Be careful with ministries (and ministers) that speak your heart

crowd_cheeringWell, once again the internet from evangelical quarters have been ablaze the past few days over Jen Hatmaker’s soft, squishy statement apparently affirming gay marriage. I’ll say from the outset, this post is not to address what she said or didn’t say; there have been plenty of others doing that. Rather, I want to leverage this situation to address a larger concern regarding the appeal of Hatmaker and other women ministry leaders.

I hear a lot of trope against women’s ministries being absent real thought, gravitate towards feelings and generally don’t want to dig deep into theological study. I suppose that is probably true in many cases and these are observations I’ve voiced myself. But I don’t think it’s enough to simply castigate the disciples as those who lack discernment and don’t want rigorous study. There is a reason that Hatmaker and other ministry leaders like Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and Rachel Held Evans gain such an audience with women. They speak in a way that resonates with many. Whether it’s criticizing the old fundamentalist regime whilst demonstrating how awful they distorted “biblical womanhood” or emoting about past experiences that challenged healthy womanhood or evoking a giggle while recounting the challenges of parenting, it occurs to me that they touch the feminine soul.

And let’s not forget about Sarah Young and Jesus tapping into our hearts through flowery words via the direct messages from Jesus as if God was a 40 year old housewife. I addressed this in my master’s thesis how God speech equates to God’s revelation of himself and character, which he fully expressed in the Son.  But it’s not lost on me that there is a reason that Jesus Calling has sold millions of copies even though Young sets an horrendous precedent for how God speaks, supposing that the messages she has received equate to Jesus speaking (like, how do we know?). Continue reading

This is a man’s world: why don’t women just get it together?

man-leading-wifeThis post is not to debate complementarian vs. egalitarian. I have maintained that there are godly men and women who take the authority of Scripture serious and arrive at different conclusions. I also believe that positions on male leadership are really only pertinent to church and home, which is why I think all the brouhaha in public disagreement is often misplaced.

With that said, Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger have come out with a book on how Genesis to revelation portrays God’s design.  In this interview, Dr. Kostenberger makes some good points about the biblical pattern of male headship.

However, I was struck by his response to question if this same paradigm applies outside of the church. His response;

With regard to women in the workplace, we’ve found that a helpful question for couples to consider is: Will the woman, if married, be able to give her best hours and energies to those God has given her to care for in the home and family? This applies to ministry involvement as well. Consider God’s creation design (Gen 1:26–28; 2:18, 20) in conjunction with the primary spheres of ministry given to the woman as highlighted in the judgment she received after the fall, which stands in direct relation to her role in childbearing and with her husband (Gen. 3:16; cf. 1 Tim. 2:15). Consider also the role model of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, who is portrayed as centered in her home and fully supportive of her husband. And note Paul’s references to women being workers at home (Titus 2:5), widows being honored who have been faithful wives, having brought up children and shown hospitality (1 Tim. 5:9–10), and younger widows being encouraged to marry, bear children, and manage their households (1 Tim. 5:14). Women on mission for God together with their husbands will be able to rejoice in all God has for them as they’re centered in the home and ready for all he calls them to do individually. Single women, too, unless called to permanent celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7–8), can prayerfully nurture and prepare for this and incorporate some of this in their extended and church family experience.

Regarding political office, there are no direct commands in Scripture encouraging or barring a woman from leadership roles. Again the question is: Will she be able to fulfill her primary God-given role in the home and family? Could she continue to support her husband’s leadership in the areas to which he has been called and to nurture her family if she were to take public office? This isn’t a question of giftedness or competence but relates to God’s design in making people male and female.

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Reflections on ETS, Representation and the Face of Evangelicalism

ETS bigcrowdI just came back from the 2013 annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS). If you are not familiar with this organization, ETS is a professional, academic society of Biblical scholars, teachers, pastors, students, and others involved in evangelical scholarship. In short, it is representative of the conservative arm of Christianity affirmed by members acceptance of the Chicago Statement of Inerrancy as criteria for membership.

The meetings are centered on a particular theme, which changes from year to year and hundreds of papers are presented mainly from professors, PhD students and some who serve in as pastors or in a professional capacity. I was specifically interested in gleaning information that would be useful for my thesis but I’m also interested in research on a variety of topics that are relevant to the church and Christian commitment. I also enjoyed the camaraderie with fellow students, professors, and new friends. Good conversations were well worth the trip.

In all fairness, this was my first annual meeting. I’ve been a member for a few years and have attended the regional meetings, which pale in comparison to this behemoth of a meeting. But it didn’t take long to observe that the overwhelmingly, the majority of the 2,000+ members in attendance are white, male. To be sure, the main panel was homogeneous in this regard.  Best of my knowledge, that is how its always been. Now, I don’t say that to make this an issue of race but of representation.  I don’t know exactly what the percentage of minorities was and certainly there was but in comparison to the whole gathering, its pretty small.

Women made up an even smaller percentage of those represented. According to one session I attended on the future of women in ETS, the presenter noted that women comprise 7% of membership and 1% of papers presented. The percentage is even smaller for women of color. Yikes! That’s pretty low considering that over half of the church comprises women. Continue reading

Re-evaluating Spiritual Leadership

I grinned with delight as I read this article the other day from Christianity Today Her.meneutics, ‘He’s Just Not a Spiritual Leader’, and Other Christian Dating Myths. The author tells of the criteria being applied in dating relationships of male leadership that may lead some women to discard great relationships. The criteria asserts that if men don’t take initiative (translated leadership) on all spiritual matters and demonstrate a capacity to lead women in God’s truth, then they are not suitable leaders, ergo not good marriage material.

The author rightly challenges this definition;

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the complaint: “He’s not a spiritual leader.” It seems that initiating prayer, Bible study, and other similar devotional activities is a litmus test for male spiritual leadership in some branches of the American church. And the common complaint by women on our campus is that men are failing in spiritual leadership; they aren’t passing the litmus test. They aren’t initiating.

But after Shawn’s comment that day, I started wondering about all the godly men who may have other spiritual gifts—just not the ones traditionally considered “male” spiritual gifts. For example, what about men who have the gift of mercy or hospitality or service or encouragement, and who are full of the fruits of the Spirit? Do we devalue them simply because they’re not at the helm or out in front but rather operating alongside their partner? Is initiating devotional activities within a relationship really what it means to lead?

I wonder whether part of the disappointment and tension among Christian women stems from the fact that they have teaching or pastoral gifts, while their boyfriends or husbands possess other gifts wrongly considered “feminine.” Is it really contradicting God’s will when a woman initiates prayer and Bible study with her significant other? What if her partner models a life characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control? Is this not the Jesus life? Is such a man being derelict in his spiritual duties to wife and family? Continue reading

My Kind of Complementarianism

woman with thumbs upWhile I have categorized my position on gender roles as complementarian, I have wrestled with some ways in which it has been defined. One of my primary issues involves the distinctive roles between men and women, that I consider to be exaggerated or forced. Not only does this create more restrictions than I think is warranted in Scripture, but promotes some less than healthy attitudes. We can’t just look at 1 Timothy 2 and call it a day, especially considering that Paul was addressing a specific context. That has to be measured against the breadth of scripture. So while there is warrant for male headship in the church (which I translate as governing leadership) and home, beyond that I don’t see such as sharp distinction that traditional complementarianism has painted.

Wendy Alsup published a post that describes a new wave of complementarianism. I first came across Wendy’s writings at the Gospel Coalition and loved her treatment of Genesis 3:16. She’s obviously conservative (PCA) and complementarian but strives for a balanced and thoughtful consideration of how genders truly complement each other. Her post on a new wave of complementarianism resonated so well with me because it is the canonical picture that I see in scripture regarding male headship and the complementary aspects of gender in kingdom representation. She profiles 8 characteristics;

1) Belief in the trustworthiness of Scripture.  These women (and a few men I know as well who’ve talked about this subject), love the Word and study it hard.  They read, they study, and they listen.  And they do it all from the foundation that the Bible is God’s written Word, handed down through the Holy Spirit and preserved by God for the instruction of His children.

2) Belief that the Bible interprets itself.  The Bible is the best commentary on itself and gives us a great deal of information that, when coupled with common sense interpretive principles (like the fact that story is different from instruction), leads to much more clarity on issues of gender in the Church than some claim.

3) Respect for Church history and the Creeds.  Which leads to number 4. Continue reading