Saturday, April 30, 2011
Your tax dollars at work....
A quick political commentary this morning....
Friday, April 29, 2011
Whew, now we are to the New Testament and no doubt patriarchy and male headship will be washed away here. Patriarchy is soooooo Old Testament. Paul and Peter, with NOW membership cards in their togas, will set things straight!
Um, actually no. The doctrine of patriarchy is mentioned more and more specifically by Paul and Peter under the New Covenant than it is under the Old. Let me say that again. Under the New Covenant that Paul and Peter understood and wrote about, the patriarchal relationship between the genders are reinforced and expanded.
As a quick aside re: gender and men & women in the church. Men all too often, pointing at myself first and foremost, fail their wives in two key ways: we don’t love them as Christ loved the church and we don’t lead in the church and the home as we are called to. One of the greatest weaknesses in the church are men who are either mainly passive, willing to defer leadership and servanthood to the women in a local body or worse yet men who are completely absent. Visit a sampling of local church gathering this Sunday and you will see a preponderance of women. Many of those women will be serving while many men are watching, at least the men that bothered to meet with the church. I understand why men are disinterested in passively watching a performance but that is not an excuse to abdicate our calling. We should be calling men to man up and function as they are called to as men, not encouraging women to fill in the gaps that men have left.
It is my goal in this series and in this post in particular to call Christian men to account, starting with my own doorstep, for our abdication of the great calling God has placed on us. I don’t place the blame for passive men in the church at the feet of feminism or the culture or on overbearing women. There is some of that to be sure but the greatest blame needs to be laid squarely at the feet of men, the regular guy Christian who is content to let someone else do the work of ministry in the local church and is likewise quite happy to let women lead in the basic functions of service in the local church. Generations of men in the church have turned the church gathering into a spectator sport, both on Sunday morning and during the rest of the week. The first step in curing this is a proper understanding of gender and patriarchy in the Bible and then teaching, admonishing and if needed rebuking men for failing to be the servant leaders we are called to be.
When it comes to gender and patriarchy in the New Testament, there are several pretty obvious places to go. Those verses, taken in context, are the strongest arguments for my position and as such are the most assailed by those who disagree. It is worth noting that much of the argument between complementarians and egalitarians consists of debates over the explicit passages regarding gender roles in the church, with egalitarians attempting to argue that these passages cannot possibly mean what they say. It is my contention and I plan to demonstrate that these verses, coupled with some less obvious but supportive Scriptures, solidify without a doubt Biblical patriarchy as I have laid it out. We might as well start with the most obvious section, found in the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus….
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)Wives relate to husbands as the church relates to Christ. He is the Bridegroom, we are the Bride. The use of male and female terminology here is not accidental because Paul compares the way that Christ-church and husbands-wives relate. The church of course should submit to Christ as the single Head of the entire Body. If Christ is the head of the church and Paul likens the relationship between husbands and wives to that the way that Christ and the Church relate, does it not follow that husbands are the head of the family which includes their wives? It does and that is precisely what Paul is saying. If you are seeking to dismiss that as a primitive cultural anachronism that we have outgrown, would you likewise argue that we have “outgrown” our need to submit to Christ as the church in all things? I should hope not but we need to be very careful when we pick and choose which doctrines we discard as culturally irrelevant, especially when they are integral to and intertwined with other doctrines that are related and that we assume are timeless. To reiterate, Christ relates to the church as husbands are to relate to their wives and the converse is true that wives relate to their husbands as the church relates to Christ.
This is something important to point out. Paul is not placing conditions on these commands. Paul is not saying nor implying that wives should submit to their husbands only if their husbands love them sufficiently nor is Paul saying or implying that husbands should love their wives as long as their wife submits to them. In other words, you can’t get out of this command by placing conditions on it that don’t exist in the text. Christ loved the church before the church even knew His name and husbands are to love their wives and wives are to submit to their husbands without qualification. I will come back to this again a little later because it is so important to understanding the relationship between men and women.
Moving on, Paul writes a similar admonition to the church in Colossae regarding the husband-wife relationship…
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:18-25)Paul is reiterating much of what we see in Ephesians 5. I included much of the rest of the chapter because what we see here is interesting. The commands are one-sided. Husbands love your wives. Period. Not love them when they submit, just love them as Christ loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Likewise wives are to submit to their husbands in obedience to Christ. We again do not see a command here for husbands to make their wives submit. That makes sense. Coerced obedience of your wife is not submission and it is not Biblical. You might able to control your wife through domination and intimidation but a wife can only submit willingly as an act of obedience to Christ. What does that mean? Wives should willingly submit to their husbands because of their love for Christ. When a wife submits to her husband she is serving the Lord Christ. I would argue that when a wife refuses to submit she is not serving Christ but instead serving herself and her own desires. Likewise, when a husband fails to love his wife, he is selfishly serving his own desires and not honoring and obeying Christ.
Another place Paul speaks of this issue is in his letter to the church in Corinth (if you are keeping score at home, that is three different churches where he has addressed this issue in his writings in a uniform, patriarchal manner). The first half of 1 Corinthians 11 speaks of male headship in the marriage relationship followed by the most extensive treatment of the Lord’s Supper outside of the Gospels. It strikes me as odd that many people are dismissive of one half of this chapter but not the other half. In the first half of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is speaking of headcoverings, a topic I have addressed many times but my point here goes deeper than the external act of obedience, as important as that as. I want to look instead at the underlying doctrine. In other words why does Paul tell women to cover their heads? Is it a cultural issue? Not at all although that is how it is often dismissed. Paul appeals instead to the marriage relationship which parallels his teachings in Ephesians 5:22-33 and Colossians 3:18-25. Here is the text….
Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:2-16)Christ is the head of man. Husbands are the head of the wife. God is the head of Christ. I don’t see much ambiguity in that relationship. Paul appeals again here back to Genesis, so apparently Paul doesn’t see Genesis 1-11 as mere allegory but rather he sees the creation account and the fall as pivotal to understanding gender roles and relationships. Paul says that man is the glory of God and that woman is the glory of man because of the manner and order of Creation (referencing back to my prior post on Genesis and the creation order). Woman was created from man, not the other way around and that was intentional and foundational to any understanding of the genders.
