Posted on Thursday, June 16, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
John Stevens has posted an article expressing dismay over the current debate concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. I do not know John Stevens. I’m sure he’s a fine fellow. But there is more wrong with his post than I possibly have time to critique. My response then will be fairly narrow. 
 
In his post Stevens asks the question, “Why now?” But of course the concerns raised on Mortification of Spin are nothing new. For years there have been criticisms of the doctrine of Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS) advanced by Drs. Ware and Grudem. But because these criticisms have been expressed primarily in a corner of the academic world they have gone largely unnoticed by the church. Last week brought the debate out of the corner into the public eye. And it was time. The theology of EFS is being popularized by some complementarian leaders. A new popular level book advancing the doctrine has recently been published. So, in answer to Stevens' question: It is long overdue. 
 
Stevens expresses concern that those of us who have defended historic Nicene Trinitarianism are accusing those who hold EFS of being heretics. What I have read so far does not bear that out. Error? Yes. A departure from orthodoxy? Yes. But heresy is a very particular category of damning error established by church courts. Interestingly, in 2008 a debate held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School pitted Drs. Ware and Grudem against Drs. McCall and Yandell (critics of EFS). During that debate Dr. Grudem said that the views of McCall and Yandell (the historic Nicene position!) sounded like modalism, a heresy. Let that sink in. 
 
It is unfortunate that Stevens saw fit to cast suspicions upon the motives of those who raised the concerns. Of course he is not the only one to assume upon motives. Others have openly wondered on social media that those who object to EFS do so out of some secret egalitarian/feminist agenda. That shows just how successful the proponents of EFS have been. The fact is the ugliness of the current debate does not reside in the objections against EFS. Rather it has come from those who have impugned the motives of those who raised the objections.
 
These debates are necessary. We are sinful and deeply flawed individuals. Therefore it should not shock us when (not if) we err. Nor should we be shocked when brothers and sisters disagree with our conclusions. When objections are raised concerning our doctrine then rather than take it personally we ought to listen and carefully consider the critique. 
 
In his piece for Christianity Today Caleb Lingren reached a very different conclusion than Stevens:
[Up] to this point, the argument has stayed within the realm of doctrine for the most part, and has not strayed into the sorts of personal attacks and sniping that we have come to expect from public discourse these days. 
In a social media–driven age when most arguments produce more heat than light, the way this one has been carried out could be seen as an encouraging sign.
 
Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

* Update - Jonathan has since posted a few gracious clarifications. 

In case you have not seen it Jonathan Leeman of Nine Marks Minstries recently Tweeted the following:

I can't help but wonder if unspoken assumptions about the goodness of authority/submission are animating recent arguments over the Trinity.

When challenged his response was equally odd:

Call it a pastoral hunch.

I do not know Jonathan. I have however benefitted from his books. I have found The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love and Reverberation particularly helpful. I was therefore quite surprised by his odd Tweet calling into question the motives of those who have challenged the innovative doctrine of the eternal submission of the Son. I suppose if one cannot marshal the necessary theological, biblical, and historical evidence then impugning motives is the next best thing. 

Of course as a Presbyterian I struggle a bit when someone who champions church autonomy suggests that I have a problem with authority. 

 

Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Since 1 Corinthians 11:3 is a text to which those who uphold the Eternal Subordination of the Son point I offer the following small sampling of how others have interpreted the apostle’s words. Understand that it is the minority position to interpret 1 Corinthians 11:3 as suggesting that there is an eternally functioning subordination of Son to Father. That alone does not make the advocates wrong. But it does suggest that there may indeed be a problem with their exegesis of the text. 
 
Not surprisingly the majority of scholars and theologians in the Nicene tradition have affirmed that “Christ” refers to Jesus in his mediatorial role. That is, texts such as 1 Corinthians 11:3 are to be understood as making reference to the incarnate Christ in which he did indeed humble himself and take upon himself the form of a servant (Phil 2:6ff). But to suggest that I Corinthians 11:3 teaches eternal subordination is to read into the text something that is not there.
 
Thomas Aquinas:
The third comparison he makes is of God to the Lord, when he says: The head of Christ is God. Here it should be noted that this name, “Christ,” signifies the person mentioned by reason of His human nature: and so this name, “God,” does not refer only to the person of the Father but the whole Trinity, from which as from the more perfect all goods in the humanity of Christ are derived and to which the humanity of Christ is subjected. It can be understood in another way, so that this name, “Christ,” stands for that person by reason of his divine nature; then this name, “God,” stands only for the person of the Father, Who is called the head of the Son not by reason of a greater perfection or by reason of any supposition, but only according to origin and conformity of nature; as it says in Ps 2 (v. 7): “The Lord said to me: you are my Son; today I have begotten you.”
 
Ambrosiaster:
Referring to the use of “head” to describe the relationships between husband and wife and the Father and the Christ – “Thus one expression has different meanings, according to the difference of person and substantive relationship.”
- From his Commentary on Paul’s Epistles (81.120-21). 
 
