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Posts Tagged ‘complementarianism’


Confession: I have a love-hate relationship with the culture war.

I’m torn in two. I have strong convictions on some things that I think are important. But I’m weary of how we as a culture, including the church, discuss these matters. I’m becoming more concerned with ministering to struggling people than trying to be right. I do want to explore nuances on some issues.

The subtitle of one of Scott Sauls’ books interested me. That book is Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides. Sauls is a PCA pastor in Nashville who used to work with Tim Keller in NYC. In many ways he is like Keller, making distinctions and exploring nuance. He tends to tick off both the left and the right. If the Bible is true, Keller notes, it will critique every culture and every person. That means that everyone will be annoyed by something it says. The same will be true for faithful pastors. The left thinks you are too right and the right that you are too left.

In his introduction Sauls puts it this way:

“Are we known by what we are for instead of what we are against? Are we less concerned about defending our rights- for Jesus laid down his rights- and more concerned about joining Jesus in his mission of loving people, places, and things to life?”

While we believe in truth, we also believe in grace and peace. This means a Christian should be pursuing all of them, not just one. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he calls them to end what we’d call their tribalism in light of the fact they’ve been baptized into Christ. Their union with Him and one another takes precedence over the divides that kept people apart in their culture. In light of this we keep truth and love together, as Paul notes in Ephesians 4. Sauls wants us to see beyond the polarization to affirm what is true about each side of an argument in the process of finding the truth in the middle so we can love both sides and hopefully bring them together.

The book is divided into two main sections. The first addresses issues between the various “Christian tribes”. The second addresses some of the issues that polarize the church and the world.

The first issue he addresses could be in both sections of the book: politics. Reflecting Keller he argues that no political system or party is fully aligned with Jesus and therefore subject to critique. Politics is like a religion in America. There seems to be no middle ground.

God has instituted government, and raises up and casts down leaders. Those governments and leaders don’t serve Jesus. In our own context the two parties grab hold of part of what Jesus says. As Christians we can think they have the whole (or none in the case of THEM). We each have agendas and choose the candidate or party that best represent them. And one of those agendas tends to be political power. It is not just the evangelical right that courts earthly power, as the evangelical left would have you believe. Both sides have made compromises to gain cultural power so the current dust ups are largely disingenuous to me.

“Kingdom politics reject the world’s methods of misusing power and manipulating the truth.”

As we consider politics we should recognize that Christians should be involved in terms of voting and also holding office. Yet we should do this understanding the limitations involved. No candidate or platform is perfect. We are not electing pastors, and being a Christian doesn’t necessarily make one wise or beyond corruption. This is another way of saying that politics is not a means to usher in the kingdom of God. It is, however, a means to help human flourishing so the work of the kingdom can take place in and through the church.

Sauls notes that Christianity tends to be healthier when it is part of the minority, not the majority. As the minority we are generally less conformed to the world, and less likely to trample other groups. As the majority we tend to cling to power and can abuse it. We are fallen humans after all.

He also notes that “Christianity embraces both conservative and progressive values.” It is neither. Christianity teaches that women are made in the image of God. As such it should embrace equality for women. Christians have long had a prevailing ethic of life contrary to many an earthly government and culture. If we treat women well, the pro-life movement is not assumed to be a war on women.

I don’t want to spend as much time on the other polarizing viewpoints. But in discussing politics with some from the evangelical left recently I’ve heard the accusation that I’m actually pro-birth and don’t care about the poor. That’s a nice talking point, and the second chapter: For the unborn or the poor? Oddly, I’ve found many conservatives at the forefront of care for the poor through groups like the Salvation Army, Compassion International and through funding soup kitchens, pantries and homeless shelters.

It is difficult to discuss this topic without getting back into red state-blue state. But the question is not a new one: who should care for the poor, the church or the state? Calvin argued that church should, and Luther thought it was the state. We have a similar divide between the evangelical right and left. It isn’t really about whether to care for the poor but who and how. Our problem is we tend to see the other side not caring because they don’t do it the way we think it should be done.

Sauls brings us back to the reality of both the unborn and the poor bearing the image of God. This should lead us to have a comprehensive ethic of life. Mine would go something like this: The state should protect the unborn while the church/Christians should provide for the unborn and the poor. The state should protect the living by bearing the sword against the wicked who forfeit their lives for certain heinous crimes.

The section also addresses personal faith or institutional church, money guilt or money greed, racially the same or racially diverse, and him or her. These are important issues that we tend to take extreme positions on and fight about in the church. These, of course, are false dilemmas for the most part. We should value both personal faith and the institutional church. One tends to be dead without the other. Sauls notes that the early church was FAR from perfect, so the problems of our churches shouldn’t mean we reject “organized religion”. Rather, the church is a place where we learn to love people who are very different from ourselves. As he argues, we need the church and the church needs us.

In discussing money he reminds us that the underlying issue is contentment. Most people are not content with their wealth. This can manifest itself in either hoarding or spending. We inevitably have to see the God-man who was rich but became poor to enrich others. As we consider Him He makes us people who also enrich others.

Racial questions are difficult because we have such a hard time moving beyond our experience. We tend to normalize our experiences and can’t see other people’s experience (especially minorities) as valid or true. People in the majority need to begin listening to minorities. Privilege, I’ve found, doesn’t have to do with having an easy go of things so much as there are things you never have to think about. For instance, when I get in my car I never wonder if I’m going to get pulled over by the police. Many blacks and Hispanics do, and that is because they are pulled over far more frequently than me. When I get pulled over I don’t think that I’d better record it just in case things go south. I’ve always been treated with respect by the police. But many blacks and Hispanics are viewed with more suspicion by police than I am. Their experience is so different than mine. There are negatives I don’t experience due to my race, social status or both.

The same is true regarding men and women. I don’t go for a jog (when I used to) and wonder if I’ll get jumped and raped. I don’t pay attention to the cars on my walk to see if the same one keeps going by. I don’t pay more for a car or repairs because of my sex. Studies show that women are often taken advantage of by sales and repair men.

Where Sauls goes is inequality in the church in both chapters. Minorities often feel forced to fit in with the white culture of a church. They feel like a token instead of someone who has a seat at the table with decision-making power. Women also have decisions made for them without seeking their wisdom and counsel. God gifts women for ministry too. They don’t have to hold office to exercise those gifts like egalitarians think. Some complementarians need to remember that this is true and not unnecessarily restrict the ministry of women.

In the second section he discusses affirmation or critique, accountability or compassion, hypocrite or work in progress, chastity or sexual freedom, hope or realism, self-esteem or God-esteem and then provides some quick pointers on living outside the lines in the epilogue.

He spends time discussing our need for affirmation and encouragement. He also distinguishes critique and criticism helpfully.

“Because an affirming critique always comes from the motive of restoring and building up, unlike criticism, which aims to harm and tear down.”

We all been victims of criticism. You feel worthless, humiliated and exposed. Critique is not focused on fault-finding and assigning blame. It is concerned with how we can do better. Affirmation should not be devoid of critique, but it should be devoid of criticism. In this context he shared a story of a bad relationship with another pastor that brought out the worst in each of them, and how it turned the corner into a healthier relationship when they considered how God was sanctifying each thru the other.

He invites to consider both the justice and compassion of God that is revealed in the cross of Christ, as well as the final judgment. This is not a book whose message is “can’t we just get along.” It brings us often to the gospel while reminding us that divine truth is not simplistic. Our positions may have elements of the truth but not the whole truth. As we interact with people of differing opinions we may discover they have some of the truth too. Sauls is not selling relativism, but is reminding us that the truth can be more complex than we want to make it in our quest to be right. Seriously, who wants to be wrong?

There is much to make you think and move beyond the false dilemmas we find in life. There are also some great stories. I loved the story about Doug and how Scott struggled with a competitive spirit with a man he hadn’t been in contact with for over a decade. Scott is vulnerable in this book. He’s not the hero who has it all together. He comes across to me as a guy who’s trying to figure all this out and shares a few of the things he’s learned. See this as critique instead of criticism and you’ll benefit from the book. See it as criticism and you’ll just get ticked and retreat to your own tribe within the lines. It might feel safer, but then so is a prison cell sometimes.

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I’m grateful I made it GA this year. It seemed like it would be easy. Dallas is a non-stop flight from Tucson. This would be the easiest GA for me to attend short of a car ride. But then CavWife and I talked vacation schedule. I thought they’d join her family on the Jersey shore that week and and I’d just fly to NY to meet them. Nope, the Shore was the week before. I would fly to GA from NY meaning connections.

AImage may contain: grass, tree, plant, outdoor and natures we drove to her parents’ home, on a dead end in the middle of proverbial nowhere, we saw the road would be closed beginning Monday, the day of my flight to Dallas. There was a question as to at what point it would be closed: near the top or the bottom of the hill? Thankfully they started the work at the top and we could drive to the airport easily. I had a few delays for my connection so I arrived in Dallas an hour late. Thankfully, the airport was only 15 minutes away so that was no big deal.

If I’d ever get my bag. Baggage service was interminably slow. Painfully slow. But after finally getting my bag I used Lyft successfully for the very first time. Yes, I was a ride-sharing virgin. Rabin, my driver, was quite talkative. Hearing I was from Arizona he brought up that he’d just binge-watched Breaking Bad thinking it was in Arizona, not New Mexico. As an immigrant, you can pardon his geographical faux pas. A friend thought it was a docudrama. I assured him it was fiction but that the workings of the heart it portrayed were real.

