Thursday, September 10, 2009

What About Women?

No disrespect intended in the post title. How are you thinking about "gender roles," "women in leadership" and related issues? Are those who argue for equality/mutuality (e.g., evangelical "egalitarians") in roles simply aping, or conforming to, the culture? Does "in Christ there is neither... male nor female" nevertheless encompass role distinctions based, solely or primarily, on gender (more of the "complementarian" or "traditonalist" position)? Does any kind of "flexing" on gender roles--e.g., having women preach/teach (including preaching/teaching to men) represent a "slippery slope" that will ineluctably lead towards endorsing homosexual behavior or a denial of the uniqueness of Christ in salvation? Is this an area in which "the church" (however we understand it) is called to take an unpopular, counter-cultural stance (which would clearly be the case for those who argue for traditional gender roles)... or would we be shooting ourselves in the foot, from a missional perspective, by insisting on traditional gender role distinctions?


Bruce said...

Without actually addressing the issue, we can be pretty sure that anything we do in Christ in any area will look weird to those in sin in the same area. (From all those "don't be surprised at problems" scriptures.)

steve H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve H said...

How will I get time to keep up with such conversations?

I think the questions are best dealt with in the frame of two issues:

1) What about God is the man/woman relationship meant to image?

2) The family has at its core an essentially "economic" assignment and the roles should be seen in relations to that assignment. (Building family around the basic assignment has become much more difficult since the industrial revolution.)

Brian Emmet said...

Steve, I think that wistfulness for pre-Industrial Revolution family arrangements is, this side of the eschaton, a vain hope... unless there is a catastrophic social and economic collapse that sets the West back 300 years. Don't we need a fuller response to our culture than a 300+-year-old model that just isn't a viable option...or at least not perceived as viable.

Your first question is a good one. I'd suggest that Genesis suggests the oneness-with-distinctions of the Godhead/Trinity. I think there's also something there about reconciliation: God "separates" the woman from the man, and then reunites them in one-flesh relationship. Is authority and hierarchy implicit in this?

Bruce said...

To Steve H:
1) the man/woman relationship IS Christ/Church. Even for unbelievers. By nature, not by convention. Not because someone wishes it, but because that's the reality that imposes itself on us.
When I try to wish this one away, the reality bites back.
2) I balked at this one originally, until I thought through God's arrangements in the Garden, that by nature the male is doing stuff and that God brought the female to the male to become a dyadic unit in regard to the stuff he's doing. That is, if it's not for reproducing, the relationship is all about economics by nature, not by convention.
To acknowledge that a marriage is an economic unit does not make us marxists or anything, nor does it make us preindustrialists. I'd say that Marx just showed his natural insight in this area, something that all of us should be able to see.

So first of all we are "be-ings", imaging the relationship of Christ and the Church to the glory of God to all creation; and then we are economic "do-ers", creating order out of chaos. The economic relationship is very flexible but has a nonnegotiable center.
These two things exclude marriage models of "roommates." Which looks like a real good option when the alternative is laying down your life for another.
It would exclude non-economic relationships as much as it would exclude mere sexual exchanges.

just joe said...

interesting topic.

Out of about 60 or 70 'friends' in my circle of 20and 30-something acquaintances, there are only about 3 married coouples: there are another 4 or 5 that are living together. There are 3 or 4 who are gay. The rest are hetereosexual singles and many have serial relationships that never quite work out. In our 2nd Godparty last week, all of those who were participating mentioned struggles with loneliness.

In the whole crowd, which includes a handfull of women in their mid- to late thirties, none have had children. Which points to a huge demographic change looming on the horizen.

The idea of patriarchal relationships in which the man is in charge, and the woman submits is long dead and gone. I am thinking about re-writing a manual I wrote on successful relationships back in the 90s to update it for this group.

steve H said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
steve H said...

I wasn't suggesting that we could undo the industrial revolution. The community of God's people need God's direction for this point in history.

However, if we saw things more like the early church did, then we would be more of an "alternate society" than we are. We would know the New Covenant people of God to be a window into the future living in the now. We would be seeking more wisdom from the Holy Spirit as to how we should apply the Biblical view, principles, practices (whatever the right word may be) to all of life -- including roles of men and women. As it is we take too many of our cues from the culture of death that we are called to live withiin but not be of.

The fact that the family no longer functions as an economic unit is, in my view, a root issue to (1) why men tend to be too uninvolved in training the children;(2) why women tend to feel they have to find identity and self-worth in the work place--like men have(which is just as off base); (3) why children are raised playing and seeking for a purpose, often hopelessly; (4) why as many couples divorce rather than stay married (even more than that if you count 2nd and 3rd marriages).

The people of God are called to model the heavenly plan--to be the image of God and in marriage to be the picture of Christ and his bride. To do that we have no alternative other than to live radically according to Scripture in the power of the Spirit.

As it is, Christian marriages and families are just as messed up as those in the surrounding culture. Who is witnessing to whom? Who is discipling whom?

Bruce said...

comparing and contrasting Joe's note and Steve H's:
Joe, I know the scenario you describe. That's what people "have." That's the kind of milieu that perceptive people can look around themselves and say, Is there a better way to live? Our response is or ought to be like what Steve H is getting at, spelling out and also demonstrating the now-and-not-yet.

We're calling people to heroic sacrifices. It is, or would be, devastating to someone to have sacrificed their hopes for happiness in this life for the sake of the gospel only to be told by one of us that "we're free in Christ" and faithfulness in this or that area isn't such a big deal.

If we're presenting law alone, then we would tell Joe's group, you're unacceptable unless you buy into an antiquated patriarchy, ya pagan sinner! That's the straw man that it sounds like Joe is presenting. The alternative is to both teach and (by a miracle of grace, if possible) demonstrate the Not-Yet in the Now. Then if some pagan sinner wants to get in, they understand that this thing is a whole 'nuther way of doing things, a Kingdom spoon of yeast mixed in the pizza dough that would work its way out by grace to transform the whole pizza. They have something to leave, and they have something to move toward.

just joe said...

Bruce: if you knew my wife and I, you would know that we are modeling an alternative way of life.

I'm not setting up any straw men. I'm out in the middle of a crowd of hurting people trying to obey Jesus and love my neighbor. I think that is all I want to say.

Bruce said...

I'm with you, and assumed that much as background.

I thought you were suggesting that because people in general are messed up, that we could meet them where they are, sort of a missional compromise, so they wouldn't be put upon. Now that I say it, it doesn't sound right. But other people who *would* say the compromise option talk like what you said.

Billy Long said...

Joseph, you said, "The idea of patriarchal relationships in which the man is in charge, and the woman submits is long dead and gone."
The real question for me is, "What does the Bible really say about this subject?" I know the women's issue is complex and I don't claim to have the answers, but, notwithstanding, the culture and societal trends I think we have to be careful not to throw out whatever the Bible really says. It will be around when our culture is a part of dead history. Mark Twain stood in barren Palestine, with no jews in sight, and said, "See, this proves the Bible is just another book." Then in 1948 the jews were back, the land would soon be in bloom, and Mark Twain was gone.
I don't have answers. But we have to be be careful not to disregard scripture just because it is out of sinc with our culture. So...I continue to search and ask God for answers, and be tolerant, knowing I really don't have the answers.

