doctrine

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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.

Sunday Quote!- The Flame of the LORD

foyh-davidsonEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

The Flame of the LORD

Too often, we are afraid to talk about the love of God in any but the most circumspect way. Richard Davidson, in his  massive study on sexuality in the Old Testament, Flame of Yahweh, does a magnificent job discussing this topic with clarity and poetry. The Song of Songs (or Solomon) is at the center of his discussion. He writes that human love is the…

very flame of Yahweh, then this human love at its best—as described in the [Song of Songs]—points beyond itself to the Lord of Love. The human ‘spark of the Eternal Flame’ reveals the character of that divine flame… ‘Christians can discern the eternal dance… of divine Persons in the reciprocal love of a man and a woman.’ [citing Robin Payne.]…

[H]uman sexual love, already so highly esteemed elsewhere in Scripture, is here given its highest acclamation. The song of Songs thus becomes the… supreme statement on the theology of sexuality… in the OT. We have indeed reached the holy of holies, ablaze with the flame of Yahweh. (630-632, cited below)

Within this book of Scripture, the Song of Songs, we find the fullest expression of human sexuality and wholeness. It is filled with doctrinal content, and Davidson fantastically draws out the implications of the book for readers. Moreover, the entire work is a survey of and commentary on every major (and minor) passage that deals with sexuality throughout the entire Old Testament. I very highly recommend his book, Flame of Yahweh to you.

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!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

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

Source

Richard M. Davidson, Flame of Yahweh (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007).

SDG.

What about those who haven’t heard? – Part 1 of a Case Study on Religious Pluralism from Lew Wallace’s “Ben Hur”

ben-hur

A beautiful cover for an edition of Ben Hur- I was unable to locate the exact copyright information.


Ben Hur 
is one of my all-time favorite novels. There are many issues related to worldview raised throughout the novel. I have started a series which outlines some of the ways it interacts with

Selection from the Book

Each post in this series will begin with a segment from the book itself. Here, we jump into a scene in which one of the wise men is telling the story of how he came to be in a desert, meeting up with the others. He is Greek. I have abridged the segment to focus on the areas in which this series is most interested, namely, the ways God interacts with humanity.

“I am Gaspar, son of Cleanthes the Athenian…

…”It happens that two of our [Greece’s] philosophers, the very greatest of the many [reference to Plato and Aristotle, presumably], teach, one the doctrine of a Soul in every man, and its Immortality; the other the doctrine of One God, infinitely just. From the multitude of subjects about which the schools were disputing, I separated them, as alone worth the labor of solution; for I thought there was a relation between God and the soul as yet unknown…

“In the northern part of my country–in Thessaly… there is a mountain famous as the home of the gods… Olympus is its name. Thither I betook myself. I found a cave [nearby]… there I dwelt, giving myself up to meditation–no, I gave myself up to waiting for what every breath was a prayer–for revelation. Believing in God, invisible yet supreme, I also believed it possible so to yearn for him with all my soul that he would take compassion and give me answer.

“…One day I saw a man flung overboard from a ship sailing by. He swam ashore. I received and took care of him. He was a Jew, learned in the history and laws of his people; and from him I came to know that the God of my prayers did indeed exist; and had been for ages their lawmaker, ruler, and king. What was that but the Revelation I dreamed of? My faith had not been fruitless; God answered me!”

“As he does all who cry to him with such faith,” said the [Hindu].

“But, alas!” the Egyptian added, “how few are there wise enough to know when he answers them!”

“That was not all,” the Greek continued. “The man so sent to me told me more. He said the prophets who, in the ages which followed the first revelation, walked and talked with God, declared he would come again…

“It is true… the man told me that as God and the revelation of which he spoke had been for the Jews alone, so it would be again… ‘Had he nothing for the rest of the world?’ I asked. ‘No,’ was the answer, given in a proud voice–‘No, we are his chosen people.’ The answer did not crush my hope. Why should such a God limit his love and benefaction to one land, and, as it were, to one family? …When the Jew was gone, and I was alone again, I chastened my soul with a new prayer–that I might be permitted to see the King when he was come, and worship him. One night I sat by the door of my cave trying to get nearer the mysteries of my existence, knowing which is to know God; suddenly, on the sea below me, or rather in the darkness that covered its face, I saw a star begin to burn; slowly it arose and drew nigh, and stood over the hill and above my door, so that its light shone full upon me. I fell down, and slept, and in my dream I heard a voice say:

“‘O Gaspar! Thy faith hath conquered! Blessed art thou! With two others, come from the uttermost parts of the earth, thou shalt see Him that is promised, and be a witness for him, and the occasion of testimony in his behalf. In the morning arise, and go meet them, and keep trust in the Spirit that shall guide thee.’

