I'm off for a week at the Banner of Truth Pastor's Conference at Messiah College in Grantham, PA.
Speakers so far have been Doug Kelley, Tom Nettles and Hywel Jones.
The area, as always, is beautiful in late spring. Gettysburg yesterday morning and afternoon was exquisite. We stayed in the house where Lee had his headquarters the first day of the battle. It's now part of a hotel--a separate building in front of the main hotel, and we stayed in a suite above the rooms where Lee planned and ate.
Initial thoughts on the conference: somehow the thrill of Puritan thought and theology which pervaded this conference ten and fifteen years ago seems to have dried up.
by David and Tim Bayly on September 1, 2004 - 5:41am
As every Christian should know, in vitro fertilization (IVF) normally involves, in Jerome Lejeune's apt phrase, keeping little babies in the fridge awaiting implantation in the mother's womb; and then, eventually, disposing of those babies who turn out to be extraneous.
For this reason I am opposed to IVF. Why would followers of Jesus create multiple living babies, keeping them in the fridge, so that one or two of them could win the lottery and be implanted in their mother's womb (while their siblings who lose that lottery are killed)?
But take IVF and add to it sodomite marriage and national health care and you produce a witches brew.
It's reported in The London Observer that there's a growing debate in the UK over whether the national health care system must provide these new sodomite couples with the same fertility assistance provided heterosexual couples already; and specifically, whether the old criterion of an IVF child having both mother and father in the home has now been rendered obsolete? Suzi Leather, head of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority, says, "The debate over whether IVF children need a father is controversial, with the British Medical Association's ethics committee understood to be divided."
Campaigner Ben Summerskill...said, "There is no evidence that this legislation (requiring the presence of a father) ... has actually protected anyone from anything, and there is a range of US research which suggests that children who grow up in gay families are just as well balanced and developed as children who grow up in heterosexual families."
...Professor Alison Murdoch said, "We have to stand back from it and say, what is the evidence that there is any harm to anybody from them having a child? Children need to be brought up in a loving, caring environment: it's the loving care that is important, not the sexuality of the parent," she said.
I do wonder whether PCA teaching elders who publicly called for the repeal of anti-sodomy laws have arrived at remorse yet? Sadly, I bet not. Rather, they're likely denying any necessary connection between...
the legalization of sodomy, and
the legalization of sodomite marriages, and
the necessary provision of IVF to sodomite couples, and
the intentional and state-sanctioned robbing of children of their father?
It's not every day a pastor of the Presbyterian Church in America is put to death. But now it has happened twice in successive Septembers.
September 3, 2003, Paul Hill, one-time PCA and OPC pastor and graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary, was executed by the State of Florida for the killing of abortionist John Britton and bodyguard James Barrett in 1993.
His death passed without comment within the PCA and Reformed Seminary communities. No mention of his execution (or connection to the PCA) was made on the PCA web site. No emails asking prayer for his wife and young children made the rounds of PCA presbyteries. To the best of my knowledge, no PCA church volunteered to hold a memorial service for his grieving family.
A student at Reformed Theological Seminary's Jackson campus told me the day following Hill's execution that he was unaware of a single official (or unofficial) reference to Hill's death on the Reformed campus; the execution of the school's most famous graduate passed like a thief in the night. It was as though he had already ceased to exist for the Reformed community; having repudiated him in life we ignored him in death. He died unlamented, unnoticed, not even remarked upon as a negative example.
September 22, 2004, a PCA pastor disappears leaving behind suicide notes. His body is found September 29. His death--his murder--comes by his own hand. Yet how different our reaction to this death....
On its home page the church he pastored ("...the flagship Presbyterian Church in America congregation" within its region) "praises God for his life and that he is now in God's loving hands." Messages of condolence and words of love flow from throughout the PCA. A large memorial service is planned. A member of the church's staff is quoted in the local paper: "We trust in God and know that he's there with him."
Is it sin to kill man? Is it truly always murder to kill extra-judicially what is created in God's image? If so, then are some extra-judicial killings more sanctified than others? Should we refrain from speaking against extra-judicial killing whenever the murderer is also the murdered? Could it be that fear of man drives our voice in these matters--fear of the consequences of examining the underlying issues in either of these deaths? Why the disparity in our treatment of these two men, both of whom were at one time PCA pastors, both of whom put men to death, both of whom died as a consequence of their own extra-judicial acts of killing?
Praise God that His grace is sufficient to reclaim killers, for the apostle Paul and King David who give us evidence of God's abounding grace to killers. But where is the Church's "NO" to the sin of suicide? If we have said amen to the execution of Paul Hill, should we not be equally careful to note the sin of the second PCA pastor before speaking words of comfort and granting what appears to be absolution of his sin?
Tim forwarded an email from a good friend questioning my post on extra-judicial killing last Friday. I appreciate Skip Gillikin taking the time to question what I wrote (and the gentle spirit of his criticism), and I've asked his permission to place my response here.
Thank you for taking the time to express your concern with what I wrote on our blog.
by David and Tim Bayly on October 9, 2004 - 8:22am
A father of our presbytery has fallen. Pastor Petros Roukas, who served as senior pastor of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church, took his own life leaving behind hundreds of souls who looked to him as their shepherd, his fellow elders of Ohio Valley Presbytery (PCA); and most sadly, his wife and their two children.
Meeting just now in our fall stated meeting, Ohio Valley Presbytery adopted the following memorial. Please note, particularly, the words in the final paragraph concerning the sin of suicide and the hope, even in the face of this sin, that we have in the blood of Jesus Christ. (For those struggling for a biblical understanding of suicide, I commend these two sermons by the early nineteenth century Princeton Seminary professor and presbyterian pastor, Samuel Miller.)
Memorial for Pastor Petros Roukas
Ohio Valley Presbytery
The teaching elders, ruling elders, and churches of Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America are saddened by the death of our friend and brother Petros Roukas on September 22, 2004. We intercede before the throne of grace for God's comfort and strength for his wife Jan and children Nicholas and Elizabeth and for his parents Konstantine and Evangelia Roukas in Greece. We also pray for the congregation of Tates Creek Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Kentucky where he was serving at the time of his death as well as the previous congregations he served - Westminster PCA in Muncie, Indiana and Calvary PCA in Bricktown, New Jersey.
Petros was born in Greece in 1953 and received a Bachelors of Religious Education at Reformed Bible College in Grand Rapids, Michigan and a Masters of Divinity from Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He was ordained in 1978 by the Midwest Presbytery of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. He served faithfully at Calvary PCA from 1978-1984; Westminster PCA from 1984-1999; and Tates Creek PCA from 1999-2004. His pastoral ministry was marked by effective preaching and teaching of the gospel, helpful application of the gospel in pastoral counseling settings, strengthening the shepherding ministry of ruling elders, building community in the congregation, and leading numerous cross--cultural mission teams--especially to Jamaica and Mexico.
Throughout his twenty years in Ohio Valley Presbytery of the PCA (previously part of Great Lakes Presbytery) he served on numerous committees. Especially noteworthy was his long term service on the Shepherding Committee where he helped numerous pastors and congregations look to Christ for both the purity and unity of the church.
While the tragic events surrounding his death at his own hand were certainly related to his long struggle with depression--they were also what Petros himself called "sinful and inexcusable." While Petros' grip on the truths of the gospel he preached and ministered so faithfully grew weak in his final actions, we are confident that God did not lose His grip on Petros. We hold that Paul's words in Romans 8 that "if Christ is for us, who can be against us" and "nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus" apply to God's adopted children--even when they are the very ones who are against themselves. As elders of Ohio Valley Presbytery--may God give us the grace to go to Jesus as we are weary and heavy burdened and may God also give us the grace to not only minister to others but to receive ministry from one another as well.
(Memorial gifts, including financial support for Mrs. Roukas, may be sent to Tates Creek Presbyterian Church at 3900 Rapid Run Drive, Lexington, KY 40515.)
by David and Tim Bayly on October 9, 2004 - 8:03pm
Thinking about a friend's death at his own hand, it has struck me that he was the first to face a question that many, many of my baby-boomer generation will face: shall we age and die by faith?
Shall we submit to the suffering the Lord makes us stewards of, "working out our salvation with fear and trembling (knowing) it is God who is at work (within us), both to will and to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12,13)? Or shall we be self-willed, spurning God's tool of suffering and making ourselves masters of our own destiny?
