Gender roles in the second millennium

Thanks to my friend Matthew for pointing out this post by David Crabb (link). In this article, David points out the fallacy of what many in the evangelical (and I expand it to fundamental) circle describe as traditional gender roles. Many bifurcate the public and domestic realms and assign one gender to each. Men are assigned to the functions of business, socializing, and politics in the public square while women are assigned the so called “domestic” role of  maintaining the home as a comfortable environment for a family.

However, as David points out, this division of roles is a relatively recent development beginning in the Victorian era. My friend also points out that the urbanization of first-world countries is only a few generations old. A century ago most people lived in rural communities where both the mother and father of a family stayed at home. Both were involved in child rearing and both essentially worked full time to provide for their family.

Another aspect of Victorian era gender roles is the attributes assigned to masculinity and femininity. In the contemporary evangelical/fundamentalist culture, masculinity is typically assigned an emphasis on aggressiveness, violence, activity, authority. This emphasis on action comes with a disastrous downside:  we often forget that true Biblical masculinity will emulate our savior Jesus who is perfect humanity. Jesus was more than action. Femininity on the other hand has typically focuses on the home, family, delicacy. We tend to place the housewife as the ideal. However, Proverbs 31 describes a wife who not only manages the home but also manages outside affairs, buys and sells property, participates in industry, and makes a profit. The ideal wife of proverbs 31 is full of action verbs.

My take and current thought is this: because of the urbanization of the 20th and 21st centuries, the ability for both men and women to fulfill both public and domestic roles has become extremely difficult if not impossible without an extreme amount of effort. I do think that this explains how the Victorian gender roles have remained even into the 21st century: it is one way for all the responsibilities of a family to be fulfilled. However, scipture seems to indicate as David points out that the wife and husband each have public and domestic responsibilities to fulfill which are difficult in the contemporary culture. So, what do we do about this? I don’t have an answer. It would seem that the traditional gender roles has the advantage of at least keeping one parent at home ,but it still leaves the other absent for a significant portion of time. Perhaps there is no one answer to the question of what are the specific gender roles for each family.Each family will have to determine how it will best fulfill all its functions in ways that conform to the description of family responsibilities in scripture.

Some of the key points from the article have helped focus my attention on working out my own philosophy of family.

  • Making violence and crudeness as hallmarks of masculinity not only misses the point but is actually dangerous to true Biblical masculinity. First, though men ought to be protectors and defenders there is a difference in attitude between one who protects and one who is violent. The protector uses his strength when it is needed to defend something essential, the violent person uses his strength to take that which is non-essential (prestige, riches, things) The difference is not in the strength of the man but in the wisdom though which he uses it. Second, Biblical masculinity includes degrees of softness in addition to the display of power. Crabb reminds the reader that Jesus wept out of the deepest internal emotion for his friend Lazarus. The savior also wept over Jerusalem who would shortly after crucify him. The intense distress he felt and displayed in the garden before he was betrayed. If the perfect man, Jesus, had these qualities – should we not seek to exhibit them as well?
  • Ironically,  traditional, Biblical gender roles are neither tradational nor Biblical. Again, the Victorian view of masculinity as violent and femininity as delicate is a recent invention and scripture provides a more robust view of gender roles then is typically discussed in evangelical / fundamental circles.
  • Crabb is spot on that we need more female Theologians trained in the exegesis of scripture. This will help answer the question of what gender roles should look like in 2012. Holding to the Victorian model of gender roles is sometimes the excuse for not submitting to Biblical models of gender roles. Crabb warns about holding tenaciously to cultural definitions of gender roles, ” let us avoid turning the complementarian position into a kind of “complementarianism+,” which defends culturally-constructed gender norms as vehemently as it does the gospel itself.” Crabb also notes that this is not a discussion about female pastors because “male ecclesiastical authority can stand on Scripture alone” and does not need a social construct to protect it.


