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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]

No, John 14:2 is not one of those “I am in you, you are in me” or “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” verses, but it did make me think of it.It’s easy to see these phrases (John 10:38, John 14:10-11, 1st John 2:24, John 6:56, John 14:20, John 15:2, John 15:4-7, John 16:33, John 17;21) and sorta just take it as saying that some “relationship” is involved. Of course, many Christians try to turn some of them into a Trinitarian message, but that would imply that all believers were of the same substance as God, so we’ll leave that to the side.But it came to me that perhaps there is a finer point to be made here. After all, it is one thing to say “Jesus is in me,” but what does it me to say that “I am in Christ”? What does that mean, really?This brings me to John 14:2. What does it mean when Jesus says there are many abodes in His Father’s house?The word “abodes” is itself a theologically interesting term to look into (the translation “mansion” is rather bizarre), but what does Jesus mean when He says “Father’s house.”?I think we generally think of “heaven,” but if that is what Jesus meant, He could have just said “heaven.” The interesting thing here is the Jewish conception of “house” is different from what we think of. The focus there is on the people inside. So when we say “The house of Jacob,” we don’t mean a structure, but a people.So, the “Father’s House” in that sense would referring to “God’s people.” This gives an “adoptionist” metaphor that I will not go into.

But the term “Father’s house” also refers to the temple. For example John 2:16 and other discussions of the temple cleansing [and perhaps is what is meant in Luke 2:49, but that is certainly not clear.] In the OT we see several examples of God calling the temple “My house:” 1st Chronicles 28:6, Isaiah 56:7, and later when abominations are described.

Thus the notion of “house” can have an external, umbrella-type meaning of “Everyone under God’s banner,” or an internal meaning of “The temple where God resides among God’s people.”In that latter sense, Jesus is referring to entering the temple [much as described in the theology of Hebrews]. Indeed, the theology of Hebrews helps us understand what “prepare a place for you” means. It appears Jesus is referring to the cleansing of the temple(s) of our souls so that we can receive His Spirit…but receiving His Spirit is what brings us into the New Covenant (and hence makes us a member of the Father’s House in the other sense of the term.) Note that the word for “abode” in John 14:2 is the same as the word in John 14:23I just found it striking how both uses (interior and exterior) of the term “House” can be combined in a single statement…without apparently anyone realizing it.I actually see an interesting allegory here between:Exodus -> Sinai -> Davidic KingdomPassover -> Shavuot -> Building of TempleCrucifixion -> Pentecost -> 2nd coming of ChristThe first of all 3 of these refer to a freedom [Freedom from Egyptian rule, Freedom of bondage to Sin], the second regards the beginning of the covenant and its requirements [Command to keep the Mosaic Law, Command to keep the Spirit’s Law]. In between the second and the third we have the “temple” being a temporary tabernacle (that “abodes” in John 14:2 and John 14:23] where God resided (as our current bodies are), and in the last we have a kingdom purged of ungodliness where God’s Temple can be moored.

Note that the Crucifixion occurred on Passover and Pentecost is the same day as Shavuot.

So, not exactly likely to still the tongues of naysayers, but still something you might be interested in:

Scientists find shark that has no father.

Recently a post at Between Two Worlds discussed a letter written by Dan Wallace describing the angst he feels over maintaining the hard gender roles described by Paul, in particular in 1st Timothy 2:11-15. He writes I may not be comfortable with my complementarian position, but I am unwilling to twist scripture into something that it does not say. He then describes And my conscience tells me that after all the exegetical dust has settled, to deny some sort of normative principle to 1 Tim 2:12 is probably a misunderstanding of this text. Unfortunately, Wallace falls into the same practice that many pastors do when delivering a sermon. The letter says what he believes and why without giving any indication as to what might be said for the other side. It is this kind of “This is what the Bible says, and if you don’t like it, you’re a liberal” mentality that I cannot stand in the modern church.The above may sound like I’m demonizing Wallace. I’m not. He sounds genuinely apologetic regarding his beliefs, and I completely affirm those who defend unpopular positions based on Biblical principles. My belief here is that he, like many others on this and other views, has allowed the beliefs of those Christian thinkers who came before us to unduly marginalize the importance of a raft of Scripture arguing against the conservative viewpoint.Most of the time when people try to defend women in positions of authority they appeal to anthrocentric or sociologic reasons. They wonder why we restrict women who are willing to do good. They wonder why we allow the church to implicitly support gender inequality elsewhere. I do not find these arguments personally compelling, as they attempt to interpret and judge biblical principles through human ones.Others make deductions based on passages like Galatians 3:28. While these can add support to an argument, they are so broad that we wonder what other principles we could deduce.Paul’s verses are very specific [actually, not as specific as might be thought, but we will get to that later], and this is why they are exalted so highly in the debate. But are there other passages of specificity that argue against the notion that women should be so barred?Yes. Yes there are.

First, there is the important case of Deborah, the 4th Judge of Israel.

