Current Events and IssuesThe Church

The Remnant #1

For this first edition, all articles are written by me, W.R. Harris.

Church

The Egalitarian Movement Won’t Get Far Without An Understanding of the Bible’s Historical Context

 

I recently saw an article in Relevant magazine “trolling” John Piper. He had filmed a video in which he discussed his belief that women shouldn’t be seminary professors, in line with his complementarian beliefs. A woman posted in the comments asking people to name influential women in their lives. This, of course, was a poke at Piper’s beliefs. Relevant magazine highlighted the responses people gave to this woman.

There was a lot of fanfare in these responses, as well as in the comment section of the Relevant article. That’s to be expected nowadays.

Left and right, back and forth people went on complementarianism versus egalitarianism (there’s a first for everything in life). What you all are saying doesn’t change the fact the Bible explicitly says women should submit to men, what about all the times when women lead/teach men in the Bible, Piper needs to shut up, etc.…

I’m going to be real. I used to be a staunch complementarian. The Bible says women should submit to men, it’s obvious, how can you debate it without a butchered exegesis—so I thought. No, I didn’t understand why God made it that way, but, hey, his ways are higher than ours.

It wasn’t until a former pastor of mine who I respect very much explained his view that I turned away from complementarianism. He explained—in depth—how the historical context of the New Testament compels us to reevaluate what Paul and the other writers are saying. He basically explained that because women were viewed as inferior to men in first century Biblical culture, Paul and the other writers wanted to ensure the credibility of the Jesus movement.

Paul makes it clear throughout his writings that the church must maintain a good reputation in the minds of unbelievers, because that will make conversions to Christianity more likely (among other reasons). He wasn’t justifying the culture’s view of women; he was simply asserting that if women taught publicly so early in the church’s existence, the surrounding culture would discredit the church as too radical, unqualified, and not worthy to be listened to. Thus, it would be better for the church at that time to put men in authoritative positions.

God obviously doesn’t have a problem with women teaching/having authority over men. In both the Old and New Testament there are examples of women ruling and teaching men. Judges 4:4-5 says, “Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time…the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.” Acts 18:26 describes how Priscilla and Aquila “took him (Apollos) aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.”

The problem is this: I don’t see many of these people in the comments explaining scripture and its historical context. Instead, they beat other over the head with arguments along the line of “How can believe that?” and “It’s 2018 for crying out loud!”

Egalitarians, please take note. These arguments will not convince a complementarian. Pointing out women leaders in the Bible is probably the strongest argument I’ve heard. That one might make a complementarian reconsider—for a second.

But complementarians believe the Bible. Most if not all have good intentions—they love God fervently, and if He says something, by God, they’re going to do it. And they’ve been taught over and over that God says women should submit to men, and men should lead women. You’re not going to convince them of your position by reminding them of the date. What’ll probably happen is they’ll see you as a rebellious woman—probably a liberal—who rips Ephesians 5:22-23 out of her Bible because she doesn’t like it. “Too bad,” they’ll say, “you can’t pick and chose which verses to obey.”

The other thing I don’t understand is when our beloved commenters scream about how complementarians disregard the historical context of the verses—without saying a thing about what the historical context is and implies about the verses. I once read an article in an egalitarian magazine. The guy explained how he used to be a complementarian, but switched to egalitarianism because complementarians ignore the historical background of their precious women-should-submit verses. And…that’s all he said.

Now, I understand his audience was egalitarians. If that’s your audience, you don’t necessarily need to go into detail to convince them of your point. They’re on your theological side, so they’re going to buy what you say. And perhaps the magazine had explained in depth already the historical context and how it flips our traditional view of the debated verses. Perhaps it would have been redundant for the author to say anything beyond what he did.

As a former complementarian who is eager to see more explanations circulate regarding the historical context of these verses and how they affect our interpretations, I was disappointed by the article. “Really?” I thought. “What kind of argument is that? Are you even trying to convince complementarians of your position?”

