Lucy Peppiatt’s Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts

If you are like me certain things are important when making decisions. I like new ideas, especially new theological ideas. But one deal breaker for me is when new theological ideas have no basis in the bible. I want to see how the new idea interacts with the text before making my final decision on it.

I remember watching a documentary on cable one day just a month or two before the pandemic about the gospel of Judas or some other such text and what it really means. The documentary I was watching was very well put together and it led me through the process of how people first interpreted this document and how they were saying that our understanding of Bible times needs to change because of it. Just when I was starting to feel uncomfortable about the implications of this they introduced the next step of the story. All of a sudden a different expert in the languages comes in and looks at the documents, and to her surprise, and my relief, she realizes that the language had been misinterpreted and the new claims have no basis in the document. I realised at that moment that sometimes it takes someone to arise and say, “Wait a minute. I’m not sure that’s the way things should be.”

I grew up in evangelical churches. I not only grew up in them, but I even served on the pastoral staff one for a while. In fact, I am an ordained Baptist minister. So my evangelical roots and orthodoxy are strong. One thing I learned early on is that the bible teaches that there are differences between men and women, and primarily differences in the roles that men and women play in the family and the church. I suspect that you may have the same experience. For many years I didn’t think too deeply about it but from time to time the issue has raised it’s head. I tended to reject any new interpretations because they seemed to be non-biblical. One Old Testament class in seminary clearly taught us that the creation order outlined in Genesis 2 & 3 proved these gender differences. I remember even writing in on a survey distributed to our church that I would leave the church if they changed their mind on this issue 🙂 O for the certainty of youth!

Then my sister gave me the book last year. We have always been a family of readers so a new book was a good choice. I recently had a chance to finally finish the book and I must say I found it to be pretty impressive.The book is Lucy Peppiatt’s Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts and it serves as someone saying, “Wait a minute. I am not sure that’s the way things should be.” 

This book makes sense biblically. Lucy Peppiatt’s book both points out things in the bible that I had overlooked as well as introduces alternative interpretations of the key passages addressing the issue.

I remember a conversation I had years ago in seminary with my professor and friend Stanley E. Porter. He was talking about a paper he had written on some aspect of New Testament studies that relied on a rather small Greek word. His lesson for me that day was that he needed to find another scholar who also had the same idea — it wasn’t enough for him to merely come up with something new all by himself. I have taken that lesson to heart when I approach the bible. That’s why Peppiatt’s alternative interpretations ring true because she is very careful to point out that she isn’t just coming up with something new on her own but that these interpretations have a long history. I should also point out that Peppiatt is very clear in indicating when multiple possible interpretations exist for a text and is very sure to not force her own views on her reader. Rather she is opening up other legitimate interpretations for the reader to consider.

There is so much I could say about this book but here are just a few things that jumped out at me. You will need to read it for yourself in order to benefit from everything she says.

Regular readers of this blog know that masculinities is one of my favourite subject. Peppiatt doesn’t disappoint in this area. Here’re a couple of great quotes that are useful in helping us move towards a better understanding of gender as a whole and masculinity in particular:

“There are few examples of the Bible narratives telling us that women are or should be like this and that men are or should be like that.”

“What I, and many others, find fascinating is that this male Saviour offers us a unique picture of manhood. This is what God looks like when he becomes a man — at once powerful, authoritative, secure, holy, angry at injustice, and also broken, vulnerable, isolated, and weeping He is both acquiescent and resistant in the face of violence, but never retaliates like for like. This is a challenge to what is traditionally viewed as masculine and feminine traits.”

“And so we end where we began, with gendered language for God and for the church that turns out to be symbolic, figurative, and resistant to stereotyped views.”

If Peppiatt is right about these things, then current conversations that define Christian or biblical masculinity as THIS or THAT need to be reexamined. Apparently the bible is not as clear cut as we might like. But then again, nuance is a key part of contextual theology and appropriating faith, isnt’ it?

Peppiatt also spends a good amount of time addressing key bible passages surrounding the debate. One of them hits rather close to home for me. Earlier I mentioned how a close study of Genesis 2 & 3 in seminary convinced me about the reality of the creation order that places men in authority over women. What Peppiatt so ably points out, and what I so clearly missed, is that Genesis doesn’t start in Chapter 2. Rather, we need to go back to what Chapter 1 says when theologising. Realising that male and female are described together in that Chapter puts a whole new spin on things.

I also appreciated the focus on understanding that describing Eve as a “fit helpmate” means that she has “a power equal to man.” This means that she is not subordinate at the time of creation but is in fact equal.

The centrality of Genesis 3:16 is also key for me. I have touched on this here. It seems to me, and perhaps I figured this out before reading Peppiatt but it is certainly ably reinforced by her, that we need to read this verse realising that its position post-fall requires us to understand it as describing the way things will be from now on. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, their relationship will be marred and as such will be characterised by “desire” and “rule” rather than the mutuality that existed pre-fall. That means that anything that reinforces either “desire” or “rule” between men and women is sinful and needs to be redeemed. Peppiatt says it much better than I:

“Genesis 3:16 is a sign of both female and male disorder and tragedy. A woman, in her brokenness and vulnerability, turns to a man rather than to God to meet her needs, and instead of kindness and compassion she encounters his broken and disordered need to dominate her, a tragedy played out with sickening regularity throughout history.”

Peppiatt also enters into a very in depth and thorough discussion of what headship means. These verses are notoriously hard to understand with more questions being raised than answered. I wrote a little bit about this here. Here I will just quote Peppiatt:

“My conviction is that these verses reflect Paul’s opponents’ ideas and this this very Greco-Roman view of creation has infected the church at Corinth while functioning as the men’s rationale to put the women int he congregation in head coverings for worship.”

