Saturday, November 17, 2007

Back in the Saddle

My thesis work is virtually finished, so I now have no excuse now and will try to resume blogging. I must confess, I have debated whether I would actually return or not. I enjoy the ability to put some of my thoughts into words and share them and, on rare occasions, get comments back on them. But coming up with regular posts that are insightful and interesting can be difficult. I'll do my best. To begin, a few random thoughts from the past few months.

1. I'm totally on board with the ideas advocated at

2. I have now read the "A New Kind of Christian" trilogy by Brian McLaren. I was blown away by them. While I'm not sure how comfortable with some of the suggestions that are made in the books, I've grown more from reading them than just about any other books I've read.

3. If I'm convinced of anything, its that my Aggies desperately need a new coach. All signs point to this happening. I will be very happy when it does.

4. Ron Paul has gotten a few more headlines recently with his fundraising successes. I still doubt his prospects, but will support him until he's out.

5. I got to spend the day today with Abbie making a kite and then attempting unsuccessfully to get it to fly. We are both sick right now, but it was the best day I've had in a long time.

6. I'm trying to think of topics that I can blog on int he future. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


I think this may be the only time I've really been impacted by a skit/drama/interpretive dance kind of thing. Check this out. Stick with it. It gets really good.
Lifehouse's "Everything" skit

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Toddlers at the Table (2)

If you haven't kept up with this discussion, but would like to catch up now, here's how it developoed:
  • I posted this article, and also emailed it to Al Maxey seeking his feedback.
  • Mr. Maxey responded in his weekly Reflections email newsletter. Click here to read it.
Well, I have had some further correspondence with Al regarding the question of children partaking of the Lord's Supper. With his gracious permission, I am posting our correspondence.

First, my response to his article:
Brother Maxey,

Thank you for your thorough and thoughtful treatment of my question about allowing my daughter to partake in communion. The factors which you mentioned are the ones that I have always been taught. You confirmed them sufficiently for me to refrain from allowing my daughter to partake at this time. However, I still have some questions that plague me on this issue.

My difficulty is not with any specific point that you made, but with the general idea that "The rituals of Christianity are only for the mature." You mentioned in your conclusion the passage that says that we will pray and sing with understanding. I'm glad you brought this up because I think it helps explain my continuing difficulty with this question.

We believe that the Bible teaches that all that we do must be more than a mere "going through the motions," but must be done with an understanding of what we are doing. This applies to singing, praying, the Lord's Supper, daily life, etc. However, we don't keep our children from singing in worship even though they don't understand the meaning of the words that they sing. We don't keep them from praying even though they don't understand prayer. We certainly don't forbid them from participating in the offering, although they don't understand any of the theology behind it. And we don't discourage them from adopting Christian morals and values in their daily activity (don't lie, be kind, have good manners, etc.) even though they don't understand the theology behind Christian living. We don't forbid these things because, among other things, there is educational and developmental value to the
experiencing of Christian rituals and activities as they progressively learn more and more about the deeper meanings. I see it as the difference between active/multi-sensory learning and theoretical learning.

I agree that the Bible teaches a deeper meaning behind the Lord's Supper than my Abbie can even come close to comprehending. However, I believe that the Bible teaches a deeper meaning behind singing, praying, offering, Christian living than she is able to comprehend. Why, then, do we forbid the Lord's supper but not the others?

As I said, your article was truly a helpful reminder, as I often allow my exploratory thinking to take over and sometimes lose my grounding in the process. You called me back to a grounded view of the question that I asked. For this I thank you. However, the questioner within me is still not satisfied. I know that you probably receive enough email that an ongoing discussion like this may be something that you don't have time for. However, your further thoughts would be appreciated.

Jeff Borcherding
Now, his reply:
  • I can certainly appreciate where you are coming from; I've struggled with many of these same questions and feelings over the years, as I'm sure a great many have. One will discover, however, that in most human societies (whether secular or spiritual, primitive or modern) there is a perceived need to reserve some activities for those who have attained a certain level of maturity. For example, consider marriage. Yes, there are indeed some cultures where the very young are allowed, even encouraged, to marry and bear children. I have heard of girls as young as ten having a baby. Most of us, however, regard such an activity as being something that is not truly developmentally appropriate for that age. Are their bodies capable of reproducing? Yes, in many cases. Does a ten-year-old have a rudimentary understanding of marriage? I'm sure they do. Would you encourage your own daughter to "experience" marriage and reproduction firsthand simply because her physical body might be capable of such, thereby giving her experiential, not just theoretical, knowledge of this?! Probably not. Why not? Because we see the wisdom in postponing certain activities until one is more emotionally and/or spiritually capable of appreciating and accepting the responsibilities of said activity. I truly believe some things are important enough in our lives to advise waiting until we are truly ready to embrace them as they should be, and need to be, embraced.
  • Yes, as we assemble together, we do encourage our children to sing, pray and give. However, these are things we also encourage them to do every day. In reality, these activities are largely inherent. Before an infant can even form words, they are singing. A fetus will respond to music even in the womb. It is part of our nature. So is giving. Watch a baby sometime. They'll suck on a cracker and then offer the soggy morsel to Mom and Dad. They are sharing; giving. It is inherent. Psychologists, and even anthropologists, will tell you that man is a "worshipful animal" -- i.e., we have an inherent need to look to something or someone greater than ourselves. Solomon wrote that God has "set eternity in their heart" [Eccl. 3:11]. In other words, God has placed within man an inherent awareness, however rudimentary, of that which is greater than himself, so that even from the very first there may be this inherent longing to grasp the Infinite One. Seeking to communicate with this One is inherent within us, and this is accomplished in prayer. It is a need even a child can fulfill. We can cry out Abba, Daddy, long before we appreciate the true nature of that eternal Father. Thus, singing, praying and giving all address fundamental, basic, inherent traits of the human species, and are developmentally appropriate to almost any age.
  • The Lord's Supper, on the other hand, points to a most remarkable moment in time and space, one that is completely outside of and apart from the realm of human nature and experience. It memorializes an event when God Himself stepped shockingly into our physical realm and did the unthinkable -- He died a horrendous death in our place. There is absolutely nothing inherent within our nature to prepare us for this expression of His nature. "Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" [Rom. 5:7-8]. Two verses later we are told that the death of Jesus reconciled us to the Father while we were still His enemies. There is nothing inherent within man that prepares us for this amazing grace! The Lord's Supper commemorates the supreme act of love of our Creator, an event that requires some degree of maturity to even begin to grasp, much less apply to our lives in a meaningful way. Singing, praying and sharing are aspects of our nature; that which the Lord's Supper displays is an aspect of His. It is totally outside of our own human experience, and thus requires some degree of development as disciples of Jesus to appreciate, much less accept, this demonstration of His redeeming love!
  • Nevertheless, having stated all of the above, it is certainly true that there is no definitive "law" for resolving the issue of precisely when it is "developmentally appropriate" for one to partake of the Lord's Supper. God has largely left that to the exercise of our good judgment. In my previous study I provided what I personally believe the purposes of that event to be, according to my best understanding of the Scriptures, and then simply challenged us all to determine, as best we can, at what point we feel one is capable of truly appreciating this event as it deserves to be appreciated. Since the Lord has not specifically set an age for participation, neither can I. I can only offer the fruit of my study and my insights into the matter. In the end, each person must make that determination for themselves. I have stated my belief -- a four-year-old is not yet ready for this event -- but I will most certainly not condemn those who differ with me on this matter, and who choose to give the bread and wine to their child (although I think it inappropriate to do so). This is, ultimately, between them and their God, and I gladly leave the matter in His merciful, loving and gracious hands. Our Father knows men's hearts and motives far better than I. In conclusion, to this brother from Texas I say: May God richly bless you and your precious daughter. She is truly blessed to have such conscientious parents who want only to raise her to love and appreciate the Lord.
  • --- Al Maxey

Toddlers at the Table

Al Maxey has responded to my question about letting Abbie take the Lord's Supper. Click here to read what he has to say. And, if you don't receive his weekly Reflections email, you are truly missing out on a truly enriching read every time.

