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Some of you thought this would never end. But all things, good and bad, come to an end this side of the eschaton. Then everything, good and bad, will be eternal.

This will cover the last chapter and some final thoughts concerning Aimee Byrd’s recent and controversial book Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. We are going to peel back the yellow wall paper one last time. The final chapter is called When Paul Passes Phoebe the Baton.

As you can likely tell from that title, Byrd returns to Phoebe and Paul’s commendation of her to the church in Rome. She draws on James Montgomery Boice to say that she likely had traveling companions since it was generally unsafe for women to travel alone in the ancient world. Paul is wanting to identify the courier of the epistle: Phoebe.

Interestingly she also notes that Paul may have taken quite some time to write the letter, perhaps having rough drafts, editing, dictation and so forth. She depends on E. Randolph Richards book Paul and First-Century Letter Writing. I was surprised that someone wrote a book on such a niche subject, but I shouldn’t be I suppose. This seems to overly stress the human authorship and minimize (at best) the divine authorship. I don’t generally conceive of the Holy Spirit needing Paul to edit and utilize rough drafts. But this is a rabbit trail since the Spirit is not super-intending this blog post.

Sacred Siblingship

Byrd gets this phraseology from Mixed Ministry: Working Together as Brothers and Sisters in an Oversexed Society. Her arguments are based on Reidar Aasgaard’s “My Beloved Brothers and Sisters!” Christian Siblingship in Paul (again thinking people write about the oddest things). It was a powerful social institution. Siblings of the opposite sex could talk to one another in public, and show some affection prohibited to lovers. Paul uses this to reveal the type of bond Christians should have, a very counter-cultural bond. She explores some of the reasons for this bond in families. Sibling obligations were distinctive and yet fluid. “Factors such as age, gender, skill, and birth order all contributed to authority and responsibility both in the household and public spheres.” She notes that sisters often mediated between fathers and sons. The longest relationship you’d have in life was the sibling relationship.

Some of those calls were painful

Family was important to Jesus, but not more important than the Father and those spiritually united to him. Jesus did provide for his mother at his death. As we think of Phoebe, Paul is saying “she’s one of us!” not just someone paid to carry a letter for me. Byrd again returns to her theory that Phoebe was astute and full of theological vigor, capable of answering any questions like the old Ligonier phone room.

She makes much of the fact that a woman could carry the letter to Rome, and the theory she was there to answer questions too (meaning instructing them in what Paul means). In like fashion, Byrd introduces us to Basil and Gregory of Nyssa’s older sister Macrina. Belonging to a convent she was apparently theologically astute and Gregory indicates that she was influential in his life and theology.

“We see from Gregory’s writings that ‘women’s theologizing is fundamental to the development of Christian thought and should not be relegated to the fringe or regarded as a concession prize at best.”

Sisters can communicate God’s Word. This sister by blood and spirit taught her younger brothers, not only as children but as adults. They didn’t silence her as a mere woman. They valued her as a person and her input or ideas.

Then Byrd engages in “historical imagination” with Richard Bauckham regarding Junia also mentioned in Romans 16. I call it speculative, and the difference may or may not be more than semantic. There are translation/interpretative differences: she is either well known as an apostle (lower case, not the office) or well known by the Apostles. Chrysostom seems to indicate in his homily on this text that she was “worthy of the appellation of apostle!” She would be part of a church planting team sent out (hence apostles). PC(USA) author Kenneth Bailey seems to view her as an Apostle, at least of sorts, arguing she was witness to Jesus’ ministry (he seems to be reading our technical use back into the text). Bauckman gets more speculative in arguing that Junia is the Greek name for the Jewess Joanna who was married to Herod’s steward. As part of Herod’s court, she and her husband likely had connections in Rome, and perhaps were missionaries to Rome later.

