HOW CAN A NATION SURVIVE?

The USA is on life support. If one cannot see Uncle Sam is in Intensive Care, one is not paying attention. Can the USA, or any nation for that matter, survive the “goings on” that we see happening today? Can the USA survive the dark path it is currently on?

How can a nation survive that fails to acknowledge the presence of Divine Providence over the affairs of man and history and instead has chosen itself as the Master of its own fate?

How can a nation survive that has cast aside the biblical principles of morality and common decency which were woven into its foundation, to adopt principles that are morally decadent?

How can a nation survive that has cast aside its heritage and seeks to whitewash its history, not learning from history but seeking to erase it?

How can a nation survive that adopts unbridled passions of man’s lowest and basest desires and unrestrained lusts?

How can a nation survive that applauds when laws are passed that allows the slaughter of babies in the womb and have lost the value of the sanctity of life?

How can a nation survive that is no longer patriotic and has become ignorant of the price that was paid that Old Glory might fly?

How can a nation survive when churches have lost the hunger for biblical righteousness and have adopted the “religion” of tolerance for “peace” over holiness?

How can a nation survive when it labels various people groups as destined to be victims not victors?

How can a nation survive when the citizenry talks more of their rights and privileges and less about their responsibility, duty and obligations?

How can a nation survive when its leaders purposely stir racial disharmony, calling half the population racists and bigots and the other half should be filled with expressive resentment?

How can a nation survive when it embraces a culture of death and violence over order and law?

How can a nation survive when there is more focus on what divides us than what unites us?

How can a nation survive when its leaders don’t realize there is real evil in the world and you cannot negotiate with terrorists?

How can a nation survive when the citizenry no longer trusts its leaders because they have proven themselves untrustworthy?

How can a nation survive when socialism, which has never worked and never will work, is the clamoring chant of the masses?

How can a nation survive when more and more people refuse to work and are kept up by a shrinking work force?

How can a nation survive when massive taxes continue to burden and drain the pockets of workers in order to support unchecked spending?

How can a nation survive when the government continues to spend recklessly with no thought there is a financial cliff up ahead?

How can a nation survive when the good upon which the  nation was founded is now called evil?

How can a nation survive when those who seek a return to moral sanity and to the God to whom we owe alligence, are considered the enemy and labeled as “deplorables?”

 How can a nation survive when Humanism has replaced theism?

How can a nation survive when the criminals have more rights than the victims?

How can a nation survive when life is no longer considered scared and individuals as created in the Image of God?

How can a nation survive when a spotted owl is considered of greater worth than a child in the womb?

How can a nation survive when life is seen as a random act of chance and there is no Intelligent Designer to whom we are responsible?

How can a nation survive when Christians are vilified and the unrighteousness exalted?

How can a nation survive when we have lost a theist worldview to adopt a “man his is own god” worldview?

How can a nation survive which casts aside living with an “otherness” mentality and adopts the ideology that freedom is living as one pleases without restraint regardless of who it harms or hurts?

How can a nation survive when there is a blurring of the distinction between male and female and considers one’s created identity fluid?   

How can a nation survive that exalts sin and shuns righteousness?

How can a nation survive when its citizenry lives in open rebellion before its Creator and declares itself to be autonomous from divine responsibility?  

How can a nation survive when Divine, Infinite Reason is disregarded and man depends solely upon his finite and limited reason?  

How can a nation survive when it embraces the materialistic as all there is and fails to grasp that man has an immortal soul and has a responsibility before the Sovereign of the universe to live responsibly before man and God on his march to eternity?

How can a nation survive when it continues on a destructive path history has shown will result in eventual shipwreck?

History loudly screams out that all nations that have traveled down the path the USA is currently on has not survived, but have found their fate eventually resting atop the dust heap of history. Our nation today is groping in the dark seeking ultimate answers to the plethora of problems that engulf us. However, those answers are not forth coming without answers revealed to us from the God we have ignored, but He indeed is revealed and made known in the person of Jesus Christ. The person and work of Christ is communicated to us in the wonderous story that the Bible unfolds. It is the story of the infinite-personal holy God drawing near to us because he cares and His holy-love calls us unto Himself. The USA will not survive as long as it seeks the ultimate answers to the problems that confront us apart from the reference point of the infinite-personal God himself, who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. History is altogether against one who thinks otherwise.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

A PERPLEXING QUESTION RECEIVES A PUZZLING ANSWER

An obscure book of the Bible sandwiched between the pages of the Old Testament which shouts insights for us of the twenty-first century is the Book of Habakkuk. The prophet Habakkuk, a contemporary of Jeremiah, asks a question that I am sure most Christians have asked at one time or another. Written around 612 B.C., the prophet, whose names means to “embrace,” looked around at the corrupt moral, social and spiritual conditions of the southern kingdom of Judah and asked, “How long O holy and righteous God will you let evil run rampant and not judge it? How long O Lord will you be silent in the face of rampant, unrestrained wickedness?” (1:1-4). After all, the prophet reasoned, if God is holy, how can He let sin continue unchecked like a polluted river that has spilled over its banks and is contaminating everything it washes over?

Habakkuk was perplexed, but the answer he received was even more puzzling. The Lord told the questioning prophet that the sins of Judah would not go unpunished. As matter of fact, the Lord told him He was not inactive against evil but was raising up a people called the Chaldeans (Babylonians) who were more wicked than those of Judah who would be used to punish them for their willful departure from their walk with Him and forsaking their spiritual heritage (1: 5-17)

The prophet scratches his head and incredulously asks, “You are gonna do what? Let me get this straight, you are going to use the wicked and cruel Babylonians who worship pagan gods and are more wicked and sinful than the people of Judah to bring judgment upon them?”

Waiting patiently for a clarification from God, Habakkuk is left alone with his thoughts (2:1-3). His being baffled is understandable, for the Babylonians slaughtered people without any remorse, plundered every city they invaded and left nothing but heartache and wreckage behind them. And God was going to use these evil people to bring judgment upon Judah! You got to be kidding? Surely, the prophet misunderstood.

At last, the Lord communicates to Habakkuk these words,” No, you didn’t misunderstand me. I will use people more evil than those of Judah to bring judgment upon their sinful ways. However, the Babylonians will not escape judgment, as I will judge them as well. Just have faith and remain faithful, righteous justice will prevail.”

The prophet stands in awe at God’s power, holy-love, majesty and His just dealings in the affairs of man. Instead of arguing with God, Habakkuk embraces Him in worship and begins to warn His fellow citizens of the coming judgment by a people more sinful and unrighteous than the inhabitants of Judah (Ch. 3). The majority laughed and mocked Habakkuk saying, “We are God’s people. He will not let those more sinful than us bring harm our way.” Very few believed the message of Habakkuk and continued on in their sin and their deliberate departure from God.

Too bad they didn’t listen and repent, for the time came when the words of Habakkuk and the active work of God came to pass. In time the Babylonians invaded the Southern Kingdom (B.C. 605, 598, and 587), slaughtering people, looting, destroying and taking many citizens captive back to Babylon. Judah was left in flaming ruins.  As well, in 538 B.C. the Persians conquered the Babylonian Empire and they passed from the scene as a world power just as the Lord stated would happen (Daniel Ch. 5).  Events unfolded exactly as God said they would.

What relevance does Habakkuk have for us today? We find ourselves as a nation like Judah. We have forsaken the God of the Bible by continually stripping Him from the societal arena. We have defiantly abandoned principles of biblical morality and replaced them with “anything goes.” Those who embrace traditional marriage are mocked. Human dignity and worth is depreciated by abortion, debauchery goes unchecked, greed is rampant, injustice is widespread, perversion is celebrated, good is called evil and evil is called good, and ungodliness abounds.

How can a holy God, who opposes unrighteousness, seem to be silent in the face of such a cesspool of sin and defiance? Would He not be going against His own holy nature if correcting judgment doesn’t visit this nation? Let me offer some thoughts to ponder over recent events that have unfolded — Afghanistan has been overtaken by terrorists – the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS and other splinter groups.    They are demonic in their evil, ruthless, brutal, beheading individuals, slaughtering Christians and all others who don’t embrace their ideology. Their evil is relentless and they have a fearless passion to bring harm to the USA. Events in recent weeks has breathed into them new life and have embolden them in carrying forth their agenda with renewed vigor and, its seems, with little resistance from the USA leadership who has not the stomach to restrain them.   

