Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New "Speaker of Truth"

This blog has moved!

"Speaker of Truth" is now hosted at my own domain, using WordPress 2.1, at http://www.qaya.org/blog/. All of the posts and comments on this blog have been copied to the new one. (The comments on the latest post here have been combined into a single comment on the new blog for technical reasons.)

Please adjust your bookmarks, blogrolls etc accordingly.

This blog will continue to be accessible indefinitely (that is, as long as Blogger and Google choose to leave it up), but there will be no new posts after this one, and it is closed to new comments. If you have any comments on what you read here, please find the same post on my new blog and comment there.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Ethnic and Gender Diversity in Pastoral Appointments

Adrian has now come up with a subject which I would like to take up. He reports on John Piper's message about Ethnic Diversity and "Affirmative Action" for Pastoral Appointments.

Affirmative action is of course a controversial issue, and I agree with Adrian in being unsure about Piper's strategy here while applauding his goal of ethnic diversity in his church leadership team. Also, in general I agree with Adrian's comments that it is better to appoint pastoral staff from within one's own church than from outside. Sadly perhaps, that is not the usual practice in my Church of England; indeed the church will consider for ordination only those who are prepared to serve in congregations other than the one they are leaving.

Holy Trinity Brompton is a very rare exception in that Nicky Gumbel was originally an ordinary church member, then a curate (assistant pastor), and is now the vicar (senior pastor) there, apparently without ever serving at any other church; but then HTB, the home of the Alpha Course, is an exceptional church in many ways.

Having said that, my own congregation appointed from outside, according to the normal Church of England procedures, a vicar from an ethnic minority, a Palestinian Arab. This was not because of any affirmative action but because he was the best qualified candidate, and has proved an excellent pastor. But if we had looked to our own congregation we would never have chosen an ethnic minority person, because we have rather few in our church - although more than the 2.6% non-white population of our parish according to the 2001 census statistics. Also we probably would not have found among ourselves such a good leader, certainly not someone with the same training and experience.

But unfortunately John Piper's appeal for diversity in leadership appointments looks rather hollow to me because it applies only to race and not to gender, although the arguments he makes for racial diversity apply just as much to gender diversity. I wonder how he would react to the following adapted version of his own reasons for pursuing ethnic diversity as an argument for gender diversity in the pastoral ministry:
  1. It illustrates more clearly the truth that God created male and female in his own image (Genesis 1:27).
  2. It displays more visibly the truth that Jesus is not a male deity, but is the Lord of both genders.
  3. It demonstrates more clearly the blood-bought destiny of the church to be those "redeemed from mankind (anthropoi, gender generic) as firstfruits for God and the Lamb" (Revelation 14:4).
  4. It exhibits more compellingly the aim and power of the cross of Christ to "reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility" (Ephesians 2:16).
  5. It expresses more forcefully the work of the Spirit to unite us in Christ. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28).
(Quotations from ESV, so Piper can't complain. I note that Ephesians 2:16 is primarily about the hostility between Jews and Gentiles, a religious matter, and so to apply it to gender is stretching it no more than to apply it to race.)

Yes, the church in New Testament times discriminated against women, because the first believers, like many conservative Christians today, brought the presuppositions from their partly patriarchal society into their church. For similar reasons slavery was not explicitly condemned in the New Testament (although of course slavery at that time was not linked to race as it was in 18th-19th century America). And there are significant Christian movements in the USA today which support not only the patriarchal system under which women are oppressed but also slavery. Piper, to his credit, does not seem to be advocating slavery, and certainly not racism. But he needs to realise that the same approach to interpreting the Bible which allows most modern evangelicals to condemn slavery (indeed it was evangelicals like William Wilberforce who led the campaign to end the slave trade 200 years ago this year) also implies condemnation of the patriarchal system and an end to discrimination against women in pastoral appointments.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not much to say

Things have been quiet here for no particular reason - indeed so quiet that Lingamish has been able to catch up with me in the Technorati blog rankings. Should I do something about that? Actually the rankings seem so arbitrary that I don't think I'll bother. I have been quiet partly because I have actually being working quite hard for a change, and had a nasty cold last week.

But also I have been quiet because not so many interesting topics have come up recently. For this perhaps I could blame Adrian; as I predicted, his now almost commentless blog is not nearly as interesting as it used to be, and no longer provides me with plenty of material for posts here. But then his first post when he returned was wise advice on not blogging for the sake of it but only when we have something worthwhile to say. So perhaps I should be thanking rather than blaming him.

Well, as I don't really have anything worthwhile to say now, I will leave it there except to quickly mention two things. I will be away on a business trip from 31st January to 17th February, and so this blog will probably continue to be quiet for that time. I am also planning to move this blog to a subdirectory of my own website, which I am currently moving to a new provider, and this means I will also be moving to the Wordpress blogging software. I'm not yet sure when this will happen, maybe not until after my trip, so watch this space for further announcements.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Our Parent, who art in heaven?