Make no mistake about it--this question will become personal as we suffer the breakdown of our bodies and feel the weight of old age as Solomon here describes it:
by David and Tim Bayly on October 14, 2004 - 10:58am
Following last week's memorial service for PCA pastor Petros Roukas I received a copy of the text of Bryan Chapell's funeral sermon titled, "Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit." The sermon, though well-intentioned, was a gloss on the first beatitude (Matthew 5:3).
Mr. Chapell did speak of Petros's suicide as sin. And though Mr. Chapell rightfully held out biblical hope for Petros's salvation, he spoke clearly of the act of suicide as sinful, an act of Biblical fidelity for which I am grateful.
Yet, poverty of spirit is fundamentally different from depression. Poverty of spirit, in fact, is depression's cure and the answer to the suicide's despair. And though it is understandable that Mr. Chapell would wish to give comfort and hope on such an occasion, his use of this text as the basis of his message was disingenuous.
I suspect Mr. Chapell knows that "poverty of spirit" is not the kind of hopelessness which drives us to despair of God's faithfulness and thus to make violent end of ourselves, and had Mr. Chapell not seen fit to permit the publication of his sermon I would have thought these things privately without commenting on them here.
Unfortunately, Mr. Chapell has chosen not only to permit public dissemination of the text of his sermon, but the editorial staff of By Faith Online, the Presbyterian Church in America's online news site, recently made his sermon the most prominent link on their home page.
It would be fitting to memorialize a martyr who died by faith this way. But this was suicide. This was sin. And in his sermon Mr. Chapell comes perilously close to describing such faithless despair as "blessed" of God. And now this sermon has been published. I wish it had not. I wish By Faith Online had not given it such prominent treatment.
But it must now be said that Mr. Chapell's sermon is misleading, and that despite his looking into the pit by proclaiming suicide a sin in his sermon, he did not look long enough or hard enough, and whatever wounds he healed by preaching thus are likely healed lightly rather than fully. I say this because Scripture is clear: "The just shall live by faith."
In the meantime, what is poverty of spirit? According to Thomas Watson:
by David and Tim Bayly on January 3, 2005 - 1:35pm
(Note from Tim Bayly: This paper was delivered on October 5, 1998 in Riga, Latvia, at a conference titled "Gender Theology: Questions, Problems, Perspectives," held by the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church.)
It is a great joy to be here with you and to think of how impossible this time together would have been just a few years ago. How good it is to be able to cross borders so freely--without even the necessity of a visa--and to be able to join together in fellowship and worship with you, my brothers and sisters in Christ.
But then too, I am particularly pleased to be able to speak to you on the subject of Biblical manhood and womanhood. Here it may be appropriate to insert some biographical information, but first please allow me to clarify my own vocabulary:
'Complement': "something that fills up, completes, or makes perfect; one of two mutually completing parts" (Webster's Collegiate Dictionary).
'Patriarchy': literally, "father rule."
'Egalitarian': "a belief in human equality" (Webster's Collegiate Dictionary).
So, when I refer to the different positions taken by Christians today concerning what Scripture has to say about manhood and womanhood, I will use these terms:
First, the words 'complementarian' or 'patriarchal' will be used to indicate the Church's historical position which calls for a distinction in roles between men and women in the government of the Church and home; and particularly to the necessity of men holding positions of authority.
Second, the word 'egalitarian' will be used to indicate the position held by feminists today when they call for women to hold leadership positions of authority equally with men.
Now for some personal history: Although today I myself believe in the Church's historical, patriarchal position, it was not always so. Back in 1976 when my wife and I were first married, both of us were committed egalitarians...
In a previous post, Woe to Those at Ease in Zion, I argued evangelical Americans are "at ease in Zion;" that the $1,000,000,000 in sales of the Left Behind books and related paraphernalia is evidence of that ease; that it is contrary to Scripture for Christians to anticipate the Second Coming of our Lord with no fear; and that the bloodshed that consumes our land, most recently evidenced by the judicial execution of Terri Schiavo, ought to make us tremble at our knowledge of God's holiness and justice and the prospects for our nation.
In response to my post, the case has been made that Christians are to look forward with joy to the Second Coming; that evangelical Christians are, in fact, being faithful as salt and light in these United States; and "that it is unreasonable to claim that popular evangelicalism in America is not bearing fruits in concrete political action."
Well, of course "concrete political action" has never been my barometer of Christians being salt and light, although clearly it is one part of it. When our nation slides towards Sodom, it's my conviction that slide has much more to do with Christians being unfaithful at church and home than our failure to vote, to write letters, or to run for office. In other words, my central conviction concerning our nation's decline, while claiming a majority of her citizens to be born again, is that we have failed to carry our profession of faith into a self-sacrificing confession of faith.
And in this unfaithfulness we pastors have led the way. Our pulpit and pastoral ministries have not been characterized by what the Apostle Paul said characterized his own: namely, that we never failed to say anything to our sheep that God commanded us to say; that we warned our sheep day and night with tears; that we were faithful guardians, particularly against the false shepherds who arise from our own numbers within the church; and that the blood of none of our sheep is on our hands (Acts 20).
So let me ask: does Amos have any usefulness to us today, and if so is that use only for unbelievers? What is the meaning of this prophesy being addressed to those "at ease in Zion?" And if I'm to be granted that those "in Zion" in the time of Amos were God's covenant people, is there something about the New Covenant that justifies God's covenant people in the Chuch of Jesus Christ dismissing every failure, warning, and punishment of God's covenant people in the Old Testament? Has not the Holy Spirit said to us that all "these things (Old Testament failures and punishments) happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall" (1Corinthians 10:11,12).
Although I'm sure there are many ready to make the argument, it simply cannot seriously be maintained that the world of evangelicals is not at ease in Zion...
Our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, started a new online magazine last year titled By Faith Online. Regularly, the editor, Dominic Aquila, sends out an E-mail containing news of interest to PCA members and teasers for the latest issue. Today I received the latest copy and noticed this announcement top and center:
If I End Up Like Terri: An Open Letter to My Wife
Mark Hartwig, a ruling elder in Forestgate Presbyterian Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., has been fighting cancer for 10 years. He wrote "If I End Up Like Terri: An Open Letter to My Wife" in light of the Terri Schiavo matter. To read the whole letter, go here. It begins:
These last few months have troubled me deeply. And I have a request that I hope you'll have the courage and strength to honor: If I ever become like Terri Schiavo, please don't put me through what she has endured.
After fighting cancer for 10 years; after suffering through multiple courses of toxic drugs; after two stem-cell transplants and 16 dismal weeks in a hospital room, tied to tangles of tubes, I've only scratched the surface of her misery. I feel as if I've scaled great mountains of suffering only to find I'm in the foothills of a range that towers beyond sight.
Reading the text, "If I ever become like Terri Schiavo, please don't put me through what she has endured," I feared the worst. But reading the full text of Mr. Hartwig's open letter, I was moved. Deeply moved.
If I may insert a personal note, the description Mr. Hartwig gives of how he would want to die is almost exactly how our brother, Nathan, a pastor in Bristol, Virginia, was privileged to die three and a half years ago now, at the age of forty. He was at home the last few months, hooked up to an IV pump, loving and being loved day and night by his faithful wife, Sandy; their four children, Cassie, Sarah, Frances, and David; and the Bayly extended family member whose privilege it was to serve them that week.
by David and Tim Bayly on April 28, 2005 - 10:11am
(Note from Tim Bayly: Often I get calls from pastors and elders asking if I can give them help working through the issue of what work is and is not appropriate for men and women in their congregation. Five years ago Church of the Good Shepherd adopted such a statement drafted for us by one of our pastors at the time, Rev. David Wegener (a fellow member of Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America).
Such a call came again this morning from a fellow teaching elder of the PCA, so I'm taking this opportunity to post the statement here for the good of the church at large. If our good readers know of another church statement that would be useful, also, and that honors the unequivocal teaching of Scripture that is patriarchy, please feel free to post that statement, or a link to it, in the comments below. Thank you.)
Church of the Good Shepherd's Understanding of the Biblical Roles of Men and Woman in Congregational Life Adopted by the Session (Board of Elders) of Church of the Good Shepherd November, 1999
1. All men and women are equally created in the image of God and therefore are equally worthy of our honor and respect...
David and I are members of the Presbyterian Church in America. A few years back, one of our denomination's trend-setters, Tim Keller, made an effort to describe the unique commitments pulling our denomination in different directions. I'd guess for brevity's sake, he limited himself to describing three groups: the Reformed-Historicals (R-H), the Reformed-Conservatives (R-C), and the Reformed-Evangelicals (R-E).
