JREnsey blog Mid-May 2021

 

Welcome to the May 2021 Mid-Month Blog

The First Word

“But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:1-5 KJV).

“Then the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others’” (Habakkuk 2:2 NLT).

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NOTICE:

Please take time to read the scriptures above before continuing. Thanks.

This will be a brief edition of the blog since only one item is on the agenda. It is a book review, one that is longer than I could put in my regular blog. I felt it important to be timely with the review. May it be helpful to you in both your studies and your book buying.

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Book review

THE JESUS REMIX

THE MAKING OF BIBLICAL WOMANHOOD: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth

By Beth Allison Barr; Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2021; 19.99

We Americans are becoming accustomed to redos and resets. The U.S. seems to be in a full political reset at the present time. The church appears to be falling in line with the idea. So I am not surprised that we now have a book about a “remix.”

The feminization of our culture has upended a society that boasted of a foundation built on the Bible, a nation that made its motto “In God we trust.” Our founders put biblical scenes in stone on its monumental buildings of government. Those images are now being defaced and those monuments may soon fall if we continue on the present path. Every tradition and belief seem to be under review.51kJBZidb4S._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

This is another in a lengthening line of books by feminist authors spelling out how Christian men have historically been spiritual rascals. Barr’s caustic pen scatters words like “subjugation,” “hierarchy” and “subordination,” all carrying a negative connotation, making the modern Christian woman’s status sound eerily like slavery. If one checks for synonyms of subjugation, words like “oppression…conquest…domination…enslavement” will pop up. In other words, Christian men have been bad and need an old fashioned straightening out.

The author consistently reminds her readers that she is a “historian” of note, with multiple letters behind her name. However, omniscience is an attribute of God alone. She approaches the topic of biblical womanhood more from a historical rather than a theological standpoint.

Her book comes as a result of what she feels are pastors’ and church leaders’ misunderstanding of the biblical passages that she feels prove women should automatically be given access to all levels of spiritual leadership and authority. She and her husband struggled with this issue in their position as youth leaders in a complementarian church. They were finally dismissed because of their views. Hurt and disappointment followed. How other women may have been similarly hurt and sidelined through the centuries became a passionate study, and thus this book. Regardless of our personal experience, however, church leaders are not authorized to undo what God has done. Human decrees do not transcend the plain Word of God. Leaders are to love what God loves, hate what God hates, promote what God promotes, and oppose what God opposes. The author’s circular reasoning to make the Bible say something to fit a personal prejudice is an exercise in eisegesis.

The New Testament is filled with examples of gracious treatment of Christian women. From the Day of Pentecost until now the church has benefited from the sincere commitment of dedicated women. The apostle Paul consistently complimented those who worked with him—both men and women—who supported his evangelistic/missionary ministry. Barr views those commendations as advocating and recognizing a level of leadership ministry equal to his own. Many women, including the author, have assumed more than Paul said by those compliments, and have acted on their own feelings and emotions rather than the clear meaning of his words.

Historical actions or inactions do not establish a biblical/theological position. Theology, hermeneutics, context, and the full body of Scriptures must be considered. The author begins with inner feelings that the pastors and theologians she has known were wrong on the issue of female spiritual leadership of men. She would ultimately admit to feeling the same way about the apostle Paul. She shames churches and pastors for not taking the same position. She comes from a perspective of history rather than biblical theology. She is convinced the Bible writers picked up practices from the Roman world and applied them to spiritual roles in the church. She exhibits a low view of Scripture and inspiration—history first then theology. Barr seems to read the Scriptures through the lens of both history and modern culture, rather than with the conviction that the Scriptures flow from the mind of God (II Timothy 3:16) and not merely from the mind of the apostle. As someone has pointed out: “To start with a false premise helps one to end with a flawed conclusion.”

She discovered the writings of a couple of medieval Roman Catholic monks that were construed as generally agreeing with her premise. She quotes them fervently, but they actually say nothing that supports her extreme positions. She quotes them because they placed very little stress on female submission. They wouldn’t, being in constant adoration of Mary, the mother of Jesus. A fifteenth century Catholic wedding text she quoted simply said, a “wife should not blindly follow her husband because she owes allegiance first to Jesus.” Virtually everyone would agree with her when she concludes that “Jesus as head would trump husbandly authority.” She quotes the twelfth century Peter Abelard who claimed that “woman and not man is linked to Christ’s headship” and “instituted him as Christ” since a woman anointed him (Mark 14:3-9).

