How Shall He Take Care of the Church of God? Revisited

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
After reflection, prayer, writing an exegetical paper, further conversation with others (including with those in my presbytery), I would like to revisit the matter of family qualifications for ordained office in the church and issue a retraction of sorts. To be honest, I am hoping brethren here will meet me "half way". What do I mean by this?

In the first post, I was pretty adamant in my stance that the word of God absolutely forbids a man who lacks first-hand experience as competent husband and father/guardian from being considered for ordained office in the church. There was sharp criticism against this stance. Maybe I have been overly wooden. I am open to that possibility.

Brethren, what if I dialed back the intensity and said my stance is that no man should be considered for ordained office in the church without having first-hand experience as a competent husband and father/guardian unless there are notable and compelling reasons for an exception? This is more than stating it is "statistically normative" for officers in the church to be competent husbands and fathers, but saying there is onus upon men to show why an exception should be made for a man coming under consideration, despite not being able to prove himself by these family qualifications.

I trust the difference will be appreciated between a presbytery that says (essentially), "No wife? No children? That's fine. We'll need to examine other indicators that would give us a good idea of whether or not he has the makings of a competent husband and father," and a presbytery that says, "No wife? No children? That's out of the ordinary. We may need to delay proceeding unless there are compelling reasons to make an exception in this case."
 

Polanus1561

Puritan Board Sophomore
No qualms in theory but it still needs determining practical measures to determine he has the potential in this area.

btw I do very much agree on the importance of ruling in the family
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
What do presbyteries normally do in these instances? The church didn't begin today and we have hundreds of years of Presbyterian history and multiple confessional denominations over that time.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
What do presbyteries normally do in these instances? The church didn't begin today and we have hundreds of years of Presbyterian history and multiple confessional denominations over that time.
I think the other post demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of presbyteries see the ordaining of these unmarried and/or childless men to office in the church as needing no cause for exception, but only alternative forms of examination.

My main question here is something like, if I am willing to take a step back from my previous, extremely wooden stance and grant that exceptions could conceivably be granted, will any who criticized me before at least agree with me that some compelling reason would be required in order to make an exception? Especially some of those who granted that examining a man's conduct in ruling his own home is very much the norm.
 
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Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
@Parakaleo

No, Blake, because Paul is not at odds with himself and the rest of Scripture.

The Paul of I Corinthians 7 cannot be fairly interpreted to mean that any particular Christian must be married, whether holding the general office of believer or special office (as Paul held supremely as an apostle). I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 may not be read as if they exist in a vacuum, separate from what Paul says in I Corinthians 7 and what the Bible says elsewhere (e.g., "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven").

And it runs counter to the whole history of the Christian Church, which has never taught that pastors, elders, and deacons must be married and have children. The church has historically chosen men whom it believed gifted and called to service regardless of their marital and family status.

The notion that I Timothy 3 requires something that the rest of the Bible does not indicates not only a wooden reading on your part but flatly erroneous exegesis at this point. I think the burden is on you in this matter, not the vast majority who've held what I've articulated in this discussion: An unmarried state for a special office-holder candidate does not constitute some sort of exception that must be justified.

All grant that a married state is customary. Required? Hardly, and thus I cannot "meet you halfway" on this, as you propose, because you are quite simply wrong on the matter. There is no requirement for marriage and family on the part of one duly gifted and called to the ministerial office. Paul tells us what must be the case if he is married and has children. He must be a good governor thereof. If he's not, he must still possess the sorts of gifts for such, because the kinds of gifts required for success domestically are required for edification ecclesiastically; that does not mean, however, that the man must be married with children, made clear by other parts of Scripture and by the structure of the Greek itself, in my estimation.

I don't wish to reargue this, dear brother, but only to make clear that your "halfway" proposal, while undoubtedly well-intentioned, is simply untenable.

Peace,
Alan
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
@Alan D. Strange

Brother, thank you for your candid reply. I am glad I posed this question. I think we are getting into some deep issues in the church regarding Augustinian vs. Chrysostomian understandings of marriage and family. Since it is the Lord's day, I'll save a fuller response for another day.
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
No, Blake, because Paul is not at odds with himself and the rest of Scripture.

The Paul of I Corinthians 7 cannot be fairly interpreted to mean that any particular Christian must be married, whether holding the general office of believer or special office (as Paul held supremely as an apostle). I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 may not be read as if they exist in a vacuum, separate from what Paul says in I Corinthians 7 and what the Bible says elsewhere (e.g., "eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven").

