Butterfield Journeys from PC to JC

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Rosaria Champagne Butterfield [1]. 2012.  The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert:  An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith.  Pittsburgh:  Crown & Covenant Publications.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

What is conversion?

In postmodern thinking, conversion is an act of treason.  The modern thinker believes in objectivity—a single, objective reality exists which we can study, understand, and agree on.  By contrast, the postmodern thinker believes truth is socially constructed. There is not one objective truth; there is only your truth and my truth. The interpretative community (the social group) in power determines reality. Therefore, the convert from one worldview to another is accordingly a traitor (or heretic) to the interpretive community (social group) left behind.  Because community boundaries are vigorously defended, conversion can be accompanied by significant costs to the convert.

In her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Dr. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield writes about her conversion from lesbianism to Christianity.

Dr. Butterfield’s use of the word, convert, in her title suggests the vast distance that she traveled.  One converts from one religion to another, not from one hobby to another.  Lesbianism is a secular (atheistic) religion with its own philosophy (deconstructionism), cultural markers (hair-style; clothing; vocabulary; 8), public testimony (x), evangelism (8), and social networks (50).  She writes:

When I became a Christian, I had to change everything—my life, my friends, my writing, my teaching, my advising, my clothes, my speech, my thoughts.  I was tenured to a field that I could no longer work in (26).

A change in worldview requires a world of change.  She refers to lesbianism as a sin of identity (23).  What this means is that when we establish our primary identity in anything other than Christ, we commit idolatry—sin that violates the second commandment [2].  Workaholism is another common sin of identity.

In her biblical exploration of her sin, Dr. Butterfield focuses on an interesting passage:

As I live, declares the Lord GOD, your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. (Ezekiel 16:48-50 ESV)

The sin of Sodom was not just immorality but more importantly pridea focus on self, entertainment-driven lust, love of money, and neglect of the poor (30-31).  Does this description sound familiar?

The details of Rosario’s conversion experience are fascinating.  Her spiritual journey began with a research project.  She decided to write a book on the hermeneutic (interpretative principles) used by the Christian Right—people such as Pat Robertson.  Her research involved studying the Bible 5 hours a day (12) and led her to begin studying Greek (the New Testament is written entirely in Greek; 7).  A newspaper article that she published critiquing the gender politics of Promise Keepers [3] generated a lot of mail, including a thoughtful letter from a local pastor, Pastor Ken, who invited her to call and discuss the article (7-9).  She called. They began a conversation that extended over a period of years as she pursued her research. But the book was never completed.  From her own study of the Bible (aided by Pastor Ken’s non-anxious pastoral presence and biblical interpretation) Rosario became convinced that what the Bible said about God was true (13, 8).  Baptized and raised Roman Catholic, Rosario began attending and later joined the Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPC) [4].  She later married an RPC pastor (94).

Rosario’s claims to be a leader in the gay rights movement (4) are not lite fluff.  To see this, just check out her reading list in preparing her proposed book on the Christian Right.  For example, she read Augustine’s Confessions (50), John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (17), and Kevin Vanhoozer’s Is There a Meaning in This Text? (87-89). These are books that challenge most seminary students—if they have read them at all—and they are required reading in understanding Christian hermeneutics (study of interpretation) and epistemology (study of knowledge).  If you think that English professors sit around reading Emily Dickson all day, you vastly underestimate Dr. Butterfield’s academic bona fides [5].

A key takeaway from Rosario’s conversion testimony is that it was the subversive activity of the Holy Spirit, not a clever evangelist, that led her to Christ.  Like many converts from Islam, her conversion began with study of the Bible [6].

