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3.19.2005    |    1 Corinthians and the Muslims
1 Corinthians 14 seems to contain a clear statement against gender equality in the church, and this particular passage has been used throughout the centuries to refuse ordination to women:
34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
At first blush, this looks to be a 1st century version of barefoot in winter and pregnant in summer. Keep those women down, at all costs, at all times. Perhaps.

A more benign interpretation for today's gender equality crusaders is that Paul was merely attempting to obtain order and tranquility in church worship. 1 Corinthians 5 clearly implies that women may both pray and prophesy, although they'd better not do it with their heads uncovered. Then there's the school of thought that Paul was a woman-hater, plain and simple.

Now, how do Muslims come into this discussion on a Scripture passage they would deny has any validity? Simple. One of the aspects of Islam that is singularly unappealing to us in the post-Enlightenment West is the subjugation of women in Islamic nations. What brings this to mind is the headline, "Woman Leads Muslim Prayer Service in New York." That the story, in the New York Times, is newsworthy at all speaks volumes for how far the Muslim world has to go before it can be considered worthy of joining the modern world. My sense of it is that much of the subjugation of women is cultural and tribal, and Islam merely reflects these realities.

Now, there are likely quite a few of my fellow evangelicals who share the notion that women should not be heard in church, at least not in a preaching role. In this, they're in full accord with the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Although Islam is a false religion, the happenstance of agreement doesn't negate the rightness of those of our faith. In other words, many Christians take 1 Corinthians 14:34 as the final authority on the matter. Never mind Galatians 3:28, or any other sense in the Gospels and the Epistles that we each of us, man and woman, have gifts of the Spirit.

However, regardless of whether we Christians believe that a woman should or should not be a pastor (I don't), we for the most part are civil about it. For the most part, although some of our brethren have been rude. And that's about the worst of it in modern times - one of the salient differences between our faith and Islam.

It has been many years since a female pastor or (Episcopal) priest has been newsworthy for simply being a woman. For better or for worse, and there is much to favor the "worse" side of the argument, but that's for another time. We will know that Islam has started to join the modern world when they can be just as civil as we are about this issue.

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About this site and the author

Welcome. My name is John Luke Rich, (very) struggling Christian. The focus here is Christianity in its many varieties, its fussing and feuding, how it impacts our lives and our society, with detours to consider it with other faiths (or lack thereof).

Call this blog my way of evangelizing on the internet.

Putting it differently, we're only here on this earth a short time. It's the rest of eternity that we should be most concerned about. Call it the care and feeding of our souls.

I was born Jewish, and born again in Christ Jesus over thirty years ago. First as a Roman Catholic; now a Calvinist by persuasion and a Baptist by denomination. But I'm hardly a poster boy for doctrinal rigidity.

I believe that Scripture is the rock on which all Christian churches must stand -- or sink if they are not so grounded. I believe that we are saved by faith, but hardly in a vacuum. That faith is a gift from God, through no agency on our part -- although we sometimes turn a deaf ear and choose to ignore God's knocking on the door.

To be Christian is to evangelize. Those who think it not their part to evangelize perhaps haven't truly understood what our Lord told us in Matthew 28. We must preach the Gospel as best we are able. Using words if necessary.

Though my faith waxes and wanes, it never seems to go away. Sometimes I wish it would, to give me some peace of mind. But then, Jesus never said that walking with Him was going to be easy...

Final note: I also blog as Jack Rich on cultural, political and other things over at Wrong Side of the Tracks

Thanks for stopping by.