Monthly Archives: February 2007

Hair and Worship

Yes, the two are connected, as one quickly learns from Paul’s exhortation on the veiling of women in 1 Corinthians 11.  The issue pops up via Britney Spear’s recent escapades regarding her own hair.

This is really glorious, dontcha think?The Bayly  Brothers Blog takes note of Britney Spears’ shaving her head, as reported at the BBC news site.   In that story, the reporter asks “So why is hair – particularly long hair – viewed as such a defining part of a woman and inextricably linked to femininity?” 

In this question, Pr. Bayly sees an opportunity for evangelism, and cites Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16.  And in the comments to their blog, a fellow named Kevin asks:

Can anyone explain to me what verse 10 means? I find this entire passage confusing (the wording is clear, the rationale not quite so clear), however, verse 10 seems to pop up out of no where.

So you don’t have to look it up, verse 10 is where Paul says a woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head “because of the angels.”  Kevin is asking what the angels have to do with anything in this passage.  Here’s my answer:

The Larger Context of the Veil

Verse 10 doesn’t make much sense, nor any other isolated verse in this passage, unless it’s taken all together.  The overall context for these verses is the same as for the entire section of the first Corinthian epistle beginning at chapter 11 and running through chapter 14 – viz. the parish assembled for worship. 

Previously, it is been various problems/issues/questions dealing with life among the body generally.  Chapter 11 begins a section of the epistle dealing with disorders during the assembly for worship.  Chapter 11 itself treats two disorders of deportment: the veil and disorder at the Eucharist.

Glory and Shame, Worship and Culture

Within vv. 2-16, Paul treats “glory” and “shame” as they apply to the traditions Paul has delivered to the Corinthians concerning their worship, particularly the veil.  It’s not just that the women were ignoring to veil during worship, their doing so was particularly shameful in that context.

Some think that the women were throwing off local Greco-Roman proprieties, but this is not true.  A wealth of literary, statuary, numismatic, and visual representations (frescos and other paintings in homes, temples, and the public square) demonstrate that a covering on women was not an expectation of women generally in Greco-Roman culture. 

On the other hand, it was an expectation of women in Oriental culture, including the Jews, whose women were recognizable in North Africa in the second century because of their veiling in public.  

The point:  When Paul delivered the custom to the Corinthians, and to the rest of the Churches (vs. 16), he was introducing a practice that was counter-cultural to Greco-Roman practices.  The Corinthian women were not throwing off their own culture, they were following it in opposition to what Paul had taught them to do during worship.

Why did Paul prescribe the veil? 

Two reasons.

Reason No. One arises from the purpose of the assembly, namely to give glory to God.  In that context, the humans are not only giving glory, they are someone else’s glory.   Man is God’s glory, woman is man’s glory, and (this is key to avoid confusion), the woman’s long hair is her glory.  In the assembly there are three glories present:  God’s, man’s, and the woman’s.

This woman displays a glory that Spears discarded.But, if the purpose of the assembly is to give glory only to God, then God’s glory should be unveiled, and others’ glory should be veiled.  The veil on the woman’s head covers two glories.  She veils herself (because she is man’s glory), and simultaneously it veils her long hair (because it is her own glory).  The man remains unveiled, because he alone is God’s glory, and so it is appropriate for him to remain unveiled. 

But, humans are not the only ones present when assembly is gathered for worship, and that brings us to reason No. Two:  also present are angels, probably great numbers of them if we are to take our cue from those places in Scripture which describe their multitude in these kinds of settings.  And, while they are unseen by the human worshipers, they nevertheless are part of the assembly and they participate in its purpose.

“Because of the angels” points back, at a minimum, to what Isaiah saw in the Temple and described in Isaiah 6.  Like Elisha’s servant on the mountain, Isaiah’s capacity for visual perception was so altered that he saw what was objectively there, but ordinarily obscured from human sight.  Similarly, when we worship in our assemblies, angels assemble along with us. 

At the end of the preface to the Prayer of Consecration in the Anglican Eucharist, the priest acknowledges the presence of the angels in the assembly.  At this point in the liturgy, the priest sings “Thus with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee and singing …”  at which point the congregation joins him to sing the Sanctus et Benedictus: 

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of Hosts
Heaven and earth are fully of Thy glory
Glory be to Thee O Lord Most High
Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord
Hosanna in the highest!

And, so, to herald their Lord at the beginning of the Eucharist, the saints sing the song of the Seraphim, and the portion of Psalm 118 that  greeted their Lord as He entered Jerusalem as the Son of David.  They are songs that have been heard by the Lord for centuries, sung to him on earth and in heaven, and in heaven by angels long before they were sung by the sons of men in His earthly dwelling places.

