Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Mere Replacement of One Set of Bureacrats

Dr. Timothy George once wrote:

The mere replacement of one set of bureaucrats with another doth not a reformation make!

A new group of Baptist Identity adherents have formed The Association of Convictional Baptists, and will be presenting a Resolution on Regenerate Church Membership, written by Dr. Malcolm Yarnell, at the 2008 Southern Baptist Convention in Indianoplois, Indiana. The resolution is good in what it says, but very revealing in what it does not say.

Dr. Tom Ascol has for years proposed that our convention adopt his own Resolution on Church Membership; a request our convention has denied on several occasions. According to former SWBTS adjunct professor Bart Barber, the organizer for the push to adopt the new resolution, Dr. Ascol intends to offer his resolution again at the 2008 Indianopolis Southern Baptist Convention. In essence, we will have TWO resolutions submitted on Regenerate Church Membership. Bart Barber writes of the two resolutions:

The similarities between the two resolutions outweigh the differences, although I prefer our resolution.
What Are The Differences?

A brief reading of both proposed resolutions reveals that Dr. Malcolm Yarnell's resolution, endorsed by The Association of Convictional Baptists, removes any reference to the years of our denomination reporting to the secular press inflated denominational membership statistics through the Annual Church Profile, and also removes any call for repentance by denominational and church leaders for boasting about the number of members within the Southern Baptist Convention - numbers that we Southern Baptists have known for years are deceptive.

I would hope that one of the convictions of the new Association of Convictional Baptists is a conviction to tell the truth. It is hard to understand the reasoning for not including repentance for any deception that has occurred. Unless changes are made and the two resolutions can be blended into one, we have the very real possibility of a debate over two regenerate church membership resolutions revolving around whether or not we wish to admit our sins of the past - or cover them up. A rather interesting debate considering we confess to believe the Bible and it clearly says, "Whosoever covereth his sin shall not prosper" (Proverbs 28:13).

Interestingly, the email debate between fifty of the initial sponsors of the Association of Convictional Baptists included suggestions that the statements calling upon Ascol's statements regarding denominational accountability be included, and thus, there could be a wide bipartisian support of a single resolution, with Dr. Ascol not needing to offer his.

Both Danny Akin and Mark Dever expressed their support for these additions, and Nathan Finn of Southeastern Seminary was particularly articulate in his argument for the inclusion of Ascol's statements that called for denominational accountability and repentance. Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, took Nathan Finn to task for advocating these additions, and with the two proponents of the new resolution - Malcolm Yarnell and Bart Barber - possessing fiduciary and personal loyalty to Southwestern Seminary and Paige Patterson, one can now understand why there are now TWO regenerate church membership resolutions - instead of one.

Repeating the Mistakes of the 1970's and 1980's

During the 1970's those in control of the Southern Baptist Convention and her agencies did not like information that caused the convention to be perceived in a negative light. Some were justifiably upset at the lack of transparency and accountability on the denominational level, including the illustration Dr. George gives in his article, regarding the support of abortion rights by the Southern Baptist Convention's Christian Life Commission in the 1970's.

We who serve in the 21st Century as Southern Baptist pastors and employees need to learn from our past mistakes. We must resist acting in our own self-interest or self-preservation by seeking favor through flattering influential people, and we must be Christian men and women who do the right thing because of principle.

Here's hoping that The Associational of Convictional Baptists will see the error of not addressing the language proposed by Dr. Tom Ascol before it is too late and there is an embarrassing debate, reported on by the secular press, over the reasons for the exclusions of denominational accountability.

In His Grace,


Monday, April 28, 2008

Baptist Identity and Ad Hominem Variants

Malcolm Yarnell, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Southwestern Theological Seminary and the Editor of the Southwestern Journal of Theology is one of the proponents of the new Baptist Identity initiative within the Southern Baptist Convention. Dr. Yarnell was asked to write a guest article on a Baptist Identity blog where he gave seven doctrines of baptism which "speak much to Baptist Identity."

David Rogers, missionary for the International Mission Board and son of the late Adrian Rogers, wrote the first comment in response to Dr. Yarnell's article, articulating his personal disagreements with doctrines 4, 5 and 7. David then asked Malcolm Yarnell several questions including the following:

If I am unable to unequivocably embrace your 4th, 5th and 7th major points . . . does that mean that I am not truly a Baptist?

I chuckled when I read David's question. When a blue-blood Southern Baptist like David feels compelled to ask such a question, then the Baptist Identity initiative is definitely a fringe movement. Before Malcolm could respond to David Rogers' questions, I followed up with on of my own regarding the 4th doctrine of Baptist Identity which Dr. Yarnell defined as follows:

Baptists do not baptize apart from the local church, because baptism involves local church membership.

Dr. Yarnell called this doctrine, and the other six Baptist Identity doctrines he posits, 'bedrock convictions,' and he wrote that "cooperation must end where our bedrock convictions are compromised." Dr. Yarnell and Mr. Lumpkin (the owner of the blog), both believe that cooperation should end with anybody who disagrees with them on these so called 'bedrock convictions.' Though shocked at such extremism, I politely wrote the following in response to such thinking:

Believing David Rogers' questions to be very pertinent, I do not wish to distract from the time required to answer them. However, if I might add a couple of simple questions to his.

You wrote: "Baptists do not baptize apart from the local church, because baptism involves local church membership."

My questions: Into which local church was the Ethiopian eunuch baptized? Into which local church were the 3,000 at Pentecost baptized - having come to Jerusalem from all over the known world?

And, if you are unable to identify the local churches, is it possible that our early Baptist fathers were correct that baptism does not admit anyone into the local church? One such early Baptist wrote:

Baptism does not make a person a member of a church, or admit him into a visible church; persons must first be baptized, and then added to the church, as the three thousand converts were; a church has nothing to do with the baptism of any, but to be satisfied they are baptized before they are admitted into communion with it. John Gill

In light of your statements here, that the principles you put forth, including 'baptism involves local church membership,' are 'bedrock fundamentals' of Baptist Identity, will you at least admit that one of the principles you call bedrock is a departure from historic Baptist belief, and that if this is the case, then the new Baptist Identity movement, which is making tertiary issues 'bedrock fundamentals' is a movement that will ultimately separate, isolate, and disintegrate all cooperation - even among Baptists?

Just wondering.

Malcolm Yarnell responded to my question with the following words:

Thank you so kindly for your enquiry, but because of recent history with regard to Southwestern Seminary and the International Mission Board, you probably understand if I choose not to interact with your queries regarding the membership of the first church of Jerusalem, or the use of a peculiar High Calvinist to construct Baptist ecclesiology or missiology . . .


I called Malcolm and left a message for him to call me on my cell regarding his response. He did not call me back. Malcolm's use of ad hominem variants, is precisely what happened at Southwestern Seminary and the International Mission Board. In other words, he illustrates the attitude of past trustee leadership at the IMB and current administration of SWBTS.

Let me illustrate:

When Dr. Klouda was removed from her position I made a trip to Fort Worth to privately speak to the administrators involved, including Dr. Patterson himself. I waited for three hours but was told he was unavailable to speak with me because of previous engagements. I left my cell phone number and forwarded a list of questions that I had regarding her removal. I emailed again, requesting a response to my questions. Nobody from SWBTS ever called me. Nobody from SWBTS answered my questions regarding Dr. Klouda's removal. Days later I published my post on Dr. Klouda. Rather than answer questions, those in charge at SWBTS have resorted to the ad hominem (attack the person) approach.

The same thing happened on the International Mission Board. When the new policies were proposed, I asked several questions, behind closed doors, and requested answers. Why are these policies needed? What precipitated the process to change the policies? Is there anecdotal field evidence that these policies are needed? How does our IMB administration feel about the policies? Nobody in trustee leadership would, or could, answer my questions. But several brought all kinds of personal attacks against me. It was only after six months of repeated refusals to answer my questions as a trustee that I posted Crusading Conservatives versus Cooperating Conservatives.

Dr. Yarnell seems to imply that the fault for problems at SWBTS and the IMB is me. I respectfully disagree. The fault for problems at both institutions lies at the feet of those in leadership who are either unwilling or incapable of answering legitimate, honest questions by fellow Southern Baptists and resort to ad hominem attacks to discredit or marginalize those who question them.

If proponents in the new Baptist Identity initiative of the Southern Baptist Convention wish to convince others that their beliefs are 'bedrock convictions' that should define cooperation among Baptists, then it would serve their purposes better to answer questions rather than attack the questioner.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

My Name Isn't Earl, But It Sure Could Have Been

For some reason blogger ate my old profile picture which was a photograph of my wife Rachelle and me together. I have replaced the old photograph with one of just me, taken over a year ago. This single portrait is up only until I can upload a more modern photograph of my wife and me later this week.

