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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The PCA and Female Deaconesses (I)

Who is Fueling the Current Debate in the PCA?

Christian Education and Publications of the PCA sold a book at the Dallas General Assembly by Brian Schwertley entitled A Historical and Biblical Examination of Women Deacons. This is a timely book for the PCA, since a portion of the assembly was devoted to the subject title of Schwertley’s work. As in all good Presbyterian assemblies, there was a minority and majority report on the matter, the majority report eventually winning the day.

The discussion surrounding the possibility of unordained or ordained male and female deacons in the PCA should be a slam dunk, an open and shut case. But it wasn’t on the floor of GA and still isn’t for some, and precisely therein lies the problem. Why is it that what seems crystal clear to some in the PCA, especially in light of their ordination vows, isn’t crystal clear to others, to all? Every PCA Teaching and Ruling Elder has the same Book of Church Order and the pastors all took oaths that they would uphold the constitution of the PCA. If there are some who have not read the BCO, it would behoove them to do so. PCA Presbyteries do allow for “exceptions” for various theological reasons, but precious few who are advocating “deaconesses” took such exceptions at their ordination. Moreover, if a candidate takes exceptions to the Westminster Standards, then the Presbytery must make a decision regarding whether the exception(s) strikes at the vitals of religion.

At the very least, all this pressing for deaconesses means that these Teaching Elders are in an ethical bind, since they promised to notify their respective Presbyteries of any changes to their views after ordination.[1] If certain PCA pastors have changed their views (allowable) and have not notified their Presbyteries (not allowable), they face a rather serious ethical dilemma; one that they would not allow their congregants to have. If PCA pastors were allowed to transfer from one Presbytery to another or desired ordination in the PCA and it was known that they adhered to deaconesses or unordained male and female deacons, then their respective Presbyteries are in a dilemma as well for violating the clear teaching of the PCA constitution and allowing these men to be ordained.

Why do I say that? In the words of economist, Walter Williams: Let’s look at it. When the PCA describes its officers, according to the Book of Church Order, it does so in the following manner: “The officers of the Church, by whom all its powers are administered, are, according to the Scriptures, teaching and ruling elders and deacons” (BCO 1-4). Yet, some PCA pastors and some seminary professors wanted a commission to study what the BCO is actually teaching. Their question to General Assembly reads this way. “Since the PCA Book of Church Order does not allow women to be ordained as deacons is it appropriate (1) for particular PCA congregations to nominate, elect and commission men and women as deacons, and then (2) not to ordain either these men or women? Does the PCA allow for this practice?”[2]

Why were these questions raised when the BCO stately clearly and emphatically “In accord with Scripture, these office are open to men only” (BCO 7-2. Emphasis added)? BCO 9-3 states the same truth when it says “To the office of deacon, which is spiritual in nature, shall be chosen men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment” (Emphasis added). Finally, BCO 24-1 unequivocally explains: “Every church shall elect person to the office of ruling elder and deacon…keeping in mind that each prospective officer should be an active male member who meets the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1” (Emphasis added). Why were the questions raised and did they come primarily from disgruntled men and women in the various PCA congregations or did they come from pastors? That is an important distinction to make. If the men and women in the PCA are clamoring for deaconesses, then that is one problem; if the men and women in the PCA are not, in general calling for deaconesses, then the question is: Why are some PCA pastors pushing so hard for deaconesses? Moreover, what are the implications and applications of “commissioning” men and women as deacons? What kind of animal is that? Who thought that up? Such wording very much looks like a sleight of hand or an attempted “end run” around what is so patently clear in the BCO.

Dr. Stephen Woods, a pastor in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, has published a working paper entitled “Should Women Be Ordained As Deacons?” that forms a nice companion volume to Brian Schwertley’s work. In addition to these two works, there is a very informative volume by the Roman Catholic, Aimé Georges Martimort, entitled Deaconesses.[3] Each of these works is valuable separately, but they are especially helpful when taken together. Woods reminds his readers that “The question as to whether or not it is appropriate to ordain women as deacons has been one that has arisen in recent decades in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, and has been discussed in the courts of other Presbyterian denominations as well.”