His paper, The Cultures of the Presbyterian Church in America, is helpful, and likely descriptive of the challenges within more traditions than the PCA. (Interestingly, Keller closes by quoting Peter Jensen, the brother of Phil Jensen mentioned in my recent post, "Don Carson Plays Schoolmarm to the Sydney Evangelicals.")
Anyhow, after reading Keller's piece, I got thinking of other more different ;-\ ways of labelling us. So here are the three by handshake; hair style; relationship to earth, wind, and fire; alcohol; game; movie; and favorite children's book character:
Reformed-Historical: Very firm; "I got hair?"; gardening; passing gas; tobacco; beer or scotch; deer (or chess); Braveheart, Gladiator, or Twelve Angry Men; Trogdor the Burninator or Stonewall Jackson.
Reformed-Conservative: Firm; "However my wife likes it"; vacuuming; burping; barbecue grill; cough syrup; whatever's on TV (or coon); Gone with the Wind, Sweet Home Alabama, or Gettysburgh; Winnie the Pooh or Robert E. Lee.
Reformed-Evangelical: Firm but sensitive; "However I like it"; summer vacation; flying a kite; fondue; wine; Scruples or Settlers of Catan; Seinfeld, Finding Nemo, or While You Were Sleeping; the Little Engine that Could or the Velveteen Rabbit.
So how would you do it? To prime the pump, how about sermon length, number of children, car, college, music, strong bad email...?
The following was written over a year ago as my own personal mental discipline in response to a certain teaching elder within my own denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, coming out in a prominent national forum in favor of the repeal of all sodomy laws across our country. I have not published these thoughts on the blog or in any other forum. Now, though, I am putting them on this blog to assist others in fighting against this betrayal of God's Truth and the souls and lives of those vulnerable to sodomy. I would welcome E-mails from any who have additional sources or arguments to add strengthening this case.
Genesis 2:20-25 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. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
God ordained the nature and meaning of sexuality prior to the Fall, and no human authority may separate what God has joined together: sex is to be within species and heterosexual (between man and woman). This is a universal truth rooted in the Creation Order and therefore binding on all men across all time. This is the teaching of Genesis 2 and other texts having to do with sexuality, and marriage only builds upon what Genesis 2 declares.
Exodus 20:14 You shall not commit adultery.
As the Westminster Standards teach, sodomy is prohibited by the Seventh Commandment. If, despite the teaching of this Commandment, the man of God is justified in opposing and seeking the repeal of the civil authority's laws proscribing sodomy, are there any sins against this Commandment the civil authority may proscribe?
by David and Tim Bayly on February 7, 2006 - 11:39am
Nathan wrestling last year. Click image to see blood.
My eldest son, Nathan, wrestles for a small Christian school. Wrestlers from his school can usually be distinguished at meets by their t-shirts which have Ephesians 6:12 printed on their backs, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
I was thinking about Nate's wrestling team as I read the most recent issue of the Presbyterian Church in America's By Faith magazine which focuses its "Arts and Culture" section on Briarwood Presbyterian Church's Briarwood Ballet dance ministry whose two performing companies, Ballet Exaltation and Immanuel, "perform for various schools, churches and civic organizations across the nation and world."
Which, to be honest, sounds, in parts, like a worthy program. What could be wrong, at least theoretically, with teaching young women physical grace and discipline? Of course there are potential negatives: prurience, pride, a focus on physical beauty (which could lead to further sins such as anorexia....). Yet I suspect few would dismiss this as a potentially positive ministry solely for these reasons.
But then, there are the aspirations of those who lead the program...
"When I dance or teach, heaven appears for a brief time... I don't know how else to describe it. It's euphoric. It's not an escape--it's a taste of the eternal that I don't get to express in any other way."
"Whether believing dancers are performing a 'Christian allegory ballet,' or dancing a small part in Sleeping Beauty, the gospel can be seen through them... 'God has a way of making His truth known through us... As His image-bearers, we present that truth in whatever we do.'"
"...one way of restoring the art of dance is for the church to 'focus on sending artists into the world instead of pulling artists out of the world. Dancers might feel that if they're not performing something with an overt Christian message, then they're not bringing glory to God. The truth is, we have the ability to glorify God in everything that we do--whether we're dancing the lead role in the New York City Ballet, or vacuuming the house.'"
Which brings me back to Nathan's wrestling team....
by David and Tim Bayly on February 9, 2006 - 8:20am
In our church we've had a discussion, recently, concerning the nature of the office of deacon. Granted, we're a presbyterian church, meaning we have a church government structure that emphasizes the plurality of the eldership ('presbuteron' being Greek for 'elder').
And to some degree, what I've written below reflects what is, arguably, a rather typical Presbyterian Church in America polity, in which some distinction is made between what the Westminster divines refer to as "ministers of the Word" and "other church governors." (For more on the historical argument within the reformed world over the nature and number of church offices, I highly recommend Iain Murray's essay, "The Problem of the Eldership and Its Wider Implications." My own convictions closely follow Murray's on this, as on almost everything.)
But to return to the office of deacon, the question we found ourselves dealing with was whether or not it is proper to speak of the deacons as having "pastoral" responsibilities. And to the end of providing some perspective on that question, I wrote the following which I trust may benefit other men outside our own congregation.
Deacons and Pastoral Care
First, what's the meaning and origin of the word 'pastor'? Interestingly, from the etymology that follows, it could well be argued that the deacons have more of a pastoral duty than other officers since their work has so directly to do with food, or 'pasture' from which 'pastor' originates:
1242, "shepherd," also "spiritual guide, shepherd of souls" (1377), from O.Fr. pastur "herdsman, shepherd" (12c.), from L. pastorem (nom. pastor) "shepherd," from pastus, pp. of pascere "to lead to pasture, graze," from PIE base *pa- "to tend, keep, pasture, feed, guard" (see food). The spiritual sense was in Church L. (cf. Gregory's Cura Pastoralis).
But of course, there is food that perishes and food that doesn't perish. And whereas pastors feed the food that doesn't perish in their preaching and teaching duties, deacons are to keep to the distribution of food that perishes, and that's it, right?
Well, it's obvious deacons almost never do that today so we must be dealing with something a little more complicated here...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 10, 2006 - 5:55am
Phil Henry, a Presbyterian Church in America pastor serving in Tucson, Arizona, has a good post critiquing an article in the latest issue of our denominational magazine, byFaith. Written by Carolyn Custis James, the piece is titled, "A CHALLENGE FACING THE PCA IS HOW TO PROFIT FROM THE GROWING POPULATION OF FEMALE THEOLOGIANS: Women Theologians: A SPIRITUAL GOLDMINE FOR THE CHURCH." And yes, that's a long and loud title, but without the use of small caps, that's about what it looks like.
There's a ton that could be said about this (and other) pieces in this issue of byFaith, but I grow weary. Pastor Henry is a younger man, though, and so you might want to watch him tilt at windmills.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 11, 2006 - 9:23am
The wife of Dr. Frank A. James III, current president of Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando), ordinarily would be known as Mrs. Frank James. Or, if one were on friendly terms with her, some variation of "Carolyn," "Carol," or "Custis" may be used. For some reason, though, Mrs. James is known as "Carolyn Custis James."
Now you may resent my pointing out the obvious, but no one thinks of her husband, Frank, when people say "Carolyn Custis James." Is that a problem?
Well, no. We all know who she is.
Speaking of which, my mother always preferred to receive letters addressed to "Mrs. Joseph T. Bayly." That was the title of honor back in the old days before women became warriors.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 11, 2006 - 11:44am
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. (1Peter 3:1-6)
David and I have mentioned our interest in the proceedings of the "Gender and the Church" conference going on this weekend at our denominational college, Covenant College. Sponsored by Covenant's Kaleo Center, the keynote speakers are Carolyn Custis James and her husband, Frank. The conference web site provides the following credentials for Mrs. James:
Carolyn Custis James is an international conference speaker for churches, colleges, seminaries and other Christian organizations. She is a new voice in Christian publishing with a strong, affirming message for women... Carolyn is President of Whitby Forum, a ministry organization dedicated to helping women go deeper in their relationship with God and to serve Him alongside their brothers in the faith... She is a founder and sponsor (along with Reformed Theological Seminary and Campus Crusade for Christ International) of Synergy conferences--a national gathering of women in seminary and in vocational ministries... During the years between seminary and her present ministries, she had her own business as a computer software developer in Oxford, England. She and her husband Frank (President of Reformed Theological Seminary-- Orlando ) live in Orlando, Florida. They have one college-age daughter.