Another important takeaway concerns Pastor Ken’s ability to be a non-anxious presence for Rosario.  The RPC has a strong intellectual grounding in Calvin’s systematic theology.  Systematic theology is holistic which implies that no aspect of life or faith is doctrinally neglected—its strength lies in its completeness.  A non-anxious presence begins with emotional intelligence but requires intellectual rigor.  Lesbians, like Muslims, ask tough questions.  One earns their respect by being able to field the questions credibly, honestly, and humbly without fear.  Pastor Ken’s RPC background helped him keep up his end of the conversation.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert reads like Augustine’s Confessions.  As a young man, Augustine also struggled with sexual sin.  And, after converting to Christianity, he played an important role in the monastic movement which encouraged candidates for ministry to practice celibacy.  Augustine’s deep theology particularly influenced a young monk in the 15th century—a certain Martin Luther whose work was at the center of the Protestant Reformation.  Protestants all owe a debt of gratitude to Augustine, who struggled with and overcame sexual sin.  The Apostle Paul writes:  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

Rosario’s book is short having only 5 chapters:

  • Conversion and the Gospel of Peace;
  • Repentance and the Sin of Sodom;
  • The Good Guys: Sanctification and Public Worship;
  • The Home Front:  Marriage, Ministry, and Adoptions; and
  • Homeschooling and Middle Age.

These chapters are preceded by a forward and acknowledgments and followed by a bibliography and other resources.

Rosario’s confession is likely to become a classic, in part, because it is timely and, in part, because it can be read on multiple levels.  On the surface level, it reads as a reinvestment story [7]:  there I was; here I am.  For the surface reader, she provides lots of interesting details about her life both as a lesbian and, later, as a pastor’s wife and home-school teacher.  Beneath the surface, however, lies Dr. Butterfield, the intellectual.  What is a presuppositional problem? (8)  What is the ontological fallacy? (13) What does it mean not to believe in objectivity? (14)  I was intrigued and was sorry that Rosario did not write and explain more.  In particular, why did she become a lesbian? [8]

What is conversion?  For Rosario, it was like the Copernican Revolution. The earth went from being the center of the universe to being a planet rotating around the sun.  The Copernican Revolution simplified the mathematics of planetary motion.  It was much the same for Rosario. When she displaced self with the Triune God, her life was simpler, more joyful, and kingdom focused [9].

What are the implications for the church?  For the surface reader, Dr. Butterfield’s conversion is incomprehensible and terribly inconvenient for those that have been co-opted by ardent lesbianism and related postmodern philosophies.  For deeper readers, this review only scratches the surface.  Bottom line?  Read and discuss the book.  It is worth the time for those who believe in the resurrected Christ.

[1] http://RosariaButterfield.com.

[2] You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me (Exodus 20:4-5 ESV).

[3] www.PromiseKeepers.org

[4] RPC adheres to the Westminster Confession which does not permit ordination of women.  http://ReformedPresbyterian.org.

[5] By contrast, her academic specialty, Queer Theory, is a topic that I have no background to evaluate (2).

[6] For example, read or listen to the testimony of Khalil (www.MoreThanDreams.tv/Khalil.html).

[7] See John Savage.  1996.  Listening and Caring Skills:  A Guide for Groups and Leaders.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press, pages 82-84.

[8] The only real hint in the book arises when Rosario write:  I had not always been a lesbian.  But once I had my first girlfriend, I was hooked and I was sure that I found my “real” self. (14)  This description reads as if one who, having tasted blood, desired more—an addiction consistent with deconstructionism’s focus on power.

[9] One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven– for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:36-47 ESV)

 

 

 

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1 Corinthians 15: Resurrection Changes Everything

RPC_tomb_03092014bBy Stephen W. Hiemstra

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6 ESV)

The Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth reaches its climax in chapter 15.  The first two verses of the chapter build up to a short confession recounting the story of Jesus (vv 3-6).  Scholars believe that this is one of the earliest confessions of the church. Several points are striking about this confession, including:

  • The confession refers to Jesus of Nazareth as Christ.  Modern critics often assert that titles such as Messiah or Son of God are confessions of the latter church.  Here it is immediately confessed by the early church within a couple years of the crucifixion.
  • The use of Cephas to refer to Peter hints at the ancient nature of this confession.  Cephas is Aramaic; Peter is a Greek translation.  Because the entire New Testament (NT) is written in Greek, Aramaic shows up in the NT mostly in quotations where authenticity is important.  Paul uses Cephas 8 times; the Apostle John is the only other NT author to use Cephas. John wrote:  John brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:42 ESV)  By contrast, Peter is used 100 times in the NT.
  • Paul uses the word, scripture(s), 14 times in his letters.  The NT uses it 51 times.  This confession is the only place in his letter to the Corinthians where he uses the word, scripture(s).  Apparently, the early church felt that it was important to tie the Jesus story to Old Testament scripture.
  • This confession links the cross to forgiveness of sin.  This is called the doctrine of the atonement.  Some theologians have recently questioned the doctrine of the atonement because the existence of sin implies an absolute moral standard.  Yet, the confession makes it clear—Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures (v 3).
  • The confession makes it clear that Jesus’ resurrection was witnessed by large numbers of people, not just the disciples. While a small group might have made up a resurrection story (or have been delusional), a large public crowd could not (v 6).  Paul’s account accordingly throws cold water on many modern theories disputing the resurrection.

