Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Colossians 2:1-4 and Epistemology

I get nervous about even using words like "epistemology" to talk about how Biblical authors thought about knowledge if only because of the blatant terminological anachronism. But I could not help this morning as I read Col. 2:1-4 but wonder about the way the Emergent/post-foundationalist Christian movement(s) handles Paul's words in this text. Here is the passage from the ESV, italicized where I think it presents a challenge:

"For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knoweldge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments."

I remember reading in the exchange between Tony Jones and Colin Hansen (here is the link to the last day of it, which has links embedded for the whole) that Jones wanted to press epistemological humility. But is this not exactly what Paul doesn't want to happen here, and that expressly for the sake of the spiritual well-being of the Colossians? Paul explicitly says that the mystery of God is Christ, and it seems best to connect the "knowledge" of that to the preceding reference to "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (1:27) and probably the larger Christological affirmations of Colossians, especially 1:15-20.

Just a thought, and I am curious for how those who tend to think "Emergently" would respond. I certainly hope I am not misconstruing anyone's positions.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Culturally Relevant?

On her blog, In Pursuit of That Which is True, Sarah Scott offer us some counsel on the Gospel.

"Many Christians believe that we can and should make the Word of God culturally relevant. However, due to its very nature, Christianity is countercultural to all cultures in all ages, and is also already highly relevant to the same. To act as if we can "make the Word relevant" is to falsely assume it has no living power, and further, it is to arrogantly claim that mere human beings have power over it. Instead, Christians must remain humbly but steadfastly faithful to the Word, and in doing so, speak the timeless and culturally transcendent truth in love to others (Ephesians 4:15)."

10 Ways to know whether a blog is Reformed.

10. There is a weekly hat tip to a Justin Taylor posting.
9. 50% of the blog posts critique the Emergent church movement.
8. The subtitle mentions grace or mercy.
7. John 6 or Romans 9 is readily accessible.
6. They look for someway to mock Rick Warren.
5. Tim Keller or John Piper is their hero.
4. The “currently reading…” section contains at least one John MacArthur book.
3. When searching their blog for John Calvin there is over 100 entries.
2, Somewhere on the blog is a link for TableTalk magazine or Monergism books.
1. Tim Challies is in their blog roll.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blood Shouldn't Be Thicker Than Baptismal Waters

Wise words I stumbled across from Ben Witherington's Conflict & Community in Corinth, 180, on seeing the church as a family:

"What is desperately needed and seldom found in the church is an adequate theology of the family of faith. Paul believes that being brothers and sisters in Christ and sons and daughters of God transcends all other loyalties and should transform all other social relationships. Blood should not be thicker than the baptismal waters in the church. Rather, Paul calls for a 'relativized' view of all this-worldly institutions, including marriage. His idea of a family 'church' is actualized where God's people treat each other as their primary family, not just as some secondary social gathering that happens once a week and that promotes the agenda of the nuclear family. This is not to say that Paul is against the physical family. He does, however, believe that in the eternal scheme of things one's loyalty to Christ comes above and before one's loyalty to any other group or entity and that therefore one's loyalty to the body of Christ should likewise be at the top of one's priorities."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hot Links

  1. Matthew Montonini interviews Ken Berding about singing through Greek (I took Berding for a number of classes at Biola- he's a genius, and the most disciplined person I have ever met. If he says it works, it works).
  2. Alex Chediak blogs on the reThink conference (here).
  3. James K. A. Smith has an intriguing article called Teaching a Calvinist to Dance.
  4. R. C. Sproul now accepts a literal 6-day creation (here) [HT: Patton]
  5. Want to review the Greek you learned in Seminary? (here) [HT: Harold Simmons]
  6. Derek Thomas interviews D. A. Carson on his new book Christ and Culture Revisited. (here) [HT: JT]
  7. James White in Theology Matter - comments on God, Marriage, and California (here)
  8. John Frame briefly answer the Open Theist (here)
  9. McCain now rejects Hagee, and Hagee withdrawals endorement. (here)
  10. Romans 1:25?

Friday, May 23, 2008

A natural-order theodicy: but is it biblical?

After finishing chapter 5 of the book, I finally feel that I'm getting to the bottom of Hasker's overall analysis and framework for a theodicy. Not that I mean he has presented all of his evidence in light of his thesis, but that the foundation was built in the preceding chapters and we're starting to see the fruit of it all.

In my last 2 posts I sought to expound a little on two positions which Hasker evaluated with respect to natural evil. As noted before, he casts the idea that the natural evil came as a result of sin (i.e. the Fall). His reasoning: simply that the earth is "scientifically" proven to be billions of years old; and since their is also 'evidence' that natural evil (hurricanes, tornado's, disease, death, etc) existed before that time, Adam's sin could not be considered as a viable option to deal with this. The second position by Diogenes Allen, though somewhat accepted by Hasker, nevertheless left much to be desired as well. So midway through the chapter Hasker finally gets to building his position for a theodicy.

As the post title suggests, Hasker sets forth what he calls a natural-order theodicy. He builds on this by noting the requirements for a [cogent] theodicy. What are they? First he says their must be a justifying principle which he defines as a moral principle stating that under certain conditions God is morally justified in permitting some evils of a certain sort to occur. Secondly he says there must also be a justifying circumstance which he notes is a state of affiars which is claimed to obtain which is such that, were it to obtain, the conditions for God to be justified in permitting the evil in question would be satisfied. Essentially they are wrapped up in his overall definition of theodicy, which is to show that God is not morally at fault for permitting the evil in question-that God's permission of the evil is morally justified, even if the events in question really are evil in themselves.

Okay, now that we've gotten this far Dr. Hasker: We know that you have established your position on free will in that in order for the creature to be relatively autonomously free, God must have some "limit" if we are really to be free. We know that you are convinced that omniscience is nothing more than God being able to know true propositions in their logical possibility, and that because the future is logically impossible to know, it wouldn't be illogical to say that God doesn't know the future. Finally, we know that you take the theistic evolutionary position with respect to the natural world.
Lets tie it altogether now, shall we?

Enter the first step, Hasker's natural-order theodicy. After establishing his grounds for what he feels is scientific proof of an extremely old earth, the evolutionary position which he adopts nearly grounds his whole system. He goes on to explain from pages 127-137 his defense for this natural order. To make it short and sweet, Hasker basically asserts that God placed the natural world into existence by setting everything to occur and react with fixed laws which were inherent in the matter themselves. Said another way, the evolving world is acting in accordance to the original plan (design) of God, much like a the way a clockwork, though with potential for progress and evolution. His conclusion: nature is not evil. Humans consider it evil based on the fact that it can cause damage and distress (even death and destruction), but because it is not a being and has no purpose within itself, it cannot be considered evil, even though evil manifests itself through them. And since God created these things without forethought to the "consequences," that gets God off the hook. In his own words, nature operates according to its intrinsic, God-created laws, which are impersonal in form and do not have regard to the lives and welfare of particular individuals. Surely the events are not evil within themselves, I grant that. But what we do have are events that, from a biblical perspective, God apparently takes credit for, at least in some cases.

