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Posts Tagged ‘authority’


Someone recently sent me a link to R.C. Sproul’s lesson on The Role of Women in the Church. She had only a little info about the PCA study committee and was concerned. I allayed some fears, but since this is probably one of the few older Sproul lessons I haven’t heard I decided to listen to it with the officers of our congregation at a combined meeting.

This is so old that Bill Hybels made a guest appearance. I believe the context is that R.C. was asked to talk to a group of people at Willow Creek. In the intervening years, it would be safe to say that they have probably changed their position on this subject.

Here is something of a summary from the notes that I took.

Protest movements have real pain behind them at their roots despite their sometimes illegitimate actions. The Feminist movement is no different. It is a response to patronizing attitudes and exploitation. Women have not been treated well by men in society, and in the church.

On the other hand, the church has not missed the truth about women and ministry for 2,000 years. The question of who may be ordained is either determined by God, or my subjective evaluation of who is gifted to serve. The qualifications, particularly with regard to character, either matter or they don’t.

R.C. alluded to when he was in the United Presbyterian Church. The largely egalitarian denomination permitted men to hold the complementarian position. This changed after an ecclesiastical court case and officers like R.C. were told to change their views, leave for another denomination or face disciplinary action.

R.C. noted that he wrote a minority report for the PCA favoring the ordination of women. This requires some explanation, obviously. He has no prejudice against women. He wants to be as liberal on this question as the Scriptures allow him to be. In this context he mentioned a debate at Gordon-Conwell (or perhaps he said Gordon College where he taught for a time) years earlier when he was the only faculty member willing to take up the complementarian position. For him, the question always traces back to 1 Timothy 2.

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

This passage, he believes and I concur, does not allow women in positions of authority in the church. Some kind of teaching and some kind of authority are prohibited. He noted there were different kinds of “authority”. There can the authority of expertise or influence. The type in question is judicial or governing authority.

Judicial authority is the right to command and demand the actions of others. Paul restricts judicial authority over men in the church. The context is ecclesiastical, so this is limited by that context. Women may have authority in the workplace or school and other contexts. He rejects patriarchy.

There is also the general vs. technical sense of teaching. He believes this refers to teaching with ecclesiastical authority.

The general term for office is diaconos- service. Church office is an office of service. We do not lord it over others like the Gentiles do.

Women are not allowed to sit in judicial power- to be on the session or an elder.

The PCA ties government to ministry in what he thinks is an unbiblical way. This is why he generally supports women deacons, but doesn’t in the PCA. The BOCO indicates that though an office of service, it has power or authority (though not a court so it is fairly confusing and one of those things I’d love to see clarified in the BOCO). Sproul thinks that preaching does not necessarily have governmental authority because the court is not in session during preaching. At this point R.C. and Bill discussed Elizabeth Elliot who refused to preach at Willow Creek on a Sunday morning. Bill invited her to come during the week. R.C. had her “speak” a few times at Ligonier c0nferences (that is not a local church and does not have an ecclesiastical governing body).

Our officers commented that perhaps this means a woman could be an assistant pastor since they don’t serve on the Session. But they do serve in the courts of presbytery and General Assembly so don’t take the joke seriously.

R.C. noted that he sometimes worries that his position is too liberal (and some PCA pastors would agree). But he needs to be faithful to the text, which is opponent in the aforementioned debate agreed supports the complementarian position. P.K. Jewett agreed that the complementarian interpretation of the text was correct. As a result, Jewett denied the authority of the text in his defense of women’s ordination.

Different denominations have different working definitions of ordination. All it means is to be consecrated to an purpose or office. Scripture nowhere explicitly says women are not to be ordained. We have to talk about the particular office in question, and build an implicit argument regarding ordination in general.

He main principle was that the parameter are to be those set forth in Scripture, not culture or the “light of nature.”

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In our men’s study last night we talked about 1 Timothy 3:14-16. We talked about a number of things but I want to focus on our discussion of verse 15.

14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit,
        seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
        taken up in glory.

Paul has a very high view of the church. He points out two things. It is the household of God, and the assembly of the living God.

