Category Archives: Men and women

Entitlement and Pharaoh

I’ve been studying through Exodus. I can’t tell you how many times I have read the account of the plagues.

But there is a recurring theme that is so common that we miss it. I know that this might sound strange, but I think you know what I mean. Something that is repeated so often that we miss how utterly astounding it is, like a shaft of sunlight bursting through the overhanging branches.

The message that Moses gave to Pharaoh was this:

Thus says the Lord, “Let my people go.”

After the 8th plague,when Egypt was almost completely destroyed, Pharaoh said,

Exodus 10:24
Then Pharaoh called to Moses and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you.”

When you pause for a moment, you realize something astounding. The Hebrews were God’s people. But Pharaoh had a deep-seated belief that they were HIS people. He believed that he was entitled to force them to work, dispose of them how he willed, and do with them what he pleased. He was Pharaoh. They were slaves.

It was a mindset that was so deeply engrained in him that it was unquestioned – a presupposition, to use Van Til’s phrase. “Presupposed entitlement”, if you will.

Presupposed entitlement is the assumption, partly inborn, partly acquired through culture, that one is entitled to exert power over another, simply by virtue of their ontology.

Pharaoh was Pharaoh. Of course he was entitled to do whatever he wanted to with the Hebrews. They were Hebrews.

This thinking is common with all fallen men and women. And it is so deeply engrained that we think it before we can even think. For this reason, it is very simple to gather a following, instill them with a sense of superiority over a group of people, and foster that presupposed entitlement. Whole cultures are consumed by it.

Just this past week, two white men were arrested. Three months ago, they got their guns, and got into their truck and followed a black man down the street. The black man was jogging. They demanded that he tell them what he is doing in their neighborhood. He, being afraid, lashed out and ended up getting shot.

There were no prosecutions until the video went viral. The men claimed that they thought he was responsible for a string of burglaries. It was assumed by EVERYONE in law and order that these two men had the right to do what they did. I do not wish to try the case, but I do want to look at some of the rhetoric surrounding the release of the video.

“He was told clearly to stop. He didn’t listen to instructions. He should has stopped and done what he was told to do.”

“It was self-defense”

The two white men were not police officers. They were not authorized in any way to command anyone to do anything. And right there is a perfect example of presupposed entitlement.

We are white. He is black. Of course we have the right to stop and question him.

This morning, a white man stopped a black delivery driver and demanded that he explain what he is doing in the neighborhood.

I have often marveled at the similarities between the arguments of patriarchalists and the arguments of slavery apologists . The similarity is right here: “We, as men, have the God-given right, by our creation, to order women around  – oops, I mean “lead”. We have God-given ontological superiority (woops, I mean “role of authority) and women have the God –given ontological role to submit.”

Substitute “white” for male, and “black” for female and you have the exact argument of the slavery apologists of the nineteenth century.

Perhaps this is why patriarchalist like Doug Wilson also defend chattel slavery as good for the black man…the heart of the issue is the same: White men have ontological entitlement to own and sell black slaves by virtue of their ontological superiority. Males have ontological entitlement over women for the same reason.

 

I have gotten pushback in certain circles for criticizing the “Bible belt culture” – accused of attacking the church.

I was not attacking the church. But I was indeed criticizing the “Bible Belt Culture”. The sort of entitlement that fills one’s head – where they believe that they have the unquestioned right to command a black man, or command a woman as they see fit – does not come overnight. It is engrained by the culture that one is in.

It is true that this entitlement is inborn, because we are all born of Adam. But what I am really talking about is this: only in an entitled culture could two white men use these excuses to escape prosecution for months.

“They thought he was a burglar. They told him to stop. He didn’t stop as he was commanded to.”

Presuppositional entitlement. “I will allow them to go, but they must leave their little ones at home.”

I have the right to command people as I see fit.

This has nothing to do with Christianity.

25 And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called`benefactors.’
26 “But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.
27 “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. (Luke 22:25-27 NKJ)

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Filed under Men and women, Patriarchy, Race

Male and Female

The biggest bullies on social media are those who have defined for themselves what masculine and feminine traits are, and then ridicule, mock, and belittle anyone who doesn’t fit that definition. Their definitions usually come from their own opinions based on their observations in their circles. I would multiply examples, but a few moments in a “Reformed” social media group or a few moments on Twitter will give enough examples.

So many are quick to label someone effeminate, or “tom-boy”. Feminist, egalitarian, effeminate, sissy, are thrown around carelessly like arrows, and they are not directed towards sin. They are directed towards clothing, hair style, manners, personality traits, pitch of the voice, or even dialect.

I was recently reviled publicly for wearing a pink shirt, for example.

So now that I have a few minutes, I would like to share a few thoughts with everyone concerning the gospel and good works.

God made humans male and female. There are two sexes, and only two sexes. We do, however, live in a fallen world so there are at times confusions in the biology. These are the exceptions, rather than the rule.

Both male and female are human beings in God’s image. Neither is less or greater than the other. Neither has closer access to God than the other. The only access that anyone has to the Father is through Christ alone. And in Christ, there is no male or female. We must therefore be careful to avoid pride ( “I thank God I am not like the others”). We also must be wary of implying that there is another mediator between God and man, as “covenant headship” theologians often do. The man is not closer to God that the woman, nor is he a covenant mediator. Contrary to so many “sanctified testosterone” types, the male does not image God differently than the female does, as a simple reading of Genesis 1 and 2 clearly show.

Furthermore, God also gives gifts to human beings as he sees fit. There is a diversity of gifts, and diversity of personalities, a diversity of talents. There is nothing in Scripture that states or implies that God gives “masculine” gifts or “feminine” gifts.

We must be careful not to confuse gender observations with ethics. God gave Ten Commandments, and he added no more. Sin is widely spread and diverse, but it is defined, at bottom, as want of conformity to divine law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, and not in the opinions of men. Understanding this is the first step to liberty.

Over the centuries and through the cultures, you can observe certain characteristics in women and certain characteristics in men. These characteristics are seen everywhere. Some are cultural, some are inborn, some are gifts, some are learned. I admit it freely. The Bible acknowledges it. The rich diversity between the sexes is part of the beauty and wonder of creation.

Here is where the problem occurs – when you take the observable and general differences between men and women and make them ethical requirements in addition to the Ten Commandments.

For example, a boy likes the feel of fabrics and loves to experiment with colors and shapes and design. He has been drawn to dressing dolls stylishly since childhood. Are these masculine or feminine characteristics? Is there sin involved? And what is that sin?

Do you see what I am getting at? Instead of encouraging this young man to develop his gifts as a man in the kingdom of God, glorifying Him for all his gifts and benefits, our culture and even our church leaders have mocked him as being “effeminate”, told him he was gay, and tried to force him into more “manly” endeavors. The scripture tells us that it was the Holy Spirit that gifted Bezalel to work with fabrics and colors and jewelry and design and he built the tabernacle in the wilderness.

Are design, art, poetry, music, fabrics, textiles, colors feminine values? Should we be concerned if our children do not follow our cultural stereotypes? What sin is involved? Before you throw the word “effeminate” at me, that word (1 Cor. 6:9) refers to the act of homosexual sex, in violation of the seventh commandment. It does not refer to violations of some guy’s opinion as to what masculine and feminine traits are.

Here is another example. Suppose a woman is drawn to sports, hunting, wearing jeans. Or she is drawn towards the study of theology and wishes to pursue those studies.

Or she is drawn to medicine or law, and desires to pursue careers in those fields. What sin is she committing? Higher education, careers, advancement, sports, and  such things are not “masculine” characteristics. Are we taking a subculture of the fifties or the opinions of some guy and elevating them to the status of the canon of scripture?

