I Steam, You Steam, We All Steam at Osteen

Greg GilbertWell, maybe we’re not that mad at Joel Osteen, but Greg Gilbert’s new review of Osteen’s book, Your Best Life Now, reminds us of why we are appalled at his version of “Christianity.” Greg Gilbert describes Osteen’s work this way:

It should be noted clearly and widely that there is nothing Christian about this book. Yes, Osteen talks about God throughout, but it is not the God of the Bible he has in mind. Osteen’s God is little more than the mechanism that gives the power to positive thinking. There is no cross. There is no sin. There is no redemption or salvation or eternity. . .

If Joel Osteen wants to be the Norman Vincent Peale of the twenty-first century, he has every right to give it a shot. But he should stop marketing his message as Christianity, because it is not. You cannot simply make reference to God, quote some Scripture, call what you’re saying “spiritual principles,” and pass it off as Christianity. That’s the kind of thing that will have people “enlarging their vision” and “choosing to be happy” all the way to hell (source).

I haven’t read Osteen’s book and don’t plan to. But I have watched enough of Osteen on television to know that his preaching is as Gospel-free as Gilbert says his book is. Go check out the rest of Gilbert’s review. It’s sad, but it sounds the alarm that many need to hear.

For more on Joel Osteen:
My Previous Posts on Joel Osteen
“Osteen’s answer to ‘gay marriage’ question less than direct” – Baptist Press (Sept 22, 2006)
“Meanwhile, In No Apparent Danger of Arrest” – by R. Albert Mohler

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The Appearance of Partisanship

Many evangelicals are truly political partisans. There are many others who are not partisan, but nevertheless have the appearance of a partisanship because of their consistent support for Republican candidates. For those of us who fall in the latter category, the explanation is rather simple. The Democrats and Republicans couldn’t be more polarized when it comes to the most important human rights issue of our time–abortion.

I cannot improve upon Robert George’s analysis of this polarization and the effect that it has on conscientious, pro-life voters. George writes,

However much one might dislike Republican policies in other areas, it’s clear that the death toll under the Democrats would be so large as to make it unreasonable for Catholic citizens, or citizens of any faith who oppose the taking of innocent human life, to use their votes and influence to help bring the Democratic party into power.

I find no cause for joy in this. I wish that it were possible for pro-life citizens legitimately to support Democratic candidates. I wish that the party of my parents and grandparents had not placed itself on the wrong side of the most profound human rights issue of our contemporary domestic politics. I wish that the killing of embryonic and fetal human beings by abortion and in biomedical research were resolutely opposed by both parties so that we could cast our votes based on our assessments of the candidates’ and parties’ competing positions on taxation, immigration, education, welfare, health-care reform, national security, and foreign policy. It is hardly satisfactory that pro-life citizens—representing a variety of views on the range of issues in economic, social, and foreign policy—find themselves bound to the Republicans because the only viable alternative is a party that has abandoned its commitment to the weakest and most vulnerable members of the human family by embracing abortion and embryo-destructive research (source).

Right on.

(HT: Justin Talyor)

Congratulations to Dr. Barry Joslin!

Paternoster's Biblical Monographs SeriesCongratulations to my best friend of 22 years, Dr. Barry Joslin of Boyce College in Louisville, Kentucky. I found out today that Paternoster will be publishing his dissertation in their Biblical Monographs series. Barry’s book will be an important contribution to the study of the theology of the book of Hebrews. It’s titled The Theology of the Mosaic Law in Hebrews 7-10.

Barry’s dissertation will be the third monograph appearing in this series by a graduate of Southern Seminary’s Ph.D. program. The other two that I know of are by Rob Plummer and Shawn Wright.

So, I just wanted to give a hearty “atta boy” to Barry and to Southern Seminary. Keep up the good work!

Touchstone Editors Weigh in on the Gender Conversation

I would like to thank three of the editors at Touchstone magazine who have taken the time to participate in the conversation that we have been having on this blog. Of course the conversation that I am referring to is the one about gender (here, here, and here). The editors are S. M. Hutchens, David Mills, and Anthony Esolen. Two posts have appeared on the Touchstone blog that refer to our debate.

Burk’s Readers On Hutchens” -by David Mills
All Flattened Things are Equal” -by Anthony Esolen

This conversation started on September 7 when I wrote a brief note on S. M. Hutchens’ review of John G. Stackhouse’s book Finally Feminist: A Pragmatic Christian Understanding of Gender. It’s almost twenty days later, and I am still getting comments on that post, including another one just a fews days ago from Hutchens himself.
I think Anthony Esolen’s reflections on this conversation are apt. He writes on the Touchstone blog:

Nor have the “egalitarians” anything really interesting to say about the sexes — because their form of egalitarianism is really indifferentism, leveling distinctions by denying that they exist. . . And once we have done that, it is doubtful that we have remained Christian. The egalitarian — the indifferentist — becomes unitarian, reconceiving the self-revealed God according to the vanity of his own rather dull imagination.

