Archive for April, 2005

The gig is up

The gig is up

Latest poll

Conservatives: 36.2%
Liberals: 25%
NDP: 20.5%

Conservatives: 40%
Liberals: 33%


Why I think women should be church leaders

Why I think women should be church leaders

Like all good egalitarians I shall start with Galatians. Paul believed in equality but in a very different way than we do today. He didn’t say we all ought to assert our rights of equality, but that we are all one in Christ. We reach harmony when we all lay down our rights and become conformed to the character of Christ. Some say this equality is only a property of salvation and that it doesn’t actually change what happens in the life of the church. I believe we see Paul’s theology of oneness in Christ reflected in the structure of the church.

We are all one in Christ

3:26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 

The early church was radically multivoiced

When Paul established churches across the Roman empire he went against the grain of Graeco/Roman society. Even though society had people segmented along different strata the church was a place where all were the same. In church everyone spoke and everyone ministered.

1Cor 14:26 What should you do then, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each one has a song, has a lesson, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all these things be done for the strengthening of the church.

We also know that women prophesied (1Cor 11:5). Simply defined prophecy is speaking the revealed words of God. It would be hard to think of something more authoritative and influential in the church.

Women, slaves, rich and poor gathered together and ministered to one another in corporate worship. Paul’s theology bridged in to real life. We see it again in 1Cor 12:12-26 in Paul’s illustration of the church as the body of Christ. All are needed and all are important. He even says we are all baptized together “whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free”. It isn’t hard to connect Paul’s thoughts in Galatians to the real outworking of the church.

1Tim 2: I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man

I think the whole hierarchical view rests on this passage. At first glance it is strong.  I respect those who interpret these verses differently than I do. From this perspective there are aspects of this chapter that don’t make any sense. Here is a pretty literal rendition (RSV).

12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Follow the logic

1) I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man
2) she is to keep silent
3) For Adam was formed first
4) Then Eve
5) And Adam was not deceived
6) But the woman was deceived
7) and became a transgressor
8) Yet she will be saved through childbearing
9) provided they continue in faith
10) and love
11) and holiness
12) with modesty.

At point 2 “she” is every women
At point 6 “woman” is Eve
At point 8 who is she – logically it must be Eve.
At point 9 the subject changes to plural “they”

Eve will be saved through child bearing? Why does Paul move from the singular “she” to “they”. The whole paragraph is very confusing.

Some people say Paul is pointing back to Genesis and is appealing to some universal hierarchical order of creation. I don’t buy it because there isn’t much scriptural support for this idea. It is a theological view which only goes back 150 years. Before then people simply assumed women shouldn’t be church leaders because they were inferior. The biggest downside to this interpretation is that it does nothing to explain verse 15. Some have thought it is a reference to Eve “bearing” Christ but that is grasping.

This is about deception not about creation order

I believe Paul appealed to Genesis as an illustration about deception. He does it in 1Cor 11:3.

“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

What is Paul talking about in chapter 2? I think the answer to that question is found in chapter 5 and the key is the most confusing part of chapter 2. The part about “they” being saved through childbearing. Who could be saved through childbearing and saved from what? I believe he is referring to widows in Ephesus. Later on in the same letter Paul writes:

5:11 But do not accept younger widows on the list, because their passions may lead them away from Christ and they will desire to marry, 5:12 and so incur judgment for breaking their former pledge. 5:13 And besides that, going around from house to house they learn to be lazy, and they are not only lazy, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things they should not. 5:14 So I want younger women to marry, raise children, and manage a household, in order to give the adversary no opportunity to vilify us. 5:15 For some have already wandered away to follow Satan.

It is the widows that wondered away from the faith and became deceived. Paul has a very pragmatic solution to the problem. Give the widows something to do and they will stop causing so many problems. Because Paul is addressing a specific situation and not invoking some preordained creation order the application of his words shifts from being universal to something much more specific in the context. Paul is reacting to heresy that had arisen because a certain group of people were causing problems. It is unfortunate that this group of people is all of the same gender so his pragmatic solution to this specific set of circumstances has been applied to all women everywhere regardless of heresy.

