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Are there gender relations in the Trinity?


File:Irish Army Pipe Band.jpgOld myths die hard and it seems that newer myths may be just as persistent. In either case a process of myth deconstruction can be therapeutic. Let the therapy begin. First I’ll mention a couple of myths, a basic course correction and then at the end a quick look at one of the fave proof-texts used by trinitarian/genderists.

myth #1 All Complementarians believe that gender roles are grounded in the Trinity. 

course correction In reality, not all Complementarians wear the same kilt sett (pattern). Some Complementarians DO NOT believe in the Eternal Subordination of the Son. So, at the very least there are 2 categories of Comps, ESS Complementarians and then there are Vanilla Complementarians. In fact, there may be many kilt patterns.

We Vanilla Complementarians take heart in the careful and kind admonitions of Dr. Fred Sanders against seeing parallels between the Trinity and gender relations/roles. There are other Comp scholars speaking against trinitarian subordination and we cheer them on too, with or without kilts. We Vanilla Complementarians might also be found speaking in union with some egalitarians when they too speaking against gender relations in the Trinity. They aren’t an enemy clan to us. Now, the next myth.

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myth #2 I Corinthians 11:3 is the perfect proof-text for biblical evidence that gender relations are grounded in the Trinity.

course correction The only way that ESS Complementarians can concluded that I Cor 11:3 is conclusive proof of gender relations tied to the Trinity is through the use of exegetical slippage or possibly through eisegetical magic. Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware, among others, are current spokespersons for the ESS Complementarian view that gender relations on earth are a reflection of such in the Being of God. Does I Cor 11:3 really say this? A plain reading of the text does not.

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Let’s take a look at what the ESS Complementarians say I Cor 11:3 says and compare it with what the text actually says.

ESS Complementarians see a set of pairs in I Cor 11:3 which are parallel to each other. The first pair is the Father and the Son which they see in the phrase “the head of Christ is God.” The second pair is the man (or husband) and the woman (or the wife) in the phrase “the man is the head of the woman.” They see both of these pairs as authority structures – the Father being over the Son and the husband being over the wife.

ESS graphic

In I Cor 11:3 they see the husband as parallel to the Father and the wife as parallel to the Son. The husband, they say, has authority over the wife just like the Father has authority over the Son. In their view, the husband’s role parallels the Father’s role and the wife’s role parallels the Son’s role.

ESS graphic 2

Clear enough? After all the text authoritatively says, “But I want you to realize that…the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Cor 11:3 LEB).

There are couple of problems. The most obvious is that ESS Complementarians have the Son in the feminine role, the Son as “the weaker vessel” of the Trinity. The next problem is that ESS Complementarians have the husband in the parental role, the Father role, over the wife which Scripture does not really teach. I have not found that anywhere in Scripture, esp. in the New Covenant. Should the husband have a parental role of authority over the wife? Is the husband ‘in loco parentis’ above his dear bride? Is the Son the “feminine face” of God?

ESS graphic 3We Vanilla Complementarians don’t see pink threads in the trinitarian kilt.

Then, there is an even bigger problem. It is what a moment ago I called exegetical slippage. I won’t go so far as to call the error of the ESS Commplementarians eisgetical magic (slight of hand)…not yet any way. Do you see what the ESS Complementarians have left out of their interpretation of I Cor 11:3? They read that verse like this:

But I want you to realize that [ooooooooooooooooooo] the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (I Cor 11:3 LEB).

This all important clause slips out of their interpretation.

“…Christ is the head of every man…”

Putting that clause back in we see that I Cor 11:3 is not giving us 2 pairs that are parallel to each other, but a linear progression. We cannot leave Messiah being the head over every man out of this Apostolic pronouncement. If the meaning of Scripture we change, we will not change in accord with Scripture. Its applications matter.

ESS graphic 5Complementarians and Egalitarians of many kilt setts can legitimately debate what the arrows (“head”) mean – source or authority or whatever.