The fact that Deborah was raised up by God[Judges 2:16], spoken to by God[Judges 4:6], led Israel [Judges 4:4], did so ably, and was venerated for doing so [Judges 5:7] is an insurmountable, thoroughly biblical objection to the absolute exclusion of women in positions of authority.How does the complementarian respond to Deborah? Does he [or she] lament “Oh, what great sadness that God did not have Paul to warn The Almighty against calling a woman to rule. If only God had waited so that Paul could disclose this wisdom, the Lord would not have done something so embarrassing”?

No. Instead, amazingly, Wallace claims that Deborah’s presence actually supports his view! He (and others, such as Piper (I am told)) say that it was shaming to Israel that it had to have a woman rule them. Nevermind that such poppycock is never stated in the Bible. Nevermind that Israel got into trouble when they didn’t follow the Judge raised up [Judges 2:17]. Nevermind that it is God who chose the Judge. It wasn’t an election. There were not nominees.

The discussion between Deborah and Jael indicates that Jael was unfaithful (for it should have been enough to have been told God would deliver the enemy to him), but that hardly says anything about God’s decision to have a woman rule over Israel.

If you brought Deborah up to a random evangelical, my guess is that the best response he or she could give is “Oh, but that was the Old Testament.” So, are we to believe that New Testament Christianity [where there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave or free, man or woman, etc.] is somehow more restrictive than the God of the Old Testament?

But there is plenty of New Testament passages regarding women…many written by Paul himself. In Acts 18:26 we read of Priscilla and her husband Aquilla both teaching a man who was already teaching others. This same Priscilla was very dear to Paul. He called her a “co-worker” in Romans 16;3, and he references their church in 1st Corinthians 16:19 and 2nd Timothy 4:19.Priscilla is not the only woman teaching the Gospel to others. Paul refers to 2 more in Philippians 4:2, and the “book” of Philemon is actually written to 3 people who run a house church, one of whom is a woman. Nympha also had a church in her house [Colossians 4:15], to whom Paul wrote.

Finally, in a disputed passage (Romans 16:7), Paul appears to refer to a woman, Junia, as an apostle! [Many Bibles read “Junias” here, claiming that it is actually a male’s name. There are many problems with that view, not the least of which being that no one anywhere has been able to find a single example of “Junias” ever being used as a name in any Greek or Latin writings.

What is interesting about this last bit is not so much that Paul called a woman an apostle [it is possible that Paul just meant that she had a good reputation among the apostles, but my guess is that the first Bible you pick up will say that “Junia(s)” actually was an apostle.]

The interesting thing is how much of a historical coverup has ensued trying to turn Junia into a man.But getting back to the point regarding women. Not only did they teach and preach, but they also prophesied [Acts 21:9], and were deaconesses/ministers of churches [Romans 16:1.] (Note, this word can be translated as merely “servant,” but strangely enough the ONLY time the word is translated as servant when discussing someone in church is when a female is mentioned. The other 23 times, it is translated “minister” or “deacon.” Greek has a perfectly good word for “servant,” used over 100 times in the New Testament.)One has to wonder why Paul is commending and greeting all these teachers and deaconesses and why the prophetesses were not rebuked. One also has to wonder, while we’re at it, how Paul can say women should only “pray” and “prophesy” (which can also mean “teach”) with head coverings [1st Corinthians 11:3] if they are not supposed to speak at all!!! [1st Corinthians 14:35]Keep in mind a couple other things about the early church.

  • Prophets were not mere seers. They also taught and preached about God, as well as selected officers in churches.
  • In the earliest churches, the “teaching” was, in fact, evangelism. The idea of a “message” to those who already believed did not come about until later.

So, all the descriptors of women as evangelists and prophets also made them teachers as well.So, what are we to make of all this? What is the real story here? It would be an incredible task to convince yourself that God appointed Deborah in a moment of insanity and multitude of women Paul mentions all somehow avoided having any authority or teaching while being ‘co-workers’ and “sharing [his] struggle,”…and somehow the women “prophesy” and “pray” without speaking, etc.Instead, I give some alternatives:i) The Greek word for woman is the same as the word for wife. Given the wording in 1st Timothy 2:12 and 1st Corinthians 14:35, Paul might be more concerned with women not submitting to their husbands. The poor widow would have little recourse based on the “woman” reading as she has no husband to enlighten her. Perhaps Paul does not want a wife teaching her husband.Note, just as the word for wife is the same as the word for woman. The word for man is the same as the word for husband, so “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” would have the same Greek as “I do not allow a wife to teach or exercise authority over a husband. You might say “hey, but wouldn’t you say “her husband,” instead of “a husband.” In English you would, but in Greek you never say the “a” and the “her” can be implied. In fact, that is exactly what happens in Ephesians 5:33. There is no “her” in front of the “husband” there. Same thing in Romans 7:2, 7:3, 1st Cor1nthians 7:3, 7:10, 7:11, 7:34. In fact a quick look only shows one place where Paul actually put the possessive there.]Also note that Paul uses the singular. He says for a woman/wife not to have authority or teach a man/husband. Of course the situation where a woman is actually preaching in church is one where a woman is preaching “men.”This explanation (possibly mixed with iii below) is the best way of making Paul not look like a moron. If the point is that a wife should not have authority over her husband, then all the cases where Paul personally greeted women who taught [as prophets and evangelists and perhaps apostles] and where Priscilla taught Apollo would all dissolve. This solution also lets God off the hook for allowing a woman to lead Israel.ii) Paul could be more concerned with married women not fulfilling their roles as women. This would make sense in the context of Paul’s teaching in 1st Corinthians 7:34. This would not really get around Priscilla, though.

