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Let Her Lead

Final Thoughts

This is the last post in Let Her Lead, the series that will never end. I promised a conclusion back in December. It took way too long!

In the past two months, I’ve already thought of half a dozen more topics to write about. There’s so much I haven’t even touched on. Watch for those posts without any particular progression or regularity.

Faithful Options for Christians

What was the point of the series anyway?

You might think it was to convince you of an egalitarian position. While I try to write persuasively, that wasn’t really my goal.

Throughout the series, I hope you noticed I often talked about Christians having “options” when it came to interpreting those controversial texts on women. I also tried to be very careful to not speak with absolute certainty about a passage. I resisted being dogmatic.

My goal was to show that Christians have options available to them other than the patriarchal interpretation and that those options are still faithful to Scripture.

For so long, the theological gatekeepers in the biblical manhood and womanhood movement told me that if I believed in an alternative to their interpretation, I was unfaithful to Scripture at best and a heretic at worst.

But as I wrote this series, I kept finding myself thinking, “I don’t think we can definitely know what this means. But there are other, faithful options that make good sense of this text and the whole Bible.”

My desire for you, dear reader, is to know that many passages in the Bible are absolutely clear. Some, however, (like the ones covered in this series) have many, many layers that make them difficult to understand.

It’s not about being right. It’s about living right. It’s time to do right.

When I was in seminary, I learned about the distance that exists between us and the Scriptures. Language. Geography. Culture. Ethnicity. Time. And more.

Sometimes these things are more easily overcome when we have better data available to us. Other times, we have to do our best with what we have and, at the end of the day, say, “It’s okay to disagree here.”

I hope that I’ve shown that about many of the passages I covered. I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

It’s Time to Do Right

In the end, as my wife Carly has often said, this isn’t an intellectual exercise. It’s not “let’s get our theology right on paper.” It may feel like that for some men. But not for women. For women, it’s flesh and blood. It’s a fight for their lives in the church. A fight to be seen, appreciated, equipped, empowered, mobilized.

For me, this is no longer intellectual. It’s not, “I need to get my theology right” but “I need to love right. I need to change.”

It’s not about being right. It’s about living right. It’s time to do right.

I started this series by saying it’s my public repentance. This is my way to tell the world, or at least a small corner of it, that I’m turning. I’m turning from my patriarchy (which I didn’t even see!) toward the full inclusion of women in the life and leadership of the church.

This is only the beginning. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The time is always right to do what’s right.”

Do You See This Woman?

In Luke 7:36-50, a woman came to anoint Jesus while he was at a dinner party. She didn’t know when she arrived that the host would disrespect Jesus by refusing to wash his feet or greet him with a kiss. With a broken heart, she wept so much that she washed his feet with her tears. She kissed his feet constantly, dried them with her hair, then anointed them with perfume.

“Do you see this woman?” Jesus’ words echo deep in my heart, almost daily now.

Jesus had a question for Simon, the host of the party, “Do you see this woman?”

If you would permit me some applicational leeway, it’s not a stretch to think that Jesus might be saying the same thing to us in the Church today.

Men, open your eyes and see her. She’s called and capable. She was made to walk alongside you. Not to fulfill a designated cultural role subservient to yours (whatever that may be), but to partner with you in fulfilling God’s mission in this world. Imagine what she could do with the training and experience usually reserved for men. Invite her in and watch her fly.

Women, Jesus sees you. I see you. Many others are beginning to see you now, too. You’re called and capable. Not just to do one thing, but whatever that thing is that God calls you to do. You are dearly loved by your Father. He will use you to fulfill his mission in this world. And the Church needs you and we will not reach the world with the gospel without you.

“Do you see this woman?” Jesus’ words echo deep in my heart, almost daily now.

It sparks me to pray this simple prayer. Will you pray it with me?

Lord Jesus, have mercy on us so that we see her. And when we do, may we let her lead.

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Reviews

Review: The End of White Christian America

The End of White Christian America by Robert P. Jones is a difficult book to summarize briefly. It’s essentially a history book and it has a ton of research data.

I’m not much for formal reviews anymore. I did that during seminary, and I’m glad those days are over. But here are a few thoughts.

This book is from 2016, and it was released before President Trump was elected. It’s a book about, well, white Christians in America. What is “White Christian America”? The author uses the term to describe the domain (think realm or even kingdom) of white Protestants in America, anchored by mainline Protestants in the Northeast, and evangelical Protestants (particularly Southern Baptists as the book unfolds) in the Midwest and South. The author argues that WCA is dying—it doesn’t quite have the cultural or political clout it used to.

It seems that the the author equates white Christians with extreme right-wing Republican politics. (I realize that for statistical and historical analysis, a book about moderate Christians who aren’t quotable and stay out of partisan politics is pretty boring.) I could sum up the book by saying it’s about the death of that group of people who believe their “Christian” faith and (ultra-conservative) politics are so closely bound together that you nearly can’t tell a difference between them.

The book points out that WCA is out of touch with the changing cultural landscape (hence why it is dying). It shows the disheartening reality that Christians, particularly evangelicals, have hurt race relations in our country more than helped. It shows that Christians have often been tone deaf, and even more worried about being right and having power, than being servants. For these and other reasons, WCA is dying. (Keep in mind, of course, that Trump was elected shortly after this book was released, which seems to contradict the entire premise of the book.)

Now, to be honest, there were times when reading, that I said to myself, “I really don’t want to be associated with ‘evangelicals’” (as far as that word is understood in this country). There were moments I cringed reading about what’s been said or done by “evangelical Christians.” And it made me want to be anything but evangelical. (Full disclosure: I don’t use that label for myself because of the political connotations).

