NEWSLETTER

 

Spring 2003 

Vol. 3    Num. 4 

 

     

The Blinding Influence of CULTURE
by 
Pat Joyce

 What influenced the choosing of culture as the focus of this newsletter?  Certainly, the way those in Iraq and other Islamic countries have viewed Operation Iraqi Freedom, along with some reading.  Culture is so natural to us we don’t think about its influence until we are confronted with those who see things so differently.  However, it is a powerful force.  As such, we must see how culture has influenced traditional church teaching in regard not only to women, but also to biblical Christianity.

Alvin Schmidt defines culture as “society’s institutionalized values, beliefs, norms knowledge and practices that are learned through human interaction.  It includes art, morals, law, traditions–a way of life.” (1) Susan Hyatt says, “Water is to fish as culture is to us; that is, it is hidden, pervasive and coercive.” (2) Look around, and you will see that acceptance by a culture does not mean acceptance by God, which is certainly true in the case of women.

God’s intention was for men and women to share dominion as equals.  (3) After the fall, however, the biblical record discloses an agrarian, patriarchal culture where men ruled as God predicted they would in Gen. 3:16 as Eve turned away from God and to her husband. (4) This was the dominant culture for both the new and the old testaments. 

However, the culture of the early Christian church is reflected in that it was called The Way, indicating a difference from the norm.  Jesus’ treatment of women was revolutionary.  In both word and deed, He condemned the custom that saw women as men’s property, mere baby machines, un-equal both in value and in standing with God.  The early church followed His lead.  Women were a major factor in the young church’s leadership and the rapid spread of Christianity, a fact overwhelmingly supported by the New TestamentWithin a hundred years, the decline had begun.

So, what happened?  Culture happened. 

Centuries of cultural beliefs and practices are hard to overcome.  The agrarian, patriarchal view held that women were physically and intellectually inferior, responsible for the evil in the world and good only for the purpose of producing male children who were needed in the field.  As the church moved from its early urban setting into the countryside, these values returned to dominance.

Much of the church had Jewish roots.  The anti-feminine stance of the early theologians was rooted in the negative rabbinical view of women.  The rabbis taught, “Let the words of the Law be burned rather than committed to women. . .” and they prayed daily “praised be God that created me not a woman. . .” They believed that “the voice of a woman is shameful,” and  "From woman a beginning of sin; and because of her all die" (5)

Although Rome ruled, Greek culture was highly influential and it was no friend of women.  Greek philosophy had a prominent place in the educational background of the church fathers.   The thinking of early theologians was more like Aristotle than Jesus and Paul.  Aristotle described women as "deformed males" while his pupil, Socrates, stated that "woman is halfway between a man and an animal."  Tertullian called women “the Devil’s gateway,” and Augustine and Chrysostom believed that women did not possess the image of God. “Woman is defective and misbegotten. . .” wrote Thomas Aquinas, putting a sexist slant to Christian theology that continues to taint biblical translation and interpretation to this day. (6)

Along with His radical views about women, Jesus’ teaching came against a broad range of cultural tradition by rejecting Sabbath legalism, confronting the male role in adultery, and advocating servanthood over position.   Jesus exposed those who used the law to avoid honoring parents, and He put the “sword” to anything that came before loving Him.  After the first century or two, these teachings also fell victim to the fallen nature of man and dominant cultural views.

 If behavior doesn’t become institutionalized, it eventually dies or is taken over by previous behavior. (7) That is why the coalition is trying to officially change the governmental form in Iraq.  Christianity had already strayed from The Way before Constantine made it the religion of the empire.  Unfortunately, the structure of the Spirit guided early church, following the teaching of Jesus and characterized by servanthood and equality, was replaced by a culturally acceptable form based on the secular Roman government featuring hierarchy and male dominance.

 Not all institutionalization was bad.  In Greco-Roman culture human life was cheap, infanticide widespread, and infant abandonment and abortion common.  In addition, most emperors killed people at will with impunity.  The Roman populace relished seeing humans brutally mauled and killed in gladiator shows.  Suicide was advocated by their philosophers and practiced by the people.  These perverted beliefs were changed as Christianity’s high view of human life became pervasive in Western culture.  Today, secular-minded individuals, even proponents of abortion, accept a sanctified view of human life. 

Established Christianity birthed free societies where no one is above the law.  Other innovations include the first hospitals, charity that expected nothing in return, dignity for physical labor and universal education.  While we seldom hear it spoken today, faith was the motive leading most westerners who gave us great art, literature, music, science and social movements. 