And so, it is “meet and right,” as the old Anglicans would put it, for the women to have a mark of authority on her head, because of the angels, creatures whose worship we join,  singing along with them in our worship, whose angelic sensibilities of propriety and rank are shocked in a worship service where any glory but  God’s is improperly on display. 

A couple of things in this passage are clearly matters about which Paul was not addressing himself directly. He did not write this passage to explain what bearing the angels have on the matter of veiling women in worship. For that matter, he did not write the passage in order to expound the meaning of “man, the glory of God,” or “woman, the glory of man.” Angels, man as God’s glory, woman as man’s glory, long hair as the woman’s glory – none of these are the subject of Paul’s exposition. Instead, he brings these concepts into the discussion, which is – to put it as simply as possible – to urge the Corinthian women to veil during worship.

Most teachers in the Church for the past 2000 years point back to Isaiah 6 primarily to validate the idea that the angels are present with men during God’s worship. Many commentators think that Paul also mentions the angels because they are marked by an almost militaristic ordering by rank and hierarchy. This was certainly a familiar idea in the popular angelology of that period of the Jews, and Paul himself seems to endorse this idea in principle by his mentioning of “principalities and powers” six different places in his epistles, including the mention of “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” in Col. 1:16. “Thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers” are categories of angelic ranks and hierarchies.

The point: the honoring of rank is a Big Deal Indeed among angels. If, therefore, they are present in our worship, it scandalizes them when man’s glory is displayed unveiled in an assembly where it is the assembly’s purpose to give glory to God.

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Filed under Complementarianism, liturgy, Man, the glory of God, Woman, the glory of man

The Hand on the Cradle

Back in the old days, evangelicals preached the Bible.Ever since I graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary 30 years ago, I get questions from those who ask me if they should attend the same school.  For a long time, I would say “No,” because what they were seeking at DTS could be gotten far faster, far more efficiently, and for far less money at a Bible college, or a good Bible correspondence course. 

Today, I would still not recommend DTS.  Or Covenant.  Or RTS.  Or any other “mainline” evangelical seminary, except under exceptional circumstances.  At best, these institutions confer a credential that may be useful.  But the price – both actual (in terms of dollars) and potential (in terms of eternal damnation of human souls) – is too high to risk except by the most clear-sighted and spiritually fortified ecclesiastical guerrillas. 

American evangelicalism today is pretty much where it was at the end of the 19th Century – beset by increasing waves of theologically aberrant notions.  Then it was Darwinism and the optimism of social progressivism that infected the churches.   Today, egalitarianism is the chief path by which the world has co-opted the soul of evangelical Christendom.  The seminaries are now well-anchored beach heads for the egalitarian captivity of the Church.

SEMINARY TRAINING IS MANDATORY

Only seminary graduates need apply to evangelical congregations.No evangelical church is going to hire pastoral staff without an academic credential.  And, that credential is now deemed by all to be the seminary degree.  Without the seminary degree, no one is going to get his foot in the door that leads to vocational pastoral ministry.  

Because evangelicalism is balkanized along various theological lines, seminaries are similarly balkanized. If one wishes to minister as a vocational pastor in Reformed churches, one had best NOT attend an Assemblies of God seminary.  Baptist churches hire pastors from Baptist seminaries, Methodist churches from Methodist seminaries, and so forth.

Some seminaries, of course, claim a “non-denominational” status – owing no allegiance to any denominational confession (nor to any who would police the seminary’s compliance to any confession).  Among these are schools such as Fuller Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, Talbot School of Theology, and similar schools. 

What is common to all these institutions, however, is the license granted to the seminaries by the churches  to confer credibility to the seminary graduates, who are afterwards hired by the churches for their own congregational leadership.  The premier institution for the formation of pastoral staff within evangelicalism is the theological seminary, a creature that, at best, wears a light rein, only rarely disturbed by denominational authorities.  For seminaries free from any denominational monitoring, there is no ecclesiastical rein of any kind.  Their confessional allegiance is to a standard of their own making, and to whatever “market” exists for their graduates. 

ALL THE “BEST” SEMINARIES ARE EGALITARIAN

This is the cover of Grudem’s book on evangelical feminism.In his recently published work Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism?  Wayne Grudem documents the correlation between religious feminism and theological liberalism.  Indeed, he shows the two to be virtually identical, making the title of his book ironic.  One might as well have written a book entitled Waterfalls: A New Path to Getting Wet?  One Amazon reviewer entitles his review “Slippery Slope? Or Has the Slope Been Slid?”  Indeed.

