Let not those who hope in you be put to
shame through me, O lord God of Hosts;
let not those who seek you be brought to
dishonor through me, O God of Israel.
I have written before how much I enjoy my own ignorance of the Christian blogosphere. Things happen in evangelical corners of the world, that I have no idea about. I am happy to know more about the Ukrainian crisis than whatever crisis some mega church or celebrity pastor is going through.
And yet, somehow (usually Facebook), I always seem to keep up with whatever is going on with Mark Driscoll. He has lots of critics, and I am certainly one of them, and many of them seem to be grasping at whatever they can to “bring him down”. There seem to be so many Driscoll obsessions out there, be it plagiarism, making fun of “effeminate” church leaders, extreme church discipline, messy staff turnovers, un-credited ghost writing, or buying his way onto best seller lists. (If you care about those “scandals”, just Google them.)
I have big problems with how a lot of folks criticize Driscoll and the glee they seem to feel in each new thing we all find out. Lore Ferguson has the best and most beautiful articulation I’ve read of the unhelpful ways people levy these criticisms his way.
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This is a post in an on-going series on Women in the Church.
A while ago, I stumbled on a clearance copy of the book Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism by Wayne Grudem. Now, for those that don’t know, Grudem is one of those super-influential evangelical theologians that doesn’t get a lot of play in the wider culture. He’s not going to make any headlines like Mark Driscoll, and he’s not going say anything too outside the conservative box, like Rob Bell. He’s a quiet intellectual who writes and influences a lot.
Through college, I had a bunch of friends obsessed with his “Big Blue Book”, Systematic Theology, which is an accessible, clear introduction to what became the “New Calvinism” fad. In short, he’s sort of a Calvinistic Baptist that believes the Holy Spirit is still doing more outlandish sorts of things.
And yet, if you look at all of his publications, the vast majority of them are simply various versions and editions of just these two books (well, admittedly, the book I’m writing about today is an abbreviated version of this book). It’s quite easy to see that Grudem has devoted his life primarily to two things: Systematic Theology and Gender Roles in the Church. A lot of the arguments you’ll hear from complementarians–those that do not think Women should be allowed to exercise authority in Church or Home contexts–come straight from Grudem.
And so, in the interest of being fair in my Women and the Church series, I picked this book up to hear “the other side”. The book goes through 45 of (what Grudem feels are) the absolute best Egalitarian arguments. He lays out the individual argument, usually printing a paragraph-length quote from someone who has expressed that opinion. And then he offers responses (usually about 1 to 4) for each of these points. Each chapter is 2 to 5 pages long.
I went into the book with only minor curiosity, because I was raised with his perspective, was completely inundated with it in college, and pretty much felt I knew most of the arguments he would throw out there.
Well I was wrong.
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Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
So begins the Heidelberg Catechism, a 16th-century document written under extraordinary circumstances. Long story short, after the counter Reformation, different “princes” over different regions were allowed to declare what “denomination” their region would be. The problem for Frederick III? His region was split pretty evenly between Lutherans and Calvinists. And so, he brought together some people from different traditions, and had them write a document they all agreed upon. The Heidelberg was born.
This document is one of the main doctrinal statements of my denomination, the Reformed Church in America (RCA), and my church. I’ve read little bits and pieces of it in the past, but I recently sat down and read the whole thing. And I was pretty surprised.
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Women, and their role in shaping society’s power structures, are at the fore-front of our nation’s consciousness and cultural discussion right now–Evangelical and otherwise.
Socio-politically: Maureen Dowd wrote about it this past week. Hanna Rosin wrote a book about this happening. Sandra Fluke got Rush Limbaugh into a tizzy and then spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Republican leaders, for some reason, could simply not stop talking about rape. Mitt Romney bragged about his binders full of them. Last week, Americans elected the largest number of females to Congress than it ever has.
