The old saw is that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, or something like that. Today is in the middle of the anniversary of the Great fire of London (1st to 3rd September 1666) when huge swathes of London were destroyed, but with only a few lives lost. That’s 350 years ago,… Read more »
Echoes of Echad
Feminism and cessationism.
The core of biblical faith for both Jews and Christians is the creed known as the Shema. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, many Christians miss that he didn’t just quote the commandment about loving God, but the verses just before it in the Old Testament : Hear, O Israel, the Lord, your God, the Lord, is one. In Hebrew : Shema Israel Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad. It is more than just an assertion of monotheism or the uniqueness of God. The word ‘Echad’ is one that means ‘composite unity’ of some sort, and it is ‘one’ in the sense that we would say a flock of birds or a shoal of fish move ‘as one’. The very first time it is used in the bible is in Genesis 1, where it is used to define a 24 hour day as a combination of morning and evening. It is also used when the bible talks of man and wife becoming ‘one flesh’. I take it to mean that God cannot be inconsistent with Himself, and it works itself out in many ways. I have a primary focus on four areas in relation to God’s ‘Oneness’ in this sense, two of which are covered elsewhere. First is in the doctrine of creation – because God is a good God, there is a violation of his ‘Oneness’ if we believe that the God who is love chose to create in the most unloving way possible, through generations of death. Second is the issue of Israel – if God is a God of integrity – ‘oneness’ – then he is not a covenant violator, and in fact He made eternal covenants with Israel, so any teaching, such as supercessionism / replacement theology, which views God as violating and breaking those covenants with Israel that are unconditional and eternal are false because they would necessitate God violating his own ‘oneness’.
The two other areas of focus I deal with here. One is the issue of cessationism, the belief that the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament ceased sometime after the New Testament, whether that time is deemed to be when the last New Testament book was written, when the last apostle died, or when the New Testament ‘canon’ was settled, or indeed any other date. Any of these positions would necessitate God being a confused or cruelly capricious God in one form or another, in that he then would have included the command to seek and practice these gifts in His word in the New Testament, and yet intend for such commands to be ignored or disobeyed for the vast majority of the church age when people look to that same New Testament as God’s authoritative guide for disciples of Jesus. The second, and possibly more substantial issue, is the issue of men and women, male and female. There are two fundamentally different approaches in the bible-believing church on the issue, often tagged as egalitarian (men and women equal in all things) and complementarian (men and women equal in worth before God, but given different roles in which men have greater authority). I started out as a teenager in the latter position (‘it’s obvious what the bible teaches, duh!’) but after much study have come out firmly in the former camp. However, this does not mean – contrary to the claims of many complementarians – that I subscribe to the modern ridiculous notion that there is basically no difference between males and females apart from obvious differences in body shape and reproductive organs. When Genesis 1 says that God created humankind ‘in His image, in His likeness’, the only factor of humanity that is mentioned explicitly in relation to being in His image is maleness and femaleness. Therefore, God must in some way equally ’embody’ maleness and femaleness in His own being, and that should, I believe, be reflected in the role of male and female in the church, marriage and society, without ignoring the God-given differences. We all have elements of maleness and femaleness within us, to differing measures and for differing purposes. We are all individually and uniquely made, and our physical gender is not a rigidly restrictive factor in deciding appropriate roles and decisions. I believe a church that denies leadership to one half of the human race makes it like a bird trying to fly with just one wing – it won’t get anywhere. Thus you could call me an egalitarian-complementarian, but with emphasis on egalitarian.