Friday, November 16, 2018

A Part of Something Greater, Part III: Defending Nazarene Apostolic Succession

This is part of an on-going series which began as a reflection on my own ordination to the order of Elder in the Church of the Nazarene, and quickly expanded into an articulation and defense of apostolic succession and the ordination of women, and why I think it is important for Evangelical Christians to understand their biblical basis, especially as ecclesiology often gets put on the back-burner in American Evangelicalism (1). Though many Evangelicals may contend that their affirmation of the central Christian beliefs and the expression of their individual faith is enough for obedient discipleship; I would argue this isn’t the case (2). While Jesus definitely came so that we may all be saved as individuals redeemed and restored to His Image; he also desired that we would all be one, as Jesus and the Father are one (3). It is this unity in Christ, exemplified by love for one another that would show the World that we are truly His disciples (4).

So, for the sake of unity, one of the ultimate goals of this series is to not only develop a reasonable and scripturally sound ecclesiology for Evangelicals, which includes apostolic succession and the ordination of women; but also to defend the legitimacy of that succession and our ordinations to other communions who make up the majority of the Christian Faith. These include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East. Each of these groups affirms the doctrine of apostolic succession and its relevance to ordination and the legitimacy of sacraments, and each declares Protestant apostolic succession (and therefore our ordinations and sacraments) to be invalid.

Their contention that our apostolic succession is invalid is based on two arguments: 1) that we have left the orthodox faith as (variously) held by their individual communions, and so do not have apostolic authority; or 2) that our ordinations, as being traced through the Anglican Communion, are invalid since Anglican ordinations lost their apostolicity after their form and intent were changed during the Edwardian Reforms following the English Reformation (5). In the piece below, I will demonstrate that the Church of the Nazarene retains apostolic authority both in its orthodoxy (right teaching) and in the form and intent of its ordinations.

Orthodoxy in Apostolic Succession
As members of the Church of the Nazarene, we hold that everything necessary to our salvation is inerrantly contained within scripture (6). This includes the central doctrines of the faith, namely those expressed in the only creed universally agreed upon by bishops from the entire Church in ecumenical council, namely the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381. The early fathers, called the creeds “symbolum” as in “Symbolum Nicaenum” and “Symbolum Apostolicum” or “symbolon” in Greek. The original meaning of the term meant “watchword” or “badge of identification” and identified the bearer as belonging to a particular community, in this case orthodox Christianity (7). All those who affirm the Creed are orthodox Christians, those who don’t, aren’t. That the creed itself is the definition of the apostolic faith was affirmed by Canon 1 of the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 and in Canon 7 of the Council of Ephesus (8).

This means that, if one uses the Creed alone as the symbol (in the ancient sense of the word) of orthodoxy, then the vast majority of Trinitarian Christians are in fact orthodox in their belief. This would include most Protestants, the Proto-Protestant Churches, the Anglican Communion, the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East. If orthodoxy is a condition for apostolicity, then each of those churches has it.

Now the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Oriental Orthodox Church would all disagree with the above statements, as they all hold Ecumenical Councils beyond the first two to be authoritative and necessary for true orthodoxy (9). But it is this effort to define orthodox doctrine beyond scripture and the central Creed of the Church which simultaneously ushered in the first schism of the Church, and caused the visible institutions of the various churches to lose their catholicity and unity, two of the four marks of the Great Pre-Schism Church. The Creed which was defined at Nicaea and clarified at Constantinople was again affirmed at the Council of Ephesus in Canon 7 (10). But while the Fathers of Ephesus sought to clarify the christological understanding of the Church, they anathematized a portion of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church despite the fact that it held to orthodox christology and to the Creed mentioned above. That their christology was in fact orthodox has since been confirmed by joint declaration between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East (11).

This effectively created two visible institutions within the Church: the Great Church and the Churches of the East, which were not in full communion with each other but which were both fully orthodox and who both preserved apostolic succession. Because of this disunity, all subsequent councils lacked true ecumenical character, as a certain number of orthodox bishops in true apostolic succession were barred from participating, and their sees were ignored and invaded by bishops from the other communions, in contravention of Canon 16 of the Council of Nicaea (12). More schisms have followed among bodies who all hold to the Creed and who also preserve apostolic succession, but which lack catholicity and unity and so cannot unilaterally anathematize or formulate doctrine as a means of denying the legitimacy of the other denominations within the Church. No denomination in existence today has the authority to deny the orders, sacraments, or ministry of any other denomination which holds to the central creed of the Church and preserves apostolic succession.

The only guides for deciding orthodoxy remain scripture and the Canons of the first two Ecumenical Councils, including the Creed which they formulated. Subsequent Councils may indeed be helpful and espouse solid theology, but they are effectively local synods with jurisdiction over their own denominations only. I, for instance, affirm the theology expressed in the Canons of Ephesus and the Definition of Chalcedon. But I deny that their councils are truly ecumenical in the way the first two are.

This means that those who would argue the Church of the Nazarene lacks apostolicity because we are “unorthodox” are simply wrong. We still hold to the only Symbol of orthodoxy which the Ecumenical Councils have affirmed, and as long as we preserve the apostolic succession with which we’ve been entrusted, no other denomination has the right or jurisdiction to take that away from us. And as long as the ancient schisms continue to mar the unity of the Churches, this will not change.

The Form and Intent Behind Ordination
Having addressed the first common argument against our apostolic succession from orthodoxy, we now move to the second: namely that our ordinations lack the form and intent present within the ordinations of the apostolic churches. This is an argument most often advanced by Catholics, who point to a papal bull issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1896 which declared that the Edwardine rite instituted by the Church of England “completely null and void,” as they supposedly changed the form of the ordination sufficiently to communicate an intent that was different from that which the apostles intended (13). Since the Church of the Nazarene traces its superintendents back through the Church of England, they contend that our apostolic succession was invalidated at the institution of the Edwardian reforms in 1552, when explicit reference to the Eucharist as a sacrifice and to the priesthood as a sacrificing priesthood was omitted (14). This meant that those ordained according to the Catholic rite prior to the Edwardian reforms, but after the schism in 1534, were still validly (though illicitly) ordained.

That schism does not ipso facto invalidate orders is supported by Canon 8 of the Council of Nicaea which made provision for the reception of Novatians who returned to full communion with the Church, and which recognized the ordinations which they performed while in schism (15). The papal bull referenced above recognizes this, and so affirmed that the bishops who separated from the Catholic Church with the Church of England remained bishops with the authority to ordain, even though they were in a state of schism.

The contention that the Edwardian rite changed the form as a reflection of the intention of Thomas Cranmer and others to deny the sacrificial role of the priest or the nature of the Eucharist as a sacrifice is possible, but is not conferred by the words themselves, as they do not expressly deny the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. Rather, the omission simply serves to allow for freedom of conscience when interpreting scripture with reference to the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, while still affirming its sacramental character as a means of grace. That the Eucharist is a sacrament and means of grace in which Christ is really present is still affirmed in the words of ordination and the doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene today (16).

That the intention of Nazarene ordination is to give the ordained Elder the full apostolic authority to administer the sacraments and lead the Church is evident in the words which were used at my ordination (17) and in the doctrine we hold regarding scripture, that it contains “all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith,” (18). This means the primary intention of ordination (whether Nazarene or by one of our Methodist or Anglican predecessors) is and has always been to transmit the fullness of apostolic authority and all it entails.

If scripture supports the contention that the Eucharist is a sacrifice (or more accurately is the participation of the Church in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross), then the fullness of the Eucharist is inferred by our ordination. If scripture does not support the contention, then it is not and need not be inferred in the ordination. The form and intention behind the rite of ordination used in the Church allows for both interpretations inclusively as the Eucharist is positively defined as a means of grace by which Christ is truly present and does not negatively preclude a sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist or the priesthood (whether ministerial or corporate). And since the form communicates the intention of both the ordaining authority and the recipient of ordination to transmit full apostolic authority, that authority is exactly what is transmitted, since we know we can trace our apostolic succession back to the apostles themselves (19).

