Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jonathan Martin on Women in Church Leadership

Came across this guy somehow the other day, Jonathan Martin. Never heard of him but loved what he had to write about women in church leadership and where Mark Driscoll has it wrong. Loved his conclusions and the spirit in which he wrote. Checked out his church website too (Renovatus) and their manifesto/vision/values really resonated with me. And... not only that they fuse Pentecostal passion and ancient liturgy. Works for me!

His argument doesn't engage in a critique of the biblical texts, though like most of us egalitarian's he'd be more than happy to go there. He writes from a different angle here and it's worth a read. Here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I kissed a lady other than my wife...

Yesterday our family and a couple of other families got together for a picnic dinner at the beach. It was awesome to have friends and friends of friends gathered. After a wonderful evening under the setting sun, with kids and Dads jumping in the shallows, and mums relaxing and chatting on blankets (well away from the water) it was time to return all the starfish to the ocean and head home. Friends of our friends packed up first and began their farewells. Kisses were exchanged between our friends and their friends. I however was expecting a wave or a nod or a ‘see you next time’ especially as I did not know this couple that well. However I was approached and it was immediately obvious that the ‘farewell kiss of peace’ was about to be offered.

Now this is an extremely biblical and Christian practice, take a look...

Romans 16:16 — "Greet one another with a holy kiss"
1 Corinthians 16:20 — "Greet one another with a holy kiss"
2 Corinthians 13:12 — "Greet one another with a holy kiss"
1 Thessalonians 5:26 — "Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss"
I Peter 5:14 — "Greet one another with a kiss of love"
There is something beautiful and wonderful about a kind of friendship or even simple appreciation of the ‘other’ where greeting and fare welling is accompanied with a purely agape kiss. Amongst many other characteristics it is one of the beautiful parts of the Mediterranean cultures of Italy and Greece etc. Obviously it can be distorted, but at its best it is a wonderful affirmation of the value and worth of others, be they long time friends or people you’ve just met at a picnic at the beach. I love it.

The only thing is... it’s not something much practiced in my circle of friends.
(Though I do know of one friend who on moving to Australia greeted with the kiss explaining it as how people rolled back in NZ. Then on returning from Australia greeted with a kiss explaining it as how people rolled back in Australia. Nice work!)
The long and the short of it is that I’m not an expert of the “greet one another with a holy kiss.” Do you go left or do you go right? Is it like road rules? Keep left at all times? What about if you are about to kiss someone who drives on the right hand side of the road? You’re going to have a collision.

In my naivety it turned out we had a half crash and I ended up kissing a lady half on the lips that wasn’t my wife. (Though my wife was right there and was next in line for a kiss). It was all very straight forward, beautiful really (in the most innocent sense), and we said our farewells. I quickly turned to my wife and our friends exclaiming how; “I hope she’s not going home enraged, complaining to her husband that I feinted left but went right at the last moment! I’d prefer not to have a black eye coming my way at the next family picnic.”

All in all it wasn’t really uncomfortable at all and it was a reminder that people are precious. Life time friends are precious. New acquaintances are precious.

God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone and he created Eve. As well as that, God gave humanity each other, a whole community of people to journey with and stand with and have stand alongside you in the journey of life. That’s beautiful. Appreciate the people around you today.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Proverbs 31 Woman

In the book of Proverbs, true proverbs, in the sense of short little sayings or little one liners of wisdom, are mainly found in Proverbs chapters 10 through 30.

Proverbs chapter 1-9 and then Proverbs 31 provide nice bookends that wrap around these pithy little wisdom sayings. They're not so much an introduction and a conclusion but they do serve to give a nice shape to the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 1-9

Chapters 1-9 are big long speeches from a father to a son encouraging him to walk the way of wisdom rather than the way of folly. The father encourages his son to become intimately involved with woman wisdom whose lips contain wise words, who is a tree of life that leads to blessing and peace. The son is told to stay clear of woman folly, the adulterous woman, the strange or foreign woman; her lips may drip with honey but in the end they lead to destruction.

Things culminate in chapter 9 where the son is to chose who he is going to have dinner with. Who is he going to become intimately involved with, Woman Wisdom or Woman Folly?

