Thursday, May 17, 2018

The SBC & Paige Patterson & the Danger of Conflation


The upcoming Southern Baptist Convention is lighting up Twitter and the rest of cyberspace for all the wrong reasons lately. Conservative stalwart Paige Patterson is scheduled to give a key address at the convention and in light of controversial comments regarding spouse abuse, many are calling for him to resign.

I grew up a Baptist and remained in that denomination until I met my husband, a soon-to-be Presbyterian pastor, and followed him to the denomination of the late D. James Kennedy and R.C. Sproul, Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). I still have a great many friends in the SBC, as well as a great deal of love and appreciation for my former denomination. As a conservative, I also have always held Rev. Patterson in high esteem for his courageous battle against liberalism in the 70-80s, so it was distressing to read transcripts of some of Patterson’s poor comments on spousal abuse. I honestly think this may be a blindspot, a generational chauvinism, but most importantly, I think his comments on marriage stems from a poor exegesis of Romans 7. 

Most Christians will agree divorce is a concession God made because sin entered the world and biblically, there is no such thing as a no-fault divorce. Having said that, I think the biblical grounds for divorce are actually much broader than what is normally presented today by some of my fellow conservatives. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus did not say that 'adultery' was the only biblical grounds for divorce in Matthew 5:31, 32.

In Matthew 5:31, Jesus quotes the Pharisaical perversion of the law.  Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'  Rather than divorcing on biblical grounds, the Pharisees taught that men could divorce their wives for all sorts of reasons. Jesus, on the other hand, reiterated the teaching of the Old Testament.  In verse 32, He says, But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. The key phrase there is translated in my Bible as 'sexual immorality.'  (Your Bible may have something like 'fornication,' 'marital unfaithfulness,' or some sort of equivalent.)

The word Jesus uses is not the word for 'adultery.'  It is porneia, from which we get 'pornography.'  It is not the word used for adultery, which is moichao.  If Jesus wanted to say that the only ground for divorce is adultery, He could have easily done so; He uses the word for that in the very next verse. However by using the word porneia, which literally means 'indecent thing,' He was making the grounds for divorce much broader than is usually admitted by most in the conservative Christian community. While its focus is more often than not on illicit sexual practices, porneia is also used to denote abhorrent behavior of a more general type including things such as provoking the Lord to anger by distrust and murmuring, to an arrogant way of life, to such things as rebellion, witchcraft, and idolatry. In summary, the word essentially is used to classify the crimes that received the death penalty under the old covenant. 

What this means, therefore, is anything classified as a capital offense in the Bible, may be biblical grounds for divorce. (Notice, 'may be,' because the capital offenses don't necessarily require divorce, they simply allow for it.) Biblically, generally the only offense that required capital punishment, in all cases, was the act of murder. In all other instances in which there was a victim, the victim decided the punishment within the biblical perimeters - Again, the capital offenses in the Bible are the allowed divorceable offenses.

This is where Romans 7 comes into play and settles the dispute. Paul says in verse 1 that he's speaking to people who know the law. The law being referenced is the Mosiac law. From the law, he derives an analogy between the believer in relationship to the law, based on the permissibility of remarriage in the case of the death of a spouse. He says in verses 2 and 3, 
For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. 

The important thing for us to note, is the type of death Paul is referring to here is not physical death, but rather he refers in his analogy to covenantal death. Death is not primarily physical; it is primarily covenantal. When God told Adam and Eve that the day they eat of the forbidden fruit they would die, He was not mistaken: They did in fact die. They died covenantally to God by being excluded from His presence. Physical death came later as a result. The important thing for us to note, is that marriage is a covenant - a covenant that can be dissolved, not only through physical death, but through covenantal death as well, thereby allowing the surviving spouse to remarry. 

Now, let's apply this principle to the doctrine of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.  In 1 Corinthians 5, there is the famous case of incest within the Corinthian church. Paul says in verse 1,
 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles - that a man has his father's wife!  