Some in the PCA would simply state that they are not in favor of ordaining females as deacons, but merely desire to commission them. In truth, of those desiring more active participation of women in the congregation and with the deacons, the house is divided. Some merely want to commission them (not allowed in the PCA), while others find nothing wrong with ordaining them (also not allowed in the PCA). It should also be noted that even though we “knee jerk” when folks mention the “domino theory,” there are clearly delineated patterns among other denominations regarding women deacons. For example, there is the demise of the Gereformeerde Kerken in Holland, which, geographically, is quite close to the Netherlands. In the 1970s, a near identical movement was afoot in the GK, which now allows female pastors, ruling elders, and deacons as well as male and female homosexuals in those offices.

The Christian Reformed Church followed closely on the heels of its sister church, the GK and during the 1980s went through very similar turmoil that resulted in females in most, it not all, of the ordained offices. The question is this: Did this change occur because of new exegetical findings in Scripture or was it rather spawned by conformity to the culture and the abdication of their God-ordained duties by the men? To help you decide, there were no new exegetical findings. In fact, as the studies of Schwertley and Martimort clearly reveal, even history gives us no grounds for such conclusions.

Schwertley proceeds in his article and says, “The modern debate regarding the ordination of women to the diaconate began in the 1880s, about twenty years after the rise of what has been called ‘Christian feminism.’ During the late 1880s a move to ordain women to the diaconate failed in the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) but passed in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America (RPCNA). The debate over women deacons re-emerged in the 1980s, about twenty years after the rise of secular and pagan feminism.”[4]

I would add to Schwertley’s comments that the 1880s formed part of the ripple effect of the so-called Second Great Awakening. Under the leadership of the full-orbed Pelagian, Charles Finney, the SGA set out to renew “society as well as individuals.”[5] Nancy Pearcey, in her book, Total Truth, devotes a chapter to how women started the culture war. In 1838, Sarah Grimké wrote an article encouraging laypeople to “think for themselves in matters of religion.”[6] Under Finney’s flawed leadership, “The revivalists…permitted women to pray and speak publicly, and even to become ‘exhorters’ (teaching assistants)…. They began to speak of women as being more naturally religious than men, and urged wives to be the means of converting their more worldly husbands.”[7] This phenomenon has roiled under the surface or has come bubbling to the top to the extent that since the time of the SGA it is not incorrect to speak of the “feminization of the church.”[8] Fortunately, books like Ann Douglas’ The Feminization of American Culture, Wayne Grudem’s Evangelical Feminism, Rebecca Jones’ Does Christianity Squash Women, and Mary Kassian’s The Feminist Mistake have attempted to bring a correcting influence to bear on local congregations and denominations. Kassian’s sub-title, “The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture” is quite to the point. We must never underestimate the profundity of that impact.

The late Dr. Gordon Clark wrote the following: “The Protestant Reformation, for all its opposition to Romanism, never questioned the practice of ordaining men only. Now, if this practice has continued from the time of Abraham down to 1960 or thereabouts, those who are innovators surely must bear the burden of proof. The Westminster Confession indeed says, ‘All Synods…may err, and many have erred.’ Therefore it is theoretically possible that the Reformed Presbyterian Church is in error. But when the agreement is worldwide over 4,000 years, it is, I repeat, extremely improbable. Therefore a mountainous burden of proof rests on those who advocate the ordination of women.”[9]

What, according to Woods, precipitated the movement in the A.R.P.? He writes, “There was, of course, a time when such a practice would never have been entertained for a moment in the A.R.P. Church, which has always professed to maintain the infallibility, and the final authority of Holy Scripture. However, some have more recently voiced a desire that the A.R.P. church needs to get more in step with the world, and with sundry denominations which seem to revere the Holy Writ even less.” (p. 5.) Woods goes on to inquire, “Does the ordination of women to the diaconate represent a vestige of liberalism within the ranks of the A.R.P. and other Presbyterian and Reformed denominations which profess to hold to Biblical inerrancy? This question must be answered.” (p. 6.) Indeed, it must be.

