Thursday, November 11, 2010

"No Longer Binding"

“In the first-century situation with its generally patriarchal society, where women played little part in public affairs, teaching by women could be regarded as an unacceptable breach of behavior patterns, whether among Jews or also among some Gentiles. ACCORDINGLY, THE RESTRICTION CAN BE INTERPRETED AS A CULTURALLY SHAPED PROHIBITION THAT IS NO LONGER BINDING IN A DIFFERENT SETTING. The difficulty is in the appeal to Scripture that is used to back up the prohibition. It has a twofold argument that Adam was created prior to Eve (and therefore is superior), and that it is Eve who was deceived by the serpent (with the implication that women are still more likely to be deceived than men). THIS SEEMS TO BE A DOCTRINAL RATHER THAN A CULTURAL CONSIDERATION AND IS DECISIVE FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT THE AUTHORITY OF A PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE MUST BE ACCEPTED EVEN WHEN IT SEEMS TO RUN AGAINST THE GRAIN OF NT TEACHING GENERALLY (e.g., Gal. 3:28)” (I. Howard Marshall, “1 Timothy,” from “Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey” by Kevin Vanhoozer, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009, page 166).

Have you ever had a moment in which someone you admired or had great respect for said something that you disagreed with? I had that moment when reading the above quote. Marshall writes that the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 could be interpreted as “a culturally shaped prohibition that is no longer binding...” These words trouble me greatly.

Now, I have to confess: I was raised in a very strict Christian home where the Bible was the infallible, inerrant, inspired, Word of God. No one questioned in my family that the Bible was the ultimate source of authority for godly living. But along with these presuppositions regarding Scripture was placed another presupposition: that is, that the words of Scripture themselves were always binding on God’s people; that is, that in every verse of Scripture, there was a principle that could be applied to contemporary living (as was the thought of two thousand years ago).

Imagine then, what I thought when I stumbled upon I. Howard Marshall’s words. I have great respect for Dr. Marshall. I read his work, own some of his work, and value him as a theologian and Greek scholar. But I disagree with interpreting 1 Timothy 2:12 as just a “culturally shaped prohibition.”

I think the problem with the universal principle behind 1 Timothy 2:12 involves how to take the prohibition, wrapped in its context, and “connect the bridge” (my hermeneutics professor once said) from the time of the first century to the twenty-first century. To discover the universal principle behind the verse, we must first accept the idea that the Scriptures are binding at all times, in all places. The universal binding of Scripture can be seen via two passages, 2 Timothy 3 and 2 Peter 1:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV).

“knowing this first, that NO PROPHECY OF SCRIPTURE IS OF ANY PRIVATE INTERPRETATION, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but HOLY MEN OF GOD SPOKE AS THEY WERE MOVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “all Scripture” is inspired and useful for “instruction in righteousness.” The word “all” in the Greek is “pas,” which, according to Thayer’s Dictionary means “individually, each, every, any, whole,” etc. The parts of Scripture comprise to create “all Scripture.” If this is the case, then everything that is said about “all Scripture” includes 1 Timothy 2:12. I’ll set up a syllogism:

1)”All Scripture” is inspired by God and useful.

2) 1 Timothy 2:12 is part of Scripture.

3) If all Scripture is divinely inspired and useful, and 1 Timothy 2:12 is a part of Scripture, then 1 Timothy 2:12 is divinely inspired and useful.

This being the case, we must find out what universal principle we can draw from the text itself. One of the main universal principles we can draw out of the text is to attack false teaching. In the immediate context of 1 Timothy 2 is 1 Timothy 1, where Paul gives Timothy his reason for leaving Timothy behind in Ephesus:

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia---remain in Ephesus THAT YOU MAY CHARGE SOME THAT THEY TEACH NO OTHER DOCTRINE” (1 Timothy 1:1).

“knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate...and if there is any other thing that is CONTRARY TO SOUND DOCTRINE” (1 Tim. 1:9-10).

“desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (1 Tim. 1:7).

In the immediate context of chapter 2, the issue that plagues the church at Ephesus is false teaching. So, a universal principle could be, “contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and put down the false teaching. Paul does this himself when he writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Here, Paul was setting the record straight: it was not Adam who was deceived (“Adam was not deceived”), it was Eve; and Adam was first in creation, not Eve (“Adam was formed first, then Eve”).

Now, by providing words above, I don’t mean to say that ONLY WOMEN who are teaching false doctrine should be put down. This is where I stand against many conservatives: I think that the Bible’s emphasis is to put down false teaching always, regardless of whether it comes from a man or a woman (1 Tim. 6:3-5; 1 Tim. 4; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; Titus 1:10-14 and Titus 2; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Colossians 2:8-10; Galatians 3-5; Romans 11; etc).

Scripture seems to attack false teaching, from beginning to end. Even after the Pastorals (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) there is attack made on false teaching in the letters of 2 Peter, Jude, and so on. I. Howard Marshall errs in his argument when he writes that the prohibition is possibly a “culturally-shaped” prohibition without a universally binding principle. If one believes the Bible to be the ultimate authoritative standard for the Christian life, then one must affirm the universally-binding principles of the Word of God. Someone who fails to affirm a universal principle in the teaching prohibition might feel the need someday to argue that the biblical teaching on the exclusivity of Christ as “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) is only a temporary statement as well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Female Rabbi Ordained in Germany

Dear Readership,

I just stumbled today upon this article regarding a female, Alina Treiger, who was just ordained to be the first female rabbi since 1935. If I'm not mistaken, Alina Treiger was ordained to the German rabbi circle on November 4, 2010. To read the article, go here:,,6188567,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

I desire to know your thoughts on this somewhat history-making event for Germany. Please comment here to give me some feedback. I'm sure this will make for interesting discussion.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"A Deeper Theological Issue"

“Why this concern to separate the roles of men and women and to silence women teachers in the church’s worship? At the practical level, SILENCING WOMEN TEACHERS CUT THE FALSE TEACHING OFF AT ITS SOURCE---wealthy women, as we have seen, were probably financing the false teachers and spreading the false teachers’ heresy themselves, and younger widows, happily released from any obligation to marry and care for children, were going about from house to house teaching the heresy” (Frank Thielman, “Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach.” Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005, page 419).

Reading the above quote from Frank Thielman’s New Testament Theology encouraged my heart somewhat. I stayed up late this morning to see what he had to say about the Pastoral Epistles. I’ve read a great deal of his theology textbook this semester and I like the things he has to say. His work has been impeccable, in all of the letters of the NT he traces. So I wanted to know his thoughts. Immediately, I began to think of the site here, “Men and Women,” and it became clear to me that I would have a blog post---whether it would be a positive or negative one, I would have something new to add to the work done here.

I sat down and read attentively. And in his section titled “The Church Gathered For Worship,” I read the above quote. All along, Thielman implicated women in the false teaching at Ephesus:

“...false teachers are ‘ruining whole households’ (Titus 1:11). They apparently do this by insinuating themselves into homes and CONVINCING ALREADY CORRUPT WOMEN OF THEIR FALSE TEACHING (2 TIM. 3:6). PERHAPS WE CAN ALSO LINK TOGETHER PAUL’S claim that a desire for wealth motivated the false teachers (1 Tim. 6:5; cf. 6:6-10, 17-19), his concern that women not make ostentatious displays of their wealth (2:9), and HIS CONCERN THAT WOMEN NOT TEACH IN THE CHURCH (2:11-14). WEALTHY WOMEN IN EPHESUS MAY HAVE BEEN PAYING THE FALSE TEACHERS TO TUTOR THEM AND THEN CONVEYING THE FALSE TEACHING THEY LEARNED TO THE CHURCHES THAT MET IN THEIR HOUSES” (Thielman, 412).

“If men in the church are involved in angry disputes, they cannot lift holy hands in prayer, and if their behavior hinders their prayers, then it also hinders the advancement of the gospel (2:1-8). If WOMEN IN THE CHURCH ARE abandoning modesty and like Eve, succumbing to Satan’s offer of sinful knowledge, AND THEN TEACHING THIS ERROR TO OTHERS (2:9-14; 5:15), then their very salvation is threatened (2:15)” (414).

“WOMEN---particularly the wealthy women who may have paid the false teachers to tutor them, and the younger widows whom the church has supported from its common funds---ARE APPARENTLY AMONG THE CHIEF ADVOCATES OF THE HERESY THAT HAS LED TO THIS BEHAVIOR. WEALTHY WOMEN ARE PERHAPS TEACHING THE HERESY IN THEIR HOUSES while the men spend church meetings not in prayer but in angry disputes about the heresy. THE YOUNGER WIDOWS, freed by the largesse of the church from the responsibilities of marriage and child-rearing, which they do not believe in anyway, CAN SPEND THEIR TIME MAKING THE ROUNDS OF BELIEVERS’ HOUSEHOLDS ADVOCATING THE FALSE TEACHING” (417).

In these four references (the beginning quote plus the three quotes above), Thielman seems to link women with the false teaching: not only were they listening to it and entertaining it, they were also teaching it themselves. In the first quote above, Thielman states that to prohibit women from teaching would stop the spread of heresy. Since women were the ones propagating and clinging to the heresy, prohibiting the women teaching would stop the false teachers’ influence in the church at Ephesus. In turn, the false teachers would have to find some other way to stir up trouble (aside from the women).

But this is where Thielman then takes a turn for the worse:

“As is already apparent from Paul’s willingness to separate the roles of the sexes in worship in 2:8-9 and to silence all women teachers in 2:12, however, a deeper theological issue is at stake in this gender-specific ordering of worship. Paul states this issue explicitly in 2:13-15. God fashioned human beings in two genders, male and female, and the order in which he created them implies distinct roles in the church for each gender...women should submit to the authority of the church’s male leadership because ‘Adam was formed first, then Eve’ (2:13). Men, rather than women, should teach BECAUSE EVE RATHER THAN ADAM WAS SATAN’S FIRST VICTIM IN THE DECEPTION THAT LED TO THE DISOBEDIENCE DESCRIBED IN GENESIS 3:6. THE IMPLICATION IS CLEAR: Adam and Eve violated the divine ordering of the genders when Eve led Adam to disobey God’s command” (419).