The parable of the talents applies to both men and women equally. Why are women to be excluded from pursuing the gifts that God has given to them?

God made them male and female. By taking the woman from the side of the man, he made an equal – a “helper as face to face” (literal Hebrew in Genesis 2:18). This, by the way, was what “meet” meant in 1611 when the King James version was translated. Face to face. Not looked down on; not to look down on. But face to face.

And beyond that, in Christ both male and female are partakers of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12-14), and both are considered firstborn sons who inherit the earth. As children of God and members of Christ, we are partakers with him in all his treasures and gifts (Heidelberg Catechism 55, 1 Cor. 12:12-13). Who are we to determine that some of those gifts are masculine and some are feminine? Scripture certainly does not.

There are no male commandments and female commandments. There are only ten and they are addressed to everyone. And he added no more. There are no pink parts of the bible or blue parts of the bible. “Quit you like men” is addressed to both men and women.

As are these:

“Be strong and courageous.”

“Be gentle and kind.”

“Do all to the glory of God.”

“Love one another”

And this one:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Gal. 5:1)

God despises the multiplying of commandments and will judge those who seek to hold his children in bondage to the opinions of men (Heidelberg Catechism 91, Deut. 12:32; Isa. 29:13; Matt. 15:9)

Instead of talking about “masculine” and “feminine” roles, let us use the biblical words. Men and women are obedient or disobedient. Faithful, or unbelieving. In Christ, or cut off. Let’s stop with the rest of the nonsense. We as believers are to not be conformed to the world, which certainly includes following the political arguments thrown against women during the time of women’s suffrage. Those arguments were based upon Darwinism, not Christ.

Instead of wondering if you actions are masculine or feminine, just do all you do in faith, in liberty, and giving glory to the one who made you. Seek to put off the old man and put on the new, and stand fast in liberty.

Don’t let anyone tell you what color of shirt to wear, what hobbies to enjoy, what job you should have or where you should be. Love God, and do as you please.

Let the peace of God rule your hearts and minds.

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Filed under Men and women

An introduction…

As a pastor, I would like to take a moment to plead with my fellow pastors and elders. I would like to plead with you on behalf of someone in your congregation that you have not met yet.

And so I would like to introduce you.

In my introduction, I will use “she”, but be assured that this person you haven’t met could very well be a male.

It is true that you might shake her hand every day.

You have probably done the pastoral visit, if you are of the Reformed persuasion. You have most likely taken an elder or a deacon and sat in their living room and asked questions like this:

  • Do you tithe?
  • Do you attend church regularly?
  • Do you have any issues with the leadership?
  • Do you have any unresolved sins in your life?

And she (or he) gave all of the expected answers and you smiled and nodded and said a prayer and ate a cookie and moved to the next house.

But you didn’t meet her.

She might be involved in every good work. She might be the first to volunteer to bring a meal to the shut-ins. She might be the first to be the meal coordinator and refreshment planner for the congregation.

Or she might be one who sits in the back and leaves the minute the service is over.

She might come sporadically. She might be at every service and every prayer meeting.

You might have known of her and seen her in the pews for 25 years.

And now I would like to introduce you to her. It is about time, don’t you think?

She is carrying in her heart an unspeakable burden, which she has never shared with anyone. And she certainly won’t with you.

  • She won’t tell you of the years that her father snuck into her bedroom at night.
  • She won’t tell you of being terrified of her husband.
  • She won’t tell you that she curls into a tight ball and shakes uncontrollably every night.
  • She won’t tell you about how she walks to her car every night with her keys clenched between her fingers, always on hyper-alert.
  • She won’t tell you about the time that dinner was late and her husband screamed at her for hours; or the time that she cried herself asleep because her husband was out all night again.
  • She won’t tell you about that time when she was so afraid she lay in her bed with her clothes on in case she had to run.
  • She won’t tell you about her grandfather’s roaming hands or what she had to do to get that job or why to this day certain songs cause her to break down.

Or perhaps this person you haven’t met yet is a man. He might be an elder, or the leader of the youth group. He might always be there. He might have a wife and kids. He might be single. He might be the first to serve, or the first to leave. He might have been sitting in your congregation for 25 years.

But he also carries around unspeakable burdens that he will never, ever tell anyone.

He especially won’t tell you.

  • He won’t tell you about the time his father took a belt to him until blood ran down his legs.
  • He won’t tell you about his struggles with lust or same sex attraction.
  • He won’t tell you that he is terrified of being known and terrified of being alone all at once.
  • He won’t tell you that his biggest fear is that one day his children will look at him with contempt.
  • He won’t tell you that he fears that his wife will someday find out what he is really like and head for the door.
  • He won’t tell you about Uncle Marty and all of the secrets that they kept; or the overnight scouting trips with Dad’s best friend and all of the dark things that happened in dark rooms with heavy breathing and foul breath and how to this day certain songs and certain smells cause him to panic and curl up in a ball.

And when you read this, you might say, “They should talk to me. They know I’ll listen. There’s no excuse for not talking to the pastor.”

And that is one of the reasons they aren’t going to tell you. They know you wouldn’t understand. They know that you wouldn’t care to understand.

Perhaps they know that you view your congregation as simply a stepping stone in your career. They know that you will only be there are year or two, until something better comes along. You are upwardly mobile, after all. And tiny, rural churches aren’t nearly as significant as big city churches.

Or perhaps they know that you already know everything and they are terrified that you will find out what they are really like. Dirty; outcast; unclean – they aren’t really fit for any company, either God’s or man’s.

And there is a part of them that knows that this is what you will think of them if they tell you who they really are, and they can’t bear that.

Better to keep it buried inside and carry it to the grave.

 

For those who haven’t dismissed everything I’ve said yet – if you truly want to know this person that I am introducing you to, then perhaps you will hear me one more time. I am begging you for the sake of the one you haven’t met yet.

There is a reason why she won’t tell you who she really is. She doesn’t trust you.

There is the obvious reason. She is perhaps afraid that you might gossip. But I think it even goes deeper.

She doesn’t think you can handle the darkness that is inside and know what to do with it.

She thinks that you will respond with revulsion and rejection, and that is what she (or he) can’t bear.

She heard you when you mocked the #metoo movement as a bunch of money-grubbing whiners, or scorned exes.

She heard you when you said, “God hates f**s”.

She heard you when you blamed the rape victim by asking “What was she wearing?” When you preached about dressing like a hooker and inciting men to lust. I don’t know what you meant, but what she heard is that it was her fault that her mom’s boyfriend snuck into her bedroom every night when she was nine years old.

She heard you when you preached about Bathsheba inciting David to take her by bathing on the roof, even though the scripture says no such thing.

She heard you when you preached that a woman’s responsibility is to give great sex on demand so her husband won’t stray. “If he has milk at home, he doesn’t need to go looking.” And she watched everyone chuckling at your wit. And she wondered what was wrong with her that her husband has a new girlfriend every week, and spends every evening with pornography. She tries, but won’t ever measure up.

And she watches you squirm uncomfortable whenever anyone mentions sex. She sees your indignation and fear over cleavage and bare shoulders and exposed knees, and she wonders to herself – if he can’t handle that, then how on earth will he be able to deal with reality?

She hears you when you make your funny, funny jokes from the pulpit about how women are. She sees how you laugh when famous preachers say, “go home.”

She hears the jokes and she sees everyone laughing at it and she dies just a little bit inside.

 

And it isn’t just her. There are also men who will never talk to you about their true struggles.

