incarnation

This tag is associated with 4 posts

Really Recommended Posts 12/19/15- Christmas, the Incarnation, science, and more!

postGotta be brief. Be sure you check out my post on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, too! Enjoy the posts.

3 Ways to Live Out Gender Equality this Christmas– The title explains it, but this is a deep post calling Christians to live out gender equality over the Christmas season. This has some great practical advice.

The Jewish Background of the Incarnation in John 4– Here is a fascinating read on how the Incarnation in John 4 reflects a Jewish background. This is a theologically deep, compelling post that I highly recommend you read.

Are Scientific Explanations the Only Show in Town?– Short answer: no. This post offers 7 quick, accessible points for why this is the case.

Does the New Testament Quote the Old Testament Out of Context– Here’s a thoughtful post by Craig Keener on this extremely complex topic. I recommend reading the post, as well as some books on this interesting topic.

Tales of a Recovering Answer-Addict: From Young Earth Apologist to Evolutionary Creationist– Though we are called to always have a reason, this does not mean we should get addicted to answers–a pitfall I have fallen into myself more than once. Here’s a post about a young earth creationist who fell into that trap, and emerged as a theistic evolutionist/evolutionary creationist.

Star Wars Advent Antiphon- Leader and Lawgiver– Over at “The Sci-Fi Christian,” they are doing a series of Advent Antiphons leading up to Christmas. Each has a look at a Star Wars character, and then relates that character back to Christianity. The’re good reading, so check them out!

Response to a Complementarian video about why women cannot be pastors- Part 1

I am here responding to a youtube video, “Why Oranges Can’t be Apples.”

Recently, I came across a video arguing why women should not be pastors. I watched it and I have to say that it seems to reflect generally the arguments often used for complementarian positions. I thought it worth responding to this video simply to show how this debate is often focused around preconceived notions of manhood and womanhood instead of the actual Biblical texts.

Here, I will simply quote some of the things Jonathan Fisk claims in this video. Then, I shall respond to the comments he makes. I tried to include times for any of the quotes. They may not be exactly to the second, so I’ll take blame for any of these that aren’t lined up properly.

“God created authority, he made it good.” (3:00ish)

This line is troublesome. Did God create “authority”? Think about that claim. Is it possible to “create authority”? That doesn’t seem to me to be the case. In fact, I would argue that God has authority by fiat. Upon creation, God had authority over creation. Authority requires something to be authoritative over, but it is not created. Anyway, this is a minor point.

“Okay so put that [family roles] into the role of man and woman in Christ.” (4:46-4:48).

Fisk makes this comment after a rather lengthy discussion over authority structures in the family. Again, there are some really major problems with this statement. First, Fisk fails to make the argument that the roles of man and woman in Christ are distinct. Instead, he reads such roles onto the positions of male and female only after assuming them in the family. Fisk made the claim before this that man is placed as an “actual authority over the wife.” But here he must rely upon the interpretation of “head” as “authority.”

Consider the line of reasoning that is happening here: man is the head (authority) over woman in the family; Christ is the head (authority) over the church. Therefore, man should be the head (authority) over the church.

The conclusion simply does not follow from the premises. Even were I to grant that the two premises were true (which I don’t), the conclusion still would not follow. There is no argument here, only an assumption.

Second, reading human relationships onto God and then back onto humans is extraordinarily problematic. Many heresies have developed because humans have  decided to make God in their own image. Fisk is here bordering on that by reading a preconceived notion of family onto God and then from God back onto the church.

“Christ himself, in order to save the world, had to be a man…” (7:03-7:05)

“It’s impossible for a woman to redeem the world.” (7:08-7:09)

Here Fisk claims to be talking about Christology, but I’m hesitant to agree with him. Fisk’s argument is a bit convoluted and he mostly just throws out a number of Christological phrases, so rather than quoting him at length I’ll sum up his argument.

Essentially, the argument is that Christ had to be male because he had to act as the head (here still using head as “authority”) of creation in order to save creation  Because man is the head of the family and therefore somehow responsible entirely for the fall (?) Christ had to be a male.