This conviction is based upon the idea that in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is addressing a series of questions raised by the church(which he directly quotes) and giving his answers. It is no means an interpretation unique to Peppiatt. What is clear from the text, however, in spite of the vast variety of interpretations offered, is that “Paul, the apostle, releases women to pray and prophesy in public along with the men, as he has just explained. They are not to sit in silence but participate equally with their husbands.”

Peppiatt addressed male and female participation in marriage by entering into a fascinating discussion of household codes and how important they were in the early Near East. I would encourage you to read this but let me just say that according to Peppiatt, Paul’s use of these codes is actually an adaptation that begins to undermine traditional understandings of family roles and allows change to be incorporated into the family for the better. She says, “In a culture where wives were often regarded as both chattel and easily expendable, Paul redefines a husband’s responsibilities toward his wife in terms of enduring covenant faithfulness, monogamy, and self-sacrifice.”

Another area addressed in the book is how the doctrine of the trinity has been undermined of late by those who want to insert hierarchy into it. One can’t simply redefine trinity to include a hierarchy between Father and Son so that a hierarchy can be created between men and women. Peppiatt says, “I hope it has become clear that the idea that the male represent the Father in his authority and the female represents the Son in his submission as a way of trying to lock in male-female relationships.”

Peppiatt has so much more to say but you will have to read that for yourself. I will end this by pointing out that if you want to see great example of contextualization in action take a look at the final chapter, which is a fabulous look at 1 Timothy 2. Peppiatt, relying heavily on Hoag and Glahn, gives a detailed account of how Paul did contextualisation based on the early novel Ephesiaca. Wow! Stuff like that is so cool!

Suffice it to say I highly recommend this book. However, I suspect that some reading this book feel I may have fallen off the deep end. Let me tell you that I get where you are coming from. I was there myself. I was happy to live in my beliefs without considering any new arguments or evidence. Why not take a leap and read Peppiatt’s book? It may provide some answers that you have been looking for.

If you feel like sharing your journey with this topic why not leave a comment below?

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image is copyright IVP.

On anniversaries, weather, and what’s really important in life.

You probably don’t remember when your church’s anniversary is, do you? Unless of course you are from the Philippines. Filipinos know how to do celebrations — birthdays, going away parties, anniversaries. No one does it better than they do. Which is why I suppose church anniversaries are such a big deal. Tonight we will be celebrating the sixth anniversary of Pingkian Family Worship, the small community of faith that shares a name with our community in Quezon City.

Preparations have been going on for quite a while. Yesterday the decorating began. Because we are anticipating some guests we decided to rearrange the layout so the front will be at the side. A local politician loaned us a stage that she has in her storage room. The size of two sheets of plywood it stands along one side of the space. We have several benches the we placed in two rows right in front of the space. That leaves about 1.5 metres for the dancers! The theme is Simbalay, which is loosely translated as Worshipping at Home, so the decorations are based on a native house called a bahay kubo. The backdrop is a series of curtains and bamboo decorated with colourful native fans.

Each sub-group within the church will play a role: The women’s group will dance, the men’s group will sing, the youth will dance, we will have a couple of testimonies of thanksgiving to God, and a couple of families will sing. All of this, of course, will happen after the usual church service is finished. Our usual services follow a simple liturgy: Greeting, three or four praise & worship songs in either English or Tagalog, a time of corporate prayer, Pastor Renz will preach, and we’ll have a response song. Then the celebration will begin.

Right now I am hoping that the rains will stop. It’s really coming down. That’s the disadvantage of having a July anniversary in Manila — it’s rainy season. Earlier this afternoon, I was carrying our portable sound system down to where the service will be held. I had assumed the rain was finished but when I was halfway there the rains started again. Fortunately a local eatery has an overhang in front of it that I was able to use for cover. I only had to wait about 5 minutes before heading on my way again. The sun came out. The water started to dry up. And we were ready for the rest of the day. Then the rains began again. The thing about rain in Manila is that it comes hard for a short period of time and then is done. That’s what we are hoping for today too 🙂

Rain has messed with our plans in the past. A number of years ago, before we had our current facility, we had a rather elaborate setup using a tent. However, the rains meant we needed to move at the last minute. We ended up using our garage and the garage across the lane. We had chairs all the way across the street that needed to be moved in the middle of the service when one of the neighbours came home. It was reminiscent of the Christmas program we held one year where the neighbour carried a squealing pig past our setup because someone had bought it. It pays to not be too invested in make sure everything goes right 🙂

In the end it’s not the smoothness of the program that counts but rather the joy that we all shared in together as we prepared. God after all isn’t an event-based God but one that wants to meet us where we live everyday!

Remember sharing is what friends do!

Image is mine.

Juxtapositions: How sharing spaces with those different from us is good

I am sitting at my daughter’s dining room table looking out the window. I am always struck by what I can see when I am high up on top of something. It gets me thinking about how space is arranged within cities and how at times diverging or even opposing parties find themselves adjacent to one another.

There is a house immediately behind the condo building that has two prominent, colourful, pictures of Jesus — one on the garage and the other beside the front door (you can see them in the photo above). I should point out that having a picture of Jesus on the front of your house is not at all unusual in Metro Manila but in this instance it seems like a different message is being portrayed. Then I noticed that on the next street over was a small Iglesia ni Cristo [Church of Christ] chapel and I realised that this particular area has an abundance of members from that church. The Iglesia ni Cristo is a Filipino new religious movement whose main location is just a few minutes down the road. Because of this reality I suspect the homeowner is sending a message to their neighbours: We are Roman Catholics in this house.

Thinking along these lines got me to take a closer look at the other spaces I could see. The largest part by far is indeed taken up by the properties of the Iglesia ni Cristo. Sticking up from the greenery of the surrounding mango trees is the new hospital, media center, member apartments, and university. A little further around we can see the main worship center with its grand spires.