With an obviously weak administration currently in Washington, these terrorist groups have no fear of USA leaders, mocking them and spewing forth renewed threats of hatred. (Interestingly, weak kings were in place before the hammer of judgment fell upon Israel and Judah, and the USA certainly has weak leaders in place.) And with the southern borders of the USA wide-open, what is to prevent these terrorists from waltzing across the border into the USA with their destructive agenda. They as well have access to all the military equipment left from the hasty withdrawal by the USA, and have paraded in the streets their newly seized weapons at victory celebrations in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. The current anemic administration doesn’t seem to grasp the far reaching affects and danger the USA will no doubt encounter as a result the of Afghan debacle The liberals foolishly seem to think the terrorists can be reasoned with through diplomacy and appeasement.  It’s the blindness of Judah all over again.  

Habakkuk learned that the Lord can direct that which men intend for evil and use it to bring about and accomplish His purposes. One can’t help but contemplate the far-reaching affects of the terrorist takeover. Will a people more unrighteous than the USA be used to bring correcting judgment to a nation that has forsaken the spiritual foundation of our Founding Fathers? Surely the Lord will not let a people as wicked, evil and demonic as what we see currently occupying Afghanistan bring harm to the USA, for we are more righteous than they?  That was the thinking of Judah. Judah was wrong. Like those in the days of Habakkuk we can laugh at and mock such a notion, or we can cry out to God in repentance and pray that God will have mercy upon us.

Time will reveal the magnitude of the consequences from the chaotic and confusing events that have unfolded. For certain, these terrorist groups have one goal, which is to bring havoc and destroy the USA. It is time we fell to our knees in repentant prayer that these revived evil terrorist groups can in some way be restrained – if not we are going to be knocked to our knees in devastation.

The message of Habakkuk is clear: those who don’t learn from the past failures of other nations who have forsaken God are destined to experience His correcting hand. If we don’t believe it, just ask Habakkuk and Judah.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

THE HIGH PRICE PAID BY SIGNERS OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

This Sunday our nation will celebrate another birthday. It all began on July 4, 1776, when fifty-six brave men put their signature on a document called The Declaration of Independence. This wondrous document is built upon a premise that is all but forgotten in our day, that premise being each person derives their rights from “their Creator,” the “Supreme Judge of the world” (God is mentioned four times — twice at the beginning at twice at the end), and the chief purpose of government is to ensure and protect those rights. The Declaration of Independence only contains 1,321 words, yet it is one of the greatest documents ever conceived and penned by man.

The document, which declared independence from the British, was signed by fifty-six brave men “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” The fifty-six men from the thirteen colonies who penned their name on the document, twenty-six were lawyers, nine merchants, six farmers, six physicians, two statesmen, one planter, one surveyor, one shoemaker, one minister, and one printer. Eighteen of the men were under forty years of age, three in their twenties, and the oldest, Benjamin Franklin, was seventy years old. Two who signed it would later become President, two became fathers of future Presidents.

These fifty-six men knew the minute they signed the document they would be labeled as traitors by the British and there would be a price upon their head. They were risking their lives for the cause of freedom. What did it actually cost these men for signing the Declaration of Independence? I am afraid we have forgotten what it cost them. Not one of the signers escaped the battle for independence without suffering some loss or penalty.

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died; twelve had their homes ransacked and burned; two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured; nine of the fifty-six fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War; Layman Hall of Georgia had his property confiscated; George Walton of Georgia was imprisoned; Joseph Hewes of North Carolina died from utter exhaustion from the strain; William Hooper of North Carolina was driven from his home; John Penn of North Carolina had his health wrecked and died in 1780; William Floyd of New York was driven from his home and his property confiscated; Philip Livingston of New York had all his property taken from him; John Morton of Pennsylvania became forsaken by friends and died eight months after the signing; Richard Stockton of New Jersey was dragged from his bed in the middle of the night and thrown into prison; Caesar Rodney of Delaware died from cancer not long are signing; John Hart of New Jersey was forced from his home, his house burned and he lived as a fugitive; Roger Sherman of Connecticut efforts during the battle for independence took a toll on his health and was relieved of many of colonial duties; Lewis Morris of New York was a man of considerable wealth but lost it during the war; Carter Braxton of Virginia lost his wealth and his property seized; Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton and Edward from South Carolina were all thrown into prison; Thomas Nelson of Virginia lost his fortune and died in poverty; Francis Lewis of New York had his home burned and his wife taken prisoner; Abraham Clark of New Jersey had two of his sons captured and put in prison; John Witherspoon of New Jersey had his voluminous library burned; Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey had his home taken and became a fugitive; Thomas McKean of Delaware was so pursued by the British that he was forced to constantly move his family; George Ross a minister from Pennsylvania died in 1779 from broken health; William Whipple of New Hampshire developed heart problems which eventually took his life.

More examples could be given of the price paid by the signers of the Declaration of Independence, but a portrait of the noble character of these men is clearly imprinted on the canvas of history. The clothes these men wore were not held together by thread, but by principle, honor and a selflessness that led them to pledge their all for the cost of freedom. They had steel backbones forged in the fires of convictions and courage. These men were brave and  fearless who knew the consequences and penalties that awaited, yet they signed anyway, pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

One truth is certain, freedom was and is not free. For that one prize – freedom – these men signed a declaration and suffered horribly. Two-hundred and forty-five years later we must not forget the price paid for freedom nor forget the spiritual and political heritage of the birth of this nation. To forget our heritage is to head down a road that will eventually lead us away from liberty back unto tyranny. In a day when political correctness sees patriotism as offensive, it is a position that will find liberty being swallowed up in the quicksand of weakness and cowardice that will lead to loss of freedoms.

One can’t help but wonder in the day in which we live where so many want something for nothing; who feel like they are owed something without earning it or sacrificing for it; who don’t believe in personal responsibility; who contend there are no eternal principles on which to base one’s life or govern society; would such individuals pay one-tenth the price those 56 brave men paid for freedom and liberty? The answer is self-evident.

As we pause to celebrate the birthday of this Nation, let us not forget the sacrifice and commitment of those fifty-six stalwart men. While our Forefathers battled the British, we today are waging a battle for the very soul of America. It is a battle of greed versus sacrifice, spiritually versus secularism, God versus godlessness, good versus evil, decency versus indecency, right versus wrong, principles versus political correctness, responsibility versus irresponsibility. To the observing eye, that for which the signers of the Declaration of Independence gave so much, appears to be slowly slipping away from you and me.

The freedoms for which our Forefather fought and sacrificed for demands that we never yield to the tyrants of vice over virtue, for when we do, we will discover the brave signers penned their names in vain. May it not be so.

Have a Blessed and Safe Fourth of July

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

SUBJECTIVISM AND TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY THEOLOGY

We are living in a day when in many circles of Christendom, one’s subjective experience is the supreme authority and the objective truths of the Word of God are a secondary authority at best.  By subjectivism is meant that one’s reason and  emotional experience is the only unquestionable truth or reality on which one can build one’s life, and that there is no external or objective truth. Sadly today, the truths of the Word of God have become subservient to one’s changing subjective experience. Subjectivism is elevated to supreme, while sound theology today is relegated to of little importance.  The Christian landscape today is deeply divided between those who embrace the objective truth of the Word of God and those who argue that truth is subjective and there is no objective measuring stick (i.e., the Bible) by which one is to judge what is truth.  In other words, objective truth is not as important as one’s reasoning and subjective experience.

Much of the shallow and erroneous theology we see emerging today can trace its roots back to a man  named Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768-1834), a nineteenth century German theologian.  The average person has never heard of Schleiermacher, yet his ghost still walks the aisles of many churches, teaches in some theological institutions, and influences many preachers’ theological thoughts. Schleiermacher is considered the father of theological liberalism. His influence upon twenty-first century theology is widespread.

Born in 1768 in Breslaw, Germany, Schleiermacher was the son of a Prussian army chaplain. At a young age he was sent to a Moravian boarding school noted for fervent pietism. While the pietism appealed to his religious nature, he began to doubt the Christian tenets of the faith and in time abandoned Christian orthodoxy. At age nineteen (1787) he wrote his parents a distressing letter in which he informed them he no longer believed Jesus was God incarnate and that he had abandoned the belief that “Christ’s death was a vicarious atonement and I cannot believe it to have been necessary.” [1]   Thus, began his departure from orthodox Christian faith to embark upon a path of theological liberalism. He sought to fashion in new language and develop new ideas to replace what he considered were no longer relevant concepts to the current culture…and in the process save Christianity from irrelevance.

