It Gives Me Great Pleasure

To introduce my readers to this monumental volume. A series like this has long been a desideratum. My initial impressions: if every volume comes even half-way to the standard now set by Andreas Köstenberger, we will be well-served indeed by a comprehensive New Testament theology.

I would like to point out some of the larger implications of the book before getting to some of the highlights. The largest component of the implications is that this set of volumes is well-positioned to bridge that seemingly unbridgeable gap between exegesis and systematic theology. Köstenberger admirably achieves a bridge between the disciplines, frequently pointing out the implications for ST of a certain literary aspect of John’s Gospel. He does this also in the structure of the book, moving from literary analysis to topical studies based on the literary reading. To my mind, this bridge is the single biggest contribution that Köstenberger has given us in this volume. In doing so, he has put the entire scholarly world permanently in his debt. I can only hope and pray that the remaining volumes will aim at a similar goal.

Secondly, the bibliography is incredible. I could only think of a very few omissions (who can read everything nowadays, even on one book of the Bible?), and I don’t think those omissions affected the outcome much. The bibliography alone is worth the price of admission for anyone working on the Gospel of John.

Thirdly, for anyone preaching on John, it is essential that one have a grasp of the whole picture before diving in to the individual passages. I can think of no better tool for getting at the big picture of John than this volume. Preachers, then, should read this volume now before preaching on John. It will help give preachers a reading strategy in their own acquisition of John’s theology, and it will help preachers follow the flow of John’s thought better, thus enabling them to communicate John better to the congregants.

Now, for some specifics. The book is divided into 16 chapters, which are in turn divided into 4 major parts: historical framework, literary foundations, major themes, and implications for the entire canon of Scripture. Of these 4 sections the middle two constitute the main bulk of the volume. The main substance of the volume consists of a movement from a literary and exegetical reading to a theological reading. However, one should not think that Köstenberger has thereby short-changed introductory matters or canonical significance. Particularly memorable in the introductory section are his defense of the historical reliability of John’s Gospel (he is very good at giving us a history of scholarship that is interesting rather than a simple litany of views). In this regard, he banks heavily on (though is not uncritical of) the work of Bauckham (this volume and this volume pop up a lot, I was glad to see), and Blomberg. Köstenberger makes an intriguing case for John being written after the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. His arguments are more than plausible.

The second part of the work includes discussions of the genre of John’s Gospel and Letters, followed by a discussion of linguistic and literary dimensions of the same. He takes it upon himself to debunk the “Johannine community” hypothesis supported most notably by Raymond Brown. Köstenberger then gives us a very helpful literary commentary on the whole of John’s Gospel and Letters. This is a “forest” type of commentary (he’s already given us an outstanding “tree” commentary). Interestingly, this is, in effect, his fourth commentary on John, the other two being his contribution to the NT”s Use of the OT commentary, and also the commentary in the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary.

The third major part of the book is his treatment of Johannine themes. The themes he treats include John’s worldview, the Messiah and his signs, creation and new creation, the Trinity, Jesus’ fulfillment of festal symbolism, the cosmic trial motif, the intersection of divine sovereignty and human responsibility (this is where his Calvinism shines through most clearly), the love ethic, the theology of the cross, and John’s Trinitarian Mission Theology (which is based on his work in this book, as is the chapter on the Trinity). It would be difficult to think of a major Johannine theme which Köstenberger has left out, or even a minor theme.

The fourth major part examines John’s relationship to the rest of the New Testament. At first, I was disappointed that he hadn’t had a separate section on John’s relationship to the Old Testament. But then I remembered that he hadn’t omitted that treatment: it was embedded in the whole of the volume. He takes a very salvation-historical approach (Westminster grads like me use the term redemptive-historical).

