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Christian Doctrines

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“1 Corinthians 14:33B-38, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, and the Ordination of Women” by Peter Kriewaldt and Geelong North, Part 1, in “Women Pastors?” edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

“1 Corinthians 14:33B-38, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, and the Ordination of Women” by Peter Kriewaldt and Geelong North

Peter Kriewaldt and Geelong North seek to demonstrate that the titular verses show women may not be pastors. While Jesus “elevated the status of women,” they say, it is nevertheless the case that “Jesus entrusted the oversight of the Church to men only…” (45).

The first thing that strikes me in this chapter are the verses selected. Why begin at 14:33and extend only to 38? Why do the authors cut verse 15 of 1 Timothy 2 out of its immediate context with the verses preceding it? Of course, the authors must limit the scope at some point. That’s not a question. But when there is a question of whether verse 33 is a continuous clause and when verse 15 is highly relevant to the interpretation of the rest of the passage, one must wonder why those verses were excised in this exegetical chapter. Readers can’t know. But especially with 1 Timothy 2:15, it is quite clear that it is a continuation of the previous thoughts and should not be cut off. From the outset, Kriewaldt and North miss out on key aspects of interpreting these texts.

1 Corinthians 14:33B-38

Kriewaldt and North acknowledge that we know “that Corinth had a number of cults that included priestesses…” (45). Thus, they argue, Paul’s silencing of women “runs counter to the pagan culture in Corinth. He is not culturally conditioned” (ibid).

Surprisingly, Kriewaldt and North feel confident enough to say “The integrity of this passage is certain. There is no manuscript evidence for the omission of these verses from chapter 14, though some manuscripts place them after v. 40” (46). In this, the authors are simply mistaken. Not only are they wrong to say that the textual integrity is “certain,” but also to say that there is no manuscript evidence for their omission. Certainty, as the word is typically understood, implies the kind of 100% clear textual integrity that rarely exists. But 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 does not have that integrity. Not only do the verses exist in different places (after 1 Corinthians 14:40) in some manuscripts–thus demonstrating that the passage does not have a “certain” place in the text–but as Philip B. Payne and others have demonstrated, there are some serious questions about the textual transmission of this text. As he notes, the fact of the movement of the passage itself is rather alarming for those who wish to claim textual certainty: “Similarly, it is highly unlikely that if the text were originally in Paul’s letter after v. 40, that any later scribe would move that text to follow v. 33. We know it is highly unlikely since no scribe of any surviving manuscript (and there are thousands) of any of Paul’s letters ever did anything like this in any other passage of Paul’s letters.” But apart from the movement in the text, there is the issue of textual markings that indicate textual variants “Codex Vaticanus’s evidence that 1 Cor 14:34-35 is an interpolation is especially important for several reasons. Its distigme (mark of a textual variant) at the end of v. 33 with no corresponding distigme at the end of v. 40 is evidence of a textual variant that was not the Western displacement was written prior to Codex Vaticanus.” So how is it that Kriewaldt and North may claim that the passage is “certain” in its integrity? How may they say that there is “no manuscript evidence for the omission of these verses…”? Simply put, it must be due either to misleading the reader or ignorance of the fact that just such evidence does exist. And if these passages are an interpolation, there is no need to even continue to engage them. Those unconvinced by the textual evidence–which is, again, quite strong–will see below that even when we do take the passage as original to the letter, there is little reason to think it means women may not be pastors.

Kriewaldt and North claim that “Paul says that his commands are followed in all the churches” (46). Though it is true that the passage begins “As in all the congregations of the saints,” but this is not the same as saying his commands are followed in all churches. The language itself seems more passive than that, and some English translations do not have this clause as the beginning of a sentence but rather as the conclusion of 14:33 and the clause preceding it (see examples here). However, the authors of this essay do not make an argument for preferring to cut the verse in half where they do, even though it is clearly germane to their interpretation as follows.

One of the places Kriewaldt and North attempt to drive a point of division between women and authority in the text is by challenging what it means to prophesy. “Prophecy is not preaching; it is speech directly inspired by God… Although instruction and learning are connected with prophecy, it is not an institution that is constantly ready for action…. It is quite different from preaching and official teaching of the apostolic word. Prophecy, then, is open also for women. Scripture refers to a number of women prophets…” (46). It has already been noted, however, that this concession makes it very clear women hold positions of authority higher than those of male teachers (see the argument here, for example). It is interesting, though, that on Kreiwald and North’s own discussion, they admit that women may give “speech directly inspired by God.” What is odd, then, is that they then seem to think that prophecy is less authoritative than the act of teaching or preaching. As if somehow having direct revelation from God (as noted p. 46) is less authoritative than simply expounding upon that same revelation! This seems backwards. If God chooses to use women to directly reveal God’s own word, is it not a strange position that would then say “Ah, but God would not actually let women teach about that word they delivered”? Yet that is what readers are expected to believe, and indeed to affirm as if it were just obvious from the text, for Kreiwaldt and North immediately go on to say that women are to “be silent” when it comes to “prophecy… being weighted and evaluated” (47).

The meaning of lalein is much discussed on the literature related to this passage, and Kriewaldt and North argue that it means “speak” but specifically “authoritative teaching,” for they insist that it is a “a synonym for authoritative teaching” (47). Indeed, they go so far as to say that lalein “certainly doesn’t mean chattering or strident speaking,” despite the fact that some studies have shown exactly that, and (as noted in the previous link), ancient evidence in a dictionary and elsewhere suggests that is exactly what it means.[1] Such studies would greatly undermine the interpretation the authors give here, but as we have seen throughout the book so far, serious studies by those who disagree are largely ignored or dismissed.

Kriewaldt and North give four reasons that “women are to be silent and are not to speak” (47). First, they claim it is “the ecumenical practice of all the churches” (ibid). As we’ve mentioned, this begs the question regarding where they put the clause about the commands from Paul. The authors don’t actually establish that it was this ecumenical practice; nor do they address serious NT counter-examples (eg. Phoebe, Junia), nor do they do anything to demonstrate that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is actually next to the clause about “all the congregations of the saints” despite their own admission that some manuscripts place it after verse 40! Each of these would be highly relevant to their claim here, but none of these points is addressed beyond the mere dismissal of opposing viewpoints. Second, they claim that the submission of women is due to the “Law” (capital “L,” of course, though no argument is made). This Law, they claim “probably has to do with the whole Pentateuch.” Yet as many interpreters have noted (see discussion of this part of the passage here), there is serious difficulty discerning exactly where this is supposed to be found in the Law. Some have suggested it is actually related to the culture surrounding Corinth, rabbinic teaching, or other extrabiblical sources. Our authors, however, say it is related to Genesis 2:18-25 (ibid). But nothing in Genesis 2 says anything specifically about woman submitting to man. There is nothing there. So how can it be that this is what Paul is referring to? It seems like the reason to suggest this is because it best fits Kreiwaldt and North’s preconceptions of what the text ought to say and refer to, rather than any relevant evidence from the texts themselves. They do go on to say that it is due to “order of creation” (47-48), which is certainly a weak argument. Too often, as here, a bare appeal is made to “order of creation” without any reference for what that is supposed to mean. Indeed, it seems the reader is just supposed to assume that that order of creation is submission of women, but that begs the question. Moreover, if we are serious about the mere order of creation–that is, what comes first in creation–as a grounding for submission, then men everywhere ought to be submitting to all other animals, the heavenly bodies, dirt, the seas, etc.–for according to the order of creation, all of these things were created first. Of course, I don’t actually believe that; but the point is it is incredibly easy to make the malleable term “order of creation” mean whatever one wishes, and much more difficult to ground it in the texts.

