Saturday, 31 August 2013

Love, submission and cultural blindness

I recently commented that I have not written a lot on the somewhat contentious issue of the relationship between husbands and wives. After a few recent comments on a recent post I thought I might expand on this topic.

There are, I think, several influences to our approach here such as: previous experience, our perception of fairness, our egalitarian Western culture, our dislike of submission, our concepts of freedom, our narcissism. With the emphasis on the word "our" in the previous list. But times and fads change therefore in any era parts of the Bible will align with cultural norms—the prohibition of murder currently—and other truths of the Bible will not—the various idolatries of this age. If egalitarianism is a biblical truth then we need to hold on to it while secularism spirals the West to its death; if complimentarianism is the correct interpretation then the church needs to resist secular definitions of liberty.

These ideas and influences that affect our approach to biblical commands need to be faced, especially when we find them harder to see. It is much easier to see the problems with arranged marriages in our culture which marries for love; but there are problems with the later which we, immersed in "till love do us part," struggle to identify. Paul's claim that there is no male or female (Gal 3) in a hierarchical society, or there is no Jew or Greek in a tribal or nationalist society—especially if you are the chosen race!—is a clear challenge. Incredibly shocking! This is not quite so radical in the 21st century after 2000 years of Christian influence. But tell slaves to submit to their masters... We reply no they should not, and then talk continuously about emancipation.

One of my concerns is the fallacy of abuse. The abuse of a principle does not invalidate the use of it. In this situation it would apply to leadership or dominion. A bad boss does not mean that businesses should not have them. Destruction of the environment does not mean that humans do not have dominion over the world. The abuse of wife by her husband does not disprove male headship (if it exists). The mistreatment of a child by his mother does not mean motherhood should be banned. The specific abuse in all these situations should be addressed. Consistent misuse of a situation may lead us to question whether the situation is indeed valid, and structural modifications may be needed to discourage abuse (taking fully into account the law of unintended consequences). But of itself, abuse speaks more of a fallen world than incorrect principles.

A second problem is, as my pastor puts it, reading other people's mail. One of the valid complaints by egalitarians is people who try to enforce what others are commanded to do. In Ephesians 5 Paul commands wives to submit to their own husbands. He is not saying that husbands are to force wives to submit to them. In as much as a wife is not submitting to her husband she is disobedient, yet for him to try and force obedience is not what the command is, and forced obedience is hardly submission. Further, he is disobeying his command which is to love his wife and nourish her and cherish her.

Likewise, a husband who does not love and cherish his wife is disobedient, yet if she tries to manipulate him to do so is not obedience to the command to love. The command is not to her and her actions may in fact make it more difficult for him to obey the command to love. Further, she is disobeying her command to submit to her husband.

The egalitarian complaint that husbands are not to enforce submission (and the unstated complaint that wives are not to enforce loving and cherishing) is valid. This should be acknowledged by all complimentarians.

Nevertheless, we are given our commands and we are to obey them irrespective of whether our spouse is being obedient to God in the matter. Husbands are to love, nourish and cherish their wives even if she never submits to him; likewise wives are to submit to their husbands and this command is not contingent on her husband's love.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Monday quote

Beating swords into plowshares is a characteristic of Christ's Kingdom, but it is not the condition that brings it about.

Wesley Sims

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Benefits of repeated reading

Reading a book of the Bible thru several times has the benefit of focusing one of the larger context, especially if one does this at normal reading speed rather than the slower devotion speed. A slightly dynamic version may help for some of the read-thrus.

The larger context helps one understand the structure of shorter passages. Let us say that a small passage may have a several different but legitimate interpretations. Based on the grammar, some may be more probable, others possible, perhaps some unlikely or even impossible. But in the larger context some interpretations become more likely than others. Interpretations of roughly equal likelihood when viewed at the level of sentence can dramatically change in their relative probabilities when viewed at the level of paragraph, section, and book.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Did Moses write the Pentateuch?

The first 5 books of the Bible are known as the Torah (Hebrew) or Pentateuch (Greek). The books are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. They are commonly referred to as the Law. Authorship is traditionally ascribed to Moses though there is indication in Genesis that Moses is compiling and editing earlier sources.

