Thursday, February 26, 2009

Perfect being Theology and Eastern Orthodoxy

In this post I will look at a modified Anselmian model of the Divine Essence. I will argue that this modified version is more reasonable than not and that it is wholly incompatible with the Eastern view of the Divine essence, thereby showing that Eastern Orthodoxy is necessarily false.

Here are some ontological arguments and then after I will briefly show how these are incompatible with the Eastern view of the Divine Essence:

The Three strongest ontological arguments:

The one that is falsely attributed to Anselm, but it is still valid and sound:

1) I can think of the greatest possible being (or I define God as the greatest possible being)

2) It is better to exist in reality and in thought than just merely in thought

3) Since the greatest possible being is the greatest then he will have everything that is better to have rather than not to have those great things

4) If the greatest possible being does not exist in reality and in thought then he is not the greatest possible being

5) The greatest possible being would not be the greatest possible being which is a contradiction

6) Therefore, The greatest possible being exists in reality and in thought and this is what we call God

Answering the most popular objection: It is often objected to this argument that just because I can think of the greatest possible thing doesn’t mean that it exists because I can think of the greatest possible Island, animal, house, or girl but that doesn’t mean that those things exists. The problem with this counter argument is it over looks the definition of God as being the greatest possible being. If God is the greatest possible being then he would have only those attributes that would be great to have rather than not have those attributes. One of those great making attributes is that God is entirely unique from the creation which is his creation is lesser than God in many ways. One of those ways in which his creation is lesser is that God is the only being that in his definition or nature there contains a claim of existence. In other words God would be better if he was the only being that could be shown to exist merely by contemplating him rather than not. Since God is the greatest possible being then he is the only being that could be shown to exist merely by contemplating him since this displays a great making property of God, namely his utter uniqueness from the lesser created things.

Here is my version of the argument:

P1: I can think of the greatest possible being (G*)

P2: It is better to be necessary iff one were G* rather than not

P3: G* entails that he will have every property that is better to have rather than not

P4: G* is necessary

C: Hence, G* exists and exists necessarily and we call this being God.

Here's Moreland’s formulation of the ontological argument:

1. A maximally perfect being possibly exists.

2. If a being is a maximally perfect being, it exists
in all possible worlds.

3. The actual world is a possible world.

4. Therefore, a maximally perfect being exists in the
actual world.

Now let's get to the incompatibility with this reasonable and ontologically robust view of the Divine Essence's with the Eastern view of The Divine Essence.

P1: A Essential feature of Eastern Orthodoxy is the rejection of God's existence

P2: Anselmian Perfect being theology demonstrates that God exists necessarily

C: Hence, Eastern Orthodoxy is essentially and necessarily false

The Divine Essence in Eastern Theology does not exist but it is not true that it doesn't exists (the way of negation), but in Anselmian perfect being theology God's essence exists because this is true by definition thus the eastern view is necessarily false since they believe that God's essence doesn't exist. Furthermore, The East doesn't think the Divine Essense is contigent or necessary, but on perfect being theology and philosophy (the second and third argument) the divine essence exists necessarily thus if one holds to perfect being theology he would be most reasonable in thinking that the conception of the Divine essence in Eastern Orthodoxy is necessarily false. From these conclusions it is more reasonable than not that eastern orthodoxy in necessarily false if one wants to think that God is the greatest possible being.

The Law and Gospel: Part 3

The Law and Gospel in New Covenant Preaching in Acts

If the law/gospel distinction is truly biblical and something we ought to preach then we should be able to find at least some form of it in the preaching of the Apostles. In this section we will look at two sections in the book of Acts that will support the preaching of the law and the gospel distinction in apostolic preaching.

The Law and Gospel in Acts 2:36-39

In the sermon in Acts 2:36-39 the Apostle Peter preaches the law and gospel. Peter starts out with the preaching of the law to his audience by condemning them for the cause of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as he says in verse in 36: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." What I mean by Peter preaching the law in this verse is that he using their sinfulness as a means of conviction so that they can be driven to Christ (the first use of the law). The first use of the law is evident from what is in the next in verse 37: “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter’s preaching that they had crucified the Lord has caused them to be convicted by their sin of rebellion against the anointed one. When they were convicted in heart for what they had done it produced in them a need to be saved from their sin. This is made evident by their need to ask the question to Peter and the other apostles: "Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter responds to this question with the answer of the Gospel in verses 38-39:

And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself."

There are three elements of the gospel that are emphasized in this statement. First, Peter tells them to be baptized in name of Christ for the forgiveness of their sins. Notice that Peter does not teach that fulfilling the law as a means by which they receive the forgiveness of sins. He just says that they just have to be baptized and repent, which these two actions can only occur if one has faith in Christ. Second, says that they will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This means that the Holy Spirit that is given to us is a gift or in Greek a dw/ron, which means that it is not based on our doing but rather on God who has grace. As Paul says concerning a dw/ron, in Ephesians 2:8 “kai. tou/to ouvk evx u`mw/n( qeou/ to. dw/ron\” Paul says that a gift is excluded from being based on anything pertaining to us. That is to say that it is not based on anything intrinsic on us but rather extrinsically on free graciousness outside of us. Thus, the gift of the Holy Spirit is pure gospel in its orientation because it is not based on obedience to the law. Lastly, Peter speaks to believers as having a promise to them and their children and to all those who are far off. This is referring to the “promise” in the Old Testament to Abraham, David and Noah that is of the covenant of grace (13:15; 17:7; Gal. 3:16; Ps. 18:50; 89:34; 132:11) that is now inherited by new covenant believers. As Paul points out elsewhere the promise has an antithetical relationship to the law and doing (Gal. 3:18). In Short, Peter communicates the Gospel in three different ways after he presents to his audience their condemnation through the first use of the law. There is other passages in Acts that also strongly suggest that Law and Gospel was conveyed in apostolic preaching.

The Law and Gospel in Acts 4:10-12

When Peter was preaching before the Jewish council in Acts 4:10-12 he preached the law in its first use and the gospel. Peter starts out by condemning them with the law with the egregious sin of murdering and rejecting Jesus Christ (4:10-11). Because Peter knows the sins they have committed specifically he does not have to preach the law in a general sense (in the general imperatival mood) so as to make one conscience of their own sin, but rather he tells the council the sin they have committed. Then he stress that there is no other way in which people are saved except through Jesus Christ, as Peter says in verse 12: And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." In this section Peter uses the condemnation of the law as a mean to point to salvation in Christ alone. Thus, it is clear from these sermons in Acts that the Law/Gospel distinction was preached by Apostles in the New Covenant.

Application to Preaching the Law and Gospel in the New Covenant

Now that we have established a firm theological foundation for the Law and Gospel in new covenant preaching we ought now to apply it to our preaching.

Preaching the first use of the Law and the Gospel

The law as preached in its first use is supposed to make the subjects we are preaching at to want the Gospel desperately. The law is to ct7ome first in preaching because without the law we would not even know why we would need the Gospel (Rom. 7:7) Furthermore, the more law we preach before we preach the Gospel the more the subjects realize how much they need the Gospel of grace (5:20). Furthermore, the preaching of the law can even increase transgression on those who do not take hold of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, just like the Mosaic Law increased transgression to drive us redemptive historically to the fulfillment of the promise: Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:20). The preaching of the Gospel may sound like a license to sin, but this is a natural reaction when people initially hear the first use of the law and the preaching of the Gospel. Michael Horton notes concerning the Gospel in Romans 6:1:“Paul asks in Romans 6:1, “”what shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?”” If the preaching of the gospel we have heard leads us to wonder whether we can dispense with the law altogether, then it has been correctly heard .” The Gospel is so antithetical in our preaching to the first use of the law that it should make one prima facie wonder whether we should just entirely abolish any type of commandments at all that are taught in the Bible. When we preach the first use of the law to our subjects this produces an enormous amount of guilt, but when we preach the Gospel to believing subjects they feel the grace of God in their life. This guilt and grace paradigm is essential for understanding the struggles in the believer’s life as well as the flow in the history of redemption.
It is the minister’s obligation to preach in some form the first use of the law and the gospel from the text or texts in which his sermon is based on. Paul as an Apostle and minister of the Gospel preached the entire counsel of God (Acts 20:27). At the same time Paul preached Christ and him crucified and desired to know nothing else but this fact (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2). Moreover, it seems with these two statements in scripture in mind that Paul preached the whole counsel of God and that he preached Christ Crucified suggests that each section of the word of God he preached in, he preached Christ through it. Furthermore, the reason why Christ came and died in the first place was because of sin which is exposed by the law (Rom. 7:7). In addition, the only way for the preaching of “Christ and him crucified” to make sense in history of redemption is if we know that we are sinful and in need of such a savior. The way we know we are sinful and we need such a savior is exposed through the preaching of the first use of the law. Lastly, speaking of the Savior Jesus Christ and him crucified is the core teaching of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-11). This is why the minister of the Gospel is obligated to preach the Law (in its first use) and the Gospel.

After the Gospel Preaching and the Third use of the Law

Once the minister preaches the Gospel the believer has gratitude toward God for saving him from his sins then the minister ought to employ the third use of the law. As defined previously this use of the law is the normative use of the commandments in scripture for Christian sanctification. This use helps to be the guide or aim for works of gratitude toward God. In preaching the first use of the law in conjunction with the Gospel may seem prima facie like the law the ought to be done away with entirely for the believers, but this is not so because the believer still need a guide by which to produce works of gratitude in sanctification (Eph. 2:10). If we are left with the first use of the law in preaching then we cannot make sense out of passages that ask us to observe the law like Romans 3:31: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” This verse ought to be understood as upholding the law in its third use for Christian sanctification . In light of the strong reason for Christians to uphold the law of God as aim of the sanctification the preacher ought to exhort believers in his congregation to have fruits of spirit as Paul does in Galatians 5:16. Paul also goes on to describe what the works of the flesh are and what the works of the spirit are (Gal. 5:19-24), likewise the preacher of the new covenant should preach what actions are fruits of the Spirit and which works are of the flesh, the world, and the devil. Moreover, the preacher should take the commandments in scripture and apply it to the believer’s circumstance so that they can walk according to the Spirit. By the believers circumstances I mean the time, place, and culture in which the preacher and his congregation are imbedded in. Thus, the third use of the law should be preached and applied to the believers so that they may walk according to the Spirit so that they can produce fruits.

