A good teacher is a good teacher, gender is irrelevant

Reverend Iris Godfrey

You would think that 12 years of Catholic school would have grounded me with Bible knowledge, but you’d be wrong. What I remember from those years is a lot of ritual — attending Mass, going to confession, sitting with my class in church — but no real in-depth analysis and study of the actual Word.

As I’ve mentioned in these pages before, working toward a basic understanding of the Christian Bible is key to understanding Western literature, and by extension movies, TV, music, and art. So many themes used by all the great masters — Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Beethoven, and even Dan Brown (“The Da Vinci Code”) to use a more recent reference — are so fundamentally biblically based, it’s just unreal. When you start to understand this, you can more easily enjoy the material as it was meant to be enjoyed.

There are many ways to get to know the Bible better. Of course you can just read it by yourself but depending on which translation you use that can be quite difficult. Before you know it, you’re so lost in all the “begats,” the strange names, and the endless animal sacrifices that you wind up more frustrated than enlightened.

There are plenty of college courses and books available and, if you can find a church with a great pastor who treats a sermon like a real teaching moment (they are out there), lucky you. Another alternative is to attend a Bible study group, often right in someone’s home, which is what I did recently.

What happened was a friend invited my lovely wife and me to attend a Bible study session at her house. Sounded good, but the thing is everyone there except me knew a real lot about the Bible before we even started, so much so that they were way beyond the kind of high-level introduction I was looking for.

What they would do was focus on one paragraph — sometimes even just one sentence out of that one paragraph — for almost the entire 90 minutes. This worked for them because they wanted to deepen their already thorough understanding, but for a newcomer to Bible study like me it was just too detailed to really be helpful. It was like learning how to rebuild an engine before learning how to remove the engine from the vehicle, just not the right fit for me at that particular time.

Then I was able to find a Bible study group for absolute beginners being offered at a local church. This was much more attractive as a form of introductory Bible study to me, since I’d be with my own kind, so to speak.

You have to walk before you can run, right? So I signed up for this one. It was very interesting, and that’s putting it mildly, as you’ll soon find out.

The pastor who taught the course was very friendly, knowledgeable, and accommodating. No question went unanswered, and I had lots of them, believe me. He really went out of his way to make sure everyone felt accepted and welcome.

Even though he’s probably taught this material many, many times over the years, we got the feeling that he really wanted us to learn and grow from it. When you can find a teacher like that in any field, consider yourself lucky. Truly, an excited and motivated teacher is one of the best parts of society.

We had workbooks with assignments due for the weekly lessons, and they provided huge illustrated study Bibles as well. Everyone showed up with their homework done each week.

By and by, the mysteries of the Bible became clearer, with the extended reading and discussion of the weekly themes helping greatly. All was going swimmingly until we got to the part where it said that women could never teach men.

“Hold up,” as they say in the ’hood.

It turns out there is one word that is used only once in the entire Bible (the verb “authenteo,” literally “have authority over”) and, depending on which dialect of Greek you use to translate it, you can interpret it as men should never be taught by women in church. They can do other things — sing, organize, prepare meals, etc. — but not teach men. Upon hearing this I had the following dialogue with the pastor:

“You mean to tell me if a woman attends seminary, spending thousands of dollars and working countless hours to obtain a Doctor of Divinity degree, and writes books on Christianity while becoming an acknowledged scholar of the Bible, she’s still not allowed to teach men?”

“That’s correct.”

“OK, let’s say Mother Teresa herself, as God-like and worthy of a woman who has ever lived, wanted to teach men, you mean to tell me she couldn’t teach either?”

“Yes, and if she really knew the Bible, she wouldn’t even want to.”

Well, let’s just say that, after that exchange, I kind of tuned out for the rest of the lessons. Don’t get me wrong, I showed up each week, did all my homework, and participated freely.

It’s just that the whole thing about women not being able to teach men made it lose its luster for me. I mean, we’re living in the time of the “#MeToo” movement, with powerful men being brought down almost every day for their horrible behavior toward women.

Also I have two daughters whom I love and I know they can do anything they set their minds to. Women rock! So what if, in some translations of the Bible, you can infer that the women of that time couldn’t teach the men of that time, for whatever reason? I don’t get how that is relevant today.

I’m married to a church organist and I’ve been with her to many different churches over the decades we’ve been together. During that time, I’ve heard many female pastors. Most have have been good. Some have been great.

One in particular is phenomenal. She’s had her own radio and TV shows and a YouTube channel among other things (this would be Rev. Iris Godfrey at psalm19.org). I relish the time I get to hear her speak, and I only wish I lived closer to her. She’s that good. A good teacher is a good teacher, period. Gender does not come into it at all.

It’s kind of like the Constitutional originalists with the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms. There is no way the founding fathers could ever have envisioned every Tom, Dick, and Harry being able to buy military-grade assault weapons with thousands of rounds of ammunition for private use wherever and whenever they choose.

Similarly, how could Jesus Christ himself have a problem with a woman sharing his message of universal love, forgiveness, and salvation? I know in my heart he would embrace it wholeheartedly.

“Samson and Delilah,” “Jonah and the Whale,” “David and Goliath,” “Wise King Solomon,” and so many more rich stories with timeless themes about good versus evil and epic quests of redemption that appear in popular culture come straight from the Bible. The more you look, the more you find. It’s just so eye-opening to realize where so many of the great writers, poets, artists, and composers got their inspiration from.

If you can find a good Bible teacher, even if it’s a woman — and especially if it’s a dynamic, intelligent, and perceptive woman like Rev. Godfrey — taking the time to learn about the Bible, without doubt a foundational pillar of Western society, can be a very fulfilling and rewarding experience.