Simply Christians

Simply Christians

This was written by my friend Dale Smelser

Many people are growing disenchanted with present religious forms which originated in the middle ages and have become meaningless. There is displeasure with denominational structures and dogma. Some, because of such views, have even decided that “Christianity” is not relevant today. We believe they have made that decision because they are not sufficiently acquainted with the Scriptures to be able to distinguish between the gospel of Christ and what men over the centuries have attempted to add to it.

If some of these things have troubled you and you have felt a yearning to return to the simple, uncomplicated religion of Christ, stripping away all the nonessential elements of religion and simply abiding by the truths of Christ, truths which transform the soul and bind it to God, let us suggest that it can and has been done.

The Bible, God’s word to man, presents Jesus Christ as the Son of God. He was foreshadowed and predicted in the Old Testament which God used to govern His people until Christ should come and establish the New (Jer. 31:31-33; Gal. 3:19, 23-24). That New Testament reveals the religion of Christ. By studying it we learn all there is to know of the way of Christ.

We learn that among the followers of Christ there existed no denominational organizations whatever. All began at a later time. In the New Testament we see people hearing the gospel and obeying the conditions of God’s grace. Being thus saved, they were added to the Lord’s people, the church (Acts 2:36-47). As the gospel spread, we find them assembling together in congregations in various localities. Each congregation was under its own elders (Acts 14:23) and no one else on earth. These elders could not make laws and be masters. They were given the responsibility of tending and caring for the congregation as shepherds would a flock (Acts 20:17, 28; I Pet. 5:1-3). The only headquarters those disciples knew was heaven, where their head, Jesus Christ, was and is (Eph. 1:22-23).

Their worship was something in which to participate, not something to watch. On the first day of the week, for instance, they would eat the Lord’s supper and hear preaching (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-29), they would all sing (Eph. 5:19), they would all pray with various ones leading (1 Cor. 14:15-16), and they would share in their mutual responsibilities by sharing their prosperity (1 Cor. 16:1-2). We find no contributions being collected on any other day than the first day of the week and no hierarchy taxing them or telling them how much to give. They had no organizations clamoring for their support. They gave as they individually purposed in their own hearts (2 Cor. 9:6-7). In all this they were all necessarily involved for each saved person was a priest (Rev. 1:5-6). No one could perform his service or worship for another.

They lived godly lives. They cared for their poor. They taught others. They sent out preachers to teach others in far communities. With simplicity of faith and fervor there was no need of centralization. Without organized machinery, the gospel was preached to the whole of civilization in a short time (Col. 1:23). These disciples of Christ were known as Christians (Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; I Pet. 4:16). They wore no sectarian names. Their religion was not materialistic or sensual. They did not seek to impress men with pious ceremony, rather, they sought to impress God with the only thing that has ever impressed Him contrite obedience (2 Sam. 15:22). Their appeal was not social or recreational. They offered the gospel, for they knew it was God’s power to save (Rom. 1:16), and any other appeal was beneath them.

Many sigh, “Oh, if only such could be today.” But it is! Free men and women over the earth have despaired of denominationalism, seeing in it neither necessity nor relevance but only a cause of division. They desire the simplicity of what Christ authored, and their number is increasing. How many have taken such a stand? Who knows! They are related and connected only in Christ and not in some organization with machinery to keep a tally. We will not try to number them. What is important, though, is that a group of such people meet within minutes of where you live.

They are just Christians. They worship and serve God in the same way the early disciples did. Christ is their only creed and the Scriptures their only guide. They are not members of any human organization, they are simply a congregation, or church, of Christ. They, in turn, would like to share Christ with you and with all the world.

You too can be just a Christian and serve God without belonging to any denomination, bound by denominational laws or obligations. If such freedom appeals to you, please contact us.