Up to this point, Thielman has shown us in context that women were involved in teaching heresy; that women were not only soaking up the teaching but spreading that to others, presumably other women in the congregation. In addition there is evidence that these women may very well have been told to “learn in silence with full submission” (2:11) because they had been disrupting the learning process during worship services. But how then, does his last statement connect to the four quotes he made prior to this last one?

What I’m asking is, “How can Thielman connect women to false teaching in the context of 1 Timothy 2 and then “broaden” the scope of teaching to all teaching in general in his application of the text? Yes, hermeneutics (the study of biblical interpretation) teaches us that context-specific principles can be generalized and applied to everyday life; but why can this text not refer to anyone teaching falsely, whether it be man or woman? And why can’t it be the case that women are not to teach heresy, not that they are prohibited from teaching sound doctrine?

For Thielman, the answer is found in Paul’s usage of Genesis. I have stated here at the site, however, that Paul writes “And Adam was not deceived” for a reason: if Genesis does not provide these words, why does Paul use them? He does so to defend the Law as it was being attacked in the book of Genesis. Thielman notes this as well (page 410), but does not make the connection. He even goes on to talk about the Nag Hammadi document “On the Origin of the World,” which states that “the goddess Pistis Sophia created the god of Genesis (‘the ruler’) and then withdrew to her region of light, leaving ‘the ruler’ with the impression that ‘[he] alone existed’” (Thielman, 410; quoting “On the Origin of the World”). However, Thielman still does not put two and two together that, if the Gnostic document claimed that the woman “created the god of Genesis,” that she must have been seen as having been created first---before the man. Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:13 make sense in light of this document. Paul then, was trying to refute the false (Gnostic) teaching that Eve was created before Adam, by affirming what the Bible teaches--- that Adam was created before Eve.

Thielman goes to such lengths to argue women as propagators of the false heresy (and students of the false teachers), not to mention that “proto-Gnostic teaching” (Thielman, 422) comprised the nature of the false teaching prevalent via women in the church at Ephesus. Why then, when he comes to his application, does he divorce the issue of false teaching from the application? Does God not want us to stomp out false teaching today? Does the Lord no longer care when falsehood is being taught in our pulpits, classrooms, and churches? Is it okay for Sunday School lessons to be plagued with gross statements about God that detract from (rather than reflect) His character? If God is still committed to this, then why is this theme of “anti-false teaching” not provided in Thielman’s analysis? Why is it that the point of Paul’s prohibition to the women is to keep them from teaching or holding offices of leadership in the churches?

In the end, all we receive of Thielman’s response to my questions above is “a deeper theological issue is at stake in this gender-specific ordering of worship” (419). But how do we know this “deeper theological issue” is really present in the text? In fact, Thielman’s words about women and the creation order are only mentioned for the first time in his modern-day application. All throughout his exegesis, he has focused on the false teaching and its impact. He has failed to do his homework and show us why Paul was so concerned with “putting women in their place” in the epistle.

Wanna know what my analysis is? I think Paul was concerned with the women neglecting duties of childbearing and homecare because to focus on such duties would prevent women from being prey to the false teachers and their heresy. Paul wanted women to do what was godly so that, by their example, they could serve as leaders in the church. After all, “if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5, NKJV).

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What I Didn't Expect To Find...

I fought the urge to go to class today. Fall Break just came and went, almost as if it had never come. And sitting in my apartment today, I said out loud, “I don’t wanna go to class.”
I usually get in this “I-don’t-wanna-go” mood a lot...but a dear friend said to me, “Go to class” off to class I went.

I never expected to get to class and deal with the discussion of women in ministry. This subject has been mentioned before in my class, but whenever the topic arises, I know the theological slant of my professor and fellow I just let it go and try to find something else with which to occupy my mind. Usually, I’ve found that when one disagrees, the best way to keep from getting angry is to find something else upon which to focus one’s attention. Sometimes, aversion is bliss...

Today, the text that my class spent almost an hour on was the controversial passage of 1 Timothy 2. My professor spent time examining this passage, telling the seminar class that “I’m a complementarian because of 1 Timothy 2.” For him, the chapter itself gives specific instructions (with no details hidden) that women are not to have spiritual authority over men in the church. I stayed quiet during the one-hour discussion because I wanted to find out my professor’s reason for so believing.

He did state, however, during his lecture time on the passage that “I think the best case an inerrantist can make for the egalitarian position is to argue that Paul wrote to Timothy regarding a specific case in the church at Ephesus, but that this specific situation was for the time of Paul’s letter and is not for today.”

Now, before I go on, let me say that I believe that Scripture itself can always show us something in the current era. We never arrive at a place where we have “outgrown” the Word of God. So, as an inerrantist (one who believes Scripture to be without error), I believe that Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2 are meant to teach us a universal principle. I simply disagree with complementarians over the nature of that universal principle (“what” the principle is).

After conceding that an inerrantist could hold to a rather formidable position (i.e., the church faced a specific, unusual situation) on the passage, the professor said, “Now, I’ll show you why I think the passage is teaching a universal principle. Turn to 1 Timothy 2.” With those words, the class (me included) feasted our eyes on a passage that I’ve read, seemingly, a million times. And then, the professor told us to turn to verse 13. The verse reads,

“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression” (1 Timothy 2:13, NKJV).

The professor then said, “See, Adam was created first. This holds true for today, right? As a result, I think that this verse shows that Paul’s prohibition is still binding for all women in the church at all times.”

Let me first credit the prof with what he did right: first, he started at the beginning of the prohibition (1 Tim. 2:11), and it’s always a good thing to start at the beginning of any passage. However, let me now critique the prof: he did not finish the passage itself; rather, he arrived at verse 13 and read no further. What about verses 14 and 15? Don’t they play a role in the interpretation of the prohibition as well?

Let’s go back and evaluate the professor’s reasoning. Verse 13, according to him, is still binding today. That is true: Adam, according to Scripture, was created before Eve. That hasn’t changed, and neither has the Law (all of the Old Testament). God’s Word never changes, and, since this be the case, then Genesis has not changed. When it states that Adam was the first human created by God, it means it.

But my question to this prof would have been, “What about verse 14?” Why does Paul get defensive in his stance regarding Adam? That is, why does Paul state that “Adam was not deceived”? Where in the Scriptures themselves do we find these words? We don’t---not even in Genesis. So the fact that Paul is having to defend Adam’s non-deception and Eve’s deception lends credence to the idea that Paul is writing his prohibition against women in order to defend the Law---not because he’s giving a word or two on what he thinks women ought to do in the church.

And what about context? Does not 1 Timothy 1 serve as the immediate, surrounding context to 1 Timothy 2? Why was 1 Timothy 1 not consulted when the prof arrived at his interpretation? Now the professor did note that “there is much related to false teaching going on in the letter”; however, why not read the verses on that material to let the class see why the egalitarian position has some strength? Why instead, would the prof turn to the class and ask them, “What do you think are some of the possible evidences egalitarians would use to defend women in ministry?”

And this prof happens to be one who always says, “A text means what it means in its context.” If the text cannot be divorced from the context, then why does he divorce the text from its context in his own interpretation? If one has to go against his own beliefs in interpretation (i.e., if the prof has to take the passage out of context), doesn’t this signal that something is wrong with the interpretation? If we cannot sin and expect grace to abound (Romans 3:5-8), then how can we disconnect text from context and expect our interpretation to be correct? How can one start wrong and end up right? And if one starts wrong and ends up right, does this create a “Machiavellian” hermeneutic, where the end (i.e., what I think the text says) justifies the means (whether or not I place the passage in its context)?

What I didn’t expect to find today was a discussion on 1 Timothy 2. What I also didn’t expect to find, however, was a transgression of hermeneutic principles in the name of what he believed to be the right interpretation. Chalk it all up to what happens when we become the traditions we espouse so dearly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gnosticism In The Pastorals, Pt. II: Eve's Song

“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20, New King James Version).

The word “contradictions” here in the NKJV is the word “antitheseis” in the Greek, meaning “anti” (against) and “theseis” (arguments). The word “antithesis,” then, means “against arguments.” Used in the context of 1 Timothy 6:20, Paul is saying to Timothy that he should avoid the “arguments against” the truth from “pseudonumou gnoseos,” meaning “false-named knowledge.”

This series will take us through what are called “The Nag Hammadi Scriptures.” For those who have never been introduced to the Nag Hammadi, they are, in the words of James M. Robinson, “a collection of thirteen papyrus codices----bound books, not scrolls---that were buried near the city of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt most likely in the second half of the fourth century CE...this is indeed a dramatic escalation of source material on early Christian, Neoplatonic, Hermetic, Sethian, and Valentinian thought” (James M. Robinson, “Preface,” from “The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, The International Edition.” New York: HarperOne, 2007, page xi).

The Nag Hammadi are a collection of thirteen books that contain many different theological and philosophical treatises. The name of the Nag Hammadi was given to them because of where they were found (Nag Hammadi, Egypt). According to James Robinson, “most of the tractates are Gnostic” (xi), which leads us to believe that Gnostic thought was highly cherished by the community that lived at Nag Hammadi. It is Gnostic thought that I will be exploring in this enormous series we are embarking upon. The purpose of examining the Gnostic Gospels is so that we can see the types of teaching that existed in Gnostic thought. Upon studying the Pastorals and the Gnostic Gospels, one will understand why the context of the Pastorals had nothing to do with women in ministry and everything to do with false teaching and its destructive impact upon the church of Jesus Christ.

To begin our study of the Nag Hammadi Scriptures, I thought it would be best to start with a small section of a Gnostic work. Tonight’s small section will come from the Gnostic essay, “On the Origin of the World,” described by Marvin Meyer as “a smart Gnostic essay by an author who uses argumentation, narration, and colorful illustration in order to demonstrate the basic points of a Gnostic worldview” (“The Nag Hammadi Scriptures,” page 199).