John Chrysostom:
But dost thou understand the term "head" differently in the case of the man and the woman, from what thou dost in the case of Christ? Therefore in the case of the Father and the Son, must we understand it differently also. "How understand it differently?" saith the objector. According to the occasion [136] . For had Paul meant to speak of rule and subjection, as thou sayest, he would not have brought forward the instance of a wife, but rather of a slave and a master. For what if the wife be under subjection to us? it is as a wife, as free, as equal in honor. And the Son also, though He did become obedient to the Father, it was as the Son of God, it was as God. For as the obedience of the Son to the Father is greater than we find in men towards the authors of their being, so also His liberty is greater. Since it will not of course be said that the circumstances of the Son's relation to the Father are greater and more intimate than among men, and of the Father's to the Son, less. For if we admire the Son that He was obedient so as to come even unto death, and the death of the cross, and reckon this the great wonder concerning Him; we ought to admire the Father also, that He begat such a son, not as a slave under command, but as free, yielding obedience and giving counsel. For the counsellor is no slave. But again, when thou hearest of a counsellor, do not understand it as though the Father were in need, but that the Son hath the same honor with Him that begat Him. Do not therefore strain the example of the man and the woman to all particulars…
 
To account for which; it was likely that this sin would have thrown our race into a state of warfare; (for her having been made out of him would not have contributed any thing to peace, when this had happened, nay, rather this very thing would have made the man even the harsher, that she made as she was out of him should not have spared even him who was a member of herself:) wherefore God, considering the malice of the Devil, raised up the bulwark of this word and what enmity was likely to arise from his evil device, He took away by means of this sentence and by the desire implanted in us: thus pulling down the partition-wall, i.e., the resentment caused by that sin of hers. But in God and in that undefiled Essence, one must not suppose any such thing.
 
Do not therefore apply the examples to all, since elsewhere also from this source many grievous errors will occur. For so in the beginning of this very Epistle, he said, (1 Corinthians 3:22, 23.) "All are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." What then? Are all in like manner ours, as "we are Christ's, and Christ is God's?" In no wise, but even to the very simple the difference is evident, although the same expression is used of God, and Christ, and us. And elsewhere also having called the husband "head of the wife," he added, (Ephesians 5:23.) "Even as Christ is Head and Saviour and Defender of the Church, so also ought the man to be of his own wife." Are we then to understand in like manner the saying in the text, both this, and all that after this is written to the Ephesians concerning this subject? Far from it. It is impossible. For although the same words are spoken of God and of men, they do not have the same force in respect to God and to men, but in one way those must be understood, and in another these. Not however on the other hand all things diversely: since contrariwise they will seem to have been introduced at random and in vain, we reaping no benefit from them. But as we must not receive all things alike, so neither must we absolutely reject all.
 
John Calvin:
He says that as Christ is subject to God as his head, so is the man subject to Christ, and the woman to the man. We shall afterwards see how he comes to infer from this, that women ought to have their heads covered. Let us, for the present, take notice of those four gradations which he points out. God, then, occupies the first place: Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. Let us, therefore, bear it in mind, that this is spoken of Christ as mediator. He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. 
- From his commentary on I Corinthians
 
John Gill:
And the head of Christ is God; that is, the Father, not as to his divine nature, for in respect to that they are one: Christ, as God, is equal to his Father, and is possessed of the same divine perfections with him; nor is his Father the head of him, in that sense; but as to his human nature, which he formed, prepared, anointed, upheld, and glorified; and in which nature Christ exercised grace on him, he hoped in him, he believed and trusted in him, and loved him, and yielded obedience to him; he always did the things that pleased him in life; he prayed to him; he was obedient to him, even unto death, and committed his soul or spirit into his hands: and all this he did as to his superior, considered in the human nature, and also in his office capacity as Mediator, who as such was his servant; and whose service he diligently and faithfully performed, and had the character from him of a righteous one; so that God is the head of Christ, as he is man and Mediator, and as such only. 
 
Charles Hodge:
The head of the man is Christ; the head of woman is the man; the head of Christ is God. If this concatenation be disturbed in any of its parts, ruin must be the result. The head is that on which the body is dependent, and to which it is subordinate. The obvious meaning of this passage is, that the woman is subordinate to the man, the man is subordinate to Christ and Christ is subordinate to God. It is further evident, that this subordination is very different in its nature in the several cases mentioned. The subordination of the woman to the man is something entirely different from that of the man to Christ; and that again is at an infinite degree more complete than the subordination of Christ to God. And still further, as the subordination of the woman to the man is perfectly consistent with their identity as to nature, so is the subordination of Christ to God consistent with his being of the same nature with the Father. There is nothing, therefore, in this passage, at all inconsistent with the true and proper divinity of our blessed Lord. For a brief statement of the scriptural doctrine of the relation of Christ to God, see the comments on 1 Corinthians 3:23. It need here be only further remarked, that the word Christ is the designation, not of the Logos or second person of the Trinity as such, nor of the human nature of Christ as such, but of the Theanthropos, the God-man. It is the incarnate Son of God, who, in the great work of redemption, is said to be subordinate to the Father, whose will he came into the world to do. When Christ is said to be the head of every man, the meaning is of every believer; because it is the relation of Christ to the church, and not to the human family, that it is characteristically expressed by this term. He is the head of that body which is the church, Colossians 1:18. Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 1:23.
 