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Become As Little Children

“Except Ye Become As Little Children”

By Mike Riley 1/23/2017

In Matthew 18:1-6, Jesus gives some very important qualifications for those who would enter the kingdom of . He would say, “Except ye be converted, and become as little , ye shall not enter into the kingdom of .” Notice that this is something all who wish to enter that heavenly abode must do. But what did Jesus mean when he said that all who would enter must become as little ? Surely he did not mean that those converted to him must act childish and immature. Rather he meant that those who are converted to him must be “childlike”. There is a vast difference from being “childish” and being “childlike”. With these thoughts in mind, let us look at three qualities of :

1) One of the most outstanding qualities of a young child is his humble spirit. Young have not yet learned what pride is. Those who wish to live for eternity in the presence of Almighty God must employ this same of humility. As adults, we often trust in our own abilities all too much, refusing (because of stubborn pride) the help of those who truly can help us. This is all too often the case when it comes to salvation. We must turn to the One, and only One, who can save us–God. We must obey what He has set out for us to do (1 Samuel 15:22; Ecclesiastes 5:1; Hosea 6:6; Acts 4:19-20; Acts 5:29) . We must never think that we are “above” that which God would have us do. Without humility, we will never access the grace of the Almighty (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). Is your pride more important than your soul? (Proverbs 16:18; Matthew 16:26).

2) A young child trusts with all his heart that his parents will be there for him in his time of need. A child trusts that his father will be there for him when he takes those first steps, or takes his first ride on his new bike. A child trusts that his mother will be there for him when he scrapes his knee, or when the other kids are picking on him. Those who would enter into that heaven must, too, manifest a simple, loving trust in the One who loves us and died for us. When God makes a promise, we should trust Him to see it through. When I do what He has told me through His word, I can rest assured and trust with all my heart that He will uphold what He has promised. I can also rest assured that He will be there for me in times of need, in times of rejoicing, in times of despair. God is faithful and will not forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5). Do you trust in God?

3) Have you ever seen two children engaged in a tussle, shouting to each other that they one another, only to see them five minutes later playing together as best friends, as if nothing ever happened. Children are so quick to forgive one another, while at the same time they are very quick to forget. Those who desire to live with God for eternity must manifest a similar of . The child of God must be willing to forgive those who repent of their wrongdoing if they wish to be forgiven of their sins by the Father (Matthew 18:21-22; Ephesians 4:32).

In closing, do we manifest the same forgiving attitude toward others that God manifests toward us (Matthew 6:14-15)?

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Does Galatians 6:10 Authorize The Church to Give to Non-Saints? Part 7

Does Galatians 6:10 Authorize The Church to Give to Non-Saints? Part 7

By Kevin Cauley 1/31/2017

March 18th, 2003

I think I understand what your point is, but we simply disagree. The premise that you are setting forth is that in ALL cases when the scriptures address individuals, that means individuals ONLY and in ALL cases when the scriptures address the , that means the ONLY. For you (in your mind) to accept that Galatians 6:1-10 is speaking to churches would mean that you (in your mind) would have to prevent individuals from doing . (If that is not correct, let me know). However, the hermeneutic here is flawed. The assumption from which you begin is incorrect. You fail to realize that the is made up of individual members and as such individuals must always be involved when the acts corporately whether that is through , , or and that sometimes individuals can act on the behalf of the church outside the context of the (such as an eldership making a decision for the church or the preacher writing an article for the newspaper on behalf of the church).

To say that Galatians 6:1-10 applies to individuals ONLY is simply not warranted from the text (that was why I went through the text again and emphasized the plural number in my last e-mail). There is absolutely no way to prove that was only addressing Christians on an individual level ONLY. The “proof” that you set forth is really a by-product of the doctrine of saints-only. It goes something like this: “The Bible teaches that the church may give money from the treasury to saints only. Therefore, Galatians 6:10 MUST be talking about individuals and not the church. This must be true or else my doctrine is wrong. It is impossible for my doctrine to be wrong, therefore it must be true that is ONLY addressing individuals.” You assume this to be true because your doctrine demands it, not because the text warrants it. This assumes the very thing that you must prove. And that kind of reasoning is not sufficient to establish truth.

Additionally, to say that the actions in Galatians 6:1-10 were “individual, not corporate” implies that Paul wrote the letter to the churches but did not give the churches any corporate action which they needed to take to correct the problems they faced from the Judaizing teachers. It puts one in the position of affirming that Paul wrote to the churches to correct a problem that was in the church, but that Paul had no expectation of the church to take any corrective action in that regard. Such a position contradicts the purpose for which Paul wrote the letter to the “churches” of Galatia. I would really like to hear your answer to this particular item.