Historically, the PCA has answered it unequivocally on more than one occasion, but some within the PCA seem to want it answered again. Unfortunately for the minority report, their request for a study committee failed. The 36th General Assembly went farther and approved the following with regard to women serving as deacons and on diaconates:

BCO 9 is clear that only ordained and elected men can be members of a “diaconate.” The appeal to BCO 9-7 is flawed because 9-7 addresses people appointed by the Session, not members of a diaconate (Board of Deacons, 9-4). According to BCO 9-3 and 9-4, a diaconate may only include men that are elected, ordained and installed…. In addition, this practice, coupled with the minister’s expressed view that he intends not to ordain deacons “until the BCO is amended,” denies qualified men their constitutional and biblical right to be considered for this office.

In light of this decision, these points seem clear: First, men only are to be elected by a congregation to the office of deacon. Second, women cannot be elected by a congregation to the office of deacon. Third, women cannot be commissioned (whatever that means) or ordained as deacons. Finally, women cannot serve on diaconates.

Moreover, it is unconstitutional to elect women to office in the PCA and it is equally unconstitutional to elect men to office in the PCA and not induct them to the office by ordination. All of this is quite straightforward. Dominic Aquila puts the matter into exceptionally clear language: “What this provision asserts[10] is that words have meaning and specific definitions. There are expressed provisions without the PCA constitution that direct the definition, use and meaning of titles, phrases, processes, and doctrines. The PCA has chosen to express within its polity certain words and concepts which define and distinguish the nature of the office gifts and those who are qualified to serve in these regular and perpetual offices.”[11]

Are PCA Women Unhappy or Being Spiritually Abused by PCA Men?

As I listen to the stories via the Internet I keep hearing something very, very different not only with a view to my home congregation in Southern California, but in my entire pastoral experience in Holland, Canada, and my native United States. Have there been insensitive men in those congregations? Yes, but I’ve also met my share of insensitive women as well. Have there been men who were linguine-spined? Yes, but there were a few pushy women as well, who acted like they had a chip on their shoulders all the time; in fact, they did.

I must admit that there has been a recurring complaint that I have heard from women in those congregations. It is not that their husband is a tyrant and uses them as a doormat and it is not that they desire to be an office bearer in the church. The number one complaint, far and away, is that their husbands do not lead them spiritually. This is a matter that deserves our full attention, because the husbands of these wives are being derelict in their duties. The remedy, however, is not to attempt to make women feel important or accepted, especially when this involves stepping outside of what Scripture teaches, but rather it is to admonish, encourage, and aid the men in becoming spiritual leaders in their homes. To my way of thinking, this is the task that confronts the PCA today and that needs to be taken seriously. There is a two-pronged negative attack on the PCA: First, there are pastors who are pushing to have women be commissioned as deacons. These pastors are violating their word if they have changed their views and their Presbyteries are violating the PCA BCO if they are allowing/tolerating such an unconstitutional practice. There are church orderly ways to accomplish changes in the BCO. Let the pastors follow those procedures. If they fail to achieve what they desire in terms of changes, then their choices are to stay in the PCA and conform to what they promised or to leave. It really is that simple.

Second, rather than spending time apologizing for what Scripture says, it will behoove PCA pastors to apply themselves to teaching their men to be biblical leaders in their homes and showing the women from Scripture what God requires of them. Who is the Lord that we should worship him? Looking to Scripture to be informed about the nature and character of God will do more to put things in perspective for both men and women than trying to get women to be allowed to do something the God of Scripture does not permit. We’ll continue to look at this, Lord willing, next time.



[1] Book of Church Order, 21-5.2: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of FaithCatechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will, on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow? (Emphasis added.) and the

[2] Dominic Aquila, “Women and the Office of Deacon in the PCA,” p. 1.