It seems almost churlish of me to note criticisms of an accomplishment so fine as this volume. These criticisms should be considered very minor indeed, and easily fixable for the next edition (I do hope he will keep this volume up-to-date in the coming decades!). As I said, there were very few bibliographic omissions that I could find. Nevertheless, I think he could have taken more account of Judith Lieu’s work. She wrote both a theology of John’s Letters, and a very complete commentary on the second and third letters of John, neither of which receive any attention in the volume. Secondly, while he does treat 1 John fairly well, 2 and 3 John are not given very much attention. Of course, they are very small letters in comparison to the gigantic Gospel and the much larger 1 John. Nevertheless, I would like to have felt that he had spent the right proportion of energy on them, and given them the same painstaking detailed work he had given on the Gospel and 1 John. What he does say on them is excellent. But I wanted a bit more. There were a couple of sections that were not especially clear. One of them was on page 520, and brought into question his view of the scope of the atonement. I didn’t come away with a clear idea of definite, or limited atonement, from the volume. That doesn’t mean that he denies limited atonement, it just wasn’t clear to me what his position is. One other thing I could have wished he would have done is talk a bit more about the phrase “in me” in John 15:2. Of course, the Federal Vision controversy is not a Baptist controversy. Nevertheless, I was hoping that he might say a word or two about it.

These are very minor criticisms, and should in no way detract from this magnificent achievement. I enjoyed reading it from start to finish, and recommend it heartily as easily the best book on Johannine theology that we have. It will be difficult indeed for anyone to supersede it.

I know of only one other complete review on the net right now, that of Selvaggio, who also gives it a good review.



  1. Paige Britton said,

    February 16, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Hey, Lane,
    This sounds like a wonderful volume. I love those two Bauckham books!! What is Kostenberger’s “not uncritical” view of Bauckham-on-John?

  2. greenbaggins said,

    February 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    K doesn’t agree with Bauckham on apostolic authorship of John. Bauckham rejects, and K affirms apostolic authorship of John.

  3. Martin said,

    February 16, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Thanks for the info – it sounds great!

    Any compare/contrast thoughts with Ridderbos’ work on Paul? Or for that matter his commentary on John’s Gospel?

  4. February 16, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Why would an orthodox theologian want to take seriously a work by a woman theologian? Should teaching theologians have the qualifications of elders? No disrespect, just asking.

  5. Paige Britton said,

    February 16, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I’ve been curious about this question, too, and have looked into the ways some contemporary orthodox folks have resolved it. Really there is a range of acceptance. If we take the Piper/Grudem model as the next step down from “Absolutely No Women Theologians,” then the almost-most-conservative view is that the WRITING of women is acceptable, while physical-presence-teaching by women is not. So on Grudem’s list of acceptable things for women to do among the body of Christ, writing — even theological writing — is mentioned, but teaching in a seminary is not. (The latter would fall into your suggested category of “teaching theologians.”) I have been writing on theological topics in Reformed venues for a little while (though not at an academic level), though the people (TE’s & profs) who have asked me to write would not also invite me to teach. It seems that the idea of women writing on theological topics has wider acceptability (though, I realize, not universal affirmation), even in complementarian settings, than does the idea of women teaching.
    Hope those thoughts are helpful.

  6. Paige Britton said,

    February 16, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    p.s. — Small qualifier: I meant, “women writing on gender-neutral theological topics addressed to a general audience,” vs. “women teaching theological or biblical topics to mixed groups.” Obviously there’s no question about whether or not women could write for or teach other women.

  7. Kenneth Kneip said,

    February 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm


    Tim, if I am understanding your question correctly, are you thinking that the author of this book is a female. Just checking, but if so, Dr. Kostenberger is a male. If that is not your question, I apologize.

  8. Cyrus said,

    February 17, 2010 at 4:06 pm


    I don’t understand your question given this post / the context. Are you asking that question because you think Andreas is a woman? Because he’s not!

  9. greenbaggins said,

    February 17, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I think that Tim is referring to my criticism regarding Judith Lieu, not Andreas. I could be wrong. I admit to being puzzled at first, also. But I am fairly sure this is what he meant.

  10. Paige Britton said,

    February 17, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    I assumed Tim was referring to Lane’s reference to Lieu as well. It’s a good question — if you haven’t thought it through, or encountered it before (not too many female theologians out there anyway), how would you know what to think about learning from their work?

  11. greenbaggins said,

    February 17, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I have always kept it in the same category as talking to a woman about theology. Books are part of the great conversation of theology, and women have always had a part in that. Books do not have teaching authority status in a church. I talk with my wife about theology all the time, and I learn things from her that I use in sermons (especially about how to communicate!). I view reading a book written by a woman in the same light.

  12. Paige Britton said,

    February 17, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Yes, that’s a nice way to put it. (And I am glad you do not mind me conversing here!)

