Category Archives: exegesis

A brief reply to Mark Keown’s, Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?

Recently a friend sent me a link to Mark Keown’s blog post “Should Women Lead Churches and Preach?”

In general, Mark’s post didn’t state anything significantly new and revolutionary in the world of egalitarian/complementarian debates. What he writes, for the most part, has been stated by many others who hold an egalitarian view.

Let me state at the outset there are many who would use the term complementarian to describe themselves who are really patriarchy and from whom I would have no fellowship. They say stupid things about what the Bible supposedly claims about woman, the home, the church and society. Their views and practices are unbiblical and harmful.

However, Mark’s post is very unhelpful as well. For, at least three reasons.

  • Due to his lack of reference to and interaction with the best of complementarian representatives, one could sadly conclude that Mark’s arguments here have never been addressed from Scripture by anyone and therefore you’d be an idiot to think differently than he does. I know it is only a blog post. Yet, one should, at least show an awareness of the literature and give some indication that there are Christians who love Jesus, the Bible and woman who have come to different conclusions.

Here are just a few examples of excellent books which address every argument raised in Mark’s post:

Neither Complementarian Nor Egalitarian : A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate

Different by Design : God’s Blueprint for Men and Women

God’s Good Design : What the Bible Really Says About Men and Women

Notice the above three books are all written by woman, each solidly exegetical, each familiar with the historical arguments and current debates.

Marriage and Family in the Biblical World (a collection of essays, one written by a female scholar)

Here are a few items written by the husband/wife duo of Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger:

God, Marriage, and Family : Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation

God’s Design for Man and Woman : A Biblical-Theological Survey

Women in the Church : An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15

Jesus and the Feminists : Who Do They Say That He Is?

Notice that none of the above authors, as far as I am aware, are connected to CBMW. I say that simply to point out that there are solid, robust, complementarian authors and scholars from a variety of sources. I haven’t even included Amiee Byrd and Carl Trueman, who are both complementarian, yet who stirred up a hornet’s nest last year in critiquing CBMW and others in how they often defend their complementarian views.

  • Mark makes this statement near the beginning of his post, “However, for women who are called to ministry, this is essential to their identity in Christ, and it cannot be treated as a secondary issue. It is a primary issue where Christian identity is concerned.”

I find this statement concerning on a number of levels which have nothing to do with gender.

As a Christian my identity is in Christ. It’s not in my vocation, my role as husband, father, etc.

As someone in full-time Christian ministry it is critical that they never begin to think that their identity is tied up in their ministry or their ministerial role.

For someone training future ministers it would be critical to constantly remind them of this. To send anyone out into ministry where they are thinking that their ministry or ministerial role is where they find their identity is to set them up for great disappointment, frustration, and failure.

  • In the last few sentences, just before Mark’s concluding paragraph he makes the following statement, “We may be standing in the way of the Spirit if we block women from ministry. We may be like the Pharisees who thought Jesus was ministering under the power of Satan. Jesus warned them that a sin against the Spirit is the ultimate sin for which there is no forgiveness. That is worth thinking about.”

To give credit where credit is due, this is certainly an original contribution, as far as I am aware, in the whole egalitarian/complementarian debate.

Essentially all of the authors above, and everyone who has ever been a part of Jesus’ church who place some limits on when and how woman can serve in the church may be guilty of the “unpardonable sin”! Wow!

I’ve read some strong statements by both egalitarian and complementarian authors before. I’ve read statements by complementarians that embarrass me. I’ve never read anywhere such an unfounded and frankly ridiculous statement by contributors to this debate on either side.

There is no possible way one can defend this conclusion exegetically. If one handles such an important part of the Gospel’s teaching – “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” – with such a casual and indefensible approach, why on earth should anyone listen to how they handle the rest of Scripture?

To be frank, Mark, suggesting that brothers and sisters in Christ whom you disagree with as potentially guilty of committing the “unpardonable sin” is a serious matter. I obviously have quibbles with the rest of your post, but this kind of statement is beyond excuse. I would beg you to reconsider your words.


Justin Taylor – Are you Serious?? – Questioning Creation

I would have thought Tim Keller’s (one of the founders of The Gospel Coalition) participation in BioLogos, a group which affirms full-fledged theistic evolution and even denies an historical Adam, would be a real concern for church leaders (has been for me) but Justin Taylor thinks its “young earth creationists” who need to be taken to task… REALLY!?

To make matters worse he quotes R. C. Sproul at the opening of his article clearly in a way to give strength to his argument. However, Taylor fails to acknowledge that Sproul has publicly changed his view and published this in 2006.

I left the following comment on Taylor’s blog:

I don’t think I have ever commented on one of your posts and I am unlikely to again. However, I feel compelled to based on your opening quote.

