Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Should Women Preach pt. 2


In my last article, I raised the question as to whether women should preach.  Now, I did write that I am looking at this question in a very narrow sense.  I will not be raising the egalitarian arguments nor address them here.  If you would like more information regarding this movement and the damage they are causing, feel free to go here.  My intention is to raise a concern that seems to be more popular amongst complimentarians. 
                       
Today, there are many complimentarians who acknowledge that Scriptures limited the leadership, the elders, to men.  Yet, they want their cake and eat it too in this sense: they argue since the elders are in the position of authority, the elders have the right in exercising their authority to invite any person to preach for the primary service of worship for their church.  Raising the question, “Is it Biblical for the elders of a church to permit a woman to preach during the gathering of the saints in their public worship?”  In other words, is it legitimate for elders, today, to permit something that Paul seems to clearly state that he does not allow? 

Here is what Paul states, 1 Timothy 2:12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. (ESV)  All modern English translations read the same in regard to this verse.  Within chapter two, to young Timothy, Paul is outlining how the church is to conduct itself in corporate worship.  Prior to this chapter, Paul shares with Timothy why he has placed him there in Ephesus to maintain sound doctrine in the face of many who are false teachers even naming two who are blasphemers of the Lord.  As he finishes these instructions in chapter 2, he moves to the qualifications for overseers/elders and deacons in chapter 3. 

Within this context of corporate worship, Paul outlines this instruction regarding women.  The first concern for us is epitrepw, (epitrepo) which is argued a temporal limitation and limits the prohibition to just Ephesus.  As Knight points out, “An examination of other occurrences of Paul’s use of first person singular present indicative demonstrates that he uses it to give universal and authoritative instruction or exhortation.”[i]  Dr. William Mounce concurs with this assessment in his own commentary on this epistle through Word Bible Commentary Series, stating,
           
While at times it does refer to a specific situation, it is the context that limits its scope and not the intrinsic meaning of the word.  The point is that if the semantic force of the word is authoritative, the use of the indicative does not lessen its force.  The imperative in v 11 has already established the tone of the passage.  It can also be argued that the shift from “I desire” (v 8; itself a strong term), to the stronger “I permit,” signals an increasing sense of authority.[ii]

Paul is not making a temporal statement but one that is to be binding on the church.  If church leadership, the elders, are not allowed to exempt the church from Jesus’ command to love one another, why should they have the authority to ignore this one in 1 Timothy 2:12?  Where does Scripture inform us that it is okay to pick and choose what to obey as long as the elders say so?

Though I had promised to get at the heart of “to teach” and “authority,” this post is already at a great length.  Sadly, this part of the discussion will have to wait for part 3 of “Should Women Preach.” 

PuritanD


[i] Knight III, George W., The Pastoral Epistles: The New International Greek Testament Commentary; Eerdmans 1992 p. 140
[ii] Mounce, William, Pastoral Epistles: Word Bible Commentary vol 46; Thomas Nelson 2000 p. 122

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Should Women Preach?

Moving from one state to another, you learn what makes people tick in comparison to those whom you have left.  For those who reside in Indiana, if you want to strike up a heated conversation, one just has to mention “time zone,” and you will receive an earful pro/con on being Eastern time and pro/con to daylight savings time.  It would seem that you would have walked into a minefield without knowing it.  Likewise, there are topics that are treaded lightly in Evangelicalism for fear of the storm that might arise.  Though there are many such topics, women’s roles seem to take top notch, especially in the culture we live in today.  It is a discussion that can be lively, we have churches that demand adherence to their viewpoint if you want to be members no questions can be raised on their beliefs, Christian publishing refusing to print from authors who may align on the “other side” of this issue. 

After so many years, one would think that this issue has been resolved.  Yet, it is still provoking angst amongst many a Christian.  In this article we will not be going over the old ground of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism.   To better understand my position, the egalitarians are busy trying to find new and improved ways to “interpret” the Scriptures towards their “view point” trying hard to find that silver bullet.  As one colleague commented, “the burden of proof was on the part of egalitarians to prove that the complementarian position was wrong, because the plain reading of the text is clearly complementarian.” 

Instead, I would like to work on the issue that is becoming a wedge between complementarians.  The disagreement comes from an idea that as long as the eldership/leadership is male, it is okay for a woman to preach the sermon on Sunday morning.  The argument goes like this:  The elders are in the position of authority and therefore they may permit a woman to preach.  By authorizing this, the elders can sanction a lady to step behind the pulpit, open the text, and preach and yet still maintain that since the elders are in charge, no harm no foul done in light of 1 Timothy 2:12-14.