They hear your contempt about “effeminate” men, and how you praise the hunter and the sportsman and the athlete, and the hardbody, and the one who goes to the gym and works out (like Paul did, you know, when he “beat his body into submission”. Obviously he is talking about crossfit, ancient Sparta style!)

He hears you when you mock the poor, the sick, the lame. He hears when you show so much contempt to the one who “doesn’t keep his woman inline”.

And when you ridicule depression or chronic illness. When you roll your eyes at yet another man who “won’t work, so he shouldn’t eat!” because you have no concept what continual, chronic illness feels like.

Every time you preach on Christian manhood, or testosterone-fueled sanctification, he shrinks a little more inside.

Every time you say, “Men need to man up!” he hears his schoolyard bully, his father’s voice, his old PE coach.

  • “What are you? a girl?”
  • “You’ll make a great wife someday. Hahahahaha”
  • “Quit your bawling, you baby”
  • “Act like a man, you sissy. God hates f**s.”

And so when he hears those voices in you, he shrinks a little more. He might puff out his chest, and laugh along at the poor unfortunate, but inside he vows to himself that he will never, ever, ever speak of the darkest places of his heart.

And for all of these who carry dark recesses in their hearts – they know that Jesus said, “Who touched me” and then listened.

They know that God hears them and that Jesus knows them by name. But how they long to talk to someone! How they fear the loneliness of the dark, but even more than that they fear exposure.

Worm the Judge says, “I sentence you to be exposed before your peers!” and they continue to lay in the curled ball, building the wall around their soul, higher and higher and higher.

And at the same time, they are terrified of dying alone.

And scripture teaches us that Christ came to restore our voice. It is speaking aloud that brings light into the darkness. As long as we stay hidden, the darkness reigns. But speaking into the light is terrifying, especially when they know what you will do with their greatest fears.

 

In Proverbs 31, we read this:

Open your mouth for the speechless, In the cause of all who are appointed to die. (Prov. 31:8 NKJ)

The translation doesn’t quite capture it: “Appointed to die”. The NASB says, “The unfortunate”. The ESV, “Destitute”.

The literal is “sons of vanishing”.

Those who have the characteristic of hiding, silently waiting until they can slink away. Those who desperately want to never be known and yet want to be known all at once.

If you have ever seen “The Wall”, you can picture Pinky curled up in a ball on the ground behind the wall. “The son of vanishing”.

And I don’t care if you have a church of 20 people, all of them born and raised in the best tradition – or if you have a church of 300, from every walk of life – up to a mega-church of thousands.

Your congregation is full of sons of vanishing. They are the ones that you so desperately need to meet.

The first step is to acknowledge to yourself that you need to meet them. And then seek to understand the point of view of someone else.

We profess the “Total Depravity of Man” in the creeds of most churches. But do we act like it?

I wonder how often we dismiss the ugly things because we really don’t believe that people are that ugly.

Elie Wiesel remembers that his whole village had plenty of time to leave before the Nazis got there. The Jews could have escaped. They were even warned of the danger by someone who made his way back after seeing first hand what was going on.

But they kept going like they always did, because things like that don’t really happen.

  • “She is just looking for attention”.”
  • “He’s just melodramatic.”
  • “He’s just trying to get clicks on his blog”

At bottom, we confess Total Depravity with our tongues but don’t really believe it. Not us. Not our town. Not our tribe. Not our denomination.

And the child of vanishing in your congregation knows that. You’ve preached on it often enough – the wonders of being Reformed and the horrors of being “other”.

So she will continue to bring meals to the shut ins. He will continue to teach Sunday School. They will put on the happy face and everything will be just fine.

The panic attacks should go away any time now.

The nightmares and cold sweats should stop sometime.

He doesn’t hit me ALL the time…”

If I learn some new tricks and buy some new lingerie maybe I can get him to love me again….

And there may be a part of them that would wonder what it would be like to have a pastor that they could talk to.

Don’t get me wrong. They like you. But they won’t talk to you.

And if you are wondering if this is you, ask yourself – How many children of vanishing have talked to you?

If you don’t know of any in your congregation, then you have your answer.

“Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?
3 “You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock.
4 “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.
5 “And they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and they became food for every beast of the field and were scattered.
(Ezek. 34:2-5)

If you are a child of vanishing, wishing to remain hidden, I am so sorry. But God did not leave you to hide in the dark.

He calls to you – Come unto me, and I will give you rest.

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Filed under Men and women, Pastoral ministry

Proverbs 31 thoughts

Here’s a thought I’ve been having.

The first 9 chapters of Proverbs are a sermon (all connected) about the value of gaining wisdom. If you have wisdom, you are blessed of God and are delivered from the snares and traps of foolishness (wickedness of every kind). I preached on that theme here.

Because of the curse on the world, our default state is wickedness. We are ensnared by sin of every kind, our nature is attracted to its allure – the allure to be as God knowing good and evil. This results in the works of death – rage, reviling, fornication, adultery, covetousness of every kind, and so on…Until we find ourselves caught and unable to get free. “Not knowing that it is for our life”.

The concept of wisdom is personified as a wise woman calling from street to street – come to me and live.

The concept of folly is personified as the harlot, also seeking to ensnare and enslave humankind.

It isn’t about men versus women; it is about wisdom versus folly. Which one will you hear? Where will you turn in? Whose call will you answer?

If one has wisdom, one is protected from the woman “folly”.

(Proverbs 7:4-5) 4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” And call understanding your nearest kin,

5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman, From the seductress who flatters with her words.

This has far deeper application that simply keeping one from the allure of fornication.

As you read through these nine chapters, you see that Lady Wisdom actually delivers you from Lady Folly. One is the path of life and the other is the path of death.

Get wisdom.

And the wisdom of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. The wisdom of God is a person, our Lord Jesus, who call us to himself, fills us with his spirit so that the fruit of the spirit may be seen in us.

This is what Proverbs is about. Get wisdom, and your life will look different than if you remain in folly. One path ends in death and ruin. The other in life and prosperity.

So, all of that to say this: How does Proverbs end?

10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.

(Pro 31:10-11)

Perhaps Proverbs 31 isn’t about Lori Alexander at all. Maybe it isn’t even talking about the ideal Victorian “Proverbs 31 woman”.

I think that the compiler of the proverbs ended the book with this poem on purpose and that it isn’t random. Since the book opens with that sermon on the value of gaining wisdom, personified as “Lady Wisdom”; the book ends the same way. “Get wisdom. Her price is above rubies.”

As a brilliant poem, a metaphor of wisdom, with depth and beauty, the whole book is summed up. “Do you wish to be wise and understanding? Get wisdom.”

The book begins here:

13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;
14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
16 Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her.
(Pro 3:13-18)

And ends here:

10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.

(Pro 31:10-11)

So the application is here – Nabal married a wise woman, but it did him no good, for he was a fool. He never married “wisdom”.

In order for you to prosper and no longer be a fool, you must marry wisdom. Wisdom will guard you from the Woman “Folly”.

So marry wisdom. Her price is above rubies.

Or, in New Testament terms – “Come unto me, and I will give you rest”.

Again, it is about Christ.

The Proverbs 31 woman is Christ. And you – whether man or woman or child – are called to marry her. The advantages are incalculable.

Of course, when you marry Christ, you begin to look like Christ. So the hard-working, kind, loving, honored, blessed, prosperous “woman” becomes your model to follow – but this isn’t just for women, for it isn’t just women who are called to follow Christ. This is for all who profess his name.

Most of the time, we need to lift our eyes a little higher. The gospel sets us free.

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Filed under Gospel, Men and women, Wisdom

The Ordination of Women: Why not?