The third reason given, after a brief aside in which the authors dismiss “mutual submission” in Ephesians 5, is that “It is disgraceful” for women to speak (49). They argue that the shame is “theological rather than… social” (ibid) such that it is “shameful to God for a woman to assume a teaching role in the church…” (49). But again, given that women are already allowed to present direct revelation from God, it is hard to see why a much less authoritative form of speech would somehow be shameful. The authors once again ignore this intriguing dilemma. They then address briefly 1 Cor. 14:36, which seems a bit of a strange question given Kriewaldt and North’s view. Indeed, it seems more likely that Paul is here showing that he is answering a false teaching that originated in Corinth as he does elsewhere, but the authors of this essay take it to mean that the church must submit to Christ’s word, which is of course what they already told us it is.

The fourth and final reason for women to be silent is “because anyone filled with the Spirit would have to admit that what Paul is saying is really a command of the Lord!” (49). This is a blatant kind of poisoning the well. What Kriewaldt and North say here, seriously, is that anyone who disagrees with their interpretation is not filled with the Spirit! After all, if they were, then they would just accept this interpretation of the text and force women into silence. This kind of questioning the salvation of those with whom one disagrees is unbecoming and nothing more than an attack on fellow believers with whom the authors disagree. It is unfit for a scholarly work.

Thus far, we have seen that Kriewaldt and North essentially assume their position is correct and then turn to question the salvation of those with whom they disagree on whether women ought to be silenced. They fail to deal with the serious textual critical issues related to the placement of the passage at question; they appeal baldly to “order of creation” as if that term is a settled issue, and they fail to account for the cultural context of the Corinthian church.

[1] ‘Phrynichus, the ancient dictionarian, defined the term as “to talk nonsense.” The word is used of gossip, prattling, babbling, animal sounds, and musical instruments. During the classical period, it usually was employed in a contemptuous sense. Debrunner, writing in the Kittel-Friedrich Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, states “Lalein can also be used quite objectively of speech when there is reference to sound rather than meaning.”‘ See “Pandemonium and Silence at Corinth” by Catherine Clark Kroeger.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35– Those wondering about egalitarian interpretations of this same passage can check out this post for brief looks at some of the major interpretations of the passage from an Egalitarian viewpoint.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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“Didaskolos” by Bertil Gärtner, Part 2, in “Women Pastors?” edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

Didaskolos: The Office, Man and Woman in the New Testament Part 2

We analyzed Gärtner’s arguments about the context for women in the New Testament. Now we turn to his notion of “The Basic Concept of Saint Paul in First Corinthians.” First, he notes that 1 Corinthians 12 provides “a distribution, a division… of services and gifts of grace in the congregation.” The point here is quite well taken because it is true that 1 Corinthians 12, especially verse 28 makes explicit a listing of gifts in the church which ranks prophets above that gift of teachers. Yet it is very clear in the New Testament that women may be prophets, and so they may, according to Paul, outrank the role of teacher, which is typically taken as the pastoral role (see my exposition of this argument, below, and more explicitly, with Alice Guinther, here ). (I should note that Gärtner himself maintains that “teacher” is equivalent to pastor on page 37.) This order, Gärtner maintains, remains in the church despite the unity in Christ as seen in Galatians. Once again, I agree, though it is interesting that Galatians 3:28, which he alludes to, explicitly makes it clear that in Christ there is “no male and female,” as the Greek states. Thus, Gärtner’s interpretation has the difficulty of trying to separate what Christ has united, dividing male and female from each other and plugging them into different levels and roles in the church. A better interpretation, and one that does not require one to maintain that 1 Corinthians 12:28 can work against Galatians 3:28, is that the roles of 1 Corinthians 12:28 remain in place, but the artificial divisions that we so often make–Jew-Gentile; slave-free; male-female–are not the basis for those roles.

Second, Gärtner turns to 1 Corinthians 14. He appeals to the notion of order of creation to say that women may not be pastors (33). Yet it is unclear exactly how this connection is made. The notion of “order of creation” is left rather abstractly, and, as we have seen, seems to be confusing on Gärtner’s own account because he inconsistently applies it in different contexts. He then goes on to state that “What women’s duties are in the congregation is not described in detail” (34), though he apparently is certain one of the duties cannot be administration of the Eucharist or some other aspect of the “office” (still undefined). He argues that women being silent is “not a crass command to forbid women from taking part in the service” but rather, like being silent instead of speaking in tongues without an interpreter, is qualified (38). What that qualification is is not derived from the text–for the text does not say anything about the “office” or “ministry” related to silence. Instead, Gärtner assumes that’s what the silences is meant to apply to. He goes so far as to say that it would be “absurd to say that the apostle meant to speak about women who sat and whispered, disturbing the service…” (38). “Absurd”! Yet he himself has already granted that the text must be qualified in its silencing. Why is it then absurd to think that it is about women disturbing the service? I don’t know, and Gärtner doesn’t give any insight into that except for saying that such an interpretation “cannot be drawn from either text or context” (ibid). Why not? Gärtner doesn’t say. But throughout the entirety of 1 Corinthians, we find Paul is interested in order of worship. Over and over again, Gärtner appeals to order of creation, as Paul appeals to order in worship, giving us insight into the roles and spiritual gifts found in the church (1 Corinthians 12) as well how to pray (1 Corinthians 11), etc. So why would it be absurd to think that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 14, is continuing his thought process, instructing the specific church of Corinth in maintaining order in church by not having women asking questions and disrupting the service, especially when it is followed by an instruction for women to learn from their husbands at home (eg. perhaps saving their questions for a more appropriate time)? I can’t say, but Gärtner seems intent on dismissing it. Nevertheless, it seems clear that rather than being absurd, such an interpretation would be directly in line with the rest of Paul’s purpose in the letter! Gärtner’s thesis about what Paul means in 35 by a “law of the Lord” could just as easily align with order in worship.

Finally, Gärtner ends with a section on the subordination of women. He alleges that “the Christian idea of man and woman signifies something completely new, that is not at all the same as that found in the Jewish conception of woman and marriage” (41). Not at all the same? So when the Jewish conception of woman and marriage included things like… monogamy… the Christian conception is “not at all the same”? Really? I certainly hope not, because that would mean that there is a radical disconnect on the doctrine of humanity between Christian and Jew at the time of Christ, yet most of the early followers of Christ were Jewish. Yes, I agree with Gärtner  that life in Christ changes things and leads to a new creation, but to suggest that Christianity is somehow a complete overthrow of the faith of the Jews at the time–that of the Hebrew Scriptures–seems clearly mistaken. As we have already seen,  Gärtner continues to overstate his case.

Once again, to 1 Corinthians 12:28, Gärtner as almost any interpreter I have read, maintains that “teacher” in 1 Corinthians 12:28 is the role we would take to mean “pastor.” Moreover, he grants that 1 Corinthians 12:28 is a list of roles being differentiated, specifically as an “order” given by God (35). From that, all we have to do is show that women may be in one of the roles above that of teacher. And because women are explicitly stated in both the Old and New Testaments as being prophets, which explicitly rank above teachers in 1 Corinthians 12:28, we find that women may have–and have had–more authority than pastors. Thus, to exclude women from the pastoral ministry due to some notion of “authority” is nonsensical. Nevertheless, Gärtner makes the effort, without apparently being aware of the inherent contradiction in his position.

