This is the first in a series of articles on alleged contradictions in the writings of Ellen White. "Part 1: Basic Principles" seeks to establish basic principles in the discussion.Read More
Relativistic thinking has been a notable factor in very recent (and continuing) Seventh-day Adventist controversies.Read More
Critics in and outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church attack the accuracy of the Bible through a subversion of its literal meaning.Read More
The question of women’s ordination dominated the headlines at the recent 2015 General Conference, but the real concern was the advancing power of “higher criticism” within the church.Read More
As the General Conference session in San Antonio approaches, final arguments in the case for and against women’s ordination grow more earnest and passionate, with their strengths and vulnerabilities increasingly more evident. Such is certainly the case in the new article by Ty Gibson of Light Bearers Ministry titled “A Closer Look at Women’s Ordination.”Read More
Human sexuality, along with a pleasing sexual imperative, is introduced at the very beginning of the Bible story. Mankind was created with gender. Gender was created with purpose. Compliantly, in the narrative, Adam “knew” his wife and she conceived a son, and then another, and then a third. And though we don’t have details about differing sexual orientations before the flood, it is certain that only heterosexuals were on the Ark.Read More
Last Saturday while attending my local church, I read a flyer in the bulletin that invited me to attend a soup and salad study by La Sierra University professors Kendra and Gil Valentine. The flyer said they would be considering "ways of reading the Bible that allow texts to live anew in our contemporary world and in our particular stories. Implications of this approach will be explored for the Theology of Ordination Committee, Ellen White, and the Fourth Gospel."Read More
In this article we will look at 2 Samuel 6:14-16 and 1 Chron. 15:29. In 2 Samuel 6:14-16 the Hebrew word most often rendered “dance” in English versions for is Karar (pronounced kah-rar) and is only used these two times. In 1 Chron. 15:29, the Hebrew word is Raqad (pronounced raw-kad) and is used nine times in the Old Testament. In order to understand what David was doing in these passages, we must understand what these Hebrew words signify. We cannot impose contemporary meanings onto ancient words which have changed definitions over the centuries. The truism is still applicable: biblical words must be understood and interpreted based on the actual meaning of the terms, and in the contexts in which they are used.Read More
I have found many people are confused about the role Ellen White's writings play in our church. Many times it seems we consider them as an addition to the Bible or on the flip side we brush them aside altogether considering them optional or even as a friend of mine says, act like a stupid angel inspired them.Read More
One of the interesting subjects in Scripture is the topic of dance Most of the arguments in favor of Contemporary Christian Music rely on a few verses that supposedly give permission for Christians to dance during worship. The implication is, if dancing is acceptable, then the styles and genres of music that enable it are.Read More
In approaching the subject of women's ordination, it occurs to me the beauty and harmony on this subject throughout the Bible is misunderstood and pulled this way and that by the magnets of social acceptance or personal opinion or preference. We miss the 'theology behind the theology' that links the entire Bible together as one. We set up soapboxes, or climb molehills to propound our understanding of something, all the while not realizing we have not climbed out of the influencing miasma of social conditioning and personal predilection that taints our conclusions. The only way we have ever been able to discern truth about any given subject is to immerse ourselves in the biblical understanding of it as written by God's divinely inspired penmen, and then let the chips fall where they will. Through parallelism, poetic style, chiasmus, typology, divinely inspired ellipsis, and a multitude of other means, God has directed us to His truth through His masterpiece of human history called the Bible. Like being lost in a city or wilderness (or in studying the Bible), one must gain altitude to ascertain where one is at and where one is going. Overall perspective is key to understanding.
When I first became a Christian, and specifically an Adventist Christian, I was taught to study the Bible by subject, as Jesus did on the road to Emmaus with His disciples (New King James Version, Luke 24:27). By this method, I was informed, I could ascertain what the Bible taught on any subject consistently and clearly from cover to cover. Hence, with proper biblical hermeneutics from such study, I could understand what God’s truth was in any given subject area.
Climbing this mountain of perspective raises us out of the competing opinions of our earthly context and forces us to view God’s perspective via the entire history of mankind, from Genesis to Revelation. When we apply this method of study in the subject area of men’s and women’s roles or functions throughout the Bible, a very clear pattern emerges. We may not like that pattern; it may go against our personal, deeply held feelings or opinions; but none the less, the pattern is there.
When I came out of the counterculture of the '60s and '70s and became a Christian, though not rabid, I was nevertheless a believer in women's equality with men, and not the crass 'barefoot and pregnant' foolishness. It seemed only fair that for equal work each should be paid equally, along with all the other attendant social trimmings that would equalize and level the playing field.
But as I read my Bible, I was forced to observe there was an astonishing amount of male chauvinism in its pages. Was this cultural, or was it God-ordained? If cultural, how could I know what else was cultural? And if more truth in the Bible was cultural, how was one to know what was absolute and what was relative? I found myself back in the dilemma of my secular life before Christ: I chose what was right and what was wrong! This clearly was untenable. And then a pattern began to emerge.
From the very beginning, God Himself inaugurated that pattern by creating man first, not woman, as Paul reiterated in the New Testament (I Cor.11:8-9 ). It had nothing to do with the value or rank God put upon men and women, but solely with God’s choice. But that choice had everything to do with a theology He was establishing. He was creating a typology that was to gloriously represent something astounding to the universe.
I am saddened when I read or hear such sentiments as, for instance, the roles of men and women are now different in New Testament times. That this Divine pattern -- typology of Eden and throughout the Old Testament -- is no longer valid or applicable. Do we really understand the implications of believing that? Are we really to believe that the divinely inspired Word of God was infiltrated by a cultural male chauvinistic perspective that, in the Bible, has obscured or well-nigh obliterated woman’s true role? And if we do, where do we stop invoking that influence? Just before we get to the Sabbath subject? Who decides? Us? We must biblically answer the question: does quoting Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. . .” really trump the divine typology set forth through thousands of years of biblical history, starting in a perfect Eden with a perfect man and woman?
The entire biblical subject of the roles of men and women is very clear as we look at the facts written for our admonition. The aberrant bad and sinful behavior of men toward women aside, here are the facts: Man was created first; the dominion of Earth was to be overseen by the man (not until Satan overcame Adam was it usurped, Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 56-57; 68); the Second Adam was to be a male (Jesus); the man was the priest/ head of the family; the father was said to be responsible for the daughters (Num.30:3-4; 13); the first-born male was dedicated to God; when the Levites were chosen, it was the males that served in the Sanctuary; the Messiah was depicted as a male; the priests were to be males; the census counted only the males; predominately, only the males are recorded as dying; genealogies recorded males; Jesus chose twelve males to serve as apostles; only the men were counted in the miracle of the loaves and fishes; elders/pastors in churches were to be "husband(s) of one wife. . .” And on and on it goes.
It's no wonder feminists have a problem with the Bible! Why all this supposed male dominion? Were women somehow inferior? Or second class? Not at all!
The entire biblical pattern is simply fulfilling the God-ordained typology Paul clarifies for us in Ephesians 5:22-33. And that is this: husbands/males represent Christ; wives/women represent the bride/church of Christ. Paul says it’s “a great mystery. . .” (vs. 32), and what a stunning one it is! When I do pre-marital counseling, I teach that every man is to represent Christ, and every woman is to represent the church. This is the Divinely inspired destiny of Mankind. Every husband and wife was destined to be a walking billboard, a living representation of Christ and His bride and all that that implies. Just think of the implications of this witness to the world if Christians would reflect this relationship.
Contrary to popular opinion, the lowest common denominator of our race is not a singular man nor is it a singular woman, which could justify the potential raising of woman over a man. The race is defined by God Himself as “male and female created He them” (Gen.1:27). Our individual access to salvation through Christ, whether we are male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free, in no way, shape, or form replaces or destroys this God-created reality. In short, the lowest common denominator of mankind is man AND woman, Adam AND Eve. And it is also true that whether a man or woman remains single by choice, by the scarring of distrust of the opposite sex, or by the calling of God, this God-ordained typology still remains intact because it is the very pattern that God Himself decided for us at creation.
Just as Satan so masterfully caused Israel of old to mess with the typologies of Jesus as the Rock and the Lamb, the typology of the Sanctuary, the Sabbath, and many others, so he does today. He knows when you change the type, the message from God is garbled and we are led away from the truth we should be reflecting. The questions we should be asking are not: “How can we get women to be accepted as full-fledged pastors or leaders?” but rather, “How can I, as a male, properly reflect Christ in my life in whatever my vocation is, based on the pattern for males I see in the Bible and Spirit of Prophesy?” And, “How can I, as a female, properly reflect the Bride of Christ motif, typology, in my life based on the pattern for females in the Bible and Spirit of Prophesy?”
By way of solidifying this typology in the creation account, isn’t it an amazing coincidence that just as Jesus “fell asleep” Friday, toward the end of the sixth day, so too Adam “fell asleep” toward the end of the sixth day. And isn’t it amazing that when Adam awoke from his sleep, his bride was there to greet him, brought forth from his side by the power of God. How interesting it is, that when Jesus awoke from His sleep, that by the power of God through the blood of cleansing and the water of life that flowed from Jesus’s side, the bride of Christ came forth.
In fact, He was greeted by Mary, who of all the disciples was a fit example of His fledgling church/bride. It was Mary who was first to the tomb. It was Mary who loved much because she knew she had been forgiven much. It was she who poured out her love and gratitude upon Him in the form of the oil and her tears for what He had done for her. It was Mary who fittingly represents the effectual working of that precious blood that flowed from His side to cleanse her of her sins; and the water that likewise flowed that gave her new life in Christ. Truly, Mary is a fitting representation of the Bride brought forth from His side.
This analogy of marriage with the church or God’s people is one that weaves its way all through the Old Testament. We read that “your Maker is your husband. . .” (Isa.54:5); “though I was a husband to them, says the Lord” (Jer.31:32); “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me” (Jer 3:20); to say nothing of the whole Song Of Solomon, which is a beautiful allegory of Christ & His Bride. We see it in the NewTestament as well, where Jesus, who is called the Bridegroom in John 3:29, fittingly begins His ministry with His first miracle at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11); He is seen as the Bridegroom again in the parable of the ten virgins asleep; the Son whose Father invites all to a wedding feast; and Paul "betroths us to one Husband, even to Christ. . . ."
And finally, mirroring the many parallels that Genesis has with Revelation, (e.g.: creation - recreation; tree of life removed - tree of life restored; a prepared place, garden of Eden - a prepared place, New Jerusalem; mark of Cain - mark of the Beast; bride of Adam - bride of the Lamb; etc), we see the Bride/Church having "made herself ready. . ." in Rev. 19. She has by this time in the final events of Earth’s history, accomplished her task of being Christ’s helpmeet in the goal of being fruitful and multiplying, winning souls into the family, the kingdom of God.
What is fascinating is that, when God said, “Let them make Me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them. . .” (Ex.25:8), He was really continuing the process of becoming one with His bride/church that Satan had circumvented by the introduction of sin. Then, when Jesus came, He reiterated the fact that He and the Father were one, and that He wanted His entire church to be one in Him and in the Father (John 17:22-23). This oneness harkens back to the promise of Gen. 2:24 pronounced upon a perfect Adam and Eve. The awesome destiny of mankind has always been restoration to this oneness that God promised in the typology of Adam and Eve’s marriage.
In the above typology, the only way it works is that the Husband performs His function in the relationship, and the Bride performs hers. God is the savior/provider Husband, and the Bride is the recipient/fruit bearer of His love. The Bride willingly submits to her Husband because she knows all that she is comes from Him (Eve coming from Adam’s side), and out of sheer joy and love she bears fruit to glorify that supreme truth. That’s why in I Cor. 11:1-9 Paul systematically shows us the relationships of Father to Son, Son to man, and man to woman in what is called the headship principle.
Why? Because the submission of the woman to man is the typology of the Bride/Church to the Husband/Christ. In fact, Paul seeks to encourage women by pointing out that Christ Himself has entered into this very typology with His Father, willingly submitting to Him for the purpose of saving mankind. Christ, who is God in verity, chooses to willingly submit, to step down from glory, to fulfill the function He and the Father planned that He should fulfill.
The incredibly high calling of women is such that they, of the all the human race, have been given the privilege and honor of emulating Christ in His salvific relationship with His Father! The "helpmeet" of Gen 2:18 that is described and functionally named (i.e., "helpmeet") by God to be the forthcoming Eve, is a reflection of this relationship Christ willing stepped into: not the head, in charge, but one to help fulfill the overall purpose of mankind. This typology of Christ helping His Father accomplish Their task of saving mankind is an exact parallel to Eve with Adam. It is important to remember that it is not Adam that is called the "helpmeet," it is Eve. Her function is defined by God Himself. This is the beauty of the truth Paul lays out for us in I Cor. 11:1-9.
