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“A Chritianity which will bear witness to God’s Word in Jesus will be a speaking, thinking, arguing, debating Christianity, which will not be afraid to engage in intellectual and philosophical contest with the prevailing dogmas of its day.”

–Oliver O’Donovan

I say “divisive” quote, because this is the very thing I’ve tried to do in my old church (a Calvary Chapel). I was simply trying to draw people’s attention to a tragically-ignored and misunderstood passage of Scripture (I Corinthians 11:1-15), and see if people wanted to take an honest look at it. But our pastor at that church said that would be “divisive” (without even explaining the meaning of the passage to me). Rather than them even looking at the passage itself, they just looked at “that rag” (their words, not mine) on my head said I was “in Romans 14.” What our pastor meant by this is that I was the “weaker brother” of Romans 14–the brother who hypothetically thinks it’s a sin to eat meat, and therefore in love we should not eat meat in front of him, so as to not offend his oversensitive conscience.

Since that’s how they responded at my old church when I tried to bring up this Scripture, I’ve been VERY HESITANT to bring up neglected Scriptures in our new church. I feel so concerned that I’ll be misunderstood again. Right now everybody there loves me just as I am, which is a great improvement on the last church, and I’m afraid to ruin that. At our church (a URC), I’ve been told I’m “adding to the Scriptures.” That was when I was pointing out from the Scriptures why I am against contraception. I consider “adding to the Scriptures” a grave sin. How do you handle it when you’re just presenting the neglected Scripture verses as they are, and reason from them to their plain and logical conclusions . . . and then hear that you’re “adding to the Scriptures?” Plus, I’ve been wondering if those Bible verses that warn us not to be “contentious” might apply here. So this quote reallly seems to be encouraging me to not shy away from asking Bible questions about difficult passages. . . Yay. I think I’m gaining courage here.

Interestingly, this is printed on a bookmark I picked up for free in our church bookstore (our present church).

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I encourage anyone interested in the operations of Doug Phillips and Vision Forum to read “Jen’s Gems.” Here is the story she tells of what happened when she and her family attended Doug Phillips’ home church, Beorne Christian Assembly. I absolutely love the Vision Forum, their ministry, their media/bookstore, and the conferences they provide. I even would happily promote them, since our family has been enormously blessed by the Vision Forum. But the Vision Forum is a separate entity from the Beorne Christian Assembly, Phillips’ home church.

http://jensgems.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/the-search-for-the-perfect-church/

In researching theonomy, I found the story of Jennifer Epstein. I haven’t read every part of the entire site yet, but I’ve read all the parts to “her story.” I don’t want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater when it comes to theonomy, or when it comes to the things Vision Forum sets out to do, but I just want to say one thing:

After reading Jen’s story, I am SO glad that my husband and I are at a church where the pastor’s power is limited by a duplicity of elders, the large group of elders–and not the pastor–administer the Lord’s Supper to the congregants and decide from whom to “fence the table,” and the URC has a church synod to which any abused or excommunicated members can appeal. I’m beginning to see more and more why it is so important to have these things in place in a church. In the URC–our denomination–every pastor knows that if he does the sort of thing Doug Phillips did in his “home church,” Beorne Christian Assembly, that pastor would have to pay a very high price in his career, and possibly even come close to losing his ordination.

There is no such thing as a perfect church or a perfect pastor. Even the most orthodox and loving pastors, elders or deacons can get on a power trip if they know they don’t have to answer to anyone else. Especially if people start putting them and their family on a pedestal. No one is immune to the temptation. Would I call them a cult, like Jennifer Epstein is suggesting? No. I haven’t seen evidence of that. But they do have a strong following, so I just hope the homeschool Christians who like Vision Forum so much don’t start following any man, and don’t think ill of Jennifer Epstein just because the Phillips family might.

I’ve seen this before, with Calvary Chapel. A pastor sets himself up with a small number of secret elders who just do as he says in everything, and there’s really no accountability, just the appearance of an eldership. In the case of Calvary Chapel–it’s Pastor Chuck Smith, and then every other pastor practically following the same set-up of church leadership with their own CC church plants: basically the senior pastor gets to nix anyone, anything for any reason, without justification, if he wants to, without anyone being allowed to question it. This appears to have happened with Doug Phillips in his church, too. Any man can fall from a pedestal.

http://jensgems.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/the-search-for-the-perfect-church/

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I found this in my research on theonomy. Since I have found the articles in Chalcedon Foundation’s magazine “Faith for all of Life” so compelling, and since the leadership (notably my pastor) eschews it so clearly, I’ve decided I need to do more footwork on this. The link is below.

