Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Rich Toward God": In Memory of My Mother, Teressa A. Richardson (June 28, 1956--Feb. 3, 2009)

“Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: the ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21, NKJV).

 Today at the Center for Theological Studies as well as Men and Women in the Church, I give tribute to the woman who gave birth to me back on August 21, 1984, at a hospital in Durham, North Carolina. I pay tribute to a woman who loved me from the first moment she laid eyes on me, and gave me a Christian upbringing, with all the love, encouragement, prayers, and shoulder to cry on she could ever have given me. This same woman raised me to be godly, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, and mind...and to let nothing come between me and my God. She taught my Sunday school class when my twin sister (Danielle) and I were younger, cooked Sunday meals, worked 40-60 hours a week, managed the church finances, sung in the choir, and worked hard, as they say, to “bring home the bacon.” She was a loving and wonderful daughter to her parents, a great sister, and an amazing friend to me and all those who knew her. Yes, folks---this woman is still the queen of my heart after all this time. Her name is Teressa A. Richardson.

On February 3, 2009, mom went home to be with the Lord after having battled breast cancer, lung cancer, and brain cancer for a span of three years. I have cried so many tears since she left me; and I’ve cried a lot of them lately. For those who may not know, I graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC on May 20, 2011, where I received my Master of Divinity degree in Christian Apologetics...and I missed her so much that day. I cried all during the service, and I’ve been crying every day since.

Today at the blog is set aside to honor this amazing woman of God, a warrior who has fought the good fight, finished her course, and kept the faith. As I began to think on what I would say about mom, I remembered a favorite passage of hers that she always discussed with her children, parents, and church members. That passage today will be the above quoted passage: Luke 12:16-21.

The context of the passage involves the story of two brothers, one who wanted the Lord to make the other divide the inheritance with him. Jesus tells them that life is about more than possessions. And the parable quoted above fits in at this ideal moment.

There was a rich man who had so much wealth that he just didn’t know what to do with it. Now, it’s no secret that he was blessed. The text tells us that his “ground” (or field) “yielded plentifully.” This means that everything grew. All of his crops that he planted prospered. For most farmers, to have everything sprout and grow would be a miracle indeed, considering the weather that we’ve been having in North Carolina all summer so far! The rich man had “the Midas touch”; everything he planted prospered. As mom used to say about her parents (my grandparents), “they have green thumbs.” The rich man had a “green thumb.” Nothing but prosperity, wealth, and blessing was in sight.

Now, you would think that at this moment, the man would decide to perform some act of kindness, some act of consideration for someone else other than himself. I’ve read this passage and stopped at this point to say, “Come on, rich man; stop and think. Think about all the poor people that needed food, clothing, shelter, etc. Think about those that needed some wood to warm the fire, or some food to carry them over until their next paycheck, or someone who needed a place to stay.” If his crops were doing that well, then surely, he had money to provide necessities for those who were less fortunate without asking for anything in return. Since the Lord had blessed his crops, you would think that the rich man would’ve gone and blessed someone else.

Mom, when teaching Sunday school, would say, “I just get tired of driving down the road every day, to and from work, and seeing all these beautiful two-story homes with nobody to live in them. Does it make sense to buy a two-story home if you’re the only person living in it? And what about the homeless who walk the streets everyday with no clothes, shoes, or food? Why is it that they have to walk by the rich person’s house everyday and see a reminder that the rich person has so much, but gives so little?” She always thought about helping others. When mom died, my twin and I discovered that she had been donating money to St. Jude children’s hospital to help them find cures for child illnesses. She never told us she was doing it; we never talked about it all that much. She just had St. Jude’s receive a portion of her check every month, automatic draft. The money would go to the less fortunate, and she didn’t mind it. She was blessed to have a Batchelor of Arts degree in Accounting and Economics from Duke University (class of 1978), and she was a senior accountant at the corporate plant she worked for. Mom had a job with great benefits and great pay. She wasn’t concerned about the money that was leaving. It was a small price to pay to be a blessing to children who really needed it more than Danielle and me.

But the rich man did not think about it. For him, any amount was too high to pay to bless someone else. He was only concerned about blessing himself. Do you know that so many church members do the same thing today, when they refuse to tithe a percentage of their earnings to the Lord, when they refuse to give God the firstfruits of their financial increase? Do you realize that, when we do not give to God’s church, we are robbing God? Do you not understand that, when we refuse to give financially, we are starving the poor, making the naked go without clothing, the sick children without medicine, the homeless without a home, etc.? Do you understand that, when we refuse to give financially (not just to the church but to the needy and less fortunate), we are acting just like the rich man---as if we could care less?

Well, he couldn’t care less, really...so he decided to do what all greedy people do: instead of thinking “go smaller,” he decided, “I know what I’ll do; I’ll do it bigger this time!” So he decided to tear down the barns he had (which were overflowing) and build bigger ones. I think that he should’ve looked at the bigger barns and gotten the hint. But greediness clouds sound judgment...and when someone is greedy through and through, there’s nothing anyone can do to turn them around.