What "strong, affirming message for women" does Mrs. James provide that is "dedicated to helping women go deeper in their relationship with God... to serve Him alongside their brothers in the faith?" Here's an excerpt from last night's Bible message by Mrs. James...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 11, 2006 - 4:14pm
Carolyn Custis James: How can we be faithful stewards of the rich ministry resources God has entrusted to us in the gifted female theologians in our pews? As vital and important as hospitality and nursery ministries are, these theologically informed women want to do more [than wash the feet of the saints and care for babies and young children] in their local churches, both vocationally and as volunteers. As Christians grow deeper in their knowledge of God, they sense a greater responsibility and desire to serve Him in increasing levels of ministry and leadership [above washing the feet of the saints and caring for babies and young children].
A widow is to be put on the list only if she... (has) a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints' feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. (1 Timothy 5:9,10)
John Calvin (on above text):
...Paul does not wish that any should be admitted... but those who had excellent attestations of the whole of their past life. Besides, they were not appointed in order to lazy and indolent inactivity, but to minister to the poor and the sick, until, being completely worn out, they should be allowed honorably to retire. Accordingly, that they may be better prepared for the discharge of their office, he wishes them to have had long practice and experience in all the duties which belong to it; such as -- labor and diligence in bringing up children, hospitality, ministering to the poor, and other charitable works.
If it be now asked, Shall all that are barren be rejected, because they have never borne any children? We must reply, that Paul does not here condemn barrenness, but the daintiness of mothers, who, by refusing to endure the weariness of bringing up their children, sufficiently show that they will be very unkind to strangers. And at the same time he holds out this as an honorable reward to godly matrons, who have not spared themselves, that they, in their turn, shall be received into the bosom of the Church in their old age.
By a figure of speech, in which a part is taken for the whole, he means by the washing of the feet all the services which are commonly rendered to the saints; for at that time it was customary to "wash the feet." An employment of this nature might have the appearance of being mean and almost servile; and therefore he makes use of this mark for describing females who were industrious, and far from being fastidious or dainty.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 11, 2006 - 4:39pm
Carolyn Custis James: With the educational and professional advancement of women today, many women come to our churches and wonder why the secular workplace values what they bring to the table, but the church shows so little interest.
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.
(1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
John Calvin (on the above text):
By the choosing of the poor, and the foolish, and the ignoble, he means, that God has preferred them before the great, and the wise, and the noble. For it would not have sufficed, for beating down the arrogance of the flesh, if God had placed them all upon a level. Hence, those who appeared to excel he put in the background, in order that he might thoroughly abase them.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 11, 2006 - 4:48pm
Carolyn Custis James: The Bible has a lot to say about women theologians... (Jesus) constantly stunned His male followers by openly teaching theology to women. Luke makes it clear that Mary of Bethany became a rabbinical student when she sat at the feet of Rabbi Jesus.
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me."
But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:38-42)
John Calvin (on the above text):
As this passage has been basely distorted into the commendation of what is called a Contemplative life, we must inquire into its true meaning, from which it will appear, that nothing was farther from the design of Christ, than to encourage his disciples to indulge in indolence, or in useless speculations. It is, no doubt, an old error, that those who withdraw from business, and devote themselves entirely to a contemplative, lead an Angelical life...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 11, 2006 - 5:36pm
Carolyn Custis James: It is not overstating things to say that becoming a good theologian is how a woman fulfills her highest destiny--her calling to know and be like Jesus. This is truly the essence of a woman's calling.
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. (Titus 2:3-5)
John Calvin (on the above text):
In short, he wishes women to be restrained, by conjugal love and affection for their children, from giving themselves up to licentious attachments, he wishes them to rule their own house in a sober and orderly manner, forbids them to wander about in public places, bids them be chaste, and at the same time modest, so as to be subject to the dominion of their husbands; for those who excel in other virtues sometimes take occasion from them to act haughtily, so as to be disobedient to their husbands.
If all through her article, Carolyn Custis James is using the word "theologian" simply as a placeholder for someone who seeks to know Christ and to make Him known, who would argue with her? But she equivocates, using 'theologian' also in opposition to nursery workers, those practicing hospitality, those decorating and setting tables, and so on...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 11, 2006 - 7:00pm
Just now as my dear wife MaryLee was heading for bed, I read the paragraph below out loud to her. She's a veteran but repentant feminist, so I knew she'd miss nothing. Sadly, she spoke epigrammatically, limiting her comments to a scant six words. You'll find them inserted in the text below, in bold.
Carolyn Custis James: One of the most theologically profound moments in the ministry of Jesus was when Mary of Bethany anointed Him for His burial as He braced for the agonies of the passion. Jesus' commendation of her anointing is unequaled and drops significant clues regarding how much her ministry meant to Him. Her actions were theologically driven, not blithely done in ignorance. [What about love?] As His rabbinical student, she knew His teachings. In the death of her brother Lazarus (John 11), she learned the hard way that Jesus can be trusted no matter how bad things get and that He is the resurrection and the life. She had been well trained by her seminary professor, Rabbi Jesus, and at a crucial moment made a definitive theological statement by openly affirming the gospel and boldly encouraging Jesus to obey His Father. [Whoa!] Jesus knew exactly what she was doing. He not only defended her against her critics, He interpreted her actions. "When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial." If she acted in ignorance, this was an appalling display of unbelief. But Jesus linked her actions to the gospel and said, "She has done a beautiful thing to me" (Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:1-8). So far as we know, she was the first of His disciples to understand the Resurrection--one of the key benchmarks for any Reformed theologian. [Go Mary!]
by David and Tim Bayly on February 11, 2006 - 7:59pm
Note from Tim Bayly: Those clicking into this particular post from some other blog need to be aware that this is only one in a long line of posts on the subject of the particular theological commitments of Carolyn Custis James concerning the nature and meaning of sexuality. The other posts may be found on this blog's main page by searchin in the google search box on the left margin a little down the page. It would be helpful to read them all.
One reader points us to the following bio Mrs. James' provides us on her own blogger information page found here (but since scrubbed from that page).
Carolyn Custis James
Speaker, Author and Consultant
Author of When Life and Beliefs Collide: How Knowing God Makes a Difference
Author of Lost Women of the Bible: Finding Strength and Significance Through Their Stories (forthcoming September 2005).
Consulting editor for Zondervan's Exegetical Commentary Series on the New Testament
Consultant for the Jesus Film for women.
BA in Sociology, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA
MA in Biblical Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
Carolyn is her husband's favorite theologian. She is not a kitchen wife. She does not keep house, cook, clean or sew, but she reads an awful lot and often talks to women (and sometimes men) from all over the world about women's struggles within the evangelical church. Lately, she has been reading a lot on the plight of women in the Middle East. She helped establish Synergy Conferences for women seminarians and women in vocational ministries, which is sponsored by her ministry organization, Whitby Forum, in alliance with Campus Crusade for Christ International and Reformed Theological Seminary/Orlando.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 13, 2006 - 10:20am
One of our good readers finds it impossible to understand what all the fuss is about with Carolyn Custis James's article and words? Why are women and men opposing the quite-reasonable complaints Mrs. James makes concering the evangelical church's abuse of highly educated female theologians? Why are we opposed to women being theologians? Isn't that a good thing that every man should support?
Well of course. Where did anyone here ever say or even intimate that women shouldn't be theologians. But let's not allow this red herring to throw us off the real issue...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 15, 2006 - 5:20pm
The oft-repeated suggestion in comments on this site that the teaching of Carolyn Custis James remains firmly grounded in PCA teaching and Biblical orthodoxy runs headlong into this powerful counter-argument....
The best-known Evangelical feminist/egalitarian organization, Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), also claims Mrs. James's teachings in support of their own agenda.
Not only are two books and an audio tape by Ms James sold on CBE's web-based bookstore, Mrs. James's argument for translating ezer "warrior" are reproduced and footnoted as "an especially good recent study of this word" in an article critiquing "Complementarian Interpretations" of Scripture on CBE's site.
In fact, it would seem Mrs. James's etymological argument against the traditional interpretation of ezer ("helpmeet") amounts to little more than a stock egalitarian/feminist interpretation to which Mrs. James adds the interpretive gloss "warrior." CBE's egalitarian manifesto (Statement on Men, Women and Biblical Equality) says of ezer...
2. The Bible teaches that woman and man were created for full and equal partnership. The word "helper" (ezer), used to designate woman in Genesis 2:18, refers to God in most instances of Old Testament usage (e.g. 1Sam 7:12; Ps 121:1-2). Consequently the word conveys no implication whatsoever of female subordination or inferiority.