Because Paul’s letter was widely circulated and there were many eye-witnesses to what he wrote about, clearly this confession was a keystone of the early church.

The resurrection was also the key doctrine that Paul taught.  He writes: …if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished (vv 17-18).  In other words, without the resurrection there is no salvation from sin, no victory over death, and no eternal life.  There have been many martyred saints, but only one resurrection.  We remember Jesus.

The resurrection speaks of the power of God and the divinity of Jesus Christ. Because Christ is divine, then scripture as understood by the traditional teaching of church provides a reliable rule for life.

Resurrection changes everything.  This is why it is called the Good News.

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1 Corintios 15: Resurrección Cambia Todo

RPC_tomb_03092014bPor Stephen W. Hiemstra

Porque ante todo les transmití a ustedes lo que yo mismo recibí: que Cristo murió por nuestros pecados según las Escrituras, que fue sepultado, que resucitó al tercer día según las Escrituras, y que se apareció a Cefas, y luego a los doce. Después se apareció a más de quinientos hermanos a la vez, la mayoría de los cuales vive todavía, aunque algunos han muerto. (1 Corintios 15:3-6 NVI)

Primera carta del apóstol Pablo a la iglesia en Corinto alcanza su clímax en el capítulo 15. Los dos primeros versículos del capítulo se acumulan a una corta confesión relatar la historia de Jesús (vv 3-6). Los eruditos creen que esta es una de las primeras confesiones de la iglesia. Varios puntos son sorprendentes acerca de esta confesión, que incluye:

  • La confesión se refiere a Jesús de Nazaret como Cristo. Los críticos modernos a menudo afirman que títulos como Mesías o Hijo de Dios son confesiones de esta última iglesia. Aquí se confesó de inmediato por la iglesia primitiva en un par de años de la crucifixión.
  • El uso de Cefas para referirse a Pedro alude a la antigua naturaleza de esta confesión. Cefas es el arameo; Peter es una traducción griega. Debido a que todo el Nuevo Testamento (NT) se escribe en griego, arameo aparece en el NT en su mayoría en citas donde la autenticidad es importante. Pablo usa Cefas 8 veces; el apóstol Juan es el único otro autor NT para utilizar Cefas. Juan escribió: Luego lo llevó a Jesús, quien mirándolo fijamente, le dijo—Tú eres Simón, hijo de Juan. Serás llamado Cefas (es decir, Pedro).  (Juan 1:42 NVI) En cambio, Pedro se usa 100 veces en el NT.
  • Pablo usa la palabra, de la escritura (s), 14 veces en sus cartas. El NT utiliza 51 veces. Esta confesión es el único lugar en su carta a los Corintios donde se usa la palabra, de la escritura (s). Al parecer, la iglesia primitiva consideró que era importante vincular la historia de Jesús de las Escrituras del Antiguo Testamento.
  • Esta confesión une la cruz para el perdón de los pecados. Esto se conoce como la doctrina de la expiación. Algunos teólogos han cuestionado recientemente la doctrina de la expiación, porque la existencia del pecado implica una norma moral absoluta. Sin embargo, la confesión deja claro: Cristo murió por nuestros pecados, según las Escrituras (v 3).
  • La confesión deja en claro que la resurrección de Jesús fue presenciada por un gran número de personas, no sólo de los discípulos. Mientras que un pequeño grupo podría haber inventado una historia de la resurrección (o han estado delirante), una gran multitud público no podía (v 6). En consecuencia el relato de Pablo lanza agua fría a muchas teorías modernas disputando la resurrección.