Around the web

Theologically Driven | Should Churches Abandon the King James Version? (part 2)

Dr. Combs gives an excellent summary on the issue. In part one he articulates what he believes to be the best argument for the priority of the modern text vs. the text used by the King James translators. In part two, he argues that modern translation improve upon older translation by adding clarity where the original translators did not have the body of knowledge of the Biblical languages that is available today. The discussion in the comments of part 2 in particular are helpful and certainly the KJV-only vs. modern translations issue will not be settled anytime soon.

David Crabb | Violent Men, Working Women, and Evangelical Gender Norms

Crabb presents a helpful article pointing out the deficiencies in maintaining Victorian gender roles when scripture is much more demanding. A good read.

Koinonia | On the role of the creeds

A good reminder that controversy though sometimes stressful to the church actually has a benefit in that the Church expresses doctrine most clearly when it is under attack. Makes a good case for the teaching of Church history in our churches.

Theologically Driven | “I Thank Thee That I Am Not as Other Legalists,” Or, How “Freer Than Thou” Became the New “Holier Than Thou”

Dr. Snoeberger makes an interesting observation about how those who abuse their freedom in Christ have actually become the new pharisees.

Postmodernism (Part 2)

Obviously the first place to begin with the topic of postmodernism is its definition. This is a difficult task because the nature of postmodernism is an inherent devaluing or softening of absolutes.

Truth Absolute?

Postmodernity really begins in modernity. The reformation and enlightenment movements of the 16th and 18th centuries sparked a substantial shift in the discovery and definition of truth. The reformation brought about a renewed interest in the study of scripture. Both Luther and Calvin sought to gather their theology primarily (if not exclusively)  through the text of scripture as opposed to the dual-source of theology of the catholic church: the scripture plus magisterium. This renewal of exposition of scripture also led to the enlightenment: the systematic study of the physical world. Though both movements started off good (and perhaps necessary), there appeared a subtle shift in the way people and scholars began to view the nature of knowledge or truth.  The possibly of knowledge progressed from superstition of the church to the rationality of the human mind. Empirical evidence gathered though the senses informed the mind which is then able to construct rational explanations for everything. In short, the modern viewpoint was that anything can be rationally explained if one can objectively observe a phenomena.

This led directly to the destructive liberalism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Since knowledge is an aspect of the rational mind, one cannot accept the existence of God since He cannot be observed. Scriptures were attacked as well since many of the narratives claim to be prophetic which would imply that future event were known before they occurred, certainly something that defies rationality. The scripture as a whole also suffered from this paradigm shift. Instead of describing scripture as divine revelation, scriptures to the modern mindset were simply the evolution of human thought about God as they have been compiled over the centuries. It is touted that the Old Testament describes a view of God that is much different than the New. For example, the God of the OT is harsh and “blood thirsty” while the God of the NT is good and loving.

Fall of Modernity

If truth can only be discovered by the rational mind, then there is no place for irrational religion to stake a claim of truth. Thus it seemed in the 20th century that the truth claims of scripture were entirely rejected in favor of naturalistic and rationalistic explanation of everything. Such an environment however produces conflicting opinions about what observation and truth claims were valid. The presupposition of the modernist is that absolute truth exists and it can (and must) be discovered through rational thought.

Darwin’s theory of natural selection, though often dismissed as the sufficient cause for the evolution of lower lifeforms to higher ones, is the kernel of much modern thought. If what one observes is that nature selects the winners who go on to breed based upon the organism’s genetic desirability, then all living things progress from one stage of development to a better one. Thus the direction and hope for much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw hope that humanity will finally be able to overcome disease, famine, and other social evils. Humanity did not have a sin problem for that was too archaic of an idea; they had an ignorance problem and knowledge was the cure.

The 20th century however brought with it two massive wars. World War I dealt a blow to the thinking that humanity is progressing. However, “the war to end all wars” failed to extinguish the hope of a better humanity. World War II did what WWI could not. In an ironic twist the country which was home to the reformation became the center from one of the most vilified persons in all of history. The documentation of the atrocities of WWII are well documented and even the most hardened of people have a difficult time comprehending that one human being could be so cruel to other – not just another person but entire people groups.