“And in the morning I awoke with the Spirit as a light within me surpassing that of the sun…”

This passage can be found in Ben Hur, Book I, Chapter III. It may be read in its entirety online here (it is public domain due to expired copyright).

An illustration from the Ben Hur novel. I was unable to find a specific copyright.

An illustration from the Ben Hur novel. I was unable to find a specific copyright.

Notes on Religion from the Selection

Christians have proposed many different answers to one of the most pressing questions, itself having been pondered for centuries: “What about those who have never heard?” The question is regarding salvation–can those who have never heard be saved? But it isn’t only that. It might be nuanced in many ways. For example, are there any who have not heard what is required to be saved who would respond if they did hear it? Though the answer initially may seem obvious, it must be thought over carefully before one simply says yes or no.

In this passage from Lew Wallace, we find not one, but two separate answers to this question combined into one account. The answers are: direct divine revelation, and sending a witness. (I have dubbed them this, but the titles summarize common proposals–see below.)

Sending a Witness

One of the answers Christians have given to the question of those who have not heard and their salvific status is pretty straightforward: there simply are none who have not heard. The claim seems rather extraordinary, for, after all, entire swathes of humanity never had contact with any Christian missionary for vast periods of time. Yet, this answer to the question suggests that God sends a witness to anyone who would respond. Thus, if there is someone in a place where Christianity had not yet reached who would have responded to a missionary, God somehow sets it up such that that person hears from someone about Christ.

In the example from Ben Hur above, we see that the Greek was looking for the divine–hoping for a response. Thus, through providential act, a Jew washed up on shore to instruct him about the truth.

It seems this solution to the problem of religious pluralism and those who have not heard is unsatisfactory. There are many reasons for this. First, it supports a rather dim view of other cultures through a system that is ultimately culturally imperialist. Second, it seems to stretch credulity, for it would follow from this position that either there have only been very few outside of the parts of the world where Christianity is dominant who would have responded to the Gospel anyway (see previous point) or that there are innumerable instances of shipwrecks washing missionaries on shore in far off places all over the world to wherever someone might respond to the Gospel. Either of these seems unsatisfactory.

However, it is possible that the “Sending a Witness” answer could be part of an answer to the questions posed here. It just does not seem capable of carrying all the weight on its own.

Direct Divine Revelation

Like the previous answer, the “direct divine revelation” solution to the problem of religious pluralism and specifically those who have not heard is one which ultimately results in the answer: None have not heard. For, if someone would respond to the Gospel, God simply reveals Christ through direct revelation. In the selection above, we see that a dream reveals the Holy Spirit to Gaspar.

This answer to the questions raised above is perhaps more satisfactory than the previous one, but difficulties remain. The primary one is that although several firsthand instances of this type of thing happening are found, they do not seem to be as ubiquitous as they might need to be in order to adequately account for all those who have not heard. Again, this may be part of a larger multi-level response, but I don’t think it can stand on its own.

Conclusion

Wallace provides here an overview of two of the traditional answers to the question of those who have not heard about Jesus Christ. Neither solution seems entirely satisfactory, though either or both might be integrated into a holistic view of witnessing and missions. We will explore other aspects of Wallace’s exploration of religious pluralism

Although I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, I think that John Sanders’ book, No Other Name is perhaps the best work I have read for providing background into the different proposed solutions for the question of those who have not heard about Christ. It would be a good read for those wishing to explore the topic further.

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!

Religious Pluralism- A case study from “Ben Hur” by Lew Wallace– The post introducing this entire series on “Ben Hur.” It has links to all the posts in the series.

Ben Hur- The Great Christian Epic– I look at the 1959 epic film from a worldview perspective. How does the movie reflect the deeply Christian worldview of the book?

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.

