Archive for the 'Church' Category

James 2:10-13 (NIV): Break one law and you’ve broken the lot[1]

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Image result for clipart James 2 public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

James 2:10-13 (NIV),

10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

A. Introduction

How do we play favourites in church? So far in James 2 we have learned that some churches do it by being partial to the rich and snubbing the poor.

In my last message, you responded to my question: How do we play favourites in this church? Two of you from the floor of the congregation said:

6pointMetal-small Some do it by not talking to one another, and

6pointMetal-small Not being involved in evangelism

I gave you an example of how some churches in Australia, like Corrie ten Boom, have offered sanctuary to asylum seekers. Should we be doing this? Do you think the ten Boom family was wrong in hiding people from the Nazis in Holland during World War 2? Do you think it would be wrong to offer sanctuary in our churches to asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution and are now on Manus Is., Nauru, and in Cambodia?

1. What was James’ first argument against favouritism?

Let’s review it briefly from James 2:5-7:

a. You have demonstrated disgusting favouritism or discrimination towards the poor and the rich (2:5).

You favour the rich and reject the poor.

2. The core reason why we shouldn’t play favourites (2:8)

a. The crux: Love your neighbour as yourself

‘If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right’.

This is God’s law of love of the unlovely, loving your neighbour with God’s kind of sacrificial love.

Now we examine the new verses (vv 10-13):

B. Commit one sin & you break all of the law (v 10).

The NIV reads, ‘For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it’. Simon Kistemaker explains James’ hypothetical, conditional sentence like this: ‘If anyone of you tries to keep the entire law of God, but stumbles in regard to one of the commandments, he is guilty because the whole law condemns him’ (Kistemaker1986:81).

Surely that’s unfair! How can the God of truth, love and compassion be so biased? I’m not making a statement, but asking a question.

Let’s pause a moment to consider which law we are talking about.

1. To which law could James be referring?

Done in Love

(image courtesy ChristArt)

I preached on this in the last sermon on James 2:1-7. It is the ‘royal law’ (v. 8), but there is another dimension to this law in v. 12, ‘the law of liberty’ (ESV, NASB), or ‘the law that gives freedom’ (NIV), ‘the law that sets you free’ (NLT).

We’ll get to the meaning of ‘the law of liberty’ soon. The royal law is ‘the law of love as sovereign over all others (cf. Mt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:8-9; Gal. 5:14)’. Gal 5:14 states it simply: ‘For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself”’ (NIV).

If this were the law against drink-driving in Qld, it would not make sense to say that if we break that one law then we are guilty of breaking all of Qld laws, including stealing, murder, lying in court, etc.

Is that how it happens with Australian law? What makes a Queenslander a criminal? Does breaking one criminal law mean a person breaks the whole of the criminal law? That doesn’t make sense for me as a Queenslander.

Remember that this is a hypothetical example in James 2:10, ‘whoever keeps … and yet stumbles’.

Notice the first two verbs in this verse, ‘For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point….’

‘Keeps’ and ‘stumbles’ are Greek aorist tenses, which means they happened at a point in time, but that person ‘has become’ (perfect tense) ‘guilty of breaking all of it’ (NIV), ‘accountable for all of it’ (ESV). The perfect tense refers to something that has happened but the person continues to experience the result of what that person has done. So, here the person who stumbles at one point of the law continues to be guilty or accountable for all points of the law. The continuing, abiding result is that that person continues to be guilty.

Remember that James is writing to a Jewish Christian audience and he has already exposed how they favoured the rich and were against the poor. However, he is pointing to this Jewish law that Jesus exposed in Matt 23:23 (NIV),

‘Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin [i.e. small, flavouring herbs].[2] But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former’.

2. Let’s look at some background information

In the time of James, the Jews distinguished between the more important and the less important laws. They considered that the law of the Sabbath was more important to observe than the one against swearing.

Some Jewish rabbis (not all of them) took the view that ‘in many matters a sin was not a sin, or, in small matters, that a law was not a law, and that even when it was a sin or a law a [person] could run a sort of credit and debit account with God, of good deeds and bad, and so need not try to do more than keep the balance right’ (Adamson 1976:117).

Two leading rabbis were Akiba and Hillel and they believed that ‘to wear phylacteries was to observe the whole Torah’. The Torah consists of the first 5 books of the Bible. That meant for these rabbis that sometimes a law of God was not a law (in Adamson 1976:117).

‘Phylacteries, sometimes called tefillin, are small, square leather boxes containing portions of Scripture worn by Conservative and Orthodox Jews during prayer services. Phylacteries are worn in pairs—one phylactery is strapped on the left arm, and one is strapped to the forehead of Jewish men during weekday morning prayers. The word phylactery comes from a Greek word meaning “safeguard, protection, or amulet”’.[3]

clip_image001

[A set of tefillin (phylacteries) includes the arm-tefillin (left) and the head-tefillin, courtesy Wikipedia]

 

James is looking at an extreme case where a person claims to keep the whole law of God but stumbles on one point. James is not putting up the case that this actually occurs because if we read James 3:2 (ESV), it states, ‘For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body’.

If a person were ever able to keep the whole law and yet stumble at one point, this one case of stumbling (of sinning) makes this person guilty of transgressing the law in all of its points.

If a stone strikes your car windscreen or house window at one point, the window is shattered. God’s royal law, the law of liberty, is a unit. We’ve discussed this previously; it’s the law of loving your neighbour as yourself. If you violate this law of love at one point, you violate love, the whole of it (Lenski 1966:572).

Yes, there are many commandments in God’s law, but if we transgress one of them, we have sinned against God’s law. The law of God is a unity.

On the human level, we know how this works. Penny has broken her ankle. Has it only affected her ankle? Of course not! She will experience pain and discomfort in other parts of her body because every part of the body is related to the whole. I know this from 5 open heart surgeries and what that means to my inability to walk far without getting out of breath. Running is off my agenda. I have to keep my blood at a certain level of thinness through the use of that horrible drug, warfarin. But it helps to keep me alive.

This also applies to the body of Christ, ‘If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it’ (1 Cor 12:26 NIV).

God created the law; he enforces it; through his law God’s will is put into effect.

James reminds us of the seriousness of sin. We tend to minimise it. James shows us the condemnation of the whole law, the depth to which we need God’s repentance. If we break one of God’s commandments, we sin against the whole law of God.

James explains further, with two examples:

C. Examples (v 11)

In James 2:11, James gives 2 examples from the 10 commandments,

Law for the Lawless

(image courtesy ChristArt)

1. ‘Do not commit adultery’, and

2. ‘Do not murder’.

These are straight from the 10 commandments in Exodus 20:13-14 and Deut 5:17-18, although here they are the opposite way around to the Hebrew. Here James probably follows the LXX.

We can tend to look on the 10 commandments as negative, ‘Thou shalt not….’, but there is a positive aspect to them: When we live within the boundaries of the rules God has set for healthy Christian living, we experience God’s freedom, the law of liberty. We learn this from Psalm 19:7-8 (NIV):

The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes
.

Do you get it? To submit to God’s law, the royal law, the law of liberty, we are submitting to this set of laws:

3d-shinnyblue-star-small The law of the Lord is perfect

3d-shinnyblue-star-small The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy

3d-shinnyblue-star-small The precepts of the Lord are right

3d-shinnyblue-star-small The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes

 

So, are you an ill-informed evangelical Christian who submits blindly to the myths your parents told you?

Or, are you submitting to the royal law of perfection that is trustworthy, right, radiant and giving light to your eyes and worldview.

The secular world will not understand this light until their eyes are opened by the living God.

Why has James selected the commandments about adultery and murder? They are the first two of the 10 commandments that deal with how to treat one’s neighbour – the very topic James is addressing.

The logic is pretty simple: If a person keeps one commandment but breaks the other, he or she has …

3. Become a lawbreaker.

And God declares that person guilty.

In James 2:11-12, James presents an excellent summary of what he has been trying to say. It is like what he said in James 1:26-27 (NIV):

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

D. How to speak and act (v 12)

How should Christians speak and act? The Greek is ‘so speak and so act’. But, both ‘speak’ and ‘act’ are verbs that are both in the present tense. What does that mean? Continuous or continual action! This is speaking and action as a lifestyle. Keep speaking and keep doing!

We are to do this as people who will be….

1. Judged by the law that gives freedom (law of liberty)

I’m reminded of Heb 4:13 (NIV), ‘Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account’.

We are going to be judged according to ‘the law of liberty’ (ESV), ‘the law that gives freedom’ (NIV), ‘the law that sets you free’ (NLT).

We have already encountered this law in James 1:25 (NIV), ‘But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it–not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it–they will be blessed in what they do’.

Our conclusion there is the same as here. The law of liberty, or the law that gives freedom, is:

snowflake-light-green-small It promotes the paradox of the law of liberty. How can a horrible thing called law be a promoter of liberty or freedom? The law of the boundaries of a football field surely does not promote freedom when you have to stay inside those boundaries.

I love the way Alfred Plummer, an expositor from over a century ago, put this:

It is when the law is seen to be perfect that it is found to be the law of liberty. So long as the law is not seen in the beauty of its perfection, it is not loved, and men [and women] either disobey it or obey it by constraint and unwillingly. It is then a law of bondage. But when its perfection is recognized men [and women] long to conform to it; and they obey, not because they must, but because they choose. To do what one likes is freedom, and they like to obey. It is in this way that the moral law of the Gospel becomes “the law of liberty,” not by imposing fewer obligations than the moral law of the Jew or of the Gentile, but by infusing into the hearts of those who welcome it a disposition and a desire to obey.[4]

So, it’s the law of liberty because you want to obey God’s word. You have been set free by redemption in Christ so you desire to obey God’s law. The Scriptures are not burdensome. You love to obey God’s perfect law. Is it easy? Never! Try writing a letter-to-the-editor of your local newspaper in support of traditional marriage and family and you watch the tirade of negativity, even abuse. But I urge you to continue to do it.

2. I thought laws are meant to bring restrictions and not liberty.

A high view of the perfect law is at risk in March 2016. Only this week I read these comments in an article in the Brisbane Times (online), Religious Instruction in Queensland schools is discriminatory (14 March 2016). This article was written by Hugh Harris. His points against religious instruction included:

golden foward button ‘Religious instruction [in public schools] is inherently discriminatory’.

golden foward button ‘I was reassured by the state government Religious Instruction policy statement pledging to “respect the background and beliefs of all students” and not to promote “any particular set of beliefs in preference to another”’.

golden foward button ‘My son came home singing songs about Jesus, and exclaimed how “amazing” it was that “God created the whole world”’.

golden foward button ‘Colouring-in books with pictures of Jesus. Fill in the gaps – “Jesus ___ you”. So much for not promoting “any particular set of beliefs” in “preference to others”.

golden foward button ‘So we opted-out of the program. As a result I joined the Rationalist Society of Australia so I could campaign against religion’s pernicious influence’.

golden foward button ‘The Queensland RI program fails to “respect background and beliefs of all students” because it fails to offer non-belief. This is discriminatory’.

golden foward button ‘Bible-thumpers not only proselytise kids, they organise outreach camps so our children can “meet God” and have “faith in Jesus”. It’s creepy.

golden foward button We need to put an end to the intolerable incursion of preaching in Queensland schools.

So, the Brisbane Times gave Hugh Harris, a member of the Rationalist Society of Australia, the opportunity to promote his Rationalist views. What does this society believe? Its website listed these beliefs:

It has a ‘10 Point Plan for a Secular Australia’ (The Rationalist Society of Australia):[5]

  1. A secular, pluralistic and democratic Australia
  2. Clear separation between religion and the State
  3. ‘One law for all’, with no recognition of parallel legal systems
  4. Religious organisations subject to the same laws as other organisations
  5. Children not to suffer because of the religious views of their parents
  6. Education to be strictly secular, not promoting any particular religion
  7. No discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex, sexuality or gender identity
  8. Freedom of reproductive choice, with no religious interference
  9. Healthcare available to all regardless of the religious views of the provider
  10. Guaranteed control over one’s own body, free from religious interference, when facing the end of life.

I ask you: Why is the 10 point plan of the Rationalist Society of Australia not a prescription of the law of liberty, the law that brings freedom? The answer is hinted at in the first line. This society requires that Australia be,

snowflake-rosewood-small Secular (‘Not connected with religious or spiritual matters’. Oxford dictionaries 2016. s v secular). So God and Jesus are automatically excluded.

snowflake-rosewood-small Pluralistic (two or more sources of authority);

snowflake-rosewood-small Democratic (Democracy: ‘A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives’ – Oxford dictionaries 2016. s v democracy).

The biggest issue is that the Christian law of liberty comes through a heart change where a person is redeemed and accepts that ‘The law of the Lord is perfect’. That is not the law of the Rationalist Society of Australia that alleges it can bring liberation through a secular, pluralistic, democratic society.

James makes one final emphasis in this passage:

E. Judgement with or without mercy (v 13)

‘Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment’ (James 1:13 NIV). There will be

1. Judgement without mercy if you have not treated others with mercy

The last judgment will be horrific for those who have not shown mercy. Jesus could not have been more specific. This is what he said according to Matt 25:41-45 (NET Bible):

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels! 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink. 43 I was a stranger and you did not receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘I tell you the truth, just as you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for me.’

This commentary on the James 2:10-13 passage is so obvious. We can’t miss it. This is especially so when we compare this treating others with mercy an the other alternative which Jesus also will state, according to Matt 7:22-23,

22 On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!’ (NET Bible).

What is mercy? It is ‘pity for those in distress’. This is what Hosea 6:6 (NIV) taught, ‘For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings’ (also quoted by Jesus in Matt 9:13; Matt 12:7).

How does James 2:13 conclude?

 

2. Mercy triumphs over judgement

Where does that leave you and me? Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy’ (Matt 5:17 NIV). In the OT, God spoke through Zechariah, the prophet (Zech 7:9 NIV): ‘This is what the LORD Almighty said: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another”’. The Jews didn’t listen and hardened their hearts.

Let’s tease out a few applications of mercy. Remember the definition of mercy is to ‘show pity to those in distress.’ Since Jesus said we are blessed if we show mercy and then we will be shown mercy by God, how can we in Brisbane in 2016 show mercy to those in distress? Let me get you started:

snowflake-greenglass-small How many of you are visiting with those from our church who can no longer come to church?

snowflake-greenglass-small I used to work for Teen Challenge, a drug rehabilitation ministry. Here in Qld, the TC website has plenty of opportunity for volunteers.[6] Could you show mercy by becoming involved? Australian Senator Jacqui Lambi’s son, Dylan, who was addicted to the illicit drug ice, has been to this Qld Teen Challenge drug rehab near Toowoomba.[7]

snowflake-greenglass-small How many of us could become involved in showing mercy to those in prison?

snowflake-greenglass-small What about churches providing sanctuary for asylum seekers?

snowflake-greenglass-small How could you show mercy to those in distress? Any further suggestions?

F. Conclusion

Mercy and Truth(image courtesy ChristArt)

 

What’s the conclusion we reach? Any person who refuses to show mercy to people will experience God’s justice – but without mercy. That’s what Scripture says.

You and I know that no human being can ever claim to receive God’s mercy by doing any kinds of acts of mercy. That would be works. We can’t earn God’s mercy, but it is granted by God when we seek it. Commentator on Edmond Hiebert, put it this way,

‘Mercy does not triumph at the expense of justice; the triumph of mercy is based on the atonement wrought at Calvary…. The practice of mercy toward others is the evidence that God’s grace has produced a transformation in a person. Having himself received God’s mercy, he will be able to stand in the judgment that otherwise would overwhelm him’ (Hiebert 1979:172).

To show favouritism violates God’s royal law, the law that gives freedom, the law of liberty. What ungodly favouritism are we showing in this church?

G.  Works consulted

Adamson, J B 1976. The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Epistle of James. F F Bruce gen ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[8] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Getz, G 1984. Doing Your Part: When You’d Rather Let God Do It All (based on James 2-5). Ventura, California: Regal Books.

Hiebert, D E 1979. The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

Lenski, R C H 1943. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1943 The Wartburg Press; assigned 1961 to Augsburg Publishing House).

Lenski, R C H 1966. Commentary on the New Testament: The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and of the Epistle of James. Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers (1966 Augsburg Publishing House).

May, B 1979. Under His Wing. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press.

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Thayer, J H 1885/1962. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, tr, rev, enl. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

H.  Notes


[1] This sermon was preached at North Pine Presbyterian Church, Petrie Qld, Australia, on Sunday PM service, 20 March 2016

[2] These 3 were ‘small flavouring herbs of which a family might grow a few…, the latter being like anise seed but larger and used to a greater extent’ (Lenski 1943:908). What is ‘anise seed’? ‘The humble anise plant is native to Middle-East and Mediterranean region; probably originated on the fertile plains of Nile delta in the Egypt.… Anise is a perennial herbal plant; generally, grows up to a height of about 2 feet. It bears white colored umbelliform flowers by July, and harvested by bringing down the whole plant once its seed-heads matured enough on the plant itself. Its seeds then separated from the flower heads by threshing. Anise seeds feature oblong or curved, comma shape, about 3-4 mm long, light brown color and fine stripes over its outer surface. The seeds feature delicately sweet and aromatic bouquet with a distinctive liquorice flavor. Their special fragrance is due to essential oil, anethole in them’. Available at: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/anise-seed.html (Accessed 14 March 2016).

[3] ‘What are phylacteries?’ GotQuestions?org. Available at: http://www.gotquestions.org/phylacteries.html (Accessed 16 March 2016).

[4] Plummer (1907:108).

[5] Available at: http://www.rationalist.com.au/10-point-plan-for-a-secular-australia/ (Accessed 14 March 2016).

[6] See: http://teenchallengeqld.org.au/how-to-help/volunteer/ (Accessed 16 March 2016).

[7] See, ‘Magistrate sends Jacqui Lambie’s son to rehabilitation program’. The Sydney Morning Herald (online), October 26, 2015. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/magistrate-sends-jacqui-lambies-son-to-rehabilitation-program-20151026-gkijlj.html (Accessed 16 March 2016). A more lengthy article is in the Courier-Mail of October 27, 2015 at: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/crime-and-justice/jacqui-lambies-son-ordered-to-attend-queensland-rehab-ccentre/news-story/269b5a399e909b56e242064ca1023503 (Accessed 16 March 2016).

[8] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 August 2016.

James 2:8-9 (NIV): Faith and playing favourites in church, Part 2[1]

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

By Spencer D Gear PhD

James 2:8-13 (NIV):

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

A.  Introduction

When I was attending Seminary in Ashland, Ohio, USA, in the early 1980s, one of my fellow students, Glen, told of how he visited this church in southern California a few times.

(Crystal Cathedral 2007, image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

When he attended that church, there were ushers at the front door who escorted all people to their seats in various parts of the cathedral. You couldn’t sit where-ever you wanted. People were led to certain areas. When he inquired after the service, he was told that if men came in suits and ties, they went to a place wherever they could be caught on the TV cameras. That’s also where the women went who were nicely dressed with hair styled, all for the benefit of the TV cameras.

However, if you were a commoner, without a tie and not as swishy in dress as the others, you were ushered to a place elsewhere in the cathedral where you were out of site of the TV.

Why was this? Glen was told that those who were captured on the TV cameras that were telecast in Robert Schuller’s ‘Hour of Power’ TV programme were the well dressed. This is a picture of the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, southern California. What happened there was an example of favouritism, partiality shown towards a certain class of people by that church – those who were visual to the TV cameras. Schuller wanted his TV show to convey a message to the well-dressed middle to upper class. There was discrimination against others.

Sadly, the Crystal Cathedral went into voluntary administration (it was broke) in 2010 with the court settlement with creditors in 2012.[2] It has now been purchased by the Roman Catholic diocese of Orange County and is known as Christ Cathedral.[3] Schuller, a minister in the Reformed Church in America, died in April 2015 at the age of 88.[4]

My point is that here we had an example of partiality, favouritism, discrimination that was alive and well in the 20th century. I ask you to consider how the church in the 21st century could also show favouritism, partiality and discrimination which James condemns.

Could it be happening in this church? What would it look like here?

In my last message on James, I gave the

B. First argument against favouritism (vv 1-7)

1. What was that first argument?

Let’s review it briefly from James 2:5-7:

a. You have demonstrated disgusting favouritism or discrimination towards the poor and the rich (2:5).

3d-gold-star-small God has chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith, but you have dishonoured the poor (2:6)

3d-gold-star-small Instead, you have paid special attention to those who are rich, but they are the ones who oppress you and drag you into court.

3d-gold-star-small So, you Christians, says James, have played favourites in church by judging by outward appearances.

That’s the first argument against favouritism: Do not discriminate, based on external circumstances.

Now we get to the second argument against partiality in the church.

C. Crux of the problem (v. 8)

Here’s the core reason why we should not play favourites or discriminate in the church (v. 8).

Look at a few translations of the beginning of v. 8:

designRed-small ‘If you really keep (NIV)

designRed-small ‘Yes indeed, it is good when you’ (NLT)

designRed-small ‘If you really fulfill’ (ESV)

designRed-small ‘If, however, you are fulfilling’ (NASB)

designRed-small ‘If ye fulfil’ (KJV)

designRed-small ‘If you really fulfill’ (NKJV)

designRed-smallNevertheless, you are doing the right thing’ (ISV)

designRed-smallIndeed, if you keep’ (HCSB)

designRed-small ‘If you really fulfil’ (RSV)

designRed-small ‘You do well if you really fulfil’ (NRSV)

The KJV, even though the word is in the Textus Receptus, doesn’t translate it, possibly following Tyndale’s translation[5] which also left it out, but the earlier Wycliffe translation included it as, ‘Nevertheless if ye perform….’

