Monday, August 14, 2017

Re: Defusing the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb

Introduction

A while ago, I received a response from someone linking to a 2014 article that attacks the idea that 1 Timothy 2:12 denies women church authority. The article is by Gail Wallace and is entitled Defusing the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb. As I wrote before, it attempts to present a counterargument to the use of 1 Timothy 2:12 as a prooftext against female preachers. I will give Ms. Wallace credit in that she has attempted to present a more coherent argument than the usual "You just don't get the context!" excuse that is often thrown haphazardly in Charismatic and liberal circles. I also give her credit for not simply jumping to Galatians 3:28 and erroneously using it against the passage, thereby quoting scripture against scripture. (I discuss why Galatians 3:28 is irrelevant to the discussion of gender roles in church leadership here.) Nonetheless, as we shall soon see, her article still presents problems in its line of thinking and method of argument.

As I often do, all sections quoted directly from the article will be in purple text.

The Meaning of the Word "Authority"

Ms. Wallace opens up the main portion of her article by honing in on the Greek word often translated as "authority."
Before we conclude that this passage is “clear” we must consider the limitations of our English translations. The most problematic issue is the rendering of the verb authentein as authority. This unusual Greek verb is found only once in scripture and rarely in extrabiblical texts, where it is usually associated with aggression. Authentein is translated as “domineer” in the Latin Vulgate and New English Bible and as “usurp authority” in the Geneva and King James Bibles.

A study of Paul’s letters shows that he regularly used a form of the Greek “exousia” when referring to the use of authority in the church (see 1 Cor 6:12, 7:4, 1 Cor 6:12, 7:4, 9:4-6, 9:12, 11:10, 2 Cor 2:8, 10:8, 13:10, Col. 1:13, 2 Thess 3:12, Rom 6:15, 9:21). So it is strange that some modern versions translate this simply as “authority”. Considering the context, it is likely that Paul was objecting to something other than the legitimate use of authority in 1 Timothy 2:12. [...]
In regards to the Greek word αὐθεντέω, it is true that the word is only once used in the New Testament (here, in this very verse), and rarely used outside of scripture, in other Greek sources. It is true that it's a word which, translated literally from its compound words, means "to unilaterally take up arms." That it is translated as "authority" is not necessarily an incorrect translation, since it refers to authority, albeit one which is taken by one's own accord. Greek scholar AT Robertson goes into detail on this in his commentary for the verse.:
The word auqentew is now cleared up by Kretschmer (Glotta, 1912, pp. 289ff.) and by Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary. See also Nageli, Der Wortschatz des Apostels Paulus and Deissmann, Light, etc., pp. 88f. Autodikew was the literary word for playing the master while auqentew was the vernacular term. It comes from aut-ente, a self-doer, a master, autocrat. It occurs in the papyri (substantive auqenth, master, verb auqentew, to domineer, adjective auqentiko, authoritative, "authentic"). Modern Greek has apente = Effendi = "Mr." [source]
Some supporters of Ms. Wallace have opined that AT Robertson is not a proper scholar to cite, as he was (according to them) dealing with a limited amount of knowledge regarding Greek in Paul's time. Despite this, even modern scholarly works on the Greek, such as the NET notes, explain the word, and its use, along similar lines:
According to BDAG 150 s.v. αὐθεντέω this Greek verb means “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to” (cf. JB “tell a man what to do”).
It's also weird that Ms. Wallace says "considering the context," given she hasn't yet offered any exegesis or verse-by-verse explanation of what Paul is speaking about. (We'll go over this briefly in a moment.)
There is also the possibility that the verb didaskein (to teach) is linked here to the verb authentein in what is called a hendiadys (two words joined by a conjunction to make a single point). “Don’t eat and run” would be a modern example. So a better interpretation might be “don’t teach in a domineering way”. [emphases in original]
The problem here is that Ms. Wallace plays word games by honing in on the word "teach," and connecting the two words together to form the phrase "teach in a domineering way." Even in the example she gives, such a construction wouldn't be conceivable - can one "eat in a running way," or "run in an eating way"? By ignoring the full wording of the verse, she's played fast and loose with the wording to get the verse to say what she'd prefer it to say, and in doing so has presented an incomprehensible argument.

In verse 12, Paul, shortly after saying that women should learn "with entire submissiveness" (v. 11), begins the new phrase with the Greek conjunction δέ. Although δέ can be used as a connective conjunction, it's being used here in a more contrastive way - in other words, Paul made a positive statement in verse 11 (women should learn), and is now presenting a contrast to it (women should not teach or exercise authority over men). In this contrastive statement, Paul first states διδάσκειν δέ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω ("but a woman teaching I do not permit"); he then connects this via οὐδὲ (the conjunction "nor" or "neither") αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός ("taking authority over a man"). Therefore, while Paul does permit a woman to learn with entire submissiveness, he does not permit a woman to teach, nor to hold authority over a man.

This is probably why, in nearly every English translation of the Bible, the translators separate the "teaching" and "exercising authority." The only exception might be The Voice, which isn't even a translation, and which renders the verse "it's not my habit to allow women to teach in a way that wrenches authority from a man." The point is, the vast majority of scholarly translations have seen, in the verse, two separate points made by Paul: women are not to teach, and women are not to exercise authority over a man. None of them interpret it as Paul saying women shouldn't "teach in a domineering way"; neither does the original Greek even warrant such a translation.
Additionally, the grammar in this passage changes abruptly from the plural “women” in verses 9 and 10 to “a woman” in verses 11-15. Then it changes back to “women” in the next chapter, suggesting that Paul had a specific woman in mind, perhaps one that Timothy had written to him about. Furthermore, some scholars believe “I don’t permit” could also be accurately translated as “I am not currently permitting”. So while these verses are often used to defend male-only leadership, current scholarship suggests that the passage is anything BUT clear on the issue. [emphasis in original]
Two things to immediately note here:

First, Ms. Wallace appeals to "current scholarship" and "some scholars," and yet doesn't cite one single scholar on the issue. The funny thing is that, because of this, she received criticism in the comment section for the article, and some of her supporters had to come to her rescue by quoting scholars for her. Ms. Wallace quoted these supporters in a follow up post (hence quoting scholars from second-hand sources, something most academics advise you not to do).

Second, she argues in an appeal to vagueness rather than any coherent argument. Regarding the latter, what we mean here is that she argues something might "possibly" mean something, and that we aren't really "clear on the issue." This is ironic given the assurance given by her supporters in the previously cited follow up post. Like many liberal or post-modern arguments, the crux of it all seems to rely here on the idea of, "We can't really know what the word means, but we can know for sure that you're wrong."

More specifically, Ms. Wallace enters into speculation here based on a loose interpretation of the grammar: namely that Paul goes from the plural "women" to the singular "woman" between verses, hence "suggesting that Paul had a specific woman in mind." And yet Paul uses the singular "man" as well - did Paul have a specific person in mind for that? Was there a specific man the woman was usurping the authority of? Why would Paul not name her, or him? This is especially strange given that, in the previous chapter, Paul outright names Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom he says he has "handed over to Satan" (1 Tim 1:20). In the next epistle to Timothy, Paul also names Phygelus and Hermogenes (2 Tim 1:15). It is certainly true that Paul had used vague language for specific cases in the past (1 Cor 5:1), but he also gave enough details to let us know what specifically he was addressing, and that they were specific people he had in mind, even giving advice on how to handle the situation (1 Cor 5:2-5). We don't see that here, in this circumstance.

The fact is, the larger context of the epistle tells us what Paul is saying. He is sending Timothy pastoral advice on how to assist in the growth and running of the church, as he tells Timothy later on: "I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God" (1 Tim 3:15). This is seen throughout the epistle: 1 Timothy 2:1-8 deals with prayer, and who to pray for; 2:9-15 with how women are to behave; 3:1-7 with pastor qualifications; 3:8-13 with deacon qualifications; 4:1-16 with the minister's duty of defending the flock from false doctrine; 5:1-16 with the treatment of widows; 5:17-22 with the treatment of elders; and 6:1-19 with further instruction on ministry. Point being, the section dealing with women is meant to be seen regarding all women within the church, just as the other sections deal exclusively with elders, widows, deacons, etc.

Why then the change in number, from plural to singular? To simply speak about a subject on more specific, general terms, in a synechdoche sense, and via use of a generic noun. When George Patton said "No soldier ever won a war by dying for his country," he was speaking about all soldiers by using the singular on a more personal level; he was in no way implying that he had only one, solitary, specific soldier in mind. When we use the phrase "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned," does that mean there's only one woman out there who will ever be scorned and react with fury, or that it only refers to a single woman?

