Monthly Archives: November 2007

Jesus’ Sexual Temptation

was sexual temptation included?The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness lays a foundation for later affirmations in the New Testament.  It validates Jesus’ righteousness.  It certifies His worthiness to undertake the mission set before Him.  It demonstrates His moral perfection, validating His suitability to die for the sins of others, as His death could not come about because of His own sins, the temptation attesting that He had none.

A more immediately practical significance of Jesus’ temptation, however, is found in Hebrews 2:17-18:  Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

Was Jesus Tempted to Sexual Sin?

That aid is further elaborated in Hebrews 4:15-16:  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

So, we are encouraged to seek grace from God our Father in time of temptation because Jesus, our High Priest was tempted in all points as we are, and yet resisted.  So, we count on Him to intercede with His Father for our sakes, when we need divine grace to overcome temptation to sin.

But, wait!  What about temptation to sexual sin?  From the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we see Jesus facing no explicit temptation to sexual sin.  In an age where temptations to sexual sin are thicker than sea-coast fog, (and the First Century was far worse), what do we think of this absence of sexual overture in Satan’s temptation of the Lord?

Yes, He was tempted.  Sort of, that is.

From Hebrews 4 (“in all points tempted as we are”) and Mark’s summary statement (1:13 – “He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan …”) we might infer that sexual temptation was included in the range of temptations focused on Jesus by Satan.  Luke’s comment – “Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time” – suggests that the three temptations recorded were only a representative sample, that the whole gamut of temptations (“every temptation”) was trained on Jesus.  Or, that a temptation to sexual sin came later (at an “opportune time”) . 

Scorcese’s film based on Kazantzakis’ novelThis latter possibility provided the premise for Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel and Martin Scorcese’s film The Last Temptation of Christ .  In book and film, Jesus faces myriad temptations, including sexual enticements, throughout His adult life.  And, whatever flaws of history or fantasy the novel and film exhibit, their aim is the same as that of ordinary Bible students who speculate that Jesus faced  sexual temptations, which temptations are not expressly recorded by the gospel writers.

Unless …

Sex to the Power of Ten

Jesus said that the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.  And, though Jesus’ was speaking of the machinations of an unjust steward, His comments sometimes apply just as well to the insights by the sons of this world into how that world works in other areas.  Such as sex.  Just such an insight from a popular son of this world provides a clue to Jesus’ sexual temptation.

Heston’s 1995 AutobiographyThe actor Charlton Heston wrote an autobiography in 1995 (In the Arena, An Autobiography) in which he recounts, among other things, the events and personalities that attended the filming of El Cid. In the passage quoted below, he describes the filming of El Cid’s taking of Valencia. “Babieca” is a reference to the horse Heston rode in the film.

[p.255] We had most of the major interior scenes in the can by this time, leaving us largely focused on several varieties and sizes of outside scenes, principally the Cid’s conquest of Valencia and his subsequent defense against the invading Moors.

We filmed his entry into Valencia as bloodless, following Menendez Pidal’s account. The citizens welcomed him in preference to the weak King Alfonso, as the abler soldier they needed against the Moors, offering him the crown of Valencia. The Cid, stubbornly unwilling to displace the king who had exiled him and imprisoned his wife and children, refused the crown, surely one of the outstanding examples of loyalty in history.

It was also a key moment in the movie; I thought a lot about how to play it. As sometimes happens in film, that wasn’t necessary. It played itself. I led a mounted troup to the gates of the city, real iron gates set in the real stone walls of a medieval city. The sun and the sea were as they’d been a thousand years ago. The gates swung open, two thousand people screamed welcome. I rode through, [p. 256] Babieca dancing under my hand, both of us aroused by the roar “Cid! Cid! CID!” I swung off the horse, down into the welling sound, and climbed the steep time-worn stone steps set in the wall. At the top, I turned, the sea behind me, the city and the people lying below, reaching, entreating, warm and open as a woman. “Cid! Cid! CID!”

You don’t have to act that. You can’t act it. I was there. It happened to me. I know, in my bones and blood, what it is to take a city. Yes, of course, it’s like sex. It is sex – to the power of ten.

As you read this passage from Heston’s autobiography, was there any passage from the Gospels that came to mind? I don’t know about you, but I immediately thought of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness (Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Matt. 4:8-9).