Now that we’ve finished our look at Gärtner’s arguments, we can return to the thesis he presented at the beginning of the chapter, as we outlined in Part 1. He wrote, “Does the New Testament contain any direct teaching about the relationship between man and woman in the office of the ministry? The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes” (27). Did Gärtner prove this thesis? In the first part, we saw that the only thing Gärtner did was look at the context of the passages, none of which provides a definitive or “unequivocal” verse that has direct teaching about the relationship between man and woman in the office of the ministry. Indeed, the very fact that he spends so long merely on context makes one wonder about his thesis. In the analysis here, Gärtner finally does try to present 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 as a kind of proof text, but even there he merely alludes to the order of creation to try to make his point. There is no direct verse that Gärtner presents anywhere, and the one time he finally attempts to site a verse, he doesn’t claim it fulfills his thesis but instead appeals to a completely different context (Genesis) and the assumption that this ties back into women pastors. Gärtner’s thesis does not carry. He has presented nothing to show that the NT contains “direct teaching about the relationship between man and woman in the office of the ministry,” let alone done so “unequivocally.” Yet he claims that is exactly what is there. His claim fails on his own grounds, and, as we have shown throughout these two posts, the few claims he does make have serious issues as well.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Didaskolos” by Bertil Gärtner, Part 1, in “Women Pastors?”edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

Didaskolos: The Office, Man and Woman in the New Testament

Gärtner’s chapter begins by asking and answering a question “Does the New Testament contain any direct teaching about the relationship between man and woman in the office of the ministry? The answer to this question is an unequivocal yes” (27). Such a statement suggests that he will demonstrate that there is a verse, somewhere, that specifically teaches about the relationship between man and woman in the office of the ministry. After all, his claim is that one can unequivocally say that yes, the New Testament does contain such direct teaching. As we explore this chapter, we will return to this question a few times and ask whether Gärtner’s claim is correct.

Gärtner states that the ministry must be set into a larger New Testament context. Addressing 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12, intriguingly again pointed to as the apparent proof against women pastors, he states that a view that teaches that those verses are “intended to correct some irregularities” at the time of the writings of the letters “does not correspond with the material Paul presents” (27). To prove this, he notes that in 1 Corinthians, Paul “deals with a number of questions which have been put to him by the congregation” (ibid). He uses the example of eating meat sacrificed to idols and says that Paul “places the question in the larger context” because it “is considered in relation to the doctrine of God as the only God…” (27-28).

Expanding on the context, Gärtner appeals to the choosing of the apostles, Jesus’ conception of marriage and creation, the Christian as new creation, and heresy in Corinth  in order to make his argument that women are excluded from the ministry. We’ll briefly sketch out his argument. Jesus’ apostles, Gärtner argues, are all men (29). He notes that these apostles are “leaders of the new people of God,” something important we will consider below. He also states that “although the most esteemed women… who were part of the closest circle of disciples, were present in Jerusalem during the Passover festival, it was only the apostles themselves who were invited to be present at the Last Supper… By immemorial custom both women and children shared in this dinner fellowship. Yet, this is the time that Jesus breaks that tradition and gathers only the twelve around Him” (ibid). Regarding Jesus’ concept of marriage and creation, Gärtner walks through Matthew 19:3ff in which Jesus discusses marriage (30-31). The Christian as new creation Gärtner states, after pointing to texts talking about the Christian as new creation, that “in the life of the church, the true relationship between male and female can take place” (31). Regarding Heresy in Corinth, Gärtner paints an image of the Corinthians as seeing themselves getting direct revelation from God and having everything spiritualized such that people could set above “the fundamental command of fellowship and love to the neighbor.” Then, he states that Paul teaches that “salvation rests upon creation” and that the “office” (he doesn’t, on p. 33, specify which one or the definition thereof) “is related to the order of creation; and according to the order of creation, the human race is divided into man and woman” (32-34).

There are already a number of interesting issues to explore in Gärtner’s essay. First, the question of what “office” he is referencing throughout is quite relevant. Though it is possible to divert conversation in important issues by constantly punting to definitions, the notion of “office” is a central aspect of Gärtner’s argument so far, yet it remains undefined. We do not find him providing his own definition of ordination, as Hamann did, and so are left to simply guess exactly what he means by the word throughout the essay. As Hamann found in trying to define ordination and the ministry, it is extremely difficult to find the modern idea of what a pastor is in the New Testament (Hamann ultimately admitted his own definition could not be found therein). But because Gärtner is so focused on showing that women may not hold the “office,” one must ask what that office itself is. One would not find the answer in Gärtner’s essay. The closest he comes is by stating it is the “office of the ministry” (27). Second, Gärtner’s admission that the apostles are leaders of the new people of God is particularly on point because one of the arguments against using Junia (Romans 16:7) as an example of a woman leading is that apostles are merely ones sent by God (turning the Greek literal than using it as it is throughout the NT, as an office. Gärtner here concedes this point, and so the fact that Junia was a woman apostle overthrows his entire position.

Third, Gärtner’s argument about only the Twelve being at the Last Supper is not part of the biblical text. Indeed, he even says that women were not invited to it, specifically (31). Yet in the accounts of the Last Supper, there is no such clear exclusion. Gärtner’s point relies upon an argument from silence, excluding those who were not explicitly mentioned. Yet if we used the exact same kind of argumentation, all kinds of contradictions in the NT occur. For example, Mark 16:5 mentions only one young man (angel) at the tomb of Jesus. Gärtner’s methodology would insist that this would entail there was only one angel. Yet Luke 24:4 and John 20:12 each state there were two. But if we use the lack of explicit mention to exclude those not mentioned, as Gärtner does in relation to the Last Supper, we have a direct contradiction in the Bible. Of course that is a poor argument for a contradiction, because having two angels means that at least one was present. The silence regarding the second angel does not exclude his presence in the tomb. Similarly, just because no women or children or other followers of Jesus are explicitly mentioned in the accounts of the Last Supper (though Matthew and Mark both use the generic term “disciples” and then mention specifically the Twelve as for sure being there, thus making it rather clearly open to others being there as “disciples” who had helped prepare for the Passover), one cannot exclude them any more than one could seriously charge Mark and Luke with a contradiction. Another way to think about it is this way: All of the Twelve were Jewish. Does this mean that pastors must be Jewish? After all, it is quite clear that no Gentiles were among the Twelve. So Jesus only invited Jews to dine with him at the Last Supper, suggesting that no Gentiles may be pastors, right? No. Gärtner wouldn’t agree, I’m sure, but then his point about the Twelve being men must also be conceded as incidental.

Fourth, Gärtner’s point about the new creation is to merely assert his point: that male and female are most exactly expressed in the church. But of course verses like Galatians 3:28, also Pauline, point to the reality that such distinctions as male and female in the body of Christ are not germane. Yet even if one disagrees with me on that point, Gärtner does nothing to make this aspect of his argument anything more than an assertion. Fifth, Gärtner does little to demonstrate that the heresy in Corinth is that which he asserts, and even less to show that even if he is correct that it all goes back to an kind of charismatic overthrow of the order of creation, that that has anything to do with women pastors. He simply assumes his readers will make a connection for him. But there doesn’t seem to be any relevant connection between his notion of the alleged heretical teaching at Corinth and that of women pastors. He doesn’t even argue for it. Sixth, allowing for the heresy in Corinth to be part of the interpretation actually works against him, because, as has been argued, it certainly seems possible that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is part of that heresy that Paul then argues against.