However, when we read I Cor 11:3 in its plain sense we can’t legitimately argue for 2 pairs where the Father = the husband and the Son = the wife. We read in other places of Scripture that BOTH the husband AND the wife should model their roles after Christ. Christ is the head and source of our our role, whatever it be, not a Subordinationists view of God.

Our motivation, whether women or men, is not to hold up our given end of an artificially constructed trinitarian/authority/submission paradigm. Where is the grace in that?

Instead we, men and women, live in Christ, our Messiah. He is our model, not the idea of guarding our half of an authority-submission structure. The thought of Him propels us forward to live for others, men and women.

BTW, I stumbled on something interesting from Mormon theology. They too ground gender relations, not in Creation, but farther back into eternity past. They say this in many places in their writings. One example is when Mormons write that “Gender [male and female] is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”* They don’t ground gender relations in the Trinity, of course, but in their view gender relations find their origin in God’s being. Either way this idea is odd whether it’s coming from Salt Lake City or not.

*“The Family: A Proclamation to the World,” Liahona, Oct. 1998, 24; Ensign, Nov. 1995, 102.

ESS graphic 4

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church cross project: base coat and surface glazing


Any endeavor goes better with the good aide and companionship of a faithful son. I am blessed to have my son’s help. Caleb put himself into brushing on the base coat. He is using one of my favorite brushes – a Corona sash with Tynex bristles. All through this coating process we are careful to use paints with a low sheen. This will minimize glare or hot spots from directional lighting or even ambient light.

church cross - base coat

After the base coat is dry I add a series of glazes to give the surface a sense of depth and variety in color. A piece of wood of almost any species will have a range of colors across its grain. With exterior exposure and much use a bare piece of wood such as a cross will accumulate mud, dust, bits of debris or dried blood.

Below is a section of the vertical piece where the back of the criminal would have rested. When I put on the “dried blood” glaze my son remarked,

“Wow Dad! That looks so real…and gory too.”

On reflection it seemed like a good idea to tone it down a bit. After it set up I applied a little layer of rottenstone, a compound used in the framing industry to give that “dust in the crevices” look. Much better, more subtle it looked after that.

church cross - blood stain

Another effect adding to the realism was to paint in the evidence of birds having paid a visit. Birds like to perch on elevated spots where they can rest and get an unobstructed view of the world about them. A cross on a hill would be an inviting stop over when flying from here to there. Any place where birds frequent is a surface and edge that will be discolored by what these birds leave behind.

church cross - bird evidence

next: cross project – 6, special features

 


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church cross project: weathering effects


File:Barn Barberêche Mar 2011.jpg

After carving knots and grain into the boards the next step is to achieve a weathered look. This step is very important to getting that rough and rustic appearance we are going for. It’s a key step because even if you have a top-notch finish on it without the real texture on the surface most people would have a feeling that something is missing. 

Before any paint is applied I use a variety of shop techniques to “beat up” the surface. In this process I am trying to give it…

– the appearance as if the lengths of wood have been knocked around many times from being transported back and forth from places of execution or from being put together and taken apart again and again.

– the appearance of having been exposed to all kinds of weather from being left in place. Often those executed would been left to hang there for many days or even weeks.

– the appearance of some edges or sections of the wood having fallen off due to repeated stress or rotting in an over-exposure area.

church cross - weathered effect

Here you see the cross boxing still in the “raw” state. The weathering effects are now mostly complete.

next: cross project – 5, base coat and glazing

To see this project from the beginning go to this page – the cross


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church cross project: real, unreal wood – authenticity?


File:A sawmill in the interior from The Powerhouse Museum Collection.jpg

From synthetic to authentic – is that possible? Authenticity is a fave idea right now (as though authenticity is something recently discovered).

“Keep it real,” we say. Of course, it is good to be real. Nobody would ever go about town blurting out,

“I want to be fake and I want to have a fake job and I want fake friends and I want fake money and…”

*

Perhaps there’s a better way to view ourselves and the world around us than to potentially idolize what we think is authentic.

If there is one, what would this “other way” be?

Redemption. In the life and in the Gospel of Jesus we certainly see authenticity, but more importantly we see redemption. We see restoration. In him I see a man doing the work of renewal, a man taking unlikely things and unwanted people to remake them, to restore them with fullness of life and holy purpose.