Christianity has had a worldwide effect, even in non-Christian nations. During WWII, a soldier on a Pacific island met a native carrying a Bible.  The soldier said, “We educated people no longer put much faith in that book.”  The native replied, “Well, it’s a good thing we do, or you would be eaten by my people today.” (8) Seriously, India has banned wife burning, China no longer practices foot binding, and nowhere is it legal to sacrifice children to idols or to have slaves. Christ’s gospel is revolutionary.  In the first century, without modern means of communication, Christianity spread and took root. Why?  Because early Christians lived their beliefs, even unto martyrdom.   Their culture was not of the world but of the Kingdom of God.

For the last 2000 years, God has kept truth alive in individuals, small groups and revivals.  With the Reformation, God began and continues what I believe is a final move toward the “restoration of all things.” (9) However it has only been since the industrial revolution transformed us into an urban society that a consistent improvement in women’s status has come forth. The economics of city living favor small families, and an educated workforce is valued over physical strength.  Urban-technological culture has become our ally.

So, what does this have to do with you and me and our lives as Christians in today’s world? 

We can no longer be silent.   Jesus advocated cultural change.  He commanded us as His people--the church--to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  That gospel brings change.  We must seek revival with no place for compromise. Only revival restores the “Jesus kind” of life to the church.  Syncretism, attempting to reconcile with the system, gives pre-eminence to human control, human-centered religion, and human culture rooted in the fall. (10)

As citizens of the heavenly Kingdom, do we live by Kingdom culture?  Are we practicing politically correct behavior or accepting cultural values that are not acceptable to God?  Will we search the scripture, deepen our relationship with Christ and ask the Spirit to let us see through God’s eyes?  Are we willing to repent of any offence and ask the Lord to change not only our thoughts and actions but also our hearts regardless of the cost? Let us ask God for His judgment of post-modern culture to begin with us.  Then, we can go out as His people, a light that overcomes the darkness. 

I have always thought that those who came to this website cared deeply about living their lives in accordance with God and His Word.  Our search was not for a theology that favored women but for one that is consistent with the teaching, practices and mind of Christ.  We believe that the Bible accurately interpreted in terms of the author’s original intent teaches equality. (11) Are we able to “give a reason for the hope that is in us.” (12) Will we risk it by reaching out to feminists and others who have rejected or never heard the truth?  Can we live in such a way that the Jews are brought to jealousy and the lost look at us and want what we have?  God is still saying, “whom shall I send and who will go for Us?” Can we respond, “Here am I; send me.” (13) 
(1)  Schmidt, Alvin J., Veiled and Silenced (Macon:  Mercer Press, 1989) 4.
(2)  Hyatt, Susan, Culture, Women and Revival, unpublished paper, 2002.
(3)  See Genesis 1 and 2.
www.godswordtowomen.org/genesis1.htm
(4)  Bushnell, Katharen, God's Word to Women, Lessons 13-19
www.godswordtowomen.org/lesson13.htm
(5)  Hyatt, Susan, In the Spirit We're Equal, (Dallas: Hyatt International Ministries, 1998), 50-53.
(6)  Pegis, Anton C., ed, Basic Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, (New York, Random House, 1948), 880.
(7)  Schmidt, Alvin J.,  The Sanctification of Human Life (Internet article www.mtio.com/articles/bissar53.htm  )
(8)  Ibid. Cited by James Helfley, What's So Great About the Bible (Elgin. David C. Cook, 1966), 76.
(9)  Acts 3:21
(10) Culture, Women and Revival, 2.
(11) Ibid. 1.
(12) 1 Peter 3:15.
(13) Romans 11:11; Isaiah 6:8.

 

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What’s Happening
 on the Web?

Want to know if something is on the website.  Try out the new search engine.  You can access it at the top of most pages.

Journey's End  by Kathryn Riss is the conclusion of her book by the same name.  The "serpent's seed" has attacked God's daughters long enough. It's time for the truth to set them free! We hope that you will be so refreshed, challenged and inspired by this thought-provoking article that you will want the get the book.

We are Witnesses to a Mystery by Ruth Hoppin  The  first chapter and a paragraph from the ending of the book entitled "Charge to the Jury," is taken from Priscilla's Letter, Finding the Author of the Epistle to the Hebrews  which is written as a fascinating trial where the evidence is laid out before a jury.   The book was taken out of print after only a few months of availability.  Circumstances suggest deliberate suppression due to the influence of those who regard the concept of female authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews intolerable.  Fascinating!

