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 →

NBC News article accuses Billy Graham of leaving a “painful legacy for LGBTQ people.”

NBC News has an article chronicling Billy Graham’s “painful legacy” for LGBT people. Here’s the lede:

Evangelicals across the country are mourning the death of Billy Graham, an influential preacher who died in his home in Montreat, North Carolina, on Wednesday. But while some are celebrating his legacy, others are grappling with the lasting damage his actions have done to their communities.

Over the course of Graham’s 99 years of life, he reached millions of Christians around the world and had an outsized impact on the national political landscape. For many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, however, Graham was a crusader against them, one whose efforts shaped the religious right into an anti-LGBTQ political force.

I guess coverage like this shouldn’t be surprising anymore. Increasingly in popular media, moral virtue always boils down to a person’s embrace (or not) of homosexual immorality and transgenderism. Those who embrace them are the good guys, and those who do not are the bad guys. Even Billy Graham—who only died on Wednesday—will not be spared from this censure. He was on the wrong side homosexuality, therefore, he was a bad guy. At least, that is how the moral calculus goes in articles like the one above. Continue Reading →

94% of women in entertainment industry experience sexual harassment/assault

USA Today has published a stunning report about sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry. Here’s the lede:

USA TODAY surveyed 843 women who work in the entertainment industry in a variety of roles (producers, actors, writers, directors, editors and others) and asked them about their experiences with sexual misconduct.

The results are sobering: Nearly all of the women who responded to the survey (94%) say they have experienced some form of harassment or assault, often by an older individual in a position of power over the accuser.

Worse, more than one-fifth of respondents (21%) say they have been forced to do something sexual at least once.

Only one in four women reported these experiences to anyone because of fear of personal or professional backlash or retaliation. This reporting rate holds true for all forms of misconduct addressed in the survey, including being forced to do something sexual.

Of those who did report their experiences, most say reporting did not help them; only 28% say their workplace situation improved after reporting.

I knew that the situation in Hollywood was bad, but even I was stunned by the number 94%. I just don’t know how this situation has been tolerable for as long as it has been. I suppose the toxic culture is one that individuals accommodate themselves to in order to succeed in the entertainment industry, but at what cost? If these figures are correct, it certainly does explain the #MeToo passion on display at the recent Golden Globe award ceremony. These women are running a gauntlet that almost no one escapes from unscathed.

Read the rest of the story here.

It’s not conversion therapy; it’s just conversion.

Last week, Jackie-Hill Perry spoke on the campus of Harvard University for a campus student group called Harvard College Faith and Action (HCFA). For those unfamiliar with Jackie-Hill Perry, she’s a poet and a Christian who was converted to Christ out of lesbianism. She is courageous, bold, and unambiguous about the gospel and what it requires of us.

Word got out on Harvard’s campus about the event, and a group of students and professors organized a protest. They demanded that the event be cancelled. When it wasn’t cancelled, some of them showed up to the event and heckled Perry from the crowd. The ruckus among protestors began days before the event. Protestors accused Perry of being “homophobic” and claimed that “she condones conversion therapy, a discredited practice meant to change a person’s sexual identity or orientation,” according to the Harvard Crimson.

Both of these claims bear false witness against Perry. She is neither homophobic, nor does she support so-called “conversion therapy.” It’s not “conversion therapy” that she supports. It’s just conversion. In other words, she believes what Christians have always believed—that faith in Christ leads to a conversion of one’s life. It’s what Jesus spoke about in John 3 when he told Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3-5). Conversion is a transformation from death to life accomplished by the Holy Spirit in every Christian. It’s not therapy. It’s resurrection from the dead (Eph. 2:4-5). This conversion isn’t just for gay sinners. It’s for all sinners—gay, straight, or otherwise.

To confuse this conversion with “conversion therapy” is not only misleading, it also gives ammunition to critics who wish to paint biblical Christianity in the worst possible light. Those critics wish not only to say that the Bible is wrong but that it is harmful to gay people. They want to shame anyone who publicly identifies with Jesus’ teaching about sexuality. Just last week, gay-activist Matthew Vines publicly criticized Beth Moore for daring to tweet words of encouragement to Jackie-Hill Perry after the opposition at Harvard (although note this clarification from Vines):

Vines and those like him are accusing Christians of causing the deaths of gay people. He not only rejects the Bible’s prohibition on same-sex immorality, but he also argues that anyone who affirms the Bible’s teaching harms gay people and causes them to take their own lives. Vines is not the only one arguing like this. It is the lie being perpetrated against the faithful far and wide. And it is certainly the lie cast at Jackie-Hill Perry last week at Harvard.

