Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On Being a Subject

Subject, verb  To bring under the power or dominion of.
2. To put under or within the power of
3. To enslave; to make obnoxious
4. To expose; to make liable
5. To submit; to make accountable
6. To make subservient

Subjection, noun The act of subduing; the act of vanquishing and bringing under the dominion of another
2. The state of being under the power, control and government of another.

The above is from The American Dictionary of the English Language  by Noah Webster, 1828. Please keep those definitions in mind when meditating on the following:

 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.
 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands:
 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

1 Peter 3:1-6

No exposition of this passage would be complete without examining and understanding the very first word, "likewise." Like what? Well, we are supposed to follow the instructions that Peter is about to give in the exact same way, or "likewise,"  as what had just been described, which was Jesus' commitment to giving His life, to suffering on the cross for our sins. We are to be in subjection to our own husbands with same unwavering commitment with which Jesus based his actions to save us.  For a more thorough understanding of Jesus' submission to the Father's will in that matter, read the Gospels. 

Now, to the meat of the passage, the command: "be in subjection to your own husbands." This word "subjection" is not a word of nuance, is it? None of this egalitarian nonsense about partnering with your husband in leadership. The English word "subjection" probably meant pretty much the same in 1828 when Noah Webster was putting the definition down for the record as it meant in 1611 when the translators used it for the Greek word "hupotasso."  I am not qualified to discuss whether the translators chose an appropriate English word, so if your argument is that they didn't, then you are more of a Greek scholar than those translators and I can't really dispute it with you. 

Looking at the passage again, we can see that Peter clearly meant that wives should be in subjection to their own husbands. Wives are to be under the authority, power, government, control and dominion of their husbands. This brings me to the related word "subject". When one person is the subject of another, it makes us think of a king, prince or lord, does it not? A king is surrounded by his subjects, that is, those people who are subject to his rule. So what Peter is describing is a king/subject relationship or lord/subject relationship. And I can say this with authority because Peter himself sums up the passage by telling us that Sara obeyed Abraham calling him lord. There it is. Even as Abraham was a lord to Sara, our husbands are lords to us. Or, it might be said they are lords over us. (I can hear the feminists and egalitarians cringing now.)

What is interesting about Peter using Sara for an example is two-fold. First, he uses Sara as an example because his readers would have been familiar with the life of Sara. Peter is referring to something, some event, about which all of his readers would have known. He has not been given special knowledge by God about Sara obeying Abraham, he is talking about something well known to those who had read the Old Testament, which is the only Scriptures Peter's readers had. It would seem that Peter, then, is talking about Sara's obedience to Abraham when he told her to say that she was Abraham's sister, to conceal that she was his wife, and, if necessary to commit adultery with king Abimelech on one occasion (Gen.20:5) and with Pharaoh on another (Gen. 12:13). I don't know of any other circumstance where we see Sara obeying, and interestingly enough, it is a very serious matter, not a small matter. 

When women say that they would obey their husbands unless he was asking them to do something they believed was sinful, they are not following the example of Sara. Sara obeyed and was not afraid with any amazement.

Second, this was not a contemporary example for Peter's readers. Sara lived close to 2000 years before Peter. Her culture could have been as different from Peter's as Peter's would be from ours. The argument that Peter was describing a cultural practice makes no sense in the light of the wifely example he chose.  He didn't argue that it was current custom or that his contemporaries in the Church had the practice of wives being in subjection to husbands. He claims that holy women, like Sara, have always done so.  It is the evidence of a woman who trusts in God, according to Peter. Which implies that women who will not be in subjection to their own husbands do not  trust God. 

We don't really have a choice as believing wives. We can trust God and be holy like Sara, obeying our own husbands and calling them, "lord," or we can be distrusting of God, disobeying our husbands and refusing to be subject to them. But if we choose the latter, then our actions show that we really aren't believers at all. 

As James said, "Shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works."  James 2:18

To Obey or Not to Obey, That IS the Question

Do non-Christians stalk the blogs of Christians in order to trash them in the comments? If so, why do they do this? Do they believe the credibility of the blogger is lessened by their histrionics? Case enpointe:

Stop Calling Your Wife "The Boss" - by Matt Walsh

I have another question. Do any of these commenters advocating for egalitarian marriage consider themselves to be Christians? Do Christians even agree that the Bible is our only authority for faith and practice?

What would so-called egalitarian Christians do with words appearing in the Bible such as "obey" and "subjection" in relation to husbands and wives?

I keep coming back to the basic principle that either what is written in the Bible is inspired by God and means something to us, or it doesn't. If it doesn't, then throw it out. If it does, then obey. Full stop. Am I right? How can it be something in between? How could mere mortals assume they know which things God intended for us to obey and which things He intended for us to ignore? Does God sit on his heavenly throne wringing his hands saying, "Oh no! They are obeying what I said AGAIN! Don't they know I was just kidding?"

Ridiculous. I know.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Judge Not Thy God

Have you ever wondered if you have the mind of Christ? Do you believe that God's thoughts are actually higher than yours? Do we agree with God? In all things? Has God ever said something at which you took offense? Does the Bible actually teach the things that you have been taught by your parents, your Sunday school teachers and your pastor? If you were to be shown that God does not endorse your morality, would you change what you believe to align yourself with what God has said?

During worship this past Lord's Day, the pastor reminded us that we are to be renewing our minds. He stated further that what we read in the Bible should be changing us. I just had to shake my head as he just had a woman get up front and "lead" us in lighting the advent candle. She spoke for a full five minutes. So much for women "keeping silence" in the church. I took that opportunity to let my mind wander a bit and to question whether I am currently harboring any wrong thinking that directly contradicts what God has revealed about Himself and his requirements for me. I couldn't think of anything but I'm sure there is something.