Hasker attempts to substantiate this claim by an appeal to Scripture by referencing Job 39:27-30 and Psalm104:21-22.
Surely these verses speak to God's creative acts which allowed for the animals to obey their intended purpose. Problem is, how would Hasker interpret those verses to which speak to God's deliberately changing the natural course of the world to conform them for special purposes? For example, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of a fiery furnace as recorded in Daniel 3:26. Clearly nature wasn't acting in accordance to the set laws there. Or for that matter when Jesus walked on water as we are told in Matthew 14:22-33. Are these just instances which God used to "override" the previous notions of inherent natural laws? I guess that could be the case, but how do we understand these things in light of the many different passages where God caused the earth to open up and consume Korah for his rebellion in Numbers 16. Was this just a natural event that just so happened to take place at the time which Korah rebelled and was coincidentally timely?

While I'm sure Dr. Hasker has dealt with some of these objections before, he doesn't seem to do so through chapter 5. Perhaps he will in the final three chapters. He does raise a few objections with respect to how can we take this seemingly fixed set of natural law in light of Christian theism, but asks the reader to be patient as he will attempt to answer them in chapter 7...so I guess we'll have to wait for that as well. Lastly, he does bring up the objection early in his defense of the natural-order theodicy in regards to heaven. The question we might all ask is first, if heaven is to be a perfect place and state of being, why didn't God just make this place and not the evil infested place in which we now live? His answer, to me, is pretty much the same answer that the determinist (Calvinist) offers, it is unknowable. It must rest in the original purpose of God to want to have created the world in the way in has come about. Obviously there is another side to the heaven debate which was neither addressed nor hinted at, that of how one defines free will in light of the fact that in heaven we will not be able to choose between evil or good. But I suppose that's for another time; perhaps the next post. Reason being, Hasker titles chapter 6 Why is life so hard. And from a quick scan of the subtitles, it seems he plans to set forth his defense of free will.

I look forward to it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain, Hagee, and Hitler

I'm not one to write on politics. I usually steer clear, mainly because I think its difficult to weigh all of the evidence being presented, not just by the Politicians, but also by the masses. To me, there are just too many opinions being thrown around. However, this morning I was listening to the Brad and Brit show on FM 101.1 in Raleigh, and couldn't help but blog about it.

As many of you know, recently John McCain proudly accepted the endorsement of Reverend John Hagee, Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. Well, in the political arena, this is somewhat of a ballsy move. Mainly because its pretty obvious that McCain is doing this to gain the support of the conservative Christian right. But more so because of the fact that Hagee has a some well known controversial doctrine he upholds. While Hagee is a well known Christian Zionist, some have considered his interpretations a little tough to swallow. Hagee has gone on record asserting that God sent Hitler to persecute the Jews through the Holocaust in order to get them back to the Promise Land, which Hagee believes is a direct fulfillment of Jeremiah 16:15.

The hosts were taking calls from people with the intention of getting feedback on whether they thought this was as damaging to McCain's campaign as was Obama's relationship with Reverend Wright. As you can imagine, however, the callers were not calling in to comment on that. Rather they were calling in to comment on Hagee's interpretation, some to defend it, some to criticize it. From the 20 minutes I listened to, three people called in to offer an explanation to Hagee's analysis. It was clear that these were Christian people who sought to defend the sovereignty of God. They weren't agreeing with Hagee's overall construal but were saying that in accordance with what the Bible says about God's previous dealings, this would not be a far fetched interpretation. Well, Brad and Britt were not buying it. They expressed their how appalling it would be for God to deliberately "permit" the Holocaust, to allow millions of Jews to be killed just to get them back to Israel.

So here's my two cents:

With respect to Hagee's interpretation, I think its very difficult to substantiate. Can this fit within the framework of the overall drama of redemption, I don't see why not. In Isaiah 10 God did use Assyria as the rod of his anger against rebellious Israel. However I find it a very daunting task to attempt to authenticate or verify this method of modern cultural/biblical exegesis. Those biblical authors who did so in the past were clearly prophets of God. And I dont' think Hagee considers himself among those.

As far as McCain's campaign being tainted, politically speaking I think they might be right. I don't think that this was the best move particularly because of the controversy that has surrounded Hagee in the past. Do I think its as bad as Obama's affiliation with Reverend Wright, no I do not. Mainly because Hagee is a supporter of this country and of Israel. Wright has consistently and constantly ripped this country for its oppression of the black community, among other anti-patriotic comments. Remember, I'm speaking politically here, not my personal opinion on which candidate is the best. To me, voting for the president is choosing between the lesser of two evils.

Needless to say, this is not a conversation that will be limited to simply this radio station, or this blog for that matter. I'm sure you'll read much more about this in the coming days on Yahoo, CNN, or MSNBC.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Thoughts on Women in Ministry, Part 2: Doing Church Then and Now

Imagine Timothy on a Sunday morning in Ephesus. He goes to church after a week spent studying Jonah 2 in his office (of course following the standard one-hour-of-study-per-one-minute-of-preaching rule) and is ready to deliver the second sermon in his four week series on the book (which he's cleverly titled "Belly-Aching in a Bulimic Fish"). 10 a.m. rolls around and Timothy sits in the front row and enjoys the first song, which he and everybody else knows is really just a warm-up. When that finishes, he goes before the congregation, makes the announcements with a smile, dismisses the children to go to Sunday School (which is in another wing of the church building), makes sure the guests know that they're welcome and asks them to fill out a Connection Card, then tells everybody to give a holy kiss to someone they haven't met before. After worship Timothy delivers his sermon, another song finishes the service, and everyone leaves until the next week.

I think not. I bring up the situation as a reminder that church in the first century looked a lot different than church does now. Scholars are almost entirely agreed that the earliest Christian churches were house churches (thus "in every place" in 1 Tim. 2:8 probably means "in every house church"). The idea of a "worship leader" would have been entirely foreign (despite that hymns were most definitely sung congregationally) and each house church would need at least one teacher. Further, 1 Cor. 14:26 (and probably Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19) gives the impression that church was a time for everyone to participate in some way or another. And if you can find me a New Testament church ministry specifically to kids, young adults, or any other niche group, I would be learning something new.

Too often when we try to apply NT ecclesiology to the modern church, we fail to recognize the vastness of the structural and sociological chasm between them. This comes to the fore in the gender debate especially when we consider that major difference between the number of voices contributing in a regular church meeting. Think about it like this: if a woman cannot teach or have authority over a man and the only (or almost only) person that gets to edify the congregation when it gathers is the one preaching the sermon, then it is easy to understand why women feel slighted for being born with two X chromosomes. What role do they have if they don't want to do children's ministry?

There are a few things that ought to be considered to remedy this problem, but I will focus on one that I think is especially important and invite you to share any others you think relevant. One of the most important things we can do to recover the proper place of women in the church is to rediscover the importance of the charismatic spiritual gifts (i.e. those charismata that Paul addresses in 1 Cor. 11-14). 1 Cor. 11:4-5 makes quite clear that women contribute with prophecy and prayer in edifying ways in the congregation. But except in overtly charismatic churches today, most women will simply not have that medium for edification.

