Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The question you can always ask

You are always free to ask the question "but what does it mean?" - even when the answer seems obvious, and especially when the question seems dangerous.

I raise this because sometimes we close the door on this question too quickly. An area I've been mulling over recently (for Relay-related reasons) is that of gender and women's ministry, and one of the things that I have noticed from some contributors to that debate is that they ask one question of the Scriptural texts deemed to be relevant - what does it say? - but not the follow-on question - what does it mean? The latter question will include all sorts of considerations, like "why does it say this? to whom does it say this? when did it say this? how does it fit with everything else?", which make the issue more complex than the simple "what does it say" question makes apparent.

It isn't enough to just quote the Bible. I need to know more than just what words are there. I need to know how they are being used, what they signify. And that requires more work, and perhaps the risk that we find something we didn't want in the text.


  1. BRILLIANTLY said: always knew you were an utter genius.

  2. Believe it or not folks, I didn't even pay him to say that.

    Seriously, glad it was helpful.

  3. Anonymous11:01 pm

    Really interesting! Can you say any more?

  4. I don't know that I can say more off the top of my head... Ask me a question and we'll see where it goes...

  5. Anonymous9:26 am

    I guess I was interested in some of the examples you'd seen where you wanted to ask 'the extra question'.

  6. Matt, I guess the issue I was thinking about when I wrote this was women's ministry. So, when someone says "but the Bible says women should remain silent in church" I want to ask "why does it say that?" and "how might that apply today?" rather than just reiterate the words... When I ask those questions, I find that those Scriptures don't necessarily imply the conservative complementarian line they are often thought to support...

    I'm sure the same procedure could be applied to many, many issues though...