Saturday, March 31, 2012


These words are someone else's  but need to be heard by all of us. Enjoy!

Where then did we get the concept that bishops are rulers? [For our purposes you can substitute elders/pastors for bishops for the rest of the article since biblically all three words refer to the same person.] Perhaps a lesson in history would help the modern person to better understand how it is that we inherited the current hierarchical system of church leadership.

From the first century until now, the political mindset of each era of history was adopted by the church of that particular era. Hence the concept of ruling bishops [pastors/elders] evolved with each generation and nation adding its own peculiar twist. When the church falls to the level of a mere institution it will always adopt the political style of the nation where it resides. 

Generally speaking, the bent of the natural man was to make the word bishop [pastor/elder] a title of a ruling position instead of the function of a caregiver and servant, such as the godly elderly of the early church. It was somewhat due to the influence of Ignatius in the 2nd century that this concept arose. 

It began with Ignatius who held the concept that the Bishop (overseer) was a different person from the elder (which means an older wiser one). Ignatius was received well because of his affiliation with the Lord's aged disciple John. He over-emphasized obedience to bishops and stressed the unbiblical clergy-laity distinction, which was already spreading throughout the world.

Eventually the concept of a head Bishop over the other bishops in each city began to evolve, which developed further into a mother church concept in that a bigger city held reign over its smaller surrounding cities and villages. This eventually led to the invention of such grandiose titles as archbishop, cardinal, and pope. None of these titles are found in the scriptures or in the writings of the early church fathers. 

After this the local character of the ekklesia was lost because there was now one worldwide hierarchy, with the pope at the top. The concept of one Catholic (meaning universal) church was brought into full swing, divided into administrative districts known as dioceses, another concept that was borrowed from the Roman government.

Then there was the European influence. The prevailing political and economical system of Europe was the feudal system. The lands were all owned by either the king or his lords. The common man was permitted to live on that land that surrounded the castle of each lord, and the peasants were taxed on what they produced as well as paying rent to the lord. In exchange, the serfs could run to the shelter of the castle and its moat if there was an invasion of the land by another army, or they could turn to the gerefa, (sheriff, who also doubled as tax collector) to keep the thieves at bay and maintain order.

The Roman model of the church coat-tailed on this system. The bishop or archbishop reigned from a cathedral. These were very political positions often occupied by members of the ruling class. The right of primogeniture was part and parcel of the feudal system. The king and his lords gave the entire inheritance to the oldest son. As a result the younger sons, disgruntled and rejected, often sought power and identity by gaining office in the church. These two systems worked hand in hand to maintain control over the serfs. One used the threat of an army and sheriffs; the other threatened the heavenly displeasure of God Himself. 

The very possibility of being branded a heretic and having to face the torment of the church's inquisitors and their various methods of torture often kept would-be dissenters at bay. After all, the church could always depend on the armies of the kings to back it up in time of need, just as Herod and Pontius Pilate came to the aid of the Jewish Sanhedrin when it came time to crucify Jesus.

The American Church is an amalgamation of all of the above influences, and adds its own unique cultural bias to the mix. Hence the American church is run like a corporation and its leadership is modeled after the entrepreneurial CEO.

None of these influences can be found in the Lord's teachings or the example of the early church. The presence of such societal values in the church indicates that the world has been more influential in shaping the church and its leadership, particularly the present day brand, than has the Spirit of the lowly Christ, who said, "My kingdom is not of this world."

Paul B.

Monday, March 26, 2012


My guest post today is authored by a woman who identifies herself this way...

"I'm a 40-something Christian, paralegal, mother of two, wife of 23 years, with a BA in English from the U of Oregon Honors College. My thoughts on life, theology, and the universe are shared here for whatever they might be worth." 

Her name is Kristen and her blog is here...

With permission I'm posting her blog post entitled...

"I'm in Charge Here: Don't Disrespect Me with the Facts"

I’d like to continue looking into this issue of authority and hierarchy in Christianity. Roger E. Olson wrote a blog post last month on “Truth, Authority and Roles.” In it he raised the very valid point that the problem with human hierarchical authority structures is that they are so prone to the misuse of power—because deference to power becomes an end in itself, regardless of the rightness or wrongness of the issue at hand. As he puts it:

Hierarchy. . . emphasizes roles and “authority over” and “submission to” based on them. In other words, to put it bluntly, hierarchy is the manner of organization of a social unit (especially the family) so that assigned (or assumed) roles matter more than truth. When I was growing up. . . [p]eople who dared to criticize or question those “in authority” were labeled “negative” and ostracized. It wasn’t just a matter of how one did it; simply doing it was considered unspiritual. This mentality led to all kinds of abuses in our church and denomination and movement.