In the recent past, within the last 5 or 10 years, I have had to completely revamp my understanding of marriage and the regulation, by God, of sexual relations between humans. Why, I even had to change my definition of adultery to make it line up with the Bible! Yes, I just said that my definition of adultery was not the same as what is described as adultery in the Bible. How could that be? Don't be so surprised, because yours is probably wrong, too. Words mean things. Ideas have consequences. Take care to get it right.

How does the Bible define adultery? It doesn't have a verse that says "Adultery is...." But, we can find several verses which show us what adultery is and, equally important, what it ISN'T.  When a woman who is married or betrothed has intercourse with a man other than her husband (or betrothed) both the woman and her paramour are committing adultery. Adultery always, always, always involves a married woman. If sexual intercourse occurs between a man an unmarried woman, it is never adultery. I don't mean that it isn't some other sin, but it is most definitely not adultery. Likewise, a man having sexual intercourse with a woman to whom he is married (assuming the woman is not already the wife of another) is never adultery, regardless of whether he has one wife or 20. A man may have more than one wife, and this is not adultery. A woman, however, may only have one husband at a time and if she has sexual intercourse with another man, or marries another man while she is married, she commits adultery.

I don't know about you, but when I first discovered this, I was quite shocked. A married man, who has sexual intercourse with an unmarried woman is not committing adultery. You can't swap the words around in the Bible and make it the same for husbands and wives. Men and woman are not the same. When a marriage takes place, the man and woman are not doing the same thing and assuming equal positions in the relationship. A man takes a wife. A woman is taken "to wife" by a man. She is pledged exclusively to him. He is not bound by exclusivity.

Rather than take my word for it, and I hope you won't, please check the Scripture and study it for yourself.  Here are a few examples where the concept is covered:

And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
Leviticus 20:10

There is no corresponding verse about the woman who commits adultery with a neighbor's husband. The marital status of the man in an adulterous relationship is never mentioned in the Scripture. If the woman is married and her sexual partner is not her husband, both of them are guilty of adultery, regardless of the man's marital status. In the same way, regardless of the marital status of the man, if he has sex with an unmarried woman, it is not adultery for either party.

In Numbers chapter 5, verses 12 - 31 we are given a  program to be followed when a husband has a "spirit of jealousy" and believes his wife is committing adultery. He brings her to the priest and makes an accusation against her, she drinks a special drink after swearing her innocence. If she is innocent, she will conceive, if she is guilty, her thigh rots and she becomes cursed in their neighborhood. She isn't put to death because this would fail the required "two or three witness test" for putting people to death. There is no corresponding law for a wife who thinks her husband is sleeping around. Is this an accident or oversight on the part of God? I can say with much confidence, "No."

What of a man who keeps marrying women after he already has a wife? Is this adultery? Is the modern crime of bigamy prohibited by God? Clearly not. There is no command not to do it and there is no mention that God is even displeased with it. Unlike adultery, which God has claimed is evil. Consider King David. He had plenty of wives. I was able to find the following list in less than 5 minutes of searching:  Michal, Abigail, Ahinoam, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah. He took these wives, sometimes two at a time, such as Abigail and Ahinoam, and they barely get mentioned. But when he committed adultery with Bathsheba, God noticed. This was not just another wife. This was the wife of another man, one Uriah the Hittite. Even after Uriah was killed in battle, God continued to refer to Bathsheba as "the wife of Uriah." There is a clear difference between adultery and a man taking more than one wife.

The New Testament is a grand commentary on the Old Testament. No new law. No destruction of the law, just a better explanation. Paul sums up the law concerning adultery in Romans 7:3 "So then, if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress." This was not so for a man, in that while is wife lives, he MAY marry another as long as he doesn't  put away his first wife to do so. (See Matthew 5:31-32) That would cause his first wife to commit adultery and he, himself, commits adultery by putting away his wife according to Matthew 19:9.

Now, back to the original point of this post. If I accuse God of being wrong or unjust or unfair for not calling it adultery if my husband should have sex with some other woman, then I am judging God. If I think in my heart that God is evil for putting different requirements on men and woman, then I need to be rebuked and I need to renew my mind and conform my thinking to God's. Not the other way around. After all, where was I when God caused the doe to give birth in the forest? (paraphrasing what God answered Job)

Why, oh why does any of this matter? It matters because it is the first step in admitting that the standards for righteousness don't come from us, or from our wicked hearts or our puny brains. They come from an almighty God whose thoughts are actually higher than ours. After coming to grips with that understanding, we will be less shocked and more willing to yield to God when we see that his definitions for other things that we imagine are one way, are actually not that way at all. We won't attempt to set ourselves up as more holy than God when we see, for example, that there is no such thing as "rape" as we currently define it, in the Bible. Our indignation and desire to put "rapists" to death does not come from God. We aren't exercising a "godly anger" when we wish castration upon so-called "child molesters." Those ideas come from somewhere, but they don't come from God or what He has revealed to us about Himself. And really, all we know about God is what He has revealed. We have no other way to know Him. No one has special knowledge, apart from the Bible, about God's opinion of forced sexual intercourse and how it should be handled. Can we trust God to make the proper judgment? Or is He in his heaven wringing his hands because we are obeying Him and what he commands rather than going our own way? Can you imagine God saying, "I know I told you that if a man forces himself on a virgin that he must marry her, but what I really meant was that he should be put to death!"?