TheoBlogian Mike Swalm has started an interesting series In Our Image: The Language of Father and Divine Gender. This takes up among other things some of the issues which I raised here recently, about Driscoll's God and Molly's paradigm shift.

In a comment on Part One of TheoBlogian's series Odysseus wrote:
I don't know for certain, as I have not double and triple checked the reference, but I was told that in Aramaic, 'Our Father' can be translated in a variety of ways, including 'Our Father/Mother'.
I'm not sure about the Aramaic either, but I know that the Greek word πατήρ pater translated "father" is not always explicitly male. Look for example at Hebrews 11:23, where the Greek literally refers to Moses' "fathers" (the plural of πατήρ pater), but almost all English translations, even back to KJV and including the very literal Young and Darby versions, render "parents".

If Moses' "fathers" were not necessarily male, then Jesus' Father was not necessarily male. Indeed, we more or less know that he was not, because he has no distinguishing body parts, and men and women are equally made in his image - as I argued in my post on Driscoll's God.

So, do we need to translate πατήρ pater, the more or less new name which Jesus gave to God, as "Father"? Well, it is not a bad translation or a mistranslation. But I would suggest that "Parent", while arguably not very elegant, would be just as accurate as a translation. For there is no justification for insisting on a specifically gendered word here.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Adrian is back

As I was blogging about Adrian's blog being dormant, Adrian must already have been preparing the posts with which his blog woke up again. In part five of his personal story he tells how he learned an important lesson, and one which I have been learning afresh in recent months: what is important for us in God's sight is not what we do for him, but what we are, his children who worship him. In another post Adrian wonders if we should write less and think more. Indeed it is important that we don't rush into writing without thinking, not only of the accuracy of what we write but also of whether writing it is helpful for building up the body of Christ.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Molly's paradigm shift

Molly writes, in a post at Adventures of Mercy, about her move from a complementarian or patriarchal view of gender relationships to an egalitarian one. This has been a real and difficult change of outlook for her. In a comment on her own post she writes:
I cannot begin to tell you what it has been like for me…just like a death…but yet I have felt like the One stirring up the questions in my heart was not my own rebellion, but Jesus, and most of it coming straight from Scripture. I had been so trained to read Scripture from a patriarchal perspective that I was unable to see it any other way without Divine intervention. Well, it’s either Divine or I’m totally decieved, one or the other, which is something I pray for (for truth and not deception) daily!
Molly certainly has a good point here about "Divine intervention".

Very often patterns of thinking about the teaching of the Bible become very deeply ingrained, and to change them requires what is technically called a paradigm shift. Sometimes people are able to make such paradigm shifts when presented with overwhelming evidence, but this is rather rare. Even in science, which is supposed to be objective, it is rare for established scholars to shift their personal paradigms to accept a completely new theory; the paradigm shifts which have occurred have more commonly been spread over decades, as the older generation has been gradually replaced by new scholars accepting the new theory.

But with theological understanding there is also a spiritual element. I think most of us would accept this when we consider the personal paradigm shift required for someone to become a Christian. For those with no Christian background this is one of the greatest paradigm shifts that could be made. And it is one which people are rarely persuaded to make by overwhelming logical arguments, although more commonly perhaps they are prompted to shift by evidence they see for themselves of God's activity. But it is not without good reason that most Christians hold that this paradigm shift can only be made with the help of the Holy Spirit, whose work includes opening the unbeliever's heart to God's truth. As the apostle Paul wrote:
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:3-4, TNIV)
But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
(2 Corinthians 3:16, TNIV)
Now the paradigm shift which Molly made is small compared with that of becoming a Christian. Nevertheless, I'm sure she is right to attribute it to "Divine intervention". When "the god of this age" has lost complete control of someone to the true God, he tries every trick in the book to get back into their lives to deceive them and make them ineffective as Christians. Galatians 3:1 is surely a biblical example of this. I know that he has done this kind of thing in many ways in my own life; I am still struggling in some of these areas, and there may be others which I am not yet aware of.

It seems to me that one of Satan's current strategies to deceive Christians and make them ineffective is... well, I won't say complementarianism in general, but I will suggest that it is the strident complementarianism or patriarchalism which seems so strong in the USA at the moment, although not so much here in the UK except perhaps in circles connected with Adrian's (currently dormant) blog.

This kind of stridency seems to go hand in hand with a lack of concern for people and how they will react. In this case, an insistence on patriarchy is surely causing many, men as well as women, to turn away from the Christian faith, potentially to their eternal ruin. But mention this to a strident complementarian, and the response is likely to be that God's truth is more important than whether people are saved or not. Well, God's truth is important, but there is no Christian obligation to present it in an unattractive way. I'm not suggesting that complementarians conceal their beliefs, but is there a good reason why they don't stop being contentious about this issue and instead put their efforts into positive preaching about the great blessings in the Gospel?