It's possible Mrs. James's books could appear on CBE's web site without her knowledge or permission. It's much less likely that an audio tape of Mrs. James would be sold in CBE's web store against her knowledge or will. Finally, similarities between Mrs. James's arguments and stock egalitarian fare are so far-reaching that CBE plainly views Mrs. James as an ally. At this point it's hard to conceive of anything other than willful credulity or dissembling standing behind a continued claim by her apologists that Mrs. James's teaching hews faithfully to Biblical doctrine or PCA practice.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 16, 2006 - 3:42am
February 16, 2006
Dr. Frank A. James III
President and Professor of Historical Theology
Reformed Theological Seminary--Orlando
Dear Mr. James,
I suspect Tim and I have both considered asking our wives to answer the egalitarian arguments of your wife, Carolyn, on these pages. It would appear more seemly and, let me assure you, they could do so competently.
But here's the rub: we don't believe in godly wives serving as their husbands' warriors. Over the eighteen years my wife and I have been in pastoral ministry we have mutually sought to keep Cheryl free from the bruising fray of intrachurch disputes and doctrinal battles. At times, this could lead to surprising incongruities... for instance, Cheryl might be taking dinner to a family where the wife was hospitalized and the husband was seeking to have me fired from my job.
Yet God has blessed this division of labor. Cheryl is loved by many who won't give me the time of day. And that's the way it should be. She's not ignorant of the battles, nor is she uncommitted to truth. But she is above the battle and beyond it: she's not a warrior, she's a woman, a mother, a wife.
The Bible does not declare wolves to be of a singular sex. Wolves can be male or female. And, as a shepherd, I must respond to wolves without regard to sex.
But I would rather deal with the male of the pack. Are you that in your home? I trust you are, that Mrs. James is not fighting these battles against your wishes, that you are indeed man of your house with Mrs. James in submission to you as a worthy daughter of Sarah. After all, you call her your "favorite theologian." Surely this implies your support and approval of her teaching.
If this is so, then do us both the favor of taking up the sword (or pen) from her hand. Come into the open and boldly proclaim as a leader within the PCA the teachings now primarily associated with your wife. Neither Tim nor I--nor any other committed biblicist in the area of manhood and womanhood--have the slightest desire to engage Mrs. James when we could and should be facing you.
Further, we know from personal experience how deeply stressful theological battle can be and we would not wish such strain on any woman or any marriage where a man is willing to fight on behalf of his wife.
Perhaps you fear the implications for your job or status within the PCA of taking your wife's place in this debate. Brother, may I gently say, that's the price both of us risk in taking a stand as men.
Finally, if Mrs. James is not in submission to you in these areas, simply say the word and we will leave her to you and speak no more.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 16, 2006 - 10:19am
Carolyn Custis James' association with evangelical feminists opposed to the teaching of Scripture goes back several years, at least. She was one of the principal speakers at the Christians for Biblical Equality conference held in Orlando in 2003. Here is the list of speakers and representative topics:
Find out why the devil hates women in ministry, how to be a wild-hearted woman, and what the Bible says about God's gender at the 2003 conference in Orlando. An all-star cast of speakers awaits you, such as David Hamilton, Kevin Giles, Linda Belleville, Lee Grady, Funmi Para-Mallam, Carolyn Custis James, and John Kohlenberger. Our conference will explore the theme, "The Priesthood of All Believers: Serving Christ as a Global Community.
Anyone who doubts that Christians for Biblical Equality is an organization in principle opposed to the teaching of God's Word concerning sexuality has only to go here and read their confession of faith to know who Carolyn Custis James is making common cause with.
It is impossible to support Christians for Biblical Equality's confession of faith and the Westminster Standards. It is impossible to be an adherent to CBE's false doctrine and to Scripture's true doctrine of sexuality. It is impossible for a woman or man to subscribe to the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture and to the doctrines of Christians for Biblical Equality. To illustrate, here are a couple excerpts from CBE's confession of faith...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 16, 2006 - 11:13am
Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:26-32)
From the beginning, Christian faith is controversial. Not in a tight and rigid way, but in a way that demonstrates God's sovereignty and the loving affirmation of His sovereignty by those who are born again by His Spirit. Repentance is not simply the negative duty every Christian must walk through at the beginning of his spiritual life, after the completion of which he may breath a sigh of relief thinking "Thank God that's over."
Rather, as the first of Luther's ninety-five theses reminds us, "the life of a Christian is a life of repentance." It never ends. We must repent each year, each day, each hour. All Jesus' teaching, mirrored by the Apostles throughout the New Testament, emphasizes that the Christian life is a battle against principalities and powers, and that no growth, no sanctification will come to those who choose a life of peace. The life of repentance means we are to "take up our cross," to "endure hardship," to "fill up the cup of Christ's sufferings," to "wrestle," to "contend," to "guard, to "crucify our flesh," and always to keep in mind that "a man's enemies will be the members of his own family."
Few of us doubt the existence of this battle on a personal level since believers are well aware of the "law of sin and death" that wages war within us. With considerable relief (and even joy), we join in the prayer of confession near the beginning of our corporate worship services knowing that here, at least, among the people of God at worship we may rest secure that we are known as we really are, not as Robert Schuller or Dr. Laura thinks we should be.
But when faced with this battle on a corporate level, many of us revolt against it because here Christian faith is in direct opposition to the last value, the last moral or absolute left in these United States--namely, "Can't we all just get along?" We don't want to be in conflict with unbelievers because such conflict seems to be counterproductive to evangelism.
And beyond our squeamishness at the hatred the world showers upon Jesus Christ, His Truth, and His followers, conflict within the Church is the most grievous of all. After all, Jesus said that our love for one another will be the basis of unbelievers' judgments concerning the truth of our claim that we are Christ's disciples. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples..." How can we honor Christ Who prayed that we might be one when we are fighting with each other?
This is where we must toughen up and think with our Bibles rather than our cultural prejudices and emotions. Scripture teaches that we'll always have the poor with us. Scripture also teaches we'll always have false shepherds and false doctrine with us and it is those false shepherds promoting false doctrines that are the instruments of schism and division with the Body of Christ. How is the peace and unity of that Body to be restored?
By exposing both false shepherds and their false doctrine. By fighting against the wolves who seek to devour the flock...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 20, 2006 - 7:30am
As the dialogue on this blog concerning Covenant's College's Kaleo Center's conference on gender and the church comes to an end, a few observations are in order.
It is a great disadvantage to do the work of professing and fathering at a distance and by E-mail. Covenant students need on-site professors who will profess the biblical doctrine of sexuality with joyful abandon--not parsimoniously with a defensive attitude saying more what that doctrine doesn't mean than what it does mean.
These professors are physically present, and therefore in the perfect position to answer the question, "What is submission?"
Their answer should not come only in a classroom, but also in their homes around the dining room table. It's there in the hurlyburly of life that submission will become clear to Matthew, Heather, Stephanie, and hundreds of others who arrived at college thinking that feminism has questions that only twenty or thirty year olds hear.
When Covenant's Kaleo Center invites the James to campus to deal with the much-controverted question of authority and submission in marriage, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to read the signs and know where the Kaleo Center is trying to lead the campus. The headliner is a woman and she is approved of and promoted by the main evangelical feminist organization? Well now, let me see: I wonder what that means?
Not to put too fine a point on it, I think it means that she ought not to speak at Covenant since every confessional commitment of Covenant's ecclesiastical authority is opposed to the teaching of this evangelical feminist organization on the meaning and purpose of sexuality. Yes, to me it's that simple: Carolyn Custis James' books are sold by the organization and they use her to speak at their national conference so we cannot trust Mrs. James to teach our students the meaning and purpose of Christian marriage, sexuality, submission, authority, etc.
But some point out that while she was at Covenant Mrs. James took a second to affirm that she was willing to submit to Scripture's teaching concerning men alone being called to serve as pastors and elders, so she's obviously orthodox in her doctrine of sexuality.
Maybe an analogy will help make my point.
