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 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 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'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.