At the end of the book, Grudem appends a note entitled “Places Where Evangelical Feminism Already Has Much Influence.”  Again, it appears Grudem is addicted to understatement, for concerning seminaries, this is what he has to say:

Give baby pastors the right toys, and you shape their future.Among seminaries, evangelical feminism is the only position allowed at Fuller Seminary, and it is strongly represented on the faculty at Denver Seminary, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, Bethel Seminary, Asbury Seminary, and Regent College-Vancouver.  Even among seminaries that are committed to a complementarian position, some have begun hiring women to teach Bible and theology classes to men, arguing that “we are not a church” ….

“COMPLENTARIAN” SEMINARIES ARE ACTUALLY EGALITARIAN

Raise up a pastor in the way he should go, and when he graduates he will not depart from it.Continuing his understatements, Grudem explains why females teaching males in seminary erodes the Apostolic mandate for the male leadership of the Church:

… it will be very difficult to explain why a woman can teach the Bible to men in a seminary on Monday but cannot teach the same passage to the same men in a church on Sunday – on the surface it seems inconsistent.

And it will be difficult to answer the argument, “If a woman can train hundreds of pastors to preach, surely she herself should be able to preach!”  I think most Christians will reason that, if we allow the one, surely we can allow the other.  So I personally expect that seminaries who hire women as Bible professors will move in a more egalitarian direction in a few years.

What Wayne Grudem “expects” will happen is already a settled situation in much of evangelicalism. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, consider the testimony of a recent graduate of Covenant Seminary, a denominational school of the Presbyterian Church in America.  Written policy binds both the PCA and its seminary to confess, to teach, and to defend male headship in marriage, family, and church.  But, as this recent graduate’s testimony shows, paper policies are pointless if they are never applied, and especially if they are actively undermined in a seminary context:

After spending three years (2001-2004) at Covenant Theological Seminary and receiving my M.Div. there, I am in complete agreement with Tim’s statement about the theology fostered by Covenant’s president. Though President Chapell may be quick to define himself as complementarian, the institution he is responsible for does very little to promote the biblical doctrine of sexuality.

Maybe we need to reconsider what the Fathers have taught us.  We probably misunderstood, dontcha know.On a number of occasions I heard professors declare that chauvinism, not feminism, is the main problem in the church today. The work of complementarian authors (including Piper/Grudem and their “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”) was denigrated as “demeaning to women.” After a lecture on 1 Corinthians 11 which neglected to address any implications of this passage for women today and focused mainly on how men should respect women, I spent some time speaking with the professor. He said he had been asked by Covenant’s administration to develop a course on the roles of men and women and would appreciate any input. When I suggested that feminism, not chauvinism, was the problem in the church today, he seemed surprised.

I left exasperated and realized then that the academy, and specifically Covenant, are a long way from the church and the souls within her. Not once in a marriage and family counseling class did I hear any approaches that were sex-specific. Not once during my three years of course work for the M.Div. were headship and submission mentioned. In general, biblical headship was caricatured and biblical submission was ignored. And the message was clear institutionally, also: women pursued M.Divs as stepping stones to higher theological degrees so that they might teach theology-and not in a Titus 2 sense-and they audited homiletics courses.

The combined weight of all of Covenant’s teaching (or lack of teaching) most definitely gave the impression that she and her president were convinced egalitarians, promoting and practicing the idea that “a woman may do anything a non ordained man may do.” Covenant’s whole approach to ministry and life was sex-neutered.

EGALITARIAN CHRISTIANITY IS THE FUTURE

At the end of the 19th Century, American Protestantism faced two challenges.  On one hand, there was Darwinism which caught the imagination of the Academy and emboldened Christianity’s cultured despisers to trumpet the scientific validation of social progressives everywhere, while denigrating the pre-scientific parochialism of Biblical Christianity.  On the other hand, American seminaries increasingly hired professors whose chief credential was their education within the European Academy, which was merrily applying the newly fashionable evolutionary schema to the study of Biblical texts, generating things like the Graf-Wellhausen Documentary Hypothesis.  According to “the best scholars,” the Bible was not “true” in any objective, scientific sense; and, its very form and content were determined by centuries of scribal editorializing and revisions.  Moses on the Mountain?  Pshaw!!

Thus, the seminaries provided the beachhead for the invasion of theological liberalism in mainline Protestantism from the 1890s through the 1920s, and the departre of the evangelical orthodox into the ecclesiastical wilderness. These seminaries incubated the European theological virus within their own graduates, who then passed it on to the congregations who called them as leaders.  By the time the original Fundamentalists were well-up in arms, the denominational structures were firmly in the hands of the revisionists, as well as many of the flagship congregations of all main-line denominations.

