17 min readRed Letter Jesus

Feb 22, 2017 | Article | 38 comments

17 min readRed Letter Jesus

Feb 22, 2017 | Article | 38 comments

There is a phenomena I heard tell of but had never witnessed with my own eyes before today. I had heard of “red letter Christians” before but thought that most assuredly they could not exist.

Listen. Twitter is a very scary place and I do not recommend it. No serious dialogue can come from 140 character snippets of conversation, keyboard warriors abound, and you can follow me @SummrWrites. Despite all of the obvious negatives about Twitter, it has been highly educational, for it is from that dark corner of the internet that I discovered (I hope you’re sitting down) that there are actually Christians that believe that only the red words in the New Testament belong to Jesus. If your version of the New Testament doesn’t come with fancy red lettering for the recorded words that Jesus spoke out loud, just look for the words in quotation marks after some variation of “Jesus answered and said to them”.

I discovered this because Sarah Bessey, author of “Jesus Feminist”, tweeted about how much she loved Jesus after also sharing her latest sermon. You know that was too much for my non-egalitarian heart to handle. This is not because I love calling people out on Twitter, but because very simply, Jesus said in John 14:15 that if we love him, we will obey his commands. You cannot claim to both love Jesus while also flouting his authority, which is what every woman who steps behind a pulpit and delivers a “sermon” is doing.

I am not setting out to write an article expounding on 1 Timothy 2:12, or 1 Corinthians 14:34, or the entirety of Ephesians 5. The discussion surrounding these passages is lengthy and worthwhile and has been raging on for some time. Further, it is ridiculous to claim that Christians that hold to the historical, confessional view on these passages do not believe that women should ever speak. I mean, obviously. Look at me. I have a podcast. We aren’t discussing whether or not women should ever discuss Jesus. All believers, regardless which of the two genders they belong to, are recipients of the Great Commission. No, the most disturbing thing that happened in reaction to my simple statement that part of loving God is obeying his commandments, therefore women should not be behind the pulpit, was that I was asked several times by different people, “Where did Jesus say that?”

What is being demonstrated when that question is asked is a fundamental misunderstanding of two of the most important doctrines that Christians must embrace: the doctrine of the trinity and the doctrine of sola scriptura. To put it most simply, if you believe that Jesus IS God (a correct view of the trinity) and that the Scriptures are the sole, infallible rule of faith that were actually breathed out by God (sola scriptura), then there is nothing contained within the Scriptures that is not from Jesus. Jesus himself is called “the Word of God” in John 1.

Jesus wasn’t looking away when any of the aforementioned Scriptures regarding the roles of women were written. In fact, we also know from John 1 that Jesus “was with God” from the foundations of the world. Meaning he was very much present and active before he entered into creation. Jesus and the God of the Old Testament are not two different beings that are opposed to each other. They are one and the same. You would think, after speaking with Christian feminists, that Jesus was a new god that came to rewrite the God of the Old Testament in to some new, more sleek and palatable deity that was a bigger fan of women. This is not the case. Jesus himself said that he did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The God revealed in the Old and New Testaments treats women as made in His image, and as such, are no less valuable than men.

This is where I tend to get very confused with some Christian feminists and this particular argument. In response to 1 Tim 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”), the culture card is often thrown in to the ring. You have to understand the culture, they say. This is where they must speak out of both sides of their mouths because they rightly discuss the absolutely radical, counter-cultural, and positive treatment of women found in the New Testament, while also claiming that any reference to submission found therein is just sad product of their culture. So which is it? Were New Testament Christians radicals who rejected the poor treatment of women in their day, or were they confused about the roles of women due to their culture?

Thankfully, I don’t have to spin my wheels trying to work that one out. The same Jesus that treated women as imago dei is the same One whose words are breathed out in 1 Tim 2:12, therefore I can be sure that the command for women not to preach is not an attack on their worth or value. Not one command in Scripture is a mistake, or a poor happenstance of culture. Yes, context is king, but culture is not an excuse. “They weren’t as enlightened as us” is not a card we can pull whenever we don’t like one of God’s commands. Every single command found in Scripture was given for a reason by a loving God who made us in His image and knows what is best for us. And since Jesus is God, it is safe to say that all that is commanded in Scripture is from Him. If you believe that Scripture is what it says it is in 2 Timothy 3:16 (“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”), then show you love Jesus by loving His commands.

