Mandy's Musings

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My project

A few people have expressed interest in reading what I came up with.

Dani has offered to 'host' it on her site, so if you are game, click here

For the next week I really only want to hear 'good job' but after that if you'd like to discuss anything, fire away.

Last things

Today was my last ever undergraduate Moore College Lecture.

And what a way to finish - with the delightful Peter O'Brien looking at Hebrews in NT 4.

As we reflected on Hebs 9:13-14 I was reminded again of the amazing sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

PTOB's pastoral heart shone through as we finished the lecture being exhorted to press on in the words of Hebrews 10:19-25.

These past four years at college have been such a privilege. I am greatful for the people I have studied with, the lecturers who have taught us and the amazing things I continue to learn about our great God and saviour.

I can't believe it's over.

Monday, October 30, 2006

It's in the box!

I'm done.

Handed in at 9.30am this morning - with 7 hours to spare. I arrived at Officeworks Carlton at 7.15am to have it bound. Hard to believe it is all over. Still feeling the adrenaline pumping.

Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The end is in sight

I had another slight change in direction last week - added a new chapter 1 being more explicit about the egalitarian's I am arguing against, then the biblical section for chapter 2, and the theological section in chapter 3 before drawing some implications in the conclusion. I've finished the editing of the intro and chapters 1&2. I'm now in the middle of editing the new Chapter 3 - 'gender in theological context'.

I'm battling with how to compare the gendered nature of humanity with the triune nature of God. Not really sure if I am just trying to draw an analogy between humanity as gendered but yet human as the more fundamental reality like God is three persons but one being or whether I am trying to say something else entirely. Also trying to work out if it is here I dip my toe into the debates about the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father, because I want to say that the egalitarian argument that you can't say that someone is equal in being but different in function without saying they are inferior is bollucks!

Some other tweaking of the sections on sin and redemption and bodily resurrection in that section to do as well, but it is getting there. Then to tidy up the conclusion.

All going well by tomorrow night I will have a completely rewritten project. It will still need a bit more work, because at this stage I am heading for about 1000 or so words over the word limit.

Stop. Keep breathing. Remember the 4.30pm deadline on Monday is managable.

All prayers greatfully appreciated!

Spoke to 3 guys today who have already finished ... happy for them but wishing I was in their shoes!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Up for air

Update: Drafts of chapters 1 & 2 are done. 10,500 words written. Chapter 3 - some implications of gendered humanity are due by Friday. I'm tired :)

But continue to be reminded of God's goodness and faithfulness. Read Deut 32 this morning and was greatly encouraged as Moses reflected on our perfect, just and faithful God.

Here's a taste (ESV):

Deut 32:1 “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
2 May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb.
3 For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God!

4 “The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he.
5 They have dealt corruptly with him;
they are no longer his children because they are blemished;
they are a crooked and twisted generation.
6 Do you thus repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?
7 Remember the days of old;
consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you,
your elders, and they will tell you.
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders [1] of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God. [2]
9 But the Lord's portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.

[1] or territories
[2] Compare Dead Sea Scroll, Septuagint, Masoretic Text - Israel

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A new beginning

After a weekend of slight panic, I forced myself to sit down on Sunday night and being the task of re-writing my project.

Here is what I am now trying to do:

The theological significance of gender
In the opening chapter of the bible we read: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.’ (Gen 1:27). The gendered nature of humanity is part of the creation that God affirms as being ‘very good’ (Gen 1:31). Yet this positive view of gendered humanity is juxtaposed with Paul’s claim in Gal 3:28: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ To what extent does gender have any theological significance?

The dimorphically sexed body is the basis of an understanding of gender. Human beings are embodied as either male human beings or female human beings – sexual differentiation is the norm. The Bible unambiguously affirms this differentiation of the sexes. It is the embodied nature of this differentiated humanity that provides the basis for gender differentiation, for gender is a facet of sexuality, predicated on sexual differentiation. Humanity is found to exist in two genders – male and female.

