Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gender and Heaven Part 2

One reason why I do not believe in the eternal subordination of women to men is the parable of the minas (Luke 19:11-28). Jesus indicated that when He returns, He will reward His faithful servants by giving them authority and responsibility that correspond to how faithful they were. In the parable, the king said to the first servant whose mina earned ten more, "Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities." (Luke 19:17). To the servant whose mina earned five more, the king said, "You take charge of five cities." (Luke 19:19). Thus, it is apparent that the number of cities the servants were given directly corresponds to their faithfulness in earning more minas. Nowhere in this parable is race or gender mentioned as the king's criteria. The only criterion mentioned is trustworthiness.

We know that God does not look at race, socioeconomic status or gender as criteria to decide who enters heaven. For anyone that satisfies the condition of accountability (also known as "the age of accountability"), God's criterion of whether a person enters heaven is whether they have put their trust in Him. Jesus said "whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16), and that "whoever" does not exclude any race, class, or gender. Jesus also said that "if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward." (Matthew 10:42). In this verse, "anyone" does not exclude any race, class, or gender.

The reward of authority is unmerited just like salvation is unmerited, but in both cases God has revealed His reward criteria in the Bible. If the eternal subordination of women to men were true, then God would be rewarding His servants not only on the basis of faithfulness, but also on the basis of gender. But since God rewards the faithfulness of both men and women, and authority is given as a reward, then it follows that faithful men and women will both be rewarded with authority when Jesus returns. God grants this authority not on the basis of race, class, or gender, but on the basis of faithfulness.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Gender and the New Creation

In his CBMW article "Relationships and Roles in the New Creation", Mark David Walton suggested that the principle of male headship will continue to apply in the new creation throughout all eternity.

He wrote, "Given that gender identity will remain, is there evidence that functional distinctions will likewise remain in the new creation? Will resurrected saints as male and female have gender-specific roles? How will we relate to one another? Will male headship apply? Initial responses will likely depend on whether such questions are approached from a complementarian or egalitarian perspective. Complementarians, who view male headship and gender-specific roles as part of God's original plan for creation (and for the present age as well) are more likely to answer these questions in the affirmative."

Walton gave three foundational principles that guides his interpretation of functional differences in the new creation (emphasis mine):
  1. "The first is simply that the new creation is tangible and real. Resurrected saints will enjoy real life in real bodies in a real place."
  2. "The second principle is that the new creation is, in essence, creation redeemed. All of creation deformed and marred by sin will be reformed as part of the completed work of Christ in redemption."
  3. "Third, in the new creation, resurrected believers are perfected, confirmed in righteousness, and the image of God within them has been fully restored."
He then gave three arguments why he believes male headship is eternal:
  1. Male headship existed prior to the fall. The new creation is a return to the divine order prior to the fall, so it follows that male headship will remain.
  2. Male headship is affirmed in the NT. There are no Bible verses that unambiguously repeals the principle of male headship. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that male headship will remain.
  3. In the new creation, there are those who were husbands in the previous dispensation who, no longer encumbered by the flesh, will at last be able to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:25). There are also those who were wives in the previous dispensation who will see in the example of Christ (Phil 2:6-8) the beauty and glory inherent in gracious, selfless submission. With both man and woman perfected and transformed, the new creation will not abandon the order established in God's original creation.
I believe the status of men and women in eternity is a very important topic of discussion, one that is often neglected in recent years. In the blogosphere, there is plenty of discussion about whether women are called to be senior pastors, but hardly any discussion on whether women will be subordinate to men for all eternity. After all, aren't eternal realities more important than temporal realities? What female believers will be doing for trillions upon trillions of years is just as important of a discussion topic, if not more so, than what female believers are doing for a few decades. Same goes for male believers. Moreover, whatever isn't eternally true for women isn't inherently true for women. Likewise, whatever isn't eternally true for men isn't inherently true for men.