Debido a que la carta de Pablo fue ampliamente difundido y había muchos testigos presenciales de lo que escribió sobre, claramente esta confesión era una piedra angular de la iglesia primitiva.

La resurrección fue también la doctrina fundamental de que Pablo enseñó. Él escribe: … si Cristo no resucitó, vuestra fe es vana; aún estáis en vuestros pecados. Entonces también los que durmieron en Cristo perecieron (vv 17-18). En otras palabras, sin la resurrección, no hay salvación del pecado, no hay victoria sobre la muerte, ni vida eterna. Ha habido muchos santos mártires, pero sólo una resurrección. Recordamos a Jesús.

La resurrección habla del poder de Dios y la divinidad de Jesucristo. Porque Cristo es divino, entonces la Escritura tal como la entiende la enseñanza tradicional de la Iglesia ofrece una regla fiable para la vida.

Resurrección cambia todo. Es por esto que se llama la Buena Noticia.

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McManus: Take Risks for Christ

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Erwin Raphael McManus.  2002.  Seizing Your Divine Moment.  Nashville:  Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

If you are the kind of person who encourages your child to take a swan dive off the roof of your house and into your arms, then you really need to read Erwin Raphael McManus [1].  If not, perhaps you should think about it.

McManus writes:  The divine potential of a moment is unlocked by the choices we make (18).  The Greeks call this kairos time—a moment of crisis or decision.  Kairos time contrasts with chronos time—calendar or clock time which just plods along. When God created Adam and Eve, he placed them in a “garden of choices.”  They choose badly and everything changed (19).  Later, God set choices before the nation of Israel.  Moses wrote:

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.  If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. (Deuteronomy 30:15-18 ESV)

Likewise, God asks us to make choices (21).  Even the life of Rahab, the prostitute, was redeemed by her choices both a physical and spiritual sense [2]. In joining the Nation of Israel, Rahab became the great, great grandmother of King David which also means that Jesus himself was her descendant (23-24).

McManus warns Christians against getting trapped in passivity.  He writes:

We have put so much emphasis on avoiding evil that we have become virtually blind to the endless opportunities for doing good…the great tragedy is not the sins we commit, but the life that we fail to live…There is a subtle danger of hiding apathy behind piety..If there is one secret to seizing your divine moment, it is that you must take initiative (34-35).

McManus focuses his message on 1 Samuel 14:1-23 which is the story of Jonathan, King Saul’s son and friend of David.  This is a saga of competing discernment stories.  King Saul slept under a pomegranate tree with 600 men waiting for a word from God; Jonathan took his armor bearer and went out to challenge the Philistines to a fight asking God to bless his efforts. God not only blessed his efforts (the 2 of them killed 20 Philistines; v 14), God also set off a panic among the Philistine army that resulted in them suffering a huge defeat—the Philistines were so confused that they ended up killing each other (v 20).  Apparently, God is not the god of sleepy Christians.

McManus writes:  I have seen the pomegranate dilemma again and again.  Those who hold the authority and resources of the kingdom are all too often more motivated to make sure that they do not lose them rather than to make sure they are used properly (38).  He concludes:  The more you move with God-given urgency, the more God seems to bless your life.  The more God blesses your life, the more you have to lose… The more you have to risk, the higher the price of following God (39).  Still, McManus observes:  when you are passionate about God, you can trust your passions (47).

McManus is lead pastor and cultural architect of Mosaic in Los Angeles, California [3].  Erwin comes originally from El Salvador and holds degrees from the University of North Carolina, Southwestern Theological Seminary, and Southeastern University.  Seizing Your Divine Moment is written in 9 chapters which divide, like an earthquake, into sections entitled foreshock, epicenter, and aftershock.  The chapter titles are:

  1. Choices—Choose to Live;
  2. Initiative—Just Do Something;
  3. Uncertainty—Know You Don’t Know;
  4. Influence—Breathe In, Breathe Out;
  5. Risk—Live Before You Die, and Vice Versa;
  6. Advance—Unless You Get a No;
  7. Impact—Leave a Mark;
  8. Movement—Ignite a Reaction; and
  9. Awakening—Wake the Dead (v).

