Last week I had a Twitter discussion with my friend, David. We have strongly held opinions in opposite camps on John Piper’s recent teachings, namely his view that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel.” Other women bloggers have not pursued this topic because they have been browbeaten by blog trolls and the like in the past. I really, REALLY am not interested in attracting that kind of attention. And there is that old internet maxim: “Do not feed the trolls!”
However, as an ordained pastor and woman in ministry, I did feel the need to respond. The original post has had quite a reaction across the web. Andrew Jones (tallskinnykiwi) offered a post that particularly encouraged and resonated with me. And so I tweeted:
David suggested that if I weren’t raising daughters, I might feel differently about the topic. While that was completely untrue in my case, I knew that if I started responding with my counterpoints, it could get heated. I’m really REALLY over the big discussion and Bible-slinging on this topic. However, I promised David I’d give it some thought and respond with a blog post where I’m not limited to the “sound bites” of Twitter. So here goes…
Many people trot out the old arguments for why women should/should not pastor churches. They begin with “Eve sinned first” and end with “none of Jesus’ named disciples were women.” And their hermeneutics continue in this hunt-and-peck manner. Wearing pearls and braided hair is just a “culturally bound reference.” But “women keeping silent in the Church” is not. Right. Puh-leese.
I’m not going to take a blog post and pick apart a chauvinist hermeneutic. To my mind, it comes under the heading of “needless disputations” and distracts us from the work God asks each of us to do. (Unless, of course, your life mission is to go around being a theological pain-in-the-rear. In which case… great. More power to ya.) I’m also not dissing those who are informed Calvinists in their leanings and ascribe to Reformed theology’s teachings. As Dr. Roger Olson says in a recent post, the problem is that there are some who insist it is the “only correct” theological stance. I think Christians of conscience and study can take issue with Calvinists. And I do.
What is a deeper issue here is that people who are followers of Jesus can take such pleasure in viciously attacking another’s doctrinal stance. Instead of uniting to care for the world and the hurting and needy people in it, they sit and take snarky potshots at each other. And I am as guilty of this as the next person. In fact, were I to stop and parse this post, I could point out several places where I was a little too sarcastic. I guess when one elbows her way into the conversation, occasionally one gets a little snarky.
As part of my clinical training, I had to write a short paper on “theological commitments that ground and guide me” in my work as a chaplain. They also ground me in my basic theological approach to life, ministry, marriage, child-rearing, etc. According to the requirements of the assignment, it was limited to one page. I can assure you that was a challenge. Without re-doing or expanding on the paper, here is how I view ministry, life, the universe and everything. Hopefully it will clarify that my approach to ministry is not based on raising daughters, but on following Jesus.
Theological Commitments that Ground and Guide Me
My theological perspective has four major tenets. The first is that I believe God is relational. God is not just an Abiding Presence or Spirit (though God is both), but as Creator, made humanity to be in relationship with God. This relational faith means that I do not see anything that humanity experiences (good or bad) as being outside of the knowledge or control of God. I see God’s involvement and interest in humanity as being intimate, involved and responsive. Humanity sometimes chooses to ignore or defy God — and not asking for robots, God allows our foolishness.
The second grounding belief I hold is that though humanity is made in the image of God, our free-will choices have caused us to become mortal, finite and flawed. The result of our “fallen” human condition as recorded in Genesis results in interpersonal strife, disease, pain and a creation that is also flawed and at times chaotic. Because of the fallen or sinful condition of humanity, we frequently make choices that are counter to our wholeness, and thwart our desire to be close to one another and to God. In terms of relationships, I believe the model for relationships should be that of “before the Fall,” not bound in a cultural reference afterwards. This means that I do not see hierarchical familial relationships as being biblical. Nor do I see limitations on the ministry of men or women, for it is clear in Scripture that one’s Calling is determined by gifting, not gender.
A third grounding belief is that I believe by living in accordance with God’s principles, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, humanity can be transformed into a more perfect representation of God. This means that I see the process of faith as being personally transformational. It is not by one’s efforts, but by the work of the Spirit that we conform to the image of Christ. This takes out of the equation any performance-based expressions of what is “godly” or “holy.”
Finally, I believe in an after-life that is based on a person’s faith as acted upon in this present life. While I do not expect a patient or client to hold to my personal faith and belief in the salvific work of Jesus the Christ, this concept of hope and of resurrection gives me a sense of trust and expectation for “a new heaven and new earth.” This also grounds me in a sense of purpose and promise. I do not see this life as being “the end”.
That’s a start for why I do what I do, and where I live, work and pastor. And it’s just about impossible to fit all that into the character limits of Twitter. Unless, of course, you link to it. 🙂 Finally, lest you think I am spouting petunias, here are a collection of blog links by Rachel Held Evans. She offered a challenge, quickly taken up by men in the blogosphere who disagreed with John Piper. There was a groundswell of voices in disagreement with Piper’s closely held theology. Those posts said what I knew to be true, both doctrinally and experientially.
As you were…