Helen Barrett Montgomery's Centenary Translation of the New Testament-Characteristics and Influences by Dr. Sharyn Dowd.  The purpose of this article is to call attention to Helen Barrett Montgomery's translation of the New Testament into contemporary English, published in 1924.  While Montgomery credits many male sources other interpretations which appear to have been borrowed from Katharine Bushnell are not credited.  This paper examines the evidence that Katharine Bushnell was a probable source.  Dr. Dowd’s notes will be of particular interest to those doing research on women’s issues.

 A Woman's Place  by Bernadine Tillman   This article is the introduction and first chapter of the book A Woman's Place which contains incites and experiences from two years of a Bible study based on God's Word to Women.  This book confronts abuse, offers a fresh bold view and is a testimony to God's faithfulness to those who seek truth.  How to purchase.


www.godswordtowomen.org/manfredi.htm 

Testimony of 
Vickie Manfredi 

 Intercessor for GWTW

Vickie was the last intercessors to come to us.  She has written a beautiful testimony that is too long to put here. For the full testimony go to the web address under the picture. 

 As a child, I was raised Catholic and tried to love God and to find Him. The church's teaching to children in the late forties or so was to present God as a punishing Father who knew everything you thought and did.  You did not escape punishment except by confessing sins to the priest who represented God on earth.  My early years were plagued with nightmares in which the world was coming to an end by earthquakes and floods. I would awake screaming because I could not find the priest to tell him my sins so I could see God. I became afraid to leave church after my confession because I was afraid I would sin.

 My teenage years were fraught with rebellion, anger and rage. This anger I directed at God because my parents were also abusive.  I felt God hated me.  When I was sixteen, I became so full of rage at my rejection that I took a baseball bat to church and climbed up on the altar and began smashing the statues and screaming at God that I hated Him too.   That is when I spent time in a psychiatric hospital.  I learned after that to hide my feelings and buried them so as not to ever go there again.

 At age 26, I found myself going into a depression. I was alone with a little child, and my husband was gone. I was inadequate for the role I had to play.   I sought help and after four years of therapy I felt new and whole but my relationship with God had not changed.

 When marital problems closed in two Spirit filled neighbors reached out to me and took me to meetings at Gonzaga University where I heard John Sanford.  .  I was too timid to refuse to go. I was seated and those around me began to pray some in funny languages. They told me to pray too, so I prayed the Hail Mary prayer of my childhood, the only prayer I could remember. I wanted to run out and go home. 

 That night Jesus spoke to me, led me to experience my childhood fear and then let me experience something of heaven. I knew I was different and had encountered God. I knew Jesus was real and loved me, and I knew my life had changed forever.

 Later John Sanford prophesied an open heaven over my ministry and a piece of his mantle of healing fell on me. After we moved to Texas in the late 60s, Agnes Sanford came there to teach. When she laid hands on me, I fell to the floor with such a thud that the floor shook. She looked at me straight in the eyes and said to me, "You have it, don't you?”  I knew what she meant. 

 I met Barbara Collins during this time.  I attended a Bible study she taught. I wanted to get inside her brain and figure out where she got the words she taught us. How could she make this Word come alive?

 I left Texas for Connecticut in the early ‘70’s and on fire again. Connecticut was not ready for the radical prayers I began to pray over others. When I again faced the backlash of rejection and those terribly condemning words about the devil, I left the church for a season of intimacy with Jesus.

 Years later I found a Vineyard Fellowship and over time took a leadership position.  I began to notice women who for one reason or another were always on the fringe - on the outside looking in.  The Lord put a special love in my heart for them, and I invited them to my home for fellowship and prayer.  Others also came, and some brought friends from other churches.  We drop our denominations at the door and pick up the standard of the Holy Spirit and move forward by God's grace.  He has also led me to minister to elderly women who attend a day care center in the building where I work.

 By God's doing, I have found my teacher Barbara after many years. I am honored and humbled to pray for you all. I find myself wanting to be in prayer all the time.  I am proud to walk alongside of you as we pray in the kingdom of our God here on earth. My heart is overwhelmed with joy at the thought of our oneness and unity; something only He can do. Do you see Him standing in Heaven, our Jesus, as we come home hand-in-hand and shoulder-to-shoulder without a break in our ranks?  Oh, how He is applauding, His heart full because we are His and He is ours!

