Author Archive | Denny Burk

Ryan Anderson on the virtues of motherhood and homemaking

I’ve been working toward a review of Ryan Anderson’s forthcoming book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment (Encounter Books, 2018). It really is a fantastic, must-read work. I will resist beginning the review here, but I do want to share a passage from it that extols the virtues of motherhood and homemaking. Anderson writes:

G. K. Chesterton praised the vocation of mother and homemaker as greater than paid employment in the modern marketplace, noting especially the broad range of responsibilities it involves. In her own domain, a home- maker is like the Queen, “deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays”; she is like Whiteley, the great retailer, “providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes and books”; she is like Aristotle, “teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene.” Chesterton remarked:

I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No. A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute.

Today, Esolen echoes Chesterton, saying that our culture has gotten this backward. If a woman works full-time in the modern economy, specializing in one task—perhaps cooking, arranging flowers, or performing music—then society praises her. But if she “can do all these things and in fact does them for the people she loves and for those whom she welcomes into her home (and she is not afraid of guests, because her home is always just a whisk or two away from hospitality), we shake our heads and say that she has wasted her talents.” On the contrary, Esolen says, she has put her talents to use. Instead of “preferring the specialist who amputates and cauterizes and does one thing well, for herself primarily and sometimes even at the expense of the family,” we must renew our respect for “the woman of many talents and many tasks in the home.” Like Chesterton, we must acknowledge that the dignity of work does not depend on pay, and that the work done inside the home is just important as the work done outside of it, and perhaps more so.

The modern penchant for denigrating motherhood and homemaking is a morally retrograde farce. Bravo to Ryan Anderson (and Chesterton and Esolen) for seeing and declaring the good, the beautiful, and the true.

Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials

Yesterday, I received a copy of Dave Furman’s new book Kiss the Wave: Embracing God in Your Trials. Dave is a husband, father of four, and a pastor at Redeemer Church of Dubai. I just received the book, so I obviously haven’t read it yet. But I wanted to share a little snippet from a letter that Dave wrote describing what the book is about. He writes:

One month into our ministry in the desert, everything fell apart. The nerve pain in my arms went from bad to extreme and the accompanying depression was unbearable. I was (and still am) unable to drive, shake hands, and lift more than a couple of pounds. I need help putting on my seatbelt and getting dressed. There are days when the darkness seems like it will not lift. Through this struggle, I’ve seen that the only answer to our pain is to embrace God in our trials.

There’s a quote often attributed to Charles Spurgeon that says, “l have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.” In those words, Spurgeon is not giving us trite advice, pretending as if suffering is not difficult. He is instead telling us that God is doing more in our suffering than we can see with our eyes. Instead of flailing our arms in panic or running from him, by faith we need to see that the stormy waves are actually taking us to God. Kiss the Wave is a book for all of us because we all struggle at various times and we certainly know those who are hurting.

I am really grateful to have received this book and wanted to pass it along to you.

A gut-wrenching afternoon thinking about child sexual abuse

I want to share with you two things that have been occupying my attention this afternoon, one of them expected and the other quite unexpected.

First, I spent early afternoon completing a training program designed to help protect Christian ministries from child-predators. The program is the second one I have completed in the last month, and both programs are pre-requisite for serving in ministries that I am involved with. I am so very grateful for both programs. They were informative, helpful, and practical. But they were also gut-wrenching. I learned so much.

Both programs describe how child predators single-out and groom children. Both programs explain how predators manipulate “gatekeepers” to gain access to children. And both programs explain how predators target the most vulnerable children—those who are loners, fatherless, or otherwise isolated from their peers. The predators choose and victimize children who have the least amount of protection.

Both programs are designed to protect children participating in Christian ministries, which are often targeted by predators. For those of you who are interested in such training for volunteers in your church or ministry, the one I recommend is Ministry Safe. I hate that such programs are even necessary, but they are. I can’t recommend Ministry Safe highly enough.

Second, in a turn of providence just as I finished the training, I came across Justin Taylor’s posting of Rachael Denhollander’s victim-impact statement, which she gave at the sentencing hearing of Larry Nasser, former Team USA gymnastics doctor who molested her 16 years ago. Let me just say, that I have never seen anything like this.

For over forty-minutes, she held forth. She gave a heart-wrending account of her abuse at his hands. With her abuser right before her, she spoke with conviction, determination, and moral clarity. She also offered the gospel to her abuser and offered him her forgiveness. When she was done, the judge said she was the bravest person she had ever had in her courtroom. The gallery rose in a standing ovation.