Here are my thoughts on this issue:

While I can see how Walton arrived at his conclusions, I do not believe the Bible teaches the eternal subordination of women to men. Nor do I believe that gender is a criterion God uses to determine how much authority a Christian has in the new creation. Here are my three foundational principles:
  1. The new creation is tangible and real.
  2. The new creation is not creation redeemed. What is true prior to the fall is not necessarily true in the new creation.
  3. The new creation is superior to and more glorious than creation prior to the fall.
There are two obvious facts that were true prior to the fall that will not be so in the new creation. Before the fall, people did not wear clothes and yet felt no shame (Gen 2:25). In the new creation, people will be clothed in white (Rev 3:5). Before the fall, marriage existed between men and women (Gen 2:24). In the new creation, there will no longer be marriages between men and women (Luke 20:34-36). If God intended the new earth to be merely a restoration of a pre-fall earth, wouldn't the glorified saints be unclothed? There is no biblical basis to assume a continuity between pre-fall creation and the new creation.

Since there is no biblical basis to believe that the new creation is a return to the divine order established in God's original creation, I believe that Walton's first and third arguments for eternal male headship are rather inadequate. As for Walton's second argument, there are no unambiguous Bible verses that affirm that male headship will perpetuate for all eternity, so the whole premise is pretty much an argument from silence.

For Christians who believe that believers retain their genders in the new creation, I see three possible positions in regards to this discussion topic:
  1. The Bible teaches that women are eternally subordinate to men.
  2. The Bible teaches that women are not eternally subordinate to men.
  3. The Bible does not tell us, but we will find out when we get to heaven.
This brief post is intended to defend against arguments in favor of position #1. Of course, this post is not sufficient in and of itself to show why position #2 is true. That I will reserve for a future post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mama Grizzlies


Seriously, you don't want to mess with mama grizzlies, or any mama bears in general.

"Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, 'Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!'
So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the LORD. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths." (2 Kings 2:23-24 NKJV)

And you don't want to mess with their cubs either, especially when David and God Himself were compared to mama bears.

"You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops." (2 Samuel 17:8 NIV)

"Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open. Like a lion I will devour them; a wild animal will tear them apart." (Hosea 13:8 NIV)

That being said,

"Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly." (Proverbs 17:12 NIV)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Righteousness and Wickedness

Dr. Bruce Waltke was the guest speaker in my church's Sunday service today, and his sermon was on Proverbs 1:1-7. He explained that in the book of Proverbs, righteousness means to disadvantage yourself in order to advantage others. Wickedness means to advantage yourself by disadvantaging others. He gave this illustration. Let's say he wants his students to write a research paper that requires the use of an out-of-print book. The library only has one copy of that book. A wicked student would borrow out that book, write the research paper, and try to get an A. He doesn't care that the other students won't get A's. A righteous student would be concerned about whether the other students get access to that book and get A's.

Another example of wickedness would be to not clean up after yourself. Still another example would be to cut in ahead of others when driving in a traffic jam.

Secular society tells us that in order to get ahead, we need to advantage ourselves in all the ways that we can. The Bible teaches us to do the opposite. In fact, the cross is ultimate example of this, where Jesus disadvantaged Himself by dying on the cross in order to advantage us sinners, so that we who believe may have eternal life in His name.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Theological Differences Among Christians

If the apostle John were still alive today, there would be no major theological differences among Christians today to the extent that we have now. After careful exegesis of Scripture, if Christians still disagree on some secondary doctrine, they could have asked John and settle the matter once and for all. Alternatively, if God had allowed angels to preach and teach, then that would settle many theological issues too. After all, the angels were alive back in the first century to see if Christians at that time baptized their infants. They were alive when Paul preached in his missionary journeys, and many of the sermons were not recorded in the book of Acts. Having full mastery of biblical languages and untainted by sin, the angels are probably better theologians than the more knowledgeable preachers today.

Instead, God has chosen to reach people with the gospel through people. Not only that, He has chosen not to intervene when pious Christians disagree on various issues ranging from baptism to communion to election to the sign gifts to the extent of the atonement. He has chosen not to send an apostle or angel to the 21st century church to resolve modern theological differences.

The Old Testament saints did not have this problem when the prophets were alive, at least not to the extent that we have. If anybody was interested, they could go to Ezekiel and asked him if election of individuals to salvation was conditional or unconditional. Even without the revelations of the New Testament, Ezekiel might be able to answer this question better than many of us because he knew the LORD's tone of voice with which He spoke when he wrote, "For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!" (Ezekiel 18:32).