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517

 

Michel R. Barnes and Lewis Ayres have weighed in on the current debate over the eternal generation and eternal subordination of the Son. Drs. Barnes and Ayres are considered by many to be among the most significant Patristic scholars in the world today. Their verdict is quite clear and it does not speak well of those who are seeking to advance the etneral subordination of the Son and apply it to human social relationships.

You can read Dr. Barnes input HERE.

Eternal generation is indeed sine qua non of orthodoxy in 381 and thereafter.  - Michel R. Barnes

You can read Dr. Ayres intput HERE.

Along the same lines, we should not forget texts such as John 5:26 “as the father as life in himself, so he has granted the son to have life in himself.” The Son has been given an equality in power to the Father: theologians from Augustine to Aquinas have recognized that we must say both that the Son is sent, and that the Son sends himself – rather as the Spirit is sent by Father and by Son and yet blows where it pleases. It is true enough I think to say that, risking saying far too much given the state of our knowledge this side of the beatific vision, the Son’s mission is founded in his procession, but one of the fascinating things about the processions is the gift of the fullness of divinity and the eternal maintenance of the unity of God through the generation of the Son and spiration of the Spirit. This has consequences that I don’t think Bruce’s theology has even begun to tap – consequences for what our thought may accomplish and where it may be certain that it misses.  - Lewis Ayres

Carl Trueman has made a brief concession to one point HERE

Michael Bird offers the following timely counsel that I hope will be heeded:

To be honest, I mean Bruce Ware and friends no ill, I think they are sincere, they’re trying their best to be faithful theologians and readers of Scripture, and wanting to pursue practical applications. But I just don’t know if it is possible to salvage the subordinationist argument for marital submission after Lewis Ayres and Michel R. Barnes have left nothing but debris in their wake. Let me add- and this was not at my behest or invitation – that when two of the biggest names in fourth century trinitarian theology graciously dismantle your theological argument for basing human relationships on a subordinationist trinitarianism, the game is over. Time to abandon the SS Subordinationism, man the life boats, look for a nice Nicene Island for refuge to land on, and find less complicated ways of arguing for complementarianism.

 

Posted on Friday, June 10, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
The following article is from Dr. Mark Jones. I am grateful for his labor and sobriety over this matter.
 
Most debates I read of today have a parallel with another debate that has taken place over the course of church history. For example, the seventeenth-century Arminian theologian, Simon Episcopius, located the Son’s submission in an inherent subordination in the deity of the Son to the Father. He was not just claiming a certain order of subsistence or even speaking of an ontological dependence of the Son on the Father in terms of persons-appropriate language. That would not be controversial. 
 
Rather, Episcopius argued that the subordination of the incarnate Son, which was traditionally ascribed to his voluntarily (i.e., freely) undertaken redemptive work, is in fact properly characteristic of the Son’s intrinsic relation to the Father. Even apart from the consideration of God’s ad extra (outward) works, there is, for Episcopius, an eternal (necessary) submission. This view of Episcopius may be the most obvious and similar precursor to present-day views that speak to “eternal submission.”
 
Using phrases such as “eternal submission” suggests there is an ontological submission of the Son to the Father in the ad intra relations between the divine persons. But how, given there is one essence (and thus one will), there can be submission is utterly beyond me.
 
There are a number of perspectives we could approach this debate from. Here’s one that many haven’t given much attention to as of late, which is why I raise it:
 
Why did the Son become Mediator? 
 
Was it because he is eternally submissive to the Father? Does the Son have a relationship of submission to the Father in eternity? 
 
Remember, Denny Burk, defending Ware and Grudem, speaks of “eternal submission”:
 
“Trueman acts as if the eternal submission of the Son to the Father view is some new teaching that has been sneaked into backdoor of the church while no one was looking. This too is absurd.”
 
First, I don’t think Trueman made that point; but, second, note the precedent above with Episcopius – the Arminian. It is a well-known fact that Arminian Trinitarian theology had certain flirtations with Socinianism. Ideas have consequences, whether we like to admit that or not.
 
Bruce Ware has made the point: “Therefore, as we consider the incarnational mission of Christ, with the Son expressing his own submission to the Father with words such as, ‘I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me’ (John 8:28), we see that this same relationship of submission to the Father was true in eternity past, even before the creation of the world. The submission of the Son in the incarnation is but a reflection of the eternal relationship that has always been true with his Father. The Son always seeks to do the will of the Father, and this is true eternally.” Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005), 79. 
 
This seems to me to be very dangerous language when speaking of eternal relations. There are all sorts of theological issues that arise out of this, especially in relation to Christology. (I plan to address this in the future, as well).
 
