Professor April DeConick On Studying The Transgressors

OK, I freely admit that football season here in the states has slowed down my progress on 1 Timothy.

In one sense, this is good. It takes time to think through the project and come up with more questions to ask and more options to consider.

As an aside, I happened to listen to a video today and just had to post up the quote because it seems to apply to the 1 Timothy study quite well!

Starting at about 8:29  in the video, Professor DeConick states that she likes to study “the transgressors”…those “on the edges” and states that one of her professors told her,
“If you want to understand the really early traditions look at the people on the edges about a hundred years later because as the tradition norms, as it becomes more normal and less radical, those radical people in the beginning are pushed toward the outside and so are their ideas.”
Further, she asks, “Why did they become outsiders? Because at some point they were insiders.”
Very good questions to ask in an examination of a letter that appears to have been a power play to create just such an insider/outsider division.
A little something to tease the mind and consider as we look at the early church, who was in, who was out, etc…
You can peruse her most excellent site direct at:

How did the church in China grow from 2 million to 120 million in 60 years?

Great new video posted on the Verge Network featuring Alan Hirsch giving a workshop on Organic Systems.

He attributes the growth to the lack of a centralized and defined leadership.  The exponential growth is a direct result of an organic system:

Everyone gets to play…everyone.  And we’ve locked all that up because we’ve professionalized the ministry.

He goes on to discuss the negative effects of ordination and the clergy/laity distinction:

If I were the Devil and I wanted to strike a real blow at the people movement (the exponential growth) one of the best ways to do it would be to create a clergy class and a laity class.

I couldn’t agree more!

On the positive side, he presses into the early church model of everyone serving as they are gifted as found in Ephesians 4:

1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it[a] says:

“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”[b]

9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions[c]? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

I agree with Hirsch that one cannot find a developed/centralized leadership expressed in the New Testament and that is why there was such success in the beginning years of the church.

Conversely, the church, especially in the West has become almost universally stagnant in its most recognized and accepted form.

It is certainly refreshing to see so many people interested in moving up and out of the current and ill-fated systems of programmatic church for the real life seen not only in the New Testament, but clearly in China, India and many other parts of the world.

Women And Ministry In The Early Church

I see this as one of the most pressing issues and also one of the most fruitless issues in the church today.  I typically don’t give much time or effort to it because I am settled in my stance – a fully inclusive approach – which I see as the practice of the early churches.

That said, here is an excellent video in which NT Wright briefly addresses the issue quite well.

He encapsulates my primary take on the issue at 4:20 into the video where he states that the only way one would have a problem with women involved in ministry is if they hold church tradition over the scripture itself.

That is exactly the crux of the issue, and the problem only gets worse the more tradition is added over the centuries leaving us with an exhausting, divisive and distracting debate among Christians these days, which Paul also warned about.  (1 Timothy 1, for “those who have ears”…)

The book Wright refers to at the end of the video is his Paul For Everyone: The Pastoral Epistles, a very approachable and well written commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus.  It reads much like a conversation yet also handles the issues quite well, so I highly recommend the series.  You can also see similar and more in depth info. on his site here.

We must keep in mind the original setting of 1 Timothy.

Paul is writing to Timothy, a young leader in Ephesus, who is asked by Paul to help keep the churches there focused on sound teaching and practice.

In Ephesus, was the Temple of Artemis, which NT Wright explains:

…was a massive structure which dominated the area.  As befitted worshippers of a female deity, the priests were all women.  They ruled the show and kept the men in their place.”  (Paul For Everyone: The Pastoral Letters pg. 25)

So, we see that the setting in which Timothy found himself was one in which women held a special and esteemed place in society in the popular religious cult of the community.  The church, in order to proceed among the Ephesians in sharing the gospel of Jesus must be careful to do at least two things:

  1. Maintain the beliefs and practices that Jesus had left and that his apostles passed on to the churches.
  2. Maintain a distinction from the popular cultural religious practices, especially since these practices directly challenged and would compromise the teachings of Jesus Christ and his apostles.