Immediately behind the INC site is the beautifully-treed University of the Philippines Arboretum. The space, although transited by a 16-lane highway, is connected to the greater University of the Philippines, the premier university in the Philippines and the place where three members of my family went to school.

Immediately in front of the vast INC estates lies the Culiat Muslim Compound, an islamic community made up of people whose primary origins are in the far south of the country. The space contains a large community of people and is also home to at least five mosques.

Several Roman Catholic orders also occupy adjacent space including the Augustinians who have a variety of training centers and chapels, the Claretians who include the Claret Seminary, the Claretian Missionary Sisters, and the The Institute For Consecrated Life In Asia, and the Adorers of the Blood of Christ with their St. Maria de Mattias Center Inc.

There is also the smaller Our Lord’s Temple Ministry compound squeezed in between these different groups.

Interspersed in between these various institutions are houses and homes occupied by people from all walks of life. From the wealthy members of exclusive subdivisions to the poorer members of various informal communities squeezed in between other more formal establishments.

What is interesting is that while there are a variety of religious beliefs, practices, and traditions represented, at the core they are all interested in making the world a better place. I wonder how the different beliefs impact this desire?

Another question it raises is how such diverse groups manage to survive beside on another. Certainly the niceties of modern societies prohibit any overt forms of harassment from one to another. I wonder if there is any cooperation between these groups as they try to make the world a better place?

Which, of course, leads to a question that is relevant to whoever is reading this blog: How do we survive in close proximity to others with divergent beliefs, practices, and traditions? Any suggestions or examples from your own life? Please comment below.

If this topic was of interest to you, why not consider liking and subscribing to this blog?

Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image is mine.

Positionality: How knowing about the interconnections I have with others makes life more understandable

Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers sang, “Islands in the stream that is what we are …,” a song of two people who assume their one-night relationship has no impact on anyone or anything beyond the two of them. A better philosophy might be John Donne’s “No one is an island,” that recognises the complexity of human relationships. How does knowing about our interconnections with other humans help us understand life in a deeper way?

It used to be common knowledge that if you wanted to study something or someone else you needed to maintain distance between you and the subject. This distance was designed to reduce any bias that you have that may influence your observations, analysis, or conclusions. Extreme versions of this practice led to studies the included hidden cameras, uninformed subjects, and other unethical research practices. All based on the assumption that we can extract people from their contexts and put them into a petri dish for study.

Nowadays, thankfully, that common knowledge is changing to recognise that biases exist, really can’t be eliminated, nor should they be. There is a newer recognition that any study includes the interaction between the researcher and their research counterparts, who have just as much a role to play in the shaping of knowledge as the researcher. I can’t say much for the so-called hard sciences since my expertise lies in social science, but bias is still an integral part of the hard sciences, too. For example, who makes the choice as to what is being studied? Who decides where to point the hidden cameras? Who decides what questions to ask? Who decides what factors are important? Who decides to develop nuclear weapons rather than nuclear power? All of these decisions are made because of some kind of researcher bias or another.

This is much more complicated when we enter the realm of social science that seeks to understand how humans interact with one another. For example, in my study of how Filipino men in my community conceptualise and create their understandings their own masculinity and their being maka-Diyos it was necessary for me to identify my own positionality to the men and the subjects.

I should point out that maka-Diyos is a Filipino term that doesn’t exist in English. It encompasses godliness and religiosity but goes much deeper than that. It is related to loving our family, our neighbour, and our God.

What does positionality entail?

At face value, I am an outsider to my community. I was born 11,700 km away in a different context and culture. I don’t look the same as those around me, my mother tongue is not Tagalog, I prefer running shoes to flip-flops, and I don’t handle the heat all that well. When kids see my blue eyes, they stare. I am taller than most people that I meet. Almost everything that people notice about me sets me apart as different.

But on another level maybe I am not as far out there as one might think. My obvious identity as an outsider aside, Filipinos are very accommodating, and a couple of things cause me to question my outsider status. I am a pastor, a role that is still seen in a positive way by much of Philippine society, my wife and I have also been welcomed into close relationships with people in our community, we try to communicate in Tagalog as much as possible. All this is possible because Filipinos have a complex understanding of interpersonal relationships. Rather than simply identifying someone as either insider or outsider, Filipinos have a range of relational milestones that show how someone transitions from being an outsider to being an insider. But that is a discussion for another post.

At this time we need to recognise that positionality recognises and includes the role of the researcher into the life of the community of the researched. Both parties contribute to shaping knowledge is a way that benefits others.

Positionality for non-Researchers.

You may ask, “How does this relate to me since I am not a researcher?”

Life is collaborative. I once heard that even the most introverted people influence 10,000 people over their lifetimes. Family relationships give us a glimpse as to how this works. A married couple represents at least two relationships but once they start having children the number of relationships increases exponentially. Not to mention that the two individuals who form the initial two relationships bring with them their own set of complex relationships. That means that each of us is constantly creating a life in collaboration with an increasing number of people. That also means that it’s impossible to extract and individual from this complex dance and expect the dance to remain the same. In order to make sense of this world and find some way of becoming successful in it, we need to recognise our own positionality in it.

What this all means is that our current divided society can be rectified through understanding positionality. Once we see how each of us is connected, and how we really have no choice but to interact with one another, we come to understanding, we see things from other’s points of view, we realise they, too, have legitimate perspectives. We are no longer individuals — nor individual families — but are rather a part of a larger community that is all journeying together towards a better future.

How are you positioned? How does who you are position you to have a better connection with your community? Why not let us know by commenting below?

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Remember sharing is what friends do.

Image is by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash.

Tiktok: Bakit ako sumali sa isang social media phenomena na puno ng mga tao mula sa ibang henerasyon

Read this post in English.