If Heston is right – that such glory as the Devil offered to Jesus is an offer of sex to the power of ten – then Heston has presented us an intriguing validation of the statement made by the author of Hebrews that Christ was tempted in all ways, just as we are; specifically, that when the Devil offered Him the glory of the nations, Jesus encountered a temptation aimed at his human, masculine sexuality, a temptation which cut far deeper than a comparably trivial inducement to “mere” coitus.   

Sex to the Power of Ten in the Bible?

We need, I think, to reconsider what is going on in those prophetic passages which describe the kings of the earth committing fornication  with a city (Rev. 14:8; 18:3, 9; Ezek. 16; Hosea). Ordinary hanky-panky of the carnal sort is exactly NOT what the Prophets are talking about. Nor are the prophets scoring a cheap  rhetorical point by salaciously comparing a city’s allurement to a hooker’s come-on.  Great Kings (and those who suppose themselves to be such) fall prey to a fundamentally sexual enticement when basking in the glory of their cities or its citizens.  Think, for example, of Herod’s deadly error in Acts 12:21ff, or Nebuchadnezzar’s similar folly in Daniel 4.  At its heart, Herod’s basking in the adulation of those from Tyre and Sidon, and Nebuchadnezzar’s pride in the glories of Babylon are no different from Ahasuerus’ pride in Vashti (Ruth 1).  Indeed, Ahasuerus’ display of Vashti’s glory and all the glories of his empire are all of one piece.  Heston’s term for this is “sex to the power of ten.” But, there are no naked bodies.  There is no “sex” in the merely animal sense of that word.

We must also not confuse what is “greater” with what is “lesser” when comparing sex-to-the-power-of-ten with sex to what is ordinarily conceived by the term “sex.”  Modern notions of sex are almost comically truncated.  One might just as well collapse the meaning of “good diet” to the eating of green beans.  Eating green beans is only one, tiny feature of a good diet.  And, those who understand what a good diet encompasses also understand that a good diet might actually omit green beans altogether. 

So also something like masculinity or femininity.  Among the truly masculine or feminine are those who never (or, who no longer) experience sex as sexual congress with the opposite sex.  A ten-year old boy is often overtly masculine, though he is sexually a virgin.  Some of the paragons of femininity in all history have been virgins.  And, a widow or widower do not lose their overt or their intrinsic sexuality merely because they cease for the remainder of their lives to experience sex as they knew it with their departed spouses.

This kind of sex everyone understandsSo, Heston is not the first to understand that sex and all its wonder are driven by powers that easily transcend narrow animal aspects of sex. Before Heston spoke of such a thing, the Prophets of the Old Testament, and the Apostle John after them, spoke to the same point, using the same terms.  Israel’s worship of other gods was harlotry and adultery

Christians, regrettably, often suppose Jesus was beyond all this.  The pale, slightly fruity-looking Jesus that peers at us from so many treacley portraits in Sunday School assembly rooms looks utterly deaf to a sexual Siren’s song.

But, if bread is a temptation to a starving man, what is the offer of the glory of the nations to the One by Whom, for Whom, and In Whom are all things, Who is at the time of the offer surrounded by dust and rocks and geckos? And what is it to decline such an offer of such a glory, when that glory is rightfully Yours in the first place?  What kind of choice is it to follow, instead, a path leading to abasement and a humiliating death, because Your Father requires this of You? What shall we conclude about someone who made exactly that choice, in the face of exactly that temptation to chose otherwise? 

We conclude, as the author of Hebrews puts it, that “Because He himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”  And that most certainly includes being tempted by sex to the power of ten.

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Filed under Man, the glory of God

Prepare for the Feast

Just a couple of the basic ingredientsOur Lord’s Birthday deserves a special kind of cake, and He’s worth the expense and time required to prepare this one.  It is not a cheap cake.  Depending on your sources of ingredients, it will probably set you back around $50, particularly if you use a quality brandy.  This year’s pecan crop is huge, but I see that in the stores they’re still going for around $9 a pound for the broken pieces.  If you use the whole nuts (pecan-halves they’re usually called), you’ll pay $12 a pound or more.  This recipe calls for one and a half pounds of pecan-halves.  Using the pecan-halves makes for a very lavish looking cake when it is sliced and served.