The Bible confirms Moses as the author of the Pentateuch.

Old Testament

From the Pentateuch
  1. Then the LORD said to Moses, "Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven." (Exodus 17:14)
  2. And Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. He rose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent young men of the people of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and half of the blood he threw against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people. And they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." (Exodus 24:4-7)
  3.  And the LORD said to Moses, "Write these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." (Exodus 34:27)
  4. Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by command of the LORD, and these are their stages according to their starting places. (Numbers 33:2)
  5. Then Moses wrote this law and gave it to the priests, the sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all the elders of Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:9)
  6. So Moses wrote this song the same day and taught it to the people of Israel. (Deuteronomy 31:22)
  7. When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book to the very end, Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, "Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. (Deuteronomy 31:24-26)
  1. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. (Joshua 1:7-8)
  2. And there, in the presence of the people of Israel, he wrote on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he had written. And all Israel, sojourner as well as native born, with their elders and officers and their judges, stood on opposite sides of the ark before the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, half of them in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal, just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded at the first, to bless the people of Israel. And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessing and the curse, according to all that is written in the Book of the Law. (Joshua 8:32-34)
  3. They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. (Judges 3:4)
  4. When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, "I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, (1 Kings 2:3)
  5. But he did not put to death the children of the murderers, according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, where the LORD commanded, "Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. But each one shall die for his own sin." (2 Kings 14:6 citing Deuteronomy 24:16)
  6. And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them." (2 Kings 21:8)
  7. But he did not put their children to death, according to what is written in the Law, in the Book of Moses, where the LORD commanded, "Fathers shall not die because of their children, nor children die because of their fathers, but each one shall die for his own sin." (2 Chronicles 25:4 citing Deuteronomy 24:16)
  8. And they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their divisions, for the service of God at Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses. (Ezra 6:18)
  9. And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the LORD had commanded Israel. (Nehemiah 8:1)
  10. On that day they read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. (Nehemiah 13:1)
  11. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him. He has confirmed his words, which he spoke against us and against our rulers who ruled us, by bringing upon us a great calamity. For under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what has been done against Jerusalem. As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this calamity has come upon us; yet we have not entreated the favor of the LORD our God, turning from our iniquities and gaining insight by your truth. (Daniel 9:11-13)
New Testament

  1. And Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to them." (Matthew 8:4 citing Leviticus 14)
  2. They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?" He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so." (Matthew 19:7-8 discussing Deuteronomy 24)
  3. For Moses said, "Honor your father and your mother"; and, "Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die." (Mark 7:10 citing Exodus 20:12 and 21:17)
  4. And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob"? (Mark 12:26 citing Exodus 3:6)
  5. "He said to him, 'If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'" (Luke 16:31)
  6. Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." (Luke 22:44)
  7. "For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?" (John 5:46-47)
  8. "Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?" (John 7:19)
  1. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27, Luke)
  2. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17, John)
  3. "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us." (Acts 6:13-14, Jews)
  4. "Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses." (Acts 13:39, Paul)
  5. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses." (Acts 15:5, Jewish Christians)
  6. For it is written in the Law of Moses, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain." Is it for oxen that God is concerned? (1 Corinthians 9:9, Paul citing Deuteronomy 25:4)
  7. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:15, Paul)
  8. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. (Hebrews 10:28, Author of Hebrews citing Deuteronomy 17:6)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Submitting to one another

SLW raised some issues concerning complimentarianism and egalitarianism in Genesis on a previous post. Here I wish to discuss a couple of ways that Ephesians 5:21 may be understood. It says,
...submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Two questions arise: whether this should be attached to the preceding or following verses; and who the submission applies to. The second question is the more disputable one, though the former may have implications as how to best answer the latter.

In Ephesians Paul is instructing the believers in Christian behaviour—the Christian walk. Christians have new life in Christ therefore they are no longer to behave like the other Gentiles (Eph 4:17) and stop acting how they did prior to trusting Christ; put off their old self, put on their new self, change they way they think (Eph 4:22-24).

