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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, September 11, 2008

The PCA and Female Deaconesses (III)

A Biblical Basis
Dr. Keller rightly observes that “The ultimate reason for any church to have deaconesses should not be practical and historical…but biblical.” He adds, “There are several good biblical reasons for having commissioned deaconesses in a congregation” (p. 2). We will take a good long look at these biblical reasons in due course, but we’ll begin with an obvious one and it is the first that Tim cites. Before we take a look at this text though, I simply want to point out that the following translations of the Bible translate the word diakonos in Romans 16:1 with “servant” and not “deaconess”: the ESV, NASB, NIV, the Genevan Bible, the NKJV, the Luther Bibel, and the Dutch Staaten Vertaling.
Not surprisingly, he begins with the example of Phoebe in Romans 16:1. He writes, “The word diakonos elsewhere in the New Testament can mean deacon (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8) and also minister (Colossians 1:25; 4:7) but it can also be taken in a non-official sense as servant (Mark 10:43)” (Ibid.). I would add that the term is also ascribed to Christ in Romans 15:8. In other words, diakonos can have a variety of technical and non-technical meanings depending on the context. But it is precisely here that we encounter one of the most glaring disappointments in the article. Dr. Keller promised biblical reasons for his position and one would expect for him to have provided the reader with some substantive material in this portion of his article. Sadly, that is not the case. It isn’t because Dr. Keller isn’t capable of providing the requisite data. He is a very intelligent man and a good scholar, but his reasoning is weak and incomplete. Allow me to explain.
He asks, “So which meaning fits here?” (Ibid.) That is a good question indeed. The answer is weak: “It is interesting that older conservative Bible commentators, such as Charles Hodge and John Calvin, concluded that Phoebe was a deaconess, while more recent conservative commentators, such as Doug Moo and Thomas Schreiner (as well as John Piper), all believe that Phoebe held the office of deacon” (Ibid.). What I want to focus on here is the statement that Dr. Keller makes that Calvin believed that Phoebe was a deaconess. Is that a true comment? In the standard commentary series edited by Henry Beveridge, Calvin calls Phoebe an “assistant” of the Cenchrean Church.[1] In an editorial note it is mentioned that the Greek diákonos translates the Latin ministra.[2] The possible translations offered are “minister,” “servant,” “one who ministers,” or “deaconess.” Lewis and Short suggest “a female attendant,” “maid-servant,” “a female assistant or minister.”[3]
Dr. Keller correctly cites that Calvin comments, “He first commends to them Phœbe, to whom he gave this Epistle to be brought to them; and, in the first place, he commends her on account of her office, for she performed a most honorable and a most holy function in the Church; and then he adduces another reason why they ought to receive her and to show her every kindness, for she had always been a helper of the godly” (Emphasis added).[4] She sounds like the kind of godly woman any congregation would be pleased and honored to have. In addition, Calvin goes on to speak of Phoebe as having a “public office.”[5] This begs the question: what does Calvin mean when he describes Phoebe as having a (public) office? It is instructive to note Calvin distinguishes two kinds of deacons: he who gives and he that shows mercy (cf. Rom. 12:8).[6] The first clause, Calvin teaches, “designates the deacons who distribute the alms.”[7] In other words, these would be the deacons described in Acts 6:1-6. But in that text, Calvin refers only to men who were “ordained” by the apostles laying their hands on them. Referring to the Acts 6 text, Calvin writes in the Institutes that when the apostles were unable to fulfill both functions (preaching the Word and serving at table), they asked the multitude to choose seven upright men to whom they might entrust this task. He continues, “Here, then is the kind of deacons the apostolic church had, and which we, after their example, should have.”[8] There is no mention in the Acts 6 text of women. The second distinct grade that Calvin mentions in the Institutes refers “to those who had devoted themselves to the care of the poor and sick. Of this sort were the widows whom Paul mentions to Timothy [1 Tim. 5:9-10]. Women could fill no other public office than to devote themselves to the care of the poor.”[9]
Historically, then, Calvin’s view of deaconesses is clearly akin to that held in the early church. “Like the early church, Calvin taught that deaconesses were founded not upon Acts 6:1-6 but on 1 Timothy 5:9-10.”[10] In light of what Calvin taught generally it is correct to conclude that “Women could fill no other public office than to devote themselves to the care of the poor.”[11] On balance this summarizes Calvin’s position: “Once again it is necessary to point out that those who are arguing for women deacons at the present time are arguing for something completely different in character and function than was permitted in the early church and by John Calvin. The early church and Calvin had an order or office of widows who happened to be called deaconesses. They were not the same as deacons, as modern advocates of deaconesses assert.”[12] Schwertley is correct as we shall see when we look at some of the historical documents that Dr. Keller cites as ostensibly favoring his position.
Before I close off this installment, I do want to mention a couple of key points taken from Calvin’s discussion of the widows in 1 Timothy 5 and his view of nuns. The reason for doing this is that it provides us with a broader context of Calvin’s thoughts on this matter. Calvin is convinced that the widows in 1 Timothy 5:9-15 “who married after having been once received into public ministry violated their first pledge [1 Tim. 5:11-12].”[13] Furthermore, Calvin agrees that “the widows who pledged themselves and their services to the church took upon themselves the state of perpetual celibacy.” [14] The seriousness of the matter of widows making such a pledge and then changing their minds and pondering remarriage was tantamount to casting off God’s call.[15] Stronger yet: “Afterward, by way of amplification, he adds that in so far as they do not fulfill what they promised the church, they also violate and nullify that first pledge given in baptism [1 Tim. 5:12], which includes the provision that every person should fulfill his calling.”[16] In this sense, then, “For Calvin, widows and deaconesses are one and the same. Did Calvin believe in an order or possibly an office of deaconess in the church? Yes, absolutely. Were they considered by Calvin to be in the same office with the same function as the male deacons? No, not at all.”[17]
Before we move on to other texts, it is important to note that we are dealing with a tenuous translation in Romans 16:1 at best. This is also true of the 1 Timothy 3:11 text, which we shall also examine. Regarding Phoebe, the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament states that it’s “an open question whether he (Paul) is referring to a fixed office or simply her (Phoebe’s) office on behalf of the community. Similarly, there is no agreement whether 1 Tm. 3:11 refers to the wives of deacons or deaconesses. It is indisputable, however, that an order of deaconesses did quickly arise in the Church. A particular part was played here by widows who, on the strength of their chaste conduct on the one side and their loving service on the other, already received official recognition in 1 Tm. 5:3ff.”[18] Apart from the question that the PCA’s BCO has already clearly spoken on the matter of deaconesses, why would you want to build your entire case on texts where there is so much disagreement? Moreover, if deaconesses are so terribly important, why is the New Testament so silent about them?
What precipitated the rise of deaconesses that the TDNT describes? There are a number of good reasons and Dr. Keller mentions some of the extra-biblical historical sources. In due time, we will take a look at each one of these sources. We shall also discuss the clear differences in theology that arose between the Western and Eastern churches, because that is essential to note in this discussion.