Thus far, context has done little for Gärtner.

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SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The New Testament and the Ordination of Women” by Henry P. Hamann, part 2 in “Women Pastors?” edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

See Part 1 of this chapter here.

The New Testament and the Ordination of Women by Henry P. Hamann Part 2

Section III

Hamann notes that “One might get the impression that the prohibition of female leadership in the church is something of an arbitrary opinion of the apostle…” (21). He argues that, instead, “Paul’s views on this matter [women in the church] are embedded in his theology of creation, the fall of man, and the redemption through Jesus Christ” (ibid).

First, I would note that I believe Hamann is deeply mistaken here in adding the issue of gender roles into the basics of the Gospel. By placing gender roles on the same level as creation, the fall, and redemption, Hamann is dangerously close to adding to the Gospel and taking away from the Lutheran doctrine of Christ alone. He is confounding the Gospel by making it equivalent to the demand that women stay silent (however qualified) in the church.

Second, how does Hamann justify this claim? He does so by arguing that 1 Corinthians has a whole theology of “the place of woman,” borrowing heavily from Peter Brunner. Effectively, by weaving together 1 Corinthians 11, Genesis 2, and Ephesians 5 with Paul’s thought, he argues that “head” must mean some kind of structure of authority (21, 22). Interestingly, Hamann’s own reading seems to undercut this interpretation because he goes on to say that “woman is ‘from’ man” (21), an interpretation that fits better with the typical egalitarian reading of “head” as “source.” Genesis 3 is taken to show that woman is to submit to man because the fall of humanity didn’t occur until “it also became the sin of Adam.” Yet in Genesis 3, we see that each of the players is held accountable, despite trying to shift responsibility. Hamann’s analysis here does little to support the notion that head = authority, and a clearer reading of the account would be source. After all, in Genesis 2, which Hamann seems to take to support his position, woman is taken from man, as Hamann himself states. But that would make man a source of woman, would it not? Moreover, multiple studies of the Greek seem to suggest that “source” is a more natural reading of the text. See here, here, or here for example. Thus, Hamann’s exegesis is critically mistaken on the meaning of the term kephale.

Section IV

Hamann provides responses to two objections in this section. First, the objection that “the church is inconsistent in prohibiting the ordination of women while allowing women a whole host of other activities which are just as contrary to the apostolic directive as the pastorate” (24). His counter-argument is to say that the things like singing or speaking “would not fall under Paul’s rule” (ibid). But of course this is to simply make an assertion. He nowhere provides any reason for narrowing the prohibitions to ordination, and as noted in part 1 of this review, he himself admits his definition of “ordination” is nowhere found in the New Testament. Thus, Hamann has simply made an invented definition that he then asserts is Paul’s true meaning, without providing any exegetical reason for limiting the scope of his reading of the Pauline prohibitions. I believe this objection carries for a number of reasons, most simply because Hamann fails to provide any reason to narrow the meaning of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and thus makes it a verse he cannot consistently read literally. And, as noted, Hamann simply asserts the contrary without argument.

The second objection Hamann notes is that some would argue complementarians ought to expand the scope of their prohibitions by “protest[ing] against women taking up positions of authority in non-ecclesiastical spheres, in society and in politics” (24). Remarkably, Hamann’s response to this argument is to say that “if anywhere, then at least in the church Christians should insist on the role of women which fits the created order. Not every development in the world can be changed or even challenged by the church, but a witness to the proper state of affairs can be given by what goes on in the church. And the complaint of the prophet may not be so far off the mark: ‘My people–children are their oppressors and women rule over them’ (Isaiah 3:12)” (24-25). That’s right, Hamann simply states that the church can’t stop everything, and his clear implication is that women ought not hold such positions of authority. This certainly allows for a more consistent position, but it is one that means, apparently, no woman can hold authority over men. It is the enshrinement of patriarchy in the church and the world at large. That is what Hamann explicitly affirms.

Hamann then notes various roles women may have in the church. Interestingly, one of these includes the “baptizing those who have been approved by the pastor… and the dispensing of the cup at the Lord’s Supper” (25), despite Hamann explicitly having “the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper” as part of his invented definition of ordination (14). Inconsistency looms time and again, and Hamann is not the only one guilty of it in this volume, as we shall see in posts to come.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The New Testament and the Ordination of Women” by Henry P. Hamann, part 1 in “Women Pastors?” edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

The New Testament and the Ordination of Women by Henry P. Hamann

Hamann begins with a quote from the Lutheran Church of Australia’s Theses of Agreement: “Though women prophets were used by the Spirit of God… 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-14 prohibit a woman from being called into the office of the public ministry for the proclamation of the Word and the administration of the Sacrament…” (13). Already, I am left wondering what Hamann and the Lutheran Church of Australia thinks prophets are/were. Anyway, Hamann goes on to state, interestingly, that these words were “formulated in the early 1950s,” a time, he apparently thinks, at which point “agitation about and for female ordination had hardly begun” (13). It is possible Hamann simply means within the specific branch of American Lutheranism he inhabits, but he doesn’t say that. In any case, women were ordained in the United States in the 1800s across multiple denominations. Looking into church history, it is easy to find women ordained throughout time.

That introduction aside, I’d like to simply focus on the meat of Hamann’s argument, which is, one would think, the exegesis of passages of Scripture. One would then be mistaken. Rather, Hamann’s focus is rather 4-ish theses, which he does little more than provide proof texts for rather than deep exegesis. We will look at them individually.

Section 1

Hamann’s first thesis is “The New Testament gives no support at all for the ordination of women” (14, emphasis removed). Such a thesis is indeed a universal negative that is doubly affirmed. It’s not just no support; Hamann suggests there is no support at all. How does he arrive at this thesis? First, he defines ordination “as authorization and commissioning to do the work of a pastor or minister of the church, a task involving control and pastoral care of a congregation, the public independent teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the public carrying out of the task of announcing the absolution or, on occasion, the retention of sins” (14). I can hardly wonder why Hamann is then able to claim the NT doesn’t support the ordination of women: after all, there is nowhere in the New Testament where anyone is ordained thusly. But Hamann is quick to add, “Offices exactly corresponding to this definition cannot be shown to have existed in the New Testament…” (ibid). The understatement here is palpable. Hamann would be unable to come up with a single instance of any such office anywhere in the New Testament whatsoever. So he sustains his argument by punting it, pointing to Acts 20:28 instead as a “direction like that [of his view of ordination]” (ibid).

Thesis 1, then, is flatlined from the beginning because the author himself admits he can’t even affirm his own definition of ordination is found in the New Testament… only that it might have a “direction” pointed towards his definition. But Hamann doesn’t actually exegete any texts to support that his definition of ordination is the way the New Testament was pointing. He simply assumes it, and believes his readers will go along. Of course, he later states “No woman appears in the NT as carrying out an independent pastoral charge, as defined above.” Well of course not, because his definition by his own admission doesn’t appear in the NT.

