Thursday, February 28, 2013

August/September of a Year of Biblical Womanhood (Guest Post)

The following is part seven of a critical review of Rachel Held Evans's book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”, Thomas Nelson, 2012 (see this link for a little more background and an index to all sections of the review). Ms. Evans's book starts with October and ends with September, thus this review follows Ms. Evans's order.


A month of Silence, in which Rachel critiques the Apostle Paul (and of course, by implication, the Holy Spirit) for two passages: 1 Timothy 2:11-12, verses saying that a woman should learn in quietness and submission and not teach and/or assume authority over a man; and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, verses that say the same thing, adding that women who have questions should ask their husbands at home, because women shouldn’t speak in the church.

It seems that Ms. Evans understands the importance of context in Biblical interpretation, for she mentioned it in a previous chapter, so it is surprising that she does not deal with the verses 13 and 14 in 1 Timothy 2 which follow the first set of verses she cites. Here the Apostle Paul gives the reason for the teaching: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression.” So here we have two separate reasons: the order of creation and aptitude for deception displayed at the Fall. One conservative commentator suggests that since the woman was deceived into sin, she was less culpable than Adam who went into transgression with his eyes wide open. Whatever you think of this comment, it is indisputable that the reason God gives for women to not be teachers and authorities in churches is based on two historical incidents: the Creation and the Fall.

Evans views New Testament epistles as “letters, broken pieces of correspondence between early Christians, dating back thousands of years,” clearly once again impugning the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy. This is really the key to her errors. There are differences among believers about a number of things such as forms of church government, mode and type of baptism, worship song, etc. This is undeniable, and in this life in which we see “in a glass darkly” it is hardly avoidable. Yet these differences can be accepted graciously if those who hold to the different views share a view of Scripture that acknowledges it as infallible and inerrant. But when Scripture is no longer believed to be God-breathed and therefore without error, one’s conclusions become suspect. One may arrive at “conservative” conclusions even with unsound, liberal assumptions (an accusation sometimes leveled against scholar-theologian F.F. Bruce). Nevertheless, a high view of Scripture is warranted by Scripture itself!

One of what Evans calls “the embarrassing bits” of the Bible is Titus 1:12 which she quotes as saying, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This (partial) quotation is followed by a few not very funny, sarcastic remarks; however, she once again neglected her own rule about context-- she left out the beginning of the sentence, “One of them, a prophet of their own, said…” Kathy Keller did a good job reviewing the book on the Gospel Coalition website [FN1], making mention of Evans’ glaring omission.

And when Rachel says she never once heard a sermon preached on this passage, may we not conclude that she just ought to get out more or go to better churches? Surely is easy enough to use.

She constructs a straw man argument next by saying, “we dishonor the original intent and purpose of the Epistles when we assume they were written in a vacuum for the purpose of filling our calendars and bumper stickers.” No doubt people use them that way, but who would assume they were written with such an intent and in a vacuum? For a few much more cogent comments about placarding Bible verses without context, please see Rosaria Butterfield’s Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, pp. 66-67, a book which takes the Bible’s inerrancy and inspiration quite seriously.

The next part of the book gets really interesting. I’d love to know who originated the story, but here are the key elements of the plot:
churches of Ephesus and Corinth attracted a lot of women, particularly widows…of particular concern to Paul was a group of young widows who had infiltrated the church and developed a reputation for dressing promiscuously, sleeping around, gossiping, spreading unorthodox ideas, interrupting church services with questions, mooching off the church’s widow fund and generally making common floozies of themselves (1 Timothy 5)
I am not making this up; it’s on page 261. This is how she, quoting Scott McKnight’s The Blue Parakeet, reconciles that some women could prophesy (1 Corinthians 11:4) and others were to keep silent. She concludes, “Obviously Paul didn’t have a problem with women teaching in general” because of Priscilla and Timothy’s mother and grandmother. Did Priscilla teach in the church? Did Timothy’s mother and grandmother teach in the church? Did women who prophesied (in fulfillment of Joel 2:28) teach? Or did they utter what the Holy Spirit gave them by inspiration? These are important questions Ms. Evans leaves unanswered.

The latter part of the chapter covers her visits to 1) a Benedictine monastery in Alabama; and 2) a Quaker Meeting in West Knoxville, Tennessee. Nothing of much interest happened, except she learned that wearing heels in a monastery is distracting so she switched to flats for the Quaker meeting. An important lesson, should any ladies reading this decide to make such visits themselves.


