Revised and Updated: Should Women Be Pastors?

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credit: telegraph.co.uk

We have all passed through that stage. We didn’t understand why our parents wouldn’t let us sleep over at a friend’s house, or why we had to brush our teeth, or eat our vegetables and make our beds. All our confused and pained “whys” were quickly silenced by mum’s firm “Because I said so”. Of course, now that we are older and we understand about neighborhood feuds, cavities, good diet and grooming, we can appreciate these formerly oppressive commands. Hindsight is always 20-20.

In retrospect, we can see that our parents had nothing but our good in mind. Even though we were too young to understand the “whys”, our parents were old enough, and that was enough for the time being. No, we did not enjoy the pain and darkness surrounding those commands. Deep down in our hearts, we were convinced that our parents were just plain mean, sometimes.

While a similar case can be made for why God gives us certain commands and instructions, the parallels do not always fit. Analogies are helpful, but analogies can only go so far. Even so, there is something to be said about some seemingly “pointless”, “oppressive” and “irrelevant” commands in the Bible.

OFFICIAL CAPACITY

I would like to zoom in on what I can only describe (for lack of a better description) as official commands in the Bible. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the adjective official as “of or relating to an office, position, or trust.” To say that someone is official is to say that he or she is to be recognized and treated in reference to the authority or office they claim to represent.

Whether that person has the intrinsic talents and abilities to carry out that official role is irrelevant to the fact that they already have that role. This is why Christians are commanded to submit to all earthly authorities (Romans 13), even those that are oppressive and definitely fail to qualify for that office. We are not commanded to submit only to good leaders or qualified leaders, only to people in leadership, their CVs and character notwithstanding.

At the risk of belabouring this point, consider two friends working in the same office. One friend is the supervisor or manager of the other. If one day the subordinate friend came to work late, the supervisor friend may have to deal with her in her “official capacity” and dish out the required discipline. This is fairly easy to understand in our various “official” interactions with friends and family in life. However, we are not so quick to recognize similar rules when it comes to the Bible and the different “Biblical offices.”

Consider this controversial passage:

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. [1 Tim 2:12-14]

THE PASTOR’S OFFICE

I say that this verse is controversial beforehand because it speaks to an issue that is quite divisive and hotly contested in the church today — the issue of women as pastors and elders in the church.

Some of the arguments raised against having women as pastors include the claim that Paul was speaking to a specific cultural problem and context, and that the command is not universally applicable to today’s society. This is probably right, but there are passages in other parts of the Bible that make it difficult to use this line of argument as the conclusive proof that the issue of women in church leadership was only a cultural one. Even so,

I will not be dealing with that argument today. What I am concerned about is a different line of thought. A line of thought that may actually render the whole “this was a cultural issue” debate irrelevant to the bigger picture. As already revealed in the beginning of this post, I am here dealing with the argument of “equal worth” and “equal capacity/giftedness” in men and women. This is what is commonly referred to as egalitarianism.

Basically, the argument states that “since women are equally capable and equally gifted to teach and lead, then there is no reason why they should not be pastors.” Here is my contention. Are women able to teach? Yes. Are women able to lead? Yes, of course! Are women, more often than not, better teachers than men? Definitely! Are women arguably more intuitive and better able to multitask than men? Yes. So, should they be pastors and teach the church congregation on an official capacity based on their abilities? No. Why? Because God says so, or as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, because the LAW says so:

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” [1 Corinthians 14:34]

As a child, I was perfectly able to go over to my friend’s and spend the night. I was perfectly able to skip eating my veggies and brushing my teeth. But my parents knew better. They had reasons that my childish reasoning capacity could comprehend, let alone accept. So I obeyed them. Yet, this is also where my analogy fails.

As an adult, I am now able to perceive the direct evil consequences that could have resulted from disobeying my parents’ instructions. A visit to the dentist is one very effective way of driving home the message. However, it is still more difficult to think of any good reason why a woman being a pastor would lead negative consequences. This is probably because many of us are wired to be consequentialists: We only categorise some actions as bad when we can clearly see the negative consequences of doing them.