In his effort to refashion the Christian faith to appeal to the current culture he diluted its truths. Schleiermacher rejected that the whole of the Bible was inspired and viewed the Bible as a book that “must be treated like all other books.” He pressed to eliminate from the Bible all that referred to the “mystical and supernatural elements,” which included the virgin birth, the miracles of Christ, and even the resurrection. [2]   Since objective truth as asserted to be in the Bible was unobtainable, redemption comes about as the result of a subjective experience apart from any historical event of the past – like the cross or the resurrection.

Schleiermacher elevated one’s subjective experience as authoritative over the objective facts and truths presented in the Bible. For him “religion” was essentially “feeling,” which he defined as “immediate self-consciousness…in and through the Infinite.” [3]   One’s subjective experience (feeling) was authoritative over biblical authority. As well, he taught that sin is the experience of our innate God-consciousness being hindered by the conflict between our fleshy, sensuous nature and our higher spiritual nature. Redemption comes through Jesus Christ by means of His self-communication to awaken man to his unique God-consciousness; redemption being not about the forgiveness of sins, but about a transformation of character. [4]   Schleiermacher believed that Christ set the example by living his entire life in a state of absolute dependence on God; therefore, it is not Christ’s vicarious death and resurrection that saves us, but it is by striving to emulate Christ’s life as the ideal experience of divine dependence. The Church is to be a community where a person’s God-consciousness emerges, bringing about a new relationship in one’s relation to God and to the world.

Let it suffice to say, Schleiermacher’s attempt to reconstruct the Christian faith to make it more palatable to the culture of his day resulted in dramatically altering the doctrine of God, authority of the Bible, sin, the deity of Christ, Christ’s atoning death, the resurrection, and the way of redemption. While the life of Christ was held up as an ideal for humanity to reach, one is to reject the “magical” conception of redemption through the mediation of Christ. Though Schleiermacher had a keen intellect, he could not embrace what by reason he could not rationally explain. Thus, he rejected biblical Christianity even as he attempted to try to repackage it for the culture of the day.

While Schleiermacher’s name may have faded into history and even unknown in the twenty-first century, his ghost still pervades the theological landscape. Today we see Protestant preachers and denominations who seek to repackage the truths of the Bible in language that softens its authoritativeness in order to make it more relevant and acceptable to the culture. One is encouraged to no longer use terms like, “The Bible says, the Bible teaches, the Word of God says, the Word of God teaches.” After all, what is important is one’s experience with God, which is more important than one’s assent to some objective biblical tenets. Once one begins traveling down that slippery slope in the name of relevance and appeasement, one gradually elevates subjective experience as authoritative over the objective truth of God’s Word. And once one embraces elevating subjectivity as authoritative over the objective truth of God’s Word, it will not be long before the Bible is tossed aside and one’s subjective experience will be deemed as authoritative regardless of what God’s Word says. Yet how can one, though, determine the legitimacy of one’s subjective experience if there is no authoritative objective truth whereby the experience is measured?

If one’s subjective experience is authoritative and primary and the Bible secondary in its authority, then there will come the redefining of what constitutes sin. After all, if one’s personal experience trumps the authority of the Bible then one can determine for themselves what is right and wrong. For what constitutes sin is not determined by objective biblical tenets which teach man is a sinner by nature and choice and is alienated and separated from his Creator, but sin is redefined as simply the experience of our innate God-consciousness being hindered by the conflict between our fleshy, sensuous nature and our higher spiritual nature. And since one’s subjective experience is authoritative, then one is the determiner of what is of a sensuous nature. Such reasoning is how one can claim to be a Christian yet adopt a lifestyle that is not only diametrically opposed to the Word of God but pervertedly abnormal to even normative behavior. After all, one is only a “sinner” in the sense one has not had emerge from within their God-consciousness. And the Church is to be community where one can be aided to discover their inner God-consciousness and their needed dependence on God.

Of course, if the Bible is not the Church’s primary authoritative source, then that opens the door to one’s subjective God-experience not anchored in any historical event such as the cross or the resurrection, but only in any experience which brings about God-consciousness in one’s life. If that is the case the virgin birth is not necessary, the cross is not necessary, and the resurrection while important, is not more important than one’s personal experience. The question is asked again, how can one determine the legitimacy of one’s subjective experience if there is no authoritative objective truth whereby the experience is measured?

Yes, to the astute listener there are many “preachers” and denominations today that are channeling the spirit of Schleiermacher in their presentation of the “gospel.” It is a “gospel” that is man-centered not Christocentric. One must be very leery when one hears a preacher or a denomination use flowery words that seek to repackage the Word of God in language that weakens or softens the Bible’s inspiration and authority to make it more appealing to the culture. True, we are living in a changing culture, but we don’t reach the changing world by changing the Word, but by unapologetically proclaiming the unchanging Word. It is proclaiming the objective truths found within the Life-Giving Word of God that are able to breathe life into one who is dead and trespasses and sins.

Paul encouraged Timothy to preach the Word in season and out of season, when it was convenient and when it was inconvenient, when it was acceptable and unacceptable, when it appealed to man and when it didn’t appeal to man. The Inspired Volume holds within it pages the answers to the woes of man – and it is found in the atoning cross of Christ who died for the sins of all humanity. Salvation is not found in a subjective experience that is anchored outside the objective truths of the Word of God which informs that man is in need of a Savior and that Savior is Jesus Christ whose death on the cross was vicarious and His resurrection verifiable. Again, that message doesn’t need to be repackaged or refashioned….it simply needs to be retold!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] The Theology of Schleiermacher: A Condensed Presentation of His Chief Work, “The Christian Faith” by George Cross and Friedrich Schleiermacher, (University of Chicago Press, 1911),  19.

[2] Dawn DeVries, Jesus Christ in the Preaching of Calvin and Schleiermacher (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 99.

[3] Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers, tr. John Oman, (NY; Scribner, 1958), 49-50.

[4] R. Niebuhr, Schleiermacher on Christ and Religion (New York: Scribner, 1964), 208.

NOT FORGETTING THE MEANING OF MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial Weekend is upon us and Memorial Day is Monday. What is Memorial Day all about? The meaning of Memorial Day transcends simply gathering with family and friends for a festive cookout or a day when many have off from work. In this politically correct day in which we live the true meaning of Memorial Day is lost to many and, sadly, its meaning is not often taught or fully appreciated. It is a time we pause to remember our fallen heroes.

There are several stories on how Memorial Day actually began. One of the first observances in honoring the war dead occurred in the southern state of Mississippi. On April 25, 1866, in Columbus, Mississippi, a group of women were decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in the battle of Shiloh. A grief-stricken mother, after decorating the graves of her two sons who died fighting for the South, walked over to two mounds of dirt at the corner of the cemetery to place flowers on the graves of two Union soldiers. As she respectfully placed the flowers on the barren graves, someone said to her in a rebuking tone, “What are you doing? Those are the graves of Union soldiers.” Responding in a voice filled with compassion and sympathy, the mother softly stated, “I know. I also know that somewhere in the North, a mother or a young wife mourns for them as we do for ours.”

Such a loving act of kindness was one of the seeds that were planted in the soil of a fractured nation that grew into what became known as Memorial Day. In May of 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, Decoration Day was observed when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. General John Logan stating, “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

Each year afterwards more and more states recognized Decoration Day, honoring all those who lost their lives in the Civil War. By the turn of the 20th century Memorial Day ceremonies on May 30 were being held throughout the nation. After WWI the day was expand to honor and remember those who died in all American wars. In 1971 Memorial Day was declared by Congress a national holiday, being observed on the last Monday in May.

It is only fitting that on this special day we pause to honor and remember the some 1.2 million heroes, American service men and women who have died for our nation’s freedoms. It has been said of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country, “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

Because evil seeks to suppress life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, freedom always comes at a price. Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter written to William Stephens Smith, November 13, 1787, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural [nourishment].”

Samuel Adams, a Founding Father who helped draft the Articles of Confederation, stated, “The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards.”

