Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dutch Sheet's Rebuke Regarding Lakeland

Mega-church pastor and Charismatic leader Dutch Sheets has written a sharply reproving letter in which he repents on behalf of the charismatic community.

While I think his letter is correct in many cases, please don't include all charismatic groups, associations or ministries with all Pentecostal denominations. A Pentecostal is a person from a traditional denomination known by that distinction, such as the Assemblies of God, Church of God, Church of God in Christ, Church of the Foursquare Gospel, etc. Those churches, among others, are known as Pentecostal churches. "Pentecostal" does not refer to a denomination. This is similar to saying someone is a Baptist. There are lots of stripes of Baptist denominations.

A "charismatic" may refer to those fellowships or denominations, or someone within those fellowships, but there are also many independent organizations, associations and ministries that are called "charismatic." The term also includes many independent congregations. Thus, "charismatic" is an umbrella term that can include classical Pentecostals but also many others.

VERY loosely defined, "charismatic" means a group or a person who affirms and emphasizes the "charisms" or the "gifts" of the Holy Spirit and believes that these gifts did not die out in the first century but are still available to us today. Within that very broad definition are a lot of different views, both doctrinal and practical.

Have Pentecostals embraced some of the abuses and errors that Sheets (pastor of an independent charismatic congregation) refers to? Some have, and some have not. As I mentioned in the previous post, our Assenblies of God leadership issued a statement on revival that was well thought out, wise and balanced. Does that mean everyone heeded it.  Sadly, no.

As for Dutch Sheets, some have included him in statements about those in "leadership" over Todd Bentley, but it should be noted that Sheets was asked to be part of the sponsorship of the so called "Lakeland Outpouring" but declined. I disagree with Dutch Sheets (not that it matters much) on several issues, but I applaud his boldness in issuing a strong rebuke, a correction, and an apology.

A few quotes:

“We assume a person’s credibility based on gifts, charisma, the size of their ministry or church, whether they can prophesy or work a miracle....When a spiritual leader we’re connected with violates trust, is exposed for immorality, or falls below other accepted standards of behavior, it does not exonerate us simply to say we don't condone such behavior. Those we lead trust us to let them know whom to trust. We have failed them miserably in this regard...For this lack of discernment, and for employing and passing on inappropriate standards of judgment, I repent to the Lord and ask forgiveness of the body of Christ...For not accepting and acknowledging our responsibility, for caring more about our own reputation than Christ’s, I repent to God and ask forgiveness of the body of Christ.”

Sheets also blasted the charismatic church’s “incredibly inadequate” accountability, as well as its leadership that has “built on hype, sensation, innovation, programs, personality and charisma.”

He spoke of “shallowness...novice leaders, gifted but immature and untested...a deficient understanding of God’s word...self-centered Christians who don’t understand sacrifice and commitment...superstar leaders,” and “prayerless and anemic Christians.”

He closed the open letter by saying he thanks God for all those who were touched by the Holy Spirit through the Lakeland Outpouring.

The full text of "A Statement and Appeal Regarding Lakeland "can be found here.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Stop the (Charismatic) Insanity!"

The blogosphere has noted the so-called, "Healing Revival" in Lakeland, Florida, and the odd (to say the least) revival preacher, Todd Bentley.

I've read comments, questions and opinions on the blogs or websites of Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, and various stripes of Pentecostals, among others.

Some made me angry because they simply passed on old stereotypes that are largely false. Some made me sad as I saw the damage that was happening. Some I agreed with. I have, until now, refrained from mentioning the goings-on in Florida for several reasons:

1. To non Pentecostals many thing that seem reasonable to me might seem "whacky." I think that this is largely a matter of culture or expectation of what church "should" be like--but that is an issue for a different day and a different post.

2. I can't really comment on something I'm just hearing about, not with any degree of objectivity. I didn't plan on visiting Florida, so I stayed quiet.

3. I love my Pentecostal brothers and sisters and don't want us to be bashed. Enough of that happens without me helping it along.

4. God still heals. That does not mean that if we say the words right, pray often enough, or have faith enough that it has to happen. But I do believe in what the AG calls "divine healing" and I've seen it enough to not want to criticize or deny or hinder what God may be doing.

5. I believe the Holy Spirit works in unusual ways sometimes. The Holy Spirit certaintly does use people that would not be my choice! Odd people can be vessels for God too. I also believe that the human body can react to the presence of God's power in ways that are a bit unusual.

6. I left my former denomination because my views on the activity of the Holy Spirit in the world changed. (I did not leave solely because of the "woman" issue," though that was part of it).

7. I loved God and Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit from the time I was a young child. Why? I do not know. I also loved the Bible. I had a heart that was hungry for God, even though there were times of confusion, doubt and anger with God. When I first encountered Pentecostals I was scared of them, but drawn as well. I was patronizing and condescending and gently mocking. Many years later, my life changed profoundly when I ended up at First Assembly of God, Jacksonville, N.C. and met the Rev. Joe Stenson and his wife. I did not (and I still don't) agree with all I saw, heard, or was taught by my beloved, "Brother Stenson" but the presence of God was undeniable, the love of the saints in that church was amazing, their earnest prayer was astounding. They were reaching folks that no other church in town wanted to deal with. I endured some extremely difficult days because of attending that wonderful church, but there was no going back. I am, to the degree I am able, loyal.

8. I believe in supernatural times, times when God is moving in unusual ways that change the world and change history and change the course of the Church. I do believe that there is such a thing as genuine revival and I have been a student of some of the historic times when this occurred. It is fascinating.


My heart is heavy and I am disappointed, disgusted, concerned, distressed and angry--not to mention embarrassed.

I ask my brothers and sisters in the Pentecostal / Charismatic camp of Christendom, "What is it going to take for us to come to our senses?" By "us" I am not saying each and every one of us. I know that many are concerned and dismayed. I mean "us" as in all of us as a whole.

In the spring of this year, Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley was invited to speak to the Ignited Church of Lakeland, FL. Things began to happen, crowds began to grow, there were reports of healing. Some began to call it the new Azusa Street. There were also reports of bizarre methods and lots of talk of angels, specifically one Bentley called "Emma. " Bentley began yelling "BAM" as he prayed and sometimes shoved, pushed or even hit those who came for prayer. There were reports of people "barking"--and more. I watched a chilling (to me) video of Bentley doing things that would have made me run out the back door as fast as I could go. But the congregation ate it up, laughing, and shouting encouragement. Amidst it all, there were accounts of lives transformed and physical healings.

As we saw a few years ago in the "Brownsville Revival," pastors travelled to Florida. Some took busloads from their churches. In a town not far from me, an independent Pentecostal pastor and some of his church leaders who had attended the meetings held a series of church services in which he purported to give the "Lakeland anointing" to those who came for "impartation prayer." Some of us in the area received an invitation. This, the letter informed me, would spread the move of God in Florida to our area in Wisconsin.

A few people in my church asked me if I was going. (No.) Why not? Among other things, because I see no example in scripture of anyone being able to "impart" power from God to another individual. The scripture actually is abundantly clear that it is the Holy Spirit who decides about gifting, not any person. Yes, the Apostle Paul did speak of wising to "impart some gift." Praying for the people to receive whatever gifts the Holy Spirit has for them, and encouraging them, is NOT the same thing as passing around the work of the Spirit. This, to me, is beyond arrogance. Perhaps the Lakeland anointing (if there genuinely was one) was for Lakeland, not Wisconsin. Another couple told me about God Tube's nightly broadcasts from Lakeland and urged me to watch. I did not do so. I also did not criticize.

