A Response To The Gospel Coalition “Review” Of ‘A Year Of Biblical Womanhood’

 

 

I’m still waiting for someone from the complementarian/Neo-Reformed tradition to actually write a review of Rachel’s book and not a theological polemic. Honestly, I might even settle for a decent, rational polemic, but alas, all we get are ridiculous, thinly veiled theological attacks from Desiring God and now from The Gospel Coalition.

This post is a response to the attack from Kathy Keller at The Gospel Coalition.

 

Kathy, you position yourself in this polemic as holding some sort of orthodox, universally affirmed scriptural hermeneutic that Rachel inexplicably ignores. However, no such hermeneutic exists. It hasn’t existed for 1,000 years. If it did, the church wouldn’t be divided into literally tens of thousands of denominations.

What’s more, you position your hermeneutic as an objective, clear reading of scripture when it is anything but. I understand this is the go-to weapon of choice in your tradition as it allows you to call your opponents stupid without just coming out and saying it. After all, anybody that doesn’t see a clear and obvious approach or meaning is stupid, right?

The problem with your “objective” hermeneutic is it is profoundly subjective. When you begin with the premise “all the commandments the Bible genuinely addresses to Christian women” you set yourself up from the beginning as the only possible winner because you hold all the cards – only those commandments you agree with, only the commandments you consider valid are “genuine.” Yet, you also critique Rachel for picking and choosing Biblical prescriptions. I am honestly dumbfounded as to why you think this obvious hypocrisy makes for solid footing to launch into your polemic.

Moreover, because you set yourself up as the arbiter of what is a “genuine commandment,” you get to decide what is or is not a commandment. This allows you to tear apart Rachel for following a section of wisdom literature as if it were one of the Levitical laws governing sacrifice. Such slight of hand rhetoric should be beneath the dignity of The Gospel Coalition. Worse yet, your Old Testament vs. New Testament hermeneutic reeks of Marcionism. Since we’re talking about “fundamental positions,” do I really need to remind you that Marcionism is absolutely a universally held heresy?

Then we come to this gem,
You tell readers they won’t ultimately be able to follow everything the Bible teaches, that they will have to choose some things and ignore others. But what will be their standard or means for doing so? Throughout your book, you have ignored or even hidden from readers the fundamental principles of scriptural interpretation—including the difference between narrative and didactic, as well as the importance of placing commands in their context within redemptive history.

Seriously?
 
You’ve literally spent your entire polemic ignoring or hiding from your readers the reality that the “fundamental principles of scriptural interpretation” you appeal to are your fundamental principles and not part of some imaginary apostolic hermeneutical tradition that, once again, hasn’t existed for a millennium.

I’m actually not disagreeing with you that there are long held hermeneutical traditions. I’m just telling you that if that’s the rhetorical card you want to play, you’re at the wrong table. You’re going to want to be in either the Roman Catholic or Orthodox church if this is the sort of way you want to argue. Also, you’ll need to drag Rachel along with you.

Simply put, you can’t hold your hermeneutical tradition over someone’s head in a different tradition and pretend as if you hold all the cards of orthodoxy. To do so is either profoundly arrogant or incredibly ignorant. You can certainly say “this doesn’t line up with my particular Christian tradition,” but to attack someone who is not part of that particular tradition for not holding up that particular hermeneutical ideology is the height of absurdity.

Finally, if you’re going to bash Rachel for focusing too much on Old Testament prescriptions and not enough on New Testament ones, then I suggest you try taking your own advice. Even though Jesus said he didn’t come to abolish the law and that not a single iota of the law would pass away, (passages you conspicuously ignore, or is it hide?), if Jesus’ words completely trump the Law and you want to faithfully follow Jesus’ un-”muddied” teaching, then you need to start chopping of limbs and gouging out eyes when they cause you to sin. Otherwise, you need to concede the fact your interpretation of Scripture and your following of that tradition are just that. They’re yours. They’re not universally held, fundamental positions.

You’re free to follow that tradition and argue for it vigorously. But you don’t have the right to hold your position over and against the rest of the church as Christian orthodoxy. It’s not. It’s not even close.

All that to say, I do need to offer you a word of thanks.

Thanks for writing the end of this post for me,

You have become what you claim to despise; you have imposed your own agenda on Scripture in order to advance your own goals. In doing so, you have further muddied the waters of biblical interpretation instead of bringing any clarity to the task.

 

Grace and peace,
Zack Hunt

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/nish.weiseth Nish Weiseth

    *Slow Clap*

    • ZackHunt

      There is no higher praise than the slow clap.

  • http://twitter.com/brianleport Brian LePort

    Zach,

    Very well said. You point out the most obvious and frustrating flaw of Keller’s argument. Couldn’t have written a better response

  • http://lukelivingthetension.blogspot.com/ Luke Harms

    I totally just stood up when you quoted her review at the end. At my desk. At work. Stood up.
    Great response, and thanks for making me look like a crazy person.