Religious Pluralism- A case study from “Ben Hur” by Lew Wallace- Series Introduction

ben-hur-novel

Ben Hur is one of the most influential novels of all time, selling millions in the 19th and 20th centuries and noted as admired by several U.S. Presidents, among others. Reactions to the novel are varied–an interesting thing to examine of itself (some critics saying that it would only appeal to the “unlettered” person, while the general and broad appeal of the novel speaks against that same notion). Its enduring popularity can be attested to by the fact that it continues to be adapted to film.

I’m going to write a series of posts exploring religious pluralism through the lens of the novel, Ben Hur.

Method

The opening scene of the book  describes the wise men–those who would later visit Christ–meeting up in the desert. In this scene, each wise man–from a different part of the ancient world–shares his own story of how he became a believer.

Each post will start with a selection from this scene. Then, I will analyze what was said therein from a theological and apologetic viewpoint. The goal will be to examine what is said therein to see its value for Christians today in interfaith dialogue.

 

Links

What About Those Who Haven’t Heard? – Part 1 of a case study on religious pluralism from Lew Wallace’s “Ben Hur”– I examine two of the most popular answers to the question about those who have not heard about Jesus (and their eternal fate) from the book.

Links for the series will be posted here. This post will serve as the home page for the series.

Book Review: “Modern Orthodox Thinkers” by Andrew Louth

mot-louthModern Orthodox Thinkers presents a survey of recent Orthodox thinkers that goes beyond what a word like “survey” may imply. Andrew Louth manages to bring readers into an experiential awareness of Orthodoxy lived.

After an introductory chapter about the Philokalia, a collection of texts by Orthodox thinkers that emphasis a spiritual dimension to faith, twenty chapters present a number of Orthodox believers–from members of the church hierarchy to lay theologians–to readers. Each chapter provides a brief overview of the life of the thinker(s), a survey of their writings, and a focused look at selected aspects of their thought.

There is something here for almost any reader who is looking to glean from Orthodox thought. Whether it is Vladimir Solov’ev’s reflection on Sophia or Mother Thekla (Sharf)’s insight into Shakespeare, Keats, and others, Modern Orthodox Thinkers is a grab-bag of topics that will interest anyone. What’s more, the book presents these thinkers in such a way as to seemingly bring them into conversation with the reader. There is a sense of intimacy in the way that Louth presents the theology of each one that makes it go beyond a mere presentation of thought and towards an experiential awareness of the way theology is done.

Another strength of Louth’s work is that he brings women’s voices into the conversation as well. Too often, surveys of theological writers skip over the contributions women have made throughout history. Not so in this book, in which women thinkers are some of the most interesting people presented. For example, St Maria of Paris (Mother Maria Skobtsova)’s life was perhaps the most moving of all those presented. After the loss of a child, she pursued a life of helping others, taking the place of a Jew to go into a concentration camp, only to be executed in a gas chamber, again having taken the place of someone else (116). Her theology was that of lived theology, and it challenges readers to pursue the same lived faith for their own lives.

One difficulty with the book is that it will, at times, be completely impenetrable for the uninitiated (including the current reviewer). Although a brief introduction to the Philokalia is given, there is never a clear sense of exactly what it is supposed to be or how it is supposed to influence the thinkers presented. Other things are referenced in an offhand manner which gives little ground for readers to understand what is being discussed. For example, the “hesychast controversy” is presented with only the barest historical background of what it is supposed to be, despite the fact that it features prominently in several thinkers’ chapters. Although this was likely done due to space limitations and/or to keep the focus on the thinkers rather than on side issues, deeper discussion in the footnotes or even an extra paragraph would help those who are unfamiliar with Orthodoxy to understand more of the individual chapters.

Modern Orthodox Thinkers will challenge readers on a number of levels. First, it brings into focus the notion of a Christian life lived, whether by someone in the church or as someone who seeks to live as a Christian. Second, it will spur readers to a deeper understanding and exploration of Orthodox thought. Third, the breadth of topics will open readers to new avenues to explore. The book comes recommended.

The Good

+Impressive mix of topics and authors
+Includes women’s voices
+Experiential feeling to the writing
+Very broad scope

The Bad

-At times impenetrable for the uninitiated

Source

Andrew Louth, Modern Orthodox Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

Disclaimer: I was provided with the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to provide any sort of feedback whatsoever.