While none of us would even remotely suggest that this willing submission on Christ’s part to His Father makes Him the lesser God or somehow inferior or second class, this is unfortunately what many are saying about modern day Eves if they should somehow be forced into this headship principle. What a sad day it would be for us if we should choose not to reflect what God has chosen for us to reflect! Here we see a parallel echo in Ellen White’s statement in Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 59:
Eve had been perfectly happy by her husband's side in her Eden home; but, like restless modern Eves, she was flattered with the hope of entering a higher sphere than that which God had assigned her. In attempting to rise above her original position, she fell far below it. A similar result will be reached by all who are unwilling to take up cheerfully their life duties in accordance with God's plan. In their efforts to reach positions for which He has not fitted them, many are leaving vacant the place where they might be a blessing. In their desire for a higher sphere, many have sacrificed true womanly dignity and nobility of character, and have left undone the very work that Heaven appointed them.
It is very clear from this statement that Sister White understood this concept that God Himself had appointed a function for man and woman from the very beginning. It was “their life duties in accordance with God's plan. . . .” That function and typology we have been talking about is wonderfully consummated in the book of Revelation. While the entire Bible reveals the typology of Christ/Husband, Church/Bride in a variety of ways, Revelation brings it all together in a startling conclusion.
What we see is an amazing condescension by our very Creator to enter into the stream of time and space to become one of His creatures for the sake of redeeming them, and to never divorce Himself from that connection! Using the typology of marriage from the very beginning of His relationship with His creatures, He opens to all eyes the consummation of that type in the pages of Revelation. What was to be the purpose of that relationship, as viewed from the instructions given to Adam & Eve? Gen. 1:28 says, “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
In Revelation we see the fruit of the married relationship of Christ with His Bride. The Church in Rev. 7:9-10 is “a vast multitude which no one could number. . .”; and they are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb (Rev.19:9). God’s command in Gen.1:28 is wonderfully fulfilled in the type of Rev.7:9-10, the fruit of the marriage of Christ & the Church. I have used adjectives earlier such as ‘stunning, amazing, incredible, awesome’ to describe this typological pattern & destiny. But these verses are where the superlatives should really fail us.
Again, echoing the promise to Adam & Eve that '..the two shall become one...', E.G. White says this in Desire Of Ages, p. 25 :
By His life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan's purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen. In taking our nature, the Saviour has bound Himself to humanity by a tie that is never to be broken. Through the eternal ages He is linked with us. "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son. . ." (John 3:16). He gave Him not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature.
This is the fulfilling of the antitype of marriage, the two shall become one! Adam & Eve represented this; the reality was always to point to Christ & His Bride!
And finally, the over-arching purpose of the marriage typology from Geneses to Revelation is seen in the graciously, magnanimous consummation of Rev. 21 & 22, where the control room of the Universe is moved from Heaven to Earth where God is to be eternally with the redeemed. Why? Here it is:
Thus it is that God desires to fulfill for us His purpose of grace. By the power of His love, through obedience, fallen man, a worm of the dust, is to be transformed, fitted to be a member of the heavenly family, a companion through eternal ages of God and Christ and the holy angels. Heaven will triumph, for the vacancies made by the fall of Satan and his host will be filled by the redeemed of the Lord. Manuscript 21, Feb. 16, 1900, "God's Love Manifested (Upward Look, p. 61).
God created man for His own glory, that after test and trial the human family might become one with the heavenly family. It was God's purpose to repopulate heaven with the human family, if they would show themselves obedient to His every word. Adam was to be tested, to see whether he would be obedient, as the loyal angels, or disobedient. Vol.1 Bible Commentary, p. 1082
This truth is the real Theology behind the theology! This plan should inform our discussions of ordination and the role of men and women in the Church. Cultural male chauvinism it is not. It is a divinely inspired plan that we would do well to emulate, because it's the raison d'être for Mankind. It lifts up the woman to her God-given destiny. If only we would choose today to reflect this fantastic typology, engraved into our very biological and spiritual DNA. What a high calling is ours, whether male or female, to reflect what Adam was ordained to reflect, or what Eve was ordained to reflect. May God help us do just that.
Associate Professor of English Literature at Southwestern Adventist University Karl G. Wilcox gives a lecture at Andrews University Oct. 2012 on postmodernism and the decline of Christianity. The lecture was part of a symposium put together by the Center for Secular and Postermodern Studies (CSPS), which is a department of the Office of Adventist Mission at the General Conference. If you haven't heard of CSPS, here is its mission and general information:
To inspire, mentor, and equip Seventh-day Adventist pastors, churches and organizations to successfully lead seculars and postmoderns into a real experience with God.
CSPS exists to help the Seventh-day Adventist church better understand secular and postmodern people, explore new evangelistic methods and provide practical, relevant tools to make disciples through a real experience with God.
In part one, we saw that the rise of Islam is prophesied in Revelation Nine, and we discussed the Fifth Trumpet and First Woe. In this article, we will continue to explore Revelation Nine, examining the Sixth Trumpet and Second Woe, after which we will discuss the time prophecies.
The sixth angel sounded his trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that is before God. Rev. 9:13
The Hebrew sanctuary was a model of the original in heaven (Ex. 25:40; Heb. 8:5; Rev. 11:19; 15:5). There were two altars with horns on their four corners---the altar of burnt offering in the courtyard and the altar of incense in the first apartment---but the altar of incense was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold (Ex. 30:1-10), whereas the altar of burnt offering was overlaid with brass (Ex. 27:1-8). Hence, the heavenly original here referred to is the golden altar of incense.
The altar of incense is in the first apartment of the sanctuary, indicating that this prophecy concerns a time before the second apartment was opened, as it later would be (Rev. 11:19). This means that the anti-typical day of atonement, the investigative judgment, has not yet begun. Thus, we should expect that this prophecy will have been fulfilled prior to 1844.
Incense was burned on the golden altar every morning and evening, a perpetual sweet savor before God (Ex. 30:7-9). The incense symbolizes the prayers of God's people (Psalm 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). Just prior to the sounding of the seven trumpets, an angel took a censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it to the earth (Rev. 8:5). This seems to indicate disapproval and disgust and likely portends that the prayers of Christendom would not be efficacious to spare them from the coming catastrophes symbolized by the seven trumpets.
In Bible prophecy, horns symbolize kings or nations (Dan. 8:15-27; Rev. 17:12). In this instance, the horns of the golden altar symbolize the kingly power of God, His power to establish kingdoms and pull them down (Dan. 4:17; Jer. 1:10; Luke 1:52). That the voice came from the horns of the golden altar symbolizes that the coming catastrophe would be a judgment from God, and an exercise of His ability to set up and pull down kingdoms.
It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I heard their number. The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as sulfur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulfur. A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. Rev. 9:14-19
Previously in John's visions, we see four angels holding back the four winds of strife (Rev. 7:1-4). Now, God commands them to loose destructive forces that had previously been held back. The River Euphrates symbolizes a barrier to invasion from the east. The Turks originated in south-central Asia, on the east side of the Euphrates River, and from there migrated across that river and into Palestine and Asia Minor.
The number two hundred million has no known significance. The number is variously translated as twice ten thousand times ten thousand, two myriads of myriads, and two hundred thousand thousand. Obviously, no mounted army of 200 million has ever been fielded, so the number is likely not intended literally. It seems intended to convey a numberless host, a huge force impossible to defeat.
The figure killed by this immense force is given as one third of mankind. Here we must understand that Scripture is not intended as a general history of the world. Rather, it is the story of redemption which focuses on the righteous line, the history of believers, from Adam to Noah to Abraham to Moses, to the Hebrews, and finally to the Christians. Since this prophecy points to events in the Christian era, it is concerned with the plight of Christians, not with all of mankind. Given that Christianity had primarily taken root in the post-Roman Mediterranean world, it is a fair estimate that, between the Arab and Turkish Muslim conquests, a third of Christendom was lost. In saying that a third of mankind was killed, the prophecy is predicting that a third part of the Christian world would be swept away; this prophecy was fulfilled by the loss of Christian North Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor/modern Turkey.
This point is worth dwelling on, because the religious facts of the pre-Muslim Mediterranean world are today long lost in the mists of time. The most important bishoprics of the 4th through the 7th Centuries were Constantinople, Alexandria and Rome, and their relative importance was often ranked in that order. The Bishop of Rome was a titular first among equals, but the other two often had more real power because of the economic and political prominence of their cities. Of course, Alexandria was overrun by the Arab conquest and Constantinople by the Turkish phase of Islamic conquest.
Moreover, many of the most famous and influential “church fathers” were from places now well within the dar al-Islam (the “house of Islam”): Augustine (354-430 AD) was Bishop of Hippo, now Annaba, Algeria; Tertullian (160-225 AD) was Bishop of Carthage, now in Tunisia; Origen (185-254 AD) was from Alexandria, Egypt; Ignatius (35-110 AD) was Bishop of Antioch, now in Syria; and Polycarp (69-155 AD) was Bishop of Smyrna, now Izmir, Turkey. The most noteworthy of the Greek-speaking fathers were from places that are now Islamic: Clement, Athanasius, and Cyril were all of Alexandria; John Chrysostom and Gregory Nazianzus were Archbishops of Constantinople, Basil was of Ceasaria, Gregory of Nyssa hailed from what is now southern Turkey, and John of Damascus was obviously from Syria. Additionally, the “Seven Churches” of Revelation—Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea—were all in Asia Minor, which today is thoroughly Muslim western Turkey. All of these places were predominantly Christian before the Arab and Turkish conquests made them predominantly Muslim.
The Muslim conquest of so much of the Christian world would rightly have been seen as an epochal catastrophe for Christendom and the Christian religion. Christianity's birthplace along with several of its leading bishoprics and teaching centers were lost to Muslim domination. The notion that there would not be a Bible prophecy addressed to such earth-shaking events is symptomatic of a peculiar ignorance of history. We would expect to find a scriptural warning of this catastrophe, and indeed we do.
The colors that John saw on the breastplates are traditional Turkish colors, particularly red and yellow, which have figured prominently in Ottoman flags down through history. The Turks had a remarkable red dye known as “Turkey red” (originally developed in India) made from madder root by a very tedious and complex process, but the result is as striking and almost as lasting as the red in a garnet gemstone. (The British military later dyed their famous red coats with a madder root dye.) The Turks also came up with a bold yellow dye made from Persian berries. Blue has also figured prominently in Turkish cloth, though not as much as red and yellow. These colors identify the mounted host as Turkish.
The fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of the horses' mouths doubtless refers to the Turks' use of gunpowder. Gunpowder was invented by the Chinese in the 9th Century, and came to the west over the trade route known as the silk road, which meant that it reached Muslim domains before reaching the Christian West. Muslim armies began using gunpowder as early as the middle 13th Century, about a hundred years before it came into use in the West. At the first Ottoman siege of Constantinople, in 1422, the Muslim forces deployed cannons. For the final conquest of Constantinople, in 1453, a Hungarian armorer cast a 27-foot long cannon that was used to lob massive stones at the ancient walls of the city This enormous and loud weapon doubtless left a deep impression on all who saw and heard it; it heralded a new kind of warfare, with exotic new weapons that belched fire and smoke.
We have seen that, in the first woe, “it was given to them that they may not kill them, but that they may be tormented . . .” But in the second woe the third of mankind is spoken of as being “killed.” Why is the Arab conquest called torture, whereas the Turkish conquest is compared to death? Perhaps because even though the Arab conquest stripped the Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire of most of its territory, that empire still existed. The ancient seat of Constantine—that great center of Greek-speaking Christianity and scholarship—still stood and would continue to stand for seven more centuries after the Arab conquests. But that ended with the fall of Constantinople. After 1453, the Byzantine Empire was well and truly dead, never to return; its former territory was encompassed within the Ottoman Empire, and its proud capital was now the seat of that Muslim empire. Christendom was permanently dead and buried in that third of the old Roman Empire.
Christianity would continue to exist in pockets of the Muslim territories, and still does today. But those overrun by the Turks, and thereby exposed to their “tails that bite like snakes” (Rev. 9:19), would learn the same hard lessons that those conquered by the Arabs had previously learned—along with some new ones. To the usual terms of the dhimmi or “treaty” that we discussed in Part I, the Turks added a new form of oppression, unknown to the Arabs and not sanctioned by Islamic law: the devşirme, or “blood tax,” pursuant to which the Christians of Greece and southeastern Europe were required to give some of their children to the Turkish Sultan as slaves, to be raised as Muslims. These children were destined for the Janissaries (the Turkish professional military), the harem, or, in the case of select few of the best and the brightest, the administration of the Sultan's government. It has become fashionable in scholarly circles to argue that the poor Christian peasants were happy to have their children follow this path of advancement into an elite class of civil and military servants, but ask yourself whether you would like to have your children forcibly taken from you and raised as Muslims.
The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts Rev. 9:20-21.
This passage makes all the more obvious that the Islamic conquests were divine judgment upon the apostate Christianity of the middle ages. Eastern Christianity had fallen into a species of idolatry involving the veneration of murals, or wall paintings, known as icons. This degrading practice continued even after the chastening of Muslim domination (the Muslims being exemplary in their rejection of all types of image-making); indeed, the Eastern Orthodox still venerate icons today. Western Christianity had a similar problem with idolatry involving statuary. Statues of pagan deities, such as Jupiter, were brought into churches, given biblical names, and venerated; this encouraged pagans to join the Catholic Church, but unconverted idolaters corrupted the church from within. And, as Rev. 9:21 indicates, when the Second Commandment is violated, every type of degrading immorality follows in the train of the idolatry (Ex. 32:5-6; Rom. 1:21-27).
