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Midweek Roundup – 8/6/14

Each Wednesday we share some recent links that we found informative, insightful, or helpful. These are often related to Crossway books, Bibles, or authors—but not always. We hope this list is an interesting and encouraging break for the middle of your week.


1. Tim Challies reviews Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin

So often I’ve found that the best books are the ones that appear with the least fuss, and that the ones carried in on the back of a major marketing wave prove to be disappointing. But not always.

Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word has been the beneficiary of some major marketing efforts. It was the talk of this year’s Gospel Coalition National Conference for Women and has been pushed heavily in the blogosphere. And I’m glad to say that it proved my skepticism wrong—it is an excellent little book.

2. C. Michael Patton on God’s protection of our children

After another period of silence he asked the question of the hour, “Will God protect my children?” He went on, “Will he protect them or is he going to do to me what he did to your mom? Because from where I sit it looks like if you follow the Lord too closely, he brings terrible things into your life. I love my children and I am scared to death that he might hurt them or take them from me because I follow him… to test me or something. I don’t want that.”

3. Jonathan Leeman on how biblical theology guards and guides the church

Biblical theology is a way of reading the Bible. It is a hermeneutic. It assumes that Scripture’s many authors and many books are telling one story by one divine author—about Christ.

Sound slightly academic? It is, but…

The discipline of biblical theology is essential to guarding and guiding your church. It guards churches against false stories and wrong paths. It guides the church toward better preaching, better practices, better paths.

4. Dave Harvey on caring for pastors-in-waiting

“What do I do while I wait?” It’s a question I’ve heard dozens of times.

Trained men, ready to rumble for the gospel, can sometimes find they lack immediate opportunity to fulfill their ministry dream. It feels to them like the big game has started, and they’ve been benched by God, even as a parade of friends, classmates, and seemingly less gifted players sprint on to the field.

5. White Horse Inn interviews David Wells

Why are so many Christians focused on practical Christian living rather than on understanding who God is and what he has done for us? Why are we more interested in our own subjective experience than we are with objective truth? Joining the discussion is David Wells, author of numerous books including No Place for Truth, The Courage to Be Protestant, and most recently God in the Whirlwind.

August 6, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,Midweek Roundup,News | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:43 am | 0 Comments »

Interview: Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger

Blog Header - Interview

This is an interview with Andreas and Margaret Köstenberger, coauthors of God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey.


Why did you write God’s Design for Man and Woman?

Because it is sorely needed in our judgment and because there is no other book to our knowledge that accomplishes what we set out to do, namely to survey the biblical teaching from Genesis to Revelation regarding God’s design for man and woman using a biblical-theological approach. Anyone who has followed the news for the past decade will recognize that our culture is in a tailspin on the issue of gender, not only with same-sex marriage but also with transgender. Repentance and a return to God’s word are the only way to reverse this tailspin and to move from rebellion to revival, and it all starts with serious study of what Scripture teaches regarding God’s sovereign and wise design.

Both of us have written and taught on the subject for many years. The book started out as a class we taught jointly at Southeastern Seminary. Margaret would lecture on the history of feminism, the nature of submission, women’s ministry in the vein of Titus 2, hospitality, and other topics, while Andreas walked students through the Bible, focusing on important interpretive issues along the way.

Time and again, students responded very favorably to this mode of presentation, and so we felt that it would be helpful to write down the essence of our teaching in book format so others could benefit from a study of the biblical theology of man and woman in a narrative format.

How do you distinguish the descriptive elements of Scripture from the prescriptive elements of Scripture?

Essentially, distinguishing the descriptive from the prescriptive elements in Scripture is a question of hermeneutics, that is, of properly reading the different genres of Scripture passages, in this case on what it means to be a man or woman according to God’s design. For this reason determining the genre of a given passage dealing with gender roles is of critical importance. This is why the opening chapters of Genesis (understood as historical narrative, not myth or legend) are so vitally important because they set forth God’s design for man and woman at the very outset before it was corrupted by sin.

Also, what is important in terms of biblical theology is tracing certain patterns throughout Scripture. In our case, this means particularly tracing the pattern of male leadership, which encompasses the first man, Adam, the patriarchs, kings, and priests, Jesus himself, the Twelve, Paul and the Pauline circle, and New Testament elders. Within this framework, it is also helpful to explore interconnections, such as Jesus’s or Paul’s references back to the Old Testament (Genesis in particular), the relationship between the book of Acts and Paul’s letters, and so on. This is where description coalesces into prescription, that is, where patterns emerge that are not merely culturally relative or situational but permanently valid because they are a natural outflow of God’s design for man and woman from creation until the new creation.

Does embracing evangelical feminism necessarily imply a low view of Scripture?