But little did he know that, although he would plan to build those bigger barns, he would not get to enjoy them. The very night he intended to lay down, eat, drink, and be merry, the Lord required him to stand before Him and be judged for what he had done with his life. Isn’t that interesting? Instead of spending his last moments making a difference, he decided to spend his last moments on earth thinking about himself. He had studied “ME-ology” way too much!!!

How many times have we heard of stories of individuals doing the same things? How many times have we heard of people making plans to do much of nothing...and then, dying the very night the plans are made? One of my mother’s coworkers had planned to move to the company headquarters. He and his wife had gotten the UHaul, packed it, and were driving to Indiana where he was scheduled to get a bigger job with better benefits. He was not saved though, and all that week leading up to his departure, the Lord sent men and women to witness to him about the Lord, His gospel, and the need for this man to be saved and turn from sin to salvation. The man would listen to the pleas, but he did not respond. The last day at work, the women in the finance department (where my mother worked) witnessed to him again, but no response. Finally, it was after he and his wife got to Indiana that he died. He stepped out of the truck, pulled down the back of the truck to begin unpacking, and fell dead right on the grass with a heart attack. He had been planning to enjoy the new job, new promotion, and new home...but he did not get one hour to enjoy it!!

And this is what happens to folks when they are rich in material possessions, and not rich where it counts---toward God. Mom was rich toward God. She loved the Lord with all her heart, served Him with all of her strength, and put Him before everyone else in her life. I sure hate that each and every one of you never got the chance to know her here. She had a relationship with the Lord that just made you envy her walk with God. I’ve been around a lot of people in my life...but very few have ever made me jealous of their walk with the Lord. Mom was one of those people.

If she could talk to us today, if she could speak a word to those who are reading, she would say, “Be rich toward God. Store up treasure in heaven, not on earth. Be busy doing the work of the Lord. Serve Him fervently, and put Him before all things. Acknowledge His goodness and share His gospel with the lost of the world. And one day, when the Lord returns for you, you will hear the words, ‘Well done, thy good and faithful servant.’” My prayer for us all is that we will be busy doing the Lord’s work, always abounding in the work of the Lord...in this way our labor will not be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). God bless.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Conservative Egalitarianism: The Middle Way Between Complementarianism and Feminism

Recently, I did a google search and found that a student in Michigan, named Chad Christian, wrote a paper in which he contrasted my view of egalitarianism with D.A. Carson's complementarianism. He concluded the paper by saying,

"While I do not firmly take a stance on either side of this debate, I believe that both Carson and Richardson exercise two extreme positions in this  debate" (http://chaddchristian.blogspot.com/2011/03/womans-role-in-church.html).

To respond to Chad, let me say that first, I do not have an extreme position. I wrote him a response at his site, stating that my view of women and their gifts in the church does not negate the headship of the male and his authority in the home. After all, the New Testament shows us time and time again where wives are to submit to their husbands (Ephesians 5:22 being a good example). I am one who believes in teaching what the Bible does...so I would not tell women to not submit to their husbands. This is the position of feminists, who I dub "extreme egalitarians." The Bible tells wives to submit; for those who refuse to acknowledge scriptural teaching on this are opposing Scripture, which is the exalted, inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God.

 Last but not least, he writes that I oppose 1 Peter 3:7 as referring to spiritual authority. But what Chad does not understand is that I am defining "spiritual authority" in a different sense than he. He sees 1 Peter 3:7 as referring to spiritual authority, since the issue involved is headship in the home, which is given by God. I am referring to spiritual authority as having to do with the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4 and the Spirit giftedness of 1 Corinthians 12. I am discussing ecclesiology when I discuss spiritual authority, which I deem to be distinct from God-given roles in the home. After all, Paul does the same when, in the same passage that he tells wives to submit to their husbands (5:22), he also tells the Ephesians that Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23). Christ and the church are the example for the home, not the other way around. Many complementarians confuse which example is the standard...and thus, end up stifling the female voice in churches today.

I am not denying that in some sense, male headship in the home is spiritual authority; what I am denying, however, is that male headship can be used as the paradigm by which men and women are to operate as believers in the church. I believe that a woman can submit to her husband in the home and yet, operate in her God-given role to preach the Word (even if he isn't called to do so) in the church of God. I see giftedness by the Spirit (preaching, teaching, pastoring, apostleship,  prophecy, etc.) as spiritual authority that is manifested apart from the gender of an individual and/or whether or not the individual is to submit or lead in the home. After all, there will be no marriage between man and woman in heaven (Matt. 22:30); if the church is to usher in the coming Kingdom of God (Matt. 6:10), and the coming Kingdom will have no marriage, then the church should be a divine institution where women are able to preach, teach, apostle, and pastor as God has given them ability. This does not undermine marriage; rather, if the wife is to be the glory of her husband (1 Cor. 11:8), and the wife is preaching and teaching as God has given her ability, then she does so "to the glory of her husband." The more the husband allows his wife to exercise her gifts, the more glorious for him she will be. Conversely, the more the husband forces his wife to sit on the sidelines while he does the work of God, the less glorious he will be for God and His Kingdom. What a shame that so many men have this mindset! I thank God for those who don't, and pray for those who do that one day, their hearts and minds will be changed.