That the papal bull of Leo XIII is not as definite as it may initially seem for Roman Catholics is evident by the fact that the eight member commission tasked by Leo XIII to investigate the validity of Anglican Orders was split evenly, 4-to-4 on the question of whether or not Anglican orders were valid, and subsequent investigation by the US Council of Catholic Bishops suggests that a re-appraisal by the Catholic Church of Anglican orders is necessary, given a better knowledge of the tumultuous events and theological positions of the English and Roman bishops during the 16th century (20). In the same document, the USCCB cites the encyclical Sæpius Officio, a letter written by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to all the bishops of Christendom. This encyclical both affirmed the Anglican teaching of the Eucharistic sacrifice and pointed out that the precise terms required by Leo XIII were missing from the earliest Roman ordinals which had been used to consecrate bishops and ordain priests which the Catholic Church naturally considered valid, as they were instrumental to the Catholic Church’s own claim to apostolic succession (21).

All of the above evidence demonstrates that the declaration of Anglican orders (and therefore Nazarene orders) as null and void by Pope Leo XIII is likely mistaken in both its estimation of the intent behind the Edwardian reforms and in the forms required for ordination. The deep irony of this is that the standard by which the Pope would require the Anglican Communion to conform would invalidate his very own ordination! Additionally, given the state of schism between multiple denominations in which the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church exists; no single denomination, or pope, or even council has the authority contend the orders of other communions are valid or invalid, beyond what was already decided by scripture and the first two ecumenical councils which were decided when the visible institution of the Church still retained the fullness of the first two marks of the Church: Unity and Catholicity. Until the Church repairs its schisms and decides by Ecumenical Council otherwise, the apostolic succession (and therefore the orders, sacraments, and ministry) of the Church of the Nazarene remains valid, intact, and equal to that of any other Church.

(1) Hyde, Ian. “A Part of Something Greater, Part I: Apostolic Succession” Written Jun. 21, 2018. (Link); and Hyde, Ian. “A Part of Something Greater, Part II: Women’s Ordination.” Written Oct. 22, 2018 (Link).
(2) Though I fully affirm the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide, which says it is by grace through faith, and not works, that we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9); what I am talking about here is the obedient Christian walk, which requires community. Though faith saves, if a person refuses to walk with other believers as Christ commands, then do they really have faith in Him?
(3) Jn. 17:21.
(4) Jn. 13:35.
(5) Smith, S. “Anglican Orders.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Web. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
(6) Para. 4. Manual, 2017-2021. Church of the Nazarene. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(7) σύμβολον , τό. Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940.
(8) “The Canons of the Council of Constantinople (381),” and “The Canons of the Council of Ephesus (431),” at Early Church Texts. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(9) The Oriental Orthodox Church affirms the first three ecumenical councils. The Eastern Orthodox Church the first seven, and the Catholic Church claims twenty-one ecumenical councils through the ages.
(10) “The Canons of the Council of Ephesus (431),” at Early Church Texts. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(11) Pope John Paul II and Mar Dinkha IV. “Common Christological Declaration Between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.” Signed Nov. 11, 1994. Vatican Website. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(12) “The Canons of the Council of Nicaea (325),” at Early Church Texts. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(13) Pope Leo XIII. “Apostolicae Curae.” Written Sep. 13, 1896. On EWTN Website. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(14) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Anglican Orders: A Report on the Evolving Context for their Evaluation in the Roman Catholic Church.” Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(15) “The Canons of the Council of Nicaea (325).
(16) cf. Hyde, “A Part of Something Greater, Part I”, as well as COTN Manual, Para. 13, 515.4, 700.
(17) Ibid.
(18) Para. 4. Manual, 2017-2021. COTN. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(19) For a full list of all the names in my line of apostolic succession, see Hyde, “A Part of Something Greater, Part I.”
(20) USCCB. “Anglican Orders: A Report.”
(21) Ibid.

*Edited to clarify first paragraph and correct footnotes.

#Apostles #Ordination #ApostolicSuccession #Nazarene #ChurchOfTheNazarene #Catholic #Orthodox #Anglican

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Part of Something Greater, Part II: Women's Ordination

Back in June I wrote a brief piece titled “A Part of Something Greater, Part I: Apostolic Succession” reflecting on my apostolic succession as an ordained elder through the Church of the Nazarene, and in that context briefly outlined my support for women's ordination. Needless to say, this is a very controversial topic which has given rise to a number of passionate articles, books, and sermons both for and against the idea. Below, I revisit the subject of whether the Church should ordain women in more detail and provide biblical evidence for why we indeed should.

Popular Arguments Against Women's Ordination
Since writing that piece, I’ve had many great conversations with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, many of whom disagree with my contention that in Rom. 16:1-7, Paul commends Phoebe as an ordained deacon, Junia as an Apostle, and Prisca as the pastor (with her husband) of a local church. They contend that 1 Cor. 14:33-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15 demonstrate that Paul forbade women to teach or speak in church, or to have any authority over men in the churches.

Many go further to claim that due to a misplaced accent mark in Rom. 16:7, Junia may actually be Junias (1) and that in any case, the above passages from 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy preclude her from having the authority of an apostle or Phoebe the office of deacon. In the case of Phoebe, they argue that there is ample evidence of ancient orders of “deaconesses” and that Phoebe likely belonged to one of these (2), or that she was a servant or even hand-maid, as the Greek word for “deacon” can also mean one of these (3). And in the case of Prisca, they argue that she and her husband led something akin to a bible study in their home, and not an actual local church in the full sense of the word.

As we will see, each of these contentions is based on either a misreading of the text out of context, faulty manuscripts, or mistranslations of the Greek. It is my hope that this piece amounts to a convincing defense of my belief that not only should women be ordained today, but that God has always called women to ordained ministry. The Church is just now waking up to that fact.

An Apostle, a Deacon, and a Pastor Walk Into a Bar
First, though the Catholic Answers site cited above maintains it is unclear whether we should read Rom. 16:7 as referring to the female name Junia or the male name Junias, I disagree. The early papyrus P46 (from ca. 200 CE) as well as the early Coptic (3rd century), Vulgate (4th century), and Latin (5th century) all use the feminine name Julia; while the Codex Sinaiticus, the earliest complete copy of the Bible from the 3rd century calls her Junia (4).

Likewise, the early Fathers uniformly recognize that this passage refers to a woman named Junia (5). As John Chrysostom writes,
"To be an Apostle is something great. But to be outstanding among the Apostles - Just think what a wonderful song of praise that is! They were outstanding on the basis of their works and virtuous actions. Indeed, how great is the wisdom of this woman that she was even deemed worthy of the title of Apostle," (6).
It is clear that Paul doesn’t just intend to communicate that Junia (or Julia) and Andronicus are missionaries “sent” (“apostolos” means “one who is sent”) to minister in the general sense, as the only other Apostles he ever mentions by name are the Twelve, himself, Barnabas, Silvanus, and Timothy (7). All the others have been recognized as ordained clergy in the apostolic line of succession by the later Church. It goes to follow that Junia and Andronicus are as well.

Though some may contend that the fact that the Twelve were all men demonstrates women were not apostles in the same sense, I argue this just reflects the nature of Jesus’ earthly mission specifically to the Jews. After all, when Jesus initially sends out the Twelve in Mat. 10:5, he gives them the instructions, "Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," and in Mat. 15:24, where Jesus says his own mission, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Paul affirms this in Rom. 15:8 when he calls Jesus a “servant (8) to the circumcised,” (ESV). If we used the reasoning that the Twelve were men, to prohibit the apostolic ministry of women; then we must use the same reasoning, and say that since they were all Jewish men, we must prohibit the apostolic ministry of Gentiles.

