Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Christian discourse

Those who have known me online for any number of years know a number of my faults: I tend to be too sarcastic at times. I'd like to think that's all in the past, but I'm afraid it is still a besetting sin that clings to me. I'd also like to think that I am now a much kinder, gentler person. I cringe when I recall some of my diatribes and debates in the past, when I was...well, long on zeal and short on tact.

So I have a soft spot for bloggers and debaters who share some of my faults, past and present. Sure, I can only take some of them in infrequent small doses, but I find myself sympathetic to the lack of diplomacy, the harshness, the having to be right at all costs, the "in your face" rhetoric, the trampling of other people, etc. Not that I approve of these's just that I struggle with the same things and recall the days when I was, regrettably, insistent that I was right in behaving this way.

Grace, of course, won out. Not that I demonstrate that grace adequately, but Jesus has tenderized my heart.

So when I'm looking for those who point me to Jesus, who remind me of grace, who exemplify the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) there are certain blogs that I visit.

But --- and I regret to say that this still happens --- when I want to be entertained by debate that makes no pretense at being loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, etc., there are certain other blogs that I visit.

So recently I found myself visiting the Bayly's blog and, against my better judgment, involved myself in discussion. Just this morning, I posted the following, which has since vanished:

Singingowl, thanks for saying so much better than I did what I was trying to say.

And, Tim --- yes, of course there are some gender-specific commands. Wives, submit to your husbands as unto the Lord is the one that usually comes most readily to the minds of many. Then there is the less popular "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church". There are others of course. But the vast number of commands are, I strongly believe, not gender-specific. Love one another. Do not consider yourself more highly than you should. Put on the full armor of God. Be strong and courageous. Fight the good fight. Do not be weary in well-doing. Etc., etc.

Frankly, I fully appreciate why some of my ultra-conservative sisters balk at the above commands and want to pretend they are "blue" commands. My flesh balks at them as well. "Do not be weary in well-doing" is hardly what I wanted to hear or obey on those horrible days when I was puking my guts out with all-day-long sickness, trying to teach my older children, and having to change toddler diapers --- and then the mere thought of cooking dinner after all that! And "Be strong and courageous" seemed hideously unfair to say to a woman during the pregnancy following a second-trimester miscarriage. Surely God didn't mean ME. Why, those must be masculine commands!

Certainly whatever our hand finds to do we are to do heartily unto the Lord, whether that is working in the kitchen or providing for our family in some other means or serving those outside our family...

Tim, I found it interesting that you quoted the verse about not providing for one's own family. I understood you to be saying that Custis James is, according to you, disobeying this verse by not being a kitchen wife. I would agree with this if this meant that her family was not provided with meals. However, does this verse really mean that we are forbidden from delegating tasks to others or forbidden from hiring out domestic duties? How many meals can we eat out in a restaurant before we are guilty of not providing for our own families? Was I guilty of not providing for my family last night because my son cooked dinner? How many times can we call the plumber before we are in sin? Must the husband provide all the lawn-mowing and yard maintenance or can he delegate this to his son? Would it be more sinful for him to hire it out to a stranger? Would my husband be in sin if he didn't provide me with a knife rack he made himself but instead bought one?

I'm curious because I've never heard this application of that particular verse.

One more thing. Perhaps someone can enlighten me as to what a "seminar caller" is. I have to confess that I'm not a fan of talk radio, so I have no idea what this phrase means, and am curious as to what it is that I'm being accused of. (No, I haven't been to any seminars in a very long time.)

Donna, you wrote: "I have no explanation for some of her ideas."

Which ones? the idea that our highest calling is to be servants of Christ? I admit that I once actually made someone laugh by saying this, many years ago, and I was told that I was crazy...and brainwashed by having a pastor for a father. I guess it is somewhat of a crazy idea to some. I hope that's not the idea of mine that you find no explanation for.

You also wrote: "I wish that she would not dodge the issue of Mrs. James' misuse of Scripture. "

Tell you what, Donna. When I've finished some huge ongoing projects around the house, have caught up with a number of things that need my attention, and have read through the stack of books I've been meaning to read for a long time, then I'll consider turning my attention to reading Custis James. I'll probably start with the lone book of hers that I think I still have around here somewhere, the one I dimly recall reading during some pregnancy or another and being encouraged to study God's Word more diligently. Which book do you suggest I read next? And what language resources do you suggest I study in order to gain an intelligent perspective on the Hebrew? I'm not just putting you on the spot, Donna. In fact, I'd like others here to weigh in. Which books would you suggest I read first in order to get the best picture of how Custis James uses or misuses Scripture? Which resources do you use in your study of Hebrew?