In this light, it makes sense for Paul to ask Timothy to set standards that would ensure that the church would develop in a healthy manner in the midst of the popular pagan cult.  NT Wright states that Paul’s concern was that:

…men and women alike can develop whatever gifts of learning, teaching and leadership God is giving them.  (Paul For Everyone: The Pastoral Letters pg. 26)

The goal then, is not simply to put restrictions on women.  It is to challenge both men and women to leave behind the old stereotypes concerning men and women.  (1 Tim. 2:8-9)

  • Men should seek action in prayer as opposed to being loud, argumentative and factitious.
  • Women should seek beauty and significance in wisdom and good deeds as opposed to fancy dress and jewelry.

Primarily then, the church – men and women alike – should seek to represent Christ and his gospel above all – above culture, religion, and typical male/female distinction.  The goal is to ensure a “good testimony” as Jesus did.  (1 Tim. 6:13-14)

As we can see then, much of the argumentation on this topic simply misses the point.  In the process of reading and interpreting the Bible, it is imperative that we not impose our own cultural or traditional baggage onto the text, but let it inform and challenge us to re-interpret our culture and traditions in light of Jesus Christ and what he calls us to be and do as his church.

The Hippie Preacher

My wife and I recently watched Lonnie Frisbee: The Life And Death Of A Hippie Preacher a few days ago and I highly recommend it!  Netflix has it here

Maybe because I live in southern California, maybe because I spent some time in the Calvary Chapel movement, or maybe because I saw the early church in Frisbee, whatever the reason I was drawn to the film.

As I continue to reflect on this film, I realize there are some themes and issues that the church today desperately needs to wrestle with. 

First, and probably most related to this blog, I found it surprising how fast and how fatally religion can quell the work of the Spirit in the church.  Frisbee was definitely a charismatic man who was very much in tune with the Spirit of God.  Yet, his story is all too familiar.  As I interpreted the film, organized churches sought to “tap into” Frisbee’s life and gifting for their benefit, only to throw him by the wayside when they were finished with him.  I hope Frisbee saw that for what it was and ultimately perceived a deeper connection with Jesus in his rejection and condemnation among his own people – a bittersweet union. 

Second, how fast we can either forget our history or how easily it can get spun to the benefit of another.  For years, I heard that Chuck Smith embraced the hippies and brought them into the church.  Yet, this film reveals that Pastor Smith never did so until after he met Frisbee and it was Frisbee’s ministry that brought the hippies to the meetings in Costa Mesa.  Indeed, Calvary Chapel pastors and historians will tell of Chuck Smith baptizing hundreds in Corona Del Mar, yet original video footage shows Frisbee doing so.  So, the question must be asked,

“Why re-write history?” 

Well, as the opening lines of another of my favorite movies (Braveheart) state:

“History is written by those who have hanged heroes.”

Those who are left standing tell the tale, and in this case it can be identified as organized religion.  That enticing call that says, “The show must go on.”  In this case, the churches involved essentially excommunicated Frisbee when he needed them most.  I have to ask, “Is there anything too embarrasing or too uncouth that cannot be touched by the love of Christ?  But it seems, these churchmen sought to tame Frisbee and in the end put him out.  As you can probably tell, this deeply saddens and angers me.  But that matters not, “the show must go on.”

Third, it is about time that the church accept people as they are changed by Christ and not change people to be accepted by Christ.  We have misrepresented the gospel in the name of Christ by manipulating and controlling people to fit into preconceived molds that are quite simply not scriptural.  In fact, they reveal our struggle with the gospel – as if to say, “It can’t really be that good!”

This film raises several issues that fit into this category.  Culturally it engages hippies, drugs and homosexuality in the church.  Theologically it engages ministry, the role of the Spirit, and the gospel.  In short, perhaps it is time to realize that the answers to these questions need to be reevaluated in light of scripture. 

Essentially, this film is about an all too familiar topic.  That of the church shooting it’s wounded. 

I believe that if we take our eyes off of the religious system long enough, we will once again see that what Jesus was all about was bringing people to the Father. 

It is, truly, much more simple than we make it out to be.

So, get the movie and let me know what you think!

Superb Resource – Bibledex

I am so happy to see this new resource in development by the university of Nottingham!

The video below is a short overview..their goal is to have a video for each book of the Bible.  They currently have Matthew, 1 Corinthians and Philemon posted.

These videos are sharp, cutting-edge, and well crafted on all fronts.  I look forward to future videos and hope they are even a bit longer!  Highly recommended to any student of the Bible…