So to recap. Wives submit to your husbands. Husbands love your wives. Husbands don’t demonstrate love for their wives by abdicating their calling as men and leaving everything up to their wives.
There are more specific verses regarding male headship in the church and family. In the midst of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul’s most comprehensive admonishment of how the church should meet, comes three very strongly worded verses, verses that get sort of short shrift among those who embrace the rest of this chapter as our guidepost for how the church should meet. I like to think that in this respect I am more consistent that many of my brothers and sisters. 1 Corinthians 14 is applicable for the church for all time. That means that when the church gathers, all of the brothers should be welcome and expected to participate. Likewise when the church gathers, there are certain differences in how men and women function in that gathering. After speaking about all of the brothers in the church coming to the gathering with something to share, Paul writes….
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)Hmmmm. Perhaps Paul was mistaken here? Perhaps not. Women are to be in submission, which as we have seen means that a wife willingly submits to her husband, not that a husband should make his wife submit (because that by definition is not submission!). You can dance around this all you like but when you look at what Paul is saying, in context and without trying to make excuses, it is pretty clear. When the church gathers, women are to remain silent, i.e. they are not permitted to speak. In fact, if they want to learn anything they should ask their husbands. At home. You can reject that as cultural or specific to Corinth if you choose but consistency demands that you drop your arguments in favor of a participatory church meeting that are derived from this passage. There is far more explicit instruction regarding women in the church than there is about participatory meetings. Likewise for my complementarian brothers. If you are going to use 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 to prevent women from teaching, you have to take the rest of the chapter as universal and timeless as well and open up your church gatherings for all of the brothers to participate as led by the Spirit. Consistent interpretation please!
Paul is not done. His admonishment in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 is not a random, unsupported text. Paul clarifies and reinforces this teaching in a different letter, this one to Timothy….
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:12-15)Again we see the same teaching here that we saw in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35. This parallel passage to 1 Corinthians 14 appeals again to the creation order and the fall. 1 Tim 2: 12-15 fits with 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16 which likewise links to 1 Corinthians 14:33-35. Paul is eminently consistent in his teaching, if only we would be as consistent in our interpretation and application!
Some have tried to undermine what Paul is saying by appealing to 1 Timothy 2:15? I will admit that verse 15 is confusing. Does that change what Paul is saying? Not at all. The fact that because verse 15 is hard to understand doesn’t at all change the very clear and unambiguous teaching of Paul in the preceding verses. We don’t reject other passages because of confusing or difficult interpretations around them. Again the consistent hermeneutical principle here is that the explicit passages should be used to help interpret the less explicit. Paul links a woman’s holiness and self-control with her not exercising authority over men or teaching them. I am not sure enough about the child bearing part to speak dogmatically about it, but I am certain about the not teaching or having authority over men portion.
Peter has an interesting take on this whole subject. It again reinforces what Paul has written but he gives us an interesting expansion of the idea of patriarchy….
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:1-7)Women influence and lead through their conduct and their submission. The measure of a godly woman is not how fashionable she dresses or her education level, it is her conduct, her holiness and her submission to her husband.
This is sounding like a broken record. Wives be subject to your husbands, husbands be understanding, honoring and loving toward your wives. Ephesus, Corinth, Colossae. Letters to the church, letters to Timothy. Paul and Peter. On and on. This doctrine is one of the most frequent and consistent in the entire Bible. Men and women are equal positionally in Christ but are called and equipped to function differently in both the home and the church.
So what are women supposed to do? Women have a precious and vitally important calling, at least as important as the calling of men, and one that is neglected and maligned. Paul speaks of it when he wrote to Titus….
Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3-5)Women need to teach and disciple other women and care for the home which includes raising children. When it comes to women discipling other women, there is a reason why this is so important. For all sorts of reasons, men and women should not be in overly intimate relationships outside of marriage. Ever. Without that sort of open and intimate relationship, it is impossible for Christians to grow. So older and more mature women are called to disciple younger/less mature women just as older men should disciple younger men (Titus 2: 2; 6-8). Disciple to what end? To overthrow the male dominated patriarchal system of the church!? No. They are to “teach what is good”, which Paul defines as: to love their husbands and children, be self-controlled and pure, not drinking too much wine, to care for the home, be kind to others and submit to their husbands. Why should they do all of this? Because by not being these sorts of wives, they revile the Word of God. Let me repeat. A woman who does not submit to her husband reviles the Word of God. Not my words, these are the words of Paul. That is a serious charge but one that is supported by this text and others. Likewise a husband who doesn’t love and honor his wife also reviles the Word of God. This is serious stuff and something we dismiss at our own peril. Again, at the risk of being repetitious this obedience of submission/love is not conditional on being submitted to or being loved. We do what we are called to do to be faithful to the One who is always faithful, not as a tit for tat exchange with our spouse.
So hang on a second. There is a lot here that quotes Paul and some that quotes Peter. What about Jesus? Didn’t Jesus respect women? What about Mary Magdelene, or the woman at the well, or the woman who anointed His feet? What about them? Nothing I have written is undone by that. Jesus loved women. Paul loved women. Peter loved women. I love women as sisters in Christ and want nothing more for them than to be blessed by carrying out what God has intended for them. Nothing that Jesus did or taught in any way undermines what Paul or Peter taught and I believe what I am claiming in this series is both in harmony with the teachings of Christ, Paul and Peter and faithful to their intent. Peter followed Christ throughout His earthly ministry. Paul was a specially appointed apostle and eyewitness of Christ. God entrusted so much of what we know about Christ, about the Gospel, about the church, to the hands of these men. Paul and Peter are not contradicting Christ in anything they say and are speaking on His behalf when they wrote 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3 and Titus 2.
Can I be blunt? What is commonly called egalitarianism, i.e. that men and women are the same not only positionally but functionally, at its core is an attempt to discount what the Scriptures say. Paul couldn’t have meant that. Peter couldn’t have meant that. There must be a different interpretation, one that I find more palatable. It is a classic example of our culture and the Scriptures clashing.
