Monday, December 31, 2007

The Obligatory Dec 31 Year in Review

I have always been a slave to fashion and tradition, which is why I am obligated on New Year's Eve to do a one year retrospective.

Or not... instead, let's do a short history of my garden: a three year retrospective.

2004

My wife and I moved to our current residence in August 2004. The dried remains of one lily amid the grass in the front of the house was the sum total of the garden. The grass lawn was ubiquitous and full of diversity (i.e., weeds.)

My parents moved at the same time, and my Dad - "FloraGuy" - offered to let me divide perennials from his large garden. (They moved to a condominium with minimal space for perennials.) Thus my wife and I had to break sod from day 1., and started the bed along the deck with inherited plants.

We added several more species that fall from a native plant sale.

2005

Started several flats of native seeds indoors. Poor germination, and I learned about stratification (the hard way).

As soon as the snow was off, I was breaking sod for the 15' by 30' veggie patch. Kathy would have helped, but she was "with child" and did little gardening until fall.

In the fall I broke sod for the beds near the house. In the process I cut the telephone cord between the house and garage, knocking out telephone access for the entire house. Oops!

Also participated in a prairie plant rescue in November. A local conservationist had been collecting seeds and scattering them on his 20 acres. He passed away and the property was slated for residential development. Along with many others, we rescued many native plants, to be transplanted to local restorations. Each volunteer was able to keep a few root-balls as a reward.

2006

Started more flats of wildflowers indoors. Stratification helped, but many were over-watered and under-heated.

Expanded deck and garage beds. Augmented with compost, which apparently had much still viable tomato seed.

Took part in a native plant exchange hosted by the local chapter of Wild Ones.

Also dug sod in the front where I planted daffodils and purple coneflower seedlings which were threatening to take over other beds.

2007

Used a combination of fire (from a propane torch) and smother by mulch to prep a large bed in the front of the house. Planted with native shrubs to create a hedge.

Spent time this spring dividing or transplanted tall perennials to the back of the garden and the short perennials to the front.

Bought native ferns.

Created water gardens near the house foundation, which caused wet walls in the basement. Extended drainage of the rain gardens further from the foundation, moved wetland perennials, and now have a dry basement.

Perennials are often said to sleep the first year, creep the second, and leap the third. Enjoyed watching many of the perennials leap this year.

Started blogging.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Starting Seeds Already

The new year has begun early!

With the help of my two assistants, I planted the first seeds for the 2008 garden. All three of us had thoroughly dirty hands. Like all things in my garden, this project was done on the cheap - I mean "frugally." All seeds were collected from the garden or from natural areas (with permission, of course.) The starting pots are the bottoms of 1 gallon milk jugs, cut off and perforated on the bottom. The terraria are birthday cake holders. (We make our own cakes from scratch. Once you have made your own frosting, there is no going back. Mmmmm. The cake containers were left over from my mother-in-law who rarely makes cakes from scratch.) The heater for the terraria are vents in the floor. I am trying germinating in mineral soil this year: a mix of sand and a rich clay-loam. Last year I had serious issues with rot or drought in the in Miracle Grow stuff.

I planted prairie smoke (pictured,) cup plant, red milkweed, American bittersweet, wafer ash, little bluestem, and golden alexanders. Everything but the prairie smoke will be put outside to "stratify." The seeds need about a month of being damp and freezing before they can be fooled into thinking it is spring and time to germinate and grow. Technically, little bluestem does not need the stratification, but is planted in the same pot as the golden alexanders.

Once the seedlings germinate, I plan to prick them out into individual cells. I know that January is a bit early to start plants indoors, but it is snowy outside and I have not had dirt under my fingernails in weeks. The kids enjoyed the projects (dirt everywhere!) tho Gerrit did insist on poking holes 1 inch deep. I had to explain that flower seeds are only planted at a depth of twice the seeds' size. Since these seeds are tiny, we just scrape the surface.

