Intemperate Applications

 

“And to knowledge [add] temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;” (2Pe 1:6)

 

A biblical principle can be applied in an extreme and intemperate way.  You do not use an atomic bomb on a rabbit. [I know you wanted to get the rabbit, but…]   Intemperance in the application of our knowledge can be as deadly as ignorance, and can make us many enemies.

 

The Westminster Confession of Faith is intemperate with regard to the application of the Sabbath Day in my view.  Some of our friends insist that the day is to be kept with two services and will not attend a church that does not have two.  I think that is intemperate, although the principle of worship on the Sabbath is right.  There is nothing wrong with two services, or three, or four, or an all-day 12-hour service, but intemperance would enter at some point.

 

If one whole day means one whole day, why not a 24-hour day, and have services for 24 hours.

 

The Heidelberg Catechism has a much more moderate and biblical confession concerning the Sabbath, in my view.

 

In the same way, if the Lord’s Supper is good, then why not every week, or every day, or every hour?  When does intemperance and silliness enter in?

 

The Bible says, “Wine is a mocker…” The principle is right—wine is a mocker; but to insist upon total abstinence is an intemperate application of the principle.   On the other hand, because nothing is unclean of itself does not mean that it is all right to be drunken.  To justify drunkenness because material things are not unclean is an intemperate application.

 

This is the reason that we are to add temperance to our knowledge.  [2Pet. 1:5ff] We may apply our knowledge in an intemperate way and do more harm than good.  But it is very common for the intemperate to say, “But the Bible says ______________”

 

I believe that amid the many good things that were done by those fresh out of seminary that came to the RCUS a generation ago were a number of intemperate applications of good biblical principles.  For instance:  the prohibition of all pictures in Sunday School materials, so that even today our churches are struggling to find interesting Sunday School material.  A picture of David killing Goliath might spark some interest without involving a transgression of the 2nd Commandment.  If you see someone offering incense to the picture, then we might legitimately be concerned.  Of course, it might run against a private interpretation if David is depicted with long hair.  Hey, there are some risks in everything.

 

We seem to multiply rules in terms of intemperate application:  about tattoos, haircuts, children’s books with fantasy and magic:  Pinocchio, Snow White, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Harry Potter, etc. etc. etc.

 

Good biblical principle:  Children should be disciplined and taught to mind.

Intemperate application:  Children should be spanked soon and often, regardless of circumstances, temperament, age.  It will save their souls and is to be regarded as a third sacrament of the church.

 

Good biblical principle:  Bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Intemperate application:  It is always sinful to send a child to the public schools.   They must be breast fed, fed natural foods, potty trained by 12 months.

 

Good biblical principle:  The marks of the church are faithful preaching, use of the sacraments, and discipline.

Intemperate application:  No Baptist Church is a true church because they are messed up on baptism.  No congregational church is a true church because they have bad government.  The RCUS is not a true church because we are undisciplined with only 9.5 commandments because most of our churches only have one service on Sunday.  The _________ is not a true church because ____________________ [fill in your own preference]

 

Good biblical principle:  Fathers are responsible for the education of their children.

Intemperate application:  Every father should personally instruct his children and it is sinful for him to delegate it to others, even to a Christian School.  It is all right for him to delegate it to his wife; it will really be sanctifying for her especially if she takes that part about being saved by childbearing seriously and has fourteen or fifteen children.  She shouldn’t be lazy.  Let her suck it up and be strong.  In the old days she could die in childbirth, but we have better medicine now, so even that is not an escape for her.  Her husband better make a lot of money also, for she will have no time to engage in the activities of Proverbs 31.  If her 10-14 children are spread out over twenty childbearing years and assuming she marries at twenty-five, she will finish home-schooling her youngest when she is sixty-three.  She must also be careful to make a lot of home-made bread, sew clothing for all the children, and make lots of jams and jellies and dust the house every day.

 

One of the reasons I left the Baptist Church was this very thing.  They had a different set of principles that they were intemperate about, but I did not imagine that the chains of the Baptist Church would be replaced by new-forged Reformed chains made in the same fires of intemperate application of Scripture.

 

       Good biblical Principle:  “I will set no evil thing before my eyes”

       Intemperate Application:  It is wrong to have a television or to go to the movies or read magazines.

 

The prohibition of women voting in the congregational meeting is based upon such an intemperate application, in my view.  I was not able to articulate until now.  The principle of the subordination of women is biblical, but the application to voting in a church ruled by elders is intemperate.  It might not be an intemperate application in a church ruled by the congregation.

 

It is true that Paul tells Timothy that women should keep silent in church.  What is the application?  The sober application is that she is not to pray aloud in the worship; she is not to teach, or to usurp a teaching role in worship.  We should not add a bunch of extra-biblical applications.

 

Is she not to recite the Lord’s Prayer or say the Apostles’ Creed?  That would be an intemperate application.  What about singing?  Is she not to teach Sunday School or teach a cooking class or art on a Tuesday night to anyone [including men] who might be interested?  Is she forbidden to teach the gospel to a group of women in the community who ask for it?  Whatever are we thinking???  Should the apostle have shut down that riverside prayer meeting at Philippi?  What good could come out of a women’s prayer meeting?

 

Rome taught that women should be silent, and were not to sing in the worship.  There were stupid about a lot of things—this in particular.  If they did not know what “is” was in the sacramental institution, they could not be expected to be right about much else. As a result, boys were used to sing the great anthems and soprano parts in the great music of the church for centuries.  Some of the greatest boy sopranos decided under great pressure from the church to be castrated so that their voices would not change at puberty.  They became known in Italy as the “castrati” and some of the greatest music of the church was written for them.