iii) I do not like to bring it up, but it should be pointed out that 90% of critical scholars believe 1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy, and Titus were not written by Paul [or so says the late Fr. Raymond Brown, who was a member of the Vatican’s Roman Pontifical Biblical commission and was considered by many to be not only the the premier Catholic scholar of North America but the most important theologian [of the Catholic church] to ever arise in America. The 4 “pastoral” epistles are the only Pauline works missing from the earliest known suggested Canon [Marcion’s. While Marcion’s views are very far removed from the views of the church expressed just a century later, Marcion absolutely loved Paul, so the absence of the pastorals strongly suggest they either were not known, or were known to be pseudonymous at the time.]

This would not get around the 1st Corinthains verses [some say they were inserted later.] I know of no one of note who doubts the Pauline authorship of 1st Corinthians.iv) Paul could be simply be wrong. He appears to have been wrong about suggesting people not marry because “the time has been shortened” [1st Corinthians 7:29]. Paul appears to have been wrong about the innocence of eating food sacrificed to idols [1st Corinthians 8:4-8, 1st Corinthians 10: 19-28], that is to say if Jesus is any judge on the matter [Revelation 2:14, Reveation 2:20]. However, this would not explain why he would refer to women praying and prophesying in church in one breath while in the other he says they should not speak at all.What’s your theory?

[Incidentally, why are there so many churches who are willing to have Paul tell them not to let women speak…but yet those same churches (in general) do not require their women to wear head coverings? The message about head coverings is even more clear than the message of 1st Timothy 2:12, and none of the scripture I mention here really contravene it?]

I recently read Four Views: The Nature of Atonement, which describe four rather farflung theories of the Atonement.

I thought the responses of each author to the others’ views were generally helpful in showing how unclear the Bible is regarding how atonement works. On the other hand, I would have liked to see more than just “objective” version of the atonement.

Jason at Glower Street discusses Mark Driscoll’s comments regarding his concerns for the near future of Christianity. In those comments Mark sees a prevalence of focusing on a meek, “cultural” Jesus. He brings up pictures of a formidable Christ “In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”In an effort to defend some fragment of the idea behind Mark’s comments, I pointed out the importance of not portraying a version of Christ that did not paint Him as unique. The danger being that a Church can easily fall in love with an incomplete [or simply incorrect] portrayal of Christ by focusing on those aspects they like to dwell on rather than His hard edges. If the entire fellowship buys into this, it can lead to no one feeling impelled to gain a fuller understanding of Christ.

In that exchange, I pointed out that confrontational, aggressive, critical, and powerful aspects of Jesus exhibit His singularity because they derive from His authority. Compare this to the meeker version of Jesus that is less interested in rocking the boat.

In response to one of my comments, Jason said:

Also – and I don’t think I can put this strongly enough – there is nothing unique about violence or blunt force.

I thought that was profound enough to deserve spotlight and consideration. Thanks, Jason.

Most people are taught that the demons Jesus and His apostles cast out are fallen angels. But there is no passage that actually says that [to my knowledge.]This came to me today as I was thinking about Jude 6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day2nd Peter 2:4 is similar.The issue here is that Satan and his Angels are cast out of heaven immediately after Christ’s resurrection [Revelation 12:9]. If Jude and Peter claim that these angels were put into Hell, then they could not have been around tormenting people during Acts, and Paul would not be too concerned about their teaching people in 1st Timothy 4:1.

The issue here is that if demons are not fallen angels, then what are they, and where do they come from? Some might find this just an odd question of no real relevance but some would find it very relevant because many teach that God cannot create anything evil. [The Bible itself says no such thing, but people think it would go against God’s goodness. This is the same reason people claim Satan had to be an angel at some point. Actually, it seems the above verses would suggest that Satan is not, in fact, a fallen angel, as he is not confined in hell at the moment.]

Perhaps demons are evil souls of Nephlim who died.*shrug*

Anyone else have some ideas?

Greg Boyd describes a work by M.M. Campbell, Light on the “Dark Side of God”, aiming to show that God is never actively violent but rather allows unsavory things to happen to people by removing divine protection.

