March 23, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
Patrick Lee and Robert George, in their book Conjugal Union: What Marriage Is and Why It Matters (Cambridge University Press, 2014), offer a natural law argument in favor of traditional marriage. In their work, they note the unique “one flesh” biological union that occurs during sexual intercourse between a man and a woman. They write,
“In most actions – digesting, sensing, walking, and so on – individual male or female organisms are complete units. However, with respect to reproduction, the male and the female are incomplete. In reproductive activity – sexual intercourse – the male and the female participate in a single action, coitus, which is biologically oriented to procreation (though not every act of coitus actually reproduces), so that the subject of the action is the male and the female as a unit. Sexual intercourse is a unitary action in which the male and the female complete one another and become biologically one, a single organism with respect to this function (though, of course, not with respect to others). Just as an individual’s different organs – heart, lungs, arteries, and so forth – participate in a single biological function (circulation of oxygen needed to oxygenate blood) that contributes to the good of the system as a whole, and so are biologically united as parts of a whole individual, so too in coitus the male and the female participate in a single biological function performed by the couple as a unit. Coitus establishes a real biological union with respect to this function, although it is, of course, a limited biological union insomuch as for various other functions (e.g., respiration, digestion, locomotion) the male and the female remain fully distinct” (44-45).
In other words, sexual intercourse between a man and a woman actually (not just metaphorically) creates a “one flesh” relationship. The male and female bodies both have organs that are incomplete/not fully-functioning apart from their union with the opposite gendered sexual organ. Together, the male and female sexual organs become a single organism with respect to their full biological potential (i.e., procreation), thus establishing a real bodily union between the man and the woman.
The point that Lee and George will go on to make regarding same-sex marriage is that same sex activity cannot achieve this type of bodily union. As such, their point is not that same-sex marriage should not be permitted, but rather, more simply, that same-sex marriage is not possible (see p 50). If marriage is defined by emotional, spiritual, and bodily union, then only men and women can become “one flesh.” For it is only men and women who can achieve union of bodies through the complementary nature of their respective sexual organs. So for Lee and George, the question is not, “Should we allow same-sex couples to marry?”, as though such a thing were within our power. That would be like asking if we should allow men to give birth. The decision is out of our hands. Nature (God) has already decided what is biologically possible.
All of this runs in the same direction as Jesus’ comments in Matthew 19:1-9. Jesus is asked if it is lawful to divorce one’s wife. Jesus, of course, says no. In his response, he anchors the permanency of marriage in the creation of humanity as “male and female.”“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
Note that Jesus doesn’t start with “one flesh” language, but instead goes all the way back to the creation of humanity as male and female. According to Jesus, it is because humanity has been created as male and female that the husband and wife are able to become “one flesh.” And once the man and the woman have been joined together as “one flesh” (a biological union established by God’s creative design), they must not be separated. Thus marriage is constituted by the “one flesh” relationship of sexual union, and this “one flesh” relationship is itself only possible because God has made us as male and female. Following Jesus’ logic on the permanency of marriage, two men or two women can never be joined in marriage because two men or two women cannot physically become “one flesh.”0 Comments
March 20, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
In an open letter to the gay community, Heather Barwick, an adult child of a lesbian couple, offers some remarkable insight about the realities of growing up in a non-traditional family. The punchline of the piece is that gay marriage — at least with respect to children — sends the explicit message that mothers and fathers, as such, are not necessary. Children intuitively know this isn’t true, and the confusion this leaves is painful and long lasting. Heather writes,
Growing up, and even into my 20s, I supported and advocated for gay marriage. It’s only with some time and distance from my childhood that I’m able to reflect on my experiences and recognize the long-term consequences that same-sex parenting had on me. And it’s only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.
Same-sex marriage and parenting withholds either a mother or father from a child while telling him or her that it doesn’t matter (emphasis mine). That it’s all the same. But it’s not. A lot of us, a lot of your kids, are hurting. My father’s absence created a huge hole in me, and I ached every day for a dad. I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.
I encourage you to read the whole thing. It’s a very gracious and honest piece.
