On God Providing and Why Bad Things Happen

A common theme we see throughout both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament is that “God will provide”.  This is assured both implicitly and explicitly hundreds, if not thousands of times (If someone could give an exact number in the comments that would be greatly appreciated).  As such I am not going to bother going over exact verses today, rather, I’ll be going over what I take away from them and what that means.

Numerous times throughout the Bible we see God provide for his creation, sometimes in big ways, sometimes in little ways, and often in ways in between.  We see this in history, poetry, myth, genealogy, prophecy, and parable.  It’s one of the most shared ideas among the authors of the different biblical books, and it is certainly a comforting one.  So then why do so many people go without, and suffer in our world?

When I see “God will provide” I read it as “God has provided”.  Sure, I believe miracles can and have happened, but I’m pretty sceptical of them in general.  Rather, I believe God has provided from the start.  We have the resources to stop poverty, reduce violence and discrimination, and to lift up “the least of these” (Oops, it looks like I just quoted a Bible verse.  Bummer.)  But you know what?  Largely, we’ve chosen not to.

A common question and field of thought is, Why could an omnipotent and completely good God allow bad things to happen?  Known as Theodicy, this discussion and often debate has been pursued by humankind for thousands of years, and has no clear answer.  Things get even more complicated (albeit more interesting) when you throw things like atheism and non-deistic religions/spiritualities into the mix.  So why does God allow bad things to happen?  I’m gonna turn that question right around.  Why do we allow bad things to happen?  God has provided, we have everything we need.  The world will never be perfect, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get it pretty darn close.  Sometimes as Christians (if you, the reader, are one) we hyper-focus on the Great Commission (Spread the Good News) and forget or place too-little emphasis on the Great Commandment (Love God, Love Others).  After all, didn’t the Great Commandment come first, and isn’t it the core of all Christ’s teachings?  Many of the problems in the world are our fault.  We choose to allow them to happen, to still exist.  So why do we allow bad things to happen?

 

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What is Generational Theology?

As promised, today I’ll be going over a theology topic.  It’s not a particularly deep topic, nor is it inherently complicated, but it an important topic that I think doesn’t get addressed enough.

Merriam-Webster defines theology as

the study of religious faith, practice, and experience
especially : the study of God and of God’s relation to the world

Essentially, theology is how we view God, God’s nature, and how these views will affect the way we live our life.  While the term theology can technically refer to any religion, it usually is usually used when discussing Abrahamic religions, and when I use it will be in reference to Christianity unless I say otherwise.

In an ideal world, we (Christians), would come to our theological standpoints after extensively studying the Bible, church history/tradition, translation/canon issues, etc.  However, most Christians don’t have the time or interest to do so.  Most will be content to simply listen to sermons and/or go to Sunday school and/or do the occasional guided bible study.  This is perfectly fine.  Not everyone needs to be a theologian, and after all, it’s more important as a Christian how we live our lives than if we can complete a multiple choice test on what’s “proper theology”.  Because spoiler alert, with over 40,000 denominations worldwide, with an estimated two new ones forming every day, I can guarantee that everyone is a heretic to someone.  The danger, however, that can (and often does) stem from taking what we’re told about God at face value, is Generational Theology.

So, what is Generational Theology?  Simply put, Generational Theology is any theological belief that is relatively new but we assume has always been a Christian belief simply because it’s been believed for a couple of generations or more.  Basically, we forget that it wasn’t always an accepted belief.  Generational Theology is not an inherently “good” or “bad” thing, but it often has negative consequences.

The purpose of this post is not to tell you what to believe theologically, but rather to foster critical thinking so you will examine your beliefs and come to the conclusion of what you believe is true.  Having an informed opinion is important.  That being said, I feel I should give a clear example of Generational Theology, one that hopefully shouldn’t be too controversial.  So, here’s one: The Rapture.

