Evangelicals and Divorce

Albert Mohler nails it with respect to divorce among evangelicals in this entry at his blog site, Here’s the money quote, though I strongly recommend you read everything at Mohler’s blog:

Evangelical Christians are gravely concerned about the family, and this is good and necessary. But our credibility on the issue of marriage is significantly discounted by our acceptance of divorce. To our shame, the culture war is not the only place that an honest confrontation with the divorce culture is missing. Divorce is now the scandal of the evangelical conscience.

I think it’s really an understatement to say that evangelicals’ credibility is discounted by the way they turn their heads from the rampaging destruction of their own communities by divorce. Homosexuals see heterosexual Christians marrying, divorcing, and remarrying at will. But, the same Christians will deny homosexuals the same freedom of sexual/social congress that these Christians insist is paramount to healthy society.

“But, homosexuality is wrong!! The Bible says so!!

[cough, cough]

It’s a hopeful sign that voices from the Southern Baptist camp are now heard on this topic. See here for the text of a resolution adopted at the 2010 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Orlando, Florida, entitled “On the Scandal of Southern Baptist Divorce.”

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Refocusing My Attention

Part of the reason there’s been cobwebs around here is this — I’ve had my attention focused elsewhere.  And, one of those other foci of attention has recently spawned a blog, one devoted to the needs and interests of my parish, St. Athanasius Anglican Church.

So, I’m posting here, to alert any remaining people who check in that they may look for things I post by checking that website, which happens to be a different WordPress blog.  The advantage, if there is one, is this:  at that site (see the blogroll for the link) you’ll find me commenting on things other than gender issues, as well as to the occasional gender-issue-related posts.

Additionally, there is a page at the other site where sermon audio is archived, as it is generated.

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Promise Keepers and Crossing Fingers

Special promisesIn 1997, Promise Keepers fielded an event that was supposed to be epoch-making. Stand in the Gap brought together eight hundred thousand men (or one million men, according to PK accounts) to the National Mall in Washington on October 4 th, 1997 to recommit to marriage and family.And the aftermath? Within a few months, Promise Keepers had all but closed its main offices. The collapse of the movement was far more spectacular than the Washington event.

What happened?

David Usher provides a compelling analysis  of the movement’s catastrophic contraction in an article published in Men’s News Daily. Usher’s overview of Promise Keeper’s collapse begins with a widely read article by Bill McCartney on the eve of Stand in the Gap. Usher explains:

The collapse began with the widely-publicized article in the September-October 1997 issue of Policy Review, titled “Promise Makers”, which hit the newsstands just a few days before Stand in the Gap. This article received tremendous national attention.

Many conservatives were quietly expecting this watershed article would signal the beginnings of a real marriage movement. Instead, it was perhaps the most spectacular public display of self-deprecation witnessed in modern history.

The first few paragraphs of Bill McCartney’s Policy Review article were a shocking adoption of knuckle-dragging neanderthal feminist theory. It blamed men for all of society’s problems. In fact, it was so feminist I thought it could have been written by the National Organization of Women.”

Bait and Switch

Bait and SwitchIn the above-linked article by Usher, he demonstrates the radical feminist critique of American Christian manhood with copious quotations from McCartney’s article in Policy Review. I strongly urge you to read all of Usher’s critique as well as McCartney’s Policy Review article, available here online. Certainly McCartney’s article was read by thousands of men who understood it as a form of bait-and-switch. Promise Keepers held out the hope of reinvigorating a Christianity that was unashamedly masculine, that affirmed Christian manhood and sought to promote it. Instead, from its own founder, Promise Keepers became just one more mouthpiece for feminists (whether Christian or not) who viewed male headship in marriage, family, and church as a flaw to be fixed, a disease to be cured, a sin for men to repent of. No wonder Promise Keepers melted as quickly as a snowball in hell.

Since the contraction which Usher explains, Promise Keepers has continued to contract. A careful reading of their own history shows a declining number of men attending stadium or similar events since the 1997 Stand in the Gap and the contraction which followed. By their own testimony (laced with a generous dose of positive spin) they have continued to contract over the past decade. In fact, the contraction has gone far enough that McCartney now candidly speaks of an upcoming Promise Keepers event in Boulder, Colorado with these words  :

Our journey will begin with a stadium event in Boulder, CO, on July 31-August 1, 2009. We’ll celebrate our 20th anniversary as a ministry back where it all began–and where it will be re-launched–at Folsom Field.

