Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell: 8

Mike blogged about Robin Parry's book The Evangelical Universalist and mentioned a couple of his main points. However, I feel that a few more could be touched on. Parry makes several claims. One is that scripture passages disagree - we have scriptures on both sides of this debate. It is simply a matter of which verses one decides to give priority too. Parry argues that four key texts teach universal salvation.

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. Rom 5:18

For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 1 Cor. 15:22

and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Col. 1:20

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil. 2:11

Parry goes on to argue that these texts do not disagree with the teaching of the Bible on judgement and hell, if we understand that hell does not last for ever. Judgement is corrective and restorative, rather than eternal and destructive. Parry acknowledges that it is retributive, but comments that it is both retributive and restorative at the same time. One example of this would be in 1 Tim. 1,
Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and so have suffered shipwreck with regard to the faith. Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.
Justice is both being handed over to Satan and it is corrective. A similar but clearer statement is made in 1 Cor. 5:5,
hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

Second, Parry argues that God's justice must accord with our sense of justice. Here I divert from Parry and explain in my own words what I think he is saying.

We must think of God as a moral and ethical being. If we saw someone doing something that would lead to their death, we would forcibly prevent them from doing this action. We would forcibly prevent someone from committing suicide if we could. How much more then should God forcibly prevent us from doing something that would send us to an eternity of torment.

We would not stand by and watch our own children commit suicide and simply say that they had chosen it. If we cannot pattern our most loving and ethical relations after our sense of who God is, then of what value is our understanding of God.

So for Parry, universal salvation along with a consuming and corrective judgement for sin, best suits the scriptures and best meets what we understand the Bible to be telling us who God is.

The last point for Parry is that universal salvation best fits the metanarrative of the Bible. He sees the Bible as being composed of three central narratives. The first is the fall of humanity from immortality, the second is the exile of Israel, third is the death of Christ. Christ rises from the dead, Israel is restored o the land and humanity is saved from eternal death.

I would add to this that a strong argument for universal salvation is that in the Hebrew Bible there is no direct teaching of eternal conscious torment. If in fact, Old Testament sinners were punished with eternal conscious torment, it would have been without being warned of their fate. It appears that they were simply told that they would be destroyed.

So my question is whether Christ came to bring salvation to the few and eternal conscious torment to the many, or if he came in order that all may be saved.

I have a strong concern that this is a matter of exegetical stalemate, and I regret to see evangelicals presented with the notion that only one side of this debate is valid and tenable. I am personally agnostic on this issue, but I was impressed by the passages that Parry presented and the coherence of his argument.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell: 7

Although it seems that this topic will tear us apart, will cause one half of us to excommunicate the other half, it is not so. There is also a drawing together, a communal recognition of what it means to be human.

As humans, we do not know what happens after death, and as humans we have pity for those whose life on earth is utterly devoid of comfort. We are constrained on the one hand by our own ignorance, and and on the other hand by pity for those in misery, for victims of the tsunami, victims of poverty and disease.

Dave Ker writes,

Making confident assertions about the afterlife is the ignorant declaiming on the unknowable. We might hope things are a certain way, or fear they’re another but at the end of the day we stand on the wrong side of the wall trying to describe the scenery on the other side based on what we can see around us.

That’s why we need to think seldom, and speak even less, on the subject of hell. Or Sheol. Or Gehenna. Or Abraham’s bosom. Or Paradise. Or Makarios.

Later he paints this picture, evoking both our compassion and ignorance,

A woman sits on a filthy grass mat in a dark and smoky hut. She is wailing because her child has died. Ants swarm beneath the mat and she keeps brushing them off the rag that she has wrapped around her. The husband is gone. He comes back only often enough to take any money she might have earned and beat her. He infects her with AIDS during the visit. Soon she will die too. Her body will probably be wrapped in that same tattered and filthy mat and carried to the burial grounds. From the time she was a child to her death in misery she has carried wood, carried water, squatted by a stinking fire, been sexually assaulted as a child, never touched a pillow, or a bar of scented soap. She’s haunted by fears of the night. Or witchdoctors. Of evil spirits. Of curses and wild animals. My question is this: could hell be worse? When she died and found herself in a place of torment would it be that much different from her short life of misery? She has not called on the name of the Lord. She has not said the sinner’s prayer. She has not believed on the one whom she has not heard. She’s doomed. And she is not alone. This planet groans with billions like her.

