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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Does Christianity Discriminate Against Women? [Part 3]

In recent years the accusation that the Bible is anti-female has arisen more and more frequently. The first post in this series dealt with the objection that scripture is sexist because it uses the masculine gender to refer to God.

The second dealt with the objection that church order as taught in the New Testament discriminates against women.

In this post, I’d like to examine a third:

Objection #3 — Doesn’t the Old Testament Endorse the Victimization of Women?

Numerous incidents in which women were potential or actual victims of sexual abuse, such as Lot’s offering his daughters to the Sodomites and the rapes of Dinah and Tamar, are recorded in Scripture without being concluded by an act of divine judgment or by any moral commentary. Some people take this to mean that the God of the Bible does not consider the victimization of women to be a crime, and that the Bible endorses such treatment of women.

This is, however, yet another example of how wrong we can be when we regard every historical incident recorded in Scripture as having God’s approval. If we take this attitude toward the stories mentioned above, we must take the same attitude toward hundreds of other stories which have nothing to do with the abuse of women. If we want to know what God does and doesn’t approve of, we must look at His Law, not at the books of history.

Under the Law, if a man raped a woman pledged to be married, he must be stoned to death; if a man raped a woman who was not pledged to be married, he had to pay a fine, marry her immediately, and never divorce her as long as he lived. God certainly did regard rape as a violation and a crime, and expected it to be punished accordingly.

However, since the people of Israel were given the responsibility of carrying out God’s justice in these matters, direct earthly punishment was not always inflicted as it ought to have been. When Israel fell into a state of moral decline, they soon began to neglect justice and the Law of God, and to exploit each other in every conceivable way.

God judged the nation of Israel as a whole for their sinful ways. The book of Judges and the writings of the prophets make it abundantly clear that God did not approve of these constant transgressions of His Law, nor would He allow such acts to go unpunished. The acts themselves are recorded in Scripture with little or no commentary, but if we look at what God’s Law says about such deeds and at the judgment God eventually brought upon Israel as a nation for tolerating this kind of behaviour, we find that in no way can we view these incidents as evidence that the Bible supports the victimization of women.

RJA

Republished by permission of the author

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