Flotsam and jetsam (10/29)

It was not Luther’s intention to divide the Church, much less to start a brand new church. To the end of his life, he considered himself to be a faithful and obedient servant of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church. Though Luther renounced his monastic vows and married a former nun, Katarina von Bora, he never forgot that he had received a doctorate in Holy Scripture. His vocation was to teach the written Word of God and to point men and women to the Lord of Scripture, Jesus Christ.

Baptism is a secondary doctrine, but one that Baptists honestly believe is taught in the New Testament and should be embraced by other believers. To argue baptism is a primary doctrine is sectarian and smacks of a bapto-centric spirit that values the sign of the new covenant over the realities of the new covenant, even if implicitly. But to argue that baptism is unimportant or a matter of adiaphora is to disregard a doctrine that Scripture ties to the gospel (Rom. 6), missions (Matt. 28), and the church (Acts 2). Baptism is very important, but it is not of first importance.

For megapastors, platform time is the price of participation. Entrepreneurial pastors live to speak. Or perhaps more accurately and fairly, they live to influence, and they exercise much of their public influence by speaking. If they are not given a speaking slot, they are likely to conclude that their time can be better spent elsewhere.

So why does it matter?  Well, I think it was a good thing that Christian theologians (even some heretics) were public intellectuals and that theological debate was part of the larger cultural landscape.  It helped hold folk religion at bay.  Without that public theological discourse, American Christianity has by-and-large fallen into the hands of folk religion and folk theology–an anti-intellectual mix of cliches and religious urban legends and individual “spiritual” feelings.

 

Stay-at-home dads should be disciplined by the church

At least, that’s the argument that Mark Driscoll made recently when asked, ”What are your thoughts on stay at home dads if the woman really wants to work?” Even though the video was posted some time ago, it has recently received some attention from several bloggers, one of whom specifically called out Western Seminary in the process. So, I thought some comment was in order.

The argument that Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace provide runs roughly as follows:

  1. 1 Timothy 5:8 says that a man must provide for his family.
  2. Titus 2 says that a woman should be “homeward focused.”
  3. There are no scriptures that support the arrangement of the husband staying at home while the wife works outside the home.
  4. Therefore, any man who stays home while his wife works outside the home is “worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8) and should be disciplined by the church.

Granted, they do say several times that they’re not legalists and that they recognize certain “exceptional” cases where the norm might not hold (e.g. an injured husband who simply can’t work). But, they clearly argue that this is the biblical norm and any deviation from this norm except in extreme situations is sin.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WPVxndUcHQ

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John Stackhouse and Ben Witherington have each weighed in on this video with pretty significant criticisms. Their main responses can be summarized as follows:

  1. Driscoll misreads both texts because he misunderstands the social situation in which they were written. In biblical times, there was no clear distinction between working “in the home” and “outside the home.” Most work was generally done in and around the home, with both husbands and wives participating as they were able. The sharp inside/outside division of labor is a result of the Industrial Revolution and the rise of factory work. So, Driscoll is essentially reading a modern cultural construct into the biblical texts and interpreting them through that lens.
  2. We also need to understand the cultural norms governing family dynamics in the biblical world. Paul speaks to both husbands and wives in ways that were appropriate to their cultural setting. But, this should not be interpreted to mean that these cultural norms are now absolutely binding for all cultures and all times. (Driscoll does comment on this kind of argument, dismissing any appeal to “culture” as an attempt to undermine biblical authority.
  3. So, ultimately neither of the  passages that Driscoll cites actually addresses the matter at hand. 1 Timothy 5:8 deals with the importance of taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves (primarily widows), and says nothing about where various kinds of work should take place. And Titus 2 exhorts women to carry out their roles faithfully, but does not actually indicate that working in the home is the only legitimate role they can have.

Although I disagree with Witherington and Stackhouse in some of the other things that they say about the NT and gender, I have to say that these arguments seem pretty spot on here. Driscoll does seem to be importing modern notions of family and economic realities into his understanding of the biblical texts, and this colors his conclusions in unfortunate ways.

