Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Hi Lloyd,

I got your two questions while I was away on my study leave. You ask about women preachers and kneeling in church. It is good to take these two questions together.

In the Bible, the most common posture for prayer is prostrate. They would lay flat on the ground, face down, in the dirt. In fact, getting dirt all over their bodies was a part of the prayer. They would not do this on a finished floor, but on the bare dirt, in order to get more dirt on them. Getting dirt on them symbolized their humility before God and they felt dirt gave their prayers extra power. So, the more dirt the better. Sometimes they would also pour ashes or dust and ashes on top of their heads in addition to laying on the dirt, as a part of the prayer. There are only two places in the whole Bible where someone kneels for prayer. Kneeling was extremely rare. There is certainly much less dirt involved when one only kneels.

Gradually over time, civilization changed. Cultures changed. It became less socially acceptable to be walking around covered in ashes and dirt. So, the style of prayer changed to fit the times. That is how we changed to kneeling. For many years, kneeling was the normal posture for prayer. Usually it was kneeling on a finished floor or on a finished piece of furniture, so there really was no dirt involved at all. This was quite a change, but religion always evolves. There is no other option.

Kneeling was a better option when most of the humans only lived to be about 50 years old. The typical human was active, working, and mostly healthy, until he broke a hip, then developed pneumonia and died at around fifty. So, basically, everyone in the church was pretty physically fit. There were very very few old people with infirmities. So kneeling made sense.

Nowadays, most of the people in church are over 60 years old. Most of them struggle to get into a difficult posture such as kneeling. Many of them simply could not do it. It is humiliating to such seniors to sit around people who are kneeling when they themselves are unable to kneel. Thus, as more and more people in churches fit this description (seniors with health struggles), kneeling became less common. We do not kneel during worship because we do not want prayer to become a time of causing people to feel inadequate or guilty because of their health problems.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with kneeling. Those who want to kneel at home are perfectly encouraged to do that. I kneel in prayer quite often. I also lay out prostrate with my face down—though rarely do I do that in the bare dirt. There are many postures for prayer in the Bible (standing, sitting, laying, etc.), so all postures are acceptable. But, what we do in the church is what works best for most people.

This is based on Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 8-10, especially 8:13. In this argument, Paul says that we should adapt our behavior to the needs of those around us, and especially be sensitive to the weakest members of society. That is what the church has been doing since the beginning of time. Nothing ever stays the same, though we always keep to this principle.

The question about women preachers is related. In ancient Hebrew society, women were not permitted in the temple at all during worship. They also sacrificed animals and spread the blood of those animals upon everyone gathered. There are many things that were done in ancient times that we no longer do. Times change. The idea that it is possible to worship in the same way that King David worshipped is silly. (David danced around with almost no clothes on when he worshipped in order to get more dirt onto his body.) The idea that our worship should simply be a duplication of the ancient style of worship is a ridiculous notion. Not only is it contrary to Paul’s principle of adapting to the weakest members of the society, but it is also, quite literally, impossible. If anyone were to try to worship in such a manner, they would be arrested and thrown in jail.

The question is not, where in the Bible were women ordained as preachers, because that question presumes that we ought to be worshipping like what was done in the Bible. That’s just silly. The question is, how has our society changed so that we can only obey Paul’s instructions if we allow women preachers. That’s a good question. I would say this notion of the superiority of men and the inferiority of women is not something that came from God, but that it came from ancient human culture. Every human culture taught that women were inferior. That is not a message from God, although it did establish the way that people worshipped—all people, even the Hebrews. Although the Hebrews were influenced to believe a lie taught by all of their neighbors, this does not mean that we are required to continue to believe this lie.

Jesus was very much more open to women than what his culture expected. He respected them, listened to them, cared about them, respected their minds and their spirituality, much more than anyone else in his culture did. He often surprised all his disciples. We too are called to follow the example of Jesus. We too must give women much more respect and care than what is expected in our culture. If we were to respect women less than what the common culture expects, we would not be following Jesus. If we were to forbid women from preaching, we would not be following Jesus.

I’d be glad to talk with you more about these things if you like, but that’s all the time I have right now. I’m way backed up from being away for a week.




From: Lloyd Bradbury []

Sent: Sunday, March 17, 2013 8:55 AM

To: 'scott'

Subject: prayer

Why do we not kneel in our church for prayer?

When was the first Bible reference to prayer?

To keep you updated about the Scottish home our concentration in the service at the Scottish home will be the power of prayer.

Lloyd in the Dragon

the Dragon told me I should pray for big green slimy frogs for him to eat. I told him I will try but frogs like Monarch butterflies are on the endangered species list. At least around Riverside I haven't seen too many.

I really like the concept of the blog, this idea you share it inspired me more to visit your site regularly.

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