What we have here at the beginning of verse 8 is the construction ei mentoi. Ei is a conjunction, meaning ‘if’, and it assumed that this statement in v. 8 is true,[6] ‘if you really keep the royal law found in Scripture’, which you will do.

Do that which is right by keeping the royal law in Scripture (v 8). The words I’ve underlined in those verses are probably the translation of the connective particle, mentoi. It’s called a connective because it is meant to connect back to the verses that have immediately preceded it. An old fashioned translation would be ‘howbeit’, which is an archaic word that means, ‘nevertheless, however’.[7]

The connection is with the first argument against favouritism by outward appearances. Mentoi appears 8 times in the NT (John 4:27; 7:13; 12:42; 20:5; 21:4; 2 Tim 2:19; James 2:8; Jude 8).[8] Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning in James 2:8 as ‘really, actually’ and in the NT is mostly adversative, i.e. in opposition to something.[9]

So if you really, actually do the right thing by dealing properly with the poor and rich, you are

D. Obeying the royal law (v. 8)

Verse 8 reads, ‘If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right’ (NIV).

1. What is the ‘royal law’?

Notice what it does not say. Even though James is written to Christian Jews, it does not say, ‘If you really keep the Mosaic law found in Scripture’ The word ‘royal’ is an old adjective for royal or regal. It is based on the Greek word for king, basileus, like addressing an officer. The word is used in John 4:46, ‘Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum’ (NIV).

Commentators have had theological heartburn over why James would use the term ‘royal law’ as this is the only time the term appears in the NT. The reasons for using this term seem to boil down to three meanings that have been suggested by commentator Desmond Hiebert:

(a) Firstly, It describes ‘the law of love as sovereign over all others (cf. Mt. 22:36-40; Rom. 13:8-9; Gal. 5:14)’.[10] Gal 5:14 states it simply: ‘For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself’ (NIV).

(b) Secondly, it is ‘fitted for kings and not slaves (cf. vv. 5, 12)’;

(c) Thirdly, ‘as given by the King’.[11]

The most common suggestion is the first one: The ‘royal law’ refers to the law of love that is sovereign over all other laws of God. I’m supportive of that view as other Scriptures confirm it.

Now James gives a specific example of this ‘royal law’ and it points towards a prominent application:

a. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’

We hear this so often in the church that it is easy to gloss over its practical application. It comes from Lev 19:18 in the Mosaic Law but it has now been endorsed by James for NT Christianity.

Do you remember what Jesus said in Matt 22:36-40 (NIV)?

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Let’s pause for a moment to consider its application. This is where I think that many evangelicals waver on how to be relevant for today. I’m going to raise a controversial example.

On 4 February 2016, The Sydney Morning Herald reported:

clip_image004 Sanctuary: The Anglican Dean of Brisbane, Dr Peter Catt. Photo: Glenn Hunt. Courtesy, The Sydney Morning Herald.

 

Churches have taken the extraordinary step of offering sanctuary to asylum seekers facing deportation in the wake of a High Court verdict, raising the prospect of police raids on places of worship and possible charges for clergy.

This is a hugely significant action for any Australian church to take.

Ten Anglican churches and cathedrals have invoked the ancient Christian tradition to offer protection to the 267 people – including 37 babies – facing imminent transfer to Nauru after the court on Wednesday [3 Feb 16] upheld the legality of the government’s offshore processing regime.

The movement is being led by the Anglican Dean of Brisbane, Dr Peter Catt, who has declared his St John’s Anglican Cathedral a place of sanctuary.

Dr Catt said if any asylum seekers sought sanctuary in his church he would do his best to keep the authorities out. He said he fully accepts that he and other clergy could be charged with obstruction and potentially even face possible jail time.

“We are aware it’s a high-risk strategy,” he told the ABC.

Dr Catt called it an extraordinary step that would attract the attention of church communities around the world.

The sanctuary principle has its roots in the Old Testament and was once enshrined in English common law but its legality has never been tested in Australia (Adam Gartrell, SMH, ‘Churches become potential flashpoint after offering sanctuary to asylum seekers in wake of High Court verdict’, Feb 4, 2016).

Is this an example of how the church can demonstrate the royal law in action, by showing impartiality, love in action through sanctuary, loving asylum seekers as themselves – especially when we know some of them are escaping persecution and end up on Manus Island and Nauru, which have been described as having conditions that are a ‘weeping sore’ of detention.[12]

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, September 25, 2015,

Liberal MP, Russell Broadbent has implored Mr Turnbull to act, in the first instance by removing children from Nauru. Mr Broadbent is the last MP from the group of Liberals who forced John Howard to soften his border protection policies in 2006.

“You know what happens to a weeping sore if you don’t deal with it. It becomes a raging ulcer,” he told Fairfax Media.

In The Brisbane Times, 7 February 2016, there is an article with the headline, ‘Queensland to join call for asylum seeker children to stay in Australia’. It states:

Queensland will join Victoria and New South Wales in calling for the federal government to stop asylum seeker children and their families being sent back to immigration detention centres (Cooper 2016).

What will we do to address this crying current need?

Where are the genuine Christians who are demonstrating the royal law of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ in this very contemporary situation? Should it be hands off? Or, is it: How dare you mention this example in an evangelical church? I’m raising this issue that has practical consequences for those of us who want to obey the royal law.

Do you remember this lady?

clip_image005

(image courtesy Wikipedia)

What did Corrie ten Boom and her family do during World War 2?

The Ten Boom family were devoted Christians [in Holland] who dedicated their lives in service to their fellow man. Their home was always an “open house” for anyone in need. Through the decades the Ten Booms were very active in social work in Haarlem, and their faith inspired them to serve the religious community and society at large.

During the Second World War, the Ten Boom home became a refuge, a hiding place, for fugitives and those hunted by the Nazis. By protecting these people, Casper and his daughters, Corrie and Betsie, risked their lives. This non-violent resistance against the Nazi-oppressors was the Ten Booms’ way of living out their Christian faith. This faith led them to hide Jews, students who refused to cooperate with the Nazis, and members of the Dutch underground resistance movement.

During 1943 and into 1944, there were usually 6-7 people illegally living in this home: 4 Jews and 2 or 3 members of the Dutch underground.  Additional refugees would stay with the Ten Booms for a few hours or a few days until another “safe house” could be located for them. Corrie became a ringleader within the network of the Haarlem underground. Corrie and “the Beje [pron. bay-yay] group” would search for courageous Dutch families who would take in refugees, and much of Corrie’s time was spent caring for these people once they were in hiding. Through these activities, the Ten Boom family and their many friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews, and protected many Dutch underground workers (Corrie ten Boon House Foundation: History).

clip_image007

(This is a drawing of the Ten Boom family home, Barteljorisstraat 19, Haarlem, Holland)

Would you do that today? Should we be doing it for the asylum seekers? I raise it as a point for discussion.

However, there is a restriction on the meaning of ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ in v. 8. What’s that restriction? It’s found in the parsing of ‘love’ in ‘love your neighbour’. ‘Love’ is future tense but used like a command, ‘You shall love’. In this verse, the verb love is in the singular (one person) future tense. It is referring to a single person and not to a plural group of people. So, love your neighbour as yourself is not referring to a group of Christians or churches doing it, but to a single believer loving his or her neighbour as himself or herself.

This kind of love is intelligent, sacrificial love with a purpose where you will voluntarily seek the welfare of your neighbour, just as you would look after yourself. This standard is impossible to achieve without the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling you. Remember what Jesus said?

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Here ‘Love one another’ has ‘love’ as a plural verb. It’s obvious: Christian brothers and sisters, love one another in this group with a sacrificial love. How is that possible when we don’t like some people? The command is still to sacrificially love them (plural).

One warning before I move on: Too often it has been the liberal church that has lost the Gospel, denigrates the authority of Scripture, that takes this royal law and claims that this is Christianity in action. Yes, it is Christianity in action, but it must not be separated from the Gospel of grace through Christ alone that the evangelical church proclaims. We must not fall for the Gospel-less liberal Christianity that only wants to see the love of God in action – but without the wrath of God associated with Gospel proclamation.

Now to verse 9:

E. If you show favouritism (v 9)

Verse 9, ‘ But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers’. That little particle, de, translated as, ‘but’, shows the sharp contrast James has just given. He has said, ‘Love your neighbour’, but now the contrast: If you don’t love your neighbour but show favouritism – you discriminate – what is the outcome?

The NIV translates the verb as ‘show favoritism’; ‘show partiality’ (ESV, NASB, NKJV); ‘you favor some people over others’ (NLT). The NLT is an excellent translation for everyday language. It’s a compound verb[13] that is found only this one time in the NT. This is what I love about the Greek NT. The verbs give much more precise information than English. It’s second person plural, so there is a group of these people favouring some people over others, but the verb is in the present tense. So it refers to continuous or continual action. This is not something that happened as a once off or occasional; it continued to happen.[14]

It means if you as a group deliberately have respect of persons. It is not an unfortunate action that you occasionally do. It is something that you deliberately practice – partiality, favouritism, and discrimination.[15]

The ‘if’ clause[16] recognises that there is a definite possibility of Christians violating the law of love. James said that if we are demonstrating acts of partiality which are not only incompatible with the royal law of love, then something terrible happens in the Christian community. This is very straight forward. If you do this,

1. You sin

That’s the NIV translation. The ESV translates as ‘you are committing sin’. The literal translation would be ‘you (plural) are working sin’. Again it’s the present tense, so this group of people who are continuing to deliberately disrespect people are continuing to sin.

Remember what God said about partiality in the OT, according to Lev 19:15, ‘Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly’ (NIV).

What’s the solution for sin, deliberate sin that is continuing in the congregation where there is favouritism by way of discrimination? The one and only solution is repentance and forgiveness. But don’t gloss over this as though it doesn’t mean much. When this kind of continuing sin is in the camp of Christians, what happens?

2. You are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

These Jewish Christians were treating this favouritism as something that was ‘a trifling fault’.[17] No! No! says James. Present tense again. You (plural) are being convicted continually as transgressors (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:248).

Which law were they breaking? Not once or now and then, but continually. Which law have they transgressed?

It’s the royal law, the law of love that is sovereign over all other laws of action for the believer. This is ‘love your neighbour as yourself’. If you have continually broken this law, you are continually convicted as lawbreakers.

What’s the solution? Repentance and seeking forgiveness of the ones violated.

Let’s pause for some applications: How could continually breaking the royal law be taking place in this congregation? What could be some examples? I’ll wait for your responses:

Only 2 answers were given from the congregation:

coil-gold-sm Not sharing the Gospel;

coil-gold-sm Ignoring people, not including them in conversation.

coil-gold-sm I don’t think we have any problem with the way people dress; the Crystal Cathedral’s partiality is not happening here as I see it. There’s no discrimination in how you dress. What would happen if a bikie arrived dressed in his club’s gear?

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(http torturedforchrist.com/)

‘Pastor Wurmbrand resisted the communists’ control of the church [in Romania] and went underground’. He founded Voice of the Martyrs.

flamin-arrow-small What about joining with other churches around the nation for churches to become sanctuaries for asylum seekers? Or do we think too highly of the Aust. Government law to step outside of that protection? Remember the example of Corrie ten Boom and Richard Wurmbrand.

flamin-arrow-small What about people in churches who are not talking with others; conversation with them is avoided?

flamin-arrow-small Do we show partiality to some people who have certain beliefs? [e.g. Eschatology, aspects of salvation, creation]

flamin-arrow-small I’m raising some possibilities. It may not be happening here, but it could be.

Next sermon, I’ll continue this series in James, ‘Faith & Playing Favourites, Part 3’, in verses 10-13:

pink-arow-small How can we stumble at one point of the royal law and be guilty of breaking all of the law? Sounds strange by Aussie standards.

pink-arow-small Christians are going to be judged by the ‘law of liberty’ or the ‘law that gives freedom’. How is it possible to have a law; law means having boundaries, yet this law is one of liberty. Sounds like strange logic for the natural person. We’ll unpack that next time.

F. Conclusion

This example deeply moved me when I read it. It’s a practical illustration of ‘faith and playing favourites’. It was told by

HomeBernie May, who served with Wycliffe Bible Translators and was formerly executive director of Wycliffe’s Jungle Aviation and Radio Services (called JAARS). He had been a missionary pilot for over twenty-five years. On one occasion a large church invited him to be a special guest so they could present an airplane as a gift to JAARS. “It was a Bible-believing church,” Bernie relates, “filled with scrubbed-faced fundamentalists – the kind I like to be around. I was the main speaker for the Sunday morning service – a real VIP.”

His story continues. “During Sunday School a friend introduced me to a beautiful black woman, who was visiting the church for the first time, because she learned I was to speak. I immediately recognized her, although we had never met. She was Josephine Makil, a Wycliffe translator home on furlough from Vietnam.

“Some months before, she and her family had been ambushed on a lonely Vietnam road. She and three of her children had watched in horror as her husband and the fourth child he was holding in his arms were murdered in cold blood. She is one of God’s special people.

“That morning, before I spoke, I introduced Josephine asking her and the children to stand. She gave a brief but powerful testimony, closing by saying, ‘I can testify that God’s ways are perfect and His grace is sufficient.’

“The words burned deep in my heart,” Bernie stated. “I wanted to remove my shoes, so hallowed was the ground as I stood beside her. It took me long moments before I could speak. I couldn’t get the lump out of my throat.

“After the service the people flocked around me shaking my hand and patting my back. During the adulation I happened to look to one side. There stood Josephine and the children. Alone. In fact, the people were deliberately avoiding her. She was black.

“I could hardly restrain my anger,” Bernie states. “I wanted to rush through that magnificent building, overturning the pews and shouting, ‘Keep you money. Keep your handshakes. Keep your airplane. It goes up as a stench before God.’

“But,” said Bernie, “I didn’t. Perhaps I was too much the coward. I did break from the group and go to Josephine. We chatted, but she said nothing about her rejection. She reacted to those church people the same way she reacted to those who murdered her husband – with love and forgiveness.

“These people found it strange that God could use a black person like Josephine. I, in turn, found it strange that God would use people like those in that church; yet their gift has been a blessing to the kingdom.

“But then, I’m sure some folks find it strange that God would use a fellow like me.

“Josephine is right. Love is the only way to react. For all our sakes, we must leave judgment to God”.[18]

Josephine’s obituary began:

MAKIL, JOSEPHINE YVONNE JOHNSON went home to be with the Lord on Friday, April 25, 2003. Born May 7, 1932, to Orville and Alberta Johnson of La Junta, Colorado, Josephine had a wonderful childhood-enjoyed her parents and five brothers, attending La Junta public schools, playing the piano, and her church family-the Mt. Zion Baptist Church  (Josephine Yvonne Johnson Makil, the Dallas Morning News, Obituaries, April 30 2003).

G.  Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[19] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Cooper, N 2016. Queensland to join call for asylum seeker children to stay in Australia. Brisbane Times, 7 February. Available at: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/queensland-to-join-call-for-asylum-seeker-children-to-stay-in-australia-20160207-gmnsal.html (Accessed 7 February 2016).

Getz, G 1984. Doing Your Part: When You’d Rather Let God Do It All (based on James 2-5). Ventura, California: Regal Books.

Hiebert, D E 1979. The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

Kistemaker, S J 1986. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of James, Epistles of John, Peter, and Jude. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic.

May, B 1979. Under His Wing. Portland, OR: Multnomah Press.

Robertson, A T 1933. Word Pictures in the New Testament: The General Epistles and The Revelation of John, vol 6. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman Press.

Thayer, J H 1885/1962.Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, tr, rev, enl. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

H.  Notes


[1] Preached at North Pine Presbyterian Church, Petrie Qld, Australia, Sunday PM service, 21 February 2016.

[2] See ‘Crystal Cathedral: Schullers lose in court’, Orange County Register, August 21, 2012. Available at: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/creditors-378830-cathedral-claims.html (Accessed 4 February 2016). The Roman Catholic ‘Diocese of Orange escrow closed on the $57.5 million court-ordered sale during the Protestant ministry’s bankruptcy proceedings’ and it will now be known as Christ Cathedral (see: ‘Catholics: Crystal Cathedral to become Christ Cathedral’, Orange County Register, August 21, 2013. Available at: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/church-357293-name-cathedral.html, accessed 7 February 2016).

[3] See ‘Catholics: Crystal Cathedral to become Christ Cathedral’, Orange County Register, August 21, 2013. Available at: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/church-357293-name-cathedral.html (Accessed 4 February 2016).

[4] Reformed Church in America 2015. ‘Robert H. Schuller dies’ (online), April 2. Available at: https://www.rca.org/news/robert-h-schuller-dies (Accessed 4 February 2016).

[5] Hiebert (1979:162, n 55) wrote: ‘The King James Version, following the lead of Tyndale, left the particle untranslated, apparently regarding it simply as the equivalent of men to balance the de in verse 9’.

[6] It’s a first class condition with the present, active, indicative of the verb (Robertson 1933:31).

[7] Oxford dictionaries (2016. S v Howbeit).

[8] Hiebert (1979:162).

[9] Arndt & Gingrich (1957:504).

[10] Hiebert (1979:163).

[11] These 3 suggestions are in Hiebert (1979:163).

[12] ‘Malcolm Turnbull urged to fix “weeping sore” of Manus, Nauru asylum seeker detention’ (Michael Gordon, SMH, September 25, 2015. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-turnbull-urged-to-fix-weeping-sore-of-manus-nauru-asylum-seeker-detention-20150925-gjv14a.html. Accessed 5 January 2016).

[13] Pros?pol?mpteite .

[14] Hiebert (1979:165) alerted me to this.

[15] Hiebert (1979:165).

[16] It’s a ‘condition of first class by contrast with that in verse 8’ (Robertson 1933:31). In James 2:8, ‘the particle ?? introduces a simple fact condition that depicts reality’ (Kistemaker 1986:83).

[17] ‘Trifling fault’ was the language of Robertson (1933:31).

[18] Bernie May (1979:41-42). I was alerted to this quote in Getz (1984:15-16).

[19] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 August 2016.

James 2:1-7 (NIV): Faith and playing favourites in church, Part 1[1]

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Image result for clip art favorites public domain

By Spencer D Gear PhD

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting [synagogue] wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:1-7 NIV).

A. Introduction

clip_image002(photo courtesy Chicago Now)[2]

Have you been following the recent story from Wheaton College, an evangelical college near Chicago, where one of its political science lecturers has been threatened with the sack because …

‘Wheaton College says it is taking steps to fire Dr Larycia Hawkins for her views on Islam and God’.

In trouble … Dr Larycia Hawkins faces termination from her job. This news has even reached Australia. I read this information from news.com.au, Reuters News Corp Australia Network, January 6, 2016

A POLITICAL science professor is being fired after she wrote a Facebook post saying that Muslims and Christians worship the same God.

Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian university outside Chicago, says it is taking steps to fire Dr Larycia Hawkins, who wrote on the social media site on December 10 that she was donning the hijab headscarf during the period of advent before Christmas as a sign of solidarity with Muslims. In her post she said “we worship the same God.”

Hawkins was placed on administrative leave after the comment drew criticism, and on Tuesday the school said in a statement Wheaton’s provost had delivered a notice to President Philip Ryken recommending her employment be terminated.[3]

Isn’t that discrimination against Dr Hawkins? Isn’t that an example of Wheaton College showing favouritism towards Christians and not towards Muslims? Is this a practical, contemporary example of the kind of issue that was addressed in James 2 of ‘faith and playing favourites in church’?

Buckle up as we examine James 2:1-7 and James’ challenge on partiality, favouritism and discrimination.

B. Christians must stop doing it

Some of your translations in v. 1 will read,

murky-arrow-small ‘show no partiality’ (ESV; NAB; NKJV);[4]

murky-arrow-small ‘Do not show prejudice’ (NET);

murky-arrow-small ‘Do not show favoritism’ (HCSB);

murky-arrow-small ‘Do not hold the faith … with partiality’ (NKJV).

In the Greek language, the verb is a present tense imperative with the negative, m?. It is used for ‘forbidding a practice already in progress’.[5] Those who received this letter from James were already doing this. They were showing favouritism or prejudice towards certain people and they were told to stop doing it. We’ll learn in verse 6 what this partiality was.

1. Remember the background of James 2.

It is in James 1:19-27 (NIV):

snowflake-red-small ‘Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (v 19);

snowflake-red-small ‘Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves’ (v 22);

snowflake-red-small If you consider yourself religious, ‘keep a tight rein on their tongues’ (v 26);

snowflake-red-small What is pure religion that is faultless? ‘Look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world’ (v 27).

What causes this difference from worldly thinking? What brings about this other centredness to care for orphans and widows? We get the answer in James 2:1

2. It’s the Jesus’ difference!

It’s too easy to say this phrase quickly, ‘glorious Lord Jesus Christ’ (NIV). Your translation could say something like, ‘our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory’ (ESV). The biblical emphasis is that he is

(a) Lord – kurios is used 14 times in this epistle.[6] For a Jewish audience, it had the implication that Jesus is God – deity. In the Greek OT (LXX), kurios translated Yahweh, the name for God that speaks of his sovereignty.[7]

(b) Jesus – Jesous is his human name given to him at his birth and it speaks of his saving work in his incarnation. Matt 1:21 indicates this, ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (ESV). Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua that means ‘salvation’. In the name and person of Jesus, we have all that is represented in the gospel story.[8]

(c) Christ – Christos is the Greek for the Hebrew, ‘Messiah’ (see Ps 2:2; Acts 4:26), meaning ‘the anointed one’. For these Jewish readers of James, when the term Christos was placed with Jesus, it meant that he fulfilled OT prophecies.[9]

So Lord Jesus Christ refers to the one who is sovereign saviour of salvation, the fulfiller of OT prophecies.