This use is seen even in scripture. When Paul asked "Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe?" (1 Cor 1:20), was Paul referring to a specific wise man and scribe? Did he have only one wise man or scribe in mind? Of course not - he was employing generic nouns in a synechdoche sense. Similarly here, Paul discusses the role of men and women in the church by using generic nouns: a woman cannot have authority over a man. He does this likewise to tie into the story of Adam and Eve, where Eve was deceived and fell with Adam, in essence presuming authority over him. Paul is saying that, just as it was wrong for Eve to presume authority over Adam, so too is it wrong for any woman to presume authority over any man within the church.

As for "some scholars" saying that Paul's words for "permit" should actually be "I am not currently permitting," it would be nice, once again, if Ms. Wallace could cite at least one scholar in that regard, or quote one. Daniel Wallace (no relation to our author), who is a scholar in New Testament Greek, and one of the foremost New Testament Greek scholars in our time, wrote on this very issue in great detail, and comprehensively refutes it:
If this were a descriptive present (as it is sometimes popularly taken), the idea might be that in the future the author would allow this: I do not presently permit... However, there are several arguments against this: (1) It is overly subtle. Without some temporal indicator, such as ἄρτι or perhaps νῦν, this view begs the question. (2) Were we to do this with other commands in the present tense, our resultant exegesis would be both capricious and ludicrous. Does μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ..., ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματιin Eph 5:18 mean "Do not for the moment be filled with wine, but be filled at the present time by the Spirit" with the implication that such a moral code might change in the future? The normal use of the present tense in didactic literature, especially when introducing an exhortation, is not descriptive, but a general precept that has gnomic implications. (3) Gramatically, the present tense is used with a generic object (γυναικὶ), suggesting that it should be taken as a gnomic present. (4) Contextually, the exhortation seems to be rooted in creation (note v. 13 and the introductory γάρ), rather than an address to a temporary situation. [pg. 525, Wallace]
There is nothing in the Greek to imply "This is something I'm only currently forbidding," unless one wishes to stretch the present indicative form well beyond what it means.

The Historical Context of the Letter

Ms. Wallace continues her response by discussing the context of Paul's epistle.
You’ve heard the real estate expression about property values, right? It’s all about “location, location, location”. Since the Bible is made up of a variety of genres (law, history, poetry and wisdom literature, prophetic messages, gospel accounts, letters), to interpret it correctly, we have to think about “context, context, context” . In the case of 1 Timothy, Paul was writing a personal letter instructing Timothy about how to deal with heresy being spread by false teachers in Ephesus. This is spelled out at the beginning of the letter:

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless geneaologies… They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm…” (1 Tim 1:3-4, -7).

Keener notes that while these false teachers were most likely men, much of the spreading of the false teaching was through women in the congregation. It is likely that most women in the Ephesian church had limited training in Christian theology and that their interest in false doctrine was proving to be dangerous. There is no evidence in the text that Paul was writing to establish a permanent restriction on all women for all time. [all emphases in the original]
Neither has anyone ever argued that the sole reason for Paul writing to Timothy was to dictate gender roles, therefore that's a straw man.

More important is the connection made by Ms. Wallace between the mention of false teachers at the beginning of the epistle, and the possibility that there may have been women spreading false doctrine among the congregation. Certainly some learned commentators (eg., John MacArthur) have suggested that Paul may have been inspired to mention female church teachers because of the possibility of it happening in Ephesus. Nonetheless, there are a few problems with Ms. Wallace's presentation here...

First, it contradicts Ms. Wallace's earlier point. She had harped on Paul's use of the singular "woman" to argue on the possibility that Paul was only attacking one woman, not collective women. Now, she's arguing there might have been more than one woman in Ephesus on Paul's mind. Which is it? One woman usurping a man's authority, or several women? This sort of argumentation is similar to heretics who support "Gay Christianity" by presenting a shotgun approach for passages that conflict their worldview, and not caring if any of the explanations, when paired up with one another, completely contradict. Either there was one woman in Ephesus Paul had in mind, hence his singular use of the word "woman," or there were more than one woman Paul had in mind, hence Ms. Wallace outright admits that her initial contention is completely erroneous. You can't have both.

Second, that women might have been embracing false doctrine would make Paul's point that women could not exercise authority over men meaningless, especially if the ones bearing authority (as Ms. Wallace cites Keener) were actually men, and the women were merely following those men, and spreading around what those men were saying. Even if one wished to argue the women were being used to spread that false doctrine allowing, following a false teacher is different than being that false teacher and using that teaching in an authoritative manner. When Paul attacked false doctrine, he generally targeted the teachers, rather than the lower echelon followers, in his attacks against authority (cf., 2 Cor 11; Titus 1:10).

Third, if Paul's main purpose in writing to Timothy was to help explain "how to deal with heresy being spread by false teachers in Ephesus," then a good chunk of the entire epistle would not make sense. We went over earlier on the various subjects covered by Paul throughout this epistle to Timothy, and while some of them do involve combating false doctrine or preaching truth, not all of them do. Ms. Wallace did not cover the entire context of 1 Timothy, and hence is just throwing out this argument in the hopes that it will be believed, whether by her or those who agree with her. This is especially ironic given she has argued that we should rely on context and the full purpose of a book.

Ms. Wallace continues:
Another interesting fact about 1 Timothy is that the myths and endless genealogies circulating in Ephesus included the idea that Eve was created before Adam and was superior to him. (Read this post for other facts about Ephesus and goddess worship and this one for detailed explanation of gnostic teachings about Adam and Eve.)

It is likely that Paul was writing to correct false notions that were circulating rather than suggesting that Eve’s deception should be the basis for banning women from teaching. This cultural context also helps us understand Paul’s mention of the creation order in verses 13 and 14 (more on Paul’s use of the creation narratives here).
This explanation would make Paul's point disjointed. We must remember that, shortly after saying women should not teach or exercise authority over a man, Paul opens up verse 13 with: "for it was Adam...", etc. The Greek word γάρ there is a conjunction which most often refers back to the precedent, hence its common translation of "for." Paul is connecting the story of Adam and Eve back to his command that women should not teach and have authority over men. In other words, Paul is not saying, "Don't teach or exercise authority. Oh yeah, and here's a funny belief some have about Adam and Eve..." Rather, Paul is saying, "Don't teach or exercise authority, for don't forget that Adam and Eve..."

This is seen further in verse 14, when he says that the woman "being deceived, fell into transgression," and then moves into women in general in verse 15. The Greek for "fell into transgression" is, according to the NET notes, literally "has come to be in transgression," and places "an emphasis on the continuing consequences of that fall." (Certainly Genesis 3:16 makes it clear that Eve's transgression would continue on to all women.) Again, Paul is clearly not speaking about a specific misunderstanding of Adam and Eve that some heretics might have had, but rather is continuing his train of thought from verses 11-13. (I refer back to my earlier quote of Daniel Wallace, who likewise affirms this.)

Therefore, Ms. Wallace's appeal to a speculative attack on Gnostic belief cuts up Paul's words and only adds further confusion to the text.

Matters of Interpretation

Ms. Wallace now attempts to present some rules about interpretation of scripture as some preliminary conclusions to her post.
Doctrine should not be built on a hapax legomenon (a word that occurs only once in an author’s writings or a text). When a word is only used once it is difficult, if not impossible, to infer the writer’s meaning, since there are no other examples of word usage to compare. The word “authentein” translated as authority in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a hapax legomenon. This fact alone is sufficient to suggest caution in using this text as a foundation for church doctrine.
And yet most scholars and commentators throughout the ages have had little problems attempting to understand what Paul was attempting to say in this verse, and with that language. Contrary to Ms. Wallace's statement, it is not "impossible" to infer what Paul was driving at here. The only time people started having troubles interpreting this verse, let alone with that word, was when those same people decided they wanted women to preach.

Likewise, the idea that "when a word is only used once it is difficult, if not impossible, to infer the writer’s meaning," and hence "doctrine should not be built" around such a passage, is a standard I doubt would be applied equally to other such moments in the New Testament. For example, another hapax legomena is found in this very same epistle, when Paul uses the word ἑδραίωμα in 1 Timothy 3:15. The word is translated either as "support" (NASB) or "foundation" (NIV; NLT), and though there is no other use of this word in the New Testament, there is likewise no misunderstanding of what Paul intended to say here (save for some abuses by Roman Catholics), nor has there been an outcry by many to avoid using this verse for church doctrine because of one single word in it alone.
Interpretation should be consistent with the rest of the passage under study. As Groothuis notes “It is inconsistent to regard the dress code in 1 Tim 2:9 as culturally relative, and therefore temporary, but the restriction on women’s ministry as universal and permanent. These instructions were part of the same paragraph and flow of thought.”

