Anger is Increasing – but why?

This morning, my dog and I crossed the road at a four-way stop crosswalk. There were cars at all four corners of the intersection. I waited until all four who had been waiting went and then I started across. It was 7:50, which probably meant some of the drivers waiting for me were almost late for work. That’s the setup for a situation you have already guessed at.

I was halfway across, when the driver right beside me honked the horn. Neither I or my dog was going slowly. As that happened, the car opposite just screeched her tires and ran through, missing me by about four feet. Inexplicably, she gave me the finger.

Yesterday, the Interstate by my house was closed for several hours. At 4 am two men had an incident of road rage. They stopped by the side of the road to argue some more. One of the men beat the other to death with a blunt instrument. Then he walked away from it and while he walked up the freeway, he was hit and killed by a car going by.

Another friend barely escaped an incident in Portland two weeks ago when white supremacists and anti-fascist groups were protesting *something* and my friend came out of a brunch engagement into the middle of it. She told me she had never seen anger like that.

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the abominable show of anger and vitriol at Charlottesville, Virginia. Who can get those angry images out of the head?

In the January 5, 2016 issue of Time Magazine, one of the editorials had the title “Why Are Americans So Angry About Everything”. This was two and a half years ago, and they reported that every year for the past decade, people in this country have gotten angrier than the year before. They presented some fairly plausible reasons for this surge of indignation, but they proposed no real solution.

Since I seem to have a regular front row seat for other people’s anger, I am curious as to the reasons myself. Is it the same as it has always been? Perhaps. But I think our obsession with telling the rest of the world our opinion and the means to truly get it out to everyone (television and Internet) has coalesced together into a firestorm of anger.

For the spiritual woman or man, this anger feels like a degenerative disease. Though we have to admit that few things change without someone getting angry, the anger of Today does not seem constructive in any shape. Destruction exists at the core of most anger these days.

What is fueling it? There are many reasons, maybe as many as there are people. But there are some psychological trends which show up a lot.

1. Entitlement. Nothing fuels anger quicker than that sense you are not getting treated the way you are entitled. If someone cuts you off in traffic, doesn’t represent you in government, doesn’t give you a raise, won’t listen to you, this brings out that sense of indignation.

2. Deficit. We do not like to feel we are falling behind others on no account of our own. We do not want to hear the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This sense of deficit I believe is what caused the person to honk their horn at me and the woman to almost run me down. I had let four cars go before walking through–but I had made them wait. Abraham Lincoln was asked one time why his boys were fighting. “They have this world’s disease” he answered. “I have three cookies and they both want two.”

3. Threatened. Many times, anger is fueled by fear. We are afraid and need to protect ourselves. The Amygdala in our brain is designed to respond to fear with a countering burst of angry emotion. This emotion may be what spawned the fatal road rage incident near my house. It certainly creates the attack/counter-attack scenarios associated with many public protests.

4. Status. We do not want to lose ground in life. The most common “game” interaction between humans is called the Zero Sum Game. That is, if one person is perceived to win in a situation, the other person is perceived to have lost. Because so much of American culture is built around the Zero Sum Game, we don’t even see it any more. We no longer see the Cooperative Principle which states “unless we all win, we all lose”. When we believe we are losing in any relationship, our natural reaction is anger.

5. Intimidation. Building on the concepts of Status and Entitlement, the idea that only the strongest survive also fuels our anger. From the child who throws a tantrum even before entering the grocery store, to the gang member who brandishes his weapon the first time he meets a new gang member, many people feel the need to stake out their territory before it is taken from them or challenged. The best way to indicate this is anger. It is our way of saying to someone, “be wary, I’m watching your every move”.

You may be able to see that all of these are incompatible with the life lived following Jesus. He cared nothing for Status. He could have intimidated others, but instead washed their feet. He felt no need to threaten anyone, and even when he could have called down angels from heaven, he refused to. He warned his disciples to ignore the deficit they felt inside toward each other and to serve each other instead. And he did not feel he was entitled to hold onto his status as God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.

As goes the Master, so go the servants.

It is time we looked at our anger to see if we are being angry in a godly way. “Be angry and sin not” the book of Ephesians says.

Is that your anger?