Fish or Fowl?

Promise Keepers has always claimed it was a ministry to men. But with the relaunch, McCartney highlights three distinctives that will characterize the re-launched Promise Keepers. Claiming to take his cue for the relaunch from the First Century Church, McCartney claims that this church did three things:

Proverbs 31:31: They celebrated virtuous women at the city gates. We expect men to invite thousands of women to “A Time to Honor.” This will be powerful. We need to rally around women and raise the bar for what it is to be virtuous. The next generation must have a true model for womanhood.

Acts 2:43-48: They shared their resources equally. As the days get more difficult, the church that is truly anointed will be one that opens its arms to the less fortunate. We want to catalyze men to serve the poor, the oppressed and the needy through their local church.

I Corinthians 4:15: Honoring the Spiritual Fathers of the Faith. Paul said that though we may have countless teachers in the faith, we will not have many fathers. And he became our father through the Gospel. We want to honor the Jewish Believers who are the spiritual fathers of our faith.

Apostolic Christianity or Jewish Evangelism?

Concerning Spiritual Fathers: This sounds decidedly quixotic. It is one thing to argue in favor of evangelism of Jews, particulary based on Paul’s “to the Jew first, and then the Greek” statements. Two of PK’s Board members are involved in Jewish evangelism (Rabbi Jonathan Bernis) and encouraging “Gentile believers in Jesus Christ to embrace the Messianic Jewish community” (Dr.Raleigh Washington). But McCartney doesn’t even seem to have evangelism of Jewish unbelievers in view here, but rather “Jewish believers who are the spiritual fathers of our faith.”

It’s unclear who these “fathers” are. Paul evangelized the Corinthians and thus claims to be their father in the gospel. Is Paul, therefore, ipso facto the father of all believers today? Or, perhaps McCartney is referring to the Apostles who left us the New Testament. But, still, while some Christians have become believers by reading the New Testament alone, most have been evangelized by Gentile evangelists. Just what McCartney is talking about here awaits further developments.

Christian Welfare?

Concerning the sharing of resources: why is this agenda singled out as somehow unique, or distinctive? Yes, the sharing of resources marked the communal life of early Christians. But that has more or less been the case ever since. Today, there are scores of Christian aid agencies that are international in scope, alongside countless soup kitchens, second-hand clothing distribution networks, and single-mother ministries in churches across the land. Entire denominations have cast themselves as agents for social justice and aid to the oppressed. Why is this “new?”

It’s Still About Women, Evidently

Thumbs Up But, the first distictive in McCartney’s list looks decidedly like a retread, and a confused one at that. Citing a verse from the poem on the Virtuous Women (who is obviously a member of the aristocracy during the Golden Age of Solomon) in Proverbs 31, McCartney claims that the early church “celebrated virtuous women at the city gates.” So far as I know, the Apostle Paul commends a number of women for their character and works of mercy. But, to say that Christians themselves were “celebrating virtuous women at the city gates” is almost certainly false.

Christians (Jewish and Gentile alike) were mocked and persecuted and schemed against in the city gates. Jews and Pagans alike, threatened by converts to Christianity, persecuted Christians. To imagine the Christians themselves “celebrating” (what, exactly, is this supposed to mean???) in the city gates … it’s a preposterous fiction forced onto the NT and the early writings of the post-Apostolic fathers.

But, this is the 21st Century. The Evangelical Church is now feminist. And, if a ministry to men is going to have a snowball’s chance in hell, it’s going to need to bring the women in. Here’s how the PK website puts it :

1) Why are we inviting women?

The time for Proverbs 31:31 is long overdue! It’s time to bring our wives and daughters so that we can honor them together. They need to stand side by side with us as warriors of the faith.

Hmmmm. Evidently, Christian men don’t praise virtuous women in the gates (hence, it’s long overdue). I’m not sure why the burgeoning population of women in evangelical seminaries doesn’t count here. In another generation, evangelical pulpits will have as many or more women in them than men. Count on it — the seminaries’ Forward Looking Committees have it all figured out. The next generation of evangelical leaders are in today’s evangelical seminary classrooms. Count the division of the sexes and know the future!

I wish PK had been a less foggy about that warrior thing.