This country just didn’t happen; it began on July 4, 1776, when 56 brave men signed their names to a document known as the Declaration of Independence pledging together their lives that we might have the United States of America. Let us not forget our Founding Fathers sacrifices and those who have served this great country and those who shed their blood that freedom might still flourish

While it would be more than wonderful if no more wars were fought, we live in a world where liberty must be defended as long as freedom-hating tyrants exist. As Americans we may not always agree with the wars that we as a nation find ourselves involved in, but we must always rally around those who put their lives on the line to keep us free from tyrannical rulers and those who seek to oppress freedom and liberty. These freedom-defending men and women are the real heroes amongst us.

This Memorial Day as we gather with family for cookouts, as we embark upon family outings, as we enjoy the freedoms we too often take for granted, let us pause and give thanks to the Good Lord for all those who have served, giving the ultimate sacrifice. As well, let us breathe a silent prayer for those serving around the world that are separated from their families that we might be able to be with ours.

May God Bless (and have mercy upon) the United States of America.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT WOMEN BEING ORDAINED AS PASTORS?

It seems discussion regarding whether or not there is scriptural basis for a woman to serve as a pastor is undergoing renewed debate in various Baptist circles. In wading through the deep waters of this subject, one must turn to First Timothy 2:11-15 to gain an understanding. This portion of scripture is almost universally considered to be complex and difficult. Nicholas T. Wright, former Bishop of Durham, considers this portion of Scripture as the “hardest passage of all” to exegete properly. All who have wrestled with an understanding of what the Apostle was seeking to convey would agree with Bishop Wright, yet I do believe an understanding of the text is possible. Let it be stated at the outset, the goal is to be both gracious in presenting Scriptural understanding and to prayerfully honor the truth of Scripture in interpretation.

The portion of Scripture under consideration, beginning in verse 9, reads (KJV):

I Timothy 2:9-15: 9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

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Numerous interpretive approaches have been made seeking to grasp the meaning of Paul’s words to Timothy. When grappling with gaining an understanding of these verses, as one must always do, the context and the cultural background must be a guide in coming to a proper interpretation. Any interpretation of this portion of Scripture must take into consideration the theological, contextual, cultural and historical background, and other scriptural passages on the same subject. With that said, an attempt will be made to shed some light and understanding on these complex and often controversial verses.

An understanding of the culture background in which the verses under examination were penned is essential. In the Roman world, the female was a part of all the heathen religions, and women occupied a prominent place in the services. The worship of Aphrodite at Corinth was probably one the most immoral in which prostitution was actually made into a religion. The thousand vestal virgins who were in the temple of Aphrodite on top of the Acropolis in Corinth were nothing in the world but prostitutes. In all the mystery religions, there were priestesses who played a prominent role in the “worship” services. [1]  

Paul in writing to Timothy, who was residing in the pagan society of Ephesus, advises him concerning the church doctrinally, structurally and functionally. Like Corinth, Ephesus was one of the world centers of paganism, as the Roman goddess, Diana (in Greek the goddess, Artemis), was the prevailing deity of the city (Acts 19). The worshippers of Diana taught the superiority of the female and advocated female domination over the male, and the priestess were well known for officiating in temple “worship.” [2] 

The worship of Diana was characterized by sexual perversion and so-called fertility rites, her image being represented as a many breasted woman. The female participants were known to be loud, boisterous and disruptive. As well, the women who were involved in pagan worship in Ephesus and Corinth, would adorn themselves in sexually enticing dress and ornate jewelry. Women occupied a very prominent position in heathenistic worship.

In addition to the worship of Diana, there was present in Ephesus the spread of the early seeds of Gnosticism. Gnostics derived their name from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “knowledge.” Gnostics believed each person possesses a “divine spark” within, but for one to arrive at a full knowledge of God one needed the help of emanations or aeons or “spirit guides,” to impart divine knowledge that would aid one in their spiritual journey to experience the fullness of the divine. Gnostics taught that Jesus was just one of the many aeons or “spiritual guides” along the way in the quest to experience the fullness of God.

While there are many variations of Gnosticism, the Gnostics believed the God of the Old Testament, who created the physical world, was a lower divine being, called the Demiurge. This lower divine being that created the physical world had emanated from the “fullness of God.” Gnostics turned the creation story upside down, believing Eve was the illuminator of spiritual consciousness in Adam. In Gnosticism, Eve was superior to Adam as she was sent to be the “awakener” of Adam who was in a deep sleep, having no spiritual soul or consciousness. While the Bible has Eve physically emerging from Adam’s side, the Gnostic version has Adam’s spiritual awakening being the result of Eve calling him forth from the depths of spiritual unconsciousness, crying out, “Adam, live. Rise up upon the earth.” Upon Eve “awakening” Adam, he says to her, “You shall be called the ‘mother of the living’, because you are the one who gave me life.” [3]   Gnostics contended that man was indebted to woman for bringing him to life and consciousness. Again, in Gnosticism Eve is superior to Adam. This is important to understand Paul’s meaning in I Timothy 2:11-15.

Worship of the pagan goodness Diana and the early seeds of Gnosticism, were twin towers of evil influence that Timothy confronted as he sought to bring order and stability to the Ephesian Church. So, with some knowledge of the historical and culture background in which Timothy found himself, attention can now be turned to gaining a better understanding of Paul’s instructions on Christian conduct in public worship. First Timothy 3:14-15 clearly states this is one of the reasons Paul was writing to Timothy, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: But if I tarry long, that thou may know how thou ought to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The instructions Paul gives to Timothy was so that he would know how the church assemblies should be structured and function in the midst of a society influenced by pagan religion and false teaching.

As chapter two begins Paul gives instruction regarding public prayer and delineates the conduct of men and women in public worship. The men are to lead in prayer, “lifting up holy hands without wrath (anger) and doubting (disputing)” (I Tim. 2:8). Prayer must be offered in a spirit of love, harmony, peace and unity. Powerful prayer cannot be separated from living a holy life.

In addressing the woman’s conduct, because of the unfavorable light cast on womanhood because of the prominence of woman in pagan worship and Gnosticism, Paul elaborates on the character and conduct of the Christian woman in Ephesian society.

First, in I Timothy 2:9-10, Paul writes, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” It was because of these heathen practices of many women in Ephesus that Paul emphasizes in this portion of scripture that the focus for the Christian woman should be upon inner adornment and beauty rather than outward adornment and sexual allurement. The word translated “shamefacedness” (KKJ) has nothing to do with the “face” or “shame”, but denotes one who possesses the qualities of modesty and humility in their life. It “denotes a demeanor which is restrained by true womanly reserve and inner beauty.” [4] 

Paul in these verses is encouraging women in the importance to set themselves apart by the way they dress so as to not have any misconstrued identity with those associated with women of the Temple of Diana. Paul is not against women “looking good,” but he is more concerned about women acting godly and dressing in an appropriate manner that is not sexually provocative. Christian beauty from the inside will always enhance outer beauty, not the other way around. A woman with a character adorned with goodness and grace is of greater value than costly jewelry.

Second, in I Timothy 2:11, Paul writes, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.” Paul gives similar instruction in I Corinthians 14:34, which reads, “Let your women keep silence in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak.”

First Timothy 2:11 is really quite revolutionary, considering many women at that time were not well educated and were not encouraged to learn. Paul is encouraging the Christian women to learn and be informed what the Scriptures teach. By learning the Scriptures, the Ephesian women would not be deceived by false teachers. He instructs them to learn in “silence.” Is Paul saying a Christian woman is not to speak at all in church or ever have any voice in church? From other portions of Scripture, we know this is not true.

It is clear from I Corinthians 11:5 that when proper order was followed and respect for authority demonstrated, women were permitted to pray in public worship. As well, women were prominent as prophets in both the Old Testament (Numbers 12:1-16, Judges 4:4-5, 5:7, 2 Kings 22:14) and the New Testament. Women prophets were active at Pentecost (Acts 2:17), Phillip had four prophesying daughters (Acts 21:9), and there were women prophets in Corinth (I Corinthians 11:5). The gift of prophecy was given to men as well as women, which both were allowed to exercise in pubic worship. David Kuske, of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, in an exegetical treatment of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, defines “prophesy” as “sharing God’s word with others to strengthen, encourage, or comfort them.” He bases his definition on I Corinthians 14:3 which reads, “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort.” [5]   So, prophesy was the speaking of edifying words, not expounding doctrinally oriented “sermons” which was the function of the pastor.

A look at the Greek word “silence” sheds much light as to what Paul is saying. The Greek word hēsuchia which is translated as “silent” carries with it the idea of “calmness” or “quietness” or “harmony.” This same word is more correctly translated as “quiet” a few verses earlier in I Timothy 2:2. The word has more to do with an attitude and spirit that exhibits an orderly and teachable behavior more than simply physical silence.

