John 3:16 is naked

 

I love reading the Bible. It is my…paradigmatic mirror in which I find meaning and purpose, a violent calmness and a peaceful unrest all rolled into one I like to gorge on it and feast on it. I like to curl up on the couch and read expansive chunks of the law, the gospel, the psalms, the proverbs. But then I see one liners painted on placards and bumper stickers, and I react. These skinny verses, taken out of their rich and complex context, just sit there on shirts and coffee mugs, naked and rude. Even as I love them and relate to their message,  I have an immediate aversion to their aesthetic.

It’s like walking down the street when all of a sudden you see a baby on the side of the road. Naked, bloody, screaming- its umbilical cord and placenta still attached and yet covered in grime and asphalt burns. Its a jarring sight. Its a rattling, disharmonious experience.   It doesn’t make sense. The baby doesn’t belong in that context, but rather its natural place is with its exhausted mother, curled up tight, mouth to breast, warm and blanketed, basking in the glow of warm lights and damp hair. That’s the setting where it belongs. That’s the context which makes sense and in which a rightness and a fluidity of thought flows out of.

Its the same way with Bible verses. They belong side by side with the rest of God’s words. The intent, power, and purpose of John 3:16 lives and rests in the same breath and in the same spittle as Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus. A lone Bible verse, laid out and exposed without the safety and comfort of its context, is alone, naked, and prone to fall prey to the wolves of misunderstanding, eisegesis, and abuse. Yes the verse is good and I love it, but its a fragment of an idea that deserves to be supported and buttressed by the rest of its literary environment.

For example,  John 3:16 without John 3:17 seems to balance itself in the wrong place. John 3:17 says “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” This verse gives me greater clarity into how to read the one that comes before it. It tells me that if Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, then neither should we. The use of the word “might” in the final clause “that the world through him might be saved, tells me that the domain of Christian witness is not salvation [which is God's work] but service, selfless love and sacrifice. John 3:16 standing alone and without the theology of care offered in John 3:17 makes it harder to interpret. [Note: Bible verses that front salvation over Christian service, instead of being important interfaces between Christian homes and the watching world, seem like sneaky little raids- quick and insulated targets into the culture with no sense that a worldview of care lay behind them.]

Or how about verse 18, where we learn that those who do not believe in him are the perishing that are condemned already, or verse 19, which tells us that they love the dark and will not come to the light,  and thus need someone [the Lord]  to bring them? Or that in verse 5, that the nature of what it means to “believe” in John 3:16 must necessarily involve  being born of water and the spirit- that it is its very essence?

I think there is something holy and important about keeping things together as much as possible- of treating the Word of God in such a way that everything we do with it is geared towards offering the clearest, fullest, faithful, and thoughtful explanation and exposition of it. They have a rich and intricate context that, at least to me, seems to cringe at the thought of being plastered naked on whatever product or place is convenient. Seeing it cloudy and murky, purposefully placed in a situation which robs it of clarity and lucidity is not something that appeals to me. It does not help me understand or relate to it better. It does satisfy my soul.

I’ll take cooing and wrapped in its mothers arms, over naked and squalling in the streets any day.


Mark Driscoll sermon on Esther. Week 1. Jesus is a better King. A critique.

 

I’m in week three of Mark Driscoll’s sermons on Esther, and I wanted to provide an ongoing commentary on the sermon series. As a bit of a backround on men, being a young reformed guy, Mark Driscoll more or less travels in the same circles of people that I look up to, whose sermons I listen to, whose books I read, and whose conference I livestream.  I’m talking about the usual reformed suspects. I’ve appreciated many aspects of his ministry and have been built up and edified by a lot of what he has said, and more often than not I really like the way he says it. I love about 80% of what he says, am uncomfortable and disagree with 10%, and find the last 10% of what he says intolerable and dangerous.

A few days ago I read his blurb on Esther and was not surprised at the level of controversy it generated. I thought some people were spot-on in their pushback, and others were being too critical  and unreasonable. As a results I took an hour or so and shared my thoughts here. I hadn’t even heard the sermons yet, but had based that solely on the release. This post has generated several thousand views, and I take that as encouragement that people are looking for information on this.  As promised, I said I would review his sermons only as far as they relate to that initial statement, and I intend to do just that, with this one being the first in the series.

Jesus is a better King. [Esther 1:1-9]

I really enjoyed this sermon. I thought he did a thorough job at explaining the critical background, historical context, and the settings and characters. I’ve always believed that Mark Driscoll is a gifted communicator, and this sermon is no exception. He delved into the reality of Xerxe’s power, dominion, and the debauched situation he had created- which was a cesspool of sinful decadence and excess. He also effectively and convictingly related it to us in our modern context, using just the right amount of contextualization and relatability to sear our consciences. I think its a gift that, by the end of the sermon, I found myself staring into my soul and seeing all the Xerxes in me- where suddenly a wicked, immoral king wasn’t so far removed from the motivations of my own heart. This was a very good sermon by all accounts.

I found his final few minutes an amazing riff, and worth pointing out.

Here’s what Xerxes says about himself from an inscription that the archaeologists uncovered: “I am Xerxes the Great King, the only king, the king of all countries which speak all kinds of languages, the king of this entire big and far-reaching earth.” Xerxes thought he was Jesus. Some of you think you’re Jesus. Some of you honor, obey, worship, follow, adore people who think they’re Jesus. Jesus is a better King. Amen, Mars Hill? Jesus is a better King.

Xerxes was the son of Darius, but Jesus is the Son of God. Xerxes never tasted poverty nor humility, but Jesus tasted both poverty and humility to identify with us. Xerxes used his power to abuse women, but Jesus used his power to honor women. Xerxes spent his entire life being served, but Jesus spent his entire life serving others. Xerxes killed his enemies with an army of millions, but Jesus died for his enemies, saving billions.

Xerxes sat on a throne in Susa, but Jesus sits on a throne in heaven. Xerxes was the most powerful man on earth, but Jesus made the heavens and the earth and he rules over all creation. Xerxes said he would rule wherever the sun set, but only Jesus made the sun and rules over all of creation.

Xerxes died and today, no one worships Xerxes as god; but Jesus conquered death and today, billions worship Jesus as the only God. Xerxes thought he was a man who became god, but only Jesus is God who became a man. Xerxes’ kingdom had subjects from many nations, but Jesus’ kingdom has joyful worshipers from every nation. Xerxes threw enormous banquets, but the one Jesus is preparing for us makes his pale in comparison. Xerxes’ kingdom came to an end, but Jesus’ kingdom has no end. Xerxes declared himself king of kings, but he died. He stood before and was judged by the one and only King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Mars Hill Church, today is our day of celebration. We are citizens of a greater kingdom. We have received a greater gift. We are looking forward to a greater blessing, and we gather in the name, and the presence, and the fame of Jesus Christ. He is our great King. He is a better King than any king and every king. He is the King of kings, and so now, we will celebrate Jesus Christ. And if they were willing to throw lavish, extravagant, fun, joyful parties for a demonic, false king, how much more should we rejoice and be glad that our King knows us, that our King loves us, that our King saves us, that our King seeks us, that our King serves us, and our King is preparing a banquet for us. Amen?

Amen!

So that was all well and good. It was a very good sermon. But here’s where things get interesting. What stood out to me early in the sermon was this quote, as he was setting up the story and reasons for preaching.

[The book of Esther]…. is that controversial, and part of the reason it is so controversial is it’s difficult to interpret. At no point does the book of Esther tell us what their internal motivations were, what God’s external perspective is. It doesn’t give us any commentary, just history. Some of you will ask, “Well, what does the rest of the Bible have to say about the book of Esther?” Nothing.

I feel the same way about the book of Esther, and I think this is where the biggest disconnect came for me. I tend to take the view that if we don’t know a characters motivations; if the scriptures don’t fill us in on people’s thoughts and reasoning behind their actions, we don’t get to fill that in. We don’t get to assume them motivations that we are not told they expressly have.

This is the great weakness in Pastor Marks sermon. We don’t see this play out in this sermon very much, but we do in the next. After he tells us that the book of Esther does not tell us what Xerxes or Esther or Mordecai’s internal motivations were, he then assigns them some. Whereas in an earlier post I lamented that he was seemingly pulling them from mid-air, I don’t think that anymore. Instead, he seems he to have gotten them from  bits and pieces of commentary from the Talmud, either the Jerusalem or Babylonian, and the Midrash. This is problematic however, because unlike the Scriptures which are infallible, the Talmud isn’t. I’ll delve into this further, but suffice to say this is the source of many of his problems.

I said before that his framework of Esther and her actions only works if he assumes the worst of her, and the worst positive motives on her part and this still holds true. But now I don’t think he’s assuming out of the madness of his own mind, but rather taking his cues from a handful of ancient Jewish rabbinic commentators and giving them way too much credit. We don’t speculate and state for certainty what the Bible has not revealed, and I think instead of taking this idea and running with it, Pastor Mark should have avoided it altogether. And even if he didn’t feel that he could, he should have at least qualified his narrative and stated that its one possibility out of many. That would have made a much better exegesis, and would have avoided much needless guesswork and assumptions.

