Thursday, January 22, 2015


I've noticed, for the umpteenth time, a grievous problem that plagues professed Christians, it appears to me at least, as badly as it plagues our culture. And it is a curse within our culture Thus, the title, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CIVILITY? 

I'm going to illustrate the problem of the loss of civility and give a response to it that pictures what true grace looks like from my perspective. My source for the illustration is a story I read on the internet but have greatly adapted to give no hint of anything or anyone personal. 

The illustration is an exchange between two men I'll name Leroy and Jethro. Those two guys are talking about women in ministry. Leroy holds that women are scripturally qualified for ministry to the whole body when the scriptures are really interpreted correctly and Jethro disagrees with that because he interprets the scriptures differently. Each has been commenting on their position on the issue. Each using their understanding of scripture as they talk. So far so good.

Then it gets a bit rancorous in tone. Here is Jethro's final comment to Leroy...."My position is not just my own. I'm standing on the shoulders of historical, orthodox Christianity."  (Jethro is appealing to church history which is not bad within itself at all.)  But then he says this, "Those FOR women in pastoral ministry are standing on the past 50 years of the woman's movement in America." He continues with, "If you want culture to dictate your hermeneutics, then you've got a big problem being tossed to and fro from every wind of doctrine."

Do you see the problem? 

How about Jethro's statement here, "Those FOR women in pastoral ministry are standing on the past 50 years of the woman's movement in America." In other words, Jethro is saying, if you disagree with my position you do so because you have been influenced by the women's liberation movement of the past fifty years. That's a problem because it is stated AS FACT without any supporting documentation. It is reported AS FACT when it is simply an opinion. Jethro thinks it's valid, obviously, but he says it as if there is no question as to the invalid nature of any other view on it. But making matters worse is the dismissive, condescending, even judgmental words said to a brother in Christ.

Therein is, in fact, the problem. Stating an opinion with no appreciation of differing views and stating it with an implied "end of discussion" tone which smacks of an "I'm superior to you" view of one's self is far from grace. It is this obvious arrogance and lack of civility with people who hold differing views that is permeating our culture AND CHURCHES.

I believe it is a major problem and one we Christians will have to address WITHIN OURSELVES if and when the Spirit of God ever moves us to renewal or personal revival, or for revival in churches for that matter.

Now I want you to see how grace responds.  A blogger named Scot McKnight responded to exactly this situation, though I'll continue my illustration using the name Jethro, I'm giving Scot's ACTUAL answer to my imagined Jethro. Read it carefully...

"Jethro, I can't say I've seen you on this blog very often, so we are glad you have joined in. Blogs have cultures and approaches, and the one thing this blog fights for is civility and trusting that we are here for the glory of God and for the good of one another. Hence, we do what we can to avoid calling one another names. But there's another element that comes into play here as well: there is a history of how this blog has addressed the women's issues in ministry. It can't be said this blog has failed to discuss the Bible, and you can dip into the Women category and find plenty of discussion. Furthermore, I have a book called The Blue Parakeet where one third of the book deals with the biblical passages. Those discussions are assumed on this blog.'"

'Furthermore, it is a little testy of you to suggest these issues are based on the last 50 years of the feminist movement for not only can you not prove that we are each anchoring our ideas in a cultural feminist movement, but you have plenty of passages in the Bible that reveal women leading and at significant (your word, not mine) "roles." We have to deal with Junia, who is an apostle; with Phoebe and with Priscilla.'

"One more point: to suggest that the views of many here are culturally based and yours is not is a little gamesmanship that will be contested every time at this site. Why? We humbly admit here that each of us is shaped by culture and that every theologian in the Church was shaped by culture and that the biblical authors themselves were shaped by culture. Cultural illiteracy then is unwise and unfair, and puts you into a position of being pushed into a similar corner. I did a series on a book by a Catholic historian who had good arguments for showing that the decisive change that restricted women happened in the 12th Century, some of which was passed on among Protestants, and one would have to be conversant with some of the comments and beliefs by early theologians that are not only objectionable (Augustine) but flat out contrary to the approach of what the Bible describes in women leaders. Deborah, Miriam, Huldah come to mind.'

"In light of all the biblical discussions I -- and many of us here -- have come to a conclusion that the Bible endorses women leadership, including teaching and preaching and pastoring, and this letter is one suggestion of a way to get such a conversation started at a local church.'

"I'm sorry to be so direct, but your words are strong enough that they deserve a firmer response."

Scot McKnight

Paul speaking now...

I've come to the firm conclusion I want my demeanor and words on my blog or Facebook and any comments I ever make about any truth as I see it in scripture on another blog or FB to reflect the spirit of Scot McKnight's response whether it's in response to someone named Jethro or whatever their name might be.

May God give us ALL a baptism of just that spirit.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


I wholeheartedly echo the prayer of your last sentence!

I'm absolutely positive that a certain son-in-law will never read your blog,or, my comment,as he concurs adamantly with Jethro.

He has a habit of telling jokes which degrade women, at which he laughs uproariously, and which, I have no doubt, are for the benefit of his father-in-law.

Mind you, he is an elder in a church, but thinks his f-i-l has lost his marbles, and is at least ignorant.

At a meal during Christmas period,our nephew of 18 years, made a derogatory crack about women,which I gently admonished, reminding him that his grandmother (my wife), his mother, and his sister, all present, are women, and in God's sight equal in all respects to men.

S-i-l exploded in a most unseemly manner.

Why am I telling you this? Because it speaks volumes about the measure of Christian womanhood my daughter displays in bearing this monstrous attitude for so many years.

Yep! I'm proud of her!

Steve Miller said...

Thank you Paul. I believe that in order to have good dialogue on any topic the three essentials of candor, intelligence about the topic, and good will must exist. Otherwise, you have an argument or a one sided lecture. When dealing with scripture, it does not need to be defended, but turned loose like Spurgeon said. However, when I share it or choose to share what I believe it is telling me in application or interpretation, my attitude is what will be remembered and instead of drawing the individual to the Word of God I have them focused on me which totally misses the point. I need to get out of the way as perhaps maybe does the recipient and let truth, total truth, dominate the dialogue. Thanks again.


Victorious said...

Nothing will bring out the non-civil comments like the subject of women in the church. To say it makes me sad is an understatement.

Another type of comment I've encountered in voicing my understanding of scripture that's equally dismissive and condescending is a "LOL" reply.

And last but not least is the "next is homosexuality" fear tactic.

As one who knows the effects of hearing over and over that the "women issue" is a tertiary one and seeing even the word woman often included in parentheses, I've grieved at the opposition and outright hostility that often comes from my brothers in Christ.

Thanks for another wonderful post that gives me hope. May I learn civility even in the face of my occasional anger and disappointment as well.

Rex Ray said...

Good post.

If you want to LOL look at Wade Burleson’s post March 28, 2012 of Hitler’s view of women. He makes Jethro look like Leroy.

Rex Ray said...

How’s this for a ‘Jethro” story?

How’s this for a ‘Jethro” story?

A drunk lost control of his car, skidded side-ways hitting my mother who was halfway in the ditch trying to avoid him.

(She was in a wheelchair the rest of her life.)

Newspaper front page headline: “Woman kills man”

Paul Burleson said...


I've been away from commenting and now want to thank all of of you for the comments. I apologize for being rather late in doing so. I trust that won't happen often.