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Why Theology Is For Everyone

The Thinker

By Jared Wilson

Every Christian must be a theologian. In a variety of ways, this is something I tell my church often. And the looks I get from some surprised souls are the evidence that I have not yet adequately communicated that the purposeful theological study of God by lay people is important.

Many times the confused responses come from a misunderstanding of what is meant in this context by theology. So I tell my church what I don’t mean. When I say every Christian must be a theologian, I don’t mean that every Christian must be an academic or that every Christian must be a scholar or that every Christian must work hard at giving the impression of being a know-it-all. We all basically understand what is meant in the biblical warning that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Nobody likes an egghead.

But the answer to formal scholasticism or dry intellectualism is not a neglect of theological study. Laypeople have no biblical warrant to leave the duty of doctrine up to pastors and professors alone. Therefore, I remind my church that theology—coming from the Greek words theos (God) and logos(word)—simply means “the knowledge (or study) of God.” If you’re a Christian, you must by definition know God. Christians are disciples of Jesus; they are student-followers of Jesus. The longer we follow Him, the more we learn about Him and, consequently, the more deeply we come to know Him.

There are at least three primary reasons why every Christian ought to be a theologian.

First, theological study of God is commanded. Having a mind lovingly dedicated to God is required most notably in the great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). Loving God with all of our minds certainly means more than theological study, but it certainly does not mean less than that.

Second, the theological study of God is vital to salvation. Now, of course, I do not mean that intellectual pursuit merits salvation. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone (Eph. 2:8) totally apart from any works of our own (Rom. 3:28), which includes any intellectual exertion. But at the same time, the faith by which we are justified, the faith that receives the completeness of Christ’s finished work and thus His perfect righteousness, is a reasonable faith. Faith may not be the same as rationality, but this does not mean that faith in God is irrational.

Saving faith is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8Rom. 12:3), but it is not some amorphous, information-free spiritual vacuum. The exercise of faith is predicated on information—initially, the historical announcement of the good news of what Jesus has done—and the strengthening of faith is built on information, as well.

Our continued growth in the grace of God, our perseverance as saints, is vitally connected to our pursuit of the knowledge of God’s character and God’s works as revealed in God’s Word. Contrary to the way some idolaters of doubt would have you believe, the Christian faith is founded on facts.Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that for the Christian, faith is not some leap into the dark. Instead, it is inextricably connected to assurance and conviction. It stands to reason that the more theological facts we feast on in the Word, the more assurance and conviction—and thus the more faith—we will cultivate.

Paul tells his young protégé Timothy, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). He is reminding Timothy that the sanctification resulting in continual discipleship to Christ necessarily includes intense study of God’s Word.

Third, the study of God authenticates and fuels worship. True Christians are not those who believe in some vague God nor trust in vague spiritual platitudes. True Christians are those who believe in the triune God of the holy Scriptures and have placed their trust by the real Spirit in the real Savior—Jesus—as proclaimed in the specific words of the historical gospel.

Knowing the right information about God is just one way we authenticate our Christianity. Intentionally or consistently err in the vital facts about God, and you jeopardize the veracity of your claim truly to know God. This is why we must pursue theological robustness not just in our pastor’s preaching but in our church’s music and in our church’s prayers, both corporate and private.

But theological study goes deeper than simply authenticating our worship as true and godly—it also fuels this worship. We must remember what Jesus explained to the Samaritan woman at the well:

True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23–24)

We are changed deeply in heart and, therefore, our behavior when we seek deeply after the things of God with our brains. The Bible says so: “Do not be conformed to this world,” Paul writes. “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). The transformation begins with a renewing of our minds. As John Piper has said, “The theological mind exists to throw logs into the furnace of our affections for Christ.”

Purposeful theological study of God, as an expression of love for God, cannot help but deepen our love for God. The more we read, study, meditate on, and prayerfully apply the word of God, the more we will find ourselves in awe of Him. Like a great ship on the horizon, the closer we get, the larger He looms.

SOURCE: Jared Wilson in Tabletalk Magazine. April 1, 2014/ http://www.ligonier.org

 

 

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God’s Not Dead: Movie Review

God Is Not Daed

I just went to see the Movie “God’s Not Dead” today with my wife and 18 year-old son. I think the movie was done very well; with excellent acting, a good plot, and an encouraging message – especially to Christians to stand up for what and why they believe in God. In looking over the internet I couldn’t find a review to express exactly how I would explain the movie, but the review below from Focus on the Families “Pluggedin.com” does a pretty good job of objectively evaluating the film. Overall, I think that it’s an especially good movie for Christians to see (especially older high schoolers and college-aged students), and will result in some good discussion about faith, convictions, and how to share the gospel with others. There are some questionable theological elements (discussed below – the devil is made to seem sovereign over God’s work in one part of the movie – which is never the case – God always holds Satan on a tight leash and can never do anything that God does not allow for His own glorious ends). The movie is very well done – the producers, actors, and directors have produced a film definitely worth seeing and supporting. Here is the article from Pluggedin.com (DPC):

“What is your humanities elective?” asks a helpful registration assistant at Hadleigh University.

The object of his inquiry? Freshman Josh Wheaton, who replies, “Uh, Philosophy 150. Radisson, 11:00 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

Noticing the cross and the Newsboys T-shirt the first-year student is wearing, the registrar suggests, “You might want to think about a different instructor.”

“Yes?” Josh responds, confused.

“Let’s just say you’re wandering into the snake pit. … Think Roman Colosseum. Lions. People cheering for your death.”

No one ends up actually cheering for Josh’s death in this movie. Still, the guy gets it mostly right, because Prof. Jeffrey Radisson isn’t just interested in teaching freshman why famous atheist philosophers such as Michael Foucault, Richard Dawkins and Albert Camus don’t believe in God. No, he’s an evangelistfor unbelief and the complete repudiation of faith. And on the first day of class he makes his students write “God is dead” on a piece of paper, sign it and hand it in.

“I can’t,” Josh says, the lone dissenter. “I can’t do what you want. I’m a Christian.”

“All right, Mr. Wheaton,” Radisson retorts. “Allow me to explain the alternative: If you cannot bring yourself to admit that God is dead for the purposes of this class, then you will need to defend the antithesis: that God is not dead. And you’ll need to do it in front of this class, from the podium. And if you fail—as you shall—you will fail this section and lose 30% of your final grade right off the bat. Are you ready to accept that?”

He is. And Josh even ups the ante, suggesting that his classmates be the judges of how well he argues God’s case.