A note on the critics

I used that picture above to make a point, namely that I think its a gross caricature of Pastor Mark. I believe that Mark Driscoll has some bizarre beliefs and theology, and in recent years has done things that have hurt and sown confusion into the greater Church body [needlessly graphic and explicit sermons, so-called visions of peoples sins, and more recently, his involvement in the Elephant Room with TD Jakes], I don’t recommend his sermons or his books wholesale, and tend to treat his ministry with some caution. I like to think I’m pretty charitable as a whole, but some of the comments and critiques have been disgusting.

Right now my post on Esther and Driscoll is linked on a nominally Christian blog which I do not support or respect  They are the worst offenders, and their collective views could be boiled down to “Pastor Mark hates women and is a sex-crazed manipulator who gets off on dominating, shaming, and using and abusing them, all the while promoting others to to the same.”  They have said that his Esther pre-release notes were essentially a rape apologetic.

That is a crazy, nonsensical, and sinful statement. Driscolls views on Esther in that blurb, while I think are grossly misdirected, are at least consistent with a certain presupposition and framework about Esther, one which at least some Talmudic writers spoke about and postulated. I think it’s wrong, but I’m not so morally and intellectually bankrupt that I would dismiss this whole series as proof positive that Pastor Mark approves of what was going on. Here’s just three small snippets from his sermon which makes it clear that he finds this behavior reprehensible.

“Over in another room, another portion of the palace, is Queen Vashti. She’s got all the women. When no women are present and no rules are in place, men become animals. Amen? What they’re doing is despicable, deplorable, disgusting, and depraved, and there are women there, but these are women who are getting used and abused.”

“He was totally consumed with the harem and all the women who just met all of his evil, sick, sinful, selfish, abusive desires.”

Now at this point, Xerxes, in hearing the story, would feel so proud. “Look at me in all my glory!” But it reveals something of a very wicked, evil, selfish, narcissistic desire to be God, to sit on a throne, to rule over nations, to ravage and abuse women, to indulge in food and drink in excess.”

Conclusion

Like I said- this is a good sermon. It will serve however to set the stage for next weeks, Jesus has a better Kingdom, where the real critique will begin. I’ll be posting it tomorrow.


RC Sproul quote on controversy

“Jesus’ life was a storm of controversy. The apostles, like the prophets before them, could hardly go a day without controversy. Paul said that he debated daily in the marketplace. To avoid controversy is to avoid Christ. We can have peace, but it is a servile and carnal peace where truth is slain in the streets.” R.C. Sproul


The Bible wants you to ask different questions.


As believers, I think oftentimes our tendency is to read the Bible and make it about the Christian life, instead of about Christ. We  look to the Bible to answer questions like “What does the Bible say about smoking weed”. “What does the Bible say about gambling”. “What does the Bible say about debt and finances”, and so forth.  We’ve been told for a long time that the Bible is a guidebook for living. That’s its our B.I.B.L.E [ Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.] and because its our B.I.B.L.E, we’re able to read it as a manual and expect that it will have all the answers to all the questions we have, regardless of the topic or obscurity of thought.

So take questions on sex, debt, tattoos, smoking, dieting, leadership, pornography, etc. These are questions that we expect the Bible to answer. We have these things on our mind and we go through the Bible or type in a word search into biblegateway.com, and one of two things happen. 1) we get frustrated because the answers aren’t clear, or 2), or we get emboldened to extrapolate answers from bits and pieces of ideas that really were never designed to provide answers for us, which results in bad exegesis and ideas which go beyond the scope of what is actually written.

Why aren’t the answers front and center to those kinds of questions? Its because the Bible doesn’t just provide us with answers, but it changes the culture of the questions that we ask.  The answers aren’t always clear because when we read the scriptures, the Bible doesn’t push us to answer those kinds of questions. Rather, when we read the scriptures, we are prompted to ask different kinds of questions altogether. Questions like “Who will rescue me from this body of death, O wretched man that I am?” ” How can a man become right before God?” “Should we sin more so that grace may abound”? ” Who is my shield, my portion, my strength?”

The Bible wasn’t designed to answer all these relatively obscure questions we come to ask it, but rather the Scriptures actually informs and changes the very questions we ask. It pushes us to ask a whole separate kind of questions. The Bible talks about a lot of things, but it doesn’t give all its themes equal air time. Rather, the dominant message of the Bible is God loves and in Jesus justifies sinners. That framework functions as the lens by which every story, parable, historical happening, theological idea, person, miracle, act of God is read through and is purposed by. So as we read the Bible and study the world, we need to ask God to grip us by the radically disproportionate focus on God’s saving love for sinners, seen and accomplished in Jesus Christ,  up and against everything else.

