On the Duties of Uncles and Aunts

Has it ever struck you that most uncles and aunts seem pretty detached from their nephews and nieces? The duties are not well-defined. The impetus to help raise the nephews and nieces is mostly obliterated by a sense that it might be seen as interference (and surely, sometimes it is!).

But it seems to me that a proper understanding of the covenantal structure of the family would place uncles and aunts in a much closer position to help than, say, daycare. After all, uncles and aunts are descended from the grandparents of the nephews and nieces. Maybe a slightly broader (or deeper!) view of the covenantal structure (not headship, obviously, as the father is the head) would dictate a closer involvement.

Most relationships between uncle/aunt and nephew/niece seem to rely mostly on the nephew/niece initiative. Why should this be? Is there no telephone? Is there no internet? Is there no such thing as gifts? I can testify that every time I have gotten involved in the lives of my nephews and nieces, not only have the parents been grateful, but also the nephews and nieces have been grateful. Our culture is rootless enough as it is without this fragmentation of the larger family that tends to happen.

I believe that the Bible hints at a larger involvement. One could profitably look at the house structure of families (one room added on whenever a new family starts), and the importance of uncles and aunts (even in a negative light, such as Jacob and Laban) in the biblical narrative.

I would therefore like to challenge us to be much more involved in the lives of our nephews and nieces. This is especially true of those nephews and nieces that become ours by marriage. They are not to be treated in any different way than the blood-line nephews and nieces.

Masculine Logic and Feminine Logic

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. The man will say, “I can’t believe how illogical that woman is. She can’t see one single step in the argument.” The woman will reply, “I can’t believe that he is so slow that he can’t see what is so blindingly obvious to ANYONE who could put two and two together.” To quote someone famous, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Men think in a line, step by step, usually. Of course, everything in this post is pretty general, and has lots of exceptions. But men are, in general, linear thinkers. They like things spelled out in order. Skipping steps usually makes them uneasy, not to say discombobulated.

Women, on the other hand, are usually more intuitive. They don’t have a problem skipping steps in the argument, and jumping right to the conclusion. They couldn’t always tell you how they got there, but they often come up with these amazing leaps that seem almost superhuman to most males. Sometimes men call this a sixth sense, or a woman’s intuition.

Men need to realize that a woman is not necessarily being illogical when she makes the leaps. It is merely that the woman doesn’t feel she needs to spell out all the steps by which she arrived at her conclusion. Of course, sometimes the woman jumps to the wrong conclusions because she left out a few key distinctions/steps/factors that might have changed the conclusion. This is where the man can patiently explain to the woman how to reach the proper conclusion.

Women, by contrast, can help men increase the speed of reaching the conclusions, because sometimes it is important to reach a conclusion quickly, and spelling out all of the steps is not always necessary or desirable. Women also need to understand that men may not be slow and stupid just because they can’t move at the dizzying pace of intuition that the woman can.

The difference is probably due at least in part to the way the brains are set up. In the womb, the boy receives a washing of testosterone that disconnects parts of the brain from one another, making intuitive leaps more difficult. The girl in the womb does not receive this, and so the connections are much more instantaneous. God’s marvelous design is evident here, because men and women therefore complement each other very well. Sometimes the linear thinking of the male is more helpful (for instance, in engineering, where 98% of engineers are male). One does not want steps left out of the process in building a bridge! On the other hand, intuition is often extremely helpful in relationships, where one often needs the ability to read between the lines to be able to put oneself in the other person’s shoes. Women are often much better at this than men, who often can’t seem to put 2 and 2 together fast enough to be able to make the necessary leaps. So, men and women, rather than calling each other stupid, simply need to realize that there is often a different kind of logic at work, neither better or worse than the other, but often suited better to different tasks. Men and women, if they realized this better, would be better able to communicate with each other, and help each other in the areas where they are stronger.

Defective, Diminished, and Truncated; a challenge to the FV on Baptismal Regeneration

This is a post offering a small challenge to the FV’s understanding of baptismal regeneration.