Feel free to check out Chad's site if you so desire. Also, feel free to leave comments. God bless.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Women Preachers: "The Tenth Mark of a Healthy Church"

“Expositional preaching is preaching in service to the Word. It presumes a belief in the authority of Scripture---that the Bible is actually God’s Word; but it is something much more than that. A commitment to expositional preaching is a commitment to hear God’s Word---not just to affirm that it is God’s Word but to actually submit yourself to it. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles were given, not a personal commission to go and speak, but a particular message to deliver. Likewise Christian preachers today have authority to speak from God only so long as they speak His message and unfold His words” (Mark Dever, “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, New Expanded Edition.” Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004, pages 40-41).

Recently I had the pleasure of reading Mark Dever’s “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church.” My seminary recently had a conference titled “Nine Marks,” and Dever actually came to Southeastern to be a part of the hype. His book has done remarkably well in the evangelical world and I highly recommend it to all believers. Dever’s got one of the finest books I’ve seen on the subject...

I was particularly struck by his words on expositional preaching. Dever made expositional preaching the first of 9 marks of a healthy church. In order for the church to get the other eight marks correct, Dever writes, it is important that expositional preaching be priority number one:

“The first mark of a healthy church is expositional preaching. It is not only the first mark; it is far and away the most important of them all, because if you get this one right, all the others should follow” (Dever, “Nine Marks,” 39).

But his remarks above on modern-day preachers I found to be most fascinating. Let’s read his remarks once more:

“Expositional preaching is preaching in service to the Word. It presumes a belief in the authority of Scripture---that the Bible is actually God’s Word; but it is something much more than that. A commitment to expositional preaching is a commitment to hear God’s Word---not just to affirm that it is God’s Word but to actually submit yourself to it. The Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles were given, not a personal commission to go and speak, but a particular message to deliver. Likewise Christian preachers today have authority to speak from God only so long as they speak His message and unfold His words” (Mark Dever, “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, New Expanded Edition.” Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004, pages 40-41).

Today’s preachers are labeled (according to Dever) the “functional descendants” of the OT prophets and NT apostles. It seems that, like the Old Testament prophets of old (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Ezekiel, Amos, Jonah, etc.) and the NT apostles (Matthew, John, Peter, Andrew, James, etc.), today’s preachers have been given a message by God that they are to deliver. But if today’s preachers function like an “Isaiah” or a “Peter,” then wouldn’t women also be viewed as preachers also?

Think about it: In the Old Testament, it is true that there were male prophets such as the ones above; however there were also female prophets (prophetesses) such as Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14, 2 Chronicles 34:22). The prophet Joel himself even went on to claim that in the last days, daughters alongside of sons would prophesy (Joel 2:28), not to mention the maidservants alongside of the menservants (Joel 2:29). In the New Testament, women are allowed to pray and prophesy before the congregations (1 Cor. 11:5). This indeed tells us that women had leadership roles before God’s people (Deborah as judge and prophetess), and women did not lose the capacity to lead God’s people even in the New Testament (as prophetesses praying and prophesying in front of male and female congregants).

We can set up the argument in the following syllogism:

Premise One: The modern-day preacher stands in the line of the OT prophets.
Premise Two: Some women (Deborah, Miriam, Huldah) were OT prophets.
Conclusion: Therefore, some women can be modern-day preachers.

It seems then, that leaving women out of the discussion of modern-day preachers has less to do with Scripture than it does tradition and personal bias. But, sadly, enough, I think this is one mark of the healthy church that Mark Dever himself forgot about.

Women are vital to the success of the church, as much as men are. When one-half of the body of Christ is being shut out of leadership positions, and the other half is more than encouraged (but fails in its work), what is supposed to be done? I applaud Mark Dever for telling the world what makes healthy churches; at the same time, however, his work is not infallible...and when women are being abandoned from leadership positions, treated as though they cannot possess the spiritual gifts needed for such positions, what good does it do to write a book on marks of healthy churches? What good does it do to tell the churches, “You need more of this and that,” while pushing the female gender aside and forgetting that, they too, make up the body of Christ?