I enter this discussion with fear and trembling. I recently commended a wonderful article from our friend Rachel Green Miller concerning Priscilla. In that article, she repeated several times that she is NOT advocating for the ordination of women to office. I agree with her. I find it sad and disheartening that she has been bullied and hounded so fiercely that she has had to withdraw from social media for suggesting that women and men are equally gifted to teach theology. But history, scripture and simply observation of our times prove her correct. Bullying, insults, reviling, threats, contempt and hatred have no place in theological discussion. Christ has nothing to do with Belial.

The fact is that women and men are equally filled with the Holy Spirit and members of Christ’s anointing (See Heidelberg Catechism Q and A 32 for an excellent summary of what it means to be filled with the Spirit). The preaching of the gospel came to the rich and poor, bond and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile. All who believed on His Name were filled with the Spirit, united to Him, and thus were the firstborn of God and heirs according to the promise (see Galatians 3 and 4).

To men and women both were given the gifts of the Spirit. Some women are very gifted in theology, in writing, in speaking, in advocacy, in insight, in organization. Biblically speaking, there is no difference in the gifts given to men or the gifts given to women. They are all given by the free grace of the Holy Spirit, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. This is called “The Communion of the Saints”. For an excellent summary of that doctrine, I would direct you to Heidelberg Catechism #55.

In fact, this is so important that I will simply put question 55 here:

55. What dost thou understand by the “communion of saints”?

First, that believers, one and all, as members of the Lord Jesus Christ, are partakers with Him in all His treasures and gifts; secondly, that each one must feel himself bound to use his gifts readily and cheerfully for the advantage and welfare of other members.

Notice the emphasis in this 500 year old catechism on the universality of ALL the gifts. Believers, one and all, are members of Christ and partakers with him of ALL his treasures and gifts.

Why then do we not just ordain women to office? Isn’t it a contradiction between the Reformed confessions and the Reformed books of order?

This is what I would like to address.

First, I would like to stress those things that are NOT the reason. It is not because men are natural leaders. Many who are called to preach are not natural leaders. Many are introverts and far more comfortable in their study than leading any group. And many women are gifted with leadership.

It is not because women are more easily deceived. This is not the meaning of 1 Timothy 2, which I will address in its proper place. Adam also ate the fruit, being deceived by sin (compare to Romans 7) and through him the human race fell. There is nothing in scripture that teaches that Eve’s sin was imputed to every woman. The consistent teaching of scripture is that through one man sin entered the world and death by sin. I will address what the deception of Eve is further on.

It is also not because of the order that God has placed in the home. God has certainly not placed all women under the authority of all men, either in the church or in the home.

The reason that we do not ordain women has to do with what the office of bishop or elder actually is. It has to do with representation.

And that goes back to the nature of our salvation.

Jesus told Nicodemus that in order to see the kingdom of God he must be “born again by water and the Spirit.” In Adam, the human race fell. Every man, woman and child is born under the death penalty already, and there is nothing that they can do about it.

When you understand the problem, then you understand the impossibility of the cure. The problem is our first birth. We were born into the world spiritually dead, in bodies that were born dying because of the guilt of Adam already put on our account before birth.

And the only cure is a new birth with a new head of a new race. Nicodemus understood the impossibility of that far better than the revival preachers of the modern era. It isn’t fixed by walking down the aisle, by persuasion, by an act of the will, or by anything else that we as human beings are capable of doing.

We must “crawl back into the womb” and be born again under a new covenant head. And how can this be? Only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. When we believe on Christ, we are “ingrafted” into him, our New Covenant Head, the second Adam. The same spirit that dwells in him dwells in us and so we are truly flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone.

Therefore, we are no longer under the curse of Adam for now we are in Christ, the firstborn, the heir to the throne of David according to the flesh.

(1Co 15:21-22) 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

Again, the Heidelberg Catechism:

20. Are all men then saved by Christ as they perished in Adam?

No, only those who by true faith are ingrafted into Him and receive all His benefits.

But where does this faith come from? Is it the natural result of skilled persuasion? Once again, we must understand the nature of the problem. In Adam, we are not just a little off. We are not naturally pretty good people who just have some problems to work out. We are dead in trespasses and sins. We have an incurable disease. The exhortation to believe on Jesus Christ is exactly like preaching to dry bones (Ezekiel 37). Unless the Spirit “breathes” upon the bones, they will remain dead no matter how skilled or how eloquent or how learned the preacher is.

This is why Paul wrote:

(Rom 10:14-15) 14 How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!”

God has placed the salvation of the world in only one place: the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our great prophet, priest and king. He is, even today, ruling over all things and proclaiming the gospel of peace throughout the world.

To be sure, he is not walking among us according to the flesh, but he has sent preachers throughout the world proclaiming his word from ordinary pulpits every Lord’s day.

And some of these preachers are eloquent and wise. Some are rustic and simple. Some are erudite and polished. Some are colloquial and uncultured. But if they are “preaching”, then they are “sent.” And if they are sent, then they are representatives of Christ given to His Bride, the church.

If they are not “sent”, then they might be doing a lot of things, but they aren’t preaching.

The reason is this: The only way for anyone to be saved it to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. To that end, he has sent apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4) to build up the church. The ministry of the word is a representative ministry. When a preacher is sent to proclaim the word, he no longer is acting on his own capacity. He is representing Christ.

For this reason, Paul said to the Ephesians that Jesus came and “preached peace” to them. Jesus never went to Ephesus in the flesh. But he did go to Ephesus in the spirit, in the person of his ministers of the word.

So Christ chose 12 apostles, all of whom were men. They all came from every background, every social class, every education level, because faith will never come through the flesh. But they were all men because they were called to represent Christ as the groom to the church as his bride.

The great picture on Sunday morning is Christ breaking bread for his bride. The minister of the gospel is on one hand the bride of Christ, like everyone else in the congregation. But on the other hand, when he is breaking bread, administering the waters of baptism, or preaching the word, he is representing Christ himself.

Which is why Paul said, “Who is sufficient for these things?”

If we forget that, and think solely in terms of “who is a good, educated, learned, skilled leader”, then we are thinking in terms of the flesh, and denying that one must be born again by the Spirit.

I know that is a big jump to make for this culture. Perhaps an illustration from scripture would help.

Naaman was a Aramean general. He was very skilled and a feared and respected warrior, trusted and honored by the king. But he had leprosy and he could do nothing about it.

Through the witness of a little servant girl, he heard about a man in Israel that could cure leprosy. He came to Elisha, the man of God.

Elisha didn’t even go out to meet Naaman. Instead, he sent his servant with a message. “Dip in the Jordan seven times and you will be clean.”

Naaman was furious at the message. “Aren’t the rivers in Aram far better than the Jordan?”

Naaman was thinking in terms of the flesh. He was thinking that God had found a secret about the water of Jordan that he was telling him about, but leaving the decision as to whether it was true or false in the hands of Naaman.

But Naaman thought that the water in Syria was just as good. Elisha’s god didn’t know what he was talking about. If the secret lay in the water, then why not use Syrian water? It is better than Jewish water.

But the secret wasn’t in water. It was in the power of God. God had freely chosen to heal Naaman, but he connected that healing to a means – the River Jordan.

And so today, God has promised healing, faith, salvation – but has connected it to one thing. The preaching of the representative of Christ. It isn’t in the eloquence. It isn’t in the skill. It isn’t in the knowledge.

It is in the power of God alone.

The deception of Eve, then, is this. She thought that the secret of life and wisdom was in the tree and that God was wrong in forbidding them from taking it. She saw that it was good for food. It was desirable to make one wise. God was wrong.