For my own part, I do not think that Bruce Ware or Wayne Grudem are using phrases and language that is helpful. The language of subordination, submission, etc. needs to be removed from our discussion of ad intra eternal relations between the three persons. 
 
Matters are different in regards to Christ and God the Father because Christ has two wills. I worry that Ware may be forced to affirm monothelitism or a version thereof because of his position. 
 
So why did the Son become Mediator?
 
Because the Mediator must be God, redemption requires that one of the three persons becomes the Mediator (and thus the God-man, with two wills). 
 
1) The most basic reason has reference to the doctrine of the Trinity.  
 
The idiōmata (proper qualities) and titles by which the Persons of the Trinity are distinguished should be kept and preserved distinct.  
 
The Son of God is, by virtue of his title, more appropriately the Son of Man and the Son of a woman.  In other words, it was not “fit” that in the Trinity there should be two persons who both bear the title of “Son,” which would have been the case had the Father become incarnate.   
 
Turretin argued that the Holy Spirit, for example, could not be sent to be Mediator because “there would have been two sons, the second person by eternal generation and the third by an incarnation in time.”  
 
Therefore, the order of subsistence among the persons of the Trinity is decisive for resolving this question. The order between the three persons is maintained in the Son becoming the Mediator, since both the Son and the Holy Spirit being from the Father in subsisting, are not to send the Father, who is the first person. 
 
Thus, for the Reformed orthodox, the order of subsistence among the persons of the Trinity reflects the order of their work.  
 
2) Again, grounding our argument in the order of subsistence between the three persons, the Son, as the “middle person” bears the best resemblance of the work as Mediator. He comes between us and God. 
 
Turretin argues that “he who is between the Father and the Holy Spirit should be Mediator between God and men.”         
 
Consequently, the Reformed orthodox maintained that the Son should be Mediator based on the order of subsistence. 
 
3) The Son is peculiarly fitted to be Mediator since, according to Thomas Goodwin, “the main end of his being Mediator,” that is, the adoption of his people into the family of God, is “made one of the greatest benefits of all others” (Eph. 1:5).   
 
The Son is the most suitable person to convey this soteric blessing insofar that as a Son Christ conveys sonship upon his people by virtue of his union with them (Gal. 4:4-5).  
 
Again, in similar fashion, Turretin argues that it was fitting that “he who was a Son by nature should make us adoptive sons by grace.”  Besides Trinitarian reasons, soteric factors – i.e. the doctrine of adoption – explain why the Son should be Mediator. 
 
4) The offices of the Mediator, namely, priest, prophet, and king, necessitated that the Son of God take on the work of mediation.  Regarding the office of priest, it is the birth-right of the eldest Son in the family to be the priest. Therefore, to prove he was a Priest (Heb. 5), the author cites Psalm 2: “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.” As an intercessory priest the Son is uniquely able to approach the Father, which is a function grounded both in ontology (i.e. their natural subsistence) and economy (Christ’s work of mediation).  
 
As a prophet, the Son is especially fit to be Mediator because he is the Word and Wisdom of the Father (Heb. 1:1; Jn. 1:18). 
 
5) As a King, there is none so fit as the heir, “none so fit to have all Judgment and the Kingdom committed to him as God’s Son” (Goodwin). 
 
In the future, I want to take up the issue of using the language of “authority” and “submission” to describe ad intra Trinitarian relations. It seems to me to be highly problematic, as many have pointed out, to make “submission” the constitutive personal property in God. (I also want to challenge Bruce Ware’s use of the word “eternal” in his Reformation21 piece, which to me is an example of failing to understand how the term has been used historically. And, as I noted above, his Christology seems to have suffered as a result of his Trinitarian views).
 
There are better ways of understanding why, for example, the Son became Mediator. Those ways do not require us to use the language of submission when it comes to the eternal relations between the Father and the Son. 
 
For my own part, I am not suggesting that these men are going to hell because of these errors, as if they were rank heretics. But I do think we need to be prepared to challenge each other, sometimes strongly, when such important truths are at stake. 
 
Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
A few thoughts to accompany the ridiculous mayhem surrounding the death of Harambe the gorilla. 
 
