Thursday, April 30, 2009

The pluses and minus of cohesion in church groups

Icy mountain posted an article on group dynamics that he wanted to discuss. It outlines the advantages and disadvantages of making groups cohesive.

Essentially increase cohesion and:
  1. Members enjoy the group more
  2. Output per individual is higher
  3. The group has an easier time achieving goals
On the other hand you also get much more group think including higher levels of self censorship and scapegoating of deviants.

Needless to say this is a good fit for the blog in terms of how discipline operates. This thread is mainly an open forum on what level of cohesion is desirable. So I'll throw it open how cohesive do you think churches should be and what about small church groups?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bultmann's order for John

As I mentioned in my 10 really good bibles you may not know about post, I've been recently reading Price's Pre-Nicene New Testament. This is a "new testament" that makes heavy use of both lower and higher criticism. One area that has bothered readers for thousands of years have been the discontinuities in John. For example Jesus leaving a place and then later in the gospel arriving there. Rudolf Bultmann in Das Evangelium des Johannes (1941) reconstructs the Signs Gospel (which is an theoretical older form of John that got redacted into a longer work). After having done this he is able to reconstruct what likely happened, the pages of the pre-redacted dropped, got scrambled and the redactor put them together incorrectly. Seeing continuity breaks he smoothed over the transitions and still today Canonical John is out of order. When I read the argument in Bultmann (English translation I don't speak German) it made a lot of sense to me, and wondered what John would read like in the correct order. In fact I wished that Bultmann's Gospel had been written more like a commentary with a correct John with Signs highlighted rather than an argument for these various changes. The Bultmann book when you read it, is taken up by the actual reconstruction and argument.

One thing that is very nice about Price's book is that John is in Bultmann's order. Having now tried it, wow does it make a difference! So since people aren't going to buy Price based on my recommendation I figured I would presents the corrected order to read John in, seriously give it a try. Because it is hard to follow visually for those trying to see how chapters break up, I've color coded each of the divided chapters.
1, 2:1-13a, 5, 7:15-24, 3:22-30, 4, 6, 7:1-14, 7:25-29, 7:40-43:, 7:30-32, 7:44-52, 7:37-39, 9, 8:12-20, 10:19-29, 10:1-18, 10:30-42, 11, 12:1-19, 7:53, 8:1-11, 2:13b-25, 8:31-59, 3:1-13, 3:31-36, 12:20-33, 7:33-36, 8:21-30, 12:34-36a, 3:14-21, 12:44-50, 12:36b-43, 13:1-35, 15:9-17, 14:15-24, 15:1-8, 15:18-27, 16:1-23a, 14:1-14, 16:23b-33, 14:25-30, 13:36-38, 17-21
As an aside Price writes a great introduction speculating on a Mandaeist origin with Cerinthus as a possible author. For Bultmann's Ecclesiastical redactor he thinks Huller's guess of Polycarp of Smyrna. Who knows, but if anyone wants to discuss those guesses I'm game.


Using the online bible browser you can read it in order here, except for the half verse issues

John 1, John 2:1-13a, John 5, John 7:15-24, John 3:22-30, John 4, John 6, John 7:1-14, John 7:25-29, John 7:40-43:, John 7:30-32, John 7:44-52, John 7:37-39, John 9, John 8:12-20, John 10:19-29, John 10:1-18, John 10:30-42, John 11, John 12:1-19, John 7:53, John 8:1-11, John 2:13-25 (13b-25), John 8:31-59, John 3:1-13, John 3:31-36, John 12:20-33, John 7:33-36, John 8:21-30, John 12:34-36 (36a), John 3:14-21, John 12:44-50, John 12:36-43 (36b-42), John 13:1-35, John 15:9-17, John 14:15-24, John 15:1-8, John 15:18-27, John 16:1-23a, John 14:1-14, John 16:23-33 (23b-33), John 14:25-30, John 13:36-38, John 17, John 18, John 19, John 20, John 21