Oh. Nasa Tiktok na ako. Baka isipin mo na nagsimula na akong sumayaw o gusto kong bumagsak ang aking karera sa musika, huwag mag-alala. May paliwanag ako. Ang Tiktok ay nasa likod ng aking isipan mula pa noong isang klase na itinuro namin sa SEATS noong 2021 na nagrekomenda ng paggamit ng plataporma para sa ministeryo sa simbahan ngunit dahil wala akong ganap na karanasan sa Tiktok ay hindi ko naisip kung paano eksaktong gamitin ito. So anong nangyari para makumbinsi ako?

Ilang taon na ang nakararaan pinangasiwaan ko ang pagtatayo ng isang paanakan malapit sa aming bahay. Hindi ko makuha ang kredito para sa paanakan — naroroon ako para sa mga kapanganakan nina Emily at Daniel ngunit wala akong pagnanais na dumalo para sa mga kapanganakan ng sinumang bata — ngunit nakapagbigay ng ilang input pagdating sa pagsasama-sama ng pasilidad kung saan ipinanganak ang mga sanggol.

Ang isang pangunahing aspeto sa anumang uri ng konstruksiyon ay ang mga manggagawa na gumagawa ng aktwal na trabaho. Mayroon silang iba’t ibang mga kasanayan. Ang ilan ay kasangkot sa proseso ng disenyo. Ang iba ay likas na matalino sa pangangasiwa sa gawain. Ang mga skilled ay may mga espesyal na kasanayan tulad ng pagkakarpintero o pagmamason. Ang mga labor ay gumagawa ng mabigat na pag-aangat ng pangkalahatang paggawa. Masaya at marami akong nakilalang lalaki. Bilang bahagi ng aking kontribusyon sa pagsisikap, nagsagawa ako ng lingguhang pag-aaral sa Bibliya tuwing Sabado bago matapos ang araw (kung kailan sila matatanggap ng kanilang suweldo para sa linggo).

Isang araw sinabi ko sa isang kaibigang pastor ang tungkol sa aming proyekto, alam kong kamakailan lang ay nasangkot siya sa isang katulad na proyekto nang itayo nila ang kanilang bahay sambahan. Ipinagmamalaki kong sinabi sa kanya na nagsasagawa ako ng pag-aaral ng Bibliya sa aming mga manggagawa bawat linggo. Bumalik siya na may pahayag na nagsagawa siya ng pag-aaral ng bibliya araw-araw bago magsimula ang trabaho! Nagulat ako pero napaisip ako. Ang resulta ay nagkaroon ako ng maikling debosyonal bago kami magsimulang magtrabaho tuwing umaga. Ang mga lalaki sa pangkalahatan ay hindi nahihiyang makipag-usap tungkol sa Bibliya sa normal na buhay at pinahahalagahan nila ang mga panalangin para sa kanilang kaligtasan araw-araw, kaya naging maayos ang lahat.

Noong isang araw, habang naglalakad ako sa clinic at iniisip ang huling yugto ng proyekto (na inaasahan nating magsisimula sa bagong taon), naalala ko na kapag nagsimula muli ang konstruksiyon ay kailangan kong pag-isipang muli ang mga pang-araw-araw na debosyonal. Noon natamaan ako. Maaari na akong magsimulang gumawa ng maikling araw-araw na debosyonal ngayon sa Tiktok! Nagpo-post ako ng pang-araw-araw na talata sa bibliya sa nakalipas na ilang taon sa mga social media account ng aming mga ministeryo kaya hindi ganoon kahirap gawin iyon para maging pang-araw-araw na debosyonal. Kaya gumawa agad ako ng Tiktok account at nagsimulang mag-record ng mga video.

Sa puntong ito wala akong ideya kung hanggang kailan ito magpapatuloy o kung anong mga partikular na benepisyo ang maaari nitong ibigay sa mga tao. Gayunpaman, ang mga tao sa loob ng aking ministry circle ay nagpahayag na mahalaga sa kanila ang araw-araw na mga talata sa bibliya na aking ipinadala. Mayroon ding mga tao sa aming komunidad na hindi makalabas ng kanilang mga bahay dahil sa malalaking isyu sa kalusugan at maganda ang video patungkol sa Bibliya para sa kanila .

Anong mga kakaibang bagong bagay ang ipinapagawa sa yo ng ng Diyos? Ano sa tingin mo ang kakailanganin para makumbinsi ka na gawin ito? Paki iwan ang iyong sagot sa comment box sa ibaba?

Tandaan na ang pagbabahagi ay ginagawa ng mga kaibigan.

Kung nasiyahan ka sa pagbabasa na ito, mangyaring huwag kalimutang i-like at i-follow ang aking blog.

Para sa mga kawili-wiling malaman ang higit pa tungkol sa aming proyekto sa paanakan narito ang isang maikling video na naglalarawan sa aming ginagawa.

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Tiktok: Why I joined a social media phenomena full of people from a different generation

Basahin mo sa wikang Tagalog.

So I’m on Tiktok. Lest you think that I have taken up dancing or want my music career to take off, don’t worry. I have an explanation. Tiktok has been in the back of my mind ever since a class we taught at SEATS in 2021 recommended using the platform for church ministry but since I have absolutely no experience with Tiktok I wasn’t able to conceptualise exactly how to use it. So what happened to convince me?

A couple of years ago I supervised construction of a birthing clinic near our house. I can’t take credit for the clinic — I was present for the births of Emily & Daniel but have no desire to be present for anyone else’s kid’s births — but was able to provide some input when it came to putting together a facility within which babies are delivered.

A key aspect to any kind of construction is the workers who do the actual work. They have various skills. Some are involved in the design process. Others are gifted at overseeing the work. Some have special skills like carpentry or masonry. Others do the heavy lifting of general labour. It was fun and I got to know a lot of men. As a part of my contribution to the effort, I conducted a weekly bible study every Saturday just prior to the day’s end (when they would receive their pay for the week).

