Archive | Theology/Bible

Are biblical manhood and womanhood cultural constructs?

I have been preaching through 1 Corinthians at my church and have just completed a series of sermons on Paul’s long section about matters related to public worship (chs. 11-14). At the beginning and end of this section, Paul addresses the role of women in public worship. In chapter 11:2-16, Paul introduces the idea of male headship and the need for women to honor headship when they pray and prophesy in the gathered assembly. In chapter 14:34-35, Paul says that women need to “keep silent” and to “subject themselves” when prophecies are uttered during congregational worship.

One item that stood out to me in both of these texts is that Paul grounds his teaching about male headship in the common practice of all the churches. After instructing women to honor male headship by wearing head coverings, Paul writes:

1 Cor. 11:16 “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.”

Likewise, when giving instructions about orderliness while people are prophesying, Paul writes:

1 Cor. 14:33-36
33b as in all the churches of the saints. 34 Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. 36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?

Notice what Paul is doing. In both of these texts, Paul says that his teaching about headship and submission is not some sidebar item that churches can either take or leave. He says that his teaching on headship, manhood, and womanhood are a part of the apostolic foundation that he has laid in “all the churches of the saints” (14:33b). To depart from this foundation is to depart from something that the apostle believes to be fundamental.

In 11:16, it’s as if Paul is saying to his readers, “If you don’t like honoring headship in worship, you need to know that you are out on an island. If you want to follow me and the other apostles, you won’t fight me on this. You will turn your heart toward honoring headship in the way that I am telling you.”

In 14:36, Paul says that the word of God is not the exclusive domain of any one church. The word of God did not originate in Corinth, nor was Corinth the only place to which the word of God came. The word of God is abroad in the churches. The Corinthians need to pay attention to how the Spirit of God is moving and working in all the churches.

If all the churches are hearing from the Spirit one thing, but the Corinthians are practicing another thing, then that’s an indication that the Corinthians are the outliers, not everyone else. Everyone else is observing male headship. So also should Corinth. This is in keeping with 1 Cor. 11:16 where Paul writes, “We have no other practice, nor have the churches of God.”

This emphasis from Paul struck me because of discordant notes that I have been hearing lately. Right now, these notes seem to be low rumblings, but I can imagine that they may be getting louder in days ahead. I have heard some people denigrate “biblical manhood and womanhood” as “white” theology that is rooted more in racial stereotypes than in biblical teaching.

While it is true that all of us need to be on guard against unbiblical stereotypes, we need to be very careful that we not throw out the baby with the bathwater. My concern is that some may be in danger of casting aside what the Bible teaches on these things simply because of an alleged association with “whiteness.”

This would be a serious mistake—indeed a grave error putting one outside of the apostolic teaching that Paul intends for “all the churches.” It would be casting aside God’s design in creation. It would also be a rejection of the very truths that God intends for our good and flourishing.

Paul wishes to emphasize that his teaching about male headship is not something that is good for some people but not for others. It’s not merely a cultural construct. No, it is a part of God’s creation design, and it is the pattern that must prevail in every church. If that is true, then we ought to honor the headship norm just as all other faithful churches do. And we ought to beware of any attempt to denigrate this teaching as a mere cultural construct that can be set aside. No, this is the word of God, and as Christians we are duty bound to uphold and cherish this teaching.

Paul says that the headship principle is recognized in all his churches. And so it must be in ours.

Azusa Pacific University removes ban on gay relationships…again.

Last Fall, I wrote about Azusa Pacific University’s (APU) removal of the ban on gay relationships among its students. Days later, the trustees voted to reverse the administration and to reinstate the ban. Today, The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports that Azusa Pacific University has removed its ban on homosexual relationships yet again. From the report:

Azusa Pacific University again has lifted a ban on LGBTQ relationships on campus.

