Friday, September 29, 2006

Negatives

In the movie Kelly's Heroes, there's a completely anachronistic character called Odd-ball, played brilliantly by Donald Sutherland (Mr. Bennet in the Keira Knightley Pride and Prejudice). He's famous for delivering, during World War II, such sixties hippy phrases as, "What's with the negatives waves?"

While such a thing is certainly hilarious, I wonder if there is not something philosophically deeper going on in today's culture. To illustrate what I'm talking about, I'm going to dive into some technical material which I hope I explain clearly. I would STRONGLY encourage you to try to follow my train of thought.

In symbolic logic, there is a concept called "adequacy of a set of connectives." The idea goes like this: in certain kinds of logic, you have what are called Boolean variables; they're just like an on/off switch or a bit in computers. The Boolean variable can hold the value "true" or it can hold "false". So there are two options for one Boolean variable. Suppose you have two Boolean variables that you can distinguish one from the other. How many different ways can those variables be set? Well, you could have (true, true) or (true, false), or (false, true) or (false, false). So that makes four possibilities. If you look at three variables, you'll see that you can have eight possibilities. So in general, if you have n Boolean variables, there are 2 to the n possible ways of setting those variables.

Now introduce the concept of a function of Boolean variables. What is that? Well, we'll build up from scratch again. Suppose you have one Boolean variable, call it x. There are, as we already discussed, two possible ways to set that variable. Now a function f of the Boolean variable x, which we will write as f(x), is another variable whose value depends on the value of x. How many functions of one Boolean variable are there? Well, you could have the function that is always true no matter what x is (the true function), or also the function that is always false (the false function), or you could have just x right back at you (the identity function), or you could have the function that changes true to false and false to true (the negation function). So that's four possible functions of one Boolean variable. It turns out that if you have n Boolean variables, there are 2 to the 2 to the n possible functions on those variables.

Let us examine quietly one possible function, call it q, on two Boolean variables, call them x, y. So we'll say that q is true only when both x and y are true. So it looks like this:

q(true, true) = true
q(true, false) = false
q(false, true) = false
q(false, false) = false.

We have a notation for this function: ^. So we write q(x,y) = x ^ y. This is called the "and" connective, because it connects x and y in a functional way.

There are many such connectives, including "or", "exclusive or", "nand", "nor", "Sheffer stroke", and others. One question that logicians have concerned themselves with in the past is the following: given an arbitrary function on n Boolean variables, can I write that function using only one or possibly two known connectives? This is the question of adequate connectives.

It turns out that there are only two adequate connectives (of the possible sixteen functions on two variables). Both of them have the word "not" in their description.

My patient readers may be wondering why I dragged them through so much symbolic logic. The reason is this: the conclusion many have come to is that in order to be complete, or adequate to express things, you must be able to say "no" in some manner or other. No language is going to be adequate to express everything worth expressing if it cannot do negation.

This grates against the sensibilities of the post-mods, and the politically correct, who want to employ a "both-and" kind of logic. "You can embrace both this and that," regardless of the fact that they're contradictions. They can't do this consistently. As Ravi Zacharias said once (I paraphrase), "Either you use the both-and logic, or you don't, isn't that right?" And the person he was speaking to, a professor of Eastern religions, said, "The either-or logic does seem to emerge, doesn't it?" Whereupon Zacharias replied, "Yes, and I've got some shocking news for you. Even in India, we look both ways before crossing the street. EITHER the bus, OR me, not both of us." You can listen to the whole broadcast by going here, and clicking on the link for 2006-01-30. This acceptance of contradiction is nonsense, and leads to intellectual suicide. You must be able to distinguish between things. If you read the Bible at all, this should become very clear; just read Leviticus. In Leviticus, one central theme is the holiness of God. God was to be approached only by what was "clean," and NOT by anything that was "unclean." Clean and unclean was defined in excruciating detail by divine fiat. God gave priests a great many rules about how to decide if a thing or a person was clean or unclean.

R. C. Sproul once said, "If it's the prerogative of the woman to change her mind, it's the prerogative of the theologian to make distinctions." Distinctions are absolutely necessary in order to talk intelligently about just about anything.

So my little analogy from symbolic logic is that you have to be able to negate things in order to fully realize the expressive capabilities of your system. But this carries over into language, philosophy, and theology. I would claim that this concept comes from the Bible, and not from logic. I only started with the logic point for rhetorical effect: to argue from the lesser to the greater.

If someone comes to you, claiming that you are "intolerant of their views," first ask them what they mean by that. What they most likely want you to do is to accept all these views as equally true. It's just relativism thinly disguised, or not disguised at all. Christianity, though, makes absolute claims. "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" - John 14:6 (ESV). That is an exclusive statement; if it is true, no other claims can also be true. Your detractor might say, "Well, that's true for you, but not for me." This is nonsense! They are claiming there is no absolute truth. In which case you just ask them whether the statement, "There is no absolute truth" is true for everyone, or not. The fact is, they've just uttered an absolute truth.

Philosophically, we are "trapped" into believing in absolutes. We cannot consistently do otherwise. But let us remember that the truth will set us free. But falsehood, the negation of truth, will do no such thing.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.

It occurs to me that my voice in these matters of headship and submission may be impaired somewhat by not being married myself yet. To that, all I can say is that I have studied marriage a long time (years), I have seen many marriages and how they work, and my voice is that of an outsider. Sometimes the voice of the outsider (what I sometimes call the "incompetant critic") is invaluable in pointing out things that should have been obvious, but simply became routine.