That’s right, the Rapture is not a biblical concept and is quite new in Christianity, less than 200 years old in fact.  Historically, the book of Revelation has been viewed as allegorical or metaphorical, it actually wasn’t originally supposed to be in the Bible.  It is an example of the Apocalypse genre, a genre of literature that was quite popular but largely denounced among early Christianity.  When establishing the Biblical canon (which in and of itself is a complicated topic) the addition of Revelation to the canon was hugely controversial.  The majority of authorities were against it, but a vocal minority was able to just barely get it in.  Even if we were to assume the book of Revelation was to be taken literally, the term “Rapture” is never found in any form inside.  To this day the majority of Christians worldwide don’t believe in the Rapture, or the idea that believers will be taken up to Heaven at the end times and then Jesus will come back and commit torture and genocide on all unbelievers all whilst fighting the antichrist (Who by the way, was Nero Caesar.  The Antichrist has already lived and died).  The idea of the rapture originated with Puritans and was popularized by John Nelson Darby, a theologian who was frequently criticized for rejecting Christ’s nature and the message of the Gospel.  So, as much as you may think the Rapture has always been a Christian belief, it has not, and even today is not believed by the majority of Christians.

Hopefully, now you understand the importance of thinking critically.  There’s no need to become a full-blown theologian or even put in an enormous amount of effort if that doesn’t interest you, but I’ve found this mantra helpful:

If you can’t imagine Jesus doing, saying, or teaching it; it probably isn’t true.

After all, God gave us brains, we might as well use them.  Or, as the author of Proverbs more aptly put,

It is the Glory of God to conceal a matter, and the honor of Kings to discern it

Proverbs 25:2

That’s it for this post, have a good week and a Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

 

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Social Justice: Not Compatible with Christianity?

If you’ve been paying any attention to American Christianity lately, you’ve probably heard of the “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel“.  If you’ve taken the time to read it, chances are you’ve found at least part of it to be confused and/or concerning, and when you consider that thousands of prominent Evangelical (in this post Evangelical means any Christian group who affirms any form of Biblical-Inerrancy, which yes, still refers to a broad range of viewpoints, but at least narrows it down a little) it becomes especially alarming.  If you still haven’t read it and would like to, you can find it here.

While it is well-organized and not particularly dense, “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel” is somewhat lengthy so I’m not going to over the entire thing today.  I will look at a few highlights and compare them with the Bible (which they claim to have based it on) and reality.  I’ll then briefly summarize why Social Justice is integral to the Gospel and the ministry of Jesus, the principles on which Christians supposedly follow.