The university Board of Trustees directed administrators to update the student handbook for undergraduate students, campus spokeswoman Rachel White confirmed. The changes specifically removed language that barred LGBTQ relationships as part of a standing ban on pre-marital sex.

The update, enacted Thursday, demonstrates Azusa Pacific’s commitment to “uniform standards of behavior for all students, applied equally and in a nondiscriminatory fashion,” according to university Provost Mark Stanton.

“APU is an open-enrollment institution, which does not require students to be Christian to attend, and the handbook conveys our commitment to treating everyone with Christ-like care and civility,” Stanton said in a statement. “Our values are unchanged and the APU community remains unequivocally biblical in our Christian evangelical identity.”

Why is the university claiming that its biblical values haven’t changed even as they announce the removal of the ban on homosexual relationships? This is a little bit confusing, but hang with me here as I try to sort out what this change means.

Notice how the school is now parsing things up. The school’s standards of conduct now simply ban “sexual intimacy outside the context of marriage,” where marriage is defined as the union of one man and one woman (10.1 Inappropriate Sexual Behavior). As long as students avoid “sexual intimacy” outside marriage, they are now free to pursue whatever romantic relationships they please—gay, straight, or otherwise. In other words, homosexual romance seems to be permitted so long as no “sexual intimacy” is involved.

Why would the school remove (for the second time!) the ban on homosexual relationships? Provost Mark Stanton says that the change shows that APU is committed to “uniform standards of behavior for all students, applied equally and in a nondiscriminatory fashion” (emphasis mine). Notice the Provost’s concern about discrimination. APU had been under fire from student groups on this very point. These groups not only claimed to identify discriminatory inconsistencies in APU’s student handbook, but they also claimed that these policies put the school out of step with accreditors and licensing agencies.

What was the discriminatory inconsistency? While the handbook banned “homosexual relationships,” it also banned creating a “hostile environment” for any student on the basis of their “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” (“Harassment“). The activists argued that it was inconsistent for APU to allow celibate heterosexual romance while banning celibate homosexual romance. Such a ban resulted in a “hostile environment” for homosexually oriented students, which is a violation of APU’s own community standards, which make “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into protected classes.

Last Fall, APU’s student government passed a resolution demanding clarification on this point. Among other things, the resolution says:

Students are currently being held at a double standard where romanticized heterosexual relationships are permitted on campus, but a student who is in a romanticized same-sex relationship can be punished; and,

To hold students to equal standards. the Board of Trustees and the administration must either remove the ban on romanticized same-sex relationships or ban all romanticized relationships at Azusa Pacific University…

As an outsider, I hate to say it, but APU made a huge mistake by making sexual orientation and gender identity into protected classes on campus. Because they did that, they made it impossible to ban celibate homosexual relationships while allowing heterosexual ones.

Despite the school’s claim otherwise, there are major problems with this policy, and APU may be stuck with those problems as long as their handbook recognizes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes on campus. To begin with, the Lord Jesus himself teaches us that it is not merely immoral sexual behavior that is sinful but also immoral sexual desires:

Matt. 5:27-30 27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Jesus says that it is sin to look at a married woman in order to desire her sexually. There is literally hell to pay if immoral desires are not kept in check. Sexual holiness, therefore, is not merely a matter of deeds committed but of desires felt. Yet Azusa’s new policy seems to be saying that it is okay for romantic homosexual relationships to happen on campus so long as there is no sex. Do they not see how this contradicts what Jesus teaches us about sexual holiness as a matter of the heart?

The fundamental problem here is that Azusa’s student handbook fails to make a moral distinction between homosexual and heterosexual relationships. Even when abstinent, they are not morally equivalent. A heterosexual relationship can and may have the covenant of marriage as its aim and goal. A homosexual relationship can never have marriage as its aim and goal. That means that a homosexual relationship can never be holy or pleasing to God. By definition, it is sinful (Rom. 1:26-27).

