Category Archives: Bible

Redeeming the woman at the well

In John 4, we read the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at midday at a well. This woman is almost always thought of as a prostitute. There is nothing in Scripture that indicates this. Rather, it is a product of a male-dominated culture and reading of the Bible that sees her as a sinner and not a victim.

This woman had had multiple husbands. Is it possible that in a small community/village that the local prostitute would have had multiple husbands? One maybe. Two at a stretch. But not five. Seriously: pause to consider this. Even in our modern permissive society, prostitutes do not get married five times. This is an impossibility in the rural community Jesus encountered.

No, the very much more likely scenario (I’d say 100% only possible scenario) is that she was a widow five times over. For some reason, her five husbands had died. (These could not have been divorces, for the same reason of logic – but also because the religious law prohibited more than two divorces for a woman). Of course no-one would marry her now. Would you?

Jesus amazes this woman by not only showing knowledge of her five husbands, but also her current living arrangements. The man she was staying with was most likely a benevolent uncle or family member who was giving her shelter in some back room, and acting as her protector. In no way does Jesus suggest this arrangement was anything untoward. There is no hint of condemnation and no mention of sin in this passage. Jesus never condemns her for anything. In fact, for us to think of her as anything other than a tragic victim to whom Jesus showed compassion and love illustrates how badly screwed up our view of women, sexuality and culture has become.

This was a woman who had faced tragedy and horror in her life. Now ostracised from her community, she encounters Jesus. He knows her. He loves her anyway. And he gives her the dignity and honour of being the one to announce the coming of the Messiah to her people. What a story.

That should be a lesson to all who think that their views of Scripture and what is going on in the Bible are completely without fault or need of updating or questioning. What else have you misunderstood because of your cultural conditioning?

The logical and theological gymnastics of those who oppose women leaders in church

As the culture wars in conservative evangelical Christianity continue to rumble along, the pronouncements of some its key leaders are getting more and more disconcerting. I am seriously concerned about the rising “alpha male” type approach to church, embodied mainly by Mark Driscoll and his acolytes. In my home town, Johannesburg, a few churches led by young men have gone this route: denying women any role in leadership or public teaching in their churches. The theological leaders of this movement include John Piper, James Dobson and Wayne Grudem (see more at their ‘Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood‘), and to a lesser extent Don Carlson and Tim Keller (see their ‘Gospel Coalition’).

Rachel Held Evans is running a great series on her blog, calling out the strange, illogical and unbiblical pronouncement coming from this corner of evangelicalism. They’re really getting themselves into a tangle over this issue (something that often happens when Scripture is misinterpreted, misrepresented or misunderstood).

I wrote about this a while ago, when I expressed my concerns about a video put out by the Gospel Coalition. They are using views on the role of women as a test for Biblical orthodoxy, and also claiming that it is not correct to attempt to understand the cultural and historical context in which a Biblical book was written (this completely contradicts the approach Carson has taken in his many excellent commentaries of Biblical books – but it seems that the issue of women leaders trumps his previous work as a Biblical scholar. One wonders why?).

But Rachel has found a few ‘exhibits’ of key statements made by those who oppose women leaders in church – not isolated, out-of-context statements, but key pronouncements and position statements – that just make no sense at all. Take some time to read the links below. You’ll be amazed, and stunned. And you’ll realise fairly quickly that the approach of those who want to keep women ‘barefoot, pregnant and in the home’ (my words, but typically the intention of those who take the so-called ‘complementarian’ view) is more a harking back to some idyllic (but completely inaccurate) picture of 1950s suburban America, rather than anything you can find in the Bible.

Continue reading The logical and theological gymnastics of those who oppose women leaders in church

God versus the weather

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that God is in control of the weather. God causes rain and drought (see Deut. 11:14-17; 1 Kings 8:35-36; Job 5:10; 37:6; Jer. 14:22; Amos 4:7 and Zech. 14:17 – there are many more examples). God controls the “storehouses” of rain, snow and even the lightning (see Deut. 28:12, 24; Ps. 42:7, 135:7; and Jer. 10:13). It is God who sends storms (see Jonah 1:4), sometimes to punish people (Job 37:13). And, of course, Jesus stopped a storm dead in its tracks (see Mark 4:37-41; also see Ps. 107:29).

So, why are conservative Christians comfortable watching the weather channel, which so clearly uses science to show weather systems and patterns and make predictions based on a Godless scientific view? And why are they comfortable with their children learning about the water cycle in school? This scientific vision of the world’s weather patterns presents a picture of a world in which there is no need for God or God’s agency – the weather just works because it is a complete, integrated system on its own.

Now, obviously, I am being deliberately facetious in asking these questions in this way. Most thinking Christians can quite easily accept that the weather works all on its own, without any miraculous intervention from the Creator (To be fair in my reporting, I must say that some don’t and claim that God does indeed control every weather event – see here for Donald de Young’s book, “Weather and the Bible”). And while they certainly believe that God is capable of intervening in any part of this world, thinking Christians don’t see God’s hand in every storm or lightning bolt or hurricane (or quiet sunset or peaceful afternoon breeze, for that matter). The weather just gets on with it, all on its own.

And we therefore understand the verses I quoted above as being clearly figurative, rather than literal (except, possibly, Jesus’ miracle).

So, why then, are some conservative Christians so uptight about evolution? And why can’t they apply the same logic and hermeneutical approach to the Biblical accounts of Creation as they do to God and the weather?

Yes, this blog post is really about evolution and not about the weather. But it struck me today to be a good analogy. Why aren’t more Creationist Christians uptight about the weather, how it’s presented on TV or taught to their children at school? I’m just interested, that’s all…