Also, I hate to do this again, but I will be taking a break from the blog (for the most part) over the next month. I have until October 15 to complete my thesis, and need to dedicate all of my time to it. Its crunch time and I'm still behind. I may post a random video or link in the meantime, so check back on occasion, but I'll have to postpone the rest for a little while.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Gender Roles (8) -- Submission in Ephesians 5

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Read Part 4
Read Part 5
Read Part 6

Read Part 7

We now enter the portion of the study on gender roles that gets quite difficult. As I have said before, I am studying this week-by-week and don’t know what will come of my study. Thus far, I have found the egalitarian arguments more convincing. However, I haven't yet dealt with the passages that are considered definitive by the complimentarians, so it hasn’t been a very fair fight thus far. We shall see where this ends up.

When the concept of submission of wife to husband comes up, I immediately think of one of my classmates in preaching school who made the statement, “If I tell my wife to crawl across the kitchen floor on her hands and knees, she must do so according to Scripture.” This classmate of mine would assure us that he would never do such a thing, and that he believed that he would be violating Scripture by acting in such a way towards his wife. Nevertheless, he believed that the Bible passages mentioning wives submitting/being subject to their husbands meant that his wife would ultimately have to do so if he instructed her in such a way.

While never taking it to this extreme, Alissa and I always believed (because that’s what we had been taught) that the wife was to be submissive to her husband as the ultimate authority in the home. In fact, I made my desire clear that her vows in our wedding would include the word “submit.” She willingly (submissively?) agreed. So now, even though I am leaning egalitarian in my understanding of scripture, I can still be an authority over her on the grounds that she made a vow of submission! And the Bible certainly teaches the importance of keeping your vows!

Just kidding.

The passages most commonly mentioned as supporting the submission of wives to husbands are Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, and 1 Peter 3:1. Indeed, on a surface reading of the text, the case seems clear – husbands are in a position of authority over wives, and wives must recognize this authority by submitting to it.

Discovering whether this is the true meaning of the texts is, unfortunately, not so clear cut. In fact, it is downright frustrating. Today, we will start looking at Ephesians 5, for it has the most points of contention between the two positions.

Mutual Submission
Egalitarian position: V. 21 is the interpretive key to the passage, and it refers to mutual submission. The verses that follow give examples of how mutual submission is played out in life. The first example of mutual submission is in marriage. Wives submit to their husbands, and husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church. Christ became a self-sacrificing servant for the church. Slaves submit to their masters (6:5-9), but masters are told to treat their slaves "in the same way" as slaves are to treat their masters. Hence, mutual submission. The parent-child relationship is mutually submissive in that the parents are serving the needs of their child whereas the child is obeying the parent. If these verses are not describing mutual submission, what is the meaning of and purpose of v. 21? The other passages instructing submission of wives to husbands can be independently explained in such a way that makes them consistent with the egalitarian thrust of all scripture up to this point and that does not mistreat the text.

Complimentarian position: It is unnatural to understand these verses as referring to mutual submission. Children submit to parents, but not vice versa. Slaves submit to masters, but not vice versa. Likewise, wives submit to husbands, but not vice versa. In each of these relationships, the authority is regulated to prevent mistreatment. Also, if God's desire was for mutual submission, it would seem that there would be some place in the Bible where it said something that more clearly instructs husbands to submit to their wives? Instead , you have several other verses repeating the instruction directing wives to submit, such as Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, and 1 Peter 3:1-6.

My assessment: I'm torn. V. 21 cannot be ignored, and it clearly espouses some kind of mutual submission, although not necessarily the egalitarian brand of it. However, the mutual submission of parents and children seems to be a stretch. On this point, the complimentarian reading of the passage seems to be more natural, although the egalitarian reading is viable.


Complimentarian position: The Greek word for "submit" means to submit to an authority. It carries the idea of authority in its very meaning. Nowhere in ancient Greek writings was that word used to refer to reciprocal submission, whether in the Bible or not.

Egalitarian position: The word "submit" does not appear alone. It is followed by the words "to one another." The addition of that phrase makes it mutual. It like saying, “Treat one another as being an authority over you.” It reminds me of what Paul said in Philippians 2:3-4, that we are supposed to “consider others better than yourselves” and “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

My assessment: The egalitarian position makes good sense on this point. I don't know Greek well enough to know how well the linguistic argument's hold up, but they do seem to make sense within the text.

I'll continue looking at Ephesians 5 next time. Clearly, both egalitarians and complimentarians have solid points related to Ephesians 5. Taking the passage on its own merits, I have to call it a draw thus far. In the case of a draw, I must defer to my understanding of the whole of scripture, which, as I have said above, currently leans egalitarian. But the jury is still out.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Which Theologian Are You?

Whodathunkit?! I'm a Calvinist after all! I'll have to stop trashing TULIP. OK, maybe not.

You scored as John Calvin, Much of what is now called Calvinism had more to do with his followers than Calvin himself, and so you may or may not be committed to TULIP, though God's sovereignty is all important.

John Calvin




Karl Barth




Friedrich Schleiermacher


Jonathan Edwards


Martin Luther


Charles Finney


J├╝rgen Moltmann


Paul Tillich


Which theologian are you?
created with

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Gender Roles (7) -- Women in the Church

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Read Part 4
Read Part 5
Read Part 6

Women served in many prominent roles that many modern Christians would exclude them from. These roles include:

At the initial convening of the Christian church, Peter mentioned the role of the prophetess as indicative of the arrival of the kingdom prophesied of in Joel 2:28 (see Acts 2:17). It doesn't take long before we find the first recorded example of a prophetess in the church, when Acts 21:9 tells us that Philip's daughters prophesied. Also, the women in Corinth prophesied in the presence of men, and were not rebuked for doing so (1 Cor. 11:5-6). Rather, they were rebuked for their failure to honor their "heads" while prophesying. It is important to notice that prophecy was a PUBLIC ministry and a PUBLIC witness of the Spirit. The role of the prophet was to communicate God's message to his people. This is precisely the kind of role that women are prohibited from holding today.