Similarly, if we insist that verse 12 is applicable today, to be consistent, that ruling should apply to the whole passage, including verse 15 (women shall be saved through childbearing). I find it concerning that most people who claim that 1 Timothy 2:12 is clear and applies today usually don’t have a clue as to what the verses that follow mean and how they should be applied.
I'm not aware of anyone arguing 1 Timothy 2:9 was only "culturally relative," though I won't deny such arguments may exist. Nonetheless, most people, I'm certain, would recognize Paul's command for women to dress humbly as hardly temporary. (Many Christian women today would do well to learn from that passage.)

As for the "women shall be saved through childbearing" section, while this has been a difficult passage for many to explain, and has led to much conjecture, all the same, this passage has been dealt with over time. It must first be noted that τεκνογονία, the word translated "bearing of children," refers to the entire process, and not merely the birthing itself.  The NET notes present a variety of options for interpretation, one of which I believe works best in the context:
“It is not through active teaching and ruling activities that Christian women will be saved, but through faithfulness to their proper role, exemplified in motherhood” (Moo, 71). In this view τεκνογονία is seen as a synecdoche in which child-rearing and other activities of motherhood are involved. Thus, one evidence (though clearly not an essential evidence) of a woman’s salvation may be seen in her decision to function in this role.
John Chrysostom seems to be of the same opinion; in his commentary for this verse, he says of women:
Let her not however grieve. God hath given her no small consolation, that of childbearing. And if it be said that this is of nature, so is that also of nature; for not only that which is of nature has been granted, but also the bringing up of children. "If they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety"; that is, if after childbearing, they keep them in charity and purity. By these means they will have no small reward on their account, because they have trained up wrestlers for the service of Christ. [source]
In other words, in contrast to the women attempting to usurp authority over men, and hence try to become men, just as Eve did, the women who accept their roles as women will be sanctified and blessed by God, and hence it is said they are "saved through child bearing." This makes sense in context to Paul's flow of thought from verse 12 into this section, discussing Adam's primacy in creation over Eve (v. 13), then Eve, and hence women, falling into transgression through her being deceived (v. 14), which resulted in the curse against her that added pain to childbirth (Gen 3:16).
Interpretation should not contradict the rest of the author’s teaching. For example, 1 Timothy 2:1-10 provides instructions for both men and women to follow when praying in public. And in 1 Corinthians there are instructions for women praying and prophesying in church. Paul gives many other instructions about corporate worship and spiritual gifts that are not restrictive of gender. He also commends a number of women serving in leadership positions (Romans 16). So Paul is generally supportive of women’s participation, which contradicts the idea that women must be silent.
The appeal to 1 Timothy 2:1-10 is a category error: praying corporately is not the same as exercising church authority.

Her appeal to 1 Corinthians is problematic. She is most likely referring to 1 Corinthians 11:5, where Paul says: "But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved." She also seems to have forgotten about 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul gives instructions on the order of worship in the Corinthian church (which includes praying and prophesying), and at the tail end of it writes:
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. [1 Corinthians 14:34-35]
While some might suppose a contradiction here, John Calvin explains, from his commentary for 1 Corinthians 11:5:
It may be replied, that the Apostle, by here condemning the one, does not commend the other. For when he reproves them for prophesying with their head uncovered, he at the same time does not give them permission to prophesy in some other way, but rather delays his condemnation of that vice to another passage, namely in 1 Corinthians 14. In this reply there is nothing amiss, though at the same time it might suit sufficiently well to say, that the Apostle requires women to show their modesty — not merely in a place in which the whole Church is assembled, but also in any more dignified assembly, either of matrons or of men, such as are sometimes convened in private houses. [source]
Looking at 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and comparing it with 1 Timothy 2:12, it seems more like it's Ms. Wallace who is contradicting what scripture teaches elsewhere, not her opponents.

As for Romans 16, Ms. Wallace goes into further detail about what she means in another follow up post.
We know from the rest of the New Testament that Priscilla instructed Apollos, Phoebe was a deacon and Paul’s emissary to Rome, and Lydia oversaw the church at Philippi. Junia is called an apostle and was imprisoned for her witness. It seems unlikely that these things could have been accomplished while being quiet in church or without any church authority.
Priscilla (Prisca in Romans 16:3) did instruct Apollos, although Ms. Wallace conveniently forgets to mention that she did this with her husband, and privately (Acts 18:26). Explaining something to another person privately with your husband is not the same thing as a woman holding a specifically outlined position of authority over men in a local church.

It is true that Phoebe is described as a "servant of the church which is at Cenchrea" (Rom 16:1), and the word the NASB translates as "servant" comes from the Greek διάκονον, whose root word is at times translated as "deacons" (cf. Php 1:1), and in this case (being in the feminine form) could be translated as "deaconess." However, this identity is not in and of itself certain. The root word simply means "servant," and is often translated as such throughout the New Testament in its other uses, which are clearly not referring to the position of deacon (cf. Matt 20:26; 23:11; John 2:5; etc.). In fact, Ms. Wallace seems to have missed that Timothy himself is called a διάκονος in this very epistle (1 Tim 4:6), yet it's quite obvious he's not in the position of deacon. Because of this, the verse has led to much historical debate about whether or not Phoebe was in fact a deaconess, or Paul was merely referring to her as a general servant of the church. Obviously this leads us to conclude that Romans 16:1 is not strong enough to be a sedes doctrinae for women serving in the deacon role; the NET notes say that "the evidence is not compelling either way," and that their translation of "servant" should not be "regarded as tentative." Even if we accepted, merely for the sake of argument, that Phoebe was a deaconess, then this would still be irrelevant to the discussion: deacons carried a serving function, not a leadership or teaching authority; it would therefore not contradict the traditional reading of 1 Timothy 2:12.

In regards to Lydia, there is no evidence that she oversaw the church at Philippi in a leadership function. She was an early convert, and permitted the apostles to stay at her home - that is all which is said about her in scripture (Acts 16:15-16). She "oversaw" the church in her hospitality and support, but this is not the same as carrying church leadership as ascribed to presbyters and overseers.

In regards to "Junia," most recognize that there has been great debate on whether or not Junia is a male or female name, let alone whether or not this was a proper name (Junia or Junias, etc.). There is also debate about whether or not Junias and Andronicus were "outstanding among the apostles" (NASB) or "well known to the apostles" (ESV). The NET notes go into greater detail about the word and grammar here:
The term ἐπίσημος (episēmos) is used either in an implied comparative sense (“prominent, outstanding”) or in an elative sense (“famous, well known”). The key to determining the meaning of the term in any given passage is both the general context and the specific collocation of this word with its adjuncts. When a comparative notion is seen, that to which ἐπίσημος is compared is frequently, if not usually, put in the genitive case (cf., e.g., 3 Macc 6:1 [Ελεαζαρος δέ τις ἀνὴρ ἐπίσημος τῶν ἀπὸ τής χώρας ἱερέων “Eleazar, a man prominent among the priests of the country“]; cf. also Pss. Sol. 17:30). When, however, an elative notion is found, ἐν (en) plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon (cf. Pss. Sol. 2:6). Although ἐν plus a personal dative does not indicate agency, in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients. In this instance, the idea would then be “well known to the apostles.”
Therefore, it is ironic that Ms. Wallace should demand we not base our doctrine on something that isn't quite clear in scripture, and yet, for her doctrine, appeals to a passage that has been a subject of much debate for a long time. Leftist interpretation seems to pick and choose which issues in scripture: they invent problems in passages which prove problematic to their worldview (eg., 1 Timothy 2:12), yet will seemingly ignore large debates for passages which they think prove their point (eg., Romans 16:1, 7). Certainly most people would recognize, even if there was an argument that Junia was a female, and indeed an apostle, there are two things to make citing her irrelevant to this discussion: 1) apostles were a temporal authority, not a permanent one as presbyters and overseers are; 2) the question over the identity and position of "Junias" in Romans 16:7 is enough for us to say that it cannot be a sedes doctrinae verse to bring up in regards to women in leadership. For feminists and leftists to continually bring up Romans 16:7 as an end-all-debate verse against the orthodox simply shows with how little seriousness they take sola scriptura.