[3] Aimé Georges Martimort, Deaconesses. An Historical Study, (K.D. Whitehead [trans.]), (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986).

[4] Brian Schwertely, A Historical and Biblical Examination of Women Deacons, (Southfield, MI: Reformed Witness, 1998), p. iii.

[5] Mark Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), p. 176. Comp. Iain Murray, Revival and Revivalism, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994), pp. 249-250.

[6] Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004), p. 326.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[10] Aquila is referring to BCO 29-1: The Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly, together with the formularies of government, discipline, and worship are accepted by the Presbyterian Church in America as standard expositions of the teachings of Scripture in relation to both faith and practice.

[11] Aquila, Deaconesses, 4.

Labels:

21 Comments:

Blogger Randy said...

The question becomes: Is it biblically allowable for women to be deaconesses?

"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well" (Romans 16:1-2)

"Therefore, my brethren, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. And I ask you also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:1-3)

So, are those verses worth anything?

6:28 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Randy,
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae" (ESV)

"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea" (NASB)

"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea." (NIV)

"I Commende vnto you Phebe our sister, which is a seruaunt of the Church of Cenchrea" (Genevan Bible)

"I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea" (NKJV)

"Ich befehle euch aber unsere Schwester Phöbe, welche ist am Dienste der Gemeinde zu Kenchreä" (Luther Bible)

"En ik beveel u Febe, onze zuster, die een dienares is der Gemeente, die te Kenchreen is" (Staten Vertaling: Holland)

And your point is? So are these verses worth anything? Did you sleep through this class as well?

BTW, no reputable commentator believes that either Euodia or Syntyche held an ordained office. Did you read my post at all? You are the king of the non sequitur. Unbelievable, but typical.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

For what its worth, as a member of the overtures committee that dealt with this issue, I think one of the lessons for the denomination is that though we share the same BCO, we do not all read the BCO the same way. As I have told others, many elders do not hold to the regulative principle when it comes to the BCO; rather, many are of the persuasion that what is not explicitly forbidden (ex: commissioning, not ordaining, women)is permitted. I actually think our practice of having a loose-leaf BCO under constant amendment and revision has contributed to this. In the discussion in the Overtures Committee, it became apparent that the churches that have deaconesses do not believe they are violating the BCO. Hence, the notion was proposed that a study committee might help form a more uniform understanding of reading/interpreting the BCO on the matter.

8:00 AM  
Blogger EJH said...

As a member of the RPCNA, a sister NAPARC denomination to the PCA, which does ordain deaconesses, I read your post with interest. Without addressing all of the arguments, I'd like to point out that the "slippery slope" argument you put forth with reference to the CRC and other denomations does not apply to mine. As you note, our church made a decision to ordain women as deacons in the 1880s, and now, more than 120 years later, we are just as clearly committed to the biblical teaching that only men are to be the elders and pastors of the church. We have a clear understanding that ordination to the eldership conveys authority but that ordination to the deaconate is commissioning the ordained for service rather than rulership.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

I think this kind of thing is the usual playbook of "progressives" in any fellowship. They begin by chipping away where they can, and when they can't chip away, they carp and carp and carp and carp. They keep coming back, raising objections, coming back, wanting dialogue, coming back, raising questions, and so on ad nauseum.

If they'd get slapped down good and hard the first time, even including yanking their credentials or canning them from the seminaries, some of this might stop. Unfortunately, no one will respond in that fashion because it's seen as too draconian.

We've got to understand how liberals operate, both in theology and in politics. You have to defeat them and rip their lungs out. You can't just cluck your tongue at them. They never give up, and they'll keep undermining, and undermining, and undermining until they've weaseled in and established themselves. Then the whole house falls apart.

8:59 AM  
Blogger Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Dear Ron,

Unfortunately, the fight has been taken to you from within. It will likely be a long, protracted, polemical, and uncivil civil war.

Have courage to stand firm. And Titus 1:9.

Pax.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Chris Giammona said...

I find it amusing that you spend so much time on BCO and not the Bible. The BCO is not infallible, not perfect, and subject ot revisions.