Think of the extravagance of the Medieval cathedrals as you prepare this.  Think of the centuries it took to build them, as you lovingly keep the cake bathed in brandy for at least a month before serving it. 

 At our house, we observe Advent as a penitential season (which it is), holding back the feasting until Christmas Eve.  This cake is the first that is served after sundown that day, and we continue to eat from it during the Twelve Days of Christmas.  If you’re so minded to join us, make this cake just before Thanksgiving Day (which means mine will be baked tomorrow).

Brandied Christmas Cake

½ pound glazed pineapple, ½ pound candied cherries, and 1 ½ pound pecan-halves                              

4 cups flour

1 pound brown sugar, 1 pound butter (NOT margarine!!)

1 teaspoon baking powder, yes ONLY a TEASPOON.

1 ½ ounces (3 tbsps) lemon extract.  This will be 1 and 1/2 bottles if you buy the 1 ounce bottles in the grocery store.

6 eggs (separated)

You may use red and/or green marachin0 cherries, but if you use these drain and rinse drain the cherries so that they do not tincture the cake batter when mixed.

NOTE: Other fruit combinations may be used instead.  I’ve had good success with dried apricots and pecans.  Raisens may also be used.  Or dried cranberries.  Ordinary candied fruit for fruitcakes works well, but I prefer other fruit combinations in order to differentiate this cake from ordinary fruitcakes.

1.   Dredge the fruit in 2 cups of flour.  Set aside.  Mix remaining 2 cups of flour with baking powder.

2.   In a large bowl (a popcorn bowl works well), cream the butter and brown sugar.  Add lemon extract and mix well.

3.   Add egg yolks alternately with the remaining 2 cups of flour.

4.   Beat egg whites until firm and carefully fold into the batter.

5.   By hand, carefully fold in the fruit, nuts, and the flour in which they are dredged.  The batter will be very, very stiff.  It will not pour.

6.   Cover the bowl containing the batter tightly with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator overnight.

7.  Grease a large bundt pan with shortening, then dust it well with flour.  Prepare a loaf pan the same way, so you may fill it with any batter left over when the bundt pan is filled.

8.  Press the chilled, very stiff batter by handfuls into the bundt pan, packing it well.  You do not want to have air pockets, and the batter will be so stiff as to have the consistency of cookie dough.  Fill the bundt pan right to the top, and place any remaining batter in the loaf pan you have prepared.

9.  Place a pan of water on the lowest rack of an oven heated to 225 degrees.  That’s right: two hundred twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit.  This is a VERY slow oven.

10.  Place the bundt pan (and loaf pan if you used one) on a rack above the pan of water.  Bake undisturbed at 225 degress for 3 hours.  If the cake rises a couple of inches above the rim of the bundt pan, do not fret.  It will go back down when it’s cooled.

11.  Insert a long stick of spaghetti into the center of the cake.  It should come out free of wet batter. 

12.  Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about ten minutes.  Invert the cake in the pan onto a plate larger than the rim of the bundt pan.  Lightly rap the sides with a spoon until the cake dislodges from the pan.  If the batter has baked “hard” around the top edge of the bundt pan you may need to chip that part off to get the cake out of the pan.

 13.  Let the unmolded the cake(s) cool to room temperature.  Wrap the bundt cake in strips of clean cotton sheeting.  Be sure the bundt cake is on a plate large enough to hold it without the cake overlapping the edges. 

14.  Drizzle the sheeting with brandy until it is well drenched.  If there is some brandy pooling in the plate around the edges, this is fine.  Do not use cheap brandy.  Your cake will taste like you tried to go on the cheap.  Don’t do that.  It doesn’t have to be a $100 bottle.  Christian Brothers brandy works well and is not extravagantly expensive. 

14.  Cover the cake well in plastic wrap, bringing the ends of the wrap under the plate to seal out any odors from the other parts of the refrigerator.  Place the cake in the refrigerator.  Check the cake every two days.  If the strips are beginning to dry,  drizzle more brandy onto the strips wrapping the cake until the strips are wet.  Then rewrap the cake and plate well in plastic wrap.  Continue this procedure for at least a month.  It will not be unusual if you use anywhere from a half to a full 750 m. bottle of brandy. 