It seems to me that Jesus chose twelve male, Jewish apostles (and not twenty, or four, or three) because he was restoring a new Israel from the old. Just as the old Israel had twelve sons from which the nation sprang, so the new Israel had twelve new sons from which would spring the Church. And just as the old Israel expanded to include many sons (rather than remaining only twelve always), so the new Israel would expand to have many apostles, but now with both women and Gentiles equally among their number, among the first being Junia. And if the bishops (used interchangeably with "elder" in scripture) are the successors of the apostles, then surely there must be female bishops and elders just as there were female apostles.

That Phoebe is a deacon and not a deaconness is clear from the Greek, where Paul uses specifically the generic male noun "diakonon" rather than its female form; the exact same noun he uses to describe his own office in Rom. 15. This is also the first place where he uses "ekklesia", which refers to the organized, local church at Cenchreae where she pastors with the same authority with which Paul pastors to the Romans in ch. 15. That she bears the authority to act as Paul’s representative in Rome is evidenced by Paul's use of the Epistolatory formula "systemi de hymin" in Rom. 16:1 to commend her as “adelphe hymon” or “our sister,”(9).

Interestingly, even 1 Tim. 3:11 (which seems to envisage only male leadership) opens the possibility of ordination for women to the diaconate, where it says, "Likewise the women..." contrary to most translations which read "Their wives likewise..." (ESV) (10). This betrays a bias on the part of the translators who assume v. 12 restricts the office to men; but if we were to read it that way, we would then have to restrict the office to married men only.

Finally, that Prisca is a co-pastor along with her husband Aquila is clear from the fact that where both are frequently mentioned together, Prisca is more often than not mentioned first in precedence (11); and that both Aquila and Prisca (here spelled Priscilla) correct Apollos’ teaching in Acts 18:26. That Paul considers them equals in ministry is strongly suggested by his description of them as “fellow workers” in Rom. 16:3 (ESV). And that their church is just that, an organized, local congregation is evidenced by his second use of “ekklesia” in v. 5.

The arguments that these three women aren’t who Paul says they are must then fall on other passages for their support. And it’s these passages that I’ll address next.

Misreading 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15
Moving on to 1 Cor. 14:33-35, we find that the passage must be read in the context of its surrounding verses, dealing with speaking in tongues and disorderly worship (vv. 26-32, 36-40). Here Paul is writing in response to a specific problem of women interrupting the service to ask questions. That women can indeed speak publicly, pray, and prophecy in the service is demonstrated by 1 Cor. 11:5, as long as they do so with their heads covered. This itself should be read within the context of Paul's philosophy of submitting to the Torah to avoid unnecessary offense (1 Cor. 9:20), a philosophy which informs the entire dialogue (12).

When taken in the context of the entire Epistle, it is clear that women speaking in church isn’t shameful; but women speaking in the way Paul is referring to – that is interrupting orderly service to ask questions is shameful. The fact that the very people these women may be interrupting may themselves actually be women is demonstrated by 1 Cor. 11:5. If this isn’t the case, then 1 Cor. 11:5 must likewise become artificially generalized and all women must wear head coverings in church and all men must keep their heads uncovered.

Additionally, Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart make the argument that this passage is likely an interpolation or gloss, as it is the only passage of this type which is found in two different places in the Greek manuscripts (13). Even if genuine, in my previous article, I argued that the emphatic of v. 36 likely means vv. 33-35 constitutes a quote or popular concept which Paul is correcting (14)(15).

Finally, I'd like to address 1 Tim. 2:11-15, which if taken prima facie would seem to be a universal prohibition against women preaching. But I do not think Paul intends it to be taken as such. Paul bases his reasoning in this passage on the fallen Eve, forced to submit to her husband as a result of the curse (16). Elsewhere, Paul reasons that the same curse is lifted in the new creation in which we are reconciled to God and each other (17).

If we are reconciled to God and each other in a new creation in Christ, then relationally we are to be as we were in the Garden, in perfect communion with God as when He walked with us there (18), and as equal reflections of God's image (19) in unity with each other (20) whether male or female.

That Paul uses the reasoning of the curse in his injunction toward Timothy may in fact be due to the church in Ephesus coming from a similar hedonistic background as that in Corinth, who had its own Temple to Aphrodite and a thousand "heteiras" or priestess-prostitutes (21). The Church tradition that Timothy was beaten and stoned to death during the festival of Artemis, and presence of her temple (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world) tells me that Ephesus was still very much under the curse Paul alludes to.

However, utilizing the general reasoning of the curse to justify the doctrine that all women are forbidden from speaking in church (and by extension, from ordained ministry) doesn't hold up when given the historical-cultural context of Ephesus and Corinth, the textual/manuscript problems of the texts cited, and in the context of Paul's teaching elsewhere (especially Rom. 16:1-7, 1 Cor. 11:5, and Gal. 3:28).

Conclusion: Women Should Be Ordained
Given all of the evidence, it seems clear to me that (contrary to popular belief) women not only can, but should speak in Church. Women not only can, but should lead congregations. And women were definitely ordained during the Apostolic era of the Church. Please understand, my position is not the result of postmodern influences or attempts to make Christian leadership more socially acceptable. After all, my denomination has affirmed women clergy since our founding, decades before women could even vote. My position is an exegetical corrective and not a social one. To maintain that women should not be ordained and should not lead congregations is to ignore the evidence cited above, and frankly stands in opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit.

(1) Fr. Grondin, Charles. Was Junia a Female Apostle? Catholic Answers. Web. Written April 06, 2018.
(2) The Revised Standard Version’s translates Phoebe’s title in Rom. 16:1 as “deaconess.”
(3) See Rom. 15:8, where in the English Standard Version, Christ is referred to as “a servant to the circumcised.”
(4) Preato, Dennis J. “Junia, A Female Apostle: Resolving the Interpretive Issues of Romans 16:7”. God’s Word to Women. Web. Retrieved Oct. 22, 2018.
(5) Thorley, John. “Junia, A Woman Apostle.” Novum Testamentum. Vol. 38, Fasc. 1 (Jan. 1996), 18.
(6) Chrysostom, John. In Epistolam ad Romanos, Homilia 31, 2, in Patrologiae cursus completus, series Graeca, ed. by J. P. Milne, cited by B. Brooten, 141.
(7) Thorley. “Junia, A Woman Apostle,” 18.
(8) Greek, “diakonos”.
(9) Greathouse, William M. and George Lyons. New Beacon Bible Commentary: Romans 9-16. (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2008), 264-265.
(10) Ibid.
(11) Acts 18:18, Rom. 6:3, 2 Tim. 4:19; cf. Acts 18:2-3; as well as Acts 18:26 and 1 Cor. 16:19 where Aquila is mentioned first.
(12) Metz, Donald S. “1 Corinthians” Beacon Bible Commentary: Romans, I and II Corinthians. Vol. 8. Ed. By A.F. Harper. (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 1968), 453-454.
(13) Fee, Gordon D. and Douglas Stewart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 88-89.
(14) Hyde, Ian. “A Part of Something Greater, Part I: Apostolic Succession”. Theological Discussions. Web. Written June 21, 2018.
(15) Verbrugge, Verlyn D. “1 Corinthians.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Revised Edition. Vol. 11. Ed. By Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 387. Only here, the commentator argues against it solely based on the passage’s length.
(16) Gen. 3:16.
(17) Cf. Gal. 3:28; 2 Cor. 2:17-18.
(18) Cf. Gen. 3:8.
(19) Gen. 1:27.
(20) Gen. 2:24.
(21) Strabo, Geographika, Book VIII, 6:20.

*Edited for spelling and grammar.