He is the one who is spoken of in Col 1:27 (ESV), ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’. However, we must remember that in this verse, ‘you’ is plural so Paul is saying to the Colossians and to all Christians that when Christ in the Christian community, the church, he is the hope of glory. When the Lord Jesus Christ dwells among us, he makes a radical difference in our behaviour.

What difference?

3. You must quit showing favouritism in the church gathering.

It doesn’t matter whether you were a newly converted Jew in the first century or in a church today in Somalia, India, Russia, France, UK, Chile, or here at 55 Old Dayboro Rd., Petrie. You will face this same challenge to play favourites with some and to ignore others who come into this church gathering. James now gives …

C. Two hypotheticals (vv 2-3)

‘Suppose a man comes into your meeting’. The noun for ‘meeting’ is sunag?g?. What does that sound like? Synagogue! It could be that these Jewish Christians were still meeting in a Jewish synagogue but it could mean that after leaving the synagogue these Christians were still using the word, sunag?g?, to indicate their church meeting place.

James gives an example of two men who come to a church gathering and look what happens:

1. You suck up to the rich (v 2)

Image result for the rich public domainWhy? He’s ‘wearing a gold ring and fine clothes’. The Greek word for ‘fine’ is lampra which was often used in the first century to ‘describe the clothing of a rich person or a dignitary. In the Roman world it was the toga [an official robe] of a candidate of public office’.[10]

What do we do with this man? We show him ‘special attention’ and refer him to ‘a good seat’. Where is that in this building? Does he get a cushioned seat? In Derbyshire, UK, in the 1630s, there are Derbyshire Record Office entries that tell of wealthier, male householders who had ‘pews in the high status area near the pulpit’ and there were ‘common & vulgar seats’ for the common folks (Wood 2013:214).

Then there is the contrast in v. 3:

2. You belittle the poor (v 3)

‘A poor man in filthy old clothes comes in’. ‘Filthy’, rhypara, means shabby and is often associated with someone who is dirty and grubby. Today we’d call him a tramp or hobo.

Four Pink Towels In PovertyWhat did these people say to this grubby man who entered their church meeting? The NLT rightly translates this: ‘You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor’. He is treated as worthless scum.

What have these Christians done with both the rich man and the bloke in filthy clothing? They have judged by outward appearance.

The Scriptures could not be more forthright in the assessment. For those who do this:

 

D. Bigotry God condemns (v 4)

Notice how the text puts this in question form in v 4:

1. This is terribly wrong behaviour

Here’s the question: Have you not discriminated? It comes with the negative particle in Greek, ou, and James expects his readers to agree with him. Yes, we have discriminated.

The examples in vv 2-3 demonstrate that there was unjustified discrimination – favouritism. What you have done is terribly, terribly wrong because …

2. You have become judges with evil thoughts (v 4).

There’s an interesting play on words in the original language in v. 4. The word used for ‘discriminated’ (diekrith?te) is built on the same root as the word for ‘judges’ (kritai). Donald Burdick has conveyed this play on words well: ‘In so judging between men, the readers had become unjust judges’ (Burdick 1981:178).

(a) Do we get it?

(b) In so judging, you promote injustice because you are unjust judges.

If people come into this church and one looks lavish and you show him special favours and the other scruffy bum comes in and you show him where to go, you have committed injustice through your evil thoughts which led to evil actions.

James would not be including this example in his epistle if it was impossible to commit this discrimination in the 21st century. We are as vulnerable as the Jewish Christians in the first century.

Now James gives

E. Argument against favouritism (vv. 5-7)

The next example is in the next sermon. We should be convinced already that showing favouritism towards anyone coming into the church is wrong, discriminates against them, and Christians are guilty of judging unjustly. But James is not finished with driving the point home. He does it through two main arguments. I’ll deal with one of them tonight and the second argument in the next sermon.

The first argument against favouritism concerns what we Christians have done. Look how v. 5 begins, ‘Listen, my dear brothers and sisters’. It’s the imperative – a command. Some of your translations may have only ‘brothers/brethren’ (like ESV, NASB, NKJV, KJV) but whenever the Greek adelphoi is addressed to a mixed audience (like a church group in James), it means both males and females, so it refers to brothers and sisters in Christ.[11]

1. We have distorted God’s view of the poor (v 5)

The early church did not come from the realm of the high and mighty. It came largely from the poor; there were exceptions. Look at v. 5, ‘Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him?’ The expected answer is, Yes. God chose ‘the poor in this world’.

We know this from verses such as Matt 11:5 (NIV) where it is recorded that Jesus said, ‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor’.

This is implied in what Paul said to the Corinthians:

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him (1 Cor 1:26-29 NIV)

Image result for the poor AfricaThese people are poor ‘in the eyes of the world’ but they are really rich. They are ‘rich in faith’ and their destiny is ‘to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him’ (James 2:6). The inheritance of the kingdom is yet to come. Aren’t you looking forward to that day?

But what do Christians do to the poor? Verse 6:

(a) We have degraded the poor (v 6)

We can screw up what James says about the poor if we have a superficial evaluation. James does not say that all poor people have a rich faith. Also, he doesn’t say that that because you are rich, you are disqualified from receiving salvation. God’s choice of the rich or the poor is not based in any merit because they are poor or disqualification because they are rich. We come before God on an equal footing. We are all sinners in need of a Saviour.

(b) Why does God choose the poor?

We find 2 reasons in Scripture:

(1) One reason is given in the story of the rich young ruler

Mark 10:23-25 states,

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (NIV).

Their dollars and riches stand in the way of entering God’s kingdom.

It is only those who recognise they are spiritually bankrupt before God, will be blessed. Again, Jesus: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 5:3 NIV).

(2) Second reason why God chooses the poor

According to 1 Cor 1:29, God chooses the poor ‘so that no one may boast before him’. God chooses the poor, as he has stated, because they have nothing and have nothing within themselves to brag before God.

What a contrast between how God was choosing the poor and why he does it, and how James readers were treating the poor and shabby. James 1:6 says that his readers ‘have dishonoured the poor’.

But there’s a contrast that we see with the rich according to James 1:6

2. What were the rich doing to their Christian witness?

James answers with 3 piercing questions in vv 6-7.

(a) Aren’t they exploiting you?

The word for ‘exploit’ is very strong in the Greek language. Katadynasteuw. It describes ‘the brutal and tyrannical deprivation of one’s rights’. We see it in the Greek translation of the OT (the LXX) in passages such as

flamin-arrow-small Ezek 22:29, ‘The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress [katadynasteu?] the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice’ (NIV).

flamin-arrow-small Zech 7:10, ‘Do not oppress [katadynasteu?] the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other’ (NIV).

(b) Aren’t they ‘dragging you into court?’ (v 6)

Yes, ‘drag’, helkw, can mean ‘to draw and attract’, as in John 6:44, but in other places it can mean ‘the act of forcibly dragging a person’. We see that meaning in Acts 16:19, ‘When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities’. We see it meaning that kind of dragging also in Acts 21:30, ‘The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut’ (NIV). That’s no gentle drawing of attracting. It’s giving the meaning of forcibly dragging the person.

That’s what they were doing with the poor. The rich were dragging them into court.

But the rich were doing more:

(c) Aren’t they ‘blaspheming the noble name’ of Christ (v 7)?

When I read this question in James 2:7, it reminded me of the language, plastered across the mass media many times, from the late Kerry Packer.

Some of you are old enough to remember the story of what happened to him.

On 6 October 1990, Australia’s richest man, the late media mogul Kerry Packer, was playing polo at Sydney’s Warwick Farm racecourse when he suffered a massive heart attack. His heart stopped for eight minutes, but he was revived by an ambulance crew using a defibrillator (which produces an electric shock to restart the heart’s normal rhythm).[12]

Other reports said ‘he was clinically dead for six minutes before being revived by ambulance officers’ (Zinn 2005).

However, it is what he often said between his encounter with death in 1990 and his final death in 2005 that demonstrated how this richest of rich may could use foul language about what happens at death.

He repeated over and over for the media to grab their one-liners. He told his interviewer friend, Phillip Adams: ‘I’ve been to the other side, and let me tell you, son, [blankety blank][13] there’s nothing there. There’s no one waiting for you. There’s no one to judge you, so you can do what you [blankety blank] like’.[14]

That’s just one example of how the rich blaspheme God and the afterlife. It is recorded in Scripture that ‘And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgement’ (Heb 9:27 ESV).

I’m backing Scripture over Kerry Packer. As James warned us about the rich, ‘They are blaspheming the noble name’ of the Lord Jesus Christ.

F. Dangerous favouritism

What would you say after listening to the message I’ve preached tonight? (wait for an answer before giving the following. What’s the danger of playing favouritism in church?

1. It destroys our witness (v 1).

2. Outward appearance is a shocking way to judge spiritual intent (vv 2-3).

3. God’s love is of all people, but the poor respond to his offer more readily (v 5).

4. The rich have been known to blaspheme God (v 7).

5. Next sermon: The crux of the matter is to do what is right through practising the royal law. And it has nothing to do with Queen Elizabeth or Prince Charles.

G. Conclusion

I began this message with the illustration of Dr Larycia Hawkins, professor of political science at Wheaton College, Illinois, who is being threatened with the sack because of her statement on Facebook that ‘we worship the same God’, i.e. her claim is that Christians worship the same God as Muslims.

Secularists will see it as discrimination, but from the information available to me, Wheaton College, an evangelical Christian institution, wants to be faithful to its heritage and statement of faith.

On the Wheaton website, ‘Statement of Faith and Educational Purpose’, it states:

The doctrinal statement of Wheaton College, reaffirmed annually by its Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff, provides a summary of biblical doctrine that is consonant with evangelical Christianity….

WE BELIEVE in one sovereign God, eternally existing in three persons: the everlasting Father, His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life….

WE BELIEVE that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, as a representative and substitutionary sacrifice, triumphing over all evil; and that all who believe in Him are justified by His shed blood and forgiven of all their sins.[15]

However, what is Islam’s view of God and Jesus? I will be very brief:

1. Allah: Is he the Lord God Almighty revealed in the Bible?

Quran 112:1-4 (Yusuf Ali translation) succinctly gives the Muslim understanding of Allah’s nature:

1. Say: He is Allah, the One and Only;

2. Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;

3. He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;

4. And there is none like unto Him.

2. Curse on those who call Christ, the son of Allah

Quran 9:30 states: ‘The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!’

In summary:

gold foward button Allah is Unitarian and not Trinitarian;

gold foward button Allah does not beget a son.

Therefore, the God of Christianity is not the same as the God of Islam.

What Wheaton College is doing is dealing with a faculty member who denies a part of Wheaton’s Statement of Faith. Wheaton, in wanting to be faithful to Scripture and its Statement of Faith, is taking action to sever the professor’s employment as her view is not consistent with being an evangelical Christian faculty member at Wheaton.

It is showing that the Wheaton College action is not practising partiality or discrimination but is dealing with a faculty member who has moved away from the standards of Wheaton as affirmed in its Statement of Faith. It is being obedient to its godly vision.

[See Appendix for final decision reached by Wheaton College regarding staff member, Dr Larycia Hawkins.]

Appendix

The Chicago Tribune, February 6, 2016, reported on what seems to be the final outcome of this situation:

A tenured professor at Wheaton College [Dr Larycia Hawkins] suspended for saying Muslims and Christians worship the same God has reached an agreement with the west suburban evangelical school to end her employment there, while the administrator who called for her termination has apologized for acting in haste.

Wheaton Provost Stanton Jones told professors in an email Saturday night that he had turned over the decision of whether to vacate the administrative leave of their colleague, Larycia Hawkins, to college President Philip Ryken. But two hours later, faculty received another email from Ryken, informing them that Hawkins would not return to teach.

“The administration and Dr. Hawkins have come to a place of resolution and reconciliation,” Ryken wrote. “With a mutual desire for God’s blessing, we have decided to part ways.”

Ryken invited faculty to a private worship service at Edman Memorial Chapel Tuesday night and a reception, where Hawkins will say goodbye.

“This is a time for prayer, lament, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation,” Ryken said.

The settlement agreement appears to bring to a close a drama that began in December when Hawkins announced on Facebook that she would don a hijab as part of her Advent devotion to show support for Muslims who had been under scrutiny since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book,” she posted on Facebook, along with a photograph of herself in a hijab. “And as Pope Francis stated … we worship the same God.”

Within days, the college placed Hawkins on paid administrative leave through the spring semester, pending a review.[16]

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[17] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Burdick, D W 1981. James, in F E Gaebelein (gen ed), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol 12, 159-205. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Hiebert, D E 1979. The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith. Chicago: Moody Press.

Kelly, W J 2015. Wheaton College must fire Larycia Hawkins. Chicago Now (online), 17 December. Available at: http://www.chicagonow.com/kelly-truth-squad/2015/12/wheaton-college-must-fire-larycia-hawkins/ (Accessed 27 August 2016).

Pashman, M B 2016. Wheaton College reverses efforts to fire professor, but she won’t return to teach. The Chicago Tribune (online), 6 February. Available at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-wheaton-college-professor-firing-reversal-20160206-story.html (Accessed 27 August 2016).

Rowe, D 2009. What Should I Believe? Why Our Beliefs About the Nature of Death and the Purpose of Life Dominate Our Lives. London and New York: Routledge.

Thayer, J H 1885/1962.Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, tr, rev, enl. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Wood, A 2013. The Memory of the People: Custom and Popular Senses of the Past in Early Modern England.. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Zinn, C 2005. Kerry Packer: Australian media tycoon who built on his family fortune and transformed world cricket. The Guardian, 28 December. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/news/2005/dec/28/guardianobituaries.cricket (Accessed 9 January 2016).

Notes


[1] This message was preached at North Pine Presbyterian Church, Petrie Qld, Australia, Sunday PM service, 17 January 2016

[2] Kelly (2015).

[3] Reuters New Corp Australia Network 2016. Wheaton College says it is taking steps to fire Dr Larycia Hawkins for her views on Islam and God (online), 6 January. Available at: http://www.news.com.au/world/north-america/wheaton-college-says-it-is-taking-steps-to-fire-dr-larycia-hawkins-for-her-views-on-islam-and-god/news-story/1a040e7641fc2a6e493d73158c8b06da (Accessed 6 January 2016).

[4] The NKJV reads, ‘Do not hold the faith … with partiality’.

[5] Burdick (1981:177).

[6] They are 1:1, 7, 12; 2;1; 4:10, 15; 5:4, 7, 8, 10, 11 twice, 14, 15 (Hiebert 1979:62).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., p. 178.

[11] See Arndt & Gingrich (1957:15-16); Thayer (1885/1962:11).

[12] ‘Kerry Packer and a plea for privacy’, Oxford University Press 2015. Available at: http://www.oup.com.au/orc/extra_pages/higher_education/hirst__and__patching/kerry_packer (Accessed 9 January 2016).

[13] He said, ‘Fucking’.

[14] Cited in Rowe ( :205)

[15] Available at: http://www.wheaton.edu/About-Wheaton/Statement-of-Faith-and-Educational-Purpose (Accessed 9 January 2016).

[16] Pashman (2016).

[17] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 August 2016.

Dangerous church trend: Subjective spiritual knowledge

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

https://i0.wp.com/veritas.kr/files/fckeditor/image/kimhubyoung/africa_2013.jpg

(photo courtesy veritas.kr)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Pentecostal-Charismatic movement has brought many positive dimensions into the church, one of the chief being the teaching on every-member gifts to the church gathering or small groups. See my articles that deal with some of these issues:

clip_image001 Does the superiority of New Testament revelation exclude the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit? Is cessationism biblical?

clip_image001[1] Spiritual gifts sign of Christian maturity

clip_image001[2] Tongues and the Baptism with the Holy Spirit

clip_image001[3] Is the spiritual gift of tongues ‘gibberish’?

clip_image001[4] St. Augustine: The leading Church Father who dared to change his mind about divine healing

However, there is….

1. A BIG negative of Pentecostalism

One of the most devastating influences on the church from Pentecostal-charismatic theology has been the subjectivism and esoteric knowledge that has replaced sound interpretation of the biblical text and solid exposition of Scripture. I encounter it in a growth group led by a Pentecostal and in posts on the Internet. Let’s examine a few examples from Christian forums on the Internet.

I came across a group of Christians who wanted to use types and shadows from the OT to present their subjective opinions of the meaning of these types and shadows. I began this thread,

2. Old Testament types and shadows need New Testament support[1]

Trees With Late Afternoon Shadows(photo courtesy publicdomainpictures.net)

 

A person claimed that these OT words were direct references to Christ and not types or shadows? The words to which he referred were LORD (YHWH), LORD God (Yahweh Elohim), God (Elohim) and Almighty (El Shaddai).[2]

Is it true that we need to go beneath the surface of a word or statement to gain a true understanding of the meaning? Is Noah’s Ark a type of Christ? See 1 Peter 3:20-22 (NIV).

I raised some biblical examples of types from the OT that are affirmed as types in the NT:

clip_image003 John 5:45-46 (NIV), ‘But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me’.

clip_image003[1] Rom 5:14 (NIV), ‘Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern [tupos = type] of the one to come’.

clip_image003[2] In I Corinthians 10:11 (NIV) Paul spoke of the OT patriarchs, ‘These things happened to them as examples [tupikos = typically] and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come’.

clip_image003[3] Colossians 2:17 (NIV) ‘These [laws] are a shadow [skia] of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ’.

clip_image003[4] Heb 10:1 (NIV), ‘The law is only a shadow [skia] of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship’.

We are told in 1 Cor 10:4 (ESV) that ‘all drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, the Rock was Christ’. To which rock is Paul referring in the OT? We know that there are two Meribah incidents involving the rock (e.g. Ex 17:6-7 ESV; Num 20:10-13 ESV) that were about 40 years apart. The first one was at Horeb, Mt Sinai, which was near the start of their wandering in the wilderness. The last one happened at Kadesh which was as they were about to enter the Promised Land.

Matthew 16:16-18 (ESV) and 1 Pet 2:4-8 (ESV) confirm Jesus as the Rock and the 1 Peter 2:6-8 example cites various passages from the OT to lend support for the statements. In 1 Cor 10:1-7a (ESV), Paul tells us:

For I want you to know, brothers [and sisters] that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were….

The issue I am raising is: Do Christians have the right to create their own understanding of what is a type or shadow from the OT that is fulfilled in the NT or do we need the NT’s confirmation that it is a type or shadow? To me, the latter seems to be the biblical means of identification.

How can we confirm that YHWH, Yahweh Elohim, Elohim, and El Shaddai are references to Christ in reality and not in type or shadow? What’s the biblical evidence?

3. New Testament confirmation needed of types

What kinds of responses do you think the above statement would engender?

clip_image005’I agree there must be relevance to Jesus in the names used, but we read in 1 Cor 10:11, Now all these things (Judgments?) happened unto them for ensamples (analogies): and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
As a type or description of Jesus I read the word “Image,” and that being other than spirit we read of in Col 1:15.
Isa 43:3 For I am the LORD (Jehovah) thy God, the Holy One of Israel (Jesus?), thy Saviour (Jesus?).
Isa 43:11 I, even I, am the LORD (Jehovah); and beside me there is no savior (Jesus)?
In power Jesus is described as the almighty in Rev 1:8 during His reign.
He is the last Adam in 1 Cor 15:45.
Other OT references are in Isa 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.[3]

My response was:[4] Apart from 1 Cor 10 (ESV), I don’t think you are giving examples of types or shadows in the OT that are fulfilled in the NT, as demonstrated by NT statements.

In that other thread, we had people using Adam and Eve as types and shadows. My question is: Is it legitimate for Christians to make up, create, decide their own opinion on what is a type or shadow of Christ or some other theology – without the NT confirming that such is a type or shadow?

I’m not discussing the fulfilment of OT prophecy as in the example you gave from Isa 9:6 (ESV), which is fulfilled according to Luke 2:11 (ESV). My discussion is about types and shadows that Christians want to push from the OT, but with no confirmation of such in the NT.

Eugene’s response was: ‘Can you give an example? I may also be guilty of that, although I don’t always attempt to prove the OT with proof from the NT’.[5]

3.1 Example of New Testament application

There are at least 4 different interpretations of 1 Cor 10:3,[6] ‘And did all eat the same spiritual meat’. This is not the place to discuss these. They are articulated by Charles Hodge in A Commentary on 1 & 2 Corinthians (Edinburgh/Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1974), pp. 172-174. See HERE.

We see Israel’s example in 1 Cor 10:1-5 (NIV) and that example applied by giving a warning against idolatry (1 Cor 10:6-13 NIV).

In vv 1-5, it is a powerful type with the language of ‘our fathers’ and their form of ‘baptism’ and the ‘Eucharist’. It prefigured our baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
What was the purpose of the type given from the OT and articulated in 1 Cor 10:1-5 (NIV)? It continues with some of the events in Exodus to warn the Corinthians (vv 6, 11-12). These Corinthians enjoyed blessings like those of Israel but the Corinthians were in danger of losing those blessings because of their idolatry: ‘Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters….’ (1 Cor 10:6-7a NIV).

These things in Exodus happened to be ‘examples’ to the Corinthians ‘so, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall’ (1 Cor 10:12 NIV).

That’s my understanding of this type. But it is important to realise that it is only a type or shadow because it is specifically mentioned as such in the NT. We are not left to speculate that types and shadows are on nearly every page of the OT. That isn’t true.

Yes, there are types and shadows that are mentioned in the NT that draw attention to examples from the OT, but the NT has to mention them as examples to make them types.