Now having said all of that, a word or three of caution is in order. Men are given many examples to follow in the New Testament and none of them are men who abuse power.
Patriarchy in the New Testament is not about control
It is not about power
It is not about authority over women
It is about calling and responsibility and submitting to the authority of Christ and the calling He has called men and women to. Note that in Ephesians 5, we don’t read that men are to make their wives submit to them nor are they called to exercise authority or control over them. Wives are to submit to their husbands as an act of obedience to God, not as an act of obedience to their husbands just as husbands are to love their wives as an emulation of Christ loving the church. If your view of Biblical patriarchy focuses on control, authority and power you are far more misguided than the most staunch egalitarian.
Next up (not until next week probably), a short post looking at some of the most common and most compelling objections to patriarchy and my response to them.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Great post. The one man ministry model is unhealthy for "senior pastors" and for the entire Body. If you love your pastor, don't negotiate sabbaticals into his employment agreement, step up and do the work of ministry alongside him instead of sitting back and watching him.
Another good post from Guy Muse. When you see how little our brothers and sisters around the world have and compare it to our luxurious lifestyle, we should recognize something is wrong. I especially liked what Guy said of one-time gifts to meet a need.....
Being one-time gifts they do not create dependency; rather they have been the cause of much thanksgiving to the Father.That is excellent. A gift is a gift and doesn't lead to dependency. I don't think anyone is suggesting an income redistribution system but I think Guy is right that there are many ways the church in the West can be a financial blessing to the family of God around the world.
The New Testament later will be shown to come back to the Creation account multiple times and the writers take positions that are directly related to the creation of man and then woman. Two major events that drive gender relations occur here and they are pivotal to the rest of the Biblical story of gender. First is the creation order and the way man and woman are created. God creates man from the dust of the ground….
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.(Genesis 2:7-8)God creates man first and then puts him into the garden that God Himself has planted. After God creates man, He created woman, not from the dust of the earth but from the man….
Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,Adam was made intentionally incomplete so woman was made as a helper for him, a helper that was different and, to borrow from that great theologian Jerry Mcguire, in doing so He completed Adam. As the New Testament will later affirm, God made woman for man, not man for woman (1 Cor 11:9 ). The order here is not an accident as we will see later in the New Testament. God created man and then woman and made woman for man and not the other way around.
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:18-23)
That was the first part of the story, what comes next explains an awful lot of what we see around us and also gives us an important milestone in gender relationships. The fall is the most important even in the Bible until the cross. As we know, God decreed that they could eat anything they wanted in the entire garden, with one exception:
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:15-17)There is something vitally important to note here. This command occurs in Genesis 2: 15-17, before God creates woman. So how did the woman know not to eat of the tree? Her husband Adam must have told her. God saw fit to reveal this commandment to the man He created and then created a woman, who was bound by the same rule. Everyone knows what happens next….
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. (Genesis 3:1-7)God left it to Adam to lead in the first family of man and to instruct his wife to not eat of the tree. As far as the Bible records, God never specifically spoke this warning to Eve, only to Adam who then passed it on to Eve. Eve in turn was deceived by the serpent and Adam took of the fruit given to him by Eve and they both ate.
And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:8-13)God calls out to the man and converses with him until Adam attempts to throw Eve under the bus.
Their disobedience of course displeases God (although it did not surprise Him) and God proclaims the curse but also the promise:
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”It is important at this point to say that there is blame for both Adam and Eve here but the way it is laid out is instructive. God chastises Eve for listening to the serpent and then He chastises Adam for listening to his wife instead of God. God doesn't mention the serpent at all when speaking to Adam. I think what we are seeing here is the first example of a man failing to exercise headship over his wife. Adam should have told his wife not to eat the fruit and refused to eat it himself. He did not and the rest of human history unfolds the way it does because of that failure to lead on the part of Adam.
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”(Genesis 3:16-19)
So the curse is two-fold. First for the woman God is angered because she listened to the serpent instead of her husband and as a result childbirth will be painful and her husband will rule over her and she will desire him. This curse is still in effect (unless you want to argue that child birth is no longer painful). For the man, God is angry that he listened to Eve instead of God. As a result man is cursed to struggle to coax food from the ground. No longer will food be readily available but it will require the sweat of his brow to obtain.
Is this just a description of an event? Clearly not because the ramifications of this event run throughout the Bible. The order of creation, the means of creation, the events of the Fall and the curse are every bit as applicable to the way we look at families and the church as the doctrine of sin is to the way we understand humanity and the cross. God is not merely observing that child birth is going to hurt and that women will be ruled by their husbands and that men will coax food from the ground by the sweat of their brow, He is decreeing it. Note He says “I will multiply your pain” not “I happened to notice that child birth is painful”. He says “because you listened to your wife” that the ground is cursed. Is Genesis 3 merely descriptive? Not hardly.
I think I could stop here and move on to the New Testament but there is a lot more to cover. Because of the size and scope of the Old Testament and the nature of a blog, this is going to be something of an overview rather than an in-depth examination.
It is an undeniable fact that God primarily used men, flawed men for certain but men nonetheless, as His prophets and the leaders of His people in the Old Testament. God made His covenant with Abram, not Sarai. God commanded Noah to build the ark, not Noah's wife. God used Moses to lead His people out of Egypt, not Miriam. God made David the King, not his wives. God revealed the coming of His New Covenant to Jeremiah and used Isaiah to prophesy of the Suffering Servant, the Prince of Peace. Samuel, Aaron, Elijah, Malachi, Nehemiah, Ezekiel, Amos, on and on, God is often described (and describes Himself) as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God used men as His primary vessel for revelation. That is irrefutable.