Sadly, the two thirds of Christendom still alive and intact after the Arab and Turkish Muslim conquests did not repent of the gross apostasy. If anything, the fallen church of the West was hardened in its rebellion against revealed truth and the God of heaven. The fall of Constantinople meant that a rival variant of Christianity was swept aside, leaving the Bishop of Rome to claim universal headship of the Christian Church. The Roman Church not only continued its apostasy and blasphemous pretensions, it grew ever worse.
A Note on the Time Prophecies
There are two time prophecies in these passages. Rev. 9:5 states, “They were not allowed to kill them but only to torture them for five months,” and Rev. 9:15 states, “These four angels had been kept ready for an hour, a day, a month and year, to kill a third of mankind.” Josiah Litch (1809-1886) was a prominent Methodist preacher in the Millerite movement in the years leading up to 1844. Litch agreed with William Miller on the day-year principle of prophetic interpretation, pursuant to which a day of prophetic time equaled one year of real or literal time; this was a commonly accepted principle of prophetic interpretation, including among Methodist commentators such as the noted Adam Clarke. Litch applied the Fifth and Sixth Trumpets to Islam, as did most in the historical school of prophetic interpretation, and hence sought an application of the time prophecies to the Ottoman Empire, which was very much a going concern in the late 1830s.
The five prophetic months of Rev. 9:5 equals 150 actual years. Litch anchored the beginning of this period to the Battle of Bapheus, which Edward Gibbon, in his monumental work “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” dates to July 27, 1299. Bapheus was the battle in which Osman/Othman, after whom the “Ottoman” Turks would be named (to distinguish them from the pre-existing Seljuk [or Seljuq] Turks), rose to prominence by inflicting a defeat on the Byzantine forces. Going forward 150 years from July 27, 1299 takes us to July, 27, 1449. Although Constantinople did not fall until May, 1453, Litch argued that the fact that the Byzantines were forced to seek the Turkish Sultan's intervention in a dispute regarding succession after the death of John VIII Palaiologos (1392-1448) –and hence Sultan Murad II crowned Constantine XI Palaiologos as the next (and, as it happened, the last) Byzantine Emperor—meant that Byzantium had effectively fallen under Turkish domination, and the capture of Constantinople four years later merely dramatically illustrated that reality. With the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the torture ended and the death began.
The next prophetic time period, “an hour, a day, a month, and a year,” equals 391 literal years, plus—if the “hour” is given a prophetic time value—two weeks. Writing in 1838, Josiah Litch predicted that the Turkish power would be overthrown sometime in August, 1840 (the prophetic period expiring on August 11, 1840). In 1840, a 16 year-old Sultan, Abdülmecid I, was at war with Muhammad Ali, an Ottoman officer of Albanian extraction. Ali had been sent as Ottoman viceroy to Egypt shortly after the end of Napoleon's brief invasion, but was a far more able administrator than the sultans he served, and he effectively established his own personal kingdom; by 1838 Ali was ready to declare independence from the Ottoman Empire. Ali had defeated the sultan's forces at the Battle of Nezib, and the commander of the modest Turkish fleet had just handed it over to Ali. At this point, the European powers--including Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia--intervened on behalf of the young sultan, signing in London, on July 15, 1840, a pact ordering Ali to withdraw from Syria and Lebanon, in return for which he and his descendants would be given hereditary rule of Egypt (which his descendants did rule until 1952).
This ultimatum, which the powers enforced by blockading the Nile and shelling Ali's positions in Lebanon and Syria, reached Ali in Egypt on August 11, 1840, the exact date Litch pointed to as the end of the prophetic time period of Revelation 9:15. There was a remarkable parallel to the beginning and end of the prophetic period: both were demarcated not by an absolute fall, but by a weakening to the point where old enemies were dictating terms. In 1449, the Byzantines were so weak that the Turks had dictated the Byzantine succession, and in 1840, the Ottoman Porte was so frail that the Christian powers dictated a modus vivendi to the sultan and his rogue viceroy, and enforced it on both. Ellen White writes of the encouragement that Litch's astonishingly successful prophetic interpretation brought to the Millerite movement, particularly in its vindication of the day-year principle:
When it became known, multitudes were convinced of the correctness of the principles of prophetic interpretation adopted by Miller and his associates, and a wonderful impetus was given to the advent movement. Men of learning and position united with Miller, both in preaching and in publishing his views, and from 1840 to 1844 the work rapidly extended (GC 335).
Although the Ottoman Empire did not fall until the First World War, its power to persecute Christians was interfered with. It was called “the sick man of Europe;” Britain and France propped it up mainly as a buffer against Russian imperial expansion; the frustration of Russia's attempts to expand its empire southward became such a fixture of Victorian-era British foreign policy that it became known as “the great game,” and assistance to the Turks (such as in the Crimean War) was part of this game. But Western help came with a price: the Turks were forced to abolish the jizyah (the poll tax on non-Muslims) and numerous other features of the ancient treaty or “dhimmi,” as the European powers competed with each other to be seen as the protectors of the Christian peoples of the Ottoman Empire.
Islam, a totalitarian religio-political ideology that combines religious beliefs with a body of law and a belligerent nationalistic outlook, is re-asserting itself after centuries of quiescence. The military power of Islam, ferocious and rightly feared for centuries, was broken around the turn of the 19th century. Soon thereafter, most Muslim territories became colonies, client states, or protectorates of Christian nations. The European powers all eventually relinquished their Muslim colonies, but the native regimes that followed were usually secular and modeled after the Western governments that had recently controlled them; these benign governments typically were overthrown by dictators, but the dictators were almost always secularists and, in many cases, socialists. For the most part, they wanted nothing to do with Islam as a governing ideology. There were very few Islamic governments in the Muslim world for several decades. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, founded after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and never a Western colony, long had the most Islamic government in the world. (Close ties between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia prevented it from becoming jihadist in character, but the Saudis used their enormous oil wealth to peacefully promote Salafist Islam around the world.) Then came the Iranian Revolution of 1979, in which a pro-American secularist dictator, the Shah, was replaced by an explicitly Islamic government, a government run by Muslim clerics who sought to implement sharia law as interpreted in the Shia tradition. Although Kemal Ataturk, the leader of Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, took elaborate precautions to guard against a resurgence of political Islam in that nation, the past decade has seen the slow death of Kemalism (Turkish secularism) under the Islamist government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Last year's “Arab Spring,” saw the removal of several secularist Arab dictators, most notably Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, a long-time friend and ally of the United States, who was replaced by an Islamic government led by the Muslim Brotherhood (and another Salafist party even more militant than the Brotherhood).
In summary, what is happening in the Muslim world is an Islamic revival. Secular governments that had looked to the West for governing laws, principles, and structures are being rejected by their Muslim constituents. They are being replaced, often violently, by governments that look to Islamic law (sharia law) for guidance. Sharia law is a system of law, developed mostly in the 7th through the 10th centuries, derived from the Quran, the hadith (collections of oral traditions about the life and teachings of Muhammad), and the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence.
The current Islamic revival has many Christians wondering about Islam's place in Bible prophecy. Any discussion of prophecy must begin with a basic methodology of prophetic interpretation. One school, preterism, contends that the prophecies were all fulfilled by events that took place close to the time they were written. Another school, futurism, contends that everything remains to be fulfilled; it is all still in the future, and will take place shortly before the Second Coming of Christ. A third school of prophecy, historicism, contends that many of the prophecies were fulfilled during the 20 centuries between John the Revelator's time and our time. Although preterism and especially futurism are now more popular in evangelical circles, Seventh-day Adventists have always taken the historical approach.
Historicists have generally seen Islam as prefigured in the fifth and sixth trumpets, or first and second woes, of Revelation Chapter Nine. The fifth trumpet, or messenger, which is the first woe (Rev. 9:1-12), is seen as the Saracen or Arab wave of Islamic expansion. The Arab wave destroyed the Persian Empire, stripped the Byzantine/Eastern Roman Empire of most of its territory, swept away Christian Egypt and North Africa, destroyed a Christian Visigothic kingdom in Spain, and crested in northern France in 732 A.D. at the battle of Tours/Poitiers, at which Frankish forces led by Charles Martel (“the hammer”) defeated a large Muslim raiding force.
The sixth trumpet/messenger, which is the second woe (Rev. 9:13-20), is interpreted as the Ottoman Turkish wave of Islamic expansion. This Turkish wave destroyed the old Byzantine/Eastern Roman Empire (when Constantinople, now Istanbul, finally fell to the Turks in 1453), eventually conquered most of Greece and Southeastern Europe, and reached its high water mark at the gates of Vienna in 1529, and again in 1683 when King Jan III Sobieski of Poland defeated the Ottoman forces.
The historical school of prophetic interpretation views Islam as divinely-allowed retribution against the apostate Christianity of the middle ages, that period of 42 prophetic months or 1,260 literal years lasting from 538 to 1798 AD, which was a time when pure, Bible believing Christians were furiously persecuted and the biblical witness was muted, forced to testify “clothed in sackcloth” (Rev. 11:2-3; 13:5). As Uriah Smith wrote, “The Saracens [Arabs] and the Turks were the instruments by which a false religion became the scourge of an apostate church . . . .” and later, “The hordes of the Saracens and Turks were let loose as a scourge and punishment upon apostate Christendom. Men suffered the punishment, but learned no lesson from it.” It was not long after the beginning of the period of Papal supremacy in 538 AD that Muhammad was born (570 AD), and Islam's assault on Christendom began in earnest soon after his death in 632 AD.
Let us now see what John wrote regarding the visions shown him on the Isle of Patmos, and discuss how it was fulfilled by Islam:
And the fifth messenger did sound, and I saw a star out of the heaven having fallen to the earth, and there was given to it the key of the pit of the abyss, and he did open the pit of the abyss, and there came up a smoke out of the pit as smoke of a great furnace, and darkened was the sun and the air, from the smoke of the pit. Rev. 9:1-2
The star that fell from heaven to earth was Lucifer, now Satan (Isaiah 14:12; Ezekiel 28:14-187; Luke 10:18; Rev. 12:7-9, 13, 17). Muhammad believed his prophecies were inspired by the angel Gabriel (Quran 2:97); in reality, his inspiration came from a different angel, a fallen angel. Satan was given the key to open the abyss, meaning that he was allowed to inspire Muhammad to form a false religion. Like every Satanically-inspired false religion, Islam is a mixture of truth and error. Included among its positives are its acknowledgment of the inspiration of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, it promotion of monotheism, and its strong condemnation of idolatry and any sort of veneration of icons or statuary. But Islam denies the divinity of Christ and denies that Christ died on the cross to save the human race from its sins. These denials are the dark smoke that obscures the saving light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the New Testament, the “abyss” is a dark abode where demons are held (Luke 8:30-31; 1 Pet. 3;19; Jude 6), and a place from which demonic things emerge (Rev. 17:8). After the Second Coming, the lifeless, empty, desolate earth forms an “abyss” in which Satan is locked (Rev. 20:1-3, 7-10). So the abyss is both a dark abode for demons and a desolate place. The term “abyss” in Revelation nine can symbolize both 1) that Islam would emerge from the abyss from which demonically inspired doctrines come, and 2) that Islam would emerge from the desolate desert wastes of Arabia.
And out of the smoke came forth locusts to the earth, and there was given to them authority, as scorpions of the earth have authority, and it was said to them that they may not injure the grass of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but--the men only who have not the seal of upon their foreheads. Rev. 9:3-4
The false religion of Islam was soon to invade Christendom like a plague of locusts—although obviously not a literal swarm of locusts, because such swarms always destroy every green and growing thing. These “locusts” do not injure the grass or the trees. Gibbon notes that Abu Bakr, the first successor (caliph) to Muhammad, ordered his warriors not to destroy palm trees, fruit trees or grain fields, thus fulfilling this part of the prophecy.
Those who lack the seal of God will be sorely afflicted by these locusts. The seal of God is the Sabbath; the Fourth Commandment describes God's creation of the heavens and the earth, and thus establishes God's sovereignty over that creation, and His right to make laws to govern it. (Gen. 2:2-3; Ex. 20:8-11; 31:13, 17; Ezek. 20:12, 20. See, also, PP 307). Most Christians of the seventh century embraced the name of Christ while neglecting His laws and precepts, beginning with the Sabbath commandment. They had for centuries been neglecting Christ's commandments while persecuting and killing each other in pointless, inane controversies over the exact mixture of human and divine in the person of Christ.