There is a phenomena I heard tell of but had never witnessed with my own eyes before today. I had heard of “red letter Christians” before but thought that most assuredly they could not exist.

Listen. Twitter is a very scary place and I do not recommend it. No serious dialogue can come from 140 character snippets of conversation, keyboard warriors abound, and you can follow me @SummrWrites. Despite all of the obvious negatives about Twitter, it has been highly educational, for it is from that dark corner of the internet that I discovered (I hope you’re sitting down) that there are actually Christians that believe that only the red words in the New Testament belong to Jesus. If your version of the New Testament doesn’t come with fancy red lettering for the recorded words that Jesus spoke out loud, just look for the words in quotation marks after some variation of “Jesus answered and said to them”.

I discovered this because Sarah Bessey, author of “Jesus Feminist”, tweeted about how much she loved Jesus after also sharing her latest sermon. You know that was too much for my non-egalitarian heart to handle. This is not because I love calling people out on Twitter, but because very simply, Jesus said in John 14:15 that if we love him, we will obey his commands. You cannot claim to both love Jesus while also flouting his authority, which is what every woman who steps behind a pulpit and delivers a “sermon” is doing.

I am not setting out to write an article expounding on 1 Timothy 2:12, or 1 Corinthians 14:34, or the entirety of Ephesians 5. The discussion surrounding these passages is lengthy and worthwhile and has been raging on for some time. Further, it is ridiculous to claim that Christians that hold to the historical, confessional view on these passages do not believe that women should ever speak. I mean, obviously. Look at me. I have a podcast. We aren’t discussing whether or not women should ever discuss Jesus. All believers, regardless which of the two genders they belong to, are recipients of the Great Commission. No, the most disturbing thing that happened in reaction to my simple statement that part of loving God is obeying his commandments, therefore women should not be behind the pulpit, was that I was asked several times by different people, “Where did Jesus say that?”

What is being demonstrated when that question is asked is a fundamental misunderstanding of two of the most important doctrines that Christians must embrace: the doctrine of the trinity and the doctrine of sola scriptura. To put it most simply, if you believe that Jesus IS God (a correct view of the trinity) and that the Scriptures are the sole, infallible rule of faith that were actually breathed out by God (sola scriptura), then there is nothing contained within the Scriptures that is not from Jesus. Jesus himself is called “the Word of God” in John 1.

Jesus wasn’t looking away when any of the aforementioned Scriptures regarding the roles of women were written. In fact, we also know from John 1 that Jesus “was with God” from the foundations of the world. Meaning he was very much present and active before he entered into creation. Jesus and the God of the Old Testament are not two different beings that are opposed to each other. They are one and the same. You would think, after speaking with Christian feminists, that Jesus was a new god that came to rewrite the God of the Old Testament in to some new, more sleek and palatable deity that was a bigger fan of women. This is not the case. Jesus himself said that he did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The God revealed in the Old and New Testaments treats women as made in His image, and as such, are no less valuable than men.

This is where I tend to get very confused with some Christian feminists and this particular argument. In response to 1 Tim 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”), the culture card is often thrown in to the ring. You have to understand the culture, they say. This is where they must speak out of both sides of their mouths because they rightly discuss the absolutely radical, counter-cultural, and positive treatment of women found in the New Testament, while also claiming that any reference to submission found therein is just sad product of their culture. So which is it? Were New Testament Christians radicals who rejected the poor treatment of women in their day, or were they confused about the roles of women due to their culture?

Thankfully, I don’t have to spin my wheels trying to work that one out. The same Jesus that treated women as imago dei is the same One whose words are breathed out in 1 Tim 2:12, therefore I can be sure that the command for women not to preach is not an attack on their worth or value. Not one command in Scripture is a mistake, or a poor happenstance of culture. Yes, context is king, but culture is not an excuse. “They weren’t as enlightened as us” is not a card we can pull whenever we don’t like one of God’s commands. Every single command found in Scripture was given for a reason by a loving God who made us in His image and knows what is best for us. And since Jesus is God, it is safe to say that all that is commanded in Scripture is from Him. If you believe that Scripture is what it says it is in 2 Timothy 3:16 (“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”), then show you love Jesus by loving His commands.