I should also point out that I am most certainly not attempting to use this topic as a way of "showing off" in order to get attention from the females. I simply see a need for biblical teaching on this subject, and I'm going for it.

Is there such a thing as good government? How about good governance? The feminists would have you believe that if a man is "in charge" of a marriage, then almost by definition he rules badly. Sadly, the charge does stick in many cases. However, I deny that poor quality of male leadership is a necessary consequence of male leadership. There is such a thing as good male governance of a marriage; I have seen it. Moreover, I believe the Bible commands it. What Scriptures can we bring to bear on this issue? Again, see my previous post on submission to witness my assumptions; they are the same ones.

First of all, I think it necessary to define "covenant." Here is Webster's 1828 dictionary definition, which I think quite adequate.
COVENANT, n. [Fr. convenant, the participle of convenir, to agree, L. convenio, con and venio, to come; Norm. conevence, a covenant; It. convenzione, from L. conventio. Literally, a coming together; a meeting or agreement of minds.]

1. A mutual consent or agreement of two or more persons, to do or to forbear some act or thing; a contract; stipulation. A covenant is created by deed in writing, sealed and executed; or it may be implied in the contract. Encyc. Blackstone.

2. A writing containing the terms of agreement or contract between parties; or the clause of agreement in a deed containing the covenant.

3. In theology, the covenant of works, is that implied in the commands, prohibitions, and promises of God; the promise of God to man, that man's perfect obedience should entitle him to happiness. This do, and live; that do, and die.

The covenant of redemption, is the mutual agreement between the Father and Son, respecting the redemption of sinners by Christ.

The covenant of grace, is that by which God engages to bestow salvation on man, upon the condition that man shall believe in Christ and yield obedience to the terms of the gospel. Cruden. Encyc.

4. In church affairs, a solemn agreement between the members of a church, that they will walk together according to the precepts of the gospel, in brotherly affection.

Next, I must define "head" as I will use it in this post. Again, here is Webster:

HEAD, n. hed [Sax. heafod, hefed, heafd; D. hoofd; Dan. hoved; Sw. hufvud; G. haupt. This word is a participle of the Sax. heafan, hefan, to heave, pret. hof, hove; G. heben, hob, &c. Heafod, heaved, the elevated part, the top. Class Gb.]

...

3. A chief; a principal person; a leader; a commander; one who has the first rank or place, and to whom others are subordinate; as the head or an army; the head of a sect or party. Eph. v.

Next comes "headship". You guessed it, Webster.

HEADSHIP, n. hed'ship. Authority; chief place. Hales.

Finally, I will define the term "covenant head". I have no recourse to Webster this time, so I will do the best I can. Many covenants have some sort of authority structure built into them. This is certainly true of the three covenants Webster mentioned in his definition of "covenant". For such a covenant with a built-in authority structure, the one who wields that authority is the covenant head. I will often shorten this term to simply "head". In the context here, there will be no confusion with the earlier definition of "head", because the authority in question is in the context of a covenant. I hope this is all fairly clear to you. Examples: a husband is the covenant head of his wife. A father is the covenant head of his unmarried daughters. God the Father is the covenant head of the Son. Jesus Christ is the covenant head of the church.

There are several passages relevant to this discussion. The first is 1 Cor. 11:3, which reads thus in the ESV (as usual):

3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Also relevant is the Ephesians 5 passage which reads as follows:
23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior... 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body.

30 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, ...

You'll notice I omitted the sections pertaining to the wife's duties. I already dealt with that in my previous post. I'm talking to you guys in terms of what you're supposed to do. I'm only talking to the ladies in terms of what you're supposed to be looking for in a guy. Just as it is not the place of the husband to brow-beat his wife into submitting, just so is it not the place of the wife to see to it that her husband leads her. That would be her leading him! Many of you have, no doubt, seen the delightful movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Perhaps you recall the line Toula's mother delivers: "The man may be the head of the house, but the woman is the neck, and she can turn the head any way she wants." It's funny, but is it true? And if it is true, should it be true? I'd say that in many marriages, it probably is true. I would also just as readily say that it should not be true. This is not headship.

Now what do we learn from these passages? One thing is that, just as with submission, headship in no way implies superiority or inferiority in general: only in the sense of authority. Why is that? Because from the 1 Cor. 11:3 passage, we see that God the Father is the head of God the Son. Is there any superiority or inferiority there? I think not. As the Westminster Larger Catechism says:

Question 9: How many persons are there in the Godhead?

Answer: There be three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one true, eternal God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory; although distinguished by their personal properties.

So evidently, there is no general superiority that can be implied from headship. Just like on board a ship, the captain is the "head", but he is not superior to his pilot, or first mate. There simply has to be one and only one person in charge, or chaos breaks loose. As Sproul wrote in his Ephesians commentary, "This passage [Eph. 5:22ff.] should put to rest once and for all the myth that marriages are to be fifty-fifty. I can't think of a worse scenario for a marriage than to have the authority in that relationship divided equally. When two people are together like that, then nobody has any authority. You are in a perpetual power-struggle where one is trying to get control of 51% of the stock. And that can be exceedingly destructive to a family."