Positive Elements

Josh’s dramatic, high-stakes stand against his professor is not only the right thing for him to do, it bears almost immediate fruit. Chinese foreign exchange student Martin Yip, for example, is moved by Josh’s courage to consider Christianity. And despite Martin’s father’s objections, the young man soon professes faith in Christ. A Muslim girl named Ayisha also seems to borrow some of Josh’s strength as she struggles with whether or not to admit her own conversion to Christianity.

More generally, we’re shown that Josh’s stalwart commitment to not letting God down inspires hundreds if not thousands of others who learn about what he’s doing by way of a Newsboys concert.

And in a parallel stand, a young woman named Mina, a former student of Radisson’s who became his girlfriend, decides to leave him because of his continuous belittling of her faith.

Helping Josh, Ayisha and Mina navigate their winding, at times agonizing, spiritual journeys is Pastor Dave. He’s a reverend who harbors his own deep doubts about whether he’s making much of a difference in people’s lives. But he ultimately sees that he is indeed having a significant impact.

Spiritual Content

When Josh has second thoughts about what he’s gotten himself into, Pastor Dave gives him two passages of Scripture to look up: Matthew 10:32-33 and Luke 12:48. The former—which Josh quotes out loud—deals with acknowledging God before men, something Josh does with his whole heart for the balance of the movie.

We see quite a lot of the in-class debate between Josh and Radisson, and some of the point-counterpoint gets pretty detailed. Josh, for instance, takes apart the famous quote from Richard Dawkins, who said, “If you tell me that God created the universe, then I have the right to ask you, Who created God?” Josh responds, “Even leaving God out of the equation, I then have a right to turn Mr. Dawkins’ question back ’round on him and ask, ‘If the universe created you, then who created the universe?’ You see, both the theist and the atheist are burdened with the same question of how did things start. What I’m hoping you’ll pick up from all this is that you don’t have to commit intellectual suicide to believe in a Creator behind the creation.”

Several other long scenes include similar theological and philosophical expositions explaining the reasonableness of faith.

It’s renewed faith that at least partially prompts Mina to leave Radisson. An ambush-style reporter, Amy, tries to stick it to the Newsboys backstage … and ends up on the receiving end of prayers by the group instead when they learn that she’s been stricken by cancer. As mentioned, Martin tells Josh that he’s become a Christian. And Ayisha risks everything to follow Jesus.

Speaking of Ayisha, we’re shown how bad it can get for some people when they profess faith in Christ. Namely that her conversion spurs her traditional Islamist father to disown her and kick her out of the house. And Josh’s girlfriend, Kara, works overtime trying to convince him to give up on trying to convince the class that God is alive, finally leaving him over the matter. Mina’s dementia-afflicted mother serves to stimulate thought about how serving God doesn’t always iron out all of life’s wrinkles.

“You prayed and believed your whole life,” Mina’s brother says to their mother, almost as an accusation. “Never done anything wrong. And here you are. You’re the nicest person I know. I am the meanest. You have dementia. My life is perfect. Explain that to me!” Then, in a moment of unexpected spiritual clarity, she does. “Sometimes the devil allows people to live a life free of trouble because he doesn’t want them turning to God,” she tells her shocked son. “Their sin is like a jail cell, except it is all nice and comfy and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to leave. The door’s wide open. Till one day, time runs out, and the cell door slams shut, and suddenly it’s too late.”

Indeed, in the face of difficulty, we hear a lot about God always being good, and having a plan for our lives.

When Amy waylays Duck Dynasty stars Willie and Korie Robertson on their way to church, she suggests that some viewers might be offended by the family’s Christian faith. Willie responds, “Hey, we’re not trying to offend anybody. If they don’t want to watch the show, they can turn the channel. As far as my praying to Jesus, my life and my whole eternity belongs to God. All this stuff is temporary. The money, the fame, the success, temporary. Even life is temporary. Jesus—that’s eternal.”

[Spoiler Warning] Even Prof. Radisson eventually admits that he hates God so much because of the pain he experienced when his mother died of cancer when he was 12. And he comes to Christ in the end … as he himself is on the brink of death.

Sexual Content

Kara’s tops reveal cleavage. It can be inferred that Radisson and Mina are living together.

Violent Content

Ayisha’s father hits her twice in the face, then, in a rage, throttles her, marches her down the stairs of the family’s house and throws her out. She collapses, crying, outside the slammed door.

Somebody gets hit by a car. We see his body flip into the air before landing with a sickening thud on the pavement. Help arrives, but it’s clear that the victim’s ribs are crushed and that he’s bleeding to death.

Crude or Profane Language

“Dork” is used as an insult.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Mina buys wine, then serves it to guests—who complain that it’s ruined from being overheated in her trunk. A conversation references merlot and chardonnay.

Other Negative Elements

Pretty much everyone who’s not a Christian in this story is villainized for being mean, abusive, grouchy or narrow-minded. Several such sinners are condemned to either death or terminal illness, as if they’re being punished for their attitudes.

Conclusion

What would you do if someone in a position of authority and influence in your life demanded that you renounce your faith? That’s the central question God’s Not Dead forces viewers to grapple with. And Josh Wheaton’s answer is to refuse. And then to explain exactly why he’s refusing.

When Martin asks Josh why he’s willing to risk Radisson’s destroying his law school dreams, the freshman says simply, “I just think of Jesus as my friend. I don’t want to disappoint Him, even if everyone else thinks I should. See, to me, He’s not dead. He’s alive. I don’t want anyone to get talked out of believing in Him because some professor thinks they should.”

The story is sometimes melodramatic. And there are moments of implausibility that emerge as the list of non-Christians behaving badly lengthens. But God’s Not Dead can always be seen focusing on the simple power of testifying to the Truth, no matter the cost. Josh makes a decision to let the chips fall where they may, delivering the gospel message bravely and boldly in a hostile environment. He carefully prepares to give his answers. And he always puts God first.

 
 

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What Think Ye of “Noah” The Blockbuster Film?

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SOME THOUGHTS ON NOAH

By Gavin Ortlund

I know I’m a bit late, and Christians have already reviewed the recent film Noah to death, but I can’t help but share a few thoughts of my own after watching it last night. In no particular order:

1) I was surprised at how much the flood story was set in the larger context of creation-fall-new creation. I expected the movie to disconnect the Noah story from the larger biblical narrative, but there were frequent references back to events narrated in Genesis 1-5, especially the fall of Adam and Eve. In fact, the film opened against this backdrop, and throughout there were frequent flashbacks to a serpent, fruit being plucked, and Cain killing Abel. At one Adam and Eve themselves are visualized plucking fruit. All of these elements were taken seriously.