The keynote for the last month of Rachel’s Biblical Year is “Grace” and the key verse is “On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts.” What follows is her comical foray into finding a shofar (ram’s horn), learning to sound it, and then proceeding to keep the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), which included baking challah and less traditionally, making a New Year’s Resolution List. In the coming year she would: try a new recipe a week, eat more ethically (seriously!), embrace the prospect of motherhood, identify and praise women of valor, nurture the contemplative impulse, make room for ritual and remembrance, champion women leaders in the Church, partner with World Vision to work for the women’s empowerment and education worldwide, and honor Dan (her husband).

She also had a Tashlich ceremony, dating back, she says, to the Middle Ages, in which “the sins of the repentant are ceremonially cast into the currents of God’s grace.” She ties her conclusion to her introduction: 1 Corinthians 11:14-15 commended long hair for women; Rachel had let hers grow for 368 days. Time for a haircut; and so the Year of Biblical Womanhood concludes in a hydraulic chair in a hair salon.

This book is entertaining, at times flippant, and without a doubt, highly marketable. It also fails to revere the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God. In her conclusion she reiterates the culturally conditioned character of the Bible. However, Rachel says she’s not finished with the Bible, and let’s hope the future brings her a blessing from God’s Word.


FN1: Editorial note: link is provided for information, not endorsement of everything the Kellers teach.


(This is a guest post.)


Douglas Wilson vs. Andrew Sullivan on "Gay Marriage"

Doug Wilson has posted the gist of his prepared remarks from a debate with Andrew Sullivan on the topic of so-called "gay marriage." (link to remarks) In general, I would agree with what Wilson said - although I cannot confirm his positive comments on Sullivan's behavior (as I did not witness the debate).

Wilson has a great way with words, a gift I would love to obtain. For example:
As Dan Phillips has aptly noted, the most offensive verse in the Bible is not to be found in Leviticus or Deuteronomy with laws concerning homosexuals. It is not to be found in the New Testament when Paul tells wives to be submissive to their own husbands. It is not to be found in the places commanding the Amalekites to be smitten. The most offensive verse in the Bible is the very first one—in the beginning God created the heavens and earth (Gen. 1:1). This means that there are only two ways to go. We can work to discover the meaning of the world around us, a meaning embedded there by God. Or we can rebel against that meaning, and try to roll our own. Once we have rolled it, we usually try to smoke it.
This observation is really central to most of the interaction with non-Christianity - from Atheism/Agnosticism to Roman Catholicism. Our understanding of the world needs to proceed from the revelation God has provided, and if we don't do that we end up victims of our own foolishness.


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

June/July of a Year of Biblical Womanhood (Guest Post)

The following is part six of a critical review of Rachel Held Evans's book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”, Thomas Nelson, 2012 (see this link for a little more background and an index to all sections of the review). Ms. Evans's book starts with October and ends with September, thus this review follows Ms. Evans's order.


We feel that we’ve gotten to the crux of the matter this month with a topic of “Submission.” Early on Evans suggests that passages on this topic in both Peter’s and Paul’s writings (1 Peter 3:1-2, and Colossians 3:18 and Ephesians 5:22-23) are in fact not normative and that conservative evangelicals are wrong to assume so. Again, this is another slam on the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. Narratives do not necessarily describe normative behavior, but certainly exhortations and commands do. The way out of this conundrum for Ms. Evans is to suggest -- like liberal commentators before her -- that these passages on wifely submission are either preceded by or followed by instructions on slaves submitting to their masters, and, as she says, “the implications are astounding.”

Again she draws a wrong conclusion: that anyone who believes in wifely submission therefore must also agree with slavery, and slavery of a first-century type. These verses, she tells us, are just the Christian spin on Greco-Roman household codes which gave men unilateral authority over wives, slaves and children. Perhaps without realizing it here she denies the Holy Spirit-inspired character of the Word of God. She then goes on to quote verses that talk about living as free people, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves (1 Peter 2:16) and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and calls these words “subversive” ones, lying “beneath the seemingly acquiescent text” as if the Bible carries with it a hidden code. This is just nonsense. According to Timothy G. Gombis of Cedarville University (link):
After his harsh critique of pagan culture throughout the present section of the letter, it is hardly credible to claim that Paul is attempting to find common ground between Christian communities and the surrounding culture. Far from minimizing the differences between what he calls the Old Humanity (Ephesians 4:22) and the New Humanity (Ephesians 2:15; 4:24), Paul is stressing the absolute incompatibility of the two spheres.
His entire article, published in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society makes worthwhile reading.