A second thing we can learn from these passages is what Wilson wrote in Reforming Marriage: that Paul is using indicatives, not imperatives. Paul says that the husband is the head of the wife. Paul is most definitely not saying that the husband ought to be the head of the wife. Why is this important? Because it goes to the heart of what marriage is. The husband is the leader whether he likes it or not. "He cannot successfully refuse to lead." He may abdicate his role, in which case he leads by his absence. But he leads. Period. Again, as Wilson would say, arguing with this is like jumping off a cliff in order to argue with gravity. Marshall the arguments however you like, you will come to a messy refutation in the end. And as Sinclair Ferguson said in my previous post, the way worldly marriages end these days gives the lie to the prevailing notions about authority in the home. The feminist ideas simply don't work, because they misunderstand what exactly marriage is.

Now that I have established that the husband is the leader of the home, at least given my assumptions, I ask you this question: how is it best to do this leading? Again, these passages do not leave us in some great quandery here, but instead give us some rather pointed guidance.

I claim that the most important concept these passage give is that leadership equals service. Let me say that again: leadership equals service. That means a lot of things. It means no lording it over those under you; it means no selfish commands for those under you to serve you; it means, essentially, being the slave of the people under you. A husband is therefore the slave of his wife. Note to wives: wouldn't it make it easier for you to submit if your husband was your slave? If that doesn't bring a smile to your face, there's something wrong. Now I don't mean that you should nag him about leading or about serving. No. He's got his job, which is to love and serve you, and you've got your job, which is to submit to him. The best way to encourage him to do his job is quietly to do yours. Husbands, the same goes for you. Your wife will find it easier to submit to you if you just quietly serve her the way the Bible commands.

Being the servant of your wife also means not micro-managing her. This is probably going to look different for every couple. There's no reason to marry someone, men, if she doesn't have some significant competances, especially in areas in which you are weak. So let her do her thing in those areas! Yes, she is ultimately accountable to you in everything, but it is generally recognized that an over-controlling boss spells misery for those under him. Don't do it! You'll have to work out what that means with your wife, I'm sure. Now, wives, what if your husband does micro-manage? Well, surely you can complain about it, once or twice. But more than that becomes nagging, which I can definitely assure you is extremely distasteful to just about every male on the planet. So my recommendation is to talk with him about it once, and then let it go. If he continues, he continues. Your command to be submissive to him is not qualified by "only if he doesn't micro-manage you". If he continues to micro-manage, he's an idiot, but you're not accountable for his faults, and you are not his conscience.

So leadership is service, and it is not micro-management. Is it anything else? Yes, it is sacrificial. Christ sacrificed his very life for the church, as the Ephesians passage points out. You are to do the same. Jesus Christ lived for the church, and He died for the church. Therefore, husbands are to live for their wives, and die for their wives. What does that mean? A daily sacrifice of your wishes for hers. Doing things for her that you know she likes, especially if you don't like doing them. An example showing God's grace: I absolutely hate opening doors for ladies, even though I was brought up to do it. It's a pain, especially these days when ladies don't expect it. You have to contrive to be on the hinge-side as you walk up to the door so that you don't have to shove the lady aside in order to open the door for her. (Yes, that was tongue-in-cheek.) It's a waste of time from many viewpoints. It's inefficient. So why do I do it? Because the ladies can't? Ok, I'm on the floor laughing at that one. Of course they can physically open the door for themselves. The point is showing honor to them. And I could never do this were it not for God's grace working in me to do it, so no kudos to me. Finally, it means dying for her if necessary. As Aragorn said to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring, "If by my life or death I can protect you, I will."

Headship means loving your wife. Now loving your wife doesn't go like this: "Let me see: I like it when people do ____ to me, therefore, that's what I'm going to do for my wife." That may be a start, but your wife may not like ____. You have to love her the way she needs to be loved. That has more than one side to it. On the one hand, if she likes something, and you know it's not sinful, then go ahead with it. On the other hand, there may be things she doesn't like, but you know will drive her closer to Christ. Go ahead with those, too, as wisdom dictates. In any case, loving your wife the way the Bible commands means taking trouble for her, not just the avoidance of giving her trouble. You must put yourself out of your way to be good to her.

This is biblical masculinity. It occurs to me that there are certain kinds of men out there who talk a good deal about "being a man," "being masculine," etc, but end up spending more time talking about it than doing it. That doesn't count, though I suppose talking about it some could be beneficial. I claim it's not necessary, though. To tell the truth, my Dad, never even once in my memory, talked about what it meant to be a man. He just lived it, and I got the benefit of a great example. My Mom talked about it more, but it was things like, "Don't be a wimp." Still, I can't point to even one occasion when she did that, I just remember once or twice she did. My parents didn't harp on it: they lived it.

The Promise-Keepers, while certainly having its good points, is a movement that succumbs, I think, to this charge. And even then, I think their notion of masculinity is a bit messed up. For a more complete critique of that movement, see Douglas Wilson and David Hagopian's book Beyond Promises, which unfortunately appears to be out of print.

The Bible doesn't talk about "masculinity" versus "femininity" nearly as much as it talks about being right with God. Evidently, that's more important. More important than being a good husband is being right with God, which is something we can't do. Christ has to do it for us. And then, only after that is done, can we focus on the lesser good (but still a great good) of being a good husband.