I urge you to set aside 45-minutes to watch the entire thing (see video above). You won’t be able to look away. You will fight back tears. I know I did. But it will be worth it.

Then let the tears flow. Pray. Maranatha.

A mere complementarian reading of the most contested verse in the evangelical gender debate—1 Timothy 2:12

Evangelicals seem to be more divided than ever about the issue of gender roles in the home and in the church. On the one side, you have the egalitarians. They believe that Christ came to abolish gender norms. For them, true equality means that both men and women can serve in whatever roles they feel called to within the body of Christ. If a woman wants to be pastor, great. If she wants to preach the Bible to men, no problem. As long as the person is gifted for the work, then it doesn’t matter what the gender of the preacher is. At least that’s how the egalitarians have it.

On the other side, however, you have the complementarians. They believe that while men and women are equally created in the image of God, God nevertheless calls them to different roles within the home and within the church. In the home, God calls men to lead their families, and in the church God calls qualified men to teach and to serve as pastor/elder.

As you can imagine, the egalitarian view fits very well with the spirit of the age while the complementarian view does not. But the bottom line for us is not whose view is the most popular. The bottom line for us is, “What does the Bible say? Whose reading of scripture is correct? How then are we to order our lives together in churches as we meet together for worship?” Continue Reading →

Who can teach in a seminary? Men, women, both?

Last night Desiring God posted a new episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast in which John Piper answers the following question from a listener:

“Dear Pastor John, I’m a seminary student at an orthodox but interdenominational school in the United States. I share your complementarian understanding of God’s design for male and female roles and relationships in the home and church. On that basis, I have recently doubted whether or not my seminary ought to allow women to teach pastors in training. What do you think? Should women be hired as seminary professors? What is your best case?”

In response, Piper makes the case that women should not be hired as seminary professors. Why? Because the seminary professors who train future pastors ought themselves to be qualified as pastors. The calling of a seminary professor is not merely to download information. Piper argues,

“The proper demand on the seminary teacher is to be an example, a mentor, a guide, an embodiment of the pastoral office in preparing men to fill the pastoral office… The attempt to distinguish the seminary teaching role from the pastoral teaching role in such a way that the biblical restriction to men does not apply to the seminary teaching results in a serious inconsistency… If it is unbiblical to have women as pastors, how can it be biblical to have women who function in formal teaching and mentoring capacities to train and fit pastors for the very calling from which the mentors themselves are excluded?”

I think Piper has made a compelling case here—one that is consistent with a complementarian view of gender roles and one that I have long agreed with. Moreover, it’s a position that is not new. It is precisely the case that many other complementarians have made over the years.

For example, my own denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention) was facing this very issue back in 2007. As a result, the Southern Baptist Texan1 interviewed presidents of SBC seminaries asking them to describe their seminary’s practice regarding female professors. They all answered basically in the same way. There are some areas in which they would not hire women to teach.

Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote:

“We have identified certain positions that closely parallel the office of the pastor, the elder, the overseer, that we would only look to call and hire men for those particular areas. Those areas include preaching, pastoral ministries, theology, and biblical studies. I could not imagine that we would hire a woman to sit in one of those professorial positions as an instructor over men.”

Likewise, Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded:

“We believed it was right in accordance with biblical teaching that the faculty members who would model the pastorate in the teaching of disciplines specifically for pastors would be qualified by Scripture to be pastors. This was not just an abstract theory. This also was what was advised to us in terms of the necessity of specifying which teaching positions must in all cases be qualified in this manner. So we defined all teaching positions in the school of theology as of necessity to be pastor-qualified.”

There were others who answered similarly, but you get the gist. All of these answers presume not only a certain job description for the theology professor but also a certain purpose for the theological seminary. The seminary exists to serve churches, and for that reason their primary mission is (or at least should be) the training of pastors for churches. In the core pastoral disciplines (preaching, pastoral ministries, theology, and biblical studies), the best approach is to employ professors who qualify for the pastoral office.

If seminaries really wish to serve actual churches in this way, then they must not adopt a teaching ministry that undermines the ecclesiastical norms of the churches they serve. The contrary view—which is based on the observation that the seminary is not the church—misunderstands what the purpose of the seminary is.

Piper’s conclusion crystallizes the issue:

“The issue here at the seminary level is largely the nature of the seminary teaching office. What do we aim for it to be? Is it conceived as an example and model and embodiment of pastoral vision, or not? That will lead us in how we staff our seminary faculty.”