In light of this, Christians need to be ready. We need to be ready to love our enemies. We need to be ready to bear faithful witness even though we know the enemies of the faith are going to bear false witness against us. We also need to pray for Jackie-Hill Perry and those like her who are bearing witness  in the face of vicious opposition.

This kind of opposition is not a new thing in the world, but it is something that we perhaps have not experienced in our culture to this degree until now. In any case, we need to be ready because God is in the business of turning enemies of the faith into friends of Jesus. That is what he did for Saul of Tarsus. That is what he did for Jackie-Hill Perry. That is what he did for me. And that is what he can do for anyone—including the ones jeering at Perry’s witness on Harvard’s campus.

When Billy Graham rejected theological liberalism

In the early 1940’s, the ministry “Youth for Christ” was being led by two fiery young evangelists—Charles Templeton and Billy Graham. These two men were travelling around the world together preaching at rallies and calling people to Christ. Eventually, Billy Graham would part from the ministry and begin his own evangelistic work through what would eventually become the Billy Graham association.

But in those early days, Graham was tag-teaming with Templeton with Youth for Christ. At the time, very few people knew that Templeton’s faith was coming unraveled even as he was calling other people to Christ. Templeton had been converted as a young man, never went to college or finished high school, and certainly never went to seminary. Nevertheless, he began the life of an evangelist right at his conversion in 1936. By 1946, he was travelling with Billy Graham holding evangelistic crusades all over North America and Europe and was beginning to question the very message he was preaching.

There were certain elements of Christianity that he could not reconcile with his own reasoned conclusions about how God ought to behave in the modern world. In his 1996 memoir, he wrote about his faltering faith and his decision to leave the ministry and go to Princeton Theological Seminary. On his way out, Templeton tried to persuade Billy Graham to go with him to Princeton. But the two men were in totally different places. Templeton describes a confrontation that the two had near the end of their travels together:

All our differences came to a head in a discussion which, better than anything I know, “explains” Billy Graham.

I had said. “But Billy, it’s not possible any longer to believe the biblical account of creation. The world wasn’t created; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation, it’s demonstrable fact.”

“I don’t accept that,” he said, “And there are reputable scholars who don’t.”

“Who are they?” I said. “Men in conservative Christian colleges?”

“Most of them, yes. But that’s not the point. I believe in the Genesis account of creation simply because it’s in the Bible. I’ve discovered something in my ministry: when I take the Bible literally, when I proclaim it as God’s Word, I have power. When I stand before the people and say, ‘God says,’ or ‘The Bible says, ‘the Holy Spirit uses me. There are results. People respond. Wiser men than you or I have been arguing questions like this for centuries. I don’t have the time or the intellect to examine all sides of each theological dispute, so I’ve decided, once and for all, to stop questioning and to accept the Bible as God’s Word.”

“But Billy,” I protested, “you can’t do that. You don’t dare stop thinking. Do it and you begin to die. It’s intellectual suicide.”

“I don’t know about anybody else, “he said, “but I’ve decided that that’s the path for me.”

And so Templeton and Graham went their separate ways. Graham went the way of the gospel, and Templeton went the way of Demas (2 Tim. 4:10). Templeton eventually abandoned the faith altogether and became an avowed agnostic. Billy Graham went on to preach the gospel to more than 100 million people and to millions more through television and mass media. According to Christianity Today, “Nearly 3 million have responded to his invitation to ‘accept Jesus into your heart’ at the end of his sermons. He proclaimed the gospel to more persons than any other preacher in history.”

Billy Graham died today at the age of 99. It is hard to overstate the legacy and influence of this great man. He truly was the greatest evangelist of our time. And there is no way any of it would have happened had the confrontation with Templeton gone differently. For Graham and for every faithful preacher, it is God’s power in the preached word that makes all the difference.

—————

The essay above is adapted from a message I delivered at Kenwood Baptist Church in 2015. A big hat-tip to Justin Taylor, from whom I first read about this confrontation between Graham and Templeton (“Charles Templeton: Missing Jesus“). You can download the full message here or listen below.

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?

Five words of hope in the face of horrific evil and pain

When horrific evil unfolds before our very eyes, there is a temptation to lose sight of the verities that ought to sustain and comfort us. For those watching the aftermath of the unmitigated evil of yesterday’s shooting in Florida, here are some words of hope to cling to. Hold them close.

1. God is good all the time.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8). “For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting, And His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). “Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting” (Ps. 106:1). “The LORD is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).

