Archive for February, 2012

Female Eldership?

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Here are some links to my thoughts on female eldership. It has been almost 2 years since I wrote them, so I am open to criticism

Part 1:

http://www.cck.org.uk/reason/arent-men-considered-superior-women-christianity

Part 2:

http://www.cck.org.uk/reason/aren’t-men-considered-superior-women-christianity-–-part-2

Part 3:

http://www.cck.org.uk/reason/aren’t-men-considered-superior-women-christianity-–-part-3

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Suppressing Your Conscience

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I’ve been reading a novel called ‘Warbreaker’ by Brandon Sanderson. It contains an interesting dialogue on morality I thought I would share:

“trousers are NOT modest”
“Don’t show knees,” he said.
“Doesn’t matter”
Denth Shrugged. “Just giving my opinion”
Vivenna looked away, then signed quietly. “I appreciate the advice Denth. Really. I just . . . I’m confused by a lot of things in my life lately”
“World’s a confusing place,” Denth said. “That’s what makes if fun.”
“The men we are working with,” Vivenna said. “They lead the Idrians in the city but exploit them at the same time. Lemex stole from my father but still worked for the interests of my country. And here I am, wearing an over-priced dress and sipping expensive juice while my sister is being abused by an awful dictator and while this wonderful, terrible city prepares to launch a war on my homeland”
Denth leaned back on his chair, looking out over the short railing toward the street, watching the crowd with their colours both beautiful and terrible. “The motivations of men. They never make sense. And they always make sense.”
“Right now, YOU don’t make sense”
Denth smiled. “What I’m trying to say is that you don’t understand a man until you understand what makes him do what he does. Every-man is a hero in his own story, Princess. Murders don’t believe they are to blame for what they do. Thieves, they think they deserve the money they take. Dictators, they believe they have the right – for the safety of their people and the good of the nation – to do whatever they wish.”
He stared off, shaking his head. “I think even Vasher see’s himself as a hero. The truth is, most people who do what you’d call ‘wrong’ do it for what they call ‘right’ reasons. Only mercenaries make any sense. We do what we’re paid to do. That’s it. Perhaps that’s why people look down on us. We’re the only ones who don’t pretend to have higher motives.”

I found this dialogue very revealing. And I think it’s true. We do seem to do things that we think are ‘right’ most of the time, rather than things we think are ‘wrong’, or at least we won’t allow ourselves to think of them as ‘wrong’. We only have to look at different cultures to see that this is true. One culture believes it is perfectly normal for a man to have more than one wife, AND more than one concubine. Today that would be outrageous! I even feel myself getting angry as I write about it. But, I do not believe that anyone in those cultures believed they were doing anything wrong. In fact, if my limited research is reliable, if you were rich in ancient times the more wives you had the better, as you could finically support them. It might have even be thought selfish, if you were rich, not to have many wives because you were able to support more. I think our welfare state might have, and I’m thankful that it has, blinded us to the reasons behind marriage in other cultures, I.e security and provision rather than our own preoccupy with love and affection.

Consider Solomon, he was the richest king of Isreal and he had 300 wives, and 300 concubines!!! My stomach churns at the thought of that! I mean, how could each wife and concubine get the love and affection that everyone needs from their spouse? BUT, we might be looking at this again from a modern Western point of view, perhaps. If the wives and concubines were primarily concerned with provision, then perhaps it was seen as good that Solomon took so many, because he could indeed look after them.

But, the question then remains, who is right? Who has the right view of marriage? Of course I believe in one wife only, because of the tremendous amount of emotional strife that can be caused by polygamous marriage. But perhaps in earlier days that was a burden they couldn’t afford to erase? I really don’t know, this is all pure conjecture.

Evidently, there does seem to be a element of truth from the dialogue above. Many do things that are wrong, because they think they are ‘right’. I’m sure I do too.

Nevertheless, although I believe that there is some innocent obliviousness in regard to moral culture, as discussed above, there is a point where that just doesn’t cut it. This moves into the arena of ‘self-justification’ which counteracts a sense of ‘ought not’. I personally believe this us just as prevalent. When I was younger I got into the wrong crowd at University. Some of my friends used to steal from the supermarkets, because they lived in squats and didn’t have much money. But, really they had enough money to live, just not enough to live in the way they wished: I.e to drink, smoke … Etc. I was part of the ‘rave’ scene which was full of hippies and chavs. I always found the hippy/chav mixture odd, but also so Intriguing. Being a part of the hippy scene, I often came across this excuse: ‘I wouldn’t steal from small businesses, but Tesco (insert other brand name) is a evil monopoly, and they will still get all the profit they need, regardless of whether I steal from them or not.’ I’m ashamed to say that I joined my friends a few times. At this point in my life I was not following my Christian faith, obviously. But I always knew what I was doing was wrong, I was just provided with a convenient excuse to do what I wanted. I believe that my friends at the time felt the same, but perhaps to a lesser extent than myself. We gave ourselves excuses and a justification to do what was easier rather than what was right. I believe if you continue to justify yourself, you can end up believing it, because you have suppressed your moral conscience to the point where it no longer guides you.