[1] John Calvin, Romans, (John Owen [ed.] & [trans.]), Vol. XIX, (Grand Rapids: Baker, n.d.), p. 542.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Charlton Lewis & Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 19752), p. 1146.
[4] Calvin, Romans, 542.
[5] Ibid., 543.
[6] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol 2, (John McNeill [ed.] & Ford Lewis Battles [trans.]), Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 19674), p. 1061.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid., 1062.
[9] Ibid., 1061. Emphasis added.
[10] Brian Schwertley, A Historical and Biblical Examination of Women Deacons, (Southfield, MI: Reformed Witness, 1998), p. 20.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid., 21.
[13] Calvin, Inst., 1272. Emphasis added.
[14] Ibid., 1273. Emphasis added.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Schwertley, Women Deacons, 22.
[18] Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. II, (Geoffrey Bromiley [trans. & ed.]), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19714), p. 93.



Blogger Andy said...

I do appreciate the point you make that the word diakonos in Rom. 16:1is used in a broad and narrow way in the NT, for all kinds of serving (Jesus, rulers, etc.) and for an office of service within the church (deacon). With that said, would you be comfortable if churches used the term in general ways, referring to the activity of various non-ordained individuals as the work of "deacons", while also having it to be the title of an ordained office? At least once, Paul actually shifts from the broad use to narrow use within the same letter (1 Tim. 3:12, 4:6).

Tim does not need me to speak for him, but I imagine he had a strict word limit to his article that kept him offering some of the detailed analysis you wanted. Moreover, he was writing for a non-scholarly audience.

10:19 AM  
Blogger Jhonsun said...

Is that what people who want to ordain or commission deaconesses are arguing for though? Just to be able to refer to servants in the church as "deacons" but not in a commissioned or ordained capacity?

I suppose you could call them "deacons" in the broadest sense of diakonos, but you could also call everyone "apostles" too in the sense that we have all been "sent out" by Christ. In that case, calling a person either a "deacon" or an "apostle" wouldn't seem to change anything with regard to their official church status so I'm not sure why anyone would fight so hard for that.