The Church’s one foundation is the comprehensive, undifferentiated equality of the sexes.The same process has been at work within broadly evangelical Protestantism since the 1970s, when feminism established its own beachheads in American culture and the American Academy.  Evangelical seminaries, lusting after “academic credibility,” imbibed deeply from the cultural wells of feminism, just as the seminaries of the previous century had drunk from the wells of Darwinism and the Documentary Hypothesis.  After the same amount of time (approximately 30 years), modern evangelical seminaries have become every bit as infected with the current spirit of the age as the main-line seminaries of the late 19th Century were infected with the spirit of the age at that time.   

INSTITUTIONAL EVANGELICALISM BELONGS TO THE EGALITARIANS

The gospel is the equality of the sexes.The irony in all this is that the current evangelical institutional establishment – seminaries, denominations, publishing houses – had its roots in the expulsion of evangelicalism from main-line Protestantism in the wake of modernism’s triumph at the beginning of the 20th Century.  Barely a century later, those same institutions are thoroughly compromised by the late-20th Century ascendancy of feminism. 

As modernist Christianity spent most of the 20th Century consolidating its power and developing ever more exotic elaborations of its foundationally anti-Biblical tenets, so egalitarian Christianity will do the same in the 21st Century, expelling traditionalist and Biblicist Christians from feminist evangelical institutions and consolidating its power in seminaries, mission boards, denominational associations, and publishing houses that are evangelical in name only. 

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Next Stop is Toon Town

Parody and satire are age-old means for exposing the foibles of error, unless …

You see, parody and satire “work” mostly by exaggerating this or that element of the error or the ones who promote the error.  But, what happens if the target of parody is already so “out there,” so overblown that there’s nothing left to exaggerate?  In that case, parody comes perilously close, maybe indistinguishably close, to reporting bare fact.  And, so the object of satire becomes increasingly immune to satire. 

Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam are gleeful exaggerations of two off-beat, outlandish, sometimes creepy male personality types.  The TV cartoon sitcom The Simpsons extends the technique to an entire family unit.  None of the Simpsons’ weirdnesses is truly fantastic.  All the Simpsons are comic exaggerations of men, women, and children we have encountered many times in the past.  It’s what makes them so immediately recognizable, so instantly familiar.  Exaggeration of all their foibles and eccentricities that makes us laugh.

The Most Reverend Jefferts-Schori indignantly denies being a Toon.The Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts-Schori, currently the presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church™  (the current name of the cult, which until last June had styled itself the Episcopal Church in the USA), is one of those whom it is more and more difficult to lampoon.  She is rapidly evolving into a cartoon. 

In the few months since she became the first woman to lead the main-line Episcopal Church in America, Schori’s persona has eerily followed the character named Judge Doom played by Christopher Lloyd in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  In the film, Judge Doom, a grotesquely evil human personality, is exposed at the climax of the film to be a malevolent Toon personality, intent on persecuting and enslaving all of Toon Town and its inhabitants.  He is shown to be a traitor against his own kind.

In The Episcopal Church™ something along the same lines is unfolding over the past year.  For one thing, Jefferts-Schori is already so toonish that it is getting near to impossible to satirize her.  She seems bent on giving interviews to main-stream non-Christian media (for examples, see here and here, and if the original links have expired, try here and here; also check out the video of The Most Reverend’s visit to Cuba here ). In all these (and they’re just a sample of her media offerings), Schori delivers broadly heretical challenges to centuries-old Christian orthodoxy. Albert Mohler, from the perspective of a solidly orthodox American Baptist, recognizes that Schori’s faith is the Cino type (Christian In Name Only).  See his commentary here .

The Most Reverend Jefferts-Schori, a Toon in human drag, gives the secret “I’m really a Toon” signal to another prominent Episcopal Toon in human drag.Her own revelation as a True Toon comes this week in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, of all places, where 38 Anglican primates (heads of national Anglican churches) are gathering to deal with the errant American and Canadian Churches, which are bent on advancing the agenda of gay rights in both churches. 

If one wishes to follow these events from a perspective very near to Ground Zero, you can’t do better than the web site Stand Firm in Faith , a web site run by “conservative” Episcopals.  I put the word “conservative” in quotes deliberately, for though they are generally traditional in terms of the primitive Creeds of Christendom, the site’s leadership and most of its commenters support and promote recent innovations such as the ordination of women to the Anglican offices of priest and bishop. 

The Most Reverend Jefferts Schori leads the singing after her investiture as Head Toon of The Episcopal Church™Ordinary evangelical Protestants will not appreciate how radical is this departure from the Christian consensus and teaching of the Bible in an Anglican context.  That is why reading “conservative” Episcopals is very much like watching a mime through glass bricks.  If you stand back far enough, you can get the idea of what’s supposedly going on, but it is still badly warped from what you’d see except for the interference from the glass bricks. 