 

Isn’t this ironic: that in the name of male dominance in the church, some of the most talented and promising young men surrendered their masculinity?

 

John Knox wrote an intemperate book “First Blast Against the Monstrous Rule of Women.” Directed against his own Mary Queen of Scots, he also caught Elizabeth I of England and the Queen of Austria in his net.   Calvin begged him not to publish it because his sources in England told him that England was very close to abandoning Episcopacy in favor of the Reformation.  Calvin said that some women had inherited their throne and they must not abandon their responsibility.  Knox published it anyway, and Calvin’s sources said that Elizabeth turned against the reformers, and Knox’s intemperate book was the reason.

 

To come to the principle of 1Timothy 2

 

8  I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. 9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” (1Ti 2:8-15)

 

Intemperate applications:

 

It is sinful for women to braid their hair, wear gold, pearls, costly clothes. [Old Pentecostalism]  Why just focus on one phrase of this injunction?   Must we inspect the price tag of the garments women wear to church, lest they disobey the Scriptures by coming in “costly array”?

 

It is sinful for women to teach men ever: in CPR classes; in nursing occupations, in college classes in anything, or even to speak in a seminary class on marriage counseling at the invitation of the real professor?  [some of the RCUS men]

 

It is sinful for a woman to speak in public [Calvin]

 

It is sinful for a woman to employ men in a business and be their boss, as the woman in Prove. 31?  Cannot they be principals of Christian Schools or teach high school students?  Are we mad?

 

Why focus on the silent women and not the men lifting up their hands?  If it is sinful for the women to use their voices, why is it not sinful for the men NOT to raise their hands in worship?  Upon what principle do we condemn the one and excuse the other?

 

If childbearing is the way of salvation for a woman, how many children are sufficient to achieve that goal:  one, two, five, fourteen, twenty-three?  How many children does it take to atone for Eve’s transgression?  If she cannot have children is this a curse upon her so that she cannot be saved?  This writer does not think that Paul was mad or a hater of women, so what does he mean?

 

1Co 14:34 Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

1Ti 2:8 “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”

1Ti 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

1Ti 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

 

In every one of these passages the context is worship, specifically at prayers.  The heart of worship is prayer from the heart, and teaching is for the purpose of knowing whom we pray to.  We have commented on this above.

 

Intemperate application:

       Women should not speak in Sunday School or at weekly bible studies, ask questions, etc.

 

Intemperate application

       Women should not sing, confess the creed, or say the Apostles’ Creed

 

Intemperate application

       Women should not be in charge of church fellowships, church dinners, picnics, etc.  Women should have no authority over anything related to the church and should not speak at the functions.  Our church dinners, fellowships, picnics, bible studies, should be attended only by silent women.   [Nobody says this—although some come close to it-- but upon what basis? Not according to the interpretation of 1Cor 14:34 and 1 Tim. 2:11, for if the church means the church in all its functions this application should follow.]  No woman should be principal of a Christian School, for this involves authority over men; nor should she have authority over men in banks, credit unions, stores, offices, businesses, etc., nor should she be elected to any public office.  She should cover her face in shame, hide indoors, and never be heard in any public place.  Men have responsibility to shame her and humiliate her if she speaks in public—to keep her in her place.

 

Intemperate application:

       Women should not vote in the congregational meeting.  Why is this intemperate? It is intemperate because the congregational meeting is not a worship service.  There is no invocation, no call to worship, no preaching, none of the elements of formal worship.  The things dealt with are earthly things of finances, property, etc., all which women are capable and efficient, as witness Proverbs 31.  Their wisdom is needed in the management of church affairs.  She has a right to a vote as to whom she is to be subject to in the church; she even gets one vote when she marries and when her children are baptized and when she joins the church.  These things are at least as critical as the election of elders.  Neither is the congregational meeting a judicatory.

 

Lest any think I am being extreme in this, I have had women ask if it was proper for them to take the vow at the baptism of their children, that wasn’t it sufficient for their husbands to take the vow?  I said, “No, it is not sufficient” for you are personally responsible as well as your husband.  You both are to do this, together and individually. If he is negligent, or if he dies or is disabled, you are responsible for these vows.  I do not think I was wrong.

 

If the injunction to silence is absolute she must not speak at her wedding, the baptism of her children, or to affirm vows of membership.  After all, she might cancel out the vote of her father or her husband.

 

One of the faults of the RCUS in my view is the tendency to take the most extreme interpretation of passage after passage after passage.   The one about women keeping silent is church is one of them.  I agree that women should not have any lead in the worship service, hold ordained office, or such in the church, including the deaconate.  But there are gifted and capable women who must not be relegated to inferiority status and many areas of service should be open to them.  Of course, if your church has rebellious and outlandish women, then they should be disciplined.  Just like rebellious and outlandish men.

 

The result very often is low self-esteem, quiet rebellion in some, and abandonment of the churches in others.  Some grit their teeth and bear it for their marriages and children.  Others carry on guerrilla warfare of slander and defamation.  There is no joy.  Often there is tension between husband and wife with the husband bitter against his wife, in violation of Scripture. Col 3:19            

 

I was once young.  I know what being intemperate is.  I am now old and am learning what it means, “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Php 4:5)