Sunday, August 30, 2015

Theological Fitness: Part Five

I went up the mountain (Monte Sano) here in Huntsville, Alabama to reflect on these questions from chapter five of Aimee Byrd's Theological Fitness. I  also reflected on recent input from the podcast “Mortification of Spin” where Aimee Byrd, Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt have a “casual conversation”. August 19th it was on “A Woman’s Place” with an interview of linguist Dr. Valerie Hobbs, who has been studying how Reformed people use words about the place of women. The podcast uses the term “complimentarian”. Aimee also has commented about a John Piper article. I basically go along with complimentarianism in the Reformed community, but had other opinions on my role before I joined the Reformed community and will reflect here about all of this and a little on how things changed when my husband had dementia.  Aimee also had been in a previous church setting before the Reformed traditions. Aimee's questions from chapter five are in red and my answers are in black

1. At what times of your life has your faith been most challenged? In the1980s I was a DCE (Christian Education Director) in two churches in another denomination. I felt I was where the Lord wanted me to serve rather than work in public school education. That denomination came to ordain women, and although I wasn’t ordained, I did have a ministerial license and some seminary classes. The second church where I served asked me to leave and to this day I have no idea why. It had a congregational form of government and there was no Presbyterian session held in my dismissal. I had to just find myself another church to serve and not to tell anyone what had happened in my leaving; a denominational official would not help with counseling or intervene in the church on my behalf and his advice was only “Carol, you wouldn’t want to split a church over this.” No help at all with my hurt or future. How did you respond? Needless to say I was very bewildered and hurt. How could believers do this to me! I felt I had found my calling above being a public school teacher.  I loved being a DCE.  What did you cling to? I remember clinging to certain Christian songs that I would play on a cassette over and over again in my car. I did not have a theology of forgiveness or hope for the future. I did not meditate on Scripture as I have come to do now. I did not know then that the LORD would bless me with two Christian husbands over the next three decades. I married for the first time at age 40! When that husband died of a heart attack, several years later I married my second husband and began thinking more theologically and entered the Reformed tradition—hence this blog where I asked two men for help with end-time views. Now both of these men early quit this blog. Then I would ask questions of my pastor and get good answers. Later my pastor told me how an elder had criticized me for asking questions in our Sunday afternoon classes. Aimee also recounts on the podcast that she was criticized for asking theological questions. 

2. Where do you think you stand in the theological milk-to-meat chart? I do not think I am milk anymore, but have grown a lot in my orthodoxy and orthopraxy. How has your level of theological knowledge helped or hindered your perseverance? My perseverance has increased because I am confident in the LORD’s working in my life over many trials. The last trial was having my second husband pass away from dementia. I learned to not question the LORD’s providence in my life as I had in the 1980s. He is in charge and can do what He sees fit. 

3. Does your church use any catechisms or creeds to teach you about the Christian faith? Both my Florida church (RPCGA) and Alabama church I am attending (Evangelical Presbyterian) weekly use the Apostle’s Creed and often the Westminster Confession. The repetition grounds me and helps me discern what might be error. If so, which ones does it use and how are they helpful?  If not, how would you articulate what your church believes about God, man, and salvation? Can you explain to others what the statement “Jesus is Lord” means? Jesus is LORD means to me that He is my Savior and Messiah, the One I look to as David did in Psalm 110. Now I am not on a scavenger hunt to find His will, but can daily trust Him to guide me. I do not need to have the Christian success story because He guides me through all the events of my life. Success is that one day I will be with my LORD in heaven. Jesus is LORD indeed. I now believe in His providence in the events that happen to me and take delight in thanking Him.

4.  How do you think learning about God’s Trinitarian nature affects the way we think of him as our Creator, Savior, and Sustainer?  His Trinitarian nature means that He is in charge of everything, is my Savior and takes care of the needs in my life. Out of gratitude for His justification, I press on with the Spirit's help towards my sanctification and the eventual glorification of my life when I see Christ in heaven seated at the right hand of God. Because of His grace, I can live confidently and don’t work my way to heaven, but delight to grow in that grace.

5. Hebrews 2:7-9 also touches on the incarnation. In referencing Psalm 8:4-6, the pastor to the Hebrews is proclaiming that Jesus was made even lower than the angels. Think about that. The angels are messengers of God; they serve him. But Christ came to serve us! If angels delivered a message to us, we would think it to be pretty important. What does our final Messenger indicate about the value of the message? This message relates to me and shows why Christ humbled Himself and was born on earth. Do you affirm the sufficiency of God’s Word revealed to us in Scripture, or do you find yourself looking for outside revelations?  There are no outside revelations to be had. Scripture is sufficient in and of itself.
6.  Of all the psalms, why do you think Psalm 110 is the most quoted in the New Testament? All Scripture is inspired and profitable, but Psalm 110 pinpoints the messianic reign of the One who is seated at God's right hand. I hadn't realized it is the most quoted, but perhaps that is why. 

About complimentarianism I have a few questions. Aimee’s colleague points out in a post called “Accidental Feminist or Vlad the Impaler” that women should not be ordained and that men should be the leader in the home. Although it wasn't my previous background I became relieved to have that head in my church and in my home. 

When, dementia struck halfway through my second marriage, suddenly I had to be in charge. Often I would check with my pastor or at least keep him involved when I took over; for example, I disobeyed my husband by removing guns from the house, but always checked with my pastor about this issue. Early on the pastor took the guns out of the house and my husband said he didn’t want to attend a church where your pastor took your guns. My pastor hadn’t been able to sell the guns and so they waltzed back into the house; the pastor said to have them locked up. My husband had some hallucinations as other Alzheimer’s patients do, and eventually I was able to sell these guns. I also had his doctor and a police officer help with this decision. I didn’t want him to hallucinate and shoot someone. 

I do believe that the husband is the spiritual head of the home, but when mental illness or dementia enters, a wife will need extra help. With belief in God’s providence in this matter, I knew that I had to step up to the plate. I was a helpmeet for him.

Eating a meal and thinking through chapter five at Monte Sano


  1. Seemed like a nice place to do your thinking about the book and other things going on in your life, Carol. A restful place I would imagine.

    I do agree the husband needs to be the head of the home, but I also agree there are those situations that the wife must intervene for his and her safety as well as the safety of others. You mentioned the situation with the guns here; that indeed is one, also any type of abuse should not be tolerated in a family.


    1. Yes, Betty, abuse is such a destructive issue and pastors need to provide help to those victims and the children.

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