You have got to at least acknowledge that the general thrust of the letter was written to the CHURCHES, not to individuals. As such, when Paul uses the plural number the FIRST thing that we must expect is that he is addressing the church. Addressing individuals would, therefore, be an exception to the general thrust of the epistle and must be PROVEN to be addressed to individuals ONLY. So for your case to stand, you must prove that Galatians 6:1-10 can ONLY be addressed to individuals. It just is not sufficient to say, “I think,” or “It seems to me” or “It appears to be this way;” it must be PROVEN that individuals ONLY were being addressed in Galatians 6:1-10. This is impossible to do given the plural nature of the verbs in that chapter.

My argument from 1 Corinthians 11 is that just as the plurality of the verbs in 1 Corinthians 11 make that corporate action so also the plurality of the verb in Galatians 6:1-10 makes that corporate action. An inspired writer does NOT have to use the word “together” every single he wants to indicate corporate action. The same elements in 1 Corinthians 11 that make the action there corporate are found in Galatians as well.

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Commandment Keeping

Commandment Keeping

By Kevin Cauley 2/2/2017

There are those in the religious world today who ridicule the idea of keeping commandments. They claim that keeping God’s commandments have nothing to do with our salvation today. If someone objects and says that we must keep God’s commandments to be saved, the charge of is leveled against him. Is it true that keeping God’s commandments has nothing to do with salvation? Are we legalists because we demand that those who follow Christ keep his commandments? Let’s examine these questions in light of the New Testament scriptures.

Often, Jesus Himself is cited as one who criticized the Pharisees for being commandment keepers. However, such was not the case. We should note well that Jesus never condemned anyone for keeping God’s commandments. Jesus, however, did condemn the Pharisees for placing their own commandments above God’s! This is an entirely different situation. Matthew 15:1-9 is one such instance. Jesus confronted the Pharisees in regard to transgressing God’s command to keep their own tradition (15:3). He said that they had made God’s commandment of none effect by their tradition (15:6). Then He says that they in fact have taught for doctrine their own commandments, the commandments of men (15:9). Keeping such commandments should not be placed into the same category as keeping God’s commandments. To equate the desire to keep God’s commandments with the desire to keep man’s commandments in place of God’s commandments is to pervert the words of Jesus and entirely miss the point. Jesus expected others to keep God’s commandments. It is because these Pharisees had set aside God’s commandments, that Jesus’ anger was kindled against them.

In contrast to ridiculing commandment keeping, Jesus Himself preached it! In Matthew 19:17, Jesus told one asking about obtaining eternal life to keep God’s commandments if he would enter into life. The man asked what he lacked and Jesus added another commandment, namely, to go sell all that he had to the poor and follow Jesus (19:21). In John 14:15 Jesus said to the apostles, “If you me, keep my commandments.” Loving Jesus is dependent upon keeping His commandments. To say that we Jesus, yet fail to keep his commandments is at best and outright at worst. Jesus reiterates in John 15:10 “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my ; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his .” Note two things about this scripture. First, Jesus equates keeping commandments with abiding in His . When you note John 14:15 (that you can’t love without keeping the commandments) along with John 15:10 (that you can’t keep the commandments without abiding in love), one gains a very firm conclusion: we can love Jesus if and only if we keep his commandments. But second, what is even more remarkable about John 15:10 is that Jesus himself is a commandment keeper. He abides in the love of the Father through keeping the Father’s commandments. Here is a one-two knockout for those who claim that commandment keeping has nothing to do with salvation.

The apostle John explains further in his first epistle just exactly what the relationship between commandment keeping and salvation is. In 1 John 2:3, 4 we read, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” The simple conclusion is that one cannot come to know God without keeping the commandments. If you don’t know God, you can’t be saved (2 Thess. 1:8). The apostle John comments further in 1 John 5:2, 3 “By this we know that we love the of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.” We cannot even love God without keeping God’s commandments. In fact, John defines love for God in exactly these terms. He says, “This is the love of God.” Let we forget, love for God is the first and greatest commandment. Loving our neighbor is like this commandment, but ultimately comes second (Matthew 22:37-39). My relationship with God always takes precedence over my relationship with other people. This means that I must be concerned about keeping God’s commandments.