There are some stunning literary parallels between the structure of 1Tim 2 and 1Tim 5. This lends further evidence that Paul is talking about the same stuff in each chapter..

1 Timothy 2:8–3:13

2:8 Men

2:9-15 Women

3:1-7 Overseers

3:8-13 Deacons

1 Timothy 5:1–6:2

 5:1 Men

5:2-16 Women

5:17-25 Elders

6:1-2 Slaves


2:3—pleasing in sight of God

2:1—supplications, prayers

2:9—braided hair, gold, costly attire

2:10—good works

2:10—profess godliness

2:11—let a woman learn

2:11—quietly with all submissiveness

2:11—do not permit a woman to teach

2:14—woman was deceived

2:15—saved through childbearing



5:4—pleasing in sight of God

5:5—supplications, prayers 


5:10—good works

5:12—abandon former faith

5:13—learn to be idlers

5:13—idlers, gossips, busybodies

5:13—going house to house

5:15—strayed after Satan

5:14—bear children

[Edit] As much as I’d like to take credit for finding all these connections between chapter 2 and 5 it was my good friend Doug Heidebrecht who introduced me to them.  You can go even deeper on this subject by reading this article.

Very few churches apply 1Tim 2 literally and directly

If I am going to take 1Tim 2:12 literally and apply it directly women can’t teach men in any way in the church. Paul provides no exceptions. He doesn’t relate this to church office or corporate worship. Women can’t teach men period.

The problem with this is that it contradicts other scripture. Priscilla taught Apollos with her husband. This is where some people start to think that Paul’s general principle about restricting women from teaching is true but there are a few a exceptions. Paul must have meant women can teach in cooperation with men or under the authority of men. It is odd that he wouldn’t have mentioned these exceptions to Timothy. This is a very big restriction that seemed to go against the grain of how the church was set up.

Why would women be allowed to prophesy but not teach? Anyone familiar with prophetic revelation is that it often highlights and illuminates scripture just as teaching does. It is considered authoritative as long as it is tested. If there was a divine order to all of creation with men above women wouldn’t it be as applicable to prophesy as it would be to teaching? It makes no sense to restrict women from teaching but not from prophesy.

Elders: Husbands of one wife

The only other section of scripture that seems to limit women from church leadership is found in 1Tim 3 and Titus 1:6. They both say an elder should be the husband of one wife. There is no mention of an elder being a wife of one husband. This argument has merit but by itself it is not convincing. Greco/Roman society was patriarchical and it would have been very common to speak to an issue such as this and use gender exclusive language. Only in the last few decades has our culture stopped the practice of using the word men when we actually mean men and women.

It is also telling that Paul doesn’t provide a universally applicable reasoning for the restriction of women from eldership. The majority of elders would have been men because of the role women had in that society. The thought of women elders, while possible, wouldn’t have been prominent on the radar.

In 1Timothy Paul also says deacons should be the husband of one wife. However Paul commends a female deacon in Romans 16:1. The RSV renders the verse this way “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cen’chre-ae,”. There is debate over the meaning of word diakonos which is translated deacon in some translations and servant in others. The most compelling reason to render the word “servant” is that it seems more consistent with Titus and Timothy, not based on the strength of the text itself. Most recent translations such as the NLT, NRSV, and TNIV render diakonos deacon. If Phoebe was just a servant and not an official deacon why would the church be mentioned?

Some of the earliest church tradition confirms deaconesses were present in the church. This lends more evidence to conclude Paul wasn’t intending to place any gender based restrictions on elders or deacons in 1Timothy or Titus.

If the reason why women were restricted from teaching in Ephesus because of heresy and there are no gender restrictions on eldership there really isn’t a lot of reason to restrict women from church leadership. We are no longer hindered by uneducated widows going from house to house creating controversy. In our society women are regarded as equals, and not any more prone to deception or error than men and are provided equal levels of education. I don’t believe there is a compelling biblical case to restrict women from leadership.

What is the fruit of women in church leadership?

In our day we are obsessed with correct doctrine and Jesus does speak to this in some situations. However Jesus also gives us another test. We recognize false prophets by their fruit.

Matt 7:15 “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. 7:16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered21 from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? 7:17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 7:18 A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 7:20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.