In fact the not so good reason for this that I am discerning is that these people have fallen for Satan's deceitful schemes. Indeed this seems to be part of his worldwide strategy for stirring up trouble by encouraging intolerant and angry fundamentalism among followers of every religion, including atheism. In this strategy 9/11 was a major success, not so much for the original attack as for the over-reaction which followed, including the invasion of Iraq which has simply encouraged all kinds of fundamentalism. But I am straying too far from the subject of this post!

So, how can people be encouraged to abandon strident complementarianism, or fundamentalism of any kind? It seems to me that presenting rational arguments to such people, as I have been doing here, at Better Bibles Blog, on Adrian's blog etc, is about as effective as bashing my head against a brick wall. But maybe Molly's paradigm shift shows us a better way. If, as she testifies, it took "Divine intervention" to change her from a complementarian to an egalitarian, then we should, instead of trying to win people by arguments, be praying that God will intervene in their lives and show them his truth. And at the same time we should allow him to intervene in our lives as well and show to us his truth, which may not be exactly what we have been trying to promote with our arguments.

Meanwhile, concerning the complementarian vision of male leadership, Corrie wrote this in a later comment on this same Adventures of Mercy post:
Christ, Himself, turned the leadership paradigm on its head when he told leaders not to be like the heathen but to be like Him, someone who gets on His knees to serve and not someone who expects to be served.
But this aspect of the Christian paradigm is so often ignored by those who believe that leadership is male, especially by men who seem to expect women to be their servants. If these men aspire to being leaders in the home or in the church, they should take to heart Jesus' own words:
You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
(Mark 10:42-45, TNIV)
Now it is surely another part of Satan's strategy to pervert God's originally designed concept of leadership into the kind of "lording it" which Jesus rejects here. Indeed this is a very ancient strategy which goes back at least to the time of Samuel (1 Samuel 8:11-18), and probably to the Fall. But this is an issue on which the Bible seems to be unanimous. So, rather than a head-on challenge on the basic complementarian position, it is perhaps a more productive strategy in countering strident complementarians to challenge them with this biblical view of leadership. Maybe men who realise that leadership in the family or in the church requires them to act as slaves, even to give up their lives, will no longer be so eager to claim this leadership for themselves and deny it to women!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Smenita is back

The infamous word "smenita" is back! A few months ago this word was regularly appearing as a word verification word for Blogger comments, and was causing all sorts of problems largely because it was not being recognised. Indeed at least one whole blog, belonging to my friend Lingamish, was devoted to the study of Smenita. But then she seemed to disappear; at least, hardly anyone seems to have blogged about her for months, until one hour ago. Well, at least Crazy Mrs Nancy's post confirms to me that it is not just me seeing Smenita again.

Smenita's reappearance has been in the comment forms for both this blog and Better Bibles Blog. She reappeared just after Blogger had been down for several hours; perhaps they had to restore an old version of some software. But Smenita doesn't seem to be the problem she used to be. In the past when I typed in her name Blogger didn't recognise it, and gave it to me again for word verification. Now Blogger does recognise "smenita" and accept the comment, and repeats the same word verification.

I wonder how long Smenita will be around this time?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Driscoll's God: only metaphorically Father?

Wayne, Henry and I myself have all had a few things to say about Mark Driscoll's article Theological reasons for why Mars Hill preaches out of the ESV. But I want to express my agreement with him on part of what he writes, near the end:
Theologically speaking, God does not have a biological gender because God is Spirit, without physical anatomy (John 4:24), and is therefore not a man (Numbers 23:19). In using the word “He,” the Bible is not saying that God is merely a man, but rather that God is a unique person who reveals Himself with terms such as “Father” when speaking about Himself. ... we acknowledge that Scripture does infrequently refer to God in terms that are more feminine in nature, such as a hen who cares for her chicks (Matthew 23:37). Nonetheless, such language is both infrequent and metaphorical because God is no more a woman than God is a chicken.
This is a good argument (although of course the word "He" is in translations rather than the original). But since, as Driscoll agrees, God is not a man, God is no more a man than God is a chicken. Therefore we must say that masculine language about God, just like feminine language about him, is metaphorical. Thus, by Driscoll's own argument, God is only metaphorically Father. Indeed, Driscoll seems to confirm that this is his view with the following:
John Calvin said that God uses terms such as “Father” to speak to us in baby talk, much like a parent uses words that their young child can understand in order to effectively communicate with them.
Now I have no problem at all with the statement that God is only metaphorically Father. But I wonder how acceptable this position would be among the Reformed theologians and preachers with whom Driscoll keeps company. For the implication of this being only a metaphor is that it is not an attribute of God, not a part of his actual being, but only a convenient way of talking about him. The Trinity is no longer "Father, Son and Holy Spirit", but "One who is like a father, One who is like a son, and ...". How acceptable is that kind of reformulation?

Also, if there is no essential way in which God is male or masculine, there is also no way in which human males resemble him more closely than human females do. Indeed this is clear from Genesis 1:27, from the very words "male and female" which (as Henry points out) Driscoll wrongly accuses some translations of omitting.