I personally believe that the distinction between unconscious moral lapse (perhaps cultural) and subconscious moral lapse (suppressed conscience) is significant. Romans 2:16 says: on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. I believe the intentions of our hearts will be laid bare, and personal justification, and moral suppression will be brought to light.

Am I judging other people when I write this? I don’t believe I am, for I judge myself in the same way. I fail the same moral tests!

I think many in our culture, in fact all of us, minimise our own moral accountability because we justify ourselves for some ‘good’ reason or other. I often find my friends think the Bible has a ‘negative view of human nature’. And it does, that is true. Might the Bible not be getting under the skin, however, to where men’s secrets are laid bare, and the thoughts and intentions if the heart are revealed? I personally think so, but I do understand that for many it is a hard pill to swallow.

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Female Role-Models in the Church

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Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 2: 3-4

I wonder how many women in the wider culture would think a gentle and quiet spirit is desirable? I’m not sure that many would. Gentle and quiet women are ok, but not something that is particularly sought after. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the opposite is true. We are expected to be independent women, emancipated and not just equal to men, but able to do everything that men do (audience of women cheers!) However, the women that can come to mind when faced with these ideals is some sort of Charlie’s Angel for younger women; and successful business women for us in our mid-twenties, and I guess beyond.

Michael Ramsden came to speak to our church in Brighton last year. He mentioned that he had been reading some feminist books that really troubled him, because of the abuses to women in our society. Afterward I got a chance to ask him for some references. As a result, I have recently finished reading Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy. It was a shocking confirmation of the debased and twisted view our culture has of female liberation. It is not a book I would encourage any men to read; it can be rather descriptive. Levy’s essential message was to undermine the assumption that women needed to try and impress men, or try and be ‘like men’. She comments on the increasing desire within the ranks of women to caste themselves in a masculine mould:

Why try to beat them when you could join them? There’s a way in which a certain lewdness, a certain crass, casual manner that has at its core a me-Tarzan-you-Jane mentality can make people feel equal. It makes us feel that way because we are all Tarzan now, or at least we are all pretending to be.[1]

It is a very interesting observation Levy makes, and one which I unfortunately agree can be true within British society. As such, there is a need for women in our country to have good role models. This is also true in the church, and is evident from my church’s Joining the Church Family sessions. There is a slot where we talk about women in the church, and there is almost always a question like: What can women do in the church? I believe in a Complimentarian view of gender roles, and believe that men should be elders, and therefore believe that men should often be the ones at the front of church, leading our corporate meetings. However, for women in the church it is easy to try and emulate the elders in more ways than one, and even start to believe that ultimate spiritual development is serving Jesus through preaching and leading the church. As this is the role model so readily displayed on Sundays.

Peter’s exhortation to build our identity as women on God, and develop our ‘inner self’ is beautiful and feels so right, but a male dominated ‘stage’ at church can leave women with few examples of how this is worked out in practice. This can be particularly true for younger women, who may not have developed friendships with older women in their church. With this vacuum in young women’s lives I have observed that they can increasingly, and often quite unconsciously, turn to the modern ideals of ‘independent women’ and being ‘like men’ as Levy has described. This can be compounded by a lack of female role-models in their church life, leaving them with male role-models within the church and female role-models in our wider society. Male church role models are great, but they may not help counter the pressure on young women to be ‘like men’. Certainly, non-Christian female role models won’t.

This is precisely why I have been so encouraged by the women’s work that has started running at CCK Brighton, and I’m sure in many other churches too. We aim to hold Women’s Days and events three times a year at CCK, and in the past they have been a great success. Personally, I have found it so helpful to be able to see women preaching and teaching other women. Not because I have a bee in my bonnet about ‘male only’ preachers, but because I have had the opportunity to be inspired by the spiritual lives of other women in my church. It really has been a great encouragement.

