Friday, April 22, 2005

Scriptural roles of men and women

R.C. Sproul, Jr. has written against women bloggers in, What are you talking about?

But I explain this confusion not for my own sake, not to avoid embarrassment, but to make a point I believe many in the blog world need to learn. People as backward and ancient as I tend to turn to Titus 2 with some regularity. There we see that older women are called to teach younger women. Many of my internet friends recognize this, and so direct their blogs at other women. Trouble is, Titus 2 not only tells us who is the faculty (older women) and who are the students (younger women) but it tells us the curriculum. Older women are told not just that they should be teaching younger women, but that they should be teaching them to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the Word of God may not be reviled.

There are, I’m delighted to report, any number of blogs which teach just these things. (Bearing in mind of course the other weaknesses that come with the internet. Serving your sisters in cyberspace isn’t probably what Paul had in mind, especially if you aren’t ministering to those who are, in real life, your neighbors.) But I have seen others, written by women, that set out, or so it seems, to set the world straight about Auburn Avenue theology, the history of the New Testament church, that seek to change this government policy or that, that direct you to this teacher or some other. Now bear in mind that many of these ladies are pushing the very same things I would push. The trouble I’m getting at isn’t that they are pushing against what I think to be biblical wisdom, but that they are pushing at all.

I have grumbled in the past that the internet, for all its strengths, for all its power in diffusing centralized communication, comes with this exact kind of danger. People are teaching who shouldn’t be teaching. And people are learning where they ought not to be learning. A husband who loses his wife to a hook-up with some internet Lothario is probably better off than one who returns from work to find his wife safely at home, but having been seduced into Rome by some charming blogger.

I have to say that reading Mr. Sproul's article brings back memories of being a part of a church that expects only pious behavior out of women who always wear long skirts, long hair and scarves or hats covering their heads. What does scripture teach about women? The ELS tells me this:

The Roles of Men and Women in Church

On the basis of such Scripture passages as Genesis 1-3; I Corinthians 11:3-16; I Corinthians 14:33b-36; Ephesians 5:22-26; Galatians 3:28; I Timothy 2:11-15; I Peter 3:1-7; Romans 16 and Philippians 4:3, we teach:

  1. God created man and woman in his own image, that is, he created them with a true knowledge of Him and with perfect righteousness and holiness. Even though our first parents lost this image in the fall into sin, yet God in his grace promised the Savior and in Him restored this image.
  2. This spiritual equality of man and woman is a blessed reality, as St. Paul writes in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
  3. Through faith in Christ all Christians are members of the universal priesthood of believers and as such are in full possession of all its rights and privileges and are exhorted to exercise them.
  4. At the creation of man and woman God established an order, or structure, by assigning individual identities and roles to each sex. According to Genesis 2, Eve was created to be a helper to Adam and as such was to be under his headship.
  5. The headship principle is clearly taught in the Old Testament. In Genesis 3:26 the Lord says to the woman: "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." The original structure at creation remained in effect after the fall into sin.
  6. The headship principle is clearly set forth also in the New Testament. In I Corinthians 11:3 Paul says, "the head of the woman is man," and in Ephesians 5 the apostle tells wives to submit to their husbands "for the husband is the head of the wife." (Eph. 5:22- 23) The apostle Peter refers to this headship principle when he singles out Sarah as an example in obeying Abraham and calling him Lord. (cf. I Peter 3:1-7)
  7. The headship of man in his role of leadership to which the woman is subordinate is therefore God's arrangement for good order. (Genesis 1:31)
  8. The prime example of the goodness and necessity of the headship principle is found in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. (cf. I Corinthians 11:3) Biblical Christianity has always taught that the Father and the Son are equally God; there is no difference in their degree of divinity. And yet in I Corinthians 15:28 the Son himself is said to be subject to the Father. It is interesting to note that here the same verb is used for the Son's subjection to the Father as is used for the woman's subjection to the man in Ephesians 5 and I Timothy 2. In I Corinthians 15:28 the purpose of the Son's submitting to the Father is not to put the Son in an inferior position, but to bring about a beautiful plan. The purpose of the wife's submitting to her husband and of the woman's being submissive within the Christian congregation is also to carry out a beautiful plan, viz., the establishment of a marriage that not only lasts but is also a wonderful harmony, and the establishment of an orderly and harmonious fellowship within the congregation.
  9. Our Lord has revealed that He wants the headship principle to be upheld in the church. It is for this reason that the Lord has restricted the pastoral office to men. (cf. I Timothy 2:11-14 and I Corinthians 24:34ff)
  10. The same principle applies to woman suffrage in the church. Scripture forbids the women "to have authority over a man,"( I Timothy 2:12)
  11. However, this principle does not forbid consultation between men and women in the church. Informal meetings or forums may be held, therefore, at which women may have opportunity to seek information and express their views. But the final decisions are to be made by the men. The Lord himself has placed this responsibility upon the men and they are to carry this out in a manner that is sensitive to the feelings and wishes also of the women.
  12. Scripture encourages women to use their talents in areas of church work which do not conflict with the headship principle or the public administration of the means of grace. As members of the priesthood of believers there is much for women to do in church. In Romans, chapter 16, the apostle Paul commends Phoebe to the Christians at Rome as a servant (diakonos) of the church at Cenchreae and sends greetings to women who had been of assistance to him. He mentions Priscilla and her husband Aquilla as "fellow workers in Christ Jesus" (v.3) and a certain Mary "who labored much for us." (v.6) And in his letter to the Phillippians he urges the congregation to "help those women who labored with me in the gospel," (4:2) Nor should we forget the many women who ministered to our Lord during his earthly ministry whose names are recorded in the Gospels. Women may, for example, lend their counsel in open congregational forums; teach parochial school, Sunday school, vacation Bible school; direct choirs; serve on committees in advisory capacities; assist the pastor and elders in calling on the sick, shut-ins and singles; and also assist in works of charity in the congregation and community.
  13. From the above passages it is evident that women used their talents in the Lord's service and they were commended for it. The church today can learn from the early church to do the same, but always within the parameters which God himself has established. In the past there has been perhaps too much emphasis on what women are not to do rather than on what they are to do, thus giving some the impression women's talents are neither needed nor appreciated
  14. While we must continue to uphold the scriptural principles so far as ordination of women and their exercising authority over the man is concerned, it is clear from the passages under study that women's participation in the work of the Gospel is a blessing to the church. God has given the ministry of the Gospel to all believers; it is the office of the pastoral ministry that he has restricted to qualified men.
  15. Finally, Christian men ought to take their leadership responsibilities seriously, and Christian women also have the responsibility of encouraging men to fulfill their obligations and duties of leadership.
  16. When men and women labor together in the Gospel, taking heed to the Word and working within the scriptural limits, then truly God is glorified and the church is edified.

John H. of Confessing Evangelical posted on this article. I appreciate his words of encouragement to women bloggers. I had this comment to his post: "Why should I be surprised that scripture forbidding women spiritual authority over men should be misconstrued by Sproul to mean that women shouldn't proclaim the gospel as a part of their daily lives? I am in the ELS synod, which is often misunderstood as being "against" many things including women. Yet nothing could be further from the truth; my pastors educate and encourage all members to be ready to give account for the hope that is in my heart. There is no scripture prohibiting women from bearing witness to the gospel. I did ask my pastors for guidance before starting Be Strong in the Grace. Each one of them has complimented me, encouraged me and helped me with my blog. Even our churches elders have complimented and encouraged me. As confessional Lutheran pastors, I would take their advice over Mr. Sproul's any and every day of my life. John, I know you didn't post this to depress or discourage women, but it is depressing to think that he wrote this. Sproul's article is a good example of the power of words, even on a blog. " I am glad that I read Sproul's piece; I need to know how to respond to such accusations. It is a part of being strong in the grace that is Christ Jesus to know what scripture says and doesn't say.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Be strong in this grace: Sacrament of Holy Baptism

Catechism- Sacrament of Holy Baptism

The institution of baptism

What is baptism? Baptism is not just plain water, but it is water used by God's command and connected with God's Word.

Which is that word of God? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Matthew, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

The blessing of baptism

What does baptism do for us? Baptism works forgiveness of sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

What are these words and promises? Christ our Lord says in the last chapter of Mark, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."

The power of baptism

How can water do such great things? It is certainly not the water that does such things, but God’s word which is in and with the water and faith which trusts this Word used with the water. For without God’s word the water is just plain water and not Baptism. But with this Word it is Baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of rebirth by the Holy Spirit.

Where is this written? Saint Paul says in Titus, chapter 3, “God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying.”

The meaning of baptism for our daily life

What does baptizing with water mean? Baptism means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance, and that all its evil deeds and desires be put to death. It also means that a new person should daily arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written? St. Paul says in Romans, chapter 6, We were…buried with (Christ) through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may life a new life.”

How can we reach the world for Christ if we can't come together as Christians?

I was driving the other day and happened to stop the radio dial on a program featuring a radio preacher. He was talking about denominational issues, so I decided to listen to what he had to say. He made a very interesting statement: How can we reach the world for Christ if we can't come together as Christians?

The radio preacher said that we should be tolerant of each other's doctrines, hymns, worship styles, etc. He said that he had been judgmental toward other denominations and said that God was convicting him of that lately. He urged his listeners to visit other denominations once a month. I wondered what would happen if he visited my church. If this local pastor had visited my church the very next day, he would have experienced the following:

  • corporate confession of sins;
  • pastor using the office of the keys to pronounce our sins forgiven;
  • an infant baptism, our pastor's first grandchild, with tears of joy streaming down the young parents' faces in gratitude to a loving God who can create a seed of faith in their newborn child and our pastor choking back his own tears of gratitude as he poured the saving water on the child;
  • proclamation by our pastor with a huge smile on his face, "We have approached the throne of grace, now our God approaches us in His Word;
  • sermon reminding us of our own sinful state and the loving God who gave us Jesus Christ as a substitutionary sacrifice so that we may enter heaven.
  • gentle and loving admonition to congregants of the biblical teaching on partaking in holy communion without full agreement that Jesus' body and blood are truly present.

What would that radio pastor think of my church? Would he walk away critical of us for not allowing his to take communion or baptizing a newborn baby into faith? I looked up his church and radio ministry on the internet when I got home. I know of his denomination, was a member for a few years and know that they reject that God creates faith in infants at baptism and reject Christ's real presence at communion. Certainly, we share much in common, namely that faith in Jesus as the savior is the only way to eternal life in heaven with God. I do agree that disagreement over what scriptures teach does hinder reaching the world with the gospel message; I also believe that agreeing to disagree is me, to all Christians and to the non-believer. Christians must consider the scriptures together and agree on what they teach. That is true unity.

If only...

If only I were going to this workshop tomorrow!!!

House of Love: The similarities between a pastor and a parent

This is exactly the kind of post for my yet to be created blog, House of Love. So, it will go on this blog for now.

Today I read The Burr in the Burgh: What Is a Pastor? This morning my heart is very heavy with worries for my children. This post really ministers to my sad heart and reminded me of where my hope lies.

Pastor Stiegemeyer writes:

...sometimes pastors lead out in front of the flock. And other times, they get behind and push the sheep like a cowboy. Just because the word "pastor" literally means shepherd doesn't mean that some of us aren't really cowboys at heart.

The shepherd leads in such a way that the sheep hear his voice and want to follow. Why? Because they know he will take them to quiet waters and green grass. The cowboy, on the other hand, has to shout and shove and lash the herd to make it go where he wants it to. I see this really as a distinction between Law and Gospel.

The faithful pastor uses both Law and Gospel. But we motivate Christians to follow Christ not primarily with a whip, not with threats and curses. The sheep might go where they are directed as a result of bullying, but they will hate you for it. The better way - Christ's way - is to lead by offering us His blessing. It's like this. Do you follow Christ because you fear His wrath if you do otherwise? Or do you follow Him out of love, because He calls you gently and offers you good things?