And the likenesses of the locusts are like to horses made ready for battle, and upon their heads as crowns like gold, and their faces as faces of men, and they had hair as hair of women, and their teeth were as those of lions, and they had breastplates as breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings is as the noise of chariots of many horses racing to battle; and they have tails like scorpions, and stings were in their tails; and their authority to injure men five months; and they have over them a king--the messenger of the abyss–his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in the Greek his name is Apollyon. Rev. 9:7-11
The prophecy obviously does not speak of actual grasshoppers, or any other insects. We are here being shown a ferocious warrior nation that specialized in fast-moving cavalry attacks. This mode of warfare was the signature of the Arab Muslim armies, composed of magnificent Arabian horses ridden by skilled horsemen. These fearsome mounted armies rapidly conquered much of the world; within a century after the death of Muhammad (570-632 AD), Muslims had conquered all of Arabia, Mesopotamia, Persia, Palestine, Egypt, North Africa, and Spain, and had raided deep into France. Abaddon and Apollyon both mean “destruction” or “destroyer,” and that perfectly describes Satan, his prophet Muhammad—the prophet or messenger of the abyss—and what Islam did to the Persian Empire, the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, and the Visigothic kingdom of Spain:
[A]nd it was given to them that they may not kill them, but that they may be tormented five months, and their torment is as the torment of a scorpion, when it may strike a man; and in those days shall men seek death, and they shall not find it, and they shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. Rev. 9:5-6
Islam is a militant creed that prescribes constant warfare against the infidel until sharia law is established throughout the world. However, Islam protects the lives of non-Muslim “people of the book”--Christians and Jews—on condition that they accept the treaty (“dhimmi,” in Arabic) pursuant to which they agree to live in submission to Muslim overlords. (In this respect, Islam compares favorably with the medieval Papacy, which tended to purposefully exterminate heretics and non-conformists in inquisitions or pogroms; the crusade against the Albigenses/Cathars was one such campaign of extermination.) Christians and Jews who live under the protection of the treaty are called dhimmis.
The plight of the dhimmi is not a pleasant one. The details of dhimmitude varied from place to place, but the main features were the same. Since Islamic persecution of the Copts has recently resumed in earnest, we will discuss the conditions of dhimmitude in Egypt that, over the course of about a thousand years, reduced the Egyptian Christians from the overwhelming majority of the population to a small minority of about ten percent. (Interestingly, when the Arabs first conquered Egypt in 641 AD, the Copts found them preferable to their erstwhile Byzantine rulers, largely because most of the Copts were monophysites who were persecuted by the Chalcedonian Byzantine government [monophysitism and Chalcedonianism being competing schools of thought regarding Christ's exact human/divine nature] and the Muslims put a stop to this internecine persecution. Some years later, after the Muslims had consolidated their grip on power, the Copts were introduced to the true nature of Islamic tolerance.)
First, dhimmis are required to pay a special poll tax called the jizyah that Muslims are not required to pay, and typically paid other commercial taxes at a higher rate than Muslims. The jizyah is paid in a humiliating public ceremony at which the dhimmi is slapped in the face or hit on the back of the neck. He was then issued a receipt that allowed him to travel, but if he lost the receipt he was subject to execution. Dhimmis were not allowed to travel without a passport, and any boat transporting a dhimmi lacking a passport was burned.
Second, title to land was forfeit to the Muslims; dhimmis had to pay a land tax called the kharaj to continue to cultivate their own land. The kharaj instantly reduced many of the Copts to destitution. Thousands left the land or converted to Islam. But the Muslim rulers could not afford to lose their peasant class, so they rounded up Coptic villagers and branded them with identifying brands, so that they could not escape their serfdom. For many years, Copts were forbidden to sell their land to Muslims, because that would exempt the land from the kharaj, which the Muslim rulers needed. To discourage mass conversion, the jizyah was extended to new converts to Islam.
In theory, dhimmis are allowed freedom of religion, but they are not allowed to build new churches or repair existing churches. They must worship in quietness and are not allowed to ring church bells, or have singing at church or lamentations at funerals. They were forbidden to proselytize. Disparaging or criticizing Muhammad or Islam is considered a serious breach of the treaty, punishable by death. (When today we see Muslims demand that Westerners not disparage the prophet, they are treating Westerners as already conquered dhimmis; many Western leaders, much to their disgrace, try to accommodate these sharia demands, not realizing that submitting to one sharia demand will only lead to more and still more such demands until submission is complete. Islam means submission.)
A dhimmi man is not allowed to marry or have relations with a Muslim woman; this also is breach of the treaty serious enough to warrant death. By contrast, Muslim men are allowed to marry Christian women. A dhimmi is not allowed to own or carry a weapon. Dhimmis are not allowed to have any authority over a Muslim, nor testify against a Muslim in court. Dhimmis were required to wear special clothing, usually ugly, ill-fitting and ridiculous, to distinguish them from Muslims; they could not wear clothes that Muslims wore, nor certain colors, such as green. The purpose of these clothing regulations was to both humiliate and to easily distinguish dhimmis. Dhimmis were not allowed to ride noble mounts such as horses or camels, but were relegated to donkeys and mules. Dhimmis were not allowed to build houses as high as the houses of Muslims, and often were consigned to ghettos away from the Muslim neighborhoods. Dhimmis were required to stand and remain standing in the presence of Muslims.
The enforcement of the treaty fell to the Muslim ruler of the land, and these varied greatly in the extent to which they enforced it. On many of those occasions when enforcement was lax and dhimmis got too far above their station, however, the Muslim “street” would take matters into its own hands; rioting Muslims would often destroy dhimmi property and kill dozens to hundreds of dhimmis. They reasoned that by ignoring the restrictions of the treaty, the dhimmis had forfeited its protection of their lives.
The bleak life of dhimmitude was indeed “as the torment of the scorpion.” It is little wonder that most of the Copts eventually chose conversion to Islam, and even this route out of their serfdom was not always open to them. But the plight of the dhimmi was better than the fate of non-Muslims captured in raids and in piracy; these were not entitled to the protection of the treaty. Piracy has always been acceptable in Islam, following the example of Muhammad, who practiced brigandage against desert caravans. For hundreds of years, Muslims raided the coasts of Greece, Sicily, Italy, France, and even Ireland. Mediterranean shipping was not safe from Muslim piracy until after the Napoleonic Wars. Captives taken in these raids were booty, the spoils of war. They could be killed or forced to convert to Islam. Typically their fate was slavery, which usually meant concubinage for the women, and often meant castration for the men. Muhammad's example in owning slaves and concubines legitimized slavery, both sexual and non-sexual, for his followers down through history. (One of Muhammad's concubines was “Mary the Copt,” who was gifted to him by the Byzantine governor of Egypt in 628 AD.) Although we think of Islam as the realm of the veil, niqab, chador and burka, slave girls could be exhibited in the marketplace naked from the waist up.
Clearly, during the First Woe, many Christians would “desire to die, but death would flee from them.”
Many people have experienced trauma in their lives, and as a result of this trauma, they are trapped in a downward spiral of negative behaviors and thought patterns. When they seek help, they are introduced to the solution that the world offers. This solution is called self-help, and it promotes the idea that you can change yourself if you implement certain actions into your life. The problem with self-help is that it teaches the necessity of changing oneself. God’s Word, however, teaches us that self must die. Gaining victory over the destructive habits that enslave us does not involve making our best effort to gain control over self. In order for victory to be gained, self must cease to exist. “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” (1 Corinthians 15:31).* “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). So what does it mean to die to self? The answer to this question is found in the following two verses. “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24). The word “crucified,” which is found in both of these verses, is the key to understanding what it means to die to self. Jesus demonstrated the process of dying to self by His death on the cross. There is a specific reason why it was in God’s plan for Jesus to be crucified. Jesus could have died in many ways, and if we were to take our own lives—although I certainly hope not— we could do this in a variety of ways. But it is physically impossible for a person to crucify himself. The process of crucifixion can be accomplished only if a person submits himself to the will of another. The same is true when it comes to our spiritual growth. If we want to die to self, to be crucified with Christ, we must submit our will to the will of God. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).
Dying to self does not involve trying really hard to force ourselves to do something good or trying really hard to resist doing something bad. In the words of Moris Vendon, “Restrained badness is the worst kind of goodness.” Even if we did manage to make ourselves do good things and restrain ourselves from doing evil things, this external behavior would not change our hearts, because changing the heart is something only God can do. This is why Ellen White made the following statement in Christ’s Object Lessons, found on page 159. “No outward observances can take the place of simple faith and entire renunciation of self. But no man can empty himself of self. We can only consent for Christ to accomplish the work.” Notice that James tells us to resist the devil, not to do battle with the devil. If we try to engage the devil in battle, not only will we be utterly defeated, but we will be fighting a pointless battle, because Jesus has already fought the battle with Satan and won. Christ has rendered the devil powerless. Rather than fighting the devil, we are to resist the devil, to defend ourselves against his attacks, but this can be accomplished only by submitting our will to God. If we submit to God, He will empty us of self, impart to us the mind of Christ, and give us victory over sin. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). When we surrender our hearts to God, the mind of Christ within us will empower us to resist the devil.
It is through the process of submitting to God and receiving the mind of Christ that self is crucified, spiritual life is imparted, and freedom from sin is attained, but in order for this work to be accomplished, death must precede life. In John chapter 12 verse 24 Jesus uses the following analogy to describe what He had to endure in order to redeem humanity and establish His kingdom. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” Just as a grain of wheat must die beneath the earth in order to produce more grain, Jesus had to be crucified and buried before He could rise again and expand His kingdom by transforming the lives of all those who would accept His gift of salvation. In the earthly ministry of Christ, death had to precede life, and the same is true with us today. In order to be restored into the likeness of Christ in body, mind, and spirit, we must follow Christ’s example. “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24). Just as Christ had to die before He could live again, we, too, are to take up our cross and die to self by being crucified with Christ if we want to be resurrected to spiritual life through the power of God’s healing grace. The process of dying to self is a continual process. It involves coming to the foot of the cross on a daily basis, accepting God’s gift of salvation, reckoning ourselves to be dead indeed to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:11), and asking God to give us the mind of Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Every day we must choose to lose our life in order to save it. Ellen White explains this concept very clearly in a statement she made in Christ’s Object Lessons, found on page 163. “As the sinner, drawn by the power of Christ, approaches the uplifted cross, and prostrates himself before it, there is a new creation. A new heart is given him. He becomes a new creature in Christ Jesus.”
In 1 John 3:14, John describes what happens when we transition from death to life. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” As long as self remains alive, we are spiritually dead. There is no love in our hearts, because we abide in death. When we pass from death to life, self dies, we are given spiritual life, and the new heart God gives us causes us to love God and love others. If we choose to walk the road that Jesus walked by allowing God to take us through the process of transitioning from death to life, we will experience God’s complete healing. “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans 6:5-7).
This message of hope is the message that we as Christians must take to those whose wounded lives have entangled them in the snare of sin. Jesus not only died for our sins, but He also died for our suffering. The same Jesus who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities also bore our griefs and our sorrows. He took our pain, as well as our sin, to the cross. “When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:16-17). If we were to witness to people who have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, would it minister to them if we told them that Jesus died for their sins, or would it minister to them if we told them that Jesus died for the pain, the anger, the fear, the shame, and the powerlessness they experienced during the trauma they endured? Not only did Jesus bear our pain to the cross, but He also lived a life of hardship and suffering on Earth and can personally identify with us in every trial we face. If we could choose the course of our lives, how many of us would choose to be born in a barn, grow up in a ghetto, and bear the stigma of being considered an illegitimate child? How many of us would choose to go through the heartache of being slandered, falsely accused, misunderstood, unfairly judged, rejected, abandoned, and betrayed? How many of us would choose to endure the shame and humiliation that results from having our physical boundaries violated? How many of us would choose to endure the physical agony of being tortured, as well as the emotional agony of being separated from God? How many of us would choose to die by means of one of the most cruel and barbaric forms of execution ever invented by man? Jesus endured all of these things when HE lived on Earth. Since we are all born into a sinful world, we all endure things over which we have no control, but Jesus did not have to experience any of the things He experienced while living on Earth. Incredibly, He chose to experience these things. He lived as a man, enduring temptations and trials so that He could identify with us in our temptations and trials. He overcame all of this by relying on His Father’s power so that He could pave the way for us to overcome. Then He died and rose again so that He could set us free from our pain and sin. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:14-18). “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).
The only thing that self-help has to offer a hurting world is a futile attempt at gaining control over the sinful self, and if the world is not presented with a better alternative, it will plunge deeper and deeper into a hopeless state of decay and ruin. As God watches people desperately trying to gain the mastery over self through their own efforts, He desperately longs to cause them to die to self so that He can give them a new life of joy and freedom. As God’s ambassadors on Earth, we are called to introduce the world to a real and tangible God who not only identifies with them in their pain, but also longs to remove their pain by setting them free. This freedom can be attained only by passing from death to life, and since the process of passing from death to life can be frightening at times, people who are hurting need to be shown that God is someone they can trust because He can relate to the pain they are going through. When they see God for who He really is, when they realize that they are safe with God because HE knows them and identifies with them, they will be ready to move forward by taking up their cross and following after the God they have learned to trust. Rather than trying to maintain control over their lives by attempting to change themselves, they will allow God to take control. The sinful self that they were previously trying to change through their own effort will be crucified with Christ, and they will pass from death to newness of life. This is what freedom is all about, and God is willing to give all of us this miraculous gift of freedom if we let Him.
*All Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version.
The Issues and the IssueSilence can be eloquence. And on the issue of women’s ordination to the gospel ministry in the Adventist church, too much has already been said. Books have been written on both sides of the issue. The anti-ordination camp have urged that the Bible settles this issue decidedly. The pro-ordination camp retorts that the Bible writers conformed to cultural norms in their day when they limited the role of women in local church administration.
And I, of course, have highly oversimplified the issue by making such a summary.