In Conclusion

The Law and the Gospel is an important distinction for the Protestant Reformation as well as an important distinction for the modern day preacher of the New Covenant. As we have seen from our study to reject the law/gospel distinction is not only unbiblical, but it also does not make any sense. The law without the Gospel is legalism and despair. However, the gospel without the law is just as worse because there is no reason for the gospel without the law to expose sin. We have also seen that the Apostle Peter gave us examples of how to preach the law and the gospel. Lastly, we have seen that the Law can serve as guide to those who have been crucified with Christ and want to produce fruits of sanctification. Thus, the Law and Gospel is a essential distinction for any preacher of the New Covenant.


Arand, Charles P., and Joel D. Biermann. Ap 2007. Why the two kinds of righteousness? Concordia Journal. 33 (2):123.

Bruce, F.F. Commentary on The Book of The Acts. Grand Rapids, Michigan, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1973.

Clark, Scott. Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry New Jersey, P&R Publishing: 2007.

Horton,Michael. (Fall 2002). Law, gospel, and covenant: reassessing some emerging antitheses. Westminster Theological Journal. 64(2), 279-287.

Horton, Michael. God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology Grand Rapid, Baker Books: 2006.

Karlberg, M. W. (Spr 1981). Justification in redemptive history. Westminster Theological Journal. 43(2),

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Law and Gospel: Part 2

The Biblical Data that supports Law and Gospel

Now that we have taken a look at dogmatics of law and gospel we should explore the biblical foundations for the law and the gospel because if it is not found in God’s word then it is not worth preaching at all.

The Law: Its Uses and Nature in Scripture

My contention is that general characteristics in the Reformed understanding of law are found in the biblical data including the first and third uses of the law. The law of God is a reflection of the Holy character of God and thus requires perfection as is clearly taught in Matthew 5:48: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If one violates the law at one point then he has broken all of it (James 10:10-12). Thus, the scriptures clearly teach that the law requires as the Westminster confession says “perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience” (WCF 7.2; WLC 20, 93) and it is Holy because it is a reflection of the nature of God. In addition, the law is revealed to everyone, even those who lack special revelation, but have general revelation (Rom. 2:12-15). The law also points out our sin and misery and our desperate need for a savior (Rom. 3:20). The scriptures even go so far as to say that the law produces more sin in us as it says in Romans 5:20 “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased”. In light of these consideration it seems that pedagogical use of the law is taught clearly in scripture (Romans 3:10-12 ,3:19, 4:15, 5:13 ,7:5, 7:7, 7:12-13). Now that we have been shown to be dead in our sins by the law we can now be redeemed and live to God out of gratitude for what he has done for us and follow the law as a norm (Gal. 2:19-20). For all believers that are justified by faith are required to follow the law in its third use as Paul teaches us in Romans 3:31: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” Thus, it seems that given the biblical data we are warranted in believing in the third use of the law as well as the rest of the teaching concerning the law in the Reformed tradition.

The Gospel: A Free Gift

My contention is that the Gospel taught in the Bible is the Gospel of the Reformation of a free gift to be received by faith alone through grace alone on the basis of Christ’s righteousness. We receive what God has given to us as a gift by grace and faith as Paul says in Ephesians 2:8 “by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” Paul teaches in Ephesians that this is not of our own doing at all. Moreover, he teaches that this gift we have received righteousness not from us or anything we have done but by faith in Christ as he states in Philippians 3:9 “be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith”. This righteousness is from Christ and his obedience by fulfilling the law and giving to us as an unconditional gift by his free grace (Rom. 5:15; 8:1-4) . God gave us his righteousness and he took up the punishment of sin on the cross so that we can receive his gracious gift as Paul teaches in 2 Corinthians: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Moreover, another key point of the Gospel is that God out of his grace sent his son into the world to redeem us from the law so that we might become adopted sons and receive Christ’s benefits through faith alone (Gal. 4:4-5). Thus, it seems that the Bible is covered with the Gospel message of the Reformation (Rom. 3:20-31; 5:1-5; Gal 3:6-9).

The Relationship between Law/Gospel

In this section we will look at the relationship between the law and the gospel in the Reformed tradition and how that tradition is established by the word of God.
The Relationship of Law and Gospel in the Reformed Tradition

There are two antithetical hermeneutical moods that one ought to read the scriptures with in the Reformed tradition; they are the Law and Gospel. As I have mentioned in passing above the relationship between law and gospel to us is antithesis. As Dr. Scott Clark notes about the law/gospel distinction in the mind of the Reformed Scholastic Wollebius “They differ in their “proper material” (propria material). That is, the stuff of gospel is not the stuff of law. The law is about our “doing” (facienda), and the gospel is about our “believing” (credenda) .” Dr. Clark is emphasizing that the essential fundamental difference between law and gospel is that the gospel asks us to believe and the law asks us to do . This is why the distinction can also be seen as the antithesis between faith and works. However, Dr. Clark does note that the Law and Gospel are only antithetical to us as sinners but to God they are not antithetical . In other words, he is trying to say that the law/gospel distinction is analogous to the doctrine of divine simplicity, there may be distinctions to us as creatures, but to God it is all one; these creaturely distinctions are called “relative distinctions” . Beza thought that if one did not know the fundamental distinction between law and Gospel as two parts then this would lead to the corruption of Christianity . The Reformed antithesis between law and gospel are essential moods but there are other ways to view and express these moods in scripture.

The law and gospel distinction can be also seen as the antithesis between law and promise-fulfillment or between a covenant of works and a covenant of grace. Reformed theologians like Ursinus explained the distinction between law and gospel in language of the covenant of works and the covenant of grace . In other words, the covenant of grace is on an entirely different attitude than the covenant of works . The reason why they are different principles is because the law does contain promises but they are largely legal; they are based on our doing and following the conditions set before us . Whereas the Gospel or the covenant of grace is not based on our doing but based on Christ’s doing and we receiving this promise by faith alone. As Scott Clark Rightly points out about the relationship between the law/gospel distinction and covenant theology in the thinking of the Reformed theologian Ursinus:

“Ursinus’s construal of the law/gospel distinction would seem to make impossible any disjunction between covenant theology and the law/gospel hermeneutic. In other words, if we follow Ursinus, to preach covenantally is to preach the law (relative to justification) and the gospel as two distinct principles .”

It seems then that our covenant theology is going to be intimately connected to a Reformed conception of the law and the gospel distinction. Moreover, other Reformed theologians like Michael S. Horton also believe that there is a link between this intimate relation between covenant theology as it relates to the law gospel distinction . He writes “….law and gospel are distinguished and even opposed whenever we mean by these terms a covenant of law and a covenant promise .” In this quotation the law/gospel distinction are defined in terms of covenant theology and thus reinforces the close connection between law/gospel and covenants of grace and works. In lights of these considerations this seems to suggest that the law/gospel distinction is linked and grounded in the distinction between the covenant of works and grace.

The Law/Gospel distinction in Scripture

The law gospel distinction of antithesis is grounded in the scriptural distinctions between works/law and faith/promise. In Romans 3:21-23 Paul makes a distinction between the righteousness of God through faith in Christ and the law which has righteousness apart from this. In Romans 3:27 Paul makes a starker distinction when he says “Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.” The Greek word here for “law” as used two times in this verse is no,moj and is probably best translated as principle or rule. The reason why it would not be best to translate no,moj as a command from the moral law of God or from the Torah is because faith is called a no,moj and faith is being contrasted with works in this verse. Moreover, above in the previous context (Rom. 3:21-26) Paul contrasts faith and works so that it would not make sense if he was using no,moj in this way because he would be contradicting himself in this verse. Thus, if we take Paul use of no,moj as a principle or as a rule then Paul would be teaching two distinct principles in the word of God: works and faith. This is nearly a decisive argument for the law/gospel distinction but there are other strong biblical arguments.

However, there are other strong biblical arguments throughout the writings of New Testament. In Galatians 3:18 Paul contrast between Law and Promise “For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.” Paul’s contrast is so stark that he argues that to even think that the inheritance came through law would exclude any notion of promise. This point is also reemphasized in the book of Romans as well as it relates to the promise of Abraham through faith and not through the law (Romans 4:13-16).
Another strong argument for the law/gospel distinction is found in the combined force of Romans 10:5-13 and Galatians 3:10-14. Romans 10:5 Paul argues that the righteousness based on the law is “that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.” Paul is saying here that a person who lives by the law is the righteousness based on the law. He contrasts this verse 6-13 with the righteousness by faith that does not find it’s righteousness in doing but rather believing and confessing. As it says in verse 9 “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Here Paul is contrasting this believing with the righteousness based on the law in verse 5 . A similar line of biblical teaching is reinforced in Galatians 3:10-14 when Paul understands works of the law (e;rgwn no,mou) as a curse because “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them (v.10).” Thus the e;rgwn no,mou requires perfect obedience in all of God’s commandments or else a curse. Verse 12 Paul indicates a clear contrast between the law and faith when he says “But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them."” Paul is teaching that faith is not the same thing as the law because the law is about living by the commandments perfectly, whereas faith is just about “believing”. In verse 14 Paul concludes that we received the promised Spirit and the benefits of Christ through faith which is contrary to the law, as Paul says “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” These sections in the scriptures strongly support a robust law/gospel antithesis but the scriptures use different language like law and faith or belief in place of the law and gospel. This does not suggest that the law/gospel distinction is somehow unbiblical because the precise language is not found in scripture. If someone thought this was a legitimate criticism of the Reformed law/gospel distinction then to be consistent they ought to give up the doctrine of the trinity since the word trinity is never used in the Bible. What is important for a doctrine to be biblical is not that the precise wording is in the Bible but that the content and concepts are taught in the word of God.