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These needed to be in the assembly hall, not the exhibit hall.

Tuesday morning I participated in the Committee of Commissioners for Covenant College. We heard an address from President Derek Halverson about the state of the college. They have no long term debt. They are one of 5 ranked Christian liberal arts colleges. There is some concern about lower birth rates during the Recession and their impact on college enrollment. They want to build the endowment in anticipation of the end of federal plans like Pell Grants and student loans if the religious exemptions on the issues of homosexuality and gender are ended. They also mentioned an issue they brought up 2 years ago: that today’s students seem more emotionally vulnerable than in previous generations.

In the afternoon I attended two seminars. The first was Two Questions Every Church Must Ask by Mark Lowery (Director of Publishing, GCP). He provided a framework for analyzing, evaluating and setting a strategy for ministry. Those two questions were: What is their relationship to Christ and the cross? And What is their relationship to the church? That developed 4 groups of people a church seeks to minister to. Each has different needs and require different approaches. It was good, and helpful. It was also information overload. In my mind I went back to a Greek/NT prof who I swore was a fire hydrant of information.

I then attended The Politics of Ministry by Bob Burns and Donald Guthrie. It addressed the reality of how things get done, recognizing power dynamics and learning how to negotiate relationships and institutions. Thankfully they summarized the themes in their book of the same name. I would recommend that book. In the seminar they listed the differences between a relaxed/calm system and an anxious system. It is immediately obvious that the PCA is an anxious system. We are defensive and reactive, suspicious of one another. Grace seems but a dream at times. They also spoke about generational differences which play into some tensions in the PCA: Do what I say <=>  Listen to me. These would play out over the the course of the Assembly.

Tuesday night I sat with people at a picnic table talking. Meanwhile, a large number of elders were sitting around talking, smoking and having some whiskey. The scooters we’d seen available were used as the night wore on. People were enjoying the times of fellowship some seem to want to erase.

Wednesday morning I attended two seminars. The first was Mentoring Ruling Elders led by Larry Hoop and Richard Dolan, who is a friend of mine. This was actually geared more to ruling elders mentoring ruling elders. Older ruling elders should be helping younger ones to grow in understanding who they are and how to work within a Session. They talked about “on ramps” or doors into deep relationships, the qualities of mentors and ways in which mentoring takes place.

The second seminar was Relational Wisdom for Crucial Pastoral Issues by Ken Sande. He applied the principles of RW to church leadership. He spoke of leaders as necessarily relational, and marked by transparency and accountability. Ministry is intensely relational. When we lose sight of that, bad things happen. We aren’t simply applying theology to situations, but to … people. I saw a quote by Francis Schaeffer the other day that boils down to orthodoxy without love is a rotting corpse.

“Biblical orthodoxy without compassion is the ugliest thing in the world.” Francis Schaeffer

After lunch we had the opening worship service. The choir was backed by a small orchestra and the service included the Lord’s Supper. Out-going moderator Irwyn Ince preach a sermon on 2 Cor. 4:2-6 called Grind on for Glory. It was an excellent sermon. During the Supper, music was played during the distribution of each element, and then a song was sung before partaking of each element. Thankfully there was no mini-sermon before the Table as is frequently the case.

We then voted for a new moderator, electing RE Howard (Howie) Donahoe. He did an excellent job keeping us moving forward and applying the Rules of Assembly.

We then heard greetings from delegates from the RPCNA, OPC, URC, ARP, the Korean and Brazilian Presbyterian Churches. The URC delegate chided us regarding Revoice, and implied that if people really repented they wouldn’t struggle with SSA (at least that is how it sounded to me). The Korean delegates expressed similar cultural normalization of homosexuality. In light of the large number of overtures (requests for action) and how the Overtures Committee handled them as well as the number of minority reports (5) which requires more time, it was moved that we meet Wednesday night as well. Due to previously planned events, that was voted down.

We did vote to remain in the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals). We remain pretty much the only evangelical voice left in the NAE, and we don’t seem to be having much influence based on their positions. I was among those who thought we should cut ties, but good people like Roy Taylor disagree with me. Speaking of whom, he announced his retirement during the meeting, and search for a new Stated Clerk begins.

After dinner, we enjoyed fellowship with a number of elders over cigars and whiskey in the courtyard. In the courtyard the divisions in the church didn’t seem to matter. We weren’t arguing with each other, but enjoying one another’s company and discussing more personal matters.

TImage may contain: one or more people and shoeshursday began with an all-assembly seminar called Christian Civility in an Uncivil Age: Speaking the Truth in Love about how we interact with one another, particularly in the assembly and on social media. The panels were Sean Lucas, Irwyn Ince, Bryan Chapell and David Richter. They brought Scripture, the BCO and our confessional standards to bear on how we talk to and about one another. It was a great panel and discussion that sadly seemed to have been ignored by many as the “us/them” language on FB was present throughout the rest of General Assembly.

Thursday morning was taken up mostly with Report on Presbytery Records. The issue of the year seemed to be exceptions and requiring men not to teach their views on that subject. Good Faith Subscriptionism permits exceptions. Most of the time those are such that teaching on them is not a problem. Some, like paedocommunion, are commonly permitted but the pastor is prohibited from teaching their views. Calvary Presbytery expanded that area of prohibition. A long, confusing debate occurred. The bottom line is that this issue is best addressed through overtures addressing the BCO than RPR.

These populated the area for some reason.

We voted on the changes to the BCO that had been approved by presbyteries. The important ones like the marriage issue passed, but a few of lesser importance didn’t (the ones dealing with excommunication, counsel for discipline cases. Also passed was extending the notice time for a congregation meeting held to leave the denomination. I don’t get the opposition. It is just about the notice of the meeting. This is not about using property to hold congregations captive. There isn’t even a “period of discernment” like in some other Reformed denominations. I’ve seen congregations caught up in the moment and consider leaving over a decision that didn’t go their way.

Wednesday lunch was an RTS alumni lunch. We heard from 3 professors including Kevin DeYoung about the challenges in seminaries. Today’s students really struggle with social media and the resultant inability/unwillingness to study or express diligence.

Wednesday afternoon was mostly reports from the various boards like Covenant College, and Seminary, MNA and the rest. The one matter of significance was in the MTW report. After some complaints of gender/sex abuse they hired GRACE to investigate. About 10% of the women feel unsafe at times. There were instances of disparaging comments about women, some sexual harassment and abuse. They are taking the recommendations from GRACE seriously and seeking to implement them. We do need to take better care of the women and children under our care.

After dinner we had another worship service. This time the choir was backed by a small band including Sandra McCracken. The lead male vocalist had quite the voice. David Cassidy preach on Psalm 145, A Brief History of the Future. It was well-received. Many are still raving about it. He is dynamic in his style, but I thought it lacking some in substance. He rarely referred to the text. It was more motivational than exegetical & practical. My two cents, and it is highly unlikely anyone will ever ask me to preach at GA.

We then worked (yes, this is work) until midnight as we began addressing the Overtures at last. Rather than simply beginning with the requests for a study committee on matters sexual, some members pressed for a statement now so we can tell our people what the PCA believes on these matters. I thought our confessional standards still held. Scott Sauls brought up this pertinent fact, so I didn’t feel the need to speak as encouraged by others. In my opinion most of the presented statements lacked pastoral sensitivity.

WLC Q. 138. What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?
A. The duties required in the seventh commandment are, chastity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior; and the preservation of it in ourselves and others; watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses; temperance, keeping of chaste company, modesty in apparel; marriage by those that have not the gift of continency, conjugal love, and cohabitation; diligent labor in our callings; shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations thereunto.

WLC Q. 139. What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?
A. The sins forbidden in the seventh commandment, besides the neglect of the duties required, are, adultery, fornication, rape, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts; all unclean imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behavior, immodest apparel; prohibiting of lawful, and dispensing with unlawful marriages; allowing, tolerating, keeping of stews, and resorting to them; entangling vows of single life, undue delay of marriage; having more wives or husbands than one at the same time; unjust divorce, or desertion; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.

One TE mentioned that our debate is not doctrinal (speaking of the PCA more than Revoice since there is some breadth of theology there) but cultural. I would add generational. The dynamics of politics in ministry are evident to me. The PCA is an anxious system, and very defensive. How the different generations and cultures approach ministry differs as well. Revoice, for instance, is largely younger people who want to be heard in their struggle, to be open and receive help. Those who are (generally) older are focused on the doctrine and expect people to follow the traditional methods of ministry to homosexuals.

14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5

Some seemed to indicate that pastoral sensitivity was somehow opposed to doctrine. No, not at all. Paul here advocates for pastoral sensitivity or discernment. There are three groups in mind: the idle (rebellious), the fainthearted and the weak. They are to be treated differently. There are people who struggle with SSA in our midst who are not rebellious, but rather fainthearted and weak. To admonish them instead of encouraging or helping is to practice orthodoxy without love.

Two TEs who struggle with SSA spoke against approving the Nashville Statement. TE Johnson from Memorial in Missouri Presbytery expressed his impression that this statement didn’t just delineate sin but so focused on it that many with SSA will feel rejected and pushed out. Another TE mentioned that the sentiment of the group he’s in online, is that those people will feel unsafe in the PCA if the Nashville Statement was passed. It was passed. There are people like this who are greatly affected by our decisions, negatively, and wonder if they are welcome in our churches as a result.