But the secret of the tree wasn’t in the tree. It was in the command of God. Salvation doesn’t come because I do the right thing, make the right choices, live a better life, fix a few problems. Life was represented in the Tree of Life. But Eve thought that she had a better way. This was her deception.

Eve thought she could fix things by taking action. This was her deception. Paul’s warning was to the church of all ages. Eve was deceived. The problem in the church is not that “men are in charge”; nor is it that “women have taken over”. The problem is only one: mankind is dead in trespasses and sins, and there is only one cure. Jesus Christ crucified according to the gospel preached among you.

Adam rebelled and wanted to be god. He wasn’t deceived the same way as Eve. And death entered the world.

In order for me to live I must be born again, and this only comes when the spirit blows. And that spirit is not coerced, forced, manipulated, bought, or commanded. He blows where he wants to blow. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy.

And so to illustrate this for all time, he has called weak and foolish men to represent Christ to the bride. He doesn’t call the most gifted, the most educated, the best leaders, the most eloquent statesmen. He calls the ordinary man, and puts his spirit on him and calls him to represent the Groom. Through the proclamation of the word, the Groom calls the Bride to himself.

10 “My beloved responded and said to me, ‘Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along.

11 ‘For behold, the winter is past, The rain is over and gone.

12 ‘The flowers have already appeared in the land; The time has arrived for pruning the vines, And the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land.

13 ‘The fig tree has ripened its figs, And the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, And come along!'” (Sol 2:10-13)

The deception of Eve plays out in every era. That salvation somehow comes through the flesh. We get better ideas, better skills, better leadership and that will somehow cause people to be saved. We flock to the next mega-church to the next guy who has a better idea on how to be saved from sin.

If salvation comes from making the right choices, then the one who can convince us to make better choices by skill and charisma is the one to follow, whether they are man or woman.

But if salvation comes only by faith, and faith is a gift of God, then we must go to where he is promised to meet with us. Where the Groom is feeding his Bride.

‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts. (Zec 4:6)

It has to do with representation, not sex, skill or charisma. The Lord Jesus must proclaim peace to us or there is no salvation. For this reason, God generally doesn’t call the most gifted, the most eloquent, or the most wise. Calvin writes,

“…This is the best and most useful exercise in humility, when (Jesus) accustoms us to obey his Word, even though it be preached through men like us and sometimes even by those of lower worth that we. If he spoke from heaven, it would not be surprising if his sacred oracles were to be reverently received without delay by the ears and minds of all. For who would not dread the presence of his power? Who would not be stricken down at the sight of such great majesty? Who would not be confounded at such boundless splendor? But when a puny man risen from the dust speaks in God’s name, at this point we best evidence our piety and obedience toward God if we show ourselves teachable toward his minister, although he excels us in nothing. It was for this reason, then that he hid the treasure of his heavenly wisdom in weak and earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7) in order to prove more surely how much we should esteem it (Institutes, Book 4, chapter 3)

Like the girl in Naaman’s day, everyone should point the Naamans of the world to Christ, but that is different than preaching. Preaching is representing the Groom before the Bride.

How shall they preach except they be sent?

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Filed under Men and women, practical theology, Uncategorized

The Woman and the Vow

Having heard yet again that Numbers 30 teaches that every woman is under a “covenant head” who has absolute authority over every decision she makes, I decided to correct that and draw your attention to the text itself.

Before my meager comments, I would suggest that you read the passage for yourself. I’ll wait.

Now, you may have heard it taught that this means that a woman under her father’s headship until she is married and then that transfers to her husband. You may have heard it said that this teaches that a father can annul a marriage or a credit application or a rental agreement.

You may have heard that it teaches a thing called “covenantal headship”, even though the scripture only speaks of Adam and Christ as covenant heads.

But a simple reading of the passage shows that it teaches no such thing.

First, notice that it is said twice that it refers to young women still at home, or married women. God specifically, by name, excludes widows and divorced or otherwise single women, (verse 9-10; verse 16) assuming that they have enough wisdom and understanding to make their own vows. They are bound to their vows, which shows that God values the voice of a woman far more than most patriarchialists.

Second, this is a passage that has to do with vows. A vow had a specific religious meaning in scripture. To quote from Nelson’s dictionary (or any other bible dictionary you might have),

A vow is “a solemn promise or pledge that binds a person to perform a specified act or behave in a certain manner….All vows were made to God as a promise in expectation of his favor (Gen. 28:20) or in thanksgiving for his blessing (Psalm 119:12-14)…Vowing is joyful worship in faith and love (Psalm 61:4-5, 8)”

In other words, a vow is a specific act of worship. The whole point of Numbers 30 (and you can also look at Eccl. 5:4-6) is that when one makes a vow, one is bound to perform it, for God has no pleasure in fools. This is important to remember. Look again at Numbers 30 verse 2 for the context of what I am about to say.

Scripture gives several examples of these kinds of vows. Jacob took one. Jephthah took a foolish one. Even the Apostle Paul took a vow and traveled to Jerusalem to perform it (Acts 18:18). A vow is a specific act of worship and devotion.

But there is one example of a vow taken by a woman married to a husband that would be very helpful to analyze for this discussion. Hannah took a vow that if the Lord opened her womb, she would dedicate the child to the Lord to serve in the Temple every day of his life (1 Sam. 1). It was a vow of faith by a woman who was a prophet. In her mouth and in her heart, she longed for a redeemer to come out of Zion and she knew somehow that the child that the Lord would give her would lead to that end (See her song in 1 Sam. 2).

This was a vow of worship made by a woman of faith, who was also living with a husband, Elkanah. This would be a direct application of Numbers 30. So let’s look at it from that perspective.

A vow made in the temple before the Lord is a serious thing, and Hannah is bound to perform it. But the vow also involved Elkanah. After all, it was his child as well. Suppose he was furious, and absolutely refused to give his son to the Lord. That would be his right to do so. Vows, after all, were voluntary. If Elkanah was adamantly opposed to the vow, this could cause great trouble to Hannah.

What could she do? She could infuriate, disappoint, frustrate, anger her husband and live with the consequences, or she could go back on her vow and disobey God – which, as we have said, is an offense that God does not take lightly.

It would seem that she would be in a horrible mess.

And this is where Numbers 30 comes in. If the woman is still under her father’s roof, or has a husband, her vow does not just affect her. If the father or husband refuse, she is no longer bound to her vow. God accepts her and loves her and honors her and wants her to be at peace in her home.

It is interesting that God does not forbid women from making vows. He assumes that she has property and goods and strength and the ability to keep the vow. He doesn’t even teach that she should “check with her husband first”.

God cares for the wives and daughters, who are in  his image and also called to have dominion. He honors their voice and their worship; he accepts their sacrifices of praise and he hears and honors their vows. They are called to take that very seriously.

But God also knows that a vow – since it usually involved money, goods, livestock or perhaps even children – also affected the husband or the father. If he was of the possessive sort or simply did not want to give up the goods, she was no longer bound, but free.

For God would have us be free, not in bondage.

On another note, since the Temple worship and the sacrifices and priesthood involved with it all are no longer part of the worship of God, having been abolished by Christ, the vow as practiced by Israel no longer applies. But we can still live in peace and freedom which is what God would have of us.

Never let anyone bring you back under the yoke of bondage, no matter how many letters they have on their name.

And one more thing, it is very beneficial to read the scripture for yourselves and see if it actually says what you have been told it says. Don’t be threatened by credentials. You also are led by the spirit. Search the scriptures, and see if these things be so (Acts 17:11).