And that is a shame on any number of levels, at least two of which are worth enumerating here: (1) I am an unabashed charismatic and cannot help but remind the reader that if the charismatic gifts are for today, our not pursuing them is essentially a denial of the importance of the Holy Spirit's ministry to us. (2) If women should be contributing in certain ways and we stifle that, we are hurting both them and ourselves. They need the opportunity to minister and we need to be edified by them. It's that simple.

I should close by making a specific point of asking for more input on this point (especially by women!). I would be interested to hear in particular what other ecclesiological differences you see that make the application of complementarianism difficult, and what other ways you think your and my solutions could help.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Natural Evil (part 2): According to Diogenes Allen

In my last post on I dealt with somewhat of a side issue to the purpose of the book, though important to Hasker's discussion nevertheless. This time I want to continue this subject with Hasker's evaluation of Diogenes Allen's position. The next post will be dedicated to discussing and assessing Hasker's own formula for developing a theodicy, particularly focusing on natural evil.

Diogenes Allen was the Stuart Professor of Philosophy at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1967-2002. He wrote much in the way of dealing with the problem of evil. So much so that he warrants the appraisal in Hasker's book. Hasker breaks down Allen's position on natural evil as having three "actions," or responses. First, Allen calls us to a renunciation of egoism exemplified by the Stoicism of Epictetus. That is, we need to take into account the cosmological whole and realize that we are but one item among many in a vast interconnected whole. As such, not everything that takes place goes according to our will, and we must see our individual role with the larger framework of universe; thus our mindset must begin here.

Secondly, Allen states that we must accept (and acknowledge) the suffering that besets us because we can find comfort in God's loving presence. According to Allen, suffering can teach us that we are a very small part of the universe and that we are not to expect as much as we do from its workings. He goes on to say, when this is learned, we can then see more soberly and accurately what it does provide for us. In other words, God's working through the universe contain suffering, but we can rest easy that he cares for us through them (perhaps an allusion to Romans 8:28).

Thirdly, Allen goes on to utilize the influence of Simone Weil, who attributed the various affliction and degradation as the opportunity for God to display his love. Allen approves of her position in which takes the superlative act of God's love to be the affliction of Christ. That is, God showed his Son just how much he loved him through this act of suffering.

The first two actions which Allen's purports we should take a stance toward I think have merit. There is a sense in which we should look at the grand scheme of things and see ourselves in light of it. I also believe that we should see the current sufferings of the world in light of our loving Father in heaven (Rom. 8:18). And while I'm sure the third action is much more fully developed by Allen himself through various writings and lectures, I have a difficult time understanding how it lines up with Christian theism. She along with Allen attempt to justify the evil as part of God's original plan, though, it appears, not in the sense that Calvinist's may understand. Apparently for God to show his love, he is to do so through permitting affliction. That is, it is "in the act of suffering" that God shows his love; not his redeeming us from, or comforting us through, the suffering. I, along with Hasker, find this untenable, though for different reasons. Hasker notes that it would be difficult for an individual to look at the holocaust with all of its horrendous affliction as an "act" of God's love, and I agree with him. Hasker also notes the inapplicability of this to small children; again, I agree. But to me there is another issue at stake. It seems to assume that God cannot show his love otherwise. Could God not show his love through the means of creating good image bearers which would enjoy his presence [and creation] through all of eternity? Now I'm not sure whether Allen or Weil see the permission of evil by God as the "only" way in which God can express his love, but from Hasker's evaluation it appears to be that way.

In the end, Hasker takes Allen's view as inadequate for dealing with the philosophical problem of evil, which I would agree, especially on action 3. Though Hasker does praise Allen's take on natural evil in which nature operates according to its intrinsic, God-create laws, which are impersonal in form and do not have regard to the lives and welfare of particular individuals. Seeing where Hasker plans on going with his overall development of a theodicy, I suspected this would be the road he was planning to take. I'm going to stop here for now and refrain from offering my own evaluation of how one might understand natural evil, mainly because I want to discover how and where Hasker plans on developing it. The next twenty pages of his book he plans to offer not only his requirements for a theodicy, but also his explanation for natural evil.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Worthy Links...

  1. Great wisdom (and writing!) from Sean Lucas on considering ministry or a Ph.D.
  2. Prodigal Jon on Christians being good at ultimate frisbee (it really is true- just ask my Biola intramural team!).
  3. Fred Sanders briefly reviews Michael Ward's Planet Narnia (I saw Ward lecture on it last night at Biola and his case is bulletproof).
  4. If you're interested in "Stuff White People Like"
  5. More G. K. Beale resources.
  6. A chart of the Two Views of Regeneration.
  7. An Ecclesiological Assessment of the Emerging Church Movement by John Hammett (here)
  8. Don Carson on The Openness of God.
  9. Scott McKnight on Faith Based Scholarship.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Soup Nazi would have made a great pastor.

I'm finishing up a book called "Selling Out the Church" by Philip D. Kenneson and James L. Street (Cascade Books, 1997). I picked it up last year at ETS and haven't had time to read it until now. It is a pretty quick read and worth the time.
The authors do a few things that are especially helpful.

First of all, they provide a clear, concise picture of how our whole culture has become a marketing culture. They say that we have gone through the following cycle: production, sales, marketing. In the production period (up to about the 1920's), companies produced quality goods and people had to come to them to buy them. In the sales period (through the 1940's), companies produced goods and then sent out salespeople and advertisements to sell the goods. In the present period, the marketing period (through the present time), companies find out what the customers felt needs are and then they produce something to meet them.

Second, Kenneson & Street take on George Barna and others who, recognizing that we are in a marketing culture, say that marketing is a "value neutral" tool that churches not only can, but should use to do ministry. The assumption is that we can separate how we communicate the gospel (medium) from the gospel itself (message). The authors flatly deny this distinction. Instead, they say (and I believe rightly so) that a marketing approach conveys something to those whom the marketing is targeted at. First of all, it tells the person being marketed at that they are customers. Second, it communicates certain things about the church:
  • The church is a business of sorts: a religious organization that creates "spiritual profit" by offering certain "products.
  • The church is an instrument to achieve other ends. We ask of the church: what is it good for? That is, the view of the church is very, very pragmatic. The church is a means to an end, and we market it as so: it helps our family be stronger, it offers an experience of community, it gives us a sense of meaning so we can feel happy. This idea of the church meeting predetermined needs is why we get all caught up about a church being "relevant." This is why the church is increasingly viewed as a "full-service" organization designed to, in the words of Barna, "be responsive to the needs of their members and constituents, and repsonsive to the needs of society." Barna goes on "A responsive congregation is one that makes ever effort to sense, serve, and satisfy the needs and wants of its members and participants within the constraints of its budget."
  • The church must be novel. We live in a culture of "planned obsolescence," and so the church must always be reinventing itself and changing to conform to people's newly realized "felt needs."
  • The church can be engineered through proper techniques. Church marketers, though they make comments to the contrary, leave no room for the church to be a miracle of the Spirit. Instead, in true Western fashion, we engineer everything. I love the question: "if God ceased to exist today, could your church go on functioning and growing normally?" If the answer is yes, you don't have a church.
  • The church should be homogenous. Marketing means you are aiming to meet "felt needs." Church marketers are unanimous that you must "target" your marketing, meaning that you are going to market to a certain niche of people's felt needs. As a result, the church can't help but be homogenous in some sense.
Finally, the authors make the simple-yet-profound point that if we cater to felt-needs we have a significant problem: what do we do when those needs are wrong? Indeed, the authors assert, we are guaranteed that their felt needs will be wrong, since humanity is fallen and in no shape to determine their needs. The result is that a church who attracts people through catering to their felt needs must continue to satisfy the felt needs (protecting my wealth, making me feel good about myself, fostering my nationalism, et al.) and never address the real needs (needs for Jesus, repentance from sin, faith in God, generosity, humility, etc.). Or, the church can lure people in through marketing and, all of the sudden, turn on them and tell them that their felt-needs are illegitimate and ludicrous. This will usually result in disappointed and bitter people.