The bottom line is ultimately this. Those who ridicule commandment keeping, ridicule Jesus himself, for He was a commandment keeper (John 15:10). Those who ridicule commandment keepers, ridicule the , because the was only promised to those who kept Jesus commandments (John 14:15-17). And those who ridicule commandment keepers, ridicule God the Father because we can neither know Him or love Him without doing such (1 John 2:3; 5:2). Such has nothing to do with being a legalist; and has everything to do with our being saved. So let’s keep those commandments and show God that we truly do love Him!

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Genesis 8:20-22

Genesis 8:20-22

By G. E. Watkins 2/3/2017

When God specified what the ark was to be loaded with He provided for the worship needs of and his family. Clean animals were required and so they were available when landed.

This is a very significant one. The earth had just been cleansed from and violence and every imaginable. At this point, as makes the , every human on the planet stands right with God. I don’t know whether knew that the sacrifice he made was a shadow of things to come, but it was. He was looking forward to Christ in this sacrifice. Looking forward as God did in Genesis 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This point marks a new beginning in the history of mankind. The line of Messiah is set. He will not come from the line of Cain. He will come from the line of Seth of whom Noah is descended. The Lord is pleased with the sacrifice of Noah.

We need to note the Lord’s promise. The Lord is not going to strike down the inhabitants of the earth again until the earth is destroyed. He has assured the of His plan and no further measures of this kind will be needed. When I was in elementary school my classmates and I went through drills with regard to what to do in case of nuclear attack. Questions were asked all around the planet as to whether a potential nuclear war would be the end of life for this planet. The answer was right there in God’s book. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” The promise for mankind is in the harvest.

Our text also has something to say about the doctrine of total hereditary depravity (which teaches that we are born in and wholly depraved). Verse 21 refutes this idea with this phrase, “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” This is a far cry from being born sinful.

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Vision Problems?

Vision Problems?

By Mike Riley 2/4/2017

How is your “good eye”?

In Matthew 6:22 NIV the Lord said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” Without understanding the Hebraic context in which Jesus is speaking…we are missing His teaching.

In case you are wondering whether or not you have a “good eye,” then read on and see for yourself.

Proverbs 22:9 NASB tells us, “He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor.” The actual Hebrew text says. “He who has a good eye is blessed because he gives bread to the poor.

What about the evil eye?

Proverbs 28:22 NASB tells us, “A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him.

Jesus, who always upholds the Hebrew Scriptures, is reaffirming the necessity for generosity in life. We are not to be greedy or avaricious. We work, we receive, and we are blessed. We give to others.

We assume this is our money or material wealth. Not always. Money might be the easiest of God’s gifts to give. But perhaps it isn’t always the best for the person we are helping.
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A Jewish medieval treatise (Orchot Tzaddikim) says, “There are three kinds of generosity; generosity of money; generosity of one’s body; and generosity of one’s wisdom” (also see article).

This fits into the Christian mindset as well. Generosity need not always be demonstrated with money. Sharing one’s ideas, talents, and knowledge; assembling with others in worship and work; taking time to be with a sick one; being a sympathetic listener….is showing our “good eye.” These are things money can’t buy.

So……“How’s your eyesight?”

If you aren’t sure, visit the Divine Ophthalmologist for a check-up.

May all of God’s people have 20/20 !

—Barbara Hyland, guest writer

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Paganisms Promises?

Paganisms Promises?

By Kevin Cauley 2/6/2017

Witches, warlocks, bards, ovates, and druids: you’re probably thinking that Halloween is over for this year, so why the strange list? Well, according to Reuters news service, pagans are celebrating Samhuin, the Celtic , and “a time for remembering dead ancestors before the darkness of winter” explained one pagan priestess. According to the article, paganism is on the rise in Britain where they claim to have nearly 100,000 adherents to the religion. The same priestess explained the phenomena: “People are not finding enough insight with a Christian God. Christianity is all about having rewards when you are dead, druids are all about living life fully and reaching out.” Does Christianity offer insight? Is it merely about getting rewards after one is dead? Does being a Christian mean that you have to have a dull and boring life?

