Monday, December 18, 2006


I'm going to lay out a few thoughts on the fully-mis-worded subject of "Women in Ministry," as it is too often called. Please, for the sake of all things of value, post SOMETHING if you disagree with anything in this post. I am so tired of arguing with myself since the people who write on this topic don't ever (1) defend their position nor (2) deal with the other side. Even if you agree with a conclusion but see something wrong in the path getting there, WRITE SOMETHING!!

So let me clarify: the issue is, can a woman be in authority over a man? Or, can a woman be in the top-authority position (typical example, "senior pastor")? This post will not deal with the issue of having a senior pastor since it is only used as an example common to us today.

1) Paul writes about how a woman cannot teach/exercise authority (v.12) over a man. I would take, as is common among the commentaries (but evidently not among the Greek-to-English interpreters), that "teach" and "exercise authority" are appositional. Thus I would write it, "teach-exercise authority" as if they mutually define each other.

2) Paul writes that a male has headship over a woman, just like the Father has headship over Jesus.

So let me stop there with the Biblical quotes and make a few observations in no particular order:
First, Jesus is fully qualified to be in-charge, but He wasn't allowed to be [parallel: why can't women lead when they are equally 'qualified']. Makes one wonder if this is a question of "qualification."
Second, both times, Paul refers to Creation as his rationale.
Third, Paul has most of the self-explaining writing on this subject

It is very common to also read our current need-for-power into Paul's context. Paul's use of Jesus and the Father or the Church and Jesus as a parallel/metaphor seems to imply that he (Paul) did not view leading the same way we do since the examples and metaphors we use have nothing in common with Paul's (e.g. slavery, C.E.O., etc.).

-- First Observation: Leading is supposed to be an act of Love and seen as a gift to the followers. If this isn't happening, then the leading is bad. No matter the gender of the leader! Please don't deal with bad leadership as some kind of male-dominance issue.

-- Second Observation: The common critique is that this issue comes from Paul's opinions (even though they almost universally cite Paul as their primary verses for male-female equality). This works its way into two, dominant threads.
First, the "obvious" male-and-female, side-by-side documentaries (e.g. Priscilla and Aquilla). This is a frustrating one to hear because it is, by definition, wholly subjective and flat-out reading into the accounts, basing the whole weight of the argument on word order. Yikes.
Second, the idea is espoused that Paul was putting his own bias and/or culture into his writings. This obviously runs into issues of how much control God kept in the writing of the Bible. I have yet to see it written (although I presume it has) that someone will come out and say, "This is my stance, and it works because I don't see God having much control over what Paul wrote." I don't subscribe to that idea of how the Bible was formed. Fine. The actual problem is this: without some kind of restraint on the writers, we have NO idea what is or is not cultural / we have no idea what is from God!! Too often I have heard in these contexts, I believe what Jesus said, not Paul. And we know what Jesus said from . . . Jewish, male writers with the same culture as Paul. Hmm. Making Paul suspect makes Matt., Mark, Luke, and John suspect, too. Then Jesus really does become God in (wo)man's image.

The other trend I see is that the whole male-over-female authority structure is an issue of the Fall and is therefore something that is reversed by Jesus and should be reversed by His Body as it ushers in the Kingdom.
Problem #1: "the Fall" refers to Gen. 3:16 where the woman is told the man will rule over her. A quick read brings up a goofy word: "desire." Susan Foh wrote an article many moons ago showing how this word "desire" translates a Hebrew word that shows up in Gen. 4:7 and Song of Solomon 7:10. Gen. 4:7 is an issue of who gets control, Song 7:10 is an issue of sexual attraction. Not too difficult to find out how Moses uses the word, go 15 verses and see it's a control issue. So we have the Fall and, as is written, the inequality starts. She has to be ruled by man.
-- why don't we see the woman's desire to control her husband / men as part of the Fall?!? It's in the same sentence! We are only going to condemn HALF the verse?!?
Problem #2: Paul, in both the examples I cite above, goes back to Creation. Pre-Fall!