  • (Stated Purpose): “We invite others who share our concerns and convictions to unite with us in reasserting our unwavering commitment to the teachings of God’s Word articulated in this statement.” So far nothing inherently wrong, but as we’ll see their purpose comes to clash with the content of their statement.
  • “We deny that the postmodern ideologies derived from intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory are consistent with biblical teaching” Well, it appears we’re running into problems right on the first page.  First, let’s take a moment with what each of these ideologies actually is.
    • Intersectionality: “An analytic framework which attempts to identify how interlocking systems of power impact those who are most marginalized in society.” (Wikipedia)  It appears that intersectionality is not a set ideology, but rather a problem-solving method for discerning how aspects of society can oppress the marginalized in society.  Saying this contradicts scriptures is like saying using a calculator or psychology contradicts it, far too generalized too actually mean anything.  In addition, we can consistently find in both the New and Old Testaments teachings and commandments to lift up the marginalized in society, specifically forming a key part of Jesus’ ministry.
    • Radical feminism: “A perspective within feminism that calls for a radical reordering of society in which male supremacy is eliminated in all social and economic contexts.” (Wikipedia)  First of all, it’s important to note that no perspective within feminism believes or calls for women ruling over or being treated “more equal” than men.  If someone believes and/or acts upon that, they are no longer a feminist.  Throughout most of Church history, we have seen Christians striving to change society (and often succeeding) for better or worse.  And hopefully, now we all view men and women as equal and believe they should be treated as such.  Again, nothing un-Christian here, though you are welcome to disagree with this approach to feminism personally (I myself tend to lean more towards traditional Liberal feminism with a tinge of Black and Marxist feminism).
    • Critical race theory: “A theoretical framework in the social sciences that uses critical theory to examine society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power.” (Wikipedia)  This denial just has some nasty racial subtext.  It’s essentially calling for freedom from accountability of Christianity’s racist past.  No, not all Christians supported slavery, and while they were also at the forefront of the abolition movement, just as many if not arguably more supported it.  The problem is Scripture can be twisted to mean almost anything you want, often leading to oppression/exclusion.  So denying a research method that seeks to examine racism in society betrays underlying beliefs of the documents’ creators.
  • “WE AFFIRM that God created every person equally in his own image. As divine image-bearers, all people have inestimable value and dignity before God and deserve honor, respect and protection.”  No complaints here, I actually like this one.
  • “We further deny that Christians can live justly in the world under any principles other than the biblical standard of righteousness.”  There’s a difference between literal biblical and Christian righteousness.  One often calls for violence and oppression, the other will always call for peace.  Once again, the problem with following a “biblical” model of righteousness is that the Bible can be twisted into almost whatever you want, evidenced best in the slavery/abolition debate.  Both justified themselves with Scripture, but clearly only one was Christian.
  • “WE DENY that any obligation that does not arise from God’s commandments can be legitimately imposed on Christians as a prescription for righteous living.”  Unfortunately, the Abrahamic law does not cover all possible legal or moral issues, and some of it clearly very wrong (as Jesus himself taught).  There are many things that nearly all Christians (and people in general) consider wrong, but are not explicitly covered in the Bible.  Once again, this denial is an attempt to escape accountability, because “if it’s not explicitly there they should not be bound legally by it.”
  • “WE AFFIRM that all people are connected to Adam both naturally and federally.” Please define and justify the statement “connected to Adam…federally”.
  • “WE DENY that anything else, whether works to be performed or opinions to be held, can be added to the gospel without perverting it into another gospel.”  Yes, the gospel books are themselves complete.  However, the Gospel itself is the Good News, which can be summed by both the Great Commandment (Love God, Love others) and the Great Commission (Go forth and spread the Good News).  I would think the Great Commandment includes Social Justice, and the Great Commission is not really directly related to, being in itself concerned with evangelism.
  • “Further, all who are united to Christ are also united to one another regardless of age, ethnicity, or sex. All believers are being conformed to the image of Christ.”  While noticeably lacking in a few demographics, I have not contention with this statement.
  • “We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.” Technically true but laws and regulations can reduce sinful behavior, especially that which bring harm to others.
  • WE AFFIRM that heresy is a denial of or departure from a doctrine that is essential to the Christian faith.”  I really don’t see what this section is doing in a statement on Social Justice.  The only reason I could think of is the authors are basically saying “If you don’t agree with us, you’re not a real Christian”.  So to the other 40,000+ Christian denominations out there, many of whom view Social Justice as a positive force or for some even an integral part of Christianity, sorry.  I guess according to these guys your fake.
  • Most of the “Sexuality and Marriage” section Regardless of what you think about subjects such as gay marriage, we really need to stop saying sexual orientation is a choice (because it’s not).  In addition, their statements on gender expression are wrong, because “male” and “female” does not mean the same thing in every part of the world.  Western gender norms are quite different than those we would see in biblical times, as well.  And conversion therapy?  Just no.
  •  The entire “Complementarianism” section: Separate but equal is not equal.
  • “All that is good, honest, just, and beautiful in various ethnic backgrounds and experiences can be celebrated as the fruit of God’s grace.” Fair enough. It’s an old concept, but it checks out.  Move along.
  • “WE AFFIRM that racism is a sin” I hope so.
  • “We deny that systemic racism is in any way compatible with the core principles of historic evangelical convictions.” Here it is, literal, explicit, they’re saying it themselves, no subtext required denial of Christianity’s role in racism.  No, racism is not Christian, and no, not all Christians back then were racist but racism and slavery were most definitely convictions of not just evangelical Christianity but other groups as well for hundreds of years.  This is an explicit denial, not an apology or even an explanation!
  • “Historically, such things [Discussions of Racism] tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.” So the church discussing racism will ultimately lead to departure from the good news…not sure I follow.

 

Ok, so maybe I looked at more than a few points, but it was kinda’ hard not to.

Is an interest in Social Justice actually newfound in Christianity?  If you know your history (or have access to Google), it appears not: “The Gospel,” preached abolitionist Gilbert Haven in 1863, “is not confined to a repentance and faith that have no connection with social or civil duties. The Evangel of Christ is an all-embracing theme.” (https://www.dallasnews.com)

A recurring theme in many Biblical teachings is caring for the poor, the needy, the oppressed, and lifting them out these situations.

And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Mathew 25:40, NRSV)

A significant part of Jesus’ ministry involved social justice.  His teachings were radical and viewed as “heresy” by many of the leading religious leaders at the time.  I truly hope this document represents a minority belief in American Christianity, but it’s over 8,000 signers (at the time of this writing) suggest otherwise.  To reject social justice is to reject the Gospel itself.

