Wednesday, January 27, 2010

High Functional Load

There have been some excellent comments on my last two posts here and here so I would like to respond as best I can. I think this one states the problem well,
    Many to most would argue that since it is a non-salvific issue, it is a “tier 2” issue that should be dealt with in the church (sorry for the dangling prep), not in a parachurch ministry. I think that is Robinson’s argument. Plus, if one stakes a claim on comp/egal being a delineation that IV holds as not salvation-oriented, but just a tick below and would therefore be dangerous, it would stand to reason that open theism (Pinnock and Boyd) and trajectory hermeneutics (Webb) would fall in that same category, given they are at odds with a biblical view of God and the claims of the bible itself (or so I would see it).
Here is my response. I do not think that InterVarsity, as an egalitarian organization, holds that the egal/comp debate is salvific. However, it has to hold as a strong position on this issue just the same, because otherwise the leadership of some of its staff would be undermined. So, although the debate does not relate to how Christians come to Christ, it does relate to how the organization functions. It would not be possible to run an organization with female leadership, if both points of view were held in equal regard. This issue has a high functional load for the organization.

I acknowledge that many complementarians do not feel that parachurch leadership must be organized in a complementarian fashion, and I appreciate their openness. However, the original discussion brought up complementarians such as John Piper and Al Mohler, who, I am convinced, do not approve of female leadership in parachurch organizations. I make this assumption because a central tenet of CBMW is that women are not designed to lead men from creation.

I consider Piper and Mohler as men who hold to the basic articulated tenets of CBMW. I think this is fair. Likewise, I do not assume that all other complementarians share CBMW's views.

Regarding the acceptance of Clark Pinnock's theology by InterVarsity, I believe that it is in the nature of InterVarsity, as an organization on a secular campus, that they interact with Christians of a wide range of belief, including those who function within the "liberal" range. Clark Pinnock, in particular, graduated with honours from Toronto, the school I later attended. He spoke at our InterVarsity chapter at that time. He is, in a sense, one of InterVarsity's fledglings. Whatever you may think of his theology, he is known to InterVarsity staff and has always been a part of the larger family.

It is my opinion that some of the theologians who are accepted by InterVarsity come from within. They operate in the academic world as scholars in the field and have respect as academics and faithful Christians. I realise that they represent a greater range of belief than some consider evangelicals should. I can't resolve this now.

In further thoughts on complementarianism. I have some basic beliefs. First, I do not think that it is a great suffering for women who aspire to leadership to not be allowed to be leaders in the church. However, I do believe strongly that not having women leaders in the church is an enormous and outrageous suffering for women who attend church. Susan Hunt of CBMW articulates this position well.
    Men do not intend to inflict more damage on women. Many just do not know how to deal with women in crisis appropriately and compassionately. It is difficult for men to understand the emotions of these women; but other women can be the interpreters of those feelings. When I admitted this, my emotions became productive. I realized that women, including myself, must be the advocates to church leaders for emotionally and physically bruised women.
Quite simply Susan Hunt states that women are to be the defenders of women. This is a simple fact of life. Women need women leaders in decision-making positions, in positions of authority in the church. This is a basic human need.

Dr. Molly Marshall

I will post in response to some of the questions in the comment section later this evening - I hope. In the meantime, by coincidence Wade Burleson has posted about Molly Marshall, a professor who was forced to resign from her tenured position when Al Mohler became president of SBTS. Here is her blog.

I looked up this incident a few days ago with reference to Dr. Mohler's reforms of SBTS.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

CBMW disagrees with the founding basis of Intervarsity

In view of the discussion which has developed concerning Intervarsity and John Piper, I think it is best to refer to this article by CBMW to understand that the disagreement is explicit. In this article Jeff Robinson has done an excellent job of articulating the egalitarian position of Stacey Woods as well as CBMW's disapproval of Stacey's position.

For background, Stacey Woods was born in Australia, attended a Plymouth Brethren assembly, came to the United States and studied at Wheaton and Dallas. He became the general secretary of the Canadian InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in 1934. InterVarsity was founded in the USA through the leadership of Stacey Woods and others in 1941.

Now, here is what the CBMW article has to say about Stacey Woods' original position on women in ministry.
    IVP’s practice, if not its profession, is clearly egalitarian and it has been so from the beginning.

    The publishing company was founded in 1941 by C. Stacy Woods as a part of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). From the outset, the 20-member board of trustees that holds IVCF and IVP accountable resolved to support complete freedom for women in ministry.

    "InterVarsity is not a church but is a parachurch that transcends many specific denominational convictions on secondary matters such as the role of women in ministry--which has never been a creedal statement," IVP publisher Bob Fryling said. "However, we do have a rich orthodox theological heritage which does govern all that we do in InterVarsity.

    "In terms of practice, InterVarsity had to decide at its outset whether or not to allow women in ministry…[Founder Woods] and the board decided to give women complete freedom in ministry within IVCF which has been our position and practice for 65 years."

Robinson goes on the present the views of CBMW,
    But the fact that IVP is not a church by no means excuses it from following scriptural mandates on God-ordained gender roles as they relate to leadership, Stinson said.

    "The fact that InterVarsity is a parachurch does not allow them to disregard what the Bible says even on what the organization considers a secondary matter," Stinson said. "If IVP is engaging in an activity that is governed by Scripture, then it is required to perform that activity within biblical parameters."