Even beyond this, I found some of the comments made in the video rather troubling. First, I have so say that I agree completely that Driscoll’s glib dismissal of anything cultural was unfortunate. I’m very sensitive to the danger of dismissing things as “cultural” just because we don’t like them. But, that doesn’t excuse us from the task of wrestling with the cultural realities of the text. Stackhouse asks in one place what Western Seminary would think of Driscoll’s exercise in exegesis. I can tell you that regardless of what any particular professor thought of Driscoll’s conclusion (most would not be favorable), none would accept such a light dismissal of the text’s cultural context.

Grace says in one place, ”As women we’re built to be home with our kids.” I’d love to see more explanation of this here. What exactly does it mean to say that women are built to be at home with the kids in a way that men aren’t? The only example she gives is to say that ”our children need us as mothers. We’re the ones who tend to their needs….We’re built to be able to recognize those things.” So, women are inherently better at recognizing what their children need and meeting those needs? As a father, I object. Over the years, my wife and I have used all kinds of different arrangements, including several years when I stayed home and was the primary caregiver. I’d like to think that I did a pretty good job and was not in any way impaired by an inherent inability to discern my children’s needs effectively. Was I wrong? Are there essential differences that rendered me less sensitive to my children’s needs and limited by abilities as a caregiver? If so, I’d love to see those pointed out more clearly.

They also emphasized several times that women should be “homeward focused.” This is another one where I’d like a little more explanation. If they simply mean that women should be focused on taking care of their children and seeing that they are raised in a godly manner, then why wouldn’t we want men to be homeward focused in exactly the same way? In exactly what sense are women to be more homeward focused than men?

And, finally, I thought one of the most unfortunate remarks came toward the end. While he was expressing appreciation for Grace’s role in their family, Driscoll commented on how things would be different ”if Gracie wasn’t willing to be their mom and be home with them.” So, women who work outside the home are not willing to be moms? They don’t want to be with their kids? This kind of subtle denigration of the motives of women who work outside the home is devastating and must be avoided at all costs.

At the end of the day, I appreciate Driscoll’s unbending insistence that we must always stand in submission to the demands of the text. He made a number of comments in the video about the importance of standing against unbiblical cultural norms that I thought were well said and timely. Unfortunately, the particular stance that he takes here seems unnecessarily legalistic (despite his claims to the contrary) and modernistic.

How to communicate with writers

Last week we had How to Communicate with Academics. This week SMBC brings us How to Talk to Writers.

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Flotsam and jetsam (10/28)

The date is important for Christianity because Constantine went on to end imperial persecution of Christians (with the Edict of Milan in 313). He also converted to Christianity personally, and empowered and enriched the church in countless ways, from copying Bible texts, to gathering the first ecumenical council, to beginning Christian architecture. What’s not to love?

… when He became incarnate, and was made man, He recapitulated in himself the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam–namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God–that we might recover in Christ Jesus. (Against Heresies III.18.1)

Samuel, this seven pound two ounce wonder, represents, no less than other children, what Jürgen Moltmann once named ‘metaphors of God’s hope for us’, that with every child, a new life – original, unique, incomparable – begins. And that while we typically ask, who does this or that child look like…, we also encounter the entirely different, the entirely dissimilar and unique in each child. It is, Moltmann suggests, precisely these differences that we need to respect if we want to love life and allow an open future. Moltmann also recalls that with every beginning of a new life, the hope for the reign of peace and justice is given a new chance….Every new life is also a new beginning of hope for a homeland in this unredeemed world. If it were not, we would have no reason to expect anything new from a beginning.

Be suspicious of statistics, especially those that seem too good or too bad or too surprising to be true.

You’re two years into your administration and the question that arises in my mind is, Are we the people that we were waiting for? Or, are those people are still out there and we don’t have their number?

Quote of the day

“I agree with everything Pelagius said.”

……….~Billy Cash

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I heard this with my very own ears (I’ve tried hearing with other people’s ears, but it doesn’t work very well), so I can verify this to be a true and accurate quote.

Now, to be fair, I should place the quote in context. Billy and I were discussing Augustine and the issues of free will and salvation. Does that make it better?

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People are amazing (and stupid, and insane, and…)

Here’s a pretty incredible video of people doing a whole variety of amazing (and often insane) things. (Who would have thought to try and throw a cheerleader through a basketball hoop? And, exactly how many cheerleaders did they break trying to figure out how?)