Arand, Charles P., and Joel D. Biermann. Ap 2007. Why the two kinds of righteousness? Concordia Journal. 33 (2):123.

Bruce, F.F. Commentary on The Book of The Acts. Grand Rapids, Michigan, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1973.

Clark, Scott. Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry New Jersey, P&R Publishing: 2007.

Horton,Michael. (Fall 2002). Law, gospel, and covenant: reassessing some emerging antitheses. Westminster Theological Journal. 64(2), 279-287.

Horton, Michael. God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology Grand Rapid, Baker Books: 2006.

Karlberg, M. W. (Spr 1981). Justification in redemptive history. Westminster Theological Journal. 43(2),

Moo, Douglas. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company: 1996.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Law And The Gospel: Part 1


(This is a paper I wrote for a class at Westminster Seminary California. The research and citations of this paper are largely based off of Dr. Scott Clark's work on the Law-Gospel distinction in the book Covenant, Justification, And Pastoral Ministry: Essays by the Faculty of Westminster Seminary California.)

In today’s contemporary mainline and evangelical churches one finds a large dose of moralism and legalism. This legalism is without Christ and is just preaching steps of self-help so that people can feel good about themselves. If these churches preached from the word of God in a way that makes sinners need the cross of Christ and produce fruits from their gratitude then they would escape their error of legalism and positive thinking preaching. This is why preaching is so important for Christ’s church. If one does not know how to preach correctly and biblically then he will cause much error and confusion in the flock of God. One of the ways to avoid such an error is preaching the law and the gospel correctly. In this paper I plan to define, defend, give examples of and apply the Reformed and Lutheran use of the law and gospel distinction in New Covenant preaching. I plan on doing this by first giving a definition of the law and gospel and defending these definitions biblically. Furthermore, the antithesis between law and gospel shall be defined and argued for textually. Then I will give two examples of how the law and the gospel were preached by the Apostles. Lastly, I shall give an application of the different uses of law and the gospel in preaching to the New Covenant community.

Defining Law and Gospel

In this section I will define law and gospel as they are used theologically in the Reformed and Lutheran tradition so that we may have an understanding by what I mean when I use these terms, which will help me to avoid equivocation.

The Law in the Reformed/Lutheran systematic theology

This paragraph seeks to explore the meaning of the law in the Reformed/Lutheran tradition. The law is a principle that refers to anything that God commands of us. Moreover, anything that is in God’s revelation that is in the imperative mood is law . In other words anything that requires us to perform a given action or not to perform a given action is law. According to the Westminster confession of faith the law requires “perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience” (WCF 7.2; WLC 20, 93). In are fallen state this standard is impossible to fulfill and this led Martin Luther to say this of the law:

“Law is a word of destruction, a word of wrath, a word of sadness, a word of grief, a voice of the judge and the defendant, a word of restlessness, a word of curse…Through the law we have nothing except an evil conscience, a restless heart, a troubled breast because of our sins, which the law points out but does not take away. And we ourselves cannot take it away .”

The reason why Luther speaks so negatively of the law is because of its standard of perfection that we as creatures that are dead in our sin have to fulfill perfectly. This seems impossible and thus the law as viewed in this context only causes the despair that Luther speaks of above. Another important element about the law is that it is revealed in nature to unbelievers so that all men are condemned before God . The law is for believers a standard to live by once they have been justified by faith, since the law is intrinsically holy and is a reflection of God’s holy character . Lastly, the law ultimately brings God glory . Thus, there are many complex elements of the law, but for clarity sake they can be categorized into three uses in the new covenant.

The Three uses of the Law in the New Covenant

There are three ways that the law is used correctly in the new covenant . The first use of the law is called the pedagogical use of the law . This use of the law exposes our sin as utterly sinful and condemns us before a Holy God. Moreover, this use of the law drives us to Christ because it makes us realize how much we need him to save us from our sin . The second use of the law is called the civil use of the law . This use of law applies to unbelievers as well because unbelievers have the certain aspects of the law in their heart. This makes the unbeliever “think twice” about doing something morally outrageous because of the penal sanctions in the city of man The third use of the law is called the normative use . This use of the law is the “norm” for the believer who has been justified by faith. In other words, this use of the law gives us guidelines for sanctification . This use of the law is only for the believer because the curse and condemnation of the law is removed and the believer feels gratitude because of this and wants to produce good works . These are three uses of the law, but since this is a paper on preaching the law and the gospel we are only going to be concerned with the pedagogical use and the normative use.

The Gospel in Reformed and Lutheran Systematic Theology

This paragraph seeks to explore the meaning of the gospel in the Reformed/Lutheran tradition. The Gospel in a principle in the scriptures that refers to anything that God has accomplished for us. The Gospel is only in special revelation and it is usually in the indicative mood, that is to say it refers to things that have been already done for us . The Gospel is about believing and it is by this believing that we are able to obtain the merits of Christ. As Theodore Beza put it concerning the Gospel “We call Gospel the Good News, which, from the beginning, and by his grace and mercy alone, God has announced to his Church: those who, by faith, embrace Jesus Christ shall partake of eternal life in him (Rom. 3:21, 22; John 6:40) .” As Beza points out in this quotation, the Gospel is made up of the grace and mercy of God which he uses as faith as the instrument to partake in eternal life. Luther himself describes the Gospel as:

“gospel is a preaching of the incarnate Son of God, given to us without any merit on our part for salvation and peace. It is a word of salvation, a word of grace, a word of comfort, a word of joy, a voice of the bridegroom and the bride, a good word, a word of peace .”

In this quotation Luther seems to see the gospel as primarily something that is wonderful to hear preached and the content of that preaching is the Son of God and that the salvation that is given to us is not based on our merit whatsoever. The Gospel is a promise that came to actuality by Christ’s passive and active obedience that is transferred to us by the sole instrument of faith through grace. The Gospel is us with empty hands before a Holy God as he fills our hands with a free gift of imputed righteousness. Thus, the Gospel has many elements to it, but a central one is that it is a gift that is given to us by someone else’s work and merit; Jesus Christ’s merit.


Arand, Charles P., and Joel D. Biermann. Ap 2007. Why the two kinds of righteousness? Concordia Journal. 33 (2):123.

Bruce, F.F. Commentary on The Book of The Acts. Grand Rapids, Michigan, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1973.

Clark, Scott. Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry New Jersey, P&R Publishing: 2007.

Horton,Michael. (Fall 2002). Law, gospel, and covenant: reassessing some emerging antitheses. Westminster Theological Journal. 64(2), 279-287.

Horton, Michael. God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology Grand Rapid, Baker Books: 2006.

Karlberg, M. W. (Spr 1981). Justification in redemptive history. Westminster Theological Journal. 43(2),

Moo, Douglas. The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company: 1996.

A note to the reader: This is part 1 but the bibliography is for all three parts of my paper.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Is Reformed Theology Pelagian?

Perry Robinson in his recent blog post on Energetic Procession has argued that Classical Reformed Protestant theology is inherently Pelagian.

Perry’s blog post can be found here.

Perry of course grants that there are aspects of Reformed theology that are not Pelagian, but Perry charges that the Reformed conception of anthropology and the covenant of works are Pelagian. In this blog post I will argue that the Reformed conception of man and the covenant of works pre-fall are not Pelagian and that the Catholic and Eastern view of man pre-fall is unreasonable.

First let us look at some quotes where Perry charges that the Reformed are Pelagian, he writes:

Adam was then perpetually under a “covenant of works” since he intrinsically possessed the requisite power to fulfill it. This is why incidentally the Reformed doctrine of the Covenant of Works is essentially Pelagian.

And again he writes:

And historically, the neo-semi-pelagian anthropology of the Ockhamist school trickled down on this point to the Reformers. The obvious irony is that the Protestant protestation against Pelagianism is directly applicable to their own theological system. Providing as a foundation for the Pelagian scheme an Augustinian soteriological doctrine of divine pre-emption doesn’t make the fundamental outlook any less Pelagian.

The standard definition of Pelagianism is this:

A concept proposed by Pelagius (circa 356 to circa 418) who denied the existence of original sin inherited from Adam. He taught that a soul created by god cannot inheret sin from an ancestor. Thus humans are born morally neutral. They can fall into habits of sin but can overcome sin through mental effort. He promoted adult baptism in place of infant baptism. His beliefs were declared heretical by the Christian movement.

The fundamental mistake that Perry Robinson is making here according to R. Scott Clark in his class lectures on Reformed Scholasticism is that the whole discussion of Pelagianism with respect to grace has to do with man after the fall. Perry is illegitimately expanding the definition of Pelagianism.

This is obvious when one reads the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Errors of Pelagianism:

1) Even if Adam had not sinned, he would have died.
2) Adam's sin harmed only himself, not the human race.
3) Children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall.
4) The whole human race neither dies through Adam's sin or death, nor rises again through the resurrection of Christ.
5) The (Mosaic Law) is as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel.
6) Even before the advent of Christ there were men who were without sin.
On account of these doctrines, which clearly contain the quintessence of Pelagianism, Caelestius was summoned to appear before a synod at Carthage (411); but he refused to retract them, alleging that the inheritance of Adam's sin was an open question and hence its denial was no heresy.

Thus, we see that the Reformed accept neither of 1 through 6 because the whole discussion of Pelagianism with respect to grace is post-fall and not pre-fall.