    Through the years, IVP has not swerved from a commitment to publish works built on the assumption of complete freedom for women in the ministry. In recent years it has published such egalitarian works as Slaves, Women & Homosexuals by William Webb, The Trinity & Subordinationism by Kevin Giles, and Gender & Grace by Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen among many others. Read the rest of the article here.

I was very disappointed to read Stiles' closing paragraph on InterVarsity.

    There is still time for IV to turn things around. I'm hopeful. It's been done before. Just look at what the leadership of Al Mohler did for the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. But if IV continues to be forgetful of its mission, confused about the gospel, fearful of the world, and pragmatic about ministry, there is little hope for IV to ever become again what it once was: a force for truly evangelical gospel ministry.
Stiles appears to forget that the roots of InterVarsity in North America were always egalitarian. I find it astonishing that he could have worked for InterVarsity for 30 years and not known that InterVarsity was intended to be an egalitarian organization from the begining in the 1920's and 30's, some time before the feminists of the 1960's provided the impetus for CBMW to come on the seen. In comparison to InterVarsity, CBMW is a Johnny-come-lately organization bound and determined to stir up as much unnecessary strife as possible wherever it can.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

John Piper and Inter Varsity

I have appreciated Mike Bird's response to Stiles on Inter Varsity. I won't deny that the ethos of Inter Varsity has changed in ways that would be unfamiliar to me since I was last involved, some time ago. I won't defend every aspect of Inter Varsity, but I always did appreciate the interdenominational communion. It was the place where I first learned that Anglicans and Catholics - and even Baptists - were also Christians.

I notice that one recent debate which really grates for some is that N. T. Wright is welcome as a speaker by Inter Varsity, while John Piper is not.
    Yet IV seems to have forgotten why it exists. Bad theology of the gospel and weak ecclesiology are undermining IV's mission. Increasingly, IV's tendency is to take on issues which should be neutral in IV and left for gospel-centered churches to decide. Such secondary doctrinal issues (such as paedo- vs. craedobaptism, Arminianism vs. Calvinism, charismatic vs. cessationist) should ultimately be decided within churches; that's the place to agree or agree to disagree, not IV.

    Not only that, but InterVarsity seems more and more willing to partner with churches that do not hold to the gospel, from liberal protestant churches to the Roman Catholic church. At the same time, IV is breaking fellowship with people who are solidly evangelical: John Piper, for example, is a persona non grata because of his view of women in ministry. Yet N.T. Wright, who's book Justification opens the door for a quasi-Catholic view of justification, speaks regularly at IV conferences.
I don't remember taking on issues which should be left for the churches. We were an oddball mix of charismatic, and paedo-baptist, as far as I can remember.

However, I firmly agree that John Piper should be kept as far away as possible from InterVarsity. In 1939 Grace Koch Belden went down to Philadelphia to become one of the first InterVarsity workers in the USA. In 1939, my mother was the president of the InterVarsity chapter at McGill, at the time when Charles Troutman was there, as well as Gordie Thomas who went on to become the director of the Grenfell Mission. It was not until 1941 that InterVarsity USA was founded.

Will someone please let John Piper know why he is not wanted in InterVarsity. "Women in ministry" was not the downfall of InterVarsity but its founding strength. Yes, we see Stacey Woods' name a lot, but I always think of them as Stacey and Yvonne. I last visited them in 1976 in Lausanne. Cathie Nicoll was also an important Canadian leader and established InterVarsity in Jamaica.

John Piper, on the other hand, is the master of the toddlerhood of Christianity. He wants leadership in the church, which has - for the most part - always been male, to continue to be male. He also wants leadership in parachurch organizations, which historically has employed more Christian women in leadership, to become male.

It is important to realize that John Piper does NOT approve of female leadership in parachurch organizations. This would be a significant reason why he would not be invited to speak at any parachurch event where women are in leadership.

N.T. Wright, on the other hand, is considered iffy in certain areas of his doctrine of justification. The simple truth is that while everyone can identify the gender of chapter leaders in Intervarsity, not everyone can articulate whether they agree with Piper or Wright on justification. That's just the way it is.

The sad thing is that InterVarsity, since it is open to women, also acts as a switch and bait foil for the church. Young women can worship as equals in university, and then later they find themselves in an evangelical church where they have to be trained into submission, broken in, so to speak.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Let your poor keep silence in the churches

A difference in body strength is not the only primary difference between men and women. Women are also strong in ways that men are not, and this becomes more evident with age. But women throughout history and the world over have had less access to land and property, or simply put, wealth.

What would you think of a God who decreed,
    Let your poor keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. KJV
It is hard to imagine that God would create a whole class of human beings for silence and submission. I actually do think that 1 Cor. 14:35-36 is an interpolation because it makes so little sense. But how can I argue this honestly when my position is well known.

I admire text criticism a great deal and feel sometimes that I have missed my calling. But I wouldn't want to work in an area where I felt that every little dot, or stigma, or lack thereof, was an attack on my humanity. It would be too stressful. Such a tragedy that some of us previously subordinated women cannot fully enjoy these things. Perhaps this is still to come.

Here are the images from Payne's site, here are the relevant images, and the detailed post.

Weaker Vessel? Not Judith!

Although it is uncontested that women on average have a less developed musculature, history does not provide an unbroken line of admiration for weak women. Here is a post on viewing Judith. Thanks, Shawna.