Now one problem with this argument that should be immediately apparent is that the way Fisk is using “head” to mean “authority” actually undermines his claim that the Redeemer had to be male. Why? Well Fisk’s claim is that Christ had to be male to act as the head over all creation so that He could redeem creation. But in order to make sense of Fisk’s claim, one would have to ground all creation in Christ, which would work only if Christ was the “head” over all creation in the sense of source not of authority. The reason is because Christ would have to have the ontological capability to redeem creation, not simply the authority. This is actually at the heart of Christology.

Why would God have to become incarnate as a human, suffer, die, and rise again if redemption is merely a matter of authority? After all, surely the Godhead would have the authority to forgive sins in the first place! The issue is not one of authority but one of ontology. God simply offering a brute forgiveness of violations of His Law would not adequately bring to fulfillment God’s justice. Instead, God had to become incarnate so that  God could fulfill His perfect Law without sin. The issue was not authority. God had the authority already. So Fisk’s use of “head” as “authority” is inconsistent. When he applies it to Christology, he equivocates on the term, using it as though it means source, despite claiming it means authority. That is the root of the problem with his argument here: he mixes ontology with authority.

But there are still more problems: if Christ had to be male in order to save humanity from sin, does that not speak to something about the nature of maleness and femaleness? If Christ can only be male, does that not mean that males more closely reflect the image of God than females? If Christ had to be male, does that not mean that males are closer to the incarnate deity? It does indeed imply these things, and there’s a reason such thinkers as Augustine explicitly reject this faulty, nigh-heretical teaching.

“This was such a clearly defined teaching… that they [apostles/church fathers] don’t do a lot of talking to say ‘women cannot be pastors.'”

Fisk goes on to say that “the word pastor wasn’t really the common word used for talking about pastors, instead they said things like ‘elder’ or… ‘deacon’ or ‘bishop’ or ‘overseer’.”

Let’s turn to a text here really quickly:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon [Greek: diakonon] of the church in Cenchreae. (Romans 16:1)

So let’s just contemplate for a moment what Fisk said. He claimed that the apostles don’t much discuss women not being pastors, in part because they used other words, like “deacon.” But Paul sends a greeting to the churches in Rome, and he talks about “our sister Phoebe” whom he called “a deacon.” Perhaps this explains why we don’t get a lot of talk about women not being pastors; because they were pastors. Phoebe is explicitly called a deacon, the very word Fisk himself cites as an example of a word used for pastor.

But Fisk goes on to say that “they” go on to describe what a pastor should be over in 1 Timothy. This list, he notes, says that an overseer must be a “husband of one wife.” Now, Fisk actually says that this is the “first thing” it claims about being an overseer. Fisk is wrong. The first thing the text says is actually that an overseer must be above reproach.

Fisk’s ultra-literalistic reading of this text is problematic. In order to realize this, it is important to have the text out there:

Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach… [1 Timothy 3:2- note that there are quite a few more requirements of the overseer listed after this verse]

Fisk is trying to read this verse as saying that an overseer must be a man, because after all, how else could the overseer be the husband of one wife? But what of all the pastors who are unmarried? If the text is teaching that an overseer must be the husband of one wife, why is it only the masculine part of the verse that applies today? Why is it not the entire phrase? Why are not all pastors required to be husbands of one wife?After all, that is what the text says.

Before someone accuses me of claiming that the Bible is wrong or diverging from Biblical truth, I should note that the problem is not with the text; it is with Fisk’s interpretation of the text. The problem is that Fisk is reading this text ultra-literalistically only in order to prove his point, but no farther. He wishes to read only that the overseer must be a man, but not that the overseer must be a husband. His exegesis is a mixed approach. Instead, I would point out that the requirement of being a “husband of one wife” shows that pastors should be faithful spouses. If Fisk wants to make his point, he must be consistent in his hermeneutic. He must read the whole passage in the same literalistic manner he has read “husband” to imply absolute maleness in the pastoral office. Thus, all pastors must be married. But they must have children that they keep submissive (verse 4), they must not be recent  converts, etc. Now many of these requirements for pastors can be read literally and work just fine. Pastors should not be lovers of money (heaven help them if they are! they are in the wrong profession!). But the whole point of the verse is general requirements; not explicit, literalistic requirements.