That doesn’t of course mean that God never used women in the Old Testament, just that He primarily, normally and overwhelmingly, used men as prophets, priests and kings and that women often functioned and served differently. As one example, when God proclaimed judgment on His people, one of the condemnations was especially pertinent to this conversation:
My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths. (Isaiah 3:12)It doesn’t sound as if God was too keen on men abdicating their leadership to women. I imagine He looks at the general passivity of men in the church and is similarly displeased when men step aside and leave their responsibilities to their wives. This leadership role is not one that is reserved to the corporate “people” which under the Old Covenant would be the Jewish nation and under the New Covenant would be Jew and gentile alike who have been regenerated and adopted into the family of God. It is also something we see in the family. Fathers are called to pass on the teachings of God to their children (Psalm 78: 5; Joshua 4: 21-24). Fathers were called to slaughter the Passover lamb in Egypt (Exodus 12:3) on behalf of their family. From start to finish the Old Testament is patriarchal.
Having said that, Christians are under the New Covenant so the question at hand: does the New Testament perpetuate the patriarchy system or overturn it? I will argue that not only does it not overturn it, it actually is even more overt.
Next up the New Testament…
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
There is also are some not so helpful comments, specifically the first two that make the predictable and slanderous link between patriarchy and spousal abuse, child abuse, sex trafficking of children, abortion and incest. Seriously. I half expect to find the police at my house when I get home because if I hold to patriarchy I must be some sort of monstrous abuser of women and children. That is odd because I know quite a few people who hold to a variety of patriarchal positions and all of them seem to be nice folks. Who knew that they were involved in human trafficking?
I have seen this sort of linkage before. Some argue against homeschooling because some families that are already abusive use homeschooling as cover, so therefore all homeschooling families are suspect. Case in point, see here. I wonder if women and children are abused in non-patriarchal homes?
Last time I checked, this was still in effect:
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." (Exodus 20:16)
Frankly, who wants a ministry where you do not get to know people anyway? Is that not a major part of what ministry is meant to be?When a man is the “senior pastor” of a church with thousands of “members” or regular attendees, how is he pastoring them in any real sense? Sure they listen to his sermons weekly but they (and I) can do the same thing from my computer at home without the hassle of getting dressed up, driving somewhere and sitting silently in a pew for 45 minutes. Yet many men hold these celebrity conference speakers up as the paragons of ministry. They write best selling books, they are invited to Larry King Live and for interviews with Time magazine, they have the best read blogs, their podcasts gets thousands of downloads, they are often quoted on Facebook or have snippets of their sermons embedded from YouTube and they are the speakers that are the most in demand.
But are they ministering to the people they are supposed to be ministering to? How well do they know the people in their local church, the people who are left behind while their pastor is off to another conference to speak? If that is left to the other staff members, are they a “pastor” in any sort of Biblical sense?
Ministry has everything to do with serving people and to serve them you must know them and be known by them and people don’t get to know you based on how many of your books they have read or how many conference talks of yours they have listened to.
(HT: Les Prouty)
Bobby Auner has a good post this morning. We often see disciple making as making people who look like us begin to think like us. But making disciples is more than that and as I am finding it often means that those you disciple may look quite different from you. Check out Bobby's post!
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Examining this issue is tough in 2011. For most of western history, this topic was not really in question. Trying to tread lightly here but the egalitarian outcry is something of a modern invention, even in my lifetime. Patriarchy has fallen on hard times and I blame much of that for the culture around us, a culture that has impacted the way the church views this doctrine. For example, look at how the term is commonly defined in our culture. Merriam-Webster defines patriarchy as:
1: social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of powerThat definition is faulty for our purposes because it is describing patriarchy in an entirely secular and cultural sense. Note also the subtle negative terminology: “supremacy”, “legal dependence”, “control” and “disproportionately large share of power”. Even in what is on the surface an innocuous definition of an ancient word demonstrates a bias against it. Arguing about the definition of patriarchy as defined and rejected by the prevailing culture is not my goal here.
I am fully capable and perhaps overly willing to attack feminism in our culture but our concern here is not for a political, “culture war” conversation but an examination of Scripture. So for purposes of this study, I am going to try to restrict my argument to the text of Scripture and not throw in examples of the pernicious impact of feminism on our culture. Oops, see how easy that was!
From a Scriptural sense, patriarchy as I said above is a recognition that God intentionally, purposefully and for His own gory created men and women differently and in a complementary manner so that men and women are necessarily incomplete. As a result and for His own glory in Creation God from the very beginning of the Bible and throughout the Old and New Testaments and under both the Old and New Covenants has called men and women to different functions and restricted men and more often if we are honest women from certain functions in the church and in the home.
So what does that mean? When we step away from books and blogs, how is this lived out? What does it look like? Holding as I do to a non-traditional view of the church means that I see the home/church role distinctions as less distinct and also see the concept of leadership in the church quite differently. I don’t see elders as men selected from the local body to make all of the decisions, decisions that everyone else just needs to suck it up and obey. Elders in the local church, as I see them and believe the Bible depicts them, are men who have demonstrated wisdom and humility over time through service and the manner of their lives. The local church turns to these men for leadership because they have already demonstrated by their lives that they are men to be followed and deferred to, not because of the title they hold but because of the life they live.
To put it more simply, we follow men who are elders because they have demonstrated that we should emulate them and respect their maturity, not because simply because of the title they hold or even worse because they have been hired for the task. When decisions are made in the church, they should be made by consensus but deference should be given to those who are elders because by definition they are men we should imitate and respect for their maturity. That doesn’t mean that women have no voice or cannot serve but it manifests itself differently (more on this in the post on the New Testament evidence for patriarchy). All Christians are equal in the eyes of Christ and all should serve but not all are recognized as elders. As Paul eloquently wrote in Romans 12: 4-8 and 1 Corinthians 12: 14-26, the church is made up of different and complementary parts. A foot doesn’t act like an ear and a wrist doesn’t act like a nose but all of them work in different ways and are necessary for a healthy body Likewise in the church we function in different ways but all work together when the Body is healthy. God has called men to lead in general and more specifically to functions like teaching and equipping other men, something that is specifically prohibited to women (who are called to a similar function with children and other women) Again, more on this in a later post.
In the home, patriarchy is more overt. The Bible is quite clear about the roles and relationships in the family and it is even more obvious in the New Testament than the Old, which seems counter-intuitive. What is most important here is that God calls fathers to lead in the family by working to support his family and by teaching his children. That is not something that can be deferred to wives. I know there are some people who operate their family differently and I don’t condemn them for that but that doesn’t change what I believe is the best and the intended roles within the family.