See also:
2 of Bultmann's books are available online: Jesus and the Word, Kerygma and Myth

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wayne Grudem and heresy

So I was just wrapping up a great conversation on New Leaven. At the end of the conversation Suzanne McCarthy (of Suzanne's Bookshelf -- translation, Abecedaria -- foreign language keyboarding, silence is the ornament -- personal) and I were dialoguing. Suzanne frequently writes on egalitarianism vs. complementarianism. Complementarianism is just a smidge to the left of patriarchy, on a left right axis, there are complementarians that would not qualify as supporters of patriarchy and there are patriarchal doctrines that many complementarians would reject. So for example, complementarians will quote Dabney's materials without appealing to his authority while patriarchs openly embrace Dabney.

Anyway if we cut through the details the complementarian argument is basically women should be oppressed politically and especially in the church because the bible teaches that girls have cooties. So again cutting through the details Suzanne is is a top notch amateur linguist who spends a great deal of her time proving that the bible does not in fact teach that girls have cooties. Which is similiar to my defense series where I disproved the historical claim that the girls & cooties theology has been a constant through Christian history.

What was interesting about the thread was that Suzanne raised a point which shows a fairly clear cut heresy in complementarian writing, which means looking at the details. First, you may want to read the notion of the economic trinity, "ontological equality but economic subordination" directly from Grudem himself in his Systematic Theology (p251). Bruce Ware in his 2006, Equal in Essence, Distinct in Roles: Eternal Functional Authority and Submission Among the Essentially Equal Divine Persons of the Godhead argued:
The Father and Son are fully equal in their deity as each possesses the identically same divine nature, yet the eternal and inner-Trinitarian Father-Son relationship is marked, among other things by an authority and submission structure in which the Father is eternally in authority over the Son and the Son eternally in submission to the Father. There is, then, an eternal and immutable equality of essence between the Father and the Son, while there is also an eternal and immutable authority-submission structure that marks the relationship of the Father and the Son
Normally trinity stuff bores me, but what is important here is to show that subordination does not imply inequality. Unlike the patriarchs the complementarians don't want to actually assert that women are less then men, just that they ontologically equal while being functionally subordinate. Scripture isn't clear on this at all with regard to men and women but they assert it is clear on this with regard to the Godhead. Further they argue that marriage is meant to teach us mystically about the nature of God's relationship. A perfect example of this argument is from the opening statement of my debate with Frank Turk of TeamPyro.

So to summarize so far what we have is a triad:
  1. The son is subordinate in authority to the father
  2. The church is likewise subordinate to Christ
  3. Wives are likewise subordinate to their husbands
Attack point (1) and the whole argument falls apart. The counter attack is that point 1 is a clear cut violation of the creeds. Now this is tricky. The words "authority" and "power" have diverged in English language meaning. The word that is getting translated to authority (or right) is the greek word (ἐξουσίαν, exousia). In the Latin Vulgate this is getting translated to the word potestas.

So for example 1Cor 11:10:
ESV: That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
Greek: διὰ τοῦτο ὀφείλει ἡ γυνὴ ἐξουσίαν ἔχειν ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς διὰ τοὺς ἀγγέλους
Vulgate: deo debet mulier potestatem habere supra caput propter angelos

The problem of course is that for 1700 years Christians have asserted the equality with respect to potestas. Now in the creeds potestas gets translated as power:

latin: In Deitatis unitate personæ tres sunt unius ejusdemque essentiæ, potential ac æternitatis; Deus Pater, Deus Filius, ac Deus Spiritus Sanctus.” (Westminster Confession Latin)

English: “In the unity of the Godhead head there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. (Westminster Confession English)

or to pick another example (again from Suzanne):

non secundum imparem potestatem uel substantiam uel aliquid quod in eo patri non sit aequale missus est, sed secundum id quod filius a patre est, non pater a filio