Evangelical feminists outside Anglican climes will find much at Stand Firm to applaud.  Protestant evangelicals who retain the Church’s and Bible’s view of the sexes will do well to ponder sites like Stand Firm, for this is where non-Anglican evangelicalism is headed in the next generation.  The Anglican/Episcopal equivalents of complementarians at Stand Firm are, at best, tolerated; often they are churlishly admonished for their intransigent allegiance to Scripture and tradition; not unfrequently they are mocked and derided, most vigorouosly by the ostensible “conservatives.”  For the next generation or so within broadly evangelical Protestantism, these are the wounds with which complementarians shall be wounded in the house of their “friends.”

At any rate, Stand Firm‘s website, in my opinion, is the best and most up-to-the-minute site to consult for the next two weeks, to get the latest news and commentary from Ground Zero in the Anglican Communion. 

The Most Reverend Jefferts-Schori prepares to lead the Looney Tunes Liturgy in the St. Toon and All Toons Chapel in New York.Meanwhile, keep your eye on The Most Reverend Katherine Jefferts-Schori for a living example of a woman morphing into the Episcopal  version of Judge Doom.  Non-Anglican evangelicals have many such crypto-Toons in their leadership ranks, and watching the career of Katherine Schori will give them a good preview of what’s coming down the pipe in their own environs.

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Filed under Egalitarianism, Feminism

Seminaries: Pro and Con

Commentary on the recent blogs concerning Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the departure of a female professor of Hebrew from its theological faculty (see here  and here  below) surfaced issues relating to the purpose and value of seminaries as institutions for the training of pastors.  The history of seminaries as institutions is too vast for a blog, so I will confine my observations to modern evangelicalism and its seminaries, to highlight how these seminaries are fostering the dissolution of Protestantism in America.

THE BENEFITS OF SEMINARIES

These are easy to identify and to defend, and they are three:

Seminaries possess economies of scale.Economy of Scale.  An ecclesial communion (e.g. Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, whatever) which desires its future pastors to be trained to certain minimal standards can do so more efficiently by pooling resources (money, personnel, property) which benefit all the congregations of the communion.  At least, that’s the basic idea.  Megalopolis Presbyterian Church, with its 10,000 members and 50,000 square-foot office building beside its 7,000 seat sanctuary, and its $10 million annual budget could field its own pastoral training programs, satisfying not only its own needs, but also those of many other Presbyterian Churches.  And, perhaps, that is precisely what many Presbyterian Churches will do once more, even if they have significantly less resources than Megalopolis Presbyterian Church.  But, originally, seminaries as we know them today in America evolved as cooperative efforts of many congregations through denominational structures.

Seminaries permit a highly focused purpose.Focused Purpose.  A candidate for a pastoral vocation can concentrate his preparation into a relatively small amount of time.  Some of his studies (e.g. Hebrew and Greek) could proceed most effectively when he can compress the time invested to learn the basics.  By allotting full-time to studies, he far more quickly amasses many of the tools of his pastoral trade:  at a minimum, an overview of Bible, theology, and pastoral praxis.  No one ever supposed a seminary graduate is “finished.”  But, those who built and administered seminaries supposed that they were an efficient and effective way to lay a solid foundation for a life-time of ministry. 

Seminaries, at least initially, have a coherent curriculum.Coherent Curriculum.  Baptist seminaries don’t have courses (much less majors) in liturgics.  You don’t expect a Methodist seminary to require 12 semester hours of study on the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Missouri Synod Lutheran seminaries probably don’t offer a course entitled “Famous Papal Bulls and How They Have Shaped Our Faith.”  Roman Catholic seminaries don’t offer practicums on “Getting Slain in the Spirit.” 

Seminaries necessarily incarnate the spiritual life of the Christian community that gives them birth, as they arise out of a matrix of convictions based on the Bible and sharpened by the spiritual culture that passes on its life from one generation to another.  Seminaries exist to perpetuate the faith of previous generations to the next.

THE LIABILITIES OF SEMINARIES 

Seminaries have liabilities that correspond to their capabilities. 

Scale Pre-empts Sanctity.  What has greater spiritual credibility in the ordinary pew-sitter’s imagination: the 30 acre, $100 million campus, with its faculty of 150, its staff of 300, its 5 million volume library?  Or, the pastor of a congregation of 100, occupying 1 acre campus, with its staff of 3 volunteer secretaries, and, its 175 person sanctuary?  When the seminary’s faculty crank out 50 to 75 books a year, each of them with 30 pages of bibliography and three or four pages of footnotes in 8-point type at the end of everyone of the 25 chapters, who is going to listen to the pastor of that pipsqueak parish church when he objects to the seminary’s learned corps of Wise Men? 

