The Giants

The other day I came across this passage in the Bible. I am sure I have heard it or read it before, but this time it made me stop and think.

I am a Christian. I belong to a particular denomination: the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Like all churches, and any other institution where people are involved, it does some things good, and many things bad, and sadly it was the bad that I saw being reflected back to me in this passage.

In this passage, Joshua, Caleb, and some other Israelite spies have just returned from scouting Canaan and the news they relay strikes fear into the people, so the people decide to rebel. They are so scared they forget that God has brought them out of slavery, that He has won so many battles for them, that He has fed and sustained them and provided their every need. In fact, they go so far as to say, "Wouldn't it be better for us to return to Egypt?" (Numbers 14:3). In their mind it would have been better to go back across the desert, face all those dangers again, and willingly return themselves back to slavery than to push forward into the refuge that God's freedom provides.

Fast forward a few hundred years, a few progressions of theological ideas and understanding, and I still see the Children of Israel reflected amongst Christians, including the denomination to which I belong.

Let me explain.

My Church has, like every other religion or denomination, the belief that they are right, and we are thus a special people, not because there is anything inherently special about us as people, but rather because of the beliefs and knowledge that we have. We are supposed to share this knowledge that we have with those around us, to try and bring them into an understanding of a loving God, which is what the Israelites were chosen to do, hence the “chosen people” tag.

We also believe that we are called out of the world (John 15:19). Similarly, the Israelites were called out of Egypt, which being the most powerful nation at the time was the center of the world.

We believe in the Advent (return) of Christ, and being led into a promised land: "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth..." (Revelation 21:1), much like the Israelites did.

And like the Israelites, we are on a journey to reach that promised land, and so it disturbs me when I hear people within my denomination cry out that they want to return to the “old days” in a myopic nostalgia that things were somehow better a few decades ago. What generation has never heard the term "In my day..." followed by a regaling of all the things that were better when their elders were younger? Like the Children of Israel, there are people who wait at the border of the promised land, scared of what they believe awaits them. And just what is it they believe awaits them?

Equality. Justice. Mercy. Compassion.

These are the giants that scare too many within all branches of Christianity, and I say that it is this fear that will keep us wandering around the wilderness of this world for another forty years. But equality for women, justice for the oppressed, mercy for the repentant, and compassion for all are not the giants that wander the land, they are the milk and honey with which the promised land is overflowing.

In churches all over the world, people plot against female ministers and leaders, just like the Israelites did (Numbers 14:4). If they have reformative leaders and theologians who have theologically spied the promised land, then they line up to stone them just as they did Joshua and Caleb. And they do all these things whilst all the while ignoring the presence of the Lord on the ministry, testimony, and calling of these people (Numbers 14:10-11).

The Israelites condemned themselves to wander the desert for 40 years because they failed to trust God to deliver them where He said He would. They condemned themselves to wander the desert because they were under the mistaken belief that they were fighting with their own abilities, and not the ones God had given them. They condemned themselves to wander the desert for another 40 years because they had still not shed off their beliefs, their habits, and their desires that they acquired in Egypt.

In the time we have had since Christ promised to return, have we shed our habits, desires, and beliefs? Or are we still holding on to cultural beliefs and concepts of superiority based on our gender, our race, and yes, our sexuality? Have we forgotten entrance into the promised land occurs not by our own power, but through the saving grace of Jesus Christ and as such the obstacles we face are not ours to be afraid of? Or are we so scared that we focus on looking back to where God brought us from, and cannot see the goodness in where He is leading us to?

Tabitha Purple is currently serving as a pastor in the Netherlands Union. She also blogs on www.pastorpurple.blogspot.com where she frequently discusses practical theology and life with a creative emphasis.

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com / Davide Cantelli

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8927

God wiped out Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sexuality. What makes you think He’s changed His tune? I though God never changes.

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pagophilus,

Because of their sexuality!? Really where does it say or imply this was the singular cause?

Gen. 18-19 After the angels received the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, “the Lord” revealed to Abraham that he would confirm what he had heard against Sodom and Gomorrah, “and because their sin is very grievous”. Ezekiel 16:49-50 declares, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me…”. It does not say because of their homosexuality. When Abraham pleaded with the Lord he did not say “if you find heterosexuals will you spare them”, but righteous.

You might say that the evidence is in that the men of the city asked for those visiting Lot to be brought out for their sexual pleasure, all the while ignoring the reply he made to them. Lot offered to give them his daughters instead (thanks Dad) as a substitute. Are you suggesting that Lots offer is doctrinal evidence that rape is ok so long as it is between a man and woman and not man on man? By this logic and reasoning this it is ok because it was heterosexual in nature and qualified as a righteous act in the eyes of God. Your assertion is invalid because it is not factual in actual evidence as the Bible provides and exposes a hypocritical thought process.

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Seriously? They “plot” against female ministers and leaders? And many people think Walter Vieth is a conspiracy theorist. :roll_eyes:

Where is all this “plotting?” I’m opposed to WO, but I haven’t been engaged in any plots to rid our conference of female pastors, nor has anyone approached me clandestinely to recruit me for any such plots. Our pastor is opposed to WO, and he knows that I am, as well. If there were any plots afoot against the female pastors in our conference, I’m sure he’d know about it, and try to recruit me.

