Tag Archives: complementarian

Egypt’s Coptic Christians, and the Unity of the Body of Christ

Palm Sunday terror in a blood-stained Coptic Christian church in Egypt, 2017 (credit: Agency France-Presse)

Tragedy gripped the world when Islamic State militants killed 44 Coptic Christians in Egypt, while worshippers gathered to celebrate Palm Sunday (New York Times). But a few of my Christian friends were probably wondering, what is a “Coptic Christian,” and are they really Christian?

Joe Carter, a blogger at The Gospel Coalition, has a great FAQ summary, explaining what happened, and who the Coptic Christians are. But I want to focus on answering some of the specific concerns of my friends. More importantly, I want to have you think about what it might teach us, for evangelical Christians. Continue reading


A Modest Defense of the “Billy Graham Rule”

There is quite a bit of chatter in social media recently about Vice President Mike Pence’s adherence to the so-called “Billy Graham Rule.” Many have mocked Pence’s statement that “he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.” Briefly, the “Billy Graham Rule” was an unwritten pact between the early members of Billy Graham’s evangelistic team, that they would avoid even the appearance of infidelity. These men pledged not to eat, travel, or meet with any woman alone, except their wives. This rule, which covered more than just the issue of sexual infidelity, served to protect this ministry from the allegations of impropriety, for a long string of decades, that many Christians have admired as basic, common sense.

Surprisingly, the criticism of this rule has come, not simply from secular sources, but from Christians as well. Much of the furor concerns the endless egalitarian versus complementarian debates that consume the energies of many of today’s Christians (I tell some of my story here). Progressive Christian blogger, Rachel Held Evans, tweeted that “Jesus scandalized the disciples by meeting with a woman for a drink,” a reference to Jesus’ meeting of the Samaritan woman at the well, in John 4.

The critics have a point. The “Billy Graham rule” arose during a time when it was relatively uncommon to find women in the work force, in the late 1940s. When I began my career in engineering in 1980s, things had drastically changed in society. For about five years, I shared a large office with three other women engineers. There were times when I was alone with one of these women in the office, and neither of us thought anything about it. It was just part of our jobs to work together. So I get it.

But such critics have obscured something essential, in their defense of seeing women fully integrated in the workplace. The “Billy Graham rule” should not be lost as some legalistic concept, to be discarded as being sexist. Rather, we must be mindful of the principle that undergirds the rule, namely, that all people, men and women, who wish to honor their Lord, should not put themselves in compromising situations.

George Beverly Shea, Billy Graham, and Cliff Barrows, the young evangelists, who sought to live lives above reproach.

Fundamentally, people like Pence and Graham have been simply protecting their marriages, protecting themselves, and protecting those who have come under their familiar influence. As followers of Jesus, we should all do the same. The human tendency towards sin is much stronger than we are willing to admit to ourselves and realize. What often starts off as legitimate and harmless in our interpersonal relationships, business or otherwise, can easily slip into something completely inappropriate, over a period of time. The principle behind the Graham rule is that we should have those checks and balances in place that will keep us honest. All of us need healthy boundaries, to keep us from crossing lines of behavior, that we would soon regret. Just ask those former pastors and ministry leaders who failed to keep an appropriate version of the “Billy Graham rule,” starting counseling relationships privately, with those of the opposing gender, who after a small indiscretion here and there, eventually lost their jobs, scandalized their ministries, and destroyed their families.

The drawings of those specific boundaries will change as cultural conditions change, and such “rules” may still look strange to outsiders. Jesus met with the woman at a public well, not a dimly lit, secluded room. Yet the concept of a public well, in first century Palestine, seems strange, when contrasted with the contemporary American workplace or ministry setting. We will need to tweak certain applications of the principle behind the “Billy Graham rule,” in a culturally contextual manner. But the principle of avoiding compromising situations is a good thing to keep. Let us not mock that.


The Final Update to the English Standard Version (ESV)

Plumb LineCrossway Publishers recently announced that they have arrived at a permanent revision of the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible. This last revision, conducted in the summer of 2016, involves just 52 words out of 29 Bible verses, as detailed on Crossway’s website.

I bought my first ESV translation of the Bible in 2008. Even though the first edition came out 2001, there had been rumors of a Study Bible being produced. I am glad that I waited. This is now my favorite Bible to use, as it contains a wealth of resources and maps to aid the student of Scripture (though I also really like the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, too). Unlike some other study Bibles produced by a single Bible teacher, the ESV Study Bible was produced by a team of evangelical scholars across a wide set of backgrounds, thus making sure the reader is not limited to one person’s view of the Bible.

The original vision of the ESV translation committee was to produce a modern, and yet permanent, alternative to the venerable King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, for English readers. The idea of having a fixed text that would stand the test of time was the primary reason why the church that I am a part of selected the ESV as our new pew Bible.

