“Sometimes the prize is not worth the costs. The means by which we achieve victory are as important as the victory itself.” ― Brandon Sanderson, The Way of Kings link
Good night! John Piper sure has a way of getting himself heard. This latest pronouncement is guaranteed to go down in the annals of bizarre things Piper has said.
John Piper: Take your kids on dangerous mission trips because dying isn’t the worst thing that could happen to them and maybe they will become *good* Christians.
John Piper, following on the heels of his *sola fide doesn’t cut it” debacle, has decided that we should stop being so gosh-darn-comfortable and take our kids into life threatening situations for the sake of the gospel.™ The Christian Post reported on this in John Piper Says Parents Should Take Children on Dangerous Mission Trips: There Are ‘Worse Risks’ Than Death.
Here are some primo quotes from the man himself, taken from the original post at Desiring God.
We are losing kids from the faith because they are too comfortable.
Perhaps we lose too many of our children because they weren’t trained as soldiers. Maybe we trained them in comfort and security, and now they won’t leave it,”
Poet Piper thinks we are raising bloated jellyfish kids.
How can I raise a dolphin cutting through schools of sharks, rather than a bloated jellyfish floating with the plankton into the mouth of the whale called the world?
We must use these verses in Hebrews to help us to be willing to shed the blood of our children in dangerous areas of the world.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:3–4)
We should be willing to sacrifice the lives of our kids because they are more likely to become Christ exalting!??
Piper gives us no reason to expect that our children will become *better* kids if we expose them to the potential of their death. He just says it and so it must be. Do those around him ever question his presuppositions?
“Why? Because the cause is worth the risk, and the children are more likely to become Christ-exalting, comfort-renouncing, misery-lessening exiles and sojourners in this way than by being protected from risk in the safety of this world,”
Why should we do this? John Adams did it with his son and the kid became the most brilliant President ever (according to Piper.) Case closed.
So, if John Adams did it, does that mean we should do it? Why? Why does he assume that the same outcomes would happen with our kids?
John Quincy Adams, in my view, was the most superbly educated and maybe the most brilliant human being who ever occupied the executive office. (American Spirit, 115–116)
If John and Abigail Adams thought that their comparatively small aims for their children were worth the risk of death, are not our aims worth just as much risk?
According to Piper, we must do even more because “God is with us” and Piper thinks it is really cool to consider sacrificing the lives of little Tommy and Muffy. We are conquerors!
We have a promise: If God is for us, no one can be successfully against us (Romans 8:31). If they take our lives, our spouses, and our children, they cannot succeed. In all these things, we are more than conquerors.
Piper has said stuff like this before.
Unfortunately, we cannot brush this off as an old man’s ravings. It appears that Piper has long been desirous of getting people to sacrifice the safety of their children for the sake of the Great Commission. In 2009 he was asked to answer this question. Should the Risk of Danger Keep Me From Doing Missions?
Kids have no say in their safety.
I found his answer particularly interesting. He specifically said that the man asking the question should respect his wife if she did not want to go but the kids have no say in the matter. As usual, he gets a bit odd. See if you agree. He seems to think about things that no one is asking.
If your wife says, “No,” you probably shouldn’t.
I’m assuming you mean danger for both of you, not like you’re going to put your wife at risk while you have a nice, secure position. If that’s what you mean then you’re selfish and you shouldn’t be in missions at all.
Married people with kids must sacrifice since single people sacrifice.
He does not blink an eye about encouraging parents to make decisions that will risk the lives of their children. This must be done so the Great Commission will be fulfilled. For a guy who is into sovereignty, it appears he thinks God really needs children to be sacrificed because it is not right for only single people to sacrifice.
But if you mean, “Should I consider a calling on my life that brings me, my wife, my children into risk?” I would say, “Yes,” because if you don’t — if everybody went that route — the Great Commission will never be finished.
Unless you say it should only be finished by single people. “Let’s let the single people suffer. We married people, we won’t suffer. We marry and then escape suffering.”
He brings up the *You must hate your mother* verse for emphasis.
This is probably to fend off intelligent and concerned people in your life who might say, “Do you really think it is a good idea?bringing your daughters into a war torn zone that makes women were full coverage burkas?”
That’s why Jesus says, “Unless you hate mother, father … wife … you can’t be my disciple.”
John Bunyan is Piper’s role model for risking your kids and family.
Bunyan chose to stay in jail for 12 years when he could’ve gotten out of jail. And he had a wife and 4 kids, and one of them was blind. He could’ve gotten out if he had just signed, “I won’t preach anymore.” And he chose to stay there, which put them at tremendous risk with poverty.
In using John Bunyan as an example, John Piper does what many people do. He avoids the difficult verses that might indicate a different and better course of action.
Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1Timothy 5:8 NIV)
Kent Brantley, the missionary doctor who contracted Ebola, is a far better example of caring for his family.
When the Ebola crisis reared its head on the mission field, Brantley immediately sent his wife and children back to the United States so they would not contract the disease. Perhaps Piper would consider Brantley’s approach wimpy? You can read this family story here: Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic.
Brantley is now a family practice physician in Texas.
In summary: Piper appears to think it a mighty fine idea to sacrifice the safety of your kids for the gospel as well as to prevent them from being bloated jellyfish.
I don’t think it’s automatic that you keep yourself, your wife, or your children out of risk, out of danger, and out of suffering.
Does John Piper’s suggestion that we expose our kids to dangerous situations, even death, border on child abuse?
Suppose that you, as a parent, decide to *bring the Gospel* to the infamous MS 13 gang. You take Piper’s suggestion and bring your *bloated jellyfish* kids along because you want them to grow up to be Christians, just like Piper implied. Who cares about danger?