Do they mean this: “They need to stand side by side with us men who as men are warriors for the faith?”

Or do they mean this: “They need to stand side by side with us men, joining us to be warriors for the faith?”

You know, in the current climate there’s whole organization of women led by Carolyn Custis James who claims that the Bible calls women to be warriors. Women now populate all the armed forces, including combat units, so it’s a sure thing they can claim to be warriors for the United States. Is PK conforming to popular feminist and egalitarian notions about the warrior-ness of women? Looks like it to me.

Down with Male Headship

seenoevilMeanwhile, the entire, long, and tedious battle for the past 25 years has been whether or not men are heads of their marriages, families, and churches. On that issue, PK is quite clear :

What does PK think the role of women should be?

The role of women is not a topic we address at our events; however, we do believe husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).

I do not know how more studiously Promise Keepers can ignore the Scriptures than this. Paul has a lot of very clear things to say about the role of women in Ephesians 5. On one hand PK urges us to honor our spiritual fathers in the faith — including the Apostle Paul, for crying out loud — and at the same time refuses to quote the Apostle when he gives an answer to a question they themselves acknowledge is “out there.”

Promise Keepers makes a big deal out of integrity and courage. They would be a lot more convincing if they showed more integrity in how they handle the Bible, and less cowardice when facing the spirit of the age.

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The Church thru Egalitarian Eyes

two-thumbsThe blog sponsored by Christians for Biblical Equality can be counted on for showing us the cutting edge of egalitarian thinking, the sort of stuff that egalitarian leaders in academe look for in order to know where to place themselves so they’re at the head of the popular mob.

It is also a way to look at things ostensibly “Christian” through egalitarian glasses. An excellent example of this is found in Trevor’s analysis of how/why we have created “a church of gender division.”

His evidence includes the following:

  • We encourage separate men’s and women’s meetings, rallies, conferences etc.
  • We encourage separate men’s and women’s study Bibles and Bible helps.
  • We encourage the genre of exclusive male to male and female to female authors.

So what? Ministries targeted at women and men, ministries pursued by men in concert with men (and women with women) are hardly new, going back to the very beginning (cf. 1 Tim. 3, or Titus 2). And so it has been for about 2,000 years now. The underlying premise of ministries aimed at either sex is simply that men and women are different, and that this difference should be acknowledged and accomodated by church ministry.

Admitted, the advance of technology (printing, video, travel, etc.) makes the opportunities for such accomodation more frequent. Again, so what? If ministry to men alone facilitates such ministry, as with women (as commenters reluctantly acknowledge), why frustrate this ministry by cutting back on it?

  • We encourage male supremacy and primacy within marriage and family.
  • We encourage marital role separateness when we promote hierarchy as a marriage model.
  • We encourage the language of biological differentiation when we talk of his needs, her needs.
  • We encourage difference between the sexes through accepting the thesis of books like, “Men are from Mars – Women are from Venus.”

Again, such “observations” ignore what everyone has always easily known. Moreover, it ignores the Bible’s own mandate that men be heads of the marriage, family, and church. This mandate has been ground zero in Church conflict for several generations now, and evangelicalism seems to have pretty well settled into camps where compliance with Biblical norms are honored (a minority now), and those where these Biblical norms are flouted, ignored, or mocked (e.g. the so-called egalitarian church communities, whether they be congregations, denominations, or parachurch institutions).

What puzzles me is the “we have …” in these observations. It sounds as if this egalitarian is lamenting that the egalitarian agenda hasn’t been more comprehensively implemented in supposedly egalitarian churches.

We encourage segregation and individualism by all of the above which leads to dissatisfaction and the breakdown of balanced gender relationships, including marriage and family.

Flummery. American evangelicals are the “freest” Christians history has ever seen. Their ecclesiology (actually, their lack of an ecclesiology)  allows them to do what they routinely do as often as they change their socks: change churches to suit their tastes in virtually anything, including how the church handles ministry to men and women.

The NT scriptures are addressed to believers generally, not to genders specifically. While instructions are given to husbands, wives, children, slaves and slave owners these instructions are to be culturally considered.

Here we have egalitarian falsehood and egalitarian flummery in one sentence.

