Archive | Theology/Bible

The Strangest Thing about the Christian Faith

The strangest thing about the Christian faith is not our views on sexuality or politics. Those things are not even our most controversial of claims. The strangest thing about us is what the apostle Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:

3 that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

To be sure, that Jesus died is not the controversial part. Even unbelieving pagans agree with the death of Jesus as an historical fact. They don’t, however, agree with the meaning of his death—that it was a vicarious sacrifice “for our sins” to reconcile us to God. But they do agree that he was dead and buried. No great dispute there. Continue Reading →

The Innermost Meaning of the Cross

“But the LORD was pleased To crush Him, putting Him to grief; If He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.”
-Isaiah 53:10

“God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation in His blood through faith, in order to demonstrate His righteousness.”
-Romans 3:25

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us– for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’”
-Galatians 3:13 Continue Reading →

Was the apostle Paul married? Yes, he was. Here’s how we know.

In my sermon this morning at Kenwood Baptist Church, I made the case that the Apostle Paul was not always single but was once married. This observation emerges from Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9. You can download the full sermon here or listen below.


Here’s how we know that Paul was once married. Paul writes:

8 To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.

If we want to understand how this verse applies to us, we need first of all to whom it is addressed. Your English versions say that Paul addresses “the unmarried and the widows.” It’s clear what Paul means by “widows.” He’s referring to any woman who was once married but whose husband has died. But to whom is Paul referring when he says “the unmarried”? Continue Reading →

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.

—————

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 →

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