    • ZackHunt

      Lol my apologies.

      Although I just pictured that in my head and really wish I could have been there to see it. :)

      • http://lukelivingthetension.blogspot.com/ Luke Harms

        There might’ve been a fist raised in solidarity as well. Maybe.

        • http://www.facebook.com/nish.weiseth Nish Weiseth

          You totally did the Tiger Woods victory fist-pump, huh?

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    **Boom.** I think God sent Sandy away from Connecticut just so you could write this post. ;) But really, you put it perfectly. You can’t hold one tradition over another as normative and orthodox.

    • http://www.facebook.com/patrick.lafferty.773 Patrick Lafferty

      didn’t you just hold one hermeneutic over another in your statement that no hermeneutic is most plausible?

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    Just to start with how bad a review Keller’s is, Paul was going to pay for animal sacrifices in the temple in Acts 21. That she does not know this is obvious.

  • composerchris

    I can think of many other things that are the “height of absurdity.” Language like this doesn’t prove your point or give it credibility. Talk about thinly veiled accusations of stupidity!

    • ZackHunt

      You are correct. Language like that doesn’t prove my point.

      The rest of the post does.

      • composerchris

        I disagree. But, as your post summarizes, we are both entitled to our equally valid opinions.

        • ZackHunt

          “as your post summarizes, we are both entitled to our equally valid opinions.”

          Now that we can definitely on.

  • Pingback: Theology Roundup — October 2012 | Cheesewearing Theology

  • http://twitter.com/JeremyCushman Jeremy Cushman

    As Marshall Eriksen might say, “lawyered” (it’s a term denoting one’s victory in argumentative discourse).

    I know that the specific topic was a response from TGC to Rachel’s latest book, but I can’t help but notice how applicable this post might be to many other controversial topics. The “you can’t pick and choose” argument, as proven here, stems from someone somewhere picking and choosing. And yet, as you point out quite nicely, the real issue isn’t picking and choosing; it’s lording one’s own beliefs and opinions over another’s.

    Kudos, Zach. Very well said indeed.

  • http://twitter.com/sharideth Sharideth Smith

    And this is why we’re friends. Well played, Zack. Well played.

  • http://charityjilldenmark.wordpress.com/ Charity Jill Denmark

    This helped bring my blood pressure down after getting mired in the comments section over at her post. (But I blame Ed Cyzewski, whose excellent comment lured me there.)

    • ZackHunt

      I also blame Ed. Had he not sent me the link to the “review” this rant would probably never have happened. :)

  • http://twitter.com/TheParableMan Jeremy Pierce

    Wow, way to miss the point. Certainly there are disagreements among people of different traditions about how to interpret biblical texts. It’s a bit weird that you’re pretending Kathy Keller doesn’t know that. But she points to some pretty basic principles of textual interpretation that just about everyone agrees on, ones that this particular book ignores in trying to lampoon and misrepresent complementarians. I know of no one who would actually defend accepting the New Testament while at the same time accepting that we should follow the particular commands of ritual law in the old covenant. Rachel Held Evans pretends complementarians do so, but they simply don’t. I know of no one who thinks wisdom literature should be read as divine commands. I know of no one who thinks narrative that merely recounts something happening should be taken as endorsing its rightness, when there is no sign from the narrator that it should do so. There are people who in practice violate these and thus commit hermeneutical fallacies, but you’re pretending that the principles Kathy Keller gives are controversial. Point to someone who denies them.

    Furthermore, you’re failing to distinguish between two epistemological levels of analysis. One is where subjectivity does creep in, and that is our own attempts to figure out proper hermeneutical principles and to apply them. Another is where subjectivity does not crept in, and that is which principles objectively do apply, i.e. which principles do get the text right and apply it rightly in the setting we happen to occupy. We’d have to be God to be infallible in the first. We ourselves don’t determine the second. God does. And thus God’s infallibility does make for objectively correct principles, even if our access to them is fallible.

    Now why do I think you’re failing to make this distinction? Here is how Kathy Keller presents Rachel Held Evans. She says she accuses complementarians of picking and choosing. But then she says we all do. And then she says it’s right to. But she doesn’t allow for there to be any truth of which principles are right or any access to any information about which hermeneutical principles might be better than others, and so she acts as if she can just choose whichever principles suit her. Not having read the book, I have no idea if it’s accurate to what Rachel Held Evans does. But it’s not the same thing you’re accusing Kathy Keller of doing. You’re accusing her of having hermeneutical principles. She does have them. And she’s fallible in arriving at them. She might not have all of them right. There is subjectivity to that, But Kathy Keller does not think that which principles are correct admits of any subjectivity, and she does think Rachel Held Evans accepts something like that.

