Friday, December 28, 2007


As many of you know, I have had major concerns about Candace Watters coming out with a new book, given that she wrote an article with horrible exegetical mistakes concerning the book of Ruth, which I have documented here.

I have been waiting to see if the book would get endorsements from any Old Testament professors. You can usually tell a whole lot about the nature of a book from who endorses it. Well, today Candace Watters revealed who has endorsed her book:

"Candice Watters offers genuine help to Christians thinking about marriage, adulthood, and God's purpose for humanity."

- R. Albert Mohler Jr., from the Foreword

"Get Married is forceful, persuasive, and a must-read for today's Christian single."

- Gary Thomas, Author, Sacred Marriage

"Get Married not only brings healing and renewal to the Christian single confused by scriptural misinterpretation, it offers them practical advice to get to the altar."

- Debbie Maken, Author, Getting Serious about Getting Married

I mean, what can you say. You have Albert Mohler, who is really one of the leaders of the mandatory marriage movement, and Debbie Maken who is as bad as Gail Riplinger when it comes to historical and exegetical issues. Hence, you have no one whose area of expertise is Old Testament studies, nor even someone whose area of expertise is New Testament studies! That makes this situation very dangerious.

I want to avoid saying anything until I have had a chance to read the book. However, as I said before, if her article Ruth Revisited is any indication of the level of exegetical argumentation we are going to find in this book, I am not overly optimistic. I will be reviewing the book if I see anything that needs a refutation.

Also, I was looking at the subtitle What Women Can do to Help it Happen, and trying to figure out why this movement appeals to women so much. Candace could have directed this book at both women and men, but she choose not to do so. Also, most of the people whom I have dealt with online with this issue have been women. Also, Candace Watters is herself a woman. I mean, we have women who are being trained her at Trinity, and they absolutely laughed at Debbie Maken's ideas. However, why is it that a woman is more likely to be dragged into this movement? Honestly, I have not been able to come up with any reason.

Anyway, this also encourages me to get my book started again. I greatly grown in my exegetical skills since I have been at Trinity, and I think I would be able to give stronger responses now than when I first started writing the book. Hopefully, in a few months, after more research, we will be able to put a book out to counter this stuff. I will also be thinking about how I can gear it towards the female population, so that we can give strong exegetical refutations of the arguments that Maken, Watters, and Mohler are using.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Speaking the Truth in Hate

I need to begin by saying that I believe homosexuality is wrong. There are many passages in the Hebrew Bible that speak of homosexuality as being an abhorance. Also, I believe that it is wrong for a Christian to act as if there is nothing wrong when they come across a homosexual. We need to speak the truth in love.

It is precisely these last two words "in love" that Pastor Fred Phelps seems to have missed. I don't know how many of you are familiar with Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. To say Mr. Phelps is hateful is the understatement of the century. While he and I both agree that Homosexuality is a sin [Leviticus 18:20, 20:13], he seems to have an element of hatred for homosexuals added on top of his moral convictions. His comments at events that he protests rarely get any farther than insults and mockery. He is very offensive in his methodology, and he gets the media's attention...but for all the wrong reasons.

One of my favorite authors on the Boundless blog is Denise Morris. She always has some interesting thought, or uncovers some interesting story. Today, she has uncovered more hatred from Fred Phelps. I don't know how many of you remember the New Life Church shootings in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Apparently, Phelps and company are going to be there to protest this funeral. Why is that you may ask? Because, last year, New Life Church discovered that their pastor was gay, and excommunicated him. Apparently, he paid a male prostitute for sexual relations and drugs, and was found out. He has apologized, accepted his excommunication, and is getting counselling for his addictions. Here is a man who is, as far as we can tell, penatant for his actions, and is desiring to change. I pray that this man will conquer his sin by the grace of God, and I ask that the Christian community give him all of the help in the world in so doing.

Of course, repentance from sin is not enough for Phelps and company. Anyone who is fighting homosexual desires is simply the skum of the earth to these folks. So, Phelps has said that he intends to spew his hatred at the funeral of two young girls, Stephanie and Rachel Works, who were killed in the shootings, and whose father was just released from the hospital only one day before his daughter's funeral. Here is some of the wonderfully hatred filled message Phelps and Co. sent to a local television station:

"Thank god for sending this tragedy,” going on to include, "God hates New Life Church," before including Biblical references and anti-gay language.

Pastor Phelps, it is wrong to murder anyone, whether homosexual or not. Genesis 9:6 tells us that every man is created in the image of God, and thus, no one has any right to take another's life, no matter how bad their sin might be, unless God says so. God, obviously, does not sanction the taking of human life in this instance. Second, you seem to have noted well the condemnations of homosexuality in the Bible. Did you ever stop to notice the proper perspective that Paul gives to this topic?:

1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

You see, Pastor Phelps, Jesus Christ is capible of taking upon himself the sin of homosexuality, and bearing the wrath of God for it. There are many people who are coming out of homosexuality every day. If you believe that God cannot redeem this pastor, then you are seriously questioning the ability of God himself to save. I would say that this pastor, who is seeking help for his sin, and desires to change, is in a far better position then you are for the hate that you show towards these people.

The sad thing it that I heard of the story of this pastor last year as well on Gene Cook's radio program, The Narrow Mind. I had totally forgotten about it. Apparently, Phelps keeps a database on his computer of people against whom he can rile his hatred. Doesn't this guy have anything better to do with his time?

I hope that these men get caught in a snow storm or something. They are a cancer to the body of Christ. I would encourage the people who are giving these folks money to stop doing so. This behavior is not Christian. The sad thing is that the media equates the two whether we denounce what they do or not. This is why folks like Phelps are a cancer in the church, and that is why they need to be isolated from the Christian community until they repent.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Real Authors Write Responsibly

As many of you know, one of my criticisms of Debbie Maken is that she was a lawyer who wondered into a field for which she has no training. One of the problems with modern Christianity is that Christians today think that, as long as you can communicate well, you can write a book. There is no concern for the qualifications of any given writer. There is not even concern for the substance of what is written. This is especially true within books on relationships. Most of the foundations of modern relationship books are pragmatism and emotionalism. Anyone can go about something and find out if it works, and attach some emotionalism so that people will believe it. However, the ones who get published are the ones who can communicate it well.

Now, I am not saying that this is just a problem with people who are unqualified. Exegesis is hard. I remember this semester when I did my exegesis of Jeremiah 31:27-34, my head was hurting by the end of it because of the fact that I was trying to be so careful, examining the grammatical structure of each verse and its relation to the previous verses, and also looking up various viewpoints in scholarly commentaries of Jeremiah, and interacting with them. Because it is so hard, many people who are trained in exegesis refuse to use their training, and end up resorting to the same kinds of things mentioned about because it makes them more relevant, and their ideas tend to get lost in the social pragmatism of statistics and sociologists rather than Qal Perfects and adversative clauses.

However, when a person has no training in this area, and comes up with novel interpretations of specific passages, then there is a good chance that they are going to fall for the same kind of pragmatism, and then try to force it onto the text of scripture. We live in Christian culture that encourages people to write books and hold positions of teaching authority that are not adequately equipped to responsibly handle the word of God.

A case in point is Candace Watters. I was already aware of the fact that Candace Watters has strongly criticized John Piper, siding with Debbie Maken. Hence, she strongly supports Maken's ideas, and thus, relies on Maken heavily for her ideas on the issue of singleness.

I was reading the Boundless Blog the other day, and I happened to come across a post called Real Men Initiate. I thought it was sort of a funny title. Is there such a thing as a "fake" man? I read the article, and soon recognized that what was being said was that a person is not a "man" unless he initiates the relationship. Of course, my first thought was to ask where in the world the Biblical support for this is. However, someone quickly noted a counter-example. They asked about the book of Ruth, and how Ruth goes to Boaz at night, and thus, it was not Boaz who initiated the relationship but Ruth. Ted Slater quickly referenced an article by Candace Watters entitled Ruth Revisited.