Women preachers are indeed the “tenth mark of a healthy church.” And even if there is expositional preaching, church discipline, strong church membership, strong evangelistic programs, strong discipleship, etc., we will still have an unhealthy church---until we recognize the spiritual giftedness of women and include them amongst the godly leadership in our churches. Whatever diagnosis the church of Jesus Christ has, she has given it to herself...and only she can make it better.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

In Memory of My Mother, Teressa A. Richardson (June 28,1956--February 3, 2009): The Lord, Our Light and Salvation

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, My enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, My heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, In this will I be confident.
One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek; That I may dwell in the house of the LORD, All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock.
And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD” (Psalm 27, vv. 1-6, New King James Version).
Today at both the Center for Theological Studies (CTS) and Men and Women in the Church, the day is set aside to honor the memory of my mother, dearest friend, and inspiration, Teressa A. Richardson. For those who may not know, today marks the two-year anniversary of her death. Mom died back on February 3, 2009, after a three-year battle with breast cancer, lung cancer, and brain cancer. When it was time, the Lord took His servant home to be with Him for all eternity...and mother slipped away from this life.
She died when I was still 24 years old; and even today, at age 26 (soon to turn 27), I still miss my mom in my life. No matter how many seasons come and go, holidays, birthdays, or classes, I still miss her in my life. In the last two years, I’ve learned that nothing on this earth will ever take her place...and nothing on this earth will ever truly heal the void she left in my life when she passed from it.
The passage above, Psalm 27, was one of my mother’s favorite passages. The Psalm begins with, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?” If I could sum up my mother’s life in a few words, it would be these. She was one who, even in her tough times, could still take joy in knowing that God was still on her side. I can remember best when mom was sent home for six months. She was battling lung cancer, and her doctor told her, “Ms. Richardson, you’re gonna have to be out of work for at least six months.” My heart sank when I heard the news. But mom told me something afterwards that I wasn’t expecting:
 “I told the doctor, ‘I will go home for six months; but I will go back to work.’ The doctor looked at me and said, ‘But Teressa, you don’t understand how big this cancer is.’ And I looked at her and said, ‘Oh, but you don’t understand HOW BIG MY GOD IS!’”
Mom took me by storm with those words. Even in the midst of her storm, she could say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?”. She didn’t even fear the cancer, because the Lord was her light (He led her in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s Sake, Ps. 23:3) and He was her salvation (He could deliver her from the cancer). No matter how great her cancer was, it didn’t stand a chance when standing next to her Great and Almighty God!
David cried out, “When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell” (v. 2). Mom experienced deliverance from cancer in her lifetime. I remember the first time she came down with cancer when I was still in college. She told me over the phone (I was still away in college at UNC-Chapel Hill), “I’ve got something to tell you.” I kept pressing her to tell me what it was, but she waited until I was home. The news broke my heart, but that night, standing in her mother’s (my grandmother’s home), grandma, mom, Danielle, and I all stood around in a circle, holding hands, as grandma began to call upon the name of the Lord in prayer. I cried so many tears in that prayer, crying to the Lord to heal my mother...
And I can remember when He did. That day, we all went to the clinic with mom to see her to her doctor’s visit. And I can remember when mom came out crying and saying, “The cancer is gone!” I remember crying and screaming and saying, “Thank you Jesus!”, as my family tried to calm me down. All I could do was cry and scream, “Praise the Lord!” throughout the doctor’s office. My mother was healed of her cancer, and I wanted EVERYONE to know that the Lord, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, had done it; He had healed my mother of her life-threatening disease! She returned to church and in her testimony, broke down in tears as she began to tell the church family of what God had done for her. God had healed her, and she wanted everyone to know of the goodness of the Lord. Whether in good times or bad times, mom was determined to be a witness for God with every breath she was given. As verse 3 says, even though the army enclosed around David, he was confident of God’s power. Even though the cancer enclosed mother, she was confident that her God, at any moment, could deliver her.
