Author Interview with Raymond Johnson

This week’s author interview is with Raymond Johnson. He is the author of the new Reformed Academic Dissertations, I See Dead People: The Function of the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27:51–54.

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I tell people I grew up in LA – Lower Alabama. My wife’s name is Meghan and we have five children – Abigail Renee, Charlotte Patricia, Emily Elizabeth, Michael Lee, and Eleanor Ruth. I’m the Senior Pastor of Christ Church West Chester in West Chester, Pennsylvania. In this season of our family’s life, there is not a lot of spare time, so my personal interests and hobbies are filled with things like: dancing to “Baby Shark,” playing Legos and cars, teaching my kids Latin, reading Harry Potter out loud, and riding bikes.

 

  • Which writers inspire you?

C.S. Lewis and Saint Augustine

 

  • What inspired you to write this book, about this topic?

Intrigue with this difficult Matthean pericope came while reflecting on how I would preach this particular text meaningfully as an M.Div. student in a Matthew Exegesis course with what would become my Ph.D. Supervisor, Jonathan Pennington, in the Fall of 2010 at Southern Seminary.  As I perused commentaries on Matthew and consulted major works on the resurrection, I realized that there was a vast interpretive chasm that existed between exegetes and homileticians on how this text functioned within Matthew’s narrative as well as to what this particular pericope meant for readers of Matthew’s Gospel.  After realizing that few preachers sought to explicate the meaning of this Matthean pericope in their homiletical endeavors and that there was neither much scholarly consensus nor any expert help in relation to this Matthean pericope, I desired to seek interpretive clarity in relation to Matthew’s use of this scene in his Gospel.

It became apparent that many contemporary interpreters relied on a translation of the Matthean pericope that argued for a full stop punctuation in the middle of Matthew 27:52.  The full stop, for these interpreters, conveyed a temporal lapse between the time when the tombs opened as a result of the earthquake in Matthew 27:51 and the subsequent resurrection of the sleeping saints in Matthew 27:52-53.  Further, for these interpreters, this temporal gap enables them to reconcile Matthew’s pericope with the subsequent teaching in the epistles that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead (1 Cor 15:20; cf. Col 1:18; Rev. 1:5).  This interpretation, it seemed, was helpful in dealing with a “pesky” text, but was too convenient.  It seems to be more concerned with reading the conclusion to Matthew’s Gospel in light of the epistles rather than in light of Matthew; it presumes that Matthew’s crafting of the conclusion to his Gospel was haphazard in that he “misplaced” a resurrection account.  Consequently, it seems to force a reading of the pericope in Matthew 27:45-28:20 that is foreign to Matthew’s literary intentions.  On the other hand, however, other interpreters argued that the passage should not be understood historically since the imagery in Matthew 27:45-54 has apocalyptic overtones—darkness over the land (27:45), a revelatory earthquake (25:51), a zombie-esque resurrection (27:52-53), the metaphorical destruction of temple (27:51).  Though the passage definitely has apocalyptic connotations and cosmic significance, it is certainly not ahistorical.  Thus, again, I found this interpretation hermeneutically and homiletically unsatisfying.  When it came time for these hermeneutical readings to positively inform my homiletical endeavors, there seemed to be much lacking.  Specifically, there is a lack of clarification and consensus on the literary structure of Matthew 27:45-28:16.  Moreover, both the homiletical implications of the passage as well as hermeneutical understanding as to the type of resurrection these “saints” participated in were unclear when following these readings of the text.  I could, therefore, come to no satisfactory conclusions.

After composing the paper, the text was brought to attention in the evangelical world due to a debate over Michael Licona’s work, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. The controversy surrounding Licona’s work, along with the plethora of ways that the passage had been appropriated by interpreters, further peaked my interest in ascertaining the meaning(s) of this Matthean pericope.

In my homiletical struggling with the text, I stumbled upon the idea of reading the conclusion to Matthew’s Gospel narratologically, or as “story.”  Rather than falling on either side of the interpretive chasm, it seems that a narratological reading informed by reception history provides a more in-depth analysis and meaning to this Matthean pericope.  Leveraging historical appropriations and exegetical study have shown that Matthew has carefully crafted this portion of his Gospel as he has the entirety of the rest of his Gospel.

 

  • What book are you reading now?
    • Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom by David Blight
    • Wise Counsel: John Newton’s Letters to John Ryland Jr. edited by Grant Gordon
    • Loosing the Lion: Proclaiming the Gospel of Mark by Leroy Huizenga
    • The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott
    • The Preacher’s Catechism by Lewis Allen

 

  • Favorite sport to watch? 

College Football. I grew up watching it with my dad. My favorite team is the Alabama Crimson Tide.

 

  • The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia?