Unlike the loud and boisterous women involved in pagan worship, Paul instructs Christian women to learn quietly, in calmness and in a respectful manner in the presence of the prevailing authorities. Paul’s advice to Timothy, and to the Corinthians, is that everything must be done decently and in order, giving respect and “submission” to those in authority (I Corinthians 14:33). Paul’s advice to Timothy is to not permit women to disrupt church services which was prevalent in pagan worship. Christian women are to set an example that demonstrates respectfulness. As seen from other Scriptures, Paul’s instruction does not limit a woman’s voice in all places at all times. Women may engage in public “prayer and prophecy” (I Cor. 11:3) as long as it is done orderly, respectfully and their voices are not disruptive. The women, nor the men, were to go beyond the bounds of good order.

Third, in I Timothy 2:12, Paul writes, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Approaching this portion of Scripture in the context in which it was written sheds informative light upon the instructions of Paul to Timothy. Gaining a proper sense of Paul’s instruction is found by seeking an understanding what he meant by (1) “teach” and (2) “usurp authority.” As shall be discovered, the words didaskein (teach) and authentein (usurp authority) cannot be separated, they are interwoven, as teaching is included in the exercise of authority and an act by which authority is exercised.

Kenneth Wuest in his Greek Word Studies says the tense of the Greek word “teach” (didaskein) renders Paul’s instruction, “I do not permit a woman to be a teacher [in the capacity of a bishop/elder/pastor whose responsibility is to expound doctrine in public assemblies].” [6] According to Wuest the context is dealing with authoritative order and functionality within the church, recognizing that in public worship it is the responsibility of the pastor to be the “teacher” in matters of doctrine and interpretation.

The authoritative structure and function within the Ephesus Church was to be opposite of the structure and function found within the pagan temples. The office of pastoral authority is given to the church, it does not come from the church. In order to secure a Biblical foundation of the office as it exists in the church it is necessary to ground it firmly in Scripture. Theologian Gleason Archer writes, “Here we have a clear principle of subordination of woman to man in the structure of the church as an organized body in the matter of pastoral leadership.” Scriptures allow women to pray, prophesy and teach children and other women, as found in I Corinthians 11:3, II Timothy 1:5; 3:13, and Titus 2:3-4. In Acts 18:26, Aquilla and Priscilla took Apollos aside and both “expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly,” indicating Priscilla helped in teaching a man in private. As well, Paul was most thankful for the productive ministries of Dorcas (Acts 9:36), Lydia (Acts 16:14), Phoebe (Romans 16:1), and many others (Acts 17:4, 12). From these Scriptural examples, it is clear Paul saw the work of faithful Christian women as indispensable; however, there is no Scriptural evidence he ever recognized any of these women in a position of pastoral authority. Archer states, “God intends that the responsibility of [pastoral] leadership devolve on man rather than woman.” [7]

Paul goes on to say that the woman is not to “usurp authority” over a man (v. 12). Understanding what Paul meant by this hinges on the Greek verb, “authentein.” The problem is that this verb is found nowhere else in the Bible. Biblical scholars debate the meaning of “authentein,” which has several shades of meaning. The lexical history of this word is long and complex. The various meanings will help shed greater light on the cultural context of what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy.

It must be noted that study of Paul’s letters shows that he regularly used a form of the Greek word “exousia” when referring to the use of authority in the church (see 1 Cor 6:12, 7:4, 1 Cor 6:12, 7:4, 9:4-6, 9:12, 11:10, 2 Cor 2:8, 10:8, 13:10, Col. 1:13, 2 Thess 3:12, Rom 6:15, 9:21). That the meaning of “authentein,” in verse 12, has been the source of considerable differences of opinion among biblical scholars over the years it is likely that Paul was addressing something more than the usual respect for pastoral authority when he used the Greek word “authentein” instead of “exousia.” Interestingly, Professor Albert Wolters sees Paul’s use of the word authentein as a play on words. Wolters points out “. . . the word authentēs played a prominent role in Gnosticism; for example, it was the name of the supreme deity in the systems of early Gnostics [sects].” Authentēs is typically translated into English as “supreme power” in works by Early Church Fathers who addressed Christian Gnosticism. There is a clear link between the word authentēs with Gnosticism. Wolters concludes in his thorough examination of the word “authenerin” that “in the light of the meaning which that word had in the Greek of the day, [it could be translated] ‘master,’ conveying the basic idea of mastery.” [8] Moulton and Milligan (Vocabulary of the Greek Testament) are in agreement with Wolters that authentein means “mastery, autocrat.” In other words, the woman was not to seek mastery over the man who was functioning in a pastoral capacity, but be respectful of his position.

Most respected Bible translators of I Timothy 2:12 have interpreted “authentein” to mean: “to usurp or exercise authority” over a man, or “to have authority” over a man. Ralph Earle gives a similar meaning, “one who acts on their own authority.” [9] The prolific Bible commentator Warren Wiersbe translates the meaning as “not to ‘lord it over’ the man.” [10]; as does the New Testament theologian Donald Guthrie. [11] The Greek scholar A.T. Robertson contends the meaning of the verse is that women are not to “have dominion over a man in public gatherings.” He connects several meanings to the word authentein: playing the master, autocrat, domineer, authoritative. [12] 

While over the years the overwhelming majority of English Bible translations have been in agreement in rendering the meaning of the Greek word authentein as having to do with “usurping or exercising authority over” the man (e.g., KJV, RSV, GNB, NIV, CEV, NASB, NLT, NET, AMP, BRG, ESV, HCSB), Walter Liefeld points out, “A perplexing issue [surrounds] the meaning of ‘authentein.’ Over the course of its history this verb and its associated noun have had a wide semantic range, including some bizarre meanings, such as committing suicide, murdering one’s parents, and being sexually aggressive. The word has had a history of being associated with violent behavior and conduct.” [13]

As Liefeld does, Leland Wilshire does not limit the translation of authentein to only in reference to the use of usurping one’s authority. Wilshire concludes that authentein might best be translated “instigate violence.” Wilshire bases this conclusion upon a study of known uses of the word “authentein” in Greek literature from the years 200 B.C. to 200 A.D. He found that while the word “authentein” was used on occasions in extra-biblical literature to denote authority, it was also widely associated with various forms of self-willed violent behavior. Wilshire’s research fits within the historical context of what Timothy was dealing with in the pagan worship embedded in the Ephesian society, as women were not to “instigate violent behavior” against those in pastoral authority. [14]   

Andreas Köstenberger, following the traditional view as to the meaning of authentein, suggests a possible translation of this phrase might be: “I do not permit a woman to teach in an authoritative capacity or to exercise authority over a man.” He argues that I Timothy 2:12 is a universal and timeless prohibition of a woman teaching Christian doctrine in an authoritative pastoral role. [15]  

Taking into consideration all the shades of meaning of “authentein,” women in Timothy’s congregation, therefore, was to neither teach nor commit violent conduct or display disruptive behavior in public assemblies, as would have been prevalent in the pagan religions of that day. The various meanings of “authentein” all seem to convey the same instructive truth: Paul is advising Timothy to not permit women to have mastery over or usurp the man’s authoritative role as pastor in the church, to not instigate disruptive behavior in public worship so as not to mirror or to resemble in appearance the heathen religions where women were prominent in the leading of worship. Such an admonition had to do with the teaching of doctrine, urging the Christian woman to be careful neither to disrupt the worship nor to assume the place of public expounder of doctrine in the public gathering of the church. Again, keep in mind that the women led in the mystery religions and cults of Paul’s day, and they were nothing but sex orgies. Paul is cautioning women not to behave in a disruptive manner or in an authoritative capacity publicly, for in so doing one could be misunderstood of making an appeal on the basis of flaunting sexual or physical charm or signaling improper innuendoes. Such actions would be a deterrent to prayer, proclamation and public worship.