    She sees the proper approach as seeking to figure out what the Bible really says and how God wants us to live, whereas Evans’ language suggests figuring out what we can get out of the Bible and rejecting the rest. Surely those who favor the former may not always be good at it. But the goals of the two approaches are opposite, and it’s not hypocrisy to condemn the goal of one while being imperfect in carrying out the other. That would be like saying that it’s hypocrisy to hold up a standard of never being jealous while struggling with jealousy yourself. It’s not. It’s just being imperfect. Hypocrisy would be secretly doing the thing you roundly condemn while knowing that you have no interest in doing what you recommend.

    So it’s patently unfair to claim that she’s doing the very thing she accuses Rachel Held Evans of doing. What she’s doing is subjective on a different epistemological level, and that makes all the difference. I’m sure she’d admit that she’s fallible in figuring out the proper hermeneutics, but she’s not going to say that its all right to give up the game and just go with our own preferences. We should seek to have the hermeneutical framework that helps us get where God wants us to be. If she’s right about Evans, then Evans has given up on that and embraced the subjectivity on both levels. Keller has not done that, and quoting her criticism as if it applies to her fails to see this crucial distinction.

    And I should add that you exemplify the very thing in the Evans book that Keller rightly criticizes. She points out that literalism is simply not the same thing as the complentarian view that Evans is criticizing. You give a nice example. Literally gouging out your eye fails to take into account the proverbial nature of what Jesus was saying. It misses the genre. You say that if Keller wants to focus on figuring out proper hermeneutics, including getting genre right, then she needs to fail to focus on figuring out proper hermeneutics, including getting genre right. And I’m left wondering if you even read the same review. How anything she’s saying should lead to the opposite conclusion of what she explicitly says is beyond me.

    And the Marcionism critique again misses the point. Nowhere in the Keller review do I see anything about rejecting the Old Testament, as if it’s not God’s word. What it does say is that the New Testament itself gives us reasons not to follow all the Old Testament commands as if they apply to us the way they applied to Israel under the old covenant. The idea of a new covenant is not new with Marcion, who didn’t actually even accept the old covenant as valid in order to see the new one as a new covenant from the same God. The idea of the new covenant is present in the prophets and affirmed by the New Testament writers. Jesus said he fulfilled the law. The gospels describe Jesus as having declared all foods clean and favoring deeper moral principles over certain OT laws like the sabbath. The epistles declare certain elements of God’s way of dealing with the old covenant believers to be obsolete, fulfilled in Christ and no longer important. You don’t have to look to Marcion to see this stuff. He wouldn’t accept any validity to it to begin with and wouldn’t consider it the word of God. Kathy Keller would see it as the word of God, living and active and useful for edifying the body Christ. It’s just that how it does that is by revealing God’s character and dealing with humanity across history, by filling out the gospel message by seeing its overall context, by teaching principles that go beyond the precise details of God’s particular dealing with a particular people at a particular time. This is no Marcionite approach, and the fact that you think it is shows me that you haven’t understood what she’s saying at all.

    • DonaldByronJohnson

      You misunderstand what the new covenant is. The difference between the new covenant and earlier covenants is WHERE the commandments are written, not what they are. See Jer 31:31ff.

    • ZackHunt

      Apparently I need to consider having a word limit in the comment section. :)

      • David

        Thoughtful reply to a thorough response, unlike your initial, which was just thorough. You threw out several claims which have very far less bearing on the issue than what you are using them for. While it is true that there are differences between Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and those of TGC, concerning the specific issue here – the OT case laws in light of the advent of Christ are no longer binding in their original form – by and large, these three are in agreement. That is not new. That is well over 1,000 years old.

        My concern here is not over whether RHE is an egalitarian or complimentarian, it is over her haphazard treatment of the text. You quoted from Matt. 5:17. It is true that Christ did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. How did the apostles treat this – the dietary laws were done away with as well as circumcision, as well as sacrifices? Their non-abolishment and fulfillment have to do with the fact that the laws were in their own form eschatological and symbolic in nature – pointing to Christ. As Peter says, we do perform sacrifices, but our sacrifices are our good works – not in order to be reconciled unto God, but because we have been. Everything in the OT is about Him (Jn. 5:46 – Moses wrote of me; Lk. 24:27, Gal. 3:23-26). The case laws in Lev. of which RHE appeals were meant as national barriers, not as absolute standards. The surrounding nations of Israel were not judged because they allowed their women access to their own temple during menstration nor if they consumed pork. Now in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is no sense in which they can apply. As Paul says “we are no longer under a guardian” (Gal. 3:25). There is no national boundary with these defining laws. To hold people accountable to the Levitical laws is to completely misunderstand why they are there in the first place.