If egalitarian authors only want to write confirmation-bias articles that make themselves feel good or that bash complementarians, that’s one thing. I don’t know about you, but I’m actually interested in reasonable debate whereby we can cogently explain our position and convince complementarians of it. Why? Because I think complementarianism has been detrimental to the church, and I want to fix that. Because I think complementarianism has been detrimental to our society, and I want to change that. Because I think the traditional way of viewing those debated verses is wrong, and I want people to understand the Bible correctly. We love God more, not less, when we truly understand his word.

So, if egalitarians really are trying to rationally and convincingly explain their position, they’re going to have to do more than just vaguely say complementarians take scripture out of context. They’re going to have to do more than remind everyone the date. They’re even going to have to do more than remind people of the women leaders and teachers in the Bible (though that can certainly be part of a strong argument—indeed, I think it has to be—for their position).

It’s not going to happen otherwise. At least, as a former complementarian, I don’t think so. Complementarians love God’s word too much, and He tells them—so they think—that women need to submit. And if no one explains this stuff to them, they’re just going to keep thinking you’re a hopeless liberal who doesn’t love God enough to obey the “hard” commandments.

Some of you may be wondering where my explanation of the context is. I plan to start hashing that out in the next issue.

 

Book Review

 

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron

 

Several months ago—I think in October—my dad and I were texting. I can’t remember what started our conversation, but he said he was going to ship me his copy of the book Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron. He said it’s a really interesting book that he enjoyed. I’d never heard of it, so I googled the title and clicked on the Goodreads link.

The book has about a 4 out of 5 stars rating on Goodreads. I began reading through reviews…and I soon found myself chuckling. It seemed one review said great things, and then the next was critical; and then the next said good things, and then the next was critical. Lots of people liked its message. Some people loved its message. And some people slammed it as poorly written. And then every once in a while I’d see a scathing review claiming Cron glorifies carousing and wine drinking.

I texted my dad back saying how mixed the reviews were. I could tell he found my response humorous because he replied that the message of the book is great, but it’s not super well-written. I looked forward to reading it. I honestly had no idea what I’d think about it.

I started it about a day or two after receiving it. I was immediately hooked. I saw what my dad was saying about the writing. It’s riddled with clichés, and I didn’t find some aspects of the characters believable. To me, Chase, the main character, sounds like an Episcopal priest (which Ian Morgan Cron is) attempting to masquerade as an evangelical megachurch pastor. I’ve been around the type of evangelical Cron is trying to portray for many years now. I know they don’t do, say, or think like Chase does in many respects. That made me chuckle.

At the same time, Cron displays a fairly thorough understanding of American evangelicalism—perhaps not its detailed personal character traits, but he does understand their worldview, reactions to theology and politics they don’t agree with, church structure, silly clichés, shallow youth group and college culture, sometimes shallow and narrow-minded theology, refusal to dig deeper into faith and accept challenges, skepticism of art and music, skepticism of Catholicism, conservative politics, and the intermittent quasi-tribalism they display when someone steps out of their designated boundaries. I must say: Cron impressed me in that regard. That’s why this book is so popular—it speaks to the discontent many evangelicals feel with their own movement, whether they’ve expressed it or not or whether they realize it or not.

In some ways, I can relate to the main character. No, I’ve never been a pastor. But, like Chase, I did grow up in a sort-of boxed evangelical mindset. Read C.S. Lewis, read Lee Strobel, read your Bible every day, learn all the preset answers that have already been figured out for you. When in an apologetic conversation, you’ve got those C.S. Lewis quotes set in your quiver, ready to grab them and set them on your bow. When leading a small group or college ministry, follow step A, B, and C…you’ll be successful. Stay within the reformed, complementarian tradition. Think often about the eternal torment your friends will suffer if they don’t know Jesus. Let that compel you to share the gospel at every human encounter. Be discipled by someone and disciple someone. Now you’re fighting the good fight of faith.

Many of those things I just mentioned aren’t bad. But as someone who’s led small groups and small ministries, I can see how they’d pressure someone—like Chase—to question and become frustrated with faith. Chase breaks down while preaching one Sunday and admits he’s lost his faith. Of course, the elders of his church immediately tell him to take a leave of absence. Chase doesn’t know what to do, so he calls his uncle, a Franciscan monk/priest in Italy, who tells him to come visit him. So, Chase hops on a plane.