I have no idea if Heather is a person of faith. But her experience underscores the wisdom of the Christian tradition with respect to gender, marriage, and sexuality. Men and women are not interchangeable; both exist uniquely in the image of God, complementary aspects of the one divine image.
We are often told that gay marriage is a social justice issue. Heather would agree, I suspect. But her experience suggests that the social justice issue relates first and foremost to the children of gay marriages who must carry the pain of a parental structure that not only denies them a mother or a father, but denies them even the space to grieve this loss.
May God be gracious to such children — a Father to the fatherless, a Mother to the motherless.
March 16, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
Generally it makes sense to let one’s theology develop out of sound exegesis. But sometimes we can’t get to the right exegesis until we’ve got the right theological framework.
I’m thinking here of how the disciples struggled to properly exegete Jesus’ comments about the Son of Man “rising from the dead.” The disciples, Mark tells us, “kept this matter to themselves, questioning what this ‘rising from the dead’ might mean.” Well, to their surprise, it actually meant rising from the dead. But Peter, James, and John didn’t have a theological category for a dead messiah. Given their framework, whatever Jesus was saying certainly couldn’t mean literally rising from the dead. To believe that Jesus would literally die was tantamount to believing he wasn’t really the Christ. So they searched for an alternative meaning to Jesus’ statement.
I’ve found it works that way with many of us. Theological battles are often inadequately addressed if addressed only at the exegetical level. If adopting an Arminian position on eternal security necessarily means I have embrace works righteousness, then the Arminian position isn’t an option for me. And if adopting the Augustinian/Calvinist position on unconditional election means I have to think of God as a moral monster, then the Augustinian/Calvinist position isn’t an option for me. The same can be said about a whole host of theological debates. No one will embrace complementarianism if it means embracing misogyny.
I remember the time I was teaching an adult Sunday School class at my church. The topic was election, and the folks in the class knew I held to an Augustinian position. I began by simply reading, without commentary, a number of key passages from Romans 9 and Ephesians 1. I finished and asked the class what they thought. The first response came from a lady who said, “Well I don’t agree with you.” At that point, at least with her, it wasn’t going to matter how much Scripture I could marshal or how deft my exegesis. She didn’t have a category for how God could be a loving, good God, and still ordain unconditional election. At that point, asking her to embrace my position on election was tantamount to asking her to deny that God is love. She didn’t pretend to understand election, but she knew (rightly!) that God is love. And she wasn’t willing to budge on that. And I don’t blame her.
Because of this dynamic, if I’m trying to help move people from one position to another, I tend to teach theologically first, before I get to exegesis. Because until folks have a theological category that allows for the truth I’m trying to advocate, exegesis of the biblical texts will only get one so far. Good theology helps to create the necessary space for sound exegesis. And in turn, sound exegesis confirms that our theology is, in fact, good.
February 27, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
The application process for the CPT’s Third Fellowship is concluded, and I’m excited to introduce the successful applicants below. The CPT’s Third Fellowship pulls together a diverse group of evangelical pastor theologians from across the United States, Canada, and Austria (!) This new fellowship includes representation from the Presbyterian, Anglican, Baptist, Wesleyan, Free church, and Bible church traditions.
At present, all of our Fellowships are at maximum capacity. However, we continue to pool applications in anticipation of future openings. For more information about Fellowship requirements and benefits, see here. For more information about applying to a CPT Fellowship, please contact Gerald Hiestand at ghiestand [at] pastortheologians.com.