Christianity offers insight which no other religion can offer, namely, God’s insight. Of course, paganism doesn’t believe in one God, per se; paganism believes in the existence of multiple gods. Every living and non-living thing has a “spirit” in paganism; and these become the things that are worshipped. The same Reuters article quoted a pagan gathering chant: “We call upon the powers of the south, the inner fire of the sun and the island of fire. We seek the blessing of the great stag in the heat of the chase. Spirits of the south join us now in this our sacred circle. Hail and welcome.” Does paganism have insight that Christianity doesn’t have? The American Heritage dictionary defines “insight” as follows: “The capacity to discern the true nature of a situation; penetration.” How can one have more insight (discern the true nature of a situation) than the one who created everything to begin with? When you have a question regarding the operation of your car, do you consult the “spirits” of the motor, doors, windows, and wheels? Or do you read the operator’s manual, written by the manufacturer? From what source does true insight come? Really all that paganism does is replace God with a system of that has no insight to offer other than what one personally feels, and that is no insight at all. The prophet Habakkuk wrote, “Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach!” (Habakkuk 2:19).

Is Christianity merely about getting rewards after one is dead? Are we just wrapped up in some big cosmic game show so that if we play the game right we get the prizes at the end? That seems to be what is being suggested and it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation. isn’t a reward, per se; it’s the continuation of life. Paganism claims to value life fully, but doesn’t understand that there is no value in life when sin has marred one’s soul. Sin takes life away by enslaving individuals to its mindless grasp (2 Peter 2:19, 20) and dumping them into eternal (Revelation 21:8). Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). True life; real life; eternal life comes from Jesus and walking in His footsteps, not from some personified spiritualization of rocks.

Does being a Christian mean that you have to live a boring and dull life? I suppose that depends upon what one considers boring and dull. If you find it exciting to talk to trees and worship boulders, then I guess Christianity might be boring! However, if one is discussing whether or not Christians are allowed to enjoy the benefits of life, the answer is, “of course!” God made the world and all the things that are within it for man. He has provided “fruitful seasons filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). He has blessed Christians richly with every blessing that he can provide (Ephesians 1:3). He has given all things for us to eat if we receive them with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:3). He has blessed man with friendship, companionship, and wonderful relationships (Ephesians 5:31). He is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). He has given to us freely all good things to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17). He’s told us that all things are ours (1 Corinthians 3:21). And promised blessings not only in this life, but in the world to come (Mark 10:30). With all of these things at our disposal, what cause does anyone have to claim that the Christian can’t have a full, rich, wonderful, and blessed life now? The problem is not that Christianity can’t provide these things. The problem is that most “Christians” don’t know what true Christianity is, much less pagans!

The Reuter’s news service article ends with a story about a man who went to one of these pagan “stone circles” and chipped off a piece of the stone to take with him. About a year later, he mailed the chipped-off piece back to the owners of the “rock circle.” In his letter he told them to glue it back onto the stone as it had only brought him “bad luck.” The same mentality that caused him to value such, ended up causing him to condemn it. What a fickle standard by which to judge reality. Paganism offers no true insight to life; it has no value for this life; and can provide no lasting life beyond the grave. It is merely another excuse on the part of man to do that which is right in his own eyes (Deuteronomy 12:8).

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Reviewing “Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church”

Biblical Interpretation in the Early Church, from the series Sources of Early Christian Thought is a terrific contribution to any library of biblical interpretation texts. The editor and translator, Karlfried Froehllich, has organized the material into ten chapters. The first chapter is an extended introduction. This is followed by translations of texts ranging from the pre-Christian Rabbis, to Origen, to Irenaeus  and  concluding with Tyconius.