The section I will come from in “On the Origin of the World” is Eve’s speech, called “The Song of Eve” (114, 4-24):

“Eve is the first virgin, and she gave birth to her first child without a man. She was her own physician. For this reason she is said to have declared:

I am the WIFE, I am the VIRGIN.
I am the comforter of birth pains.
And he is my father and lord.
He is my strength, he speaks of what he wants reasonably.
I AM BECOMING, but I HAVE GIVEN BIRTH TO A LORDLY PERSON’” (“Song of Eve,” from “On the Origin of the World,” 114, 4-24. From the “Nag Hammadi Scriptures, The International Edition.” New York: HarperOne, 2007, page 213).

What is a contradiction? I said it above that a contradiction, or the Greek word “antitheseis,” refers to that which “argues against” something said before it. Well, contradictions are all over the place in the Song of Eve. First, she states, “I am part of my mother, and I am the mother.” How does this occur? How can person be both an offspring AND the parent all at the same time? Were this true, Eve would have been “self-created,” which is a contradiction (and an absurdity!).

The next line “I am the wife, I am the virgin,” is also absurd. If someone is a wife (married), how then can they be a virgin (a sign of singleness)? To be a “wifely virgin” is similar to a woman who is a “married batchlorette” or a man who is a “married batchelor.” The two terms side-by-side are a contradiction, for both cannot be true at the same time. It is likely that a man could once be a “batchelor” and then “married” or vice versa; but both cannot be true simultaneously.

The next major absurdity in the Song of Eve is “My husband produced me, and I am his mother.” How can Eve be the offspring of her “husband,” first of all? If she is his wife, how can she be both wife AND child? Next, if she is either wife or child, how then can she be her husband’s “mother”? These are absurdities that make no sense. And her “husband” cannot be her “father” and “lord”; all three cannot peacefully coexist. A father cannot be a husband (this is incest), and a husband cannot be a father.

Last but not least, what about “I am becoming, but I have given birth to a lordly person”? How can Eve be “becoming” and yet “begetting” at the same time? In order to give birth to a “lordly person,” Eve must be a person herself, with a fixed essence of humanness; this doesn’t exist, however, if Eve is “becoming.” Once again, the contradiction is all over the place.

To conclude, let me say that Paul was write when he wrote to Titus in Crete that he should “avoid foolish disputes...for they are UNPROFITABLE and USELESS” (Titus 3:9). The Song of Eve is such an example: it is a song that is full of contradiction (things that go against common sense) and useless. It serves no purpose to write in the manner in which Eve’s speech is written. Is it no wonder that Paul attacked this heresy of the first-century the way he did?

Gnosticism In the Pastorals, Pt. I: Introduction to Context

“The so-called Pastoral Epistles—the two letters to Timothy and the letter to Titus—,which go back to the beginning of the second century and were perhaps written in Ephesus, discuss the Gnostic heresy, which they explicitly name ‘Gnosis,’ less intensively, but they insist the more on a strict separation; the pursuit of Gnosis is thought to be useless. The soil is here prepared for the later polemic against the heretics: the false teaching is contrasted with the right, sound teaching, the abandonment of which means apostasy from truth, reason and conscience…little can be learned about the ideas of THE REJECTED HERESY; IT SEEMS TO BE A STRANGE MIXTURE OF GNOSTIC DOCTRINES AND JEWISH PIETY, A JEWISH-CHRISTIAN FORM OF GNOSIS. MYTHS (I.E. FABLES) AND GENEALOGIES PLAY A PART, EVIDENTLY IN THE SENSE OF GNOSTIC PLEROMA SPECULATIONS AND INTERPRETATIONS OF THE LAW. ONE GLORIES IN HIGHER KNOWLEDGE AND MAKES ASCETIC DEMANDS AS E.G. ABSTINENCE FROM MARRIAGE AND THE CONSUMPTION OF CERTAIN FOODS” (“Gnosis: The Nature & History of Gnosticism” by Kurt Rudolph. Edinburgh: T&T Clark Limited, 1984, pages 302-303).

Kurt Rudolph argues in the quote above that Gnostic teaching existed in churches of the first century (after Christ’s ascension). First, he tells us that “the Gnostic heresy…which they explicitly name GNOSIS” is the name of the false teaching in the church. To demonstrate this, Rudolph cites 1 Timothy 6:20—

“O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of WHAT IS FALSELY CALLED KNOWLEDGE” (1 Tim. 6:20, NKJV).

The Greek word for “knowledge” is “gnosis.” “Gnosis” is the noun form of “knowledge,” but a word similar to “gnosis” is “ginosko,” meaning “to know.” This is where the word “gnosticism” comes from. Gnosticism is “the study of knowledge.”

Rudolph tells us that “little can be learned about the ideas of the rejected heresy…Myths (i.e. fables) and genealogies play a part, evidently in the sense of Gnostic pleroma speculations and interpretations of the law.”

1 Timothy 1 tells us that myths and genealogies were included in the Gnostic heresy:

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to FABLES AND ENDLESS GENEALOGIES, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith” (1 Timothy 1:3-4, NKJV).

The Greek word “genealogiais,” from which our English word “genealogies” derives, refers to a record of birth, a family line or family tree. According to Thayer’s Dictionary of the New Testament, the word “genealogiais” refers to “a record of descent or lineage.” The heresy of the first century, therefore, involved issues of creation order. I will not go into great discussion now, but “genealogies” may be the problem that Paul is getting at in 1 Timothy 2:12-14, when Paul states that “Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13). The reason behind why Paul must argue that Adam was the origin (“author” or “authentikos”) of man is because the women there were arguing that Eve was created first. This will be a most interesting thing to explore when we dive into the Gnostic Gospels themselves.

Not only were myths and genealogies a problem for Timothy at Ephesus, they also troubled Titus on the island of Crete. Paul writes:

“But avoid foolish disputes, GENEALOGIES, contentions, and STRIVINGS ABOUT THE LAW; for they are unprofitable and useless” (Titus 3:9).

As we can see, genealogies are also a problem at the church in Crete. In addition to this, though, we find that the Law and “strivings about” it are problems as well. The Law was also a problem for the church at Ephesus:

“From which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk, DESIRING TO BE TEACHERS OF THE LAW, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm. But WE KNOW THAT THE LAW IS GOOD, IF ONE USES IT LAWFULLY, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate…and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:6-10).

The Law, being the Old Testament Scriptures, was also a part of the chaos at the church at Ephesus as well. Paul, however, wanted Timothy to know that the Law is not bad in and of itself—but it can be bad based upon how the Law is used. If the Law is used in a good way, then it will do much good…but if it be used in a wrong way, it will do much harm. We also see that there are those who desire to teach, but are saying the wrong things and don’t understand that they are propagating heresy and false teaching. Perhaps the women of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 are included here…

One more thing to point out: since the Law itself is involved in the chaos of the churches of Ephesus and Crete, perhaps the Law has something to do with Paul’s need in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 to affirm that Adam was created first and Eve was the one deceived. These events would line up with the events of Genesis chapters 1-3. After all, Genesis is a book of the Law (the OT Scriptures), is it not??

There are other things Rudolph includes in the above quote that I will leave for future days. At the moment, however, let me just say that the goal of this post was to provide for my readership a chance to “peek” into the issues of the Pastorals (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) and what they can reveal to us about the Gnostic heresy of the first century. While the Gnostic movement was not as formalized as it was in the second and third centuries (one-hundred to two-hundred years later), the ideas were certainly floating around the church. I will begin to glean evidence from Scripture regarding the false teaching in my next post.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Early Church and Gnosticism: The Context Behind the Pastorals

Dearest Readership,

What a joy it is to write this announcement! I am so thankful to the Lord that He has allowed me the opportunity to return to my personal blog ("Men and Women") and continue writing to the glory of God.

I desire to announce that the work here at Men and Women in the Church will begin to take a different turn from the last series I did here. That series was on the Trinity and how we see good news for women in the fact that Christ's subordination on earth was not an eternal subordination. To have a situation of "God in hierarchy" in eternity would lead to such heresies as "tritheism" (three Gods, instead of one God) and the Lord Jesus Himself would be beneath us in eternity. Even Jesus said in the Gospels that there will be no marriage in heaven---which means that male headship in the home will not last forever! And if the church of God is supposed to be the visible sign of the kingdom of God come to earth, then we have got to stop completely living with a "life on earth is how it is" mentality. If we are now sons of God, we have to prepare for the day when we will fully live out that sonship...this means, then, that men have got to stop thinking in terms of power and control and begin to think of what life in Christ is really all about.

Those who stress the differences of the Trinity members do so at great peril; those who stress the similarities too much begin to conflate the Trinity (and the Son and Father, for instance, could be labeled the same person in this mindset). What believers must learn to do is demonstrate both the similarities and differences of the Trinity members. But we must not let go of the fact that, whether it be "Father," "Son," or "Spirit," none are "less God" than the other members. All three members of the Trinity are God, and share the essence of divinity. Because of this, neither can be "eternally subordinate" to the others, in the same way that no one human is eternally subordinate to any other human.

The new series will deal with a subject that I have been wanting to approach for a long time: that is, the context of the Pastorals. I have written some work here on complementarian scholars who argue that Gnosticism and false teaching is not the context of the Pastorals, and that the real issue is the role of women in the church. I intend to look at the Pastorals themselves to glean all the info we can about the situations that existed in the letters themselves; next, I intend to focus on how the details of the Pastorals "line up" with what we know of Gnosticism and the Gnostic Gospels. In addition, I will provide quotes from the church fathers themselves, who battled Gnosticism from even within the church (take Marcion for example, who even truncated down his version of the canon, even diminishing the amount of material in Luke's Gospel; Luke's was all he kept in his version of the Scriptures). All of this research is geared at showing believers that Paul did battle Gnosticism in his day (what scholars call "Proto-Gnosticism," meaning "first Gnostic thought").

It is my prayer that this will put to rest the idea that the Pastorals are just all about church leadership and that they are simply manuals for church leadership. While Paul does provide administrative counsel in these letters, he does so because of the atmosphere at the time: the church was battling false teaching from without that was being brought "within" the church. No wonder then, that Paul could write to the Corinthians, "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3, NKJV)!