Many women are presented in the New Testament as being "fellow-workers" with Paul. Label this how you will, but the term "fellow-worker" is typically used by Paul to indicated those who participated in his evangelistic and missionary activities. This number includes Euodia and Syntyche in Philippi (Philippians 4:2-3); Priscilla in Corinth (Rom. 16:3). Many others are mentioned in the New Testament as participating in this kind of work with Paul.

While the 12 were all men (discussed last week), it is interesting that Junia (a feminine name) as "highly respected among the apostles." I'm not sure exactly how to understand this. It could mean that she was viewed as holding an apostolic/ambassadorial role even though not one of the 12 (like Paul??). Or it could mean that she was highly respected BY the apostles. The problem with this latter interpretation is that most ancient and modern writers have always understood the verse to be referring to her as an apostle.

We will discuss this passage at a later date, but it should be noted that Phoebe is referred to as a deacon of the church at Cenchrea in Romans 16:1.

While some of these have more ambiguity than others, this overview should show that women certainly had a much greater claim to leadership roles in the early church than they are allowed in many churches today. They led men, had authority over men, taught men, spoke in the presence of men, etc.

Feedback appreciated

So I have a question that I figured I'd throw out there to see if anyone can help me. I've been pondering the propriety of allowing Abbie to start taking the Lord's Supper.

Now, before the heresy hunters start sending in special forces, let me at least explain my thinking. You see, I want my daughter to learn the meaning behind the rituals that we go through on Sunday. I want them to have meaning for her. I don't want them to be just "adult" things.

I know that the Lord's Supper is a Christian memorial. Therefore, it is inappropriate for non-Christians to partake (although I don't know any church that actively tells them not to when they happen to be present). But does a four year old, who believes in Jesus as much as any four year old possibly can, qualify? I certainly don't think she's a non-Christian, yet she hasn't made a mature decision yet to make Jesus her Lord.

You see, Abbie will never have a "conversion experience." She will be raised to believe and will at some point either choose to adopt that belief personally or to reject it. But she will never be "converted" to Christianity. Therefore, being raised to believe and to be a part of a believing community, would it not be appropriate to teach her the meaning of the rituals of that believing community.

"But you can teach the meaning without letting her partake," you might say. True, I can give her a theoretical understanding of what is going on. However, I believe that there is experiential value to participating. What this experience will mean to a four year old, I have no idea. However, I'm tired of church education and family education be all theoretical/doctrinal/theological and not experiential.

So I picture my wife and I talking to Abbie about the communion and telling her than when the crackers and grape juice go by, we think about Jesus dying on the cross. We can tell her that the juice looks like blood, so we think about his blood, and that the crackers look like skin, so we think about his body. I think she can understand those elementary principles.

So I'm thinking about doing it. What are your thoughts? Would I be cheapening the Lord's Supper by letting her partake? Is there some biblical teaching that would preclude it?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Inter-religious conversations

Matt Stone is a unique kind of missionary. He specifically does outreach to those usually left untouched by Christians -- pagans, wiccans, satanists, etc. He is truly missional in every sense of the word. I have never met him, but his life and blog reflections are a blessing to me. His most recent post is wonderful, as he gives some good advice on how to have conversations with people who are not Christian.

Read it here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gender Roles (6) -- Jesus and Women

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Read Part 4
Read Part 5

Review: God created and egalitarian order that was destroyed in the fall. This egalitarian order remained God’s ideal, however. While patriarchalism took hold quickly after the fall, there are indications in the Old Testament that God still saw women as equal participants in His purposes, using them as leaders of His people. While willing to use the patriarchalism of the world to accomplish his purposes, he did not hesitate to use women counter-culturally when it suited his purposes.

The above assessment was arrived at with some hesitation, as there are strong arguments in favor of the complimentarian perspective as well. However, on balance, I believe that the egalitarian interpretation best explains the texts. The strongest part of the egalitarian argument is their ability to explain Genesis 3 and the fall.

Admitting my own fallibility means that my assessment might be wrong. The Gospels and Epistles have not yet even been considered. The light that they shed on the Old Testament could very well tip the balance in favor of complimentarianism. As I stated at the beginning of this study, I have not yet formed an opinion on this issue. Each week enlightens my perspective so that the overall picture could change from week to week. I am simply looking at bite-sized chunks of Scripture and adding them to the “big picture” one bite at a time (mixed metaphor, I know.)

This brings us to the Gospels and the life of Christ. As the image of God, Jesus’ treatment of women will shed significant light on their role in a fallen world. So what do we see in Jesus’ interaction with women.

Clearly, Jesus had a high view of women; much higher, in fact, than the typical Jewish rabbi in his time. His dealings with specific women reinforce this (i.e. Mary and Martha, the Woman at the Well, etc.). About this there is no debate. Complimentarians and egalitarians both acknowledge that Jesus was counter-cultural in his acceptance and elevation of the place of women. The question of our study is specifically how this relates to leadership roles in the church, society, and home.

This is where the picture becomes murky. While women were disciples, and they were among His traveling entourage (Luke 8:1-3; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 23:49), those appointed to be apostles were men. Romans 16:7 calls Junia an apostle, but this was clearly in a different sense from the twelve. The ones that Jesus hand-selected to lead the church from its inception were men. In fact, when a new apostle was being selected in place of Judas, one of the requirements was that he be a male (In Acts 1:21, the word is the specifically male aner rather than the more general anthropos.).

Did Christ use men because he only approves of men in these positions, or is there another explanation? To answer this involves a certain degree of speculation, since it is not directly revealed WHY Christ chose men. It is simply revealed that He did. However, the following points from the egalitarian viewpoint are worthy of consideration.

  1. The patriarchial culture cannot be dismissed. In our study of the Old Testament, we saw that God worked within the culture as much as possible, but was willing to be counter-cultural when it suited his purposes. It could be the case that Jesus’ assessment of his culture and society indicated to him that limiting the leadership roles to men would enable the establishment of the church to happen more effectively. Truly, a woman being viewed as the leader of this new movement would have created an additional stumbling block for many.
  2. Women weren’t the only class that Jesus excluded in his selection of the twelve. No Gentiles were chosen. No slaves were chosen. Yet we believe that Gentiles and (theoretically) slaves would be acceptable leaders in the church, the home, and society. If Jesus’ exclusion of women from the 12 shows His desire for exclusively male leadership, wouldn’t His exclusion of Gentiles show His desire for exclusively Jewish leadership, and wouldn’t His exclusion of slaves show His desire for exclusively freeman leadership? Perhaps his choice had more to do with using those people that he felt would most effectively accomplish his will at the time.
Jesus' choice of apostles is a significant part of this discussion. However, the above points make it at least plausible that that the selection was not intended to be a statement about Jesus' will for women throughout the Christian age. Rather, it was His statement regarding His will in that place and time.

Monday, August 20, 2007

5 Things I Dislike About the Church of Christ

Having already discussed some of the things I love about my COC heritage, I now reflect on some of the things that have made me question my association with this group. Please understand that I love and appreciate my heritage. However, my commitment is to Christ, not to a party label.