At this point Driscoll's position is completely opposite to that of Philip Lancaster, author of Family Man, Family Leader, as quoted at Adventures of Mercy (see also here and here, thanks again to Henry for these links, which I found only as I was well into writing this post):
God is masculine. He is not feminine. He is not an androgyny, a mixture of masculine and feminine.
Lancaster seems to base his generally complementarian teaching about the family on this position. Well, at least he is consistent, but his position does not seem to be the theologically orthodox one, at least if the following from Wikipedia (quoted here) is reliable:
Christianity does not regard the omnipotent God as being male, God the Father is genderless
Driscoll, however, is orthodox on this point:
God does not have a biological gender
but his logic is faulty. In the same article he writes:
Scripture states that God made us “male and female” (for example, Genesis 1:27). Consequently, in God’s created order, there is both equality between men and women (because both are His image-bearers) and distinction (because men and women have differing roles).
Indeed this equality is a consequence of this scripture. But the distinction is not a consequence. Indeed, while "differing roles" may not be contradicted by a shared image of God (and differing gender roles in reproduction are indisputable), the kind of view which Lancaster has, in which leadership is a male attribute, is certainly contradicted by Genesis 1:27.

The previously mentioned Wikipedia article also quotes the radical feminist Mary Daly:
If God is male, then the male is God.
Lancaster's arguments seem to confirm this. I am glad that Driscoll avoids going down this wrong road. But I fear for some of his complementarian friends. Lancaster already seems to have moved into ideas contradicted by Scripture and rejected as unorthodox. But it seems that these wrong ideas are the only ones logically compatible with complementarianism. So will other complementarians follow? Driscoll manages to be orthodox and a complementarian only because he doesn't notice that this is a contradiction at the heart of his theology.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Mars Hill Church: on a different planet?

In some ways I admire the controversial preacher Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, Seattle. I admire him for his no-nonsense attitude and refusal to conform to the religious expectations of others. But in other ways he infuriates me.

And he has done so again, not so much with his church's decision to use the ESV Bible as with his allegedly theological reasons for this. It is clear that he simply hasn't got a clue what he is talking about on the subject of language and translation.

For example, he writes:
when we change the words of Scripture we are changing the meaning of Scripture.
What does he mean here by "the words of Scripture"? If he is referring to the inspired words of the original text, then no one is suggesting a change. But probably he is referring to a translation. If we change a translation, the change may be neutral as far as the meaning is concerned; or perhaps we are indeed changing its meaning. But if the old translation was not correct (or had become incorrect over time because of language change), a change should be a change for the better, the correction of an error. And of course every translation claims to be correct where others were wrong. So this is no argument for any one translation over any other. Indeed if Driscoll really believes this argument he should go back to the King James Version or earlier, on the basis that every new translation is "changing the meaning of Scripture".

Then he writes:
Romans 3:24 is one of many places where “justification” is spoken of in the original text of Scripture.
I have looked at the original text (well, a scholarly edition of the Greek text) of Romans 3:24 and cannot find the word "justification" there. There are no English words, only Greek ones. In fact this word is not in any of the translations Driscoll quotes, but I guess he is referring to the word "justified". What I do find in the Greek text is the concept "justification", expressed in a Greek word. The task of a translator is to find an appropriate way of expressing this concept in a target language like English. That may be with an individual word like "justified". The problem is that many people today either do not understand this word or misunderstand it (perhaps something to do with text layout!), and so some translators choose a different way of expressing the word. Thus for example the NLT translators express the same concept in the word "God... declares that we are righteous". Doesn't that mean exactly the same thing? Who is to say that "justify" is a correct translation and "declare righteous" is not? Of course there might be a subtle theological distinction to be made here, but that is not the point made by Driscoll, who is not known for subtlety. In fact he seems to base his preference either on "justify" being one word rather than two, or else that the choice of King James is as unchangeable as the decrees of the kings of the Medes and the Persians.

Then, on Psalm 8:4, Driscoll writes:
The original text simply says “man,” yet some translations take the liberty to deviate from that markedly:
- and among the alternatives he rejects is "humans". What, does Driscoll really believe that the word "man" is in the original text, and not a Hebrew word? What planet is he on? In fact there are two different Hebrew words rendered "man" in ESV, 'enosh with a collective meaning in the first line and 'adam in the second line. Both of these words can legitimately be translated either "man" (if understood as gender generic) or "human beings". Why is one right and the other wrong?

I suppose that Mars Hill church is named after the forum in Athens (more correctly the Areopagus, but called "Mars' hill" in Acts 17:22 KJV although by Paul's time it did not meet on the hill of that name) in which Paul debated his Christian faith with Greek philosophers. But he could only debate with them, and start the process of Christianising Greek thought, because he spoke a common language with them. However, Driscoll seems to repudiate the idea of speaking a common language with the huge majority of unbelievers in his city, but prefers, even when "writing an article for a non-Christian newspaper", to retreat into Christian jargon which the readers, even the newspaper editor, don't understand.