Where Hamann does interact with the NT texts that are brought up to show that his initial claim is false, he is either ignorant of or ignoring serious studies that contradict his conclusion. For example, regarding Junia, who appears in Romans 16:7 as an apostle who is a woman, he states simply “A number of editors… get the name ‘Junia’; however, there seems little likelihood that they can be right, and the masculine ‘Junias’ of the RSV is the right translation…” (14). What basis does he have for saying there is little likelihood that those unnamed and uncited editors (who cannot therefore be looked up to see what their arguments are) to be right? The English translation, the RSV, uses Junias. Never mind that the NRSV has Junia in the text, should we really be looking at English translations as our basis for making an exegetical point about the translation of a contested word in the text? Absolutely not. As multiple studies have shown, the name Junias does not exist in the ancient world, and is therefore an invention of editors, unlke the name “Junia.” Eldon Jay Epp, in Junia: The First Woman Apostle notes, quoting Bernadette Brooten:

To date not a single Greek or Latin inscription, not a single reference in ancient literature has been cited by any of the proponents of the Junias hypothesis. My own search for an attestation has also proved fruitless. This means that we do not have a single shred of evidence that the name Junias ever existed. (44)

Think about that for a moment. Hamann is willing to dismiss those who translate the name as Junia, which is what the Greek seems to state, because he prefers the masculine Junias for theological purposes. But the name Junias has not “a single shred of evidence” of ever having existed in the ancient world. Hamann, however, doesn’t interact with serious studies of the name Junia. Instead, he simply asserts that because an English translation of his choosing uses Junias, that doubt is cast upon those who believe Junia is the proper reading. Such is apparently the best exegetical support he can find. To be frank, it may very well be, because, again, the invention of Junia as male is just that: an invention, and one that can be demonstrated by studying the Greek and contemporary sources. Moreover, even the Nestle Aland Greek New Testament uses “Junia” rather than having the alleged name Junias or its supposed longer root name.

Hamann believes, however, that the formidable challenge of Junia can be simply dismissed (despite our demonstration that it cannot). He does, however, believe that Galatians 3:28 might provide a stronger argument against his thesis. In dealing with the text, however, he simply says that “the declaration of [v. 28]… has to do with the oneness of all those who are in Christ, infants included… Believing and baptized women do not suddenly cease to be women” (15). Apparently, for Hamann, oneness in Christ means that women are still women (okay so far, I suppose) and that apparently means women cannot be pastors. But how does that actually follow from the Galatians text? It doesn’t, though as we will see below, Hamann, like many complementarians, simply imports his interpretation of other passages (specifically 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 2 Timothy 2:11-14) into Galatians 3:28. Galatians 3:28 gives no indication of role differentiation in the body of Christ between men and women. But complementarians like Hamann must have it there, so they get it from outside the text–indeed from an entirely different letter–and bring it to the text. This isn’t exegesis, it is a theological assumption layered onto the text.

Given that Junia provides a direct contradiction of Hamann’s point, and that Hamann himself admits that his definition of ordination isn’t actually found in the New Testament, and that Galatians 3:28 is simply dismissed, I believe it is fair to say that his first thesis fails.

Section II

Hamann next states his second thesis: “there is specific NT prohibition of the ordination of women” (16). The first problem with this thesis is that his definition of ordination, as he stated and admitted above, is unsustainable from the biblical text. So because his definition of ordination, as he himself says, “cannot be shown to have existed in the New Testament,” (14) it would be impossible to use the New Testament to exclude anyone from such a position. Nevertheless, he presses on. For the sake of engagement, we will hereafter simply assume that Hamann’s definition of ordination is wrong and simply let ordination mean pastoral office.

Hamann of course cites the two texts thought by many to exclude women from the pastoral ministry, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-14. Now, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is perhaps an interpolation, which would immediately exclude it from any meaningful discussion of the biblical text. But supposing it is original to the text, Hamann and others’ interpretation still faces difficulties. After all, in the very same letter, Paul writes about women praying (1 Corinthians 11), but the passage being pressed tells women to be silent. This apparent contradiction can only be resolved in a few ways, and it should be unsurprising that excluding women from the office of the ministry is not one of the consistent ways to do this. First, as already noted, it could simply be that the 14:34-35 is an interpolation, so the apparent contradiction which seems fairly strong simply didn’t exist in the original text. Second, Paul could be concerned, as he is in the rest of this section, with orderliness in worship. Thus, women, who were often uneducated in the ancient world, may have been interrupting worship with questions, and so are instead being told to go ask their husbands at home the questions they have instead of interrupting. Third, the passage could be part of the method of quotation-refutation: Paul is quoting the Corinthians their own position so that he may refute it with what follows (see here for a lengthy defense of this position). If any of these is correct, then Hamann’s use of the text fails.

But think if Hamann is correct. If he is, then Paul is clearly stating here that women must be silent in churches. Do women stay silent in your church? If you’re in the LCMS, or a different complementarian body, are women allowed to read from Scripture; do they sing the hymns; do they respond in prayer; do they say “amen”? All of these would be women not being silent. But the verse itself says “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says” (ESV). I don’t see anything there about allowing women to sing, give praise, respond, or pray! So any churches which allow these things are contradicting their own literal reading of the text. This demonstrates another difficulty with such a reading: even those who affirm what they say are a literal reading cannot follow the text. Moreover, it would mean Paul contradicts himself. So 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be used to exclude women from the pastoral ministry.

1 Timothy 2:11-14 is an interesting selection, because Hamann leaves off verse 15, which in almost every version I know of is interpreted as a continuation of the clause in verse 14. Why Hamann leaves it off is up for speculation, though I can’t help but thinking it is because it is an extremely difficult verse and his interpretation is already strained. Anyway, here Hamann enters perhaps the most exegetical portion of his essay as he argues that the speech being used is authoritative teaching (17-18). What is interesting is that these verses can easily be affirmed by those who are for women in the ministry as their literal meaning-women not speaking authoritatively. Why? Because cultural context is important. Craig Keener, an eminent New Testament scholar, notes that there are 4 ways of dealing with 1 Timothy 2 here:

(1) Read all other Pauline passages in light of a not-very- literal interpretation of this one (so most traditional interpreters);

(2) Read this passage as applying to a specific situation (so most evangelical egalitarian interpreters);

(3) Argue that Paul moved from an egalitarian to a nonegalitarian position; or

(4) Deny that Paul actually wrote 1 Timothy (the view of many scholars, though not of most evangelical scholars).

Keener goes on to note that Paul frequently addresses specific situations in his letters, and argues that this passage is one of those times. He cites numerous reasons why this would be the case. In this same letter, Paul notes that some have been deceived by silly myths (4:7)- it is entirely possible that women were among those deceived and so are being silenced to stop the spread of heretical or pagan ideas in the church–a plausible, temporal tactic to stop false teaching until it can be corrected or rebutted. What’s interesting is Hamann himself admits that this is the cultural context of the letter, stating that “women were quite prominent in heathen cults” (19). That’s exactly the point, and the cultural context is important, but generally ignored, as far as interpreting the text is concerned, by Hamann. Most importantly, though, it is worth saying that once again complementarians fail to read this passage in the literal way they wish, because they always qualify it in some sense. Even if this is a direct command from Paul, Keener notes, we do not follow all of his direct commands, such as drinking wine to help with stomach ailments (5:23). But why not? Selective readings of the text is the easiest way to answer this.

Hamann does attempt to argue that the notion of “authority” in this passage is that of teaching authority, but his position places him against many, many biblical scholars. Instead, the concept of authority restricted in this passage seems to be that of authority taken up wrongly. Yet even if Hamann is correct, his interpretation, as already shown, is strained at best.