SUMMER WHITE

Writer | Sheologian
Summer White is @SummrWrites on Twitter. She is a mother of two and she occasionally blogs when taking a break from making crock-pot meals. She grew up traveling with her dad and watching him debate all over the country. She does not like long walks on the beach.

@SummrWrites

Facebook

sheologiansblog@gmail.com 

38 Comments

  1. Christin

    Very well articulated Summer! You should write more. (Notice I did not tell you to remain silent….haha). Your platform is one that all women should take. We should speak and proclaim God’s word, just not from the place of authority of the office of pastor. And I thing you have said it and I echo your sentiment that I would not want to be in that position anyway.

    Reply
  2. Mike Lewis

    RLC love to ignore the red letters of Acts 18.

    Reply
  3. Meagan

    I hate the culture argument because you could use that argument to support anything unbiblical. What’s the difference between using “You have to understand their culture” for female pastors/females preaching and using “that was just the culture back then” to support homosexuality? I see no difference.

    Reply
  4. Joseph

    Why you are preaching from this pulpit then?

    Reply
    • Summer White

      If you think writing a blog is the same as being a pastor, I don’t know if I can help you.

      Reply
      • Aaron S

        I wish that I could “thumbs up” this! XD

        Reply
      • Joe Cutler

        I was wondering when someone was going to question you on this Summer. Great response by the way.

        Reply
        • Summer White

          Everyone who doesn’t understand the distinction between the office of elder and literally everyone else has been questioning this since day 1 🙂

          Reply
      • Jay R. Walker

        While I support women authors and bloggers, Ms. White, this statement of yours is quite erroneous:
        “If you think writing a blog is the same as being a pastor, I don’t know if I can help you.”
        1 Timothy 2:12 is not merely about pulpit preaching. That is a misnomer that those with a weak ecclesiology make. Male authority in the church extends far beyond the pulpit. Now, I would not extend that authority all the way into the blogoshere for many reasons. But your reply seems to elude to something that your theology may be lacking as well.

        Reply
        • Summer White

          I never implied that pastors are only pastors when they are preaching. You’re reading that into my statement.

          Reply
          • Jay R. Walker

            You missed the point. Male leadership extends beyond “The Pastor”. Again, symbolic of weak ecclesiology.

    • Dan

      What pulpit is she preaching from? If you’re going to respond to something at least try and make some sense.

      Reply
  5. Harvey Lunsman

    “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

    How do you dance around this little gem? Do you think that we should be putting to death homosexuals? Because if you don’t you are a hypocrite based on what you just said above.

    Reply
    • Summer White

      Why would I “dance around this little gem”?

      I have no problem discussing why we don’t put homosexuals to death today.

      Reply
      • Sarah

        Thanks for this blog post and all your work.

        I would like to hear your answer to “this little gem” sometime (because it would be helpful).

        Reply
        • Monkey

          Excellent post, as always. I have to say I was initially startled by the pot;3#&9ss title because last night (for the first time I think ever) the smoke alarm started ringing, I woke up and got into a bit of a panic but discovered that there was no fire! What a relief!

          Reply
    • Amberly

      If you dont mind, where do you host your site? I am seanchirg for a great web host and your site seams to be extremely fast and up most the time

      Reply
  6. Marusha

    The reason why it isn’t a cultural argument in the case of 1 Timothy is because Paul referenced the creation account. Proper hermeneutics helps us to find out if it is a direct command or if we should only apply a principle. In this case, it is a direct command.

    Reply
    • Crash

      I read it that way as well. A command.

      Reply
  7. Johnny Blue Jeans

    Hello Summer! Love your podcast and your writing. I’m glad you decided to write on this topic. I’m very interested in hearing more about this. Have you written more on this topic, or could you share
    More on this topic?

    I’m Lutheran and we adhere to scripture plainly stating that women should not be pastors, but I do believe iltge bible states they can be deaconesses. I don’t belie

    My niece is studying to be a pastor at a Wesleyan church. She will be doing youth ministry, but she will be recognized as a pastor. I was curious what your take was on this?

    I’ve seen the view of the LCMS, but I am not 100% that it convinces me that God doesn’t want women as pastoral leaders given thw context of these commands.