Note the phrase 'sexual immorality.'  The word there once again is the same as used by our Lord Jesus; the word again is porneia, from which we get the word 'fornication.'  Here it is applied in the case of incest. 

Now notice what Paul says to do to the offender. He says in verses 4 and 5, 
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 

In other words, excommunicate him.

What's especially significant is the phrase Paul uses at the end of verse 13 to describe the excommunication. It is very important. Paul says at the end of 13, Therefore, 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'  If you have a reference Bible, you'll notice immediately that the phrase Paul uses is a quotation from the book of Deuteronomy. 

Those who advocate an 'adultery only' position as being the only acceptable grounds for divorce, fail to recognize that the laws of divorce and remarriage in the Old Testament were given alongside of a whole host of other laws stipulating the death penalty. What this means then, is that in ancient Israel there were a whole lot of laws that would have rendered the marriage bond broken as the result of the death of a spouse for committing a capital crime. Therefore, according to the apostle Paul in Romans 7, in the event of the death of a marriage partner, the spouse was free to remarry. 

Look at Deuteronomy 17.  This phrase is used there on numerous occasions and notice what it's used in reference to beginning with verse 6. 
Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you.  

Next look at verse 12. 
Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. 

Do you see how in both instances the phrase is used in regard to capital punishment? What this means then, is that the apostle Paul, in making the analogy, was equating the church's excommunication to be the judicial equivalent to execution by the state. The abused spouse has protection from the church. If her abuser will not repent of his sin, the church may excommunicate him, thus rendering him covenentally dead and freeing her to divorce and remarry.

The above is an all-too-brief summation of this position. For a more thorough exegesis on biblical grounds for divorce, I highly recommend Ray Sutton’s Second Chance: Biblical Principles of Divorce and Remarriage.

Paige Patterson has issued an apology for the pain his comments may have caused:
To all people I offer my apology, but especially to women, to the family of Southern Baptists, my friends and the churches. I sincerely pray that somehow this apology will show my heart and may strengthen you in the love and graciousness of Christ.

There is a secondary issue in this controversy. Some of the more vocal critics of Patterson are conflating Patterson’s comments with his position on complementarianism, which John Piper summed up as:

The intention with the word “complementarian” is to locate our way of life between two kinds error: on the one side would be the abuses of women under male domination, and on the other side would be the negation of gender differences where they have beautiful significance. This means that, on the one hand, complementarians acknowledge and lament the history of abuses of women personally and systemically, and the present evils globally and locally in the exploitation and diminishing of women and girls. And, on the other hand, complementarians lament the feminist and egalitarian impulses that minimize God-given differences between men and women and dismantle the order God has designed for the flourishing of our life together.
So complementarians resist the impulses of a chauvinistic, dominating, and abusive culture, on the one side, and the impulses of a sex-blind, gender-leveling, unisex culture, on the other side. And we take our stand between these two ways of life not because the middle ground is a safe place (which it is emphatically not), but because we think this is the good plan of God in the Bible for men and women. “Very good,” as he said in Genesis 1.

I wholeheartedly agree that Patterson’s comments were tone-deaf and I believe exegetically wrong. However, that doesn’t mean that everything Patterson teaches is wrong. Patterson also believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, the Immaculate Conception, and (more to the point of this issue) complementarianism. Several critics are attributing his poor comments to his support of complementarianism. To make that leap is to indulge in a logical fallacy sometimes referred to as “Affirming the Consequent”.  Here’s how it works:

Fallacy Ex:            Premise: Ducks are birds.   Premise: Ducks swim in the water. Premise: Chickens are birds. False Conclusion: Chickens swim in the water (Affirming The Consequent Fallacy:  not all birds swim in water; swimming is neither a necessary or sufficient condition to be the thing "bird")


Another way to put it: A occurred, then B occurred, therefore A caused B.