  13. greenbaggins said,

    February 17, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Not at all, Paige. I am always very encouraged to see women engaging in theological conversation, engaging in doctrine. There has been a resurgence of Reformed Christian thought among women, and I can hardly think of anything more encouraging than that.

  14. johnbugay said,

    February 18, 2010 at 12:56 am

    Here’s an item in which Kostenberger and Stout challenge Baukham’s thesis on “the presbyter John”.

  15. Paige Britton said,

    February 18, 2010 at 6:36 am

    Thanks, John! This looks like an interesting read.

  16. February 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

    “I think that Tim is referring to my criticism regarding Judith Lieu,”

    Yes, thanks. It’s related to the question of whether a Bible translator needs to be an ordained elder since translation always requires authoritative interpretation.

    Thanks for the thoughts.

  17. Paige Britton said,

    February 18, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Tim –
    Hmmm, I am trying to sort out your translation-by-elder idea. This would mean that the “authority” of the translation (since it is an interpretation) came from the ordained office, not from the skill of the translator (which would be a non-official sort of “authority,” based on expertise). Only problem is — does an ordained elder have jurisdiction over more than the congregation that he serves? I don’t think so! Would every congregation then have to recruit its own translator? (I guess it wasn’t too long ago that seminary training equipped most pastor candidates in this area; but even then, they weren’t all of them scholars!)

    …Not to mention that even ordained translators probably rely on unbelieving scholars for some of the background lexical work!

    I think that the concern of Grudem is that the direct teaching of future pastors in a seminary should be done by elders in that seminary’s denomination, and therefore by men. But the books they read will be chosen because they are true and helpful, not because the authors are ordained elders too.

  18. February 18, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    Expertise is an important part of Bible translation, but other important parts involve judgment and teaching. I’m not sure how it would work if other than a person qualified to teach all people were to do the translating.

    “Only problem is — does an ordained elder have jurisdiction over more than the congregation that he serves? I don’t think so!”

    I can’t think of a NAPARC church where an elder couldn’t preach one Sunday at a denominational church in another city, but in no cases could a women do so. So I don’t think the logic works out.

  19. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 18, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Does the utterance of an opinion equate or relate to the exercise of authority?

    That is, if Ms. Lieu expresses her beliefs concerning the Johannine corpus, and I find her arguments persuasive, have I then submitted to her authority?

    Conversely, when I read her opinions, ought I to accept them on the basis of her authority (or disbelieve them on the basis of her lack of authority)?

  20. David Gray said,

    February 18, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    What would Paul say?

    “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but sthe woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”

  21. jared said,

    February 18, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Don’t forget Paul’s context, that statement isn’t universally applicable.

  22. February 18, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Jared, RE #22,

    Actually, since Paul draws his support from the creation narrative, that statement does represent a universal applicability in the context of church government and worship. Through the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Paul totally and universally bars women from church office. That’s consistent across his teaching and hence in local and broader context.

    All – I agree with Lane’s statement in #11 above. Writing on theology isn’t exercising authority, but rather engaging in a broader conversation. That includes books, blogs, etc. Just because someone cannot serve as a church officer doesn’t preclude them from having and expressing valuable opinions and insights.

  23. David Gray said,

    February 18, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    More Paul:

    “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

  24. David Gray said,

    February 18, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    >Actually, since Paul draws his support from the creation narrative, that statement does represent a universal applicability in the context of church government and worship.

    Scripture in total also makes clear that the creation order of the sexes is not merely applicable in the church and the home but in all of society. The Baylys have done excellent work documenting the scriptural case (which would have been unnecessary years ago but each age faces different manifestations of error).

  25. jared said,

    February 18, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    Bob and David Gray,

    Forgive my lack of clarity. What I meant by “universally applicable” was that Paul doesn’t not explicitly forbid women from “engaging in a broader conversation”. Nor does he explicitly forbid women from participating in the worship service. In fact we find them participating in the same activities as men in 1 Cor. 11, though they are qualified by their respective positions of authority (man under Christ, woman under man).