Thanks so much for your support...and I apologize for my time away. For those of you who desire to see what I've been working on in all the time I've been away, please read posts written at my other blog, "Center for Theological Studies." I've done some interesting work there on the Doctrine of Eternal Security (or Doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints) as well as discussed issues of hermeneutics in the biblical text. I think the church needs to know what hermeneutics is and how valuable it was to the early church (and should be to us today).

Continue to pray for me and the work done here in cyberspace. May God grant you the opportunity to hang in here with me as we embark on this exciting series. May the Lord bless you and keep you until the day of His return.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

When Theory Meets Practice: What Happens When Complementarians "Practice What They Preach"

Just this past week, I stopped by a local bookstore. I enjoy spending time “lusting” amongst the shelves, loaded with nothing but academically-delicious books (yes, I just made that phrase up!). While in there, I talked with a woman who is a higher-up in the bookstore, second in command only to another manager. She runs the day-to-day work in the bookstore, and everyone who works the cashiers and all take orders from her. Needless to say, she’s the “right-hand woman” around the place.

We talked some days ago about the manager, who is supposedly retiring sometime in the near future. In any case, the man who owns the place will need a new manager to run his store...and there she is, a qualified businessperson to run it, with about 15 years of experience in the store itself (the manager has worked the store for 25 years). Sadly enough, though, she probably will not be placed in charge of it guessed it! She’s a woman!

Some of the owner’s friends played golf with him one day and expressed that their sons needed jobs. Since they and the bookstore owner are such good friends, they figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask the owner for jobs for their sons; and the owner found it no trouble at all to grant their sons the jobs. The owner told the friends, “They don’t even need to interview for the positions; just tell them to be in the bookstore Monday at 9am, and the jobs are theirs.”

Monday morning came, and the sons found themselves in the bookstore. Just as the sons were putting on their uniforms, the woman (the good friend I talked with) told them, “Now, after you get your uniforms on, I need you to start stacking the new books for the new semester courses on the shelves in the back room.” All through the day, the sons found it hard to work; they were little inspired, and everything seemed to come hard. All they wanted to do was see 5pm roll around so they could go home and relax after what they believed to be a “hard day.”

As 5pm rolled around, the sons were relieved to clock out. What they wanted to do, though, was have a little chat with the store owner. Evidently, something grieved them to the point where they needed to talk about it for some time.
As they were in the office talking with the store manager, the assistant came in and overheard the conversation. “I’m glad you wanted to give me a job,” one of the sons said. “But I didn’t know that I would have to work for a woman; I thought I was working directly for you. I thought I was taking orders from you.”

“What’s wrong with my assistant, Linda?” The manager said.
“Oh, nothing’s wrong with her.” At this point all the sons chimed in.

“We think that she’s great; she helped us find all the shelves, showed us around the store, helped us with price labeling and everything. She’s great.”

“Well, then, the problem is...” At this point, the manager began to turn serious.

“Well...she’s a woman,” one son reluctantly said.

“Well, of course, she is,” the manager exclaimed. “Don’t you think I see that?”

“Don’t you have a problem with that?” One of the sons asked.

“The Bible itself teaches from 1 Timothy 2 that the man is over the woman--- ‘Adam was formed first, then Eve.’ By right, one of us should have the assistant manager’s position, and she should be reporting to us.”

The manager responded with a firm but dedicated tone. “Linda will work here as the assistant manager; and if you gentlemen don’t like that, find somewhere else to work.” The manager walked out and closed the door behind him, leaving the sons to their shame. The next day, the sons took his advice, turned in their uniforms, and left the store.

In the account above, we can see that the sons had a problem with reporting to a female. In their minds, 1 Timothy 2 entitled them to rule over a woman. No woman, regardless of experience and qualifications, should be a leader in anything; rather, she should report to a man and have a man over her. And why? Because “that’s her place.”

Funny though, but isn’t that discrimination? And yet, when it comes to the church, suddenly, discrimination isn’t all that bad. When discrimination revolves around the church, isn’t it striking that it is so highly tolerated, taught, and promoted?

This, my friends, is the result of what happens when complementarians “practice what they preach.” And, in my opinion, I think we should see it more often---prayerfully, one day, complementarians will wake up and understand how biblically incorrect, theologically-damaging, and Lord-disdaining their theology of women really is...

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Tribute To My Mother, Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956---Feb. 3, 2009): Martha and Mary

Today at the blog is a day set aside to celebrate the life of my mother, Teressa A. Richardson. For those of you who may not know, mom died at the tender age of 52 years old, having battled breast cancer, lung cancer, and finally brain cancer over a span of some three years. She would have been 54 years old this day.

Today, I’d like to set aside this day to honor mom, the woman who influenced me in so many ways to be the blog writer whose work you read daily. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: without my mother this blog would never have been created. In a sense, whenever I take up a challenge in a post and put words on the screen, it’s as if mom were here speaking them herself.

Preparing for this day was somewhat bittersweet. Some weeks ago, I began to brainstorm regarding what I would post at the blogs to honor mom. And then, I began to go over again and again in my head the type of woman mom was, the things she did, the songs she sung, the lessons she taught me and my twin sister (Danielle), and the funny stories she used to tell. I even have memories of mom’s joke e-mails. She was a senior accountant at her corporation, so she was always over a computer typing, double-checking numbers, sending e-mails, or setting up meetings. I remember the weekends when the corporation would perform what is called “inventory,” when the company had to see how many engines were in the plant (she worked at an engine plant), how many were in good condition (and good for sale), and how many were defective and needed to be rebuilt before they could sale. Mom would take my sister and I to work on random Saturdays, and we would sit at her desk (and the desk of a co-worker), and play card games, surf the web, etc. She always told us to behave ourselves because, should we have misbehaved, we might not have been able to return. According to mom, the more we behaved, the better the chances of getting to come visit her job.

The memories are many indeed...and even now, despite the heartbreak, I can still smile when I think of the three of us (Mom, Danielle, and me) together, laughing until our stomachs hurt. Usually, we were ALWAYS somewhere laughing until our stomachs hurt. To laugh until your insides hurt was a typical action in our insane family.

But mom was not only “mom,” “daughter,” “sister,” “friend,” “coworker,” and “boss”...she was also a Sunday school teacher. Mom bought commentaries galore in her lifetime. We have so many Bibles that there are enough there for twelve future grandchildren and beyond (I might be a little outrageous with the “twelve” there...). Whenever I would come home from school and classes, mom would be sitting at her dining table, pouring over the books. Even when she began to live with my grandmother (her mother) while battling cancer, she was still studying...and she was STILL pouring over the commentaries. She had so many that I had to borrow from her extensive collection! Suffice it to say that, while I attended seminary, mom “owned” a seminary of her own (lol). She told me, upon seeing my first set of books in my Master’s degree, that “I’m gonna read everything you read.” According to mom, her seminary education was coming right to her door through me!

One of mom’s favorite accounts in all of Scripture consists of the account of “Martha and Mary”:

“38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’[k] feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
41 And Jesus[l] answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42, NKJV)

The account of the text given shows us that there were two sisters, Mary and Martha, who had two different approaches to Jesus’ arrival at the home: while Martha worked hard to serve, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to hear His teaching. Martha became offended: “Lord, DO YOU NOT CARE that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (v.40).

What Martha wanted Jesus to do was scold Mary. In her mind at least, she was doing the “proper” thing while Mary was “being lazy.” In Martha’s reasoning, Jesus had arrived, and it was time to get to work, transforming the house to spotless in order that Jesus may be pleased. What Martha didn’t understand though, was that what pleased Jesus, more than the condition of the home, was THE CONDITION OF THE HEART! Instead of rebuking Mary, Jesus turns and says,

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. BUT ONE THING IS NEEDED, and MARY HAS CHOSEN THAT GOOD PART, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

Martha’s housework was really a “distraction” from what she needed most. Instead of scolding Mary, Martha needed to follow Mary’s example. Jesus’ response to her is that “one thing is needed,” that is, to sit at His feet and listen and learn. Martha, then, was worrying about things of no eternal significance. Her house cleaning would only benefit that day; but Mary’s learning would benefit her for a lifetime. We can easily see the significance of learning at the feet of Jesus over the daily fleeting pursuits that we can easily pour ourselves into.

Mom always felt as if this account was of importance to her. “God’s trying to tell me something,” she would always say. No matter where she went, whether it be to a church service or a bookstore, she always managed to find something on the “Martha and Mary” account. Martha and Mary were everywhere, and some days, she would point out a Martha and Mary book and then laugh. “The Lord just keeps letting me run into this account. What is it that He’s trying to teach me?”

The funny thing is, that when mom was diagnosed with cancer, she began to wonder about her life’s work. “I just wanna make sure that I’m doing what the Lord desires I do. I don’t wanna live my entire life and stand before Him, not having done what I was supposed to.” I used to tell her, “Mom, you won’t. You’re seeking to do what pleases Him most, and believe me, you’re either doing it now or you will get to do it.”

And when she died, I felt as if she had died too soon. I still believe that regardless of the quality of life a person lives (whether in Christ or not), fifty-two years old is still too young of an age in which to die. But my grief over her death was also due to the plans and dreams that I had for us. We had discussed my twin sister, Danielle, and figured that she would marry first (between the two of us). Then, mom and I would travel the world. She always wanted to see other countries, get a chance to travel and witness for Christ. She had such a heart for missions, and winning others to the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For her, that was the most exciting thing in all of life itself---to tell others about Jesus. And she did that: she told everyone she could about Him, even a store owner who responded, “I’ve had greater people than you tell me about Him, and I’ve not given in yet.” This same grumpy, old man who was lost and in need of Christ is the same man mom told about Jesus and the gospel. She was fearless for Christ, even in the face of doubt and rejection.