This article is enormously enlightening. It’s entitled “Meet the Theonomists,” and it’s written by someone FAR more familiar with theonomy and theonomists than I am. I think I’ll tread lightly in this arena. I need to keep to my husband’s leadership here, like my Titus 2 “older woman” friend always wisely admonishes me to do. The article in this link is long.

http://theonomists.blogspot.com/

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Am I the only one who sees the almost painful coincidence here? Deborah was trying to get a man to do a man’s job, and that man’s name was . . . the very same name as the man Evangelical Christians fear most! So ironic. I have got to ask the LORD if He did that on purpose–because it is so apropos.

For the past week or so, I’ve been thinking that all those Evangelical Christians who wouldn’t vote for McCain before, because of his record on abortion and other things, will now vote for him because of Palin. Well, it’s like they’re telling themselves they’re not compromising their principles, because they’re voting for Palin, not McCain. (That’s the very effect McCain was going for in choosing her for VP, I suspect).

She gave the authority to Barak!! Deborah could have easily just taken over for this obviously inept man–no doubt he wanted her to do the dirty work for him. But she just supported him.

If Deborah were voting this November, who would she vote for? In the Book of Judges, it seems she was pullling for Barak!

Many Evangelical Christians are citing Deborah as an example in Scripture of a woman in a leadership position. We are members at a URC church, and our pastor recently preached through Judges (over this summer). While he has not publicly made any comments regarding Sarah Palin or John McCain, he preached without equivocation that Deborah’s position of leadership was 1. a shame to the men in the land who had abdicated their God-given role to lead as covenant head(s) in family and civil society. 2. Deborah never actually took on the full authority or powers due to men. Illustrated in the fact that, when Barak asked her to lead the army, she basically chastised him for not being man enough to go out with the army of the Lord and do what God commanded him to do.

I most definitely do see Deborah as the perfect Biblical example for godly women today. Because the godly men of uncompromising Christian leadership and Biblical vision are nearly nowhere to be found. We’ve been looking. She was basically trying to get a man to listen to God when he was too timid and womanish to step up. But she did not take over, did she? She went along because Barak said she had to or else he wouldn’t go at all. But from the beginning to end, she always had in mind to get this namby-pamby of a man to take the manly authority God was calling him to. She said to him: “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman (Judges 4:9).” So she trusted in the LORD more than the man did, but she did not set out to lead the army herself. She was trying to step out of Barak’s way to get him to play the role. But he had so little trust or fear in God that he wouldn’t play the man unless she would, too.

The Botkin sisters, over at visionarydaughters.com, said it very well:

“So how are strong women supposed to respond when men are not being men?

“The example of the prophetess Deborah, though set in a time of more severe judgment than ours, gives interesting insights. She was living in a time when “the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord” (Judges 4:1), “Village life ceased” (Judges 5:7), and the leaders had not been leading (Judges 5:2). Despite the desperation of the time, Deborah clearly did not become a civil magistrate or “judge” in the modern sense of the word, nor did she run for any kind of office, nor did she sit in the gates (Judges 4:5). Even when pushed toward positions of leadership, Deborah never actually took the reins of authority, but rather extended them to Barak and stood supportively behind him (Judges 4:6, 4:14). Deborah succeeded in bringing a man into leadership, rather than take the leadership herself.”

Isn’t this ironic? The very woman in the Bible that Evangelical Christians are using to justify their female civil magistrates is actually the woman who was trying so hard to get a “girly man” to step up to the plate . . rather than seeing the power vacuum and using it as an opportunity for a personal power grab. She could have done that, and many of us “godly women” try to do that in frustration when our men don’t seem to be leading, but Deborah did not. I think she understood that, when women step up, men are all too willing to step aside. (Reminds me of Adam and Eve . . . oh, that’s another post entirely).

This is a huge lesson for me, since I’ve been racking my brain for two years now trying to learn how God wants an intelligent, godly woman (who recognizes male headship is Biblical) to handle things when she finds no men around leading in the fear of God. Now I know–just be like Deborah: extend the authority to the man, and stand supportively behind him!

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I have always found the Bible to be totally internally consistent, as well as totally consistent with what I observed happening in the outside world and in myself. No consistency problem there. But I observed inconsistency in my church. I observed inconsistency in what my church leaders taught. Even in the “most orthodox” Bible-believing churches I sought out to attend over the course of my 17 years of being a church-attending Christian.