    Interestingly enough, I think what Paul is doing in 1 Tim 2 is giving specific instruction about how wives should relate to their husbands within the context of their public and private lives, not general instruction about how women relate to men within the context of the church. When reading 1 Cor. 14 to “back up” your understanding of 1 Timothy, two things should be kept in mind: (1) that the context there is addressing a particular kind of speaking and not speaking as we generally understand it (in the Greek this would be lego in contrast with laleo) and (2) that Paul has already observed (and not spoken against) women praying and prophesying in the gathering. Paul’s concern is propriety and order given the model of original creation, not outright denial of participation.

  26. February 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

    “not general instruction about how women relate to men within the context of the church”

    Which verses would you use to prohibit a woman taking the Sunday service? Trinity PCA in San Luis Ca. has in it’s purpose statement that in general a woman can do anything a non ordained man can do. And in the PCA a non ordained man can lead the Sunday service a certain number of times per year as determined by the Presbytery. Do you agree with the theory that a woman can do anything that an unordained man can do? Since we’re talking about teaching.

  27. February 19, 2010 at 10:36 am


    Scripture in total also makes clear that the creation order of the sexes is not merely applicable in the church and the home but in all of society.

    That’s not what Paul is doing in the passage you cited. My comment was limited to jared’s comment in #22 (which he later clarified in #26) to your citation.

  28. jared said,

    February 19, 2010 at 11:03 am


    Teaching is different from praying and prophesying, isn’t it? Maybe we can look at your question(s) from a different angle. Let’s say that on one particular Sunday the pastor informs his congregation that he will be reading, essentially word for word, his sermon that day. Let’s also say that his sermon is an excerpt from a book written by a woman. Would that be any different than letting the woman speak to them in person? I’m not certain you can construe one or two occurrences as implying authority in the way Scripture seems to speak of it in regards to the ecclesiastic hierarchy. That a woman is “preaching” from the pulpit to a congregation does not necessitate that she has spiritual authority over them. I don’t know if we can properly speak of “one-time authority” or some conception of extremely temporary authority in that sort of setting. I’m still thinking through this issue so if I don’t seem sure about my position it’s because I’m not.

    I am ardently against a woman pastoring a church, that isn’t a role women should have. But if a non-ordained man is leading the Sunday service is he preaching in the same sense than an ordained man does? Does he have the same authority as the pastor? Does he have any authority in that sense? If his leading is merely seen as teaching or facilitating then I don’t know why a woman couldn’t do that, especially if she is gifted in that manner (yes, I believe women can have the gift of teaching). I’d want to be very careful about organizing something like this but I think it could be done in a manner that doesn’t usurp roles and established/ordained authority. Again, this is something I’m still working through so I’m definitely not settled here.

    As far as women not taking ordained positions, I think 1 Timothy 3 is sufficiently clear enough in it’s prohibition of women in this regard. My gut reaction to the theory that a woman can do anything that an unordained man can do is a tart “no”. But that may be because “anything” is purposefully vague and such a supposition within the context of worship rubs my theological sensibilities the wrong way.

  29. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 19, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Jared (#29): But if a non-ordained man is leading the Sunday service is he preaching in the same sense than an ordained man does?

    He is exerting authority. This is part of the basis of the RPW: that a worship service is thought of as a kind of command (“Let us now all sing …”; “Let us confess our faith …”; “Let us pray…”). And therefore, elements in worship that are not commanded would possibly be a burden to the worshipers’ conscience. (see para 4 or here)

    Given the structure of that argument, it seems reasonable to see the worship leader as exerting authority over the congregation.

  30. jared said,

    February 19, 2010 at 8:10 pm


    That doesn’t exactly answer my question. One could make a case that any public speaking is an exertion of authority. I think the more relevant question is whether or not such exerting within the context of the worship service, given a woman leader, is necessarily (de facto) a usurping of established covenant roles. For example, there are some (many?) PCA churches that have a woman as the choral/worship leader. Would it be a stretch of that authority to let them conduct the entire service on an occasion or two? Or should a woman not be allowed to have even that place of authority?

    Let me rephrase the question you’re trying to answer and see if that helps. Does the non-ordained man leading the Sunday service have the same authority that the preacher has? Does he have any authority that he didn’t have previously? If the answer to both of those questions is “no” then what makes the situation different for a woman? Thanks for helping me clarify and think through some of these things.

  31. Paige Britton said,

    February 19, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Um, just for the record here, I haven’t meant to republish the argument about “women doing anything a non-ordained man can do,” because I know they can’t, and I have meant only to comment on the appropriateness of women writing on theological topics, not teaching in personal, real-time presence. I do recognize that there is disagreement among Reformed folks about whether such writing constitutes “teaching” or “conversation.”