But even though mom died young, she died having done what she was placed on earth to do. I’m convinced that the “Martha and Mary” account was mom’s daily reminder of what was important. Mom had “Martha” traits: she was a parent raising a set of twins; a coworker; a boss who had people to oversee; a daughter, who financially provided for her parents with every paycheck she ever received; a sister, who needed to spend quality time with her brother, sister, and three nephews; a choir member, who often helped to organize the choir for Sundays. Even when she was tired, she would still open her mouth and sing at least one song for Christ. In addition, she was the financial secretary, managing the church finances, as well as a Sunday school teacher, who had souls to instruct from the Word of God. Mom studied for every Sunday school lesson, and taught every class with God-given energy that everyone knew came from above.

Having “Martha” traits, however, didn’t take away from the “Mary” portion: In addition to being a diligent worker for Christ, mom also realized her need to hear the Lord in her daily living and the importance of time spent hearing the Word of the Lord. I would wake up on Sundays to the smell of breakfast pervading the house (from the kitchen to my bedroom and beyond) as well as Sunday preaching on the television screen. That’s how all Sundays started. And if you happened to wake up one morning with no television on, that’s because she had the radio turned on to songs of worship. From the time we’d leave the house to the time we’d return, mom would have worship music on the radio. I was never asked to go to church on Sundays: I was going to church, like it or not. Mom took my instruction in the Word as part of her parental duties (not optional) to “bring me up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4, NKJV). And church was always important. Sundays were set aside for worship, Tuesday nights were set aside for Bible study. No questions asked!!

I miss mom today; and I’ve missed her every day for the last almost year and a half since she departed this life. But I know that when she left us, she had fulfilled her mission on earth. It turns out that the “Martha and Mary” account was one she took to heart, and implemented in all she said and did...and the fact that I am here today, studying the Word of the Lord and researching to the glory of God, testifies to just how important being a “Mary” really was to her. Sure---she was a “Martha”; But she learned how to be a “Mary”. And because she was a Mary and sacrificed much to “sit at Jesus’ feet” (study the Word, hear the Word, teach the Word to her children), she lost no time at all. On that cold February morning when she left us, she was, in that sense, the “oldest” woman in all of human existence.

If mom were here, she’d challenge you to be a “Mary.” So that’s what I’m gonna do: challenge you, my readership, to live as “Mary.” There are many things you will do throughout your lives that will have no eternal significance. But I say to you, that only what you do for Christ will last. And since our work for Christ is the only thing of eternal significance in this world (second to receiving eternal life), then we should be busy kingdom-building. How can we start today? By “sitting at Jesus’ feet,” hearing His Word, learning more of His Word. I tell you today that if we learn from my mother’s (Mary’s) example, death will take from us no time at all.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Chinese Lunch

Today I did lunch with a dear brother of mine. We had been trying to meet up together all semester, to take some time to discuss our favorite area of discussion--- THEOLOGY! So we finally met up and did a Chinese lunch today. Boy am I so glad to have brothers!!!

Our first topic of conversation involved evangelism and how to present the gospel to someone who does not believe in God and has no concern for learning about this God we believe in at all. But eventually, the conversation took a turn down a road that he and I both knew we would arrive at; and we ended up discussing two issues that seem to really flow together: the issue of Calvinism versus Arminianism (see my blog at CTS regarding the nature of this debate) issue I love here very much: the issue of men and women in the church.

We began by discussing 1 Timothy 2, a passage that, as I’ve established, has been viewed by complementarians as a passage that “decisively” (their own words) kills the issue of whether or not women should lead in the church. I took my dear brother back to 1 Corinthians 11, another passage that talks about some form of creation order. There, I showed him that men and women are BOTH dependent “in the Lord.” The sphere of God’s house is the place where men and women are functionally equal, despite the woman’s functional submission to her husband in the home. Even the husband has no independence from the wife in the church (according to 1 Cor. 11:11-12)!

Then he asked me the question, “Does dependence nullify authority?” I told him that the husband has been given headship in the home, but God holds the headship of the church, and is free to do what He pleases in His House (Eph. 5:23). If Christ is the head of the church, and headship in the church belongs to Christ, then why does the Bride have to argue over which “bride” (member) of the Bride (Church) should lead?

Finally, my brother looked at me and said that he understands the differences between Calvinists (who are also complementarians) and Arminians (egalitarians): those who are Calvinists are more likely to be complementarians because they see that God chooses not only those who will be saved, but also chooses what gender (and as a result of gender, what gifts) a person will have. Arminians, on the other hand, who believe that everything is foreknown but not predetermined (chosen beforehand), see some indeterminate aspects to life itself, that everything is not picked out by God. In his mindset, Arminians, therefore, would choose to argue for women’s equal leadership opportunities in the church.

I think there is some truth to what he is saying regarding theology; however, I don’t think that a theological grid is the most important reason why the line divides along Calvinist (complementarian) and Arminian (egalitarian) lines. The most important factor that creates the divide is the biblical text. For me as both a Classical Arminian and a conservative egalitarian, I see the Bible itself as the dividing line. I cannot agree with complementarian argumentation because ultimately, they draw “inferences” to the biblical text without sufficient biblical proof. If God truly desired to tell women what they could not do in the church, why is it not as clear as the divine command for wives to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22; 1 Pet. 3:1; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5)?? It seems that the Holy Spirit, the Author of Holy Scripture, was not hesitant when He wanted to communicate to wives the need to submit to husbands. If complementarians are so right about women in leadership, why is the Spirit extremely silent on this issue? And why is it that the church has to “draw inferences” instead of drawing from Scripture? If “the simplest answer is often the best explanation,” then the answer to the question is “the Spirit does not make prohibition of woman leadership clear because He does not desire to prohibit women from leadership in the church."

In his chapter on “Human Nature” in the work “A Theology for the Church,” John Hammett writes regarding 1 Timothy 2:

“The passage begins with a call to let women learn, a somewhat revolutionary idea in some parts of the Mediterranean world of that time. But, Paul continues, women should not teach or exercise authority over a man. BUT HOW DOES THIS TEXT RELATE TO ROLES IN THE CHURCH? It seems clear from elsewhere in Scripture that THIS IS NOT A BLANKET PROHIBITION. For example, believers are commanded to teach and admonish one another (Col. 3:16), and Paul gives instructions concerning the praying and prophesying of women (1 Cor. 11:2-16). CONTEXT SEEMS TO INDICATE THAT THE TYPE OF TEACHING AND AUTHORITY PAUL HAS IN MIND IS THAT OF AN ELDER, for the qualifications for that office is the topic Paul turns to in 1 Timothy 3, and the duties of an elder include authoritative teaching and leading. Thus, 1 Timothy 2:11-15 prohibits women from serving in the role of elder or pastor” (John Hammett, “Human Nature,” from “A Theology for the Church” by Daniel L. Akin, editor. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007, page 359).

But Hammett’s analysis here is rather subjective. Do we even read of women and elder in the same sentence in 1 Timothy 3? No. The issue of women teaching, then, is to first be investigated within the chapter of its location (which is chapter 2). Next, what about chapter 1? Hammett invests time on why women can’t teach according to chapter 3, but overlooks chapter 1 entirely. Hammett does not address the problems Paul does: (1) false teachers (1:3) and false doctrine (1:3), which consisted of “fables and endless genealogies” (1:4), as well as (2) students who desired to teach but were propagating false doctrine ignorantly (1:7). If these problems were to be incorporated into interpretation, then 1 Timothy 2 would be seen as Paul counteracting false teaching, not prohibiting women from serving in leadership roles. Hammett doesn’t address any of these mentionables of chapter 1. Why is this? It’s an interesting question indeed...

Last but not least, there is the question regarding women teaching: if women are ONLY prohibited from the office of elder and pastor (which seems to be Hammett’s conclusion), then are women prohibited from teaching men in a mixed Sunday school class? I find it fascinating that Hammett doesn’t argue against women teaching mixed Sunday school classes, and yet, so many churches prohibit women from so doing. Why is this? If scholars are not prohibiting women teaching, then why are so many churches prohibiting women from teaching? Although Hammett states that “this [1 Tim. 2] is not a blanket prohibition,” the churches sure seem convinced that it is...

Aside from Hammett’s interpretation of 1 Timothy 2, however, Hammett does make a good point about the weak argument from inference:

“Some complementarians think that the order established by God in marriage should also be an argument for a similar order within the church. Thus, just as women cannot be husbands or fathers in the family, so they cannot (or at least should not) be elders or pastors within the larger family, the church. While this view has a good deal of merit, WE ARE NOT LEFT TO SUCH AN INFERENTIAL ARGUMENT” (358).

Even Hammett admits that the above complementarian “consistency” is nothing more than an inference. And if the argument is just an inference, then we are left to Scripture to see what it tells us. And even the evidence against women as pastors (including Hammett’s analysis) is questionable.

Back to the Chinese lunch. At the end of the lunch time, I realized that my brother simply did not have a biblical text for his case. All he had was a collection of inferential arguments with no Scripture as justification. If Scripture provides no evidence against women, then the “traditional” view of complementarianism is nothing more than tradition; and if we believe the Bible to be the ultimate authority in every area of life, then we must either elevate tradition to Scripture or toss tradition out. And I know which one I about you?

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Rebel Bride: A Response to the Charge of Inconsistency

Some time ago, a friend of mine (who has been struggling with the issue of whether or not women should be elders and pastors in the modern-day church) told me that he doesn’t see evidence in the New Testament for women in pastoral leadership. His reason? According to him (and those who have instructed him), the creation order (which he believes 1 Timothy 2:12-15 teaches). My response to his statement was that if 1 Timothy 2 said what he believed it did, why is it that we read so much of wife submission (Eph. 5:22, Col. 3:18, 1 Pet. 3:1), but do not read of the submission of women to men in the church? The Scriptures, however, do command that the sheep of the flock submit to those who lead in the church (Heb. 13:17, 1 Thess. 5:12-13, 1 Tim. 5:17-18), but it never directly tells women to be submissive to the men of the church. Instead, what we find is that women, like men, prayed and prophesied publicly in the early church (1 Cor. 11:5), and women even served as apostles (Junia, Rom. 16:7). Women such as Phoebe were active as not only recognized workers of the church, but even as ambassadors or representatives to other churches (Rom. 16:1-2). Contrary to the belief of most complementarians, women even conducted churches in their homes (such as Nympha, Col. 4:15). Last but not least, women such as Euodia and Syntyche served side-by-side with Paul in preaching the gospel (Phil. 4:2-3). All this evidence cannot be a biblical “mistake.” No---it serves as an incredible witness to the role women played both in the church itself and outside of it. And all of this New Testament evidence doesn’t even mention the great prophetesses (such as Huldah) and judge (Deborah) of the Old Testament!!