Bob writes,
I do think there is everlasting fire. The hope is a marvel. But the fire is one as God is one. There is not a fire of wrath in hot red darkness and a second fire of love too bright to look upon, but a single consuming fire and non-consuming fire that is one love. How that love works out in our lives is a complex and inexplicable thing that perhaps can only be known, like the white stone, by the one to whom it is given. This is a gift of a name worth having.

So we should preach heaven and hell but not in a trivial linear
fashion. There is a place where they meet - in the death of Jesus. The fire is a consuming fire and also a fire of recreation too bright to see at once but inviting a face to face engagement. A human's mind should be better than 'its own place that makes a hell of heaven and a heaven of hell'. A single self presented as a living offering will find it becomes proven, informed, inflamed,
by the prayer of the Spirit who gives life to a mortal body. This is prayer worth being known in.

Kurk and Rod blog about the famous sermon by Jonathon Edwards, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" --

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell: 6

There have been a series of posts on Rob Bell on Denny's blog, on Jesus Creed and on many other blogs. I have also read with fascination Tim Keller's views on hell. And Kurk responds here.

But I want to add that in a coercive church atmosphere, the men suffer much more than the women, concerning beliefs and doctrines. A woman is silent, and sheltered in many ways. If her husband allows her to be queen to his king, in the home, then she is safe. But the husband has to have a doctrinal position in the church. He is subject to spiritual abuse. I have to admit that I find hell an equal opportunity weapon, and men suffer from it just the same as women. But the exegesis is different. I know how exegesis sends women to hell. I know how exegetes send women to hell. I am not so sure about the men.

It has been fascinating to watch how grown men, who should have other things to do on a Saturday night, stick handle women into hell, with a few clever passes. But some of us got the slap shot. Then there some players who were caught for high sticking. And the pious referees, were happy to hand out penalties but they never ever took a puck and said to that puck, you are a human also, you deserve to be a player.

But it seem to me that it is by a different and more varied process, that many men are also stick handled into hell. They don't play by the rules, that's it. Woe to them also. They start out as potential players, which women never are, they are the pucks. But the men, they start out as players, and them some of them find they can't stomach the rules, and they are demoted.

So, I won't claim that women are unique in their suffering.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell: 5

I used to hear when I was young that it couldn't hurt to preach hell. This is how it went. You tell someone that the consequence of doing something wrong, is spending eternity in hell. You tell people that if they accept Christ as Saviour and believe the Bible is the word of God, they will not go to hell. So now, how can that hurt. You have won someone to Christ and it doesn't really matter if hell exists or not. They are better off as a Christian in this life anyway.

So that was the theory. But I don't actually know anyone other than us kids, that is I don't know any adults, who became Christians because they were afraid of hell.

But I do know that hell had an enormous effect on my life nonetheless. And here is how. I remember being told on more than one occasion, "If you don't believe that a wife has to obey her husband, then you don't believe in the Bible, and you will go to hell."

On the one hand, I had a normal brain, and should have been able to shrug this one off. On the other hand, the belief in hell is very powerful, ingrained into us as young children, it is a significant weapon of coercion. We can see already by the comments that the concept of hell has an enormous hold over people.

And for me, the fear of hell, had a power for wrong in my life. So finally, I just decided that I had to be strong enough to brave hell. I had to stand up to hell and face it, and deny the coercion of hell. Hell, get thee behind me, and all that.

Suppose that someone is told they must do something or they will go to hell, and that something that they feel they must do destroys all chances of them having a normal healthy life on earth. Then suppose there is no hell. They have been cheated out of a normal life and have gained absolutely nothing.

On the other hand, there are many priests and pastors, going happily to heaven, who are pedophiles and rapists. So why would anyone else want to be in heaven anyway? We have enough of that here.

But you say, a univeralist believes that rapists and pedophiles will be in heaven anyway. Well, to tell you the truth, I don't know how heaven will be organized. I do know that even if there were a hell, it is not my business to decide who goes there. Or who goes to heaven. But judging from the thoelogians I know, I really don't want a part of their heaven.