    Love and respect your
    Ministry! I would love to hear more on this. Have me on your podcast 🙂 I’d love to talk more about this!

    May God bless you!

    Reply
  8. Barbara

    I’ve known online red-letter “Christians” for years. Summer. I realize this day and age all speech must be couched in codiciles to mitigate anyone being offended by what we say (or write). I get that. But , should we think this group, who reject God’s Word in totality, who bend whatever they don’t like into what they do like..are these people Christians, or have they created another Jesus? A stunted Jesus that allows them to consider themselves lovers of Jesus and people, but on the inside they despise the Lord and His Word? When is it okay to “offend” someone who has a wrong view of Christ? Suffice to say, I’m sorry if I offended anyone.

    Reply
  9. James Fuenmayor

    Hi Summer, this is very well said and I see by your kind and gentle but firm responses that you are a woman of wisdom. Keep up the great work and God bless you.

    Reply
  10. Troy dillard

    Summer white praise the lord your teaching women truth Titus 2:3,
    3. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;

    4. That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, keep on doing for the lord Jesus have a bless day

    Reply
    • Jay R. Walker

      Hmmm. I’m not sure I’d say that Summer quite qualifies as one of the aged women in Titus 2. In fact, the wisdom of mature women might help take off some of the biting sarcasm that makes me wince when I read some of these posts.
      I’m a traditional, conservative male Presbyterian, but I’m also familiar with most of the egalitarian arguments about 1 Tim. 2:12. Their best arguments are not based particularly on cultural, but do in fact make semantic arguments (hapax legomenon) as well as contextual arguments for Paul’s motivation (wolves seeping into the church, taking weak women captive).
      Those egals are not likely to be the ones that the Ms. White is engaging on Twitter. But it would definitely help the cause of fairness and completeness to engage real arguments rather than living straw-women on Twitter.

      Reply
      • Summer White

        I don’t choose to outright dismiss the majority of egalitarians just because I don’t think their arguments aren’t great. Their arguments aren’t great, and they should be responded to…which is what this article does. I also never implied that they are the cream of the crop in terms of consistent argumentation.

        Reply
  11. Logan

    Your argument seems to be flawed. Confusing at the very least.

    You base your conclusions on the doctrine of the Trinity and sola scriptura. These two things are contradictory in what we know about how the Trinity was formed: You cannot get the Trinity from scripture alone. The Trinity was not even formulated until the council of Nicea, 3 centuries after Christ, and the doctrine relied heavily on scripture AND the authority of tradition and popular philosophy.

    Here in lies the issue with sola scriptura: It claims scripture to be the only authoritative voice, not tradition, or experience. Because of this doctrine there are many people, such as your self, taking scripture and applying it without looking at how the greater Christian tradition, some of the brightest minds to walk the earth, have interpreted the passages throughout history. It divorces scripture from the Church and privatizes Christianity, ultimately cheapening scripture. You cite numerous passages without considering these questions: Who was the author? Who is the audience? What was the author trying to communicate to the intended audience? What is culture of the audience and author and how is the author’s message impacted by culture? These are basic tenants of Biblical Scholarship. Please, allow the text to speak on its own terms before we begin trying to apply it to your life. We must be responsible in our interpretations, and I am afraid picking certain verses and saying “this is what God says to me” is very irresponsible.

    Reply
    • Gloria

      The doctrine of Sola scriptura, as Luther meant it, is not that ‘all ya need is the bible’ but rather that scripture has all that is nessisary for salvation. I say that to agree and add to your point that Summer’s use of Sola scriptura is incorrect.

      Reply
      • Summer White

        That’s a mischaracterization of the doctrine of sola scriptura. It is not *just* that it has all that is necessary for salvation, but it has all that is necessary for life and godliness as well.

        Reply
    • Summer White

      Logan, you must have read a different blog. We regularly rebuke Christians who use “God told me” language.

      I literally never read Scripture without considering context, so I am unsure what you’re basing that claim on.

      Are you Roman Catholic? I’m confused.

      Reply
      • Logan

        I am not Roman Catholic, but I am apart of an Evangelical tradition– regardless this does not have much of a bearing on the conversation as what I am saying are basic tenants of modern biblical scholarship regardless of tradition.

