Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Schreiner’

Well, I’ve got a sinus headache and want to rip my head off. I can’t read anymore today. So I’ll wrap up my summary of Women in the Church edited by Kostenberger and Schreiner.

The 5th chapter is Progressive and Historic: The Hermeneutics of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 by Robert Yarbrough. Yarbrough is a NT prof at TEDS. He examines the trends in methods of interpreting this passage.

“In Paul’s understanding men and women, while equal in value and importance before the Lord, were not regarded as unisex components with swappable functions in home and church.”

Yarbrough begins by responding to William Webb’s criticism of the first edition of this chapter. He makes 3 points. First, Webb “mistakes the intent and outcome of my chapter.” His intention was not to develop a hermeneutic as Webb seems to allege. He did describe features of an approach that has been around for a long time, and criticize some aspects of newer hermeneutical approaches coming into vogue which lie behind the newer interpretations. Second, he admits that something like Webb’s “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” as been around for a long time. The particular form that Webb uses is much newer. A hermeneutic used to seemingly contradict the biblical teaching fails to be a “historic” method. Third, a “static” method, while sounding old-fashioned, may be great for a faith that prizes being steadfast and immovable. Doctrinal innovation is not something that excited Paul, Peter and John in a positive way. They were quite critical of novelties.

1 Timothy 2 is not an exception in Scripture, but we see parallels in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Peter 3. He fails to include 1 Corinthians 11, however. We can’t just dismiss this passage as the result of patriarchy. Yarbrough rightly notes that the issue is not simply about exegesis but hermeneutics, the method used to interpret the text you have exegeted. You can’t rely on just grammar and vocabulary, but how you interpret that grammar and vocabulary to apply it matters. This is the bulk of the chapter.

He focuses on arguments tied to our culture’s progressive views of women, the meaning of Galatians 3:28 and the connection made between slavery and the role of women.

In terms of the first, our culture “stresses individual rights rather than social or institutionally mandated responsibilities in both civil and moral matters.” The stress on self-fulfillment is not limited to this particular question. The church has also taken up this ethos and makes similar arguments in discussing the role of women in the church. In larger society, the growth of women’s rights and empowerment has had some unexpected consequences. The tie between men and women has weakened and our children have suffered in a variety of ways. Freedom at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society is not a biblical value. Many studies indicate how poor off are kids are due to divorce, single parent households, missing fathers etc.

“From a Christian perspective both sexes have sinned grievously against each other in rampant divorce, the sexual infidelity that often attends it, the killing (abortion) and other victimization of children, and the ripple effects of drastic lifestyle changes.”

The conclusions that have been put forth on this text and topic since the late 1960’s are significantly different from those of the previous 1900 years. Yarbrough analyzes academic dissertations and papers so you don’t have to. These new views are a result of new hermeneutical principles. Stendahl tries to preserve biblical authority while simultaneously saying that when speaking of humans, its teaching isn’t authoritative for future times. Often the Bible is now called “culturally bound” when speaking about human relationships. In the NT, equality before God and relative inequality in society were held in tension. Today, this is unthinkable and modern man seemingly can’t make distinctions. Religion is part of what is culturally imbedded or relative, and therefore changes as culture changes.

He moves to slavery and the question of interpretation since some try to connect the two with regard to how Scripture handles the subjects. Scripture did not call for the end of slavery as practiced in the surrounding cultures (very different from race-based slavery and the man-stealing that were foundational to the African slave trade). Lacking political power in a culture in which nearly half of the people were slaves, it taught people how to live as Christians within slavery. We now know that slavery is wrong, the argument goes. In a similar fashion, they see Christianity as teaching people to live within the patriarchy of the surrounding culture but today would should espouse the egalitarianism of modern culture. Just as we (rightly) reject the Southern Reformed (and other) interpretations that tried to justify the African slave trade, we should reject interpretations that justify the submission of women. (And I’d say it depends on what you mean by that.)

Yarbrough notes that God did not institute slavery, but we see that God did institute marriage. In regulating slavery in Israel, there was a 6-year limit. Marriage was generally until death do us part. In the NT, Paul permits slaves who can gain their freedom (buying it) to do so. No such permission is given regarding marriage or church leadership.

Marriage is called to reflect the created order. This includes the sacrificial love a husband should express toward his wife (not every woman) and the submission a wife expresses to her husband (not every man). Adam and Eve were king and queen. She was not his slave or property. Redemption does not obliterate our creational and therefore gender distinctions.

“The Lord reigns; we gain nothing by mistrusting his counsel and taking matters into our own hands. But men must be careful not to hide their sinfulness behind the presumed privilege that pet verses seem to afford.”

Yarbrough notes that there are a wide range of options between patriarchy and feminism. We should be talking to one another peaceably to work these things out. This also calls for some self-examination by communities. “Is how we are practicing our beliefs providing legitimate ammunition for our detractors?” For instance, are we tolerating domestic violence in our families or do we discipline members for abusing their spouse? How we apply our doctrine matters. It either makes it attractive or downright ugly. How we apply our doctrine should be marked primarily by love, seeking the best for those under authority.

After a good night’s sleep, I feel better but want to wrap this up so we move on to What Should a Woman Do in the Church?: One Woman’s Personal Reflections by Dorothy Kelley Patterson. She is the professor of theology in women’s studies at Southwestern Theological Seminary.

Let’s analyze that for a moment. This is ONE woman’s reflections. We shouldn’t think this is the only way to apply the text. It isn’t “gospel”. She is a seminary professor, though she teaches (mostly) women (she notes she doesn’t throw out men as if she has authority over them). She has an academic background. This is an academic as well as personal issue for her (as it was for Kathy Keller).

“Nevertheless, that desire for knowledge is set within boundaries that will make a woman’s learning, and the outworking of that learning, most meaningful to her, most edifying to the kingdom, and above all most God-glorifying in the overall schema of the Father’s plan.”

She mentions that Scripture doesn’t give us a gender-based list, which my own denomination’s study committee should probably keep in mind. Or more likely those of us who vote on that report- we want lists. We want certainty. We want our list affirmed by golly. The Scripture is focused more on functions, she says, not the position you hold. The general guidelines of Scripture are applicable to every generation of women. But women live in a variety of contexts that may place other boundaries on them either legitimately or illegitimately.

Women may be gifted teachers and communicators. They should use those gifts. They are to exercise those gifts publicly (and privately) in ministry to children and less mature women. That is clear from Proverbs and Titus 2. What is clear, to me, is that they should not hold the office of elder. What is not as clear is the question of a Christian conference or mixed SS class or small group. Joni, Elizabeth Elliot and other conservative women have spoken to mixed audiences at conferences. There will be some differences of opinion on that question. Many of these options didn’t exist in the early church (no SS, no conferences).

“A wise woman would rather give up an opportunity to show and use her giftedness if by using that giftedness she would risk bringing dishonor to God’s Word and thus to him.”

She starts with first principles: creation. She affirms male headship of home and church. 1 Timothy 2 is, she admits, a hard word for women. Scripture does present us with a number of women who were gifted and used by God in various ways. They walked in obedience to Him. We don’t see them walking in disobedience and expecting God to use them greatly. We see this among many women in church history. Each woman, I agree, is responsible to use her gifts within biblical boundaries. But she is not alone to figure that out, but there is ecclesiastical authority (which may err in either direction) to help her. We need wisdom from the Spirit, as Paul prayed for in Colossians.

“The Bible gives basic principles, but it does not speak in specific detail to thousands of real-life situations and choices that come before a woman.”

We must all recognize our personal defaults in distorting the Scriptures. Some of us tend to be more restrictive, and others of us more prone to push the boundaries out. We are wise to recognize the role of our own prejudices and presuppositions in interpreting and applying the Scriptures.

There is a confusing paragraph in the middle of page 157. She’s wanting, rightfully, to encourage obedience. But ….

“Therefore, I am capable of understanding God’s revelation and of choosing how I will respond to him. I am dependent on God, but I have a choice as to how I will relate to him- whether in obedience or disobedience. If I choose obedience, I am forgiven and become his by adoption. “

Not the clearest gathering of sentences, and the order lends us to confusion.

1 Timothy 2 is not about a woman’s relative intelligence or giftedness. It is not about her cultural circumstances. It is about how God designed men and women to function in society. Men and women are equal in dignity and value. They are different and complementary to one another for the purpose of God’s mission. Access to God through Christ and our spiritual privileges are the same (Gal. 3:28). This does not eliminate additional biblical instruction on church officers. Women do share their faith with both sexes (the Samaritan woman for instance), and could prophesy (Philip the Evangelist’s daughters). So they can do more than some churches permit, but less than others permit.

Where she lands is applying the prohibitions to “the teaching of men by a woman and to a woman’s exercising authority over men.” The important thing is “in the church”. This doesn’t mean that a woman can’t teach men math, science, history, or even theology. The context is church order, not social order. This seems to be the point she keeps returning to, and the point with which I leave you.

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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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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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Justin Taylor (Between Two Worlds) interviewed Dr. Tom Schreiner about baptism as his new book on the subject is about to be released.  As a former Reformed Credo-Baptist turned paedobaptist, I certainly disagree with Dr. Schreiner on a few of the finer details of this discussion (note- this is not a conversation 🙂 ).

But I take some exception with what he says here: 

You argue that Reformed evangelicals who baptize their babies are inconsistent–how so?

“We love fellow believers from Reformed churches with whom we share so many precious truths, especially in terms of the doctrines of grace. The Reformed are inconsistent, however, in that they require adults who are baptized to be believers, while they baptize infants who are unbelievers. Steve Wellum and Shawn Wright demonstrate that to do this they have to redefine what they previously said about the doctrine of baptism and use the theological (but, in the way they use it to support infant baptism, biblically unjustifiable) construct of the “covenant of grace” as proof of their position. “

If we are inconsistent in this matter, so is Genesis 17 & Romans 4.  Both texts refer to the application of circumcision.  In the case of Abraham is pointed to the faith he possessed.  In the case of his children it pointed to the faith they were to possess.  Converting male Gentiles prior to Jesus and the New Covenant were to be circucumcised, as were their infants in keeping with the covenant (as it is referred to in Genesis 17).

I suppose I would ask, what is the eternal covenant in Hebrews 13:20 referring to?  I don’t think we’ve invented anything.  Nor do I think we are any more ‘inconsistent’ than the Scriptures on this issue.  I’m disappointed in how Dr. Schreiner chose to express this.  No, I won’t be burning any of his books.  I just disagree with his assessment of me and my brothers on this matter. 

Where we disagree is on what we believe God has said about those who are to be baptized.  He ties it to faith.  We tie it to the covenant.  In the Old Covenant the sign was circumcision.  In the New Testament the sign is baptism.  We say the application of the sign is the same (though now woman are to be baptized now).  We are consistent with our understanding of the Scriptures.  I suppose he is consistent with his understanding of the Scriptures.  But it seems quite unfair to accuse us of inconsistency when the problem is we are inconsistent with HIS theology & practice, not in our theology & practice.  Does that make sense? 

 He’s comparing one theology to another with the assumption that his is correct and the standard by which others are measured (judging us by his theology, not Scripture).  The issue ought to be: whose theology & practice most closely resembles the Word.  He doesn’t seem to be doing this in his claims concerning those he loves.

In speaking of Colossians he says: “Further, the NT does not draw a connection between physical circumcision and baptism, but spiritual circumcision and baptism (Col. 2:11-12). There is not complete continuity between the Sinai covenant and the new covenant.”

Isn’t physical circumcision a picture of spiritual circumcision?  What the physical circumcision pointed to (the cutting of the heart) physical baptism now points to.  So this argument would appear to fall apart in my estimation.

Reformed people do not say there is complete continuity between the covenants.  We agree with him that there are areas of discontinuity.  But he establishes a strawman to win his argument, which frankly seems quite unfair.  You must argue against a position that is actually held, not a mythological position held by no one. 

This does not prove that Dr. Schreiner is wrong in his theology- only that he has not argued his position well or fairly.  I don’t want to be ‘guilty’ of the same lapse in logic/argumentation.

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