By cutting himself off with a language barrier from most of the people of this earth, Driscoll seems to be positioning himself and his church not so much on Mars Hill as on the planet Mars.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Christmas to you all!

I will be away from home, except briefly on Saturday night, from tomorrow morning until next Wednesday or Thursday. So there will probably be no new posts or replies to comments on this blog for about a week, although your comments will continue to be welcome.

While I have the opportunity, I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas. May you all know the joy that comes from the birth of our Saviour, Messiah and Lord.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Helen Roseveare and Elizabeth Fry

The debate stirred up by Adrian Warnock's interview series with Dr Wayne Grudem continues. In a comment on a post which is a spin-off from the debate, Suzanne mentioned several women heroes of the faith, including Helen Roseveare and Elizabeth Fry. In a response, which Adrian may well not approve because it is off topic, I commented:
Suzanne, thank you for your list of women heroes. Helen Roseveare is one of mine. I remember, even though it was nearly 30 years ago, hearing her preach a powerful sermon on how we should let God make us into polished arrows for his service, based on Isaiah 49:2.

Elizabeth Fry, by the way, is honoured on UK banknotes. I have her picture on a £5 banknote in my hand. In fact I think she is the only woman to be so honoured, apart from the Queen who is on the other side.
I wonder, how would complementarians reconcile the powerful effect of Helen Roseveare's sermon on my life for 30 years with their teaching on women preachers? Was I wrong or deceived to listen to her teaching, even though it was good biblical teaching? Should I forget it? Or is this perhaps more like Philippians 1:18, where Paul rejoices that Christ is preached even though some of the preachers had wrong motives? But one thing I am sure of, Roseveare's motives were not wrong.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Does God know what time it is?

Believe it or not, this question is one of real debate among philosophers.

I mentioned in my last post blogs which I would like to read regularly, but don't. Jeremy Pierce and his associates' Parableman blog is one of these. Ever since July 2005 Jeremy has been posting a long series on Theories of Knowledge and Reality. His latest post on Omniscience and Time is number 34 in the series. I wish I had time to read them all.

But I did just dip into the series by reading the latest post. And yes, it really is about the philosophical question "Does God know what time it is?" Apparently there are three possible answers to this: God is within time and so knows what time it is in the same way as we do; or God doesn't know what time it is and so this is an exception to his omniscience; or, despite what most of us think, there is simply not such a fact as what time it is now - which I suppose must mean that the whole concept of "now" is illusory. Well, I'm not sure how accurate this summary is, so if you are interested you really ought to read Jeremy's whole post - and probably also his whole series!

Update (19th December): I realised even before Jeremy commented on this that my point
which I suppose must mean that the whole concept of "now" is illusory
is not really correct. The third alternative mentioned above is more that what time it is now is not an absolute fact but a relative one. There has been some more discussion about this in comments on Jeremy's post, including some further explanation of what is meant by a relative fact. I suggested the following way of putting it, and Jeremy has agreed that this is right:
God cannot say where he is, because he is not in any one place but is omnipresent; and for the same reason he cannot say what time it is, i.e. at what point he is on the time axis, because he is at every time.
So actually, after some further thought, I find myself agreeing with Jeremy's third alternative, that God doesn't know what time it is because for him this is not a meaningful concept.

Updated website and blogroll

For various good reasons I don't write much about my work on this blog. But I do put a bit about it in my occasional newsletters, which I put on my personal website with links from my home page, which is I am afraid rather basic in design. I have just uploaded and added links for my latest newsletter, which explains my current work situation. I have also linked to two more articles of local interest which I have written for Baddow Life newspaper, about which I blogged in June.

I have also at long last updated my blogroll, the list of links to other blogs on the right hand side of my blog page. I have added several blogs which I read regularly, and some others which I would like to. I have deleted a couple which are no longer active (nothing personal with those whose blogs I deleted) and one which I have not read for some time. And I have updated the name of Tim Chesterton's blog. The blogs are listed in no particular order. I hope you can also find something interesting there. As will be clear to any of you who have been following my recent posts about Adrian Warnock's interview with Dr Wayne Grudem, I by no means agree with the content of all the blogs which I link to; but I do find them interesting, and sometimes provocative.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Adrian Warnock closes his blog to comments...

...except apparently to those which agree with him and with Dr Grudem.

He outlines his new comment policy in what has now become a footnote to every posting on his blog:
Comments posted since 15 Dec 2006 have been approved by Adrian Warnock or an associate but do not necessarily reflect his opinion. Please be cautions of older comments and content on sites with links from or to this blog. ...

Comment moderation introduces a delay to discussion, and due to the volume of comments, many will be rejected. Writing a post on your own blog with a link to this page may be a good alternative.
Well, I am here taking up his last suggestion.

