πετροστελος

February 23, 2010

When that which is perfect comes: 1 Corinthians 13.8-13

8 Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 13 So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (RSV)

Cessationists often believe that the meaning of “that which is perfect” is the NT. Thus, prophecies and speaking tongues are no longer valid because we have the New Testament (see e.g., this blog).  The perfect which Paul awaits however cannot be the NT since Paul had no idea that there would be collection of books used in the post-apostolic church called the NT. This is anachronistic exegesis.  Furthermore, it is not correct to say that it is a good theological understanding of the passage, since the NT itself does not have a theology of the NT–i.e., it has obviously a theology or theologies, which we call NT theology, but it does not discuss the NT as a theological category.  The biblical theology purported by cessationists is actually coherent only from a post-reformation point of view.

That which is perfect for Paul is properly understood to be the second coming of Christ who we will know directly and face to face.  The NT is not perfect in the sense of the Greek term, teleion (complete) ; it partially reveals to us the object of our faith, Jesus Christ.  When Jesus Christ is come, then we will see face to face the author and perfecter of our faith.  Until then, we are still in need of the gifts of the Spirit to guide us.

February 11, 2010

John Stott on Inerrancy

My post, “Why I am not an fundamentalist“, resulted in the consternation of one of the bloggers at Palabre; I happily took it down from there and have started writing here on my personal blog instead, where my views can’t taint Palabre.  Of course this will make it more difficult to have serious discussions there in the future, but I don’t want to set the agenda at Palabre, as it is supposed to be a place to discuss African issues.

I was told that most Evangelicals believe in inerrancy too.  But I’ve pointed out that it is an American over-reaction to liberalism, and it is not particularly strong amongst English Evangelicals.  E.g., Wycliffe College, Toronto, our evangelical college which we support, does not have a position on inerrancy, but rather this statement of principle, “The sufficiency and supremacy of Holy Scripture as the rule of faith.”

Furthermore, I wondered if John Stott, who has been a leading Anglican evangelical, has taken a position.  I found the following answer by Michael Marlowe:

In a book published in 1999, Stott says that “the word inerrancy makes me uncomfortable” for several reasons. He says it “sends out the wrong signals and develops the wrong attitudes,” and it is “unwise and unfair to use inerrancy as a shibboleth by which to identify who is evangelical and who is not.” In Stott’s view, “it is impossible to prove that the Bible contains no errors,” and the important thing is “not whether we subscribe to an impeccable formula about the Bible but whether we live in practical submission to what the Bible teaches.” (Evangelical Truth: A Personal Plea for Unity, Integrity, and Faithfulness [InterVarsity Press, 1999], pp. 61-62.) Regarding this “practical submission” to the teachings of the Bible, Stott has elsewhere explained that “although biblical truth is eternal and normative in its substance, it is often expressed in changeable cultural terms.” He notes that the Lausanne Covenant described Scripture as “without error in all that it affirms,” and says it is our task “to determine what it does affirm” in substance. And after that, “we have the further task of reclothing this unchanging revelation in appropriate modern cultural dress.” What all this may mean for Christian faith and life is not clear, but an idea of the practical consequences of this line of thinking may be seen in Stott’s opinion that, despite the clear prohibitions in 1 Timothy 2:11-15, he and his like-minded colleagues have rightly “expressed the view that a woman could be ordained and so could teach men.” He suggests that an appropriate “contemporary expression” of the biblical teachings would be for an ordained female to teach men while being part of “a local pastoral team, of which a man would be the head.” (Roy McCloughry, “Basic Stott,” an interview with John Stott published in Christianity Today, 8 Jan 1996.) Here we have come a long way from traditional views of biblical truth and authority, and it is not surprising that Stott and other neoevangelicals who agree with him do not like to use the word inerrancy.

Well, I for one don’t have a problem with the views of Stott as presented by Marlowe.  Now I am a “neoevangelical”?  Perhaps the neoevangelicals are the ones who hold to inerrancy.  As for Anglicans, there is no statement of inerrancy in the Thirty-Nine Articles (1563) either, but this:

Of the sufficiency of the Holy Scripture for Salvation

In the name of Holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

Stott is correct to say: (1) “it is impossible to prove that the Bible contains no errors”; actually, it is also impossible to have a Bible without errors because of the multiple transmission errors in the texts of both the Old and New Testaments; (2) “unwise and unfair to use inerrancy as a shibboleth by which to identify who is evangelical and who is not”; but this is exactly what many “neoevangelicals” and all fundamentalists do with their doctrinal statements.  (3) The essential thing is “not whether we subscribe to an impeccable formula about the Bible but whether we live in practical submission to what the Bible teaches”; I think this is an important point.  I recite a creed every Sunday–either the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed. Neither of these creeds affirm “inerrancy” nor belief in the Scriptures.  They affirm belief in the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Belief in the Bible is conspicuously missing in our confessions.  Moreover, faith that saves is not based upon a particular view of the Bible or even believing in the Bible.  It is in obeying what the Bible commands us, to believe in the Word of God,  Jesus Christ (the λόγος of God, John 1.1).  The Bible bears witness to Jesus Christ, who is our object of belief and the author of our Faith.