Is Logos Software complementarian?

I was browsing some women's commentaries and came across the Women's Study Bible offered by Logos Bible Software.
    Features study articles, annotations, and more than 300 topical notes on hundreds of subjects of interest to women. Written from a conservative perspective that honors the special role women have throughout the Scriptures. It includes portraits of more than 100 women of the Bible, inspirational quotations, and 175 original in-text charts and maps. Written, edited, and produced by women for women. All students, pastors, and teachers will appreciate seeing the Scriptures from this fresh viewpoint.
I am a "special needs" teacher so I know all about being "special". It involves no shame, but it is no great honour either - as Tevye would say.

I have the impression that both Logos Bible Software and Accordance are primarily complementarian organizations, although I am aware that they have a wide variety of offerings. This causes a conflict of interest, however, for the female Bible scholar. I am so lucky this is just my hobby.

Thoughts on this, anyone?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Good and the Bad

From the Gospel Coalition blog, a good story,
    Dana Robert’s 177-page book, Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion, does a lot of things (including a chronological and thematic study of 2000 years of Christian mission!). Along the way, Robert points out that Christian missionaries have done much good for the societies they have entered. The book could have fittingly been titled, In Defense of Christian Mission. Robert shows that missionaries have defended human rights, advocated for indigenous peoples, advanced women’s rights, improved medical care, cared for the weak and marginalized, and supported ecological sustainability and conservation.
But in other news, two posts today highlight the fact that Hitler had Christian roots, and can hardly be held to be an atheist.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Temple Vessels

Peter Leithart has an unusual interpretation of the phrase "weaker vessel." I have bolded the relevant passage.
    The Bible devotes a surprising amount of attention to vessels – plates, forks, bowls, pots, pans, and snuffers. One long and repetitive chapter of Numbers describes a 12-day procession during which leaders from each tribe bring forward animals, grain, and incense for the tabernacle service, along with a silver dish, a silver bowl, and a gold man.

    When Solomon builds the temple, we again get a list of “vessels”: basins, shovels, bowls, pails, tongs, cups, snuffers, spoons, firepans, all of pure gold. And when Nebuchadnezzar destroys the temple, we learn that these vessels were all packed up into exile with the people of Judah.

    Paul draws on this imagery when he describes the church as a “large house” where there are “gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.” Vessels are people within the new temple, the church.

    This is the background for Peter’s description of wives as “weaker vessels.” Feminists take offense, but Peter is emphasizing the privilege that women have in the church. In the Old Covenant, no woman ever entered the temple, but now in the New Covenant men and their wives are both implements for temple service, equipment for the worship of God.

    Since we are temple vessels, we are holy, claimed by God and devoted to His service. If we are going to be useful in the Lord’s service, we must guard our hearts, and cleanse ourselves. We must put aside wrangling and fighting, worldly and empty chatter, youthful lusts, foolish speculations.

    Alluding to the cleanliness laws of the Old Testament, Paul writes, “if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.”

This is interesting. Women can't be judges and prophets any more. However, they can enter the church, whereas they used to not be able to enter the temple.

So women are privileged to be weaker than they used to be, but at least they are "temple vessels" . Does this sound right? Were women not vessels in the Old Covenant? I thought women were always vessels - delicate vases, ready to be filled, all of them hoping to bear the Messiah. What am I missing here? Anyone have any ideas?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Philip Payne and Peter Head on 1 Cor. 14: 34-35

If you can understand and interact with this blog post, and the thesis of Peter Head, then you will be in a position to join in the conversation regarding whether God wanted women to be silent in the church or not. If you can't, then you have no right to an opinion on the matter.

After 2,000 years and waiting, women still cannot be sure whether God wants them to be able to speak in church or not. Sounds like a crazy-making tyrant, if you ask me. I do not believe in this God, so I won't be holding my breath for the outcome.

You can see how Calvin explained Paul's turnabout on women praying and prophesying. Others believe strongly that verses 34 and 35 of chapter 14 are interpolations. I think they are likely right. There is a weight of evidence which supports this. But should women remain silent until God sees fit to providentially reveal what the original text of this passage was?

On the light side

It's time for something lighter. Here is an email I received today,

Recently, in a large city in France,

a poster featuring a young, thin and tan woman appeared in the window of a gym.

It said, "This summer,

do you want to be a mermaid or a whale?"

A middle-aged woman,

whose physical characteristics did not match those of the woman on the poster,

responded publicly to the question

posed by the gym.

To Whom It May Concern,

Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans.)

They have an active sex life,

get pregnant and have adorable baby whales. They have a wonderful time with dolphins stuffing themselves with shrimp.

They play and swim in the seas,

seeing wonderful places like Patagonia,

the Bering Sea

and the coral reefs of Polynesia .

Whales are wonderful singers

and have even recorded CDs.

They are incredible creatures

and virtually have no predators

other than humans.

They are loved, protected and admired

by almost everyone in the world

Mermaids don't exist.

If they did exist,

they would be lining up outside the offices

of Argentinean psychoanalysts

due to identity crisis. Fish or human?

They don't have a sex life

because they kill men who get close to them, not to mention how could they have sex?

Just look at them ... where is IT?

Therefore, they don't have kids either.

Not to mention,

who wants to get close to a girl who smells

like a fish store?

The choice is perfectly clear to me:

I want to be a whale.