One problem with discussing this view is that its flexibility allows it to explain more or less anything. No matter how obviously God acts as an agent in a given Biblical narrative, one can generally come up with some way to show that it wasn’t really God implementing violence, but rather evil spirits. The author suggests that God sees and describes Himself as doing what he merely permits. Clearly, it’s going to be hard to show that God actually does any violence if you make such an idea a universal principal. Just think, what evidence would you find available if everything God is described as doing something it didn’t actually mean what it says?

Take, for example, the author’s own explanation for how the killing of the firstborn takes place during the passover:

The midnight hour arrives. Invisibly God’s “death angel” appears, carrying in its hands the destroying weapon from the eternal Throne. He looks at one house, sees the blood and passes over. He sees no blood on the house next door, and he comes down. What does he carry in his hand? Is that a sword? Perhaps a laser or a lightning bolt? No. It is a document on which is stamped the name of God. He shows it to the guardian angel, throughout the years stationed at the door of the house devoid of the saving blood. “Release,” says the document. Together the angels fly away, exposing the firstborn within to the destroyer, waiting eagerly without.

The author promises to explain later why the destroyer could be limited to killing the firstborn when all the protection is gone… but I don’t actually see where she does so. I hope this illustrates the difficulty in assailing the position when one can posit such scenarios. Nevermind that God explicitly says “I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night and strike…” [Exodus 12:12]

The author derives her version of the events from Exodus 12:23, where the verbiage is a little different: “…then the Lord will pass over the door and not permit the destroyer to enter your house and smite you.”

As this hypothesis is clearly spawned from a desire to make God more palatable to us (a property shared by several doctrines of Orthodoxy), it should not be too hard to show it untenable. Even given the challenges inherent to debunking such a hypothesis, the following objections leap to mind.

  • The author claims that God simply “backs off,” leaving people to the realm and power of evil forces when they reject the Living God. One obvious problem with this idea is that several times the destruction was not based on the sins of the victim. For example, the individual citizens in Egypt are punished in the passage described without there being any allusion to their sin.
  • Violence is often demanded by God, which is rather different from God simplying allowing violence to take place without stopping it. Examples abound.

    • God required Israel to sacrifice animals, not all of which were sacrifices for sins
    • God required Israel to stone murderers, adulterers, etc.
    • God demanded Israel to totally annihilate certain nations they came into contact with[Deuteronomy 7:2]. Astoundingly, the author attempts to deal with this language by claiming the Israelites forced God into such choices by choosing military action. The problem with this viewpoint is that the sparse evidence given (where God tells Israel it need not use its armies[Joshua 24:11-12 is the first]) occurs after God has already decreed this destruction. Furthermore, no admonition or reproach is given to Israel the first time they do take up the sword to suggest God had another plan.[Exodus 17:8-11] It’s further simply unreasoable to assume God would scrap an entire policy of non-violent conquering because Israel choose to use force in a single battle. God also directs people to battle in other prophetic messages [Jeremiah 49:28]
  • Often violence is not only demanded by God, but is clearly done by one of God’s agents. This includes the “Angel of the Lord” being the specific agent who killed 185,000 Assyrians [Isaiah 37:36, 2nd Kings 19:35]. Remarkably the author mentions this as a type of “Exercise for the reader.” Indicating the reader should figure out how this could really be someone else. I find it rather bizarre to envision an angel walking through the camp, having personal discussions with each of 185,000 other guardian angels so that some third-party evil spirit could come in and slaugher 185,000 soldiers, and instead the “Angel of the Lord” is given credit for the slaughter. Similarly, Nebuchadnezzar is called My servant several times and God speaks of specifically calling him to attack others [Jeremiah 25:9, Jeremiah 43:10.]
  • Often violence attributed to God in the Bible is prophetic. Given the general strength [and one would assume intelligence] of Satan and his forces, one is hard pressed to understand why they would willfully act to legitimize God by showing such prophecies to be true.
  • The author attempts to show, concomitant to God’s lack of violence, that Hell is not a place of eternal suffering. To do this the author shows that the word “eternal” could be being used metaphorically given the magnitude and terror of annihilation. There is some merit in this given that the Greek word translated “eternal” in most places does not really mean “eternal.” However, there is no way to get around Jude 6, where the Greek word used is actually the real word for eternal and it is not destruction that is described but imprisonment [literally “chains.”]
  • In Revelation 20:15 we read “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, that person was thrown into the Lake of Fire.” My question for the author is “by whom?” Satan, Death, and Hades were already in hell…there were no more evil spirits around to blame for the “throwing.” As far as I can tell, the author skips from the other wrath [the pre-judgment wrath on the earth] to the question of “how long Hell lasts,” skipping this rather obvious [and some would say most troubling] vignette of God’s violence.
  • In an effort to defend Christ’s death, the author is forced to see Christ’s words My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me as actually referring to God having forsaken Christ, a viewpoint that is far less Scriptural (for when did God really forsake the Word…and HOW could that be ontologically possible?) than seeing this as a final exhortation of encouragement as Christ quotes the first and last verses of psalm 22 [Matthew 27:46, John 19:30], essentially givng His followers one final reason to believe that Christ had fulfilled the prophecies, even those in the Psalms.
  • Contrary to the author’s beliefs, the Judaic viewpoint of God’s righteousness was inextricably linked to the notion of retribution and vindication. In fact, the same Hebrew word is used for both. Consider for example Isaiah 10:22, where the NASB translation [using the word “righteousness” instead of “retribution”] makes little sense. For how can “righteousness” overflow in a verse smack dab in the middle of a passage where God is referring to destroying most of Israel. Surely it is not the “righteousness” of God’s people [elsewhere described as shining to the nations] for very little of Judah would survive. No, the Jewish Publication Society’s translation of this, speaking of the “retribution” or [“just punishment” as described by the NET] is more accurate. The situation is shown even more starkly in Isaiah 5:23, where the KJV in particular makes no sense. In any event, given how much language there is God having retribution for sins against The Almighty, it is hard to ascribe those acts of violence as merely the acts of evil forces.