The gang is notoriously violent, relentlessly cruel and merciless, with plenty of well-documented public crimes, such as a San Francisco member who killed a family for briefly blocking his car.
Let’s say they get caught in the crossfire and get shot? How do you think Child Protective Services would view the explanation of your gospel mission? Could/should this be considered potential child abuse?
Do you think that it is ethical to deliberately expose your children to danger because you have decided that there are “worst things than death?” Frankly, this sort of reasoning seems cult like and reeks of fanaticism.
Am I wrong here? I look forward to your comments.
Here is another question for those who believe in election before the beginning of time Ala Piper.
Since God has already selected the elect, why not wait until the kids are adults and able to make their own decision whether or not they are called to risk death in a war torn area? No one who is elect is going to end up in hell if you wait a few years to avoid dragging your kids into danger and potential death, right?
A thought on John Piper’s problem in pontificating on such subjects.
Piper seems to be fixated on exposing all the things he believes the rest of us should be doing. Maybe, just maybe he should point to himself and show us how he led his kids into the final frontier. Maybe then he wouldn’t sound so holier than thou.
It appears this person agrees with me. (I had tweeted a link to the first Piper post.)
Catholic Gate-Crasher wrote:
That’s too bad and I hope you’ll reconsider. At my wife’s church, they send missionaries to find the “lost” in the Philippines (80% Catholic), Jamaica which is 62% Protestant (!), and Colombia (majority Catholic) so I get what you’re saying. I think the missions to the Philippines are a crock for sure, I’ve travelled extensively there, it’s Christian and even Protestant churches have full freedom to practice. There have been issues with the institutional RC church interfering with the government but that’s got to do with the politics of the nation as much as anything else (whole books have been written on it). But look what the evangelicals have wrought in Uganda! Google that and see what some evangelical groups would have on the menu for us unbelievers should North America buy into their theology. Scary stuff for sure.
No group is innocent but there’s more common ground here than not so I hope you’ll stick around.
BTW I’m reading a book called “Reformations – the early modern world 1450-1650” by Carlos Eire. So far, it’s a good read. There were a lot of Catholics who did not break with the church who called for a return to the classics so they could read the bible from source. There was so much more going on than just Luther (and that guy had issues of his own). Check it out, I think you’ll like it.
As for Christiane, I challenged her when she kept trying to keep the summer drama alive, and she could turn pretty quickly. I think there was more going on than we were seeing. Your comments don’t compare. I think the comment box has improved dramatically since then, hence I’m still reading.
Not sure what transgender has to do with female submission but you are going to see a lot of women wearing the hijab for some time to come. Keeping in mind that many women are in the first and second generation of immigrants, they aren’t going to pitch their religion the minute they start their lives here.
I’ve mentioned this before but North America has done a better job of integration for immigrants (not perfect but better) than Europe has. So be welcoming and friendly, live your life the best you can as an example, dialog (even you don’t agree – listen) and eventually that “melting pot” will do the rest in a few generations (no, this doesn’t mean Islam will go away but it will become part of the American landscape just like Christianity is).
Here in Canada there have been some “honour killings”. This is a cultural affectation and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law – like any other crime.
Domestic violence should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Enforce the laws of the land, get involved in the political process when you disagree and all faiths can get along just fine here.
And what about old order Mennonite women? And Amish? – Their culture dictates what they wear. I don’t hear much about their freedoms being trampled.
@ Serving Kids In Japan:
Thanks for the feedback. I don’t disagree with the individual points you make about teachings/illustrations of Piper (have read them for years here on TWW).
Also, was not suggesting he shouldn’t be in the hot seat – he should be, though part of me wonders if it would be best if he were simply ignored at this point.
I wonder how his wife, if he were indeed “utterly uniterested” in her welfare, could stay with him for such a long time?
Jack, your comment leads me to understand you won’t get the irony. It might be the age difference. The irony is: what exactly IS “feminism” NOW? From hijabs to transgender, the old comp approach is dead. It just reeks of the 90’s. Hee hee.
FYI: I live in an Urban area and have spent most of my career traveling to urban areas. About the only time I see a Mennonite woman in a cap is at a Truck stop getting gas. I once saw a Mennonite woman in a cap driving a passenger van full of Amish women who were not wearing head coverings. 🙂
A big part of this is the shift of the Overton Window.
I get your point but I have never actually been a Protestant so not sure I am understanding it from that position. My response was not based on doctrine (I agree with a lot of it) but the unwritten rules of engagement. One side can disagree and relate bad experiences and be welcomed. The other can’t or they are bigots. I don’t get it. Never will. Which is probably why I don’t fit here well.
I did ask about his wife when my family members were working for Piper years ago. They knew little about her except that she was artsy and wore berets. She was pretty much an asterisk in the operation. And they were there every day.
@ Catholic Gate-Crasher:
please don’t go. you’re a great asset to TWW, a great presence. i enjoy your comments very much. they are interesting, thought-provoking, and fun to read.
Substitute ‘religion/other; non-catholic’ where appropriate.
Could be any number of possible factors. The first that springs to my mind: She’s so committed to the gender comp mindset (especially Piper’s version of it) that she can’t think of leaving him. After all, if divorce isn’t permitted for physical abuse, how can she even dream of divorcing someone who’s just aloof and self-absorbed?
There are others… Fear of the unknown. Peer pressure. Groupthink. She might even pride herself on being the wife of a celebrity (of sorts), or benefit from the money he makes.
That’s all just speculation on my part, of course. Until and unless Piper’s wife speaks out on her own, we won’t know for sure.
A big fact Baptist AMEN to that! If CGC believes that what you or Daisy posted is “bigotry”, then we have a real communication problem.
