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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015
Why I'm not an Egalitarian - Part -I-
A couple of questions we should answer for ourselves as we consider this topic:

Is the bible true?
If we don't believe the bible is entirely true, then what we're saying is that it is only a somewhat reliable witness to truth.  it can be relied upon for some things, and not for other things.  How do we know what it can be relied upon?  We don't - and because we don't, we set ourselves up as the judge of what is true.  If something seems true to us, it is true, and if it seems false to us, it is false.  Said another way - we all do what seems right in our own eyes.  If I think the bible is only as true as it feels to me - then it may as well all be false, because I have no way of knowing which parts are really true, and which parts are not.

Is the bible the word of God?
If the bible is true, then it must be what it claims to be, the inspired word of God.

Are we as Christians subject to the word of God?
If the bible is true, and it is the word of God, it follows that it in matters of conduct, the word of God is mankind's ultimate authority - and moreso for those who claim that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, is their Lord (i.e. Sovereign King).  If the bible is the word of God, then Christians are obligated to obey its teachings in our personal lives, and in the corporate life of the church - as ordained and constrained by the word of God.

If we can't agree on these these three points up front, no discussion on egalitarianism is going to amount to more than a sharing of dissimilar opinions, and a polite agreement to accept each others position, regardless of whether or not they line up with the scriptures.

First - for those of you who hear such words and Egalitarian and Complementarian, and wonder, what do these to $20 words mean - I will quickly explain them:

An Egalitarian is someone who believes that woman can be pastors and justifies this believe by appealing to those passages in the scriptures which either seem to suggest that there is no distinction between men and women in the church, and/or which show women in the scriptures exercising (in various capacities) that seem congruous to an opinion that women can be pastors.

A Complementarian is someone who believes that men and women are equal partakers of the promises given to Abraham (concerning his Seed: Christ),  and therefore equal in their reliance upon God's grace for both their entrance into, and the health of their subsequent life within, the church are never-the-less allowed roles within the church which complement one another, but are limited in some cases by gender.

Why I am not an Egalitarian (Part 1)

OKAY HOLD UP!  If you haven't read the first three chapters in Paul's epistle to the Galatians in a while - you should give it a quick read before embarking on this journey with me.  Seriously, better to have these things in your head as you look at what I have set forth here, in order to confirm or deny the things I say.

Arguably, the "holy grail" verse for the Egalitarianism position inevitably ends up being Galatians 3:28:

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." [ESV]

Without knowing the underlying context, the only qualifying context available to us (in this small snippet which is all to often recklessly lifted from its much larger context) is found in the final qualifying phrase, "for (i.e. for this reason or because)  you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Note that Paul doesn't use the word equal here, but in saying that former distinctions such as ethnicity, gender, and citizenship are now irrelevant in Christ, the notion of equality is to some extent obviously implied - though nuanced in a way that is unclear from the snippet itself.  So Paul isn't saying that everyone is unilaterally equal, so much as he is saying that all distinctions are removed in Christ.

One thing that is clear from the snippet:  If Paul intends to say that God makes no personal distinctions, he intends to limit this equality to those in Christ - and whatever distinctions we feel God is ignoring in the church, we have no grounds to imagine that God ignores the same distinctions outside of the church.  Just because Paul has said that this is something that is true for those in Christ, we shouldn't (and certainly have no grounds to) imagine that this same thing is true outside the church.

In other words, if Paul is saying that God unilaterally makes no distinction between ethnicity, citizenship, or gender within the church, the only reason one would need to identify that this is something that is true "in Christ" - would be because it is not true for those who are not in Christ - if it were true of all, adding "in Christ" would be not only unnecessary, but somewhat confusing.

Without further context, we really can't mine much more out of this passage than that.

There is an implied equality amongst Christians - all are equally... something.  ...We don't know from the snippet what that something is.  Whatever it is, we know that it ignores external distinctives such as ethnicity, citizenship, and gender - things that might otherwise have been regarded or thought to be either an help or an hindrance.

It is not like God is hiding what the something is.  It is clear and plain from the context, but to understand what it and the scope of what Paul is saying (and to avoid the error of taking Paul's words out of context to serve as a pretext to ideas and notions that Paul was neither promoting nor even imagined) we need to look back in the text and see just what Paul was talking about when he wrote this snippet.

