Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A thought that ran through my mind about Abortion, Slavery, Pornography, Evolution, ...

The other day I was thinking about the value of human life, and I had this thought about abortion, slavery, pornography, and evolution: all of them distort our view of how special God's creation is and of how precious life is. Think about it ... slavery reduces humans to a piece of property, abortion reduces humans to an unwanted ball of chemicals, pornography reduces humans to an object to satisfy lust, and evolution reduces humans to a big chemical mistake. None of these consider how special humans are or how precious life is. People just become objects and not the beloved creatures for whom Christ came to die. It would be easy for me to blame the first three on evolution, but the reality is that the first three existed way before Darwin. Ultimately, we have to blame it all on unbelief: not believing what God has taught us about His creation and not believing that God loves us (humans). If only we believed Him and His Word ...

What are your thoughts on the topic?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ordination - Conclusion

In this series, an attempt was made to ascertain if the New Testament supported the concept of ordination. After looking at terminology and practice in the Old Testament, rabbinic Judaism, and the New Testament, two constants were identified in the Biblical data: there is a clear pattern of commissioning, but there is little agreement on the concept of ordination. The pattern of commissioning was summarized as the appointing of someone, who is gifted, to a specific task. It should happen through the laying on of hands, motivated by the call of God, and imbibed in prayer. S/he is to be from within a congregation and will be a representative of the congregation doing the commissioning. This does not imply an impartation of authority on the individual being commissioned. The understanding of ordination was then determined to be affected by one’s definition of ordination. Finally a sketch of what a theology of ordination and commissioning could look like was offered, and a few of its practical advantages were offered. Ultimately, no matter what we decide Scripture teaches on ordination, it behooves us all to be able to articulate our beliefs about it and to teach others so that all may be edified. Thanks for coming along with me on this journey. I pray we were both drawn closer to Christ and His Word through it.

Here is the summary of the posts in this series:

Quick Lexical Investigation
Evidence in the Pre New Testament Context - Old Testament Part I, Part II, and Part III
Evidence in the Pre New Testament Context - Rabbinic Judaism
Evidence from the New Testament - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6
Analysis and Discussion of the Biblical Data - Intro, Commissioning Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, and Ordination
So What of Ordination?
Proposal - Part 1 and Part 2

Excursus 1 - The NT Concept of Ministry
Excursus 2 - Hierarchy in the Body of Christ

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Ordination - a Proposal - Part 2 of 2

So, if ordination is for all beleivers at baptism, what of special callings? Commissioning would then be the norm for those. The Scriptural record presents us with examples of believers who were ministering when the Spirit of God presented them with a special calling. To this, the response of the church was to commission said individuals. So, since it would seem that commissioning is the way they are recognized in Scripture, we should follow the same pattern.[1] Room does not suffice here to tackle the distinction between function and gifting, but one must understand that while some functions in the body of Christ require a certain gifting, being gifted does not require the individual to be in a certain function, only the call of God does that. It should also be noted that in the last excursus, while studying 1 Corinthians 12, a Scriptural tension was identified: all gifts are important and necessary, yet some seem to be more important. It is my belief that this view of ordination and commissioning best resolves that tension, because it honors all gifts, yet when necessary, commissioning allows some gifts to be specially recognized.

The argument could be made that this is just a changing of terminology and that it does not substantially change anything, but that misses two crucial points. First, baptism as ordination would not only continuously teach that all believers are supposed to minister, it also would create a basis of accountability and a marker in time to which brothers and sisters in Christ could point when exhorting a believer who has abdicated his responsibility to minister (à la Anabaptist).[2] Second, commissioning is a very focused approach to appointing people. If done well, it requires the involvement of God and of the community. Since commissioning is task centered, unlike ordination, it has limited scope and no transferability. Since it also does not implicitly impart authority, besides the representation of the commissioning body or the authority associated with a specific task or role, commissioning deals with some of the tensions with the issue of women’s ordination. Commissioning of elders would be limited to men, but commissioning of other sorts could be open to women. This would free NAMB to commission a called, qualified woman as a chaplain, for example, with no reservations, for, once her task is done, her commission expires, therefore not risking a blurring or categories.[3]

Now, lest I be accused of naïveté, I do realize that such a Copernican change would not come without its issues, but a theology of ordination / commissioning developed along these lines seems to be more faithful to the New Testament and to have the potential of alleviating some current problems. What do you think? Could this be implemented? How would churches react to such a change?