Now  I realize that I’m at about 1500 words and I’m not even halfway into the video, so it looks like this will have to be a multi-part response, if people find this useful. Do you?

Preview of some other issues: the Trinity, more problems with texts, and more!

Further Reading

How complementarianism is getting the Trinity wrong.

How complementarianism undermines the image of God in male and female.

A book review of an excellent work addressing every major text on this issue.

Women teach us all the time, through the Bible.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) 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.

Jesus’ Birth: How undesigned coincidences give evidence for the truth of the Gospel accounts

There are many charges raised against the historicity of the birth narratives of Jesus Christ. These run the gamut from objections based upon alleged contradictions to inconsistencies in the genealogies to incredulity over the possibility of a virgin birth. Rather than make a case to rebut each of these objections in turn, here I will focus upon using undesigned coincidences to note how these birth narratives of Christ have the ring of truth. How exactly do undesigned coincidences work? Simply put, they are incidental details that confirm historical details of stories across reports. I have written more extensively on how these can be used as an argument for the historicity of the Gospels: Undesigned Coincidences- The Argument Stated. It should be noted that the birth narrative occurs only in Matthew and Luke. John begins with a direct link of Christ to God, while Mark characteristically skips ahead to the action. Thus, there are only a few places to compare these stories across different reports. However, both Mark and John have incidental details which hint at the birth account. These incidental details lend power to the notion that the birth narratives of Jesus are historical events.

Joseph

First, there is one undesigned coincidence that is such a gaping hole and such a part of these narratives most people will probably miss it. Namely, what in the world was Joseph thinking in Luke!? Do not take my word for this–look up Luke chapters 1-2. Read them. See anything missing? That’s right! Joseph, who is pledged to a virgin named Mary (1:27) doesn’t say anything at all about the fact that his bride-to-be is suddenly pregnant. There is no mention of him worrying at all about it.

So far as we can tell from Luke, Joseph, who we only know as a descendant of David here, is going to be wed to a virgin and then finds out that she’s pregnant. He’s not the father? What’s his reaction? We don’t find out until Luke 2, where Joseph simply takes Mary with him to be counted in the census, dutifully takes Jesus to the Temple, and that’s about it. Isn’t he wondering anything about this child? It’s not his! What happened?

Only by turning to Matthew 1:18ff do we find out that Joseph did have his second thoughts, but that God sent an angel explaining that Mary had not been unfaithful, and that the baby was a gift of the Holy Spirit. So we have an explanation for why Joseph acted as he did in Luke. Now these are independent accounts, and it would be hard to say that Luke just decided to leave out the portion about Joseph just because he wanted to have Matthew explain his account.

The genealogies of Jesus that Matthew and Luke include are different, but they reflect the meta-narratives going on within each Gospel. Luke’s narrative generally points out the women throughout in a positive light, and it is often argued that his genealogy traces the line of Mary. Matthew, writing to a Jewish audience, traces through Jesus’ legal father, Joseph. Now it could be argued that these are simply reflections of the authors’ imaginations within their fictional accounts, but surely including names with descendants tracing all the way back to Abraham and beyond is not a good way to construct a fictional account. No, Matthew and Luke include the genealogies because their accounts are grounded in history.

Incidental Details

Interestingly, the birth narratives of Jesus also help explain the events reported in Mark and John, which do not report His birth. What of the apparent familiarity John had with Jesus in Mark 1:3ff and John 1:19ff? It seems a bit odd for John to go around talking about someone else “out there” who will be better in every way than he himself is without knowing who this other person is. Well, looking back at Matthew and Luke, we find that Mary and Elizabeth (John’s mother) knew each other and had visited each other during their pregnancy. It seems a foregone conclusion that they continued to interact with each other after the births of their sons, which would explain John’s apparent familiarity with Jesus in Mark and John.