At the same time, however, it felt like the film downplayed the covenantal thrust of the story. In the Bible, the significance of the flood story is specifically tied to the goodness and character of God, and his continuing purposes in redemption. For instance, God’s speech to Noah is covenantal and clear, not cryptic and eerie (for example, God, not Noah, interprets the significance of the rainbow). Thus while the film captures something of the broader biblical themes of creation and sin, its portrayal of God’s decisive redemptive activity is less clear.

2) Many Christians have voiced concerns about how much the movie allegedly deviates from the Bible. In a few places I share these concerns, but more often I find them too alarmist. In the first place, Noah was not made by Christians. Why do we expect biblical fidelity from Hollywood? It seems to me that texts like I Corinthians 5:9-13 have relevance for the way we should evaluate movies made by believers vis-à-vis movies made by unbelievers. I find the deluge of Christian support for God’s Not Dead and the torrent of Christian disapproval for Noah to be a bit perplexing. Shouldn’t we be stricter in judging ourselves? While we should be discerning in our cultural posture, we shouldn’t be defensive.

More basically, we should judge art according to its genre and purpose. The movie was intended (by film writers Darren Aronovsky and Ari Handel) to be a midrash, a form of Jewish commentary which takes imaginative liberties in order to flesh out the meaning of a story. It also drew from other Jewish midrashim on the Noah story. Thus criticizing Noah for adding in details not in the Bible is like criticizing abstract art for using blurry lines: that’s the point. (In fact, given the brevity of the biblical account, any movie about Noah, midrashic or other, has to add a lot of imaginative detail—unless we want a 20 minute movie.)

That said, in my opinion some of the film’s imaginative additions warped, rather than targeted, the original meaning of the biblical account. The biggest example was the rock people. They changed the whole feel of the movie. During the fight scene (another strange addition) I felt like I was watching something in the genre of Transformers. There was no need to do this, and it felt awkward: like a painter whose materials don’t line up with the kind of painting he wants to make. So while I don’t have as much theological concern with the film’s imaginative additions, I didn’t always feel they were artistically compelling.

3) I thought the movie started slowly, and its special effects were not as good as I expected from the hype. Purely in terms of entertainment value, I probably would not have found the film particularly interesting if I was not already interested in its topic. Good acting, though.

4) The best part of the film was how seriously it took human evil and divine judgment. So often secular treatments of the flood of Noah are contemptuous and sneering about the idea that God would wipe the planet clean and start fresh (e.g., Bill Maher). But this film took with absolute earnestness the idea that human beings are evil, and that it is potentially just for God to wipe almost all of them out. At one point Noah says something like, “we broke the world. We did this. Everything that was good we shattered.” Surprisingly, it felt like the film’s creators were sympathetic to the idea that God might justly kill off almost all of humanity. They took the story seriously and sought to grapple with its message, not poke fun at it or rage against it. I was grateful for that.

5) I think the film would have been able to make a more realistic portrait of the flood if it had portrayed it as local, not global. In my opinion, a global flood is an unnecessary and extremely burdensome prospect even to envision. It’s not required by the words kol erets (whole earth/land), which far more frequently refer to a local area in the Old Testament—for example, we are required from I Kings 10:24 to believe that Eskimos journeyed from Siberia or the Mayans sailed across the Atlantic to meet Solomon? Moreover, a global flood raises insuperable difficulties, like how you can fit 7-9 million different animal species on one ark. It’s not necessary to affirm this, and its impossible (for me, anyway) to even envision what it would be like. Did Kangaroos get miraculously transported from Australia to the Middle East? Did all the species specific to Madagascar all migrate together? If you are going to portray the flood as global, then you need to board up about 16 million animals on the ark (two of each kind). The film did not have nearly enough animals to accord with a global flood. Where were the arctic wolves? Where were the spider crabs? Where were the flying squirrels? And so forth.

6) I was okay with the fact that the film did not portray Noah or his family as completely innocent, since the Bible does not portray Noah this way, either. When Noah asks his wife, for instance, what really makes them any better than those perishing, one can appreciate the realistic grappling with the complexities of good and evil amidst universal sin. Nevertheless, I felt the film greatly overplayed Noah’s moral and psychological dissolution on the ark and after, as well as his conflict with Ham. His choice to let Ham’s girlfriend in was also troubling. After all, despite his flaws, the Bible still says, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).

However, let’s be clear: the film does not portray God as wanting Noah to kill his grandchildren, as some have claimed. This was Noah’s faulty interpretation of God’s will. God Himself never says this, and the film ultimately undermines this idea by suggesting that the very reason God chose Noah was because he wouldn’t kill them. The ending of the film portrays Noah more positively, reconciling with his family and blessing his granddaughters. Overall, the film’s portrayal of Noah was disturbing at points, but partially redeemed by the conclusion.

Also, another point of clarification: Some Christians have claimed that “the film never talks about God.” But that is misleading. The film talks about God all the time, it just refers to Him as “the Creator.” And I don’t really see what’s so big a deal about calling Him “the Creator” rather than “God” or “the Lord,” especially since the story takes place in primeval history. If someone objects to that terminology, they should at least make clear that it’s an issue of terminology, not the presence of God in the story.

7) I thought the film’s creation account, narrated by Noah soon after they are enclosed in the ark, was interesting and compelling. This was another example of where the film took imaginative liberties, but I didn’t feel they were intended to subvert the integrity of the biblical account.

8) Some Christians have voiced concern over the film’s “environmental agenda.” I didn’t really get that message from the film. It seemed to me that the dominant theme in the film’s depiction of the flood was divine judgment on human wickedness. To the extent that others saw an “environmental agenda” in the film, I wonder if they might be a bit over-sensitive in their reaction to excessive contemporary environmental activism. The idea that God cares about his creation, and the animal kingdom in particular, isn’t first a “liberal” idea, but a biblical one. Isn’t that one of the most basic points of the flood story, where God enters into covenant with all the animals (Genesis 9:10)?

9) Overall, I think the film has value as a tool for starting important conversations. Many people may leave the film with heightened interest in the Bible, and specifically its teaching on creation and sin. Where it falls short, it does so roughly in the ways you would expect from a movie made by people without any faith commitment. The fact that it portrays the notion of divine judgment sympathetically is a significant merit. If nothing else, it may direct people read Genesis 6-9 with greater attention and curiosity—which is a good thing.

SOURCE: Gavin Ortlund post in Soliloquium April 16, 2014

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Current Issues

 

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Did God Die on the Cross?

