Saturday, March 21, 2009

The God Who Hides Himself?

I find myself constantly returning to Andreas Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner’s book titled “Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15.” Each time I return to the book, I get fresh thoughts to blog about on the site.

Returning to the book, I once again found myself in the last chapter of the book—a chapter written by Dorothy Patterson (a woman’s reflections on the material in the book). For the last day or two on the blog, I have been discussing the similarities of theological belief between the Calvinist and Complementarian—both are determinist and believe that God has ordained EVERYTHING that humans do in the entire course of their existence. If God operated according to the Calvinist mindset, no one would work because he or she would have to sit in a car in the yard and wait for God to tell them “go” so they could go to work (and by then, their job would be no more).

Dorothy Patterson serves today as another piece of evidence for the link between Calvinism and Complementarianism. In her section on “The Ministries of Women,” Patterson writes:

“Preaching to and ruling over men are not the only frontline ministries in the kingdom. Women are called just as men are and sometimes to the same tasks, but these tasks are often set within different venues. THE BOUNDARIES ARE NOT DETERMINED BY GIFTEDNESS OR EVEN OPPORTUNITY BUT BY DIVINE ASSIGNMENT. Women, as men, are equally called, but as women they are not NECESSARILY ASSIGNED the same tasks as men. In 1 Timothy, THE BOUNDARIES HAPPEN TO BE BASED ON GENDER” (Patterson, “What Should a Woman Do in the Church?” from “Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” page 169).

Notice an apparent contradiction: first, Patterson says that the “divine assignment” is what determines the place of each believer in the church. Next, Patterson then goes and contradicts her first statement: “the boundaries happen to be based on gender.” Which is it? Are the gifts based on divine assignment or gender? In addition, look at how Patterson AUTOMATICALLY DISCREDITS giftedness—while she includes “giftedness” in the first statement, she prizes “gender” so much that IF there is something other than divine assignment that determines who gets what gift, it WOULD HAVE TO BE GENDER!!

However, I want the reader to stop and analyze this for themselves. Go through the Scriptures (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4) and tell me, WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT THE GIFTS ARE GIVEN ACCORDING TO GENDER? Nowhere in Scripture do we find the words, “the gifts are given according to gender: And to men He gave pastors, apostles, prophets, and teachers. And to women He gave choir singers, musicians, women’s Bible study teachers, women’s conference speakers, and nursery workers.”

But Patterson shows us something else in her assessment of the issue of women in ministry: she DISCONNECTS giftedness from divine assignment. In her eyes, no matter how gifted a woman may be in something, she can only do that which she is gifted for as long as she doesn’t contradict Patterson’s 1 Timothy 2 interpretation. So now, Patterson is contradicting 1 Corinthians 12, which tells us that the Spirit gives gifts “As He wills.” Evidently, Patterson hasn’t read 1 Corinthians 12…

How can a person know what gift he or she has? It is physically manifested in their lives and in the presence of God’s people. It is there for all to see, so everyone will know where God has placed that person in the Body of Christ. But, if Complementarians (and, therefore, Calvinists) have it right, God now becomes (to state the inverse of a chapter in Udo Middleman’s book “The Innocence of God”) “the God who hides Himself,” the God who doesn’t care whether or not humanity knows anything about Him. God now becomes a masochist who gets sick, twisted pleasure out of making life miserable for His creation. Man can no longer know what God has given him because giftedness is no longer a sign.

How can a person know what to do in the Body of Christ IF there are no signs to tell them what they should be doing? How will a person know whether or not they are doing God’s will in their lives? They don’t. According to the complementarian (and Calvinist), God now has a will that He hasn’t revealed—and humans can’t know Him. Now God is UNKNOWABLE! Great—this is the reverse of THE ENTIRE CANON OF SCRIPTURE! And they say this is not heresy…

In the days to come, I will be posting on Scripture regarding giftedness and skill among the Lord’s people. For now, let me just say that the implications of Patterson’s claim are enormous: if there are no signs of giftedness, then there is no giftedness; and if there is no giftedness, then no gift was given; and if no gift was given, then the Lord has lied to us…and I tremble at the thought that Dorothy Patterson could be right and my Lord could be wrong…

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