So, simply put, there is very little that I have been told about heaven or hell, that makes any kind of sense to me. I am happy not to have a doctrinal position on this, as long as nobody is coerced into doing something inherently unhealthy out of fear of hell.

My only point is that I suspect very much that there is an exegetical stalemate about whether hell is a real place or a metaphorical state. That would be my best guess, and if that is true then a wide range of beliefs on hell should be welcome within evangelicalism.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell: 4

In the tail of the comet of blogposts on Rob Bell, Mike has recommended what he considers to be a better read. I can't be the judge of that, but this one is available to me in the local library. The Evangelical Universalist was written by Robin Parry, but he published it under the name of Gregory Macdonald.

The issue at stake is not actually whether universalism rather than traditional theology is true, but rather, whether universalism can be brought under the umbrella of evangelicalism. Can this be treated as an intramural debate or not?

I contend that it can. At first, I had some doubts, but I am convinced that there is an exegetical case to be made for universalism. It can be derived from the text. For starters, the Hebrew Bible lends itself to the interpretation that there is no afterlife. The Christian scriptures introduce the notion of the resurrection, although this was already present in writings from the preceding two or three centuries. The question, then, is whether Christ not only offers eternal life for his own, but if he also threatens hell, a fate which was unknown in the Hebrew Bible, for those who reject him, or who have never heard of him.

I am sure that we could argue this forever, and it is not something that I expect to resolve. However, I would like to share with you this quote by Robin Parry, page 35,
If a traditional interpretation of a passage and a universalist one reach hermeneutical stalemate, then reason would lead us to prefer the universalist interpretation.
I could also offer this parallel statement,
If a traditional intepretation of a passage and an abilitionist one reach hermeneutical stalemant, then pity would compel us to prefer the abolitionist one.
But I can hear you answer back, not at all. In the case of the abolition of slavery, we live with the results. However, in the case of universalism, we don't know if we are condemning some to hell because we have failed to preach hell.

On the other hand, I argue back, the threat of hell keeps many people in painful and unhappy circemstance that they might otherwise escape. Whether hell exists or not, the threat of hell can cause a lot of suffering in this life.

I was raised to believe that the unversalist was the same as an atheist, but I argue now that it is not.

Monday, March 14, 2011

around the bibliosphere on women

There have been quite a few posts on women in ministry lately. Michael Kruse offers this great video on Junia.

Out of Ur had a series recently and Daniel Kirk blogged about it here. Joel wrote about women and the scriptures and Kurk picked that up and expanded on it - but I can't find that post. Kurk is back to prolific blogging. I need to head off and read his latest.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell: 3

There have been some great contributions to this discussion - my thanks to commenters, etc. Here goes. Bob McDonald has blogged on Psalm 21. This passage provides a counterpoint to my blogging about the watery "deeps,"
When you appear for battle,
you will burn them up as in a blazing furnace.
The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
and his fire will consume them.
Read Bob's translation and post on this passage here. To me, it appears that both floodwaters and fire are metaphors for destruction, in the same way that living water and flames of fire are metaphors for life.

Kurk comments,
For a (Jewish) translator of the Greek New Testament such as Willis Barnstone, the changes in meaning are significant. Barnstone, for example, translates Matthew 16:18 as follows:

And I tell you that you are Kefa the rock
And upon this rock I will build my church,*
And the gates of Gei Hinnom will not overpower it.

*Here's Barnstone's footnote:

The Greek words ἐκκλησία (ekklesia) and συναγωγή (synagogue) mean an “assembly,” “gathering,” or “congregation,” and both words can refer to “synagogue.” However, ekklesia (except in the Septuagint Greek version of the Hebrew Bible) is normally translated church, while synagogue is the common word for “synagogue.” Here, in Yeshua’s prophecy, the intentional futurity of “I will build my church” is contrasted with the old Jewish tradition represented by Gei Hinnom, [in this context] the Hebrew word for “hell.” Yeshua’s dramatic message is that he will build on a rock the new church that will overcome the old synagogue, and that Christian heaven will overcome Jewish hell. In his lifetime there was no Christian church, and Yeshua preached in the synagogues. For the observant Jew to say that he would “build a church” is an anachronism, revealing not his voice but that of churchmen many decades later when a Christian church as a building and institution did exist. The superimposition of later terminology, theology, and history on the figures of Yeshua and his followers remains the essential dilemma of the New Testament.
Mike makes an excellent recommendation of the book The Evangelical Universalist. I have been reading through The History of Hell on google books. The section on univeralism starts around page 233. Eric recommended The Formation of Hell: Death and Retribution in the Ancient and Early Christian Worlds, by Alan E. Bernstein. There is a video from Out of Ur, and a very meticulous series by Randy Olds on Hell.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell: 2

I can tell already that this could be my longest blog series ever, and one I may never get to the bottom of. I invite other bloggers to enter into the spirit of this series. I want to supplement the theological discussion of heaven and hell with some old fashioned references to the text, word studies, one might say, but organized loosely around the theme of death in the Hebrew Bible.

I hope that anyone who is interested would join in. This is not a doctrinal study and if we don't come up with a payoff or a doctrinal product at the end of this, I can live with that. But I have noticed that Peter and Kurk are back blogging, so I hope they will join in, and put their formidable language skills to work on this.

I have become convinced reading through the Psalms and other passages in the last few days, that the afterlife was far from fiery for the ancient Hebrews, but was rather dark and watery. While "springs" of water are life-giving, the "depths" are death and destruction.


Deliver me out of the mire,
and let me not sink;
let me be delivered from them that hate me,
and out of the deep waters.

Let not the waterflood overwhelm me,
neither let the deep swallow me up;
and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.
Psalm 69:15-16

For Thou didst cast me into the depth,
in the heart of the seas,
and the flood was round about me;
all Thy waves and Thy billows passed over me.
Jonah 2:3


Thou hast laid me in the nethermost pit,
in dark places, in the deeps
Psalm 88:6

He will again have compassion upon us;
He will subdue our iniquities;
and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.
Micah 7:19

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blogging heaven and hell

I can think of no better topic than the one that is on the tip of everyone's fingers. Is there a hell, a place of eternal, conscious torment? Or can we say with Rob Bell that "Love Wins?" And I am not suggesting that there are not a dozen ways to nuance the question. Probably the best place to follow the standard evangelical response is on Justin Tayor's blog.

I don't imagine entertaining the debate here, but I was curious about the biblical basis for the belief in a traditional hell. Three posts on Mike's blog seem like as good a place as any to look for heaven and hell in the Hebrew Bible. I hope to look at the Septuagint and Christian scriptures later.

Mike introduces the topic here, and discusses first the possibility of an eternal paradise for the righteous, and a fiery afterlife for the wicked. I found Mike's posts very informative overall and I would like to return to them. But for now I wanted to see if there was only a fiery hell or also a watery hell. Here are his thoughts on hellfire in the Hebrew Bible,
What about the element of fiery punishment? Well, if the above holds true, that wouldn’t be viewed as any sort of reward. There is also fire in Sheol according to Prov. 30:16. Job 31:12 *may* suggest there is fire in Sheol (cf. Abaddon in Job 26:6). (See also Psalm 140:8-10). Granted, we do not have descriptions of sinners being burned in torment, but the essential elements are there. I think it is fair to say that the kernel elements of the fiery hell of the NT and Second Temple Judaism are present in the OT.
I started this post before the tsunami, but I was already thinking of the waters of death. Water, just as much as fire, is hell on earth. If some verses suggest a fiery afterlife, then others refer to a wave or flood.
For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the Pit;
I am like those who have no help,
like those forsaken among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the Pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves.

Your wrath has swept over me;
your dread assaults destroy me.
They surround me like a flood all day long;
from all sides they close in on me.
Psalm 88

Therefore snares are around you,
and sudden terror overwhelms you,
or darkness so that you cannot see;
a flood of water covers you.
Job 22

Those who were my enemies without cause
have hunted me like a bird;
they flung me alive into a pit
and hurled stones on me;
water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’
Lamentation 3

Why worry about "hell" when death is with us, death brought by water and flood, as well as by fire.

No women Bible scholars?