We don't seem to use those terms broadly to describe servants in the church or Christians who have been sent out into the world to spread the gospel. I think the term "deacon" is generally reserved for the ordained office of the deacon. How we define that office from Scripture should determine who that office can be applied to.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Interesting take from you that the office of deacon as known today is different than the biblical text seems to suggest.

If this is true, the same can be said of the office of elder as well as pastor. We can also talk about how the term 'church' has changed over time.


As I read your post a second time, I couldn't help but think: How many followers of Jesus under the age of thirty in America would care about this discussion? I suspect somewhere around 30...

Is it no wonder that when we spend so much time on this stuff and such little time and money on the 'least of these,' then we have no public voice?

9:20 PM  
Blogger Jhonsun said...

Randy, you haven't been able to demonstrate what the biblical text says about the ordained office of deacon. I do mean "demonstrate".

Of course, if you ever did I would ask you why you care so much about this discussion.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Jhonsun said...

Randy said...
Interesting take from you that the office of deacon as known today is different than the biblical text seems to suggest.

If your talking about my post (as opposed to Ron's article), I was making an anecdotal observation about how the term deacon is commonly used to refer narrowly to the ordained office, whether or not it can be applied broadly elsewhere - not expositing a theological position. If I were describing a theological position, I wouldn't be concerned so much with how the words 'deacon', 'pastor', 'elder', or 'church' have subjectively changed over time as I would be with how God's word has defined those terms for all-time.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Kyle said...


As I read your post a second time, I couldn't help but think: How many followers of Jesus under the age of thirty in America would care about this discussion? I suspect somewhere around 30...

Why does that matter? And what about believers over the age of 30?

12:02 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

"As I read your post a second time, I couldn't help but think: How many followers of Jesus under the age of thirty in America would care about this discussion? I suspect somewhere around 30..." Why, Randy, does this mean we're not friends anymore?

Your suspicions are incorrect. I've talked to quite a few people under 30--I'm guessing now that they are the measure by which all things important and valuable are judged--who think this is very important because they believe that scriptural truth is important and serving/worshiping God in the way he prescribes is important.

Your statement is a dead giveaway for how you emergents think--or don't think. Why is under 30 now the standard of what is right and wrong, good and not good for the Church?

Please explain.

4:34 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

"Interesting take from you that the office of deacon as known today is different than the biblical text seems to suggest.

If this is true, the same can be said of the office of elder as well as pastor. We can also talk about how the term 'church' has changed over time."

Great hermeneutical leap! No, it just means that you put the words in context regarding their meaning. For example, why don't you explain to us how you interpret 1 Cor. 7:14. How is the word "holy" used there?

4:37 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

I was just reading through Col. 3. It reads: 12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Rules for Christian Households
18Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
19Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

22Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism."

If truth within Scripture means the same things for all contexts regardless of the time and place, then why don't we use these verses to embrace slavery as something that the biblical text allows?

While the biblical text doesn't speak directly against slavery, we can still use it to support the practice of such.

Likewise, while the biblical text doesn't make great effort to show women who were deacons, this doens't mean it's not allowable.

A second reading of Col. 3 makes it seem quite obvious that we are all equals in the eyes of Christ. Thus, we shouldn't have an issue of particular colors or genders holding particular positions.

Regarding I Cor. 7: Since holy means to be without sin, it seems to indicate the unbelieving spouse is made holy through the relationsihp with the believer.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Jhonsun said...

Hi Randy, first of all I want to say that I appreciate you addressing the topic with scriptural evidence and an explanation of your viewpoint. I think this is when the discussion is at it's best and most edifying and it gives us something to talk about.

I believe that the biblical text does tell us that women weren't deacons in the sense of holding the ordained office. Paul gives clear and explicit instructions for how to choose deacons in 1 Tim. 3:8-13. Among the list of qualifications given for deacon are "husband of one wife" (v.12) and even discusses how the conduct of their wives ought to be (v.11). Since it is impossible for a woman to be the husband of one wife and this is very clearly one of Paul's qualifications, I would say that that is pretty clear proof from scripture that the office of deacon is reserved for men.

I agree with you that the bible teaches that we are equal with regards to human dignity (being made in the image of God, etc.) but Ron's against ordained "deaconesses" never attempts to say otherwise.

You pointed out Colossians 3 which I think makes an excellent point that there are all sorts of human relationships that complement one another, are functionally different in relationship to authority, and do not overlap. Husbands/wives, children/parents, slaves/earthly masters, and employers/employees are all examples of how roles are functionally different even though, as humans, they are equal in the sight of God.