Verses 4 and 5 tell of David’s desire to “dwell in the house of the Lord” and his reason for so doing: “for in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set he high upon a rock” (v.5). Mom loved to dwell in the house of the Lord, to be amongst fellow believers and live in the presence of her God. Sunday mornings were church mornings, no questions asked. You could like it or not...you were going to church. If you were alive and breathing, church was the place you were headed to on Sunday morning when the sun began to shine. She loved to meet with the saints of God, encourage, and give her testimony of the Lord’s goodness. She taught Sunday school, and encouraged our church family to be about witnessing to the lost and dying people of the world. She often said that God did not save us to sit down on the pew; no---He saved us so we could go tell someone else and bring them to the “Living Water” that only Christ could give. David realized the benefit of living in the presence of God and being a child of God: when the going gets tough, God is right there fighting for His children. Mom found joy in doing the Lord’s work because she knew that, when trouble would come, God would always “show up” and come through for His own. She was always troubled at how people can have so little time for God, but cry out to Him so much when they have a disease like cancer that they cannot get rid of. And how could they expect God to remember them, when they surely seemed to care little about Him or His kingdom? She would tell the Sunday school class, “Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). She used to tell them that, before the days turn bad, remember God even in the good times. And she lived that out in her own life.
In verse 6, David praises God because “now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me.” God finally heard David’s cries and delivered him, as David knew God would do. In response to the Lord’s goodness, David began to bless the Lord: “Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord” (v.6). Mom experienced the goodness of God in her life; and it drove her, like David, to sing praises and bless the Lord. Even during the times in her life when she felt as if God was distant, mom would still praise Him. When God would bless her, she would praise Him and give thanks to His Name for His goodness. And when she was battling for her own health and life, mom could still praise God for His goodness. Even through her tears, she could still praise God. I thank the Lord that I got to see a woman who never tired of praising God, even in the storms of life.
If mom were here, she would ask you, “Is the Lord your light and your salvation?” Is God present in your life? Can you agree with the psalmist David in this statement? Can you say that, because God is on your side, you have nothing to fear, no need to fear? If you don’t know the Lord, I challenge you to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior today. The Bible, God’s Holy Word, declares that “nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We can only be saved at the name of Jesus Christ, and at the name of Christ alone.
You may ask, “Why do I need to receive this Jesus?” You need to receive Him because we have all sinned, and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23). We all have done something wrong to offend the Almighty God. Because He is holy, He has to deal with sin. Each of us sinned in Adam (Rom. 5:12) and deserved to die, for “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But I love the end of that verse: while “the wages of sin is death” it is also true that “the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Christ paid the penalty for our sin when He died on the cross. He became the curse for us, bore the curse that we deserved to bear so that we could take on His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). Here is how the prophet Isaiah summed it all up:
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for OUR transgressions, He was bruised for OUR iniquities; the chastisement for OUR peace was upon Him, and BY HIS STRIPES WE ARE HEALED. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him THE INIQUITY OF US ALL” (Isaiah 53:4-6).
It is our sin that put Christ on the cross. But He paid our debt because God so loved the world (John 3:16). It is in love that God gave His Son, and whoever believes and calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. In times of trouble, as He hid mother, so also He will hide you.
Sickness, disease, and death will come, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow; but do you know the One that can heal your sin-sick soul? “There is a balm in Gilead,” and His name is Jesus. Only Jesus will do. There is no other that can take His place. If you do not receive Him, you are condemned already, and nothing but Hell eternal awaits you (John 3:17-18). But if you receive Him, not only will you receive a friend that sticks closer than a brother (Prov. 18:24), but you will spend eternity with Him. The choice is up to you. Don’t delay: receive Him today.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Exegetical Fallacies in D.A. Carson's "Exegetical Fallacies," Pt. 3: Failure to Recognize Distinctions