 

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Not Gnostism

This post is going to be dedicated to resolving a misconception that’s come up several times in multiple groups and churches I’ve been a part of/attended.  It’s going to deal with Church History, an area that’s often not taught or mistaught because frankly, it’s not of interest or even relevant to most people.  And that’s perfectly fine, but it interests me and if you’re reading my blog it must interest you or you’re very bored and have nothing better to do.  Now, let’s look at the issue at hand.

Multiple times now, from multiple groups, individuals, and churches, I’ve heard people claims the Johannes letters (1, 2, 3 John in the New Testament) are in condemnation of Gnosticism “running rampant” in the early church.  A couple of times (though not nearly as often) I’ve heard this said about a few of the Pauline Epistles as well.  This bothers me because not only does it reflect a lack of accurate knowledge of Church History it also shows a misunderstanding of what Gnosticism is in and of itself.  Here’s why:

  1. Gnosticism did not even exist at the time this letters were written: That’s right, Gnosticism truly didn’t exist until the early third century one to two hundred years after these letters were written.  You could argue that the individuals/groups being criticized held “proto-gnosticist” beliefs, but that’s an entirely different thing and difficult if not impossible to prove.
  2. Gnosticism initially coexisted with other Christian beliefs: Gnostic Christians and other Christian groups did not conflict until the end of the 4th century, when the proto-orthodox church began to determine orthodox and heterodox.  The early Christian church did not have cohesive beliefs, and many of the more predominant at the time “orthodox” beliefs are not held by most (especially western) Christians today.
  3. Paul himself was a Proto-Gnosticist: Paul was (and to a few today is) held as the “father of gnosticism”.  Now, this really is entirely accurate (as I’ll explain in the next bullet) but he definitely held proto-gnosticist beliefs.  He advocated asceticism, was (at least for the time) radically feminist, and even went so far as to testify before an early Christian court that his Christian knowledge was superior to others because Jesus came to him in a vision (aka “secret knowledge”) and he was opposed to legalism and traditional Jewish customs/regulations.  All of these (and I’m sure there’s others) were hallmark beliefs of proto-Gnosticism, and the early Gnostic Christians held Paul’s letters in high regard.  Now, this is not to say Paul was a Gnostic (he would have probably been sharply opposed to later-on Gnosticism) but it is unlikely in his letters when he rebuked false teachers and doctrine (which is ironic considering some of that comes from forged letters) he was addressing proto-gnosticists.
  4. Gnosticism isn’t inherently Christian and doesn’t represent a single belief set: While the early development of Gnosticism is closely associated with Christianity, the two are by no means mutually exclusive.  In fact mainstream Gnosticism shares more in common with Judaism and also stems from dozens of other religions and philosophies.  In addition Gnosticism is not a single religion, it’s like calling Hinduism a religion, it’s extremely misleading.  Gnosticism represented a range of beliefs, some branches of which had no connection with Christianity at all.  Back when Gnosticism was even really a thing (though I am aware there are a few Gnostics today) they didn’t call themselves Gnostics, just as the early Christians didn’t initially call themselves “Christians”.

Hopefully I’ve shed light on this issue, even if it doesn’t really bother most people (which is fine), but it bothered me so I decided to write a short rant on it.  Yes, the Pauline and Johannine epistles did feature rebukes of teachings viewed as false or heretical by their authors (though depending on the issue not necessarily the early Church) but it would literally have been impossible for it to be a refutation of Gnosticism, and at least in Paul’s case it is unlikely he would have criticized the then extant emerging ideologies of proto-Gnosticism.  If anyone knows where this misconception originated from, please let me know, because I tried googling it and found very little, so you’d make my day if you did.  That’s it for this post, so have a good rest of your day.

 

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The Purpose of the Church

Hey guys, I’m back from my unannounced and unplanned hiatus, AKA I was busy for a few weeks.  Today’s post is going to be over a brief, but important topic.

While most churches (and denominations) do fulfill the Bible’s calling for the purpose of the Church, sometimes we as believers tend to forget them, or hyperfocus on one of them (when all are equally important).  Perhaps you’ve never even thought of what the purpose of the church is.  I’ve divided the purpose of the Church into three main missions.  Yes, I’m sure many of you can think of other further purposes (Why not leave your thoughts in the comment section below) but for clarity and brevity’s sake, I’ve gone with three.  Three’s also a good number, so why not.  Oh, and when I say the Church I mean the institution of the Church, not the Church as in all of Christianity.  Also, the following three are in no particular order.

