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Christmas Reflection

Raymond Carver’s pithy poem ‘Late Fragment’ captures something of the yearning of every human heart:


And did you get what
You wanted from this life, even so?
I did
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
Beloved on the earth

At Christmas time, most of us gather with friends and family. Our time, our gifts and our eating together are symbols of love and belonging.

For Christians, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ connects us with a transforming message: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son” (John 3:16).
We are not alone in the universe, or insignificant. Our lives are not meaningless. Rather, we are beloved: Christ was born and lived and died and rose to express God’s profound love for us.
Did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?
My prayer for this Christmas is that you will experience what all of us really want: that you will feel yourself beloved on the earth.
For you are... more than you could ever imagine.

Proof Text Inconsistency

I’m over it!
As an egalitarian, periodically on social media I am accused of not being faithful to God’s word, but compromising to culture.
Here is the latest example:
“Men and women are equal before God but have different roles. 1 Timothy 2:12 is clear. ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.’ It is vital that we stand on God's Word, not bowing to cultural pressures.” (1)

The first thing to note is that this text is anything but clear, using the rare and ambiguous word authentein.
But secondly… I am yet to meet ANYONE online who doesn’t “compromise to culture” around the following passages. (2) Note these are passages that do not involve ANY ambiguous Greek words:

Romans 16:16 “Greet one another with a holy kiss.”1 Corinthians 16:20 Greet one another with a holy kiss.2 Corinthians 13:12 Greet one another with a holy kiss.1 Thessalonians 5:26 Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss.1 Peter 5:14 Greet one ano…

Theology and Culture in Dialogue

I've been involved in yet another Facebook dialogue - a respectful one - on women in ministry and eldership. The person expressed concern that having women in ministry was caving in to cultural pressure, and noted that "many churches have changed their position in such a brief period of time (relatively speaking, in the span of church history)"

He also commended Grudem and Piper's theological (Complementarian) position.

My response is below:

I would like to reflect on your comment “it is vital that we stand on God’s word” (yes!) “not bowing to cultural pressures” (yes, but…)
May I say – somewhat provocatively – that theology is always developed in the context of, in dialogue with, and in contrast to culture.
The theology of God’s people (revealed in the Old Testament) was developed in the context of and in contrast to other cultures – in Egypt, Palestine, and Babylon. Jesus’ teaching was in the context of first century Roman-occupied Palestine; and he confronted the cu…

"Defending" Women in Ministry

Steven Holmes claims he can no longer defend women in ministry.

I'm inclined to agree with him!

What do you think?

Updates on the Trinity and Complementarian Theology

Kevin Giles has been writing for the past 20 years about how some Complementarians have been rewriting the doctrine of the Trinity.

It seems finally the gravity of this problem is sinking in.

Scot McKnight has discussed Kevin's latest book here.

An excerpt for your interest:

"Kevin Giles, who all along has been calling out Grudem and Ware and others, both was the first to call them out and now has written a small engaging account called The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrineof the Trinity. He has issued statement after statement but the authorities in the complementarian movement denounced him, ignored him, and therefore silenced him. But when the Reformed lights... came to his side, defended him, and denounced the inadequate and wrong-headedness of Grudem and Ware, the jig was up and suddenly Giles was no longer the bad guy. They will still largely ignore him, but the truth is out."
Last year Christianity Today did a fairly cutting expose of the motivations an…

Trinitarian Love

Some scientifically-minded atheists believe matter and energy just happened, that forming complex molecules just happened, and that these molecules just happened to form human life eventually. We are nothing but matter and energy and accident.

Some Deists believe that there was a Mind behind the universe. That there was some kind of Intelligence behind the physical constants that make matter possible, and the properties of atoms that make life possible. They believe that Something kick-started the universe.

Christians believe the ultimate reality is not only powerful but personal.

John once wrote the startling words:

"God is love".*

Not just that God is loving. Not just that God feels love.

But that God's very nature is love.

As early Christian theologians pondered Jesus' command to baptise in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they developed a startling idea... that God is three persons living in an eternal relationship of love.

Human beings - those…

Ambiguous Words

Image
Margaret Mowczko has written an excellent article on the possible range of meanings of "authentein" in I Timothy 2:12. Indeed, there are multiple reasons why this is a complex and ambiguous passage.

Likewise kephale (or head) has a range of possible meanings.

A helpful principle in interpreting the bible is to avoid creating some kind of law out of ambiguous words (or metaphors, idioms, etc.)

There are some things in the bible about which we can be quite clear.

The idea of "male headship" is not one of those things.

The idea that women cannot teach men is not one of those things.

Are my thoughts unambiguous enough?







