Tag: Romans

Our Culture of Proof Texting

Complimentarianism and Egalitarianism both require proof-texting to make their points, reading their own ideas back into the text whose writers would not recognize them. Both sides fail to address the proof-text for the others arguments and so a stalemate ensues and the church remains divided.

 

Jonathan David Faulkner

As a budding Historian of the Church in America in the 19th Century I get to study all the various debates that raged through that century. I also get to study the origins of those debates either in the enlightenment or in eighteenth century revivalism. Wrapped up in the radical individualism of western culture they end up dividing and splitting the church into fragments. Instead of engaging other ideas, writers would just dismiss the argument and attack the person making the argument. This was the case in the debate between Jonathan Edwards and Charles Chauncy during the First Great Awakening and between Charles Finney and Charles Hodge during the second. Or in the debate between Mercersburg and Princeton, though the Mercersburg Theologians do a better job than most actually addressing their opponent’s arguments theologically rather than just tossing insults back and forth. John Williamson Nevin understood that personal opinion and preferences were no basis for an entire theological system. Adam S. Borneman in his book “Church, Sacrament and American Culture” notes that: “Nevin was not anti-individual. Proper reason and proper religion, however, only took place when the individual submitted their own subjective reason to universal, objective reason. Private judgment, if it remained private, was not sound judgment. In order for it to be rational and accurate in its interpretation of the outside world, it was necessary for such judgment to show “itself to be truly general.” In other words, there was room for opinions within the Church, but those opinions should not be the basis for private, individual theologies that you then chose to associate only with like minded individuals. To both Nevin and Schaff Party Spirit was a worst enemy to the church than Roman Catholicism, a point I agree with them on. The result of all these debates, and what is still true today, is that both sides present railroad arguments that either dehumanize their opponents or make them into some identarian boogeyman. Like the gentlemen who said to me once in a theological forum concerning the interpretation of 1st Timothy 2&3. When confronted with Gordon Fee’s insistence that you cannot interpret 2$3 outside of chapter 1 and the cultural issues going on at Ephesus, he said: “Fee is tainted by Feminism, we cannot listen to him.” Fee, one of the preeminent biblical scholars of our time and likely one of the more conservative, was dismissed because of the boogeyman of feminism. In our 21st century context we are still inundated with the debates like this, we still practice party-spirit.

Here is the thing though, if you look at the basis for most of these debates, they center around one or two and sometimes three passages that rely only on a plain reading of the English text without any critical thought. Basically, these opinions get blown up into essential doctrines based on building an entire philosophical framework based on dealing with a text in a complete vacuum, wrestling it away from its cultural, literary, historical backgrounds and at the expense of the consideration of the full biblical council about the topic at hand. Some translators, like in the case of the ESV’s, have even admitted to making lexical decisions on difficult passages based on their preferred theological framework. This approach to scripture is dishonest, but at least consistent with the dictates of both modernism and fundamentalism (another debate from the 20th century). Reject the full council of scripture in favor of a personal opinion that is built on one passage that in the Greek is actually not as black and white as the English text makes it. The result is that we come to the philosophical system before we come to the truth of scripture and then we pigeonhole the text into that philosophical system. Thus we create a culture of proof-texting based on nothing more than two or three texts (sometimes only one) in the English rendering and claim those opinions are infallible. As I said in last week’s article, we love to read those opinions uncritically back into the text, the fallacy of Presentism.