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!)

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy 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.

Book Review: “Edwards on the Christian Life” by Dane C. Ortlund

edwards-ortlundJonathan Edwards is perhaps the most famous of all American theologians. Edwards on the Christian Life draws from his enormous body of work to provide insight into Christian life.

The book is organized around chapters which each focus on one aspect of the Christian life, according to Edwards. Chapters include Joy, Beauty, Heaven, Satan, and more. Each of these is oriented around showing how the chapter’s title relates to Edwards’ view of the Christian life. The chapter on beauty provides a feel for the rest of the book, as Ortlund argues that Edwards’ view of God as beauty/beautiful impacts most of the rest of his theology. The chapter on heaven was particularly excellent. On heaven, Edwards’ vision of the beauty that believers would experience and the way they would interact is brought forth by Ortlund in breathtaking fashion. It is rare to find myself filled with emotion while reading a theology book, but Ortlund’s work in this chapter had me just overcome with awe at the beauty of how Edwards described it.

Other chapters were quite helpful as well, such as the chapters on pilgrimage, obedience, and Satan, set all in a row, which outlined the Christian life, sanctification, and spiritual warfare and temptation respectively. The insights to be drawn from this book on Christian living ought not be understated. Ortlund did a great job bringing forward many of these insights.

Ortlund admirably steers clear of the primary pitfall of some books in the series–getting so caught up in discussing the theology of the person being examined that the book loses focus on “the Christian Life.” This is not to say any of the books in the series are bad–indeed, I have read many and enjoyed them all–but it is good to have the focus on the topic at hand. Each aspect of Edwards’ theology that is examined here is brought to bear on the Christian life in meaningful ways.

The one criticism I have is, ironically, of the criticisms offered. The final chapter (apart from the conclusion) offers four criticisms of Edwards’ theology, such as an overly introspective view. Although I think Ortlund’s criticisms of Edwards are on point, they could have been better dealt with in individual chapters. It’s a minor criticism for a phenomenal book.

Edwards on the Christian Life is yet another excellent entry in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series. Ortlund introduces readers to a fantastic range of Edwards’ thought, all while remaining focused on how that thought applies to the Christian life. Indeed, it made me want to read more of Edwards myself. I recommend it highly.

The Good

+Amazing chapter on heaven
+Practical examples of Christian living
+Focused and concise
+Excellent format

The Bad

-Criticisms could have been better placed

Source

Dan C. Ortlund, Edwards on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014).

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the publisher. I was not required to give any specific feedback whatsoever.

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!)

Eclectic Theist– Check out my other blog for my writings on science fiction, history, fantasy 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.

Women in Combat? “Sending” women, women pastors, and feminism- a response to Issues Etc. on Women in Combat and Selective Service

As a Lutheran, a podcast I frequently enjoy is “Issues, Etc.” It continually offers a Lutheran perspective on current events, theological issues, and more. However, there are times where its approach to theology or current events reflects less a Lutheran understanding than a specific brand of theological conservatism. The recent podcast (2/11/16) featured Pastor Hans Fiene discussing “Women in Combat and Selective Service.” I found it to be deeply mistaken on a number of issues, and would like to address just a few of those here.

“Sending” your daughter or wife?

One comment made in the episode labeled any man who would “send” his wife or daughter to investigate a noise downstairs to see if it might be a burglar as a “coward.” There are a number of problems with this statement. First, anyone who “sends” anyone else into a potentially dangerous situation because they don’t want to go themselves might be labeled as cowardly. The way the phrase was said already begs the question. If the situation were reversed, would Fiene say that the wife is “sending” her husband to investigate, or is the husband simply investigating?

Second, suppose that a man is married to a woman who has extensive martial arts training, is a weapons specialist, sleeps with a pistol under her pillow, and immediately leaps into action to investigate such a noise, while the man works a desk job, is of average build and has never used a weapon before. Is it really reasonable to think that the man is cowardly if he allows his wife to investigate the noise? Well, absurdly, others who share Fiene’s view argue that yes, that man has shirked his duty, is cowardly, and probably a wimp. In other words, men are to be shamed and emasculated if a woman is stronger or better at fighting than they are.

