Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Women Worship Leaders - Just a Few Thoughts

May women lead in worship?

The answer to such a question should be obvious, but unfortunately the church has been influenced by the world and consequently the answer to what should be an easy question is no longer obvious to so many Christians.

Worship is often led by women even in churches that believe only men may be elders. Such a worship practice if consistent with the unique teaching role of elders presupposes that worship is not to be accompanied by biblical instruction. In other words, if women may lead worship yet not teach the congregation, then worship may be void of biblical instruction. Yet then how can women lead God’s people in biblical worship that engages the emotions through the mind? Is to lead worship simply a matter of hitting the right note? No, and women “worship leaders” appreciate that much, which is why they so often step out of their God-given comfort zone in order to exhort in their leading. Accordingly, when women lead in worship any adherence to the unique teaching role given to men is undermined.

The elders, if they do their job, will protect the congregation, including their women, from such an unnatural, demeaning practice. Yes, demeaning. It’s demeaning for a woman to do man’s calling, just like it would be demeaning for a man to submit to his wife in all things. Gender confusion is always ugly.

It is the pastor, in the representative service of the Lord, who is ultimately responsible for leading congregational worship on earth. The pastor who operates in the name of Christ is the worship leader. It's an indicative. It comes with the job. A worship leader should be prepared to exegete hymns and Psalms for the congregation, which a woman simply may not do even if she can. A great worship leader can be tone deaf but that is because he is not merely to lead the music but rather is to direct the hearts and minds of the congregants to the triune God who receives congregational worship in Christ.

The answer to the question should be obvious. Women may not lead worship because women may not lead God’s people. Let's be loving to our sisters in Christ and in humble obedience lead them out of such roles.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Manhattan Declaration (a *very* few thoughts)

I noticed that Turretin Fan had provided a link to this post of mine on the Manhattan Declaration.  When I clicked on the link from Turretin Fan's site I learned that it was a broken link. The broken link was due to my taking the post down shortly after having put it up. It was my intention then to modify the post, which I never ended up doing. What is below is the original. The post is old and in some respect yesterday's paper yet with abiding principles. Other responses to the declaration, including this one, can be found here. These include responses by Al Mohler, Alistair Begg and R.C. Sproul.

I was recently asked my opinion on the recent "Manhattan Declaration".

My "off the top of my head" response:

It is my understanding that individual Trinitarians have joined together across denominational lines to "affirm [their] right - and more importantly, to embrace [their] obligation - to speak and act in defense of these truths." (Emphasis theirs!)

I am grateful that men and woman are willing to speak their minds in times such as these. Notwithstanding, two less sanguine thoughts come to mind.

1. Now of course, I do believe that every Christian has a right to speak out against oppressive government. I also believe that individual Christians have the liberty to unite on such matters. However, I find it troubling when such people imply that it is obligatory for the Christian to speak out on these or any other particular political matter. One man's Christian liberty should not bind another man's conscience.

2. What we have here are three branches of Christendom: Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Evangelical. Why aren't all these branches "evangelical"? Well, I would suppose it is because they do not all affirm the gospel message of how a man can have peace with God and avoid an eternity in hell. Given the blurring of that truth, I choose to exercise my Christian liberty, which I find personally obligatory in my own conscience, not to participate in defending those truths in that unified manner; though I respect the liberty of those who feel led to do so. Fair enough?

Sundry observations:

1. I so appreciate the wisdom of the Divines. The Westminster standards teach that the organized church is not to intermeddle with civil affairs that concern the commonwealth unless dire circumstances prevail. I don't know whether the Manhattan Declaration has underscored the point, but they might do well to make clear that their declaration carries no ecclesiastical power and that the organized church's mission is first and foremost the gospel, which in turn will transform the world. (Of course most evangelicals are so rapture-ready that they have no expectation that Jesus will make all his enemies his footstool.)

2. It's interesting to me that there are some who disagreed with the Evangelicals and Catholics Together (ECT) dialogue and associated pronouncements yet have participated in the Manhattan Declaration. I think that is fine because ECT implicitly denied the gospel by affirming Rome's magical view of water baptism, whereas this new document does not try to bridge theological incongruities. For that we can be grateful, but I am still not comfortable with what is implied (and can be inferred) when such communions put aside their differences for some other cause, which all to often is seen as a "greater cause".

3. We may not let doctrinal purity be an excuse for us to do nothing!

4. Finally, doctrinal differences aside, I find it a bit passing strange that Rome can remain so vocal on the abortion front without giving equal time to the public acknowledgement of their abuses in the area of child molestation. May they be pleased to sound both trumpets.

5. "It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty." That statement is very problematic. The gospel is not being proclaimed in the declaration, nor can it be because two of those communions are on a collision course where the gospel is concerned and the third group (Eastern Orthodoxy) hasn't been on the road course in about fifteen hundred years.

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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Carl Trueman & A Need For A Contemporary Polemic Against Romanism

Carl Trueman (CT) in “Another thing needful” misses wide the mark. My issue with CT is three-fold. (a) I don't think there is any need whatsoever to engage Romanism (i.e. the official Roman Catholic teaching) further (at least not in any fresh way), or has something changed within their system of doctrine that I haven't heard about? (If she has changed, then she's not infallible. If she contradicts herself, then she's not infallible.) There is already a preponderance of fine polemics out there against Romanism - the true teaching of Roman Catholicism (as opposed to movements within  Rome.) When I speak of Rome I mean the communion that defines herself in her official statements. To miss that is to miss my complaint. We even find it in the Fathers as David T. King has nicely cataloged for the church. What about the plethora of Reformed dogmatics? Is CT complaining that Calvin, the Hodges, Hoeksema, Berkhof et al., weren't respectful enough? To borrow from Rhett toward Scarlet when she said he was no gentleman, I say a minor point at such a time. That CT says that Boettner is pre-V-2 would seem to suggest that Romanism has changed, which undermines her battle cry of Semper Eadem. At the very least, if Vatican ii contradicted the exhaustive dogmas of Vatican i and Trent, then Rome is no longer Rome and the discussion is over; they're false prophets. (This doesn't, of course, mean that we need not declare the gospel to those in the Roman communion or that we ought not to come along side Romanists and explain to them in love the teachings of their communion for what they are, sometimes heretical. Notwithstanding, there is simply no need to find new innovative ways to repudiate official-Rome because she is, well, always the same.) (b) Who does CT wish to engage? Certainly not the magisterium because they don't engage. CT could be confusing Rome with e-pologists who don't speak for Rome. Kung doesn't even speak for Rome; just ask Ratzinger! (c) CT thinks that Protestants are "converting to Rome" all the time, which simply is not true - not even close. Maybe CT has fallen into the spun web of the Called to Communion crowd that write across the sky each time they make a confused sinner possibly twice the child of hell as themselves. (Protestants do still censure those who embrace thoughtfully and without remainder  Roman dogma don't they? Accordingly, are there really a lot of Christians converting to Rome, or just apostates who have been purged from Christian roles?) The converts to Rome are few and far between and what CT is not seeing is that it is the Protestant pulpits, sessions and pews that are filled with ex-Romanists. It is the church that is growing. But more to the point, although Rome could, at least by her own statistical standards, be beating population growth by a nose - when one considers her laws regarding contraception, which all Romanists being obedient to the pope of course obey (ha!) or else they wouldn't be numbered among true "Catholics", one would think that Rome would be growing at an even higher rate than reported. If they were to be honest though and purge their roles from delinquent members, they'd have much less than that which they show as true "members", and they wouldn't be growing but even shrinking. (I'm still a member- just a separated one in their eyes.) Even if Romanism grows though, so what? Islam is growing too. When one is added to the roles of apostate or infidel communions all that is occurring is the relabeling of an unbeliever. In the final analyses, Rome has not changed. Rome does not engage. And Rome is not growing by converting Protestants.

Finally, and maybe I should have said this first, I do not take CT's observations as some have - that he is complaining about what he perceives to be a need or about how bad things are, but rather, as he said, I simply see him voicing a perceived need so that someone out there might be stirred to take up the challenge. I'm fine with that sort of thing in principle and can even applaud the intention. That one's plate is full would not seem to preclude him from letting legitimate needs be known. No, my concerns run in another direction altogether. That CT is not able to recognize the already timeless polemics against the same old Roman heresies demonstrates to me that he doesn't quite understand the debate, but I'm hopeful that one day he will.

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