All this reminds me: my previous post on submission was rather inadequate in at least one striking way: grace. Where does grace fit in? Well, the central place, I think, where grace fits in is that submission is impossible without it. The natural man or woman is not going to submit to anyone, because of pride, that root sin that causes all others. We need God's grace to overcome pride, the same as any other sin. When we thus see who we really are, submission becomes, if not easy, at least easier. Similarly, headship as properly outlined in Ephesians, is impossible without grace. Why? Becase headship is also humbling: you have to serve someone else, you have to love that person the way they need to be loved. That involves a great deal of selflessness that is impossible without grace.

I love Shakespeare's 116th Sonnet, probably familiar to many of you. Here it is:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Love alters not when it alteration finds. This is God's love for us, and it is the love we are to have for one another. It is the love a husband is commanded to have for his wife. It is a choice to do certain actions for the good of another, not a feeling that just happens to us.

There is so much more to be said on this topic, but I shall rest for now.

In Christ.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Submission

As most of you, dear readers, know, I don't tend to shy away from controversial topics. It is my opinion that only strong people can take correction, only humble people can do so. Whatever strength I have is from God, and the same with humility, and the same with wisdom. I might as well boast about the color of my (un-dyed) hair as about the things God has given me. In any case, I invite your comments about this important subject in everyday life. I shall write on submission today, and I think headship on Friday.

I'm going to assume the following: 1. The Bible in its original was inspired and inerrant. 2. Today, we may trust the Bible implicitly; it is the only rule for faith and practice; it is infallible. 3. Since we obtain logic from the Bible, and not the other way around, we may also trust any statement that is either found directly from the Bible, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from it.

Before I begin, I should say the following: I will use the terms submission and obedience somewhat interchangeably in this discussion. They are not precisely the same thing, though they are very closely related. In terms of submission to God, I believe they are precisely the same thing. In terms of submission to fallible mere human beings, I think they are not quite the same, though they usually are.

So what does the Bible say about submission? Plenty! Perhaps the most important passages are in Philippians 2 and Ephesians 5. I will deal with them in this order.

Philippians 2:3-11, a very familiar passage, reads thus in the ESV (all quotes will be ESV):

3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind amoung yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

What do we see from this passage? Well, first of all, obedience is humbling. But what kind of humbling? The kind that is eventually exalted. (Humility is the chief of the virtues, being opposed to pride, which is the chief sin. However, when I say opposed, I really mean that in a somewhat loose way. Humility is greater than pride is despicable, just as Satan is not the opposite of God but of Michael. God is much greater than Satan will ever be.) Therefore, no Christian should ever shrink from obedience. As we have seen, humility is something we are called to have, and even then, there is the resulting glory that we all desire.

Second of all, this is God the Son submitting to God the Father. Even now, with Christ in the heavens, He submits to the Father, always doing the Father's will. And yet we know that Christ is in no way inferior to the Father. He is equal to the Father in substance and glory. Apparently, submission is not demeaning, or else Christ would be demeaned. Since He is not, therefore submission is not demeaning. Feminists out there, hear this: submission is not demeaning! A further passage which illustrates this is 1 Cor. 15:28, where the Greek verb "to submit" is the same as in the Ephesians 5 passage below, where wives are commanded "to submit" to their own husbands.

And now, on to the Ephesians 5:18-33 passage:

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctifiy her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without splot of wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

So what is there about this passage? First off, verse 21 does not, as many claim, indicate that everyone submits to everyone in exactly the same way. Here are the reasons that some major commentators give for why this is not so. Here is a quote from commentator O'Brien, which I quote at length.

The meaning of this verse [v. 21], however, is disputed for several reasons: first, is this submission to be understood as 'mutual'? Secondly, how does the content of v. 21 relate to the household table (5:22-6:9) with which it is closely linked...? The following are the main lines of interpretation (although there are several intermediate positions) in response to these questions:

(1) A widely held view is that v. 21 states a general principle of
mutual submission by all Spirit-filled Christians to others in the body of Christ. In the subsequent verses of the household table, where the roles of husbands and wives, parents and children, and masters and slaves are set forth, the focus is on specific kinds of mutual submission in the light of this general principle. The following arguments are advanced in support of this interpretation:

(a) Although the verb is a strong word meaning 'subject' or 'subordinate' (in the active voice), here in v. 21 Paul employs the middle voice to signify a voluntary submission or subordination, and this means to act in a loving, considerate, self-giving way towards one another. Such a voluntary yielding to the needs of others is an example of that self-sacrificing love which is to characterize the Christian community. It is urged elsewhere in the New Testament (cf. Phil. 2:3), not least in Ephesians itself, where 'bearing with one another in love' is necessary for 'making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit' (4:2, 3). Further, this is the pattern of Christ's love for the church which is held out for husbands to follow in 5:25-31.

(b) This view, it is claimed, does justice to the reciprocal pronoun '[submitting] to one another'). Gilbert Bilezikian, for example, recognizes that the natural meaning of the verb 'submit', wherever it appears in the New Testament, is 'to make oneself subordinate to the authority of a higher power...to yield to rulership'. However, the addition of the reciprocal pronoun
to each other in here in 5:21 'changes its meaning entirely.... By definition, mutual submission rules out hierarchical differences'. He rejects any thought of obedience to authority in vv. 21-24, claiming instead that it is appropriate to speak of 'mutual subjection' and this 'suggests horizontal lines of interaction among equals'. For Bilezikian, then, the presence of the reciprocal pronoun 'to one another' is decisive. As a result, v. 21 controls our understanding of 5:22-6:9. Mutual submission requires that all Christans, regardless of status, function, sex, or rank, are to serve one another in love (Gal. 5:13). All become subordinate to one another, and 'there remains no justification for distinctions among them of ruler and subordinate'. Bilezikian concludes that 'mutual subjection as defined on the basis of Ephesians 5:18-21 refers to relationships of reciprocal servanthood under the sole lordship of Christ'. This 'reciprocity of such relationship renders hierarchical distinctions irrelevant within the Christian communitites of church and family'. Accordingly, wives are to submit to husbands and husbands are to submit to wives, in exactly the same way.