Third Fellowship Members
Dr. Paul House (CPT Senior Theological Mentor, Third Fellowship)
PhD in Old Testament, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Professor of Divinity and Old Testament, Beeson Divinity School
Dr. Robert Kinney
PhD in New Testament, University of Bristol
Director of Ministries, Charles Simeon Trust, Vienna, Austria
PhD Candidate in New Testament, University of Gloucestershire
Pastor, St. Mark United Methodist Church, Mobile, AL
Dr. Cory Wilson
PhD in Intercultural Studies, Reformed Theological Seminary
Pastor of Church Life, Gateway Heights Church, Cleveland Heights, OH
Dr. Chris Castaldo
PhD in Church History, London School of Theology
Pastor, New Covenant Church, Naperville, IL
PhD Candidate, University of Nottingham
Minister of Education and Discipleship, Peachtree Christian Church, Atlanta, GA
Dr. Josh Philpot
PhD in Old Testament, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of Worship and Administration, Founders Baptist Church, Spring, TX
Dr. Dillon Thornton
PhD in New Testament
University of Otago
Dr. Jonathan Huggins (Anglican, ACNA)
PhD in Theology, Stellenbosch University
College Chaplain at Berry College, Pastor at Mount Berry Church, Mount Berry, GA
PhD Candidate in New Testament
University of Saint Andrews, Scotland
Dr. Ed Gerber
PhD in New Testament, University of Whales, Trinity Saint David
Lead Pastor, Willoughby Christian Reformed Church, Langley, British Columbia
Dr. Todd Hardin
PhD Candidate, Biblical Counseling, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of Counseling, Grace Baptist Church, Knoxville, TN
MA Christian Education, Asbury Theological Seminary
Pastor of Youth and Community Life, Covenant Church, Bowling Green, OH
J. Ryan Davidson
PhD Candidate, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Senior Pastor, Grace Baptist Chapel, Yorktown, VA
Dr. JT English
PhD in Systematic Theology, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Pastor of Training, The Village Church, Dallas, TX
Benjamin Petroelje0 Comments
PhD Candidate in New Testament Literature, Language, and Theology
University of Edinburgh, Scotland
February 24, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
(Matthew 12:1-8, ESV) “At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, ‘Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.’ 3 He said to them, ‘Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.’ ”
Jesus is here confronted by the Pharisees for allowing his disciples to work on the Sabbath. Notice how Jesus does not respond. He does not respond by making a distinction between true Sabbath law and human traditions, arguing that his disciples are only breaking man-made rules. Indeed, Jesus argues in the exact opposite direction. He takes the Pharisees’ critique at face value (i.e., that his disciples are working on the Sabbath), and insists that there is a biblical justification for not keeping the Law.
Follow his logic: To defend his disciples’ actions he points out that both David and the priests likewise committed unlawful actions — David when he entered the house of God and ate the show bread, and the priests every Sabbath when they perform their cultic duties (i.e., they work on the Sabbath). But Jesus isn’t simply saying, “The priests break the Sabbath, so my disciples can too.” Otherwise, he wouldn’t have included the example of David, whose infraction didn’t take place on the Sabbath. The key to Jesus’ logic is that the infractions of both David and the priests took place in the temple/house of God. According to Jesus’ logic, the temple provides a “covering” over David and the priests, so that their unlawful actions are not counted against them. In other words, both David and the priests are able to do in the temple what otherwise would have incurred guilt outside the temple.
And now here’s the punchline: Jesus insists that one greater than the temple is here–namely himself! Jesus, in justifying his disciples, declares himself to be the typological fulfillment of the Old Covenant Temple (for a parallel typology, see 12:39-42). He insists that just as the Old Covenant Temple sheltered David and the priests when they performed unlawful actions, even more so Jesus shelters his disciples. If the priest can profane the Sabbath without guilt while under the covering of the Temple, how much more can Jesus’ disciples profane the Sabbath without guilt while under the covering of Jesus. And even crazier, this new freedom isn’t limited to a geographic location, but is experienced in relation to Jesus.
Jesus, as the New Temple, is Lord of the Sabbath, which is to say, above Torah. And this lordship over the Sabbath extends to all those who are “in him” just like it extended to the priests when they were “in temple.” Insofar as the disciples are with/under Jesus, they are free from the Mosaic Law.
So did Jesus allow his disciples to profane the Sabbath? Arguably, they weren’t really profaning the Sabbath, only the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Sabbath. But Jesus isn’t going to skirt the issue. Essentially he is saying, “So what if my disciples work on the Sabbath? I’m greater than the temple and Lord of the Sabbath. And so are all who are in me.”
February 23, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
The Simeon Trust is a valuable resource that helps preachers continue to sharpen their commitment and skills for exegetical preaching, post-seminary. Dr. Rev. Michael LeFebvre (CPT Second Fellowship) and a circle of other Indianapolis area pastors have recently started a new Simeon Trust Fellowship. The first Simeon Trust Workshop will be held this summer, June 3–5, 2015.
