Sorry had to refer to something from the Westminster Confession for all my Stone Campbell folks.

    1. Phil Rutledge  Phil, excuse me, but your directive “let the Holy Spirit speak through them” is completely nebulous and questionable to many well-meaning people.  Does the HS actually speak to you audibly in your head?  What’s his/her voice sound like?  If audible, would the HS speak the same words to me and to my Hindu friend?  When you base a decision or meaning on whether or not the Holy Spirit is talking to you seems to me to be a bit spooky.  I say this in all seriousness.  I am seeking insight into what this actually means and its consistency and reliability.  Thanks.

      1. grubbsey– No because you and your Hindu friend do not know Jesus or the Holt Spirit. 
        as for PR’s statement, feminism is not a scriptural teaching and has no place in the church. Women do not have the same role as men but that doesn’t make them unequal.  The idea of equality = same duty is a sinful one that has no place3 in the church

        1. Dr David Tee   Dr. Tee, Would you please follow-up and list a few of the distinctive women’s roles in the church. I infer from your statement that “women do not have the same role as men” that you believe women have some roles that men don’t have.

        2. Jeff Miller Do you mean professionally?  I know people will disagree with what I have to say but women can teach children, ladies and widows but not as a professional minister.
          of course there is being a deaconess or prophetess, these aren’t ministerial roles and women can enjoy these roles.
          leading a church–no. I am sure you can go through the lists in the NT and find where women have a place in the church other than the ones I listed.

        3. Dr David Tee Thank you for your reply. To answer your opening question, I didn’t only mean professional roles. I’d like to point out that the five roles you mention–teach children, teach women, teach widows, deacon(ess), prophet(ess)–can also be performed by men. Therefore they are not distinctively women’s roles. Would you please mention a few women-specific roles, big or small, professional or non-professional?

        4. Jeff Miller Really/ A man can be a deaconess? Biblical teaching left women in charge of teaching widows.  Women were not created to be leaders so if you are looking for leadership positions then there are none.

        5. Dr David Tee I put the “ess” of deaconess in parentheses because there is no distinction in the NT between the two forms. The word “deacon” (diakonos) can refer to a man or a woman in the NT. The feminine ending “ess” (Greek “issa”) is a later development. To answer your question, then, a man cannot be a deaconess because that goes against the definition of a modern gender-specific Engllish word, but a woman can be a deacon and be in line with the definition of a first-century gender-inclusive Greek word.
          Moving on, do you believe it is unbiblical for a man to teach a widow? Surely Paul, Timothy, Titus, and other men taught widows in the first century. In fact, in 1 Timothy 5:5-7 male Paul tells male Timothy to instruct widows. Clearly modern male preachers are free to address widows as well. Thus you still haven’t named a role that is reserved for women.

        6. Jeff Miller–
          Didn’t say that did I? Obviously male pastors teach all but you asked a question of me then went on to give your opinion without waiting for my reply and you did not   mention Titus 2:3-4 which directly charges older women to teach younger ones. But I think you are merely quote mining to split hairs and make a false point.
          Women were not created to be leaders and God has order in His kingdom and women do not fill the leadership roles. They are not being marginalized but given different duties to perform.
          As for the ‘modern’ invention of deaconesses, I would suggest you provide evidence for its origin and prove that God did not approve of having women look after women needs in the church. 
          I would question your application of the Greek word and your idea that a woman can be a deacon. The instructions given for those who hold that office exclude women from participating.
          Women cannot be deacons, they cannot be elders, they cannot be pastors. You are looking for specific roles given only to women to make the claim that they are equal but do they have to be given specific roles to not be marginalized? Of course NOT. They have roles and just because men also fill the male side of those positions doesn’t mean that women are excluded from participating in the church or that they are unequal or marginalized.
          You just do not like God’s order of things.

        7. Dr David Tee Thank you for the engaging dialogue. You have been clear about what women cannot do. You have been clear that they have certain roles. I’m asking what those roles are. Teaching widows … Men can do that too. Teaching younger women … Men can do that too. Let me ask it a third way: if a congregation had no women, what roles could thus not be filled in that congregation?

        8. Jeff Miller– I have told you what those roles are.  I will say this, men may be able to do SOME teaching to widows and young ladies but there are certain lessons they cannot teach to them. That is a specific role for women. You did notice the absence of the word ‘men’ and other male gendered words from those passages did you not? 
          According to Dr. Rollston’s logic, then those passages were written for women and marginalizing men because men were not mentioned nor given the duty to teach young widows and women.
           Other roles include those spiritual gifts that women are given to contribute to the health of the church. Just because men can do them doesn’t mean God will only use men or that there are no specific roles for a woman.
          Again you ignore the primary duty of a woman which is being a helpmeet for her husband. That is a large duty which frees men up to do other tasks.
          If you are looking for an excuse to put women in leadership roles, none will be found.  I have no problem with deaconesses as it gives some women a sort of authority to help other women and tells the non-deaconesses that these spiritual women are under the authority of the church making the deaconesses tasks a little easier.
          If you want to claim that women are unequal or marginalized by biblical verses then you would be as wrong as Dr. Rollston as both of you do not understand what God wants and how He runs His Church. Women are NOT leaders of men.

        9. Dr David Tee So you contend that men can sometimes perform roles specifically assigned to women. Would you be willing, therefore, to say that women can sometimes perform roles specifically assigned to men?
          Thank you for associating me with Dr. Rollston; I regard him quite highly.

        10. Jeff Miller–Don’t twist my words to fit what you want. I never said that. And  NO women cannotperform roles specifically assigned to men.
           It wasn’t a compliment.

        11. Dr David Tee Though you would prefer not to compliment me, I choose to be optimistic and take some of your words as complimentary. I hope that doesn’t offend you.
          This next comment is not to Dr. Tee, for I believe he and I are at an impasse. For any interested parties, my point concerns the common claim that women and men are equal yet have different roles in the church. The fallacy of this claim is revealed when one realizes that there are no roles distinctive to women. Thus what is meant by “men’s roles” is “roles filled by men only,” and what is meant by “women’s roles” is “roles filled by women and also by men.” A striking and oppressive inconsistency! The roles language is a euphemism for what is really meant: man’s role is to lead, women’s role is to follow. Now I suspect this is precisely what Dr. Tee believes, and so his use of role language is not deceptive. But for most Christian complementarians, the role language serves to hide the truth.

        12. Jeff Miller–Please do not speak for me as you over-simplify the whole issue. Not all men are leaders in the church thus they follow  as  well.You have the false notion that men can do the woman’s role ignoring the fact that men were not directed to teach young widows or ladies, women were.
          You are trying to distort and confuse the issue by adding in the word ‘men’ when it doesn’t belong. Woman are given spiritual gifts and those gifts also define their role in the church, even though men may have the same gift and similar role, men can’t do everything alone. Though those gifts do not promote women to pastoral or other leadership positions.
          There is no inconsistency, but you are reading one into the issue. Oh and no you can’t take my words for more than what they were. They were not complimentary and should not be used as such. To do so just provides evidence of your distortion of other people’s words for your own purpose. Dr. Rollston has said God and the Bible are wrong, that is not a good thing to be associated with.

        13. Dr David Tee Fall break is over, so I’m returning to lurker status. Once again, Dr. Tee, I hope you don’t find it overly frustrating if I persist in taking some of your words as complimentary. Thank you for associating me with Dr Rollston, whom I respect as I do Dr Blowers. Thank you for engaging my questions on this site, a place for more in-depth discussion than most Internet venues. Thank you for prompting me to think clearly about my own position. Finally, thank you for the zeal with which you hold your views, though I wholeheartedly disagree with them.