“Of course the Bible teaches that in Christ there is no male and female (Gal. 3:28); but does the Bible mean that male and female are alike in every respect? Who is going to bear the babies? Or do I now get my turn? The context of Galatians 3:28 shows the concern in that passage is with justification. In their standing before God, male and female are as one: neither enjoys any special advantage, each is acquitted by grace through faith...According to Luke, Peter cites Joel to the effect that both male and female shall prophesy (Acts 2:17); and certainly in the New Testament women do in fact prophesy (Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:2-16). But Peter also says that the woman is the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7). Whether this is taken with respect to physical strength or something else, it entails some sort of distinction; and a very good case can be made from New Testament evidence that a distinction was drawn between the gift of prophecy, which men and women could equally enjoy, and the church-recognized teaching authority over men, which only men could discharge” (D.A. Carson, “Exegetical Fallacies, Second Edition.” Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006, pages 92-93).
Today’s fallacy quote by D.A. Carson comes from his labeled fallacy “Failure to Recognize Distinctions.” While Carson is quite the dogmatic Calvinist, he is also a staunch complementarian. You may not believe this, but most of his book spends time critiquing egalitarians more than it does Arminians (which is the other group he attacks).
Carson argues that, since men and women are biologically different, such biological distinctions testify to distinctions of spiritual authority in the church:
“does the Bible mean that male and female are alike in every respect? Who is going to bear the babies? Or do I now get my turn?”
The problem with this quote is that Carson goes from a biological distinction (that women are child-bearers) to spiritual authority without giving any biblical proof. At the most, this is just an absurd inference that the text does not justify. Not even the Scriptures state that spiritual authority is given on the basis of biological distinction. Rather, spiritual authority is given by the decision of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11). Carson is really stretching his exegesis on this one. To be somewhat facetious, “Who is going to do sound exegesis? Carson? Or do I now get my turn”?
Next, Carson gives another somewhat biological proof for his disagreement with women teaching men:
“According to Luke, Peter cites Joel to the effect that both male and female shall prophesy (Acts 2:17); and certainly in the New Testament women do in fact prophesy (Acts 21:9; 1 Cor. 11:2-16). But Peter also says that the woman is the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7). Whether this is taken with respect to physical strength or something else, it entails some sort of distinction.”
What does “the weaker vessel” reference have to do with spiritual authority in the church? When Peter refers to the woman as the weaker vessel, he is not talking about the female intellect. 1 Peter 3:7 discusses the context of marriage (not spiritual authority in the church), so Peter is not saying that women are weak and cannot lead in church. Rather, he is referring to the woman in terms of physical strength, vulnerability in the marriage, etc. This is why men are to give honor to their wives: since Paul told the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians that “God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it” (1 Cor. 12:24, NKJV). Women are not only to be honored because God gives them greater honor in their marriages, but also “that your prayers may not be hindered.” Does this mean that the man’s prayers could be hindered if he dishonors his wife in any way? Yes. Could this possibly refer to spiritual gifts: that is, that if a man dishonors his wife in her spiritual calling, he will hinder his prayers? Absolutely! I doubt, however, that complementarians give this any thought. D.A. Carson does not, in his reference to the passage.
A wife desires to be cherished, to be appreciated, to be seen as more than a sex object to be tossed around at will. But how do complementarians justify their treatment of their wives in church when they prevent them to do what they are called to do? I am thinking of a couple at this very moment where both husband and wife have PhDs. The husband is allowed to teach, publish, write, research, and do all that is in his heart...while his wife received a PhD in order to sit by his side and take care of their children. How right is this? What did she get her PhD for if she would do nothing with it? And does the husband in this case not consider that he might be hindering his wife’s progress, the progress of their marriage, not to mention their prayers? It’s certainly something worth thinking about.
Carson ends his assessment with the idea that the Scriptures teach some sort of leadership distinction between men and women (appealing to 1 Timothy 2). The problem, however, is that one cannot just blow off the context of Galatians. Let’s now revisit Carson’s assessment of Galatians:
“The context of Galatians 3:28 shows the concern in that passage is with justification. In their standing before God, male and female are as one: neither enjoys any special advantage, each is acquitted by grace through faith.”
Carson claims that neither male nor female “enjoys any special advantage,” and each person is “acquitted by grace through faith.” But, notice Carson’s “slide” qualification here: Carson doesn’t just say that neither enjoys special privileges; rather, the privilege that is the same for both male and female is “acquitted by grace through faith.” To Carson, salvation is alike for both male and female, but that’s all. Women are not given the same gifts as men for the same places of leadership in the church.
But does not God gives gifts as He pleases (1 Cor. 12:11)? If this be the case, then how can Carson argue that a distinction in gender explains the Holy Spirit’s moving? Don’t you think that the Holy Spirit could have explained this if He desired to? Since the Spirit is the Creator of the early church, could He not have spoken to us clearly about the Spirit giving gifts “according to gender”? Paul clearly knew how to write “male and female” in Galatians 3:28---so why didn’t he write that in 1 Corinthians 12:11?
Carson’s exegesis has problems simply because he attempts to make distinctions in gifting a result of gender, not a result of the Spirit’s own decision. I guess the next question becomes, “Does the Spirit desire to gift according to gender?”...and sadly enough, Carson has staked out on a position that is unbiblical. If anyone has failed to recognize distinctions, it’s D.A. Carson himself, the same man (may I admit) that wrote a book explaining the nature and practice of exegetical fallacies.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Exegetical Fallacies in D.A. Carson's "Exegetical Fallacies," Pt. 2: Reconciling 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Corinthians 14