I don’t want to get too detailed in this. The gist is that women were engaged in the church planting project. What role they played is uncertain. What is certain to me is that Byrd is confusing “apostles” with “Apostles”. She thinks that this speculation poses a problem for complementarian churches. I don’t think it does for me as a complementarian-in-search-of-a-new-name. As laypeople, some were sent to plant churches in accordance with the gospel of the Apostles (given to them by Jesus, obviously). The word in Greek is not used exclusively for the office. We must look at how it is used to see its meaning in a particular case. So, this doesn’t mean that women had authority and office. We do see that they provided resources and engaged in evangelism as well as discipleship. At times we clearly see women like Prisca alongside her husband working to disciple men. We do see women commissioned and sent onto the mission field, and this is a good thing.

Peel and Reveal

She’s calling us to evaluate our views and the practices of our congregations. She uses clutter blindness as an illustration. We become blind to the clutter around us (like in my office) after time passes. I discussed this with someone today: broken or misplaced items become normalized after about 30 days. So fix or put those things away in timely fashion.

We really can’t see the yellow wallpaper because we are so used to it. Evaluate the practices to be sure you aren’t just falling into a cultural trap (either egalitarian or patriarchical). This isn’t limited to issues of gender. There are many things that are cultural that can be mistaken for biblical mandate. We can be blind to the racial insensitivity or worse in our churches because it has been there for so long. She quotes Upton Sinclair as saying, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”.

Byrd notes there about 60 “one another” passages in the Scripture which include aspects of discipleship. These passages are second plural, and are not gendered. The people who fulfill them are gendered. And so we minister as a man or woman to a brother or sister, father or mother, or son or daughter.

“Siblingship is the very framework that will help us to uphold distinction without reduction. We have unique responsibilities and contributions to our sexes because women will never be brothers and men will never be sisters.”

She reminds us of the difference between tradition and traditionalism. She’s not wanting to get rid of tradition but traditionalism (I’m taking her at her word).

Summary Thoughts:

  • Haley Carruthers crossing the finish line in London (Business Insider)

    While she affirms male headship in the church (only male elders) she more assumes it than proves it. She refers to Genesis 2 in a footnote. There is no mention of Titus 1 or 1 Timothy 2-3.

  • At times she heavily depends on one source for pages at a time. Many of those oft repeated sources are egalitarian scholars. It can sound like idiosyncratic viewpoints that she has picked up rather commonly held and understood.
  • She brings up lots of material and concerns from other books of hers. The main new contribution is issues concerning the CBMW in terms of how they reduce masculinity and femininity to authority based on ESS. This is based on a Biblicist approach to understanding Scripture.
  • She also attacks their problematic process of trying to discern what women can and cannot do in a local church. I wish she was more clear about some of the practices that she thinks are cultural additions (traditionalism) but she seems to want us to think it through.
  • In terms of Jonathan Haidt’s social intuition theory, she doesn’t seem to address the elephant as much as the rider.
  • At times she is selective. For instance, she reminds us that Miriam led others in song after the parting of the Red Sea in judgment-salvation. Byrd does not mention that she led the women, and in the chorus that Moses had already been singing. As a result it sounds like overstating the case through the selectivity. I said this in less than a paragraph, so it doesn’t take long. She also left out that Miriam was struck with leprosy when she and Aaron complained about Moses marrying the Cushite woman.

This is a good book that brings up a variety of good points. At times it seems like she’s trying to do too much and so the reasoning isn’t as clear as I’d like.

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I’ve read one of Aimee Byrd’s other books in the past. I’ve enjoyed her input on the Mortification of Spin podcast when I have listened. Some of our women heard her speak in a sister church a few years ago and came away encouraged.

51itsic-mul._sx326_bo1204203200_Her newest book, Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: How the Church Needs to Rediscover Her Purpose, has been the center of controversy. Many of the claims didn’t seem about right. I had some people in the congregation, and others outside of the congregation ask me what I thought.

So, here I am reading the book. As I considered blogging about the book I realized I can’t do it justice in just one post. I’ll need to break this down to handle it wisely instead of with broad strokes.

What is interesting to me is the acknowledgments in which she thanks Bob Brady and Jonathan Master at the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals for time they gave her as she began the project. She thanks the Alliance in general for allowing her to use materials from a conference they hosted. I don’t know all the reasons why they ended the official relationship but it seems strange to me. She compromises no first or second order beliefs. Her issues with the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) are not new news. I think this book (I have 2 chapters left to read)affirms what I believe about the differences between men and women. It does that clearly, not obscurely.

  • She affirms there are gender differences.
  • She affirms that only qualified males should be ordained elders and pastors.

This means she qualifies for what I have long thought were the main tenets of “complementarianism”. Apparently she, nor I, are on the same end of the complementarian spectrum as many in the CBMW. She’s not fighting with the Bible (she affirms the authority of the Scriptures) but with the CBMW’s views, doctrinal statements and methodology to arrive at their conclusions.

I have never read all of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response of Evangelical Feminism edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem, aka the Big Blue Book. I read What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible by Piper, which is his material from the Big Blue Book in more accessible form (my copy is a little purple book). It has been quite some time since I read it. Since then I’ve read a number of statements by Piper on this subject that seemed to espouse a view closer to patriarchy than my understanding of complementarianism. I thought his views shifted, but now realize they really didn’t.

This is to provide some background to my interaction with Byrd’s book, and therefore the views of CBMW. Just to be crystal clear my views are:

  • Men & women were created equally in the image of God.
  • Men & women enjoy gender differences beyond biology, yet those differences are not to be understood as absolute (like Men Are from Mars & Women Are from Venus) but on different sides of the spectrum.
  • God has made men as the head of the home.
  • God calls qualified men to serve as elders in His household.
  • Put negatively: men are not superior to women, and men are not in authority over women generally.

Byrd begins her book with an introduction that discusses Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. She will return to this story in each chapter since she views this as an apt metaphor for the problem she is pointing out.

Gilman wrote The Yellow Wallpaper after suffering postpartum depression. Specialist Dr. S. Weir Mitchell’s diagnosis was fashionable: she suffered from the pace of modern life. He prescribed rest therapy. Resting, she found herself getting worse instead of better. His diagnosis was rooted in traditional gender roles. He was forcing her into that gender role. Her main character, Jane, reflects her own condition and course of treatment. She does write secretly in her retreat cabin watched by her very traditional sister-in-law Jenny. She becomes fixed on the yellow wallpaper, and comes to believe that a woman is trapped in there. Eventually the narrator’s voice shifts to that woman, and her husband believes she’s gone mad.

“I’ve got out at last … in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper so you can’t put me back!” The Yellow Wallpaper

Byrd interprets the story, based on Gilman’s explanation, as a woman “trapped in traditional patriarchal structures of family, medicine and society that the yellow wallpaper in her confined room represented for her.” Byrd believes many Christian women are struggling with those traditional patriarchal structures of family and church today, and wonders if they are truly biblical. She is convinced that much of what passes for “biblical” is actually cultural.

“One of our biggest challenges is to actually see this yellow wallpaper’s scrawling patterns that are stifling the force of the biblical message and strangling the church’s witness and growth.”

It is in this context that she refers back to the definitions of manhood and womanhood asserted by CBMW to be “biblical”. She quotes from the Big Blue Book:

“At the heart of mature masculinity is a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s differing relationships.”

“At the heart of mature femininity is a freeing disposition to affirm, receive, and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s differing relationships.”

You’ll notice that each is defined by their relationship to the other. Masculinity, for instance, seems to have nothing to do with how you treat other men. While your particular relationship to a person of the opposite sex may differ, you still provide the same basic response. This seems a bit reductionistic to say the least. This places both masculinity and femininity through “a filter of authority and submission, strength and neediness” that would appear to go beyond Scripture.

Remember, the Big Blue Book was a response to Evangelical Feminism. In debate, we tend to over-correct. I would say that the formulations are just that rather than a careful understanding of the Scriptures. She notes that as Christians we want to be moral people. More than that, but not less. However, “morality can sometimes be culturally constructed.” Just ask the Pharisees. Human beings have a tendency, flowing from the Fall and our corruption, to go beyond Scripture and add culture to biblical notions with equal authority. We substitute the man-made for the divinely-revealed. Women are more than affirmers of their men.

