Less than His Best What it Means for Women to Date Covenantally

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.

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Do We Believe in Marriage Anymore? What Our Dating Habits Say About Millennial Beliefs in Marriage

For the last two weeks, this concept of covenant has dominated my thoughts. (Some of my friends are ready to beat me over the head if they hear the word “covenantal” one more time.) Two weeks ago, covenant rocked my world, completely reshaping the way I relate to God and understand my history with him, and covenant has radically altered the way that I practice faithfulness to God in dating.

Covenant is a promise without an exit. It binds two or more individuals together, but because our culture has come to focus so much on individual freedom, the concept of covenant has all but disappeared from our habits and practices, and as I’ve reflected on both my dating history and the way our culture practices dating, I’ve come to see how an absence of covenant from our dating habits and practices is robbing us of God’s highest and best for romantic relationship.

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What Is a Covenant? How an Understanding of Biblical Covenant Elucidates God's Faithfulness

It’s his faithfulness that’s producing this ache in my heart, the way a sore muscle cries out as it’s stretched so that it may heal. I’m having to stare in the face lies that I’ve believed for twelve years of my life and see his faithfulness shining brightly through them all.

I wrote those words in my journal two days ago, then collapsed on the table at which I sat and began to sob. But contrary to bringing sorrow to my soul, those tears brought a smile and a laugh. In a single 24-hour period, everything I’d been learning and experiencing came together to deepen my understanding of a word that is central to the biblical story: covenant. But what is a covenant, exactly?

When it comes to understanding my relationship with God, I’ve fallen into one of two camps for almost half of my life. Either God let good (or bad) things happen to me because of my behavior (we’ll call this the “punishment view“), or, because I couldn’t possibly do anything to put God in my debt, I was supposed to follow the do’s and don’t’s of the Bible based in a knowledge that God loves me without being able to expect anything from God (we’ll call this the “unbalanced vulnerability view“). Both of these views, as I’ve recently discovered, fall short of how the Bible speaks of our relationship with God.

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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.

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“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