I did not go looking for a “new school of thought” when I came to find theonomy. I was looking for someone who would teach me how to apply Titus 2:3-5, I Timothy 2:11-15, Ephesians 5, and other passages that clearly teach a mandate for womanly purpose and womanly behavior that is VERY different from what I grew up with all around me . . . different from what I saw in the church, too! I’d see one thing about women in the Bible, and a different thing about women in church teaching and practice. I’m serious. I’m not exaggerating. So in my desire to “build myself up in the most holy faith,” and not finding help with conforming my womanhood to biblical imperitives, I had to look outside my local church leaders and church body. Even my present local church. The Titus 2:3-5 “older women” are simply very few and far between. I suspect they’re “focused on their career,” or else they’re timid. But they’re VERY needed by new moms like myself who have suckled at the breast of Feminism. Very lonely endeavor. Sad but true.

The same was true with certain parts of the Law. Especially the 4th Commandment. I have wondered about proper application of the 4th Commandment for years. I thought coming to our Reformed church from Calvary Chapel would provide teaching that would answer that for me. What I mean is, I thought I’d find sound teaching on the 4th Commandment that was as consistent with “the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 5:17) as I found in my husband’s Puritan books. What I found at our church was closer, but still not consistent. I also thought I’d find someone else who covered her head in obedience to I Corinthians 11. No such luck. Didn’t even find anyone who felt it should be considered or discussed. But at least no one treated me like a misfit for covering my head like they did at Calvary Chapel. That’s why my husband and I felt comfortable staying where we are. Nevertheless, I’ve always been disappointed that my headcovering is such a taboo topic for discussion among the Christians at our church, when it is so obviously a peculiarity about me. I’m the only woman in church who covers her head. I stick out like a sore thumb, but I’m now way past that inner struggle where sticking out in that way makes me uncomfortable. I do it for the Lord, not to be seen by man.

I truly wish people would ask me about it. I love to share what God has taught me from I Corinthians 11. But since no one asks, I don’t go and bring it up. I wonder if I should. No doubt I’d be perceived as “pushy” and “divisive” if I did. Ironic. Bringing up certain Bible passages is considered “divisive” to certain Christians just as bringing up the exclusive claims of Christ (” . . . no one comes to the Father but by me”) is among most non-Christians. Do I see inconsistency here? You bet. Do I see hypocrisy here? You bet. Do I see a problem with the authority of God’s Word here among Bible-believing Christians? You bet. But I can’t blame them. I used to not cover my head. I used to work outside the home to the neglect of loving my husband and managing my home. I used to use contraception with my husband. I used to bristle with revulsion at “that submission bit.” But now I’m seeking to conform consistently to God’s Word in these areas. Why should it be considered “divisive” that I want to ask the church to confront these inconsistencies we have all excused?

I’ve begun to notice a few things. I’m finding the most consistency in theonomy. I’m finding a surprising opposition to it in my own Reformed Church, though! My husband and I started going to our URC church four years ago, moving there from a Calvary Chapel. Our church leadership uses the term “theonomy” as a pejorative. One time I asked our pastor to tell me what he could about Reconstructionism and R. J. Rushdoony. Our pastor chose not to answer by refuting its founder with biblical analysis, exegesis, or reasoning from the Scripture–he just calls him “Rushloony” and leaves it at that. Great. Caricature, then write him off. It was eerie. With that, he shut down all opportunity for discourse. I never expected that sort of thing from our pastor, because from the very beginning of us going there, he always made it clear that this was a church where all questions were welcome (as opposed to Calvary Chapel, where that is not the case). I didn’t want to ask him anything else then, for fear I’d be the next victim of his name-calling ridicule. So I just acted like that reply was satisfying, when it actually produced more questions in my mind. That makes me suspicious about our pastor’s confidence in analyzing the points theonomists are making.

It really makes me wonder. Meanwhile, I’m being much more “built up in the faith” (Jude 20) by the theonomy reading than I have been from any other source in a long, long time.

Don’t get me wrong. I love our church and I’ve been learning so much in the faith there. I’m still attending our church and learning a lot and enjoying fellowship there. I’m not bringing up points of contention with them, although I’ve been seriously wanting to. But I think that for me as a woman to do so would be in direct contradiction to the Biblical teaching on womanly silence. (I know I just shocked just about all of the 2 or so people reading this. But I am 100 % serious.) We’re not even allowed to ask questions in church–just of our husbands. I mean, our church has no problem with women asking questions in church–they’d scoff at the prospect of women not asking questions (another inconsistency). But if you read I Timothy 2:12 and I Cor. 14:34-35, that’s clear from Scripture. It doesn’t get more clear than that. So I have to wait for God to move my husband to bring these things up with church leadership. Even if I have to wait a long time.

Much more to come on this. Especially with regard to Biblical Womanhood, especially with regard to headship and submission.

Jenny

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