The article starts off with a quotation of Debbie Maken. Hence, we were off on the wrong foot immediately. She begins her article by trying to argue that Ruth was an exceptional situation, and thus should not be considered relevant for today. She quotes Maken trying to argue from the fact that Ruth did not have much of a family agency to the conclusion that this makes the story exceptional. However, what relevence does that have to the discussion of whether or not someone can initiate? All that is required is two people and one initiator for the issue of initiation to become relevant. When you have this situation, either person could initiate. Not only that, but Debbie Maken offers no proof for her idea that this is exceptional, and only dogmatizes that somehow Naomi was not a "adequate covering with barganing power" without ever bothering to prove her assertion. She thinks that it is wrong because it makes her "vulnerable." Again, I have to ask, where is the proof of this? Why is it that we should accept Debbie Maken's standard that all methods that make a woman vulnerable are wrong? Indeed, marriage itself makes a woman vulnerable. What happens in a society of no fault divorce if a husband decides to divorce his wife, and forces her to raise multiple children on her own? Vulnerability is going to exist no matter where you are at in life. The very fact that we are in relationships means that there are going to be people who hurt us, and act very cruel. However, does that mean that women should have relationships with no one?????? Again, Debbie is not one to be consistent.
She also brings up the idea of the "kinsmen-redeemer" system. Now, there is some question as to whether or not the kinsmen-redeemer had any relation to the levirate law of Deuteronomy 25 [See Frederic W. Bush's commentary], but, again, even if it did, how is that even relevant to the issue of initiation? Notice that Boaz had to ask another man for permission to marry Ruth. That is the only thing it would add if we were to have that system today. Hence, again, this is totally irrelevant to the issue of initiation. As we will see later on, the text simply does not fit with Candace's theory, and thus she is trying to find any way around it so that she doesn't have to give up her "real men initiate" theory.

So, we start off by going to a discredited source like Debbie Maken rather than going to the Bible, and thus, we are going to get a lens through which everything in the book of Ruth will be read.

The main point of Candace's article is here:

In the original article I wrote:

Not content to just wait for Boaz to take notice of her, Ruth's mother-in-law encouraged her to place herself in Boaz's path. Ruth went to Boaz's threshing floor and covered herself with his cloak: That was the Old Testament way of saying "I'm available."

She made her intentions known — that she wanted to get married — and it worked. Not only did she get a husband, she got God's blessing and a baby named Obed who became the grandfather of King David and a direct ancestor of Jesus.

Whoa. Talk about omissions. It's not like Ruth's appearance at the threshing floor was the first time she and Boaz interacted. Early in the story we learn that when Boaz arrived at the field where the gleaners were working, he noticed her. "Whose young woman is that?" he asked. When he found out that she was "the Moabitess who came back from Moab with Naomi," that she had asked to be allowed to glean with the poor, working diligently since morning "except for a short rest in the shelter," he was intrigued.

But he didn't stop there. He actually singled her out saying,

My daughter, listen to me. Don't go and glean in another field and don't go away from here. Stay here with my servant girls. Watch the field where the men are harvesting, and follow along after the girls. I have told the men not to touch you. And whenever you are thirsty, go and get a drink from the water jars the men have filled.

Not only was it Boaz who initiated their first conversation, but what he said was significant. He was caring for her by providing for her physical needs for food and water as well as protecting her from harm at other, less honorable, men's hands.

Now it was Ruth's turn to respond. Ruth 2:10 says, "At this, she bowed down with her face to the ground. She exclaimed, 'Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you notice me — a foreigner?'"

At this point, we get a look at Ruth's character. Verse 11 says,

Boaz replied, "I've been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband — how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge."

Ruth's high character preceded her. Such that Boaz didn't just give her choice gleanings, water and protection, but he also blessed her. No small thing in Israelite culture.

Then, in a public gesture of provision, Boaz included Ruth in the afternoon meal, offering her bread and wine vinegar. She was the only one among the gleaners — those in poverty and foreigners who were permitted to pick up what was left behind in the fields — who was part of the mealtime invitation.

When Ruth relayed the day's events to her mother-in-law, sharing with her leftover bread from the meal and an abundance of grain, Naomi immediately recognized the high character of Boaz and his potential as a husband for Ruth. "Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!" she exclaimed.

Boaz was already husbanding Ruth, and Naomi recognized it. Contrary to what I originally wrote, Naomi was not encouraging Ruth to "go after" Boaz in a modern-day type pursuit. She was guiding Ruth to respond to what Boaz had already initiated. By the time Naomi told Ruth about the kinsman-redeemer system and asked her to go to Boaz at the threshing floor, she had every reason to believe Boaz would respond positively. Naomi said with confidence, "He will not rest until the matter is settled." How could she know this? Because she had evidence of his character.

This is no small oversight. In order to "pull a Ruth," you have to be dealing with a Boaz. And thankfully, with Steve, I was.

Now, this position is not held by any Hebrew scholar I am aware of, and there is a very good reason for this. It does violence to the context and intent of the author. The best place to start our analysis of chapter 2 in order to prove this is back at verse 1:

Now Naomi had a kinsmen of her husband, a man of great strength from the family of Elimelek, whose name was Boaz. [translation mine]

Now, there is some issue here as to how the text should be translated. Actually there is a textual varient, one belonging to the Ketib reading, and one belonging to the Qere reading. When the Masorites pointed the text of the Hebrew Bible, they gave some readings of the text which, although they were not written into the texts, were traditional readings of the text. In this case, the ketib [written] reading is [D"yUm. [meaning "acquaintance"] while the Qere [traditional] reading is [d:Am [meaning "relative"]. The problem is that Hebrew manuscripts are split on this. This is a very difficult textual varient for this reason alone. The interesting thing is that there are terms used later on that remove all doubt that Naomi and Boaz are related. For instance, Ruth 3:2 uses [d:Am, and there is no textual varient, bArq' is used in 2:20, and laeGO is used of Boaz's relation to Naomi and Ruth throughout the narrative. However, even this does not solve the issue, because that would be just the way a scribe would think. In textual criticism, the harder reading is always to be preferred over the easier reading, because scribes tended to modify harder readings thinking they were mistakes. To put it simply, there would be no reason for a scribe to change [d:Am to [D"yUm., but, because it does not "fit" with the rest of the narrative, it would make perfect sense for a scribe to change [D"yUm. to [d:Am to make it fit with the rest of the story, thinking that a mistake had been made in transmission.

However, even this does not solve the problem. The reason is that the w and the y are letters that are easily confused in manuscripts. If the scribe did not bring his w all of the way down to the bottom of the line, it could easily be confused with a y. Ellis Brotzman summarizes the difficulty with the varient, and then shows the significance of the varient:

The Letters w and y are susceptible to accidental confusion, but perhaps there is an intentional change here. The Qere may be a result of adapting the text of 2:1 and the related noun used in 3:2. This difference does have some bearing on exegesis. If the Ketib is original, the author used a general form to refer to Boaz in chapter 2, and then used a specific term to refer to him in chapter 3. If this was the case, it would serve to heighten the sense of climax with the more specific mention in Chapter 3. Reading with the Ketib does express a nuance that otherwise, if the Qere were original, would not [Brotzman, Ellis R. Old Testament Textual Criticism, a Practical Introduction. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1994. p.142].

However, it does seem a bit out of place. The author would seem to have no reason to hide the fact that Boaz was related to Naomi's husband since it would contribute nothing to the story. It also seems strange that an author would avoid mentioning that this is a relative. However, if the Qere reading is original it provides additional support for the traditional interpretation of this passage.

The real key to understanding this passage is a verse that Candace actually quoted, but did not stop to think of the implications of what she was quoting:

Boaz answered and said to her, "All that you have done for your mother in law after the death of your father and mother has surely been declared to me; that you forsook your father, your mother, and the land you knew, and went to a people you did not previously know before. [Ruth 2:11; translation mine]

Hence, we have the setting more clearly laid out. Boaz is a relative of her mother in law, and has done a great act of kindness for her in leaving her land and remaining with her.

The next point is that these fields were not exactly the safest places in the world. It would be easy for someone to rape a woman out in these fields [c.f. Deuteronomy 22:25-27], and we know that during this time the morality in Israel was on the decline [c.f. Judges 19]. Thus, Boaz, seeing her in this dangerious situation, and recognizing that Ruth was in danger endevoured to help her. Why would he do such a thing? Well, consider the kindness mentioned in the previous verses. Ruth has done something kind to help his relatives. Now, imagine that there is a woman who helps one of your family members in the way that Ruth helped her mother in law, and you see her in a dangerious situation like this. Would you not want to see that she is taken care of, and protected in such a dangerious situation? Wouldn't you want to see to it that she gets as much help as she can when she is working for her mother in law? Indeed, such would seem obvious even if you had no interest in marrying the girl at all. I would think that even a married man would want to do this if he is faithful to his family. Thus, this whole thing is simply a matter of Boaz looking after his family, and caring for those who help them.