Olson uses Galileo and Luther as examples in church history. The issue the church leaders had with both was not so much about whether or not they were right, but whether or not they were in sin by not submitting to the ecclesiastical authorities. The rightness or wrongness of the actual issues at stake (the fact that the earth actually revolved around the sun, or the sale of “indulgences” so that forgiveness of sins was based on who could pay) took a back seat to whether or not Luther or Galileo had the right to confront their superiors. This was the moral problem in the eyes of the authorities: speaking in contradiction to an authority was rebellion, and rebellion was sin. Whether or not the underling was speaking the truth ultimately didn’t matter.

This is also what often happens when a woman in a hierarchical church tries to get help with her oppressive marriage. Her legitimate concerns are often left by the wayside, while the church focuses on whether she is being properly submissive. It’s not that they don’t care about her—if asked, the church would strongly deny that they didn’t care about the woman. It’s not so much that “is she making a legitimate point?” is intentionally ignored—but it’s subordinated to “who’s in charge?” Because the issue of proper submission is nearly always the first issue raised, it trumps the lesser point of “who’s in the right?” And the underling is effectively silenced.

So when husbands are given unilateral authority over wives, this is the situation. If the man is gentle and humble, as Christ commanded– then he’ll listen to his wife and concede when he perceives truth. If he doesn’t perceive truth, though– even if she’s still in the right, her voice is often hard to for him to truly hear. He is aware, deep down, that his opinion is the one that ultimately matters.

And if he’s not humble and gentle-- not inclined to listen to his wife— eventually she will get weary and discouraged from not being heard, from having her personhood overridden by his in the name of “submission,” from the injustice of having her truth not seriously considered as to whether or not it may be truth, and she may leave him. And then, of course, she will be the one who gets blamed.

Similarly, when a person or a couple with low status in a church hierarchy leave a church, they may have a legitimate complaint which ought to be listened to by the church authorities. The authorities ought to be able to say, “Hey, they’re right and we’re wrong. We need to make some changes.” But often the very existence of the hierarchy renders this impossible. They can’t hear, “Your leadership practices, or the policies you’ve implemented, are hurting the congregation.” All they can see is a church member “in rebellion.” So when the member leaves, who gets blamed? The member— who may even be disfellowshipped for causing strife. Even if he or she was actually in the right.

I saw it too many times when I was in the hierarchical church I attended in college. How much better it would have been if the church authorities could have practiced the wisdom set forth in James 3:17: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering and without hypocrisy.” (Emphasis added.) But instead their leadership was full of “jealousy and selfish ambition,”(verse 16) as they held onto power and insisted on deference as their God-given right.

None of these are intended results of hierarchy. But when you have a system that is inequitable by its very nature, and then you set it up as the divine plan of God– this is what can happen. And no one stops to ask, “are we sure this inequitable system was really being endorsed by God in the Bible, or is it just that the Spirit was helping people already living under an inequitable system in the first-century Roman Empire, to work around it?”

So having said all that, I’ll say this. Many churches today blame "worldly feminist culture" for the increase of divorces in evangelical marriages. But here’s what I think is really going on in many cases. Women once believed they really were inferior to men. When their legitimate concerns were ignored or silenced, they accepted it. What else could they do? They had no power, and it was their lot in life. 

But the evangelical church as a whole is putting forth a new doctrine, even while claiming it is what Christianity as a whole has taught through the ages. The traditional doctrine, taught by Jerome, Origen, Augustine, Luther, Calvin and many others, said point-blank that women were by nature inferior. Today the evangelical church generally teaches that men and women are equal in nature, but have different “roles,” with women meant for the subordinate roles and men meant for the roles of authority.

Today, then, an evangelical woman may say to herself, if she is in an oppressive marriage, "I have chosen to be submissive, but I’m not inferior. I deserve to be listened to and heard. And if I am speaking the truth, it is not less true because I am the one who has it. If my husband’s perceived ‘truth' is weightier and more important than mine, that isn’t right."

This feeling of injustice, of not being heard, will eventually affect her feelings about the marriage, and if things get bad enough, she may in self-preservation seek divorce. But is this truly “worldly feminism”? Or is it a correct understanding of her worth and value to God, and her responsibility of self-stewardship as a temple of the Holy Spirit?

So what is the answer? Go back to the easier time when women knew they were inferior, and so did not expect to be heard and listened to? When it didn't bother them as much when they were overridden by their husbands, because they accepted it as a matter of course? 

But in that case what do we do with the truth the church has now embraced, because it is, manifestly, the truth, spoken by God in Gen. 1:26-28 and proven by the blood, sweat and tears of women over the last hundred years-- that women really are equal?

If we want to lessen the divorce rate in evangelicalism, we need to address the problem of deference towards authority trumping legitimate truth. And the best way to do that is to finally implement the policy Jesus set forth: “not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” Matt. 20:26-27.

