"Biblical" Patriarchy

I was actually quite looking forward to reading this statement after I saw an ad for a "Family-Integrated Churches" conference coming up in Wake Forest. I was pretty on board with the first few sections about the pattern of creation, the roles of men and women, and the nature of paternal authority in the home (which was especially outstanding), but then... things took a turn for the fundier. Check it out:

While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created.

Dude. What? I understand there is a difference between "functional" equality (i.e. equality of role or function) and "essential" equality (i.e. equality of personhood or essence), but are we seriously going to say that it's not OK for a woman -- not even a single woman -- to be a partner in a law firm or the head of a hospital department? And am I as a single woman to be granted only an "exceptional" calling? Insulting and condescending, not to mention burdensome.

Or how about this:

God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply” still applies to married couples, and He “seeks godly offspring.” He is sovereign over the opening and closing of the womb. Children are a gift of God and it is a blessing to have many of them, if He so ordains. Christian parents are bound to look to Scripture as their authoritative guide concerning issues of procreation. They should welcome with thanksgiving the children God gives them. The failure of believers to reject the anti-life mindset of the age has resulted in the murder of possibly millions of unborn babies through the use of abortifacient birth control.

This one makes me want to cuss, people. I'm tracking right with them -- yes, fruitful, good. OK, godly offspring (tiny quibble here, but moving along). Yes, sovereign over procreation. Absolutely, children are gifts. Yes, Scripture is the authority. And then -- SCREEEEECH! Rapid application of mental brakes. Let's break down the logical fallacies here. Appeal to emotion: "murder... of unborn babies." Straw man: "anti-life mindset of the age." Appeal to probability and argument from ignorance: "possibly millions." False premise, oversimplification: "Failure of believers to reject... has resulted." Special pleading, undistributed middle: "abortifacient birth control."

Christians, as people who at least claim to be informed by a Biblical worldview need to think long and hard about how birth control fits in with our family lives. Have we simply absorbed the societal view of birth control willy-nilly, allowing secular culture to tell us what to think about children? Do we view children as inconveniences to be postponed as long as possible so we can accomplish our goals, or do we view them as Scripture tells us to: as blessings from the Lord to be received with open arms? These are issues we must wrestle with! The fact that we are even discussing this -- and the fact that many of my recently married friends have elected not to use birth control -- shows that we are addressing the issues. But to imply that (1) believers have embraced an "anti-life mindset," that (2) this mindset has "resulted" in "murder" -- which, seriously, look up the word murder; it necessarily implies intentionality, and that (3) a vague, undefined "abortifacient birth control" is to blame for the deaths of millions is patently absurd and illogical.

Furthermore, this sort of statement practically defines legalism: making a conviction binding where Scripture does not speak. I am NOT saying that Scripture doesn't speak to issues of fertility. I am NOT saying that we cannot draw personal conclusions or derive personal convictions from Biblical principles. But I AM saying that we must not prescribe beliefs or actions that bind others' consciences apart from a specific command or principle in Scripture.

And finally, before I run out of steam:

Education is not a neutral enterprise. Christian parents must provide their children with a thoroughly Christian education, one that teaches the Bible and a biblical view of God and the world. Christians should not send their children to public schools since education is not a God-ordained function of civil government and since these schools are sub-Christian at best and anti-Christian at worst.


OK, first, I am usually very pro-homeschooling. Parents know their kids' needs better than anyone else (ideally), and those who are equipped to teach well and feel compelled to educate their children at home should do so. My sister-in-law is doing a fantastic job of homeschooling my nephew, who is very bright but also sometimes slightly unfocused, and so would probably not thrive in a traditional classroom as much as he is in a one-on-one setting. If the Lord grants me a husband and children, I will consider homeschooling and would probably not send them to public school.

All that being said, however... more logical fallacies are popping up here. The implication seems to be that you either give your children comprehensive Christian worldview training or you send them to public school. That's a false dichotomy. It's not impossible to train your children in life and godliness while also sending them to public school. This is an issue to be decided by parents after much prayer and consideration. Simple geography also plays a role: the public school in my hometown was just fine for my brother and me, full of Christian teachers and administrators, and careful not to restrict the rights of Christian students.

