Archive | Theology/Bible

Confronting Purity Culture or Christian Sexual Ethics?

Katelyn Beaty has penned an Op-Ed for The New York Times with a provocative title and subtitle:

Purity culture was harmful and dangerous. But its collapse has left a void for those of us looking for guidance in our intimate lives.

I won’t rehearse the whole argument of Beaty’s piece. I simply encourage you to go read it for yourself before pressing on with my comments here. I read Beaty’s op-ed with great interest and was genuinely grateful to see her confront the consent-only ethic of the wider culture. Her personal story of disillusionment with this approach to things is actually gut-wrenching to read. It is a message that readers of The New York Times would do well to consider.

Having said that, this piece is really problematic. I will spare you the line by line analysis, but the main problem is with her description of “purity culture,” which she defines in a way that includes biblical teaching on sexual ethics. She writes:

A majority of adults who came of age in evangelical churches in the 1990s and 2000s were exposed to “purity culture,” a term for teachings that stressed sexual abstinence before marriage. We had our own rituals, such as “purity balls,” and our own merchandise, such as “purity rings.” I had a “Wait for Me Journal” that I kept as a college freshman; created by a prominent Christian pop singer, the journal was designed to hold letters to my future husband. It held out the promise that if I remained pure, then God would reward good behavior with a husband — surely before I turned 30 so that we could have lots of children. [underline and italics mine]

Notice that Beaty defines “purity culture” to include “teachings that stressed sexual abstinence before marriage.” For her, “purity culture” is not merely the campy merchandising that surrounded the movement, but also abstinence itself. She goes on to argue that the teachings of purity culture became a barrier to authentic Christian faith. She writes:

Purity culture as it was taught to my generation hurt many people and kept them from knowing the loving, merciful God at the heart of Christian faith. Unfortunately, many churches still promote some version of purity culture, even as others have tried to disentangle it from the sexism and shame of its earlier iterations. Purity culture as it was modeled for evangelical teenagers in the 1990s is not the future of Christian sexual ethics. But neither is the progressive Christian approach that simply baptizes casual sex in the name of self-expression and divorces sex from covenant faithfulness and self-sacrificial love.

Is she suggesting that abstinence outside of marriage somehow keeps people “from knowing the loving, merciful God at the heart of the Christian faith”? Is she suggesting that sexual purity “is not the future of Christian sexual ethics”? It sounds like she’s suggesting both things. But if sexual purity isn’t a part of the future of Christian sexual ethics then those ethics will cease to be Christian in any meaningful way and so will anyone who follows them.

Beaty’s op-ed reads like she’s trying to strike a wise Aristotelian mean between pagan consent culture and benighted purity culture. But to do this, she has to caricature evangelical sexual ethics. She ends up obscuring what is clear in scripture and in church history. Abstinence outside of wedlock is not a doctrinal innovation. It is the ancient faith. It lies at the heart of the biblical storyline and of Christian sexual ethics, and yet Beaty writes as if the teaching were invented by Jerry Falwell or Joshua Harris.

Also, Beaty treats Nadia Bolz-Weber, the liberal author and former Lutheran pastor, as if she were a serious Christian voice in these conversations. Bolz-Weber is no Christian at all. She is a false teacher who encourages the use of “ethically sourced porn,” who told The New Yorker that she divorced her husband because the sex wasn’t good enough, and who affirms homosexuality and a host of other sexual perversions. If Bolz-Weber isn’t a heretic, then no one is. And yet Beaty presents her as a positive alternative to “purity culture” because Bolz-Weber (according to Beaty) “proposes a sexual ethic grounded in the goodness of bodies and of sexual expression based in consent, mutuality and care.” This is an astonishingly inadequate description of the toxic stew of error streaming from the pen of Nadia Bolz-Weber.

It has been pointed out by others that “exvangelicals” often have a uniquely negative take on “purity culture.” Yet it is often not clear what they are condemning. Are they rejecting cheesy merchandising and excessive shaming? Or do they mean to reject what the Bible actually teaches about sexual ethics? All you have to do is read a little bit of Mark Regnerus’ writings to discover that the social science supports much of what “purity culture” warned about premarital promiscuity and its effect on subsequent marriages. And yet this wisdom is also often dismissed by exvangelical opponents of purity culture.

