Saturday, October 30, 2010

Presupposing: The Apologetics of Francis Schaeffer and Cornelius Van Til

Amidst all the strange events of the 1960s—flower children, hippies, marches for peace and marches for Jesus—when college students were challenging the establishment, the Vietnam War, racism, and conventional social structures, an even stranger thing happened. A squeaky-voiced little man in knickers, who in 1948 felt called of God to become a missionary and to move with his family to a lonely chalet in the Swiss Alps (knowing not a word of local language), began to attract young intellectuals from all over the world.

Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) had written no books or popular articles in those early years.1 He made no broadcasts or tape-recorded messages in his early ministry.2 Yet by the end of the decade Schaeffer's remote chalet had become a place of refuge for young people searching for answers to life's deepest and most troubling questions. This phenomenon would come to be known world-wide as “L'Abri” (French for “the shelter”).

Rev. Louis Gifford Parkhurst, Jr., who served the Schaeffers as their pastor in the last years of Dr. Schaeffer's life, describes L'Abri's beginning:
L'Abri began in a very real way with Priscilla [Schaeffer's daughter] on the weekend of May 6, 1955. She brought home from college a girl who had many questions, and so began the flow of people. L'Abri came to be a spiritual “shelter” for people with real and honest questions. God's hand was so obviously in the work that Dr. Schaeffer courageously wrote his mission board on June 5 and resigned. He asked that all salary be cut off immediately, and he told of the beginning of L'Abri Fellowship. The Schaeffers had had the reality of the existence of God demonstrated to them in real ways up to that point, and L'Abri was begun simply from a desire “to demonstrate the existence of God by our lives and our work.” 3
From this humble beginning Schaeffer's work began to grow and to attract attention. In the late 1960s Schaeffer began to speak at American colleges like Wheaton in 1967 and, later, at Westminster Seminary. By the end of the decade and the beginning of the next Schaeffer was speaking at Harvard (1968), Princeton (1972) and Yale (1973) as well as some prestigious universities in Europe and Asia.4 It was during this same period that Schaeffer began to publish his lectures in book form.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 11/11

What's A
Search Committee
To Do?

We began this series with a hypothetical pastoral search committee faced with a dilemma. They need a pastor but all the applicants are women!

After our brief survey of the key texts that are involved in the complementarian-egalitarian debate, what should our search committee now conclude?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 10


Paul's instructions for choosing elders/overseers fuel our case that, contrary to traditionalist interpreters, Paul not only saw women as vital participating church members, but that he actually had both genders in mind for the jobs of pastors, elders, and deacons.

 We looked at 1 Timothy 2 in the last few blogs. In the next chapter, 1 Timothy 3, and in Titus 1:5-2:5, Paul gives us  lists of qualifications that most churches today include in their pastoral selection process.

After asserting in 1 Timothy 2 that women will be restored by faith and faithfulness, he goes on in chapter 3 to say, literally, "Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task." It does not say, as some translations have it, "If any man desires" but it says literally, "if anyone" does.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 9


From an Obscure Word to an Interpretation that Illumines the Whole Chapter
So far, we've looked at several possible ways to interpret Paul's statement in 1 Timothy 2:12-14 that many take as restricting women from teaching or speaking in church. All of these proposed interpretations make sense and show that an anti-woman rendering of this passage is unnecessary.
But there is another scenario that not only explains Paul's meaning in this verse but also brings the whole chapter together into a meaningful whole. (Remember that when we looked at the entirety of chapter two, we found it riddled with problematic statements.)

Who Is My Neighbor?

The Lord's Prayer in Arabic
How far we've come....

The American backlash against Muslims since 9-11-2001 has infected many Christians' attitudes toward the people of Islamic faith. There was a time when the Evangelical's opinion of Muslims was simply that they needed to be missionized and evangelized. We recognized the danger of some radical elements, but coercive and violent forms of persuasion were not commonly given respect in serious consideration of how to interact with Muslims.

Rather, we thought of sending missionaries and teams of evangelists, either covertly or overtly, to convey the unconditional love of Jesus. And we did so recognizing the dangers.