For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of power or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father, but in virtue of the Son being from the Father, not the Father being from the Son.
  1. The creeds assert there is no difference in potestas between father and son
  2. If you believe the creeds are biblical then there is no difference in exousia between father and son
  3. Thus if you believe the creeds you must hold that the doctrine that the bible teaches that the son and father are equal only in dunamis but that the son is subordinate in exousia is false.
  4. Hence the argument the son is subordinate in authority (in English) is false.
  5. Hence the little triad arguing for the subordination of women is false.
Or to put it simply if you buy Grudam / Ware position you are advocating Arianism. This argument has actually been responded to be the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood though (IMHO) they fail to address the key point (link). As an aside Arian Christians have a long history of treating women well, I'm sure they don't like their beliefs being co-opted by the girls have cooties crowd.


See also:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Xenos, Akron

This is right now a placeholder thread to allow for discussion of Xenos of Stow (blog) near Akron. I don't see a church discipline issue here so it is somewhat off topic but this blog has a Xenos following of sorts.

I'll replace this text with a real introduction to the church once I have a chance.

The news item that caused this activity is a newspaper article Ties that Bind (reposted here), (reader comments at newspaper) in a newspaper called the Akron Business Journal which repeated allegations by a woman about cult like activity with no attempt at meaningful verification. They also seem to be conflating a religious dispute, a personal dispute and a disorderly conduct arrest, to this is not quality journalism.

The woman from the article, an Anne Marie Smith maintains a blog: Parents against Xenos. I've read through the posts on it. It is difficult to piece together the story but what I believe happened was that she is a Catholic and allowed her son to join a Xenos youth group with a friend. At age 17 the son (Tom) decided he wanted a believers baptism, the parents were strongly opposed as for them this is a major sin (CCC 1121, 698) and the relationship deteriorated badly. At 18 Tom moves out into Xenos youth housing and she starts a protest movement. Tom is embarrassed and upset and the family is now estranged. She uses some rather extreme language, "devil" "cult" "brainwashing"... but so far everything she describes seems like mainstream evangelical Christianity. The son maintains his own blog as well.

There also according to the article is some related issue Jon and Brenda Roszkowski filing a police report about harrasement that was Xenos related but so far I can't find details.


There are two threads about Xenos, Columbus (a sister megachurch), primarily dealing with discipline procedures. The discussion on breaking away has to do with social pressure issues.

Breaking away
Interview with Dennis

Keith McCallum wrote a response on his blog: cult thing part1, part2 and I'm dialoguing there regarding tone related issues.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Female ministers

I put this list together two years ago for a debate of denominations with female ministers. I'd love to open up a thread and have people add to it. So please post if I have missed one that you know of.

Just picking American churches:
  • Quakers since at least the early 1800s
  • The Congregationalist church since 1853
  • Salvation Army since 1865
  • United Methodist church since 1880
  • Church of the Nazarene since 1889
  • Church of God since 1909
  • Mennonite Church since 1911
  • Assemblies of God since 1914
  • United Reformed Church since 1917
  • Baptist churches since 1920
  • PCUSA since 1930
  • Anglicans since 1942
  • Hussite Church since 1947
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church since 1948
  • Old Catholic Church since 1949
  • Church of the Brethren since 1958
  • Metropolitan Community Church since 1968
  • Church of Scotland 1969
  • Evangelical Lutheran 1970
  • Reformed Church in America, elders 1972
  • Episcopal Church 1976
  • Lutheran Ministry 1976
  • Reformed Church in America, minister 1979
  • Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, 1984
  • Church of England, 1992
  • Scottish Episcopal Church as priests, 1994
  • Seventh-day Adventists 1995
  • Christian Reformed Church, 1995
  • Scottish Episcopal Church as bishops 2002
  • Worldwide Church of God, 2007

  • Tuesday, April 21, 2009


    The USB/NA27 is the "Greek" behind most of the major bibles on the market today. Maybe I'm being too hopeful but it looks like we may have the basis for the NA28. In addition to some of the remaining issues since the 1990s, we also have extensive work on gnosticism which is becoming more mainstream. The UBS produces the Novum Testamentum Graece, currently the Nestle-Aland version (NA) though likely to pick a different name next time.