Or in the matter at hand:
Paige Patterson is a complementarian.
Paige Patterson made insensitive remarks about women.
Pastor So&So is a complementarian.
Pastor So&So is insensitive to women.

Complementarianism cannot be shown to be the cause of insensitive remarks, especially as other complementarian pastors have denounced Patterson’s statements.

This conflation of the two issues is seen in NPR’s reporting on the matter. And in a myriad of posts in the Twitterverse. Here are just a few samples:

“Matthew 7:16.The fruit of complementarianism has been a generation of oppressed & abused women in the church. Piper, Patterson, Grudem, have all said horrible things to or about women. The rest aren’t public figures. Women deserve equal say, rights, & opportunities in the world.” “If you are defending Paige Patterson or applauding his "apology," you are part of the problem known as #HowToEvangelical. His horrific attitudes towards women go back decades & he hasn't changed. We will #EmptyThePews of sexist complementarianism.”
 “For some of us the bad ending had a bad beginning. But the problem is not limited to Patterson. It's the misogynist culture fostered by complementarianism. Women have separate but equal status? Where have we heard that before? #TimesUpSBC


This conflation of Patterson’s remarks with the battle between the Complementarian and Egalitarian camps is fallacious and, I fear, purposely so as to advance a particular agenda. 


Friday, May 04, 2018

Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill ( Book Review)

    1940 set the cinematic stage for 2017 with "Dunkirk" and "Darkest Hour" together garnering five Oscars. Both of these films were outstanding in their ability to transport the viewer to this climatic moment in World War II. Gary Oldham's portrayal of Winston Churchill was masterful! In fact, Mr. Oldham's portrayal, which humanized this larger-than-life personality, created in me a desire to learn more about Winston Churchill. My hubby and I watched two outstanding BBC productions, "The Gathering Storm" and "Into the Storm"about the rise of Winston Churchill and his post-WW2 electoral defeat.

Now it was time to hit the books. It is quite appropriate that Churchill, the prodigious writer, would himself have a myriad of books written on his life, work, and witticisms. Unfortunately in many secular biographies, Churchill's brief agnosticism/atheism is portrayed as being the theme of his life when, in fact, Churchill's deep and abiding belief and desire for Christendom is what shape and molded the man who had such a profound impact on the 20th century and beyond.

Born into an affluent but cold family, Winston found an anchor in a faithful Christian nanny, Mrs. Everest, who brought affection and faith to the small, neglected boy.  This childhood faith would be tested and for awhile rejected during his Army days when he pursued self-education and read religious rationalism; however, his Army experience would also renew his faith as he saw Divine Providence in his escape from prison during the Boer War.

In Stephen Mansfield's "Never Give In: The Extraordinary Character of Winston Churchill" the reader is shown how the rejection, slights, challenges, and hurts Churchill faced during his formative years and beyond were crucial to creating who many have dubbed, the Greatest Man of the 20th Century.  Mansfield surveys Churchill's life in regard to that of his leadership. Included at the end of the book is a list of "Lessons of Leadership" from this remarkable man. Below are a few of these lessons, I highly recommend reading this book for the remainder.

  • Leadership is the power to shape the future.
  • Bitterness erodeds strong leadership; it anchors a leader to the past, distracting him from the promise of the future.
  • Biology need not be destiny.
  • A leader is often his own best teacher.
  • Overwhelming moral and physical courage is at the foundation of all great leadership.
  • To offer a people hope is to acquire a position of leadship in their lives.
  • Religious faith elevates leaders by freeing them from the cult of the contemporary.
  • The quality of a leader is often reflected in the quality of his marriage.
  • Leadership is not a popularity contest; criticism is part of the job.



Thursday, February 22, 2018

After Billy Graham

When news of Billy Graham's death spread, my Facebook feed became filled with friends asking the same question: "Who will be the next Billy Graham?" I've been thinking about this question too, but I keep having this nagging thought that perhaps we're all asking the wrong question.