In Evangelicalism: Rachel Held Evans brought attention to misogyny and patriarchalism at one of the bastions of the Neo-Reformed. Her new book, which already carried some controversy, has been criticized and patronized by conservative evangelicals, including one of the top female thinkers of that flock (Evans’ response, a scholar’s rebuttal). Concerning said bastion, after a rough search and count for the phrase “Complementarianism”, it seems that over half of the results appeared this year alone. At the time of this writing, a different bastion of the Neo-Reformed, upon visit to their site has as the featured video: “Complementarianism: Essential or Expendable?”. The Church of England just announced their new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and one of the main issues being talked about is his views on women’s ordination.
And so, I’m starting a series of posts (as I usually do) to offer up some of my thoughts on the Christianity side of this discussion–thoughts which I hope are helpful to us all. But first, I find it only fair to tell you all my journey into this and where I stand. I’ve hinted at it before, but a fuller treatment might be in order.
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[This is a reply I wrote to an email asking me “why do you hate Mark Driscoll so much?” Driscoll is a prominent Evangelical pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He is controversial for his outspoken views on women, sex, homosexuals, men, church government, church culture, biblical interpretation, and theology. In other words, he can’t seem but to attract attention. In the particular circles I run in, his name and views often come up, so I felt it warranted some discussion.]
I “hate” Driscoll like Luther and Calvin hated the Catholic Church: maybe too much, but not without very, very good reason. So, in other words, I don’t actually hate him. I love him dearly, but my heart breaks over some things about how he conducts himself and his ministry.
The “New Reformed” need a new reformation, in my opinion, and my problem is mainly with individuals that happen to be put up as the main faces of this “movement”: Mark Driscoll, Justin Taylor, Carl Trueman, Al Mohler, and Douglas Wilson (at times). My problem is with these particular people, more than it is with the movement itself. They just happen to “define” much of that movement.
I will never discourage people to not listen to Matt Chandler (as I also said here), John Piper, Francis Chan, or even D.A. Carson, even though, theologically, I disagree with them on a lot (mainly on very secondary issues–even though they wouldn’t think they’re very secondary–and that’s another problem I have).
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[Through college up through about a year and a half ago, I ran a little online magazine called Reform & Revive. It’s dead now. While it was going on, one of my best friends, David Schrott, was one of our contributors. He’s an amazing drywaller, photographer, writer, person, and boyfriend (also here, here, and here). This is a post he wrote for R&R back in 2009 at the end of a particularly trying year for him. It’s one of my favorite Advent meditations I’ve ever read, and so I wanted to share it with all of you. Enjoy.]
“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer.”
–I Timothy 2.8, NIV
There are these days, when it is so difficult to find words that wrap around concepts, that, no matter how concrete in one’s mind, find it impossible to find substance in the barrier we use to communicate called language. In those moments, it seems that experience does precede existence and existentialism, for a moment, seems fun (and fun is clearly the wrong word, but for to-day, for this beautiful-day-before-Advent, will have to do).
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Art by Julia Meolgrana
If you have about an hour or so, I wanted to plug several articles and a sermon. The sermon is from Matt Chandler. It is a message he gave during a chapel service at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. There is both audio and video available. The message is walking through Hebrews Chapter 11 and into 12 to show what the Christian life is meant to consist of. This message blew me away. It’s about 40 minutes long, and I was almost crying at work by the end. It is a call to see the Fallenness of this world, the Beauty of its Savior, and our need to repent.
The main article I want to push now is an editorial from Patrol Magazine, a frequent subject and inspiration for posts on this blog. These weekly editorials are becoming a highlight of my week. They are always scathing critiques on Christian culture, but are written so intelligently, thoughtfully, and comprehensively, one cannot help but notice the dearth of such quality writing elsewhere in the Christian world. This particular editorial is about how Evangelicalism is dead — not only as a term, but as a movement altogether. Here’s a taste:
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"Andrew Murray" by Amy Roberts
Just wanted to drop a quick plug for a new article I posted yesterday in the online magazine I run, Reform & Revive. The article is on the topic of Christians that curse and explores the issues that surround it. It’s received some really good, really helpful feedback and comments, so I wanted to post something here as well letting people know about it so they can join in on the conversation.
Remember to leave comments and retweet.
Here’s the link:
Also, if you want to write for Reform & Revive, you can either get in touch with me here or use this form. We are always looking for more content and new ideas for the site.
You can find more art from Amy Roberts here.