I hope the little narrative how this “cross” becomes a cross is among other things an micro-tale of redemption. Since the journey of this cross project begins with something that is synthetic, rather bland and generic, this journey could hardly be one of authenticity – no matter how real it may look in the end. It’s not even worth the attempt to portray it as a story of skill overcoming blandness to then be crowned by the ultimate triumph of authenticity. Yada, yada, yada… 

In life, sometimes authenticity is just too much work. How often do we put on “authentic” in an effort to show those around us that we are indeed authentic? Think about it – wouldn’t doing that be a sort of slight of hand (iow, not authentic)?

I want to think of this cross’s journey as one of transformation and less an attempt at authenticity. Transformation – this is what redemption does. It is the taking of an unlikely thing to redeem it from its blandness, even obscurity, into a greater purpose, into a beautiful existence.

Isn’t this story pattern much like the journey of Jesus? Certainly, Jesus, the master builder, restores us to a higher degree than we can do so for ourselves. His work is one of ultimate redemption…but still isn’t it fun to see if we can spread it out, helps others see it too, push it into the corners?

In stage 2 of this cross project I plod through the imprecise processes of carving random grain and carving random knots in the “wood.”

carving knots and knot grain into the HDU boards

carving knots and knot grain into the HDU boards

In addition to working the grain effect into the HDU board I need to use several techniques to achieve a weathered look. In various crafts or trades this weathering step called distressing

The cross needs to look like it’s been exposed to the sun and wind for a long time. It needs to look like it’s stood atop a hill in the rain, season after season, day and night in dust storms while it wobbles left and right. Later, in close up pics you may be able to see what looks like rotted wood, knocked off corners or deepened grain cracks. In the next post you will see the raw results of this process.

carving grain and giving it the look of having been tooled by crude instruments

carving grain and giving it the look of having been tooled by crude instruments

cross project – 4, weathering effects


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church cross project: materials – why urethane?


File:Ash Tree - geograph.org.uk - 590710.jpgAs I mentioned in the last post, the new cross is going to be made of a synthetic material. This synthetic material is malleable. Thus, it can be easily sanded, carved, glued and shaped to resemble a variety of other substances. In this case, we are going for a rustic and rough wood look.

You may ask, “Why not just use wood? Ya’ know the stuff that grows in trees and can be found all over the place?”

Here are some great reasons to use the urethane board for the new church cross:

– it is lightweight, thus it will be easier to install and unlike a couple of massive solid wood beams the lesser weight minimizes safety concerns

– it can be made to look like wood and from even a short distance it is difficult to tell that it’s not wood

– it has a lower maintenance factor than wood, especially if it were to be installed in an exterior setting. Even, in an interior setting it’s good to know that the urethane board is not a friendly environment to termites, carpenter ants, and other bugs. It also will not absorb moisture nor be altered by swings of humidity.

– old, rustic and weather-worn lumber that is stable can be difficult to find. Often when real wood is desired for a project like this the production team will have to use newer lumber anyway and then go through the steps to make it look older.

-…which brings us back to why we are using the rigid urethane for this cross project. We can make it look just like wood. If I hadn’t told you this process before seeing the completed cross project I becha a “Caramel Macchiato extra espresso” that you would have assumed it was wood, really old wood. However, I’ll let you be the final judge when we come to end of this series of posts.

Here is an example of a sign I made several years ago from HDU board. It is still in good condition today.

Morganwood 018

If I hadn’t told you would you still think the sign panel is wood?

Here is a view of the whole sign.

Morganwood 001in the next post: stage 2 – authenticity?

 


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church cross project: design – wood, metal or something else?


File:Millennium Cross in Skopje (1).jpgIf not the most important symbol in Christianity certainly the cross has to rank in the top 5. Whether to have a cross or not in the church is for some groups a topic of debate. If so, then what kind of cross is best?

The church where my family and I go has not had a cross outside or inside its buildings for nearly 3 decades. This was not necessarily out of some ingrained belief. For whatever reason we never got around to it.

