January 18, 2011

The Descent of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2

Last week, I brought out several points of comparison between the Christians in the Acts 1 and us.  They were losing their leader; they needed to wait and to depend on the Holy Spirit; they were dealing with religious authorities who were acting in disobedience to God; they were living in highly chaotic times; they would be empowered for mission.  Now we see that after 40 days of waiting the Holy Spirit descend upon them, they speak in tongues—languages known to the many hundreds of visitors who had come from Diaspora of the Jews for the feast of Pentecost and 3000 people became Christians

What are the results of the descent of the Spirit in Acts 2?  Should we expect the same today?

1. Speaking in tongues: an extraordinary prophetic gift wherein the disciples spoke in the language of others.  This event took place in the temple, probably in the court of the Gentiles: a large area where many people even Gentiles would be permitted to gather.

A. Emmanuel church belongs to the Charismatic Movement in which the gift of tongues played an important role:  I could recommend some books on speaking in tongues:  Bill and Elisabeth Sherrill, They speak with other tongues; Dennis and Rita Bennet, The Holy Spirit and You.  The experience of speaking in tongues was exciting and helped people to become more focused on God and to deepen their faith.

B.  The gift of tongues in Acts 2 serves the specific purpose of getting the attention of Diaspora Jews who were in Jerusalem for the feast.  The Bible required that they come every year, but many of these people lived so far away that perhaps this was their first and only pilgrimage for a life time.  So the Holy Spirit chose the gift of tongues to do an amazing gift.

C. As a personal devotional language Tongues are far less dramatic.  Paul downplays it in favor of intelligible speech while in church (see 1 Cor 12-14).  But in private devotion, he says not to forbid tongues.

2. Mission and evangelism—The Spirit’s descent on the community immediately resulted in the addition of 3000 new members, mostly from the Diaspora.  The Temples was the likely arena for Peter’s preaching.

3. The Holy Spirit descent created a newly expanded of the Christian community was characterized by: unity, sharing, adherence to the Apostles’ teaching, generosity, breaking of bread and prayer, even signs and wonders.  Many of these meetings took place in homes where meals could be served and not in the temple, though large groups could be taught at Solomon’s portico (Acts 3.11).

Some Anglicans leaders believe that the apostles were wrong and that their teaching needs to be revised.  Recently, Gene Robinson, the homosexual bishop in the US Episcopal church, says that the Holy Spirit is teaching us to accept homosexuality as ok with God.  Here is a quote from his article in the Washington Post:

I do NOT believe that God stopped revealing God’s self with the closing of the canon (officially sanctioned as “holy” and official) of Scripture. Some would argue that God said everything God needed and wanted to say by the end of the first century … They would posit a God who, when the scriptures were “finished” bid the world a fond farewell and went off to some beautiful part of God’s creation (the Bahamas, Patagonia, Nepal?!!), leaving us to our own devices, given that everything had been said that needed to be said. I don’t believe that.

In John’s Gospel, which is largely made up of the conversation Jesus has with his disciples at the Last Supper, Jesus says: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16: 12-13a) I take this to mean that Jesus is saying to the disciples, “Look, for a bunch of uneducated and rough fishermen, you haven’t done too badly. In fact, you will do amazing things with the rest of your lives. But don’t think for a minute that God is done with you – or done with believers who will come after you. There is much more that God wants to teach you, but you cannot handle it right now. So, I will send the Holy Spirit who will lead you into that new Truth.”

So Robinson believes that the role of the Holy Spirit is to lead us into “new truth”, truth that the disciples themselves couldn’t handle at the time.  But we see from Acts 2, that when the Holy Spirit causes people to adhere to the apostles teaching.  And what did the apostles teach:  they taught what Jesus taught and commanded (Acts 1.8; Matt 28.19), and they taught from Scriptures (several are quoted by Peter).  Here is a statement from the apostles about homosexuality (1 Cor 6.9-11):

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Most attempts to say that Christians must accept homosexuals have to dismiss in some manner what the apostles taught and what Jesus taught.  But Jesus said the Holy Spirit came to remind the disciples about what he had taught:  “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14.26).  It is not a new truth, as Gene Robinson suggests.  But the same old truth, that Jesus and the apostles taught.