The charge of reading 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 in a vacuum doesn't stick to me here since I am coming with the proposal that men lacking first-hand experience as competent family governors may be admitted to office in the church as exceptional cases. I wouldn't be saying this if I were reading these passages in a vacuum.

  • No one reading 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 in a vacuum would imagine a never-married man could be admitted to the offices Paul is describing, by his requirements.

Are you affirming the above (in a round-about way)? It sounds like you are. If yes, then I'm struggling to understand what you find so objectionable about the moderate position I'm outlining in this post? If the man lacks first-hand experience as a competent family governor, he may be admitted to the offices, but this would meet the definition of an exceptional case.

All the "data points" from Scripture regarding this matter must be considered and placed in proper proportion between (1) doctrine from didactic sections directly addressing the question itself, (2) implications brought forward from related doctrines, and (3) deductions based upon biblical narrative. Giving greater weight to (1) and lesser to (2) and (3) would be placing things in their proper proportion. Arguing that considerations from (2) and (3) are of such weight or force that they should be seen as automatically nullifying or reframing doctrine from (1) is quite radical. A far more reasonable stance would be to argue that considerations from (2) or (3) are of great enough weight to carve out exceptions that are not immediately apparent in (1).

More on the deeper issues on marriage and family which may be at work here when I have more time, Lord willing.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
Without rehashing the same points from both sides, have you done much reading in the historic Christian tradition on pastoral theology? I ask that because everyone in church history, even for most of the Reformed period, didn't take your position. The greatest church administrators of all time were single. You mentioned Augustine and Chrysostom. Augustine got a girl pregnant and deliberately and in no uncertain terms rejected marriage precisely because he was entering the ministry. While Chrysostom had a healthier view of marriage, he, too, was celibate. That doesn't mean it is right or wrong, but it should make you pause. The following texts are foundational for pastoral theology:

1) Gregory of Nazianzus, "A Defense of His Flight to Pontus."
2) Gregory the Great, Rule
3) Basil the Great, Letters and Ascetikon (though the latter is hard to find).
4) Martin Bucer. He would probably be closest to your position, though I don't think he made the same argument you did.
5) John Chrysostom, Six Sermons on the Priesthood
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
@RamistThomist

I have given pause. I have been willing to moderate my view. I brought up Augustine because I am wondering if it is possible that a swing in the church back toward his views on marriage and family are at the root of the disproportionate view that chafes at the suggestion that family governors have a more usual pathway to qualification for office than unmarried men.

Paul tells us what must be the case if he is married and has children. He must be a good governor thereof. If he's not, he must still possess the sorts of gifts for such, because the kinds of gifts required for success domestically are required for edification ecclesiastically; that does not mean, however, that the man must be married with children, made clear by other parts of Scripture and by the structure of the Greek itself, in my estimation.

I would be very interested to hear your insights into the Greek. I have been over both passages dozens of times and have yet to find anything that would suggest the requirements of marriage and competent family governance are any different from the requirements of sobriety, blamelessness, patience, etc.
 

Polanus1561

Puritan Board Sophomore
@Parakaleo Blake, just curious, are there real-life issues you witness that relate to your question? i.e seeing single men ordained and then pondering the issue?
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
I would be very interested to hear your insights into the Greek.
Blake, I addressed this in the previous thread, along with my other reasoning on the subject. I don't intend to repeat all of that here. I see no reason to do so.

You asked if we could meet halfway on this matter and I've explained why I am unable to do so. I don't have anything further to add at this time. Perhaps others wish to take up this discussion.

Peace,
Alan
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
@Alan D. Strange

I went looking in the other post and found this from you:

The Greek μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα means "one woman man," not requiring marriage but faithfulness and honorability in dealing with the opposite sex. And everyone--married or not, family or not--has a household that they govern, i.e., they have private affairs that they handle.

The apostle wants the domestic, private situation to be in order and well-managed, whatever the estate of the person. That is what these qualifications mean.

When you said in this post that the structure of the Greek "does not mean... that the man must be married with children", I thought you were suggesting you had found some exemptive language in the Greek showing why the requirements for wife and children are not as rigid as other requirements. I confess I had not recalled that you are on record saying no requirement for marriage and family governance exists in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Please forgive me for not recalling that, since earlier in this post you cautioned me not to read these passages in a vacuum.

On the one hand, I'm cautioned that I must not read these passages in a vacuum. On the other hand, I'm told that the passages themselves don't actually require what I think they do require. Does anyone besides me see the dissonance here?
 