        • ZackHunt

          1) I welcome comments, but this is just that – a comment section, not a place to host your own blog posts. If someone has that much to say, they should post it on their own blog and link back.

          2)”To hold people accountable to the Levitical laws is to completely misunderstand why they are there in the first place.”…..Likewise, to hold people accountable to perceived New Testament laws is to completely misunderstand why they are there in the first place.

          • David

            I will try to be more condensed in the future, I apologize for transgressing blogging etiquette. I agree with point two, but that says absolutely nothing about what I posted in response. I waffle on the egalitarian/complimentarian issue, but that has little to do with how to understand that the Levitical case laws are not binding today. People often throw out the treatment of homosexuals in the Lev. laws without regard to the seed consciousness of the people (awaiting the seed of the woman) the same way RHE treats the Lev. laws. That seed has come. Those laws do not apply. It is not arbitrary to not apply them. Again, this is long, but it would do you no good for me to say “I disagree”.

          • David

            By the way, I did not mean to “dislike” your response just a few minutes ago, FWIW.

          • ZackHunt

            Oh I wasn’t talking about you, I was talking Jeremy’s dissertation. :)

    • http://lukelivingthetension.blogspot.com/ Luke Harms

      “But she points to some pretty basic principles of textual interpretation that just about everyone [that agrees with me and Kathy Keller] agrees on.” Fixed that for you.

      “And thus God’s infallibility does make for objectively correct principles, even if our access to them is fallible.” Which is why making universallly normative claims about the applicability of one’s personally held hermeneutical principles is dubious at best.

      “I know of no one who thinks wisdom literature should be read as divine commands.” Really? No one? Like, you’ve never met a person who treats Proverbs 13:24 as a divine command for corporal punishment?

      The talk of epistemological levels, while quite impressive, misses the point that even if we grant for the sake of argument that this epistimological hierarchy exists, our epistemic *access* to knowledge on both levels remains incomplete, and leaves us in a similar epistemic position with regards to both. The distinction simply collapses.

      • http://www.facebook.com/patrick.lafferty.773 Patrick Lafferty

        I read someone to say, “I take the syntax of Romans 12:2 very seriously. Not just be transformed, but be continually being transformed by the renewing of your mind. ” Sounds awfully normative, and not just for you.

        • http://lukelivingthetension.blogspot.com/ Luke Harms

          Maybe it sounds that way to you, but you might just be projecting, brother.

    • Elle Wood

      Jeremy, have you read Rachel’s book? Because this line makes me suspect that you haven’t–”I know of no one who would actually defend accepting the New Testament while at the same time accepting that we should follow the particular commands of ritual law in the old covenant. Rachel Held Evans pretends complementarians do so, but they simply don’t.”

      RHE does NOT pretend complementarians teach conformity to OT law. Although if all you’ve done is read other people’s reviews and watched her five-minute interview on the Today show, you might make that (wrong) assumption.

    • http://www.throughaglass.net Kari

      Perhaps you don’t know anyone who believes that the Proverbs 31 woman should be read as if it should be a divine command for women. That doesn’t mean it’s not done. Look at all these Bible studies on that very idea:
      http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_11?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=proverbs+31&sprefix=proverbs+31%2Caps%2C0

  • JR

    How is this post particularly edifying to anyone – those who agree with you, or Kathy, or Rachel?

    I don’t post on message boards, and I never quote scripture (I’m a recovering Pentecostal). But, I’ve been reading Colossians a lot the past few weeks and am struck by something Paul says in Ch. 4 : “Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out” (I am quoting the Message).

    I’ve written my fair share of polemics, so I’m not coming with self-righteousness. I’m just coming to this conversation thinking “Is this the best we can offer one another in Christ?”

    I know you don’t think so.

    • ZackHunt

      Respectfully, Paul is not the person you want to lean on to argue that Christians should always “edify” one another and never critique/criticize each other’s theological positions.

      • http://lukelivingthetension.blogspot.com/ Luke Harms

        ^^This. Twice.

      • JR

        I get it. You’re being really ‘clever’ about Paul and dodging the bigger question I raise. And, doing it in a tone consistent with the general theme of your review.

        I’m reminded now why I don’t bother weighing into discussion boards.

  • http://bohemianbowmans.com/ Jessica

    Oh snap.

  • Stephen

    Zach,

    Thanks for these thoughts. You’ve hit at least one analytical point right on the head: Keller’s argument is a demonstrable example of “insider discourse,” and your points about the rhetoric of her claims illustrate this well. This “review” serves to assure people who already agree with Keller that RHE’s book poses no challenge to their cherished positions and practices — that it poses no challenge to an (asserted) identification of their views with what’s “Biblical,” the structure of the universe, order of “Creation,” etc. Keller does this through various classic strategies, many of which you outline above, that serve to marginalize RHE in the eyes of Keller’s audience.