There are key moments when we can choose whether or not to listen to those most directly affected by a decision. Sadly, in my opinion, we consistently refuse to listen to them. This doesn’t mean that listening determines what you should do, but empathy is in important part of being a pastor and elder. We struggle with this.

Additionally, the RPCNA’s Contemporary Perspectives on Sexual Orientation: A Theological and Pastoral Analysis was commended to the denomination, but not referred to boards for instruction. It was already available on the PCA Historical Center website. A series of affirmations and denials was rejected. A minority report with a series of statements was also rejected which I thought was far superior to the Nashville Statement.

No photo description available.Longer term, a study committee on the subject was approved. Also approved was a change to the BCO to permit video testimony. An overture to permit additional RE participation in GA was rejected. This last one is another I wish we’d listen on. The overture maintained a majority of each board has elders. But some boards could greatly benefit from others with expertise. This need for only elders on the board of Covenant College, in my opinion, unnecessarily turns people off. I’ve talked to some of these people. How we practice our complementarianism, at times, drives people to egalitarianism. I don’t think only men, and ordained men at that, are capable of running a Christian college.

My flight Friday morning was at 9:30 so I did not participate in the worship service or business on Friday. I did not want to arrive in NY at midnight, and usually business wraps up on Thursday. But with the extraordinary number of overtures that didn’t happen. The two main issues were the approval of a study committee for domestic violence and sexual abuse, and the rejection of non-ordained members of the boards of the church as an expression of elder rule.

 

2020: Birmingham

2021: St. Louis

2022: likely Memphis

2023: possibly Orlando

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The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World Butterfield, Rosaria cover imageRosaria Butterfield has written two quite different books so far. Her first, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, was largely narrative with some extended musings. It was easy to read and quite interesting. It allowed her gifts as a story-teller and writer to come out and play. Her second, Openness Unhindered, exhibited her gifts as a teacher. Far more didactic, it also drew on her past life as an academic who was a lesbian activist teaching queer theory at Syracuse University in NY. She wrote to interact with the controversial subjects regarding sex and gender of our day from the perspective of a Christian who used to be an activist.

Both books were representative of who Rosaria is. Her third book, The Gospel Comes with a House Key, is also representative of who Rosaria is. Her first book talked about the key role hospitality played in her life as part of the homosexual community, her conversion and then as a Christian. The book wasn’t really about that subject but you recognized this was an important topic to her. It would be natural for her, and desired by her audience, for her to write a book on the subject that seems to so permeate her experience.

It is written in a style quite like Secret Thoughts. It is narrative used to communicate a lesson. The main narrative is the story of a neighbor, Hank. She and her family slowly pursue the reclusive war vet and build a friendship which has survived some major trauma. She also includes the story of her life with her mother after her conversion.

For Rosaria, hospitality isn’t a faceless practice. It is the long-term investment in particular people through hills and valleys. This investment is understood in terms of the gospel. First, God has welcomed us through His Son. That doesn’t seem like a big deal until you realize we were ungodly, helpless sinners and therefore His enemies. She isn’t as explicit about this as she could be, but it is there. Second, He sends us out to welcome others in the hopes of their coming to faith as we meet tangible needs. It is a form of mercy ministry that takes place in the home, not on church property.

The subtitle, Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in our Post-Christian World, helps set some of the boundaries. This is some thing to be practiced. When we practice we start off rather poorly but continue to get better if we continue to invest the time and energy needed. This is something we may not be great at but can and should become better at with time because we continue to invest ourselves into it.

It is from the root, or radical. We are sharing ourselves, and not just the good part. We are full people and she notes that true hospitality receives too. We are not to be like Martha, ever the good host, but some of Mary who is truly interested in her Guest and needs Him. The hospitality she has in mind is reciprocal in nature: not paternalistic. It is radical in terms of being sacrificial as well. It is a big part of her family budget, and that means there are things they do without.

It is ordinary. She’s not talking about fancy dinner parties with the fine china and special silverware. She’s talking burgers on a picnic table, Thanksgiving turkey seated on the coach or folding chairs, soup and bread before reading the Bible and singing Psalms. She’s talking about inviting people in for community, not a state dinner at the White House.

It is ordinary in that it is for ordinary people, not elite Christians. Anyone can do this because it is simply about loving people.

The context of hospitality for the American Christian is changing too. We are in a post-Christian society. The influence of the gospel is waning, not growing. Disdain for Christianity is growing. We can no longer assume people have a basic understanding of the Bible. Many know only what they’ve been told on TV or the radio. Post-Christian America has a hunger for community. Much like pre-Christian Rome, hospitality is our way to gain an ear by granting a seat at the table with give and take.

This makes for an interesting, challenging book that is both easy and difficult to read at the same time but in different senses. It is a book that can make you laugh and cry. Her gifts as a story-teller (or teller of the Story) are on display in the course of the many narratives. She does provide a few sections on “nuts and bolts” of hospitality. This could be expanded and moved up in the material. It seems almost an afterthought. As a result she may have lost some people earlier; people who think she wants them to practice hospitality just like she does. Some in the conclusion deal with temperament and marriage roles in hospitality.

Caveats and Impressions

I should give a little personal background so you, dear reader, don’t think I’m simply reactionary. As a kid it was normal for friends to “stay for dinner” or me to stay there for dinner last minute. The families who “raised” me as a new convert in my early 20’s practiced hospitality. Their doors were open and I was often there on Friday nights or Saturdays. I helped them with projects and they fed me with conversation and meals.

My wife’s family routinely took in strays: animals and then people. They still do.

When we lived in Florida we knew many of our neighbors and had been in many of their homes. They had been in ours. At times we had to eat in our garage because the kitchen/dining area was so small and there were so many toddlers toddling about.

Since moving to Arizona we had a young man live with us for 18 months because he was struggling spiritually & relationally. We frequently have people in our home. But now we pretty much know 3 neighbors. Arizona is not Florida or the Christ-haunted North Carolina where Rosaria resides. The relationships seem limited to the Next Door app, rather than using it to get together in person.

It would be easy to feel like an inhospitable person reading this book. That is not her intention, but know yourself. Will you compare yourself to her example? Or are you able to simply take her example as an encouragement to be more hospitable in your particular setting? There is a part of me that longs to be in a neighborhood like hers, where my kids have heaps of friends (it is MUCH larger than our subdivision), where people are open, even if opinionated, instead of driving directly into their garage closing the door before they even get out of the car. Some people may confuse such longing with condemnation.

Image result for soup and breadRosaria usually has a soapbox topic in each book. She goes on a bit of a rabbit trail on a controversial subject. For instance, in Secret Thoughts she spent a few pages on Exclusive Psalmody. Here it is “biblical patriarchy”. It is introduced when a friend asks her “how the magic happens”. Her answer was a husband who leads and a wife who submits herself to her calling as wife and mother. She has chosen not to pursue a career as a teacher at this time. She is a writer, which happens in the quiet mornings before the kids bring their chaos.

I wish she had actually spent a little more time on this one so I knew more of what she is talking about. Patriarchy is a loaded term in my theological circles. She may be using the term in a way I could agree with, but often this term is used in  a way I don’t agree with and many will find unnecessarily offensive. If she’s using it for complementarianism (wives submitting to their husbands who love them like Christ loved the church, and male leadership in the church) then I’m onboard. Patriarchy is often used for the view that women submit to men, thereby granting women an inferior status rather than role. I do not find that position to be biblical. Since she doesn’t clarify, it causes needless confusion and possible stumbling blocks.

Rosaria is honest about her life, and her sins. Therefore she is honest about her rather dysfunctional relationship with her mother. At times I sensed a dysfunctional relationship with her neighbors. I wasn’t sure if the co-dependency she had with her mother transferred to others. There was a lot of community processing of community events. In some ways commendable.

A few years ago the house across the street from us was raided by a number of law enforcement agencies. My wife was out on her walk when it started. She got permission to come home, but was initially told to stay on the other side of the house, just in case. We did some watching from the window. But there was no gathering of neighbors (as their was in FL after a resident committed suicide by cop). There was no community processing of the arrest, and aside from his friend down the street it wasn’t perceived as a tragedy. As a member of the HOA, I got no rants about property values.

Therefore it is hard to discern where her concern for others crossed into perceived responsibility or unhealthy response. Healthy hospitality respects that boundary. She does mention boundaries, but that is an area that needed more attention.

The last issue is kids. Contemporary culture wants to protect kids from real life. As a pastor my kids are protected from some things, but get a big dose of other things. Our hospitality has introduced them to couples who live together before getting married, among other things. So, I’m not approaching this from an overly protective posture.

The flip side is I’ve been a pastor to people whose parents had time for everyone’s problems but their children’s. They were neglected by “good Christian parents” out to save the world who forgot their kids needed nurture and care. This is one of those boundaries that didn’t get nearly enough attention in the book. I’m not going to pretend to know enough about how this plays out in the Butterfield home, but more attention should have been paid to this subject in the book. There has to be something between over-protective helicopter parents and bringing your kids to the front lines of ministry by bringing it all in the home. I have had some difficult conversations with people on my front porch. Hospitality with boundaries because my kids were inside or out back. We can’t be paranoid and overprotective, but neither should we be clueless.

These are some of the gaps I noticed in this otherwise excellent book. You can’t say everything anytime you say anything, but these seemed like important things to say.

 

 

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No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of GodWhen No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God by Aimee Byrd came out, I bought copies for many of the key women in the church. I thought it would help them as they think about ministry to women in our congregation. They have been meeting periodically to discuss what they are reading.