This also appears to be something that is consistent with Boaz's character, as verse 20 indicates. If you are looking at a translation such as the NASB, this verse might not strike you has having much relevance to Boaz's character, but the grammar of the text says otherwise. As Robert Chisholm writes:

Some translate this statement, "May he (Boaz) be blessed by the Lord, who has not abandoned his kindness to the living and the dead." In this case, the antecedent of rv,a] would be immediately preceding "The LORD." However, this understanding of the construction is not accurate. The antecedent of rv,a] is Boaz, not the LORD. Elsewhere when rv,a] follows the blessing formula %WrB' (qal passive participle) + proper name/pronoun, it always introduces the reason the recipient of the blessing deserves a reward. (For this reason one could analyze rv,a] as a casual conjunction in this construction.) If rv,a] refers to the Lord here, then this verse, unlike others using the construction, gives no such reason for the recipient being blessed. Second Samuel 2:5. which provides the closest structural parallel to Ruth 2:20, supports this interpretation:

lwav-~[ ~kynda-~[ hzh dsxh ~tyf[ rva hwhyl ~ta ~ykrb, "May you (plural) be blest by the Lord, you who (plural)/because you (plural) have extended such kindness to your master Saul." Here rv,a] refers back to the second plural pronoun ~T,a;, "you," in the formula, as the second plural verb ~t,yfi[] indicates. Though hwhy is closer in proximity to rv,a], it is not the antecedent. The evidence suggests that Ruth 2:20 should be translated and interpreted as follows: "May he (Boaz) be blessed by the LORD, he who (i.e. Boaz)/because he (i.e. Boaz) has not abanded his kindness to the living and dead." [Chisholm, Robert B. Jr. From Exegesis to Exposition, a Practical Guide to Using Biblical Hebrew. Baker Books. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1998. p.72].

Thus, this text states that it is well within the character of Boaz to "single someone out" to show kindness to people, and thus, Boaz's actions here should not be seen as something totally out of the ordinary.

We can tell that we are on the right track with our exegesis when we look at the fact that Boaz is called a laeGO in verse 20. Many people will argue that a laeGO was someone who bears the levirate obligation of Deuteronomy 25:5-10. However, not only is this in dispute, but almost all scholars [even those who believe that Boaz was under the levirate law] deny that this is the sense in which Naomi is using the term here. There are several reasons for this, but the first is that Naomi says that he is "one of our redeemers." Does this mean that there are multiple people who are under and obligation to marry Ruth? Not only that, but Naomi says, "he is one of our redeemers. Does that mean that Boaz was obligated to marry Naomi too? Thus, it is impossible to sustain the notion of the kinsmen-redeemer as a levirate throughout this text.

For our purposes, it is important to note that laeGO can refer to someone who redeems someone close to them from an oppressive situation. Frederic W. Bush discusses the meaning of this term in his commentary:

Naomi is using laeGO in a more general sense, that sense with which it is frequently used in reference to God's actions on behalf of his people. In this nontechnical sense, the idea of payment, prominent in the legal meaning, is not involved. David Daube (studies in Biblical Law, 40) has put it well:

"To buy back" is not a perfectly accurate translation of laeGO. It would be safer to translate "to take back," seeing that the word is as often as not employed where he who recovers makes no payment. The word simply denotes the rightful getting back of a person or object that had once belonged to one but had been lost.

In such usage it means "to deliver a member of one's kinship group (family, clan, tribe, or people) from evil of any kind." The evil involved may be general (e.g. all harm, Gen 48:16; distress of various kinds, Ps 107:2; even death and Sheol; Lam 3:53-58; see TDOT laeGO III. 1,2, 2:352-353), or it may be specific. [Bush, Frederic W. Ruth, Esther from The Word Biblical Commentary Series. Word Books Publisher. Dallas, Texas. 1996. p.137]

Thus, by using laeGO, Naomi is simply telling Ruth that Boaz is a man who looks after his people. He is a man who helped Ruth be able to glean in the fields without having to fear for her safety. He is a man who looked after Ruth because he respected the things that she did for one of his relatives, and cared for his family.

One of the worst parts of Candace's article is when she says:

When Ruth relayed the day's events to her mother-in-law, sharing with her leftover bread from the meal and an abundance of grain, Naomi immediately recognized the high character of Boaz and his potential as a husband for Ruth. "Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!" she exclaimed.

Boaz was already husbanding Ruth, and Naomi recognized it. Contrary to what I originally wrote, Naomi was not encouraging Ruth to "go after" Boaz in a modern-day type pursuit. She was guiding Ruth to respond to what Boaz had already initiated.

First of all, there is nothing in the term "take notice" that would be suggestive of any kind of attraction or marital interest on the part of Boaz. The Hebrew term is rk;n", and it simply means "to notice, recognize, acknowledge." A survey of several lexicons will bear this out:

2. recognize Gn 27:33; obj. a voice 1 s 26:17, panîm show consideration > partiality for someone Dt. 1:17; [Holladay, William L. A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1988. p.238]

3. To know, acknowledge Dt 33:9 Is 63:16 Jb 24:17 34:25, to know about Ps 103:16 Jb 7:10; (not) to want to know, Jb 24:13, to acknowledge Da 11:39 (K. ryKih; Q. ryKiy;); Abs. to learn about, take notice of 2 S 3:36 [Kohler, Ludwig. Baumgartner, Ludwig. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament E.J. Brill. Leiden, New York. 1995. Volume 2. p.700]

1. regard, observe, esp. with a view to recognition, c. obj. cl., Gn 31:32 37:32 38:25; pay attention to, c. acc. pers. Ru 2:10; 2:19; acc. rei (of God) Jb 34:25; acc. rei om. 2 S 3:36; Åy subj. hb'Ajl. Á ryKia; !Ke Je 24:5 so will I regard the exiles ... for good; Antiochus subj. Dn 11:39; ~ynIP' ryKihi pay regard to (shew partiality, = Åp ynEP. af'n") Dt 1:17 16:19 ( jP'v.mi hJ'hi), Pr 24:23 28:21 [Brown, Francis. Driver, S.R. Briggs, Charles A. The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Hendrickson Publishers. Peabody, Massachusetts. Tenth Printing. 2006. p.648 (emphasis mine)]

That is why several commentators translate this passage differently:

May he who acknowledged you be blessed. [Wilch, John R. Ruth from The Concordia Commentary Series. Concordia Publishing House. Saint Louis, Missouri. 2006. p. 240]

May the one who had regard for you be blessed. [Campbell, Edward F. Ruth, A New Translation with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary from the Anchor Bible Commentary Series. Doubleday & Company, Inc. Garden City, New York. 1975. p.105-106]

Also, it must be noted that this word harkens back to 2:10, where Ruth uses the same term. Ruth says to Boaz, "How is it that I have found grace in your eyes that you regard me, when I am a foreigner." There is a word play going on here. The Hebrew word for "regard" [rk;n"] and the Hebrew word for foreigner [yrik.n"<] both have the same root [rkn]. Thus, when rk;n" is repeated by Naomi, it shows that she has inferred that Ruth has been the benefactor of someone. This shows a strong use of divine providence in God bringing Ruth and Naomi's relative together.

Now, if Naomi did not know what had happened, then how did she know that Ruth had been with someone? The answer is very simply the food left over from her meal, and the large amount of barley that she brought home, she naturally knew that no one could gather that much in a day. Edward Campbell discusses the amount in his commentary [pgs. 104-106]. He says that it was at most 47.5 lbs, and at least probably more like 29 lbs. 29 lbs. comes from the fact that an ephah is the "dry measure equivalent of a bat," and archaeology has uncovered a pot with the term "bat" written on it. The volume that Ruth would have gathered by this measurement was around 5.8 gallons. Campbell summarizes his position with a caution, but notice, he still says that we know that Ruth carried home a large amount:

In either case, we should heed Scott's double warning that the base of calculation is not certain, and that we do not know what variations developed throughout the Biblical period. The amount Ruth carried home was rather impressive for a gleaner, but we are not called upon to add to her list of virtues that she was as strong as an ox. At most, her load would have weighed 47.5 pounds, while Scott's calculations (which I prefer) would be about twenty-nine pounds [Campbell, p.104]

Also, the preposition K. might also have something do with emphasizing how much Ruth gleaned. Campbell writes:

17. About an aphah. The prepoition ke before 'ephah probably means "approximately," as it frequently does in the OT. A very attractive alternative has been proposed by S. Talmon, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 176 (December 1964), 33, in his study of the severnth century Yabneh-yam osctracon to which we have referred before. In this ostracon, a harvester in the forced-labor battalion seems to argue that he has delivered the exact amount of harvest required of him, using the preposition ke to indicate the exactitude, a so-called kaph veritatis. Talmon wonders whether the same meaning should be applied here: just an ephah. If so the emphasis would lie on the remarkable fact that Ruth had gleaned exactly an ephah, and would enhance our marveling at the way Ruth's fortune in hitting upon Boaz' field has paid off. That marveling is provoked, whichever alternative one chooses.