The most hot-button issue where this happens is in the debate between complementarianism and egalitarian debates of the 20th and now 21st century. Both systems can trace their roots back to the nineteenth century and both sides practice this kind of proof-texting to make their point. Complementarians love 1st Timothy 2:11-15 and 3:1-13 with Titus 1:5 and a passage in Corinthians as the basis for their arguments and Egalitarians love to use passages like Romans 16:1-8, Matthew 28:1-15, and passages in Acts to make their point. Both are convinced they are right, both are built on proof-texting, both refuses to answer questions asked by the other. The closest thing to reconciliation between the two parties is Gordon Fee’s “Complementarian without hierarchy” but even this falls short because like the other two it requires proof texting and a though slightly larger, limited view of scripture. I have even heard it said that: “The Bible preaches complementarianism/egalitarianism” and absurd claim because scripture knows nothing of either philosophy and does not serve the purpose of preaching to anything other than Jesus Christ and His saving work through his death and resurrection for the Glory of God. Being first an ABC and then a CCCC Pastor I have had to study this issue in depth, I minister regularly with both men and women and associate with churches that have women pastors, women deacons, women Elders and so on and so forth. The second-highest ranking person on my denominations board is a woman and when we were securing the Board for 10:31 we explored thoroughly the debate and the scriptures associated with both sides. I also attended seminary with extremely qualified women who know the scriptures better than many men I know. The Pricilla’s to our Aquilla’s if you will. Because of this I have worked hard to study both the book of 1st Timothy and the role of women in the early church. I have talked to scholars on both sides of this debate and delved as deep as possible into the ancient world of Ephesus to learn what was really happening in the Ephesian Church that Paul might do a basic reset of the church. Because of this I have concluded through thorough study and teaching on this subject, just a few things. 1. It is dishonest to interpret 1st Timothy 2&3 in a vacuum that neglects chapter 1 and dishonest to deal with any passage in that way, 2. That there is a very specific cultural reason Paul gives for his words in those two passages and that has to be considered. 3. Women were not exceptions within the leadership of the Early Church, but regularly worked alongside men as Deacons and Elders, with even one serving as an Apostle. And 4. Both sides of the debate are wrong because they are predicated on proof-texting and ignore sound biblical theology making systematic theology impossible, doing damage to the text, dividing the Church into factions, are based not in the texts themselves but man made philosophy and have been used to justify all kind of heresy and mistreatment of others.

Now, I am not saying there no room for dissent on this issue, but if we cannot disagree without being disagreeable, to use a phrase from one of my mentors, then we have already failed. There is also a deep hypocrisy behind telling someone that the English text says: “Husband of one wife” while you yell at them and berate and threaten them to put you in violation of the rest of the text as a church leader. In that moment you cease to be “Above reproach” or “Sober-Minded” and you certainly are not in good standing with all the people. This again is the problem with this type of hunt and peck individualistic theology, apply what you want and leave the rest, even if what you apply makes you a hypocrite in another area.

So, what do we do with these ideas? It is important to remember that the world the bible was written into know nothing of these ideas. For complementarians then, I want you to consider passages like Romans 16. The text is clear there that Pheobe was a Deacon or Minister in the Church in Conchrene and that Junia (not junias, no self-respecting Roman would name their son after a goddess), who was “Premiant/well-known among the apostles.” Or Pricillia and Aquilla who were foundational for the founding of the Church in Corinth and who the ordering of the way in which they are addressed would imply Pricilla had some greater role in the church than her husband. They are even credited with having taught Apollos. They should also consider later evidence of women serving in the church such as John Chryssosotem who refers to his older sister Matilda as “The Teacher.” Consider that the book of 1st Timothy is not as black and white in the original Greek as many would like to make it, that there is actually ambiguity and confusion to this day among translators and scholars because the language is not as cut and dry as our English text makes it. It is possible Paul built this ambiguity in chapter 3 on purpose so that once the women learned quietly as the Jewish School boys and Catechumens were required to do they could lead again, in short, once their witnesses were restored, following how they had been destroyed by participating in the Cult of Artemis and the eve cult that may have been present because of it, and they knew the scriptures well, they could minister again. If the historical data we are starting to learn more about yearly is what happened, then we must consider it in interpreting the text. One might even look up N.T Wright’s arguments on this point and his translation of the passage which brings out the cultural nuances of the words used in 2:11-15. This is not a rewriting of scripture, but a translation that is built upon a deeper understanding of how the culture of that time would have interpreted the words. Also consider the implication of Jesus first instructions after raising from the dead was to instruct the women to literally preach and proclaim his resurrection to His brothers. Apply the same criterion for interpreting these passages in Ephesians that get used for this argument as well.

To Egalitarians, consider the texts in 1st Timothy, that there are standards for those who serve within the rank and file of God’s family. And those standards mean that not just anyone can teach and lead within the Church. There must be a standard and that standard cannot be built on man-made agendas, philosophy and criterion but on the Word of God. There is nothing wrong with desiring leadership within the church, as we have seen there is lots of biblical precedence, but that leadership comes with a requirement that starts with “Above Reproach” and includes being able to rightly divide the word of truth. The pastoral calling is a high one and it has been disgraced by too many preachers both men and women who have failed to maintain the integrity of the office and the integrity of biblical interpretation. One should not enter this calling lightly and those who do should consider both the internal and external call of God to make sure this is what God is calling them too. If we all did this there would be a lot less of us in the calling today. Women and Men both called to the ministry must be students of the Word of God and learn all they can about it if they are going to teach it. They must guard against dealing with a text in a vacuum and seek to become good and solid biblical theologians before they are good and solid Systematic Theologians.