Next, if Ms. Evans’ quotations are correct, I agree with her that Raymond Ortlund and John Piper in Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, seem to do a bit of stretching Scripture to arrive at their conclusions. Piper talks about the impropriety of female city planners or female officials at sporting events, a venture into left field in my opinion [Fn1]. The Bible is clear enough with what it says, without speculating where it is silent.

Another of Evans’ targets is Debi Pearl and her book, Created to be His Helpmeet. Even if Debi Pearl represents an extreme (as she is presented), that doesn’t mean that we have to agree with Rachel Evans. There’s good stuff outside of the two.


“What does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8) God’s justice is an attribute that He expects His followers to personally appropriate. Clearly justice is required by our Lord: justice in witness bearing, in commerce, and in personal relationships. This chapter of Evans’ book is devoted to this concept. With that there is no problem. But note the following: after citing several Old Testament passages, she begins to talk about Jesus who is “committed…to these central Jewish teachings…” as if Jesus Himself is not God, the Word of God incarnate! She paints Him as a Jewish rabbi of the first century who continues the teachings of the Old Testament prophets, rather -- I suppose -- the way the Islamic religion pictures Him.[FN2]

She indicts a shallow evangelicalism, one which will even listen to unbelievers, even cultists, to tell them what to do religiously: she refers to Glenn Beck (Mormon) telling Christians to leave churches that advocate social justice. This is bizarre. Never having read or listened to Glenn Beck I can only take her word for it and shake my head in amazement. I think Christians may be spending more time with talk radio than the Bible. This is a shame -- even if the "social justice" churches are bad, the reason for leaving them has to be Scripture, not Political Activists.

But a little religious history may be in order. Early in the 20th century the liberal churches became centers that did barely anything but advocate social agendas. The Gospel was nearly gone from their churches. The words were the same but the meanings were different. They saw no need for redemption, for propitiation, for substitution for they were not in touch with the concept and reality of sin against a holy God. For further reading, The Presbyterian Controversy by Bradley J. Longfield is recommended (link to Amazon).

Churches and Christians that are true to the Bible need not fear to advocate social justice, properly defined [FN3]. In fact, most conservative churches I know of do just that. They are on the frontlines speaking for the unborn, the most helpless segment of our society, seeking to save those lives. Francis Schaeffer laid the groundwork for a resurgence of Biblical action with A Christian Manifesto (Amazon link). Many have heeded his call. He asserted that Christianity is not conservative; it is revolutionary. Speaking of two camps, the New Left and the Establishment elite, he suggested that at times we will be "co-belligerents" with one or the other, but not true allies with either of them. Schaeffer spoke of "a growing Establishment totalitarianism" and warned that "evangelicals will slide without thought into accepting the Establishment elite." If this generation does not know Schaeffer, it needs to get in touch with his writings.

The Biblical woman for the month of July is “Junia, the Apostle” whom Rachel calls “perhaps the most silenced woman in the Bible.” Following Scott McKnight of The Blue Parakeet fame, she trashes the idea that “of note among the apostles” means “well known among the apostles.” She repeats McKnight’s argument that Junia (female) was changed to Junias (male) because the copyist deemed it unacceptable for a woman to be an apostle! But James R. White notes:
How does McKnight know the intentions and beliefs of ancient scribes? While it is common enough for modern textual scholars to engage in time-traveling mind-reading today, neither McKnight, nor anyone else, can tell us with any certainty what any particular unknown and unnamed scribe believed in the ancient world. In fact, both sources cited in McKnight’s notes indicate that the situation is significantly more complex and nuanced than his discussion indicates. The reality is that nobody changed any spelling at all. The difference between Junia and Junias is a matter of accenting, and the earliest manuscripts do not have accent marks. Hence, McKnight’s assertion that this text was changed “because women aren’t supposed to be ‘apostles’” evaporates on examination, as does much of his larger argument.
I don’t think there was any conspiracy to keep the apostles all male. After all, the word “apostle” can mean messenger, without any connotation of ordination. There are others in the New Testament called “apostles” yet were not numbered with the 12 (or thirteen), such as Silas, Apollos and Barnabas. Yet the solution may be just as White explains above—a matter of accent marks in the earliest manuscripts.