Lately, that love has not seemed so unconditional, at least if you gauge it by the eroding Evangelical-American attitudes that seem to becoming more hostile and widespread daily.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 8


We continue our discussion of 1 Timothy 2:11-14 by noting that there are several plausible explanations for Paul's words, other than taking them to mean women cannot lead or teach men. The fact that other explanations are possible should signal for us the inadvisability of using this passage to dogmatically restrict woman for exercising their Spirit-given gifts for the edification both sexes in the church.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 7


The Issue at Ephesus
And the Infamous 1 Timothy 2:11-14

So what's the deal with Paul's comments about keeping women silent and restricting them from teaching in 1 Timothy 2:11?

Doesn't he say a woman should learn in silence?

Well, the word used for silence, hesuchia, more literally means "quietness." When Paul instructs women to learn with quietness and submission, he is simply telling them to be cooperative. Some scholars point out that just by commanding women to be taught, Paul was advocating a significant liberating advance for that culture from the perspective of both Jews and Greeks. It is as though he said, "Let the women go to seminary and get their M.Div. degrees." It may be that the women Paul refers to did not even know how to behave in such a context.

Why then, our hypothetical search committee asks, does Paul explicitly say in 1 Timothy 2:12-14 that women may not teach or hold authority over men?
"I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent [hesuchia: quiet]. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." (1Tm 2:12-14)
This seems to contradict all we have been saying -- and all the New Testament is saying -- about women and their total equality with believing men as priests. But just how explicit is Paul in this chapter?

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 6



We began this series with a hypothetical pastoral search committee considering applicants, all of whom turn out to be women. We can imagine that after hearing the evidence we've considered so far, someone would raise this objection:
"Why does Paul then instruct women to remain silent in 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 and 1 Timothy 2:11?"
There are a number of possibilities that would reasonably explain Paul's comments.

W-W-I-D (What Would Isa DO?) - When One in Four People Call Jesus Isa

The Lord's Prayer in Arabic

Did you know there are nearly 50 references to Jesus Christ in the Quran?

Ever wonder what the Quran actually says about him?

You'll find each reference presented with many other helpful resources on the Tools and Resources page of

JAQ is an organization committed to helping Christians build a constructive dialogue with their Muslim neighbors and friends. It asks a simple and profound question:
"If one in four people on the planet considers himself/herself a Muslim, shouldn’t we learn how to talk with them well?"
In an age when 1400 years of tensions between Christians and Muslims has come to a constant simmer at near-boil, immanent-spill capacity, isn't it time that we all take the initiative to really understand each other and better communicate the faith we hold so dear to our hearts?

How would you share the gospel lovingly with a Muslim?

Consider the compassionate and creative example in this video of JAQ member Jon Stallsmith.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 5

The nature of headship - 2

Yesterday we looked at Paul's use of kephale-head in 1 Corinthians 11. Today, let's take a look at his use in Ephesians 5.
"For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior." (Eph 5:23)
Because the context of this verse mentions submission, some interpreters are quick to infer that headship involves an authority relationship. A careful examination of the full context, however, reveals that this simply is not so.

Dave's Recommended Books

Build your library!  Enrich your faith! And each purchase supports this blog!

Here is a list of books and authors that have influenced me over the years. Perhaps you'll enjoy them too!

But if I had to narrow that list down to ten, I guess it would be these:

My Top 10 Short List:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 4

The nature of headship - 1

If Jesus taught that we, his disciples, are not to exercise authority over one another (Mt 20:25-26), and if there is no longer male or female in Christ as far as status (Gal 3:27-28), then there is a serious problem with any interpretation that gives men status or authority over women in the church based on sex/gender differences.

Often the idea of "headship" is invoked by complementarians who want to do this. And while nowhere in the New Testament are leaders called "heads" in Christ's body, there are two key passages where men are called "heads" (kephale) to their wives. Today we will look at  Paul's use of this word in 1 Corinthians 11, then we'll progress to the other uses in our subsequent blogs.

A passage very often cited to support this form of sex-based hierarchy and authoritarianism is:
"Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." (1Co 11:3)

Confessions of an Idolator

The belief that an idol holds power "over me" is not attractive. Nor is there any appeal in obligations to serve it.

The belief that an idol imparts power to me, and the idea of serving and appeasing a god so that I can manipulate and control it, now THAT has potential!