Complicating matters somewhat are the facts that the Bible abounds with evidence of women prophets, but never of a female priest.
Nevertheless, I agree with many who argue that the real issue at stake here is the question of scriptural authority versus higher critical naysaying.
The New Testament Data When the Bible outlines the qualifications for being an elder, they are worded in distinctly gender-specific terms. The elder is to be the “husband of one wife” and to “rule” his house well. The apostle argues that if he is not able to rule his house, how can he be expected to rule the church well?
1 Timothy 3:1 This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
If we ask the question, “who is authorized in the Bible to rule the home?” we have a simple answer even in Genesis 3:16. Paul makes reference to this fact also in the verses just before the ones above.
1 Timothy 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
These three verses are located just between an exhortation to women to adorn themselves with meekness and the announcement that if a “man desire the office” of an elder, that he does well. In other words, the “teaching” in verse 12 is united to the idea of “authority” in that verse because the verse is about teaching authority in the church. It is about the issue of women’s ordination to the position of “elder.”
The reason that a woman is refused such a position is plain in the passages above. She ought to be subject to her own husband. And how, then, can she be in authority over him? She ought to submit to his headship. How then can she rule well her own home?
These same arguments are used by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.
1 Cor 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
1 Cor 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 1Co 14:35 And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
The “speaking” here cannot be a reference to speaking in general. Earlier in the same book Paul laid down regulations for females to pray and prophecy in assembly. Rather, the speaking and silence and obedience here must be the same as those mentioned in the 1 Timothy verses. These speeches are the authoritative teaching of elders.
The idea of gender distinction in family government is plainly present in several other New Testament passages. (See Colossians 3:18, Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1, 5-6.)
But what about the issue of prophets? We mentioned earlier that female prophets were present in Corinth. Even the female prophets, by the way they kept their hair, were to show their submission to their husband, their spiritual head.
1 Corinthians 11:5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
This is not, of course, the only New Testament reference to women praying or prophesying. Acts 21:9 records that Philip had four daughters that were prophets. The assembly by the river was a meeting place for women and a place where prayer was routinely made. Acts 16:39.
Were women refused the position of elders because of cultural norms? If this was the case, Paul had opportunity to argue this way. But how did he found his argument? He founded it on the order of creation, the origin of sin, the teaching of nature regarding gender, the model of ancient holy persons. And never once did he found it on the customs of the Jews or of the Romans or of the varied peoples among whom he founded churches.
To ignore his reasoning while countering his conclusion is to discount his authority. And as I said in the introduction, this is the primary issue.
Were women involved in ministry in the New Testament? Indeed. Even Jesus had women that ministered to Him and that, to at least some extent, traveled with Him.
Mark 15:40 There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; 41 (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.
Lu 8:3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
Acts records the work of a husband-wife team that worked hand-in-hand with Paul, the author of the anti-ordain passage. Acts 18:2-3.
Why would God allow women to minister to Jesus, to plant churches, to prophesy and pray in public, and yet refuse to them the position of elder?
Prophets have no personal authority associated with their gift. They speak for God. Socially, if they are a daughter (as were Philip’s four prophets), then they still are a daughter. They are still subject to their father. And when God speaks through them, they are as subject to those words as are the others that hear.
So Ellen White can be a prophet and James White can be an elder and theirs can be a happy home. (And it was, most of their married life.)
By way of contrast, the position of elder has personal authority with it. Let me explain.
When men organize themselves into any type of group and choose one of their own number to be a director, they are choosing to submit part of their individual independence to each other and to the leader. They do this for efficiency. Even angels are ordered in such a way.
Are such men saying that one is fundamentally superior to themselves in strength or intelligence? No. All they are really doing is saying that things will work better if there is order.
That is what the church does. If women were not an integral part of church life, then there would be no need to refuse to them the position of elder. God has ordained that the order in the family be reflected and supported by the order in the church.
So women may teach Sabbath school classes. They may conduct VBS. They may lead a stewardship drive. They may help their husbands plant a church. They may even do pastoral work in the fullest sense of caring for the flock. But may they be placed in headship over the flock? No. That would upset the order of the family.
But what if she is single? No, that won’t fix it. To put her in the elder’s position would be to forbid her to marry. And that would not be right.
Old Testament Data In the Old Testament women figure prominently. Huldah the prophet was probably a professor in the “college.” Deborah was the courage behind Barak’s success. Miriam won the hearts of her nation and led them in anthems. Women show up most often in their positions as significant mothers.
But never, in all the history of the Old Testament, do we find a female priest.
“Wait!” says one. “Wasn’t it a whole nation of priests?” Oh, yes, that is true. But that was part of Korah’s argument when he wanted to be a priest. And it didn’t hold much theological weight in Numbers 16.
The fact is that when we select a man to be an elder, he is our peer. We are not obliged to believe what he says. He is not our king. But we are to respect his headship for order’s sake.
In like manner, when God chose an Old Testament person to be a priest, he was a peer of his wife and relatives and fellow Israelites. But they were a kingdom of priests. But they all surrendered a bit of their individual independence for the best good of the body. And so they respected their God-chosen priests.
This is how Luther explained it when he preached about the priesthood of believers. He wrote that the priesthood belongs to everyone, but that not everyone can exercise it. So the body chooses who will exercise the authority that they all possess. (If they didn’t possess it, he reasoned, they wouldn’t be able to give it to their pastor.)
Ellen White and Adventist History While the prophet lived the issue of woman’s suffrage was a hot political one. Women had taken the lead in many social issues, from nursing to the care of deranged persons, to the advocacy of temperance.
And in the Adventist church itself a group of women led out in one of the most successful and pervasive of all revivals, the introduction of the Tract and Missionary Society. That organization was often presided by a woman and was one of the most significant positions in the denomination.
But women were not ordained to the gospel ministry. We were the people of the Book. And the Book spoke clearly on this issue. We had a woman prophet and the Book smiled on that. It did not smile on the idea of having women elders. (Ordaining women was suggested once in meeting. It didn’t get as far as a vote.)
Conclusion For years I have hesitated to write on this issue, and for only one reason. I wasn’t sure where to draw the line Biblically regarding women teaching and leading in church functions outside that of ordained elder. That issue is resolved for me now by the proximity of 1 Timothy 2 to 1 Timothy 3.
The Bible isn’t confusing. If it takes long arguments to make it that way, the arguments are at fault rather than the Bible.
If a man desires the office of an elder, he desires a good thing.
If a woman desires the same, she doesn’t understand. She cannot rule her house well. If she rules it, that is not well. And so, like all the other members of the church, she gives of her priesthood authority to the men chosen by her and by the church to exercise it. And then she respects that authority that, originally, was hers.
I have noticed, and perhaps many of you have as well, that we, God's people, often treat God like a vending machine. We insert $1 worth of requests and maybe, if it has been a good day and we are in a cheery mood, 25¢ worth of praises and thanks, and we expect an immediate response from the Lord: the exact answer/blessing we had in mind pushed out of the slot we selected—D4: finances, E5: health, A1: wayward children, B3: better job, etc. It falls into the chute below where we can reach in, take it, and be on our merry way without another thought. Is that all prayer is? A mechanical transaction between the one praying and the Lord? We ask, He gives? Or is there something that we are missing as individuals and local churches?
One of the most frequently used Scriptures in regards to prayer is Matthew 7:7-8, which reads, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” We mistakenly believe that by merely asking for something (inserting our $1 into the vending machine), we will receive what we desired.
However, there is far more that goes into earnest, godly prayer than merely stating our needs and demanding a specific outcome from the Lord. The Scriptures give us a solemn warning: “The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous” (Proverbs 15:29). The prayer of the righteous… There appears to be a requirement on our part before the Lord will hear and answer our prayers. The Lord gives us more insight into this prerequisite, if you would like to call it such, in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (Emphasis added)
The Lord’s promise to hear our prayers, forgive our sins, and heal our land is conditional; it is dependent upon us first humbling ourselves, earnestly seeking the Lord, and turning from our wrongdoing. This is not vending machine praying where we insert our petitions, often selfish requests, and then go about living our lives unchanged. The Lord expects more from us before He answers our prayers. Let’s take a deeper look into meaningful, Biblical prayer.
First and foremost, we must approach prayer with the correct mindset: we are entering into the very presence of the Almighty Lord, Creator of heaven and earth and Redeemer of fallen humanity. We need to humble ourselves before Him; all selfishness and pride needs to be checked at the door and we are to lay bare our true, pitiful, sin-marred selves knowing that we are unworthy of approaching the Lord. Yet in His mercy and love, He has granted us—in spite of our sinful condition—the privilege of entering into communication with Him through prayer. “Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2).
Though it is no longer popular in many Christian circles, we cannot neglect the confessing of our sins. As the prayer ministries coordinator at my local church gently reminds us every week before we kneel before the throne of the Lord in prayer: some sins are to be confessed just between you and the Lord (Psalm 32:5), others should be confessed privately to the one wronged (Luke 17:3-4; Ephesians 4:32), and there are times when we are to confess our faults to one another (James 5:16). Though uncomfortable, confession of our sins and faults is necessary; it is only by truly acknowledging our sinful state and realizing our desperate need of a Savior that we become free from pride and arrogance and become vessels that the Lord bought with His shed blood, can cleanse through forgiveness, and will fill with His Holy Spirit. In 1 John 1:9, we are promised: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And on the subjection of confession, King David penned the hope-filled words, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1).
Have you ever experienced a prayer meeting in which a group of believers, humbly on their knees, confessed their faults and, with heart-felt pleas, claimed the promise of forgiveness and cleansing for one another? It is powerful, life-changing, and there is a peace beyond earthly understanding that falls upon the group. We can no longer hide our guilt behind layers of justification nor can any self-righteousness remain in our hearts. In this way, we draw closer to the Lord. Ellen White wrote, “We need not try to work ourselves up into an intense feeling; but calmly, persistently, we are to press our petitions at the throne of grace. Our work is to humble our souls before God, confessing our sins, and in faith drawing nigh unto God.” (Ye Shall Receive Power, pg. 27, paragraph 3)
After we have removed the barrier of sin through confession, we are able to give our supplications. Supplication is more than simply making a request. The dictionary defines the word to mean “the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly”. We should always begin our supplications with fervent prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26). We should pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God’s people to hasten the harvest (Matthew 9:38; Luke 10:2), for God’s people that we may have more love and wisdom (Ephesians 6:8; Philippians 1:9; James 1:5-6), for our families (Matthew 9:13), for the sick and suffering (James 5:13-14), for ourselves that we will not fall into temptation (Matthew 26:41), for those who have not yet accepted the Lord (Romans 10:1), for the governments and leaders of our respective nations (1 Timothy 2:1-2), and for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). Most importantly, we should pray as Jesus taught us in the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10) and how He Himself prayed in the darkness of Gethsemane: “…nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Mathew 26:39).
After presenting our supplications to the Lord, we should be filled with a spirit of thanksgiving, acknowledging all of the blessings that He has already bestowed upon us and looking in faith towards His Will being done in our lives and in this world. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us to “[b]e careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” And Colossians 4:2 says to “[c]ontinue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.”
One last crucial aspect of Biblical prayer is having assurance. Over the years, I have met too many Christians who live with the constant worry that the Lord will not hear their prayers. What if they had missed confessing a sin? What if they had worded their supplication wrong? What if… what if… what if… These worries and anxieties arise when we harbor doubt in the Lord. It reminds me of Jesus’ sad words to His disciples, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26) When it comes to prayer, we have the tendency to cast our cares to the Lord’s feet, reel them back to us, cast them to the Lord, then reel them back. If we would let go of our worries and trust in Him completely, we would experience that blessed assurance of forgiveness and faith that He will keep us.
After all, the Lord Himself has promised that He will answer when we call upon Him earnestly and with humility and that while we are yet speaking, He has already heard our pleas (Isaiah 65:24). The Lord is not a vending machine, and we need to be cautious that we never grow so complacent that we begin to treat Him as such. When we seek Him with all of our hearts and humble ourselves, He will not forsake us. At the end of the great commission, Christ said, “…I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). He has promised that, while we may not always get the answer we desired, we can have confidence that—no matter how dark our situation may seem at the moment—everything will work out for the good of those who love the Lord (Romans 8:28).
“At times, there seems to be confusion about justification and sanctification and how they relate to each other and our salvation. Some promote justification to the exclusion of sanctification and arrive at what has been termed “cheap grace.” Others focus almost exclusively on sanctification and arrive at what has been termed as “perfectionism” or legalistic salvation by works.”
As Seventh-day Adventists we know that God requires obedience to all of His commandments. We also know that justification and sanctification are both the work of Christ alone. In an effort to avoid the extremes of law without grace and grace without law, we sometimes find ourselves on a spiritual tight rope, carefully trying to equally balance grace and obedience without drifting toward either of these extremes. If we saw grace fully revealed in its true light, we would realize that there is no need for a balancing act.
One of the reasons for such a debate as to where the line is drawn between grace and works involves some people who do not understand that grace and obedience are interconnected. They are not two separate components of our spiritual lives that must be reconciled. Grace and obedience are one. In the same sermon, President Wilson also made this statement. “The two great provisions of salvation—justification and sanctification—cannot be separated for they constitute the fullness of Christ, Our Righteousness.” Jeremiah chapter 31, verses 33 and 34 paint a beautiful picture illustrating the unification of justification and sanctification.