Strangely, Mark never mentions Joseph as Jesus’ father. If all we had was Mark’s Gospel, we would be very confused about who Jesus’ father is. The oddness is compounded by the fact that Mary is mentioned a number of times. Well okay, that still seems pretty incidental. But what about the fact that Mark explicitly has a verse where he lists Mary as well as Jesus’ siblings?

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. (Mark 6:3, ESV)

This verse seems extremely weird. After all, Joseph was a carpenter (well, a more accurate translation is probably “craftsman”) and yet despite Mark explicitly using that word for Jesus, as well as listing Mary and Jesus’ siblings, we still see nothing but silence regarding Jesus’ father. Well, of course! After all, when we turn to the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke, we find that Jesus was born of a virgin. Jesus had no human father. Thus, Mark, ever the concise master of words, simply omits Joseph from details about Jesus’ life. But to not mention Jesus’ father in a largely patriarchal society alongside his mother and siblings seems extremely strange. It is only explained by the fact of the virgin birth, with which Mark would have been familiar. However, Mark didn’t see the birth narrative as important in his “action Gospel.” Only by turning to Matthew and Luke do we find an explanation for the strange omission of Joseph from Mark’s Gospel.

Conclusion

I have listed just a few undesigned coincidences to be gleaned from the birth narratives of Jesus. The fact of the matter is that these can be multiplied almost indefinitely if one looks at the whole of the Gospels, and even moreso if one investigates the whole Bible. These incidental details fit together in such a way as to give the Gospels the ring of truth. The way that Matthew fills in details of Luke, Mark demonstrates his familiarity with the birth narratives, and the intimate connections of Jesus and John are all cross-confirmed is both incidental and amazing. The claim is not that based upon these incidences alone the Gospel accounts are true. No, the claim is that those who challenge the truth of these accounts must account for these incidences in a way that is more plausible than that they simply occur when people relate history. It seems that the only way to do that would be to resort to outlandish narratives that involve the four authors sitting together and discussing which portions of stories to leave out so the others can fill them in. No, instead it seems much more likely that these four authors were writing what they had witnessed–or received from eyewitness testimony, and just as we do when recounting events (think of 9/11, for example, and the different things people remember) they wrote specific details they felt were important or part of the narrative, while the others found other things more important or had other incidental knowledge related to the events they recorded.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) 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.

Resource Review: “RTB Live! ‘Beyond the Cosmos’ with Hugh Ross”

Reasons to Believe is a science-faith think tank that seeks to show that Christianity is a profound source of knowledge. They come out with a number of resources from podcasts to articles to books. One such resource is their “RTB Live!” video series which explores a number of topics on science and Christianity by varied lecturers. I recently had the opportunity to watch “Beyond the Cosmos” which is the third in the series.

Hugh Ross presents this lecture which largely focuses on integrating science and Christian doctrine. He prefaces his comments by letting the audience know that he’s not necessarily suggesting that the ideas he presents are the way things happened, but rather that they show that certain Christian doctrines are possible in light of scientific findings.

God, according to Christianity, is “transcendental.” Ross refers to this as “transdimensional.” He begins his presentation by saying that given that God is beyond the dimensions, a number of interesting scientific findings about dimensions can show how God could bring about certain actions.

Ross discusses the Biblical portrait of God as both transcendent and immanent. God is beyond the universe, but is “everywhere within the universe” and capable of interacting with God. He outlines a number of Bible verses to show these doctrinal truths.

He then moves on to general relativity. General relativity has been confirmed to an amazing degree by big bang cosmology as well as other evidence. Rather than going into detail on this section–which should be familiar to those interested in such a topic–the rest of this review will focus upon the theological implications Ross draws out from current cosmology.

One of the central questions people ask is “If God created the cosmos, who made God?” Ross notes “everybody asks that question!” However, he argues that “these spacetime theorems give us an answer to that question… What these theorems tell us is that there is cause and effect going on before the universe comes into existence.” Ross argues that these cause and effects are due to a causal agent which is itself outside of space and time.