Justin, I would, at least place a footnote to your R. C. Sproul quote to the following:

Sproul, R. C. Truths We Confess: A Layman’s Guide to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Phillipsburg, N.J.: P & R Pub, 2006.

Pg. 127,28

“For most of my teaching career, I considered the framework hypothesis to be a possibility. But I have now changed my mind. I now hold to a literal six-day creation, the fourth alternative and the traditional one. Genesis says that God created the universe and everything in it in six twenty-four hour periods…”

Most of your other points have been addressed by others over the years, so I am not going to repeat those critiques here. However, I do think one ought to be careful when quoting well known figures from one period of their life when their view has changed.

Update (30 Jan 2015)

Taylor replied:

Thanks for the comment, Joe. The quote I gave from Dr. Sproul was actually made after the book you quote above:

I replied:

Hi Justin,

Thank you for the link… I now remember reading that myself a couple of years ago.

However, a more compete quote would be, “When people ask me how old the earth is I tell them “I don’t know,” because I don’t. And I’ll tell you why I don’t. In the first place, the Bible does not give us a date of creation. Now it gives us hints and inclinations that would indicate in many cases a young earth.”

Yet, this quote from Sproul seems to be completely irrelevant anyway. Your title deals with the length of “day” in Genesis 1 as does most of the article along with the conclusion. However, your introduction addresses the question of the age of the earth.

You seem to be implying that those who hold to “day” in Genesis 1 being 24 hours also claim to know how old the earth is. Or, at least, you’ve introduced one subject just to switch to another for the rest of the article.

As for a quote from Sproul that is related to the title of, content of, and conclusion of your article I would suggest the quote I gave above is more relevant. Though it would lead in the opposite direction of your article.

Based upon Sproul’s published statements it is clear he would not agree with most of your article, but including a quote by him in the introduction seems to imply he would.

I am no Sproul “fan boy”. I am concerned though when “names” are quoted as though they would agree with something when, in fact, it is unclear they would.


A friend pointed out on FB:

Also, Tim [Keller] affirms a literal Adam –

I replied on FB:

Keller may hold to a literal Adam but there are many within the BioLogos community who do not.

There are other issues at stake with BioLogos than just a literal Adam. The attempt to integrate the mindless, random natural selection of Macroevolution with the Bible is deeply concerning.

There are folks within the BioLogos community who have moved from YEC to denying even an historical Adam. I would be greatly concerned for anyone who has willing aligned themselves with the organisation and its teaching.


Psalm 46 – “Be still and know that I am God”

This Sunday AM I will be preaching one of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 46:

ESV  Psalm 46:1 To the choirmaster. Of the Sons of Korah. According to Alamoth. A Song. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, 3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah 4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. 5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. 6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. 7 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah 8 Come, behold the works of the LORD, how he has brought desolations on the earth. 9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire. 10 “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” 11 The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

As a church we will also begin memorizing the next hymn in our monthly, hymn memorization project, again a favorite – A Mighty Fortress Is Our GodThis is Luther’s hymn loosely based on Psalm 46.

The first part of Psalm 46:10 is a much loved statement, one often included on cards or little trinkets to hang on your refrigerator.

“Be still and know that I am God”

Is this meant to be a a soft word of calm and assuring comfort or a word of rebuke?

Is it “Be still and know that I am God” to those who are suffering, or “Be Still! Know I am God!” to those who are raging against God?

Which fits the context of the Psalm? Which do you think Luther saw in this Psalm?

I’ll give my answer Sunday morning… 🙂


Jephthah’s Vow was Rash, but not a Burnt Offering

Earlier this morning I saw a link to this blog post by David Murray: Jephthah’s Perfect Vow

I very quickly posted the following on Twitter:

“This has been my understanding & what I’ve taught for years –…. Glad to see others discussing this view.”

This is a perfect example of doing too many things at once, not reading carefully, and tweeting too quickly!

I do agree with Murray, Jephthah probably did not offer his daughter as a burnt sacrifice, but rather dedicated her to a life of perpetual virginity as a temple servant. However, I disagree with some of Murray’s reasons along with whether Jephthah’s vow was rash or not.

So, I do believe his vow was rash, yet I do not believe the daughter was offered as a burnt sacrifice. Here are the reasons I have given for this interpretation for nearly 10 years as I have taught OT Survey, Conquest & Settlement, and preached from Judges.


The word Jephthah uses in 11:31 that is generally translated “burnt offering” literally means simply, “wholly dedicated”. A form of the same word is used in the Sampson account (chapter 13) to describe Sampson being “dedicated to the Lord” – clearly Sampson was not offered as a burnt sacrifice. Context must determine if the word means wholly dedicated in the form of a burnt offering or wholly dedicated in some other way.

— A Friend pointed out a problem with the above —

It is the noun form which is used in 11:31 and in fact this form is not used in chapter 13 referring to Sampson. Moreover it is only used one other time in Judges (6:26) where it clearly refers to a burnt offering.