But what does his new policy mean in practice? I wrote a comment on part 7 of Adrian's interview with Dr Wayne Grudem, actually before this new policy came into force (which means that it should have been approved because it met the policy in force at the time), which was rejected. I asked Adrian why, and submitted a revised comment, but this was also rejected. The comment was entirely on topic and of general interest, as Adrian appears to accept. And for once I was agreeing with and supporting Dr Grudem's position. But it seems that Adrian will not allow me even to refer to the fact that Dr Grudem has rejected the positions which I hold on other issues.

Adrian's blog has become one of the most respected in the Christian blogosphere. Does he now want to "castrate" it (see the PS below re such language), turning it into a forum for himself, Dr Grudem and others who agree with them to pat one another on the back? At least this kind of castration is reversible, although it needs to be reversed quickly if Adrian is not to lose his reputation as a good blogger.

Here is my comment on part 7 of the Grudem interview, in its original form as posted 12/14/2006 10:55:16 PM and then deleted:
Well, having been condemned by Grudem for being a "feminist" and again for not accepting that penal substitution is a complete description of the atonement, I am glad not to be condemned a third time for being in a paedo-baptist denomination, the Church of England!

But actually in fact the C of E in practice, and semi-officially at least in our diocese, recognises dual modes of baptism and allows them to continue in parallel. In my congregation, it is up to each family whether they want their child to be baptised as an infant; in practice most church members choose instead to have a dedication service, whereas it is outsiders who want a proper infant baptism! Adult believers are encouraged to come forward for baptism by immersion (in our church in a borrowed portable baptistry), or if they have already been baptised as an infant for "renewal of baptismal vows", which comes to almost the same thing, usually immersion in the same water, but cannot be officially called baptism. Alternatively, some are baptised as believers at other churches, camps etc, as I was before there was a "renewal of baptismal vows" service; and no one complains as long as we don't teach publicly that everyone should do the same. Indeed a friend of mine who was baptised in this way, and didn't hide it, was recently accepted for ordination in the C of E. We are not allowed to teach that infant baptism is invalid, but we can opt out of it for ourselves. We cannot insist on believers' baptism as a condition for church membership - but then most UK Baptists don't either.

While this kind of compromise is certainly not ideal, it does seem to work in practice. Of course the C of E loves compromises, and this one is much more acceptable than some of the others!
Adrian rejected this, and I asked him why. I understand that there could be a problem with the word "condemned" in the first paragraph. I wrote the following to him in an e-mail (links added):
Well, what can I say? Would you prefer "damned"? As far as I can tell that is what Grudem is trying to say, about both "feminists" and Chalke supporters. Not exactly bridgebuilding! But I will leave Suzanne to complain about this. Grudem was not quite so explicit in what he actually wrote. He did say, completely without foundation, that "Chalke is denying the heart of the Gospel." But he doesn't quite say that Chalke is going to hell, and so he might not say the same about me.

So how about "Well, having had my beliefs rejected by Grudem for being a "feminist" and again for not accepting that penal substitution is a complete description of the atonement, I am glad not to be rejected a third time for being in a paedo-baptist denomination, the Church of England!"? If I start the comment like that, will you accept it? Well, I'll try it and see.
And the answer quickly came back: no, Adrian would not accept this. Why not? He gave me a rather unconvincing reason, which I will not publish because this was in a private e-mail. But it seems to me that the real point is that he doesn't want any reference on his blog to any disagreement with Dr Grudem. He just wants to post Grudem's propaganda without allowing for any proper discussion of its validity.

Adrian, if I have misrepresented you in any way, you are welcome to comment, but I will be convinced only if you open up your blog again to proper discussion of the issues you raise.

PS: Here is another comment I made, this time on part 5 of the Grudem interview and in response to Donna L. Carlaw's comment on that post of 14 December, 2006 23:38, which Adrian has at least not yet accepted:
Donna wrote "a good help mate will see when her husband needs her gentle intervention. She can do that without further wounding him by castration." Then she explained this with "I do believe that a woman can be a strong help mate without seeking to knock her husband out of the leadership role in the marriage. That is what I meant by "castration", removing him from his God-given position because of his handicap." (typo corrected)

This is an example of one of the worst logical fallacies and methods of argument, labelling one's opponent's position with a highly pejorative label (like "castration"), when it has no connection at all with the literal meaning of that label, and implicitly arguing that the position is wrong because it bears that label.

Donna, how would you react if I wrote something like the following: "An egalitarian man does not rape his wife", in a context implying that complementarian men do, and then explained this with "by 'rape' I mean 'exercise a leadership position over'"? Of course I would not dream of using such language. Maybe some egalitarians have done so, but not in this discussion. Please let's keep this kind of rabble rousing argument out of this blog.

"No need to apologize", you think, Donna? On the contrary, every need, for your explanation has made your slur worse, rather than better. If your mother can take the lead over your invalid father "without making a man feel like less of a man", without castrating him physically or presumably in the non-physical sense you have in mind, then why can't the same happen in a marriage in which the couple agree on an egalitarian relationship? Note that I am not talking about a case where a wife "assumes authority" or "usurps authority" over her husband (something which Paul rightly did not allow, although he reserved "castrate" for the Judaising false teachers of Galatians 5:12) but where this relationship is agreed between the couple.
I didn't write what I could have done (but which would surely have guaranteed the rejection of this comment), that Dr Grudem also uses the kind of argument by attaching pejorative labels which I objected to Donna using. One of Grudem's favourite pejorative labels is "feminist", which is not as bad as "castrate", but by arguing in this way at all he is encouraging others down the "slippery slope" into using labels like "castrate". Actually I wouldn't be surprised if someone finds that Grudem has also used "castrate" in this way, but I don't have any evidence for this.

Well, if Adrian's new policy introduced 22 minutes after Donna's comment stops people making generalised slurs of this nature on egalitarian women, and refusing to apologise for them, then maybe the policy is not all bad. But if he allows comments like this to be made, he should allow replies to them - if he doesn't apply his new policy to them retroactively by deleting them, as he did to the original version of my comment, as copied above, posted 43 minutes earlier and then deleted.

UPDATE: Adrian has now accepted an even further weakened version of my comment on part 7 of the Grudem interview. So the answer to the question I put to him in a private e-mail:
Or is your policy in fact that you will not allow any mention that anyone might disagree with Grudem?
must in fact be "No".

I realised that the opening of my posting above, "...except apparently to those who agree with him and with Dr Grudem", was grammatically confused as "those" appeared to refer back to comments rather than to people, but was then followed by "who". I considered correcting this to "...except apparently to those made by people who agree..." But it now seems clear that in fact Adrian's policy is not directed at individuals, but the content of their comments. So I have corrected this to "...except apparently to those which agree..."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Adrian Warnock censors those who find an error in Grudem's words

Adrian Warnock has deleted from this post on his blog a number of comments, at least four by Suzanne McCarthy and two by myself. He has not informed me that he has done this. He has mentioned this in a comment addressed to Suzanne on a post at the Better Bibles Blog, where he writes:
I have removed some comments over at my place that I feel are off-topic. This is one of them
Fortunately I have a copy of these six comments still open in a browser window and so can restore them to public view on this blog.

I must agree with Adrian that some of Suzanne's points, and my second comment which is in reply to those points, are somewhat off the immediate topic of Adrian's post. So he has is acting reasonably by deleting those comments.

However, I have a very serious problem of principle with the fact that he has deleted both of the comments which point out an error of fact in his post. The error is in the words of Dr Wayne Grudem in part five of Adrian's interview with him. These comments are of course entirely relevant to the post concerning which they were added as comments.

Adrian doesn't seem to have a problem with being corrected himself. Indeed he was very gracious when I put him right about subordination within the Trinity in his recent post on the attributes of God. But it seems that he cannot take it when people find errors in what his favourite teachers have said. He wrote the following in a comment just before the ones he deleted:
O, and please be careful about being disrespectful to our guest around here. If I had Dr Grudem as a guest in my home and another guest was rude to him most likely I would ask that guest to leave.
Indeed it is right to be respectful to a guest - and to any guest, including any commenter on a blog, not just to those who have an academic position and a good reputation in certain circles. However, I do not consider it to be showing a lack of respect to politely point out errors of fact made by someone else. Indeed I would consider it disrespectful to avoid carefully correcting someone, to stop them perpetuating their error and potentially being even more embarrassed by public exposure. And I would certainly consider it disrespectful to the honoured guest, as well as to the person pointing out the error, to intervene in the discussion to prevent the guest from finding out about their error.

As for the particular issue in question here, since Adrian has not let me make the correction through a comment in his blog, I will have to make it more publicly, in a separate post from this one.

Here are the comments which Adrian deleted, unedited:
Suzanne McCarthy said...

On 1 Tim. 2:12 Dr. Grudem also takes a stand against the Tyndale - King James tradition.

12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

12Einem Weibe aber gestatte ich nicht, daß sie lehre, auch nicht, daß sie des Mannes Herr sei, sondern stille sei. Luther

So Dr. Grudem cannot teach from these Bibles, I have heard many times pastors tell me that they cannot teach from a certain text even though it is what was in the KJ or Luther Bible. Why is that? They need their own special version? They will not use a traditional and established Bible?

I don't know why the TNIV is "a highly suspect and novel translation", it is simply an update of the King James translation in this case.

I challenge Dr. Grudem to go back to the King James Bible and teach from that.

12 December, 2006 08:14

Suzanne McCarthy said...

And why is it alright to post on the internet against the TNIV and its translators? Why is that acceptable? Who are these people?

Bruce Waltke
Gordon Fee
Ron Youngblood
Douglas Moo
RT France

to name a few.

It is my prayer that this rift in the Christian community be healed and that there will not be one group posting in public against another, going on radio against another, in front of non-Christians.