    But a new manuscript of Paul's work (in coptic) showed up with the Gospel of Judas. Now all the followers of this blog know the Copts are the cool Christians in the Ancient world:

    "Item 3 is fragments of a papyrus codex from the 5th (possibly 4th) century AD containing at least some of the letters of St. Paul. The leaves are approximately 24 cm tall and 16 cm broad. The scribe outlined his writing area with pink chalk. His handwriting is cursive in style, as though somewhat quickly written. The pages are numbered above the center of a single column of writing, the highest page number observed being 115. There are some nearly complete leaves of the codex preserved, and many smaller fragments, which might be reassembled into at least a sizeable portion of the codex. There is also part of a leather binding (either the front or the back cover, including the spine, lined with scrap papyrus) which probably, though not certainly, belongs to this codex. The contents identified with certainty are Hebrews, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. The texts are in a non-standard form of the Sahidic dialect."

    I have admit this is a bit over my head. But... I would love to see work start on an NA28. About 60 years ago Brauer's proposed the idea that early Christianity was a diverse group of sects which gradually coalesced to orthodoxy, rather than Orthodoxy existed from the beginning and alternate sects split off from it. This proposal far better explains the evidence that existed then and the last 60 years has only seen more confirmation. A Novum Testamentum Graece created with that presupposition (or at the very least not the presupposition of orthodoxy) will be a major step forward. I'm hoping the coptic above throws us over the line to get cracking on a new version.

    Anyone want to comment?


    Addendum: I got a comment on another blog about this. Appears work on the NA28 is underway as part of the Editio Critica Maior. You can see a list of differences here.

    Saturday, April 18, 2009

    Literal vs. Dynamic

    Sean Harrison from Tyndale (NLT Study Bible) reposted three terrific examples of difference between being literal and capturing meaning, in a recent talk (notes online). That is why formal translations don't get you "closer to the original meaning" than dynamics do. I have a bunch of examples but these are so pithy there were worth repeating:

    The first was in Spanish (from Mark Strauss)
    Original: ¿Cómo se llama?
    Literal Translation: “How yourself call?”
    Formal Translation: “How do you call yourself?”
    Dynamic Translation: “What is your name?”

    Then one in French (from Mark Taylor)
    Original: mon petit chou
    Literal: “my little cabbage”
    Dynamic: “my dear”

    Finally one in English to English which shows the problem of literal vs. dynamic (Mark Strauss)
    Original: “By the way, I’m hitting the road at the crack of dawn.”
    Literal: “Along the path, I’m punching the street at the fissure of sunrise.”
    Dynamic: “I wanted to let you know, I’m departing very early in the morning.”

    REB / NRSV review

    I ran across a little gem on the web today. The October 1990 edition of Theology Today is online. This issue contained a symposium on the (then) recently released NRSV and REB bibles. Both are all purpose bibles (liturgical, bible study, regular reading) which I think is a bad idea because what is needed for one use is often the opposite of what is needed for another, the tension is unresolvable. The NRSV is an excellent formal translation and my recommendation for people who currently use the ESV who don't want Calvinism and sexism read into the text. It has my favorite all purpose study bible the NISB, If I were to have to recommend a single all purpose translation the REB would be it, and the NEB (its predecessor) is my strong recommendation as a second translation for readers. So I was excited lets dig in.

    The NSRV and The REB: A New Testament Critique By Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr.
    He starts off by commenting that the NRSV left behind the KJV cadences, which allowed for a translation that sounds much more modern. He is very complementery on how well the NRSV handled the gender inclusion issue, feeling they got the balance right. He is harsh in their handling of verb tense, feeling they stayed much to close to the KJV/RSV (which obliterates the subtles of tense in the Greek).
    On the REB he felt they took Dodd's paraphrases from the NEB that worked well and kept them while returning to more traditional translation when they didn't work out. He feels their handling of gender neutral is haphazard doing it in entirely inconsistent ways. He also lists about a dozen common words: wrath, sinners, flesh that the REB is completely inconsistent of its treatment of. He comments that the REB inhereted from the NEB the excellent handling of durative verbs. He closes with commenting (as do many others) on how well the REB captures the literary aspects of the Hebrew and Greek.

