Monday, June 14, 2010

More of Cole's Considerations

(Commentary on the CBE Melbourne Conference seems a bit light on, although this fellow has blogged most of it.)

This post critiques Cole's next two considerations from his paper 'Women Teaching Men the Bible:What's the Problem?'  Cole has argued so far that authority comes from God and his word.  This is true, however more controversially he has argued that the connection Paul makes between a husband's leadership and Christ's role in the Trinity, is an incorrect interpretation.  What's happening here is a clash between two views of the Trinity. In the next two considerations Cole moves from a fairly harmless consideration to a rather strange and dangerous one.

Consideration 3: Women Teaching Men and Good Church Order

Cole argues "third, then, I am not persuaded that a woman preaching to a mixed congregation somehow threatens good church order."  Cole stresses that Christ is the head of the church. "Some can so stress male leadership of the congregation and denomination it is as though our Lord is on leave and is not effectively the head of the church, which is his body."  In itself this is a harmless observation, Egalitarians need to heed this advice just as much as the complementarian to whom the advice is intended for.  Cole then adds "we need to avoid reading our family structures into a first century text."  This is a fairly weak addendum because the converse can be true as well, we need to avoid reading our modern family structures back into the text.

Consideration 4: The Invention of the Printing Press

Cole, in a somewhat strange line of argument, says that our debate about gender roles and church leadership should be informed by the fact that at the time the Ephesian Christians read their letter from Paul, the canon had not been completed. "Let me call this mistake then a canonical theology mistake of failing to note the flow of redemptive history and its accompanying revelation and the canonization of that revelation."  It's strange because Cole doesn't clearly explain why an incomplete canon is a problem and it's dangerous because Cole creates distance between us and the text.  It self evident that the canonization was an unfolding history of recognition but how on earth does that change our modern obedience to Scripture?  Now Cole may not intend the consequences that flow from this consideration but he certainly leaves space for them. (While the church-recognised canon came later, the God-inspired canon occurred as it was written, is Cole casting doubt on this?) Also, why create any more distance between us and the text, we're already aware of its antiquity and complexity, let alone be bothered being obedient. Dangerously his approach opens the door to extra-biblical information being required for the interpretation of Scripture. Is a text too controversial or not comfortable enough? Find some extra-biblical information to make your case!  I appreciate arguments for Egalitarianism made from Scripture, but am skeptical of ones that require some sort of modification to the text before we get started.