First, I recognize that the FV has denied it believes in the common misunderstanding of baptismal regeneration (BR). As described in the FV Joint Statement, I disagree with that BR position as well.

Second, the language here of the Joint Statement can be understood to mean that the FV does not reject all BR positions. Indeed, as one proponent demonstrates (outlining the “common” FV BR position), it is clear that the FV does indeed affirm a form of BR.

I have no intention to be pejoratively maligning here. You can take the most egregious of terms, and if you sufficiently redefine them, make them fit for use and agreement with Biblical truth.

No, I’m not interested in a detailed drawn out refutation of the FV BR position. Rather I want to offer one biblical challenge to it. Thus, for the sake of discussion here, I am going to deal with the FV on its own terms.

The FV’s BR position is best described as covenantal baptismal regeneration (their). That, not all baptized are presumed to be vitally regenerate (inwardly regenerated as in when the Spirit vitally unites the decretally elect to Christ). Rather they are to be presumed covenantally regenerate. Consistent with the FV’s “we-can-only-see-the external, i.e., covenantal” hermeneutic, the FV argues that the vital perspective does not come into play. All we have is the external, the covenantal perspective.

(I’m leaving aside the question of functional-equivalency, the appearance that the FV’s distinctionse between covenantal vs. decretal perspectives effectively disappear, so that the latter is in effect equivalent to the former).

Applying the FV’s BR position leads to the presumption that all baptized children are presumed (covenantally) regenerate. This (and some other reasons according to the FV) qualifies them for participation in the Lord’s Supper (LS). If the LS is for the Family of God, and baptized children are (covenantally) regenerate, then they are right recipients of the LS.

At least this is how the FV argument goes. Now to my challenge:

I think I’m safe in saying that the FV agrees that at least in terms of sacramental functionality, circumcision in the OT equals baptism in the NT. Given this, it would follow that if a baptized child in the NT is covenantally regenerate, then a circumcised child in the OT is also. (The FV support for padeo-communion from the OT practice of padeo-passover tangentially at leasts supports that this is a fair logical inference of the FV’s position).

Given this, then we should find evidence in the OT that circumcised children were presumed to be (covenantally) regenerate. Or at least, we should not find evidence challenging this presumption.

I refer you to 1 Samuel 3:7, “Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD,”

This is the passage in which Samuel, under the age of 13 at least (possibly much younger, still pre-K) was called by the Lord to the ministry of a prophet. Here is a par excellent example of an OT covenant child. Not simply circumsized, but raised from weening (3 or 4) in the tabernacle as an “adopted” son of the high priest. If anyone could be presumed to be covenantally regenerate, it was Samuel.

It is interesting to note that the language here is unambiguous. No FV “covenantal perspective” reading is allowed. In view in “knowing the Lord,” is expressly the decretal perspective. Samuel did not yet know the Lord as his Redeemer who had decretally regenerated him.

Now unless the FV wants to borrow from our credo-baptist brothers a discontinuity between circumcision and baptism, I offer that this biblical text effective contradicts the FV BR position.

If Samuel was to expect decretal, vital-regeneration before it could be said that he “knew” the Lord, how can we say that we are not to expect the same for our baptized children?

This, coupled with Romans 10:9-17 (profession of faith), is why I teach my children, and our congregation, to expect a profession of faith, that moment when they are able to voice their own affirmation, just like Samuel, that they have heard the voice of the Lord.

Note that this balances the covenantal and decretal perspectives as well. Of course we cannot know that the baptized child’s profession of faith does indeedflow from decretal regeneration. Yet this is the Bible’s way of coordinating the decretal and the covenantal perspectives. Baptized child are expected to offer a profession of faith because this is what the decretally regenerate children of God do. That reprobate baptized children can do the same does not eliminate the value of requiring this from our children.

In that the FV (at least) ignores this requirement it robs our children of an act of faith that God blesses. In that it has our children come to the Lord’s Table without such requirement, the FV exposes our children to the disciple (judgment) of the warnings associated with the LS.