Contrary to the claim that that Paul "commends a number of women serving in leadership positions," few, if any, of those women mentioned served any leadership positions, and those which supposedly did are connected to verses that have been the subject of even more interpretive debate than 1 Timothy 2:12.
Interpretation should not contradict the overall teaching in the New Testament, especially the example and teaching of Jesus. As Brauch notes, “Christ is the center – the Logos, the living Word, and Scripture must be viewed through the Christ filter. Jesus’ words and acts are normative and paradigmatic and should be a critical filter for interpreting scripture” (pp. 248-9). In the gospels Jesus never suggests that women’s roles were to be secondary or limited in the community of faith, even when he had the opportunity to do so.
Here Ms. Wallace argues from silence: Jesus never said women couldn't hold church authority, therefore you can't say they can't hold church authority. This is similar to leftists who fallaciously argue that, since Jesus never explicitly condemned homosexuality, Christians can't consider homosexuality a sin.  On the other hand, all of Christ's twelve disciples were men; yes, women traveled alongside them, but in a supporting function (Luke 8:1-3). On the other hand, one of Christ's own appointed men, the apostle Paul, penned the words seen in 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

Unless we're going to engage in Red Letterism, to hold such an extreme view is hardly nonsensical, and is definitely not sola scriptura.

Concluding Thoughts

Ms. Wallace offers her conclusion to her post:
Once these issues of translation, context, and interpretation have been considered, it seems that 1 Timothy 2:12 only prohibits women who do not have rightful authority to do so from teaching and assuming authority over men. [emphasis in original]
And so, after relying upon speculation and appealing to uncertainty, Ms. Wallace suddenly gives us certainty. (Or, to be more fair, a greater degree of certainty towards one argument than another.) Her conclusion is that 1 Timothy 2:12 only "prohibits women who do not have rightful authority to do so from teaching and assuming authority over men." How was this certainty of hers obtained?

1) By toying with the original Greek to reword the passage (Paul was saying "don't teach in a domineering way"), thereby proving the old saying, "A little Greek is a dangerous thing."

2) By providing an inconsistency about to whom it was Paul was referring. (A specific woman, later on a group of women.)

3) By reading Gnostic heresies into the passage, cutting up Paul's words and his clear flow of thought (something she accuses her opponents of doing).

4) By appealing to verses of great historical debate (eg., Rom 16:7) while attacking her opponents for appealing to verses of little historical debate (1 Tim 2:12).

When one reads the constant attacks against the clarity of orthodox thought, followed by a presumption of clarity in a historically new explanation, one is reminded of the devil in Genesis 3:1-5, and can hear the snake whispering in our ear, "Did God say a woman should not exercise authority over a man...?" When scripture is appealed to, the snake replies, "Oh, but that's not what God means..." Interesting how heresies and false beliefs often start out by questioning what God says, then add confusion and muddled thought into God's word.

Earlier I made mention of how those who advocate female pastors - be they Charismatics or liberals - usually just fall back on shallow arguments. Ms. Wallace's article shows why this is: when one does attempt to defend the doctrine in greater detail, their arguments cannot hold water under scrutiny. To the mind seeking a strong delusion, it may come across as an open-and-shut case, and yet to the careful mind, the inconsistencies and superficial nature will be plainly evident.

Certainly women are important in the church. Certainly women can serve and assist the church. Nonetheless, scripture is quite clear that, in offices of leadership, in particularly in regards to elders and overseers within the local church, this is not to be filled by women. If we seek to muddle the clear teaching of God's word, we should not be surprised when our own thinking comes out muddled as a result.

***

Works Cited

Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. Print.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

A Simple Review of "War Room"

Introduction


Last year, my wife and I watched the 2015 Christian film War Room, made by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. Just the usual warning of any detailed review: there are gonna be lots and lots of spoilers here. If you haven't seen the movie, and you don't want to know how it ends, if there are any twists, etc., then don't read this review. If you don't care, continue on - just don't say I didn't warn you.

It should be noted that, before watching this movie, my wife and I were big Kendrick Brothers fans. We own FlywheelFacing the GiantsFireproof, and Courageous on DVD and Blu-Ray (depending on the availability). I'm not hugely fond of modern "Christian" films, but the Kendrick Brothers' movies were the rare exception. If you want an example of how highly I can praise one of their films, go and read my review of their first film, Flywheel. The point of me saying all this is we didn't go in ready to bash this movie - while we had heard some questionable things about it, we had an open mind, and a past experience of glowing opinions regarding the Kendrick Brothers' work. As it turned out, watching this film was a completely different experience for us entirely.

In the DVD commentary, the Kendrick Brothers say that the point of the movie is to teach that we fight our battles in prayer before anything else. Does it live up to that? Does it live up as a movie? Let's talk about this...



Plot Summary

The story centers around a couple by the name of Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, who have a young daughter, Danielle. Tony works for a pharmaceutical company, while Elizabeth handles real estate. Not all is rosy in the Jordan household: Tony and Elizabeth are constantly fighting, mainly because Elizabeth sends money to her deadbeat brother-in-law, to Tony's disapproval. Furthermore, Danielle feels ignored by both her parents, who seem to show no interest in her lifestyle. To make matters worse, a woman at Tony's job begins to show a blatant interest in him, and he reciprocates.


Then Elizabeth goes to appraise the house of an elderly woman named Clara Williams. Clara is a widow, whose husband Leo had served in the army during the Vietnam War. Clara takes a liking to Elizabeth and invites her over for coffee. While they have coffee, Clara confronts Elizabeth about her familial and spiritual situation, and tells her that she needs to fight back not against her husband, but what's harming her marriage. At this point, Clara presents her "war room," which is a regular closet she's transformed into a literal prayer closet. At first, Elizabeth doesn't take the idea of a "war room" seriously, but soon begins to post up Bible verses on the wall, praying in earnest for much of the day, etc. Suddenly she's alerted by a friend that Tony is at a restaurant with another woman. Elizabeth responds by praying for God to prevent Tony from doing anything drastic. This results in Tony having a stomachache that prevents him from sleeping with the adulteress.

Tony discovers, by looking in Elizabeth's texts, that she knows about the dinner with the woman, though he remains silent about it. He loses his job due to mishandling numbers and keeping some of the drugs for himself, but Elizabeth remains calm and understanding throughout. After reviewing his own life, Tony repents to Elizabeth and decides to be a better husband and father. This involves him getting involved in Danielle's jump rope competition, and admitting to his bosses that he had been making money on the side. The latter conflict is resolved because Coleman, one of the company heads, is overtaken with Tony's sincere repentance, and decides to overlook the crime. The former conflict is resolved when Danielle and Tony partake in the jump rope competition and come in second place. The film ends with Clara giving a long prayer asking God to raise up people who would be faithful to him; as she speaks, we see a montage of schools, sports fields, and even the Congress building. The End.



'Murica!

Storyline

As I watched, I couldn't help but think that everything we were witnessing had been done before. I started picking up things we had already seen in previous Kendrick Brothers movies. Some out there might give the "there's no actual 'original' story" argument, but my point here is that, if you've seen the other Kendrick Brothers movies, you'll notice a ton of rehashing in this one. As I watched with my wife, we both noticed many similarities with FlywheelFireproof, and Courageous. Don't believe me? Let me go through some of the things we noticed...

Here were some elements from Flywheel:

  • There's a business-minded dad who is disrespectful to his wife, ignores his kid, hates going to church, and commits dishonest tactics at his workplace.
  • The business-minded dad, after deciding to become a better Christian, wants to restore the wrong he did to those affected by his dishonest business practices. 
  • There's a scene where a parent overhears their child telling another kid how much they don't respect their parents.
Here were some elements from Fireproof:
  • An elderly person comes into the main character's life and saves the day with some practical idea.
  • Best buds are seen sitting around a weight room, exercising and talking about the facts of life, including marital difficulties.
  • The main character's best friend is a Christian that serves as his voice of reason and conscience.
  • There's a "plot twist" involving the background of the elderly person and how the practical idea was related to their own personal life.
And here are some elements from Courageous:
  • A character delivering drugs (in this case, legal drugs) keeps some to himself for profit, and later has to face up to the consequences for it.
  • A character is faced with a tough moral question about their job which might lead them to getting fired or worse. (Though in this case, the character already was fired.)
  • At the end of the movie, a character gives a big speech calling on people to action based on the moral of the film.
Ultimately, it comes across like the Kendrick Brothers wanted to promote "war room" theology, and just mixed plot elements from their previous films together to shoehorn it into a script. Indeed, much of the film feels like a bunch of ideas or elements strung together, with little time for the plot points to develop. This actually ends up hurting the movie, because you're constantly reminded that the previous films handled these issues better.

Here would be a good time to lament one of my biggest complaints about the movie: it just gets boring. It keeps dragging things out with one thing after another, to the point that you sit there wondering when it's going to end. The worst part is Danielle's jump rope competition - oh yeah, they show you all of it. It never felt like this important subplot that had to be resolved, and it doesn't offer anything for the characters other than for Danielle to proudly say "This is my dad!" (And even by then, we've already established she and her dad were on better terms, so it was completely unnecessary.) Even after this part is concluded, the film continues. I was seriously reminded of that episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 where Tom Servo asks, "Shouldn't this be over?" Some internet reviews have opined that the film feels like they finished the main conflict twenty minutes early, then padded the rest of the movie with filler - that's not too far off a description. Even during the final speech, you'll be screaming, "Kendrick Brothers! Let my people go!"