If you are in the Indianapolis area or know a pastor in central Indiana who would appreciate the encouragement, iron-sharpening-iron, and post-seminary refreshment of this opportunity, please check out the registration site for more details.
February 7, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
Registration for the 2015 CPT Conference is now open! The conference will be held in Chicago, November 2-4. The theme of this year’s conference is, The Pastor as Theologian: Identities and Possibilities.
The Center for Pastor Theologian’s annual theology conference exists to reconnect theological scholarship and pastoral ministry. Toward this end, the CPT Theology Conference seeks to facilitate conversation between pastors, academic theologians, lay leaders, and ecclesial theologians, with a view to constructing theological proposals for the betterment of the church and her theology. This year’s speaker line up includes the following plenary speakers and addresses:
Peter Leithart — The Pastor Theologian as Biblical Theologian
James K. A. Smith — The Pastor Theologian as Political Theologian
Kevin Vanhoozer — The Pastor Theologian as Public Theologian
Todd Wilson — The Pastor Theologian as Pastor
Gerald Hiestand — The Pastor Theologian as Ecclesial Theologian
Along with our plenary speakers, we’ll also have presentations from Kevin Hector, Mickey Klink, Douglas Estes, Phil Ryken, David Dockery, Kristen Johnson, Peter Cha, Scott Manetsch, Eric Redomond, Joel Lawrence, Michael LeFebvre, Jason Nichols, Chris Castaldo, and more. Worship will be led by Caleb Widmer and the Chicago Liturgists.
Our target audience is men and women who care about the church and theological scholarship, and who are interested in exploring the identity, calling and possibilities of the pastor theologian.
Early bird specials are available, as are student discounts. So hurry and register. We hope to see you there!0 Comments
January 30, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
Let me draw your attention, if I may, to a number of helpful resources.
Dr. Daniel Brendsel (CPT Second Fellowship) has published, along with Greg Beale and William Ross, An Interpretive Lexicon of New Testament Greek: Analysis of Prepositions, Adverbs, Particles, Relative Pronouns, and Conjunctions (Zondervan, 2014). The title pretty much says what you need to know about the book. Each entry includes a short gloss and lexical analysis, as well as a page number reference to BDAG. This is a short book, only 96 pages, and looks to be a helpful resource for those particularly interested in Greek grammar and syntax.
Dr. Chris Bruno (CPT Second Fellowship) has written, along with Matt Dirks, a nice little book on church partnerships: Churches Partnering Together: Biblical Strategies for Fellowship, Evangelism, and Compassion (Crossway, 2014). The grist for the book comes from their church planting and partnership efforts in Hawaii. The book looks to be a very practical, helpful book on how small churches might effectively partner together for gospel ministry.
James K. A. Smith is the CPT’s Theological Consultant for this year’s round of symposium. When he was with us in October he introduced us to Comment Magazine, of which he is one of the leading editors. Looks like a great resource for those interested in the conversations that take place at the intersections of theology, culture, and philosophy.
January 27, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
The good folks over at the Theopolis Institute have just published an essay of mine on Augustine and pagan virtue. Below is the introduction, followed by a link to the whole piece.
My children attend a classical Christian school, situated in the independent “free church” evangelical tradition. Over the past few years they have been growing in their acquaintance with the world of Homer, Plato, Virgil, and Livy. They enjoy it, and I envy it. The school is a great school. My oldest came home the other day with an assignment to read the youth edition of Herodotus’ Histories. As he read he was to look for two things: 1) the cultural practices of the peoples mentioned in the book, and 2) their sinful practices.
I found the assignment curious. Not the first part of the assignment, but the second. Herodotus’ Histories is a rich book—full of all sorts of fascinating tales about the ancients Greeks and Persians. Why focus on their sinfulness? Why not recount their moral virtues?
It is, I suspect, because we don’t think they had any moral virtues.
You can read the whole essay here. And while you are there, look around the site. Lots of interesting stuff (as one might expect from Peter Leithart)!0 Comments
January 26, 2015 by Gerald Hiestand
We are nearing the Feb 1 deadline for the CPT’s Third Fellowship. Those interested, please see here for the relevant information.0 Comments