2. God is near to the broken-hearted.

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted, And saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “He heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Thy works” (Psalm 73:28). “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

3. The delay of God’s justice isn’t the absence of God’s justice.

“He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7). “But the present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:7-9).

4. God is sovereign over our pain and works it for our good.

God “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all. (Psalm 103:19). “Who is there who speaks and it happens, unless the Lord has ordained it? Do not both adversity and good come from the mouth of the Most High?… Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD” (Lam. 3:37-40). “The steps of a man are established by the LORD; And He delights in his way. When he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong; Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24). “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

5. God will one day wipe every tear from our eyes.

“For the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:17). “He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new'” (Revelation 21:4-5).

Is it okay for the state to take your child away because you won’t affirm his transgender feelings?

A thought experiment: What if you had a child who experienced feelings of gender confusion? You are a Christian, so as your child grows you try to teach him what the Bible says about how God made us male and female and how the distinction between male and female is therefore a good thing (Gen. 1:31). You teach him that our maleness and femaleness is first of all biologically defined according to our binary reproductive capacities (Gen. 1:26-27). You also teach him that it is good and right to embrace that biological reality and the responsibilities and duties that go along with it. You love your child and wish to walk with him through whatever struggles he has. And you especially want him to be a disciple of Jesus—which requires embracing the fact that God designed him to be male.

Still, the gender confusion persists. In adolescence, he becomes depressed about his gender confusion. He tells you that he wishes he were a girl, even though he has the body of a young man. You grieve over your child’s pain and confusion. You pray. You love. And you never give up on him no matter what. You show him that the Bible teaches that sometimes our feelings betray us and don’t tell us the truth.

“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.” -Proverbs 28:26

You teach him that in a fallen world, sometimes our feelings don’t match up with reality. Whenever that happens, you teach him to trust God and not his feelings. You teach him that God’s revealed will is always wise, right, and true even when we don’t feel like it.

For a while, your son embraces this truth and becomes a faithful struggler. He tries to trust God’s good design in spite of his confused gender feelings. In his public school, however, your son begins to receive a different message from the one he’s hearing at home. Rather than trusting God’s good design, his friends and the school counselor tell him that his true self is not revealed by his biological sex but by his feelings. If he really feels like a girl, then he is one even if his body is male.

As a result of these influences, he begins to resist what you’ve taught him from the Bible about God’s good design of male and female. A chill of mistrust and rebellion enters the relationship. He begins to believe that the real source of his unhappiness is not his gender-confused feelings but any and every person who fails to affirm and encourage his gender-confused feelings. In the meantime, his distress doesn’t go away, but his trust in his parents and his faith in God begin to falter. He becomes bitter and depressed. He begins telling you that unless you affirm his transgender feelings, then you don’t love him. He even threatens suicide.

He shares the conflict with his school counselor, who refers him to a local “gender clinic.” The doctors there diagnose him with gender dysphoria and tell him that the best way to eliminate his mental distress is to transition to a female identity. They recommend that he adopt a female name, begin dressing in female clothing, and begin to take cross-sex hormones to begin making his voice and body more feminine. They even tell him that after he becomes an adult, he can get a sex-change operation.

He comes home from the gender clinic and informs you of his intentions to accept the prescription from the gender clinic, but as a minor he needs your permission. Because you want the best for him, you cannot and will not support the self-harm being prescribed by the gender clinic. You explain to him that these therapies will not help him but hurt him. You explain that people who undergo such transitions often fare no better in terms of mental distress than those who don’t have the surgeries. Then you also remind him of the most important thing. What is best for him is to embrace the man that God designed him to be.

He rejects your counsel, and goes back to his school counselor. The counselor calls state authorities because of your refusal to provide life-saving “healthcare” for your child. The state removes your child from your custody and appoints a temporary guardian while the matter is adjudicated in court.

Does this sound far-fetched to you? It’s not. Something like this is already happening in Ohio as I type this. The facts of the Ohio case are not exactly like the story I’ve just narrated above. In fact, many of the facts are not yet known, and it may in fact turn out to be a really hard case. Having said that, hard cases make bad law. And they certainly make for bad precedents. My concern is that the Ohio case may set a precedent that will enable the state to remove children from their homes when their parents refuse to go along with their gender transitions. Here’s an excerpt from the CNN story about the Ohio case:

An Ohio court will decide the fate of a transgender teen who is in what the judge describes as a “gut-wrenching situation.”