A few commentors have noticed the profile picture of just me and have made fun. They said I look too pastoral. Too stuffy. Too Southern Baptist. :)

All I can say is you better be glad I don't dip into the photo archive and pull out my really old pictures like the one to the left, when I was worship and youth minister at FBC Kopperl, Texas, while a student at Baylor. I think I may have been a bit too far relaxed, a bit too unprofessional. Some think I may have even been the inspiration for the show . . .

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Where Do We Go From Here? by John Blanchard

Those of us interested in the conversion of souls through faith in Christ are always looking for well written tracts that succinctly articulate the gospel to the lost. For years our church has exclusively used Ultimate Questions, a tract written by Christian apologist and author John Blanchard. Over fifteen million copies of Ultimate Questions have been sold.

Next week Evangelical Press will release in the United States the tract Where Do We Go From Here?, written by the bestselling Christian author John Blanchard. The tract is 40 pages long, very well written, and is the absolute best gospel tract I have read in terms of articulating the gospel for a person facing impending death.

Let me encourage you to read the information about the tract and order at least 100 copies for your evangelistic efforts at your church. Our church will be ordering them by the thousands and will leave them in hospital rooms, jail cells, and in the brochure packets that tell people about our church. In a day when the gospel is often presented in a cartoon or puerile manner, we should be grateful for an indepth, scholarly, but readable presentation of the good news by John Blanchard.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Biblical Primer on Women in Ministry (Part VII)

This is the seventh and final part of a series on 'Women in Ministry,' written by a recent graduate of Southwestern Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Later this week I will reveal the identity of this man and direct you to where you can read more of his writings. As I have stated before, I do not agree with every view held by this Southern Baptist writer, but I find it refreshing when a person with a high view of the sacred text defends his egalitarian position with such skill. My point in posting this series is to remind all Southern Baptists that there are conservatives who disagree on various interpretations of the sacred text, but it should not disrupt our fellowship around Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The previous posts include:

Part 1: History and Confessions

Part 2: Priesthood of the Believer

Part 3: Spiritual Gifts

Part 4: Offices in the Church

Part 5: Ministries

Part 6: Objections to Women in Ministry Considered

Now, the last in a series of seven posts:

Part Seven: Creation and Conclusions

Grounded in Creation

Some who would continue to use 1 Timothy 2:12 to ban women from positions of leadership say that this text “is grounded in creation” (that Adam was created before Eve) and therefore is binding for all time.

Verses 13-15 of Timothy has confused many scholars, both complementarians and egalitarians. Is Paul arguing that all women from Eve till today have been easier to deceive than men? If this is true, it would appear that Paul is guilty of reading into the text of Gen. 3 something that is not there. To draw such a conclusion from this text would be improper and illogical. What Gen. 3 justifies the opinion that women are more easily deceived than men? The passage only teaches that Eve was in fact deceived. It nowhere asserts that this weakness has become endemic to the feminine sex.

Any proper interpreter who tried to prove such a disturbing point from an isolated occurrence would be rightly criticized for committing a serious logical error. For instance, it would be as easy to argue that all first-born sons are violent because Cain was. In both cases, a universal trait is being attributed to an entire class of people on the basis of a single incident, without any logical or exegetical reason.

Possibly Paul had a special revelation indicating that women are more easily deceived, but this does not appear to be the case. Rather than appeal to a revelation that he has received, he appeals to Genesis 3 for his evidence, and expects us to understand what he sees there. Thus we would expect to see him exhibit hermeneutical tools to derive meaning from the text.

Furthermore, how could Paul adduce the principle of deception-proneness for women from Gen. 3 when it occurred before the fall of mankind? If women had innately the flaw of deception proneness, then it would seem that they had this flaw by virtue of the way God created them.

Therefore, according to traditional thinking, Eve would seem to be the product of a flawed design by God. But God said that His creation was “very good.” These problems disappear, however, if we conclude that Paul is not arguing that women are more easily deceived than men.

Many egalitarians, Kroeger in particular, have argued that the sitz im leben of the Ephesian church in 1 Timothy focuses on the heresies that had crept into the church. They argue that these heresies were incipient Gnosticisms being taught by the women of the church. Gnosticism and other heresies included many erroneous beliefs about sex and creation. Some Gnostics taught that truly spiritual women should not marry and have children. Others taught that, since matter is evil and spirit is good, what a person did with the body was irrelevant to what went on in the inner spirit. To these Gnostics, sexual immorality was acceptable and could even be pleasing to God. Some Gnostics said that Eve was created before Adam and that she enlightened him by her superior knowledge. If this scenario is the case it would explain why Paul admonishes women teachers and states that Adam was formed first, Eve was deceived, and women will be preserved through childbearing. This scenario may be correct but it appears to be impossible to know for sure.

Isolated, the “rib story” of Genesis 2 does appear, at first glance, to subordinate woman to man; but we do not have this story in isolation. We have it only as it appears in Genesis as a whole. There are at least two creation stories in Genesis, the rib story in Chapter 2 being enveloped by a newer story in 1:1-2:4a, echoed in 5:1. The story in Chapter One is free of any subordination of male and female to the other, and this story gives new perspective on the rib story.

But what then is the purpose of the rib story? The self-evident fact that man is birthed from woman had led to the existence many fertility cults in the ancient world. These pagan religions worshipped mother goddesses and feminine nature deities as mother of all that lives. While still denigrating women, these cults stated the matriarchal view that woman was first and the creator of all the living. This belief clashes with the Israelite belief in primo geniture. In antiquity it was widely held that chronological priority meant superiority. In the first chapters of Genesis, the author or authors are refuting many of these pagan gods and goddesses and simultaneously refuting their creation stories. In Genesis 1, God creates the world not by an epic struggle like the gods in the Enuma Elish but by His deliberate, creative word.

Furthermore, the sun and moon are not regarded as gods, only lights in the sky that God as created and fixed. In Genesis 2, the superiority of woman is refuted by showing her source is from Adam. But in 3:20, the superiority of man is refuted by showing that Eve is the mother of all the living. In no way is this story intended to exhibit superiority of the man and the subordination of the woman. The story is intended to show how God created mankind male and female and how he created them equal. We can see this clearly in Chapter 2. Verse 24 is in two parts, the first part as matriarchal as the rib story is patriarchal, “For this cause a man shall leave father and mother and cleave to his wife.” The second part overcomes the patriarchal and matriarchal perspectives, “and the two become one flesh.” This gives new direction to the rib-story, explaining the drive of the sexes toward one another, this taking priority over even a man’s relationship with his parents. This is also the reason why man has authority of the woman’s body and the reason why woman has authority over the man’s body.

It was the effect of the fall of mankind that led to the subordination of women to men. This is a “curse” that was redeemed for us in Christ. We might expect the unbelieving world to hold to the subordination of women, but for believers in Christ to hold to such a view is unbiblical. If we are to say that a woman must continue to bear the brunt of the fall, we might as well deny a woman’s access to drugs that lessen the labor pains of childbirth. We then should remove all technology that lessens man’s toiling of the ground.

When Paul alludes to the creation story he is not referring to man’s superiority over woman but man’s equality with woman. If we look back at Galatians 3:28, when Paul says “neither male nor female” not “man nor women,” he is referring back to the Genesis 1 story and mankind’s sexual equality.


In conclusion, it should be clear through history, experience, reason and, all-importantly, Scripture, women are both permitted and encouraged by God to fill any “office” or role that is mentioned in Scripture. Furthermore, it should be evident that despite the lack of recognition given by the church through ordination, the Holy Spirit continues to empower women to serve God in the church in all roles and “offices.”

Complementarians argue that women cannot serve in the ordained office because the pastorate entails a leadership function that is appropriate only to men. In addition, they oppose the ordination of women on the basis of the teaching authority bound up with the pastoral office. Their difficulty here is not that teaching itself is inappropriate for women. Indeed, complementarians know that the Bible encourages women to teach in certain circumstances (see, for example, Tit 2:3-5), and some acknowledge that women can even teach men. Rather, they do not allow women to teach when it violates the so-called biblical principle of male leadership and female subordination. Hence complementarians conclude that the Bible prohibits a woman from publicly teaching men in the religious realm and exercising authority over men in the Christian community. Piper and Grudem write:

“We would say that the teaching inappropriate for a woman is the teaching of men in settings or ways that dishonor the calling of men to bear the primary responsibility for teaching and leadership. This primary responsibility is to be carried by pastors or elders. Therefore we think it is God’s will that only men bear the responsibility for this office.”

Complementarians bar women from the ordained office in the church because it encompasses the authority to teach men. Egalitarians, in contrast, find nothing in Scripture which prohibits women from exercising this prerogative. They also point out the absurdity or permitting women to teach impressionable children and other women but not men who should possess the spiritual acumen to discern heretical statements.

One of the problems that face those who would interpret the Scriptures as forbidding the ordination of women is that no such prohibition is directly made. In each example sited in Scripture the purpose of the verse is concerning an issue unrelated to the topic of the ordination of women. As evidence of the Bible’s prohibition against women’s ordination, at best the prohibition is implied by default.