        14. I have been following this discussion, and as one of those who wrote the original response to Dr. Rollston I feel that it is important to note that  Dr. Tee exemplifies what we originally spoke of.  As I see it, Dr. Tee, your suggestion that women should be prohibited from serving as leaders, teachers, and shepherds in the church seems to me to be an example of simply “too little, too late.” It’s “too little” because what you have so far provided in defense of your opinion involves a very selective and myopic interpretation of scripture. You have, for instance, failed to provide any solid grounding for your claims rooted in the narrative of the Gospel or the witness of the Spirit, nor in the nature of God, the human being in light of God, or the person and work of Christ. Because of this your prohibitions do not seem to have solid root and smack of the “letter of the law” which Paul warns us in 2 Corinthians 3 “kills” rather brings life. Your argument also appears “too late” because it ignores the fact that women are currently serving in all the areas you say that they “can’t” and are doing so effectively. In the face of this undeniable fact that women do exercise leadership, you may still protest and claim that they “shouldn’t,” but that rings rather hollow when by their leadership we are seeing that “the good news is being proclaimed to the poor, freedom is being proclaimed to the prisoners, recovery of sight to the blind, and the oppressed are being set free.”  In other words, whether you like it or not, they are serving as powerful servants of God’s in and through what they do as leaders.  In responding to this I do warn you to be careful lest you claim that “it is by the prince of demons that they are casting out demons.”  We know what Jesus said about that: a house divided against itself cannot stand, and it is surely a great spiritual danger to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.   I do pray that perhaps like Peter, you will be provided your own “Cornelius encounter” so that you may know for yourself that Spirit has indeed been poured upon all flesh, and that you may one day echo Peter in declaring “God has taught me not to call anyone impure or unclean.”  Until then I encourage you to dive more deeply into scripture and prayer, seeking with genuine humility what God is saying to the churches.

        15. WesArblaster — It is not I who needs the humbleness, you r bad use of scripture tells us that you miss the point and cannot distinguish between legalism and simple obedience.
          God said ‘Why do ye call me Lord, Lord and do not do the things I say?’ Dismissing what secular culture wants and doing what God wants is not legalism but sticking to the straight and narrow.
          All I see in your post is you trying to give yourself excuses and justifications to ignore God’s commands and teachings and follow after what you want to do.
          You can’t say God and the Bible are wrong in 1 Timothy 2:15 but correct in John 3:16. That is cherry picking and arrogance. You also can’t say God is wrong for them you promote yourself to a position higher than Him and the devil got cast out of heaven for doing that. You also demote God to a fallible, sinful being in need of a Savior. (Thus your belief in John 3:16 is out the window).
          You either stand with God or you don’t. You either believe His words regardless of what secular science and the world says or you side with the devil and don’t believe God.
          I wonder how much more of an impact the church would make if they dumped all secular and false teachings and got back to God’s word?

        16. Jeff Miller–So instead of taking the truth and dealing with your false ideas you lie to yourself and distort my words so you can feel good, is that about right?
          I can’t respect people who call God and the Bible wrong yet maintain that they are followers of His. 
          You and everyone else here need to learn the following: EVEN IF God marginalized women in the Bible, it doesn’t make Him wrong or immoral. It is HIS KINGDOM not yours, not the academic world’s, not the unbeliever’s and HE gets to make the rules. All YOU get to do is accept or reject them and if you reject them and God call wrong or a liar then you are NOT of God but of the devil.
          Scholarly rules do not apply in God’s kingdom and if they or you all disagree with the Bible, then it is NOT the Bible that is in error. I doubt that if any of you were drowning would reject  aid simply because there were no women employed as life guards and the rules stated none could become one. DON”T be idiots with the Bible.
          You do not get to stand in judgement of God or His Word. God did not give man authority over the Bible

        17. Dr David Tee grubbsey But Master Tee, the roles are unequal.  You can say that a slave and a master have different roles, but they are equal in God’s eyes. In fact, the Bible implores slaves to obey their masters as it implores wives to obey their husbands.  Would you be happy with the slave “role” even if in God’s sight, you were equal to the master? Some roles are “more equal” than others.

        18. grubbsey– I do not think you understand anything about equality. you are looking at status or social positioning and trying to make a point about gender roles and it doesn’t work.
           your idea of being equal means they get to do the same job but that is not the case. someone has to be a follower you can’t have everyone as a leader, it just doesn’t work. 
          it is also far from the point Dr. Rollston was trying to make. he is leaping to the conclusion that just because a wife was mentioned with property that she was considered property BUT he has no evidence to support that assumption.
          he tries to use syntax, grammar as evidence but that doesn’t work for it doesn’t change the fact that it is wrong to lust after your neighbor’s wife. The question you have to answer is–Does God have to be redundant to make His point to all humans?
          if He does, then you people are not as smart as you think you are.

        19. Dr David Tee grubbsey Thanks for the response, but in my view you do not understand equality.  I agree with your leader/follower example, but that isn’t a universal principle. There have been successful egalitarian societies with females leading some of the time, and males leading other times.  There have also been successful matriarchal societies. I realize you will nit pick “successful,” but what else can you do?
          Regarding Dr. Rollston concluding that women were considered property because they were listed in a group of items that were property, that does not seem like a leap to conclusions to me; the context was clear.
           In tax records in America in the 1800s, columns were drawn for “land”, “horses”, “cattle”, “slaves”, hogs” etc.  Would it be a ‘leap to conclusion’ to take away from such records that “slaves” were considered on par with “horses”, “cattle”, etc., that is, property?  The records didn’t list wives or children in those columns, so progress was made over the years.  I know because I have copies of these records for my own family.  My ggg-grandfather owned two slaves and gave them away to two different people in his Will. 
          I suppose Thomas Jefferson is being tortured in Hell for eternity since he did not believe in the divinity of Christ among many other mainstream Christian doctrines part of which is documented in the Nicene Creed. He  even cut-and-pasted his own Bible, “The Jefferson Bible.”  He was such a bright fellow, but he didn’t repent from this sin, so I guess he’s burning right now, and tomorrow and tomorrow and for evermore. 
          BTW: How do you know how smart “we people” think we are?  Did you have a revelation?

        20. grubbsey Your logic makes no sense. You point to  sinful disobedient societies to say make your point that it is okay to be sinful and disobedient. I do not care if the society was successful or not, that has nothing to d with it. 
          Your point you are making is, see that greedy person over there, he is successful so it is okay to be greedy. 
          You are using the wrong criteria and wrong examples to justify your sinful disobedient attitudes and beliefs.

        21. Dr David Tee grubbsey You punched the ‘tar baby’ Dr. Tee. Note that I predicted you would nit pick the word “successful”.  It is you logic that is faulty. Successful in this context clearly means “for the common good.” Your example of “greedy” is a straw man.  I used a list example that mirrors the Bible. It proves the point, but you do not have the gonads to give credit where it is due.  You are a fraud.

        22. grubbsey–Your reading comprehension is off. I did no such thing and in fact, did not mention success at all.  As I read you post, you make no sense whatsoever. I made no straw man but illustrated my point. it does look like you are the one without the gonads because you couldn’t defend your points but went to false accusations.
          Your example doesn’t prove the point because you do not know the intent of God and assume that what some farmer did God does. Listing women with property doesn’t make her property but you won’t acknowledge that  given the fact that the rest of the verse includes husbands in the list.
          Read the whole verse and as I mention above, the word ‘anything’ is used and includes husbands.Your argument is moot as is Dr. Rollston’s.

        23. Dr David Tee grubbsey You’ve proved to me that you are a nut. My example obviously proves the point. The fact is you won’t accept defeat, and you are defeated.

        24. grubbsey–If all you can do is a personal attack then you are only describing yourself. Your example does not prove any point for it does NOT speak about God and His intent with the commandment.
          It speaks about one human slave owner who considered his slaves property and has no bearing on God at all. It also doesn’t speak for all slave owners. Your logic and example fail because of the limited example being used to paint a generality.
          Also, you did not consider that the slave owner may be in disobedience to God rendering the slave owner’s list moot.  You have things backwards where you use sinful, fallible people as the ultimate standard for the divine and infallible, sinless God.
          Sinful humans do not set the standard nor declare what is right or wrong. God does that and if people like you and Dr. Rolston think you are greater than God then it s you who have the problem not God.
          Putting women in a list does NOT make them property, no matter how hard you try to make them such. It is clear that you are reading the verse the way you want to read it and you remind me of those atheists who declare that the Bible teaches the earth s flat or that the sun revolves around the earth because of certain terminology God uses.
          You and they ignore the fact that God wrote in a style using words everyone would understand and does not teach that women are property, that the earth is flat or that the sun revolves around the earth. But it is useless to tell them differently as like you, they have made up their minds and won’t listen to reason.
          Dr. Rollston is wrong and needs to be disciplined for his heretical views.

        25. Dr David Tee grubbsey 
           All taxed items are owned.
          This list contains taxed items.
          Women are in this list.
          Therefore, women are owned. 
           Your limiting of God’s Holy Word in your “one human slave owner” biblical reference to a specific case and not general applicability makes you a heretic, Dr. Tee, and you must be disciplined for it.  God will take care of that as you know.  Let me know how it goes.