Even more, the noun form, according to HALOT (the generally accepted comprehensive Hebrew Lexicon) attributes the noun form to only those uses meaning burnt offering.

— Therefore linguistically the weight is in favor of “burnt offering”. I am still in favor of my conclusion for the following reasons. However, I am thankful for this correction.


Clearly in the passage the emphasis is on the daughter’s virginity and lack of marriage, not on her death. Within the flow of the text one is left to understand the terrible thing this girl is experiencing is the lack of opportunity to marry and have children. This would be an odd thing to mourn over year after year (vs. 40) if this girl was burned alive.


Verse 34 seems to go out of the way to emphasis this was Jephthah’s only child! To have her killed or to dedicate her to perpetual virginity in the temple would be genealogical suicide. Jephthah would have no descendants to carry on his name, no one to receive his portion of the land inheritance (and yes, God had provided a way to daughters to receive the land inheritance from their father when there were no sons). As a result Jephthah’s vow was terminating his family from the genealogical records of Israel! Regardless of how the vow was carried out this was rash indeed.


The books of Judges is structured in such a way that the character and actions of the judges go from bad to worse. Jephthah is no hero himself to be sure, but Sampson is coming and he is far worse. The book ends with a depiction of the Levites doing things that are almost unmentionable (except they are in the Bible). So structurally the books isn’t yet to a level of depravity where one would would expect to find something so horrific as a child sacrifice. (BTW: I would suggest we don’t see child sacrifices in Israel until much later in their history as this is something God so seriously hates – Lev. 18:21; Deut. 12:31; Ez. 16)

I’ll also say here, this is why I don’t find Murray’s “filled with the Holy Spirit” argument helpful. Even Sampson was filled with the Holy Spirit on occasion. It seems clear that, in Judges, the Holy Spirit “came upon” (probably a better translation here than “filled”) for occasions of power and authority and then departed. This is why we see people who have the Spirit on one occasion doing magnificent things, and then the same person later doing horrific things.


God provided a payment to redeem oneself from a vow of this type – Lev. 27:1-8; 28-29.

Many have observed God’s silence in the rest of chapter 11 regarding the outcome of this event. Based on God’s very loud and powerful statements regarding his hatred for human (and child in particular) sacrifice elsewhere, it is difficult for me conclude that He would be silent if that is what is going on here. I certainly cannot see how one can conclude that God would have “accepted” a human sacrifice here as fulfillment of this vow. From my reading of the passage it seems like God does indeed accept Jephthah’s payment – his daughter’s whole dedication unto the Lord in temple service resulting in her perpetual virginity and the end of Jephthah’s family line.

A couple of years ago I was at a conference where someone was preaching from Judges. He happened to preach the Jephthah narrative. In his sermon is essentially said, “Oh, yeah there are some who think maybe Jephthah didn’t offer his daughter as a burnt offering, but that’s nonsense and silly, they just have weak stomachs.”

Not only in that attitude uncharitable and unhelpful. It also shows an ignorance of the arguments others have put forward for this interpretation, at best, and, at worst, an arrogance in one’s own view.

It is far better when teaching/preaching a passage like this to give the arguments on both sides clearly & helpfully, then conclude with which view you hold and why. As a result people are not just taught to think what you tell them, but they are taught how to think and how to think carefully from the text.


Basic Eschatology, Revelation Questions & Answers

Download the PDF for full text including charts from The ESV Study Bible.

Earlier this year (2013) I was given five questions by an intermediate student from our church on the subject of Revelation and “End Times.” I was to answer the questions giving “my view.”

There is hardly a subject that stirs up more heat from some Christians than this subject. I find that very sad (even sinful, at times) and therefore attempted to answer his questions in a way that showed grace toward those with whom I might disagree.

My desire was to represent all views accurately while, in the end giving “my view” humbly. This is certainly not exhaustive and was intended to be a simple and clear explanation.

1. What do the seven letters to the seven churches represent?

I believe the letters to the seven churches found in Revelation 1-3 should be understood as actual letters to seven historical churches.

Some Christians have understood them to represent seven periods in the history of the church leading from the time of the destruction of Jerusalem to the return of Christ.

The main reason I do not see these letters are representing periods in church history is that, to be consistent with the rest of the New Testament, I would expect each letter to describe a progressively worse situation until the end and they do not seem to do this.

Ok, that was the simplest and least controversial of these questions! J I will attempt to answer the following questions both outlining my thinking at the moment and the main views Christians who take the Bible seriously will hold.

This is an area of doctrine and theology which I am still working through and expect to be for years to come. It is one that many Christians who love Christ and love His Word differ on and though these things are important they are not essential for one’s salvation and therefore I am happy to disagree with brothers & sisters-in-Christ.[1]

2. What is the time of the tribulation?

3pm on Thursday! Just kidding…

This is closely related to the next question.