Whether an idol is made of stone or flesh or chrome and leather, we humans have no need or hunger to worship it. We lust instead for something to manipulate that will empower us to fulfill all our pleasures.

When it comes to worship, after all, we prefer to BE worshiped or to worship ourselves. It's against our fallen nature to truly and selflessly want to render thankless service to another.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 3


Two key elements required to understand the equal status of women with men are often missed by those who interpret the Bible to exclude women from ministry and church leadership. They are:
1. The nature of authority in the church, and
2. The nature of headship.
We will deal with the nature of authority today and the nature of headship tomorrow.

The nature of authority in the church

The first mistake many of us make is to assume that leadership positions in the church are positions that hold authority by virtue of their office. The truth is that leadership and authority are always earned. Spiritual authority is something that comes as one's leadership abilities, wisdom, and character come to be recognized by others.

As for authoritarian leadership, Jesus rejected that outright. Recall:
Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant...." (Mt 20:25-26, emphasis added).

How Divine Is Jesus?

If you asked an Evangelical Christian, as late as the mid-1970s, if Jesus was equal to the Father in all respects, or if he was somehow less or subordinate to the Father in authority or rank, the unanimous reply would have been that each member of the Trinity is equal in all respects, and that any suggestion of hierarchy or subordination within the Trinity is an error likened to Arianism and Jehovah Witness teaching.

But something has happened under the "big tent" of Evangelicalism. And that answer is no longer unanimous.

I cut my theological teeth in the late 1970s studying the orthodox view of the Trinity as a reply to the cults. Resources like Walter Martin's Kingdom of the Cults, and the Spiritual Counterfeits Project Newsletter, helped me shape my understanding of Jesus' full and complete deity. My studies since then, as a theology student, pastor, and Christ-follower have deepened my love for the Trinity doctrine.

It seems that since the late 1970s a group of Christians with a social agenda aimed at imposing gender-based hierarchy in the family, church, and society have found it convenient and expeditious to harvest examples from church history that cast some doubt on the certainty we Evangelicals once had with regards to the total non-hierarchal and equal standings of each Person in the Trinity.

God In Search of Us - Part 2 of 2

When asked how he knew the Bible was God's Word, Karl Barth, the great theologian and scholar put it this way:
“You might as well as a child how she knows her mother's voice is her mother's!”
Something inside us just knows the voice of Yahweh who birthed us into being. Somehow, it is a self-evident thing. This is a wondrous thing that only faith can appreciate.

Imagine you and I are sitting across the table from each other. We see each other, feel each other's warmth, hear each other's voices, and laugh at each other's jokes. Would it make any sense at that point to entertain arguments claiming that either one of us did not really exist? Certainly on a playing field of absolute skepticism such arguments might exhaust us without end. But if we just relax and admit what we know, we each know the other is present and real. The same is so with the soul's knowledge of Yahweh. His reality is evident within us and all around us, as he is everywhere present.

Sometimes we have to get in touch with ourselves to realize this. Self-awareness can be a rare commodity today. And if you doubt this, you are probably among those most guilty of it. It usually takes a self-encounter before someone can step outside the mental maze we get ourselves into as if chasing our own tail. When we come to this self-encounter we discover that it has only been our desire to push away Yahweh and to rule ourselves without him, that we came to block him out of our consciousness by conscious or unconscious choice. But deep down our soul knows. Make no mistake about that. And our heart bears witness to it when it hears his voice and words. It tells us what our mind has resisted: that we have come home, that this is our Source of Being and the One in whom we live and move and have our being.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 2


It was Martin Luther who pointed out that one great mark of the New Covenant is its radical shift of the holy priesthood from a select elite to all who believe in the covenant Lord (cf. 1Pe 2:9; Re 1:5b-6). The shift to what Luther called "the priesthood of all believers" does more than make men who were not Levites now into priests; it also opens the door to Paul's great declaration:
"For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Ga 3:27-28, emphasis added).
The priesthood of all believers opens the door for all who would call upon the name of the Lord to be clothed in Christ, and therefore to become Christ's representatives, preaching, baptizing, discipling, and interceding as he did on earth among us. As Luther said,
"Everyone who has been baptized may claim already to be consecrated a priest, bishop or pope." (An Appeal to the Ruling Class, 1520).