This cake is extremely flavorful and rich.  Serve it in thin slices with coffee, hot chocolate, hot tea, or spiced cider.  It will easily serve 50 – 60 people at a Christmas buffet.  Or, a smaller group of people may snack on it during the twelve days of Christmas (that’s what we do).  Make this cake once, and you’ll make it every Christmas as long as you live.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes

Cooking up something wicked in the kitchen, are we?Over at The Scroll, the blog for Christians for Biblical Equality,  Megan is cooking up something  wicked for the Spring 2008 issue of Mutuality.  CBE’s editors are ambitious to deconstruct two millennia of Christian “home economics” as it relates to the contemporary Christian home and then to reconstruct the whole idea of home economics to suit egalitarian tastes.  No more of this “woman’s place in the home” stuff.  Indeed, it appears they think “home” in the Christian sense needs a full invasion by men, and that men’s work and women’s work ought to be anyone’s work.

Consider (The Scroll’s text is quoted in red; its meaning, provided by my experience in reading egalitarian prose, in black):

Mutuality  is now accepting articles (and discussion surrounding the issue) for the Spring 2008 issue on ‘Home Economics.’ Topic ideas include, but are not limited to:

You see, after trashing that Neanderthal Paige Patterson and his Southwestern Sexist Seminary  for offering a humanities degree with a concentration in home economics for the wives of the men training for pastoral ministry, CBE now wishes to take the next step: to reconstruct what they have mocked along trendier, feminist lines.  Hence the upcoming issue of Mutuality.  From what Megan’s requesting, it’s fairly clear what they’re aiming for.

  • How convictions about biblical equality and gender justice apply to every day home life

You know, if the Biblical equality they’re asserting were really there in the Bible, you’d think that the Biblical men and women would have figured out whether or not “gender justice” has any expression in the home.  But, you see, the Bible is just chock full of the very thing Megan thinks needs to be corrected: women working inside the home, men working outside the home, everyone feeling just fine about gender justice – as far as we can tell from their lives over the 1500 year time span of the Biblical record.

But, no.  Megan will have none of that.  It’s patriarchal, dontcha know.  And we all know that patriarchy is bad, bad, bad.  When it shows up in the Bible … well, it doesn’t belong there, so we’ll just ignore it.

  • Biblical reflections: Christ as the head of our homes; being part of the family of God; Proverbs 31 woman

Let me decipher this for you:  “Christ as the head of our homes” means “nobody else is the head of our homes.”  In other words, this stuff about the man being the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church is just more of that patriarchal trash we need to sweep out the door.  To hear these folks, you’d think that a good patriarchal family is denying that Christ is the head of the home!  Of course He is, because the man is the head of the woman and Christ is the head of every man (see 1 Cor. 11:1ff for details). 

Similarly, “being part of the family of God” is code for “there is no set pattern for family.”  It’s sexist and patriarchal to think “family” means a man and a woman and children.  Why, just look at the Church, they say.  It’s got all sorts of folks in it – never marrieds, marrieds, divorced, remarried, widows and widowers.  Any of these, in any combination, can be called family if the Church can be called a family.  Away with this patriarchal narrowness.  Paul was just crippled by his patriarchal bias when he urged the Church to copy the family.  Instead, the family should copy the Church.  And since the Church is so domestically diverse, then we shouldn’t be so narrow-minded as to use the term “family” as it has been used for so long.

And, I will wager the farm on this:  whatever Mutuality publishes on the Proverbs 31 woman is going to validate her professional career as a Realtor outside the home.  In fact, they’ll urge all women to get out of the house and into the world, based on this woman’s purchase of a field.  It’s so easy to cherry pick your way through that chapter, elevating what you find useful and ignoring everything else.  After all, anything patriarchal about that passage is bad, remember?  And, we should ignore that kind of thing.

  • How Christian convictions about women’s equality have transformed culturally-specific family models (e.g. polygamy, female infanticide, education of women and girls)

Here’s an interesting factoid:  Christianity did all of these things for the West.  Indeed Western culture became Christian culture in a way that has never been replicated anywhere else in the world at any time.  And in Western Christian culture, it is Christianity that reformed marriage, abolished infanticide of both men and women, and opened the doors to the education of women.  And, all of this proceeded for the past two millennia while remaining thoroughly patriarchal

So, what’s to complain about, unless it’s the fact that all these advances proceeded in the patriarchal West under the tutelage of those regretably patriarchal Prophets and Apostles?  This section of the Spring 2008 Mutuality ought to be really interesting to read.

