Archive | Theology/Bible

Does the evangelical egalitarian spectrum include those who affirm gay marriage?

Today, I just happened to be reading Sarah Sumner’s essay on “Gender” in Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Sumner has a couple of paragraphs describing the complementarian and egalitarian spectrums. She says that while all complementarians believe that husbands are the leaders of their homes, there are differences among complementarians about the degree to which women may lead in the church. Although I might quibble with some of her description, I think she has basically described the complementarian spectrum correctly.

But then she writes this about the egalitarian spectrum:

“All egalitarians, by contrast, believe that husbands and wives are to relate together in mutual submission rather than a marital hierarchy. Yet not all egalitarians think alike. The most progressive egalitarians believe in gender equality to the point of upholding monogamous homosexual marriage and the ordination of appropriately gifted homosexuals. The most conservative egalitarians hold that Scripture prohibits homosexual unions as well as the ordination of practicing homosexuals. The rift between egalitarians regarding issues of sexual preference and orientation is so great that egalitarian mainline denominations have experienced schism between progressives and conservatives. Thus egalitarians, by label, should not be considered to be supportive of homosexual activities since many egalitarians are conservative” (p. 338, underline mine).

Complementarians have long argued that egalitarian hermeneutics are problematic. Egalitarians tend to introduce novel interpretations of biblical texts that have never occurred to anyone before the 20th century. It may seem that Paul forbids women from teaching and leading men in 1 Timothy 2:12, for example, but it only seems that way. We now know Paul did not mean what the church has always understood these terms to mean. And so a variety of revisionist approaches have emerged to show that Paul actually does allow women to teach and to lead men in 1 Timothy 2:12.

Likewise, those who embrace such revisionist hermeneutics on the gender issue are only a hop-skip-and-a-jump from embracing revisionist readings of biblical texts dealing with homosexuality. Some egalitarians make that jump and do so explicitly because of their previous egalitarian convictions. Others do not. And that is the spectrum that Sumner seems to be describing.

My questions for evangelical egalitarians is this: Has Sumner accurately described the egalitarian spectrum? Is it true that the egalitarian spectrum includes both those who affirm gay marriage and those who do not? Is this a characterization that you would accept? If it is true, do you find it problematic? Why or why not?

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 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.

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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

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 →

Let every heart prepare him room!

How could there possibly be anything more mysterious and wonderful than the incarnation of Jesus Christ? God became a man. God took on mortal human flesh and became subject to all the things that every other mortal is subject to. He sneezed. He coughed. He got headaches and an upset stomach. Every morning he got up, shook the dust out of His hair, and put his hand to the plow in his Father’s field.

Jesus Christ was not only subject to sickness, but also to death. The eternal Son of God was die-able. In fact, he did die. And three days later, what was mortal became swallowed up by immortality in the resurrection.

Even now, the resurrected Christ sits at the right hand of God in glory. As I type these words, the incarnate God intercedes in the flesh for His people before the Father (Romans 8:34). And it all began in a manger 2,000 years ago. No, actually, we have to go nine months before that—when Jesus Christ was first conceived by the Holy Spirit within the virgin Mary, when the God-Man was an embryo. “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. . . The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:30, 35).

How can it be that God has come in the flesh? How can it be that he is in the flesh now? Yet this is precisely what the Bible teaches. “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

As we ponder the imponderables of God, let us never cease to be amazed at the manifold mercies of God that have come to us through the incarnation of King Jesus. Let every heart prepare Him room.

Merry Christmas!

Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer?

Last week, The New York Times reported that Pope Francis wishes to change the English translation of the Lord’s Prayer. From the article:

Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

In essence, the pope said, the prayer, from the Book of Matthew, is asking God, “When Satan leads us into temptation, You please, give me a hand.”

French Catholics adopted such a linguistic change this week, and the pope suggested that Italian Catholics might want to follow suit.

I think the exegetical case for this change is pretty weak. The words and phrases simply don’t mean what Pope Francis wants them to mean. I agree with Tony Esolen, who writes: Continue Reading →

Pastors, be ready for questions about abortion and homosexuality

The Federalist ran a story yesterday about a certain pastor’s appearance on The View. One of the hosts asked him what his church teaches about homosexuality and abortion. The pastor dodged the question. Another host, Joy Behar, followed up by asking very specifically whether abortion is a sin. Still, the pastor could not bring himself to say that abortion is a sin. Rather, he said that each person has to “live to their own convictions” and that God would be the judge.

A few thoughts on this:

1. His answer is not sufficient. As a pastor, you have a responsibility to speak the truth in love, and it is not loving to fail to speak the truth (1 Cor. 13:6; Eph. 4:15). One can do both at once, but it was not done here.

“We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2).

2. The questions are not surprising. Any pastor should know and be prepared to answer these questions–especially if one is going on a show like The View, where there is no mystery about how the hosts view abortion and homosexuality. The hosts are for abortion and for homosexuality. It is pastoral malpractice to leave the impression that abortion is just an individual choice and might be right for some and wrong for others. Be ready, pastors. You’re not gonna have to go on The View to get asked these questions, and you shouldn’t be caught by surprise when they come your way.

“Always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you” (1 Pet. 3:15).

3. His answers are not consistent. The pastor is willing to speak with moral clarity about racism. He condemns it outright and is congratulated by the hosts for doing so. But when asked for the same kind of moral clarity about abortion and homosexuality, he backs down. Why? Clearly the hosts approve his condemnation of racism but would not have approved a condemnation of abortion or homosexuality. A pastor must never stick his finger to the wind to determine when and where to offer moral clarity. No, he must be morally serious at all times and has no right to pick and choose when he’ll speak the truth and when he won’t. If he is God’s man, then he must always be completely truthful.

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season… For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:2-4).

“I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

4. This kind of evasion is a real temptation for every Christian, and that includes me. It is hard to stand when the world and the devil stand against you. There is a cost to moral courage, and only a test can reveal who is willing to pay it. We need to pray for each other to be faithful and not to falter when the tide turns against us. That tide is turning now, and we need grace to meet it.

“The Lord stood with me and strengthened me… and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:17-18).


UPDATE: The pastor has released a statement on Twitter clarifying his stance on abortion.

Woman who lived as a transgender male for nearly a decade shares conversion to Christ

The Baptist Messenger has posted an interview with Laura Perry, a woman who spent nearly a decade living as a transgender male. She describes years of male hormones and a sex change surgery and how she came to faith in Christ. You can watch above, listen below, or download the audio here.

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