The absurdity of such a position knows no bounds. Men are stripped of their manhood if women are perceived as better at things we arbitrarily label “manly.” It gets curiouser and curiouser, as assertions are made that a man ought to intentionally die even if a woman could save him. A reductio ad absurdum is not even required for this kind of position: it demonstrates for itself that it flies in the face of reason.

Women Pastors?

Fiene could not resist the urge to take a jab at those who are for women in the ministry in this discussion, either. He drew a comparison between woeful ignorance of the horrors of war and ignorance of the spiritual warfare that pastors must engage in. In a stunning non sequitor, he stated that “If we lived in a world where pastors were routinely murdered by Pagans who were storming into churches and putting them to death or… where pastors were having to stay behind while everyone was getting the Plague and dying while everyone who was healthy fled… I don’t really think we’d be having an argument over whether or not women should be pastors.”

It is hard to take this kind of statement seriously, and the statement itself is clearly condescension. Fiene assumes that he knows more about his opponents’ sincerity of believe than they do. After all, if only those silly egalitarians really knew what war was like or really believed in spiritual warfare, then they’d clearly change their minds. This leaves no room for sincerity of belief on the part of the egalitarian, and that is extremely problematic. Frankly, I don’t know of anyone who calls themselves an egalitarian who would recant their stance if women pastors were being killed by Pagans or had to deal with Plague. No one wants women to have those things happen to them; indeed, I hope no one wants men to have them happen to them either! The same applies to combat–no one wants soldiers to have to go kill people, I hope. But if difficult spiritual warfare, even death, is what pastors are to endure, and someone genuinely believes women ought to be allowed to be in the ministry, then those are the types of risks that must be taken. And to assume that egalitarians didn’t even think about that possibility or are too timid to even consider it is offensive, to say the least. The only way Fiene can make such a statement is by assuming without any argument that his opponents are insincere.

As an aside, does Fiene completely discount the work of women like Mother Theresa, or Mother Maria Skobtsova (who was murdered by the Nazis), or the countless other women who have done exactly what he thinks egalitarians are silly to think women can do? A lack of integrating church history into an overall worldview might be shown here.

Feminism?

Complementarian (and other conservative) commentators continue to equivocate on the term “feminism.” Instead of acknowledging that there can be any diversity within the group who self identify as feminists, the label is assumed to mean any number of things that many feminists do not put forward. For example, it was not just implied but implicitly stated that “feminism” demanded equality for women by arguing for abortion rights in order to free women from having to deal with childcare. This, of course, ignores the fact that the feminist movement started as strongly pro-life, not to mention the continued existence of groups like Feminists for Life who are out there making a real difference for the pro-life movement.

The use of the term “feminist” as a clobber-word to induce fear is a straw man of the worst kind. It demonstrates either ignorance–a complete lack of knowledge about the breadth of views held by those who call themselves “feminist”–or intentional deceit. Moreover, to lump egalitarianism–the Christian movement for equality of women in the church and home–with this blanket statement of “feminist” as pro-choice, etc. is to obfuscate the issue even further.

Natural Law

I wanted to add a brief note about natural law as well. Fiene and others continue to just throw out “natural law” in an undefined way as though it unequivocally supports their position. Yet one could just as easily appeal to “natural law” to support women in combat roles, for a natural law might just be a threshold of strength and mental endurance that could be seen as suitable for combat roles, and then anyone who meets that threshold is permitted to do so. I don’t want to delve into the deep waters surrounding natural law theory, but the point is that a bald appeal to “natural law” doesn’t do much to support Fiene’s position.

Conclusion

I believe the discussion here has broader application to the discussion over so-called gender roles as well as the debate between egalitarians and complementarians. Fiene’s arguments are the same kind of arguments that are continually trumpeted by opponents of egalitarianism. But, as we have seen here, those arguments are fallacious, they fail to take the opposition seriously, and they rely on ill-defined terms and obfuscation. There is are no reasons provided by Fiene to support his position. Bare assertions, jabs at opponents, and absurdly irrational statements are put in the place of argument.

Source

Hans Fiene, “Women in Combat and Selective Service,” 2/11/16 available at http://issuesetc.org/2016/02/11/1-women-in-combat-and-selective-service-pr-hans-fiene-21116/ accessed 2/13/16.