3.2 You limit us too much. Be free to encounter Jesus in other ways

clip_image005[1]This one came out of left field, but it demonstrates the spiritual subjectivism of some people. I don’t know if this person has any Pentecostal leanings. She wrote:

I don’t think we should use only those types and foreshadows that are permitted to us because they’re mentioned in the N.T. as such. Doesn’t this limit us too much? Am I not free to encounter Jesus wherever I might find Him?
The entire bible was written to show God’s relationship to Man. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of that relationship. I see Him all over the O.T., as one poster said from the other thread. Can I not discern the bible spiritually also? Must it always be using intellectual knowledge? Most people don’t know as much as you do and so this question never even arises.
So is the prophetic scripture and the fulfillment scripture not valid unless one of the N.T. writers speaks of it as such? I am trying to understand you better. When I open up my bible, am I entering into a classroom?
Could it be that ALL must be said or it is not valid? Was EVERYTHING written down? John 21:25
1 Corinthians 10:3
All ate the same manna. Jesus is the new manna which does not rot after one day but lasts forever. We must, even today, all eat the same manna.
Manna = Spiritual food.
Jesus is the new manna.
Jesus is our spiritual food.
Now very learned persons will have 3 other meanings for this scripture.
But most of us are not learned and will be satisfied with the above.
I mean, how much do you want us to know??[7]

That one did press my theological buttons, so I came back with,[8]

3.3 Individualistic interpretations

If there is no NT confirmation, then the alleged OT types become no more than individualistic interpretations with no more weight than a person’s assertions or experiences.

Now to some points (not comprehensive) from this person’s post:

  1. ‘I don’t think we should use only those types and foreshadows that are permitted to us because they’re mentioned in the N.T. as such. Doesn’t this limit us too much? Am I not free to encounter Jesus wherever I might find Him?‘ If you invent the types and shadows, that amounts to postmodernism in action. There is no hermeneutical way of countering anyone who comes to this forum and says, ‘Jesus told me X, Y, Z’ and it is not endorsed by Scripture. There are droves of people in my region who have existential experiences of ‘mystery’ that are a country mile from biblical fidelity. I have no way of knowing whether the postmodern, existential interpretation is for real unless I have my thoughts firmly planted in the revealed Scripture. In fact, I have no Gospel to proclaim unless it is biblically based. If I am free to encounter Jesus wherever I have a new revelation of him, are you going to extend that same ‘Jesus encounter’ privilege to the Mormon in the Temple or the New Age practitioner in an occult group?
  2. ‘Can I not discern the bible spiritually also? Must it always be using intellectual knowledge? Most people don’t know as much as you do and so this question never even arises’. That kind of demeaning put down is totally unnecessary on an evangelical Christian forum. If it were not for people with knowledge of the original languages, you wouldn’t even have a Bible you can read in English.
  3. One more, ‘The entire bible was written to show God’s relationship to Man’, you say. Try telling that to the Amalekites who were slaughtered by Saul, ‘Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’ (1 Sam 15:3 NIV).

There are many other red herrings that this person raised in her post that are unrelated to the topic of my original post.

3.4 Postmodern reader-response

clip_image005[2] An earlier poster came again with input:[9]

Stating that many Christians today create their own understanding of shadows and types I think is the product of precept upon precept, and line upon line as we grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord. Over the years I’ve changed certain views; some due to experience, and at other times maturing in the word of God.
I’ll just give one example how I’ve use (sic) the striking the Rock instead of speaking to it. At first Moses was instructed to strike the Rock, and that to me was a type of the crucifixion of our Lord in Exodus 17: 5-6.

Next I read in Num 20:8 that Moses was to speak to the Rock, but he struck the Rock twice, and God said to him in Num 20:12, And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
Here there was evident consequence, and we read in Deut 32:50, And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people:
Deut 32:51 Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.

Now how could or would I use this as a type pertaining to Christendom? We read of a sin that is unto death in Rom 6:16, Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Did Moses die as the result of his unbelief? Of course, but do any think he went to hell; we see Jesus with Elias and Moses on what has become known as the mount of transfiguration in Mt 17:4. As an example of things, 1 Cor 10:11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition (or warnings), upon whom the ends of the world are come. Could lying [to] the Holy Spirit be justification for such judgment such as that of Ananias & Sapphira of Acts 5:1? I think so.

Image result for clipart reader-response public domain(image courtesy clker.com)

 

My reply was:[10] Have you ever heard of postmodern reader-response criticism? Do you know what it means?

For a brief mention of its meaning, see D A Carson & Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp 61, 62, 66 (online). How do you think your comments here fit with reader-response criticism?

His reply was interesting and revealed some lack of knowledge of the content of the link I gave:

I had no idea that my discussion to a question was a criticism rather than tossing some ideas around concerning types and shadows portrayed in scripture.
Having read the excerpt of Post Modern Reader-Response Error Theology, it seems to suggest there is no right or wrong leading me to wonder at God’s purpose in having the Bible written.[11]

How should I reply? Here goes:[12]

It seems that you are misunderstanding the theory and practice of postmodern reader-response criticism in your own writing. What you did in #10 was give us a string of verses that were interpreted as Eugene’s postmodern reader-response theology.

So, prior to my giving you the link to reader-response theory, it seems that you did not have an understanding of what you have done with these verses at #10.

Reader-response errors happen when a reader accepts that the writer of any document does not determine its meaning but that the reader’s understanding and response are what matters, i.e. the reader’s meaning is the meaning of the text. That seems to be what you have done with the verses you gave in #10.

This is such a serious error infiltrating the Christian church that Kevin Vanhoozer has addressed it in an entire book, Is There a Meaning in This Text? (Zondervan 2009)

Do you think you would read the local newspaper like you did the verses you gave in #10?

9780310324690(image courtesy Zondervan)

 

Now the discussion progresses to:

3.5 The Holy Spirit fills in the blanks

Could you imagine that spiritual individualism and Holy Spirit magic would deteriorate to this point. A fellow wrote,

clip_image005[3]‘We don’t need everything written when we have the Holy Spirit to fill in the blanks’.[13]

That’s like a red rag to me as a theologian and apologist, so I responded:

Subjectivism, whether by the Spirit or any other measure, is very difficult to discern because of the variation from person to person. ‘The Spirit filled in the blanks for me’ is in competition with ‘The Spirit filled in the blanks for you’, the Mormon, the occult practitioner, and the information provided may be very different for the same topic. Subjectivism, whether spiritual or humanistic, is a poor measure of competent content of revelation.[14]

3.6 Multi-faceted wisdom

clip_image005[4]Another said, ‘That’s why it’s called “multi faceted” wisdom, because the truth that is found in wisdom, is like a diamond or precious stone and is relevant as God sees each circumstance’.[15]

The rag for the apologist’s bull is getting redder and more worn from over-use:[16]

That’s why it is called subjectivism and/or Gnosticism as it is impossible to obtain objective information from that ‘revelation’. Your subjective revelation has no more impact than another believer’s or a Gnostic’s insight of esoteric knowledge. I understand this person is using ‘multi faceted wisdom’ as esoteric knowledge, which means:

“Esoteric” refers to insight or understanding of inner (Greek: eso-) or spiritual or metaphysical realities, or a specific teaching or spiritual practice or path or “wisdom tradition” that is based on a mystical interpretation of spirituality, rather than a religious or slavish following of the outer words of scriptures, or pertains to transpersonal or transcendent states of existence. In contrast exoteric knowledge is knowledge that is well-known or public, and does not require any such transformation of consciousness (Kazlev 2016).

This definition of ‘esoteric’ comes from Kazlev who is involved in analysing the philosophy of Ken Wilber and his ‘psychology and spirituality (though many have disapproved of his endorsement of controversial gurus, such as Adi Da[17] and Andrew Cohen[18])’ (Kazlev 2016).

It seems to me that these Christians on Christian forums who are advocating ‘multi faceted’ wisdom and deeper meaning revelation, are following a parallel path with these mystical gurus or postmodern, reader-response advocates. It is a dangerous, subjective and mystical experience that is outside of Scripture and runs the risk of contradicting Scripture.

3.7 Do we need NT confirmation for a type or shadow?

That’s the question I asked for this forum thread? This was one retort:

clip_image005[5]‘Only if you want to impress it upon someone as undeniable fact. Otherwise you can only share it using your best efforts of honest debate you can muster and leave the rest to God’.[19]

How should I counter?[20] Here goes!

That makes you a supporter of subjective interpretation and reader-response ideology. It also makes you a sitting duck for any kind of hermeneutic that comes along and wants to dethrone your reader-response. It makes no fixed interpretation possible.

Try that approach with your next electricity bill, a letter from a lawyer, or reading a local newspaper. Creating your own reality in reader-response theology or esoteric revelation amounts to Gnosticism in action in the 21st century.

That approach makes Jesus a moving target of any kind of interpretation. If you don’t believe me, take a read of John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity (1998).

What is reader-response theory?

Reader response is a school of literary criticism that ignores both the author and the text’s contents, confining analysis to the reader’s experience when reading a particular work. Reader response theorists are particularly concerned with the traditional teaching approaches that imply that a work of literature has a particular interpretation. According to Louise Rosenblatt, one of the primary figures in reader response, all reading is a transaction between the reader and writer (as represented by an immutable text). She further posits that the “stance” of the reader, either “aesthetic” (reading by choice or for pleasure) or “efferent”(reading by assignment or because one has to), has a major influence on the textual experience (source Chegg).

In Christian scholar, Kevin Vanhoozer’s, words, ‘Reader response criticism stresses the incompleteness of the text until it is constructed (or deconstructed) by the reader…. Meaning is the product of the interaction between text and reader (e.g. the “two horizons”)’. The more radical reader-response practitioners such as Stanley Fish and Jacques Derrida agree that ‘there is no such thing as “disinterested,” that is, innocent or objective reading. All reading is ideological and guided by certain interests’ (Vanhoozer 1998:27-28).

This fellow came back with this response:[21]

3.8 No fixed interpretation with plain words of the Bible

clip_image005[5]It makes no fixed interpretation possible in regard to hard and fast and plain words of the Bible. That’s all. That hardly means it can’t possibly be true.

That’s not a good argument to make [about the example of the electricity bill].

No one is suggesting that personal interpretation – meaning that interpretation isn’t spelled out in the Bible word for word – can somehow be inconsistent with what is written in the Bible. Perhaps that is the big mistake you are making about this. This isn’t about saying your electric bill is $30.00 when it plainly says it’s $150.00 on the written bill.

What is being defended in this thread fails to meet the criteria for this being a matter of ‘Reader Response’:

1. Personal interpretation does not ignore the author of the Bible and the context, nor content, of the Bible. One of the rules of personal spiritual revelation not spelled out in scripture is that it can not contradict what the Bible already says.

2. Personal interpretation is not about ‘confining analysis to the reader’s experience’ because it does not consist of analysis confined only to the reader, and is not based on an experience other than the experience of spiritual revelation itself. It’s not about having experiences, and an analysis of spiritual matters that contradict what the Bible does say about a particular subject.

3. The spiritual interpretation that is being defended here is exactly the opposite of being “concerned with the traditional teaching approaches that imply a work…has a particular interpretation”. Because it is open to a greater spiritual depth and insight and understanding of scripture it sometimes grates against the traditional interpretation of scripture (i.e. 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 NASB. Not a terribly good example because so much of the non-traditional interpretation of that passage is directly supported by the Bible).

This promotion of reader-response, subjectivism became more obvious in that post, so I responded:[22]

And that’s the problem. If there are no hard and fast rules for the plain words of John 3:16 (ESV), then you have postmodern reader-response Gnosticism in action. It leads to hermeneutical shipwrecks. If there were not hard, fast and plain meanings to words of the Bible (and to any other writing), what you and I write on CFnet would not be understood. I think you are whistling in the wind of subjective vagueness.

It is a good argument to make [analogy with an electricity bill] because personal, subjective interpretation, is a bummer when it comes to understanding the meaning of your electricity bill. You must read it literally to obtain its plain meaning. There is no other means of interpretation of your electricity bill and it is a fixed interpretation. Esoteric, deeper knowledge ideology will not work.

He also asked if Joseph (OT) was a shadow and type of Christ. My reply was that, as I’ve stated a few times in this thread, an OT person or incident is not a type or shadow unless it is confirmed in the NT as such. Some see the OT story of Joseph (Gen 37-45) as a type of Christ because of Joseph’s humiliation and glorification that could be compared with Jesus’ passion and resurrection. However, the NT does NOT confirm that the OT Joseph is a type of Christ. Joseph’s story is an illustration with a parallel with Jesus – but it is NOT a type or shadow because the NT does not confirm it as such.

As to personal interpretation not ignoring the author, context, etc., I wrote: That might be what you see, but in this thread I’ve seen too many personal interpretations that were subjective impositions on the biblical data. So you say that a rule of personal spiritual revelation (not revealed in the Bible) must not contradict the Bible. That’s your own personal opinion and it is open to contradiction by another personal interpretation. You are building your interpretation on the slippery sands of personal revelation.

As to his point #3, I wrote: That’s subjective Gnosticism in action and it is what the church apologists had to battle in the first few centuries of the church’s existence. Seems like it is alive and well in your posts.

He didn’t seem to like this labelling of subjective Gnosticism, so gave his deconstruction:[23]

I think what you really mean to say is the idea of esoteric knowledge upon which Gnosticism relied seems alive and well in my posts.
If being able to discern things by the Spirit of God that others can’t, or aren’t yet able to discern, is considered esoteric knowledge, then yes, that broad definition and application of esoteric knowledge is alive and well in my posts. That is the very foundation of teaching. I guess your problem is that you feel that is not allowed.
“we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; 7but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood…” (1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NASB)
By pure definition, if that isn’t esoteric knowledge, then nothing is.
All I’m saying is, it is allowed as long as it does not contradict, or can not be reconciled with what we already know to be true in the Bible. In Paul’s case, his esoteric knowledge did not contradict, or not reconcile with the scriptures of his day, what we call the OT.
The use of Paul’s esoteric knowledge to teach spiritual truth shows us it’s okay to say that Joseph, for example, is a type and shadow of Christ. Does Christianity and the truth of God come crashing down in a worthless heap if, technically, God did not say it’s a type and shadow of Christ? Of course not. You’re tossing out all privilege of personal interpretation and suggestion and it’s value in spiritual education just because there certainly are those who would abuse it. Yours is a misguided, contentious argument. What you should be arguing against is not esoteric knowledge, but esoteric knowledge that has no basis or support in scripture.

Esoteric knowledge in 1 Cor 2:6-8 when it speaks of ‘God’s wisdom in a mystery’?? I replied[24] Where does the Bible provide an exposition of the need for and the meaning of ‘esoteric knowledge’?

Another definition of esotericism is: ‘Esoteric: known or knowable only to initiates; secret or mysterious knowledge; cryptic; hidden; concealed; clandestine, cover’ (source).

1 Corinthians 2:6-8 NASB is hardly an explanation to cover this meaning of esoteric knowledge in the secular world or in a biblical worldview.

3.9 The shifting sands of ‘biblical discernment’

clip_image005[6]Another person entered the discussion:

This is supported [Adam & Eve as types] by the NT (see Ephesians 5 and other passages). Ideally, we should have NT corroboration, but that may not always be found, yet the interpretation will not be in violation of Scripture. There are things which can be spiritually discerned.[25]

I do not find a word in Ephesians 5 that supports what I asked: ‘In that other thread, we had people using Adam and Eve as types and shadows’.[26]

4. The plot thickens: ‘Esoteric knowledge’ enters

I’ve already mentioned this promotion by one person of 1 Cor 2:6-8 in support of esoteric knowledge endorsed by Scripture – so he said. It is necessary to respond.

4.1 What ‘secret wisdom’ is not[27]

Image result for esoteric public domain (image courtesy esotericonline.net, public domain)

 

This person seemed to have missed the meaning of the Greek musterion (mystery) used in 1 Cor 2:7. Paul confronts his Corinthian opponents with the message of the cross (1 Cor 1:26ff) as he is dealing with ‘the mystery cults and gnosticism [that] are directly dealt with’. Wherever musterion appears in the NT it is found in association with verbs that denote revelation or proclamation. ‘It is a present-day secret, not some isolated fact from the past which merely needs to be noted, but something dynamic and compelling. This is vividly expressed in Col. By his office the apostle “fulfills” (Col. 1:26) “the mystery of Christ” (4:3), i.e. by bearing in his own body that which is still lacking in the afflictions of Christ (1:24), he gives practical expression to the “mystery” and carries it on towards its final consummation’ (Brown 1978:504).

It is not esoteric knowledge (he needs to note the difference in meaning between knowledge and wisdom). It is wisdom that was previously hidden that God has revealed – in 1 Cor what is revealed is ‘the message/word of the cross’ (1 Cor 1:18).

Leading evangelical Greek scholar, Dr Gordon D Fee, does not agree with this person in his exegesis of 1 Cor 2:6-8 (he uses the NIV). In his exegetical commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:6-8 (partially available online pp 102-106). He states this about the wisdom of God in 1 Cor 2:7-8:

Vv 7-8  In these verses Paul elaborates the two sides of v. 6. V. 7 explains the nature of God’s wisdom that made it impossible for the wise of this age to grasp it; v. 8 repeats the failure of the “rulers” in terms of their responsibility for the crucifixion.

He begins with a sharp contrast to the negative side of v. 6. “No,” he says, “we speak God’s wisdom,” which he immediately qualifies in four ways. The first three describe its nature, so as to distinguish it from the wisdom of this age. First, it is wisdom “in mystery” (NIV, “secret wisdom”).[28] One cannot be certain whether this phrase modifies “wisdom” as an adjective (hence the NIV’s “secret wisdom”) or the verb “we speak” as an adverb. The former seems preferable. God’s wisdom is not some inaccessible teaching, spoken in secret. As Paul will develop more fully in Colossians and Ephesians [see Col. 1:26-27; 2:2: 4:3; Eph. 1:9; 3:3, 4, 9: 6:19], in the singular the term “mystery” ordinarily refers to something formerly hidden in God from all human eyes but how revealed in history through Christ and made understandable to his people through the Spirit. The seeds of this idea are sown here for the first time in Paul; in particular it embraces the paradox of the crucifixion of “the Lord of glory” (v. 8).

Second, and to clarify the phrase “in mystery,” God’s wisdom – salvation through a crucified Messiah – “has been hidden.” The perfect tense, plus the phrase that follows (“before time began”), indicates that such wisdom has been hidden in God from eternity until such a time (“now”) as he was ready to reveal it. What follows in v. 8 suggests further that God’s “secret” remains hidden from the “rulers, ” the representatives of the “wise” of this age.

Third, God’s secret wisdom, long hidden – and still hidden to some – was “destined” by God himself “for our glory before time began.” This is the clause that begins to clarify both the content of “wisdom” and the identity of the “mature” in v. 6. The verb “destined” is an intensified form of the ordinary verb for “determining.” The emphasis lies on “deciding upon beforehand” (BAGD);[29] therefore, to “predestine.” As in [1 Cor] 1:1, God’s call is the expression of his prior will, which in this case is further intensified by the phrase “before time began” (lit. “before the ages”). What God determined “before the ages” has been worked out in the present age, which is being brought to its conclusion as the final glorious age has dawned and is awaiting its consummation – “for our glory.” What has been predestined technically is God’s wisdom; the larger context indicates that Paul has in view God’s gracious activity in Christ, whereby through the crucifixion he determined eternal salvation for his people – including especially the Corinthian believers. Just as God chose the foolish and weak for salvation and thereby “shamed” the wise and powerful, who are being brought to nothing (1:26-28), so now Paul repeats that God “destined” his people for glory (not shame), and has done so in contrast to the rulers of this age who are “coming to nothing.” “For our glory” is eschatological language, referring to the final goal of salvation, namely that God’s people should share in his own glory. Hence the crucified one is in this context also called “the Lord of glory” (v. 8).

Fourth (v. 8a), God’s wisdom is something that “none of the rulers of this age understood.” With this clause Paul elaborates the negative side of v. 6, but now in light of the preceding description of God’s wisdom. The reason for their failure is that it was “hidden in God” and could only be grasped by revelation of the Spirit (v. 10). The reason for repeating the idea seems twofold: first, to reestablish the contrast between “us” and “them” that is crucial to his argument; and second, to confirm their part in the historical event itself, which both demonstrated their “ignorance” of God’s ways and implicated them in the carrying out of his plan. What they did not understand was the nature of true wisdom – God’s wisdom, as spelled out in 1:18-2:5 – which stands in contradiction to human understanding; and because they were thus “ignorant” they did what human “wisdom” demanded – they crucified the one who for them was one more messianic pretender. Thus the divine irony: The very ones who were trying to do away with Jesus by crucifying him were in fact carrying out God’s prior will – “destined for our glory before time began.” Instead of crucifying a messianic pretender, they killed “the Lord of glory” himself, the one who, as Lord of all the ages, is therefore Lord of the final glory that is both his and his people’s ultimate destiny. The Pauline irony, of course, is that the Corinthians in pursuing sophia [i.e. wisdom] are pursuing what belongs to this age, which is passing away and whose rulers were implicated in the divine irony (Fee 1987:104-107, italics emphasis in original; bold emphasis added).

4.2 How to interpret Scripture

To assist with the interpretation of Scripture and any other piece of literature, see my articles:

clip_image007 What is literal interpretation?

clip_image007[1] What is the meaning of the literal interpretation of the Bible?

clip_image007[2] Isn’t it obvious what a literal interpretation of Scripture means?

clip_image007[3] Does God have a physical body?

5. Conclusion

The Pentecostal-charismatic movement, in its emphasis on the Holy Spirit, has rightly pursued the biblical mandate to ‘follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy’ (1 Cor 14:1 NIV). However this movement has introduced a down side.

That negativity is related to the subjective, Gnostic type of knowledge that entered Christian circles through existential experiences of the Holy Spirit. This article has attempted to show through posts on a Christian forum how Holy Spirit encounters, even to the point of thinking this is receipt of esoteric knowledge, has derailed the Holy Spirit’s ministry. The result can lead to Gnostic error.