I dearly loved Rev. Graham, partly because my Mom made a profession of faith under his preaching. I read his books, and admired and respected so very much about the man. In its coverage of his death, USA Today included this pretty dead-on descriptive quote:

"He was so real, he made Christianity come true," said Susan Harding, an anthropologist at the University of California-Santa Cruz. "He was homespun, historical and newsworthy all at once. He could span the times from Christ to today, from the globe to you, all in one sentence."

Billy Graham was a product of his time. He came to Christ in a tent revival and it was a natural progression for his ministry to find its expression in revivalist form. He could speak of God and Jesus and people understood to Whom he was referring. This is what gives me pause about the "next" Billy Graham. In 2018, does our world need a celebrity preacher? I wonder about this. We have plenty of "celebrity preachers" out there, I know, but none have achieved Graham's preeminence. I wonder if any really can.  Today, can we still speak of Jesus and be universally understood as to Whom we are referring or do we need to define our terms? Is it the Jesus who preached love and acceptance without judgment as presented by many popular authors and preachers today? Or, it is the Jesus of Scripture who declares exclusivity ("I am the Way") and requires followers submit to Biblical parameters in their lives?

In this post-Christian age, I honestly wonder if a revivalist is what is needed today. We no longer have a shared national experience that synthesizes us. It is really possible for one person to represent Christianity? Maybe in 2018 evangelism is better done in the trenches - person to person, neighbor to neighbor, coworker to coworker, and student to student. It may be that the way forward is not found in the successes of the past. Perhaps this is a moment when we need to reevaluate and be like the children of Issachar "who had an understanding of their times and knew what Israel ought to do" 
(1 Chronicles 12:32).

Monday, January 29, 2018

"The Way" to a Great Movie

My husband and I unwind at the end of each day with a glass of wine and half a movie, finishing it the next evening.  Our cinematic preferences encompass a wide range of genres from the latest blockbuster to the small-budget independent films. It is often the small-budget films that stay with us the longest. These movies are story driven with characters and dialogue that require thoughtful consideration.  The Way, written by Emilio Estevez and starring his father Martin Sheen, is precisely that kind of movie.

The premise, as described by IMDB, is simple and poignant: “A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the “El camino de Santiago,” and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.” The father [Tom] travels with his son Daniel’s ashes. It is a deeply moving movie interspersed with thoughtful dialogue and generously sprinkled comedic moments.  

Along the way, the lapsed Catholic Tom unwillingly acquires traveling companions Dutchman Joost, Canadian Sarah, and Irishman Jack. This unlikely foursome travel the El camino de Santiago, hurting and helping to heal one another along the way. Martin Sheen said of the movie, "Pilgrimage is structured so it takes you out of your comfort zone. You pack all the things you need and soon you realize it's too heavy and have to start unpacking. Then the transcendence starts on stuff you've packed in your interior life, and you begin opening those closets and cells and dungeons and letting all the people out you've been punishing all your life."

I’m a Protestant and was unfamiliar with this pilgrimage. I’m a conservative and thought I’d have little use for a movie written by the more liberal Estevez or his father. However, the movie presented to me an ecumenical window into the larger Christian community. Activist Sheen and I are diametrically opposed on most political issues, but we share an opposition to abortion and reverence for life. Politics aside, because of this movie I now see these men as fellow believers.

We return to The Way time and time again because the story is moving, the relationships real, and the community welcoming. It speaks of healing, forgiveness, acceptance, and love.  

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Some Thoughts on #MeToo

“Curious about your take on the #MeToo movement.”   

A friend sent me this question and below is my answer:

Conflicted. Forgive the long answer forthcoming:

By personal experience, I can use the #MeToo hashtag (as can most of my friends, young and old). For my generation, it was usually seen as the cost of operating in a man's world. I admire the courage of those putting careers at risk. I DO NOT admire actresses who glom on now after the fact, who stood by and allowed other women to be victimized.