In the current context there is substantial controversy over the implications of humanity’s genderisation. For some, gender has little theological significance. While humanity is created as male and female, there is nothing inherent in our gendered nature that is significant about who we are or what we can do. Whether male or female matters little – our humanity has priority over our gender. On the other hand, it is argued that gender is fundamental to our humanity, for every human being is either male or female. Rather than gender being an accident of history or culture, as irrelevant to our humanity as whether we speak English or French, whether we are male or female is essential to our existence. Furthermore, the bible then assigns roles or functions based upon gender distinctions, thus affirming the theological significance of gender.

In this project we will seek to disprove the view that gender has minimal theological significance and sketch some of the implications that gender has for us as human beings created in the image of God. It is beyond the scope of this project to articulate a comprehensive view of maleness and/or femaleness, manhood and/or womanhood. Its task is more preliminary. Before the distinctive features of either gender can be explored, the establishment of the significance and essential nature of gender is an important and more primordial step.

In establishing the significance of gender this work will begin by examining the biblical data, firstly outlining the case that gender is of limited significance, secondly examining some of the key biblical texts (Gal 3:28; Gen 1&2 and 1 Cor 11) to establish what they say about gender and thirdly outlining the general biblical patterns about gender.

The second section will then seek to set the discussion of the theology of gender in its wider theological context. By examining the doctrines of the trinity, sin and redemption, and the bodily resurrection we will see that these provide a framework for coming to terms with the gendered nature of humanity.

In the final section, having established the theological significance of gender, we will then seek to draw out some of the implications of the gendered nature of humanity.

Counting Sunday as day 1, have to write approximately 1000 words a day for the next 15 days. This will give me a week to edit and tidy up before submission. Scary.
It is half way through day 3 and my draft currently sits at 2,500 words. Progress.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I had almost 10,000 words ...

After a helpful meeting with my supervisors earlier today, it looks like I still have a lot more work to do.

Unfortunately I've fallen into the trap of saying lots of interesting things that don't really addresss any one question in particular - I got a little bit lost along the way. It didn't come as a surprise really (I knew that I'd lost sight of what I was trying to achieve as I was writing, but couldn't work out what else to do but keep writing in the vain hope that an argument would fall out of the sky!). The encouraging thing was as they asked me questions about why I had included certain things I was able to articulate a reason much more clearly than I had expressed it in what I had written. And they thought that I had obviously done a lot of reading and thinking and had a good solid base to work from.

What I need to do now is clarify what I am trying to achieve and then set out to rework the material I've already written. It seems that I have a couple of options - some of which will involve largely starting the writing process again (although building on all that I have thought about so far) in order to try and do what I originally set out to do, although there is an option to change my original aim, reshape the question and use most of what I have written with some substantial changes. I'm meeting with Mark again tomorrow afternoon to try and work out a structure to progress things, but he and John are confident that I will be able to hand in something that is helpful.

I still have 3 weeks to go, so all is not lost, and I have learnt a lot along the way which is the important thing. If I am honest I am feeling a little fragile and not really sure I will be able to pull it off, but I'm sure something will get handed in even if it is not as I'd hoped.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Why I'm not an egalitarian

Been re-reading Rebecca Merrill Groothuis' book Good News for Women: a biblical picture of gender equality

Here are some of the things she says that I find myself disagreeing with:
God revealed himself and his plan for his people by means of patriarchal cultures, adapting his revealed Word to fit the understanding and limitations of its original recipients [...] God allowed the subjugation of women and other social groups because people's hearts were not ready to recieve the fullness of God's good news with all its sociocultural implications. But throughout biblical revelation God progressively made known his redemptive plan, whereby the essential equality of all people would ultimately be restored and he practice of gender heirarchy brought to an end. (21)
When many of the roles that require higher levels of spiritual maturity, understanding, and giftedness are the roles from which women are excluded - as is the case in the trditionalist agenda - it is something of a stretch to insist that the essential spritual equality of women is not being violated thereby. The implication that femaleness is spiritually inferior to maleness cannot be avoided when femaleness alone provides sufficient grounds to deny a person the opportunity even to earn the right to fill certain spiritual roles, and when maleness does not restrict a person from performing any ministry he may be quaified to do. (29)

It stands to reason that onyone who is deemed permanently unfit to occupy the superior position must be inherently incapable of performing that function satisfactorily. (53-54)
Underlying her reasoning seems to be an assumption that to be made subject to another must be done on the basis of superiority/inferiority. To say that a woman is subject to a man is to say she is inferior to the man. And this goes to the heart of what it means to be a woman, because 'traditionalists' [to use her term] say that by virtue of being a woman certain roles are not available to her. I struggle with the use of terms like 'deserve' and 'higher status' and 'greater role' for it seems to me to miss the servant nature of our saviour, who did not lord it over anyone but humbly sought to serve.

