Friday, December 2, 2011

Galatians winding down, next up?

There's now one section left to cover in Galatians to finish up the letter. A while back I had mentioned that I would be tackling John next. Well plans have changed. I've decided that I want to start a long term research project that you'll probably read a lot more about in the future on this blog (if you keep reading it of course). The next book up will be Song of Songs.

I'm just starting a study sexual ethics, particularly focusing on the relationships between sex, identity, and power. This will probably be a long study that will take years if the Lord gives me the energy and desire to see it to completion. To start I'll have a dual focus. First will be to look at how the Bible gives positive shape to our understanding of sex, sexual ethics, and sexual identity. Song of Songs becomes an obvious starting point here. The second starting point will be to seek to gain a better understanding of gender in the Bible. How 'gendered' are the biblical texts and how does that 'genderedness' affect the content and presentation? I do believe that the Bible is the word of God, but I believe that it is the word of God to a particular people in a particular point in history. I do think that we need to account for that particularity. How to best do that is something that I am still uncertain of and will be one of the fun elements of doing this study.

Here's where I think that feminist theology can be a critical help, or at least a certain brand of feminist theology. Feminist theology, much like the Latin American liberation theology that it comes from can be oh so helpful, showing us our own biases as well as biases that affected the biblical texts, as long as it doesn't seek to turn the tables and replace one hierarchy with another with women at the top (as noted by Alice Bach in the introduction to Women in the Hebrew Bible xv). 

So, along side Song of Songs, you will probably see some posts on Proverbs 1-9 and Proverbs 31 as I examine Old Testament perspectives on women and gender (drawing this idea from the fascinating article by Carol Newsom titled 'Woman and the Discourse of Patriarchal Wisdom: A Study of Proverbs 1-9 in Women in the Hebrew Bible). Though, initially this will probably be a smaller focus.

Why do I want to tackle this topic? Mainly I want to understand myself better and grow in holiness. I'm honestly not totally sure what sexual holiness means precisely (beyond a few obvious prohibitions like adultery or watching porn) or how to best pursue it. Some of the hyper-avoidance methods that have been popularized strike me as both unhelpful and potentially demeaning or even dehumanizing to others. Yet clearly boundaries can still be helpful.

Sex is everywhere. Living in early 21st century culture certainly has shaped my understanding of sex drastically. It's changed the way I see the world and probably changed the way I interact with women in ways I'm not aware of. Perception isn't neutral (more on this in a future post). I want to shape it so that I can live in a way that is pleasing to God and hopefully learn from and provide resources to others journeying with me.

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