One day I was telling a pastor-friend about our project, knowing that he had recently been involved in a similar project when they built their church building. I proudly told him that I was having a bible study with our workers every week. He came back with the statement that he had done a bible study every day before work! I was taken aback but it got me thinking. The result was that I had a short devotional before we began work each morning. The men in general don’t shy away from talking about the Bible in normal life and they appreciate prayers for safety during the day, so it all worked out well.

The other day, while walking past the clinic and thinking of the final phase of the project (that we hope to begin in the new year), I was reminded that when construction starts again I would need to think about daily devotionals again. That’s when it hit me. I could start now doing a short daily devotional on Tiktok! I have been posting a daily bible verse for the past couple of years on our ministries’ social media accounts so to turn that into a daily devotional wasn’t all that hard to do. So I bit the bullet and created a Tiktok account and started recording videos.

At this point I have no idea how long this will go on for or what specific benefits it might offer people. However, people within my ministry circle have expressed their appreciation for the daily bible verses that I have sent. There are also people in our community who are unable to leave their houses due to major health issues and for whom an option to watch a video about the Bible is a blessing.

What strange new things is God calling you to do? What do you think it will take to convince you to do it? Why not leave your answer in the comment box below?

Remember sharing is what friends do.

If you enjoyed this read, please don’t forget to like and follow my blog.

For those interesting in finding out more about our birthing clinic project here is a short video describing what we are doing.

Image by SCREEN POST on Unsplash.

Oh no, Canada? Have we progressed in the past year?

Last year, Eva and I spent Canada Day while stuck in Canada because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions. It gave us a chance to be reacquainted with the land of our birth and hear first hand some of the issues facing Canadians. Now, a year later, Eva and I are back at our home in Quezon City, Philippines, wondering how Canada is on its birthday.

A year ago, I took the opportunity to write a few reflections on Canada in light of some of the less honourable achievements the country has had. Here is a link if you are interested in reading my thoughts from a year ago.

Oh no, Canada: Reflections on Canada on Canada Day

I guess my question on 2022’s Canada Day is this: Are we making any progress as a nation? If so, what have you seen?

Please leave a comment either below on or on my post from last year.

Remember, sharing is what friends do!

Please also consider following this blog.

Image by Jason Hafso on Unsplash.

Sakay: What is it like to travel the densest metropolitan area in the entire world? Here is what a typical journey looks like in my community

It’s always a challenge to drive by a wet market. Because it’s a destination for so many people, that means (surprisingly enough) that there will be lots of people there! People also means traffic, the bane of most inhabitants of Metro Manila. The road from our house was pretty clear for the first while. In fact, I commented to Eva that there were only a few people on it. I guess leaving just after 8AM meant we missed the Monday morning rush. Normally when we get to the main corner, I avoid a left turn because not only does it lead to the market, it also goes past an elementary school, a mall, and a grocery store. During old normal times, driving past a school is always a bit touch and go because if you happen to hit a time when kids are either going to, or coming from school you can expect a rather long wait. It does help develop patience, however. 

Today, however, we needed to visit a drug store right beside the market to pick up some medical supplies to help a friend. Our trip went fairly quickly and arrived at the drug store in good time. I did have trouble parking for two reasons. The first is because there were no more slots left in front of the store. The second was because there was a line of people standing on the street in front of the store. Lest you think that there was a sale on and people were lining up for that, I need to tell you that most people in Metro Manila do not drive their own vehicles. Rather they take public transportation. These people were lined up to take the next available ride to their destination.

Public transportation in the Philippines is both convenient and complex — at least to a certain extent — because it’s possible to take a ride from basically your front doorstep all the way to wherever you want to go in the Philippines. Here is what a typical journey looks like.

Before leaving home, I gather everything that I need for the journey — keys, coins, handkerchief, hat — and then head downstairs. Then head back upstairs for my face mask. Once I get my shoes on, I head out the gate, then go back inside to get my umbrella. 

[If you are unaware of what an umbrella is, here is a simple explanation: An umbrella is a somewhat cumbersome device that if you take it with you it doesn’t rain but if you leave it at home — saying to yourself after looking at the sky, ‘It’s not going to rain today’ — then rain is guaranteed.]

As I walk down the lane from our house to the street, I see a green tricycle stop and signal to me if I want a ride. A raised finger eyebrow is all that’s needed to engage their services while a wave of the hand means, ‘No.’ (If I choose to not hire the roving tricycle, I can always walk a few steps to the corner where there is an official terminal for yellow tricycles). For the uninitiated, a tricycle is a motorcycle with a covered sidecar attached. Passengers can either sit in the sidecar, which is equipped with 3 seats, or sit sidesaddle behind the driver (2 more seats). In our area there are three main tricycle associations, each with their own colours. 

The tricycle payment system is rather complex. If you hire a tricycle that is in the terminal lineup it costs P25 for a ride out to the main road. If the tricycle is not full, the driver is allowed to pick up other passengers on the way (who pay P10 each), with the proviso that the initial hire gets to sit in the best seat.  

Once we get out to the main street, about 1.6km away, the tricycle pulls over to the side and we get out and pay the driver. There is a small market area here, too, in case we need to get something on the way home. But since we are going further we head around the corner to where the jeepney awaits. If the front seat is full, we need to board from the door in the rear, entering crouched over we make our way to the front and hope there is room on one of the two bench seats that run down each side. On the rare occasion that the jeep is full, it’s possible for men to hang from the back (sorry ladies, you will have to wait for space on the inside). 

Payment for the jeepney is also interesting, if less complex than that of the tricycle. The base fare is P9 and increases are based on distance travelled. When unsure it’s possible to simply ask how much it will cost from one point to another. When it’s time to pay, you simply say something like, “Bayad ho” [“Here’s my payment”] and reach your hand toward the driver with your money in it. One of your fellow passengers will grab your money and keep passing it forward. When it gets to the front, the driver will ask, “Ilan?” [“For how many?”] and then pass back the appropriate change (if necessary). 