Brian Emmet said...

Be great to have some women involved here... any you could invite in for this discussion?

just joe said...

Billy: I agree. However, it is important to keep in mind the subtle difference between what the Bible says and what we think it says ... which can be just as culturally influenced as any other point of view.

Brian: perhaps to get some women in here, you should change the name of the post to "What about men?"

John M. said...

Brian, in your post you asked the hypothetical (I think) question about whether women preaching and teaching in church was a slippery slope leading to endorsement of homosexuality and theological questions about the uniqueness of Christ's sacrifice etc.

Perhaps before we attempt to answer those questions theoretically, we should examine the theologically conservative pentecostal and holiness denominations who have remained Biblical literalists and who have also never questioned whether or not women should preach, teach and otherwise minister in equal parity with men.

It seems to me that people on all sides of the issue compartmentalize and tend to be schizod when it comes to men's and women's issue.

Steve, this is not a critical or satricical question, just trying to understand exactly how you define "economic unit". Would you consider yours and Patricia's marriage an "economic unit"?

Personally, in this season of my life I'm focused pretty exclusively on my own marriage and how I can learn to live out true biblical masculinity with my wife and how we can walk side by side as mutually whole friends and friends of God. It's going to take us the rest of the years we have left, to live out that journey. From my vantage point it has virtually nothing to do with "submission and authority" and virtually everything to do with mutuality and learning to get "fixed" myself and trying to live with her in an understanding way, instead of demanding submission and trying to "fix" her. But that's not a theological comment, it's totally personal...

Billy Long said...

Joseph, You said, ""It is important to keep in mind the subtle difference between what the Bible says and what we think it says." That is very true, and the reason why I am so cautious on this subject and any other subject, where God is His awesome security does not feel the need to make everything so clear. He even leaves things somewhat vague, with a few verses that appear to be in opposition or contridiction to each other. I know that we have to draw a circle around all the verses and come up with a "belief" or docrtine that encoumpasses all the verses. But there are so many areas where, after we get our doctrine all set, there seems to be one or two verses that don't fit. It's like the guy that took apart an engine or some machine, and after he got it all back together, he had a couple bolts and nuts lying over to the side. Wonder where they go?
Your statement I quoted above is true, but the sad thing is that people in general use that principal to make the Bible say anything they want it to. This should cause us to stand in the fear of God when we approach scripture. Peter said that scripture is not of any private interpretation, and Paul said we twist it to our own harm. So.. again I say, I will definitely not claim to have the answer on this one.

steve H said...

The root meaning of 'economy, is "law of the household." The task assigned man in the beginning was, starting from the Garden which God prepared, to subdue the earth (extend the garden throughout the whole earth) and to rule over it (to manage or steward it on behalf of the high king -- manifesting the very image and likeness of the high king. Two people couldn't fulfill that task, but they could begin the process by being fruitful and multiplying and by training their children... in the assignment (which they failed to do adequately). This is essentially an economic task.

In Genesis 2 God said Adam needed a helper (not first a companion, friend or lover), but a helper. Adam could not fulfill any part of the assignment without a helper. It takes man and woman to fulfill the economic assignment God has given mankind. And the family is the means by which God has designed for it to be fulfilled.

I have sought to build my family this way ever since I saw the value of Elijah, Patricia, and I working a paper route for the common good of the family's ability to fulfill our call. And yet we still struggle to be what we are called to be in midst of this present culture.

Concerning pentecostal, holiness, and also other movements contemporary with or following these -- you may note that there are vitually no other orthodox Christian movements in history "who have also never questioned whether or not women should preach, teach and otherwise minister in equal parity with men." I would say that this historical reality is no coincidence. These groups, whether knowingly or unknowingling, bought into the presuppositions of the first women's rights movement in the 1800s -- with its emphasis on temperance, social good works, and the civil right to vote. Although we may find some good things in that movement, it is also fair to say that it laid the groundwork (inadvertently for the most part) for the feminist movement of our lifetime--a movement which, along with whatever "good" it may have, is rife with anti-Biblical ideas and goals.

just joe said...

I agree Billy. You and I know one another well and have sufficient love and trust to have this conversation. My point is that many leaders who resist re-examining the scriptural teachings in the light of current culture, are fully unaware of their own “modern” cultural biases which influences their own “traditional” interpretation. This is particularly true of a lot of the “neo-reformed” camp, who’s orthodoxy only extends back to Calvin.

There is an awesome book by a intellectual historian named David Brian Davis, called “Slavery and Human Progress” in which he documents a cultural shift in the predominant views of slavery from roughly 1700 through the early nineteenth century. Before 1700 the dominant “Christian” view of slavery was that it was a civilizing missional instrument of Christian civilization to bring the gospel to those lost in darkness in Africa. Even European Protestants believed that the Bible endorsed slavery. The first people to begin to “read” their Bibles in a different light were the liberal Quakers. They developed objections to slavery on moral grounds. John Wesley and the Methodists were the next to pick up this new and novel interpretation of scripture. Wesley influenced William Wilberforce who devoted his life to influencing British public opinion and eventually forced the issue in the British parliament.

Davis, in his conclusion, says that there has never been such a dramatic and massive intellectual shift in public attitudes in such a short time (100 years) before in history. It clearly changed the way we read the Bible. Even as late as 1863 in the United States, very devoutly Christian generals in the south, such as Robert E. Lee and Stoneway Jackson loved God passionately and believed that slavery was biblical.

Regarding the idea of patriarchy, it does really matter what I think about it. The fact is, in secular society, the battle is over, and the issue has been decided. Patriarchy is dead. Even within Christian Evangelicalism, the most conservative wing of Protestantism, a large portion of Evangelicals have abandoned partriarchal theology. All you have to do is go to (which is fairly conservative theologically) and read through their posts on “women in ministry.”

I don’t mind fighting to the death in the Alamo, but if I am going to sacrifice myself, it had better be over primary issues like the incarnation of Christ or the triune nature of God: not over gender roles or patriarchy. Sorry if that rocks anyone’s boat, I really am, but I can’t help but think of Robert E. Lee fighting a war of attrition and a lost cause on the wrong side of history.

What covenant guys “mean” when they say ‘patriarchy’ is responsible men, loving and caring for their life partners, lovingly and proactively engaged in their responsibility as fathers and husbands. No one has an objection to that. Even my feminist friends, when I describe that kind of man, want to know where they can find one. It is a subtle but important change in terminology that understands the culture and knows what Israel ought to do.”

The reason why most of the Covenant guys don’t know this is because they are culturally isolated in the “evangelical ghetto” and have not been forced to explain these things to sharp people who do not share their assumptions. We’ve got to stop talking just to one another and learn to engage a broader audience.

just joe said...

Sorry Steve, I missed your comment. I posted just after you did.