Well, you do fit in well here (I am not sure if that is a compliment). I think CGC’s reaction to your and Daisy’s comments was extreme, but on the other hand there has been quite a lot of anti-Catholic propaganda being pushed lately that could contribute to such a reaction. I am hoping CGC will come back.
I suppose the reason for conflict like this is because there are three sets of facts for every religion:
1) What people not in that religion generally believe about it.
2) What people in that religion generally believe about it.
3) What the religion itself actually teaches based on official documents.
Ideally, all of these should match, but they usually do not. Sometimes they are not even close. I do give Roman Catholics credit for officially documenting what they believe because it minimizes bait-and-switch – people have the chance to thoroughly check things out for themselves (I respect Roman Catholic people but I could not be one myself because of their official beliefs). In my own personal experience, non-mainstream/liturgical Protestant churches tend to have much looser statements about what one must believe, which can result in people coming under fire for violating unwritten expectations.
@ Ken F (aka Tweed):
There is a lot of “anti church propaganda here”. And rightly so. It’s just that II don’t differentiate. If it’s walking on eggshells or PC to protect a certain group, that double standard is not something I can deal with. I don’t understand why it’s necesaary.
Isn’t the focus controlling groups whether they are Catholic, Protestant or whatever. Most have hierarchies and the pew sitters often have no clue how money is spent or what goes on up the ladder. It’s usually the topic here.
Most churches I know of have doctrinal belief statements and even operational charters. They rarely operate that way for the leaders. As I know well from experience. And we know from the RCC.
Thanks for chiming in. I choose compliment. 🙂
K. I still don’t see why any are off limits? It’s not really a doctrinal thing but practices and behaviors of the institutional elites/hierarchy. Case in point is Al Mohler and his many minions. There are many wonderful Calvinists who would deceive and behave as they have. Doctrinal differences make us richer in knowledge and thinking and we can worship our separate ways.. Behaviors are a whole other category.
Yikes. “Would NOT”
If anyone is still interested, I came across this talk on Abraham and Issac from a secular Clinical Psychologist and Professor of such at the Uni of Toronto.
Because divorce is not allowed in their world(.)
I think the reason I participate in this ragtag TWW community is because it’s like the Island of Misfit Toys. I am certainly a misfit.
I very much agree with you on keeping the focus on controlling groups and to avoid double standards. In many cases when comment threads get tense here it is due to people not being able to recognize the flaws in their own brand of belief (even atheism and agnosticism), and therefor getting upset when the cracks are exposed. But the exposure is healthy for any system of belief.
Over the past few years I’ve been trying to find the golden age of Christianity when the “church” got it right. But I found out that Christianity has always been messed up to one degree or another. I cannot find a golden age. There have been plenty of bright spots, but even those bright spots are marred – no brand or age of Christianity is free from warts. I suppose historians will look back at our times and won’t find that we did no any better than our ancestors. Yet somehow God seems to be able to work with us anyway.
@ Ken F (aka Tweed):
“I think the reason I participate in this ragtag TWW community is because it’s like the Island of Misfit Toys.”
ha! that’s a great description. yes, i resemble that remark. it’s pure relief to not have to don the normal suit. (so itchy and scratchy)
Ken F (aka Tweed) wrote:
That’s why God has always provided wartburgers.
@ Ken F (aka Tweed):
Even going back to the letters, one notes that certain cities had certain challenges. In a big spiritual picture sort of a way they might have been similar but events and environments were not cookie cutter.
How come we don’t see the exact same teaching about women in Ephesians in every single letter? Maybe because Not every city had a huge Temple dedicated to a female fertility cult? That brought unique situations and challenges for the new Way. Ephesus had pagan women priestesses.
We don’t see admonitions to appoint elders in every letter, either. Nevermind Crete! They are all liars but find some anyway! The church at Cornith had been around a relatively long time when first letter written. No mention of elders. Just Chloe had people….
Stuff like that….:)
I find it all fascinating.
I always used to hear folks say that the epistles addressed specific issue at different locales, and not other locales, where the issues had been solved or never arose in the first place. In other words, the other locales had workable plans and teachings in place and no further need for an apostle to address this or that issue. Paul addressed this at one place by saying don’t you remember what I told you before, do I have to go over it again.
That is similar to what you said on the surface of it, but leads to a very different outlook. Perhaps it was only at Ephesus that there was a ‘woman problem’, but this says nothing one way or the other about what was going on at the other churches. In other words, perhaps arguing from the absence of evidence is not the best place to start. Perhaps, it could mean this or it could mean that is a better starting place.
For example, Paul did not repeat his masterpiece of I Cor 13 either. Does that mean that it is applicable to that one location only? That argument, by the way, has been used regarding the charismata-Corinth only. Or Paul at Athens-was that applicable to Athens only-the search for the unknown god; nobody else searches for a god he does not know?
In my opinion, we have no specific and irrefutable proof as to which way to look at right many things that are in the NT. We can and do choose to understand scripture as it suits us individually.
I think that the church which will not mentioned has a point when it says that individual interpretation of scripture leads to problems. That is not a quote, that is an interpretation as I understand it.
Continuing on that thought, I read somewhere about how Ephesus had religious groups that were heavy into worshipping female deities. Their religious rituals involved some pretty disturbing violence towards men. So some Bible scholars believe that the Apostle Paul was actually saying in 1Tim 2:12
“I don’t allow a woman to teach violence against a man.”
Another piece to this is we only have one side of the conversation. If Paul was answering specific questions, we can only guess at the questions. Not having the context of the discussion can lead us to wrong conclusions. I even heard one person (possible NT Wright, but I don’t remember) suggest that there are two different voices in the book of Romans, which could mean that Paul was listing the problem as stated by the other voice, and then answering the problem in his own voice.
Because the men in those other cities knew how to keep their women under control.(sorry for the sarcasm – the straight line was too good to pass. I hope my wife is not lurking…)
Yours is a very good point. Context is everything. This is where there can be value in trying to find out how much earlier generations of Christians understood those passages. Being closer to the source does not guarantee that they are right, but their voices are important.
I was looking for some early church quotes and found this: https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/issue/women-in-the-early-church. Looks like some very interesting reading.
Hi Ken F,
You are definitely onto something here. There’s a lot of documentation of women serving in church leadership in the early church. One of my favorite parts was that they actually had standard prayers and rituals for ordaining women as deacons. This is from an ancient text dated to about 380 A.D.. (Picture the early church gathered around some women who were being commissioned into the ministry as they prayed):
“O Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of man and woman, you filled Miriam, Deborah, Anna and Huldah with your spirit……now look upon your handmaid who is to be ordained to the diaconate and grant her your Holy Spirit….that she may worthily discharge the work which is entrusted to her to Your glory.”
If anyone is interested, there’s some great books in this topic such as Women Deacons in the Early Church by John Winjngards and The Hidden History of Womens Ordination by Gary Macy.
@ Ken F (aka Tweed):
That is an interesting resource!
This is why I mentioned the overall big spiritual picture. As 1 Corin 13 can be mined from many passages as one example.
I guess I see sort of two categories. The overall spiritual truths and the specific operational details that seem local. They are not laws or commands for everyone, everywhere.
As in 1 Tim on women (Ephesus) is negated in 1 Corin (Cornith). Women are prophesying there, for example and it’s a matter whether to cover or not while doing so. It’s said in passing, seemingly, as if totally natural. Then we have the whole judging angels thing harkening back to chp 6.
(A lot of different claims are written about the act of prophesying and it’s a weird topic. My view is the early church most likely did not gather just to hear a sermon as we tend to view as part of worship)
So, I guess I see overarching spiritual themes that always apply and specific instructions that are responding to local situations that may or may not apply.
Romans is particularly interesting on this score. If we read it within the historical context of Jews (including converted) coming back to Rome after being banished, we can see the Jew/Christian dichotomy Paul is addressing because it’s causing many problems. Others see a determinist treatise on individual salvation.
I am a big believer in including historical context to the extent we can. We certainly cannot be one hundred percent sure. But I think it’s a big mistake to read Western thinking into it.
@ Avid Reader:
One of my pet peeves is how the definition of the word “authenteo’ as understood at that time is totally ignored. It’s only used once in the NT. It is fascinating to read old translations and even secular usage. John Chrysostem wrote that a husband should NOT authenteo his wife. So we get the idea it’s a bad thing that men should not do, either.
Compel with evil intent, murderous thinking, etc. Even John Calvin translated it as domineer. My personal opinion is that it is related to the Pagan Temple teaching because the temple taught that Eve was made first. And that all seems to fit together quite well.
Ken F (aka Tweed) wrote:
Bookmarked that link for future reading. Many thanks!
How would John Piper read these verses below?
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next.
And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.
When many days had passed, the Jews[a] plotted to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,[b] lowering him in a basket.
Seems to me that Jesus told us to be wise and be careful in taking care of our own lives. Hide when you have to. Flee when you can. Fight to defend yourself if they find you.
If persecutions comes, don’t be afraid. But don’t go out to seek persecution and death for you and your family.
We are not dying to please God. That is what John Piper was saying (at least implying) and that is wrong! This is what cults do, asking for sacrifice and death to appease their god.
We preach the Gospel in dangerous places because of love. We want to save even our enemies who are persecuting us. So we lay down our lives for even our enemies. This is Christ-like. This is obviously very different than sacrificing our lives just to appease a god.
Yes, well, I do enjoy reading what all you nice and polite people have to say, especially since I am more in the ummm hard nosed category of humanity. But let’s face it. Paul was by his own descriptions of himself a celibate, hard working, intermittently abused, sometimes lonely, combative, opinionated, intolerant hyper-zealous religious fanatic with anger issues who seems to have thought quite well of himself, protestations of that none the less. He was also, obviously, brilliant and courageous and tough as nails. The guys in my med school class would have said that what Paul needed was to, well, omit the details here. Let us just say that he did not seem to have had a lot of positive personal ‘experience’ with women, but if he had then he might have been a little less, well, may I say negatively naive?
Maybe women did not like him. Certainly he would have been a difficult person to be around. Maybe he did not like women because of prior rejection. Maybe he was afraid of unmentionable inclinations which might explain some comments of his. I don’t know. But he does not seem to have had a loving relationship with a woman, and that may well explain some things about what he said from time to time.
We recently sallied forth doon sooth to visit friends who are well down the road of abandoning what was once a very committed christian faith. It was actually a really good evening – not least because we don’t get to see them that often these days, but also because they’ve always been particularly good at talking about what they really think. So, now, they feel able to speak frankly about their thoughts on the bible. And they made an interesting observation.
Paul, they noted, comes across as someone who was writing as though Jesus were coming back in the immediately foreseeable future. Ergo, we don’t need a theology for unemployment, politics, the environment, or indeed the growing realisation that God is anointing and gifting women towards the fulfilment of the promise that “in Christ there is neither [among other things] male nor female”. It’s not clear, at any rate, that he expected the church to be still waiting over 1900 years later.
If you consider
Paul’s letter’s to be authored by the Holy Spirit, not by Paul, and ALSO THENCE
consider Paul to be the subject of “his” epistles rather than the authority behind them, AND THENCE
consider what the Holy Spirit is inviting us to learn, today, from observing Paul’s pressing towards, and imitating of, Christ,
then a lot of things suddenly make a great deal more sense.
