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Posts Tagged ‘instruction’


Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian HistoryOne of the books I’ve been reading is Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History by Diana Lynn Severance. In discussing the early church she has a section on deaconnesses.

There is some debate about whether Phoebe is a servant of the church (Serverance), or held the office of deacon in the church (Calvin).

As Severance has studied the history of the Church, she believes that as an office or position probably developed from the order of widows. These women likely performed the same duties as the widows. This means that they were responsible for “nursing the sick, caring for the poor, dispensing the alms of the Church, and evangelizing pagan women.” (pp. 54) Their ministry was to other women in light of Titus 2. There was also the problem of widows being taken advantage of in many ways (including financially) by predators.

In the 3rd century, the Didascalia provided a “specific ritual for the consecration of widows and deaconesses. A principle work of the deaconesses was to help prepare women for baptism.” (pp. 55). This work continued with the actual baptism of the women. They also counseled women about marriage. Since the early Church often separated the sexes during worship, deaconesses would help the elders distribute communion to women, at church and at home.

We should remember that “the deaconesses worked primarily with other women and under the authority of the presbyter.” (pp. 55) They were women under authority. They exercised shepherding gifts, pastoral gifts, as well as diaconal gifts but did not exercise authority and were not instructing men. They instructed women. Considering their duties, there was no need for female priests contrary to the suppositions of feminist.

The Church became more structured over time, and the widows were placed under the responsibility of the deaconesses. By the 5th century, widows as a position seems to have been abandoned. But the position of deaconess continued for a few more centuries.  Severance notes that in the 6th century, the staff of St. Sophia in Constantinople included “60 priests, one hundred deacons, forty deaconesses and ninety sub-deacons. By the eleventh century, however, the position of deaconess had virtually disappeared.” (pp. 55)

We see the existence of deaconesses as well in ordination services for them. So, at least in this period of church history, while the office of elder and deacon were not open to women, ordination was not limited to men.

Once the institutionalization of the church happened, most baptisms were infants, not converts. The need for deaconesses decreased. The popularity of cloistered societies also decreased the need for deaconesses as well. Eventually this “ordained” office fell into disuse and obsolescence.

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One of our members is a Baptist in transition. He is interested in understanding more about covenant theology and particularly how this informs and shapes how we treat children in the church. He asked about books to read in this subject. I couldn’t really think of any. We are great about defending infant baptism, but after that ….

Then I came across Our Covenant With Kids: Biblical Nurture in Home and Church by Tim Sisemore (it was previously released as Of Such is the Kingdom). I don’t like the title, finding it misleading. It isn’t our covenant, but God’s covenant with us that includes our children. But I suspected I ought to read it to gain a better theoretical understanding and therefore begin to move the congregation toward better nurture of our covenant kids in the church.

“The purpose of this book is to examine the entire teaching of the Bible that relates to children, to systematize it, and use this foundation to develop strategies that more adequately enable us to minister effectively to our children.”

This is, in many ways, a big picture book. He is thorough, and covers much ground. Numerous topics are covered, and covered well, but not exhaustively. For instance, in the chapter on the salvation of children, he talks about those dying in infancy. He covers the main views succinctly, and briefly argues for one over the others. I agree with him. But this discussion could have taken up many more pages. Sisemore displays great restraint and discipline as he approaches these topics. He gives information to help you sort through some things and make better decisions.

He begins with the nature of the task, parenting in a world hostile to our faith. The culture has affected the Church in general in a few significant ways: the loss of truth (we disregard doctrine), the loss of humanness due to evolutionary thought and the animal rights agenda (we’re okay with slaughtering children, but not seals, whales etc.), and the adultification of children (the world seduces them from an early age). As a result, he sets out to give us a theology of children, not merely instruction. So much of this is often assumed in parenting books. He wants to make it explicit so we can see if we are deviating from biblical norms in how we think of children. If we are deviating from biblical norms, our approach to instruction and nurture will be ineffective and possibly harmful.

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I’ve been bringing CavGirl through the children’s catechism for awhile, when I remember.  We are currently mired in the Covenants.  She does well, I’m the problem.