Our newly-elected Assemblies of God General Superintendent, George O. Wood, broadcast and published a word of caution and some helpful observations here, "A Statement on Revival", and he urged us to exercise wisdom and discernment and to see if what passed for the work of God lined up with scripture or followed the example of Jesus.

Charisma editor, preacher and writer, J. Lee Grady, pleaded for caution (while avoiding criticism). Grady is not afraid of emotion, has seen people healed, delivered, etc. in his meetings and is a long-time exuberant Pentecostal (not Assemblies of God, Pentecostal Holiness Church, I think). His love for God and the Church is remarkable. Yet, simply for calling for caution and a degree of reason, he was called names, rebuked and viciously criticized.

Now Bentley is stepping down after filing for separation from his wife and admitting to an inappropriate relationship with another woman on his staff.

Yesterday I took a look at a copy of the latest Charisma, paying particular attention to the "Letters to the Editor" section. One letter in particular caused me to shake my head. The letter writer began by praising the Lakewood revival and saying she had been there several times. She recounts that she has received several healings. Perhaps so. That didn't disturb me. This quote did: "It is sad that Body of Christ judges its own. I guess things were the same when Jesus walked the earth."

Do we understand that to"judge" as in to observe and think and make rational decisions is not the same as being judgemental and arrogant (which, if the context is read, is clearly what Jesus was instructing us not to do in that passage)? I like how Peterson puts it in The Message, " Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment." Amen to that! The ban on any "judging" cannot mean, as the letter writer patronizingly implied, that we are not to question anything another believer does. Or perhaps it's just that caution is needless if the speaker is exciting! (She didn't say that. I couldn't resist.)

Jesus warned us about "wolves in sheep's clothing"--people who would look and sound legitimate for a while, but inside they were quite different. Imagine the damage a wolf can do in a flock of sheep. Once again, there is blood in the flock of God, and the name and cause of our Lord Jesus Christ is compromised.

The New Testament Epistles caution repeatedly about false teachers and prophets and we are told to examine, to judge, (oh, bad word), discern, use caution, and more. The Apostle Paul talks about how leaders have a responsibility to safeguard those under their care, and he says, "It
isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. God will judge those on the outside..." I Cor. 5:12-13

In response to a blog post elsewhere that was critical of Todd Bentley, an Internet commenter said, "He must be from God, or he couldn't do the things he does." That statement is incredibly naive, and it borders on cultic thinking. If we have become so enamored of the spectacular, we are ripe for heresy and deception of all kinds. Jesus told us that some would do amazing things-- and yet he would say "I never knew you."

Have we completely forgotten the last two decades? Do we not recall the long list of our Charismatic "heroes" who turned out to be less than they appeared? Have we closed our eyes, covered our ears and hummed loudly as the news came about those who had
commited criminal acts, had affairs, lied, cheated, or at the very least did something beyond foolish?

I am afraid. I fear we American Pentecostals are addicted to hype. Will "ordinary" humility, grace, love, prayer, good works, peace, and justice suffice? Are we tired yet of the prophecy conferences that claim to instruct us how to be seers? Are we tired of "life changing" seminars? Are we sick of the cotton candy spirituality of "events?" Can we stop running to find the latest and greatest new thing? Are we nauseated yet by a surfeit of slick and flashy and empty junk?

Over the last few months, J. Lee Grady's column "Fire in My Bones" included several articles regarding the Lakeland revival. After the notice of Bentley's affair, he wrote "Life After Lakeland: Sorting Through the Confusion." It includes several pointed questions. All of them deserve careful consideration by my Pentecostal and Charismatic brothers and sisters, and the link will take you to the column. But here is one question that I think strikes to the heart of the problem.

Why did so many people flock to Lakeland from around the world to rally behind an evangelist who had serious credibility issues from the beginning?

To put it bluntly, we’re just plain gullible.

From the first week of the Lakeland "Shaka Boomba”
(as Bentley often prayed from his pulpit), many people went home, prayed for people and shoved them to the floor with reckless abandon, Bentley-style.

I blame this lack of discernment, partly, on raw zeal for God. We’re spiritually hungry—which can be a good thing. But sometimes, hungry people will eat anything.

Many of us would rather watch a noisy demonstration of miracles, signs and wonders than have a quiet Bible study. Yet we are faced today with the sad reality that our untempered zeal is a sign of immaturity. Our adolescent craving for the wild and crazy makes us do stupid things. It’s way past time for us to grow up.

I recall a wise Pentecostal preacher's words a few years ago as the world began to realize the depth and breadth of the scandals regarding priests in the Roman Catholic Church. In response to an unkind comment from one of our AG clergy colleagues, he said, "Understand this, what happens to any church, any denomination, affects us all. Don't be so foolish as to think that if the Catholic priest in your town is discovered to be a pedophile, that it would not affect you, every other pastor, minister, and every other Christian believer. What affects any part of the church world affects all of us."

Please allow me, friends of other branches of the church tree, to apologize for the damage that our lack of wisdom, lack of judgement and lack of humility may have caused you and your efforts to share the Good News of God's love and grace through Christ. May God forgive us. And peers in the Assemblies of God and similar churches and organizations, I ask, can we return to humility? Can we seek the Spirit and not spiritual manifestations? Can we mature? I pray we can before it is too late. Will you join me in praying for Todd Bentley and his wife and children and "the other woman"? And for the sheep who are, once again, bloody? Will you join me in repentance on behalf of our churches and our cities and our nation and our world?

May God have mercy on us and give us wisdom. May the Holy Spirit show us the way of repentance and genuine renewal.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Dates Friday Five

Songbird offers this week's Friday Five, which is about dates. Thanks for covering my backside, SB!

Due to some confusion with our dates, I'm stepping in today, although I am usually here only on the 5th Friday, when there is such a thing.Here are five things to ponder about dates. I hope you'll play!

1) Datebooks--how do you keep track of your appointments? Electronically? On paper? Month at a glance? Week at a glance?

I like the paper variety that I can take with me, but due to some recent mix-ups, I think I am about to start using the computer as well.

2) When was the last time you forgot an important date? I was on for the Friday Five. I owe Songbird!

3) When was the last time you went OUT on a date?

A few weeks ago. We went to the movies and out for original, eh?

4) Name one accessory or item of clothing you love even though it is dated.

Oh man, I have a whole jewelry box of things I refuse to part with. Dated, schmated!

5) Dates--the fruit--can't live with 'em? Or can't live without 'em?

Bleeeech! Hate them. Sticky, way too sweet, bad taste, yucky skin. That's my opinion. Years ago I went to the Date Festival in Indio, California with one of my sisters. I don't know if they still do it, but it was an annual thing for Indio (a hot dessert town) and was lots of fun. We watching ostrich races, a wonderful Arabian Nights pageant, eyed camels and gazed at absolutely amazing sculptures made entirely of dates. But eat them, no way!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Silver Cliff 2008

Presbyterian Gal, you made me do it. You asked for lots of pictures. LOL!