I’m sure there are more problems to be found, but the above should suffice.

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Women in Church, the rest of the story

Recently a post at Between Two Worlds discussed a letter written by Dan Wallace describing the angst he feels over maintaining the hard gender roles described by Paul, in particular in 1st Timothy 2:11-15. He writes I may not be comfortable with my complementarian position, but I am unwilling to twist scripture into something that it does not say. He then describes And my conscience tells me that after all the exegetical dust has settled, to deny some sort of normative principle to 1 Tim 2:12 is probably a misunderstanding of this text. Unfortunately, Wallace falls into the same practice that many pastors do when delivering a sermon. The letter says what he believes and why without giving any indication as to what might be said for the other side. It is this kind of “This is what the Bible says, and if you don’t like it, you’re a liberal” mentality that I cannot stand in the modern church.The above may sound like I’m demonizing Wallace. I’m not. He sounds genuinely apologetic regarding his beliefs, and I completely affirm those who defend unpopular positions based on Biblical principles. My belief here is that he, like many others on this and other views, has allowed the beliefs of those Christian thinkers who came before us to unduly marginalize the importance of a raft of Scripture arguing against the conservative viewpoint.Most of the time when people try to defend women in positions of authority they appeal to anthrocentric or sociologic reasons. They wonder why we restrict women who are willing to do good. They wonder why we allow the church to implicitly support gender inequality elsewhere. I do not find these arguments personally compelling, as they attempt to interpret and judge biblical principles through human ones.Others make deductions based on passages like Galatians 3:28. While these can add support to an argument, they are so broad that we wonder what other principles we could deduce.Paul’s verses are very specific [actually, not as specific as might be thought, but we will get to that later], and this is why they are exalted so highly in the debate. But are there other passages of specificity that argue against the notion that women should be so barred?Yes. Yes there are.

First, there is the important case of Deborah, the 4th Judge of Israel.

The fact that Deborah was raised up by God[Judges 2:16], spoken to by God[Judges 4:6], led Israel [Judges 4:4], did so ably, and was venerated for doing so [Judges 5:7] is an insurmountable, thoroughly biblical objection to the absolute exclusion of women in positions of authority.How does the complementarian respond to Deborah? Does he [or she] lament “Oh, what great sadness that God did not have Paul to warn The Almighty against calling a woman to rule. If only God had waited so that Paul could disclose this wisdom, the Lord would not have done something so embarrassing”?

No. Instead, amazingly, Wallace claims that Deborah’s presence actually supports his view! He (and others, such as Piper (I am told)) say that it was shaming to Israel that it had to have a woman rule them. Nevermind that such poppycock is never stated in the Bible. Nevermind that Israel got into trouble when they didn’t follow the Judge raised up [Judges 2:17]. Nevermind that it is God who chose the Judge. It wasn’t an election. There were not nominees.

The discussion between Deborah and Jael indicates that Jael was unfaithful (for it should have been enough to have been told God would deliver the enemy to him), but that hardly says anything about God’s decision to have a woman rule over Israel.

If you brought Deborah up to a random evangelical, my guess is that the best response he or she could give is “Oh, but that was the Old Testament.” So, are we to believe that New Testament Christianity [where there is neither Greek nor Jew, slave or free, man or woman, etc.] is somehow more restrictive than the God of the Old Testament?

But there is plenty of New Testament passages regarding women…many written by Paul himself. In Acts 18:26 we read of Priscilla and her husband Aquilla both teaching a man who was already teaching others. This same Priscilla was very dear to Paul. He called her a “co-worker” in Romans 16;3, and he references their church in 1st Corinthians 16:19 and 2nd Timothy 4:19.Priscilla is not the only woman teaching the Gospel to others. Paul refers to 2 more in Philippians 4:2, and the “book” of Philemon is actually written to 3 people who run a house church, one of whom is a woman. Nympha also had a church in her house [Colossians 4:15], to whom Paul wrote.

