Archive | Christianity

Hatmaker explains why she rejected the “bad fruit” of the Bible’s teaching about sexuality

Last week, Pete Enns interviewed Jen Hatmaker about her recent exit from evangelical Christianity. You can download the interview here or listen below:

The interview focuses on Hatmaker’s decision to embrace homosexual immorality as consistent with following Jesus. Among other things, Hatmaker describes all the consequences that have resulted from that decision—lost book contracts, cancelled speaking engagements, estranged friends and church members. She describes a harrowing emotional cost for her decision to walk away from the 2,000-year old teaching of the Christian church.

I have previously heard her talk about a lot of this, but one item in particular stuck out to me this time. One of the interviewers asked her if she had an “Aha!” moment in her reading of scripture that led her to her new views. Hatmaker explains that since key biblical texts about sexuality are disputed and unclear, she applies a hermeneutical rule to help her sort through competing interpretations. At the 29:31 mark: Continue Reading →

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

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.

A Plan to Read through the Bible in 2018

In years past, my customary mode for reading through the Bible every year involved starting in Genesis and reading right through to Revelation. I estimated that about four chapters per day would get me through in under a year’s time. The method worked reasonably well, but it wasn’t without its problems. Sometimes I would miss a day (or days) and get behind, and I had no way to keep up with my progress. I needed a schedule so that I could keep myself accountable for finishing in a year.

In 2009, therefore, I did something I had never done before. I followed a Bible reading plan. I adopted Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Calendar for Daily Readings. It provided the schedule that I needed. It also outlined daily readings from different sections of the Bible. On any given day, I would be reading something from an Old Testament narrative, something from the prophets, and something from the New Testament. Although this plan provided the accountability that I needed, I found it difficult to be reading from three to four different biblical books every day. I know that not everyone is like me, but that approach lacked the focus that my brain requires. I missed reading the Bible in its canonical arrangement and focusing on one book at a time. I wished for a schedule that would go from Genesis to Revelation in canonical order. Continue Reading →

A drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business

In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge has a startling conversation with the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley. Jacob is damned in death for his misdeeds in life, and he appears to warn Scrooge that he is headed for the same fate. Scrooge resists the suggestion that Jacob’s life was damnable. Scrooge understands that if Jacob’s life is damnable, then so is his own. So this exchange ensues:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Well done, Mr. Dickens. Well done. Lord, help us to understand what is the comprehensive ocean of our business.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

Some personal reflections on the ministry of R. C. Sproul (1939-2017)

The news just went out that theologian R. C. Sproul has passed away. I cannot overstate what his influence has been over multiple generations of evangelicals. I was not personal friends with Dr. Sproul and never had the pleasure even to meet him (I am eager to hear the stories of those who did know him). Nevertheless, his ministry has had an enormous influence on me personally, not least because I discovered his ministry right when I needed it most.

I was in college in the mid-90’s when I first heard of R. C. Sproul. In those days, there was no “Young, Restless, and Reformed,” no Gospel Coalition, no T4G. But there was Sproul and Ligonier ministries. Dr. Sproul was reformed when reformed wasn’t cool—at least it wasn’t where I grew up in the deep south. Resources were limited in those days, and that is why Dr. Sproul’s ministry meant so much to me.

There are four signal moments that stand out to me from that time: Continue Reading →

Are Christians crying wolf about mistreatment and marginalization?

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian alleges that Christians are crying wolf with claims of marginalization and persecution and that those claims need to be vigorously challenged. Why have liberals failed to challenge them? She answers:

Why are we reluctant to challenge such claims? It’s the result of a tacit social contract, an uneasy truce after the 20th-century wars over science and the role of religion in the public sphere. According to this social contract, institutions outside the religious sphere will not use scientific methods to criticize religious beliefs, so long as those beliefs are not combined with sweeping political claims that extend far beyond the walls of the church.

This paragraph is astonishing on a number of levels:

1. Allen-Ebrahimian claims there is a “tacit social contract” in which secularists will not use “scientific methods to criticize religious beliefs.” Really? I can hardly believe that she would make this claim. Has she read any of the contemporary debates between creationists, evolutionists, and intelligent design advocates? The writings of the new atheists? To be sure, each side can give as good as it gets. But to say that Christian belief has been free to operate without scientific critique is just incredible.

2. Without realizing it, Allen-Ebrahimian exemplifies the very reason conservative Christians are concerned about marginalization and mistreatment. She says that Christians are free to practice their belief within the walls of the church but that they dare not do so “beyond the walls of the church.” Right there is the problem. It’s the difference between freedom of worship and freedom of religion. Freedom of worship relegates religious observance to the church house. Freedom of religion—our nation’s first freedom in the Bill of Rights—allows believers to practice their faith outside the walls of the church in their work, community, etc. So for example, if a Christian baker doesn’t want to participate in a gay wedding, freedom of religion says he shouldn’t be forced to do so. But the freedom of worship folks believe that he can bake cakes however he wants at church, but outside the church the state can use its coercive power to force him to violate his conscience and participate in gay weddings. It’s easy for Allen-Ebrahim to say “nothing to see here, move along.” She’s not the one facing public sanctions for believing what Christians have always believed about marriage.

3. Allen-Ebrahimian claims that Christians can believe what they want so long as “those beliefs are not combined with sweeping political claims.” This is staggering. Christianity is nothing if not a sweeping political claim. We believe that Jesus is Lord and that Caesar is not. That is why we sing at this time of year that he is “King of kings and Lord of lords and he shall reign forever and ever.” We don’t believe these words to be pie in the sky. We really do believe that our highest allegiance is to a crucified and raised Jewish man from Nazareth. We believe that he will judge the nations in righteousness, including the United States. We also believe that there will be sorrow for everyone who comes up short at that judgment. Those truths have sweeping implications for the way we live our lives now as citizens. And there are sweeping political implications for the way we view human dignity, justice, war, and a host of other public issues.

Christians aren’t crying wolf or being paranoid about the challenges to religious liberty that are increasing nationwide. They are happening whether Allen-Ebrahimian acknowledges them or not. And her wish to banish religious observance from the public square is precisely why we are concerned.

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