Eyedoc84

Puritan Board Sophomore
@Alan D. Strange

I went looking in the other post and found this from you:



When you said in this post that the structure of the Greek "does not mean... that the man must be married with children", I thought you were suggesting you had found some exemptive language in the Greek showing why the requirements for wife and children are not as rigid as other requirements. I confess I had not recalled that you are on record saying no requirement for marriage and family governance exists in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Please forgive me for not recalling that, since earlier in this post you cautioned me not to read these passages in a vacuum.

On the one hand, I'm cautioned that I must not read these passages in a vacuum. On the other hand, I'm told that the passages themselves don't actually require what I think they do require. Does anyone besides me see the dissonance here?
You've been through this twice and received overwhelming responses against your view. So by and large, it would seem the dissonance is just yours, pastor. I would caution anyone, pastor or not, to be careful when you find you've come to convictions whereby you're the first one to get it just right in 2000 years of church history. Not that that means you are wrong in and of itself, but God has given us pastors and teachers, that includes the faithful dead who have gone before us.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
When you said in this post that the structure of the Greek "does not mean... that the man must be married with children", I thought you were suggesting you had found some exemptive language in the Greek showing why the requirements for wife and children are not as rigid as other requirements. I confess I had not recalled that you are on record saying no requirement for marriage and family governance exists in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Please forgive me for not recalling that, since earlier in this post you cautioned me not to read these passages in a vacuum.

On the one hand, I'm cautioned that I must not read these passages in a vacuum. On the other hand, I'm told that the passages themselves don't actually require what I think they do require. Does anyone besides me see the dissonance here?
Blake,

Let me clarify. I think that the Greek words cited above that I, and many others, translate as "one-woman man," do not require a man to be married. I agree that this may be translated as "husband of one wife" and it's proper to consider it that way if the man is married. But what if he's not married? Can "one-woman man" be fairly applied to a single man? Yes, as it highlights the qualities of honorability in dealing with the opposite sex: if unmarried, one is not randy or a skirt-chaser; if married, one is faithful to one's wife.

My take, then, on the Greek, is that all the qualities listed here in I Timothy must be present in the candidate. As you well know, a Greek δεῖ, as heads v. 2, tends to qualify all that follows it with necessity. A suitable bishop must be, in other words, all the things listed in vv. 2-3. Can an unmarried man possess this virtue of a "one-woman man"? I believe that he can, in terms of a righteous and pure carriage toward and demeanor with women.

I realize that there are other ways of reading this in Greek, but even those who do read it other ways see other places in Scripture where Paul and others make statements that would militate against reading this as an absolute requirement that all men must be married (and that they must have children and that those children must be well-behaved; that is how I understand your position).

So my position is that the δεῖ in v. 2 requires the presence of all that follows in vv. 2-3 and that even an unmarried man can possess and evince such grace (as marks a man as a "one-woman man") by the way he interacts with and engages the opposite sex. That perhaps lets you know a bit more about where I come from in this.

Peace,
Alan
 

Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
Lots here to which I hope to respond, DV. First, Denver.

You've been through this twice and received overwhelming responses against your view. So by and large, it would seem the dissonance is just yours, pastor. I would caution anyone, pastor or not, to be careful when you find you've come to convictions whereby you're the first one to get it just right in 2000 years of church history. Not that that means you are wrong in and of itself, but God has given us pastors and teachers, that includes the faithful dead who have gone before us.

The dissonance is just mine? This is reminding me of a quote.

“If the Council should even tell you,” said a doctor, whose name has not been preserved, “that you have but one eye, you would be obliged to agree with the Council.” “But,” said Huss, “as long as God keeps me in my senses, I would not say such a thing, even though the whole world should require it, because I could not say it without wounding my conscience.” What an obstinate, self-opinionated, arrogant man! said the Fathers.
J. A. Wylie, The History of Protestantism

As long as God keeps me in my senses, I do not see how I will be able to agree that the words of the Holy Spirit "must be... a one woman man... having his children in subjection..." convey an unspoken, conditional escape-hatch in themselves. And by the way, I am far from the first one to notice this, since nearly all commentaries I have consulted feel the need to provide reasons why other texts inform us these offices are not strictly limited to family governors. None of the several sermons I have looked up contain arguments that the words themselves provide conditionality. I haven't finished reading the masters thesis that was posted here, but it appears the author is not attempting to argue that the words themselves provide conditionality. This is from his abstract:

I will conclude the most accurate translation should read, “Therefore the overseer must be above reproach, a husband who is faithful to [his] one wife…(1 Tim 3:2).

I ask you, brother, and anyone else who cares to answer. Do the words of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 regarding the requirement of marriage and family government convey, in themselves, any amount of conditionality?
 