I could go on and on and on, but all this brings me to my conclusion: The Soup Nazi would have made a great pastor. You see, the Soup Nazi had something to give to the world; namely, soup. And the Soup Nazi knew his soup was good, and he knew how it should be prepared, he knew what is should come with...you get the picture. And when people came in and started whining about it, he simply said, "No Soup for You!"

I mean, before anyone thinks I'm saying pastors should be mean and demeaning, I'm just joking. But seriously, as I think about my future life in ministry, I think the Soup Nazi is going to be an ongoing hero of mine. He knew his calling, he defined the needs, and he met the needs in the way he saw fit.
  • I've got to know my calling: to preach and model the gospel, to confront myself and others with the truth of God so that we can submit in the confrontation and be changed by God into what he wants us to be.
  • I've got to define people's needs for them: part of being a pastor is pointing out that their "needs" for comfort, fun, and wealth are sham needs and that what they really need is redemption, justification, and sanctification.
  • I've got to meet people's needs on the terms previously defined by God: urging repentance, faith, prayer, and a growing knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
So hey, pastors, channel the courage of the Soup Nazi! You know what people's needs are, you have the knowledge of the path of Life. Stop trying to identify "felt needs" and get on with gospel ministry!

And, don't forget to hang a picture of the Soup Nazi on your wall; perhaps it'll give you that added chutzpah the next time a disgruntled customer, errr...parishioner, steps into your office.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bad Book Blurbs...

I recently accumulated some rewards points on my American Express card. As my reward, I chose a $50.00 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble. Upon receiving my reward I ran down to my local store. The first thing I bought was an expensive cup of coffee (the only time I buy the lattes or mochas is when they are free or when someone else is buying). Next, I moved over to the Barnes & Noble classics section where I picked out a cheap copy of Homer's Odyssey. This was just one part of my effort to overcome my deficient high school education. Upon reaching the "Christian" section, and after puking up my coffee because of some of the disgusting literature therein, I located Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Ethics. I'm looking forward to exploring Bonhoeffer when things settle down here in a couple of months. Lastly, I bought a paperback copy of Augustine's The City of God, which I've been devouring voraciously over the last few days (I must confess: I very rapidly skimmed most of books III and IV).

One thing about the Augustine book has had me chuckling for the last 3 days. It is a publication of Barnes & Noble (part of the "Library of Essential Reading"). Some woman named Kim Paffenroth wrote the introduction. What I can't find anywhere is who in the world wrote the blurb for the back of the book. It is one of the most ridiculous, anachronistic, comical blurbs that you could possibly think of for the book. Let me give it to you here:

"The City of God addresses the thorny but perennially relevant issue of how Christian are to live in this world while preparing for the next. Saint Augustine presents us with a model of two cities: the City of Man, based on human self-love; and the City of God, based on grace, humility and [my note: drumroll please!] religious toleration. He claims that those who make judgments on other people's faith distance themselves from the City of God."

OMG. LOL. WTH?

I just can't believe that whoever wrote that blurb actually read the book. I mean, Augustine is all over the place saying that the gods of Rome are none other than wicked demons. The blurb just couldn't be a worse representation of the book.

Anyways, have you seen any bad blurbs? Any all-time worst?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thoughts on Women in Ministry, Part 1: The Irrelevance of Galatians 3:28

Here begins the first in a series of posts that will highlight some of my most recent thoughts on the women in ministry issue (although I suppose my post on the use of the term "pastor" actually was really my first, but it wasn't intended for this series). This all comes from spending the last couple weeks and a good part of the semester on a paper for a Talbot class. I will not defend all of this as thoroughly as I have in my paper itself, so if you happen to want the paper, feel free to ask and I'll send it to you.

Also, I will make a point of limiting my observations to stuff that you probably will not as readily find in the standard sources. That is, I won't give you the standard arguments on the standard texts. Given the medium of a blog I think it best to stick to the fresher, more provocative stuff.

So without further delay, we commence with some thoughts on the use of Galatians 3:28 in the gender debate.

In his Galatians commentary, F. F. Bruce wrote, "Paul states the basic principle here; if restrictions on it are found elsewhere in the Pauline corpus, as in 1 Cor. 14:34f...or 1 Tim. 2:11f., they are to be understood in relation to Gal. 3:28, and not vice versa."

Strong words, especially from so notable a scholar. Yet anyone who has read much on this issue realizes that such statements on the import of Gal. 3:28 are easy to find from egalitarian sources. The only surprising thing is how little Bruce himself, normally such a cautious exegete, actually defends that statement.

In any case, I do not intend here to tell you how I think egalitarians have misused Gal. 3:28 generally (I think Robert Saucy's article in Women and Men in Ministry and his follow-up response in JBMW to Fee's article in Discovering Biblical Equality handle that well). Instead, I will simply contend this: the nature of this debate ends up making Gal. 3:28 moot for coming to major conclusions about women's ministry roles. Let me explain.

Complementarians see Gal. 3:28 as primarily referencing the equality of salvation that all people, no matter their social standing, have access to. Social implications are there, but mostly limited to the Jew/Gentile issue (in particular how the change in purity status affected the two groups' ability to mingle). Functional distinctions between men and women are not changed.

Egalitarians of course argue vehemently that Gal. 3:28 obliterates all social and functional distinctions between men and women. Of course, this becomes a problem when texts in 1 Tim. 2, 1 Cor. 14, and Eph. 5, et. al., seem to say otherwise. At this point egalitarians must interpret those passages either to have (a) not originally taught complementarianism when properly understood, or (b) to be culturally limited in their complementarian teaching.
But then you don't really need Gal. 3:28 because you already have or haven't proven your point.

Effectively what happens then is that Gal. 3:28 is no longer relevant.
The real cruxes are in those other texts. If you cannot show that those do not teach complementarianism, neither can you show that Gal. 3:28 removes functional distinctions between men and women unless you are willing to seriously adjust your doctrine of the unity/inerrancy/infallibility of Scripture. But then anyone so willing probably wouldn't be considering complementarianism in the first place.