God In Search of Us - Part 1

Eric wrestled with the so-called scientific evidences for the faith. He was better-read than I was on cutting-edge developments related to the evening's scientific presentation—and I have read my share! But it was clear to him, as it was to me, that the presentation of the evening did not give compelling reasons to embrace Yahweh, the Creator. I had to respect the fact that Eric was, by his own account, “struggling.”

It reminded me of how, years ago, I discovered my college roommate had been wrestling throughout the school year with whether or not to surrender to Christ. It had been happening under my nose and I hadn't seen it. I knew he asked me questions from time to time. But I hadn't picked up on the degree of his struggle. Then one night he shared with me how he'd even been to the brink of suicide at one point in his life over the matter. As he'd stood in his attic one night with a noose around his neck, Bill believed he'd seen a physical light where there was only enclosed darkness and no physical source for it. This compelled him to think in that moment that there must be a spiritual dimension to reality. The experience launched him on a search for God. And that search resulted in the conversation he and I were now having in our dorm room bunks.

I will never forget him saying: “I asked you once, 'Why do you believe?' and you gave me a list of intellectual, textbook answers. Well, that really turned me off,” he said. “Because I don't think any of that really has to do with what really made you believe. I think that stuff all came later. So tell me, why do you really believe?”

The Full Stature of Women as Servants of Christ in His Church - Part 1

A great deal of confusion exists today on the question of women in ministry. Although there are numerous examples in Scripture of women who were leaders and ministers, many Bible-believing Christians today allow a few controversial and easily misunderstood statements by Paul to prevent them from helping women come to full maturity as servants of Christ (cf. 2Pe 3:15-16). This series will seek to alleviate some of this confusion and the consequent resistance to women in ministry on the part of Bible believers by considering alternate explanations and interpretations of key biblical passages. At no time will I call into question the authority of the Bible itself, only the interpretations some people have attached to it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Dream About Unity

One night I had a dream....

I was on what seemed to be the George Washington Bridge in New York, which I've been on several times and recognized by the fact it had two levels. I was on the lower level, which locals refer to as Martha. But I was not driving a car.

I was engaged in hand-to-hand combat in a one-on-one battle similar to what you might see in an Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi movie. My opponent and I struck at each other with super-human strength, even climbing the cables and rafters that held the bridge together and ripping off pieces of the bridge to strike each other and knock each other around.

Each blow required another part of the bridge and sent either me or my adversary hurling to a death-defying impact somewhere on the bridge. Though we seemed to kill each other over and over again, we kept coming back at each other with ever-increasing determination and ever more threatening assaults.

As we fought, gradually dismantling the bridge, each bloodied fall seemed all the more dangerous as the pavement below us began to sway and dangle with the crumbling structure. Yet we continued to fight even as the bridge dangled perilously, falling apart beneath us over an empty void.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Could Prayer Unite Us?

Today I have been reading some prayers written by a theologian who has been the subject of many a controversy. As I've read these offerings of his heart to God, I have been moved by their spirit and their theological majesty.

I don't always agree with Karl Barth, though I recognize him as one of the greatest thinkers of all time. I also have great admiration and respect for some of those theologians who have questioned and differed with him. Sometimes I've agreed more with Barth's opponents than with Barth. Sometimes vice-versa. But what I have not always appreciated is the mean spirit I've witnessed in attacks on Barth by otherwise respectable scholars. And what really saddens me are those times when I too have allowed myself to become mean-spirited in similar theological debates with others.

Sometimes the tumult of words that both sides pour out are riddled with misunderstandings of each other's positions. Sometimes they are infected with sentiments on the brink of hatefulness. And it really is appalling, when you step back to look at it, to see what respectable leaders and we ourselves are capable of when it comes to spreading misunderstanding and ill will toward others.

And so I wonder, as I sit here reading and even praying these marvelous prayers by Barth: How might the church be different if her factions would simply pray more together? How differently would we feel about
 each other if we could hear each other's hearts being poured out passionately with love for our common Savior and Lord? How much more watchful would we be of each other's wellbeing, and for fairness toward each other, if we were sincerely praying for and with each other? If we could hear each other's most private conversations with God, the intimate lover of our souls?