I’m glad that Beaty is confronting the consent-only sexual ethic. It certainly is woefully deficient. But she’s not offering anything substantial in its place. Instead, she obscures the Bible’s teaching about sexual holiness—which does in fact require staying a virgin until marriage and which does in fact condemn any sexual activity outside of marriage. Those are pillars of the Bible’s sexual ethic, but you wouldn’t know it from Beaty’s op-ed.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Beaty’s essay is that she isn’t really clear about what she’s condemning in “purity culture.” If unbiblical and unmerciful shaming is what she means to condemn, then she would have done well to say so. I can’t imagine serious Christians disagreeing with her about that. I certainly wouldn’t. But as I read the article, the Bible’s actual teaching about sexual ethics also seems to be thrown into the mix of what needs to be condemned. And this is a claim that no serious Christian can agree with. It is a claim that we are in fact obliged to contend against (Jude 3).

The SBC’s Resolution “On Sexuality and Personal Identity”

I know that most of the news coming out the Southern Baptist Convention this week relates to official actions on abuse, debates about complementarianism, and the controversial Resolution 9. These are important items that I may write about in coming days, but right now I wish to highlight something that seems to have been overlooked in news coverage and social media. And that item is Resolution 5, “On Sexuality and Personal Identity.”

This resolution is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it is the 2019 SBC’s answer to the controversial Revoice conference that received so much attention nearly a year ago and which met again in St. Louis just last week. Before I can elaborate on the significance of this resolution, I need to explain a little bit about how the SBC operates.

Every year, the President of the SBC appoints a Resolutions Committee. Any Southern Baptist person can propose a resolution for consideration by this committee. The committee has tremendous freedom in how they deal with the resolutions submitted to them. They can either accept the resolution, revise it, write a new one on the same topic, or reject the resolution altogether. Whatever resolutions the committee decides to act on must be approved by a majority vote of messengers attending the convention.

This year, Steve Kern of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma proposed a resolution titled “Answering the ‘Revoice’ Agenda.” While the committee did not move this particular resolution forward, they did decide to speak to the issue. In the committee report, here is their explanation:

While the Committee believes that the Southern Baptist Convention messengers are sympathetic to concerns raised by the resolution, the Committee deemed it best not to condemn this specific conference. The Committee chose instead to address the central matter of controversy by presenting a resolution on sexual desire and personal identity that combines biblical wisdom and pastoral sensitivity. See Resolution #5.

When messengers consulted Resolution 5, they found a biblically faithful and theologically robust statement dealing with the central questions of the Revoice debate. What they also found was a statement that was heavily influenced by the language of The Nashville Statement, which was released by CBMW in 2017 and which was signed by over 180 evangelical leaders and scholars.

This is significant because the founder of Revoice has said that he started Revoice as a response to The Nashville Statement. Because the founder and other Revoice supporters often identify as “gay Christians,” they took particular offense at Article 7 of The Nashville Statement, which says “We deny that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.”

And yet, it was this very language that the 2019 SBC Resolutions Committee presented to the convention and which passed unanimously (as far as I could tell from my seat in the arena).

Resolution 5 (2019 SBC) Article 7 (The Nashville Statement)
RESOLVED, That we call on all Christians who struggle against same-sex attraction to forsake any self-conception or personal identity that is contrary to God’s good and holy purposes in creation and redemption WE AFFIRM that self-conception as male or female should be defined by God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption as revealed in Scripture.

WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.

Resolution 5 also echoes Nashville in stating that God’s grace is sufficient to help sinners to experience change and progress over sin in their lives:

Resolution 5 (2019 SBC) Article 12 (The Nashville Statement)
RESOLVED, That we affirm that God’s grace provides both pardon and power so that a follower of Jesus Christ can mortify sinful desires and walk in a manner worthy of the gospel WE AFFIRM that the grace of God in Christ gives both merciful pardon and transforming power, and that this pardon and power enable a follower of Jesus to put to death sinful desires and to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.