Actual Photo: My wife and I waiting for War Room to end

If you want to know just how disinterested in the story I was, let me tell a little anecdote. Shortly after the mugging scene (see below), two policemen speak with Elizabeth and Clara. One of them is played by Ben Davies, who also played the rookie deputy in Courageous. I was reminded of that character's story, with the cheerleader he had gotten pregnant, and the little girl he now wanted to be daddy to. I started to talk to my wife about how I hope he and the woman ended up together, and he did become a real father to his daughter. I started talking about how awesome the final shot of him stretching out his arm to offer a present to the girl was. I then realized that I had become much more emotionally invested in another movie than the movie I was actually watching - and all because of a minor character who's in there for a few seconds.


Most interesting character in the whole movie...and he's barely in it

That's how bored I was.



Characters

Usually in a Kendrick Brothers movie, I can relate to the characters, or feel for them. Here, their usually strong delivery simply falls flat, or doesn't succeed at all.

Let's talk about Tony. What do we know about him early on? He yells at his wife, ignores his kid, and is committing adultery. True, the main character in Flywheel (sans the adultery bit) did that too, but there was still some humanity about him; you could tell he was an everyday man who was struggling to support a family and a business, but he had begun to forget the authority of God, and hence the rest of his life was falling apart. By contrast, Tony gets very little character development for most of the movie - heck, we have zero reason to believe he's even a true Christian. The only real character development he gets is in the last third of the film, and it comes across as incredibly forced. You're ultimately only supposed to like him because, hey, he repented, and this is an Evangelical movie, and you're supposed to like someone after they repent. This is especially unfortunate because TC Stallings, who plays Tony (and who played the gang leader in Courageous), can indeed act, and in the few parts of the film where he's allowed to let Tony breathe, he does a good job.


Now let's also talk about Elizabeth. We're supposed to sympathize with her for her struggles. We're supposed to care about her. We're supposed to feel bad for what her husband's doing, and how her family is. The truth is, as my wife and I watched the film, neither of us felt any sympathy for her. I can list two big reasons for this:

First, Priscilla Shirer, who plays Elizabeth, just isn't that great of an actress. Her delivery isn't believable, even in the scenes where she's supposed to be showing some subtlety. For example, when her daughter admits that she's unsure if Elizabeth loves her, Priscilla Shirer barely shows any change of reaction, whereas most parents would surely have been at least a little bit affected. (I know I would feel absolutely heartbroken.) In all her crying scenes, it basically amounts to her staring at the camera with a blank expression while a single tear goes down her cheek. In the more comedic moments, her delivery is deadpan, and warrants no laughs. In fact, the only laughs from scenes with her are given by other characters. (For example, the delivery man and his "take your breath away" line.) It's not that she's the worst actress ever; it's just that, since you're supposed to care for Elizabeth, her acting doesn't help the other problems. What astounds me is the Kendrick Bros. say she did a great job, and Shirer herself was happy with the results. Why either of them came to this conclusion, I don't know.

Second, Elizabeth's sins and faults are on blatant display, and yet are never really repented of or rebuked, either by herself or others. She's disrespectful to her husband, who does have legitimate concern for how she's using their money without telling him. Her daughter admits that she feels just as ignored by her mom as she does her dad. Elizabeth admits her and Tony aren't sexually active, suggesting she doesn't show any sexual interest in him (and it's not like Fireproof, where they establish the husband was unrepentantly looking at pornography, hence the wife's own physical disinterest). She acts bitter and selfish when upset, as shown by one scene where she frightens Danielle's friend at the dinner table by repeatedly slamming her fork down on the plate. Point is, she has a lot of character to change, and yet the only fault given to her directly is "You don't pray enough." That's basically it. The only thing that comes close to a repentance scene is when her daughter admits she's unsure of Elizabeth's love, and mother and daughter give each other a hug. By contrast, Tony repents to Elizabeth, repents to Danielle, and repents to his boss. It's not that Tony didn't have anything to repent of, it's just that War Room has the same fault that many cite against Fireproof: all the focus is on the sins of the husband, and it's he who must repent, while the wife gets off with a slap on the wrist.

Some here might protest that Elizabeth does change during the movie; and indeed, she shows Tony more respect after she begins her prayer closet, rather than ragging on them all the time. It won't be denied something goes on with her, but there's still no visible repentance from her. That's it - a character change. Tony could have simply done a character change as well, but instead he's made to be in tears and apologize for everything he's done the entire movie. Elizabeth, by contrast, gets to skirt all this. Heck, even Clara, when talking about her deceased husband, talks about all the things she had to forgive him for, yet never talks about any of her own sins or transgressions. It's all on the men: men are the sinners who need to repent; women just need to change their attitudes, and they're good.


(By the way, before anyone wants to respond to this with "Thanks for mansplaining," I want to point out that, as we watched, the harshest criticisms against Elizabeth came not from my own masculine lips, but from the lips of my wife. She, even more than me, thought Elizabeth had to repent, and was failing in her role as mother and wife.)

Yet the biggest offender regarding characters who fail is, ironically, Clara. I say ironic, because she's supposed to be this wise, elderly sage who helps Elizabeth with her marriage, but in the end it only works out that way because the script says it does. Otherwise, she comes across as either creepy or intrusive. When Elizabeth is presenting a quote for her house, Clara begins asking about personal details about Elizabeth's religious and marital life, and won't stop even after Elizabeth makes it clear she feels uncomfortable. I'm a Christian who believes in the resurrected Savior and salvation through Christ alone, and even I thought the old bat was being nosy. Plus, all her humor scenes involve her rambling and babbling, and come across as a woman on the verge of going insane. I have a feeling they were trying to make her like the black woman in Flywheel, except whereas that woman was actually funny and likable, Clara is just senile and annoying.

To be fair, it's not just Clara who comes across as creepy. In fact, many scenes with characters, played for laughs, just come across as weird. The biggest offender is the scene where Danielle finds her mom eating and drinking in the prayer room. You're supposed to laugh at it, but Shirer's delivery, the bizarre nature of the whole situation, and the look of shock on Danielle and her friend, make the entire scene more creepy than entertaining. Seriously, take out the background music and start playing something like the Nightmare on Elm Street theme, and tell me it has the same humor as before. My wife and I left that sequence more confused than amused. I was reminded of a line from Mystery Science Theater 3000 where a movie attempted to be funny, and Tom Servo remarked, "That was supposed to make me sad, right?"



Theology

Putting cinematic themes and motifs aside, one of the biggest complaints lodged against the film was the theology found within. Much has been written on this already by men who are much more learned and godly than I (for example, an excellent commentary from Justin Peters), but I feel this to be an important topic to cover if we're going to review this movie in detail.

Let me quickly clarify, before I get into any theological criticism, that I firmly believe prayer is important. I don't think any Christian reading this post is going to deny that. We're commanded by scripture to pray, as a way of giving thanks, offering praise, or making requests to God. It is a duty of all Christians, and part of a healthy spiritual life should be a healthy prayer life. The only problem lies, as with any theological doctrine, in how far we take the power and means of prayer. Can we change God's mind with our prayer? Do we, as some Word of Faith heretics claim, give God permission to act on earth by prayer? Can God only do things if we pray for Him to do it, as some Hyper-Charismatic heretics teach?

If we're going to talk specifically about War Room and its theology of prayer, then we need to get to the big elephant in the room: the infamous devil rebuking scene. This scene happens shortly after Elizabeth begins her prayer room in earnest, and after she receives a text that Tony is with another woman. She steps out of her prayer room, then begins to directly address the devil, telling him that he no longer has power in this house. She then (I swear I'm not making any of this up) walks the devil out of her house, and tells him not to come back. (My wife literally responded with, 
"She freakin' walked the devil out of her house? What the freakin' crap!")

The problem is that this scene, and many others involving prayer, takes what is God's power and makes it ours. The Kendrick Bros., in the DVD commentary, defend this scene by saying that all Elizabeth is doing is what Jesus does in rebuking the devil. Yet why could Christ rebuke the devil, as he did during his temptations? This was because he was divine. He was God the Son incarnate. Contrast this with what Jude tells believers to do:
But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” [Jude v. 9]
The best comparison I might make is with a retail employee dealing with an irate customer. If a customer gets super upset to the point of becoming insulting or derisive, the employee doesn't say "Get out of my store!" Rather, the employee says "Talk to my manager," and the manager can kick the person out of the store - a store which he, not the employee, manages. Likewise, if we feel temptations from Satan, we rest on the authority and power of God, not by any personal commands from ourselves (even if "in Jesus' name"). I don't have any authority to rebuke the devil - I pray to God that He save me from such times, just as Michael the archangel did before Satan. In fact, the idea that we can go around fighting Satan while tossing in Christ's name reminds me of the counter-rebuke from the demoniac in Acts: "I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?"

