Sunday, April 6, 2014

The 2014-2015 Horizon's Bible Study "Reconciling Paul" - a continuing review # 2

“Paul in the Context of Ancient Corinth” lesson # 2

One of the great disservices to the Christian community is the use of speculative theology; such theology should not be trusted. It is the attempt to make theological statements when there is no biblical textual information to back up the statement. Years ago I worked with an apologetics group and it often fell my lot to read some rather strange books coming from the far fringe side of the charismatic movement. Speculative theology was generally the problem and too many times it led to heresy.
2 Corinthians, chosen by Presbyterian Women for the 2014-2015 Bible study, lends itself to the same problem. There is uncertainty about how many letters Paul wrote to the Corinth church and whether any of the extras might be found within the second letter. There are also questions about the kinds of problems Paul and the Corinthian church were experiencing. But the problems have answers arrived at by proper scholarship and with the understanding that they will undoubtedly never know all the answers with certainty.

Rosemary Radford Ruether:

Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, author of Reconciling Paul, the PW’s Bible study, in the first as well as the second lesson, uses a radical feminist author, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and speculates wildly about events and people in the text. Given Ruether’s theology the reader should expect speculation when encountering her writing. This section of my review will cover information about Ruether since Hinson-Hasty not only uses her in the first two lessons but also in her first footnote includes pages 75-82 of Ruether’s book, Sexism and God-talk: Toward a Feminist Theology
In Ruether’s book Sexism and God-talk, which Hinson-Hasty uses in her first lesson (p. 11), Ruether states, “Christ, as redemptive person and Word of God, is not to be encapsulated ‘once-for-all’ in the historical Jesus.” In other words, Jesus and Christ are not the same and the living word of God will appear in other incarnations.

In the same book Ruether writes of God as the Primal Matrix and refers back to a primordial matrix writing, “the liberating encounter with God/ess is always an encounter with our authentic selves resurrected from underneath the alienated self.”[1]
Ruether’s view of deity is either a panentheistic or a pantheistic view. The former means that creation is a part of God but God is more than creation, the latter means that God is everything and/or everything is God.[2] Panentheists generally view God as dynamic and changing. Hinson-Hasty’s views about God and humanity seem to fit neatly into the first view, panentheism.

In the pages listed in Hinson-Hasty’s footnote of Ruether’s book one finds a continuing supposed history of patriarchy’s horrific treatment of women. This is after Ruether has attempted, much earlier in her book to prove that the first religions were goddess centered. The last statement in the section highlighted by Hinson-Hasty is a historical myth created by an early 19th century feminist, Matilda Joslyn Gage and carried forward by Mary Daly in her book, Beyond God the Father
The myth presented by Ruether is that in the 14th to 17th century up to a million (Gage and Daly raised the number to 9 million), witches were burned at the stake by church leaders (men). The truth is that must accusations were by other women who were concerned about domestic protections of small children and animals, and the one million is itself inflated.[3]

Looking at lesson two:
The second lesson in the PW Bible study, is meant to cover 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:4. Hinson-Hasty writes about the many letters to the Corinthians and she writes about the city and its culture. She also writes about the problems Paul faces within the Corinthian church. But this is where her speculation begins.

Hinson-Hasty attempts to make the man, Apollos, one of Paul’s problems. She quotes Ruether writing:

Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether points out in her book Women and Redemption: A Theological History that for those attracted to Apollos’s [sic] teachings, new life in Christ begun in baptism, overcame the old world of sin and brought the believer into a present experience of resurrected life.”
Hinson-Hasty continues Ruether’s thoughts:

This new life overcame gender differences, equalized social relationships, and was often expressed in assemblies where the spirit fell upon and inspired both women and men to pray and testify about their beliefs.
Hinson-Hasty then writes that Ruether “suggests that Paul felt threatened by these practices and confronts them in his letters to the community in Corinth.” The author then mentions that Apollos met friends of Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, who in their concern “took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately. (Acts18:26)” Hinson-Hasty with Ruether is wildly speculating as well as shredding several biblical texts.

Several items from Ruether’s book, Women and Redemption, will add clarity to the statements because reading the quotes is confusing; it would seem that Paul and Apollos should be in agreement. But if one reads further in Ruether’s book they will find that she believes that Apollos held the theological position of a ‘realized eschatology.’ That is she implies that Apollos taught that the kingdom of God had already fully arrived and there was no need for the return of Jesus.  The actual biblical teaching has to do with ‘already not yet;’ the kingdom has come because of the work of Christ, but not in its fullness. It will come in fullness with the return of the lord.

And there is no textual reason to believe that Apollos was a problem. In 1 Corinthians Paul admonishes the Corinthians because they in arrogance were divided over different leaders who had baptized them. And Apollos is one of the leaders, but only one of them. Ruether in her book insists that Paul’s naming of the other leaders was just a ruse to hide the fact that he was angry with only Apollos.
This is all unfounded speculation meant to open the door to a variety of views about God and inclusiveness in the very early biblical church. But this is a poor methodology. Paul’s words to the Corinthian church must be taken in their whole and common sense meaning. To suggest that Paul was lying to the church to cover his own emotions is simply untenable. It belies the wholeness of the word of God. 
Hinson-Hasty writes that the book of Acts and the letters to the Corinthians contradict each other. That acts shows that the Corinthian church was mostly Jews while 1 Corinthians portrays them as Gentiles. She gives Acts 18:4-11 as her proof. But Hinson-Hasty fails to read further into chapter 18 where Paul as usual leaves the Synagogue and turns to the Gentiles.

Next Hinson-Hasty turns to the opinions of “post-colonial” theorist and after looking at the wide range of “socio-economic groups” in the Corinthian church decides that one of the problems occurring was Paul’s refusal to accept patronage from the wealthier members of the church.  And yet Paul instead makes a case for the right of those who lead and work for the church to be cared for by the church. Paul did not asked for pay so that he might not cause a “hindrance to the gospel of Christ.” Paul is so concerned that the gospel of Christ be preached without attachments that he writes: 

I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it (1 Corinthians 9:23).
Hinson-Hasty closes the second lesson giving suggestions about what Paul might have taught the Corinthian church while there.  And wonderfully, she is right Paul did focus on Christ crucified. Still, Hinson-Hasty opines that we may never know the Corinthians answer to Paul, and prepares the reader for the next lesson with the words:

Some biblical scholars suggest that perhaps the message that Paul left went to their heads, or better their egos, because after he left the church Paul began to hear news about divisions and factions that had developed. In Paul’s interpretation of the situation, some were claiming ‘spiritual superiority.’  That they had the power of God.
The reader is being prepared for the next lesson. It is about pluralism, and the view that to find Jesus superior, above all other lords or gods, is to dabble in spiritual superiority.  

[1] Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology, reprint, (Boston: Beacon press 1993), 48, 71. See also, Viola Larson, An Exploration: Feminist Ethics and the Principles of Orthodox Christianity, Masters History thesis “Rosemary Radford Ruether” 49-57.
[2] For more information on Ruether’s God views see: John w. Cooper, Panentheism: The Other God of the Philosophers, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2006) 291-294.
[3] For more information on this subject see, “The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History #3” at

Picture Saint Paul Writing His Epistles Probably Valentin de Boulogne (1591 - 1632) (French) Wikipedia

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yet more evidence that heresy is promoted by an official denominational publication. It's inexcusable. It's also unavoidable and irreversible.

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL