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Posts Tagged ‘Wayne Grudem’


Recovering the Responsibility of Every Believer is the final section of Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Byrd has been addressing what is wrong, and why it is wrong. Now are her attempts to move the church forward. The first chapter asks the question: Is This the Way It Was Supposed to Be?

Byrd begins with wanting you to put yourself in Martha’s shoes with Jesus coming over for dinner. That Jesus was coming to their home was remarkable in itself. On the streets rabbis and women wouldn’t speak. Mishnah, Aboth 1:5 says: “The wise men say: ‘Who speaks much with a woman draws down misfortune on himself, neglects the words of the law, and finally earns hell.” In other words, not only was it not worth their time, but was seen as a detriment and to be avoided. Women were not part of theological conversations, or political ones.

Having Jesus over violated some of the cultural boundaries that had been established. Jesus didn’t seem to be bound by cultural boundaries; recognizing them for what they were, and were not. While there were no women Apostles, there were women contributing to his ministry and traveling with them at times. But for as bold as Martha was in inviting him over, she kept to the kitchen when Jesus came over. But Mary didn’t. This in a culture when there was opposition to teaching a woman Torah. Some rabbis would teach women enough Torah to know their place, but not all of the Torah. Jesus, on the other hand, told Martha that Mary had chosen the one thing necessary. It was necessary for her to sit and be taught by Jesus. She was a disciple, not merely an interested bystander. Mary, and Martha, had a vested interest in sitting at the feet of Jesus. Women were welcome!

Jesus’ involvement with women reveals that in His kingdom women mattered. He healed women, talked with them in public, and taught them. He traveled with them, and received support from them. This leads to some difficult questions because some churches seem to keep women are arm’s length or only in certain roles.

“Many churches thus limit, in ways they do not limit for laymen, the capacity for laywomen to learn deeply and to teach. … Are the laywomen disciples in your church serving in the same capacity as the laymen?”

Notice what she is saying there. She is talking about laypeople, as distinct from officers. Are men and women able to do the same things in your congregation, or have you decided somethings are for men and some for women?

She returns to the idea of the ezer and the necessary ally. Adam cannot fulfill his mission without Eve, and not just the baby-making part. Women exist for more than bearing and raising children. Since they are members of the church by grace, just like the men, they should be discipled as necessary allies. They are not to be considered “optional, subordinate assistants.” Byrd tries to balance the reality of church offices and the priesthood of believers who get their hands dirty with the work of ministry.

Paul recognized a number of women for their work in the early church. In addition to Phoebe we find Prisca, Chloe, Nympha, Apphia, Lydia, and Junia. This is in addition to the Marys recognized in the Gospels for their role in the earthly ministry of Jesus. Many of them hosted church meetings (I’m not convinced that means leading the church, as Byrd says about Lydia).

We also see that often women were among the first people Paul recognized in his letters. The custom of the day was ordering reflected the status or influence of the individuals. You put the more important people first.

Do we value women like that in our churches? Do we trust women like that in our churches?

The Silence of Women?

1 Corinthians 11-14 give us a glimpse of worship in the early church. What it says about women is important, and part of how Christians today view the participation of women in church life, and the worship service. At the heart of this is 1 Corinthians 14:34 which some people take as absolute and the final and only word on this subject.

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.

This is universal, as indicated by “in all the churches”. But this passage is part of a larger context. That seems to be ignored by many who minimize the role of women in church and worship. Why do I say that? Well, because in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul talks about women prophesying and praying in the corporate worship service. Is this a conflict or contradiction? Not if we understand them in context.

Some argue that in 1 Corinthians 11 Paul is being ironic, and that if they were to pray and prophesy they should wear a head covering. But they don’t actually (the argument goes), as we see in 1 Corinthians 14. If he’d written that they were to be silent before saying they pray and prophesy, I could maybe understand this. Because of this strange way of looking at 1 Corinthians 11-14, Byrd talks about those places in many towns called Spook Hill when it feels like the car is rolling uphill. I lived near one in central FL. Things get “spooky” when we talk about these texts. “The landscape can be deceiving.”

The issue has to be resolved by examining the context of 1 Corinthians 14:34 which is the evaluation of the prophecies. Byrd follows an number of people including the other Keller, Kathy, as well as Stephen Um (a PCA pastor) and Ben Witherington in seeing the silence limited to the judging of the prophesies which is the exercise of authority (in keeping with 1 Tim. 2:12). They were not exercising teaching authority. They were not to speak when that was happening. But they could pray and prophesy while wearing the sign of authority. This implies that whatever the prophecy was, it was not authoritative and needed to be examined by the elders to see if it was consistent with the Scripture and teaching they had.

As Christians all contribute to the worship service (not just the men), they are to act in love (1 Cor. 13 is the hub of all this). Every Christian gets spiritual gifts, having been baptized by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12) and they are not distributed by sex. Don’t confuse gifts with office. All Christians were encourage to sing, to pray, to prophesy or speak in tongues (assuming there was an interpreter). When it came time for the prophecies to be judged, the women were to be silent. The silence was tied to a particular time in the service for the exercise of authority.

“Upholding the proper order of worship, respecting the officers of the church, and refraining from noninspired speech that disrupts worship all fall short under the command all fall under the command of the Lord to love- the very thing Christians should be known for. And these are lasting principles for the church today.”

Consequences for Worshiping Together

The church is the household of God. We should treat fellow members with affection and respect. That they did this was misinterpreted by many critics of the church. The early church was accused of incest, among other things. The imaginations of unbelievers had run wild. But instead of following the cultural practices of their culture, the Christians treated each other as brother and sister, with a pure affection for one another rather than avoidance or keeping a proper social distance.

This was a function of their identity in Christ, in whom there is neither male nor female. They are equal in His eyes, and equally sons and heirs of salvation. None are second class citizens. The shared a heavenly citizenship that shaped their social interactions. This is what led to some of the persecution they experienced.

Peel and Reveal

Byrd returns to the question of what men and women can do in a worship service. “Have we properly retrieved what the early church has passed down?” She wonders if there is something particularly masculine about collecting the offering. You might say that’s for the deacons, and in the PCA you’d be wrong. It is their responsibility to plan and organize it, but they don’t have to execute it (BCO 9-2). Women can technically be asked to help with it. We sometimes use unordained men to help if there aren’t enough deacons. We could, theoretically, as laywomen to help too. Then again, maybe they don’t want to be bothered.

Remember, Paul encouraged full member participation in most of the worship service. Whether or not our worship services reflect this matters in terms of how we are seen by the world. In the early church the participation of women was seen as scandalous by the world. Today the lack of participation of women in some churches is seen as scandalous by the world.

“Whatever our stance is on ordination, these are the questions we should be asking. And yet for some reason, even when we discuss the contributions of laypeople, the church is still stuck on this problem of women and where to draw the line. As one article published in CBMW News put it, “But What Should Women Do in the Church?”

This article by Grudem is mis-titled, in my opinion. “Should” isn’t the same as “can”, and this should be about what they “can” do. Grudem proceeds to list 83 different types of service in the church and evaluate them with guidance from the Danvers Statement. His personal lines are even stricter (at that time anyway). He discusses hierarchies of authority and influence. In this view, women shouldn’t have authority or influence over men. How exactly should a woman ask a men to set up a table for a pot lock, I wonder. Must she go to her husband and ask her to tell the man to put in a particular place? Is that actually authority? Does the man have to do it or face church discipline?

“We would define authority in general as the right and power and responsibility to give directions to another.” Piper and Grudem

In this way they separate laymen from laywomen ontologically and allow laymen to exercise authority in the church but not women except over kids, and maybe other women. This would all imply that no one is under the authority of the Session and being asked by them to fulfill that task or function. Any authority is delegated authority or responsibility. My wife has plenty of delegated authority at home.

Peeling Back Yellow Fractions

Byrd argues that these lists of hierarchy fall into a similar error as the egalitarians. These lines can be quite arbitrary and not reflective of Scripture, just as the egalitarian lines are not reflective of Scripture. The CBMW reveals a fractional complementarianism, broken down by what women can and cannot do. Most of this section is a series of questions. She plays the interrogator instead of providing the answers. She wants us to work through it.

This gets back to how one views women. In 1 Corinthians 11 a wife is her husband’s glory. In terms of creation she came from Adam’s side just as the Church comes from Christ’s wounded side. Together Adam and Eve were to fulfill the creation mandates. There was no division of labor based on gender. In heaven there will be no such division of labor either.

“Now let’s return to CBMW’s definition of authority … Is authorization (authority?) an ontological right that belongs to a particular sex, a power bestowed on men to always have the say-so in all things? … While church officers have a distinct authorization in teaching and ruling, brothers and sisters who hear the Word of our Groom are authorized as a priesthood under this ministry to testify to Jesus to one another.”

Time for a story. During a pastoral transition I applied for a job with a national insurance company. I was called for a series of interviews in another city. I brought CavWife and we enjoyed some time without the 2 kids. In my first interview I discovered that I had uploaded the wrong resume. I had uploaded the one for church positions which mentioned male headship in home and church. The woman interviewing me wanted to know if I could work for a woman boss. Well, I’ve worked for a number of them in the past (and would in the future as well) and never had an issue submitting to a woman in school or the workplace. If I struggled it was about what they asked me to do, not due to their gender. Women can exercise authority over men, and we need to stop arguing that they can’t. That is NOT biblical manhood and womanhood. That is closer to the oppression of women in the past.

The question we need to be asking is what are only ordained officers allowed to do. The rest would be left open to laypeople at the discretion of the Session (elders). Convictions produce practices, and our practices reveal our convictions.

I’ll give Aimee Byrd the final word today.

“What corresponding strength do your women have to offer? Rather than bury and hide what the Lord has given under an imaginary line on a hierarchical list, how can your church be counter-culturally capable as opposed to some of the accepted teachings of so-called biblical manhood and womanhood in evangelicalism? Why is this necessary?”

 

 

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I want to start with a story or two. Two.

Saturday a friend of mine died. Years ago he attended a PCA church in Orlando where a friend of mine was a pastor on staff. This friend raised concerns to me about this PCA pastor based on some lectures he gave on women in the church. At the time I didn’t share his concerns about my other friend. I didn’t think he was moving toward egalitarianism. A few years later this pastor friend moved cross country to serve on the staff of a church that would eventually leave the PCA and fully embrace egalitarianism. My friend did “slide” into egalitarianism, but may have hid it since he credited one of our professors. My late friend was right, and I missed it.

In my first pastorate one of the influential women gave me a book to read. She was on the search committee that called me. She had been auditing courses at RTS Orlando. She led our women’s ministry. The book was Sarah Sumner’s Men and Women in the Church, which is clearly egalitarian. Earlier she’d given me insightful articles from Kenneth Bailey. This book was less than insightful contrary to the positive blurbs by respected men, but it was insightful into this friend’s trajectory. It broke my heart when she and her husband left the church and began to attend a PC(USA) church (now ECO).

Sometimes you can see it coming, and sometimes it is more subtle. Some people claim they see Aimee Byrd well on the road to egalitarian. I’m not so sure. My foresight, obviously, is not perfect including in this area. But the issue may be their adherence to the CBMW formulation of complementarianism.

Cognitive Dissonance

Today we’ll look at the beginning of the Part 2: Recovering Our Mission. The first chapter in this section is Why Our Aim Is Not Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. She begins this with part of her story. She was married a month after graduating from college and began to read books to help her become “the perfect Christian wife.” This was when she read Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood aka the Big Blue Book. She was seeking a “biblical understanding of the sexes.” There were parts that were hard for her to accept, but she trusted the radio shows that spoke well of the book. “That’s what I wanted to be: good and conservative.” She was not comfortable with “some” of the teachings in the book. Not all. Not most. Some. She assumed she’d understand them better as she matured.

“I do want to note that there are plenty of helpful teachings in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, written by authors who have benefited the church in numerous ways.”

Over time, however, “more and more strange teachings on femininity and masculinity have emerged under the rubric of biblical manhood and womanhood.” She is not alone in thinking this. She mentions some of them earlier in this book, and they concerned me when I read them years ago. I thought they were aberrations but now realize my understanding of complementarianism is not on the same side of the spectrum as theirs. I was concerned when Piper thought women shouldn’t be police officers because that involves authority over men (“Should Women Be Police Officers?” August 13, 2015). In that article he mentioned teaching in colleges as well. Byrd also notes a place where Piper discusses a woman being careful in giving a lost man directions lest we undermine his sense of masculinity. Sorry, I don’t get it. I simply want to get to my destination, and apart from verbal abuse I’m not guarding my sense of masculinity.

Eternal Submission of the Son

Where she goes here is more fundamental, however. She came across a CBMW document expressing ESS (Eternal Submission of the Son). This view states that in the ontological Trinity, the Son submits to the Father. This view is not expressed in any of the major creeds and confessions. We do recognize that in the economic Trinity, the Son as Messiah submits to the Father on our behalf. The first speaks to the Son in his essence, the second to the Son in his office as Redeemer.

She pursued conversations with representatives of CBMW including the president at the time. In books, members of the CBMW continued to assert this view. It shows up in the ESV Study Bible as well. This view is used as the basis for their version of complementarianism: men and women are both human (equal in essence) but women submit to men (different in role/function).

I don’t believe in ESS nor agree with its use by CBMW to defend an erroneous view of men and women. In Ephesians 5, wives submit to their own husbands, not men in general. Women are not inferior to men due to their gender, not to submit to men in general. In the 10 commandments, we are to honor our parents meaning that sons (even as adults) are to honor their mothers. Mothers don’t submit to adult sons.

Back to Byrd’s book from that aside. She tried to address this publicly as well. As she tells it no one was listening. Then Liam Goligher did a guest post on her blog on this subject and the can of worms was opened. ESS became a big internet controversy.

Okay. At this point I wondered if she wants credit for exposing this heterodoxy, simply wants to say no one took her seriously or both. Goligher was more than a “housewife theologian” and had more gravitas. That he was a man can also play into it. But there seem to be some sour grapes at work in this too.

She then brings it back to the Big, Blue Book. Once again she notes there is good material in there, but also some disconcerting material as well. There is a big problem when the differences between men and women are reduced to “one of ontological authority and submission.” I’ve always understood this as patriarchy, not complementarianism. While she mentions Denny Burke, Owen Strachan and others, her focus is on Wayne Grudem who has been a big advocate for this deviant view of the Trinity, including in his work on the ESV Study Bible notes. I was disappointed to see Ligon Duncan so earnestly affirming the updated version of the Big, Blue Book such that communicating the doctrines and applications taught in it were essential to Christian discipleship.

“While I wholeheartedly affirm distinction between sexes, I am convinced that our choices are not between CBMW complementarianism and vague androgynous discipleship.”

She is raising serious issues here. In my opinion she is right. I’ll let her speak for herself:

“Nowhere does Scripture state that all women submit to all men. … And it is difficult for a laywoman like me, who does see some theological teaching for God outfitting qualified men for an office to see this kind of reductive teaching and call it complementarianism. … My femininity is not defined by how I look for and nurture male leadership in my neighbors, coworkers, or mail carriers. I am not denying the order needed in both my personal household and in the household of God, but I do not reduce the rights and obligations in a household to mere authority and submission roles. … I uphold distinction between the sexes without reduction, as Scripture does.”

She affirms that church office is reserved for qualified men. She refers to Genesis 2 in the footnote, but overlooks 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. That is puzzling, frankly.

In the next section she’s wondering if we’ve baptized “chivalry” and made it biblical manhood. I think she is onto something with this. Like the Pharisees added to the laws regarding the Sabbath and used the corban principle to avoid caring for parents, we can add cultural understandings to our biblical understanding in a way that is inappropriate and confusing. She quotes Sarah Coakley as noting that the point of headship “is not executive dictatorship but responsibility for the “well-being of the whole.”” She uses John McKinley’s “necessary ally”, though I prefer Allender and Longman’s “intimate ally”.

To be fair, in What’s the Difference?, Piper’s contribution to the Big, Blue Book, he mentions men listening to their wives to gain input. The “definition” expresses “benevolent responsibility”. But we do need to emphasize, I think, the partnership of marriage. Headship in Ephesians 5 is sacrificial and for the well-being of the wife. Back to Genesis 2, she is an ally in our God-given mission. Being a man or woman can not be reduced to authority/submission. There is a bit of overlap in their expression of this relationship, but their foundation is quite different.

Restoring the Imago Dei

I think she takes too much time expressing the fact that our goal in discipleship is not masculinity or femininity but conformance to Christ (Romans 8). At a few points that will be different. But the goal is being a mature human being, restoration of the image of God (Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3).

“Christian men and women don’t strive for so-called biblical masculinity or femininity, but Christlikeness. Rather than striving to prove our sexuality, the tone of our sexuality will express itself as we do this. … I do not need to do something in a certain way to be feminine. I simply am feminine because I am female.”

She sees some benefit to exclusive studies for men and women. There are “shared experiences and responsibilities within our sex.” (She probably should use “gender” in these instances.) Her concern is that we take this too far too often, as though we can only be discipled separately. Drawing on Phillip Payne’s material she asserts (rightly) that both men and women received authority over earth and creatures. Unlike in the pagan cultures around them, men were supposed to leave their family of origin to cleave to his spouse. In pagan countries she shifted from her family to his.

In Mark David Walton’s article for the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood these gender distinctions (authority & submission) remain for all eternity since they are ontological. Women, in this view, would eternally submit to men even though both are made in the image of God.

Peel and Reveal

She goes off her on “role”. She does this, in my opinion, in a reductionistic way. She focuses on the definition derived from the playhouse. As a result she wants us to stop using this in discussing men and women. She’ll also do this in chapter 6. But according to dictionary.com the 2nd definition is “proper or customary function” and the third is the sociological use (pertinent here!) “the rights, obligations, and expected behavior patterns associated with a particular social status.” That status should not be “woman” but “wife”. Not “man” but “husband” and “church officer”.

She seems to be going after both ESS and expressions of complementarianism at the same time. She does not clearly delineate between the two but goes back and forth between them. They are related, but distinct. This is a weakness of hers or at least this chapter.

And then she returns to norms. “I agree with Mark Cortez that we can still affirm some cultural norms associated with gender without holding that these must be essential to our sexuality.” But in this section she seeks to get metaphysical and philosophical. She depends on Sister Prudence Allen in pp. 124-30, and frankly I’m lost. Philosophy is not my strong point, and I’m not familiar with this philosopher. I got “fractional complementarity” and “integral complementarity”. She brings in Pope John Paul II, as well as Paul Zanacanaro and Julian Marias. In all this I couldn’t tell if she was using them positively (she does say they think more thoroughly and biblically) or negatively (since their conclusion sounds remarkably like Piper and Grudem). Just call me Vinnie because “I’m soooo confused.”

The peel and reveal section seems to waste the good and important material she covered in the body of the chapter. There are serious problems in the theological basis for the CBMW version of complementarianism, and therefore serious problems in how they understand masculinity and femininity in relationship to one another. She could have done a better job delineating her points of agreement with CBMW since there are some.

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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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The descent of Christ is not a topic that receives much attention in evangelical circles. There have been some academic journals that have published articles on the topic. But it has been mostly an academic issue. That is not a good thing.

If you are thinking, what do you mean by “the descent of Christ” then this is an indication it isn’t a good thing. The descent addresses what happened to Jesus while He was dead. This is important and does matter.

He Descended to the Dead: An Evangelical Theology of Holy SaturdayRecently our Session addressed this question in terms of the phrase “He descended to hell” as part of the Apostles’ Creed. After we made a provisional decision on that question, a newer book by Matthew Emerson, “He Descended to the Dead”: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday came to my attention.

In preparation for Resurrection Day this year, I put it near the front of my queue as part of my Virus Crisis reading. It is published by IV Press Academic.

Emerson’s book is widely researched. He is a Baptist but his research includes the Church Fathers, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic theologians as well as some Reformed theologians. He includes some less than conservative folks like Barth. There is less interaction with Confessions and Catechisms. There is no meaningful interaction with the Reformed Confessions and Catechisms until the final chapter. As a Reformed pastor, I viewed this a weakness. He discounts Calvin’s view (taken by the Heidelberg Catechism) which is a good move. But that is only one approach taken by Reformed theologians (the WCF differs). He addresses the Barthian take on Calvin far more in depth.

Emerson is a Baptist. He also holds to Progressive Covenantalism. This doesn’t seem to affect much, but when he discusses baptism it certainly does. There he displays a misunderstanding of the historic covenantal views of ecclesiology and sacraments.

“This approach to biblical theology argues that, while there is a foundational continuity between the old and new covenants, such that Jesus’ work fulfills all the hopes of OT Israel, there is also a progression from the Abrahamic covenant to the new covenant. This progression is effectively one from inclusion in the covenant people based on ethnicity to inclusion based on faith. This is why the sign of the covenant progresses from circumcision to baptism. The former is related to physical birth in the flesh, while the latter is related to new birth by the Spirit.” (pp. 212)

This denies and/or ignores the distinction Covenant Theology makes between the visible and invisible church. In the OT, we also see Gentiles entering the covenant of faith by profession of faith. Salvation was not by birth, but always by the new birth & faith. Emerson flattens Covenant Theology and thereby passes over the circumcision of the heart, of which physical circumcision was a sign. He also passes over Paul’s affirmation that we receive the promises of the Abrahamic covenant, rather than progressing beyond it (see Gal. 3). We are sons of Abraham because we’re united to Christ the Seed!

I’m just not sure how much this affects his work. I don’t say this to dismiss it, but if he can’t get Covenant Theology correct it makes me wonder at times what else might be misunderstood.

This does not mean I fundamentally disagree with him. Particularly with his criticism of evangelicalism’s neglect of creeds.

He begins there in the first chapter. He offers us a definition of evangelical so we know what he means by the term which is important in the current climate of slippery meanings.

“… I do not mean a particular political voting bloc in the United States but rather the Christian movement that (1) began in the late eighteenth century, (2) is most concentrated in North America, and (3) is characterized by David Bebbington’s quadrilateral of commitment to biblical authority (“Biblicism”), a focus on the cross as the center of Christ’s work (“crucicentrism”), the need for personal conversion (“conversionism”), and the importance of sharing one’s faith in evangelism and engagement with the public square (“activism”).” (pp. 3)

Into this he speaks of a near uniform view on the phrase “descended into hell” until Bucer and Calvin’s novel expression of this as a place of torment. More on this later. There was plenty of variations, but no one thought it referred to hell as a place of torment. This is why he calls his book “He descended to the dead” or Hades, which doesn’t have the baggage of saying ‘hell’.

Recent challenges, based on that interpretation of Calvin’s, are combined with a rejection of creedal formulations and authority. In this, Emerson is very critical of Wayne Grudem. He’s critical not only of Grudem’s conclusions but his methods. Grudem is focused on solely exegetical arguments, not theological arguments. This led him, in the past, to question the eternal generation of the Son on the basis of Proverbs 8:22-31. Emerson is right to affirm theological patterns in Scripture (though he doesn’t always recognize all of them). He notes biblical patterns like that of the Son of Man. We have to see each text within the context of the rest of Scripture.

Emerson wants us to understand the descent in light of the other passages dealing with Sheol, in light of the historical context or the views of the underworld by the nations and second temple Judaism. He also wants us to see the patterns across various doctrines. Like Lints he sees the fabric of theology, not simply the thread of a doctrine. You can’t change one without affecting other doctrines.

His focus on second temple Judaism is also of unknown concern. He seems to see second temple Judaism as uniform in views, much like N.T. Wright, Sanders and other proponents of New Perspective(s) on Paul.

The second chapter is A Biblical Defense of the Descent. He doesn’t want to depend on 1 Peter 3:18-22, for good reason, as the basis for the doctrine. This is a disputed text in terms of interpretation. I’ll lay my cards on the table: I think the text is about the Spirit’s ministry in the time of Noah which seems to fit the larger context in 1 Peter. Emerson’s brief exegesis makes some sense, until I think about the rest of 1 Peter. But you don’t need this text to affirm the doctrine of descent.

“To put is positively, the descensus is a thoroughly biblical doctrine, which teaches that Jesus experienced human death as all humans do- his body was buried, and his soul departed to the place of the dead- and, in so doing, by virtue of his divinity, he defeated death and the grace.” (pp. 24)

His argument is that second temple Judaism and early Christianity had a cosmography similar to the Greeks and Romans (I’d see the Gentiles’ view as a corruption of the biblical view, not an influence upon the faithful community). The underworld had two chambers: the abodes of the righteous dead and the unrighteous dead. In an OT & NT context the righteous were those who believed. We see this in the parable discussing “Abraham’s bosom” or “paradise”. The rich man could not pass over.

Jesus descends to the place of the righteous dead upon His death. He is not suffering there, but His victory is proclaimed and Sheol either transformed for the righteous or emptied of the righteous with Christ’s resurrection and ascension. I would go with the latter, not the former.

He traces the development of this doctrine in various Scriptures referring to Sheol, and Christ being raised “out of the dead” or the place of the dead. He interacts with Psalm 16 and its usage in Acts 2. Jonah 2 is also addressed before he goes on to Pauline statements, like Ephesians 4, Philippians 2 and Romans 10.

“At minimum, then, this text affirms that Jesus experienced human death as all humans experience human death, in body and soul.” (pp. 35)

The next chapter is about the historical defense or interpretations of the doctrine. Here he mentions that Grudem is following Philip Schaff in arguing that the phrase was inserted by Rufinus. Emerson ties its inclusion to the threat of Apollinarianism which believed that the Son did not assume a human soul, but only a body. He shows that many believe Abraham’s bosom was part of the underworld, the place of the dead, and not a heavenly region. It is not a place of torment. Jesus’ torment was finished upon the cross. Jesus entered the place of the dead to conquer death and Hades. Here he looks at a variety of Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Reformation theologians. He brings out some significant differences in views. Emerson looks at Calvin’s idiosyncratic view (not sure I’d use that term) as an over-correction based on a bit of misunderstanding of other views.

There is a large section on Balthasar’s view. He was a Roman Catholic theologian who attempted to combine what he thought was the best of Orthodox, Roman and Calvinist views. He ends up with a view that sees His descent including the torment of hell, particularly in the separation from the Father.

Part two of the book looks at the descent and Christian dogmatics. This is where he examines the fabric of theology. It can seem repetitive at points. He begins with how it affects and is affected by our theology of the Trinity. He gets into the doctrines of inseparable operations and appropriation. The first is that the Trinity acts inseparably. There is no Lone Ranger among the Trinity. They are working with one purpose. Appropriate refers to the fact that each has different roles in that one work, which pertains the distinctions in persons. This formulation seeks to preserve God’s oneness consistent with their mode of subsistence.

“The descent is only victorious because the Son descends as God, and it is only vicarious because he descends as a human being, as the human being.” (pp. 112)

Here he returns to Balthasar in critical fashion. He argues that Balthasar violates both of the doctrines (inseparable operations and appropriation).

The next chapter discusses its impact on our doctrine of creation. This includes cosmography and ANE beliefs. This is where he begins to argue for Christ transforming Hades from the place of the righteous dead awaiting Messiah to where the resurrected and ascended Messiah dwells with His people. This is an idea I’m not sure I’m ready to buy into, at least as how I understand it. The human nature is not ubiquitous and is at the right hand of the Father, meaning reigning and ruling in heaven. I’m thinking, at this point, that Paradise aka Abraham’s bosom has been emptied and heaven is being filled. This is not our “final destination” which is actually the renewed earth.

He then shifts to the incarnation and Christological anthropology. He delves into whether we are a body-soul union, just a body that ceases to exist or a hylemorphic dualism with soul equal to the form of the body. This section is heady and philosophic at points. Then he examines the doctrine of justification and the atonement, the resurrection of believers and ecclesiology.

Part three is one short chapter on the Christian life. He plays out some of the ways it should impact our lives now. Much of it seemed ‘ho-hum’. The key point for me is that Jesus knows not only what it is like to die but to be dead. He is able to comfort us in our grieving as One who tasted death, remained under its power and rose triumphant over the grave.

Overall this was a good book. It was mostly understandable, and does help you think through some of the issues. It is a worthwhile contribution to the discussion of this doctrine. He does not have me convinced of all of his views but I am better prepared to think about this, talk about this and perhaps even preach on this.

Q. 50: Wherein consisted Christ’s humiliation after his death?

A: Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which has been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell. (Westminster Larger Catechism)

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I just finished my sermon series (sadly they aren’t organized by series, yet) on 1 Peter called Living Faithfully in an Unfaithful Place. I think I changed the series title about 4 times. It did focus on the fact we live in an unfaithful place but God works by His grace so we live faithfully by faith thru the Spirit.

I thought I’d briefly review the commentaries I used. They will be in order from most to least useful. I used more commentaries than usual for this series, partially because they were available. I probably could have dropped the least useful ones and saved some time and sanity.

The most helpful commentary I used was 1 & 2 Peter & Jude by Paul Gardner. This is part of the Focus on the Bible series. I’m going to appreciate this series as I use more volumes. While succinct it still has plenty to offer. Gardner lays out options on controversial passages, and there are a few in this letter. There is just enough original language material to be helpful but not overwhelming for those who don’t have advanced degrees in them. It also has a section on application at the end of each chapter. It can get confusing if you preach more than one sermon from the material covered in one of Gardner’s chapter.

The Message of 1 Peter by Edmund Clowney is part of The Bible Speaks Today series. I am usually pleased with volumes in this series. I liked this volume when I used it years ago, and I still am pleased. Like the Gardner volume, this has enough Greek to be helpful but not so much that you get overwhelmed or lost. Clowney, known for redemptive historical preaching, brings those skills to this volume as well. He helps you understand this letter’s place in redemptive history and keeps the focus on the gospel. Like Gardner, it is quite readable. The new cover art leaves a little to be desired. I prefer the bland old covers instead of the abstract art that reminds me of the “monthly missalette” in the Catholic church of my youth.

The New International Commentary on the New Testament by Peter Davids, The First Letter of Peter, is my more academic commentary for this sermon series. This is one of the thinner volumes in the series, but still helpful. At points I wish he developed some options for interpretation more thoroughly.

Calvin’s Commentary on 1 Peter. This was one of the commentaries from the past I used. I typically use at least one to get a sense of how a book was understood by the theologians of the past (in touch with our heritage). I pulled quite a few quotes from Calvin. There were a few times I had serious questions about his exegesis. I found this less helpful than Calvin usually is.

In our church library I discovered an old Christian Counselor’s Commentary on 1 Peter by Jay Adams. It is now part of a larger volume. The focus is not exegesis, but application. At times I can struggle with application, so his short, pointed statements helped me think through some application.

Years ago I read the Tyndale New Testament Commentary volume on 1 Peter by Wayne Grudem. The appendices in the back are probably the most helpful part of this commentary. Otherwise the commentary seemed to be rather pedestrian, except in the controversial last paragraph of 1 Peter 3. I didn’t find myself challenged by this commentary.

Martin Luther’s Commentary on Peter & Jude was my other commentary to stay in touch with our heritage. This was not Luther on Romans. There were a few great quotes, but that was about it. He went off on unhelpful tangents at times.

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Presuppositions and Critical Questions:

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

vv. 2

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

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

vv. 3

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

 

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

The man is the head of a woman

God is the head of Christ

 

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

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

Woman (guna) woman, wife

 

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

Authority or Source?

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

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

 

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

Debating Source

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

 

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

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

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

 

Christ is in authority over every man

The man is in authority over a woman

God is in authority over Christ

 

Or

 

Christ is the source of every man

The man is the source of a woman

God is the source of Christ

 

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

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

Or these:

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

 

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

 

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

 

Which makes more sense in the context?

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Covenant Headship (Roles)

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

 

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

 

In terms of Being or Essence

God => Christ => man and woman.

Both are made in the image of God

Both have equal access thru Christ

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Cessationist-Continuationist debate is not one I enter into often.  You can find far too many straw man arguments.  And personal attacks.  Cooler heads rarely prevail. It is not really a position you can “proof-text” and it polarizes people.

People often have a hard time distinguishing the ordinary from extraordinary.  This distinction is made in the Westminster Confession of Faith with regard to means God uses to bring someone to saving faith (XIV, 1).  For instance, should the ordinary means of hearing the gospel not be available, God may use extraordinary means to convert a person.  Those cases are rare, and are not to be expected by us.

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Yesterday I went to a pastor’s seminar sponsored by Phoenix Seminary, the Alliance Defense Fund and the Center for Arizona Policy.  One of the speakers was Wayne Grudem, relating material from his new tome Politics According to the Bible.  I say tome because it is a mammoth 600 pages.  But it looks good.

The first chapter covers some of the errors people make in thinking about politics and Christianity.  It was interesting to see who Gregory Boyd gets farther and farther from a biblical worldview (Shane Clairborn’s Jesus for President seems to have been influenced by his governments are satanic error).

Grudem’s basic argument is that God’s people (in Scripture) have often influenced governments.  Joseph had a profound influence on Egypt, Daniel was instrumental in Babylon, Esther changed policy under Xerxes, and Nehemiah served as governor under the Persians.  Paul dialogued with Felix about faith and righteousness.  So, Grudem’s view in light of Scripture and our particular circumstances here in America is one of Christians influencing government as one way in which we do good works and love our neighbors.  He then goes on to examine particular issues pertinent to our circumstances today: economics, health care, environmental issues etc.  Here is a sermon of his, Biblical Principles Concerning Government.

Since we are in an election cycle, the issue of politics is a hot topic.  Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist recently preached Jesus Paid Taxes from Mark 12 (which Grudem referenced yesterday).  Collin Hansen thinks it is the best sermon on politics he’s heard.

Justin Taylor also has a few posts (here and here) on another book that is about to be released called City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era.  Tim Keller has written the forward.  One author, Michael Gerson lectured on The City of God at the Kuyper series for the Center for Public Justice.

Carl Trueman has a new book on the subject out as well called Republocrat: Confessions of a Liberal Conservative.  There are some sample pages available.

Politics are important since we do live in the world.  I think these are books and sermons that will help us think biblically politics and our relationship to the state as individual Christians and churches.

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In chapter 4 of The Radical Disciple, John Stott moves into our responsibility beyond ourselves.  I think he does well to address the issue of creation care.  I just think he didn’t address it well.

The creation mandate reveals our relationship to creation as God’s stewards of creation.  We were meant to subdue it, make it productive and habitable.  Man was meant to imitate God in his creative wisdom.  As his image, were to represent his rule to the rest of creation.

Adam’s disobedience changed a few things.  Our task was made more difficult.  The creation was subject to frustration.  It produces weeds and thistles, and we have to work very hard to produce fruit, veggies and grain.

But something else happened.  We moved in two extremes.  First, some began to worship created things and/or creation (Romans 1).  Abram, before his conversion, was most likely a worshiper of Sin, the Mesopotamian sun god.  The Egyptians, whom the original audience of Genesis was well aware, worshiped many gods of created things.  The Lord proved his superiority (and the vanity of their idolatry) in the plagues.  He whooped up on their gods!

Second, some exploit creation.  They utilize the resources in a destructive way, like strip mining.  We see both of these sinful tendencies in Avatar.  The Navi had a pantheistic world in which all was part of god.  The humans exploited Pandora, just as they had exploited the earth.  Sadly, there are no real heroes in that story.

That’s the basic biblical framework in which Christians should ponder creation care as we follow Jesus who created and sustains all that is (John 1, Colossians 1) and will renew creation at the consummation (Romans 8, Revelation 21-22).  Salvation has cosmic, not just individual, aspects.  We must realize that, but without going to either of the 2 extremes.

“But we can surely say that just as our understanding of the final destiny of our resurrection bodies should affect how we think of and treat our bodies we have at present, so our knowledge of the new heaven and earth should affect and increase the respect with which we treat it now.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mohler today is a committed complementarian.

And now, the rest of the story.

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Before vacation I got a flyer for a seminar by Wayne Grudem about his book Politics According to the Bible.  For going to the seminar, I’ll be getting a free copy.  Unless you live here in southern AZ, you can’t.  But, for the next week, WTS Bookstore has the book 40% off ($23.99).

The book looks at 5 positions on Christians and politics, and rejects them.  They are:

    ‘compel religion,’
    ‘exclude religion,’
    ‘all government is demonic,’
    ‘do evangelism, not politics,’
    ‘do politics, not evangelism.’

He proposes “significant Christian involvement in politics”.  Whether or not you agree with him, it is probably worth the read.

Here are some endorsements:

“Dr. Grudem has written a sweeping, and inspiring, guide to politics and government in the new century, a comprehensive but extremely readable and easy-to-use primer on how a Christian guided by Scripture should think about all of the many issues facing a citizen today. Politics According to the Bible will be on the desk next to the microphone in my radio studio and on the bookshelf of every Christian –left, right or center– who wants to know –really wants to know– what God has said about what man ought to do and how he ought to live today.”
– Hugh Hewitt, professor of law, Chapman University, and nationally syndicated radio talk show host

“Wayne Grudem is one of the outstanding biblical scholars in America. He’s going to handle very well any subject he tackles. I particularly appreciate his work in this area, because he looks at the relationship between religion and politics through a biblical lens. Too often we confuse ideology with revealed truth. There are sections of this book that are uncannily timely, particularly on medical ethics, the rule of the courts, and the purpose of government. This can be a wonderful resource as we face growing tensions from an ever more powerful state.”
– Chuck Colson, Founder, Prison Fellowship

“Wayne Grudem’s call for men and women of faith to be engaged in the public life of our great country is precisely and exactly the call the rising generation needs to hear. Our duty as Christians is to recognize the vital differences between the city of God and the city of man, and to be involved in the public life of our great country.”
– Timothy Goeglein, Vice President, External Relations, Focus on the Family

“If you read this year only one Christian book on politics, read Politics—According to the Bible. Wayne Grudem shows how we should approach more than fifty specific issues. His biblically-based good sense overwhelms the nostrums of Jim Wallis and the evangelical left. Wayne also shows why those seeking a vacation from politics need to rise up and go to work.”
– Marvin Olasky, editor-in-chief, World, and provost, The King’s College, New York City

“Conservative and hard-hitting both biblically and culturally, Grudem’s treatise is essentially a giant tract for the times, covering the whole waterfront of America’s political debate with shrewd insight and strong argument. This book will be a valued resource for years to come, and right now no Christian can afford to ignore it. An outstanding achievement!”
– J. I. Packer, Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology, Regent College, Vancouver

Other books they currently have on sale include:

The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology: Vos and Owen by Richard Barcellos.  Vos and Owen, this has got to be heady stuff, but I’m intrigued.

The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life by Dale Ralph Davis.  The book looks at Psalms 1-12, and the title alone is enough to suck me in.

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Attack on the Mind, Morals and Meaning by Nancy Pearcy.  The title says it all.

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I was disappointed to see that Wayne Grudem backtracked on his baptismal compromise.  At the time he discussed this in his Systematic Theology, he was in an Evangelical Free Church.  According to Grudem (since I didn’t know this and could be wrong) they accept people baptized as infants into membership without baptizing them again.  They are the only denomination that does this, and he now thinks this is a mistake although the EFC has maintained peace with this compromise.  I do believe that Bethlehem Baptist, where Piper is pastor, does this as well, though such people cannot be in leadership.  The Acts 29 Network also allows some freedom among its churches on this practice.

If you read my other posts on baptism, you can see that I believe the Bible teaches 1st generation Christians to be baptized at conversion (based on profession of faith), and to baptize their children (as Paul discusses Abraham in Romans 4).  Where some go wrong, I think, is in forgetting that Paul’s letters were written to 1st generation Christians who were baptized on profession.  So in 1 Corinthians they all had put on Christ.  But this would not rule out infant baptism for a man who believed the Old Testament Scriptures are useful to train us in righteousness.

In my denomination this is becoming a problem.  In our church plants many families choose not to baptize their children.  So the question becomes… do we put them on church rolls?  Are they considered a part of the visible Church?  Obviously credo-baptists have a difficult time calling them part of the visible church (consistently) if they have not been baptized- the sign of entrance into the community of Jesus.

In our congregation, we do not have unanimity on this issue.  Our standard for membership is that you have been baptized- not when you have been baptized.  We strongly encourage people to baptize their children.  Although I may think they are wrong to not do so, we do not exercise church discipline on them.  We see this as a matter of disagreement among brothers.

I have long wished more groups could see it this way.  My mother-in-law had to be baptized again to join a church in rural NY.  If you have been in upstate NY, you know that there are not many church options.  This church asked her to violate her conscience so she could join and participate fully in the life of the church- instead of remaining a second class citizen.  I think this is horrific.

I think it is horrific that we allow a sacrament meant to unite all Christians to divide Christians who simply disagree on when baptism should be administered.  We all agree it points to more than getting wet- that it is a picture of the gospel, that baptism itself does not save.  I don’t want to violate people’s conscience on a matter that is not essential to their salvation.  And I don’t want mine violated as well (I was baptized as an adult- but I want to be free to baptize my children believing this is what God commands me to do).

This is an issue that will not go away.  It will become all the more important with church plants in relatively unreached areas.  Whose baptism will you accept?  I’ll do my piece on mode of baptism later- which will make most of the debate on that a bunch of meaningless hot air.  Really, brothers & sisters, why are we fighting about this (and I love a good theological debate)?

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More about Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

You don’t need to have a church of 75-150 to need a cup.  Lately Satan has been ‘showing’ up, and I’ve been brought to my knees trying to catch my breath.  I have to keep reminding myself that what Satan intends to destroy or discourage, the Father intends for His glory by revealing the power of the Gospel.

There sure what alot God intended for Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll in this phase.  Here it gets uncomfortable if you are a cessationist.  Some, but not all of this, would fit into the proposal by Wayne Grudem in The Gift of Prophecy.  Beyond that, I guess the way I’d skim that would be to say that what God “said” to Mark is not binding on all of us, but merely fitting to the situation in which he found himself.  There have been experiences I’ve had that I can’t explain.  But Mark was glad that God did not abandon him, because it was really hitting the fan.

First, an older, mentor-type guy tried to take over the church.  Unknown to Mark, until later, he’d done this before.  Then large parts of the music team fell under the influence of revisionist, postmodern theology which characterizes the emergent branch of the movement.  One of the most talented teachers also drank from the reconstructionist stream and dragged a bunch of people to a mystical RC church and new age meetings.  Then were the people who wanted him and his wife to spend all day with them. 

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