I am so disturbed by this action on the part of the authors of the Statement of Concern against the TNIV. It is my desire that this provocation of disunity be dismantled. These people, these issues are personal to me. This statement has caused such personal grief, and for what, in what way is the ESV a perfect translation and the KJV, the TNIV and the Luther Bible is not?

There needs to be grace and healing and humility. Not this display of why the TNIV is suspect.

12 December, 2006 08:27

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I need to address your misunderstanding regarding the generic 'he'.

Dr. Grudem claims,

"Thus, in Hebrew and in Greek as well as in English, the usage “suggests a particular pattern of thought,” namely a picture using a male representative" and

"But in typical contexts, singular masculine gender pronouns encourage a starting picture of a male, not just a totally faceless entity"

This implies to me that Dr. Grudem thinks that the pronoun creates male semantic meaning - a male image in the mind. Does it do this in Greek?

In Greek, the pronoun is αυτος meaning 'the same one as has been mentioned'. And the grammatical ending is masculine.

In fact, no one has ever suggested that masculine grammatical endings create male semantic content, or a starting picture of a male in the the mind.

So I cannot understand this argument of Dr. Grudem's. He may feel that this is true in English, but the Bible was not written in English. We have to deal with this.

Let me be clear - the Greek pronoun αυτος does not create a male image in the mind that encourages us to receive Christ in our hearts.

Let's look at this verse.

Rev. 3:20

20Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Why should we need the pronoun 'him' to create a starting picture of a male in a woman's head. May not woman come to Christ untrammeled by the thought of a human male, not Christ himself, but the male who represents her in her relationship to Christ, as a picture in her head?

Indeed, if someone came to my door I would say, "Please let whoever is knocking come in and I will give them tea."

I would not say "Please let whoever is knocking come in and I will give him tea." I think not. I will welcome a woman as easily as a man.

I discussed this with Dr. Packer and he agrees on this - the generic 'they' is perfectly standard.

12 December, 2006 08:53

Suzanne McCarthy said...


Does is only matter to you how masculine sounding the words are, or do you care about something being true?

Think of the women who reported that Christ was risen. Wasn't that truth? Can you not open up to something more than masculinity?

12 December, 2006 09:05


Peter Kirk said...

I am sorry to have to report yet another factual error in what Dr Grudem says. In fact I see that Suzanne has already spotted this, but I repeat it here because some may not take such a point from a woman or may not read all of her comments - and because I drafted what follows before reading Suzanne's comments.

Grudem writes: "in 1 Timothy 2:12 the TNIV adopts a highly suspect and novel translation ... It reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man”". But this is not a novel translation at all, for as with Matthew 5:9 Grudem seems to have ignored KJV. Look at the KJV rendering of 1 Timothy 2:12: “I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man”. Of course "usurp authority" is not precisely the same wording as "assume authority", but the meaning in the context must be the same. Grudem continued: "If churches adopt this translation, the debate over women's roles in the church will be over, because women pastors and elders can just say, “I’m not assuming authority on my own initiative; it was given to me by the other pastors and elders.” Therefore any woman could be a pastor or elder so long as she does not take it upon herself to “assume authority.”" Well, for over 300 years most churches adopted KJV, but despite Grudem's argument here this did not stop the debate over women's roles in the church. So what is the real difference between TNIV and KJV here?

Grudem also writes: "I don’t think a pastor can give a woman “permission” to do Bible teaching before the church, because the Bible says not to do that." But actually what the Bible passage in question says is that Paul himself does not give women this kind of permission, in the churches over which he had authority. So this seems to leave open the possibility that other church leaders could and did give this permission. There is a long and complex hermeneutical procedure which needs to be followed, including such issues as how far our churches today are under Paul's apostolic authority and whether individual examples should ever be taken to be normative, before we can translate Paul's example into a command for churches today. This process seems to have been ignored in this whole discussion, at least on the blogs I have been reading. I hope Grudem has addressed this issue in his book.

12 December, 2006 14:55

Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, you shouldn't call Adrain "Arian". You may disagree with him, but I don't think he is guilty of this particular heresy!

You quote Grudem as claiming concerning generic "he" "Thus, in Hebrew and in Greek as well as in English, the usage “suggests a particular pattern of thought,” namely a picture using a male representative".

Here we need to distinguish carefully between linguistic and theological issues. It is true that in many languages, including Hebrew and Greek, and in some mostly older varieties of English, a grammatically masculine pronoun can refer to or "represent" all humans, male and female. But this is not true of all language, especially those like Persian and Turkic languages which have no gender distinctions in pronouns; it is also not true of the form of "gender neutral" English used in many parts of the English speaking world. It is thus of necessity a language specific issue, which has no significance outside the structures of specific languages. Thus it is something which cannot does not need to be preserved in a translation into a gender neutral language. The problem with this comes when Grudem attempts to recharacterise this as a theological issue and then insist that language specific distinctions are preserved even in languages which do not and cannot make these distinctions.

12 December, 2006 15:07