Let's say by some perverse error I was invited by the administration to be the keynote speaker at a conference on gender and the church at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, or Wheaton College where the community ethos is overwhelmingly feminist. And it was clear by the administration's invitation which direction they wanted to move their institution although, of course, nothing was ever said directly to me about their goal.
by David and Tim Bayly on February 28, 2006 - 8:38am
Our readers may remember two wise comments contributed by Rebecca Jones under this blog's posts concerning Covenant College's hosting of Carolyn Custis James a week or so ago. I've had the privilege of working alongside Rebecca and her husband, Peter, in the past opposing the feminist heresy and I commend this credo, this personal confession of faith. It's obvious here that being a mother and wife is no hindrance to being a theologian. Rather, as Rebecca would put it, being a wife and a mother is, for most women, how she must be a theologian. Note particularly Rebecca's explanatory statement at the end, in italics.
It would be good for Covenant College to require any future women being considered for speaking engagements on the subject of the meaning and purpose of sexuality to read and sign Mrs. Jones' Credo before the invitation is final. After all, we're a confessional community and asking women being considered for positions of authority at Covenant College should be expected to be confessional on this issue, and not simply the issues from centuries back.
My Credo as a Christian Woman
by Rebecca Jones
I believe God created me, a woman, in His image.
I believe God has the authority, as my Creator to define my whole person; body, soul, mind, and emotions.
I believe God has chosen to reveal Himself through the world in which I live and through the incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. I learn of both these revelations through His Word, the Bible, which becomes clear to me by the power of Jesus Christ, whose Spirit works in my heart and my understanding.
I believe that God exists as one God, in three equal persons and that these persons have Scripturally revealed relationships and functions within the trinity.
I believe that all human fellowship is a reflection of that perfect fellowship defined and experienced from all eternity by God Himself in the trinity.
I believe that God made both men and women in His image.
I believe that God gave the man a representative role in humanity in general (as seen in both Adam and Christ) and that He also gave each man a representative and authoritative role as head of his wife and of his family...
Two members of Christ the Word who recently returned from a trip to Africa tell me that while there they heard a visiting PCA pastor speak of 85 "Federal Vision" churches he and a group of like-minded friends hope to excise from the PCA.
I'm intrigued to learn there are 85 discernibly "Federal Vision" churches in the PCA and I'm curious to know how the number was arrived at. Does admiring the ministry of Doug Wilson make one a "Federal Vision" proponent? If so, Christ the Word is probably goners in the PCA if I continue to enjoy the privilege of being her pastor when these men achieve their goal.
I'm also intrigued that an ad hoc group of PCA pastors has identified 85 "Federal Vision" churches requiring removal without publicly identifying themselves or publicly acknowledging the breadth of their goals. It's possible the pastor was exaggerating--blowing ecclesiastical smoke. Yet my friends think not. He repeated his statements several times, never with any lack of conviction.
On the whole, Tim and I tend to honor those who take God's truth seriously enough to work to purify Christ's Church of dangerously false teaching. Whether "Federal Vision" theology is cohesive enough or sufficiently heterodox to require such opposition we're uncertain. What is certain is that God's truth prospers in the light, not in smoke-filled rooms and alleyways.
Which brings me to a recurringly troubling aspect of life in the Presbyterian Church in America.
On every side there appear to be clandestine groups of like-minded friends bound together by secret communications. The existence of such groups becomes especially clear when looking through blog referral lists. At times it's quite obvious that PCA-based discussion boards are steering readers to blog entries, but access to the referring site is limited to members and accessible only through password-protected accounts.
Friends who have participated in such groups tell me that not only is membership often by invitation only, but a commitment to confidentiality about discussion items is sometimes required as well.
It's hard to conceive of such secrecy as a good thing. There are times for confidentiality within pastoral circles, but the existence of whole cliques whose agendas and members are closely-guarded secrets runs contrary to the ministry of Christ Who reproached His captors by asking if He had operated in secrecy that they came to take Him at the dead of night....
Just now we've added a new category to our index titled, "Frank/Carolyn Custis James." Having received a request earlier this evening for a compilation of everything written on this subject, we're happy to oblige. Clicking on this link will take our readers to a page that contains all the posts related to the James' time speaking at Covenant College on "Gender and the Church." Or, go to the left column, about halfway down, and click on the index entry, "Frank/Carolyn Custis James." (Pay particular attention to the more than 180 comments buried in these initial posts since much of the best content was contributed by our good readers and will be missed if readers coming lately to this subject skip the comments.)
Also, here is a statement, Responding to Gender Issues at Covenant College, written by President Niel Nielson and his wife, Dr. Kathleen Nielson, in response to criticisms of Mrs. James' teaching on sexuality given at Covenant and elsewhere.
25 Dr. Niel Nielson, President, Covenant College (First normal chapel of the year. No special designation for chapel or speaker.)
26 Convocation - Dr. Reg McLelland, Professor of Philosophy, Covenant College (The first special type of chapel--a "convocation," perhaps because more academic in focus?)
29 Assembly with Congressman Zach Wamp, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. (Second special type of chapel--"assembly." Address is by a political leader, and thus, I suspect, the reason it's called an "assembly"--differentiating it from a normal chapel session.)
30 Student Development Assembly (Again, an "assembly" marking less-spiritual content, I suspect.)
31 Rev. Randy Nabors, Covenant College Trustee, New City Fellowship, Chattanooga, TN (Typical chapel. No special designation.)
Now, having dealt with types of chapels and nomenclature, the following sessions were interesting:
12 Camille Hallstrom, Associate Professor of Communication, Covenant College (Woman drama professor, no special designation for chapel session. Apparently a regular chapel with a regular speaker.)
Last month, Covenant College hosted Carolyn Custis James and her husband, Frank, as the keynote speakers at Covenant's conference, "Gender and the Church." Since the content of the James' presentations was quite similar to standard evangelical feminist rhetoric, and since Carolyn Custis James is promoted by, has been a plenary speaker for, and still has her books sold by the evangelical feminist organization, Christians for Biblical Equality, it became apparent that Covenant's administration had erred in making this invitation.
Since then, Dr. Kathleen Nielson and her husband, Niel (who serves as Covenant's president), have issued a statement responding to the criticism they received for inviting Carolyn Custis James and her husband, Frank, to train Covenant students in the area of the meaning and purpose of sexuality. Acknowledging how malleable, confused, and easily misled their students at Covenant are in the area of sexuality, the Nielsons wrote:
For the younger generation in the church, what we would call the Scriptures' beautiful, clear, comprehensive teachings are not at all clear. This generation has grown up with an unprecedented multitude of voices coming at them from all sides, within and without the church, especially in relation to the issue of sexuality and gender roles. We older ones cannot imagine the ambiguity that exists for college-age students today, for they have grown up in the flowering of postmodern thinking, which tells them essentially to embrace the multitude of voices. Consider, for example, that today's college students have lived their entire lives in the context of a culture that persistently presents homosexual orientation and behavior as normal and acceptable, and demonizes those who, on the authority of the Scriptures, call for biblical holiness in all matters sexual.
Which makes it all the more surprising that Mrs. James, whose feminist leanings have been well-known for quite some time, was provided a forum at Covenant College. This invitation demonstrates an evident lack of proper preparation in the selection of speakers for this conference.
Adding to Mrs. James' record, here's a transcript of Carolyn Custis James teaching the women of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Winter Park, Florida, on April 2, 2002. The tape from which James' talk has been transcribed is titled "When Life and Beliefs Collide; The Japan Report." James' teaching was given under the auspices of St. Paul's Women in the Church ministry. (Women in the Church is the name of women's ministries within the Presbyterian Church in America).
An astute woman theologian from St. Paul's was present and expressed her concern over Mrs. James' teaching to her husband who, in turn, took the matter up with St. Paul's elders. Now, a few years later, our astute woman theologian is a pastor's wife in Temecula, California, where her husband, Jesse A. Pirschel, serves as minister of Providence Presbyterian Church. As we drop into Mrs. James' talk, she is summing up the message of the second chapter of her book, When Life and Beliefs Collide:
...It has a lot to do with the second chapter of the book where I am talking about why women avoid theology. And this whole idea that there is this fear in church that if women know too much they'll get out of line, they'll cause problems. And that they'll cause problems at home, because they won't submit to their husbands, or they'll cause problems in the church because they'll want to grab hold of the reins.
And what I found in my study of Scripture was a very different image of what happens when women get serious about their theology. Umm... I want to sort of lay out for you the terrain and umm...because what I found as I looked at what is being said about women in Christian circles is that we have polarized views of who women are.