Household! The household of the day was run by the pater familias. There would be a wife and children, perhaps extended family and servants. Everyone in the household was under the authority of the pater familias. There was a household code of conduct that was to be followed by all.

This is what is behind the idea Paul expresses about conducting oneself in the household of God. God, the Father, determines how we are to live as part of His household by adoption. He regulates the household, not us.

In a household there is love, acceptance and discipline (an essential part of fatherly love, see Hebrews 12). This means there is forgiveness. This also means there are relationships between other members of the family. We are connected to one another. We help another when one is hurting or sick. Yes, sometimes a household is like an infirmary ward. And a classroom. Sometimes it is a party hall, as the family celebrates a birthday, anniversary, holy day, etc. A household has many functions, which is why it is such a helpful metaphor for the church. Paul, and the Spirit, knew what they were doing.

Too often people treat the church as anything but a household. They often view it as a service center of sorts. Not realizing they are part of a family we often treat others like they are there to serve us. Not realizing we are connected, too easily slip from congregation to congregation whenever someone does something we don’t like. We can think little to nothing of the relationships we leave behind.

(Yes, sometimes you have to leave a church. Sometimes you can choose to leave a church. What we shouldn’t do is burn bridges by either how or why we leave.)

Another aspect of a household is that the pater familias assigns tasks within the household. Each family member has responsibilities, except maybe the youngest children. In our family our kids learned a song when they were very young- “Clean up, clean up, it is time to clean up.” This was so they would learn to … clean up.

If we are to view the church as a household, we should think along the lines of JFK’s famous words: ask not what your church can do for you, but what you can do for your church. Yes, you should receive benefits from your church, just like every other member of the family. But you also have responsibilities just like every other member. Your place may be to teach, or help others heal, perhaps helping everyone to celebrate, or enjoy a clean environment. There is something for everyone to do.

It isn’t about guilt. It is essentially about love. You are a part of a household formed from God’s adopting love. The ones we serve are supposed to be the ones you love.

The church is also the assembly of the living God. That word, ekklesia, is used in the Septuagint to translate the word for assembly or congregation. The church is not just those called out, but also called together. We assemble.

This is so different from the “de-churched” movement which thinks we don’t need the assembly but relies on Christian friendships. The Father appointed some to be pastors and teachers for a reason. He believes in the organized church, so to speak, even if we don’t. He gave instructions, like earlier in 1 Timothy 3, for how the church functions because there is organization to the organism called the church. The God who lives dwells in this living temple (1 Peter 2, Ephesians 2). To reject attendance, participation and membership is quite contrary to God’s revealed intention for the church.

The living God is present when the church is assembled in a way in which He is not when we are alone. I am basing this on Paul’s comments on worship in 1 Corinthians. He inhabits our praises, stirring us up to delight in Him, to confess our sins and our faith. We come together into His presence particularly as we pray and during the Lord’s Table. Corporate worship is distinct from our personal worship due to the preaching of the Word and the Sacraments. Those who neglect corporate worship miss the gracious presence of the living God for their maturity in a significant though hard to express way.

Paul’s vision of the church is far greater than the average American Christian’s. It is time for us to toss our meager conceptions of the church in the trash where they belong and receive God’s many, rich and high view of the church.

 

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Since Carl Trueman’s The Creedal Imperative came out last year it has been on my unofficial list of books to read. With a week of study leave, I thought it was time to get started. This book, with a strange title, is an important book in defense of the use of creeds and confessions. As a Presbyterian, and a confessional one at that, (I was referring to myself, but Trueman is one as well) it may sound strange to defend the use of creeds and confessions. However, we do live in a culture in which the use of such things is suspect at best and often denigrated, even in the church. This would be why Trueman wrote the book, and this is the subject he picks to begin the book: those societal forces against creeds.

He begins with 3 assumptions:

  1. The past is important and has something to teach us. Cultural forces that diminish or reject the importance of the past for the present argue against the use of creeds and confessions.
  2. Language is an appropriate means for communicating truth across time. Cultural forces that minimize or undermine the use of language argue against the use of creeds and confessions.
  3. There must be a body or institution that can authoritatively compose and enforce creeds and confessions. Anti-institutionalism in its various forms militates against the use of creeds and confessions.