The most valuable portion of this text is the certainly the Introduction. Within the Introduction, Froehlich provides a review of the manner in which different groups have sought to understand and interpret the Holy Scriptures. Beginning with the Jews, he reviews the Jewish canon and Jewish hermeneutics. Following this he takes up a review of three primary witnesses to methods of Jewish interpretation: the Rabbis, the Qumran community and the Diaspora. Though this portion in particular is a little dated (the author refers to the council of Jamnia prior to the work by Lewis which disputes certain assumptions), it is nonetheless quite helpful becaue it provides a glimpse into how these formative groups viewed and treated their Holy Scriptures. Specifically, Froehlich describes with some clarity the purpose of the Rabbis and how they were seeking to use the Scriptures to help solve legal questions and facilitate daily living; and how the Qumran community was preoccupied with an eschatological approach and the Diaspora were influenced strongly by their Hellenistic culture. While these groups do not provide the modern Christian with a definitive method for approaching the Old Testament, they do however cast a great spotlight on a specific principle which will addressed momentarily.

In treating the first century and first generation Christian interpreters, the author seeks to highlight the importance that allegory and specifically typology played—particularly in reference to Paul. However, the most important point of this section is taken from the following statement: “Emerging as a community independent of Judaism, Christians of many backgrounds now started to appropriate the Jewish Scriptures as thesir own, being taught to read them as a hidden witness to God’s new covenant with humankind in the Lord Jesus Christ” (p.10). This seems to be particularly important for the modern Christian in that it provides an example to follow emulate—taking ownership of the Scriptures and seeking to make them your own, relative to your own culture and circumstances.

There are essentially two principles that one can easily understand by reviewing the pre-Christian communities and the leading thinkers of the first four centuries is really quite simple: first, it was largely dictated by their culture and circumstances that the group was facing. Second, there is clearly not a divinely inspired method with which the modern interpreter can grab hold of with a great deal of confidence.

Beginning with the second century, the great diversity of opinions on and approaches to the Scriptures began to reveal itself. So much so, that a dual approach began to develop that was based largely on geography. It is in many respects surprising to find the great diversity that existed then. It is equally alarming today to find the lack of appreciation, if not fear, for diversity among some groups of Christians. For that matter, that same negative attitude and approach towards diversity in interpretative methods was cemented generations earlier. For the modern Christian, the question remains: how to deal with the difference of opinions and approaches to interpreting and understanding the Scriptures. For now, these questions remain unanswered. However, one thing can be made certain, the clarity that many people find comfort in is actually much more cloudy than they may realize.

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CONCLUSION

CONCLUSION

Over time, it would seem as if some of the more recent interpretations with regard to the Adam and Eve story, recovering favorable accounts of women in leadership roles, and clarifying notes in Galatians 5:13–18 would correct the reading lens for Scriptures where Paul and Peter defer to the law and tradition with respect to women’s behavior and roles, such as in 1 Peter, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy.  Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley sum it up well by saying, “Paul understands freedom not as the opportunity to pursue one’s own interests but to be even more at the service of others.”  The focus has for too long been on order in the church, instead of why the order in the church is important – if anything is going to be a stumbling block for someone to come to know Christ, it certainly should not be the body of Christ.  Not only do women still need to temper their freedom with consideration and respect for culturally accepted behavior so as not to be a stumbling block to men, but men need to do the same so as not to be a stumbling block to women.  The fact ought to be recognized that cultural appropriateness is not defined for all times by the Greco-Roman culture and Jewish law and tradition of those times.  Instead, it is defined by the norms associated with that culture.  As more join the voice to have one set of membership privileges and allow the Holy Spirit to determine giftedness for roles, the more likely the concept will be attributed with increasing validity and influence.  The pressure to consider this perspective for the Churches of Christ as well as for other religious groups with the same restrictive policy will grow.  If and when the one set of membership privileges becomes the pervasive culture in American churches, transitioning to this perspective may become a matter of necessity of a congregation’s survival.  Now is the time to exchange restrictions for women for freedom for all in serving the cause of Christ.