  1. Growing Together in Faith: While it’s more than possible to be a follower of Christ and not attend a church (in fact for some this may be best) for most attending a church of some form is an enriching experience.  Being around other believers, discussing the Bible, and just living life together is good.  A good sermon can challenge you, to either change an aspect of the way you live or to further seek out what the preacher meant and what the scriptures say.  I could go on further, but this is a bit of a summary post, so I won’t.
  2. Fulfilling the Great Commission: Jesus calls for believers to “Go forth and make disciples”.  Being a part of a church makes this much easier.  Most churches have a myriad variety of outreach and evangelism opportunities.  You could do this on your own, but organizing and enacting on the same scale just isn’t practical or feasible.  In addition, activities tend to be funner (oh yes, I just got conjugated ‘fun’ like that) when you do them with others.  This coming from an introvert.
  3. Fulfilling the Great Commandment: Jesus didn’t just give us the Great Commission, he also gave us the Great Commandment: “Love God, Love Others”.  This is the summary of the Law that applies to us Christians according to the New Covenant.  Not only are we supposed to seek a relationship with God, but also with others.  We are called for improving our community, and helping others, regardless of if they are different than us, regardless of if we agree with them. (See my earlier post for more on this topic).  Who is our neighbor?  Frankly, everyone.  There are many organizations out there dedicated to the mission of social work, Christian, non-christian and secular.  Social Work and community service may not have been invented by Christianity, but it is certainly a tenant we are supposed to live by.  As a church, you should be involved in your community, and if possible for your congregation, the wider world.

So that’s my take on the purpose of the church.  These functions will look different from church to church, from culture to culture, but I believe in some form they should be present.  “Let God’s Will be Done, On Earth as it is in Heaven“.  The Church should ideally be a reflection of what Heaven will one day look like, and by building each other up, sharing His message, and helping others, we can achieve this.

 

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Why I Support Female Pastors: Or, That Feminism Post: Part Two

When I decided to write a post about Feminism, I decided to write it through a lens that many of readers would easily recognize, and maybe even find relevant to their own experiences.  Few issues within the Church today face as much contention as female authority, and by examining God’s timeless word and pulling His teachings out of it, I hope to clarify what is really a simple quandary with a simple truth.  If you didn’t read last week’s post, I strongly suggest you read it before continuing here, because it lays the groundwork for what I’ll be discussing here.  You can read it here or by scrolling down on my homepage.

My last post focused on the Old Testament, and honestly, I probably could’ve written a whole series on that alone just because of how much material is in there.  This week’s post will focus on the New Testament,  which is thankfully slimmer and a bit more straight-forward to read.  That being said, I still probably won’t address every applicable verse and/or passage, but I do hope to look into some of the most relevant and contested ones.  If there are any verses you think I left out that should have been included, or if you have a different interpretation of them, feel free to comment at the bottom of the page and I’d be to address/discuss them with you.

First, I’d like to point out the fact that yes, there are no female pastors in the Bible.  I’d also like to point out the fact there are no male pastors either, except Jesus.  The Greek word we get pastor from, poimēn, means Shephard.  Only once in the entire New Testament is this word ever used as a noun to describe someone, and that one time is to describe Jesus.  So in reality, the Bible did not have today’s current concept of pastor we have.  That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with today’s concept of a pastor, though.  In fact, I think it’s great, and it’s merely an evolution of the ministerial role to fit today’s needs.  So while you can argue that there were no female pastors in the Bible, you do have to acknowledge that there were no male as well.

Some of you may be wondering if there were no pastors in the Bible, then where on earth did we even get the idea from?  Well, for those of you who were thinking that; that’s a very good question!   For those of you who weren’t thinking that, are you sure you’re not just skimming this blog post?  In the New Testament, we see two early church leadership roles described by Paul: The Minister, and the Deacon.  The Minister is fairly similar to the current concept of a Pastor, they would teach their congregation.  The Deacon was a delegate who the Minister would assign various tasks two to lighten their load.  Parallels to this structure can be seen in the Old Testament, with Moses and the Levites.