P..S. We are in an age

when media puts into our heads

the idea that only skinny people are beautiful, but I prefer to enjoy an ice cream with my kids, a good dinner with a man who makes me shiver, and a piece of chocolate with my friends.

With time, we gain weight

because we accumulate so much information and wisdom in our heads

that when there is no more room,

it distributes out to the rest of our bodies.

So we aren't heavy,

we are enormously cultured,

educated and happy.

Beginning today,

when I look at my butt in the mirror I will think, ¨Good grief, look how smart I am!¨

Bruce Ware, Carolyn McCulley in Vancouver

I like quite a lot of what I read on Carolyn McCulley's blog. She has been referencing Nicholas Kristof's articles and books, and she highlights poverty in Africa in an honest way. I have been following the evolution of her interests and pursuits. I always like a blog that is also a journey.

In two weeks Carolyn is going to speak at the Willingdon Church in Burnaby, British Columbia. This is the same church that regularly invites Bruce Ware to speak. This year he will be joined by John Piper. I notice that Preston Manning will also be there. I had always wanted to believe the best of Preston Manning. I did not want to believe that Canadian politicians could have as high as disregard for basic human rights as Bruce Ware teaches.

However, tonight I want to focus on some of what Carolyn regularly preaches to women. She typically teaches the following,
    But having researched the history of feminism in the Western world for my own book, Radical Womanhood, I am also reminded of the course of women's history in our own culture. In many ways, though perhaps not as extreme, we issued the same complaints. Women in the 19th century complained of men making the same poor financial expenditures on alcohol and prostitutes, that women didn't have equality in education, and that maternal health was a neglected medical priority.

    But as women fought for equality, we found the fight remained long after the battles were won. Because men were identified as the problem, the gender war has never been fully resolved. Instead of unifying marriages and families, this ongoing battle continues to fracture them. We've been blame-shifting to fellow sinners, rather than seeing sin itself as the real culprit. So my concern is that we will import some of these same values into our efforts to help women around the world.

When were the battles won? In Canada, rape in marriage has been illegal only since 1983. I had been married for several years when this happened. From this article we can identify the ongoing work to establish victim's rights in Canada, right up until the present. I have been involved in this process as a victim of violence, and I appreciate the advances made in the last few years. I would not want to be without them.

But Carolyn McCulley seems to think that women had gained enough rights in the 19th century to put down the cause of feminism completely. Has Carolyn worked in the criminal justice system in Canada? No. Is she qualified to speak on this topic? No. I hope she does not make a statement in her talk about how we no longer need basic human rights for women.

Let's see what else she says about this on her blog. Here she writes about "Killing an attitude of entitlement." And here she talks about "Laying down our rights." Here Carolyn says that she signed the True Woman Manifesto, which includes the statement, "Selfish insistence on personal rights is contrary to the spirit of Christ."

Women who are raped and beaten, sworn at and slapped around, restricted and belittled, need to be told to stand up for their personal rights. I wonder if Carolyn will speak to this? Carolyn does not answer email or blog comments, and I will not be in Vancouver on the weekend that she is speaking here, so I have little chance of engaging her in dialogue on this topic.

Friday, January 15, 2010

"Abuse of authority does not justify divorce"

Journey is writing her story of Biblical patriarchy on the No Longer Quivering blog. I recommend it to you. You may feel that these stories of women trapped within patriarchy by the brainwashing of the word is overdone. You may think that it is sin and not the word that binds women into violence. Some women, of course, experience violence and the word as one. What is to be done about that?

Here is a good example of what I am talking about. On CBMW we can read the following,
    If a husband refuses to heed the discipline of the church, and if his conduct violates civil laws (e.g., wife or child abuse), a wife may legitimately turn to the civil authorities and ask them to intervene. As Romans 13 indicates, civil authorities are instituted by God to punish those who do wrong, and a wife may certainly turn to them in appropriate cases.

    Although these authorities may help to change a difficult marriage, there are some situations that cannot be resolved by church discipline or civil intervention (e.g., when no crime is being committed, when a husband does not attend or respect a church, or when the church refuses to get involved). In such cases, a wife may seek assistance from another person who has authority or persuasion with regard to her husband, such as an employer, a relative, or a close friend.

    When no such help is available, a wife may be stuck, for a while, with a self-centered husband who uses his authority to indulge himself. As the Bible teaches, however, abuse of authority alone does not justify divorce.4 In 1 Peter 3:1-6, Peter addresses wives who are married to difficult husbands. When he says, "Wives in the same way be submissive to your husbands" (emphasis added), he is referring back to the mistreatment described in chapter 2, verses13-25. Thus, he is encouraging wives in difficult situations to follow Christ's example of reverent submission:

    To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." [i.e., he did not deserve such treatment.] When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Pet. 2:21-23).

    This passage sets forth the foundation for godly submission, especially in difficult circumstances; that foundation is confidence in the sovereignty of God. Jesus submitted to the Father and endured unjust treatment because He trusted that God was ultimately in control of everything that would happen to Him. Jesus knew that God would eventually judge those who did wrong (v. 23; cf. Prov. 16:5; Rom. 12:19), and that He would use even painful events to advance His kingdom and bless others (see Acts 2:22-24).

    A wife living with a difficult husband can have the same kind of confidence. God promises to work everything in her life for her good, which primarily involves conforming her to the likeness of Christ (see Rom. 8:28-29). Although she may have to endure an unpleasant and disappointing relationship with her husband for a time, God will support, strengthen and encourage her in His own perfect way (see Ps. 37; 1 Cor. 10:13).