Precedent to Precept

Biblical hermeneutics (for those who like throwing big words into conversations) is the art and discipline of interpreting scripture.

The bible is a complex book, having been written over many centuries, in different cultures, in different places, and in different languages. Scholars study other texts written in similar places and times to get clues as to what certain words might mean. They investigate cultural practices, and styles of literature / oral traditions operating when the bible was written, to help us understand what the original authors might have intended to convey.

We need to approach interpreting the biblical texts with a degree of humility. We also need to note that the scriptures are not “flat”’ some texts carry more weight than others. Jesus noted:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should…

Some Thoughts to An Angry Agnostic

Have you ever encountered a hostile online (or real-life) atheist/agnostic who heaps rage and scorn upon religious people?

I have met such people. I once foolishly pointed out on an atheist blog that the post contained factual errors. I was promptly described as a #%*&ing moron. Charming.

Whenever dealing with any angry person, it’s wise to ask whether there is a story behind the anger. To ask whether something bad happened to them, or to someone they care about. Many people do have a painful experience they are more than willing to share, and do appreciate being heard.

However, some hostile people relish debate as a point-scoring exercise, seemingly to elevate their own sense of self-importance. It feels to me like stereotypical male undergraduate behaviour*… though some people in their 70’s have maintained this level of psycho-spiritual development. Others are more like emotional two-year-olds. (But I digress).

Some hostile people are just bullies; they relish the opportunity to…

Eternal Subordination?

Dear Complementarian Friend,

In my last post, I wrote from the perspective of a minister and church leader, concerned about the impact on the church of proclaiming certain views about women.

For this one, I’d like to put on my theological hat.

The whole term "Complementarian" has been around for 30 years, as a reaction to some evangelicals promoting equality for women in marriage and in the church. The counter-arguments (and the torrents of books and articles) began in earnest.

It seems to me these Complementarian arguments are on a sliding scale of merit.

Some appeal to biology (“men and women are biologically different, and reflect different roles... that doesn’t make them unequal”). Some appeal to proof texts (“wives, submit to your husbands”). Some appeal to biblical precedent (“the twelve apostles were all men”) (1) Some appeal to church tradition… and a mixture of all of this and more. I can discuss such things civilly, I hope. (2)

But there is a Complementarian argu…

Can you Please be Quiet About it?

Dear Complementarian Friends,

I know you are sincere in your belief that God has ordained different roles for men and women. I know you are trying to obey God's revelation through scripture. I commend you for that.

However, I think it would be wise if you kept a low profile on your views about the place of women. Please bear with me as I explain.

Alarmingly, some of you are claiming in public spaces that Complementarianism is THE Christian view. Some have even been saying Egalitarians are in error, unbiblical, and sinful.

You must surely be aware many Christian denominations... Pentecostals, Baptists, Churches of Christ, Salvation Army, most Anglican Dicoese in Australia, the Uniting Church and others… DO ordain women. Making comments about how Egalitarians are sinful, unfaithful, and unbiblical doesn't exactly help the cause of church unity. Do you really think it’s a salvation issue? Is it a question you ask at confirmation or Baptism? It’s one thing to have a strong view, …

Spiritual Orphans

“Ancient youth like Jacob and Esau grew up at a time when questions like ‘Who are my people? Why am I here? What gives my life meaning and coherence?’ were answered, literally, by the faith of their fathers, not by theories of ego development. Yet these questions of belonging, purpose, and ideology remain at the core of human identity; while we have learned to think of them as psychological issues, such questions have historically fallen to religion to answer, ritualized in the traditions and practices of communities that seek to embody a particular story of identity.” (Kendra Creasy Dean)

I suggest our world is full of spiritual orphans.

Orphans are left to fend for themselves; to pick up whatever sustenance and shelter they can find. Orphans, unless adopted, are not nurtured and struggle to thrive. They don’t know who they are or where they belong.

Religious communities have traditionally provided a spiritual home for young people; providing the stories, metaphors, rituals and exten…

Cultural assumptions and reading scripture

One human characteristic is to interpret what we read through the grid of our assumptions and world view. We interpret texts (including the bible) according to the norms of our culture, our family of origin, the style and level of education we have received, our own personality, and all manner of subtle and not-so-subtle socialisation experiences. We interpret what the church should be like through the grid of our personal experiences of church, often with greater passion and clarity than with anything the New Testament has to say about church. Anyone who has had a battle in their church over hymns versus choruses, where the communion table should sit, how long the service should run, a building program or a management problem, can testify that passions can run high over issues that have NOTHING to do with good theology or the bible, and everything to do with the expectations people have based on their prior experiences of church and family. This is perfectly normal and to be expecte…