However, when Perry tries to argue that the Reformed share similar views to Pelagius on human nature pre-fall, he specifically argues that we believe like Pelagius that human nature pre-fall is intrinsically naturally righteous and able to fulfill the commands of God’s covenant, the covenant of works that is. Perry is right about this, but this does not make us Pelagian, that just means that we share a view with Pelagius. I am sure Perry shares views with Pelagius as well, like he has two arms and that he is a male, but this does not make Perry a Pelagian. If he tries to argue that this view of human nature leads one to Pelagianism then he is wrong because the Reformed are obviously not soteriologically Pelagian. If he tries to argue that if one shares a view with Pelagius that is not condemned as a Heresy by a council but that the Orthodox do not share, then he is begging the question because he is assuming in the argument that the Reformed are Heretics and that the Orthodox position is not (which is what the post was intending to prove, that the Reformed are Heretical on this point).

But it is worse than this because the Catholic and Orthodox position on human nature pre-fall is actually unbiblical and philosophically flawed.

The author of Genesis says that all of God’s creation is good:

Genesis 1:31 "And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

If everything that God created is good then the Reformed are right to think that human nature is good in the pre-fall circumstances.

But there are other philosophical problems with the non-Reformed position. Why would God create human nature defective so that it would need grace? If God is the greatest possible being then it seems that it would be better for him to create human nature intrinsically good rather than not. Thus, it seems that the non-Protestant position on this is unreasonable and that Perry's arguments have failed because he is using an incorrect definition of Pelagianism.

Finally, If anyone is Pelagian in this whole mess then it is Perry, who is a Eastern Orthodox. This is because Eastern Orthodox reject the imputation of Adams sin to us. In short, they reject original guilt just like Pelagius. Catholics are also Pelagian because they reject sufficient grace just like Pelagius. If anyone is not Pelagian it are those who hold to the Classical Reformed Protestant position which accepts the imputation of Adams sin to us and sufficient grace.

Works Cited:



Friday, February 20, 2009

Is Natural Law Biblical?

This Blog is a response to Danny Pelichowski's post on his Blog theological sharpening. His original post can be found here. Danny critiques the concept of Natural Law as being unbiblical. I will respond to Danny and argue that his critique is incorrect.

Danny thinks this about natural law:

"The concept of “natural law” is the most prominent error in this discussion. Dr. John Frame proclaims that “…the idea that there is some impersonal mechanism called “nature” or “natural law” that governs the universe is absent from the Bible.”[8] According to the Scriptures God is providentially ruling over his creation and has not set up impersonal laws to govern the world as Aquinas and his mentor Aristotle would have us believe. Due to the prominence of this belief in our modern culture it would take a great deal to overthrow the theory of “natural law,” However, for Protestants the absence of the concept of “natural law” in divine revelation should be more than sufficient to reject it as false."

The first mistake that I think Danny makes is by defining natural law in a incorrect way. Natural law is simply the belief that the moral law is made know to the conscience of all mankind. This moral law can be from God's nature and commandments and thus it does not necessarily entail some sort of impersonal mechanisms at all. It could be written on the hearts and conscience of all mankind by the God of the Bible, YHWH.

But I think worst of all is that Danny thinks that natural law is not biblical. But one wonders how he might deal with the clear teachings of scripture on this. Specifically Saint Paul's Letter to the Romans:

Romans 2:14-15 "14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them"

What Paul describes here is precisely how I defined natural law and thus I conclude that Natural Law is biblical.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

On The Wrath Of God

This post will largely be a response to another blog post written by Father Stephen Freeman at his blog Glory To God For All Things. Father Freeman attempts to address the question of God's wrath from an Orthodox perspective, arguing that God is not actually "wrathful" toward anyone in the way Protestants (and Catholics) have tradtionally thought. In this post I will respond to Father Freeman's arguments and attempt to defend the traditional Protestant view of the Wrath of God.

Father Freeman sets the tone of his post by beginning with this Scripture passage:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, "Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?" But he turned and rebuked them.
-Luke 9:51-55

(Father Freeman's quotation of this verse includes the phrase "and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of", which is included in the ESV only as a textual variant in a footnote. For the purpose of this post, I will grant Father Freeman that his citation is correct)

He goes on to juxtapose this passage with another one:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming
-Colossians 3:5-6

Now Father Freeman says, "A legitimate question has to be: has the Spirit “of which we are” changed between Luke 9 and Colossians 3? Or is there a deeper understanding at work?" He then argues that the revelation of Christ in the Gospels must be the definitive revelation of God, not the Old Testament or even the Epistles.

Let me just stop here and make one comment. Even if this were so (and I'm not saying it is or it isn't), this seems a bit simplistic to me. Surely the Old Testament must be interpreted in light of the New, but why shouldn't we allow there to be some interplay between the Gospels and Epistles? Part of the reason the Orthodox interpret the Resurrection of Christ in the way that they do is because of Paul's teaching on it. The only thing the Gospels tell us explicitly is that Jesus was dead and then he was alive again. The interpretation of those events is in large measure left up to Paul and others.

Moving on, Father Freeman responds to a potential objection, saying, "Of course my citation of Luke 9 is often countered with, “What about the moneychangers in the Temple?” To which I can only say that He “drove them out with a whip” which is not the same thing as saying that Christ beat them, nor did He call down fire from heaven to consume them."

This seems to miss the point. The discussion is not about specific instances of judgement or types of punishment, it's about (speaking anthropomorphically) an emotive stance or attitude of God toward sin. Was Jesus angered by what the moneychangers were doing? Did he drive them out by force? Was he whistling and smiling as he did it? This is an important matter that the Father dismisses too quickly.

Father Freeman continues:

For various reasons, some people are determined to make the economy of salvation to be linked with the Wrath of God. If you do not repent, then God will do thus and such… I have always considered this representation of the gospel to be coercive and contrary to the love of God. I have heard convoluted ways in which this wrath is interpreted to be “the loving thing to do” but I do not buy it.

At this point, and for the remaining few paragraphs of the article, Father Freeman, in my opinion, totally side-steps the issue in favor of a discussion of God's love and how we present the gospel to others. Whether or not we can make the gospel sound "coersive" is not the issue. What the Bible actually says about the wrath of God is the issue. Of course, dispensing wrath upon sin is not so much the "loving" thing to do as it is the just thing to do, but Father Freeman neither engages with nor argues against either of these positions, so I can't respond to him on that point.

Of the use of "wrath" in the Bible, Father Freeman says, "The common witness within Orthodox Tradition is that the wrath of God is a theological term which describes not God Himself, but a state of being in which are opposed to God." I have never understood the argument that the phrase "wrath of God" is not referring to God's wrath, nor have I seen convincing arguments that clear instances of judgement in Scripture are not really judgement. But again, Father Freeman provides no Scripture passages or arguments here.

So let's engage Father Freeman's original question. Has the Spirit “of which we are” changed between Luke 9 and Colossians 3? What is this Spirit?

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."
-Romans 12:19

Here I think we see a clear example of what Father Freeman might have in mind. We are not to be, as the Apostles in Luke 9 were, seeking after vengence. We could say that we ought not have a vengeful spirit. But why? In this passage, Paul tells us why. Because vengence belongs to God. This is extremely important. Paul here not only tells us not to be vengeful or wrathful, but he grounds that command in the fact that God is the one who is wrathful and vengeful. God alone can execute judgement perfectly against the wicked, so we should not attempt to do so. Far from being some kind of horrid doctrine that is "not worthy of the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ" (in Father Freeman's words), the doctrine of the retributive wrath of God is used by Paul to ground a very "Christ-like" attitude of charity and forgiveness toward others (the very attitude that Father Freeman assumes will be threatened by such a doctrine).

It is also important to note that the phrase "wrath of God" here is explicitly connected with vengence and the Lord's active "repayment" for wickedness. There can be no doubt here of what "wrath" Paul is speaking of.

Father Freeman concludes:

It is very difficult in our culture, where the wrathful God has been such an important part of the gospel story, to turn away from such portrayals - and yet it is necessary - both for faithfulness to the Scripture, the Fathers, and the revelation of God in Christ.

On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly more rare to hear any Christian preacher in America (at least among Evangelicals) even mention the wrath of God, let alone consider it an important part of the gospel story. Not only does the Emergent movement show us this, but the flight among evangelical youth to Eastern Orthodoxy does as well. "Postmodern" America is not the sort of culture that looks kindly upon a perfectly Holy and Just God who follows through on His promises to punish sin by His wrath. That is why it is so important to stand firm on the teachings of the Bible, and not be swayed by the opinions of men.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sola Scriptura

Often times Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologists object to the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura on the grounds that it is not found in scripture. That is, they argue that this is a self-refuting proposition because the phrase “scripture alone” is itself not in scripture. In this blog post I plan to give a correct definition of Sola Scriptura that avoids these misunderstandings and then I intend on giving Biblical arguments for this definition of Sola Scriptura.

This is what Sola Scriptura means According to Protestant Reformed scholar Dr. W. Robert Godfrey:

“The Protestant position, and my position, is that all things necessary for salvation and concerning faith and life are taught in the Bible clearly enough for the ordinary believer to find it there and understand.”

We can see by this definition that there is no contradiction here because the Bible clearly teaches this proposition in 1 Timothy 3:16:

“16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

This verse teaches the sufficiency of scripture for faith and practice. It also seems implicit within this text that if scripture can by itself equip every person for every good action then it seems that we would have to individually understand it. This is not the only text that teaches Sola Scriptura, there are two other texts that I believe imply this doctrine.

1 Corinthians 4:6 6 I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another.

Paul is teaching that the Corinthians not ought to be judgmental and puff themselves with arrogant pride rather they are to be submissive to what is written and not to go beyond it. If this holds true when Paul is saying this to a church in the first century when the Holy Apostles were alive, then how much more should we follow this principle when there is no more living apostles? This is what Reformed Theologian Michael Horton has argued in his class lectures. If Paul is arguing not to go beyond what is written then it is clear that Scripture is necessary for all things pertaining to our salvation, practicing our faith and he is also presupposing in this that we can understand what is written in Holy Scripture.