    Tim (#19), what you say about NAPARC pastors being able to preach at one another’s churches is true, but it isn’t what I was getting at when I questioned whether the “authority” of a translator who is also an ordained elder extends past his own church. A translator’s work is written work, not preached, so the personal presence of the writer is not required (or expected!) for his work to be appreciated and used. I just don’t think we Protestants GET to have “authoritative” translations or interpretations, because we don’t have an infallible magisterium. We can aim for and hope for trustworthy translations, and be choosy about whom we will read, and maybe for some that will mean limiting our sources to those within our theological borders. Still, I don’t think that writing can carry with it the official “authority” that a preacher carries, and for this reason I don’t think we need limit ourselves to authors who are ordained in the NAPARC. It would be a very narrow Christian bookshelf, if we did so!

  32. Jeff Cagle said,

    February 19, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    jared, me too — there are some things that need clarifying, and I appreciate your willingness to raise the questions.

    First, concerning a choral leader: a presentation of choral music would not really qualify as a worship service (despite the name sometimes attached to it), so that’s probably a moot issue.

    In our church, the elders and one non-ordained man are on rotation for leading the service; the TE then preaches. So there’s a distinction there already between “leading the service” and preaching.

    In my naive way of thinking, I would go with “no” to the first; and “yes” to the second. You?

  33. jared said,

    February 19, 2010 at 10:28 pm


    I don’t want to get off on a tangent with regards to the choral leader, but they don’t only, or just merely, present the music. I was trying to use it as an example of a position in which a woman could have some authority over the congregation (including men) within the context of the worship service.

    If there’s a distinction between “leading the service” and preaching then, again, on that account why couldn’t a woman lead the service? Why couldn’t a woman do what your elders and non-ordained man do? It seems to me the question isn’t about activity as much as it is about authority. If a non-ordained man were to preach on any given Sunday, do they, on that particular day, have the same authority that the preacher does? You answer in the negative and I’m inclined to agree but that seems to imply a negative answer to the second question as well. What other kind of authority is there for non-ordained members? You have to come up with some concept of a temporary invested authority for the non-ordained man in order to answer “yes” to my second question. He doesn’t get his newfound authority merely by standing in the same place as the preacher, does he? And if he does, or if he has an invested authority, then you really can’t answer the first question in the negative. The more I dig here the trickier it seems to get!

  34. February 19, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    “I don’t think we need limit ourselves to authors who are ordained in the NAPARC”

    That wouldn’t be necessary for the analogy, since a, say, PCA church can have a Baptist speak on Sunday.

    Which brings me to the point I’m bringing up (and wondering how far it goes) of what constitutes teaching.

    Thanks again for everyone’s comments.

  35. Paige Britton said,

    February 20, 2010 at 5:52 am

    Yes, Tim (#35) —
    VERY good question, “what constitutes teaching.” I am still sorting this one out, and wish my church and denomination (PCA) could tell me something more specific than “Thou shalt not teach.” (I am a relative newbie and still feel as though I have arrived in a foreign country and must learn the customs and language!)

    Re. preaching, that seems obvious. Re. SS teaching, a little less so, depending on whom you ask. Re. worship leading, getting grayer.

    Re. writing, well, actually what Judith Lieu and I do probably can be called a pedagogical project, rather than just “sharing our opinions.” My written work on theological topics has been intended to instruct laypeople who are just beginning to sort out the terms and concepts in this field of study. Since I don’t recognize an “authoritative” version of anything in Protestantism, I would never call even an ordained elder’s written work on a topic “authoritative,” except maybe in the popular sense re. expertise in a field of knowledge. So I would not expect anybody to object that I intend my writing to be read in an “authoritative’ way, and that therefore I’m out of bounds writing on these topics in the first place. But if I happen to pass on information to someone who did not know it previously, it would seem to me that I have taught them something.

    I can get all tied up in knots over whether to even answer a question in a SS class (as a student) for fear I might teach someone something, and probably that’s absurd. But aside from the question of “authority,” which I think is not relevant to written work, I agree with you that the idea of “teaching” is begging a definition.