Different kinds of questions. Different culture for the questioner.


Mark Driscoll and Esther: Rape apologism or real exegesis?

Mark Driscoll recently posted a heads-up about a sermons series he was starting, on the book of Esther for September 16. In it he gave several reasons why he was preaching on it and the framework by which he was going to preach. Over the course of his missive, which can be read here, he has said a few things which predictably raise some eyebrows. Specifically

Esther is painfully normal.…Her behaviour is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king…Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed. She’s simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line…

and

Esther has been grossly misinterpreted…Feminists have tried to cast Esther’s life as a tragic tale of male domination and female liberation. Many evangelicals have ignored her sexual sin and godless behaviour to make her into a Daniel-like figure, which is inaccurate. Some have even tried to tie her story in with modern-day, sex-slave trafficking…

Some people have called this intro a rape apologetic, while others  have defended the view. Me? I figured I would offer a thoughtful exegesis to see which of these is correct.  I will update this post once I hear the whole sermon, but I thought what little he has posted so far worth examining.

THE CAPTURE

First of all, what are the circumstances that brought Esther to the harem? Without any action on the King, Esther would not have been in the position she was in. Rather, because she was a beautiful virgin with a beautiful figure, probably between the age of 13-16 years old, she was “sought”, “gathered” and “taken” by the Kings officers and put into the palace under the custody of Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem.  These men would have spread throughout the kingdom, with the intent of bringing women to the palace to have a single night with the King. It is unlikely that a Jewish girl with Jewish sensibilities would have purposefully sought out to be in the King’s harem. From a historical perspective, women did not have a choice in the matter, and there was no right of refusal. The king took what the king wanted, and there was nothing she could have done about it, and would probably have had herself and Mordecai executed if she refused.

Now, it is theoretically possible that she did seek out to be a part of the harem, but that is unlikely, and that would be a conclusion we would reach only if we were ascribing to Esther the worst possible motives and character-slighting opportunism, a woman with a whore’s heart who intended to use her sexuality to gain power and prominence. We have no reason to believe that is the case. Instead, we see the King telling his officers “Go get me beautiful virgins” and they did that, regardless of what the women thought about it.

THE HAREM

Esther is taken into the harem where she would spend the next year going through an intense beauty regiment. She did not have a choice in this matter, and would not have been able to refuse participation. Somehow though, she managed to please Hegai and win favour. “And he quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem. ” What specifically did Esther do to please Hegai? It doesn’t say. It would not have been anything sexual, as he was a Eunuch and he would have been tortured and executed if any impropriety was even suspected.  More than likely, she possessed and demonstrated personality characteristics that won him over, such as kindness, gentleness, intellect, humour, compassion, or some other indefinable quality. The fact is that we don’t know what it is, and so we don’t get to craft a hermeneutic based on assumptions.

After a year of this routine, a woman leaving that Harem would bring a gift to the King and spend the night with him. Because Esther found favour with Hegai over the course of their year together, he also advised her on what gift to take. Hegai would have been in a unique position to best advise her of the Kings desires and preferences. As a result, she brought only what Hegai told her to, and its safe to assume that what she brought would have been intended to maximize her impression on the King. After a woman spends a night with the King, he would typically not call on her again. She was not free to go home, or back where she came from- to her family and loved ones, but would be relegated to a different harem, where the women who were “used” went, and would have to remain there for the rest of her life unless the king called on her again.

WHAT WENT DOWN

“Now Esther was winning favour in the eyes of all who saw her….And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign,  the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti”

Now if we were following Driscolls framework and unwarranted presuppositions, up to this point Esther had purposefully sought out to join a harem, cajoled Hegai into helping her, and then once she had her night with the King she, despite her virginity and sexual inexperience, managed to capture his attention in ways that other had not by being “amazing” in bed, presumably by being sexually adventurous, extremely eager, and using her body in a skillful way.

That doesn’t make ANY sense culturally, historically or contextually. I think a detail worth noting and which may provide some clues to how the king was pleased is the phrase “”Now Esther was winning favour in the eyes of all who saw her.” Because she was lovely and beautiful and everyone who saw her saw something special in her, that news would have invariably reached the King. I think its a safe bet to say that he probably would have known at least something about her, or heard back a good report regarding her, from Hegai or Shaashgaz or somebody else. This demonstrates a pattern that regardless of the painful, strange,  disorienting and horrific circumstances Esther is going through, something exists in her spirit and actions that other people are able to connect to, and this would be something that the King would have noticed and have experienced as well.

