Saturday, June 30, 2007

I've Been Tagged: 5 Things I Dig about Jesus

Peter Lumpkins tagged me. So here's the thing: I have to come up with five things I dig about Jesus, and tag five other people. Here goes:
  1. I dig that Jesus is the perfect balance of toughness and kindness. It's become customary these days to pit the supposedly false "feminized" view of Jesus against the supposedly more accurate masculine "tough guy" Jesus. I think the whole exercise reflects more about the insecurities of our culture than anything about Jesus himself. First of all, I don't think there is anything inherently feminine about meekness, kindness, and gentleness--the fruit of the Spirit and the beatitudes are not, I trust, gender specific. Nonetheless, the Jesus who was indeed kind, merciful, and forgiving was also tough enough to rebuke the scribes and Pharisees, as well as his own disciples. The trick was responding appropriately to the occasion, which, in context, is what the wineskins analogy was all about.
  2. I dig that Jesus is himself, regardless of circumstances or the people who were around. One of the things that I think a lot more people struggle with than admit to it is adjusting their behavior based on who is observing it. Perhaps we downplay our faith when we're with those who don't share it, or pretend we have convictions we really don't when we're with our more legalistic brothers. There is a place and time to be "all things to all people"--i.e., to use our freedom wisely for the sake of the Gospel. But we never see Jesus putting off until a next day a person who needs healing on the Sabbath, or pulling his punches with a Pharisee, even when he's his dinner guest, or stopping short of sharing spiritual truth, even when dining with sinners. He is who he is.
  3. I dig that Jesus heals and does miracles out of mercy and compassion. Without naming names, some theological traditions argue that God does what he does for no other reason than to glorify himself. But I see repeated examples of Jesus doing miracles because he had compassion on someone: e.g., Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, 20:34; Mark 1:41, 6:34, 8:2. Of course, these things are not mutually exclusive; Jesus doing miracles glorifies God almost by definition, and there are other reasons why miracles are done as well. But I dig that one of Jesus' primary motivations is simple compassion on people, because they have a need.
  4. I dig that Jesus overcame sin for me, so I don't have to. You read that right. Some of our traditions, including the holiness tradition that Pentecostalism grew out of, treat sin as something we have to overcome. Lip service is given to doing so "by the power of the Spirit," but in reality, it's treated as though it were all on us. But if we really believe that Jesus is "our righteousness, holiness, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30)--he's not just an example, not just a means to obtain those things, but actually is those things himself--then the means of dealing with sin is not direct, but indirect: we don't simply oppose sin on our own, but draw closer to him and let him do the work in us. I think we're afraid to tell people that, for fear that people will abuse it: "God just hasn't taken that out of my life yet." Yep, some will abuse it. But by not telling them that, we rob them of one of the most precious truths of the gospel, heap guilt on them for not being able to overcome on their own, create hypocrisy because they can't admit to not having everything all together, and withhold from them the actual key that would be able to deal with sin. The gospel, quite frankly, is not about our righteousness, but his.
  5. I dig Jesus because he first dug me.
And now it's time to tag five more people. The bad news is, I'm probably no more than a blip on the radar screen of most of the bloggers I read. So a couple of people I'm going to choose aren't bloggers. They can put their five in my comments section. And they can skip the requirement of choosing another five. That's probably against the rules of the meme, but hey, the ball's in my court now.

So anyway, my five victims (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!!!)
  1. Bob Mitton. Because he's my pastor, a close friend, and someone who needs an elbow in the ribs to write something. (Like I have room to talk....)
  2. Dave Porter. Best man in my wedding, longtime close friend, and most likely to come at this from a point of view no one else has thought of.
  3. Cecile Schooley. My wife, and of all the people I can think of, the most likely to use the word "dig" in this sense naturally. (We just celebrated our sixteenth anniversary--yaay for us!)
  4. Julie R. Neidlinger. Doesn't know me, although she threw me a very nice link once. I doubt very much that this is her sort of thing, but if she could be persuaded to do it, she's someone else I bet would come at it from a unique point of view.
  5. Stephen from Y Safle. A brother from Wales. I'm not sure if "dig" in this sense, besides being anachronistic, is actually just an American thing, so we may need to explain it to him. :-)
Honorable mention: I would have tagged SelahV, if she hadn't already done one on her own.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In Lieu of a Real Post (Vol. 1)

What American accent do you have? (Best version so far)


You have a Northern accent. That could either be the Chicago/Detroit/Cleveland/Buffalo accent (easily recognizable) or the Western New England accent that news networks go for.

Personality Test Results

Click Here to Take This Quiz
Brought to you by quizzes and personality tests.

For some reason, a few of my old posts have decided to republish themselves to my Feedburner feed. I don't know whether the malfunction is occurring in Blogger or Feedburner. There is no new material, and I don't know why the old posts are republishing. Sorry if anyone has been inconvenienced.