Kenny, Chase’s uncle, hands Chase a stack of books to read on St. Francis of Assisi. Throughout the book, Chase journals to St. Francis (from the reviews I read, many readers were put off by this). Chase meets others in Kenny’s fold, and they basically help him take a spiritual pilgrimage for a couple weeks. Chase realizes God can’t be put in a box, that he needs to enjoy the wonders of God’s creation, that he should revel in beauty—in art, poetry, music, nature—instead of relegating it because it’s not important or because it’s not the gospel. He realizes he needs to let God fill his heart and serve others from an overflow of God’s love.

I gotta say: I really enjoyed this book. It’s one of a kind, and I think Cron hit it out of the park. It’s a necessary book—one that all evangelicals should read and thoughtfully consider. I’m not saying agree with every little thing in it—I don’t—but prayerfully consider what it’s saying. I especially like Cron’s emphasis on art and beauty. Art has such a stigma among evangelicals that is completely misguided. God made art, God made beauty. It’s an overflow of his character. He loves it because it reflects him. We should love it too.

I also think his assertion that evangelicals should reconsider how they view Catholics and Catholicism is essential. No, I’m not Catholic and I never will be. But so much of church history stems from the Catholic church—and contrary to popular opinion, there is plenty of good in that history. We as evangelicals should recognize that and appreciate that. Plus, there are plenty of incredibly devout believers in the Catholic church today. Again, I absolutely don’t like everything about Catholicism. But we shouldn’t dismiss someone or a church’s good deeds because they’re Catholic. If someone knows Jesus, then he or she knows Jesus, and he or she is a sibling in Christ.

Like I mentioned earlier, this isn’t the most well-written book. At times, it’s cheesy and cliché. But I liked it a lot. And regarding the reviewers who say it encourages licentiousness and wine-loving and carousing…well, you’re just a stiff-necked Southern Baptist.

I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

 

Culture

 

You’re No Expert

 

Everyone’s an expert about everything nowadays. That’s one of the cons of the internet. Anyone can do, like, a really tough two minutes of research on something—on a site that’s probably unreliable—and emerge an expert. Medical stuff? I know it all! Economics? You must be a complete idiot if you disagree with my high-brow opinion—I mean facts. Politics? What I say is law. Education? If every state would just legalize weed and use the tax to fund schools, like Colorado, then our nation’s schools would be perfect. I know this because I watched a three-minute video on it. (Let me just add that as someone who has worked in Colorado public schools, they are far from perfect. I’m highly skeptical how much the weed money has helped).

Anyway, you get the point. The internet has given us all this information that the idiot generations before us never had. Thus, we are smarter than them all! Let me see how many likes my comment’s got. Damn, what’s wrong you dumbasses! Like my (expletive) comment! It’s (expletive) genius!

So, this is the world we live in today. You know, perhaps it’s not actually that bad. Perhaps it’s just a small but extremely loud minority that flaunts their God-given knowledge for everyone to bow down to. God, I hope so.

I’m so stinkin’ tired of all these people on Facebook. Did you see the law Trump/Congress/whoever just passed? He’s building a theocracy! It’s Christian Sharia law (a term I’ve actually read someone use)! Allowing employers to not have to disobey their conscience is Christian Sharia law! Really?

My wife’s head frequently pops off when we’re sitting on our couch. She’s a certified nurse with several years of experience. She’ll be scrolling through Facebook… “What the heck?! This person doesn’t know what they’re talking about! They claim to know all this medical stuff, and it’s all wrong! Everything they said is wrong! And the worst part is their comment has 2.3 thousand likes!”

I’ve probably already pissed many of you off. Too bad. What you, my friend, need to do is learn some humility. Be humble enough to say, “I don’t know.” Be humble enough to say, “I need to do research before commenting on that.” Be humble enough to avoid certain conversations altogether. And be humble enough to actually do the research.

Stay your itchy fingers, my lad, and the learn the saying, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

 

 

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