After 20, or 30, or 50 years, who has a national reputation?  Pastor Buckeye of Podunk Community Church?  Or, the Rev. Dr. Augustus Scholasticus, Ph.D., Th.D., Th.M., Doodah Professor of Systematic Theology and Chairman of the Faculty Senate at Magna Presbyterian [or Baptist; or Methodist; or Episcopal; or Whatever Church] Theological Seminary? 

Purpose Pre-empts the Past.  Seminaries were originally created to perpetuate the faith and practice of earlier generations of Baptist Christians [or Presbyterians; or Catholics; or Methodists; or Whatever Kind founded the Seminary].  But, these schools invariably “morph” over time into institutions whose purpose is to perpetuate themselves and their ever-evolving notions of what pastors are supposed to think and do.  Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and similar schools had the preparation of orthodox clerics as their primary mission at their founding. 

S. M. Hutchens provides a succinct description of the evolutionary phases  through which these schools move from promoting the Christian faith to opposing the Christian faith.  First, there is the Confessional Phase.  Hutchens characterizes this phase thusly: “It knows why it exists, why this school is different from all other schools, and is energized by a missionary zeal that will without much hesitation eject teachers or administrators who do not cleave to its doctrinal and ethical Standards.”

This is followed by the First Embarrassment Phase, in which “the original denominational or confessional heritage of the school is downplayed—sometimes because of the difficulty of putting together a full or fully qualified faculty from the sect, but also because increased learning … frequently militates against its original beliefs.” 

Next comes “ … the Ecumenical Phase where the school opens its doors to other forms of Christianity. It begins hiring teachers who are not of its own tradition, claiming thereby to be serving the Church at large.” 

Following this is the General Religion Phase, in which “ … the school, surrounded by temptations to be ‘just like (academic) folks’ on every side, without firm doctrinal mooring or consensus, and with liberality as the administrative watchword” expects the faculty “ … to pledge allegiance to the conventional pieties of the group, but not adhere to a statement of doctrine.”  At the end of the General Religion Phase “ … the beliefs of the founders have become something to be lived down. Administrators and catalogs speak respectfully about the school’s denominational ‘heritage,’ while at the same time making it plain, in so many words, this is a relic of the past that nobody really needs to fash themselves about.”

Hutchens names the final stage in the school’s evolution as The Final Embarrassment Phase in which the ruse is completely abandoned.  “When the givers of the most substantial gifts are perceived not to object much, the school, with a nearly audible sigh of relief, abandons religion except perhaps as an object of study.”  At this point, the seminary’s modern, updated Purpose has completely pre-empted its Past.

Magisters Pre-empt the Magisterium.  In schools situated at what Hutchens calls the Confessional Phase, the professors are like the old Medieval Magisters, men licensed by the Church to transmit the communion’s received faith and practice.  The true magisterium — the ecclesiastical authority to teach and to defend the deposit of faith received from prior generations — rests with ecclesiastical officers, whose duty it is to promulgate and to defend that faith.  The seminary licensees, the professors, are understood by all to serve the church by faithfully transmitting that deposit of faith which the Church has inherited. 

But, here, Protestants display varying degrees of weakness that correspond directly to the way their ecclesial magisterium functions institutionally.  This is best understood by contrast with the Roman Catholic magisterium, which is vested in the Pope and the Bishops in communion with him.  Whether one agrees with the Roman magisterium or not, it shows itself to have – in principle – the “machinery” for imposing the will of Rome’s Chief Pastor on Catholic seminaries.  When this has not been done, it is a failure of nerve on the part of Rome’s officers who have all the levers they could wish to correct errant schools or professors.

But, Protestants have far fewer levers to pull within their own institutions, and the more decentralized the ecclesial organization, the fewer the levers and the more difficult to exercise those that actually exist.  As explained above, the other liabilities of seminaries mitigate against anyone bringing them to task.

The consequence is that the seminary institution itself – at least among Protestants – becomes the de facto Protestant Magisterium.  And, as such, it is very difficult to reform.  If unreformed for long enough, a church school utterly escapes the ability of the Christian denomination to bring them to heel doctrinally.  One can see this most painfully within the Southern Baptists, who have “lost” several of their flagship educational institutions to secular (and, often, anti-Christian) agendas.  Where a Baptist seminary (such as SWBTS under Patterson; or Southern Baptist Theological Seminary under Mohler) is recovered to the service of Baptist orthodoxy, this is achieved only with the expenditure of much sturm und drang.  

What I have not considered yet is the fallout from seminaries whose path of devolution is marked primarily by a growing endorsement of modern religious feminism and growing opposition to the patriarchal cast of Biblical Christianity.  This, as it turns out, is pretty much the case with all evangelical seminaries today.  The consequences of this dismal fact is the subject of the next blog.
 