Finally, a note on group (b) mentioned above: William Webb has developed this position most carefully with his "redemptive-movement hermeneutic," arguing that Gal. 3:28 contains the "seed idea" that drives that movement. In this case the text is a little more important (maybe even the only important text). That said, even Webb goes to great efforts to show how the other texts contain indications of cultural limitedness (esp. 1 Tim. 2:11-14), and if that is the case, how important is it really for there to be such a "seed idea" at all?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I'm a Christian, and I'm a Republican

Who ever thought that might be a difficult thing to say? OK, well, maybe that statement isn't going to get me persecuted, but I am finding myself tired of how cool it is to be a Christian and to ditch the GOP.

The most recent impetus for this reaction welling up in me has been this article that I stumbled across, but this is no new thought for me.

So here's my take (since you asked...): if an evangelical thoughtfully changes parties because he really thinks that the Republican party does not line up with his beliefs, I disagree, but ok.

But it appears to me that going more liberal is thoughtlessly trendy. Thus the constant invocations of phrases like, "Would Jesus have been a Republican?" and the like. Maybe he would've, maybe not, but it's really not that good of a question because of how limited his mission was.

There is something healthy about challenging your assumptions. But while critical evaluation is a worthwhile enterprise, I am afraid that in this case, too often that process starts with the assumption that all currently held assumptions must be wrong. The "Everyone thinks this, so it can't be right" type attitude.

It's edgy and hip to be an evangelical who challenges the Republican party. The fact that Obama is so compelling and McCain is sometimes so senile doesn't hurt this. So do promises for universal health care and the end of an unpopular war.

But these are exactly the kinds of things that we have to think critically about, rather than just make moves on. Is the Iraq War really that bad? Don't just say "yes" without giving me some good reasons why, and read some folks who think it isn't. Is universal health care really that good of an idea? Tell me how it won't sink the economy and end up backfiring in the process. Should we really give up on fighting abortion? Is Bush really not doing anything about Africa? Is the economy really in a recession, or just in a normal cycle? Is it really the government's fault that gas is getting so expensive?

We have to think through these issues seriously, rather than just react. It is possible to be a Christian and to vote against McCain, but think about it first.

Oh, and call me a single issue voter, but someone still needs to explain to me how the few thousand deaths in Iraq is worse than the 1.5 million God-imaging babies a year who die before I change my mind. A consistent ethic of life goes both ways.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Romans 8:28 - What it is not...

Every morning I have the privilege of listening to local Pastor Stephen Davey on The Bible Broadcasting Network. He is the Senior Pastor of Colonial Baptist Church in Cary, NC. This morning on my commute to work I listened to a sermon from Davey on Romans 8:28. It was actually quite different altogether. I've only really ever heard this verse spoke of in the positive as opposed to the negative. Now, don't get me wrong, when I say negative I don't mean bad. What I mean is, as the title suggests, Davey shows in essence how not to use this verse, or, what this verse doesn't mean. I found the sermon simple, but intriguing. If you have the time to listen to it, please do; then come back and share some thoughts, if you feel so inclined. The link is below.

Here is a few excerpts...

_______________
"We arrive today, at perhaps the most familiar verse in the entire New Testament. Romans 8:28 is a verse we tend to carry around in our hip pocket and pull out whenever we need a sense of meaning, or purpose, or even an answer from God."

"Romans 8:28 is not an explanation for suffering and it is, secondly, not a prohibition against sorrow. Have you ever heard a Christian say to another believer, “Now don’t cry . . . remember, Romans 8:28!” The motto of many in the church is, “Deep Christians don’t cry!” Well, if that is the case, then Jesus Christ failed miserably outside Lazarus’ tomb where He wept openly. And the crowd said in John, chapter 11, verse 36b: See how He loved him!"

"This verse in Romans is no biblical prohibition to grieving. However, have you ever shared some challenge and the person handed back to you, like a prescription from the doctor, “Romans 8:28,” and said, “take one of these in the morning with a glass of water and you’ll fee better.”

"How many believers are afraid to show how they feel, especially if they feel sorrow or frustration or loss or confusion or doubt? Church can become a masquerade, and a misapplied Romans 8:28 can be the leading cause of it."

____________
You can access the sermon here (click here), or you can also read the entire transcript of the sermon in a pdf. (click here).

Idolatry in the Highest...

Anyone who's been reading this blog for the past month or so has realized that I'm a fan of G. K. Beale. A few days ago I posted a resource from Desert Spring Church in Albuquerque, NM of a seminar weekend they hosted with Dr. Beale. For those who took advantage of listening to the first sermon available noticed a phenomenal delivery on the subject of idolatry. To me it was a new insight; nay, many new insights. What Beale did was provide a solid exegetical sermon on the correlation between the idolatry and its consequences. In short, Beale concluded from this study in biblical theology that the effect of idolatry is becoming the very thing we worship. I encourage anyone who hasn't listen to it to do just that. Just click here to access the sermons and resources.

To my delight, this sermon was actually a precursor to an upcoming book with the title We Become What We Worship published by IVP Academic and is expected to be released in November. According to their most recent trade catalog the book will be around 300 pages, and will include chapters on specific NT and OT books and their contribution to the subject of idolatry. This is a highly anticipated book, well, at least it is for me. I have no doubts that after listening to the 54 minute sermon that you'll feel the same way. You can preorder the book at Amazon.com by clicking the book title or the above image.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A few links...

  1. Kostenberger speaks about his upcoming book Father, Son, and Spirit: The Trinity in John's Gospel, co-authored with Scott R. Swain. (here)
  2. Coming in November, SEBTS will be holding a conference to examine the life and legacy of Francis Schafer. (here)
  3. Patton discusses Women as Teachers. (here)
  4. Here is an interesting clip of an elderly lady ministering to her assailant. (here)
  5. Types of Ecclesiology?...(here)
  6. An Evangelical Manifesto? (nah, too many)
  7. Darrell Bock on Emerging Christologies. (here)
  8. A sermon from Sproul on The Unpardonable Sin (here).
  9. Chart: Comparison of Christian Denominational Belief's (here)
  10. Jesus and Peter discuss 1st century Church Management Theory (here)
  11. Molinism and bad TV programming (here)
  12. Historicity and the Bible: What Kinds of Proposals are Theologically Valid? (here)
  13. reTHINK conference only 1 week away! (here) Sponsored by Two Institutions.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Natural Evil vs. Moral Evil (part 1)

As I began chapter 5 of Hasker's book, I can honestly say that I never really considered the title to this be something of incredible importance. However if one is going to create a sound theodicy, then this will inevitably be a topic of consideration. Chapter 5 is Hasker longest and most detailed, therefore I will split this chapter into two (maybe three) posts for the sake of some initial reflection.