Finally, it was decided to have a cross (an empty cross, not a crucifix) installed in the main worship room. The room is large, with walls painted in a creamy white and a few architectural details. As churches go it is a rather simple looking room. But there is a beautiful wide stone wall section, from floor to ceiling, centered behind the pulpit. The stone is natural so it’s pleasing to the eye. This would be an ideal place for a new cross.

So, now we have the spot for this new cross. What should the cross look like? What material will be best to use? Should it be wood with a furniture quality finish? Should it be of metal, like satin brass or satin aluminum? Should it be made of wood, but with a rustic and rough look?

My personal preference leaned toward wood with a quality furniture finish. At the end of this discuss the leadership decided on wood, but rustic and rough. At the time I wasn’t sure about going that way, but now that we have gotten this far into the project I see that it is indeed the best choice.

The next question was how it would be installed and how heavy will it be? Long story, short we decided to make the cross not out of wood, but out of a lightweight material called HDU. HDU is high density urethane. It’s a great material to work with in the shop, but one big problemo. It has no wood grain to it. Off the delivery truck HDU board looks like sanded plastic.

Image

Here is a look at stage 1 of this cross project. I cut the sheet into proper widths and lengths for gluing and screwing into a “u,” an open box shape. In future posts I will lay out before you the story how this synthetic, hollow construction turns into a convincing replica of a rustic wood cross. 

next: church cross project – why urethane?


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Gospel Leftovers – finding God in the crumbs


File:BiodegradablePlasticUtensils.jpg

“The taste of a good meal lingers…  even in the leftovers.”

{some thots after spending time with Jesus at the corner of St. Mark and 8:16-21}

Joe did a great job. He led our Bible study last time we met. Joe is good for this.

He casually goes to the front of the room. Our Bibles are open. We’ve got coffee. Somehow he puts us at ease without words.

“Let’s talk about this,” Joe says.   {talk about Jesus he means.}

– – – Today Jesus enters our room at chapter 8 of Mark’s Gospel.

While Joe was talking, painting the scene, my brain (and heart) was being beckoned into these Jesus moments in front of us. I want to know Him. “What will we see today, Jesus?”

I love studying the Gospel of Mark. It has been my passion for the last several months as our study group moves paragraph by paragraph through the Story. Why is this so good? Because we are getting to know Jesus better. We are being drawn in to see a breathing, sighing, sweating Jesus… not a Barbie doll Jesus, but a munching, drinking, spiting, walking dusty roads Jesus.

Joe leads us from Jesus feeding 4,000 plus hungry people to Jesus getting exasperated with – guess who? – the Pharisees and to Jesus warning His disciples about the lure of pompous religiosity. Yeast Jesus calls it (or ‘leaven’ as it reads in the runes of kayjayveeish) cause it first comes in quietly and subtly and before you know it the yeast takes over the whole loaf (synagogue, church, small group, whatever). Not good.

Then, bamm!

Jesus the Riddler, a playful Jesus, interrupts this serious sequence of events.

“Did you get it? Did you see what I did?” Jesus asks, as though waiting for his friends to get the punch line. Blank stares. Silence. They’re on a different wave length. Too bad.

Here’s the set up from Mark’s pov (in chapter 8 verses 16-21, the Message).

* * *

Meanwhile, the disciples were finding fault with each other because they had forgotten to bring bread.

Jesus overheard and said, “Why are you fussing because you forgot bread?

Don’t you see the point of all this? Don’t you get it at all? Remember the five loaves I broke for the five thousand?  How many baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”

They said, “Twelve.”

“And the seven loaves for the four thousand—how many bags full of leftovers did you get?”

“Seven.”

He said, “Do you still not get it?”

* * *

What do you do with your leftovers? Do you just toss ‘em or do you get professional help? Who is your leftovers guru? Emeril? Julia? The Barefoot Contessa? Rachael Ray has a recipe for using leftover brewed coffee in your chili. “It brings out the flavor of the beans,” she says. Really?

What does Jesus do with leftovers?