As has been seen, women could speak, pray and prophesy in the church, but they were not to function authoritatively as in pagan worship nor be disruptive in public worship when one was speaking authoritatively. This passage teaches there are authoritative roles and subordinate roles and proper functionality within the church and public worship must be held in an orderly manner. New Testament scholars Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas Schreiner, and Scott Baldwin conclude from their thorough study of I Timothy 2:12 women should not function “as teaching pastors or teaching elders/overseers of the churches. This means that women should not proclaim the Word of God from the pulpit to the congregation of the saints.” [16]   

Let it be made clear, “Both man and woman are equally precious and worthy before God (Gal. 3:27-28), and the assigned level of responsibility does not give the men any special advantage or any inherently higher status before God than is granted to the woman.” [17]   Priority does not mean superiority. Both male and female are created in the image of God and both are inherently of equal worth in the eyes of God, yet have different functions and roles that God has called them too.

Fourth, Paul in explaining his instructions on the functionality of men and women in the church, writes in I Timothy 2:13-15, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” Paul offers two reasons why the responsibility of pastoral authority and leadership is vested in the man: (1) For Adam was first formed, then Eve. Paul cites the order of creation in establishing masculine leadership in the church; and (2) Eve was deceived first. While Adam followed in disobedience, Eve fell first for the deceptiveness of the serpent. Paul’s inspired and instructive words are rooted in the culture-transcending account of the order of creation and the fall.

Paul is refuting the teaching of Gnosticism that Eve was the “awakener” of Adam’s spiritual consciousness, as Adam was formed first, then Eve. Eve was not the illuminator of Adam’s spiritual consciousness, as Gnosticism taught, but she was deceived by the serpent, and as a result sin entered the world (Adam went along with her and was guilty, as well). While Eve was prominent in Gnosticism and pagan worship, Paul points out that in the Christian Church structure of functionality in pastoral authority and leadership has been assigned to the male. It is not a matter of equality, but a matter of divinely assigned authoritative function.

Establishing from the Genesis creation account that Eve was not created first and that Eve was not the “awakener” of man’s spiritual consciousness, as Gnosticism taught, but was deceived by the serpent, in verse fifteen Paul says the woman shall be saved in childbearing. What did Paul mean? In the Greek “childbearing” (teknogonias) follows an article, which would render the phrase “the childbirth.” This is a clear reference to the birth of the Savior, the promised Messiah. [18] Eve was deceived and sinned (as did man), but another woman, Mary, gave birth to the Savior. Woman, as well as man, are saved by “THE childbirth,” as Mary gave birth to the promised Messiah who is the true “awakener” of mankind. And is not that what the Lord promised to Eve, that salvation would come through the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15)?

Another interpretation of what Paul meant by a woman being saved in childbirth is suggested by W.E. Vine. He writes, “By means of begetting children and so fulfilling the design appointed for her through acceptance of motherhood…she would be saved from becoming a prey to the social evils of the time and would take her part in the maintenance of testimony of the local church.” Such an interpretation is most plausible and fits the context of the Epistle. [19]   

In summary, in a society of pagan religions, immoral behavior, and false teachings, (much like today) the desire of Paul was that Christian women live holy and godly lives. He desired the Christian woman in Ephesus to not be disruptive in church assemblies, respect those who were teaching and not usurp pastoral authority. The question arises, were Paul’s instructions regarding the structural and functionality of men and women in the church intended to be normative principles and guidelines or were they just temporary instructions for the local situation in Ephesus?

It is not difficult to understand why Paul’s instructive words are so unpopular in our current culture. One can find a plethora of biblical commentators who argue that Paul’s instructive words were not to be normative for the Church, but were confined to the local situation in Ephesus. Again, Paul’s inspired and instructive words are rooted in the culture-transcending account of the order of creation and the fall. Steven Baugh, professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary, thus concluding after extensive research that Paul’s injunctions “are not temporary measures in a unique social setting,” but are to be normative for church structural order. [20]  Douglas Moo, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, concurs with Baugh, stating, “It can only be concluded that the results of an exegetical investigation carried out of [I Timothy 2:11-15] must stand as valid for the Church in every age and place. [21]   

It is the contention of this writer, as well, that two thousand years of Church history has validated that the inspired Word is giving normative instructions how the authoritative function of the Church should be structured. To seek to explain away Paul’s words in I Timothy 2:11-13 regarding the assigned leadership and subornation structure of the Church as it pertains to men and women, one must do some exegetical gymnastics to the text and other texts that speak to this issue. Instead of sound exegesis, many force Scripture to accommodate their particular point of view.

Many today are painstakingly twisting and pretzelizing the Scriptures to make it more palatable in the 21st century to those who want the Bible to say something other than what it says. The problem is not that the words of Paul are misunderstood, the problem is that though they are understood they are not acceptable deep down in the recesses of our human nature. It must be remembered, the Word is to correct and instruct us, it is not our place to correct the Word in order that it might fit our preconceived ideas and notions. If we believe in the inspiration of Scripture, then why do we think we can improve upon the instructions that were given to us by divine inspiration? If one believes the Holy Spirit superintended Paul’s writings, then the instructions the Apostle peened to Timothy are by divine inspiration and transcend time and cultures.

Quoting Gleason Archer, he offers wise words of caution, “Those who attempt to rework Scripture are violating and reducing Scripture to a plastic medium that can be interpreted to mean anything the subjective desire of the interpreter may choose. Such an interpretation must therefore be regarded as tantamount to rejection of the objective authority of Scriptures.” [22]  

In a final word, while no doubt debate will continue to rage on in the parsing of Paul’s instructions to Timothy, let us not lose sight of the intent of Paul’s inspired advice; that the Christian Church is to be comprised of men and women who are striving to live holy and prayerful lives and who conduct themselves in public worship in a respectful and dignified manner for the purpose of edification of the believer through the proclamation of the Word in order that men, women, boys and girls might come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] Leonard Swindler, Women in Judaism, 1976, 18-14 (24); also, Karl Barth, Ephesians, 2.656; and Vernon McGee, I & II Timothy, Through the Bible Books, 1978, 46-47.

[2] Lily Ross Taylor, “Artemis of Ephesus,” The Acts of the Apostles, Part I of Beginnings of Christianity ed. F.J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, 5, 1933, 253-254; W.M. Ramsey, “Diana of the Ephesians,” A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hasting, Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1898, 1.605.

[3] From the Gnostic writings Nag Hammadi Library discovered in 1945 – Apocryphon of John and On the Origin of the World.

[4] Charles Erdman, The Pastoral Epistles of Paul, Westminster Press, (1965) 40-41.

[5] David Kuske, “Exegesis of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16,” Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, 1999.

[6] Kenneth Wuest, “Commentary on I Timothy”, Word Studies, Eerdmans Publishing, 1973, pp. 47-49; also, Dana and Manley, Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 199.

[7] Gleason Archer, Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, 1982, 411.

[8] Albert Wolters, “A Semantic Study of Authentēs and its Derivatives”, The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Spring 2006, 44-65.

[9] Earle, “I Timothy,” The Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. II, Zondervan, 1978, 363.

[10] Wiersbe, Be Faithful, Victor Books, 1982, 37.

[11] Guthrie, New Testament Theology, Intervarsity Press, 1981, 779.

[12] Robertson, “I Timothy,” Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume IV, Baker Book House, 1931, 570.

[13] Walter Liefeld, “Response to David M. Scholer”, Women, Authority & the Bible, IVP Books, 1986, 220.

[14] L.E. Wilshire, Insight into Two Biblical Passages, University Press of America. 2010, 28-29; and also, Wilshire, “I Timothy 2:12 Revisited,” Evangelical Quarterly, 65:1, 1993, 45.

[15] Köstenberger, “A Complex Sentence: The syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12”, Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-12, Andreas Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 2000).

[16] Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner, and H. Scott Baldwin, eds. Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-12, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996, 210.

[17] Gleason Archer, Bible Difficulties, Zondervan, 1982, 411.

[18] Robertson, Word Studies, 570.

[19] Earle, “I Timothy,” The Expositors Bible Commentary, Vol. II, Zondervan, 1978, 362.

[20] Found in Kostenberger, Women in the Church, 49.

[21] Moo, “I Timothy 2:11-15: Meaning and Significance,” Trinity Journal NS (Spring 1980) 62-83.

[22] Archer, Difficulties, 412.

WHAT AN INTERVIEW IT MUST HAVE BEEN!

Luke introduces his narrative telling us he did extensive research and interviewed eyewitnesses in the composing of the Third Gospel (1:1-4). And as one reads the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke, one is confronted with the question, “Did Luke interview Mary, the mother of Jesus, in composing his narrative on the Life of Christ?”  While there is no verse in the Bible which confirms whether or not Luke interviewed Mary; however, one has to give serious consideration that he did, for he sure included in his Gospel a lot of “inside” information surrounding the announced conception, birth and boyhood events regarding Christ. So much so that it would be hard not to deduce that Luke did interview Mary.