    Knowing that God is more powerful than her stubborn husband, a wife can trust that God will ultimately deal with all injustice. She can also have confidence that through her situation God will help her to grow (see Acts 5:41; Phil. 1:29; 3:10; Heb. 12:1-13; Jas. 1:2-4); to bring encouragement to others (2 Cor. 1:6); and, perhaps, to play a role in bringing about dramatic changes in her husband (see 1 Pet. 3:15-16), "for nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). Obviously, God can do the same thing for a husband who is married to a difficult wife.

First, in this passage, the sufferings that a wife is to endure is compared to the suffering of Christ on the cross in 1 Peter 2. This passage also suggests that suffering abuse in a marriage will make the character of a wife Christ-like, and, third, that enduring abuse will cause a partner to change. It is similar to preaching the efficacy of faith-healing. It is irresponsible and will inevitably be the cause of great harm to some people.

The Bible is not to be used as a instrument to keep people in miserable circumstances resigned to their unhappy state. I am of the opinion that certain abusive behaviours on the part of either husband or wife are appropriate grounds for divorce.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Calvin on women prophesying

The Bayly blog has done a great job of putting together Calvin's commentary on 1 Corinthians 11 and headcoverings. I especially recommend that you read the comments here and here. Tim Bayly writes,
    Still, I must admit I've been wholly unsuccessful in getting anyone to read Calvin's doctrine of headcoverings, despite repeated attempts. So now, here is a compilation of Calvin's doctrine considerably shortened from what was put into the prior post. I do hope you'll all take the time to read this condensed version. There's really no substitude for Calvin's explanation of Scripture in any place, let alone one of the most controverted texts and themes in all of Scripture.... (sic)
While you can read a longer selection here, I found the following passages particularly interesting, not to mention problematic. (Calvin's Commentaries)
    Every woman praying or prophesying. Here we have the second proposition — that women ought to have their heads covered when they pray or prophesy; otherwise they dishonor their head. For as the man honors his head by showing his liberty, so the woman, by showing her subjection. Hence, on the other hand, if the woman uncovers her head, she shakes off subjection — involving contempt of her husband.

    It may seem, however, to be superfluous for Paul to forbid the woman to prophesy with her head uncovered, while elsewhere he wholly prohibits women from speaking in the Church. (1Timothy 2:12.) It would not, therefore, be allowable for them to prophesy even with a covering upon their head, and hence it follows that it is to no purpose that he argues here as to a covering.

    It may be replied, that the Apostle, by here condemning the one, does not commend the other. For when he reproves them for prophesying with their head uncovered, he at the same time does not give them permission to prophesy in some other way, but rather delays his condemnation of that vice to another passage, namely in 1Corinthians 14.

    In this reply there is nothing amiss, though at the same time it might suit sufficiently well to say, that the Apostle requires women to show their modesty — not merely in a place in which the whole Church is assembled, but also in any more dignified assembly, either of matrons or of men, such as are sometimes convened in private houses.
I have no interest in vilifying Calvin but we have to be realistic about the fallible nature of exegesis and its limitations in communicating the wisdom of God to humanity. The good thing about Calvin, from my perspective, is that he brought a high level of literacy to the population of Geneva and I have benefitted personally from that heritage.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Greek consonant clusters

Mike has an interesting post on certain consonant clusters in Greek. This image is also of Greek consonant clusters as they are charted on a tablet found in Greece dated to the third century BC, "In the time of the Delphic Archon Charixenos." (277/276 BCE) See if you can sort some of it out and then go to my original posts on the subject.

Delphi Tablet I
Delphi Tablet II
Delphi Tablet III

Amica Exegesis

    In February 1527 Zwingli completed his Amica Exegesis, 'friendly exposition'. one of the most revealing of his many writings, in which he genuinely tried to combine manly independence with reconciliation but found the task impossible. He tried to be tolerant and brotherly but was in too much of a hurry to understand fully the developing subtlety and conviction of Luther's thought.

    He bases some of his discussion, for example, on the Lutheran reply to the notorious Assertio septem sacramentorum written, or at any rate inspired, by Henry VIII in 1521. Since this rejoinder contained more abuse than argument, it was hardly worth powder and shot five years later.

    Further, the Amica exegesis is not based on any close study of Luther's writings, not all of which were in any case available in Zurich, and there was the distraction of the appearance of a new edition of the Swabian Syngramma with a commendatory introduction by Luther, and the need to defend Leo Jud against attackers.

    None the less it is one of Zwingli's most serious and most characteristic writings, appearing at the very height of his powers. In one sense a harmonious note was struck at the outset - justification by faith was willingly conceded. Without faith, discussion was vain - pro veritate ex fide pugnamus.
Potter, G. R., Zwingli. Cambrindge University Press. Cambridge. 1976. page 303

David Rosenberg's Literary Bible

Frank Kermode reviews David Rosenberg's Literary Bible.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nicholas Kristof: Religion and Women

Kristof is keeping the heat on with respect to the role that religion plays in the oppression of women.
    The New Testament quotes St. Paul (I Timothy 2) as saying that women “must be silent.” Deuteronomy declares that if a woman does not bleed on her wedding night, “the men of her town shall stone her to death.” An Orthodox Jewish prayer thanks God, “who hast not made me a woman.” The Koran stipulates that a woman shall inherit less than a man, and that a woman’s testimony counts for half a man’s.