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Filed under Marriage, Men and women, Patriarchy

Love and service

As many of you know, my daughter is recovering from a horrible disease, that has left her brain damaged. We do not know if it is permanent yet. Today she took the initiative and got her own lunch, did her own grooming and folded her own laundry. My heart almost burst with how well she is doing.

My wife, though, has so much pain in her foot that every step is excruciating. She lives with pain that most of us will never experience. She has two dislocated toes that are not healing and the joints have been damaged so that they will not stay where they are supposed to. The doctor has ordered her to stay off of it.

That is challenging, to say the least, because someone needs to care for Margaret. Fortunately, I have a laundry system in place, I am an excellent cook, I know how to vacuum and do it frequently. Susan can sit with Margaret and teach her to read and write again, and I can do the housework and cook and clean. If Susan will follow that plan, her foot can start to heal.

But she is a hard woman to keep down. She has dragons to slay.

 

It reminds me of several years ago. I had a birthday, and Susan and my daughters gave me a huge surprise party. It was wonderful.

It was right in the middle of a huge flare of Susan’s CRPS. Please look it up if you don’t remember it. It is a brutal and excruciating health condition. We went to Italy for the cure.

By the time the guests had arrived and I had gotten there (thoroughly surprised) I could tell by her eyes that she had had enough and her pain was through the roof. I took her to a quiet place and made her sit.

I welcomed everyone, prayed for the meal, and fixed a plate to take to Susan. One man was looking at me with contempt. He sneered to a friend of mine, “Anyone that would take food to his wife is a pussy.”

That was when I realized that this patriarchial, chest-thumping, posturing, posing, “men are to be men and women are to be women” garbage was not just wrong. It was dangerous, unloving, hateful, and set on fire from the depths of hell.

And today I have no patience for it.

I cannot stand the masculine and feminine ontology garbage, as if that is actually a biblical category.

I cannot stand the bullying and the posing and the chest-thumping.

I cannot stand the name calling and the posturing.

What exactly is it that men are supposed to be doing again? What exactly is it that women are supposed to be doing again?

Tell me about how she needs to be “keeper at home” one more time. Tell me about your ideal little fantasy world and about the ontology of my wife. Please enlighten me with your ivory tower back-slapping and speculation and the twisting of the scripture to fit your comfort level. Tell me again about how the men slay the dragons and the women are to be rescued while my wife fights day and night for the life of her daughter. Tell me again about the priority and superiority of men. We are all very impressed down here on earth.

The rest of us are trying to survive. Most of us in the history of the world have not had the luxury of pontificating in our easy chairs while the little woman fixes us a sandwich.

So when you are writing your theses, the rest of us will get on with surviving. I will continue to serve my wife and take the contempt of the mindless drones who cannot see the beauty of the gospel past their own tribe and their own experiences.

I will continue to nurse my daughter back to health and continue to try to get my wife to stay off of her feet so she can heal.

So go back to quoting all of the church fathers and drinking your trendy microbrews through your manly beards while your cowed wives and children kneel tremblingly at your feet. If that floats your boat, go ahead. Don’t be surprised to wake up and find she isn’t there any more. But that isn’t my business.

My dryer just rang, so I will fold clothes. Tonight for dinner I am making mushroom risotto. My risotto is fabulous.

I will probably listen to Air Supply while I am doing it. When I get my family settled, I will pull out my books and my computer again and work on my sermon.

You do your thing.

I’ll do mine.

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Filed under Encephalitis journey, Men and women

As Christ loved the Church…

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; (Eph 5:25)

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1Pe 3:7)

There is a growing problem among young men today. Pornography is so available that a large majority of men are not able to love a real woman, even physically. A young woman is simply an object, whose sole purpose of existing is to cater to a man’s whims and moods. A real woman is to be understood and loved, and this is too much to ask for today’s young man.

It is easier to drop out of reality, turn on the screen and love a fantasy, which is simply another word for loving yourself.

This is not love.

Men have become perpetual children, demanding and petulant. A woman is seen as an impersonal collection of various body parts, designed to be used until she has no more to give – and then discarded.

A child demands sex; a man longs for intimacy. A child refuses to give anything; a man gives his heart.

So the streets and the clubs and the bars are filled with children, demanding satisfaction, searching for their next toy to use and destroy.

Some young men seek marriage, but are unwilling to give their heart. They play with a woman’s heart until they “find the right one” and then they inadvertently “fall in love” – Cupid’s next victims. But a victim of Cupid is a victim, not a man. He was not strong enough to choose a wife; he was not strong enough to love the one he chose. He simply allowed the currents of desire to carry him this way and that. He falls in love. He falls out of love. He leaves behind him the wreckage of broken and hurting young women who were naïve enough to believe him when he said, “I love you”.

This also is not love.

The question that I have for you is this: Are you strong enough to love a woman?

Are you strong enough to love your wife as Christ loved the church?

Are you strong enough to live with her with understanding; or do you simply wish to never be inconvenienced, smashing the vessel of her heart on the floor like a cantankerous child?

Are you strong enough to protect her heart? To never do anything that would damage her reputation?

Would you rather die yourself than do the least thing to damage the soul of the one you love?

Are you strong enough to ask forgiveness? Courageous enough to call her lovingly to repentance?

Are you bold enough to reconcile?

Are you strong enough to turn off the television and listen to her?

Do you understand her fears, her desires, her longings? Do you have the courage to hear her?

Do you have the courage to open up your heart to her?

Do you have the courage to talk to her about your fears, your desires and your longings?

Do you have the courage to admit that it is not good for you to be alone?

A child desires a mother. A man seeks a wife.

A mother is a tremendous blessing for a child. She nurtures, feeds, cleans, bathes and provides for the child’s every need.

But a mother is not a wife.

Are you strong enough to leave your mother and your father and cleave to your wife?

It is a great calling – but most are not strong enough, courageous enough or man enough to take a wife.

It is easier to turn on the computer and fantasize about pixels of ink, rather than love a woman, so most choose the fantasy.

They do not know that it is for their life.

But a woman desires a man.

A man is strong enough to give himself for his wife. He demands nothing; gives everything.

He is strong enough to make her place in his heart safe; he is strong enough to win her heart and trustworthy enough to keep it.

He is courageous enough to hear the question “What are you thinking?” and actually understand it and answer it.

He is courageous enough to hold her in his arms and wipe away her tears.

He is strong enough to see when she is at her end, and cook a meal, do the dishes, watch the kids, clean the house and still have enough left to hold her and pray for her and know the right things to say.

He is strong enough to understand her, without resentment, bitterness, impatience or rage. If he is a man, the understanding will come in time.

He is strong enough to forsake all others and cleave unto his wife.

He doesn’t whine and complain when there is dust on the windowsill or dinner is late – these are the actions of a child, not a man.

He has nothing to prove; he will not hide behind a façade of bluster and words; he never has to be the “man of the house” nor the “king of the castle”.

He is strong enough to take the lowest place; be the servant of all; wash the dirty feet himself.

For he is strong enough to know that being a leader doesn’t mean being the boss.

A child tells everyone what to do. A man leads the way by being the servant of all.

A man is strong enough to set his wife as a seal upon his heart, as a seal upon his arm:

For a man knows that love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. (Sol 8:6)

A man is strong enough to keep the flame going; bold enough to never play with a woman’s heart; courageous enough to never use a woman as a toy to be discarded at whim.

A man is one who trusts the Lord with his whole heart. He therefore does not seek proof of his manhood on the earth, for it is safe with his Lord.

The man who trusts the Lord is ready for a wife; for a man who trusts the Lord has nothing to prove to anyone.

Only then he is ready to love a woman.

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Filed under Love, Marriage, Men and women

“Masculine men only”???