We know that after Paul had founded various churches throughout Galatia, certain Jewish converts visited these churches and taught them that Paul messed up the gospel (when in fact they were the ones who were messing up the gospel).  They taught that both justification and (subsequent) sanctification were all dependent upon keeping the Mosaic Laws (i.e. "Old Covenant").  These Judaizers regarded Christianity as a Jewish sect, and concluded that in order to join the sect you had to first become a Jew.

To be fair - this was how the Gentiles converts had always been proselyted under Judaism.  The Judaizers must have believed themselves to be correcting an oversight on Paul's part - since Paul was treating these Gentiles as though they were already Christians when they hadn't yet become Jews.  They didn't understand that Christianity (i.e. the New Covenant) was something God had promised would eventually replace Judaism (ie. the Old Covenant) - and in ignorance of this fact, they imagined that Christianity was just another Jewish sect. 

Of course, they didn't realize that the Mosaic Covenant was a place holder, and that Christ had ushered in this new and better covenant all according to what the prophets had said would happen, etc.  They regarded Christianity as a patch sewn into the fabric of Judaism or as new wine which was poured into the old wineskin of Judaism.  Christianity to them was a teaching to be appended to the Mosaic Covenant, it added to it, and clarified it a bit - but they didn't understand and/or believe that Christianity was supposed to replace it.

Their (i.e. the Judaizers) teaching demonstrated a profound misunderstanding of Christianity, Christ, the gospel, and the purpose of the Law. They didn't realize that they were corrupting the gospel, and polluting the church with their false teaching.  What Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia (his epistle to the Galatians) was written to correct (in whole or in part) the corrupt doctrine the churches had received from these false teachers.

It should be plain, from even a cursory reading of this epistle, that what these Judaizers had been teaching stood in stark contrast to the gospel of grace that Paul had previously taught to those new believers in Galatia when Paul originally planted those churches.

That is a sound starting point. 

Whatever Paul says in Galatians 3:28 should (and will) make sense in the context of a letter intended to correct whatever errors these false teachers had introduced.

In other words, if we understand the point Paul is making when he gets to Galatians 3:28, we will be able to understand how Galatians 3:28 satisfies or serves that point.  What we want to do is understand what Paul was saying, so that we don't make the mistake of reading something else into the passage - and running with that instead of the truth.

Paul opens his epistle to the churches in Galatia with a charge against these churches - that they were setting aside the gospel he had preached to them, in favor of the distorted gospel that these Judaizers had brought to them.  He introduces himself and quickly begins to defend both the (true) gospel which he had formerly preached to them and they received, and he defends also his ministry and his credentials as a genuine Apostle of Christ.

To demonstrate his genuine authority, Paul recalls the day that he had to rebuke the Apostle Peter - for giving into the very sort of thing that these Judaizers had been teaching the Galatians. In this retelling of the events at Antioch, Paul makes it crystal clear, that his authority is genuine, and that these Judaizers are the real charlatans.

He then goes on to correct the errors he suspects have been propagated.  We are made righteous by grace through faith and not through the keeping of the Mosaic Laws.  Paul summarizes the difference between the true gospel and the doctrine of these Judaizers by showing that if the righteousness we need for our salvation came through the law then Christ would have died for nothing.

Following Paul's line of reason (in typical Pauline fashion) the Apostle takes the teaching of the Judaizers to its logical conclusion to demonstrate how wrong it is. These false teachers had been teaching that you needed to become a Jew before you could become a Christian. So Paul explained to his readers what exactly a Jew was (and was not) and how entrance into the kingdom was neither dependent upon, or hindered by the fact that one was or was not a Jew.

Ethnically speaking, a Jew was a physical descendant of Abraham.  Many Jews at the time believed that they were partakers of the promise given to Abraham because of their ancestry, and irregardless of their conduct, faith, or anything else.

Paul argued that being a physical descendant of Abraham counted for nothing since the promise given to Abraham was referring to spiritual descendants and not physical ones.  Abraham was promised to be the father of many nations - which should make clear this one thing:  one doesn't have to be a Jew to count Abraham as his or her father.

As we get close to Galatians 3:28 - Paul is showing that being a physical descendant of Abraham counts for nothing insofar as being under the promise given to Abraham was concerned.  Paul explained that Gentiles become children of the promise given to Abraham through their holding to a faith that was like Abraham's.  He showed that the promise given to Abraham was received by the gentiles, not through their ancestry lineage, but through faith.  He shows that the Jews are no different: they also must become children of Abraham through faith (as opposed to depending upon their physical ancestry).