  • Human life is of far greater value than animal life. Humans are not simply another genus in the animal kingdom. Humans, while certainly created beings like the animals, nevertheless are possessed of an entirely different status. The opening pages of the Bible make clear that mankind is the product of direct and special creation. The creation account also establishes the fact that mankind, male and female, bear the image of God. Simply put, there is nothing else like humanity. As bright as they shine, the quasars do not bear the image of God. As spectacular as they rise, the Rocky Mountains do not bear the image of God. As wonderful as they are, gorillas do not bear the image of God.
  • It is entirely appropriate for sadness to accompany the killing of the gorilla. Animals, being the creation of God, have great value. But our God-given dominion over the animals means, among other things, that we may have them for food. However, human dominion should never excuse cruelty or indifference. 
  • Mankind strives to undermine God’s order within creation. It is as the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans one. Once the truth of God is suppressed man begins to worship the creature; he begins to serve images of animals rather than exercising wise dominion over them.  
  • Ours is an unhealthily emotional generation. The outpouring of anger and grief over the death of the gorilla seems little different from that which is seen at the death of a human. Actually, it is worse. Having been immersed in the sentimentalism of contemporary liberalism, Americans, especially younger Americans, are unable to think their way out of the gutter of base emotionalism. Of course there is nothing wrong with feeling. God has made us emotional beings. But thinking is one of the things that set humans apart from cumquats and wombats. It is through thinking that we are able to establish that a dead gorilla is sad but a dead human is far worse. 
  • The fact that we are sad about the death of a gorilla is further evidence of the value of human life. There would have been no such mourning among gorillas had Harambe smashed that little boy’s head like a grape. Nor would we expect them to grieve. We would not expect them to demand answers of zoo officials. We would not expect them to criticize the child’s mother. Because you know, gorillas. 
  • Ours is a poorly educated generation. From their first exposure to the natural sciences, the vast majority of American children are taught a view of reality in which God is not. They are taught that human life sprang up as a consequence of random mutation with no more intrinsic value than any other piece of flotsam in the solar system. We should not be surprised then, when these same children, having been fed a steady diet of movies about talking animals and evil humans, grow up to hold the life of an animal as far more precious than that of a human. 
 
Posted on Friday, May 20, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
Well, well, well. Carl and Aimee really thought they had me. It was an all-out ambush. And while I did take a few arrows I nevertheless was left unpersuaded by their argument. 
 
If you are wondering what I am referring to then take a listen to the latest Mortification of Spin podcast. In short, our disagreement is over the nature of teaching the Bible in Sunday School. Specifically, whether or not teaching the Bible in Sunday School is an exercise of Spiritual authority. I believe it is. My friends disagree depending of the circumstances involved. 
 
Aimee has followed-up our discussion with a post going into greater detail and raising some good questions along the way.
 
I state at the outset that Carl, Aimee and I agree that the office-bearers of the church are clearly to be men and that the tasks of preaching and administering the sacraments are to be carried out by the church’s elders. We also agree that there is some pretty goofy stuff being written and taught under the umbrella of “complementarianism.” Our concern is that complementarianism seems to be morphing into patriarchy in some cases. We get worried when we hear complementarianism nearly equated with the gospel itself. Carl and I agree that the Danvers Statement is a proper reflection upon the Scripture’s instructions regarding gender roles. I am unaware of where Aimee stands in regard to Danvers. 
 
I can also tell you that for anyone out there who believes that Carl and Aimee are falling into the slough of liberalism then you don’t know them well. You may disagree with them about Sunday School and teaching but don’t accuse them of being liberals. They certainly are not. Our disagreement is not about what the Bible teaches in regard to leadership in the church. Our disagreement has to do with a specific area of application. 
As I understand their position, Carl and Aimee believe that teaching the Bible in Sunday School is not necessarily an exercise of spiritual leadership and therefore presents no problem to male headship. I point that out because some of what I write in this post is not in response to things Carl and Aimee have suggested but rather to place my position in its broader biblical context. Our disagreement is over the specific application of male leadership in the context of Sunday School.
 
No Inconsistency Here
If you listened to the podcast then you heard that my cohosts believed me to be inconsistent in my position given that my church had recently hosted Rosaria Butterfield for a weekend event (Friday women’s banquet / Saturday address). “Was that not a woman teaching and therefore exercising authority over men?” they pleaded. But I maintain that there is a clear difference between, for instance, a former radical feminist and university professor addressing a mixed gathering on a Saturday event and women teaching men the Bible on the Lord’s Day. 
 
I understand that different churches are going to apply the Bible’s restrictions in 1 Timothy 2 in different ways. For instance, there are some churches that would not have allowed Mrs. Butterfield to have addressed a mixed congregation on Saturday or any other day. But I am not embarrassed to exercise a certain level of sanctified common sense. I believe people understand the difference between a special event on a Saturday and the regular ministry of the Word on the Lord’s Day.
 
Too Bold a Line
Throughout the history of the church the ministry of the Word has extended beyond preaching on the Lord’s Day gatherings. This seems to be the case with the very first church (Acts 2:42ff). So, the fact that Sunday School is a relatively recent development in the history of the church has little if anything to do with how the ministry of the Word functions during that hour on the Lord’s Day. In other words, the relative newness of Sunday School does not alter the fact that the exhortation from God’s Word is typically an authoritative act. 
 
Not surprisingly I believe that the line Carl and Aimee draw between the worship service and Sunday School is too bold. Don’t misunderstand. I agree with them that the service of Word and Sacrament is different from Sunday School. We don’t administer the sacraments nor do we preach sermons in a Sunday School class. But in Sunday School the Word of God is most certainly taught and for the purpose of exhortation. I do not see how teaching the Scriptures in such a setting on the Lord’s Day is not an act of spiritual leadership.  
 