#Apostles #Ordination #Women #OrdinationOfWomen #ApostolicSuccession #Nazarene #ChurchOfTheNazarene

Thursday, September 06, 2018

A Short Discourse on the Question of Miracles

The following is a response I wrote for an atheist friend who asked for personal accounts of miracles, which they then defined as “something that defies the known laws of physics.” They stated that while they had heard many stories of unusual events, they believed the causes to be perfectly rational and natural. In my response, I both relayed a personal experience I had a couple of years ago and made the argument that miracles are in fact perfectly rational and natural and that the definition which she used is a modern straw man created by David Hume, and not the classical definition of a miracle.

A Personal Experience of a Miracle
To begin, I'd like to describe an event that happened to me two years ago, which doesn't defy any laws of physics, but which was extremely (on orders of magnitude) unlikely. I was moonlighting as a security guard, with a number of properties to watch during the night, including a lot with a large number of U-Haul trucks. I never visually checked inside the cabs if they were locked (which they always were) as the windows were above my eye level, and generally just walked around without investigating the particular trucks too closely. My attention instead was on making sure there was no visible damage or noticeable signs of a break-in. One night, I was walking in front of one of the rows of trucks, when the truck immediately to my left suddenly flashed its lights. This was obviously extremely startling. When I checked the cab, I found a small boy sleeping (perhaps 8-9 years old), who must have accidentally kicked the lights causing them to engage at the exact moment I walked by.

Long story short, the boy had been missing for a week, and hadn't eaten or drunk anything for a number of days. He was very frightened, exhausted, without a jacket or any protective clothing, and the temperatures were sub-freezing. After calming him and assuring him that he wasn't in any trouble, I was able to give him my jacket and small sips of coffee while I called the police, who came with paramedics and child services. I am convinced that if I hadn't found him that night, he likely would have succumbed to the elements.

Now did this break any laws of physics? No, it did not. But if I hadn't been in that exact position, at that exact moment (with maybe a second or two of leeway), and if he hadn't kicked that light (I assume he did) and it hadn't engaged for a split second to alert me to his presence, then there’s a very real likelihood that he would have died. Due to its extreme improbability, I consider that a miracle, whereby God (maybe on a subconscious level) interacted with both our minds to cause us to be at the exactly right place at the exactly right time.

The (Often Misunderstood) Nature of Miracles
A miracle doesn't have to break the laws of physics. That has never strictly been its definition, even in ancient times. It simply needs to be evidence of an outside Intelligence interacting within those laws, to effect a result that is outside our normal human experience. As Thomas Aquinas wrote, a miracle is simply an event whose source is “apart from the general order of things” and not necessarily contrary to it (1). As far as I can tell, Hume was the first to insist they break natural laws, so that he could build a straw man to knock down using circular reasoning (that miracles can't happen since they break the laws of nature, and human experience shows the laws of nature unbroken, because miracles are never observed)(2).

I perceived God's presence in that moment the same way I perceive that those I interact with through social media are actual people, based on their tweets, shares, and comments. I don't have any proof that the letters which are posted aren't just a random arrangement of electrical signals that erroneously appeared in the system. I don't have any proof that a social media account is not a non-human bot. But our online interaction demonstrates to me that you exist; in a similar way to how the episode that I experienced above demonstrated to me God's miraculous care in that moment. That interaction between minds, and the perception of outside consciousness intervening in the situation still constitutes a genuine miracle. It is the very unlikelihood of an event occurring naturally and without interference which alerts us to the presence of intelligent interaction (whether among humans or with the Divine).

The Granddaddy of All Miracles: The Resurrection of Christ
So, what about the reports of miracles we have that are less subtle and truly extraordinary? For that, I suggest we look at the miracle of miracles, the singular one on which the entire Christian faith rests, the resurrection of Jesus. Now, the popular argument that I hear most often against it runs along the circular reasoning of Hume referenced above. Resurrections don’t happen, because if they did happen, it would be observed within the laws of nature and would consistently happen all the time under the right conditions. The problem is that the laws of nature are by necessity generalizations of human experience and not immutable realities. “Laws of nature” are predictive and descriptive, not proscriptive the way we think of human laws. They are simply what we have consistently observed in nature. Since we have not consistently observed all possible conditions, we cannot know all characteristics of the natural order. This uncertainty is highlighted by discoveries over the past several decades within the field of quantum mechanics.

As Heisenberg observed, there are limits to the extent to which we can measure the complementary variables (such as position and momentum) of particles. For instance, if we know a photon’s exact position, we can’t know it’s momentum and vice versa. So our knowledge of these particles includes a probabilistic range of behavior. As we’ve learned more about the cosmos, we’ve realized that the classical assumptions about its deterministic behavior are wrong. The future isn’t a predetermined reality, it is an uncreated (until it is created as the present) range of potentialities, many of which are much more likely to happen than others.

Within this almost infinite range of realities, there are quite possibly (but extremely unlikely) conditions which lead to the resurrection of a body. If an outside Intelligence, with perfect knowledge of those conditions, interacts with the cosmos in a way that doesn’t change the probability of such an event happening in any given moment, then they cannot be said to have necessarily “broken” the laws of nature, even by effecting a resurrection. Since such an event is so extremely unlikely, if credible reports of a resurrection arise, it does not necessarily mean they are false (unless the reports themselves are unreliable). Rather, with numerous credible reports (which Christians believe we have in the New Testament and early Apostolic accounts), the likelihood of the source being an omnipotent Intelligence increases.

Additionally, given the wide range of possibilities within the natural order, it may be that God acts in such a way so as to not upset the likelihood of expected outcomes. This does not mean miracles are violations of the natural order (as David Hume presumed) but rather unlikely events which disturb the natural operation of the cosmos, suggesting to us the presence of and interaction with an outside Intelligence, in the same way that every day interactions with the effects of other human’s actions convince us that there are other intelligent beings which exist besides ourselves. Miraculous effects then are observed to be within the natural order, but their source (whether by degrees or outright) is beyond it (3).

Christians, just like skeptics, recognize the extreme improbability associated with miracles. And we should insist that all possibilities be investigated when reports arise. However, given the wide range of human experience and the very nature by which we perceive Intelligence, I do not think we can simply brush aside credible reports when they arise with the outdated Humean response that “miracles don’t happen because the laws of nature prohibit them.” The laws of nature do no such thing because the laws of nature (as characteristics of observed effects) don’t actually do anything.

(1) Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Contra Gentiles. 3.101.1. Transl. by Vernon J. Bourke.
(2) Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. 10.1.
(3) Aquinas. Summa Contra Gentiles. 3.101.2.

*Edited for clarity.

#miracles #theism #atheism #philosophy #reason #science #experience

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Understanding God's Love vs. God's Wrath

My sister recently commented that of all the questions she'd want to ask God is first and foremost, "How do you balance the whole wrath and fury thing with love and compassion?"

Here is my response.

That question used to bother me a ton (it sometimes still does). How do we reconcile ideas about God's wrath with those about God's love? I think the key is in realizing that wrath isn't the opposite of love. It's the opposite of mercy and is the consequence of justice (just as mercy is the consequence of compassion). Showing mercy to one is denying justice to another; and yet both justice and mercy are attributes of love.

Understood this way, we see that wrath isn't an expression of God's anger at being hurt (just as we often confuse "love" with an emotional response, we do the same for "wrath"). It is an expression of his justice in consequence of our abusing not only God, but also creation and each other. Wrath is as much a part of God's love as is compassion. If there was no wrath, no justice, then how could a rape victim cry out to God in their anguish? How could a homeless man, repeatedly beaten down by the world, turn to God for any kind of hope? Who could an abused child turn to?

