Longing for Eden What Captain Fantastic Reveals About the Longings of the Human Heart

Captain Fantastic begins in a paradise based on Plato’s Republic. Ben and Leslie, attempting to escape from Leslie’s mental illness, have retreated into the wilderness of the Northwestern United States, where they and their children live isolated from the rest of the world—isolated from greed, ambition, and deceit, from all that is broken in the world. There, in the Eden they’ve created, they live out what they think it means to be truly free, giving their children an intense physical and intellectual education and teaching them to live off the land.

But Leslie’s illness isn’t cured by paradise, and while in a hospital being treated for the only brokenness she and Ben could not escape, Leslie commits suicide. Leslie’s father forbids Ben from attending the funeral, but Ben is quickly reminded by his daughter Zaja of the highest ideal in their Eden: human freedom.

Together, he and his children venture back into the world from which he and Leslie escaped, and in the clash that ensues between Ben and Leslie’s (extremely wealthy) family, Ben questions both his ability to parent and the education that he’s been providing his children in the wilderness. Ben even comes to question the wife he thought he knew when he learns that she helped their oldest son Bodevan apply to elite colleges like Harvard and Stanford.

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Healthy Relationships and the Dangers of Social Media What a California Girl Taught Me About Practicing Healthy Relationship

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 What a California Girl Taught Me About Practicing Healthy Relationship

Can Christians Be Feminists? Part Six of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

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.

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Women in Ministry Part Five of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

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).

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From Marriage to Society Part Four of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

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 Part Four of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

“Wives Submit to Your Husbands” Part Three of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

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” Part Three of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

What Is the Bible, and How Should We Interpret It? Part Two of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

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? Part Two of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

Why I’m Not a (Secular) Feminist Part One of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

In late 2014, British actress and the Global Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, Emma Watson, delivered a speech as part of the launch of the UN’s He for She campaign—a campaign that, according to Watson, has at its core an attempt to redeem the word feminist. In the many months since Emma delivered the speech, I’ve found myself wondering if I am a feminist. For those of you who know me, you know that the Bible is an important part of my life. It molds and shapes my worldview. So, in the wake of Emma’s speech, I found myself asking whether the ideals espoused by the He for She campaign are something I can embrace, or whether I must reject them.

It would not be until late 2015, over a year after Emma delivered her speech, that I finally found resolve to my questioning, through a final paper I put together as part of my Christian ethics class at Fuller Theological Seminary. In the coming weeks, I will to invite you (for better or worse) into the inner musings of my mind and the thoughts spurred by the process of writing this paper, but for now, I’m going to start by articulating why I am most certainly not a secular feminist.

Continue reading Why I’m Not a (Secular) Feminist Part One of a Six-Part Series on Christianity and Feminism

Why I’m Actually Thankful for Donald Trump How Donald Trump's Hateful Rhetoric and Continued Popularity Exposes Issues in the Heart of American Culture

I’m quite certain that no name has been mentioned more frequently around American dinner tables in the last six months than that of Donald Trump. In fact, according to Google, searches for Donald Trump went up almost ten times in volume, to around 6.3 million, beginning in June of this year. The reason? Donald Trump has thrown his hat in the ring for the Republican nomination to be the next President of the United States, and it goes without saying that he’s been something of an…interesting candidate.

From Muslims to women to veterans to reporters to immigrants, Donald Trump has insulted and demeaned more people thus far in his presidential campaign than any other candidate in history. He has suggested that Mexican immigrants are rapists, that Muslims ought to be uniformly banned from entering the U.S., that mosques ought to be put under surveillance, and that our country ought to establish a database of the Muslims in this country.

While many people (myself included) lament Trump’s rhetoric as hate speech that has no place in 21st Century America, many more actually support Trump’s policies. In fact, 55% of Americans support the ban on Muslims entering the United States, and Trump has continued to garner an increasing amount of support from the Republican party, climbing from 18% back in July to around 34% today, with some polls reporting that Trump enjoys favorability as high as 39%.

Continue reading Why I’m Actually Thankful for Donald Trump How Donald Trump’s Hateful Rhetoric and Continued Popularity Exposes Issues in the Heart of American Culture

An Attitude of Gratitude The Discipline of Seeing God's Love Everywhere You Look

I still remember sitting amidst the fresh mountain air of the Pinecliff Camp and Retreat Center just east of Coalville, Utah, as we listened to Ron Kincaid teach us about Jesus. I remember him asking a powerful question that struck a chord in my soul: If God knows everything, including what you and I need, why then do we pray?

It’s just as powerful a question today as it was almost a decade ago. Even today, the only answer that I can give is that it fosters a sense of our dependence on the Creator. Test this: Take a survey of your life, and tally up all the things that rely on “luck” or “chance” or whatever term you like to use. Consider that your paycheck only comes if your company makes the money it needs to pay you, and that your company probably only makes the money it needs to pay you if a whole host of macroeconomic variables that are beyond anyone’s control are in a favorable state. Consider that your children and spouse only continue to live because the countless bad things we call “freak accidents” didn’t happen to them this week. Consider that your ability to live in your house, to put food on your table, to pay for your kids (or yourself) to go to school, is all dependent on your paycheck, the vulnerability of which we’ve already exposed.

So much in our life chalks up to what we dismiss as “luck” or “chance,” but when we come face to face with the living God, we quickly come to see that none of it is “luck” or “chance.” Answer this: can you surprise God? Try and throw God a surprise party. Christmas is coming up soon. It’s when we celebrate his birthday. Go ahead. Give it a shot. Let me know how it goes. Continue reading An Attitude of Gratitude The Discipline of Seeing God’s Love Everywhere You Look