When studying our history it becomes readily apparent that during times of great Baptist expansion and spiritual awakenings, women inevitably become active in preaching, teaching, and leading the assemblies of believers. It is only during spiritually dead and inactive periods when Baptists fall into extreme liberalism and conservatism that we see a rush to diminish the roles of women in ministry.

We see growth both in spirituality and converts corresponding with a greater role for women during the 17th century, the New Connection, the First and Second Great Awakenings, and the mid-twentieth century. Likewise, we see a decrease in converts and spirituality corresponding with a lesser role for women at other times. This is not to say that the roles for women in ministry are a cause of spiritual rise and decline: it is a symptom.

Success may not be a criterion for sanctifying a task and making it right, but success in ministry can help us to see where and when our interpretations of Scripture may be at fault. When the disciples saw that the Holy Spirit had come to the Gentiles (Acts 11), they were confronted with an experience that made them question their interpretation of the Old Testament and their hermeneutical traditions. The Scriptures were not at fault but there interpretations were. Atheists often laugh at the Bible when it speaks of the four corners of the earth as if it suggests a flat earth, but at the same time use the word “sunrise” as if the sun actually rose. When scientists began to question the Ptolemaic model of the solar system, many Bible-believing Christians yelled charges of “heresy,” saying that the Bible plainly spoke about a geocentric solar system. When new experiences contradicted this interpretation, Christian scholars went back to the Bible, reexamined the Scriptures and came to the conclusion that the Bible nowhere makes the claim that the earth is the center of the solar system. No new form of exegesis uncovered this fact of God’s creation from the Scriptures; experience as a hermeneutical tool (among others) furthered our understanding of how magnificent a universe God created and how amazingly perfect is the revelation of the Bible.

Yet proponents from both sides of the controversy are often guilty of using the question of women in ministry as a “litmus test” of conservative Christian orthodoxy. The expanding gulf over women’s roles is likewise evident in recent decisions by several churches to rescind their previous openness to women serving in lay leadership roles and in professional ministry staff positions. Some groups have enacted stricter limitations on women than at any previous time in their history. New directives prohibit women from chairing committees, teaching mixed gender adult classes, serving on the governing bodies of local congregations or being considered for nay positions on pastoral staff. This stinks in the nostrils of God.
Dr. McBeth wrote in 1979:

“If Southern Baptists wanted to arrive at an official position on ordination of women, it is doubtful they could do so. Southern Baptists accept no ultimate authority this side of the Bible and the lordship of Christ. But those who accept the Bible as the authoritative Word of God may yet disagree about its interpretation. Southern Baptists have no official creed or list of accepted doctrines and practices to which all must subscribe. The Southern Baptist Convention is a voluntary body made up of elected representatives (messengers) from churches that voluntarily cooperate in missions, evangelism, and Christian education. The Convention cannot speak officially for the churches; neither can the churches speak for the Convention.

In 1925 and again in 1963 the Convention voted to adopt a doctrinal statement of “Baptist Faith and Message.” However, this is a confession of faith and not an official creed. It was designed as a statement of what a group of Baptists believe and practice at a given time in our history. In no way can it replace or supplement the authority of the Bible, nor was it intended.

This means that any Southern Baptist individual or group has perfect freedom, under the lordship of Christ and their liberty to interpret Scripture, to favor or oppose the ordination of women as they feel the facts warrant. However, such individuals and groups have no freedom to impose their views and practices upon all Southern Baptists or to announce their preference as “the” Southern Baptist position. Ordainers and nonordainers can and should be in full fellowship among us.”

Finally, the current Biblical interpretation concerning women in ministry held by the majority of scholars has moved from a severely limited role in no office to a highly active role in all offices except one. This recent progression suggests that the tide of scholarly influence is on the side of the egalitarians.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Sentimental Surprise

I don't normally pass these feel good stories around but this one, sent to me by Art Pierce, is special.
In seems in 1986, a young man named Mkele Mbembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from the University. On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air. The elephant seemed distressed, so Mbembe approached it very carefully.

He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant's foot and found a large piece of wood deeply embedded in it. As carefully and as gently as he could, Mbembe worked the wood out with his hunting knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.

The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments. Mbembe stood frozen, thinking of nothing else but being trampled. Eventually the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned, and walked away. Mbembe never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

Twenty years later, Mbembe was walking through the Chicago Zoo with his teenaged son. As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mbembe and his son Tapu were standing.

The large bull elephant stared at Mbembe, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down. The elephant did that several times then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man. Remembering the encounter in 1986, Mbembe couldn't help wondering if this was the same elephant. Mbembe summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing and made his way into the enclosure.

He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder. The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped its trunk around one of Mbembe's legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.

Probably wasn't the same elephant.

And the moral is . . .

Monday, April 21, 2008

I Would Not Have Sinned, Except for the Law

Some Southern Baptist leaders believe that the way to stop believers from straying into sin, or to keep church members living lives consistent with personal holiness, or to establish churches with a worthy 'Baptist Identity,' is to lay out for Christians 'the law' of proper behavior. Following the articulation of 'the law' (whatever it may be from church to church), comes the use of threats (see picture below) to keep Christians from violating the laws of the church. In this manner, some Southern Baptist leaders seem to feel comfortable that they have done all they can to perserve the purity of God's kingdom. However, in my experience, such behavior exhibited by church leadership contradicts the beauty of the gospel as an internal change of heart. To demand conformity through outward pressure is a tactic of religious cults, not Christian grace.
Years ago a young man named Eric was driving by the church I pastored in Tulsa. He had a pistol underneath the front seat, an open container of beer in the cup holder, and was on his way to an open field where he would drink himself to drunkenness in order to have the courage to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. As he drove south on Sheridan Road he saw our church sign that said, "Prepare to Meet Thy God." The words so rattled him he turned into our parking lot and prayed, "God, if you are sending me a sign, let someone be inside this church to help me." The Lord answered his prayer.

Eric came into our offices and our Worship Pastor began to talk with him about knowing Christ. I was soon called and within an hour we had the privilege of seeing the Holy Spirit regenerate Eric's soul, with the end result of Eric trusting Jesus Christ as His Savior and Lord. The transformation was enormous. Eric was excited about his new life in Christ and when we explained the purpose of baptism, Eric committed to be in church Sunday to make known his faith in Christ through believer's baptism. We explained that at the conclusion of my sermon, he would need to come down the aisle to be introduced to our church and he would be baptized later that night.

Sunday morning came and I closed the message with an invitation to make public the work God had done, or was doing, in the listeners' lives. No sooner did our Worship Pastor begin singing when Eric came running down the aisle, and in King James language, he came walking and leaping and praising God. When the appropriate time came I introduced him to our church. "Ladies and gentlemen, I want to introduce you to a young man who this week was intent on killing himself, but God has intervened. This is Eric . . ." As I was speaking to the crowd I turned to look at Eric and to my horror, I saw Eric was wearing a Budweiser Beer T-Shirt that said, "Budweiser, King of Beers."

I knew some of the deacons would be upset. Sure enough, after church one of the older deacons came up to me and said, "Pastor, did you talk to Eric?" Acting ignorant, though knowing full well what he meant, I said, "About what?" "Did you tell him he ought not be wearing that beer t-shirt in church? It ain't appropriate."

I took a deep breath and said, "No, I didn't. He has just come to faith in Christ. If we begin to tell him what he can't do, shouldn't do, ought not do, etc . . . we quench the work of the Spirit by imposing a law. If we were to speak to him about the t-shirt, and he were to stop wearing it, he will confuse regulations of a religion with the reality of a relationship. Let's love him, get to know him, and encourage him - but let's stay away from the 'should nots' of religion and give time for his relationship with Christ to develop."

I can't say my deacon fully understood what I was saying, but to his credit, he listened quietly - and walked away without a response. We baptized Eric that night and the next Sunday Eric came to Sunday school wearing a 'Coors' t-shirt. The next week he came with a Michelob Light t-shirt. The following week he came to church wearing another beer t-shirt.

Eric was a beer t-shirt collector.

It was not easy staying quiet. Many were tempted to say something. I might have said something if the Bible addressed the subject, but nowhere in the sacred text does it say, "Thou shalt not wear a beer t-shirt to church." Eric himself had no idea that some people might be 'offended' at his clothing, and when a handful of church members came to me to talk about Eric's Sunday dress, I asked them if they were personally offended with this new Christian wearing beer t-shirts. Those who spoke to me about it, to a person, never said they were personally offended, but there was some, nebulous person 'out there' who might be. I told them when they could introduce me to this mysterious, offended person, whom I had not yet met, I would talk to Eric. Until then, our love for Eric would cause us to love him where he was in his walk with Christ.