So in conclusion, I think what we can say is that the Spirit-filled community experiences unity—with fellowship and breaking of bread, adherence to apostolic teaching, evangelism and mission with numerical growth.  If we are not experiencing these things, we should pray that God would once again fill our community with his Holy Spirit and renew our faith.

Questions about the text:

Comments about the texts:

Insights into how the text applies today:


How we are like the Christians in Acts 1

Filed under: biblical studies — Petros @ 9:37 pm
Tags: , ,

Preface:  the following series of meditations on Acts are set within the backdrop of my own church, Emmanuel Anglican.  We have had the recent privilege of seeing our own priest promoted to the position of professor at a local seminary.  But now, bereft of our minister who has guided us through the murky waters of the controversy within the Anglican church we face a new crisis of leadership.  The Bishop Colin Johnson has ordained a lesbian living with her partner to the priesthood.  Now, we must without our priest’s wisdom navigate this storm.  So in response, my wife Cathy and I have chosen to lead a Bible study in Acts on Sunday nights, 7:00 – 8:30 pm, along with worship of God and prayer for our church community–how we might best respond this crisis of leadership.  On December 12, 2010, we met for the first time, and this is the meditation that I offered.

(1) We are about to lose our leader.

The disciples had watched the Roman authorities take Jesus and crucify him–one of the most ignoble ways ever invented to kill someone.  But they rejoiced when he appeared to them alive and physically intact.  Now Jesus had appeared to them and taught them during 40 days was about to leave again.  So they asked, aren’t you going to bring the Kingdom now?  They expected Jesus, the Risen King, to establish his Kingdom.  Instead, he said “Wait for the the Holy Spirit”.  So even though he was not at this point going to establish his physical Kingdom, he was sending them out with the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses in the world.

At Emmanuel we stand at the brink of losing our leader, Peter, who is going on to another task.  But God isn’t leaving us alone.  We still have the Holy Spirit, and as we look to find a successor to Peter, we must remember that the church doesn’t belong to the priest but to God.  Our task remains the same as for the early Christians, to go out and be witnesses for Jesus to the end of the world.

(2) We are dealing with a religious hierarchy which many of us believe is no longer obeying God.

The early Christians were Jews subject to both religious and political hierarchies.  The Romans were in political power, but they ruled through the intermediary of the high priests and the Sanhedrin.  It is with these very authorities that Jesus and the early Christian came into severe conflict.  In Acts chapter 5, we will see that the Sanhedrin even orders them to stop preaching in Jesus’ name.  The choosing of the apostle to take Judas is significant:  For the number twelve is significant. They believed they were choosing twelve person to take leadership over the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Anglican Church of Canada is in the process of changing 2000 years of Christian teaching by ordaining homosexuals and insisting upon the blessing of same sex relationships.  If we stand up to this because of conscience (as Luther, “Here I stand I can do no other—God help me, Amen!”), we would be following in the footsteps of the disciples when they said:  “We must obey God rather than men”(Acts 5.29).  We know that we must remain faithful to God and obey him rather than to obey man.  Therefore, we expect that God will appoint new leadership where the old leadership is failing.

(3) We are facing a time of serious chaos and upheaval

Since the time of the beginning of Roman rule, the Jewish people benefited from Pax Romana.  But high taxation threatened the livelihood of the people and poverty was rampant.  Thus, Pax Romana thus came with a price.   The four decades following the Ascension of Jesus would be a time of serious upheaval to the Jewish nation

We have enjoyed peace on American and Canadian soil for a long time–our wars have been fought largely on the extremities of the our world, just as in the Roman world until the Jewish Revolt.  But can this peace last?  Are we Christian ready for what the future might bring?  We are on the brink of of economic disaster.

(4) Jesus calls on us to wait for and depend on the Holy Spirit.

Jesus instructed the early Christians to wait for the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit would guide them and empower them in the mission.  God knows the future.  So what better guide could we have than the Spirit?  He can even inform us when disaster is about to strike, as God informed the prophets in Acts of the impending famine (cf. Acts 11.28).