So, what about female pastors and deacons?  Well, I’m glad you asked, because I have several clear examples I’ve found in the Scriptures:

  1. Phoebe: In Romans 16, Paul commends to the Church in Rome “our sister Phoebe who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea.”.  The word servant here is important, because in Greek it is the word Diakonos.  However, the fact that this word is translated to servant is a bit odd.  Diakonos is used in 23 other places throughout the New Testament, including by Paul to describe himself.  What is this word translated to?  Minister.  So why then, is it translated to “servant”, when in so many other places, in the same context, is used as Minister?  The answer is, translator’s bias.   Whether on purpose, or more likely just tradition, this keyword has been mistranslated, to much error.
  2. Priscilla: In the same passage, Paul addresses Priscilla and Aquila, who “held a church in their home”.  Aquila is a man’s name, while Priscilla is a woman’s name.  During this time period, in just about every culture, you listed a man’s name first in an address, because they were the head of their house.  However, here we see Paul address the women first, not just as the head of their house, but as the head of their church.  While both were Ministers in their church, we clearly see that Priscilla is the dominant one, at least in Paul’s opinion.  And again, only two chapters only, we see Priscilla and Aquila take Paul aside and address him on a theological issue.  Again, Priscilla is mentioned first in this passage, explicitly denoting a dominant role.  This is a powerful example of how God calls both Men and Women to leadership roles of all kinds, and of the difference between Christ and Culture.
  3. Junia: In verse seven of Chapter 16, Paul addresses Andronicus and Junia who are of note among the apostles.  In the early Church, to be called an apostle was one of the highest honors, and reflected a great level of devotion to the Lord.  We see here that while not the greatest of the Apostles, Junia was of note among them.

Now, I will address a few “commandments” of Paul that at first glance seem to forbid women from leadership positions.  Firstly, 1 Corinthians 14:34 was probably not written by Paul.  This verse calls for women to be “silent and submissive” and not teach “in accordance with the law”.  While still included in some modern translations, this verse is widely regarded as a forgery by most Biblical scholars.  It does not appear in earlier manuscripts of the letter, differs in writing style from Paul, and seemingly contradicts his other teachings (we just got done talking about his praise for female pastors and deacons).  So this verse should not be used in arguments, and honestly shouldn’t even be in the bible, as it’s authenticity is sketchy at best.

Another letter (Timothy) by Paul calls for women to not teach men.  This letter is actually calling for women to not be in pastoral positions, but it is very important to understand the context.  Most of Paul’s letters were not originally intended to be shared, they were personal letters to certain people or to specific churches.  This is one of those examples.  In the city Timothy was in, women in leadership roles were often associated with cult priestesses, who engaged in bizarre and certainly not Christian teachings and rituals.  As Christianity was new and attempting to set itself apart from the pagan traditions and religions that coexisted alongside it, anything that could undermine this effort is moot.  Converts and people who heard of Christianity in this city would assume that it was no different.  That is why having a female pastor in this situation would serve as a distraction and detract from Christianity’s message.  It is also important to realize that Paul says he is not currently allowing women to be pastors in this location.  He fully intends to integrate this in the future, just not at the moment.  This is the same reason as to why Paul tells women to cover their hair in Timothy, because in the city he was in any women not wearing head coverings was pretty much assumed to be a cult prostitute.  Again, Christianity was meant to be set apart, they would not want it to be confused with other religions.

If you read last week’s post, then you might remember how I discussed that before the Fall men and women were equal to each other.  As any scholar of the Bible will tell you, God intends for humanity to be returned to the Eden model.  This isn’t just in terms of our relationship with God, but also with our relationship with each other.  Paul affirms this in Galatians:

 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond-servant nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. 

In Christ, we are all equal, not any higher or lower than each other.  We can also see this Jesus’s own teachings and actions, he treated men and women the same, talking to all in a similar manner.  Some of his most devoted followers were women, such as Mary and Mary-Magdalene.  So great was their faith that after Jesus’s resurrection they were first to be informed by the angel, not any of his male followers.  This is a strong statement, especially in the ancient world, because women were usually regarded as unreliable witnesses.  We can see clearly that Paul is trying to continue the good work started by Jesus, which is not just evangelism, but also positive social change.

Now that I’ve gone over what the bible has to say, I’m going to spend a little time here at the end to go over inconsistencies in the arguments and policies of those who are opposed to female pastors or women in other leadership roles.  Many churches, such as the Southern Baptist Convention (I only use them because they are the denomination I am most familiar with) allow women to have pastoral equivalent roles, such as Worship leader or Missionary, or even as a Children’s pastor.  They don’t however, allow for women to be head pastors.  This makes no logical sense, because assuming that Paul is against women in authority they shouldn’t have any of these roles, not just some of them.  Others may be fine with a woman being their boss at work but would be against a woman having equal or dominant authority in a family.  These policies and beliefs reek of hypocrisy and double standards and only cause harm.