In my communication with Aimee she has presented a paradigm which is helpful and certainly allays some of my concerns. But I remain unconvinced. 
 
The connection between authority and teaching 
1 Timothy 2:11-14 – “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 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.” 
 
In his indispensable commentary on the Pastoral Epistles William Mounce writes the following in his comments on 1 Timothy 2:11: “The historical reading of the text sees Paul limiting the scope of women’s ministry and grounding that prohibition in the creation of Adam and Eve before the curse of the Fall. If it could be proven that elsewhere Paul allows women to teach overseers (i.e., men) authoritatively within the context of the household of God (1 Timothy 3:15), then it would have to be concluded that Paul is inconsistent or that vv 11-14 have been misunderstood” (p. 117). 
 
Paul’s use in verses 11 and 12 of hasukia (“quiet” or “quietness”) almost certainly does not mean that women must remain silent in the congregation. It most likely refers to a “quiet” or gentle spirit being willing to learn and follow the leadership of the church’s overseers. On this my cohosts and I agree probably agree. 
 
It is clear that spiritual leadership in the church is a task given by God to men. In the church women are prohibited from exercising spiritual authority over a man. And, as the text demands, this prohibition extends to teaching. It is difficult, I believe, to make the case that didaskein (“to teach”) is meant only to apply to preaching sermons in Lord’s Day worship services. 
 
We do know that this is not a blanket prohibition against women teaching. Indeed, the church desperately needs qualified women teachers. For instance older women are to teach younger women (Titus 2:3-4). Timothy was no doubt instructed by his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1:5). Aquila was accompanied by his wife Priscilla in instructing Apollos (Acts 18:26). So Paul does not seem to be prohibiting a woman from assisting her husband in giving instruction in some cases. Again we must exercise a certain level of sanctified common sense in our application of this principle. 
 
What is clear is that Paul links teaching directly to the exercise of authority. It seems to me that the burden of proof is upon those who suggest that didaskein (to teach) applies only to preaching sermons on the Lord’s Day.
 
Not once in the New Testament is there an example of a woman called to or assigned the task of biblical exhortation or spiritual leadership over men. The role of spiritual leadership via exhortation from the Scriptures is given to men solely. 
 
No heartburn
I agree with Aimee’s concern about the “err on the safe side” principle. I cringe when I hear that. I also agree that on whichever side we land in this debate it is important that we not sow confusion about leadership in the church. Carl and Aimee believe that women may teach men in Sunday School in such a way that confusion over leadership will not result. Again, I am not convinced. 
 
I am thankful for the back-and-forth on this topic. I believe it is a very healthy discussion that is actually shedding more light on the nature of church leadership. One of the concerns that I share with Carl and Aimee is that often times the most prominent voices on the subject are those which lean into patriarchy on the one side or Rachel Held Evans on the other side. One of the reasons I do not have heartburn over the fact that we disagree is because I know Carl and Aimee’s commitment to the inerrancy and authority of the Scriptures. I also know their commitment to affirming the leadership of qualified elders over the household of God. May we enter this discussion with hearts and minds willingly subject to God’s Word and quick to assume the best about those with whom we disagree. 
 
* Regarding the picture of Aimee Semple McPherson - I just couldn't help myself. 
 
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
My mind boggles over both the swiftness and comprehensiveness of the new sexual revolution. It is a revolution that has as one of its goals the complete overthrow of Scripture’s teaching on the nature of humanity and the sexual boundaries which are vital to human health and flourishing. 
 
Today brought news that the Obama Administration, finding free time between battling international terrorism and record-breaking under employment has issued a decree to our nation’s public schools: Conform or else. 
 
The following guidelines explaining the new “obligations” of public schools are from the joint report issued by our nation’s departments of Justice and Education:
Respond promptly and effectively to sex-based harassment of all students, including harassment based on a student’s actual or perceived gender identity, transgender status or gender transition;
Treat students consistent with their gender identity even if their school records or identification documents indicate a different sex;
Allow students to participate in sex-segregated activities and access sex-segregated facilities consistent with their gender identity; and
Protect students’ privacy related to their transgender status under Title IX and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
As you can see, there is no sitting out this revolution. You will be made to care. The new revolution’s battle for our children’s minds and allegiance now has the formal support of the state. The culture war has been brought into the living rooms of every household. The report from the Obama Administration makes clear that any school which does not comply with the rules of the new sexual revolution will face the retaliation of the Federal Government. 
 
The indispensable Rod Dreher issued the following words last evening:
“My government is the enemy of my church and my family. It has come to that. I figured it would one day. But not so soon.”
 
The implications of the new sexual revolution are much broader than what is happening in our schools. Christians are already being targeted by the state for not agreeing to add their labors and talents to the solemnizing of homosexual weddings. What will surely increase rapidly is the social and economic ostracism of Christians. Christians will increasingly be denied professional advancement, educational opportunities, and participation in public life on the basis that they refuse to accept the new moral insanity. 
 