Ben Witherington Puts Just War Tradition on Trial (at least implicitly)

Dr. Ben WitheringtonMaybe he didn’t intend to do this, but New Testament scholar Ben Witherington has put the “Just War” tradition on trial in his most recent blog post.

Commenting on the Family Research Council’s recent summit in Washington, D. C., Witherington complains that many evangelical Christians are inconsistent when they vigorously advocate pro-life policies while supporting the war in Iraq. He writes,

Interestingly, what no one was suggesting at the conservative Christian organizers meeting was that maybe, just maybe it was grossly inconsistent when it comes to being ‘pro-life’ to be campaigning so vigorously against abortion, while supporting the war in Iraq equally vigorously. Indeed, by some polls it appears Evangelical Christians are still some of the most staunch supporters of the war in Iraq. What’s up with that? . . .

What was M.I.A. at this meeting was a recognition that war is just as destructive of life in general and Christian values in particular as abortion or same sex marriage. I suspect that until it dawns on these Christian organizers that they need to be articulating a more consistent and clear life ethic that not only affects personal Christian values but our larger witness to the whole world, that most non-Christians are not going to pay much attention to us.

I don’t know that Witherington is a pacifist, but the logic of his blog-entry is. He has linked the evil of war to the evil of abortion-on-demand and same-sex “marriage.” To say that Christians must oppose war in the same way that they do abortion-on-demand and same-sex “marriage” demands that Christians surrender the idea that there is such a thing as a just war—that is, unless one can envisage a Just Abortion-on-Demand theory or a Just Same-Sex Marriage theory.

It is fine for Witherington to argue vigorously that the Iraq War was unjust and therefore anti-Christian. But it is quite another matter to suggest that all wars have the same moral status as abortion-on-demand and same-sex “marriage.” To me it makes more sense simply to acknowledge that Christians can disagree about whether the war in Iraq is a Just War. Let’s have a debate about that, but let’s not throw out the entire Just War tradition because we think that some on the religious right have misapplied it to the Iraq War.

Biblical Patriarchy and 1 Timothy 2:12

12 in the Greek BibleMy wife and I have a friend from college who has asked some insightful questions in the comments section of my previous post, “Postscript on Women in Ministry.” Our friend’s questions bring to the surface some of the practical issues upon which Complementarians have yet to reach consensus. One of the chief issues that Complementarians disagree on is whether it is ever appropriate for a woman to teach Christian doctrine to men in the church.

I am posting my response to my friend below. This response does not comprise everything that needs to be said on this issue or this text (1 Timothy 2:12), but I hope it can serve as a spark to ignite a conversation that needs to take place among Complementarians.

For a broader treatment of this topic see Russell Moore’s “After Patriarchy, What? Why Egalitarians Are Winning the Evangelical Gender Debate.”

___________________________

Dear Friend,

Thanks for your comment. You have hit a point upon which complementarians have not reached consensus. What complementarians agree on is summed up in the Danvers Statement that I alluded to earlier. But they are not in agreement upon everything.

In short, complementarians agree that the Bible teaches a principle of headship that must be observed within the church and within the home (e.g., 1 Cor 11:3; Ephesians 5:21ff). For most, the practical implications of this principle are twofold: (1) the office of pastor/elder is only to be held by qualified male believers, and (2) the husband is the leader in his home.

Nevertheless, many Complementarians continue to disagree concerning how this principle of “headship” should be observed within the church. While there is agreement that pastors/elders should be male, there is disagreement concerning what the Bible says about women teaching mixed audiences. Some complementarian churches do not allow women to teach mixed adult audiences, while other complementarian churches do allow it. On this particular point, there is agreement in principle (observing headship), but disagreement in practice (teaching mixed audiences).

To some extent, I’m sure the disagreement is probably driven by pragmatic considerations. But to some degree, the disagreement is also due to conflicting interpretations of the Bible, especially 1 Timothy 2:12. Commentators point out that 1 Timothy 2:12 has at least two possible translations/interpretations:

Translation #1: “I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man.”
Translation #2: “I do not allow a woman to teach with authority over a man.”

Notice that the first translation prohibits two things: teaching and exercising authority. Notice that the second translation only prohibits one thing: a certain kind of teaching.

Complementarian churches that allow women to teach mixed audiences tend to favor the second translation. The idea seems to be that a woman can teach a mixed audience as long as she does so under the “headship” and authority of the pastors/elders and her husband. When she teaches under the auspices of those “heads,” she is not violating the command in 1 Timothy 2:12 which prohibits “teaching with authority,” because she is teaching while under authority. You mentioned Beth Moore’s ministry in your comment. I know, for instance, that this “headship view” is what is practiced at her church, the First Baptist Church of Houston. FBC Houston claims to be a complementarian church, but Beth Moore and other women frequently teach mixed audiences at that church.

What is my view on this question? I agree with the first translation that I listed above. The best I can tell, Paul teaches that women cannot be pastors/elders (a la “exercising authority”), and they are not to teach Christian doctrine to adult male believers. The dispute over the proper translation of 1 Timothy 2:12 does not come down to what is the most literal rendering. All sides agree that the literal rendering is the one reflected in Translation #1. The question is whether or not Paul is using a figure of speech called hendiadys.

