Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Who Trumps Whom?

I'm still struggling with the questions in the previous post.

What if Paul's command explicitly says, "...women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says." (I Corinthians 14:34), but Jesus' example is not to forbid a woman of poor repute from testifying about Him - or even to exaggerate it - so that "Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman's testimony, 'He told me everything I ever did.' So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers" (John 4:39-41)?

Who trumps whom?

What if Paul's command above seems to contradict his permission for women to pray and prophesy in what seems to be a public worship setting - as long as her head is covered, possibly with long hair; possibly with a veil (I Corinthians 11:5 - a segment sandwiched between two discussions of what is permissible at the Lord's table, and presumably having to do with a worship assembly)?

Does Paul, chapter 14 trump Paul, chapter 11?

Thank heaven the eating of meat sacrificed to idols is not an issue these days. I can't even begin to sort it out. If you eat it in private, it's alright because you know the pagan gods to whom it was sacrificed are nothing and God made everything good in and of itself (I Corinthians 10:25-26, 30). But if someone has a conscience problem about it, you can't eat it in front of them. If someone offers you meat at their table or you buy it in the market, you should not ask if it was sacrificed to an idol (I Corinthians 10:27). But if they do tell you it has been sacrificed to an idol, you can't eat it (I Corinthians 10:28-29). Sort of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy? Yet, the fact remains that meat sacrificed to idols was actually sacrificed to demons, which are real, so you should have no part of it. (I Corinthians 10:19-20). So you're pretty much danged if you do and danged if you don't, so you might as well just do what your conscience suggests and glorify God for having one (I Corinthians 10:31).

But, in so doing, don't cause somebody else to mess up and violate their conscience because of what you did (I Corinthians 10:32). Just try to make everyone happy (I Corinthians 10:33).

I know I'm paraphrasing wildly but ... didn't I get most of that condensed version right?

(Please don't ask me to factor in Romans 14, too.)

Can ANYONE sort that out and make sense of it and figure out what the rules are - and live by them in any given real or hypothetical situation?

My inclination is to say "no."

Maybe because that's not the point.

Maybe Paul is pointing out how pointless it is to bullet-point a bunch of rules. Perhaps the gist of it is that people can disagree on matters of conscience and still eat or worship together without condemning and offending each other if they're willing to respect each other, show a little deference, talk about it - even agree to disagree.

Maybe the point is that we need to struggle with questions of conscience together, and draw closer to God in the process by being transparent, listening, sharing, respecting, seeing the viewpoints of others and being enriched by them.

Or maybe I'm just really awful at turning the Bible into the right rules to live by.

Good thing there's grace, huh?

6 comments:

laymond said...

The bible is confusing, especially when we place the writings of Paul on the same level as the words and actions of Christ.
This is something we all have to evaluate. Did Christ finish the work given him by his Father or did he hand over the finishing touch to Paul.
Jn: 4:34: Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.
Jn :5:36: But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
Lk: 14:30: Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Jn: 17:4: I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
Jn: 19:30: When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
When we place such high value on the words of Paul are we now saying
Lk: 14:30: Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Read John and Revelation then decide just who trumps who.

brian said...

for any Christian who reads and studies for himself/herself, this problem arises.
I think we must avoid two extremes:

1. one is that we feel we must have an answer for every question and an explanation for every scripture, this leads to coming up with any conclusion just to have one,(one prof mentioned that the person most likely to abuse scripture is the one who feels the greatest need for book/chapter/verse)

2. the second is typical of postmodernism and pretty much nihilism in Christian form. well, things are so hard to understand that I am not going to prayerfully seek Truth and study the Bible daily and systematically to know God better. I will not worry about it, let grace cover it, and assume the only things that matter are the clearly taught ones. which assumes I won't have to work or think to understand the important stuff.

balance!

Keith Brenton said...

Wow, brian - I can't disagree, but I hope I didn't leave the impression I'm leaning toward what you call Christian nihilism (the ultimate oxymoron?)!

I just think we need to struggle about these items of conscience together, not give up on ever resolving them to anyone's satisfaction - and accept the fact that different folks may never see them the same way.

And the fact that a whole lot of them have nothing to do with our common faith in Christ.

brian said...

oh no, I didn't mean to imply that at all because I didn't think that about you from your post.

just a general warning, it seems, though, I occasionally notice some of that mentality in the blogosphere.. .everyone deconstructing and no one attemting to construct an understanding

good post, thanks for it.

I appreciate your struggling with it. I guess in my mind a Christian nihilist no longer struggles with trying to make some sense of God's Word.

l. said...

intriguing blog.

JDM said...

They say, "Ignorance is bliss." It seems the more knowledge we gain about something (i.e. meat sacrificed to idols) the more trouble we can get into. This doesn't mean we shouldn't pursue knowledge, it just reminds us of the responsibility that comes with gaining understanding.