I’ve been occupied for a while. This morning I’ve been catching up on articles and blogs that I missed when they first came out. I’ve been saving them for the quiet coffee moments, which are sometimes few and far between.

Some of these articles have been quite good. But some have been very disappointing. Take this one, for example.

Normally, I would give an article like this one a raspberry and simply move on. But it has been floating around and getting some attention. It also gives me an opportunity to perhaps cause someone to think a bit before they speak.

Words mean something. We can hurt and drive away, or we can gather, heal and restore. Since we are first of all Christians, and second of all, pastors, we should take a great deal of care with how we use words. I do not believe it is adequate to simply say, “Well, people shouldn’t be so sensitive” and ignore the cries of those who are crushed and broken under our foolish tongues.

36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. (Mat 12:36 KJV)

18 Like a madman who throws Firebrands, arrows and death,
19 So is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, “Was I not joking?” (Pro 26:18-19)

We may dismiss and cover over idle words, but our Lord certainly does not. So it would do us well to think about the words that we use.

I do not wish to spend a lot of time on this article, but there were three things that struck me as I read it.

First, the goal of the article, as stated in the title, is not a biblical goal.

The title is “On getting and keeping masculine men in church.” Notice, however, that the author nowhere quotes any scripture, but simply assumes that this is a goal that every church should have. But is it a biblical goal?

Is “masculine men” a biblical category? Are we speaking now of a third gender? Male, female, and masculine men? I don’t believe that the author had this in mind, but he certainly did not define what he meant, nor did he go to the scripture to justify his goal. Why masculine men, and not just men? Are there now two categories of men, one of whom we want in the church and the other we just want to go to hell? What about women? Are they OK if they accompany men? What if they come alone?

He seems to imply that a large ratio of women in the church is a problem. As if they are OK as long as there aren’t too many of them. But what if there are 30% masculine men, 20 percent effeminate men, and 50% women. Would that be OK. How do we decide who to put into which category?

I would like to remind the author that Paul preached the gospel to Lydia and her friends down by the river, and didn’t once bemoan the lack of “masculine men”.

The second problem somewhat follows the first – the elimination of “effeminate men” as qualified for church office.

1 Timothy 3 has been ignored by the church for decades, but now we seem to simply be inventing our own categories. “Effeminate men”. I hate this word. Really, really hate it. It is the word of school-yard bullies, ignorant cretins, loudmouth, abusive men. I hate it.

He seems to define it as someone with “effeminate characteristics” or a “high voice”. Once again, no biblical text to back up his statement. He simply states it. Now we are left to define for ourselves what that means.

“I don’t like his necktie. I don’t like his pastimes. I don’t like his voice. I don’t like how he walks. I don’t like how he gestures.” He has now given an excuse to every hardhearted man to ignore the preaching of the word if the pastor’s voice is too high. Is this really where we want to go?

There is always danger whenever we condemn someone apart from scripture. There is always the leaven of Pharisees involved whenever we say that someone has a quality or a personality that God condemns. Whenever we go outside of scripture for our ethics or our ecclesiology, we become authoritarian and oppressive.

We could ask the same question that God asked Moses. “Who made man’s mouth?” Who are YOU to tell God that he made this person wrong. His voice is too high, God. You made him wrong. Effeminate. You made a mistake.

What appalling gall! I hate that word. Hate it.

Before anyone quotes that King James translation of 1 Corinthians 6:9 at me and condemns anyone with a high voice to hell, let me remind you all that this is not what that word means. Paul is talking about immoral sex, not personalities, voice frequency, or mannerisms.

Now here is where the hatred of our words come in. Suppose there is a young man whom God loves. God made him with a beautiful voice with a high register. Perhaps he sings like an angel. Now comes this author, speaking on his own authority, without any backing from scripture, denying him a place in the kingdom of God. “You cannot be a pastor, because God gave you a high voice.”

You are a second class citizen. In fact, we don’t even want you in church. We want 50% “masculine men”, not you with the high voice. Why not cast away the left handed people, those who have red hair and those who are too short as well?

Third, he calls women and children the property of a man.

In the context of touching a woman or a child, which the author forbids, he writes,

When you refrain from touching another man’s stuff, you subtlety communicate your respect for him

Really? Can we all just stop and think about these words and what they convey?

“Don’t touch a woman or a child because if you do, you are touching another man’s things. His property. It shows a lack of respect for a man.”

I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Take this to its logical conclusion. A man has the right to his property to do with it as he pleases. A man’s family is his “stuff”. Not heirs together of eternal life, not beloved of God, not firstborn sons of God – but my stuff.  I can smack them around a bit. Use them as I see fit. They are my “stuff” after all. That’s my first problem.

The second is this – if a woman is molested, is the problem that there was a sin against God and against the woman, or is the sin that someone showed a lack of respect for a man’s stuff?

Don’t blow me off. It is a serious question. If we do not get a handle on this, we will never even understand the problem of sexual assault in church, domestic abuse in church, and we will have no communication whatsoever with the millions of women and children who have been abused, oppressed, despised and condemned by those supposed to be representing Christ to them. We, as the church of Jesus Christ, have become the school-yard bullies. But far worse than that, we have failed to uplift and edify and encourage. Instead we used words that are an offense against God and our neighbor by speaking that which was not right. Every idle word. Every man that you dismissed as effeminate, every woman that you dismissed as a man’s stuff, every child you turned your back on, you will have to give an account for your negligence on the day of judgment.

You don’t think this is a problem? Look at it again. “Get your hands off my stuff” – talking about a human being, created in God’s image!

I am floored.

The author admits that this flows from “common sense” rather than, apparently, the scripture. But I would prefer that he keep this kind of “common sense” to himself.

Instead of this, let me suggest an alternative for pastors:

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2Ti 4:2)

Do you remember that? It’s what we are supposed to be doing. Preach the word. Not attracting “masculine men” and “feminine women”, whatever those words mean. We are to preach Christ and him crucified.

Christ crucified means that there is no hope whatsoever in your maleness, your testosterone, your estrogen, your body parts. There is no hope whatsoever in the flesh. Whether you are a man or a woman, with “masculine” or “feminine traits”, Christ crucified puts an end to all of it.

So preach Christ. Preach Christ to men, to woman, to slaves, to free, to every race, every kindred, every tongue. Put to death your pride in your testosterone, your body parts, you maleness. Quit putting your trust in your personality or the frequency of your voice. Quit pointing at the others and saying, “I thank God I’m not like other men – like that “effeminate guy” over there” and just stop.

Stop, stop, stop. Remember Jesus said that the one pointing at the publican did not go away justified. He died in his sins. You cannot take pride in the flesh and embrace Christ. You cannot build the church of God and brag about the “masculine men” there. It doesn’t work that way.

Preach Christ, and him crucified. Open wide the doors. Quit preaching yourself and your testosterone, and preach Christ. Mortify the flesh. Welcome the sinners of every kind and give them Christ.

Welcome the people like you, and the people unlike you. Welcome the ones that grunt and sweat and talk about big holes and football and monster trucks, and welcome the ones that paint and sew and make music and like colors and fabrics. Because salvation isn’t in those things.

I would hope that anyone visiting First Reformed Church would not count the masculine men and the feminine women, but would simply notice that it is a church where Christ is preached, full of sinners saved by grace, made new by the blood of the lamb.

Christ crucified. That’s it. When we step, even a hair, away from that, we no longer have the right to stand in Christ’s pulpit. Get down, and let someone else do it, someone who knows what the gospel is.

And for the love of everything holy and good and beautiful and lovely, quit saying effeminate. It is a horrible word, every bit as bad as Raca, and every bit as destroying.