These chapters are preceded by acknowledgments and followed by a write up about McManus.

Seizing Your Divine Moment played an important role in my pastoral formation.  In 2005 when I read the book, I was working full-time as an economist and did not enter seminary until 2008.  It helped shape my view of what church can and should be and kept me from despairing about how it often turns out.  I recommend the book to those considering seminary or simply desiring to jump start their faith.  It is a book for the young and the young at heart.

 

[1] Paraphrase of a story from a sermon.  See: Erwin Raphael McManus 2005. The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Her testimony is striking:  I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.  For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the LORD your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death. (Joshua 2:9-13 ESV)

[3] http://mosaic.org.

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1 Corinthians 14: Spiritual Gifts Build the Body

Diane_painting_flowers_06022014By Stephen W. Hiemstra

I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.  Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. (vv 18-19)

How do spiritual gifts affect Christian worship?

The weekend last year when I commenced at seminary, I visited a new church.  The guest preacher was a close friend and I sought his blessing over my ministry.  The service was video-taped and streamed online. The music was lively; the prayer was deep; the congregation was engaged. People danced, waved flags, sounded ram’s horns, and testified to God’s power in their daily lives. This congregation actively celebrated the gifts of the spirit [1].

In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the church at Corinth, he sought to channel the expression of spiritual gifts to build up the church (v 4).  He made his point by comparing two gifts:  speaking in tongues and prophecy.  Paul describes the gift of tongues as the language of angels (13 v 1), a spiritual prayer language (v 13), and a manner suitable for speaking with God (v 28) [2].  He describes prophesy having at least 3 purposes:  building people up, encouraging people, and providing consolation (v 3).  Because Paul engages in both speaking in tongues (v 18) and prophesy (13 v 9) [3], he is using these gifts to make a point, not to discourage their practice.

Paul makes several points in preferring prophecy over speaking in tongues during worship, including:

  • The one who speaks in tongues speaks to God, but the one who prophesies speaks to people (vv  2-3);
  • The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church (v 4);
  • Prophesy is to be preferred to speaking in tongues (unless someone interprets the tongues) because prophesy builds up the church (v 5).
  • Prophesy involves spirit and mind (inferred), but speaking in tongues involve only the spirit (v 14);
  • Prophesy reaches unbelievers, while speaking in tongues does not and may distract them (vv 23-24); and
  • …tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. (v 22)

Paul himself speaks in tongues, but only in private (vv 18-19).

Paul’s teaching on worship focuses on building up the body of Christ, both by encouraging believers and welcoming unbelievers.  He suggests 2-3 people speak in tongues, if they have interpreters, and, likewise, 2-3 people prophesy (vv 27-29).  For Paul, worshiping decently and in order (v 40) accordingly implies moderation in the public display of spirituality, not its absence.

 

[1] All Nations Church, Charlotte, NC (www.ChavdaMinistries.org).

[2] Elsewhere, the Gospel of Mark reports: And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. (Mark 16:17-18 ESV)

[3] Paul’s description of his conversion and call suggests that he viewed himself called to be a prophet in the Old Testament tradition like Ezekiel. For example, the Greek in Acts 26:16 ἀνάστηθι καὶ στῆθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας (arise and stand on your feet; Acts 26:16 BNT) compares closely with Ezekiel’s words: στῆθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας (stand on your feet; Ezek 2:1 BGT).

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1 Corintios 14: Los Dones Espirituales Construir el Cuerpo

Diane_painting_flowers_06022014Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Doy gracias a Dios porque hablo en lenguas más que todos ustedes. Sin embargo, en la iglesia prefiero emplear cinco palabras comprensibles y que me sirvan para instruir a los demás, que diez mil palabras en lenguas. (vv 18-19)

¿De qué manera los dones espirituales afectan el culto cristiano?

El fin de semana del año pasado, cuando comencé en el seminario, me visitó una iglesia nueva. El invitado predicador era un amigo cercano y me pidió su bendición sobre mi ministerio. El servicio fue grabada en video y transmitido en línea. La música estaba animado; la oración era profunda; la congregación estaba comprometida. La gente bailaba, ondearon banderas, sonaron los cuernos de carnero, y dieron testimonio del poder de Dios en sus vidas diarias. Esta congregación celebra activamente los dones del espíritu [1].