Difference in role and function does not equal lesser being - an argument that leads straight to the Doctrine of God. Groothuis and other egalitarians stridently argue that the Son was only functionally subordinate to the Father in the incarnation, claiming that to claim an eternal subordination of the Son to the Father is to deny his full deity and make him a lesser being than the Father. But this is not the 'self-evident case' that they claim it is. For the revelation of the Son in the incarnation to be a true revelation, it must not be of something other than what is true of the eternal, triune God. As Rahner's dictum tells us "the immanent trinity is the economic trinity". There is not some hidden God behind that revealed in the Son by the Spirit. The Son's submission is not merely temporal, but eternal and not indicative of a lessening of his being.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More reflections on Gendered Humanity

Humanity is created by God, in his image and likeness as male and female (Gen 1:27; 5:1-2; 9:6). This image and likeness to God is rightly located in our capacity for relationship - our relationship with God and our relationship with one another. As the triune God is being-in-relationship, so too humanity is being-in-relationship. This image and likeness then makes humanity fit for the task it is given - as God's vice-regents to rule over the creation and fill it, in a God-like manner. Thus humanity, who is made in God's image, is to care for and love the creation, for God has declared it to be very good.

Genesis 1:26-30 considers humanity corporately - as both male and female mankind is created in the image of God and given the mandate to fill the earth and have dominion over it. Before God and over the rest of creation, the man and the woman are equal. In the second creation account in Genesis 2:4-25 we zoom in on the details of the creation of the man and the woman. In this account, we see the two-stage creation of humanity - man is created first, immediately after the formation of the heavens and the earth. He is the firstborn (c.f. Romans 5), placed in the garden to tend and keep it, commanded by God not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16). In the same way as the animals, the man is formed out of the earth and is to tend to it. By way of contrast, the woman is the final thing created in this account, made not from the earth but out of the rib of the man (Gen 2:21-2). She is created specifically as the helper for the man (ezer kenegdo - Gen 2:18). Her creation is for the man - she is a helper for him, relieving the problem of him being alone: 'the presence of the woman rescues him [Adam] from his debilitating solitude'*1 She is designed to complement him and meet his need for companionship. Humanity as male and female are designed in such a way that they fit and complement one another, and the man cannot exist independent of the woman.

The creation of the woman as a helper for the man does not imply inequality of inferiority. The term helper is used in the scriptures of God (Ex 18:10; Ps 10:14; 30:10; and 54:4) and so is not a derogatory term, but rather one of dignity and value. There is nothing in the word 'helper' itself that implies superiority, equality or inferiority. In the context of Genesis, the woman is designed not simply as a helper, but specifically as a helper for the man (cf 1 Cor 11). In the act of creating the woman, God had the man in mind and created the woman for the specific role of helping him. As Grudem expresses it:

Eve was created as a helper, but as a helper who was Adam's equal, and one who differed from him, but who differed from him in ways that would exactly complement who Adam was.*2

The gendered nature of humanity and the creation of woman for man finds its most intimate expression in the relationship of marriage. In Genesis 2:24-25 the communal nature of humanity is highlighted as the man and woman delight in one another. The man recognises the woman as the one who is fit for him and expresses joy in her. His naming of her, while also an appropriate recognition of who she is, is a dominical act.

Furthermore, human marriage points forward to the union of Christ and the Church and highlights the communal nature of our being (Eph 5). The gendering of humanity is not accidental, but a part of God's good design in creation. In marriage, the two genders come together and become one. As male and female in God's image humanity are relational beings, and our being in the image of God is the basis for our relationship with God. Eschatologically, marriage points forward to the union of Christ and the church.

*1. Stanley Grenz, 'The Social God and the Relational Self'<
*2. Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism

For those who are interested: 9,500 of 15,000 words are with my supervisors for comment. All going well, just 1 chapter and a conclusion left to write and 27 days to do it in!