I recently found this quote from Scot McKnight from back in 2006:

Women and Ministry: Hermeneutics. Sept. 2006

There is exegesis -- the careful study of the Bible; and there is hermeneutics -- the bringing of the Bible into our world. The two are not the same, and great advances have been made in the latter in the last three decades. In fact, they are related to one another -- more than many of us admit.
“Even if evangelicals agree on the authority of Scripture, they differ wildly on all kinds of matters once they begin interpreting it or "hermeneuting" it, not all of them minor -- like baptism, creation and evolution, war, church government, politics, millennial schemes, "eternal punishment," and many other issues -- like Calvinism and Arminianism. This means that we are learning that exegesis is mediated to us through interpretation and hermeneutics -- it is not as simple as some think.”

Steve, if this is a criticism, please know that I mean it in the most positive and constructive way. You do an awesome job of exegesis: but I am not sure that you do much in the way of hermeneutics. You seem to stay in the past a lot, whether it is in the patristic period, or the pre-industrial period.

Every church movement that has ever existed has taken on the flavor of the culture in which it was birthed, especially in church structure and government. The Petnecostals and holiness movements are no exception. There is no turning back of the clock, time marches on. There is no reconstruction of society, there is no dominion by going back to some idyllic period of past Christendom. When the kingdom of God does indeed arrive, it is going to be full of cultural surprises for us, many of which we might find unpleasant (sound familiar?).

There now, I guess I have cast of my clocking device cloak and revealed myself in all of my liberal heretical glory. At least to you guys … if any of my gay or feminist friends are reading this, I probably seem hopelessly conservative (Call me and we will have coffee). What is a fat old white monogamously heterosexual politically centrist male to do in these troubled and deeply polarized times?

I just want to end by saying that I truly love you all: right, left and center, male and female, slave and free.

Billy Long said...

Hey, brothers. Given the way our culture is going and if the current societal processes are left uninterrupted, I think within a generation christian leaders will be having this same discussion over the issue of children submitting to parents.

steve H said...

I am not offended by your critique, Joseph. I do look at the past a lot. Frankly, I have no intention of jettisoning it. If I expect generational transfer in my children and grandchildren (meaning that they build on what I have passed on to them), then I also need to be taking seriously what earlier generations have passed along to me.

In fact, that is the very thing that got me expelled from the denomination I grew up in and the thing that brought great stress on my relationship with my parents. I was trying to honor them as well as I knew how, but I also had "rediscovered" historical truths that had been lost or rejected (things like acceptance of the gifts of the Spirit, a different view point about church and denominations) along the way. And I had to critique where we were by what had been revealed. (And my children will probably have to do some of the same--hopefully without the same relational separation--because I see through a glass darkly.)

I don't think it is my responsibility to come up with new truth or a new pattern of life. I am seeking to discover and walk in, as well as I can, the things that have been given to me--doing so in the spirit of 2 Tim 1:13-14 & 2:2, 2 Thes 2:15, 1 Thes 1:6-7 & 2:14, 1 Cor 4:14-17, Phil 3:17 and others. I hope to be faithful to the heritage I've received from the Lord and his body AND learn how to live it and communicate it in the present and future.

How shall we pick and choose what to keep and what to ignore or jettison? It's not easy. I surely don't have it down -- and it has to be a community activity, not a one man activity anyway. Ultimately, it comes back to one sure thing -- the revelation God has given us in Scripture and that is opened to God's community by the Holy Spirit. The touchstone is not what the current culture is doing, but what God has revealed about the pattern of life to which we have been called.

I would far rather err on the side of faithfulness to what has been entrusted to me by God through those who have gone before, than I would want to err by cutting a new path.

just joe said...

Please don’t misunderstand me Steve. I’m NOT suggesting you should be cutting a new path, or coming up with a new teaching or doctrine. I am in full agreement with what you said above about treasuring historical perspectives. My point was the difference between exegeting the past, versus interpreting how to apply past principles in the actual present outside the church walls(not an idealized or wished-for present). In other words, hermeneutics, in the sense that McKnight was using it. I feel that some guys tend to misunderstand, oversimplify or mischaracterize secular points of view, without taking the time to exegete the culture and “do theology” faithfully for the current cultural context. In other words, attacking feminism without developing real, conversational friendships with actual feminists. This ends up coming across defensive and isolated and puts up significant barriers to communicating truth.

A prime example is the patriarchal issue: I suspect that I am using the term entirely differently than you and Billy: I am probably thinking more in terms of how secular people view the term--as a cultural system of male domination that has used and abused women for centuries. Now, that is probably not what you mean when you use the word, and yet you use it (the word "patriarchy") freely without sensitivity to how secular people will "hear" what you are saying.

I think we would agree on the substance of how husbands and wives ought to love and respect one another, although I put more emphasis now on Eph. 5:21 than I used to. It has been at least 20 (1985) years since the last time I pulled rank on Debbie and imposed my “authority” … and I definitely lived to deeply regret it. Since then, we made decisions on the basis of mutual submission and taking counsel together. I suspect the same thing is true for most of you, despite theological rhetoric to the contrary.

Sorry if I stirred you guys up … I need to learn to keep my mouth shut. Brian got this started and then ducked out. what a skunk!

Brian Emmet said...

Hey! No ducking on my part, just... uh, well... you know, busy and stuff!

Joseph, I like your "What About Men?" suggestion, and suggest we take that up next.

Catching up here, I find myself saying, "I agree with everyone!" Which, of course, can't be true. I feel like I have been changing my mind on this subject over the past several/many years, and I'm trying to understand why I have been doing that, and, more importantly, ask if the change is in a good direction or not. I can certainly see how our culture is pressing some of these issues--and I am finding some of that pressing helpful, though much of it is not.

Does woman as "helper" to man indicate and/or require subordination, hierarchy, authority? Genesis 1 is clear that man and woman together are the image of God, and doesn't seem to imply anything other than equality-within-difference. Does Genesis 2 introduce elements of authority, submission, hierarchy, etc.? That has been the way I have seem it, and there certainly is a long tradition of reading Scripture in just that way. Which is why I'm making myself nervous... but Joseph's summary of the Davis book is of help, making a point that Scot McKnight makes in his book about hermeneutics, "The Blue Parakeet." Sometimes, McKnight argues, we need the Scriptures to critique our tradition. Any of us who are Protestants should identify with this, and all of us who now feel it obvious that human slavery is a heinous sin and evil should at least pause to consider whether something similar is going on in our understandings of men's and women's roles. We do not need to equate women with slaves, as radical feminists do, to at least raise the questions.

Steve, I wonder how the "arc" of Scripture--i.e., from Garden to City--informs your sense of family structures? Is there something about the movement towards a City that requires a change in how we understand "family"?

Finally, for now, may I observe that all of us in this conversation have moved over the past 20 years from a practice that could be characterized as towards the "harder patriarchy" end of the spectrum, and have moved, at least, to a practice that is towards the "softer" end of the patriarchy scale? If my observation is true (and it certainly is true in my own case), I find myself wondering why that is.

May God have mercy on us all!

just joe said...

mercy is good...

Brian, you remind me of a scene from "Oh Brother where art thou?" where two of the main characters are arguing about who is in charge, and they then turn to the third guy, a little guy and ask him what he thinks. He responds hessitantly by saying "I'm with you fellers!"

Billy Long said...