Moreover, see the above argument about binding people's consciences! You can't say (or imply) that it's un-Christian to send your kids to public school. You can argue that it's unwise in certain, or even many or all, cases (and I have). You can lay out the facts about the quality and content of public education. You can form an argument from Scripture about the duty of parents to educate their children and not abdicate or "outsource" that responsibility to school or church. But you simply cannot point to Scripture and say, "this says Christians shouldn't send their children to public school."

Overall I'm pretty disappointed with the inflammatory, "no true Scotsman"-type rhetoric and (il)logic that colors this whole document.

Any other thoughts?


Another Book

A couple years ago I picked up The Devil in the White City in an airport bookshop, and loved it -- it's the true (if ever so slightly sensationalized) story of Chicago during the World's Fair, focusing on the men who designed the Fair's buildings and a serial killer who preyed on the young women who came to work at the Fair. It basically combines my two favorite kinds of literature: historical nonfiction and murder mystery.

The same author has recently released another cracking book called Thunderstruck. It tells of how Marconi invented the telegraph (fascinating, really; I had no idea what a big deal it was) and how it helped lead to the capture of a murderer fleeing the police on a transatlantic cruise.

Some reviewers have given the author, Erik Larson, a hard time about the two books, accusing him of taking two random events and mashing them together into one incoherent storyline. But at the outset Larson claims to be giving a perspective on a certain period of history from the viewpoints of the two main groups of characters. He does sometimes try to make too-tenuous connections between, in this case, Marconi and the murderer, but I chalk that up to his slightly tabloid, eyebrows-raised, ominous-violins-in-background style of writing. Which is a compliment.

Anyway, it's a ripper. I plowed through 150 pages of it on the plane last night and it was good enough to distract me both from the fact that I was 35,000 feet in the air and from the incredibly annoying teenage Jehovah's Witness who sat behind me and talked, I'm not even remotely kidding, non-stop from takeoff to landing. Mostly about how excited she was to see heaven, no, really, so excited! At which point I had to pause and pray that the Lord would wait at least until we were safely on the ground to address that issue. Tangent over. Read the book.


Oh, This is Good.

This is a fantastic follow-up to my previous article (which, ahem, was recently published in my hometown newspaper). What CAN I do? Well, this is a pretty good start. Check it out (from Five Aspects of Woman by Barbara Mouser via Boundless):

Mistress of the Domain (Genesis 1) — Woman, like man, is created in God's image and has authority from God to rule, subdue and be productive. Because of sin, however, she both "abuses and abandons" her call to stewardship (characterized by manipulation, pride and domination, biblical example: Jezebel). As she is sanctified, she reclaims, with the help of the Holy Spirit, the areas of responsibility God has given her (her home, her studies, her work, her marriage, her children, etc.) to God's glory (characterized by humility, hope and productivity, biblical example: the Shunammite woman).

Helper-Completer (Genesis 2) — "Woman, from the man and for the man, completes him in his person and his work. As helper, she provides partnership in work, fellowship in body and spirit and membership in marriage." In our spirituality, at the foot of the cross, man and woman are alike. Both are in need of a savior, both able to accept salvation and find fullness in Christ. But in our humanity, male and female are different. Under the curse of sin, we are competitors. Once redeemed, we are complementary: a man, by God's design, needs help. A woman needs to give help. We fit together like pieces of a puzzle.

Lifegiver (Genesis 3) — God created women uniquely to literally bring forth new life. The ability to bear children is the obvious mark of His design. Women are also designed to nurture (this includes married and single women). Marred by sin, women despise, neglect or smother their children. The extreme example being abortion. The redeemed woman "does all she can to alleviate the suffering of others ... and eagerly seeks to have children, both physically and spiritually."

Lady of Wisdom (Proverbs 1-9, 31) — "Wisdom is the body of God's creation principles." In the book of Proverbs "she is personified as a woman." As created by God, she is the "inviter and hostess, reprover and teacher, counselor, protectress, patron and friend." In our fallen state, women model not wisdom, but folly. They deny Truth and do what feels right, rather than what is right (biblical examples: Eve, Delilah, Potiphar's wife and the Proverbs woman of folly). Once redeemed, women can become wise by mastering skills and studying to develop their minds. Skillful and intellectual women are in a position to influence their world for God's kingdom (biblical examples: Proverbs 31 wife; Ruth; Esther and the wise woman of Abel).