Bearded Eagle hangs up our Yankee flag after we are set up. You can't see his face because he is standing behind "Fred" the bearskin. Our chairs are draped with sheepskins and deer hides, and our little table sits under the awning too. Behind the table you can glimpse my new camp "kitchen." Our lodge opens in both the front and back, as you can see. Nice for cross ventilation.

Inside our "lodge" -- our little Rendezvous home away from home, a bow, arrows and black powder guns hang on the ceiling pole, a candle lantern sits atop my wooden box of clothing and "possibles" (all necessary stuff) and both front door and back door are open to let in the breeze. Also the bugs. Out the back door you see the meadow behind us.

Biscuits, bacon and eggs for breakfast, all cooked by Bearded Eagle on our little wood stove. You can see the stove pipe sticking out the lodge ceiling.

Ahhh, coffee! I know, my hair's a mess. Don't worry. I'll soon be putting a mob cap on it. Isn't my cup cute?

This is my new camp kitchen set up. I love it! No more standing on my head to dig around in a wooden box trying to find the salt or the beef jerky.!

A little looking around in the woods always produces a wildflower arrangement. Note the French fleur de lis on the cup. Very proper to the period.

Haley and her baby sister, Taylor. Two beautiful little frontier mademoiselles!

As the stars began to come out, the people began to gather around some musicians. It was a lovely, cool evening. The music ranged from traditional American songs, to Irish jigs to a little Dylan and even some Coldplay.

"Two Portions" plays the wash tub. I mean, he plays it! If you weren't looking at him you would think that he was playing a big bass fiddle. The guy is amazing. He played for hours. He told me he can play the bass fiddle and the bass guitar, but he prefers playing the washtub at a campfire with his reenactor friends. His daughter once dated our son. Alas, the relationship did not bloom or perhaps I'd have learned to play the washtub by now.
Little girls came out to dance to the fiddle tunes. The two on the outside are dressed in plains Indian "ribbon dresses."

Here is the fiddler. Earlier, I am happy to say, The Mandolin Man visited camp and played with him. Mandolin Man looked the same, and played, once again, like a professional. Sadly, he couldn't stay long so was not present in the evening.

I know this didn't come out right. I had the camera on the wrong setting, but I kind of like it. A whole line of little girls are twirling to the music. You can see the candle lanterns hanging on a lodge behind them.

We are welcoming the people to the Sunday worship service. The two of us did a "tag team" sermon about the cross.

After church Ken (Bearded Eagle) took a photo of Taylor and her mommy, Maria, and me. Maria's father owns the land we were on.

Now came the truly unpleasant part--packing all this gear up and loading it in our van and little trailer. It is NOT FUN and takes time! We will be doing this again in a couple of weeks, but next time we will be with Kris and Daryl and little Trinity. We are looking forward to it!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Motel

Every word of the following account is absolutely true. Seriously. No exaggeration is needed.

We are back after a weekend in the north woods. We departed much later than planned, so by the time we got close to our destination it was already evening. Not wanting to deal with the involved work of a Rendezvous * set-up in the dark, we opted for a motel. We stopped in a town with a population of less than 1,000, but it is the closest town to the place we were going (still 45 minutes away) .

The photo is taken from the driveway of the Capri Motel. The name was our first clue of what was ahead. What would you expect from a motel named Capri? It was one of those long, one story motels typical of thousands of American small-town establishments built in the road-trip heyday of the '40s and 50s. (Our town has one too, but it is actually remodeled and quite nice on the inside.) This one was L shaped, and it had a large amount of lovely petunias outside the office. The front lawn boasted old maple trees and a nice fire pit with wooden chairs.

I gazed at the sign though. It said a great deal about the motel. More about the sign in a minute.

We checked in and carried a small bag to the (surprisingly) No-Smoking room. Opening the door, we were greeted with a warm wash of stale tobacco air. Well, it might be a no-smoking room now, but 50 or 60 years of cigarette smoke certainly do leave a signature.

Here is the sign that welcomed us into room number nine.

We got the message--in yellow and red. The little pine tree air freshener was not helping the air quality however. The lamp to the left is hanging from the ceiling on a slightly rusty brass chain, and the wooden flower basket (actually part of the lamp) was filled with faded pink plastic flowers. Hmmm. Perhaps you can see the plastic lace mat under the lamp?

We looked at each other a bit apprehensively as we headed for the beds to give them that little trial bounce that one always does at a motel--not too good, but since there were two beds we'd be okay. One sleeper can deal with a saggy bed a lot better than two sleepers, you know? The beds had a quaint country touch--quilts. Nice thought, but they were the ugliest quilts I have ever seen, with a strange mix of dark but faded colors. They did not match each other.

We checked out the bathroom--whew--clean enough to be passable. The mustard-hued shower curtain had a curlicued crest with a gold letter C (for Capri, I surmised) emblazoned on it. There was a metal tissue box holder on the wall such as are often found in motels. It was empty of tissue, but it was festooned with a string of faded silk flowers. I was giggling by this time.

The room decor offered several more chuckles, groans, or snorts of derision, depending. We decided not to use the ancient air conditioner. The paint on the window we wrestled open was badly peeling, but a nice evening breeze did help with the warm air and the tobacco smell. The sound of crickets was pleasant.

Deciding to settle in and watch the Olympics a while, we turned back the quilts of our respective beds. No giggle this time. I gasped and then burst into laughter. The bottom sheet was canary yellow with orange hibiscus flowers. The top sheet was pink with purple roses. The pillow cases matched each other. They were another floral print, blue this time. Ken's sheets were similarly uncoordinated, and again the pillowcases inexplicably matched. His were turquoise and white plaid. We sat on the beds and howled with laughter, and Ken remarked, "Good thing we don't have to spend the night with the lights on. The sheets are so loud we'd never be able to get to sleep!"

After calming down and catching our breath, we got reasonably comfy. I noted that the night stand (decorated with an ancient alarm clock, another plastic doilley and a vintage '50s lamp) contained magazines. The first one I pulled out was a "Better Homes and Gardens" circa 1995. Quickly doing the math I said incredulously, "This magazine has been here for thirteen years! Can you believe that?" Deciding that cutting-edge decorating tips from over a decade earlier were not helpful, I opted for the next magazine, Country Living. The date on the cover? Nineteen hundred and eighty seven. Even the charms of the decor and the linens had not prepared me for a magazine that was twenty one years out of date! I found that astounding and kept wondering, "Who dusts these and puts them back and never notes that magazines from the current century might be a good idea?"

After a while I waxed a bit nostalgic, recalling trips in the days when we travelled with a child or two and a very limited budget. We had stayed in several such places, but not in a long time. And maybe not quite so--retro. Still, I remembered the rare times in my own childhood when my family stayed at a motel during a car trip. A motel was an adventure, a welcome alternative to my Aunt Velma's 30 cats-crowded house. A little room like this would have seemed fine to me in those days. Actually, if I squinted my eyes I could picture some family from the forties or the fifties rejoicing in the nice bathroom with a shower, the beds, and the country view out the window.

Next morning as we pulled away, I stopped to take a picture of the sign. Note the turquoise (screaming '50s) color of the oval that says Capri, the overgrown bushes, the missing V in HAVE. Don't miss the proclamation that this motel features color TV from RCA! The wall behind the arrow (with mostly missing flashing yellow light bulbs, now turned off in the daylight) is badly peeling. The little coachman who stands atop the gate has a badly chipped face, poor thing.