For the last couple of hundred years women have been involved in church leadership and mission with great results. If after centuries of faithful fruitful service and we haven’t detected any difference between male and female leadership perhaps it is time we say women in church leadership has passed the fruit test.

Some people say that they regard only scripture as authoritative so they ignore the long term collective experience of the church. How does that work when scripture itself tells us to test things in this way?

Sometimes science and secular culture challenge our interpretations

I believe in the authority of scripture but I’m not always convinced long held interpretations should be as authoritative. Questioning these things is often regarded as questioning scripture but sometimes changes in science or culture force us to revisit some of our assumptions. Galileo turned the medieval Christian worldview on its side when he proved the earth went around the sun. It look a few centuries for the Roman Catholic church to admit he was right.

The current popular conservative view of women (equal with different roles) is a relatively new theological position in the church. A change in secular culture, which recognized women as equals to men forced the church to concede that women were equal and not merely inferior.

Today this debate is not a battle for the authority of the bible. It isn’t a battle between the biblical people and the culturally compromised people. One might argue it is a battle between contemporary secular culture and 50 year old secular culture. The question is which position is closer to God’s heart?

Why we should allow for diversity

Once I realized there is real strength behind the egalitarian argument which doesn’t compromise the authority of scripture I could no longer hold to the position that women should be restricted from church leadership. If it was for freedom that Christ set us free (Gal 5) and that we are no longer under any law (Rom 7) this has to be an non-essential issue which would allow for diversity among local churches. I believe that egalitarians should make every effort to present the biblical case for women in leadership but should stay away from underhanded politics or coercion. There are a great many sincere Christians who interpret the bible differently on this issue and they do not intend to oppress anyone. They just want to be faithful. These people should be respected.

Time is changing everything on this issue. I honestly believe that in 50 years we look back on these days the same way we look back the church of the past that supported slavery. We will wonder what people were thinking.

The fruit of restricting women

It is difficult to talk to gifted women and say they are equal but have different roles and they reply “this doesn’t feel very equal”. The denomination I’m most familiar with permits women in all roles except that of senior pastor. Even though there are no rules preventing women from all sorts of ministries there are a great many women who don’t feel it is appropriate to exercise the gifts they have. I think this is a great tragedy. In my experience the restriction of women from certain roles in the church is bearing a lot of bad fruit.

Another tragedy is that this whole issue is still dominated by men. Often women feel too intimidated to enter the this very divisive and sensitive debate. Those that don’t are often labeled and disregarded as militant liberal feminists.

Based on careful biblical examination, and by assessing the fruit our various church structures I conclude that women should be free to function in the body of Christ as they are called without restriction.


Getting to know EmergentNo

Getting to know EmergentNo

EmergentNo is a blog dedicating to exposing the faults of the Emerging Church. A closer examination of the theology of the people behind EmergentNo and the sites they link to reveals that many of these people would have problems with more than just the Emerging Church. I believe they would find serious fault in Catholics, mainliners, Methodists, Anabaptists, Charismatics, Pentecostals, and the seeker sensitive movement.

Why don’t they like the Emerging Church?
I will summarize some of their positions I’ve found on the site, on sites they link to and in the comments. At first glance they seem to be a homogenous group but that I can’t tell for sure.

The bible is clear on all substantial issues and ecumenism is bad
Many elements of the EC have moved to embrace more mystery and paradox in faith. There is a willingness to accept people from other Christian traditions with recognition that none of us understand the truth perfectly. This is bad because the bible is abundantly clear and that the EC intentionally “muddies the waters.” Truth is always rational and clear and the idea that truth is in any way spiritually revealed is Gnostic heresy.

Contemplative Spirituality is Eastern or New Age
People like Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning and Henri Nouwen have become a significant influence in the EC. According to EmergentNo these authors practice something they label interspirituality. Interspirituality is regarded as a Christianized version of Eastern or New Age mysticism.

Biblical Patriarchy and Order
They believe that affirming women as pastors is heresy. There is a biblical order to the church. Only the clergy have a sufficient enough grasp on the deep doctrines of scripture so only they should be allowed to speak. Having a conversation about scripture during corporate worship is dangerous because some people distort the scriptures.