She rightly notes that many of us don’t undertake renovation projects because we are afraid of what we’ll find. I’ve removed wallpaper and it isn’t pretty and does some damage. But sometimes that wallpaper needs to GO! She believes that we need to remove the wallpaper so men and women can better understand what God says, and better relate to one another in healthy ways that honor God.

“And we have lost aim of what the church is for: preparing us for eternal communion with the triune God. We have taken discipleship out of the church, further separating God’s people by culturally constructed gender paradigms.”

She will repeatedly return to this theme of discipleship too. It is common in her books. One of the issues is the rise of parachurch ministries taking the place of the church instead of coming alongside the church, as well as “popular Biblicist interpretive methods.” Many of the CBMW founders use such methods (Matthew Emerson brings us similar concerns regarding Wayne Grudem in He Descended to the Dead). She wants to us utilize an interpretive method that is covenantal in nature including the historical and present communities of faith bounded by confessions. The irony is that many of those critical of Byrd would affirm a covenantal method over the Biblicist method used by Piper and Grudem.

In terms of her introduction she touches on some important subjects we do need to think about. Her concerns as expressed are:

  • The cultural traditions obscuring the biblical teaching about masculinity and femininity.
  • The breakdown of discipleship in many churches that lead many to depend on parachurch ministries, particularly gender-focused ones.
  • The faulty methods of biblical interpretation that produce faulty understandings of the Trinity used to support faulty understandings of the relationship between men and women.

To many, raising these questions makes her a feminist. After all, the Big Blue Book was written to combat feminism so the only person who’d have a problem with it must necessarily be a feminist. That is a faulty argument there. It is a logical fallacy meant to minimize the views of another.

While I’ve seen plenty of people accuse Byrd of being a feminist, I see no evidence for this charge through over 170 pages of this book. She’s trying to discern the truth under the authority of Scripture. This is a noble pursuit. She knows she is not coming at the Scripture without her own biases and interpretive grid. As we move forward, we’ll see if she succeeds. At times I think she does. At times she stumbles (in minor ways). At times she confuses. At times she misses a point. She does make some good points, and she doesn’t punt on the faith in the process. Nor does she give too much ground to egalitarians, aka the Christian Feminists.

By the way, let’s not confuse Christian Feminists with any of the various shades of Feminists. While I disagree with them, they are not “them” aka “the enemy.” My beloved professor Dr. Roger Nicole called himself a Christian Feminist. J.I. Packer, among many others, called him the greatest theologian of the 20th century.

The late R.C. Sproul expressed wanted to be as “liberal” as the Bible permitted him to be regarding women. As a result he rejected the ordination of women elders, even being forced out of the UPC for his views. He believed women could be deacons if it wasn’t a position of authority, as it is in the PCA. But R.C. had Joni and Elisabeth Elliot speak at his conferences.

Some may have a different default than Sproul, possibly being as conservative as the Bible permits them. This means there is a spectrum of complementarian views. The people to the left of you aren’t necessarily feminists, and the people to the right of you aren’t necessarily patriarchists. They might be, but that requires more questions to understand their actual positions.

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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.

Image may contain: indoor

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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I’ve been a bit busy with a number of things. Time to resume my brief interaction with Women in the Church (2nd edition). It is a compilation of essays on 1 Timothy 2:9-15 edited by Andreas Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner.

We pick up with chapter 3, which is A Complex Sentence: The Syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12 by Kostenberger. In some ways this is an admission that the passage is not easy to understand, at least not as easy as some people pretend. Grammar and syntax don’t make for exciting reading, but without them were are awash in a sea of subjectivism. Even with them, things are not as clear cut as we’d like (enjoy the mess of sola scriptura, which is another post I’m thinking through).

12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man;1 Timothy 2

He summarizes the syntax as:

(1) a negated finite verb + (2) infinitive + (3) oude + infinitive + (4) alla + infinitive

That settles it, right?

The syntactical battle is about whether “teach and exercise authority” are talking two separate activities, both of which are prohibited, or if they refer essentially to an office which encompasses teaching & authority: being an elder?

He notes that Payne argues that the oude “connects the two infinities” teach and exercise authority “in order to convey a single coherent idea” or a hendiadys. Payne seems to take this as “I do not permit a woman to teach in a domineering manner.” But he’s not the only one who believes it is a hendiadys, and others take it in a manner focused on the teaching office (like Kathy Keller). You can hold to Payne’s grammar but still hold to a strongly complementarian view instead of relativizing it away as culture or addressing a problem particular to Ephesus.

Moo argued against Payne’s view, concluding that while closely related, the teaching and authority are distinct. Much of the “blood” spilled in complementarian circles is over this difference. The grammar is not as clear as we would like, perhaps.

Kostenberger does mention some weaknesses in Payne’s argument. For instance, “Payne only studies Paul” and a more comprehensive study of NT authors would have been helpful. Kostenberger mentions this, in part, because the authorship of 1 Timothy is in dispute (by some). I don’t think this is a good reason, and gives some ground to liberal views of authorship. Payne also studies its use even when joining nouns, not just verbs. Here he wants Payne to narrow his focus, where before he wanted him to broaden it. So, more biblical authors but only when joining verbs. 3rd, Payne didn’t study uses of the negative, just the positive. More importantly, as noted above, he assumes that the 2nd infinitive means “to domineer” rather than to exercise authority. As a result of this assumption, he thinks they are too far apart in meaning to be used in a coordinating manner. So, one is subordinate to the other. Teaching becomes subordinate to authority. (I suspect it is, but not with the meaning of domineering- consider the women in 1 Cor. 11 who prophesied in public worship which Kostenberger doesn’t seem to bring into the discussion). It is important to note that none of the common translations use domineer, but rather to exercise authority or have authority.

21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” Acts 16

The closest parallel to the syntax is Acts 16:21 which uses the same construction. He notes 2 patterns: either both activities or concepts are viewed positively, or they are viewed negatively. They are not mixed: one positive and the other negative.

“‘Accepting’ and ‘practicing’ do not carry negative connotations in and of themselves. However, due to circumstances indicated in the context, ‘being Romans,’ the exercise of these otherwise legitimate activities is considered ‘not lawful’.”

Similarly, to teach is considered positive generally. There is nothing in the context to indicate it should be negative. Therefore, to have/exercise authority is also positive. Payne’s argument for “domineer” has some serious problems.

“Framed by the inclusio … at the beginning of verse 11 and at the end of verse 12, there are two corresponding pairs of terms: “learning” in verse 11 corresponds to “teaching” in verse 12, and “full submission” in verse 11 relates to “having authority” in verse 12. The writer first expresses his desire for a woman to learn in full submission. Conversely, he then registers his prohibition of the opposite, a woman’s teaching or being in authority over a man.”

Kostenberger then pummels us with a series of extrabiblical examples. It got wearisome here. In his summary he notes how other scholars have interacted with the syntax. His bottom line is that these 2 infinitives are to be taking positively and as separate ideas.

The 4th chapter is by the other editor, Schreiner, entitled An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15: A Dialogue with Scholarship.

It should be appreciated that Schreiner (who advocates for women deacons in another setting) admits how emotionally charged this issue can be. “Those of us who support the complementarian view on this question must bend over backward to love those with whom we disagree, and to assure them that we still hope and pray that God will bless their ministries…” We should not, however, “leap over the evidence of the text” to justify any practice.

He notes that 1 Timothy is not intended to be a doctrinal treatises but is correcting abuses introduced by false teachers in Ephesus. Egalitarians take this to mean there is nothing normative here. As Schreiner notes, “If we were to claim that documents written to specific situations are not applicable to the church today, then much of the New Testament would not be applicable to us either…”.

He interacts with the Kroegers and Sharon Gritz who think the instruction in view is limited to an influx of women who were influenced by the cult of Artemis and exalted Eve. Their views seem to require a large amount of reading into the text. Philip Towner proposed a type of over-realized eschatology similar to that in Corinth. This would mean women are completely emancipated from men, not only in terms of the curse but also in terms of creation. These women were influenced by various heresies.

“They may have believe that the resurrection had already occurred, and thus the distinctions between men and woman were erased since the new age has dawned.”

But we recognize that the false teachers in Ephesus were at least partially men, this theory begins to crumble. Paul would just be addressing them with the other false teachers he tells Timothy to silence and warn. Something more is going on here.

He then addresses their adornment in verses 9-10. Men and women are different, and different issues appear when they gather. The men are apparently prone to anger and arguing in prayer. The women were apparently prone to adorn themselves in an inappropriate way and try to teach the men. He recognizes, unlike Kostenberger, the role of women in 1 Corinthians 11 during public worship services. They were able to pray out loud (and not simply reciting prayers with everyone), though he doesn’t mention prophesying. This leads him to wonder if this refers to women in general or wives in particular. Gordon Hugenberger argues that it refers to wives. Schreiner notes the use of these terms for husbands and wives in Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Peter. He forgets that they are also used at least some of the time in  1 Timothy 3.  I do agree with Schreiner that while possible, their use for husbands and wives here in 1 Timothy 2 is unlikely.

He notes that some egalitarians like Alvera Mickelson tie the clothing with the teaching. In 1 Cor. 11, we see that women are to pray or prophesy with their heads covered. They seem to argue that here in 1 Timothy 2 the problem was that women were teaching men without the proper clothing that was linked to submission to their husbands. This doesn’t seem to fit the instructions about either the clothing (avoiding extravagance) or teaching/authority. The issue there is not revealing clothing, but clothing and hair that displayed their wealth and created boundaries between economic classes which should see themselves as one in Christ (see James 2). This was actually a common issue addressed in the Greco-Roman world. In light of other admonitions against sexual immorality, women (and men) should not dress in ways meant to stir up lust in others (and express their own lust). This doesn’t mean we have to have rules about hem length and all that jazz.

“Virtually every word in verses 11-12 is disputed.”

We should affirm that women are to learn. Women should not be indifferent to theology or discouraged from its study. They will also teach in a variety of contexts. The controversy is about which ones they cannot. Paul addresses the manner in which they learn “quietly and with all submission” rather than stirring up a ruckus. “We should not separate submission to what is taught from submission to those who taught it.” He thinks 11 and 12 are chiastic in structure as did Kostenbeger.

A Learn

B Quietly and in submission

A’ Not teach

B’ Nor exercise authority

“It is clear from the rest of the Pastoral Epistles that the teaching in view is the public transmission of authoritative material.”

He thinks the prohibition is not absolute, but was probably given because some women were teaching both men and women when the church assembled. Timothy being taught by his mother and grandmother doesn’t violate this, nor did Priscilla teaching Apollo along with Aquila. Mutual instruction is not excluded. What is prohibited is “the authoritative transmission of tradition … such authoritative teaching is usually the function of the elders/overseers, and it is likely that Paul is thinking of them here.”

Paul’s rationale is not the fall, but creation. It is not an aspect of the curse which is reversed in Christ’s redemption. Unfortunately, on page 106, there are some statements that need to be clarified regarding the Son’s submission. It is unclear if he is advocating the Eternal Submission of the Son or recognizing Christ’s submission as Mediator. Those are very different.

Schreiner then delves into the “saved by childbearing” passage. He notes that child bearing is transcultural as well, and rooted in creation. It is a permanent difference between men and women. Redemption affirms rather than denies or throws off ordained roles. It doesn’t mean that women must be married to be saved. Or that they must bear children. It would mean that they not reject these roles unnecessary (rather than by providence). So he offers a slightly different understanding of this passage then I am used to.

He concludes with some caveats, While he stands by his interpretation he recognizes it is not the “definitive and final interpretation of the passage.”  He summarizes it this way:

  • Women should adorn themselves with good works, not ostentatious or seductive clothing.
  • Women shouldn’t take a teaching role to themselves when men and women are gathered at corporate church gatherings.
  • Women should learn quietly and submissively.
  • Women are prohibited from teaching with authority because of the created order.
  • The events of Genesis 3 confirm the necessity of male leadership.

“Our problem with the text is in the main not exegetical but practical. What Paul says here is contrary to the thinking of the modern world.”

 

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With the upcoming release of a updated NIV (already available online), the whole gender-inclusive language issue rears its ugly head again.  This morning I was reading my NLT and was curious about their inconsistent use of Messiah in the New Testament, so I looked up their principles of translation in the Introduction.

In the New Testament, the Greek Work Christos has been translated as “Messiah” when the context assumes a Jewish audience.  When a Gentile audience can be assumed, Christos has been translated as “Christ.”

Yet, in James 1 which is written to Jewish Christians, they used Christ.  Hmmm.  Why do translations inconsistently transliterate rather than translate names & titles?  Aside from that interesting bit of curiosity, I spotted the section on Gender-Inclusive Language.  Here’s some of what they say:

“The English language changes constantly.  An obvious recent change is in the area of gender-inclusive language.  This creates problems for modern translations of the ancient biblical text, which was originally written in a male-oriented culture.  The translator must respect the nature of the ancient context while also accounting for the concerns of the modern audience.  Often the original language itself allows a rendering that is gender inclusive.  For example, the Greek word anthropos, traditionally rendered “man,” really means “human being” or “person.”   A different Greek word, aner, specifically means a male.

I guess the question is “to what degree is the Scripture reflecting culture and to what degree is culture a reflection of creation principles?”  Their example is a good one.  The language has the capability to be clear, and we must honor that.  We must also remember when women are included/assumed in a general statement like “brothers.”  Most people have no problem with recognizing that and saying “brothers & sisters”, though their use of “Christian friends” is problematic.  It takes the text out of the context of the Church as God’s household and it’s members as adopted sons (and therefore heirs).  This is an example of the danger that happens with some attempts of gender-inclusive language.  It can strip the text of its context and lose meaning (as well as impart unintended meaning).

Overall, I think the NLT does a good job.  There are places a wince a tad.  But the translation is very readable (which I really can’t say for the ESV though I am using it more often these days).  I like it for a devotional Bible, but I’m not comfortable using it to teach or preach.  Yes- there is a significant difference in my mind.

Last week I began to read The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.  In his preface, John Frame acknowledges that some women (and men) may be unhappy with his book and why he did not use gender-inclusive language (in the mid-80’s).  I find some of his arguments important for today with a much more important text- the Scriptures.

He starts with a caveat of sorts:

My practice does not reflect a belief that women cannot be theologians.  Quite the contrary.  For according to this book, everyone is a theologian!  I do believe that only men are called to the teaching eldership of the church, but the interest of this book is wider than that.

This distinction is important, and often lost on the “all or nothing” egalitarian crowd.  Women are also theologians.  All Christians are theologians (the question is whether they are good or bad theologians).  Theological study is not beyond the capacities of women.  They are fully capable of learning theology.  In 1 Timothy 2, where Paul famously forbids women to teach or have authority over a man he also says they should learn!  Learning, and teaching others (aside from men) is both encouraged and necessary.  Complementarians are often falsely accused of thinking that women are dense or incapable of ‘doing theology’.  Patently untrue.

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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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I finally put my thoughts and impressions of the PCA General Assembly, comparing it with the ARP Synods I have attended.  I’ve been scanning reports from other denominational meetings.  While I may not be thoroughly pleased with the denominations I’ve worked with (why should I?) there are some that I would have a most difficult time.

The PC (USA) General Assembly has just gotten started.  And it was an interesting beginning to say the least.