This is anathema to the Evangelical religion. But I’m not an adherent to that religion, any more than I’m one of Jehovah’s [sic] witnesses. And it enables someone like me, for instance, to come up with a better gospel than “f*** the unemployed, they’re worse than unbelievers” (or some half-baked excuse for why yet another verse of God’s law means something arbitrarily far removed from what it actually says whilst still being literally true).
Nick Bulbeck wrote:
It is not clear that Jesus did either, but I am not going there.
Here is a giant gasping thought. And it’s just a thought.
It would be extremely unusual for a man in Sauls (before Paul) position to not have ever been married from what I can make out from research of that culture and his position. (He was poised for advancement ). Who knows. He might have been widowed. Or just a rare single on the Pharisetical Rabbi track. We always forget he spent about 10-14 years in Tarsus after his big escape outlined in Acts before Barnabas sought him out. So, Who knows. Most had arranged marriages from youth.
I am Not disagreeing with you so much as pondering. He certainly doesn’t sound like that about women in Romans 16. Phoebe and Lydia seem to get a pass. Lydia started first church in her home in what some call the entrance to Europe today. As as much as I have my own challenges with people elevating him to Jesus stature, I don’t think we can interpret him as making new laws for women in the NC or even purposely holding them back. A word/grammar/historical study doesn’t support it. Too much to question on that score.
Sure, it could be that he had been married. Somewhere he settled on the idea that if possible one should refrain from marriage because if you marry you are in for a mess of trouble. My words, his idea. So there is that. For some folks a prior marriage might contribute to that conclusion.
Then at one point he assured the reader that he could have a woman/wife as a traveling companion if he wanted to. So why does he feel the need to assure everybody that he could unless some had wondered why he did not? By saying that he could that pretty much rules out the idea that his travels would have prevented it. So why did he have to mention the issue? There is something there that is not explained in the text. But there is certainly nothing in that statement that indicates that he thinks that he must or should have a wife, cultural or religious expectations notwithstanding.
The argument has been made that most men of his religion and age and status certainly had wives. Perhaps John the Baptist had a wife and certainly perhaps Jesus did-but there is no convincing evidence of it. It makes for good fiction, however.
But Paul bragged that he did not-but he could-but people who do are in for a hard time. That attitude came from somewhere and for some reason.
If one says that Paul’s discussion of marriage is inspired speech for us all to follow, how come that he also notes that the other apostles had wives? It does not seem to be the Holy Spirit which is putting forth a universal bad attitude toward marriage, not with mentioning the other disciples.
And, Paul takes the issue of divorce and remarriage and seems to be more lenient than Jesus. I can’t quite put that all together, unless Paul is being pastoral because of the misery he has seen or experienced in marriages.
These things taken together pretty much look to me like a man who really is not much fond of women or marriage, and may be at one point defending himself because of that attitude.
And, oh, I forgot the worst. Paul seemingly reluctantly advised that people get married if they just can’t keep their pants on because marriage is better than relentless sexual desire and marriage will be a way to avoid sexual sin. Really, Paul? That is all you can say about marriage? It is better to marry than to ‘burn’ with desire? That’s it? That is all that marriage is to you, a last resort to avoid sexual sin? A woman is just an instrument of sex therapy-nothing more? That is a lousy attitude about women and about marriage.
And that’s exactly what many strains of fundagelicalism (Arminian or Reformed, it makes no difference) have done.
Paul’s letters have become a kind of new Torah, with the Almighty still thundering out of Horeb with Paul as a kind of new Moses.
@ Muff Potter:
Calvary Chapel under the auspices of Papa Chuck had even modeled their church governance (way back in the day) after the autocratic rule of Moses in the Hebrew Bible.
Wow. I don’t read it all quite as emphatically as you do but that is all there. Funny how Peter was the church rock succession guy yet married while Paul, the celibate, was the model for a celibate priesthood.
@ Muff Potter:
Moses Model.. and John Maxwell, a former Methodists pastor, took that model, turned it into a secular leadership program and made a fortune.
Yes, but Paul never preached a celibate priesthood, as in ‘the husband of one wife’ comment. IMO the folks who came up with the idea of required clerical celibacy do not have adequate biblical evidence to do so, but to their own credit they do not claim to see any such requirement in scripture.
Which also lends credibility to my idea that Paul’s thing about celibacy was about him, not some revelation from the Holy Spirit. He ‘wishes’ that people were ‘like him’ but he recognizes that they are not. So, what does ‘like him’ mean? Strong willed? ‘Eunuch’ for the sake of the Kingdom? Other issues? I don’t know, but Paul himself noted that there was a difference between himself and most other people.
And why did Paul say that he buffeted? disciplined? his body? Because stomping around an extensive geographic are was not enough exercise and he was getting flabby? Nah. There is just something not adequately explained about all this.
I thought my wording communicated “modeling” as to Paul and a celibate priesthood for those who practice such because he advocated it. (Jesus could be the model although He did not advocate not marrying for Holiness reasons) The Levite priests married, too, so there doesn’t seem to be a historical trajectory of thinking on religious leaders not marrying. And Peter taught ALL believers are “priests” which makes it even more interesting.
“Yes, but Paul never preached a celibate priesthood, as in ‘the husband of one wife’ comment. IMO the folks who came up with the idea of required clerical celibacy do not have adequate biblical evidence to do so, but to their own credit they do not claim to see any such requirement in scripture.”
Richard Sipe, former RCC priest and of “Spotlight” fame, encourages marriage for priests using a similar argument. Yet, it is a requirement for positional “practice” of beliefs.
To summarize, I go back to my earlier opinion concerning the NT: There are overall spiritual truths and also operational details that seem local or perhaps, voluntary. They are not laws or commands for everyone, everywhere. To me, all this means people are free to function and organize under what rules/practices they agree to. It’s interesting to discuss because we can catch ourselves overemphasizing certain practices as biblical commands when they aren’t. Your comments have pointed that out to me, too. It’s healthy to question, IMO. Your comments always make me think.
The overall challenge, I think, is elevating Paul when asserting “inspired” or “inerrant”. This overstates it, perhaps, but it’s almost as if Paul was trying to organize a sort of operational theology. Trying to organize this New Way in addition to spreading the Good News. It had to be a hodgepodge of people and practices everywhere he went. I don’t know how to explain it. It might have been temperament. John is chill compared to him and tends to stay in the more abstract spiritual realm when dealing with issues as in 1 John or dealing with Diotrephes.
All I know is somewhere between order and chaos seems to be where growth takes place. 🙂
Maybe women were the “thorn”. 🙂
That’s a thought!
I’ve often wondered about this as well. And there could be several reasons why Paul might have this view, all would be speculation, of course, but also valid possibilities.
Paul spent so much time defending women’s rights in the NT and working with them in ministry that its pretty obvious—women were NOT Paul’s thorn.
There are so many examples of Paul’s respect for women and encouragement of them working in ministry roles, teaching in the church, being Apostles, etc.
Paul wrotes in Philippians 4:3
“Help these women who labored with me in the Gospel.”
Then in Romans 16:1-2, Paul tells the church at Rome to show respect for a woman serving in church leadership named Phoebe.
“Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.”
Two thousand years later, the church still debates whether women in leadership can be honored. The Apostle Paul must be rolling over in his grave.
Avid Reader wrote:
Yup. Still, it’s the old descriptive vs. prescriptive thing. And you’ll notice it’s highly selective too. I’m an ex Calvary Chapelite, and them guys got it down to an art form.
@ Avid Reader:
well, you see, Phoebe was the one who planned pot lucks and fixed a plate for Paul when he was in town.
If the wiki article is to be believed as to what ‘diakonos’ and ‘protastis’ might/might not have meant in that day, then she probably did do that also among various other things. If only she had known that centuries later people would want to ridicule for that then I imagine she might have refrained from any such servile behavior.
Definitions aside, my guess is Phoebe was wealthy and came from a family that allowed women to inherit and probably had servants. This is good because it took the different strengths of many whether it be money, loyalty, etc, to stay the course.
It’s certainly not beneath me to help with a pot luck. Why? Because I don’t look to others for my worth. And I don’t need an institution to give me a title. Equal rights does not equate to equal outcomes. Women can even start their own churches now. There is evidence Lydia did just that with her invitation.
On another note, Jesus had the guys prepare the last supper and Martha chose the lesser thing. 🙂
I need to come clean here. People are often relieved when I don’t participate in the potluck with actual food. There are a few unspeakable Crock-Pot disasters in my past. But I am really good with plates and utensils. 🙂
I’m sure you have many other talents that are far more important than mastering the crock pot.
Just for the record, Jesus rebuked Martha for trying to send Mary back to women’s work in the kitchen. According to Jesus it was more important for Mary to be learning theology with the men than preparing food for the group.
Wonder if Paul sent Phoebe with the scroll of Romans to Rome? Paul must have sent Phoebe there for much more than cooking. There’s a reason that the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to draw attention to the church work she was doing.
Not to worry, I make a superb split-pea with ham soup, and I’ll bring artisan rye bread to go with it, like the kind they used to bake in Silesia of old.
Not to brag, but when I studied at CodeClan in Enbruh, my cakes were legendary.
Avid Reader wrote:
I’m a little concerned at this; this could be taken as downplaying the importance of food.
Again, I’m not sure Jesus is a good role model to use here. He thought his “food” was “to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work”, when we all know that our food is to rest in DaddyGodsLove. Also, he lost his entire congregation, had no appropriate seminary training, and never wrote a book or otherwise showed the kind of theological scholarship we expect from our leaders. I urge you to find a more Biblical™ example to follow.
@ Avid Reader:
I agree. I don’t think I communicated well. That is what I meant by Martha choosing the “Lesser” thing.
The thing about Paul is I don’t interpret him by our standards of equality. I think Philemon is instructive on this score. Jesus wasn’t here to overthrow the “system” but to change us so thinking would change and be lived out. Treat the slave as a brother was pretty radical.
I think that protastis/ patron probably did mean money and connections. I also think that given the issues of travel in that day she probably did not travel alone, may have been going to Rome anyhow for other reasons, may have been traveling with her husband or other males, and may have been carrying this epistle because perhaps it would be dangerous to be caught with it and nobody would suspect that a woman had it.
That said, my problem is not with Phoebe and what she did or did not do. My problem is with the attitude I seem to increasingly see and which looks like despising women in general UnLeSs some woman can get to be a preacher in the pulpit or else have a string of academic letters after her name and write/lecture or else if has tons of money or else if she is married to a powerful man.
But the churches are full of ordinary women who have busy lives of their own but who will do what they can. That would be including pot lucks and kiddie care and just warming the pew-so we make snide remarks about what they do. Work in the nursery? Scorn. Do pot lucks? Scorn Teach a women-only bible class? Worse than scorn. Have some opinions that fall short of rabid aggression in pursuit of somebody else’s agenda? Traitor!!
@ Muff Potter:
I know a guy who had a brick oven constructed on his property for pizzas and artisan bread. Incredibly delicious.
Nick Bulbeck wrote:
I have no doubt! You crack me up. ‘Not sure if Jesus is a good role model here’ Lololol!
I was tasked with conjuring a ginger ale cake (from scratch) recently as a birthday request. Every detail was meticulously followed. Big flat failure. I even checked dates on baking powder! A first! It’s just not in my spiritual gifting skill set. 🙂
My late mother was the same but she could move you to tears with Mozart or a simple hymn.