5. Faulty Hermeneutics. Like most in the COC, I was taught that the way to understand God's will was to search the scriptures for commands, examples, and necessary inferences. If one of these could not be found regarding a certain action, then God had not "authorized" that action and it was, therefore, sinful. My problems with this approach are many. Perhaps a future post will deal with it in more detail. Suffice it to say that this is a legalistic approach to Scripture that was never intended by the authors/Author of the Bible.

4. Exclusivism. My upbringing was not blessed by hearing different perspectives on theology. I was not given the ability to make informed decisions, because exposure to differing viewpoints was blocked. In fact, one was made to feel guilty for reading, listening to, or consulting with someone who was not going to tow the COC party line. The "we're the only ones" mentality that is often associated with the COC is slowly dying out, but it is still very real in certain pockets of the denomination.

3. Heresy Hunting. As a minister, I was taught that the vast majority of believers were not actually Christians. In fact, even most members of the COC were suspect at best. The result was that sermons, classes, books, and articles were often read in order to find error rather than blessing. I have books in my library that were originally bought solely so that I could reference the heresy within them. Unfortunately, as a minister I was also subject to the heresy hunters in my own congregations. A misspoken word or sincerely held difference would trigger church discipline proceedings.

2. Intolerance. A part of the above is a culture of intolerance. Many of my brethren in the COC will say the right things about loving the sinner, hating the sin, etc. However, when suspect in the eyes of another, little love is practiced. Repentance must be immediate. Growth is not a process over time, but a series of conscious decisions that can be made in the moment. Context is meaningless. This intolerance is often extended to both non-members (understood as "nonchristians") as well as members.

1. Manipulation. This sounds more extreme than I intend, but I couldn't think of a more benign term to express my point. When a certain party line is taught as the truth, and when one is socially ostracized for considering other viewpoints, and when all of this is connected with eternal destiny, the mind is manipulated. One accepts without question the party line for fear of losing the relationships in this life that provide meaning, as well as the salvation in eternity that give meaning to this life.

Please read me accurately -- I don't believe that these factors are conscious for most COC members. I believe most members are sincere believers who love God with all of their hearts and being. I believe that these things are the result of a culture that has developed over time in my fellowship. Fortunately, THESE FAULTS ARE DYING OUT!! The COC of today is NOT what it was yesterday. We are evolving as a fellowship. This is growth. This is a fellowship of Christians finding fault within themselves and seeking to correct that fault. For this, my fellowship should be blessed and prayed for by the wider Christian community. I stay because I see these trends and I love my family.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Gender Roles (5) – Old Testament Women

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Read Part 4

Having looked at the creation, the fall, and the Law, we now turn to a brief examination of some of the women who figure prominently into the Old Testament narrative. While the OT certainly presents a patriarchal societal structure within ancient Israel and its neighboring nations, this in no way indicates God’s approval or disapproval of that structure. The patriarchal structure could be understood as a result of God’s leading or of God’s curse. As previous posts will show, I currently favor the latter view. If patriarchalism was the result of God’s leading, then we would not see God using women in leadership roles. Furthermore, when they took leadership roles, we would expect to see evidence of his disapproval.

On the other hand, if the prevailing patriarchalism was the result of the fall, we would expect to see God using women as leaders, as well as approving of their acceptance of such roles. It would not be necessary that we see women leaders as frequently as we see men leaders because, while God certainly had the power to radically overturn culture, he also has the prerogative to work incrementally within culture.

I believe the Old Testament picture reflects the latter. God willingly used women in leadership roles over men and over groups. When they stepped into these roles, there is no indication of divine disapproval with a violation of God’s creative intent. Notice the following examples:

Miriam (Exodus 15:19-21; Micah 6:4) –We are not told a lot about Miriam, but we are told that she was a prophetess (Exodus 15:20), and was listed alongside Moses and Aaron as leaders in Israel (Micah 6:4). While she, like all Israelites, was subject to Moses’ leadership, she is presented as an equal to Aaron, the High Priest.

Deborah (Judges 4) – Deborah was a judge in Israel. She is spoken of as a “prophetess” who was “leading Israel” (Judges 4:4). She was both a military leader (the actual role of the biblical “Judge”) and a court judge (Judges 4:5). During her time, Barak was the general of Israel’s army, yet she held rank over him, being able to give him orders (vv. 6. 14) which he obeys. Although married, she seems to have been the highest ranking person in Israel.

Some have tried to claim that Deborah was put in this position by God simply because no men were willing to lead. There are several problems with this explanation:

  1. There is nothing in the text that would indicate God’s displeasure with his inability to find a male leader. Such an interpretation is classic eisegesis. In fact, the only displeasure shown by God is towards Barak, the MAN, for his failure to follow Deborah’s order!
  2. God has never let been deterred by man’s reluctance to lead. Gideon (Judges 6), Moses (Exodus 4), and Paul (Acts 9, 22) are a few examples of men who did not want to lead, but were used by God to do great things.
  3. There is reason to believe that God DID have a male judge at this same time! Judges 5:6 indicates that Shamgar ruled as judge “after Ehud,” which would make his “term” overlap with Deborahs. (Overlapping judgeships is not abnormal in Judges.) Therefore, God had a male leader available if He wanted to use one. But he chose to use the woman, Deborah.

But it is fair to ask why Deborah was the only female judge. All attempted answers to this are mere speculation, as the text doesn’t reveal the answer. We must simply accept that God used her in this leadership role and look at the broader picture of God to decide whether we think that, by doing so, He acted in a way contrary to his original intent in creation. I don’t believe that he did.

Hulda (2 Kings 22:14-20; 2 Chron. 34:22) – Also a prophetess, Huldah is the unsung hero in the great reformation of Josiah. It was in response to her prophecy that Josiah led the nation in the last great reformation of Israel.

The Virtuous Woman (Prov. 31:10-31) – This familiar passage is a wonderful testimony AGAINST the idea of a woman’s ONLY proper role being relegated to quietly serving her husband and family at home. Notice the following:

vv. 11, 23, 28 – When her husband is mentioned, it is in the context of how his life is blessed socially and financially by his wife. This indicates that she is involved in the community and in business.

vv. 13-14, 16, 18, 24 – She is a career woman, who has business interests in the mercantile and agriculture industries. She is not a “stay at home mom.”

v. 26 – She is a teacher.

v. 15, 21-22, 27 – She is a homemaker.

This woman is an “excellent wife” (v. 10) whose children and husband praise her (v. 28) and who has held up by Bible believers since this chapter was penned. Yet, she is not the type of woman that is held up as the ideal by many modern evangelical leaders who hold patriarchal or complimentarian understandings of the scriptures. While few will absolutely condemn a woman for working out of the home, it is now viewed as a lesser path. When women become successful in business, they are often maligned as doing a man’s work. Yet the excellent wife was excellent precisely because of her work as a homemaker, entrepreneur, teacher, humanitarian, and public figure.

God’s use of women in the OT does not conform with the teaching of patriarchalists and complimentarians, who claim that His creative intent was for women to be in a subservient role in the home, the church, and society. The “ideal” scenario painted by these commentators of a godly woman being a homemaker who leaves all public and leadership roles to her husband would consider all of the above women as, at best, less than ideal in fulfilling their roles. The Bible paints an entirely different picture.