But not every initial printing of a new Bible is perfect, and so the ESV made allowances for some changes since 2001. The largest set of changes were announced in 2011, and while I could not find those changes listed anymore at Crossway.org, another blogger at Bible-Researcher.com has still hung onto them (PDF format), 500 words out of 275 verses. Before the ESV Study Bible appeared, another set of changes were made in 2007 (If you know of any other previous changes, let me know, as I would like to link to them here).

But it looks like the ESV translators are now finished with their work. Note that the “final” version of the King James Version of the Bible was not fixed until 1769, 158 years after the KJV was originally produced.

ChristianityToday has an article about the summer 2016 changes to the ESV here.   I blogged about how believers can navigate through their decision on what Bible translation they should use, the ESV vs. NIV 2011, in a earlier Veracity post. Blogger Jon Burnett details some of the recent 2016 changes. For you total Bible geeks, Old Testament professor Claude Mariottini has reviewed these changes (spoiler alert: Mariottini does not like some of the changes. One of his biggest gripes deals with an issue related to the complementarian/egalitarian debate, which is pretty current in evangelical circles and explored at Veracity here). And finally, blogger Scot McKnight addresses the most controversial change.

UPDATE: September 15, 2016. Dave Rudy, a faithful Veracity follower, sent me this link to a post by blogger/theologian Denny Burk interacting with Scot McKnight, defending the ESV’s permanent revision.

UPDATE: September 30, 2016. Crossway has reversed their decision. Details here.


Your Desire Shall Be For Your Husband

Katharine Bushnell (1855-1946). Missionary to China and activist for women's equality, spent a lot time studying the original Hebrew meaning of Genesis 3:16 (photo credit: Boston University)

Katharine Bushnell (1855-1946). Missionary to China and activist for women’s equality. Bushnell spent a lot time studying the original Hebrew meaning of Genesis 3:16 (photo credit: Boston University)

To the woman he [God] said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
    in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
    and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16 ESV)

The beauty and simplicity of the early chapters of Genesis ironically leads to a pitfall when reading these chapters. The story of Adam and Eve is very terse and yet captivating. The details are sparse, but the narrative is engaging, as well as being foundational to Christian theology and practice. The story invites the reader to explore the imagination, going deeper in trying to figure out what it all means. But sometimes, the imagination can take you far away from the text itself, and thereby importing an alien sense of meaning that does not belong there.

For years, I have wrestled with the meaning of the curse given to Eve in Genesis 3:16, subsequent to the Fall. In contemporary Western culture, where concerns about women’s rights flourish, many readers bristle over the idea that Eve might somehow be the one to blame for the Fall of Humanity. After all, she interacted with the serpent and then offered the forbidden fruit to Adam. Does Genesis teach that Eve was truly at fault?

More specifically, by asserting herself so forwardly in her dialogue with the serpent, was she subverting her role as a supportive helpmate to Adam? If one reads the Apostle Paul in one of his letters to Timothy,  you might get the idea that Paul really believes that it was all Eve’s fault (1 Timothy 2:13-15).

But even when reading Paul, such a neat conclusion is not so simple. In his most profound work of theology in his letter to the Romans, Paul squarely places the responsibility for the Fall on Adam’s shoulders (Romans 5:12-17). Eve is not even mentioned.

So, perhaps the wisest conclusion to make is that both Adam and Eve share in the downfall of humanity, though in different ways. You can not pin it all on Eve.

But then there is the whole matter of the curse placed on Eve, specifically, that “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” What is that all about?

This past summer, our church held a Summer Bible Study on Genesis 1-11, and this very question came up. Here is a TableTalk session where Tommy Vereb, our worship leader, poses the question to our lead pastor, Travis Simone:

Continue reading


Aimee Semple McPherson: Disappearing Woman Evangelist

As a follow-up piece to the previous post (please be sure to read it first), I thought I would link to some resources regarding Aimee Semple McPherson, for those who want to learn more.

Sister Aimee was perhaps the most popular American evangelist between World War One and World War Two. She was a mother, an ardent anti-evolutionist, a persistent advocate for a vision of a “Christian America,” a faith healer, and one of the leading supporters of the contemporary revival of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, bringing a marginalized (and still contentious ) Pentecostalism into the very mainstream of American culture. She was also an extreme controversialist in her time: a divorcee who nevertheless pursued full-time Christian ministry and brought sensational headlines during her “infamous” disappearance off the coast of Los Angeles in 1926. Did she run off to have an affair with a married man, or was she kidnapped?

To the point of the last post, she was a female preacher. Was Sister Aimee using her public speaking gifts and following her God-given calling? Or was she in rebellion against the Word of God, failing to heed the Apostle Paul’s admonition for women not “to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man” (1 Timothy 2:11-12 KJV)? Did biblical doctrine take a back seat to some degree to her experience, or was she following in the footsteps of the prophetess and judge, Deborah? I find Sister Aimee’s legacy to be a mixed bag, but I will let you draw your own conclusions.

Christian History magazine has a nice write-up on her. The PBS program American Experience did a film about her life. The following YouTube video includes the PBS program, followed by one of her recorded radio sermons.


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