And on the one hand you have your Traditionalist or your Complementarian view. And you may not be familiar with these but these are...these are the standard views of who women are. The theology of women and men in relationships. And umm...This is where they put forth the idea that a woman is called to marriage and to motherhood. And that what gives a woman fulfillment and meaning in life. And that men are called to think and lead. And women are called to follow. And the big word that gets used about who we are and how we are to conduct ourselves in relationships with men and relationships in the church is this word "submission".
by David and Tim Bayly on April 13, 2006 - 10:05am
Reading through the overtures and communications that have been sent to the next, thirty-fourth, General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, I was encouraged to see this Advice from Calvary Presbytery in response to the Strategic Plan this assembly is being called to adopt. Calvary Presbytery's judgments strike me as wise and I encourage teaching and ruling elders within the PCA to read the presbytery's communication carefully. In fact, it's my hope that the assembly will respond to the Strategic Plan, both positively and negatively, as Calvary Presbytery advises.
More specifically, I am in agreement with item number 7 in the Advice from Calvary Presbytery in which they oppose the Strategic Planning Committee's proposal for a complete restructing of the general assembly in which the Bills and Overtures Committee would take over much of the assembly's work:
Presbytery inform Strategic Planning Committee that we are against (their) proposed changes to Rules of Assembly Operations 11-4, 14, 7-2, 10-5, 12-3 (to structure a larger Bills and Overtures Committee and new arrangements for Committee on Constitutional Business and the rules relating to them).
Rationale: The presbytery is of the opinion that the remedy ("delegating debate" to a "Super Bills and Overtures Committee" etc.) does not effectively answer the problems of greater ruling elder attendance and participation; does not contribute to a more effective participation of delegates to GA; does not really address the goals of the Strategic Planning Committee.
It can't be said often enough that the PCA is not the PC(USA). The PCA is the small but growing conservative denomination with its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, whereas the PC(USA) is the large but shrinking liberal denomination with its headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky.
The principal debate within the PCA is whether Anglican Bishop N. T. Wright is correct in his claim that Martin Luther misunderstood the message of Galatians, and whether the time has come for Protestants to recover their roots and move back toward sacramentalism, a more formal liturgy, the infusion of Christ's righteousness, and a higher ecclesiology--in short, towards Rome. Within the PC(USA), though, the principal debate is over the nature and meaning of sexuality.
Both denominations hold their national meetings (called "general assemblies") near the beginning of the summer with the PCA meeting each year and the PC(USA) every other year. This was the year for the PC(USA) to meet and the news is about what you'd expect from a denomination whose policy paper on abortion calls the killing of some unborn children "an act of faithfulness before God."
By a solid majority, the assembly's commissioners gave presbyteries the freedom to call and ordain practicing sodomites as elders and pastors, and they also commended to their congregations a paper on the Trinity that promotes renaming Father, Son, and Holy Spirit "Mother, womb, and child."
On the other hand, the PCA--also by a sizable majority--voted to form a study committee called the Ad Interim Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspectives on Paul, Etc. The denomination's Stated Clerk, L. Roy Taylor, described the assembly's action as follows...
by David and Tim Bayly on August 23, 2006 - 7:15am
Women and children first?
July 6-24, the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University put the following question to 1,010 men and women:
You may recall that male passengers on the Titanic agreed to give up their places on the lifeboats for women and children. If there were a similar situation today, do you think men should be expected to die and allow women to live, or is this an old fashioned idea?
Among men, 63% of men agreed to die for women; 23% thought the idea was old fashioned; and 14% couldn't make up their minds. "Quick, the boat's sinking, Mr. Bayly: What'll it be--you or your wife?"
"Well um... Ahem... On the one hand..."
Among women, though, 43% said men shouldn't bother sacrificing for them while only 39% still thought it was good for men to give up their spots in the lifeboats for women; 18% were undecided. "Quick, the boat's sinking, Mrs. Bayly: What'll it be--you or your husband?"
"Well um... Ahem... I don't know--Tim's the man of the house; let him decide."
We all know the world has lost its way on the meaning of sexuality, but what about the church? I'm reminded of two experiences in my own denomination, the PCA, where the state of affairs became clear.
Several years ago, I served on a study committee of our general assembly assigned to produce a study paper on women in combat. As you might guess, I was agin' it but there were a number of pastors and elders on the committee who would have fit right into this poll. Some were military officers (chaplains, sadly), while others were pastors of local churches. Just short of half our committee believed..
by David and Tim Bayly on December 19, 2006 - 12:31pm
Richard Cizik is VP of Governmental Affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals. Lately he's given his best time to serving as an evangelist for global warming within NAE's constituency. This earned him a prime interview on public radio's Fresh Air this morning where Terry Gross dutifully lobbed him a bunch of softball questions.
What struck me about the interview was Cizik's references to his newfound focus on global warming as the product of his own personal "conversion" on the issue. Repeatedly he referred to this personal "conversion," explicitly drawing a parallel between his conversion to global warming and "a conversion to Jesus Christ."
Believe it or not, I have no opinion concerning global warming. I used to be an environmentalist but Calamity Jane scholars cried "Wolf!" too many times to retain my trust.
In this particular case, though, my concern is not Cizik's belief in global warming, nor his evangelizing others toward a conversion by which they come to share his convictions on the issue. Rather, I object to his explicit and constant use of Gospel language to argue his case in the public square. He reminds me of the past three decades of mainline religious leaders who redefined salvation as "liberation."
by David and Tim Bayly on January 23, 2007 - 9:53am
In her article cited in an earlier post, Anne Graham Lotz is pandering to some of the more ungodly prejudices of our culture by attacking the church for not being biblical on the meaning and purpose of sexuality. What she really means, though, is not that the Church isn't biblical, but that it's not enlightened or progressive--it's not, as they say, "evolved."
Before the watching world, Ms. Lotz argues that those who maintain distinctions between the sexes (other than those irrepressible biological and physiological ones) are bound for extinction as her new age of feminist gender equity finally dawns among the slowpoke people of God.
One looks in vain for any recognition on Ms. Lotz's part that she's thrown the entire history of the Christian Church's doctrine of sexuality in the dumpster. Likely she'd deny this, pointing to her strong stand against sodomy or divorce as proof that, where the rubber meets the road, she's rock solid on sexuality.
Yet the order of God's creation prior to the Fall is as clear concerning the sinfulness of women exercising authority over men as it is concerning the sinfulness of men having sex with men, or as it is concerning divorce. The authoritative primacy of man over woman, the heterosexual limits of physical intimacy, and the evil of divorce are each equally and undeniably established by our Creator in the Garden of Eden, and the rest of Scripture only reinforces God's Edenic order.
Asked whether divorce is right or wrong, Jesus responded by going back to Eden, prior to the Fall, making it clear that God's order from the beginning was heterosexual, monogamous, and lifelong:
(Jesus) answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matthew 19:4-6)
Asked whether it was proper for women to exercise authority over men, the Apostle Paul responded by going back to Eden, prior to the Fall, making it clear that God's order from the beginning was neither matriarchal nor egalitarian, but patriarchal:
But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. (1 Timothy 2:12, 13)
Do Ms. Lotz and other evangelical feminists really think they can pick and choose between the details of the sexual order God established in Eden which is reinforced repeatedly in the sacred words of Scripture?
"Let's see, I'll have some heterosexuality and monogamy, please. But no patriarchy today, thank you."
Well, any simpleton can see what's happened, and therefore what's coming.
What's happened? Well, for many years, now, evangelicals have lived in an increasingly egalitarian and feminist culture, and that culture has won us over--all that's left is the mop-up operation. Few of us would be willing to preach or listen to the sermons of past centuries our fathers in the faith preached concerning male authority or female deference and submission. And structurally, our practice bears no resemblance to the church's historical practice.
Denominationally, some of us are still forced to toe the line: we don't yet ordain women to the pastorate or eldership, but we've taken every other step we can. We have women leading our corporate worship, administering the Lord's Supper, preaching in our pulpits, teaching mixed-sex adult Sunday school classes, leading mixed-sex small groups, serving as commissioned deacons, serving on our national theological study committees, preaching at our conferences, serving as regional directors in our parachurch and mission organizations... Need I go on?
Yes, we have our Pharisaical righteousness in each place we're fiddling around the edge. Women preaching in our pulpits are the exception--not the rule--and they do so under the authority and review of the elders board. Our women deacons are not ordained--they're only commissioned. We've limited the Sunday school classes led by women to one quarter of our offerings each term. Women lead our call to worship and prayer of confession, but never our pastoral prayer. Women administer the Lord's Supper, but our senior pastor is a man and he's the one who hands the trays to the women before they go out into the congregation. The woman on the study committee has special expertise in the subject under review, and she's not a full voting member. Our conference isn't a church meeting, our speakers aren't really preaching, and we don't have any authority over those who attend. Our organization is parachurch--not church--so we have no need to submit to Scripture's prohibition of women exercising authority over men.