If there is such a thing as a “neoevangelical”, it should refer to those who hold to the new doctrine of inerrancy, as it has been formulated against 19th and 20th century liberalism.  Those of us resistant to it, such as Stott and myself, are holding to an older more traditional form of evangelicalism Christianity.

February 9, 2010

Why men should be priests and pastors

Filed under: theology — Petros @ 5:39 am
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A few years ago, I read in First Things a very sensible article that suggested only men should be the senior pastor or priest of a church.  Tyler Wittman has argued for biblical complimentarianism in response to my post explaining why I am not a fundamentalist.  I pretty much agree with his point, but I also argue as a pentecostal/charismatic that we should not forbid women to do certain roles if they are capable, if they receive the call of God for that role, and if it will advance the Kingdom of God.

The article in First Things (unfortunately I don’t exactly remember the date and the author) appealed to the observation that Christianity with its values of of gentleness and mercy appeals above all to women, and hence, women have historically populated the church more than men.  Having searched the First Things website, it may have been Richard John Neuhaus’ review of an article by Kenneth Woodward in Commonweal (Nov 22, 1996).  Neuhaus writes (May 1997):

Woodward invokes Walter Ong’s insightful and undeservedly neglected book, Fighting for Life (Cornell University Press, 1981), that contends masculine and feminine are human contraries in a “ritual contest” that shapes maleness from “its biological base to its human heights.” Ong notes that the Church is always and overwhelmingly feminine—Holy Mother Church—and in that feminine environment the all-male clergy is a necessary countervailing force.

Woodward concludes: “I have spent time on the Protestant experience because I want to indicate not only what is happening among our Christian brethren but also to suggest that the loosening of this dynamic tension may be one reason why mainline denominations are in such dire straits. The church as a profession is not like the law, medicine, or finance. Women who enter these professions do not change them; they are changed by the professions, and if they do not perform well they are out. But religion is different. Whatever else it is, religion is a symbol system and to change the symbols is to change the meaning that religion expresses. Surely there is need to incorporate, expand, and deepen what is feminine in religion. But there are limits. And as we can see in the exponents of post-Christian feminism, those limits have already been breached. My concern is not with theory or theology but with the atmosphere of ordinary American churches as I find them. And what I find in them is the gradual disappearance of anything that might adequately be described as masculine, no matter who in the hierarchy is calling the shots.”

Therefore, it is important for the sake of evangelism and church growth that a man lead the church, lest all the ministries of the church be taken over by women, and men who come, unless they are the Alan Alda sensitive-type, will find that there is no role model, and by logical extrapolation, no role for them in the church.  This is a compelling argument for me.  If the local church has a woman senior pastor, the danger is the “chickification” of the church, just like our schools and so many other institutions in our culture.

Woodward invokes Walter Ong’s insightful and undeservedly neglected book, Fighting for Life (Cornell University Press, 1981), that contends masculine and feminine are human contraries in a “ritual contest” that shapes maleness from “its biological base to its human heights.” Ong notes that the Church is always and overwhelmingly feminine—Holy Mother Church—and in that feminine environment the all-male clergy is a necessary countervailing force.

Woodward concludes: “I have spent time on the Protestant experience because I want to indicate not only what is happening among our Christian brethren but also to suggest that the loosening of this dynamic tension may be one reason why mainline denominations are in such dire straits. The church as a profession is not like the law, medicine, or finance. Women who enter these professions do not change them; they are changed by the professions, and if they do not perform well they are out. But religion is different. Whatever else it is, religion is a symbol system and to change the symbols is to change the meaning that religion expresses. Surely there is need to incorporate, expand, and deepen what is feminine in religion. But there are limits. And as we can see in the exponents of post-Christian feminism, those limits have already been breached. My concern is not with theory or theology but with the atmosphere of ordinary American churches as I find them. And what I find in them is the gradual disappearance of anything that might adequately be described as masculine, no matter who in the hierarchy is calling the shots.”

February 4, 2010

Women in ministry: A questionnaire

Filed under: theology — Petros @ 8:29 am
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The role of women in ministry is not a moral issue.  It is not covered by the Ten Commandments.  There is no commandment for example that says that women can only do certain jobs and men others.  It is however a question of culture.  In certain cultures both men and women are prevented from doing certain tasks.  It is also a question of biology:  men and women have different roles because they are in general biologically better suited for those roles: e.g., women are far better at bearing children, while men are better at opening jars.