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More Egalitarian Flummery

Nanny nanny boo boo to you too!A commenter who styles himself “Stenides” left a comment under the blog “Compromised Complementarians Repent!” below.  It raises  issues that deserve more exposure than they would get buried in the comments.  For completeness, here’s the entirety of the comment, followed by my additional comments:

Concerning Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s dismissal of Sheri Klouda from its theological faculty, Stenides writes,

 All in all, a good result.

The woman, who was highly competent, has proceeded to another institution who appreciates her talents and will hopefully treat her more honorably than the chivalrous males of Complementarianland.

Dr. Patterson has distinguished the complementarian cause and his institution by firing an employee who was hired in good faith and executed her job well.

Whether he agrees with his predecessor’s choices or not, he was responsible for treating the employees he inherited with decency and fair practice. Even the heathens do that, which is why they’re so disgusted by this story.

I love it when this stuff happens, because it is a warning to women that complementarians are more attached to their idea than they are to treating other Christians with any semblance of fairness or respect.

Stenides’ comments are an excellent example of egalitarian flummery, and so I take this opportunity to elucidate how this is so (Stenides’ comments below are in red:

All in all, a good result.

I agree on this point, as far as Stenides says anything.  But, we get to “a good result” by very different routes, and I’m pretty sure what each of us thinks is “good” is very different.

The woman, who was highly competent, has proceeded to another institution who appreciates her talents …

The implication, of course, is that SWBTS did not appreciate her talents.  This is Flummery.  Her talents were most certainly appreciated by the officials who hired her and set her on a tenure track.  And, when officials who succeeded those who employed her retracted the Seminary’s commitment to her, it had nothing to do with her talents or anyone’s appreciation of them. 

and [her new place of employment ] will hopefully treat her more honorably than the chivalrous males of Complementarianland.

Again, Stenides would have us think that Paige Patterson and the SWBTS Board was unchivalrous and treated Dr. Klouda less than honorably.  Of course, this judgment leaves aside the express reason for the Seminary’s repentance from earlier commitments to Dr. Klouda, namely that they were in conflict with Apostolic guidelines for the training of pastors.  If you’re given a choice of having Dr. Klouda ticked off at you and Jesus ticked off at you, what is the righteous choice?  I guess Stenides would rather dismiss Jesus and his Apostles.   

Dr. Patterson has distinguished the complementarian cause and his institution by firing an employee who was hired in good faith and executed her job well.

Again, no one denies that the offer was made in good faith and that she did her job well.  The original good-faith offer was also an offer made in conflict with the Seminary’s historic policies, policies which are rooted in Biblical mandates, and from which the Seminary’s leadership prior to Dr. Patterson had strayed. 

Let’s imagine that I receive a gift for my birthday from an old school chum, a fine, electric rotary saw.  Let’s say I build a profitable hobby by deploying it skillfully.  And, one day, the police show up and confiscate it.  It seems my school chum had stolen it, and though he gave it to me in good faith and I used it in good faith, it was not his to give, nor mine to retain.  It belonged in another setting entirely, for the use of another – its genuine owner. 

A place on a theological faculty, training men to be pastors, was not the Seminary’s to give to Klouda, and it was not hers to retain, if the officers of the Seminary wished to repent of the earlier mistake. 

Whether [Patterson] agrees with his predecessor’s choices or not, he was responsible for treating the employees he inherited with decency and fair practice. Even the heathens do that, which is why they’re so disgusted by this story.

I wonder if Stenides read the following from the Dallas Morning News article:

Dr. McClain, the trustee, defended Southwestern’s treatment of Dr. Klouda.

“The administration was patient with her and allowed her to teach a full two years after she was told that she would not have tenure,” he said.

“During that time, she looked for a job, and the seminary even agreed to continue her support after her teaching responsibilities were over, so her family would have financial support. The seminary went far beyond anything that could be expressed as its duty or responsibility.”

This is not fair practice?  This is not chivalrous?  Heathens treat people they dismiss better than this?  More flummery.

I love it when this stuff happens, because it is a warning to women that complementarians are more attached to their idea than they are to treating other Christians with any semblance of fairness or respect.

To which I respond, I love it when egalitarians like Stenides write things like this, because it is an example of how egalitarians love to run rough-shod over the facts, over any reasonable interpretation of the facts, and especially how they value their own offended sensibilities over the guidance of the Holy Spirit in Scripture. 

That, finally, is the issue here:  What does the Scripture say (if anything) about how Christ’s Church is to be led, and how those leaders are to be prepared for their ministry of leadership?  SWBTS under the leadership of Patterson and its Board give different answers to these questions than do Stenides or Dr. Klouda.  Patterson’s convictions and behavior comport with Scripture; Stenides’ and Klouda’s do not, in the matters pertaining to her departure from SWBTS.