Neither side then should ever Lord it over the other and demand the other should shut-up or “go home.” That is neither respectful nor consistent with how the Bible teaches we are to interact with one another as Brothers and Sisters. Instead, each side should mutually submit to the other, making allowances for the others viewpoint and considering the others arguments and doing so in a manner that does not cause further division, oppress the other or harm the advance of the Gospel. Too much of our discourse from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries are marked by this kind of toxic sectarian discourse that we are now carrying forward into the 21st century. In doing so we have continued to do damage to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and hinder its spread because Christians have lived and acted offensively in the name of the Gospel. The message we bear is offensive enough in our hyper-individualistic society, it ill-behooves us to live in such a way that is a stench as well. The early Church lived a life that was attractive to the outsider and they had favor with all the people (Acts 2:47), knowing how offensive their message was. Yet the way they lived attracted people from the lowest and highest strata of society and made them a family defined as members, one to another (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 12:14=26). Both sides of this issues should work to “Maintain the bond of peace and the spirit of unity” (Ephesians 4:1-5) which means we cannot angrily shout each other down and work hard to eviscerate the other in comment sections.

Finally, let me address you from the other side of my calling, the pastoral side, not as a Church Historian who studies these debates, but as an under shepherd of the Christ. Through the Holy Spirit you are Brothers and Sisters, Heirs and Co-Hers with one another and with Christ. You are not individuals existing in a vacuum, the way you act, the way you treat one another in debates like this reflect the attitudes of your heart towards you brothers and sisters and have consequences and affects on your brothers and sisters. I have been deeply, deeply hurt by brothers and sisters on both sides of this debate because in their mind this is an essential issue. But no theological or philosophical position, held corporately or individually should ever be held over your brother or sister in Christ in a manner that denies them the love of Christ, the compassion of the Body or the dignity they inhabit by being made in the image of God. There is a time and place to contend for biblical orthodoxy but that orthodoxy cannot be divorced from orthopraxy and must be rooted in the full council of the authoritative Word of God, Holy Scripture, Old and New Testament, Genesis to Revelation, not the ideologies, philosophies or opinions of man. This requires us to lay aside our confirmation biases and approach one another with a spirit of listening and understanding. We must work to be biblical peace makers, not body dividers.

Consider too that we are entering a cultural moment in the South and Midwest that the East and West Coast churches have already experienced and had to respond to. One where we no longer have the luxury of these debates, when we will need all hands-on deck and devoted to Holy Scripture if we are going to survive it with our distinct Christian Identity, rooted in scripture, intact. Those who have doubled down on these positions on both sides, have made fools of themselves and made fools of the church in the public square. We are no longer in a place where we can afford our comfort and those churches which want to maintain the status quo of American Individualism and theologies based on individual opinion and built on two or three verses of scripture are dying and will die. If Jesus were walking among us today would he look at us who claim to be His children and say: “You wicked and unbelieving generation, how long must I endure you” (Matthew 17:17) or will we all hear: “Well done my good and faithful servant.” As much as many of us would like to hear the latter, I fear it will be the former that we would hear. Our hope is not in man, its not in rooted in Western Individualism or modern Western philosophy or any construct of Man, but on Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior and the Gospel which He has left us. The only way to restore the Church in America is through a return to the Holy Word of God and a rejection of the man-made ideas that are causing our death.

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a Graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary holding Masters in Divinity and Church History, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry. He lives with his wife Rachel and daughter Erin in Buffalo Center Iowa and seeks to be a part of the project of reconciliation in the local and international church. He is currently serving as the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Buffalo Center.

Teaching Apologetics: The Importance

By Jonathan David Faulkner

 

Last week I read a viral post about why we need to get back to teaching Apologetics and Catechism. Needless to say I agree, adding to that, teaching the theology behind the Liturgy as well as adopting a strong Sacramental Theology that has largely lacked in Protestanism since the Puritan writer of the 18th century (but more on that later). The article was in response to a Pew Study on the reasons young people were leaving the church. Both articles are very good and I recommend following the links below.

For my own personal experience I have a good brother in Christ who is against the teaching of Apologetics because he sees it as man reaching for God instead of God reaching for man. I took Apologetics in undergrad and consider myself a Cumulative Case Apologist because I have the ability to call on multiple sources. I tend to agree with Dr. Gordon Fee and William Laine Craig. The word of God testifies and proves its own claims of truth (Presupposition or Classical Apologetics) but why not draw on all the other sources available (Cumulative Case).