Both. I have a map of Middle Earth and Narnia hanging on the wall in my study. A good story, like good preaching, invites investment. It moves people. Both of these stories encourage readers to respond with a variety of emotions to the characters and their situations as the fiction molds the character of readers.


How can readers discover more about you and your work?


 

Paul E. Engle — Five Ways Corporate Worship Benefits Christians


When God Draws Near: Exploring Worship from Seven Summits by Paul E. Engle

Releasing October 1st. Pre-order from:


“A handbook for worshippers . . . a mountain map to teach them what it means to gather for worship and the impact that worship can have on their lives.”

—Scott M. Gibson, David E. Garland Chair of Preaching, Baylor University’s Truett Seminary

“An imaginative journey through the Bible. . . . Because worship is central to Christian life, a book like this . . . is most welcome. Fresh breezes blow through its pages.”

—David F. Wells, Distinguished Senior Research Professor, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

“Dr. Engle leads us on a mountain-climbing expedition that shows us how God calls us to worship. . . . We are shown the centrality of God in worship and how this can enhance our present earthly worship.”

Dominic A. Aquila, President, New Geneva Theological Seminary

“Engle uses the stories of seven mountains in Scripture to remind us of the trinitarian God who is what worship is all about.”

—Douglas J. Moo, Wessner Chair of Biblical Studies, Wheaton College


 

Two New Releases Today!

We have 2 new releases today!

Contentment: Joy That Lasts by Robert D. Jones

40 pages | $3.99Resources for Changing Lives series | SAMPLE PAGES

About

Are you in financial trouble or a dead-end job? Single and wishing you were married? Married and wishing it was better? Longing for more security? When life gets tough, contentment is hard to find.

Contentment isn’t found, however—it’s learned, argues biblical counselor Robert Jones. In this pocket-sized exposition and application of Philippians 4:11–13, Jones draws parallels between the reader’s life and the various forms of hardship that the apostle Paul faced. Amid these, we too can experience what Paul experienced: inner satisfaction, peace, and confidence in God’s ability to care and provide.

Quick fixes fail, but Jones shows how, through the gospel, we can learn God-centered contentment each day.

The Author

Robert D. Jones

Robert D. Jones (MDiv, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary; DTheol, University of South Africa) is associate professor of biblical counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and has served in pastoral ministry for over thirty years.


Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society by Rachel Green Miller

280 pages | $17.99 | SAMPLE CHAPTER

Rachel Green Miller argues that what the Bible teaches about women, men, and gender is both simpler and more difficult than we’re often told. Although modern discussions have focused on authority and submission, there is much more to the biblical picture. Examining common beliefs in the light of Scripture, she draws out important biblical themes that will strengthen our relationship as co-laborers in the kingdom of God and for the good of this world.

Endorsements

“There is a very real danger in our current cultural moment that the polarization that characterizes the political landscape might well come to exert an unfortunate influence on both the rhetoric and the content of discussions among Christians on a number of controversial topics. The temptation to respond to one extreme error by adopting its mirror image is strong but rarely, if ever, correct. And there are few topics in the public square that are more divisive than the relationship between the sexes. It is therefore a pleasure to commend this book by Rachel Miller, which eschews the cheap extremism and bombastic rhetoric that characterize conservative Christian responses to feminism and plots not a middle way but a biblical way through the subjects of authority, submission, masculinity, and the like. She is not interested in making the Bible fit 1950s ideals of what men and women should be; rather, she wants to help the reader to think about what the Bible actually means in the present. This is a refreshingly sane read.”

—Carl Trueman, Professor of Biblical and Religious Studies, Grove City College

“Most of the Christians I know want to be the men and women of God. But what does that mean, exactly? Who’s in charge? Who gets the final say? What does it mean to be masculine or feminine? Enter Rachel G. Miller and her new book, Beyond Authority and Submission. Between these pages, you’ll find a compelling vision for how men and women can work together, unfettered by social and historical expectations. Tracing the broader themes of Scripture, with careful attention to theology and the text, Miller calls men and women alike to live in the fullness of all that God has made us to be.”

—Hannah Anderson, Author, Made for More

“Rachel Miller writes as a conservative who loves Scripture and happily sits under its authority. She calls us to examine ourselves against Scripture, not to remove ourselves from its authority in our lives, and gives us diagnostic tools from the Word to renovate our understanding of men and women in the church, in the home, and in society at large.

Rachel teaches the history of views on sex and gender in secular cultures and then shows us the ways some evangelical teaching on the sexes is built more on secular philosophy than biblical truth. In the end, while historical context sheds great light on the Scriptures, Rachel wins us with Scripture itself. She offers us a well-researched survey of Scripture on biological sex and gender that will inspire and aid readers toward a biblical vision of men and women working in unity and interdependence in God’s kingdom.”

Wendy Alsup, Author, Is the Bible Good for Women?

“Rachel Miller writes with her characteristic verve and wisdom as she addresses the vexed subject of women and men, a subject where often there is more heat than light. If we are to follow the Bible when it says we are to be slow to speak and quick to listen, then this is one such occasion where we would be wise to listen well. She has made a valuable contribution to the discussion of how we negotiate between the extremes of patriarchy and feminism in the church today. Her arguments deserve to be taken seriously and weighed well as we seek to be faithful to Scripture in our generation.”

Liam Goligher, Senior Minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia

“Rachel Miller has done an excellent job in bringing clarity and discernment to a discussion that is often emotionally charged and contentious. Biblically reasoned, confessionally informed, and drawing from the resources of church history, Miller’s work cuts through rhetoric and assumptions to show us that sometimes ideas labeled ‘biblical’ can in fact be loaded with cultural notions. While much of the contemporary discussion about ‘gender roles’ focuses primarily on authority and submission—who is allowed to do what?—Miller shows that there is a need to go beyond this narrow focus to promoting unity, interdependence, and service. Miller invites readers not to ignore or dismiss Scripture but to go deeper in their understanding of its meaning and implications. In Beyond Authority and Submission, many Apolloses have the opportunity to listen and learn from a wise Priscilla.”

Jacob Denhollander, PhD student, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Author

Rachel Green MillerRachel Green Miller is a researcher and popular blogger who is passionate about elevating the dignity of women, improving the cultural conversation about gender relations, and defending orthodox Christianity. A member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, she lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, Matt, and their three sons.

 


 

Introduction to Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society by Rachel Green Miller

Learn more about Rachel Green Miller’s upcoming book, Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society by reading the Introduction. This book releases September 3rd.

Introduction

Our theological views about creation, gender, and the household context affect the way we think about women’s status, roles, and contributions to the church, home, and society. —Aimee Byrd *1

Over the years, my parents have renovated several homes. One house had pink flamingo wallpaper. Another had worn shag carpeting that unnerved our dog. But my favorite was a house that had a horrible old carpet throughout the living room. Imagine our surprise and joy when we found beautiful hardwood floors underneath it.

Whenever a house has something beautiful hidden like that, I invariably ask, “Why would anyone cover this up?!” The truth is that things like hardwood can take work to maintain, so sometimes they’re covered up because carpet seems easier to handle. Other times, things like plastic couch covers are added to a house to protect the wood or furniture. But most of the time, the layers inside a house reflect changing styles. What’s fashionable today is outdated tomorrow. Once you peel back the layers of dated wallpaper, ancient carpet, dirt and grime, and chipped paint, you begin to see the timeless beauty of a house.

A CONCERNING SITUATION

In a similar way, our theology runs the risk of being trendy. This is particularly true of our beliefs about women and men. Sometimes we add a layer or two to our theology because we think our man-made rules are easier to keep. Other times we add hedges to it as a reaction to what’s going on in our culture and as a protection for what we believe. Over time, we end up with layers and layers of extrabiblical and even unbiblical ideas that cover up what the Bible teaches.

That’s why I wrote this book. I’ve become increasingly aware of what’s being taught in conservative circles about the nature of women and men and what’s considered appropriate in marriage, the church, and society. It’s troubling, and much of it isn’t biblical. In addition, I see that authority and submission have become the lens through which all of women’s and men’s interactions are viewed—even to the point that some people try to figure out if it’s okay for a woman to write a book that a man may learn from. Does a woman’s authorship create a “direct, authoritative confrontation” that could be compromising?*2

Maybe you’ve noticed these kinds of discussions too. Maybe you can’t put your finger on what’s bothering you. You may be concerned or confused—or both—by what you’re hearing. You may wonder where these ideas come from. If so, this book is for you.

Why? Because as theologically conservative Christians, we must acknowledge where extrabiblical and unbiblical ideas about women and men have permeated, weakened, and confused our teachings. We need to move beyond a focus on authority and submission in order to incorporate equally important biblical themes into our discussions, such as unity, interdependence, and service. As we do, we will strengthen our vital relationship as co-laborers in Christ.

WHO BELIEVES WHAT?

In discussions about men, women, and gender, various labels describe the different beliefs that Christians hold. The most common ones are feminismegalitarianism, complementarianism, and patriarchy. At this point, you may be curious about where I fit in.

If you considered the four positions on a continuum, feminism would be on one end of the spectrum and patriarchy on the other. These two views of men and women are fundamentally opposed and have very little or no overlap. We will go into greater detail about the evolution of the feminist movement, but for the purposes of this discussion, feminism promotes the equality of women, believes that men and women are virtually interchangeable, and may prefer feminine pronouns and names for God. On the other extreme, patriarchal beliefs emphasize the differences between women and men and show a strong preference for male authority in all aspects of life.

That leaves us with the two middle-ground positions. Egalitarians believe that men and women are fundamentally equal but not interchangeable, and that they should “share authority equally in service and leadership in the home, church, and world.”*3 Complementarians believe that women and men are “equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood” and that “distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order.”*4

So which am I? I believe that

  • God made humans, male and female, in His own image (see Gen. 1:26–27)
  • in Christ, men and women are equal before God (see Gal. 3:28)
  • women and men are interdependent and should serve each other (see 1 Cor. 11:11–12)
  • marriage was designed to be between one man and one woman—ideally for life (see Gen. 2:24)
  • husbands are called to sacrificial, servant leadership of their wives and to love them as Christ loves the church (see Eph. 5:25–33)
  • wives are called to yield voluntarily to their husbands—to submit to them as the church submits to Christ (see Eph. 5:22–24)
  • only qualified men should be ordained leaders in the church (see 1 Tim. 3:1–13)

If you notice what I believe about marriage and ordination, you’ll see that I’m not a feminist or an egalitarian. And I’m not patriarchal. So am I complementarian? I used to think so. After all, I believe that husbands are the leaders of their families. I believe that wives should submit to the leadership of their husbands. I believe that ordained church leaders should be qualified men. Isn’t that what complementarians believe?

Yes, but that’s not all that complementarians are expected to believe. The complementarian movement has done good things: affirming the complementarity and equality of men and women, affirming that husbands are to lead their wives sacrificially and that wives are to submit to the leadership of their husbands, and affirming the ordination of qualified men. But extrabiblical and unbiblical ideas have been incorporated into the movement’s teaching as well. These ideas have more in common with Greek, Roman, and Victorian beliefs than with the Bible.

Not all who call themselves complementarians share these beliefs. However, because complementarianism as a movement has embraced these ideas, I’m not comfortable with calling myself a complementarian. If you are concerned as well, know that you’re not alone.

THE PURPOSE OF THIS BOOK

The topics of sex and gender are everywhere. Conservative Christian books, articles, and conferences focus on answering questions about roles in marriage, biblical manhood and womanhood, biblical sexuality, purity before marriage, pornography and its effect on families, and responses to same-sex marriage, transgenderism, and a sexually saturated culture.

But not just conservative Christians are attempting to answer these questions. All around us, people debate what gender and sexuality mean. Bruce Jenner transitioned into Caitlyn. Fallon Fox, who was born a man, boxed against Tamikka Brents, who was born a woman, in a women’s division match. Colleges ask which pronouns students prefer: he? she? zhe? Gender seems to mean everything and nothing.

As Christians, we need to speak out about what the Bible teaches about women and men, the definition of marriage, and the purposes and boundaries of sexuality. But we need to be very careful about what we say. Our society needs clear teaching from the Bible. That means that we need to study the Bible and allow the Scriptures to peel back any layers of unbiblical and extrabiblical beliefs we have added. Are we making things too hard and twisting ourselves up in knots? Is there a better way? I think there is.

What the Bible teaches about men, women, and gender is both simpler and more difficult than we are often told. The Bible doesn’t give us detailed lists with bullet points to answer all our questions. Thankfully, it does give us guidelines and boundaries to help us know where to begin and how to address these topics.

We will first look at biblical themes that will help us in our discussions about women and men. Then we will look at how various historical cultures and developments have influenced our beliefs. In the second half of the book we will look at prevalent teachings about the nature of women and men and how these views affect our interactions in marriage, church, and society. We will also consider what the Bible teaches on these topics and how we can apply its truths to our lives.

I wrote this book because I care deeply about what the Bible teaches about women and men. My desire is for women and men to be co-laborers in all of life so that our families and churches will be strengthened and encouraged. Working together, we can then be a blessing to our society, which so desperately needs the truth of the gospel.


 1. Aimee Byrd, No Little Women: Equipping All Women in the Household of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2016), 13.

 2. John Piper, “Do You Use Bible Commentaries Written by Women?” Desiring God, March 27, 2013, http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/do-you-use-bible-commentaries-written-by-women. Piper concludes that this is acceptable. “ ‘She is not looking at me and confronting me and authoritatively directing me as a woman.’ There is this interposition of the phenomenon called book and writing that puts the woman as author out of the reader’s sight and, in a sense, takes away the dimension of her female personhood.”

 3. “CBE’s Mission and Values,” Christians for Biblical Equality International, accessed November 21, 2018, https://www.cbeinternational.org/content/cbes-mission.

4. “Danvers Statement,” The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, accessed November 21, 2018, https://cbmw.org/about/danvers-statement.