Did Luke Interview Mary?

This writer contends one of those eyewitnesses Luke interviewed was Mary, the mother of Jesus.  Obviously, Mary would have been advanced in years at the time, but not overly aged. If one considers when Gabriel appeared unto her with the message that she would bear the Christ Child, Mary, as many scholars suppose, was probably between thirteen to fifteen years old (the Jewish Talmud taught that a daughter could be given in marriage as early as of age twelve and twelve and a half), then she would have been about 15 (no older than 16) when Jesus was born. Jesus died at age 33, which would have made Mary about 48 or 49 years old at Jesus’ death.  The Apostle John, under instructions from Jesus as he hung on the cross, looked after Mary until her death (Jh 19:25-27), which her exact time or age is unknown. Luke is thought to have begun writing his Gospel in the mid to late 50s AD, which would have put Mary’s age in her early to mid 70s when Luke would have interviewed her.  So, it is clearly not out of the realm of possibility that Luke interviewed Mary. As well, reading Luke’s birth narrative one can confidently surmise he received eyewitness information from her.

Come, let us reason together.

First, in Luke 1:26-38, Dr. Luke records the archangel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary. Only Mary and Gabriel were present at the announcement and the conversation which took place between the two. So the only sure source from where Luke received his information about such intimate information had to be Mary. Luke could not have gotten such intimate information from Mary’s cousin Elizbeth as she would no doubt have died by the time Luke composed his Gospel since Luke informs us Elizabeth was already “advanced in age” (Lk 1:18) at the time of Mary’s conception. Taking that into consideration, Mary is the most likely source of the intimate details Luke records.

 Second, in Luke 1:46-56 we find Mary’s magnificent song of praise. The only ones present when this song of praise echoed in the air, was Mary and Elizabeth…and possibly Zechariah. But once again, Elizabeth (and Zechariah), would have died by the time Luke composed his Gospel because they were already advanced in years.  That only leaves Mary who would have been able to tell Luke in the detail the words of the magnificent song of praise she lifted to the Lord. 

Third, In Luke 2:21-39 we find the details regarding Jesus’ circumcision and dedication eight days after his birth. Who was present?  Mary, Joseph, Simeon, and Anna were present. Once again, since Joseph, Simeon, and Anna have passed away by the time Luke composed the third Gospel, how would Luke have known the details of conversation, the prayers and specifics of this incident. Again, that only leaves Mary to have related the details to Luke.  

Fourth, when we see the incident of Jesus’ interaction with the “scholars” in the Temple at 12 years of age (Lk 2:40-52), who was best to relate this story to Luke?  Since Joseph had already passed away, that only leaves Mary to relate the personal details of the incident to Luke.  Interestingly, Luke twice adds another detail about Mary that no other gospel does: “His mother pondered all these things in her heart” (Lk 1.19 and 1.51). How did Luke know Mary kept so much ponderings about Jesus in her heart if she had not told him? Unless Luke was a mind reader, he could not have known this detail unless Mary had informed him.

Could Luke have received his details from another source other than Mary? Of course, that is possible.  Some would even contend that Luke, being divinely inspired of God, could have received his information directly from the Lord without human correspondence. That is a possibility; however, while divine inspiration of Scripture means God’s Spirit superintended what Luke wrote, that doesn’t mean he was divorced from his personality and the responsibility of diligent research in the composing of what God inspired him to write. This would have included Luke interviewing eyewitnesses in his research. That being said, this writer contends one can say with confidence that Mary was clearly the only one consistently present at all of these events mentioned above and the intimate details Luke relates to his readers makes it highly likely that he received his information from the very lips of Mary.

What an interview it must have been!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

WAS LUKE HISTORICALLY INCORRECT?

Luke was a meticulous historian. Archaeologist Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) spent a lifetime researching the historical trustworthiness of Luke’s writings (Luke and Acts) and came to the conclusion, “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy… [he] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”[1] However, a common argument among critics of the New Testament is that Luke appears to commit a historical error regarding the census connected with a Roman official named Quirinius (“Cyrenius” is the Greek form of Quirinius). If Luke was incorrect in his information, then that casts a disparaging light upon the reliability and inspiration of Scripture.

Was Luke historically incorrect?

Luke in telling the timeless story of Jesus’ birth begins, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city” (Luke 2:1-3).

Of Luke 2:2 skeptics contend Dr. Luke’s citing of Quirinius is a historical contradiction. Luke writes that Joseph and Mary returned to Bethlehem for a census and “this was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” The Jewish historian, Josephus, confirmed the existence of his governorship and census, but placed Quirinius from AD 6 to AD 12. [2] This time is too late to line up with the birth of Jesus, as Matthew wrote that Jesus was born during the reign of Herod the Great, who according to Josephus, died nine years prior to the Syrian governorship of Quirinius. The authority of Josephus seems to be at odds with the accuracy of the Gospel writers.  Critics question Luke’s historical reliability and argue that Luke is wrong in his dating of the census under Quirinius.  

Is there an answer to this seeming contradiction?

It is known from ancient Judean and Egyptian papyri that the Romans had a regular enrollment of taxpayers and that they held censuses every fourteen years (begun by Augustus Caesar) which lasted for several centuries. Justin Martyr (c. 100 – c. 165), a second century Christian apologist and philosopher, affirms and asserts three times in his writings that Christ was born under Quirinius and refers to the census that was taken. Martyr wrote, “Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judea” [3] In other words, Martyr insists that if you want proof that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, just go look at the census records (which still existed at that time he wrote).   A mistake on the part of so careful an investigator doesn’t seem likely. If Quirinius had not been governor of Syria at that time, there were many persons living who could and would have pointed out the mistake. However, that hasn’t kept skeptics from attacking Luke on the grounds that Quirinius appears to have been only governor of Syria once and that was from 6 AD, past the time of Herod’s death and the birth of Jesus.

From history, Herod died in the year 4 BC. So we might conclude that Jesus must have been born about one or two years before the date of Herod’s death.  Archaeologist Sir William Ramsay (1851-1939) has proven by discovered inscriptions that Quirinius was twice governor of Syria, the first time about the date usually assigned to the birth of Christ.[4] An old monumental inscription speaks of a second governorship of Quirinius and this is confirmed by a passage in Tacitus (c. AD 56 – c. 120), a Roman historian and politician.[5] A series of inscriptions in Asia Minor show that Quirinius was governor of Syria in 10-7 BC, and again from AD 6-AD 12. [6] The latest inscriptional evidence shows that Quirinius was a legate in Syria for census purposes in 8-6 BC. Ramsay shows that the enrollment in Syria took place in 8-6 BC and due to delays of getting the word out and the geography of travel involved, this would bring time to 6-5 BC before all could register which would be the accepted time of the birth of Jesus. [7]  

Also, there has been discovered the name of Quirinius on a coin in micrographic letters, placing him as proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC until after the death of Herod. [8]   In fact, Luke’s terminology of referring to the “first” census under Quirinius can be taken to imply that there was a second, the one Josephus refers, too. Quirinius returned to Syria in 6 AD as the resident Imperial Legate, oversaw a second census, this time just for the region, which is mentioned in Acts 5:37, and governed the province for six years before retiring to Rome in 12 AD at 63 years of age. This is why Luke 2:2 specifies the census as the “first” one “taken while Quirinius was governing Syria.” If Luke thought that there was just one census (in AD 6), then he wouldn’t have called it the first census, he would’ve called it the census. This being so, there would be no conflict between Luke and Josephus. Both would be right.

Yes, archeological discoveries have shown Luke to be wholly correct in his statement that Quirinius was twice governor, and that the first census took place during the first period. Everywhere we can check the Bible’s history, it proves reliable. Archaeological discoveries always VERIFY that the Bible is true!!

Blessings,

Dr. Dan

Footnotes

[1] William Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1915), 222.

[2] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 1.

[3] Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 34.

[4] William Ramsay, Was Jesus Born in Bethlehem, (London: Hodder & Stroughton, 1898), 227ff.

[5] Tacitus, Annals, Book iii, Chapter 48.

[6] A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels, (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1922), 266.

[7] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, (Edinburgh Scotland: Saint Andrew Press, 1953), 15; Herschel H. Hobbs, Luke, (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1966), 49.

[8] John McRay, Archaeology and the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), 154.