Hey,Joseph. I think it is a good conversation, and actually I'm not stirred up a bit. It's just that the topic automaticallly sounds that way no matter how politely we put it when we write it on cold paper. Also, anyone knowing me and my wife will know that this not male "dominated" marriage. For a topic that we are not ready to die over, as you put it,this topic can come more closely to getting us killed, if we are not careful.
He, he, he!

just joe said...

ditto Billy, and you are quite right that digital media always intensifies things.

And you have done an awesome job of caring for your lady, and helping her to be strong in all of the right ways! Better than I have.

John M. said...

Steve, thanks for explaining how you see the family as an "economic unit". It helps to see the broader context you put it in. I think when I hear that term I think solely in terms of "economics" as in enterprise, productivity and income production. I have definitely pined for the "simpler" days of an agraian culture, but aside from becoming Amish or starting a
commune, I have concluded that "the times they have changed" and we can't go back. I think many would understand that term, left unexplained, as a "two-income family" where the wife literally contributes to the income stream of the household by working outside the home.

My point regarding women's ministry in Pentecostal/Holiness circles was in response to Brian's post, that, by and large, those traditions have not endorsed homosexuality or become theologically liberal. I wasn't trying to make a case for whether it was or wasn't aberrant in terms of historical Christendom or try to analyze the broader cultural effects (sounds like good disertation material, though), so your points are well-taken.

Joseph, I think I see where you're coming from. And, if I do, I agree with you. We've got to learn to package the message so that our serotypical language, imagry and use of offensive buzz words don't cause people to go deaf becaue they're too busy reacting to what they think we're saying. And, too often, as you pointed out we do the same to them.

Brian, I think you're on a good journey... I especially agree with you're re-thinking of Gen. 1 & 2

Worship wars, culture wars, Calvinist/Arminian wars, grace/works wars, organic/institutional wars, gender wars... I'm really burned out on war in general. I know I'm going to get the "sometimes you have to fight" pep talk. I agree. But I'm with Joseph, I don't want to take my stand at the Alamo until there's something worth dying for. None of the above qualifies in my book.

steve H said...

Yes, I do believe there is an order to the relationship between man and wife. Are they equal? Yes, as human beings created in the image of God. Yes, as fellow heirs of the grace of God. Are they called to walk in an ordered relationship with the man as head? Yes, 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5 make that clear. 1 Cor 11 -- says it that order was established when God the man was created first (in part emphasizing the wife's role as helper, I think).

Kingdom headship is not dominating but serving. The leadership should not be not self-serving but God-serving, and it will be a service to the wife, not a bondage. And a man should respect his wife and take counsel with her -- if he doesn't he'll almost certainly regret it (if he's still alive, to borrow Billy's imagery).

Headship, subordination, leadership, "helpership" -- these are all reflections of the image of the Triune God that we are to make manifest in this world. They don't go out of style because God is God and we were created in his image and likeness. What should be happening is that we should be learning to better reflect who God is in our relationships.

None of these are issues I would lead with or even want to discuss, much less argue, in the culture outside the church -- unless directly led to do so by the Holy Spirit. This has to do with the way God keeps house in his household.

steve H said...

I'm sorry about the typing and grammatical errors in last nights entry. I should not write when I'm in a hurry, especially in a hurry to go to bed!

just joe said...

don't worry about the typos Steve, happens to me all the time. I have been pondering your comments from last night -- don't really disagree with the substance of what you are saying, perhaps it is just the "packaging" that has changed for me.

This following probably has nothing to do with our topic: but it is a wonderful quote from Bonhoeffer's Life Together posted this morning in a review on

"Emotional love lives by uncontrolled and uncontrollable dark desires; spiritual love lives in the clear light of service ordered by the truth. Self-centered love results in human enslavement, bondage, rigidity; spiritual love creates the freedom of Christians under the Word. Emotional love breeds artificial hothouse flowers; spiritual love creates the fruits that grow healthily under God's open sky, according to God's good pleasure in the rain and storm and sunshine" (44).

In the same section: "A life together under the Word will stay healthy only when it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society, a collegium pietatis [association of piety], but instead understands itself as being part of the one, holy, universal, Christian church, sharing through its deeds and suffering in the hardships and struggles and promise of the whole church" (45).

"Nothing is easier than to stimulate the euphoria of community in a few days of life together [a retreat, a conference]; and nothing is more fatal to the healthy, sober, everyday life in community of Christians" (47)."

Brian Emmet said...

Check the latest Barna update, "Number of Female Senior Pastors Doubles in Past Decade" at I know that "facts on the ground" cannot determine our theology... but should the hermeneutics that flow from our exegesis be at all influenced, or informed, by this new reality? You should feel free to tell me that I am compromising, caving in, undergoing deception (either of the external or self- variety, or both), becoming worldly, but I think I'm trying to find ways to hold together some things that I'm not sure how to hold together.

Boy, that last sentence--no wonder I'm confused!

Bruce said...

I think an apt comparison would be the demographics of the faith of the congregations in the Methodist Church, mainly the United Methodist Church in the USA.

We are seeing, as Barna points out, a fundamental shift. But we've seen shifts before. Hey, we had the Magisterial Reformation. And the Burned-over District of upstate NY. And such.

We can join the Church of What's Happening Now, or resist tooth and nail, or anchor down in our bunkers, or have a non-reactive principled resistance to bad new things and at the same time "strengthen the things that remain." I go with the latter.

What *I* personally am learning is that a casual engagement is about as ineffective as whining at the neighborhood bully.

just joe said...

we've discussed this before, several years ago. There are multiple ways to approach the issue. The idea that Steve puts forward, of headship, does not automatically mean that a woman cannot be a pastor (I'm not endorsing a point of view pro or con, just making an observation). For example many neo-pentecostal groups have the senior pastor's wife take the title of "pastor" or ("pastora" in Spanish) under his "headship". Watchman Nee makes the argument that there can be female apostles working under the leadership of a male apostle. Try as we might to discourage it, the people in our Spanish congregation in Miami almost always called Debbie "pastora" ... they saw her as as a shepherdess ... and it was actually pretty accurate.

Another view, that I put forward a couple years ago is to approach it through Ecclesiology or church structure/paradigm.

If one adopts the modern business model of the church as a corporation or vuluntarry association (as my dear friends in the Vineyard have), rather than primarily as a spiritual family, then it only makes sense to be in congruity with modern corporate practice, which frequently includes female CEOs and VPs. In other words, one cannot easily pick and choose which aspects of contemporary culture to adopt (modern corporate business structure) and which to resist (female executive pastors). When you finally go with a particular paradigm, or corporate philosophy, there is a gravitational effect that inexorably pulls one into all aspects of the paradigm.

I went further with this a couple of years ago and suggested eliminating hierarchical church offices entirely (sorry, Steve, I know this will not be an attractive option to you or Robert Grant, and probably not Brian) as some are doing in the so-called "simple" church emphasis.

Let people gather simply for prayer, and let fathers be fathers and mothers be mothers. Let teachers "teach" without giving them titles or offices. In our group, because it is simple and informal, there is no distinction between who gets a voice or gets to talk and even instruct in the group based on gender. The most vocal person in the group, and the natural leader is probably my daughter.

It is not a popular point of viwe in this group, but I like the tiny bit of fruit I see so far in our god-parties. And it does end up in substance as "leadership = surrender and serving"

just joe said...

sorry Bruce, didn't mean to tread over your comment. I just saw it after I posted my comment.

steve H said...

A closer look at the statistics will reveal that the growth of women senior pastors is in the declining mainline (often clearly "liberal" churches). I think the percentage in more "conservative" groups such as the pentecostal and holiness movements is pretty much the same as it has been for a good while.

I really don't care much for "arguing" this issue. (Glad we have substantial agreement, Joseph. I'm not surprised.) I agree with Bruce's approach "non-reactive principled resistance to bad new things and at the same time 'strengthen the things that remain.'"

I will offer a few anecdotes (that prove nothing more than that they are anecdotes).

(1) When my dad was general superintendent of a holiness denomination, I accompanied him to a church which had a woman pastor (a godly and good woman). As we drove away Dad commented, "You know, you almost never see a church pastored by a woman that is not a problematic church." (And yet, to my knowledge, he has never questioned if a factor behind that observation might be that a Biblical principal was being violated.)

2) Almost 30 years ago when I was really wrestling with evangelism and with how to win men who would become disciples, I believe the Lord spoke to me: "Focus on winning strong men. If you attract strong men, you will also have strong women. If focus on getting strong women, you will not attract many strong men. Most men will not compete with women for a place."

3. Yesterday our church community went as a body to worship with a local pentecostal church. I have a good and growing relationship with the pastor. He is a true man of God and has much insight into the kingdom. I am still stunned and grieved by what I saw. That church, which at one time had been one of the larger in our city, had a small turnout even though it scheduled to be a "homecoming" celebration. Most of the men were older than me. There were almost NO young men and fathers of families. They do have some good strong women, and most visible leadership positions seem to be filled by these women. The pastor is aware that the church is in a very vulnerable situation due to the lack of solid leading men; however, he doesn't seem to have any real sense of how to turn things around -- somewhat due, I think, to the cultural assumptions about men/women in ministry that are part of his tradition. For various reasons, including the matter of the female dominated leadership, I find it almost overwhelming to see how they will transition to become a kingdom-oriented church.

steve H said...

And there's a question for us... one that we've touched on before but may have relevance to this discussion and the proposed "What about men?" topic.

What is a kingdom-oriented church like? Will being oriented toward the kingdom make a difference regarding such issues? How many of the churches/denominations with growing numbers of women leaders are kingdom-oriented churches?

Brian Emmet said...

Sheesh, I must be hanging with Joseph too much--he's starting to make sense to me.

[wink wink]

The Barna piece is something of a red herring: yes, the churches he cites are mainly mainliners. so not sure that's of much help to us.

Why does the Spirit give gifts to people (women) that he doesn't want them to use? The question is not as facile as it seems. Take Elizabeth Elliott, for example: a strong proponent of the traditional position on not teaching men. She has, or had, a daily radio program that clearly was Bible teaching, and good teaching at that. Is it wrong for a man to listen to the show? If yes--if the correct application of 1 Timothy 2 is that women can never, under any circumstances, teach men (Paul does not mention our typical exemption, "women can't teach men from the Sunday pulpit" or something equivalent thereto--then we're being consistent. And we can't, therefore, read books by women, listen to tapes, radio/tv shows by them, have women professors in seminary, etc.

If not, what was Paul getting at in 1 Timothy 2?

Bruce said...


A related note: in the ancient text, The Didache, (aka the Teaching of the Apostles), there is a comment about whether women who have gifts of divine healing should be ordained. The advice was that they should just do what they do, and people will get healed, whether or not they have a church office.
It might be in one of the Clement letters, or somewhere else in the first century Fathers. I just think it's probably in the Didache.

Bruce said...

God DOES INTEND women to use the gifts He gives. He gives the job of sorting out the best legal expression of those gifts to the leaders. Which includes the responsibility (on the leaders) to tell men that they can't do what they think God told them to do. I.e., the leader has to exercise authority over men in the process of helping women find their best fit in the ministry of the church.

Pastor Susie says to Billy Bob, "Billy Bob, you are forbidden to preach here. You're not Biblically qualified!"
"Oh yeah, Pastor Susie, who are you to tell me where I can or can't use my gifts. Jesus told me to preach in our church."

just joe said...

I remember a meeting 20 or 25 years ago (darn! Probably 30 years ago—we must be old…) in which Bob Mumford discussed Paul’s concern about women teaching in the light of Hebrew apprenticeship (as opposed to Greek lecture-oriented schools) and offered the opinion that Paul was discouraging a situation in which a woman was “discipling” a man in areas of deep character formation--spiritual aprenticeship. In such an interpretation one could almost as easily say, that a man should not teach (disciple-or character apprentince) a woman.

Steve: I would offer the suggestion that your Pentecostal friend's problem is not just women in ministry, it is much deeper--the traditional institutional structure of his church and his lack of strong leadership and personal engagement with men in any significant way. There are plenty of aggressively growing Vineyard mega-churches with women pastors on staff, but they are going about in an entirely different way than you Pentecostal friend (not that I like one more than the other).

Here is the rest of the post from Scot McKnight in September, 2006:
“I begin today's post with a story. In the Spring of 1982, I got a phone call at our home in Nottingham, when I was doing research for my dissertation at the University of Nottingham, from none other than F.F. Bruce. A mutual friend had told him we were in England and wondered if he would be willing to meet us; he was and called us to say so. So, Kris and I, with Laura and Lukas, drove up to Buxton to meet F.F. Bruce and his wife. It was a great day -- and Lukas (age 2 at the time) greeted Professor Bruce by spilling orange squash on his rug. To which Professor Bruce said, "What can be spilled on a rug, has been spilled on this rug." Still, Kris was mortified!

At one point I asked him about women in the ministry and Paul. He said two things, and I quote in a rough summary. First, if Paul knew we were taking his words and turning them into Torah, he'd roll over in his grave. Second, I'm (he said) for whatever causes the freedom of the Spirit. In other words, if the Spirit prompts ministry in a woman, let it roll.”

steve H said...

I suspect we all agree that the primary issue is not about women's gifts and ability to minister. Of course, they should use the gifts and fulfill the calling God has given them. Just yesterday I read these words of counsel: “Do not ignore a wise and good wife, for her grace is worth more than gold.” (Wisdom of Sirach 7:19) “Do not be jealous of the wife of your bosom and so teach her an evil lesson about yourself.” (Wisdom of Sirach 9:1)This second one is footnoted in the Orthodox Study Bible, “A warning against marrying a woman and then becoming jealous of her. Instead, love her and encourage her to use her gifts.”

I Corinthians 11 makes clear that women can pray and prophesy (presumably in the gatherings of the church the context would suggest) as long as they are clearly under authority—the woman under the authority of her husband. (Other passages in Scripture presuppose a single woman will be under the authority of her father. By extension we might allow a single woman to minister under the authority the elders if her father is an unbeliever or dead.) The Bible encourages the ministry of women to women.

The only clear restriction is on women teaching men and having authority over men—apparently referring to having a governmental role. It is quite clear that elders and overseers of the church community are to be men. (The matter of women being silent is somewhat more complicated, but should not be read as contradicting other passages.)

So what is at stake today? Namely, can we allow women to do the one thing that Scripture restricts them from doing—have governing authority in teaching or in position over men? The one restriction… that sounds a lot like the Garden of Eden. Hmmm, that’s where Paul goes in his clearest statement about women having not having teaching and/or governmental authority over men.

steve H said...

Right, Joseph. I meant to make it clear that I believe this to be part of the problem. The ones you mention are just as important. And the key to that anecdote was that I think "female-dominated leadership" discourages men from rising up.

The matter of having women on staff is a different issue in my opinion; it would depend on what they are doing. (See my last entry.)

By the way, I apply something I heard Charles Simpson say to these issues: "I can tolerate in someone else's church what I would not be able to do in my church."

Bruce said...

Charles' statement is how I personally conduct myself.

just joe said...

Bruce, going back to your comment, you said: "He gives the job of sorting out the best legal expression of those gifts to the leaders."

If that is true, why are "church leaders" never mentioned anywhere in 1 Cor. 14 where he talks about what to do when we are assembled?

Steve: if elders and overseers in church government are as important and as necessary as you imply, why did Paul not address the church leaders (elders and overseers) in nearly all of the letters he wrote trying to straighten problems?

He didn't reference them in Galatians, nor did he in 1Corinthians if my memory serves me right... ditto Ephesians and Colossians. I think he DID address overseers in PHillippians (where he was not even addressing problems) and I don't remember regarding Thesalonians. In Romans he addressed the saints residing there but not the church ...

It seems like he did that exact opposite of what our leaders have done over the last 25 years... which is to go to the leadership first (and often only to the leaders)

Bruce said...

You wrote:Bruce, going back to your comment, you said: "He gives the job of sorting out the best legal expression of those gifts to the leaders."

If that is true, why are "church leaders" never mentioned anywhere in 1 Cor. 14 where he talks about what to do when we are assembled?

I say:
Beats me.
I kinda think that ruling in the church is what equipping the saints and exercising authority just, like, y'know, means. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Let me toss this out.
Gifts of leadership, especially apostolic but all of them too, are like stem cells: able to generate new stem cells which then develop their own cellular specialization. (It helps to know how stem cells work to appreciate the analogy.)

Brian Emmet said...

So let's get after what we understand by "governing authority" and related terms. A woman who prophesies a word that the leadership of the community confirms as "from/of the Lord." She is under the authority of the leadership (and the other prophets, acc. to 1 Cor 14). While the leaders affirm/confirm the validity of her word, isn't there some "exercise of authority" implicit in her prophesying?

A woman leads the intercessory prayer time in a Sunday service and does so in a way that is tremendously edifying to the congregation, and which the leaders feel is "right on". Isn't God's authority finding expression through her?

Erick and Elizabeth Schenkel are visiting Covenant Church in Arlington MA, and both are "sharing" about their lives and work in a Sunday service. I can think of few women more "submitted," to God and to her husband, than Elizabeth. Elizabeth says some things that prove revelational and revolutionary, particularly for some of the men in our congregation. Our leaders affirm the soundenees of what Elizabeth has said. Is this out of bounds? If not, at what point(s) does it become "out of bounds"?

Michael said...

If I can try to engage the is going to fast for me,
Joseph I agree with your assessment of how churches are structured (business versus family)determines how churches will view leadership. In business gifts are valued,
Joseph you also asked Steve "if elders and overseers in church government are as important and as necessary as you imply, why did Paul not address the church leaders (elders and overseers) in nearly all of the letters he wrote trying to straighten problems?"
One of the elements to leadership that I believe the Lord showed me several years ago, especially in the role of family leadership between Gail (my wife) and I was the hidden nature of my role as head. What I mean by that is the only person that needs to know who is in charge is Gail and I. Anytime it goes beyond that, or I have to somehow announce my leadership or press my role as leader, I have probably already lost my leadership.
Two examples were clear to me:
1) Do all of you remember Al Haig's comments when President Reagan was shot. He made it clear that he was in charge. The principle: if you have to announce your leadership, your probably never had it to begin with.
2) The nature of bones to our body. Bones, the internal structure, work best when they are unseen. Very few people, when commenting on people's looks, comment on their bone structure. Matter-of-fact if you see someone's bones, it probably means something is broken or out of joint. The only ones that need to see the bones are the ones who are connected.
I also believe that is in some way similar to what we see in the trinity.
So when Paul writes to the Corinthians, he certainly is speaking to the elders and leaders, but not to them only.
Wouldn't it be great if you visited a church and you couldn't tell who the leaders were? Consider the ant....

just joe said...

Brian: you don’t need me to respond: you know how I feel about it.

Michael: excellent points. My friend Dick Scoggins uses the analogy of Japanese Kabooki (sp?) theatre …. He believes that apostles, in particular, need to stay as invisible as possible and let the spotlight be on the everyday saints trying to slug it out in the real world. Just the opposite of what we do. This is one reason why Paul did not usually hang around very long.

There is an excellent post today on jesuscreed about Jim Belcher’s book on ways for the traditional and emerging church to communicate effectively with one another:

Jim Belcher, Deep Church

He calls for a new ecumenicism (not liberal) with a “two-tiered approach to theology.

………(Scot McKnight)………
First of all, Belcher examines the two-tiered approach to theology. The top tier comes from the "great tradition" or "mere Christianity" or the "old consensus." That consensus is what has bound together Christians of all ages: a commitment to the Bible and to the regula fidei that properly interprets it, and that regula fidei is found in The Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. This is the top tier.

The second tier is what CS Lewis refers to by the rooms off the hall (if you remember his image). That is, the local affirmations of the local church or denomination. So, Belcher affirms that unity can be found in the gospel -- the articulation of the gospel in the Church: the consensus creeds. But there is all kinds of diversity at the local level as a local church articulates other ideas on the basis of this old consensus.

Then Belcher argues that we have to be willing to trust those who affirm that orthodoxy. Here is how Jim puts it: "Does a particular thinker affirm the classical, orthodox consensus, the top tier? These [thinkers] certainly can be talked about and examined. But they must not be fundamentally tampered with. Any who affirm this are orthodox -- even if they hold to different views on the bottom tier" (61).

steve H said...

I suspect one reason that the leaders aren't addressed directly more often is that leadership in that culture and time was not under attack. If anything the tendency would be to elevate leaders too much. Leaders were a given -- thus the emphasis was on the whole community.

In our "democratic", egalitarian society, leadership is severely undermined. There has been a serious attack on leadership (explicitly so since the 1960's). The people (church and non-church) want to elevate other people to leadership positions -- at least the image that those people present; then the same people want to pull them down to their level and below. (The news media plays a big role in this.) The old crabs in a bucket analogy.

The Holy Spirit has emphasized leadership in the church for the last few years. Can it be overemphazed? Yes. Can leadership be abused so that it's self-serving and self-promoting rather than servant motivated? Yes.