Wherever this sense of morality came from, people seem to understand that such atrocities were incomparable evil and therefore must be rejected.

Rise of Postmodernity

Since modernity failed, what are the options to replace it? Some other options were tried before so perhaps one of them could provide a solution. First, the catholic church had a hegemonic grip on the people for over a millenia. By the time of the reformation, corruption was so rampant in the church that Martin Luther almost had nothing good to say about the Pope. ((He actually probably had nothing good to say.)) The era of the catholic church fell to the reformation ideas because the church claimed to the be sole arbiters of truth. The reformation counted by placing the emphasis and source of truth back into the scriptures.

Postmodernity then is this: it is a questioning and rejection of the presuppositions of the modern mindset. It is significantly different from modernism in that it rejects central tenant of modernism, namely that truth is absolute (there is no one truth) and that truth cannot be discovered by the rational mind.

Perhaps the current generation is the most postmodern in their thinking so for. One might label them the “whatever” generation. If there is no truth that is ultimately binding upon a person, they why allow someone else’s thoughts influence one’s own thinking?

So, how does one deal with postmodern thinking especially as a Christian? This is the question that unfortunately I have run out of space to answer. I do think that there are some ways to help the younger generation see the necessity of truth that applies to all and the Savior who is able to redeem all. I will try to work more on this idea for next time.

Theology Proper (Part 1)

When one looks at the world around themselves, he or she is faced with certain questions about the universe that demand answers. For example, one of the biggest, if not the biggest questions is “Is there a God?” From this single question proceeds related questions: “What does it mean if there is a God?” or “What does it mean if there is no God?” Everybody must answer these questions and in a certain way all people do answer these questions. Because everybody answers these questions, all people are nature theologians.

A theologian then is one who seeks to answer ultimate questions like the ones above, but also ones like “Why am I here and what is my significance?” What this study will cover is certain aspects of Christianity that we don’t normally cover. For the most part, churches do not typically spend focused time on answering ultimate questions: we typically will have a quick answer that we throw out like the kid in Sunday school who answer “God” or “Jesus” for every question. However, actually discussing the question and showing how to arrive at the answer to these questions is sometimes more profitable then the answer itself.

We will begin our study with Theology Proper. What is theology proper? It comes from two Greek words: theos meaning God and logia which used in certain contexts means the study of. So, theology proper is the branch of theology dealing with the first member of the trinity: the Father.

Probably the most asked for and demand question to be answered by Christians is “how can we know if God exists?” This is not an easy question to answer because by definition God cannot be studied by our senses as we would study an insect or the human body. He is by definition invisible, so we cannot observe him directly. Therefore we can only truly study God as he has chosen to reveal Himself through nature and scripture. ((Obviously giving scripture the primary and overriding viewpoint.))

There are four ways that put together form a strong case for the existance that must be reckoned with. Though there are some big words used in this area, the concepts they describe are actually quite simple. The first argument for the existance of God is the cosmological argument.

 I. The Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God

For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God (Heb. 3:4)

We call this argument the cosmological argument because the word kosmos refers to the entire created realms. This includes outer-space and all astrological bodies such as stars, planets, and nebulas. It includes the earth and all its inhabitants of plants, animals, and humans. It also includes things unseen like angels and demons.

The cosmological argument goes like this: (1) the universe and everything created exists. (2) It could not have always existed. (3) therefore, the created realm must have a beginning. (4) the one who began all things must be the one we call God.

 A. Scripture assumes that God is the creator of all things.

The Genesis narrative in chapters 1 and 2 simply state that God is the creator of all things. Both heavenly bodies as well as the earth and its inhabitants are clearly said to be the result of a creator.

 B. Paul affirms that God is the creator and sustainer of all things

Colossians 1:15-20. Christ who is the image of God is creator of all things. In this sense, God created the world through the second person of the trinity, Jesus. Not only did he make all things, but he is actively and intimately involved in sustaining the creation.