Thanks for listening.

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Filed under feminine, Gospel, Masculine, Men and women

Stay-at-home mom? Or career woman?

There is an article going around by Dennis Prager. It was sent to me and I was asked to comment on it. Normally, I don’t have time to comment on every hair-brained idea that floats around on the internet, but this one is being shared positively by many Christians. I would suggest that you read it before you continue so that you know what I am talking about. Or not. The gist is the same tired thing that I’ve been hearing since the 60s. “Gals, you won’t find fulfillment from a career. You will only find fulfillment from marriage and children. Get married and have children before it is too late.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love marriage. I love children. My dear wife is an intelligent, strong and industrious woman and she stayed home and took care of the house and children. That is not my beef here. By beef is that the gospel is at stake here. It really is.

For some reason, we as protestant children of the Reformation are very, very clear when it comes to debating with Roman Catholics or Arminians about justification. We are saved by the perfect righteousness of Christ imputed to our account by faith alone, and that, not of yourselves. It is a gift of God.

Amen. We believe it. We confess it. We celebrate it. We can quote Edwards and Owen; Calvin and Turretin; Machen and Bavinck. We can construct fool-proof logical arguments about the dangers of a “works-based” system and warn most ominously against it. Put us toe to toe with a modernist, and we’ll go to the mat fighting, without mussing our trendy beard or spilling a drop of our IPA.

And then we talk to our wives and daughters, and all of it goes out the window. And all we can do when it comes to the women in our churches is say, “Do this, and you will live.”

But this is the law; not the gospel. Please read Romans 10 carefully, and you will see what I mean.

The problem with the article is NOT whether women should have a career, or whether they should stay at home and have children. The facts seem pretty clear. If you put every minute into your career in your twenties and thirties, you will have a hard time raising children and getting married. God only gave us a certain amount of time.

But so what? I am a full-time pastor. I could also go to work as a lawyer and become a professor as well. But I wouldn’t do all three of them very well, and I’d probably die trying. This is just wisdom. I won’t ever be infinite. Wisdom dictates that I embrace my finitudevand give God glory, as the only infinite, wise God.

If the caller had merely said, “If you pursue a high-powered career, marriage and children might be difficult. You only have a certain number of years on the earth” I would have no problem. But that isn’t what she said.

Let’s go back to the beginning of time.

27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27 NKJ)

This is the purpose for human-kind. We were never made to be originals. We were made to reflect God. We either bear the image of God, or we bear the image of the devil. But we cannot be original. In Eden, man and woman walked and talked with God. This was their purpose. In their relationship with God, they were rightly related to one another, to creation, and to their own bodies.

In this relationship with God, they found their identity, their self-worth, their purpose. They found respect and dignity. They were naked and not ashamed. The weren’t objects, but humans in God’s image.

But as you know, man fell and was driven from Eden. The desires that men and women were created with were still there, but now they sought to fulfill those desires with created things, not in relationship with God.

22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man– and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,
25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 1:22-25)

They thought that they could restore dignity and worth, intimacy and significance, through the things under the sun.

And what they found is what Solomon wrote about in the book of Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” Everything under the sun – empty, vain, useless. Is it anything?

Nope. Not here. Nothing here.

The fact is, back to our original article, you can be a career woman of the highest degree, you can accomplish everything you set your heart to accomplish – Solomon did. And you will find what he found: One event happens to all. You die. Worms eat you. Everybody forgets you existed.

OR you can stay at home and raise your kids. You can master Classical education and parse sentences in three languages while wiping spaghetti-o’s off of the kitchen counter, balancing a perfectly well-behaved child on your lap the whole time, while picking up LEGOS with your toes.

And your kids will leave the home and go their own way. You will grow older. And then you  will die, they will bury your body in the ground and worms will eat you.

You could even be buried right next to the wealthiest CEO in the world. This is what Hamlet was talking to Yorick about centuries ago. In fact, it is probably what Willis was talking about as well.

It is just wisdom. We forget it, because we have banished death to the back corners of soft organ music and the curtains of the hospital bed. We forget that it is ugly, harsh, cruel, relentless, and without regard to whether you are a CEO or a peasant.

The gospel isn’t about a rosy colored view of the world, about making your mark under the sun or finding your fulfillment in the arms of a man.

It is far more substantial than that. Please do not confuse conservative politics with Christianity. They are not the same thing.

The problem with this woman was NOT that she had a career. It is rather that she thought that a career would give her life. She thought that if she did things right, and climbed the ladder high enough in the corporate world, she could kick her way past the flaming sword and crash her way into Eden.

And then when that failed – when she found that she still was unhappy, unfulfilled, empty – she mourned the loss of children and husband. She wished she had substituted on law – corporate climbing – for another law – married with children.

But whichever way she went, neither way was back into Eden. Career woman? Or married with children? Vanity of vanities. All is vanity. The voice in the back of all of our minds is still shouting, “And then what? What good is it?” This is the knowledge of the wrath of God. It is shame, that voice that tells us that we aren’t enough, we aren’t loved, we aren’t worthy. And it won’t be fixed by mastering a career, or by having a thousand children. Our worth can only come from one place, and that place was lost to us when we were thrown out of the Garden.

There are a lot of ways to move away from Eden. But there is only one way back in.

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Heb 10:19-22)

Jesus is the express image of the father. He is the second Adam, who fulfilled what the first Adam failed at. To use the Old Testament imagery, he took the sword of the wrath of God against sin, though he was without sin. And since he is perfect, without blemish and without spot, he now stands before God in our place.

And if we are united to him by faith, we are already there.

Women, I will speak to you directly now, for you probably haven’t heard anyone say this before.

You  will never find fulfillment and purpose by a career. And also, you will never find fulfillment and purpose with a husband and a quiver full of children.

Notice how the writer of this article depends upon the approval or disapproval of a man for her own worth. “Men don’t want competitors. They want a partner.” True. Probably. I don’t know. Who cares?

Your life will not be found in the arms of a man.

Just like all of you men reading this. Ecclesiastes spells it out perfectly. Under the sun, all is vanity. Married, career, pleasure, mirth, wisdom, foolishness…

There is no life there, for the ground is cursed. The relationships are cursed. Bearing children is cursed. Unless God does something to restore Eden, what does it matter if you have 10 children or die childless?

But God has done something. He sent his Son, the perfect image-bearer of the God, so that in him we DO have purpose, meaning, significance.

He took the thorns of the ground on his head, so that work was no longer cursed, but had eternal blessings – the cup of cold water and the meal prepared for the hungry. He was stripped naked, so that we might be clothed and dignified. He was beaten for our iniquities.

In him, we have significance and worth, and we will never, ever find it under the sun. You will never find pleasure in your work, and you will never find peace in your home as long as you continue to think that life will come by doing everything right. Life comes only by faith.

So should a woman in her twenties strive for a career? Or should she strive for a husband and children? Should she somehow do both?

Here’s the answer:

If Christ has died for you, then God already has accepted your work. In him, you have life and love and joy and peace. In him, you are complete. Now live like it.

10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going. (Ecc 9:10)

Or, to put it like Paul does:

31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1Co 10:31)

If you get married, marry in the Lord. Look for worth in the arms of the savior, and be a wife and mom to the glory of God, if that is what you choose to do, and God gives you children.

If you work as a lawyer, a doctor, a police officer, a mail carrier, do it well, reflecting the image of God in your work, to the best of your ability.

And whatever else you do, don’t get caught up in the opinions of men. You have one master, and he is in heaven. His yoke is easy. His burden is light.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Filed under Gospel, Marriage, Men and women