Woman Wisdom's invitation to dinner - Proverbs 9:1-6
Woman Folly's invitation to dinner - Proverbs 9:13-18

Proverbs 10-30

Chapters 10 - 30 are quite different though. Chapters 10 -30 is a collection of hundreds of proverbs that give us little pictures and examples of what the way of wisdom is or looks like, and what they way of folly is or looks like.  They cover all sorts of different areas in life. There is no particular order to them. Random pieces of advice for life circumstances that are often random and unpredictable.

Chapter 31

Then we get to chapter 31, particularly the noble woman section of the chapter in verses 10-31, what’s this all about? How is it that this passage brings a conclusion to or wraps up Proverbs as a whole? How do these verses work as a bookend that round out Proverbs so nicely? This seems a big ask of the Christian wife! Or is it something else? Potentially it's a big ask of the Christian wife!
I’ve seen in the margin of one female friend’s bible the words ‘scary’ written (as well as a bit about finding a bargain underlined). One female preacher I know joked about not preaching on the Proverbs 31 woman as she is too intimidating. She’s been described as overwhelming with her burning of the candle at both ends to the point that surely no-one can be like her.

Ultimately the woman of Proverbs 31, this noble wife, is the personification of wisdom. Not the personification of the Christian wife. She is the human embodiment of Woman Wisdom whom we learn so much about in Proverbs 1-9. The Proverbs 31 woman isn’t about the ultimate wife, it's about what wisdom will do for your life. Proverbs 31 is a depiction of wisdom not of a wife. She is the contrast of the adulterous, foreign, strange woman of Proverbs 1-9. Don't sleep with the adulterous woman of Proverbs 1-9 whose lips drip with honey. Take the noble woman of Proverbs 31 as your wife and become intimately involved with her. By personifying wisdom as a noble wife the author is able to give concrete rather than abstract examples of what wisdom will do for your life.

The author is able to show us in a practical way what wisdom looks like when it begins to be worked out.

3:14 - more profitable than silver, better returns than gold
31:10 - worth more than precious rubies
6:6 - learn from the ants don't be lazy
31:15 - she is up before dawn preparing
14:21 - blessed are those who help the poor
31:20 - helps the poor and needy
3:35 - wise possess glory
31:23 - her husband is well known
24:14 - find wisdom, have a bright future
31:25 - laughs with no fear of the future
15:7 - lips of the wise give good advice
31:26 - words are wise and kindness in instruction
1:7 - fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge
31:30 - woman who fears the Lord will be praised

So we see this nice shape to the book of Proverbs with Proverbs closing out with a final picture and powerful illustration of what wisdom looks like - seen in the noble wife of Proverbs 31.

Don't be intimidated by the Proverbs 31 woman, be inspired!

In 31:10 it says a noble woman who can find? Lots of commentators wonder if this is a cheeky question. Who can find her? Where is she? A mystery? Doesn't exists! No one can find, she doesn't exist but is rather an ideal.

Tremper Longman writes, in his commentary on Proverbs, the description is an ideal and should not be used as a standard by which to measure or critique women.

Christine Elizabeth Yoder writes, Proverbs 31:10-31 remains a portrait of the most desirable woman, an image of the ideal wife intended for a predominantly male audience... She embodies no one woman, but rather the desired attributes of many.

The reality is there isn't enough time in the day to be the Proverbs 31 woman. She is simply an ideal of what wisdom could look like in your life. Woman should grow in wisdom like the Proverbs 31 woman and SO SHOULD MEN!!!

As men grow in wisdom they should grow to become more and more like the Proverbs 31 woman.  

* It's a virtuous or capable wife or husband that is worth more than precious rubies.
* A virtuous wife is trusted and enriches her husband's life.
* A virtuous husband is trusted and enriches his wife's life.

The language of Proverbs 31 is gender specific because the author is using gender specific imagery to convey the message. In understanding the message for us today though we have to understand that it is wisdom that makes a wife a virtuous and capable wife and wisdom that makes a husband a virtuous and capable husband.

Activate wisdom in your life!