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo0Cazxj_yc&feature=player_embedded#at=283

Best name for a Sheriff ever

I thought you’d appreciate knowing who’s running for sheriff in my county. How could you not vote for him? Does it get any better than that?

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Flotsam and jetsam (10/27)

They text their friends all day long. At night, they do research for their term papers on laptops and commune with their parents on Skype. But as they walk the paths of Hamilton College, a poster-perfect liberal arts school in this upstate village, students are still hauling around bulky, old-fashioned textbooks — and loving it.

Though I shared some of the frustrations, I came to a place on day five, when I finally realized: We all feel marginalized in some way. That’s the human condition. Extend grace. Move on. At the end of the day, it’s not about you or me. In the church and in ministry, we will all encounter moments when we feel marginalized and unintentionally marginalize others, but we must learning to work and serve together without resorting to the “It’s not fair!” refrain that can divide and undermine our reputation to the world around us. We must learn to display what it means to madly love God and one another in spite of our sense of inequality.

  • Roger Olson answers the question, “What is an evangelical theologian?” offering his usual emphasis on evangelicalism as a sociological  movement rather than some particular set of theological commitments.

Thus, my answer to whether Brian McLaren is an evangelical theologian is: “Of course he is. What else would he be?”  Brian’s whole shtick (I don’t mean that in any demeaning way) is only of interest to evangelicals.  His publishers are mostly evangelical publishers.  He speaks mostly in evangelical institutions.  He pastors an evangelical church.  To a very large extent he has no constituency outside of evangelicalism.  What does it even mean to declare him “not an evangelical theologian?”

As I look back on this book I see both strengths and weaknesses. The epistolary form is a wonderful choice. The tone is humble and helpful. The majority of what Smith teaches lines up well with what I believe. But as a Baptist I had to disagree with, well, a good portion of it. And looking at the endorsements, I can see that others disagreed with him as well. Two of the book’s endorsers, Tullian Tchividjian and Michael Horton offer caveats within their blurbs (Tchividjian: “No one will agree with everything here, but what I appreciate…” Horton: “Most of the time I cheered ‘Amen!’ as I read these letters, but even when I disagreed, I appreciated…”). In fact, conspicuous by their absence from the list of endorsers are any of the Baptist leaders of this New Calvinism.

What could you blow up with a tiny cannon?

I have got to get one of these. I could put it on my desk and use it to intimidate unruly ThM students.

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wi4g_U0hoOg&feature=player_embedded

Flotsam and jetsam (10/26)

Is Buddha really any worse than Aristotle? Why shouldn’t a theologian from Korea or Taiwan seek to use Buddha or Confucius where the language is suitable and doesn’t contradict the gospel?  In this case Moore’s criticism may be spot on. I don’t know. But I do know that we need to realize our own hybridity is as much a concern as someone else’s.

And, much if not most of the New Testament, develops its theology of Jesus within a framework of low Christology. Low versus high Christology is one of the points of genuine theological diversity in the New Testament, with the Synoptic Gospels in particular (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) telling stories of Jesus as a specially empowered man whom they do not simultaneously depict as God incarnate.

The monsters of the undead embody our fears of death. In agrarian eras we confronted death more directly. Nowadays we have to wait for the dead to come to our door once a year at Halloween. Or we can go to zombie movies. Either way, we feel a need to use monsters to confront our bodies, their gooshy vulnerabilities, and their ultimate demise. Monsters are existential.

  • On a similar note, John Byron points out an important new scholarly work for understanding the Matthean tradition – a webcomic called Zombie Jesus. How is it that no one has written on this vital subject before?

The comic will tell the story of the 48 hours following the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, in which a horde of zombies attack Jerusalem in search of the messiah’s body.

Predestination, as normally taught by all the venerable reformed divines, both past and present, is unstable and unhelpful. In the past, I and everybody else that I have read got around this by employing the very useful term ‘mystery’ to cover the internal contradictions that rip the doctrine apart.

The church, or I should say, church people, must quit adding the word “but” to the end of our sentences about grace. Grace plus is no longer grace. Grace minus is no longer grace. We are afraid people will abuse grace if presented in its purest form. We need not fear that, we should assume that. Religious people crucified grace personified. Of course grace will be abused. But grace is a powerful dynamic. Grace wins out in the end. It is not our responsibility to qualify it. It is our responsibility to proclaim it and model it.