This post got me to thinking about the similarities between pastoring and parenting. I am probably guilty of being a cowboy more than a shepherd and I think the primary reason is fear. I fear that I'm not doing well enough, because if I was then my parenting subjects would be very close to perfect. I imagine that some pastors must struggle with that falsehood, too. If I was a good pastor, then my congregation would be (fill in the blank). Is this the secret to parenting: "The shepherd leads in such a way that the sheep hear his voice and want to follow. Why? Because they know he will take them to quiet waters and green grass. The cowboy, on the other hand, has to shout and shove and lash the herd to make it go where he wants it to."

About a year ago, I wrote an email regarding parenting to one of our pastors and he replied:

Blessings in Him who was the perfect child and through whom we have access to the perfect parent - our heavenly Father - Jesus!

What does the Bible say about parenting? Your first and primary responsibility is wrapped up with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20. Before we give our children anything else, it's bringing them to the Means of Grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, and the working of the Holy Spirit.

The very best thing I ever did for my children was bring them to the waters of Baptism. Honestly, I could give them the best of the whole world, but everything, everything pales in comparison to bringing them to Jesus and Jesus to them. "What does a man
gain if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul..." Jesus says (Mt 16:26).

The sole of parenting is really attached to the soul. I believe that governs everything. How will this effect the eternal soul? is a good question always to ask. That governs setting definite expectations and consequences, communication - use of Law and Gospel, marital example, Christian example, etc., etc.

In Rev. 14:13 it mentions that we will rest from our labors and our "works" will follow us when we go to heaven. What can we take with us from this earth - PEOPLE, especially the ones the Lord's entrusted to us in our homes.

I printed up his email and actually carry it my purse to read it moments of frustration. Now, I'll print up Pastor Steigemeyer's advice, too. I love how our pastors, Pastor Steigemeyer and Martin Luther, just keep turning us back to scripture. What does scripture say? What does scripture say? That is the one thing I hear the most and is the most comforting advice in the world.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Brian Braatz on Faith without works

Brian Braatz posts a nice piece on faith without works.

"The Law demands perfection. Absolute obedience in every way from the moment of conception until the time your soul leaves your body. Unmitigated perfection. This is of course impossible due to our inherent sinful nature. It was lost to you before your parents even met, and you had nothing to say about it. You lost before you even started. So they Law's expectation is unachievable, and everyone knows what that means... death." Read on...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Not Liberal, but Generic...

It has been discussed here and elsewhere that generic American Evangelicalism is having a negative, destructive affect on many denominations, turning many churches into generic, cross-less, positive-thinking social clubs. Bunnie Diehl blog writes about the effect that American Evangelicalism is having on denominations that used to keep more to themselves, see Not Liberal, but Generic.

I just started reading D.G. Hart's Deconstructing Evangelicalism. I found it ironically interesting that Hart proposes that:

"Evangelicalism needs to be relinquished as a religious identify because it does not exist. In fact, it is the wax nose of American is a face void of any discernible features. The nonexistence of an evangelical identity may prove to be, to borrow a phrase from (Mark) Noll, the real scandal of modern evangelicalism."

So then, if D.G. Hart, who is a Presbyterian (I believe) sees the dangers of the American Evangelical movement, then we, as Lutherans, need also to be ready to defend gospel when fellow Lutherans suggest creating "seeker-friendly" worship, less "offensive" communion practices, etc.

I've only read one chapter of this book and can't wait to keep reading.!

Monday, April 11, 2005

On the road to Emmaus... Posted by Hello

I'm on the road to Emmaus, I suppose...

