The Deacon

Dr. Cornelis Van Dam, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, joins us to speak about the biblical office of deacon and the Church’s responsibility to provide for those in need.

Dr. Van Dam has written The Deacon: Biblical Foundations for Today’s Ministry of Mercy (Reformation Heritage Books, 2016). In this excellent book, Van Dam addresses the office of deacon, including the Old Testament background, New Testament times, the history of ancient, medieval, and Reformation practice, and the current functioning of the office.

Dr. Van Dam has also written The Elder: Today’s Ministry Rooted in All of Scripture (P&R Publishing). His bibliography is available online through the seminary.



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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Tim H.

3 months ago

Looking forward to this. His book is the best single volume on the diaconate.

Ashwin Ramji

3 months ago

I just finished listening to the episode, which was timely since my recently particularized church is now seeking to nominate deacons. But there is disagreement over why the office is only for men, as required by our BCO. I had hoped your episode would shed light on this but the discussion was weak. I may look for a copy of the book to see if it unpacks the issue more, but perhaps you can respond here to expand the male-only argument?

IMO, attributing the movement to feminism does a disservice to those who are not convinced that the office is exclusively for men but aren’t modernists. This is more so because, as you point out in the show, there’s little OT precedent for the office since the duties were incumbent upon all of Israel, and even in the NT the ordination of deacons was a reaction to what wasn’t happening organically in the early church, and the office isn’t necessary today (as are elders) if the duties can be filled by the congregation as a whole, including women.

In this episode you only address whether there’s an exegetical argument for women and conclude there is none, but I could probably argue that the exegetical argument for men only is similarly weak (gune can mean women and not simply wives, and arguing that deacons’ wives must be qualified but aren’t entitled to the office doesn’t actually make sense). But more importantly, what’s the hermeneutical case for male-only deacons? How does ordaining men only in any way communicate the covenant of grace that would be harmed by ordaining women, especially if this office is under the authority of the (male) elders?

I’d appreciate your response.

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