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The Issue Under a Lot of Issues
Gender. Is it a socially constructed reality or a God-given identity?
That’s a significant question, and how you answer it has massive implications. The question of gender underlies many current cultural conflicts and theological controversies that go beyond even the long standing debates about whether or not a woman can be a pastor and whether or not a man is to function as the head of his home.
In Theology, Publishing, Parenting, and the Church
In theology, there is a raging debate around Bible translations regarding the translation of gender terms such as God being our Father, whether we should be called mankind or humanity, and whether or not we have all (men and women) been adopted as sons of God or children of God.
In publishing, a popular book a while back portrayed some members of the Trinity in feminine terms, which lead to yet another debate about what constitutes being both biblically faithful and culturally creative.
In parenting, a recent article made the rounds on the Internet about parents who have chosen to raise their child genderless and allow that child, named Storm, decide which, if any, gender it wants to choose.
In the church, there is a raging debate about whether or not active homosexuals should be pastors, including multiple mainline denominations recently, in effect, breaking with a few thousand years of consistent Biblical interpretation to say, “Yes.” And another denomination outside of the US also recently decided that someone who is by identity and public declaration gay, yet abstinent, can be a pastor in good standing. Once again, the debate rages.
God the Father or Mother?
Outside of the gender debate, other debates about such things as God judging people, punishing them, and pouring out his wrath in the conscious, eternal torments of hell are in some ways asking if God is more like a Father who defends his children from their enemies or a Mother who loves everyone until they inevitably and eventually decide to join the family.
The mainstream media has also picked up the gender issue in a cultural context. In recent months The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal have run major stories chronicling the fact that young, single men are not growing up as quickly, attending college as frequently, or assuming responsibility as maturely as their female counterparts. As a result, many women simply expect to not marry and are preparing to become mothers and live life on their own because they struggle to find men stable and dependable enough to share life and its responsibilities.
Not only do the debates rage about gender in the church, but increasingly, the least likely person to be found in church is a twenty-or-thirty-something single male. So, it’s important to ponder, how can believers speak to the gender issue, which is the issue under many issues raging in the church and culture? How can the church compel men to rise up without pushing women down? And, does the Bible have wisdom for us today about such things as women and men dressing and acting in ways that are specific to their gender, as Paul tells the Corinthians, or is that culturally-outdated misogyny that inhibits the progress of our spirituality as we purchase clothes at American Apparel?
These are big, tough, far-reaching issues.
Too big, tough, and far-reaching for things like Facebook and Twitter, I’ve recently learned.
I had a recent conversation with a stereotypical, blue-collar guy who drives his truck with his tools, lunchbox, and hard hat to his job site every day. He said he wasn’t a Christian, but he was open and wanted to learn what the Bible said. In that conversation, he told me he’d visited a church but that the guy doing the music made him feel uncomfortable because he was effeminate (he used another more colorful word, but that one will suffice in its place). He asked some questions about the Bible, and whether the Bible said anything about the kind of guy who should do the music. I explained the main guy doing the music in the Bible was David, who was a warrior king who started killing people as a boy and who was also a songwriter and musician.
I then put a flippant comment on Facebook, and a raging debate on gender and related issues ensued. As a man under authority, my executive elders sat me down and said I need to do better by hitting real issues with real content in a real context. And, they’re right. Praise God I have elders who keep me accountable and that I am under authority.
Real Issues in a Fuller Context
So, we are working on a new website where I can speak to these real issues in a fuller context. Lord willing, sometime in September, after my trip to Europe with my family and a lot of other people, and then some recovery time, we will launch a new website.
In the past, I’ve not had a regular place to work out personal commentary on social issues, and so I’ve erred in sometimes doing so in places like Facebook, Twitter, and the media, where you can have a good fight but don’t have the room to make a good case.
The first content on the new website will be about gender, and much of it will be around a book my wife, Grace, and I have completed together called Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, to be published by our friends at Thomas Nelson in January.
Both Grace and I will be blogging at the new site on issues related to gender and marriage, including mistakes we’ve made, sins we’ve committed, and convictions we agree on. And, we’ll have lots of other content on other issues as well. Until then, have a great summer, and a sincere thanks to all my critics who sometimes have good wisdom that helps me out.