Image result for Gnosticism image public domain(image courtesy gnosticteachings.org)

 

I suggest that the New Gnosticism is alive and well on this Christian forum. Part of Michael Horton’s assessment is:

Both liberals and evangelicals disdain doctrine for personal experience, and objective truth for personal transformation, and in this sense, each is, in its own way, Gnostic. The anti-intellectualism is understandable, according to Lee. “If God is immanent, present within our psyche, if we already have the truth within, then why go through all the hassle of studying theology?” [Lee 1987:111]. Isn’t this precisely the point of the division many of us grew up with between head knowledge and heart knowledge? The former is intellectual, the latter spiritual – that is, gnosis….

Pentecostalism represents an even greater dependence on Gnostic tendencies…. The outer edges of Pentecostalism are especially blatant in Gnostic emphases, as a number of works have shown, including The Agony of Deceit.[30] Salvation is knowledge – “Revelation Knowledge” (Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Paul Crouch and other “faith teachers” use the upper case to distinguish this from mere written revelation). The Word that truly saves is not the written text of Scripture, proclaiming Christ the Redeemer, but is rather the “Rhema” Word that is spoken directly to the spirit by God’s Spirit (Horton 2016).

If spiritual insight is used as an interpretive measure and esoteric knowledge is permitted as a means of gaining a biblical understanding of the text, then expect pooled ignorance to infiltrate the church. My series of interactions on this topic have demonstrated that ‘no fixed meaning’, ‘esoteric knowledge’, and ‘my understanding’ can derail biblical interpretation.

The New Gnosticism is with us and the landscape does not look pretty. There is a heightened need for apologists and theologians to be involved in addressing this heresy that is invading the church.

6.  Works consulted

Brown, C (gen ed) 1978. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol 3. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Crossan, J D 1998. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately after the Execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Fee, G D 1987. The First Epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament, F F Bruce gen ed). Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Horton, M S 2016. The New Gnosticism: Is it the age of the Spirit or the spirit of the age? Modern Reformation (online). Available at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var2=695#footnote13 (Accessed 17 May 2016). The article originally appeared in Modern Reformation, “Gnosticism”, July/August 1995 Vol. 4 No. 4 Page number(s): 4-12.

Kazlev, A 2016. Integral esotericism: A new integral paradigm in theory and practice. Integral World (online), June 04.[31] Available at: http://www.integralworld.net/kazlev5.html (Accessed 4 June 2016).

Lee, P J 1987. Against The Protestant Gnostics. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press. Also available at: https://arcaneknowledgeofthedeep.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/againstprotestantgnostics.pdf (Accessed 17 May 2016).

Vanhoozer, K J 1998. Is There a Meaning in This Text? Leicester, England: Apollos (an imprint of Inter-Varsity Press).

7.  Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net, 13 May 2016, ‘Types & shadows needing NT support’, Apologetics & Theology, OzSpen#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/types-shadows-needing-nt-support.64532/ (Accessed 17 May 2016).

[2] They were raised by Malachi#33 at Christian Forums.net, ‘Underlying types & shadows’, The Lounge. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/understanding-types-shadows.64517/page-2 (Accessed 17 May 2016).

[3] ‘Types & shadows needing NT support’, Eugene#2.

[4] Ibid., OzSpen#3.

[5] Ibid., Eugene#5.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#6.

[7] Ibid., Wondering#8.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#9.

[9] Ibid., Eugene#10.

[10] Ibid., OzSpen#11.

[11] Ibid., Eugene#12.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#13.

[13] Ibid., Sinthesis#15.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#16.

[15] Ibid., JLB#17.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#19.

[17] Adi Da was the Hindu god-man cultist who was head of an abusive personality cult. See: Timothy Conway (2007). Available at: http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Da_and_his_cult.html (Accessed 4 June 2016).

[18] On his homepage, Andrew Cohen describes himself as, a ‘modern mystic, cultural critic, and award-winning spiritual journalist’. Available at: http://www.andrewcohen.org/ (Accessed 4 June 2016).

[19] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#18.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#20.

[21] ‘Types & shadows needing NT support’, op cit., Jethro Bodine#22.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#24.

[23] Ibid., Jethro Bodine#27.

[24] Ibid., OzSpen#28, #29.

[25] Ibid., Malachi#34.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen#40/

[27] This is my response, ibid., OzSpen#44.

[28] Fee’s footnote is, ‘This is another phrase that has caused some to see Paul as reflecting the mystery cults or Gnosticism. But again that not only misses Paul’s own Jewish background, but the whole point of the argument as well’ (Fee 1987:104, n. 27).

[29] BAGD = Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich & Danker Greek lexicon (dictionary).

[30] See The Agony of Deceit, ed. Michael Horton (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991).

[31] It seems that this date is a roving date that will change daily.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2016.

Contemporary music in church to the lyrics of spiritual death

Monday, May 9th, 2016

(image courtesy pinterest.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Recently a fellow introduced me to this Christian song by Flame, Start Over‘. You can read its lyrics at Flame Lyrics (2000-2016).

Is this an example of the type of music being heard in your Christian church service?

Has Alistair Begg hit the mark with his assessment of contemporary Christian music (CCM)? See YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJhCWrdckpc&feature=youtu.be

1. Who is Alistair Begg?

Alistair Begg(photo Alistair Begg, senior pastor, courtesy Parkside Church)

 

His ministry’s homepage states:

Alistair Begg has been in pastoral ministry since 1975. Following graduation from The London School of Theology, he served eight years in Scotland at both Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh and Hamilton Baptist Church.

In 1983, he became the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio.  He has written several books and is heard daily and weekly on the radio program, Truth For Life.  The teaching on Truth For Life stems from the week by week Bible teaching at Parkside Church.[1]

Alistair Begg is a Scotsman who has been pastor at the one church since 1983 near Cleveland, Ohio. Are you and I ready for that pointed critique of CCM in churches, by this experienced pastor, to address the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing? Three weeks ago,[2] I attended a near-by Baptist church for the first time. What kind of music was presented? The band with 6 female singers up front on the stage, led the congregation in singing contemporary songs (some were identified as from Hillsong) that I had never heard before. The melodies were unsingable for me, a very average singer. The words were available on the digital screen for the congregation to see.

My estimate was that they were meant to be performed and not for congregational singing. We had to stand for about 10-15 minutes as the band took us from one contemporary song to another. I sat down after about 7 minutes as my legs were weary. I’m no youngster.

2. Contemporary music killing theology

CCM is killing theology in song. Sound biblical teaching is rapidly on the descent. Take a read of the lyrics from this song by Jesus Culture (the music ministry from Bethel Church, Redding CA):

Rooftops Lyrics
[Metro Lyrics: Jesus Culture Lyrics]
from Come Away
New! Highlight lyrics to add Meanings, Special Memories, and Misheard Lyrics…
Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

Is all satisfactory biblically with these lyrics? Is there anything we should warn people about in this song? See my assessment of this song in:

clip_image002 What’s wrong with these CCM songs?

I’ve addressed some of the music issues previously in these articles:

clip_image004 What’s happening to music in evangelical churches?

clip_image004[1] Worldliness in church music

clip_image004[2] Entertainment versus Worship

clip_image004[3] Do words matter in worship songs in church?

I’m not discussing the style of music but the content of the words. In recently written CCM, where is the depth of words such as in these lyrics?

Charles Wesley.jpg(portrait Charles Wesley, courtesy Wikipedia)

And Can It Be That I Should Gain[3]

 

by Charles Wesley

 

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain-
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

‘Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
‘Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace-
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray-
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

Still the small inward voice I hear,
That whispers all my sins forgiven;
Still the atoning blood is near,
That quenched the wrath of hostile Heaven.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.
I feel the life His wounds impart;
I feel the Savior in my heart.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

clip_image006

(music & words, courtesy openhymnal.org, public domain)

3. Crisis point

I’ve been a Christian for around 50 years. I’m considered an oldie by many, including my grandchildren, since I’ve recently reached 70 years of age. I won’t take nonsense behaviour from them and I do not tolerate theological baloney in the lyrics of CCM or older music. Much of what I hear online in the promotion of CCM and what I hear from the platform of contemporary evangelical churches lacks sound theological content. It fails to glorify God in his majesty and point to the cross and the reason for Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I’ve presented only a few examples in this article, but it is representative of what is being pumped out by evangelical churches in Australia.

4. Sermons join the light-weight chorus

What is just as alarming is that the sermons from the pulpit are as theologically lite as the songs in the service. My son obtained an MDiv degree from a renowned evangelical theological college in Brisbane, Qld and he was told by one lecturer not to worry about reading any books that were more than 10 years old.

Do you understand what that means? God’s great teachers throughout church history, from Athanasius and Augustine to Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Edwards, Spurgeon, Tozer and many others are irrelevant to the church of today. That’s a theologically noxious view that will poison the biblical life out of any church.

Then you encounter what I was exposed to on a Christian forum on the Internet where a Pentecostal believer told me, ‘I tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’.[4] I was discussing with him the theology of D Martyn Lloyd-Jones who died in 1981.[5]

5. The here and now false teaching

I tackled this fellow’s false teaching:[6]

So you ‘tend to stay in the Here and Now and not use authors that are way out of date’. Does that mean you want to throw out the teachings of Martin Luther? If you are a Protestant (and I know you are), you are a product of the ministry of a man, Luther, who you claim had a ministry that is ‘out of date’. His ministry is as up to date as Scripture.

For Luke to be able to write his Gospel, he depended on authors who were ‘way out of date’ – those who ‘from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us’ (Lk 1:2 ESV). If church history is a waste of space to you, then forget about the Azusa Street revival for your Pentecostal verification because it is ‘way out of date’.

Your ‘way out of date’ perspective makes you a sitting duck for heretical intrusion into any church. We know how to identify heresy because of the godly teachers God has given to the church (Eph 4:11-16) who have equipped the saints for the work of ministry and the building up of the body of Christ. We are helped to identify heresy by those who have lived before us – way before us! Athanasius was instrumental in doing this to confront Arius and his anti-trinitarianism at the Council of Nicea. But that’s not important to this fellow!

Heb 11:4 (NIV) disagrees with his ‘way out of date’ view, ‘By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead‘ (my emphasis). Abel, though way out of date and dead many thousands of years, still speaks.

This fellow’s ‘way out of date’ short-sightedness will be gone in a few years, and God’s gifted teachers from history will still speak: Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Arminius, Calvin, Wesley, Whitefield, Edwards, Spurgeon, Seymour, Hodge, Olson, Sproul, Mohler, etc. It really is pathetic that this person wanted to have nothing to do with God’s great teachers from church history who led the way to where we are today. His ministry will be impoverished when he denigrates or excludes these teachers.
Why did God give teachers (past and present) to the church? See Eph 4:11-16 (ESV). But this poster excludes them and their influence!

5.1 The here and now promoter in full flight

Here he how he responded to what I wrote immediately above:

I was saved in 1971 under the tutelage of Bob Johnson. He himself was mentored by Dr. C.M. Ward who was greatly influenced by John Wesley. If pedigree is your thing then there’s enough pedigree there for me. The point is that all these men had their Ministry at their time but the only historical characters that I am concerned with are those that are represented in the Bible. Nothing I have ever learned from reading any thing by the ECF’s [early church fathers] and all these men down through history has enlightened me one bit. What does enlighten me is my Bible. It is what has taught me that many of these men taught false Doctrine. I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before, accept as it relates to my Lord and Savior. I don’t denigrate them I just don’t deify them or put them up on a pedestal for everyone to look at. They served their purpose, but they’re dead now and God is not the God of the dead but of the living. If all you have to say is based on your knowledge of what these men taught and you have none of it yourself, then exactly what is it you do know other than what you read in books about them? It’s great that you have been able to recently secure your doctorate and I applaud you for that but that doesn’t mean is that do you need to use all these past Scholars to justify your opinions. Those opinions should be justified and corroborated by the word of God.

The thing you don’t seem to get Oz is that this is a discussion forum with live people and I can’t very well question and discuss with those who are dead and gone as to why they thought what they did. You see I know how to think for myself. Maybe you should try it?[7]

Note his language, ‘I tend to want to live in the present, the Here and Now and not be preoccupied with what has gone on before’. This is Gnosticism in action. His knowledge is from living in the present, the here and now. The inference seems to be that he does not want the correction of historical teachers. He assumes that ‘many of these men taught false Doctrine’ (i.e. early church fathers), but he gave not one example in that post. Some did promote erroneous doctrine when compared with the Bible such as Origen’s allegorical preaching in which he inserted material that was not in the text. Others taught baptismal regeneration (e.g. Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Ambrose). See the article, ‘Baptism and salvation’.[8] Arius was a Unitarian heretic who did not believe Trinitarian theology, but he was corrected at the Council of Nicea.[9]

However, in what way is that different from today with the teaching of error such as modern Gnosticism,[10] baptismal regeneration,[11] Unitarianism[12] and what is taught in some Contemporary Christian songs? Living in the present without knowledge of history does not preserve anyone from exposure to false doctrine.

6. Conclusion

The best antidote for exposing false doctrine is with a person’s and a church’s thorough knowledge of Scripture. To be able to recognise the false, know the truth.

Contemporary Christian music is feeding modern Christians a new diet of doctrinally light teaching. Much of it is existential, egocentric and focussed on what Jesus can do for ME. We are not being taught theology in song like we did under the songs of Charles Wesley, John Newton, Isaac Watts, Bishop Timothy Dudley-Smith, and a trail of biblical hymnists who have preceded us.

Pastor Alistair Begg has exposed the repetitive, bland material being sung in many Christian songs in the church services of the twenty-first century. The disease the church is suffering is in the trite lyrics, entertainment-oriented music, and existential feelings and mysticism that flood our Christian churches in association with the contemporary music we sing. Sadness surrounds the fact that many in the evangelical church accept this music as what is needed in a church that wants to reach young people.

If we ignore the content of the church music we sing, we will become theologically light-weight in our understanding of the Trinitarian Lord God and his mission in the world.

What’s happening in your church? Are you whooping it up with rap music and heading towards spiritual death in your congregation? Or, are you careful about the lyrics you sing and are making sure they conform with biblical integrity? Try raising this issue (at the appropriate time) in one of your church’s cell groups. Please understand that I’m not talking about hymns sung to an organ being superior to contemporary style music. I’m discussing the content of the songs you sing and how they match biblical faithfulness in content.

However, there are elements of insensitivity by musicians to the content of the word s. Today[13] I visited a local Baptist church where the congregation sang, ‘Be still and know that I am God’, which is a meditative chorus that emphasises the need to quieten a person’s heart and meditate on who God is. However, what did the drummer do (he was accompanied by organ, piano and rhythm guitar)? He created a loud, thumping, drumming interlude that was totally out of place for such a meditative song. He sounded more like a drummer for a rock band in a nightclub. Such insensitivity should be addressed by musical directors in a church.

clip_image007

(image courtesy www.pinterest.com)

Notes


[1] ‘About Alistair Begg’, Truth for Life. Available at: https://www.truthforlife.org/about/about-alistair-begg/ (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[2] I’m writing this on Tues, 2 May 2016.

[3] 2012 HymnsUntoGod.org (public domain USA). Available at: http://www.hymnsuntogod.org/Hymns-PD/A-Hymns/And-Can-It-Be-That-I-Should-Gain.html (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[4] Christianity Board, Testimonial Forum, ‘The Catholic church gets put down a lot, but it was all that could help’, 23 April 2016, StanJ#123. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22554-the-catholic-church-gets-put-down-a-lot-but-it-was-all-that-could-help/page-5 (Accessed 2 May 2016).

[5] See MLJ Trust (Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Available at: http://www.mljtrust.org/meet-mlj/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[6] Christianity Board, op cit., OzSpen#127.

[7] Ibid., StanJ#130.

[8] By Matt Slick, CARM.

[9] See James R White, ‘What really happened at Nicea?’ (CRI 2009). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/what-really-happened-at-nicea/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[10] See Dr Douglas Groothuis’s article, ‘Modern Gnosticism’ (CRI 2016). Available at: http://www.equip.org/article/modern-gnosticism/ (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[11] The Orthodox denomination promotes baptismal regeneration. See the article, ‘Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy’, available at: http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2015/02/17/born-experience-baptismal-regeneration/ (Accessed 8 May 2016). The Roman Catholic Church endorses baptismal regeneration. See, ‘What is baptismal regeneration?’ Christian Courier, Wayne Jackson 2016. Available at: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/416-what-is-baptismal-regeneration (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[12] Key promoters of Unitarianism today are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, and the Unitarian Universalist denomination. See ‘Unitarian Christianity’ at: http://www.americanunitarian.org/AUCChristian.htm (Accessed 8 May 2016).

[13] This was Sunday, 8 May 2015, in the greater Brisbane area.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 9 May 2016.

What’s wrong with these contemporary Christian music songs?

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

(image courtesy ontheroadtohealing.org.uk)

(image courtesy openhymnal.org)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Jesus Culture is the music ministry emanating from the extreme charismatic Bethel Church, Redding CA (associated with Bill Johnson). However, it has reached beyond Redding.[1]

I joined a discussion online about Jesus Culture.[2] The thread began with this warning: ‘I’m curious if this stuff is creeping into the Baptist churches. If so, you should warn your pastors and worship leaders. If they scoff, you may strongly reconsider being a part of such a church’.[3]

A supporter of Jesus Culture chimed in:

My Wife listens to Jesus Culture, whats (sic) wrong with the music?

It mentions scripture and it praises God in it’s (sic) lyrics.
Were (sic) not talking doctrine, denominations, gifts of the spirit (sic). – Talking about Music, specifically Jesus Culture.[4]

The person who started the thread accused the Bethel Church and affiliate ministries of ‘utilizing witchcraft to manipulate anyone who comes under their teachings or music’.[5] That got the bees humming in the back and forth of witchcraft in Bethel Church and Jesus Culture.

But we were still lacking examples of the lyrics in Jesus Culture songs for evaluation.

1.  Words from a Jesus Culture song

I asked the original poster, ‘Why don’t you find one song from “Jesus Culture” that has lyrics that are promoting false theology so that we can discuss the biblical content of this song?’[6] When it was not forthcoming, I found a song from Jesus Culture to discuss.[7]

Here are the lyrics from a Jesus Culture song:

Rooftops Lyrics
[Metro Lyrics: Jesus Culture Lyrics]
from Come Away
New! Highlight lyrics to add Meanings, Special Memories, and Misheard Lyrics…
Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

Is all satisfactory biblically with these lyrics? Is there anything we should warn people about in this song?

2.  It’s praising God: It’s not against the Gospel

clip_image009(image courtesy poetrybydeborahann)

 

A supporter of Jesus Culture replied:

Are you guys serious? What’s wrong with this song? It’s Praising God. I would not let my wife listen to ANYTHING that is against the Gospel,
I am quoting TWIN 1954 here:

What separates those who are preaching another gospel and those preaching the truth is that the Gospel is according to the Scriptures as Paul laid out very clearly in 1 Cor. 15:1-4. (1Co 15:1) Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; (1Co 15:2) By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. (1Co 15:3) For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (1Co 15:4) And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.

I asked you many times show me scripturally how these songs are against the Gospel of Jesus Christ, please show me.[8]

3.  This song fails the test

What’s wrong with this song?[9] Do you mean to say you can’t see it? Can’t you see the me-centred nature of this song? It’s egocentric. Let’s look again at it and I’ll highlight in bold the self-centred (egocentric) emphasis:

Here I am before You, falling in love and seeking Your truth
Knowing that Your perfect grace has brought me to this place
Because of You I freely live, my life to You, oh God, I give
So I stand before You, God
I lift my voice cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All the good You’ve done for me, I lift up my hands for all to see
You’re the only one who brings me to my knees
To share this love across the earth, the beauty of Your holy worth
So I kneel before You, God
I lift my hands cause You set me free
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours
Here I am, I stand, with arms wide open
To the One, the Son, the Everlasting God, the Everlasting God
So I shout out Your name, from the rooftops I proclaim
That I am Yours, I am Yours
All that I am, I place into Your loving hands
And I am Yours, I am Yours

This is an egocentric song that wants to tell God who I am and how I feel towards Him: ‘I am Yours, I am Yours’, etc. This song misses the greatness of the Lord God whom we serve and praise. Exalt Him; laud His praise.

This song leaves me flat because the theocentric emphasis (having God as the central focus)[10] is not there. From what you say in your post, that doesn’t seem to bother you.

The Jesus Culture supported did admit, ‘I agree also, the song is not very doctrinal (You won’t learn from the song), but I don’t believe there is anything biblically wrong with the song’.[11]

I don’t see this kind of prominence:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.
Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.
To all life thou givest, to both great and small;
in all life thou livest, the true life of all;
we blossom and flourish, like leaves on the tree,
then wither and perish; but nought changeth thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all laud we would render: O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

[Words: Walter Chalmers Smith (1824-1908), 1867 (Oremus Hymnal)]

Or,

Holy, Holy, Holy

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

[Words: Re­gi­nald He­ber, 1826. Heber wrote this hymn for Trin­i­ty Sun­day while he was Vi­car of Hod­net, Shrop­shire, Eng­land.

Music: Nicaea, John B. Dykes, in Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern, 1861 (MI­DI, score)].

4.  Beware of false teaching in songs

Songs may teach false doctrine or misleading interpretations.[12]

The Bible speaks about those who are false teachers (Gal 5:7-12; 2 Tim 4:3-4; 1 John 4:1-6; Jude 1:4) and false prophets (Matt 7:15; 24:24; 2 Pet 2:1) who can all be using the Bible. Nevertheless they are false teachers and prophesying falsehood.

They may sound reasonable but be false. False teaching and false prophesy can find their ways into songs we sing.

In 2013, Christianity Today ran an article, ‘Reformed Rapper Calls Out 12 Popular Pastors as “False Teachers“‘. A careful read may edify.