Objections – It is also noteworthy that only men were allowed to be priests and kings in Israel. These two must be dealt with separately:

Priests – I haven’t yet come across a bullet-proof explanation of this exclusion. However, it is helpful to recognize that many people of both genders were excluded from being priests, but in the Christian Age, ALL are priests of God. ALL Christians may now enter the Most Holy Place (1 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 10:19-22). Therefore, while I don’t know WHY God chose to limit the priestly role to males, I do know that, in Jesus, there is NOW no exclusion from priestly duties.

Kings – In this discussion, we are seeking God’s ideal for gender. The role of King was something that God opposed from the beginning, although he accommodated them. He preferred the nation to be led by Judges (which included Deborah). The people wanted a king in order to be like the nations around them. The nations around them would have had kings who passed their reigns down to their first-born sons. It is, therefore, no surprise that the same structure was put in place for Israel.

Next week: Jesus’ ministry to women.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

5 Things I Love About The Church of Christ

I have been critical on this blog of my Church of Christ heritage for various things that I have perceived to be deficient either in theology or practice. Yet I love my heritage. I appreciate where I came from and some of the wonderful blessings I have received from them. While I am now more committed to my Christian identity than my Church of Christ identity, I love the latter nonetheless. The following are some of the things that I truly appreciate about my COC heritage:

5. Relationships. While I believe I could form meaningful relationship with Christians of any stripe, I KNOW that I my deepest friendships have been provided through my association with the Churches of Christ. My greatest spiritual growth has happened as a result of some of these relationships.

4. Music. The a capella heritage of the Churches of Christ is something that I love. I regret the divisiveness that we have perpetuated around this issue, but I absolutely love the music itself. And I think that there are some theologically sound reasons for preserving it. I think a lot about Christianity should be "stripped down" to the simplest forms. This comes close in our musical worship.

3. Respect for Bible Study. My people have always prided themselves on taking Bible study seriously. While we have often done this to the exclusion of other elements of discipleship, and while our hermeneutical method has rendered the results of our study theologically lacking, the value of instilling in me a high view of scripture has been an invaluable fundamental.

2. Communion. The practice of weekly remembrance of the cross has been a tremendous part of creating and building my Christian identity. By rehearsing the story of the cross each week, it has become a constant part of my consciousness. Churches that only participate in occasional observance are missing out on a tremendous part of spiritual development. I understand the risk of and tendency for familiar things to become rote and meaningless, but in the midst of such ritual I believe that genuine meaning can be imparted.

1. Baptism. The dedication to preserving the high place of baptism in soteriological understanding is possibly the greatest contribution that the COC has made to the conversation. I'm not sure how long this has been in place, but I have noticed a lot of writers from other denominational heritages reconsidering the role of baptism in their theology and coming much closer to a position identical with the traditional COC teaching of "baptism for the remission of sins."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Gender Roles (4) -- The Law

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3

I don’t know if this study continues to interest anyone. My lovely wife tells me my posts are too long in this study. I will try to be as succinct as possible, but I also want to be thorough. I do wish this could become a conversation rather than a lecture, so feel free to offer your thoughts and reflections in the comments section.

Review: Thus far in our study, we have seen that there was no role/authority distinction based on gender in the creation. The tension between male and female and the consequent male domination of woman came as a result of the fall. God pronouncement of male rule in Genesis 3 was not necessarily prescriptive, but can be accurately understood as predictive.

Our study would be woefully incomplete if we stopped at Genesis 3. The rest of the Old Testament presents a mixed picture of gender roles. How can it be understood? We seek to answer this question today.

If our understanding of Genesis 1-3 is correct (and it very well may not be) then one might expect the Law that God gave to be consistent with that egalitarianism. However, the Law is anything but clear on how it views gender roles.

The law was delivered and recorded in the midst of a patriarchal world, as God predicted in Genesis 3. There are many aspects of the Law which fit perfectly well into that patriarchal culture. In fact, there are many things in the law which even the most traditional/patriarchal of modern readers would find objectionable. John Mark Hicks lists the following as examples:

  • A husband could overrule commitments made by his wife prior to her marriage but there is no indication that the reverse was true (Num. 30:6-15).
  • The legal status of married women was analogous to that of a daughter. The wife had no greater degree of independence than a child (Num. 30:16)
  • A husbands could divorce his wife, but there is no indication that a wife could divorce her husband.
  • Polygamy was acceptable for males, but not for females.
  • Inheritance is passed through the male line without equal share for females in the line but where there are no male heirs, daughters inherit ahead of the brothers of the male who died (Num. 27:1-11).
  • A widow did not inherit the property of her husband but she was cared for by the inheritor of the estate (sons, brothers, etc.)

However, there were also elements of the law which ran against that patriarchalism. These elements may not catch the eye modern reader who is accustomed to a much more egalitarian society. However, when considered against the backdrop of the culture of the time, these elements certainly elevated the status of women. Again, John Mark Hicks gives examples:

  • Adultery … is prohibitive for both male and female. It is viewed as destructive to the home.
  • Wives are not generally regarded as property and there is an embedded ideal within the text of shared identity (image of God) and shared task (caring for the world).
  • Deuteronomy 24:1-4 protects women. The law forbids a man from remarrying a woman he had previously divorced. In ancient Near Eastern culture men could remarry women to secure new assets they had acquired through another marriage.
  • Females were not abandoned at birth as in many cultures.

So we have on the one hand indications that God wanted his people to be patriarchal in their practice and, on the other hand, indications that he wanted them to break free from the patriarchal practices around them. How are we to understand this? I see some possibilities:

(1) God endorsed patriarchalism, but understood that it could go “too far” and fail to recognize the woman as also created in God’s image. However, I still find it difficult to understand some elements of the Law. For instance, in Exodus 21:7-11 actually ALLOWS a father to sell his daughter into slavery. Perhaps my mind is too clouded by American democracy, but regardless of whether you are egalitarian, complimentarian, patriarchal, or feminist, I can’t fathom how this is representative of God’s ideal for society, His people, or families. Yet it is a part of the law which He gave.

(2) God’s ideal is egalitarianism. However, bringing about this ideal among people was something that He chose in His sovereignty to do incrementally. Thus, he accommodated the prevailing culture to some extent while clearly indicating a disagreement with that prevailing culture. This position makes sense to me, but certainly leaves many unanswerable questions. For instance, why would God choose to do this incrementally when He required his people to be radically different from culture in other ways (i.e. circumcision, diet, monotheism, etc.)? I don’t think this question is answerable beyond his divine wisdom and sovereignty. However, it rings truer to me than the previous option.

My plan was to cover the rest of the Old Testament in this post. However, I fear that I have already violated my previously stated desire to be succinct. Therefore, next week we will look at how God actually used women in Israel. Until then, do you see any weaknesses in my assessment of the Scriptures thus far? Would you interpret them differently?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Presidential Pageant

I've had a few days to reflect on the Republican "debate" from the other day. Here are my thoughts:

1. What is wrong with asking a question and letting all the candidates answer it, and then allowing all candidates to give a follow up? Ron Paul got something like three questions the entire night. The other so-called "lower tier" candidates didn't fare much better. But every single question led to a follow-up from Rudy McRomney, meaning that those guys got a tremendously imbalanced portion of the time. Isn't the purpose of these debates to inform the voter about the candidates so that he/she can make an choice about who to support? Is this possible when 3 candidates get an overwhelmingly imbalanced portion of the time in the debates?