As a charismatic/pentecostal, I look at Spirit gifting as a sine qua non of ministry.  So let’s ask some questions about what roles women can perform:

(1) Does the cultural context prevent or strongly discourage women from carrying out a specific task?  If so, if women in the church performed that task would it bring the gospel into disrepute and prevent the advancement of the church?  If women were prevented from performing a task, would it bring the gospel into disrepute and prevent the advancement of the church?

(2) Does biology prevent women from doing a certain task?  I think here of jobs that require physical strength such as construction worker, fireman, or soldier.  Other positions would not be able to withstand maternity leave**–in which case married women in their child bearing years may wish to refrain from taking on certain tasks.

(3) Does a woman have a particular set of giftings that would make the performance of the task possible and beneficial?

(4) Is the woman the best person or the only person available for the job?

(5) Is the woman responding to the call of God in order to do the task?

(6) If a woman does a particular task does it help either the spiritual or numerical growth of the church, and thus, the advancement of the Kingdom of God?

**Maternity leave:  Sarah Palin apparently did not become derelict as governor of Alaska when she bore her child in office.  Thus, in some cases, highly motivated women leaders may overcome the obstacle of child bearing while performing a task.  The lengthening of maternity leave benefits to a full year in Canada, however, plays against this possibility in making it more and more onerous upon employers to keep a job open.  But then again, the little used “paternity” leave also makes that available to men.  Women however tend to use the entire benefit period.  It would be problematic if a woman pastor takes a one-year maternity leave from her job as senior pastor of church, let’s say five times during a ten year period.  The church then has a disjointed ministry going back and forth between woman pastor to interim.  This is obviously untenable.

June 10, 2009

What exactly do you mean by the color green?

Filed under: environoment,poetry,theology — Petros @ 6:15 am
Tags: ,

What exactly do you mean by the color green?
Is it a hue, a spectrum of light from the sun?
Or the religious practice of worshipping what is seen?
Which believes anthropogenic global-warming has won?

What have you said when you invoke the color red?
Is it the violence which sheds the life’s blood of some?
But what greater love than for a friend to have bled?
As in the semeion of God who spares not his true son.

Even what is seen as painful, mortal vaccine,
Eliminated deadly disease and lives preserved.
What gift of love of fish or bull or even swine
That provides protein to young or old undeserved!

Perhaps we want by vice to return to paradise,
By lifting our bootstraps or building a tower.
Eating no meat or hugging bears is not wise,
We won’t return to Eden by our own power.

A query for Moussa Bongoyok regarding his poem The real color of Love

May 13, 2009

Anchorage Bears, Sourdough and Paradise Lost

For the family of Jim, the Sourdough

The AP reports that 315 bears (250 blacks; 65 grizzlies) now live within my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska.  During the 22 years that I resided in Alaska, I never saw a bear in the city limits.  On the very edges of the Service High School area, in the Chugach mountains, there were rare black bear sightings.  Now, experiences that were common to remote settlements like Cooper Landing have become a regular occurrence in the suburb of Eagle River and the outlying areas of the city proper of Anchorage.

Bears are dangerous animals.  I learned about the perils of bears from Jim, a Sourdough.  The term “Sourdough” was used of old-timers who lived in Alaska well before statehood, while it was still the Last Frontier.  They got the name because they would keep a sourdough crock to which they would add flour and water on a nightly basis. Every morning they would make sourdough hot cakes from the dough, leaving a small amount in the crock to leaven the next batch. It is a hearty breakfast that would make the sedentary urban dweller obese within weeks. Jim, his wife and kids were my family’s best friends as I was growing up.  We often went moose hunting with them or visit them in Cooper Landing, where Jim had a 100-year old log cabin set on glacier-fed Kenai Lake below mountains where wild sheep could be seen grazing.  We would all bunk in the cabin’s loft–a big open room with several beds.  I remember having trouble sleeping because of all the adults snoring so loudly.  On one such visit, when I was about twelve years old, Jim taught me how to make sourdough pancakes from the pot that he had kept leavened for many years.