You see, even if you truly do believe in traditional gender roles, you actually do your church and Christianity a disservice.  There are many talented women out there, just as there are talented men, and by not allowing them to have leadership roles, you hurt your church and thus the Church by wasting that skill.  And think of the hurt you cause these women, as many feel called to ministry and other leadership roles by the Lord, but are in turn spurned (rhyme completely unintended) from their calling.  The sheer unjustness and travesty of these types of situations just appall me, and it has to stop.  We wonder why people today are leaving Christianity in great numbers, especially in areas like Europe.  Look no further than issues like this, for while hardly the sole reason why they are certainly a part of the problem.

Now, a moment of clarification.  I’m all for empowering women, but there’s also nothing wrong with men in authority.  Men are equally skilled and competent, and most male pastors and deacons I’ve met actively strive to follow the Word and live a Godly life.  There’s nothing wrong with men being in the dominant role in a family or workplace either, all I mean to say is that this is not the only way and is not explicitly or implicitly called for by God, and the best way would be in equal authority.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this two-part post, and even if I didn’t change your mind, I hope at least it made you think.  And to the non-Christians reading this, I hope you realize that not all Christians are sexist, nor are the teachings of the Bible.  Instead, we see that sexism is wrong, and comes from sin.  My hope is that someday all Christians and all other people as well can agree on this.

 

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Why I Support Female Pastors: Or, That Feminism Post: Part One

Growing up in several evangelical churches, a phrase I have often heard is “Christ and Culture”.   This phrase generally refers to the difference (real or imagined) between biblical values/lifestyle and those of a secular or atheistic lifestyle.  While “Christ and Culture” is not a phrase you often see applied to the church itself, that is exactly what I intend to do today.

If by chance you have not picked up on it yet, today (or whatever day you happen to be reading this) I plan on talking about the ordination of women and in extension supposed “gender” roles assigned or intended for men and women.  Before I go further, I have a few things to clarify.  While the topics discussed in this post are going to focus primarily on the teachings of evangelical Christianity, I am by no means saying that all evangelical denominations and Christians are opposed to the ordination of women (The Lutheran church and most United European churches do for example).  Likewise, not all mainline denominations and Christians support the ordination of women (such as the Catholic church and Edit: I was informed the United Methodist Church does ordain women and always has.  My apologies for this error.most United Methodist churches).  There is a great variation of beliefs in denominations (and nondenominational churches), however, the general consensus of evangelical churches is that women should not be head pastors and that God instructs men and women to follow strict roles.  With that clarification set aside, I will now move on.

In the beginning….well, a lot of stuff happened, but arguably one of the most important things was the creation of humanity.  Living, breathing, completely self-aware and sentient creatures who were capable of having a relationship with God.  And at first, there was just one, man.  The first man’s name was Adam, and God tasked him with the upkeep of the garden (of Eden) and with naming all the creatures that resided in it.  After this was done, God saw that man was lonely, and thus enacted the next part of his plan.  It was not good for man to be alone, so he created a “helper” (more on that word in a minute) for him.

A bit of a side note, but I’ve always found this interesting: God didn’t necessarily make women from Adam’s rib.  In fact, the word used in Genesis refers to any biopsy, or more literally “section of flesh”.  While it’s quite possible women was made from one of Adam’s ribs, this is one of those things like the forbidden fruit being an apple, we really just don’t know.

Anyways, time to get back on topic.  The word most often translated as “helper” has raised a lot contention.  Often used to justify a complementary (but not inherently diminutive) role for women, “helper” is interpreted as an assisting role.  However, when we examine the actual word in question we see this is not the case.  The word most commonly translated as helper is ēzer k’negdô which literally means “help-meet”.  Again, in a literal context, this would refer to someone who met you where you were and lifted you out of your troubles through, well, help.  Literally, it refers to an equal role.  However, when we actually examine the context and parallel uses of ēzer things get even more interesting.  The word ēzer k’negdô is used many other times throughout the Bible, but never in a diminutive sense.  Elsewhere it is translated as “rescuer” and “savior” within similar contexts.  God himself is referred to as ēzer (salvation) several times.  So why then, is women referred to as the diminutive “helper”?   All evidence points to a cultural bias in the original English translators (*cough* *cough*, KJV, literally one of the word Bible translations available) that has been inadvertently emulated to this day.