Have you read Sandy Simpson’s article, ‘Worship song rating‘?

4.1  Another song from Jesus Culture

A promoter of Jesus Culture provided the lyrics from another song on a Christian forum He said:

From beginning to the end
All my life is in Your hands
This whole world may hold me down
But it can never drown You out
I’m not merely flesh and bone
I was made for something more
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
Through the dark I hear Your voice
Rising up I will rejoice
For I was lost but now I’m found
‘Cause even death can’t hold You down
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You![13]

His comment about this song was, ‘Nothing but praise, Not against scripture at all’.

5.  Beware of false or misleading teaching in songs

My examination of this song was very different from that of the Jesus Culture promoter:[14]

You say, ‘Nothing but praise, Not against scripture at all’. Let’s check out how egocentric this song really is and you seem to miss it. There is false teaching here. I’ll highlight in bold the egocentricism and the false teaching that is repeated:

From beginning to the end
All my life is in Your hands
This whole world may hold me down
But it can never drown You out
I’m not merely flesh and bone
I was made for something more
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness [this is false teaching]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
Through the dark I hear Your voice
Rising up I will rejoice
For I was lost but now I’m found
‘Cause even death can’t hold You down
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness
[this is false teaching repeated]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
It’s no longer I who live, but Christ
Who lives within me, Christ who lives within me
From beginning to the end You deserve the glory
You deserve the glory
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I‘m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness [false teaching repeated again]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
You are God, You’re the Great “I Am”
Breath of life I breathe You in
Even in the fire, I’m alive in You!
You are strong in my brokenness [a repeat of false teaching]
Sovereign over every step
Even in the fire, I’m alive
I’m alive in You!
?

No source for this song was provided online by this person.[2] I located a version, ‘Alive In You’, that approximates these words by: Kim Walker-Smith, Skyler Smith, Jordan Frye 2015 Jesus Culture Music, Capitol CMG Genesis (Admin Capitol CMG Publishing) at Praise Charts: http://www.praisecharts.com/songs/details/27704/alive-in-you-sheet-music/ (Accessed 14 April 2016).

The egocentric emphasis, in my understanding, is streaming through the ‘I’ statements.

6.  I consider this to be false teaching

It is false teaching to sing this teaching, ‘You are strong in my brokenness‘. God is always strong, whether I’m broken or not. If the emphasis were, ‘When I’m down and broken, the Lord God is my support and his strength helps to lift my burden’, then I could accept that emphasis. But I can’t see that meaning in, ‘You are strong in my brokenness’. If that is what is meant, it is not at all clear.

The sovereign Lord Almighty is strong in his essence. ‘Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle’ (Psalm 24:8 NIV). The Lord does not need your or my brokenness to make him strong. His essence is that of might and strength. That does not change through your or my brokenness. This is confirmed further in Psalm 29:8 (NIV), ‘Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you’.

Jeremiah 50:34 (ISV) confirms the Lord God’s essence of strength:

Their Redeemer is strong,
the Lord of the Heavenly Armies is his name.
He will vigorously plead their case
in order to bring rest to the earth,
but turmoil to the inhabitants of Babylon.?

It is false teaching to say that God the Lord is strong ‘in my brokenness’. He is strong by his very nature and is strong whether you are broken or not. This is his attribute of omnipotence. Nothing you or I can do can change that. It is an attack on God’s nature to say he is strong ‘in my brokenness’.

It is correct teaching to say that when I am broken, the Almighty God is powerful to act in the situation in which I am and to intervene according to his will. However, that power or strength is based on who the Lord Almighty is and the attribute of his omnipotence never changes. My brokenness does not cause Him to be strong.

7.  Emulating worldly tactics

Are Jesus Culture, Hillsong and other promoters of some Christian music endorsing a worldly or secular approach to marketing songs? The person who opened this thread had a penetrating summary:

The worldliness within these movements is through the roof. Watch the official videos, their image is so finely crafted you would think some big-time record label put them together to market. They make the world look uncool. They seek to draw the world into a worldly version of Christianity.

This is at work even in smaller churches who are into this movement. I had countless people on my facebook feed who emulate this culture of worldliness. There’s always a bunch of people with the finest digital HD cameras running around in these circles documenting these glorious self images. Then there’s (sic) the comments, “I love this girl!” or whatever. These movements are full of cliques based upon outward appearance, ministry connections, or your ability to be like act like the world.

It’s just plain shallow and it’s not the Christianity that Christ walked out.[15]

8.  Tunnels of fire

I asked a person: Do you support the prayer tunnels, the ‘Tunnels of Fire‘ at Bethel Church? [16]

Where is the sound doctrine in this chaos?

The retort was penetrating and accurate with Scripture:

Paul said, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands” [1 Tim 5:22 NIV].

The laying on of hands is something only to be done with clear direction of the Holy Spirit, and it’s not something the Holy Spirit does willy-nilly.

I’m making a list of things this movement does that fly directly in the face of clear teachings of scripture. It’s getting longer by the day.[17]

9.  Conclusion

There is chaos taking place in some churches in the name of the Holy Spirit. One needs discernment to know that what is happening is not following 1 Cor 14:40 (ESV), ‘But all things should be done decently and in order’. Prayer tunnels and people lying on the floor screaming, barking and howling are not biblical expressions of the Holy Spirit in action.

See:

clip_image011Weeping With Wilkerson (or These Strange Manifestations Are Not the Holy Ghost);

clip_image011[1]Look before you laugh;

clip_image011[2]Does New Age Christianity Exist In House Churches?

clip_image011[3]When Bethel invades your church;

clip_image011[4]Tunnel of Fire at Bethel church, Redding, CA

clip_image011[5]Why Jesus Culture, Bethel Church, and Bethel’s School of Supernatural Ministry are Spiritually Dangerous (Part 1 of 3).

clip_image013

(image courtesy www.mp3tunes.tk)

Notes

[1] See: http://jesusculture.com/about/ (Accessed 6 April 2016).

[2] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Are your churches using Jesus Culture songs in praise and worship?’ Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/are-your-churches-using-jesus-culture-songs-in-praise-and-worship.7939788/page-3 (Accessed 6 April 2016).

[3] Ibid., AGTG#1. This person made a number of posts against Jesus Culture songs.

[4] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#4.

[5] Ibid., AGTG#5.

[6] Ibid., OzSpen#47.

[7] Ibid., OzSpen#49.

[8] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#50, emphasis in original.

[9] Ibid., OzSpen#54.

[10] Oxford dictionaries (2016. S v theocentric).

[11] Christian Forums, PrettyboyAndy#63.

[12] I posted these Scriptures and this emphasis in ibid., OzSpen#46.

[13] Ibid., PrettyboyAndy#116.

[14] Ibid., OzSpen#120.

[15] Ibid., AGTG#73.

[16] Ibid., OzSpen#78.

[17] Ibid., AGTG#80.

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 September 2016.

Authorship of the Book of Hebrews

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

By Spencer D Gear PhD

(image courtesy Eerdmans)

One of the most controversial books of the New Testament to determine authorship is the Book of Hebrews. Statements about who wrote it have included:[1]

coil-gold-sm ‘neither do we know by whom it was sent’;

coil-gold-sm The author was Clement of Rome;

coil-gold-sm ‘an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas’;

coil-gold-sm ‘who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows’;

coil-gold-sm ‘Luke, who was an excellent advocate, translated it from Hebrew into that elegant Greek’;

coil-gold-sm One made a brilliant guess that Apollos was the author.

Let’s examine some of the evidence from church history. This is not meant to be an extensive examination, but an overview of some of the most prominent people suggested since the time of the early church fathers.

Some of the evidence

To accept Clement as the author of Book of Hebrews,[2] supposed author of First Clement (ca 80-140 AD), would place the dating of Hebrews in the late first century (Clement was martyred in ca. 100 AD). No author’s name is officially attached to First Clement. F F Bruce in his commentary on the Book of Hebrews has a sound discussion of the authorship options (Bruce 1964:xxxv-xlii).

Clement of Rome (ca. 30-100)[3]

Pope Clement I.jpg(image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

Of the authorship of Hebrews, Bruce wrote,

‘If we do not know for certain to whom the epistle was sent, neither do we know by whom it was sent. If Clement of Rome had any inkling of the author’s identity, he gives us no indication of it. But we can be quite sure that he himself was not the author, although it has been suggested at various times that he was. In spite of Clement’s familiarity with the epistle, he “turns his back on its central argument in order to buttress his own arguments about the Church’s Ministry by an appeal to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament’ (Bruce 1964:xxxv-xxxvi).

Bruce cites T W Manson’s statement that describes Clement’s procedure in regard to the Church’s Ministry as ‘a retrogression of the worst kind’ (in Bruce 1964:xxxvi, n 57).

 

Barnabas

Barnabas.jpgTertullian (ca. 155/160-220)[4] appealed to the Epistle to the Hebrews as having greater authority than the Shepherd of Hermas, a second century writing, because of the eminence of the author of Hebrews. He wrote, ‘For there is extant withal an Epistle to the Hebrews under the name of Barnabas— a man sufficiently accredited by God, as being one whom Paul has stationed next to himself in the uninterrupted observance of abstinence’ (On Modesty ch 20).

(icon of St Barnabas, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 Only God knows

The church father, Origen (ca. 185-254),[5] stated,

Origen3.jpg(image of Origen, courtesy Wikipedia)

 

‘If I gave my opinion, I should say that the thoughts are those of the apostle, but the diction and phraseology are those of some one who remembered the apostolic teachings, and wrote down at his leisure what had been said by his teacher. Therefore if any church holds that this epistle is by Paul, let it be commended for this. For not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul’s.

But who wrote the epistle, in truth, God knows. The statement of some who have gone before us is that Clement, bishop of the Romans, wrote the epistle, and of others that Luke, the author of the Gospel and the Acts, wrote it. But let this suffice on these matters’ (cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 6.25.13-14).

Paul or Luke

Bruce further notes that from the Festal Letter of AD 367 [by Athanasius, Letter XXXIX],

from then on the Pauline ascription became traditional in the west as in the east, although commentators of critical judgment continued to speak of Clement of Rome or Luke as translator or editor of the epistle. Thus Thomas Aquinas says that “Luke, who was an excellent advocate, translated it from Hebrew into that elegant Greek…. Calvin thought of Luke or Clement of Rome as the author, not merely translator or editor; while Luther was apparently the first to make the brilliant guess that the author was Apollos – a guess which has commended itself to many since his day (Bruce 1964:xxxix).

Conclusion

Therefore, after 2,000 years no definitive answer has been found to the question: Who wrote the Book of Hebrews? I am happy to conclude that Hebrews was firmly established in the NT canon when the NT was affirmed in the late fourth century. F F Bruce rightly stated the issue:

The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa — at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397 — but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities (Bruce 1959:ch 3).

designRed-small See ‘The Canon of the New Testament’ by F F Bruce.

Works consulted

Bruce, F F 1959. ‘The canon of the New Testament’, Chapter 3 in The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (5th ed, Leicester: Intervarsity Press). Available at: http://www.bible-researcher.com/bruce1.html (Accessed 5 April 2016).

Bruce, F F 1964. The Epistle to the Hebrews (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Cairns, E E 1981. Christianity through the Centuries, rev ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] These citations are identified below.

[2] I posted this information at Christianity Board, ‘Common Ground’, 5 April 2016, OzSpen#117. Available at: http://www.christianityboard.com/topic/22418-common-ground/page-4?hl=%20common%20%20ground (Accessed 5 April 2016).

[3] Lifespan dates are from Cairns (1981:73).

[4] Lifespan dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Tertullian).

[5] Lifespan dates from Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016. s v Origen).

 

Copyright © 2016 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 April 2016.

Andover Newton Seminary goes down the tube

Monday, December 7th, 2015

File:Dabney Hall, Andover Newton Theological School - IMG 0354.JPG

(Dabney Hall, Andover Newton Theological Hall, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why is a formerly leading USA theological seminary (the first ever USA seminary) now scaling down operations, with a plan to relocate? Could it be going down the tubes? Is it heading for oblivion? The Andover website tells of the foundation of the seminary:

The seed for Andover Newton can be traced back to 1778, when Phillips Academy was founded for “the promotion of true piety and virtue” in Andover, MA. In 1807, New England Congregationalists, concerned about “unitarian” trends at Harvard College, instituted a separate department of divinity and raised money for the Samuel Abbot Professor of Theology at Phillips Academy. This was the first seminary professorship in North America (History of Andover Newton 2015).

Now what is happening? Andover Newton is doing the very thing that it found repugnant at its founding – joining with Unitarianism.

This problem of decline has been covered in a Boston Globe article, ‘Newton seminary plans to scale down operations, relocate’ (Schworm 2015).[1]

Schworm stated:

Beyond relocating, the seminary plans to offer fewer programs to fewer students. Under a new model, it would focus more narrowly on preparing students for the Christian and Unitarian Universalist ministry “in lieu of the broad range of programs and options available today.”

The faculty and staff would be substantially smaller, school leaders wrote. Even so, “it is not yet clear that this model would bring us to financial sustainability.”

The seminary has also had preliminary discussions to join Yale Divinity School as a “school within a school.” It would relocate to New Haven but retain some independence.

I wonder how much of the downturn can be explained by this information: ‘The seminary is primarily composed of students with backgrounds in the United Church of Christ, Baptist, and Unitarian Universalist congregations’ (Schworm 2015)?

Let’s briefly examine the nature of these 3 denominations associated with Andover Newton Seminary.[2]

United Church of Christ

See ‘What we believe’ (United Church of Christ) at: http://www.ucc.org/about-us_what-we-believe

What is its version of the Gospel and the authority of Scripture?

Note the decline of congregations and members at: http://uccfiles.com/pdf/2014-UCC-Statistical-Profile.pdf

In this document it is stated, ‘Similar to other Protestant denominations, the UCC has experienced a decline in the numbers of congregations and members in recent decades. From 2000 to 2010 alone, the UCC encountered a net loss of 696 congregations and 318,897 members’.

This is a theologically liberal denomination that is losing people wholesale because it has redefined the Gospel in modernistic terms that make sense to a secular social worker but not to a Bible believer.

American Baptist Churches (ABC)

This is a separate denomination to the Southern Baptists, General Baptists, Particular Baptists and other evangelical Baptists. Andover Newton Seminary trains American Baptist Churches (as a denomination). See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andover_Newton_Theological_School

ABC are also in decline, associated with a similar modernist trend, but the decline in white congregations and members has been offset by growth in other areas. See: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-are-all-christian-denominations-in-decline

In 1967, the ABC/USA had 1,335,342 members. In 2012, the membership was 1,308,054, a decline of 2 percent.

(Note: The ABC/USA has been able to stem its decline among white congregants by replacing them with African American and Hispanic members.)

Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA)

Take a read of ‘What we believe’ of this denomination (UUA) at: http://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe

It is non-Trinitarian and universalist, i.e. believing all people will be ‘saved’.

How is it possible for such a denomination to train ministers with 2 Protestant denominations (who in theory are Trinitarian). It means that Gospel-centred, Trinitarian theology does not permeate that Seminary. It must be denied to accommodate Unitarian Universalists. All 3 denominations are modernist/postmodernist in theology and emphases.

The impossibility of this kind of ecumenism

ANTSseal.png(courtesy Wikipedia)

Oxford dictionaries states that ecumenism involves ‘the principle or aim of promoting unity among the world’s Christian Churches’ (Oxford dictionaries 2015. s v ecumenism).

Why would people bother going to such ecumenical churches when there are service clubs they can join that would achieve the same aim and without the gloss of Christianity?

I’m of the view that the Andover Newton Seminary demise and its association with United Church of Christ, American Baptist denomination, and Unitarian Universalist Association demonstrates the problem – arsenic in the bread of life. When denominations quit a Bible-based Gospel and an authoritative Scripture and replace it with a liberal, historical-critical, modernist or postmodernist theology, expect fewer people to be attracted. Why attend a good works’ oriented social club in the name of church?

Are all USA churches losing members

Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition begins his article, ‘FactChecker: Are all Christian denominations in decline’, with this quote from Rachel Held Evans:

Just about every denomination in the American church — including many evangelical denominations — is seeing a decline in numbers, so if it’s a competition, then we’re all losing, just at different rates (in Carter 2015).

Mainliners may try to comfort themselves by claiming that every denomination is in decline, but it’s simply not true. While conservative churches aren’t growing as quickly as they once were, mainline churches are on a path toward extinction. The mainline churches are finding that as they move further away from Biblical Christianity, the closer they get to their inevitable demise.

(Campus view, courtesy Wikipedia)

 How liberal Christianity kills churches

I have covered this in some of my previous articles,

designRed-smallChurch growth or decline in the United Kingdom

designRed-small  Damning evidence against theological liberalism

designRed-small How to destroy a Christian denomination

designRed-small  Is liberal theology heresy?

designRed-small The Gospel Distortion: A reply to John Shelby Spong

What’s the truth about the death of theism? Wherever theological liberalism has taken hold, church numbers have declined. Frank Pastore put it this way: ‘We’ve all witnessed the plummeting attendance of liberal mainline denominations for decades’ (‘The National Council of Churches should have died’).

When Trinitarian and Unitarian denominations try to work together to homogenise theological training in an ecumenical arrangement, how is it ever possible to be authentic with Scripture and the Gospel? Such an amalgam is impossible. Death and or decline are the natural outcome and that seems to be what is happening at Andover Newton Theological Seminary.

Works consulted

Carter, J 2015. FactChecker: Are All Christian Denominations in Decline? The Gospel Coalition (online), March 17. Available at: http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-are-all-christian-denominations-in-decline (Accessed 18 November 2015).

Schworm, P 2015. Newton seminary plans to scale down operations, relocate.

Boston Globe (online), November 12. Available at: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/11/12/divinity/uQkHvCP4wt0ilyFX10aaKN/story.html (Accessed 18 November 2015).

Notes


[1] I began a thread on this topic on a UK Christian forum, Staying in Touch, under the title, ‘Why would a seminary be scaling down?’, Dougie#1. Available at: http://www.stayingintouch.uk/healing/why-would-a-seminary-be-scaling-down/msg2363/#msg2363 (Accessed 18 November 2015).

[2] I included much of the following in ibid., Dougie#8.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 1 April 2016.

clip_image002

How do you find a suitable church?

Friday, October 30th, 2015

https://i1.wp.com/www.creationism.org/images/DoreBibleIllus/tLuk2334Dore_TheCrucifixion.jpg?resize=485%2C657

 By Spencer D Gear

When somebody moves to a new community and seeks to find a church, what qualities should one seek? This will be based on a person’s view of God and the Scriptures. If the Scriptures are taken seriously, what features will be in the church one seeks. My wife and I experienced this issue/problem in mid 2011 when we moved to a northern Brisbane (Australia) suburb. What do we seek since we have a high view of the Bible and are not interested in singing unmemorable choruses driven by a contemporary rock beat?

This is a brief, but practical, example of what two mature Christians encountered in search for a group of evangelical believers who affirmed the Scriptures and worshipped God in the songs they sang, the Word preached from the pulpit, and in their fellowship with one another.

I was participating in a Christian Forum discussion online when I came across this request:

1. One person’s view

I have been attending a local Baptist church for almost a month now and thought the people in there are extremely friendly and welcoming.

I was so excited that i started telling my friends about my discovery and one of them said that she hasn’t been going to church since she moved out of her mom’s! Her reason was that she found that most of the churchgoers at her church were nice only during Sundays…and then from Mon-Sat they were “a**holes” she was very put off by this and generally stopped going every week and eventually stopped altogether.

My question to you guys is if you are noticing similar things? Are church goers judgmental? Are they just actors/actress on Sundays?[1]

2. Some qualities essential for any church[2]

Our worldviews ought to deal with what is happening not only in churches but also our approach to the world in which we live. We need to be people of discernment:

a. Discernment

All Christian are called to exercise discernment about what is happening in a church (and the world).

  • Romans 12:2, ‘ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (ESV).
  • Ephesians 5:10, ‘and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord’ (ESV).
  • Hebrews 5:14, ‘But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil’.

b. Christians who care for one another

All Christians are to care for one another, pray for one another and minister to one another. This is what the Scriptures state:

  • James 5:16, ‘Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working’ (ESV);
  • Ephesians 6:18, ‘Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints’ (ESV).
  • 1 Corinthians 12:26, ‘If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.’ (ESV).

We need to be a functioning body of Christ, a Community of the King of Kings. Are these things happening in your church? We are the body of Christ and we need to be caring for one another when we meet as well as other times (as able and as time permits).

If there is an atmosphere like this in your church, then it will be fairly easy to pick the fake from the genuine through discernment and then counsel of these people should happen and this may even lead to discipline of them if they are not in line with your church’s statement of faith and practice.

There’s another factor to look for:

3. The church’s discipline of Christians

Yes, discipline! That’s what the Scripture says:

  • 2 Thessalonians 3:14 ESV, ‘If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed’;
  • Romans 16:17 ESV, ‘I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them’.
  • Matthew 18:15-20 ESV ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven’.

4. Wheat and weeds will grow together in your church

Weeds In Field (PublicDomainPictures.net)

 

We can expect the wheat and the tares (weeds) to grow together until harvest. See Matthew 13:24-30.

Please don’t seek to find the perfect church with perfect people who always treat you perfectly. If they are anything like me, they will make mistakes and sin against one another and in other ways. Please don’t give up on them, but the areas I have mentioned above are important in Christian growth. Is the church you are attending also practising evangelism and discipleship?

5. Every church must be committed to evangelism and discipleship

Rejecting Help

(ChristArt)

 

This is self-evident from Matthew 28:18-20,

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Have you had opportunity to meet with the pastor and/or church leaders to address your concerns?

Most importantly, are you the genuine, loving, caring Christian that will make a Christ-like difference in your congregation?