En la primera carta del apóstol Pablo a la iglesia en Corinto, trató de canalizar la expresión de los dones espirituales para edificar la iglesia (v 4). Hizo su punto mediante la comparación de dos regalos: hablar en lenguas y la profecía. Pablo describe el don de lenguas, según el lenguaje de los ángeles (13 v 1), un lenguaje de oración espiritual (v 13), y de una manera adecuada para hablar con Dios (v 28) [2]. Él describe la profecía que tiene por lo menos 3 objetivos: la construcción de la gente, animando a la gente, y ofrecer consuelo (v 3). Debido a que Pablo se involucra tanto en el hablar en lenguas (v 18) y profetizan (13 v 9) [3], está utilizando estos dones para hacer un punto, no desalentar su práctica.

Pablo deja varios puntos en preferir la profecía sobre hablar en lenguas durante el culto, incluyendo:

  • El que habla en lenguas habla a Dios, pero el que profetiza habla a los hombres (vv 2-3);
  • El que habla en lenguas edifica a sí mismo, pero el que profetiza edifica a la iglesia (v 4);
  • Profetiza es preferible a hablar en lenguas (a menos que alguien interpreta las lenguas), porque profetiza edifica a la iglesia (v 5).
  • Profetiza implica el espíritu y la mente (inferido), pero el hablar en lenguas implica sólo el espíritu (v 14);
  • Profetiza llega a los incrédulos, mientras que el hablar en lenguas que no y puede distraerlos (vv 23-24); y
  • las lenguas son una señal, no para los creyentes sino para los incrédulos, mientras que la profecía es una señal, no a los incrédulos, sino para los creyentes. (v 22)

El mismo Pablo habla en lenguas, pero sólo en privado (vv 18-19).

La enseñanza de Pablo sobre la adoración se centra en la edificación del cuerpo de Cristo, tanto mediante el fomento de los creyentes y no creyentes de bienvenida. Sugiere 2-3 personas hablar en lenguas, si tienen intérpretes, y, asimismo, para 2-3 personas, profetiza (vv 27-29). Para Pablo, la adoración decentemente y con orden (v 40) en consecuencia implica moderación en la exhibición pública de la espiritualidad, no su ausencia.

 

[1] All Nations Church, Charlotte, NC (www.ChavdaMinistries.org).

[2] Por otra parte, el Evangelio de Marcos informa: Estas señales acompañarán a los que crean: en mi nombre expulsarán demonios; hablarán en nuevas lenguas; tomarán en sus manos serpientes; y cuando beban algo venenoso, no les hará daño alguno; pondrán las manos sobre los enfermos, y éstos recobrarán la salud. (Marcos 16:17-18 NVI)

[3] La descripción de Pablo de su conversión y llamada sugiere que él veía a sí mismo llamado a ser un profeta en la tradición del Antiguo Testamento como Ezequiel. Por ejemplo, el griego en Hechos 26:16 ἀνάστηθι καὶ στῆθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας (levántate y ponte sobre tus pies; Hechos 26:16 BNT) compara muy de cerca con las palabras de Ezequiel: στῆθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας (ponte sobre tus pies; Ezequiel 2:01 BGT).

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Heifetz and Linsky Lead through Adversity

Heifetz and Linsky, Leadership on the Line
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Heifetz and Linsky Lead through Adversity

Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky.  2002.  Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading.  Boston:  Harvard Business School Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Postmodern philosophy is toxic for leaders. We live in a buddy culture where everyone is presumed to be equal. When equality is not true because of divine inspiration, gifting, or merit, jealous buddies stand ready to entertain with defeatist stories about victims, villains, or helplessness and to rescue mediocrity from actual change. Real leadership is accordingly poorly compensated and under constant suspicion [1].

This characterization is itself, of course, a defeatist rant.

Introduction

In their book, Leadership on the Line:  Staying Alive through the Dangers of Leading, Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky assert:

we believe you can “walk the line,” [citing Johnny Cash] step forward, make a difference, take the heat, and survive to delight in the fruits of your labor.