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May 1, 2009

Debate at City of God rages on

At City of God the battle of words wages on. On one side, John, Dan, and Poserorprophet (a.k.a., Dan O.), who want to allow gay marriage and adoption. On the other side, others of whom I have been the most outspoken. I maintain that Poser is preaching a different gospel because he writes that the poor are a part of the Church by virtue of their poverty; Poser wrote:

I wouldn’t necessarily say that “the poor [are] incorporated into Jesus, the Messiah” but rather that Jesus, the Messiah, incorporated himself into the poor. Therefore, there is now an indissoluble and sacramental link between the poor and Christ. By choosing to identify with the poor, the marginalised, and the damned, Christ revealed to us that these people are priests, administering God’s presence to the world. Not only that, but Christ reveals to us that God has chosen to locate himself in and amongst the poor. … [snip] This means that the poor are counted as members of the Church, even if they verbally deny Jesus and assert that they do not want to follow him.

John responded regarding my comments at City of God:

Here is a comment worthy of consideration:

“P. W. Dunn has continually exploited Porp inasmuch as he has accused him with charges which Porp would never concede to as intentionally executing. His interpretations have often been irresponsible (given his education) and simplicitic; He has cognizantly incited people to anger and has continued to be largely and ignorantly intolerant of other people’s views. When his arguments fail to succeed he subtly abuses his interlocutor. He accuses people for things which he also is guilty, especially the so-called propagandic techniques.”

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April 11, 2009

Parousia and the Presence of the Lord Jesus

Filed under: biblical studies,theology — C. J. Dunn @ 8:46 am
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In N.T.Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope (p. 128), he notes that the Greek word parousia “is usually translated “coming,” but literally it means “presence”-that is, presence as opposed to absence.”  He goes on to discuss two meanings of the word in non-Christian contexts which would have influenced the Christian understanding (page 129):

The first meaning was the mysterious presence of a god or divinity, particularly when the power of this god was revealed in healing.  People would suddenly be aware of a supernatural and powerful presence, and the obvious word for this was parousia.  Josephus sometimes uses this word when he is talking about YHWH coming to the rescue of Israel.  God’s powerful, saving presence is revealed in action, for instance when Israel under King Hezekiah was miraculously defended against the Assyrians.

The second meaning emerges when a person of high rank makes a visit to a subject state, particularly when a king or emperor visits a colony or province.  The word for such a visit is royal presence:  in Greek, parousia.  In neither setting, we note, obviously but importantly, is there the slightest suggestion of anybody flying around on a cloud.  Nor is there any hint of the imminent collapse or destruction of the space-time universe.

Wright then applies this meaning to the Parousia of Christ, saying that the Early Christians believed that while Jesus was present in spirit, he was absent in body, and they waited for Christ to come in body and make his powerful presence known to the everyone.  Secondly, the Early Christians were evidently proclaiming that Jesus was the true Emperor of the world, who would soon rule not in absence but in person, and that Caesar was a “sham”.

Rapture, not

I have been reading N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope and have been finding his views very refreshing and intelligent.  Last Sunday was Palm Sunday and we celebrated the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem.  With this scenario in my mind, I find that N.T. Wright’s explanation of 1 Thessalonians 4 makes perfect sense of the text (Surprised by Hope,  p. 132-133):

When the emperor visited a colony or province, the citizens of the country would go to meet him at some distance from the city.  It would be disrespectful to have him actually arrive at the gates as though his subjects couldn’t be bothered to greet him properly.  When they met him, they wouldn’t then stay out in the open country:  they would escort him royally into the city itself.  When Paul speaks of “meeting” the Lord “in the air,” the point is precisely not–as in the popular rapture theology–that the saved believers would then stay up in the air somewhere, away from earth.  The point is that, having gone out to meet their returning Lord, they will escort him royally into his domain, that is, back to the place they have come from.  Even when we realize that this is highly charged metaphor, not literal description, the meaning is the same as in the parallel in Philippians 3:20.  Being citizens of heaven, as the Phillippians would know, doesn’t mean that one is expecting to go back to the mother city but rather means that one is expecting the emperor to come from the mother city to give the colony its full dignity, to rescue it if need be, to subdue local enemies and put everything to rights.

See also, “What’s wrong with the Rapture“.

March 24, 2009

Oral Tradition, the Bible and the Inerrancy Debate

In Acta Pauli, I have written a post called “Oral tradition units and the Acts of Paul“.  We have not yet discussed the question of biblical inerrancy on this blog, but I have now made suggestions to which a strict inerrantist might take umbrage.  While I don’t know for certain the answer, I assume that there may be oral tradition doublets in the Bible (e.g., Mark 6.35-44 and 8.1-9; Gen. 12.10-13; 20:1-18; 26:6-10).  A doublet would be tradition unit which gets told in oral tradition in different ways to the point that it could be recognized as two different stories.  The biblical writer then records them as though they were different stories.

I would think that the gut reaction of an inerrantist would be to say that this is wrong, and that Bible faithfully records each story as true.  Jesus therefore fed both the 5000 and the 4000 in two separate historical incidents.
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