The chief question Hasker considers is this: How do we account for all of the natural evil in the world (hurricanes, disease, drought, famines, earthquakes)? Remember, we're developing a theodicy. What first came to mind when I read this was, original sin. To me it seems that from the Genesis narrative God created everything which he deemed "very good." At which point subsequent to the Fall, the earth was subjected to travail (cf. Gen. 3:17-19). Moreover, as the Apostle Paul says, the world is now waiting, as it were, for the consummation of all things (Rom. 8:22). However, according to Hasker, the answer is more complicated.

In typical fashion, Dr. Hasker evaluates several positions and the arguments from their supporters. However, due to a highly debatable conclusion from Hasker, this post we will briefly evaluate one then hopefully move to discussion in some further posts. The first position he evaluates is the one I proposed above. His chosen supporter, Henry Morris.

According to Morris, "the entrance of spiritual disorder into God's perfect creation (Gen 1:31) led to the imposition of a universal and age-long reign of physical and biological decay and death as well." Resulting in what we find in the 2nd law of thermodynamics. As stated above, this position presupposes a series of subsequent events based the Genesis narrative coupled with the notion of a "young-earth." That is to say, that God created the world just prior to his creating Adam. But as some of you already know, due to the (apparent) overwhelming evidence based on scientific inquiry that the world cannot be a few thousand years old. As a result, Hasker uphold this theory as the very thing that cripples this position. In the words of Hasker himself, "...the earth is not a few thousand years old but rather several billion. We know this as securely as we know anything at all about the history of our planet and a supposed theological principal that conflicts with this rock-solid fact has to be reexamined or discarded."

Here I'll be honest that I'm not an expert in the scientific arena when it comes to the creation account. Nor can I say with any confidence that I could argue either way. I do believe one can be undecided on this issue and still maintain a strong commitment to Scripture. Even with that said, its clear that Dr. Hasker has utilized a specific scientific presupposition and imposed that upon his understanding of the natural evil. He terms the concept of an "old-earth" as rock-solid evidence. And perhaps it is, but that may only be rock-solid for now. I say this because when thinking through this I'm reminded of the whole Galileo episode in the 17th century where he concluded a heliocentric universe over Copernicus' geocentric universe. Which eventually led to an upheaval in the Catholic church with respect to the integrity of Scripture and Science. Essentially what the Church felt was, based on certain aspects of their reading of Scripture, the Bible appears to maintain a geocentric universe. But as we've come to know over time, this is not the case. Heliocentricity is the dominant, nay, rock-solid credible notion of the structure of our universe. This may work in favor for Hasker's theory, but it may also work against him. If we come to find by some irrefutable scientific evidence that the earth is only a few thousand years old, then I imagine what will be in store for the rest of this chapter will be difficult to sustain.

So what do we say to this? Does the earth need to be young if we are to maintain the integrity of Scripture? Is it possible that science can alter the way we read the Bible? Indeed it has in the case with Galileo. If the earth is billions of years old, how are we to interpret the Genesis narrative?

Personally this topic is a difficult one. I cannot land on any position without evaluating enough options that lead me to a coherent conclusion. So before I continue on into Hasker's following sub-chapters of individuals who attempt to work their way around this issue, I wanted to hear some of our readers thoughts on it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ladies and Gentleman...we have a winner!

Join us in congratulating Jeff Patterson who has been selected as the winner of Steven Lawson's The Expository Genius of John Calvin. Jeff and his wife Kari are seminary students at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland and have 17 month old son, Dutch. We asked Jeff to speak of how he came across Christians in Context and to share some thoughts on our blog. Feel free to visit his own blog deTheos if you get the chance.


In his own words...

Last week, after arriving home from a discouraging day attempting to tutor disinterested public high school students, I received an email from Damian saying I had won a book from Christians in Context. I won something? Me? I haven't won anything since ... a GameBoy in middle school. Wow, that was almost two decades ago. Where is that gadget anyway?...

Back to the story ... there I was in the middle of my context, thinking about how I'd won a book that links me, a Christian, to the text of God's Word. Thank you guys for the great gift, and reminding me again of the value of good theology to fuel daily life. (And at that moment it suddenly dawned on me that while tutoring that day, in response to one of the girl's questions she has provided an open door for explaining the Gospel of God's grace in Christ. Christ was there in that context.)

About a month ago I stumbled across Christians in Context via a link from the Parchment and Pen blog and theological word of the day. The first post had me hooked, and I've had Norman and Damian fired up in my RSS feed reader ever since. A recent post by Damian on John Owen and mortification of sin not only resonated with me personally (read: convicted me), but also helped me to see the great need to be reading good theology and applying it to my life.

The whole idea of being a Christian in one's context seems to be gaining traction these days. It is almost funny to think of how "contextualization" is a buzz word in the church today, while the Bible simply calls it "obedience" (Matt. 28:18-20). Some Christians may not like the former word (and I think that is probably just as well, as it's a bit technical even for leaders), but I think we can all relate to the latter.

Obedience, like love, and motivated by it, involves values and evaluation. We each live in a unique context, a culture that demands our time and resources and often allegiance. And rather than think we can (or even should) escape our culture, we are called to evaluate all things, bringing every thought captive to the mind of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5) and live as sojourners in the tension between two worlds (Phil. 3:17-21). Loving God and loving people as Christ brings His redemption is our happy tension. While we dare not change the unchanging Gospel of Christ, we can seek to change ourselves (1 Cor. 9:22-23), and doing so involves agonizing strain and labor and discipline (vv. 24-27). As the Church, being Christians in Context is not easy, but in a two-second-vapor-of-a-life (James 4:14) we live in that happy tension.

Thanks again guys for reminding us why and how to live in this happy tension -- as sojourners in our context, reflecting Christ.

Because of Jesus who is The Image of God,

Jeff Patterson


Economic Prophets, Or [Mis]diagnosing Greed

During the "Roaring 20's" the Christian Century magazine had the moral and spiritual wherewithal to condemn the largesse of a nation basking in the unprecedented wealth of unrestrained capitalism. I found this article and I'm not sure what the author was even trying to say. Anyhow, I culled the following quotes from the article and found them hauntingly pertinent to our own Christian context. In my opinion, these quotes should have been the things coming out of the mouths of our Christian leaders for the last two decades! Instead, we got the Christian Coalition. I think that these men did some great things, but how often did you hear James Dobson or Pat Roberson or Jerry Falwell or Ralph Reed, or any of the other evangelical leaders say things like this:

"The desire for quick and unearned results is a national disease" (June 7, 1923).

They condemned a "speculative mania in America" that allowed for the rapid financial growth of some without the "accompanying trust to be carried on for the welfare of the whole people" (December 27, 1923).

One of their reporters wrote in 1924: "Unless we shift our weight Western civilization will enjoy an illusive prosperity and greatness for a time, but then will stagger, stumble and eventually collapse" (January 24, 1924).

Later, they referred to the economic boom as an "orgy of speculation" and argued that religion must "protest a social or industrial order in which men wallow in sudden wealth which they have not created while their fellows by the million face want" (March 22, 1928).

They saw that, in Wall Street, wealth had been separated from the activities that actually produce goods. Further, they saw human labor being replaced by machines and said that these issues presented "the church and civilization with moral issues as important as the elimination of war" (June 21, 1928).