The blame is not easily assigned. My home Baptist church was benignly misogynistic, interpreting "wives submit to husbands" as women submit to men in a dismissive and disrespectful manner. This is why I, as a conservative lady, fell into feminism in college - because of the disrespect I received in my "conservative" circle.

Good Christian men are often truly unaware of the abuse women receive in society because it is foreign to their character.

Feminism itself is culpable because it has debased the concept of womanhood. If a woman is as immoral and common as any man, why should they be held in esteem?

Finally, I don't consider a man whistling or cat-calling a woman abuse. Is it irritating? Sure (but if women are honest also weirdly flattering). Can it be abuse in some cases? Absolutely, if the woman feels threatened in the circumstance. I fear some women are categorizing insignificant instances as abuse and thus my conflict and why - at this point- I haven't added my #MeToo to the conversation.

One last thing, it obviously boils down to a lack of Christian teaching. Christ was the great emancipator of women. However, when every element of masculinity is attacked, even the good and noble elements, there will of course be a backlash.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Movie Review: The Intern - Everything Old Is New Again


My hubby and I finally got around to watching a movie released in 2015, The Intern, starring Robert DeNiro as Ben, a 70-year-old widower finding retirement unsatisfying and Anne Hathaway as Jules, the hard-charging founder of an online clothing site. Through a senior internship program, Ben is assigned to Jules, who is not at all interested in this social experiment.

What I enjoyed most about this movie is the depiction of class, dignity, and old-school work ethic aiding the Fish-out-of water  to swim elegantly in his new ocean. Ben's ignorance of technology is more than compensated for by his work and life experiences. We see a group of millenials being mentored as well as the baby-boomer happily embracing lifelong learning.

My husband noted how much we need wise older men/women and , regrettably, how often age does not equal wisdom. As I'm in my 50s, the comment prompted me to pause and assess what wisdom I could bring to my younger friends and what foolish tendencies I need to purge. I was reminded of Paul's exhortation to young pastor Titus:
     But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things - that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed.
     Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you
. [Titus 2:2-8 NKJV]
The movie has a definite feminist sensibility (which made the resolution rather puzzling to me). DeNiro plays an old-school gentleman that current generations of emales would love to see reemerge. What's particularly interesting is Jules scornful evaluation of the men of her generation:
Nobody calls men "men" anymore. Have you noticed? Women went from "girls" to "women." Men went from "Men" to "boys"? This is a problem in the big picture. Do you know what I mean?...How, in one generation, have men gone from guys like Jack Nicholson and Harrison Ford to...[looks at her male friends]...take Ben here. A dying breed. You know? Look and learn, boys. Because if you ask me, this is what cool is.
Our protagonist finds herself longing for the very old-school masculinity her feminism has helped to erode.  The Law of Unintended Consequences. The character of Ben really is charming; he is a true gentleman. [Note: Masculinity should never be confused with its cheap imitator machismo.]

Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway have wonderful chemistry. The secondary characters are believable and actually somewhat developed considering their limited screen tie.

Writer/director Nancy Meyer's The Holiday is watched every December in our house.  With The Intern, Meyers has added another movie to my favorites list.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Crazy for Cozy Mysteries

When it comes to fiction, my hubby says I don't read books as much as I devour them! With my current job, I often have an hour or two to read, albeit with lots of background noise. Thankfully, I  discovered the Cozy Mystery genre.

Usually written as a series, in a cozy mystery the sleuth is typically an intelligent, observant woman whose business finds her in various locations where a mysterious death occurs. The cast of characters are family, neighbors, friends, and other business owners in a small town and recur in each of the books. [Think: Murder, She Wrote or Nancy Drew] These are fun books I can usually finish off in two to three hours. Cozy mysteries typically also feature a romance and very little, if any, objectionable material. When purchased as an eBook, they are also very affordable. I have gotten books on eBook promotional sites for free or under $1, but usually they are under $10 and often under $5.