Colossians 3 illustrates how people can be equal in the sight of God and yet still, because of their roles, be submissive to the authority of others. In that sense, obviously Scripture is saying that we are not always equals. It's not because of gender or color (where did that accusation come from anyways?) but because of functional roles that complement one another. Remember, we are all a part of the same body and we can not all serve the same function.

Slavery in the Bible is a whole other topic in and of itself, too big to go into for this article, but one note with regard to the issue of slaves in the Bible; there was a sort of slavery which did not involve kidnapping men/women and forcing them into slavery (what we usually associate with the word because of our own country's history), but rather a form of indentured servitude usually brought on by indebtedness. Among the other scriptural regulations for the humane and ethical treatment of persons in these situations, there was a command for masters to free their slaves every seven years (Exodus 21:2).

Since we are on the subject though, I think that a further illustration of how we are not all equals in every single functional relationship is Paul's letter to Philemon. It is a poignant example of how a slave (Onesimus) is as equal in dignity and preciousness in the sight of God as his earthly master is (and even with respect to their ministerial work) and yet there is a functional submission between the two because of their roles as slave/master that Paul asks Philemon to forgive and release for the sake of the Gospel.

Finally, 1 Cor. 7:14 is not saying that a believing wife makes her unbelieving husband "without sin". That is a fallacy of equivocation. English translations use the word 'holy' in different senses and in maybe even in place of different Greek words at times. It's important for a bible student such as yourself to understand the differences in meanings and in context of the passage. In this verse, 'holy' is being used to describe how the unbelieving husband is "set apart" or "sanctified" by his believing wife within the bounds of a holy covenant. Because of this, if he is content to remain with her, she is not to divorce him even though he is an unbeliever.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Randy said...


But my point is this: The Bible allows slavery; so why don't we still do so? The cultural context has entirely changed since this was written. We also have an understanding that slavery isn't really permissible for followers of Jesus.

If we read the entire gospel, its evident that Jesus attention and admiration of females was entirely different than the dominant culture. He treated them as equals, but the Jewish culture did no such thing.

So, Jesus was an advocate for the lowly, the down and out, the least of these. Furthermore, Paul makes it clear that we are equals in the sight of God.

The biblical text stands apart from a bill of rights or anything of the sort. We like to get the idea of human dignity and God's equal value confused.

When we read about women submitting, we always forget that us men are to love our wives as Christ loves the church.

Instead of laying down our lives - literally - we argue about how we are to remain in positions of power.

When did Jesus find himself asked about who was the greatest in the kingdom and respond with a power grab?

Instead he stood silently before Pilate and got nailed to a cross while everyone else tried to place things as they saw fit.

Yet, the men of power in our churches continue to argue for their rightful place. Does it not seem ironic?

As for the I Cor. verse, I know that God resides with his people. A covenant people meant that all of the people within the camp received the blessings of the king.

According to the passage, the unbelievers in the family are made holy as a result of the believers. This is consistent with covenental God.

It may not be consistent with the individual evangelical theology of American Christianity. It is consistent with the biblical text.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...


7:10 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

Mr. Ron Gleason,

Kinda like your friend John McCain. You love to insult. You're not much for a conversation taht invites discussion. Neither do you seem to be much of an advocate of wisdom; you seem to prefer being 'right' for the sake of being... whatever.

For sixty something, I wonder how you can disdain wisdom so much?

Yawn all you want; my grandfather's eighth grade education and the wisdom he was granted from God makes your knowledge nearly worthless.

Or in the words of the Apostle Paul, your attitude is nothing but a loud gong or clanging symbol.

Why do you need to be so right when the biblical text places so much more value on wisdom than on knowledge?

Furthermore, it's ironic that you use the same biblical verses to uphold men in places of power and yet you don't uphold slavery.

Please explain unless kindness and goodness are no longer traits of Jesus people.

10:35 PM  
Blogger IceDawg said...

Hi Randy,

I think you're wrong in your reading on a couple of points. Please follow my thinking below:

First, Col. 3 is talking about relationships and not institutions. The thinking is "When you find yourself a slave, this is how you are to act." The passage has nothing to do with condoning slavery. As previously pointed out, slavery in the Israelite understanding was always temporary.

Second, the difference between slavery and complementarianism is found in that they stem from two completely different sources. Slavery is man's invention. Granted, God gives guidelines in his Word to this practice, but it is not mandated. There is no "thou shalt have slaves" command in Scripture. The roles of man and woman, on the other hand, are founded on the created order. I'm quoting 1 Timothy 2:11-13:

"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve."

