Reading John Hobbin’s recent post and the post at Compligalitarian, I must say that I don’t care for “plain sense” arguments. Appeals to the plain sense of scripture tend to either ignore or deny that what was the plain sense of a text for the original audience is not necessarily applicable to us today.
Appeals to the plain sense of scripture tend to forget that when it comes to Paul’s letters, we are literally reading other people’s mail. And thus any commands in Paul’s letters do not directly map to the modern day. If we are going to describe our faith as being a faith grounded in history, we must take that history seriously when interpreting historical and contextual texts such as Paul’s letters.
We treat Paul’s letters like a handbook for our lives today rather than historically conditioned, occassional texts, written for a specific purpose or need. We find it easy to ignore commands to Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2 because their names are explicitly mentioned. But we fail to recognize that all of Paul’s letters are just as specific and occassional as that single command in Philippians 4:2.
So if we’re going to appeal to the plain sense of scripture in our interpretation, we must first recognize that the plain sense is not necessarily directly applicable to the 21st century and in fact there’s often no reason to assume that the plain sense was applicable to anyone beyond the immediate situation Paul is addressing. Going back to Euodia and Syntyche, the plain sense of Paul’s command is applicable only directly to those two people. Of course there are theological implications, but those are separate from the command itself. The vast majority of commands in 1 Corinthians or 1 Timothy are only directly applicable to the the Corinthians or Timothy’s immediate situation. And for that reason, we’re safer building application from Paul’s statements about theology than on his commands to the original audience.
And it is for that reason that if I were to become a complimentarian again, I would have to be convinced by statements other than the commands of 1 Timothy 2:12.