“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”*
As clearly seen in this passage of Scripture, God not only promises to forgive our sins, but also to put His law in our minds and write it on our hearts. When our thoughts are in harmony with God’s law, His law will be acted out in our lives through our words and actions. God’s grace does so much more than forgive our sins and grant us eternal life. God’s grace also heals our wounded hearts, sets us free from the captivity of sin, and causes us to keep all of His commandments. Conviction of sin, repentance, forgiveness of sin, surrender, faith, obedience—they are all gifts from God, bestowed upon us through the power of His grace. As long as we fail to see the oneness of grace and obedience, we will be spiritually off balance. We will either be in danger of becoming legalistic or casting aside God’s law, and our attempt to walk the spiritual tight rope will not prevent us from shifting toward either of these two extremes.
Many claim that being under grace means that keeping the law is no longer necessary, but according to the Bible, being under grace actually means the opposite.
“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:12-15).
If God’s grace only forgave our sins and nothing more, what a hopeless state we would be in! God’s Heavenly kingdom will be a perfect world, and if we are not transformed into the likeness of God’s character through the power of His grace, we will not be fit for His kingdom. Heaven would be marred by sin, just as it was in the beginning when Satan fell. Without laws, chaos would result, and “God is not the author of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33.) The idea that God would annul His law after Christ’s death and resurrection makes as much sense as the idea that Congress would legalize murder if the president chose to die in the place of a murderer on death row. The fact that someone had to pay the death penalty for sin demonstrates that God’s law is unchangeable. When we are under grace, obedience will actually be more important to us, not less.
The mark of the beast is a perfect example of how grace and obedience are interconnected. When Adventists think of the mark of the beast, they immediately associate it with Sunday worship. It is true that the choice to either observe the seventh day Sabbath or to observe Sunday will be the factor that determines who receives the mark of the beast, but the observance of Sunday rather than the seventh day is actually a symptom of a much deeper problem. There is a passage of Scripture in Revelation chapter 13 that tells us what the mark of the beast represents.
“He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name” (Revelation 13:15-17).
Contrast these verses with Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” God promises to hold us up by His righteous right hand, but those who receive the mark of the beast receive it on their own right hands and on their foreheads. God offers us His righteousness, but those who receive the mark of the beast choose to rely on their own righteousness. By choosing to keep Sunday holy they are paying homage to a church system that teaches salvation by works. Because those who receive the mark of the beast rely on their own righteousness, their hearts will not be made perfect in love through the power of God’s grace. Instead, they will be controlled by the wicked one and will have no qualms about killing God’s people. Notice Deuteronomy 6 verses 5 through 8.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
Those who choose to worship the beast have His mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, but the people of God have God’s love in their hearts. God’s law is bound to them as a sign on their hands, and His commandments are as frontlets between their eyes. Their thoughts, words, and actions are in harmony with God’s law of love, because they are depending on Christ’s righteousness alone.
There is no such thing as cheap grace. The so-called grace that claims to make void the law of God is not grace at all. There is only one kind of grace. It is the free grace that overflows from the loving heart of God, the grace that not only justifies us, but sanctifies us, completely restoring us into the likeness of God’s character. When this grace is in control of our lives, there will be no spiritual tight rope to walk, no balancing act. There will be no confusion or debate, because there is no dividing line between grace and obedience. Obedience to God’s commandments will come naturally to us, and there will be no fear of extremes, because our motives will be pure. We will not be taking care of our own interests, focusing only on how we may enter Heaven. Instead, our motives will be actuated by love for God and love for others. Glorifying God’s name and leading others to the foot of the cross will be our mission. We will gladly keep all of God’s commandments, not in order to be saved, but because we already are saved. This is what it means to be under grace, and as the simple yet profound gift of God’s grace is more clearly revealed to us, we will understand why we will be studying the subject of grace throughout all eternity.
*All Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version.
Observations of 1 Timothy 3:1,2 & Titus 1:5,6
Both proponents and opponents of women’s ordination have staked their claim to divergent interpretations of 1 Timothy 3:1,2 and Titus 1:5,6. While some see a plain reading of the verses as clear enough, others are challenging these passages with legitimate, yet more complex textual arguments. What did Paul mean when he wrote that a “bishop . . . [should be] the husband of one wife”? Or literally translated- “a bishop . . . [should be] a one wife husband“? Some view this passage through the lens of “culture”- claiming it should be applied to different times and places in “relevant“ ways. In a future article I will review why the “culturally-conditioned” argument is nothing more than subjectivism since it relies on conjectures, guesses and the social sciences (sociology, anthropology, etc.) rather than the biblical text. Furthermore, it constantly changes with time and location. Recently, some have jettisoned the “culturally-conditioned” argument for a “leading of the Spirit” one. Going so far as to claim that the Spirit cannot fall on the church until it ordains women as pastors and elders. Unfortunately, this is biblically untenable. The conditions for the “Latter Rain” are clearly outlined in Acts 2,3 and Revelation 3:18-20- and women‘s ordination is nowhere mentioned. One often hears the assertion “no conference, union or church should stand in the way of God‘s calling to me . . .” In my last article, we saw that the position of “pastor” (poimen) can indeed be filled by a women- since it is a “Spiritual Gift.” However, the functions of the “pastor” are NOT the same as those of the “bishop” (episkopos) and the “elder” (presbuteros) which are NOT spiritual gifts! Certain objective qualifications must be met before one can “apply“ for those positions (including 1 Timothy 3:1-7). Furthermore, the Spirit does NOT lead the church independently from the written Word He inspired. If some feel God is leading them to become “Bishops“ or “Elders,” the only way to confirm this would be with the “Measuring stick” of Scripture.
Still others feel that to continue “debating theology” is not “biblically practical”, that we don’t need theoretical perspectives, but to focus on being “mission-driven.” They see this “theological” argument as getting in the way of the mission of the church, an ecclesiological issue. But instead of carefully examining the text of Scripture and following a “thus saith the Lord”, they are using pragmatic and emotional reasons (women “pastors” in China, etc.) to buttress their position. “Legal” but questionable policy changes are being hastily pursued in order to vote in changes before the world church can study the issue and respond. These efforts, based on faulty hermeneutics, threaten to further disrupt the global unity of the church.
While this “mission-driven-movement” sounds nice and very “Adventist,” if it is not on rooted in Scripture, but on policy or ecclesiology- the efforts will be unsuccessful. For all these reasons (and others), it is helpful to re-visit the texts upon which those who oppose and affirm women “elders” are based: 1 Timothy 3:1,2 and Titus 1:5-7. My purpose is not to present a scholarly exegesis- but an overview of the clear textual evidence.
“The fact of gender, when considering a word in isolation, is of little importance . . . But in analyzing a sentence as a whole, gender may play a key role, especially when considered along with the adjectives, pronouns, and relative clauses that may be present. Taking note of the gender may alter altogether what a sentence may seem to be saying in English.” Interestingly, in Titus 1:5, the word “elder” (presbuteros) is in the accusative masculine. In the context of verses 5-7, nine of the descriptive nouns and adjectives of presbuteros are in the masculine. In 1 Timothy 3:2, the word for “bishop” (episkopos) is also in the accusative masculine. In the context of 1 Timothy 3:2, there are eight descriptive nouns and adjectives which are also in the masculine. These grammatical parallels seem more than just coincidental. While it doesn’t definitively show that an “elder” or “bishop” should be a “male,” it is grammatically consistent with that conclusion and strongly points that way.
1. “Elder,” “bishop,” “pastor” are different, distinct offices
In the last article we saw that the offices of “elder,” “bishop,” and “pastor” (presbuteros, episkopos, poimen) are distinct, although (as we noted) there is some overlap between them. To summarize the findings: the “elder” (presbuteros) deals primarily with executive, administrative and judicial areas of church policy. The “bishop” (episkopos) has supervisory, investigative and guardianship functions, while the “pastor” (poimen) is nurturing, guarding and teaching. We also saw that the “elder” and “bishop” are recognized and selected based upon external, objective criteria (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-8). After evaluation of the candidates based on these biblical standards, they are ordained. On the other hand, as we mentioned, the “pastor” is a spiritual gift that is recognized and affirmed without ordination and an explicit list of “external” qualifications. I described what seemed to be modern equivalent of these positions in the church today. (Please see previous article.)
The significance of these findings can’t be overstated, especially where Christians assert the Holy Spirit’s calling to be a “pastor”. Obviously, the word “pastor” doesn’t have the same meaning that it did in the Bible. So the etymology of this English word has undergone some changes since the New Testament. If one takes the position that the Holy Spirit has given them this gift then the position that they should fill is the poimen. However, if they desire to fulfill the role of the episkopos or presbuteros, even if they are called by the Spirit, they must be evaluated by criteria found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-7. The claim of the Spirit’s leading does not supersede the Spirit’s inspired word, which is used to “test” all “callings”.
2. Lexical (dictionary) meanings for episkopos and presbuteros are delineated for “men”
A word never means what it never meant. The purpose of a lexical (“dictionary”) definition, is to find out what a word meant at the time it was written. An important clue to what episkopos and presbuteros mean today is to understand their meaning when Paul penned Titus and 1 Timothy in the first century A.D. In order to do this, analytical, critical and theological Greek New Testament lexicons, expository Greek dictionaries, Greek-English concordances and New Testament Greek theological wordbooks should be consulted in order to understand. Strong’s Concordance has several weaknesses that I addressed in my previous article and should be probably be avoided when doing serious Bible study (at least it should not be used by itself).
A summary of the definitions are as follows:
- “The name given in Athens to the MEN sent into subdued states to conduct their affairs”
- “A MAN charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others rightly”
- “A body of old MEN” (presbuterion) ; “An old MAN” (presbus, presbutis)
- “Rulers of people, judges, etc., selected from elderly MEN”
- “Aged MEN” ; “In the Christian church they were MEN appointed”
- “Old MEN of the Jewish Sanhedrin” “Officers in the congregation of the Jewish Synagogue”
Interestingly, one area that was intentionally left out of my last study, was the significant use of masculine names (“men,” “man,”) when defining presbuteros and episkopos. Since the purpose of that study was only to show that there is a difference between the three offices, these were omitted. However, from a lexical standpoint, it seems likely that both the “elder” and “bishop” were to be served by men. There is no dictionary definition from the era the New Testament was written that define these Greek words as being filled by “women.” This isn’t a “cultural” issue since the “men” were from both the believing “Jewish community“ (Jewish Sanhedrin, etc.) and the non-believing “Greek community” (Athenian statesmen, politicians). This further strengthens the case against gender neutral inclusion for an episkopos or presbuteros.
3. The lexical (dictionary) definition for “Aner” is limited to three possibilities
As with the preceding section, we must also understand what the meaning of the word translated “husband” (aner) was in the First Century. These meanings are:
- An adult human male (of full age and stature- as opposed to a child or female)
- A husband
- A human being, an individual; someone; a person, generally (in terms of address)
Interestingly, in all the lexicons consulted (around 12), the word aner never means a “female,” “woman,” etc., but can refer to “people in general.” On the other hand, it definitely refers to a “male” or a “husband.” The third definition shouldn’t be considered in Timothy or Titus, since the phrase “human being of one wife” makes no sense. “One wife husband,” or “one woman man” seem to be the clear interpretation of “aner.” Since the context refers to “children” (1 Tim. 3:4) a “wife” (v. 2) and a “house” (v. 4), the most logical and contextually consistent interpretation would be to translate “aner“ as “husband”. Therefore, the Greek phrase “mias gunaikos andra (aner)” should probably be translated “one wife husband.”
Why did Paul use a word that may not always be referring to a “male” (aner) rather than a word that always refers to a “man” (arsen - pronounced “Are-sane”)? Because arsen does not lexically mean “husband.” It seems that Paul was trying to convey both “maleness” and “marriedness” within the same word. Therefore, the best word he could have used is aner. Another word anthropos also means a “male”, but like arsen, doesn’t define the marital status as aner does. Understanding aner as being a “(male) husband” is a significant point buttressing the argument that a “bishop” must be a “ married man.”
There are 215 references for the word aner in the New Testament. Of these, about 40% do not have “contextual markers.” A “marker” is a word(s) the author uses in context to identify which lexical (dictionary) meaning he intends for the word in question. These 40% are translated in the general sense of “humanity,” “people,” etc. Interestingly, however, when aner is to be interpreted as a “man” or “husband”, there are contextual markers that support that understanding. The remaining 60% have at least one of the following contextual markers:
- NAME OF THE MAN: Mentioned in the immediate context (“Joseph”- Matt. 1:16; “Peter”- Luke 5:8; “Jairus”- Luke 8:41; “Zaccheus”- Luke 19:2; “Adam”- 1 Tim. 2:12; etc.).
- FEMALE GENDER WORDS: In contradistinction from “males” in the same context (“Aged Women”- Titus 2:5; “Woman”- 1 Cor. 11:7; etc.).
- MARRIAGE WORDS: Speak of a “male’s spouse” in contrast to himself (“Wife”- Mark 10:2, 12; “Wives”- Eph. 5:24,25; “Widows”- 1 Tim. 5:9; etc.).