In that the FV presumes (covenantal) regeneration, and ignores the need for evidence of decretal regeneration, it proposes we raise our children in a defective manner, at best offering them a diminished and truncated faith.

Samuel would be shocked and saddened.

Reed DePace

A Toast

Hello, world. I’m back to the blog. This post is the toast I made for my brother Adrian’s wedding, which took place on Saturday, September 22, which, by the way, is Bilbo Baggins’s birthday (and Frodo’s). That is a notable fact for someone whose blog has “Baggins” in the title. This is supposed to be mostly light-hearted and funny. Whether you find it so is entirely up to you.  

My name is Mr. Emma. My wife’s name is Mrs. Emma. That’s Mr. and Mrs. Successful Emma Wodehouse to you. Yes, that’s right. I am taking full credit for these two wonderful people getting hitched.

It’s customary at these kinds of roasts (I means toasts) to put the groom on a spit and sear him to a nut-brown discomfort (which is what Ambrose Bierce would call “exhorting”). To do this with Adrian would be relatively easy, especially in the realm of fashion. But, I’m not going to do that…….Except to mention this one thing: although Adrian feels more affinity to Darcy than to any of the other characters in Pride and Prejudice, I am going to make the case that he is more like Mr. Bennet than he thinks he is. (put on turquoise sweatpants, black t-shirt, and red and black plaid flannel shirt with shirt-sleeves rolled up and worn untucked with many pens and pencils in the shirt pocket). Mr. Bennet dislikes descriptions of finery. “No lace, I beg of you, Mrs. Bennet.” Well, I think Adrian has taken the lack of lace to a whole new level. What do you think? (parades as in a fashion show). Of course, Susan may have something to say if Adrian were to continue his college fashions into the marriage state.

Speaking of the contrast between before marriage and after marriage, it is important here to mention that grooms usually think to themselves, “She’ll never change.” Whereas she’s usually looking in her mind’s eye at herself, the altar in the sanctuary, and the groom, and thinks to herself, “I’ll alta(e)r him.” Of course, both are woefully, erroneously, wrongfully, indubitably, insensibly, and ridiculously misinformed. He will never change, except for the change from before being married to after being married. Once he’s married, that’s it. However, with regard to the bride, with a good dose of what John Calvin would call “good luck,” she’ll grow even more beautiful, not less.

Here are some examples of how Adrian will change instantaneously. Instead of dressing himself in rather disastrous combinations that are of atomic proportions, if he’s wise, he’ll simply let Susan choose with what he will be adorned. Instead of eating three bags of M and M’s per day, he will masticate something a tad more healthy, such as Godiva chocolates. Instead of looking at all his nephews and nieces and wishing they were his own children, he will be busy manufacturing his own nursery.

It is also customary at toasts to include only playful satire, and nothing of substance. Marriage is undoubtedly a serious venture, however, and so some more serious thoughts are appropriate. Being Adrian’s older brother by some thirteen whole minutes (which in terms of an insect’s life is old enough to be Adrian’s grandfather), I do feel qualified to make some serious comments, specifically about Adrian’s good qualities, especially those qualities that I have appreciated over the years, being Adrian’s confidante, and knowing practically everything there is to know about him. Adrian is a very truthful person. He is very conscientious about details. And that last statement is about as true as saying that water is powerfully wet stuff, ain’t it? Adrian, of course, is not only capable of losing the forest for the trees, but is also capable of losing the tree because of the ant crawling around in the bark. So we hope that Susan takes it upon herself to balance Adrian in this respect: that she sees the big picture. Adrian is very caring, socially outgoing, and anti-cultural where such culture is unbiblical. Adrian will never be swayed by culture into doing something wrong. So, Susan, while we both know that Adrian is getting the better of this deal, it is not quite so imbalanced as it would be in many marriages. And that is not saying that you are any less worthy. Rather, it is saying that you are getting what will be a very good husband….by God’s grace, of course.