The sermon and infant baptism focused on the future of the denomination – but not before the assemblage faced east, west, north and south while praying for the Holy Spirit to come and watching people in animal costumes march up the aisles and wander through the worship space.

Elder Fern Cloud of Dakota Presbytery led the call to worship at the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly’s opening worship ceremony Sunday morning, which included interpretative dancing and four processions of flowing banners led by animals such as buffalo and eagle.

Reminiscent of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Vancouver, people dressed as skunks, rabbits and wolves paid homage to the area’s Native American heritage to the sound of a rhythmic drum beat and flute.

One hot issue for them (yet again) is the G.6, or The Fidelity and Chastity Standard for elected office in the denomination.  The female ruling elder who was elected moderator had this to say about the rule that required officers to either be faithfully married (heterosexual) or celibate if single:

“I have been a strong advocate of removing G-6.01016b (the fidelity and chastity standard for elected officers) from the Book of Order. I think it is a stain on the Gospel. I think it does not carry out the inclusivity that we need. And as a lawyer I think it’s pragmatically stupid because it means that we lose many faithful and committed people just because of their sexual orientation.”

A stain on the gospel?  Didn’t Jesus have something to say about adultery and porneia?  They stain the gospel, not fidelity and chastity.  This may finally be the year that the PC (USA), which has half the members it did when I was born, goes down the same road that the Episcopal Church (US) did.  They’ve been trying for years- it is important to be cutting edge you know.  With the floodgates open, the moral conservatives have largely departed.

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A review of this book by Sarah Sumner is long overdue.  I have hesitated in doing this even now.  But with all the talk of the complementarian-egalitarian conflict resulting from the Together For the Gospel conference and statement, this seems like a good time.

At first glace one might think “This must be a well-written and well-argued position”.  Afterall, it has a forward by Phillip Johnson, and blurbs by Dallas Willard, Harold O.J. Brown and such an evangelical legend as Carl Henry for Pete’s sake. 

I was given my copy by a person who wanted to justify her theological shift and practice.  I guess sometimes we see what we want to see, because I don’t think this book delivered the goods.  My copy has tons of red ink.  I am tempted to say that she benefitted from evangelical affirmative action because the scholarship found in this book is questionable to say the least.  I could not disagree more with the blurbs on the back or the content within the binding.

What’s wrong?  It is not (just) that I disagree with her.  Her exegetical work is weak.  Very weak.  She seems ignorant of basic things: using the historical-grammatical method to develop the original meaning to the original audience and then make the adjustments for changes in time, circumstance and audience.  She blanketly applies instructions to a young pastor to all Christians.  She is focused more on the ‘meaning of a word’ than the grammer and how it is used in the context.  For instance, “head’ is used earlier in Ephesians in the context of authority, not source.  She must provide a solid reason for the meaning to change in a similar context (since submission is a matter of authority, not source).  She does not offer a compelling rationale.

She also seems ignorant of the basic Reformational principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture, using the clear texts to interpret the unclear texts.  And just as frustrating is her refusal to apply “good and necessary inference”.  Actually, that is quite convenient to her case because she can write that a man is never commanded to lead his wife.  That would be a good and necessary inference of both the command to the wife to submit to her husband, and more importantly, the husband imaging Jesus who surely leads His bride, the Church.

She also relies heavily on strawpeople (I’ll be gender neutral for a moment).  She does not paint complementarians fairly, but they come off sounding like ignorant, controlling beasts.  She uses extreme arguments: “unless we believe that all women are subject to the authority of all men.”  The text flatly denies such a contention, and all complementarians I know (including me) deny such a contention.  A woman/wife is to be subject to her own man/husband.

All in all, I found this to be a poorly researched, poorly reasoned and poorly argued book that somehow tries to be neither complementarian nor feminist.  In fact, it misrepresents the teaching of Scripture.  I don’t know her heart, but I do know the human tendency to argue in such a way as to justify our own practice.  This is a book to justify the Willowcreek Association’s position on women in pastoral ministry, from which she benefitted.  But Men and Women in the Church does the Body a disservice.

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