You might think we were crazy for staying in such a place. We kind of thought so too, until we remembered that we were about to dress up in 19th century clothes, sleep in a white canvas tent, and cook in cast iron over a camp fire. Or maybe, if we didn't want to rough it, we'd cook inside the lodge on our little stove.

And, to my relief, there were no visible bugs at the Capri. Yes, I was concerned about that.

And yes, the experience was a bit disconcerting but mostly funny. I meant this post to make you smile. I'm sure that when we next head up north and pass that motel sign in the nice little Wisconsin town, we will laugh, remembering. And I don't plan on staying there again if I can help it.

But I am saddened and chagrined to know that for much of the world the sad, shabby little room in a dilapidated motel would be luxury, safety, a wonderful blessing. We had hot and cold running water, electricity, a microwave and a small refrigerator (surprises) and two beds. One for each of us. With sheets and blankets and quilts. And printed material. And a television.

Most of us are spoiled rich folks, you know? We just don't realize it.

* The link is to a Plover, WI Rendezvous, but is not the one we attended. Some are open to the public, and some are for any reenactor who shows up, and some are by invitation-only.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More on Marriage to Come, but Meanwhile...

I realize I spent several posts talking about what husbands and wives (male and female) were not. The husband is not the authority and constant leader, and the wife is not the assistant. I did not talk about what we are to be, so I will plan on doing that sometime relatively soon.

As for now, my dear husband is going to lead me to the van, hitch up the trailer behind, and drive to the northwoods of Wisconsin (to the boonies). There we will meet friends and spend four days playing dress up as Bearded Eagle and SingingOwl, enjoy the silence of relative wilderness, look at stars with our telescope, cook and eat and share great food, worship outside, shoot guns and arrows, throw knives and tomahawks, read, rest, and converse around the campfire. I hope this man and his friends will be there. He did not show up last year, and I kind of worried about him. It is the same location.

No phone. No television. No fax machine. No computer.

Back soon!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Egalitarian Marriage: Resources for Further Study

When I started the series about "Husband as Head" I said I wasn't trying to be scholarly, or give you footnotes, and I said there was much more that could be said. And I promised further resources. Here are a few.

The excellent website "God's Word to Women" has articles on a variety of subjects of interest to Christian women. Actually, most of them should be read by thinking Christians of either gender. They include:

I Believe in Male Headship by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian

The Evangelical Debate Over Biblical Headship by David H. Scholer

The Meaning of "Head" by Dr. Kluane Spake

Who's the Boss? by Drs. Eddie L. and Susan H. Hyatt

The Head of the Epistles by Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen

As for books, I cannot speak highly enough about:

Heirs Together by Patricia Gundry.

This book is the absolutely best book on Christian marriage that I have ever come across, and it is required reading for Christian couples who want me to officiate at their wedding. My copy is dogeared, highlighted and has notes in the margins. For discounts on multiple orders, go to Suitcase Books.

Jeff does a really wonderful job of discussing how we have turned a curse resulting from sin into something we call "God's plan" He gives practical suggestions for marriage and family and parenting that are based on (of all things) grace instead of some imposed view of "roles."

I think the term life-changing is way overused these days. However, these two books really can be exactly that. FWGIIP is the book that I would give to every family in the church and everyone else I could, if I had unlimited money. I lent my copy to a friend who is a marriage and family counselor, and he later bought me a new copy. He had sat up all night, making notes and scribbling in the margins and underlining. It is that kind of book, as is "Heirs Together."

One more, "Marriage Made in Eden" by Alice P. Matthews and M. Gay Hubbard is highly recommended as helping us take a good look at what scripture really says about marriage and "God's plan. " I am just reading it now, but I'm liking it so far, and I respect the person who told me to buy it without delay.

None of these are difficult to read. Later I may share some more recommendations, but I'm trying to just stick to a few articles and books about Christian marriage for now.

Monday, August 11, 2008

August Wildflowers

This time of year reminds us of how people manage to put up with Wisconsin winters. August has been beautiful so far with mild days of mostly low humidity and cool nights. The corn that did not get washed out in the spring rain is tall and tasseling. The farmers who did get flooded out planted soybeans, one of the lovliest crops in the country. A close look at this field will reveal corn stalks sticking up in the soybean plants. Well, I guess not every corn stalk was killed by over watering!
If you look closely between the tree branches you will see the doe and fawn in the meadow.
We decided to try to get some seed pods from the abundance of wildflowers that are lining our roadsides and blooming in ditches. Queen Anne's Lace (I love the stuff) is everywhere, and alongside are purple and yellow blossoms I can't identify.
When we came home we tossed seeds down the hill towards our little creek. We will see if any grew when next summer comes around.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

A Summertime Friday Five

Presbyterian Gal has this week's Friday Five and she asks:

1. What is your sweetest summer memory from childhood? Did it involve watermelon or hand cranked ice cream? Or perhaps a teen summer romance. Which stands out for you?

That's hard. I'm not good at picking one thing. One I remember that was bittersweet was Ken's grad night at Disneyland. I don't know if this still happens, but back in the 60s graduating classes went to Disneyland for all-night fun. Ken was going to be going into Marines Corp boot camp immediately and it would be three months of separation. (Yep, I married the guy I dated in high school, but we did attend different schools) So we were anticipating being apart, and at that age three months seems like a year. So at one point in the wee hours of the morning, tired and starting to feel sad, we hopped on the Mark Twain Steamboat and rode around and around and around for a while in a couple of deck chairs in a secluded little corner.

2. Describe your all time favorite piece of summer clothing. The one thing you could put on in the summer that would seem to insure a cooler, more excellent day.

My sister, Darlaine, and I made something that the Simplicity pattern book called a "Nothing." It really was relatively modest for Southern California. It was just a knee-length little dress with an elastic band at the top. It was great to put on after swimming, or if you were a bit sunburned. Nothing to stick to you. Just nice flowy cotton, no sleeves, no buttons, etc.. Mine was purple.

3. What summer food fills your mouth with delight and whose flavor stays happily with you long after eaten?

Being originally from Southern California, one of the things I grip about is that the Midwest doesn't get great fruit. Not like California anyway, where we picked oranges off the tree and my dad grew grapes in the backyard. Our Wisconsin winters get so long, and fruit in summer tastes good. We are starting to get better fruit these days. I love all of it, but nothing beats the flavor of a perfectly ripe, juicy, sweet peach. Of course, it does taste even better if it is topping a bowl of just-cranked homemade vanilla ice cream.

4. Tell us about the summer vacation or holiday that holds your dearest memory.

My family had issues. But the one time in my childhood that we seemed to be able to have fun with both parents was on camping trips in the summer. Yosemite National Park is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. Camping by a burbling stream, being just a little scared of bears, campfires at night, hiking (which mostly meant riding piggy-back on my dad's shoulders), playing "baseball" with a tree branch and pine cones, eating food we wouldn't eat at home. Canned hominy, for example. We never ate it at home, but we always ate it when camping. Same with Pork & Beans.

5. Have you had any experience(s) this summer that has drawn you closer to God or perhaps shown you His wonder in a new way?

I have been trying to be more focused about NOW and less concerned about the future. Part of that for me has been taking time to sit on the deck in the a.m., taking pictures, noticing the sky and the flowers and the fields. It is not one specific moment, but it has been a season of seeking to be more at peace and okay with living the moment.