In the case of Esther, she went into his bedchamber, they had sex, and over the course of their time together and probably in the year leading up to these events, something happened that endeared the King’s grace and favour towards her, to the point that he loved her more than all the women,  she became the queen.

REFLECTIONS

1. Driscoll says “Her behaviour is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king 

I find this assessment to be bizarre and unsettling.  The narrative storyline clearly shows that Esther was taken, forcibly relocated and coerced into a place of physical and sexual submission by a drunken and despotic man who used power to get whatever he wanted. If a man takes you against your will with the purpose of having sex with you, that’s his sin, not yours. Could she have escaped? It’s extremely doubtful. The harems were highly guarded and impenetrable, but even if she could, she would have invariably been caught and executed. And even if she wouldn’t have been caught, but felt like she would and so chose to remain in the harem, that is not a sin. Its not a sin to choose to endure rape and sexual coercion over a slim possibility of escape. Furthermore, she’s not spending a year in a spa getting dolled up,  she is made to undergo what is essentially a pre-rape regiment for a year against her will. She can’t refuse.  Every time she soaks in myrrh spices she knows its purpose is to prepare her for non-consexual sex with a rapist who would have taken hundreds of women against their will both before her and after her. Did she enjoy the treatments? It doesn’t say. Did she come to enjoy them? It doesn’t say. We don’t read things into this, and for that reason we have no right to favourably compare it to something that is universally looked upon with favour.

2. Driscoll says” her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed.

No. That comparison is sickening and ludicrous and has so many things wrong with it. First, she wasn’t “living in a major city”. She was somewhere, in the country or city, and then was taken into a fortress that she can’t escape in that city. Second, she is not “allowing men to cater to her needs”, she is put in a position where men must serve her in this manner or be tortured, and she must consent to their orders. Third, she  ”lands a rich guy,” in the same way that a woman walking alone in the park is shoved into a van and gang-raped at knifepoint can be said to have “landed a guy”- two of them in fact. In fact that can be our new euphemism for sexual violence and kidnapping. “Did you hear about that girl? It was late at night…she landed a guy.” Fourth- “meets on the Bachelor”? Why do all of Driscolls language and ideas presupposes a purposeful choice on Esther’s part to be part of the harem? Women seek out to be on the Bachelor. Esther did not seek out to be part of a harem. Fifth “wows with an amazing night in bed”. This ignores the pattern of her ability to find grace and win favour with all the people that she encounters  over the course of her imprisonment via non-sexual means, and that this more than likely would have contributed a hefty portion of why the king found favour. Also,  the king would have had thousands of concubins at his disposal to copulate with, and so Driscoll boils down her ability to find favour with him as by being better in bed than those thousands. That was the source of her salvation and worth- the fact that she could out-maneuver and outperform everyone else sexually. She out-sexed them all!  That’s how he plays it, without considering that it may have been something else.

3. Driscoll says “Feminists have tried to cast Esther’s life as a tragic tale of male domination and female liberation”

I’m no particular friend of feminists and think the hermeneutic of female liberation is a terrible lens to read the Bible through.  But don’t we see a clear pattern of male domination? The man with the power uses his  soldiers to take women against their will and has sex with them. That is a man with all the power dominating and crushing the women who have no power. Its abhorrent.

4. Driscoll says “Many evangelicals have ignored her sexual sin and godless behaviour. “

Again, she only has sexual sin if you purposefully read into this the worst possible scenario and give her the worst possible qualities and characteristics. At face value, and at a deeper level, there is no sexual sin here. There is no Godless behavior. There is only self-preservation and strength by doing what must be done to survive, and faithfully enduring these evils that were foisted upon her so that God’s people might be delivered from the hands of their enemy.

CONCLUSION

Mark Driscoll has taken a woman who is brave, courageous, intelligent, a woman of character and virtue who flourished despite her oppression,  a living hero and example to many, one who has risked her life to save her people from genocide, and created a campaign of scorn, shame and slander against her. He has recast her in the most unflattering light possible with no reason to do so. In doing so he has patently either ignored or embellished details about her life and circumstances to sit his hermeneutic framework.

Not only that, but where is the Lord in all of this? The story of Esther has always been one of God’s sovereignty over the entire situation and his protection of his people. God saving them and keeping a remnant and protecting them against their enemies is a theme that we see over and over. Its not simply a case where a woman, through her own abilities and “unique skillset” saved a people, but rather that the Lord is always in the act and process of saving and preserving his people.  The fact that he reached down to a young woman in a despairing circumstance is  beautiful and powerful. Though God is not mentioned in this book, his divine providence and mercy is on full display. Is there any doubt that the Lord’s hand was on this woman? That he was guiding this all? I know Mark affirms that, and I’ll hold off judgement in that respect until the sermon series, but that seems to be curiously absent from this.