The purpose of human hierarchy ends up being to uphold human hierarchy. In the kingdom of God, it is of no ultimate help to those it purports to serve.


Thanks for a good word Kristen.

Paul B.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


                            My Premise  
 My belief is that too many christians tend to hunker down in their institutional churches each Sunday singing praises to God and waiting for the second coming and, since they have such a biblically incorrect view of the Church and their God given gifts and abilities as the Church, they think little or nothing is expected of them outside that organization.  What a sad way to live in this world! 

I ended the last post with a declaration that I believed there is another way of thinking about the social gospel issue. Please read that earlier post, if possible, to get a context for what I'm about to say. 

That there is no need of a second gospel dedicated to the social issues facing our culture today is a reality in my mind because of the fact that the one gospel of Christ will ultimately impact many of those same issues when properly understood and experienced. [Making no mention of the fact that in scripture there is the warning about having any other gospel.]

I'm thinking that it may be that the one true gospel of the work of Christ gives birth to social awareness for Christians and leads them to genuinely and lovingly confronting harm done through any kind of insensitivity to race, gender, or those yet unborn. 

Another way of saying it is that real evangelism [responding to the gospel] brings one to a biblical lifestyle that would seek to confront racism and prejudice and would be unable to disregard the social needs of the poor, sick, abused, or the unborn. So I would not buy into the confrontation of social ills being a "gospel" within itself, but the result a true gospel experience changing one's view of other people and their needs and the sacredness of all of life. 

It would follow that methods for achieving this are not relegated to a government system alone and maybe not even first. [That's not to say government doesn't have its part in it.] But the Church can and should be intentional with her own methodology and programs to bring about such confrontation. 

I would also hold that no governmental system that fails in its part is beyond confrontation where oppression of any kind is found. [I've always regretted that I was not more personally involved in the civil rights movement of the fifties and sixties.]  

The results make for a gospel that is not quite as compartmentalized as some conservatives tend to make it nor perhaps as politically active as some liberals are prone to make it. The past is replete with many who were wonderfully balanced in this kind of Christian life and ministry. 

Charles Finney, whose personal theology I don't totally agree with but who's life is admirable in my judgment, is known for personal revivalism and it led him to an anti-slavery stance that infuriated many. George Mueller of England and his care for orphans is well known to all of us. 

Clarence Jordan, who graduated from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville Kentucky and helped found Habitat for Humanity as well as being the author the Cotton Patch translation of the New Testament using his knowledge gained from his Greek degree earned from Southern, are some who could be cited with a ton of others who could be listed as well. The best known of the present day may well be Rick Warren of Saddleback fame.

My point is simply that there will always be a tension that is to be maintained between the individual need of redemption which is our Cross message and the resulting ministry to those who are poor, outcasts, in prison, or just in need of basics such as a cup of water and food. 

That tension is not an easy thing and there is no magic formula for achieving it. But it cannot be relegated to the government entirely or to the back burner of our minds either because it is not an either/or situation for a true believer who fully grasps the message of Christ. 

We may differ on methodology in confronting social issues but that it can/should be done is a given to me. Creating a kind of dichotomy between the two would cause us as believers to miss so much of the revelatory materials that are our guide for living the Christian life. 

But the heart of our message of redemption found in the person and Cross work of Christ must never be lost. What follows in social impact is the evidence that that message is fully understood IMHO.

Now my opening words are best read again. I'm not an expert on anything. But I do wind up, generally speaking, with an opinion on most things. I'm sure the charge of oversimplification can and will be made concerning my view of this. I may be guilty as charged. It could be I'm simply an idealist or even a dreamer. If so, I think I'll just keep dreaming.

Paul B.

Monday, March 19, 2012


I'm not an expert on anything. But I do wind up having some kind of an opinion on most things. The social gospel issue is no exception. I'm not an expert but I do have an opinion.

I also have an aversion to things that are said to be an either/or in nature. By that I mean this idea of everything being black or white, right or wrong, my way or the highway, I know/you don't, kind of thinking that is so pervasive in our day seems to polarize people and generally winds up missing some of the truth about any topic under discussion. 

That's not to say that there are no issues that are indeed black or white to me. Take for example the "There is no other name" issue of salvation and grace. That's a no-brainer as far as I'm concerned. But it is to say that we may THINK some issues are more black or white than they may, in fact, be.

The social gospel issue may be in that category for me.

There isn't much doubt about my disagreement with the original message of the social gospel movement when it started in the late 18th and early 19th century by people like Walter Rauschenbusch. He believed that the individualistic gospel being preached had made very clear all people were sinners, but had completely failed to confront institutionalized sinfulness. He said it this way... "Christians have not yet evoked faith in the will and power of God to redeem the permanent institutions of human society from their inherited guilt." This thesis came to be known as the "Social Gospel." His ideas were later incorporated in to the "Liberation Theology" movement as well.