One more item is problematic. The school’s standards of conduct prohibit students from cohabitating with the opposite sex (9.0 Cohabitation). Yet students of the same-sex are still permitted to cohabitate—presumably including those students who are in homosexual romantic relationships. Does Azusa believe that it is good for same-sex attracted students to be cohabitating while experiencing sexual desires for one another?

The LGBTQ+ activists who agitated for this change are claiming this as a victory:

They celebrate but not for good reason. This new policy may put APU at peace with protesters, accreditors, and licensing agencies, but it puts the school at odds with faithful biblical Christianity. And that is the main problem. Perhaps it is too much to hope that APU will recognize their error and correct it. I will hope and pray nonetheless that they will.

A Strong Statement on Sexuality from the President of Covenant Theological Seminary

I was really grateful to read a strong and clear statement about human sexuality from the President of Covenant Theological Seminary. You can watch the full statement above. A transcript of the first four minutes of the statement is below.

“Hi, I’m Mark Dalbey, President of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. I’m here today to respond to a number of questions and concerns that we have received about our commitment to biblical sexual ethics in light of a conference that was held in St. Louis last summer called Revoice. Here’s what we believe about biblical sexuality.

Marriage is to be between one man and one woman. Sexual intimacy is only to be expressed in such a marriage. Homosexual desire is a result of the fall. It’s a sinful desire that is to be mortified and resisted and in no way dignified. Homosexual lust, homosexual intimate behavior is sin and condemned by God.

As to the Revoice conference, Covenant Seminary does not endorse, promote, or have a role in the Revoice conference. We do not agree with all of the views that were shared or taught at the Revoice conference. Dr Sklar, Old Testament professor and Vice President of Academics, who has two commentaries on the book of Leviticus, was asked to speak and did speak on Leviticus 18 and 20 and the continuing relevance in God’s moral law of forbidding homosexual lust and behavior. Covenant Seminary does not advocate for queer theology, Covenant Seminary does not teach that a person should identify as a gay Christian, and Covenant Seminary will not have any of our faculty speaking at the 2019 Revoice conference.

Much of what is being said about Covenant Seminary is [a] sinful, slanderous, violation of the ninth commandment which teaches in the Larger Catechism that we should promote and preserve the good name of our neighbor and ourselves when necessary. Sadly, it is necessary for Covenant Seminary to do this given that we have been under these slanderous attacks.

Here is what we teach our students about how to relate to homosexual people who are unbelievers. We teach them that they are to hold uncompromisingly to the biblical sexual ethics. We also teach them that they are to love unbelievers as those made in the image of God, that they are to recognize that we are fellow sinners ourselves as we seek to communicate the good news of the saving and transforming power of the gospel to people involved in a gay lifestyle. Christians are to build relationships with unbelievers of all kinds, including those who are homosexuals, and we are to live out the gospel call to not only love God but to love our neighbor as ambassadors of Jesus Christ. Our churches should be promoting this. We teach our students to love people well and to communicate the unchanging truth of God’s word in winsome ways that the Holy Spirit might change hearts and bring people to Christ.

We also teach our students as they minister to fellow believers who have all kinds of struggles including struggle with same-sex attraction and temptations that we are to love them and pastorally care for them. We are to disciple them by using the ordinary means of grace that they might grow in Christlikeness and have strength to resist ongoing temptation. We also teach our students that they are all to find their core identity in Christ and not with whatever particular sinful struggle they may have. Our churches should welcome fellow believers who have ongoing temptation and struggle with same-sex attraction to be full members of the body of Christ that will be able to exercise their gifts and that also would benefit from the ministry of others in the church.”

How To Discipline a Pastor

In 1 Timothy 5:19-21, the apostle Paul explains how to deal with a pastor who is sinning.1 Some readers understand Paul to be setting a higher standard for pastors than for other members of the congregation. I think this is a mistaken reading of Paul’s words, for Paul wishes for everyone to be treated equally and without “partiality” (v. 21). Paul writes:

19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.