For my part I have also been surprised about how little those who do leave the church actually know (in-spite of boisterous claims to the contrary). Whether it is those who simply subscribe to Deism or become Militant Atheists and those in the church who practice Liberal Theology who espouse the “Religion is divisive dogma.” None of them truly know enough about Scripture to even make the charges they are making against God or against His Covenant People as described in the Old Testament.

I suppose it is no surprise that most who turn away from the faith so militantly came out of Fundamentalist, Dispensational Churches which teach that we can know the things of God and go farther than any Puritan would dream in cheapening Sacrificial Theology. But who lean heavily on presupposition and a literal interpretation. Not that Presupposing Scripture is true is a bad thing, indeed every apologist must presuppose that what he is teaching is true, but reading everything in scripture literally leads to crazy things like the Creation Museum in Cincinnati.

Without understanding the historical situation, I have heard people say “God wants us to kill off 1/3 of the planet.” Without understanding the purposes of certain laws people have accused God of things such as Misogyny and Murder. The arguments are all completely illogical and based in complete emotion. From people who spend most of their time posting hateful memes aimed at a God they do not believe in.

Had they been taught Apologetics, especially Cumulative Case, which relies on Historical Data & Philosophy working with Scripture. If you understand that the land Israel was inheriting was full of people who for three generations (Abraham, Isaac & Jacob) had seen God’s blessing on those He’d set apart and not repented of things like Child Sacrifice, Misogyny, blood-letting rituals and many other practices that had little regard for the sanctity of life. A culture that made even the Romans (who practiced Pedophia) blush with shame. In fact, the Romans destroyed Carthage in 146 B.C, finally putting an end to the Canaanite Culture that Israel was supposed to put an end to long before.

Failing also to consider that woman in Canaanite culture were little more than property and could be treated and disposed of however the men liked to. A woman who was raped in Canaan was now considered worthless and would be tossed out into the street (Judges 19 gives us an example of Israel adopting Canaanite attitudes towards women). So when God instructs in the law that a rapist should pay the father a bride price and take her as his bride God is assigning value to the woman and forcing the man to take responsibility for his actions. Making it an act of mercy and extremely countercultural to a world that would kill the woman for being impure because of the man’s actions. Woman have value and are protected under the law and under the New Covenant, holding a special place in God’s Heart and Jesus Ministry. Hence, within Christian Faith: “There is no Jew or Greek, Male or Female” (Gal. 3:28) and Husbands are commanded to: “love your wives, and do not deal harshly with them” (Col 3:19) and “Love your wives as Christ loves the Church” (Eph 5:23).

Another problem with those who espouse these beliefs is that they try to say; “If you really believe the things in the law you should practice them today.” Let’s be honest, there are better ways to deal with crimes like Rape today, we have prisons, something that did not exist in Canaan (remember, Joseph was thrown into a pit, Gen 37:24). We also have laws that dictate certain punishments for rapists or those caught holding slaves or murders or whatever crime you want to name. When the system works (unfortunately there have been examples in the media lately where rapists have been let slide for ludicrous reasons), those people are held accountable for their actions.

Honestly, Militant Atheists sound like those who advocate for Theonomy, and would feel at home under the teachings of Paul Tilich and Ian Murray who believe Mosaic Law should be taught and kept in modern societies. A Reconstructionist idea that rejects the reformed ideas that the Civil and Sacrificial laws are fulfilled in Christ and are no longer applicable in today’s society. The Civil law does teach us there is a way to live with people (with respect and dignity, taking responsibility for wrong actions) but we have better ways of dealing with crimes like Rape and Murder. Granted, a do think a Rapist should be made to account for his crimes, make a sincere apology and maybe even be forced to make reparations to the girl and her family, but all of this as part of sentencing which should include substantial (15-20 years) jail time.

Note: Christians still follow the 10 Commandments as Jesus upholds and even expands them beyond external expression to inward, spiritual life only attainable through a life lived in the Holy Spirit as laid out in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and by Paul in Romans1-10

I can explain all this to you, I can bring you this logical and reasonable argument because I have studied the context by which Scripture was speaking into. God, though outside of time and not constrained by time, was writing into a specific culture through divine inspiration of men like Moses (Old Testament) and Paul (New Testament). It is reasonable to assume that there are things in the law that are counter to that culture and are not normative to our culture (the Maiyans were the last major world culture to practice mass child sacrifice, which again, made Pagan Rome blush).