Then, a little bit ago, I attempted to post the following, only to get some sort of warning about my comment pending approval because of suspected spam:

I'm not sure why my earlier comment of this morning has disappeared. But, Tim, I wanted to thank you for provoking a wonderful study of 1 Timothy 5:3-16. When I asked my husband about his understanding of the "if anyone does not provide for his own household" warning, he --- as usual --- encouraged us to look at the verse in context. This is a great example of some very gender-specific commandments. Although I've heard of a widower who tried to claim that his family needed to support him, I think the Bible is quite clear that this passage deals with widows, not just with gender-unspecified people whose spouses have died.

Those who know me know that we have a number of widows in our family, including a young widow, and reading this passage was convicting to us as well as providing interesting family discussion.

However, I'll admit that we still don't see that this passage is forbidding wives from hiring out the cooking. I really wish you would address the questions I'd raised earlier in my comment that has since seemed to have vanished.

Donna, I didn't want to seem as if I was sidestepping you, so I decided to spend a little time searching the internet to see if I could find some direct statements, in context, that Custis James makes about Ruth. I did, and I posted this to the discussion:

"Excuse me for not offering a remotely scholarly or even well-researched perspective. But the whole topic of your perspective on the book of Ruth has come up elsewhere, so I set off in search of more information and landed here.

I'll freely admit that I've always been a bit baffled about the whole concept of "finding your voice". This may be due to the fact that I grew up in an extended family where, for the most part, my more carefully-considered opinions were very much valued and appreciated. In fact, because of that, it took me a few years of marriage to figure out that my mother-in-law had not spent her entire life in eager anticipation of hearing my every opinion on every topic. If anything, I had to learn the wisdom of silencing my voice.

However, this [quoting Carolyn Custis James in bold] did resonate with me:

“It’s a man’s world,” we’re told. To succeed as a leader, we must adapt ourselves to the world of men. We must learn to think and speak like a man.

While I don’t want to discount the importance of understanding men and how they think and operate, we aren’t men and are giving up something central to who we are if we lose ourselves by imitating them. We end up distancing our very selves from the message we proclaim. We can routinely prepare and deliver messages without connecting our words to our own hearts and struggles, without tapping into the rich perspectives God has given us as women or drawing out of our personal histories with God.

Back in my single days when I was out in the work force, I had a number of rather heated discussions with other women because I was rather stubbornly fond of my notion that I did not need to sacrifice my gifts and perspectives as a woman in order to be successful. As I would often say, "I have no interest in becoming a cheap imitation of a man." (Yes, my voice was a bit lacking in diplomacy at times.)

But I just finished re-reading the 2nd chapter of Ruth and I have to admit that I don't find in it what you have described here, at least not quite in the way that I think you are saying.

I see Ruth as someone who is a wonderful example of loyalty and of being protective. Her mother-in-law attempts to send her away, but Ruth insists on going with Naomi. Finally Naomi, seeing how determined Ruth is and that there is no persuading her otherwise, says no more (Ruth 1:18)

It is, I believe, that devotion and loyalty that initially attracts Boaz to Ruth. It seems to stir up in him loyalty, devotion, and protectiveness towards Ruth. I believe it is her example that speaks volumes. But I don't necessarily see this as an example of "finding one's voice", unless I am oversimplifying what you mean and taking the phrase way too literally.

I also don't think Ruth necessarily took on a leadership role here. But I need to qualify my opinion by saying that I think our culture is way too obsessed with leadership and tends to try to see it everywhere. It's as if we all feel that every situation calls for a leader. If my friend and I decide to bake a cake together, do we really have to make sure that one of us is leading and the other one is following? Isn't that silly? Am I leading when I say, "Hey, let's beat these eggs a bit longer" but then she's leading when she decides to put in more vanilla than the recipe calls for?

I simply don't see leadership in this wonderful account. I see a degree of loyalty on the part of Ruth that puts me to shame. I see devotion and concern and protectiveness on her part. And I see how God rewarded her through Boaz, who saw her devotion and rewarded it with devotion, loyalty, and protection of his own.

Of course, most importantly, the whole concept of Boaz as the kinsman-redeemer is a beautiful picture of Christ.

What am I missing and why?"

Here is my question to my readers, and I ask you to be --- if need be --- brutally honest: Would you have removed my first comment? If so, why? How could I have worded it in a way that was more in keeping with good Christian discourse?


  1. No, Rebecca, I wouldn't have removed it. And I can't think of a good reason it was removed. But that is just par for the course for that particular blog, which is why, as I have said before, I don't post there. If I wish to discuss what is on there, I take it to my blog, or else talk to you here, as I am doing.

  2. Of course not, Rebecca. What you wrote was tactful, well-balanced and an encouragement to read even though I had not read the rest of the discussion.

    Just keep doing as you are doing and you'll be fine.

  3. Rebecca,

    They don't allow intelligent, well-thought, respectful posts on that blog. That is why your intelligent, well-thought, respectful post was canned. They have now relegated you to the realm of false-teacher and they pride themselves on doing God a favor by silencing you because they are protecting the poor, helpless sheep who are not allowed to think for themselves.

    After all, as we have already seen in one of their church members, being allowed to see a different point of view actually starts to make sense and that is a bad, bad thing.

    Good thing they quickly got rid of the posts that make sense.

  4. Somehow I missed this emailed explanation from Tim Bayly:

    "As always, I'm hesitant to ask someone to leave the blog, but your snide tone and evident insincerity are not conducive to the growth of the Church. So please do not post another comment on our blog until, privately with me at this E-mail address, you have demonstrated your submission to Scripture concerning God's decree of father-rule."

    Please help me out here, readers. Was I being snide? If so, this was not my intent. I realize that my "puking my guts out" rhetoric and my painfully honest admissions of my own frailty might be offensive to some and might almost sound flippant to those who don't know how real these struggles can be.

    And insincere? I meant all that I posted. Very much so.

    Demonstrated my "submission to Scripture concerning God's decree of father-rule"? Where have I ever done anything but speak well of my father and husband. Yes, I'll admit that I did not flawlessly obey my father at all times. Far from it. I freely admit that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. I fail as a wife as well.

    But is it submission to Scripture that Tim Bayly wants --- or submission to his interpretation of it?

  5. I'm trying not to take this too seriously and make more of it than I should. But I find it sad when people within the Body of Christ break fellowship over those things that God has not commanded us to break fellowship over. Very sad.

    May God forgive us for putting our own opinions and our own need to be "right" over the unity of His Body. I have been oh so guilty of this myself. God help me. God change me. May I love Jesus more and may that love include His Body, His Bride.

    Here's how I answered Tim's letter:

    Dear Tim,

    Thank you for your email that I somehow missed until this evening. I have to admit that I'm puzzled but not surprised.

    You wrote:

    > As always, I'm hesitant to ask someone to leave the blog, but your snide tone and evident insincerity are not conducive to the growth of the Church. So please do not post another comment on our blog until, privately with me at this E-mail address, you have demonstrated your submission to Scripture concerning God's decree of father-rule.

    The facelessness of the internet and its attendant semi-anonymity can be problematic to be sure. So can my failure to communicate my heart.

    I had no intention of being snide, and I apologize for coming across that way.

    As for sincerity...I realize that many Christian women are not as brutally honest about their struggles. Men tend to get uncomfortable when a woman talks about "puking her guts out" or about wishing she didn't have to obey all of Scripture. It's ugly. It's not genteel. It seems shockingly unfeminine, even worse than a woman daring to sweat when she works hard. But it is, if anything, honest and sincere to a fault. So were my questions. I had never encountered your new application of the 1 Timothy passage and I wanted to know if I was misunderstanding you --- and, if you were correct, I wanted to make sure that my husband and I were not guilty of the very serious charge of not providing for our family.

    Unfortunately, I all too often forget that not everyone views questions as sincere, but those that I asked of you and of Donna and others certainly were. My father always encouraged questions and often sparked my desire for knowledge with the assurance, "Our faith can stand up to the most exacting scrutiny." I wish I'd learned his lessons against "running off with half-cocked opinions" just as eagerly. But I was sincere in my desire not to share uninformed, worthless opinions about Carolyn Custis James' writings. I realize that I am probably far less learned than many of your friends who comment. To Donna, the Hebrew might not be "rocket science", but it is just as much a mystery to me. In fact, I probably know a tiny smidge more factoids about rocket science than I do about Hebrew, and that's not saying much. I honestly hoped that those who know so much more on the topic being discussed would, at the very least, point me to some resources.

    I don't understand how you got a lack of submission to Scripture concerning God's decree of father-rule out of all that. It has been years, since my foolish youth, that I have ever spoken of my father with anything but the utmost respect and daughterly devotion. In fact, I have seen eyeballs roll when I begin waxing eloquent about my Daddy. If any man "deserves" to rule, and does so in the most Christ-like humble manner, it is him. I do not countenance any sign of disrespect or disobedience in my children towards my husband. Even my oldest son, now a grown man on his own, does not make major decisions without his father's full blessing and guidance.

    But of course you cannot know this. There is no reason for you to believe a word of it.

    I will admit that I am not in full agreement of your interpretation of every Scripture. I'm still struggling with how you arrived at your interpretation/application of 1 Timothy 5:8. I don't expect you to take the time to explain how you arrived at this interpretation; after all, I am a stranger on the internet and you have far better things to do with your time.