Stop by in a week or so for pictures of baby prairie smoke. More baby pictures in five to six weeks (after startification) for the other species. I really hope the wafer ash take. It is not a real "ash" tree, but rather Michigan's only native citrus.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Native Plants in Your Face


Over the weekend we had an excellent snowstorm. An excellent snowstorm? I admit I love snow. Snowmen, snow sculpture, snow angels, shoveling, even the excitement of slipping and sliding on the road.

The kids insisted that I build a snowman. The snow, however, was soft and powdery. Great for skiing or snowshoeing, but not sticky, not "packing" snow. We made do by building mini-snowmen. The other problem was a more common snowman problem. In the modern "clean" yard, there are no lumps of coal for eyes and nose. We found a great solution using native plants. Brown-eyed susan (Rudebckia triloba) seedheads make excellent eyes, nose, and even mouth. We left some stem on the seedhead to help hold the seedheads in place.

So there we have it, one more reason to celebrate native plants. It could get a bit weird if the gold finches feed on those particular seedheads, but the snow will likely melt before the snowmen need to re-enact Hitchcock's The Birds.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Blog Basics

Until a few weeks ago I had only a vague idea of what a blog was, and no idea how to read, much less write, a blog. Like many things computer, it is easier than it first appears, especially if you realize that you cannot break anything by clicking on links. So here is a quick spin of blogs and blogdom.

A blog is simply words and pictures on a website. Anyone with a computer can create a blog, and the quality of blogs varies accordingly. Some of my favorite blogs are online journals with pictures from friends far away. Others are written by professional writers or folks with something to sell.

This blog has an area with the most current entry at the top. The previous entry is just below it, and the entry before that is below. The most recent 7 entries or so are on the man page. For earlier entries (such as the beginning of the Women and Equality series) you need to click on a previous month in the Archive section to the right.

Also to the right are links to good books, pictures I have taken, etc. I intend soon to add a "blogroll," which is a link to other blogs that I find interesting or useful.

If you want to create a blog of your own, click on the orange B at the upper left. It's free. You might even be able to make money from your blog.

If you want to find out whenever something new is posted, click on the RSS link to "subscribe." That takes a few more steps, but it is fun. I have the RSS sent to my My Yahoo homepage, tho there are many other RSS based sites like Newsgator.

Lastly, if you read something that you really like, dislike, would like to correct, or discuss. Click on the word "comment" at the bottom of the post. Then you can write what you want.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Link to the RCA Statement

In the theology class this evening Pastor Mark mentioned an obscure and well hidden document on "Reports on Women's Ordination to the 1957 and 1958 General Synod reformatted text." If you click on the underline, the link should take you there directly. Mark was not kidding tho; it took some looking on a page full of neat historical documents.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Biblical Equality Resources

I am a little disappointed that I have only been able to give a response to Grudem's chapter on men and women. However, I'll save that for another day, or days. I promised in a post a week ago to offer resources. Some of the best books on the subject are listed to the right. They include Discovering Biblical Equality, Beyond Sex Roles, and Good News for Women.

Much of what I have learned about the biblical model of mutual submission and equality, I learned from resources at Christians for Biblical Equality. CBE has an excellent blog, which is dedicated to the subject, unlike this blog which tends to wander from equality to environmental stewardship to my wildlife garden.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Subordination in Genesis?

Here I continue why I disagree with Grudem's Systematic Theology with regard to Chapter 22, Man as Male and Female.

Part C. 2. Indications of Distinct Roles Before the Fall

I agree that there are indications of distinct roles before the Fall. Adam was created first, and woman from man. Woman was created as a help to man. The biology of man and woman does give each a special role in making a child. But Grudem is not arguing for distinct roles, or he would not have overlooked the rather obvious roles with regard to reproduction. Instead the section should be titled, "Indications of Female Subordination in Genesis."

2a. Adam created first, then Eve.