Is Junia for Real? A friendly, hopefully thought-provoking response to Pastor Doyle. Part 1

Recently Pastor Doug Doyle preached a sermon at his Church, and I was quite pleased to listen to it. I had been following the CMA’s journey and theological movement from its former position to its current position for some time now, and it was heartening to see the Church discuss its stand publicly, and then go into some depth to explain it and offer a robust defense of the evolution of this position. Seeing as how I’d written about this before from this blog, and have made more than my fair share of observations regarding the issue of women in leadership, I thought it worth some time to examine this a bit more closely and make a few observations. Pastor Doug and I have not had the pleasure of meeting in a Christianly/brotherly context, but based on what little I know of him I figured he would appreciate a bit of friendly dialogue directed his way.

To that end, this is not a sermon review, in the historical sense of how I’ve traditionally done them, but rather a commentary on a few things that he has said, and a desire to flesh them out a bit more. Not all points are those of disagreement- some merely exist to offer a different perspective and nuanced position. To fully appreciate this post and to get the most out of it, [and not get lost] I would direct you to this link, and then come back and read.

“God says it, I believe it, that settles it.”

Early on, at the 3 minute mark, Doug talks about how we don’t follow everything the Bible says, from a “God says it, I believe it, that settles it” perspective, such as gouging out or eyes if it causes us to sin, wearing clothes made of two materials, stoning adulterers, etc. Doug and I have some shared history here, in the sense that I’ve also heard this as well. And yet I do take a  ”God said it, I believe it, that settles it take on everything the Scriptures states.  I believe all those things…so long as they are in their proper historical and theological context. I think if we were being thoughtful, intrinsic in the phrase “God said it” is the understanding that he had a particular audience in mind to the exclusion of others. For example, God told David to kill the Amaletike babies and infants some three thousand years ago. God said it. I believe it. That settles it. It was a good and right action for David and his men to do, and there is no ability or suggestion on my part to pick and choose to do that, because God never offers the choice to me. God told the Israelites to stone adulterers, but he never directed that towards me that as a choice to which I must accept or decline to believe and put into practice. If I think that I have to pick and choose whether or not I need to follow that, then that’s on me, not on God.

Related to this…Scott McKnight

I like Scott Mcknight too, and think he’s probably my favourite egalitarian writer, even though I consider him to have a few serious flaws with both of his books. In any case, he asks the question ‘Which of these Old Testament commands are for us that we need to obey today? Let me ask you if the phrase ‘God says it, I believe it, that settles it’ applies here or not”.  Cribbed from Leviticus 19, we see things like  being holy, regulations on harvesting and gleanings, don’t spread slander, don’t plant fields with two kinds of seeds, don’t eat meat with the blood still in it, don’t clip the edges of your beard, stand up in the presence of the ages, keep all my laws and decrees, etc.

Doug says

“We don’t follow all those commands…so why is all that non-compliance with the Bible ok? Because we believe that while God’s holiness doesn’t change, his will for his people does, and that causes us to say “that was then, and this is now“. That was then, and this is now. God’s holiness doesn’t change, his will for his people does change. How he works with people does change through the ages. So what we have done in order to honor God and to honor the authority of the Bible is we have  learned from the New Testament patterns of discernment of what to do and what not to do.”…”All of us, no matter how conservative and fundamentalist we might be, all of us, no matter where on the scale we are, we practice a little bit of picking and choosing when it comes to following the Bible. [From both the OT and NT] So the issue is how do we discern in a God-honoring and biblical consistent way what we pick and choose to do and not to do… We practice biblical discernment that comes from reading the Bible from cover to cover in order to interpret the hard passages of the Bible that dont always seem to fit.” And this is the issue that pertains to women in  leadership …“Its an issue of understanding certain what appear to be straightforward texts that restrict what women can do, over and against the overall story of what’s going on in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation”

I think this is a succinctly stated framework by which we put things out there, from the Egalitarian perspective. I would like to prod the idea that God’s will for his people doesn’t change. I think we can be more nuanced than that, because here’s the thing, I cannot be lumped together as one of God’s people like everyone else in the Bible in the same way. For example, God’s will for me, specifically and individually,  regarding Leviticus 19, has not changed. The Lord has never willed that I follow that Law or that I subject myself to it. While I am one of “his people” in a general sense, I was not one of his people in that specific sense back then. There is no one asking me to have to make a choice on whether or not I follow Leviticus 19 and clip my beard or plant mixed seeds. My default is not that I am in that paradigm and then having to pick and choose to follow it or not. Rather my default is someone born under and after the new Covenant, and that is the basis for any ongoing choices I have. Right? In terms of the “that was then, this is now” that was never then for me.