By Dr. R.C. Sproul

The famous hymn of the church “And Can it Be?” contains a line that asks a very poignant question : “How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” Is it accurate to say that God died on the cross?

This kind of expression is popular in hymnody and in grassroots conversation. So although I have this scruple about the hymn and it bothers me that the expression is there, I think I understand it, and there’s a way to give an indulgence for it.

We believe that Jesus Christ was God incarnate. We also believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross. If we say that God died on the cross, and if by that we mean that the divine nature perished, we have stepped over the edge into serious heresy. In fact, two such heresies related to this problem arose in the early centuries of the church: theopassianism and patripassianism. The first of these, theopassianism, teaches that God Himself suffered death on the cross. Patripassianism indicates that the Father suffered vicariously through the suffering of His Son. Both of these heresies were roundly rejected by the church for the very reason that they categorically deny the very character and nature of God, including His immutability. There is no change in the substantive nature or character of God at any time.

God not only created the universe, He sustains it by the very power of His being. As Paul said, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If the being of God ceased for one second, the universe would disappear. It would pass out of existence, because nothing can exist apart from the sustaining power of God. If God dies, everything dies with Him. Obviously, then, God could not have perished on the cross.

Some say, “It was the second person of the Trinity Who died.” That would be a mutation within the very being of God, because when we look at the Trinity we say that the three are one in essence, and that though there are personal distinctions among the persons of the Godhead, those distinctions are not essential in the sense that they are differences in being. Death is something that would involve a change in one’s being.

We should shrink in horror from the idea that God actually died on the cross. The atonement was made by the human nature of Christ. Somehow people tend to think that this lessens the dignity or the value of the substitutionary act, as if we were somehow implicitly denying the deity of Christ. God forbid. It’s the God-man Who dies, but death is something that is experienced only by the human nature, because the divine nature isn’t capable of experiencing death.

SOURCE: http://www.ligonier.org (APRIL 14, 2014)

 

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Jesus in Every Book of the Bible

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JESUS THROUGH THE BIBLE BY DR. PHILIP RYKEN

We believe in a Christ-centered Bible. The salvation that was expected in the Old Testament is exhibited in the Gospels and then explained in the rest of the New Testament.

From Genesis we learn that Jesus is the seed of the woman who will crush Satan’s head, and the son of Abraham who will bless all the nations of the earth. From Exodus we learn that Jesus is the Passover Lamb whose blood saves us from the angel of death, and the wilderness tabernacle where God dwells in glory. From Leviticus we learn that He is the atoning sacrifice that takes away our sin. From Numbers we learn that He is the bronze serpent lifted up for everyone who looks to Him in faith. From Deuteronomy we learn that He is the prophet greater than Moses who comes to teach us God’s will.

So much for the Pentateuch.

What do we learn from the historical books? From Joshua we learn that Jesus is our great captain in the fight. From Judges we learn that He is the king who helps us do what is right in God’s eyes, and not our own. From Ruth we learn that Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer. From1 and 2 Samuel we learn that He is our anointed king. From 1 and 2 Kings we learn that He is the glory in the temple. From 1 and 2 Chronicles we learn that He is the Son of David — the rightful king of Judah. From Ezra and Nehemiah we learn that He will restore the city of God. From Esther we learn that He will deliver us from all our enemies.

Then we come to the poetic writings. From Job we learn that Jesus is our living redeemer, who will stand on the earth at the last day. From the Psalms we learn that He is the sweet singer of Israel — the Savior forsaken by God and left to die, yet restored by God to rule the nations. From Proverbs we learn that Jesus is our wisdom. From Ecclesiastes we learn that He alone can give us meaning and purpose. From the Song of Solomon we learn that He is the lover of our souls.

This brings us to the prophets, whose special mission it was to prophesy about the coming of Christ. Isaiah tells that He is the child born of the Virgin, the son given to rule, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, and the servant stricken and afflicted, upon whom God has laid all our iniquity. Jeremiah and Lamentations tell us that Jesus is our comforter in sorrow, the mediator of a new covenant who turns our weeping into songs of joy. Ezekiel tells us that the Spirit of Jesus can breathe life into dry bones and make a heart of stone beat again. Daniel tells us that Jesus is the Son of Man coming in clouds of glory to render justice on the earth.

These are the Major Prophets, but the Minor Prophets also bore witness to Jesus Christ. Hosea prophesied that He would be a faithful husband to His wayward people. Joel prophesied that before He came to judge the nations, Jesus would pour out His Spirit on men and women, Jews and Gentiles, young and old. Amos and Obadiah prophesied that He would restore God’s kingdom. Jonah prophesied that for the sake of the nations, He would be raised on the third day. Micah prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Nahumprophesied that He would judge the world. Habakkuk prophesied that He would justify those who live by faith. Zephaniah prophesied He would rejoice over His people with singing. Haggai prophesied that He would rebuild God’s temple. Zechariah prophesied that He would come in royal gentleness, riding on a donkey, and that when He did, all God’s people would be holy. Malachi prophesied that before He came, a prophet would turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children.

From Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament is all about Jesus. But of course it is in the New Testament that Jesus actually comes to save His people. Whereas the Old Testament gives us His background, the New Testament presents His biography.

The gospels give us the good news of salvation through His crucifixion and resurrection. The Gospel of Matthew is that Jesus is the Messiah God promised to Israel. The Gospel of Mark is that He is the suffering servant. The Gospel of Luke is that He is a Savior for everyone, including the poor and the weak. The Gospel of John is that He is the incarnate word, the Son of God, the light of the world, the bread of life, and the only way of salvation. But all the gospels end with the same good news: Jesus died on the cross for sinners and was raised again to give eternal life; anyone who believes in Him will be saved.

Then the New Testament turns its attention to the church, which is still about Jesus because the church is His body. The book of Acts shows how Jesus is working in the church today, through the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then come all the letters that were written to the church — letters that tell about Jesus and how to live for Him. In Romans Jesus is righteousness from God for Jews and Gentiles; in 1 and 2 Corinthians He is the one who unifies the church and gives us spiritual gifts for ministry. In Galatians Jesus liberates us from legalism; in Ephesians He is the head of the church; in Philippians He is the joy of our salvation; in Colossians He is the firstborn over all creation. In 1 and 2 Thessalonians Jesus is coming soon to deliver us from this evil age; in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus He shepherds His people; and in Philemon He reconciles brothers who are separated by sin. This is the gospel according to Paul.