Fast Food Doctrines of 2018 – A Warning Label

Modern society has sharpened its critical focus on food with empty calories. All food and drink has calories. But not all calories are created equal. Some calories benefit our bodies. Some food has calories which only contribute to obesity and illness.

I’ll let y’all figure out which foods go in which category. I’m just using that as an analogy.

Though some fast food chains are trying to make their food more healthy and wholesome, few people believe they’ve accomplished it. Food which has many calories and few healthy elements is often desirable from a taste point of view, but bad for our health.

There are certain doctrines which are like that. They appeal to many people, but actually are harmful to spiritual health and growth. Every generation has doctrines like these, so we should never be surprised to discover them. Hebrews 13:9 has a name for them. It calls them “strange doctrines”. The word means “foreign” in the sense of “something imported”. There are doctrines which come at us like exotic, tasty food. They are not really part of clear historical doctrine, but at first bite they taste so good.

But are they good for us?

I have identified three current teachings in our day which fall into this category of Fast Food Doctrine. For each of these I will simply identify the following features:

1. The Doctrine

2. Why people like it

3. What is wrong with it

4. What you can replace it with that “tastes” similar but is better for you.

One qualifier and explanation before beginning. Most of us, myself included, are not professional theologians. I consider a professional theologian to be someone who has studied, been mentored in, been examined in, and has published in the arena of Theological disciplines. For the most part, the true Theologian should have at least a Masters Degree in Theology. Most of today’s professional theologians have both a doctorate in Theology and have been published in peer-reviewed journals.

I can hear someone saying “anyone who studies the Bible is a theologian.” I call that viewpoint “Credential Bleeding”. It results from diminishing the minimum requirements needed for someone to be considered professional at a task.

It is like someone looking up a medical condition on WebMD and considering themselves as well-informed on it as a doctor. It is like saying that anyone who has ever talked about their faith with someone is a missionary.

When you broaden a definition, you water it down so it means nothing.

I have a Bachelors degree in Theology. I have written papers on theological topics. I read and study theology regularly. Yet I’m nothing more than an amateur. Many pastors are the same. John McArthur, John Piper, Rick Warren, Francis Chan, Bill Johnson, T. D. Jakes, Jack Hayford, are all experienced pastors. They all have opinions on theological topics. In the case of John Piper, he even has a doctorate. But none of them qualify as a professional theologian.

The professionals–such as N. T. Wright, Marg Mowcsko, Alastair McGrath, Douglas Moo, Sarah Cokely, Grace Kim, Michael Horton, Roger Olson, etc.–are not as well known as the pastors. Yet, they form the foundation of knowledge, experience and learning upon which amateurs rely. Their writings give the background, credence, and historical context needed so the pastors and other more well-known Christians can speak with confidence.

Many of these theologians have identified these Fast Food Doctrines of our day. But because most people do not read theologians as much as they read pastors and bloggers, I thought I would explain how these three doctrines make Christians spiritually unhealthy.

Providential Determinism

The Doctrine: Continue reading “Fast Food Doctrines of 2018 – A Warning Label”

Aggressions Toward Women in Ministry

By Katie Richardson, Kathy Phillips, and numerous other women in ministry.

Edited by Mike Phillips

A “micro-aggression” is a term first used by Chester Pierce of Harvard to describe small but significant ways certain racial groups are treated with disdain and prejudice. Most often, it describes the treatment of African-Americans and Hispanic immigrants. But increasingly, it is used to describe behavior toward any traditionally dominated group in our society.

Recently, with recognition of the #metoo and #churchtoo movements, women chronicle how they are treated with micro-aggressions as well as the better known aggressive, violent behaviors. Victims and “casual” sufferers alike are calling attention to these subtle behaviors which attack the core of female identity and calling.

One oft-overlooked subset are those women serving in full-time pastoral positions in churches, church organizations, and church institutions (such as seminaries). Though women in general are certainly treated unfairly and badly on the whole in America, female pastors are an especially maligned group.

This article is compiled by two people with an unfortunate history concerning this subject. Kathy Phillips (the wife of the owner of this blog) served as a licensed, full-time pastoral staff in several of the same churches as Mike.

