Biblical Interpretation and Modern Cultural Influences
Sometimes I hear this argument: you are just arguing for women leadership because of modern sensitivity to women’s rights.
This is an important issue, because this can be a real obstacle for people accepting an argument in favor of women in ministry—that somehow it is contaminated by cultural pressure and therefore spoiled.
I want to raise the following points in response.
1) Modern culture is not a threat per se to the Bible
We cannot sustain the assumption that all modern cultural forces are bad. There are a lot of good things in culture.
2) Biblical interpretation does not take place in a vacuum
We do not take off our presuppositions, experiences, or values when we approach the Bible. We bring ourselves to the reading of the text.
3) Sometimes modern cultural insights can be beneficial
Imagine that you have a child with a disability. And that you bring interest in people with disabilities to the biblical text. Your eyes are more trained to see those who are different in the Bible. By virtue of these experiences, you have something special to bring to others whose eyes are not trained the same way. This actually enhances your reading of the Bible, and this can help others.
4) Cultural values need to be recognized, not suppressed
We cannot discard our cultural values, but we ought to understand them as best as we can. How do we keep them in check if they might clash with Scripture? We need to be a part of a reading community that can form and help us, and correct us if we are not respecting the holy Word.
It was seeing women training for and in ministry (and as theologians) that first sparked me to re-think women in ministry leadership. I can readily admit that. But that turned me to the Bible to examine the relevant texts exegetically. Cultural forces are not always bad—they are often eye-opening for our reading of the Bible. Ultimately, though, Christian conviction should be grounded in biblical witness and wisdom. And for me it is. The more I re-read the Bible, the more I see amazing women exercising leadership for the good of the church and society.