This meta question is in response to this recent answer. Firstly, I agree with Lance's answer which is good and deserves the upvotes it got. However, at the end, Lance applies his analysis to a modern day hot-topic issue: "feminism":

The Bible is very consistent in that God has given the responsibility of leadership to men, in both the old and new testament. This is a very applicable point today, since we see this level of passiveness in the modern industrialized world, partly spurred by the advance of the heresy of feminism.

Lance's position on modern day gender roles is perfectly valid, but I see four problems here:

  1. "Feminism" is an ill defined term that means different things to different people
  2. There is an implicit application of the verse is Judges or Isaiah to a modern day question of gender roles but that reading of the text is not justified or explained in the answer
  3. The question of modern gender roles is definitely irrelevant to the OP's question and possibly off topic for this whole site considering it's all but impossible to disentangle the question from doctrine
  4. The word "heresy" is used here. I think the term "heresy" and all its synonyms should be treated as name calling and offensive and completely disallowed on this site.

Which of these concerns, if any, are valid? How should we respond to these issues?

Obviously, I'm asking a lot here. As voices weigh in, it may be necessary to spawn new, more pointed questions to fully exhaust these issues.

3 Answers 3


Let me take these points one at a time:

  1. The bigger problem with "Feminism" is that it's not really a Biblical concept. There might be support for or against the modern idea, but there is no way any Biblical text directly speaks to the issue anymore than they speak to operating an automobile, the ethics of prenatal DNA testing, or any number of modern considerations. We can apply the principles behind the Biblical texts to modern life, but that's not really the focus of the site.

  2. Even so, I'd say that including some application in answers is an inevitable result of discussing such deeply respected and revered texts as the Bible. I really don't have to look at too many of my favorite answers to see that we sometimes let slip a bit of application. I'd go so far as to say that the best answers will be those that make the Biblical texts relevant to us as modern people. However, application must always be parenthetical to the answer if it is to be a good answer. (I mean that it should be possible to pull out the application section completely and still end up with a great answer. It probably should be explicitly marked as parenthetical somehow.)

  3. To be clear, my primary purpose in asking the question was to get at aspects of modern gender roles that these texts can be applied to:

    I've sometimes heard that Deborah was allowed to be a leader of Israel only because no man stepped up to the responsibility.

    But my question anticipated (I hope) responses that dealt primarily with the text at hand. I'm quite pleased with the answer, myself, but I would be equally (if not more) pleased if the offending paragraph were removed.

    I'm curious about what other people think we should do with great answers that include personal view-points.

  4. "Heresy" implies "Orthodoxy" and as such has no place on a doctrinally neutral site. I think there is a place for noting that certain interpretations are "heresy" in relation to certain, well-defined statements of orthodoxy, but I think it would be much better to ask such questions on the relevant site (typically Jewish Life & Learning or Christianity) and simply link to the discussion where it would be on-topic. (This potentially relates to my spawned-off question.)

    However, I think that we should avoid the actual word "heresy", which carries too much baggage these days to be properly understood. Even on Christianity.SE, I think the word is unwelcome and unhelpful unless very carefully used. Here, where we try to be open to a variety of religious (and irreligious) traditions, it's just inflammatory. Let's not make this a hostile environment.

  • 1
    "We can apply the principles behind the Biblical texts to modern life, but that's off-topic on this site." - no it isn't! Certainly not in an answer, and not necessarily even in a question. Let's discuss this in chat? Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 22:25
  • +1, I think this is an excelent analysis of the issues at hand that is well oriented towards what this site does best.
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 2:17

You've raised some great points here. I think that some of the confusion stems from the name of the site, as is already being addressed here. If the site is only devoted to how we interpret the text, then eisegesis is fine (reading our own biases into the text) so long as they are acknowledged/disclosed. If a strict exegetical approach is taken, then only comments on the literal meaning of the text should be allowed.

But this reveals the conundrum: the two are virtually inseparable. All of us have a bias, myself included, when we we approach the text. This is why hermeneutical principles are important, they reveal to others the "rules of the game" for how we interpret scripture. Lance revealed a bias that assumes a complementarian/patriarchal doctrinal stance when interpreting this text. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but should simply be disclosed (which it was, but perhaps it should be mentioned initially in a response). In the case of the question asked, however, it is possible to discuss how the original hearers viewed women's roles and apply this without specifically attacking modern feminism and New Covenant gender role issues. I personally feel that the paragraph mentioning heresy and feminism was superfluous to the response.

At the same time, it may be that Lance's hermeneutical principles do not allow him to separate the issues. Do you see where the confusion lies? You almost have to agree on hermeneutical principles before having meaningful discussion of the text. Assuming them can lead to all sorts of confusion.

I know that my logic here is somewhat circular, and that is kind of the point. The title of this website allows for both responses.

These are my two cents, for what they're worth ;)

  • +1 this is an excellent contribution Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 20:16
  • Glad you found it helpful.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 20:18
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    Interpretation always involves bias. You can't avoid that. But shall we go around voting people down whom we deem to be 'heretics?' Shall the bias of the majority reign, rather than statements being evaluated on the basis of their relevance to the question being asked? Just some food for thought.
    – Dan
    Commented Feb 12, 2012 at 22:41

Heresy should always be called out, and we have plenty of Biblical examples of that.

My hermeneutical principles involved the Bible interpreting itself; using the entire Bible as the overall context, then drilling down to the immediate contexts. That paragraph was about the overall Biblical context.

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    This is not a Christian website. This is not the place to determine what is heresy, or to label people as heretics. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 0:15
  • 5
    My general understanding is that this site is not a good place for prescribing doctrine. Answers that stray from textual analysis and the art of interpretation into arguing how a doctrine or belief system should be implemented drag the scope of the site out of bounds. With prescribing doctrine being off topic, so is the calling out of heresy. You forwareded a perfectly good argument for how the passage should be read as a text. Following that up with a prescription for what someone should do in response to a modern issue is, I think, out of place here.
    – Caleb
    Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 1:16
  • 3
    @Caleb - that is not quite my understanding! In fact all answers and even questions contain and are shaped by doctrine of one kind or another (see @digitaloday's post above). The rule for the site is that a question may not begin from doctrine. Commented Feb 13, 2012 at 9:55
  • @Bruce, doesn't matter, I'm a christian, so I have to do what's right. Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 1:40
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    Thank you for editing your answer to remove the bit that was open to misinterpretation. I accepted it, because it was a very good answer. I would like to encourage you with Paul's words: "To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings."--1 Corinthians 9:21-23 (ESV) Commented Feb 14, 2012 at 17:06

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