Archive | Theology/Bible

What does it mean that “God is the head of Christ”?

Paul’s teaching about head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 stands out as some of the most difficult material in all of Paul’s writings. This is not only because there is disagreement over what the head covering means, but also because commentators debate what the covering even is. Even though there are some obscure points in this passage, I would argue that the main point of the passage is clear enough. That main point is Paul’s teaching about headship. Verse 3 reads as follows:

1 Corinthians 11:3 “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

In verse 3, Paul unfolds a series of relationships that are defined by this notion of headship, but what Paul means by “head” is precisely what commentators have vigorously disputed. Continue Reading →

A Basic Principle of Justice

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 19:15)

“Take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

Jesus of Nazareth, King of Kings (Matthew 18:16)


UPDATE: John Calvin’s commentary on Deuteronomy 19:15 is illuminating:

“Since too great credulity would often impel the judges to condemn the guiltless, [God] here applies a remedy to this evil, forbidding that the crime should be punished unless proved by sure testimony. Although He has naturally inscribed this law upon every heart, yet He would have it written down, that its observance amongst the Israelites might be more sacred; for nothing is more dangerous than to expose men’s lives to the tongue of a single individual; but, where the consent of two or three is carefully weighed, any lurking falsehood is for the most part detected. Lest, therefore, any one should be rashly condemned, and so innocence should be oppressed by any light conjectures, or insufficient accusations, or unjust prejudices, God here interferes, and does not allow any to be harshly dealt with, unless duly convicted.”

Albert Mohler answers questions about social justice

Albert Mohler had an open Q&A session with students at Southern Seminary and Boyce College today in which he answered a question about social justice. At 24:14 in the video above, a student asks, “How do you define social justice, and how do you define our gospel call in how you define social justice.” Dr. Mohler gives an extensive statement in response, and at 38:35 offers a specific explanation of why he didn’t sign the recent Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel.

Later in the day, Dr. Mohler answered more questions along these lines on his podcast “Ask Anything Live.” In the video below, you can hear the questions and his answers at following time marks: Continue Reading →

John Calvin on Temptation and Original Sin

Over the summer, Rosaria Butterfield and I coauthored an article about the differences between Protestants and Catholics concerning original sin. I followed up that article with some of my own reflections about temptation and sin. I stand by what we wrote. I have many Roman Catholic friends that I love and appreciate, but I still think that our differences on this point are important to come to terms with.

John Calvin opines on these differences as well in a sermon on Galatians 5:19-23. Calvin’s comments reveal that our differences with Roman Catholics about original sin are as old as the Reformation. The sermon also reveals that the debate was not and is not still merely academic. It has tremendous practical implications for how we are to live our lives as pleasing before God. The rhetoric here is strong and reflects the pitched conflict of the time. Nevertheless, the underlying theological point still stands. Here is Calvin in his own words: Continue Reading →

An 88-year-old dad is reunited with his 53-year-old Down Syndrome son

This really is wonderful. As Jayber Crow would say, “Good-good-good-good-good!”

Why get rid of priests who experience same-sex attraction?

I read the news with horror two days ago after I saw the headline from The New York Times: “Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says.” If you haven’t been following this story, you need to. It is simply horrific. And all this in the wake of the disturbing revelations about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s sexual abuse of young boys and seminarians.

The scope of the problem in the Pennsylvania is staggering. What struck me when I read the Times article, however, was that the words “gay” and “homosexual” appear nowhere in The New York Times’ coverage. I understand why it wasn’t mentioned. This is a kind of third rail for the reporting class. They don’t want to cover the networks of sexually active gay priests within the Catholic Church as if their presence were a problem. The coverage (or lack thereof) actually reflects the worldviews of those reporting the news. To them, abuse may be a problem, but homosexuality isn’t. Moreover, homosexuality per se has nothing to do with scandals uncovered in recent weeks. Continue Reading →

The Trinity Debate Two Years On

It’s been about two years since the great online conflagration known as “the Trinity debate” began to wind down. I still think a lot about what happened during those months during the summer of 2016. Two years hence, I can say that my dominant feelings about it are thankfulness. And I say that in spite of the fact that it was one of the most bitter and unsparing debates I’ve ever been a party to.

Why am I mainly thankful? I stand by what I wrote two years ago in the immediate aftermath. I learned from both faithful and unfaithful critics. And it was good for me.

Before the debate started, I would have identified myself as a standard fourth century Nicene Trinitarian. I haven’t moved from that identification but own it all the more fervently (and with greater clarity) as a result of what unfolded over those two months in the summer of 2016. I have done more reading on the trinity because of that debate than I ever had previously. Which means that I know God better than I did before. Praise God. Continue Reading →

Revoice is over. Now what?

I could not have predicted the Revoice conference would become the catalyst for controversy that it has now indeed become. Debate about the celibate gay identity movement has been going on for years. Both in print and online, the controversy was joined years ago about sin, temptation, desire, concupiscence, etc. And yet, it has been a controversy largely ignored by many evangelicals.

That’s why I couldn’t have predicted that a conference featuring speakers whose views have been widely known for years would somehow change evangelical indifference about problems within the celibate gay identity movement. Even last Fall when celibate gay identity proponents were some of the most strident critics of The Nashville Statement, evangelicals didn’t seem to notice. In fact, Christianity Today had an editorial objecting to The Nashville Statement almost entirely on the grounds that it excludes the likes of those who are now involved in Revoice.

Nevertheless, somehow, the Revoice conference has gotten everyone’s attention (finally!). And this is a good thing. Evangelicals have been long overdue in considering these questions carefully in the light of scripture. Continue Reading →

The Moral Status of Desire Is the Issue

Ron Belgau has a rejoinder posted at The Public Discourse responding the essay that Rosaria Butterfield and I wrote. I’m not going to give it a point-by-point rebuttal, but I do want to offer some pushback on one central claim of his article. Belgau claims the following:

Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield argued that our disagreements stem from the difference between the Protestant and Catholic views of sin… They asserted that I only denied that same-sex temptation is itself sinful because I am Catholic. This is a puzzling assertion, because Butterfield herself has denied that all temptations associated with same-sex attraction are sinful. In Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ, she wrote: “Although temptation is not sin itself, it is also not good.” She also wrote of needing to repent “when feelings cross from temptation to sin.” [underline mine]

From here, Belgau goes on to list other examples of Protestants who deny that temptation equals sin (e.g., John Piper, Sam Allberry). And this is where Belgau’s argument goes askew. Continue Reading →

What does the tenth commandment teach about desire?

This is the last post I will write in response to readers who have asked questions about a piece that I co-wrote with Rosaria Butterfield for The Public Discourse titled “Learning to Hate our Sin without Hating Ourselves.” You can read my answers to the first two questions here and here.

The third question is about the tenth commandment in Exodus 20:17. Here is the reader’s question in his own words:

In your reference to the desire of the 10th commandment (different than the action of the 7th), isn’t the sin desiring something that another person has?  I could desire a piece of cake, and that would be fine, gluttony aside… But if I want your piece of cake, that’s sin.  Or, to change the object, if I desire my wife – no problem.  If I desire your wife, that’s the 10th commandment.  The real question is what if I desire an unmarried woman.  Either way, that’s not breaking the 10th commandment, which is about desiring something another person has.  It seems that Exodus 20 doesn’t contribute to the argument of whether or not desire itself is sinful.

I think this is a great question. After all, weren’t we all taught that coveting is basically a synonym for envying? On that understanding, coveting seems to be more concerned with wanting other people’s stuff than with desiring evil in general. If that were so it may not tell us much about the ethics of desire, much less same-sex desire. Continue Reading →

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