Back on November 23, 2004, I wrote about what I had learned about God's Word during my change to confessional Lutheran practices. I referenced two good posts on the topic:

More Than Words by Rob of Love and Blunder

The Proclaimed and Present Word by John of Confessing Evangelical

At the time I wrote:

The confessional Lutheran church taught me this: When the Word is invoked, Christ is truly present. We have more than a symbol of Christ, we have Him in truth. Until very recently in my faith life, I never fully understood the power of God. His power has literally silenced me. I am finally safe resting in His arms. I no longer try to help or manipulate God by my actions. The day I stopped "trying" to be a good Christian, He started to work through me. I have seen seven family members come to Christ in less than two years, after twenty years of my pathetic attempts to "be a good witness" to them.Truly excellent posts, Rob and John. Thanks for teaching me. I am very thankful.

Well, I certainly don't take my own words to heart. Lately, I've been playing God as I struggle with issues I cannot control in the lives of other people. I have desparately trying to concoct ways to "fix" the situations which cause me fear and heartache. And so the Lord found me yesterday in church. God's Word really convicted me of doubting His ability to grow and sustain faith in people whom He has already placed the seeds and faith and in whom those seeds have already been well-watered.

Luke 24: 13-33: On the Road to Emmaus

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn't find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together.

Our pastor used this account from the road to Emmaus for our sermon yesterday. He drew out of this scripture that even the disciples didn't recognize their Lord as He walked along that road with them, although they realized it later hindsight. It's that way with us, too. Pastor also reminded us of the hymn, Abide With Me. Jesus promised he would abide with us; he did with the apostles on the road to Emmaus and He will abide with us. We need to take our sadness and fears to Him and remember that He promised to abide with us. I need to take my sadness and fears to HIm and remember that He promised to abide with me.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Introducing Preach. Teach. Confess

Thanks to Intolerant Elle for leading me to a new confessional Lutheran blog. It is called Preach. Teach. Confess. Here's their self-description:

Preach. Teach. Confess.
As young Lutheran pastors for the old Lutheran truths, we pray that this site provides a beneficial forum for the discussion of Lutheran doctrine and practice, contact between fellow Wisconsin Synod Lutherans and those interested in confessional Lutheranism throughout the country, and some good clean fun. This is not an "official" site for any group. What is said here only represents the teachings of the Lutheran Church in so far as it accurately presents Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.

Looks like they also have well-rounded lives and comment on the important issues of the day, like baseball and politics! I think I'll enjoy reading this blog. Welcome, men!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Quiz: What denomination are you?

I took this quiz about a year or two ago. I tried to find my scores from that test, but maybe I just took the test but didn't blog about it. The questions are fairly Lutheran-savvy, but not totally. Interesting and short quiz found here. You'd think I'd be 0% Anabaptist...oh well.

1: Lutheran (100%)
2: Presbyterian/Reformed (70%)
3: Roman Catholic (70%)
4: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England (69%)
5: Eastern Orthodox (69%)
6: Church of Christ/Campbellite (53%)
7: Congregational/United Church of Christ (53%)
8: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) (50%)
9: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist (44%)
10: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God (39%)
11: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene (30%)
12: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) (21%)
13: Seventh-Day Adventist (21%)

Hat tip to Charles Lehmann

Monday, April 04, 2005

The ELS and BLTS websites are really rockin' now!

I'm probably slow with this news, but I've just discovered the recently updated and improved websites of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary and they are really looking great! Lots of resources: statements of doctrine, downloads, Lutheran Synod Quarterly archives, the ELS Handbook, the ELH Hymnal, ELH Hymnal midi files, links...there's too much to list here. You must check it out yourself!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Mattworks: He definitely grew up in a house of love!

Mattworks tackles weighty issues, extremely well for the ripe old age of 22, in The Misunderstood Christian:

Christians are sure annoying, aren't they? Always going around trying to impress they're beliefs on you and "Bible thumpin'" you over the head. Christians are such hypocrites too, OMG. I can't believe they judge people all the time and they're not any better themselves! What makes them so much better than everyone else anyways? Don't they know that the Bible says that God loves everyone? Jeeze, Christians are so brainwashed, they can't even think for themselves. They need a book to tell them how to live! And what's with all the denominations anyways, they can't even figure it out. Those people just made up the Christian religion to feel better about themselves. The world is crap anyways, everyone knows that. All the church wants is my money. Christians are so close-minded.