The food theme is repeatedly seen in the NT related to Jesus. The wedding at Cana, criticism for eating with the wrong kind of people, feeding of the multitude(s), the last supper, the Mary/Martha thing, the wedding feast of the Lamb, walking through the grain field, cooking fish on the shore, and on occasion Jesus would even invite himself (Zacchaeus). Of course there is eat my flesh and drink my blood, however understood. Give us this day our daily bread.
Paul had words to say to the folks at Corinth about their eating habits be it understood as a love feast or as the eucharist or however understood. James at Jerusalem wanted the gentiles to observe a few of the dietary laws, but Paul wrote about a way to get around that food and idols thing. Peter’s vision about the gentiles was presented to him in the context of clean/unclean food.
If I am not mistaken, Jesus did not object to Martha’s food preps until she criticized Mary. I don’t see where Jesus and the boys were going to pass up the food. Martha, after all, was the one who brought up the subject, did she not? I may need to read that again, but that seems to be how I remember it.
And now we want to turn it all on its head, and even object to communal pot lucks because why should people do that when, after all, they ought to be marching in the streets for ordination rights for women. For myself I would much rather go to a communal ‘feast’ than listen to one more sermon from one more self-focused twiddle head, be they male or female.
So we want to disdain the people who ‘bring to the table’ both actually and figuratively potato salad and green bean casserole? Next we will be telling the little drummer boy to get lost.
Quite right too. Everybody knows drums are of the devil – everybody except you lot, anyway.
You’re all rubbish.
I believe it.
I believe that too. Sull’aria, the duet from Le Nozze di Figaro will bring me to tears every time. It was featured in the film The Shawshank Redemption:
Totally love your sense of humor.
Jesus was respecting Martha’s right to make her own decisions about her involvement in the group. But Jesus still rebuked Martha when she tried to make food preparation more important for women than learning theology.
Think about it, why didn’t Martha demand that one of the men, like their brother Lazarus, come help with the food? Lazarus was the host too just like Mary and Martha.
There are so many NT examples of how Jesus stood up for women by directly attacking the double standards of patriarchal culture.
By the way, the subject of Phoebe brings up double standards where Bible translators totally altered the meaning of words when it applied to women.
Study the Greek word for deacon in the NT. When it applies to men, Bible translators made it clear that these men were in church leadership. When it applies to women suddenly the translators change the whole meaning to servant, lest anyone get the idea that women actually were deacons in church leadership roles.
In Romans 16:1, the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to remind everyone that Phoebe is a deacon.
Of course there will always be doubters who try to cover up what actually happened in history. That’s why I like to research things for myself instead of listening to all the doubters who refuse to believe that women actually were in early church leadership history. (Note: I’m referring to the Bible translators who felt entitled to changing any verses they didn’t like).
Hmm. Are you seeing this everywhere, this blog, Evangelicalism, Christianity, society at large? Just curious, as I don’t feel this way about women at all.
Or men for that matter.
I would rather eat than listen to a tweedlehead give a sermon, too. Yes, please. One of the cool things about the old fashioned potluck that sticks in my mind from childhood is that people (yes mostly women) offered up their best dish. It was a culinary delight for this kid who rarely had actual good home cooked meal and none that involved “white” food like flour, potatoes, sugar, etc. i saw it as an act of love with some healthy competition mixed in. Kids had to get in the back of the line and we would fervently pray some Ambrosia was left for us. 🙂 Good old simple times.
At my former church the men put on a church wide picnic every year and do all the food. I don’t think they do it anymore now that the Neo Cals took over. Too bad. It was fun and good food.
@ Becky Thatcher:
Yes, I remember that. Beautiful like crusty bread with a soft center. 🙂
@ Avid Reader:
It’s a big aha moment when you do that study. If you haven’t read Katherine Bushnells, ‘God’s Word to Women’, you are missing out. This early pioneer doctor/missionary did an exhaustive study without the Internet using snail mail to have scholars check her work. She tackled Hebrew and Greek. She put her research into a series of “lessons” on the “women” verses. But I love the way she weaves the big picture into all of it.
“If women must suffer domestic, legislative and ecclesiastical disabilities because Eve sinned, then must the Church harbor the appalling doctrine that Christ did not atone for all sin, because so long as the Church maintains these disabilities, the inevitable conclusion in the average mind will be the same as Tertullian’s—God’s verdict on the (female) sex still holds good and the sex’s guilt must still hold also.
— Katharine Bushnell, God’s Word to Women
I guess it’s obvious she was not a determinist. 🙂 That comes out in much of her writing.
The role of deacon, and the meaning of what it is to be a deacon varies from denomination to denomination. There is a good overview of this in Wiki.
One Sunday Father S. showed up with some green (I think it was green) piece of cloth draped over one forearm as part as the vestments. It was draped much like one sees pictures of some waiter with a small towel draped over the arm. So Father S explained this to the congregation. It is the symbol of the diaconate, the symbol of servant-hood. It seems that in our denom when one is ordained a transitional deacon prior to ordination as a priest it is a permanent condition. Once a deacon always a deacon. Then once a priest always a priest while still being a deacon right on, and the bishop is all of the above, deacon and priest and bishop, all and always.
Father S says it reminds him that he is a servant (deacon) right on. I thought, wow. The servant aspect of the diaconate is not dropped/ forgotten because of religious and even liturgical duties and is not dropped/ forgotten when one is ordained to the priesthood. This applies to both men and women of course. He does not do that green thing all the time, but he is a deacon and priest all the time, regardless of the fabric business.