    Translating For The Reader By Robert G. Bratcher
    This is a negative review of both translations and very well written. He attacks both translations for failing to be either faithful to the text or clearly understandable, and both for being far too constrained by tradition. It is hard to summarize because he jumps from verse to verse presenting examples.
    He opens with a complex passage showing how the two translation handle a metaphor that assumes cultural knowledge. The KJV captures the original, "And it shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The LORD will not do good, neither will he do evil". A methaphor that is unclear to most readers. The CEV translates this by dropping the metaphor and just interpreting (the NLT uses a similar approach), "I'll search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those people who sit there unworried while thinking, 'The LORD won't do anything, good or bad'." The NIV/TNIV handles this in an interesting way by just translating it twice. So the TNIV has, "At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, 'The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad.'" With that background here is what Bratcher wrote,
    Zeph. 1:12 is a case in point. RSV had "I will punish the men who are thickening upon their lees." What in the world does that mean? NRSV has "I will punish the people who rest complacently on their dregs." This is a bit more intelligible but is liable to be understood quite literally of derelicts on Skid Row. Was the prophet denouncing drunkenness? That is what NEB would have made us believe: "I will … punish all who sit in stupor over the dregs of their wine." REB, however, by introducing a simile to clarify the Hebrew metaphor, says: "I shall punish … all who are ruined by complacency like wine left on its lees." This is certainly an improvement and gives the reader a hint as to what the prophet was talking about.
    The NRSV and The REB: A Feminist Critique By Carole R. Fontaine
    Her phrasing of the problem with gender neutral bibles is excellent, "Translation committees are charged with the faithful transmission of a text in which a male god relates primarily to his male followers." She spends the majority of the article looking at how they handle various verses related to male imagery of God and even Deut. 32:18 (where there is female imagery of God used). She advocates the REB for public reading and the NRSV for formal study.

    Musings of a Translator By Patrick D. Miller
    He contrasts the gender neutral work on this mainstream translation with his earlier work on the Inclusive Language Lectionary. A few interesting comments, for example he is worried that the trend towards translation flipping (in this case moving from the RSV to the NRSV) would result in more biblical illiteracy. He also talks about the change in the NRSV committee, the original members wanted to be very conservative in changing the RSV while near the end the newer members wanted to strike off aggressively.

    Translators and The Gender Gap By Herbert G. Grether
    This article is a statisical analysis of the gender inclusive issue.
    I'm reproducing the results here. These are a series of contrasts between versions from a generation early vs. "recent" (80s-90) versions:

    Occurrences of "anthropos" (men/humanity) in the New Testament 100 instances unquestionable gender inclusive, when they translated gender inclusive:
    • Jerusalem Bible (1966)-48%; New Jerusalem Bible (1985)-93%
    • New American Bible (1970)-40%; New American Bible (1986)-95%
    • New English Bible(1970)-31%; Revised English Bible (1989)-69%
    • Revised Standard Version (N.T., Second Edition, 1971)-14%; New Revised Standard Version (1990)-100%.
    Sampling 50 instances of such gender inclusive uses of huioi (sons/children) unquestionable gender inclusive in original:
    • JB-38%; NJB-72%
    • NAB-44%; NAB Revised N.T.-88%
    • NEB-52%; REB-64%
    • RSV-4%; NRSV- 100%
    Sampling of 50 instances of adelphos (brothers/christian community) referring to whole Christian community:
    • JB-O%; NJB-O%
    • NAB-O%; NAB Revised N.T.- 0%
    • NEB-26%; REB-66%
    • RSV-O%; NRSV-100%
    He applauds that with these hundreds of changes in new version "Women are more clearly seen in the New Testament as joint heirs of the grace of life under God, and as full partners in the human adventure."