FN1: Editorial note -- although the pun is excellent, T-Fan would generally concur with folks like Piper.

FN2: Editorial note -- please bear in mind that "justice" is one thing and "social justice" is another thing.

FN3: Editorial note -- i.e. not Marxism, or other hijacked meanings of the term, which are rampant today.

(This is a guest post.)


Response to "Ten Things I wish the Church Knew About Homosexuality"

There's a list of "Ten Things" that the author states he wishes "the Church" knew about what he characterizes as "homosexuality." I'll address each item in turn.
1. If Jesus did not mention a subject, it cannot be essential to his teachings.
a) Jesus did mention the subject of sexual sin, and he did so repeatedly. For example:

Matthew 15:19
For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

b) Jesus even specifically mentioned the example of Sodom as a group particularly worthy of judgment.

Luke 10:12
But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

c) Jesus affirmed the whole moral law of the old testament, both by not destroying it, and by instructing his disciples to obey his commandments.

Matthew 5:17
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

John 15:10
If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.


Deuteronomy 7:9
Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

d) Whether it is "essential" or not is not the point. The central message of Jesus was to repent (of sin) and believe the Gospel. The emphasis was clearly on the gospel, yet it would be foolishness to ignore repentance from sin. Understanding repentance from sin requires that we recognize what sin is. That applies to a broad range of sins, many of which Jesus did not discuss in depth.
2. You are not being persecuted when prevented from persecuting others.
This point is somewhat vague, but the obvious counter-points are:
a) It's not in itself persecution to tell people to repent of their sins; and
2) It's not in itself persecution to prosecute criminal behavior, including criminal sexual behavior.
3. Truth isn’t like wine that gets better with age. It’s more like manna you must recognize wherever you are and whoever you are with.
a) Truth is absolute and timeless. It doesn't get "better with age," but it does stay true.
b) Manna was sent from heaven. So was the moral law delivered to Moses. If you recognized that, we wouldn't need to have this discussion.
c) Manna is not just whatever you want it to be, and neither is truth.
4. You cannot call it “special rights” when someone asks for the same rights you have.
a) People who want the "right" to sleep with someone to whom they are not married are not asking for rights that I have. I have the right to sleep with my spouse, and not with anyone else.
b) People who want the right to call their fornication "marriage" are not asking for the rights that I have. I don't have the "right" to call my fornication "marriage," and neither does anyone else.
c) People who want the right to marry same sex are not asking for the rights that I have. I have the right to marry opposite sex, and they have that same right - they just have no desire to exercise that right.
5. It is no longer your personal religious view if you’re bothering someone else.
a) I'm pretty sure one of the major reasons for having rights to express people's personal views is exactly because they bother other people. If they didn't bother other people, why would the state need to protect such speech?
b) It's not just our personal religious view - it's the view of our churches.
c) It's also not just our personal religious view, our the view of our churches, but it is an actual matter of fact, revealed by God.
6. Marriage is a civil ceremony, which means it’s a civil right.
a) This argument seems to be based on the particular cultural conventions of modern Western society. Modern society is not a source of truth - it's traditions and norms shift over time.
b) Homosexuals don't usually want to marry (in the normal sense of that word), because they are not interested in the opposite-sex obligations of marriage.
c) Even if in some sense marriage is a "civil right," surely does not mean that there cannot be limitations on it.
7. If how someone stimulates the pubic nerve has become the needle to your moral compass, you are the one who is lost.
Don't worry, that's not the needle of our moral compass.
8. To condemn homosexuality, you must use parts of the Bible you don’t yourself obey. Anyone who obeyed every part of Leviticus would rightly be put in prison.
It is always sad, but not surprising, when people are so morally bankrupt that they think the civil laws of Leviticus are bad laws - evil laws. But what is the basis for that moral judgment?
9. If we do not do the right thing in our day, our grandchildren will look at us with same embarrassment we look at racist grandparents.
Again, what is the standard of what is "right"? If the Bible is the standard, it is those who are exalting homosexuality that will be embarrassed on the day of judgment.
10. When Jesus forbade judging, that included you.
This text is an important text:
Matthew 7:1-2
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

So is this text:

John 7:24
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

And so is this text:

1 Corinthians 6:2
Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?

And most people who appeal to the first one are not even aware of the other two, or the proper harmony amongst them.