Sadly, the church has in too many cases equipped our young people with a facile “being Christian is fun” theology which will quickly wither and die under the heat of this new revolution. Likewise the Joel Osteens and Steven Furticks of American evangelicalism will find out just how impractical their ministries have been.
 
I happen to be preaching a brief series through Genesis 1-3. The series seeks to address foundational questions such as “Why is there something rather than nothing?” and “What is God?” In the coming two Sundays I will be preaching on what it means to be human. One of the things we learn in the opening pages of Genesis is that God created mankind in his image “male and female.” This basic distinction is obvious throughout the created order. It is necessary for reproduction and human health and happiness. It is a reality coded into every cell in the human body. It is obvious in our physical construction and the basic functioning of our bodies. And it is the reality which the Federal Government of the United States is now demanding we deny.
 
The consequences of this denial of obvious truth will carry with it devastating results for human health, reproduction, and public safety. And, of course, souls lie in the balance. So the church must stand opposed to the new sexual revolution. We must not pretend that we can afford to ride out the storm. We must ride into the eye of the thing. We do this for the glory of God who is being openly mocked by human creatures supposing themselves to be sovereign. We do this for the sake of sinners who are choosing to imbibe the very poison that is killing them. We do this for the sake of our children who are the primary targets of the new, federally backed revolutionaries. 
 
Two books that will help you in understanding the history, major players, philosophical foundations, and ultimate goals of the new sexual revolutionaries:
 
 
Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
 
I am thankful for Jared Wilson’s latest post over at his blog on TGC. Wilson takes on the issue of celebrity pastors. The post is worth reading. 
 
I must however admit to feeling a bit of incredulity when I first read Wilson’s post. Even more so was my surprise (dismay? disbelief? disgust?) over the many retweets by well-known folks expressing appreciation for Wilson’s boldness. You see, I happen to know this guy from England who teaches at a seminary in Philadelphia who began raising these concerns several years ago and was both ignored and criticized for it. At least one blogger at TGC took this friend of mine to task for suggesting that we had a celebrity problem in the broader reformed-ish community. I'm waiting to see if he will post a similar correction to Jared's piece. 
 
So, better late than never I suppose. 
 
Wilson asks, “What are some specific, practical things that can be done to work against the idolization of the successful pastor?” He follows with five excellent suggestions.
 
I would add a couple things to Wilson’s already good list:
6. Take a break for two years from speaking at any conferences. 
I’m serious. Just stop. If you are one of the top men who consistently find yourself center stage at the highest profile events deliberately give yourself a lower profile. If celebrity has become the problem that Jared Wilson suggests then it seems to me that those who have obtained celebrity status will desire to reverse that trend.
 
7. If you are a conference organizer reach out to some lesser or unknown but competent pastors to speak at your event. 
Don't misunderstand. I'm not suggesting that we promote mediocrity or incompetence. There is nothing noble about promoting a bad preacher or shallow thinker. But the Lord has given more than 8 gifted men to his church. They are out there, these lesser known men. Now, I know what you are thinking: “No one will attend.” Perhaps. But isn’t that the proof that we have a problem with celebrity? If we are going to truly do something about our heavy lean into celebrity culture then we have to stop feverishly promoting the same handful of men. It is not an easy cycle to break. We want to see the guys who are the very best speakers/preachers. They will draw the crowd. And they, in turn, love the large platforms and privileges that go along with that faithful patronage. I am not seeking to cast aspersions on anyone’s character. If I were treated like a celebrity; if I received a $5,000 gift bag I am quite sure I would love it. We are sinners after all. Treating a sinner, even a saved sinner like a celebrity is dangerous for his soul and ours.
 
I truly appreciate what Wilson wrote. I hope he will be heard as enthusiastically as others have been ignored and mocked. 
 
 
Posted on Friday, May 06, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Tom Chantry is NOT happy with the MOS team. His latest blog entry uses words like “ignorant,” and “galling” which seems to confirm his own assessment that he sounds “irritable.” Indeed. 
 
Chantry’s bad mood was provoked by the most recent episode of Mortification of Spin which dealt with whether it was wise for Presbyterians and Baptists to marry. The discussion focused primarily on two issues: 1) Will the children be baptized as infants? and 2) Will the Presbyterian spouse be willing to be re-baptized in order to join a Baptist church? 
 
Chantry points out what he believed were misrepresentations of the positions of Reformed Baptists. Specifically Chantry takes issue with 1) a book recommendation, 2) a connection made between credo-baptism and Dispensationalism and 3) our contention that in order to join a Baptist church or be welcomed to the Lord’s Table one must have been baptized as a believer. 
 
If you are not familiar with Tom Chantry, he is a Reformed Baptist Pastor and blogger. He is an excellent writer. I enjoy his blog quite a bit. Furthermore, Tom is a serious man and it is appropriate that he receive, what I hope is a reasonable response.
 