How then did Naomi know that she was with someone? It is as simple as her seeing the large amount of barley and the food that she had gotten from the meal with Boaz. After talking about how the word order harkens back to the pun that Ruth makes in 2:10, Campbell takes this up:

The unusual word order may have been selected to place emphasis on makkirek-surely the story-teller wants his audience to see that Naomi has used the same root (nkr) which Ruth used in 2:10. (See COMMENT.) This is a fine touch, and we should not assume that Ruth has given any answer to the questions asked by Naomi before Naomi pronounced the blessing. Naomi has not yet learned of the coincidence; the size of the gleaning is enough to call forth the first blessing [Campbell, pgs. 105-106]

Likewise, the Lutheran scholar John R. Wilch writes:

Knowing that no one under normal circumstances could have gathered that much in just one day, Naomi concluded instantly that Ruth must have received special favor, so she spontaniously cried out a blessing for the yet-unnamed benefactor [Wilch, p. 240]

Thus, I think it is sufficient to conclude that the actions of Boaz in Chapter two are meant, in their context, to be taken as actions of Boaz's faith. They are meant to show his care and concern for his family. Here are some of the top commentators on the book of Ruth, as well as a few others that I found useful, giving you these very same conclusions.

Boaz's reply constitutes the climax of the chapter. It now appears that Ruth is not so unknown to him after all. He has already heard of her. Some scholars use this feature to support the thesis that Boaz has long been interested in Ruth without letting her notice his infatuation. But that is hardly the author's purpose. In any case, Boaz is not so interested as to have done anything practical to help the two women whom he knows belong to Elimelech's family. The temsion is rather maintained by the question of whether Ruth can make him so interested that she and Naomi can gain a secure future in Bethlehem [Nielson, Kirsten. Ruth, A Commentary. from The Old Testament Library. Westminster John Knox Press. Louisville, Kentucky 1997. p.59]

For reasons that were purposeful or otherwise, it is clear from Boaz's reply that he does not immediately respond to Ruth's overtures. Instead, he first offers a generious accolade to Ruth's deeds by way of explaining his orders to his men (verses 8-9). In the Genuinely moving words of verse 12, he leaves any further recompense to God. [Sasson, Jack M. Ruth, A New Translation with a Philiological Commentary and a Formalist-Folklorist Interpretation. Second Edition. Sheffield Academic Press. Sheffield, England. 1995. p. 52]

In sum, Boaz's kindness towards Ruth simply reciprocated hers toward Naomi. He was, indeed, a true son of Israel: He treated foreigners kindly because Israel itself knew the foreigner's life in Egypt. [Hubbard, Robert L. The Book of Ruth. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, Michigan 1988. p. 165]

Realizing that the other farmers probably would not treat her as favorably, he insisted that she remain in his field and with his workers, thus under his care and his protection from abuse, both here and elsewhere. Boaz was not modivated by infatuation with a pretty girl, but by his faith in the Lord. As a pious Israelite, he desire to apply his law not strictly by the letter, but faithfully and magnanimously according to its purpose and spirit, namely, that the LORD's own grace and fidelity [ds,x,, hesed] would cause his people to treat others graciously [Wilch, p. 220]

Indeed, the conclusion to which the text forces us is that Boaz was a man of great character, and lived it out. It is because of this that God blessed him with a wonderful woman. I have said it before [but it bears repeating since the folks over at Thegiftofsingleness blog seem intent on misrepresenting us], but I must again say that I have no problems with a person pursuing marriage if they desire to be married, so long as that person recognizes that God is not obligated to cause their search to be successful, and that the Bible teaches that they are not to loathe their condition if God does not, indeed, cause their search to be successful. He is the Lord of your life, and the Bible says that it is he that supplies all of your needs [Philippians 4:19], and in fact, is the one who ordained that you search in the first place, just as he has ordained all things [Ephesians 1:11]. God ordains the ends as well as the means. However, we also need to recognize that God sometimes chooses not to use our pursuits, but, rather, sometimes he uses our simple faithfulness. Such was the case with Boaz. If we are faithful, things will always work out for good [Romans 8:28], whether we get married or not. We simply need to remain faithful.

I would not be remiss if I did not deal with Candace Watters' misuse of this passage on a practical level. Candace turns this passage on his head, and, rather than saying that it was his faith in God that cause him to do these things, she tries to make it appear that he is doing these things because he is being proactive in finding a spouse. That is the exact opposite of what this text is trying to say. Is it possible that Boaz was interested in Ruth? Yes, but, as one of the commentators I cited above says, it is only a thesis. That is, the text itself does not address it, because the whole point of the chapter is how Boaz was faithful to the Lord, and God rewarded him greatly.

The reason why Candace misses the point of this passage is twofold. First of all, Candace has adopted the position of Debbie Maken, even though other respected Christian scholars have rejected her position, such as John Piper and Andreas Kostenburger. Candace seems intent upon pursuing Maken's position to its logical conclusion, and it appears that this is a bias she brings to the text. We have to be aware of our presuppositions when we are doing exegesis, and that is something that, I believe, has just blindsided Candace with regards to this text.

The second point I would raise is that Candace is following Debbie Maken, and has no ability to test any of her claims. Candace, to my knowledge, does not know Biblical Hebrew, and knows very little Greek. Now, what I am not saying is that, in order to understand the message of the Bible, you must know Greek and Hebrew. No, that would be incorrect. However, I believe that you must know Greek and Hebrew if you are going to be put in a position of teaching over God's people. Whether Candace wants to admit it or not, she has been put in a teaching position. She has been put in a position in which there are people who look up to her for advice, and thus, in order to give Biblically faithful answers to specific texts in the Bible, and deal with issues such as this, one must be able to handle the text of the word of God with care. In other words, one must be responsible in handling of the word of God if one desires to be a teacher. One of the most scary passages in the whole Bible comes from the book of James:

James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment [NASB].

It is an amazing responsibility to be a teacher of God's word. Thus, I would think that a person who wants to be a minister or a Christian author needs to think long and hard about having to answer to God for mistakes that are made for simply not getting the backround necessary to handle the word of God with care. I am not saying that teachers need to get Phd's in New Testament Studies and Hebrew and Semitic Studies, but at least learning the basics of the morphology and interpretation of each of the languages so that they have the ability to further study in this area should be required for anyone who wants to sit in a position of leadership over God's people. In fact, to show just how much times have changed, the Puritans not only required that their pastors learn Greek and Hebrew, but they also required that they be able to engage in a debate in Greek and Hebrew!!!!!! In other words, the required complete speaking comprehension as well as reading and writing comprehension for anyone who would sit as a leader over their people. I wouldn't have much problem with the reading and writing part, but I am not sure I would be able to get by on the speaking part!!!!!!

The worse part of it is that Candace is coming out with a book on this topic soon. I really hope this is not going to be a similar situation to Debbie Maken coming out with a book when she made many horrible errors simply because she did not have the background necessary. However, given Candace's article on Ruth, it does not look good. I hope and pray that the people who are interested in this topic and do have the training necessary to know that what I am saying is true have advised Candace to not write this book. I don't think there is much we can do about it seeing as how the book comes out on the first of January. What we can do is pray that God would give the Christian church discernment to know that people must prepare for these kinds of ministries if they are going to do Biblically faithful ministry.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why the Mandatory Marriage Movement is Dangerious

Recently on, there was a review of Debbie Maken's book posted by a woman with the screenname of L. Brown. It reads as follows:

I was a convert to Evangelical Christianity at the age of 21. For years, I struggled with the "Gift of Singleness" teachings and prevailing attitudes in the Evangelical church. I could not bring myself to believe this doctrine was of God. I no longer attend Evangelical churches, but after reading this book, I realized that the modern interpretations of the "Gift of Singleness" doctrines are not Biblical. It was very liberating to realize that I can still believe in the Bible's teaching that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone--without also having to buy into the "Gift of Singleness" garbage. There are so many voices in the Evangelical world that make it seem as if you have to accept BOTH, or you're not Christian. (Or, rather, you're not a "Good" Christian.) I wish the Evangelical people all the luck in the world solving their problems regarding the lack of men and particularly single men in the Evangelical church. If Evangelicals are smart, they will at least read this book and consider what Mrs. Maken has to say.

