Women in Ministry – Grappling With Controversy and Truth, Part 1

I have been contemplating writing on this topic for some time. The catalyst for me really goes back about 25 years to a conversation my wife and I had when we were 18 and I was not a Christian. It was the first time I ever heard the view espoused that I would later learn was called Complementarianism. I was quite shocked and horrified that God would design an order in the relationship between a husband and a wife. Over time, that shock dissipated and became more of an “ok, that’s what the Bible clearly teaches” type of thing, and I acquiesced and became a Complementarian. Something always bugged me about it though. The idea of marital hierarchy was problematic with other things I read about God in my Bible. God’s nature didn’t seem to dictate that conclusion, but then I would study passages of Scripture like I Corinthians 11:2-16I Corinthians 14:34-46I Timothy 2:9-15Ephesians 5:22, and I Peter 3:1-7 and I would run back to my Complementarianism. As our church leaders would say: it was obviously exactly what the Bible taught, however; my wife didn’t cover her head with a veil, all the churches we were in allowed women to talk (and teach select groups), and none of them thought women were redeemed through having babies (though all were Complementarian). It was quite a conundrum, and a haphazard application of these same texts.

Now let me be very honest, I do not really care much about what other people think. If the Bible clearly taught Complementarian theology, I would be a proponent of it no matter what anyone thought. As I studied more and more theology, I became more thoroughly convinced of a Reformed understanding of theology, and women fully included in ministry was clearly not something endorsed as a Reformed Baptist. As I read and studied modern Reformed people, it became clear to me that most people I interacted with equated women ministers as an anathema, on par with the other favorite cultural punching bag of self-righteousness, homosexuality. These two issues are not related. Almost all of the arguments cited the above texts, without exegesis and interpretation, and declared victory.

That was not a viable alternative for me because women not serving festered (even though I didn’t really want it to). I knew so many great women that were amazing teachers, shepherds, and who had borne so much fruit for the kingdom, that their systematic exclusion bothered me. I thought of my wife and how her gifting, outside of our theological bent, was that of an Execute Pastor or a Youth Pastor, a strong teacher and leader; and I had a very hard time squaring the party line with my reality of experience.

I decided I wanted to tackle this topic seriously and apply the old adage ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda: the Church reformed, always reforming. This means that we should always study our methods and beliefs and compare them with what the Scripture teaches. As we make that comparison, we adjust to Scripture and not persist in error. I have found that most people I know have inherited their stance on this issue from their parents, tradition, or pastor, and very few have actually studied it. I purposed to study the issue and figure out exactly what the Bible taught and apply it to my practice of the faith. Fortuitously, I started taking some doctoral classes at a Baptist seminary. My first class gave me 3 options of research topics and one was Women in Ministry, so of course I jumped at it.

In this series of blog posts I want to share what my study led to, what conclusions I came to, and how I think this should practically impact the church. I have felt like I should share for some time, but have not really sat down to write. Part of the reason is it will take a while to properly flush all this out, part of it was an unwillingness to write on a divisive topic while I have been looking for a new pastorate. Ultimately, the shocking revelations of abuse emanating from the church in the past months motivated me to want to address the topic of “does our practice cause abuse, and is our practice Biblical?”

I know that some of you will disagree with what I conclude, which is fine. Disagreement between family is going to happen. The Bible may leave a topic unresolved (because its ultimate purpose is about redemption, not leadership), but I would ask that all of us have an open mind considering the topic. Let’s not lean on our previous understanding, traditions, and inherited bible interpretation; but let’s look afresh at what the Bible actually says. The charge to us is serious: keep reforming and to understand why we believe what we believe.

 

Playing the Poor for Money

I usually avoid TV preachers before church on Sunday. They tend to make me upset rather than encourage me to be more like Christ. Sunday morning I was watching a sermon and the preacher quoted a stat to encourage people to give more to the church: “Americans, even poor ones, are richer than 99% of the world.” He said this to let his congregation know that they were financially well off. The United States is a financially rich nation, and we have always been a very generous nation at home and abroad.

From this truth, however; this sermon quickly trickled into the Evangelical go to when it comes to giving: guilt. The next line of the sermon stated “you on welfare, you are in the top 1%. You are rich.” This statement, I believe, was meant to motivate people to give by guilting those who weren’t on welfare to give more to the church. My assumption is (looking at the fine building, and the crowd as they panned the audience) that this church had a very small contingent of people actually on welfare in the audience. The pastor was using a form of false equivalency of “rich” welfare recipients to illustrate that non-welfare recipients were really blessed. This means, of course, they should give more. This also means that they should feel guilty about not giving more, because even our poor are so rich. This is a far cry from Paul’s call in II Corinthians 9:7 to “give what you have decided in your heart…..not under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Notice Paul did not say that God loves a guilted giver.

While I have many issues with the proper exegesis and application of giving in many churches today, it wasn’t actually the guilting of the congregation that bothered me most. The real issue I had was that this sermon minimized the struggle of the poor in this country. Yes, welfare recipients receive more money than much of the world. However, what this gentleman failed to address was the fact that it costs more to live in America than in the places where most of the world’s population lives. I am not sure if this TV pastor has spent much time with those on welfare, but rest assured they do not have extra money to spare. They aren’t squirreling it away, eschewing the offering, because they have a surplus and are stingy. In my experience, the poor in America (as well as all over the world) are the most generous people I know. However, they were minimized because they aren’t quite as horrifically poor as those in Africa and India, but THEY ARE ALL POOR. If we do not recognize that the poor in America are actually “the poor” we should be ministering to, we are missing the mark. This is one of the reasons I struggle with the idea of eliminating social programs to help the poor, because our churches uses them as object lessons instead of treating them as real people whom we should be serving.

I wonder if this Pastor realizes just how many people his church building would have fed oversees and right here at home if it was sold? A few million dollars goes a long way to mitigating the struggle of those who need it (instead of minimizing them). I wonder if this Pastor realizes that those whom he used as a guilting block for others in his congregation have kids who go to bed hungry every night, right here, in America. I also wonder what the application he would draw from the parable of the sheep and the goats, where our commitment to Christ was boiled down to how we love those who are hurting, suffering, and in need of help.

It seems pastors always want to take the directions to Israel in Malachi on how to give, but they don’t find it equally applicable to find the verses of treating those in our nation as God directed Israel to in the Torah. We do not believe that God blesses those who give to the poor from Psalms and Proverbs.

We have real poverty in America and the right thing to do is to meet those needs, not use them as an object lesson. Perhaps getting out of the ivory tower, plush, and comfortable church building, and spending time with the least of these right here at home would help him find better analogies to use to fleece the flock.

 

Modern Christianity – Neo-Gnostics?

If you ever want to denigrate a philosophy that is even remotely Christian, the best thing to call it is Gnostic. Gnostics were around during the time of the early church the movement purveyed many heretical ideas. In a gross oversimplification, the root tenant of their philosophy was centered on the idea that matter was bad and spirit was good. Therefore what was spirit was to be elevated, and what was matter was to be abased. This allowed Gnostics to live hedonistically due to the separation of good and bad parts of their nature. In the New Testament, there are rejections of this dualism, indicating that the authors knew of this proto-Gnostic philosophy that would develop as a real challenge to Orthodoxy as the church grew.

What does this have to do with modern Christianity? 

If you have not heard the #metoo movement you need to crawl out from the rock you are living under. Ever since the revelation that many powerful men have committed sexual assault we have been reacquainted (on a national scale) with human depravity. This was not at all shocking to those of us who know humanity, but it was surprising that the victims were listened to, and action against the perpetrators happened. The subsequent #churchtoo revelations also confirmed what we didn’t want to admit: powerful people in church do the same bad things as other powerful people. From pastors raping students (and being applauded for their confessions), to the child sex abuse scandals and all the other incidents in between, local churches proved to be as corrupt as the rest of society. This is not really news either if you have ever been to church, or hung out with church people. Humanity is sinful, and Christ-followers are just as sinful as anyone else. You have probably heard the phrase “not perfect, just forgiven,” which, while true, doesn’t necessarily push people to righteous living.

How did this happen?

The trite answer is “sin” or “sin nature.” While true, that simple answer is not very helpful as we try to figure out how to deal with this issue in the Church. Unfortunately for the church, the corruption of practice continues to reveal an ever bigger problem, and that is a corruption of belief. While I acknowledge that we have a sin problem, I believe our real problem is the resurrection of Gnosticism in the local church. We do not really believe that body and spirit make up our humanity, so we can try to isolate our sin from our spirit. This is why we can go to church on Sunday and worship in spirit, while living in gross sin in our body.  This is why it is so very easy to decouple a woman from her feelings and personhood, and treat her as a sex object. This is why we don’t view casual sex, or premarital sex, or homosexual sex, or polyamorous sex as corrupting of who we are, but just something we do. This is how we can self-justify the murder of unborn children (they are just cells after all) in a genocide that rivals or beats the worst in human history. We don’t feel that our fleshy action is the real us. We don’t recognize that sex involves body and spirit, and that’s why we ruin ourselves spiritually when we act physically. You cannot separate the body from the spirit anymore than you can separate breathing from your lungs: they are one in the same for practical usage. Sin in your body is sin in your spirit, and vice versa. Sin always impacts who you are. Sin always corrupts the totality of you completely.

What can we do about it?

Once we recognize that our actions come from a corruption of belief we can work to correct the theology that informs those actions. As a church, we need to spend more time teaching a correct Anthropology instead of swimming in the dualistic land of the Gnostics. This has to be practical, hands on equipping of the church. People need to know how to embrace their whole self, and how to recognize the impacts that sin has on all aspects of who they are. It has been a long time since I have heard sermons on the unity of the nature of  humans, and longer still since I have heard how to fight against sin because of the impact it has on us holistically. I think that’s probably because many preachers are guilty of being closet Gnostics, embracing cultural views on humanity instead of the truth of the Word.

I wonder how many more stories are lurking out in the shadows that hopefully will be brought to the light. I know many probably would rather have them stay in the shadows so that the church isn’t hurt anymore, but I want all the wickedness to be flushed out of the church. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, so pulling the covers back from what we have hidden will push us towards holiness. I want the church to be purified of those who would harbor assailants. I want the church to stand for the victimized. We can only really do that when we embrace what God teaches about humanity:

God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27 (NET)

We are unique and amazing creations of God, each of us. We are more than the sum of our material parts, and complicated beyond belief. Gnosticism is ultimately the worst form of idolatry because we place what we believe humanity is above what God says we are, and we the church must stand against it!

What the Heck Happened?

I am not fan of President Trump. I think he is less than desirable in many ways. I probably make my conservative friends upset by saying that, though Trump is not a conservative in many respects. I was not a big fan of President Obama either. I thought he was deficient in my ways also. That probably makes some of my more liberal friends upset. When I look at that state of our discourse on these things, however; I have noticed that as Americans, we are so polarized that any form of discussion of the merits of these individuals has been obfuscated by our own need to “be right.” Our friends cannot disagree with us without becoming our mortal enemies. We cannot possibly admit that someone we do not like at all had a good day, or did something that we appreciate.

What the heck happened?

I remember hearing stories of Democrats and Republicans disagreeing all day long, and then having a beer after work and being friends. That used to be common in America, but it seems like we have lost our ability to reason and be friends with people we disagree with. This is obvious by the raging hate storms you see on any discussion of politics or religion on social media if you are brave enough to view the comments of a post.

I do not really care much for politics, so my concern is always more focused on the church. Unfortunately, the same attitude is present in the church. People who disagree on matters of belief are so quick to condemn their “opponents” (not their friends who disagree) as heretics. People shun and criticize others because they believe or do things just a little bit different. There is no room for dissent about topics that can be arbitrary and no related to anything important. I do believe there are issues that should separate believers, and that there are required divisions in the big tent of the Body of Christ, but I also think those are few and far between.

What the heck happened?

I have tried to be thoughtful about this. I thought: “has anything really changed?” People have always been self-righteous, self-focused, and self-aggrandizing. I think that part hasn’t changed at all, but the rapid ability to disseminate our opinion has certainly changed with the advent of social media. It allows us to make our own platforms that we can pontificate from, regardless of our education on a topic. We can be jerks (me included!), and we can pretend like our way is the right way. We get to have one way discussions, and make sure people know that we are right.

While that is true, I think the issue is really bigger, because Jesus taught His people to behave differently. To love others. To give to others. To respect others. Even those (maybe, especially those) who disagree with us. How can it be possible that those of us who claim Christ act like we do just because we have a megaphone at our fingertips? The answer, I think, is the lack of the Spirit’s voice in our hearts. The Spirit is the one thing that should prompt us to act differently, to love more, and to be more committed to people than we are to ourselves. I believe the church has systematically silenced Him. Baptists do it out of fear (can you imagine if the Spirit got out of His box in some churches)? Charismatics silence Him by overindulging in emotionalism and fake Spirit movements. The high church Protestants/Catholics silence Him through traditionalism. The Spirit, the influence that should be pushing us to be like Christ, is speaking to those who have no room to listen. Our society is suffering for it. Our friends and neighbors are suffering for it. We are suffering individually for it. Most of all, the Kingdom is suffering for it.

What the heck happened?

We tuned the Spirit out and have become the coarse, nasty, and uncaring society that we are today.  The Bible says that those in the Spirit have peace, patience, self-control, joy, and many other things. Do these define us? They certainly do not dominate our culture, and those who claim Christ have lost that subversive, cross-cultural impact we need to keep pushing the Kingdom forward. Not in the sense that we try and be hipster cool, but in the sense that we love radically. People need to look at all aspects of our lives and see a difference.  Too often, what they see are people arguing and trying to justify themselves and their always right opinions.

What the heck happened?
We stopped listening to the Spirit, and we didn’t even notice.

Why So Sad?

The title of this post is from one of my favorite songs in Hamilton. Confession, King George is my favorite in the musical. His question is really quite revealing about the King in this song, because it captures how disconnected from reality the King was with the Colonies. He did not understand the people, and by the power of his position as Regent of his empire, he didn’t consider it something he had to care about.

I find this line of thinking common amongst those with some claim to power. We all see it I am sure. In the intellectual circles I run in its almost always related to church or theology. It’s common in the big church pastor who doesn’t quite get why people no longer want to fund the building program. It’s common in the Calvinist who cannot understand why the Arminian doesn’t understand how right he is (and vice versa). It’s common in the Protestant who cannot fathom how Catholics can claim Christ at all. It’s common in the Evangelical who cannot understand that other Evangelicals did not vote for Trump, and that some even voted for Hillary.

Lord Acton said “that power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Unfortunately this seems to be proven true again and again, and while I care about the dismissing of those who are “less than” in most facets of the world, I care more about it in the Church. When we consider ourselves more important than others, and we have to if we view ourselves as powerful, we cut off discussion with those who are not up to our level. We do not make headway, and we fracture the diverse Body of Christ. That’s why we see so many people screaming at others about how right they are, and the other people tuning them out (or screaming back), and no dialogue or understanding actually happens.

The Christ-follower who wants to be like Jesus should heed His example: He humbled Himself, removing Himself from a position of power, and died on a cross. This complete emptying of Himself is called the kenosis and is taken from that Greek word in Philippians 2:7, where Paul said that Jesus emptied Himself of all His divine attributes. Jesus gave up power to reconcile humanity. He emptied Himself for us.

As Christ-followers, we have no power compared to what Jesus gave up. Colossians 1:15-20 explained Jesus power, and the Book of Hebrews exalted how much better Christ is than all other things. Why is it that we cannot condescend to those who are “less than” us, showing them grace and love, and pursuing reconciliation and unity? That’s what Jesus prayed for His church, unity; so why is it so easy to pull a King George? We look at those “peasants” beneath us without trying to understand them, or include them in our groups. Why is it so difficult to disagree and remain friends?

It took the King fighting a war to finally get that the American problem wouldn’t just go away, and the people didn’t see him as their superior. What is it going to take for us to lay down our self-perceived power (or power given to us by others) for the sake of the Gospel of love?

Maybe we would benefit by continually asking ourselves “what would Jesus do?” when it comes to understanding others and remember what He did do to reconcile humanity. I think of myself as a vile, horrendous offender of God, who disagrees with Him continually, but is loved and redeemed regardless. I have begun to pray more fervently the same thing that Jesus prayed for us: unity. God made for Himself a diverse Body, perhaps it’s ok that we do not all see things the same way.

Social Media Survival Guide

I’ve been on social media for a while and I have figured out a few rules. These rules are not hard and fast, but are an excellent way to make sure that you are doing the Dale Carnegie thing and winning friends and influence people. These rules are especially true if you are trying to be like Jesus.
1 – There is no room for differing opinions, if you do not agree with everyone else 100%, you are an idiot and should be called all the vile names. You are barely above a cave dweller. Especially if your opinion is contrary to the ever-changing landscape of socially acceptable norms.
2 – You will NEVER change your mind through well-reasoned discussion and thought, your prior convictions (especially if not based in fact), can never be changed.
3 – You must never believe the motives of a person are pure, they are always secretly out to destroy you, so you must respond back with as much venom and vitriol as possible.
4 – You are defending the rights of whomever you are supporting to the death. Key Board Warriors are required. If you cannot be one, you are not ready for social media.
5 – Important issues must be pushed aside to discuss and debate the immaterial, like if someone thinks its OK to stand or sit.
6 – Sharing about how  you are praying for something is just like actually helping.
7 – God really cares if you share stuff about him on Facebook and do not live it out in real life. The meme that says you have to share if you aren’t ashamed of Him IS REAL LIFE PEOPLE.
8 – This is life or death people. Engage and defend. This will really make a difference in people’s lives!

Are We the Children of God?

If you go to church for any length of time, you will inevitably hear a sermon series on the “Beatitudes.” The first time I heard this word I was a bit freaked out, because that is not a word. However, I quickly learned that church people make up words all the time, and this was no more egregious then many of my personal inventions. The Beatitudes are the first few verses found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was teaching people about the Kingdom and trying to make tangible something that was completely foreign to humanity.

Favorite preacher passages are ones like “Blessed are the meek…Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” because their applications are direct. The meek gain strength in the Lord, the poor in spirit get the Kingdom, and those who hunger and seek for righteousness are satisfied by their pursuit. One of the more difficult “Beatitudes” to preach is this one “Blessed are the peacemakers…” Why is that so hard? It seems like Christians should want to be peacemakers. Jesus brought peace to humanity by becoming human, and dying a criminal’s death. That’s what Christian believe. However, it seems that in this day and age peacemaking is not only tough to preach, but it’s extremely tough to live. In this modern day of hot takes, indignation, outrage at all disagreement, and the need to paint everyone we interact with on social media as either Satan or the Second Coming, we have lost the desire to make peace. The gentle answer that turns away wrath. The ability to lovingly disagree or better yet, NOT engage (It’s an unwritten maxim of social media that the best fights are the ones not entered into). The ability to look at someone we love, who is representing beliefs we absolutely abhor, and recognizing we still love them and want to build peace not relational destruction. Is there ever a time when peacemakers were more needed? In this divisive and binary climate, don’t we believe that Jesus would want that from His people?

Maybe it’s just the circles I run in online, but I find that “His “people” are some of the most nasty, intolerant, and totalitarian people out there. My friends, how can that be? How can we not lovingly make peace in a world where making peace would be an act of radical obedience? The promise Jesus gave for the peacemakers was this: that they would be called Children of God. Was Jesus saying that His real people would be those who fostered peace, not conflict? Jesus did advocate conflict, but only for the sake of the Gospel. Too often we stoke the fires of rage in others for politics, or feelings, or social awareness; and we miss the point of engaging with the Gospel (which is love and peace, and the only answer to the human condition).

I know it’s difficult, especially when confronted with those who are so virulently against all things godly. However, for Jesus’ sake, don’t hit send on your “pièce de résistance” of a post that will cripple your opponent; give them the love of the Gospel instead. If we are really His children, shouldn’t that be our normal response?

 

True Love

Today is Valentines Day. Rachel and I have never celebrated Valentines Day in the traditional way. If we go out to dinner, it’s because we would go out to dinner anyway. We do not need a made up holiday to remember that we love each other.

On this Valentines Day, however; I have been really focused on love, and specifically the love of adoption. I woke up this morning to my smiling (alright screaming) little man. I got an amazing hug from him as he declared “Daddy, it’s Thanksgiving!” After a quick correction, and a discussion about Valentines Day, he gave me another amazing hug. I told him to give Mommy one, and he said “No, La-La (Elaina) is my Valentine, she gets all my hugs.” I just love that kid to pieces. Adoption made my family so much better, because I got to experience the love of such a wonderful child. God gave so much to me because of him. Rachel and I advocate for adoption exactly for this reason: people need to be blessed by children who need love (to give and receive), and the receiving part is always the bigger blessing.

Adoption is also the perfect picture of what God did for His people. Ephesians 1:3-6 maybe the passage I most identify with in all of Scripture, because Rachel and I have been blessed with adoption of a son.

Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will— to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

Think about the process of adoption for a second: people choose to bring a child that is not theirs into their home: to love them, to raise them, to train them, and when the parents die, to bless them as their own child. To me, it seems like the purest act of love. God showed people His heart, expressed through the tangible process of adoption. This is what God chose to do for His people. God chose His people, He loves his people, He brings us into His family, He trains us, and He gives us an inheritance. It was an act of pure love completely on God’s part. We are His, and He loves so very well.

On this day, I remember that I have been blessed supremely in my relationships with my wife, and my wonderful children. I get the unmitigated blessing of having all my children, regardless of how they were brought into my family. I am so thankful that the feelings of love and joy that I have for my son through adoption, are the same feelings God has for me (times a billion), and that I am truly loved.

Today can be tough for many, but I want to encourage you with the idea that God chose to love, and His love is available through His Son because He chose to reconcile His people. Do not settle for the lies that no one loves you, or that the love of God isn’t as good as the love of a [man, woman, child, mother, father, dog, etc…]. You are not outside it, too far from it, or unable to receive it. He calls and He makes you His own. His love is the best, and all you really need to the praise of His glorious grace.

Just a note to my amazing wife today: thank you for taking me on this journey of life, but specifically for the calling to adopt. Your heart is huge, and I love that I get to experience you completely. You are certainly a picture of God’s love to me!

 

The Seed of the Woman

The first three chapters of the Book of Genesis set the stage for the drama that unfolds throughout the rest of the Bible. We have the overview of Creation: God making everything ex nihilo, culminating with the creation of humans. The second chapter is a recapitulation of the first chapter, and concludes with the institution of marriage. In chapter three the conflict is presented that will frame the main struggle for the rest of the Bible: people reject God and elevate themselves into His place. This decision by Adam and Eve to sin brought the consequence of separation and struggle for the remainder of their (and by extension, our) existence. The key verse is Genesis 3:15 where God tells the serpent that the “seed of the woman will bruise his head,” while the serpent would “bruise his heel.” This is commonly called the protoevangelium where deliverance from the punishments given is promised.

I think we often miss the point; however, of what is really going on in this passage and throughout the rest of Genesis. When we read Genesis, it is easy to overlook certain things because they are confusing (the names of people, and family relationships, and just what are the Nephilim?), but one word that we can easily miss is the Hebrew word transliterated toledoth which is found throughout the book. The word means “generations,” and gives us the insight to what God is really talking about, the continuation of the generations of “the woman” to get the promised seed. It is one of the the themes of Genesis, and the meta-narrative of the Scripture – preservation of the Seed of woman. This is why Genesis records the family lines the way it does, and why there is always tension that the seed might be forsaken, or lost (the Flood, Jacob/Esau, Joseph). Missing the idea that the Seed is the most important thing, allows us to misapply and wrongly conclude many things from Genesis 1-3.

Why is this important, or what is an application for rightly understanding the seed theme of Genesis? One of the primary arguments for women being submissive to men comes from Genesis 1-3, and Paul’s argumentation in his writings that God instituted a created order. Specifically cited is the statement of God in Genesis 3:16

To the woman He said,
‘I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.'”

First, notice what is in view: childbearing. God is reinforcing the idea that the seed is primary, stating that even though there will be pain in bearing children, your desire will be for your husband. This statement has given rise to many ideas about the nature of women: they were built to be co-dependent, they have to have a man, they want to dominate men (read this passage in the NET), etc… The seemingly obvious conclusion based on the theme of Genesis, is that God is referring to the need to procreate and make more “seeds.” Despite the pain in childbirth the woman, and other women, will seek to have children.

Secondly, God says “and he [her husband] will rule over you.” Notice that everything in the passage from 14-19 is a new punishment, and changes the original design that God had planned. At the end of Genesis 2, the husband and the wife are one, but now in Genesis 3:16 they are separated. When they are one, the preservation of the human race would not seem to be an issue; however, when they are separated by their desires, the safety of the seed is in doubt. The woman (the helper from 2:18, his corresponding sexual partner), will suffer for the seed; but will be brought back to her husband for its sustenance (this is part of the promise of deliverance in the midst of the Curse). The rule of a husband over his wife, is not part of the marriage relationship until the Curse is given; and as a punishment a man’s rule will put the seed in jeopardy also, because it creates a struggle in the relationship.

From this point on, the struggle for the seeds protection graces the pages of Scripture, culminating in Jesus. If we miss that fact, it is very easy to turn to Genesis 3, see that a man will rule over his wife, and conclude that it is good and proper. God’s design was very different. He wanted husband and wife to be one, not in a hierarchical struggle, but truly one entity. Understanding the story of Scripture, and this one major theme, helps us to get to the right conclusion from Genesis 3:16: Fight against the punishment for sin that causes men to rule their wives, and seek to be one in Christ.

It is high time that evangelicals repudiated the idea that husbands are meant to rule their wives. Rule was a judgement not an endorsement. The Lord wants one thing above all others in our marriages: oneness. The unity of the husband and wife, sex and the continuance of the seed both declare that God’s promise is fulfilled: the seed will come and crush the serpent.

gal328

 

I Am the Famous One

My wife and I discuss the state of the Church quite a bit. Having been involved in many facets of ministry for our entire marriage, it’s just something we do. I know that there is now a clamor among all those reading this to get in on these amazing conversations, but you are probably not cool enough. HOWEVER, feel free to start one next time we are hanging out!

One of the things that we come back to over and over is the rampant idolatry in our church settings. When I hear the word “idolatry,” I think of a bunch of people gathered around a golden idol. They bow down and worship it, expecting it to do magic tricks for them. The thought is almost so humorous it can be difficult for me to really identify with it. When I am being “spiritual,” my mind runs to Israel in the Old Testament as they constantly struggled with idol worship. Just reading the book of Judges, will make your head spin with their constant merry-go-round of idol worship-repent-deliverance-repeat. We do not identify with this either, because most of us aren’t dabbling in the polytheistic religions of the Ancient Near East, and we think we are superior to the Jews because of the whole New Covenant thing.

However, I think we are equally as idolatrous as the Jews were. 

The difference between the modern church and other idolaters is the object of what we worship, not that we are somehow devoid of idolatry. We don’t worship sticks, or objects, or a pantheon of gods and goddess; but we do worship things in the place of God. While there are many, many idols I could focus on for this discussion; the one that has really been bothering me for some time is “Celebrity Christianity.” I picked just a few reasons why I think this has been, and will be severely damaging to the American church.

The first is that it is antithetical to how Jesus lived. Jesus was sought out by crowds, but He never sought the crowds to build His brand. Jesus told people to keep quiet about Him. How many Celebrity Christians does that sound like? Jesus was concerned about one thing: the Kingdom. Celebrity turns very quickly into being concerned with one thing also: our kingdom. If we claim to be Christ-followers, shouldn’t we follow Christ?

Secondly, Celebrity Christianity teaches people that there are levels of Christians. The famous ones are looked up, everyone else is just ordinary. The truth of Scripture teaches us that no Christian is better or worse than any other. In fact, the Bible teaches us that there aren’t good and bad people, just bad people and a good God. Paul rebukes this type of foolishness, especially when it comes to factions caused by worshipping people other than Christ.

Lastly, the idea of Celebrity pushes people away from THE place of discipleship and growth: the local church. Celebrity teaching replaces pastoral teaching and involvement in the Missio Dei, because one no longer has to be involved in a church to get “solid teaching.” I believe one of the reasons the local church is declining is because people no longer NEED to be connected: get your spiritual scraps from the Celebrity’s table; and you are alleviated from the burden of having to be in the messiness of church life. This also leads to the idea that these famous people speak for Christianity as a whole. There are many people I respect who are “big names” in the Christian sub-culture, but I agree with none of them on everything. This is insidious because people hear a Celebrity Christian speak and do not bother to study to even see if they agree with them; especially when it mirrors their own presuppositions or feelings.

Rachel and I have been talking about this for a long time, and I don’t know that I have a solution. Americans seem to need to fixate on someone/something they can worship that is real. The only way to reverse course is not to miss the fact that God was tangible, and still is if we walk in His truth, and are His hands and feet. God is tangible when we decide we aren’t all that important, and push everything aside to elevate His name. God is still very real when we recognize the truth that the local church is more important than conferences, and conference speakers, and is THE engine for real discipleship. God is the only suitable object for our worship.

We must repent and seek Him, not our brand, not our “hero,” and not ourselves.

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