This distinction enables someone to affirm a “God says it, I believe it, that settles it” approach to everything in Leviticus 19 and the rest of the Bible without having to believe that it  has to apply to us today. “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” and picking and choosing are not inextricably bound. I think there is an effort being made to tie these close together, whereas a thoughtful, reflective hermeneutic and theology would see that they can and should remain far apart, and that no one is helped when they are kept so intertwined. If we know who things are being said to, there is no choice for us to have to make, and so we can affirm everything in Scriptures as believing and settling what God says. Also note that I’m not saying that we don’t pick and choose some things, specifically some New Testament practices. But when we understand the difference between descriptive and prescriptive in the Scriptures, [what people did, verses what we ought to do]  there really isn’t a whole lot that we are picking and choosing from, and these things are definitely not equal all across the testaments.

“Rabbinic Prayer”

Pastor Doug talks about the culture in which the Bible was written, and how in that patriarchal system, women were not equal, and in many cases were considered inferior to men. I agree with him here, and have no point of disagreement, but I did want to offer a thought into an oft’ quoted prayer, which is the Tosefta Berakot 7.18. In it we read “Praise be Thou, O lord, who did not make me a gentile, Praise be Thou, O Lord, who did not make me a boor; Praise be Thou, O Lord, who did not make me a woman.”

He quotes this without comment, but I would argue that this prayer has much more nuance going for it. From a Jewish perspective, this is really a combination of appreciation and humility which captures the Jewish soul, which they believe is often best expressed through the negative. [Verses the positive, which would read something like "Praise be though Lord, for making me a man".]  These verses aren’t saying that there is something  intrinsically evil or tragic about being a woman, but rather, the three concepts strung together help a Jew express gratitude for his or her particular lot in life. The men are praising the Lord because from their perspective, they are being placed in a position to perform more mitzvot [obligations] than women, since Torah assigns them a greater number, and because woman are more burdened with household activities and their particular role to be able to be as fully engaged as the men are. Simply put, this particular prayer is not as awful as people make it sound, but Doug could have easily grabbed a handful of other sources to show that he’s right in his understanding that the system was built for and geared around the men.

“Young, Restless and Reformed”

I would have to see that picture of God’s chain of command for the family, but I would suspect that I would have similar feelings about it as he does. He says that this image of familial community has been ressurected with nicer words by John Piper and Mark Driscol. “Mark is part of a movement called YRR, or young, restless and reformed, and its a movement that’s full of passion- passion for what’s called called reformed or Calvinist theology, combined with a prohibition on women as equal leaders in the home and church.”

I think that’s kind of an unfair way to say it, and probably could have been worded a bit better. Most reformed people are complementarians, this is true, but its incidental, and not because its a concept rooted in historical reformed theology. Its a slight mischaracterization.  It would be  like  me saying “The Canadian Missionary Alliance  is a movemnet full of passion- passion for Missions, combined with a commitment to speaking in tongues.” Yes, speaking in tongues does happen, but that’s not a really big plank in the grand scheme of things. Thankfully he does say some kind words after about how Reforemd peeps are his brothers, so that was good.

1 Corinthians 14:33-35.

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.

Doug says that he doesn’t know  anyone who would take that passage and make it one hundred percent normative for today.

“What many scholars think might be happening is that Paul was addressing a very specific issue of a particular group of women in a particular Church setting. These women, because of the culture they were raised in, were not allowed to be educated about the Bible or really educated about anything else, but now they’re allowed to go to Church. And now, they’re hearing stuff they’ve never heard before and they are excited, and they are asking questions, and they are disrupting the service.

The Greek word used for speak here is the word, is only used once in the entire Bible, and its meaning is not fully understand, but it also carries with it the connotation of the babble of the carry on, and so these women were really getting excited about the new oppertunities they were having. And so what Paul is actually suggesting here is actually counter-cultural. He’s saying “lets get women educated about the Bible. Let’s liberate women and allow them to study the Bible, but lets not totally disrupt the Church service to do that. Lets break some of the social norms, get women educated, and then you can assume from that that when they are educated in the scriptures that they no longer need to remain silent.”

Here is where I would take some exception, because  there are no facts to support this scholarly hypothesis. There’s no information in the letters to the Corinthians to support this, nor is there any data in extra-biblical sources such as early writings, letters from the church fathers, apostolic and patristic history, etc to corroborate this theory.