Order of creation does not denote authority. In fact, the opposite is true. Plants and animals were created before humans, but humans were given authority over them. Authority is something that belongs to God alone, and he delegates that authority as he wills. Thus, for man to authority over woman, we would need a special and explicit command to that effect. Grudem argues that priority gives authority according to primogeniture. However, God repeatedly violates primonegiture by choosing the youngest child to rule (e.g., Joseph, David.) Primogeniture is a construct of human culture.

2b. Eve was created as a helper for Adam

I agree. But a helper can be one in authority or a subordinate. The Hebrew word for helper used here is 'ezer, which is usually used to refer to God helping humans. Grudem argues that God is putting himself under the authority of humans when he helps. This is difficult to reconcile with God's sovereignty. A temporary setting aside of authority on the part of the Son is difficult enough to comprehend. Did the entire Trinity do this repeatedly in the Old Testament? I agree that a superior can voluntarily, temporarily act as an inferior by serving. At best, Grudem has proved that woman can voluntarily, temporarily act as under the authority of a man.

2c. Adam named Eve

Eve was not named "Eve" by Adam until after the Fall. Before the fall, he recognized her female-ness, which he could hardly fail to notice, given that God had just paraded all the animals in pairs in front of him. (On the other hand, I think that Adam probably would have noticed her female-ness anyway. She was naked, after all.)

2d. God named the human race Man, not Woman

"Adam" is the Hebrew word for humanity. Thus, when God created the first human, he called him "Human" - as in English a word derived from dirt, mud, or "humus." We would more accurately say that Adam's name was Mud from day 1. He was the only human and thus referred to God as "Hey, you - human." In Genesis 1, God says that the human was male and female. After the fall, Adam insisted that he retain the title of Mr. Human, while giving woman a subordinate role, a different name, "Eve." Thus, the fact that Adam was named human was the result of his being the first and only, not an indication of his God given authority.

2e The serpent came to Eve first

This does not denote that Eve was of less authority than Adam. Several plausible explanations can be put forward to explain the serpent approaching Eve. Perhaps she was approached because she was younger and less experienced. To suggest that Eve was approached first to usurp Adam's authority changes the nature of original sin and makes it gender specific. Instead of original sin originating from the Human's ("Adam's") usurping God's authority and rejecting God rule, Grudem's reading is that woman's original sin is usurping male authority and man's original sin was rejecting God's authority. Thus, Jesus died to reconcile men (males), and women are reconciled through their husband. This is a Mormon teaching, not orthodox Christian teaching.

2f. God spoke to Adam first after the Fall

A new heading should start here. Grudem titled this section on distinct roles "before the Fall." From here he argues from incidents after the Fall.

The man was created first, and was called to account first. This does not indicate, necessarily, that man had authority over woman. One might argue that if the male and female were of equal authority, they should have been both called to account at the same time. However, God likely wanted to underline each individuals' responsibility for their own actions.

2g. Adam, not Eve, represented the human race

Well, yes, that is Adam's name - Human. Thus, we are all sinful because of the first Human's sin. Genesis 1:27 clearly says that Adam ("Human") is male and female. Is Grudem arguing that original sin really only applies to the male part of human?

2h. The curse brought a distortion of previous roles, not the introduction of new roles

Grudem here makes a statement, but offers no evidence to back up the statement. In the curse, God states the results of sin. One of those is the Man will rule over Woman (3:16). That is a distortion of their previous relationship, which was one of equal imaging of God (Genesis 1:27), not a previous benign rule of man over woman.

2i. Redemption in Christ reaffirms the creation order

I agree that we should see the curse being undone in the New Testament church. I see evidence of the curse being overturned with regard to men ruling over women in Galatians 3:28 "Their is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Grudem argues that Paul would not institute female submission if male rule was part of the curse. I agree and I disagree. We are all to submit to one another. Ephesians 5:21 "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Thus, I am a proponent of female submission, just as I am a proponent of male submission. Grudem also argues that husbands or men are referred to as "head," and thus they must have authority. However, as I discussed at length in a previous post, reading the "head" metaphor to refer to authority does violence to the doctrine of the Trinity, and by extension Jesus' divinity and our salvation.