She has the same degree as Mike, and often does the same work in churches. She has served as Children’s Ministry Pastor, Assistant Pastor, Teaching Pastor, Parish Nurse, and School Director. But Mike and Kathy have been treated much differently during that time by both the men and the women of the church.

Katie has served in many capacities in churches and missionary organizations. She has served on pastoral staffs for over 20 years. She has been a pastor for middle schoolers, missionary with Youth For Christ, full-time worker with Youth With A Mission, camp director, assistant youth pastor and children’s ministry pastor, and Co-Founder of “His Heart My Voice” mission to Kenya. Katie often worked side-by-side with her husband who was paid staff. Katie also did the same amount and type of work, but was so rarely paid or received the same recognition. Indeed, her first paid position happened only after her marital separation. She currently serves at a local church as Volunteer Coordinator and Outreach Director.

Mike Phillips is the editor and compiler of this article. He is part of several organizations which support the Egalitarian biblical viewpoint, and groups where female pastors are common. He asked all of them if they had any insight into micro aggressions against female Christian workers. And if they had any insights, could they share a few stories with us.

We received well over 200 responses Continue reading “Aggressions Toward Women in Ministry”

Book Review: “Paul, Women Teachers, and the Mother Goddess of Ephesus”

In the 90s, I attended a conference at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. The speaker was one of the translators of the NIV, and I had the privilege of sharing a meal with him. I told him I had two New Testament translation questions for him if he had the time and the inclination. He was fine with answering those questions as long as we talked sports after.

But then he added, “And I will not address 1 Timothy 2”. Unfortunately, that chapter was one of my two questions. I actually had a three-parter: What does the word “authentein” mean (1 Tim. 2:12, often translated “to have authority”). I also wanted to know what “saved” meant in v. 15, and if “keep quiet” really implied women be silent in verse 11. Sadly, I was not about to find out any of those answers that day.

What I didn’t know was that same year a female professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Sharon Gritz, was publishing a book which would have given credible, plausible answers to all those questions–and many more. This book “Paul, Women Teachers, and the Mother Goddess of Ephesus”, was given a limited distribution by University Press, a publisher of academic books, and so it was not read by many people and is very difficult to find.

As with many academic books, I find the best route is to use some version of Interlibrary loan. In California, this is called “Link Plus”. I received a copy of Dr. Gritz’ book from Biola University’s library and quickly devoured the contents.

For an academic book, this is highly readable and the central concept easy to understand. Yet, even with its accessibility, this is still an academic book. A good third of the book consists of endnotes and bibliography. As such, it joins all the other studies done on this famous second chapter of 1 Timothy. I doubt any chapter in the Bible has had more recent essays written about it than this one.

It examines the ancient church’s approach to how women were viewed and treated. 1 Timothy 2 seems to set limitations on the entire church about women’s behavior in public. Because of this, many people question whether it has any relevance today.

For those who view the admonitions and instructions of Paul as valid today, their focus in studying 1 Timothy 2 is on understanding the context and the content of this chapter. Dr. Gritz addresses these exegetical and cultural questions more than some. She especially focuses on verses 9-15 for this book. And what she discovers has powerful implications.

First, she takes the reader on a broad study of all the cultures of the Ancient Near East (ANE). She examines in detail how each culture viewed and treated women, and how the women of the ANE practiced religion. One of the interesting details she highlights is that Israel’s view of women was radically different in the era of the Kings/Chronicles than it later became after the Exile.

During the era of the Kings, women had much more freedom in society and often worshiped the goddesses of the Canaanite nations. In particular, Jewish women were enthralled with Asherah. Gritz postulates through her reading of many rabbinical sources that the exiles coming back from captivity to Jerusalem began to blame women for the fall of Jerusalem. They especially blamed the worship of Asherah and the inter-marriage with foreign women.

In seeking to be back in God’s favor, the men decided to exclude women from many of the worship processes which they had access to before the exile. Significant among these changes was the building of the Court of the Women. This court was built around the main part of the temple. Women could not actually enter the Temple proper at any time. Yet Gritz shows that back in Solomon’s era they did not exclude women from the Temple. This came later.

This book shows how the post-exilic nature of the Jewish attitude toward women affected certain churches in particular. She points out that only in Ephesus and Corinth did the women face restrictions regarding leadership and public speaking. In Galatians, Philippians, Romans, and the Book of Acts, women play prominent roles in leadership. Yet in Corinth and Ephesus, women were restricted from both speaking and leadership.