Hypothetically, if God had just decided to forget our past sins and skip the Incarnation, death, and resurrection; the blood of the innocent would still cry out from the ground and our cycles of injustice, oppression, violence and death would spiral ever deeper until humanity wiped out all life (including itself). So God took the wrathful death which we deserved as a consequence of justice (itself being a characteristic of God's love for the innocent and downtrodden) on himself in Christ and conquered it in the resurrection.

A perfect example of this is the story of Noah's Ark, which is as much a warning for the future as it is a story about the past. In that story, the ark could be said to be Christ carrying the world through the waters of death into new life (think of baptism) and a new covenental relationship between God, humanity and the rest of creation. If there were no ark, no flood, and no new covenant; then humanity would have perpetuated the pre-flood cycles of violence to the point that it would have wiped out all of creation, with no remnant left to be saved.

It becomes less a question of balance, and more one of fulfillment. How could God's love toward a selfish, death-dealing, abusive humanity be realized to its fullest extent? Only in the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus...

#God #love #wrath #justice #compassion

Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Part of Something Greater, Part I: Apostolic Succession

This post lays out the reasons I pursued ordination in the Church of the Nazarene as well as a brief foray into some of the more controversial subjects associated with ordination, such as apostolic succession and the ordination of women. It’s my hope that this post provides a bit of a corrective to the all-too-often underdeveloped ecclesiology of many Evangelicals. At the end, I also included my lineage of apostolic succession traced all the way back to Jesus. Enjoy!

This past weekend I loaded my family into the minivan and we made the three hour drive up to Denver, where I was ordained an elder in the Church of the Nazarene. During the long drive, I had time to reflect on just what all this meant, and how I had come to the place where I would soon be formally consecrated to a lifetime of service. If you had asked me in High School or even in College if I was going to be a pastor, I probably would have laughed at the idea. But God has the habit of making funny ideas stick, and as I was drawn more and more into ministry, I eventually experienced the call to full-time pastoral ministry while deployed with the Army to Afghanistan in 2013.

During this time, I also reflected on what ordination really means. In our individualistically American flavor of the Evangelical faith, community often takes a back seat and authority figures are mistrusted. After all, one of the central foundational beliefs of the Protestant Reformation was the affirmation of the priesthood of all believers (1); and with it, the belief that the Holy Spirit enables Christ followers everywhere, whether lay or ordained, to study and interpret scripture for themselves. Unfortunately for many, the individual becomes the highest authority for scriptural interpretation, with no regard for historical, cultural, or textual context or how the text was received through the tradition of the Church. Add to this juicy narratives of corrupt clergy in popular culture and it’s a wonder anyone would seek ordination at all.

The “Why?” of Ordination
So why do we need ordained elders and deacons? Well, frankly because it is biblical. Not only is communal fellowship, worship, and support extolled repeatedly in scripture as necessary to the Christian walk (2) with Paul even calling it “the law of Christ” in Gal. 6:2; but the two-fold ordination system is itself prefigured in the designation of Jesus’ closest twelve followers as Apostles (3), and his extended seventy-two followers who are likewise “sent" and  who, along with the twelve, prefigure the spread of His Gospel, first to Israel and then to the whole World (4).

Those who are “sent” in this way find their model in the Apostle Paul himself, who is called by God and whose call is then confirmed through the work of the Holy Spirit in community (5). It is clear in Paul’s treatise on the uniquely different roles of members in Christ’s body, that not all are called in this way (6) but all are called to be ministers of the Gospel in their own unique way. For those called to be sent out as leaders in the Christian community, their call is to be recognized and initiated by the apostolic laying on of hands (7) an act which is itself understood to be a means of grace by which the recipient is enabled by the Holy Spirit to minister with special authority in the Church (8).

That this ordination initially consisted of a dual system (of presbyter-bishops and deacons) rather than a tripartite one (of deacons, presbyters, and bishops) is evident in Titus 1:5-8 and 1 Pet. 5:1-2, where both presbyteros (translated “elder” and transliterated “priest”) and episkopos (translated “overseer” or “superintendent” and transliterated “bishop”) are used interchangeably to refer to leaders of congregations. This is further confirmed by the fact that a council of elders ordained Timothy in 1 Tim. 4:14, rather than explicitly bishops. Additionally, in Phi. 1:1 overseers and deacons are greeted, but not elders, presumably because elders are the same as overseers. Finally, the qualifications for overseers and deacons outlined in 1 Tim. 3 clearly envision a system of dual ordination rather than tripartite ordination.

The Sacred Responsibility of Ordination
The sacred responsibility associated with the authority received through laying on hands is grave enough to warrant detailed instructions on the required character of those to be ordained (9), as well as a warning that the one ordaining another shares responsibility for their actions (10). This authority has been passed on through the laying on of hands from the original apostles to every elder-overseer since as a confirmation of the special calling by the Holy Spirit to certain women and men throughout the ages.

That’s right, I said women. That the call to the orders of elder and deacon are open to women as well as men is evidenced by Paul’s recognition of Junia as an apostle in Rom. 16:7, Phoebe as a deacon and Paul’s emissary to Rome in v. 1 of the same chapter, and the New Testament’s repeated references to the missionary team Priscilla and Aquila who also led a house church, where Prisca is often listed first in precedence (11). Jesus regularly pushed the cultural gender barriers of his time, and women formed an integral part of his ministry. The argument that Jesus had twelve male apostles (to the exclusion of women) ignores the limited scope of his ministry which was initially restricted only to Jews as well (12). But just as the Gospel message was opened to the Gentiles in the apostolic era, an act which was prefigured multiple times in Jesus’ ministry; so also was it opened to women. After all, the division between Jew and Gentile at the time was at least as large as that between men and women, and yet the Gospel message was to transcend all these divisions.

The argument that 1 Cor. 14:33-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-14 explicitly prohibit women from speaking in churches (13) ignores the great redefining statement of human relationships in Gal. 3:28 (ESV) that in Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female.” Additionally, the placement of the emphatic challenge in v. 36 of the 1 Cor. passage suggests that Paul may have been quoting (and correcting) a popular slogan among the Corinthians, as he does later in the same letter (14). As for the passage in 1 Tim., it may be that the writer is referring only to the churches over which Timothy is to take charge, as a concession to cultural expectation. From context, it is evident that Timothy was not being charged to lead the Church Universal, but rather was tasked with the leadership of a particular grouping of churches (likely around Ephesus, where tradition holds he was later martyred), and so it would make sense that instructions to him be contextualized as well (15). The fact that his reasoning includes the fallen submissive state of Eve seems to contradict the understanding set forth in Galatians and elsewhere that in Christ, the curse which afflicted human relationships with inequality is lifted. Finally, it is worth noting that the very Incarnate Word of God was brought into the World by a woman (16), and that it was women who first preached the risen Christ to the apostles (17). If the Apostles themselves received the Word from women, then who can say that women are unable to preach the Word today?

The Safeguard of Apostolic Succession
The term “apostolic succession” is one which most Protestants probably aren’t at all familiar with, even though it governs the theology of ordination for 72% of all Trinitarian Christians (18)(19). This means that almost ¾ of all Christians believe that it is essential that an ordained minister can trace their lineage back to the original apostles through the laying on of hands by bishops (or, as I argued above, elder-bishops) throughout the ages. It’s such a big deal for the majority of Christians, that one of the common arguments against churches with Congregational or Presbyterian polities (which includes the vast majority of Reformed, Baptist, Pentecostal and Non-Denominational congregations) is that they don’t have apostolic succession, and so their clergy have no authority. This objection to the authority of a significant number of Protestant elders (and the legitimacy of their preaching and sacraments) is a major stumbling block to Christian unity.

For some, this might not be a big deal. But I, like the vast majority of Christians, including the Church of the Nazarene, affirm the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed’s statement that there is only “One, Holy, Universal, and Apostolic Church” (20)(21). And I take seriously Jesus’ prayer in John 17:21 (ESV) that we “may all be one” just as Jesus and the Father are one (22). This means that there is only one Church and it must be Apostolic.