Hebrews is an easy one: Jesus is the great high priest who died for sin once and for all on the cross and who sympathizes with us in all our weakness. In the Epistle of James, Jesus helps us to prove our faith by doing good works. In the Epistles of Peter He is our example in suffering. In the Letters of John He is the Lord of love. In Jude He is our Master and Teacher. Last, but not least, comes the book of Revelation, in which Jesus Christ is revealed as the Lamb of God slain for sinners, Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the great Judge over all the earth, and the glorious God of heaven.

The Bible says that in Jesus “all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17) and this is as true of the Bible as it is of anything else. Jesus holds the whole Bible together. From Genesis to Revelation, the Word of God is all about Jesus, and therefore it has the power to bring salvation through faith in Him. It is by reading the Bible that we come to know Jesus, and it is by coming to know Jesus that we are saved. This is why we are so committed to God’s Word, why it is the foundation for everything we do, both as a church and as individual Christians.

We love the Word because it brings us to Christ.

Jesus Through the Bible by Philip Graham Ryken. 2005 Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. Revised 2007, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. All rights reserved. All Scripture from English Standard Version of the Bible, unless otherwise noted.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Philip Ryken is the Bible teacher on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ weekly radio broadcast, Every Last Word, and is a member of the Alliance Council. Dr. Ryken also serves as president of Wheaton College. He was educated at Wheaton College (IL), Westminster Theological Seminary (PA), and the University of Oxford (UK), from which he received his doctorate in historical theology. He is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crisis and He Speaks to Me Everywhere: Meditations on Christianity and Culture.

 

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John MacArthur on Biblical Eldership

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A GRACE COMMUNITY CHURCH DISTINCTIVE BIBLICALLY, the focal point of all church leadership is the elder. An elder is one of a plurality of biblically qualified men who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers. The word translated “elder” is used nearly twenty times in Acts and the epistles in reference to this unique group of leaders who have responsibility for overseeing the people of God.

 

The Office of Elder

As numerous passages in the New Testament indicate, the words “elder” (presbuteros), “overseer” (episkopos), and “pastor” (poim¯en) all refer to the same office. In other words, overseers and pastors are not distinct from elders; the terms are simply different ways of identifying the same people. The qualifications for an overseer (episkopos) in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, and those for an elder (presbuteros) in Titus 1:6-9 are unmistakably parallel. In fact, in Titus 1, Paul uses both terms to refer to the same man (presbuteros in v. 5 and episkopos in v. 7). All three terms are used interchangeably in Acts 20. In verse 17, Paul assembles all the elders (presbuteros) of the church of Ephesus to give them his farewell message. In verse 28 he says, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [episkopos], to shepherd [poimaino¯] the church of God.” First Peter 5:1-2 brings all three terms together as well. Peter writes, “Therefore, I exhort the elders [presbuteros] among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd [poimaino¯] the flock of God among you, exercising oversight [episkope¯o] not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God.” The different terms, then, indicate various features of ministry, not varying levels of authority or separate offices, as some churches espouse.

A Plurality of Elders

The consistent pattern throughout the New Testament is that each local body of believers is shepherded by a plurality of God-ordained elders. Simply stated, this is the only pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament. Nowhere in Scripture does one find a local assembly ruled by majority opinion or by a single pastor.

The Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete and instructed him to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). James instructed his readers to “call for the elders of the church” to pray for those who are sick (James 5:14). When Paul and Barnabas were in Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, they “appointed elders for them in every church” (Acts 14:23). In Paul’s first epistle to Timothy, the apostle referred to “the elders who rule well” at the church at Ephesus (1 Tim. 5:17; see also Acts 20:17, where Paul addresses “the elders of the church” at Ephesus). The book of Acts indicates that there were “elders” at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 11:3015:2421:18).

Again and again, reference is made to a plurality of elders in each of the various churches. In fact, every place in the New Testament where the term presbuteros (“elder”) is used it is plural, except where the apostle John uses it of himself in 2 and 3 John and where Peter uses it of himself in 1 Peter 5:1. Nowhere in the New Testament is there a reference to a one-pastor congregation. It may be that each elder in the city had an individual group in which he had specific oversight. But the church was seen as one church, and decisions were made by a collective process and in reference to the whole, not the individual parts.

…the biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders, and only by following this biblical pattern will the church maximize its fruitfulness to the glory of God.

In other passages, reference is made to a plurality of elders even though the word presbuteros itself is not used. In the opening greeting of his epistle to the Philippians, Paul refers to the “overseers [plural of episkopos] and deacons” at the church of Philippi (Phil. 1:2). In Acts 20:28, Paul warned the elders of the church of Ephesus, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which God has made you overseers [plural of episkopos]” (Acts 20:28). The writer of Hebrews called his readers to obey and submit to the “leaders” who kept watch over their souls (Heb. 13:17). Paul exhorted his Thessalonian readers to “appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and

The Distinctives series articulates key bibilical and theological convictions of Grace Community Church. have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction” (1 Thess. 5:12)—a clear reference to the overseers in the Thessalonian assembly.

Much can be said for the benefits of leadership made up of a plurality of godly men. Their combined counsel and wisdom helps assure that decisions are not self-willed or self-serving to a single individual (cf. Prov. 11:14). If there is division among the elders in making decisions, all the elders should study, pray, and seek the will of God together until consensus is achieved. In this way, the unity and harmony that the Lord desires for the church will begin with those individuals he has appointed to shepherd His flock.

The Qualifications of Elders

The character and effectiveness of any church is directly related to the quality of its leadership. That’s why Scripture stresses the importance of qualified church leadership and delineates specific standards for evaluating those who would serve in that sacred position.

The qualifications for elders are found in 1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8. According to these passages, an elder must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money, not fond of sordid gain, a good manager of his household, one who has his children under control with dignity, not a new convert, one who has a good reputation outside the church, self-controlled, sensible, able to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict, above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, loving what is good, just, and devout. (For an explanation of these qualifications, see pages 215-33 of The Master’s Plan for the Church by John MacArthur.)

The single, overarching qualification of which the rest are supportive is that he is to be “above reproach.” That is, he must be a leader who cannot be accused of anything sinful because he has a sustained reputation for blamelessness. An elder is to be above reproach in his marital life, his social life, his business life, and his spiritual life. In this way, he is to be a model of godliness so he can legitimately call the congregation to follow his example (Phil. 3:17). All the other qualifications, except perhaps teaching and management skills, only amplify that idea.

In addition, the office of elder is limited to men. First Timothy 2:11-12 says, “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” In the church, women are to be under the authority of the elders, excluded from teaching men or holding positions of authority over them.