In this post, I wanna tackle the issue of inconsistency. It has been said that conservative egalitarians are inconsistent when they advocate male headship in the home but teamwork leadership (both male and female) in the church. I was labeled “inconsistent” by my friend above, when I made this same statement to him.

But I would like to stop and pose this question to complementarians everywhere? How are conservative egalitarians inconsistent for their view? The Bible is what decides inconsistency, not my logic. If the Scriptures do not point out the error of egalitarianism, then its position is just as valid (if not more than) as complementarianism.

What do the Scriptures say? That’s the kind of question I like to answer this question, let’s look at the Bible.

As I mentioned above, the Bible confirms male headship in the home. A good example of this is Ephesians 5:22---

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, AS TO THE LORD.” (NKJV)

As this verse tells us, wives are to submit to their husbands as if they are submitting to the very Lord Himself. The husband has been given headship in the home. This is undisputed amongst complementarians and conservative egalitarians. I mention “conservative” egalitarians because there are liberal egalitarians (some are called “feminists”) who assert that male headship must be overthrown. While I sympathize with feminists and their mistreatment by male authorities, I cannot say that I agree with them. God has given the male headship in the home, whether you and I like it or not. If the Bible is the Word of God, then we must accept everything in it (whether or not it fits a preference of ours or not).

Having said that, though, the next question would be, “Does the Bible confirm male headship in the church?” the answer to this question would be a resounding no!! Let’s read further in the text of Ephesians 5:

“For the husband is THE HEAD OF THE WIFE, as also Christ is THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH; and He is the Savior of the body” (Eph. 5:23, NKJV).

Here we see that, while the husband is the head of the home, his headship stops there; Christ is the head of the church, and He will share His place with NOONE! So for complementarians hung up over male headship, check Ephesians 5:23. Nowhere does it affirm the male as the head of the church. So if the male is not the head of the church, then what is he in the church? Part of the bride. As Paul writes in Ephesians 5:29-30,

“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, JUST AS THE LORD DOES THE CHURCH. FOR WE ARE MEMBERS OF HIS BODY, of His flesh and of His bones.”

No matter the gender, whether male or female, both genders comprise “the body of Christ.” Christ is the head, and we are the body. And the head is greater than the body, so Christ is Lord over and above all of us, whether male or female, whether Pastor, Elder, Deacon, choir member, nursery worker, etc.

Now that Ephesians 5 has cleared the air, one more question remains: Is the conservative egalitarian consistent in his/her view of male headship in the home and teamwork leadership in the church? Yes. The answer is found in the husband-wife analogy of both home and church relationships. Let’s revisit Ephesians 5:23 once more:

“For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church...”

Here we see the “husband-wife” analogy in both spheres. In the home, the male is the husband, and the female is the wife. In the church, Christ is the husband (the head), and the church is the wife, the Bride. We can see this in verse 25:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR HER” (Eph. 5:25).

The church, then, is the Bride of Christ (Christ being the husband). This is why the church in the Greek is an “ekklesia,” the “ia” ending serving as a “feminine” noun ending. Paul continues this analogy further in the same chapter:

“‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak CONCERNING CHRIST AND THE CHURCH” (Eph. 5:31-32).

So the verse Paul quotes from Genesis 2:24 he now tells us refers to Christ and the church. So the church is the Bride of Christ, and Christ is the Husband of the church.

Where then, is the inconsistency? We’ve seen that between male and female (and between Christ and church) that there is a husband and a wife established in both spheres. So, I ask complementarians, “What’s the problem?” Don’t worry: I think I know what it is...they continue to desire to replace women in the church because of a presupposition concerning 1 Timothy 2. But if Ephesians 5:23 tells us that Christ is the head of the church, and 1 Corinthians 12:13 tells us that the Spirit gives spiritual gifts “as He wills,” then how can complementarians continue to assert that 1 Tim. 2 refers to male leadership in the church? I think this is a fitting time for complementarians to step back and take a look at their scriptural interpretation. If you ask me, I think their interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 needs some serious reform...and the church needs to stop playing “rebel bride” and submit to her Husband (that is, Christ) by allowing Him to decide the giftedness of the church instead of the church herself.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Old Testament Theology...and Women?, Part III: Living the Conclusion

“The church ought to encourage women to minister according to their God-given gifts by, among other ways, opening up avenues of ministry such as those listed in Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12-14, and if appropriate, in connection with honoring them financially (Rom. 16:2; 1 Tim. 5:17). The Bible commends the equality of women with men in their being, dignity, GIFTS, and ministry. THE SPIRIT VALIDATES THIS BY CALLING AND GIFTING WOMEN TO THE SAME KINDS OF MINISTRIES AS MEN, SUCH AS PROPHESYING (Acts 20:9), TEACHING (cf. Acts 18:26), PASTORING, evangelizing, and helping the church in all sorts of ways (cf. Romans 16). Nevertheless, the church should not appoint women (Greek ‘gune’) to an office, such as being an elder (‘presbyteros’)...wherein she has authority over her husband (Greek ‘aner,’ Heb. 13:17)” (Bruce Waltke, “An Old Testament Theology,” pages 245-246).

I’ve spent the last few days discussing the problems with Bruce Waltke’s view of women and their ministries in his work on Old Testament Theology. And this post will be no different in that respect: once again, I will deal with more statements from Bruce Waltke’s assessment of women in ministry.

The first thing I’d like to note is his assessment that the Spirit equally gifts men and women: “The Spirit validates this by calling and gifting women to the same kinds of ministries as men, such as prophesying...teaching...PASTORING...”

This statement most surprised me! I mean, Waltke has noted earlier in the same chapter, titled “The Gift of the Bride,” that women have equal access to the gifts; but here, he actually says that one of the ministries that women have is “pastoring.” I never expected him to say such a thing!!!

However, while applauding Waltke for this bold statement (which I’ve never read from the hand of a complementarian), I must also disagree with the statement he provides following this remarkable acknowledgement:

“Nevertheless, the church should not appoint women (Greek ‘gune’) to an office, such as being an elder (‘presbyteros’)...wherein she has authority over her husband (Greek ‘aner,’ Heb. 13:17).”

There is a problem with the last statement Waltke provides: that is, that Waltke is actually advocating something devastating to the church. He is basically saying that, while women are gifted in pastoring ministries, and God has gifted them equal to men, they are still not to hold down pastoral authority (for example) over men in the church. Notice as well that he is talking about “women” and “husband.” I infer from this that he means “wife,” but all throughout the chapter, it seems that he has been referencing all women:

“...He [Jesus] IMPLICITLY confirmed the role of men as rulers by not appointing A WOMAN as one of the twelve apostles on whom the church is built...” (Waltke, 235)

“My thesis, in brief, is that the two creation accounts reveal God’s design for men and women. They are written to help them understand their natures and THE ROLES FOR WHICH THEY WERE CREATED...” (232)

“The sexual, social, and economic equality of all believers will be obliterated in the eschaton, but until the redemption of our bodies, believers still participate in the first creation with its sexual, social, and economic distinctions. The biblical instructions regarding the distinctive roles of MEN AND WOMEN...address that reality and serve the best interests of BOTH SEXES” (243).

From the above quotes, it doesn’t seem as if the so-called “rule against women” is just for wives---but instead, for ALL women, whether wives or not.

But what about single women, women who have no husband? Are they subject to this rule? It seems to be the case that single women are just as referenced as the married women. The only reference made to 1 Corinthian 7 regards the children of a married woman who is “holy” despite the fact her husband is “unholy.” (1 Cor. 7:14, page 238) There is no reference made to single women, who are also mentioned in that same exact chapter (vv.8,25,34). Why is this? I have no clue. I guess Waltke will have to produce another revised edition and clue us in on this one...

Now, on to the task at hand. Waltke has stated that women do have the “pastoring” gift (Waltke, 246), but that women are not allowed to actually “be a pastor” of a church. So women can’t be elders, pastors, nothing of that sort, that will allow them to be in leadership over men and lead men in church administration whatsoever.

Is there a problem with this view? YES! Simply put, Waltke is telling women that regardless of their gift, they can never serve in leadership. If a woman has the gift of “pastoring,” she can be a “Pastor’s Wife” and aid her husband---give him advice, make suggestions, etc. However, she could never be a Pastor--- UNLESS, in the minds of most conservatives (and yes, I’m being honest about my own background!), her husband is a pastor. She can be a “co-Pastor” IF and only IF her husband is a Pastor. Her gift will never place her over her, if she is a called Pastor, she cannot actually DO pastoral ministry unless her husband is also made a Pastor. Her giftedness and place in the body of Christ is dependent upon her husband’s.

What makes it worse is the fact that in many cases, wives cannot pastor (simply because their husbands do not feel called to pastoral ministry). But what about the lazy and slothful servant do we not understand (Matt. 25:24-30)? The wicked servant failed to use his talent---and he was punished eternally for so doing (Matt. 25:30). How can the church advocate that women, although possessing leadership gifts, disobey Christ and not use them...and then turn around and tell the women that they must obey Christ by being submissive to their husbands? How can they say, “Disobey Christ and obey Christ in this matter,” all at the same time in the same way???