If the answer to this question is really that simple, then you discount many of the books written to address the issue of women.

Chris

1:37 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Chris,
I'm not certain precisely what you found amusing, but remember that this is simply a start and I do intend to deal with the scriptural data as well.
Simultaneously, I was pointing out the obvious: that PCA men have given their word that they will abide by the Westminster Standards as well as the constitution of the PCA. Some are not keeping their word.
Just so we're all on the same page, I really hope that we're not going to devolve into the specious arguments about the WS and the BCO being fallible documents. Presbyterian and Reformed leaders have long since acknowledged that there is only one infallible and inerrant guide: Holy Scripture.
Moreover, I raised the point as I did because it was germane to the manner in which things "went down" at the PCA's 36th General Assembly in Dallas.
I hope this helps you understand.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

Chris,

Generally, when fellowships or denominations are formed, they are formed for a reason, especially within evangelicalism. They are usually formed because of concerns over doctrinal deviation, and people feel they have to leave their fellowships when said fellowship begins leaving orthodoxy behind.

There are plenty of churches out there that ordain women. Those who want this so badly ought to go to those churches instead of trying to undermine the doctrinal standards of their current fellowships.

No one here places doctrinal statements on a par with Scripture. However, in the best cases the doctrinal statements are written to reflect biblical truth.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

If we can't ask or challenge the status quo, then we fail to think. We simply accept the thinking of previous generations, and stand on the previous answers.

Ironically, children ask questions. They ask complex questions. Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon... all asked hard questions.

The first and second Jerusalem counsels challenged the status quo as did Paul when he challenge circumcision.

Ironic that we are no longer expected to ask hard questions of teachers and elders and people in positions of power.

There are many great theologians who believe Phoebe was a deaconess. Ron quoted the NIV. Read the footnote in the NIV Study Bible, and it addresses this matter as well. (You don't even need to know Deutch to read it.)

We need to recongize that interpretation is paramount rather than questioning the integrity, faith, and character of those whom oppose our views.

The Apostle Paul is clear that when their are differences, we must recognize that we all follow Christ.

Yet, in evangelical America, we always want to attach liberal or coservative to the label of 'Christian.'

In Christ there is no Greek nor Hebrew, no free nor slave, no black nor white, no conservative nor liberal.

7:58 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Randy,
Your cogent thoughts can be measured with calendars. Yes, children ask questions and some of them are, well, childish.
Btw, it's Deutsch and not Deutch. Maybe you were thinking of Dutch. Is a footnote in the NIV the best you can do?
Note that you were the one who argued from Rom. 16:1-2 that Phoebe was a deaconess. That was your translation. I merely provided the major extant translations to point out that they tend to translate "servant."
I must have missed your point about asking the "hard questions."
Ole Bri and Jumpin' Jim Wallis like to pride themselves on asking the hard questions, but I've yet to encounter one yet.
So what is your hard question for the PCA? Is it that the BCO might be wrong? If that is the case, there are church orderly ways to address and, if necessary, change the BCO. Until that time, it's not a hermeneutical question, but rather an ethical one for those who have given their word. Does that mean anything to you at all, or is giving your word a foundationalism thing as well?
Why don't you stop pussyfooting and give us something substantive. Just like your other posts, this one is fluff and vagaries.

10:38 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Ron,
Your reply shows how legalistic your world is...

In order to ask theological questions, a leader must first ask if they are allowed to challenge all things within the church order book?

In other words, since this was their vow to uphold, they must first ask questions regarding church order before they are allowed to challenge theological issues?

You gotta be nuts.

As for servant, I believe that is also the word bestowed upon Christ.

Perhaps it's time for to wash a few feet...

10:50 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

You want straight talk: Go read the N.T. and tell me about the depth of children.

How did your Christ talk about the children, their faith, and their position with Christ?

I would suggest that you be careful about being harsh on kids and their faith.

The God of all creation created them, knows their inmost thoughts, and you don't. [Do you need a book, chapter, and verse for that one too?]