I don’t work with CavSon on the catechism directly since he has a “severe language delay.”  He understands just fine, but has issues when it comes to speech.  When you are born with a bilateral cleft lip & palate, this can happen.  Particularly when your palate is not repaired until you are nearly 2 years of age.

Since moving to AZ, CavWife has gotten to know the wife of the military chaplain who served as the interim pastor prior to my call.  She sent us a link for a new set of CDs that may help us instruct our children more faithfully.

When I was in seminary, some guys learned their catechism using songs.  I took long walks and did it old school.  This concept has been applied to the children’s catechism in Ask Me Whooo.  My kids have learned some Scripture using the Songs for Sprouts CDs.  I hope I find the music here less annoying than the Sprout songs.  I’m sure they will often be on in the car.

The 3 volume set follows the answer to one of the early questions in the catechism I use (the ARP version is slightly different from the one produced by GCP):  Why do we love and serve God?  Because He made us, saves us and keeps us.

Yes, volume one is  Who Made You? It covers the topics of God, man, covenant, sin and salvation.

Volume two is Who Saves You? The focus is on the atonement, the 3 offices of Christ (one of my pet doctrines), and the Ten Commandments.

Volume 3 is Who Keeps You? This volume is about the Lord’s Prayer, the sacraments and heaven and hell.

The focus is clearly on God.  You may want to check them out to help raise your kids in the instruction of the Lord (Deut. 6 & Ephesians 6).

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In the final chapters of his book, Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley focuses on instruction and love as important tools of parenting.  He already discussed the first part of parenting from Ephesians 6:4, and now concentrates on the second, instruction.

He begins with an analogy.  The father who does not provide for his children materially is to be considered “worse than an unbeliever” according to Paul in 1 Timothy 5:8.  Should we not think the same thing for a father who professes faith but how fails to provide for his children spiritually?  The consequences of such failure are even more devastating than failure to provide materially.

There are 4 beliefs or assumptions that keep many parents from fulfilling their spiritual duties to their kids.  The chapter focuses on helping parents overcome those false beliefs.

First, parents think they can delegate their responsibilities to others.  Instead of seeing youth group & SS as supplementing their endeavors, they expect them to take care of the job for them.  Youth group is not evil, but while there is instruction, or should be, there is not the discipline necessary to raising a child in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  Families are to join discipline and instruction (as Eph. 6:4 notes).

“Most fathers do not understand the power that God has given them over their children’s hearts.”

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In the next 2 chapters of his book, Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley covers the tools of discipline.  No, it isn’t about spanking spatulas, switches and the like.  Discipline is one of the tools parents use to instruct and guide their children.  The gospel does not eliminate discipline, but provides a foundation for loving, gracious discipline.

His starting place is Ephesians 6:4- “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  The 2 tools of parenting here are discipline and instruction.  To neglect either is to provoke your children.  We forget that discipline, from a biblical perspective, is an expression of love (Hebrews 12 which quotes Proverbs 3).  With our Father in heaven as our example, we see that love motivates discipline.  This is because the parent wants what is best for the child and seeks to protect the child from danger- including self-destruction.  We fail our children when we kid-proof our lives.  They must learn proper boundaries, and that there are consequences to crossing boundaries.

He gives a list of reasons why the gospel is the proper foundation for discipline:

  • It convinces us that indwelling sin is the real problem.
  • It convinces us that authority is a crucial issue in parenting.
  • It convinces us that the heart is the issue and we must seek heart change.
  • It convinces us that discipline can preach the gospel to our children.
  • It motivates us to fear God.
  • It helps us to grow in humility and sincerity.

When I worked for Ligonier I used to have a sign on my cubicle that read: It all leads back to depravity.  All of the customer service problems (and employee problems) were rooted in that.  The same is true for parenting issues.  Children do not need to be taught to do wrong- it apparently happens ‘naturally’.  We do have to work hard to teach them to do that which is good.  It leads back to depravity.   When we think our kids are basically good, we think all they need is a little info instead of a new heart that longs to obey, which is only promised in the gospel.

Discipline, or the lack thereof, also preaches.  We communicate whether or not disobedience is taken seriously, which can have disastrous results as adults (they can become irresponsible and unable to maintain relationships and jobs).  We also forget that if we don’t discipline them, God will.  By the time he does, they are far more entrenched in their sin and rebellion.  It will be that much more painful.  We are wise to discipline them while they are young.  We show a lack of love if we refuse to discipline our kids.

Farley brings the discussion back to the fear of God (the fear of a son, not a slave).  If we do not fear God, we will inevitably fear our children.  We will live for their approval and love in return.  We will not do the important but difficult things necessary to correct them and show them the right way.  The gospel shows us how deadly sin is, as well as God’s gracious work of adoption, which work to develop respect for our heavenly Father.

Farley does not delve into details.  He’s looking at the heart.  These are helpful chapters.

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Part 3 of The Naked Gospel by Andrew Farley is called Crossing the Line.  I thought he’d cross it, and he did.  The section is essentially on his hermeneutic (or method of interpretation).  He crossed the line into what I think is a very bad place.

The matter of interpretive method is very important.  Most false teaching arises from a faulty method of interpretation.  It is Farley’s faulty method of interpretation that gives birth to the various errors in his teaching (and the strange theories he foists upon us to float some of them).

By now you are probably thinking- “get to it already”.  If you are, this is how I often feel when I listen to Glen Beck.  He also has some hermeneutical issues when it comes to theology, but I digress even further.

Farley embraces a view I have only found among hyper-dispensationalists (I’m not saying he’s a hyper-dispensationalist, just that his hermeneutic is very similar).  It is that the new covenant did not come into effect until the cross & resurrection, so (and this is the odd part) the gospels are not part of the New Testament proper.  They are written to Jews, not Christians, so Jesus’ words there are not binding upon us in any way.  The Old Testament is instructive to understand our sinfulness and how God would eventually save sinners.  But the Old Testament is not to be used as a guide for life in any way, shape or form.  We find “a thorough background in how God initiated a relationship with humankind and how we did whatever we could to ruin this relationship.”

In my previous post I forgot to interact with his material on 2 Timothy 3.  But it fits in here very well.  He quotes 2 Timothy 3:16-17, but I’ll put a few more verses in there for context.

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,  15 and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,  17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (NIV)

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I’m currently working my way thru Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd & Margy Tripp in my free time.

So far it has been a good book to read: clear & convicting.  That’s why I wanted to read it- to become a more godly parent and learn to build what I never had as a child, a heart schooled in God’s ways.

They use Deuteronomy 6 as their foundational point, which is an important thing.  We must experience it if we are to truly pass it on to our kids.  But they bring other Scriptures into the discussion.

Essential to good, godly parenting is the recognition that the problem is not “out there”, but that our kids have sinful hearts that produce inordinate desires.  They are hardwired to respond to the temptations of the world and the devil.  They are hardwired for selfishness and lovelessness. I am to offer them the gospel, pray with and for them, instruct them in those opportune moments- addressing their hearts, not just their behavior.

“Scores of opportunities evaporate without notice as we hurry through our days thinking that devotional time with our children is enough.  Our responses to the circumstances and crises of everyday life make our theology real.”

What we do have to realize is that devotional times are good, but insufficient.  Our kids must also see us live our faith the rest of the day.  I try to do that- and sometimes I don’t and therefore instruct them with lies instead of truth.  They also remind me that during correction is not the time for formative instruction.  It just won’t sink in- they are too mad or sad to hear what you are saying.  Formative instruction occurs in the more regular moments, not the moments of heightened tension.  Sadly, like many people, I can prefer to relax and miss some of those great opportunities.

“Don’t talk to your children about that which you have spoken little with God.”

My wife is a great example of this.  Me?  Not so much.  It was convicting.  I can forget to pray about their stubbornness, self-centeredness, temper etc.  I really should be spending more time praying for the heart work to go along with the hard work of instruction.  It is the same for ministry- we must pray for the people, not just instruct the people.  So I find some crossover as I think about shepherding God’s people as well (just as I did with Shepherding a Child’s Heart).

So far it is great stuff to help you be a more godly parent in the hopes that God will use those means to change your kids’ hearts through the gospel.

I should say that I don’t agree with everything they write in either book. For instance, allowing a young child to choose clothes for the day does not necessarily teach them autonomy. There is a family context that allows children to grow in decision making in safe ways which can begin early. But these areas of disagreement do not undermine the main points they make.

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