In the mid-60’s Bob Dylan sang a song which was not only prophetic in its insights at that time of massive cultural shift but continues to be as relevant now. The words are below and you can hear his dulcet tones in this video:
The changing times are nothing short of astounding, for two reasons. One is that we in the West never expected to see in our lifetimes such thinly disguised hatred, cruelty and the normalising of heinous policies coming from ordinary members of society, (although there are enough precedents – see Nazi Germany, the slave trade operating out of Great Britain and the southern states of America, and the Spanish Inquisition to name just a few) to disenchant us of our illusory state of niceness.
The emergencies of our world are too numerous to write but among the most prominent are the way in which multiple nations refuse to accept refugees – ‘we are full and our economy can’t sustain helping refugees, plus, they’re different to us’ being the most common reason given by the more prosperous countries. An even greater crisis is the blind refusal of governments to acknowledge that the delicate ecology of our planet is being trashed, driving us to the destination of a world we will not recognise.
Come gather ’round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters Around you have grown And accept it that soon You’ll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you Is worth savin’ Then you better start swimmin’ Or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin’.
While great strides have been made towards gender equality in church leadership, a staggering segment of churches still subscribe to a narrow view that permits females only certain opportunities to exercise the call of God on their life. Women may exercise authority over children and other females in the Western church context. Women are also commissioned as missionaries and sent to the furthest reaches of the world that the borders of God’s kingdom may expand. In this role they certainly teach, have authority, and pastor congregations of believers. Yet, women are excluded from teaching/pastoring roles where males are present in the same churches that commissioned them to the mission field. As a scholar of theology, I find this position inconsistent with scripture and harmful to the global church.
Not only is this position inconsistently applied within churches that do not affirm female leadership, it is damaging to women theologically, vocationally, and personally. When taken to its logical conclusion this position is also harmful to congregations in other countries that have been planted by female missionaries. Essentially, this position views male members of these churches who have been led to Christ and growth in spiritual maturity by a woman as less valuable than Western males, or less worthy of “proper” teaching, since they would not be permitted to receive instruction from a woman should they live in the United States.
Genesis 2:25Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Genesis 3:8-13Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
I’ve been listening to that anxious dialogue in our world right now about sexual assault, abuse, rape and I have been at the same time thinking about Genesis chapters 2 and 3.Genesis 2 tells us of a wonderful garden within which human beings walk with God in the cool of the evening and men and women flourish in safety and trust—not only in God but in one another.Genesis 2:25 makes the astounding claim that the first couple is naked and not ashamed.
They are the representative humans representing all of humanity in relation with God and one another.There is no assault, there is no taking of what is not given, there is no fear and there is no shame.Human beings are free from the brokenness and suffering that will later come through sin and the sin system.
In Genesis 1:26-28 they were called to image God and reign in the Earth, filling it—creating families, who would create communities who would create nations.As agents of God, the first humans were to act in union with the one who is completely good and just and holy.And God’s people were naked and not ashamed.Continue reading Rape, Assault, Abuse and the Fall→
The Acts community gives us a wonderful picture of women being actively part of the community of the Lord in the last days. In Biblical times, the idea of female speakers was acceptable due to God’s use of prophetesses like Sarah, Deborah, Miriam, and Huldah. Luke, the evangelist who wrote the two-volume corpus, Luke-Acts, even began his Gospel with a series of prophecies uttered by the most unlikely women: the barren, the widowed, and the pregnant-before-marriage. Amid societal taboos, God displayed a unique reversal of norms, when he spoke through the barren Elizabeth, the widowed Anna, and the virgin, Mary. Clearly, the Bible demonstrates that God uses women as agents of his revelation.
Unfortunately today, some churches, who stand by a traditional male hierarchy view, do not permit women to speak as pastor-teachers or preachers. In my opinion, these groups miss out on the fullness of what God wants do in their assemblies. Deborah was a judge in the Old Testament, who prophesied, taught, counseled, and even led the community to victory (Judges 4). What can they say about Deborah’s role? What can they say about the role of Philipp’s prophesying daughters in Acts? Could it be that people who do not permit women to speak in the assembly do not recognize the eschatological reversal that God initiated when Jesus triumphed over sin and death? Continue reading Let Women Speak in the Assembly: Towards the Inclusion of Women in Verbal Ministries→
One of my favourite Pentecostal saintsof all times is Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922), Indian activist, evangelist and holy roller. Over a hundred years before Malala she campaigned for women’s right to education, and she was extremely active in helping the poor and discriminated.
Born in a Brahmite family in what is now the state of Karnataka, she started to study at an early age and learned Sanskrit along with sacred Hinduist texts, astronomy, physiology and more. This was controversial since she lacked a penis, but her father encouraged her as she learned more and more about society, religion and activism.
In 1883 she went to England and taught Sanskrit at an Anglican monastery in Wantage. There she was saved. “I realized,” she later wrote, “after reading the fourth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, that Christ was truly the Divine Saviour he claimed to be, and no one but He could transform and uplift the downtrodden women of India.”
What does the Bible have to say about sexual harassment, sexual assault and the #MeToo experiences that are coming to light?And how might the Bible reveal how the distortion of power can create conditions for a #MeToo culture.
I believe God is a purging our country today and powerful people are being exposed because they have abused their power and have exploited men and women sexually. Many believe that sexual harassment and assault are primarily about sex and desire and indeed sex has something to do with it but harassment, assault ,abuse and rape are about entitlement, power and about powerful people exploiting the vulnerabilities of others.Sometimes that power is physical strength but often times that power is from a higher position entailing more social status or the power to offer jobs or take them away.Sometimes it is the power of an older adult exploiting the inexperience and gullibility of the young.Continue reading Biblical #MeToo Stories→
A couple of years ago I was at a Christian conference. The speaker was a completely ordinary charismatic with a dramatic voice, a suit, some extra pounds and was – of course – a man. Nothing out of the ordinary. This man even made attempts at being funny. And judging by the reaction of the room, he succeeded. Only I couldn’t laugh.