Many of the communions with an episcopal polity believe that their distinct communion is the only true Church. Other churches with valid apostolic succession, and therefore valid sacraments, are defined as “particular churches” by the Roman Catholic Church, while those without are defined as “ecclesial communities. They generally understand catholicity (universal character) and oneness to refer to practical polity as well as spiritual reality; and apostolicity as being defined by both a valid line of succession from apostles to bishops, and through them to priests and deacons, as well as orthodox belief (23).

However, since I believe there are only two orders of ordination (that of elder-bishop and deacon) as affirmed by the New Testament and by John Wesley (24)(25), with the order of bishop being a later development which essentially delegated the tasks of bishops to those who had already been ordained into the order of elder-bishop; that means that I also believe any elder can lay hands on another and ordain them (as long as they also maintain the stream of orthodox belief as affirmed by the scriptures and early creeds). For the sake of order, if a church has bishops, then its elders should refrain from ordaining; but if necessity arises, I believe any elder has the apostolic authority to ordain. I also believe that ordination within the Church of the Nazarene does not simply mean I am ordained into the Nazarene denomination, but that I am ordained through the Nazarene denomination into the Church Universal (26).

Essentially, I believe most ordinations within Trinitarian churches have valid apostolic succession, even if many in those churches don’t fully understand what that means. This paves the way for better inter-church relations between denominations. Though I don’t think it necessary for all churches to merge into one polity, I do think it is essential to the biblical mandate to Christian unity that we at least recognize the legitimacy of other orthodox denominations’ ordinations, sacraments, and right to exist. And to that end, a mutual understanding of apostolic succession among all the churches becomes necessary.

Why the Church of the Nazarene?
So, why did I get ordained in the Church of the Nazarene? Well, number one, because the Holy Spirit called me to a lifetime consecrated to full devotion to Christ and the service of His Church in Word and Sacrament. It’s true that I could have done that in a number of denominations, but after much study, I decided that Nazarene doctrines best reflect scriptural orthodoxy: especially in its Wesleyan-Holiness emphasis that God can free us from sin in this life by the consecrating, sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit (27); its affirmation of the early ecumenical creeds (28); its Arminian belief that God has restored the human will to be able to either receive or reject grace (29); that grace can be walked away from after having been received (30); that that the Sacraments are means of grace and not only symbols (31); its use of both infant and believer’s baptism (32); and its dual system of ordination for both women and men (33).

To address each of these (often contentious) theological assertions would require a bunch more posts, but they were instrumental in my move away from a more Reformed understanding of Scripture. And though the manual never explicitly mentions “apostolic succession”, I believe history demonstrates that our succession is valid along the theological lines I laid out in the paragraphs above.

My Spiritual Lineage
So without further ado, both to outline my claim to apostolic succession and for pure historical curiosity, I’ve included the line ordination from me going all the way back to the apostles below:
I was ordained June 16, 2018 through the laying on of hands at the Colorado District Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene by Dr. Gustavo A. Crocker, who used these words:

“Ian Devlin Leigh Hyde, I charge thee before God and before the Church, preach the Word, watch thou in all things, endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist, discharge the duties of your ministry, and take thou authority to administer the sacraments and to lead in the Church of Jesus Christ. And now, Ian Devlin Leigh Hyde, by the power vested in me as a General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, I ordain thee elder in the Church of God, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

Of the Nazarene General Superintendents…
Dr. Gustavo A. Crocker was ordained in 2003 by General Superintendent Paul G. Cunningham. Paul G. Cunningham in 1965 by Gen. Sup. Hugh C. Benner. Hugh C. Benner in 1923 by Gen. Sup. Roy T. Williams. Roy T. Williams in 1908 by Gen. Sup. Hiram F. Reynolds. Hiram F. Reynolds in 1886 by Bishop John Fletcher Hurst (Methodist Episcopal Church) (34).

Of the Methodist bishops…
John Fletcher Hurst in 1862 by Bishop Thomas Asbury Morris (35). Thomas Asbury Morris ca. 1820 by Bishop Robert Richford Roberts (36). Robert Richford Roberts in 1802 by Bishop Francis Asbury (37). Francis Asbury in 1784 by Superintendent Thomas Coke (38). Thomas Coke in 1784 by Rev. John Wesley (Church of England) (39)(40). John Wesley was ordained presbyter in 1728 by Bishop (of Oxford) John Potter (41) and possibly consecrated bishop in 1763 by Bishop (of Arcadia) Erasmus (Eastern Orthodox Church)(42)(43).

Of the Anglican bishops…
John Potter was consecrated bishop in 1715 (44)(45). Jonathan Trelawney in 1685. William Sancroft in 1678. Henry Compton in 1674. Gilbert Sheldon in 1660. Brian Duppa in 1638. William Laud in 1621. George Montaigne in 1617. George Abbot in 1609. Richard Bancroft in 1597. John Whitgift in 1577. Edmund Grindal in 1559. Matthew Parker in 1559. William Barlow in 1536. Thomas Cranmer in 1533.

Of the bishops before the English Reformation…
John Longland(s) in 1521 (Roman Catholic Church). William Warham in 1502. Richard Fitzjames in 1497. John Morton in 1479. Thomas Bourchier in 1435. Henry Beaufort in 1398. Roger Walden in 1398. Robert Braybrooke in 1382. Thomas Brentingham in 1370. Simon Sudbury in 1362. William Edendon in 1346. Ralph Stratford in 1340. Robert Wyvil in 1330. Roger Northborough in 1322. John of Halton in 1292. Anthony Beck in 1284. Henry in 1255. Walter Kirkham in 1249. Walter de Gray in 1214. William of S. Mere L’Eglise in 1199. Gilbert Glanville in 1185. Peter de Leia in 1176. Roger of Cloucester in 1164. Thomas Becket in 1162. Henry of Blois in 1129. William of Corbeuil in 1123. Richard de Belmeis in 1108. Anselm in 1074. Thomas in 1070. Lanfranc in 1070. Siward in 1058.

Of the English bishops before the Great Schism…
Stigand in 1043. Eadsige in 1035. Ethelnoth in 1020. Wulfstan in 1003. Elfric in 990. Aelphage in 984. Dunstan in 957. Odo in 927. Wulfhelm in 914. Althelm in 909. Plegmund in 891 (46).

Of the Roman Catholic Popes…
Formosus in 864 (47). Nicholas I in 858 (48)(49). Benedict III in 855. Leo IV in 847. Sergius II in 844. Gregory IV in 827. Valentine in 827. Eugene II in 824. Paschal I in 817. Stephen IV (V) in 816. Leo III in 795. Adrian I in 772. Stephen III (IV) in 767. Paul I in 757. Stephen II (III) in 752. Zachary in 741. Gregory III in 731. Gregory II in 715. Constantine in 708. Sisinnius in 708. John VII in 705. John VI in 701. Sergius I in 687. Conon in 686. John V in 685. Benedict II in 684. Leo II in 682. Agatho in 678. Donus in 676. Adeodatus (II) in 672. Vitalian in 657. Eugene I in 655. Martin I in 649. Theodore I in 642. John IV in 640. Severinus in 640. Honorius I in 625. Boniface V in 619. Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) in 615. Boniface IV in 608. Boniface III in 607. Sabinian in 604. Gregory I in 590. Pelagius II in 579. Benedict I in 575. John III in 561. Pelagius I in 556. Vigilus in 537. Silverius in 536. Agapetus I in 535. John II in 533. Boniface II in 530. Felix IV (III) in 526. John I in 523. Hormisdas in 514. Symmachus in 498. Anastasius II in 496. Gelasius I in 492. Felix III (II) in 483.