I recognize that there are lots of assertions in this post and not much Scripture, that is intentional. The next two posts will look at the Scriptural basis for these sweeping assertions because that is where we separate opinion from doctrine.
I have a confession to make. Make sure you are sitting down.
I am an unabashed, unapologetic and frankly enthusiastic advocate for patriarchy.That admission is one that is frowned upon in many Christian circles, especially in those I find myself running in more these days. Patriarchy, while a perfectly good word, has been hijacked to become a pejorative term to describe some sort of perversion of the doctrine, a sort of religious Archie Bunker that is an ogre and tyrant who abuses his wife and family while sitting around the house in a stained undershirt watching the ballgame. Even many of those who would hold to a patriarchal position avoid the term because it has been hijacked by those who oppose the position. For purposes of this brief blog series I will use patriarchy, male headship and complementarianism as synonymous although I will tend to use patriarchy more often if for no other reason than it annoys people.
At the outset, there are a few things I need to say. My position on this topic is not one that I seek to use to break fellowship with other believers over. I recognize that not everyone is convinced as I am regarding this position and that while I advocate for this stance, I try not to disparage those who differ. There are grades and shades to this issue and I have yet to meet the person who embodies a perfect relationship between the genders so I have no interest in slandering brothers and sisters who come down on this position differently than I do. Unfortunately I find that is not always reciprocated. While some people, like Bobby Auner, are honestly and humbly thinking through their position in a helpful way, there are a troubling number of voices that not only don't hold to this position, they actively seek to undermine patriarchy and in doing so go beyond making their case from Scripture and instead make spurious claims and personal attacks. You don't have to look very far to find people who make dubious links between male headship and spousal/child abuse, whether of spiritual nature or more disturbing physical and or sexual abuse. I also find that there aren’t many voices that advocate for patriarchy among the simple church crowd, so I am merely putting forth my position as an alternate voice. A monopoly view on a position is every bit as myopic in the simple church as it is in the institutional church and I have written before about my concerns with throwing the baby out with the institutional bathwater.
A lot of people who come across my blog are those who are seeking a simpler, more Biblically based model of the church gathering whether you call that house church, organic church, simple church or some other manifestation of that idea. Within this movement, full of wonderful people that I love there are many who hold to a non-complementarian/patriarchal view of gender and some do so with a great deal of vigor. My intent is to provide a counter-view, one that says that there is nothing whatsoever incompatible with a simple/organic/house church model that also embraces Biblical male headship and gender roles. I am going to try to keep my tone positive and focus on why I hold to this position without slandering or attacking those who don't and I would ask you to keep that in mind when you comment.
Another important clarification. Issues of gender and their relative relations in the home and church need to be understood as functional, not positional. What that means is that positionally all Christians are in Christ, all saved the same way and all equally children of God by adoption. By functionally what I mean is that we do not all function the same way. Case in point, I don't bear children. That doesn't mean that I am getting the short end of the stick because believe me I don't want to bear children but it does mean that we function differently and we do so purposefully. God made men and women wonderfully and intentionally different and complementary and that makes life a lot more interesting!
My plan is to post a series including an attempt to define the issue at hand and then start with a post looking at gender and patriarchy in the Old Testament, one looking at the same topic in the New Testament, a response to common objections, and a summary of what I believe the Bible teaches. I of course reserve the right to add to that list depending on the direction my thoughts progress and the comments take us.
Note on commenting:
If you want to jump into the conversation, I would certainly encourage you to do so! I would however ask a couple of things from you. I am very interested in what you have to say on this topic but I am not terrible interested in a giant “cut and paste” of something someone else wrote or just pasting hyperlinks to something someone else wrote. As I work through this topic, I would encourage you to do so as well. Certainly there is an abundance of useful material on the web that runs the gamut of positions on this topic but I am more interested in interacting with you and not with what someone else wrote that you are quoting. I am taking the unusual step of saying up front that comments that consist primarily of something you copied and pasted from elsewhere or just a hyperlink will be rejected in moderation. If you happen to read this and have published a book on the topic, that is great but saying “I addressed this in my book” is likewise not adding to the conversation. Dueling hyperlinks, “buy my book” or “cutting and pasting” is not permitted. Period. Otherwise the floor here will be open as always.
Monday, April 25, 2011
The problem with these responses that I get consistently is that, while I understand and in many ways sympathize with them, they are approaching the issue from the wrong way. The way these responses approach the topic is to assume that we have the right or the ability to determine on our own when we can set aside Scripture because the situation warrants it.
Let’s look at some other Biblical commands and see how this looks…
“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)Well, what if my kids are really hungry and we don’t have any money. Wouldn’t it be Ok to steal some food, just to get us by? God wouldn’t want me to let my kids go hungry, right?
Or how about…
“You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)Yeah, but we love one another and are going to get married anyway so a little sex before marriage isn’t that big of a deal! Besides we didn’t go “all the way” so it doesn’t count!
Those are somewhat extreme but no more so than the idea of killing someone for the sake of a nation or killing someone who threatens you or your family. Do you see how this becomes problematic? When we dictate terms to Scripture based on situations, we become the authority over Scripture. Scripture becomes a guidebook to be consulted but also to be ignored when the situation warrants, making every man an authority unto himself.
When we are faced with an express principle or command that is discomforting, we need to examine ourselves and see where the rebellion comes from and not leap to find a “what if” situation where we can justify setting Scripture aside. I am quite certain that when our personal beliefs conflict with Scripture, it is not God who is wrong. More often than not, our doubt comes from a lack of trust in what God has promised and that is never a good position to be in.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites be as loudly self-righteous as possible, for they disfigure their faces that their so that your fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward you will receive accolades from the Huffington Post. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others advertise the fact as much as possible to get favorable media coverage and thus get attention but by your Father who is in secret from elected officials, the media and most importantly your donors who read your blog. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you supporters and donors will reward you via Paypal. (Matthew 6:16-18, Social Justice Re-Mix)I am not sure how I missed this but as always reading the religion pages of the Huffington Post has provided rich fodder of foolishness (and I haven't even read Al Shaprton's essay on Passover and Easter yet!) So apparently Jim Wallis, Ambassador Tony Hall and others have engaged in a fast that has "gone viral" to protest the Federal budget cuts that have no chance of actually passing. There were mutliple links to articles about Wallis and his left wing religious publicity stunt. I call it that because what else can you call it? It is interesting that the Gospels record that Jesus spoke of fasting in secret so as not to seek the approval of men and that His disciples were questioned because they didn't fast (at least not openly)and yet here we have a follower of Christ going out of his way to point out that he is fasting.