Apparently, according to the ESV Study Bible, there are no women qualified to write commentary on the Bible. This came up in a comment on my post a couple of days ago. Marg has taken up this point in her own post. I also found her story of moving towards biblical equality to be very compelling - and amusing. Thank you, Marg.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

International Women's Day

In keeping with today, I offer the amazing journey of Seminary Mom, a long list of links from Cheese Wearing Theology, the very popular Rachel Held Evans, a new blog Women in Theology, an old friend Jane Stranz, the well-known make feminist Hugo Schwyzer, and the eclectic Political Jesus.

From Kurk Gayle, "some history out of Toronto, Montreal, and back to Vancouver."

And I have also read about Sisters in Service on Kassian's blog.

The biggest question on my mind in regard to women in the world today, is whether the subordination of women in a particular Christian sub-culture in the west, has a negative spin-off effect for women in other countries. Or is it possible that feminism has an equally negative effect? If declaring that women should have equal participation in decision-making is not a positive thing for women, why is it an integral part of World Vision's policy?

So this is what I am wondering. Does it matter on a global scale whether or not Christians in North America consider women as equal participants in decision-making?

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Eugene Peterson on women preaching

TC has posted a rather nice quote from Eugene Peterson, on his mother's preaching style.
Then she would preach. She was a wonderful storyteller, telling stories out of scripture and out of life. She elaborated and embellished the stories. Later in life when I was reading the Bible for myself, I was frequently surprised by glaring omissions in the text. The Holy Spirit left out some of the best parts. Occasionally she would slip into an incantatory style that I have heard since only in African American churches, catching a phrase at its crest, riding it like a surfer gathering momentum, and the receding into a quiet hush. The Pastor: A Memoir, p. 29
I remember listening to an audio file of a Regent forum with Peterson, Fee, Waltke, and Packer on women in ministry some time ago, but I don't think it is available now. However, I have found an interview of Sandra Glahn with Peterson which suggests that his mother did go back to preaching after being silenced by a man citing 1 Tim 2:12 to her.
I grew up in the Pentecostal church where [women preaching] was not unusual. It was pretty common. But my mother struggled with it from time to time because sometimes somebody would come through and read her the verses from Corinthians or Timothy. At one point she quit preaching and teaching because somebody had done this to her. But then she just couldn’t quit. And she told me once, “I don’t feel disobedient when I’m doing this. I don’t feel like I’m grieving the Spirit. It’s when I’m quiet and silent and shut up that I feel like that.” So I don’t know. I have colleagues who are world-class exegetes. Some affirm equality of women in ministry and others don’t. They’re all master exegetes; they’re all working with the same text. So I have a lot of respect for these people in their attempt, their determination, to honor the Word. I can certainly respect them. For some, at least the ones I know, it comes out of no sense of male chauvinism or superiority or ego, but an honest attempt to honor the Word of God. I know not everybody comes out of this, but some do and I honor that. Yet my personal experience is so different, and the shaping of my life has been so different. I could read these verses I think just as accurately exegetically. So I guess it’s one of the things we’re involved with in [this] century that’s different.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Blogs I enjoy

I was unaware that there was a top ten list of biblioblogs by vote, but when I saw the list, I had to agree that among them were blogs that I read regularly. There is a somewhat artificial bounaary around what is a biblioblog and what isn't and some of the most popular blogs don't show on this list. For example, Jesus Creed, is a major force in the blogworld, and probably just taken for granted. I do read it but I prefer James McGrath's blog, which is very open to a wide variety of Christian experience. And lately I have been reading Rachel Held Evans. These are all blogs with a wide appeal. I hope you find something to enjoy. Daniel Kirk has a good post on the women in ministry topic, with a thoughtful thread.

I have taken up a new topic in my reading, on tenderness, more about how I got to that later. But a quote for the day is the following,
Tenderness, far from being a sign of weakness, is a touchstone of transformation and the gateway to it. Toughness, on the other hand, is a symptom of stagnation, of having to pay more and more to stay the same.
Harold C. Lyon.

There may be just as much to disagree with as to agree with in this short citation, but at least it is taking me into a conversation I want to have. I would argue that we all need both toughness and tenderness, but one without the other is not worth having.

Friday, March 04, 2011

An alternate view of complementarity

"A closely related framework that provides a guide for the effective use of tenderness is the principle of complementarity embodied in the concepts of yin and yang. Yang, with its aggressive, controlling character, or yin with its soft, yielding character may appear in either analyst or analysand. When the analyst comes to recognize the analysand in a state of yang, the analyst's unexpected move into yin may destabilize the analysand and overcome resistance.

This principle of complementarity allows the analyst to avoid the trap of over-reaction or counter-reaction and to retain or restore a balance within. An analysand whose energy has been expended in yang may be drawn easily into yin by the softness or gentleness of the analyst. ... At that moment, the analyst follows through with the focus and concentration of the hard interpretation that represents the return to yang for the acquisition of insight and consolidation of new learning.

In the ongoing, dynamic process of analysis, the analyst's deepest aim is to restore the patient's flow, complementarity, and harmony. In time this allows the analysand to regain contact with the central self, to heal the split between hard and soft, and become a resilient adult, grounded and living in the present. For those whose life experiences have created hard, tough exteriors, it is the analyst's tenderness that allows the experience of softness to re-emerge and fosters the integration of the elements."

Taboo or not Taboo

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

scattered thoughts

Here is a response to the concerted effort on the part of some to get me to understand that complementarianism should be tolerated. Yes, I want to play in the treehouse, ... and then sometimes I forget that there is a treehouse.

Rod writes an exemplary post on Rob Bell and weaves it into other issues. I appreciate the depth of this post.

And back to something that came up on Mike's blog. Are women just whiners? Clearly I think not, and resent women being called that. On the other hand, to be perfectly honest, I do not feel that I am worse off than all the men in the blogosphere. Not at all. I am only worse off in one characteristic, which unfortunately had some serious consequences.

But in other ways, I live a life of privilege. I have a job, and I received a decent education. I was raised in a stable and happy family. These are huge advantages. I am grateful for these things, and my spare time, my extracurricular effort in life, goes not to biblical studies, but to staying in school after the bell and being available to tutor those who come for extra help in reading. That is my delight, my gift back to others.

This blog, on the other hand, is a place to come when my therapy piggy bank is empty and I need to rant.

Formal Rebuttal on women in ministry

Addendum; I just received an email response from John Hobbins that he will not link to my rebuttal - even though he said that he would - because he claims that I have not discussed "whether women are to be ordained to the offices of elder/priest and bishop." Thank goodness this was a good story anyway.

Here is my rebuttal to the following statement,
McCarthy has manufactured a strawman. Not only Heiser, but the “many churches today” of which Suzanne speaks do not argue along the lines she proposes. Rather, the argument is that it is better to err on the side of sticking to the practice of the early church on a number of questions of church order (for “Bible-only” churches, on the basis of the NT witness; for tradition-minded churches, based on the normative teaching and practice of the first four or five centuries of the life of the Church). Said churches motivate their position with care and acumen, as anyone familiar with the debate knows.
Do the churches that I have had contact with hold the belief that it is better to err on the side of sticking to the practice of the early church? And do they motivate their positions with care and acumen?

Let me respond. In the last century, Northern British Columbia was the last frontier of the British Empire. It collected an amazing group of women who left their homes in England or eastern Canada and rode horseback summer and winter through mountain passes. The next wave of women trained in jeep maintenance and drove the gravel roads through bush and swamp.

These women were trained as deaconesses, and licensed as lay readers. They taught and preached, they blessed the sacraments, they took funerals, they planned organized series of doctrinal sermons, and planted churches throughout the north of this province. These were Anglican women.

One of these women, Monica Storrs, also called God's Galloping Girl, took on the Canadian government in 1939 to protest that we did not shelter more Jews leaving Germany.

While the country was still a frontier, women were welcome as leaders and temporary incumbents. When the churches were more established and could afford a regular minister, the women were replaced by men. One of the farmers from Storrs' church, left when she was replaced and never went back. It was about 35 years later that women were finally ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada.

But now in Vancouver today, in the church where Jim Packer and David Short teach, women are not welcome as ordained ministers. These men associate with John Piper and Bruce Ware. Somehow, the thought of either of these two men on horseback makes me chuckle. And not only horseback through the mountains, but on your back under a jeep. Anyway, Piper says that men may not diddle in the garage, so we know why women had to do it.

Yup. I am ashamed at the stance of any Canadian Anglican church which does not support the ordination of women. And, no I don't think that the Anglican church which I attended handled this issue with care and acumen. I don't know how much to say on this score. I think the conservative leadership were somewhat deceitful on this issue. They did not articulate their position on the ordination of women in public. It has all come out in a roundabout way.

It is not an issue of maintaining a traditional stance, but it is a matter of an Englishman, an Australian and an American all united in trying to stuff Canadian women back in the box, after they have been out of it since the middle of the 19th century, when intrepid British women with nothing better to do, came to the last frontier and traveled through the north to succour isolated farmers and trappers.

Note: These women may have all been oddities and eccentrics, but their ministrations were much appreciated at the time, and they did not lack initiative and assertiveness, analytical skills or hard headed decision making ability. They give the lie to complementarianism every which way.

Top ten biblioblogs by vote

I decided some time ago to completely ignore the list of top 50 biblioblogs. I was just being a pain about it, and I didn't want to foist my irritation on others ad infinitum. So imagine my astonishment on finding out that somebody, or a collection of somebody's, has voted this blog among the top ten biblioblogs. Shoot, now I am going to have to improve my manners and act like one of the gang. No more crankypants!

In a timely fashion, longtime blogfriend, Dan Brennan has emailed me about this post on cross gender friendship. What a bouquet of roses it is tonight.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Invitation to Mike Heiser and John Hobbins

Mike Heiser and I have been carrying on a friendly email conversation, and I have no intention of having anything more than a lively exchange with him online. John Hobbins expresses his opinion of me and this is my response to him and Mike.

A topic has come up which is of intense intellectual interest to me. In spite of what had been said, I am going to ask them both to extend the following discussion.

For background, John and Mike believe that kephale in 1 Cor. 11:3 expresses a relation of hierarchy. I do not, simply because I believe that the submission of Christ to God was for the purpose of Christ taking on human mortality (Phil 2:8), and I do not think that this sentiment finds a parallel in male/female relations. I do not think that man sends woman to die on the cross in an ethical religion.

I believe that kephale refers to sharing sameness of nature with another entity - that as God shares his divine nature with Christ, so man shares his human nature with woman, and Christ shares his new nature with man.

Another way of expressing relations in the godhead, is that God the son is to God the father, as light is to the sun. But once again, woman does not proceed from man, as the son proceeds from the father - the parallel does not hold.

However, Mike introduces the binitarian view of the godhead in the Old Testament and appears to relate it to 1 Cor. 11:3. Mike writes,
In my dissertation, I argued that there was a godhead in Israelite religion. The Old testament is the place from which the later (orthodox until the second century AD) Jewish doctrine of two powers in heaven springs. The binitarian godhead figure in the Old Testament was clearly subordinate to the invisible Yahweh (the “Father” in NT parlance).
Now, I have no argument with this. But Mike continues,
I don’t expect you to follow this; it is merely to say that I think of the whole godhead issue in a way different from any standard articulatuon. I think of it in Old Testament terms. As a result, I do think the Son was subordinate, because the second power motifs of the Old Testament are deliberately applied to him.
I studied this issue for several years, and interacted with quite a few scholars in trying to relate the binitarian view of the Hebrew godhead to 1 Cor 11:3, but without success. I invite John Hobbins and Mike Heiser to provide me with a bibliography and links to elaborate on this discussion.

One further point - Mike Heiser does not expect me to "follow' this discussion. But the facts are as follows. I read Boyarin's paper several years ago, and since then I have read the relevant passages in Plato and Philo, as well as the book of Wisdom and the Sefer Yetsirah, all in the original languages. I spent considerable time researching this topic, so I am genuinely interested in his response. I read through the Psalms in Hebrew and through the neoplatonic philosophers, all in the interests of relating the logos to later views on the power of the alphabet.

There is no topic which is closer to my heart. I await Mike's response on how 1 Cor. 11:3 can be interpreted in the light of Boyarin's binitarian theology.