Of the Popes consecrated before the fall of the Western Roman Empire…
Simplicius in 468. Hilarius in 461. Leo I in 440. Sixtus III in 432. Celestine I in 422. Boniface I in 418. Zosimus in 417. Innocent I in 401. Anastasius I in 399. Siricius in 384. Damasus I in 366. Liberius in 352. Julius I in 337. Marcus in 336.

Of the Ante-Nicene Popes…
Sylvester I in 314. Miltiades in 311. Eusebius in 309. Marcellus I in 308. Marcellinus in 296. Caius in 283. Eutychian in 275. Felix I in 269. Dionysius in 260. Sixtus II in 257. Stephen I in 254. Lucius I in 253. Cornelius I in 251. Fabian in 236. Anterus in 235. Pontain in 230. Urban I in 222. Callistus I in 217. Zephyrinus in 199. Victor I in 189. Eleutherius in 175. Soter in 166. Anicetus in 155. Pius I in 140. Hyginus in 136. Telesphorus in 125. Sixtus I in 115. Alexander I in 105. Evaristus in 97.

Of the Apostolic Fathers to the Apostles…
Clement I in 88. Anacletus (Cletus) in 76. Linus in 67. Peter in 32. Jesus!

(1) Cf. Mat. 28:18-20; 1 Pet. 2:5; Rev. 5:9-10.
(2) Cf. Gen. 2:18; Ecc. 4:9-10; Eph. 4:2-3.
(3) The word “apostle” comes from the Greek apostolos used first in Mat. 10:2 in reference to the twelve closest followers of Jesus and is continually used throughout the New Testament, referring not only to the original twelve, but also specifically Paul and Barnabas in Acts 13:1-3, where they are also consecrated (“set apart”) and ordained through the laying on of hands.
(4) Luk. 10:1-16.
(5) Acts 13:1-3.
(6) 1 Cor. 12:27-31.
(7) Referenced in Acts 6:1-6 when the first seven deacons are ordained by the apostles, and in Acts. 13:1-3 when Paul and Barnabas are ordained as apostles.
(8) 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6.
(9) 1 Tim. 3; Titus 1:5-8.
(10) 1 Tim. 5:22.
(11) Acts 18:18, Rom. 6:3, 2 Tim. 4:19; cf. Acts 18:2-3 and 1 Cor. 16:19 where Aquila is mentioned first.
(12) Mat. 10:5-6; 15:24.
(13) “Speaking in churches” or preaching is a fundamental task associated with the apostles. Cf. Acts 6:2.
(14) Cf. 1 Cor. 15:29-34. Also Cf. Verlyn D. Verbrugge. “1 Corinthians.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Revised Edition. Vol. 11. Ed. By Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 387. Only here, the commentator argues against it solely based on the passage’s length.
(15) “Apostle Timothy of the Seventy.” Orthodox Church in America. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(16) Cf. Mat. 1:18-2:23; Luk. 2:1-20, John 1:14.
(17) Luk. 24:9.
(18) Out of 2.385 billion Trinitarian Christians, 1.726 billion belong to either the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, or Anglican Communions. The number of churches which adhere to apostolic succession is actually a little higher, as the Assyrian Church of the East, as well as some Lutheran and Methodist bodies emphasize its importance as well.
(19) “List of Christian Denominations by Number of Members.” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(20) “Historical Statement.” Manual 2017-2021. Church of the Nazarene. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(21) “The Nicene Creed.” Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical Notes, Vol. 1. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(22) Cf. John 10:30.
(23) I define “orthodox belief” as that which affirms the validity of scripture, the writings of the apostolic fathers, and the pre-schism creeds of the 4th century in ordering Christian belief and practice. After the schisms, beginning with the separation of the Assyrian Church of the East, and continuing through the schisms with the Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches, I believe no single polity can lay claim to full catholicity or oneness as laid out in the Nicene Creed.
(24) Through whom I also trace my apostolic succession. Wesley observed that for two centuries the Alexandrian Church (which all major communions agree still holds apostolic succession) ordained through presbyters alone.
(25) McClintock, John. Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Vol. 6. P. 170. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(26) Para. 502. “Theology of Ordination.” Manual 2017-2021. Church of the Nazarene. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(27) Ibid. Para. 10.
(28) Particularly the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.
(29) Ibid. Para. 7.
(30) Ibid. Para. 8.
(31) Ibid. Para. 12-13.
(32) Ibid. Para. 12.
(33) Ibid. Para. 502.
(34) “General Superintendent (Church of the Nazarene).” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(35) “John Fletcher Hurst.” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(36) “Thomas Asbury Morris.” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(37) “Robert Richford Roberts.” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(38) “Francis Asbury.” Christian History. Christianity Today. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(39) Though ordained Superintendent in 1784 by John Wesley, Coke had already been ordained a presbyter in the Church of England in 1772. If one affirms that elders and bishops form a single order, then this should be the date recorded. But since he took on the role out of necessity, due to the lack of Anglican clergy available to administer the sacraments in the United States after the American Revolution, Wesley confirmed the call by consecrating him in 1784. It was this necessity which also prompted Wesley’s move to take on the role of bishop, which had lain dormant in his role as presbyter in the Church of England, but which was nonetheless valid by virtue of his ordination as presbyter-bishop.
(40) “Thomas Coke (Bishop).” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(41) “John Potter (Bishop).” Wikipedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(42) There is hotly debated evidence that John Wesley may have been consecrated a bishop in 1763 during a private meeting with an Eastern Orthodox bishop named Erasmus of Arcadia. The validity of this evidence would require a whole other paper, but if it is true, then the rest of the lineage would be through the Eastern Orthodox bishops of Arcadia and the Patriarchs of Antioch (rather than through the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church); though they would still end at Peter just as the line through the Popes of Rome does.
(43) Cooke, Richard J. The Historic Episcopate: A Study of Anglican Claims and Methodist Orders. (Eaton & Mains, 1896), 144-145.
(44) “Potter, John.” Encyclopaedia Brittanica. 1911 ed. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018.
(45) Drews, Carl. “The Apostolic Succession of the Anglican Mission in America.” 2004. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018. Used as the source for John Potter through Nicholas I.
(46) The first Archbishop of Canterbury in this line of succession.
(47) The last Pope of Rome in this line of succession.
(48) The dates for Nicholas I to Peter correspond to their consecrations as Pope of Rome. Whether they were consecrated bishops before this date is unknown in many cases.
(49) “List of Popes.” New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. Web. Retrieved Jun. 21, 2018. Used as the source for Nicholas the 1 through Peter. Agrees with the list by Carl Drews, cited above.

Note: A special thanks to Jared K. Henry, whose own efforts to trace his lineage of apostolic succession in his post “My Ordination Means Something...” on his blog, Taking the High Road, inspired me to do the same.

#Apostles #Ordination #Women #OrdinationOfWomen #ApostolicSuccession #Nazarene #ChurchOfTheNazarene

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The God Who Nurtures

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. It’s a time when we honor those women who brought us into the world, nurtured us as we grew, and loved us even when the things we did were unlovable. In fact, a mother’s love is so unique and legendary, there’s an idiom for those of us blessed with rougher features better suited for radio. We have “a face only a mother could love.” There’s nothing quite like a mother’s love, and to be honest, to honor them one day a year is much, much less than they deserve.

Now when we think of God, we often don’t think of Him in motherly terms. There’s a solid theological reason for using fatherly language when we pray or talk about God. Jesus repeatedly refers to God as “the Father” especially in John’s Gospel, and the Old Testament prophets often refer to God as a Father to Israel (cf. Jer. 31:9, Isa. 63:16, 64:8, etc.). And there’s good reason for this. Fatherly terms serve to highlight both the Father’s closeness to Christ and through him the Church in the New Testament and to Israel in the Old, while also highlighting his roles as Protector, Provider, Redeemer, and Creator (who did not need a consort, unlike many of the pagan creator deities popular at the time).

