Posts Tagged 'Theology'

The Kingdom of God Part II

In the previous entry on the Kingdom of God, we took a very quick look at Israel’s history, it’s rise, developing monarchy, divide, and fall. This sets the context for Jesus’ life. Jesus was born in a time when many zealous Jews (the people of Israel, God’s chosen people) were attempting to overthrow their enemies (the Romans), in an attempt to take the land and re-establish God’s Kingdom (like the Maccabean Revolt, for instance). Thus, it was very common for boys to be named ‘Jesus’ -Ιησους was the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word ישוע -‘Yeshua’ which means ‘he will save’ or ‘salvation’. And this is why the Angel explains to Mary why Jesus’ name is ‘Jesus’ “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1.21).

The Jews were expecting a King

It is plain to see, then, that the Jews were expecting a king to come and overthrow the Romans, to stop the oppression, and to set up God’s Kingdom on earth as it had been ruled by David. The Gospels testify to this:

Mat 20:21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”
Mar 11:10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”
Mar 15:43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Luk 17:20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed,
Luk 19:11 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately.
Act 1:6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Jesus’ (and the Bible’s) message is that Jesus is the King

Not only were the Jews anxiously awaiting a King and a Kingdom, but the Gospels declare that Jesus was and claimed to be that King:

Mat 1:6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah… and Joseph father of Jesus. [Notice: Jesus is in the kingly line of David, to whom the promise was made]
Luk 1:31-33 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mat 2:1-2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Mat 21:5 [Jesus says] “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” [quoting Zechariah 9:9]
Mat 27:11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.”
(See also Luk 23:2; Luk 23:3; Joh 18:37; Joh 19:12; Mat 27:29; Mat 27:37; Mar 15:2; Mar 15:18; Mar 15:32; Mar 15:12; Mar 15:26; Mar 15:9; Luk 23:37; Joh 18:33; Joh 18:39; Joh 19:3; Joh 19:14; Joh 19:15; Joh 19:19)

Jesus declared King

There is a specific time in scripture when God the Father declares Jesus as his king on earth. It is often missed, but best seen in Matthew 3.16 – 17:

“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him. and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”

Why, you might ask, is this a kingly declaration? Notice that two things happen: (1) God’s Spirit falls on Jesus – this is what happens when God anoints his servant (Saul – 1 Kings 11; David – asks that God not take his spirit from him Ps 50, etc.). And, (2) the Father declares that Jesus is his son as he did with David. In Ps 2.7 David says, “The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” and in 2 Sam 7, God says of David, “I will establish the throne of his Kingdom forever. I will be to him a father and he shall be to me a son.” If this doesn’t make it clear enough, looking forward, the author of Hebrews relates Jesus’ sonship to his kingship in Heb 1.

It isn’t until Jesus’ baptism that Christ begins his ministry and after giving a short survey of Jesus’ ministry Luke records Jesus saying in 4.44 that the purpose of this ministry to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.

A different kind of Kingdom

If all of this is true, why don’t we read in the Gospels that Jesus led a Maccabean-type revolt, overthrew the government, and established the throne of his father David? It is because though Jesus brought a kingdom, it didn’t look like what the Jews or anyone else thought it would look like:

Joh 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” [Notice: Jesus did not say ‘my kingdom is not in this world’ but said, ‘it is is not of this world]
Mat 12:28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Luk 10:9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

We see, then, that Jesus’ kingdom is here and advancing, but not as expected. We see two things throughout the Gospels, which are typified in these verses. First, Jesus’ kingdom has no geographical location, rather it is a kind of reign. In other words, as demonstrated in the verses above, Jesus’ kingdom is a manifestation of God’s rule on earth. We see that as the kingdom is advanced, God’s rule is demonstrated. Second, the manifestation of God’s rule is not the same thing as God’s general control of all things (providence). Christians believe that God is in complete control of all things, but the term ‘the kingdom of God’ in the Bible is a particular reference to the way God reveals his power and reign in and throughout the lives of his followers (those who are kingdom citizens). It is this kingdom that Jesus brought.

But, what happened to the Kingdom? What does it have to do with us? Was it something restricted to Jesus’ time and ministry? That is the question for the third and final post on the Kingdom of God.

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Complimentarianism in the SBC

Spending several years in Bible college introduced me to many different theological positions, views on the kingdom, the will, evil, salvation, the millennium, etc. One of the most contentious issues of all was, and is, the complementarian / egalitarian debate. Essentially, at the heart of the debate is the question of what roles are and are not permissible for a woman to hold in the church and family. Complementarianism is the doctrine that there is a hierarchy in the church and family and that man is the head of both. Egalitarianism is the doctrine that there is no such hierarchy and that men and women are equal in their right to fulfill leadership roles. Both of these definitions are very rough, but work well enough for the purpose of this post.