The reason Paul gives for his mandated distinction is in the creation order. That is entirely different than some cultural, man-made structure as we have it in slavery. On this basis, the roles of men and women in family and church are timeless and ought to be followed until Christ's return. This incidentally has nothing to do with our value as people in God's sight, or in each others sight for that matter. In that sense there is no distinction, but not in the sense of our roles as men and women in the family and church.

Contrary to your suggestion, this is not a power grab by insecure men who want to hold on to power. It is a simple obedience to the biblical text.

5:52 AM  
Blogger Kyle said...


What does your grandfather have to do with this discussion? I've noticed how frequently you make referrence to your grandparents. Do you think their wisdom & piety makes up for what you so obviously lack?

10:28 AM  
Blogger Jhonsun said...

Randy said:
But my point is this: The Bible allows slavery; so why don't we still do so? The cultural context has entirely changed since this was written. We also have an understanding that slavery isn't really permissible for followers of Jesus.

Hi Randy, at the risk of drifting off topic, I'll say this much about slavery in the Bible. This is because I sense that we are really talking about a larger issue that will relate back to the subject of deacons - namely, culture vs. scripture.

The Bible (especially in the OT) is constantly contrasting the equitable and humane rules that God gave for voluntary slavery agreements with the unjust and forced slavery that the Hebrews endured in Egypt. Slavery as regulated by God's Word didn't carry the connotation of man-stealing, forced permanent labor, or lack of human rights as it has elsewhere in the world at that time or even in modern times.

To answer your question, we don't and shouldn't practice the sort of slavery that was typical in U.S. history anymore because it was completely opposite of what the Word of God taught to begin with. There were all sorts of pro-slavery arguments in that day from the "culture" to justify our use and treatment of African slaves but didn't give them the right to just say, "Well, the cultural context has changed now (in the 1800's) and so we'll keep our African slaves and do what we want to with them!"

What we were doing was more like the slavery of the Hebrews in Egypt than anything that God had commanded for the voluntary variety.

Did you know that in the Bible, people offered themselves up as slaves to stave off financial ruin or to pay back debts? This for them was an opportunity (albeit, a last resort) to avoid starvation or exposure. God's rules regarding the treatment of such slaves was better than what illegal immigrants in this country receive, since they are exploited and virtually no care is provided by employers for them or their families. They work a dog's wage and are left to fend for themselves, often at the expense of other families in this country.

In modern times, have you ever heard of debtor's prison? It's not practiced much anymore but it was a penalty for people defaulting on their debts. There is a principle in action of losing one's freedoms in order to pay back a debt. Imagine where this country would be today if we still had concrete penalties for people not paying back their loans. They wouldn't take such bad loans in the first place is my thought and they wouldn't be given and we wouldn't be in the current financial crisis that we are in.

Even today though, people lose their freedom as a result of not paying their debts. Ever hear of failure to pay alimony? Child-support? People go to jail for that. Others have to pay fines for their release or they stay there. My point is that this sort of thing isn't unheard of in modern society and yet what we do practice is probably less equitable than what God laid down in Scripture, even written all those years ago. There is nothing new under the sun...

My point of all of this is to answer your statement that the cultural context must force us to change our interpretation of scripture. It doesn't and we shouldn't. We should always be striving to better interpret scripture with objectivity and proper hermeneutical methods - namely that the clearer parts of Scripture interpret the not-so-clear parts. We should never use the shifting values of culture as our "Rosetta Stone" or the prism through which we see EVERYTHING. That attitude should be that if culture (even the culture of people 30 and under) differs from scriptural principles, then the culture is wrong, not the scripture. If my interpretation of scripture is wrong then I am wrong, not scripture. Scripture is the constant. If you find something divergent in this society from scripture (in principle) and you agree with it, you have to ask yourself why. You can't rationalize such views as kinder or more merciful or more loving if it goes against scripture. Who could be more kind, more loving, more wise, more just than the God who entrusted this scripture to us? It is to scripture that we go to to interpret this culture, not the other way around.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

wow... some good stuff.

icedawg... I understand your intepretation of Timothy. We simply disagree. I don't think this is an issue of created order. Furthermore, I would suggest that the arrival of Jesus Christ tipped these things upside down.

While Israel was God's chosen people, it was no more. While men were dominant due to their strength, they are no more.

With whom did Jesus spend so much time? It wasn't that he was a wimp or wanted to advocate liberalism. He was advocating a different way of being human.

He spent time with the lowly, the poor, the beggers and leppers. He spent time with the women, and he chose the lowely fishermen to be his disciples.

He was advocating a different way of being fully human while also living into the biblical text and fulfilling the bibliical text.

Even if we continue to disagree, then why are women allowed any teaching positions within our schools, colleges, missions, orphanages? There are not clear limits as to when nurturing ends for a mother.

