Beliefnet
Recently, there has been a great deal of interest in early Christian literature outsidethe canon of the New Testament. What is its value?

Canonical refers to the church's public documents, those that areread aloud in the assembly, that shape the church's identityliturgically, and that the church will use for debate in itsdecision making about God's kingdom.

The difference between the canonical and non-canonical writings(likethe gospels from Nag Hammadi) on, for example, the issue of women, isthat the New Testament writings are functionally sexist, notontologically sexist. I don't want to view women as the very root ofevil or ignorance or betrayal. I'd rather say, "The Scripture writersmade a mistake back then." We can work with that.

The real deficiency of the historical method as the only way ofreading Scripture is that we cannot deal with the moral and theologicalinadequacies of Scripture historically; we have to deal with themmorally and theologically. In other words, we need ways of engagingthese texts that confront, say, patriarchalism, not by reconstructing ahistory that never happened or might have happened that we then makenormative.

We don't put women at the Last Supper in order to have womenpriests. That's both bad history and really bad theology becausewhetherone's a minister has nothing to do with who was at the Last Supper.

The question is: What has the Spirit shown us about gender? And inlight of our discernment of God's will now, how do we engage thesetexts? History isn't going to get us there.

If we take only the good stuff in Scripture and don't take thetension with the bad stuff, if we take only "in Christ neither male norfemale" and don't also include "wives be submissive to your husbands,"haven't we in fact lost what is most valuable, that egalitarian idealsand hierarchical structures always stand in tension?

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