I’m aware that NF will need to continue to grapple with the controversial issues of women preaching and teaching. But while we do, it’s nice to know that we are developing, not necessarily toward an increasingly liberal theology, but towards a system that best represents the Word of God and the caring of his people.

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Opinionated Women and Elantris

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I’ve just finished reading a novel. I usually, or rather I used to more frequently, read non-fiction. Recently I have been trying to relax a little more. Slow down my pace of life; wow, don’t I sound old before my time! As such, I have been reading some fantasy books; fantasy and Sci-Fi are my favourite fiction. I like to escape to another world. Oh, and I also like murder mystery!

Anyway, I have finished Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I very much enjoyed it. It was a page turner. Some books are slow burning, and you enjoy the character play and wait for it to get exciting at the end. This book hit you with action and excitement from the word go.

It starts with the prince of Areleon, Raoden, being taken by the ‘Sheod’, a transformation that comes on any of the people of Areleon and Teod. This transformation has been malfunctioning for years, and turns the recipients into dark patchy-skinned half humanoids. As a result the prince is chucked into Elantris, which is the relic of a once affluent city. All people taken by the Sheod are cast into Elantris.

Raoden was engaged to be married to a Teoish princes Serene, but he was cast into Elantris before she was able to even meet him for the first time. He is thought dead by the nobility of Areleon, a rumour started by Ieoden the King, lest shame come upon the King’s house.

I will not say anymore, so I don’t ruin it for anyone. I loved the character play the most. Personally, I thought Serene was cast best. Perhaps that’s because I related to her in someways In my teens. Serene is an intelligent no-nonsense woman who is very interested in politics; and she is very skilled in it herself. She has pushed men away by her powerful personality. Men, Serene had discovered, liked women who were not as intimidating as herself, and who did not threaten their role as protector and guardian. She was also a very witty woman. Now this is something I have often wondered, I might even be slandering my own sex here, but: why does it seem that there are more witty men than women!? Anyway, that is an aside.

I don’t relate to Serene because I used to be intelligent or into politics. I relate because I have FELT on occasion that my unreserved character could have sometimes put men off. I don’t claim this is necessarily true, buy just the way I have felt in the past. Sweet, pretty and submissive girls seem to go like hot potatoes! Average-looking, quizzical, have-an-opinion type girls seem to have a harder job of it. I have heard many other girls complain that this is true.

But let’s analyse: is it really that men often overlook the qualities in a woman because of her less-than-beautiful appearance? I’m sure it is sometimes true. But perhaps those women who are left waiting longer mis-judge their competitors? It is possible, surely? Perhaps the pretty girls have a great personality too? Perhaps they are also very intelligent and skilled. ‘Ah! It’s not fair!’ I hear you say. But, as I have always thought, why would any woman want a man so very swayed by appearance? Surely that is the Hight of immaturity and shallowness? I think so.

But again, balance is needed. There needs to be SOME physical attraction. But my issue is with those who are overly interested in appearance. I love it when you meet someone who you wouldn’t describe as a super model, but by getting to know them they become very attractive to you. Isn’t that always lovely?

Conclusion? Well, I guess us women might be better off comparing ourselves to each other a bit less, and perhaps there will be greater understanding between us – and a marked rise in our self-esteem. But I think I’m preaching to the converted, a lot of these things have been said before.

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If Christianity is true, how could it be fair that some people are much less likely to believe than others due to culture and upbringing? (If I was brought up in the Middle East I’d be a Muslim?)

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Christianity can often be misunderstood to be primarily an ethical philosophy: something that you believe with your mind. And although this is certainly a component, it is not the essence of what it means to be a Christian. Being a Christian is to be a follower of Christ, to know him. The way that we come to know God is through God’s own initiative. God came to earth and became a man, Jesus Christ (2nd member of the Trinity). He suffered as a human, and took the penalty for our own wrongdoing. For God to be just, he cannot leave the evil things that we do to go unpunished. But in his love for us he satisfied his justice, by Jesus, the son that he loved, taking our place instead of us, so that we can come to know him. Knowing God comes about through faith in Christ. It transforms your very being, in the depths of your heart you know the love of God and you love him in response. As such, the essence of Christianity is not entirely about what you know, but who you know.
Therefore, when the question implies that belief in Christ is limited to certain cultures, it assumes that Christianity is a philosophy of the mind. When it is more than just that, it’s about a relationship with the creator God that involves your heart, mind and soul, which is a response to the knowledge of who God is. The knowledge of God can be found in different places for people to respond to: creation, conscience, the Bible and experience.