Before going further, I need to define a few terms: preaching, teaching, and authority.  I was at a conference recently where one preacher preached on preaching (I know, a mouthful).  He stated that simplistically, preaching is none other than heralding or proclaiming and a preacher of Christ is one who heralds the good news or the gospel of Jesus Christ.  According to such a definition he challenged the audience that in this sense we are all to preach, both male and female.  Men and women are to proclaim or herald the gospel message to all.  I am not aware of a single person who would argue that a woman should not proclaim Jesus to an unrepentive soul no matter the gender.  I was also encouraged that he saw that proclaiming the gospel to others of the same gender was of great importance.  I am not aware of any complementarian who would state that a woman could not preach evangelistically to nonbelievers or to other women.  With regard to whether a woman’s proclamation to a mix gender group of believers, the speaker left it open and never address this issue in light of Paul’s admonition for restraint found in 1 Timothy 2:12-14. 

It is when we come to the church setting; the setting of public worship; the gathering of the saints that the problem arises.  Should, in this context, a woman be able to preach?  The preacher at the conference did not answer the question directly.  Indirectly, one may presume that he would have answered this question in the positive.  Yet by keeping silent, this may cause more harm to complementarian denominations than good if we do not wrestle and apply Paul’s teaching on this particular question in reference to the restriction that Paul placed on the female gender in public worship found in the above text.

In part two of this series, I will define, ‘teaching,’ and ‘authority,’ and answer the question, “Should a woman be able to preach?” 

PuritanD

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Visual, Audio, and the Word of God

A few weeks back, I came across a web resource called “Daily Audio Bible” (DAB) which does daily Bible readings.  This is a fascinating use of modern technology.  Personally, I think that this can be a very beneficial tool for the church, as we desire a deeper relationship with the Lord.  Having so many resources at our fingertips, we would be foolish not to take advantage of what the Lord has given us.

At the same time, there raises a deep concern within my soul for such ministries.  Listening to the introduction, there is Brian, the founder, a couple of testimonials sharing what the DAB is about and how it came into existence.  Brian adds on a devotional at the end of the reading clarifying what was being read.  Now, according to Brian, the Bible has a voice and if given a chance to speak it will.  Brian is just the vessel for that voice to speak.  Yet, he freely admits that he started a virtual community, becoming ordained and shepherding this “flock.” 

Is this a bad thing?  Not necessarily, I am glad to hear about someone taking on such a wonderful task.  The concern is based on a few items.  First, the usage of many translations should be a yellow flag to any person.  Not all translations are equal and some do an extremely poor job of translating the Hebrew and Greek text.  Second, by Brian stating that it is not his voice, he seems to misunderstand the value that reading the text aloud is inferring one’s own understanding of the text.  The way one emphasizes a word, to their breathing, to the speed at which it is read all inflect that person’s understanding of what God’s Word is saying.  Third, it is obvious that this is bigger than “just reading” the Bible, especially if he felt compelled to become ordained and attached daily devotions to explain what is being read.

With these in mind, one could see a possibility that people will stop reading the Word all together.  In fact, one testimonial states that she was unable to stay consistent in reading her Bible, when she fell behind it would become a checklist and not really absorbing what she is reading.  The devotion at the end clarifies what is being read and really helped her see the “picture” of what the Bible is saying.  There was no thought of reading along as Brian read the text of the day.  We Americans are prone to doing whatever comes the easiest.  We do not desire nor entertain thoughts of hard work.  If someone has already done it, why should we?  We want to multi-task of doing something and listening at the same time.  How well do we truly listen? 

The value of this ministry is to help supplement one’s own reading of God’s Word not replace it.  If a person replaces their responsibility to read, they can no longer be able to attest to what is being taught.  They would take the reader at his/her voice as to what is in the text.  It just becomes another avenue of just getting by in our walk instead of being a resource to deepen our faith, supplementing our own reading. 

Paul was encouraged when the Bereans search the Scriptures and John commands us to test the spirits.  How can we do either, if we surrender such responsibility to the need of convenience?   If our Bibles are collecting dust, doesn’t our souls as well?

 PuritanD

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hatushili's Home: Review: Family Driven Faith

Hatushili's Home: Review: Family Driven Faith

An excellent overview of a great book.

Public Schools: What should the Christian Do? – Part 2

The biggest concern is whether government school is solely a place for education or indoctrination.  If it is the former, then the Christian has no need for concern.  However, if the school is for indoctrination, then what is it indoctrinating our children with, especially when Christianity has successfully been taking out of government school.  It all boils down to the issue of world-view. 

Listen to what some prominent Christians are saying regarding the crises we have with government run education.  Dr. Tim LaHaye states, “One of the big problems we have today, I think is the Church…. The church is facing a serious problem of losing its young people to the world by the time they graduate from high school, and what is the reason?  Twelve thousand hours of secular humanist brainwashing….It is time we parents get our kids out of the public school.”[i]  Dr. LaHaye may not have known this but the most recent of research supports his main thesis in his statement.