About the fifth Sunday Eric came to church wearing a new t-shirt. It was a t-shirt with a Christian logo. He had found a Christian t-shirt store and, prompted by the Spirit, Eric purchased several t-shirts with a Christian message. That Sunday he had traded in his "Budweiser: King of Beers" t-shirt for one that said, "Jesus Christ: King of Kings." Christ had Eric's heart. The change that occurred happened within. There was not the demand for conformity imposed upon this young Christian by a Southern Baptist congregation, but rather, there was the powerful, internal work of the Spirit within the heart of a man that experienced the love, acceptance and patience of a people who themselves had tasted of the grace of God.

Because many Southern Baptist churches, contrary to historic Baptist principles, are often filled with unregenerate, lost people, Southern Baptist pastors are often tempted to impose LAW on the congregation to keep them in line. However, when churches recognize the beauty and power of the Holy Spirit to tranform lives, and receive people into membership whom the Spirit has already given new life in Christ (and not those convinced to 'join the church' through manipulation), then we pastors can simply trust in "He who began a good work". May God give us the necessary grace to resist the temptation to precede the internal work of the Spirit in His people. Patience allows us to feel the excitement of seeing the beautiful, internal work of the Spirit which trumps any work of the law.

In His Grace,


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Which Pastor Is Actually Preaching the Gospel?

When Martin Luther launched the Reformation by posting of his 95 Theses Against the Sale of Indulgences on October 31, 1517 the recently invented printing press became the tool of the Reformation. Both sides of the conflict, the Reformers and the orthodox Roman Catholics, claimed to be on the side of truth. It was the power of the free, unfettered flow of information through print media that allowed the Reformation to spread.

In the same manner, any reform or gospel resurgence in our modern day will be facilitated by the internet. Whereas some Christians would desire to separate and isolate over doctrinal minutiae, when Christians are able to visually see the differences between the actual implementation of the various interpretations regarding tertiary doctrines, a tipping point for one side over the other may very well be reached. One such example is offered below through a couple of videos sent to me by Jack Beavers. The first video portrays the story of a female associate pastor who preaches the gospel at her church in Mississippi. Compare her humility, faithfulness and gentle spirit with the pastor in the next video who describes in graphic detail his view that all the problems we face in the world are caused by men acting like women. In this case, we might all agree that the male in the second video might want to act more like the woman in the first video. The kingdom of Christ would be better for it.

Friday, April 18, 2008

And What Is It About Patriarchy That Scares Us?

For the last couple of years I have observed what I perceived to be professional mistreatment of women within the Southern Baptist Convention, all in the name of biblical patriarchy. Though I have no personal disagreement with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message statement that declares the office of pastor to be reserved for men, I have been puzzled by the removal of female chaplains and other women supervisors on the mission field, the lack of promotion of women to administrative positions in our SBC agencies, and the termination of SBC trained female Hebrew and history professors at our Southern Baptist seminaries. I have truly wondered about the root cause for such actions. What is the philosophical or theological premise that would lead some to exclude women from Southern Baptist positions for which they are either gifted, trained, or eminently qualified to hold?

Cindy Kunsman offered a possible rationale when she spoke at the 2008 Kansas City Evangelical Ministries to New Religions Conference, hosted by Midwestern Theological Seminary. The leaders called this year's conference Biblical Discernment and Apologetics in Missions: The Language of Hope and gave to Cindy Kunsman the opportunity to examine the rise of extreme patriarchal behaviors within groups claiming to be both evangelical and Christian. Her lecture, entitled The Development and Practice for Patriarchy: Cure for Cultural Decline or New Gnostic Disease?, included a pre-approved handout, a power point presentation, and a question answer time which followed.

Cindy is a complementarian herself. She states her personal beliefs on her blog where she writes:

Personally, I hold to a traditional, complementarian view wherein women . . . do not meet Biblical qualifications to be senior pastors or elders . . . but they certainly can minister as a members of pastoral staff(s).
The above statement is consistent with the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message. However, it is what Cindy said about the views of Southern Seminary's Dean of Theology Russel Moore, highly esteemed theologian and Southern Seminary professor Bruce Ware, The Council on Manhood and Womanhood and Paige Patterson that caused any reference to her presentation to be removed from the EMNR's website, a change in Executive Director leadership at EMNR, and a demand for disclaimers and retractions from Cindy.

The press release distributed by EMNR reveals the specific complaint against Cindy Kunsman:
Several people have contacted us regarding a presentation on "Christian Patriarchy" by Cynthia Kunsman at EMNRʼs national conference, held at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in March 2008. After reviewing her presentation, the board of EMNR and the administration of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary concur that Mrs. Kunsman made unwarranted and misinformed accusations against Christian teachers and ministries, including the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and agencies within the Southern Baptist Convention. While several aspects of the "Christian Patriarchy" movement (exemplified by Vision Forum) merit study and correction, in this instance the speakerʼs criticism of alleged "influences" on this movement was faulty.

Cindy said in her presentation that the Southern Baptist Convention, specifically Russ Moore, Bruce Ware, Paige Patterson, and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood have influenced the statement of faith, church practices, and strategies of Vision Forum Ministries and her controversial patriarchal pastor and leader Doug Phillips and the emphasis on Family Integrated Churches.

The Lecture That Caused The Controversy

Presenter Cindy Kunsman quoted from Dr. Russell Moore's 2007 lecture at the CBMW sponsored Different By Design Conference where Dr. Moore states complementarians who live like egalitarians are functionally open theists. A similar charge was made by Russell Moore two years earlier at the 2005 Evangelical Theological Society where he added an exhortation for why his listeners should defend patriarchialism: An embrace of biblical patriarchy also protects the doctrine of God from aberrations such as the impersonal deity of Protestant liberalism. Though many Southern Baptists may not fully understand the basis for Professor Moore's statements, the essence of his argument is that the roles of women in society, not just the church, are essential to the gospel itself, and protects against any slide into theological liberalism. As Russ Moore stated in his ETS lecture, for Christians to show the world the gospel it "means specificity in terms of what complementarianism looks like in the present era."

Baptist Press reported in September 2007 on a conference hosted by Southwestern Theological Seminary, where SBC leaders sought to raise awareness of Baptist Identity by emphasizing the gospel through the normative family. The BP reported:

When the church's view of the family is awry, the Gospel is being falsely presented, theologian Russell Moore said during Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's third annual Baptist Distinctives Conference.

Also speaking on this year's theme -- "The Family: Reclaiming a Biblical View of the Family, Womanhood and Manhood" -- were Southwestern President Paige Patterson and Dorothy Patterson, professor of theology in women's studies; Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Mark Liederbach, associate professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Tom Elliff, senior vice president of spiritual nurture and growth for the International Mission Board.

The family is a "Gospel issue," Moore said in his presentation, titled "Have Baptists Changed or Has Culture?: The Baptist View of the Family

The idea that the gospel is in danger when the 'normative' family is in danger is the same sentiment expressed by the controversial patriarchal pastor, and according to Cindy Kunsman, new Christian cult leader Doug Phillips, who on his Vision Forum Website gives The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy. Pastor Phillips and Vision Forum were specifically discussed in Cindy's March lecture on 'New Cults' within Christianity, and as such, she quoted Pastor Doug Phillips:

The church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions.

Cindy Kunsman expressed concern in her lecture that anyone would associate 'the gospel' with specific roles that women should play in society and the church. Further, she revealed several of the 'roles,' as envisioned by Doug Phillips, that women must take in order for the gospel to revealed. Some of those mandates for Christian womens' behavior in society and in the church include:

(1). Women are called by God to serve their patriarchs (fathers) until married when they will then serve their husbands.
(2). Women are not to speak in a church setting, but are to ask their husbands any questions they may have and remain silent in the presence of men.
(3). Women are not to work outside the home for any income, but are to be housewives and homemakers within the home.
(4). Women are never to teach a man anything, but are to learn from men in a quiet and submissive spirit.
(5). Women cannot have communion unless given to them by their husband or, in the case of an absent husband, an elder from a 'normative' family or, in rare cases, a mother can be served be her son if he (the son) is old enough to walk and carry the host and is present in worship with her.
(6). Women are to cover their heads as a sign of their 'submission' to their husbands and to God.
(7). Women are not to attend a university or any institution of higher learning for the purpose of pursuing a career.
(8). Women are not to vote, but are to let their husbands speak for them.
(9). Women are never, for any reason, to use birth control.
(10) Women are to respond to abuse in a quiet, gentle and submissive spirit.

Though a couple of the examples given above may be unfamiliar with most Southern Baptists, the majority could be taken from the headlines of Baptist Press these past ten years.