The 17-year-old identifies as a boy. Neither he nor his family can be named, according to court instructions. The teen’s parents want court authority to stop their child from getting the treatment and therapy that was recommended by his medical team in what it characterizes as a possible life-or-death situation.

Medical experts testified that the father’s ongoing refusal to call the child by his chosen name and the parents’ rejection of the teen’s gender identity have triggered suicidal feelings.

The teen was hospitalized in 2016. He has been diagnosed with depression, an anxiety disorder and gender dysphoria, according to court records. Gender dysphoria is a psychiatric diagnosis the American Psychiatric Association defines as “a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify”…

The reason why the parents don’t want their child to receive hormone replacement therapy is because it is also against their religious beliefs. “Father testified that any kind of transition at all would go against his core beliefs and allowing the child to transition would be akin to him taking his heart out of his chest and placing it on the table,” according to a transcript of Clancy’s closing argument.

Clancy said that although the father testified he “fully accepts” his child, he also testified that having the teen come home would “warp” his siblings’ perception of reality.

Hamilton County Job and Family Services temporarily placed the teen in his grandparents’ home after the child had been hospitalized.

I see at least two potential dangerous precedents that might be set in this case. First, it looks like the state is removing parental rights. The state may very well determine that a transgender identity is better for the child than what the child’s parents want for their child. And it may lead to the state using coercive measures to impose its will over the parents.

Second, the court may decide that the state has an interest in promoting this child’s transgender identity. If they do, they will be saying that state’s interest in confirming the child’s transgender identity trumps the parents’ rights to raise the child as a Christian. This would have implications not just for Christians but also for Jewish and Muslim parents as well. Such a precedent would require parents to violate their religious beliefs or risk losing parental rights.

The stakes couldn’t be any higher. Is it okay for the state to take your child away because you won’t affirm his transgender feelings? A court in Ohio will decide for at least one child on Friday.


UPDATE (2/17/18): The court ruled against the parents and removed the child from their custody. From the CNN report:

(CNN) A Hamilton County, Ohio, judge on Friday gave custody of a transgender teen to his grandparents rather than his parents, allowing them to make medical decisions regarding his transition.

The parents didn’t want the teen, a 17-year-old who identifies as male, to undergo hormone treatment and refused to call him by his chosen name, triggering suicidal feelings, according to court testimony. The parents wanted custody in order to make medical decisions for the teen and prohibit the treatment that his medical team had recommended…

Hendon’s ruling says that in addition to receiving custody, the grandparents can petition to change the child’s name in probate court. The teen will now be covered by the grandparents’ insurance.

The grandparents, rather than parents, will be the ones to help make medical decisions for the child going forward. But before any hormone treatment is allowed, the court ordered, the teen should be evaluated by a psychologist who is not affiliated with the current facility where he is receiving treatment, on “the issue of consistency in the child’s gender presentation, and feelings of non-conformity.”

A team at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, where the teen has been treated since 2016, advised the court that he should start treatment as soon as possible to decrease his suicide risk.

The parents’ attorney had argued that the child was not “even close to being able to make such a life-altering decision at this time.” A county prosecuting attorney argued that the parents wanted to stop the treatment because it violated their religious beliefs.

Pursue God, Not Pornography

The New York Times published an article this week about teenagers and porn-use, and the first hand accounts contained in the piece are devastating. I am not going to link to the piece here or even describe it because it is too vile to share. In fact, I regret reading it myself. It’s that bad.

For those that have read it, however, I want to pass along some items that might be a little more helpful and hopeful.

1. The video above is a message preached in the chapel of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. It’s an exposition of “Flee youthful lusts” in 2 Timothy 2:22 and how that applies to porn-use. If you’d rather have the audio, you can download it here or listen below.

2. Here is a short piece dealing with a similar article that appeared in TIME magazine in 2016: “The Darkness of Porn and the Hope of the Gospel.” Among other things, it says this:

I am not being hyperbolic when I call porn use a civilizational calamity. The sexual revolution promised us more sex and more pleasure. It has actually delivered to us a generation of men who think of women as objects to be used and abused for their sexual pleasure. It has not given us men who know what virtue and honor are. It doesn’t teach men to pursue their joy in self-sacrificially loving and being sexually faithful to one woman for life. It teaches young men to use women for sex and then to discard them when they become unwilling or uninteresting. This means that it has given us a generation of young men completely unprepared for marriage and for fatherhood.

3. The best book I know on the gospel and breaking the power of porn is Heath Lambert’s book Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. If you are in the throes of this struggle, you need to read this book.

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 →

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