Acts 17:11 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

In this text, Luke is saying that it was a noble thing that the individual believers were themselves examining the scripture to see if what Paul the Apostle had been saying was true. This shows that it is a noble task to even check the scriptures even against a Holy Apostle. If that was true then, then it would be true today when there are no more Apostles. This shows that individual believer can sufficiently understand and interpret the things in scripture because Luke says this is a noble task if they were getting everything wrong by their individual interpretations then it certainly would not be noble.

In Conclusion:

Therefore, I believe to have shown two things from this post: 1) The definition of Sola Scriptura is coherent contra Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox apologist and 2) this definition is biblical derived.

Works Cited:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Theology Of Gender: Part Three

Part III:
Men And Women In Church Ministry

By far the most hotly debated aspect of the larger gender debate is typically referred to as the question of “women in ministry.” Despite the fact that many more Christians are in a marriage relationship than are engaged in some form of ministry, and thus it would seem more practical to focus on the Biblical view of men and women in marriage, there is no doubt that the primary focus of both egalitarian and complementarian writers is on the Biblical view of men and women, specifically of women, in church ministry. Therefore, this will be the longest section of my paper, as I attempt to wrestle with three extremely difficult passages (1 Corinthians 11 and 14, and 1 Timothy 2), weigh the exegetical arguments from both sides for each passage, and attempt to determine whether or not a clear picture of the place of men and women in ministry emerges from the sum of the Bible’s teachings.

One final word by way of introduction. The primary focus of this section will be to answer the question, “Does the Bible teach that women can hold positions of leadership over men in the church?” As such, I will devote little if any space to addressing all of the ministry positions open to women other than those involving leadership over men. It should be noted briefly, however, that the offices of pastor and elder are a minority in church ministry, and just in the sense of sheer numbers there are far more ministry positions open to women than would be closed to them on a complementarian view. Also, many of these positions are of vital importance to the church (and, as I will discuss in my conclusion, they are all of equal importance to leadership positions). Thus, even if the complementarian view is the one that emerges with the strongest Biblical support, we should not forget the vital importance of women, along side of men, in advancing the cause of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11

There are many difficulties in interpreting this passage. For one thing, just as with 1 Corinthians 7, we don’t have the letter from the Corinthians to which Paul is here responding. It is also unclear as to what specific practice Paul is encouraging. We know that it involves women covering their heads in some manner, presumably as a sign of respect or of gender distinction, but beyond that the text reveals nothing. However, I believe that if we simply trace Paul’s argument from beginning to end, the text gives us enough information to make a reasonable conjecture as to Paul’s intended meaning, and therefore the enduring principle that will apply to Christians today.

Paul prefaces his argument in verses 4 – 16 with a metaphorical statement regarding “headship.” He says that Christ is the head of man, man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ. Immediately following this statement he begins his argument, saying that if a man prays or prophesies with his head covered, he dishonors his “head.” Likewise, if a woman prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, she dishonors her “head.” Both Gordon Fee and Thomas Schreiner agree that Paul is probably playing on his metaphorical use of head in verse 3 to give his statements a double meaning. The man who prophesies with his head uncovered not only disgraces his own head, but also his metaphorical head, Christ. This reading is also supported when Paul says later, in verse 14, that if a man has long hair “it is a disgrace to him”. In the same way, a woman who prophesies with her head uncovered not only disgraces herself, but also her metaphorical head, the man.

The question is, what meaning does Paul have in mind when he uses “head”? Gordon Fee argues that “source” is likely in this passage because of the later reference (verse 8) to Eve coming from the man. He also appeals to two early church fathers, John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria, who interpreted the metaphor in that way. However, he also points out that this is the first time Paul uses the head metaphor in his letters, and here it is used without any connection or reference to the body.

In light of these observations, I feel that the meaning of “source” is far more unlikely than “authority.” As noted earlier, Wayne Grudem’s research on the meaning of “head” in the Greek literature of the time should help to inform our understanding. In Ephesians 5, the use of “head” in conjunction with the body metaphor made it easier to argue that Paul had a meaning like “source of provision” in mind. But without the body metaphor here, and no previous uses of the head-body metaphor to hearken back to, we cannot assume that the Corinthians would have understood the metaphor in this way. In fact it is unlikely that they would have. Moreover, Chrysostom and Cyril’s Trinitarian theology was heavily influenced by the Arian controversy. Not only were they the minority voice on this issue among the early fathers, but their rejection of the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father is not in line with the official position of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which has maintained a “monarchial” view of the Trinity from Nicea forward. This makes the rather strong egalitarian claim that the “subordinationist” position is a heterodox one to be, quite simply, false. Kevin Giles overstates his case when he argues that, “to teach the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father in being or role, person or function, is to teach contrary to the way the best theologians have interpreted the Bible across the centuries and to reject what the creeds and reformation confessions of faith affirm.” In fact, the opposite is true. Not only did Tertullian (one of the earliest, most prolific writers of the church) hold to a monarchial (or hierarchical) view of the Trinity, but John Calvin (who Giles cites as one of the great theologians who supposedly denied the eternal subordination of the Son) agreed with Tertullian, saying, “Nor am I displeased with Tertullian’s definition, provided it be taken in the right sense, that there is a kind of distribution or economy in God which has no effect on the unity of essence.” Moreover, it is clear that the Nicene fathers, in crafting their great ecumenical creed, labored to distinguish between a “unity of being or essence” and a “subordination of order.” If the Nicene Creed doesn’t represent orthodoxy, what does? None of this is to suggest that those who argue against the eternal subordination of the Son are defending a heterodox position, for that claim would be equally overstated. What is clear however is that while both positions have existed since the early centuries of the church, the “subordinationist” position has always been the dominant, often official, position of the church.

With this in mind, we can safely conclude that there is nothing heterodox about understanding the statement, “the head of Christ is God” to denote hierarchy. But is there any reason to prefer this reading? I believe there is. As previously mentioned, the lack of a body metaphor makes “source” very unlikely. More importantly, I believe that the analogies don’t correspond adequately if “source” is the connecting term between them. Christ is not the source of man in a way that is even similar to the way in which man is the source of woman. Christ (as God) actually created man, while man was merely the raw material used by God to create woman. In that analogy, it is the dust from which Adam was made, and not Christ, that would be his “source”! Still, all metaphors must break down at some point, and it could still be argued that Paul has merely a loose or general idea of “source” in mind. However, if egalitarians wish to make reference back to 1 Corinthians 8:6, which says that all things came through Christ, to provide evidence for their interpretation, they must explain why only man, and not also woman, is said to have Christ as a source. And all this still doesn’t square with the third analogy, Christ and God. God “sending” Christ is so dissimilar to the previous two concepts of “source” that it becomes highly implausible that this is Paul’s intention.

The interpretation that head means “authority”, on the other hand, not only makes the analogies work together much better, but also provides an adequate explanation for why the third pair is included, and why it is placed last. Some might argue that if hierarchy were intended in this verse, the pairs would go: God-Christ, Christ-man, man-woman. A more important question for egalitarians would be, “Why did Paul include the third pair at all?” Not only does it not seem to fit the other two pairs, but (assuming the egalitarian interpretation) Paul’s analogy between the first two pairs would have perfectly sufficed to ground his argument about men and women’s head coverings. So why the third pair, and why place it last? Tom Schreiner offers a plausible explanation, in light of the complementarian interpretation. If Paul is indeed talking about Christ as authority over man and man as authority over woman, it would be tempting to draw out of the analogy that women were as ontologically inferior to men as men are to Christ. To preemptively counter this kind of thinking, Paul adds the third pair. There is no inferiority between God and Christ, for they are one.

This also provides an adequate explanation for the contrast of the two creation sequences in verses 8-9 and 11-12. Gordon Fee postulates that one of the problems in Corinth was a slow and subtle move toward androgyny, which is one reason Paul seems to be emphasizing gender distinctions so heavily. I think this much is true. Because of that, Paul again feels the need to preemptively counter false implications that readers might draw from his letter, and so reminds them that men and women are interdependent, language that is immediately reminiscent of the oneness of God and Christ from verse 3.

In the end, the primary factor that is determinative of which interpretation one takes is the meaning of “head” as used in the analogies of verse 3. If the authority of men over women in a public gathering is in view, it becomes clear that Paul is urging women to continue wearing their cultural gender markers, not merely for the sake of remaining true to one’s own sexual identity (which is certainly in view here to some degree), but also as a sign of respect to the authority placed over them by God. Therefore, having stated what I believe to be a strong case for taking head to mean “authority”, as well as some of the implications of that throughout the rest of the passage, I believe that I have shown the complementarian position to be the exegetically stronger of the two.

1 Corinthians 14

Now we move to one of the more confusing passages in scripture. 1 Corinthians 14: 34 says, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” Obviously Paul cannot mean that women are to remain totally silent at all times in a church, because in the previous passage he assumes that women pray and prophesy. Craig Keener argues that, because Paul specifically tells women not to ask questions, but to wait and ask their husbands at home, that women asking questions during church services is the problem Paul is addressing here. He suggests two major reasons for this. First, women were most likely far less educated than men. And even though the Corinthian church was made up primarily of Gentiles, and Gentile women were far more educated and possessed higher social standing than Jewish women, because they were Gentiles their education would most likely not have included Torah. Since most educated questions in a church service would have required a knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures, these women would have been asking mostly ignorant questions and disrupting the services. Second, men were very uncomfortable with women speaking in such a setting, and the protocol of the time would have disapproved of women speaking with unrelated men in public. Thus Paul may have been trying to keep order by keeping uneducated questions out of public church services and maintaining cultural standards of propriety.