My wife, after she read it, thought I should read it. It is also intended for the officers of the church to help them think through their congregation’s ministry to women. As a result, it was one of the books for my vacation/study leave.

“This is a book that aims to help the whole church by examining church initiatives for a group that makes up over half of our congregations- the women. … My hope is that this book will help both pastors and elders to shepherd the women in their congregations, and to encourage women to thrive under the ministry of Word and sacrament, so that it flows out to the whole church, to their homes, and to their communities.” From the Introduction

Aimee Byrd has been blogging as the Housewife Theologian for years. This has turned into being an author and a cohost of The Mortification of Spin podcast with Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt. She, along with her husband and three children, are members of an OPC church.

She approaches this subject from a complementarian viewpoint. She affirms male headship of home and church. But she also pushes back against some forms of complementarianism as well as patriarchy. For instance, she takes issue with Piper on his views on which jobs are suitable for women outside the church. I think she is right to do so. In my opinion, in this view Piper sounds like he holds to patriarchy (he doesn’t, but is so far right on some points that it’s “leaky”, even though he affirmed women deacons on the left side of the spectrum). Byrd uses Pearl as an example of some bad theology, particular excerpts that espouse a form of patriarchy (the view that women are subject to men irrespective of their relationship).

She doesn’t see women as inferior or second class citizens of the kingdom of God. She has a vibrant view of ezer, or helper/ally. Women are called alongside their husbands to fulfill the creation mandate, not just to make babies and clean house. They are to study and learn, teach, encourage and serve the broader church. She wants to empower women to serve to the fullest of their abilities within the bounds God has established (though she doesn’t really interact with the different views on this, even among complementarians). Now that you know where she is coming from ….

Byrd breaks the book up into 4 parts. She begins with Pinpointing a Real Problem, then Examining Our Context, to Working toward a Solution and lastly Honing our Skills. There is a logical movement within the book. In the process there is plenty of theology, examples for illustration, and helpful ideas. There are also a few minor idiosyncrasies (I’m sure I’ve got a few myself). It is well-written and accomplishes its purpose. There was only one chapter in which I was left scratching my head because I was thinking “And…” since it really didn’t (in my opinion) answer the question.

What is the problem? It is two-fold in a sense. First, ministry to women is often isolated from the rest of the church. The officers of the church don’t want to be bothered and grant the women a fiefdom free from interference. Second, the books written for women are often filled with bad theology that often undermines the theology of the congregation. Byrd goes back to the temptation of Eve to understand this. Satan started with attacking Eve to undermine Adam. As Satan continues to war against the saints, he still employs this strategy. Why is this so important know? Often it is the women who are teaching the children. Multiple generations can be infected with bad theology or methods of interpretation.

“In his malevolent shrewdness, Satan when for the woman. He went after Adam’s gift from God, his bride. That was indeed a clever way to get to Adam. So it isn’t surprising today that Satan goes after Christ’s bride, his church, with the same distortion of God’s word.” (pp. 20)

She is right to point out these errors in books marketed especially for women. Many authors & speakers undermine the authority of the Scriptures by claiming to “hear” from God apart from the Scriptures (which is how the Spirit speaks, thru the Scriptures read or preached). Many are prone to eisegesis (reading into the text) rather than exegesis (reading out of the text). And there are all manner of doctrinal issues with regard to the Trinity, Christ, sin, redemption. Many promote false gospels as well. There is a profound lack of discernment, largely because church leaders haven’t been developing the skills for discernment to the women of the church (and often because pastors can exhibit some of these same problems in their sermons).

Aimee references how Paul addresses this problem in 2 Timothy 3:6-7.

For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

She spends quite a few pages interacting with this text. Women then were being targeted. In particular, weak women. Not all women are weak, or better translated gullible. False teachers don’t seek to corrupt competent and equipped women. Like wolves they look for those who are gullible, guilty and immature. In Timothy’s context and ours, those wolves were in the church. Godly leaders must seek these women out too and help them to become competent and equipped.

She develops the idea of woman as a necessary ally (ezer). She is in covenant with the man she helps, they are married. Women  are not helpers to men generally, but a specific man. God is also a necessary ally to those to whom He is covenantally bound. The OT use of this term for God means such an ally is not servile or inferior. The ally has resources and a commitment to use them for the well-being of the other. Byrd notes a quote by Spurgeon long before Toula’s mother said the same thing to her.

Theology is essential for women, not just men. Paul supported the idea of women learning, just as Jesus did. In this way the neck can turn the head in good directions.

Having identified the problem(s), she addresses the context in which we live. She goes back to Genesis 1-3. Eve, as Adam’s ally, entertained Adam’s enemy. Even in really good places like the Garden love is vulnerable. Satan didn’t want them to expand the garden-temple throughout the earth. What was important was God’s mission. Marriage, among believers, is about God’s mission. They work together to accomplish it, not their own personal dreams and kingdoms. She does some theology connected Adam the First with Adam the Second (aka, Jesus) to understand creation, fall & redemption. Christ is restoring our relationships, our households and our churches (the household of God) as He applies redemption in both justification and sanctification. Here she mentions another problem, women’s ministry often focuses on “being a woman”, not simply on being a mature Christian who happens to be a woman. But her primary focus is developing a robust view of competent, godly women. In their household and God’s. She mentions the many women in both the OT and NT who were highly involved in God’s mission as prophets, patrons, servants, etc.

In her zeal for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, she has one of her idiosyncrasies. She doesn’t like the term women’s ministry, thinking it devalues the ministry of Word and Sacrament. We don’t need to talk about women’s initiatives (or men’s, children’s etc.). I think we can all understand that though separate, they are not ultimately distinct. We are serving these portions of the church by and thru the Word even if it isn’t the Word preached.

When she moves toward a solution, she begins with the question of men learning from women. This was the headscratcher of a chapter. On the positive side she mentions how all of us learn from women who are in Scripture, like the songs of Hannah and Mary. There are also those instances when women taught men directly (Hulda, Pricilla). Those passages aren’t “for women only”. This is also a chapter in which she pushes back against some of Piper’s stranger comments.  There was also an odd rabbit trail on Anne Hutchinson and Aimee Semple McPherson. It reiterated the idea that in the quest to be heard, some women talk about hearing direct messages from God. This would be more suitable in the first section of the book. The head scratching came in discussing parachurch ministries and the use of women speakers at conferences. Conferences are confusing. They have times of worship utilizing many of the elements of worship, and I’m not sure how you differentiate between a conference speech/lecture and a sermon. She seemed to not be quite clear. I will not be excommunicated for disagreeing with any teaching given at a conference (though some churches should consider excommunicating people who go to particular conferences, I am sort of kidding). Conferences are voluntary and there is no “membership” or discipline. Personally I have no problem with a woman speaking at such a conference intended for mixed audience. Perhaps it is my experiences at Ligonier where women like Elizabeth Elliot and Joni would speak. They didn’t clear out the men, and I don’t think they should. I can learn from women, and should learn from women. Like reading this book. I just felt like she didn’t answer the question, and experienced some cognitive dissonance.

In later chapters she focuses on what it looks like to be a competent ally. While there were some good thoughts there, I wish she could have developed a few more and been a bit less reliant on John McKinley, adding some of her own ideas to the mix. She identifies the three traits of a competent ally as equipped, having resolve and discerning. This last one takes up much of the rest of the book as Byrd discusses how to read, how to interpret and how to assess false teaching (not all false teaching is equal since not all doctrines have equal priority). This is the most practical section, obviously. And she doesn’t short-change it. She then provides examples for the reader to apply what they have learned with excerpts of books with bad theology, methods of interpretation or statements that undermine the Scriptures. You are encouraged to note the problems to develop greater discernment. She provides a caveat, she doesn’t want to put authors on a “do not read” list. This is not a discernment blog approach, and we shouldn’t have such an approach. Discernment isn’t just about spotting the bad, but also affirming the good.

She wraps up with a chapter on preaching and teaching to women. The focus is on men, the officers of the church. She wants to help us help the women under our care. This is in keeping with her stated purpose for the book.

I think she did a good job fulfilling the purpose of the book. At times she put material that may have been better suited for another section. But as one whose book is in the process of being published, I recognize how hard it can be to do. There is no air lock between sections, sealing content or ideas. There was enough theology to keep me engaged (not simply personal stories strung together to make a point) and she applied it well. I think this is a good book for church officers and key women to read so congregations can better minister to (serve) the women in their midst so they become fully mature in Christ.

 

 

 

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We shift into the first of the NT texts to focus on what woman can or cannot do in the life of the church. This is a very difficult passage in a number of ways. But it is also one that challenges many people’s sensibilities.

“This passage proves to be a critical test case for biblical authority.” Paul Barnett

ESV NASB NIV
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

 

 

The church in Corinth struggled with an over-realized eschatology. The false teachers told them that redemption has overturned creation. For instance, marriage was to be avoided (as in the eternal state), sex was to be avoided etc. They struggled to identify/distinguish the “already” and the “not yet”. They were putting too much of the “not yet” into the “already”.

 

Pratt thinks Paul focus of this passage was the behavior of husbands and wives in worship.

 

Presuppositions and Critical Questions:

  • Is Paul speaking primarily of men & women, or of husbands and wives? Not the differences in the translations.
  • Does “head” refer to “primacy” or “source”? How does it reflect relational responsibility?

vv. 2

The traditions here are most likely the verbal instruction by the Apostles, in distinction to the written instruction. This is not to be confused with the use of tradition in either Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. It is more authoritative then when we talk about the “Reformed tradition”.

Is Paul being sarcastic? Keep in mind, most of this letter is corrective.

vv. 3

understand/realize (eidw) to see, to perceive, notice, discern, discover

 

Christ is the head of every man/person (andros)

The man is the head of a woman

God is the head of Christ

 

Man (andros) a male, a husband, a betrothed or future husband; can be used generically of a group of men and women

Head (kephale) head, supreme, chief, prominent; it is used both literally & metaphorically in this passage; not used often in LXX for authority/chief

Woman (guna) woman, wife

 

So, we see that the words Paul used can mean either man or husband, and woman or wife depending on the context. The context doesn’t offer us many clues, but we have to utilize some other passages.

Authority or Source?

The Reformation Study Bible notes indicate it could be both. Because of “source” there is “authority.”

The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible also notes “the two ideas, however, should probably not be viewed as mutually exclusive.”

 

Summary of Wayne Grudem’s Survey on the meaning of kephale

Debating Source

We often use head as the source of something, like the head of the Mississippi River. But the fact that we do it in English and other modern languages doesn’t mean they use it that way in Koine Greek. Some argue it is synonymous with archa, beginning or ruler. Some think this refers to temporal priority. These arguments lack support in older lexicons. They are proposing a new meaning.

 

Bedale argues the ‘head’ does not normally mean ‘ruler’. But he provides no evidence. Bedale argues the ancient world didn’t think the head controlled the body. Correct they didn’t have the knowledge of anatomy we do. But they did understand the basics of wrestling and riding horses. If you control your opponent or horses head you control them. Bedale argues that the Septuagint shows it can mean ‘source’. The Hebrew word for ‘head’ was translated by both “head” and “ruler/beginning”. When the context literally referred to a head, they used kephale. When referring to the first or beginning of something, they used archa. When referring to a ruler or chief, it was translated with either. So, he argues, they are approximately the same therefore since the later can mean source so can the former. His error is that overlap in one area of semantic range does not mean overlap in all areas of semantic range. He provides no examples when it is actually used for “source” or “beginning”.

Bedale refers to 2 extra-biblical texts. In the Herodotus citation it is used in the plural for the head for the head of the Tearus River. However, in the singular it is used to refer to the “mouth of a river” (Callimachus). We see from this that when used of things it can refer to extremities.

In the Orphic Fragments 21: Zeus the head, Zeus the middle, Zeus from whom all things are perfected. Another copy of this same fragment uses archa instead of kephale. Doesn’t seem to mean “source” in the context. In his study, Grudem looked at 2,336 examples of kephale. Most uses were to actual or literal heads of people or animals. Ruler is the meaning 16% of the time it was used metaphorically. Source was the meaning 0% of the time.

 

Christ is in authority over every man

The man is in authority over a woman

God is in authority over Christ

 

Or

 

Christ is the source of every man

The man is the source of a woman

God is the source of Christ

 

Man being the source of woman only makes sense if we are talking about Adam and Eve. Paul does go their later. But this is about the structuring of life in the present church. So ….

I am not the source of my wife, but I have authority in that relationship.

Or these:

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. Colossians 1

 

22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1

 

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Ephesians 5

 

Which makes more sense in the context?

Authority makes more sense consistently. In some cases, source has some application. Christ is the source of the Church, and has authority over it. When we talk about God as the source of Christ we can get onto thin ice in terms of the Trinity.

Paul addresses authority under the term “head”. These seem to be covenant relationships. This is would mean that Christ or Messiah is the head of humanity (or at least the redeemed). Every man/person is under the authority of Messiah, ultimately (Ps. 2). Likewise, the husband is the head of a wife. If we interpret it as man/woman we end up with patriarchy rather than complementarianism. This is the subjection of women to men, not the submission of a wife to her husband like we see in Ephesians 5.

In the covenant of redemption, God is the head of Messiah. The Eternal Submission of the Son (ESV Study Bible, Grudem, Ware) treats this text as if Paul said Son so this submission is seen as eternal. Paul’s choice of “Messiah” ties it into the covenant relationship for our salvation. This is recognized by Calvin.

 

“In asmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. … this is spoken of Christ as mediator.” John Calvin

 

“In this passage, the headships of Christ, husbands, and God had one thing in common to which he drew attention: each head should be honored.” Richard Pratt

 

Covenant Headship (Roles)

God => Christ => man/husband => woman/wife

 

If we stop here, we get patriarchy, or Gothardism. In this perversion of the Scriptures women are under the authority of men. A woman approaches Christ through her husband, not directly. We have to hold this in tension with Galatians 3:28.

 

In terms of Being or Essence

God => Christ => man and woman.

Both are made in the image of God

Both have equal access thru Christ

 

Men and women are equal before God, and have equal access to God through Christ Jesus. But we are also in some covenant relationships that shape our roles and responsibilities. The text continues to explore those further. We’ll explore that soon.

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At this year’s General Assembly they decided to have a study committee on women in the church. This was met with mixed reviews. Some were glad. I was glad, but I will not impute the reason for my joy to others. I want to better understand the Scriptures, in particular one text of Scripture, and for our church life to be more fully conformed to those Scriptures. In other words, I believe that notion of Reformed and reforming.

Some were upset seeing this as a move toward liberalism. They believe they fully understand the Scriptures and haven’t imported any erroneous cultural notions into our understanding of the Scriptures.

I don’t see this as the on ramp to women elders. This is especially true when I look at the people on the study committee. We’re talking Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt for Pete’s sake.

Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry (Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry)Our Session decided we wanted to study this subject for ourselves so we can better evaluate any majority and minority reports. In fact, our men’s ministry has decided to look at this too. So I’ve done some shopping to add to the books I own and have read on this subject. One of the books I added was Jesus, Justice, & Gender Roles by Kathy Keller. Kathy is also on this study committee and this was a book I wanted to read anyway.

In addition to being the wife of Tim Keller, Kathy has an MA in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell and spent some time as an editor for Great Commission Publications.

To call this a book is generous. It is more like a booklet, being 39 pages (plus a few pages of end notes). This increases the likelihood of it being read by my very busy elders. It also means that it won’t cover everything I might want it to cover or as in depth as I might want it covered.

Let’s lay the card on the table first. She is a complementarian. This is a broad term, and there are a few differences of opinion within this movement. Many want to claim their version as the only version. This, in fact, is one of the reasons for this book. She tries to nail down the essential point of complementarianism.

She divides the book into two chapters. The first focuses on hermeneutical issues and two key texts. The second focuses on how this plays out as she feels pressure from both egalitarians and more “conservative” complementarians (or those who may actually hold to a view of patriarchy).

She begins by describing how she arrived at these conclusions (and to hold to the inspiration, infallibility and authority of the Scriptures) though she didn’t grow up believing them and they threatened her career ambitions. Hermeneutically she affirms  the analogy of Scripture (clear texts interpret unclear texts) and that each text has a context (historical, cultural, social, and I might add theological) that affects its meaning. The two texts she focuses on are 1 Corinthians 14:33b-38 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12. In some ways she views the first as less clear and the second as more clear such that 1 Timothy helps us understand 1 Corinthians.

We cannot isolate 1 Corinthians 14 from the rest of 1 Corinthians. This means that we cannot use it to mean that women must be absolutely silent in a worship service. For instance, 1 Corinthians 11:5 mentions women praying and prophesying in the public worship service. While we might claim the prayer is silent, clearly the prophesying is not. As a result she notes “Paul in 1 Corinthians is not condemning the public ministry of women, but regulating it.” In other words, public exercise of spiritual gifts is to retain “divinely ordained gender roles.”

She does mention Miriam, Deborah and Huldah as women leaders. She, unfortunately, just mentions this in passing. Since these women are used by egalitarians like Sarah Sumner to justify their views, I think this bore more attention. Miriam, for instance, while publicly leading, was publicly leading women in the chorus of the song.

In its context, she understands (quite reasonably) this text to be about the elders evaluating and judging the content of prophecy in the worship service. They were discussing it and speaking authoritatively upon it. Women were not to be interjecting and disrupting this process which involved only the elders. This happened prior to the completion of the canon and the elders were to guard the deposit of truth they had (and were still receiving). We do this less formally now that the canon is complete by holding pastors to confessional standards. If I begin to preach deviant views, the elders are charged with admonishing me, and presbytery will be involved if I persist.

This view is supported by what we find in 1 Timothy 2. Debate has raged over whether “teach or have authority” (NIV), “teach or exercise authority” (ESV),  refers to two separate functions or one function (teaching in a position of authority). She, following James Hurley (who used to teach at RTS Jackson), Craig Blomberg and Philip Payne believes this is a hendiadys in which the conjunction connects the two verbs so they are mutually defining.

“So what is being forbidden to women in 1 Timothy 2 (and by extension in 1 Corinthians 14) is authoritative teaching- some kind of teaching that carried with it an authority not found in other, allowable forms of oral discourse.”

In her understanding there are times when a teacher doesn’t have authority. You can disagree with a SS teacher or small group leader but it isn’t a problem. The problem is if we disagree with the elders on an important issue (it may be prompted by the disagreement with the SS teacher). The SS teacher can’t excommunicate you, but the Session can!

The main tenant of complementarianism is male headship in the church (and home). In the church it is male elders (there is disagreement on the question of deacons which means we have disagreements on the nature of a deacon or “ordination” behind the scenes).

Keller then briefly mentions the common reasons why people think we don’t have to obey these instructions by Paul: misogyny by Paul, only binding on the church then, and outdated commands. She notes how unconventional Paul was in his relationships with women and how the charge of misogyny really doesn’t have any legs. The second charge is based on a fallacy since every part of Scripture is written to a specific group at a specific time for a specific reason. We do distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive passages however. Scripture describes polygamous marriages, for instance, but never prescribes or affirms them. This second excuse also denies Paul’s instruction about Scripture in 2 Timothy 3. The third excuse essentially is that we have more light now. Another version of this would be the trajectory hermeneutic of some progressives like Rob Bell where we try to project what Paul might think & say today.

“Consider the enormous hubris in appointing our present cultural moment as the yardstick against which God’s Word must be measured.”

We should not give into the impulse to fall back onto “love” since the issue is so “complicated and confusing.” She reminds us that the great creeds and confessions of the church were the products of (often) vigorous debate. It is better to dig deeper into the Scriptures and submit ourselves to what they say. This is not simply a personal project but a community project (regarding both time and space).

“I have found it fruitless, leading only to self-pity and anger in my own life, to question God’s disposition of things when I do not understand. Confidence in his goodness has been a better choice.”

The second section is really about trying to address those who disagree with her, both the women who are egalitarian and the men who are more patriarchical (my term) or those who have a more restrictive view of women in the church. She distinguishes between gifts and roles. We tend to conflate them. A woman can have a shepherding gift and she can exercise it, but not in the role of pastor. She brings up her now deceased professor Elizabeth Elliot in discussing this. We should want women to fully exercise their gifts even as we recognize that there is a role (or two?) they cannot fulfill. She puts forward a common formulation that a woman can do anything an unordained man do.

This is a SHORT book, as I mentioned. As a result there are a number of things I thought went unaddressed. I would have preferred some discussion about deacons. That was beyond her scope and is really not an egalitarian vs. complementarian question.

She does affirm the voluntary submission of the Son as Mediator in the economic Trinity. In the footnote in that paragraph she clearly denies Eternal Submission of the Son, which is proposed by some complementarians or at least seems to be. She rightly calls this, in my opinion, a heresy. Some people, like Wayne Grudem, keep doubling down on their ESS views (which are also found in the ESV Study Bible). Frame’s comments are quite tentative on this issue.

Anyway, this was a helpful booklet to read even though its scope was limited. Reading this I see no reason for my more “conservative” brothers (I am a conservative, by the way) to fear the PCA sliding into liberalism with Kathy’s inclusion on the study committee.

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It is that time of year to consider all the “best of lists.”

While it has been a great year for Boston sports (the Patriots nearly made the Super Bowl again to gain revenge on the 49ers, and the Bruins lost in the Stanley Cup Finals, but the Red Sox won their 3rd World Series championship of this young century) I’m thinking of the best books I’ve read this year. This is not necessarily books that came out in 2013, but what I read this year.

I’ll take them in the order in which I read them. What you will notice is that I’ve probably read less this year, and clearly blogged less. Having 4 kids will do that. As will being pastor of a church that has grown enough to have to expand it facilities to expand ministry capacity. I also read some enormous books, and that takes time.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul Tripp. I couldn’t identify with all the problems he talks about, and that is a good thing. Some issues are connected to how we “do” seminary and preparation for pastoral ministry. Others have to do with the manifestations of pride and sloth.

Resurrection and Redemption: A Study of Paul’s Soteriology by Richard Gaffin. This is not an easy book to read, but it is a significant book to read. As I noted in the review, for Gaffin soteriology is eschatology. This book explores the significance of the resurrection for our redemption which is a neglected area of thought.

Bloodlines: Race, Cross and Christian by John Piper. John Piper looks at his own history with questions of race and brings the gospel to bear on the question. I wish he would have co-authored it with a person of color to balance the perspective. But much of what he says is excellent

The Book of Revelation by G.K. Beale. This is a humongous commentary on Revelation but is well worth the time needed to read it. This is the one to read to understand its connection with the Old Testament. While I don’t agree with all he says (like I prefer an early date) this is excellent.

Freedom & Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church by Kevin DeYoung. He is correct, it is a primer. He concisely addresses the most important texts and questions that arise. He presents a complementarian position but not an extreme one. I highly recommend it.

Mistakes Leaders Make by Dave Kraft. This little book was an excellent treatment of common mistakes church leaders make. Some I’ve made and I don’t want to make the others.

Sex & Money by Paul Tripp. He talks about the 2 things that occupy most of our time, energy and thoughts. He focuses on the tendency toward idolatry and the healing power of the gospel. Great stuff.

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul. Typical Sproul. He explains sound theology so the average person can understand. Here he’s explaining the atonement, which every Christian should understand.

Delighting in the Trinity by Tim Chester. Books on the Trinity are pretty rare these days. Helpful, interesting and accessible books on the subject are even more rare. This is a book that is all three. It isn’t very big, but it is worth reading.

Gospel Centered Leadership by Steve Timmis. This is a very helpful little book that helps us understand how the gospel should shape our leadership in the church. I gave this one to my elders and we’ll study it soon.

Modest: Men & Women Clothed in the Gospel by Tim Challies & R.W. Glenn. I haven’t read any books on the subject before. What was good about this one is that it is about both men & women, and it is about how the gospel changes the equation. It is not about rules and a moralistic spirit.

Love into Light: The Gospel, the Homosexual and the Church by Peter Hubbard. This was an excellent and challenging book. He tries to balance truth and love (I think Paul said something like that) when we speak to homosexuals. We should not back off biblical teaching, which he explains by looking at key texts. We should not treat people as lepers either and he talks about how we can love them as we communicate the gospel to them as sinners, not just homosexuals.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life by John Frame. This is another enormous book. I have not quite finished the appendices since I’ve been focusing on other projects. This book examines ethical systems and then moves into understanding and applying the ten commandments before briefly discussing sanctification. This is an excellent book even if you agree with his particular end points.

The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared Wilson. This is another very good book on ministry. His focus is the importance of the doctrine of justification on who we are and how we go about ministry. Theology applied!

Crazy Busy: A Mercifully Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung. It is very short. I read this during a crazy busy time that mercifully should be coming to an end. I gave this to my elders and those who have gotten to it have appreciated its message. It is not just about techniques but the heart.

Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves. I’m not quite done with this book yet so it might end up on next year’s list too! As I preach thru the prologue of John’s Gospel this has been a great help. He really pushes the point of “God is love” as we think about the Trinity and Christianity. This is definitely a must read in that rare category of books on the Trinity. Like Chester’s of the same name this is relatively short.

Interesting-

  • 2 books by Paul Tripp and Kevin DeYoung
  • 2 books on the Trinity
  • 5 books on ministry
  • 2 books on salvation
  • 2 books of over 1,000 pages

Not one book by Tim Keller (I left off the Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness). Don’t worry, I’m sure there will be at least 1 next year.

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In a recent Session meeting, one of the elders asked a particular question that related to the issue of men and women in the church. It was a question about which people have differing opinions, even if they are in general agreement regarding the larger issue.

Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in ...I sent him some exegetical and historical work I’d done on the pertinent texts in years past. I also sent him links to a few books on the topic. One was a book I had not seen before, and decided to read for myself. That was Kevin DeYoung’s Freedom and Boundaries: A Pastoral Primer on the Role of Women in the Church.  I was particularly interested because DeYoung serves in the RCA, a denomination in which many egalitarians have found a home. He is a complementarian, so I wondered how he handled this particular issue.

He wrote the book (published in 2006) for congregations similar to his own which did not have “official” positions on the subject. He wanted the book to be understandable for lay people. He wanted to display an irenic spirit. The goal was not to bash those who disagree with him. He did not want to descend into vitriol or presenting strawman arguments (how a view is presented would not be recognizable to those who hold the view).

I believe he succeeded in both cases.

Much of the book is taken up with looking at the passages at the heart of this discussion (Genesis 1-3; 1 Corinthians 11; 1 Corinthians 14; 1 Timothy 2 and 1 Timothy 3. He also handles some common objections as well as briefly outlining the many things he believes women can do in the church. In the appendices he includes his sermon on Ephesians 5 and the similarity in arguments for those espousing egalitarianism and the acceptance of homosexual behavior in the church.

“Controversy, because it makes us think more carefully and support our ideas more substantially, can actually strengthen the church.”

He begins with a series of questions to “set the stage” for the larger discussion. He affirms that this is not a “salvation” issue (I disagreed with one of my favorite professors in this issue, and have friends with whom I disagree). It is a question for the well-being of the church. As such, we should investigate it.

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Reading a book on theology by a woman for women? Cavman, are you getting in touch with your feminine side? Well, the last time I tried that, it slapped me.

More seriously, our women’s ministry is considering The Gospel Centered Woman: Understanding Biblical Womanhood through the Lens of the Gospel by Wendy Alsup for the summer and asked me to take a look at it. Wanting the women to get a healthy diet, I read the book. (It looks like this was self-published, but you can find her book Practical Theology for Woman: How Knowing God Makes a Difference in Our Daily Lives at WTS Books).

I’ve generally found that books written by women, particularly theology books, have a very different feel than those written by men. That is not good or bad, just different. I guess if you are a woman reading it, it is good. That is to say that I’m trying to evaluate it on its own merit, recognizing she won’t write like Sinclair Ferguson (for instance).

The subtitle is important here. She is writing about biblical womanhood, and is a complementarian. Some people miss the main point about complementarianism- it is not about who cooks, cleans or mows the lawn. It is not about who is smarter or wiser.

This is not a defense of complementarianism. It is rather assumed. He goal, the subtitle again, it to view this through the lens of the gospel. She wants women to understand who they are on account of the gospel, and how that fleshes itself out in daily life.

“It is the gospel alone that equips us to bridge the gap between God’s good plan for His daughters and the fallen reality in which we all live.”

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While considering what to study in our men’s group this Fall, one of the books I read was Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham. It covers some of the same ground as The Masculine Mandate. But this book has a very different feel to it, handles things in a different order and has a more distinct agenda(s) than Rick Phillips’ book did. Since I pretty much read them simultaneously, I have a hard time not comparing them.

Family Shepherds reflects Voddie’s personality and ministry, just like Rick’s book reflects his. I’ve read another book or two from Voddie, and this is similar in tone and agenda. He has a prophetic bent (Rick’s, perhaps from his time as a tank commander, is more kingly). Voddie is not afraid to get into the reader’s business. Rick also stands firm on his views, but is less “in your face” about it.

Voddie’s ministry is marked by a few drumbeats. One of them is vitally important, particular in the context in which he ministers. The other is one I have some sympathies, but aren’t as passionate and dogmatic about as he is.

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The world is filled with books on marriage. Many of them are not worth reading. But there has been a bunch of excellent books on marriage that have been released in the last few years. Add The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God by Tim Keller (with his wife Kathy).

Tim is one of the best people for writing a book on marriage, from a biblical perspective, that non-Christians may actually read. He touches upon some of the more contemporary controversies here, clearly but without condemnation. I know some guys in our denomination love to hate on Keller as some great compromiser. I don’t see him that way. I just see him in a light similar to John Newton: clear as to what he believes but not using that to stick his finger in people’s eyes. He’d much rather win them to his position- that whole winsome thing. Not everyone is supposed to be Elijah, engaging in clear confrontations to expose the folly of false gods (though Keller did write a book on that).

Keller spends more time on cohabitation, bringing up studies which reveal how destructive it actually is to marriage.  He shows how the typical arguments used to justify the practice have no basis in facts. So he shows the foolishness of that particular sin in a variety of ways. Homosexual marriage is not tackled head on, but he consistently affirms the biblical view of man and woman. Contrary to what I’ve heard from some of the haters, there is a clear affirmation of complementarianism. But they distinguish the biblical doctrine from how some people practice it.  And that is good. We have to recognize that if will look different in different marriages and in different cultures.

The book is not perfect. There are, I think, so factual errors. Tim writes that Paul was never married. We don’t know that. He, as a Pharisee, was probably married at some point. But at the time of his work as an Apostle, he was single- probably widowed. But that is a small thing.

My only other complaint was the length of the chapters. They were quite long, about 25 pages each on average. I like to finish a chapter in a sitting, and due to my schedule that was a little more difficult with this book.

The book derived from sermons on marriage the Tim preached in 1991. The bulk of the book is drawn from Ephesians 5, but the Kellers draw on a number of resources to understand and apply the biblical teaching on marriage. They cover issues of love (romantic love, mature love and the acceptance of one another’s faults), how to look for a spouse and what to look for in one, gender differences and roles in marriage, sex and more. They walk thru some of the landmines, the idols of both traditional and progressive culture.

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Every so often I follow a link, read a blog or an excerpt of a book (or a whole one) which argues against the complementarian view of Scripture and therefore marriage. What I so often find are straw man arguments. They either don’t understand or don’t want to understand the view. They present distortions of the view as the view. That would be like saying Benny Hinn is a mainstream charismatic. He’s not, and to present him as such is unfair. As one writer noted recently on his blog (Kevin DeYoung, I think) you must present your opponent’s view as one they would recognize. Egalitarians, in my experience, have not done this.

While re-reading Desiring God, I was struck by how well Piper presented the standard complementarian position (though I have a few quibbles). Piper sets this within the context of Christian Hedonism. What does marriage look like with people are pursuing their delight in Christ instead of pursuing their own agenda of manufactured, demanding, substandard delights.

It may be helpful to consider dancing for a moment. A traditional dance, with a partner, is coordinated. One person leads, and the other follows. Joy is found in this as they work together for mutual joy. Much of today’s dancing is uncoordinated. You don’t even need a partner. It is chaotic and pleases only the dancer. Unless there is some bump and grind, but one the dance floor that is a vulgar mess, not a picture of marital bliss.

“… husbands should devote the same energy and time and creativity in  making their wives happy that they devote naturally to making themselves happy.”

Part of this can be summed up as finding your delight in the joy of your spouse instead of at the expense of your spouse. You delight in giving them joy (long-term, God-oriented joy).  But Piper then delves deeper into Ephesians 5, the crux of the issue.

17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.  25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Let’s start by remembering that Paul is taking about the Spirit-filled life. The ESV, unlike the NIV, reflects Paul’s grammar in showing submission as part of the Spirit-filled life. Gospel-driven submission is not produced by the flesh, but by the influence of the Spirit. This “one another” is taken by some to argue for “mutual submission”. I think it is better to view what follows as 3 particular relationships in which people are to submit to others: wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to masters (applied today as employees to employers). There is a relationship of legitimate authority that Paul recognizes in each of these. If we are to argue for mutual submission in marriage, then we should argue for mutual submission in the parent-child and work relationships. This runs completely contrary to the marriage relationship that Paul brings into focus to illustrate: Christ and the church.

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A few weeks ago the on line Bible I often use unceremoniously switched from the NIV (1984) to the revised 2011 version as their default English Bible.  They since added notification, and have the older version(s) of the NIV available [note, I have an update at the end of the post].

I “grew up” on the NIV as a young Christian.  I use a variety of translations for my personal devotions, but have consistently preached from the NIV except when using my own rough translation.  Like many people, I did not approve of the earlier attempt to make the NIV gender inclusive.  There were times when they used inclusive language when they should not have used it.  While translating “brothers” as “brothers and sisters” is no big deal, there were some instances I consider a big deal in light of the context- historical & cultural.

So, I wonder what they new, updated NIV 2011 does with some of those very important texts.  Looking at the Big Picture, John Dyer has put out a graph.  It is helpful to see an overall consistency.  But the problem of particular texts remains.  We must examine the trees to see how healthy the forest really is. Dyer and Robert Slowley have ALL the changes.  Here are some I find important with regard to complementarianism.

Passage 1984 tNIV 2011
John 1:5 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Romans 8 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, 14 because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. … 19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 13 For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. …19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. … 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 

 

9 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Ephesians 1 In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…
1 Timothy 2 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

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In 1984 the SBC passed a resolution restricting the office of pastor to men.  Al Mohler, at the time a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, was “hurt, outraged and stunned.”

To put this in context- there was no Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at the time.  The seminary he attended taught that women were qualified to be pastors.  He was young and it can be difficult to see that all the professors you respect are not handling the Scriptures correctly on such a matter (especially when the culture affirms them).  Mohler led a protest of the resolution, buying an ad in the local newspaper.

A year and a half later, Mohler would be a campus host to visiting theologian Carl Henry.  Mohler had read a number of Henry’s books and admired him.  While showing him the campus, they discussed theology.

“With the insouciance of youth and with the stupidity of speaking more quickly than one ought, I gave him my position,” Mohler recalled. “He looked at me with a look that surprised me, and he simply said to me, ‘One day this will be a matter of great embarrassment to you.'”

Mohler reports quickly heading to the library and reading every book he could find on the topic.  In studying the Scriptures, he discovered he was wrong and Carl Henry was right.

“I had to come face to face with the fact that I had just picked this up,” he said. “I had just breathed this in, and I just capitulated it out without checking it according to the Scriptures. By the way, going to the Scriptures, it doesn’t take long. It wasn’t like I embarked on a lifelong study to discover what Scripture says on this. It didn’t take long at all.

“And I realized that Carl Henry was right, that one day I would be very embarrassed about this. When I saw him the next morning, well, I was already in a different world.”

Mohler today is a committed complementarian.

And now, the rest of the story.

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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’m currently working my way through Genesis 2 for Sunday.  In his Epistles, Paul bases male headship in marriage & the church (aka complementarianism) in creation.  But there is more going on than that.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, complementarianism teaches that men and women are equal in dignity but different in role or function in the home and the church.  This, sadly, is a relatively unpopular position.  But this shouldn’t surprise us since much of what the Bible teaches us offends the flesh.

Genesis 1 is the starting point with regard to our equal dignity.  “God created man (humanity) in his image; male and female he created them.”  Men and women are both made in God’s image, sharing in dignity.  Most people can accept the equal part (aside from those rejecting the notion we are made in God’s image).  The equality is not an issue.  This fundamental equality is also in view in Galatians with regard to salvation- “in Christ there is neither male nor female.”  He lists some other statuses that separate people.  The idea is that neither is more worthy of salvation than the other.  Neither has an advantage when it comes to Christ.  It does not mean that all distinctions disappear such that they cease to be men and women.

In Genesis 2-3 we see the following things which point us toward there being a complementary difference between men and women which includes male headship.

Adam Eve NT Parallel Text(s)
Created first X 1 Corinthians 11:8; 1 Timothy 2:13
Given the initial command X
Created for the other X 1 Corinthians 11:9
Sinned first X 1 Timothy 2:14
Whose sin condemned humanity? X Romans 5:12ff
Addressed 1st by God after sinning X
Cursed for “obeying/listening to” the other X

We see that though they are equal, God held Adam accountable for obeying Eve.  He addressed Adam first because Adam was humanity’s representative.  Paul uses this to explain how all of humanity fell into sin, and how people are saved through the 2nd Adam, Jesus.

We see that Adam needed help to fulfill the Creation Mandate (Gen. 1).  He gave Adam a wife instead of a pet.  He gave Adam an equal to complement him, to do the things he could not do alone.  While both men and women share the Creation Mandate (to fill, subdue and rule the earth) they emphasize different roles.

Both are needed to fill, but women (generally speaking) are more nurturing.  Moms stay home far more often than men because they are physically and emotional better suited for it.  Yes, they subdue and rule at home and outside the home.  Men are better suited physically and emotionally for subduing and ruling than filling.  Yes, men have parental responsibilities too.  But staying at home with children would drive me crazy far quicker than it does CavWife.  Struggling at work takes are greater toll on a man than struggling at relationships.  The opposite is true for women.  This is part of how we balance each other out.

One key passage is from Ephesians 5.  There we find that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church.  Marriage mirrors the gospel.  Husbands reflect Christ and wives reflect the Church.  Husbands lead- sacrificially!  Wives submit to their own husbands (not men in general) as the Church submits to Christ.  There is no role reversal.

This is a mystery, Paul says.  That means it is only something that we know because it has been revealed to us.  Marriage, including covenant headship, is was originally designed to be a picture of the gospel.  It was not societal construct for Paul, and certainly not oppressive.  It was a picture of the liberating, restorative gospel.

Covenant headship is not some out-moded way of thinking.  It is a biblical way of thinking, and a gospel-centered way of thinking.  Christian feminism and egalitarianism undermine the gospel by taking away God-given boundaries and roles.  In 1 Timothy 1:8-11 reveals the relationship between sound doctrine and sound living.  Sound (healthy) doctrine conforms to the gospel and produces healthy living.  Unsound doctrine departs from or distorts the gospel and leads to unsound living (sin).  When our marriages and churches no longer portray part of the gospel through male headship, the gospel is distorted and unsound living is the inevitable result.

As a result, complementarianism is not a non-essential doctrine.  It is a gospel-doctrine.  It should be believed and defended as rooted in creation and redemption that we might better understand the relationship between Christ and the Church which the gospel creates.

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Life being like it is these days, CavWife gifted me with a tiny book by Mark Driscoll for my birthday.  It was from his A Book You’ll Actually Read series.  This little book is On Church Leadership.

Here is how they describe it:

Cheap, simple, and you can read it in an hour. Mark Driscoll will guide you through the 6 important areas of church leadership with clear Biblical teaching and a raw sense of humor. You’ll explore the topics eldership, deacons, members, and women in leadership—with plenty of surprises along the way.

What is lost in Mark’s sense of humor.  His personality is submerged, for the most part.  His personality is part of what makes reading his books so enjoyable for me (and I recognize what that says about me).  But Mark’s insight and experience remain, which is what makes this book still worth reading.  It would make a good book to give to officers (present and potential).

He explains a nearly-Presbyterian form of church government tweaked to be more effective in this day.  In some ways he is a tad too pragmatic, but we Presbyterians are too “traditional”.  The form of government, which I believe to be biblical, is unchanging but how we apply it should be adjust for time and place.  So, I can appreciate what Mark is doing but I just can’t go with him everywhere he goes.  That’s okay, though.

In his introduction he faces the reality that even church people have what NBA great Bill Russell called “little red wagons”.  They have agendas other than Jesus and His kingdom.  He talks about this in other books.  Here he applies it to church government.  He’s also honest about our struggle with authority, and how people’s refusal to submit to proper authority almost killed Mars Hill in the early days.

“Their varying demands quickly sidetracked the mission of our church to love our city and see it transformed by the power of Jesus.  Our internal church strife quickly overshadowed our external cultural mission.”

So he starts with Pastor Jesus, a brief reminder that Jesus is the Head of the church.  The first chapter is incredibly brief, perhaps too brief.  I wish he could have included more thoughts like this:

“And it is ultimately Jesus who closes churches down when they have become faithless or fruitless.  Therefore, it is absolutely vital that a church loves Jesus, obeys Jesus, imitates Jesus, and follows Jesus at all times and in all ways, according to the teaching of his Word.”

He moves on to  Elders.  He affirms the plurality of elders.  He dares to say what needs to be said.  He reminds us that the qualifications for elders are primarily those of a mature Christian man.  The first part of that is vital- mature Christians.  It is too common for churches to nominate popular or powerful men.  Businessmen will run the church like a business.  But mature Christians, tested as family men, will run the church like a family, seeking to lead others to maturity.  And they are men- in accordance with Scripture- which is not a popular statement today.

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I remember the infamous Dennis Green press conference while he was coach of the Cardinals.  “They are who we thought they were!”  John Ensor’s book Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart is not the book I thought it was, 2 times.  First, I thought it was connect with his book, The Great Work of the Gospel: How We Experience God’s Grace.  I’d been wanting to read that book, and thought this was a follow up on obedience.  When my copy arrived in the mail, I discovered I was quite wrong.  It looked like a marriage book.

I began to read it to discover I was still wrong.  But I kept on reading.

It is a book that seeks to lay out some issues related to manhood and womanhood for young adults (and teens) so they can understand what they are looking for in a spouse, and how to find that person.  What you get is an understandable introduction to complementarianism (men & woman are equal, but different, with men granted authority/responsibility to lead in the home and church).  And some helpful dating/courtship advice as well.

Ensor draws upon Scripture as his authority.  To illustrate things, he draws heavily on Shakespear, Wendy Shalit’s Return of Modesty, George Gilder’s Men and Marriage, and Shel Silverstein.  He also draws upon personal experience to create a readable, understandable little book that many should find helpful.  I wish I had been able to read it as a young man.

A few things stood out to me.  His emphasis on unity as the goal of submission and sacrifice.  These 2 are joined together to arrive at unity.  Men are to sacrifice, like Christ, for the well-being of their brides.  This is a high call, and sometimes painful call since we must die to our own agendas and goals.  Women also die to their goals and agendas at times as they submit to the loving leadership of their husbands.  This requires communication, that he might understand the needs and concerns of his wife and they both understand the greater goals they are to pursue together.  It is not about control, but unity.  And so, both seek their happiness in the happiness of the other.

Another item that stood out to me was that of celibacy before marriage being important for the maturation process of the male.  It is how men learn to control their desires, lest they be mastered by them.  It is also a test so the woman can identity men who are maturing versus men who are remaining immature.  A man who is unwilling or unable to wait until marriage for sex is a man who will not sacrifice for his wife in marriage.

As a result, this is a book I would recommend to those working with single adults and youth, as well as single adults and youth themselves.  Many, like myself, did not grow up in a Christian family and may never have had these things communicated to them.  These are important matters that shape many generations, so I’m glad John Ensor wrote this book, and hope he writes the one I thought it was the first time.

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This year at the PCA General Assembly, Ligon Duncan and Tim Keller participated in a discusson/debate on the issue of women deacons.  Feeding on Christ provides the audio for those who couldn’t get there (I had to attend to some matters at home and left before it began).  Derek Thomas commends both Ligon and Tim on the debate and the spirit in which it was carried out (sadly there is a typo in the title).

As I read the commentary, and comments, I think I have a small bone to pick.  Those who are asking the PCA to study this issue further are largely complementarians, not egalitarians.  The people with whom I am familiar do not advocate women elders.  They want to come together to study and clarify what the Scriptures teach regarding ordination and deacons (for the love of Pete, people, the English texts are HIGHLY interpretive and the Greek would surprise you).  As those who hold to “Reformed and Reforming”, we should not fear the continuous study of God’s Word as individuals and a community to make sure we are understanding, interpreting and applying it properly.  This is an issue the does not strike at the vitals and does not compromise complementarian convictions ( the BCO clearly states Deacon is not an office of authority, nor it is a teaching office therefore Paul’s clear prohibition does not apply).

Additionally, the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which clearly champions complementarianism, has prominent members like John Piper and Thomas Schreiner who hold that women may be deacons.  So, the CBM&W does not see this as compromising the biblical teaching of complementarianism.

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One of the key passages in the discussion over women deacons is 1 Timothy 3:11.  For many people, this clearly shows that women are not to be deacons.  The Greek in this sentence is very interesting, and as a result, many translations necessarily interpret it.  The question is, do they interpret it correctly?

11 In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. (NIV)

11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.  (NKJV)

11 In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not speak evil of others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do. (NLT)

11 In the same way, women must be respected by others. They must not speak evil of others. They must be self-controlled and trustworthy in everything. (NCV)

Many of these translations include a footnote indicating that the Greek word “guna” can mean either woman or wife depending on the context.  I can’t get the Greek text in here so it is legible, so forgive me.  Here are the problems:

  • There is no subject for this sentence.  It is assumed (as in verse 8).
  • There is no verb for this sentence.  It, too, is assumed (as in verse 8).
  • The word for women/wives is in the accusative, indicating that it is the direct object.  It is first in the sentence to put stress, or emphasis, on it.  Though “in the same way” something very different is being said than in verse 8.  It has to do with women.  Deacon/servant in verse 8 is also in the accusative.
  • There is no possessive pronoun, which would clearly indicate that it means “wives” rather than “women.”  Most translations add this (“their”) to the text.
  • The rest of the sentence is largely made up of adjectives modifying women/wives.

So, the sentence reads like this:  “In the same way [or likewise] (assumed subject & verb) honorable women/wives, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all (things).”

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