The CERN super collider made a couple years ago in Switzerland was designed to explore the most internal details of an atom. In fact, scientists still don’t know why a atom holds together and just does not fly apart and dissolve immediately. One scientist believes that there is a yet to be discovered particle that makes the atom heavy enough so that the electrons do not simply fly away from the atom. Weather or not the particle is found, the ultimate cause of the atom staying together is simply Christ sustaining the world through his vast might.

 C. Old testament writers affirm that God is the creator of all things

Isaiah 44:24. Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, And he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; That stretcheth forth the heavens alone; That spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;

Isaiah 45:12. I have made the earth, And created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, And all their host have I commanded.

Jeremiah 10:11,12. Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth, and from under these heavens. He hath made the earth by his power, He hath established the world by his wisdom, And hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion.

 D. What does the cosmological argument teach us?

The realization that God is creator must cause us to recognize that God owns all things. There is nothing over which God does not claim “mine.” Your time? “Mine.” Your health? Your wealth? Your family? Your home? Your mind? All is “Mine.”

He also has the right to do what he pleases upon and in and through this world. The fact that God created all things ought to move the believer to a place of utter humility.

Bad Hermeneutics

John MacArthur has a good clip from one of his sermons dealing with bad hermeneutics (view source). I needed this reminder because it is so easy to fall prey to laziness and try to preach my mind, not God’s. What’s worse is that both myself and others can claim to have deep spiritual insight talking in platitudes but miss the point of the text. MacArthur’s three key mistakes to avoid are:

  • Making points at the expense of proper interpretation.
  • Spiritualizing the text.
  • Superficial study.

Each of these (at least from my perspective) is unfortunately the common practice within fundamentalist circles. For example, it is proper and necessary to proclaim God’s holiness and total set apart-ness from sin but it is another things to take the pet peeve of a pastor and make that the thing that God’s hates. It would seem that we would de-emphasize the seriousness of sin by claiming things as sinful which scripture does not.

The real mark of the beast

The tradition of identifying symbols in the the book of Revelation is long and interesting with a little bit of frightening thrown in for good measure. Perhaps the most well known as well as vague is the mark of the beast. The standard questions such as “what is it?”, “what does it look like?”, “can a believer receive it?” and others are the standard inquiry.

With the advent of the 20th century, various attempts have been made to identify the “stinging scorpions” as attack helicopters or other such interpretations.

However, this one is hillarious. Read about how one person figured out the mark of the beast in 2012.

So a friend of mine called me on the phone the other day, and while we chatted, he suddenly changed topics and asked me a question.  “Haber,” he started.  “You know Hebrew, right?”

“Yeah,” I hesitated.

“Is it true that the numeric value in Hebrew of a ‘w’ is 6?” he asked.

“Aleph, bet, gimmel, dalit, heh, wow… yeah, the sixth letter is what they’d write to make a ‘w’ sound.”

He looked at me with widening eyes, “As in, double-u, double-u, double-u dot…”

My eyes widened a bit.  I know it’s ridiculous exegesis on soooo many levels, but considering the pervasiveness of the world wide web and its potential as a tool for political power and economic exploitation, it does give me a bit of pause.  After all, what does God care for our exegetical theories? (original source)

There you have it, exegetical proof that the interwebs is none else then the mark of the beast!


A good example of bad exegesis

I was doing a little research online and came across this gem. It is written tongue-in-cheek so the author would not actually preach this. However, who would argue that something like this has never been done before?

Original source at

Years ago, I wondered if it was proper for men or women to dance in church.  I searched the scriptures diligently.  My seeking was not in vain.  When I found Psalm 68:16 which reads, “Why leap ye, ye high hills?”  I realized that it was at least improper for women to do so.  We note that the Psalmist clearly delineates between men and women by using the phrase “high hills.”  Men don’t wear high heels.  Women do.  So women should not be dancing (use of “leap” here).

This intrigued me as to another question I had about women wearing those awful contraptions to begin with.  So, I did a further study.  I found a jewel of a scripture, Psalm 104:18 which states, “The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats.”  Wow!  Is that clear or what?  We know that women take great care in their selection of clothing, and this can be a type of refuge for them.  But there is no mistaking the clear intent of scripture here:  only a woman who is a “wild goat” would wear high heels.