On the other hand, the author seems to assume that to move forward positively in this country, Christians (particularly white ones and particularly Southern Baptists) must embrace political views that Christians across time and culture have never embraced. I’m being intentionally vague on the details, but I’m sure you could take a good guess at some of the things the author refers to.

At the end of the day, reading this kind of book makes me long for a new generation of disciples of Jesus—the whole Jesus. It makes me long for Jesus-people who are neither Red nor Blue; do not cave into cultural values, norms, or fads; have a robust understanding of the gospel; are passionate about true justice for the non/underprivileged; have a vision and simple, reproducible methods for disciple-making; and walk by the Spirit of Jesus so that their light so shines before others that people ask them, “You aren’t from around here, are you?”

Master Jesus, you can do it. Please, do it.

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).

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Theology

A (Brief) Political Manifesto

I recently attended a political event which was distinctively Christian. It was designed to inform Christians on the current political trends and issues related to family in New York State. I had mixed emotions during the event and as I’ve reflected back on it, not much has changed. But it got me thinking about how faith, the church, and politics intersect. I’ve thought about this before, of course, but this time I had a tangible experience that helped solidify some of my thoughts a bit more. After the event, I had a chance to write a reflection that is a sort of political “manifesto.” I pray it’s helpful to you.

We have been given an unbelievable privilege to live in a democratic republic. I believe Christians should participate in the democratic process. I believe individual Christians should participate and infiltrate the political arena and shine the light of the gospel there as we should in education, business, entertainment, the arts, law, etc.

I believe we should pray for our leaders, whether we agree with them or not. I believe we should submit to the authorities and honor them.

I believe that nearly everything Christians, in general, and pastors, in particular, say and do has political connotations and repercussions because our primary allegiance is to Jesus, not our country or any political party. We serve a different King; we are citizens of another country. We give to Caesar what is his, but ultimately, we give to God what is his, namely us. This is profoundly political in a general sense.

I do not believe pastors should tell their congregations who to vote for. I do not believe churches should run or fund political campaigns or endorse any particular candidate. Rather, church leaders should so teach and lead and equip the congregation so that they understand the Christian worldview and how the gospel changes everything. This will help people make informed, just, and godly political decisions.

I do not believe the kingdom comes through legislation, political power, coercion, or propaganda. We are salt and light. Salt used to preserve is unseen. It only takes a small match to light up a dark room. Our influence is subtle yet constant. Our movement is marginal yet powerful. The church is a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. That is, we are the picture of an alternate city in all our earthly cities. We want justice and shalom for our cities in this world, and sometimes legislation and political action can help. William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery in England is a prime example. But we realize legislation cannot change hearts, and we realize the perfect society will finally come when Jesus returns. So we live together as a picture of that city to come and call others to join us. We desire and look for a new country, and I believe we were made for that country, that city—a city whose gates will never be breached and whose King never needs re-election.

Categories
Theology

This I Believe: Creation

Creation
I believe that God created all things visible and invisible, which he declared “good.” The pinnacle of God’s creative work was man, which he declared it “very good.” I believe God created man male and female, and that they were created equally in the image of God and without sin. Adam and Eve were joined in a one-flesh union designed by God as the pattern for gender, marriage, and sexuality. Adam and Eve were appointed by God to care for, manage, and govern creation, while enjoying friendship with God.

Gen. 1; 2:7, 21-22, 24-25; Matt. 19:4-6

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Theology

This I Believe: The Triune God

Over the next couple weeks,  I will post a series of snippets from a personal confessional statement I wrote a while back for a seminary class. Each day, I will post one article from my personal statement. There’s nothing spectacular or earth shattering about my beliefs. If you are an evangelical, there’s not one thing I will say that will make your jaw drop. Indeed, this confessional statement is remarkable because it is, to be sure, quite unremarkable. It is simple a retelling of the old gospel and the historic doctrines of our faith. If anything, I hope your jaw drops out of delight in our glorious God.

Those who know me or read this blog know that I align myself with the historic Christian faith as articulated first in Scripture, and then in the historic Creeds (Apostles’NiceneChalcedon, and Athanasian) and various evangelical confessions of faith. On matters of doctrine, I embrace the maxim, “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials diversity, in all things charity.” In other words, while I believe that all doctrine is important, I do not believe that unity on all points of doctrine is not necessary for salvation. I hope you will notice that this conviction is ingrained into my statement.

Of course, no confessional statement should be divorced from God’s people, for we are God’s house, a diverse unity. God is creating a people for himself, not a bunch of lone ranger Christians. Therefore, “we believe” is more essential than “I believe.” In light of this, doctrinal statements should always be vitally connected to the universal and local church. At the same time, I think it is wise for individual Christians to be able to winsomely articulate, “This is what I believe,” while consciously remembering that simply having a personal statement of faith does not constitute an individual as a church!

The following modern statements have highly influenced me (and in some cases, I have simply adopted or slightly modified their wording): the Baptist Faith and Message (2000), the Baptist General Conference Affirmation of Faith, the Evangelical Free Church of America Statement of Faith, and The Gospel Coalition Confessional Statement.


The Triune God
I believe that there is one living and true God, eternally existing in three persons who dwell together in perfecting loving unity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. I believe these are equal in every divine perfection, and that they execute distinct but harmonious offices in the work of creation, providence and redemption. God is spirit, immortal, invisible, holy, loving, all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful, everywhere-present, unchangeable, and sovereign. God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for himself and to make all things new for his own glory.

Gen. 1:1,26; Matt. 28:19; John 1:1, 3; 4:24; Rom. 1:19, 20; Eph. 4:5, 6