Truth be known, Rauschenbusch and others in the movement were probably reacting to the rise of Millenarianism particularly the  Dispensational brand which had it's beginnings in the early 19th century with the writings of John Nelson Darby (1800-1883) a theologian with the Plymouth Brethren. Dispensationalism had taken such an "other world" emphasis and a belief in the decline of this present world that, in the opinion of many Christian leaders, Christian theology was failing to confront present societal problems. Thus came the rise of a Social Gospel.  

In reaction to Rauschenbusch in the late 19th and early 20th century the Fundamentalists movement was birthed to basically "right" the "wrong " of the Social gospel in the thinking of it's founders. 

Men like A.C.Dixson and R.A. Torry and others wrote articles, published magazines and preached sermons defining the "Fundamentals of the Faith" as they saw things revealed in scripture. Institutions of Higher Learning began to be built to train men in those fundamentals as well.

It all came to a head when Harry Emerson Fosdick, a liberal Baptist, preached a message in 1922 entitled "Shall the Fundamentalists Win?" [thus the name[ in the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in New York City which led to the withdrawal of people like J. Gresham Machen and others from the Presbyterian denomination and the establishing a new Presbyterian denomination altogether. The either/or was now firmly established. 

The Fundamentalist movement eventually morphed to some degree into the conservative theology that is held by most major Protestant denominations today. A certain segment of that theologically conservative group has, in modern times, come to be known politically as the "Religious Right."

In fairness, I have to say that I'm in the theologically conservative group, but please don't identify that as being either "Far Right" in politics or having a "social gospel" stance in social issues as you will see before we're finished with these posts. 

This history brings us to the hard part of present day Christian living. The hard part of somehow struggling against the "either/or" position of the idea of social issues and the gospel of Christ. Does one exclude the other in reality? Is there a separate gospel at all? 

It seems to me that some politically conservative people, who are believers, still often think that social action takes away from the primary evangelistic mission of church which is individual evangelism and are therefore unwilling to speak of or deal with social issues in any fashion. 

By the same token, some politically liberal people, who are believers, often think an individual emphasis on personal evangelism takes away from the primary transformative mission of the church which is bringing God's justice to an oppressed society and tends to forget the need of individual conversion. Thus, we have an "either/or" situation it seems even today. 

What happens, as history has shown, when these two ideas crystalize into movements, is the birthing of positions that wind up being the antithesis of genuine Christianity. Hence, the Klu Klux Klan/Black Panthers of the first half of the 20th century and the present day abortion advocates/anti-abortionists [to name only one of many issues] both taking extreme positions and pushing their beliefs with hatred, anger, murder, and bombings. 

Where is genuine Christianity in all that? In the polarization we may have lost the genuine truth of either, if there is any, and Christianity may be in danger of losing the gospel message in the process of defending a position on something.

I personally believe there is another way of thinking. It is that way of thinking I wish to put before you next time.

Paul B.

Friday, March 16, 2012


Is it just me, or is there abroad in our land a brand of Christianity that is more American than it is biblical? I'm not talking about the style of meetings we have or the way we present ourselves in a marketing frenzy, though either of those things would require a designation of  being more American than biblical for sure. 

I'm speaking about only one thing at the moment and it isn't often addressed or maybe even thought about, but I'm believing it is a real big thing in importance. Maybe more biblically important than we have ever thought.

I'm talking about the American Christian's failure to see our connectedness with other Christians anywhere and everywhere they are found. That connectedness in scripture is called being part of the Body of Christ and it makes us one with every other true believer regardless of their race or nationality. 

In reality, as a Christian, I am MORE connected to an African Christian or a Russian Christian, or a Korean Christian than I am an American citizen who is NOT a Christian. [When writing this I'm thinking of the Church in the biblical "organism" way rather than the American "organizational" way.] 

Scripturally, as I follow Paul's journeys it is clear to me that he left every country he visited on mission, having shared the gospel to which many responded, with a desire that those believers know they  were connected with all other people in Christ. [A Kingdom person as opposed to being just a citizen of any country.] 

In the American brand of Christianity however, being an American is often celebrated to a greater degree than being Christian. Or at least it is thought of in connection with our country rather than as a Body worldwide. Thus we wind up with a nation-church functioning as Siamese twins with a disconnect concerning other believers in other nations. It even reminds me somewhat of Israel in the days she thought of herself as God's ONLY nation. [Which she was with the singular purpose to be a blessing to ALL other nations with her seed who is Christ.] 

In the New Covenant, however, God's one holy nation is not a political system or a national group of citizens. His holy nation is made up of all redeemed people from EVERY nation, tribe, tongue. or ethnic group and they are my brothers and sisters.