Too often people fail to activate and use wisdom in their life. They wait for a sign. Too often people sit around waiting, waiting for a word from the Lord, waiting for a ‘spiritual’ encounter to motivate them to engagement, waiting as they put out a fleece and look for a sign.

Of all the ways that Proverbs could close out, of all the ways that a book addressed to young men could finish, it finishes by paralleling wisdom to a fine wife.

- Wisdom; not a tall tree growing in a forest.
- Wisdom; not like an aged wine.
- Wisdom; not like a box of chocolates.
- Wisdom; not a grey beard, wrinkly skin, poor eyesight.

Nope - wisdom is like a wife, a noble wife, a companion with whom one journeys through life with. Wisdom is a companion for life like a noble husband or a noble wife is a companion for life.

Wisdom will prepare you for whatever is around the corner.

v.15 - up before dawn to prepare
v. 18 - lights burn late into the night
v. 21 - has no fear of winter
v.25 - laughs with no fear of the future

Whatever season, situation, or circumstance life brings at you, wisdom prepares you for whatever is around the corner.  Not in the sense that all your t's will be crossed and your i's dotted but in the sense that whatever comes, wisdom will allow you to walk that successfully.

BearGrylls has a program called Man v Wild, in it he is...

 - dropped out of helicopters
- knife, flint, drink bottle, national geographic polar fleece
- cross between MacGyver and Dr Doolittle
- doesn't have everything sorted before they drop him into the Andes, the Amazon, or the Arctic
- doesn't have a sleeping bag, tent, food, irb
- make a sleeping back out of a sheep carcass
- stuff moss down his top to keep warm
- drink his own pee to get hydrated
- eat worms, and beetles, and komodo dragons that he catches with his bare hands

And of course... he survives!

Wisdom is like that. It doesn't give you exactly every tool or instrument or piece of equipment that you might need for whatever the future might bring. It is though the God given ability to sort things out even though you might not have this that or the other thing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Woman’s Place is in the...

In a recent book on marriage, sex and friendship by a prominent US pastor, the story of Queen Easter is referred to. The biblical character Vashti is criticized for not submitting to her husband by refusing to parade around naked in front of his drunken friends!? Meanwhile Esther is praised for graciously submitting, by illegally requesting an audience with her husband, who she was forced to marry after he slept with hundreds of other concubines to pick his favorite?! Esther is exemplified as she illustrates ‘the repeated command across all Scripture that wives respectfully submit to their husbands and removes any excuse we have for disrespecting our husbands.’ This whole argument fails massively to understand the context of that story and is picked up by Rachel Held Evans in her blog post ‘Esther and Vashti: The Real Story.’

In her post Evans makes the comment that ‘the modern biblical womanhood movement isn’t as concerned with returning to biblical womanhood as it is with returning to 1950s, pre-feminist America.’ This made me laugh and prompted me to post a couple of lines on a woman’s place actually being...

In my experience there seems to be two schools of thought in regards to biblical womanhood. One camp declares woman of God to be warrior princesses who are epitomized by the woman of Proverbs 31. They are called to be the head and not the tail, above and not beneath, the lender and not the borrower. They are to preach, teach, pray, role model, sort their home out, be beautiful, lead and basically ‘grab life by the balls.’

There seems to be a large degree of ignorance in regards to Proverbs 31 being a personification of wisdom not of a ‘biblical’ woman. Both women and men should aspire to develop wisdom in their lives and its accompanying characteristics as described in Proverbs 31. Or, in other words, men should aspire to be Proverbs 31 women as well! This camp is obviously egalitarian and sees women and men as being equal in value and dignity, different obviously in genetic makeup etc, but more than capable of functioning in any role within society or church or the family setting.

The other camp wants women to sit in quiet submission to their husbands. Here woman are simply not allowed to preach or teach, though they can teach other woman or children, they just can’t teach men. And they are not allowed to read the bible out loud in church if you want to have a look at a link about this. This camp is obviously complementarian and hold to the view that God has created men and women equal in value and dignity and worth, but different, complementary, in function. Men have been called to exercise headship in the home and in the church while women are called to different and complementary functions. It seems to me that the different and complementary functions can be all and everything, from serving in the armed forces, to a political role such as a Prime Minister or President or Congresswoman, to being a stay home mum. Just not heading a home or a family or teaching or preaching (or reading the bible out loud) in church.

