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Women bishops and other assorted arguments

The Church of England’s general synod has voted to allow woman bishops, despite the wishes of those of a conservative bent.

Part of the argument is that we live in a more enlightened age than biblical times, the world has moved on, and churches need to catch up with the times we live in—as opposed to living in the times someone else lived in.

This issue aside, the argument pops up often. It’s often heard on many topics whenever someone seeks to hold to a biblical viewpoint—whether it is on radio or TV talkshows, or in conversation. The topics range over many areas—marriage, sex, morals, homosexuality etc. And the argument runs vaguely along the lines of “The Bible was written a long time ago, things have moved on since then, we know more than we did then, attitudes have changed and really it’s time the Bible was updated.”

There seems to be a certain validity to the argument. After all, much of the Bible was written 2000 year ago, some up to as much as 3500 years ago. Times have changed, we do know more.

But there is a fly in the ointment, a flaw that highlights a degree of misunderstanding at best, and woeful man-centredness at worst.

The Bible doesn’t claim to be a book like any other book. If it was in the same vein as Hippocrates’
‘On Regimen in Acute Diseases’, we would expect it to be outdated and in need of revising. But the Bible claims to be a revelation from God—and since God is a timeless being He is more than capable of delivering a set of instructions that are relevant for all peoples in all times and in all places.

There is a certain irony that we, who are bound by time sit like little judges over God who is outside of time and declare that time has moved on, that he needs to move with the times. We bob along in the river of time, and yet have the temerity from our limited perspective to call out for change to the one who can see with a single glance the whole river of time spread out before him.

Therein lies the man-centredness of it all—and there is a pinch of arrogance to it. We assume that the knowledge we have now is right. But doubtless there will be opinions of ours which our great-grandchildren will howl with laughter at, as we do to the attitudes of those who have gone before us. Who is to say that our generation has it right?

Given science and society’s penchant for change, do we build our lives and our society on the shifting sands of current opinion, or in the unchanging and ever relevant word of God?