  • Examples of sharing responsibility in the home; non-traditional divisions of labor (e.g. men who sew or cook; women who fix the car)

Here where we get closer to the meat of Mutuality’s matter.  You see, traditional divisions of labor in the home must NOT be considered a sharing of responsibilities IF that sharing is determined by a sexual criterion.  And, so the traditional divisions of labor (women cooking, men fixing the car) simply MUST be an evidence of gender injustice and inequality.  In a culture ruled by gender justice and gender equality, there would just as many women fixing cars as men, just as many men cooking all the meals as women.  The only way to measure “justice,” according to egalitariains, is by counting noses and making sure that there is no gender disparity in any activity one finds in a marriage or family.  That’s how the Civil Rights enforcement division in the Federal Attorney-General’s office does it.  So, that’s how it needs to be done in the Church.

You see, it’s not a question of who can or cannot do this or that task.  I’m sure women could be auto mechanics just as well as men.  Men could cook just as well as women. I cook much better than most women, for example; the United States Marine Corps taught me to cook, and they did a far better job than most mothers do for their daughters these days.    

Here’s the rub:  food preparation is a domestic duty if there ever were one, unless you contract out that duty (restaurants, TV dinners, etc.).  And, if a woman’s focus is the domestic scene, then food prep will routinely land in her lap.  If a man’s primary focus is some extra-domestic vocation, food preparation for the family will routinely NOT land in his lap.  One problem perennially debated on the contemporary scene is this very domestic duty when both husband and wife are employed in the extra-domestic workplace 40 or more hours each week. 

May a man cook recreationally?  Many men do.  Which reminds me, I need to bake that pecan-apricot bundt cake this week, so it can be resting in brandy-drenched strips of muslin for the next six weeks before the Christmas Eve buffet.  But, this would not, I’m sure, satisfy those who seek gender-justice in the kitchen.

  • Home economics for singles, roommates, and communal living situations

To request articles under this rubric is just another way to fudge the meaning of “domestic,” so that it loses all anchoring to the husband-wife-children nucleus.  See the similar point above.

  • Critique of the model of husband as head of the home; critique of traditional ‘for women only’ approaches to home economics

Here Megan drops all pretense that her enemy isn’t patriarchy.  Why critique the model of husband as head of the home unless you think such a model is a mistake?  Why critique “for women only” approaches to home economics unless you’re opposed to such approaches? 

  • Faithful Christian examples of stay-at-home dads, working mothers, single parents

Again, the premise is that stay-at-home dads, working mothers, and single parents are as right as rain.  One might produce, of course, any of these who are faithful Christians.  But, that is not the point here.  The point is to say that faithful Christians will applaud, support, promote, and endorse stay-at-home dads, working mothers, and single parents.  Can’t let that old patriarchy – with its stay-at-home mothers, its provider husbands – remain the norm. 

In fact, if you want to check the demographics, it’s not the norm any longer, and the feminist revolution in the West is barely 30 years old!  Still, Paul says older women are to teach younger women to … well, we can’t have that, right?  It’s sooooo First Century.  This is the Twenty-first Century.

Finally!  Gender justice!! If Megan’s view of the Bible’s home economics is correct, we’d do best to rewrite the whole Book, and be done with it.  If, on the other hand, that Book and its persistently patriarchal view of home economics is valid … in that case, from Megan’s kitchen something wicked this way comes.

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Filed under Egalitarianism, Flummery, Woman, Misstress of the Domain

The Dulcimer Project Launched

After waiting a bit more than a month for Meister Vander Hart to work his magic on wood, metal, and wire (nothing really good comes instantly, you know), I received the mountain dulcimer I requested him to build for me when I visited his studio in Iowa in late September.

The long awaited package arrives.

Yes, I know I look sort of severe, like Santa after the elves had a food fight at supper.  But, I had just arrived home after a six hour drive, after a Saturday morning seminar, after a six hour drive and a Friday evening seminar the preceding day.  Believe me, I was pleased to be home again and to find this box from Iowa waiting for me.

A snip here, a snip there

Opening long-awaited packages is fun.  My youngest daughter, who retrieved the package from the front porch the day before, is to be commended for leaving it for me to open.

The contents revealed!