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Parakaleo

Puritan Board Sophomore
@Phil D.

I finished reading the thesis. Thank you for sharing. I found the arguments compelling, overall. I would say his work has the effect of better informing why Paul lists faithfulness in marriage in a place of such prominence, as the second qualification. As should be obvious, it is not just the having of one wife that certifies a man as qualified for office in the church, but the faithful leading of a wife.

I noted that his refutation of the "must be married" position majored on conclusions brought over from other passages and situations found in Scripture. This is what I myself have been advocating. Truly, these other passages and situations found in Scripture must be allowed to enter into our practice as a church. However, if we aligned our practice as a church with the requirements set down in 1 Timothy 3/Titus 1 and the witness of these other passages and situations, we would admit unmarried men to the offices of the church with compelling reasons, as exceptions.

The entire paper left me wondering if the author would agree with the following proposition:
  • While the strict "must be married" position is to be rejected, it should be acknowledged that certification through faithful care of a wife and children represents the usual pathway to admittance to the ordained offices of the church.
I suspect he would.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
we would admit unmarried men to the offices of the church with compelling reasons, as exceptions.
A few questions for you:

  1. What would acceptable exceptions be?
  2. From where would they be drawn?
  3. Who would determine that they are acceptable?
  4. Does the arguing for exceptions chiefly lie with the candidate or with the judicatory?
  5. Does the onus probandi for any unmarried candidate lie on him?
  6. What if he's married without children? How is all this to be established with regard to him?
  7. As an example, is the married without children candidate bound to tell the presbytery why he cannot biologically have children and why he has not adopted any? Does he have to justify not having children beyond saying "my wife and I are incapable of having children?"

I could say more but will leave it at this.

A good Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Peace,
Alan
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
represents the usual pathway to admittance to the ordained offices of the church.

This is a very different claim. This is a descriptive statement, not a normative one. I have no problem with it. It's descriptive in the sense that most Reformed pastors today are probably married. Applied to the Greek-speaking early church, it would have been true for individual priests, but not for bishops (or overseers, though they were called bishops).
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Senior
The entire paper left me wondering if the author would agree with the following proposition:
  • While the strict "must be married" position is to be rejected, it should be acknowledged that certification through faithful care of a wife and children represents the usual pathway to admittance to the ordained offices of the church.

He does say as much, while giving the most practical of rationales. "Since marriage and children were the norm, Paul is simply explaining what his behavior must be like, should he be married with children." (p. 4f.)

I noted that his refutation of the "must be married" position majored on conclusions brought over from other passages and situations found in Scripture.

Rather than this being suspect or seen as a detraction, though, aren't such qualifications a good and very necessary part of proper biblical hermeneutics? (of course with the so-called universalist passages like John 3:17, Titus 2:11, 1 Tim. 2:3-4, being the classic example of this in terms of Reformed soteriology). It seems if we can acknowledge that hermeneutic in this context we should be able to in the other as well. If not, why not?
 
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wyattchosen

Puritan Board Freshman
After reflection, prayer, writing an exegetical paper, further conversation with others (including with those in my presbytery), I would like to revisit the matter of family qualifications for ordained office in the church and issue a retraction of sorts. To be honest, I am hoping brethren here will meet me "half way". What do I mean by this?

In the first post, I was pretty adamant in my stance that the word of God absolutely forbids a man who lacks first-hand experience as competent husband and father/guardian from being considered for ordained office in the church. There was sharp criticism against this stance. Maybe I have been overly wooden. I am open to that possibility.

Brethren, what if I dialed back the intensity and said my stance is that no man should be considered for ordained office in the church without having first-hand experience as a competent husband and father/guardian unless there are notable and compelling reasons for an exception? This is more than stating it is "statistically normative" for officers in the church to be competent husbands and fathers, but saying there is onus upon men to show why an exception should be made for a man coming under consideration, despite not being able to prove himself by these family qualifications.

I trust the difference will be appreciated between a presbytery that says (essentially), "No wife? No children? That's fine. We'll need to examine other indicators that would give us a good idea of whether or not he has the makings of a competent husband and father," and a presbytery that says, "No wife? No children? That's out of the ordinary. We may need to delay proceeding unless there are compelling reasons to make an exception in this case."
My question would be, were all the Apostles married, we know Peter was and Paul wasn't. What about the rest of the men that instituted the New Testament Church what was their status? Apolos, Timothy, Silas what was their status. Could the requirements be, if in fact, the man is married he needs to show he has control of his own family before he takes on the family of God?
 
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