Paul’s process for dealing with elders accused of a sin lines up with what Jesus says must be done for any brother that is accused of a sin. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus says that if a church member sins against you, you should go to them in private. If they don’t repent, then you take along two or three witnesses to establish the charges made against the sinning brother. If they establish the charges and he still refuses to turn from his sin, then they are supposed to put the matter before the church. If he refuses after it is brought to the church, then he is excommunicated. Continue Reading →

David French lecture on Intersectionality

Yesterday, David French lectured on intersectionality on the campus of Boyce College and Southern Seminary. It was a pleasure to have David on campus, and his lectures were really stimulating. The first lecture is already posted on SBTS’s YouTube channel (see above). I expect the other two lectures to be posted very soon.

David explains that the basic foundation of intersectionality is the commonsense observation that people have traits that can make them members of more than one marginalized or oppressed class of people. He argues that this particular observation about the complex way that people experience discrimination or oppression is fundamentally true.

David also argues that if that was all there was to intersectionality, there wouldn’t be much of a controversy about it. Intersectionality as a description of human experience is not controversial, but intersectionality as a prescription for social action is. And it is the latter that he takes aim at in all three presentations.

If you’re interested in learning more about intersectionality, the best short introduction to the subject that I have read is Joe Carter’s article “What Christians Should Know about Intersectionality.” Elizabeth Corey’s introduction is longer than Carter’s, but it is no less helpful and worth the time to read: “First Church of Intersectionality.”

I have commented on intersectionality over the years on my blog, but my basic objections to it are in a little post titled “Two ways in which intersectionality is at odds with the gospel.” Andrew Sullivan offers a powerful critique of intersectionality from a secular perspective in “Is Intersectionality a Religion.”

If you want to take a deep-dive into some actual intersectional theory, I recommend Kimberlé Crenshaw’s seminal essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics,” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989, no. 1 (1989): 139-67. For a popular introduction to Crenshaw’s theory, see her recent TED Talk, “The urgency of intersectionality.” Patricia Collins and Sirma Bilge have a book-length introduction to intersectionality in a work titled Intersectionality, Key Concepts (Malden, MA: Polity, 2016).

Why you should consider using LOGOS in your Bible Study – Part 2

Over the years, Bible Software has become an integral part of my research, sermon preparation, and classroom instruction. As I explained yesterday, I have used many products over the years, but over the last year and a half LOGOS has begun to assume a central place.

The first thing you need to know about LOGOS is that it is first and foremost a digital library. It is a program designed to give you access to books—and lots of them. The size of your library depends upon what base package you buy. The higher the base package, the more books you get. As I noted yesterday, I have used LOGOS for about 13 years, and right now I have an upper level base package (Diamond). In addition, I have purchased some books that aren’t included in my base package, which expands the library even more. Recently, for example, I have been writing a commentary on 1 Corinthians. So I have purchased commentaries on 1 Corinthians not included in my package, and I will probably end up purchasing more.

The resources that I have at my fingertips in LOGOS 8’s Diamond package are immense. The commentaries on the Bible include the NAC series, NIGTC, ICC, Black’s, Pillar, and a host of others. There are countless English translations available, including all of the major ones that ordinary readers would wish to have access to. For me, the most valuable books are the original language texts—in particular the Greek and Hebrew Bibles. As usual, these are morphologically and lexically tagged so that you can use them with the lexicon of your choice. I use BDAG and LSJ for the New Testament and HALOT and BDB for the Old. In addition to that, there are a number of very good Greek grammars available, including A. T. Robertson’s classic work and Stanley Porter’s Idioms of the Greek New Testament.

The resources available on LOGOS 8 far surpasses those that were available in software I have used in the past (like Gramcord and BibleWorks). In fact, there is no comparison on that front. Nothing replaces a good bricks and mortar library in terms of biblical and theological research. But the only software that even competes in the area of biblical studies is LOGOS.