But what many people aren’t aware of are the many instances in which scripture uses motherly terms to describe God’s relationship to us. For instance, the verb translated as “Maker of heaven and earth” to describe God in Gen. 14: 19, 22 (RSV) is the same verb Eve uses when she describes herself giving birth to or “making” Cain in Gen. 4:1.

Additionally, the same verb is used to describe God’s creation of personified Wisdom in Prov. 8:22, and God is described as both “fathering” and “giving birth” to the people of Israel in Deu. 32:18. Finally, and perhaps most beautifully, God is compared to a mother comforting her son in Isa. 66:13 and to a compassionate, nursing mother in Isa. 49:15.

It is clear from scripture that God is not only a valiant Protector, Provider, and Redeemer; God is also our Birth-Giver, Nurturer, and Comforter. Just as humanity is not fully represented by either male or female alone, but rather both together were created in the image of God (cf. Gen. 1:27); so also God is not fully reflected in our theology or Christian lives unless we recognize that He models both perfect fatherhood and perfect motherhood for us.

So, this Mother’s Day, as we remember those who gave birth to us,  and spent their lives nurturing and comforting us; let us also remember to praise the One who gives birth to the new life we are promised in the Spirit, which our spirits and even all creation groans for (Rom. 8:22-26).

#MothersDay #Motherhood #Theology

Friday, March 09, 2018

Lent: Finding Your Rhythm

Originally delivered as a sermon on March 09, 2018.

Many of you don’t know this, and it’s a fact that I’ve attempted to keep well hidden since I got here, but I play the drums… badly. I play the drums badly. I rush, I get tripped on on fills, I compete with the bassist for the pacing and back when I was single, I competed with the lead singer for the attention of the ladies!. You would think that after all these years, I would have gotten better at playing; but no, I think I’ve gotten worse! It’s because I have an almost uncanny knack for completely missing the rhythm of a song. It’s not just restricted to drums, when I go to weddings and am expected to dance, Marcia has to wear steel-toed boots!

Now, admit it, we’ve all been there. How many of us have, when singing a worship song, come in a half measure on the chorus before everyone else. Anyone here done that? Just me? Well, I can tell you it can be a little bit jarring. One second, our attention is focused on God (or on what we’re going to eat for lunch), and the next we’re snapped out of the song and we begin wondering how many people around us heard that slip up. It can be confusing and embarrassing, as we stumble to get back on track with everyone else in the song.

You know, life is like that. We feel most comfortable when we are in a rhythm. We get up, brush our teeth, maybe quickly eat breakfast, rush out the door, work, come home, plop in front of the TV for a bit, and then go to bed. Or maybe instead of work, it’s school. And instead of TV it’s social media. And instead of breakfast, it’s a quick cup of coffee because we woke up ten minutes late. But just like when singing that song, something jars us out of our routine. Maybe it’s a bad diagnosis from the doc, maybe it’s a new baby, or it might be news that we just got accepted into the college that we want, or that we got a promotion, but we have to move to a new town. Or maybe it’s a personal or family tragedy. All of a sudden, we are reeling with the changes and trying to figure out how we could possibly get our rhythm back.

Or something entirely different might happen. Often, it isn’t just one jarring experience which throws us and leaves us reeling that causes us to lose our bearings. Sometimes, we just find ourselves swamped with work, chores, our schedules, or our own goal-driven and individualistic tendencies that we soon find we have drifted from those we consider to be close friends and families. This is very common and I would say almost endemic to our culture. We, as a society, paradoxically prize our independence and yet collectively tend to feel more alone than ever. Just a few years ago, for the first time in American history, more adults were living alone than with others in a family unit. The majority of marriages end in divorce. And social media, while technologically connecting us to thousands of people in ways not dreamed of in a previous generation, increases the alienation as relationships lack the face-to-face element we all crave. I actually think that the rising suicide rates over the past decades and the current opioid crisis are devastating reminders that our people carry deep, often hidden wounds of loneliness.

All of these worries, pressures, and feelings of isolation or alienation can make us feel like we have no rhythm. We are just trying to jump from one task to another, or from one crisis to the next. And this is why the Lenten Season is perhaps more important today than at any other time in our cultural history. Lent reminds us that we need rhythm. We were made for it and it is counter-cultural. Rhythms of life and of seasons.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 says,
“1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”(1)

Notice that this passage contains 14 pairs of opposites which is twice the number seven, and is often interpreted as signifying completion or perfection.(2) This tells us that Qohelet intends to speak to the wide range of human experiences and frame them within the natural rhythms of life. Additionally, no value statements are attached to the pairs.(3) When reading this, we may be tempted to insert a dualistic meaning into the passage, but  as verse 11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” In its time, mourning is as beautiful as dancing, weeping is as important as laughing, being torn up by the roots as inevitable as being planted in soft, rich soil.

This is the first purpose of Lent: to get us to carve out space and time to perceive and reflect on the rhythms of life, and to see how God is working through them to transform the way we see the world. To see that God is perfect even when our word and our circumstances are not. When we meet these rhythms with the understanding that there can be beauty even in the midst of suffering, and that God walks with us through it all, we can find comfort by reflecting on the eternal promise which God has placed within our hearts. Though our next moments are never guaranteed, we are drawn to a bright, beautiful hope beyond all this suffering.

But not only does Lent provide us with an opportunity to reflect on the rhythms of life, it calls us to do so together as a community. No matter how busy we are, the Lenten Season is a time when we are reminded that we were not created to handle it all alone. We need each other. And just as each individual is called to carve out space and time for repentance and reflection; we are also called to do so together. As Psalm 133:1-3 says,

“1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.”(4)

In a world that struggles to find meaning and connection, we have each other. We don’t have to do it all alone! Life is always more bearable when we have someone to share our burdens with; and it’s always more beautiful when we have someone to share our joys with. So tonight as we eat together, and in the coming weeks as we continue to incorporate the rhythms of prayerful reflection into our life, I encourage you to reach out to those around you, share the love of Christ and share the weight of each other’s burdens. Because when we share the fruits of the loving transformation God is working in us, those around us cannot help but be touched and transformed in some way too.

And this is the third purpose of Lent: to encourage us to carve out the space and time, not only for personal reflection, fasting and repentance, or mutual care and fellowship, but also for taking the love of Christ to the nations and those in our community who feel forgotten or abandoned by the rest of the world. For as Isaiah 58:6-7 says,

“6 Is not this the fast that I choose:
    to loose the bonds of wickedness,
    to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed[a] go free,
    and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
    and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
    and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”(5)

While internal reflection and confession are essential to the Lenten experience, if our actions do not reflect the change we are experiencing inside, then it might mean we are holding something back from God. However if you act on your faith, and allow service to others to become as much an expression of prayer and fasting as your thoughts or words, then I think you will find God can transform us just as much through acts of love as he can during quiet reflection and prayer.

This might mean volunteering with a program at your church, or helping with a non-profit in the area. Or it could simply mean bringing a pan of brownies to neighbors you haven’t met, or helping run errands for the elderly in your neighborhood. Or it may mean comforting someone in your life who has experienced loss or is hurting, offering them not platitudes, but presence. It’s often not the grand gestures that mark the depth our faith, but the little daily actions that demonstrate just how much Christ’s love is transforming our lives and the lives of those around. us.

Now, before we go see what great soups our gracious volunteers have made for us, I’d ask that you please rise for a brief benediction.

May Christ’s transforming love shine through you and forever change your life and the lives of those around you. Never forget the fact that God loves you deeply and walks with you wherever you go. Amen.

(1) ESV.
(2)  Shepherd, Jerry E. “Ecclesiastes,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs – Isaiah, Vol. 6. 3rd Ed. Edited by Tremper Longman III & David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 288.
(3) Ibid.
(4) ESV.
(5) ESV.