Last but not least, what are the gifts for if they are not given to the church to be used? Paul answers this question:

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, FOR THE EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS FOR THE WORK OF MINISTRY, FOR THE EDIFYING OF THE BODY OF CHRIST...”(Ephesians 4:11-12, NKJV)

The purpose of receiving the gifts is to use them. How then, is the church obeying Paul’s words here if women, no matter how great the pastoring ability, are not able to pastor churches? How can a woman lead with skill and diligence if she is sidelined or placed in the nursery, or given a young children’s Sunday school class? How will she “equip” the saints if she is supposed to watch over the flock of God...but told that she can only counsel and talk to young girls, teenage girls, young adult women, and elderly women instead? How is she pastoring and counseling effectively as an overseer if she can only “oversee” one half of the church congregation (that being, the women)???

In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about the necessity of all gifts and abilities within the church:

“And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ No. much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary...God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that THERE SHOULD BE NO SCHISM IN THE BODY, but that the members should have the same care for one another” (1 Cor. 12:21-25).

Paul instructs the congregation that EVERY PART (i.e., EVERY GIFT in the context of the chapter itself) is needed in the body of Christ. If this is true, then women and their pastoring abilities are NEEDED in the body of Christ. Women who are called to pastor, for example, are needed in the pastoring role so they can implement God’s will for His church through their gift.

If the foot is amputated, how can the foot help a person walk from place to place? A person cannot have their foot amputated and still say, “That’s my is effective in helping me travel.” Humans understand that if we have a body part that we call our own, there is something that it should do for us. In the same way, if we have women in our churches who are called to pastor, they should be allowed to pastor. Why would God give them a gift and then tell them to not use it? It seems that when one follows the complementarian logic, God begins to contradict Himself---which is one clear sign that we should not listen to the complementarian nonsense...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old Testament Theology...and Women?, Part II: Assessing Waltke's Use of 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

In my last post on Bruce Waltke, I made the point that he seemed to affirm that men and women are on equal terms in the Old Testament regarding spiritual gifts (such as the case of Huldah the prophetess). However, Waltke decides to separate gifts and offices not for the purpose of demonstrating the will of God, but for the purposes of arguing against women in leadership:

“Paul gives governmental priority to the many BY THE SEQUENCE OF CREATION of man and woman and by the purpose for which the woman was created” (Waltke, “An Old Testament Theology,” page 242).

Since he cites 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 as his argument, let’s take a look at that here:

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9, NKJV).

This is Waltke’s proof text for why women should not be in leadership. However, what Waltke forgets is that there is a text after this passage. Let’s look at the following verses:

“Nevertheless, NEITHER IS MAN INDEPENDENT OF WOMAN, nor woman independent of man, IN THE LORD. For as woman came from man, EVEN SO MAN ALSO COMES THROUGH THE WOMAN; but all things are from God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12, NKJV).

Funny how Waltke’s interpretation looks skewed now, doesn’t it? What Waltke fails to do (as well as most complementarians) is read through the rest of Paul’s argument. If he had done so, he would see that Paul sets up the Genesis origin account, but nullifies it when he says, “nevertheless,” and “man also comes through the woman.” When he states that “neither is independent of each other in the Lord,” he states that there is an even keel in spiritual authority that does not mandate that a woman wear a “sign” or “symbol of authority.” Notice in the text, as I stated it in the last post, that both men (v.4) and women (v.5) are praying and prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11.

One could easily think that this would be the end of the post, right? Well...think again!! Our dear friend Waltke has a response to my interpretation (egalitarian):

“According to 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, THE MAN AND WOMAN ARE DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER FOR THEIR EXISTENCE. Their interdependence, however, does not rule out male priority in government. Likewise, the United States Supreme Court does not exist independently from the people, but the people are subordinate to its rulings” (“An Old Testament Theology,” page 243).

I have two responses to Waltke’s argument. First, notice that he affirms what I did above. However, what he does next, though, is he uses an argument from logic that nullifies the context and Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 11. What he attempts to do is say, “even though man and woman are dependent on one another in the Lord, men can still be over women in the church.” However, if this was the intention of Paul’s letter, why would he tell us that both men and women are praying and prophesying (same activities and gifts, 1 Cor. 11:4,5), as well as use the word “nevertheless”? The word “nevertheless” used here is the Greek word “plen” (pronounced “plain”), which means “moreover, besides, but, except,” etc.

I looked up the word “moreover” in The Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus, and I found this definition:

“further; besides. Furthermore, not only that, MORE THAN THAT, WHAT IS MORE; to boot, into the bargain, IN ADDITION.” (The Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus, “moreover”)

The words in the definition of “moreover,” tell you that what Paul says after “nevertheless” (as the NKJV translates it) outweighs what Paul said in his previous argument. The word “plen” (“plain”) also means “however,” or “but,” which is a contrast with the material just before it. The word is a Greek conjunction; and conjunctions are “connective words,” which bridge sentences together. So if Paul is saying “however” or “moreover” here, he must be saying, “Listen up; what I am about to say contrasts with what I just said.” And if Paul is giving a contrast with his prior discussion of the man being above the woman, then he is not affirming such a hierarchy here---which puts Waltke’s interpretation on the sidelines.

Secondly, Waltke does not provide us with support from Scripture. All he does is give us a rational argument. When it comes to showing why women should not be in leadership, complementarians spend time “making inferences” instead of showing Scripture for what it is. Waltke’s argument breaks down, and all he can say is, “this still does not rule out my presupposition.” How does it not, when the text explicitly places man and woman in an equal balance in spiritual authority, when Paul does not mandate women to wear head coverings (which would have been the sign of a man’s authority over the woman, a sign of the husband-wife relationship)? Waltke doesn’t have an answer for this. Instead, he attempts to resort to logic. But that seems to be what the complementarians do these days...instead of finding explicit references from Scripture to support their points.

Anyone can read the English words like “nevertheless” and conclude that Paul is contrasting his next statement with his last statement. And this is the problem with Waltke and the complementarians: they make a mountain out of a mole hill. Why do this if the process of reading Scripture is so simple? Because they desire to uphold tradition...and they will do it at all costs.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Old Testament Theology...and Women?, Part I: Bruce Waltke's Argument

I’m taking a seminary course this semester titled “Old Testament Theology.” And for the last several weeks, my class has been going through the basic features of OT theology, like poetry, prose, narrative, etc. We’ve been looking at all the types of writing in Scripture and how the writers of Scripture crafted the writing the way they did to give us a certain message. Paying attention to the message involves paying attention to form of the text, that the form helps shape the interpretation.

But I never thought that this course would also involve an entire chapter on women and their “prescribed” roles in the home and the church.

Now, before I continue, let me first say that I count myself to be a conservative theologian. What this means is that I believe that when Scripture tells the wives to submit to their husbands, I believe Scripture to be true. However, I believe that husbands are called to be like the “Lord” (uppercase L); and by serving as the ‘lord’ (lowercase L) of their homes, men are to “love their wives as Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). Men leading in their homes can lead with love, concern, and the utmost care for their spouses and children. In the same way that humanity is to have a God-given, benevolent rule over the earth (Gen. 1:26-28), so men are to be benevolent leaders in their homes.

But I disagree with the assumption made in most conservative circles today, which says that men are to lead in the home and, therefore ARE CALLED TO LEAD IN THE CHURCH. I don’t see that labeled in Scripture. Rather, I see both men and women called, and both genders provided for in terms of work in the church. More specifically, I don’t see where men are told that only THEY can be the elders, pastors, and leaders. And it is my whole-hearted belief that such passages like 1 Timothy 2 have been twisted in the name of “old Southern tradition.” In reality, the “stretched metaphor” of the men ruling in the churches because they rule in the home is an inference drawn from Scripture (or so believed)---but where is the cold hard proof? In the end, if there are no explicit texts that give men full leadership in the church, then men ruling in the churches becomes about as necessary as the color of the carpet, or the style of worship. And if these things just mentioned have no explicit texts to uphold a certain belief, then I think it’s wrong to say that the carpet MUST be red, or the worship style MUST be traditional...or that men MUST rule in the churches. Paul gave a loud declaration when he said that Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 4:15; 5:23-24). If Christ is the head of the church, then no matter how powerful the male leader, he is still not the head. No deacon, preacher, elder, or otherwise will ever be the head of the church. That is reserved for Christ alone. All the pastor will ever be is the “undershepherd,” or “overseer,” which is a position that lies beneath the Lord, who is “the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls” (1 Peter 2:25, NKJV).

Bruce Waltke, author of “An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach,” writes the following regarding 1 Corinthians 11:

“God establishes this pattern (the order of creation) by creating Adam first and the woman to help the man (Gen. 2:18). As Paul notes in a passage dealing with the role of men and women, one that demands its own study, ‘man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man’ (1 Cor. 11:8-9). In other words, Paul GIVES GOVERNMENTAL PRIORITY TO THE MAN BY THE SEQUENCE OF CREATION OF MAN AND WOMAN AND BY THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH THE WOMAN WAS CREATED. Is it not plausible to assume that if God intended equality in government, he would have formed Eve and Adam at the same time and made them helpers suitable to each other? If he had wanted a matriarchy, would God not have formed Eve first and created the husband to be a suitable helper to his wife?” (Bruce Waltke, “An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach.” Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007, page 242)

There is no doubt where Waltke stands on this one: he is a conservative...and a die-hard complementarian. His argument is not surprising, but I will examine it nonetheless.

Let’s look at the passage that he quotes. In 1 Cor. 11:8-9, the discussion in the church involves the issue of women wearing head coverings. Notice in verses 4 and 5 that the men AND women are doing the same things: “every man PRAYING OR PROPHESYING” (v.4), and “every woman who PRAYS OR PROPHESIES” (v.5). The only difference is that the men should not cover their heads (in this verse), while the women should (v.5). Both men and women are equally acknowledged in the ministries of prayer and prophecy.

Waltke actually acknowledges equal gifts among men and women, and emphasizes that even the Old Testament testifies to this very fact:

“Huldah is a most remarkable prophetess with regard to the question of women’s roles in worship and ministry...Josiah directs five leaders to inquire of I AM (God) about the book. INSTEAD OF GOING TO JEREMIAH AND ZEPHANIAH, they go to their contemporary, Huldah, to verify the book (2 Kings 22:8-20)” (caps mine) (Waltke, 240).