Here is the context then for Galatians 3:28 - Paul is saying that neither your ancestry,  your citizenship, or your gender contribute anything to becoming a partaker of the promise given to Abraham.  You cannot merit this promise, nor bring it into being through your ancestry, your gender, or your citizenship - nor will any of these hinder you in inheriting it - for the promise is received by faith, not by ancestry, citizenship or gender.

So Paul isn't saying, or trying to say/suggest that everyone is so unilaterally equal that God makes no distinctions between the roles of men and women in the church.

There are a great many people who feel that women should be allowed to be elders/pastors.  Most believe this, or strive to believe it, because it is culturally savvy to do so - and who wants to be thought of us insensitive or unfair (or worse, as a closet misogynist)?

Egalitarianism is becoming quite popular in those churches where scripture is routinely understood through the rose colored lens of our modern culture.  Today's lick-spittle generation bends over backwards to conform itself to the moral of the moment - and in our "moment", gender roles are bad, everyone should be "equal" - whatever that is - and people who think otherwise are just ignorant bigots.

Since we all live in the culture we are born into, it shouldn't surprise people that this sort of thinking finds its way into the church - and in doing so it clashes against those passages in scripture that I will discuss in Part II of this series.

The question you should be asking yourself if you still believe that this verse is unilaterally implying that God no longer makes distinctions between genders, such that what Paul writes elsewhere specifically disqualifying women from certain roles in the church - is how would declaring that God makes no distinction whatsoever between men and women prove the point Paul was laboring to prove in Galatians 3:28?

Think that through.

Would declaring that men and women are equal and as such can hold any office in the church really contribute to convincing a church that the doctrine they received from the Judaizers was in fact flawed? 

Remember, Paul was arguing that gentiles did not need to become Jews in order to become Christians.  That is the point he was making and supporting in Galatians 3:28.  He only mentions women/men and slaves/free to exaggerate the point he was making: it doesn't matter if you were born a Jew or a Gentile, a man or a woman, a free man or a slave - what matters is not what you were born into, it matters that you are born from above.  It matters that you become a partaker of the promise given to Abraham - and you don't become a partaker of that promise through being born into the right ethnicity, gender, or social rank. 

The notion that Paul (in the middle of an argument that is concerned with whether or not you need to become a Jew in order to become a Christian) decided to arbitrarily mention that all people Christians are so unilaterally equal that you should hereafter interpret everything that was ever written in the scriptures through this new and capricious lens - which has nothing to do with the point he is making -- is preposterous.  In fact, Paul had yet to write the epistles to Titus and Timothy at this point - Paul wasn't writing this to clarify what he would write - I say, if anything, he was clarifying this in his later writings which disqualified women from the office of elder/pastor, etc.

Surely dear reader, you see that being a Jew or a Gentile is neither a hindrance nor a help to your becoming a Christian - that is, to your becoming a partaker of the promise given to Abraham?  How would pontificating on gender roles in the middle of convincing you of that serve the point I am making?  This has nothing to do with gender roles, and no one reading it in Paul's day would have ever pulled from it the notions that people are trying to support from it today.

This passage has nothing to do with roles in the church. The only reason people go to this verse to support an egalitarian position, is because they want to use it as a pretext to dismiss other verses (which were written later on by Paul) which clearly disqualify women from the role of elder and pastor. 

In Part II I am going to show that most of the remaining arguments for egalitarianism fall under the umbrella of Hebrews 1:1-2

"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world." [ESV]

In Part III I hope to show what Paul's letters teach concerning the roles of women in ministry is neither complex nor complicated - it just counter-cultural and offends people because the bible teaches something that this culture (mistakenly) rejects.
posted by Daniel @ 12:48 PM  
  • At 9:40 AM, April 24, 2015, Blogger Daniel said…

    David Kjos - I see no comments from you awaiting moderation?

  • At 2:51 PM, April 25, 2015, Blogger Unknown said…

    I must have goofed. I'll try again.

    It occurs to me that, if we accept the egalitarian ignore-the-context interpretation of "there is no male and female ... in Christ Jesus," and wipe out the distinct roles of male and female, then we also have to say homosexuality is OK, but only for those who are "in Christ Jesus." In fact, if there is no male and female, Christians must all be homosexuals, since, in Christ, there is no sexual distinction.

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