Nancy Drew's The Mysterious Mansion taught me about Persian rugs. I was introduced to falconry in the Hardy Boys' The Hooded Hawk Mystery. Cozy mysteries continue this education by offering up tidbits pertaining to the heroine's line or work or interest and sometimes offer recipes as well.  Here are some of my favorite series:

Raine Stockton Dog Mysteries by Donna Ball
     The first cozy series I read and probably still my favorite. Raine Stockton, formerly with Search and Rescue, finds herself investigating mysteries in her small North Carolina community located in the heart of the Smoky Mountains while navigating a complicated love life.
     I'm a dog lover and what I appreciate the most about Ball's writing is the way she captures the personality of animals. Cisco and the other canines are characters, while never being more than dogs.  Another plus: Balls writes like she has actually been to North Carolina and knows Southerners! Her books don't pile on southern stereotype. As a southerner myself, I recognize the traits and tendencies of her characters. As a side benefit, each book contains within the story helpful dog training tips.
     [While not mysteries, another charming series by Ms. Ball is the Lady Bug Farm books and the accompanying Hummingbird House books. These books feature well-developed characters and uplifting stories.]

Tourist Trap Mysteries by Lynn Cahoon
     Jill Gardner relocates to South Cove, California and opens Coffee, Books, and More. She is the business community liaison to the city council, which often puts her at odds with her nemesis, the major. Along with this and selling books, Jill gets involved in solving murders much to the dismay of her police officer boyfriend.
     This is a very close second to the Raine Stockton series. I read these books as much to catch up on the goings on in South Cove as for the mysteries.

Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mysteries by Karen Rose Smith
     Caprice De Luca is an aficionada of all things vintage and the owner of a home-staging business. The De Lucas are a tight-knit family and Caprice's siblings and other family members always play a role in the stories. This series is set in Pennsylvania.
     I'm not as big a fan of  the author's writing style as I am of the above authors, but Smith's stories have a wonderful sweetness to them. I have come to care about the De Lucas and look forward to a return visit with them in each book. As an added bonus, each book features recipes.

Caught Dead in Wyoming by Patricia McLinn
     Former big-time TV journalist Elizabeth "E.M." Danniher finds herself doing consumer protection stories for podunk KWMT-TV in Sherman, Wyoming after a messy breakup with her vindictive ex-husband, a powerful news executive. In between her "Helping Out!" segments, she finds herself investigating murders and juggling love interests while learning the ways of the West.
     After I finished the first book of the series, I quickly downloaded the other three and had read all four books within a week. This series caught my imagination and the characters won me over quickly. I am rooting for E. M. Danniher to get the best of her station's pompous anchor (a written version of Ted Baxter from the old Mary Tyler Moore series).

Mainely Needlepoint Mysteries by Lea Wait
     Angie Curtis returns to her hometown after her long-vanished mother's body is found.Another murder is tied to her mother's case and soon Angie is stitching together clues while working with the Mainely Needlepointers in her needlework business.  Set in the fictional mid-coastal town of Haven Harbor, Maine, the books' location is very picturesque. Plenty of needlework history and tidbits are woven into each story.

Hampton Home & Gardens Mysteries by Kathleen Bridge
     After a rough breakup with her fiance, Meg Barrett flees glamorous Manhattan and her job at a top home and garden magazine to the small to the small town of Montauk on the outskirts of the tony communities of the Hamptons where she begins Cottages by the Sea, an interior design business.  She soon finds herself in the middle of murder mysteries among the rich and famous.
     This new series (two books as of this writing) captured my attention quickly and I finished both books in short order, which means I now must twiddle my thumbs impatiently while waiting for the next entry.  Meg Barrett and her cohorts are fun characters and the location is intriguing. The books include interior design tips and recipes.

These are my favorite cozy series, but I'm always open to suggestions for new ones!