Gritz addresses this adequately. Corinth and Ephesus had two things in common. First, they were centers of the Jewish Diaspora. Large numbers of Jews worshiped in both cities. Though this is also true in Philippi and Thessalonica, it is clear those churches were mainly Gentile. But Ephesus and Corinth had many Jews in the local church.

The second factor in common with both Ephesus and Corinth was the emphasis on goddess worship. Though goddesses were worshiped elsewhere, in those places the goddesses were not more prominent than the gods. But this is not true of these cities. Gritz speculates that only in Ephesus and Corinth did Goddess worship become the central religion along side Gnosticism.

The author does a good job at documenting every speculation she makes. Perhaps her greatest addition to the weight of scholarship on 1 Timothy 2 is her understanding of the nature of the Artemis cult. Artemis of the Ephesians and her temple were the main tourist sights of Ephesus.

Much has been written about Artemis. Gritz maintains some of what is written is misleading. She believes too many scholars have not taken into account the blending of cultures which resulted in the creations of Artemis. She shows clearly that the Artemis of the Ephesians was markedly different than the Artemis of Northern Greece.

Her contention is that if one misses that point, 1 Timothy 2 gets muddled and confusing. She’s right, of course.

When Alexander the Great conquered Ephesus, the locals had to change their religious allegiances. Greek culture was forced on them. But like many of the peoples whom the Greek conquered, they were syncretistic with their adaptation.

The Ephesians already worshiped a goddess. Her name was Sybele, and she was a goddess of fertility and sensuality. The worship of Sybele involved prostitution, orgies, and sacrifices. In addition, Sybele worshipers would work themselves up into frenzied states through the use of hallucinogens and alcohol. The more established priestesses could maintain emotional heights through dance and sexual dramas. Most temple priestesses of Sybele became ritual prostitutes.

When the Greeks took over, they imposed Artemis worship over top of Sybele worship. The result though did not look like the Greek version. The Greek Artemis (or Diana) was aloof, virgin, and sedate. Her worshipers were more Stoic and subdued. The worship of Artemis in Northern Greece was more inclined to be intellectual and ritualistic. When Greek Artemis met Ephesian Sybele, they formed an interesting symbiosis. They became Artemis of the Ephesians, an aloof Huntress who liked sex and music.

Her acolytes were the same. Some of them had polite social clubs. Others danced and partied into the night. Many members of both groups would have made their way into the church. Gritz describes how that must have looked and how the Jewish men in the church would have reacted to it. Paul, who at one time had been the pastor of this church, knew that some regulations should be established.

The book goes then into a detailed description of the passage and examines all the key words in detail. Others have done a better job of this. I commend the book “Exegetical Fallacies in Interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11-15″ by Rebecca Groothuis and Ronald Pierce for a much better approach. Their conclusions are more skilled as well.

This is the biggest disappointment with Gritz’ book. After spending 200 pages showing how the Pauline rules on women speaking, teaching, and having leadership in church were probably specific to this church only, she then reverses herself and draws some conclusions for the modern church which no Egalitarian could accept.

I can only guess she did this because she wanted her work to be acceptable to the Southern Baptist Convention, of which she is a member.

Read this book for its wonderful scholarship then, and not for its last chapter of conclusions.

You and Your Government

I originally posted this the month after DJT became President and several of my friends were saying that Romans 13 requires we support his Presidency and policies.

Since the Attorney General Sessions believes Romans 13 gives adequate theological backing for demanding we all agree with the laws of the land, here is a theological refutation to that.

The True Meaning and Application of Romans 13:1-2

Recently, I had a friend tell me that not only did God ordain that Donald Trump be elected, but that God always ordains every person in power, no matter who they are. And as such, we are expected to submit to all governing authorities, no matter who they are.

I asked him the inevitable question: “Do you mean a person in North Korea is to submit to Kim Jong Un?” “Yes, of course” was the answer. “Hitler?” I ventured. My friend hesitated and eventually said, “I am pretty sure. Yes.”  “How about Nebuchadnezzar, if he is telling you to bow down to a statue of himself he had made? Do you have to submit to him as well?” My friend, though not a strong Christian, knew the Bible enough to know I had set him up. He thanked me for the lunch and left the restaurant looking dazed.