Don't think for one minute that I am disparaging a healthy patriotism. Loving one's country and hoping for and working toward her well-being is a good thing. I am grateful and even celebrate being an American and will defend her as my homeland. As a citizen I would want her sovereignty and safety to be protected with passion. I applaud and on occasion weep at the sacrifice our troops make in that defense.

But America is not my Lord. There is a dangerous kind of patriotism that tends to  think of our nation as the only nation that God has and will bless in a special way and  that Americanism and Christianity are joined at the hip and you   can't have one without the other. 

His Kingdom, however, is on a different level entirely and as His Kingdom kids from and in every nation on earth, we have one message. It is the message of the Cross.

There is a great deal of accusation going on in the political world about whether Republicans believe God is on their side and not the side of the Democrats. The Democrats get very angry about this, for good reason I would think. 

But may I say it? God isn't a Republican OR Democrat. I don't think God is even American.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


One of the things that can be really refreshing in a relationship is when both come to the place that neither are willing or wanting to any longer play the "blame game." [Henceforth referred to as the BG.] You know what the BG is don't you? It's where what I feel or do is your fault. You can pretty well know if someone is playing this game because it's revealed in such language as [you fill in the blanks] "I did_____ because you______," or "if you hadn't_____, I wouldn't feel______," or "you make me feel______," or "if you had only______, I wouldn't have to_____."

I have to confess that this is being written by a master blamer. I learned it early as a child and practiced it often as an adult until I got into a relationship with a real person for life. [It's called marriage] It was THEN that I discovered, when called on such a practice by her opting out of the game, that life became just too miserable trying to play the BG solo, so I opted out of it too. That opting out for both of us began about twenty-five years ago [remember we've been married fifty-two years] and it's still the path we choose to walk together.

Now it is true that people are even different in playing the BG. I was a blame giver and she was a blame taker. I used the BG to my advantage in the control issues I had personally and she, by her own confession, used it for her false image of biblical submission. Both were wrong and unbiblical as well as unhealthy. But I digress.

This BG started in the garden of Eden as we're all aware. After the fall, upon being confronted about what went wrong by the One that really matters, Adam said, "It's this woman you gave me." Thus the door was opened in his mind for a shifting of responsibility for his thoughts, feelings and actions that might have been inappropriate or unhealthy, not to mention sinful. That mind-set prevails today.

Be aware that while Adam said it's this "woman's fault," the emphasis ultimately was on "that YOU gave me." So if it wasn't her fault he was in the pickle he was in it was surely God's because He had messed up so badly in what He had allowed to come about. That's the flip side of "The devil made me do it" argument. Boy that's classic. Been there done that... myself.

A principle I've learned [from reading Larry Crabb] is that A never causes C...[Read that again..slowly.] A is the event, situation, person or happening and C is my feeling or choice made after the happening or event. [Read that again slowly also.] I always tried to believe and convince others that A CAUSED MY C. ["Because you...I."] The more lousy my feelings or actions [C] the more obvious, at least to me, that the A was to blame and the A is YOU. [Certainly someone/something other than me caused what's wrong in me...right?]

One day I discovered that A does not cause C at all. B causes C. B is my thinking about A. [Whether that A is a person, situation or event. Now it was clear to me that C is my feeling or action, but what wasn't as clear was that my C was actually the result of my B. It is my B that is the culprit when faced with the lousiness of my C. Get that down. [Could it be this is what is meant by "as a person thinketh, so is he?"]

This is the simple ABCs of the blame game. How you THINK about a situation or event or person saying something is the cause of what you feel or do, not what is done or said. 

An illustration, used with permission, might help here.Years ago, as this was fleshing out to reality in me personally, Mary and I were apologizing to our older three kids for the sorry parenting job we had done with them. Some of our parenting was good but a lot was bad. [I will speak only for myself from this point on and Mary can speak for herself, as she does extremely well in these matters, hence the first person singular from this point forward.]

For example, I tried to make them trophies of my ministry early on instead of trophies of His Grace and used angry control to do them. [Talk about an oxymoron...trophies of grace made with anger and control. Go figure.] Now that's BAD, really BAD. They've forgiven me, but the process was not easy.  I'm just glad all four of our children were and are that kind of gracious forgiving people.

I digress here with cause-----The family dynamic that went into working through the baggage we all carried as a family was as painful as any process you can imagine. It took MANY family times that often went into the wee hours of the morning long after the little kids, our grandchildren, were in bed. Those times were worth the price but I never want to minimize the depth of pain and difficulty involved for all of us.

Mary and I were surprised when one day a friend who is a medical doctor said to us when told of our times of asking forgiveness, "Oh, you guys are part of that rare 2% [he could have said 5% I don't remember the exact small number he used] of parents who are willing to say I'm sorry." I don't know where he got his facts or figures but I think he's right about the rarity of it. It hurts too much for some families to go there.------Now back to the illustration.