Bonus question: When it is really hot, humid and uncomfortable, what do you do to refresh and renew body and spirit?

People here complain about the heat. I think they are nuts. It can get humid, but nothing like the south. And I always know that snow and ice and sleet and frigid temps will be here for months on end. So I don't tend to get miserable, but if it is really bad I just refuse to go outside. I sit inside with my a.c. and read and eat a fruit Popsicle. This question did make me think of North Carolina however. Now THAT is horrible heat and humidity. We were in "enlisted housing" and broke. And Ken spent his days at the base in air conditioning, but baby Kris and I were stuck at home with fans. If it was unbearable, we would get in the bathtub and blow a fan right on us and sit there. After Kris couldn't sit any more we'd go to the nearby Winn Dixie (grocery store) and walk around for as long as I could pretend to be actually going to buy something.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Husband as "Head" Part Six --"Kephale"

I decided that there were too many posts labeled "Gender Debate." I added "Egalitarian Marriage." There may be posts included under that label the future, but for now it only has the posts in this series. Just look in the sidebar under LABELS and you will see it.

In Part One of this series, I noted that the Bible does not say that the husband is the head of the home but the head of the wife. I also have said (several times) that the Bible does not say that the man must always lead. Some parts of the Church have long taught incorrect concepts regarding marriage. These ideas mostly spring from just a few verses. The main one is Ephesians 5:23: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

A nice cast of a kephale (head).

In Part One I included a little more of the passage, backing up to verse 21 and continuing on to verse 25 and using several Bible translations. If you have not read that post you might want to do so now. Or maybe you'll need a review. I did.

I'll wait right here for you. Here, once again, is the link.

Back? Okay, here we go!


From this rather simple passage and a couple of others have come a myriad of teachings that are extrapolated from the text. Here is a dictionary definition for extrapolate: To infer or estimate by extending or projecting known information.

It is sometimes necessary to extrapolate from a text. When we do so, wisdom and humility would say we'd best be careful to avoid dogmatic assumptions. To extrapolate is to infer. To infer is to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence, to guess; speculate; surmise. One may believe that the Bible infers that the husband must be a servant leader, but that does not mean the Bible actually says this. Here is a different kind of statement, "The Bible says that we love God because He first loved us." I John 4:9 does indeed say just that. No inference.

I cannot think of any scripture that has more inferences made from it, nor more extrapolation presented as unquestionable fact than Eph. 5:23. (Except for verse 22--ack--I will not go there in this post.) Here are just a few things, some of which were in my previous "rant" or in previous posts in this series.

The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is of the church. Thus, the husband is prophet, priest and king of the home.

The husband is the "head," the "leader," or the "authority" of the home.

The husband must always lead his wife.

The wife must always graciously submit to the leadership of her husband.

There is a hierarchy of the home. God is the supreme head, and under God's leadership is the husband, then the wife, then the children.

The husband must exercise headship. [What does that word mean--and who gets to decide what it means? I'll bet it isn't the wife.]

The husband must exercise servant leadership.

Someone must be in authority in the home. God says that's the man.

The man should consider his wife's opinion, but he has final say.

God will hold the man responsible for his wife and family. (Partly true, but only partly.)

Other things not related to husbands and wives get extrapolated as well. I won't dwell on it, since it is another issue, but I will give one example of what I mean. Recently a well-meaning ministry colleague said, "I support women in ministry, you know. But I admit something seems wrong, and I would have a hard time submitting to a woman pastor. I mean, if the man is designed to lead the woman, how can we submit to a woman in the church? Why is it not right for the woman to lead the man at home but okay elsewhere?"

That is a pretty logical question, don't you think? I do. If you believe man is made to lead, it is a reasonable question indeed.


The New Testament was not written in English. What we have are various translations.

If you have read these posts and wondered why I keep saying the man/husband does not always lead--if you have thought, "Why doesn't she get that the Bible says the husband is the head?" then read that capitalized part again.

In English the word head has a multitude of meanings. However, two are most common.

1. the round thing on top of the neck, or 2. the one in authority, the leader, the boss.

1. My head hurts. My head is too big for this hat. Low clearance--Watch you head.

2. He is the head of this department. Will you head up the committee? She is the head of the women's ministry ministry.

But that is in English. What is the word in Greek? It is KEPHALE (English transliteration. I don't have Greek fonts so that will have to do.) The picture above is there to remind us that kephale is a literal head. Kephale is not the word Paul uses when he wants to say authority.

Some of us have heard, read, and been taught that the husband is the head so he is the leader for so long that it is very difficult to read that scripture passage any other way. I don't think I'm the only one who would struggle with this. So I have chosen a word that means a human head. Let's use noggin. I'm not trying to be silly. It is the best word I could come up with

If we read "The husband is the noggin of the wife, just as Christ is the noggin of the church..." we would likely understand that noggin was a metaphor. A metaphor is never literal; it is an emblem, a symbol. We would know that the husband is not the wife's literal head (noggin), nor is Christ the literal head (noggin) of the Church.

So what did this word mean to the original readers (hearers)? While it is correct that there are some instances where kephale could mean authority, Paul never uses it this way.

Paul Burleson has an excellent post about this. I've linked to it because I recommend you read it all, but here is a paragraph.

"...Kephale" didn't have the normal meaning of "authority" in Paul's day and in the Greek language. Paul used other words for "authority."

Paul used "heart" for the intelligent control of the body which was the Greek way of thinking. There was... no knowledge of the "head" controlling as we know it today.

[If we were writing many of the scriptures below we would be more likely to say "mind" instead of heart.]

"Their foolish heart was darkened." Rom. 1:12

The law written in their hearts." Rom. 2:15

It is with the heart man believes," Rom. 10:9-10

No heart has conceived God's plans." 1 Corth. 1:9 "

May the eyes of your heart be enlightened to know." Eph. 1:18-23

But the meaning of "source" was theirs, and were you to use that meaning where the word "kephale" is referenced you would see... scripture to be clear."

The Man is the Source of the Woman

KEPHALE is a literal word for head (noggin), but a metaphor for SOURCE.

Drs. Eddie L. Hyatt & Susan C. Hyatt have this to say:

The meaning of this passage has been distorted because of the assumption that kephale means "ruler," "leader," or "boss" in the same way that the English "head" can carry this figurative meaning. We now know that this assumption is wrong.

Unbiased research reveals that had Paul wanted to convey the idea of "authority," he would have chosen the word archon. This word, archon conveys the idea of authority, rulership, or leadership.

Kephale means "source." This is important because it teaches the Ephesians that women were created from the same substance as men. It refutes the pagan idea that women were made of an inferior substance between that of man and animal. Paul, therefore, undermines this pagan notion by referring to the man as the kephale ("source") of the woman in creation and exhorts husbands to love their wives as their own bodies (vs. 23). She is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, (Gen. 2:23)--a fitting and equal partner.

This rendering is neither bizarre nor fringe but is, in fact, confirmed by the best research in the field. For example, one of the most complete Greek lexicons, Liddell, Scott, Jones and McKenzie, list various meanings for kephale, but it does not list "authority over," "ruler," "boss" or anything similar as a definition.

Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, in their study of headship in the Septuagint discovered that when the word ro'sh ("head") was used figuratively to mean "source" or "beginning," the translators used kephale. However, when ro'sh was used figuratively to mean "ruler" or "boss" (e.g., the head of the tribe of Judah), the translators used archon meaning "ruler."