Once at your destination, simply say something like, “Para ho sa tabi” [“Please stop at the side”] and the jeepney will stop for you. Exit is through the same door you entered. If you are going further, you can always take a bus, either to somewhere else within the city or to somewhere else in the country. The rule of thumb is, the smaller the vehicle the higher the fare. Thus tricycles are the most expensive and busses are the cheapest. 

Apart from this there are also airconditioned options such as taxis, FXs, busses, and the LRT/MRT. But we need to save those journeys for another day. 

How do you get around where you live? What unique features does your public transportation system have? Please let us know in the comments below.

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“Hey Joe!”: A call for connection that I often miss.

“Hey Joe!” It’s a term that I never enjoyed hearing but I do remember being there for Daniel’s first “Hey Joe!” when he was 3 years old and got ahead of us in the mall. He passed a corner and all of a sudden we heard someone say the words.

“Hey Joe!” is not so much used nowadays as a greeting. When I was in High School it was a common greeting for Filipinos when they saw Americanos. As far as I know the term Joe is connected to G.I. Joe, a term used to describe American soldiers during World War II.

On a sidenote I remember talking with a female American MK a number of years ago who laughed because they called her “Joanna.” Get it? Joe-anna? Hahaha. Clever.

If I’m being honest with you, I don’t like the term “Hey Joe!” because I don’t want people to think I’m an American. I’m a Canadian and I enjoy the uniqueness of that identity.

But then it’s not really a question about identity is it?

“What’s your name?”
“Where are you going?”
“Where do you live?”

Nowadays the term “Hey Joe!” isn’t used as often as other terms. Questions like “What’s your name?” “Where you going? and “Where do you live?” are more frequent. As a Canadian growing up in the age of privacy these kinds of personal questions seem to be invasive to me. I also tend to try and answer these questions literally.

A lesson in missing the point.

However, I am realizing more and more each day that I have entirely and completely missed the point. These questions are not attempts to misidentify who I am. They are not attempts to invade my privacy or to get my personal information. They aren’t even questions seeking definitive answers. Rather they are attempts to make a connection with me. And I misinterpret that almost every time.

I like to blame my shyness: “I’m afraid to talk to you.” But as many have pointed out to me recently I don’t seem to be all that shy anymore. Sometimes I blame busyness: “I can’t stop and talk right now because I have somebody I have to go visit.” But isn’t talking with people on the street visitation too?

It makes me look like an aloof, stonefaced man who wanders around and ignores the friendly overtures of my fellow community members rather than a kind shepherd who loves the people he meets. And thats the other side of the issue — I don’t want to be aloof and distant but instead to be caring and loving.

The Filipino term is manhid, often glossed as “numb” but in this case perhaps best glossed as “unaware until it’s too late.” This is both good and bad. Manhid is good when you need to ignore people who are trying to extract bribes from you but bad when you are trying to build relationships. I need to work at how best to develop awareness sooner so I can act sooner and hopefully develop some good relationships.

Do you sometimes miss the point? What was that like? Did you ever get it sorted out? Please let us hear your voice by leaving a comment below.

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Thoughts after reading Beth Allison Barr’s “The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth”

Not gonna lie. Any book that includes The Usual Suspects as part of its organising motif is pretty good. But that is only a minor reason why I enjoyed reading this great book. I love how it jumps straight into discussions of structural evil in relation to patriarchy because without a complex theology of evil we can’t successfully address issues like this. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Beth Allison Barr’s The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth paints a picture that combines her own personal journey with her expertise as a historian of medieval times. Barr’s argument is that church history, particularly medieval church history, shows that modern understandings of bible passages regarding the status of women haven’t always been interpreted to support patriarchy. Barr looks at how certain bible passages have been variously interpreted throughout the ages, how women’s roles within the church have shifted, and how bible translations have muddied the issue. I had the opportunity to read it after borrowing the ebook version from the Saskatoon Public Library. What follows is not a review, per se, but rather a series of reflections that emerged as I read the book.

Reflection #1: Positionality.

My area of expertise is in the realm of social sciences, more specifically in gender and ethnography. One key aspect to doing research of any kind is to determine where the researcher fits into the research. The two words are used to describe this process, Reflexivity and Positionality, basically tell us that researchers and the subjects they research are intertwined. Reflexivity is “taking account of itself or of the effect of the personality or presence of the researcher on what is being investigated.” Positionality is “the social and political context that creates your identity in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability status. Positionality also describes how your identity influences, and potentially biases, your understanding of and outlook on the world.”

Positionality is important in any study and this book is chock-full of it. Barr clearly states her positionality in relation to the topic: She is a woman who has been a member of evangelical churches in the USA since birth; she’s a pastor’s wife within the same movement, an accomplished Medieval historian with a couple of graduate degrees, and a professor.

As a comparison and contrast to this, let me show you my positionality: I am a white man, who has been a member of evangelical churches since birth (as a pastor’s kid and a missionary kid), I am a pastor, I have a couple of graduate degrees, and I am a professor.

Each of us is positioned in this conversation but are different in two important aspects: I am a man and my evangelical experience is shaped by my life in Canada and the Philippines, while Barr is a white women who is shaped by her life in the USA. These differences mean that we have different perspectives when it comes to understanding the matter at hand.

Positionality is important because it identifies our place in the conversation, reveals our connections to the subject, and allows us to see our advantages and biases. My positionality has blinded me to the truths that Barr’s positionality has revealed to her. Barr’s positionality makes this book more trustworthy.

Reflection #2: Sources of truth.

Apprehending truth is complicated. One of the first systems of determining truth that I learned as a child is that God is a God of truth and Satan is the father of lies. While that statement may be true, one aspect that I overlooked was God’s sovereignty over all. I had divided the world into neat categories of secular and sacred. I connected God’s involvement in the process with seemingly holy things only: Bible, church, religious people, etc. I rejected things — the example that springs to mind is psychology — that were seemingly unholy.