Dr. Charles Stanley argues, “When you send that child off to school today, you’re sending them into a pagan society because…the school system is not going to teach them to believe God-not going to teach them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ-or to honor Him.  But they’re going to, by the way they teach, little by little, do what?… Attack their faith…teaching them ethics that are unethical according to Scripture, teaching them to  be willing to participate in immoral, ungodly, sensual practices that are acceptable to the world but condemned by Almighty God…”[ii]  He continues to comment that they may not acknowledge that it is what is happening but it is not what they say but what they do. 

The late Dr. D. James Kennedy wrote, “Of course, one of the most important concepts to remember is that God gave the job of rearing godly children to parents, not to the state or the National Education Association….The ones who will eventually pay the heaviest price are the children who are left to be trained solely by a false and empty humanistic education system which not only fails to educate, but fails to prepare them to become the moral leaders God intended them to be!”[iii]

If these men are not enough, consider Charlotte Iserbyt, former Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, US Department of Education.  She was also a local school board member and is the author of The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.  She described our governmental school system as follows:

You think the purpose of education is reading, writing and arithmetic?  The purpose of education is to change the thoughts, actions, and feelings of students.  Hitler wanted to control the educational system in Germany, Stalin did in Russia, Mao Zedong in China.  You have to get a hold of the minds of the young, where you break the person’s values; you break their understanding of their individuality.  You bring them to a consensus with the group; they become a member of the collective.  It’s Soviet education, basically-might as well say it- it’s Soviet education.  You cannot expect to have a smoothly running, world socialist system if you have people out there who are going to object to what you’re trying to do, so you have to brainwash them.[iv]

The sad truth is that all the information, the facts, leads to the conclusion that the US educational system is more interested in indoctrinating our children into secular, immoral, and godless ways of thinking and behaving than truly educating them.  Granted, there are Christian teachers in the government school system, and I would encourage them to continue teaching.  However, neither you nor I can be guaranteed that every teacher our child will be under will be of the same worldview. 

Unmistakably, we Christian parents are aghast when we see the problems, from the local bullying at the high school to diminished patriotism to a lack of moral standards.  Yet, we are as much the problem as the answer.  We just continue to give our government schools our kids, literally authorizing them, telling them that it is fine with us that you teach them secular humanism, that God is dead.  According to one study, more than 85% of Christian parents apparently believe their children are safe under the tutelage of public school.  We believe that since we turned out “okay” then they will too.  

It is time though for each Christian to examine the Scriptures.  Before we send our children to the school down the street, we need to step back and take the time to weigh the pro’s and con’s of this important decision.  There are other options available today for the Christian parent.  Government school no longer holds the monopoly in regard to equipping our children.  There is the private school, co-op’s, home schooling, and probably something in-between that no one has yet dreamt.  We are responsible for the training of our children.  It is time we take this responsibility seriously. 


[i] Interviewed on DVD Education in Today’s Culture: A Biblical Perspective 2004
[ii] Dr. Charles Stanley, “A Mother’s Greatest Gift,” Part 2 (DVD), In Touch Ministries 2007
[iii] Dr. D. James Kennedy, Truth in Education, Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc. 1996
[iv] Charlotte Iserbyt, as quoted in One Nation Under Siege, a William Lewis film, 2006

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Public Schools: What should the Christian Do?

This topic has been heavily blogged and debated to the point one would wonder why I might try to bring this subject up.  Sadly, this subject has even see churches split.  One wonders why this subject is hotly contested for no one argues that the public school system is broke and in need of repair.  We all see the news stories about how our schools seem to be failing at ever step, that we are not as competitive in the world.  Generally,
Christians agree that the public school system has rejected God and is now a source for human naturalism, just ask why creation is no longer taught at your local high school or middle school.   Yet, we insist on fighting a fight that seems to be hinging on the incredulous. 


“Some of us think that all cannot be too bad.”  “Such a thing might be happening, but it is not happening at our schools.”  “My spouse though works as the school.”  “My pastor is on the school board.”  Though I comprehend these thoughts, these statements are missing the bigger picture.  The problem of government schools is to big for the band-aid response from the Christian community.  The sad reality is that many brothers and sisters in Christ have not thought through this biblically or theologically prior to sending their children to the government run school system.  The quick response when question is that hey it was okay for me so it should be okay for them. 

Christians who still doubt the evil agendas of the government (public) schools need to take heed of the insights of Christian organizations:  American Family Association (AFA), Liberty Counsel, Concerned Women for America (CWA), and others. 