    Of particular interest to me, as someone who studies evangelical discourse on various topics (especially the place of claims about the Bible within evangelical discourse), Keller’s insider missive self-represents as precisely not an insider missive through its claims (as you note) about (supposedly) universally valid or recognized positions about the Bible, interpretation, etc.

    It seems that Keller’s Gospel Coalition audience greatly prizes the appearance of sophisticated, specialized, and even historical-academic (note Keller’s sprinkling of specialized contextual knowledge, such as naming “Epimenides of Knossos”) engagement with the Bible — but that, at the same time, the audience is either incapable or uninterested in assessing that supposed engagement in a way that doesn’t presume the correctness of its positions at the outset.

    • ZackHunt

      “It seems that Keller’s Gospel Coalition audience greatly prizes the appearance of sophisticated, specialized, and even historical-academic (note Keller’s sprinkling of specialized contextual knowledge, such as naming “Epimenides of Knossos”) engagement with the Bible…”

      I agree.

      I’m a firm believer that there’s nothing sexier than when a person uses polysyllabic words to support your intellectually tenuous position. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/patrick.lafferty.773 Patrick Lafferty

    so what hermeneutic would you propose as the most plausible? if it’s all just “tradition” then why are we even debating it?

    • ZackHunt

      As I implied in the post, schisms in the church have made the idea of an “orthodox hermeneutic” impossible because there is no one in any recognized position of authority over the entire church. My issue wasn’t so much with “whose hermeneutic is right,” but with the attitude of Keller and the Gospel Coalition who seem to think they posses an imaginary orthodox hermeneutic by which they condemn everyone who disagrees. They don’t have that authority and neither has anyone else since 1054.

      • Karen

        ” They don’t have that authority and neither has anyone else since 1054.”

        Well then, Zack, you must not realize we’re all sunk if that is true (in terms of our pursuit of the full revealed truth of Christ given to the Apostles, which is the case if we cannot reliably and properly find the key to unlock the Scriptures’ full meaning). We might as well all go home and do what is “right from Scripture as it appears in our own eyes” to paraphrase a notoriously depressing statement about the character of those times in the life of the nation of Israel from the Book of Judges. If there is no communion of Christians today who are still in complete formal agreement with the Creed (as it was then interpreted in its own context), interpretations of Scripture, and practices of the “one holy catholic and apostolic” undivided Church of the first 1000 years A.D. (i.e., in continuing full Eucharistic and dogmatic communion with each other and with that one first Millenium Body), then “the Church” *as it was defined and constituted in the NT (and also still at the formulation of the Nicene-Constantinoplian Creed)* has effectively and for all practical purposes ceased to exist (which is contrary to Christ’s promise in Matthew 18 that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church). As you well know, I do not believe that.

        I also notice that in the Nicene-Constantinoplian Creed (in its non-filioque clause form, the only Creed ever used universally in every local church of that “one, holy catholic and apostolic Church” of the first Millenium A.D,) along with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the “one holy apostolic and catholic church” is made an article of required belief for all wishing to confess what was recognized as orthodox Christian faith by the Ecumenical Councils of bishops at that time (but the Scriptures, which Canon was also officially recognized and bequeathed to us by those same Councils of bishops at that time, are not!). Perhaps that is because those bishops understood the Church herself is, as the Apostle Paul states in 1 Timothy 3:15, the “pillar” and “ground” of the truth of Christ, Who is one and cannot be divided against Himself (and not the Scriptures of that Church, taken alone in and of themselves). That the Scriptures were never designed to function, despite their Divine inspiration and immense spiritual profitability (which Orthodox Christians accept and revere highly) outside of their own natural context in the Church in which they were birthed, I believe, has been amply demonstrated by the fruits of the non-apostolic Reformation doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” in the present divisions and wide-ranging conflicting and confusing opinions about the meaning and application of Scripture in the Protestant bodies descended from them today.

        I think you are a swell and sincere Christian guy with a lot of thoughtful opinions and some good ideas, but also dead wrong about this. Well, you are sort of right in saying that there is no one–in the sense of “one single person”(apart from Christ Himself, obviously)–who has such authority. (I’m an Orthodox Christian, not a papist–no offense intended to my Roman Catholic friends, just my honest conviction.) There *is*, however, one historically recognizable authoritative Christian Body, represented in all of her bishops who are still in formal Eucharistic and dogmatic communion with one another and with the Church of the first 1000 years (by upholding all those Conciliar decisions universally recognized and agreed during that period), and She has that authority–or Christ’s words are not true and all bets are off to understand the full meaning and intent of the Scriptures, much less finding real dogmatic and meaningful sacramental unity between bodies of professing Christians.

