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

80%

Anselm

80%

Karl Barth

60%

Augustine

60%

Friedrich Schleiermacher

53%

Jonathan Edwards

53%

Martin Luther

53%

Charles Finney

47%

J├╝rgen Moltmann

47%

Paul Tillich

40%

Which theologian are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

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:

Prophetess
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.

Missionaries
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.

Apostle?
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.

Deacon
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

Abbie,

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.

Daddy

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.

Normative??
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)

Conclusion
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?