This is why the reasons Paul often gives for why women should not teach seem strange, offensive even, to many of us. However, if our understanding of sin and morality is guided by the Bible, then we should be able to acknowledge that sin is not bad primarily because it hurts people, sin is bad because it is against God’s order and commands. In other words, sin hurts people because it is bad (and even when we cannot see how it hurts people, it is still bad because God said so). This is why some actions like my parents not letting me sleep at a friend’s house on a school night is good, even though it hurts me at the time.

Pain is a poor determinant of right and wrong.

So, when Paul, in 1 Timothy, says a woman should not assume authority over a man because “Adam was formed first, then Eve“, we are tempted to find another special reason for this command. It just doesn’t sit well with us. It just doesn’t seem like a strong enough justification for forbidding women to lead a congregation since “we can see all of the benefits and none of the losses” if they did.

EGALITARIANISM AND THE TRINITY

In conclusion, let us briefly look at the offices that men are commanded to hold and how qualified they are to do it. Consider this verse:

“I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” [1 Corinthians 11:3]

Keeping in mind the case laid out above, is there anything in the man that makes him intrinsically more capable and more fit to be the head of the house or the head of the woman? No. Then why don’t we oppose this passage using the same argument of consequentialism? Perhaps this argument  sounds less offensive because it appeals to the headship of God over Christ, and the headship of Christ over man.

Please, do not misunderstand me. I have sat under many a female “pastor” and gained truths about God that many male pastors could probably not have taught me better. I have listened to many sermons by women “pastors” that were solid and biblical and I gleaned treasures worth an eternal spot in my heart. Many of these women pastors are good friends of mine. Women indeed do make excellent teachers.

Yet, consider this: Can Christ do what God (the Father) can do? Yes. Does Christ know what God knows? Yes. Does Christ have all the attributes that God, the Father, has? Yes. So, should Christ play the role or serve in the office of the Father? No. Why? Because God says so. Because God has ordered (arranged) and ordered (commanded) it so!

May we learn to rest in God’s sovereign wisdom, even when we don’t get it.

When Being Honest and Sincere is a Bad Thing

“What matters is that you are sincere” sounds like good advise, and it is, as we shall see in a moment. But it can also be the worst advise to give anyone. God does, indeed, want us to be sincere about what we do. A common dictionary definition of sincere is “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings”. It is wrong to be pretentious and deceitful. We must always strive to be genuine, honest, in other words, sincere. Integrity.

Photo credit: genius.com

Photo credit: genius.com

But what if being true to who we are involves doing something that is hurtful and unkind and unloving? What if I genuinely don’t care about the homeless and the sick? Should I be sincere even then? Would it be pretentious to “do” caring things to such people because that is “the right thing to do”? Such questions lead us to something that often goes un-examined when we talk about “being sincere”: It matters what we are being sincere about. In other words, our personal feelings are not the ultimate standard of what is right or wrong. We are not automatically doing right just because we are doing what we feel like doing. There seems to be a standard of right or wrong, outside of our feelings.

Does this, then, mean that our feelings don’t matter? No. It only means that our feelings are Continue reading

What Is So Wrong With Positive Thinking?

Why do so many people (myself included) like to bash prosperity preachers? As a friend recently asked me after I posted a critique on a sermon by Creflo Dollar: “Cornell, what do you have against the man?” Before I respond to that question, three corrections:

  1. We (whoever we are) actually don’t “like” to bash prosperity preachers. (at least some of us don’t find any pleasure in it)
  2. We don’t bash prosperity “preachers”. (some of us prefer focusing on what the preachers “teach”, though many readers tend to be too emotive to distinguish between a teaching and a teacher)
  3. We actually like “prosperity” preaching. (what some of us are against is “false” prosperity preaching)

The reason I name some of these preachers is quite simple, really. It is the same reason we name people who said certain things in the newspaper. It is called attribution. If the President of Kenya said something profound (or profoundly wrong) in public, it is only reasonable that I post whatever was said along with the name of whoever said it. It is just good journalistic practice.

But somehow, when it comes to Christian preachers shouting words in public stadia, we are somehow only supposed to discuss what they said without naming them (or else send them private e-mails). I don’t think I am the only one seeing this inconsistency.