  36. Paige Britton said,

    February 20, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Jared (#34) —
    If a non-ordained man were to preach on any given Sunday, do they, on that particular day, have the same authority that the preacher does?

    My understanding is that the guest preacher’s “authority,” temporarily granted by our Session, is limited to bringing us the word of God and administering the Sacraments, so I am culpable if I fail to listen to him. OTOH, it would be absurd to conceive of a guest preacher who would or could bring formal charges against a member of the church he is visiting during the brief time he is there!

    Also, I am pretty sure my membership vows (and those I have taken since becoming a member, regarding submission to newly installed RE’s) are limited to submitting to the authority of the visible shepherds whom I have accepted as “those who are over me in the Lord, who admonish me.”

  37. jared said,

    February 20, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Tim D Vaughan,

    I don’t think Paul is necessarily concerned with activity (i.e. teaching) as much as he is about propriety (i.e. authority). Women can be given the gift/talent of teaching, that is unquestionable, and it would be sinful of the church to squelch or demean such giftedness. The fact of the matter is some wives are much better teachers than their husbands. Paul’s concern is that these (and all other similar) occurrences result in the wife seeking to honor her husband by not abusing her gift to shame him, to belittle him, to control him, etc. by submitting to the God-ordained structure and nature of their relationship. This concern extends beyond their private lives and into their public lives, especially within the context of the church gathering. Remember, 1 Tim 2 is about wives and husbands not about women and men in general. In other words, the question isn’t about “teaching” per se, rather it’s about “authority”. When Paul says a woman is not to have authority over a man he is literally saying that a wife is not to have authority over her husband. This is quite a different thing than saying, without any qualification, that a woman is not supposed to teach or have authority over a man.


    Thanks for engaging my question(s)! It seems fitting (and prudent) that a woman be involved in this kind of discussion. You say that the guest preacher’s authority is temporarily granted by the Session (and, presumably, also by the senior pastor) but you also note that this investment is, in addition to to being temporary, also limited. Given these two conditions, what would prevent woman from being so endowed? It’s interesting to me that you bring your membership vows into the equation. Would a guest preacher be considered one of those visible shepherds to whom you are required to submit? Would he/she be “over you” in the Lord in the same way that the pastor(s) and elders are?

  38. Paige Britton said,

    February 20, 2010 at 8:36 pm

    Yes, I believe that in a PCA setting like my church, a guest preacher would have temporary and limited authority granted to him by the Session (which includes the senior pastor!). I am defining that authority by the constraints of the Sunday service, where the office of elder carries with it the authority to preach the word and administer the sacraments. (A non-ordained man with exceptional qualifications may do the first but I think not the second.)

    When I submit to this guest’s temporary, limited authority, I am also submitting to my Session, who chose to invite him. And the authority he exercises over me would be the authority to speak law and gospel to me, and I had better listen and not disregard his message just because he’s not my familiar pastor.

    But because a guest would not be connected with this local congregation of sheep for more than these duties of worship, it would not be wise or practicable for him to also exercise the pastoral duties of discipline, which is the delicate act of shepherding the real sheep (well, we’re not really real sheep, but you know what I mean!) in a local flock.

    Remember that although the offices of elder and deacon are mentioned in the NT and their character requirements are described, the specifics of their duties in contemporary elder-led churches are often the result of the collective wisdom and the decisions that a denomination has made over time. So things may look different in different types of Reformed churches. But I think the principle of only being responsible to discipline the sheep that you know is a wise and practical one!

    You ask why a woman cannot also be temporarily endowed with the limited authority a guest preacher would have. Well, the short answer is that the only people who can preach in the PCA are men, either TE’s or RE’s, or non-ordained men with exceptional qualifications. This limitation, like a “fencing” of the pulpit, is set down in the BCO (Book of Church Order — I forget if I knew which denom you are from; you may know the lingo!).

    The long answer has to do with the kinds of questions you are asking about what women may do in the church, and what constitutes the “teaching” or the “teaching with authority” that women may not do (in a mixed setting). Why is there a “fence” around the pulpit? May women teach adult SS, lead worship, be “deaconnesses,” write on theological topics?