Note of sadness. Two things bum me out in this: 1) we're taking whacks at the Scriptures because it's contrary to current struggles (why don't people go after forgiveness - that one's a whole lot more difficult to live out!) and (2) most women I've seen get into positions of authority end up leading just like the bone-headed males that have preceded her for the last few centuries.

There it is. My current ;-) thesis. Please hack away!! Even if you're reading this months or years after it has been posted - please respond if you disagree with one single word, phrase, sentence, idea . . .

[The real issue, for me, is the quality of the leadership which is STILL not being addressed!!]

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Future is starting to bubble-over in my head

My incredible yet former boss, Brad Holaway, gave me an article from Forbes (September 2006) titled "The Cheap Revolution." 'Cheap Revolution' is a term coined by a Forbes writer (that's why almost no one else is using the phrase!) for the latest wave in technology that typically has to do with networking and/or the Internet. The article raised the temperature in my mind...

I'd rather think about the future

What I dream about, in a nutshell (note: every word is specifically used):
i) the Church, the people of God, would live in submission and reliance on the Holy Spirit

ii) the Church would shift towards every person living out what God has wired-into ("giftedness") or said-to ("listening to the Spirit") them

iii) the current Church would get ahead of this time of change and create a place, a space, that is fully-ready for the future when it/they/we get(s) there

Back to the article. The author rightly identifies what is happening but misses the trajectory of what is happening. He sees it as fully economic (specifically, people are going away from the big companies to cheap, fast, often free versions that do less but do them better - this is also sometimes called 'Web 2.0 initiative'). I see it as deconstruction. Most philosophical changes start in the arts and end in the masses and then finally in the social structures (which have traditionally been religious in the West). Here, this aspect of the Modern era is showing up differently than other shifts in the past because our economics, information, and "industry" are becoming one-and-the-same - and this new hybrid is being led by artists loosely called "programmers." See Google's lifespan so far as an example.

These artists are deconstructing what has been, even what they themselves have created. This is more than just economics, more than just competition. Here are a few quotes from the article:

  • "The last thing elite talent wants to do is work on making a 15-year-old software program into a 20-year-old software program." Scott Dietzen, former principal architect at BEA
  • "Startups always define the new era." William Coleman ("Bill" - "B" of BEA; around 2001 he was personally worth $900 million - he himself! He has since left and started a startup)
It was interesting to see how many statements/quotes in this article could easily, if taken out of context, sound like a quote from many of the church-planters I read or the Christians (even leaders) who are irritated with the way things are.

But even moreso. The guys being quoted spoke repeatedly that the form, the structure, the layout of the past generation of tech. companies is not the problem these companies now face. The first quote above (Scott) captured it: the problem is that everyone is required to maintain, nothing more than better what is. One more quote from William Coleman, "To survive, companies must undergo a transplant of corporate DNA, and few survive the surgery."

Suppose Coleman's right, startups define what's next. IF that is true, then it's not too hard to see what's next for the Church in the West: small, even house, local churches that subscribe to a wholly different set of values, needs, and beliefs.

Assuming Coleman's right, are we nothing short of fools if we simply point fingers and say "That's bad," distancing ourselves into what will become battle camps!?!? Not based on anything as grand as "spiritual" issues, this is simply a matter of social observation -- startups define what's next. Remember when every new church played acoustic or rock music, contrary to the churches of the day? So when was the last time a church ordered a set of pipes for its organ?

Worse still . . . Modernity is ending. In Mapping Postmodernism, Robert Greer correctly (I think) states that what we currently call "post-modern" is actually "hyper-modern." It's more Modernity taken to the next step. It's kind of like living with another family you really respect, like, admire, are in awe with. Stick around long enough (500 years in the case of Modernity) and you'll see its own uglinesses.