The Theological Foundation for This New Christian Cult

Again, it must be remembered that Cindy was lecturing this past March on the aberrant views of Doug Phillips, President of Vision Forum, and not the Southern Baptist Convention, whom she at no time in her presentation called aberrant or heretical. Yet, in attempting to find the theological source for the specificities of womens' roles held by Pastor Phillips, Cindy discovered roots in the beliefs and teachings of Civil War Presbyterian theologian R.L. Dabney, Southern Seminary Professor Bruce Ware (the chief theological defender of modern SBC patriarchy), Doug Phillip's friend Paige Patterson, Southern Seminary's Russ Moore, and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It was Southern Baptist theologian Bruce Ware whom Cindy credits with articulating the theological basis for modern patriarchy, and whom she quoted at the conference. She stated objections in her lecture notes to at least three theological views held and taught by Dr. Ware, which she claims has influenced the 'specificities of women's roles' as held by Doug Phillip's Vision Forum Ministries.. (If you are uninterested in the theological basis for Phillip's aberrant views of womens' roles in society, skip to the next section where Doug Phillip's Southern Baptist ties are outlined).

(1). Man is created in the image of God directly, woman indirectly

"Man is the image of God directly, woman is the image of God only through the man… Because man was created by God in His image first, man alone was created in a direct and unmediated fashion as the image of God, manifesting then the glory of God in man, that is male man… If male headship is rooted in the image of God itself, then it isn’t just a functional distinction of how we work out. It really does mean we are made in a different way.It may be best to understand the original creation of male and female as one in which the male was made in the image of God in a direct, unmediated and unilateral fashion, while the female was made image of God through the man and hence in a indirect, mediated and derivative fashion. So while they are both fully image of God, there is also a God intended priority given to the man as the original image of God through whom the woman, as image of God, derived from the male comes to be… Identity is rooted in priority given to the male… Her identity as female is inextricably tied to and rooted in the identity of the male… Her created glory is a reflection of the man’s… has her glory through the man. Seth is the image of God because he was born through the fatherhood of Adam. Specifically Adam is mentioned and not Eve. As Seth is born in the likeness and image of Adam, so is he born in the likeness and image of God. Male headship is a part of the very constitution of woman." Bruce Ware in his lecture Building Strong Families in Your Church

This theological belief, according to Cindy, causes some patriarchists to believe in 'the priesthood of believers,' but not the priesthood of every believer. Due to man bearing directly the image of God, the husband must be the priest of his wife, and the father of his daughter, for it is the prayers and leadership of the man that 'sanctify' the female. In short, only men, according the logical extension of some who hold to Ware's theology, can be priests unto God. This is why a woman who attempts to pray, teach, lead, or display spiritual authority 'in the presence of men' is forbidden to do so by some patriarchists.

(2). Jesus is eternally subordinate to the Father, and thus, Christians should only pray to, petition, and glorify the Father, for Jesus serves His Father's will, not His own.

The Son stands in a relationship of eternal submission under the authority of His Father… We’ll see and marvel at the fact that while the Father and Son are in a relationship marked by eternal authority and submission. We’ll see, in short, that the Son in fact is the eternal Son of the eternal Father, and hence, the Son stands in a relationship of eternal submission under the authority of His Father . . . What do we learn from this first account,? First, the very same Jesus who claims implicitly to be God (John 8:23) then proceeds to describe himself as doing nothing by his own authority speaking only what the Father teaches him, and in doing only and always what pleases the Father (vv 28-29)… As eternally divine and not of this world, he is God the Son, but as under the authority of his Father, and as the eternal Son of the Father, he is God the Son." (Pages 71, 74) Bruce Ware in his book From Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles and Relevance

Cindy Kunsman stated in her lecture that Ware's belief in the eternal and ontological submission of the Son gives the basis for a woman submitting to the man in all things. Ware affirms only eternal 'funcational subordiation' and not ontological subordination. However, many take the concerpt of 'eternal submission' of Christ as the basis for the woman's submission to, and service for, the male - in speech, conduct, and lifestyle. To the hard-line idealogues who logically extend Ware's theology of the Son's eternal submission, female submission reflects the God of creation and restores creation to its pristine, orginal order, and reverses the curse. This view, according to Cindy, is similar to the views Christians in the south once held regarding 'slavery.' For some Christian leaders in the south, as recently as the 1950's, to give equal status to black people was thought to be contrary to the nature of God. As abolitionists were once called 'liberal,' so too, those Christians who promote the equality of women today are called 'liberal' because they threaten to undo the very nature of God. Thus, in Doug Phillips mind, anyone who does not follow his very specific rules for women (no birth control, modest dress, stay at home mom, no higher education, homeschooling kids, etc . . .) is undermining the very character of God.

(3). Jesus is not equal to the Father in authority. He never was nor ever will be. He comes from the Father, as the woman from the man, and is subordinate to the Father, as the woman is to the man.

"The Western church adapted the Nicene Creed to say, in its third article, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and the son” (filioque) and not merely that he proceeds from the Father (alone). While I agree fully with this additional language, I believe that this biblical way of speaking, as found in John 15:26, (But when that Comforter shall come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth of the Father, he shall testify of me.), refers to the historical sending of the Spirit at Pentecost and does not refer to any supposed “eternal procession” of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. The conceptions of both the “eternal begetting of the Son” and “eternal procession of the Spirit” seem to me highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching. Both the Son as only-begotten and the Spirit as proceeding from the Father (and the Son) refer, in my judgment, to the historical realities of the incarnation and Pentecost respectfully.” Footnote 3 on Page 162, from Ware's book From Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles and Relevance

Cindy believes this view may contradict historic Christianity and Scripture itself. Jesus said, "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son" (John 14:13), and "If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:14) which indicates there is no ontological, or eternal functional subordination to the Father.

Doug Phillips Ties to the Southern Baptist Convention

Doug's father, Howard Phillips, served in the Nixon Administration and was a director for The Council on National Policy. Serving with Howard in 1996 on the Council for National Policy were his son Doug, Southern Baptists Paige Patterson, Judge Paul Pressler, Judge Roy Moore, and others.

Remember that Cindy was speaking on a conference about new cults arising within Christianity, and specifically she expressed her concern with the direction of Vision Forum. Her premise was that Doug Phillips and Vision Forum have been heavily influenced theologically by a few Southern Baptists, but "the specificity in terms of what complementarianism looks like in the present era" (as Russell Moore calls it) were Vision Forums specificities and not necessarily the Southern Baptist Convention's.

Or are they?

Dorothy Patterson commends Doug Phillips book Passionate Housewives Desparate for God where women are called to stay home and not work. Doug Phillips himself speaks admiringly of Paige Patterson and the conference platform he shared with Dr. Patterson in May 2003, where the two men discussed the godliness of boys hunting, going to war, and women staying home to serve the men and children.

As Doug Philliips honors two women in his Wednesday, June 23, 2004 blog who abstained from birth control and gave birth to a total of 40 children, so too Dorothy Patterson writes on her own blog that abstinence from any artificial birth control is 'God's Plan' for women.

We could go on about Doug Phillips belief that women should not pursue graduate degrees for career purposes (but can pursue homemaking degrees such as those offered at SWBTS), and the belief that a woman must be absolutely silent regarding spiritual matters in the presence of men, and the unique 19th century dresses, hats and other modest clothing that women and girls are encouraged to wear (see here, here, and here) . . . but you get the drift.


Cindy Kunsman lives just outside Detroit. Her husband, Gary Kunsmen, Phd. is the chief forensic toxologist at the Oakland County Medical Examiner's Office. Cindy and Gary have been members of two churches that mistreated women because of extreme patriarchal views of the leaders within those churches. As stated, Cindy is a traditional complementarian but is concerned with a new brand of patriarchalism that is subjugating women in ways not seen since the 1700's. A friend of Cindy's has coined the word "Patriocentricity" to define this new movement. Cindy is concerned enough to research the subject, present her views on it, and at least discuss the issues with those who disagree.

She's not used to people reacting the way they did after her talk at Midwestern. I have two questions for those who have accused Cindy of Southern Baptists and their influence on the patriarchal movement across evangelicalism, specifically through leaders of Southern and Southwestern Seminaries. (1). Does the demand for a retraction from Cindy mean that some folks at these agencies within the Southern Baptist Convention are now seeing the potential dangers of a resurging patriarchal movement within evangelical circles? and, (2). Since when is an 'Academic Conference,' as was the EMNR Conference in March 2008 hosted by Midwestern Theological Seminary, subject to censorship? Would it not be more appropriate for a response to be given to Mrs. Kunsman's lecture than to act like it never happened?

Finally, if there are those who question how a solid, evangelical Southern Baptist theologian like Dr. Bruce Ware, or other Southern Baptists could ever be spoken of in the same breath as Doug Phillips and Vision Forum, let this be a lesson that just because someone articulates truths that may be taken and misused in 'specificities' does not necessarily mean the articulation of those theological views is necessarily wrong. In other words, just as complementarianism and Christian patriarchy do not automatically mean 'cultic,' neither does egalitarianism and equality necessarily always mean 'liberal.' On the other hand, we should always be on guard that we don't allow drifting toward extremism in any one particilar doctrine. Christians sometimes really do go off on tangents - both right and left.

