Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Grudem puts Foh before Calvin

In a new turn recently, the CBMW gender blog is featuring some egalitarian women bloggers. Today it was the turn of Molly Alley. Molly writes,
    Complementarians and Egalitarians both find their position from Scripture. The Armenian and Calvinist positions both claim they are found in the clear teaching of the Bible. Charismatic and non-Charismatic both base their stance on the Scriptures. The Church of Christ claims it best reflects God's desire for the way "church" ought to be, but then again, so does the Baptist and the Pentacostal, and all three of them point to the Bible for "proof" that they are right.
And in response Dave Kotter quotes Wayne Grudem who has said,
    But in no case are we free to say that the teaching of the Bible on any subject is confusing or incapable of being understood correctly. In no case should we think that persistent disagreements on some subject in the history of the Church mean that we will be unable to come to a correct conclusion on that subject ourselves. Rather, if a genuine concern about some such subject arises in our lives we should sincerely ask God's help and then go to Scripture, searching it with all our ability, believing that God will enable us to understand rightly. (Bible Doctrine. p. 53)
However, here are three instances where Grudem has a substantial differences in understanding with others of his own tradition in the basic meaning of scripture,

1. Gen. 3:16
    et te soumettras à ton mari, Bible Olivétan (with preface written by Calvin)

    (and you will submit to your husband)
But Grudem writes,
    Susan Foh has effectively argued that the word translated "desire" (Heb. teshûqah) means "desire to conquer," and that it indicates Eve would have a wrongful desire to usurp authority over her husband. (Systematic Theology. page 464)
Calvin believed that the curse of Eve was that she would submit to her husband. Grudem has decided to follow Foh's lead and teaches that Eve's curse is her desire to conquer Adam. Most translations of the Bible retain the literal alternative that Pagnini offered of desiderium or "desire." I find that to be the most appropriate approach. One should not change scripture and interpret it as Grudem does here in following Susan Foh's lead.

2. 1 Tim. 2:12 An early English translation from 1560, called the Calvin Bible, translated the verse this way,
    1 Ti 2:12 But I suffer not the woman to teach, nor to assume authority over the man, but to be silent.
However, Grudem says,
    To take one example: in 1 Timothy 2:12 the TNIV adopts a highly suspect and novel translation that gives the egalitarian side everything they have wanted for years in a Bible translation. It reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man”
I wonder why Grudem calls the 1560 Calvin Bible a highly suspect and novel translation. I have no ideas on this.

3. Eph. 5:21
    submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
1 Clement 38.1:
    “So in our case let the whole body be saved in Christ Jesus, and let each man be subject (ὑποτασσέσθω) to his neighbor, to the degree determined by his spiritual gift,”
2 Macc 13.23,
    ”[King Antiochus Eupator] got word that Philip, who had been left in charge of the government, had revolted in Antioch; he was dismayed, called in the Jews, yielded (ὑπετάγη) and swore to observe all their rights, settled with them and offered sacrifice, honored the sanctuary and showed generosity to the holy place.”
However, Grudem writes,
    But in spite of all these different forms of submission, one thing remains constant in every use of the word: it is never "mutual" in its force; it is always one-directional in its reference to submission to an authority.
It clearly is mutual in Clement, and it clearly is not in reference to an authority in 2 Maccabees.

How else can one explain the significant difference in interpretation between Grudem and Calvin, or Grudem and Clement (a native speaker of Greek) if not by saying that scripture is confusing. In fact, I find Molly to be incredibly generous when she simply comments,
    Was the Bible ever supposed to be clear? That's what I'm wondering.
On top of this, Molly is a good friend of mine.

Now, I won't disagree if someone says that Calvin and Grudem have somewhat similar attitudes to women preaching. Calvin probably wasn't too happy with Marie Dentiere. But one must admit that if we hold to sola scriptura, one really has to wonder how these two came to the same conclusions with such a different view of what scripture actually said.


Alaska said...

You are too kind. :) Excellent thoughts. You "got it," exactly what I was trying to communicate.

Anonymous said...

I take a slightly different path: sola scriptura, but not sola (whatever is Latin for interpretaton).

The Bible does say it keeps some things hidden. We have not only the parables of Jesus: "The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?" He replied, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them" (Mt. 13:10-11), but also the writing of Paul: "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past" (Rom. 16:25).

In 1 Corinthians 2:8 Paul tells us that the problem is also one of understanding: "None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."

So we see that some things are hidden from the lost, and some are hidden from the learned, but that the Spirit enlightens those who seek to know. Yet we cannot dismiss our varying individual levels of growth as affecting our understanding. As someone put it, God is a perfect transmitter, but we are imperfect receivers.

Also, there is no way around the fact that no English translation can be taken as "the plain meaning of scripture" when it wasn't written in English at all. We are not all experts in Greek or history or a lot of other things we'd need to bridge the gap between ancient Koine Greek and modern English.

Peter Kirk said...

Grudem: But in no case are we free to say that the teaching of the Bible on any subject is confusing or incapable of being understood correctly.

The Apostle Peter, in the translation Grudem was brought up on: So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16, RSV)

Perhaps Scripture is not in fact all that clear, even confusing in some places. Perhaps it is not safe to let "the ignorant" interpret it on their own. That is not an argument for ecclesiastical authority over the Bible, rather for using proper scholarly study methods rather than proof texting.