I find these arguments entirely unconvincing for several reasons. First, women were far more educated in the Roman Empire than has traditionally been believed. Still, Keener’s point about Gentile women not having much access to Torah training is certainly true, but that would have been just as true for Gentile men! And there is no adequate argument for why Gentile men would have had access to Torah training and not women. Because Roman women were accustomed to being educated (and even teaching) there is no reason to think that they would have been less likely to receive training in the Scriptures along with their male counterparts.
In order to accept this argument, we have to believe two things. First, that no significant percentage of the Corinthian women were educated enough to ask intelligent questions. Second, that no significant percentage of the Corinthian men were uneducated enough that they too should have received censure by Paul for creating disorder. Even if the first is conceivable, surely the second is not.

Here I believe Wayne Grudem makes the more persuasive case. He argues that what Paul is censuring is women interpreting prophecy. Because the judging of prophecy would be authoritative, and not prophesying itself, it would make sense within a complementarian framework that women be allowed to do the latter and not the former. But what exegetical justification is there for this? Just a few verses back, in verse 28, Paul makes a similar censure of anyone who would speak in tongues without an interpreter present. He says, “If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church.” Just like the censure of women in verse 34, Paul is obviously not instructing the tongue-speaker to remain absolutely silent for the entire church meeting if there is no interpreter present. Rather, the speaker must be quiet with regard to the function of speaking in tongues. The same rational should be applied to verse 34. The context of Paul’s command is prophecy and “weighing” prophecy. Thus it would be a perfectly reasonable solution, from a study of the text alone, that Paul is prohibiting women from performing one of those two functions. We know from 1 Corinthians 11 that it cannot be prophesying, therefore it must be the weighing of prophecy. Grudem then goes on to suggest that Paul’s comment about asking questions is designed ensure that no one “plays the system” as it were. After all, a woman could certainly ask critical questions in such a way as to subtly offer judgment of a prophecy, thereby getting around Paul’s censure. Therefore, given the context of the passage and the unlikelihood of the Keener’s argument, this solution seems to me to be the most reasonable.

1 Timothy 2

Entire books have been devoted to this passage alone. It is considered by many to be the key passage in the whole gender debate. It may be surprising, therefore, that I will spend less time on this passage than on the previous passages. It is my opinion that all the evidence for this passage has not been fully studied and weighed to the point where one definitive answer is obvious to all. Therefore I shall treat it briefly, only in as much detail as I feel is needed to show that one reading is at least slightly more probable than the other.

The entire debate over this passage is focused on one word, authenteo. Linda Bellville argues extensively that this word, at and before the time of Paul, had a very negative connotation, something close to “domineer” or even “murder.” From this she argues that what Paul was prohibiting was women teaching men in a domineering way. In response, Wayne Grudem cites a comprehensive study of authenteo by H. Scott Baldwin. This study revealed two important things. First, of all the varied meanings that authenteo took on from before the time of Paul up to the tenth century AD, the one unifying theme was that of “authority”, to greater and lesser degrees. Second, of all the examples of authenteo that Baldwin studied, none of them were used in the negative at or around the time of the New Testament. The earliest example of the word being used in a negative way came from 390 AD. Indeed, some of the citations Linda Bellville gives, which she insists must mean “domineer” rather than “have authority over”, could easily mean something like “to control”, “to compel” or “to influence”, all of which fit with Baldwin’s findings and none of which carry the negative connotation.

Further, the grammatical structure of the “neither-nor” statement Paul makes is such that both verbs must be either negative or positive. Grudem asserts, based on several positive uses of “to teach” in 1 and 2 Timothy, that the teaching in this verse must be positive, therefore authenteo must also be positive. However, it isn’t quite as clear as Grudem would like it to be. Since Paul does prohibit false teaching in his letters to Timothy, we cannot simply assume that teaching is always positive. However, the first part of Grudem’s argument, I believe, still stands. Baldwin’s study seems to have shown with a good degree of certainty that the typical use of authenteo at the time of Paul was either neutral or positive, in the sense of exercising authority. Given that, combined with the good probability that teaching could very well be viewed positively here (as it is elsewhere in 1 and 2 Timothy) I believe there to be a fairly solid case for the complementarian understanding that this is a general prohibition of women exercising authority over men in the church.

Other than the strictly exegetical concerns (which, as I said, I feel constitute a strong enough argument on their own), there are two other major factors that lend even more credence to the complementarian position. The first is the following chapter, 1 Timothy 3. In this chapter qualifications are given for elders and deacons. While it has been noted that the main thrust of the section is to describe the kind of godly characteristics that anyone should have when seeking a church office, I find it significant that when it comes to deacons, both men and women are mentioned, but within the same passage, when talking about elders, only men are mentioned. Now, it is possible that 1 Timothy 3: 11 is talking about wives of deacons, and not deaconesses, but this is usually not the egalitarian read of the passage. To explicitly include a section for deaconesses, but not for female elders, is possibly one of the strongest implications in Scripture in support of the complementarian view.

The second major factor for me was the logic of the egalitarian reading of 1 Timothy 2. When Andreas Kostenberger argued that if Paul had intended to prohibit a negative action like false teaching he would have used a negative word like heterodidaskalein, I. Howard Marshall responded that for Paul to have said “I don’t permit a women to give false teaching” would have implied “I do permit a man to give false teaching. In other words, it would have been a bad word choice. Grudem aptly points out the poor logic of this position. For if Paul intended something negative like “I don’t permit a women to teach a man in a domineering way” that would imply “I do permit a man to teach in a domineering way.” I was convinced by this that Marshall’s own argument could be turned on the egalitarian position, which, when combined with the previous arguments, makes the complementarian reading of 1 Timothy 2 slightly more plausible.

Finding Hope In A Fallen World

There are two ways to approach the gender issue. One is Biblical, the other philosophical. In one way, because we are evangelicals, we must view the Biblical approach as the most important. Whatever the Bible says, we must submit to its authority as God’s very Word. However, because we must employ our rational faculties as best we can to the interpretation of Scripture, the philosophical approach is in some ways just as important. Thus, if Rebecca Groothuis is correct that the complementarian mantra, “Equal in being, not in function” is an untenable philosophical position, then complemetarians must seriously reconsider their position. But on the other side of things, if the exegetical arguments of Wayne Grudem and others are correct, then egalitarians must likewise reconsider their position. If both sides are open and honest, perhaps one day we will actually find that middle ground that so many are now desperately seeking.
Until then, what can we do? The conclusion of my paper is that the complementarian position emerges with the most overall Biblical support. As such, I believe the church must embrace this Biblical view. One of the biggest practical concerns for Evangelicals today is whether or not a woman should be a senior pastor. This question is totally foreign to the New Testament, however, and is ultimately irrelevant. So far as I can tell, the only church office not open to women is elder (or overseer). The only work that you never hear of women doing in the New Testament, and, as my paper has now argued, the only work that women are ever prohibited from doing, is teaching. Specifically, teaching in an official capacity of authority, in a public church setting, and over men. This has direct implications for a variety of situations today. Obviously women should not be giving the sermon in church on Sunday morning. Obviously women can lead a women’s group. But what of the grayer areas? Women can teach children, but how far does that go? Can women teach college groups? Possibly. What of Para-church organizations? Do they count as Christian assemblies where women ought not to have authority of any kind over men? Well, again, the only type of authority that the Bible explicitly seems to forbid women to have over men is teaching authority, and this is always in the context of church. Since it is likely that the Bible allows women to be deaconesses, I would see no reason why women couldn’t be the heads of financial committees or things of that sort, since such tasks and those similar to it are really no different than the roles of a deaconess. Can women be in the administration at a Christian college? I think so. Can they be Biology teachers? Art teachers? English teachers? I don’t see why not. Can they be Bible teachers? That’s a bit tougher question to answer. Perhaps it would be acceptable at the college level, but not at the seminary level. For cases such as those, I’m willing to leave room for cultural standards of adulthood and maturity. In any case, despite the constant cry for a definitive list and “do’s and don’ts” from the complementarian camp, there is a certain amount of freedom that the Bible seems to allow for. The important thing is to have the right mindset. So long as we are trying our hardest to work within the Biblical model, and not constantly looking for exceptions and loopholes, we will probably be ok.

Finally, we must always keep sight of the Biblical picture of leadership. Egalitarians frequently argue that we shouldn’t be focused on claiming our rights to authority over others, and I couldn’t agree more. They argue that we are to focus on serving one another, and again I couldn’t agree more. But something that I feel egalitarians would do well to remember is that true Biblical leadership is nothing more than the ultimate form of servanthood. Christ has all power and authority and dominion over all the earth, and yet he humbled himself more than any human being possibly could. The same is true for those who are called to lead in Christ’s church. The powerful description of the way in which a husband is to love his wife does not reveal some sort of egalitarian model of marriage, rather in reinforces the Biblical picture of true leadership. For a husband to take on the role of head of his wife is for him to give up his wants and desires for her sake. It is for him to always put her first, to always think of her before himself, and ultimately to give up his whole life for her. That is not a command to “mutually submit.” Far from it. That is a command to be a true Christian leader, as Christ was, and is, and forever will be. May God give us all the strength and courage to fulfill the roles we were designed for, to His honor and glory!

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Theology Of Gender: Part Two

Part II:
Men And Women In Marriage

Due to the uniqueness of the marriage relationship in comparison to all other human relationships (such as those in ministry), I believe that the marriage model will appear on the surface to be more egalitarian than complementarian. I also believe that even under the surface the marriage relationship will be far more egalitarian than will other male-female relationships. However, I believe that a careful cross-comparative analysis of the three primary verse that deal with the marriage relationship (1 Corinthians 7, Ephesians 5, and 1 Peter 3), as well as one or two other related passages, will show a distinctively complementarian model emerging.

1 Corinthians 7

1 Corinthians 7 is the longest single passage in Scripture dealing solely with marriage. Thus it would seem surprising that it has received little or no attention in the modern gender debate. However, this lack of attention isn’t really all that surprising when one considers the content of Paul’s marriage counseling. Despite its length, the passage deals mostly with a number of very specific situations that, on the whole, have very little application value when it comes to the issues at the heart of the gender debate. Most of Paul’s advice to unmarried virgins and widows would square well with either a Complementarian or an Egalitarian model, so there is little to argue about. And his almost insistent wish that most Christians would remain unmarried (though not practical or Biblical if taken to an extreme) leaves us with no marriage relationship over which to dispute.