Late one evening, after a family time much as just described, Cherri, our oldest, was talking to me and made a comment to the effect that my admission helped her see the reason for some of her behavior that had been reactionary to me as a parent. I said to her "Wait babe, I did you wrong and thank you for forgiving me, but your behavior is the consequence of what you've thought about what was done to you. I won't take responsibility for your behavior...that's yours." She says it was that exchange that set her free to genuinely be on the road of Grace living. I say her change came about because she's the kind of girl who is courageous enough to take responsibility for her thoughts and actions instead of blaming an obviously faulty father or any other faulty family member.

It has to be obvious that if I do not take responsibility for the bad choices she made, I can not, with legitimacy, take credit for the good ones either. She is the heroine here. She is not a victim but a victor in life because of refusing to play the blame game. Her mind became ultimately occupied with who the REAL Father is and what He's like and that mind-set empowered her choices and actions and set her free to make good choices and have good feelings instead of the negative ones she had been having. [The B of this ABC stuff. It's called living by faith.] When this becomes the environment of an entire family it truly CAN become what Jeff VanVonderen calls "A family where Grace is in place." That's the journey the our family is on. We haven't arrived yet, but we're traveling down that road.

Remember we are ultimately speaking here of relationship skills that we need to learn that grow out of the truth we know about who we are in Him and to Him all because of the person and work of Christ and what He's done on our behalf. We forgive BECAUSE we are already forgiven ourselves. We love BECAUSE we are already loved ourselves. We extend mercy BECAUSE we already have mercy extended to us. We are FREE to act, choose, do BECAUSE we are accepted.

So...when I feel terrible, or choose badly or act like a jerk, I can honestly see it and not blame any one else, and deal with my responsibility for it. My person hood is NOT dependent on my performance but His and He has accomplished it all. I now live in the Grace of it and extend that Grace to others on the journey with me.

A final practical, simple illustration of this could be the many motorcycle trips of up to twelve days taken with my brother-in-law, Fred Cherry. Two different kind of guys together a long time on their bikes, at times cranky, short-fused, tired, as well as hungry and thirsty, mixed in with the good. How do we do it? Well, if you don't play the blame game, and we don't, there is no "taking it out on the other one." Neither of us will permit that. Too much respect to permit that. But we don't have our person hood tied to our performance either. So we can be honest about the lousy conditions and our own feelings, without blame, and laugh about the good conditions with joy and really enjoy the trip to the fullest regardless.

By the way, marriage is something of a forever motorcycle trip without the motorcycle. Just two people on a journey together and it sure helps to have leaned some of this stuff....together.

Life is good...difficult on occasion...but when the difficult does happen it's all her fault....if she would just.... :)

Paul B.

Friday, March 09, 2012


I've been asked on occasion about my theological journey that brought me to my present understanding of the gender controversy we face in the Church today. It's not a simply thing to respond to that question. There was no revelatory or epiphany moment to it for me. It was, in fact, a bit of a journey, especially theologically.

It probably started with some honest questions about my own behavior and where I had been in my thinking of things relationally. [This is a story within itself and has more to do with a growing marriage relationship and the discovery of my own controlling personality than anything else. I may address this in a blog post later.]  Let's just say that I had to come to grips with some issues personally that raised questions about gender. 

It was then that I found myself reading others who had the same questions I did about the biblical and personal ethics of a male dominated society, home, or church, as had been practiced by my family of origin and, thus, by me. Also things didn't seem to jive with what I had begun to discover about Jesus when I looked closely at His life and ministry as revealed in scripture with regards to gender. 

That personal struggle and discovery led to several theological questions that needed answers. I couldn't just write my struggles off to culture or any specific movement. The bible was then and is now my guide so I wanted to be sure I was honest about those scriptures that I said I was interpreting. This led to researching the text anew. I will briefly mention just a few of those questions I had about scripture and the answers I found.

It began with a question about the differences between the Old and New Covenants. I saw how the Old Covenant established between God and Israel had to do generally with gender, age, and race. I knew the ultimate purpose was for Israel to bless the Nations through her seed the Lord Jesus which she did. But I saw that it seemed to be only if, as someone said, you were an “old Jewish guy,” you had it made in the Old Covenant, especially in the realm of authority. However, the New Covenant was said to reveal better things than that. I wanted to find out if it, indeed, did.

So I began to look at the New Covenant and it's promises [new Law] for the latter days referred to in the book of Acts, which had been ratified by the Blood of Christ. Did that New Covenant not produce a different kind of relationship? Was it not something other than gender, age or race and was it not for something other than an “authority” thing? Was it not a servant thing instead? The answer to that began to be obvious to me.