[1] White, in White, “So You Have Been Called to the Ministry,” 5, notes that “even Spurgeon, the most famous preacher never to be ordained agreed that confirmation of the church was a needed element for the call to ministry.” Commissioning would be such a confirmation.

[2] During church discipline, Anabaptists were known to remind the person being disciplined of their baptismal vows.

[3] In Ann Miller, “The Ordination of Women Among Texas Baptists,” Perspective in Religious Studies 29.3 (Fall 2002): 269-70, Miller expresses frustration with NAMB’s policy of endorsing, but not ordaining. While commissioning would not solve the heart of the issue, a theology of ordination and commissioning developed along these lines seems to have the potential of alleviating the current issues that surround ordination, or if nothing else, it would force people to deal with the real issue, instead of getting stuck on the side issue of ordination.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ordination - a Proposal - Part 1 of 2

Based on the conclusion that since all believers are ministers, all believers should be ordained, one might ask: when? When they are admitted to the ministry of the church: that is when they are saved. And when could this be proclaimed publically? When they publically proclaim their faith in Christ: that is at baptism. The concept of baptism as ordination is not novel. Yarnell suggests that in the Roman church, there was a clear tie between baptism and entrance into the Royal priesthood.[1] Eastwood also presents and documents this view more thoroughly. In addition, Eastwood also presents evidence of this concept in the Orthodox church.[2] Brown implies that baptism as ordination was part of the Anabaptist teachings on baptism and the practice of the early Brethren.[3] As Yarnell’s warns, “there is no biblical evidence for the medieval assumption that baptism is ordination into the royal priesthood.”[4] Yet, while no Scripture passage directly ties baptism with ordination, some philosophical ties can be drawn. First, if baptism is seen as the entrance into the church,[5] it is therefore the entrance into a community of ministers. It follows logically that to enter this community, one needs to be admitted to the ministry of the church. Second, one could look at Jesus' baptism as an example. Granted that, according to Scripture, Jesus’ baptism had a different theological importance than just the initiation of his ministry, yet, his baptism is often described as his “inauguration to public ministry.”[6] Could the parallel be made that our baptism, while it has a different theological importance, could also be described as our “inauguration to public ministry”?[7]

This view of baptism as ordination would have the benefit of emphasizing the call into ministry of all believers. It would re-emphasize that all gifts are necessary in the body of Christ (as seen in the previous excursus post), and that all are required by their Lord to use their gifts. What of special callings? We'll talk about those in the next post.

[1] Malcolm B. Yarnell III, “The Priesthood of Believers: Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Royal Priesthood,” in Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, eds. Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing, and Malcolm B. Yarnell III (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2008), 240.

[2] Cyril Eastwood, The Royal Priesthood of the Faithful (London: Epworth Press, 1963), 47, 94-95, 159, 148-150, 239-240.

[3] Dale W. Brown, “A Baptismal Theology with Implications for Evangelism, Conversion, and Church Growth,” Brethren Life and Thought 28, no.3 (Sum 1983): 154, 159-160. Kreider in Alan Kreider, “Abolishing the Laity – An Anabaptist Perspective,” in Paul Beasley-Murray, ed. Anyone for Ordination? (Tunbridge, Wells: MARC, 1993), 84-111, advocates this position also, but admits that the goals that he suggests, “although in keeping with much Mennonite thinking, by no means represent a cross-section of Mennonite practice in any country” (97).

[4] Yarnell, “The Priesthood of Believers,” 240.

[5] This is an accepted doctrine in Baptist circles for which there is also a lack of biblical evidence.

[6] See for example Daniel Akin, "The Meaning of Baptism," in Restoring Integrity in Baptist Churches, eds. Thomas White, Jason G. Duesing, and Malcolm B. Yarnell III (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2008), 63.