Many other Evangelical scholars, including F. F. Bruce, Catherine Kroeger, and David Scholer, concur. Some disagree, not because of lack of evidence, but because of a prior commitment to "male headship."

Let's look at one other passage where the husband is spoken of as the noggin (kephale) but let's use source. I Cor. 11:3, 11 and 12. The verses in between are a discussion of head coverings, and beyond the scope of this post.

Now I want you to realize that the source of every man is Christ, and the source of the woman is man, and the source of Christ is God. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

These verses are not about hierarchy and who gets to be boss over who. Both the language and the context fit with kephale as source. Paul is affirming our interdependence, both on God and on one another. Yes, woman came from man, but man comes now comes from woman. All come from God.

The Assemblies of God position paper "The Role of Women in Ministry" has a brief statement regarding kephale.

"The statement that "the man is the head of the woman" has for centuries been used to justify the practice of male superiority... Two alternative translations for kephale ("head"), debated widely by contemporary evangelical scholars, are (1) "authority over" and (2) "source" or "origin." ...Taking the passage as a whole, the second meaning fits as well as or better than the first meaning, leading to the summary statement of verse 12: "As the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things [are] of God." Even the relationship between the eternal Son and the Father--"the head of Christ is God" (11:3)--fits better as "source" than "authority over" (cf. John 8 :42).

I Just Want an Equal Partner

Last night I watched "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" starring Ron Howard and Glenn Ford. The movie inspired a television series of the same name, and is a sentimental but sweet story about a widower finding love again. (Ron Howard, aged eight, makes the movie.) There are two love interests in the story, and one (the one with a high-powered career) says to Eddie's father, "I just want to stand beside a man as equal partners. Is that so much to ask?" He replies, "Why no, I don't think so, but it is certainly unlikely, so you'd better be content with suffrage for now."

Of course, the dialogue is dated--thankfully! But as I listened I thought, "Why is it so unlikely? She is saying exactly what I feel. I don't need to always be led. I don't want to be the leader either for that matter. At least not all the time. I don't want to have to figure out who is boss. I just want to stand beside my husband as an equal partner. Is that too much to ask?"

No. It isn't.

The man is the source of the woman, as Christ is the source of the church. We express our mutual dependence on God and our honor for our mates by showing love for one another and by having a heart that is willing to submit in humility - because of Christ.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Just a Few Smart Alec Thoughts -- Rant Warning

No this is not the next in the series. However, it is odd that as I've been thinking about and writing the "Husband as Head" posts, gender issues keep coming up. I think I had three conversations just this month. (I was more gracious, I hope, than this post would indicate.) Every one of the following statements, and others like them, has been said (or written) to me, and not just by men.

When I read or hear:
I think:

1. The men in the Bible led their families. Patriarchy is the biblical pattern.
(The first time I heard this, I was literally shocked into silence.)
And how did those biblical families turn out? Pride, polygamy, lying, sibling rivalry on steroids, adultery, fratricide, rape, murder, jealousy, manipulation, sorrow and deceit--among other stuff. News flash: Everything the Bible records is not loving, just, gracious or pleasing to our Creator.

2. If God did not intend the man to lead, why was Adam created first? God's plan of authority is revealed in the creation order.
God made a whole lotta stuff before Adam. Creation got more sophisticated as God proceeded. So it is obvious that Eve was a higher order than Adam, created to rule over him. She came last and thus was the best of all. Somebody had to be first. Don't attach whatever meaning suits you. Perhaps we should remember what JESUS said about those who sought to be first? Careful about thinking that being first is so significant. You might end up at the back of the line.

Note: This is not snarky--this is ligit--I believe (and many Hebrew scholars agree with me) that HUMANKIND was made together as one being. Later that original being (made in God's image) became two instead of just one. The rib language is just a way of trying to explain how a woman could be made "from out of the side of." If so, they both were created together, as the first creation accounts says. So nobody was "first." I'll try to find some links to post later.

3. Men are usually natural leaders. A woman was made to follow a man.
What planet are you from? Every man is not a leader. Every woman is not a follower. Leadership ability does not come from testosterone. Or estrogen either. Leaders come in both male and female. Same for followers. Just think about the people you know.

4. Ever since the Fall, the woman will seek to dominate the man.
What planet are you from? This is the most backwards statement imaginable. I'm not saying women can't be bossy or domineering. But taken as a whole, man has dominated woman ever since the Fall. Look around the world. Look into your history book! Talk to a social worker! Or a doctor!

5. You just want to make men and women the same. Men and women are different.
NO WAY! Now you tell me!

6. MY Bible says...
What? Oh sorry. I guess I stopped listening to you.

7. Women are just not emotionally equipped for the demands of pastoring (leadership).
Women are strong. Perhaps we do cry easier--some of us. But maybe that is why we tend to hold up better, over the long haul, than some of the men we know.

8. If a woman is in the pulpit, men will be distracted by sexual thoughts and won't hear what is said.
HAHAHAHAHA! You don't have a lot of respect for men, do you? Hey, If a man is in the pulpit the women might get distracted! Pastor ______ is pretty hot.

8. A preaching woman is an abomination.
Oh dear me. I'll stop right this minute. Hey, did someone remember to tell God about Deborah, Hulda, Priscilla, or Junia? God must have forgotten that abomination part.

9. Well, you aren't like most women.
Well, you aren't normal either, buddy.

10. I just think a woman preaching is strange.
Get over it.

11. A woman must be under a man's authority and protection. When she's unmarried at home, it's the father. If there is no father it can be some other male relative. Later it will be her husband.
Chapter and verse for that, please.

12. How can you be under your husband's leadership at home and he be under yours at church?
He's not my boss. We are partners and friends. I'm not his boss. We are partners and friends. At church I'm the pastor. I serve. He serves.
13, The husband must exercise "servant leadership" in the home.
Chapter and verse for that, please.

14. The man has final say.
Chapter and verse for that, please.

15. Someone has to lead or chaos will ensue.
What about partnership, submitting in love, praying together, being unselfish...?

16. Well what if they disagree? Someone has to be the one in authority.
You don't have many friends do you? Or if you do, how do you decide who gets to be in charge? No one is? Uh oh!

17. Just read the Bible.
I can't print my thought. It wouldn't be fittin'.

18. You just do not respect the Bible.
I have a hard time with respecting you, actually.
19. The husband is the priest of the home.
Chapter and verse for that, please.
20. You just don't want to be submissive.
I'm sure glad I'm not married to you.

There really is a point to this rant. This list could go on , and these statements do make me angry, but it is not a personal kind of anger. This kind of thinking has permeated much of my life in the church and I wonder about others who still struggle with them, or who are kept from real freedom because of such thinking. I know I'm not the only one who has wondered about such statements.
Dr. Debbie Gill, co-author of "God's Women Then and Now" encourages us to show respect to those who disagree with us, noting that, "The respect Christ's followers show is based not on the virtue of the one to whom you show respect, but on obedience to Christ." She is right. Most of these things I would never say out loud, and I'm not saying my thoughts are good. I better ask forgiveness for my snarkiness, actually. However, if we just think and observe people, and read who Jesus was, so many of these asinine statements just crumble to dust. The are not in the scripture at all. The are arrogant and rude. So why do they just, like the Energizer Bunny, go on and on and on and on?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Husband as "Head" Part Five: Back to the Garden

NOTE: If you go to the sidebar and click on "The Gender Debate" all of the posts in this series will be available and you can scroll down to the first post ("Is the Husband the Priest of the Home") and read the posts consecutively if you'd like. The follow-up posts are all titled "Husband as Head" Part __.