I cannot overstate the value of being able to access these materials at any place and at any time. Over the last several years, my work has come to include a great deal of travel. Being able to have a significant portion of my library with me wherever I go is huge. And at this point, I haven’t even said one word about the features in LOGOS, only the library. But that aspect alone makes LOGOS an indispensable tool for me.

The user interface in LOGOS has improved dramatically over the years, but I think that LOGOS 8 may be the best yet. It does feel more intuitive and up to date than previous versions. As I mentioned yesterday, the software runs more swiftly than previous versions, with searches being about ten times as fast as they were in LOGOS 7.

In part one yesterday, I wrote that I have been looking for a replacement for the now defunct BibleWorks program that I had been using. One of the things that is really important to me is recreating the workspace that I had in BibleWorks. The LOGOS “Layouts” have infinite flexibility and can be customized and saved. The folks at LOGOS have already created a “BibleWorks” layout for folks like me who are transitioning from BibleWorks. So you don’t even have to set it up for yourself. Below is a screenshot of mine:

BibleWorks users will notice that the logic of the three-pane interface looks very much like BibleWorks, with search pane on the left, original text in the middle, and analysis on the right. This information is the bread and butter of exegesis, and LOGOS 8 puts the information at your fingertips faster than it ever has in the past.

The above layout is what I might use when trying to mimic the workflow of BibleWorks, but LOGOS 8 allows me to go way beyond that. What LOGOS 8 does that BibleWorks does not do is that it also gives me immediate access to a vast array of resources. And for me, that means that access to commentaries is paramount. So in addition to the BibleWorks layout, I have also created separate layouts for individual books of the Bible that I am studying. Those layouts have all the relevant commentaries that I use for a given biblical book in addition to some of the analytical information in the above layout. To give you an idea what this looks like, I will show below what my layout for 1 Corinthians looks like:

In this layout, I have Richard Hays’ commentary open on the left, the NA28 open on the top right, and BDAG open on the bottom right. Each of the panes has other resources open, and all I have to do is click the tabs to access them. Notice that when I am reading commentaries, I always keep the Greek text and lexical analysis within my line of sight. This saves so much time—to have this all on one screen rather than have to switch back and forth among hard copies of several different books.

If I were to expand on all the feature included in LOGOS, it would push this review far past any reasonable length. There is a sophisticated note-taking system within LOGOS that many users value very highly (I haven’t used it yet). There is also a graphical interface called “Canvas” that allows users to make their own analysis of biblical texts. I mention them here not because I’ve used them but simply because many users love them (see here for example).

One feature that I really enjoy and that I have used in my classes is the Psalms explorer. This tool allows users to analyze the Psalter by genre, book, authorship, musical style, structure, and tags. It is difficult to show how this works, but here is a screenshot:

Notice that the left pane has hyperlinked information about genre, authorship, etc. You can see, for example, exactly how many lament Psalms there are under the genre section. You can then click on the lament Psalms and all of them will appear in the graphical interface to the right. Once you start clicking around in here, you will be amazed by how much information is packed in. That is why I use this when introducing the Psalms to my students. It really helps them to see the big picture within the Psalter. Again, this is just one helpful feature among countless others that I cannot fit into this review.

I love LOGOS 8 and am currently using it all the time in my studies. For me, it has become a regular part of research, sermon preparation, and even classroom instruction. The packages range in price from $294.99 to $10,799.99. That is a wide range, but the cost to you is going to depend on how much you can afford and how big you want your library to be. Most people are not going to pony-up more than ten grand on a computer program. But many will find it reasonable to look into some of the lesser expensive packages that are nevertheless packed with many useful resources. You can compare packages here and price them here.

The good news is that LOGOS is offering a launch discount on Logos 8–10% for first-time base package purchasers or 25% for upgraders. This deal only lasts until February 7, so if you’re going to order you’ll want to do so before then.

