VALID THEORY OR DECEPTION?
Part 5 of “Walking on the
Edge of Darkness” Series
(See parent tract for background.)
by John Whritenor 2007
While visiting an egalitarian web site, I found a new theological approach that addresses the Biblical place of women in the church. It was too late to incorporate a discussion about it in Freedom in God’s Divine Order for Women1 because it was already at the printers. This book is a thorough analysis of egalitarian hermeneutics. It addresses biblically each argument that the feminist theology advances. It shows that the Bible defines “significant ministries for women without trying to extend their spheres to include the government of the church.”2 This one limitation has nothing to do with equality. It has everything to do with God’s divine order. The bottom line of this book and this tract - “Women will find only in God’s order the freedom in which we are all called to walk.”3
I thought an analysis of this new method of biblical interpretation was important enough to publish as a follow-on tract to the book, especially since it was advanced by evangelicals. My concern is that those who use this new approach will try to force the Bible to fit what people want it to say rather than what God said. If so, it will introduce many to another path on the edge of darkness.
WHAT’S TRAJECTORY HERMENEUTICS?
The new approach I’m speaking of is called trajectory hermeneutics (T.H.). We will understand the scope of this approach by examining its two words: trajectory, which describes a path taken by a bullet or a rocket after it is fired, and hermeneutics, which is the science of studying and interpreting the Scriptures. Trajectory hermeneutics involves “a method of interpreting the Bible (hermeneutics) in which our final authority is not found in what is written in the Bible itself, but is (supposedly) to be found later, at the end of a ‘trajectory’ or path along which the New Testament was progressing when it was being written.”4 According to the proponents of this approach, we can trace a woman’s place in the home and church from the patriarchial society of the Old Testament, through the revolutionary implications and as yet limited outworking of Jesus’ attitude toward women. Some claim that Paul, following Jesus’ heart for women, established a future point for this trajectory in Galatians 3:28 when he stated that “there is neither male or female.” They maintain that Paul compromised God’s final objective of “complete equality” between men and women, when he defined church leadership in 1 Timothy 2:11-14, 3:1-5 and male headship in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:22-24. Paul’s supposed reasoning - it would have been too radical for the culture of the time. They propose that God was aiming at a point of freedom for women beyond the New Testament. As a result, they maintain that we must bring our culture to the end point of God’s “trajectory” to make them completely “free.”
The first problem with the trajectory methodology is that it assumes that Paul could not fully present God’s purposes through his first century mind-set in a way that would express God’s truth to all generations. These proposals do not so much limit Paul as they do God. If God is not wise and powerful enough to express His complete truth through the apostolic writers regardless of their culture, then He is not God. The Old Testament foretold the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ in detail, even though most of the Jews at that time and in the time of His coming did not understand these events. In fact, most of the people rejected them and Him! Were the works of God too radical for the cultures of these times? If so, why didn’t God also compromise for their sakes by giving them what they expected in their messiah. I’m certainly thankful He didn’t!
If the Bible is the word of God, we must accept all of it. We can’t pick and choose. However, if the Bible is only the words of men, then we need to question all that they wrote and throw out anything that does not make sense to us in light of today’s “advanced” cultural and scientific understandings. The virgin birth, the deity of Jesus, Jesus being the only way to the Father, and His substitutionary death for our sins have been explained away by some authors using a similar approach that assumes the Bible is affected by the weakness and ignorance of men.7
The second problem is that God’s final objectives would be determined, not by God, but by men who claim that there is a point of understanding beyond the Bible that God wants us to find. This leaves the definition of God’s plans and purposes up to men in today’s culture. This can only end up with error and the probable propagation of cults. The basis for all theological truth can only be found in the Bible, not in someone’s imaginings of a future reality.
COULD T.H. FACILITATE FURTHER DECEPTION?
The third problem with this approach is that it opens up all Christian theology to this kind of extra-biblical distortion, not just the issue of women in the church or the home. Let’s look at some possible aberrations:
1) Homosexuality - Using trajectory hermeneutics one might try to project that homosexuality should no longer be considered sinful8 because the Scriptures seem to change the penalty for such practices from a sure death sentence in the Old Testament (Leviticus 20) to only that it deserves death in the New Testament (Romans 1).
If God is not wise and powerful enough to express His complete truth through the apostolic writers regardless of their culture, then He is not God. If the Bible is the word of God, we must accept all of it. We can’t pick and choose. The basis for all theological truth can only be found in the Bible, not in someone’s imaginings of a future reality.
Leviticus 20:13- If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.