I apologize for taking over a month with this. Life intervenes with blog writing. I will get back to the "head" reference in Eph. 5:23 very soon, but I want to take a detour back to the Bible's Garden of Eden. It is a detour, but it does relate. On the way to Eden, let me share a few things--I guess that means a detour from the detour. That gets involved, and this is a long post, so I'll add some headings. I hope it helps!
We are stardust,
We are golden,
We are caught in the Devil's bargain,
And we've got to get ourselves back to the Garden.
Joni Mitchell
Peeling Back the Layers

It can be difficult to read the Bible, especially for those of us who were "raised on it," with fresh perspective. In the post which began this series, "Is the Husband the Priest of the Home?" I shared an example from my own life of of reading and preaching scripture with unknown bias. It was a long time before I realized that in sharing the "husband = priest" sermon I was not teaching what the scripture actually said, but what I had been told the scripture said. I shared that story, and will share a few personal things in this post, not because I think that my experience is amazing or even all that important, but because I want to convey that many things influence the way we read scripture. Sometimes we are unaware of these things. In the world of the Church it seems to be mainly "Conservative Evangelicals" who teach a message of defined, theoretically God-ordained gender roles in marriage. I sincerely applaud my peers' desire to be faithful to scripture, but I encourage us to peel back the overwhelming overlay of culture, history, books, sermons, and the opinions of well-known (and well-intentioned) Christian celebrities. As I mentioned previously in the series, I am not trying to be scholarly, deep, or thorough in these posts. There are no footnotes. I am skimming the surface, but later I will suggest some materials for deeper study.

The Book I Both Loved and Feared

I recall reading a book that is now out of print (Women in Ministry Today by Helen Beard, published by Logos). If you find a copy, I recommend it. The book was divided into two parts; the first dealt with the issue of women in ministry leadership, especially women preachers. As I read I rejoiced, and lights went on in my understanding. I saw, really saw, the truth of scripture. It seemed so wonderful, so real, so clear.

Then I reached the second section, which was about Christian marriages. It included the thought that the Bible really does not say the man must always be the authority at home. She emphasized that husbands and wives were meant to be partners. She had a different view of "head' and of wifely submission too. This was 28 years ago, but I recall my thoughts: "Well, I think her understanding of scripture about women preachers was really great, but now she's just gone too far. She must be a women's libber." It was 1980, and in my personal world to be associated with the women's liberation movement was a bad thing indeed.

I continued to read the book because I had so enjoyed the first part, but I could not agree with this marriage view. Was it because the author did not make a good case? No. Was it because she did not explore the scripture well? No. Was it because she just presented her opinion and had no logical or reasonable structure for her stance? No. Was she a man-hater? Clearly, no. In fact she praised her husband with great love and admiration. Though I could not admit it, I was afraid to consider her scriptural interpretation. At that time I knew no one--absolutely no one--in my church, or in my denomination, or in my circle of Christian friends, or in my family, who would have been willing to discuss it if I had tried to do so. To acknowledge that the author's view might be true was just too disturbing. I was not ready for my world to change, and I knew that if I accepted Helen Beard's words my life would shift and that this shift would cause difficulty. Frankly, I liked thinking that my husband was supposed to be more spiritually responsible than I. Not really being a natural leader, following was usually fine with me.

While I am sharing some personal things, I won't give you all the details of my own search and what changed in my life. They do not matter for now. What does matter is that I never forgot that book. I still have it. It haunted me from the shelf where I left it for years. Really, it was the Holy Ghost who haunted me. (Pun fully intended.)
I wanted to be faithful to scripture. I still want this. Eventually, that was what caused me to start searching for for what was right and good and true, and what most fit with what I knew of the nature of God as revealed in Jesus.

That completes the detour from the detour. Now, let's continue our journey back to the garden.

When I saw this picture of Adam and Eve I laughed out loud. I decided I'd better post it. Laughter is a good thing.
Does God Have a Divine Plan of Hierarchy in Marriage?

Just last week I had a conversation in which I was assured that Adam (Man) was designed for leadership and Eve (Woman) was designed to follow. The man was designed to be over the woman. God's plan was a hierarchy--a loving hierarchy of God - Man - Woman.

Friends, I believe we are applying the results of Darkness and calling it "God's divine plan" for men and women. That grieves my heart for so many reasons, not least of which is that I believe it is a dreadful thing to attribute the work of evil to God, even with the best of intentions. So what does it say in Genesis? Aren't there very different and God-given roles for a man and a woman?

Men Need Dominion

Some years ago I went to a large women's conference along with several other people from my church. Many workshops were offered, but one of the most popular was about husband/wife roles. I did not attend, but I heard plenty about it in the van on the way home. I grew disturbed and sad as I listened to happy, enthusiastic women tell how they had learned about "God's plan." God, the Bible said, made man to "have dominion." That was the main point of the workshop. If we women did not allow the men to have dominion, we were demeaning them and undermining their God-given role as leaders in our homes. There were some good things shared. But mixed with helpful things was a damaging seed of error. Men were made to lead, they had heard; it was part of the male nature. Every man would step up and provide godly leadership, given encouragement. As Christian wives it was their job to go home and discover the ways in which they had robbed their husbands of this divine mandate.

I listened in silence. They were too excited to notice. It was not a time for correction, but later when the excitement of discovery had dimmed in the light of real life, I was able to take some of those women to Genesis and read the workshop's text (Genesis 1:26). Careful reading and attention to the context was revealing. I believe that Genesis implies that all humans need a sense of some "dominion" and I mean that in a positive way.

Two Creation Accounts

Unlike most writing with which we are familiar, biblical accounts are not necessarily in chronological order. There are actually two different accounts of creation in Genesis, and each gives different insight.

The first is Genesis 1:26-28. The workshop leader used the King James Version, so to be fair I'll use that too.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

Let's take a look at the New International Version.

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."

This initial discription of human creation, sort of an overview of the plan, does not separate the creation of the individual man and woman. It is presented as one event. The male and the female are created together as "man" (humankind) in God's image. Who has dominion? "Them." Both genders are given rule over creation. There is no suggestion of power, position, hierarchy or defined roles.
God declares all this "good."

The second creation account is Genesis 2:7, and 18-24 and it adds detail. This time I'll use the New American Standard Version, but read it in whatever version you prefer.

7 Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being...18 Then the LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him." 19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man."
24 For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.

Helpmate versus Ezer Kenegdo

The second passage introduces us to the man and woman as seperate beings. Where is that word we hear so often in Christian circles to describe the wife, "helpmate?" Or is it "helpmeet" that the Bible says? Actually, it is neither. Helpmate seems to have come into existence because mate and meet sound so similar. The two words, "help meet" come from the King James version, verse 20b
"... but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him."

Nowdays, the words helpmate or helper usually imply a subordinate or an assistant. But the woman is not called an assistant--she is so much more than that. "Help" here is a noun, and "meet" is an adjective. The word translated "help" or "helper" is the word EZER. This word is used repeatedly in the Old Testament, but it is never used for a subordinate helper. Instead it is used to show an equal, a strong (or even a superior) help. Ezer is often used to refer to God! One example is Psalm 12:1-2.