Some might try to appeal to the verse appealed to in the movie: just before her meltdown, Elizabeth reads James 4:7, which reads (in the NASB): "Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." The script interprets this verse quite literally, as if we're supposed to get up and start attacking Satan. The truth of the matter is the film takes the verse out of context and applies it in too broad a way, as often happens in Pop Evangelicalism. Here is a fuller context for verse 7 (the verse itself is in bold):

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. [James 4:1-10]
James is not talking about prayer closets. He's not talking about jumping up and running around the house screaming at the devil. Rather, James is talking about personal sin struggles. James is addressing those who might be creating quarrels and conflicts because of their personal sins and desires. By doing so, the people had been creating two authorities in their life: the world (which gave them what they wanted), and Christ. You cannot, however, have two masters; as James himself says, friendship with the world is enmity with God. James, however, gives hope to the convicted Christian reading these verses: God gives grace to the humble - that is, those who can see their errors. Therefore, he commands them to "submit to God" (rather than to the world). Of course, submitting to the world will bring about temptations from our previous worldly desires. When this happens, we then "resist the devil" - that is, submit further to God, and fight against these temptations. God will not abandon us in this struggle. With this in mind, James gives the commands for believers to "cleanse their hands," "purify their hearts," etc.

The point of this is that War Room not only forgets the model scripture plainly gives us in dealing with the devil, but it misinterprets a verse about personal struggles and applies it to a much larger meaning. As a result, the film tells Christians that they can, by an extended authority, go around cussing out the devil and kicking him out of places. The fact is, the only authority we have is God's, and we rely on that and not our own. Likewise, James 4:7 does not give us a right to engage in such spiritual warfare, but to turn to God in our more troubling moments of sanctification.

Another problematic scene, directly related to this, is the mugger scene. When confronted by a man with a knife, Clara tells him, "Put the knife down, in the name of Jesus." What happens next? Without any hesitation, the mugger lowers his knife. End scene. That's it. My wife and I had to pause the DVD a moment because of how dumbfounded we were. The Kendrick Brothers claim that such situations really do happen, and can be verified with news stories. I'm aware of such stories, and while certainly people have driven off muggers by witnessing, it's been a lot more complicated than simply demanding they put the knife down. Yet here, by a mere command, a man with a knife just gives up.

Putting this aside, there's the whole issue of the importance of a prayer closet. The Kendrick Brothers clarify in the DVD commentary that the idea of a "war room" is not to say you need a prayer room in the house, but merely a private place to pray. The problem is, such a general teaching isn't taught in the movie itself. Everything happens, and the blessings pour out, because of the "war room" used by the characters. The causal effect is not a more God-centered life, but the "war room" all the characters participate in. Even Danielle starts to have her own "war room," and finds her wishes fulfilled. Near the end of the movie, a pastor walks into Clara's prayer room and says he knows it's a prayer room because it "feels like it's baked in" - in other words, this film makes a connection between prayer closets and what one might call "Evangelical mysticism."

In fact, there's so much mysticism or psychic-like ability given to the Clara character that one expects her to be turned into an Eastern Orthodox icon by the end of the film. One scene even jokingly acts like Clara can see things though she's not there. She's given this aura like she has some sixth sense thanks to her extensive prayer life.

There is likewise the ending of the movie, which feeds into the Evangelical mentality of how we need to in essence pray our problems away. Again, I'm not minimizing the importance of prayer, but God doesn't expect us to pray and then wait for things to happen. The medieval Poles, upon approaching Vienna, were definitely praying to Christ... they were also readying their spears to charge headlong into the Muslim hordes. The problem is modern Christianity treats prayer as if by doing so there'll be another outpouring of the Spirit, or God is going to miraculously do something while we sit back and twiddle our fingers. This is why you have Evangelicals who on the one hand want revival in America, and yet on the other hand want lots of Muslims to invade America so we can convert them. While the Kendrick Brothers would probably accuse me of misrepresenting how they were trying to represent prayer, that's nonetheless how it comes across in the film. Even the movie poster advertises itself with "Prayer is a powerful weapon." No - God's a powerful weapon, and our prayers are an appeal to Him to utilize Himself given the circumstances.

These aren't the only theological problems with the film. One problem I didn't expect was in regards to submission. Obviously, we've established the disrespect shown by Elizabeth towards her husband, both in her attitude, how she speaks to others about him, and how she handles their finances. Another problem in her character's attitude of a relationship to her husband is heard in a scene with Beth Moore. Yes, that Beth Moore. If you don't know who Beth Moore is, you just need to know she's a heretical Evangelical pastrix who thinks God gives her private revelations, and who literally teaches women to read themselves into Bible passages about other women. If you don't know what she looks like, or just how crazy she is, here's a hint:




But returning to War Room, Beth Moore plays Elizabeth's boss. While they're talking about her marital problems, Beth Moore delivers this line:

"Sometimes submission is learning to duck so God can hit your husband."
I shared this line with someone else, who promptly responded with, "That is smug as heck!" Want to know something even more astounding? The Kendrick Brother told Beth Moore to just be herself in that role... and it was her who made up that "submission" line. Yes, that's right - the line wasn't originally in the script, but they let it stay in the film. This, despite the fact that the line is absolutely terrible. It's an example of the soft feminism so rampant in Evangelicalism today, which otherwise likes to pretend it's free of any form of feminism. It's just a Christian version of the tendency among secular women to laugh at their husbands and treat them like idiot manchildren.

Let me put it this way. Suppose you had a scene where some Christian men were hanging around the office, complaining about how disrespectful their wives are. Imagine one of the men saying with a smirk, "Sometimes 'nurturing' is stepping back and letting God make an ass out of your wife." Of course, all the soft feminists in modern Evangelicalism would be in an uproar - "Boo hoo that's mean be nice to women blah blah blah." Yet here the Kendrick Brothers (who emphasized the need for husbands to be respected in their DVD commentary for Flywheel) have permitted that kind of terrible theology to seep into their film.

And such an erroneous line was sourced to a heretic - who would've thought?


(Once again, let me do a little "mansplaining" here. After that line was delivered, the most vociferous reaction came not from my own XY-chromosome lips, but from my wife. She was utterly horrified by that line, and found it offensive.)


How It Should Have Been

It's easy to rant and rave against a movie, but it's another to suggest how problems can be fixed. The sad thing is that, as I pondered on the movie after watching it, I realized that somewhere in here is a good movie. Let me present how I think it should have gone down instead...

We start with Elizabeth and Tony Jordan. Tony works for a pharmaceutical company, while Elizabeth works in real estate. They have a daughter, Danielle, who is working on a jump rope competition. Tony and Elizabeth are having struggles, both in balancing their careers and family time, as well as Elizabeth sending money to her deadbeat brother. This leads the two to fight. Meanwhile, at work, Tony is receiving praise and attention from a woman, who is clearly showing interest in him. 
Elizabeth meets Clara, and the two share coffee over the appraising. They start to bond, and Elizabeth opens up more and more about her family. Meanwhile, Tony and the office woman are bonding more emotionally as well. Tony is starting to struggle with how far he takes this connection, given problems at home. At home, Danielle starts begging Tony to help her with jump rope practices, but he continually refuses, because of his work schedule. 
While walking about, Elizabeth and Clara are mugged at knife-point. Clara shows absolutely no fear, despite the mugger's attempts to frighten her. She begins to witness to the mugger, about his sin and the death due to him for it. The mugger eventually feels guilty and leaves in a hurry. Clara explains to Elizabeth that she is strong in her faith and life eternal with Christ, and hence she isn't afraid of death. This makes Elizabeth more interested in Clara's religious life, and she begins to reflect on her own. She comes to a realization that she has forgotten about God's authority in her life, and she tearfully submits to God, praying for renewed strength in her life. 
The Jordan home environment starts to change. Elizabeth tries to help Danielle out for her jump rope competition, although she makes it clear she wants her daddy to help. Elizabeth repents to Tony for how she had been treating him, and promises to be include him in their decision-making. Tony isn't sure yet how to respond to this, and still struggles with temptations to commit adultery. Elizabeth's humility, in fact, creates a spiritual struggle of his own, making him want to become more involved with his family. One night, while Tony works late, he is texted by both Elizabeth and the other woman, both of whom are in essence offering to give him late-night company. Tony struggles in his office, torn between marital loyalty and his fleshly desires...but finally decides to go home to his wife. He arrives and they cuddle, showing affection for the first time in the movie. 
When he goes in the next day, Tony is laid off from his job. He becomes a broken man, feeling useless without the one thing that he had found purpose in. Elizabeth gives him tenderness, promising to stay by his side. Moved by her kindness and love, Tony apologizes for how he had been treating her, and asks for forgiveness for his attitude. He then goes to Danielle and promises to assist her with her jump rope competition. After much practice, Danielle, Tony, and the rest of the jump rope team perform at the competition, with Elizabeth and Clara in attendance. They win first place, and head home, where they have a special dinner, and give a prayer of thanks to God for all that has happened recently, good or bad. Roll credits.
Alright, I'll be the first to admit this may not be the most perfect story idea ever written. However, I'm sure others who share my view on the film would agree it's at least a much better delivery than what was offered in War Room. The ironic thing is that, as I thought more and more on how to make the story better, I realized that any idea completely removed the "prayer room" subplot.