The permanent diaconate is also a ‘serving’ position in the sense that it carries with it a practical approach to those who are needy for various reasons.
So when people talk about deacon vs servant, well, surely men and women need to be called the same thing, but part of that is ‘servant’.
yes, it’s hogwash. it’s also hogwash that women are only allowed to plan potlucks and care for babies (absolutely worthy things to do), regardless of their hard-won qualifications and natural-born talents for other things. like the church version of a woman going to medical school to heal bodies but the hospital will only permit her to bring food trays to patients.
I highly recommend not attending those churches. And if we are ever allowed choice again, not those kind of hospitals. 🙂
Thank you for sharing those quotes from Katherine Bushnell. Really great stuff. Totally agree with you that everyone should read her work. Just to continue on your thought—-in case anyone reading this is wondering who she was:
Katherine Bushnell (1855-1946) is one of the first women in American history to graduate from medical school and become a doctor. She was on the front lines of fighting human trafficking in a time when the laws kept victims trapped in the grasp of their traffickers. She blew the lid off a major criminal organization that was kidnapping and forcing women into the sex trade in Wisconsin, causing the state of Wisconsin to pass the “Kate Bushnell” bill to protect women. Then she went to England and helped Josephine Butler who had a thriving ministry to the red light district.
Together they exposed two major Christian leaders who were actually making their living from human trafficking. Katherine would be shocked that church leadership didn’t seem to care when they found out the horrific evil these men were doing. That made her begin to realize that there was a problem with the deeply rooted Christian theology of that time which taught all women had to suffer for the sin of Eve. Motivated to find the heart of God for women, Katherine would devote the rest of her life to studying the Bible in the original Hebrew and Greek. In the 1920’s she published her explosive book God’s Word to Women which showed how the KJV translators had literally inserted their own opinion into the text, altering verses to reflect their personal bias towards women.
I was just reading this fascinating bio on her which described how the authorities didn’t like her leading the opposition to certain “social hygiene” laws that were double standards that oppressed women. So the authorities sent some officials to visit her. They interviewed her and concluded that she was just a crazy emotional woman with only a few followers who would never amount to anything. That really cracked me up because years later so many lives have been touched by her work. The work she did has had a lasting effect on changing laws to protect women.
“I highly recommend not attending those churches.”
& a fahrt in their general direction.
@ Avid Reader:
wow, that could be a movie.
I credit Bushnell with helping me to realize that Luther (I lost my religion shortly after the turn of the century) did not have all the answers, nor does anyone else for that matter. Sometimes there are no answers but the ones one finds for one’s self, and sometimes, not even then. She also had this to say:
“If we find even in the Bible anything which confuses our sense of right and wrong,
that seems to us less exalted and pure than the character of God should be:
if after the most patient thought and prayerful pondering it still retains that aspect, then we must not bow down to it as God’s revelation to us, since it does not meet the need of the earlier and more sacred revelation He has given us in our spirit and conscience which testify of him.”
Pure heresy in my old Lutheran (LCMS) circles, yeah, I know. I haven’t jettisoned Jesus of Nazareth, just much of the nonsense (my opinion) that’s grown up around him over the centuries.
@ Muff Potter:
Please give me an example of a circumstance where you found yourself with no answers.
Thanks for another great quote from her. Definitely food for thought.
In case some of the group here is wondering—when Bushnell wrote that she was making the point that through the centuries, as the OT was being preserved from one generation to another, there was a time when the scholars deleted all the vowels and just kept the consonants in the text. Then years later when they added the vowels back into the text, would it be possible for them to make some mistakes? Bushnell believed in the authority of Scripture as inspired by God—when it was written in the original Hebrew and Greek. But she was encouraging people to keep in mind the possibility of bloopers happening in the text when it was translated into English and other languages.
Many of you know the story—before she went undercover to investigate the red light district—Bushnell was serving as a medical doctor running a free health clinic in China when she suffered a severe back injury and had to return to the United States for treatment. However, while she was in China, learning to speak and read Chinese, she begin to notice differences between the Chinese version of the Bible and the KJV. What really got her attention was Philippians 4:3:
Paul writes “Help those women who labored with me in the Gospel.”
The missionaries who had translated the Bible into Chinese had changed this verse to be men (not women) that Paul was referring to. When Bushnell asked one of those missionaries about it, he just shrugged and responded that they didn’t want to offend the culture. That was one of several things that inspired her to begin researching the original Hebrew and Greek texts.
Yes—that story would make a great movie!!!
@ Muff Potter:
I like what the London cab driver said to NT Wright after he admitted they were having differences over some doctrinal stances in the CofE…
“Well I figure if Jesus raised from the dead, then everything else is rock and roll.”
@ Avid Reader:
Thanks for expounding on that incredible but formidable woman.
I think we’ve all had a circumstance or two in which there is no pat answer. The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes dwells at length on this subject in Chap. 8 and the general frustration in this life over what should be and what actually is:
14 There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity.
15 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.
16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:)
17 Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.
I was amazed and astonished at Bushnell. What does it say about her to tackle and master such obdurate subjects and make them accessible to regular folks? When at present day, the best that many of the so-called theological superstars can offer up is glitzy and glamorous web-sites.
Muff Potter wrote:
I’m no slouch in Crock-Pot split pea soup, either.
I usually make a big batch around December, freeze it in those butter tubs, and piece off it through the winter. Very thick so you can dip it up with club crackers.
Maybe Paul had a bad marriage in his past?
One speculation was that he was divorced, which would go with the above.
Muff Potter wrote:
New Torah, or another Koran dictated word-for-word by God?
Serving Kids In Japan wrote:
“Barf-a-Roni’s really neat —
Makes you throw up in the street!”
— Sixties elementary school filk of a commercial jingle of the time