    In fairness, many scholars believe that Paul did not in fact write the passages calling on women to be silent. And Islam started out as socially progressive for women — banning female infanticide and limiting polygamy — but did not continue to advance.

    But religious leaders sanctified existing social structures, instead of pushing for justice. In Africa, it would help enormously if religious figures spoke up for widows disenfranchised by unjust inheritance traditions — or for rape victims, or for schoolgirls facing sexual demands from their teachers. Instead, in Uganda, the influence of conservative Christians is found in a grotesque push to execute gays.

    Yet paradoxically, the churches in Africa that have done the most to empower women have been conservative ones led by evangelicals and especially Pentecostals. In particular, Pentecostals encourage women to take leadership roles, and for many women this is the first time they have been trusted with authority and found their opinions respected. In rural Africa, Pentecostal churches are becoming a significant force to emancipate women.

    That’s a glimmer of hope that reminds us that while religion is part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. The Dalai Lama has taken that step and calls himself a feminist.

NT Times

Variation in the Latin Bible

Latin acted as the lingua franca for over a thousand years in Europe. It is the language of interpretation in the Roman Catholic church. But Latin is also the language of the Reformation. The national language Bibles were the product rather than the foundation of the Reformation. The Reformation was a European and not a national movement. From Henry the VIII to Calvin, the doctrines of the Reformation were argued out in Latin, the common language of the scholars of Europe.

Here is a scanty list of Latin Bibles available on the internet. In spite of great protestations that the original Hebrew and Greek are formative, the language of theological reflection was in Latin from the early church until well after the Reformation.

Old Latin (Gospel of John)
Jerome's Vulgate
Clementine Vulgate
Nova Vulgata
Erasmus Database (Novum Testamentum facsimile)
Beza (Genesis only)

The Pagnini Beza Latin Bible is available in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto as well as elsewhere in North America. I have a copy of the Psalms in this version, passed down to me by my grandfather.

Rights and the Christian: authority and rights

"Rights" and "authority" are from the same Greek word, exousia. When Paul talks about the personal rights of an apostle, or the authority of an apostle, he uses the same word. In English "authority" can mean the right to have others obey you. That is how it is often used. Rights are the authority you have to act for yourself, or have the freedom to act on your own.

A person with authority, has the authority to act on their own, but also has control over the actions of others. A person with authority, can not only control their own actions, but also influences the actions of others. However, in Greek, both of these concepts are covered by the word exousia, to have the authority, right or the entitlement to act, or control the actions of others.

When we discuss the notion that men and women should have "equal rights" this is the same as saying that men and women should have "equal authority." If a doctrine says that women should not have authority equal to male authority, then by definition, women do not have equal personal rights to men. Essentially, some Christians are teaching that women do not have equal rights in the home and church.

It is interesting to see how some teach women to "lay down their personal rights" and honour male authority.

True Woman Manifesto
    Men and women are both created in the image of God and are equal in value and dignity, but they have distinct roles and functions in the home and in the church. (9)

    We are called as women to affirm and encourage men as they seek to express godly masculinity, and to honor and support God-ordained male leadership in the home and in the church. (10)

    Marriage, as created by God, is a sacred, binding, lifelong covenant between one man and one woman. (11)

    When we respond humbly to male leadership in our homes and churches, we demonstrate a noble submission to authority that reflects Christ's submission to God His Father. (12)

    Selfish insistence on personal rights is contrary to the spirit of Christ who humbled Himself, took on the form of a servant, and laid down His life for us. (13)
This manifesto makes it appear selfish for a woman to insist on her rights, but noble for her to uphold the rights of her husband. Is there an equivalent document which asks men to lay down their authority and uphold the rights of their wives? No, the Danvers Statement and the Southern Baptist statement also call for women to submit to the authority of the husband.

While one may argue that Christ has himself modeled the "laying down of personal rights," nowhere do the scriptures say that women were created as weaker vessels in order to best model the laying down of rights; and men were created as stronger vessels, so that they may maintain authority and not lay down their rights. In fact, this appears to be based on the assumption that might makes right.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Excuse me ...

... while I work on my sidebar for a few days. I don't want one that looks like a roll of toilet paper uncurled by a kitten. ACBQ65RS57US

The Best Buddies Blues Band

We are gearing up for the Olympics here in Vancouver - no idea how I am going to get to work. But our school is going to attend a Special Olympics event. Here is one of the bands that is going to play at the Special Olympics. In this band, from Regina, Saskatchewan, a student with an intellectual disability is buddied up with another student.

I wish our school had something like this. However, often our cognitively delayed students do find acceptance and friendship. One curious note is that I write Individual Education Plans for students who, according to their assessments, range from 51 to 149 in IQ.

Here is the Best Buddies Blues Band from Saskatchewan.

My tenderness and bitchiness

Now that I have you chuckling, I didn't actually write this, I am citing it. Valerie Tarico is one of the women who writes at I like what she writes, and find her challenges and her concerns are to be taken seriously. Her book, The Dark Side, can be found in google books. In a recent post on Exchristians, HT Debunking Christianity, she writes about the treatment of gays in Uganda, and then discusses the role of religion in this violence.
    My selfishness is every bit as real as my generosity. My tenderness and bitchiness, compassion and aggression all are ME. Religion's track record of power-brokering and atrocity is every bit as integral as its history of giving voice to our moral instincts and sense of wonder.

    It is not the perversion of religion that is playing itself out in Islamic jihad or Evangelical homophobia and child murder. It is religion, period--one face of religion to be sure, but the real deal. It is the timeless face of god-worship that is tribal and intolerant and willing to kill -- as religion always has been under the right circumstances of time and place.

    Can we please stop pretending and making nice? People are being tortured to death, starved to death, and executed in the service of the religious enterprise! Do we ever get to run the numbers? Do we ever get to ask whether all of the fuzzy feel good stuff and the sense of meaning and purpose, and the wonderful creative moral communities that religion produces are worth the price?

    Because the price is what we are seeing in Somalia, and Nigeria, Uganda and elsewhere: people starving, children burned with acid (I dare you to look at the pictures), gays slated for execution, doctors murdered, politicians and mullahs who commit us to holy war.

    Both good and bad consequences of "faith" are the direct products of the agreement we make with each other that it's ok to believe things on paltry evidence, the kind that would never stand up in court, the kind that would never guide the surgeon's knife. It is our willingness to entrust ourselves to authority, sacred texts and our own intuitions, unaccountable to reason and evidence, unaccountable to universal ethics like the Golden Rule. Faith gives us mysticism and murder.

    Isn't it time to move beyond belief to whatever the next stage of our spiritual evolution may be?
Read the full article here.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Parchment and Pen

Some blogs are the record of a journey, a personal Pilgrim's progress. Michael Patton often blogs on personal and distressing aspects of his life. I appreciate his candour. Michael, if you read this, I am touched by your grief. Here is a letter to his sister, Angie. A few more of the posts on Angie are here, but he mentions her throughout his blogging.

Follow Michael's blog for his views on inerrancy, homosexuality and divorce, among other things. His blog is #4 among all religion blogs on Technorati.

Women of the Reformation

Thanks to a reincarnated Jim West, we have news of a new book on Women of the Reformation.

    Women and the Reformation gathers historical materials and personal accounts to provide a comprehensive and accessible look at the status and contributions of women as leaders in the 16th century Protestant world.

    * Explores the new and expanded role as core participants in Christian life that women experienced during the Reformation.

    * Examines diverse individual stories from women of the times, ranging from biographical sketches of the ex-nun Katharina von Bora Luther and Queen Jeanne d’Albret, to the prophetess Ursula Jost and the learned Olimpia Fulvia Morata.

    * Brings together social history and theology to provide a groundbreaking volume on the theological effects that these women had on Christian life and spirituality.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Mary Daly dies

    Dr. Daly emerged as a major voice in the burgeoning women's movement with her first book, "The Church and the Second Sex," published in 1968, and "Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation," which appeared five years later. That accomplishment was viewed, then and now, as all the more significant because she wrote and taught at a Jesuit college.

    "She was a great trained philosopher, theologian, and poet, and she used all of those tools to demolish patriarchy -- or any idea that domination is natural -- in its most defended place, which is religion," said Gloria Steinem.

    Dr. Daly, whose relationship with Boston College grew tempestuous as she insisted that only women could take her classes, died Sunday in Wachusett Manor nursing home in Gardner. She was 81 and her health had failed in the past few years, including recent paralysis due to a neurological condition Source

Read the comments on this post for a well-rounded view of Mary Daly.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


Claude Mariottini posts about womenpriests and links to a useful article on the topic. I am aware that there is more than one way to interpret the mosaic of Theodora Episcopa, but I agree with the overall intent of the article.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The long distance between pleasure and procreation

Claude Mariottini has a post which exemplifies the difficulty I was having as a woman in accepting the link between procreation and pleasure - in other words the necessity that the sex act is by nature unitive and procreative at the same time. Here is just enough to get you interested,
    Mrs. Bergmeier learned through a sympathetic commandant that her husband and family were trying to keep together and find her. But the rules allowed them to release her for only two reasons: (1) illness needing medical facilities beyond the camp's, in which case she would be sent to a Soviet hospital elsewhere, and (2) pregnancy, in which case she would be returned to Germany as a liability.

A propros

Joel is taking up the issue of suicide. There are some incredibly interesting posts around the blogosphere, with fascinating follow-up threads. Here is one from Dave Ker, with a good conversation to follow. Kirk Gayle contributes an article from the NY Times. This is a must read.
    For three days, according to participants and audio recordings, thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality. The visitors discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

    Now the three Americans are finding themselves on the defensive, saying they had no intention of helping stoke the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

Michael Patton of Parchment and Pen has also blogged on homosexuality.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Winter Vault

Winter Vault by Anne Michaels is a novel about place. The plot and characters are just interesting enough to carry the novel, but their connection to the land is predominant.

The novel begins with the relocation of the Abu Simel temple just before the flooding of the reservoir above the Aswan Dam. Villages, homes and people will also be relocated. The main characters recall a previous experience along the St Lawrence Seaway in Ontario.

The places in the novel - and the ethnicities - are familiar to me - the Holland Marsh, skating in the ravines of Toronto, experiencing the rebuilding of Warsaw through the memories of a Polish immigrant. Similar to Fugitive Pieces, this novel once again depicts the earth as a layered and three dimensional landscape, crevassed and excavated, open to the reader.

The novel calls you underground, and then we fnally realize that the "Winter Vault" is that Victorian ornate structure which stores the bodies in the cemetary for spring when they too can be buried underground.

The rivers, the streets, the plants, the winter vault itself, are all real parts of Toronto; and Egypt, the St. Lawrence, and Poland are all a part of the story of unbuilding and rebuilding, of reshaping land and water.

I sometimes find it hard to tell what makes a story interesting to me as a reader, but I think it is often not what the story brings to you, the reader, but what the reader brings to the book. Which is to say that I loved this book about Toronto but I am not sure that every reader would.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

For the record

John Loftus and many others have been blogging about Jim West shutting down his blog. Here is the comment I made on John's post,
    For the record I emailed Jim and asked him to remove one particular post from the internet. I did not expect an apology or response/retraction of any kind, but simply to have the damaging post removed so it couldn't be accessed by the family of the person in the story.

    The next thing I knew he had blocked access to his blog.

    I will miss those of his posts which really were funny, but many were not. I personally don't have a problem with making fun of either Christians, atheists or cat lovers. A certain amount of robust jousting over ideology doesn't bother me.

    I do have a problem with hounding fat people, homosexuals, etc. I also have a problem with those who say something about someone by name that is not true.

    The young man in the post that I asked Jim to pull, had committed suicide after the newspaper had published something about him that was not true. This is the problem - irresponsible publication of false information is not a joke. It can have consequences.

    It would be great to have the humour back without the cruelty.
Here is my original post on the topic in October. I have had differences with the bibliosphere for some time. I have wished for standards or expectations that would discourage bloggers from negative posting about racial groups, gender, homosexuals, or fat people.

It should also be expected that if someone posts something about someone that cannot be proven to be true, then there should be a retraction and apology, or at least the false information should be removed from the internet. In addition, ad hominem or personal attacks should not be acceptable.

On the other hand, I have no problem with strong words being exchanged with regard to a belief or ideology.

The simple fact is I find crticism of a racial group, calling homosexuals "sinners" and defending the view that women should be subordinated in the home, to be totally unacceptable. These are hateful things to do, and should not be tolerated. In addition, I think there should have been some expectation that biblioblogger events would not be the place to express the view that homosexuality is a sin, or that women should be subordinate. (They probably aren't but I would like to know that.)

Call me PC - I don't care. You can point out to me that some of these things are in the Bible, and I will only respond that slavery is also in the Bible.

I have closed comments on this blog post due to an anonymous commenter. Please email me if you wish to discuss it. I don't think that my request caused Jim to close his blog, but likely someone else commented as well. I really don't know what exactly influenced Jim.

I have since been reassured by many other blog posts that Jim will be back. Whew. Other posters are giving more credit to other reasons and I am good with that. My original request was to have one single post removed from access by google and I hope that eventually it will die out of google cache.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Robert George and the Manhattan Declaration

I wrote this a while ago, and honestly I was going to dump it, but now that his name has come up again -

Robert George, a Princeton professor and a Catholic, drafted the text of the Manhattan Declaration.
    We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
    1. the sanctity of human life
    2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
    3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty
Who knows what curiosity lead me to read a part of Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics by Patrick Lee and Robert George. I have been astounded to find out that the authors suggest in this book that there are four types of nonmarital sex acts: masturbation (solitary or mutual) sodomy, fornication, and adultery.

I have read just enough to understand that this means that an orgasm facilitated by oral or manual stimulation is on the same level as intercourse between persons of the same sex. Even within marriage, these kinds of acts should not be participated in, since they are depersonalizing, even if these acts were undertaken out of love. George argues that the participants do not experience pleasure "as a unit."

He elsewhere explains that only sex which is of the same type as procreative sex, is actually marital sex. The couple must experience pleasure "as a biological unit" that is having procreative type sex, in order for it to count as marital sex.

Since George firmly labels the procreative act "pleasure," I have reread a few paragraphs in a vain attempt to figure out whether George considers sex without simultaneous orgasm to be marital sex. In this case, only those children who were the product of a simultaneous orgasm would be considered to be the product of a marital union. I don't think he goes this far.

(It appears from the way George writes the book, that the male is assumed to be experiencing pleasure during sexual activity; the act itself is labeled "pleasure." But there is nothing which explicitly establishes the status of a sex act in which the female does not experience pleasure. There seems to be an unwritten assumption that it is "pleasure" as long as "semen is deposited in the vaginal tract" (this is how the two become "one flesh." ) This justifies the status of this act over and above one in which manual stimulation is involved. There is a complete lack of female perspective in this book, IMO. Sorry to be so graphic, folks, but there isn't an easy way to water this down.)

To tell the truth, I am having trouble believing that I actually read a part of this book, .... but I was curious about the Manhattan Declaration. When it talks about the "dignity of marriage and the conjugal union" George means "no homosexual activity" and "no masturbation," mutual or otherwise. And to think that churches are splitting over the former but not over the latter. Sheesh.

Note: I have since discovered that Robert George approves of oral stimulation as part of foreplay, but not as the culminating act itself. George also allows that intercourse with a woman over 50 is okay as long as it is of the type that imitates procreative sex. I am not sure who we are kidding here, Robert.

I also have to ask what George would say to two old folks fondling each other in bed but never getting to the point of "laying down semen in the vaginal track." Oops. I mean "tract." Oh bother - commenters, don't anyone please let me know your personal habits here. Please.