2. Having said that, Ron Paul needs to assert himself more. The other guys are very good about forcing their way into the discussion. Ron Paul us such a gentleman that he will raise his hand or gesture to the moderator and then wait. Sorry, but the moderators aren't interested in balancing time. They've proven that. If you're going to get your points across, Ron, you've got to speak up!

3. Rudy Giuliani is George Bush (or Dame Edna in the above picture).

4. Mitt Romney is one smooth sucker. If I had to bet right now, I'd say he probably gets the nomination. He's just too polished and well-spoken. Too bad his policies suck. And I'm not entirely convinced he's pro-life.

5. John McCain has the shortest arms ever. It's like his elbows are jointed to his shoulders. And he looks lost in this campaign. John, bow out gracefully. Your ship is sinking.

6. Mike Huckabee is probably my second-favorite of the Republicans, but I'm not sure if I would be able to vote for him or not. He still has a bit too much neocon in his blood, although he's no Bush or Giuliani.

7. Tom Tancredo is crazy. Literally. He actually advocated bombing Mecca and Muslim religious shrines?!?! And followed it up by saying that anyone who isn't willing to do that isn't fit to be president!?!? That's right Tom. Stir up the hornet's nest a little bit more, and invite some wasps, yellow jackets, and killer bees in for the party.

8. Tommy Thompson looks like the farmer at the beginning of Men in Black AFTER the alien takes over his body. I like how he has to give himself a running start into each question with an awkwardly placed, "Thank you, George" before beginning his answer with a bunch of preliminary meaningless comments. Its like he starts spitting out words while his mind is trying to think of his actual answer to the question.

9. Hopefully, after the Iowa Straw Poll, a few will drop out. At this point, I think the race should be between Giuliani, Romney, Paul, and Huckabee.

10. I don't know what else is scheduled in terms of debates, but I really hope that greater attention will be given to equal time by the moderators in the future.

11. What's up with putting a Republican debate at 9:00 on a Sunday morning?

Now for the Democrats:

1. I don't like any of them, what with them being socialists and everything.

2. I don't think Hillary can win because she's too shrill and too polarizing.

3. Dennis Kucinich makes me giggle when I look at him, but I respect him because he seems to be principled. I just think his principles suck.

4. I like the old guy with buck teeth. He's got spunk.

5. Brill girl is quite impressive. I can't figure out why the race isn't between him and Barak. I think it has something to do with Hillary's last name. It seems like his positions would have a much greater appeal to Democrats, and he articulates them pretty well, too.

6. I think Barak is the one that will ultimately get the nomination. Like Romney on the Republican side, he's polished and smooth. (They also both like big gov't.) But Romney's appearance alienates him from many. He looks and acts rich, and everyone hates the rich. Barak has the same smoothness, but comes off much more like the common man.

Ron Paul is the only one I really like. I'll be interested to see how the Straw Poll turns out. What are your thoughts at this point of the race?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

On Turning Four


Age three was a big one for you – and for me! You learned how to go potty all by yourself (finally!). You still want me in the room with you when you go, and I complain about it, but I know that I’ll miss it when you don’t feel like you need me in there anymore.

You have become an amazing little artist. I cherish the day that you wrote your name for the first time while sitting on my lap in the office and the look of accomplishment and joy that beamed forth from your face when you realized that you had done it. That was special. Your pictures now resemble the things you are trying to depict, and your coloring is now almost entirely in the lines. I hope that you will continue to embrace art as an expressive outlet as you grow older and start to face more needs for expression. I also hope that you never lose your love for reading, nor for doing so on my lap!

I watch as you struggle to learn how to live in community with others by sharing, and I wish more adults would work as hard as you do to learn those same lessons. But in the midst of that struggle, I see a beautifully genuine concern for the well-being of others. Your desire to comfort when you hear another kid crying, your eagerness to be a helper when Mommy or Daddy are feeling bad, and the happiness that you receive from being able to help have taught me what it means to love my neighbor as myself.

You are very good about letting me know when I’m not spending enough time with you. It breaks my heart when you proclaim that you don’t want me to be home as I come in the door just before your bedtime. But when I am spending significant time with you, you become a total Daddy’s girl again. I’ve figured out that this is just your way of telling me that I’m not giving enough of my time to you. I’m sorry for that.

You have taught me about God by showing me unconditional love, patience, and concern for others. You are my greatest blessing. I love you.

Happy birthday, my big 4-year old.


Friday, August 3, 2007

Quick Hits

I usually blog during my abundant down time at work. Unfortunately, my employer has decided (for other reasons) to eliminate internet access in the building that I work in. The result: my blogging will have to be done at some other time. Since I try to spend as much of my time at home with my family as possible, I'll have to figure something else out. I will likely still type my blogs while at work, and save them on my flash drive, then post them when I get home in the evenings. Just thought I'd let you know why there might be some irregularities until I get into a new rhythm.

So Abbie is becoming quite the little Bible scholar. She can now say the Lord's Prayer, the Fruit of the Spirit, and the books of the New Testament all by her self. I don't mean to gloat, but ... ok, I do mean to gloat.

Does anyone else now wonder as you cross over a bridge whether it is one of the 170,000 or so bridges rated structurally deficient or functionally obsolete?

Why do I get more comments about a guy drinking urine than on matters of theology?

I'm really excited about watching the Republican debate on Sunday and seeing Ron Paul make all of the other candidates look like the partisan self-serving hacks that they are (see Giuliani and Romney specifically).

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gender Roles (3) -- The Fall (Gen. 3)

"If Eve had persisted in the truth, she would not only not have been subjected to the rule of her husband, but she herself would also have been a partner in the rule which is now entirely the concern of males." ~ Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-8, p. 203

Read part 1.

Read part 2.

In the creation, man and women were created as spiritual equals. Without woman, man is the only part of creation that God calls "not good;" yet woman is made from man. They are jointly given responsibilities over creation. Their only difference is physical.

Then came sin.

Who's Fault?
The common understanding is that Even ate the forbidden fruit, liked how it tasted, went to find Adam and persuaded him to eat it. However, as I read the text, I get an entirely different picture of how events transpired. While it is true that Eve is presented as Satan's target for the initial temptation, her sin was committed with Adam standing right there!! (v. 6). So the picture is more of a conversation with three "people" present: the serpent, Adam, and Eve. The primary conversation is occurring between two, but the third is taking it all in. In this scene, Adam is just as much a part of the initial sin as is Eve. She just happened to take the first bite! The text nowhere says that she seduced or tricked him into eating it. She took a bite and handed it to him, and he took a bite.

I don't know about you, but in my mind that was a significant realization. I had always believed that the woman sinning first was because she "usurped" the authority that was legitimately the man's and that the results serve as proof that she should have kept her proper role. Many other commentators throughout church history have also interpreted the story this way. John Mark Hicks notes several such scholars in his valuable study, found here (look at the bottom of the page for the entire series; go to lesson 2).

