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.