There was plenty more in the movie that seemed like a drive-by concepts that could have been expanded upon. For example, a nightmare sequence has Tony trying to save his wife from a mugger, only to turn the mugger around and see it's actually him. This sequence comes out of nowhere and feels like a forced attempt to build on Tony's character after an hour-and-a-half of no development. What the Kendrick Bros. could have done instead was show that Tony was concerned about Elizabeth's mugger episode, but was trying to act tough to hide his sincere concern. Throughout the film, Tony could have nightmares about Elizabeth and the mugger, and every time he has the dream, he gets closer and closer to the mugger. The next-to-last dream has him waking up just before the mugger's identity is revealed. Then, with the last dream, he sees that the thing harming his wife is actually him. It would make the sequence feel less disjointed, and it would show that Tony does indeed care for his wife, even if he's trying to conceal it.

Point is, there was definitely potential in this film, and much of it was wasted on prayer room silliness and plot points that are introduced but not developed enough.



Concluding Thoughts

At this point, I'm not certain what else to say about the film that I've already clarified. It's boring, poorly written, shoddily acted, unoriginal, and presents dangerous theology. Oh yeah, and it has Beth Moore.

As I wrote at the beginning, my wife and I started out as big Kendrick Brothers fans... but by the end of this, we were both feeling disappointed. I'm not going to sit here and claim all their films are absolutely perfect (I doubt they would, either), but compared to most films in the "American Christian" market, they were of a higher quality than what you would find on late-night TBN or Daystar. This film, by comparison, was just weak. If the Kendrick Brothers decide to make another movie, good on them - but I hope they'll put far more effort and time into it than they did with War Room.

Then again, considering this movie apparently made triple its budget back, maybe bad theology is much more marketable...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Rahab and Kinism - Part 2

Introduction

This is the second part in a brief series on Kinist claims regarding the ethnic identity of Rahab. In this section, we will be responding to an article entitled Kinist Orthodoxy: A Response to Brian Schwertley, Part 4, which is written by David Carlton. Although it touches on various Biblical personalities, it also speaks on the same subject as the previous article we looked at (that is, whether or not Rahab was a Gentile). However, it makes different arguments, mostly due to this particular article being in and of itself a response to someone else. Nonetheless, because this may be an issue a brother or sister in Christ will have to tackle, it will be worth confronting.

If anyone is reading this before the first part, I suggest reading that blog post first. At the beginning of that post, I define Kinism and the various levels of it; I also deal with certain arguments throughout the post that will be referenced here. As before, all quotations from the article itself will be in purple.

Who is Matthew's Rachab?

In the section dealing with Rahab, Mr. Carlton presents this initial argument:
First, the Rachab of Matthew 1:5 is possibly not the same “Rahab the harlot” mentioned in the book of Joshua, Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25. Certainly, it is possible for there to be more than one woman named Rahab, and biblically, we hear nothing of what occurs with Rahab following her inclusion into Israel in Joshua 6. She could have very well lived as a resident foreigner in Israel until her death. If this connection does not hold, then the entire case falls apart before anything else is to be considered; we would have no reason to suppose that she was made a member of the nation (rather than church) of Israel, and we would have no reason to suppose she intermarried. Yet for the sake of argument, and because of the strong attestation of tradition, let’s assume that these two Rahabs are one and the same.
I literally laughed out loud when I first read this - not out of empty dismissal, but because the argument was so incredibly absurd. We are told that there is nothing to make us immediately assume that the Rahab of Matthew 1:5 is the same as the Rahab in Joshua, other than "the strong attestation of tradition."

Indeed, there's a very strong attestation to tradition. Among Patristic sources, Jerome says "Rahab the harlot is reckoned among our Lord's ancestors" (source). John Cassian wrote that she was "inserted in the progenitors of our Lord’s nativity" (source). John Chrysostom, in his commentary on Matthew, identified her as Rahab the harlot (source). Ephraim the Syrian seems to have had this section of Matthew in mind for his Hymn 7 on the Nativity, where he mentions Tamar, Ruth, and Rahab the harlot together (source). Pseudo-Chrysostom (believed to have lived about the fifth century) identified this Rahab as the prostitute (Kellerman, 9). Thomas Aquinas likewise identified this Rahab as the harlot (source).

This "strong attestation of tradition" goes well beyond antiquity. Great men of the church who have affirmed Rahab from Joshua is the Rahab in Matthew include Martin Luther (Luther, 137), the Geneva Bible translators, John Gill, Adam ClarkeJonathan Edwards, George Haydock, Joseph Benson, Charles Ellicott, William Barclay, Arno Gaebelein, John MacArthur (MacArthur, 1119), and David Guzik. Similar to how there was never really a question whether or not Rahab was a Gentile, neither is there any question that the Rahab mentioned in Matthew 1:5 is the same Rahab mentioned in Joshua. I would put forward that there is as much a "strong attestation of tradition" for Matthew's Rahab being the Rahab of Joshua as there is for the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.

Let's now present the entire genealogy found in Matthew. I've put in bold and underlined the sections where a woman is named.
The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram. Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah. [Matthew 1:1-16; NASB]
Over the course Matthew's genealogy, he mentions a handful of women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. Scripture attests to the clear identity that these women are the wives and mothers Matthew lists them as: Tamar is recorded as having had physical relations with Judah (Gen 38:18), later bearing him Perez and Zerah (Gen 38:27-30); Ruth is the wife of Boaz (Ruth 4:13), and mother of Obed (Ruth 4:17); Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah (2 Sam 11:3), later the wife of David (2 Sam 11:27), with whom she bore Solomon (2 Sam 12:24); and Mary is, quite obviously, the wife of Joseph, and the mother of Jesus.

In all the genealogies regarding Salmon and Boaz, Rahab is not mentioned (cf. Ruth 4:21; 1 Chr 2:11; see also Luke 3:32); Matthew is the only one who mentions Boaz's mother. From this, Mr. Carlton presents an argument from silence, telling us that we don't know if the Rahab in Matthew 1:5 is the same Rahab in Joshua because "we hear nothing of what occurs with Rahab following her inclusion into Israel in Joshua 6." Nonetheless, we see from the previous passage that Matthew - a Jewish Christian, writing a Gospel which makes more references to the Jewish Laws and Traditions than any other Gospel - is clearly using women with whom his readers would have been familiar. According to Mr. Carlton, however, Matthew decided, in the midst of referencing well known women from the Old Testament, to namedrop a woman that nobody would have been able to identify. What would have been the purpose of including a woman named "Rahab" in the genealogy unless Matthew expected his readers to presume this was the Rahab mentioned in Joshua?

Furthermore, the feminine article τῆς is placed before Ῥαχάβ in Matthew 1:5. A definite article, in fact, is placed before all the names in the genealogy, so that verse 5 would literally read: "Salmon begat the Boaz from the Rahab, Boaz begat the Obed from the Ruth, etc." The reason English translations never translate the definite articles is because it serves a grammatical, rather than literal, purpose. That is, Matthew inserted them to emphasize the uniqueness of the persons mentioned, and the fact they would be well known to the readers of the genealogy. In other words, Matthew is telling us that, yes, this is the Rahab, and she married the Salmon and gave birth to the Boaz.