Prior to the crash of the stock market, the editors condemned the church for capitulating to the capitalistic society. They wrote, "To put the matter bluntly, how far will a church, involved in the obligation to supply profits, question or disturb the premises and practices of a profit-seeking, profit-taking society?" (February 7, 1929).

The Century saw the crash of 1929 as an opportunity for "national sobering up" (November 6, 1929).

They pointed out the hypocrisy in the fact that Americans were quick to condemn racketeering as "the poor boy's easy road to quick wealth" while at the same time they ignored how "the son of a comfortable home seeks to make his pile and make it quickly" (August 6, 1930).

Further, when Roosevelt's New Deal did not set restrictions upon profits, they asked pessimistically, "Can human nature which has been so long conditioned by the stimuli of capitalism discipline itself while still subject to the same stimuli, to the point of curtailing its greed for profits when profits are to be had?" (August 30, 1933).

In the midst of the Depression, the Century urged pastors to look at the moral dimension of the situation: "Is the church genuinely a creative source of human welfare, or does it merely share in and decorate the goods created by economic and other secular forces?" (November 11, 1931).

America, I think we as Christians failed to diagnose your greed. We sinned right along with you. I'm sorry.

Can we understand creation?

I spent the first two posts essentially summarizing Hasker's first couple chapters to set the groundwork not only for his discussion, but also for mine. I said in the beginning that Hasker affirmed open theism as the best of all possible solutions to deal with the problem of evil. Well in chapter 4 Hasker begins to offer his defense for this. Most of this chapter directly deals with the question offered in the above title to this post. He evaluates the arguments that surround God's act (motive) in creation. Granted, this seems like a place some scholars might not dare touch due to the ambiguity of the issue. At first it seemed to me that it might be a daunting task to even consider. But after reading intently I do see how this will impact his overall schema to develop a cogent theodicy.

Hasker faces off against two main arguments regarding creation. The first is by Gottfried Leibniz who suggests that the world which we live in is the best possible world for God to create. And as a result all the various evils in the world are justified because they are necessary to this best world scenario. Hasker takes this argument by Leibniz and formulates three questions [sub-chapters] which I feel he addresses quite soberly. He first deals with the idea of a (the) best possible world. Second he deals with God's ability to [even] create [such] a world. Lastly he asks the question: If God is perfectly good, does this mean that he must, of necessity, create the best possible world? It is on this last point where I believe Hasker makes his strongest argument. He then evaluates Robert Adams position (the 2nd) which states that based on the goodness and overall power and knowledge of God, that he did not create the best of all possible worlds. To summarize his conclusion, Hasker shows that it is in fact perfectly within the moral standards of God to create a world by which might not live up to the standards of a better possible world. So that even if God could have [or were to] create a better world in terms of the multiplication of morality over and above the world he currently created, it cannot be determined that God would be morally tainted as a result.

Now I want to say that I find this as a solid argument. Surely there is nothing morally wrong if God were to create one person who did ten good things than if he created one hundred persons who did ten thousand good things. God cannot be held captive to the constraints of our limited view of what is good, or that more good is somehow "better."

Hasker then goes on to deal with the question that even my five year old daughter has asked me about: why did God even create in the first place? My daughters answer is not unlike some of the most reputable philosophy scholars, that God was indeed bored, lonely, or perhaps even lacked something. Though Hasker does a solid job of tossing out the ideas utilizing quotes from Karl Barth and Emil Brunner's who speak to the inter-trinitarian love that has existed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from eternity past. As such, he concludes that God's decision to create must be seen as a manifestation of divine grace and generosity.

As much as I respect the arguments and accuracy of Dr. Hasker, what I do find a little difficult to swallow is how he gets to these conclusion. I don't plan on offering a full critique of the implications which open theism has on his overall thesis here (though I plan to address more throughly when I finish the book), I do want to ask a few things. Hasker's driving thrust behind his conclusion in this chapter is based on the fact that he believes that God has self-imposed a limitation upon himself and the outcome of future events. Which he feels is a testimony to the greatness of God that he both wishes and is able to create beings who along with him determine the outcome of his creation. I would ask, can God actually do this? Does God possess the ability to limit himself upon creating the world? I would then ask, how is it that God could "surrender" as it were his own omnipotence and, for that matter, omniscience? Another question might be, did God possess full knowledge of all things prior to this self-imposed limitation?

While I don't expect a full treatment the above questions, I do think they do need to be answered in some capacity, and I hope Hasker does address this; or perhaps he has elsewhere. But like I said at the outset, I did not [and still do not] hold to or endorse the open theistic position, but I do want to allow Dr. Hasker enough respect and credence to substantiate his argument before I get into deeper waters. I'm expecting some continued interaction as we move on to chapters 5-8.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Just Call Her a Children's Pastor

Ever notice that a man who runs the church's children's ministry is called a children's pastor, but a woman is called a children's director? Well if you hadn't, certainly my woman children's director friend has- and to her credit, she doesn't get real upset about little things like that (last I checked, I think she may even agree with it). In any case, the game is up: those children's directors really are children's pastors. They do all the same stuff, just with a different title to match the different anatomy.

Of course the people who come up with stuff like that are normally godly folks just trying to get the Bible right, and in the attempt to be faithful to 1 Tim. 2:11-14 et. al., pull the titular switcheroo. But I for one have always wondered what Paul would think if he came around our churches only to find that his Spirit-inspired concerns about gender roles in the church, at least at points, got so trivialized. (Well, maybe he'd be too busy telling all the egalitarians just how wrong they'd got his writing to notice how complementarians mess with ministry titles...zing!)

Harold Hoehner wrote an article for the December '07 issue ofJETS entitled, "Can a Woman Be a Pastor-Teacher?" in which he makes a point of distinguishing between what the NT calls "gifts" and what it calls "offices." On a number of levels, the article is frankly not that good. Most importantly, Hoehner predicates the case on a false understanding of spiritual gifts (apparently he hasn't read Berding's book) that leads to the plainly counter-intuitive dichotomy between things like doing the work of an evangelist and having the gift of being an evangelist (766-7).

Nonetheless, one point is well-taken: the word-group translated "gift" or "spiritual gift" in English Bibles refers to something distinct from the church office titles of elder, bishop, and deacon especially found in the Pastoral Epistles. This leads Hoehner to conclude that a woman could have the gift of pastor-teacher (Eph. 4:11) and even be ordained as such without necessarily also being an elder, which Hoehner maintains is a position restricted to males in the church.

Despite the article's problems, the noted gift/office distinction still stands, and leads me to conclude this: a woman really could have the spiritual
ministry (a better term, following Berding) of a pastor-teacher, as long as it is within the Biblical bounds set for women's ministry roles, esp. in 1 Tim. 2:11-14 (Hoehner tries to get at something like this, but is simply not as clear). Specifically, if her authority is exercised over children and/or women, there is no reason that she could not be exercising her ministry of pastor-teacher.