Waltke’s comment about Huldah and prophetesses? “In the Old Testament, women are called to be ‘prophetesses’ ON AN EQUAL FOOTING WITH THE PROPHETS” (Waltke, 240).

It looks as if Waltke understands that the gifting of the Spirit places women on an equal footing with men. He actually titles five sections around the theme of equality: “Equality in Creation, Equality in Parenting, Equality in Charisma (Gifts), Equality in Prayer, Equality in Worship” (Waltke, 239-240).

But then, Waltke gets to leadership in the church...and he blows it entirely! Waltke’s first mistake after the above equality affirmations is to separate gifts and offices:

“Here we need to distinguish clearly between call to ministry and appointment to an office since they are not the same thing” (Waltke, 241).

I agree with Waltke. For instance, being a helper in the church is not the same as being a deacon. While a deacon has the “ministry of helps,” every person who possesses this gift does not end up serving in the office of deacon. A deacon can possess the gift, but possessing the gift does not guarantee the office. In this manner, I affirm what Waltke says. But I disagree when Waltke tries to show why women should not serve in the offices of pastor and elder:

“Male authority in the home and in the church is founded on the order of creation and reinforced in the order of redemption as presented in both the Old and New Testaments” (242).

In response to Waltke, I’d like to say two things: first, male authority in the home is not founded on the creation order, but in the very words of God Himself as a punishment to Eve for her sin in the Garden(Genesis 3:16). If God had clearly intended to appoint Adam as the head of his wife in the home, then why is it that we only find God saying these words to Eve in Genesis 3 with the fall and not earlier?

Complementarians such as Waltke like to play with vague generalities and draw inferences. But when are conservatives gonna get back to finding EXPLICIT references in Scripture---and when are we gonna stop using vague references to emphasize our points? If God says it in Scripture, there will be some place within the canon of the text where the concept will be as clear as day. Every text in the Bible is not a vague generality; and I despise this sort of technique used by complementarians to attempt to validate their personal belief.

Secondly, there are no texts that give men the right to be the head of the church (not even 1 Timothy 2 does this). I have interpreted this text dozens of times here at the site. For all those who desire to read my thoughts, go to the blog sections on the right of the main page and click on the section “1 Timothy 2.” Respond to this post or the others if you have comments, questions, observations, etc.

The point being made here is that the order of creation does not place the man over the woman in the churches. And 1 Corinthians 11 works against the complementarian position. What does it say? Well, I’ll get to that in my next post.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Essence and Function, Part II-B: The Contingency of the Crucifixion

Following up my last post on “Essence and Function: Definition and Distinction,” I decided to create a second portion of Part II, where I would set up a simple argument for the temporary subordination of Christ. The temporary subordination of Christ can be proven by arguing that the coming of Christ to earth to die was not a necessary action, but a contingent one: that is, it was based upon the granting of free will to human beings and God’s foreknowledge of their later sin. I have set up a syllogism as a way to present a succinct argument.


a. God freely decided to create the world.

b. God freely decided to grant human creation free will.

c. God freely knew that man, with his free will, would sin.

d. God freely knew man’s sin, and freely decided to come in the person of Christ to atone for man’s sin.

e. That which is freely done or that which is a free decision is not necessary.

f. Therefore, it was not necessary for God to create the world.

g. It was not necessary for God to grant free will to His human creation.

h. It was not necessary that man should sin.

i. It was not necessary that Christ come and atone for sin (if sin was not

j. If none of God’s free decisions were necessary, then neither was His coming
to earth and crucifixion necessary. As a result, Christ’s subordination on earth was not necessary.

k. That which is necessary is eternal (as is God’s essence); that which is not necessary, then, cannot be eternal.

l. Christ’s subordination, then, was not necessary, and therefore, cannot be eternal. It can only be temporary.

In order to understand the above syllogism, one must know the terms involved. To begin with, let’s define the word “necessary”:

“Of an inevitable nature; inescapable.”

Christ’s essence, Godness (or divinity), was NECESSARY in order that Christ come to earth and atone for man’s sin. But what about his function? Let’s find the definition of the word “contingent”:

“Conditional; dependent; that may or may not occur” (from “The Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus,” Second Edition. New York: Berkeley Books, 2001).

If God had never created the world, then Jesus would never have had to come and die; how then, can His subordination have been “necessary” or “eternal”? those who argue this belief fail to consider the unorthodox theology behind such an argument.
I will refer to this twelve-point syllogism quite often as we continue to discuss the issue of essence and function. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

For You, Mom: In Memory of Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956---February 3, 2009)

I realize that I haven’t posted at the blogs in a while. And for that, I’m extremely sorry. As a student, I’ve just recently started a new semester in seminary; this means that the work load has increased, deadlines are in place, and I am running like a chicken with its head cut off once more.

But today, I wanted to pay tribute to someone very special and extremely dear to me, a person who has been an indispensable part of my life since the day I first entered the world---my mother, Teressa A. Richardson. One year ago today, February 3, 2009, my mother died from brain cancer at the relatively young age of 52 years old. And today, I want to set aside the usual routine here at the blog to honor the woman who made me everything I am. You, my readership, will benefit from this blog because of the woman who not only gave me life, but influenced who I've become. In many ways, this blog is as much my mother's voice as it is my own.

Teressa A. Richardson was born Teressa A. Alston to parents Anthony and Annette Alston on June 28, 1956, the oldest of what would soon be a son and two daughters. Mom graduated Valedictorian in her 1974 high school class and enrolled as a student at Duke University in the fall of 1974. She went on to graduate from Duke University in 1978 with a dual Batchelor of Arts Degree in Accounting and Economics.

Mom soon married after college, to her best friend and high school sweetheart, James A. Richardson, on December 15, 1979. To this union, two children, a set of twins, were born: Danielle and Deidre (me) on August 21, 1984. After 12 years of marriage, mom and dad separated in 1991. They did not divorce until October 1993. Mom received full custody of her children and continued to work full-time, teach our Sunday school class, and raise us as any devoted parent would.

After working in a few jobs here and there in her 20s, mom found her place in the working world at a place formerly known as Consolidated Diesel Company, owned by Cummins, Inc., where she worked as the senior accountant for 21 years. She was dearly loved by her coworkers.

Not only did mom serve her community and her family, but also her church. She joined the family church, where her father has been a deacon for over 40 years, at an early age. She started singing in the church choir early, and went on to teach the youth Sunday school class (where my sister and I were) as well as serve as the financial secretary, a position that required upkeep of the church financial records. In addition to these positions, she went on to teach the Adult Sunday School class in her pastor’s stead. She served in these positions until her death on February 3, 2009.

In January 2006, mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer would then metastasize to her lungs (lung cancer) and then, finally, to brain cancer in February 2007. I was a student at seminary at the time. In August 2008, mom would enter into retirement from Consolidated Diesel, having put in 21 years of work. After six months of hospital visits due to bodily infections, mom would face more infections in the days to come.

In January 2009, while I resumed classes at Southeastern Seminary for the Spring semester, mom continued to decline in health. I saw her three days before she died. The weekend before the Tuesday of her death, I got to spend some time with her, just the two of us alone. Then and there I got to tell her just how proud of her I was and just how much of a role model and example she had been to me and my sister Danielle. The cancer had progressed until mom could not even open her mouth to talk.

That Sunday afternoon, upon coming home from teaching Sunday school and performing the music for worship service, I was left alone with mom to say some things before I left. The Lord told me then that my mother was leaving me. He had told me earlier that weekend when me and the family sat around and saw her sleeping all day, with the only noises coming from the respirator in the hospital bed. But Sunday was the day to seal it all: for me, mom was leaving...and I had to accept that she was parting from me. It was at this time that I laid over her and prayed for the Lord to receive her into His embrace. I knew she was saved, loved the Lord, and had served Him faithfully. And now, He would take her home to the place He had promised and prepared for her (and for all who love Him).

That following Monday evening, February 2, 2009, my sister Danielle called me around 5pm or so to tell me that the hospice nurse noted that mom was soon to die. The nurse told us that mom would not make it through the rest of the week...but that prognosis declined within five hours. The next pronouncement from the nurse was that mom would not make it through the night. She would die before nightfall.

I was at Southeastern surrounded by neighbors and a special friend, Eunice, who spent the night with me once it was certain that mom would die through the night. At 2:07am on Tuesday morning, February 3, 2009, my mother breathed her last here and embraced the arms of our Savior, as He took her home to live with Him forever.

If there’s one thing my mother taught me on this earth, it was that our lives are not about us, but the glory of God. Each day is a gift that we are given by a gracious God; but we are not promised a new day. Should God grant it, then He has been gracious to us (we did not deserve it); but if He does not, then that, we too, must also accept.

I was extremely graced by God to have such a wonderful woman to call my mother for 24 years. And because of the godly example she modeled before me, my life is forever changed. An old saying goes, “Life is not about what you get here; it’s about what you leave behind.” If that’s true, then my mother left a fortune unparalleled when she stepped foot into glory.

Lord, thank you for my mother, who blessed my life in so many ways. Thank you for how you watched over us, and blessed us through all our hardships. Thank you for the laughter, the love, the hugs, the tears, and even the misunderstandings. Thank you for allowing me to live and love and enjoy good days with mom. Thank you for all the support you graced her to give her children, even when she was hurting after such an unexpected divorce. And thank you that, even after the divorce, she found purpose and meaning again in you, as well as the ministry of parenthood to her children, and service to her church.

Mom, thanks for all the many things you taught me---how life is only worthwhile when we put God first in everything we do. Thank you for all the sacrifices you made to make life comfortable for me and Danielle. Thanks for all the little lessons you instilled into us, the stories you told us over and over again, the arguments, the laughter, the jokes, the surprises, the joys, and even the discipline. Thanks for giving your all so that we could benefit. Because of your labor before God, we have been given so much. Thanks for the prayers you sent up for us, even when we were doing crazy things and needed to be disciplined. Thanks for the times when you would be there to hug us when life disappointed us.

Mom, there are so many things I could say about you---but if I tried to name them all, many I would forget. But I want you to know that you are my hero. And this post is for you.