I just find it very ironic that when we take Paul as you suggest, we allow the women to teach the 'kids,' but then the limits still become very cultural.

One church allows women to pray; another church allows women to lead young ladies. Some churches allow female ushers and greeters; others allow women to do deaconal work but not allow them to decide where the money should be spent.

You still ultimately find yourself determining what is allowed by the cultural context.

Think about this: How are women not allowed to usher? This is not a biblical issue.

How are women not allowed to pray in the church?

How are women not allowed to read the Scriptures in the midst of men?

This kind of interpretation seems to move us into a quandrum that has no conclusion other than dealing with each issue until Christ returns.

The other option is to believe that Christ turned things upside down. Women are of equal value; they are equally gifted as the biblical text clearly demonstrates.

There is no differentiation between males and females in terms of giftedness. If there was a difference, the text would be clear on such things.

Kyle... I believe that widsom is acquired when we are able to hear the voices around us while also listening to the biblical text.

When we can't hear others; when we can't recognize the goodness of people with whom we disagree, when we refuse to believe that God loves his entire world, then we can't hear the voices of people with whom we disagree.

We don't even give ourselves the opportunity to believe that we could learn a great deal from people who think and live differently from us. We also fail to be open to the idea that God has blessed other cultures and peoples as much as us.

This doesn't mean we change our values; it simply means we are open to new thoughts and ideas.

I get frustrated when Ron simply slams people with whom he disagrees. Saying things like "Get in line" doesn't work with this world in 2008.

Why does a good reformed theologian seem so bent on protecting God? God is more than capable of taking care of himself and his Church.

I reference my grandparents because they lived the biblical text. They never never never used the kind of cheap shots that Ron uses toward people with whom he disagrees.

I may be guilty of the same thing... but I'm not sixty and a grandfather of a bunch of great kids. I expect more of someone with as many years as he has on this earth.

I recognize his passion too, and that's great. But again, using passion and knowledge to belittle people with whom you disagree, flies into the face of being the kind of people Jesus calls us to be.

So, there's my explanation.

jhonsum... there are plenty of examples where slavery was forced. Think back to Joseph.

Neither is there any evidence that Israel ever practiced the Year of Jubilee when all things were returned to their rightful owners. So, while God demanded it. It doesn't seem it was practiced.

On the issue of cultural context, we are not even possible to understand the text apart from our context. Our context gives us our written and spoken language. It gives us our history, our position of power and influence. As humans, neither is the text capable of being understood exactly the same by every generation.

This is why we abolished slavery. After 2000 years, we believed that the biblical text actually does not support the case for slavery.

The context changed, and the Spirit moved God's people to understand the story of God with his people in a greater way.

This is where I get back to the womens issue. I believe that 2000 plus years after Christ first arrived, we are being called to treat women with the same kind of respect that men have shown one another for centuries.

Ultimately, I think the difference of our understanding of Scripture is this: Your perspective of the text is that there are biblical principles. I agree that the text gives us our direction for life. I would add that it is a breathing document that calls us into a way of living rather than following specific principles.

Love of God and love of neighbor while following the Spirit give us the basis for our lives.

Arguing about what a woman is allowed to do does nothing to advance our public witness in a broken world in need of Jesus Christ.

When women speak and pray and teach in public, they do nothing to harm our public witness. We've shipped faithful women all over the world to be missinaries; it's only when they lead us 'knowledgeable' men in America that we get all up in arms.

And those faithful women created some of the most amazing churches and missional outposts in the world. Unless we are blind to the working of the Spirit, it is obvious that God blessed these radical women. :)

In Him

9:55 AM  
Blogger Kyle said...


I get frustrated when Ron simply slams people with whom he disagrees. Saying things like "Get in line" doesn't work with this world in 2008.

I don't see Ron "simply" slamming people with whom he disagrees. For one thing, he's actually responding to what they've written or said, and presenting biblical arguments of his own. His polemic style may rub you the wrong way, but he's not just calling people empty names.

Maybe saying "Get in line" doesn't "work" in 2008; but did it "work" in the first century A.D. when Jesus said to Peter, "Get thee behind Me, Satan"; or when Jesus said, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead"; or when Jesus said, "Go and sin no more"? Was Jesus willing to consider other points of view for the sake of seeming "kind" to the over-sensitive bleeding-hearts of his own day? There comes a point when people must be called to account with the voice of authority. And as a minister in the PCA, Ron has the authority to say to his fellow-ministers, "Get in line with the vows you took to uphold our denomination's confessional & constitutional documents."

11:31 AM  
Blogger IceDawg said...