For those who desire to see Pt. 1 of this series, please go to my other blog, The Center for Theological Studies (CTS).

“In this case, however, there is no need for such a procedure of last resort. The passage can be and has been adequately explained in its context. There are ample parallels to this way of looking to the Old Testament for a principle, not a quotation (and the principle in question is doubtless Gen. 2:20b-24, referred to by Paul both in 1 Cor. 11:8-9 and in 1 Tim. 2:13); and the demand for silence on the part of women does not bring on irreconcilable conflict with 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, where under certain conditions women are permitted to pray and prophesy, because the silence of 14:33b-36 is limited by context: women are to keep silent in connection with the evaluation of prophecies, to which the context refers, for otherwise they would be assuming a role of doctrinal authority in the congregation (contra 1 Tim. 2:11-15) (D.A. Carson, “Exegetical Fallacies, Second Edition.” Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006, pages 40-41).

In the last post, I critiqued Dr. Carson’s idea of a tense fallacy regarding I. Howard Marshall’s interpretation of Hebrews 3. I made it clear there that Carson simply takes the perfect tense, looks to the end of the human life, and concludes that those who are true believers are only those who endure to the end. You may not have caught on to it, but what Carson is saying is, “Only those who endure to the end ever believed to begin with.” The sad part about such a statement is, that if one does not endure to the end, according to Carson, such an individual was “never saved to begin with.” But, if the individual was never saved, then how about you and me? How about those who love God in the present, who serve Him, worship Him, and do His work? If believers in the here and now must endure to even know if they are saved, how can they know they are saved “now”? How can they know if they are saved “today”? See, Dr. Carson’s words sound believable until we start to question the believer’s salvation---then, things turn ugly. But Carson’s question is a good one for those who insist that the apostate “was never saved.” If the apostate can do what he did, how do you and I know that we will not end up like him? To know the end in the here and now takes a special omniscience, one that you and I do not possess whatsoever. Therefore, when we question that the apostate was ever saved, we are questioning if even we ourselves are saved...and I doubt the believer wants to take that treacherous step.
In today’s post, however, I will not discuss the doctrine of apostasy...instead, I will tackle another fallacy of Carson’s: “Appeal to unknown or unlikely meanings.” In the quote above, we find Carson critiquing an assessment of Walter Kaiser Jr.’s regarding the word “nomos” (Grk. “law”) in 1 Corinthians 14:33-36. Kaiser argues that the word “nomos” there refers to rabbinical law. Carson insists that this is highly unlikely, and then goes on to give his own assessment of what “law” Paul may have referred to: “the silence of 14:33b-36 is limited by context: women are to keep silent in connection with the evaluation of prophecies, to which the context refers, for otherwise they would be assuming a role of doctrinal authority in the congregation (contra 1 Tim. 2:11-15).”
In the sentence before the one I just quoted (see quote above at the top of the post), Carson feels the need to reconcile 1 Corinthians 14 with the permission of women to prophecy before the congregation in 1 Corinthians 11. His solution? Women can pray and prophesy (as 1 Cor. 11 allows), but they cannot “evaluate prophecies.”
Now, whenever a solution or remedy is proposed to texts that seem to conflict with one another, the solution always has to be tested against the context. If there is a solution proposed that may sound believable but does not fit the context, then believers must toss the theory out and look for another proposal that will adhere to sound hermeneutics.
Since Dr. Carson has proposed the prohibition of women from prophecy evaluation, it’s now time to check that view against the context of 1 Corinthians (before we can decide whether or not it would even adhere to 1 Timothy 2).
First, let’s note that the background to 1 Corinthians 14:33 is concerned with bringing understanding to the body of Christ (as well as unbelievers). At the beginning of chapter 14, Paul tells the Corinthians that their focus on tongues as a spiritual gift is lopsidedly misguided: that is, they should desire to prophesy above all. Why? Because “he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him...but he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men...edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:2-4, NKJV).
This theme is continued in his discussion of speaking in tongues: “I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor. 14:19). The goal of speaking in the church is to edify the body of Christ, to encourage, to push forward into the things of God. How can that be done if the person does not understand the language in which someone is speaking? How can one put something into action that he or she does not understand? Paul uses this logic to argue that speaking in tongues is a good gift and fit for use before God...but it is not to be publicly proclaimed amongst believers, especially when there is no interpreter to bridge communication between the unknown language and confused believers (1 Cor. 14:28).
In verses 29-32, Paul begins to turn the discussion towards prophets and prophecy: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge. But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged.” What Paul is doing here is exactly what he is doing in all of chapter 14--- providing instructions on how to maintain order and harmony in the body of Christ. Things are out of place, as the Corinthians themselves desire to speak in tongues and are so doing, despite the presence/absence of an interpreter. Paul is aware that worship serves are becoming places where confusion runs rampant, so he feels the need to address the issues. With the prophets, each is to have his/her turn in prophesying, while each is to judge in turn. Paul’s emphasis on “ALL may learn and ALL may be encouraged” (v.31) is his way of saying, “everyone has a moment to act in church. No one person has to “bull-doze” the others in order to get a moment to prophesy and judge. There is enough room in God’s House (the church) for everyone to be given their opportunity to exercise their gifts.” In essence, “Corinthians, what are you fighting about?”
When we get to the prohibition against women speaking in church, the tendency is to do what Carson does: to claim that women are prohibited from evaluating prophecy, and tie it in with 1 Timothy 2 (which is Carson’s prooftext for everything women can and cannot do. What about the other texts regarding women?). However, the context does not point out that women cannot evaluate prophecy. After all, look at Paul’s words:
“And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32).
If this follows with verses 31 and before, then Paul is saying that judging prophecy is to be left to those who are prophets in the house of God. And this contradicts Carson’s idea that women cannot judge prophecy because women themselves are prophets. As Carson himself says in the quote above, “...under certain conditions women are permitted to pray and prophesy” (Carson, “Exegetical Fallacies,” page 40). If women are allowed to pray “and prophesy,” then why would women be automatically forbidden from evaluation prophecy? I’ll set up a syllogism:
Premise #1: Only prophets can judge prophecy.
Premise #2: Some women are prophets.
Conclusion: Therefore, female prophets (prophetesses) cannot judge prophecy.
The conclusion does not follow from the premises. If women are prophets, and prophets are the ones to judge prophecy, then why would women be prohibited from judging prophecy? Carson’s thought here does not follow, considering his own admission that women were allowed to prophesy in the Corinthian congregation. He is only left, in the end, to appeal to 1 Timothy 2 to make his case.
By so arguing, Carson has forgotten the principal rule of hermeneutics: that is, that one must first assessment a statement made in the context in which the statement was written. One cannot make a case to link the prohibition of 1 Corinthians 14:34 with 1 Timothy 2 unless he or she knows what the statement meant to the Corinthian congregation in 1 Corinthians 14 (and the larger context of 1 Corinthians). Then and only then, can Carson appeal to 1 Timothy 2. As is seen here, Carson claims that he is calling Walt Kaiser, Jr. on a fallacy--- but instead, he fumbles and commits one of his own. See? “I told ya” that it’s ironic Carson commits exegetical fallacies in a book written against committing exegetical fallacies...

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Series!