 

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SEARCHING THE FORMATIVE TEXTS: FREEDOM

SEARCHING THE FORMATIVE TEXTS:  FREEDOM

One of the passages in Scripture that receives a great deal of attention in supporting freedom in selecting roles is Galatians 3:26–28, which includes what some have called the pre-Pauline baptismal formula  used during baptism:  “…for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.  As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians was a letter authored by Paul sometime between the late 40s to early 50s to the churches in Galatia.  Apparently, sometime after Paul’s evangelism in this area, other Christian missionaries had impacted these churches with the idea “…that people’s access to Christ required that they obey the Mosaic law, or at least some of its major requirements, including circumcision.”  Paul’s letter was mainly to assert that “… the life of God’s people is now meant to be Christ-centered and not Torah-centered.”  He explains that the law had served its purpose as a disciplinarian (Gal 3:25), which was meant to be temporary, until faith (Jesus Christ) had come (Gal 3:26).   Paul then reminds them of their baptism in Galatians 3:27.  Catherine Clark Kroeger and Mary J. Evans expand on this by stating that “new believers took off their old clothes when entering the waters of baptism and put on new garments after coming up out of the waters.  This symbolized the reality that the believers had cast off their old lives and were now new creations in Christ, alive to a new kind of existence.”  Paul continues in Galatians 3:28 by clarifying that all are one in Christ:  Jews, Greeks, slave, free, male, and female.  Although the verses in Galatians 3:25–27 seem to have alignment between various theologians, who normally might have points of disagreement, Galatians 3:28 has been the subject of various polemics.  

One of the major proponents that this verse has implications of equality in women’s roles

is Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza.  She states that “the legal-societal and cultural-religious male privileges were no longer valid for Christians…; it allowed not only gentiles and slaves but also women to exercise leadership functions within the missionary movement.” Dale Martin goes a step further by stating that “… it is misleading, from a historical point of view, to read Galatians 3:28 as addressing equality.” He explains that over the centuries, it has had significant shifts in its interpretation.  More specifically he states that throughout the ancient church it referred to “…the abolition of the sexes, to ascetic asexuality,…and the overcoming of the division in unity.”  Regarding Piper and Gruden, even though they concede on men and women being joint heirs in Jesus Christ, they deny that it should affect social roles.  This is in light of 1 Peter 3:1–7 that includes verbiage regarding women submitting to their husbands as well as verbiage including the concept of being joint heirs in Jesus Christ:  “In other words, Peter saw no conflict between the ‘neither-male-nor-female’ principle regarding our inheritance and the headship-submission principle regarding our roles.  Galatians 3:28 does not abolish gender-based roles established by God and redeemed by Christ.”   This interpretation omits the frame of context expressed in 1 Peter 3:1, “Wives, in the same way [as slaves to their masters, and as Christ to his abusers], accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct,…”  Again, a recurring theme was the cause of Christ.  The reason for the submissive role or balancing act was due to the male sensitivity to women, especially their wives, behaving in a manner that was counter-cultural for the secular social roles of women of that time.

Gruden, in a separate work, seems to present a more encouraging view of Galatians 3:26–29.  In the process, however, he seems to be unaware that the implications of what he is saying is counter to the point that he thinks that he is making, which is to state that these verses should have no impact on women’s social roles.  He states that “to say that we are ‘one’ means that we are united, that there should be no factions or divisions among us, and there should be no sense of pride and superiority or jealousy and inferiority between these groups that viewed themselves as so distinct in the ancient world.”  What he does not realize is that those kind words as well as pointing to creation order, instead intelligence or ability, do not adequately camouflage a superiority-inferiority dynamic that he states that should not occur.  Schüssler Fiorenza would probably refer to this superiority-inferiority dynamic between the two gender roles as a “…a social construct of oppressive power relations.” These would be the same oppressive relations involved in much of the past and present “legitimate” atrocities previously mentioned.  

The irony of these polemics seems to be that a passage in Scripture seeming to be about a lesson to the Galatians about liberty from the law and welcomed lack of a hierarchical status in Christ has been countered with references to the law and creation order.  Of all the counter strategies used to discourage, these two would seem like the two most obvious to avoid, and, yet, they are still used and somehow deemed reasonable and valid arguments by many.

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