The Functions of Elders

As the apostolic era came to a close, the office of elder emerged as the highest level of local church leadership. Thus, it carried a great amount of responsibility. There was no higher court of appeal and no greater resource to know the mind and heart of God with regard to issues in the church.

The primary responsibility of an elder is to serve as a manager and caretaker of the church (1 Tim. 3:5). That involves a number of specific duties. As spiritual overseers of the flock, elders are to determine church policy (Acts 15:22); oversee the church (Acts 20:28); ordain others (1 Tim. 4:14); rule, teach, and preach (1 Tim. 5:17; cf. 1 Thess. 5:121 Tim. 3:2); exhort and refute (Titus 1:9); and act as shepherds, setting an example for all (1 Pet. 5:1-3). Those responsibilities put elders at the core of the New Testament church’s work.

Because of its heritage of democratic values and its long history of congregational church government, modern American evangelicalism often views the concept of elder rule with suspicion. The clear teaching of Scripture, however, demonstrates that the biblical norm for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders, and only by following this biblical pattern will the church maximize its fruitfulness to the glory of God.

SOURCE: Adapted from John MacArthur, The Master’s Plan for the Church (Chicago: Moody Press, 1991). For a fuller treatment of biblical eldership, consult this resource.

 

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What The Bible Teaches About The Roles of Men and Women

WOMEN IN MINISTRY 4 VIEWS

A Summary of the Complementarian Position

I. A Broad Overview of the Complementarian Position

A. Created Equality of Essence and Distinction of Role

Male and female were created by God as equal in dignity, value, essence and human nature, but also distinct in role whereby the male was given the responsibility of loving authority over the female, and the female was to offer willing, glad-hearted and submissive assistance to the man. Gen. 1:26-27 makes clear that male and female are equally created as God’s image, and so are, by God’s created design, equally and fully human. But, as Gen. 2 bears out (as seen in its own context and as understood by Paul in 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Tim. 2), their humanity would find expression differently, in a relationship of complementarity, with the female functioning in a submissive role under the leadership and authority of the male.

B. Fallen Disruption of God’s Created Design

Sin introduced into God’s created design many manifestations of disruption, among them a disruption in the proper role-relations between man and woman. As most complementarians understand it, Gen. 3:15-16 informs us that the male/female relationship would now, because of sin, be affected by mutual enmity. In particular, the woman would have a desire to usurp the authority given to man in creation, leading to man, for his part, ruling over woman in what can be either rightfully-corrective or wrongfully-abusive ways.

C. Restored Role Differentiation through Redemption in Christ

Passages such as Eph. 5:22-33 and 1 Tim. 2:8-15 exhibit the fact that God’s created intention of appropriate male leadership and authority should now, in Christ, be fully affirmed, both in the home and in the church. Wives are to submit to their husbands in the model of the Church’s submission to Christ, and women are not to exercise authoritative roles of teaching in the Church in view of Eve’s created relation to Adam. Male headship, then, is seen to be restored in the Christian community as men and women endeavor to express their common humanity according to God’s originallycreated and good hierarchical design.

II. Primary Rationale Supporting the Complementarian Position

A. Evidence that God’s design was male/female equality of essence

1. Gen. 1:26-27 – shows that man and woman share the same human nature, both are made in God’s image, and both are given God’s commission to rule the earth. How they are, together, to rule the earth on God’s behalf, is not here explained. Thus, at this point, neither egalitarianism nor complementarianism is demanded. Clearly, the thrust is that male and female are equal in essence (i.e., both fully human, both full imago Dei, both of equal value and worth to God) and together commissioned to rule over the earth.

2. Gal. 3:28 – God’s redemption and regeneration of those whom He would save involves no distinction between male and female. Gender is absolutely irrelevant regarding who may or may not be saved. The clear implication, then, is that men and women are equal in essence because their salvation comes to humans with no consideration given to gender.

3. 1 Cor. 12:7-11 – Clearly, God distributes His gifts to His people as He so wills, but one’s gender is not a factor in His giving any particular gift to a person. Women and men alike are recipients of all of God’s gifts (e.g., see 1 Cor. 11:5 for a statement of women having the gift of prophecy). Again, this indicates that women are equal in essence with men in God’s sight, but it does not preclude the possibility that God may prescribe just how those gifts be used in the Church.

4. 1 Pet. 3:7b – Saved women (wives, in this text) are to be treated with honor, precisely because they, along with saved men, are fellow-heirs of the grace of life in Christ. It is so important for husbands to understand this principle and so respect their wives in this fashion that Peter warns that husbands who do not treat their wives with the honor accorded them by God will not be heard before God in their prayers.

B. Evidence that God’s design was for male/female role differentiation

1. Gen. 2 – There are at least four features of this chapter which support the idea of male-headship (i.e., male God-given authority over female). 1) The order of creation (male created first) indicates God’s design of male priority in the male/female relationship. This is also Paul’s observation both in 1 Cor. 11:8 and 1 Tim. 2:13. 2) God gives instructions to Adam, before the creation of Eve, not to eat fruit of the forbidden tree (2:16-17). Implied in this is Adam’s responsibility to instruct his future wife and guard her from violating this prohibition (hence, the significance in 3:6 that the woman gave to the man “who was with her,” showing he failed to guard his wife as he should have). 3) Eve was created to be Adam’s helper. While it is true that this same Hebrew term is often used of God’s “helping” people, it is clear that Paul understands Eve’s role as helper to require that woman ought to be under the rightful authority of man (see 1 Cor. 11:9-10 – “man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake. Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head”). 4) Adam’s naming of Eve indicates, in an OT cultural context, Adam’s right of authority over the one whom he named. And interestingly, Adam named his wife twice, first when she was formed from his flesh (2:23), and second after they had both sinned (3:20), indicating that his rightful authority over her continued after sin had come.

2. Gen. 3:1-7 – Eve was tempted and deceived by the serpent and ate the forbidden fruit, and then gave it also to Adam. Eve, that is, sinned first. Despite this fact, God seeks out Adam after their sin to inquire why they were hiding (3:8ff). God approaches Adam, not Eve, as the one ultimately responsible for the sin. Likewise, Paul clearly teaches that the line of sin in the human race begins with Adam (Rom. 5:12ff; 1 Cor. 15:22). But he does this in full recognition of the fact that Eve sinned first (1 Tim. 2:14). Adam only rightly bears the responsibility as the head of the sinful human race, when Eve sinned first, if he is viewed by God and Paul as having authority and ultimate responsibility over the woman.