The one place where an argument might be had is in the first pericope, verses 1-9 (there might also be a point of disagreement in verse 14, since Egalitarians might contest that Paul’s statement that a wife can sanctify her unbelieving husband seems to contradict the Complementarian argument that men should be the spiritual leaders, but I will touch on that briefly later). Paul is responding to a letter he had received from the Corinthian church regarding several issues of contention that had arisen between them in his absence. The first issue he addresses is what appears to be a kind of radical asceticism, where some of the church members were apparently saying that all sexual intercourse, even within marriage, was bad. Paul responds to this false teaching by describing the mutual duty that the husband and wife have toward one another regarding sexual intimacy. Neither partner is to withhold conjugal rights from the other, and they may only abstain by mutual consent. Paul grounds these commands in two ways. First, by pointing out humanity’s fallen state and its general lack of self-control when it comes to sexuality. Second, by stating that neither partner has authority over their own body in this regard, rather the authority over the husband’s body belongs to his wife, and likewise the authority of the wife’s body belongs to her husband.

Clearly this verse suggests some kind of mutual submission of authority in the marriage relationship, but based upon this verse alone the only honest conclusion we can come to is that this is true with regards to sexual relations, and nothing more. Indeed, it may be true that this mutual submission model is to be the standard for all aspects of the marriage relationship, but that conclusion cannot be drawn from this verse alone. All that can be said is that, even in a patriarchal model, the husband does not have absolute authority over the sexual relationship. He may not demand sex whenever he wishes it, nor may he deny sex to his wife whenever he wishes. Every aspect of the sexual relationship must be consensual.

No argument for a male-headship model can be made from this passage, but neither can an egalitarian argument be made, for two reasons. The first I have already stated. The topic of discussion in this passage is simply too narrow to draw any definitive principles for gender roles in general. Second, even if implications could be drawn, the sexual relationship is unique within marriage. It involves two persons in a powerful, physical and emotional way that requires a level of mutual consent far above any other aspect of the marriage relationship. Thus applying an egalitarian model throughout the entire relationship is unwarranted and cannot be justified from this passage alone.

As I mentioned above, the other point of contention is in verse 14, where Paul says that a believing wife can sanctify her husband. Some argue that this goes against the complementarian claim that husbands are to be the spiritual leaders of their family. However, from the context of this verse alone, such a claim is unwarranted.

First of all, this is a special case where the husband is an unbeliever. Obviously an unbelieving husband cannot be the spiritual head of the house, and in such a case the wife might as well be viewed as a single parent, at least in regards to spiritual matters. Moreover, there are many special considerations given for the “unevenly yoked” marriage, including divorce if the unbelieving partner wants it.

However, even if it could be argued that a wife can continue to sanctify her husband even after he becomes a believer, this still fits within a complementarian model. Complementarians do not argue that a wife cannot be a mutual sanctifier to her husband, nor do they argue that she cannot be a “co-sanctifier” along side her husband for the children. After all, the wife is usually seen as primarily responsible for child rearing, thus it would make little sense to argue that she can have no sanctifying effect on the children. And so, once again, using 1 Corinthians 7 to apply an egalitarian model to every aspect of marriage is unwarranted.

This passage does, however, seriously shift the burden of proof to the Complementarians. The question is, “if this one aspect of the marriage relationship is to be egalitarian, why not all aspects?” To answer this question, we must look elsewhere.

Ephesians 5

Chapter 5 of Ephesians begins with Paul exhorting the Ephesian Christians to walk in love, light and wisdom. In verse 18 he tells them to be filled with the Spirit, and goes on to list several external actions that being filled with the Spirit would entail. He concludes this section with a final action: submitting “to one another” in Christ. He then begins a new section at verse 22, describing in more detail what this general submission looks like. Wives are to submit to their husbands, children to their parents, and slaves to their masters.

The crux of the debate seems to depend on which of the two submission statements you choose to qualify the other. Egalitarians will interpret the wife’s submission in light of the command to submit to one another, and Complementarians will interpret the command to submit to one another in light of the further commands to wives, children and slaves. It seems more probable to me that the latter is the better approach. Paul gives a general command and then clarifies it, thus we should interpret the general command in light of the clarifications. It is unlikely that he is merely giving examples of certain ways in which Christians can submit to one another, rather than clarifying who is to submit to whom (because the phrase “to one another” doesn’t have to mean “everyone to everyone” but can mean “some to others”, this also makes the clarification understanding more plausible). And it is even more unlikely that the submission described is mutual or reversible, since no one would argue that parents ought to submit to their children.

The other major point of contention in this passage is over the meaning of “head.” In verse 23 Paul says that the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. Egalitarians generally like to interpret “head” as “source” or “source of provision”, claiming that there is no connotation of authority. Wayne Grudem argues that the Greek word translated “head” here (kephale) always, without exception in all of Greek literature, carries the connotation of “person in authority over.” More moderate Complementarians (such as Michelle Lee) recognize that “source of provision” fits well with the manner in which Paul cashes out the husband-Christ analogy. Paul speaks of Christ as the Savior of His church (Ephesians 5: 25-26), and in Ephesians 4:1-16 he refers to Christ as the head of a body. However, they also recognize that the “person in authority over” connotation is also present, and thus create a kind of middle road that remains slightly complementarian.

Which interpretation best fits the text? Though Wayne Grudem’s assertion may be a bit too strong, his research into the word kephale is very helpful in informing our decision. But even without his extra-biblical study into the word’s usage, all the clues we need are present within the text itself. Christ may indeed be the “source of provision” for his church, but verse 24 goes on to say, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.” The question is, in what way does the church submit to Christ? Do we only submit to Christ as a source of provision for us, without any hint of leadership or authority? Of course not. While it is true that all metaphors tend to break down after a point, the fact that Paul’s description of Christ as head is continually coupled with the command to submit makes the connotation of authority very hard to get rid of. Therefore, between Paul’s use of the head-body analogy for Christ’s headship, his repetition of the imperative to submit, and the general meaning of kephale, it seems more likely that Christ is meant to represent both “source of provision” and “person in authority over.” Thus both of these must be true of the husband-wife relationship.

One last comment must be made about this passage. Egalitarians often claim that male-headship is no different than slavery. Like slavery, male-headship was an institution in place in the 1st century that Paul was simply trying to regulate, but not endorse. When it comes to arguments like these, however, I see a certain amount of inconsistency from the egalitarian position. When it suits them, they are quick to point out that Paul is often radical and counter-cultural, and yet they turn around and claim that, at other times, Paul was merely trying to work within the status quo. Perhaps it is possible to apply this argument to slavery, saying that while Paul was radical when it came to racial prejudice, he was no outspoken abolitionist. To a certain extent, I admit, I do see the logic behind this egalitarian claim. However, racial prejudice and slavery are two separate things. What the egalitarian position requires us to believe is that Paul was at some times radical and other times unwilling to confront his culture about the same issue. For example, back in 1 Corinthians 7 Paul has no problem telling the husband that he must yield his authority over his body to his wife, and in doing so he seems very much ahead of his own time in recognizing that women have sexual needs and desires just as much as men do. It seems very unlikely that Paul would shy away from being counter-cultural in one instance and not in another, with respect to the very same issue. Moreover, because Paul was working within a dominantly patriarchal culture, as egalitarians rightly point out, he would have had to come out and explicitly command egalitarianism in order for most people in his day to understand him. And none of this takes into account the simple fact that Paul does, on many occasions, condemn slavery as a general practice (see 1 Corinthians 7:21 and 1 Timothy 1:10). He never makes any such negative comments regarding male-headship; he only ever endorses it. Also, the institution of marriage, unlike slavery, was ordained by God before the fall, making them too dissimilar to compare on purely moral grounds.

1 Peter 3

Briefly, I agree with the general consensus among egalitarians that 1 Peter 3 is written primarily to instruct Christians on how to be an effective witness. Christianity was viewed by many in Rome as a subversive religion, yet it would be too great a leap to make the blanket claim that Peter is merely instructing Christians to keep the status quo as much as possible. Peter’s advice to women that they should not adorn themselves extravagantly might even be viewed as a kind of subtle subversion. It is one way that Christian women can stand apart from the rest, without being openly subversive. Also, when Peter is instructing slaves to obey their earthly masters he says that “it is commendable if a man bears up under unjust suffering.” Once again we see that slavery is clearly not endorsed as an inherently good thing. Yet no such strong indictment of male-headship is given, quite the opposite in fact. Peter explicitly commends women who are submissive to their husbands, not merely in the context of being a good witness, and calls them daughters of Sarah, which would have been high praise for a Jewish woman. Finally, Peter explicitly calls women the “weaker partner.” What exactly he may have meant by this is debatable, but whatever he meant, the statement makes an egalitarian interpretation of the passage very difficult to accept. On the contrary, it strongly suggests that Peter believed a male-headship model was grounded somehow in the inherent differences between men and women, whether they be merely physical or something more, a very complementarian position indeed.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Theology Of Gender: Part One

Towards Clarity And Charity

In this series I will examine all the relevant Biblical material dealing with the issue of gender. Are there real gender distinctions? Does the Bible prescribe different roles to each gender in the areas of marriage and church ministry? Were there certain roles that men and women were meant to fulfill in the Old and New Testaments that no longer apply to us today? I will attempt to answer these questions and more. My thesis is that, once all the Biblical evidence is weighed and considered in context, a cohesive vision of manhood and womanhood will emerge, one which is typically referred to as the "Complementarian" view. To that end, I will begin at the beginning, the creation account of Genesis, and work my way through the Old and New Testaments, using sound logic and careful exegesis to draw implications from the various texts. Along the way I will interact with the authors from our textbooks (RBMW and DBE), wherever their ideas are good and their comments helpful. As the title of this introduction suggests, my hope is that my arguments are clear and that I am able to remain charitable and gracious to both sides of the issue.