At this point, some readers are likely hung up on one or more of the particulars I've cited and are asking themselves, "Is it really wrong to have women deacons?" "Why shouldn't women lead in prayer during corporate worship?" "If women shouldn't be regional directors of mission agencies, should they be running for president?" Or, "If it's wrong for women to preach in morning worship, is it also wrong for them to serve as professors in Christian colleges and seminaries?"
Although these are important questions, such examples are only meant to be representative of the sea-change the evangelical church has embraced. We will differ over which of the above practices are within the proper boundaries of Scripture, but we must not differ in acknowledging that, taken as a whole, these practices are not a reformation returning us to the doctrine of Scripture, but rather a revolution leading us away from Scripture...
by David and Tim Bayly on January 25, 2007 - 7:01am
Deep in the bowels of the 54 comments under the post, "The Lotz/Chapell/Keller/James matrix...," an alumnus of Covenant Theological Seminary who held membership at Church of the Good Shepherd while earning his Ph.D. at Indiana University prior to receiving the M.Div. at Covenant, and who currently serves on the pastoral staff of Christ the Word (PCA) in Toledo, Ohio, documents the doctrine of sexuality he found pervasive at Covenant during his three years there. Pastor Dionne writes, "On a number of occasions I heard (Covenant) professors declare that chauvinism, not feminism, is the main problem in the church today. The work of complementarian authors (including Piper/Grudem and their Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) was denigrated as "demeaning to women."
Responding to Pastor Dionne's statement, several current Covenant students wrote in defense of their professors and Covenant's administration and president. Our readers may find a full record of the exchange here. Meanwhile, a few of my own observations:
Covenant Theological Seminary student Michael writes:
Biblical submission is a much more nuanced reality than the dichotomy you accuse me of propagating.
Paul's thinking is nuanced... Paul wrote to a different culture in a different time to a different group of people experiencing different situations. ...there must be more to our exegesis than ripping one verse out of context and co-text and the original language... there is more to proper and biblical exegesis than ripping parts of verses from the English translation.
Michael and Todd here serve us well representing the heart of the doctrine of sexuality held to by much of the evangelical and reformed world. Dichotomies are bad. But of course, God made this dichotomy dichotomous--namely male and female--and called it "Good." Then God's Holy Spirit told us the significance of this dichotomy: women are not to exercise authority over men.
And immediately that uber-weasel word 'nuance' rises to the surface of both Michael's and Todd's retreat. Not wanting to affirm the plain dichotomous creation of male and female as its significance is revealed by our Creator, they fall back into academy-speak, the same wearisome pattern of escape clauses I heard twenty years ago at Gordon-Conwell from evangelical feminists David Scholer, Roger Nicole, and Gordon Fee. "Different culture," "different time," "nuanced realities," "different group of people," "different situations," verses "ripped out of context," and so on.
by David and Tim Bayly on January 29, 2007 - 12:30pm
We all know what it is to play warfare in mock battle, that it means to imitate everything just as it is in war. The troops are drawn up, they march into the field, seriousness is evident in every eye, but also courage and enthusiasm, the orderlies rush back and forth intrepidly, the commander's voice is heard, the signals, the battle cry, the volley of musketry, the thunder of cannon--everything exactly as it is in war, lacking only one thing...the danger.
So also it is with playing Christianity, that is, imitating Christian preaching in such a way that everything, absolutely everything is included in as deceptive a form as possible--only one thing is lacking...the danger
-Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon "Christendom" 1854-1855, translated with an introduction by Walter Lowrie, (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1956) p. 258.
Addendum: Wednesday evening, March 8, Bryan Chapell and I met together to discuss this recent series of posts. After our discussion, here are several clarifications and corrections that I believe need to be made. I have made them here, at the top of the post, because it would be difficult to weave them into the post itself in a way that would call attention to them sufficiently as corrections.
First, it is unclear that the paragraph beginning, "The whole things is a tempest in a teacup" is not my judgment, but rather a hypothetical construct of what the average member of the PCA might have thought to himself.
Second, I refer to "the Covenant/Redeemer/Reformed mantra, "A woman may do anything a non-ordained man may do." Bryan told me that this is not his position and that he speaks against this position as an adequate representation of the Biblical perspective. This is an encouragement to me.
Third, Bryan rehearsed his actions in response to the chapel time in which Diane Langberg spoke, and clearly my own summary of those actions is not accurate. Here is an accurate record of what happened:
When General Assembly convened that summer and the time on the agenda arrived when President Chapell was asked to give an answer for what had happened on his watch, President Chapell told the assembly:
That Diane Langberg had been told ahead of time what the standards were for her speaking during the chapel time;
That after she spoke at Covenant Seminary, Diane Langberg received a letter reminding her of the standards, and expressing concern that those standards had not been followed; and
That the administration of Covenant Seminary met with students to explain the situation and to assure the seminary community that what had happened was not according to the standards they were committed to upholding.
Since I implied Covenant Seminary was not upholding the PCA position in its response to Diane Langberg's chapel time, I regret this inaccuracy and now believe Covenant's response was good.
Some wonder how I could accuse prominent teaching elders of the Presbyterian Church in America and the institutions they lead of sympathizing with the egalitarian, feminist cause? Don't I know the PCA's reason to exist is tied at the heart to opposing these ideologies? When a group of mainline PC(USA) churches left their own denomination for a more conservative one back in 1983, wasn't it necessary for them to found the new denomination, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, precisely because the PCA wasn't willing to compromise on women in office? And isn't the same reason behind our present failure to bring into the PCA many churches currently departing the PC(USA) train wreck: that these churches and their pastors are determined to enter a denomination that allows their women to serve as pastors, elders, and deacons?
So, as a denomination we've paid our dues. We've seen the cost of our convictions, and haven't wavered. What on earth am I thinking, then, to accuse our seminary and its president of being allies of the egalitarian, feminist ideology?
It's a fair question, although I have no confidence I'll be able to answer it to the satisfaction of more than a few because the heart of the answer is tied up, not with specific arguments about Scripture's teaching about sexuality, but rather its teaching concerning the nature of pastoral ministry.
Several years ago, Covenant Theological Seminary had a woman preach in chapel. When it was reported within our denomination, it scandalized a number of presbyters across the country...
by David and Tim Bayly on February 26, 2007 - 8:46am
Some weeks back, the Rev. Dr. Andrew Dionne, a recent graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, expressed serious concerns over the commitment of Covenant's administration and faculty to the biblical doctrine of sexuality. At that time, Pastor Dionne forwarded a couple of supporting documents from the years he and his wife, Sarah, were members of the CTS community. Not wanting to allow his material to be lost in the (rapidly depleting?) ozone, I'm depositing it here so it can be on record and debated...
A few weeks ago, President Frank James and his wife, Carolyn Custis James, sent the above letter to RTS students encouraging them to register for a seminar sponsored by Mrs. James' Whitby Forum, The Impact Movement, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Reformed Theological Seminary. The April 13-15 seminar titled, "Mission Critical: Women on the Frontlines for the Gospel," will be led by Drs. Alice Matthews and Diane Langberg, and Mrs. James...
…it is evident that the
version of covenant and election taught by the NPP and FV is
incompatible with the views of the Westminster Standards. In fact,
these two approaches to covenant and election are not complementary
ways of looking at the biblical data, but irreconcilably contradictory
alternative accounts of the biblical data. (from the Report of Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies)
The PCA general assembly appointed a committee to study the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision/Auburn Avenue theology. The report has just been issued and can be found here. Not to prejudge the matter, but the above quote is indicative of the fact that there are real teeth in the report's declarations and recommendations--teeth that, if the coming assembly adopts the report, will require a number of men to make some tough choices about their ecclesiastical commitments...
by David and Tim Bayly on April 26, 2007 - 11:22am
Now that the PCA's Ad Interim Study Committee on Federal Vision, New Perspective, and Auburn Avenue Theologies has issued its report, debate will be lively. But framing the debate is vital. And to that end Tim and I have several comments we'd like to make.
1. It appears our report a year ago that some within the PCA desire to rid the PCA of 85 Federal Vision (FV) churches was accurate.
The Diaconate, a group of men and women nominated and elected into the office by the Redeemer members, exists to express in practical ways Christ's command to all believers to love our neighbor as ourselves. We offer help to those in crisis or challenging situations by assessing their needs and working together to find solutions.