Interspersed in the following verses are several behaviours that need addressing: falsehood, unrighteous anger, theft, laziness, corrupt speech, bitterness, slander, covetness, sexual immorality. Concluding these Paul states,
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, (Ephesians 5:15-18).
There is debate as to whether one does these things in order to be filled, or whether one does these things because he is filled. Nevertheless, what does being filled with the Spirit look like? Paul lists the following:
  1. addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
  2. singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
  3. giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
  4. submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-21)
The structure suggests that submitting to one another is connected to the list of being filled with the Spirit.

Following this Paul talks to husbands and wives. He tells wives to submit to their husbands and husbands to love their wives.
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
The egalitarian interpretation suggests that the passage about submitting (Eph 5:21) applies to everyone in the church; all people within the church are to submit to each other. Thus it (Eph 5:21) is a summary of things to follow, with the subsequent discussion giving specific advice to husbands and wives based on areas they tend to struggle with. Wives are to actually submit to their husbands; that is the command to submit to each other (Eph 5:21) applies in marriage even as women tend to struggle to do so. Men are to love their wives (Eph 5:25, 28, 33) as well as submit (Eph 5:21). But the tendency for the man is not to love the woman in the same way that he loves himself (Eph 5:28). The woman is not specifically told to love as she generally does not find that difficult. The man is not specifically told to submit as he does this more easily.

The complementarian interpretation would see the passage about submitting (Eph 5:21) as be a prelude to the subsequent examples. Verse 21 concludes the previous passage and Paul then gives some specific examples of submission. These are marriage, fatherhood and slavery. In these 3 situations the specific person in the submissive role is reminded that it is still appropriate to submit, even though they (wife, child, bondslave) have equal standing as believers in Christ.

Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph 5:21) therefore means that those who are in submissive roles are to submit.
  1. Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (Eph 5:22)
  2. Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. (Eph 6:1)
  3. Bondslaves, obey your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, (Eph 6:5)
After each of these Paul adds a command to the people who are being submitted to ensure that they act godly in their actions and not abuse their position.

Some of the debate is over what is meant by "to one another" or "one to another" (Greek allelon) in verse 21. I do not think this can easily be resolved; it almost certainly cannot be if verse 21 is interpreted in isolation. The term "one to another" can mean both "all to all" and "some to all". "All to all" is meant in certain contexts, eg.
Greet one another with a holy kiss. (2Co 13:12)
See also Luk 24:14; Joh 13:34; 15:17; Other contexts can only mean "some to others", eg.
Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, (Rev 6:4)
See also Joh 4:33; Act 26:31. Many other phrases could possibly be read as "all to all" though it would seem more likely that "some to others" is what occurs in any one specific situation, even if these roles are somewhat fluid and change in other specific situations, such as,
Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1Pe 4:9).
See also Gal 6:2; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; 1Th 5:11.

So the egalitarian interpretation reads this as a summary of what is to follow, and claim all are to submit to each other; the complementarian interpretation reads this as a prelude (and possibly as a conclusion of the preceding verses) and some categories of people are to submit to other categories of people.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Monday quote

The models predicted a hot spot and 28 million radiosondes (28 million weather balloons) couldn't find it. And they call us the deniers.

Joanne Nova

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Posts in purgatory

Things have been moderately busy lately, as the state of my blog may suggest—that or blog apathy.

Nevertheless I have nearly 200 drafts in various stages of completion; from titles to ideas to half written essays to completed—but not published or proof read. Unfortunately unless I complete an article near the time I begin it, and post it at the time, it may end up being ignored for several years. Work and family will continue to demand time, and I would like to get some reading done, so in the next week I thought I would see if I could find half a dozen drafts or so that are complete, or near to it, and publish them.

We'll see.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Monday quote

Being honest may not get you a lot of friends but it'll always get you the right ones.

John Lennon (1940–1980).

Monday, 5 August 2013

Monday quote

Anyone who has been around the block a few times will know that, for instance, several of their peers who left the church ‘because of all of the hypocrisy’ or ‘because of the tension between science and faith’ had been struggling for some time with the cognitive dissonance between their fornication and their professed faith.

Alastair Roberts


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