 Notes


[1] Christian Forums, Baptists, ‘Fake people in churches? What do y’all think?’, Fobulous#1, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7681751/#post61206165 (Accessed 22 August 2012).

[2] This is part of my post as OzSpen#2, in ibid.

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 30 October 2015.

Should churches have female deacons?

Friday, September 25th, 2015

(image courtesy cliparthut)

By Spencer D Gear

We can be in personal discussion among Christians or in an Internet interaction, but raise the issue of women in ministry among evangelical Christians and you can expect to get some strong views both ways. Mostly I’ve heard the anti-women in ministry view defended most vigorously. Certainly, conservatives are opposed to women pastors.

Two prominent Christian leaders disagree

Leading California pastor, John MacArthur, uses 1 Tim 2:8-15 as his foundation for this conclusion:

Women may be highly gifted teachers and leaders, but those gifts are not to be exercised over men in the context of the church. That is true not because women are spiritually inferior to men but because God’s law commands it. He has ordained order in His creation—an order that reflects His own nature and therefore should be reflected in His church. Anyone ignoring or rejecting God’s order, then, weakens the church and dishonors Him (MacArthur 2013).

N T Wright, who teaches at St. Andrews University, Scotland, takes a different perspective. He concludes with this understanding of 1 Tim  2:8-15, after an examination of this passage:

How then would I translate the passage to bring all this out? As follows:

8So this is what I want: the men should pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, with no anger or disputing. 9In the same way the women, too, should clothe themselves in an appropriate manner, modestly and sensibly. They should not go in for elaborate hair-styles, or gold, or pearls, or expensive clothes; 10instead, as is appropriate for women who profess to be godly, they should adorn themselves with good works. 11They must be allowed to study undisturbed, in full submission to God. 12I’m not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them; they should be left undisturbed. 13Adam was created first, you see, and then Eve; 14and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and fell into trespass. 15She will, however, be kept safe through the process of childbirth, if she continues in faith, love and holiness with prudence (N T Wright, ‘Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis’, 2004).

I visited a Christian forum on the Internet where there was a thread on ‘female deacons.’[1] Some argy-bargy was there to read between traditionalists who oppose female deacons and those who are open to another view from Scripture. The latter are sometimes called progressives. I would prefer to use the terminology, ‘They let the plain meaning of Scripture speak for itself’ when interpreted in context.

The topic began with a comment about the 1963 Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) convention adding to paragraph VI that stated that ‘the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture’. The person could only speculate why this change was necessary but said it was now ‘time to add [that] the office of deacons is limited to men as qualified by Scripture. I base this on 1Timothy 3:10-12’. The person brought this up because a local Southern Baptist Church (SBC) has female deacons and he considered this to be wrong. He said he was interested in any Scripture that would cancel this anti-female deacon Scripture and what we know about these verses.[2]

Others chimed in with these kinds of messages:

bronze-arrow-small It was a common thing for women to be teaching women and children. The person attended a ‘very traditional Baptist church’ where women sang, had exclusive Bible studies among women and were engaged in activities that pertained to children. ‘But when it comes to the main sanctuary, it is only men at the pulpit’. Why? ‘Everyone knows’ that is what the Bible teaches, or more specifically, ‘it is what Paul teaches’.[3]

bronze-arrow-small They can be in leadership roles according to Romans 16:1-2, but they cannot teach over the assembly, based on 1 Tim 2:13-14, 1 Cor 14:40 [Is this meant to be 14:34?] Women can be in leadership because Scripture allows them to be equal in worth to men (Gen 2:23). But this person insisted that women cannot be pastors according to 1 Tim 2:9-12. The view was that this maintained the divine order of accountability as articulated in Eph 5:21-33. The role of ultimate headship has been assigned to men (1 Cor 11:3). Women [cannot] be pastors, but they can have words of instruction in the church (1 Cor 14:26). This was a similar kind of ministry to that of Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the OT and Anna in the NT as well as the four daughters of Phillip who prophesied. However, it’s important to note that they didn’t teach in an official capacity over the assembly.[4]

bronze-arrow-small ‘Paul said women cannot preach in the church, but they can serve in other ways’. If you want to be upset with anyone, get upset with Paul. He is the one who wrote those letters and was influenced by God to do it.[5]

bronze-arrow-small Women can be elders in the Baptist church I attend, but it’s usually with their husbands. However, ‘the men teach the men and the women teach the women. This is how it ought to be’. It is not that women can’t teach men and men can’t teach women because we can learn together. When it comes to being authoritative over each other in certain aspects of gender, this is the way it is because men and women are not alike.[6]

bronze-arrow-small ‘We should take the Bible for what it says. If it says women are not to do certain things then they should not’.[7]

Then came …

Archaeology, tombstones & women presbyters

(image courtesy Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome)

It was pointed out that in the first four centuries of the NT era, archaeology has found grave sites that confirmed there were women presbyters. ‘One tombstone reads, (don’t remember the names in order) ___ the daughter of Lois the presbyter’.[8] He stated that in many areas around the Mediterranean Sea, there have been discovered paintings of women in leadership positions and inscriptions in churches and on tombstones. These women are named and their positions are that of bishops and deacons. His view was that ‘archaeology demands that we reconcile what we have from Paul with the evidence’.[9]

What is the evidence from archaeology? ‘As far as the statement that there is no tradition of women priests, there’s good evidence from archaeology and iconography, in areas of what is now the former Yugoslavia, and southern Italy, that there were women presbyters, leaders of Christian communities in those places, in the early centuries. And a presbyter is what we would call a priest today’ (Johnson 2010:98).

Aisha Taylor, a Roman Catholic, researched the archaeological evidence for women’s leadership in the early centuries of the church. She found that

there are iconography pieces all throughout the Mediterranean region … and they are not only mosaics[10] and frescos.[11] They are also inscriptions on tombs and artwork. They are on catacomb walls and on church walls, in very holy places. One of these is in the Catacombs of Priscilla.[12] It’s a second century fresco and it pictures a woman presiding at Eucharist, which is a role reserved specifically for priests, and only for priests. Another example is the fourth-century inscription on a tombstone in Jerusalem where it says in Greek, “Here lies the minister and bride of Christ, Sophia the Deacon, a second Phoebe.” This is also important in that it relates to the biblical person of Phoebe, a New Testament woman, who Paul references as a deacon. And the other important thing about that is the word for deacon, diakonos, is the word that’s used for Paul’s ministry as well. So it really shows an egalitarian form of ministry in the early church. These women had the same ministry as Paul….

I think the evidence is very convincing and one of the reasons is because of the large number of archaeological finds around the Mediterranean. In almost every major Christian community in the early church, you’ll find images of women as priests, bishops or deacons. And that’s convincing evidence. The other pieces that are important are the inscriptions on tombstones. People wanted future generations to remember these women as leaders in the church. They put them in the holiest places they could: in churches and on tombstones….

We know that in the first nine centuries in many places in the church, women were serving in ordained deacon roles. The scholarly evidence shows that there are sixty-one inscriptions and forty-one literary references to women deacons in the church.

One of the foremost scholars on women’s ordination is John Wijngaards. He was a former Roman Catholic priest and he actually left the priesthood over women’s ordination. In 2006, he published his book, Women Deacons in the Early Church,[13] so evidence is getting out there’ (Aisha Taylor 2010:92, 93). The claim: No women deacons in NT

What about this line of reasoning?

There were no women deacons. Scripture does not show us any. It of course speaks of the qualifications for being a male deacon and we know of Stephen’s being chosen to be a deacon, etc., but nothing about women as deacons. Unfortunately, and as has been noted, the root word (diaconos), meaning a “servant,” can be translated either as deacon or deaconess. But we know from history what deacons did and what they were considered to be …. and we also know what deaconesses were and what they did. When Pheobe (sic) is called a diakonos, therefore, we know that it means a deaconess, not a deacon, because we know that there was a difference, both from scripture and from history.[14]

I will be challenging that judgment below.

Another became quite aggressive with what I regard as an incoherent argument. He asked if another believed it was suitable for women to hold authority in the world and not in the church. Are there two sets of standards? If so, that’s hypocrisy![15]

Then there was one who pointed to Gal 3:26-28 and the egalitarian nature of the body of Christ,

‘In Galatians 3 … Paul says:

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

If there is no “male or female”… how can we then decide that what Paul says in 2 Timothy 2 [this refers to 1 Tim 2] is a rule for women specifically to be silent in church and for authority to be held over to men? And what authority? Is Christ not the Head? Either Paul contradicts himself, or he is speaking to [a] specific incident.

If we are all “one in Christ” where is the distinction?[16]

What kind of response would that elicit? The rejoinder came that there are three persons with three absolute roles in the Godhead. The Father’s role is not the Son’s and the Holy Spirit doesn’t complain about the Helper role or not being the commander in chief. That role is the Father’s. This person pointed out that the issue was context, context, context. His complaint was with Christians who practise eisegesis and don’t care about the context. He blamed this on the influence of a modern/postmodern world that affects the minds of Christians so they are afraid to affirm the importance of context. He also blamed ‘extreme eisegetical (sic) conservative Christians’ for hindering sound exegesis.[17]

The reply to this emphasis was: ‘I’m glad you mentioned context, because in the original context 1 Timothy 2:11-12,’ ‘woman’ can be translated as ‘wife’ and ‘man’ for ‘husband’. He was prodding: ‘Just some food for thought’.[18] This back and forth continued:

If God gives a woman the ability and blessing to speak His Word through her, via the Holy Spirit, which we all are told we are to possess once born again, should we not listen?
Does the Holy Spirit silence a woman simply because she is a woman?[19]

Biblical evidence: A woman as deacon

 

(image courtesy Catacombs of Priscilla, Rome)

Is there no evidence of any female in Scripture being designated as having the ministry of a deacon? My investigations of Scripture lead me to the following understanding:[20]

Talking of what Paul wrote, I do not know why we are arguing over whether a woman can be a deacon in the church when there is a clear example of a female deacon in the early church in Romans 16:1 (NIV), ‘I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.’ What was Phoebe’s ministry (Rom 16:1)? Paul states, ‘She has been helpful to many, and especially to me ‘ (Rom 16:2 NLT). So Phoebe, a female deacon, was ‘helpful to many’ and especially to a male – Paul. What that ‘helpful’ meant, we are not told directly in this text. K Hess points out that in Rom 16:1, the role of a female deacon is ‘left undefined’ (Hess 1978:549). Hess is careful to point out the difference between doulos (slave) and the feminine, diakonia (serving at table). This

is important for our understanding of diakonos. doulos stresses almost exclusively the Christian’s complete subjection to the Lord; diakonos is concerned with his service for the church, his brothers and fellow-men, for the fellowship, whether this is done by serving at the table, with the word, or in some other way. The diakonos is always one who serves on Christ’s behalf and continues Christ’s service for the outer and inner man; he is concerned with the salvation of men. Hence, Paul can see himself as a servant of the gospel (Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23), a servant through whom the Christians in Corinth had come to faith (1 Cor. 3:5), a servant of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), a servant of Christ (2 Cor. 11:23), a servant of God (2 Cor. 6:4), a servant of the church (Col. 1:2 5)….

The work of a deacon finally developed into a special office, whose beginnings can be traced already in the NT (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-13). In the course of the church’s history the office developed a standardized form, though its precise form is not clear from the NT. Nor was it evidently universal in the church. Originally all the manifold functions exercised in the church could be called “services” or ministries (1 Cor. 12:5). Hence, the various office-bearers (apostle, prophet, etc., cf. Eph. 4:11 f.) were “servants”, diakonoi, of the church (cf. 1 Cor. 3:5; Col 1:25). But in the more specialized sense the concept was narrowed down to the material care of the church, which was closely linked with the office of the bishop (e.g. 1 Tim. 3:1-7, 8-13; 1 Clem. 42:1 f.; Ignatius, Mag. 2:1; 6:1; Trall 2:1). This means that for the “servant” there was always a task for spirit and body expressed by his role in public worship, care of the poor and administration. The service of God and of the poor were, after all, a unity, as the agape, the common meal implied. Originally it was obvious that all the “servants” stood in a brotherhood of service, but the concept was increasingly eroded by the growth of a hierarchy with its different grades….

The NT knows also the work of the female deacon, but her role is left undefined (Rom. 16:1; perhaps also 1 Tim. 3:11. The position is still recognized in some churches today. It was closely connected with that of the widow (Hess 1978: 548-549).

However, according to a leading Greek lexicon, the ministry of being a deacon is that of a ‘servant of someone’ or ‘helper’ and may include women (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:183-184). Thayer’s lexicon gives that meaning as ‘one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master; a servant, attendant, minister’. When used of a deaconess, it refers to ‘a woman to whom the care of either poor or sick women was entrusted’ (Thayer 1962:138).

In Romans 16:3 (NIV), Paul discusses the ministry of ‘Priscilla (female) and Aquila (male), my co-workers in Christ Jesus’- possibly a wife and husband duo. In 5 mentions of Priscilla/Prisca and Aquila in the NT (Acts 18:2-3, 18, 26; Rom 16:3 and 1 Cor 16:19), we know that this female and male couple (perhaps a missionary husband-wife team) ministered with Paul at Corinth (Acts 18:18) and then he left them at Ephesus (Acts 18:19).

Then Apollos was speaking boldly in the synagogue at Ephesus and needed some further instruction. Priscilla and Aquila heard him and ‘invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately’ (Ac 18:26 NIV). This woman Priscilla was involved in ministry to a man. She was not ministering to women as indicated here; a man was included.

In some of these examples in the Greek text, Priscilla precedes Aquila in the naming of them (see Ac 18:18, 26; Rom 16:3). It is uncertain why Priscilla, a female, is mentioned before Aquila, a male, in a male-dominated culture. Donald Moo indicated that ‘scholars have suggested that she may have been the more dominant of the two, the more gifted, the one who brought most money into the marriage, or the one who was most significant in their “home-based” ministry’ (Moo 1996:919, n. 11).

To the church at Corinth, Paul in his first letter was able to say, ‘The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord and so does the church that meets at their house’ (1 Cor 16:19 NIV). The inference is obvious: The husband-wife team was engaged in ministry in a house church – in their own house. There is no indication that Priscilla was involved only in ministry to the women and children in that house church.

I commend to you the article, ‘The Neglected History of Women in the Early Church‘ (Christian History Institute), by Catherine Kroeger. One of the points she makes is:

Paul also mentions Phoebe in Romans 16, “a deacon of the church at Cenchreae” [Rom 16:1 Interlinear]. He calls her a prostatis or overseer [Rom 16:2 Interlinear]. This term in its masculine form, prostates, was used later by the Apostolic Fathers to designate the one presiding over the Eucharist. And Paul uses the same verb, the passive of ginomai (to be or become), as he uses in Colossians 1:23 [Interlinear]: “I was made a minister.” In the passive, the verb sometimes indicated ordination or appointment to an office. Thus one might legitimately translate Paul’s statement about Phoebe: “For she has been appointed, actually by my own action, an officer presiding over many.” The church in Rome is asked to welcome her and assist her in the church’s business.

Becoming impatient

One fellow became rather intolerant towards those who close down women in ministry: ‘See what i mean OZ. Oh women can teach the word of God just not in church, ahh what? the church is God’s children, no its not, ahh what?’[21]

I urged him[22] to be more tolerant towards those who maintain the conservative line with silence of women in ministry. We need to provide the counter evidence.

In Brown’s Greek word studies from the NT, Hess did an extensive investigation on the meaning of diakonos (deacon, servant) that I’ve quoted at length below.

What was Phoebe’s ministry (Rom 16:1)? Paul states, ‘She has been helpful to many, and especially to me ‘ (Rom 16:2 NLT). So Phoebe, a female deacon, was ‘helpful to many’ and especially to a male – Paul. What that ‘helpful’ meant, we are not told directly in this text. K Hess points out that in Rom 16:1, the role of a female deacon is ‘left undefined’ (Hess 1978:549). Hess is careful to point out the difference between doulos (slave) and the feminine, diakonia (serving at table). This

is important for our understanding of diakonos. doulos stresses almost exclusively the Christian’s complete subjection to the Lord; diakonos is concerned with his service for the church, his brothers and fellow-men, for the fellowship, whether this is done by serving at the table, with the word, or in some other way. The diakonos is always one who serves on Christ’s behalf and continues Christ’s service for the outer and inner man; he is concerned with the salvation of men. Hence, Paul can see himself as a servant of the gospel (Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23), a servant through whom the Christians in Corinth had come to faith (1 Cor. 3:5), a servant of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), a servant of Christ (2 Cor. 11:23), a servant of God (2 Cor. 6:4), a servant of the church (Col. 1:2 5)….

The work of a deacon finally developed into a special office, whose beginnings can be traced already in the NT (Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:8-13). In the course of the church’s history the office developed a standardized form, though its precise form is not clear from the NT. Nor was it evidently universal in the church. Originally all the manifold functions exercised in the church could be called “services” or ministries (1 Cor. 12:5). Hence, the various office-bearers (apostle, prophet, etc., cf. Eph. 4:11 f.) were “servants”, diakonoi, of the church (cf. 1 Cor. 3:5; Col 1:25). But in the more specialized sense the concept was narrowed down to the material care of the church, which was closely linked with the office of the bishop (e.g. 1 Tim. 3:1-7, 8-13; 1 Clem. 42:1 f.; Ignatius, Mag. 2:1; 6:1; Trall 2:1). This means that for the “servant” there was always a task for spirit and body expressed by his role in public worship, care of the poor and administration. The service of God and of the poor were, after all, a unity, as the agape, the common meal implied. Originally it was obvious that all the “servants” stood in a brotherhood of service, but the concept was increasingly eroded by the growth of a hierarchy with its different grades….

The NT knows also the work of the female deacon, but her role is left undefined (Rom. 16:1; perhaps also 1 Tim. 3:11. The position is still recognized in some churches today. It was closely connected with that of the widow (Hess 1978: 548-549).?

According to a leading Greek lexicon, the ministry of being a deacon is that of a ‘servant of someone’ or ‘helper’ and may include women (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:183-184). Thayer’s lexicon gives that meaning as ‘one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master; a servant, attendant, minister’. When used of a deaconess, it refers to ‘a woman to whom the care of either poor or sick women was entrusted’ (Thayer 1962:138).

Here are the two links I was thinking about.[23] I recommend that you listen to the interview with N T Wright. However, the first article is an excellent overview.

  1. Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis. Note his explanation of 1 Tim 2.
  2. Why I support women in ministry‘ (an interview with Wright).

As Wright points out, 1 Corinthians cannot be referring to the absolute silence of women when the church gathers (as traditionalists want to interpret 1 Cor 14:33-34). How do we know this? First Corinthians 11:3 teaches that ‘every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head’. These women were not praying and prophesying with their mouths closed.
In addition, 1 Cor 14:26 (NIV) tells us what should happen when the church gathers (which is a long way from most churches today): ‘What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up’. It does not say, ‘each of you, except women.’
We need consistent exegesis and interpretations.
There is some interesting information about women in ministry in ‘Women teachers in the early church‘ (Rev Kathryn Riss).

What about women’s ministry in the Old Testament?

A person asked about Deborah and I raised the person of Huldah, Old Testament ministries by women.[24]

(image courtesy datab.us)

 

I have had anti-women in ministry, males and females, use Deborah as an example of someone who was not in a leadership position in the church. I have a fairly standard answer:

I must be reading a different Bible to yours. Judges 4:4-6 (ESV) states,

‘Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgement. 6 She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun’.?

Therefore, Deborah, the prophetess, most certainly had a leadership role in judging Israel.

Second Kings 22:15 says of Huldah, the prophetess, that ‘she said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord. . .”’

The OT prophetess was a public person who heard the voice of God and delivered it publicly to God’s people, Israel, and to individuals. She was a ‘thus says the Lord’ person in ministry.

My conclusion is that there were definitely prominent women in active ministry to men in the Old Testament.

Ambiguity of office of deacon

A person gave a detailed and engaging comeback:

Where I may quibble is in the ambiguity of the office of deacon. In Acts 6:1-6, the deacons were appointed for a very specific reason. Allow me to dwell in the land of literary analogy here, but I see the deacon / deaconess role as one of physical service, the hands of the church whereas elders were the mouth of the church. The Apostles were pretty clear in their pronouncement that they were to preach and / or teach over addressing the physical needs of the widows in this Acts passage.

From what we later read in qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13), there isn’t really a way to glean that there was any teaching or preaching requirement placed on them. So yes, in that sense, there is a bit of ambiguity. However, implicit in the aspect of being hands is that there would be some “teachable moments” in their service, the most obvious lesson being taught through love and selfless sacrifice of comfort in their service.

For the record, I find that the “wives” of translations like the ESV should probably be translated “women” based on various commentaries I have come across. This makes sense from a contextual viewpoint and would be a clear Scriptural approbation of the deaconess role.

So, if we then take the preceding passage about elders and the Titus passage about eldership into view, it really begins to clear up.

Elders are required, in both cases, to be able to teach. This requirement is not covered with deacons because they’re not teaching in a more formalized position of overseeing a local church. I would draw a line between what the Apostles did in preaching or even my pastor does now in preaching, for instance, versus what I do when I sit down to talk to someone about the gospel. Even though both are technically teaching / preaching, there is a difference in the office of what’s being done. This is consistent with Paul’s orderly instructions for prophesying and speaking in tongues, because something being done in church requires some structure.

That said, women teaching and / or preaching is a different discussion than this discussion of female deacons. I actually hesitate to lump the two together because I find the case to be much murkier for female preaching and teaching.