Aside from Mary, what is the purpose of mentioning Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba? Matthew essentially had two purposes for including these women, which divides them into two groups. The first group consist of those who were involved in sin: Tamar had pretended to be a harlot and had conceived with her father-in-law, Judah; Bathsheba and David both committed adultery, and hence David had betrayed the trust and loyalty of Uriah (in fact, the original Greek does not include her name, but refers to her simply as "she of Uriah"). The second group were made up of Gentiles initially outside the nation of Israel: Rahab was a Canaanite; Ruth was a Moabite. (John MacArthur suggests that Mary could be seen as being under the "perceived stigma" of having a child out of wedlock, and hence in league with Tamar and Rahab, [ibid] but I am not certain how strongly one can make this case.)

Jerome likewise presents perhaps the best reason for these women being included:
In the Savior's genealogy it is remarkable that there is no mention of holy women, but only those whom Scripture reprehends, so that [we can understand that] he who had come for the sake of sinners, since he was born from sinful women, blots out the sins of everyone. [Jerome, 59]
The point of all this discussion is that there's absolutely zero reason for us, upon coming across the name Rahab in Matthew 1:5, to ask ourselves whether or not this is the same Rahab found in Joshua 2 and 6, Hebrews 11:31, and James 2:25. The clarity of Rahab's identity is found within the context of the passage itself, as well as the interpretation of the passage throughout history. Indeed, nobody has ever had an issue identifying this woman as Rahab the harlot until the rise of Kinism and the need to explain how it was possible a Canaanite woman ended up in Christ's family tree.

Rahab's Use of "Us" and "You"

We return to the article.
Schwertley believes that Rahab’s religious language contrasting “us . . . the inhabitants of the land” (Joshua 2:9) with “you” Israelites and “the Lord your God” (v. 11) demonstrates conclusively that she was not an Israelite, for she evidently did not belong to God’s covenant people at that time. This is true in one sense: regardless of her ancestry, Rahab was clearly not a member of the visible church, and hence she could speak of herself and her fellow inhabitants of Jericho as religious outsiders to Israel. But the whole Alienist case depends on Rahab’s ancestry being sufficiently foreign from Israel, so that her assimilation constitutes miscegenation and discredits ethnonationalism. We can grant that the notion of an Israelite residing in Jericho is rather far-fetched, but the more relevant question is whether, as so many attest, Rahab was a Canaanite.
In my previous post, I had brought up the words of Rahab to the spies that clearly isolated her from the people of Israel. Mr. Carlton's response is that Rahab's wording is purely theological in nature, not theological and ethnic. In other words, she's merely speaking as someone who is "not a member of the visible church." This forgets that, for that time period, gods and peoples were often tied together. For example, when Rabshakeh mocks the Judean faith in God, he refers to the gods of other lands - each one with their own gods - and asks how YHWH will deliver Jerusalem from the Assyrians' hands (2 Kings 18:33-35). This is likewise seen in the dialogue with Pharaoh, where God is often referred to as "the God of the Hebrews" (Ex 3:18; 5:3; 7:16; 9:1, 13; 10:3), as well as with later references to "the gods of Egypt" (Ex 12:12) and "the gods of the peoples who were around them" (Jdg 2:12). This is seen in other accounts of scripture, such as when the people of Israel are said to worship "the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines" (Jdg 10:6).

I have noticed that this seems to be a tactic found within Kinist interpretation of scripture. They'll claim someone is not a Gentile, then when the person clearly speaks in a language of someone who wasn't an ethnic Jew, they immediately commit a form of special pleading in order to say that the person is, in their specific circumstance, and only for themselves, speaking another way. (For example, in another article, Mr. Carlton argues that Ruth's identification of "Moabitess" was in reference to nationality rather than ethnicity.)

Was Rahab a nomadic Semite?

We continue:
Ehud Would has written an excellent article providing argumentation against the thesis of Canaanite ancestry, arguing instead for her Hebrew (and most likely Midianite) roots.
This article we responded to in our previous blog post, so I won't repeat myself here. Instead, we'll skip to the arguments specific for Mr. Carlton.
So if we can conclusively rule out a Canaanite ancestry, what can we say Rahab actually was? Per Schwertley’s own admission, “It is likely that Jericho was a rag-tag combination of Canaanite with perhaps some nomadic Semitic blood,” but he nevertheless believes his argument holds weight, even if he must concede that Rahab was Semitic, for “the point is that Rahab was absorbed into the tribe of Judah, even though she was not a Jew.” This does not follow. We Kinists concede that a reasonable immigration policy for a nation can permit certain ethnic kin to be assimilated, just as Edomites were permitted in Israel (Deut. 23:7-8), and just as many nations in history have permitted individuals from near-kin nations to be naturalized. Sufficiently closely-related nations can immigrate, within certain numbers, to kin-nations. This means that Rahab need not have been an ethnic Israelite (“Jew”) herself; she could have been of “nomadic Semitic blood” and likely satisfied ethnonationalist concerns. But in any case, the onus is upon the Alienist to prove that Rahab was of an ancestry incompatible with Israelite integration, not upon the Kinist to prove the opposite.
Mr. Carlton states "Rahab need not have been an ethnic Israelite...she could have been of 'nomadic Semitic blood' and likely satisfied ethnonationalist concerns." I must say it's astounding that the spies of Jericho were able to identify Rahab as someone of "near-kin" blood by merely hanging out with her for a few hours. (Though Mr. Carlton's associate, Mr. Would, argues that they may have known she was a Hebrew because she knew how to speak Hebrew - it was as easy as that!) Earlier, Mr. Carlton had admitted "the notion of an Israelite residing in Jericho is rather far-fetched." He is quite right there: it is most far-fetched to believe, in the midst of a largely Canaanite region, there would be at least one family of Israelites there. It's also far-fetched to believe, even with some others of Semitic blood present, and to maintain a consistent Kinist standard, that this same family had never intermingled with other Canaanites during their entire time in Canaan.

Mr. Carlton concludes that "the onus is upon the Alienist to prove that Rahab was of an ancestry compatible with Israelite integration, not upon the Kinist to prove the opposite." As I believe I have demonstrably shown, the testimony of scripture and the vast majority of church history concludes that Rahab was considered a Gentile. The Kinist must therefore, in order to remain consistent with their own position, either admit that there is a contradiction found in scripture regarding intermingling, or there has been a great misunderstanding of Rahab (indeed, a great misunderstanding of the Gospel and the true Christ, according to Mr. Would) throughout the entirety of church history - until, that is, the rise of Kinism.

Conclusion

As with the previous article, let's review what we covered:

It was argued that there is nothing to immediately presume the Rahab of Matthew 1 has any connection with the Rahab of Joshua 2 and 6. As we saw, this is not only completely illogical, but contextually incorrect. Likewise, literally nobody in the history of the Christian church has ever questioned the identity of Rahab in Matthew's version of Christ's lineage.

It was argued that when Rahab included herself among the people in Canaan, it was more from religious identity than ethnic. This is likewise erroneous. As scripture continually shows, religion and ethnicity were often tied together, and there is nothing to make us presume that Rahab is breaking from this mindset, other than the Kinist having to deal with a dilemma brought about by their own theology.

It was argued that there is a possibility Rahab may have had Semitic origins, and the burden of proof is upon the individual who wishes to argue Rahab didn't have Semitic origins. The possibility Rahab may have been Semitic is far, far less than the probability that she wasn't. Given this reality, as well as the already established strong testimony of tradition and the historical Christian teaching, the burden of proof is actually upon the Kinist to prove otherwise.

There is little else that I can add to this which I did not already say in the conclusion to my previous post. The only thing I might add was a comment made during the part of Mr. Carlton's article referencing Mr. Would's article:
Are we then to expect that Christ, the trueborn King of Israel hailing from the tribe of Judah, had Canaanite ancestry – that both He and His ancestors ought to have been separated from Israel for having a forbidden admixture? The notion is heretical and absurd.
In the previous article, we discussed how Kinism redefines and adds to the Gospel, making it dependent not upon Christ's being free of the stain of sin, but on Christ's being free of the stain of Gentile blood. Here, to suggest that Christ had any Canaanite ancestry at all is deemed not only absurd, but heretical. If this is the case, one must assume that the vast majority of Church Fathers, Reformers, and great men of the Christian church have, throughout time, been heretics. Whether or not one would want them to be full blown heretics or "material heretics" is probably something the individual Kinist would decide.

In either case, all this demonstrates not only how detached Kinism is from historical Christianity, but orthodoxy and biblical doctrine as well.

***

Work Cited

Jerome, and Thomas P. Scheck. Commentary on Matthew (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 117). N.P.: Catholic U of America Press, 2008. Print.

Kellerman, James A., and Thomas C. Oden. Incomplete Commentary on Matthew. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010. Print.

Luther, Martin, Joel R. Baseley, and Stephan Roth. Festival Sermons of Martin Luther. Dearborn, MI: Mark V Publications, 2005. Print.

MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Bible Commentary. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Inc, 2005. Print.