Ironically, this string started discussing the role of women in the church. The driving agenda in our culture is that women are oppressed if they do not have the same leadership positions and responsibilities as men. There is a drive for visibility and power as the measure of progress in "rights." That seems to me to be the very opposite of the internal "bone structure" of leadership that Michael brought up.

We may use the word "governing authority" differently, Brian. But I have no problem with the examples you gave. There is a clear difference, in my thinking, between that of being the "conduit" of a word from God and that of elders/overseers who are responsible to rule over the household of God (the community) in a way similar to that of a father over the family (1 Timothy 3 & 5).

just joe said...

Steve, I can hardly think of a single congregation over the last 30 years where I have seen "elders/overseers" actually be effective in leading a vital congregation. I can think of nearly dozens of examples where "elders/overseers" were more of a problem than a solution. That leads me almost of necesity to question the paradigm you are defending.

Was it the Holy Spirit that emphasized leadership in our movement? I'm not totally convinced. Yes, the Holy Spirit brougth forth good things. And yes, human carnality, pride and ego brougth forth a lot of things. It is not so easy to sort them out. However, if one judges on "enduring fruit" ... I would have to see the greater part going to the second casual dynamic. Now I'm in trouble....

Dwayne said...

Hello Everyone. My name is Dwayne Rodeffer. Billy Long suggested i join up with you all.

I recently stepped out of a "Mega-Church" system and have been lead to start a church. Right now I'm meeting with a few people in my home. And as Joe, would call it, have had one "God-party".

I have read thru most of the comments on this subject. I think it made me a bit dizzy.

Here are a couple of my thoughts. Take em, leave em or trash em.

The Greek word for church is Eklesia... part of speech-----Feminine noun....

In Creation, man was made perfect, yet in his perfection needed a help-mate .....Woman.

Jesus refers to His church as the "Bride"

This emphasis on the feminine is huge. The heart of the home and the heart of the church comes from the feminine.

Jesus didn't refer to his church as the "Groom" did he.

True leadership was demonstrated at Jesus feet with expensive perfume. That was done by,,, yep a woman. Man rebuked her. Jesus honored her.

God, man and woman united together is a very strong bond. One that homes and churches need. One that the world needs, regardless of economic, political or sociological changes in our culture.

Long gone are the days that people care about how much you know, how biblically accurate you are or whether a woman has the right to teach a man.
We live in a world that is hungry for someone to just care. The lonely as busy as they are with all the technology we have ....are still lonely.

To force someone into our way of thinking and how biblically accurate we are misses the point. Paul said he became all things to all people so that he might win some. When he spoke to the Jews, he called himself Saul....When he spoke to the Romans, he called himself Paul.

My point is this. We have a lot to learn from the women God has put in our life and the women written in scripture. It was a woman who risked her life and confronted a King to save her people.
It was thru a woman that Christ was born. He could have just shown up. He chose to be born of a woman.

I, for one, am glad that God created woman. That He knew even when man was "perfect" that Adam needed an Eve. From the mother of Moses to the mother of Jesus to the mothers of today, God has used women to save millions. I think we better take this strong hint from God to the "heart".

It's that kind of "heart" that this world needs. Often my wife will tell me "Dwayne you need to take "so and so" to get some coffee", "somethings going on with them" Many times i respond with "Oh they are doing alright" "no, she says " I really think you should go spend some time with him" It's that kind of heart that i believe we need to listen to.
In my own perception and thinking, I would miss that someone was in need of my time. Because i was right....... i could tell my wife "It's not permitted for a woman to teach a man" so hush and submit"... I wish i could say that i have never been down that road but i have and thought i was right... I was very wrong......

We should take the strong bond of God,man and it out, preach less and the lost will want it not because of what we know but who we are. It is by our LOVE that they will know.....

just joe said...

very good points Dwayne ... I agree. Welcome to our blog!

Where are you planning on planting a church? That is a ministry that is very close to my heart.

Dwayne said...

Joe, I live in Charleston S.C. in the Summerville area. That's where our group has been meeting for the last 5-6 weeks. Billy's work has brought him here, which has been great. He has mentioned you several times in our visits and thought it would be good for us to get connected.

Brian Emmet said...

Welcome, Dwayne--I liked your "Long gone are the days that people care about how much you know, how biblically accurate you are or whether a woman has the right to teach a man. We live in a world that is hungry for someone to just care." That's not the whole of it, but it's a point we need to keep clearly in view.

And welcome back, Michael! I'm with you on the idea that the best kind of leadership generally doesn't draw attention to itself or "throw its weight around." Authority is first and foremost a moral reality--people heard Jesus and somehow, at some level, recognized or received his authority--he didn't impose it. Yes, he commanded some to follow, but they did so out of a recognition of something profoundly good, right, true, lovely, attractive about who he was and what he said. Not everyone did, of course, but for those who did, something like I just described seems to be what was happening.

Steve, I agree that leadership and authority have been under attack; part of the attack is based on very good reasons (lying by Presidents, gross sin by spiritual leaders, etc. ad infinitum) and some of it is incoherent: "Question authority" is, after all, an authoritative statement (actually, a command!) But aren't there important differences between attacking and asking questions? So we need to discern--and that's part of the value of discussions like these--between good questions that may require us to rethink our positions, and self-centered, self-serving agitation geared towards gaining power, or maintaining it.

steve H said...

I'll be bowing out. My aunt died yesterday and I'm taking Dad to the funeral in Maryland.

To all this other, I can only say what has been said by another, "But if anyone wants to argue, we have no other customs, nor do the churches of God [or at least the one I am part of]." :)

just joe said...

sorry Steve, it was not my intention to argue ... only to process these very real and important theological and cultural issues. I appreciate having a forum where we can question and probe one another's thinking without falling into arguments.

We will be praying for you and yoru dad.

Michael said...

I don't think we should assume (maybe I am making an assumption that we are assuming this) that Paul wasn't concerned about leadership. His letters to Timothy and Titus reflect a real concern for godly leadership. If you read Acts, especially Paul's last words to his Ephesians friends, it is the elders that he brings together. I believe it is the models that we try to emulate that we have to be aware of. We have mentioned many of them already. But top down hierarchal leadership (which is what I believe our movement tried to model) will not work.
More and more I believe we need to ask the HS to give us insight into the nature of the trinity and ask for wisdom in modeling the way.
I am with Bruce and Steve, and anyone else who agreed with them, there is much I can tolerate church, family (my addition) that I would not be willing to follow myself. I even find God speaking to me through Joyce Meyer when I listen to her.

Brian Emmet said...

Steve, you've had a lot of loss of late. Sorry to hear of your aunt's death, and blessings and the Presence on you and your dad.

I always assumed that Paul's letters would have been hand-delivered to the leaders of the churches, who then would have read them to the people. I never thought it was significant that his letters were not addressed to "the leaders/elders" of the church at such-and-such. When Jesus addresses the "angel" of the church at ____ (Revelation 2 and 3), I think he's addressing the leaders and thereby speaking to the whole community.

Michael, I agree: the more we become "participants in the divine [trinitarian] nature" (Peter), the better we will understand and "do" genuine spiritual authority and leadership.

Billy Long said...