In His Grace,

Wade Burleson

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Differences Between Proud and Broken People

There are times when I need to take a step back and evaluate my spirit in writing, ministry, and life in general. The following table is helpful in terms of identifying, acknowledging, and repenting of any spirit of pride in my life. It outlines the differences between proud and broken people. Update: One of the commentors informed me the following originated from Nancy Demoss of Life Action Ministries. I am grateful for her insight as it has been helpful to me today.

Proud, Unbroken People Broken People
(1). Focus on the failure of others(1). Are overwhelmed with their own spiritual need (Matthew 5:3, 7:3-5, Luke 18:9-14)
(2). Are self righteous; have a critical, fault finding spirit; look at own life/faults with a telescope but others with a microscope(2). Are compassionate; have a forgiving spirit; look for the best in others (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12)
(3). Look down, in a condescending spirit, at others (3). Esteem all others as better than self (Phil. 2:3, Rom. 12:10)
(4). Are independent; have desires for everyone else to meet own personal needs(4). Are dependent on God and His grace; recognize others' needs and seek to meet them (2 Cor. 3:4-6, Phil. 2:4)
(5). Always manipulating circumnstances to maintain control; must have everyone do it their way (5). Surrenders control by giving freedom for others to do or see things differently (Rom. 12:1-2)
(6). Have to prove they are always right (6). Are willing to yield to the possibility that they could be wrong, and thus, yield the need to always prove they are right(Rom. 15:2)
(7). Claiming personal rights(7). Yielding personal rights (Eph. 5:21)
(8). Display a demanding spirit(8). Have a giving spirit (Rom. 12:13)
(9). Self-protective of time, rights, reputation (9). Are self-denying (Luke 9:23)
(10). Desire to be served (10). Are motivated to serve others (Matt. 20:26-28, Phil. 2:20-21)
(11). Desire to be a success(11). Desire to be faithful to make others a success (John 3:30)
(12). Desire for self-advancement(12) Desire to promote others (John 3:3)).
(13). Are driven to be recognized and appreciated Have a sense of unworthiness; are thrilled to be used at all; eager for others to get credit, honors and awards (I Tim. 1:12-16)
(14). Cringe when others in the same field are praised, wishing it was them(14). Rejoice when others are lifted up (Rom. 12:15)
(15). Think 'the ministry is privileged to have me!'(15). Think 'I don't deserve to serve in this ministry (2 Cor. 4:7)
(16). Think of what they can do for God(16). Know they can offer nothing to God, and seek for God to work through them in His power (Phil. 3:8-9, Titus 3:5)
(17). Feel confident in how much they know(17). Are humbled by how much they have not learned and wish to learn (Phil. 3:12, Prov. 1:7)
(18). Are self conscious(18). Have little concern with how others view them (Gal. 1:10)
(19). Keep people at arm's lenght(19). Risk getting close to others; are willing to take those risks for the sake of love for others (2 Cor. 6:11-12)
(20). Are quick to blame others(20). Accept personal responsibility; can see and acknowledge personal failure (Matthew 7)
(21). Are concerned with being 'respectable' (21). Are concerned with being real (2 Cor. 4:3-5).
(22). Are concerned about what others think (22). Know all that matters is God and what He knows (I Cor. 4:3-5)
(23). Work hard to maintain image and protect reputation (23). Die to own reputation (Phil. 3:7, Rom. 14:7)
(24). Find it difficult to share their spiritual needs with others (24). Are willing to be transparent with others (2 Cor. 1:12)
(25). Want to be sure no one finds aout about their sin Are willing to acknowledge and confess one's sin; brokenness is the ultimate sign of personal success (Ps. 51:17)
(26). Have a hard time saying, 'I was wrong. Will you forgive me' Are quick to admit fault and seek forgiveness (I John 1:9, James 5:1)
(27). Deal in generalities when confession sin (27). Deal in specifics (Ps. 51:17)
(28). Are concerned about the consequences of their sin (28). Are grived over the root of their sin (Ps. 51:5)
(29). Wait for other party to come and ask forgiveness in a conflict (29). Take the initiative to be reconciled; gets their first (Matthew 5:23-24)
(30). Compare themselves with others and feel deserving of honore (30). Compare themselves with God and feel desparate for mercy (Luke 18:9-14)
(31). Are blind to their true heart condition (31). Walk in the light of true knowledge concerning their own hearts (I John 1:6-7).
(32). Do not display any spirit of repentance, because they don't need it (32). Continually display a spirit of repentance, sensing their need for fresh encounters with God and the filling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5;18), Gal 5:16)
(33). Spent time reading these words and wondering if _____________ was reading it (33). Thanked the Lord for using words on the internet to bring brokenness to their lives.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Centrality of Jesus Christ for Our Fellowship

This morning a group of about twenty five men met at the Grace Place here in Enid for our weekly discipleship meeting. The group is composed of businessmen, farmers, doctors, Air Force pilots, and other men from Emmanuel who meet for the purpose of discipleship and encouragement. This morning we studied the first two chapters of I Corinthians and discussed the causes of divisions within the body of Christ. Corinthian Christians were divided. Paul sought to unite them by reminding the church of the centrality of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross. The Apostle reminded his readers that when we lose sight of 'Christ and him crucified' we lose the basis of our fellowship, for it is the gospel, as applied to our hearts by the Spirit, that forms the basis of our spiritual power and unity.

Almost two years ago I wrote a post entitled Conversion to Christ Over a Glass of Wine. That particular post recounts leading a Roman Catholic woman to faith in Christ, and restoring her marriage to her husband over a meal she had prepared in their home for my wife and me. Though it is my usual custom to practice abstinence and I have never even tasted 'beer,' the recounting of the story of how this woman was brought to the place of recognizing the power of Christ to transform her life has been the focus of a great deal of attention over the past few months in the blog world. Because of it, one blogger concerned with Baptist identity has written an entire series on the sin of drinking wine. Another blogger has posted an email that I am a 'beer-guzzler.' Much has been written about the post, but nobody critical of it has ever asked me about the woman and her husband.

Let me introduce you to them. If you have about five minutes, I would encourage you to watch this past Sunday's worship service at Emmanuel, April 13, 2008. After the first set of worship songs, Kyle and Carol Williams, whose marriage was transformed and lives turned around by the power of Jesus Christ over dinner in their home, share their testimony of involvement in small group ministry at Emmanuel. During their testimony time you will hear how they are currently working with a group of Christians in Poland to establish a Christian Radio Network that will reach every city of that country. They continue to be active leaders in our church, evangelistic in their outreach to Enid's business community, and now use their wealth to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.

Our discussion in small group discipleship reminded me of this couple. Kyle Williams was there. He shared that his understanding of the gospel caused him to only use his wine collection in moderation, always avoids drunkenness, and has been able to lead others to Christ through his testimony. Another man at the discipleship group, Brent Price, shared how he used his personal conviction of abstinence has been used by God to lead basketball teammates to Christ. The professional basketball players around whom Brent spent several years of his life had no concept of moderation, and as Brent would eat dinner with them, and abstain, his abstinence would cause conversation to turn to Christ. Brent was a wonderful example to his teammates of the power of the Spirit to control fleshly appetites. I know the difficulties Brent faced as a Christian in the professional basketball world because when I was with Brent in Houston in the mid 1990's, his Houston Rockets teammate, Charles Barkley, invited me to go with him to the strip club - and that was after he found out I was Brent's pastor.

Kyle and Brent take different approaches on how they relate to the world around them. Both Kyle and Brent are Southern Baptists and two of the finest Christian men I know. During our meeting this morning Kyle affirmed Brent in his convictions and Brent affirmed Kyle in his. To me, that is an example of Christian unity. The ability to rally around the essentials of the faith and give freedom to tertiary issues is the key to Christian unity. There are areas where Scripture does not give either a direct command or clear prohibition. We will be healthier as a convention when we base our Southern Baptist fellowship and cooperation on the centrality of Jesus Christ and him crucified and resist the urge to demand others conform to any other identity of our own making.

In His Grace,


Sunday, April 13, 2008

A Biblical Primer on Women in Ministry (Part 6)


Last night we ordained two men to the gospel ministry at the church I pastor in Enid, Oklahoma. The ordination council was composed of all men. The laying on of hands was conducted by men. The charge issued was given by a professor from Southern Seminary. It was a wonderful service, led by men. My church reflects the beliefs of most Southern Baptist churches regarding gender roles and the ordination of males only to gospel ministry. My personal theology and ministry practice in terms of church male leadership reflects the theology and practice of 95% of all Southern Baptist churches.