Now, we’ve seen that Hamann’s reading of these passages fail because they cannot be reconciled with the rest of Pauline teaching or because they are inconsistently literal. If one reading of a biblical text allows for a consistent reading that can be applied to all situations, that one ought to be preferred. Thus, the egalitarian reading is to be preferred, and Hamann has failed to demonstrate his second thesis.

We will examine the rest of the chapter in my next post on the book.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

A Brief Biblical Proof for Women Pastors – with Alice Guinther

A picture of my wife, the Reverend Elizabeth Wartick. Source: “Living Lutheran,” (Published by the ELCA: Chicago) March 2018 issue, page 27.

God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28, ESV)

In this list, Paul ranked various gifts in the church in this way 1) Apostles 2) Prophets 3) Teachers (etc…)

P1. There are biblical examples of women prophets in both the Old and New Testaments. (eg. Judges 4:4; Exodus 15:20; Acts 21:9)
P2. In the ranked list, the spiritual gift of prophet is ranked above that of teacher, a role that we find biblical examples of women filling this role.
C1: We therefore find women in higher ranked roles than the role of teacher. Therefore, it is biblically correct for a woman to be a prophet.
P3. But women cannot teach because we believe the bible says so. 1 Timothy 2:12 states that a woman cannot have authority over a man, and teaching is having authority.
P3.1 But the role of prophet is higher-ranked than teaching.
P3.2 According to the Bible women have held the God ordained/blessed role of Prophet, and that is ranked higher in Paul’s list than teacher. Being a prophet is having authority; women had authority over men as prophet. But how can that be, if women are not to have authority over men?
C2: Women cannot both have authority over men as prophet, and not have authority over men as (lower ranking) teachers (law of non-contradiction). Woman cannot both have/not have authority. Ǝx: Wx [Ax & ~Ax] (there exists an x such that x is a woman [x has authority AND x does not have authority])
C3. It is incoherent to claim that a woman may not have teaching authority, because it has been shown that women can have the higher authority of prophet.
C4. Therefore women may teach.

Q.E.D.

Co-Author Credit:

I wrote this with significant help and insight, including major revisions and entire construction of multiple premises/conclusions (as well as all symbolic logic) from Alice Guinther.

Alice Guinther holds a BA in Philosophy from the University of Colorado Boulder, Where she is the department assistant for Journalism and Media Studies. She is a published artist and illustrator, and has a review published in Priscilla Papers.

SDG.

Too much friendship? A response to Desiring God’s “More than BFFs”

Complementarianism is the theological belief that men and women have different roles in the church and home and that these roles are ordained by God. Some have turned complementarianism into a system that controls every aspect of life. Few places make that more clear than some of the major websites that support that theological system. One of these sites, Desiring God, had an article entitled “More than BFFs: When Friendship Goes Too Far.” I could not believe what I read as I went through that article, and felt a response was necessary.

In this article, written by Kelly Needham, the main point is that friendship or friends may “take the place of God in your heart” and that we ought to defend ourselves from having friendships that do that. What I think the article reveals, in fact, is that some applications of complementarian theology lead to control beliefs that cause fear even in relationships that should be comforting.

Needham gives examples of relationships that, in her opinion, have gone too far. These examples are indicative of what is to come. The first is of a pair of friends who complement each other well–one is organized, the other is not, etc. They grow to be best friends. When one of the friends’ husbands gets a job that requires them to move, the other is devastated. Needham writes that the friend’s “despair was difficult to hide.” The second example is of roommates in college (?) that get along so well that they do almost everything together and others joke that they’re “joined at the hip.” The third example is of a woman who is shockingly (I say this tongue-in-cheek) single at 30 years old! She finds a younger woman who is eager to have her as a mentor and jumps on the opportunity. Later, when she gets asked on a date, she hesitates to say yes because she’s worried it could have an impact on her friendship.

What do you get from these examples? The first is a close friendship in which a woman is unhappy to see her best friend move away. The second is a close friendship in college. The third is a woman who doesn’t immediately jump on every man who asks her on a date, and one of those reasons is because she has a friendship she doesn’t want to change.

Well, Needham does see something nefarious here. She writes:

What do all these stories have in common? In each case, a friend became something more.

I honestly re-read the beginning of the article at this point the first time through because the wording seems to imply a sexual relationship here. But no, what Needham means is clear immediately following these words: “Kara wasn’t just a friend; she became Maddie’s other half. Allison wasn’t just a roommate; she became Leslie’s place of belonging. Ashley wasn’t just a mentee; she became Shelby’s purpose and mission in life. These are all examples of friendships that had gone too far.”

At this point, I had question marks floating in front of my eyes. What is going on here? Needham, it seems, believes that these friendships are too close. We must be wary, she argues, that our friendships don’t get too close. We don’t want to replace God with our friends:

While we may be aware of our tendency to look to spouses, children, money, food, careers, and houses to find fulfillment, many of us have assumed friendship is immune to the same kind of temptation. Since same-gender friendships are necessary for our spiritual health, it’s easy to assume they pose no threat to our walk with God. But idolatry is always dangerous to our souls, no matter how harmless the idol may seem at first glance.

Yes, on this complementarian mindset, we must not only fear that our spouses or children might give us fulfillment, we may also discover that friends could do the same thing! There is an almost conspiratorial feel to the whole article that only gets worse as it continues. We can’t have “BFFs,” apparently, because “the world’s model BFF is, by all accounts, a functional savior — someone who rescues you from the instability and trials of life, someone with whom and to whom you belong, who is committed to you ‘forever.'” We wouldn’t ever want to have a friend forever, now, would we? But then the article truly goes into a kind of sadly comedic territory.

The whole article’s point is that we must be fearful and vigilant that we may tend to replace God with friends in our lives. So, one may reasonably ask, how will I know if I’m doing that? Fear not! Needham has given us the means to determine when this may be the case. She offers a list of “Warning Signs.” She writes, “How can you know if a friendship is threatening to take God’s place in your heart? Here are a few questions you could ask about your relationship…”

What do these warning signs include? Well, before we look specifically at them, I want you to take the time to once again think about the main point of the article in question: it is an argument that you’re replacing God with your friends. So, presumably, if the “warning signs” are accurate, these are things you ought to be doing with God, right? After all, it’s hardly replacing God if you’re doing something with a friend that you don’t do with God. So, be sure to replace “friend” with “God” in warnings on the site. In fact, I went ahead and picked a couple out to do it for you to show how, frankly, silly this is:

Do you experience jealousy when your [God] spends time with others?
Have you lost interest in other [Gods]? Do you lack a desire to make new [Gods]?
Do you feel free to “speak for” your [God] with others?
Do you have frequent sleepovers, often preferring to share the same bed?
Do you use nicknames or special language with each other?
Are you more physically affectionate toward this [God] than other [Gods]? Are you physically affectionate in a way that makes others uncomfortable?

Some may think I’m being unfair here. After all, Needham can’t mean that these things are what we ought to be doing with or for God, right? I mean, I’m sorry, but I don’t really want to be physically affectionate with God in a way that makes others uncomfortable. But no, Needham makes it quite clear right after the list of warnings:

If you answered yes to some of these questions, it is worth considering whether your friend is becoming, or has become, something to you only God should be.

Yes, in the world of this particular brand of complementarianism, it is problematic to have a sleepover with your besty because, after all, you ought to be having a sleepover with God in which you use special nicknames for God and are physically affectionate with God.