... oh yea... did he create those Iraqi kids we dropped bombs upon?

10:56 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Ron wrote: So what is your hard question for the PCA? Is it that the BCO might be wrong? If that is the case, there are church orderly ways to address and, if necessary, change the BCO. Until that time, it's not a hermeneutical question, but rather an ethical one for those who have given their word.

It seems most pastors believe that upholding the biblical text to the best of their ability is part of their duty - it's part of their ethical obligation.

To suggest that upholding the book of church order is an ethical thing? Perhaps, but secondary to the biblical text - including the interpretation of the text.

11:02 PM  
Blogger Matt J. said...

Randy said:
You want straight talk: Go read the N.T. and tell me about the depth of children.

How did your Christ talk about the children, their faith, and their position with Christ?

I would suggest that you be careful about being harsh on kids and their faith.

The God of all creation created them, knows their inmost thoughts, and you don't. [Do you need a book, chapter, and verse for that one too?]


Since you're on a "straight talk" kick, why don't you spell it out for us with some focus and detail that you can be held concretely to? For instance, what do you mean by the "depth of children"? Is that a technical term? Clearly you have drawn some kind of conclusion from your penetrating exegesis of the NT since you suggested that Ron "be careful" - so why don't you give us your careful examination of the related passages so that all may benefit? I keep hearing what a student of scripture you are but all I am reading are vague, specious arguments with little objective value or specific meaning and which tend to stray from the point of Ron's articles or even your own initial rhetorical salvos.

I think by now, everyone here knows that your idea of a "hard question" is a self-serving one that doesn't have any particular answer or will continually change to meet your ever-shifting agenda. "Legalism" is anything objective and that can survive a sustained and focused discussion.

It is interesting though how after you called Ron legalistic, slavishly devoted to the church order book, criticized him for standing uncritically on "the thinking of previous generations", and for not challenging the status quo that you all of the sudden fall back on "many great theologians" to bolster your argument for Phoebe being a deaconess despite what the majority of Bible translations say.

That's the problem with you. It's useless to argue with you and as it turns out - totally unnecessary. All one has to do is let you talk long enough and you end up contradicting yourself. I suppose that's a badge-of-honor for someone in your movement. Post-modern leaders need nice and pliable followers like you to make it all happen.

12:34 AM  
Blogger Matt J. said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1:17 AM  
Blogger Matt J. said...

Randy wrote:
Ron wrote: So what is your hard question for the PCA? Is it that the BCO might be wrong? If that is the case, there are church orderly ways to address and, if necessary, change the BCO. Until that time, it's not a hermeneutical question, but rather an ethical one for those who have given their word.

It seems most pastors believe that upholding the biblical text to the best of their ability is part of their duty - it's part of their ethical obligation.

To suggest that upholding the book of church order is an ethical thing? Perhaps, but secondary to the biblical text - including the interpretation of the text.


Yes, one would hope that most pastors would respect and uphold the biblical text. Of course, to "uphold" it suggests that it's meaning isn't constantly changing to accommodate a slippery, post-modern "epistemology". They use things such as hermeneutics as tools to that end.

Amazingly, the answer to your questions was right in the quote you pulled from Ron. Why quote it if you're not going to read it? Had you done that, there wouldn't have been any need to post any further.

As Ron said, if necessary, the BCO can and should be changed should there be found adequate biblical grounds for it. That's why evaluating several English translations and especially the original languages (because there is "Hebrew" and "Greek" in that sense) is essential, pertinent, and not at all legalistic. It establishes the primacy of Scripture over the BCO - or did you miss that?

There are orderly ways of doing this in the church (saying this for the second or third time now). As Paul wrote, let everything be done decently and in order - which, by the way, is the whole point of a Book of Church Order.

You may not like what a particular BCO (or any) says, but at least there are orderly ways of addressing that and possibly changing it. This keeps things from becoming a free-for-all...er, excuse me..."emergent".

By the way, if you ever had to challenge Brian McLaren's views on scripture in the church, how exactly would you go about doing that?