The only way I see to “circumvent” the above would be in finding things too ambivalent to make a decision upon; which would make the roles of elder and deacon essentially one in the same. That seems problematic from the standpoint of the clear juxtaposition of Acts 6:1-6 to the Apostles, and the fairly reasonable resemblance of the apostolic role to the elder role. Many Baptists seem to have confused the two, as most Baptist churches I know appoint deacons who oversee. I find this to be in error.[25]

That was a thoughtful piece of input. My response was:[26]

You have given the example of the practical ministry to those in need, according to Acts 6:1-6 as being that of deacons. I hope you noticed that the noun, ‘deacon’ (feminine form) is in Acts 6:4 (Interlinear), ‘But we to prayer and the diakonia of the word’. However, in Acts 6:2 (Interlinear), the verb is used for ‘serve (deaconize) tables’. So one can be a ‘deacon’ of the word of God and a ‘deacon’ in serving those in need. How about that?

It seems to me that this person has defined ‘deacon’ in a much narrower view than that of the NT. If he considered the word study of diakonos above that I quoted by K Hess, he would note that Paul was a deacon and this is the specific language:

Paul can see himself as a servant (diakonos) of the gospel (Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23), a servant through whom the Christians in Corinth had come to faith (1 Cor. 3:5), a servant of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6), a servant of Christ (2 Cor. 11:23), a servant of God (2 Cor. 6:4), a servant of the church (Col. 1:25)’.?

In Col. 1:23,[27] Paul states, ‘of which I became a diakonos’ (minister, servant, deacon). First Cor 3:5 asks, ‘What, therefore is Apollos and what is Paul? Diakonoi (plural), i.e. servants/deacons/ministers, through whom you believed’. Second Cor 3:6, ‘Who also made us competent diakonoi (plural) of a new covenant’. In the context at 2 Cor 3:3, Paul uses the verbal form diakoneo, ‘Having manifested that you (Corinthians) are an epistle deaconized (ministered to) by us….’ Then we have the verses that affirm that they are diakonoi (plural) of Christ (2 Cor 11:23); in 2 Cor 6:1, Paul describes his colleagues and himself as ‘working together’ and then in 2 Cor 6:4 he states, ‘in everything commending ourselves as diakonoi (plural) of God’. Paul states in Col 1:24 that he rejoices in what he has suffered for the Colossians, but in the next verse, Col 1:25, he states, ‘of which I became a diakonos‘.

So, a deacon (diakonos) has a much broader understanding in the NT than that of serving with practicalities to those in need as in Acts 6:1-6 (Interlinear).

Therefore, your statement needs to be questioned: ‘In qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13), there isn’t really a way to glean that there was any teaching or preaching requirement placed on them’. Yes there is, when we understand the broad use of diakonos in the NT that I have described above. Paul and Apollos were deacons through whom the Corinthians came to believe (1 Cor 3:5 Interlinear). Are you suggesting the Corinthians believed without any preaching / teaching by Apollos and Paul?

To both the Ephesian and Colossian Christians, Paul declares he is a servant (diakonos) of the gospel (Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23). Surely there is a speaking, teaching, preaching role in being such a deacon of the gospel? That is what is affirmed in 1 Cor 3:5.

I quibble with the narrow definition of deacon that does not involve a speaking, teaching function as that is not what I find in the breadth of illustrations of its use in the NT. However, ‘to deaconize / serve’ is the Greek infinitive used in Acts 6:2 (Interlinear), ‘to serve tables’. Yes, this Acts 6 passage does speak about gathering the disciples and not neglecting the word to serve at tables (Acts 6:2), but that is addressing a local issue and does not deal with the breadth of meaning of ‘serve’ (diakonos – noun or verbal forms). However, Acts 6:4 (Interlinear) affirms they were diakonos of the Word. So the breadth of meaning here indicates serving at tables and serving with the Word.

I want to note that our understanding of the role of pastor today seems to have evolved to a role that does not seem to be evident in the NT church. The pastoral ‘position’ today seems to be closer to that of a formalised teaching elder. But I have no problem with that gifted person being male or female. I especially recommend to you the interview with N T Wright on women in ministry (above). See also my articles:

cubed-iron-sm Must women never teach men in the church?

cubed-iron-sm The heresy of women preachers?

I want to say that my position is in no way influenced by feminism in Australian society. My understanding is based on exegesis of the biblical text in context. I find there are biblical inconsistencies when we close down women in teaching ministry to all people.

(image courtesy cliparthut.com)

 

I speak from personal experience as one who was a die-hard traditionalist in women-only as teachers in the evangelical church. I was a difficult nut to crack as my Baptist church was rigid in its adherence to men-only in the teaching ministry – except for teaching other women and children. And have a guess where else? On the mission field! The mission field would be in sad shape if it were not for women who were in teaching ministry on the field – teaching to men and women. Some of my family is from the Christian Brethren (Plymouth Brethren) denomination which is staunchly anti-women in ministry. I have known outstanding Brethren women teachers on the mission field who come home on furlough and were not allowed to do in the local church in Australia what they could do overseas. It’s called hypocrisy!

Strange emphasis

This one came from out of left field:

A deacon is a servant of a priest. They do not preach or assume authority in any traditional Christian church unless they are men working in place of the vicar. This is presumably the case with the early Christians.

Every traditionally secure church has rejected female leadership under explicit canon law- the Scriptures simply do not allow it.[28]

That is not my understanding of Scripture.[29]

That is not what I have gleaned from exegesis and exposition of the NT. I’ve attempted to expound a biblical view in this article. Paul was a deacon who preached and assumed authority but his ministry was also designated as that of a diakonos (deacon/servant).
I think this person introduced some personal presuppositions that intruded into his response here, especially in his view of ‘servant of a priest’ and ‘men working in the place of the vicar’. He wants to associate the vicar with early Christians. Where is such a concept in the NT?

What is ‘every traditionally secure church’? Is that meant to exclude Pentecostal charismatics? Is that meant to exclude traditional evangelical churches and women in active teaching ministry to men on the mission field where there are not enough ‘men in ministry’ to cover the need?

In addition, take a read of Romans 16, where we have these women in ministry:

  • ‘Phoebe, a deacon/servant of the church in Cenchreae’ (Rom 16:1);
  • ‘Greet Priscilla and Aquila, fellow-workers (sunergoi) of me (Paul) in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 16:3). Priscilla is the woman and she is named before the male (possibly her husband), Aquila, indicating she might have had the more prominent ministry. She and her husband were ‘fellow-workers’ with Paul. She was not relegated to teaching only women and children as nothing of that kind of restriction is mentioned here.
  • Rom 16:3 states that Priscilla and Aquila had a church that met in their house. Imagine that – a woman and a man leading a house church!
  • Rom 16:7, ‘Andronicus and Junias, my relatives … outstanding among the apostles’. Junias is a female and is an apostle among the larger group of apostles (beyond the 12).
  • Rom 16:12, ‘Tryphaena and Tryphosa, the ones labouring in (the) Lord’. We are not told exactly what this ‘labouring’ was, but it does not say, ‘labouring, except for labour among a group that includes men and women’. In Douglas Moo’s commentary, he notes that these two ‘were probably slaves or freedwomen and may have been sisters’. He noted that both names, as Lightfoot noted, are found at about Paul’s time for servants in the imperial household’ (Moo 1996:925, 925 n. 53).

Husband of one wife

Image result for husband and wife clipart public domain

(image courtesy acclaimimages.com)

 

This kind of emphasis often comes up in a discussion of men and women in ministry: ‘1 Timothy 3 gives a list of requirements for being in the leadership of a church. One of them was being a man of one wife. That should automatically rule out female preachers and deacons’.[30]

This was another view by one who abandoned the traditional line. His claim was that only males were legally permitted to commit adultery in the first century through an addition to marriage. Therefore, Paul had no reason to affirm “a woman of only one husband” as that is all that could have existed at that time in the NT world. The person stated that sexism has no place in the body of Christ. He would list Bible verses, do the exegesis, and discuss history, but he has found men are more interested in telling women what not to do that the men have little interest in the truth. These men are interested in power.[31]

One response was: ‘How would you explain Paul’s clear reference to Phoebe as a deaconess? What about women speaking instructions to the church in 1 Cor. 11:5?’[32] He continued:

I know extra-biblical writings aren’t inspired, but it does suggest accepted practice in the early church. Pliny wrote there were female deacons in the church at Bithynia. (G. H. R. Horsley, ed., New Documents Illustrating Early Christianity: A Review of the Greek Inscriptions and Papyri Published in 1979 (North Hyde, N.S.W.: The Ancient History Documentary Research Centre, Macquarie University, 1987), 122.)

That would have been just after John’s death, timewise. If they’d been there even a few years they’d have been operating in that office while John the Apostle was living. [33]

Another chimed in,

Yes, the husband of one wife, not two or three wives. There were Jewish men in the assembly who may have had more than one wife because they were coming from Judaism, where polygamy was allowed. It would not be necessary to make this rule for women seeing that women were never allowed, even in Judaism, to have more than one husband.[34]

Should this rule out women preachers? I wrote:[35]

The 1978 edition of the NIV for 1 Tim 3:12 is translated, ‘A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and household well’. The latest edition of the NIV renders this verse as, ‘A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well’. Why the change? It is because the Greek word translated ‘wife’ is gune and it can mean either wife or woman. Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon gives the meaning as ‘woman … of any adult female’ or ‘wife’ (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:167). A&G support 1 Tim 2:11ff as referring to a ‘woman … of any adult female’. So the meaning is that ‘a deacon must also “be faithful” to his own wife [1 Tim 3:2] and must manage his children and his household well [1 Tim 3:4]’ (Fee 1988:89).
This letter was written to Timothy who was in an Ephesian culture (see 1 Tim 1:3) where there were false teachers. Ephesus was a provincial capital in Asia Minor where the Temple of Artemis (Diana) was located. This cult of Artemis was a syncretism of various religions but was a cult of ‘Oriental fertility rite, with sensuous and orgiastic practices’. We don’t know the fuller details of how this cult influenced the false teachers in Ephesus but Paul was concerned to root out the error that was infiltrating this new church (Fee 1988:40).

Therefore, it is not surprising that in 1 Tim 3 Paul is addressing the need to deal with faithfulness of a man to his woman/wife in a sexually promiscuous culture. We must not impose our understanding of ‘husband of one wife’ on this text (are bachelors prohibited from being church leaders?) when ‘man of one woman’ or ‘faithful to his wife’ could be better translations.

It is sometimes difficult for us to get to the core of what was happening in the culture of the first century and not to impose our understanding of marital fidelity onto the text, based on our 21st century perspective.

It’s time for a logical fallacy

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)Fallacies index

I’ve encountered it over and over where Christians can’t deal with the heat of discussion so they use logical fallacies to divert attention from the hot topic under discussion. That’s exactly what Mike did with this reply to me:

I did deal with Deborah. By dealing with all Judges spoken of. They were sent to fight. They have nothing about them to translate to preacher. Maybe we should take from them to put fleeces in our yard to determine what God wants us to do. Gideon did it. As far as we know, no blacks were Judges. Should we then conclude only whites can be preachers?

The leaps progressives make to fight for women ordination into the priesthood is absurd. Were priests in the temple women? No. Does NT clearly and prescriptively say in 1 Tim 3 the. I overseer is to be a husband of one wife?[36]

My reply was: ‘That’s a red herring logical fallacy. This kind of fallacious reasoning leads to a breakdown in logical conversation. That’s what you have done with this kind of response’.[37] A fellow challenged me on this. His view was that I didn’t deal with the arguments on this Christian forum. It isn’t a university and discussions are ‘pretty fluid’ and his claim was that I ‘come across as pompous and conceited. Plus, like I said, it looks like you cannot deal with his argument and that you are trying to deflect from that’. His view was that in the time it took to respond to his two posts I could have responded to the one promoting a logical fallacy. He was trying to be helpful in how I ‘come across’ and the need to be ‘gentle and helpful’, both ways, and that I ‘appear disrespectful to those on the outside looking in’.[38]

Off topic for the sake of communication

I, therefore, decided to take a lot of time to respond to Mike, who promoted the logical fallacy,[39] and to take up the challenge that I did not answer Mike’s questions. Now to his points:

1. Deborah was a prophetess (Judges 4:4) who judged Israel. You say that judges in the OT were sent to fight, inferring that Deborah was one such fighter. However, that is not what Judges 4:5 states. She sat under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. She questioned Barak, ‘Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you…’ Then in Judges 4:14, Deborah said to Barak, ‘Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?’

Without a doubt, Deborah, the prophetess, had a speaking and leadership role in Israel. It is true that Deborah was not a preacher but she had a public speaking role as a prophetess. We cannot claim silence for Deborah. She was eminently a public person and with a vocal dimension to her ministry.

2. Your statement, ‘Maybe we should take from them to put fleeces in our yard to determine what God wants us to do. Gideon did it’, is unrelated and irrelevant to our discussion. This is one example of a red herring fallacy. We are not discussing a public speaking role. If you want to use Gideon, perhaps you should go to Judges 6:22-24 for Gideon’s public speaking example where the angel of the Lord ministered to him and Gideon said, ‘”Alas, O Lord God! For now I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face.” But the Lord said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die”. Then Gideon built an altar there to the Lord and called it, “The Lord is Peace”‘. We are dealing with public speaking issues. Here Gideon is speaking to the Lord God.

We are not discussing what God wants us to do, so the ‘fleeces’ episode (Judges 6:36-40) is a red herring.

3. You say ‘no blacks were judges’. How do you know and what has that to do with eminent public speakers in the OT? Zilch! Hence it is a red herring fallacy.

4. Should only whites be preachers? That’s a horribly racist suggestion and an irrelevant spin off from our discussion. It’s another red herring.

5. Your claim is, ‘The leaps progressives make to fight for women (sic) ordination into the priesthood is absurd’. Firstly, I’m not a ‘progressive’; I’m an exegete of Scripture. I have no other thoughts in mind but to determine what the Scriptures state. I’m finding that the leaps traditionalists make to ignore the archaeological evidence from the early centuries (that I’ve documented above) that female deacons were presbyters, bishops and deacons, is amazing. To skip over this evidence causes me to ask, who are the ones being ‘absurd’?

6. ‘Were priests in the temple women?’ Not to my knowledge! But are there ‘priests’ in the Protestant church today? Just because there are examples of male-only ministries in the OT, does not exclude the eminent females in ministry in the OT such as Miriam,[40] Deborah and Huldah. Let’s not overlook Anna, the pre-crucifixion prophet (Luke 2:36), an eminent female in ministry.

7. You perceptively ask: ‘Does NT clearly and prescriptively say in 1 Tim 3 the overseer is to be a husband of one wife?’ Some translations use ‘the husband of one wife’ (1 Tim 3:2 ESV) but the ESV has a footnote at this point, ‘Or a man of one woman; also verse 12’. The latest edition of the NIV translates as, ‘faithful to his wife’ (1 Tim 3:2 NIV). The NRSV translates as, ‘married only once’ (1 Tim 3:2 NRSV).

Commentator and Greek exegete, Gordon Fee, notes that there are at least 4 options in the meaning of this phrase, which the CF.com poster only wanted to interpret one way. Fee states that the options are:

a. Require that overseers be married as the false teachers were forbidding marriage and that Paul urges marriage for wayward widows (1 Tim 5:15; cf 2:15).

b. It could prohibit polygamy with its emphasis on ‘one wife’, but polygamy was rare in pagan society.

c. It could be prohibiting second marriages. This is supported by much data including ‘all kinds of inscriptional evidence’ that praises women who were married.

d. It could refer to marital fidelity. The New English Bible translates the phrase, ‘faithful to his one wife’ (1 Tim 3:2 NEB). So it refers to living an exemplary married life in a culture where marital infidelity was common. It was assumed it would happen in that culture.
Fee concludes that the fourth option, ‘the concern that the church’s leaders live exemplary married lives seems to fit the context best – given the apparently low view of marriage and family held by the false teachers (1 Tim 4:3; cf. 3:4-5)’ (Fee 1988:81).

Therefore, the meaning of ‘husband of one wife’ is not as straight forward as it seems at first glance. There is the additional factor that ‘until the reforms of Justinian[41] [for Hebrew women], a Jewish man might legally have more than one wife at a time, a practice that may be in view in the stipulation that an elder should be “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:12). Polyandry [a woman having more than one husband], however, was not possible for a woman, and adultery was punished harshly’. As for Greek women, the extant Greek literature defines Greek women according to their sexual function: courtesans,[42] concubines[43] for the daily pleasure of the master, wives to bear legitimate children and keep house. Wives were neglected socially and sexually (Kroeger 2000:1278-1280).

Conclusion

On the Internet, the topic of female deacons led to a negative conclusion. Although most supported the service ministries of women to practical needs as deacons, but not in the teaching role. There were a few, including myself, who tried to show that the nature of the ‘deacon’ ministry – without a preaching / teaching dimension – cannot be supported by exegesis of the biblical text.

I showed this in relation to Paul’s ministry where diakonos was used also to apply to more than ministry to practical needs. There is also a post-NT period when women were engaged in ministries of elder, deacon and bishop. The archaeology of the first few centuries AD demonstrates this through paintings in catacombs and on inscriptions on tombstones.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature.[44] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Fee, G 1988. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus (New International Biblical Commentary). W W Gasque (NT ed). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers.

Hess, K 1978. Serve, Deacon, Worship, in C Brown (ed), The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol 3, 544-549. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Johnson, A 2010. Roman Catholic Woman Bishop, in M E Fiedler (ed), Breaking through the Stained Glass Ceiling: Women Religious Leaders in Their Own Words, 96-99. New York, NY: Seabury Books.

Kroeger, C C 2000 Women in Greco-Roman world and Judaism, in C A Evans & S E Porter (eds), Dictionary of New Testament Background, 1276-1280. Downers Grove, Illinois / Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press.

MacArthur, J 2013. Can Women Exercise Authority in the Church? Grace to You (online), August 29. Available at: http://www.gty.org/blog/B130829/can-women-exercise-authority-in-the-church (Accessed 24 September 2014).

Moo, D J 1996. The Epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Taylor, A 2010. Former executive director, Women’s Ordination Conference on the archaeological evidence for women’s leadership, in M E Fiedler (ed), Breaking through the Stained Glass Ceiling: Women Religious Leaders in Their Own Words, 91-96. New York, NY: Seabury Books.

Thayer, J H 1962.Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament being Grimm’s Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti, tr, rev, enl. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.com, Christian Communities, Baptists, ‘Female deacons’, August 26, 2015. Available at: http://www.christianforums.com/threads/female-deacons.7904366/ (Accessed 23 September 2015).

[2] Ibid., Larry Smart#1.

[3] Ibid., Crowns&Laurels#9.

[4] Ibid., Poor Beggar#3.

[5] Ibid., Mr.Stepanov#7.

[6] Ibid., Goodbook#13.

[7] Ibid., mizzkittenzz#88.

[8] I have not located this statement in an online search.

[9] Christian Forums, ibid., Hank77#23.

[10] A mosaic is ‘a picture or pattern produced by arranging together small pieces of stone, tile, glass, etc.’ (Oxford Dictionaries 2015. S v mosaic).

[11] A fresco is ‘a painting done rapidly in watercolour on wet plaster on a wall or ceiling, so that the colours penetrate the plaster and become fixed as it dries’ (Oxford Dictionaries 2015. S v fresco).

[12] They are in Rome. ‘The Catacombs of Priscilla sit on the Via Salaria, with its entrance in the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla. It is mentioned in all of the most ancient documents on Christian topography and liturgy in Rome; because of the great number of martyrs buried within it, it was called “regina catacumbarum – the queen of the catacombs.” Originally dug out from the second to fifth centuries, it began as a series of underground burial chambers, of which the most important are the “arenarium” or sand-quarry, the cryptoporticus, (an underground area to get away from the summer heat), and the hypogeum with the tombs of the Acilius Glabrio family)’ (Catacombs of Priscilla, available at: http://www.catacombepriscilla.com/index_en.html, accessed 25 September 2015).

[13] The full details for author and book are, J N M Wijngaards 2006. Women Deacons in the Early Church: Historical Texts and Contemporary Debates. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company (Herder & Herder).

[14] Christian Forums.com. ibid., Albion#33.

[15] Ibid., Bluelion#6.

[16] Ibid., 98cwitr#74.

[17] Ibid., mikedsjr#76.

[18] Ibid., mikecwitr#77.

[19] Ibid., 98cwitr#80.

[20] Ibid., OzSpen#107.

[21] Ibid., Bluelion#114.

[22] Ibid., OzSpen#116.

[23] Ibid., OzSpen#118.

[24] Ibid., OzSpen#119.

[25] Ibid., Striver#122.

[26] Ibid., OzSpen#125.

[27] All verses in this paragraph are from an Interlinear version of the Bible.

[28] Christian Forums.com, ibid., Crowns&Laurels#123.

[29] Ibid., OzSpen#126.

[30] Ibid., classicalhero#26.

[31] Ibid., LaSorcia#48.

[32] Ibid., Poor Beggar#27.

[33] Ibid., Poor Beggar#28.

[34] Ibid., Hank77#37.

[35] Ibid., OzSpen#129.

[36] Ibid., mikedsjr#136.

[37] Ibid., OzSpen#138.

[38] Ibid., John Robie#148.

[39] Ibid., OzSpen#152.

[40] See Ex 15:20-21 (ESV).

[41] Justinian was an important late Roman and Byzantine emperor who reigned from AD 527 – 565 (The Ancient History Encyclopedia 2009-2015. S v Justinian I).

[42] A courtesan was ‘a prostitute, especially one with wealthy or upper-class clients’ (Oxford Dictionaries 2015. S v courtesan).

[43] A concubine was ‘chiefly historical (in polygamous societies) a woman who lives with a man but has lower status than his wife or wives’ (Oxford Dictionaries 2015. S v concubine). In contemporary society she would function like a mistress.

[44] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’, 4th rev and aug ed, 1952 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

 

Copyright © 2015 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 November 2015.