    The first question has been answered with great firmness in the PCA, and is really for many a test of orthodoxy in this egalitarian age. The remaining questions have not been answered definitively in the BCO (or maybe they have and some have missed it!), and there are enough different permutations of answers among churches in the PCA that it sets my head to spinning. There are some very strong opinions about all this in NAPARC denominations, as you will find if this conversation attracts many followers! (Though tangential as it is, it may not! :)

    I joined my PCA church a little over three years ago, coming from a lifetime in an egalitarian setting, and I will candidly say that I deeply miss the freedom to teach. But my priority in joining this church has been to take my membership vows seriously, to submit to the elders and to the “house rules,” and to be a blessing to my pastors and not a burden. My family joined the church for reasons other than theological, and it was right for me to set aside something that I like to do for the sake of being here. I know plenty of brothers in the ministry who have also had to die to self for the sake of the gospel and the church, so it doesn’t seem too much to ask of myself, though it is sometimes pretty hard to be here.

    Thanks for asking! Keep digging.
    Paige B.

  39. Paige Britton said,

    February 20, 2010 at 9:22 pm

    quick post-script, I didn’t answer one question — who are the visible shepherds to whom I submit? A: The Session of my congregation, with the exception of those times when I submit to the preaching of a guest. IOW, I am pretty sure that the pastors of my denomination in other Presbyteries, and those in other churches in our Presbytery, have no normal jurisdiction over the members of our congregation.

  40. February 21, 2010 at 9:30 am

    You seem to be acting with honor, Paige.

  41. jared said,

    February 21, 2010 at 8:58 pm


    Thanks for your thoughtful and honest answers. You say,

    I am defining that [temporary and limited] authority by the constraints of the Sunday service, where the office of elder carries with it the authority to preach the word and administer the sacraments. (A non-ordained man with exceptional qualifications may do the first but I think not the second.)

    In essence, then, you are defining that authority by the Westminster Standards and the BCO and not necessarily according to Scripture (which is the real issue for me). For example, I cannot imagine Priscilla keeping silent at the house church she and Aquila hosted; in fact I imagine quite the opposite. Of course this imagining of mine doesn’t prove anything but I suspect that women played a much more significant role than they currently do (at least within the PCA). At any rate, something tells me that their church wouldn’t make the cut in the PCA and that should be troubling on a number of levels. You continue,

    When I submit to this guest’s temporary, limited authority, I am also submitting to my Session, who chose to invite him. And the authority he exercises over me would be the authority to speak law and gospel to me, and I had better listen and not disregard his message just because he’s not my familiar pastor.

    So, why couldn’t/wouldn’t this be the case with a woman? I mean, besides the obvious sanctions of the BCO. I get that you want to abide by the rules (so do I), but what if the rules don’t have any biblical warrant? And, of course, that’s the meat of your answer to the question:

    You ask why a woman cannot also be temporarily endowed with the limited authority a guest preacher would have. Well, the short answer is that the only people who can preach in the PCA are men, either TE’s or RE’s, or non-ordained men with exceptional qualifications. This limitation, like a “fencing” of the pulpit, is set down in the BCO (Book of Church Order — I forget if I knew which denom you are from; you may know the lingo!).

    This is exactly what I’m questioning, though I suppose not so directly. I agree that men should be the only people who can be pastors, but that is a far cry from preaching/teaching by itself. Being a pastor involves a great deal more than mere exhortation. Also, the BCO is decidedly lacking in its treatment of women (see BCO 9-7, 12-5d, 59-3 and the Appendices). I am, currently, a member in good standing of a PCA church. I’ve been in the PCA since I was born and don’t have much practical experience with any other denominations. You continue,

    The first question has been answered with great firmness in the PCA, and is really for many a test of orthodoxy in this egalitarian age.

    I don’t believe this is, at heart, an egalitarian issue. Egalitarianism is a tangent, an important one but one nonetheless. I don’t want equality of roles because that clearly goes against Scripture. But some important points need to be kept in mind. First, that in Christ there is neither male nor female. That we, collectively, are a royal priesthood (a function reserved for exclusively for men prior to the ending of the Old Covenant). Now this unity in Jesus does not eliminate gender roles but it does (or should) liberate exclusivity of function for women. I think great care needs to be taken in order to guard the God-ordained gender roles given this liberation but there are some things women can do now in the New Covenant that they were previously prohibited from doing (teaching and learning in mixed company, for example). The current trend towards egalitarianism is a symptom of the problem and the problem is not having a robust view of women’s function within the body. Oh we have quite a view of what women should be doing with regards to singleness and marriage but we seem rather clueless as to what they should be doing elsewhere and especially so within the church. As you also note, the wide range of views just within the PCA are evidence enough of this.