These are reasonable assumptions when you think about creeds and confessions, and they are assumptions that will guide his work in the first, and second chapters of the book. Trueman argues, briefly, that those evangelicals who hold to “no creed but Christ” are more in tune with the spirit of the age than the teaching of Scripture.

What societal forces diminish the value of the past? He begins with science. His beef is not with science itself but the attitudes that scientific development fosters in people. Scientific advancement means that the present is better than the past, and (hopefully) the future will be better than the present. Unfortunately this view neglects the fact that scientific discoveries are often used in dangerous and even nefarious ways. Think the Holocaust, biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and the increase of identity theft. It is not all progress and joy. This view also forgets that this progress rests on the knowledge and developments of the past. Creeds and confessions form the foundation and boundaries for the church.

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I am slowly making my way through Gospel-Powered Parenting by William Farley.  I’m going slower than desired.  I have lost track of how many books I’m currently reading.  As he describes one of his sons, I have hope for my son.  He’s one stubborn little guy.  Days like today make me wonder if I’ll survive the parenting process.  It is not must about their character changing, but also mind.  Not only does the Boy need the gospel, the Dad needs the gospel.

The first tool of parenting he addresses is marriage.  “Huh?” you might say.  Yes, marriage.  The gospel we live must be the same as the one we preach.  If our lives make the gospel unattractive, our children will be repelled by what they think is the truth.

“Frank and Kim’s marriage preached an unattractive gospel to their children.  It contradicted the gospel preached at church and school.”

Farley gets this largely from Ephesians 5.  Sadly, it seems so novel in evangelical circles.  This points to how little we pay attention to the Scriptures.  M’ Cheyne once commented that the church’s greatest need was for his holiness as their pastor.  Similarly, your children’s greatest need is for your personal holiness to adorn the truth of the gospel.  Your marriage will preach a message that will either attract or repel your children.

“Proud parents are ill equipped to help their children escape the clutches of pride.”

In my margin I wrote that you could replace pride with any other sin.  We cannot teach our kids to escape the clutches of any sin that has us in its clutches.  Our only hope to escape the clutches of any sin is the gospel.  If we are not applying the gospel to our sin, how can they learn to apply it to their sin.  All we could offer them is moralism.

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I was not raised in a family that understood the gospel and raised children with a God-ward orientation or focused on our hearts.  As I seek to raise the 2 little lives (with more to come?) He has placed in my care, I recognize I need help.  I found Shepherding a Child’s Heart to be helpful.  So when Ted & Margy Tripp released Instructing a Child’s Heart, I believed it would be helpful for me.

I was not wrong.  Unlike the previous book, which focused on corrective discipline, this book focused on formative instruction-

“Formative instruction gives children principles and absolutes by which to live- hooks to hang life on.”

They address 5 goals for formative instruction, and the call to formative instruction from Deuteronomy 6, communicating formative instruction, and topics including authority, sowing & reaping, a vision for God’s glory, the importance of the church and ultimately the centrality of the gospel.  The book is humbling, as I reckon with how often I fail as a parent (therefore the gospel is for me too!).

This is a very good book, but not a perfect book.  There are statements they make that I would disagree with, as in Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  One of those was in the chapter on authority.  There is much in that chapter that is good, true and right.  But not this:

There is a popular method of child management that powerfully illustrates my point.  “Honey, you can wear the red shirt, the green shirt, or the blue shirt.  It’s up to you.”

It does not occur to a three-year-old that there are more than three shirts in the closet.  He makes his choice.  Mother is indifferent to which shirt the child chooses.  All are equally appropriate.  On the surface it seems like a win, win.  The child feels like he is a decision-maker, mother gets him to wear something appropriate, and there is no fight.  What could be better than that?

While all that sounds very good and quite enlightened, in reality the subtext for the child is, “You are the decision-maker here.  You have the right to choose.  I may suggest the various alternatives, but it is your right to choose.”