A full explanation would exceed the scope of this post, but suffice to say that Matthew 7:1-2 does not mean that we cannot or should not pass moral judgments on people or behaviors. If it did, that would mean we cannot say that murder is wrong, or say that thieves are sinning in what they are doing. That's an absurd result, and it should demonstrate the absurdity of applying the verse to say that we can't say that criminal sexual acts are sinful.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Garry Wills - Why Priests? - Introduction

Dr. Garry Wills is a lay Roman Catholic. His PhD in classics is from Yale (1961) and he taught history for 18 years at Johns Hopkins University. The Los Angeles Times describes him as "American Catholicism's most formidable law scholar," and the New York Times describes him as "One of the country's most distinguished intellectuals." Wills' "Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America," won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1993. In 2008, John L. Allen, Jr. described Wills as "perhaps the most distinguished Catholic intellectual in America over the last 50 years" in the National Catholic Reporter. His writings generally focus on historical topics, many of them on the intersection of history and religion. (I wonder if calling him a "Roman Catholic Darryl Hart" would be taken as the mutual compliment it would be intended to be?)

Some think that the dwindling number of priests can be remedied by the addition of women priests, or married priests, or openly gay priests. In fact, the real solution is: no priests. It should not be difficult to imagine a Christianity without priests. Read carefully through the entire New Testament and you will not find an individual human priest mentioned in the Christian communities (only Jewish priests in service to the Temple). Only one book of the New Testament, the Letter to Hebrews, mentions an individual priest, and he is unique -- Jesus. He has no followers in that office, according to the Letter.

It is not surprising, then, that some Protestant communities are able to be good Christians without having any priests. Some priests of my youth mocked them for that reason. They said a Protestant ceremony was just a town meeting, without the sacramental consecration and consumption of the body and blood of Jesus. When I was told one of my pastors that I had admired the sermon of a visiting priest, he said I should not be looking to have my ears ticked, like some Protestant, but should concentrate on the mystery of the Eucharist. Without the Eucharist, he was implying, we would have no religion at all.
(Why Priests, Introduction, p. 2)

Gary Wills' proposal is going to be shocking to traditionalist Roman Catholics, partly because it would require a radical change in Roman Catholicism, and partly because that radical change would like the Reformation, at least as to a substantial part of its ecclesiology (his position was compared to that of Luther in the New York Times).

We hold to the priesthood of believers, and maintain that Christians have direct access to God through the sole mediation of Christ. Thus, we reject the idea of merely human priests, affirming instead the apostolic model of a church without priests.

Wills' proposal is one that is surprisingly ecumenical. While there would still be certain issues regarding worship that would need to be addressed, removal of the priesthood would be a major stepping stone toward Roman Catholicism being in ecumenical union with "Protestants."

Will Will's proposal be adopted? It seems unlikely. Those in power in Rome have every vested interest in maintaining the structures of power that require a priesthood.


P.S. I seriously doubt that any of Garry Wills' books (from his prize winning books, to his least well recognized books, and including this book) has been submitted for nihil obstat or imprimatur. Naturally, a book (like Why Priests?) that argues as one of its main points that there shouldn't be priests, is not a good candidate for either certification.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Caners on the John Ankerberg Show - Part 2

I'm not sure whether John Ankerberg plans to archive these videos on the web, as it appears that the plan is to offer these videos on DVD in exchange for a "gift" of $39 (link to page where video can be seen).  Thus, it makes sense to discuss these videos in series as they come out.

The intro has the same line about growing up in Columbus and having a mosque-building father (which has already been discussed here).  Numerous times in this section John Ankerberg asks the Caners to describe their own experience.  In most cases, the Caners deflect back to general statements about Muslims.

Around 6:40 into the clip, Emir suggests that knowing God loved him, rather than simply his deeds, was a breakthrough for him. 

Around 7 minutes in, Emir suggests that the tension between Justice and Mercy was one of the reasons for his move from Islam to Christianity.

Around 17:15 into the clip, Ergun discusses Clarence Miller posing the liar, lunatic, Lord trilemma to him (without the liar branch, naturally, since Ergun was claiming that he respected Jesus).

There's not much else to say about this episode, so I'll desist here.