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the time I began to see cracks in my process. I was taking a class on religious perspectives on death and dying from Dr. Robert Kennedy at the University of Saskatchewan. We were assigned to read and comment on Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich. I thought I was being pretty smart by saying that Tolstoy had nothing to say about death and dying because his was a work of fiction and therefore was not true. Fortunately Dr. Kennedy was a nice guy and kindly showed me how works of fiction can also contain truth. It’s a lesson I haven’t forgotten.

A few years later I went to seminary where I learned the shocking reality that all truth is God’s truth. This means that regardless of the form of inquiry — social science, critical theory, hard science, literature, history, psychology, etc. — if it leads me to the truth then I have discovered something that is from God. This means that Barr’s study of the history of how the church has interpreted passages that seem to support patriarchy is a necessary way to help us apprehend the truth. As a historian her voice needs to be heard.

Reflection #3: The very nature of Scripture.

Dean Flemming gets it right when he talks about the New Testament as contextualisation in his Contextualization in the New Testament: Patterns for Theology and Mission. When we shift from thinking the New Testament is a doctrinal document towards seeing it as a guide for contextualisation, it opens up a new framework of interpretation. It allows us to move from seeing the bible merely as a series of truths to be believed (or a series of proof-texts to be memorised) towards a series of examples on how to live out our faith in our own unique cultural contexts. From Moses, in Deuteronomy, reframing the law to a group that hadn’t personally experienced the exodus from Egypt, to Jesus reconciling what we have heard with what he really wants us to know, to John recounting a view of history that shows us what is happening behind the scenes, the bible is full of making the gospel understood in different contexts.

That’s how Barr interprets the idea that Paul is addressing specific cultural issues of the day & providing a framework for how to contextualise the gospel into those situations. To assume that all cultural situations are the same as ours — and to assume that our cultural context has no impact on how we interpret texts — is doing disservice to the text & is leading us to false conclusions about what Paul (& other New Testament writers) are saying.

Throughout 1 Corinthians Paul addresses specific issues apparently raised by the local church. In these interactions, Paul directly quotes issues that have been raised in the church and then comments on them. Included among these quotations are the following:

6:12; 10:23 – “I am free to do all things” but my freedom is limited by my relationship to others. My freedom is not an excuse to cause others to sin.

6:13 – “Food is for the stomach and the stomach for food – but God will destroy them both” is actually talking about Corinthian sexual mores. The body does have a specific purpose – that purpose being “for God” and “not for sexual immorality,” because in the end God will “raise” the body and not destroy it. Therefore, the Corinthians were to stay away from sexual immorality.

6:16 – “The two of them will become one flesh.” When one commits sexual immorality, in this case with a prostitute as an act of worship in a pagan temple, then that person is united with the prostitute. The basis for Paul’s argument is from Genesis where when a man and a woman are united sexually then they become one. Paul would much rather that we were united “with the Lord” than be united with a prostitute.

6:18 – “Every sin which a man does is outside of the body” was another Corinthian saying that identifies the body as being less important that the spirit. Paul counters this argument by saying that in fact our physical bodies are now and will always be important because it is here where the Holy Spirit dwells. This any sins that we commit against our bodies are in essence sins against the dwelling place of God.

7:1 – “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” Paul connects this aphorism with the issue of marriage. Should married Christians abstain from sex? Paul’s answer is to get married (7:2). There are, however, other implications to getting married: 7:32-34 that says those considering marriage should carefully weigh the pros and the cons so that in the end they can remain pure but also dedicated to the work of the Lord.

Since this is the structure of 1 Corinthians, it’s not a stretch to expect the same thing to happen when we get to the 14:33-35 bit about women’s silence. Paul begins by quoting the issue and then comments on it.

14:33-35 – “As in all the churches of God’s holy people, the women must keep silent. They don’t have the right to speak. They must take their place as Moses’ Teachings say. If they want to know anything they should ask their husbands at home. It’s shameful for a woman to speak in church.”

Barr’s contention here is that Paul’s actual beliefs begin in v 36: “Did God’s word originate with you? Are you the only ones it has reached? Whoever thinks that he speaks for God or that he is spiritually gifted must acknowledge that what I write to you is what the Lord commands. But whoever ignores what I write should be ignored.” In her explanation, Barr brings us into her classroom and allows us to feel what it’s like to have a eureka moment when trying to understand scripture. It’s a powerful description!

Barr is not the first to recognise this reality. Lucy Peppiatt also talks about this in her wonderful Rediscovering Scripture’s vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts. What it does show us is that Barr doesn’t toss aside Scripture in favour of her argument. Rather she presents historical evidence that Scripture has had a variety of valid interpretations throughout history.

Reflection #4: Structural Evil is legit.

Some may bristle at idea that structural sin exists. They prefer to see sin as being entirely personal with the solution being merely a restored relationship with Jesus. Regular readers of this blog will know that I subscribe to a more complex theology of evil that includes personal evil, natural evil, and structural evil. If you are interested in a more detailed explanation take a look here and here.

Barr says, “Patriarchy wasn’t what God wanted; patriarchy was a result of human sin.” I tend to interpret the famous phrase in the second part of Genesis 3:16 as negative for both parties — a turning away from God’s original intent. “Desire” — the same word used later on to describe sin’s attitude towards Cain (Genesis 4:7) — and “rule” being the key words. For me, both of these words reflect a change that happens after the fall. While they were not a normal state of affairs prior to the fall they have now become normal — a new normal as it were (with all the negative implications that term has taken on). As Barr says, “after the fall, because of sin, women would now turn first to their husbands, and their husbands, in the place of God, would rule over them” and “Adam’s rebellion was claiming God’s authority for himself, and Eve’s rebellion was submitting to Adam in place of God.”