If we wait on the Holy Spirit as a community we can expect his guidance for the future:  (1) what minister we should choose; (2) how we may prepare ourselves for impending financial calamities that may come; (3) how we should respond to the religious authorities (4) and political events coming in the future.

(5) We will be empowered for mission.

The main purpose of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit was not merely the survival and edification of the community but mission.  A rag tag group of fishermen, a zealot, a tax collector, a doubter (Thomas)—but all uneducated by worldly standards, not one of these men had a “PHD”.  Jesus called them to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the end of the earth.  And by the last chapter of Acts, we see that Rome had a vibrant community of Christians even before Paul’s arrival there.  Within a century or two the Roman world had been transformed, and the seeds of church had been planted everywhere.

What is our mission as a church community?  How will we transform our world?  Often our focus as a community has been survival—rather than mission.  We look upon the dying embers of the Anglican church as it’s fire wanes.  How shall we respond?  Is it time to quit because God is abandoning the church?  Is it time to fight the fight within the church itself?  How shall we respond?

What I’d like to do over the coming weeks, if its ok with you, is to study the book of Acts and reflect on how the teaching and experiences of the early Christians can inform us in overcoming and thriving in our present set of difficult circumstances.  How do they respond to religious and political authorities?  How did they maintain an honest and faithful witness to God?


How we are like the Christians in Acts 1?

August 3, 2010

I should probably sue Hallmark!

Filed under: Meow — Petros @ 12:20 pm

I opened today a Hallmark birthday card from my dad, and one of our cats, a female by the name of Luna Tick, the black Queen of the nether world, who was just spade about a week ago after having kittens (ninja warriors), attacked me.  The Hallmark card had a chime from the Three Caballeros.  Anyone else been attacked by an animal after opening a greeting card?

July 31, 2010

Pleezze help!!

Filed under: Meow — Samwise, Esq. @ 1:01 pm

Hi my name is Samwise, Esquire.

Peter has maid mee an author on hiz blog, and eye am using it as a plee 4 help.  I wrote an e-mail to Tiny Parker, but she seeems powerless to help, as only her Daddy can drive her to us.

Wee (me and Baileykins my sister) are stuck in da topp floor (aka “upper room”) of da house and cannot go enywear, becuz of evil Luna Tic the black Queen who lives in da nether regions of da haus.  Wee haf erected da Grate Wall of China to protect us from da hoard of mongolian ninja warriors, da brood of dat viper evil Luna Tic.  but they some times penetrate the wall into our lasst basstion of safety, r small small territorie wear wee r still permited to breeth and sleep (but no t to eet or pee)

please save us.  We have no foood (I only eet Kibble).

We haf no way two exit da house and doo our business, not even a window.  We have no kitty litter box.  It’s been this way for years.  Please save us.  U r  r last hope.  Peter and Cathy, r staff, r in cahoots wif da mongolian ninja warriors and dar evil mudder.  Wee often sea dem giving aid and comfort to da enemy, even secretly behind our baks weil we r sleeping.

Chow, chow, chow (rembmer to brinng kibbles wen u come).

Here is a picture of Queen Luna’s spawn, Ninja Warriors:

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
Tags: , , ,

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 7, 2010

Crowded Tenement Building Churches in Early Christianity

A young promising bright Master’s student at my alma mater, Regent College, dubbed “Poser or Prophet” writes in response to the Brooks’ post, “House Churches“:

Also, the early church probably didn’t meet in houses. They probably met in what space they could find in crowded tenement buildings — although if the wealthier first floor resident(s) converted, they could meet there (because, you know, with the risk of buildings falling over or burning down — which tended to happen frequently — it was much better to live on the ground floor than in the penthouse!).