As it were, this whole theory attempts to make the church in Corinth a special one, when I would argue that Paul applies his rules to “all the churches” . [1 Corinthians 14:33. I think the verse placement is unfortunate] and again “in the churches” [1 Corinthians 14:34]. Because of this, his rule cannot be restricted to one local church where there were supposedly problems. Rather though, Paul directs the Corinthians to conform to a practice that was universal in the early church. Moreover, this “noisy and disruptive women” theory either doesn’t make sense of Paul’s solution, or it makes his remedy unfair .

First, it really doesn’t make any sense. If the women were indeed being disruptive, Paul would just tell them to act in an orderly way, not to be completely silent. In other cases where there were problems or disorder, such as with tongues or prophecy or with the Lord’s supper, Paul simply prescribes order. If noise and interruptions had been the problem in Corinth, he would have explicitly forbidden disorderly speech, not all speech. Right? It doesn’t make sense that Paul would tell them to treat a paper cut by putting them in a full-body cast.

Second, it would be unfair. If Paul held this view, then he’s pretty much punishing all women for the misdeeds of some. If there were noisy women, in order to be fair, Paul should have said “the disorderly women should keep silent” not “no woman is allowed to speak”. And so when you say that Paul was telling all women to stay silent, because a few women were acting up, you’re ascribing to him a very unjust and ill-thought prescription. Also, Paul would be unfair to punish only the disorderly women and not any disorderly men. And to say that only women and no men were disorderly and disruptive is again merely an assumption with not a single fact to support it.

And lastly, we need to look at the reason Paul is giving for this instruction. He’s not giving “noisy women” as a reason for his instructions, but rather he references the Old Testament law. He says “For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the law also says. [1 Corinthians 14:34] The law mentioned here is a general reference to the Old Testament law. And so he gives the law as the reason for his statements, and so I don’t see the value in  remove from our explanation of Paul’s instruction the reason that Paul does give [the law] and replace it with a reason he does not give [loud, disruptive women]

Paul isn’t saying “let the women be silent, because they should not be asking disruptive questions” or “let the women be silent, because God wants orderly worship services” but rather “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.”

So while the idea of disruptive Corinthian women is pure myth and speculation, [And I note that Doug never said that that is what he personally believed, but rather simply spoke of what many scholars believed] I would argue that this verse does not mean that women should never say a word in church, especially in light of 11:2-16, which gives permission for women to pray or prophesy in the church meetings. I personally do not use this verse to advocate for women not being allowed to teach authoritatively in Church or as some means to demonstrate that women should not be pastors, and in fact would actively debate who tried to use this passage to say that.

Paul isn’t speaking here about disorder, but about the principle of submission. In this case- submission to male leadership among God’s people. I believe a better interpretation of this passage comes from the very context of these verses themselves. Paul is speaking in this context about people giving prophecies and others giving prophecies“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.” [1 Corinthians 14:29] In the context of judging prophecies, Paul says “the women should keep silent in the churches” He does not allow women to speak out and judge prophecies in front of the whole congregation, but he leaves that governing task to men, which is consistent with what he says in 1 Timothy 2:12, about women not having authority over a man. The verse says nothing about noisy, disruptive women, but the context clearly talks about judging prophecies.

“Laleo, to Speak”

Pastor Doug says that

“The Greek word used for speak here is the word, is only used once in the entire Bible, and its meaning is not fully understand, but it also carries with it the connotation of the babble of the carry on”

I would have to see what sources he is using for that, as nothing I can see indicates that that’s the case. In regards to the word speak, the word used is Laleo, [Strongs 2980] Its meaninsg are

1) to utter a voice or emit a sound

2) to speak

a) to use the tongue or the faculty of speech

b) to utter articulate sounds

3) to talk

4) to utter, tell

5) to use words in order to declare one’s mind and disclose one’s thoughts

a) to speak

In fact, this word is actually used 16 times alone in 1 Corinthians 14 alone, neither meanings of which are unclear. It means to speak. For example, we see the same word in Matthew 12:46, where speaking of Jesus, it says “While he was still speaking [Laleo] to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak [Laleo] to him.” Do we say that Jesus was babbling and carrying on, and that in return his mother wanted to babble back at him? No.

There is some discussion between what the word means in classic Greek literature vs NT Greek. BAGD tells us that while classic Greek Laleo can mean babble, we see from Thayer that the Biblical Greek is essentially free of all suggestions that it means babble or carrying on. So I think that’s worth pointing out, and note that there are several major difficulties with the aforementioned statement.

“End of Part 1″

That’s all for now. I’ll publish the conclusion to this next week sometime, God willing.


Psalm 40

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from romansfiveeight


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