For example, I saw that scripture said both “sons and daughters” would be able to prophecy, “young men and old men” would dream dreams, and of course the hated Gentiles would be included in that New Covenant. This made it appear that the New Covenant had a new kind of relationship among Covenant people involved in it. This connected well with Paul's statement "There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [Gal 3:28] He was not speaking of the physical obviously, but he was speaking to Kingdom stuff.

Could it be that things like male gender, age or racial prominence were out of character when the meaning of the New Covenant was entirely and correctly understood? I had to find out.

I began to honestly face the question about the textual meaning concerning women like Pheobe and others in the New Testament. King James said she was a "servant." But that's the same Greek word that, when used of a man in the KJV, is translated “deacon.” 

Now granted, it couldn't be "deaconness" since there is no feminine for the word. But I began wondering, in light of my knowledge of the New Covenant, if this was perhaps more a King James era thing than a grammer thing. Maybe the word was meant to be "deacon" for her too.

Another woman was said to be a “helper” [different word] which is translated, when used of men in the same KJV, as ”Overseer." This is spoken of the woman Junia who ministered with Paul. Did she give oversight to his ministry or is it again a King James thing? 

If there IS a New Covenant change presented in the text of scripture, then perhaps when carefully studied, it could really mean she was an "Overseer" also? I was beginning to REALLY wonder about things I'd believed. 

I had my question about 1 Timothy 2:12  obviously. I found that Paul used a word for “authority” there that was used no where else in scripture. Not even in the Septuagint. This was actually the only time the verb "authenteo" was used in the New Testament and it. 

I knew it traditionally had been translated, “nor to usurp authority over the man,” meaning she had her place and it's never over a man. That view assumes that the very act of a woman teaching a man is inherently a wrongful deed that violates male headship. But I vividly remembered that our Lord taught us that in his kingdom “authority” – who’s in charge – is to be a non-issue (Matt.20:24-28; 23:11; Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46; 22:24)

Add to that the fact that there is no command (imperative) from Paul in this 1 Timothy text either. The wording in the King James Version, “I suffer not a woman,” can certainly sound like a command, but it isn’t. Instead, it is in the simple present tense, “I am not now permitting a woman…" I saw that this COULD imply a shift in Paul’s strategy because of the problems that existed in Ephesus. 

I also found that word "authenteo" to be a street word and that it even had sexual overtones. So I began to think it could be that Paul, under inspiration, is saying this to the pastor [Timothy] of a church filled with women saved out of the mystery religions. They formerly used sexuality to control men and were carrying that attitude over into their present day life. Old patterns don’t die easily even after you become a believer and one women seems to be doing exactly that to her husband in the church in Ephesus.

I would think Paul did have a need to address that. He seemed in the language to be saying, ”I do not in this instance allow [suffer[ this woman [wife] to take charge over her man [husband] in an unseemly [my toned down word] manner."  [Woman and man are singular and when used together usually mean a husband and wife.] 

Good advice for all women of all ages in church life, it would seem to me, but certainly a good word for pastor Timothy and the church in Ephesus with their major problem. That interpretation began to look like a sure thing in my New Covenant understanding. [Due diligence had to be given to the meaning of 1 Corinthians 14:34 as well to properly land on this view.]

Then there is that ever present question about Genesis chapter one. I do believe the pattern was established in Genesis 1 where “He said to “them” have dominion and to “them” to multiply and to “them” to care for the garden. It looks to me to be at least a partnership going on from the very beginning. Of course, the fall messed it up and both THEN tried to “be in charge.” She tried by “desiring her husband” [the meaning is not a Godly thing but one of taking charge] and he tried to “rule over her." [No Godliness here either as it means as a despot.] 

What God said in His address to them seemed to me to be a description of the result rather than a prescription for the behavior He expected. So both are pretty well messed up by now in this authority thing. 

But hang on, God straightened all that up in Ephesians 5:21 [New Covenant remember] where all were told to submit to one another and to serve one another in the power of the Spirit as they are walking in Him. 

The wife by CHOOSING to serve her husband. Hupo-tasso was used in the middle voice which says it was from inside her and not because of an outside requirement. Hupo-akuio would have said that. And the husband CHOOSING to love her as his own body was his way of serving her. 

A man choosing to love is not less submissive than a woman choosing to serve.  It's just the New Covenant way of correcting the "Whose the boss" failure and making it a non-issue. We all know the Lord Jesus is the boss. So all Christians are servants to Him and to one another. 

It had been this authority thing that kept throwing me in the past remember, but now I had begun to understand it in servanthood terms because of Ephesians 5 and it's context. It was, as I heard one fellow say about the Genesis1/Ephensians 5 passages, an entirely new graceful way of living. And the old “who’s the boss” thing of Genesis 2&3 was a curseful way of living. It was becoming obvious to me that Christians are to live in the grace of it all. [Of course.]  Not in the curse of it all. [Of course not.] My questions were being answered.