Photo courtesy: drugtesttraining.com.au

Photo courtesy: drugtesttraining.com.au

Now, I have said all that (above) in order to say this: I find it equally inconsistent to insist on applauding “positive thinking” without examining and questioning those positive thoughts. Most of the “false” prosperity teachings out there are usually forms of positive thinking. They are aimed at helping people feel better about themselves and their Christianity. There is nothing wrong with that. I am all for helping people feel better about themselves and their faith. It is the “how” of attaining this goal that I have qualms about.

This is my point: “Positive thinking” means nothing if you have the wrong standard for determining what is positive and what is negative.

For instance, if self-interest is the ultimate objective, it may be seen as positive to accumulate insane wealth without helping the poor. Do you find any problem with that?

Similarly, if social well-being is the objective, it may be seen as positive to do what helps the masses but deprives the individuals of their rights. Do you have a problem with this approach too? Why?

But if God and His glory is the standard, it is positive to do what glorifies Him, and in doing that, realizing that both the individual and the society will benefit.

Therefore, “positive thinking” means nothing without a proper context. What many of us try to emphasize when we critique false prosperity teachers teachings is how (the context in which) they deliver their message. For instance, a teacher may say that God wants to make you wealthy. That is correct. But then the teacher adds that “God wants to make you wealthy today” and we have a problem.

The problem is not that God CAN’T make you wealthy today. Of course He can. The problem is not even that God WILL NOT make you wealthy today. Who knows? Maybe He will. The problem is that God has not given us any reason in His word to be certainly sure that HE WILL MAKE YOU RICH TODAY OR TOMORROW OR IN THIS LIFE.

It is just not there. And it is false to add a false WHEN to a true CAN.

Another aspect of “positive preaching” that has arisen recently is how Victoria Osteen recently responded to “why we worship God”. By now you know what she said, so I don’t need to repeat it here (or you may Google it if you missed it). But I will only say this to that:

Make God your beginning and your end, and “the rest” will follow. But be careful not to do it SO THAT the rest will follow or BECAUSE you want the rest to follow, do it because you love God and want to do what pleases Him… whether or not “the rest” follows.

It is like loving your spouse, you don’t love them “for yourself”, in fact, if they knew you love them because of what you stand to gain, they will not see that as love. You love your spouse because you genuinely seek their joy whether or not you will be happy yourself. Of course, your own happiness MAY follow as a result, but that is not WHY you love them. You love them for them, even if they DON’T NEED your love.

