Saturday, November 03, 2007


This is quite complicated. If you're not up to it, please skip it and read something else! It relates to a post on ...daylight by Stephen Murray. What determines one's theological position, actually? You see I would call myself an evangelical - in a kind of old-fashioned sense. I'm not with a lot of people called evangelicals in the USA. I believe in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and by his grace. I believe in the Bible as the inspired word of God, although I'm not always actually sure how to interpret it. I believe in some sort of selective judgement process. In fact, I'm with Stephen on most of the issues he lists in his post. The one where we differ we could have a good discussion about.

But now, I am a woman in leadership in the church and with the intention of becoming an ordained minister. Some evangelicals would say that I will head for hell, because that is not right. And we're basing our beliefs on the same Bible - different hermeneutic. But if God does not want me to lead why do I feel such a strong sense of call? Why does my community affirm me in that call? This is now subjective. But my experience must inform my hermeneutic. I think. Perhaps God is testing me. I should live in a state of unfulfillment that is obedient to a traditional understanding of scripture. But I'm not going that way.

So now, here come someone of the homosexual persuasion. He or she also feels called to ordained ministry. Why is his or her subjective call less valid than mine? (My peg in the ground at the moment says that I believe God is looking for families led by one parent of each sex. So at the moment I do deny that validity! Subject to change . . .)

Now I become offensive, perhaps. Along comes a pathological person who steals children permanently on life support at a hospital and kills them (make it worse, eats them). He or she also feels called to ordained ministry. Why is his or her subjective call less valid than mine? (We all agree it can't be right!)

I have no doubt that with careful effort the Bible can be made to support any of these positions.

But now, take the starting point, the evangelical position that says women may not lead. Why don't these people hold that women should wear hats to church? And not braid their hair or wear jewellery? (I know there are people like that.) I don't want to become ridiculous, but there is plenty in the New Testament that could be interpreted in such a way if context is ignored. Our hermeneutic is so important.

And where we start is so important. We like to stay where we are. Perhaps we will move one step away from conservative or one step towards. But at the end of the day I am where I am because it is where I started!


rebecca said...

Not to divert--Exegesis and hermenuetics--I had a course in college awhile back and I forgot what they mean--could you give me a refresher.

What this sounds like is the Bible being used as a weapon. The part I have trouble with is the constant bickering on both sides. What I envision is you being caught in the middle much like Jesus was between the political system of Rome and religiousity.

Jesus is radical and sometimes infuriating--I am wearing my shirt that decribes my relationship with him--Rock my world....anyhow

If you feel called to serve, serve whole-heartedly. Christ was misunderstood.


Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks Becky, you are a blessing!! Exegesis is basically unpacking a Bible pasasge. Hermeneutics - the method you use to understand the Bible. It might be that you take whatever it says at face-value. Or you might say let's understand the context it was written in, find the principle and then put that principle in today's context. There are LOTS of different hermeneutics, even amongst people who agree.

Stephen Murray said...

Jenny - I'm glad we agree on so much. I personally am a complementarian - I believe all offices and ministries should be open to women with the exception of the pastor/elder/presbyter/bishop (which I take to be one and the same thing in the NT - and yes I am an Anglican who doesn't think that the office of bishop should be any different from the office of pastor according to the NT). Yet I do not think you're going to hell, I simply think differently on this issue. I do not consider this issue to be a gospel issue and so I approach this subject with humility knowing that I could get to heaven one day and find out I was wrong.

What do we do with calling then and the problem you pose? I don't have the answers, just one question that is beginning to shape some of my thinking on the issue of calling, and this is it: Does the Bible, in its original context ever teach the concept of calling or the determining of a call in a prescriptive passage that would transcend the passage's place in redemptive history? I'm not sure that it does and so at the moment I prefer to speak of God placing desires in one's heart which will be experienced subjectively but cannot be confirmed without a shadow of a doubt as being of God. Often I can look back at how circumstances have unfolded and see that God clearly guided me through my subjective experience but at the time I can never know with complete certainty. Because of this I need and absolute authority outside of my subjective experience - I need the Scriptures.

Now a further issue would then be as to how much truth one can truly know with certainty from the Scriptures when we all seem to have different hermeneutics - but that's another discussion (the issue of perspecuity).

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Hi Stephen
Thanks for your thoughts. I need to think about prescriptive passages about calling. That's a good point. Obviously we read about people hearing and responding to God's call. Was that just for then? I would guess that you are not a dispensationalist? Because in the NT Spiritual gifts probably tie up with call. Thanks, I'll think about it.
I found myself saying to someone - you think you are called to be a worship leader. But you don't seem to have all the skills you would need. Maybe you need to accept that you are not hearing a call. And I need to ask myself - if I don't meet the conditions (ie being male), perhaps I'm not called.
But at the end of the day I am never going to understand perfectly and need to just move into the future by faith - trusting that if I am wholly committed to God he will make sure that I end up within his will. But I will carry on trying to understand! Because for whatever reason, God has trusted his plan to our subjective intellects. I reckon he believes we can do it. (But now why do I reckon that. . .?)