Now, I wondered what she meant by saying that she "no longer attend[s] Evangelical churches." I thought that this would be a rather strange thing over which to part ways with a congregation, expecially if they are so "smart" and we are just teaching "garbage." Then, I ran into the following comment from Debbie Maken's blog:

Denominations aren't important. You are asked by God to marry another believer. Now, I would submit to you that there are other ways of being a true believer in Christ than what the Evangelicals demand. My understanding of the Evangelicals is that, among other things, they demand that a true Christian believes that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant word of God. My understanding of Methodism is that, while they believe that the Bible is the word of God and true, they would not use the words "infallible or inerrant" in describing it. My husband does not believe the Bible to be either infallible or inerrant, and therefore would not meet the standard of being an Evangelical believer. From the time I was 21 (when I became born again) until I was 36 or so, I believed that, nonevangelical=nonchristian, and nonchurchgoer=nonchristian. Sometime after I hit 36, I came to the realization that I was not going to marry an evangelical Christian man. It is amazing how big my God got the minute I opened my eyes and started looking outside evangelical circles for a husband. I found a husband I loved in ten months. On top of that, I now have a kid, too! To those who would disparage me for not living according to the biblical model (not having an Evangelical husband and not going to church every week) I say, maybe you're right, but continuing to live as a barren, single woman for the rest of my life is not fulfilling the biblical model, either. This way, I have a home, a husband, a child, and a life. I still consider myself a Christian, just not an Evangelical. My heart breaks for the single Evangelical women out there, because for so many years I lived that life. I know how it feels to carry that hurt around with you. My singleness dragged on for years, and then it was all over in a moment. All it took was a change in my own way of thinking.By the way, I know I said that my husband and I have not been to church in a couple of years, but that may be about to change. Now that our daughter is getting to be a toddler, my husband wants to be a good example for her, and has said he wants to start going to church again, which is fine with me. Hope this helps clarify things. I really didn't mean to interject myself into this debate. I just couldn't help but respond to your original statement about women of other faiths, and meant the information about my own journey as an aside. I apologize beforehand if I've offended anyone: I know that I probably have. Have to run, my two year old is demanding my attention. Best Wishes to you in your search for a husband.

Lisa Brown.

So, let me get this straight. Marriage is more important than the doctrine of inerrancy and the authority of the scriptures?????? It is so important that, if you do not get it, then you have a right to redefine the meaning of "Christian" so as to make it include unbelievers????? Is there any greater evidence that marriage has been made an idol than this? Truth is no longer important...only whether or not you get married. I have to laugh at the fact that this woman says that those who disagree with Debbie Maken are believing in "garbage," and that, if we are "smart," we will consider that being married is more important that believing in the inerrancy of the scriptures, and obeying God's commandment to not marry an unbeliever. Of course, she fails to realize that Debbie Maken's critics have caught her using selective citation, taking passages out of context, and engaging in logical fallacy after logical fallacy. Not only that, but it seems that, to consider what Debbie Maken has to say, is to consider the idea that marriage is more important than the inerrancy and ultimate authority of the scriptures. That is something no Christian should ever consider.

I can respect those women who want to be married, and are patiently searching for a spouse, and trusting that he will cause their search to be successful in his time. I pray that God will send them their heart's desire. However, to have an idolatrious desire for marriage which causes you to rebel against God by marrying an unbeliever, and denying the sufficiency and ultimate authority of the scriptures is to show that you are already under the judgment of God. In this case, getting your hearts desire is simply God handing you over to your evil lusts. I hope and pray that Christian women will see this movement for what it really attempt to place your desire for marriage above the truth of God's word.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sound Scholarship Again Contradicts Debbie Maken

I have been doing a lot of research for my exegetical paper which is due on Tuesday, and, as part of my research, I was examining the methodological section of C. John Collins' Commentary on Genesis 1-4. It is a 300+ page commentary on the first four chapters of Genesis by a professor of Old Testament at Covenant Seminary [incedentially, the same seminary that Debbie Maken's church, the PCA, supports].

All of you who have read Debbie Maken's book at this point are aware of this quotation:

Adam was in the garden with Eve, had been given headship over her, watched the entire conversation (with a talking snake!), and yet did nothing. No intervention, no "Stop talking with that animal!" It's like he sat back, popped open a beer, and then when everything went to pot complained, "The woman you gave me..." [Getting Serious about Getting Married p. 67]

Contra Debbie Maken, C. John Collins, an Old Testament scholar, says that this is what is called a "gap." He writes:

A gap is something left unresolved; when it is intentional, it makes us wonder about it. Since the question here is an obvious one, it may well be the author's intent to say to us, "I know you are curious about this, but since the purpose of the account is elsewhere, I will not satisfy your curiosity." Other gaps in this account include: what is the origin of the evil that possesses the serpent; whence came the woman's willingness to entertain the temptation; and what was the man doing when he was "with her" (3:6)? [Collins, C. John. Genesis 1-4 A Linguistic, Literary, and Theological Commentary. Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing. Phillipsburg, New Jersey, 2006 p. 172 n. 60].

With regards to Genesis 3:6 he writes:

And what of the man's part? He enters in Gensis 3:6, where we read "she also gave some to her husband [who was] with her, and he ate." If he was "with her," what was he doing when Eve was being led astray? Why did he eat-did he put up no struggle? Again, I do not think our author has given us the wherewithal to answer these questions. Instead, the focus is on the other factors: namely, that the couple sinned freely, that is, without any compulsion or pressure from God or their created nature. [ibid, p.173 Emphasis mine].

Notice that, unlike Debbie Maken, C. John Collins is not so quick to rule out the idea that Adam might have put up a struggle. In fact, one of the interesting things about this is that John Calvin, who Maken quotes [and misuses over and over again] contradicts her here:

And gave also unto her husband with her From these words, some conjecture that Adam was present when his wife was tempted and persuaded by the serpent, which is by no means credible. Yet it might be that he soon joined her, and that, even before the woman tasted the fruit of the tree, she related the conversation held with the serpent, and entangled him with the same fallacies by which she herself had been deceived [from].

In other words, here is a possible reconstruction of these events:

1. The woman is tempted.
2. Adam sees that his wife is being tempted, tries to stop her, but she doesn't listen, and persists in speaking with the snake in spite of her husband's strong protests.
3. After she eats of the fruit, she is mad at her husband, and they quarrel. In the midst of that quarrel, she ensnares him in the very same errors of which the serpent had convinced her.
4. After she has deceived her husband, she gets some fruit, gives it to him, and he eats of it.

This senario definitely fits with everything that is said in the text. The point that Dr. Collins is making is that the Bible does not tell us what Adam was doing when he was with her. We can take it as a sinster, anti-male senario. Or, we can look at Adam as being deceived by the very same lies by which the woman was deceived. Of course, we know that the shaming that Debbie Maken does of single men is definitely indicative of which position she is going to take. However, if we are going to be honest exegetes, we are going to have to admit that we have no idea what Adam was doing when he was with her. The point is that the couple sinned freely, and we in turn have inhereted a sin nature because of it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Divine Delusion

Pastor Gene Cook has a webcast program [which is, basically, a radio program that is aired, not by radio waves, but by streaming over the internet] which I commend to everyone. Every Wendsday he has a program where he will either have an atheistic guest, or he will invite atheists to call in to the program.

This week he had a regular atheistic listener to the program by the name of "Master Zap" who called in to talk about atheism with Gene, and it was ugly. Master Zap had absolutly no answer for the problems that Gene brought up. Then, he brought out his new "Divine Delusion" argument. The argument goes something like this:

1. It is possible that, in another world, there might be a God who thinks that he is omnicient, and is actually not omnicient.
2. Because of this, God would have no way of knowing that this is not his nature.
3. Therefore, God cannot know that he is omnicient.

The problem with this argument is that premise 2 is not necessarily true. We just simply need to add two premises:

1. It is possible that, in another world, there might be a God who thinks that he is omnicient, and is actually not omnicient.
2'. God would not be able to know that this is not his nature, unless he knew that he could not be deluded.
2''. God knows that he cannot be deluded.
3. Therefore, it is possible for God to know that he is omnicient.

Therefore, the only way that this argument works is if you have an impotent God who can be deluded. However, we do not serve such a God. We serve the king of kings and the Lord of Lords who is incapible of being deceived, and knows this, and all things.