One final thought about this "woman being created second" question. I never had seen how man being created first and woman coming from man would set up an authority thing. No doubt he was and she did, but, if whose created first is a principle for authority then the animals and birds should rule man. Of course the women in Ephesus [coming out of the mystery religions of Ephesus] had believed the woman was created first by their gods and was far superior to any male. So when Paul addressed who was created first I settled on him correcting heresy of the mystery religions again.

Also remember that since that original creation moment, every MAN has come from a woman. Not a lot of bragging room there.  So my view that Paul was setting them straight on creation and the craziness of this “woman is superior” stuff seemed to fit again.

Now if we could just get believers to get as straight on men not being superior either just because they were created first things wouldn't that be refreshing! Different? Yes! Superior? No. In New Covenant stuff the Spirit is the gifter, decider, authority, power, and sender of all gifts and ministry. So all of it did really begin to make spiritual and biblical sense to me.

I KNOW what I have said has been said much better by many others who are far better than I am at explaining things. But maybe it will help to see my journey theologically to where I am today. I HAD to have some biblical answers to not come down on the old familiar, cultural, even religious side of male authority being ordained of God as boss. I got them. Now the New Covenant really DID make a world of sense to me.

Loving people who differ in opinions about it all is no problem for me. [I hope it's no problem to you.] So, without my being dogmatic and, while I continue to study the text of scripture, I’ll trust us as Christians to study, dialogue, decide, and follow the Lord as we see and hear Him, walking in love and life with others who may disagree with us on issues like these. Unity though not necessarily uniformity may be the biblical position even on some things theological. 

Paul B

Thursday, March 01, 2012


At the risk of driving a subject into the ground, having addressed unity in a first of the year post, I think it wise to say something else about it. The present day spirit of dis-unity and even harsh dissension in homes, churches, and especially politically, may indicate a need for a more thorough look at the subject of unity.

I'm going to attempt to give some very personal and certainly fallible thoughts on the subject. Having been married for 53 years, a parent for 52 of those married years and having pastored churches for nearly 40 of 57 years of a preaching ministry,  I have had ample reason for struggling with this very messy issue for a long time.

In my opinion there isn't a lot of difference between a family, a church, or a business in terms of working with people. Each grouping is different in some ways, to be sure, but each group is still made up of people who are different from one another but still just people. So unity will always be a work in progress.

Families often choose to struggle behind closed doors, for whatever reason, but as John Powell says, "A family is unhealthy to the level of it's secrets." Some churches tend to be a little more upfront with problems, or maybe not, but they have them just the same. The business or political structure that pretends that only positive things are going on and refuses to deal with the real problems that everyone knows are there is as unhealthy as that family that lives behind closed doors.

It is a rare person or group that can face their own weaknesses and openly deal with issues. But for unity to be maintained as a reality, a lot needs to be thought through and talked about sensibly, as well as openly, whether it's two people in  a marriage [or friendship] or thousands of people in the group.

We need to begin with a clear statement of scripture. In Eph. 4:3 Paul said we are to endeavor to "Keep the unity of the Spirit," The idea here is God has already created us, as Christians, as united in Christ. No need to create unity. He's done that. And notice there is no talk of a local church here and marriage is introduced later in chapter 5, so this is a statement to ALL believers. It's that One Body of verse 4 being referred to. 

We are one with all true believers and we know that group is made up of all who name Jesus as Lord. So, we must be able to maintain unity of some kind with differing churches, denominations, or away with the groups because unity IS to be maintained. Simple fact of scripture.

You can already tell I do not believe unity is equated with uniformity. What's the difference? Permit me to use a list someone else put together but illustrates the differences quite well.

Unity implies diversity; uniformity eliminates it.

Unity makes us different but one; uniformity makes us the same.

Unity creates an organism; uniformity craves organization.

Unity combines and includes; uniformity confines and excludes.

Unity forms a totality; uniformity is totalitarian.

Leaders promote unity; tyrants impose uniformity.

As long as Christians are willing to be in a relationship with only those who agree with each other based on the acceptance of a contrived system of human thought, whether it be theology, politics or even social issues, they will simply be producing and protecting their own sectarian uniformity which is a type of bondage instead of freedom. 

The end results will be, as someone I read put it,  "A stifling sameness which is defined by a very narrow set of temperamental preferences, philosophical opinions, inductive conclusions and institutionalized traditions that are of human origin instead of Divine authority,"

It is only fair and honest to admit that true unity doesn't eliminate struggles. In fact, true unity being maintained necessitates struggles whether in a marriage, family, church or denomination. But what happens is it enables the people involved to deal with the REAL issues and not the ones that are not of the Spirit. Those REAL issues have far more to do with attitudes than with actions as we shall see.

Paul B.