I really don’t know a better way to rebut the claims in this article. It is, frankly, ridiculous. But this is the kind of thing that some (and yes, I am emphasizing some) complementarians believe we all ought to be doing. We must watch out for the dreaded friendship that becomes too close. We must take care in all our relationships to never cross that invisible boundary where we may idolize other people. And no, I’m not saying we could never make another person into an idol or a new God. But the language of this article and the paranoia it engenders towards friendships is devastating. Moreover, the examples used at the beginning are all perfectly reasonable. After all, does Needham really believe that friends ought not to be deeply saddened when their friends move away, or that a woman ought to always accept every request for a date if there is no objection to the character of the man (okay, she might be intentionally saying that last one)?

I think this article is deeply damaging, and shows yet another example of how complementarianism turns itself into a controlling doctrine that seeks to dominate every aspect of an individual’s life.

Source

Kelly Needham, “More than BFFs” accessed 7/16/17.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Read other posts I’ve written on complementarian theology.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

 

Life as a Cubs Fan – Eschatology Fulfilled

wrigley-field-cubs-winI’m writing this as the Cubs are tied 1-1 in the 2016 World Series with Cleveland. I’ll be finishing it just after the World Series, and I hope beyond hope that it will be in celebration of a victory of the Cubs in the World Series, for the first time in 108 years. I’ll clearly mark the point I wrote after the World Series. Go Cubs!

There was one night I was in bed but could not fall asleep. I believe it was when the Cubs had just tied the NLCS 2-2 with the Dodgers. I was bubbling with joy because they’d just tied the series. It meant there was a chance, however remote, that the Cubs could make it to the World Series for the first time since 1945. It meant that, maybe, there wouldn’t have to be a “Next Year” this year. Maybe, just maybe, it could happen.

As I was lying there, thinking, I realized that it was at this point I truly understood the joyful anticipation that the writers of the New Testament experienced. Jesus Christ had promised to return, and soon. How great that joyful day would be! But each day, each year, there was the thought: there’s always tomorrow. One day we will experience the reality that there is no more tomorrow, and our joy will be complete.

With our eschatological hope, we know that there’s not just a chance. It’s a matter not of if Christ will return, but when. And that is something that I feel overjoyed about and also terrified. What does it mean to say Christ will return? The world will be not just a different place–a changed place–it will be made anew.

Post World Series

I just re-read a blog post I wrote back in 2012 entitled “The Eschatology of a Cubs Fan.” In that post, I wrote:

I still hold out hope though, it’s almost like an eschatological promise: “There’s always next year.” Boy, we’ve been saying that for a long time. But I really do believe it: one day, the Cubs will win one, and it will be during my lifetime. When they do, I’ll be like the fan standing up, looking at the skyline, and just rejoicing. I’ll say “This one was for you, grandpa” and I’ll see him sweeping the streets in heaven [my grandpa would get a broom out and sweep the floors when the Cubs swept a series]. If it happens, I will get to Chicago, I don’t care when it is or how it happens. I won’t have to be at a game, or even there while one happens, but I’ll get back to Chi-town, the place I love, and I’ll kiss the walls of Wrigley, wearing my “World Series Champions” hat.

One day, Cubs.

One day.

That day has come. I can’t believe it. I will write up a lengthy reflection on the win later, but for now I want to put it in perspective of this post. The consummation of so much hope, so many shattered dreams that suddenly got repaired, is one of the greatest feelings I’ve had in my entire life. But this is nothing to compare to that which will come at the final eschaton–the return of Jesus Christ. That’s not to say the World Series win for the Cubs doesn’t matter–far from it, the world really did change, and it feels new as I wake up each morning. What I’m saying, instead, is that this feeling, this joy, is one of the ways God gives us to see a greater thing to come. It’s a kind of typology, but one that can be found in the mundane–even something as simple as a human swinging a stick at a ball.

And that, really, is what Christianity (and, really, Lutheranism) is all about. Christ has come into this world, become incarnate, and is in this world now. Our God came and dwelt among us. And those blessings given us reflect God’s good reality, and a better one that is to come.

I think it is true that I, and many other Cubs fans, can now say we know what a slice of heaven looks like, what it feels like. Hope will one day be fulfilled. That long-awaited day shall come. Christ will return. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, sports, history, movies, and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Christian Disagreement About Doctrines

IMG_0691Christians disagree about things. There, now that I’ve made the understatement of the century, I want to explore how Christians disagree about things. These usually aren’t just “things” but are rather doctrines–teachings that we believe and confess as the truth about reality itself. Not only that, but we believe that these are the things which God taught us in God’s very word revealed to us. That is not a recipe for thinking kindly of others when disagreement occurs. After all, they aren’t just wrong, they are in violation of God’s own word!

Some Personal Examples

Too often, the tenor we have in disagreement is something that reflects an extraordinarily un-Christlike manner. Several personal experiences have led me to writing this post.

I was once accosted by someone who had been directed my way by a mutual acquaintance. After summarily consigning me to hell and taunting me for being unwilling to engage in a debate with him, he asked me to direct him to some exegetical case for my position. I mentioned a book. His response was that he’d read the book and knew it was all wrong. Later in that same conversation he admitted that he’d lied about reading the book. I said I forgave him, but asked him to consider the fact that he was willing to lie about reading a book just because he was so convinced it would be so utterly worthless to him that he could just dismiss it without even having heard of it before. When I continued to refuse to respond to his insults (including his attacks on my wife) and his accusations of blasphemy, he finally stated that he was convinced that the reason I wouldn’t respond was because the Holy Spirit had shut my mouth and wouldn’t let me type responses to him because I was so blatantly wrong.

Was there any acknowledgement of how he was verbally abusing me and my wife on social media? No. Instead, his self-righteous assumption was that God had deigned to prevent me from typing responses to an angry man made blind by hatred.

Another time, I received a comment (not approved) on a post about engaging culture from a Christian perspective. The interlocutor suggested that I was a pagan promoting evil to fellow Christians. When I noted that this person had never even met or talked to me before, he responded, “I have spent a ton of time in cult and street ministry… If you’ve talked to one, you’ve talked to em all. Same lingo same, same pagan book reviews, same plastic cordiality, on and on on. Just switch the faces around. I have read and heard EVERY conceivable argument that will ever be possible regarding what you say… I am thoroughly versed in that unbiblical, antichristian garbage they taught you at Biola. Your fellow drones are roaming about the online countryside in hordes.”

These are extreme examples, yes, but they are just a few among the many, many examples that I and I’m sure countless others could cite of Christians acting without any semblance of charity or obedience to Christ to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I’m not here throwing a pity party–though I admit sometimes that would be nice!–nor am I attempting to promote my own views which were being criticized in these and other comments. After all, I’m sad to say that I’m convinced people who hold my view act the same way towards those with whom I disagree. The point is that this is completely unacceptable in any context, let alone one in which Christians are interacting with fellow Christians, who are going to inherit the earth.

Some Reflection

I’ve already hinted at an approach, which is to remember Christ’s commandment to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is easy to say that, but how often do we actually think about what that means? I am fairly confident the hate-filled man who insulted my wife and I on social media while telling us to repent or go to hell didn’t much consider how he would have felt if someone did the same thing to he and his wife. Nor, I suspect, would the writer of the other example have been pleased to see me assuming that I had already conceived of every possible argument that would “ever be possible regarding” what he had to say… and dismissed them.

