Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Lamp to our Feet

“The brothers [1] immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a command for Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed.” (Acts 17:10-15 (ESV)
It’s an oft cited passage for what a Christian ought to do when they encounter a teaching that is new to them, they ought to be like the Bereans and examine the scriptures. The Jews of Berea were inclined to do this and as a result it seems as if virtually the whole synagogue there converted. It’s interesting that there is never a letter to the Bereans. The congregation seems to have been neither prominent nor controversial. Perhaps Paul and Silas were able to find good leadership for this congregation, and given their nature of resorting to scripture were able to avoid many controversies.
More interesting is the conversion of “not a few Greek women of high standing”.  Men are also mentioned but women are emphasized. Celsus, a writer of Roman antiquity, when writing against Christianity says it was a religion for “the silly, the mean, the stupid, and women and children.” And here you encounter the sexism of antiquity, women are to be lumped in with the silly, stupid and “short of resources.” This sexism obviously hasn’t died in the modern world. Though it is shunned it is still popular in many circles. The most unfortunate is that it is found within conservative Christian circles who claim to hold scripture in high regard.
And yet there is the irony that Paul is often maligned as a misogynist, mostly for not allowing women into the pastoral office. And along these lines many conservative Christians who merely wish to remain true to the scriptures are likewise accused of misogyny for the same reason. Yet, the women of Paul’s day seem not to have found him to be misogynist at all. He seems to have had high respect for them as a general rule, and found in them great support, financially and otherwise. He did not shy from employing them in service to the church. In short order we are going to meet Priscilla and her husband Aquila, it is Priscilla who gains the prominent mention in the life of Paul.
The actual fact is that women were drawn to Christianity because Christ himself valued women. They were drawn to Christianity because Christianity offered salvation to women as well of men. Because in Christianity the whole of mankind, regardless of sexual proclivity, gender, color, race, status and what not else you have, could feel the worth of their soul as the Christmas carol puts it. Now, some of my Lutheran brothers might debate this based on original sin, and Luther’s “all this he has done for me out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in me.” And that is all well and good as far as it goes.  But it should be noted that he puts this in relation to the first article. Expounding on the same subject under the heading of Daily bread he says God gives these things even to evil people. The reality is, a thing is worth what a person is willing to pay for it. By this reasoning, God found your soul worth his life, his blood. Indeed, when we encounter the cross of Christ, the soul feels its worth. Even the soul of evil people, of silly and mean, of women and children. But it was precisely because these people in their earthly life were so often maligned, ignored, oppressed and treated as worthless by the culture of Celsus that they were drawn to Christianity. This in another manner was also why so  many homosexuals were drawn to Christianity also, as is evidenced by how often Paul needs to address that sin in his letters. They did not find Christianity to be anymore homophobic as women found it to by misogynist. In the end it was this religion of Paul, his devotion to Christ whose love for all people is shown on the cross that has given birth to the virtues of Western society, these things we all hold dear, respect and honor of women, tolerance, the pursuit of peace, the value of human life, human rights as we know them, even freedom of religion!
And that is the scary thing today as our culture finds itself adrift at sea no longer moored to its Christian roots. As even Christendom shows a willingness to ignore God’s word on issues such as women’s ordination, and homosexuality, etc. So often liberalism tries to malign Christianity by appealing to these values Christianity has given birth to. It is matricide, and the results of that cannot be good for western society. Indeed we see the fruits of this today in the sort of tolerance “The Manifesto of the 12”, featured in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung yesterday as a response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, condemns. The type of tolerance that doesn’t thing Islamic women are as valuable as western women, but can be oppressed because they are from a different culture. This sort of “tolerance”, I don’t know what to make of it. Sometimes I think it is nothing more than cowardice. It’s despicable. It’s misogynist. It is racist. It just isn’t tolerance, it isn’t Christian. And the result of that thinking if it goes unchecked will be the erosion of Western culture and the loss of virtue, as only matricide can bring. If we tolerate the oppression of women because they happen to be born into an Islamic home, it will only be a matter of time that we tolerate the oppression of women because they were born poor, or to our neighbors. And if we teach ourselves to ignore the scriptures that have given birth to these ideals unknown to Antiquity, because we think we are more enlightened than Paul, we will soon find that it was scripture that provided a lamp to our feet, it was the word of God that was light on our path. (Psalm 119:105) 

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