[7] See Brown, “A Baptismal Theology,” 154, for a similar, more extensive argument.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hierarchy in the Body of Christ - another small excursus

The concept of hierarchy in the church is one that unfortunately has been warped by a lack of understanding of the concept of ministry and the concept of ordination. Thus it might be beneficial to look briefly at 1 Corinthians 12, for it deals with hierarchy and contains a connection between ministering and gifting. In the Trinitarian formulation of vv. 4-6, Paul presents a clear and distinct picture of variety in gifting (charisma), ministries (diakonia), and activities, and of unity through the God who bestows them. Thiselton describes it as follows:

charisma implies a monopoly of the Spirit, since the same Spirit apportions out gifts in variety and degree in accordance with divine purposes, even so no one type of ways of serving signifies some special claim to extol Christ’s Lordship, since the same Lord commissioned varieties of ways of serving.[1]

Paul then proceeds to present a vivid image of unity in diversity and of the necessity of all the members in the body of Christ (vv. 12-26). Specifically, in v. 22 he states that “those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.” Thiselton argues that ‘weaker’ is not the best translation here and proposes “less endowed with power or status,”[2] but, regardless of how this idea of weakness is fleshed out, the central message is that those members are necessary. Paul flips the Corinthians’ assumed hierarchy on its head and continues to do so in the next several verses by focusing on honor given to less honorable members. While discussing these verses, Patterson comments, “God has so prepared our bodies that those portions of it which might otherwise have been despised are subjects upon which the most abundant honor is actually given.”[3] Paul’s reference here could be to less aesthetically pleasing organs which need to be covered by clothing, but “in addition to this thought there must be certain recognition of the intrinsic value of the internal organs which we carefully protect because life depends upon their proper functioning.”[4] So here Paul claims “that the normally conceived body hierarchy is actually only an apparent, surface hierarchy.”[5] This concept is central to the heartbeat of this passage, which is a message of unity: we need others and others need us.

Yet, in the midst of this chapter on unity, necessity, and apparent lack of hierarchy, Paul, in v. 28, makes the following statement: “God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that . . .” (emphasis mine). This enumeration cannot be dismissed as just a simple list, and it is unlikely to be chronological, but does it imply ranking? Most commentators see this as a ranking of importance,[6] and while some suggest that this is mainly Paul continuing to turn things upside down for the Corinthians,[7] the presence of a hierarchy of importance cannot be totally ignored.[8] Here, as is often found in Scripture, there is a tension: all gifts are important and necessary, yet some seem to be more important. Contrary to the similar Animal Farm saying,[9] this tension is eased with the understanding that “one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually [gift(s)] as He wills” (v. 11). Believers, therefore, should understand that there are no second class citizens caused by a variety of spiritual gifts, for it is God who has determined each one’s gifting. Furthermore, as followers of Christ, humility and the love of others, keeps said hierarchy from becoming a matter of pride or contention. Finally, one should not confuse these three gifts with roles or positions in the church. After all, all believers are commanded to make disciples, and therefore all believers are asked to be teachers. We should therefore, as Paul says in v. 31, truly desire the best gifts, including the gift of teaching, and supremely the gift of love.

[1] Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistles to the Corinthians, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 931-2.

[2] Ibid., 1007.

[3] Paige Patterson, The Troubled Triumphant Church (Dallas: Criswell Publications, 1983), 223.

[4] Ibid.

[5] D.B. Martin, The Corinthian Body (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 94.

[6] See Patterson, The Troubled Triumphant Church, 225; Thiselton, in Thiselton, The First Epistles to the Corinthians, 1013-15, claims that Bruce, Grosheide, Robertson and Plummer, Dunn, Lang, and others also take this stand.

[7] Martin sees this list as “also participating in [Paul’s] status reversing strategy” (Martin, The Corinthian Body, 102). According to Thiselton, in Thiselton, The First Epistles to the Corinthians, 1014-15, Barret suggests that Paul is making a direct juxtaposition with the list found in 12:8-10, which he sees as “the Corinthian definition of ‘pneumatics’ traits;” and Chrysostom claims that Paul purposely lists the gift of tongues last everywhere.

[8] Given the nature of the gifts listed after these first three (but not enumerated), and the parallel nature and order of these three gifts with the gifts listed in Eph 4:11-12, the importance of these three gifts is probably due to their equipping role and is most probably associated with their proclaiming nature.

[9] In George Orwell’s novel, the once egalitarian pigs, after having been corrupted by absolute power, replace the last law “all animals are equal,” with “all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ordination - So What of Ordination?