Their joint guilt for this sin is bolstered by the presentation of the New Testament. While 1 Tim. 2:14 seems to place the primary responsibility on Eve, Rom. 5:12-14 and 1 Cor. 15:21-22 seem to place it on Adam. This is no contradiction; rather, it is Paul using the aspect of the story that was most fitting for the point that he was making at the time. Blame could legitimately be placed on either party because they were both EQUALLY guilty.

The Curse
As a result of the sin, each party involved receives a "curse." Relevant to this study is Gen. 3:16. "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Whatever this means, it clearly indicates, for the first time, a subordinate relationship.

Jay Guin makes some important observations. First, he point out that "[Eve's curse] was a change. If Adam already had the rule over Eve, then why did God say He was doing this to her because of her sin? Thus, nothing in Genesis 1 or 2 can support an argument for male rule" (p. 37). Also, since complimentarians apply this curse not only to the home, but also to the church
and society, Guin notes, "God states that husbands rule over wives -- under His curse. He does not curse all women with being under the rule of all men" (p. 37). Therefore, even if the subordinate relationship of Genesis 3:16 is viewed as normative, it can only be applied to the home. Denial of female leadership roles in other areas cannot be supported from this passage.

So what is the female "desire" for her husband? In seeking an answer to this question, we must take seriously the similarity of language between Genesis 3:16 and 4:17. In4:17, we read that "[sin] desires to have you, but you must master it." This is almost identical in structure to the clause in 3:16. The meaning in 4:17 seems to be clear -- sin wants to be master (or ruler), but it must be mastered (or ruled). In the same way, while the wife may want to rule her husband, God says that the husband will rule the wife. In other words, marital strife comes as a result of sin.

So subordination only came as a result of the Fall and was not a part of the created order. What does that mean for us today? Are we to recognize this as our just punishment and live as Christians under a curse? Or are we to seek to return things to their original created perfection?

One important observation in seeking to answer this question is that 3:16 may not even be a command, as in "I command you to desire your husband, and I command your husband to rule over you." Rather, it may very well be God exercising his divine foreknowledge to "predict" the general course that history would take from that point forward, as in "From now on, you're going to want to rule your husband, but he is going to rule you." History has certainly proven this to be the case, as men have generally run the world ever since.

Also, Christians are never told to accept the results of the fall, whether it be our separation from God, the resulting death, or the corruption of creation. Rather, we are called to escape the results of the fall through Christ (Eph. 4:22-24; 1 Cor. 15:21-26). It can be debated whether this escape is relegated to the afterlife, or is a reality that we are called to bring into the world as much as possible today.

However we interpret Eve’s “curse,” it should be consistent with our interpretation of the other “curses” mentioned. Once again, Jay Guin makes excellent points:

This argument will surely be hard for many readers to accept, but it becomes much clearer when we consider the other curses. The man is cursed to work by the sweat of his brow. Does this mean that air conditioning is a sin, because it is contrary to God’s eternal design? Are antiperspirants wrong? Is it wrong to use herbicides and pre-emergents to prevent the growth of weeds?

Didn’t God intend that we work the fields by hand to rid them of weeds? Mus all men work in the fields? Is office work sin?

Is it a sin to use anesthesia to relieve the pain of childbearing? Or is that also part of God’s eternal plan? For that matter, why should we resist any of the world’s corruption? God corrupted it, who are we to oppose it? (p. 40)

While my examination of Genesis 1-2 resulted in a slight preference for the egalitarian interpretation, the egalitarian case is much stronger in Genesis 3. The picture at this point seems to be fairly clear: God's created order did not involve a subordinate relationship between male and female. This only came as a result of the fall.

Next week: Women in the Old Testament

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Misheard Lyrics

Isn't it funny how much we all love Pearl Jam even though we have no earthly idea what they are saying?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Baptism and the Unity of Christians

This article was too good not to mention. It should be of special interest to those of us in the Stone-Campbell movement, as it deals with the two things that most defined our movement in its inception: our understanding of baptism and the desire for unity.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Praise & Harmony -- Glorious God

Keith Lancaster is well-known in COC circles and in the world of a capella recording. His groups have won numerous awards for their tight harmonies and clean sounds. He has done a lot to influence the musical ministries of the Churches of Christ for decades. In fact, like many "born and raised" COCers my age, I have wonderful memories of going to Acapella and AVB concerts. Truly, Acapella played a large part in my early spiritual formation. Their popularity seems to have waned a bit in recent years. In my view, this probably has something to do with the increasing ambivalence towards a capella worship in our fellowship. While our former dogmatism on this issue is regrettable, I would personally also hate to see us lose that as a part of our tradition.

For all of the innovative a capella arrangements that Lancaster's various groups sang through the years, few of them were conducive to congregational use. By design, they were for professional singing groups to perform before an audience. For all of these reasons, I was greatly pleased when I heard in 2005 of plans by Lancaster's The Acapella Company to begin the Praise & Harmony project designed to benefit congregational singing. Upon its release, I purchased the Awesome God album and accompanying songbook. I have now purchased their second album in this series, Glorious God and will likely purchase the songbook for it as well.

I had the same reaction to both albums. Its a little bit hard to get used to the sound of congregational singing through the radio. We're simply not used to that many voices at once. For that reason, it "feels" different when you begin to listen to the album. However, once you get used to the different feel, its actually quite enjoyable. There are 25 tracks on the album, which is a plus. They are mostly contemporary "praise" songs and hymns, many of them rearranged by Lancaster. For someone who loves to sing and harmonize the way I do, it really becomes fun to listen. On several occasions, I know the people in the car next to me have enjoyed the stop-light entertainment of me singing at the top of my lungs inside my car.

Another great feature of these albums is the accompanying CD that teaches the harmonies. While I have personally not used this feature very much, I can see a great benefit to praise teams and groups of untrained singers to learn these arrangements. The training CD has all of the same songs as the regular album. But if you put the speaker balance all the way to the left speakers, you only hear bass and alto; to the right you hear only soprano and tenor (It might be the other way around, I'm not sure). What an innovative tool to put in the hands of worship leaders and song leaders in our churches!

I only have two complaints about the albums. The first is that there are a couple of songs on each that would not work for congregational singing because a good portion of the melody is a Lancaster solo with the "congregation" oooo-ing in the background. I can't picture a congregation actually doing that. I suppose these songs are done with a praise team in mind, and for that purpose they would be much more fitting.

My other complaint is with the seemingly random cranking up of Lancaster's mic in the recordings. He will be singing an alternative, seemingly improvised harmony, but for only a few notes before he can no longer be heard. It makes for an awkward listen at best. At worst, it sounds like an attempt to keep a bit of the spotlight as an ego trip on what is otherwise a wonderful congregational (i.e. equally shared) worship experience.