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Filed under Egalitarianism, Flummery

Compromised Complementarians Repent!

Patterson presiding over a faculty where women train men to be pastors.On January 19, 2007, the Dallas Morning News reported what was already spreading merrily through the blogosphere.  I could cite the facts from many such sources, but will confine my citations to this news source, which gave the central facts as these:

Conservative Southern Baptists are fighting again, this time over whether women should be able to teach men in seminary theology programs.  They agree that the role of pastor is reserved for men, based on a verse in 1 Timothy in which the Apostle Paul says, “I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man.”

But some conservatives say Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, under president Paige Patterson, wrongly applied the verse to remove from its faculty Sheri Klouda, who until last year had been teaching men Hebrew in the seminary’s school of theology.

The print and digital media had a nice time with this, mostly by way of painting the seminary and its president and officers as theological Neanderthals, and the dismissed female Hebrew professor as yet another victim of The Patriarchy.

Now that the chattering classes have moved on to something else, I offer the following reflections.

Women Training Pastors?

This is de rigueur these days, but it has not been so until the feminists consolidated their reign over the academy about 30 years ago.  Before that, Protestantism generally consigned the training of their pastors to the academy.  So, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was unremarkable in having a woman on its pastor-training faculty. 

The truly remarkable thing was her presence on the faculty while the seminary, its president, and its Board all confess, teach, and defend the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, which contains within it the prohibition of what the Seminary was, in fact, doing – setting a woman to teach men on a theological faculty, particularly a theological faculty whose purpose is to train men for congregational leadership.  That sort of thing is usually called hypocrisy.

Why was this state of affairs not newsworthy?  I guess we’ll have to keep wondering.

Repenting from Hypocrisy

Was it news that the seminary, its president and Board, repented of hypocrisy?  Almost.  You see, they did change their minds (the essence of repentance) about the propriety of the female professor’s labors in that setting.  What made it all so newsworthy, of course, is the feminist-victim angle.  The press (another bastion of feminism) loves that sort of thing , as do those religious feminists who infect almost every corner of the religious academy. 

So, the story got reported like this:  “Woman victimized by Chauvinist Patriarchalists!”  The true story should be this:  “Compromised Complementarians Repent!  Dismiss Woman from Theological Faculty!”

I have no doubt that the whole episode is one Dr. Patterson and his Board would rather not have had to deal with.  In their favor, the victimized female was hired under the administration of Patterson’s predecessor.  But, no matter where the leadership for bringing the seminary’s words and works into congruence originated,  Patterson and the Board did the right thing:  they decided to walk the walk that comports with the talk.  On the contemporary scene, that’s rare, whether in the church or outside it.

Cherry-picking Baptists

Once the conflict between the seminary’s profession and its deeds was cleared up (in this area, at least), a commenter at the Dallas Morning News religion blog decided to level a different charge, providing a fascinating admission in the process:

I am a Baptist with a woman Sunday school teacher and she is fabulous. There are hundreds of women teaching men in hundreds of Baptist churches. So why make a big deal about a woman doing the same thing in a seminary?

If Paul’s instructions to Timothy are to be considered to be on the same level as God’s Ten Commandants, then ALL of Paul’s instructions should be followed: such as 2:9 which says that women should not braid their hair, wear gold or pearls or expensive clothes. And how about 2:15 when he says that women can ONLY be saved by having children! does this mean that my wife is going to hell? And what about 5:23 when he tells the deacons to drink wine!! 

We Baptists, and many other denominations, are practicing the pick and choose approach when it comes to our religious practices.

How refreshing!  I’m currently checking with the president of a flagship evangelical seminary in Dallas, to see if its talk comports with its walk, but while I await a response, I’ll congratulate this commenter on his candor. 

Of course, he is a virtually anonymous layman, so he can say such things and not suffer any consequences from indignant complementarian alumni.  Still, I suspect his cherry-picking approach to the Christian faith is pretty well dispersed among Baptists and evangelicals generally.  Cherry-picking is, of course, the standard hermeneutic for main-line Protestants of all varieties. 

Patterson after correcting the seminary’s compromised complementarianism.But, when recognizing a choice of remaining compromised or repenting, the Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth showed real integrity to the public, its alumni and other constituency, and to the LORD by correcting the mistake, even in the face of certain censure from the chattering classes. 

By the way, you may hear the sneering report that Dr. Patterson’s wife is still on the faculty at the seminary.  This is true, of course.  What you are usually never told is that she does not have any male students.

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Filed under Complementarianism