Some believe there is no time period actually called “The Tribulation” but that there are many tribulations and they have been on-going since the ascension of Christ and will continue until he returns. Those who hold to this would also believe the Millennium is figurative and is not a distinct period of time, but “blends” into the Eternal Kingdom after the return of Christ.

Some believe there is a time known as “The Tribulation” and it will last seven years (described in Rev. 4-19) beginning after the rapture of the church and before Christ returns to establish the Millennial Kingdom which is 1,000 years and will end with the final judgment of Satan and all those who have rejected Christ and the establishment of the Eternal Kingdom.

Some believe there is a time known as “The Tribulation”, it is yet future and is basically described in Rev. 4-19, but its length isn’t specific, believers in Christ will also experience this time, this time ends when Christ returns at the second coming when the believers are raised, Armageddon occurs and the Millennium begins.

3. Will Christ return before, during or after the tribulation?

The interesting point here is that all Christians believe Christ will return at the end of the church age and he could return any moment. The differences are in discussing what He will do when he returns.

Will he return to “rapture” the church and then begin a period of seven years of Tribulation leading to His final “Second Coming” when he will judge and setup the Millennial Kingdom? (Dispensational/Pre-Tribulational/Pre-Millennial View)

Will He return for His church after the time of tribulation (but here the tribulation isn’t a seven year period as above), meeting them in the air (Rapture) to return with them immediately for judgement and the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom? (Historical Pre-Millennial View)

Will He return in judgement to establish the Eternal Kingdom? Here there is no actual Millennial Kingdom and no distinct time of tribulation. (Post-Millennial or Amillennial)

4. Is the millennium figurative of literal?

For anyone who holds a Dispensational Pre-Millennial or Historical Pre-Millennial view, literal.

For anyone who holds a Post-Millennial or Amillennial view, figurative.

5. If the millennium is literal, will it occur before or after the return of Christ?

In my understanding a literal Millennium has to be after the return of Christ. There would be those who believe Christ will return after a “Millennial” period (Post-Millennial view), but this isn’t really a literal Millennium as millennial literally means 1,000 years and in this view this period is longer than 1,000 years.

So where do I stand on all of this, personally?

I am convinced from Revelation 20 that there will be a real 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom when Christ returns.

In other words I am not Post-Millennial or Amillennial.

I am uncertain whether Christ will return for the church (Rapture), followed by a 7 year Tribulation, followed by the Second Coming of Christ in judgment, followed by the Millennial Kingdom, followed by the Final Judgement, followed by the Eternal Kingdom.

In other words, I am not convinced the Dispensational Pre-Millennial view fits with all of Scripture (not just Revelation).

I tend to lean toward Historic Premillennial.

In other words, there will be a time of increased tribulation and persecution which will precede the Second Coming of Christ and will likely include a time of great repentance on the part of Jews (Romans 11) yet the church will still be here when this occurs. Then Christ will return calling up his people, those living and those dead (Rapture – 1 Thess. 4), and they will immediately return with Christ (Rev. 19) to judgement ushering in the 1,000 year Millennial Kingdom, which will be followed by a time of rebellion, final judgement and the Eternal Age.

Joe Fleener

Associate Pastor

Howick Baptist Church

07 September 2013

[1] The following seven charts/images are from The ESV Study Bible ( &


Sermon Prep in Ephesians 2

I am so thankful I attended a seminary that focused on equipping the students with the tools to handle the text of Scripture.

I have been studying for a short series on “the church” which I will preaching over the next three Sunday mornings at Howick Baptist Church.

It is such a blessing to be able to pull out of my files (yes, I kept everything) a full translation and clausal/block diagram of Ephesians completed eight years ago. Work that then didn’t seem immediately practical bears fruit today.

Here are PDFs of the whole book: Ephesians 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6

Translation and Block Diagram of Ephesians 2

Eph 2a

Eph 2b

Eph 2c

Eph 2d

Eph 2e

Eph 2f

Eph 2g

Eph 2h


Reading Genesis 1-3 with the Church – My Presentation – Understanding Genesis 1-3: A dialogue with Dr John Walton and Joe Fleener

Here is a link to a PDF of the full notes to my presentation at last night’s event hosted by Laidlaw College: UNDERSTANDING GENESIS 1-3: EXPLORING TWO CONTRASTING EVANGELICAL VIEWS WITH DR JOHN WALTON AND JOE FLEENER

Reading Genesis 1-3 with the Church by Joe Fleeener

The video is now online (09 Nov. 2013):


Vimeo Link to Presentations

<p><a href=”″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener</a> from <a href=””>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Vimeo Link to Q&A

<p><a href=”″>Understanding Genesis 1-3 – John Walton and Joe Fleener – Questions and Responses</a> from <a href=””>Laidlaw College</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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