    So here we are, still not having a solid reason for refusing to let a woman “guest preach” or even teach a mixed Sunday School class. Thanks again for your interaction, Paige. I agree with Tim, you seem to be acting with honor given your circumstances.

  42. Paige Britton said,

    February 22, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Hey, Jared,
    Yes, I answered via the BCO, because for the PCA this is the mutually agreed-upon interpretation and working-out of the question in Scripture, at least as far as it goes. As we both note, it does not give a thoroughgoing treatment of the role of women in the church. My answer is not universally applicable — it only applies to those who have accepted this standard, the members and the leaders of the PCA. And I realize it’s not as solid as an answer straight from Scripture would be. Unlike Scripture, the BCO can be changed, if the representative leaders at the GA feel that some major or minor work must happen to pull it into line with scriptural truth (or practical wisdom, in the case of polity!).

    That’s why appealing to the BCO is the “short” answer — the long answer is all about the loooooong conversation that has been going on since who knows when about women and authority and teaching.

    At this point I throw my hands up and say, “I am glad I am a layperson and I don’t have to take responsibility for figuring this out for my church or the denomination or the Christian world!” I’m not one to shirk study and thinking about a topic, but sometimes I do come to a point where I find mutually contradictory interpretations to be equally persuasive, whether because of a specific failure to understand on my part or because the text is just plain difficult.

    In this case, I know enough to reject the full-on egalitarian argument — it is too shrill, forced, and Arminian for me to take it seriously — but then I am left with two mutually exclusive understandings that are current in the Reformed world, one that links the forbidden teaching with “authority,” and one that generalizes “teaching.”

    In the former case, “authority” has to do with office, and this would mean that women are restricted from teaching or leading that must be done by elders. This would fence the pulpit, as I described above, but would open the possibility for SS and other theological teaching to women — unless a church’s session/presby/GA determined that these tasks, too, ought to be exclusively the responsibility of the elders.

    In the latter interpretation, where “teaching” is understood more generally, then regardless of whether a teacher must be ordained, he must always be a man.

    And that’s as far as I get with that one. The practical upshot of being undecided about all this is, for me, to honor the rules of the house where I am, and accept either of the two above interps as possible enough to be good.

    I don’t think you can argue from the case of the BCO’s non-ordained occasional preacher to allowing women in the pulpit for two reasons:

    1) the seriousness with which the Reformed regard the act of preaching — it is an authoritative act, bringing to the congregation the very word of God in a way that differs from other occasions of teaching (see BCO 53);

    and 2) the BCO makes it clear that the non-ordained person preaching ought to be exceptionally qualified, so that (by implication) he would also be qualified to be an elder, it just hasn’t turned out that way. (This last point is not spelled out as such in the BCO, but I think it would be a hop, skip and a jump to get there, if anyone wanted to pin that down. See BCO 12-5e on this, but I think there is something more specific in there that I can’t put my finger on at the moment — maybe I’m thinking of the last para. of 19-1.)

    This is getting long, but I’ll just comment briefly on your thoughts above: I’m hearing a lot of phrases and approaches in there that would set off some folks’ “egalitarian” alarm bells — the egalitarians make much of the Gal. 3:28 phrasing (neither male nor female), and of Priscilla, and of the word “liberate.” If you haven’t read any egalitarian literature lately, grab a book or article, and if you don’t want to be tarred with the same brush, make sure you can define your terms in opposition to their usage. It’s a pain, but people are jumpy about phrasing and sometimes won’t listen to the deeper points you’re trying to make. (“Grammatical profiling?”) I hear you respecting the biblical roles of men and women in pastoring and marriage, so you are right that you are not full-on egalitarian here; but I do challenge your understanding of the act of preaching in the Sunday service, and I do recommend care with your phrases.

    Thanks for the conversation!
    Paige B.

  43. February 22, 2010 at 7:28 am

    […] A Reivew of Andreas Kostenberger’s A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters […]

  44. Paige Britton said,

    February 22, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    #43 — and all of the above is FWIW, not law y gospel.

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