My proposal: draw some trajectories through what is currently being kept, challenged, and replaced to see if we can see what is coming up. Then start preparing a place, a space, for people for when they are done churning the waters (i.e the upheaval that will then lead to whatever comes after Modernity).

"... and few will survive the surgery." I hate this, but perhaps it is true. I'm not sure I'm willing to give up on the idea that what is cannot change into what will be good for tomorrow. I know some others, whom I respect deeply, aren't so sure.

Just in case, I'm starting a new idea: a wave inside the Church that will rise when what we currently have stops working. It would work like this, a coalition of people (not just leaders) who have in their mind to establish local churches that are specifically designed to be healthy for the citizens of the year 2030.

Monday, December 11, 2006

the Problem with Forgiveness

I was reading a book called Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida that asks two highly divergent philosophers what they thought of the September 11 attacks just a few months after they happened. Habermas has a highly political bent to his philosophy while Derrida likes to see what's causing things to happen.

Derrida has an interesting distinction between conditional and unconditional forgiveness (the latter he calls impossible forgiveness - more below). Conditional forgiveness is the "I forgive you / there are consequences" whereas unconditional forgiveness is "I forgive you and there are no consequences to your actions."

On page 143, After weaving a few threads together, Derrida basically says unconditional forgiveness is impossible forgiveness (at the very minimum, we carry the pain/scar of the episode where one autonomous human destroys the other's autonomy by taking over some aspect of their life: physical striking, emotional striking, being neglected, etc.).

It's a brilliant piece that basically deconstructs unconditional-forgiveness so that it is impossible to do while still maintaining one's autonomy (seen, for example, in Democracy wherein the individual has the right to be oneself and not "puppeted" by another).

Beautiful! Saying it another way: without an outside force, unconditional forgiveness is impossible! If one believes individuals are responsible for themselves, then unconditional forgiveness will never happen among humans. [Note: I do not fully subscribe to 100% individual responsibility, but I am gathering most people do]

But with Children of God, we DO have an outside "Force" that gives us the ability to have Unconditional Forgiveness. Further, "God's autonomy" does not have to be questioned in that He is self-autonomous (vs. created).

It's a pretty lame book, but I really like how Derrida paints us all into a corner: without direct activity by God Himself, no one will ever experience what we all so desperately desire: unconditional forgiveness! Notice, without unconditional forgiveness, there will never be unconditional love.

Democracy Destroyed by Consumerism

Another quote from Philosophy in a Time of Terror. This time by Jurgen Habermas.

"Without the political taming of an unbounded capitalism, the devastating stratification of world society will remain intractable."

In other words, we can push for Democracy as hard as we can ("we" = U.S., U.N., etc.), but until we "tame" our consumption (consumerism, capitalism), we will ALWAY be forcing some countries to be lower and some countries to be higher (especially while we remain at that top).
- the height metaphor being defined as: who can take over, devastate, or force their will on another

Problem: Democracy is based on Capitalism as a form of government. Consumerism is also based on Capitalism - as a form of economics. We don't want to be told we cannot buy something, for example. We have come to live on Democracy and Consumerism as the politco-economic foundation of our daily living.

And as long as we do this, we force the rest of the world to remain "under" the U.S. Even worse, I would contend, we cannot stop just the economic part of Capitalism - it's an all-or-nothing issue in that it is so foundational.

[Notice: the Kingdom of God has its own government, economics, society, and (non)geography!!!]

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Defining "postmodern"

Rene' Descartes, "I think (actually 'doubt'), therefore I am." -- 1600's A.D.
- with this, most every idea for the following 400 years was able to be "validated."

post-Descartes question (asked sincerely, not in aggression), "Why you and not me / why your thinking and not mine?" -- 1940's+ A.D.
- with this, post-Modern philosophy pulled the rug out from under the last 400 years.

Today, perhaps, "What was on the rug?" -- 2006 A.D.