However, a very appealing answer that I think is very insightful was given on the Narrow Mind Aftermath blog recently by someone named "Dominic Bnonn Tennant." I want to repost it here, because I think it also forces us to consider the difference between the nature of God's knowledge and the nature of our knowledge:

Master Zap, it is strange that other Christians here have not noticed this, but your argument is not directed toward the Christian God at all. It seems to treat God as some kind of passive entity who merely "comes by" knowledge in the same way we think of ourselves as coming by it. But since God is all in all, and knowledge is an intrinsic part of his being (that is to say, he is knowledge, in the same sense that he is love), there is no possibility of a God B being isomorphic with him. God's nature as uncontingent and necessary precludes anything being isomorphic with him. If your God B existed, in the Christian worldview, he would be a creation of God A. I think you would have to present a fairly good argument that a created, finite being which gains knowledge from God could think it was uncreated, infinite, and had knowledge intrinsic in itself, before anyone would really take you seriously. And such an argument would appear irrelevant anyway given that you have lost isomorphism.

On the other hand, if you claim that God B is also aseitic and has knowledge intrinsic in himself, then the set of knowledge represented in God A and the set of knowledge represented in God B would appear to have no overlap; there would be no unifying principle between them. If there were, they would both be God and there would be no difference between them. But what exactly do you achieve by postulating two independent Gods who both know everything there is to know within their own set of what constitutes knowledge? Assuming that such a view doesn't have profound philosophical problems which I don't immediately see (which is a big assumption), both Gods are genuinely omniscient, so omniscience does not appear to be falsified. Both also are genuinely independent of each other, such that neither God A, nor anything contingent upon God A, could know of God B or anything contingent upon God B; and vice versa. Ie, there are two separate knowledge domains, with no unifying principle between them. This doesn't appear to prove anything except that we can speculate. In terms of the Christian worldview it really means nothing.

Your argument is a cunning one, but ultimately it is a strawman because it ignores the qualitative difference between our knowledge and God's knowledge, in favor of focusing on the quantitative difference. You ignore metaphysics in the hope that you can show that epistemology cannot stand by itself. But obviously it can't, which is why atheists have such an impossible task trying to justify their own knowledge, in so many different ways. But you cannot shift your own epistemological shortcomings onto God—not, at least, without also implicitly shifting your metaphysical shortcomings onto him, which makes him not God at all.


I think Bnonn's response helps us to remember something that Greg Bahnsen always said, namely, that language about God is not exact, and not different. It is analogious. When we speak about God having knowledge, and us having knowledge, do we mean the exact same thing by that? I hope we don't. That means that God has been learning, and thus, changing in his nature. As he points out, God's knowledge is intrinsic to himself. By recognizing this distinction, we see that Master Zap has tried to hyjack Christian terminology and use it in a way that it was never meant to be used.

However, even Master Zap uses language in this way. Does he think that catching a cold, and catching a baseball are exactly the same thing? Does he think that hitting the road, and hitting a tennis ball are the same thing? Does he think that running the 5 miles is the same as running a computer? Yet, would he say that these things are entirely different? Is catching a cold totally different than catching a baseball? No. Is running 5 miles totally different from running a computer? No. So, while there are differences, there are also similarities as well. This is the case with all language. Language is analogious, and not precise. That is why Wittgenstein suggested that language is learned within different language games, and why it is that a person cannot just come along and try to critique any language game without first learning that language game.
More on Captain Sensible's Invincible Ignorance

Well, I knew it wouldn't happen. When Captain Sensible is answered, she very rarely replies to anyone. If you were expecting a response to what I wrote last night [i.e. what I have been saying ever since I have started addressing this issue] you were completely disappointed. Now, is it possible that she has not read my response to her? Yes, I suppose that is possible. However, that doesn't change the laughable nature of what she has done this morning.

Captain Sensible tries to talk about the "natural extension" of what I believe. Here is her post in its entirety:

"I've often thought that for a single person a monastery provides a community that would eliminate much of what singles struggle with regarding isolation, loneliness, sense of belonging, etc."(Fern Horst, "Purposeful Singleness")

Captain Sensible writes: Well, I guess it had to happen. It's the natural extension of the "be content", "singleness is a gift", "making an idol out of marriage", "Jesus is all you need" teaching that has infected the church. It was only a matter of time until someone thought a solution to the problem of singleness was joining a monastery or nunnery. It is appropriate that that person is Fern Horst, the most militantly aggressive pro-singleness person I have come across. (Carolyn McCulley seems to have not taken it quite that far. Although she does support single Christians living together in a kind of pseudo-family unit as some sort of substitute for a real husband or wife and a real family.)
I wonder if the next logical step is promoting a form of non-practising homosexuality? I know of one person in the UK that appears to be advocating just that. And she regularly speaks on the subject of singleness to thousands of Christians at a major annual festival.
God sent Debbie Maken at just the right time to stop this cancer in its tracks. Thank God that the final burden for putting all this right rests with the Lord. It would be unbearable for any one person to take it on.

Interestingly enough, I tried to track down that quotation using google all morning. I was having no luck, and then thought that, perhaps, Captain Sensible was quoting from a book, so, I checked Amazon. Nothing there either. Then, as I happened to be on Fern Horst's website, at the side bar, I caught site of a recent post on their forums. On their main page, they list the recent posts on their forums, and in this case, the title of one of the posts was "RE: Monk." I clicked on it, and eventually found the quotation. Here is the quotation in its entirety:

Re: Monk?
Posted by Fern on October 29, 2007 at 21:30:22:
In Reply to:
Monk? posted by MarsBike on October 25, 2007 at 20:36:20:
You mentioned having monastic uges lately. Can you describe that a bit? What appeals to you about being a monk, or what makes you think God may be calling you to be one?
I've often thought that for a single person a monastery provides a community that would eliminate much of what singles struggle with regarding isolation, loneliness, sense of belonging, etc.
Not that that alone would be a good reason to become a monk. :)

Utterly amazing. This was a quick reply to a man who had monastic urges, and Captain Sensible thinks that she can get the idea that Fern Horst is advocating Monasticism as a possible solution to many of the feelings that singles face. Didn't Captain Sensible notice the final sentence, "Not that that alone would be a good reason to become a monk."? Fern Horst is in no way saying that having these desires is the deciding factor in whether or not you should become a monk.

Now, I am as far away from this ecumenism as I can get. I believe monasticism and monastic vows are wrong because the gift of continence can be given and taken away by God whenever he pleases, and that it is mere presumption to assume that God will always give the gift of continence in the future like he has in the past. However, this use of Fern Horst by Captain Sensible is just laughable. Captain Sensible has again shown that her invincible ignorance only allows her to see on a page what she wants to see on a page.

Not only that, where does Captain Sensible ever prove that this is the logical outcome of what I, and Christians for 2000 years have been teaching? She doesn't offer any proof of this at all. There is no logical connection between these two, and Captain Sensible knows it. That is why she doesn't bother to prove it.

Also, I find it funny that she has to go to a quick response to an inquiry about monasticism on a forum in order to prove her point. Fern Horst has written many articles, and to cite a quotation that appears to be a quick response to an inquiry about monasticism is simply reprehensible. I wonder if the person "advocating" non-practicing homosexuality is being as badly taken out of context, and I wonder if we will find another four or five sentence forum post from which Captain Sensible gets this information.

What is fascinating is that these folks have been so busy promoting Debbie Maken's work that they seem to have not been able to find the time to put out their marriage announcements. If this "getting serious about getting married" is supposed to produce results, then why is it that Captain Sensible, Gortexgirl, and everyone who so vehemintly opposes what I am saying are still unmarried? Interestingly enough, I mentioned one guy who thought Maken's views were silly who got married recently, I have finally found the girl I am going to marry, and I know of many other folks who oppose this stuff who are getting married. The reality is that this stuff does not help you get married at all. All it fosters is an attitude of selfishness, bitterness, and a hard hearted desire to remain ignorant so that it is perfectly acceptable to engage in the simple dishonesty that Captain Sensible and Debbie Maken have. This is exactly what I mean by "invincible ignorance," and that is exactly what I mean when I talk about these people making an idol out of marriage.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Captain Sensible's Invincible Ignorance

I have finally found a phrase to describe the marriage mandators with whom I have interacted, who, rather than address my arguments, just take Debbie Maken's word for it. Dr. Robert Morey mentioned it. It is called "invincible ignorance." He used this to describe people who have the arguments right in front of them, and yet they refuse to address the arguments, and just keep repeating what they have said before.