LOGOS 8 has become an invaluable resource for me. I am certain that it will prove to be valuable for many who read this review. Therefore, I give this software my highest recommendation.

Why you should consider using LOGOS in your Bible Study – Part 1

There are some professors of Bible who have an allergy to Bible software. I am not one of them. But those who do object do so mainly because they fear their students may use such a resource as a crutch and as a result may never really learn how to read the Bible in the original languages. Their concern is that students may rely on the software’s instant parsing and glosses so much that they never actually learn how the language works. While I agree that this is a legitimate concern, I do not agree that eschewing Bible software altogether is the answer.

Students of Hebrew and Greek do in fact need to learn the elements of the languages and how to read the scripture without having to rely on software. Having said that, once the baseline skills have been mastered, software can be used with great profit for exegesis and research. That has certainly been my experience over the years, both as a student and as a professor and pastor. I have been using Bible software to aid in research and sermon preparation since the late nineties, and I have never looked back.

Early on, my program of choice was the now-defunct GRAMCORD. GRAMCORD was lean and mean, focusing on Bible Study in the original languages and little else. I have always worked on a PC platform, and back then GRAMCORD was the closest thing to Accordance that was available for those of us not working an Apple platform. In the early 2000’s, I made the switch to BibleWorks, which had much better user interface and which also focused narrowly on original language study without too many bells and whistles beyond that. But as of last summer, BibleWorks has become defunct too. Ever since then, I have been on the lookout for something to replace it.

The truth is that I have been a Logos owner for about 13 years, but I have only been a bona fide Logos user for about six years. The main reason for that is primarily technical. I have been using PC’s that have been issued by my employers over all these years. For whatever reason, I never could get LOGOS to run well on those computers. The program was slow to load and slow to use. And I don’t have time for slow. For that reason, I steered clear of the program. Even though I had LOGOS loaded onto my machine, I rarely used it. It just took too much of my PC’s resources to be practical.

But all of that changed about six years ago when I bought my first iPad. I began to use LOGOS’s mobile app on my iPad, and it was a game-changer. I was able to access any book in my LOGOS library without all the sluggishness that had bedeviled my use of the program on my PC’s. It was at that point that I actually began using the program. But still, I was only using LOGOS on my iPad and very rarely accessing it from my main workstation, which was where I carried out the majority of my research and sermon prep.

But then all of that changed about a year and a half ago when I got a new PC from work. Currently, I am using a Dell machine with a speedy processor and (more importantly) eight gigs of RAM. The bottom line is that, for the last year and a half, I have had a work station that runs LOGOS like greased lightning. On top of that, the new LOGOS 8 is about ten times as fast at LOGOS 7 when it comes to searches. As a result, LOGOS has become an integral part of my research, sermon prep, and classroom instruction. It has become such a fixture in my work that it is hard to imagine how I would be able to do what I do without it.

Last year, LOGOS rolled out a new version of its software—LOGOS 8. LOGOS 8 is by far the best iteration of this tremendous tool. It is for that reason that I want not only to commend the use of Bible software but also to recommend LOGOS in particular. In my post tomorrow, I will give you my review of LOGOS 8 and explain why it is such an integral part of my daily study of scripture.

NOTE: LOGOS is offering a launch discount on Logos 8–10% for first-time base package purchasers or 25% for upgraders. This deal only lasts until February 7, so if you’re going to order you’ll want to do so before then.

How can the fallen mind accept Exodus 4:22?

My daily Bible reading had me in Exodus 4-7 today where God is calling a reluctant Moses to go back to Egypt to lead the children of Israel out of slavery. This particular command from God to Moses jumped off the page at me:

Exodus 4:22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”‘”

I have read this verse countless times over the years. What struck me today is how utterly and totally foreign a text like this sounds to fallen ears. After all, this is God pronouncing a judgment on Pharaoh, on his house, and on his dynasty—one that would take the life of Pharaoh’s own child. What kind of God does this? Continue Reading →

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