Romans 1:26-32- For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.....knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
2) Adultery - It would be possible for those who fall for trajectory thinking to try to justify that adultery should now be considered acceptable behavior when the two passages below are combined to establish a path to “free love.” The penalty for adultery in the Old Testament was sure death (Leviticus 20). In the New Testament Paul instructs the Corinthians to excommunicate an adulterous man and deliver him to Satan. This action was meant to be redemptive - a far cry from the life ending penalty issued under the law. After the man’s repentance, Paul directed the Corinthians to complete the redemption by forgiving him, reaffirming their love for him, and receiving him back into fellowship (2 Corinthians 2:6-8).
Leviticus 20:10- The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death .
1 Corinthians 5:1-2, 5- It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles — that a man has his father’s wife! And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. .... deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
3) Salvation - The change from God manifesting His kingdom among the Jews in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 14) to His revealing it among both Jews and Gentiles in the New Testament (Acts 11) might be twisted to claim that ultimate reconciliation is the aim of scripture. Trajectory hermeneutics could then project that God’s ultimate intention is to save everyone regardless of their beliefs. This would have to include the devil. Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross would then have been a needless waste from the perspective of eternity if this were true.
Deuteronomy 14:2- For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.
Acts 11:18- When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life."
ARE “TRAJECTORIANS” AND EGALITARIANS
ON THE SAME PAGE?
Interestingly, proponents of trajectory hermeneutics tend to disagree with the egalitarian approach to issues on women. This is probably because they believe that the egalitarians compromise the integrity of the Scriptures (I also believe they do).1 “Trajectorians” agree with the positions of complementarians when they claim that the Bible actually does teach a male only church leadership with each husband being head of his wife. Of course, this is contrary to egalitarians who change what the Bible says by altering both interpretations of passages and translations of words to “free” women from “patriarchal limitations.” The trajectory advocates do, however, end up with the same conclusions as the egalitarians - namely that women should be welcomed in positions of authority in the church and headship should be redefined so that it has nothing to do with submission or authority. Only then will there be “true equality” for women. “Trajectorians” and egalitarians both are on the wrong page!
As can be seen, it is possible to change the meaning of many passages with this methodology. Scriptures then become based on what the reader thinks God meant to say rather than what He did say. I believe that this hermeneutical approach is potentially more dangerous than the egalitarian compromises of scriptures and can have far more damaging effects on Christian theology. Believers will be tempted to claim that any change from law to grace in the Scriptures, that does not end up where they think it should, is not an end in itself, but a point on a trajectory to their own desires.
Believers will be tempted to claim that any change from law to grace in the Scriptures, that does not end up where they think it should, is not an end in itself, but a point on a trajectory to their own desires.
The following two passages make it very clear that God’s ways are not our ways and that following ours can lead to disaster:
Isaiah 55:8-9- "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.
Proverbs 16:25- There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
WARNINGS FOR MISHANDLING SCRIPTURES
Those who consider changing God’s word to make it agree with present day cultural ideas and concepts, no matter how good or intellectually sound they may seem, begin building their lives on the wrong foundation. They walk on the edge of darkness; they enter gray areas surrounding deception. Unless God intervenes, their deception can only get darker. Trajectory hermeneutics is no exception.
The Bible warns about such activities. Matthew 5 includes a caution for anyone who breaks even the least of the commandments. Those who change His word and teach their aberrant theology to others essentially do just that. The result - they are called the least in the kingdom. God’s heart for His people is far better than that. He wants us to lay up treasures in heaven during our lives on Earth. But those who distort His word may one day find they have laid up sawdust instead of riches. In fact, they might even find their works burned by fire as described in 1 Corinthians 3:13-15. If this is what comes from touching the law, what might be the consequences of altering the New Covenant?
Matthew 5:17-19- “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15- ...each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
If trajectory hermeneutics is taught to others, especially those young in the faith, Matthew’s warning to the teacher is clear, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6)
Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation,
2 Peter 3:15-16 NIV
DON’T LET THIS BE YOU!
DON’T WALK ON THE EDGE OF DARKNESS!
1. Whritenor, John, Freedom in God’s Divine Order for Women, Saugerties Christian Fellowship, Port Ewen, NY.
2. Ibid, page 64.
3. Ibid, back cover.
4. Grudem, Wayne, Evangelical Feminism - A New Path To Liberalism, Crossway Books, Wheaton Illinois, page 53.
5. Whritenor, pages 37-40.
6. Ibid, pages 112-113.
7. Spong, John, A New Christianity for a New World.
8. Whritenor, John, Homosexuality: Alternative Lifestyle or Sin? Part 3 of “Walking on the Edge of Darkness” Series, Saugerties Christian Fellowship, Port Ewen, NY.
All Quoted Scriptures are from the NKJ Version,
unless otherwise noted.
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