The propositional truth found in the bible is central
In general the EC has moved away from the preaching and teaching of propositional truth found in scripture. They believe revelation or experience that doesn’t contribute to a rational construction of a Christian world view is irrelevant and possibly even dangerous.

My experience on the site
Debate on this site is combative and I believe that at times people from many different perspectives have generated more heat than light.

It seems a lot of work has gone in to the website and they use scripture generously. I believe they have accurately perceived several elements of the Emerging Church.

I think some of the research is shoddy. There is a willingness to link to anything they view as negative to EC people regardless of how strong that link really is. Open Theism for example is cited as a major theme in an article linked by EmergentNo and the only evidence for this link were the musings of a handful of people on their blogs. There are references to Bill Hybels and Rick Warren implying a far stronger connection than that which really exists. There seems to be no recognition of the sharp distinction between the values of the seeker sensitive movement and the EC. There is just an acknowledgment that they aren’t the same thing.

I perceive a strong desire to imply guilt by association. Specific churches and books are singled out and critiqued and then associated with the EC. Instead of presenting a balanced perspective weighing good elements and bad only negative issues are highlighted. The truth is there are lots of emerging churches that share significant common theological ground with the people behind this site but this barely gets a mention. I very quickly got the impression that discovering truth isn’t a high priority, just finding fault. 

While the site’s authors make strong claims about the authority of scripture I found them unwilling to discuss the meaning of certain passages when people offered a fair challenge to their interpretation. They tend to use scripture like a shotgun in order to support their perspective without much reflection on what each passage means in its context.  Instead of responding to legitimate questions I found my motives challenged and my character questioned. 

I sent my first draft of this post via email a few days ago for review and received no response. 

I am far less concerned about this site than I used to be.  I think most people can see through what is going on.  Especially when comments like “the emergent movement is a virus” stay up while one of the authors complains about being mocked and insulted. Complaints I’d hesitate to say are warranted based on what I was able to read in the archives. 

While they perceive many things accurately I don’t agree that these things are unbiblical.

They have a very narrow view of what Christianity is and it is the similar version so many of us have abandoned but because it didn’t live up to its own claims. Propositional truth is a reality and should not be abandoned. However an inordinate focus on authoritative propositional preaching or truth results in very little life change. A lot of people have figured this out and they are tired of pretending.

It isn’t that the word of God has no effect. Other things need to be brought in to proper relation with scripture like community, conversation, the Holy Spirit and the spiritual disciplines.

I don’t believe I have muddied any waters. I recognize that on complex issues my perspective is skewed and I don’t see things as they really are. Therefore I choose to withhold judgment of people who disagree with me on non-essential issues. I affirm God’s work in those hold a different perspective than me acknowledging that I don’t have a monopoly on the truth. Those who claim they have absolute clarity on complex issues are lying to themselves.

I’m glad to affirm women in any role in the church and believe that we need more voices, not less, to be heard in order to discern the meaning and application of truth.

There are a lot of issues where I would say I’m guilty as charged. I’m guilty of faithfully following Jesus Christ.


Warmer than Melbourne

Warmer than Melbourne

Forcast highs for Thursday according to the Weather Network.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 23
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 22

Please let it be so!


A world without rules and controls

A world without rules and controls

I know you’re out there…I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid. You’re afraid of us, you’re afraid of change…I don’t know the future…I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end, I came here to tell you how this is going to begin. Now, I’m going to hang up this phone, and I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you…a world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world…where anything is possible.

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This is too true

This is too true

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My thoughts on Terri

My thoughts on the circus around Terri

At this point I refuse to make a judgment about whether Terri’s death was wrong or right.  The issue has been politicized.  I think a lot of people appointed themselves neurologists when they are not.  This woman’s husband has been smeared for political purposes.  The whole situation is just sick.

Several years ago one of my family members was riding his bike and was hit by a car.  This 7 year old boy suffered a severe brain injury and went in to a coma.  His immediate family pulled the plug and did their best to move on.  There were some people removed from the situation who were saying the doctors didn’t do enough, and they should have waited longer.  You have no idea how these comments impact you when you are dealing with such a terrible tragedy.  Even when you are deep inside these situations it is difficult to make sense of it all.

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