In fact, they see leadership providing meaning to life itself in spite of obvious dangers and discouragements (3, 11-12).

Technical versus Adaptive Change

A key insight in Heifetz and Linsky’s work is to distinguish technical from adaptive challenges.  In a technical change, authorities apply current know-how to solve a problem while in an adaptive change people with the problem must learn new ways to solve the problem (14).  A technical change typically requires nothing more than additional budget while an adaptive change requires an entirely new approach (18).

Technical Change

Heifetz and Linsky cite the example of a car that breaks down.  If your car breaks down, then you can take it to a mechanic and get it fixed.  However, if your car breaks down because of how the family drives it, then the problem is likely to come up over and over until the family changes how the car is driven.  The mechanic can fix the first problem (car breaks down), but only the family itself can fix the second problem (repeated break downs; 19).  The rub arises because:  Habits, values, and attitudes, even dysfunctional ones, are part of one’s identity.  To change the way people see and do things is to challenge how they define themselves (27).  As a consequence, adaptive problems are inherently more difficult and costly to deal with.

Importance of Adaptive Change

Because current leaders were promoted to bring organizations to the point they find themselves in today, part of the challenge of adaptive change arises in dealing with dealing with those with a vested interest in the way things are.  Heifetz and Linsky observe that resistance to change often comes from unexpected places and people.  They see the 4 principal dangers to leaders being marginalization, diversion, attack, and seduction (31).  Marginalization can take the form of tokenism, neglect, or professional pigeon-holing (32-37).  Diversion results in a loss of focus—taking on too many issues or being promoted off-line (38-40).  Attacks may focus on your ideas, character, competence, family, or physical existence (42) [2]. Seduction arises as constituents for change insist on taking the issue too far and the leader then fails chasing the dream rather than accomplishing real, doable change (45-48).

Fog of War

Emotions rage and helpful information is often absent during periods of change.  In the military, this is called the fog of war.  Heifetz and Linsky accordingly observe the need to maintain the capacity for reflection—to observe more clearly what is really going on (52).  During movies of the 1930s and 1940s, during dance or dinner party scenes characters frequently retreated to a balcony to talk (or have a smoke) where they figured out their strategies. On the balcony, Heifetz and Linsky see 4 useful activities:

  1. Distinguish technical from adaptive changes;
  2. Find out where people are at;
  3. Listen to the song beneath the words (do not accept things at face value); and/or
  4. Read the behavior of authority figures for clues (55).

A Christian might substitute the expression—Sabbath rest—for balcony here as we lead our families through the stresses and struggles of life.

Organization

Heifetz and Linsky’s Leadership on the Line is written in 11 chapters divided into 3 parts:  The Challenge, the Response, and Body and Soul.  The chapters are:

  1. The Heart of Danger;
  2. The Faces of Danger;
  3. Get on the Balcony;
  4. Think Politically;
  5. Orchestrate the Conflict;
  6. Give the Work Back;
  7. Hold Steady;
  8. Manage Your Hungers;
  9. Anchor Yourself;
  10. What’s On the Line? And
  11. Sacred Heart (vii).

These chapters include an introduction and notes, an index, and write-up about the authors in the pages that follow.

Example of Adaptive Change Challenge

Heifetz and Linsky’s distinction between technical and adaptive changes is most useful.  I cannot tell you how many meetings that I attended in the government where a focus on “low hanging fruit”—technical changes which really did not address the issue but gave managers an opportunity to pretend to do something—pushed aside attempts at adaptive change.

Conversion as Adaptive Change

Conversion to Christ is an adaptive change; it is not the low hanging fruit that people want to grab which leaves them feeling “in control” of their lives.  Christians become leaders the moment they respond to God’s call on their lives because they reject technical change for the transformational change which Christ offers.  The Apostle Paul writes:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)

Consequently, Heifetz and Linsky offer a style of leadership which is an allegory for the Christian life [3].  Leadership on the Line is well worth the reading.

Footnotes

[1] My paraphrase of Heifetz and Linsky’s challenges of leadership on pages 1-5.

