I envision this blog not only as a support for those coming out of faith but as a starting point for discussions on theology, biblical criticism, morality, meaning, apologetics, science, evolution--in short, any subject that a former or struggling believer is likely to grapple with. There are already plenty of good blogs dealing with these topics, but each has its own flavor that resonates with certain readers more than others. I respect and appreciate the need for various approaches and flavors. My particular flavor is oriented to former evangelical believers, since I'm a former evangelical myself. And my approach is to treat everyone respectfully, even when I strongly disagree with their beliefs.
Comments are more than welcome, but I request that you refrain from profanity and ad hominem attacks--in short, anything ugly.
I'll start my first post with excerpts from a discussion I had on Facebook last month, and I welcome your feedback:
From 1 Timothy 2:12-15:
12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
It's probably no surprise to those who know me that I consider the passage troubling. It's not just that the author (Paul, according to most evangelicals, or a forger, according to virtually all critical scholars--but that's beside the point) limits the role and status of women vis-à-vis men, but it's the rationale behind this limitation (i.e., the order of creation and the actions of Eve) that makes the passage difficult for many today to accept, believers and nonbelievers alike.
No context is provided: women are not to teach or have authority over men, period. Most contemporary believers, including supporters of Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, don't fully subscribe to the author's teachings today, let alone the reason for his teachings. It's common to hear from egalitarian or complementarian believers that the Bible accords equal status to men and women, based on a few exceptional passages that place them on a favorable footing with men. However, I can draw no other conclusion than that the author of 1 Timothy was a sexist and in no way regarded men and women as being equals.
I've never heard a modern evangelical man or pastor (even one who forbids women from becoming a pastor) focus on the reason for which women are not to teach or to have authority over men, namely, because Adam was created first and Eve sinned first. I sense most believers today--even somewhat chauvinist ones--are embarrassed by this passage. But if they believe this passage is true and inspired by God, why not trumpet it? Why make excuses for it or point to mitigating passages written by other authors, without accepting the full weight of this particular author's teachings? Let's let the author of 1 Timothy speak for himself. Do you accept his proscriptions and his reasons for them, or do you not? Do you embrace the notion that the actions of one woman thousands of years ago should have anything to do with how women should be viewed, treated, or limited today? For my part, all women deserve better than this demeaning view.
As for the final verse of the passage I quoted, its meaning is hotly contested and unclear in evangelical circles. But once one is no longer under the obligation to harmonize with other passages of the Bible, the teaching becomes much less murky: based on the immediate context, the author really did believe salvation for women was wrapped up in fulfilling their marital and maternal duties. It's interesting how passages that once seemed unclear when one was committed to the principle of biblical inerrancy suddently make sense once one is freed from those shackles.