We’ll let evangelical feminists (egalitarians) answer that question for themselves. They profess a belief in inerrancy, and we have no reason to doubt that. Andreas once wrote a review of the hermeneutical chapters in a major egalitarian work (by Gordon Fee and Roger Nicole) and concluded that what separates complementarians and evangelical feminists is not so much their hermeneutic but the execution of their hermeneutic.

In other words, evangelical feminists take Scripture seriously, but in our view their egalitarian beliefs tend to lead them to interpret different passages of Scripture in a way that is not the most natural or compelling way of reading the original intent of the authors. We deal with some of their views along the way, though the majority of our new book is an overall holistic and positive presentation of what the Bible teaches on the subject as opposed to wrangling over verses where people disagree.

How do you guard against allowing culturally conditioned notions related to gender identity and roles to unduly influence your understanding and application of the Bible’s teaching?

We all have a tendency to read Scripture in light of our culture and tradition. The only way to overcome this, over time, is to keep reading Scripture, on its own terms, and to immerse ourselves in the biblical worldview. For example, while we were working on the chapter on Genesis 1–3 in our book, it became increasingly clear to us that not only evangelical feminists but to a lesser extent complementarians, when speaking of male-female equality, may have taken their cue more from the current debate than from biblical terminology.

As we keep reading the Bible, and as we try to do so historically, literarily, and theologically, we can gradually enter into the Bible’s own story, which can help strip away our cultural lenses and replace them with biblical lenses, at least to an increasing extent.

What are some dangers that are unique to those who do not subscribe to “traditional” notions related to gender roles (i.e., “evangelical egalitarians”)?

The primary danger we see is that of taking the cultural notion of equality and imposing it on Scripture in a way that is anachronistic since equality of the sexes was demonstrably not an overriding concern of the biblical writers and, understood in contemporary cultural terms, does not actually reflect the viewpoint of the biblical authors themselves.

By making the equality of men and women (egalitarianism) a functional non-negotiable, evangelical feminists choose to embrace a presupposition that may not always be borne out by the biblical data, and they have insufficient methodological checks and balances to accommodate a range of interpretations since they are already a priori committed to interpreting Scripture within a framework that reflects and supports unfettered male-female equality including with regard to familial and ecclesiastical roles.

What are some dangers that are unique to those who do subscribe to “traditional” notions related to gender roles (i.e., “complementarians”)?

First of all, we do not necessarily consider ourselves “traditional” but rather biblical, though the outcome of our interpretation results in similar practical outcomes. To be traditional, though, is not necessarily biblical if the Bible is not interpreted on its own terms and one’s interpretive insights are not acted upon in the power of the Holy Spirit.

One key danger for those who believe that certain authoritative roles in the home and in the church are limited to men is that they may become satisfied with being “traditional” rather than with being actually biblical. There is in Scripture a pattern of male leadership that has the best interests of the woman at heart and that provides and protects the woman and cares for her physically as well as spiritually, which is not always recognized in traditional models.

Only men who are regenerate and Spirit-filled are truly able to live out God’s design for them in all humility as loving responsible leaders, just as only regenerate and Spirit-filled women are able to truly live out the kind of partnership that calls for them to submit to their husband the way the church submits to Christ.

Would you make a distinction between “evangelical feminism” and other forms of feminism? If so, how?

Certainly; in Margaret’s book, Jesus and the Feminists, she discusses three kinds of feminism that in some shape or form are related to the church: radical feminism, reformist or liberationist feminism, and evangelical feminism (also called egalitarianism). While secular feminism upholds unfettered male-female equality politically and socioeconomically and does not allow Scripture to guide its thinking in any way, the three different kinds of feminism discussed in Margaret’s book approach Scripture in different ways.

Radical feminists reject Scripture as irremediably patriarchal. Reformist feminists believe that Scripture was written by men and therefore reflects male bias but nonetheless advocates employing a hermeneutic of suspicion that uncovers genuine affirmations of the value of women in Scripture while screening out patriarchal texts. For them, Scripture is a mixed bag, and a special feminist hermeneutic is required to sort through what are acceptable or unacceptable passages. Evangelical feminists, finally, believe that Scripture, rightly interpreted, actually teaches feminism (hence the title of one of their major works, Discovering Biblical Equality).

The bottom line is, the three kinds of feminism can’t all be correct. Either Scripture teaches equal gender roles as evangelical feminists claim, or it doesn’t (as reformists and radical feminists assert, though as feminists they obviously disagree with Scripture, the way they understand it, at this point). In fact, in the course of the past several decades there have been some interesting interchanges between, for example, reformist and radical feminists in which the latter charged the former with compromise if not a betrayal of their feminist ideals and convictions.

So, yes, evangelical feminists (egalitarians) are one form of feminism, but egalitarianism (the equality of men and women in every respect) is the bedrock belief underlying all of feminism, denying God’s unique design of male leadership roles and female roles of nurture and submission in the home and church.