By the way, Paul did call for a special meeting with the Elders/overseers of Ephesus to come meet with him in Miletus. It was special since he assumed he would not see them again.
[Acts 20: 17-38].

John M. said...

This is probably for another thread, but I think we should reexamine our assumptions about the nature of the Trinity [i.e. automatically assuming subordination]. That assumption has been alluded to in this thread and seems to be at the root of our assumptions about men and women.

I know Jesus as a Man, submitted to the Father. But is the nature of the Trinity throughout eternity, prior to and following the incarnation one of subordination or of perfectly harmonized and synthesized unity and equality?

As some have described it a "divine dance".

just joe said...

a divine dance? Now you are using an anology that I can get excited about.

Michael: I agree.

Brian: this has been a hottest thread we have had a while. It has been a long time since someone has complained that the thread was moving too fast to keep up.

Brian Emmet said...

Yeah, baby!

John, I think you're right about (a) another thread and (b) that how we understand and "practice" authority ought to be derived from who God is in his tri-unity. But even if we could actually "nail" "how the Trinity works", we'd also have to face the fact that we're living in the realm of the already/not yet of the kingdom; we are somewhere in the process of becoming "particpants/partakers in/of the divine nature," but we aren't all the way "there" yet. If we concluded that the Persons do not "do authority" the way we think about it, that does not necessarily mean that the wisest course is to abandon all our notions of authority and "always just do the loving thing." There is a tendency in our culture, already noted above, to view "authority" in primarily or even exclusively negative terms. You can see this playing out in the debates about what the NT means by "head" and "headship." Is the NT emphasis more on "head" as "source" (as in the "head of a river") or more on "head" as "authority" ("he's the head of his company"). Paul was not unwilling to "exercise authority" over disobedient and recalcitrant churches, and Ephesians 5 does seem to argue for (a) mutuality of submission and (b) different expressions of that between husband and wife. The Persons have no need or desire to "compel" obedience from one another, but I think we're all glad when the police break up a terrorist cell or parents discipline their children or a boss fires a disruptive, unccoperative employee or the government outlaws slavery.

Michael said...

I would think that if we understood the way authority works within the trinity we would find that it fits well into the world God has made. The problem wouldn't be God's world, but us. I know you are saying that, but I hear you saying that doing the loving thing (maybe identified with the trinity?) versus abadoning all notions of authority would be mutually exclusive. Maybe I misunderstood.

just joe said...

I doubt that we will ever figure out how authority works within the Trinity.

I'm guessing in every age, the Trinity is perceived ss operating in accordance to the predominant cultural paradigm of that time. Under French Absolutism the divine authority of God as creator and the Son with all authority in heaven and on Earth would stand out.

currently, it only makes sense to me that would look through our cultural lenses and see conciliar and fraternal lives of mutual trust among them.

Brian Emmet said...

Michael, you probably didn't misunderstand anything, I just wasn't very clear! Maybe all I meant was that since our "understanding of how the Trinty 'works'" will always be limited by our finitieness and compromised by our sinfulness, as well as, as Joseph's post pointed out, colored by our cultural situation, we should maintain a lot of humility and charity. In other words, we don't want to say too authoritatively that "because God is like this-and-this and therefore functions like so-and-so, therefore men and women must relate in precisely these ways:____"

just joe said...

so, you are saying some clarity with a lot of charity?

Michael said...

Not to sound argumentative, but isn't that the point? The more we grow in our understanding of who God is, the more we want to align ourselves into his will, to see our deformed image transformed? Now I grant that I probably don't want to impose my revelation/insight on others apart from the sphere God has given me (which of course always starts with me and works its way out). But I don't want to use my sinfulness as an excuse for trying to grow more fully into Christ.

Michael said...

After writing this I don't want to assume that you were using your illustration as an excuse. Maybe I overstated my point. But I will leave it there for others to rip into.

Michael said...

BTW I don't ever believe I have posted two, or I guess three now, posts in a row. Is there a badge for this?

Brian Emmet said...

Yes to Joseph's "more clarity and lots of charity" comment.

Michael, I'm wanting to avoid a reductionism in our thinking that would run something like this: "Because we now know (unlike those before us) that the Trinity functions in this particular way, we can therefore affirm, with near-total confidence and authority, that men and women should relate in this way... that government policy on Issue X should be 'this' and not 'that', and that soprt of thing. I agree with you that God's ways fit God's world, and that living in love is always the right option. It seems to me that the reductionism of this way of thinking--and I am not accusing you of thinking in this way--inevitably has a way of enlarging our sense of the importance and rightness of our position.

Brian Emmet said...

Seems like we've had enough of this topic for now (but don't let this sentence stop you if you're just getting ready to comment!) If no further comments are forthcoming, the floor is open for nominations for the Next Interesting Topic. "Deep Church"?

just joe said...

the more I read about Belcher's book, the more interesting it looks to me. However, I have not ordered the book.

In the past, it has not worked well to try to discuss a book that no one in this forum has read, or that only one person has read.

It would be nice to discuss a book that we have all read, but I don't know if that is possible.

If at least 2 other people get Belcher's book, I'll order it and read it. Otherwise, probably not.

Brian Emmet said...

I've got in on order... if a few more of us agree to order and read it, we should probably schedule that discussion for about a month from now.

Other ideas?

Michael said...

I will order the book and try to keep up with everyone. I assume we are talking about Deep Church by Jim Belcher?

just joe said...

ok, if you and Brian are going to get it and read it (Jim Belcher, Deep Church) then I will too. I just didn't want to add to my pile of books that intend to read but don't have time.

just joe said...

Hey, speaking of Belcher’s book, there is a new post on McKnight this morning … the 5th post going over chapter 5 of the book. The issue discussed is the tendency within the Emerging movement to emphasize “belonging before believing” as an important way of reaching postmoderns.

I have to confess that this is the approach I am taking with our god-parties… and that before I ever heard of the concept from the Emerging church. I heard it from Paul Petrie circa 1998: “Don’t invite people to your church—invite them into your relationships.”

Here is the post:

Deep Church as Third Way 5

Of course, I should add an important qualifier: our god-party makes no claim to be a church, must less a “Christian” church. The skeptics and un-orthodox thinkers in our group make no claim to be Christians (in fact, the Jesus-following believers in the group make no claim to be “Christians”).

We do not partake of holy communion together. Nevetheless, the god-party does represent a community of friends, of truth-seekers. We do practice “belonging” before “believing.”

Michael said...

I ordered a copy last night from Amazon. Will be 4-6 days b4 it arrives.

Brian Emmet said...

I'n in for buck, in for a Belcher. Join us, comrades!

Michael said...

Hey if you guys remember keep me in prayer. I just finished 8 different interviews for VP position with OfficeMax. I believe I have a legitimate chance, but there are other qualified candidates applying.

Robert said...

Sorry to miss the main thread...a subject of significant interest to me. Economic subordination, biblical precedent, equality in Christ, women in ministry, etc. Hope to catch the next round.

Brian Emmet said...

Praying with and for you, Michael.

Brian Emmet said...

New Post avaialble!

just joe said...

me too Michael ... good luck! 8 interviews, wow.