So why give any less love to God? Why love God any differently?

~~~~

Cornell

 

Why I Don’t Believe in Miracles

The year was 2006, I was in my first year of college and just a few months into salvation. My friend, Mark Masai, was visiting me at the “Prefabs” hostels. On this particular day, he needed a data cable to transfer some photos from his phone into my computer.  I had lent mine to another friend. I picked up my phone,  dialed that friend’s number and put the phone to my ear. After several rings, the phone went to voice-mail.

“F*%#!” I blurted out.

I redialed the number,  “please leave your message after the beep.”

“S#%@ man,” I said as I scratched my head, “what are we going to do now?”

But Mark didn’t offer any suggestion, and he didn’t seem to share in my frustration.

He simply gave me a long, hard, look and shook his head.

“What?” I asked him, confused.

“OKOKA KIJANA!!” (Get saved, young man!) He told me with a strange firmness in his voice and a steely look in his eyes.

Believe it or not, that was the last day I ever cursed or even felt the urge to let out another expletive.

To understand the significance of this moment, you have to know me in the months and years preceding this moment. Until that particular day, I never had a problem with cursing — I would do it any time, anywhere.

My sentences were punctuated with curse words and my lips would spit out four letter unprintables with the ease of a drunken sailor. Yes, I had accepted Christ just a few months earlier, but some habits were simply too ingrained to drop, and cursing was one of them. I cursed unconsciously. It was like sneezing, never premeditated.

I recall this day I was in church, standing at the third pew from the pulpit during “praise and worship” when this beautiful lady stepped onto the stage to lead the session.

“S#%@!” I said reflexively, albeit inaudibly.

Then when I realized I had just cursed in church I went “F*%#!”

It was that bad.

But on this day, I don’t know what went through Mark’s mind, and why he said those words. But something happened that day. In the blink of an eye, I lost a habit that had become part of my being. It was a miracle.

Yet, even as I say that word, miracle, I am a bit reluctant. The thoughts going through my head are “I am supposed to be a cessasionist”, “I should not believe in miracles”, “there must be some other explanation to what happened”. For the longest time, I tried to convince myself otherwise. But it was futile. No psychological or sociological theory could explain away what happened. Not under those circumstances. People don’t just drop habits like cursing in a heartbeat.

But God does, and I believe what happened that day was His doing.

The truth is that I still don’t believe IN miracles, because I believe in God.

And He delivered me from a bad habit without having to go through the long path of “process”. God simply chose to do it with the snap of His finger.

Yes, I don’t believe IN miracles, but I do believe miracles.

And I thank God for making me privy to such a powerful one.

Cornell

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The believers in miracles accept them (rightly or wrongly) because they have evidence for them. The disbelievers in miracles deny them (rightly or wrongly) because they have a doctrine against them.” – G.K. Chesterton

How Many Stars Would You Give this Book?

How do you decide what books to read and which ones to avoid? With so many stories written and so little time to read, how do you know which book is worth your time? For some of us, we have a few trusted “followees” on Twitter whose book recommendations act as our guides. At other times, some books receive great acclaim and mention in the public sphere and this draws our interest. We read them to be in on the fuss or the buzz. And sometimes, we simply skim through reviews, checking out what the reviewers say about the book, who the reviewers are and how many stars the book gets on Goodreads.

ANewKindofChristianIt is this last form of ranking books – the “starring” – that had me stumped after I finished reading Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian. The book is well written, in fact, it is superbly written. McLaren has a way with words and a way with the hearts of the people that read them. He knows how to tug at our human insecurities and manipulate our emotions. He is a master at appealing to our human need for belonging, justice, fairness, equality and freedom. He may not categorize himself as a liberal (since he avoids all categories), but his messages always have that air of being “liberating”.

After I finished the book and marked it “read” on Goodreads, I was prompted, as usual, to review it and rate it. But I suddenly found myself in a dilemma. It is not a new dilemma, but this book made it even more prominent this time around.

So, how many stars would I give this book?

If I was only looking at the way the story is written, the way the narrative unfolds and the way ideas are weaved, I would give the story 5 stars, hands down. Brian McLaren is an excellent communicator. His sincerity and intellectual honestly flows easily throughout the book. You don’t struggle to believe him. He is convincing because he is not trying to be convincing. He is sincere.

What about his message? His claims? His theology? Continue reading

I Love You?

By Huston Malande

Every normal human being loves someone: family, friends, fiancés, felines, name ’em. However, the inevitable problem of being fallen sinners is that we don’t always act lovingly.

Question: is it hypocritical, then, to tell someone you love them after you have done or said something hurtful or unloving to them? I have faced this unenviable struggle countless times. After prayerfully pondering it for a while — and searching the Scriptures — I have finally settled the matter in my mind.

In my thinking and study, I’ve found Paul’s life and his relationship with Christ to be most helpful. Consider with me…

In Rom 5:5, Paul says:

“… God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit …”.

Pretty straightforward. We know that Paul loves God.

In Rom 7:22 he says:

“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, …”

Pause for a minute here and notice this proof of eternal blessedness (Psm 1) and God’s love (since Jesus said “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”) and regeneration (for he later says in Rom 8:7 that “the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law”). However, he is also painfully aware of the incessant struggle against sin. He therefore goes on to confess:

“… but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am!”

So Paul has the love of God, but Paul also sins against God and grieves the Holy Spirit.

And herein lies the all important question: Can Paul, after crying “Wretched man that I am!”, immediately whisper to God the Holy Spirit, “Be merciful to me, O God! I love you, though my flesh and my heart fail. Cleanse me!”?

I believe he can, and am strongly persuaded that he should, even amidst many tears at the thought of his sinful nature and unloving behaviour towards God.

Yes, the Apostle John says in 1 Jon 2:14 that:

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

But surely that doesn’t mean that the love of God completely leaked out of Paul in those moments when covetousness was awakened in him upon hearing ‘Thou shalt not covet’!

We must be careful, therefore, not to make acts of love the definition of love.

There are many fitting definitions of love, but I like best what I heard from Voddie Baucham (one of my favourite Calvinist preachers):

Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, that leads to action on behalf of its object.

It is first and foremost an act of the will. A determination to pursue what would be in another’s best interests. Growing in love means that at first we will be disappointingly inconsistent in acting according to this determination, and even in feeling appropriately towards the person we love, but that’s precisely why the Holy Spirit is granted to us (and why we ought to ask much more fervently for him), to sanctify us as we “spur each other on to love and good works”.

So I hereby have resolved to not let my failures get in the way of communicating, with heartfelt emotion, that I love my loved ones (my close friends, my girlfriend, my brother, my parents, etc.).

I’ll strive to communicate aright even when I feel like (and have been) a failure.

See, if I only tell my loved ones I love them when I feel that I’ve been acting lovingly towards them, I am susceptible to a pernicious self-righteousness and pride (disguised as false humility). Why? Because even when I feel like I’ve been such an amazing guy, truth is that I still haven’t come close to loving with all my heart, all the time — as God expects me to. In fact, unknown to me, are perhaps countless self-serving motives behind my good deeds.

So if love indeed is unconditional, and my heartfelt desire is for the betterment and happiness of my loved ones, I won’t hesitate to say “I love you”, for this heart-set remains true whether or not I’ve acted lovingly towards them in the recent past. May I not forget to let God’s steadfast love — outworking itself in me — be the basis of my expression of failing, feeble, but nonetheless determined love.

I am convinced that if I am careful not to be trite, this will not only give life to whatever relationship’s in view, but that I will all the more enjoy the grace extended to me by those I love yet have failed.

What a joy it is to know that the sovereign God has loved me, and that he has poured out his love in my heart, that it may overflow onto others until he returns to perfect me, or calls me home to perfection.

“… for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his [electing] purpose.” (Rom 8:28, brackets and emphases mine)

Religion is not the opium of the masses; we’re just high on ourselves.

Last night NTV aired a useful investigative piece exposing all the falsehood that masquerades as religion in this country. The piece exposed “prophets”; “apostles” etc who are ripping of congregations, manipulating the Scriptures to suit their own needs and preaching godliness as a means of gain [1 Timothy 6:5] (financial; spiritual or otherwise). The truth is that although these prophets, preachers, ‘men of God’ etc are travestying Christianity, the responsibility for discerning between truth and falsehood rests with congregants (lay Christians) and if you are in Christ you have the duty of searching the scriptures to find out if what a preacher says is true (Acts 17:11).

However, the main point of this article is not to shout about what the ludicrousness of what was revealed and I’m especially not interested in trying to defend God and/or Christianity. The question I would really like to ask is this: is religion really society’s problem? Or even one of its problems?

What the investigative piece portrayed is a (false) hope industry, if you will. One that is preying on the weak, the desperate, the helpless. The piece correctly identified that desperation can drive many of us to a bad place where we are willing to pay any price for what we need: healing / financial provision etc. Where we will believe the irrational and accept the incredulous, in order to find rest; comfort and peace.

I could not help but draw some other parallels to this truth.  I could not help but think of all the other false religions we hold on to in life. As I watched, I thought briefly on we who, desperate for career success, have sacrificed our families in order to ‘make it’ or who have been tempted to sacrifice our personal holiness in order to ‘make it’. I thought about we who, desperate to retain society’s respect have sacrificed our unborn children (or encouraged our children to kill their unborn children) who were conceived in iniquity (pre-marital sex / adultery). I thought about we who, full of political ambitions, have compromised our values to succeed. I thought about we who, desperate to be accepted in all the wrong circles, conform to their standards even if those standards contradict God’s.

You see, the problem with society is not all that we are religious. It is not that we are genuinely seeking God. It is the opposite. It is that we all are naturally and fundamentally irreligious and self-serving. It is that we seek our own pleasure, rather than God’s.

False hope. False promises. False gods. False religion. The truth of God traded for a lie – that is the problem.  That we are not worshiping the Creator of heaven and earth (in the way that he desires and requires), but rather we are worshiping the created: our boyfriends, girlfriends, money; parents; preachers etc (and in all this, who we truly worship is ourselves) – that is the problem. That we treasure money and comfort over Christ’s will – that is the problem.

That we are servants but servants of own evil desires, slaves to sin – that is our problem.

We, are the problem.

Julie