(2) A different interpretation recognizes that v. 21 is a general heading urging Spirit-filled believers to be submissive or subordinate. The particular ways in which Christians are to submit to others are then specified in the household table for wives, children and servants. It is not mutual submission that is in view, as the first interpretation claims, but submission to appropriate authorities. The following reasons are advanced in favour of this:

(a) The primary argument concerns the meaning of the verb rendered 'submit'. As already indicated, the term regularly functions to describe the submission of someone in an ordered array to another who was above the first, that is, in authority over that person. Further, none of the relationships where this verb appears is reversed: husbands are not told to be subject to their wives, not parents to children, not the government to citizens, nor disciplies to demons. The word does not describe a 'symmetrical' relationship since it always has to do with an ordered relationship in which one person is 'over' and another 'under'. In this sense the term is not mutual in its force. V. 21 'does not focus specifically on the relationship of husbands and wives'. Within the flow of the argument this issue is not taken up specifically until vv. 22-24. But even at this point v. 21 is not calling 'for [the] mutual submission of all Christians to each other'. This is to misunderstand the semantic range of the term. Instead, believers are urged to be submissive to those who are in authority over them. If the apostle's argument had taken a different turn, this presumably might include church members submitting to ther leaders (1 Cor. 16:15-16; 1 Pet. 5:5), citizens being subject to governing authorities (Rom. 13:1; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13), or the church being subject to Christ (Eph. 5:24). Furthermore, in its other New Testament instances the semantic range of our verb does not include acting in a thoughtful or considerate way, or showing mutual courtesy, deference, or respect. The term, then, should not be assigned a meaning that is outside its semantic range, especially when its usual meaning makes good sense in this context. We are not suggesting that acting in a loving, considerate, self-giving way is absent from the household table; only that words other than 'submit, be subordinate or submission' are used to describe this loving service (cf. vv. 25, 28, 29).

(b) The pronoun 'one another' is not always fully reciprocal. Although advocates of the mutual submission interpretation assume that the relationships expressed by the Greek pronoun are always symmetrical (and so must mean 'everyone to everyone'), this depends entirely on the context. On occasion, the pronoun does have a fully reciprocal significance (Eph. 4:25; cf. John 13:34, 35; 15:12, 17; Rom. 1:12). But in other contexts a symmetrical relationship cannot be in view. For example, Revalation 6:4, 'so that men should slay
one another', cannot mean that each killed the other at precisely the same time as he or she was killed. Likewise, Galatians 6:2 'Bear one another's burdens', does not signiy that 'everyone should exchange burdens with everyone else', but that 'some who are more able should help bear the burdens of others who are less able' (cf. also 1 Cor. 11:33; Luke 2:15; 21:1; 24:32). In the present context, then, given that 'submit' is one-directional in its reference to submission to authority, and that the pronoun does not always indicate a symmetrical relationship, it is preferable to understand the clause 'submitting to one another' to refer to submission to appropriate authorities, not mutual submission.

(c) The flow of the argument. V. 21, 'being submissive to one another in the fear of Christ', is a programmatic statement which introduces the topic of 'submission', and this is developed in the household table of 5:22-6:9. The verse is tightly linked with what immediately follows: there is no verb in v. 22, and so 'submitting' must be understood from v. 21 for its meaning and sense. The idea of 'submission' is unpacked in v. 22 without the verb being repeated. It is as though the apostle is saying: "Submit to one another, and what I mean is, wives submit to your husbands, children to your parents, and slaves to your masters'. To interpret v. 21 by abstracting it from the context not only misunderstands how the verb 'submit' would be grasped by a first-century reader but also fails to see the natural flow of the apostle's argument. What submitting to one another means is spelled out in the household table, with its ordered array in society. And submitting to one another is a significant outworking of being filled by the Spirit.

To conclude. On grounds of semantics, syntax, and the flow of Paul's argument we prefer the latter interpretation. The apostle is not speaking of
mutual submission in the sense of a reciprocal subordination, but submission to those who are in authority over them.

So that is a rather technical understanding. Other conservative commentators agree. Here is Sinclair Ferguson:

Paul's first exhortation
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord shocks our 'politically correct' culture. Yet widespread marital breakdown gives the lie to the contemporary self-confident rejection of the biblical teaching. Indeed, it reveals a deliberate blindness to God's pattern for human life - the pattern for which we were created and in which we discover the original purpose and destiny of marriage being fulfilled.

There is no verb
submit in the text of verse 22. It is borrowed from the previous sentence about mutual submission in verse 21. Thus, a more literal translation would read: 'submitting to one another in reverence/fear of Christ...the wives to their own husbands in the Lord'. For that reason it is sometimes suggested that the overarching principle in this section is that of the mutual submission of believers. This mutual submission is then viewed as taking different forms, depending on whether one is a wife ('submit') or husband ('love'), child or father, slave or husband. In this interpretation, every exhortation Paul gives amounts to an expression of this mutual submission.