[2] In the recent Veteran’s Administration scandal, for example, no one questioned the administrator’s competence, but media attention forced him to resign. In effect, the appetite to solving the problem remains weak—it was easier to personalize the problem and make it go away by assigning blame—a villain story.

[3] www.youtube.com/user/FaithandLeadership.

 

Also see:

Plueddemann Demystified Leadership Across Culture 

Books, Films, and Ministry

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2vfisNa

 

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Reynolds: Man up; Get Healthy

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Steve Reynolds and MG Ellis.  2012.  Get Off the Couch:  6 Motivators to Help You Lose Weight and Start Living.  Ventura:  Regal.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Death is personal. At one point as a chaplain intern I ministered to a 400-pound man in the emergency room.  His arms were covered with Band-Aids. The best nurses in the department took turns trying to insert a catheter, but could not find a vein—he was just too fat.  Obesity kills, but before it does, it robs one of all dignity.  There are old people and there are fat people, but there are no old, fat people (71).

Pastor Steve Reynolds is an interesting guy [1].  At one point in his 40s he weighed 340 pounds and was diagnosed with diabetes (15).  It scared him into action.  As a pastor, he turned to his bible for answers and looked up passages dealing with the body.  For example, the Apostle Paul writes:

do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV; 40)

Likewise, the Apostle John writes:

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. (3 John 1:2 ESV; 39)

Pastor Steve also noted that the very first sin in the bible had to do with Satan tempting Eve with food (Genesis 3:1-6).  If our forbearers were first tempted with food and over-eating pollutes the body—trashing the temple of God—raising the prospects for an early death, then is it any wonder that Saint Thomas Aquinas referred to gluttony as a mortal sin? [2]

Pastor Steve ended up losing more than 100 pounds.

People noticed.  His congregation asked him to preach on his biblical approach to weight-loss.  A woman in his congregation wrote an article for the Washington Post [3]  and he became an instant media celebrity as the anti-fat pastor (@AntiFatPastor).  Books followed.

Pastor Steve’s most recent book, Get Off the Couch:  6 Motivators to Help You Lose Weight and Start Living, focuses on men.  Because men generally do not read (especially not self-help books), this is curiously what you call a pass-through book—a book purchased by one person for another.  In other words, wives seriously concerned about their couch-potato husbands are an important target audience because, like football, healthy living is a team effort.

Unlike most book focused on weight-loss, Get Off the Couch provides a strategy for achieving the goal that goes beyond changes in diet.  Pastor Steve focuses on an acronym:  ACTION.  “A” is for Aware; “C” is for Commit; “T” is for Transform; “I” is for Incorporate; “O” is for Organize; and “N” is for Navigate.  ACTION is not only a strategy; the 12-chapters of the book are organized around ACTION as well:

Aware (1. Get in the Game; 2.Your Body Matters to God;)

Commit (3. You Gotta Play by the Playbook; 4.  Winning Over Temptation; )

Transform (5. Get Your Head in the Game; 6. Progress, Not Perfection;)

Incorporate (7. Get Buff, not Buffeted; 8. No Pain, No Gain!)

Organize (9. Stronger Together; 10. Drafting Your Team;) and

Navigate (11. Make Your Dash Count; 12. Your Game Plan for Health).

These 12 chapters are preceded by multiple forwards and followed by multiple appendices.  Pastor Steve is as serious about your succeeding in improving your health in a Godly manner as he is about football.

Get Off the Couch is full of testimonials of men who have succeeded in turning their lives around and living healthy.  The book has numerous before and after photographs of these men.  Two-thirds of us, Americans, need to lose weight (26).  We are addicted to inactivity and food.  We need to exercise more and eat less (49). Pastor Steve provides a great playbook for getting started.

[1] www.capitalbaptist.org/pastorsteve.html.

[2] Thomas Aquina’s 7 deadly sin are often described using their Latin names. Those are superbia (pride), invidia (envy), ira (anger), gula (gluttony), luxuria (lust), avarita (greed), and accidia (sloth).  Henry Henry. 2006. The Seven Deadly Sins Today (Orig Pub 1978). Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. page iv.

[3] Jacqueline L. Salmon. “Calling the Flock to God, Away From the Fridge” Washington Post, January 22, 2007 (http://wapo.st/SkJ4V9).

 

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