So, we have no doubt of Adrian and his Rapunzel doing well together. They are both so agreeable that nothing ever need be resolved on (all things being resolved already), so productive that the Republican party will need a separate trip just to lobby their state (I mean family), and so frugal that they will never exceed their income. And so, I give you a toast: the Prince and his Rapunzel!

James, All By Himself

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Children second in line hardly ever get as many pics as the first child. This is something of an apology to him.

Brotherly Love

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Too cute to pass up. Definition of Philadelphia.

Family Pic

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Ila, James, and Edmund

A Wedding Poem

My brother is getting married to Susan on September 22 (Bilbo Baggins’s birthday, by the way!). I have been furiously scrambling to get a song written for the occasion, which my wife will sing. It is going very well, and I hope to have the song complete next week. I thought I would post the poem that I wrote for the song. This poem is based loosely (very loosely!) on Psalm 45.

Thou art glorious, Princess, in thy holy space
With thy robes all woven with gold and with lace;
And the oil of gladness anointing thy face
As thou goest in towards thy king.

In thy majesty, Prince, we can see all thy grace
With thy noble mien and thy footsteps apace
And of cowardly thoughts in thy mind not a trace
Can be found. Of the twain we shall sing.

Now the Bridegroom has gone to prepare thee a place
That the bloom of thy flower shall fill a fine Vase.
Until then, He’ll give thee more grace upon grace,
That one Day, the Bride He shall bring.

Edmund MacLeod Keister

Edmund 1Our son Edmund MacLeod Keister was born today at 4:46 PM. He is 8lb. 10oz. He is 21 1/4.” Will update on that when we have it. Edmund is named after the character in Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe (we want him always to remember God’s grace in converting traitors to Himself by the death and resurrection of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah). MacLeod is our Scottish clan name.

Role, Value, and Egalitarianism

I highly recommend this book for a wonderfully detailed, careful, scholarly, and convincing interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:8-15. I am in the midst of re-writing my paper on this passage. I hope to submit it for publication within the month.

It is one of the most “established” dictums of egalitarian theology that any difference in role implies a difference in value. So, if women have a different role from men in life, then they are automatically said to be inferior. Thus, Galatians 3:28 is (ab)used to “trump” 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and similar passages. I argue that this view of role and value is deeply flawed.

In the army, for instance, take the ranks of 4-star general and 3-star general. Is the 3-star general inferior in value to the 4-star general, just because he reports to his commanding officer? What about the 4-star general to the Army Chief of Staff? What about the Army Chief of Staff to the President? Is the President of the United States worth one iota more than anyone in the United States, just because he is the President? What then happens when he ceases to be acting President of the United States? Does his value go down? Just this example shows how deeply flawed and illogical this view of role and value is.

But the ace in the hole against this view of role and value is the Trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have different roles, though each is fully God. There is no gradation in value, unless we want to be Arians. It is quite blasphemous to state that the Father is worth more than the Son, because the Father commands and the Son obeys. The Father does command, and the Son does obey. But that implies nothing about their respective inherent worth. It is no accident that egalitarian theologians find modalism to be seriously tempting (see Moltmann, for instance). Modalism allows egalitarians a way out of the plain implications of the role/value debate. Unfortunately for them, modalism is also a way out of Christianity.  

In short, the role/value view of egalitarians is a cultural shift, not a biblical principle. Galatians 3:28 is not talking about the respective roles of men and women, but rather about their standing before God with regard to salvation. This is crystal clear from the context. Faith is the context (vs. 26). Putting on Christ is in the context (vs 27). It is a oneness in Christ Jesus. But God also gave some to be teachers, some to be apostles, some were given the gift of hospitality, etc. 1 Corinthians 12 (all by itself) ought to have axed the egalitarian interpretation of Galatians 3:28. But it is evident that egalitarian interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:8-15, in particular, are influenced by today’s culture far more than they are influenced by first century Christian thought. The egalitarian interpretation of 1 Timothy 2 did not even arise before the sexual revolution of the 1960’s. We must beware of interpreting the Bible according to worldly principles. That is a train wreck.

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