Mutual submission is indeed our calling as Christians. But to regard that idea as the controlling element in interpreting what follows misreads the text - for three reasons:

(i) The same exhortation to wives appears in the parallel passage in Colossians 3:18. There the verb 'submit' is actually present in the statement but mutual submission is not mentioned in the broader context.

(ii) The model for the husband is Christ's
love for the church not his submission to the church. While Christ is God's servant to the church, he never submits to it.

(iii) Ephesians 5:22-6:9 describe three contexts for relationships (marriage, family, household) in which submission is called for in one party but not in the other. These are forms of submission to God, not expressions of mutual submission to one another.

Also in agreement is R. C. Sproul, whose commentary I would particularly recommend to your attention. Harry Uprichards also agrees.

My conclusion is several-fold, and these are not in any particular order.

Firstly, all the commentators agree that the verb 'submit' in the Greek is in the middle voice, indicating a voluntary thing. It's something the wife does to her husband, not the other way around. The husband does not brow-beat her into submission. While this is true, I believe the text omits the qualifier "only if he loves you properly," or "only if he asks you do something you already want to do," or "only if he asks you to do things you think are smart and wise." Submission is called for in all of those situations. It is even called for, I believe, when the husband asks her to sin. And this is where submission differs from obedience. Clearly, a wife cannot obey her husband if he calls her to sin. I claim, however, that a wife can still submit to him, can still reverance him and respect him while disobeying. Perhaps I'm wrong, but that is my current opinion.

Secondly, while submission to God is required of everyone, the kind of submission a wife has for her husband is not the same sort of thing he is required to do for her. He is required to love her and cherish her. He is her covenant head.

Thirdly, a wife submits to her own husband, not to just anyone's husband or to men in general. This is actually a freeing thing. Imagine trying to obey five different men all pulling you in different directions! Surely it's easier to submit only to one man.

Fourthly, there are implications for courtship. Not every man can be a good head to every woman. As Douglas Wilson wrote, "Abigail did not go well with Nabal." This is a recognition of the fact that, given a particular man, there are women out there who are his spiritual betters. He should cheerfully acknowledge that fact, and not seek to impose himself on such.

Fifthly, submission is not demeaning, and it does not imply inferiority. Is Christ inferior to the Father? As Sproul wrote, is the Vice-President of the United States inferior to the President? Or is a lieutenant inferior to his captain? I hope you see the rhetorical nature of these questions. God calls wives to submit to their own husbands. Or do you think God wants what is bad for you? I think not; remember Romans 8:28, and all things working for good? What is that good? To become more like Christ. It might hurt a bit to bend in a way you don't want, but to become more like Christ is surely to your supreme benefit. Perhaps your objection to submission is really that you don't want any authority over you at all. In that case, you are simply in rebellion and need to repent and receive God's grace the same as anyone else.

Sixthly, I believe it is partly feminism (brought on by an acute case of male abdication) and partly a misinterpretation of American individualism and equality that tries to obliterate all distinctions between people. I believe the Bible does teach that men and women are different; not one inferior or superior to the other, but different. If you've ever heard the expression 'comparing apples and oranges' you'll get the idea. To try to impose a ">" sign on human relationships is to miss the point. In mathematical language, human relationships are not so ordered.

There are probably loads of other things I could say, but that is all for now. Stay tuned for headship!

As I said before, questions and comments are certainly welcome.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Worship vs. Evangelism?

I was reading John Dekker's first post on evangelizing children, and remembered a quote from John Piper that I rather like. It's this: "Evangelism exists because worship doesn't." This is an eschatalogical concept if ever there was one. Will there be evangelism forever? Clearly not. On the Judgment Day, whatever you believe about it, God will separate the sheep from the goats. There will be no going back, and no more second chances. (That's why I'm uncomfortable, actually, with the idea that God's grace is infinite. God does not wait forever, though He tarries long.) Therefore there can be no reason to evangelize after that Day. And what will there be after that Day? Worship.

Let us not forget, also, that man's chief end (not his head!) is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. That is not evangelism, but worship. It is worship with your whole being.

So am I saying we shouldn't evangelize? Certainly not. But realize that ultimately, it is not the highest activity man does. Douglas Wilson once said that homo sapiens doesn't describe man nearly so well as homo adorans - man who worships. Worshipping the one true God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is the highest activity that man does.

So worship with all of your being. In today's church, I feel that this doesn't happen. There appear to be two extremes. Either you believe that Christians should worship with their mind, all of their mind, and nothing but their mind; or the equivalent with the heart.

But the Bible doesn't talk that way. The Bible is much more holistic. It says "Behold, the LORD your God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind." I distinctly get the impression that, along with these four aspects of human existence, we are to love the LORD our God with "anything else about you not mentioned in this list."

Which extreme has the sway right now? Mindless exuberance, or tired orthodusty? I'm not sure I really care.

For those of you who know me, I'm going to have to apologize for using Douglas Wilson again. But Wilson has got the absolute perfect word for worship: it's the Latin word "solempne." Here he is, from his book Mother Kirk:

[begin quote]
Like our word solemn, solempne represents the opposite of casual, but unlike solemn, it carries no connotation of austerity, moroseness, or gloom. We moderns have come to associate spontaneity with innocence and virtue, fresh and unsullied. Our adoption of unbiblical criteria means that we frequently overlook those things which the Bible associates with a healthy church, dismissing them as dead simply because they have more formality in the liturgy than we like.