First, the OT and NT Scriptures are generally address specificially to the men, and when context indicates that the entire congregation is intended, it is the inclusive masculine gender that is used in the Biblical text. The Ten Commandments, for example, are addressed to men, because men are the heads of the various social units within Israel (marriage, family, tribe). But, no one ever questions that “Thou shalt not steal” is a commandment women are obliged to follow. Specifically, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife …” does not leave the women free to covet their neighbor’s husband. No specific prohibition directed at women is needed, because her moral duty is included in the moral duty of her head.

And, what about those Scriptures known to address specific — gender specific — groups, such as husbands (as opposed to wives) or wives (as opposed to husbands)? According to CBE’s blogger, these are to be “culturally considered!” That’s egalitarian code words for “ignored” or “dismissed.” On this score, the entire Book of Proverbs should be dismissed, because it is compiled by men for men as men. Its purpose is to equip young men to take their places in the gates as older, wiser men.

May women profit from The Proverbs? No one ever said otherwise. Does the Book of Proverbs contain exemplary models for women to emulate? Of course it does, primarily Lady Wisdom. Models of women to reject? Of course it does, primarily Woman Folly. But, even those passages are primarily crafted for the express instruction and development of men’s characters and wisdom. In this way, the Proverbs are typical of the Bible as a whole — addressed to the heads of the believing community for the benefit of all.

While some may disagree, it is my belief that many of our differences are culturally adapted rather than biblically mandated.

Yet that’s what the quarrel is all about! Egalitarians take the Bible’s mandates regarding the nature and relationship of the sexes and dismiss them out of hand in favor of some pansexual or asexual inclusiveness.

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Amazing Discovery by our RCC Friends

changing-timesThe BBC is breathlessly reporting something that I’ll be NO ONE EVER knew before:

Women are prouder than men, but men are more lustful, according to a Vatican report which states that the two sexes sin differently.

A Catholic survey found that the most common sin for women was pride, while for men, the urge for food was only surpassed by the urge for sex.

I can just Homestar Runner now:  “Seeweeouswy, Strong Bad!  Can you buh-weave it?” 

The BBC has shown us how late in the Empire we are, that this would be news.  Actually, it’s more than news.  It’s subversive, which is why it’s coming out of the Roman Catholic Church, that paragon of Western Patriarchal Purgatory, in which all men are gods and all women are bare-foot and prego.

Not that the Romans have any monopoly on this sort of thing, of course.  It used to be that American Protestantism was rife with sexist oppression — women covering their heads in worship, wearing dresses instead of short-shorts to Church.  Do you realize that not many generations ago there were no female worship leaders?  No generous swathes of female belly-flesh undulating from what old cranks pompously called “the sanctuary?”  No navels winking merrily at the congregation? 

It’s taken a long hard fight, but Broadly American Evangelical Protestantism has finally reached the gender heights of what George Bernard Shaw proclaimed as the proper gender division within humanity:  male, female, and clergy.  Except if you’re female clergy, you’re still permitted to flaunt your femininity.  If you’re male clergy, however, you’d better not speak or act in any way that a woman wouldn’t be comfortable speaking or acting.

Still, those Catholics think there’s a gender component to sin. 

The Pope’s personal theologian backed up the report in the Vatican newspaper.

“Men and women sin in different ways,” Msgr Wojciech Giertych, theologian to the papal household, wrote in L’Osservatore Romano.

“When you look at vices from the point of view of the difficulties they create you find that men experiment in a different way from women.”

Msgr Giertych said the most difficult sin for men to face was lust, followed by gluttony, sloth, anger, pride, envy and greed.

For women, the most dangerous sins were pride, envy, anger, lust, and sloth, he added.

Oh yeah??  Who says??

Actually, it was the Catholic sinners (or, at least, those who still go to confession) who provide the shocking evidence.

The report was based on a study of confessions carried out by Fr Roberto Busa, a 95-year-old Jesuit scholar.

Protestant ecumenists with their gender priorities straight (or, should that be straight/gay/lesbian/transexual?) need to redouble their efforts to liberate Catholic clergy and laity from the deplorable sexism of the past.

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Joe the Plumber and First Principles

Tony Esolen’s final (alas!) pondering on Joe the Plumber’s interview making the rounds of the internet focuses on “first principles.”
 
… in that interview, [Joe the Plumber] showed that he rejected the idea that he should vote for a fatter wallet, since even if he had been persuaded that Mr. Obama’s policies would fatten his wallet (and he was not persuaded that they would), they would still amount to what he called “socialism”. That’s what he rejected, as unworthy of American love of liberty.