Finally, in a disputed passage (Romans 16:7), Paul appears to refer to a woman, Junia, as an apostle! [Many Bibles read “Junias” here, claiming that it is actually a male’s name. There are many problems with that view, not the least of which being that no one anywhere has been able to find a single example of “Junias” ever being used as a name in any Greek or Latin writings.

What is interesting about this last bit is not so much that Paul called a woman an apostle [it is possible that Paul just meant that she had a good reputation among the apostles, but my guess is that the first Bible you pick up will say that “Junia(s)” actually was an apostle.]

The interesting thing is how much of a historical coverup has ensued trying to turn Junia into a man.But getting back to the point regarding women. Not only did they teach and preach, but they also prophesied [Acts 21:9], and were deaconesses/ministers of churches [Romans 16:1.] (Note, this word can be translated as merely “servant,” but strangely enough the ONLY time the word is translated as servant when discussing someone in church is when a female is mentioned. The other 23 times, it is translated “minister” or “deacon.” Greek has a perfectly good word for “servant,” used over 100 times in the New Testament.)One has to wonder why Paul is commending and greeting all these teachers and deaconesses and why the prophetesses were not rebuked. One also has to wonder, while we’re at it, how Paul can say women should only “pray” and “prophesy” (which can also mean “teach”) with head coverings [1st Corinthians 11:3] if they are not supposed to speak at all!!! [1st Corinthians 14:35]Keep in mind a couple other things about the early church.

  • Prophets were not mere seers. They also taught and preached about God, as well as selected officers in churches.
  • In the earliest churches, the “teaching” was, in fact, evangelism. The idea of a “message” to those who already believed did not come about until later.

So, all the descriptors of women as evangelists and prophets also made them teachers as well.So, what are we to make of all this? What is the real story here? It would be an incredible task to convince yourself that God appointed Deborah in a moment of insanity and multitude of women Paul mentions all somehow avoided having any authority or teaching while being ‘co-workers’ and “sharing [his] struggle,”…and somehow the women “prophesy” and “pray” without speaking, etc.Instead, I give some alternatives:i) The Greek word for woman is the same as the word for wife. Given the wording in 1st Timothy 2:12 and 1st Corinthians 14:35, Paul might be more concerned with women not submitting to their husbands. The poor widow would have little recourse based on the “woman” reading as she has no husband to enlighten her. Perhaps Paul does not want a wife teaching her husband.Note, just as the word for wife is the same as the word for woman. The word for man is the same as the word for husband, so “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” would have the same Greek as “I do not allow a wife to teach or exercise authority over a husband. You might say “hey, but wouldn’t you say “her husband,” instead of “a husband.” In English you would, but in Greek you never say the “a” and the “her” can be implied. In fact, that is exactly what happens in Ephesians 5:33. There is no “her” in front of the “husband” there. Same thing in Romans 7:2, 7:3, 1st Cor1nthians 7:3, 7:10, 7:11, 7:34. In fact a quick look only shows one place where Paul actually put the possessive there.]Also note that Paul uses the singular. He says for a woman/wife not to have authority or teach a man/husband. Of course the situation where a woman is actually preaching in church is one where a woman is preaching “men.”This explanation (possibly mixed with iii below) is the best way of making Paul not look like a moron. If the point is that a wife should not have authority over her husband, then all the cases where Paul personally greeted women who taught [as prophets and evangelists and perhaps apostles] and where Priscilla taught Apollo would all dissolve. This solution also lets God off the hook for allowing a woman to lead Israel.ii) Paul could be more concerned with married women not fulfilling their roles as women. This would make sense in the context of Paul’s teaching in 1st Corinthians 7:34. This would not really get around Priscilla, though.

iii) I do not like to bring it up, but it should be pointed out that 90% of critical scholars believe 1st Timothy, 2nd Timothy, and Titus were not written by Paul [or so says the late Fr. Raymond Brown, who was a member of the Vatican’s Roman Pontifical Biblical commission and was considered by many to be not only the the premier Catholic scholar of North America but the most important theologian [of the Catholic church] to ever arise in America. The 4 “pastoral” epistles are the only Pauline works missing from the earliest known suggested Canon [Marcion’s. While Marcion’s views are very far removed from the views of the church expressed just a century later, Marcion absolutely loved Paul, so the absence of the pastorals strongly suggest they either were not known, or were known to be pseudonymous at the time.]

This would not get around the 1st Corinthains verses [some say they were inserted later.] I know of no one of note who doubts the Pauline authorship of 1st Corinthians.iv) Paul could be simply be wrong. He appears to have been wrong about suggesting people not marry because “the time has been shortened” [1st Corinthians 7:29]. Paul appears to have been wrong about the innocence of eating food sacrificed to idols [1st Corinthians 8:4-8, 1st Corinthians 10: 19-28], that is to say if Jesus is any judge on the matter [Revelation 2:14, Reveation 2:20]. However, this would not explain why he would refer to women praying and prophesying in church in one breath while in the other he says they should not speak at all.What’s your theory?