1:26 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

if i wanted to challenge Brian's view of Scriptures, i would probably give him a call or have him over for dinner...

that seems like a biblical response rather than dedicating an entire blog to it...

6:26 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Randy,
Thanks for once again showing us what compassion and generosity means to the emergent tribe. Nice set.

There is a difference between legalism and keeping your word. Keeping the Ten Commandments isn't legalism, for example, while insisting against reason that someone must be more concerned about global warming that abortion is legalism--not to mention downright stupidity.

As far as I'm concerned, you can challenge anything in the Book of Church Order as long as you do it in an orderly fashion and don't break your vow in the process. There's nothing especially sacrosanct about the BCO. You really are a poor reader, aren't you?

The word "servant" is indeed used for Christ (Rom. 15:8). Does your logic coerce you to believe that Phoebe is Christ? Or, might it be possible that diakonos has various renderings given the context? You're the expert on hermeneutics. Why don't you enlighten us?

"It seems most pastors believe that upholding the biblical text to the best of their ability is part of their duty - it's part of their ethical obligation." So when are you, ole Bri, Bell, and the emergent boys going to start?

The BCO isn't an ethical thing--it's a thing. What's ethical, Randy, is someone--a Christian pastor in this case--giving his word to do something and then reneging on his word. Yes, that is an ethical problem.

If you want to have Bri over for coffee or dinner knock yourself out. But if your suggestion is that every time anyone wants to criticize someone else they must invite them to their home, that's quite an unrealistic stretch. Anytime someone releases a book, they're saying: This is what I believe. Ole Bri has made it very clear what he believes. I would think that even someone like you could have figured out how aberrant his theology is by now, but I guess you slept through that class too.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Matt J. said...

Randy wrote:
if i wanted to challenge Brian's view of Scriptures, i would probably give him a call or have him over for dinner...

that seems like a biblical response rather than dedicating an entire blog to it...


Yeah, I can do that with my pastor if I wanted to. Of course, my pastor still disagreed with me and I wanted to pursue the matter further, I would have judicial avenues available to me to do it. If Brian still disagreed with you, you would have three choices: keep it to yourself, leave the church, or be driven out (especially if you became too vocal about it) because he has all the power and you don't. In churches without written standards that bind the congregants and ordained leaders alike, you have no orderly appeals process. When you feel strongly enough about your differences and a simple dinner doesn't solve it, you're stuck with those options. I suppose you could go and start your own church (hey, everybody's doing it) but that just perpetuates the free-for-all. I've seen enough one-man-shows in my day to know that this isn't just speculation.

So I suppose you don't have a blog that you dedicate your viewpoints to? Is that in lieu of a more biblical response? Probably not (benefit of doubt) and neither is Ron's. Can you explain after reading both Ron's response, your quoting of Ron's response, and my response why you still believe that there isn't an adequate scriptural approach to settling matters in the church regarding biblical doctrine and church order? Or is it that you are simply more comfortable with a free-for-all? Does that feel more personal to you? Is that your criteria?

Would you like to invite the entire PCA general assembly over to your house for dinner or get them on a conference call in order to discuss the issue? Is that decently and in order or would that be chaos? You may enjoy the one-on-one approach but that doesn't work with a large church body. That's the price of unity within the body - there's lots of people spread out over great distances and we need a method of addressing all their concerns in an orderly way. All the little "one off" churches that feel that their scaled down church bodies are superior in this regard neglect the fact that while they preach unity, they have separated themselves from every other church body (for the sake of independence) and are just little dictatorships.

Still waiting for you to make good on your "straight talk" promise.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

When someone (especially a teacher) errs publicly (i.e. publishing millions of books, magazine interviews and on the air), they must be corrected publicly.

If you remember Peter and Paul, the text clearly shows that Paul didn't pull Peter aside or take him out for a falafel and Mogen David to gently remonstrate in private. Paul corrected Peter in public fashion because of the great risk and harm to the gathered hearers.

Nice try, Randy.

7:50 AM  

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