- FAMILY WORDS: Referring to male/female relations and progeny (“Women and children”- Matt. 14:21/Mk 6:44; “Father”- Lk 9:38; etc.).
- REPRODUCTION WORDS: Contrasting a “male” with “female characteristics” (“Virginity”- Luke 2:36; “Adulteress”- Rom. 7:2; “adulterer”- Rom. 7:2,3; “Childbearing,“ etc.).
- CONTEXT: There are times when the context makes it explicitly clear that “males“ are being spoken of (“twelve disciples”- Acts 1:21; The “Apostles”- Acts 5:25; “seven deacons”- Acts 6:3; etc.).
In 1 Timothy 3:2 there are several contextual markers that identify that a “male” is being spoken of: “Wife” (3:2; “Childbearing” (2:15), and “Woman” (2:11,12,14). In Titus 1:5,6, there is the marker “Wife” present. This contextual evidence strongly implies that a “bishop” and “elder” should only be a “male.”
The words “one woman man” or “one wife husband” (mias gunaikos andra) is an interesting and unusual way to communicate this phrase. If Paul wanted to convey a married man, why didn’t he say “a bishop must be a man who is married”? When we look at the syntax (sentence structure) we see that he was describing the quality or character of the man as well as his marital status.
The Greek word for “woman” is gune, and refers to any adult female (including wives). The King James Version translates gune as "woman" 129 times and "wife" 92 times. In 1 Timothy 3:2, gune (gunaikos) is “in the genitive and therefore deals with attribution. It may refer to relationship or quality, for the genitive defines by attributing a quality or relationship to the noun which it modifies."
Tony Capoccia has made the following insightful comment regarding the genitive:
“This should not be considered a possessive genitive, for that would mean that the word in the genitive indicates one who owns or possesses the noun it modifies. In that case the translation would be "a man owned by one woman." Nor can this be considered as a genitive of relationship ("a man who has [possesses] one wife") for there is no indication within the phrase or context that that relationship is implied. It is best to understand this "gunaikos" as being a genitive of quality, that is, giving a characteristic to the noun it modifies.”
The noun andra is the accusative singular of aner. “This accusative functions here as an object of the main verb ‘be’ along with a long list of other accusative nouns and participles. Stated simply, the clause is ‘Therefore . . . an elder must be . . . a man . . .’ The words ‘one woman’ modify "man" to explain what kind, or to qualify the noun by attributing to him this character.” N.T. Greek scholar Robertson adds that genitive of quality (also called attributive genitive). ‘expresses quality like an adjective indeed, but with more sharpness and distinctness.’ “Since the other qualification in 1 Timothy 3 deal with the man's character and since the grammatical structure is more naturally consistent with this emphasis, it seems best to understand the phrase as meaning that he is a one-woman type of man” or “a one-wife type of husband”.
In conclusion, the unique way of expressing the phrase “one wife husband” was Paul’s method of representing the “character” of "the bishop" ("ton episkopon") as well as his marital status. Syntax doesn’t negate the lexical, contextual and comparative evidence that has already shown that aner also refers to a “male husband.” Rather, the syntax shows what KIND of a “husband” Paul is referring to. Scholar Getz makes the following observation: "Paul needed it very clear that an elder in the church was to be a 'one-wife man' — loyal to her and her alone." The emphasis of sentence structure shows that the “bishop” must be completely faithful to his wife, and emphasizes moral purity. The syntax does not change the marital or gender status that we have already affirmed; it only clarifies its quality.
The context of 1 Timothy 3:1,2 extends back into chapter two. The foundation of what Paul lays for the office of the episkopos, is rooted in the creation and fall account of Genesis two and three. The issue of “teaching” and “women keeping silence” is the subject of my next article, so I won’t address this interesting topic now. We see Paul addressing the “authority” of man over a “woman” for two reasons. First, “Adam was formed first” (v. 13). Second, “Adam was not deceived” (v. 14). Genesis two and three give us some clues of Adam’s role as the leader/head of his “home”:
- God gave Adam instructions on how to care for the Garden (2:15)
- God instructed Adam in regards to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
- Adam named all the living creatures (2:19,20)
- Adam named “the Woman” (2:23)
- Only after Adam ate the fruit, were their “eyes opened” (3:7)
- God called unto “Adam” first (3:9)
- Man shall leave parents, “cleave” unto his wife- a sign of protection, guardian
Interestingly, the roles of the episkopos and presbuteros are similar to those seen in Adam’s functions. The executive and administrative roles of the presbuteros are seen in Adam’s naming the animals, directing the custody of the garden, and naming of “the Woman”. The supervisory and investigative functions are seen in Adam’s role as the informant of God’s will concerning the Tree of Knowledge and man’s “leaving father and mother.” The second reason for man’s “authority” over “woman” was rooted in the statement “Adam was not deceived.” Adam momentarily “investigated” the matter in his mind and knew what was right. He chose to follow his wife, however, and sinned blatantly. His ability to discern the deception (while Eve did not) play a role in why Paul mentions that “Adam was not deceived.” However, most importantly, Paul’s foundation for 1 Timothy 3 is rooted in the Genesis creation and fall account, not culture.
Our overview of 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6 shows that a convincing biblical argument can be made for a “male” “elder” or “bishop”. Grammatical considerations showed that contextual nouns and adjectives are in the masculine, thus matching the genders for episkopos and presbuteros. The lexical considerations gave additional evidence that the offices of the episkopos and presbuteros, whether as “rulers of people, judges, statesmen, Sanhedrin, etc.”, were filled by “men.” Furthermore, the definition for aner (“husband”) supports a “male”/“husband” understanding over “humans in general.” A comparative study (using contextual markers) demonstrated that aner, when referring to a “male,” contains at least one each in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:6. Further supporting the contention that Paul intended “males” to be the episkopos and presbuteros in the church. The syntactical considerations emphasizes the character of the “husband” while not negating the gender. Finally, the theological/contextual considerations shows that the office of episkopos (and by extension the presbuteros) are rooted in the creation and fall account, not in culture.
All references for this article are available in a PDF file. Download PDF here.
Last year, the world's media were abuzz with stories of the “Arab Spring,” a revolt against autocratic rulers that swept across the Arab world from west to east. The revolt started in Tunisia, with the overthrow of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, then spread to Libya, where Muammar Gaddafi was ousted in an armed revolt, and swept on through Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak was removed from power. The Arab Spring sparked protests in many other Arab countries, led to an ongoing and very bloody civil war in Syria, as many sought to oust second-generation dictator Bashar al-Assad, and led to a relatively peaceful change of government in Yemen. This year, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is witnessing its own “Arab Spring” over the role of women in the church. Because of clear apostolic guidance, most churches with a high view of Scripture, including the Seventh-day Adventist Church, historically have not ordained women. The world church in General Conference session has twice voted against the ordination of women, first at Indianapolis, in 1990, and again at Utrecht, in 1995. But church officials in North America and elsewhere have nevertheless pushed to hire female pastors, and have promoted a form of ordination for female pastors, “commissioning,” that is ceremonially indistinguishable from the ordination of male pastors. Finally, they have sought to erase any meaningful distinction between commissioning and ordination, which brings us to the genesis of the current revolt.
This past October, the North American Division Executive Committee, for the third year in a row, voted for a policy change that would allow commissioned pastors to be elected to the office of conference president. This policy change is out of harmony with General Conference Working Policy. NAD president Dan Jackson was informed that the NAD does not have the authority to vote for or establish policies that conflict with GC Working Policy or the GC Model Constitution. This was confirmed by the NAD's legal counsel in an an opinion letter issued on January 3, 2012, which noted that the NAD does not have a constituency. The Church later made clear that the divisions, including the North American Division, do not form a separate layer of church governance, but are essentially administrative territories or sub-divisions of the General Conference.
In a January 31 letter to the NAD Executive Committee, Elder Jackson reiterated his commitment to placing women in the headship role of conference president, and called for more work to bring that about:
“While we, as a Division family, have philosophically supported women in leadership in three successive Year-End Meetings, the time has now come for us to become more practical in our application of philosophy and belief. . . . We must also develop intentional methods of mentoring women who can take on executive leadership positions within our conferences.”
Elder Jackson went on to lament that there are so few female pastors in North America (only 107 out of approximately 4,000 pastors), his implicit assumption being that the church should be moving toward a pastorate more evenly divided between the sexes.
Mid-American Union Conference President Thomas Lemon is on the NAD Executive Committee, and on March 8, while he was explaining to his own executive committee why the NAD's vote to allow women to become conference presidents was reversed, the Mid-America Union Executive Committee decided to vote, then and there, “to support the ordination of women in the Mid-America Union.” This was followed, on March 15, by the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee voting to “reaffirm its commitment to the ordination of women,” and, on March 20, by the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee voting to reaffirm its previous request to ordain women. On March 22, the Southeastern California Conference Executive Committee voted to issue only one credential, “ordained,” to all of its pastors regardless of gender, effectively retroactively ordaining all commissioned female pastors. On March 29, the Southern Union Executive Committee stated that, while they would not take an action contrary to the policy of the world church, they were “actively supporting, encouraging, and empowering women in all areas of ministry including . . . conference and union leadership . . .” On April 23, the North German Union voted to amend its constitution to end gender discrimination in ordination.
On May 9, the Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee voted to hold, on August 19, a special constituency session to authorize ordination without regard to gender distinction. On May 15, the Atlantic Union Conference Executive Committee voted a statement almost identical to that voted by the Southern Union, supporting the ordination of women, but declining to take any action contrary to world church policy. On May 17, the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee took an action essentially identical to that taken by the Pacific Union, voting to hold, on July 29, a special constituency meeting “for the purpose of authorizing ordination to the gospel ministry without regard to gender.” Also on May 17, the North Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee voted “to appoint an ad hoc committee to create specific recommendations on how to fully integrate committed and called Adventist women into all levels of church leadership within the NPUC territory.”
It is important to emphasize just how this Adventist “Arab Spring” began: It began not over the ordination of women, per se, but over the North American Division's attempt to amend the “E-60” policy to allow women to serve as conference presidents. The issue is female headship in the SDA Church at the level of conference president and higher. Elder Jackson's letter made this clear, as have several of the statements issued by the various executive committees. So we can now put to one side such issues as the meaning of ordination, whether ordination is biblical, whether there is a role for women in ministry, whether women can serve as tithe-paid pastors, etc. None of these is the issue that now confronts us. The issue that has crystallized is female headship in the Adventist Church at the level of conference president and higher.
Even those unions--like the Southern and the Atlantic--that acknowledged and deferred to the authority of the world church nevertheless voiced support for women in headship roles. With a couple of exceptions, the executive committees have not offered any theological or biblical justification for their actions. Female headship has been treated as an organizational or administrative issue, not a doctrinal issue. This is perhaps not surprising, because although the Bible has much to say about the roles of the sexes, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has had little to say; we have not formulated a doctrine of sex roles. But the present crisis demonstrates that it is now necessary to do so; neglect is no longer an option. As a church, we need to familiarize ourselves with what Scripture teaches about sex roles.
Scripture specifies male headship in the Christian church. God the Son, Jesus Christ, was incarnated in the form of a male, and Christ is the head of the church. The Twelve Disciples chosen by Jesus were all men. Mat. 10:2-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-19. When lots were cast to replace Judas Iscariot, both of the candidates were men. Acts 1:12-23. When deacons were chosen to perform some of the practical tasks of the church, the seven appointed to the office of deacon were men. Acts. 6:1-7. Both the office of episkopēs (“bishop” or “overseer”) and deacon are described as male offices, to be filled by sober men who are the husband of only one wife, and capable husbands, fathers, and heads of their families. 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-9. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul makes clear that capable leadership of the family is a prerequisite to leadership in the church: “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” And Paul elsewhere makes clear that the husband is the head of the home. Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1. Since the husband is the head of the home, and successful headship in the home is a prerequisite to headship in the church, it follows that headship in the church is also reserved for men.
Not only are leadership offices reserved for males, a submissive, non-headship role is specified for women. “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.” 1 Cor. 14:33-35. “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” 1 Tim. 2:11-14. Even a very relaxed application of these passages upholds the principle of male headship in the church.
These scriptural principles are too clear to need elaboration, which perhaps is why the Seventh-day Adventist Church has never bothered to articulate a “fundamental belief” regarding male headship in the church. Another reason may be sheepishness over the prominent role played by Ellen White in the founding of the denomination. Proponents of women in headship roles argue that the prophetic authority exercised by Ellen White sets aside, by implication, the patriarchal church governance specified in the New Testament. But female prophets were common in biblical times---Miriam (Ex. 15:20-21), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14)---and in fact there were New Testament-era female prophets, such as Anna (Luke 2:36) and the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8-9), who would have been well known to the Apostle Paul. Yet Paul nevertheless gave clear instruction that leadership roles in the church were reserved for men. Neither Paul nor any of the other Bible-writers hint that the existence of female prophets suggested a non-patriarchal organization for the Christian Church.