This is also why we need to have intellectuals in our churches teaching our children Catechism and preparing them to respond to the arguments that people will bring against God and against them. Solid men and women of faith who can hear the arguments of those insolently apposed to Christian Faith and respond in a way that is rational and respectful. Who know, not just about the bible and about the God of the bible, as the fundamentalists think they do, but the specific situations and goings-on of the time periods. Not experts, but those who devoted themselves to studying scripture all considering all that must be considered to truly understand that which is being said.

Then we need them to teach our children to do the same, so that the great legacy of faith may continue through the next generation and beyond.

 

Original Articles:

Apologists, Catechist, theologians, Wake up!

Why young people are leaving the Church

 

Historical Sources:

Encyclopedia Britannica

Encyclopedia of the Bible

The Complete New Testament Dictionary of Theology

Notes from Old Testament Survey by Dr. Carol Kaminski

“Killing Jesus” by Bill O’Rielly

 

Biblical Text:

English Standard Version 1988

Greek-English Lexicon & Side-By-Side Translation

 

Jonathan D12973040_10154269785339245_3845786340930956602_oavid Faulkner is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a Pastor, Musician and Writer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Education & Administration with a concentration in Urban Ministry

Foggy Mornings

Growing up in the foothills of the Appalachians I can recount many a mounting in the spring and the fall where we would wake up to a wall of fog. So think in fact there were mornings you could barely see the neighbor’s house across the street and up the road. There were some mornings when you could only see the school bus by the bright flashing fog lights as it moved down Ramar drive across the housing development.

It was mornings like those when creation stood out to me the most. As I stood looking out at the soupy fog I couldn’t help but imagine what might be behind it. Would the hills reappear when the sun came out? Or would they be replaced by something else, maybe mountains would fill the landscape, or maybe a dragon would be seen flying over head. Fog always brought out the adventurer nature in me, always asking “What’s back there?”

This morning was the first time in a while I’ve seen fog as thick as pea soup. But as I walked to breakfast reveling in the beauty around me I started to think of God and His creation that was inevitably hiding behind that fog. In Kansas, unlike Ohio you can see for miles without anything to block your view. This morning the fog took that away and it made me wonder if I’d ever see the plains again.

I’ve come to learn that often times this is how we view God. Sort of like the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind some mysterious thick cloud or smoke, or concealed by fog. We go through our lives trying to get all our ducks in a row, thinking that the will of God is hidden, and often times it is. Or we think, God will reveal himself when we get ourselves straightened out. When we get through everything God will come out from behind the curtain or the fog and be revealed.

The truth is both of these are lies. Now, I’m not saying that God isn’t a mystery, He most certainly is mysterious and wonderful and terrible and all the things words we use to inadequately describe Him. For us to try to understand God will take a lifetime, that’s why we constantly need to pursue Him. But the notion that we have to have it together or figured out to learn who He is, is ridiculous.

God has said to us through the psalmist “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). We are told by Paul that “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20 ESV). And Jesus promises at the end of the great commission;  “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV).

With those promises why do we think that we cannot know God, true we can’t fully know Him in this life, but to say that He is hidden from us is like saying that we couldn’t tell the NFL replacement refs blew the call on Monday night. We can know God, we can come to Him and say “God I need you, God I want to know you” and He says “I will be with you always” or “I have been with you” and even still “You are my son or my daughter.”

If we want to become like Christ or in Christ (Phl 2, Gal. 2:20) then there has to be a way to know God. That is through the revealed or special revelation of God, aka the Bible. The “God Breathed” 2  Tim 3:16) inspired word of God. Meaning that word that God gave to men to write down so that we, 2000 years later could know who God is and how He works.

As for the idea that we need to get things together before we can go to Him, remember that we are His children. That God is about building people, Check out Romans 8:30 “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified”( ESV). Meaning God prepares us for what He has called us to do, He does a work in us. Titus 3:5 says “Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by the washing and regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit” (ESV).

This is amazing, that we can go to God as we are and He will begin to do the work as we get to know Him. As God draws us closer we will find healing, we will find restoration, we will find that God is not hidden behind a wall of Fog. That He is living and present and active in our lives and it doesn’t matter if we have it together, He has said “Come as you are.”

I find that when the fog lifts, things look a lot more beautiful. Back home the fog would lift and the sun would hit the wheat fields behind the development and nothing in nature has since captured my eyes as part of God’s revelation of Himself. When the fog lifts, and we start to seek after and pursue God, man how our perspective changes

God Bless You
Jonathan David Faulkner