Sadly, many theological educators and seminaries have lost sight of the primary mission of training pastors for churches, but John Piper has not. Piper’s vision of the purpose of a seminary is the correct one, and that is why his answer to the question posed above is correct as well.

—————

1 Gary Ledbetter, “SBC seminaries show similarities, diversity regarding female profs,” Southern Baptist Texan (February 22, 2007): 3, 7.

Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash

A feminist describes her abortion… and sadness

Just three years after Roe v. Wade passed, feminist writer Linda Bird Francke wrote about her abortion experience. Her story originally appeared under the pseudonym “Jane Doe” in The New York Times but was later published in a book of essays under her own name. Her experience and feelings afterward are still so very common today. In her own words: Continue Reading →

Should Christians take one another to court? (Short answer: no)

Jesus says that the world will recognize his followers by how his followers love one another. If people look at us and see us resolving our disputes and putting one another’s needs before our own, if they see us trying to outdo one another in honoring one another, if they see us weeping with those among us who weep and rejoicing with those among us who rejoice; if they see that, they will know that we love one another. And they will know that we are who we say we are—disciples of the King Jesus.

But if they see us fighting with one another, gossiping about one another, complaining about one another, trying to take advantage of one another and to get our fair share of the pie from one another, and if they see us trying to exact a pound of flesh from one another; what is the watching world going to conclude about us? Are they going to say, “Wow, maybe there is something to this Jesus thing.” Or will they say, “Those people are just as pathetic as the rest of us. What a bunch of phony baloney that Christianity is.”

Do you think it matters whether or not we love one another in the church? Jesus says it does: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). If you think it matters (and Jesus says it does), then our ability to resolve disputes and conflicts among ourselves takes on existential importance for the mission of the church. The world will either see Jesus in our conflicts or they will not. Which will it be?

This is precisely the situation Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. In these eleven verses, Paul addresses members within the Corinthian church who had let their disputes get totally out of hand. It was so bad that they were hauling one another off to secular law courts. And you might think that this is a bit of a change of subject from the previous chapter on church discipline, but it’s not. In chapter 5 he’s dealing with the church’s failure to be the church, and he’s doing the same thing in chapter 6. In chapter 5, they were failing to be disciplined and holy. In chapter 6, they are failing to resolve their own internal disputes. And in both chapters, these failures harm the witness of the church to those on the outside.

In these eleven verses, Paul tells the Corinthians not to be hauling one another into secular lawcourts. And his reasons boil down to this:

I. The Saints Are Competent to Judge (1-3)
II. The Saints Are Compromised by Lawsuits (4-8)
III. The Saints Are Called into a New Identity (9-11)

To hear the rest of this unpacked you can download the audio here or listen below.

Is there a Christian justification for visiting prostitutes?

I’ve been preaching through 1 Corinthians at my church over the last year, and last week’s message was on 1 Cor. 6:12-20, in which Paul confronts men in the Corinthian church who were not only visiting prostitutes but who were also defending their right to do so as Christians. These men were rationalizing their sin by appealing to Christian freedom and to what they perceived to be the purpose of their physical bodies. Paul confronts their self-justifications with three truths.

I. Christian Freedom Has Limits (6:12).
II. The Resurrection Has Implications (6:13-18a)
III. The Body Has a Purpose (6:18b-20)

This passage is a case-study in how we tend to rationalize and excuse not only sexual sin but all sin. You can download the message here or listen to it below.

The Last Hot Take on “The Last Jedi”

I know, I know. The last thing you need before the new year is one more hot take on The Last Jedi. Well, don’t worry this isn’t a hot take. This is a slowly-steeped-seen-it-twice-read-a-lot-and-pondered-it take. And yet, it will be short and sweet nevertheless.

It is incredible to me that so many viewers seem to think so little of The Last Jedi. One thing is clear about the sharpest critics. The most disappointed viewers are the superfans. In short, they are the Star Wars uber-nerds. The following tweet exemplifies what I’m talking about: Continue Reading →

Top Ten Posts of 2017

I want to thank all of you who have read and interacted with this site over the last year. I am grateful for every one of you. For those of you who are interested, I give you the top 10 blog posts from 2017. This blog is a combination of content creation and content curation, which means that I sometimes write original material and that at other times I pass on to you items that I find interesting from elsewhere on the interwebs. Both kinds of posts appear on this list, but the vast majority are original pieces. This year’s list includes a lot of material dealing with gender and sexuality. Continue Reading →

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