A hendiadys is a figure of speech in which an author expresses a single idea by two nouns instead of a noun and its qualifier. I can give you example of this figure of speech in English. Consider the following sentence.

“He came despite the rain and weather.”

Doesn’t this sentence really mean this:

“He came despite the rainy weather.”

In other words, by separating the term “rainy weather” into “rain” and “weather” the speaker accentuates the adjective by transforming it into a noun.

Some commentators think that this is what is happening with 1 Timothy 2:12. Therefore they translate it so that “authority” modifies “teach.” So “to teach or to exercise authority” becomes “to teach with authority.” My main problem with this translation is that I am convinced that the words that are used in the Greek text of 1 Timothy 2:12 are not the kinds of words that ever get used in this figure of speech called hendiadys (see Andreas Köstenberger in Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15). So my reasons for rejecting Translation #2 are exegetical.

The result of my understanding of Paul’s teaching is that gifted women teachers do need to exercise their teaching gift. I think there are innumerable appropriate contexts in which they can and should teach (e.g. Titus 2:3 and the list in my previous post). But in the church, they would want to be careful not to violate the scripture’s command not to teach Christian doctrine to men.

I’m not a perfect man or a perfect exegete. But I have been looking at this issue for many years, and this is the best I can make out of what Paul is teaching in 1 Timothy 2:12. This isn’t, by the way, the view that I had when we were in college. To be quite honest, back then, I hadn’t really even thought about this verse or these issues very carefully. When I started college, I was more or less a default egalitarian. So now you know that I have come to this view rather late in my Christian walk.

I hope that I can rally other complementarians to this point of view because I think it is the correct understanding of the text, not just of 1 Timothy 2:12 but also of the Bible’s comprehensive vision of complementarian values.

Well, that’s a long comment, and if you made it this far, you deserve a medal. Thanks for reading my blog, and thank you for your comment.

Sincerely,
Denny Burk

Postscript on Women in Ministry

A spirited discussion continues under my previous post “Evangelical Gender Wars and the Authority of the Bible.” In the comments under that post, one of the items in contention is the idea that complementarians limit/restrict women who want to serve in Christian ministry.

While it is true that complementarians hold that some offices and teaching situations are for qualified men only, complementarians affirm that faithful Christian women should have vital ministries within the church of Jesus Christ.

Since 1987, the Danvers Statement has long been recognized as an overview of the core beliefs of complementarians. This document has an important word of affirmation concerning the need for women to serve in Christian ministry:

With half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world (1 Cor 12:7-21).

In John Piper’s essay “A Vision of Biblical Complementarity,” Piper actually expands upon this section from the Danvers Statement and lists scores of ministries that are vital and in which women can and should be involved (see list below). But even Piper admits after his long list that many more ministries could and should be added.

In light of the expansive opportunities for women in ministry that are cited by complementarians, I do not think that it is credible to argue that complementarians want to relegate women to the sidelines in Christian service. Quite the opposite is the case. What we are saying is that all of the ministries of both men and women should be done with deference to the principle of headship that God has established within the created order (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-33).

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN IN MINISTRY

Ministries to the handicapped

Hearing impaired
Blind
Lame
Retarded

Ministries to the sick

Nursing
Physician
Hospice care-cancer, AIDS, etc.
Community health

Ministries to the socially estranged

Emotionally impaired
Recovering alcoholics
Recovering drug-users
Escaping prostitutes
Abused children, women
Runaways, problem children
Orphans

Prison ministries

Women’s prisons
Families of prisoners
Rehabilitation to society

Ministries to youth

Teaching
Sponsoring
Open houses and recreation
Outings and trips
Counseling
Academic assistance

Sports ministries

Neighborhood teams
Church teams

Therapeutic counseling

Independent
Church-based
Institutional

Audiovisual ministries

Composition
Design
Production
Distribution

Writing ministries

Free-lance
Curriculum development
Fiction
Non-fiction
Editing
Institutional communications
Journalistic skills for publications

Teaching ministries

Sunday school: children, youth, students, women
Grade school
High school
College

Music ministries

Composition
Training
Performance
Voice
Choir
Instrumentalist

Evangelistic ministries

Personal witnessing
Parachurch groups
Home Bible studies
Outreach to children
Visitation teams
Counseling at meetings
Telephone counseling

Radio and television ministries

Technical assistance
Writing
Announcing
Producing

Theater and drama ministries

Acting
Directing
Writing
Scheduling

Social ministries

Literacy
Pro-life
Pro-decency
Housing
Safety
Beautification
Drug rehabilitation
Pastoral care assistance
Visitation
Newcomer welcoming and assistance
Hospitality
Food and clothing and transportation

Prayer ministries

Praying
Mobilizing for prayer events
Helping with small groups of prayer
Coordinating prayer chains
Promoting prayer days and weeks and vigils
Missions

All of the above across cultures

Support ministries

Countless “secular” jobs that undergird other ministries
The awesome significance of motherhood
Making a home as a full-time wife