Today's post is a continuation of the series on women in ministry that I began posting two weeks ago. The series is authored by a graduate of Southwestern Theological Seminary, and is posted here, with permission, in order to show that it is possible for Bible-believing, conservative, evangelical scholars to be egalitarian. To call all egalitarians "Liberals" is as absurd as calling all complementarians "Fundamentalists." At some point we are going to need to learn to cooperate with people who disagree on gender roles within the church and home. Further, at some point Southern Baptists need to learn not to be afraid that cooperation with people who disagree on this issue will cause Christians to suddenly stop believing the Bible. Understanding conservatives interpret the infallible, inerrant, and sufficient Word of God differently on this issue should humble all of us. Read on:

Part 1: History and Confessions

Part 2: Priesthood of the Believer

Part 3: Spiritual Gifts

Part 4: Offices in the Church

Part 5: Ministries

Part 6: Objections to Women in Ministry Considered

"Husband of one wife"

But before we deal with the primary argument for the prohibition of the ordination of women, let us discuss a secondary argument. 1 Timothy 3:1 states that any man aspiring to the office of overseer must be “the husband of one wife.” For much of the church the question of ordination to ministry for women is settled by this restriction also found in Titus 1:6. To many this Pauline proof text seems sufficient to exclude all women, for traditionally a woman does not have a wife. But the matter is not so simple.

What is interesting concerning both the 1 Timothy and Titus passages is that, as previously mentioned, the qualifications for elder or overseer concerns matters of character. In context, the phrase “husband of one wife” would seem to refer not to gender but to personal ethics. Although most scholars believe that both Jews and Gentiles were basically monogamous by this time, a man could legally still have more than one wife. No evidence exists, however, that a woman could ever legally have more than one husband. The writer of 1 Timothy addressed men who could have more than one wife; perhaps some men of the early church did. The writer said that the leaders of the church would practice the “one man, one woman, faithful to death” ideal of God, regardless of the world’s laws. There would have been no need to spell out that the women deacons could have only one husband, because they were not legally free to have more than one.

Further, if ordination is to be restricted to “the husband of one wife,” Paul himself would seem to be excluded, for he seems to imply that he was without spouse when he wrote 1 Cor. 7:7; and he clearly preferred that all single persons remain single (vs. 25-38). Excluded by this test also would be John the Baptist, Jesus, and all unmarried persons. In 1 Timothy 5:9, “a widow is to be “the wife of one man.” Does this mean that a man can not be a widower? If we pursue the logic of some interpreters of verse 3:2 then Paul has commanded that a man must not be a widower.

Now some might argue that unmarried people cannot be elders. Jesus was Christ. Paul was Apostle. John the Baptist was a prophet. Peter was an Apostle and an elder and was married. Therefore, elders and pastors must be married. But let us pursue this logic to its absurd conclusion. In the parallel passage of Titus 1:6 we read an elder as one who is “the husband of one wife, having children who believe.” To follow the above logic, an elder must be married and must have children. Not just one child, the Bible says children (plural). And both of these children must believe. So a person cannot become an elder or pastor until both of his children arrive at the age that they can make a confessional statement. And if an elder’s/pastor’s wife becomes pregnant, he must resign because he will soon have a baby child who will not yet believe.

It is more likely that Titus 1:6 is rephrasing 1 Timothy 3:4 about an elder being one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity. If not, we must adopt pedo-baptism to align ourselves with the logical extension of the above interpretation. Furthermore, it is most likely, that when Paul speaks in both letters concerning an elder being a “husband of one wife” he is not restricting gender but restricting immoral behavior.

“To teach or exercise authority”

For the foundational Pauline statement relegating women to subordinate roles in the church, most complementarians turn to 1 Timothy 2:11-15. But Paul’s injunction against women’s teaching or exercising authority over men is an exegetical challenge. Many commentators, whether complemenatarian or egalitarian, note the occasional nature of the three Pastoral Epistles, including 1 Timothy. Paul does not intend to “establish a blueprint for church structure,” but to deal with the circumstances that the church faced in Ephesus. His advice concerning women was not triggered by questions arising in our day, but by the conduct in worship assemblies of the first-century church.

What is unusual about 1 Timothy is the amount of space devoted specifically to women. This includes appropriate dress for women who lead in worship (1 Tim 2:9-10), behavior befitting women who teach (1 Tim 2:12-15), qualifications for women deacons (1 Tim 3:11), suitable pastoral relations with women (1 Tim 5:12), qualifications for women elders (1 Tim 5:9-10), correction of young widows (1 Tim 5:3-8, 16). In no other New Testament letter do women figure so prominently.

Quiet – 1 Corinthians 14

Here is the area of great controversy: "What part can a woman play in a church service, in its leading, its speaking, and its teaching?" According some translations, women should be "silent" in church. That word occurs twice in this passage: that a woman should "learn in silence" (Vs. 11), and, she is to "keep silent" (Vs. 12). Obviously it is wrong to interpret this verse to mean that women should not speak. The reason is because the same word that is translated "silent" here occurs also in adjectival form in Verse 2 of this same chapter. There we read that we are to pray for "kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life." The word "peaceable" is the same word which is translated "silent" here. But surely Verse 2 does not mean that we must lead lives of absolute silence. That is unless we are to be monks and takes vows of silence. It clearly means that we are to live a tranquil life, i.e., without a great deal of hassling and disturbance, etc., but a "peaceable" life. That is a good translation for this word, which, if carried over here to this section we are studying, changes the thought entirely. Furthermore, if you look at Second Thessalonians 3:12, the apostle uses this same word again. He says of certain persons who were busybodies, "Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work in quietness." There is the same word which is translated silent here. Paul is not telling people to work without speaking but to be peaceful about it, without a lot of public notice. So when we read this translation in that sense, then all that Paul is saying is, "Let a woman learn in a 'peaceful' way; she is to keep herself 'peaceful' and 'peaceable.'"

Some who argue for a woman’s “silence” in church will point to Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 14:34: “As in all the churches of the saints, let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home, for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.” The context (vs. 35) makes it clear that the silence here stands in contrast to “asking questions,” not to preaching, teaching, or prophesying. That being so, there is not tension between this passage and the clear reference in chapter 11 to the fact that women may prophecy. In chapter 14, we get a glimpse of the worship in the early church. The members have been so caught up in enthusiasm that Paul must remind them that God is God of order rather than of confusion and that all things must be done decently and in suitable order. The first concern is that of the need to convey meaning in worship. While tongues are frequently an accompaniment of ecstatic devotion, communication through prophecy is more necessary. The word that is used in the prohibition for women is laleo, a term used by Aristophanes for the frivolous chatter of women. Differentiation is made in the text between nonintelligible speech, frequently designated by the verb laleo, and communication that conveys meaning to its hearers (lego). Paul places a far higher valuation on meaningful speech than on glossalalia, and there is an insistence that all may be edified. Only one person may speak at a time, and others must be allowed to take their turn. This contrasts with many of the mystery cults in which there was a jangling of musical instruments along with confused outcries, a phenomenon known as clamor. The worship of Cybele and Dionysus required the simultaneous use of diverse and unstructured sounds. In the orgies, women in particular were swept along into an altered state of consciousness. Dionysus was known as “the lord of the loud cry, the mad exciter of women.” (Maenads) Their abandoned state of mind led to raving and uncontrolled actions, as well as to ceremonial cries known as ululation. In this vein, Paul asks whether observers might not consider the Corinthian congregation mad – probably a reference to ritual madness of these cults rather than to insanity. In response Paul asks for a dignified and suitable approach to worship. A person who speaks in tongues must be silent if there is no interpreter; a person who is prophesying must desist if another if another wishes a turn. The third injunction to silence is directed to women. They are instructed to silence in exactly the same way as the one who has no interpreter and the one who must yield a turn prophesying to another. All are given the right to prophesy, so that it does not seem to be a prohibition against contributing a message of spiritual significance to the service of the worship. Rather, it is a prohibition against a disruption. This is the most widely held view among egalitarians. This problem in the Corinthian church focuses on certain women who were disrupting the worship services by making noise and or asking many questions. This position seems logical. If this position applies to all women in all places and times and not just certain married women in the Corinthian church how does a woman ask her husband if that husband is an unbeliever? For that matter, how does an unmarried woman ask her husband? Does this then mean that this passage has no bearing on women today? Certainly not! Women can speak in church but at the appropriate time. If this was the underlying problem Paul addressed, then the egalitarian interpretation follows. As Witherington declares,

“I conclude that a creation order or family order problem was not at issue in this passage but rather a church order problem caused by some women in the congregation. Paul corrects the abuse not by banning women from ever speaking in worship, but by silencing their particular abuse of speech and redirecting their questions to another time and place. Paul does wish the women to learn the answers to their questions. This passage in no way contradicts 1 Cor11:5, nor any other passage which suggests that women can teach, preach, pray, or prophecy in or outside the churches.”

As a response to a local problem, Paul’s injunction may have implications for similar situations today. But we cannot appeal to this text as providing the foundation for prohibiting women in ministry. Howard correctly concludes, “Sadly, what was a particular and local admonition in respect of a particular and local situation has become consistently interpreted by many sections of the Church as a general ban and thus the women members of the congregation have been denied their Christian rights.”