Part I:
Creation To The Cross

Genesis 1 & 2

Scholars on both sides of the gender debate agree that the creation account in the first two chapters of Genesis is of vital importance to understanding the issue as a whole. Genesis chapter 1 describes the creation of the entire cosmos, culminating in the creation of humanity, the universe’s crowning jewel. Humans are described as being uniquely created in the image of God and are given charge over all creation, to rule over it and care for it. As Richard Hess points out, “There is nothing in this first chapter to suggest anything other than an equality of male and female created together in the image of God.” This much is true. From chapter 1 alone, all we know is that man and women are both created in the image of God and both set as rulers over all creation. No explicit relational principles between the man and woman can be drawn from here alone.
Moving in to chapter 2 we see a recapitulation of the creation of humanity from chapter 1, but in far greater detail. Here it is revealed that the man was created first. God charged the man with “keeping” the garden He created in Eden. But God sees that the man has no helper, and so He creates all the many kinds of animals that now inhabit the earth. They come to the man and he names them. But none of the animals is suitable for him. He is alone. And so God takes a rib from the man’s side and forms the first woman. The man immediately recognizes that she is the first and only creature corresponding to him, and responds with delight by composing a short poem about her.
There are several issues in chapter 2 that are the source of contention with regards to the gender debate. The first is the two sequences of creation. As Hess notes , one argument Complementarians will use is that the man being created first represents an ancient Near Eastern convention known as primogeniture. Primogeniture meant that the first born son of a family would receive all rights and inheritance, as well as having authority over younger siblings. Hess attempts to debunk this argument by pointing out that God often chose to override this principle and to bestow blessing on the second or third born. This observation does little to refute the argument, however. Generally, God’s choosing to pass over the first born was for a specific purpose. As in the case of Jacob and Esau, God chooses to bless the younger over the older son in order to demonstrate His sovereignty over His elective purposes in history. This could not be the case if there was not a principle in place for God to override. Moreover, one of the ways in which Christ is later established as the head of the church is by virtue of His being the firstborn of God, juxtaposed to our positions as adopted sons. This kind of illustration harkens back to a primogeniture model. Still, Hess is quite correct in asserting that no direct connection is ever made in the Old Testament between the practice of primogeniture and the sequence of creation in Genesis 2. Egalitarians try to make much of the second sequence of creation, suggesting that it somehow overrides or balances out the first, but this seems an implausible assumption to me. If the first sequence of creation says anything about a hierarchy between men and women, then the hierarchy simply is what is, and the fact that women are the bearers of children would in no way negate it. However, if the first sequence of creation does not imply any hierarchy, then obviously neither does the second. So either way, only the first sequence of creation is important for answering this question. Paul will later use both creation sequences in 1 Corinthians 11 to support an argument about gender, but as we will see then, his conclusions are far from egalitarian.
The second major issue is the man’s naming of the animals. Hess argues that nowhere does the text explicitly state that the man was exercising any authority over the animals by naming them. Hess offers an alternative, that the naming represents the man’s reflecting the image of God by ordering creation , but one wonders why both couldn’t be true at the same time. In other words, Hess’s suggestion does not negate the complementarian model. But is there a positive reason for thinking the complementarian model is correct? I believe there is. It is a reasonable inference to make that the man’s naming of the animals was a part of fulfilling his mandate to rule over creation. The man is defining the very existences of the creatures he names. When the woman appears, he names her as well. Thomas Finley brings out the point with even more clarity . He notes that the man is not merely naming her, as he will later call her Eve, but he is classifying her. He is literally defining what it means to be a woman, and the definition of a woman is that she comes from man. Raymond Ortlund Jr. adds that, while God could have told the man who and what the woman was, He allowed the man to do that himself. And because of the man’s choice of name, the women will forever find her identity in relation to the man, by the man’s own definition of who she is. As before, none of this makes authority explicit, but it is certainly evidence that leads us in that direction, making a complementarian read of the passage, at least prima facia, slightly more plausible.
This leads nicely into the third major issue, the fact that woman was created from man. Again Hess suggests an alternative to the traditional interpretation, saying that woman was created from man not to suggest an implicit hierarchy, but to show how deeply connected and interdependent men and women are. And again I’m compelled to ask why both can’t be true. Even Raymond Ortlund Jr. in RBMW labors the point that one of the primary reasons God paraded all the animals before the man was to make him acutely aware of his loneliness and his need for an equal companion.

The final major issue in this passage is regarding the fact that the woman is called the man’s “helper.” Egalitarians are quick to point out that the word “helper” is often used of God in the Old Testament, so the term alone does not imply that the women was somehow subordinate to the man. However, Paul will later make a point about this, highlighting the fact that the woman was created for the man, and not the other way around. Should the man also be a helper to his wife when she needs it? Of course, but then every good leader must also be a good helper. The point is not the task of helping itself, but rather the fact that the woman was created for a specific purpose, one of helping the man to rule over creation.

Genesis 3
Chapter 3 describes the fall of humanity, and at this point I feel that too much speculation is required to make any real progress. Any conclusions we might try to draw out of this passage would be based on assumptions. For example, in order to argue that the serpent chose to go to the woman in order to usurp man’s authority and undermine God’s created order we must first presuppose that our understanding of the created order and its implications are correct. It is also true that the first explicit reference to authoritarian patriarchy comes at this point in the narrative, after the fall, however it is just as likely to read that portion of the judgment as representing a degeneration from benevolent male headship as it is to read it as a total warping of an egalitarian relationship. Thus I don’t feel that drawing strong conclusions from chapter 3 for either position is warranted at this point.

Galatians 3:28
Because the majority of the Old Testament narratives must be interpreted in light of passages such as Galatians 3:28 (and others that will be examined in the next section), it will be more useful to skip straight to the end. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is the only place outside of the passages that deal specifically with marriage and ministry that Paul mentions gender. He seems to mention it almost in passing. The problem that Paul is addressing in Galatians is of the utmost importance for the Galatian Christians’ very salvation. Agitators in the community have risen up, casting doubt on Paul’s teachings and telling the Gentiles in the church that they must be circumcised and follow the old Jewish law in order to be saved. This is the primary issue of the letter, this is Paul’s focus, and the whole of the letter must be viewed with this single problem in mind.
Gordon Fee states rather boldly that Galatians is not foremost about soteriology (how Christians are saved), but about ecclesiology (roughly, the doctrine of the church) . He supports this claim by pointing out that the Galatian Christians are already saved, but this seems to miss the whole point of the urgency and fervor with which Paul is writing. The salvation of these Christians is now in jeopardy, they are slipping into heresy, and Paul desperately wants to set them straight (regardless of whether or not you believe true believers can lose their salvation, there can be no doubt that Paul is very concerned that they not teach false doctrine that would cause them, and others, to slip away from the true gospel that alone brings true salvation). Fee believes that the focus of Galatians is on forming an inclusive church, bringing Jew and Gentile together as one body, and finding a place for the Gentile (and by extension, the slave and the woman) within the church community. In other words, it seems that Fee sees the letter’s primary focus being more on social justice than on defending correct doctrine. And while there may certainly be some truth to that, I can’t help but come to the conclusion, after reading Galatians myself, that viewing the book of Galatians in such a way requires reading an agenda into the text that isn’t there. For example, Paul does not bring up the incident with Peter not breaking bread with the Gentiles primarily to illustrate the racial prejudice that we wanted to correct (although he did want to end such behavior), rather he brought it up in the context of defending his apostolic authority and credibility, part of which required him to explain why he got into a confrontation with Peter in the first place. Once again, the main focus of the book of Galatians is not on social justice, but on right doctrine.
I don’t want to sound as though I’m claiming more than I really am. There’s no doubt that Paul addresses the issue of being equal before Christ. However, he does so not in an unqualified way, but rather in the context of addressing the heresy that had crept up in the Galatian church, specifically regarding circumcision. As Robert Saucy aptly points out, the Old Testament law placed a great number of restrictions on Gentiles, slaves and women when it came to religion . Paul is no doubt saying in Galatians 3:28 that all of those restrictions are abolished. The walls are torn down, so to speak. Women, Gentiles and slaves can now all enter the inner courts of the temple, in a figurative way. This is the radical oneness in Christ that Paul is describing. But as Saucy argues, none of this has any direct bearing on gender roles when it comes to the specific dynamic of male-female relationships. Why? The male-female relationship was not a part of the Old Testament law that is now being done away with, but was established in creation. Of the three categories, only gender existed before the fall, when all was still good. That fact alone makes the issue more complicated than most Egalitarians would like to admit. While Paul himself doesn’t make this distinction, I would argue that he doesn’t have to. The oneness before God that the Old Testament Law did not allow for is what Paul has in view here. Women, Gentiles and slaves were not allowed in the inner Temple courts, and now they are. Spiritual access to God is no longer restricted based on these three classes. But once again, none of this has any direct bearing on the unique relationship that exists between man and woman. Of all three of the pairs, only the man-woman pair is God ordained. The distinction between social/economic classes and racial classes are entirely man-made, the distinction between genders is not. Again, this is not something Paul specifically mentions in the text, but it is true nonetheless, and our reading of Galatians 3:28 must take such considerations into account.
Finally, notice that this argument fully accepts that Paul is talking about practice, not just doctrine. Or, put another way, he is talking about ecclesiology, but only in relation to soteriology. And in whatever way the letter might sound like a lecture on racial reconciliation, it is only so in relation to the main argument over right doctrine.
Notice, however, that I did not argue that Galatians 3:28 does not teach Egalitarianism. What I argued is that it does not teach it necessarily. We must wait until we have a more robust outlook on the issue, with all the relevant New Testament passages in view, before we can come to a truly definitive conclusion.