Another interesting thing we see here early in Genesis is that both man and women are created in the image of God (tzelem Elohim).  It is not “man is created in the image of God” and then “woman is created in the image of man”.  No, both are created in the image of God!  To suggest that one is greater or more fit than the other borders on blasphemy in light of this.

So, I’ve examined the Biblical creation account to show that man and women were created equally and one is not created to be in subjugation to the other.  Now, I will examine the Fall and Original Sin to show where traditional gender roles came from.  While very few would say that sin was Eve’s fault, I would like to refute that argument nevertheless.  God has told Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit and had commanded him to relay this to Eve as well.  Which he never did!  In addition, we see in Genesis 3:6 that Adam was right with her when she ate the fruit “….She took of its fruit and ate, and also gave some to her husband who was with her” (ESV).

Now, on to the consequences, or results of sin.  Also in Genesis 3, we see God tell Adam and Eve what the results of their sin would be.  For clarity’s sake, I’ve listed them out for you (though you’re welcome to pull out your own Bible if you’d like):

  1. Raising children would be tiresome work
  2. The Husband Will Rule Over the Wife
  3. As they are cast out of the Garden, they will now have to work for sustenance
  4. As they are sinners, spiritual death is now a threat

All four of these are important, but for the purpose of this post the first two I will focus on.  Often translated as “childbirth will be painful”, verse 18 is better translated as “rearing children will be toil”.  This is another example of weird translations of words in spite of context.  And next, “The Husband Will Rule Over the Wife”.  Neither of these consequences existed before the fall.  As I previously mentioned, both were created in the image of God.  So does this mean that this is what God wants?  No!  Look back at consequence number 4, does God want us to suffer permanent Spiritual death?  Of course not!  That’s why he sent his son.  To suggest that God wants us to participate in sin is silly, and glamorizes sin itself.  In the early chapters of Genesis, we are slowly introduced to various types of sin (such as murder with Cain and Abel), and patriarchy is one of them.

Well, it only took a thousand words to get through Genesis, so now we’re finally going to move on to another: Job.  Now wait, what does Job have to do with feminism?  Isn’t that the poem about the guy who had a really bad day?  Well, you’re certainly not wrong about that last point.  Historians believe that Job is the earliest written book in the Bible.  So, a reading of Job offers us a unique perspective into the early(ish) history and culture of mankind.  It is especially helpful in examining God’s intent, as Job is one of the godliest men in the Bible.  In chapter 42, after God blesses Job once again, he distributes his inheritance among his children.  But interestingly enough, he gives an equal share to his daughters!  This flies in the face of old world tradition.  You never gave your daughters our inheritance, you gave it to your sons! And while his sons also received an equal share in the inheritance, they are never even mentioned by name, in contrast to his daughters.  This also flies in the face of traditional Hebrew chronology, which at this time was based on of important men only (as the family name was passed down through men).  So the fact that the earliest-written Biblical account primarily mentions a man’s daughters as his successors is a pretty big deal. 

Finally, we will examine female prophets in the old testament.  The bible, especially the old testament, did not have the current concept of a pastor or priest that we have today.  The new testament has ministers, but the old testament had prophets.  Prophets took on many forms and spoke many messages.  But their primary purpose was to speak God’s will to his often-disobedient people.  And interestingly, there were exactly seven female prophets in the old testament (for those of you who have never attended church or studied the Bible, the number seven is kinda’ a big deal).  These prophets were: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Isaiah’s wife (we don’t know her name), Huldah,  Noadiah, Esther.  (There were other women who could have fit the prophetic role, but they are not explicitly referred to as prophetesses).  Now, I would love to talk about each of these individuals but for time’s sake, I will focus on one: Deborah (who is conveniently pictured above).

For those who may be a bit rusty on their bible stories, Deborah was a Judge, which was basically a Warrior-Priest that settled disputes in the time before Israel’s kings.  They could preach God’s Word and kick-butt.  So not only did Deborah teach mean, preach to men, she also led men.  In a time of war, the current commander of Israel’s rather ragtag army did not feel confident he could lead them to victory.  So Deborah agrees to help him command the army but tells him a woman will claim the victory because of this.  Indeed this was the case, as the women Jael ends up killing the enemy leader.

So that’s it for the old testament.  While I have not written up a comprehensive examination of God’s will for “gender roles” in the old testament (that would be a book, not a blog), I hope I have at least written a thorough summary.  Next week I will continue my study into the New Testament, especially the oft-misinterpreted letters of Paul.  Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to comment!

 

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