Practically speaking, how do you—as a married couple—work through significant disagreements?

Because we believe in both male leadership and female partnership as we “rule the earth” together for God in our particular sphere, including church and family, there is a lot of interaction where we are working things out together, and more often than not Andreas comes around to Margaret’s way of thinking when the decision finally needs to be made on what to do. Occasionally, Andreas, even after listening to Margaret’s reasoning, is not convinced and takes the lead in choosing a certain course of action that differs from what she would suggest, and in those cases Margaret is submitting to Andreas’s leadership anyway.

In many cases, disagreements are a matter of differing perspectives, so even if Andreas still believes a given course of action is best, he benefits from Margaret sharing her perspective with him which enables him to get to know her better. There aren’t necessarily any hard feelings nor should there be. This is how you can have genuine partnership as well as male leadership in a marriage.

The problem really comes if either of us harbors an attitude of superiority because of sin. This actually cuts both ways. You might initially think that the husband might tend to disparage the woman’s role because it is at times considered less significant in our culture, but it is also possible for the woman to disparage her husband when he doesn’t live up to her expectations. Because of her fallen nature, she may tend to criticize him or resist his efforts to lead, however imperfect they may be. Living in the Spirit and trusting in God’s good design while extending forgiveness in these situations is the grace-filled solution.

We’re all a work in progress, and need a lot of grace, and so should extend grace to our spouse as well!

August 5, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Interview,Life / Doctrine,Marriage,Marriage & Family,Men,The Christian Life,Women | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:15 am | 0 Comments »

What Is Divine Inspiration (and Why Does It Matter)?

guest post

This is a guest post by Gerald Bray. He is the author of God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology.


Inspiration and Its Fruit

A great deal has been written about the inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy of Holy Scripture, though only the first of these terms is found in the Bible itself. Infallibility and inerrancy are best viewed as logical deductions from the principle of divine inspiration. The former term became current in the nineteenth century, when Protestants applied it to the Bible and Roman Catholics to the papacy, but “inerrancy” is of more recent origin.

The general line of argument is that if the Bible is divinely inspired, it must also be infallible because God would not lead his people astray. To be truly infallible, however, it must not contain any errors, because even the smallest mistake might mislead people and cause them to err or (if they discovered the mistake) to doubt the truth of God’s Word. Arguments of this kind make logical sense, but they come up against the obvious objections that we do not possess the original manuscripts and that all the copies we have contain errors of various kinds. This means that no truly “inerrant” text exists, but that does not necessarily imply that the copies we have are misleading and says nothing at all about whether they are inspired by God.

Modern Controversy

A great deal of controversy surrounds these terms, and it is fair to say that in the modern church, belief in what they represent is the hallmark of conservative, and usually evangelical, believers. But it is also fair to say that traditionally orthodox Christians have always believed that the Bible is divinely inspired, and the unique place occupied by its text in Christian worship bears witness to that fact.

In ancient times it was commonly believed that poets were inspired by a muse or other genius, who gave them the superhuman talent they possessed. Inspiration applied primarily to the people who composed literary works, and not to the works themselves. In the New Testament, we find both—holy men were moved by the Spirit of God, but the texts they produced were also breathed out by him. This quality was the mark of their holiness and the guarantee of their supreme authority in the life of the church.

“Infallibility” emerged as a way of saying that the Scriptures do not teach error, and “inerrancy” makes it more precise by insisting that they do not contain it either. Both terms have suffered from the excessive zeal of some of their proponents, who have made extravagant claims that go beyond what can be proved from the texts themselves. For example, some have said that Job must have been a historical person, since he is described in that way in the book that bears his name, but it is just as likely that he is a fictional character whom the anonymous author created in order to make a series of important theological points. To use “inerrancy” as an excuse for insisting on the historicity of Job is going too far, and the term loses its credibility when such claims are made on the basis of it.

Juridical Terms

The best way to look at these words is to see them as essentially juridical terms. The Bible is the written constitution of the church and must be interpreted as such. Its authority is absolute, and therefore it is both infallible and inerrant as far as the life of the church is concerned. No Christian preacher or teacher has any right to distort or minimize its teaching, and every word in it must be carefully weighed and its meaning considered. We do not have to worry if some parts of it (such as the Old Testament food laws) are no longer immediately applicable today, because that is often true of human laws as well. A state constitution almost certainly contains provisions that are now obsolete, but they retain the authority of the document as a whole, and if the circumstances for which they were designed should recur, they would come back into force.

The Bible is very much like that, except that it also contains a spiritual message that can be applied in spiritual ways long after the material circumstances in which it was originally revealed have disappeared. If we view matters in that way, then the Bible will not lead us astray, nor will it teach us anything that is false to the Spirit who inspired it.

What About Mistakes?

We do not need to worry too much about the mistakes scribes made in copying, since many of these can be corrected and few have any real significance as far as the meaning of the original is concerned. Some areas of doubt remain, but as long as we do not put too much weight on words or passages that are unclear, this should not affect our understanding of the overall message of the text.

More serious are the allegations that the Bible contains errors of fact or of judgment that are not accidental. For example, archaeologists have raised questions about the Israelite invasion of Palestine under Joshua because evidence for the collapse of the walls at Jericho or the destruction of Ai is either missing or does not support the claims made in Scripture. Historians have found no evidence for the existence of Esther or Daniel, and many scholars believe that they were made up in later times for what were essentially political reasons.

The New Testament is less open to this kind of objection because the time period it covers is much shorter and better known, but there are still many details about the life of Jesus and the career of the apostle Paul which are hard to piece together from the texts. Did Jesus cleanse the temple at the beginning of his ministry or at the end, or did he do it twice, as some scholars have tried to argue? More radical scholars might ask whether the event ever happened at all, and suggest that it was concocted by the disciples to make a theological point.

These are hard and perhaps impossible questions to answer, partly because the evidence is insufficient for us to decide either way and partly because the intention of the original author(s) is unclear. Scholars do their best to resolve these difficulties, on the reasonable assumption that the problems were not apparent to those who first wrote or read the texts and so there must be some explanation for them. The explanation may not always be what we would expect, and certain questions remain unanswerable in our present state of knowledge, but it would be most unwise to accuse the text of lying or misrepresenting the facts simply because we do not know what they are. The true researcher, like a good detective, will persevere until he has found a solution and refuse to comment on facile theories which discount the witness of the texts. They, after all, are a major part of the evidence we have, and must be treated with due caution and respect.

Inspiration the Key

From the standpoint of the ordinary believer, arguments about the “historicity” of the biblical text are important because our faith is based on truth, but such arguments are not the heart of the matter. The Bible is not the source of our doctrine and spiritual life merely because it contains no errors, since the same might be said of a dictionary or computer manual. Infallibility and inerrancy have their place, but divine inspiration remains the key to interpreting the text because that is what makes it the Word of God. The apostle Paul spoke to us all when he wrote to Timothy,

The sacred writings . . . are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

In other words, the Bible is our textbook for learning and growing in our faith, so that we may be able to live as we should and bear witness to the truth of the gospel we have received in Christ Jesus.

This post was adapted from God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology by Gerald Bray.

August 4, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Scripture,Theology | Author: Matt Tully @ 9:00 am | 0 Comments »

Video: A Word of Encouragement from Jen Wilkin

Thank You!

We want to thank the thousands of women who signed up for Women of the Word Month! We’re grateful for all the encouraging emails, tweets, and comments that many of you sent our way over the last thirty-one days.

Here’s a final word of encouragement and advice from Jen Wilkin:


A Word of Encouragement from Jen Wilkin from Crossway on Vimeo.

We hope that this effort was helpful to your Christian life and that you learned something along the way.

As we close out the month, we want to remind you of two new resources that may help as you look to studying the Bible this fall:

Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds by Jen Wilkin

We all know it’s important to study God’s Word.

But sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. What’s more, a lack of time, emotionally driven approaches, and past frustrations can erode our resolve to keep growing in our knowledge of Scripture. How can we, as Christian women, keep our focus and sustain our passion when reading the Bible?

Offering a clear and concise plan to help women go deeper in their study of Scripture, this book will equip you to engage God’s Word in a way that trains your mind and transforms your heart.

Learn More / Read an Excerpt

The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible

The ESV Women’s Devotional Bible is a valuable resource for strengthening women in their walk with God. Applicable for women in any stage of life, the Women’s Devotional Bible is theologically rich in content while remaining accessible and practical. Readers will be encouraged in daily, prayerful Bible study, and equipped to understand and apply the Bible to every aspect of life.

The Women’s Devotional Bible features materials designed especially for women. The book introductions, character sketches of key figures, all-new daily devotionals, and all-new articles have been written by both women and men contributors. These contributors include professors, musicians, authors, counselors, homemakers, and conference speakers.

Learn More / Read an Excerpt

August 1, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life / Doctrine,Marriage & Family,News,Video,Women,Women of the Word Month | Author: Matt Tully @ 4:00 am | (2) Comments »

Video: The Picky Eater Approach to Bible Study

 

We all know it’s important to study God’s Word.

But sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin . . . especially when you’re feeling a bit lost in the middle of Leviticus.

Looking for some help? Check out Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin—a book written to help you develop a plan for engaging, consistent, and transformative Bible study.

For more, be sure to check out the infographic (6 Counterproductive Approaches to Studying the Bible) or download a free excerpt from the book!