Barr appeals to the proposition that evangelicals are reading Paul wrong. Complementarians are simply not understanding what Paul is saying when he outlines his “household codes” as she calls them. In her entire chapter on the Pauline codes, she never once dealt with I Timothy 2. Why? Perhaps it was because she views it as one of Paul’s “texts of terror” (her words) for women. Therefore, she feels they must be negated or explained away.

A key passage is Ephesians 5:22-6:9: “For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of his body, the church. 24 As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything.” No difficult words there; all easy to understand. Just before this in vs. 17-21, Paul speaks to the general church body, including all men and women, about their interpersonal relationships, ending with the admonition of mutual submission. Then, he gets specific about certain groups in the church—wives, husbands, children, slaves, and masters— in v. 22. Wives, here is your responsibility. The men are not excluded. In verses 25-33, the apostle gives the men of the church a stern lesson about how kindly they must treat their wives. Barr, however, begins with v. 21 as though it is commanding husbands and wives to mutually submit. To read the passage in this way, she asserts, “changes everything.” But any honest Bible student in Hermeneutics 101 knows that the specific husband/wife relationship commands begin in v. 22.

The author’s focus was on Galatians 3:28 (“neither male nor female”) to make Paul say that both church and home leadership is gender free. The apostle makes makes no such assertion. Indeed, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. All—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free, men or women—are equal before God in worth and value in the process of redemption. There is no indication here that there would never be another scriptural reference to gender, or freedom, or nationality. Paul did not erase or ignore gender in that verse. If so, did all Jews become Greeks or all Greeks become Jews? Did all slaves become free with that writing?

In the context of dealing with I Corinthians 14:34,35 (womens’ “silence” in church), the author brings Roman events 200 years before Christ into view in order to insinuate that Paul’s words were inspired by Roman consul Cato rather than God. Barr suggests that Paul was quoting the Roman worldview and subtly rebuking the church in Corinth for silencing the women accordingly.

Paul later made a number of specific distinctions and references to men and women and their varying responsibilities. Need we be reminded that things that are different are not the same? God made men and women different in order to do different things. “Oneness” in the faith and in marriage, as in “one flesh,” is achieved even though men and women have varying roles and responsibilities set forth for the home and the kingdom of God.

Barr is a historian, but she needs to brush up on some of her history regarding Roman empire women. I will leave that information for the reader to exhume. Suffice it to say that even Bible women in the Empire, like Lydia and Dorcas, operated thriving businesses and were viewed as upstanding citizens of the community. Barr, however, states that when a Roman wife became a Christian, the household codes of Paul set her free from the “oppressive elements” of Roman world. Again, she posits that Paul was using a “Jesus remix” to tell believers how the gospel set them free. Indeed, they were free from sin in Christ, but not free from the creation order that God established in the beginning. God didn’t change His mind about that between Malachi and Matthew. And no book of the Bible ends with “Hey…just kidding.”

Barr not only twists history but makes a pretzel out of the Scriptures. She acknowledges the household codes in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3:18-19, Ephesians 5: 21-33, I Corinthians 11 and 14, and Titus 2:1-5, but suggests that Paul’s readers knew he meant just the opposite of what he said. The remix meant that Paul was merely using words in a rhetorical fashion that they understood were not what he really meant. What a novel way of reading the Bible she has devised in the 21st century.

The focus of the household codes, Barr says, were not the same as they are interpreted by evangelicals today. The thought came that the author could earn great fame as a magician—“See this coin…this pea…this card? Now you see it, now you don’t! You saw it but it really wasn’t there!” Instead of endowing authority to a man, she insists that “the Christian household codes offer each member of the shared community…the right to hear and act for themselves. Paul’s purpose was not to emphasize male authority.” Evidently, in Barr’s eyes, there is no Christian household leader. It is every person for themselves. In other words, “Don’t believe what you see and read in your Bible. Truth is what I say it is. Trust me. I am a historian.”

Let’s let her speak for herself:

[If Paul was so into male headship], “Why [is] the use of explicit and elaborate maternal imagery to describe God and Christ, who are usually described as male, so popular with twelfth century Cistercian monks?” [What a deep, relevant question!] “Just because modern Evangelicals overlook Paul’s use of maternal imagery, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It just means that, once again, we have gotten Paul wrong.” (p. 53)

“Paul didn’t tell women to be silent.” (p. 55)

“As a historian, I know there is more to Paul’s letters than his words reveal.”