                                                     Dear Men and Women,

 Your blog owner, Deidre Richardson here. I'm writing to share with you a new series I'm about to undergo at the site "Men and Women" as well as my other research site, "The Center for Theological Studies" (CTS). I sent CTS a post regarding the new series. I thought I'd send it to you all as well. May the Lord bless you in the days ahead. Happy New Year!
                                                                          - Deidre

                                          Dear Readership,

 Happy New Year again to you! About a week ago, I wrote my latest post at CTS. I realize that it has been an entire week since I've written. I wanna take time here to apologize to my readership for the time that I have been away. I am currently registered in a January term class here at Southeastern Seminary, called "Critical Thinking and Argumentation." I've spent the last two weeks going to class everyday from 8am-12:30pm, followed by a nap at home...only to wake up, shower, get dressed, grab dinner, and study with a brother of mine. It's been one heck of a two weeks!! Continue to pray for me; I am doing well, but I've pulled all-nighters everyday for the last two weeks just to make sure I'm up and awake for class at 8am. I don't do very well with morning classes, so I've been sleeping about 5 hours or so doing the day in order to have just enough sleep to stay up and do homework all night. In addition to the chapters of reading and the 150-page book my class has been reading (which I'll talk about in a minute), I've also been given the joy of having computer software (called "LogiCola") that tests your knowledge of the chapters in the book. I recently took my midterm in the Critical Thinking class and was thankful that I played with the software during the week. Many of the questions came from the software...so it was good to see that my efforts did not go unrewarded :-)

 On to the book my class has been reading...the title of the book is called "Exegetical Fallacies" by D. A. Carson. Now that I've read the book, I have to write an 8-page sermon (exegetical), using ten of the 56 fallacies Carson mentions in his book. It's a fun assignment...but it's also a hard one. I'm gonna struggle most with committing logical fallacies. I've been taught as an apologetics major here at Southeastern that God is a God of logic, a God of order...as creatures made in God's image and likeness, we too, should strive to think God's thoughts after Him. So committing logical fallacies to get a good grade...it's what I'm required to do, but my fear is that I'll write a sermon thinking I've committed fallacies that may not even be fallacies :-) such is the fear of every seminary student...

Having read Carson's book, I noticed that he tends to critique the views of Arminians and the position I'd like to refer to as "Spirit-gifting" in regards to the issue of women in ministry. I have used the term "egalitarian" at my other site, "Men and Women in the Church," but I do so to distinguish it from the view of complementarianism. There are some things that egalitarians believe that I do not. Among these, some egalitarians, particularly feminists, like to refer to "women's rights"  in regards to women in the church. Instead, I focus more on Spirit-gifting because to me, the debate on men and women in the church is not political, but Scriptural.  I hold to the headship of men in the home, but I do so because wives are commanded to submit to their husbands in several places in the New Testament. However, I don't see the kind of evidence that complementarianism espouses  regarding women in the church  in the Scriptures themselves. Rather, I see the presupposition (or assumption) that 1 Timothy 2: 8-15 means that women cannot be in leadership, and then everything else in Scripture regarding women is defined in terms of that one text (others being Titus 2 or 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 14, etc.). I think 1 Timothy 2 as it has been interpreted by complementarians cannot stand up to the claims the Scriptures themselves make regarding the gifting of the Spirit. God didn't create roles irrespective of Spirit-gifting; rather, He created roles "in accordance with" Spirit-gifting. As a result, complementarians have to prove that a woman cannot serve in a role because she is not given certain gifts, rather than just "women have certain fixed roles in the church." And I don't think anyone can claim that God can't gift a woman to preach, teach, pastor, etc. To make that claim would amount to heresy, as some would begin to limit God's sovereignty. Calvinists (and even some Arminians) should think twice before making this mistake.

 And that brings me to the announcement. This coming week, starting Monday, January 17, 2011, I intend to start a new series here at the Center for Theological Studies titled "Exegetical Fallacies in D.A. Carson's 'Exegetical Fallacies.'" I think that Dr. Carson, as much as I respect him, has fallacies on his own (ironicly) in a book in which he tells believers not to commit exegetical fallacies. What I aim to do in this new series is show that Carson brings his own presuppositions to the biblical evidence, and that he attacks all views that disagree with his and uses both Arminians and egalitarians as part of his "fallacy" attacks. I have to be honest and admit that he does attack some of his Calvinist brethren who smear Calvin's name (and claim that Calvin separated faith and reason), but these examples are few compared to the "overwhelming" (I can use no less of an honest term) attacks he makes against egalitarians and their claims. I for one here at the Center often critique sharply the views of those who disagree with me...but I have my reasons. And I hope that you, the readership, will seriously study my views of theology and the Scriptures and question whether or not I hold to the biblical text. I desire to be faithful to what God says in His Word. I realize that we all have presuppositions, but that is not the issue; rather, the question to ask ourselves is, "Does the Bible support the way I think about this?", or, "Does the Bible support my perspective on this given issue?". These are the kinds of questions we must ask ourselves.

 So much for a brief announcement! In any case, I just wanted to let you all know that I am soon to return to CTS. I have much to tell and show in the coming days about the new understanding the course in Critical Thinking has provided. God bless you all...and keep studying the Scriptures for the glory of God.