I’m obviously an egalitarian. Surely though the choice is not between Egalitarian Proverbs 31 Super Woman and Complementarian 1950’s House Wife? Not a choice between throwing woman into the lime light or hiding woman in the back ground?

My vote is for an egalitarian culture of support, encouragement, admonishment, love, grace, forgiveness, second chances, empowerment and equipping that allows women (and men) to lean into that which inspires, motivates, grips their heart, enlivens and stirs them. Let’s help both women and men to lean into the gifts, talents, abilities and deep passions that they have and to be the best in the niche that they best fit in. Let’s challenge and encourage those (women and men) that sit back when they should stand up, but not force people to be that which they are not gifted, called, inspired or motivated to be. The ideal ‘ministry couple’ is a myth.

Like for men then, a woman’s place is actually the place they feel God has called, gifted and anointed them to be. And like for men, this place is usually worked out in conversations with others, parents, one’s spouse, and with men and women of maturity. And like for anyone, age, stage, gifts, training, anointing, abilities, character, maturity etc are all factors.

Monday, January 2, 2012

TKJG Chapter 10: Creating a Gospel Culture

In this chapter McKnight sketches the gospel, the Story of Jesus completing the Story of Israel, I would say the Story of Humanity. He begins with ‘In the beginning God’ and concludes with recreation and humans governing ‘on God’s behalf in the way of Jesus. Forever.’ You’d have to get a copy of the book to read the few pages for yourself. N.T Wright tells the story in a similar manner in his thesis of the big chapters of the bible. Goheen and Bartholomew tell a similar story in The Drama of Scripture. Gabe Lyons covers it a bit in The Next Christians. Sean Gladding has The Story of God, The Story of Us. The St Luke’swebsite has it though I need to update a couple of lines (but am having technical difficulties doing so) having read this book and some others. Each story is nuanced in slightly different ways.  They each tell the gospel. McKnight then encourages us to become people of the story, engage in the traditional church calendar as a way of engaging in the gospel story, realise the church is a continuation of the story, counter the stories of our contemporary context such as individualism and consumerism with the gospel story, embrace the story and be saved and transformed by Jesus as we respond to the story with faith, repentance and baptism. Bear witness to the story in serving others, love and compassion.

TKJG Chapter 9: Gospeling Today

The gospel is first of all framed by Israel’s story. Second, the gospel centres on the Lordship of Jesus. Thirdly, the gospel summons people to respond. Fourthly, the gospel saves and redeems. The gospeling of Acts summons listeners to confess Jesus as Messiah and Lord while our gospeling today tends to persuade sinners to admit their sin and find Jesus as Saviour. The later can be done within the former but too often the former is neglected. That’s not gospeling. You can’t avoid judgement in gospeling but gospeling is not simply escapism from hell, this is a distortion.  Though the gospel deals with sin (and this is not intended to downplay sin), sin is not the major problem the gospel is addressing. If the major answer Jesus offers is the kingdom and eternal life, then the major issues at a stake are to do with the search for God’s kingdom on earth and the absence of God’s abundance in the worldliness of this world. Gospeling thus declares that Jesus is the rightful Lord, summons people to turn from their idols and to worship and live under that Lord who saves. When we reduce the gospel to personal salvation we tear the fabric out of the Big Story. Gospeling isn’t about the sinner's heart it is about the risen Jesus and his story.

TKJG Chapter 8: The Gospel of Peter

Jesus’ resurrection and the profound experience with the Holy Spirit set about a ‘hermeneutical revolution’ for the apostles. They suddenly had new eyes to reread and reinterpret the Old Testament from the perspective of the Story of Jesus. Acts 13:32-33 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.” The apostles declare the whole story of Jesus as gospel. Peter reads a Bible (OT) that leads him to see God at work guiding the Story of Israel into the Story of Jesus. True gospeling that conforms to the apostolic gospel leads directly to who Jesus is (as the conclusion of the Israel/humanities story) and summons people to respond in faith, repentance, and baptism.