...

Of course a worship service may be formal and also lifeless. This is disobedience. "Wherefore the Lord said, 'Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men" (Is. 29:13). In the opposite corner, a worship service may be informal and lively. We have no Scripture for this one, other than the implication that the absence of [order] did not unchurch the group of saints at Corinth. But we must remember that tolerated disobedience over time always leads to death.

A worship service may be informal and spiritually chaotic, meaning that lifelessness is just around the corner. "Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse" (1 Cor. 11:17). If the disorder evident in their worship went unaddressed, the end result of their activity would be final, lasting spiritual inactivity. The activity in a church can simply be a form of pandemonium.

But obedience requires that a worship service be both formal and lively. To say it again, "Though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ" (Col. 2:5).

We should therefore see that there are two types of order. When a formal church is unhealthy, it is because their arrangement is the order of china figurines on a shelf. When a formal church is obedient and healthy it is because their arrangement is that of well-disciplined troops preparing themselves for battle. An opposing general would not look at their cavalry, wheeling as though one man, and dismiss them as a bunch of legalists.

...

And as the Scriptures declare, when the choir in militant joy goes out as the advance guard of the army [Adrian: there is a verse that says in at least one Israelite battle, the musicians were to form the front line], then God's name is glorified, and His enemies are scattered. The worship is formal and exuberant.
[end quote]

I would add that this word solempne is very like a soldier standing at attention, very quiet, but bursting with joy because he serves his general, whom he loves and will follow to the death. Great generals like Stonewall Jackson can command this kind of loyalty from their men. And can our great King not command this from us? It is disobedience not to render this to Him.

So worship with your whole being with all your actions every day. Sundays, perhaps, you get to worship with more of the army present, and that is encouraging. But we are to worship all the time.

God bless you.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Charles Bridges Quote

I just read an incredible quote from the Charles Bridges commentary on Proverbs. Commenting on Prov. 10:18, he says:

"...But is this 'root of bitterness' thoroughly mortified in the Christian's heart? Is there no insincerity in our intercourse with those, to whom we feel, if not hatred, at least strong repugnance? In the language of polite courtesy, there is much that is hollow, if not false. Do we really mean what we say? Or rather is not the profession of regard often absolutely contrary to our real feelings? Do we never bring them under ridicule, set them out in an unfavorable light, assert things upon mere suspicion, or attempt to raise our own name upon the ruin of their reputation? In common society, how is it often considered the acme of disappointment, when this conversation flags, or comes to a pause; whereas the reverse ought to be the true subject of regret. This spirit surely in the eyes of God is slander; an offence against the 'new commandment of love' - which is the badge of all the disciplies of Jesus. (John, xiii. 34, 35.) These noxious humours are the bane of true godliness. They must not only be restrained, but 'laid aside,' if ever we would, 'as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby.' (1 Pet. ii. 1, 2. Jam. i. 21.) Lord, purge our hearts from these hateful hidden corruptions; even though it be by 'the Spirit of judgment and the Spirit of burning.' (Isa. iv. 4.)" (emphasis original)

Wow!! Incidentally, I do not think Bridges here is arguing against common courtesy; rather, the abuse of it. For true courtesy must tell the truth. True courtesy will not praise falsely. On the other hand, it will search out ways to praise another sincerely.

In Christ.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Cool Game

The game is NationStates, which is an online political game. You can find it here. You create a nation, and then you can do various things with it, including resolving issues (making laws), working with other nations, communication, etc. My nation is Brillnir, of the Suffragist League region. Have fun!

In Christ.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The War on Terror

I drive busses for Blacksburg Transit. Recently we had a policeman speak to us about terror, one of the best presentations I have ever heard. He was cogent, timely, humorous at times, interesting, informative, and no-nonsense. I learned an awful lot about terrorism which I shall not share with you over a blog. However, it did make me think a bit about Bush and his policies.

Here is where I net out: Bush may or may not be doing most things right in the war on terror. The war in Iraq may or may not be correct, immigration policies may or may not be correct, etc.

But one thing I do know: I know next to nothing about terrorism. Ja, I learned a bit recently. However, I still know very very little. So who am I to critique Bush about the way he's fighting it? I have very little respect for people who bad-mouth the war in Iraq and insist we pull out immediately (a very bad idea, I should think; that would almost be worse than never having gone in in the first place), and have no constructive alternative. Such people are spineless, and like little children, are trying to get attention in a bad way. So I say, don't give them media coverage. Such people are likely to say that we can appease the Islamic extremists. Really? Apparently we don't remember Neville Chamberlain who almost single-handedly managed to promote Hitler's agenda beyond even his wildest dreams. What was Chamberlain's strategy? Total capitulation. Did it work? Of course not. It's like giving candy to a kid: Hitler was just going to keep at it, asking for more.

One thing I'm not so sure about, and I'd be interested in your opinions, dear readers. The question is this: does orthodox Islam require jihad? Are the extremists really extreme, or are they the ones interpreting the Koran correctly? This is surely not a superfluous question, or an ignorant one. If the liberals are right about Islam being the Religion of Peace, as Ann Coulter would say, then why is it that such a gigantic majority of terrorists are Muslim? There's a special episode of The West Wing which uses the following analogy: Muslim extremists are to Islam as the KKK is to Chrisianity. I submit to you that this may be incorrect. In other words, please comment on the following analogy: these Muslim extremists are to Islam as committed orthodox reformed Presbyterians are to Christianity. Naturally, I'm not accusing Presbyterians of terrorism; what I am saying is that maybe the extremists have it right, according to the Koran.