I think that Joe was right about that, but that’s not my point here. I’m struck first of all that anybody can still talk about first principles.

And, that got me to thinking how “first principles” is a notion that sheds some light on how and why egalitarians go careening off into the theological ozone while mere Christianity has remained more or less stable for over two millennia as far as notions about the sexes are concerned.

Esolen observes:

There are some people who cannot logically appeal to first principles. Utilitarians can’t; all they can do is whip out the happiness calculators, their political equivalent of a magic wand. Materialists can’t; they cannot even recognize the real existence of principles, except as prejudices. Others cannot appeal to first principles, because it would be political suicide for them to do so.

For egalitarians, it would be programmatic, doctrinal, and – yes – political suicide for them to appeal to first principles, for those principles in Holy Writ dissolve egalitarianism as salt dissolves slugs.

Consider, for example, how egalitarians read Genesis 2. Their conclusions exactly contradict the Apostle Paul, writing in the Spirit, who notes that woman was made from the man and for his sake, not the other way round. The man is the woman’s very reason for existing. Say such a thing (he is her reason for being) and watch an egalitarian’s knickers twist tighter than dental floss.

But in all their sputtering indignation, none will ever mention the first principle Paul sees embedded in the Genesis text – “For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”

Another observation by Esolen:

… one of the professors at my school (and Providence College is a paragon of good health compared to most) tells his students that they are idiots for reading anything written before 1950, since none of that matters anymore. Another professor derides students for majoring in English, since there is no real knowledge you can gain from poetry.

Again, we see that egalitarianism is modernism’s running dog, exactly what you’d expect, as egalitarianism is leashed to the World. The World has been enthralled with its own navel for at least the past century in the West, and the attitude reported by Esolen is found in all quarters of modern culture, because it is … well, modern. It scorns the past because it is the past. Modernists insist that they are the people and wisdom will die with them.

So, for example, egalitarians are quite sure that the Church has misunderstood 2 Timothy 2:12ff until sometime in the mid 1970s. Egalitarians are quite sure the pervasive patriarchy of the Old and New Testaments are lamentable errors, or lamentable accomodations to errors, until the Holy Spirit remembered to tell them what He really has in mind. Egalitarians are so confident that “El Shaddai” means “God with breasts” while the LXX translators – more than 2,000 years closer to the culture and language of the Hebrew text – were quite mistaken.

There are, indeed, first principles in God’s Word (cf. Hebrews 5:12). But, these principles cannot be acknowledged by egalitarians, lest they abandon their infatuation with the world.

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Joe the Plumber and Authority

 

In his third installment on Joe the Plumber, Anthony Esolen examines the sub-text in Joe’s interview with Media-babe on the topic of authority. Esolen sets up his ponderings on the political left with this snippet of the interview:

When the reporter asked him about Obama’s intention to take money from the supposed rich, Joe, who is not rich, did not at first ask “How much” or “Who’s giving” but “By what authority?”

 And, so, Esolen goes on to explain the wide-ranging ways that the political left opposes any authority, while arrogating to itself the only sort of authority it can understand: the blunt exercise of power.

 In my collateral musings on Esolen’s thoughts, I note that religious egalitarians have the same notion of authority (the blunt exercise of power) as political leftists. In the latter case, power must be accumulated and then coercively deployed against non-Leftists. The religious feminists, however, appear to take a different tack, viz., to champion the eradication of all authority, replaced by everyone submitting to everyone else so that there is, virtually, no exercise of authority.

 Put that way, it sounds silly, of course. Yet when egalitarians apply this notion to marriage, you get the standard egalitarian notion that husbands are servant-leaders (e.g. they serve, but never lead) and wives have equal “authority” to teach men, lead their families, and rule the church. And, so, the abundant, obvious, and pervasive patriarchalism of the Old and New Testaments is bent into unrecognizable shapes.

 For the egalitarian, it is impossible for Christ to be the head of man, as man is the head of woman, as God is the head of Christ. Nor can an egalitarian concede that Paul denies woman authority (!) to teach men or to rule men in the church. But, far more than a few scattered verses in the NT are at stake here. It is the entire trajectory of Scripture, its pervasive patriarchalism, which the egalitarian must deconstruct and reconstruct along feminist lines.

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