        26. grubbseyThe only person limiting God are you, Dr. Rollston and others like you two. You have to have scripture say what you want it to say so you have justification for rejecting Jesus and the Bible and for something to complain about.

        27. Dr David Tee grubbsey Weak, weak, weak, Dr. Tee. When confronted with facts, you make up your own.  You’ve just about dried up. “The facts, M’am, just give me the facts.”

        28. grubbsey–Personal attacks do not warrant responses but in this case I will make an exception. I gave you the facts but you ignored them. You think God follows secular, sinful, fallible slave owners and you have it wrong.
          I do not know why you are continuing to post here, you have added nothing to the discussion except insults and snide remarks.

        29. Dr David Tee grubbsey And you, Dr. Tee?  You make statements about me that are out of left field. No, they are out of the ballpark.  You are a sanctimonious, self-appointed interpreter of scripture, and you fail miserably at it.   I have no idea why you keep trolling around website taking on this personna, and I have no idea why you continue posting here. You have had nothing constructive to say.

      2. @grubbsey  I will try to give you some insight. I refered to the Westminster Confession of Faith: “The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of counsels, opinions of ancient writers, doctines of men and private spirits are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other than the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”

        1. Phil Rutledge Thanks for the serious answer, but I am afraid I am still completely baffled. I looked up and read a little of the WCF  Wow, 33 chapters. So, what group of men wrote the WCF, and who authorized them to make a final and authoritative interpretation of scripture?  Why isn’t the Mormon religion the authoritative one? They claim it is. Or, the Roman Catholic religion? Or, Orthodox Judaism?  Or Islam?
          You see, the truth is that there is NO writing that is inspired of God, much less being God’s word. That is especially true of the Bible. One only has to read it with an open mind, and a bit of common sense to know it is a total work of human beings reflecting their times and their worldview.  
          Their is no Holy Spirit.  There IS a spirit of man; it is you mind. There is no Spirit being or entity separate from you imagination.  When you die, it all goes away for you, but others have their own spiritual world within their own minds.  And, for most of us, it is a loving, wonderful world of selflessness and a feeling of oneness with nature. 
          Can you imagine a God that would require the awful murdering of his son to atone for the sins of two people who never existed?  That’s exactly what millions of people believe in error.  The Genesis creation myths are just that, myths just like in hundreds if not thousands of other cultures with their own creation myths. 
           There was no Adam and Eve. Science has shown overwhelmingly that human evolution is factual, like it or not. We humans are primates that evolved from the Great Apes some 6 million years ago.  Chimpanzees and Bonobos are our current living “cousins” (DNA).  These are facts, yet church and theology leaders refuse to embrace them and to teach that truth to their congregations.  To me, that is living in darkness, and basing one’s life on mythology and untruth.
          I won’t mention all the other incredulous practices in the Christian and other religions. They are just too barbaric to even contemplate.  I’ll mention twp: the Eucharist. which is cannibalism; and the Trinity which is polytheism. There are many more.
          Feeling sad for everyone here, especially “Dr” Tee.

        2. grubbsey Phil Rutledge I like the part where something is “especially” not true.  Would you say that it has a “plethora” of not true?

        3. grubbsey Phil Rutledge Since I can’t like my own, comment, I’m commenting again to say how much I like my own comment.  I mean, I made a freakin’ Three Amigos joke, for God’s sake.

        4. grubbsey–the only person you should feel sad for is yourself. There is a Holy Spirit and Jesus refers to Him in John 14 & 16. The rest of your comments just tell me that it is time to bow out of discussing with you

  23. So, the only people truly defending the unGraceful action, the unScriptural action, by PaulBlowers are the likes of Young Earth Creationist, false something-hd, anti-woman Dr David Tee, and the Hitler obsessed, homophobic Roger Pearse. 
    Excuse me if I remember the adage that we are the company we keep. It is time for PaulBlowers to do the Christian thing, be reconciled to each other, and go and pray.

    1. eJoelWatts PaulBlowers Dr David Tee Ad hominem much?
      Please go back and actually read Pearse’s argument.  It’s actually a fairly smart counter to some of the more commonly repeated arguments contra Blowers.  I know it’ll take a few minutes, but it should be worth your while.

      1. ngilmour I’ve read the argument, but I’ve also read more things by Pearse. His argument is of the same line – if we do this, we will be Nazi Germany. His other writings are the homophobic, racial undertoned ones. Character matters, I would think. Immoral company, after all, corrupts morals.

        1. eJoelWatts ngilmour I’m gonna hafta question your police work there, Mort.
          Reread the paragraphs that use words like “Aryan” and such.  How are those words being deployed rhetorically?
          And no, I’ve not read his whole blog.  Being a professor, it turns out, requires some time commitment on my part, and I’ve not gotten around to that yet. 🙂

        2. ngilmour Before I can fully respond, you need to read the rest of his blog and note his debate tactics. It seems regardless of the situation, Nazi Germany will be brought in. Further, anyone to the left of him comes out to be an agnostic. 
          The point is simple – before one rushes to shout the victory about support, one should really, really check out where this support is coming from.

        3. eJoelWatts ngilmour In that case, I’ll have to be content not seeing your response.  I do apologize for my inability to dedicate that much time and effort to this.

        4. ngilmour eJoelWatts Come on, you write long blog posts on a nearly-daily basis.  It seems disingenuous to plead a lack of time whenever somebody tries to ask you to do a little more research before you ally yourself with certain Internet personalities.  I furthermore find it bizarre that none of the professed egalitarians here have seen fit to murmur even a word of disagreement with “Dr David Tee.”

        5. AdrienneAkins You’re right, Adrienne.  I’m disingenuous.  I’m venal.  I’m vain.  I’m really not that great a human being, but I hate to inform you that I see that in the mirror every morning; you’re not the first to notice.
          And if you believe Thom Stark, our essay is “a bloviating, self-important, contemptuous, slanderous, malignant, condescending, pretentious, cynically dishonest, and ironically oblivious piece of garbage.”  And according to Jim Linville, I’m a “Mascu-Klansman.”  And according to Roger Wollsey (whose book did not receive a glowing review on this site), I’m hate-filled.  And according to some, I hate Kant more than I love Jesus.  And according to others, I’m an ethically empty windbag who doesn’t care whether I live the life of a Christ-folower.  And so on and so on.  
          Why do I not respond to Dr. Tee?  Same reason I don’t respond to these others.  I don’t have time to fight trolls.  Does that make me disingenuous?  If so, that sin is going to have to get in line.  Fact of the matter is that I’m a deeply immoral being, and I confess that every morning, before the sun rises.  If that makes me unworthy of attention, great.  I’d only disappoint those seeking moral perfection.
          In fact, I regret that those seeking the writings of the perfect have wasted their time reading anything I’ve written.  I hope folks find some good blogs by the righteous to replace this one.

        6. ngilmour AdrienneAkins   I don’t think any of those things about you.  I am confused about your reaction here.  Do you feel I am attacking you?  If so, I am sorry.  I could understand, perhaps, not respoonding to the personal attacks.  Your response (in Pearse’s case) and lack of response (in Tee’s case) to those agreeing with you is what puzzles me.

        7. ngilmour AdrienneAkins I don’t think any of those things about you. I am confused about your reaction here. Do you feel I am attacking you? If so, I am sorry. I could understand, perhaps, not responding to the personal attacks. Your response (in Pearse’s case) and lack of response (in Tee’s case) to those agreeing with you is what puzzles me.

        8. AdrienneAkins That is because I restrict my comments to the truth and they can’t refute that.  Secular culture does not interpret God’s word nor restrict its application. What God said the church was to do 2,000 years ago, the church is to do today.
          What is wrong 2,000 years ago is wrong today. Women were not to be pastors 2,000 years ago they are not to be pastors today. Culture doesn’t change God’s rules.

        9. AdrienneAkins Looks like his “guilt bat” trick worked, Adrienne, and you fell for it. We all feel so sorry for him now.

        10. Dr David Tee AdrienneAkins God said for the men at the city gate to stone the rebellious, disobedient son to death.  Gee, my older brother would have been killed long ago is we believed what you just proclaimed.  
          I think I stumbled into a thicket of theological mumbo-jumbo and I’m getting out while the getting is good.  Please enjoy continuing your shameful nonsense.

        11. grubbsey Dr David Tee  Here’s the thing Tee doesn’t speak for Christianity. Women were leaders – big leaders – in the early Church. He doesn’t read it like that so he doesn’t believe it – regardless of what Scripture actually says and what Tradition actually teaches. 
          ngilmour is correct – Tee is a troll. No need to engage him because the more you do, the more he gets to spout off his anti-Christian message.

        12. AdrienneAkins Oh, I’ve only dabbled in Kant.  I don’t really have enough background to have a strong position.  That was from an exchange with some fairly vocal Emergent-types who thought I was being excessively postmodernist.

        13. Dr David Tee ngilmour Certainly I do listen to the wrong people, Mr. Tee.  All the time.  So do you.  And if you think you’re immune to that, you’re a great fool indeed.

        14. eJoelWatts  You do not understand the role of women in the early church but since you do not believe Moses you will not believe Jesus and we see that evidenced every time you write,

        15. ngilmour  you would have to make a list to see if you are correct. if you listen to false teachers, unbelievers then you are listening to the wrong people. if you lump all who claim to be christian under the christian banner then you are listening to the wrong people.
          People who do not listen to and believe Moses’ words are not Christian.

        16. Dr David Tee No, I just don’t believe in you. “Oh, so now you’re Moses?” 
          Tee, I served with Moses. I knew Moses. Moses was a friend of mine. Tee, you’re no Moses.

        17. AdrienneAkins my egalitarianism is more than professed, and I think Dr. Tee is a troll whose arguments are their own defeat.

        18. My egalitarianism is more than professed, and I think Dr. Tee’s arguments are their own defeat.

        19. MicahBWeedman AdrienneAkins That is fair.  I am still glad people expressed their disagreement, as the self-defeating nature of his arguments has become more obvious.

        20. MicahBWeedman AdrienneAkins Don’t know why our site ate Adrienne’s comment, but at 12:15 this afternoon she wrote thus:
          “That is fair.  I am still glad people expressed their disagreement, asthe self-defeating nature of his arguments has become more obvious.”

        21. eJoelWatts Dr David Tee The name is Dr. Tee to you. A bad play on a late senatoir’s words.

      2. ngilmour And likewise, I’ve already posted something to Pearse on my blog, among other posts about this shameful example of Christian fellowship to the world.

        1. ngilmour It is rather that the Grace we demand, the fairness we seek, would save us all from the sliding down into the control given to the thought police who lurk in the shadows, discovering the frailest example of impure thought, and upon finding what they pride themselves on as the destroy of worlds, blowing it out of portion.

        2. eJoelWatts ngilmour What Watts doesn’t understand about Grace is that grace does NOT eliminate discipline from responding to the wrong action. Grace is applied after true repentance has bee done by the offender. Discipline is to bring about repentance.
          So far I have not seen Dr. Rollston repent from his heretical ways nor retracted his offending statements. ECS is correct in disciplining Dr. Rollston

      3. ngilmour eJoelWatts PaulBlowers Dr David Tee I’m not that familiar with blog discussions but do they all typically devolve into pointing fingers, ad hominem attacks, charges of heresy, and spiritual depravity?  When this conversation began it was about a defined topic of discussion related to an exchange concerning how scripture should be interpreted and evaluated concerning questions of women’s rights and women’s dignity.  Where are we now?  I’m just wondering if I need to consider it a fundamental law of internet discourse that it disintegrates into endless rambling and name calling.  The question just came to mind about how Dante would depict internet bloggers if he were to write the Inferno today.  BTW: Don’t take that personally, its just a joke.

        1. WesArblaster ngilmour eJoelWatts PaulBlowers Dr David Tee All the time? No. We’ve had some very good discussions here at CHB, I think. Sometimes? Sure.
          And if we’re going to go Dante, I’d prefer to think that Internet brawlers are headed to the Purgatorial rings of the Wrathful and the Prideful, but I’ve always found the middle Canticle more compelling than the first. 🙂

        2. ngilmour WesArblaster eJoelWatts PaulBlowers Dr David Tee  Drawn to purgatorio for literary or theological reasons?  Just curious if you’ve found another way of breaking out of the Protestant mold.  Regarding the conversation, I’m sorry but in my view the character of it seemed to degenerate rather quickly after the absurd “response” written by Thom Stark.  Blathering is like yawning I guess.  It’s hard to stop once someone starts.  I also suppose that its difficult to put conversations like these to rest since they can always be dug up by someone else who has a bone to pick.  It’s regrettable.  I do not however regret the few exchanges that arose at the beginning.  They were interesting and informative.

        3. WesArblaster ngilmour eJoelWatts PaulBlowers Dr David Tee Yes, please. 🙂
          I think that, in its own terms, Purgatory makes a fair bit of sense.  (I refer both to the idea more generally and more specifically to Dante’s masterful poem.)  I’m not going to teach it in Sunday school any time soon, but it strikes me as a wonderful outworking of the Christian imagination.  In other words, it’s no less Biblical than “the age of accountability” or an “invitation hymn,” but ultimately, it’s not part of the tradition that I inhabit when I’m a deacon and preacher.  So I teach the heck out of it when I’m a professor of medieval literature (I’m teaching Dante again this spring), and I talk about it any chance I get in non-official capacities.
          I’ll agree, for the most part, about the discussion, though I’d isolate it a bit further and say that, when the question shifted from the HuffPo piece to gossip about the internal workings of ECS, it couldn’t help but get ugly.  But I’d say neither that it was Thom Stark’s thesis-length screed in toto nor that it was only Stark.  
          I tried to plug that break in the dam, but once it started popping up on other people’s sites, it was in vain.

        4. ngilmour WesArblaster eJoelWatts PaulBlowers Dr David Tee 
          I’d like to read Dante under you Nate.  That would be fun.  And since chances are the both of us will have plenty of time in purgatory perhaps I will l get the chance Blessings. 😉

        5. WesArblaster ngilmour eJoelWatts PaulBlowers Dr David Tee Perhaps I’ll see you there, friend. 🙂
          It’s really glorious fun, though, teaching Baptist and Pentecostal students how to get medieval.  Since for them Charles Wesley hymns are “old” traditions, Dante really is an alien world.  I actually start that segment of the course with a close reading of Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy, then go straight into Purgatorio.  The idea that our desires need education is really something new for them, and although they’re not always convinced, at the very least they experience our “praise and worship” convocation services differently after we’ve read that good stuff.

      4. 54Husky54 ngilmour eJoelWatts PaulBlowers Dr David Tee Yes, Ned, and I’m venal and vain and stupid as well.  I’m a MascuKlansman, and I support academic fascism.  I believe we’ve rehearsed all of the ad hominems.  Do you have anything new to add?

      5. 54Husky54 ngilmour The ability to insult with big words is neither a virtue nor a biblical value. It doesn’t help Dr. Rollston or Dr. Blowers. It doesn’t help Emmanuel. It doesn’t help women. It doesn’t promote Christian humanism. It doesn’t promote academic freedom. Much like insulting with little words, it is bad for everyone.

      6. 54Husky54 ngilmour  
        re: Cognitive dissonance–“you keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means”

  24. On a different subject, but I find this incredible to believe:  Billy Graham’s group removes Mormon cult reference from website after Romney meeting
    Dr. Tee, Is Billy Graham going to burn in Hell for eternity unless he repents from his sin?  Franklin Graham too?  The webmaster too?  Willard Romney too?  Mormonism IS a cult you know – it is a false religion; a wolf in sheep’s clothing well represented by Willard Mitt Romney, a dyed-in-the-wool Mormon; or might it be “died-in-the-wool”???  
    Dr. Tee, your serious response is welcomed since you seem to know more about the letter of the Law than do others respondents, including yours truly.

    1. grubbsey I am no expert in the ‘letter of the law’ as you assume. i am talking about obedience. You are advocating that people should disobey God and sin.
      Christians need to stand with God and preach the truth, obey God and help others and call sin sin.  They should not let politics alter their duty as believers in Jesus. I, for one, do not believe christians should be a member of any secular political party as the agendas are vastly different.
      One cannot be the light unto the world if they stop talking about what Jesus wants them to talk about and start talking about the republican or democratic party’s ideologies.
      We all know that billy graham makes mistakes which sully his legacy and achievements. it is sad to see happen but we also all know that mr. graham has politics as his weak spot. that is where he makes his most mistakes. if what he did was sin is hard to judge but it is easy to disagree with his move.

  25. I took a look at Dr. Rollstons main example he used to make his point that the Bible marginalizes women. Deut. 5:21 is the passage in question and I am doing this from memory. If I recall correctly Dr. Rollston did not quote the whole passage and left out part which would ruin his point.
    Dr. Rollston says because the word ‘husband’ is not mentioned that women are property and being marginalized but the passage talks about servants but doe snot mention children, it talks about donkeys and oxen but not dogs or cats. According to his logic then, children can be coveted and are marginalized because they are not mentioned. The same goes for dogs and cats.
    What he omitted from his paper and his point was the last bit of that verse and it reads: ‘or anything that belongs to your neighbor.’  that pat of the passage would include what was missing from the first part of the verse–husbands, children, dogs, cats, cars, planes etc.
    The questions you have to answer for yourself is, Does God have to be redundant to make his point? and Does God have to itemize everything to include  all that He is talking about?
    The word ‘anything’ allows the passage to apply for today. Since cars and planes televisions and computers were not invented yet, how can we expect God to include those items? Then if He closed the list, one would argue ‘well he didn’t mention computers so I can covet my neighbor’s computer (or whatever item one likes).’
    If God did either, then the Bible would be so think NO ONE WOULD STUDY IT let alone read it.  Instead, God chose to use broad language to make sure His word stayed true and applied to all things throughout time. The word ‘anything’ covers the ancient world and the modern one and it covers all that your neighbor has. Now women are considered neighbors as well thus their husbands are off limits to other women.
    Women were not excluded in that command nor made property, God used the wording that He wanted to make His point cover everything in existence without making a boring list that would be longer than the Bible itself.
    Dr. Rollston not only said God was wrong he also did very bad scholarship as he did not recognize the fact that God will not always use the exact terminology one is looking for. God has other ways to say something and is not limited to the expectations of supposed scholars.

  26. I find a few things truly distressing here.  First, the utter sausage fest that is the comments, with a couple of exceptions (including Alisa, who directly expressed the pain that she had experienced as a woman in the church and seminary, and then was met with cold arguments and a listing of exceptions to the 2,000-year-old rule of female marginalization within the church.  I find that similar, actually, to the use of Sojourner Truth’s quote above.  What Sojourner Truth is saying is that men used scripture to marginalize women in her time – and she turns this on its head not by a straightforward reading of the Biblical text but, among other arguments, by citing Eve as a symbol of female power!  Then she likewise turns the Biblical curse on its head, saying that rather than the man ruling over the woman, women will in fact turn right side up again the world that Eve so powerfully turned upside down.  Here, she’s citing those exact passages where the Bible does in fact marginalize women and she turns them upside down.  That doesn’t mean the Bible doesn’t marginalize women; that means Sojourner Truth was smart enough and bold enough not to be marginalized.
    Alisa said this: “Why are these truths, the real point of his article, being minimized and
    turned into a debate about interpretation? When 1 in 3 women suffer
    sexual violence and rape, when women still make 72 cents per every mans
    dollar, why can’t this conversation be lifted up as an opportunity to
    illuminate the pragmatic, real life issues facing women who are still
    denied the basic rights men have always enjoyed? Women around the worId
    are not only denied rights, but are suffering violence at this very
    moment based upon the fact that they are women. I find it disappointing
    that three men wrote this response piece without considering the need
    for a women’s voice in the authorship of an article about women in
    sacred scripture. It is this type of subtle yet culturally normalized
    dismissal of women’s participation and voice that repeatedly broke my
    heart and eventually nudged me out of the denomination into which I was
    born.”  The response to her recitation of women’s pain, to women’s suffering, to her own marginalization, was a return to cold debate.  Can I posit that perhaps this is because the men posting here have not in fact experienced the sting of marginalization, and so do not actually know that an appeal to the few Biblical passages that actually do show women free and strong – Deborah and Jael in Judges, Junia in the Pauline letters, and yes, Mary in the Gospels – does not cause women to forget every Eve and Leah and Bilhah and Hagar and Dinah and Bathsheba and Michal and Jephthah’s daughter (she doesn’t even get a name) and Tamar and Gomer and Vashti.  The few “husbands, love your wives” and “there is no male or female”s don’t cancel out the stings of “women should remain silent” and “submit to your husbands” and “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority” and “what have I to do with thee, woman” and “women shall be saved through the bearing of children.”  This is an emotional argument, not merely an academic one, because the subject is emotional.  It’s personal to us women.  And you men who respond so coolly to this issue have the luxury of doing so in part because you’ve never had to read these words and think “That’s me. The Bible is talking about me.”  I am Eve.  I am Vashti.  I am Jephthah’s virgin daughter.”  Consider the agony that might inflict on a young woman hoping to love God – and then reconsider whether it harms or helps the cause of Christianity that Dr. Rollston is willing to admit publicly that yes, those words hurt women, yes they marginalize them, and yes, we ought to do something about it.

    1. Anne226 “”Consider the agony that might inflict on a young woman hoping to love God”  So you are saying that you and other women will withhold your love from God unless yo get what you want?  The Bible says that we love Him because He first loved us, it doesn’t say we love Him because he gives us the role we want.
      God also said– if you love me keep my commandments. what is one of the commandments  for women? Do not teach men.  So why would you or anyone tell women to not love God and disobey Him?

    2. Anne226 There’s much to think about in your comments Anne.  Let me begin by saying that you’re right, I am a man, and I recognize that that does shape my experience, especially within the church.  I also think it is telling that it is mostly men who are speaking in this debate.   Perhaps the fact that Micah, Nathan, and I were the ones who issued a response to Dr. Rollston is also telling of the general condition of our seminary as currently “male dominated.”  However, I wouldn’t make too much more of this than that.  We’re just three old friends who bumped into each other after reading Rollston’s piece and decided to issue a response to what we saw as a particularly selective (and unhelpful) way of interpreting scripture.  The “male authorship” was merely circumstantial.  There are many female friends, incidentally, who would be willing to join me in issuing a very similar response as the one that Micah, Nate, and I offered.  Even more importantly, I do think you’re very wrong about our “coldness” and your presumption that somehow we are “insulated from the marginalization of women.”  This has been something that my wife and I have both struggled with for years as leaders in our congregation.  We have both faced direct attacks from individuals and church leaders on this issue.  My wife has been the object of this kind of marginalization, and I have watched it damage her.   I also struggle as a father of a beautiful eight year old girl that I desire to come to know her faith without being marginalized in the process.  Sure, I myself have not been the direct object of said marginalization.  But anyone who is married or has children knows, mistreatment is often felt even more acutely (at least on an emotional, if not psychological level) when it is of someone we love rather than us ourselves.  I desire deeply for the church to change its posture on its treatment of women and for years I have fought for it.  That said, I really don’t believe that Rollston’s piece does much of anything to help in this struggle that my wife and I engaged in.  Christians who believe the Bible to be the Word of God need to learn to read it in a way that corrects this injustice.  Does Rollston’s gives them no skills in doing so?  I don’t see how.  It  only validates those who either already believe that it is somehow their prerogative to “stand over against the text” or others who support patriarchal readings.  Our selection of Sojourner Truth was just one (among many possible voices) who instead of giving the bible over to patriarchal readings, found in the biblical text a way to articulate her own voice as one who “speaks truth to power.”  Part of struggle for equal rights and equal dignity for women, we believe, is for women to claim the Bible in a way that empowers them, refusing to allow this sacred text to be given over to patriarchal hands and minds.  This is the way that genuine change will take place in the church, not through simply giving the bible over to patriarchy.

      1. WesArblaster I really appreciate this personal response to what I had to say, and I thank you for being a part of the struggle for female equality in the church.  I’m sorry, too, for the extent to which the wording of my comments was dismissive of your own participation – certainly, I wrote in a moment of passion, which no doubt affected my tone.  And while I would never suggest that there are no women out there who share your point of view, or that it was wrong for three like-minded friends to collaborate on this article (though the addition of a women’s voice might also have been helpful), I do want to point out that it is not mere coincidence that both you and many of the commentators here have been male.  Emmanuel Christian Seminary is 71% male and 29% female.  That’s the current ratio; imagine what it might have been, say, 20 years ago, and how many seminaries around the country show a similar imbalance.  That is certainly in no way the fault of the authors of this post (in NO WAY) and is not even the fault of Emmanuel Christian Seminary; it is the fault of the patriarchal system that has held sway in Christianity for 2,000 years.  It is the fault of churches in this denomination (pardon the term) and others that have taught women to ignore their leadership gifts and dismiss the ministry as a possible vocation.  It is also the fault of the Biblical text, which is hard to interpret in a way that doesn’t suggest its authors were patriarchal and limited in their view of women at best (even those authors as sometimes-progressive as Paul); it’s hard to read in a manner that does not suggest that either 1) God sanctioned these patriarchal views of women, at least at those moments in history, or 2) that it is the authors’ values, and not God’s voice, being reflected in the text.  It is wonderful and refreshing to read the words of Sojourner Truth, but the theme she takes up related to Eve, for example – that Eve was strong enough to turn the world upside-down and therefore women likewise have the power to set the world right again – is not one taken up in scripture (as others commenting on this same incident have pointed out).  1 Timothy, in fact, uses the same scripture to make the opposite point: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.  I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.”  I know full well and very much respect those women and men who have reappropriated Biblical texts in favor of feminist arguments, but I cannot believe that this discounts the original texts or relieves us of worrying over the meaning they would have conveyed to their original audience.  Long ago, I got sick of doing acrobatics with the Biblical text to find ways to re-read, re-interpret, and re-contextualize these passages so that I could believe they weren’t as cruel as they seemed to be.  My belief is that either the Bible is THE Word of God, and we are responsible for everything in it no matter how much it damages us, or it is a collection of many voices, its authors inspired by a divine impulse perhaps, but flawed and biased and sometimes wrong in the way that all humans are.  My reading of Dr. Rollston’s article is that it is simply a description of some of the places where the Biblical authors were wrong about women.  It’s not meant as an ending point; it’s just a place to start.  I disagree with the suggestion made in your original blog post that he was somehow endorsing a misogynistic viewpoint by describing the marginalization of women as a “Biblical value;” rather, he was saying that among the multitude of perspectives and values found in the Bible, misogyny is one that emerges frequently but should be rejected.  If you want to critque his view of Biblical authority, that seems totally valid to me.  But since, among other things, you say that “throughout our theological and pastoral training at this same seminary we were schooled to understand the Bible as a complex, multi-layered,and hermeneutically ‘open’ book,” you actually seem to be arguing for a more subjective reading than Rollston is, influenced by the intervening history and the many conflicting and complex interpretations that have likewise intervened.  As much as I appreciate the importance of those intervening voices, in the end, we have to come back to the text itself; in the end, we must take the text on its own terms, come to grips with its meaning as best we can, and accept or reject the text on its own terms.  We do this whether we believe the solution is to reject offensive texts or reappropriate them to suit our own values (and those more palatable values found in other parts of scripture); I tend to fall on the Rollston side there and reject rather than reappropriate.

        1. Anne226 WesArblaster Anne, thanks for raising the level of discourse in these comments far above what its been so far.  Your second post especially is articulate beyond nearly every other response I’ve encountered, especially among Rollston’s supporters (the most vocal of whom, I think, are about as male as the authors of this essay).
          I think your summary of Rollston’s point is fair, and for my part, perhaps we did not do enough to say so in our essay.  However, (and please hear me attempt to echo your own friendly tone here), your conclusion is precisely what I think is so problematic about Rollston’s position: the only options are to reject the text or work acrobatics to reappropriate the text.  
          The reasons to reject this binary are many, I think, and perhaps outside of my ability to summarize quickly.  But you are right, in some senses, to think we argued for a more subjective reading of the text; hermenuetically open means just that that the “meaning” of the text is not, as you say, in the “original” text (whatever that is) but rather in the long struggle of the church to live faithfully in light of its vocation as a sign and foretaste of God’s reign.

        2. Anne226 WesArblaster Yes, I agree with Micah.  You have raised the conversation back to where it should be.  Thank you.  I was growing rather despairing about how ugly things had gotten.  I have to say that the question for me boils down to whether there is ultimately any fundamental difference between what you call “original” and “intervening” voices when it comes to the Bible.  I recognize that there is indeed a history to textual transmission.  And it is precisely this that makes me question whether the idea of an “original” even makes sense.  In a book that is enmeshed in a complex oral and textual tradition spanning thousands of years, cultures, and languages, with layers of textual adaptation, revision, and translation, where is possible to locate “the original?”  What would are we even talking about when we contrast this with “later intervening interpretations”?  It would seem that at any point “the original” could easily be shown to be fundamentally “intervention” into a conversation or situation already in process.  And how is it that Rollston is supposed find for us this “original” avoid being himself merely another “intervening voice?”   And we have not even begun to consider the fact that as part of these religious traditions later developments are believed to provide “the real” meaning to prior texts.  To be clear here, I’m not saying “the original” is difficult to discover.  I’m saying the presumption that something like “an original” exists at all becomes nonsensical.  An original what? I believe it probably better to simply stop thinking this way and instead begin to think differently.  It’s interesting that “the Bible” for most of its history was never considered a “book” at all (with all the problematic presumptions such an imagination entails).  Instead, I think it is much more helpful to ask what we are really searching for when we seek out “the original” at all?  I believe that for most intents and purposes, what we really seeking to gain is a way of locating a certain “authoritative interpretation.”  A place where we can say this is “the real meaning” of said text.  I get that desire.  I often struggle with that picture of things too.  I do also think that we should recognize the historical conditions for our own desire to seek after such things.  It is interesting that, for instance, this really isn’t the driving need for biblical interpretation for most of the Bible’s actual history.  For the patristic tradition, for example, understanding of the Bible wasn’t procured from moving from the present to the past (this is arguably an result of Protestant/Catholic polemics in the 16th century) but from the “flesh to the spirit.”  Penetrating the scriptures ever more deeply toward their spiritual (that is theological) core.  Yeah, but what does all this have to do with the marginalization of women?  If you are thinking about such issues in relationship to the Bible I think it means a lot.  I believe that what this entails is that rather than having historical experts like Rollston providing the “authorized interpretation” that such readings should arise by women and men wrestling out the layers of scripture by way of conversation, prayer, and criticism.  To move from “the surface to the depths” to use patristic imagery is the manner in which the Bible can genuinely be liberated from patriarchy.  Since it was almost exclusively men who authored the bible and who have provided the “authorized interpretations” of these text (through a male dominated church AND academy) its about time that we start listening to those like Sojourner Truth as perhaps providing more genuine insight into the Bible AND ourselves.  Something like this, I believe, is what present day “ethical” reading should seek.  I criticized Rollston’s essay because it didn’t seem, in my understanding, to really encourage the kind of engagement that allows for honest self-critique while engaging in biblical critique.

        3. WesArblaster Anne226 It is obvious that all this “raising of the conversation,” has tied several of you in exegesical and hermeneutical knots, and you are having a wonderful time displaying your academic expertise and knot tying. I’m impressed.
          You believe the Bible was written by God either personally, or through direct control of humans (he told them exactly what to write), or indirectly through a kind of inspiration of humans which caused them to write it over a long period of time. In any case, you believe the Bible, Old and New Testaments, every “dot and tittle” to be God’s Holy Word.  I assume that is a given at ECS.
          There are no surviving original manuscripts, not even the inscribed stone Ten Commandments. We have copies of copies and translations of translations.  Goodness!  How can we ever know the actual meaning of the original manuscripts?
          I assume that you believe God is in complete control of the world and is directing the production of  all the variations of His Word. Therefore, the Bible variations we have are due to God’s wishes, for God doesn’t want to confuse his people. I also assume ECS people believe this as well.  
          So, the meaning of the various versions of the Holy Bible should be obvious to those born again in Christ and who are guided by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Bible is clear about that.
          Jesus tells us too “Love one another” does he not?  You believe Jesus is God, so God tells us to ‘love one another,’ paraphrasing a truth written by Paul.
          Also, God tells us this very important truth:
          “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, thereis neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
           So it is clear that nothing that is said in the Holy Bible about Jews or Greeks (Gentiles), slaves or slave owners, or males or females have any application to members of these groups who “were baptized into Christ [and thus] have put on Christ.”
          Conversely, those not baptized into Christ [and thus] have not “put on Christ,” are subject God’s Word concerning Jews and Gentiles, slaves and slave-owners, and men and women. 
          I don’t personally know Dr. Rollston, but I believe that he would include himself in the above group, and therefore must be very familiar with the above God-given truth from Galatians.  The members of the group described are ‘one in Christ.’  So for them, there is no difference from God’s perspective between male and female.  
          So, Dr. Rollston’s article hit the mark when it described how God, through the Holy Bible, speaks about men and women. There is no false statement there; his article is quite accurate in fact and tone. However, I believe  had he included the above passage from Galatians, much of the hullabaloo would not have occurred. But, I could be incorrect here.
          If the people criticizing and defending Dr. Rollston would consider this truth from Galatians, authored by God, they would spend less time thinking up ways in their academic, self-serving jargon to attack other people and to justify themselves, and would get on with God’s work in this world.
          So, ECS should congratulate Dr. Rollston on a Scripturally sound, well-written article that makes ECS very proud that he is a member of the ECS faculty.
          And, don’t forget to love and forgive one another.

        4. WesArblaster Anne226  I see that Dr. Rollston did put a brief reference to the “male, female” statement in his article  
          “He also wrote: “there is no longer male nor female” (Galatians 3:27). But these voices were the exception, not the rule.”
          He did not include the entire passage to covey the context, and he seems to have made a “minor” out of what is a “major.”  He did not discuss the conditions concerning “being one in Christ” either. This “voice” was huge – it was God speaking!
          Dr. Rollston should be forgiven for this oversight.  I think he has some more studying to do.

        5. WesArblaster MicahBWeedman ngilmour Guys – I’ve spent some time trying to absorb and process all of what you had to say there.  I’m not a seminarian myself, and so some of these ideas are actually very new to me in the context of Biblical scholarship.  However, my own advanced field of study is in literature, so much of what you’re saying about text and interpretation and the subjectivity of language is very familiar to me.
          To summarize my thoughts, students of literature and academics in the field live with the paradox of language and interpretation all the time.  Language is nothing but a set of agreed-upon signifiers, we know this.  Therefore, we acknowledge that even a text created in our own immediate time and culture goes through several stages of interpretation between speaker and hearer as the speaker translates their thoughts into words, the hearer receives the perceived meaning of the speaker’s speech, and the hearer translates it into their own thoughts – all of this influenced by both communicators’ individual cultural and personal situatedness, and a thousand other factors neither are aware of.  So we acknowledge that it is not only unclear that objective meaning can be communicated between two communicators, it is in fact impossible that it can be.  There is no locating “the original text,” as you point out.  And yet, we acknowledge that on a daily basis, we live as if the text is immediately accessible to us – when our boss says “get the mail,” when our friend says “meet me at lunchtime,” when our bride or groom says, “I promise to love, honor, and cherish,” we operate as if we can in fact communicate with them and understand what they are telling us.  Thus the paradox on which the entire literary discipline, and in fact all human communication, is based:  It is impossible for us to access the text.  It is necessary to access the text.  It is impossible for us to communicate clear meaning to one another; yet we shape all of our relationships and most of our behavior around those communications.  
          Thus, this is how I approach all texts.  I acknowledge that I cannot, say, understand Charlotte Bronte’s “original meaning” by reading Jane Eyre; I cannot remove the lens of interpretation through which I view it because I cannot un-read (or un-write) Gilbert and Gubar’s famous “Madwoman in the Attic” analysis.  In that sense, I cannot even read Jane Eyre.  Nor can I remove the subjective filter of myself, as all of you so aptly point out.  And yet, I would not be a student of literature if I did not keep returning to the original text, attempting to comprehend the incomprehensible, to imagine and incorporate the cultural and historical context in which it was written, analyzing and absorbing the text that is actually there.  The text is inaccessible; the text is also immediate.
          I would also be foolish if I attempted to disregard the history of interpretation and application surrounding any given text.  That would be an even more foolish approach to the Biblical text; nobody is trying to live their lives according to Jane Eyre, nor to discern the Word of Charlotte Bronte, and so the interpretation and enactment of Biblical principles throughout history are infinitely more important than a historical understanding of Jane Eyre.  But still, what starting point do we have but the text itself?  I appreciate and am intrigued by the approach you all seem to be suggesting, which I’m interpreting as some kind of canonizing (lowercase “c”?) not only of the intervening texts but of the historical efforts of Christians to live out their faith in the time between the life of Jesus and now.   Yet again, we have no access to the story of God’s work in history, or to the history of Christianity itself, but through the Bible and the intervening texts.  We cannot access them; we must access them.  This is the dilemma we live with.  (continued in next comment)

        6. WesArblaster MicahBWeedman ngilmour 
          I think that when you invoke the move from “flesh to spirit,” you’re suggesting the intervention of the holy spirit in the reading, in the interpretation, and in the acting out of our faith, and I think you suggestthis as a way to bridge the interpretational gap.  I’m influenced, I’m sure, by the fact that spiritual understanding is not a factor in literary studies; again, we’re compelled to live with the discomfort of the gap between “the” meaning of the text (nonexistent, as has been pointed out) and our subjective understanding of the text.  But another more personal factor intervenes here, as well for me:  I simply have not found a reliance on spiritual impulses to be a useful or accurate guide for me. In the formative years when I was trying to understand the Bible for the first time, what I discovered was that the impulses and guidance I believed I was receiving from the Holy Spirit were in truth all too often the voice of guilt, of fear, of self-interest, of personal preference, and even the voice of goodintentions, but rarely if ever can I cite an example where in retrospect I believe I was truly receiving clear guidance from the Holy Spirit.  My own conscience certainly does lead me, but this voice I have found I must consciously shape through Bible reading, reading of other voices I believe (subjective) to be right and true, and by observing and emulating the actions of those Iperceive (subjective) to be good.  Those are good guides for me, and at this stage of my life they are good enough.  But I acknowledge that even here, I’m facing an interpretive gap – I can know essentially what my rolemodels are doing, but I can’t know why, or ultimately what effect their behaviors will have.  All the rest of the sources I have are merely texts.  To be frank, I’ve come to believe that the difference between me, a person who follows her conscience but nevertheless believes her own “spiritual discernment” and spiritual impulses to be an unreliable source at best, and someone who believes that they can be guided from a flesh interpretation to a spiritual interpretation by something other than real-world guides, is simply a matter of confidence.  Some people have faith in their own internal voices, for better or – oh, so often – for worse.  I justdon’t; I haven’t found those voices reliable or unified.
          Micah, you say this: “Instead, I think it is much more helpful to ask what we are really searching for when we seek out ‘the original’ at all?  I believe that for most intents and purposes, what we really seek to gain is a way of locating a certain ‘authoritative interpretation.’  A place where we can say this is ‘the real meaning’ of said text.  I get that desire.  I often struggle with that picture of things too.”  Micah, I found this expression totally refreshing.  I’m totally fine with the idea that no authoritative interpretation can be located – certainly, that’s the case in other disciplines – even the experts disagree, we know that, there is no one authority but a group of authorities, and we just have to decide whichinterpretation to trust.  However, as I’ve already said, no reading can exist without the text itself, and so it is that that serves as the foundation for all this other intervening text.
          It’s probably the combination of all these things – the evident problems of the “original” text; the profound diversity of readings that allow – as more than one here has pointed out – for a spectrum of interpretations so broad that to canonize all interpretations would be to embrace two mutually exclusive positions on nearly every topic addressed in the Bible; and my belief in theunreliability of an individual’s discernment of spiritual meaning in the text – that have led me to start labeling myself an agnostic, at least for the time being.  Right now, I don’t really find a way in to all this.  The only way in that I find is the Bible itself, and I find it at times utterlyenraging.  This may be your objection to Rollston, in fact – that he’s in league with agnostics 🙂 (I’m being playful here, not serious) – but that’s why I find his frank treatment of “the text itself” (whatever that is, I still believe in it) refreshing and on target.
          I’d love to hear your responses to the things I’ve misunderstood in your previous comments – I’m sure I have misunderstood some things and am still thinking through them all.

        7. grubbsey WesArblaster Anne226  Grubbsey:  FYI I would say most of your assumptions about what I believe are wrong.

        8. Anne226 WesArblaster MicahBWeedman ngilmour Anne, much of what you have to say about the ‘literary approach’ you’ve adopted I would agree with.  Theologians often prefer the term “mediation” but I think that we’re ultimately articulating something similar.  To clarify, I wouldn’t really propose what you thought concerning ‘moving from the flesh to the spirit.’  While I do believe in the activity of the Holy Spirit, I share your skepticism about personal affective states being the ground for “true interpretation.”  I agree, there is self-deception everywhere, and in this way invoking the ‘Holy Spirit’ often just serves as either as a deus ex machina or as some kind of form of self-validation.  In speaking of moving from ‘the flesh to the spirit’ I was suggesting something else.  I was referring to reading scripture not so much by the use of a ‘method’ so much as part of a spiritual practice.   I should just say up front that I do NOT believe that the ‘true meaning’ of scripture can be arrested from the text by formulating a certain method by which we can disinter ‘its real meaning.’  We moderns, on the whole, are overly superstitious concerning method.  We make of methods what animists made of incantations.  Somehow, we believe that by establishing a certain rationalized process we can access the hidden treasures we seek (this goes all the way back to Bacon, if not further).  Except in my more regressive moments I have given up in such primitive beliefs.  I do however believe that we as readers can receive insight through engaging with texts in attentive manner, when ourselves are properly attuned.  (To be clear, this isn’t at its core some esoteric practice, its just another way of saying, at its most fundamental level, when we become good readers)  I know that invoking the language ‘properly attuned’ smuggles in a prescriptive or regulative moment in interpretation, but I do believe something like this is inevitable.  Even supposedly ‘scientific methods’ like forms of higher criticism have tacit prescriptions of this kind (whether they admit it or not).  While what I have said so far isn’t synonymous with patristic approaches to reading scripture, it is more similar them.  When Patristic commentators read the scriptural texts they did not attempt to secure ‘their meaning,’ they were attempting to hear God.  And this, to be sure, was not an a-critical posture.  This was a rigorous discipline.  ‘Meanings’ were abundant, indeed profuse, but they weren’t seeking first and formost to discern an ‘original voice’ nor even a ‘subjective voice’ nor a ‘divine voice.’  They were attempting to discern a ‘form’ – one which does not originate in scripture, but one which scripture does communicate.   To speak dogmatically, scripture is not the primary revelation of God, Christ is.  Scripture is merely one primary and privileged form of the reception of this revelation.  It is exhaustively and ineliminably human, and yet God’s form is to be found therein, just as God’s form is to be found in Christ more perfectly (because Christ is the image of God who also IS God, which is not the case with scripture).  Thus, the center of scriptural reading is contemplation.  And yet contemplation is not essentially a esoteric Christian practice so much as the heart of the Christian’s living response to the self-revelation of God in Christ.  To quote Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Christian contemplation becomes an ever deeper and richer living from Christ and into Christ, and progressively both the living triune God and the whole of creation as recapitulated in Christ enter into this life, not however, in the rareified space where ideal contents are beheld in abstract purity, but within the shaping of the image of Christ in the contemplative subject.  For the theological imagination lies with Christ, who is at once the image and the power of God.”  All of this may sound somewhat esoteric and obscure, but that’s because its being spoken about in abstraction.  The actual practice of reading the Bible is never this, however.  It is an experience and experience is always particular and concrete.  One may read the Bible for innumerable reasons and gain an innumerable number of readings.  However, it is my view that people of faith (particularly Jews, Muslims, and Christians) should receive the text as a gift given to them in their attempt to respond to the One who transcends all understanding.  This does not yet answer the question of what we do with scripture regarding its apparent relegation of women, but it does, I believe, place it in the appropriate setting.

        9. Anne226 WesArblaster MicahBWeedman ngilmour  
          Glad though I am that you found the sentiment refreshing, I must concede that it was Wes that said it, not me.  Though I mostly agree with him. 🙂

        10. Anne226 WesArblaster MicahBWeedman ngilmour Anne,
          First, I’m delighted to read that you’re also a student of literature.  My own Ph.D is in English literature, though my comps and dissertation were mainly in English Renaissance, not 19th-century, texts.  
          I’m with you on your constellation of points about interpretation, and that’s why I find Walter Brueggemann so appealing–he insists at every point that nobody reads the Bible from nowhere and that, even if one grants Wes’s point that Jesus, not Bible, is the proper object of contemplation, that another of Wes’s points, namely that the Christian God is always mediated through “texts” (whether that be Bible or Missal or oral “texts” in the Derridean seanse).  
          One understandable response to that complex of realities is a sort of agnostic surrender, a basic stance that holds all theological claims to be nonsense or at most speculation.  But I’m inclined to say that, when pressed a bit, most versions of agnosticism (there are true Pyrrhonians out there, I’ll grant) begin with some central claim that “We cannot know X because we know that Y is true.”  In other words, just about everybody has some point at which one roots all assertions, even assertions of doubt, on some fixed postulate in the system.  The response that I prefer is a stance of rhetorically self-aware confession, one in which I speak what I take to be true, knowing as I do so that there have been times when I would have spoken differently and that the future is such that I might not always speak the same.
          With regards to “original” meanings, I grant the textual-critical problem (I work with Shakespeare, after all), but the difficulty I had in mind was more the polemic/dialectical character of most complex texts.  In other words, certainly Aristotle’s Politics has certain “fixed points” that merely reflect his own Athenian bigotries, but more interesting to me are his responses to Plato’s Republic.  And while few would find Harriet Beecher Stowe’s idealization of the pious and passive Tom entirely satisfactory, I find more interesting that the daughter of a famous Presbyterian minister finds the cause of American slaves compelling enough to write a book that turned out to be consciousness-altering for so many Americans of the time.  Certainly folks have made academic careers showing that certain kinds of racism are still “Stowe values,” but an account of Stowe that neglects her influence in reaching beyond her historical moment, ethically speaking, would be at best partial accounts.  Move this dialectic over to the history of the Bible and various women’s empowerment movements, and you have our basic case in the blog post.
          I also grant your point about the relatively low status of “literature” as opposed to “Bible,” but I’ll remind you that we literature people are little more than a century removed from Matthew Arnold’s literature-piety, and there are still Arnoldians among us.  The human urge to order discourse around “god-terms” (to borrow Kenneth Burke’s phrase) hasn’t gone away; some are just more apt to name our gods as God, while others leave theirs implicit.

    3. Anne226 Anne, I would like to thank you for your contribution.  I’ll note, just to provide a bit of counter-weight to the “sausage factory” comment, that a friend of mine did provide between ten and twenty comments in this long thread, but for reasons she didn’t choose to disclose, she deleted all of them.  And while I declined to respond to Alisa, I would note that nowhere in our piece did we deny that there have been abuses; we merely label them as abuses rather than necessary consequences.  Thus the “cold” debate for which you expressed distaste.
      I think Wes and Micah have hit the big difference between our approach to the Bible and what we see in the HuffPo piece: as both have noted, we don’t see the task of Biblical studies as first and foremost saying what is “dominant” in the “original,” save for some “exceptions,” but rather seeing the dialectics inherent not only in Biblical interpretation but also in the historical moments of Biblical composition.  Yes, those who seek to dominate the weak often use the Bible as a warrant.  So do those who oppose that domination.  And yes, some moments in the Bible simply reflect the ethos of their own moments.  Others reach beyond the moment towards liberation.  But the historical fact is that the impulse to resist domination, historically speaking, have done much more among actual human beings than have ham-fisted self-declarations of moral superiority.  In other words, the “anti-dominant” threads of Scriptural tradition, because they speak to the faithful, ultimately strike me as more interesting  ethically, than do ahistorical claims of modern liberals’ moral superiority.
      My own take on the Bible with regards to questions of women’s struggles is part Walter Brueggemann and part David Bentley Hart: the text is always involved, never “just the facts.”  And yes, part of what I confess (and my hunch is that Wes and Micah do as well) is that the God who comes to us always-mediated in these texts ultimately reaches from beyond any social imaginary (even our own) to pull us towards a more perfect vision of good human life, even as the same God frames those moments that Christian theology calls revelation (small-r) in terms that are intelligible to those in that historical moment.  Or, to put it another way, nobody’s got clean hands, especially those who insist most loudly that they do.
      I realize that a certain constellation of ideologies, those who don’t think of their own morals as historically conditioned, think that a wholesale rejection of the “primitive” is ultimately superior to the “compromise” or the “rationalization” of those who try to face our own historical situated-ness, but ultimately I’m unable to make that jump.  But I’ve found myself lacking a capacity for credulity on several occasions, so that’s no big surprise.

  27. I was very dissapointed that rather than responding to the argument made by Rollston, that The Bible itself has passages which marginalize women, this article instead discusses historical uses of The Bible, its interpretations, etc. This is pretty much a red herring, regardless whether its intentional or not.
    I would very much like to see a justification, explanation, something which makes sense of the passages cited in the context of a Jewish, Islamic, Christian understanding of these passages and their place in our Holy Book.

    1. KhachigJoukhajian Part of our argument was that the phrase “the Bible itself” names a historically complex entity, not one that neatly divides into “text” and “interpretation” but is always interpreted-text.

  28. Ok. Perhaps I was hoping for too much, but wouldn’t addressing interpretations or misinterpretations of the passages Rollston cited be a more direct response and either more effective in silencing supporters of his argument or re-framing the conversation for better dialogue?

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