More on mutual submission in the next post.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Head as Source or Authority?

I want to pick up here the thread I started on November 29, 2007. I was discussing Chapter 22 "Man as Male and Female" of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. In November I discussed points of agreement, parts A and B of the chapter. Here I will concentrate on part C, which presents only the "complementarian" point of view.

It should be noted that throughout Systematic Theology, the main text generally presents both points of view on issues where evangelicals disagree; then Grudem makes a case for the point of view he sees as preferable. On issues regarding men and women, Grudem breaks from this pattern, in this chapter and others, and gives only the complementarian view. If the egalitarian point of view is mentioned, it is mentioned briefly in the footnotes. This is consistent with Grudem's position as a well known complementarian, but does detract from the balance of the textbook.

2.C.1 Male headship and the Trinity

I affirm male headship. Paul mentions it is Colossians, Ephesians, and in Corinthians. However, I think it is important to make sure that we interpret Scripture in light of other Scripture. This is especially true in the Epistles, which were written in another language to specific people or churches for specific reasons in a culture removed from ours by many miles and years. Grudem mentions 1 Corinthians 11:3: "But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." What does "head" mean here? The Greek word in question is "kephale," which is literally the part of the human anatomy above the shoulders. Here it is a metaphor, but of what? Does it mean head as in "head of the corporation," the person in authority? Does it mean head as in "head of a pin," the part on top? Does it mean head as in "head of the stream," the source from which something takes its origin?

First, what is most consistent with the context of this verse? Sadly, that does not clarify the issue in this case. 1 Corinithians 11:3 is part of a section (1 Corithinians 11:1-16) that can be understood several ways. The overall message seems to be that men and women should not dress inappropriately in church. Verses 7-12 suggest that Paul bases his arguement on head coverings on origin or source. But verse 10 appeals to a sign of authority on or over her head "because of the angels." Thus, head could have something to do with authority. Paul may also be using a pun here, speaking of head metaphorically and then literally as a head covering. Who knows? This may be a humorous allusion (perhaps scathing is a better word, given the tone of the letter).

Second, what is consistent with other Scripture and theology. Although complementarians and egalitarians rarely put it this way, this debate is minor compared to central doctrines of the Christian faith. The trinity, the divinity of Christ, salvation. We must not reinterpret the minor in light of the major, but interpret the minor to be consistent with the major. As I discussed in a previous post, Jesus has equal authority with the Father in the trinity; the Son does have his source in (is "begotten" from) the Father. Contrary to Grudem, that is the orthodox teaching of the church from Athanasius to modern times (see Giles 2005). Thus, headship cannot mean authority in this verse without damaging the concept of the trintiy, and by extension the full deity of Christ and our assurance of salvation.

In my next post, I will try to be brief in discussing section C.2.a-i.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Principles and Respect

The man/woman issue of authority and submission is one of the two or three controversial topics in the Christian faith about which I feel very strongly. I believe that an important principle is threatened by those that disagree with me. Like those that disagree with me on this issue, I am frustrated by those who attempt a compromise to avoid controversy or debate. There are two choices: women are to submit to the God ordained authority of men, and thus should not hold positions of authority, as least not within a marriage or within the church; or women and men are to submit to each other, and each can hold positions of authority as God has gifted them through the Holy Spirit.

I intentionally wrote the above paragraph so that any complementarian could agree with at least one paragraph of my blog.

My grandparents and parents were civil rights activists. I have a heritage of fighting injustice and institutionalized inequity. The definition of "feminism" that I was taught was akin to, "...the radical notion that women are human beings."