One more correlating point should be added: "pastor" is an overused term in our churches today, compared to its relative scarcity in the NT. Outside of the Eph. 4 passage, I am not sure of a text that refers to church leaders as "pastors". "Elder" (Gk.
presbuteros and/or episkopos) is the more common and explicit term, most importantly within the Pastoral Epistles. That is to say, of course a woman children's "director" is pastoring those children. It does not mean she is exercising the ecclesiological male-only authority of an elder. This understanding of pastoring actually fits better with the Eph. 4 use of the term as a spiritual ministry for the edification of the church, rather than an office per se. There is something more active (for lack of a better word) about pastoring.

So go ahead ladies, call yourselves pastors, as long as you're not doing the stuff that the Bible says is only for males. The issue has a lot more to do with what you do than what you're called.
After all, there is no explicit "women can't be elders" text- that is a (reasonable) application from the function-in-action type boundaries set in 1 Tim. 2 compared to what the rest of the Pastorals say about eldership (cf. Blomberg's article in Two Views on Women in Ministry). Maybe the title change would even change the focus for women from "what you are not supposed to do" to "exercising your role in the ministry God has empowered and called you for." And that would be a nice change.

I should add one last comment: this would only work if we properly used the terms "pastor" and "elder" as delineated above. Otherwise, it will probably result in confusion. But I think it is worth going through with both changes together simply because of connotations. "Director" (or whatever other non-biblical word you choose) comes off in my view considerably more demeaning (and actually considerably more authoritative!) than the biblical term "pastor." And like I said, what we want to do is encourage both men and women to fulfill their God-given roles for the sake of His church.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Couple Brief Critiques of Tony Jones and the Emergent Movement

Justin Taylor is linking to Christianity Today's dialogue between Tony Jones and Collin Hansen. First of all, great idea by CT. It's just too bad it has to be so brief.

Tony Jones' ideas have been the subject of criticism here at Christians in Context in the past (by both Matt and Norm); to his credit, he has taken this criticism in stride up to this point. Nonetheless, I cannot help but take issue with two points he has made here so far.

First, in his post from Day 1, Jones states, "Honestly, I don't know how different [our theological conclusions] are, though, since I am committed to God's sovereignty, to the inspiration and authority of Scripture, and to the atoning work of Jesus."

The problem with this is how little it says. I have personally interacted with numerous Mormons who have said almost these same words. No, I'm not calling Tony Jones a Mormon (or even a non-Christian). I am saying that this is not a helpful statement because of its lack of qualifiers. Emphasizing agreements by equivocating on differences does not help the discussion.

To his credit, Hansen asked Jones about this and Jones responded with his view on the Atonement. On Day 2, Jones says, "There have been five or six major theological theories to explain the atoning work of Jesus on the cross over the last two millennia. Each of them, you might say, shines a spotlight on the cross from a different angle. Emergents want all those spotlights, figuring that the more light we can shed on the cross, the better we can understand it. One spotlight is fine. Six is better."

The problem here is that "spotlights" is a bad analogy. If these six theological theories were not often contradictory, the analogy would be fine. But simply put, either Jesus' death was or was not substitionary. Either Jesus did or did not ransom us from Satan. Either Jesus did or did not model an example for us.

That said, the helpful side of Jones' statement is that I really can (and should) at once affirm that Jesus died in my place and achieved victory over demonic powers.

But let's be honest: we all know that this is really not the question we have for Emergents. The real issue is often substitution, and that is because (a) we think the Bible affirms it, and (b) we think that the implications are too central to the gospel to not be clear about it.

It seems that the underlying assumption for Jones is that theology matters in principle, but not that much in practice. If it did we would not be so able to casually assume that each of these theories has enough truth in it to be worthy of our attention. That said, I don't think Jones really believes that theology doesn't matter, but I'm not sure how else to take that statement.

The question really is whether each spotlight is actually on the cross or not. When we figure that out, then we need to figure out which ones are biggest and brightest. When we figure that out, then we need to step back, look at the whole picture, and worship.

Of course, I could just be one of those nasty foundationalists stuck in my Enlightenment categories. But frankly, I like my Enlightenment categories. They're comfy. And for that matter, I think maybe the Bible had a few more of those categories than Jones allows for.

One last thought: I do appreciate the tone of the conversation. Jones and Hansen are beautifully gracious to each other, and I only hope I have followed their lead here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Temple and the Church's Mission - part 2 - The groundwork

To my excitement I received Beale's book the other day and decided to get right down to it. While I do not plan on doing extensive sequential posts, I do want to come back and share what I've learned from time to time. I'm hoping this will help spurn some conversation regarding some of the extant issues that surround the underlying debate, namely literal verses symbolic interpretation. So to start, I figured I'd share some thoughts on the purpose and intentions of the book and how the basis point that Beale uses to establish his premises.

In the introduction Beale states his thesis: "The Old Testament tabernacle and the temples were symbolically designed to point to the cosmic eschatological reality that God's tabernacling presence, formerly limited to the holy of holies, was to be extended throughout the whole earth. Against this background, the Revelation 21 vision is best understood as picturing the final end-time temple that will fill the entire cosmos.

Beale goes on to say that if he can substantiate the evidence for this theory, it will then offer some clarity to the supposed interpretive difficulties of Revelation 21 as well as a better understanding of the temple in both testaments with respect to biblical theology.

The issue which motivated Beale to this study was due to the former statement with respect to Revelation 21. The problem Beale had was this: why does John begin the chapter by stating he sees a new heaven and earth but then go on to describe a city in the shape of a temple that appears garden like?

Now, I'll be honest, I would have never come across this by just reading it. To me, it would seem that what John is simply saying at first he sees the new heaven and earth, but then goes on to describe an element within that, namely the Holy City and the particulars within that. But Beale is convinced that the vision John has he is equating the new heavens and new earth with the holy city (which is the Temple).

Here's is his reasoning:

Throughout the book of Revelation, anytime you get a vision and then get a statement, the statement usually interprets the vision, and vice versa. Beale uses an example from chapter 5 verse 5 where John hears about "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered" then in verse 6 sees "a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth." Based on this, I can see his point.

Now lets bring this tool over to Revelation chapter 21. In verse 1 John sees the new heavens and earth and in verse 2 he sees the holy city. But in verse 3 he [hears] not something with respect to the heavens and earth, but rather "heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them." Beale asserts that John is speaking of the Temple here, which would lead us to conclude that he is equating verse 1 and 2.

Pretty interesting stuff so far.

I'm going to leave you with this to chew on until I read further and write another post (Heck, I need to chew on it). As I said above, Beale plan on elaborating this theme as it relates to all of Scripture. He intends to show that as early as the Garden of Eden, a temple was foreseen and symbolically represented. If what Beale is proposing is true, I wonder what ramification this will have on the entire interpretive process; particularly with reference to the interpretive approach the Premillenialist takes.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Joe Carter on the Economic Stimulus Package

Justin Taylor publishes part of an email exchange between him and Joe Carter.

I thought this was first an insightful question posed by Justin (I sure didn't think about it), followed by a good way to think about it from Joe.