Based on the variety of definitions for the term ordination,[1] a definition of ordination needs to be adopted before further discussion can ensue. For the sake of this discussion, we will consider two aspects presented by two different definitions: “to appoint or admit to the ministry of the Church,” and “to invest officially (as by the laying on of hands) with ministerial or priestly authority.” Both of these contain the concept of ministry. A brief look at the lexicography and the use of the term ministry in the New Testament (see the The NT Concept of Ministry excursus) results in the understanding that ministry is grounded in service and is required of all believers personally, not by proxy. This would seem to indicate that if ordination is defined as “to appoint or admit to the ministry of the Church,” then, since all believers should be ministers, all believers should be ordained.

As for the second definition, it additionally includes the concept of authority. We have seen, in the previous analysis, that the commissioning observed in Scripture does not display a pattern of imparting authority. Could ordination then be understood as a special commissioning which imparts authority? After all, as Patterson correctly points out in his chapter “The Meaning of Authority in the Local Church,” the current struggle over the ordination of women is not a struggle over ordination, but a struggle over authority in the local church.[2] It is my conclusion from the Scriptural data presented above that the “imparting authority” understanding of ordination is not supported by the biblical text, thus the primitivist idealist in me would have to disregard it as irrelevant to a New Testament church.

What do you think? In the next post(s) I will present a proposal based on all that we have discussed so far.

[1] See note 3 in Ordination - quick lexical investigation.

[2] See Patterson, “The Meaning of Authority in the Local Church,” 260-61.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ordination - Analysis - The Concept of Ordination

While there is an emerging pattern of commissioning, consensus is absolutely lacking among the commentators as to whether any of the New Testament passages discussed above refers to ordination or not. This is primarily due to each commentator’s understanding of the meaning of ordination, and, in some commentators, is secondarily due to a desire not to be anachronistic. Case in point is Pelikan’s commentary on Acts. He sees the laying on of hands in Acts 6 as clearly implying ordination, but he does not see the laying on of hands in Acts 13 as the rite of ordination. This is not a conclusion deduced by any textual clue, but surmised because of his assumption that Paul and Barnabas would have to have been ordained already.[1] A similar stance is taken by Culpepper while discussing Acts 13. He states that “this passage is undoubtedly significant for the development of the church’s practice of ordination, but it can hardly be said that Paul and Barnabas were ordained in this occasion.”[2] Many more examples could be given from commentaries, systematic theologies, journal articles, and books on the topic of ordination, but the bottom line is that the identification of some passages in the New Testament as ordination boils down to one’s understanding of the meaning of ordination.

[1] Pelikan, Acts, 95.

[2] Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 479.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ordination - Analysis - A Clear Pattern of Commissioning - Part 3 of 3

To summarize, the commissioning pattern is the appointing of someone, who is gifted, to a specific task. It should happen through the laying on of hands, motivated by the call of God, and imbibed in prayer. S/he is to be from within a congregation and will be a representative of the congregation doing the commissioning. This does not imply an impartation of authority on the individual being commissioned.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ordination - Analysis - A Clear Pattern of Commissioning - Part 2 of 3

The next two patterns that could transpire from the Biblical data are: (1) the concept of creating representatives and (2) the lack of imparting authority. (1) The implications in 1 Timothy 5:22 discussed above seem to allow for such an interpretation. It could also be argued that this is what the apostles did when they appointed the seven in Acts 6, what the church of Antioch did in Acts 13, and what the churches did when they sent traveling companions in 2 Corinthians 8:19 and Acts 15:25-27. In addition, this seems to be the pattern in Numbers 8:10. A similar argument could be made about the appointing of leaders in general (Heb 13:7) and elders in particular (1 Pet 5:3) due to their nature as examples to the body and to the community. Yet, this pattern should be adopted with caution, lest we commit the same mistake the Israelites did when they sent Moses up the mountain by himself as their representative or lest we perpetuate the clergy/laity division (as seen in the previous excursus post) and assume that those who have been commissioned are to minister in our stead. Very a propos is the warning of Thomas White, who reminds us that “it is important to note that ordination does not create a separate class of Christians or a separate class of clergy who must intercede for believers.”[1] We have only one high priest (Heb 3:1) and mediator (1 Tim 2:5) and his name is Jesus Christ. So, if we are to accept the pattern of creating a representative, we need to understand that these representatives are for men, either as examples or as messengers on our behalf; but they do not fulfill our duties as believers. Interestingly enough, the passages relating to the installation of Joshua (Num 27:18, 23; Deut 34:9) do not seem to fit this pattern. They are also the only passages which indicate a transfer of authority during the laying on of hands. Since these are Old Testament passages that occurred during a time when not all were indwelled by the Spirit, and since their pattern does not seem to be repeated in the New Testament, the simple solution is to disregard them, as they are not applicable to the task at hand. (2) Ultimately, there seems to be little to no evidence in the passages presented above, that commissioning imparts authority. While some of Daube’s insights are beneficial, his understanding of samakh should not be forced onto the New Testament text.

While commissioning does affirm giftedness, for there is a link in the commissioning passages between the presence of gifting and the ministry for which people were commissioned,[2] the pattern seems to indicate that people were commissioned from within the body for a specific task and not just a simple recognition of gifting.[3] The pattern of commissioning individuals from within the body makes common sense, if the people commissioned are to represent the ones commissioning them and if the people doing the commissioning are to be able to ascertain that the people whom they are commissioning possess the gifts necessary to perform the task at hand. Gill, who combines call and ordination,[4] was a big proponent of this stance, for he stated that “he must be a member of a church, to whom he is to be ordained as a pastor. . . . one that is not a member of the church, cannot be a pastor of it.”[5]

[1] Thomas White, “So You Have Been Called to the Ministry,” Calling Out the Called (Fort Worth: Seminary Hill Press), 8.

[2] The seven were to be “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3); Paul and Barnabas were listed in the list of prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1); 1 Tim 4:14 and 2 Tim 1:6 directly refer to the charisma of Timothy as an encouragement to keep on doing what he needed to do in Ephesus; 1 Tim 5:22, since it refers to elders, it is referring to people who have been gifted to perform said role in the local church.

[3] This pattern is evidenced in the historical practice of not ordaining an individual until he was called by a church to an official ministry position.

[4] For he states that “the election and call of them, with their acceptance, is ordination. The essence of ordination lies in the voluntary choice and call of the people, and in the voluntary acceptance of that call by the person chosen and called; for this affair must be by mutual consent and agreement, which joins them together as pastor and people. And this is done among themselves; and public ordination, so called, is no other than a declaration of that. Election and ordination are spoken of as the same; the latter is expressed and explained by the former.” Gill, A Complete Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity, 580.

[5] Ibid., 597.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The NT Concept of Ministry - a small excursus

We now need to take a small excursus from our topic of ordination so that you can understand where I am coming from in the next post in our ordination series. This excursus on the concept of ministry, as I see it in the New Testament, is by not way exhaustive. It's just a short intro to a larger and longer conversation.

Like many Biblical terms, the term ministry is often misunderstood due to inappropriate use of language. Terminology like “the call into the ministry” and “the minister of ______” often unintentionally create a clergy/laity division: the clergy are the ministers in the congregation and need to be set aside by means of ordination, while, even if some members of the laity might receive the appellation of lay ministers, the laity often see themselves as something less than ministers. But what does Scripture teach about ministry?

A quick lexical search in the New King James translation of the New Testament reveals that, as in the case of ‘ordain’, the ‘minister’ family of terms actually translates ten Greek terms which represent five families of terms. Unlike ‘ordain’ though, there is much more cohesion, since approximately 80% of the time the ‘minister’ family of terms is translated by the diakonos family of terms.[1] Eduard Schweizer, in Church Order in the New Testament, while discussing the concept of ‘office’, looks at all the terms used in Koine Greek which convey the idea of office or ruler: archē, “office in the sense of precedence, being at the head, ruling;” archôn, “ruler;” timē, “office in the sense of a position of dignity;” telos, used outside the NT to define “the complete power of office;” leitourgia, “service undertaken by the citizens for the community, and by the worshippers for the gods, and in the Septuagint (about 100 times) the ceremonial service performed by the priest;” and leitourgos, one performing leitourgia. He concludes that outside of their use for Judaism, pagan religions, and the political system of the time, these terms are primarily used (with the exception of Paul’s being called leitourgos in Romans 15:16) to refer solely to Christ Himself.[2] To be complete, there are three more exceptions to this pattern not mentioned by Schweizer: in Philippians 2:25 Epaphroditus is described as one who ministered (leitourgos) to the needs of Paul; in Acts 13:2 the verb leitourgeô is used of the ministering to the Lord going on in Antioch; and in Romans 15:27 the same verb is used of the churches in Macedonia and Achaia ministering to the church in Jerusalem in material things. Considering the limited number of exceptions, Schweizer then proceeds to point out the overwhelming use of diakons and opines on the appropriateness of its use. He concludes that:

In view of the large number of terms available, the evidence of the choice of words is unmistakable. … all the New Testament witnesses are sure of one decisive fact: official priesthood, which exists to conciliate and mediate between God and community, is found in Judaism and paganism; but since Jesus Christ there has been only one such office - that of Jesus himself. It is shared by the whole Church, and never by one church member as distinct from others. Here therefore there is without exception the common priesthood, with no laity.[3]

Lexically, an understanding of the concept of ministry must come from an understanding of the diakons family of terms and how they are used in the New Testament. This family of terms includes the noun diakonos, the adjective diakonia, and the verb diakoneô and in a variety of different ways embodies the idea of service. Since a study of the understanding of diakonos could constitute an entire paper in itself, we will here only look at a few selected illustrative examples of its usage in the New Testament. In Ephesians 4:11-12 we are told that Christ “Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (diakonia), for the edifying of the body of Christ.” Christ, therefore, has given certain gifts[4] to His body for the purpose of equipping the body to be able to serve Him.[5] Obviously then, the work of the ministry of the church is the work of the entire body, not of a select few. In 1 Peter 4:10, Peter encourages believers by exhorting them: “as each one has received a gift, minister (diakoneô) it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” Here we see that every member of the body of Christ possesses at least one gift and is exhorted to use it in service to others.[6] Again, the work of the ministry of the church is the work of the entire body, not of a select few. So, one can conclude that the ministry of the church is a ministry grounded in service and is required of all believers personally, not by proxy.

What do you think about this understanding of ministry and how it impacts the concept of ordination?

[1] The next closest is the λειτουργός family of terms with approximately 15%. The other three terms are ὑπηρέτης, “helper, assistant,” used by Jesus to describe to Paul the works that Jesus had for him to do in Acts 26:16; ἐργάζομαι, “practice, perform, officiate at,” the temple by the pagan ministers in 1 Cor 9:13; ἱερουργέω, “to act in some cultic or sacred capacity,” used of Paul ministering the Gospel to the gentiles in Rom 15:16. Definitions from BDAG.

[2] Eduard Schweizer, Church Order in the New Testament, trans. Frank Clarke (Naperville, IL: Alec R. Allenson, 1961), 171-176. Definitions from Schweizer.

[3] Ibid., 176.

[4] For a discussion of the understanding of this passage as a list of gifts, see my article: “Ephesians 4:11 - Spiritual gifts or positions?

[5] For this understanding see F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984), 349; and Harold W. Hoehner, Ephesians – An Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), 550-51.

[6] See Paige Patterson, A Pilgrim Priesthood – An Exposition of First Peter (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 159.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ordination - Analysis - A Clear Pattern of Commissioning - Part 1 of 3

The terminology of laying on of hands seems to be the thread that ties these commissioning passages together from the Old Testament to the New Testament. There is no pattern when it comes to who is supposed to physically do the laying on of hands, but there seems to be a strong indication that even if the whole congregation is not involved, the ones involved are representatives of the congregation. There is much evidence that the Lord is the one who needs to initiate and direct such commissioning, hence the repeated association of prophecy. This is not surprising, for as servants of the Lord, our duty is to do what He commands us: nothing more, nothing less. There is also much evidence for the centrality of prayer in said commissioning. Again, this is not surprising, for prayer should be central to the life of a believer.

Some might argue that the New Testament passages also show a pattern that commissioning should only be done for deacons and elders, but that would not be doing the data justice. In Acts 13, we do not see a commissioning of elders, but of traveling evangelists or missionaries. It is often assumed that Timothy was an elder at Ephesus, but it is much more natural to see him as an apostolic aid.[1] Just from these two comments, we are left with only one passage describing the commissioning of elders (1 Tim 5:22) and, depending on one’s understanding of deacons and Acts 6, possibly one passage describing the commissioning of deacons (Acts 6:1-6). Yet, one last argument will be entertained; it rests with the variety of terms used for the appointing/calling/choosing of people in the New Testament. Two terms are used for the appointing of elders. Paul uses kathistēmi when referring to Titus’ job to “appoint elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). Incidentally, this is the same term used by Luke in Acts 6:3, when the apostles ask for seven men whom they “may appoint.” Unlike Paul, Luke uses cheirotoneô to refer to the appointment of elders by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:23). The same term, cheirotoneô, is used by Paul for the appointment of traveling companions in 2 Corinthians 8:19. One could easily hypothesize that due to the use of similar appointing terminology, the traveling companions were also probably similarly commissioned for this task. Such a conjecture is given further validity from the Latin Vulgate’s use of ordino, ordinare to translate cheirotoneô in 2 Corinthians 8:19, and from the etymology of cheirotoneô which ties it to the stretching or raising of hands.[2] This therefore opens the door for any number of other commissioning scenarios besides the commissioning of elders and deacons.

[1] See for example: Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 187, 263; Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 772n82; Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 323.

[2] See DELG, s.v. “χείρ;” BDAG, s.v. “χειροτονέω.”

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ordination - Analysis and Discussion of the Biblical Data - Intro

As mentioned in the introduction, I tried to approach this series in a scientific method. After all I learned how to do research in the Combustion Laboratory of the School of Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. Therefore, now that I have presented the Biblical data, with a minimum of analysis, I can now analyze and discuss it, and then, finally, present a proposal based on this summary.

So ... looking at the Biblical data there are two constants which can be seen: there is a clear pattern of commissioning, but there is little agreement on the concept of ordination. Let us discuss them one at a time. In the next post we will start discussing the clear pattern of commissioning. Then we will discuss the lack of pattern of the concept of ordination. In the mean time, be thinking of what patterns do you see from the data.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ordination - Evidence from the New Testament - 1 Timothy 4:14 & 2 Timothy 1:6 - Part last (6) of many

Due to their interconnection, 1 Timothy 4:14 and 2 Timothy 1:6 will be discussed together. Both passages contain a reference to the laying on of hands on Timothy. Both passages use the noun epithesis" instead of the verb epitithēmi used in the three New Testament passages mentioned above. Yet, to stipulate that these therefore refer to a different kind of laying on of hands would ignore that a common etymological root between epitithēmi and epithesis" corroborates the interchangeability of the two terms.[1] Both refer to a gift, charisma, that is in Timothy and which he needs not to neglect (1 Tim 4:14) and to stir up (2 Tim 1:6). One passage identifies the agency of the eldership in the laying on of hands, while the other the agency of Paul. One adds that the gift was given by prophecy, while the other that it is the gift of God.

Regardless of the differences, due to their apparent parallelism, the two passages have often been assumed to refer to a single event,[2] to which it may be believed that 1 Timothy 1:8 also refers. This event is often seen as Timothy’s “ordination into service in general (assuming such was the practice of the early church) or [his] commission for a special task such as his ministry to Ephesus.”[3] Due to the differences in the passages, Fee offers a different perspective. He postulates that 1 Timothy 1:8 and 1 Timothy 4:14 refer to the same incident, that is a confirming or commissioning of Timothy’s giftedness, a special equipping for his next divinely appointed task of ministry, but that 2 Timothy 1:6 refers to a separate incident, that of the impartation of the Holy Spirit on Timothy.[4] The topic of the impartation of the Spirit through the laying on of hands is obviously outside the scope of this paper. Suffice it to say at this time that while the laying on of hands does not seem to be a necessary practice for the reception of the Spirit, there are three incidents in the book of Acts which describe said practice.[5] Towner, while agreeing with Fee, adds that “it is not impossible that Timothy received his commission as Paul’s coworker at the same time.”[6]

In these passages there is therefore clear evidence of the laying on of hands on Timothy. Prophecy is associated with this laying on of hands, probably as an accompanying activity, “a reference to words of the Spirit spoken by a prophet(s) that confirm and identify Timothy’s giftedness.”[7] This giftedness could refer to the gift(s) given to Timothy by God to enable him to perform the good works that God had prepared beforehand that he should walk in them, but more probably it refers more specifically to the gift(s) given to Timothy to enable him to perform the tasks that he needed to perform as an apostolic aid. It does not necessarily refer to an office, especially the office of elder at Ephesus.[8] Yet again, there is not a consensus on who is doing the laying on of hands, but it is likely that the hands were the elders’, representing the community’s recognition.[9] While in 1 Timothy 4, Paul reminds Timothy of these laying on of hands to encourage him, he does not point to them as having imparted power or authority to Timothy to enable him to perform the task at hand. To help him on his task, Timothy is encouraged to focus on the Word and his response to it. Those things will allow him to save himself and those who hear him. There is also nothing in this text that would point to the laying on of hands as creating a representative. Likewise, in 2 Timothy 1:6, there is no concept of creating a representative or of imparting authority, unless the rite itself ontologically demands such an understanding.[10]

[1] Pierre Chantraine, Dictionnaire Étymologique de la Langue Grecque [DELG] (Paris: Éditions Klincksieck, 1968), s.v. τίθημι. Chantraine lists θεσις", and ἐπίθεσις", as a sub voce of τίθημι, and ἐπιτίθημι, and deems them to be part of a coherent system. In the commentaries, the terminological difference is neither mentioned nor are any assumptions made from it.

[2] See Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 209; Mounce, Pastoral Epistles,70, 261-63, 476; C. Spicq, Les Épitres Pastorales, vol. 2, 4th ed. Études Bibliques (Paris, France: J. Gabalda et Cie, 1969), 708, 728; Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 480. Often the differences are explained by the assumed differing nature of the two letters: 2 Timothy is a more personal letter, therefore Paul only mentions himself.

[3] Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 71.

[4] Gordon D. Fee, God’s Empowering Presence (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 774, 786-88; cf. Culpepper, “The Biblical Basis for Ordination,” 480.

[5] For the reception of the Spirit through the laying on of hands see: Acts 8:17-19; 9:12-17; 19:6. Ellingworth, in Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 316, believes that this is what Paul refers to in the letter to the Hebrews when he mentions the laying on of hands (Heb 6:2) in his list of “elementary principles.” Ellingworth comes to this conclusion due to: the proximity in the list of the principles of baptism and the laying on of hands; what he sees as the supporting text in v. 4; and the lack of support for a “transmission of office” view in that context. He does also add that “the reference is so brief and general that it is impossible to be certain.” When thinking about this topic, it is important to consider that at Pentecost (Acts 2) and at what some call the gentile Pentecost (Acts 10:44-48), the Spirit clearly descended on believers without the laying on of hands. In addition, ignoring Ellingworth’s proposal for Heb 6:2 and Fee’s proposal for 2 Tim 1:6, there is no teaching in the epistles of said practice. This lack of pattern and clear teaching does not invalidate the use of the practice in the book of Acts, but, it does seem to make it non-prescriptive.

[6] Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 459. Towner sees 1 Tim 4:14 as a separate congregational commissioning by the church in Ephesus (324-25, 459-60).

[7] Ibid., 323. Similarly see the following for a slight variation on the same theme: Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 71; Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 208; Quinn and Wacker, The first and second letters to Timothy, 386. C. Spicq, Les Épitres Pastorales, vol. 1, 4th ed. Études Bibliques (Paris, France: J. Gabalda et Cie, 1969), 517, understands prophecy, not as a word from God, but as a consecrating prayer which is an integral part of the sacramental action of the laying on of hands.

[8] This is the consensus of Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 322n40; Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, 263; John Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2005), 205; Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 772n82. Fee goes as far as saying that “only the most biased reading of this letter sees Timothy as ‘holding office’ in Ephesus.” Cf. Jeremias (Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 209) and Calvin (Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 775n97) propose that πρεσβυτερίου should be read as “to the presbyterate.”

[9] Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, 323-4; Fee, God’s Empowering Presence, 775.

[10] This seems to be the understanding of samakh in Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism, 245, who understands these two passages as being the “earliest reference to apostolic succession.” Quinn and Wacker, The First and Second Letters to Timothy, 396, present the understanding of the generic symbolism of the human hand in the ancient world to suggest that power, authority, and responsibility might be implicitly involved.

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