Recently, an open theist who reads my blog [i.e. Paul] has decided to try to get one of these people with invincible ignorance to address some of my arguments from my 20 theses. Of course, Captain Sensible does not ever address any of my arguments; she just keeps parroting Debbie Maken. For instance, she said:

Take God working everything for good. That doesn't mean that everything is good. For example, suppose a Christian man fell into temptation and looked up some pornography on the internet. Would that be "good"? Clearly not. Does it mean that being a glamour model serves God's purposes? Well, I think we can safely say God would prefer her to choose another job! Can God still use these things somehow, someway, for good? Well, the Bible seems to me to show that, yes, He can and He does. But that does not mean that either of these things are okay!

Of course, the point is not whether or not something is good, but whether or not something is purposeful. If your situation is purposeful, then it has a purpose in molding you into the person God wants you to be. That's the point. Thus, Captain Sensible does not believe that God can say "no" to her request for a spouse because he is working on her for his own purposes. It is either all the man's fault, or it is because there are not enough men in the church, etc. However, if everything, including her singleness has a purpose, then God will give her a spouse when he wants to give her a spouse, and not when she "gets serious about getting married."

The point of my theses 13-14 is to recognize that singleness is purposeful, and not an accident which just could not be avioded because we were not "getting serious about getting married." God ordains both whether or not you search, and if and whether or not that search will be successful. Captain Sensible dispises that because she believes that God has no purpose for her singleness.

Thankfully, Paul knows exactly what I was talking about, and corrected Captain Sensible. That, of course, didn't stop Captain Sensible:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?" (Romans 6:1)That was what I was thinking of earlier. Is it a bit like saying, "Well, God can use your circumstantial singleness to work all things for the good, so even though it may have come about through sins (eg. lack of outreach to men by our church leaders? Wrong teaching on singleness that encourages men to passivity?) then don't worry about trying to fix those things. God's working them for good anyway, so there's really no point. Maybe God is glorified even more when working things that are not good, for good."?

I wouldn't say that God can use "circumstantial singleness" for good, but that God decrees "circumstantial singleness." Also, Captain Sensible did not deal with any of my refutations Debbie Maken's abuse of Genesis 1:28 and 2:18, and just assumed that she was correct. Thus, it is not "going on sinning that grace may abound" because protracted singleness isn't a sin! Certainly I think that, if a person wants to marry, they should pursue marriage. However, the reason why you search is because God has decreed it, and he has also decreed whether or not that church will be successful. He will make that search successful at the time he wants, not at the time Captain Sensible thinks he should make it successful.

Captain Sensible continues with her invincible ignorance:

Is it possible to "make an idol" out of feeding the hungry?Is it possible to "make an idol" out of loving your neighbour?Is it possible to "make an idol" out of reading Scripture?Is it possible to "make an idol" out of worshipping God through songs of praise?I only ask these questions because I am not sure it is even possible to "make an idol" out of doing something that God wants us to do anyway. If someone becomes so committed to feeding the hungry, that they are in danger of burning out, then there are other cautions I think that are more appropriate, like reminding them that God knows it is good to rest, or that Jesus at times withdrew to be by Himself.And if someone becomes so keen on singing worship songs that they begin to annoy the people they live with, it may be advisable to remind them that they should prefer others' needs to their own, and maybe they should give them a bit of peace and quiet already!Do you see what I am getting at? In terms of doing something that is pleasing to God, I don't think we can "make an idol" of it.

The answer to all of this is "yes." Yes, you can make all of these things an idol. Perhaps Captain Sensible has never heard what Jesus said:

Matthew 6:1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 6:5-6 "And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

Yes, even feeding the hungry, loving your neighbor, reading scripture, and worshipping God can be an idol if it is done in arrogance to point to yourself as better than everyone else. Once these things are done for self-glory, and not for God's glory, then, yes, they become an idol. Hence, we should not only watch our behavior, but the modivations for our behavior. Often, the modivations for our behavior will give away whether or not we are making something an idol. Desiring marriage is not making marriage an idol. However, pursuing marriage because you are loathing your singleness is making an idol out of marriage.

This is why the bladder example is irrelevant. I would ask what would happen if you went to the restroom, and you could not urinate? Would you say it is because you are not "getting serious about urinating?" What happens if you do everything you can, and you end up having to have go on kidney dialysis because you cannot urinate? Does your failure to urinate mean that you were not "getting serious about urinating?" No, obviously not. God can, by his sovereign decree, cause you to not be able to urinate, and to have to go on kidney dialysis. In the same way, God can, by his sovereign decree, cause your pursuit of marriage fail, and tell you that you need to trust in him since he did not decree that your pursuit of marriage would be successful. Apparently, Captain Sensible and Debbie Maken think that God does not have that right.

Also, what happens if a person is trusting in these actions to save them? Isn't that also making the good works Captain Sensible mentioned an idol? If we are going to be good protestants, then we would say, if we do not trust in God alone for our salvation and trust in our works, then, yes, those works have become an idol because we are trusting in them rather than trusting in God for our salvation.

However, Captain Sensible doesn't stop there. She gives an interesting look into the mind of these cultic marriage mandators. By what standard do they think morality should be defined? Well, I will let Captain Sensible tell you herself:

In the same way (although over a slightly more extended period!), I think the times in a woman's life when she is most likely to be accused of "making an idol" out of marriage, are just the times when her body is telling her that now would be a good time to reproduce and the body simply can't hold out for that much longer.To go back to your post, the examples you gave are again indicative, in my opinion, of another issue rather than "making an idol" out of marriage. If we are uncomfortable in our own skin, as I think the French describe it, then the root cause may be a self-esteem problem. Also I am not sure about how common it is for a woman to feel that a husband would be "the end to all their woes". I think most women have more sense than to think they will never again have any problems in their life, so long as they marry! However, having said that, being single is a major problem, and solving that one problem can make a tremendous difference to the quality of that person's life, and especially with regard to marriage and a family, it's the core of their human nature...

But one final plea is, please, let's give single Christian women a break! I despair at the way they are being treated by the church at the moment, it's absolutely shocking. I think I am going to start a new society: the RSPCSCW - The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Single Christian Women. ;-) (To those readers outside the UK this may not mean anything, but I should say we have the RSPCA to prevent cruelty to animals, the RSPCC to prevent cruelty to children etc. and I think we now need a new one for single Christian women. They are the King's daughters, and I really think a new Royal Society would be entirely appropriate!)We are being terribly cruel at the moment, and inflicting huge amounts of spiritual abuse. Ridding single women of the accusation of "making an idol out of marriage" is just one of many issues that need to be addressed.

Wow, I mean what can you say! What is necessary, and what is right needs to be defined on the basis of "a woman's biological clock," and "her desire to reproduce????????" In other words, if a woman has a desire to reproduce, it is the man's duty to fulfill that desire, and God cannot say "no" if both parties just "get serious about getting married." Then, she goes on to say that if you dare say that God has any sovereign power over whether or not you satisfy your "biological clock," then you are being abusive to women. I know I have avoided saying this for a long time, but this is the same kind of thinking that the feminists use. They say, "My feelings are going to be the ultimate standard of what is 'abuse,' and thus, what is right and wrong." I am going to say this very calmly and carefully. While I respect a woman's desire to wed and have children, God does not care about a woman's desire to marry and have children in his sovereign decree, or in his commandments. God is the one who gets to decree what happens in this world, and God is the one who gets to define what is abuse and what is not abuse. As I said in thesis #11, feelings are irrelevant in determining what is right and what is wrong in relationships. God is free to do whatever he wants, and a woman's "biological clock" has nothing to do with it.

Thus, we see the selfish, and self-centered nature of the cultic version of this movement come full swing. This is the reason that they get to abuse the scriptures, alter quotations from the reformers, and avoid having to defend it is simply because of their desires to reproduce. This is one of the things that drives "invincible ignorance." You want to believe something because of your own desires, and these desires prevent you from seeing the truth. This is what I mean when I talk about marriage, and the desire for marriage becoming an idol. When God's sovereign decree, his right to define right and wrong, and all honest argumentation are thrown out the window because of your desire to marry and have children, you have just made marriage an idol. Yes, Captain Sensible can keep beating down her strawman of fatalism all day and ignoring this argument, but this fact still remains.