3. Gen. 3:16 – Sin brought about, not the beginning of a male/female relational hierarchy, but a disruption of the God-intended role of male-headship and female submission in the male-female relationship. Most complementarians understand the curse of the woman in 3:16 to mean that sin would bring about in Eve a wrongful desire to rule over her husband (contrary to God’s created design), and that in response, Adam would have to assert his rule over her. This understanding comes from comparing the sentence structure and terms of Gen. 3:16 with Gen. 4:7. In 4:7, God tells Cain that sin is seeking to destroy him, and so He says “its [sin's] desire is for you, but you must master it.” This means, of course, sin desires to rule over you, but you in response must rule over it. Now, the exact sentence structure is found in 3:16, where Eve is told “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” This means, in light of 4:7, Eve’s desire will be to rule illegitimately over Adam (note: certainly sin could not be credited with giving Eve a loving or caring desire for Adam, could it?), and in response Adam will have to assert his rightful rulership over her. Most complementarians hold, then, that sin produced a disruption in God’s order of male headship and female submission, in which a) the woman would be inclined now to usurp the man’s rightful place of authority over her, and man may be required, in response, to reestablish his God-given rulership over the woman, and b) the man would be inclined to misuse his rights of rulership, either by sinful abdication of his God-given authority, acquiescing to the woman’s desire to rule over him (and so fail to lead as he should), or by abusing his rights to rule through harsh, cruel and exploitative domination of the woman.

4. 1 Cor. 11:1-16 – As already noted, Paul uses Gen. 2 to support his contention that women need to display, in the church, their submission to male leadership. The woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head (11:10), because she is the glory of man (11:7), because she originated from man (11:8), and because she was created for the man’s sake (11:9). Because Paul links the woman’s submissive role in the Church to God’s created design, it is evident that these instructions to the church at Corinth are not applicable only there, but instead are applicable universally in the Church.

5. 1 Cor. 14:34-36 – Clearly this prohibition on women speaking cannot be absolute, for Paul previously acknowledged women prophesying (1 Cor. 11:5). What complementarians hold on this, though, is usually one of two positions: either that women may never be involved in an official capacity of teaching the corporate assembly, presumably with men present, or that women may not function in the elder role of judging prophecies (a la Grudem, Carson). In either case, what is clear is the principle that women are to display their submission to male headship and learn quietly from those (qualified males only) responsible for the teaching ministry of the church.

6. 1 Tim. 2:8-15 – Again here, Paul links his command that women receive instruction with submissiveness rather than teaching or exercising authority over men (2:11-12) with God’s created design for man and woman. Women are to submit to male leadership and teaching because Adam was created first (2:13), and because Eve was deceived and sinned first (2:14). And again, it is evident that these instructions can only rightly be seen as universally applicable for the Church, because the basis for them is God’s created design.

7. Eph. 5:22-33 – Wives are to be subject to their husbands in response to their submission to the Lordship of Christ (5:22). The reason for this, says Paul, is that the husband is head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church (5:23). The next verse makes the matter even more explicit: “as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives to their husbands in everything” (5:24). The key notion here is the parallel of the headship of the husband with the headship of Christ. As the Church submits to Christ as the one who has rightful authority over her, so the wife is to submit to her husband as the one who has rightful authority over her. Husbands, for their part, are to love their wives as Christ loves the Church (5:25-29). When husbands truly love their wives and wives submit to their husbands, we see the sinful distortion of the male female relationship defeated and a return, then, to what God intended in his creation of man and woman.

8. 1 Pet. 3:7a – While the second half of this verse stresses the equal honor accorded to women along with men (as fellow-heirs of the grace of life), the first half of the verse clearly indicates the fundamental gender difference between a husband and his wife. She, according to Peter, is a “weaker vessel,” and she needs to be treated with tenderness and understanding as such. This implies that 1) while she is fully equal in essence (3:7b), she likewise is constitutionally different from him as a woman (3:7a), and 2) the husband bears particular God-sanctioned responsibility to care for his wife, indicating his leadership and primary responsibility in their relationship.

9. Trinitarian Analogy – Complementarians understand the Trinity to present an analogy to the male/female relationship, as God designed it. God is one in essence and three in persons. The three persons of the God-head are absolutely equal in essence (in fact, they each share fully, simultaneously and without division the one divine essence), but they are distinct in function. Specifically, their distinction of function is marked by an intrinsic relation of authority within the God-head, by which the Son is subject to the Father, and the Spirit to the Son. 1 Cor. 11:3 states part of this: “God is the head of Christ.” The clearest biblical example of Christ’s subjection to the Father is in 1 Cor. 15:28 where the exalted and victorious Son “will also be subject to the One who subjected all things to Him.” Given this understanding of the Trinity, it makes sense for Paul to say what He does in 1 Cor. 11:3. He speaks here of three authority lines that exist: Christ is the authority (head) over every man, man is the authority (head) over a woman, and God (the Father) is authority (head) over Christ. Just as the persons of God are equal in essence and yet they relate within a structure of lines of authority, so too men and women are equal in essence while relating within a similar structure of lines of authority.

C. Biblical Examples of Male/Female Role Differentiation

Despite the fact that sin has produced in woman an illegitimate desire to usurp the rightful authority God gave to man (Gen. 3:16), God has worked in Israel and in the Church to establish male-headship as the consistent and approved pattern for religious and home life.

1. Male leadership in Israel
From the Garden of Eden on, God has called out men and held men responsible for religious leadership. Think of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the 12 sons of Jacob as heads of the 12 tribes of Israel, Moses, Joshua, David, the male priestly order, the prophets to Israel and Judah, etc. Clearly, God purposely called out and intended to work through male leadership in Israel.

2. Male leadership with Christ
Clearly Jesus was not at all averse to challenging customs and traditions of men which ran contrary to the values of the kingdom of God. He lacked no courage to challenge humanly fabricated restrictions upon the wise and good purposes of God (e.g., Matt. 15:3-9; 23:1-36). And his taking of women with him during his itinerant ministry testifies to this. But what Jesus never did, though He clearly could have and was not constrained by social convention not so to do, is to choose any women to be among the twelve. His choice of 12 men continues the pattern we observe in the OT, of distinguishing a certain level of spiritual leadership as gender-restrictive.

3. Male leadership in the Church
As observed above, Paul explicitly restricts women from a certain level of spiritual leadership and instruction in the Church. 1 Cor. 11:1-16, 1 Cor. 14:34-36, and 1 Tim. 2:8-15 consistently require that the church’s ultimate human spiritual leadership be gender-restrictive. This is reinforced by qualifications for the position of eldership which requires that one be “the husband of one wife” (see 1 Tim 3:2 and Titus 1:6), obviously indicating that only qualified men may serve as elders.