Does it matter? I think it does. It occurs to me that I have flattened the meal (food for crowds of thousands) and the leftovers (remainders for the disciples) into telling much the same thing – like this, Jesus provides a meal for hungry people (that’s Jesus being kind to strangers) and Jesus makes enough food for leftovers (that’s Jesus being kind to His friends).

Or maybe these miracles are another proof that Jesus is God because He can plant, grow, harvest, mix the dough, raise it, bake it and deliver the bread with a flick of the wrist…on the spot?

“So, Christian, learn from this. Trust Jesus and be kind. Follow Messiah and help the poor.”

True that, but again, what is Jesus saying with His leftovers? He is not only helping people in great need. Jesus is also having a little fun. Yes, that Jesus…the one juggling all those loaves of bread…over there with the smirk on his face…lining up the baskets. Everybody has had enough to eat now so where should we put the leftovers? Here are some empty baskets. How many?

…12 baskets over there {and later} …7 right here.

“Are you serious? Twelve and seven? Not eleven or thirteen, but twelve – not six or eight, but seven? Twelve and seven. That’s amazing! That’s hilarious! Just like a kid. He’s playing with His food…again.”

playfulness of Jesus

John Eldredge riffs on this theme – the playfulness of Jesus – in his book Beautiful Outlaw (good read btw). John makes me long to know this side of Jesus when he writes, “So, if you do not know Jesus as a person, know his remarkable personality – playful, cunning, fierce, impatient with all that is religious, kind, creative, irreverent, funny – you have been cheated…you have been robbed” (p. 12, emphasis original).

You may be still be wondering what is so playful about 12 baskets and 7 baskets. Think of this way. Suppose you are going to have a hundred people over for the 4th of July at your place (or a nearby park if your place is too small). Now it’s the night before. The place is ready. You’ve invited the guests. You’ve planned the food. You’ve got everything else ready to go and – get this – then you say to your spouse, “I know exactly how much we are going to have in leftovers tomorrow after the event.”

“Uh?”

“Yeah, we are going to have precisely – after everyone has gone home – precisely 13 one quart containers.”

“Thirteen?”

“You don’t get it? Thirteen as in 13 original American colonies?”

{thy spouse giveth thee a blank stare}

Jesus is not just making a whole a lot of food in which there just happens to be – by serendipity – 12 baskets and later 7 baskets. This was no random act. Jesus made exactly enough food to feed 5,000 people, 4,000 people and exactly enough so there would be 12 baskets and 7 baskets leftover, no more, no less, precisely 12 and precisely 7.

Why did He do this? He was trying to send a message to His disciples. In a playful way. Jesus was using two numbers with obvious symbolic importance to any Jewish guy – twelve and seven – to say something about their future and His future and their future together.

“Ah, now I get it. 12 tribes and 7 days of Creation. But is that all?”

No, there’s more. If we think of a symbol or a metaphor as a pointer, like road signs that point which way to go, then let’s ask how these two numbers, 12 and 7, point to something important about Jesus…and us.

12 – a sign of God’s presence in a people He calls His own (first seen in the 12 tribes of Israel)

7 – a sign of God’s perfect goodness on mankind (first seen in the 7 days of Creation)

In symbols Jesus is telling His disciples I am going to revive Israel (the 12 tribes) in you, the 12 disciples. In the number 7 Jesus is telling His disciples that “you all, my disciples and I, are going to bring in My divine goodness and spread it across the world…like I tried to do at the very beginning.”

{btw – this is not gematria. that’s different.}

Yes, 12 and 7 have Jewish significance, of course. I am reminded of the Passover riddleechad mi yodea, that uses numbers to teach important truths about the ways of God.

It’s a playful riddle Jesus was folding inside these miracles. Yes, Jesus is interested in helping us with our short term problems and needs. But, this riddle tells us that Jesus is doing something much bigger. He is building a people for Himself and He wants His redeeming goodness to keep spreading across the world.

The bread Jesus made has been eaten and is gone, but…

His redeeming goodnesses – Gospel leftovers – are still piling up.