The purpose of this post is to reject a form of complementarianism, not to promote egalitarianism. Some may say that this post is simply attacking a straw-man. It isn’t. I doubt that the content of this post will be affirmed by many (if any) complementarians, but experience tells me that there are times when our actions will do the assenting in the face of our mouth’s dissent. I will call this form ‘Southern Complementarianism’ (SC). From my experience there are unnecessary, but consistent tenets of complimentarianism in the south and particularly in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Those tenets are:

  1. The only suitable roles for women are wife and mother and all other pursuits or talents should bow to these first priorities.
  2. From 1, the proper role of a woman as a wife is to support her husband in his endeavors, goals, etc.
  3. A woman’s opinion is naturally inferior to a man’s since the man was created as leader of the woman.
  4. From 3, a woman should never question her husband’s judgment.
  5. Women (in general) should submit to men (in general)- similar to the way children (in general) should respect their elders (in general).
  6. A woman’s education is generally less important than her husband’s and she should simply be able to trust his opinions and learning.

Premises 1 and 2. Part of the problem is thinking that our primary aim is to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and, after all, the only way to do this is for men and woman to submit to their teleological role of baby-making. Since someone has to take care of the kids, and the man has to be out providing, it falls to the woman to stay in the home and raise the children. Thus, premise 1. This is also propagated by ‘the role’ talk (according to this ‘the role’ of a woman is premise 1) . For instance, reading through this post (by the editor of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) and the comments might give you an idea of the kind of thing I am speaking of. So that everyone knows (as Bertrand Russell pointed out over a 100 years ago in On Denoting) the word ‘the’ implies at least one and no more, that is, singularity. But does the Bible really point out one such role for a woman, to be a wife and mother? What if she isn’t one or both? Is she a failure to the Kingdom? It is my belief that the command to be fruitful and multiply is not for us. The command is given 12 times in the OT but only three of the times was it given to humans: to Adam, when there was no one else on earth, Noah, when there was no one else on earth, and Jacob- who is Israel- when the nation of Israel was being formed), and it is given no times in the NT. Our command is not to multiply babies, but according to Jesus, disciples. And Paul’s charge that it may be better to remain single seems to fly in the face of all of this ‘the role’ nonsense (despite the title, Mother Theresa was neither a mother nor a wife).

Premises 3, 4, and 5. Back in the garden Eve was deceived, this shows us that women are more likely to make bad decisions and this somehow shows us that men are more likely not to make bad decisions (though the former in no way implies the latter). So, pre and post fall (lapse), the woman was and remains inferior in her decision making abilities. Thus, premise 3 and 4. And, it seems, the principle from these premises has been extrapolated to denote a general relationship between men and women. Thus, premise 5. However, if the complementarian position is right, the submission of the wife to the husband is for the purpose of pointing to the relationship between Christ and his bride, not something that happens as a result of a lack on the woman’s part. And, if this is the case, the wife is submitting to but to a position, not a gender. I believe that 3 – 5 result in a general degrading of women. Though many complementarians in the SBC claim that the ‘forbidden fruit’ for women is the teaching of Christian doctrine, this fleshes itself out by disallowing them to participate in most positions. I can’t remember the last time, in a Baptist church, I saw a woman pray from the front, read a passage of scripture, or even help with the tithe collection. This is a moral catastrophe and failure on the part of churches. “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you…”

Premise 6. In the south, especially in the Christian south, most get married much, much younger than the rest of the western world. As a result, Bible colleges are full of married kids training for the ministry that can only afford for one to attend university. Thus, the result is that since the man is going to be ‘the preacher’ he is the one that needs the education. Four years or more go by, the kids have kids of their own and the woman never gets a shot at being educated. Some women don’t care, some do. The attitude is that a woman’s education is less important than a man’s. In fact, I’ve noticed that some male Bible students have a real aversion to their wives being educated. I can only guess at why this might be.

Before my wife and I moved to England (after we had both finished an undergraduate degree) we were sitting in the office of a man who worked for a Southern Baptist institution and we were discussing our options. We informed him that we were both interested in more education. He asked what we were interested in. I told him philosophy and my wife said she was still considering her options. He looked at my wife and said with a scoff, “Do you really want to get more education? I mean, come on, you’re pretty, you’re taller than a lot of men, and you already have one degree…” I don’t think I really registered what he said until after we left, or perhaps I was just too in the middle of the SC dust cloud to even recognize that he was being a chauvinist. I simply want to note that true Christianity is not chauvinistic and Jesus’ heart and actions toward women was completely different to the one modeled by SC.

Moving to another country has help me view this situation with slightly different eyes and see this to be the problem it is. Pastors and men should help identify SC and do away with it because it is harmful to the gospel, chauvinistic, and altogether shameful.