4. Male leadership in the home
Eph. 5:22-33, Col. 3:18-20, and 1 Pet. 3:1-7 each establishes the correctness of male-leadership in the home. The passage in 1 Peter is instructive in a particular way not described above. Here Peter envisions situations where a believing wife is married to an unbelieving husband. One might expect Peter to say to the wife, “because you know Christ and your husband doesn’t, you need to take over the leadership in your home. Don’t leave the leadership up to your husband, because he won’t lead your home in a Christ-like manner.” But, to the contrary, Peter says even to these believing wives of unbelieving husbands, “be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives.”

III. Objections to the Complementarian Position and Responses

A. Objection: This complementarian understanding is in reality a fully hierarchical view, with women subordinate to men, and as such it is intolerable and contrary to the freedom of the gospel. While it claims to uphold the essential equality of women with men, it in fact leads inevitably to seeing women as inferior, as second-class citizens, who are not as important to God and His purposes as are men.

Response: Would you feel the same way about a parent/child relationship? Or of the relationship between an employee and his/her supervisor? Do you believe we should eliminate all manifestations of relational hierarchy, as demeaning to those under the authority of another? Relationships within authority structures surround us. We live and work in them every day. We would have utter chaos without them. But such authority structures do not entail the greater human value or essential superiority of those in charge, or minimize the human value or imply the essential inferiority of those under their charge. Furthermore, if we are correct to think of the Trinity as analogous to the male/female relationship, consider this: surely the Scriptures do not intend to suggest Christ is inferior in value to the Father because He came only to do His Father’s will. Likewise, the Scriptures do not intend to suggest that women are inferior to men because of male-headship. In fact, just the opposite is true, viz., men and women only experience their full humanity when they function in the manner God intended in His creation of them. We are most free as humans when we affirm the legitimate authority structure God intended, and work within that.

B. Objection: Your interpretation of Gen. 2, by which you see three indicators of male authority, is wrong. What difference does it make whom God created first? He had to create one or the other first, and it just happened to be Adam. Furthermore, remember God created animals before creating human beings, but this certainly does not indicate an animal priority over humans. And, yes, the woman was created to complete the man, but this speaks of her equality with him, not her subordination to him. Remember, God is our helper. Is He subordinate to us? And the fact that he named Eve is no proof of his authority over her. Women in Israel often name their sons, but does this, then, that females (mothers) are authority over males (sons)?

Response: Were it not for the fact that Paul understood Gen. 2 as the complementarian does, your objections might have some force. But it is Paul who observes the importance of Adam’s creation first, and Paul who notes Eve was created for Adam’s sake. Therefore, the complementarian stands with Scripture’s interpretation of itself on this issue. The one point Paul does not address is Adam’s naming of Eve. The support for this rests, then, entirely on the significance of naming in ancient near-eastern culture. Yes, a mother’s naming a son shows, in part, her authority over him – until he leaves home. And remember, although animals were created before Adam, Adam was told to name the animals and this clearly indicates his headship over them. It seems best, then, in light both of cultural considerations and Paul’s understanding of Gen. 2, to sustain these three points as legitimate interpretations of the male/female relationship at creation.

C. Objection: Gen. 3:16 says nothing about Eve ruling Adam, but it speaks explicitly to Adam ruling Eve. You have twisted the clear meaning of this text. Sin effected in Adam an illegitimate desire to dominate his wife, despite her continued longing for equal companionship.

Response: The two major problems with the egalitarian view here are: 1) Explaining Eve’s desire as a positive or caring desire fails to account for the fact that this is part of the curse on Eve. Certainly God would not give to her the curse of caring for Adam. Rather, her desire, because it is connected with what sin has done to her, is best understood as a negative, wrongful one. 2) But if her desire is negative, then, it accords exactly with sin’s desire in Gen. 4:7, i.e., a desire to usurp rulership. This, coupled with the identical sentence structure and parallel terminology between the two passages, and their close proximity to each other, leads the complementarians to their conclusion on this important text.

D. Objection: You have left out the many and significant examples of female leadership in Israel, in the gospels, and in the early church. It simply is not correct to say that the Bible exhibits a uniform pattern of religious male leadership.

Response: Yes, women do play significant religious, and at times leadership, roles throughout the Bible. But consider two things: 1) Most of the examples of female leadership appear in roles other than those of highest human religious authority. That is, there are some prophetesses and female teachers in Old and New Testaments, but where are there any women priests, women heads of tribes of Israel, women kings of Israel (Athaliah wrongly usurped the throne), women apostles (Junia of Rom. 16:7 is highly disputed), women elders in the early church? The point is that at the level of highest human religious authority, the Bible gives a clear and uniform picture of male leadership. 2) The most notable apparent exception to the above is Deborah (Judg. 4-5), who was both prophetess and judge of Israel. Given the spiritual state of Israel at the time, most see Judges not as illustrating well God’s ideal for His people. Quite probably, then, Deborah’s judgeship demonstrates, not how God endorses female leadership, but rather just how far from God’s design and purposes Israel had strayed. In any case, it is difficult to accept the case of Deborah as normative, in light of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

E. Objection: Your use of “male headship” and your reference to passages like 1 Cor. 11:3 and Eph. 5:23 where “head” (kephale) is used, does not recognize the meaning of this term as “source.” Understood this way, the Bible does not envision man as authority over woman, but source of her, since Eve came from Adam.

Response: For lexical and exegetical reasons, this understanding of kephale is completely unacceptable. The strongest lexical evidence suggests that while kephale is sometimes used of impersonal objects to mean “source” (e.g., the “head”, i.e., “source” of a river) its predominate, if not exclusive, use as it relates to human beings is as “authority over,” not “source.” Exegetically, it becomes difficult to understand how Paul could mean anything other than “authority over” in particular passages. Eph. 5:23, for example (“the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church”) is followed in v. 24 with this statement, “as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives to their husbands in everything.” Here, then, subjection of wives to their husbands is linked with the husband being head of his wife. Likewise in 1 Cor. 11:3 (“Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ”), it seems impossible to take kephale as “source,” for to do so requires that God be the source of Christ as Adam is the source of Eve and Christ is the source of man. But did Christ ever originate from the Father as both man and woman originated? Furthermore, the following context of this verse clearly deals with woman wearing head covering “as a symbol of authority” (11:10). Therefore, for lexical, exegetical and contextual reasons, it appears clearly best to understand male “headship” as denoting male authority in the home and the church.

Source: cbmw.org

 

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