        You say you always consider the context, which is only part of what I am getting at. But to that point, the way you use scripture in this article is a method called “proof-texting”. You have a belief system and you use these scriptures to prove your belief right. This, as I said previously, cheapens, if not abuses, the scripture.

        To read and apply scripture, we have to not only consider the context (i.e culture) but also what the author is trying to communicate to the intended audience. We have to allow the scripture to say what it is meant to say. We cannot read our own beliefs back into scripture. This process is what theologians call “exegesis”.

        I know of some excellent resources to further explain this concept if you would like them.

        Reply
    • Dennis

      Yes the Bible never mentions the trinity, but clearly from scripture we see it. Genesis 1:26 Then God said “let us make man in our image,
      Then we can go to John 1:1-5. Ezekiel 36 you will be washed clean and given a new spirit.
      So how do they contradict one another?

      Reply
      • Logan

        Dennis, please view my comment to Summer above. You have proof-texted these scriptures. The authors in the scripture you referenced had no concept of a Trinity. You know the Trinity exists only because it was formulated at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and has subsequently been passed down through the generations. With this belief, you have read back into the scripture to prove your belief right. The scriptures written here were never meant to explain the concept of the Trinity. The Trinity was formulated using the Gospel of John AND the philosophy from some of greatest Christian and secular thinkers of the time. I can point you to some excellent resources if you would like more information.

        Reply
  12. Mel

    What about 1 Corinthians 11 when it is talking about headcoverings? That often gets the cultural card as well. I agree with you about the issue of women teaching/having authority but this passage in Corinthians also talks clearly about the order of authority and is mostly ignored. I am working through thiis for myself so I am interested in what others think.

    Reply
    • Summer White

      There are lots of resources for people looking for information on head covering.

      Reply
  13. Jordan Joseph

    Coming from a Christian feminist who DOES indeed believe in the Trinity, sola scriptura, and the belief of Jesus fulfilling ALL of scripture, Old and New Testament, I think it is harsh to instantly say all women who wrestle with these passages are not actually understanding the Bible. You have examined these scriptures with your own presuppositions (such as these passages “okay” podcasting, but not speaking behind a pulpit, which is not something every complementarian would agree with you on). I agree that the holy sprit’s words are spoken through paul, but I also think those passages are touchy. For example, we point out how clear and “non-cultural” the command is in 1 Tim 2:12 for women to not preach AND teach, but we ignore the following verses that command women to wear headdresses and pass that off as cultural. These verses are hard, me frankly not clear cut. believe it is not unbiblical for women to really want to examine these scriptures and question them, because their results have a huge impact on our lives.

    Reply
    • Summer White

      I nowhere inferred that wrestling with Scripture means you don’t believe in it. Whether or not I’m consistent with head covering wouldn’t change the meaning of any passage, either. I hope that women do analyze the Scripture.

      The point of the article was not a treatise on how to understand 1 Tim 2:12. It was a response to the question, “Where did Jesus say that?” in reference to Scriptures that are not quotes from Jesus speaking during his lifetime.

      Reply
  14. Matthew

    Hello Summer! I appreciate that you do come to the correct conclusion on this issue but I think you leave yourself vulnerable to arguments like this because of the doctrine of “sola scriptura.” Sola scriptura allows the individual conscience to have the supreme authority as to what the scriptures actually mean. Therefore, it opens the door for people to dismiss passages that are inconvenient for the un-orthodox doctrine they attempt to push. There are plenty of sola scriptura adherents who examine the cultural context of passages from St. Paul on the issue of female ordination and conclude that St. Paul was speaking there entirely from a bigoted cultural standpoint and therefore dismiss what he has to say as outdated for them. Sola Scriptura does not give anyone else an infallible charism to definitely say that those who do such things are absolutely wrong. And thus we can see that some charism of infallibility is needed in order to distinguish heresy from orthodoxy. Thank you for the article and God bless!

    Matthew

    Reply

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SUMMER WHITE

She is a mother of two and she occasionally blogs when taking a break from making crock-pot meals. She grew up traveling with her dad and watching him debate all over the country. She does not like long walks on the beach.

@SummrWrites

Facebook

sheologiansblog@gmail.com 

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©2017 Sheologians is kept nice and tidy by netflud

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