Your sister, Vickie Manfredi 
 

 Leftovers Too Good to Throw Out

by Pat Joyce

While I was researching for the article on culture I came across lots of things that I couldn't use, but that were just too good to keep to myself.  So here are a few of them.

In recent years have we learned that culture is not the same as human nature. “Only symboling, planning and foresight, awareness of birth and death, blushing, and creating values, while tempered by culture, are unique to human beings and are the only things that can be considered as ‘human nature.’” (1) 

The word “holiday” originated with Christians in England, and as many know, it once meant “holy day. (2)

 “Most people now recoil at the inhuman features of the gladiatorial shows because they have absorbed Christianity’s view of sacredness of human life and rejected the pagan philosophy of Stoicism that was so prevalent among the Romans.  Stoicism had no compassion for the weak and the oppressed.  This view of human beings sheds considerable light on why abortion, infanticide, child abandonment and delight in seeing helpless gladiators mangled to death were such an integral part of Roman culture.” (3)

Oregon’s Death with Dignity Act (assisted-suicide law) is not only a rejection of Christianity’s historic opposition to suicide but also a repudiation of its doctrine that human life is sacred and only to be terminated by God, who gave it in the first place.  (4)

Historically women have been looked on as evil, inferior, unclean and unequal that has resulted in them being veiled, ruled, silenced, used, and abused. (5) The following quotes illustrate these facts. 

 In 415 A. D., monks murdered Hypatian and then burned her flesh as they tore it from her bones because she, as a mathematician and philosopher, contradicted the church historian, Cyril’s, beliefs about women. (6)

 We know that women have long been looked on as property.  But, did you know they were shown like cattle and that the church supported the buying of wives? “Germans sold their wives to conquering Romans.”  From an English play in 1732: “Your person is mine. I bought it lawfully in the church.”  Found in an ad “can sow, reap, hold a plow, and drive a team…she is damned hard mouthed and headstrong…Her husband parts with her because she is too much for him.”  Wives were led around by a halter before a sale to draw a crowd.  A baptism record from Essex records a baby girl as, “by a bought [purchased] Wife delivered to him [the husband] in a Halter.”   In fact, selling and buying wives in some scattered instances continued into the twentieth century.  Our custom of the father giving the bride away has its roots in the patriarchal concept of women being man’s property.  You can only give away that which you own. (7) 

 “For at least a 1,000 years in the Christian church—from Tertullian to Thomas Aquinas—the passages in 1 Cor. 14 and 1 Tim. 2 meant that women could not sing or pray audibly among men.” (8)

While Oberlin was the first college to admit women, it did so to provide ministers with intelligent and cultivated wives.  Women were not permitted to take courses in public speaking and men read women’s graduation essays for them.  In the 1840s when Catherine Beecher toured promoting female education, her brother read her speeches while she sat behind him.  When Susan B. Anthony was allowed to address the New York State Teachers Convention in1853, the delegates were shocked. (9)

Those opposed to women's suffrage quoted 1 Corinthians 11:3.   women’s suffrage.  This scripture was given as a reason that Christian women could not be allowed to vote since women would be ruling over men.  The same passage was used to keep women from voting in congregational matters and is still used by some denominations. (10)

The concept that women are unclean kept women from ministering at the altar until very recently.  As recently as 1970, the Catholic Church barred women lectors from the sanctuary during their menstrual periods. (11)

A statue on the Cathedral of Worms in West Germany portrays the medieval concept of woman.  The statue is of Frau Welt (worldly woman).  Her nude body portrays beauty from the front, but her back is covered with ulcers, scorpions, and worms.  Where is the statue of the worldly man? (12)
___________

1)  Alvin J. Schmidt,  Veiled and Silenced (Macon: Mercer Press. 1989) 10-11.
2) Interview of Alvin Schmidt
www.zondervanchurchsource.com/inschmidt.htm  
3) Alvin J. Schmidt, (The Sanctification of Human Life)
www.mtio.com/articles/bissar53.htm  
4)  S. Hyatt, Culture Women & Revival (unpublished paper) 2.
5)
Veiled and Silenced, 123.
6) Ibid. 125-128.
7) Ibid.154.
8) Ibid. 155.
9)Ibid. 156-161.
10) Ibid. 97-102.

11)Ibid. 67.