        Zack, with respect, what you are left with because of your convictions is Protestant relativism, not the “faith once delivered to all the saints.” Those areas where you are truly orthodox in your belief (and I believe there are those areas), you owe to the Councils of bishops of the “one holy apostolic catholic church” of the first Millenium A.D., but illogically, you pick and choose for yourself on the basis of various non-apostolic, extra-biblical, human heretical Christian traditions of the interpretation of Scripture and of Church history (in your case apparently primarily pieces of the various Protestant Reformers and more specifically the Wesleyan) which part of that Orthodoxy to continue to uphold. Not one of us, no matter how “Bible only” our convictions, interprets the Scriptures in a vacuum. We all have our filters in terms of our experiences, former teaching and backgrounds. Effectively for none of us are the Scriptures truly “alone,”–they are read through those filters.

        Now, don’t get me wrong. I understand there are many virtues to be found in the efforts and thinking of the Protestant Reformers and in the Wesleyans (personally, this being my own background, I’m quite fond of Wesley, the Moravians, etc.), but many of their views and practices represented a continuing departure from the ancient faith and practices of the Church. Certainly the heretical practices and developments in the teachings of the Medieval Roman Catholic Church from which they dissented played a powerful role in that error. Of course, I don’t condemn or blame these believers for their errors–they came by them very honestly, but the errors themselves I cannot affirm as true or properly part of the ancient Christian faith.

        Thankfully, God knows the heart of all and works in spite of our divisions and even outside His own norms given to the Church. After all, if He didn’t do that, no one would find their way into His Church in the first place.

        • Val

          Except, of course, believers are the church. So, the gates of hades don’t prevail over the church, because there are always believers somewhere. That said, the Jews were once taken away in chains. The Jews survived the capture, as slaves. There are warnings to Christians that they to may share a similar fate if they aren’t careful (grafted on branches, milk and returning to the law, etc.). So, the organized, known church (priests, elders, apostles, etc.) could all disappear as we know it, and the church (true meaning) would still go on. Maybe in prison, but it would still be on earth.

          So, no, we don’t need to all go home in defeat. The church is not sunk if no human has authority. Jesus is the victor, he will guide us. I just don’t have enough faith in man to believe his institutions are worth that much if they lose sight of God and go all creed this and that. If God is there, it will last – questions and all. If not, it never was.

          We only see in a mirror dimly anyways – creeds and all.

          • Karen

            Val, of course I agree with a lot of what you say here, and am sympathetic with much that with which I have to disagree. But the fact remains that “believers are the church” has a pretty varied meaning depending on who you talk to and what tradition(s) of the interpretation of Scripture you accept. My point was that your statement that “believers are the church” would have had a quite different meaning for the Christians in the pre-Schism catholic apostolic Christian Church, even though they, too, would agree that many members and even hierarchs did and could go off the rails, disobedient branches (and members) could find themselves “cut off,” (this was/is known as “excommunication”), and the institutions within the Church can and do fail.

          • Karen

            (cont.) What Orthodox do not subscribe to is the “branch theory” about those bodies in Christendom that are in heresy and/or schism from the Eastern Orthodox Church. From an Orthodox Christian perspective, if they do not meet the criteria to be accepted for Eucharistic Communion within an Orthodox Church, they have been “cut off” from that one Body of Christ by their own persistent teaching and actions (or, more accurately, those of their founding predecessors, since sincere and pious modern Christians are just making a good-faith effort to follow Christ as they have been taught). When the NT asks in the context of the visible sacramental expression of the Church as Christ’s Body on earth “Is Christ divided?”, the implied answer is no (1 Cor. 1:13). For most modern Christians influenced by denominationalism, the answer is yes. I see a problem with that.

          • Donnie

            Karen I’m not intending to criticize or harass your faith or what you are saying but please know that I am genuinely intrigued by the orthodox Christian expression but being a westerner it seems confusing. Number1: -I am in agreement(as is my church) with those creeds you mentioned.. but according to OC since I am not officially a member I am out of communion at best and not considered genuinely Christian at worst. Frankly the attitude “Orthodox church is correct and all else is wrong and there are no dissenting opinions seems exactly like the stuff the fundamentalist Christians put out. I mean at least my fundamentalist Baptist friends (ok some of them) would at least say Rachel is a Christian, just in error and they give her the freedom to express her view (while dissenting LOUDLY of course). Does anyone else see that? Secondly (Please bear with me on this point) Doesn’t the Orthodox church have one of the strictest views on women’s role in ministry.. I mean honestly from the little I have researched it seems like you would tend to be very complementarian if not patriarchal (if you labelled it at all). Anyone doing a brief search on the OC or visited a OC church can easily see this. Once again please correct me, direct me or help me understand better..