So, here we go…
 
First, one must remember that the intention of Mortification of Spin, particularly our shorter Bully Pulpit podcasts, is not to present a well-scripted multi-layered and highly nuanced discussion. It is quite intentionally and obviously (sometimes perhaps too obviously!) an unscripted and casual conversation. Our goal on the last podcast was to answer a question from a listener about whether or not her Presbyterian friend should marry a reformed Baptist. Throughout our discussion we mentioned “reformed Baptists” and “baptists.” As many of you surely know this is far from specific in the Baptist world. In the case of our listener’s question did “reformed baptist” mean London Baptist Confession Reformed Baptist or a Calvinistic Baptist or a Doctrines of Grace Baptist or a Baptist who has a high view of God’s sovereignty or an Acts 29 Baptist or a Baptist who likes John Piper or a Baptist whose pastor attends Together for the Gospel? I’m not being glib. The fact is, when one hears “Reformed Baptist” today it could be any one of those options and more.   
 
From Tom’s response I can only suppose that he believed our purpose was to interact with only those Baptists who attend churches conformed to the London Baptist Confession 1689 (or a similar confession). It is understandable. If I were a member of a confessionally Reformed Baptist Church like Pastor Chantry’s I would not want to be lumped in with every other variety of Baptist. But while we did mention “reformed Baptists” I know that at least on my part it was in a less than technical sense. Sometimes, for the sake of brevity if not for sanity, one must speak in generalities. This is particularly true when the subject is something so complicated as the Baptist family tree. 
 
I am not suggesting that LBC Reformed Baptists should not want to be distinguished from the vast sea of other Baptist varieties out there including more general “reformed-ish” Doctrines of Grace Baptists. And I will certainly try to be as specific as I can in the future. Going forward I will try to make it clear when I refer to reformed Baptists whether I am referring to those Baptists who formally embrace one of the historic Reformed Confessions like the LBC or identify as reformed in a broader sense. And perhaps Pastor Chantry can throw a smidgen of sympathy our way considering how hard it is to talk about Baptists, even reformed Baptists generally. 
 
Second, Chantry objected to our recommendation of Tom Schreiner’s book Believer’s Baptism on the grounds that it is not the best representation of the LBC Reformed Baptist defense of believer’s only baptism. I confess to being confused about this one because, while I disagree with Dr. Schreiner’s ultimate point, the book is nevertheless a thorough exegetical study and defense of the believer’s only baptist position. I thought we were being quite magnanimous to recommend a book that might well persuade fellow paedo-baptists to become Baptists. Perhaps a more fitting response would have been: “While I value Schreiner’s defense of believers only baptism, a book that is more specifically reflective of the confessionally Reformed Baptist position would be…” 
 
Third, Chantry took issue with a statement linking Dispensationalism to believer’s only baptism. I understand that Dispensationalism is not a preferred system among LBC Reformed Baptists. That is a good thing. But as someone who was raised in a Dispensational church I know firsthand that believers only baptism is typically seen as part and parcel of the Dispensational system. It is also true that the vast majority of Baptists are, to varying degrees, Dispensationalists. And since we were addressing a broader spectrum of Baptist life than LBC Reformed Baptists only, it was certainly a valid point to raise. That said, Chantry is obviously correct in asserting that LBC Reformed Baptists affirm credo-baptism quite apart from Dispensationalism. 
 
Fourth, Chantry pointed out that we erred in stating that in order to be a member of a Baptist church or be welcomed to the Lord’s Table one must be baptized as a believer. He points out that among some Reformed Baptists this issue is not fully settled. He references an appendix in the LBC which does indeed acknowledge that among those early Reformed Baptists there existed some who exercised freedom in extending “Church-communion” with those who were not baptized as believers. 
 
I have never known a Baptist church to extend membership to anyone who was not a baptized believer. Admittedly, I do not possess comprehensive knowledge of the practices of all Baptist churches. That said, I was raised a Southern Baptist and educated at a Southern Baptist University and Seminary. Throughout all those years of education through and service to Southern Baptists I was never once exposed to the possibility that a person not baptized as a believer could be welcomed into membership or receive the Lord’s Supper. 
 
Therefore, I think Chantry protests too much at this point. That an appendix in the LBC acknowledges that some Reformed Baptists do not feel constrained to insist on believer’s baptism to receive communion does not exactly present a compelling case that the doors of Baptist church membership swing wide for those baptized as infants. I would be curious if Pastor Chantry’s church welcomes those baptized as infants into membership and the Lord’s Table. 
 
Chantry makes some fair points. And I do not begrudge him a desire for more precision in our discussion of “Reformed Baptists.” I understand why he does not consider “Reformed” those Baptists who merely embrace the Doctrines of Grace but not an historic Baptist confession. Indeed there are members of my denomination whose commitment to Reformed distinctives is suspect at best. So I will try to be more specific in my use of terms. Perhaps “Baptists,” “reformed-ish Baptists,” and “Reformed Baptists” will be my way forward.
 
That acknowledged, I find Chantry’s charge of misrepresentation to be a bit overwrought. But if nothing else maybe some of the bloggers over at TGC will see that responding directly with candor and charity to a critic is not nearly as scary as it seems at first.