Now I know that Poser and I have had our disagreements in the past, but this time I completely agree with him. In fact, I’ve gathered a number of texts as evidence for his position; the term πολυοχλοικοδομη (poluochloikodome=“crowded tenement building”), occurs frequently in early Christian literature. I can provide an abundant supply of further primary texts. I recommend the article in Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, “Crowded tenement builiding” (s.v.); and Abraham Malhabre’s important essays in Social Aspects of Early Christianity, ch. 3-4, “Crowded tenement building churches and their problems”, “Hospitality and Inhospitality in crowded tenement building churches”; Gerd Thiessen’s, Social Setting of Pauline Christianity; and the article everyone refers back to F. V. Floyd, “The significance of the Early Christian crowded tenement building churches”  JBL 58 (1939): 105-112.

Here are some sample texts from the NT and the NT apocrypha (all translations taken from the NTCB):

Acts 1.13: and when they had entered crowded tenement buildings, they went up to the upper room where they were staying—for there was no room for them on the first floor where the rich people dwelt …

Acts 2.3: And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them, but also endangering the upper room of the crowded tenement buildings where they were met.

Acts 4.31: And when they had prayed, the crowded tenement buildings in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.

Acts 8.3: But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering crowded tenement building after crowded tenement building, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Acts 12.12: When he realized this, he went to the crowded tenement building of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.

Romans 16.3: Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I but also all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks; greet also the church in their crowded tenement building.

1 Cor 16.19: The churches of Asia send greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their crowded tenement building, send you hearty greetings in the Lord.

1 Tim 5.13: Besides that, they learn to be idlers, gadding about from crowded tenement building to crowded tenement building, and not only idlers but gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.

2 John 10: If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the crowded tenement building or give him any greeting;

Here are couple texts from the second century Apocrypha which shows that second century Christians also believed that the earliest Christians met in πολυοχλοικοδομη:

Acts of Paul III, 4, 7: And when Paul entered into the crowded tenement building of Onesiphorus, there was great joy, and bowing of knees and breaking of bread, and the word of God concerning abstinence (or continence) and the resurrection [snip] … And as Paul was saying these things in the midst of the assembly (church) in the crowded tenement building of Onesiphorus, a certain virgin, Thecla, whose mother was Theocleia, which was betrothed to an husband, Thamyris, sat at the window of the neighboring crowded tenement building, and hearkened night and day unto the word concerning chastity which was spoken by Paul…

Acts of John 46: John therefore continued with them, receiving them in the crowded tenement building of Andromeus. And one of them that were gathered laid down the dead body of the priest of Artemis before the door [of the temple]**, for he was his kinsman, and came in quickly with the rest, saying nothing of it. John, therefore, after the discourse to the brethren, and the prayer and the thanksgiving (eucharist) and the laying of hands upon every one of the congregation, …

**Junod-Kaestli, as well as earlier interpreters, suggest the elimination of “of the temple” (Greek, του ιερου) —Acta Iohannes (CChrSA) p. 227.

February 4, 2010

Women in ministry: A questionnaire

Filed under: theology — Petros @ 8:29 am
Tags: , ,

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.

February 1, 2010

Why I am not a fundamentalist

Filed under: St. Paul — Petros @ 6:37 pm

Christian fundamentalism is a movement in Christianity which in opposition to Christian liberalism insists upon the inerrancy of the Scriptures.  While I have sometimes worked, worshiped and prayed with fundamentalists, and I do consider them in most cases to be true Christians and brothers in the Lord, I do not identify with them.  I am rather pentecostal, evangelical and charismatic in my tendencies, and this can be seen in the schools I’ve attended Northwest College (now University) of the Assemblies of God (pentecostal); Regent College (evangelical); while at University of Cambridge I was associated with Tyndale House (evangelical) and currently I attend a charismatic church (Emmanual Anglican, Richvale).  Thus, the following critiques stand as one clearly outside fundamentalism.  But I hereby offer some points which can explain why I am not a fundamentalist.

(1) I do not agree with the doctrine of inerrancy.  I do not agree that it should the first line of a creed, since we worship God not the Bible.  I do believe that God inspired the biblical writers, that it constitutes reliable and authoritative Scripture.  I believe that it can be read in Church and it should be the “text” of sermons.  I believe it is worthy of lifelong study and have thus devoted myself to understanding its text.

