Part of a Series: The 7 Biggest Objections Millennials have to the Christian Faith
Presented by Vin Sparks
This argument says that, much of the Bible’s social teaching (i.e. about women) is socially regressive. So, it is impossible to accept the Bible as the complete authority Christians think it is.
The response to this objection can be seen from three vantage points:
1. The passage(s) that are bothersome may not be teaching what is thought they are.
So, what might a closer examination of scripture reveal about gender roles, for instance. As we get into this, please remember the context in which the New Testament narrative is set. Cultural attitudes prevailed among the Jews of Judea as well as throughout the Roman Empire which gave men the upper hand. This does not mean that the Bible is sexist.
WOMEN IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
The following was taken from a book entitled Is the Bible Intolerant? by Amy Orr-Ewing)¹
Jesus had female disciples:
At first glance this might not sound significant, but given the prevalent culture at the time, the idea of women being thought worthy of receiving theological instruction from a rabbi was outside the boundaries of the cultural norm of the day. It’s important to realize that being counted among the disciples of a teacher meant that you were being groomed to carry the message of that teacher. Jesus is defying convention here.
Add to that the fact that a number of the many female disciples of the Lord supported the ministry financially (Luke 8:1-3) – a purely male privilege. It put these women on more equal footing with their male counterparts.
Jesus not only taught women, but He strategically revealed profound theological truths to women before He did to their male colleagues:
Martha’s sister Mary is considered worthy of the rabbi’s instruction when we are told that she “sat at the feet of” Jesus (Luke 10:39) and engaged the Lord in theological study. This is the same terminology used by Paul to describe his tutelage at the feet of the great Jewish teacher, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).
It is to Mary that Jesus reveals His divinity in a very special way. After she agrees that she’ll see her dead brother again in the resurrection. Jesus responds by saying, “I AM the resurrection.” He then raised Lazarus from the dead.
The first person to whom Jesus revealed His true identity was the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:25-26) when He told her that He was the Messiah. To see the prevailing attitude of the day, all you have to do is read about the discussion Jesus had with this woman. The disciples were surprised, no amazed, that Jesus would stop to talk to a woman.
Jesus portrays God in parables and in illustrative imagery in feminine form – as a woman searching for a lost coin (Luke 15:8-9)and as a mother hen describing how often He would have taken the children of Israel under His wing.
Women were instructors in theology, leaders in the New Testament church and prophets:
Pricilla and Aquilla (Acts 18:24-26), a husband and wife teaching team, taught the scripture “more perfectly” to Apollos, a famous and eloquent preacher. The interesting fact here is that when named in the Bible, Pricilla is mentioned first as if to punctuate the fact that she had a very real and integral role in the ministry of her and her husband.
Paul introduces Phoebe as “a” or possibly “the” deacon of the church at Cenchreae (Romans 16:1-2). She is described as being prostatis over many – a word that, in Greek literature, means leader, ruler, protector or president.
Phillip had four daughters that were prophets in the church (Acts 21:9). A prophet is a very visible and important part of the ministry of the local church who is called upon, either by sermon or by unction, to deliver instruction, encouragement or correction to the congregation.
A woman may have been an Apostle of the early church. Apostles and prophets form the very foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20) and they were the core of it’s leadership. The Apostle Paul includes a bunch of personal greetings while closing his letter to the church in Rome. One of these greetings is to two people he says are, “outstanding among the apostles” – Andronicus and Junias. (Romans 16:7) There is strong evidence that Junias was a woman.
This merely scratches the surface of the subject at hand, but I hope it can be seen that the Bible, contrary to being sexist, paints us a picture of women sharing a vibrant role in the ministry of Jesus Christ and beyond into the establishment of the New Testament church.
2. The problem some may have with troublesome texts may be based upon an unexamined belief in the superiority of our historical moment in time.
Can we legitimately universalize our time in history? Think about the implications of using the term “regressive” in reference to biblical teaching. To reject the Bible as regressive is to assume that we have now arrived at the ultimate moment in history from which all that is regressive and progressive can be discerned. That belief is surely as narrow and exclusive as the views in the Bible that are regarded as offensive.
Sometimes we think of people and cultures of the past as primitive in their social views. Many of the beliefs of our grandparents and great-grandparents seem silly to us now. That process is not stopping here with us. Someday, our grandchildren will find many of our beliefs outmoded as well.
Wouldn’t it be tragic if we threw away the Bible over a belief that will soon look pretty weak or wrong?
To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive assumes that, if there is a God, He wouldn’t have any views that upset us. Does that belief make sense?
3. It is important to distinguish between the major themes and message of the Bible and it’s less primary teaching.
The Bible teaches us about the central role played by Christ in our salvation – His life, death, burial and His resurrection. We also learn from scripture how widows are to be treated in the church. The secondary teachings are mute unless we first embrace the foundational message of the gospel.
Doesn’t it make sense to consider these teachings in their proper order?
If we don’t trust the Bible enough to allow it to challenge our thinking and correct us, how can we ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict us. If, for instance, a wife is not allowed to contradict her husband, they will not have an intimate relationship.
What happens if we eliminate anything from the Bible that offends us or crosses what we want to do? If we pick and choose what we want to believe and reject the rest, how will we ever have a God who can contradict us? We won’t! How then will we ever develop an intimate relationship with Him? We won’t.
I relied heavily on: Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, New York, Penguin Group, 2007 and Orr-Ewing, Amy, Is the Bible Intolerant?, Downers Grove, IL. InterVarsity Press, c 2005