I lift up my eyes to the hills--
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
Maker of heaven and earth.

The various forms of ezer in the Hebrew Bible can mean either a help or a strength. It carries the idea of power. I am not saying that women are gods, but I am saying that the woman is a strength to the man!

What about the "meet" part? This word meant suitable or appropriate. Shakespeare and other old English writers used meet this way, but here is another example right from the King James Version of the Bible.

Matthew 15:26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs.

The word translated "meet" or "suitable" is NEGED (or depending on usage, KENEGDO) "counterpart to, matching, corresponding."

Dr. Susan Hyatt, in her excellent book, In the Spirit We're Equal says this, "The Hebrew expression ezer kenegdo appears, meaning 'one who is the same as the other and who surrounds, protects, aids, helps, supports.' There is no indication of inferiority or of a secondary position in a hierarchical separation of the male and female spheres [roles] of responsibility, authority, or social position."

I think the New Revised Standard Version gets it correct with the rendering of “partner.” Interestingly, the old Catholic Douay version captures the meaning too with the rendering of “like unto himself.”

An ezer kenegdo is not simply a quasi equal who is important but somewhat weak; woman was meant to be a partner in a positive, strong way! She was like Adam, suitable in every way, figuratively standing right beside him. One writer described it as, "eye to eye, vis a vis, a matched pair." This is shown in the exclamation, "Ah, at last! This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Instead of presenting a subordinate-superior hierarchical relationship for the man and the woman, this passage actually presents a relationship of mutual partnership.

I just did a search that led me to an article stating that "clearly [?] the woman's role is to 'help meet' her husbands desires." The remainder of the article explains precisely how the wife must meet her husband's wishes in every way. How foolish we can be in trying to claim biblical authority for our pet ideas, and how easy it is to read into scripture what we think is there!

Some Results of "the Fall"

Genesis 3:16 - Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you. This is a favorite verse used to support the idea that God intends a man and wife to live in a hierarchy where the man is the leader at home. Some even extend this pattern of male authority to all male-female relationships. However, the most frequent view relates simply to marriage and says something like this, "God is a God of order. A Christian home should be a peaceful and well-ordered home, so of course there must be someone in leadership. Without a final authority there will be confusion, and this verse makes it clear that God always gives that authority to the husband. It's not a matter of worth, just a matter of God-ordained roles." In a seperate post I may address the idea that someone must lead, but for now let's consider the nature of the scripture verse itself.

Is this a mandate from God, or is it a prediction? Does the Bible say that God instructs the man to rule over the woman? Must this remain so for all time? Or is God saying that this is how the world will now be, as the result of sin? Is God cursing them, or is this state of affairs a result of their actions? If it is a command from God, then there is no escaping it, and in fact to try to do so would be rebellion against God.

Thankfully, most people do not see these things as unalterable decrees and demands of God. We seek to lessen the effects of fallen nature by many means--medicine, surgery, weed-killer--we find ways to make work less difficult and to alleviate pain and suffering. Read chapter three carefully and you will see that God cursed the ground, and the serpent. God did not curse the people. Why, if we seek to lessen the effects of fallen creation in other areas, do so many people insist that the woman must be ruled? Why say that the effect of sin in creation is God's plan? Why say that the woman must be under the man's authority because it is in the Bible? Let's be consistent. If you want to demand that the woman remain as a subordinate, better let those weeds and thistles grow unchecked.

Many take the phrase, "...your desire will be for your husband" as meaning that the woman will seek to dominate the man. Countless sermons and articles have told us that the woman's natural tendency is to try to usurp the man's authority. This flies in the face of much evidence to the contrary, but I'll leave that be.

What does this verse mean then? Put it in the context of a fallen, changed world, the world that C.S. Lewis called the "dark planet" because of the results of sin. God has told humankind that the world is changed. The man (not the woman) will seek to dominate. The woman will bear many children, and her life will have pain as a result. (I think this is more than labor pain, but that too is food for another post.) Life will be difficult for them both. Death and grief are entering the world. As the result of these drastic changes, and the nature of mankind, the woman will come to rely more upon the man, need his protection, and her pregnancies and small children will cause her to be vulnerable. Her desire (literally her turning toward) will be for his approval. The man will be more able to take advantage of the woman and to dominate her. This is seen over the centuries and around the world. As for the woman, it is heartbreaking and frustrating to note how many times a woman will seek worth and satisfaction from a man. No man can provide that--only God can!

This sinful cycle of those with power dominating those who are weaker, and the greed, pride, bitterness and manipulation that result has permeated all of life on this earth, but it is not God's way. God loves justice, humility, and mercy. A man may deny his wife money just because he can, or dominate her because he is physically stronger, and the woman may gossip about the man and humiliate or manipulate him in numerous destructive ways in order to get what she wants or needs. What an evil cycle!

Concluding Thoughts

I'll close this post with some wise words from Pat Gundry in the book, Heirs Together. The bold font is added by me.

"... this circle of worldliness caused by the Fall can be broken by Christ's provision. Salvation restores our fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit not only gives us back the lost access to God, but also enables us to know how to reunite ourselves with each other again as equal...And it is this banner of freedom in Christ and the equality of believers that carries us on toward reversing the principles of worldliness which teach us to exploit and manipulate; we can go on to relationships of non-exploitation and non-manipulation in which each person is of equal value with equal opportunity to experience and express his or her full personhood.

In the past, we have taken this prediction of sin's result and have tried to institutionalize it and enforce it as God's will for us. Instead, we should be working to reverse it (as we have the other results of the Fall) and reinstate that lost relationship of mutual responsibility and respect that was present before the Fall. God provided a Savior to mend the broken relationship between His human creation and Himself. Now He wants to work through us, His creation, to reverse the bad effects of the Fall. It is time we worked with Him to reinstate the original relationship between man and woman in marriage."

There is a reason I posted Joni Mitchell's lyric above. Humankind was created "good." Now it seems that far too many Christ followers are seeking to keep us caught in the Devil's bargain. I refuse to live under the curse and call it God. We've "got to get back to the Garden" --living in freedom which Christ provides for us.

Next time I will go back to that pesky "head" reference.


Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Seven-Facts Meme

That nice lady, EmJayDee over at Set the Bird Free  tagged me for the Seven Things About Me meme whille I was gone to MO, but I'm just now getting around to doing it.  Seven things about me....hmmmm....

1.  I would love to sing the blues (just once) with a great blues band.

2.  I am much younger on the inside than I am on the outside.  :-) I am talking about attitude, not organs.

3.  I think Starbucks coffee ice cream is fabulous!  You haven't tried it?  If your store doesn't carry it, ask!     (Starbucks is not my favorite coffee in liquid form.  But the ice cream....ooooh my...especially with      Hershey's syrup and a little whipped cream.)

4.  I started getting grey hair at 15.

5.  I started dying my hair at 25.

6.  I sometimes wish I still did.

7.  When I'm done singing with the blues band I'll take a turn singing harmony with a bluegrass group.

I am supposed to tag seven more people, but a lot of the bloggers I know have done this one.  Since I always like learning things about my friends, if you consider yourself my friend, and you have not played, you are tagged. (Okay, if you don't play I will not cry.)  But let us know about it in the comments.