Believers in the early church certainly did not have this problem, because they could ask the apostles verbally or at least write a letter to them. The Corinthian believers wrote a letter to Paul asking him questions that were of interest to them, such as eating food sacrificed to idols. Paul wrote a letter in reply, answering their questions and more.

During the seven-year tribulation period, the Two Witnesses (whom I believe are Moses and Elijah) can answer questions and reconcile theological differences among believers who came to faith after the Rapture of the Church.

Non-glorified saints in the Millennial Reign of Christ will not have this problem, because they could ask Jesus Himself or any of His apostles.

Our situation for the past 1900+ years is unique because no apostle is alive to resolve theological differences. We are left with the Bible. When we as godly Christians who believe the infallibility of Scripture disagree on what Scripture meant, we must do so charitably, being careful to distinguish primary doctrines from secondary ones.

Job had not read the book of Job when calamity struck him, so he did not know of God's conversations with Satan behind the scenes, where God commended Job as one who feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:8, 2:3). When God answered him out of the storm, He did not tell him about His conversations with Satan. Even after God restored Job and gave him twice of what he had, he did not find out why God allowed calamity to strike. Job did not know the answer, but he knew the One who does. It was only after he died that he found out what took place.

Likewise, we do not have all the answers, but we know the God who does. As for why God did not keep apostle John alive to spare us all this confusion, I do not know, but God has His reasons. We Christians may disagree charitably, but we live in the eager expectation that we will live eternally with the Lord and with one another, and all our disagreements will be resolved.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Secondary Doctrine

Not all doctrinal beliefs are created equal. Essential doctrines are those that one must believe if he is to be saved. The deity of Christ would be an example. Rejecting any of these essential doctrines would strongly suggests lack of salvation.

Secondary doctrines are those that are important, but are not essential to salvation. One can be wrong on secondary doctrines and still be saved. Although Christians agree on essential doctrines, they may disagree with each other on secondary doctrines. These include:
  • Infant baptism vs Believer's baptism
  • Calvinism vs Arminianism etc.
  • Premillennialism vs Amillennialism vs Postmillennialism
  • Cessassionalism vs Continualism
  • Complementarianism vs Egalitarianism
  • Young Earth Creationism vs Old Earth Creationism etc.
All Christians agree on essential doctrine, because doctrines that are essential in the first century are exactly the same doctrines that are essential in the twenty-first century. However, many portions the New Testament are written to address issues that are of great concern to first century believers that are of less concern to us, such as the eating of food sacrificed to idols. Moreover, many issues that are of less concern to first century believers are of a greater concern to us. This is why there may be disagreements among Christians on secondary doctrines.

Problem arises when we consciously or unconsciously promote a secondary doctrine to the same level of importance as a primary doctrine. When we debate with brothers and sisters who disagree with us, we are tempted to demonize them by assigning impure motives to them in our hearts, even if we don't doubt their salvation. Yet as Christians, we ought to be charitable and realize that these brothers and sisters are loved by God just as we are. They have the Holy Spirit just like we do. God has shown mercy to them just as He has shown mercy to us. They will be in heaven just as we will, and on that day, there will be no more disagreement between us and them.

Moreover, we should be careful when speaking against theologians who have fallen asleep and have gone on before us, even though they may strongly disagree with us on secondary doctrine. They are currently in heaven, and those who disagreed with each other on doctrine in the past are now in full agreement in heaven. By now, people like Luther, Calvin, Arminus, Whitfield, Wesley all have the same soteriology, ecclesiology, pneumatology, and eschatology. There are no prolonged doctrinal debates in heaven. How can there possibly be? A dialogue between two Christians in heaven might be as follows:

Christian A: Your theology of salvation was so messed up.
Christian B: Guess what? You're right! But Jesus in His grace saved me anyways.
Christian A: See, I told you so back then. How could you have been so wrong?
Christian B: I don't know. But I know that God is merciful, and He loves me. Praise God!
Christian A: Praise God!

So while we study Scripture, we may have in-house debates with each other on secondary doctrine, but we do so charitably, realizing we do not know everything there is to know about God, even though we know Him and are known by Him.

May our lives be pleasing to God as we continue to study the Bible and walk with Him!