To get an idea of how blinded by his idealogy Jim Wallis is, you only need read this quote:
Wallis rejected the idea the U.S. is strapped for cash, and accused lawmakers of simply spending money in the wrong areas.
That is the same line of baloney you get from the New York Times. There is no debt, if there was a debt it isn't a big deal and anyway the only way to reduce the debt is to go into more debt. I will agree with what Wallis said in part. While we certainly are strapped for cash via a $14,000,000,000,000 deficit that we are told must be increased to avoid calamity, calamity I tell ya!, a crushing debt that will destroy economic opportunity for future generations of Americans, rich and poor alike, I would agree that we are spending money in all the wrong area. Namely almost every area of spending the Federal government engages in!
I appreciate the zeal of Jim Wallis and others for the poor, I just would desire that they would stop placing their faith in the worst possible vehicle for alleviating poverty (i.e. the confiscation of property from one class of people and transfering that property to another class of people by a secular state via coercion and under threat of imprisonment). The Federal government can never tax enough, spend enough, borrow enough to end poverty and in fact all of the spending/taxing/borrowing for the last four decades has actually made poverty worse and indebted the nation. I have no confidence that eliminating poverty is even a feasible goal but I also am sure that God's people can and must do far more to love our neighbor than we do presently. I think Jim Wallis, Sojourners, etc. would have far more impact by calling on the church to do more to help the poor rather than calling on the church to call their Congressman. As it stands their message is easily dismissed as political liberalism dressed up in religious language.
The call to proclaim the Gospel and care for the poor, the hungry, the widow and the orphan deserves more than cheap political grandstanding,
The more complex we make church, the less relational it becomes and the more progrmatic it inevitably becomes. When we keep it simple, we can keep our focus on Christ instead of the institution.
(HT: Guy Muse)
Sunday, April 24, 2011
From Eric Carpenter...
"Today we gathered with friends in a home to encourage one another in Christ. We read the bible, prayed, talked about how our weeks had gone..."
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you." (Mat 28:1-7)
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Eric posted something interesting and something we have struggled with. As advocates of simple/house churches, we can be just as dis-unified by insisting on our way of meeting. In many ways I agree with Eric, we need to go to where other Christians gather even if we strongly disagree with the manner of their meeting. Otherwise we are just as guilty of disunity as the most traditional institutional church.
Take a look at what Eric wrote and leave a comment. What do you think?
Friday, April 22, 2011
I was heading out to feed the horses this morning and noticed that our sheep seemed to have sprouted some new legs. Turns out she had her lamb this morning/last night! It is a ewe lamb which is even better. It is pretty cold and windy and rainy but it seems OK so far. Pics aren't great because it keeps moving around but you get the point...
Sure, Easter is the big day when the church choirs are decked out, the banners are unfurled, the organ music rolls and the pastor delivers a powerhouse sermon.Amen! Easter everyday!
"For us, it's Easter every day,"O'Hair counters. "We don't wait for once a year. We gather people of like mind who really believe they have gifts and callings. You don't have pastors and teachers who take over. The house church meeting is led by the Holy Spirit. Sing, teach, preach — you are free to do so."
More and more Christians are finding community outside of the confining walls of church buildings and that is not something to lament but to celebrate. I am looking forward to spending this Sunday with other believers, both from our small local group and a group from further south. We are going to break bread, see a new believer baptized and share songs, prayers and Scripture with one another. What a marvelous blessing that will be!
(I found it interesting that they quoted uber-institutional pastor Kevin DeYoung for this article)
Koran-Burning Pastor's Gun Discharges Outside of Detroit TV Station
Police were called Thursday night after Koran-burning pastor Terry Jones accidentally discharged his firearm in the parking lot of a television station, where he had just conducted an interview, MyFoxDetroit.com reported.
"Pastor Terry Jones just discharged his firearm in our parking lot," myFOXdetroit.com announced on its Facebook page.
"He claims it was fired by accident. The shot went into the floorboard of his car. No one was hurt. Police on scene."
Southfield Police confirmed the gun accidentally discharged. No charges were filed, and police gave the gun back to Jones before sending him on his way.
Apparently he thought he saw Osama bin Laden under his car and decided to smite him.
Seriously. I own quite a few guns including handguns and if you are not familiar with the basics of a handgun, like not carrying a round in the chamber and putting the safety on, you shouldn't carry it. You are more dangerous to yourself, your car and others around you then to some hypothetical Muslim who is out to get you.
This guy should hang out with "Pastor" Plaxico Burress.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
1)Find men who function as a pastor without the title or recognition.I think that makes a ton of sense. The way the Bible seems to be describing the process of recognizing elders is to recognize as elders those men that are already functioning and demonstrating the characteristics of being an elder. Instead of hiring someone to be an elder and then hoping they act that way because we have granted them the title, we should recognize those men who are already acting that way!
2) Find men who assume the pastoral burden, although it has not yet been placed on them.
3)Find men who shepherd their family the way a pastor should shepherd God’s people.
Consider how most traditional churches find a new pastor, something that 9 Marks writes about a lot (there are several recent articles on pastor search committees). A man announces he is leaving his post as pastor, probably with little warning. The local church forms a pastor search committee and they meet to decide what they are looking for in a candidate. The committee posts advertisements for the job opening and accepts resumes. After winnowing through the resumes they invite men in for interviews and perhaps even to deliver a sermon or two so they can judge his performance in the pulpit. Once they have found their guy based on a resume, a couple of interviews and some sample preaching, a job offer is extended and if the pay and benefits are acceptable, a new elder joins the church from the outside. Now he has to get to know people but not too closely because a pastor needs to maintain some distance from "his flock".