My other grandparents and many of my ancestors were members of the Reformed Church in America, and I owe much of my knowledge of the faith to the teachings of Tom Stark. Indeed, outside my family there are few people I respect more than Pastor Stark. Thus, I also have a heritage of teaching and positive examples of non-abusive men as authorities in their homes and churches.

I point this out to show that I understand both sides of the argument, both in my head but also deeper in my experiences and my heritage. It is hard to discuss the issue with respect. But we must try.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Can Jesus Forgive Sin?

In a previous post, I discussed agreements and disagreements that I have with Wayne Grudem's chapter (22) on "Man as Male and Female" in his textbook on Systematic Theology.

Disclaimer: I am at best an amateur theologian. I am over-eduacated, but my formal schooling is not in theology. In discussing the Trinity, I am in over me head. I do not have a complete understanding of the three-in-one. Thus, my critique of Grudem will be woefully lacking in footnotes and academic rigor. That said, I think most Christians with even a superficial understanding of the Trinity, Jesus' divinity, and a bit of common sense will find flaws in Grudem's treatment of subordinationism in role and function within the Trinity.

According to standard Christian teaching, one God exists eternally in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each person is fully God. Each person is distinct from the other two. There is only one God. On this one teaching, Judaism and Islam disagree with Christianity. They believe in one God in one Person, and thus deny that Jesus could be divine, and if not divine, has no authority to forgive sin. Someone who wants to say that all religions are right must choose a side regarding the Trinity and Jesus divinity and authority to forgive sins.

Athanasius was a bishop in the 300s A.D. when the church was wrestling with this concept of God as three in one. He understood that if there is no Trinity, then Jesus did not have authority to forgive sin. In this he struggled against Arius, another bishop, who claimed that Jesus was like God, but was not fully God. Instead of being fully divine, Arius taught that Jesus was subordinate to and dependent on God the Father, similar to the Islamic view of Jesus as a powerful, even pivotal, prophet. Athanasius' view was affirmed in the Nicene Creed, which described Jesus as "of the same essence as the Father." The Athanasian Creed, which Grudem accurately says is "still used in Protestant and Catholic churches today," puts it thus:

"Nothing in this trinity is before or after, nothing is greater or smaller; in their entirety the three persons are coeternal and coequal with each other."

I might even agree with Grudem that each person of the trinity has its own functions in the world, its own roles and relationships with the other two persons. I say "might" because I feel that I am stepping here from the solid rock of Scripture to the uncertain footing of inference. If each person is distinct, then it follows logically that each would have roles and relationships. But, it would also follow that to the degree that the three are distinct, they cannot be one. Clearly, we humans do not completely understand this aspect of the divine, and it would be dangerous to infer too much regarding distinct roles and relationships. Nevertheless, let's grant that the three persons might have their own roles and functions. Grudem argues that the role of the Son is eternally submitted to the will of the Father. The Father eternally exercises authority over the Son; the Son eternally has limited authority.

Jesus certainly had limited authority when incarnate, but we read in Philippians that Jesus voluntarily put himself in that position by temporarily setting aside his divine attributes to become human. That is not the issue here. The issue is whether Jesus was fully God when he set the attributes aside and when he picked them back up later.

The idea that Jesus had limited authority is contrary to the Athanasian Creed and contrary to the traditional view of the Trinity. It is beautiful enough to bear repeating, "Nothing in this trinity is before or after, nothing is greater or smaller; in their entirety the three persons are coeternal and coequal with each other." (emphasis added) Jesus is fully divine, and thus under no person's authority. As Athanasius understood, if Jesus is not fully divine, then we cannot be certain that he had the authority to forgive sin.

For this reason I disagree with Grudem's teaching of authority within the Trinity. This has major implications for Christian faith and practice, because Paul uses the relationship of Jesus to the Father as a parallel to the relationship of husband to wife, and by extension, of men to women in Chapter 22.