General Knowledge of God

There are two things that all people have access to, which are pointers indicating God’s existence and character: the world around us, and the moral conscience within us. We are also reminded of this in the Bible, in Paul’s letter to the Roman Church (1: 19-21) he writes of God being revealed in nature. Romans 2:15 says that those who are not Jews and do not have the Jewish moral system (God’s Law, to be found in the Old Testament) will be judged by what they do know not what they do not. Paul reminds the Romans that responding to God is not based on understanding and following the ‘Law’, which had been revealed to the Jewish nation, in the case of non-Jews who had no opportunity to learn the law.

For all who have sinned without the law will perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when, non-Jews, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law Romans 2: 12-13

Because people have different opportunities of understanding who God is, people will respond to different pointers. That is not to say that anyone comes to know God through any other than Jesus Christ. But that responding to God, does not need to be based on knowledge of Christian belief, or even of Jesus Christ in the way that many Western Christians know him, for ‘God does not show favouritism’. Therefore when someone does not have an opportunity to hear about Christ’s death and resurrection, they will not be judged as those who do. However, having said all this, in many ways it is unknown how God will reveal himself to people who are unlikely to hear about Jesus due to culture. Above is an account of what the Bible says, and my own speculation from my understanding of the Biblical text. God’s own method of drawing people to an understanding of himself is his own prerogative.

What about you?

In case I get misunderstood, I want to state clearly that I do not think ‘all paths lead to God’. What I am saying is that God is Just, and will reveal himself to people with, or without, the Christian message. As such, God will require that we respond to him in the capacity that we have access to understand him. My point is this: it may be uncertain how God will reveal himself to other people who have not heard the Gospel, but if you are reading this article you are, most likely, not in that position. An understanding of how God has shown him-self throughout history is available to you, the Bible. If you live in a Western country you may even have Christian’s you are in contact with, who would be able to talk to you about their experiences of God. I hope this encourages you that God is just, and that he wants you to respond to him.

Further Reading
Copan, Paul., ‘If you were born in India you would be a Hindu’, Article: http://www.bethinking.org/truth-tolerance/introductory/if-you-were-born-in-india-you-would-be-a-hindu-.htm
Pickering, Mike., ‘What about those who have never heard the Gospel?’, Article: http://www.bethinking.org/truth-tolerance/intermediate/what-about-those-whove-never-heard-the-gospel.htm

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Psalm 51: musings

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Psalm 51: (My life-line)

1 Have mercy on me,[a] O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins,
and blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right[b] spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
12Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and uphold me with a willing spirit.
13Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will return to you.
14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God,
O God of my salvation,
and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.
15O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
18 Do good to Zion in your good pleasure;
build up the walls of Jerusalem;
19then will you delight in right sacrifices,
in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

I have been thinking about deliberate sin. Which I think is transgression. i.e. sin that you know is wrong from what you have been taught and which your conscience confirms.

What is very striking about this Psalm is that it is clearly the penitence of one who already knows God. I.e he says that his sin is ever before him (so he knew what he was doing was wrong and it weighed heavy on him), and he said ‘renew’ a right spirit within me. Those are the type of prayers that I prayed when I came back to God. I confessed that I did not have control of my heart and that it ‘slips’, and asked God himself to keep me on the track – i.e for him to renew a right (or steadfast – Hebrew word also means this) spirit in me.

I then started thinking that sin is not really quantifiable. I had been questioning whether deliberate sin could be forgiven a Christian. I really have always believe it could and is. But here I’m studying the Biblical evidence for it. In terms of church discipline, there is a time when the church asks for repentance, and after comes excommunication if there is none. I had originally thought there when could be a few deliberate sins, before repentance and forgiveness. But actually, unrepentant sin (whether deceitfully justified or not) is a condition of the heart. It is going against conscience, and hardening your heart. Therefore sin is a condition of the heart. If this condition can be present in a born again Christian for a short time, it can also be present for a long time. And if it can be forgiven after a short time, it can also be forgiven after a long time.

And that is the main thing about Psalm 51. David is admitting that his heart is wrong, and asking God to fix it – to renew it to the way that it was before – really very amazing indeed!!!!

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Babysitting

I’m not really the type of person who often babysits. In fact, unlike a lot of my friends who are mothers, or sisters to younger siblings, I am rather inexperienced!

However I babysat 4 kids under the age of 10 yesterday. From 9-5. Not bad I think. I only had to split up 15 fights, and one screaming kid was put on the naughty step. BUT we also made cakes and omelettes, yum yum!

I feel like I have achieved!

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