But again, these are extreme examples. I’m using them to highlight something, however, which is that we do this kind of thing all the time, just not on the same level. Any time we come along and refuse to listen to one with whom we’re disagreeing, or even simply wait for them to stop talking so we can jump in to show them how wrong they are–any of these times, we have disobeyed our calling to be Christ to others. Recently, I had a discussion with a fellow Christian with whom I had disagreement and they said they’d look into a source I showed them. But they followed that comment up by saying, effectively, “and I know that source is completely wrong.” This kind of theological hubris demands a cure.

A Way Forward

First, we need to note it is perfectly okay to think you’re right about something. That’s not what is at issue here. What is our concern is how we express disagreement. Second, I think it is important to not only focus on what I’d like others to change about their attitude, but also on how might change to understand others better.

One thing I have found helpful is to try to remember the spectrum of theological humility and theological unity. Theological humility is an approach which we can take to admit that we may be wrong. I am a fallible human, so my interpretation of God’s words could be mistaken. Theological unity is an emphasis on the importance of agreement. People will fall along a spectrum of positions between extreme humility (I might or even probably am wrong about most things) and extreme unity (if you disagree with me about anything you must be an idiot). When in dialogue, we should try to explore where the other person falls along this spectrum. It is likely that if they fall on either extreme, a dialogue will be difficult to move forward. Sometimes it is best to stop a dialogue before it becomes heated.

Another thing to think about is our own need to be at least somewhat humble theologically. Yes, I believe I have rightly discerned what God has taught in the Bible, but it is possible that I am mistaken. That is because, shock of all shocks, I am not God. Thus, it is always possible for me to be wrong. We ought to reflect on the fact that we are all sinners who have fallen short of God’s glory, and sin impacts our mind, among other things. This does not mean we aren’t allowed to believe we are correct. What it does mean is that we should never be so certain that we are right that we won’t even give ear to someone who disagrees. Why? Well, apart from the fact that we would like them to listen to us (going back to Jesus’ words about doing to others…), we should also remember that our attitude towards others will likely determine how willing they are to hear what we have to say. Moreover, it is true that we could always be possibly mistaken, no matter what the one commentator quoted above said. We may think we’ve run into every possible permutation of arguments for the other side, but we are limited beings with finite imagination.

Concluding Thoughts

I think it is a good exercise to once in a while re-examine my beliefs about various doctrines. Why? Because I want to make sure I am always in pursuit of truth. This re-examination means not just reading sources which agree with me, but also sources on the other side.

Christians should be open to being wrong. We remain sinners, though we have been justified by faith in Christ. That doesn’t mean we will always be right about everything. We need to remember to be humble, that we are finite beings, and that God has called us to listen to others and respond to them with the same respect and dignity we would like to receive.

 

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for discussions about all kinds of topics including science fiction, history, fantasy movies, and more!

SDG.

Made Perfect in this Life? – A Lutheran reflection on Methodist sanctification

sanctification-kapic

I was visiting a United Methodist Church and the pastor preached on the doctrine of sanctification. She referenced the affirmation within the Methodist church that Christians can receive perfection in this life.

I’ve been curious about this assertion for some time, and I decided to explore some more. On the United Methodist Church’s website, in the section entitled “Our Wesleyan Heritage,” sanctification is defined, in part:

We’re to press on, with God’s help, in the path of sanctification toward perfection. By perfection, Wesley did not mean that we would not make mistakes or have weaknesses. Rather, he understood it to be a continual process of being made perfect in our love of God and each other and of removing our desire to sin. (accessed here)

The embedded link sends readers to a sermon from John Wesley. In that sermon, he talks about what he means by being made perfect in this life. He distinguishes between what, in his view, is not attainable in this life regarding perfection, as well as what is attainable. Christians, he argues, are not made perfect in knowledge in this life, nor will they become free from making mistakes, nor from illness, nor from temptations. Instead, Christian perfection in this life will lead to various blessings:

First, not to commit sin… Secondly, to be freed from evil thoughts and evil tempers…

Wesley, of course, goes into much more detail than that, and defends his positions from various objections. The length of the sermon makes it prohibitive for a detailed interaction, so I just want to focus on these aspects of Wesleyan/Methodist sanctification.

Sanctification Over Time?

The notion of achieving perfection over time is something that causes difficulty because it makes sanctification a biographical account. To clarify, a quote from Oliver O’Donovan in his chapter in the book Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice entitled “Sanctification and Ethics,”- “Sanctification understood biographically [as occurring over the span of a life] has given encouragement to a belief in progressive and incremental moral improvement, to be attained with maturity and age” (155, cited below).

The implication of a view of continual sanctification that is progressive leads to the assumption that a more mature Christian ought to also be more sanctified. Yet this may lead to failed expectations related to the Christian life. If one is led to expect perfection in this life, and they continue to find themselves simul iustus et peccator (to borrow a very Lutheran phrase: simultaneously justified and a sinner [or a sinner and a saint, as it has come to be said]), they may lose their assurance of hope not just in sanctification but also in salvation. After all, their expectations of the Christian life are undercut.

It may be answered that the proper interpretation of Wesley is, rather, that he argued for instantaneous perfection. But this is a debate for a different time. (See the book Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice for chapters related to this topic.)

A Lutheran Interaction

The Lutheran Confessions make it clear that sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit (Formula of Concord, Article III, paragraph 41). In the Large Catechism, Luther refers to the basics of what could be considered a Lutheran view of sanctification:

…because holiness has begun and is growing daily, we await the time when our flesh will be put to death, will be buried with all its uncleanness, and will come forth gloriously and arise to complete and perfect holiness in a new, eternal life. Now, however, we remain only halfway pure and holy. The Holy Spirit must always work in us through the Word, granting us daily forgiveness until we attain to that life where… there will be only perfectly pure and holy people… (The Large Catechism, Second Part, section 57-58)

Thus, a Lutheran perspective of sanctification sees humans as part holy and part sinful. But what are we to make of this? Here, perhaps, is where the Methodist and Lutheran view of sanctification may split most sharply, for the Lutheran will note that what makes us holy is the Spirit through Word and Sacrament. That is, through the taking of Holy Communion and the receiving of absolution, we are daily made holy by the Spirit of God. Thus, holiness is, yes, in part works driven and completed by the Spirit, but it is also and perhaps mostly that which we gain through participation in the community of Christ, the church. For Lutherans, Word and Sacrament stand paramount.

Some object to this Lutheran position, charging Lutherans with a kind of antinomianism. After all, it can’t be that easy, right? Yet on the Lutheran view, sanctification is ongoing, but not in the sense that we discussed above. Instead, it is something that the Spirit works continually for us. Moreover, though the topic is hotly debated in Lutheran circles, the notion of the “third use of the law”–as a guide for Christian life–helps curb antinomianism and turn the Christian back to Christ for forgiveness.

Conclusion

I believe I have more to learn in this area, and I am interested to read on the topic further. I have a book on the topic I’m currently reading, so I’m hoping this will give me some more insight into the fascinating topic. For now, it seems to me that the primary division between the Lutheran and Methodist view here is centered not so much on the concept of perfection now (though that is an intriguing topic to explore), but rather on a view of sanctification through the Sacraments.

Sources

Robert Kolb and Timothy J. Wengert, eds. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2000).

Oliver O’Donovan, “Sanctification and Ethics” in Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice edited by Kelly M. Kapic (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014).

Other sources are linked above.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for posts on Star Trek, science fiction, fantasy, books, sports, food, and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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