AFA has done a documentary entitled, Speechless: Silencing the Christians.  One segment tells the story of a mostly conservative, tight-knit community in Kentucky whose schools have not escaped the reach of the homosexual lobby.  Regarding a video that promoted homosexual lifestyle, “Students were told that they could not make any comments that disagreed with this idea, and they were not allowed to object on religious
grounds…. There was also no provision for parents to opt their children out of the program.”  A mother responds to the school in the film, “You’re telling me that my child is no longer mine as long as he’s on school property? And they [school officials] said, ‘That is correct.’”[1]

Now some of us may quickly think that this is will never happen in our schools.  The NEA (National Education Association), the largest teacher’s union, would disagree.  Matt Barber, director of
Cultural Affairs for Liberty Counsel, explains, “The National Education Association is on board a hundred percent with the homosexual lobby’s wish list – with their goals – so they have an ‘in’ to our system of public
education.  Groups like GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, they provide the curriculum that is being taught in our Sex Ed classes throughout schools – and civic classes and elsewhere – they provide the curriculum.”[2]

Concerned Women for America doing their research remarks, “I’ve warned about this before, but now the evidence is beyond dispute: there is an evil scheme aimed at destroying our children.  The attack comes on many fronts…These reports confirm my worse fears about this scheme.  Radical homosexual activists have long said, “Whoever controls the schools controls the future.”  If they can convince the next generation
that homosexuality is “just another lifestyle,” there will be no stopping them.”[3]

One may start to be wondering, where are you going with this?  Sadly, I am out of room for this post.  My next post will look at what some Christian leaders state regarding public schools and hopefully encourage fellow parents to engage Biblically and come to a theological solution for their children.



[1] Speechless: Silencing the Christians,  produced by AFA; hosted and narrated by Janet Parshall.  The film may be viewed at www.silencingchristians.com
[2] Ibid.
[3] “Jesse’s Dream Skirt, New Tactics Revealed to Lure Our Children,” 2005 Newsletter #451, Jesse’s Dream Skirt Ver. B1, Concerned Women for America, August 8, 2005.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Health care - Are there any options

As we struggle with the new law, Christians have some struggles with the idea of allowing our money to go directly to abortion amongst other things. With this in mind, there are many Christians asking what can be done. One such question was asked of Voddie Baucham, a prolific Bible teach. Below is that question and his response.

I remembered reading a blog of yours some time ago that you used Samaritan Ministries instead of regular insurance. My family is having a hard time with health insurance (and NOT wanting Obamacare!) so we are checking into Samaritan. We wanted to ask a family that has it if they are pleased and would recommend it to others.


This question is very important in light of the recent passage of Obamacare. We are in the midst of a Constitutional crisis the magnitude of which most Americans cannot fathom. Even if the Republican party takes power again, they are likely to treat this issue like that of Social Security or Medicaid (two other socialist programs that were instituted under the "New Deal," and are now Sacred Cows that even the staunchest conservatives choose to ignore even though the programs are bankrupt both financially and ethically).

Socialized medicine, in one form or another, is probably here to stay. In the meantime, Samaritan Ministries (and other health care cost sharing programs) is a viable alternative. We chose Samaritan for several reasons:

1) We do not want to pay for procedures we find morally repugnant

Samaritan Ministries is committed to biblical truth. The members of Samaritan have to sign a statement of faith, and have a pastoral recommendation to join. While this is not "foolproof," it is an important safeguard. On the other end of the equation, we know that claims are examined based on the aforementioned standards. I don't have to worry about funding an abortion through Samaritans.

2) We do not want to participate in an unconstitutional, immoral, unethical program if we don't have to.

The current health care bill is a constitutional nightmare in more ways than one. Not only is it unconstitutional for government to mandate the purchase of any product or service, there is also the issue of the unconstitutional measures employed to secure the passage of the bill. Not to mention the myriad other aspects of this legislation that cross the bounds of both Constitutional legality and ethics. If there is any way not to participate in this system, we will find it (by the way, I opted out of Social Security for the same reason).

3) We want to be able to negotiate directly with our doctors for the best price

One of the reasons health care costs have skyrocketed is the existence of multiple middle-men. When we show up at the doctor's office and tell them we're with Samaritans, and will be paying them directly, we almost always get a significant discount. This is both encouraging and sad. Encouraging in that we save money, and sad in that it demonstrates the amount of waste inherent in the current system.

4) We want to be a part of something that has the potential to bring about change

Because of the loophole in the bill, Samaritan is a safe haven for Christians who want to escape the government takeover of health care. However, it also has the potential to open the floodgates for more programs like it. I am encouraged by the number of people who have asked me about Samaritan Ministries. A number of them have joined, and are now part of this important network. Others still have questions.

We are proud both to belong to and recommend Samaritan Ministries.

If you have more questions, click here, or contact Samaritan Ministries at 888.268.4377, or email them at smchcn@smchcn.net

What are your thoughts on this? What should we as Christians do?

PuritanD

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Time Changers: Divorce of Morality with Authority

Two weeks ago, I was able to go off to Lewisburg to a place for those who work within parachurch or church ministry. During my time of refocusing, reflecting, and relaxing, I was able to watch a movie that has challenged my thinking. The movie is produced by a Christian organization and would not have that “Hollywood feel,” which sadly turns off a few Christians. I do not understand the comparison of expectations from production teams that have very limited monetary resources verses ones that seem to have unlimited ones, but this is for another post.