“Among the women Paul commended in Romans 16: ‘Junia, prominent among the apostles…Junia is identified not simply as an apostle but as one who was prominent among the apostles.’” (pp. 64,65)

“More women than men are identified by their ministry in Romans 16.” (p. 65) Meaning…?

“English Bible translations obscure women’s leadership in the early church.” (p. 65)

“Here I was, walking my student through compelling historical evidence that the problem with women in leadership wasn’t Paul; the problem was with how we misunderstood and obscured Paul.” (p. 66)

“Junia, I showed them, was accepted as an apostle until nearly modern times, when her name began to be translated as a man’s name: Junias.” (p. 67)

“Of course, I told my students, not everyone in the early church supported female leadership. The office of presbyter testifies loudly to how patriarchal prejudices of the ancient world had already crept into Christianity.” (p. 68) Shame on you, Paul.

“‘Dr. Barr, why don’t they teach us this in church?’ I looked at the student, my heart twisting. Most people simply don’t know, I said. Seminary textbooks are often written by pastors—not by historians, and especially by women historians.”

“Trinitarian teachings are central to orthodox Christianity, and complementarians—in their blind pursuit to maintain control over women—have exchanged the truth of God for a gender hierarchy of human origin.” (p. 194)

Before she closes the book, Barr slips in a claim of heresy against her Baptist pastor for teaching the Trinity in a way that she feels is wrong. She quotes him as saying that Jesus is eternally subordinate to His Father, which she opposes as heresy. One wants to say, if she would look a little deeper, she would find even greater heresies embedded in that doctrine. The inclusion of this information was for the purpose of inserting the idea that complementarianism is grounded on this understanding of the Trinity. Does she not know that the doctrine of the Trinity came along much later, long after Paul’s death?

Much of the remainder of the book gives honor to women from the Dark Ages and medieval times who left their husbands and abandoned their children to “go do a work for God.” She praises their courage and willingness to do what God told them to do, even if it meant “defying male authority” or battling literal human-eating dragons. (The dragons were confronted and summarily dispatched with the iconic cross and a sprinkling of holy water.) She rails about male authorities who, Aristotle-like, disdain the female body and uphold the inferiority of women. She is wasting ink and book paper—no Christian man worth his salt fits the imagery she draws. A trek through the swampy areas of Reformation ideologies and Bible translations adds yet other odd flavors to the book.

To recommend this book one would have to dispense with hermeneutics, disregard the traditional meaning of common words, and embrace assumptions over clear Bible teaching. How it got promoted by an assumed conservative on the Internet, then finding its way to a ministerial forum, is indeed puzzling.

JRE

Published in: on May 14, 2021 at 11:35 PM  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. We as an apostolic movement are seeing the same shift to abandon the biblical roles enumerated in Corinthians 11;, Eph and Col

    God help us

  2. You sir are invaluable to the kingdom. The service you render to each of us is immeasurable. Thank you good Elder. Elder Ensey I’m not too far from 60 years of age now. I was a young teenager the first time I heard you preach in our home church in Beaumont Texas. It was around 1979-1980. Maybe earlier. I still have the cassettes… “I’m Mad Too Jesus” and “Keep Your Feet Clean” Well…. Thanks for staying mad and ultimately thanks for staying clean. God bless- Bill Pitman- Forest Mississippi

  3. Very true Elder! Thank you for writing… No doubt the sliding of societal values and principles toward the prophesied end that the Bible teaches, is affecting our churches with each day as we wait on the return of Christ. Unfortunately the weak who wanting to appease the latest and greatest have become greater victims to all this New….or Remix poison. The passing of Elder Dallas Mefford has made me realize that an entire representative generation of old time Apostolic Pentecostalism will soon be gone. Then men as yourself and slightly me with first hand memories will be all that stands between the New Generation of Apostolic Pentecostal intellectuals and dream makers to weave their Remix of the past and purvey their ideas of evangelism and church growth. Once we’re all out of the way, the way will be clear! My apologies for intense negative take, please forgive me. The musings of a tired pastor.

    I value and have always enjoyed your blog. Thank you sir!

    牧師 Pastor, R.D. Frazier

    >

  4. Thank you Brother Ensey! As usual a very timely response to a very important issue facing the church. Thank you!


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