“I do not allow”

Important in this context is the grammatical shift between the command, “Let a woman learn” and Paul’s declarative statement “I permit no woman to teach.” On the basis of his choice of the present active indicative (epitrebo) rather than the imperative, egalitarians conclude that Paul is not voicing a timeless command, but a temporary directive applicable to a specific situation: “I am not presently allowing.”
This interpretation seems strenuous at best. Nevertheless, Liefield asks the question:

“Why does Paul use the indicative form rather than the making it a command by using the imperative? There can be little doubt that the reason he is telling Timothy what he does not permit is so that Timothy will follow the same practice. But read from the viewpoint of later generations, how significant is it that Paul does not issue a command such as, ‘Do not permit women to teach’ or ‘Women must not teach of have authority?’ Theologically it may be significant to observe that the Holy Spirit could have led Paul to use an imperative construction that might be interpreted as binding the church to follow that practice for all time, but instead led Paul to use a construction that describes his practice without making it permanently binding.”

Interestingly, Paul uses the present active indicative in 1 Cor. 7:7. In this verse, the apostle wills that all men were as he: unmarried.

“To teach”

As we have already seen, this is not an absolute prohibition against teaching. Paul does not say, "I permit no woman to teach, anywhere, anytime, to anyone, period!", although this passage has been taken to mean that. It is clear from other passages in the New Testament that women did teach. In fact, in his letter to Titus, Paul tells the elderesses to teach younger women how to love their husbands and rule their children, etc. So women were expected to teach. Also, as has been mentioned, there are instances in Scripture where women taught men.

“Exercise authority”

It would appear that the heart of the entire women’s ordination debate centers upon one verse or, more precisely, one verb. In 1 Timothy 2:12 we read: “But I do not allow a woman to teach of exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” (NAS) The NIV reads “to have authority.” The NKJ reads: “to have authority.” The Scofield Reference Bible reads: “to usurp authority.” The Dios Llega Hombre reads: “ni tampoco dominar.” These are various translations of the Greek word authenteo, the word at the center of the present controversy. This word appears only here in the Bible and rarely appears in the secular Greek literature of the time. It has been variously translated as: “one who with his own hands kills another or himself”, “one who acts on his own authority, autocratic”, “an absolute master”, “to govern, exercise dominion over one.” What is significant about this verse is that Paul does not use his regular word for authority, exousiazo, “to exercise authority”, “to have power or authority over”, “to be master of any one”, “to brought under power of another”(1 Cor. 6:12, 1 Cor. 7:4). One would assume that if Paul was intending to speak of regular authority he would have used his familiar term. While exousia is used 28 times by Paul it is not used in either Timothy epistles but does appear in Titus 3:1. Interestingly, in 1 Timothy 2:2, he uses huperoche for kings who are in authority. Among many egalitarians it is believed that authenteo holds a negative connotation. Grenze writes:

“The fact that Paul uses an unusual term generally carried negative connotations, rather than the more prevalent neutral verbs, should predispose us to anticipate a negative meaning.”

With this in mind, Spencer offers a plausible summary of the intent of these verses 11-12:

“Women are to be calm and to have restraint and respect and affirm their teachers rather than to engage in an autocratic authority which destroys its subjects. Paul here is not prohibiting women from preaching nor praying nor having an edifying authority nor pasturing. He is simply prohibiting them from teaching and using their authority in a destructive way.”

Catherine Kroeger makes a strong case for translating authentein (written by Paul in verse 12 as an infinitive) as “to involve someone in soliciting sexual liaisons” rather than as “to usurp authority, domineer, or exercise authority over.” Kroeger builds her case from uses of authentein in Greek literature from the period preceding the New Testament. The solicitation of sexual favors was apparently a major problem within the early church. Both the churches at Pergamum and Thyatyra were condemned for teaching sexual immorality (2 Rev. 2:14, 18). Kroeger finds evidence for sexually immoral behavior among various religious groups in the Wisdom of Solomon, where “cursed children” are mentioned along with authentein. These “cursed children” are presumed to be the offspring of the immoral liaisons. Clement of Alexandria complained about Christian groups who had turned the communion service into a sex orgy, and he calls people who participated in this form of religion authentai. Throughout the Greco-Roman world, it seems there were groups – some of them calling themselves Christian - which combined worship, teaching and sexual immorality. Related to these various cults and misguided Christian groups were the heresies which posited that women possessed superior intellectual and spiritual knowledge and priority in creation. If Paul is indeed responding to these “female” heresies, then his statements about creation make a great deal of sense.

Whether Kroeger is correct in her analysis we currently have no evidence to decide conclusively. Regardless of how we translate authenteo, we are obviously not dealing with the common idea of exousia as we understand “authority” in the rest of Scripture. Paul had exousia or one of its cognates to use but he chose not to employ it.

But we need not arrive conclusively at the meaning of authenteo in order to successfully refute the argument by complementarians that women cannot be ordained because they are not to have authority over a man. Let us proceed under the presumption of most complementarian arguments that authenteo and exousia are virtually synonymous.

The main problem that has surrounded this debate on the ordination of women is the presumption that a senior pastor has authority over others. Furthermore, a serious problem has existed in the church for two millennia in that Christians have presumed themselves as having authority over other Christians. This idea is foreign to the teachings of Peter and Paul and is soundly rejected by Jesus. In the Church, no one is to have authority over another.

In Luke 22, during the Last Supper, before Jesus is to be crucified, the disciples are arguing over who is the greatest. In verses 25-27 Jesus says, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those who exercise authority (exousiazo) over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? But I am among you as one who serves.” In the parallel passage in John 13, Jesus then began to wash the feet of His disciples. What this demonstrates is that we are not to have authority over other believers. Specifically, leaders/elders/pastors are not to have authority over the “laity.” This is a radical concept that brings the priesthood of the believer into new light. Jesus is the only one who has authority over His body of the church. Jesus is the only one who has authority over the individual believer. He put it clearly in Matthew 23:8 (RSV): "One is your Master, and all you are brethren."
Paul is in complete agreement with Jesus, of course. Never, in any of the epistles, does Paul, an Apostle, authorize a leader’s authority over another believer. Paul’s Apostleship authority is only granted to him directly from Jesus (1 Cor. 9:1-5, 7:25) Never does Paul say that a man has authority over women. In 1 Cor 7:4 Paul writes, “The wife does not exercise authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” The “likewise” in v. 3 is important. Here is the recognition that a wife has the same conjugal right and authority upon a husband as does the husband upon the wife. Each spouse has a certain “authority” over the other’s body (v. 4). The authority and power that Jesus demonstrates radically differs from the understanding prevalent in our world.

It may be argued that a preacher in the pulpit has personal authority, but this is not taught in Scripture (again, apart from apostolic authority). The authority is in the Word itself, not in the individual teaching it. What “authority” does a pastor have over his congregation? Can the pastor forbid them to leave in the middle of the service? Can he or she insist they believe or act on what the pastor says? Can the pastor forbid them to take part in a discussion? Can the pastor insist that his or her teaching is “authoritative” over that of others who also believe and teach the Bible? A pastor who did any of these things would soon be without a congregation. This is true in any Protestant denomination but more so in Baptist life where the “authority” rests within the congregation. In cases of church discipline church leaders usually recommend action which must be carried out by the church body. The work of elders/pastors, deacons and other church leaders is largely in the formulation of policies which must ultimately be accepted by the congregation. Actually, to be sure that no woman would hold authority over a man in the church, women would have to be denied the right to vote in churches.

Jesus said that disciples are to be servants of one another and the greatest is the one who is servant of all. By these words Jesus indicates that an entirely different system of government than that employed by the world should prevail among Christians.

Throughout twenty centuries the church has virtually ignored these words. It is clear from the Scriptures that the apostles were concerned about the danger of developing ecclesiastical bosses. In Second Corinthians 1:24a (RSV), Paul reminds the Corinthians concerning his own apostolic authority: "Not that we lord it over your faith; we work with you for your joy, ..." In the same letter he describes, with apparent disapproval, how the Corinthians reacted to certain leaders among themselves: "For you bear it if a man makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face," (2 Cor 11:20 RSV). Peter, too, is careful to warn the elders (and he includes himself among them) not to govern by being "domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock," (1 Pet 5:3 RSV). And John speaks strongly against Diotrephes "who likes to put himself first, and takes it on himself to put some out of the church," (cf, 3 Jn 1:9-10). These first-century examples of church bosses indicate how easily churches then, as today, ignored the words of Jesus, "it shall not be so among you.”

Is a woman to have authority over a man? No. Is a man to have authority over a woman? No. Is a pastor/elder to have authority over another believer? No. Is a believer to have authority over another believer? Again, no. Therefore, can a woman be ordained as pastor? Yes.