    But I am curious as to how exactly I am supposed to demonstrate my submission to God's decree of father-rule. To do that convincingly, in my opinion, would involve sworn testimonies from my father and husband. Frankly, it isn't important enough for me to drag them into this. They too have better things to do with their time.

    In closing, I would like to think that my desire to be a servant of Christ would be conducive to the growth of His Body, even if only in the tiniest, most insignificant way. But if I encourage one women to look beyond the kitchen to Christ Himself (something that is hard for us mothers to do at times) and to do all things --- even the messy diaper changes while retching --- to the glory of God and in service to our wonderful Savior, then that is enough for me. I had no idea my words would generate such controversy among those who name His Name. I'm sorry that I'm not welcome on your blog.

    God bless you!

    Readers, I mean this in all sincerity: I welcome your rebuke if I am wrong.

  6. To be fair to Tim Bayly, I should post his reply to me. I don't want people to think that he didn't respond to my prayerfully written email. In fact, he answered quite promptly:

    Dear Rebecca,

    To clarify, I'm quite used to loving men and women who suffer, and to the sort of graphic language about their suffering that is a part of true friendship. Did you bother looking at the post I just put up about Bob Kaplowitz? And would it help you to know that we currently are expecting about fourteen babies in our congregation? So the idea that I, as a man, am uncomfortable with talk about puking is quite hilarious.

    But my intention was not to start up privately what I was trying to bring to an end, publicly.

    So thank you for honoring my request.


    Tim Bayly

    Interesting, isn't it, that he responded to only that one small aspect of my letter, but chose to ignore my question as to how I am to demonstrate my submission.

    I can only infer that he is more interested in silencing me on his blog than anything else.

    Again, I earnestly desire the input, correction, and rebuke of my readers.

  7. Snide? Snide like Kamilla and Donna? I didn't see that sort of "snide" at all. Interesting how he allows "snide" from so many people, though, but sees "snide" where there is none?

    What, in your posts, were "snide"?

    What he means is that you need to demonstrate submission to HIS authority in order to be able to post on his blog. He can't tolerate anyone who doesn't tow his own brand of doctrine. He doesn't leave room that he may be wrong on some of these issues.

    You didn't come across "snide" at all.

    I just [truly!] thank God that Tim is not lord(ing) over a State-run church. This is why we do NOT want America to have a theonomic rule.

  8. "But my intention was not to start up privately what I was trying to bring to an end, publicly."


    If it makes you feel any better, I have saved several of his emails from a couple of years ago that almost match the ones you have shared with us.

  9. Rebecca, yours is a classic example of why I won't post over there. There was nothing wrong with your comments.

    My opinion is that Tim Bayly should learn some lessons from Don Veinot, whom Donna falsely accused in those very blog entries you were kicked out of participating in. Don posts all kinds of comments, including those that disagree with him, but I have yet to see him "shout anyone down," as Donna falsely accused him of doing. And if he responds to disagreements, it is always well-reasoned and gracious.

    Don is unlike Tim, who OBVIOUSLY has just "shouted you down," internet style.

    Donna's false accusation is ironic in light of what just happened to you over there with these comments being deleted, and Tim's charge to you, and his response to your well-worded private email to him. This has all the ear-marks of an internet "shout-down." Very ironic. I've NEVER seen Don Veinot or Ron Henzel act like this

    It is my considered opinion that Tim's online behavior is out of line with the requirements for elders spoken of in I Timothy, and I hope he soon understands and repents of his ways.

    Besides all of this, you talk about where you agree with, AND disagree with Carolyn James, as I did, on the Patriarchy board, and elsewhere. It isn't as though we are in lock-step with everything Mrs. James has said, and we have made that obvious.

    Too bad you can't discuss it over there, though.

  10. Rebecca, I followed that discussion and was appalled at how you were treated. It's not a matter of "feminized discourse," but of communicating with the grace and truth of Christ. You did so, and as Christ warned us, you are being despised for it.

    Now, after reading your other communications as well, my respect for you only increases. There's nothing you have said that any reasonable believer should object to in any way.

    Tim Bayly was flexing his muscle, and Kamilla and Donna were applauding the spectacle. They have their reward.

  11. I just happened on this blog, and I can barely tell you how delighted I am. grins!

    Corrie wrote: “They don't allow intelligent, well-thought, respectful posts on that blog. That is why your intelligent, well-thought, respectful post was canned.”

    I laughed out loud, scared the cat, and giggled some more. Corrie, you are so so correct on both counts.

    Rebecca wrote: “But is it submission to Scripture that Tim Bayly wants --- or submission to his interpretation of it?”

    Neither. The Bayly’s and many of their male followers want female Slavic obeisance. That's my take anyway.