I believe that Captain Sensible and Debbie Maken are under the judgment of God, and their invincible ignorance is evidence of that very thing. Captain Sensible does not realize how insignificant Debbie Maken's argumentation is in the academic world. In fact, I presented Debbie Maken's views to a group made up of one of the Hebrew professors and several students here at Trinity, and all I got was laughter, and people poking fun at it. Of course, that doesn't matter to Captain Sensible. The validity of these arguments is not of any relevance to her. All that matters is whether or not she gets to have a husband and reproduce, and God's sovereign plan, and his ability to define right and wrong have absolutely no meaning to her.

It would be bad enough if the damage were limited to Captain Sensible alone, but it is not. She has before stated that women should go outside the church to find men, and bring them into the church to marry them. I wonder if these men would come into the church if they knew that they only reason this person was witnessing to them is, not because they cared about their souls, but because they wanted a husband. Something tells me that either the person would convert simply because they wanted a wife [in which case, we would have to ask if this is a true conversion], or they would be repulsed that someone only cares about their marital status, and not their eternal soul. I don't know what is going to happen, but I know it would be bad on both counts: the former instance because marriage to an unbeliever is, not only forbidden in the scriptures, but also very difficult, and the latter because of the fact that these men will *never* be saved in those circumstances.

How did we get into this mess? We got into it by "invincible ignorance." Captain Sensible needs to rethink what her standard of ethics is, whether or not she values truth, and whether or not she believes God is the sovereign king over all. God is not a Santa Claus who gives you whatever you desire. He is a God who knows what is best for you, even better than you yourself know. Should we pursue something if we want it? Absolutely, and most definitely! However, that does not mean that God is obligated to give it to you right then and there. In that case, we have to wait on him to cause our pursuits to be successful in his time.

I would like to close with the lyrics to a song by Steven Curtis Chapman. This was one of my favorite songs when I was a kid, and it is funny that you have to get into discussions such as these before you can see the wisdom in the lyrics to some of these songs. I only hope that single people will hear the message in this song, namely, that God does care about you, and he knows better than you what you need and what is best for you.

You wonder when the Lord will renew the strength within you;
You wonder how, how can He use you as you are.
Seems like you’re wasting precious time,
But then a voice comes to remind you (to wait).
Wait, wait, wait on the Lord;
You will understand in time.
Why you must wait,
Wait, wait, wait on the Lord;
Yes He hears you,
But for now you must wait on the Lord.
Answers come slowly to your cries of desperation,
But time is His tool, teaching the greatest lessons learned;
So let Him do His work in you,
And watch the miracles come true as you (wait).
And He wants you to know that
They that wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They will rise up with wings as eagles,
They will run, not get weary.
They will walk and not faint;
That’s a promise to us when we (wait).

Saturday, November 03, 2007

20 Theses for a Reformation in Christian Relationships

1. Christian authors are not infallible. Just because someone writes a book that becomes popular does not mean that it is Biblical.

2. Christian leaders need to train children, when they are young, to do basic, sound Biblical exegesis of the text so that people will be able to test how relationship authors use the Bible to make sure the exegesis is sound.

3. Christian authors need to, not only quote a text to support their position, but also show how it is that they arrived at that interpretation from the text itself.

4. Historical sources need to be cited with care. The issues that shaped a particular author's view of marriage and relationships must be discussed, and a complete examination of their position of their teachings expounded from a writing that is entirely about relationships and marriage.

5. People need to check the quotations of relationship authors to make sure that all of the historical and Biblical quotations are given in context.

6. Those commands not found in the scriptures are not binding upon the Christian. If it is a good work to teach that something is wrong, then 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that the scriptures are sufficient for the proclaimation of that teaching. Thus, it should be able to be found in the Bible.

7. What works is not necessarily what is Biblical. You cannot bind something to the contience of a Christian just because it works. The only things that should be bound to the contiences of believers are those things which can be found in the Bible.

8. Only people who are qualified should write books on relationships from a Biblical perspective. This means that they are trained in how to handle the text of scriptures in a responsible fashion, being able to engage in detailed discussions about the meanings of texts.

9. The Hebrew Bible is just as much inspired scripture as the New Testament, is must be interpreted with just as much are as the New Testament. Those who write books on this topic must take the same care to discuss the meanings of each Old Testament passage in their historical, grammatical, and linguistic context.

10. The simple quotation of an author does not guarantee that the author in question is being quoted in context. Care must be taken by relationship authors to make sure that the necessary background work is done so that an author is not being taken out of context.

11. While feelings are important to the discussion in relationships, they are not the ultimate authority. Nothing should be determined to be right or wrong simply on the basis of your feelings.

12. Likewise, because of the stain of original sin, desires cannot be the ultimate authority. Nothing should be determined as right or wrong simply on the basis of someone desires.

13. God works all things after the council of his will [Ephesians 1:11], and thus, in whatever situation we are in, God is using it for our own good [Romans 8:28]. Thus, even "circumstantial singleness" has a purpose in God's plan to mold us into the children he wants us to be.

14. Because God is sovereign, he ordains both the ends and the means. That includes both whether or not we search for a spouse, and whether or not that search will be successful. No matter what God ordains, it will always be for our good [Romans 8:28].

15. Marriage has nothing whatsoever to do with your salvation, including our sanctification. Only God can save. Marriage is neither sufficient nor necessary for God to redeem anyone.

16. Relationships should be intentional. There should be no relationships with people you do not intend to marry.

17. Parents should take a more active role in the relationships so that there is accountability. Parents should give direction to their children in the areas of purity, and give them a roadmap as to how to get to marriage.

18. Priorities must remain in any relationship. God must always be number one in importance. Obedience to him should never be sacrificed. Next, related to this, we should always seek to honor our father and our mother in all that we do in our relationships.

19. Just as we never presume upon the grace of our dating partner, we should never presume upon the grace of God. Willful disobedience to insult God and disobey his law is only made worse by statements such as "God will forgive me."

20. While we will all make mistakes in discussing this issue, all books on dating and relationships need to be written to the glory of God. Thus, the only reason someone should pick up the pen to write on this topic is to glorify God in the proclaimation of his truth.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Egyptian Heiroglyphics, Joseph Smith, Book of Abraham, Oh My!

One of the interesting facets of Mormonism is the fact that Joseph Smith can be directly tested as a translator. Joseph Smith purchased two Egyptian papyrus scrolls from a traveling antiquities dealer named Michael Chandler. When he began translating some of the scrolls, he told his followers that he had discovered a scroll with a lost book of Abraham. Then, he said that the other scroll was a lost book of Joseph written by Joseph when he was in Pharoah's court in Egypt. Joseph Smith published his book of Abraham in Nauvoo, along with three facsimilies that he copied from the Egyptian papyri. However, he was murdered before he published more of the Book of Abraham, and the book of Joseph. The papyri were eventually lost, and forgotten.

However, in the 1960's they were rediscovered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. They were bound to a kind of backing material, and this backing had maps of 1830's Kirtland, Ohio written on it. One of the sheets looked almost identical to Facsimile one from the set of facsimilies published by Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith had written some notes on the Papyri, and he had copied some of the characters in the exact order on which they were found in the papyri. That pretty much sealed the deal that these were the same papyri that Joseph Smith used in translating the Book of Abraham.

However, the disappointment came when Egyptologists went to translate the text. They were nothing more than scrolls from the Book of Breathings, a spell book which enabled an Egyptian man to make it into the afterlife after death.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints makes all of their scriptures available online including The Book of Abraham. I am not yet good enough in Heiroglyphics to translate the Book of Breathings. It is poetry, and poetry is the most difficult writing in any language to translate. However, I have been translating several Egyptian narratives, such as The Shipwrecked Sailor, and The Eloquent Phesant. Thus, I can say with certainty that the style of the Book of Abraham is not something that corresponds to the way Egyptian narratives are written. It sounds much more like a translation from Hebrew, which would make sense, since Joseph Smith was studying Hebrew at the time he "translated" the Book of Abraham. Dr Robert Ritner, a professor of Egyptology at the University of Chicago who was commissioned to do an entire translation of Joseph Smith's scroll, makes the same observation when he says that "The narrative style of the Book of Abraham does not correspond to Egyptian verbiage" [From the Institute for Religious Research's video documentary The Lost Book of Abraham]. Also, my professor, who is both an Egyptologist and a Hebrew Scholar, has told me that scrolls of the Book of Breathings that were put in the coffins of deceased Egyptians was a practice that did not exist until around the time of Christ, thousands of years after Abraham.

It is an interesting, and very fruitful discussion to have with Mormon missionaries when they come to your door. Also, an excellent video documentary put out by the Institute for Religious Research called The Lost Book of Abraham is currently available online. Though it is around an hour long, it is very educational, and well worth the time to sit and watch it: