I still remember sitting around the lunch table in Martine’s with a bunch of businesspeople, lawyers, and family as we celebrated my dad’s 59th birthday. The conversation was lighthearted and cheery as the group laughed together, reminiscing of times past and looking forward to the times to come.
Then the conversation got political. One of the people sitting around the table sabotaged the camaraderie with a jab against Republicans, and it wasn’t long before the rest of the group joined in. Having been raised in a liberal family, I was used to this, but aided by the training I’ve received at Fuller Theological Seminary, this was the first time I was able to actually be just a fly on the wall, observing the people around me and reflecting on what I was seeing.
Continue reading The Dichotomy of Truth and Comfort
A few weeks back, I took the time to spell out a bit of what it looks like for men and women to cultivate faithfulness to God through our dating habits and practices. In that post, I articulated what God’s best for romantic relationships (as seen in Ephesians 5:22-33) implies for the way we, as the Church, ought to practice dating in our culture.
God’s best for romantic relationships puts the man in the role of pursuer, just as Christ pursued us, and an oft-missed subtlety of the biblical story is that Christ had in mind his marriage to the Church from the very beginning of his ministry. As Tim Keller notes in a sermon he preaches on the Wedding at Cana, when Mary comes to Jesus to tell him that they’ve run out of wine and Jesus responds with, “My hour has not come,” it’s a logical non-sequitor. It doesn’t make sense, unless we understand that like most people at weddings, Jesus is thinking about his wedding to us in that moment—and all that it was going to take to get there (the Cross). Thus, before Jesus’s ministry was really underway, he was thinking about his marriage to us—and that was the goal of his pursuit.
Continue reading Less than His Best
Back when I was in college, I was a part of a Christian student group on the University of Utah campus called Utenited. Every Tuesday night, we would meet together in the Chase N. Peterson Heritage Center for a forty-five-minute study break that entailed exceptional worship and a five- to seven-minute Bible-based message to encourage and give life to everyone gathered, whether or not they believed in the doctrines of Christianity.
As powerful as these nights were, though, they were not the essence of our mission. Our mission was to be the group that serves, and throughout the school year, we would engage in various activities both on and around the University of Utah campus to serve the University of Utah, its students and their groups, and the broader community in which it exists.
We tore down tables and chairs at PlazaFest, long after most of the other student groups had left. We rearranged an entire ballroom from theater seating to a dining room in record time and left the University’s Orientation Office perplexed at how we did it so quickly and with such joy and enthusiasm.
Continue reading Are We Doers or Thinkers?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Christian practice of reconciliation, and the truth is that I don’t like it. It’s so much easier to just write off those who’ve hurt me and have no interest in owning their behavior than it is to do the hard (and often painful) work of fighting for reconciliation with them, but last night, I was writing a reflection paper on the practice of reconciliation, and as I reread the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5, I came to realize just how important our “ministry of reconciliation” really is.
Reconciliation is the Christian practice of renewing our broken world by not playing fair. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive, offering a generous seven times. Jesus responds by telling him it’s seventy times seven. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when someone hits us, to go the extra mile, and to give also our cloak to the man who sues us only for our tunic. In laying out the ministry of reconciliation, Jesus is telling us, “Don’t play fair.” It wasn’t fair when the Man who had done no wrong was crushed for our iniquities, but in so doing, he began a ministry of reconciliation. To what end? According to Paul: the new creation.
Continue reading Our Ministry of Reconciliation
I’ve spent the last three weeks recovering from a pretty serious four-month crush on a girl in California, and that recovery has led me into some deep reflection on the dangers of social media. I’ve come to see how social media confuses boundaries, allows us to escape the discomfort of what the Apostle Paul calls our “ministry of reconciliation,” and perpetuates the idol of self.
This girl and I met one Sunday morning about a year-and-a-half ago. I managed to secure a seat next to her in church and waited for that savory moment of precious opportunity. A prayer for the offering was prayed. Announcements were given. The pastor took the stage to deliver his sermon. “Turn to the person next to you and tell them your greatest fear.” God was my wingman, friends. It doesn’t get much better than that.
That day, I learned that her greatest fear was spiders, but she paid me no mind. She seemed far more interested in her phone and the friend sitting next to her than she did in me, so I dropped it. The next year flew by. I started seminary, wrote and published The Tale of the Elm Trees, and continued leading a ministry for twenty-somethings. If I’ve learned one thing over the last year, it’s that as a full-time graduate student enrolled in three graduate programs at two schools in two different states while simultaneously pursuing two separate careers, if you don’t make time for dating, it won’t happen. Other things will happily fill up your schedule, and fill up my schedule they did.
Continue reading Healthy Relationships and the Dangers of Social Media
When I started this series on Christianity and feminism many months ago, I told you why I do not consider myself a (secular) feminist. I found secular feminism to be philosophically shallow, and said that I thought Christianity offered a more robust basis for gender equality, but that because equality based in God wasn’t equality on our terms, we may not like the implications.
The catalyst for this series was a Christian Ethics class I took last fall as part of my program at Fuller Theological Seminary, and one of the things I’d learned from my exploration of this issue as part of that class is that my disagreement with my classmates and with the authors we read boiled down to how much authority we assigned to the Bible and (consequently) how we interpreted it.
So, in the first post of this series, I walked you through what the Bible is. I told you how the Bible came to be what it is and how that story, coupled with the high authority I assigned to the Bible, led me to interpret the Bible using a biblical narrative hermeneutic, which is just a fancy way of saying that I interpret the Bible as one cohesive story, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22.
Continue reading Can Christians Be Feminists?
One of the most controversial issues in the Christian Church over the last half-century has been the issue of women in ministry. I would even say that this issue is more divisive than one’s views on the nature of communion or the role of baptism, because if Jack believes that it’s a sin against God for any woman to hold authority over a man or to pray in church, Jack cannot, in good conscience, attend a church that allows for female worship leaders.
By contrast, if Jack believes in symbolic representation, he is still free to attend and receive communion at a church that believes in transubstantiation. And if neither of those words mean anything to you, then don’t worry about it. It’s my way of saying that the issue of women in ministry is one of the most divisive topics in the Church, so a clear understanding of what the Bible does (and does not) say about it is important if we’re going to have anything close to respectful dialogue.
This post is the much overdue continuation of my series on Christianity and feminism that I started earlier this year, and if you’re just now jumping in, you may want to familiarize yourself with what the Bible is and how I interpret it. Beyond that, what you read is up to you, but if you disagree with anything that I say below, it’s probably because we disagree about how to interpret the Bible (which is a function of how much authority we assign to it).
Continue reading Women in Ministry
In my last post, I explained what God’s vision for the redemption of marriage looks like, and I realize many of you had issues with that. I suspect many of you wanted God to undo the dominant-submissive relationship between husband and wife that was born from the sin of our ancestors. As I made clear in my last post, the biblical story gives us no reason to believe that God intends to do so. Instead, the biblical story makes clear that God intends to redeem the broken relationship between husband and wife not by eliminating gender roles within marriage, but by calling men to be better husbands, to lead their wives in the way that Christ leads the Church (his bride): earning her trust through acts of sacrificial love.
I also suspect that many of you thought that because of God’s refusal to abolish gender roles within marriage, all of the other gender role baggage came along with that. You may have thought that God’s vision for the redemption of marriage means that a woman’s place is in the home, that a woman can’t be independent if she chooses, that she can’t hold a job or hold leadership positions in society.
Simply put, that’s not true. God’s redemptive vision for marriage does assign roles to the husband and to his wife, yes. But God only says that a husband is to lead his wife and a wife is to entrust herself wholeheartedly to her husband’s leadership. No where in the biblical narrative does God suggest that a husband and wife have distinct roles in politics and society. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Outside of marriage, men and women are to relate to each other no differently than they relate to members of the same sex.
Continue reading From Marriage to Society
As part of my Christian Ethics class last fall, I had to write a paper on an ethical issue we’d examined during the quarter. Like many of my classmates, I chose the issue of gender roles, and as part of the assignment, I had to interview two of my classmates to better understand their positions through the lens of the Character Ethics grid articulated in Stassen and Gushee’s book, Kingdom Ethics.
What I came to see is that the disagreements I had with my classmates and with authors of some of the books we read for the class stemmed first from our basic conviction about the Bible’s authority, and secondly, from the hermeneutical principle we used to interpret the Bible. So, I took the time last week to write a very long post on what the Bible is and how I interpret it, in which I established that I take a high view of biblical authority.
I also established that I interpret the Bible using what I call a biblical narrative hermeneutic. Simply put, I believe the Bible to be the divinely inspired, true story of God’s redemption of a world that he loves more than we could ever understand. I believe it to be a cohesive story, from Genesis 1 through Revelation 22, and I interpret every bit of the Bible accordingly.
If you disagree with anything I say below, I’m almost positive that it will be on one of those two points, and I would invite you to read last week’s post.
Continue reading “Wives Submit to Your Husbands”
Generally speaking, it’s a bad idea to start a new series of blog posts the week before you’re gonna be up to your eyeballs in Sundance films. I’m sorry to leave you hanging for the last three weeks, but now that Sundance is through, the rest of this series should continue at a rate of at least one post per week.
The idea for this series on gender roles in Christianity spawned as part of my Christian Ethics class, in which I was flung head-first into an issue I thought I had pretty well figured out. I began my foray into this issue assuming an egalitarian position (and assuming that the Bible supported my position), but emerged from the trenches as a “limited complementarian.”
It all started with a conversation I had with one of my fellow classmates, who identified himself as a conservative complementarian and a student of John Piper (who is a very conservative complementarian). During our conversation, this student made it clear that he felt that men and women had very distinct roles in marriage, in society, and in the Church. Citing John Piper, this student said that anyone who disagreed with him (i.e., me) was doing “hermeneutical gymnastics” to arrive at their position.
Continue reading What Is the Bible, and How Should We Interpret It?