Overall, I would give the album a B+. While the sound of recorded congregational singing will certainly not have a popular appeal as an entertainment medium, it certainly creates a much more worshipful environment on my morning commute that would, say, CCM or even one of the Acapella albums. I am excited about the potential to introduce some of these songs into the worship repertoire during my worship gatherings, too.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Becoming Missional

Next Wednesday will begin an adventure unlike any that I have yet experienced. We at Pond Springs will begin the process of becoming missional. Most churches are wonderfully tight-knit families that love the Lord and want to reach the world. However, most churches have also become accustomed thinking of ourselves as a magnet rather than an explosion. We have thought that if we "flavor" things properly (i.e. style of worship, building ambiance, preaching style, programs, etc.) then people will eventually just be attracted to us. We have internalized the "If you build it they will come" mentality as if it were true. When they come, we love and welcome them. The problem: they're not coming!! We're not converting anyone. In fact, we're losing people by the droves.

At Pond Springs, the elders have recognized this deficiency in modern American Christianity, and have committed themselves to stemming the tide. A group of 13 members of the Pond Springs family will begin a month-long period of serious spiritual preparation for the task of becoming missionaries in our own community (i.e. missional). Rather than waiting for the lost to come to us, we will begin to explore ways to heed Jesus' call to "Go" to them. We will not just be looking for new ideas and strategies. We will spend the month of August inviting God to challenge even our fundamental assumptions about what the church is and how it should approach its mission. We will be disciplining ourselves to maintain a posture of submission so that, when God challenges our traditions and assumptions, we won't cave into our gut's inborn desire to preserve comfort. We will accept discomfort for the cause of Christ, as He sought us out through every kind of discomfort.

We will embrace the fact that we, the church, are Christ to the World. We don't merely represent Him or emulate Him. We are His Body; we do His work; we speak His words; we bring His salvation. We are anointed, chosen, called, and declared righteous by the Spirit. And we are told to "Go."

So we will go into the community, where the people are whom we are called to reach. We will go to the mall, the coffee shops, and the grocery stores to meet them on their own ground. We will go bearing an expression of love and acceptance that is discernible and tangible. We will go, leaving our judgmental spirit behind. We will go with patience, realizing that God will draw them in His own time. We will go with strength and direction from the Spirit.

He came to us. We will go to them.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gender Roles (2) -- The Creation Account (Gen. 1-2)

Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought has good. Luckily this is not difficult. ~Charlotte Whitton

The different positions on gender roles have been given different labels. I will primarily be considering the egalitarian and complimentarian viewpoints in this study, as they seem to be the most exegetically sound. Radical feminism and Paternalism both seem to draw their conclusions before consulting the text of Scripture (eisegesis). Egalitarians see equal value and equal roles for men and women in the church and in society. Complimentarians see equal value but different roles for men and women.

The Creation account (Gen. 1-3) provides the foundational material for all Christian theology, including gender studies. When we look at the creation account, the following observations seem applicable.

  1. Humanity (both genders, Heb. adam) was made in God's image.

  2. Humanity was given rule over creation.

  3. Humanity was made as male and female.

  4. Humanity was given the responsibility of populating the earth.

  5. God created man from the dust of the ground.

  6. God commanded the man not to eat of the tree prior to the creation of the woman.

  7. God created woman as a response to man's need for companionship.

  8. Man named the animals.

  9. Woman was made from man's rib.

  10. Adam named the woman.

  11. Neither man nor woman felt any shame prior to the Fall.

  12. Satan approached the woman to tempt her.

  13. The Woman is described as being deceived, but it was with the man present.

  14. The eating of the fruit seems to be virtually simultaneous.

  15. Both man and woman were equally ashamed after sinning.

  16. The man was first questioned by God.

  17. The woman's curse includes the "he shall rule over you" clause (3:16)
Once again, these are simply observations from the text. I have purposely tried to leave interpretation out of the above observation. All would agree with the above statements, as they are plainly stated (#14 may be an exception). The way these facts are interpreted is the substance of the debate.

Winning Arguments for Egalitarians

  1. Mutuality. Woman's creation "for" and "from" man is best understood as describing mutuality rather than role differentiation. Woman was created because man was incomplete without her. Men and women complete each other in relationships. In the Garden, man had God's presence in a much more tangible way than we do, even walking with God. But God's companionship is not what man needed, for He is man's Superior. Man also had the companionship of animals, an equally inadequate relationship since man is superior. Man needed an equal to be his companion. In response to this need, God created woman, prompting man to recognize that "she is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh." As we often say at weddings, Eve was not made from Adam's head, as if to rule over him, nor from his feet, as if to be in subjection to him, but from his side, as his equal. This is more than just a cute line that fits well in a wedding; it is actually a significant interpretation of the text.

    The creation of woman from man requires the man to recognize his wife as a part of himself. Man could rule all of creation, but the woman was not within his domain, for she was a part of him. In a very real way, she was him. In this way, the "one flesh" relationship can be viewed as a deterrent to male authoritarianism.

    In my view, the text makes the best sense theologically when understood as God's provision in response to man's need, not some kind of pre-ordained hierarchy or order which was meant to be normative.

  2. Woman as "helper." In their decision to create woman, God declared "I will make a helper suitable for him." This passage has often been understood as an indication of male authority. This understanding is the unfortunate result of the translation process, for the Hebrew word 'ezer ("helper") did not carry such a meaning. In fact, the same word is used repeatedly in the OT to speak of God's relationship to his people (see Jay Guin, Buried Talents, pp. 32-35). Clearly, this does not mean that the people were authorities over God! Rather, Eve's designation as "helper"indicates that she was to compliment, or complete, the man. There is no indication of subordination inherent in this word.

Winning Arguments for Complimentarians

The complimentarians, however, also make good points. Their best points, in my view, are:

  1. Man names woman. Several scholars have noted that, in the Semitic world, the act of giving a name was a statement of authority (see Mary Kassian, Women, Creation and the Fall, pp. 16-20). Therefore, Adam's naming of Eve would have been viewed by the original readers of Genesis as a clear statement of authority.

  2. Primogeniture. Man was created first. To the Semitic mind that would have originally read the book of Genesis, this was significant. The first born male of a Jewish family was in a position of authority, for on him falls accountability and responsibility for the whole family. He was viewed as "first among equals." In the same way, complimentarians argue, the man is "first among equals" in relation to the woman, due in part to his chronological priority.

I must admit that I have no solid response to either of these arguments, and I have not yet come across one from the egalitarian writings I have consulted. However, it must be taken into account that both of these arguments are based on understandings of authority that developed in later Semitic cultures. Only a week had passed in this account and there were no cultural understandings. Adam and Eve would not have seen his naming of her or his being created first as a necessary indication of authority. Nevertheless, the author and earliest readers of Genesis would have most definitely made these connections. So is the normative value given to the narrative itself, or to the historical context in which it was written? I'm not sure.

Summary: After looking at the creation account, I see a slightly stronger argument coming from the egalitarian camp, although it is certainly not a clear victory. Complimentarianism's arguments are strong, but the difficulties raised in the above paragraph weaken them considerably in my mind. Of course, the consideration of creation is not complete until we look at Paul's appeal to creation in a discussion of male "headship" in 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Tim. 2. We will look at these together in due time.

Next time: The Fall (Genesis 3)