But my hesitancy with the doctrine of inerrancy is this:  (1) the Bible is in human language which is an imperfect vehicle of communication. Thus, an inerrant text is not even a possibility.  (2) The Bible is read by imperfect interpreters, so even if an inerrant text existed, there are no inerrant readers.  So inerrancy is an irrelevant doctrine because it has no practical application.  (3) Even if there was an inerrant autograph, we do not have that the autographs, but rather a manuscript tradition.  So we are not dealing with a text that we even have, but one which we believe to have been magically preserved (King James only people) or one which is reconstructed by flawed scholars (NA27; UBS3) who are themselves not inerrant.  I am no liberal.  On the other hand, I do not believe the doctrine of inerrancy to be a good way to counter liberalism.

(2) A rigid view of the Bible leads to Pharisaical legalism in practice.  Too often the fundamentalist tendency leads to rigid legalism that confuses the Christian faith with a set of rules about drinking, dancing, wearing make-up, and going to movies.  One contemporary issue is the frequent ban of women pastors , based upon a rigid reading of Paul which I think even Paul himself would not be able to accept.

(3) In fundamentalism, a rigid understanding of the Bible often ursurps the role of the Holy Spirit.  As I heard once, there is often a very solid confession amongst many Christians in the holy trinity:  the Father, the Son and the Holy Bible.

Take the ban on women pastors for example, which is based upon 1 Cor 14.34-35 and 1 Tim 2.11-15.  If in the first century Paul was confronted with problems in his churches and he found contemporary culturally sensitive solutions to those problems by following the direction of the Holy Spirit and then implementing certain directives in the church, I say we have today the same freedom today, using Paul’s advice to the Corinthians or to Timothy as a model.  There is thus no excuse us for using the NT as the new nomos (law) when it comes to contemporary practice.  Paul’s own impetus is advancement of the gospel and thus of the Kingdom of God.  When it comes to the role of woman, for example, I think it is appropriate to take all the biblical passages about women into consideration, to pray, and to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in the community in making a decision which will help the gospel to thrive the best in any given culture.  Our goal as Christians should not be first and foremost promotion of women’s rights.  Nor should it be to follow rigidly rules in the Bible.  Our highest goal and our priority is to promote the Kingdom of God.  Even when you consider Paul’s recommendations in the context of 1 Tim for example, his priority is not that women should behave, but to correct women’s behaviour because of how it is negatively affecting the image of the gospel.

(4) Fundamentalism too easily confuses culture with Christianity.  In Africa I once saw a painting of a pastor teaching sunday school;  while the children wore African-style clothing, the pastor was wearing a suit and tie.  The imposition of Western culture in the African context by fundamentalist missionaries can still be felt today.  This is something that needs to be overcome.  I agree today with those who wish to contextualize Christianity in the African context, to find appropriate African expressions of what it means to be a Christian, over against those who apply a rigid Western understanding of the Christian faith and practice in an African setting.  Fundamentlists are often unable to distinguish legitimate contextualization from syncretism and therefore condemn too readily people who try to find culturally appropriate expressions of the Christian faith.

(5) Fundamentalism tends to be extremely sectarian and divisive.  Once one is so sure of their own position on a biblical text, they can easily dismiss others as non-Christian or heretical.  As a charismatic Anglican or a pentecostal, I personally would not say that fundamentalists are not Christian brothers or sisters, but they might too easily say that I am of the devil because I speak in tongues; and this is some what contradictory because the Bible which they hold in such high esteem says, “Do not forbid speaking in tongues.”  But this is because sometimes in fundamentalism, we will find the next point.  Yet the point is not that they have a inerrant text:  fundamentalist often act as though they have an inerrant hermeneutic.

(6) In fundamentlism, a priori systematic theology often usurps the Bible as the final authority.  This is especially true of the doctrine of Dispensationalism as first invented by Darby.  The teaching that speaking in tongues is no longer valid comes from Dispensationalism.  The dispensation for the gifts died out with the age of the apostles and thus, all speaking tongues or prophecies, even healings and miracles, are invalid today.  Thus, my experiences with speaking in tongues, miracles and prophecy, as a charismatic/pentecostal Christian, have all been either demonically inspired or psychologically induced.



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