The plot of the movie is based on a professor of the Bible (Russel Carlisle) desire to publish a book back in 1890. The theme of the book is that it is most excellent to teach morality whether we are able to use the name of Jesus or not. The idea is that it is better to raise morality than to do nothing. Yet, one of his colleagues (Norris Anderson) challenges this notion that this is exactly what Satan desires. The serpent does not mind good morals. Good morals are great as long as we divorce the giver of these morals from these statutes. In essences, the colleague states that he would rather have someone steal something than to tell the person that stealing is just wrong. Why, because there is a chance that someone guilty of stealing will desire to come to Christ than an individual who is told just to be good.

Russel disagrees with Norris informing Mr. Anderson that he is delirious. Norris convinces his friend to be sent to the future to see how such a teaching could devastate future people. This is the part of the story where the underling premise is unfolded. There is a bit of comic relief as Russel tries to ascertain himself to the new culture. Yet, there is a great sadness of how far our culture has tumbled away from even the moral moorings of the 1890’s. Russel meets up with a librarian of a local university allowing for frank dialogue of the culture and the effects on Christianity. The librarian hits the theme of morality without Jesus again and again, profoundly awakening within Russel that his colleague’s critique is quite accurate. He returns back to 1890 and reworks his book to fit with his new research.

One aspect that hit home was what I believed to be an accurate display of the American church in broad strokes. Russel is muffed that for a majority of Christians “being there” is much more important than actual involvement like attentively listening to the preacher. The picture develops that you can get enthusiastic participation from many Christians to attend a movie outing but a small handful for the work of church like visitation. The movie pits the Christian’s overwhelming ability to accept sin as the cultural norm and an unwillingness to engage to stand up for what is morally right. Why, because we have lost our center of authority.

Another takeaway of this movie for me was the engagement on some very deep theological issues, especially dealing with how we relate to others within and outside of orthodox Evangelicalism. Today, we are inundated with the need to be liked. We seem to bend over backwards to please others without defending the truth. We do not want to be embarrassed or ridiculed. We would rather laugh at Russel than to stand with him and weep.

Instead of following the dictum, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)” we stumble and fumble about. Why is this?

I encourage everyone to take some time to watch Time Changer and reflect on its message. Feel free to share your own thoughts.

PuritanD

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Values: Do Christians Think Biblically?

I receive mailings from all different parachurch ministries.  Most of the time, they desire to promote the reason they exist and why as a church we should invest time and or finances to support them.  I am not trying to demonize these ministries; many have an important role to play (Though, I always wonder if we could consolidate a few).

Anyway, I received a letter that stated the purpose of the ministry.  They listed four values and one Biblical reference to support each one.  Granted, many churches do the same thing.  The church I am a member of does something similar. Feel free to check it out at Auburn Alliance Church under ‘Belief’ in the menu bar. 

I wonder though if such a thing is always necessary, especially if such an exercise does not seem to take the time to think critically of what the ministry believes and why.  Here are the four values and in italics my two cents worth.

The Expectation of God-Moments
We believe that God is at work all around us.  Eph. 2:10 – For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The verse quoted contextually does not deal with the works of God, but informing the Christian that they are to do good works because we belong to God.  How exactly does it deal with “God-Moments?”


The Life of Integrity
We believe that how we live is more important than what we say.  Gal. 2:20 – I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

How does Gal. 2:20 support the statement prior to the scriptural quote?  Does not what we say is just as important?  Jesus states that it is not what we put into our mouths but what comes out that defiles a person, Mark 7:20.  Neither Jesus nor Paul ever separates the two, so why should we start?

The Discipline of Excellence
We believe in serving that exceeds expectations.  Col. 3:17 – And 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.

This is the best of the four values.  It does make sense.

The Priority of Children
We believe that Every Child is a Winner.  Matt. 18:14 – In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.

I am not against children.  I have four of my own.  How does the salvation of a child have anything to do with this ministry’s position regarding the self-esteem of the child?

In my opinion, the ministry team that put this together did not take the needed time or the best approach in assessing their values through the lens of Scripture.  What are your thoughts?

PuritanD

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What is a Puritan? Pt2: What can they teach us today

Through explaining the importance of the Puritans and the desire I have of titling my blog after them, there are six important lessons that the Puritans continue to teach us Christians today. The six lessons come from a brilliant student of the Puritans, J.I. Packer. Let's get started.

1)The Puritans' lived a holistic lifestyle. Holistic is defined as being concerned with the complete system. They viewed everything of daily life through the lens of honoring God, “by appreciating all his gifts and making everything 'holiness to the Lord'.” As Packer states, “they integrated contemplation with action, worship with work, labor with rest, love of God with love of neighbor and of self, personal with social identity...” There is no separation of the sacred and secular. All of life to the Puritan was sacred. Today, we love compartmentalizing our livelihood. This part of life goes here, that one goes over there, and this stays here. We may practice this by keeping work at work and keeping our Christianity for Sunday use only. How many of us at times, seem to leave our Christianity at the door to pick up later when we get done? The Puritan outlook is one that we can learn from.