What if more churches followed the path Brian Croft outlines, not just for the "regular" elders in the church but for all of the pastor/elders? I think we would see a very different sort of church leadership, one based on leaders recognized because of a demonstrated life as opposed to men hired for a job based on resumes, interviews and performances.
"We are going there totally in peace. We have no intentions of doing anything provocative," he said in an interview. "We will be speaking our minds, expressing our First Amendment rights."Then he said this…
Although Mr. Jones said the public had nothing to fear, he is concerned about his own safety. He said he has received 400 death threats, including some from Dearborn residents. He said he and an assistant accompanying him plan to be armed.So if someone tried to kill this fella, presumably a Muslim extremist angry about his Quran burning stunt, “Pastor” Jones would have no problem pulling out his .40 cal and double-tapping him into hell. I come in peace but I carry a piece! I guess when you name your organization “Dove World Outreach Center” when you say “Dove” you mean “Glock” and when you say “Outreach” you mean reaching out with a hollow point.
"I have a .40-caliber semiautomatic that I carry with me at all times," said Mr. Jones. "If someone would try to attack us, shoot us, we would have no problem defending ourselves."
So for those who are advocates of Christians responding to threats to life and property with deadly force, is this the image we want to portray to those we are trying to reach with Christ? I am not advocating for Mr. Jones or his misguided, counter-productive and unscriptural methods. What I am saying is that being a witness for Christ is going to rub people the wrong way, sometimes violently, and always has. Do you see a difference between what Mr. Jones is saying and advocating the use of deadly force to defend your own life or property?
Similarly, everyone who is part of our church knows that I’m looking for a teaching position. They know that if God answers this request, it will probably mean that we move out of the area. (Of course, we’re open to other possibilities also.) The church is actually praying that God would answer my request (one way or the other).So Alan is open with his local church family and they are able to pray for him to get a teaching position even though that likely means he would need to leave that church family and move somewhere else. Compare that with how most pastors/vocational elders look for new churches. It is often done in secrecy (not always of course) and without the knowledge, support or prayer of their current church family. Just as I didn’t tell my last employer I was looking for a new job because it would hurt my employee/employer relationship, many pastors feel unable to talk with their church family because they are not just his church family, they are also his employer.
Could you imagine a salaried pastor telling a church that he is looking for another job? Or could you imagine him asking the church to pray that God would provide another job? (Yes, I know it happens occasionally. But, generally, the employee/employer relationship hinders this.)
I’m glad that my relationship with others in the church is not hindered or distracted by the employment issue.
When we add the dynamic of money and employment into the church family relationship, it necessarily has a negative impact. It is impossible to relate to one another as “brother” and “sister” when some of the “brothers” are employees of other “brothers and sisters”. When we take that away, we are able to care for and pray for one another as family. Isn’t that how it should be?
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
As I have written before, being anti-abortion is not enough. We need to be pro-life in every sense and I would encourage you to help in the ministry of your local crisis pregnancy center whether in money or your time. These centers offer a loving alternative to women (and men!) that goes beyond the signs and shouting in front of abortion clinics. Please prayerfully consider how you can help show the love of Christ to women who need someone to love them in the midst of an uncertain and often very scary time.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Let’s start with a statement that, hopefully, everyone reading this will agree with: disunity is a major problem among the church. The church is splintered in its expression in spite of being one in Christ. This is a huge problem. However, forcing (or requiring) people to agree with one another about everything does not lead to unity. In the same way, disunity is not caused directly because people disagree with one another.
I think some people despair of unity in the church because they assume it means absolute agreement and conformity. That is fortunately not the case. In some ways I have used that as an excuse over the years. Well, I can't fellowship with those people because they believe A, B and C and of course they are wrong. That is a cheap and unscriptural view that much of the church holds even if they don't come out and admit it. I still struggle with this but I am trying to put aside my pride so that I can more fully experience the fellowship of other believers.
It is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary that we fellowship with people we disagree with on some issues. The only person I agree with 100% of the time is myself and sometimes I make pretty poor company even to me! The church is united by so many things, first and foremost the blood bought adoption by God. If God has chosen us and caused us to be born again and become part of His family, we need to be united with one another regardless of our differences. To do anything else is to tell God that perhaps He made a mistake in bringing those people into His family.
Monday, April 18, 2011
I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
That quote drives me batty and is rolled out on a regular basis to chastise Christians for being so un-Christ-like, typically from the left. I get the point but I also think it is way off base, not in the second sentence but in the first. Did Gandhi really like Christ? Did he like the Christ that declared Himself to be the way, the truth and the life and the only way to heaven? Did he like the Christ that declared that those who didn’t believe in Him were already condemned? Did he like the Christ that John the Baptist said was coming in judgment: His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3:12)? By all accounts, Gandhi was not a believer in Christ in any but the vaguest sense and certainly did not recognize Christ as Lord.
I think Gandhi and those who throw this quote around are enamored with the “Jesus as social do-gooder” image that sees Jesus as basically someone who came to be an advocate for liberal social policies and happened to get crucified by “The Man” along the way. That view of Christ is necessarily incomplete. The good news to the poor that Isaiah prophesied (Isa 61:1) and Christ fulfilled was not that there would someday be a social safety net system in Western democracies, it was that in spite of their poverty those who believe have a glorious eternity ahead of them. The Good News is that in spite of man’s total depravity, his sinful rebellion, that God sent His only Son so that through faith in His propitiatory sacrifice for the redemption of sin man could be reconciled to an infinitely just and holy God. That is apparently not what Gandhi believed and at the risk of being “judgmental” I don’t think Gandhi is going to like Christ much at all when he stands before the Judgment Seat.
Clever quips from unbelievers might make great tweets but they make pretty bad theology.
Sunday, April 17, 2011
My transoceanic brother Christopher Dryden shared an article with me from The London Evening Standard. Once I translated it into American, I was a little stunned by what I read. Read it and then a few comments....
Church of England sees investments grow by £500m
The Church of England said today that its biggest investment fund has grown by £500 million over the past year after a strong performance.