Again, the Resolution clearly relies on language that appeared two years earlier in Nashville. As far as the rest of the resolution is concerned, it too reflects the same theological perspective as Nashville.

The resolution’s dependence upon Nashville is clear. It is also clear that the SBC just went on record to affirm the exact same perspective that Revoice was founded to oppose. The Resolutions Committee and thousands of SBC messengers spoke loud and clear on this. This was an unambiguous declaration by Southern Baptists. They are not in favor of the theological perspective underwriting Revoice.

Later this month, the Presbyterian Church in America will hold its general assembly in Dallas, Texas. The general assembly will also be considering proposals designed to answer controversies surrounding Revoice. One of the overtures asks the general assembly to “Declare the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood’s ‘Nashville Statement’ on Biblical Sexuality as a Biblically Faithful Declaration.”

In very short order, Presbyterians will also have a chance to adopt measures similar to Resolution 5 adopted by Southern Baptists at their annual meeting. Stay tuned. In the meantime, the full text of Resolution 5 is printed below.


Resolution 5 – On Sexuality And Personal Identity

Birmingham, AL – 2019

WHEREAS, All persons are made in God’s image and should seek to glorify Him in every arena of their lives, including their self- understanding and identity (Genesis 1:26–27; Psalm 100:3; 1 Corinthians 10:31); and

WHEREAS, The Lord calls His people to pursue lives of holiness as a reflection of His holy character (Leviticus 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16); and

WHEREAS, Christians are instructed to acknowledge, honor, and live according to God’s design for sexual relations solely within the covenantal union of marriage between one man and one woman for life (Genesis 1:26–28; 2:18–24; Matthew 19:4–6; 1 Corinthians 6:12–20; Ephesians 5:22–33); and

WHEREAS, Many in our culture assume the satisfaction of sexual desire is indispensable to human wholeness and flourishing, which leads some to affirm fallen sexual desires as a defining mark of personal identity; and

WHEREAS, Some brothers and sisters in Christ have tried to affirm God’s design for sexuality while embracing a personal identity as a “gay Christian” or a “sexual minority”; and

WHEREAS, This self-understanding and self-expression is open to misinterpretation, affirms a sinful desire as a marker of personal identity, and may imply that one’s sanctification would preclude the possibility of deliverance from same-sex sexual desire; and

WHEREAS, The Bible does not label a Christian’s identity based on past actions or present temptations, but on present justification and future glorification (Romans 8:1–11; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, June 11–12, 2019, recommend that Christians refrain from describing themselves or embracing a self-identity in ways that suggest affirmation of sinful desires or unbiblical social constructs (Matthew 5:27–30; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:3–5); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we call on all Christians who struggle against same-sex attraction to forsake any self-conception or personal identity that is contrary to God’s good and holy purposes in creation and redemption; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we commend the faithful witness of Christians who experience same-sex attraction, who remain chaste out of faithfulness to Christ, and whose costly obedience Jesus promises to reward (Matthew 16:24–26; 19:29); and be it further

RESOLVED, That we affirm that God’s grace provides both pardon and power so that a follower of Jesus Christ can mortify sinful desires and walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (1 Corinthians 10:13; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we call on Southern Baptist churches to call sinners to repentance while ministering, encouraging, fostering hospitality, and extending Christlike love toward those brothers and sisters who experience same-sex attraction.

Can broad and narrow complementarians coexist in the SBC?

Tom Schreiner is a world class New Testament scholar who has published extensively about complementarianism and egalitarianism. He’s also a Southern Baptist pastor with decades of experience in church ministry. Today, he weighed-in on the intramural debate that Southern Baptists are having about women preaching. I think what he argues here really gets to the heart of the issue. Schreiner writes:

Some complementarians read 1 Tim 2.12 (I don’t allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man) to say that women can’t serve as pastors or elders. I agree that the verse means that women can’t serve as elders, pastors, overseers (the same office), and there is a parting of ways with egalitarians here. Complementarians have significant agreement here, and we should rejoice in our agreement.

On the other hand, 1 Tim. 2:12 doesn’t speak directly to eldership but to function, and the command is rooted in God’s good creation (1 Tim 2.13)–in Adam being created before Eve. So I think the function of a woman teaching/preaching scripture in a sermon or a mixed Sunday School class is also prohibited.

Notice that the verse speaks to function directly, not the issue of office. Our view of office is a conclusion we draw from the functions that are disallowed. So, those who allow the function but ban from the office are not heeding, in my opinion, what Paul says. In fact, such a view seems quite inconsistent. Why can a woman engage in the functions without occupying the office? Is that just males holding onto power?

But if Paul disallows the function and the office, his view says something about what it means to be a man and a woman. His view on men and women isn’t nominalism; it accords with the created order. To put it another way: the rule isn’t arbitrary. It reflects a profound understanding of what it means to be male and female.

I taught a Sunday School class for many years when I wasn’t an elder. Because of my teaching I had more authority in practice than some of the elders. That is entirely natural and accords with 1 Tim. 2.12.

Of course good people who are evangelicals disagree! I am not saying that anyone who disagrees with me isn’t a complementarian, even if I am worried about their view and its consequences for the future.

I worked and studied in schools for 17 years where I was a minority as a complementarian. I thank God for evangelical egalitarians! And I thank God for complementarians who I think are slipping a bit. Still, what we do in churches is important, and I don’t want to say it doesn’t matter. It does matter, and I am concerned about the next generation. But we can love those who disagree and rejoice that we believe in the same gospel.

The cultural forces are incredibly strong, and our society in my judgment overemphasizes freedom and equality, and doesn’t value sufficiently authority, obedience, and submission. Are complementarians like me too strong sometimes? Do we make mistakes in how we present our view? Of course! Simul iustus et peccator! But it doesn’t follow from this that the view itself is wrong.

Do we alter our view to fit in or so that others who are our friends will like us? I am not saying all do this who disagree with me! But I know the temptation of my own heart. I want to be liked. It is not fun to say ‘no’ to people.

Since I am throwing things out there, I don’t think it makes sense for women to be present in any regular way at elders’ meeting as advisors, as those who give feedback on the spot to the elders. That reminds me of churches who have elders, but then have an executive board that makes decisions. The cases aren’t exactly the same, but we put in place an extra-biblical structure, which plays a role in making decisions. Having women on such a committee in practice makes them part of the elders in my judgment.

Obviously, there are gray areas, and we can’t or shouldn’t write a Mishnah. But churches have to decide what to do. Either women will preach sometimes on Sundays or they won’t. Either they will be present at elders’ meetings or they won’t. And if a woman can in principle preach in church Sunday morning sometimes, then why not all the time?

Many egalitarians (remember I am a complementarian) would say that allowing such only sometimes is inconsistent. I think egalitarians spot an inconsistency here.

As we think about the implications of Schreiner’s words, it’s important to remember that people can be faithful to The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 (BF&M) while having differences about what contexts might be appropriate or inappropriate for a woman to teach. The fact is that our confessional statement doesn’t address the issue explicitly. The BF&M only addresses the office of pastor, and it says that pastors must be qualified men. That is why you are not hearing me raise this as an issue of cooperation. Southern Baptists are all over the place on this issue because it’s not something we’ve stipulated in the BF&M. Everyone needs to recognize that fact in discussions about this, and the rhetoric needs to reflect that confessional reality.

Having said that, I still believe that it is good for Southern Baptists to debate and discuss the issue. Why? Because the Bible does address the issue explicitly even if the BF&M doesn’t, and our duty before God is to encourage one another to be faithful to scripture as God’s word (Heb. 3:13). These differences matter even if we aren’t going to suspend our cooperation with each other as we work through them. We also need to remind each other of unhealthy cultural forces and the theological trajectories that they precipitate.

I would hope that we can foster a healthy enough environment within the SBC to reason with one another from scripture and even to try and persuade one another about what the scriptures teach. We live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, even those words which are controversial in our particular moment (Matt. 4:4). So let us reason together charitably and in good faith, and let’s be humble enough to let our consciences to be persuaded by scripture.

That is the spirit in which Tom Schreiner offers his comments above. It is also in that spirit that I want to affirm the issues he raises in his thread. First Timothy 2:12 is addressing the functions of a pastor (teaching and exercising authority) and only addresses the office of pastor by way of implication. The office isn’t treated explicitly until 1 Timothy 3 and 5.

In 1 Timothy 2:12, Paul prohibits women from two functions—teaching and exercising authority over men. And yet, narrow complementarians1 often argue that it’s only the office of pastor that Paul means to prohibit. The result is that they believe that a woman can do whatever an unordained man can do in the church’s teaching ministry (e.g., Kathy Keller’s view). This view is problematic for two reasons. Not only does it depart from Paul’s actual words, it also makes Paul’s gender-based command seem arbitrary. As Kevin DeYoung has argued:

If men and women are different by creational design, then we can’t simply quarantine “ordination” and say that manhood and womanhood have no bearing on church ministry or church roles so long as the pastors and elders are men. The issue is not mainly titles or labels or the laying on of hands. The issue is about function. To be sure, complementarians may not agree on where to draw all the lines concerning home groups and Sunday school classes and public worship, but as a starting place for these discussions we have to remember we are talking about the flourishing of divine design, not adhering to a set of narrow and seemingly arbitrary rules.

Jonathan Leeman likewise writes:

When churches hesitate to say what distinguishes men and women, God’s explicit precepts for the church and home begin to look arbitrary, even a little embarrassing. You can hear the Sunday school lesson now: “The Bible teaches that women should not be elders, but here’s what I really want you to hear: women can do everything else a man can do.” The tone or subtext is, “No, these commands don’t make a lot of sense because we all know men and women are basically the same. But he is God, sooo…”

The whole enterprise becomes a minimization project. We minimize our created differences and we minimize the reach and significance of what the Bible does explicitly command.

“Minimization” happens whenever narrow complementarians restrict the application to eldership but allow what the apostle forbids in 1 Timothy 2:12. God’s commands are not arbitrary. They align with his design in creation. What is best for us is what aligns with his design for us as male and female. And a part of that design relates to the church’s teaching ministry. Paul grounds his prohibition in that divine design—”For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13). To miss this is not only to miss the point of God’s word. It is also to miss what will advance our own good and flourishing.

Schreiner raises questions that I don’t think the narrow complementarians can answer well:

Why can a woman engage in the functions without occupying the office? Is that just males holding onto power?

If a woman can in principle preach in church Sunday morning sometimes, then why not all the time?

These questions expose weaknesses in the narrow complementarian perspective that will eventually be exploited by those who want to move more fully in the direction of egalitarianism. I am not saying that all “narrow” complementarians are closet egalitarians. I don’t believe that. Nevertheless, I am saying that severing function from office is a weakness in their view whether they acknowledge it or not. The disciples of today’s narrow complementarians will eventually see the inconsistency and will push the boundaries even further toward full blown egalitarianism. It is only a matter of time. When that happens, the boundaries marked out by the BF&M will be in jeopardy.

I love my brothers and sisters in the SBC who are narrow complementarians and who disagree with me about these things. I am challenged by them to think more clearly about how to incorporate gifted women into the ministries of my own church. I am grateful for our unity in the gospel as it is framed in the Baptist Faith & Message. The churches of the SBC will never be monolithic on these issues. There will always be some variability. Nevertheless, my hope and prayer are that we can reason with each other in good faith and perhaps learn and sharpen one another even as we disagree. If we love and care for each other as we ought, then we will be able to do this. I’m confident we can.


1 “Narrow Complementarianism” teaches that headship applies narrowly to ordination and to marriage. “Broad Complementarianism” teaches that headship reflects a comprehensive set of differences between male and female that have broad implications for our lives together in the church, in the home, and in society at large.

The so-called “pastoral accommodation” of homosexuality is actually complete acceptance of it

Some evangelical churches that profess to hold a biblical view of homosexuality are nevertheless accepting practicing homosexuals into membership based on an approach called “pastoral accommodation.” In a recently posted paper, Lee Irons describes this approach and argues against it. Here’s his description of the problem:

With the increasing recognition that same-sex attraction is typically unchosen, evangelicals are wrestling with how to the church ought to treat same-sex attracted Christians. A shift toward greater openness is taking place among some evangelical churches committed to the authority of Scripture as the only infallible rule of doctrine and life. A small but growing number of evangelical pastors and congregations have shifted from holding that same-sex activity is irreconcilable with commitment to Christ, to allowing committed same-sex relationships within their membership.

It remains to be seen how these evangelicals will answer further questions such as whether such relationships can be blessed as a “marriage” by the church and whether such individuals are eligible for ordained office in the church. Progressive evangelical churches could accept them as members, but hold the line there and reject gay ordination and same-sex wedding ceremonies. Presumably, if they wish to remain Bible-believing evangelicals, they would still want to maintain that same-sex relationships fall short of God’s creation ideal for sexuality and cannot be called “marriage” as the Bible defines it—a male-female one-flesh union. They would thus be pastorally accommodating same-sex relationships rather than treating them as true marriages fully blessed by God and endorsed by the church.

Irons then provides a solid exposition of 1 Corinthians 5-6 and argues that Paul’s instructions there do not allow any sort of “pastoral accommodation” of homosexual practice. He concludes:

At the end of the day, pastoral accommodation appears to be an unstable half-way house. It cannot last long. The logical endpoint is an affirming stance that views these unions as equivalent to real marriage, that is, as bestowing a mantle of moral legitimacy on same-sex relations just as real marriage does on opposite-sex relations. Pastoral accommodation, in spite of its claim to be an evangelical position that respects Scripture, recasts the traditional sexual ethic and inevitably redefines marriage itself.

Irons is absolutely correct about this. There is no “in-between” approach to this issue. A church will either affirm the Bible’s sexual ethic or deny it. And its affirmation or denial of scripture will be born out in who they allow to be members, who they discipline (or don’t discipline), and who they allow to the Lord’s Table. Churches will have to make a decision about this issue one way or they other. There is no middle ground. The ground of “pastoral accommodation” is quicksand.

Read the rest of Irons’ paper here: “Pastoral Accommodation of Same-Sex Relationships: A Critique in Light of 1 Corinthians 5–6.”

Why it is important not to conflate prophecy and teaching in discussions about women preaching

In evangelical debates over women in ministry, two biblical texts have always stood as a prima facie obstacle to the egalitarian view:

1 Timothy 2:12 “But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.”
1 Corinthians 14:34 “The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.”

At first blush, these two texts seem to settle the matter in favor of the complementarian position. After all, this is the sense adopted in the vast majority of English translations. How could they all be wrong? Clearly Paul does not intend for women to be teaching/preaching within the church, right?

Egalitarians have marshaled a variety of exegetical arguments against this prima facie reading. They argue that, despite appearances, Paul doesn’t really mean to shut down women from exercising their teaching/preaching gifts in the gathered assembly. Egalitarians point out that Paul clearly understood women to be gifted teachers (e.g., Acts 18:26; Titus 2:3). Moreover, the very same book that enjoins female silence also allows for women to prophesy to the entire church (1 Corinthians 11:5). These female prophets—along with their Old Testament counterparts like Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah—demonstrate that whatever Paul means in 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34, he can’t mean to impose a universal ban on women teaching men. He must mean something else. Continue Reading →

Albert Mohler answers: “Should women preach in church?”

Albert Mohler weighs-in to current conversations about roles of women and men in ministry. In this episode of “Ask Anything Live,” he answers three key questions:

  • “Should women preach in church?”
  • “What is the progression from rejecting biblical teaching about women to accepting LGBTQ revolution?”
  • “Can a woman serve as president of the Southern Baptist Convention?”

He answers the first and third questions with a “no.” He says, “If you look at the denominations where women do the preaching, they’re also the denominations where people do the leaving.”

On the second question, he outlines the progression as we have seen it historically in the mainlines. The hermeneutic that leads one to affirm female ordination will usually lead one to affirm LGBTQ identities.

This is a really helpful contribution from Dr. Mohler, and I encourage you to listen to it.

Should churches allow women to preach to men?

Yesterday, Owen Strachan weighed-in on a long-standing conversation evangelicals have been having about the role of women in ministry. Strachan addresses in particular an intra-complementarian debate about whether women should preach to the gathered congregation. This particular angle is occasioned by recent remarks from Southern Baptist women indicating that they plan to be preaching Sunday morning worship services on Mother’s Day. Strachan concludes:

Women should not preach or offer public teaching in the gathered worship service in local churches. The call to local church leadership is not dependent upon gifting or talent; it is based on the creation order of almighty God. For a woman to teach and preach to adult men is to defy God’s Word and God’s design.

On other side of this particular dispute are not those who self-identify as egalitarian but as complementarian. One popular expression of this view appears in Kathy Keller’s short book Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry (Zondervan 2012). Keller makes the case that while women should not be ordained as elders, they should be allowed to do “anything that an unordained man is allowed to do” (p. 21). In this case, that means that if an unordained man is allowed to preach to the entire church, then so should a woman. If an unordained man is allowed to lead other men in the church, then so should a woman. The key issue is ordination, which is restricted to men. Keller writes: Continue Reading →

Why must some “female” Olympians be forced to suppress their testosterone?

The New York Times reports this morning a major development for female athletics:

The highest court in international sports issued a landmark but nuanced ruling on Wednesday that will force female track athletes with elevated levels of testosterone to take suppressants to compete in certain races against other women…

The court addressed a complicated, highly-charged question involving fair play, gender identity, biology and human rights that the world of track and field has been grappling with for a decade: Since competition is divided into male and female categories, what is the most equitable way to decide who should be eligible to compete in women’s events?

This story is fascinating for a couple reasons.

First, the story demonstrates that despite pervasive transgender propaganda, biological sex remains as a fixed, stubborn thing. Maleness and femaleness are determined by the body’s organization for reproduction—-an organization that results in higher or lower levels of testosterone depending on what sex you are. One expert cited in the essay says it this way: Continue Reading →

What the Gospel Is

Evangelicals sometimes have ways of speaking and communicating that actually leave out crucial aspects of the gospel. Perhaps the following scenario will be familiar to you.

A parent comes to me and says, “Pastor, my 8-year old child wants to meet with you about getting baptized.” We agree to meet, I sit down with the parent and with the child, and I say, “Johnny, why do you want to get baptized?” He replies, “Because I don’t want to go to hell.” I clarify, “Yes, but Johnny, getting baptized doesn’t save you. You have to accept Jesus into your heart in order to be saved.” Johnny askes, “How do I do that?” I reply, “All you have to do is ask Him to forgive you of your sins, and then ask Him to come into your heart.” And so we kneel and pray, and Johnny asks Jesus to forgive him of his sins and to come and live in his heart. We make arrangements for his baptism on the very next Sunday, and all’s well that ends well, right?

Wrong. What do I fail to mention in my “gospel” presentation to Johnny? I never mentioned anything about the death and resurrection of Jesus, and neither did Johnny. Perhaps I was assuming that he already understood all that. But that is precisely the problem. We cannot make assumptions that people know the gospel—especially the part about the death and resurrection of Jesus for sinners. If you leave that out, you are leaving out the very thing that Paul says is of “first importance” in his gospel preaching. You would be leaving out the part of the message that actually accomplishes our salvation. Continue Reading →

An Easter Hymn

O Jesus, Savior of my life,
My hope, my joy, my sacrifice,
I’ve searched and found no other one
Who loves me more than you have done.

So I denounce my lingering sin
Whose power You have broke within
My ever weak and faithless frame.
Its vigor’s crushed in Jesus name.

For your death did at once proclaim,
The Father’s glory and my shame.
And you did seize my cup of guilt
And drank all that the chalice spilled.

No condemnation now I dread
Because you went for me instead
To bear the curse and wrath and rage,
To pay the debt I would have paid.

Yet your work finished not with death,
Nor with your final murdered breath.
For death’s blows could not ever quell
The One whose life is in Himself.

Your passion broke forth full with life,
And foiled the adversary’s wiles.
You broke the chains, destroyed the sting
With which death had afflicted me.

O Savior, who died in my stead,
You firstborn from among the dead,
O Savior, you who saved my life,
Will take me whole to paradise.

So on this resurrection day
I lift my voice with all the saints
And sing with all my ransomed might
Of You, the Savior of my life!

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