I suppose I should also apologize for so little posting recently. Life, being busy, blah blah blah, you know the drill. I did post a rant yesterday, and then thought better of it and took it down. But Peter Lumpkins tagged me, so I'll be posting five things I dig about Jesus... as soon as I get a little time to think of it, what with life, being busy, blah blah blah, you know the drill.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Egalitarianism, Complementarianism, and Ministry

I've been following discussions of women in ministry on such forums as Jesus Creed, and Better Bibles Blog. It's rather a tangential issue for me: my fellowship doesn't prevent women from ministerial licensing or ordination; on the other hand, there are not a lot of women who are in positions of senior leadership in my fellowship either. Having watched this debate in as close to a position of objectivity as is possible, it seems to me that the debate is framed in terms of a significant misunderstanding of one another's positions, and a significant misunderstanding on the part of both sides of what ministry is.

The two primary terms in this debate are complementarianism and egalitarianism. The egalitarian position asserts that it is part of God's overall plan to erase distinctions of status and authority among the people of God. The key verse here would probably be Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." The argument here would be that what God has accomplished ontologically, as a spiritual reality, He also would want to make a visible reality in the lives, relationships, and organization of those who compose His Body.

The complementarian position acknowledges that with regard to our status before God, we are indeed equally sinners and equally saved by the mercy of God and the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. Nonetheless, complementarians would argue that there remain positions of authority and submission, even within the Godhead, and our human relationships reflect that. There is no one passage that epitomizes this point of view, but a good contender would be 1 Corinthians 11:3: "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." Without getting into the thorny issues regarding what headship means in this verse, it seems to imply some sort of relationship other than mere side-by-side equality. Complementarians would argue that the relationship between Jesus and the Father was, among other things, one of authority and submission, and that that same relationship would exist among men and women, or at least among husbands and wives specifically. The central idea is that we do not image God as mere individuals, but in relationship with one another, and the relationships that image God are, once again, not merely those of side-by-side equality.

The reason why I say that the debate is framed largely in terms of a significant misunderstanding of one another's positions is this: egalitarians do not seem to be able to conceive of the complementarian position as describing any relationship other than authoritarian domination and abject submission, and complementarians do not seem to be able to conceive of the egalitarian position as anything other than radical individualism, an insistence that there cannot and must not be any differentiation between any two persons, and that each person has an equal right to any position and any measure of authority. Both views are mischaracterizations.

One thing that the Bible focuses on very strongly is our mutual interdependence. That's precisely what the metaphor of the "body" of Christ is used for. We are not pennies in a roll, equal and undifferentiated; we are various "members" with differing gifts, gifts which make us interdependent, since no one person has them all. That is God's design for His people; quite frankly, He wants to force us to be dependent on one another. The odd thing about that is that it is mostly egalitarians who emphasize this mutual interdependence, even though it implies something of a complementarian position. Because the main point of complementarianism is (or should be) not dominance and subservience, but the fact that we complement one another to form a whole that none of us can fill on our own.

Egalitarians will respond: "We agree that all this is true. What we deny is that God does not give the gifts that imply authority only to one gender." And they may be right. I happen to think that they are right. But they are not necessarily right; that is to say, gifts are gifts, and God can give them to whomever He pleases, for whatever reasons He sees fit. Nobody has a right to a gift; the two terms are mutually exclusive. Egalitarians commonly argue, regarding 1 Timothy 2:12, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent," that Paul is dealing with a local issue involving women at Ephesus. What this implicitly acknowledges is that under certain circumstances, God may in fact rightly place restrictions on one group that He does not on another. Because after all, they are His gifts to give, His ministries to fill.

And this is where I think that both sides misunderstand what ministry is. Ministry isn't about authority; it's about service--that's what the word means. And it's not about the right to self-expression on the part of the one ministering; it's about meeting the needs of those who are being ministered to. As someone who has been in and out of a few different types of formal ministry, I hardly know what those who are agitating for their "right" to minister are after. The best medicine might well be for them to get what they want. The slings and arrows of ministry--the second-guessing, the opposition, the pettiness, the politics--fall on anyone who ministers.

I find it an odd little contradiction that those in the emerging movement tend both toward affirming women in formalized positions of ministry and being skeptical of formal ministry itself. Perhaps we need to stop focusing on formal ministry and simply focus on service. Serve however we can, wherever we can, whatever our individual circumstances. I know that this doesn't answer all the questions people have, and they're worthwhile questions to explore. But it seems to me that whether Junia was an apostle or what exactly head coverings meant might be less important than asking myself the question, "What can I do, here and now, today, to represent Jesus to my world?"

Come to think of it, Jesus never had a position of formal ministry. And He managed to accomplish a few things.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Sunday, June 10, 2007

N. T. Wright on Faith and Works

N.T. Wright has an interesting piece on the relationship between faith and works in salvation, as well as a discussion of what "salvation" really means. We tend to think of "salvation" as ourselves being rescued out of an evil world; but our salvation is merely one part of God redeeming the entire creation into the "new heavens and new earth" promised in Revelation 21. He also tantalizingly hints at problems involved in our understanding of salvation deriving from the relationship between Paul's battles with the Judaizers, the Reformers' battles with the medieval Catholic church, the Romantic division between "inward" and "outward" spirituality, and the existentialist idea of "authenticity." Good stuff.