Investments grew 15.2% in 2010 with the value of the fund rising from £4.8 billion to £5.3 billion, the Church Commissioners said.
The closed fund is used to pay clergy pensions for those in service before 1998 and to support cathedrals, bishops, mission activity and parishes in the most needy areas of the country.
Five billion pounds. If you convert that into real money, that is over $8.6 billion dollars. In the bank. So that the institution can be perpetuated and its employees get their pension. Meanwhile there are millions of people who are without the Gospel across England and the rest of Europe and countless people worldwide. There are people who are hungry, orphans that need homes, etc. and here is a church that has parked billions of dollars in investments.
This is played out all across the church, from small local churches to megachurches. When I worked in banking it was amazing how much money local churches had socked away. Six figure savings were not uncommon and a few had over a million in cash. Those that didn't have a bunch of money saved often had a ton of debt. Not every church of course but it was not isolated. It is considered "good stewardship" to save money for a rainy day because churches have expenses that have to get paid every month. The most important budget consideration is ensuring that the bills get paid every month and if possible that future expenses are being saved up for.
Does it seem sometimes that perpetuating the institution is more important than proclaiming the Gospel?
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
It is quite clear from Scripture that being a Christian involves being filled with the Holy Spirit and that the indwelling presence of the Spirit should have a discernible impact on us. How that looks in the daily lives of Christians and in the community of faith is a little harder to pin down, largely because of the ways the Spirit is represented and taught in most of the church. I think I tend to dismiss much of what passes for movements of the Holy Spirit based on the excesses of some parts of the Charismatic movement. That is partly understandable but mostly inexcusable.
So I am going to try to really study this quiet but vital member of the Trinity. It fits in with my general interests in blogging. One of the things that I think the traditional church has inadvertently done is put so many structures in place that we leave no room at all for the Holy Spirit to manifest Himself in our gatherings. In an effort to be orderly, we have removed the truth that the church is Spirit-infused and Spirit-led and made the church leader-led and doctrine-infused. We need to recognize and embrace the role of the Spirit in the gathering of the Church while staying firmly grounded to avoid the sort of abuses and shenanigans that have cropped up over the centuries.
First and foremost I need to turn to the Word and intentionally seek out places where the Spirit is given special prominence. I also need to read up on Him in a wide variety of works. I have three books on my shelf that I have skimmed through that approach the Holy Spirit from a Reformed perspective, written by John Owen, Sinclair Ferguson and R.C. Sproul. You aren’t going to get much more Reformed than that! I just added Francis Chan’s book, The Forgotten God, to my Amazon cart. I think Chan’s book will be a solid but different perspective and one I need to look at. I would be open to other suggestions for books on this forgotten/neglected member of the Trinity (not Benny Hinn). I am not so much interested in more books written by Reformed folks because I think I have that covered nor am I looking for way out in left field charismatics. Just looking for some good, solid, balanced works that look at the Spirit in the life of believers and the church. So if you have any suggestions for good books on the Holy Spirit, please fire them up in the comments!
I can think of few men who look more intimidating at the plate than Albert Pujols. Even if you didn’t know much about him you can tell by looking at him that he can crush a baseball. What I didn’t know was how deeply his faith impacts his life and that was what made Pujols a fun read for me. As a Christian and a baseball fan, this book was an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes in the life of sports celebrities. All most of us know about Albert is that he is one of the most dangerous and most consistent hitters in the game but when the authors peel back the game and show you Pujols you see a man who came to faith at the same time he came to fame and he has done a pretty good job balancing the two. A preternaturally talented hitter who saw some 400 young men drafted before him, Pujols has a drive that makes him great and he applies that same drive to his faith.
The book is a bit repetitive at times, swinging back and forth between recountings of an Albert Pujol’s at bat or the details of a game and anecdotes about how important his faith is to him. It is not an especially deep or challenging book. If you have the time and some solitude it is easily an afternoon read or a book to occupy you while sitting through a layover in an airport. That doesn’t mean it is a bad book, not at all. It is a fun read although if you are not a sports fan it might be a tough one to work through because of all of the sports talk and baseball lingo.
The biggest thing that came out of this book for me was learning a lot about the background of one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game and how deeply his faith impact who he is. For me Albert Pujols has long been a sports icon and someone you really want to be able to draft in your fantasy baseball league but now I see him as something far more, a complicated and flawed man but more importantly a brother in Christ. I am looking forward to playing a few innings with Albert in eternity!
If you are someone who not only loves Christ but also loves baseball (although not in the same way of course!), this is a great summertime book, something to read when there isn’t a game on!
(I received this book for free in return for an unbiased review from Thomas Nelson books as part of their Booksneeze program!)
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Very good reminder from Alan Knox. We need to know people in order to serve them!
I read a great post from Brittany Luther who just got back from a trip to Haiti with the Haiti Orphan Project. Give her post, Through the Orphans' Eyes, a read. It is great to hear how God is using these orphans to teach His people every bit as much as He is using His people to help these orphans.
Have you thought about how you can be of service to God in caring for orphans? There is plenty of need to go around. Check out The Haiti Orphan Project to learn more about the work in Haiti or The Global Orphan Project to learn about worldwide efforts to help orphans.
Now that doesn't mean doctrine is unimportant. A church with great relationships but faulty doctrine is even worse than a church with the opposite problem but here is the thing. Having a church with real relationships is good doctrine! If your church gathering lacks fellowship and real relationships among believers it is necessarily faulty no matter how solid the theology might be.
A lot of people are "leaving churches" and I think much of that is because they were religious Americans, not Christians, and the societal incentive for church attendance has largely evaporated. There is a sizable population of actual Christians who are leaving and that number grows every year and I think that is attributable to what this survey shows, i.e. that people and especially Christians are desirous of real relationships, not phony smiles and suits on Sunday.
There is more to the church than weekly meetings and doctrinal lectures. There is a need for solid teaching and there is a need for regular gatherings but without relationships the church is only a shadow of what it was created to be. How do we get from mute attendance to real relationships? That is the bigger question and that is what I am working through right now.
(HT: Alan Knox)