Because God is not confined to linear time, Ross argues, God has access to “at least a plane of time.” It’s hard to convey Ross’ argument here because he utilizes a drawing to depict what he’s saying. But basically if one sees two timelines running independently, they are on the same plane. God could see this plane and therefore interact with all the timelines.

Ross goes on to use a very interesting illustration of “Mr. and Mrs. Flat.” He uses paper cutouts of a male and a female that are two dimensional figures. Now because they are 2D, they exist on a plane. But God, being transcendental, could, in a sense, “poke a finger” through that plane and God would be experienced as a circle (the finger). God could also poke three fingers through the plane and be experienced as three circles. Furthermore, God could see Mr. and Mrs. Flat in their entirety, even though they would appear as straight lines to each other.

This thought illustration was intended to show how God, having access to all dimensions–indeed, being beyond them–could interact with all of spacetime and know what’s happening.

Similarly, because God has access to limitless dimensionality, He could listen to every single prayer on earth by utilizing each point in a “timeline” as an infinite timeline running perpindicular to that moment of time. Thus, God could spend infinite time listening to each prayer.

The atonement is often raised as an objection to Christianity because some ask how God could pay for the sins of the whole world by just suffering for a few hours on a cross. Ross points out that, just as God can expand any single moment of time into an infinite timeline to listen to prayer, so too could Christ have suffered on the cross for a potentially infinite period of time.

Reasons to Believe, as an organization, strives to show that the Christian faith can be put to the test. Ross pointed out several testable predictions that their model brings to the table:

  1. Evidence for a single cosmic beginning will increase.
  2. Evidence for finite past time will grow.
  3. Evidence for general relativity describing cosmic beginnings will increase.
  4. The grip of spacetime theories will become more “relentless”.
  5. The case for a transcendent creator will grow stronger.
  6. The evidence for other miraculous events will increase.

These 6 testable predictions are not strictly hypotheses that could be used in a lab and some criticism from skeptics could come at Ross from this angle. However, it seems clear in the context of the video that Ross was painting in broad strokes here. From his writings, one could see that he parses these 6 predictions into much more precise hypotheses.There are a number of other theological issues Ross touches upon, and as someone who is constantly involved in grappling with these questions, I couldn’t help but have my mind expanded and think on how some of these ideas could affect my perception of Christianity. There do seem to be a number of ways that science can provide possibilities for several Christian doctrines.
Finally, it would be remiss to review a resource like this without commenting on the visuals presented by Ross. There weren’t any extremely flashy slides or demonstrations. Rather, Ross used a whiteboard to illustrate a few things and brought a few objects (some balls, Mr. and Mrs. Flat, etc.) to demonstrate some points. What was interesting was the way he used them. In particular, the aforementioned Mr. and Mrs. Flat was very interesting.

The video was extremely thought-provoking and certainly would be a good watch for a study group on science and religion. As someone who specializes more in the realm of philosophy, I would say that a few of Ross’ ideas have larger implications than is illustrated in the video. For example, it seemed as though the way Ross described God’s interactions in time would entail something like William Lane Craig’s view that God is timeless sans creation and temporal subsequent to Creation. However, from some of Ross’ writings, I am fairly sure he holds that God is in fact “still” timeless (a view I share). Thus, one would have to take the views he puts forth here as perhaps more speculation than reality. Such a discussion over whether God is timeless or in time was beyond the scope of the video, but I think the video could be used to bring up discussions like it.

Overall I enjoyed the video very much. As usual, Hugh Ross was a thought-provoking speaker whose ability to combine his knowledge of astrophysics with theology is often startling. The video would be perfect for a small group and could go hand-in-hand with Ross’ book of the same name (Beyond the Cosmos). Furthermore, the video could be used for a higher-level apologetics group in order to discuss some implications for God and time or science and faith. It is highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I was given this DVD to review by Reasons to Believe. I was not asked for a positive review, nor was I asked to focus upon any particular content. My thanks go to RTB for the video. 

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) 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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