Hi Randy,

With all due respect, you have to validate your disagreement with biblical evidence that supports your position, otherwise it is meaningless. I might disagree with the theory of gravity, but that makes little difference. I am still subject to it.

As a Christian man my first allegiance must be to God and He has told me how to live in His Word. Unless you can show me that the commands in 1 Timothy 2, Titus 2 are superseded in Scripture...

Just to mention again, Jesus companions on earth have nothing to do with this issue. We're not talking about men being loved more, since we have already established that not to be true from Col. 3. As such I don't think it needs to be addressed again.

What was most troubling to me from your last post was your statement that the Bible is a "breathing document". The norms of Scripture must be obeyed. They are not suggestions. If, as you wrote to jhonsun, the Bible is a living document, you have lost all basis for any claim of necessary behavior. In that position you can make the Bible say anything you want and it ceases to carry any meaning at all.

Ravi Zacharias made the point this way (but much better than I can). When you're sitting in traffic next to the bus and the bus starts moving, it sometimes feels like you're going backwards. How do you fix it? By looking at something that is grounded like a building. That is how our brain makes sense of the data. What you are doing by making the Bible subjective is removing the ground. The result will be like that mean experiment they did to little kids. They put the children in a room (with movable walls) standing up. When they moved the walls the children would fall over. You basically are creating that room with movable walls for Christian living.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

A couple of quick points. I'm currently in Grand Rapids participating in a Herman Bavinck symposium and I'm on a break so this will be quick.
The yawn is because your perceived arguments are archaic and feckless. This was something that, in reality, you should have decided when you were in seminary. Apparently you didn't. That's okay.
The 1 Tim. 2 text argues from creation and not culture. In the PCA circles--remember: that's our field of reference--women may not read Scripture because the constitution of the PCA that we confess is based on Scripture and the Westminster Standards say that a woman cannot do that. You might disagree, but that's another story.
One of the reasons that the CRC went south--and has stayed south--is, in part, because of the "women's issue." If your questions are so relevant and pertinent, you should at least question why the Lord left it hidden for over 2,000 years. The only examples of deaconesses are in the Eastern Church and then only in relation to 1 Tim. 5, i.e., in relation to chaste widows.
The Kellerite principle "a woman should be able to do whatever an unordained man can do," fails to take into account the clear biblical distinctions between men and women and their roles. For example, should a woman be able to be a loader on a tank? Clearly not. I want to live. The questions that postmoderns raise are often the same old questions that were raised with Tim Keller and I left the UPUSA, hence the yawn. Moreover, the CRC is heading in a near-identical direction. That should concern you. Coupled with your blind allegiance to Brian McLaren you are truly walking the proverbial "bridge to nowhere."
I fail to understand the relevancy of your reference to McCain (was that supposed to upset me?) or--and this is your doxological panic button--your grandparents. You are neither saved nor wise by proxy. Why don't we just forget mentioning the grandparents anymore? Thanks, I'd really appreciate it because every time you bring them up, it causes me to yawn.

2:45 PM  
Blogger Jeff Kerr said...

Pastor Gleason,

I'm a Covenant Seminary student from Canada. I feel particularly strongly about returning to minister in Canada - it needs it badly. There are very few options in the PCA (where I would prefer to be) in Canada. I'm strongly considering the CRC. I'd love to have some of your thoughts on it, since I'm in basic agreement with you on the issue of women in ministry (and I'm under 30, by the way). Enjoy your Bavinck conference. I've enjoyed reading him in seminary.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Solameanie said...


I am actually glad that Randy used the "living, breathing" reference. It further reveals where he's coming from, which is the typical liberal postmodern view of objective truth. It has direct parallels in politics. You often hear unregenerate liberals say the same thing about the Constitution. In their view, it no longer means what the Founding Fathers meant when they wrote it. Because it is a "living" document, that gives them the right to reinterpret it and CHANGE the meaning to suit whatever their particular goals are for the moment.

Liberal Christians approach the Bible and theology the same way. It's like Humpty Dumpty in "Alice in Wonderland." He said "words mean whatever I want them to mean. No more. No less."

With Scripture, there is only one correct interpretation. Many applications, but only one correct interpretation. That reality makes liberals get hives. Unless they can morph truth to suit themselves, they're miserable.

7:11 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

I dare say most of you are scared to follow a God who is living and breathing.

If you are reformed, you believe in progressive revelation. If you claim to be reformed, but if you don't believe in progressive revelation, you are not reformed.

Regardless, if you want to live by the Spirit, if you want to keep in touch with the Spirit, you should acknowledge that God is living and breathing.