The reality is not only that patriarchy exists but that it is an example of how structures created by God — namely the relationships between men and women — can be twisted into sinfulness. Jesus taught us to pray, “Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” which means not only do we pray it but we work to make sure that it’s true. Patriarchy then becomes an enemy that need to be defeated.

Reflection #5: Women’s rooms.

Sometimes we think that all that needed to be done theologically happened in the Reformation. It becomes the basis for how we decide if people are real Christians or not. It even seems as if all of our theology is centered around the Reformation. But obviously not everything that happened in the Reformation was enough. Barr points out that the situation of women in the church took a turn for the worse as their space became smaller. Why? Because of Reformation theology!

Here is where Barr’s positionality as a woman who has grown up in the evangelical church is especially helpful in opening my eyes to things that I am blinded to as a man. The first surrounds the idea of women’s rooms that get bigger and smaller throughout history as things change. Barr’s argument is that the current state of affairs that keep women from certain roles and activities in the church hasn’t always been defined in the same way. Rather throughout history the spaces that women are allowed to inhabit have at times been larger and at other times have gotten smaller. As Barr says, “When political and social structures are less centralized and less clearly defined, women often experience greater agency; their rooms are bigger” (pp. 113-114).

When discussing “Official preaching space,” Barr tells the story of Anne Askew who argued that since “Preaching only took place behind a pulpit, and since she wasn’t behind a pulpit, she wasn’t preaching” (p. 116). This is is a clever use of logic to thwart a technicality — a technicality that doesn’t actually exist in scripture but we assume that it does. I am familiar with this idea but from a different angle. It relates to a different theological problem that we have here. There is an oft-cited idea that to be a pastor is to have the “highest calling.” It results in pastors being above reproach (even though people may have reasons to reproach them). Part of this “highest calling” is that only they are allowed inside the “official preaching space” — an area defined as being behind the pulpit.

What is interesting is that this “official preaching space” is an entirely social construct. No where does the bible mention any form of official preaching space. Looking at Jesus alone, we can see that he preached anywhere and everywhere — on a boat, by the seashore, on a mountain, on the plain, in the Temple, while walking down the road. Of course let’s not get into the idea that even “pastor” is highly constructed and bears little resemblance to what we see in the bible. (Should I point out here that one of the few people mentioned by name in the Bible as being a shepherd — another word for “pastor” — is Rachel in Ge 29:9?)

Reflection #6: Gender-inclusive language.

The final reflection that I will discuss relates to how we use language. The issue at hand is translating passages of scripture that do not specifically refer to gender in an accurate way. Barr discusses two ways that society has chosen to deal with this issue: Using gender-inclusive language or using a “universal” language.

Gender-inclusive language is language that allows latitude when referring to gender. When related to scriptures it refers to translating the original languages to accurately reflect it’s sometimes gender-neutral nature. Of course the topic of gender-neutral language is one that larger society is also facing for a variety of reasons.

The other option that society has chosen for addressing gender-related linguistic issues is a “universal” language. What this means is using male pronouns as the default even when the original is not gender specific. You can see where this would lead to problems. What I didn’t realise before reading this book is that this is a “False universal language.” This hit home for me because at least in the past I advocated for understanding words like “he” and “his” as referring to both male and female. Where this falls apart, as Barr so ably points out, is that this belief is not implemented in practice. “Words for men were used interchangeably in reference to kings, politicians, preachers, household heads, philosophers, and even to represent all ‘mankind.’ while specific words for women were used exclusively for women and mostly regarding the domestic sphere. ‘Man’ in early modern English could represent humanity, but the humans it described were political citizens, decision-makers, leaders, household heads, theologians, preachers, factory owners, members of Parliament, and so on. In other words, “man” could include both men and women, but it mostly didn’t. It mostly just included men” (p. 146). What this means is that in practice we assume “men” means “male” but look for evidence to prove that it also means “female.” Unfortunately, as Barr so ably points out, bible translators have not been as faithful at reflecting gender inclusivity in their work as is warranted by the text.

What is interesting is that Gender-inclusive language is completely linguistically-based. While that may seem like a rather obvious statement, what I mean is that different languages treat gender in different ways. Take for example one of the languages spoken where I live and work — Tagalog. Tagalog pronouns have no gender. Whether one is referring to a male or female person the pronoun is the same: siya. That means that even if I include the pronouns “he/him” in my Twitter bio, if my bio were in Tagalog it would say, absurdly, “siya/siya.”

All that to say if we take issue with making language more gender neutral we are probably focussing on the wrong things. We miss the forest by focussing on the trees.

The next step.

What if the theologies that I believe are also manufactured by others? Or what if they are based on misconceptions or misunderstandings of the text? Or what if they are based on theologies developed during a time of immaturity rather than maturity — milk rather than meat, so to speak? Or what if the narrative is not based on reality but instead on a limited understanding? The issue is how we understand something to be true or false.

Just before he went public with the truth about his involvement in the cycling world’s doping scheme, Lance Armstrong apparently said to his son. “‘Don’t defend me anymore. Don’t.’” He was believing a lie that had been repeatedly stated was a truth.

We need to face the reality that sometimes we end up defending things that aren’t really true. It’s looking more and more like the so-called traditional understanding of the passages supporting Christian patriarchy aren’t in fact all that traditional. The traditional interpretations, as so clearly delineated by Barr, are quite the opposite to what many of us have grown up believing.

I highly recommend reading this book. If you are already moving in this direction, this book will encourage you. If you are still weighing the issues, this book will help provide balance to make an accurate measurement. Regardless of your position on this issues discussed, you won’t be disappointed. And who knows? You may be led to reflect a little on your own. In fact, you may already have some reflections of your own. Please feel free to leave them in the comment section, below.

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Image is a screen shot from the cover of the ebook I read and is copyright by Brazos Press.