Monday, March 4, 2013

Hearing her voice: an analogy

The year is 4000AD
 Someone very well respected from 2013 once said
' I do not permit a woman to be a policeman'. And we are trying to understand and apply such a command.
Looking through various uses we come up with a general definition
'A policeman is someone who enforces the law with authority'.
It works for all cases so everything looks good. And perhaps we have come to call in our culture all instances of law enforcement and the legal process 'policing'
But then we come to historical cases of women (affirmed by our writer) being lawyers and judges.
We provisionally accept that women may do some kind of activity called 'lawyering' or 'judging', but because of our general definition of 'policeman', whatever they were doing couldn't be enforcing the law (perhaps they were only defence lawyers, or perhaps they were just commenting but with no authority).
The more conservative among us would also question whether a wife who questioned her husband at home was in some way acting as a policeman, after all, they were attempting to enforce a code, with some kind of authority.

So a historian comes along and says, "hey wait a minute, when this person was writing, police had batons and guns to enforce the law, they walked and drove the streets trying to keep peace, and involved themselves in investigation, in fact context seems to suggest that our writer was speaking specifically of cops on the beat. Perhaps we could allow women some involvement in court prosecutions, deliberation and even investigation."

But his critics reply, "no, no, we all know what 'policing' means, it means 'enforcing the law with authority'. That definition works in every case. It simply does not matter that you can show copious historical evidence that the practice of policing at that time primarily involved getting on the street and investigating crime. I can even show you some historical evidence of police going into a courtroom, and some other evidence of police directing questions to someone who is accused, the very things you want women to now do as 'lawyers' and 'judges'. I'm afraid this is simply because you want to evade the text. You haven't even addressed WHY a woman couldn't be a policeman, which as we all know is about her having authority."

HT Luke for the converation that brought this up for me


Seumas Macdonald said...

I think your analogy would be more analagous if it were "I do not permit a woman to police". There is quite a large gap between what we understand by the verb 'police', to what we understand by the job of 'police [officer]'.

One Salient Oversight said...

I've always understood the "I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man" to be limited to being a ruling or teaching elder (the former being a man who preaches to a mixed congregation, and the latter being a man who is part of a group of men who make important decisions for the church... the former being a subset of the latter).

But women leading mixed Bible Studies, or women involved in sub-committees, or women who are teaching and having authority over men outside of a church context, that is fine by me.

Mike W said...

ah yes,thankyou seamus, makes the analogy work better. For some reason comments aren't getting through to my email, so sorry for the slow reply

Jonathan H said...

I'm so enjoying not entering into this debate...

Mike Bull said...

Keep pointing people to those twin essays by Jordan on the "liturgical" stations of men and women. He answers every single one of your objections. If that's not apparent, and it seems to me most moderns don't understand him, then we are adrift from a biblical worldview.

This is why John is asking good questions but coming up with the wrong answers, and why Lionel is defending a biblical stance but without sufficient evidence. Both sides of the debate are wrong because they don't know how to read the Bible like a book. This is not an issue we can blunder our way on, doing what is right in our own eyes, especially in a culture which no longer sees any difference between men and women.

I blame the Germans. We are still suffering from their legacy.

Mike Southon said...

Mike, your analogy is right. And your critique of Lionel is reasonably fair.

HOWEVER, I think that John still has not made his point. To continue the analogy, I think John has said "policing in the ancient world involved armour and swords, and now armour and swords have been replaced by guns, so women can join a modern police force." I don't think he has proven his technical definition adequately (the evidence is just too thin) and definitely not adequately enough to state that didaskein is now COMPLETELY restricted to the scriptural text.

So, to take the good observations from John's work, but to not swallow his exegesis whole, I think we are now in a situation where we look at a woman wearing blue and have to ask "is this policing?". Where a woman can be teaching gun handling and we can say "no, that' snot policing", but a woman could be wearing a badge, and completely unarmed, and we say "yes, that is actually policing"

Mike Southon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill said...

I understand there is actually a real live debate over whether it is allowable for a man to read a Bible commentary written by a woman.