Ron --- welcome to Grand Rapids. Perhaps we should do lunch! :)
Perhaps you should join our community for worship tomorrow night.

As for my grandparents, why do you show no outward desire to be a person of wisdom? I would just like to know that?

Finally, if you guys are such believers in a soverign God, why are you scared of post-moderns, the emerging church, and anything else that deviates from you brand of God?

Perhaps chasing after faith, hope, and love would have more value than trying to protect God???

9:20 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

p.s. I'm wondering how many of your churches asked their people to read thru an entire book to the Bible this week?

We read thru Romans this week, and we'll likely be looking at it for the next two years...

9:22 PM  
Blogger IceDawg said...

Hi Randy,

I trust things are going well in Michigan today. Just to clarify, progressive revelation is not the problem. It is progressive revelation to Randy outside the boundaries of a closed canon that is (see Revelation 22:18-19).

God is living and breathing and, don't forget, unchangeable (Numbers 23:19). However, you were saying the Bible is breathing making it possible for you to make it say anything you want, or disregard the passages you may not like. There's a big difference.

One final observation. There's a big difference between thinking someone is wrong and being scared of them. The apostles also were diligent about making sure no false teaching entered the church (Acts 15:1-2, 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, Romans 16:17)

6:41 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

I begin with Randy's judgment of charity: "I dare say most of you are scared to follow a God who is living and breathing." When did you do your survey to gather the data? For someone who carps about others being judgmental, well...Most of us who are scared get the point.

Randy, Progressive Revelation, as taught by, say, B.B. Warfield only meant that what was latent in the OT is patent in the NT. He never taught that revelations or additions to Scripture continued into this age. Surely you know that, don't you? (cf. Deut. 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19.)

Your grandparents: yawn. You are the king of the "non sequitur."

What makes you think that any of us are scared of postmoderns? You sound like the homosexual community to the effect that everyone who disagrees with them is automatically a homophobe. That simply is not true. I am not afraid of postmoderns, I am convinced that their view of Scripture, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics is severely detrimental to the Church militant. Moreover, it is antithetical to Scripture. Having grave concerns is a far cry from being afraid. Nice try, though.

"p.s. I'm wondering how many of your churches asked their people to read thru an entire book to the Bible this week?"

Randy, you must have slept through Church History class as well. The Reformation reintroduced a procedure called "lectio continua." What that did was to teach the congregants the contents of Scripture. I cannot, like you, speak for everyone, but at Grace we still practice the "lectio continua" to great benefit of the members.

Is Romans still in the Bible? I would have thought that ole Bri would have done the Marcion "cut and paste" dance by now and relegated it to the realm of the irrelevant because of its clear condemnation of homosexuality. We do know, of course, that Romans is unclear to Rob and Kristin Bell. Anyway, the answer to your question is yes. To date, I have preached 170 sermons on Romans and we're in chapter 12. This summer, I'm preaching a series entitled "Who is the Lord That We Should Worship Him?" We're actually using what's left of the Bible after your progressive revelation theory to discover anew who and how God is.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

I understand your dilemma. There are still just a few good CRC churches in the US and Canada. I knew some good men when I was in Toronto, but I think most of them are now URC.

I admire your desire to return to Canada and minister there, for it is a dry, barren spiritual wasteland. I will certainly be praying for you.

My initial response is to stay away from the CRC. Even if the local congregation is sound, you'll have to contend with much opposition from your classis and synods. It is a tough choice because there are so few good choices in Canada. For what it's worth, I would advise against the CRC for a number of reasons.

I will certainly keep you in prayer. Let's continue talking.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Randy said...

A clsed Canon not, we should recognize the Spirit lives among us. Without theSpirit, we would still have slavery. Without the Spirit, we would have no theology of the Trinity nor would we have had a reformation.

Call it what you want, but if the churches can't hear the Spirit, we have no life for people to witness.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Solameanie said...

Randy: "if churches can't hear the Spirit."

Scripture is God-breathed. The Spirit works through His Word. When pastors, teachers and authors ignore or twist Scripture, that is a sign to me that they are NOT Spirit led, no matter how many warm fuzzies they might give you.

The Spirit never divorces Himself from the Word of God. Ever. Nor does He lead His people to violate His Word.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Kyle said...


How does the Spirit speak to us? Do you hear voices like the Pentecostals? Maybe you can interpret glossalalia?

10:04 AM  
Blogger Jeff Kerr said...

Pr. Gleason,

Thanks for your response. I appreciate it very much. I would love to continue the conversation. Is there an email address at which I can reach you? Is it on your profile? Thanks again.

11:27 AM  

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