        • ZackHunt

          I understand and appreciate the importance of apostolic authority, but pragmatically speaking because there is no unified institutional church there is no one with the authority to dictate policy/theology/practice to the church universal. The Orthodox church can claim that authority, but so does Rome. Sure the Orthodox church can claim they were right about the filioque and are thus the “true inheritors” of apostolic authority, but the Protestant church can just as easily claim they were right about the need for reformation and that they are the true inheritors of apostolic authority.

          I am very weary of any declaration of anyone claiming to hold “the faith once delivered to the saints” because the reality is that faith has undergone incredible transformation since Jesus “first delivered it” to the apostles. That may be the argument held by Rome and/or the East, but it’s also the mark of a dangerous form of fundamentalism that denies the reality that human interpretation has played a profound and critical role in the faith, i.e. every church council. That doesn’t mean there isn’t authority in the church, it’s just an acknowledgement that there is no single institution that’s got the faith totally figured out while everybody else is wallowing in error.

          • Karen

            Zack, I don’t intend to claim that all of the members and hierarchs of the Eastern Orthodox Church have “got the faith totally figured out while everybody else is wallowing in error.” It’s obviously not that black and white. I don’t believe the Roman Catholic Church nor various Protestant churches contain no true and Orthodox Christian teaching in them. Obviously, they do (Orthodox would argue with varying degrees of truncation and/or distortion and additions). I don’t believe all Orthodox believers and hierarchs hold the Orthodox faith with equal integrity. Some may not hold it in integrity at all, but may actually contradict it with their lives and even misrepresent it with their teaching. In either of these cases, as you may know from your study of Church history, there are guidelines known as canons for dealing with these issues and provisions for deposition and laicization of ordained clergy and excommunication of persistently heretical and/or disobedient members. There are many historic occasions where issues were still being disputed and “heresy” vs. “orthodoxy” was in flux with regard to those in official positions, and also canons, like the Christian Tradition itself (the written expression of which is in the Scriptures recognized and handed down from those early Councils of Bishops), can be flaunted and disobeyed once they are clearly established. The administration of discipline and order in the Church can be painfully slow in coming or even fail for regions and periods of time. No one–not even the Orthodox–claim that Church history is not messy!

            Unlike Roman Catholics and Anglicans (as examples of others who hold to an Apostolic Succession of Bishops as an essential to the composition of what may be considered “the Church”), though, Orthodox do not believe that a once-Orthodox bishop who goes into schism or heresy with his peers and vis-a-vis the apostolic teaching he has received and been charged with passing on faithfully, and who is consequently deposed and excommunicated by his peers, remains in the “Apostolic Succession.” In a sense, the Orthodox are more like Protestants in that we believe continuing to hold the identical dogmatic faith as it is formally expressed is essential to being in the Apostolic Succession, not just having received the laying on of hands of other Orthodox bishops. Apostolic Succession for the Orthodox is not like a quasi-magic “spiritual” transformation of the ordained with irreversible effects, but rather an expression and recognition of a hierarch’s (and presbyter or deacon’s) real relationship to and position in the historic Church communities founded by an Apostle–it is actually the communities themselves that are in the Apostolic Succession and their bishops by virtue of being bishops within these particular apostolic communities!

            With regard to having “the faith totally figured out,” that strikes me as a very modern rationalist conceptual way to think about how the Christian faith is held. In order to define the boundaries of their ranks, like the rationalists they are, Evangelicals typically will make an official “statement of faith” that consists of propositions that must be rationally assented to (usually much more extensive than the historic orthodox creeds of the Church and many taking particular stands on what have historically from earliest times in the Church been much disputed and controversial areas of Scripture interpretation, e.g., interpretations of “End Times” scenarios), and then each group or church is constituted of members who agree this is what must be believed to be “in” the group. Effectively Protestant churches and groups are voluntary associations of people with like-opinions about certain interpretations of Scripture.

            I think we can agree that we see in the Scriptures that the Christian faith is much more than that–it is a living relationship between the members of the Church and Christ birthed by the Holy Spirit through faith, and, normatively, in the first Millennium (and beyond–even to the present day for the Eastern Orthodox) realized or actuated sacramentally and experientially by those within the Church who have received authority from the Holy Spirit via ordination in a succession from the Apostles (themselves the first ordained Bishops/Presbyters of the Church) to receive and recognize new members and to preside over the celebration of the Eucharist–a necessary expression and actuation of the Church’s essential unity as one Body.

            In the first Millennium, the Body of orthodox Christians represented in their regional bishops who shared a common faith and were in Eucharistic communion with each other came to have an objective unified statement of dogma (the Nicene Creed) that arose from the statement of faith required of all believers at baptism from the Apostollc era. I should point out that from an Orthodox perspective, these statements in the Creed and official statements and declarations, anathemas and so forth that came out of the consensual decisions of the “Ecumenical” Councils of bishops are Holy Spirit guided verbal markers of the boundary between truth an error. They are not understood to be comprehensive written statements of the entirety of the Christian faith that must merely be assented to (because real Christian faith is in reality a spiritual communion with Christ and His Body to be experienced), but rather the parameters within which all statements of Orthodox Christian faith must remain to be considered, in fact, orthodox.