Links

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SDG.

——

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Sunday Quote!- Show Subordination is Better

pc-stackhousejrEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Sunday Quote!- Show Subordination is Better

John G. Stackhouse, Jr.’s Partners in Christ presents a balanced perspective on the debate over women in the church. When discussing the issue of the burden of proof over this issue, he argues that:

[I]t seems to me that the burden of proof falls on the complementarian. They are obliged to show how it is really better for subordination to continue to characterize the relationship of Christian men and women, rather than just banging on about “the Bible says…”—again, not to subordinate the Bible to human reason (let alone human preference!), but as a check on their interpretation of God’s authoritative word – (22, emphasis his, cited below)

Stackhouse Jr.’s challenge should not be taken lightly. His point is that each side of the debate cites passages and then could talk past each other by continually saying “the Bible says…” The issue we need to get past that non-starter and demonstrate the position. Moreover, his challenge is powerful because it notes that complementarians must show their position can work in reality rather than as a theological abstraction. They must demonstrate that subordination is better, rather than simply asserting it.

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!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

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

Source

John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Partners in Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Paul and Patriarchy… and Egalitarianism?

pc-stackhousejrEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Paul and Patriarchy… and egalitarianism?

John G. Stackhouse, Jr.’s Partners in Christ presents a challenging perspective on the debate over women in the church and home. One major strength of the book is the balanced perspective he offers. Here is just one example of a refreshing reading of Paul in light of the whole biblical witness (and the cultural background):

Paul means just what he says about gender… Paul is guided by the Holy Spirit… to do two good things simultaneously: (1) to give the church prudent instruction as to how to survive and thrive in a patriarchal culture that he thinks won’t last long; and also (2) to maintain and promote the egalitarian teaching that is evident throughout the Bible and dynamic particularly in the career of Jesus and that in the right circumstances will leave gender lines behind. (66-67, cited below)

 I encourage readers to pick up Partners in Christ for a wide-ranging introduction to the debate over women in the church and home. I guarantee that whatever your perspective, you will be challenged and enlightened.

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!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

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

Source

John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Partners in Christ (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Russell Moore on Christmas and the Strangeness of Christianity

onward-mooreEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Russell Moore on Christmas and the Strangeness of Christianity

Russell Moore’s Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel is one of the best books I’ve read all year. He has a way with words that makes reading it a joy, while also giving new insights and perspectives on questions that are highly relevant. In his chapter on religious liberty, he writes about seeing a couple ads in a magazine on a plane. One is a beer ad that said “Silent nights are overrated” and another asked “Who says it is better to give than to receive?” Moore’s comments on the potential offense of these ads are well-worth reading. It’s a longer quote than I normally share, but I think it is worth the time to read:

The… ad agency probably didn’t reflect together… about how the song “Silent Night” is about the holy awe of the dawning Incarnation in Bethlehem. TO them, it probably seemed like just another Christmas song, part of the background music of the culture during this season. Saying it’s “overrated” probably didn’t feel any more insensitive to these copy writers than making a joke about decking the halls or reindeer games. The writers probably never thought… that the statement “It is better to give than to receive” is a quotation from Jesus, via the apostle Paul… It probably just seemed to them like a Benjamin Franklin-type aphorism, along the lines of when someone says… “to be or not to be” while not knowing the difference between Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn…

That ought not make us outraged, but prompt us to see how our neighbors see us–sometimes more in terms of our trivialities than in terms of the depths of meaning of Incarnation, blood atonement, and the kingdom of Christ. This means we need to spend more time engaging our neighbors with the sort of news that shocks angels and redirects stargazers and knocks sheep-herders to the ground. That will seem strange, and that’s all the better, because it is strange. (150, cited below)

Moore also points to Hanukkah and its importance to Judaism as going beyond selling blue stars of David at retail stores. His point is that we need to educate the broader culture about what it means to be Christian, and that means embracing the “weirdness” of our faith rather than working entirely to downplay it. In the context of religious liberty, that means not sacrificing the central claims of the Gospel when trying to make our points about what we believe and why we think it should be protected speech or act.

I recommend Moore’s book, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel to you this Christmas season. It’s not a Christmas book of course, but it is worth your time and money to acquire and read it.

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!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Russell Moore, Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 2015).

SDG.

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