The most common argument in favor of women in headship roles is that, in the Bible era, society was organized along patriarchal lines (patriarchy = “rule of fathers”), and in order to conform to the culture of that time, Scripture specified that the Christian Church would also be patriarchal in organization. Today, however, society is less and less patriarchal, and the church may properly reflect today's cultural realities. After all, Paul frequently told slaves to obey their masters (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25; Titus 2:9-10), but this is not interpreted as an apostolic mandate that all societies should embrace the institution of slavery. Likewise, just because Paul specified male headship in the church of his time and culture does not mean that all societies must embrace the restrictive prerogatives of patriarchy. Scripture's mandate was culturally conditional, and our culture is different.
This reasonable-sounding argument runs afoul of the fact that male headship in the church is based upon the order of creation and the history of the Fall: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” 1 Tim. 2:13-14. These facts of history are never going to change, hence the biblical rationale for male headship in the church does not rest on the shifting sands of culture. Obviously, there is no comparable biblical statement basing slavery on the order of creation or the history of the fall, so there is no legitimate comparison between slavery and patriarchy.
It is certainly true, however, that the move toward female headship in the SDA Church is being driven by cultural changes in what is referred to as the developed world or the “first world.” The “executive committees” involved in the Adventist Arab Spring have felt little need of a biblical rationale for their actions, but no need whatsoever to critically re-examine the cultural trends that are driving their actions. The members of these executive committees tend to be practical people who know how to operate within the prevailing cultural/legal complex of mores, laws, rules and regulations. Such people excel at running enterprises and organizations, but are unsuited to the task of critically examining the culture in which they operate. And the question of whether the SDA Church should bend to the dominant culture or resist it turns on a broad overview of cultural trends.
In the biblical-patriarchal form of sexual-social organization, the family, not the individual, is the basic unit of society, and legitimate sexual expression is restricted to opposite-sex married couples. Since the “sexual revolution” of the late 1960s/early 1970s, however, Western elites have promoted a post-patriarchal form of sexual-social organization in which the basic unit of society is the individual, not the family, and legitimate sexual expression encompasses anything consenting adults can think of to do with each other. These two different forms of sexual-social organization have very different ideas about the sexes, about proper sexual conduct, and about what is just and unjust. A contrasting summary of the assumptions and attributes of the two systems follows.
|Attributes and assumptions of Biblical-patriarchal culture:||Attributes and assumptions of Post-patriarchal culture:|
|1. The Sexes, and the differences between the sexes||God created us male and female. (Gen. 1:27; Mat. 19:4-5; Mark 10:5-9) The very significant differences between the sexes are part of the created order, and not something we should strive to efface. These differences mean that men are better suited than women to certain roles and tasks, and women are better suited than men to certain roles and tasks.||Except for their obvious physiological differences, men and women are the same. Persistent non-physical differences between men and women are the product of culture; they are not innate.|
|2. Sexuality, and the difference between male and female sexuality||Men and women have very different sex drives. Male sexuality can be problematic, even destructive. (2 Sam. 11, 12; 1 Kings 11:1-13) An important goal of Christian patriarchy is to curb the negative potential of ungoverned male sexuality, and to channel male sexual energy into monogamous (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:6), heterosexual marriages, that build families, societies, and civilizations (see 7 & 8, below).||Men and women are the same in their sexual drives. Women are just as likely as men to want casual sex with multiple partners, and men are just as likely as women to want to marry and raise children.|
|3. Marriage||Men and women need each other in long-term relationship in order to live the fullest, happiest, and most productive lives. It is not good that man should be alone. (Gen. 2:18; Heb. 13:4) A happy marriage is an important goal for all, and young people, 19 or 20 years old, are old enough to get married. Marriage is intended to last until death. (Mat. 19:6-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18)||Traditional heterosexual marriage is one option for sexual expression, but not the only legitimate option, nor the socially preferred condition. People should probably postpone marriage until they are fully educated and in their late 20s (and it is obviously unreasonable to expect chastity for the first 15 years after puberty). Marriage should last as long as both parties are happy, and no longer; during the sexual revolution, no-fault divorce was adopted in all states, meaning that either party could end the marriage at any time, for any reason or no reason. More recently, same-sex “marriage” has been enacted in several jurisdictions.|
|4. Raising Children||Men and women each bring something unique and irreplaceable to the rearing of children. The man's biological role in producing children is trivial, but he makes up for that by providing protection and support for the woman. The woman is a nurturer and has a greater role in the raising of infants and young children. (Isaiah 49:15; 1 Kings 3:16-28) When a wife gets pregnant, she reduces her participation in the money economy in order to concentrate on her physically and emotionally demanding role in bearing and raising the child, whereas the husband increases his participation in the money economy so as to be able to fulfill his complementary role of protector and provider.||Because men and women are not different in any meaningful respect, it doesn't matter who raises children. Two daddies or two mommies are as good as a mother and a father. Even a single mother is just as good as two parents. Discrimination in adoption in favor of married heterosexual couples has been outlawed in many jurisdictions; Catholic adoption agencies in several jurisdictions have closed because they can no longer discriminate in favor married heterosexual couples.|
|5. Out-of-wedlock Births||Stigmatized and frowned upon in patriarchal societies, because they are the product of illegitimate sexual activity, and also because complementary, opposite-sex parents are viewed as crucial to successful child-rearing. (Deut. 23:2)||Because there is nothing wrong with sexual activity outside of marriage, and because a single parent can raise a child as effectively as an opposite sex couple, there is no stigma whatsoever attached to childbirth outside of marriage. In the U.S., 40% of births, and the majority of births to women under the age of 30, are out of wedlock). If anything, there is now a stigma attached to disapproval of what used to be called illegitimate births and bastard children.|
|6. Sexual behavior||Legitimate sexual expression is limited to opposite-sex married couples. Adultery is proscribed. (Ex. 20:14; Mat. 5:27-28) Unmarried heterosexual sex is proscribed. (Mat. 5:32; 15:19; Mark 7:21; Acts 15:20; 1 Cor. 7:2; Gal. 5:19) Homosexuality is proscribed (Lev. 18:22; 20:13), and widespread open homosexual conduct is a sign of the removal of God's Spirit (Rom. 1:18-27) and even cause for immediate, supernatural judgment. (Gen. 18:16-19:29)||Between consenting adults, anything goes. Homosexuality is fine; pre-marital and extra-marital sex are fine. Since age and consent are the only guidelines, sexual expression is discouraged in situations that raise the possibility that consent is not genuine, such as when one party has power over another by reason of economic or social circumstances. Laws against workplace sexual harassment, and against sex within various relationships of trust, have multiplied pari passu with the acceptance of extra-marital sexual activity.|
|7. Female virtue-chastity||This is highly prized and protected in truly patriarchal cultures. The father is the protector of his daughter's virtue until she is married, after which her husband is her protector. The desire of husbands, fathers, and brothers to protect the virtue of their female relatives puts an important check on voracious and variety-driven male sexual appetite; it protects women from the worst male impulses. (Gen. 34)||This is viewed as quaint, if not actually oppressive. It is a woman's prerogative to be as sexually active and adventurous as a man, if not more so.|
|8. Female economic independence||This is not a value in patriarchal systems, because fathers are expected to support their daughters, and husbands are expected to support their wives. Fathers typically demand that their daughters' suitors be able to support their daughters; as a result, young men are forced, in order to gain sexual access to a woman, to channel their energy into hard work and economic success. (Gen. 29:16-30)||Very highly prized in the post-patriarchal sexual-social order. Economic independence, they are told, means freedom from male domination; it means that women don't need to get married for the wrong reasons, but can wait for “Mr. Right.” (A darker reason, seldom mentioned in polite society, is that a large cohort of single, self-supporting women creates a large pool of potential partners whom men can sexually exploit without being expected to financially support; Hugh Hefner was an early and constant supporter of “women's lib,” or equal economic opportunities for women. Moreover, when a woman is economically as powerful as a man with whom she has sex, the genuineness of consent is not usually in question, and, again, consent is the sole criterion of legitimate sexual expression between adults.)|
|9. Gender fairness and economic justice||Men and women have different roles and functions and perform different jobs. Not all jobs open to men are also open to women, and vice versa. Since the basic unit of organization is the family, not the individual, as long as jobs and other economic opportunities are open to all families on an equal basis, the fairness/justice element is met.||Because the basic unit of society is the individual, not the family, and it is not assumed that most adults will be, or will have been, married to a person of the opposite sex, family opportunity is irrelevant. Every individual, whether male or female, should be eligible for every job. Gender-based discrimination in employment has been almost universally outlawed (clergy being a rare exception). Any job that men do, women should also be encouraged to do, even to the extreme of putting women in military combat. (Again, in the post-patriarchal system, this isn't just an issue of fairness and justice; it is critical to the logic of the system to have a large cohort of women who are self-supporting and can freely consent to sexual activity.)|
|10. Headship||Headship, in the home (Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1) and in the church (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-9), is a male prerogative, but it is servant-leadership, to be exercised in a Christlike, self-sacrificing manner. (Eph. 5:25-33).||For the dwindling few who choose to get married, the marriage should be a 50/50 partnership; there is no “headship” in marriage. In society, women should be in leadership roles as frequently as men. Since there are actually more women than men in the church, there should be at least as many women as men in church leadership, preferably more.|
If one reads down the column, it becomes apparent that each culture has an internal logic and consistency; there is a coherent rationale behind each. And if one reads across the columns, it becomes apparent how sharply each culture conflicts with the other. (Obviously, neither the United States nor any other developed country is purely patriarchal or purely post-patriarchal; rather, they are at points along a continuum. In the mid-20th Century, most were still largely patriarchal societies, but for the last 40 years, they have been rapidly transitioning into post-patriarchal societies, although that transition is not complete.)
The Bible's values with regard to sexuality are part and parcel of the patriarchal system, but are rejected by the post-patriarchal system. Obviously, then, the Seventh-day Adventist Church should not view the fact that female headship is demanded by post-patriarchal culture as a point in its favor, but rather as a compelling argument against it. If we reject biblically prescribed male headship in the church on the basis that biblical culture was patriarchal but modern culture is post-patriarchal, we are consenting to be ruled by a neo-pagan culture, the sexual norms of which are anathema to biblical values. If we accept the foundational assumptions of post-patriarchal culture, we render irrational and unsustainable the entire complex of biblical prescriptions and proscriptions relating to human sexuality.
Christian patriarchy need not apologize to women. Wherever the gospel has taken root, the social, legal, and spiritual status of women has been elevated. Consider the position of women in Christian cultures versus their position in Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Confucian, or other Eastern cultures. But whereas Christianity elevates women, post-patriarchal culture devalues femininity and female attributes. Created sex differences are downplayed, dismissed, despised, and denied. Post-patriarchy has contempt for women who embrace family and motherhood as their first and highest priorities; it denies that there is anything unique or extraordinary about women, insisting that women are just like men, except for the plumbing.
Moreover, an unspoken but obvious aspect of post-patriarchal culture is the enabling of immature male sexual instinct by creating a huge pool of self-supporting women whom men can sexually exploit without commitment or financial responsibility. Instead of ennobling men by demanding that they become responsible husbands and fathers, it degrades women by demanding that they shorten their own sexual horizons, and knuckle under to male patterns of sexuality.
Denominations that have embraced female headship are coasting toward oblivion. Liberal Presbyterians began ordaining women to the ministry in 1956, and by 2001 there were almost as many women as men in the PCUSA clergy. But the Presbyterians have witnessed a 40 year decline in membership. In 1968, there were over 4 million members, or almost 2 % of the U.S. Population; today membership hovers around 2 million, or about 0.6 % of the U.S. Population. Their membership was halved and their percentage of the population was reduced by more than two thirds. The United Methodists also began ordaining women to ministry in 1956, and first ordained a female bishop in 1980. Their U.S. membership has declined every year since 1968, from around 11 million (5% of the population) to 7.8 million (2.5% of the current population). The Episcopal Church began ordaining female priests in 1974. Their American membership has declined from about 3.2 million to about 1.95 million. Promoting female headship in the church is not the path to church growth and cultural relevance; it is the path to irrelevance and extinction.
The liberal churches that have embraced female headship have also embraced (or are in the process of embracing) homosexuality, as witness the confirmation of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson in the Episcopal Church in 2003. Why? Because the culture of post-patriarchy is opposed to the entire corpus of biblical directives relating to sex, sexuality, and gender, and once a denomination has placed post-patriarchal culture above Scripture, the biblical rules will all eventually be jettisoned. It is also important to note that no church adopted female headship until after it had made peace with Darwinism and rejected a literal reading of the Genesis narrative. We have seen that Paul grounded male headship in the church upon a literal understanding of the story of the creation and the Fall. 1 Tim. 2:11-14. Patriarchy is part of the created order, if we understand the creation narrative literally. Liberal activists, unlike many serving on the “executive committees,” well know that these issues are all connected, which is why Spectrum divides its time about equally among: 1) agitating for female headship, 2) arguing for normalization of homosexuality, and 3) promoting Darwinism. They understand that these three issues are inextricably bound together.
Last year's “Arab Spring” was a disaster for American and Western interests; in every case, a more secular autocrat was replaced, or is in the process of being replaced, by a more Islamic government that embraces the sharia ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ideological offspring, Al Qaeda. This year's Adventist Arab Spring will prove just as disastrous for the Seventh-day Adventist Church, because it signals a willingness to thoughtlessly embrace the cultural imperatives of post-patriarchy, in derogation of clear Bible truth.