[Incidentally, why are there so many churches who are willing to have Paul tell them not to let women speak…but yet those same churches (in general) do not require their women to wear head coverings? The message about head coverings is even more clear than the message of 1st Timothy 2:12, and none of the scripture I mention here really contravene it?]

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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]: Who are the Demons?

Most people are taught that the demons Jesus and His apostles cast out are fallen angels. But there is no passage that actually says that [to my knowledge.]This came to me today as I was thinking about Jude 6 And angels who did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode, He has kept in eternal bonds under darkness for the judgment of the great day2nd Peter 2:4 is similar.The issue here is that Satan and his Angels are cast out of heaven immediately after Christ’s resurrection [Revelation 12:9]. If Jude and Peter claim that these angels were put into Hell, then they could not have been around tormenting people during Acts, and Paul would not be too concerned about their teaching people in 1st Timothy 4:1.

The issue here is that if demons are not fallen angels, then what are they, and where do they come from? Some might find this just an odd question of no real relevance but some would find it very relevant because many teach that God cannot create anything evil. [The Bible itself says no such thing, but people think it would go against God’s goodness. This is the same reason people claim Satan had to be an angel at some point. Actually, it seems the above verses would suggest that Satan is not, in fact, a fallen angel, as he is not confined in hell at the moment.]

Perhaps demons are evil souls of Nephlim who died.*shrug*

Anyone else have some ideas?

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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]: Nothing Unique about Violence

Jason at Glower Street discusses Mark Driscoll’s comments regarding his concerns for the near future of Christianity. In those comments Mark sees a prevalence of focusing on a meek, “cultural” Jesus. He brings up pictures of a formidable Christ “In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.”In an effort to defend some fragment of the idea behind Mark’s comments, I pointed out the importance of not portraying a version of Christ that did not paint Him as unique. The danger being that a Church can easily fall in love with an incomplete [or simply incorrect] portrayal of Christ by focusing on those aspects they like to dwell on rather than His hard edges. If the entire fellowship buys into this, it can lead to no one feeling impelled to gain a fuller understanding of Christ.

In that exchange, I pointed out that confrontational, aggressive, critical, and powerful aspects of Jesus exhibit His singularity because they derive from His authority. Compare this to the meeker version of Jesus that is less interested in rocking the boat.

In response to one of my comments, Jason said:

Also – and I don’t think I can put this strongly enough – there is nothing unique about violence or blunt force.

I thought that was profound enough to deserve spotlight and consideration. Thanks, Jason.

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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]: The Nature of Atonement [Book Recommendation]

I recently read Four Views: The Nature of Atonement, which describe four rather farflung theories of the Atonement.

I thought the responses of each author to the others’ views were generally helpful in showing how unclear the Bible is regarding how atonement works. On the other hand, I would have liked to see more than just “objective” version of the atonement.

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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]: Jesus Christ on the Economic Crisis (An Interview)

[Note: I had originally written this partially as an interview with Jesus. I had misgivings about that from the beginning and should have heeded them, for the resulting blog came out akin to an 8 year old trying to prepare an omelet and ending up with a “scramble.” The substance might be the same but the presentation and style were certainly not what I want to put up for posterity. I’ve edited this and kept the title because I believe blogger uses the title to create the links.]

There are all sorts of sites offering to explain the economic crisis (if it is a crisis), and how it occurred. While politicians have been happy to blame the meltdown on greed, some Christian writers (perhaps in deference to their tendency to support free markets?) have shied away from that view (though some have not), blaming people who could not pay their loans (while pointing out most of those are minorities), or taking a page out of Jerry Fallwell’s playbook and blaming gays, abortion, and other selected aspects of American culture.

It’s funny how people always choose easy targets for blame. [What’s also funny is this video on the Credit Crunch, but that’s neither here nor there.] But what does blaming “greed” or one’s enemies teach us? We already know greed causes problems. We already know democrats/republicans eat kittens. There’s no lesson there.

I think if we asked Jesus about this, He would perhaps bring our attention to something no one is really discussing: the American Imperative to own your own house, even if it takes going into debt for 30 years to do so.

Christians should avoid debt in general, as Paul tells us in Romans 13:8 and God prohibits lending money at interest to your own countrymen, at high interest, or to the poor. Jesus might remind us that even when the Jews did have to borrow, it wasn’t for anything as elective or massive an entire house [and American homes are more like mansions compared to what most people live in comfortably around the world.]

In particular, I think Jesus would call into question the appeal, allure, or motivation behind buying a house. Many people buy for stability or security so they do not have to worry about rising prices or their house being sold, etc. Going into massive debt just to stave off those concerns appears to contradict

So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Perhaps a more common reason people buy is that they are told it makes more financial sense, the renting is just ‘throwing money away.” But in the end they almost always pay more in rent [for the same space/location, etc.] than they do to rent [when cost of ownership/maintenance] is assumed. Since when is craftiness toward money our desire?