HE DID IT ALL FOR ME…AND YOU!

Today is Good Friday, the day Christians commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary. That Jesus died on a cruel Roman cross is a historical fact. While it is universally recognized Jesus died on the cross, few seem to know what death by crucifixion entailed. Understanding what was involved when one was crucified gives us a greater appreciation of what Christ went through as He endured the shame and agony of the cross for all humanity. [1]  And to think, He did it all for me…and you!

The Roman practice of crucifixion was taken from the Carthaginians (800 B.C.) who were a very cruel and barbaric people. They adopted it from the Persians and Assyrians who used the cross as a method to slowly torture their enemies to death. It was said the cross was the most horrible form of punishment devised by man. The Roman orator Cicero said of crucifixion, “It is the most wretched of deaths, the supreme capital punishment.” [2] For its degree of torture, crucifixion was listed ahead of burning alive, decapitation, and eaten by wild beasts. Death by crucifixion was so ghastly it was reserved for the worst criminals, slaves and foreigners.

For one who was crucified on the cross the normal procedure was first a flogging. The whip used had 3-9 lashes on it. At the end of each lash were pieces of metal, bone or stone. The victim was hit 39 times (40 save 1). The victim being flogged, depending on the number of lashes on the whip, could receive from 120 to 350 lashes across the back, each strike painfully cutting deep into the flesh like a knife. Josephus, an early Jewish historian, records that flogging could be so vicious it could often cause a man’s teeth and eyes to be knocked out. Many victims wouldn’t live through the flogging, dying in their own pool of blood.

Not only did Jesus receive this flogging (Isaiah 50:6; John 19:1), He was beaten with the fists of the soldiers (John 18:22) and beaten on the head with a rod (Matthew 27:30). He was spit upon and His beard was painfully plucked out (Isaiah 50:6). Then a crown of thorns was pressed into His brow (John 19:5). If the victim lived through the flogging and the severe beatings, which Jesus did, they were required to carry their cross to the place of execution. Understanding the flogging the victim went through before being crucified one can see why Christ, in a weakened state, was unable to carry His cross to Calvary, Simon of Cyrene being chosen out of the crowd to bear the cross for Him (Mark 15:21-22).

Once to the place of execution the victim was stretched on the cross, his bleeding back screaming in agony when placed upon the rough splintered wood. The victim’s hands and feet were then nailed to cross. The pain experienced as the hammer drove the nails through the joints and tendons of the victim is incomprehensible. As the cross was dropped into the ground with a thud one can only imagine the pain the victim experienced as every joint and muscle jerked with pain and agony. Death came slowly and was excruciating. The victim slowly died of suffocation as the weight was on the diaphragm. The victim could only breathe by pulling with their hands and pushing with their feet. Each breath was a struggle and was agonizing.

Relief only came in death. It was said a healthy man could hang on the cross for as much as 48 hours before dying. To speed up death, a victim’s legs would be broken so they could no longer push-up to breathe. John tells us that the soldiers were going to break the legs of Jesus to speed up His death, but He had already died. That they didn’t break Jesus’ legs was a fulfillment of prophecy (John 19:31-36).

While words cannot ever adequately describe the horrible torment of being crucified, this was the torturous death Jesus experienced. Why would God the Father choose the cross, the cruelest and most horrible punishment devised by man, to be the method by which salvation would be won for sinful humanity? While the cross pictures numerous spiritual truths about ourselves and the Father, there are two that demand our attention.

First, the cross pictures the blackness, ugliness and vileness of our sins. As one gazes at the cross the ghastly sight of Christ’s beaten, bruised and bloody body suspended between heaven and earth in the darkness of the day pictures how our sin looks in the sight of a holy God. As H.R. Mackintosh has said, “That God gave Christ to man and they could do no better than crucify Him, casts a terrible light upon our sinfulness.” [3] P.T. Forsyth wrote, “Sin is more than failure to live up to an ideal of human conduct. Sin is rebellion against a holy God so that when we sin we are putting ourselves at a distance from God and creating a chasm between Him and ourselves which we cannot bridge by our own efforts.” [4]

At the cross we see the ugliness and blackness of sin in the eyes of a Holy God. Because sin is an offense to God’s holiness, His holiness opposes sin in judgment. Holiness demands like holiness in return and if that can’t be complied with then sin must be judged. Since man can’t comply with God’s holy demands then he is in a terrible predicament.

Second, the cross pictures to us the holy-love of God. The same holy-love which judges sin, is the same holy-love which provides salvation from our sin. Martin Hengel writes, “In the death of Jesus of Nazareth God identified himself with the extreme of human wretchedness, which Jesus endured as a Representative of us all, in order to bring us to the freedom of the children of God.” [5] The cross did not just happen to Jesus, He came on purpose for it. At the cross God demonstrated His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). It was at the cross, “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). At the cross we see our God in Jesus Christ assuming our obligation (2 Cor. 5:21), and redeeming us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (Gal. 3:13). The cross shouts to us like nothing else can, “Christ loved us and has given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice” (Eph. 5:2).

John R. Stott has written, “For in order to save us in such a way as to satisfy himself, God through Christ substituted himself for us. Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice.” [6] The Father’s holy-love, demonstrated in the life and cross of Christ, His indescribable love. It was not the nails that held Christ to the cross as He was being mocked and spit upon, but his indescribable love held Him there. It was His holy-love that did for you and I what we could never do for ourselves. His love was an individual love. He died for you and me.  As our Substitute,  Christ paid the sin debt for the “whosoevers” of the world (John 3:16). Yes, the cross pictures the holy-love of the Father which became incarnate in Christ who did for us what we could never do for ourselves.

In the days of the Roman Empire the cross was a symbol of death, defeat, despair and shame. Yet Christ transformed the cross into a symbol of hope, deliverance, grace, redemption, forgiveness, salvation, life, love, and light. The more one ponders the wonder of the cross, the more one bows in awe before the Christ of the cross.

 And He did it all for me…and you!

Blessings,
Dr. Dan

                                                                                     Footnotes

[1] For an excellent treatment on what victims endured through crucifixion see Martin Hengel, Crucifixion, (Philadelphia: fortress Press, 1977).

[2]  Cicero, Against Verres 2.5.169.

[3] Cited in Ronald Wallace, The Gospel of John, (Scottish Academic Press, 1991), 7.

[4] Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910), 94-98.

[5] Hengel, Crucifixion, 18-19.

[6] Stott, The Cross of Christ, (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 159.

LESSONS LEARNED FROM A SINGLET

Saturday I was checking the oil in my lawnmower before cutting the lawn.  I reached in a box for a rag to wipe off the dipstick. I grabbed what I thought was a rag, but to my utter surprise it was my old high school track singlet.   Since I graduated from high school in 1970, I was holding in my hand a singlet over 50 years old! What it was doing in that box in the garage I have no idea. I thought the singlet was safely tucked away in a drawer in my bedroom, but I guess over the years in the process of moving many times as a pastor it found a resting place unfitting for my old friend. As I held the singlet in my hand a flood of memories came rushing into my mind. While the track singlet is meaningless to anyone but me, but for me it holds a wealth of meaning as to what it represents.

I only wore it when I raced. It symbolized I was about to do battle, that I was about to test my body and ask it to do what it naturally did not want to do yet was trained to do. When I slipped that singlet on it seemed to give me a mental edge that I could not duplicate wearing any other shirt. The singlet represented commitment, hard work and the sacrifices I had made to prepare to run fast. The singlet came to demand respect and attention when I stepped to the line. The singlet represented inspiration and motivation. The singlet represented the pride I felt to be a member of the Sanford Central High track team. Being a rather shy individual when it came to expressing myself verbally, the singlet represented that my legs could speak volumes for me.  As I held that singlet in my hand Saturday, all those emotions, attitudes and feelings associated with it once again flooded my soul like a river overflowing her banks.

Yes, I know the over half-a-century singlet is but a sewn piece of cloth with two strips and a “S” on it, but to me it is a reminder that we all need in our lives that which inspires us that we are to work hard, sacrifice, set goals and be the best we can be at whatever we undertake in life. When I put on that singlet, I would never think of giving less than my best, and it behooves each of us every day to put on our invisible singlet to give the Good Lord our best. In the race of life, He deserves no less than our best.  By the way, while the singlet has been washed and tucked away in a safe place, the lessons it symbolizes have been with me for over half-a-century.

Blessings,

Dr. Dan