            I’ve made some other statements in comments here that may be of interest (using my Google moniker “ofgrace”: http://www.therebelgod.com/2012/10/hold-on-to-good-reject-bad-moving.html#c2023030660024568565

            P.S. Apologies for taking up so much space on your comments thread and not directly related to your post!

      • http://www.facebook.com/patrick.lafferty.773 Patrick Lafferty

        Not trying to pick a fight by my question, but it sounds as if you’re saying that even the Nicene creed is up for grabs. I don’t think you mean that, in which case, you’re locating the issue in question far afield from the core of Christian doctrine. Is that what you mean?

        • ZackHunt

          I don’t understand the connection you’re making. 1054 refers to the schism between the East and the West. The Nicene Creed (which ironically was affirmed in Constantinople) dates to 381. The point I was making was that, practically speaking, there has to be a unified institutional church to dictate a specific scriptural hermeneutic to every church. That doesn’t mean there’s no more Christian orthodoxy, but it does mean the definition of what is orthodox (outside core doctrines in the Apostles Creed/Nicene Creed/etc. that affirmed by virtually every church) will be relative to each denomination no matter how much we want our particular denominational orthodoxy to be the standard of orthodoxy. Complementarianism, just like speaking in tongues or belief in a literal 6 day creation, would be an example of those denominational orthodoxies.

          • Karen

            The thing is, Zack, Orthodox can make the argument that the Nicene Creed (technically, as you point out, the Nicene-Constantinoplian Creed), particularly in its original, non-filiioque form and full meaning, is held corporately (formally or otherwise) by no communion of Christians today except the Eastern Orthodox (possible exceptions might be some of the other Oriental Orthodox churches). This is especially true for Protestants in terms of the Creed’s ecclesiology clause as an article of faith in its own context (e.g., the teachings of St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Irenaus of Lyons about the nature of the Church and how to locate her and hence also the orthodox interpretation of Scripture).

            So, yes, the Orthodox claim (and the only one that is credible to me at this point) is that Orthodox formal dogma and its exposition in her liturgy, recognized Ecumenical Councils, and in the lives of her Saints will consistently hit the mark of the real meaning and intent of the Scriptures, whereas that of the non-Orthodox Christian traditions will not consistently do so, (though many might come close in many areas).

            That, in short(er), was the point I have been rather long-windedly (sorry!) trying to make in my other comments.

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  • E.G.

    I posted this, on this topic, at Denny Burk’s blog. The comment is currently in moderation, so who knows if it will ever see the light of day. In case it doesn’t here it is for the record:

    “As I mentioned on the other thread, the Kellers have a problem here. They are not, in any real sense, complementarians. At least not to the patriarchal extent that most of the Gospel Coalition seems to be these days. The Kellers’ latest marriage book is pretty egalitarian, wrapped in some complementarian paper. I found it difficult to read because it felt like they were always pulling back their punches – not able to actually come out and speak mutualism, while not wanting to give full credit to the far edge of the womens’-role spectrum either.

    Their church does allow women into aspects of leadership that Gruden or Carson would not agree with. And their book, in an obtuse way, prescribes a mutualist marriage.

    In other words, as I said in the other post, they are stuck walking a tightrope. TGC complementarianism/patriarchalism on one side and their own views and practice on the other.

    So Kathy’s response to Evan’s book makes sense in that light. Evan’s book is easy pickings from a superficial point of view. I think that Evan’s makes some good points, but they are not the careful and thought-out points of the likes of Stackhouse, McKnight, Viola, Ortberg, etc.

    So Keller can grab at a few issues to validly criticize and appear to toe the Gospel Coalition line without sticking her neck too far up.

    It’s also easier for Mr. Keller to have his wife do this work as it gives him some plausible deniability. “Well, that’s Kathy’s opinion, I have my own… but I’m not going to state it in any concrete way.” To do otherwise would jeopardize his position in a church that is, by practice and demographic, not currently fitting into TGC paradigm on this issue.

    Frankly, TGC has turned women’s issues into such a main issue that I’m surprised that the Kellers stick around in the organization that Tim helped to found. My bet is that, if TGC continues down it’s hard-edged patriarchal path, they will eventually have to leave.”

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  • Luke

    I’m still waiting for somebody to write a review of the review that wasn’t a review. Pretty much it’s been a face-slapping contest all around. I haven’t really seen much in the way of sustained dialogue on the actual hermenuetical issues at play here.

  • RD