I was not sorry I had done it. I am weary of explaining Romans 13:1-2 to friends, antagonists, and Calvinists. If  Romans 13:1-2 does not immediately jump into your mind, here it is in the New International Version:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

 I use the NIV here because it is rife with translation ambiguities which encourage people to jump to spurious conclusions. I believe, after we examine it closely here, we will find:

  1. We do not have to agree with or go along with all governing authorities
  2. There is a legitimate place for public protest
  3. God does not set up political leaders and endorse them
  4. We do not have to be agreeable and supportive of any political leader. We can disagree with them, stand against them, and even advocate their overthrow.

Allow me to use accepted bible interpretation techniques to show why I draw these conclusions from Romans 13:1-2

Continue reading “You and Your Government”

Why Churches Disbelieve Victims and Believe Pastoral Abusers

He was the principal of the Christian school which met at the church. His dad was the Senior Pastor. He had four years of teacher training and all the obligatory certifications, internships, and education needed. He added a Masters Degree in Theology and another Masters in Educational Administration. He was fully qualified to do the job he was doing.

During the five years he had been principal, his dad’s church had grown from 200 members to almost 1500. In that medium-sized town, the church dwarfed all the others. The main draw for newcomers was the Christian school.

And that’s when the accusations started. Continue reading “Why Churches Disbelieve Victims and Believe Pastoral Abusers”

Embracing Reality: Part 2 of the Myth of the Wonderful marriage

There are signs and then there are SIGNS.

This final premarital counseling session was a warning about disaster looming. This is the first wedding I had ever officiated or counseled someone about, and ten minutes into our time together, the bride-to-be looked at me and said, “I don’t think we should get married. This is a mistake.”

Up until that evening, they had both expressed positive feelings about getting married. Neither had voiced any real concerns about their relationship. In this session however, she pointed out a half dozen things she didn’t like about her fiance. Most of them were minor, especially the details of his personal hygiene.

At one point we heard a siren. It was the tornado warning. We trundled down to the shelter and waited until the all-clear. When we got back to the apartment, I wondered aloud if this warning was some kind of a sign. They both smiled. I went on to convince them they just had cold feet. Both of them finally agreed that despite their misgivings they still wanted to get married.

Two weeks later, we had a beautiful and uplifting ceremony. Immediately after the reception, they left on their honeymoon for two weeks. Since this was my first wedding as officiant, I wanted to know how they were doing as soon as they got back. I called the bride and casually asked how the trip went from her perspective.

“We’re getting an annulment Pastor Mike. So, I guess you could say it wasn’t a great trip.”

I could not convince her to stay married. Neither could the groom or her mother.

About a month after she applied and received the annulment, we sat down again and she went into more detail about her reasons. Surprisingly, neither her decision to get married nor her decision to annul the marriage was made hastily. The man she had intended marrying was a good man. He lived a moral and ethical life and she really liked him.

But there were several things about him she could not abide. Each day of the honeymoon, she asked herself one question repeatedly: “Could I live with this for 50 years?” Because she answered “no” too many times, she decided not to waste his time or hers on a marriage which would not work.

I asked her to list what she found objectionable about him. They were all variations of the same three categories: approach to money, their sex life, his personal hygiene. She noticed all these things before they got married (Note: don’t judge. They wanted to know if they were sexually compatible before marriage, despite the Church’s strictures against it. That was their choice). These grievances were the basis of her telling me at the premarital session she didn’t want to get married. She apologized for heeding me and going through with it even with her doubts.

At the time, I was only recently married myself, and I didn’t know her decision may have been based upon a very faulty premise. She believed these incompatibilities were insurmountable and would bother her all their married life. I wish I could have that proverbial Time Machine and go back to give her the wisdom I have garnered through time and experience. Here’s what I would tell her:

Almost every couple on earth is incompatible. It takes several years to clear a lot of that up. Many couples are very successful at doing that; some are not.

Couples endure a great deal of pain Continue reading “Embracing Reality: Part 2 of the Myth of the Wonderful marriage”