It was an encouragement to see the air-bags in the box.  Meister Vander Hart warned me that the instrument, though it was tuned as it departed his studio, would be untuned by the movement of shipping (and, he was right about that).  But, still, his packin was superb, and that was obvious before I even examined the instrument.

So far, so good.

I never thought about a carrying case.  Dulcimers come in many lengths and widths (I’m already wondering about a bass dulcimer!), so I supposed that a carrying case would be difficult to find, or expensive, or unsuitable for an instrument except for sheer seredipity.  Shows you what I know about dulcimers. 

Viola!  Or, rather, Dulcimera!!

Once I learn a bit more about the instrument, I’ll post further blogs about it, its history, and a special feature of this instrument that Meister Vander Hart  incorporates into the dulcimers he makes.  Among his many ministries to the Church, he supervised a group of teenaged boys recently as they built their own dulcimers under his tutelage.  Listening and watching Matthew play his dulcimer in Vander Hart’s studio (Matt also takes cello lessons from him), I thought, “Yup.  Gotta have one of those.” 

Now, to learn how to play it, which everyone says is easy.  On the other hand, in looking through Meister Vander Harts notes, I see he has marked some of the included music “easy,” and “moderate,” and “difficult.”  By the way, if you’re interested in listening to dulcimers — either the mountain dulcimer or the hammered dulcimer — go to You-tube and do a search using the term “dulcimer” and you’ll come up with a lot of short videos.

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Jesus and other Heros on the Bathroom Wall

At least they didn’t put photos of Jesus right next to the toilet.

Yikes!  I’ve found another advocate of Christianity in the men’s room! I had thought that the previous example of this was so freaky that readers would think I made it up.  Now, I’m fearful that this may become a trend.  You know — churches getting their knickers in a twist about how feminized they are, so they butch things up by putting hunky pictures of Jesus on the bathroom walls of the men’s room.

 This is exactly what someone at a Methodist church did, and it seems he got run out of town for it. So, what does he do for an encore?  He starts a local Church for Men.  No “wishy, washy, lovey, dovey music.”  No pews or flowers.  There’s nothing about the decor of the men’s room, but since it meets in rented YMCA facilities, we will have to wait until they own their own property to see how they make a men’s room Really Masculine and Religious at the same time when they don’t have anyone objecting at the top.

Now, at the Very Top, things may be different, to judge by what He has said about such environments previously.  “But, hey!  This is the 21st Century, right?  Who cares what that Old Testament God said about His holiness.  Let’s bring Jesus into the toilet where He belongs.”

I need to blog further on this.  The guys griping about feminized church have some legitimate gripes.  But, the solution to this problem is NOT to accept the premise of those who want to keep the church woman-friendly in the way it has become woman-friendly.  Making Christian worship “man-friendly” by littering the sanctuary (and, evidently, the men’s room too!) with counterbalancing man-stuff (Harleys, Pennzoil oil-change signs, trophy deer-heads mounted on the wall) — all this administers as medicine the very toxin that has infected the churches:

It’s all about ME. 

According to these folks, a truly just worship environment would change from Sunday to Sunday, to accurately reflect the gender-demographics of the crowd that has shown up that day. Indeed, if you read the comments here, you’ll see that this is exactly what some are proposing.  Again, it’s all about ME. 

Blech.

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Filed under Gender wars, Uncategorized, Worship wars

Christianity and Egalitarianism

This man didn’t mince words.Several generations ago, J. Gresham Machen published a book entitled Christianity and Liberalism.  “Liberalism” in this title referred to the newly popular liberal Protestantism that was capturing the hearts, churches, and seminaries of the main-line Christian establishment of the time.  And in this book title, one could easily see what Machen demonstrated inside the book:  Liberalism and Christianity were two different religions. 

Telling it like it is – in the manner Machen did – has not characterized complementarian leaders over the past 40 years.  But, perhaps that is beginning to change. 

In the blog Mere Comments sponsored by the good folks at Touchstone Journal, senior editor S. M. Hutchens notes that The Gospel Coalition has acknowledged , even if timidly, that egalitarianism is a “gospel issue.”  Hutchens quotes them  from their website:

In God’s wise purposes, men and women are not simply interchangeable, but rather they complement each other in mutually enriching ways. God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.