Glory of Man (1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5) — As created, woman "glorifies her husband and her heavenly King with submission, adornment, purity and love. She emulates the Church's membership, as her husband emulates Christ's headship." In her fallen state, woman makes her beauty an end in itself, leading ultimately to ugliness (shame, lust, pride and sexual perversion, for examples; see Isaiah 3 and Ezekiel 16). Once redeemed, a woman is free to use her beauty for the benefit of her heavenly father and when married, for her husband.


What CAN I Do, Then?

Much as we claim to hate them, there's something kind of appealing about the simplicity of rules, isn't there? Do Not Feed The Lions. 45 MPH. Keep Off The Grass. Simple. There are people whose careers have been dedicated to figuring out rules for other peoples lives: advice columnists abound. There's even a book called The Rules. Heck, there's an entire genre!

Here's the quandary: as believers, our lives are no longer defined by our adherence to the law. God's word makes it perfectly clear that we cannot live up to the standards God has set, but that Christ came in flesh and obeyed God's law to the letter in our stead.

But I like rules. I would love it if someone would just tell me exactly how I'm supposed to behave.

So, rather than striving for Christlikeness, for actions defined and bounded by grace and characterized by love, I make myself a little rulebook. Don't look at x. Don't say x. Don't think about x. Don't do x. This much of x is all right, but this much is too much. No flirting. No romance novels. No ice cream.

With all that running through my mind, is it any wonder that I stopped today and wondered, "Well, what CAN I do, then?" It's a seriously frustrating issue to me, especially in the context of a particular circumstance right now. You might be surprised how difficult it is to figure out how to act when all you have to go on are injunctions. It's like a professor who gives a writing assignment, and when you ask for help he tells you, "It shouldn't be written in Swahili and it can't be about the 17th century Spanish monarchy." Not helpful.

In my daily interactions, I've discovered that the Law of Christ is harder. Far from being an easier way to live, Christian freedom is much more complicated and mentally taxing than legalism. It requires that I search God's word. It requires prayer. It requires discernment, and accountability, and community. It results in mistakes, sometimes mistakes I don't even realize until later. But it also produces humility, maturity, wisdom, deep friendships, equanimity, contentment, and joy. It causes me to trust the Lord, because there's not always crystal-clear dictation in Scripture for the minutiae of life (by which I mean, there's no 3 Corinthians 8:14 that says, "And to my single sisters I say, not I but the Lord, that thou shalt behave thusly toward cute boys..." Although, wouldn't that be kinda awesome? Anyway).

"This side of heaven," as my dad says, I'll never have it all figured out. I'll continue to fail in how I strive to be like Christ. But I praise God that he is already at work, never sleeping, always faithful, until I am conformed to the image of his Son.


Psalm 119: A love letter to God's word

I talked with a couple of people (namely Jordan and my mom) about my latest devotional project: praying/journaling through Psalm 119. It's been really rich just to meditate on the Psalmist's words as he meditates on God's word.

My last semester of seminary I took Old Testament 1 with Dr. Peter J. Gentry, (noted Septuagint and Hexapla scholar) who, in his inimitable style (i.e., giant beard and Canadian accent) spoke briefly about using Psalm 119 as a "controller" for the study of the entire Old Testament. What a beautiful thought: to use a love letter to God's word as a tool for the study of God's word!

I thought as I was thumbing through the psalm today, "I want this to be what my heart says about God's word." The Psalmist takes such delight in God's word that he thirsts after it, longs for it, desires it. And God's word is effective! It accomplishes what God desires (Isaiah 55:11). Let's take verses 73-80 as an example:

73 - God's word teaches us that God is our creator. It gives us understanding.
74 - It causes other believers to rejoice when they see our obedience to it.
75 - It gives us a proper understanding of God's righteousness and faithfulness.
76 - It comforts us as we recognize God's fulfillment of his promises to us.
77 - It gives us delight.
78 - It is a comfort when we are being slandered.
79 - It is a cause of unity among believers.
80 - It lays out the aim of our lives - to be blameless before the Lord.