As made in God’s image, our children need to learn to choose wisely.  There is no magical age at which this happens.  We are to teach them how to make decisions while under authority.  The parent here sets the proper boundaries, and provides some freedom.  My 3-year-old knows she has more than 3 shirts in her closet.  My child is not my slave, though she is my responsibility.  I must teach her about living under authority- but an authority that loves and nurtures her (and him), not one that will squelch.  Refusing to teach them to make decisions within boundaries, in my opinion, gives them an unhealthy view of authority.  Obviously the Tripps disagree with me.

You don’t have to agree with every jot and tittle to find a book helpful.  I still found it very helpful, and CavWife plans on reading it too.  Some of what was helpful was the discussions about how we tend to reinforce our children’s idols, as well as the culture’s and our own as parents.  Part of good, godly parenting is to turn from our own idols, helping them to see their own idols and to lay hold of Christ instead.  The gospel is not a parenting add-on, but at the very core of parenting.

Paul found joy in the gospel and never moved beyond the gospel because he knew the gospel was the power of God for salvation- including everything fron initial calling by grace, to justification, to ultimate glorification.  We never move beyond the centrality of the gospel.

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Finally I’ve had some more time to make progress in Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.  He spends some time interacting with a Roman view of Scripture and then images.  While discussing Scripture, he also exposes the folly of the extreme anabaptist view that created problems during the Reformation.

The authority of Scripture comes from its origin in God.  Often some will say that the Church confers authority on the Scriptures by its recognition of them as God’s Word.  But Scripture is authentic and authoritative even if we don’t recognize it as such.  The issue is whether or not we will submit to God as He has spoken in the Scriptures.

“… the testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason.  For as God alone is a fit witness of himself in His Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men’s hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit.  The same Spirit, therefore, who has spoken through the mouths of the prophets must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us that they faithfully proclaimed what had been divinely commanded.” (I, VII, 4)

God spoke through the prophets by the Spirit.  The same Spirit must work in our hearts that we accept those words as God’s.  Bare reason is insufficient due to our fall into sin.  God must illumine us (2 Cor. 2-4).  So the Spirit speaks and authenticates God’s Word.

The authority of God’s human messengers, the prophets, was strengthened by the miracles they performed.  Here we see the idea of miracles as authentication of God’s true messengers.  This idea is behind the Reformed view of cessation of the gifts.  Not all Reformed people affirm this view, nor does Calvin go there.  But the roots of Warfield and Gaffin’s views are here.  Fulfilled prophecy is another basis for affirming the authenticity and authority of Scripture.  These are things the Spirit will illumine for us as we read that we might believe that Scripture has divine origins and is authoritative.

But what captures my attention is Calvin’s joining Word and Spirit.  This emphasis is lost in our day and age.  On the one hand there are those who think that bare reason is sufficient to understand Scripture.  On the other there are those who think that the Spirit thinks apart from Scripture.  Calvin argued that we only rightly understand Scripture through the work of the Spirit, and that the Spirit speaks thru the Scriptures.

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Glenn Beck had Dr. Richard Lindzen on his show tonight.  Dr. Lindzen is a professor of meteorology and atmospheric and planetary sciences.  Teaching at MIT, one would think he would be a respected voice on the matter of global warming.  Guess again! He worked on the IPCC- a lead author by the way.  Yet, he disputes the Summary for Policymakers which was not put together by scientists.  It was literally Shanghai-ed.  It has been politicized and used by the fear mongers as their latest pet project to get people up in arms. In his interview he stated (best as I can remember) “In 1998 Newsweek was claiming scientists were all in agreement.  Agreed on what?  That the overall temperature had increased slightly, yes.  That Antartica was going to melt?  No.” He likens belief in Global Warming to religious belief.

“With respect to science, the assumption behind the [alarmist] consensus is science is the source of authority and that authority increases with the number of scientists [who agree]. But science is not primarily a source of authority. It is a particularly effective approach of inquiry and analysis. Skepticism is essential to science- consensus is foreign.”

That’s enough on global warming for awhile.

Update: Climate Scientist Roy Spencer has questions for Al Gore about his movie. Other scientists not part of the ‘consensus’ include: Dr. Timothy Ball, Dr. Robert C. Balling Jr., Dr. Robert E. Davis, Dr. David LeGates, and I could go on.  Apparently these gentlemen are too difficult to find.

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