I think Hutchens stretches a point a tad.   The Gospel Coalition places the statement quoted above in a section of its doctrinal standards, under a heading styled “”Creation of Humanity.”  This is a good start, insofar as they declare, at least in the case of the Gospel coalition which they have formed, that a criterion for participatinig in that coalition is to affirm, teach, and defend the Bible’s revelation about the nature and relationship of the sexes.  But, I concur with Hutchens that such clarity about egalitarianism is a relatively new thing among evangelical leaders generally, who heretofore seem to have been happy to ignore the egalitarian virus.

In the comments to this blog at Mere Comments, Hutchens provides a succinct summary of American Protestantism’s collapse from the old Biblical Criticism virus of the late 19th Century, and the parallel disaster within 20th Century evangelicalism as it  succumbed to the egalitarian virus.  Concerning the text-critical views of the Bible  – that the Bible is NOT what it presents itself to be: God’s words  – and the liberalizing process that resulted from this errant view of the Bible, Hutchens observes:

The process began in earnest in the 1860s and 1870s in the United States’ mainline denominations, which by the 1930s had become dominated by it. The movement was from a religion in all these groups that would be considered “conservative Evangelical,” to today’s mainline liberalism. In the early 1920s J. Gresham Machen observed, and correctly, I believe, that this liberalism is simply not Christianity, but another religion appearing in Christian habiliments.

According to Hutchens, the evangelicalism of the 20th Century was devastated even more quickly by the egalitarian error:

The same is true of egalitarianism. It is a new religion, as theologically comprehensive as liberalism, and every bit as unChristian. It begins, of course, in anthropology, with beliefs about the equality of men and women, but of necessity reaches from there into Christology and thus to Trinitarian theology, since all are connected at the Christological root. Evangelicalism, which had by the 1970s begun to replace an increasingly moribund mainline Protestantism, at the same time began to absorb egalitarianism, which de-Christianized it as thoroughly as liberalism had de-Christianized the former, and much more quickly.

More quickly indeed.  If the 19th Century demise of evangelical Protestantism ran from the 1860 to 1930 (a period of 70 years), the current wave of egalitarian infection has taken half that time to produce the same result: an evangelicalism decidedly past its theological shelf-life.  What’s even more dismaying is that orthodox evangelicals who ought to have known better back in the Seventies utterly failed to diagnose the disease and its toxic effects. 

This man also isn’t mincing words.So, though it is late, statements like one finds at The Gospel Coalition are welcome.  And even more welcome are words by Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louiseville, Kentucky:

We have to understand that this is not an intramural debate. Quite frankly, that’s the way we’ve been treating it for too long. We’ve been treating it like the kind of conversation dispensationalists and covenant theologians may have with one another. We treat this as the same kind of discussion that Ligon Duncan and I might have over whether or not infants ought to be baptized. We treat this as the kind of situation where brothers and sisters in Christ who agree on all of the main things now get together and talk about some issues of interpretation where “we just happen to disagree.” That is not what is taking place.

[snip]

What we have to ultimately understand is that the Gospel itself is patriarchal. It has to do with the Fatherhood of God, a Fatherhood that is not abstract, a Fatherhood that is not theoretical, a Fatherhood that the entire Bible lays out as a God who is giving a covenant inheritance to his Son. A story line you see all the way from Adam who gives birth to Seth who is in his image and in his likeness, a Fatherhood you see when God says to Pharoah, “You have my first born son in captivity; let him go.” First Timothy 2 really looks like male headship. . . . It is not just the individual texts; it’s the whole trajectory of Scripture, but the whole trajectory of Scripture leads to patriarchy, it leads to the Fatherhood of God, and it leads to the headship of men, not an evil headship, but a loving, self-sacrificial kind of headship. . . .

These words from Dr. Moore were transcribed from an audio lecture and posted at the blog Immoderate .  The original MP3 file is available online here

Finally, a further encouraging straw in the wind is that Dr. Moore’s comments were delivered at a Different by Design conference sponsored by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which in the past has often bent over backward to avoid saying the things that Dr. Moore says in this address.  If their sponsorship of Dr. Moore in this regard amounts to a repentence from earlier timidity to acknowledge egalitarianism as an unChristian faith (no matter how many Christian habiliments it displays, or no matter who among the evangelical glitterati are duped by it), such repentence is welcome indeed.

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