Almost every verse can be meditated upon in two or three ways:

1. As a prayer for our hearts: "Lord, cause me to love your word in this way..."
2. As a record of the effectiveness of God's word: "Lord, thank you that your word effects this change in me..."
3. As a reflection of God's character as a God who reveals himself to his people: "Lord, thank you for revealing yourself in your word as a God who is..."

(Here are some other pointers from a previous post.)

One of the things I want to characterize me is a passion for God's word. I want to come home at the end of the day and want nothing more than to hear from my Father. I want my children and grandchildren to glean wisdom from the things the Lord reveals to me as I earnestly seek him in his word. I want my Bible's pages to be marked with "P" for "precious" and "T&P" for "tried and proven," like the woman in Spurgeon's classic story. I highly recommend doing this exercise as training in the love of God's precious word!


Dr. David Sills is the Funniest Professor in the History of Professors

Seriously, if Dr. Sills weren't such an amazing missiology prof and Communicator of the Vision for Missions, I would strongly suggest that he take his show on the road. There's a facebook group dedicated to "Dr. Sills-isms," which I just discovered and which reminded me of how funny he is -- a fast talker with a deep-South accent who sometimes forgets how to speak English and starts lecturing in Spanish before he catches himself and says, "Como se dice..."

A sampling of the quotes:

"You're a missionary--go mish."

"Smoke 'em if you got 'em."

". . .the coolest thing since night baseball"

"Does God speak to us through email? Rarely."

"I'm so low on the food chain that I have to watch out for Nemo."

"As they say in Mississippi, that's a lot of sugar for a nickel."


"You just need to rock on."

"A little more to the right and you're a fundy fundy fundamentalist."

"There's more than one way to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich."

"That's the long way around the barn to say..."

"The reason that smells like smoke is because of where it comes from..."

"Billy the Graham"

"16 million Baptists and you can't find half with a search warrant."

"Where they spit the grass never grows again"

"They will steal your socks without even taking your shoes off…that’s just the way they are."

"It’s like communism, it only works on paper."

"Mouth-breathing redneck from Cutoff, Louisiana."

"That's the Reader's Digest Condensed version."

"I have an overdeveloped sense of mercy. I was even pulling for O.J."


"Upon my word," said her Ladyship,

"You give your opinion very decidedly for so young a person."

Check out Christine's post about women's fears and motivations before marriage, and her gracious tempering of her position a few days (and sixty-six comments) later. CAUTION: the type of frank and honest language Christine uses means that men (and single gals) might not find this helpful.


Wise Words

My friend Justin, who never fails to bless me when I talk to him (and who also has a super hot, funny, awesome wife and a crazy cute daughter -- holla, Zoe Buttercup!), had these wise words for someone wondering about holiness:
What always lights me up ... is 2 Cor 5:21, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

I agonize over this: God who has no sin is ultimately righteous and has no fault in him whatsoever (1 John 1:5). Christ Jesus has that same holiness and purity (Col 1:19).

I am a sinner, filled with faults, imperfections and impurities, thus ultimately and eternally disqualifying me for fellowship with perfection. More than that, my willing, continual rejection of his reality entitles me to an eternity of eternal punishment.

But GOD (Eph 2:4), allowed Jesus to be sin for me, so that in him I might become the actual righteousness of God? How does one measure the righteousness of God? He chose to perfect imperfection. He chose Justin Mullins. He saw me as a dead man and said to his son, "I want that one; will you die in his place?" And his son said, "Yes, indeed." Now I share eternal fellowship with perfection forever and nothing will be able to affect that, nothing. This is a done deal, but not yet fully realized until I'm with him (it's already-but-not-yet).

Yeah, I dig the holiness of God. It's ultimate expression is that he gave his holiness to his son who gave it to me because in Christ I become the righteousness of God. I always have to go back to this, this is where I begin: God is Holy, I am not. Christ is Sufficient. I believe that, turn from my sin and turn to him. This is where I end. This is the gospel. I love it.

I pursue holiness because Holiness pursues me.


Real Quick

If you haven't heard of Vandaveer, check them out immediately. Mark and his "good sister Rose" and their sweet, funny guest drummer were a dose of black-daisy delight last night at the 930. I adore them completely. They may be my new favorite band. I even bought a t-shirt.

If you need a point of reference for their sound, I would call it the Goth-Dylan Partridge Family.