When someone buys a home either by outright purchase or through paying more per month than rental costs, it seems they are putting interest in storing up and acquiring persona property, which goes against a vast raft of Christ’s teachingsDo not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal?

Not only does acquiring of personal possessions stop us from ministering to those God calls us to help, but our interest in possessions is a block against following Christ (So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple; For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God)

There’s this idea that it is “reasonable” for us to enjoy the fruits of our labor, but I would point out the rather hard response Jesus gave to the Jew who made the “reasonable” request of asking Jesus to tell his brother to share his inheritance with him. ( Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.)

Some might call it “legalistic” to exhort fellow Christians to renounce their interest in worldly possession, perhaps even using that ultimate put-down, “legalistic.” But Jesus, who was well aware of how hard His commands were would be exasperated at those people…just as He was exasperated by His own followers: Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?

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Fire in the Bones [Biblical, Heterodox Christianity]: What is a Christian?

A lot of energy is spent by Christians trying to tell one another what a real Christian is. This is not a new phenomenon. It’s eerily similar to political mouthpieces trying to say who really represents the beliefs of one party or another.

Were you to ask people What does it mean to be a Christian? or What are the minimal requirements for someone to qualify as a Christian? You could get any number of responses. Some common essential properties of being a Christian you might hear are:

A. Believes the Bible (Or some variation on in what way someone “believes the Bible.”)

B. Goes to Church (For Catholics, I would enlarge this to include certain practices like eating fish on Fridays, etc.) C. Believes “Jesus died for my sins.” D. Believes Jesus was/is God E. Believes only Christians go to Heaven F. Believes “You cannot make it to Heaven on your own.” G. Believes in the Resurrection

H. Is a member of my denomination

I. Believes God created the world in 6 days (What answer would people you know give?) It seems to me that most, if not all, the above have serious problems. For example, “E is self-referential…saying that a Christian is someone who believes that only Christians go to Heaven does nothing to define who a Christian is. If I believed I was a Christian and believed I was the only one going to Heaven, then “E” would apply to me…but yet I have done nothing to explain by that belief what it means to be a Christian. Many of the above make no sense historically. We have to assume that the early apostles and their churches should count as “Christians,” yet they did not have “The Bible,” (indeed, the Church disagreed among itself for centuries as to which books belonged in the Bible and which did not) so one could hardly say that a requirement for Christianity is that you believe the Bible [though one could draw the conclusion that the Old Testament, at least, was accurate, as we see no account of Jesus suggesting otherwise.] Similarly, the doctrine of atonement in its current state didn’t even exist until the 11th century, and early believers did not have the trinitarian formulas the modern church holds so dear. Indeed, Origen, the most important Christian theologian of the 2nd century, would not even be allowed in the church today by that standard.

In addition to historical problems, significant biblical problems stand out from the above list as well. Where do we see early evangelists stressing to non-believers any of these things? If you want to see what makes a Christian a Christian, I think you should look at what the early apostles preached to non-Christians in an effort to have them join the Faith.

A study of acts can be rather revealing here. I’ve put together the following chart to illustrate what teachings you find in Acts regarding Christianity. I’m focusing on Acts because that is the only book where the focus is on Evangelism to non-believers and new believers.
Passage
in Acts
Jesus is
Messiah
Jesus
Arose
Jesus 
is King
Jesus will
Judge All
Repent! Believers go
to Heaven
Heathens
go to Hell
2: 14-41 x x x
x

3: 12-26 x x x
x

4: 8-12 x x




5: 30-32 x x x



5: 42 x





7: 1-53 x





9: 22 x





10: 34-43 x x x x


13: 16-41 x x x
x

14: 14-17



x

17: 2-4, 6-7 x x x



17: 18-31
x
x x

18: 5 x





18: 28 x





20: 20-22

x
x

22: 1-21 x x




26: 1-29 x x




Based on the above, I’d say that other than emphasizing the Resurrection, the church has rather struck out when it comes to defining who or what a Christian is. It seems, at least if Paul, James, Peter, and Stephen are good sources, that a Christian is someone who has chosen to follow Christ’s practices, repenting of unloving acts that God hates, and believes Jesus is the Christ (as shown by his Resurrection) who has been given power over Heaven and Earth, including the office of Judge.

While none of the above are things that most Christians would disagree with, they are also unlikely to be the first thing out of their mouths when asked What does it mean to be a Christian?

I think Christians in general do not like the idea that repentance is an absolute requirement as opposed to a goal. I would further say that merely believing Jesus is the Christ who sits in power over Heaven and Earth would strike many as “too easy,” allowing too many fringe groups in. And in particular, the idea that “Christians, and only Christians, go to Heaven” is such a basic tenet to many that seeing it as not a required one just seems odd. The truth is that the word for Hell does not even show up in all of Acts. One wonders what that says about modern day evangelists and missionaries who start off their message with “Do you know where you are going when you die?”

But what do you think? What does it mean to be a Christian? Are there any passages you believe suggest there is some aspect fundamental to being a Christian that is missing from the message given by the apostles in Acts?