2)The Puritans' quality of their spiritual experience: What made the Puritans such spiritual giants? They were prolific in writing books and preaching sermons. They had people like Richard Baxter, John Davenant, John Owens, Cotton Mather, and Jonathan Edwards. Individuals who knew the importance of God's word. The Puritans meditated, applied, studied God's Word. Their minds were unfettered by the distractions of the world. In essence, they had ultimate clarity that only we could hope for. Our insatiable desires left unchecked, our trusts in how we feel more than what we know, our desire for self-help than for deep Biblical meditation, are in need of being under the scope the Puritans used.

3)The Puritans' passion for effective action: They desired above all to be used by God for His glory. They did not sit on their hands waiting for someone else to do the right thing. They did it. Puritans did not seek out as much as being dependent on what God desired for them to do. Prayer was not a by-line with them, but a call to action. They did not believe in a dualistic lifestyle many Christians today practice. Puritans practiced their beliefs in public and private with passion to do the right thing. We can definitely learn more from these saints.

4)The Puritans' stability of family: J.I. Packer reports, “The Puritan ethic of marriage was to look not for a partner whom you do love passionately at this moment, but rather for one whom you can love steadily as your best friend for life, and then to proceed with God's help to do just that.” Slightly different from love at first sight, falling in or out of love, or better yet, I just don't feel it anymore. With Christian divorce as bad as our secular brothers, we might learn something from the Puritans. Family worship was key for continuity, grounding the children to be equipped for productivity as adults. This is quite different from the child run family we have today. How concern are we for the spiritual development of our own children in comparison?

5)Puritans valued human worth: They respected those who differ from them in public discourse, never talking down to the other. How much value do we place in others around us? Does the modern day Christian see others as fallen without grace or someone who is to be outright rejected?

6)Puritans desire for church renewal: The renewal they espoused was personal and communal. The term used is 'reformation,' not in the sense of the Reformation. J. I. Packer explains, “The essence of this kind of 'reformation' was enrichment of understanding of God's truth, arousal of affections God-ward, increase of ardour in one's devotions, and more love, joy, and firmness of Christian purpose in one's calling and personal life.” Such a goal is one that I believe we as a church need to look at seriously and ask ourselves, “How do we apply 'reformation' in our lives, both personally and communally as the family of Christ?”

As you can see, there are many fine reasons for us to resuscitate “Puritan.” It is the main reason the term is in the name of my blog. It is my hope and prayer that my life, writing, and spiritual growth will imitate those who have gone before us. Are you willing to try on the “Puritan” name?

PuritanD.

1 "Why we need Puritans" by J.I. Packer at http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What Is a Puritan?

Someone has asked me what is a Puritan due to the name of my blog. It is a good question. There is a large negligence of understanding this particular people group. Many a person believes that the Puritans in the US were wild men, fierce and freaky, religious fanatics and social extremists. It shakes me to think that this country at its very foundation owes a tremendous debt to these brave men and women whose shoulders we continue to stand on, though reluctantly, today. Being a blog, I cannot give an exhaustive look at the Puritan movement. However, I would like to give a quick historical overview and then look at the question, “Is this group still important to Evangelicals, today?”

The group first made an appearance in the mid1500's during the time of Queen Elizabeth I. The term, Puritan” was used in a derogatory fashion of this group's critics. The desire of this particular group was to “purify” or reform the Church of England, hence the name Puritan. They saw the Church of England as not moving far enough away from Roman Catholicism in the current reforms. When James I came to the throne, the Puritans asked him to take up some of the reforms they desired. Sadly, James rejected all but one of them. In the 1600's, we see Puritans splintering between separatists and those desiring to work within. The separatists, we know them as Pilgrims, left going to the Netherlands and then risking everything for religious freedom, head to the New Wold.

England had a civil war that brought Puritans into political power, sadly killing the king. The Puritans pushed trying to change and lost much of the goodwill that they had. During the Restoration of the monarchy, Puritans were under heavy prosecution and many left heading west, starting up the Massachusetts Bay Company. The Puritan desire for education, work, and individual responsibility continues to live on today. J. I. Packer writes, “the conventional image of the Puritans has been radically revamped....a host of recent researchers, informed folk now acknowledge that the typical Puritans...sober, conscientious, and cultured citizens: persons of principle, devoted, determined, and disciplined, excelling in the domestic virtues.”

What about Puritanism today? Can we learn anything from these people? One author suggests that we can learn from these great brothers and sisters in the faith is maturity, “a compound of wisdom, goodwill, resilience, and creativity.” One would be hard pressed to think that we Evangelicals could convince ourselves that we have obtain such maturity. One does not have to look to far to see that we read less and less of Scripture, more and more fiction if we read at all. We rather jump from church to church than to build roots and do the tough work of living out our faith together. We are essentially the axiom “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

If we took a deeper look at this group, we would see that they withstood much, suffered many setbacks from being kicked out of England through the 1662 Act of Uniformity to fighting the elements of the pioneering terrain of Massachusetts at that time. They were unable to bring the needed corrections to the Church of England as they desired. They were unable to keep up the “city on the hill” in New England. Yet through these challenges, they built up on character, patience, hope, and faith. George Whitefield writes,

“Ministers never write or preach so well as when under the cross; the Spirit of Christ and of glory then rests upon them. It was this, no doubt, that made the Puritans...such burning lights and shining lights. When cast out by the black Bartholomew-act and driven form their respective charges to preach in barns and fields, in the highways and hedges, they in an especial manner wrote and preached as men having authority. Through dead, by their writings they yet speak; a peculiar unction attends them to this very hour....”

One such book, an allegory, John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. In my next post, I will look closely at what J.I. Packer sights as six lessons we can learn from these great people. These lessons are bedrock to the name of this blog.

What do you think we can derive from these giants of the faith?

PuritanD

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Six Days of Creation: Are they God's workdays or 24hr. Days Part 2

Earlier, I shared what seemed to me a novel theory on the six days of creation being what one commentator called, “God's Workday.” The theory argues that these six days are analogous to man's days. The analogous theory's argument rests primarily on the interpretation of the seventh day.

Today, I would like to look at the traditional understanding, six 24hr. days of creation. There is strong evidence from Scripture that would demonstrate that the most natural understanding of “day” in Genesis chapter one would be a 24hr period of time. The line of argument is not difficult to follow and the simplicity would seem to point to an overall acceptance of the position by all Christians.

The line of thought for the six 24hr. days is as follows:

  1. The Hebrew word for “day” throughout Scripture when used with numbers always reflects a 24hr. day.
  2. The Hebrew word for “day” throughout Scripture when used with the terms “evening” and “morning” refers to a literal day. 
  3. Exodus 20:11 – The Lord is explaining why the Israelites are to keep the Sabbath. The reason – “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day.” It is hard to imagine that those listening to the Lord would be thinking, “Wow, these days must have had years separating these days.” Or, “Yeah, these days couldn't be literal, they have to be analogous, because that makes the most sense.” 
  4. Exodus 31:17 – In a different context, the reasoning behind the Sabbath is given as, “that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”
  5.  7th Day – The lack of the phrase, “evening and morning” does not need to be understood as being a day without end. It may be explained that the lack of the phrase is to indicate that the Lord has never stop resting from His creative actions, not that the day did not end.

A general rule regarding the exegesis of a text is that the most natural reading/understanding should be preferred. An appropriate question is how did the Israelites understand the words found in both Exodus references. The Lord and Moses had an opportunity to help the listeners to understand what was meant when God stated days in both passages, if these references are not to be taken literally.

There has been a considerable lack of explanation regarding the two Exodus references when commentators or apologists defer to another theory regarding the days of creation. For example, the commentator that argued for the analogous position did not explain their position in light of the texts mentioned above. How does one who does not interpret Genesis creation literally, interpret the above passages? One is hard press to prove that the Israelites understanding would be anything but literal when reading Exodus chapter 20 and 31.

One of the issues facing the analogous position is the sense that God could not have created the heavens and the earth is six literal days. Why is there such a need to “extend” time in order that the creation can happen? Why do we as Christians have very little problem interpreting literally within the confines of genre everything but Genesis chapter 1? As one author pointed out, “Instead they (scientists) say, “Our science is based on universally accepted assumptions, and yet our findings disagree with the Creator’s account of what He did. His account must be incorrect.” And, we Christians seem eager to believe the “scientists” over the Creator. Your thoughts?

PuritanD

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Evangelicals and Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season. Here in Auburn, we have an ecumenical Lenten breakfast each Friday of Lent with one of the area pastors giving a brief devotion generally on the Passion of Christ. What fascinates me though is the struggle many evangelicals have with the idea of Lent. In this article I would like to look at the following questions: What is Lent; Should Evangelicals commit to such a practice; What does this look like?

What is Lent? Historically, the idea behind Lent goes as far back as Irenaus of Lyons. He wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but it lasted only two or three days. If one was to investigate Polycarp and the Quartodeciman Controversy, there seems to be a hint of evidence that fasting was common the day before celebrating Easter. Behind Lent, was the idea of self-sacrifice (i.e. fasting), to bring about self-examination to prepare one's heart for the great celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord. The 40-day Lenten season of fasting does not seem to show up until the Council of Nicea in 325AD, which seemed to be primarily for new believers to be ready for baptism.

Why the 40 days? One does not have to search to far to see the importance of this number in the Bible. Moses was on the mountain fasting for forty days. Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days as he fasted. Jesus after his resurrection was with his disciples for forty days. It would seem to be a good number to prepare oneself for the celebration of Easter. In conclusion, Lent is a forty day period of preparation for one to examine oneself prior to the wonderful celebration of Easter.