I know that there are WO proponents around who try to demonize anyone who disagrees with WO; calling us “misogynists,” “chauvinists,” and “discriminators.” That sounds like some sort of plot to me.

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There has been only one perfect man. He now sit enthroned next to His Father. The rest of us are bought back from the devil by Christ’s blood. We gather together to praise His Name and to encourage one another. Many such grouping hold to a variety of doctrinal beliefs. none are perfect within themselves or within the group. There are no bragging rights. I know of one Adventist who traveled from Augusta to Atlanta on Sabbath to hear his version of the Truth. Our salvation is of One not of any corporate body. Please join what ever group embraces the Gospel plus nothing.

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The reason our giants defeat us again and again is that we face them in our own strength. We need God’s help to face our giants. Thank you for your reminder that with God the victory over our giants is guaranteed.

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Um, no.
Just. No.
No matter how too hard you try make it so.

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Please just remind me where in the Bible is this clearly stated.

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Trolls at work again here in this Comments forum!!

Certainly “plot” is a way too strong word for the issue in question. OTOH, if a certain rule is traditionally applies to discriminate against women, and is actually considered a rule, then we can say that over time practice actually becomes the result of plotting. Certainly they may not be “plotting” now, but when Tertullian* introduced the concepts of male ordination in the Church, that was a kind of a plotting.

So…, when people discriminate against others, what should they be called?
=-=-=-=-=-=-=

*Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, c. 155 – c. 240 AD,

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Please explain/clarify/expand your comment so that we can talk about it. This is what this “Comments forum” exists for.

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I apologise for being quite so obtuse!! So many forums I see, including the above appear to revert to the Alphabet people and WO people reducing most discussions to these two topics…and frankly I’ve had enough!
I’m no theologian, not even a wart on ones ear, but I thought the above article was reasonable and had something of worth to say, and then the comments deteriorate to the way I have said. Sorry if I don’t make sense.
Regards.

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You are correct that there are those who comment who really do not have anything substantial to say except what their personal “talking points” allow them. The article did have some pertinent points and the author deserves to have those things discussed- not dismissed or “walked around”.

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I guess it’s all in the way one defines “discriminate” (with no apology to Bill Clinton), which, as the scholarly type, I’m sure you know has more than one meaning. You’ve chosen to use it in a negative sense, of course, but it has a positive meaning as well. We all discriminate, every day, in one way or another. There are just a significant number of us who believe that being “discriminating” in the way we choose whom to ordain, is not a negative thing, but a Scriptural one. We can agree to disagree on that point, but to label all opponents the way you do, in a negative sense, does not help foster constructive dialogue. But it seems to be your mantra.

That isn’t true of every denomination, or non-denominational church. The groups that I’ve been to, don’t think that they have “the truth” other than the truth being what is found in Christ. They view other Christian churches and Christians, as brothers and sisters in Christ, even though there are differences in the non-essentials.

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You do have a point…some, like the Quakers, do believe that they have “light” though not the definitive or only “light”.

CME, when one uses “discrimination” in the US it nearly always has a negative connotation. Also, most people would agree in the US that not allowing women to become ordained clergy would be a form of “discrimination”. You may not happen to agree- but this is a commonly held belief or connotation.

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So, now we determine church practice by what the majority of the secular world thinks? That worked well for the Israelites before 605 BC, didn’t it?

I would not use the US populace as a indicator of what’s right or wrong. When the Boy Scouts admit girls, or the Girl Scouts admit boys, we’ve really gone over the edge. But with “gender fluidity” the prevailing norm these days, I guess anything goes. But not in the church.

But we’re never going to resolve the WO debate on this forum, so we will continue to disagree. What I object to is the vilification, and name calling, by WO proponents, of those of us who are opposed to WO. Many of us happen to be women. Are the women also misogynistic? The women I know, who are opposed to WO, are of that persuasion because of their understanding of Scripture, not because their husbands have browbeat them into submission. Many of them are not even married.

I’m sure there are those who speak disparagingly of WO supporters. I would not do that. I don’t think they are evil, just confused, with a misunderstanding of Scripture.

There are some things in the SDA church that have been “determined” or “influenced” by the “secular” world (and still are). However, most of the SDA women that I know do believe that non-ordination of women is “discriminatory” (single or married). I suppose it depends upon who you know and associate with, Phranque.

Are you a women, Phranque? Yes, women can also be misogynistic.

Yes, the WO debates will not be resolved because the two sides will never agree. Which is why the SDA church is sliding into schism unless there can be a resolution that allows both sides to follow the dictates of their own consciences. It is the only hope now.

BTW…I would never say that anti-WO supporters are “confused, with a misunderstanding of Scripture” . This same statement towards the ProWO camp sounds derogatory, even if it is your honest opinion.

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Why not? If you understand Scripture as supportive of WO, then it follows that those who are opposed must be misunderstanding Scripture.

No, I’m not a woman, by the way, but neither am I misogynistic. I’ve found over the years, that women are much easier to work with on the job then men, and that goes for whether I’ve worked for them, with them, or as their supervisor. I also find it easier to get along with women than with men, in general.