1000 Wells

Written on November 29th, 2006 by Shawn Anthony

1 Timothy 3:4-5 is a very important piece of New Testament confirmation re: ministerial preparedness that is often overlooked today. 1 Timothy says, re: aspirants to the ministry: He must manage (proistamenon) his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage (prostenai) his own household, how can he care for God’s church?

9 Responses to “A Biblical Guideline for Ministerial Aspirants”

  1. A great reminder, Shawn. May I ask some questions concerning it? I’m undecided on the answer myself, so others’ opinions would be helpful.

    Do you believe that the passage you quoted makes having children a requirement to be a church elder? Prior to this, Paul already listed being a husband of one wife as a requirement, but must one also have children?

    Or is this more of a “If you have children, they must be well behaved” sort of thing?

    I lean toward the former, personally, that it is a requirement.

    Rick Beckman

  2. Good question. The word you are translating as elder (episkopos) means: one who has the responsibility of safeguarding or seeing to it that something is done in the correct way; guardian; overseer with special interest in guarding the apostolic tradition (Timothy overseer of the Ephesians and Titus overseer of the Cretan Christians)

    This meaning should be firmly in grasp before one proceeds in search of an answer for this question, I think. So, then, we can see that Timothy was an overseer of the apostolic tradition. He was not married. He died unmarried, according to tradition. It is not even clear that Paul was married. It is logical to conclude that these men had no children, if they were unmarried. I would never question Paul or Timothy’s ministry, or disqualify them from ministry just because they were not married and had no children (no household). So, in light of these facts, I’d have to interpret the verse as meaning: if you are married, it should be to one wife (but unmarried people may proceed too); if you are the head of a household it should be running according to the standards of God (i.e., characterized by obedience to God, Christ and His Lordship). In other words, you can’t be married to 10 wives and your most important relationships (your family and household) can;t be in shambles. Fulfilling all of these qualifies one for the senior leadership in the Body of Christ.

    That said, lots and lots of married folk with kids aspire for senior leadership in the church, but do not concern themselves with the requirements of a Biblically healthy household.

    Great question, Rick. There are people on both sides of that answer. Good people.

    Shawn

  3. What’s the word translated as “submissive”? Hopefully, that’s a poor translation. A church elder keeping the congregation “submissive” - if that’s the intent of this passage - bodes ill for any notions that church members should be people of conscience and careful thought. When one is “submissive” to (human) church elders in “every regard”, then one subverts one’s own conscience, and thereby, one’s own morality.

    smijer

  4. If I’m not mistaken, the term “submit” used in that passage is the same one used in describing Christ’s submission to his father. That would be the hermeneutic used to understand the kind of submission involved–not blind capitulation, but trusting obedience. I don’t have the Greek in front of me, but if I remember correctly, the term is “hupotasso” and is also the term used for women’s submission to their husbands. All of that hangs together in most orthodox Christian theologies (whether Reformed, Catholic or Orthodox with a big “O”).

    ck

  5. All that is to say that you would need to make the case that Jesus subverted his own conscience in going to the cross…I’m not an orthodox Christian, but I’m a fan of not beating up on straw men ;)

    ck

  6. What ck said (she’s 100% correct).

    Shawn

  7. Yeah - that’s kind of iffy, too. “trusting obedience” is one thing between a child & parent or a person and God. Trusting obedience from one person to another is a recipe for being misled. People aren’t trustworthy enough to be obeyed trustingly, except in very unconsequential affairs or under a contractual arrangement where obedience is given freely and can freely be withdrawn.

    I suppose that an elder could *inspire* trusting obedience by behaving as a trustworthy leader, but the language of the passage you quoted is pretty coercive by the sound of it.

    IIRC the language of a wife’s submission is directed to the wife, not to the husband as instructions to “inspire” it. Additionally, where an “elder” is in a position to exercise authority - having learned the job and the management skills to become one, a husband is in no position to excercise any but equal authority with the wife. Individual cases vary, where it could be said that the husband “deserves” more authority or the wife “deserves” more, but - all things being equal - a call for submission where the situation doesn’t merit it seems rather unhealthy.

    Obedience can be a nice social glue, a nice tool for keeping a business running smoothly, a nice way to keep kids out of trouble. It can also be a dangerous thing. Coerced or required obedience is rarely an ethically sound notion.

    smijer

  8. smijer, I’m not going to argue against equality in marital relationships or against freedom in churches (I’m a Unitarian Universalist so I value our free pulpit and democratic church government; I’m a lesbian, so I’m not submitting to my husband–or wife for that matter!)

    My point is more that these ideas all hang together and typically Christians will argue for submission in terms that provide an ethical basis for such obedience. For example, since god is the bridegroom of the church, Christians submit to him. He has appointed elders and deacons to govern the body and keep it pure and holy. As they follow god’s laws, we are to follow them.

    Similarly with the submission to the husband–they will argue that the focus is not on who deserves authority, but on who is given the role by god. Most of them, when pressed, will not say that men are innately superior or that they earn submission, but that it is functionally better, based on god’s creation, for women to submit. Again, as with elders/deacons, the line in the sand is god’s law–no wife is asked to submit to a husband who asks her to kill or steal, etc.

    With your other comment to Joel and Shawn (on the thread about liberal Christians), I’d say that the difference here is that orthodox Christians will start with the Bible and interpret reality through it. Calvin talked about the scriptures being “glasses” through which we view the world. (My seminary professors said it was more that scripture ground our personal lenses, but a similar idea–although the latter implies more work of interpretation on our part.)

    Because of this, there are just certain impasses that a religious liberal like I will come to with someone like Shawn (and probably even Joel). My method is to try to find common ground, understand Shawn (and others’) views, and be stretched to see where our different starting points converge.

    Where we differ, I ask questions. I’m not going to convince Shawn of anything (nor he I, most likely) but in the process both of our lenses get sharpened…to switch metaphors.

    I’ll jump off of my soapbox now. I think your view is ultimately more accurate, but I doubt that this is the place for me to defend it…but I’ll step back and let you do your thing.

    ck

  9. smijer, you wrote, “Trusting obedience from one person to another is a recipe for being misled.”

    LOL. People do it everyday! Millions of people! Quite unconsciously too, I might add! It cant’ be THAT dangerous, if millions of people do it everyday without even giving it so much as a thought or two. Jobs, military, government, teachers, counselors, etc. Heck, people even place trusting obedience into systems and powers not even viewable to the eye! I mean, we all put trusting obedience into things we can’t even classify as nouns! Seriously, think about it.

    Given the above, I would suggest it comes down to in whom or what you are willing to ultimately place your trust and obedience. God or something else. You will place it with one or the other, whether you want to admit it or not.

    Also, I would suggest that if one has absolutely no one near them in whom they would feel comfortable placing their “trusting obedience,” even if only for a limited time, then that poor, poor one should expand his or her circle of relationships to include a better class of people. Trusting others is a good thing, even trusting them with our obedience.

    Shawn

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