Should Evangelicals practice Lent? One could write a whole article on just this question. However, there needs to be two points of address. 1) History proves that Christians have practice some sort of preparation for Easter as early as Polycarp, prior to the formalization of the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformation. 2) John Calvin and the major reformers all practice Lent, divorcing the Catholic connection between fasting and penance.

Due to great fear of easily making Lent full of superstitions, the Puritans refrain1 from practicing Lent. However, this should not deter an Evangelicals from observing Lent. One's salvation and relationship is not based on any observation of special holidays, but by faith alone. As long as one is aware of the pitfalls as can be found in any observation, practicing Lent can be very rewarding in focusing our attention to Christ's passion and resurrection.

What does practicing Lent look like? It is one thing to see the importance. It is another to understand how this works out in life. For Evangelicals, there is uncertainty due to a lack of participation for years. Some remember seeing people eat fish on Fridays presuming that this is what needs to be done. Others give something up (fast from) for the forty days thinking that they accomplish the task. Yet, they tend to forget that Lent is not simply fasting from something, but giving something up in order to draw closer in their walk with the Lord.

One person I knew gave up purchasing a favorite desert for Lent one year. However, their observation of Lent stopped there. A better practice may have been seeking out what they may do with the funds saved for the glory of God's kingdom. Remember, Lent is not just giving something up, but it is to refocus ourselves, re-examining, preparing ourselves for the passion and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.

PuritanD

1 "Lent—Why Bother? To Lead Us to Christ" by Michael Horton; http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2010/february/15.55.html

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Six Days of Creation: Are they God's workdays or 24hr. Days

At Auburn Alliance Church, we are going through the book of Genesis and have spent some time working on God's creative acts in chapter one. It is perhaps the most controversial passage in the Bible and yet one of the most important. Christians seem to be stuck between a proverbial rock and a hard place trying to figure out how to make sense of all the material that has been thrown at them, especially in regard to how we are to interpret the term, “day.”

There are many theories out there in regard to the timing of each of the six days of creation. However, I would just like to discuss two of these theories in this brief article. In researching the first sermon on this series, I came across a commentator who strongly believes that the days are to be literally taken to be actually six days but not as calendar days.

He states, “Most probably the six days of creation are God's workdays, which are not identical to ours but are analogous to ours.” His reasoning: 1) the first three days could not have been solar because God made the sun and moon on the fourth day, and 2) the seventh day has no end. The phrase “and there was evening and there was morning” does not appear with day seven.

This was the first time I have ever heard of this view and find it quite fascinating. Though the commentator seems to have been able to bring out a better way of combining many different understandings, the reasoning seems a bit lacking. One may properly ask, “If there was no sun and no moon, how was there “evening and morning” in the first place?” Sadly, he does not elaborate on “evening and morning” phraseology in regard to days one through three if there was not a 24 hour period. The second question that must be present is, “Does this phraseology change meaning when the sun and moon are created on the fourth day?” In other words, when does the switch happen from analogous to actually 24 hour periods?

Upon reading the fourth day, one would need to surmise that the sun and moon where created to govern the Light and Darkness of day one. They were also though created to help man with keeping time, not to have time created at that moment. In other words, it is plausible that the 24 hour day existed prior to the creation of the sun and moon, but man would not have been able to identify it properly without these luminary bodies being created.

The other piece of the puzzle that the author mentioned is regarding the seventh day is missing the phrase, “evening and morning,” may not be indicating that the day is continuing but that God's actual rest from his creative act has not ended. Upon further observation of the creation account, one will notice that when God was done with what He was doing, we had the phrase, “evening and morning.” With the seventh day not having the phrase, one could simply interpret it to mean that God is continuing to rest from His creative activity.

The second understanding I would like to look at is to understand the six days of creation as being six, 24 hour days, which will be on another post. However, what do you think of the theory of an analogous workweek?

PuritanD

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Welcome

It is my heart's desire to reach out to my community in every facet made available to me. One such vehicle is the internet. With my church updating herself with her own web page, I have been challenged to put myself out there as well in the blogosphere. I have toyed with this idea on many occasions having my greatest supporter, my wife, encourage me to take such a step. So, here it is. I have decided to go with the Puritan theme.

Puritans have an important place in the history of the church. One of their strengths was to see their church and culture through the prism of God's Word. I like to consider myself as a modern day Puritan, looking at current events to theological events within this prism (God's Word). I will try to bring an informative dialogue on the many issues that effect the church and culture, and ask the question... How should we as Christians, members of one body, respond?

As Scripture reminds us,

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV


Though Paul was writing to his spiritual son Timothy, these are words that we need to be reminded of today. More and more of us who claim to be Christians are less and less likely to understand what that means. As Christians, I hope that we can see the importance of equipping ourselves with the Scriptures to truly see our culture through the lens of God's Word and respond accordingly.

In His Grip,

PuritanD

Wednesday, February 3, 2010