Here are some quotes to ponder, from the Koran. Now I know that if there are any Muslim readers out there, you will object saying that this is in English. So be it. I don't understand Arabic, and most of my readers probably don't, either.

Surah IX, Repentance. Verse 4. Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfil their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him).

Verse 5. Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

Verse 6. And if anyone of the idolaters seeketh thy protection (O Muhammad), then protect him so that he may hear the word of Allah, and afterward convey him to his place of safety. That is because they are a folk who know not.

Verse 7. How can there be a treaty with Allah and with His messenger for the idolaters save those with whom ye made a treaty at the Inviolable Place of Worship? So long as they are true to you, be true to them. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty.

...

Verse 29. Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.

...

Verse 41. Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if ye but knew.

...

Verse 122. And the believers should not all go out to fight. Of every troop of them, a party only should go forth, that they (who are left behind) may gain sound knowledge in religion, and that they may warn their folk when they return to them, so that they may beware.

Verse 123. O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).

What is your verdict? I find Verse 123 to be particularly telling. Christianity says the opposite: turn the other cheek. Furthermore, while it may be there, I do not find instructions in the Koran that say that this fight is spiritual and not physical. Yes, Christianity is a fight; but Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual enemies. Consequently, our warfare is spiritual in nature, and not physical. The Koran does not appear to have such mitigating sentiments.

In Christ.

Visit Math Help Boards for friendly, free and expert math help.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Women and the University

I've been reading some posts here and here dealing with the question of women in college.

I know that the feminists would probably be outraged that the question is even coming up. However, given the state of affairs in the United States, and given some previous relationships I have had with certain ladies, I have some thoughts on this subject which I should like to share with you.

It is my opinion that there are some reasons for and against going to the university that I do not think are being given enough weight.

First of all, I should like to begin with the men. Men pretty much have to go to college, many of them to graduate school, in order to obtain a decent-paying job. That's the nature of today's world. A better reason is to become a life-long learner, but the first reason is reason enough. While there are exceptions to this idea (Bill Gates, e.g.), generally it is true. So let us take it as a given that most men will need to go to college.

Second of all, I should like to point out that in Genesis, the woman Eve was created for Adam, not the other way around. She was created to be his helpmeet. I think it is a legitimate inference that most woman should expect to marry. Furthermore, those women who do marry should try to be the kind of woman who can help her future husband. I believe that since most men have to go to college, that will have some implications for women today, namely, that this is one reason women should consider as to whether or not they should go to college. Why is that? Because I think it not good if one partner is an intellectual giant, and the other is an intellectual pygmy. Is this an absolute reason? No. I don't think there are any absolute reasons for or against going to college. I believe the command to love the Lord with our minds is an absolute command to be life-long learners. But wisdom is not measured in degrees after your name. This is simply something to consider. I would say that many women are probably going to need a degree in order to converse fluently about important topics with men, the same way most men need degrees in order to converse fluently about important things. Therefore, I think it's valid for a woman to view college as a help for her to be a better helpmeet.

Third, the Bible commands us to be in the world, but not of it. This goes two ways. On the one hand, the ideas that influence society come from the university. Therefore, there should be Christians in the university. It is not valid to infer that all Christians should be in the university, since Christians have different calls. But I think many Christians should be in the university. Christians have no need to fear the pagan philosophies. R. C. Sproul is known to have said that he only has respect for two philosophies: Christianity and nihilism. The pagan philosophies are empty, but Christianity will abundantly satisfy the most curious and brilliant mind. Since the command to be in the world but not of it applies equally to men and women, then I think it is valid to infer that many women should be in the university. In addition, the universities used to have a truly great reputation. Harvard used to be great, Yale used to be great, Princeton used to be great. They're not anymore, due to grade inflation, Unitarianism, and the like. But they are worth saving, if that's possible. On the other hand, not being of the world warns us against being overly influenced by the horrible ideas coming from the university. We should be influencing the university, and aside from the usual education that is reported to occur in some universities, we should not be influenced by them to the detriment of our faith. Only very solid, well-grounded Christians should go to a secular university. I think this is a good argument against dorm living. I have lived in dorms at a Christian college (Grove City College), and while I received a very excellent education there, I did not see much advantage to dorm life. It seemed to foster immaturity rather than maturity. I prefer the stance of New St. Andrews College, which has no dorms, and expects its students to mix with everyday sorts of people of all ages, especially in the church but also in town. That, I think, is much better.

And now, we come to some more women-specific items. What are the pros and cons? What is wisdom here? Well, I do think that, in general, staying at or near home is a wise idea for women. The Bible has the model of the man leaving and cleaving, not so much the wife. Jesus Himself said, "I go to prepare a place for you." It is much easier for a father to protect his daughter both from unworthy ideas and suitors if she is closer to him spatially. This is not absolute, but it is a factor, I deem. It certainly is possible for a father to teach his daughter well enough that she is quite prepared to take on a secular university without being close to home. I don't know how many daughters are that well prepared, but though I have come across them, I have not come across many. I would submit that most would find it better to stay closer to home. The Bible says that men need to leave home and their fathers and mothers, but it does not say so about women. Women, I think, generally stay in their first family until they marry, at which point they go to their second family.