If there is any question about that, I would refer you to Matthew 25 where Jesus says that the goats will be separated from the sheep.

So, from a careful study of scripture, I learned that women should neither dance in church or wear those wicked high heels!

Post-Modernism (Part 1)

I am preparing to write my master’s thesis on the topic of Post-modernism but I am narrowing my focus on the theological method of Stanley Grenz, one of the theological architects of the Emerging Church. I just finished reading his Revisioning Evangelical Theology and I must say that taken at the surface level Grenz presents a lot of good correctives to the stereotypical fundy. However, Grenz has some particular aspects of his re-visioned theology that are both alarming and troublesome. Though I plan on making excepts of what I am writing available here as I go through the process, I wanted to take the time to play in the middle of the road for a moment.

Although I am both saddened and frustrated at some of the antics done by so-called fundamentalists (whom I affectionatly call Fundies), the core of what I term historic fundamentalism is ironically obscured by them. One of those concepts defended by the reformers is sola scriptura. By this the reformers meant that the scripture is the only authoritatively preserved message from God. However, the sterotypical fundy obscures scripture when he/she ignores the context of a passage of scripture and instead uses his or her own sense of morality for determining what is right or wrong. In effect some fundies violate sola scriptura by going off into tangents, especially if they do not relate back to the text at hand. This certainly cannot be how we are to interpret the Bible.

The Post-modern side is not much better since Grenz suggests that in contrast to the fundamentalist/reformers view of one source of theology (scripture) and the catholic church’s dual source of theology (scripture and the magesterium), there are four sources that must be involved in determining theology: scripture, culture, community, Spirit enlightenment. ((In the Barthian sense – Scripture becomes the word of God when mixed with my faith.)) At least for the post-modern they freely admit their sources! This is something that the fundy does not do since he is perhaps blind to his slipping in of other sources. Fundies are more post-modern then they would like to admit. ((This is actually part of Grenz’s point. He takes a descriptive view of evangelicalism – an evangelical is one who looks like an average evangelical today. Since a major section of evangelicalism has  abandoned a strict understanding of sola scriptura, it is natural for him to assume that the abandonment of “scripture alone” is a mark of an evangelical.))

My point here is to introduce what I am going to be working on for the next couple months and I am letting off some steam (in a good way.) If I were to give a one word critique of Grenz’s Revisioning, I would say it was perplexing. I found myself simultaneously agreeing with some parts and then within a paragraph saying, “did he really just say that!” His history of the progress of thought from modernism (specifically the outflow of the enlightenment) to post-modernism is a good introduction to the issue. However, his dealing with the concerns of the (historic) fundamentalist is basically negative though he acknowledges their contributions. It was frustrating that he never makes his proposal about what to do with post-modernism clear in the text. It was like trying to pull teeth to get him to tell us what he was proposing. ((I think his purpose was more apologetic then a polemic. He writes as thought it is assumed that post-moderism is the correct world view and is explaining what he believes to be evangelicalism’s shift towards it. )) He also has little if any bad things to say about post-modernism, especially when he contrasts it to modernism. I would like to have seen him cover in this volume more about what he means by community, but he thoroughly covers that concept in other writings such as his “Created for the Community.”

Probably next post I will list some of the issues that I will need to deal with in this thesis. I need to finish up my proposal and get it to the Professor later this week.


The Center for Terrible Preaching

For a couple years now I’ve thought about creating a website dedicated examples of bad preaching. The intent was to be something of a warning for guys like me to accept criticism and thus learn from my mistakes. Out of curiosity, I typed “examples of bad preaching” in to google and it returned several websites that kind of hit on this theme, though none of them seem particularly dedicated to the topic. I did however stumble across some excellent blog posts about examples of bad preaching. Thought I would share some with you. It’s a start and perhaps I will add more to the category when I see them.

Bad preaching 101 to go along with my eisagesis 101 

Bad preaching from a Catholic perspective

An short post about how bad preaching led to financial hardship for a church