Book Review: WCWBF, Part II-What Exactly is She Proposing?

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Earlier I wrote that one basic problem with Mrs. Byrd’s new book, Why Can’t We Be Friends,  is she does not prove that the problem she is addressing, that of men and women in the church not being friends because the church has adopted a worldly mindset, actually exists in large enough numbers and is taught by a large enough group of leaders to be a major issue in the evangelical church. As I read, I found it hard to nail down exactly what she wanted us to do or think. The book meandered a bit and much of what she said, especially in the second half, all parties agree with. So this post is a bit boring, but my goal is to state clearly what I think she is trying to accomplish.

Here is what she cannot be proposing:

First, she cannot be proposing that men and women should become friends in group settings. Most men and women, even when married, are perfectly fine having friendships that are social and public. Couples having dinner together or groups meeting together in a social setting would not violate anything I have read from those opposed to Mrs. Byrd’s suggestions. Most men I know are happy to talk to women in a  public, social setting.  Our church is super-patriarchal, yet we talk with opposite the sex after church, at church picnics, etc.

Second, she cannot be proposing that men and women should work together vocationally. Again, who is saying that men and women should not work together? Perhaps there would be  (and should be) some discussion when there are late nights at the office or road trips. But the idea of men and women working together, even a pastor and female secretary alone at the office for eight hours, is rarely if ever opposed.  I would be overjoyed if work places were a lot less coed. But no doubt I am in a very, small minority.

Third, she cannot be proposing that singles should have opportunities to meet one on one, such as a date. (One of the problems with this book and at least one review I read is they equate developing opposite sex friendships when single and doing the same thing when married. They are different for one obvious reason: the person is no longer single.) There are courtship advocates who may go so far as to say a single man should never be alone with a girl. But that is not the norm. Most of the evangelical church, reformed church, and even courtship advocates are fine, to varying degrees,  with singles being alone with each other on dinner dates, going to movies, driving, etc.

Fourth, despite Douglas Wilson’s tweet about not helping a woman unless her bone was sticking out, I think most men, including Doug, would gladly help a woman if she needed it. I doubt the main point of this book is that men should help women who have flat tires or need their groceries loaded in their trunk.    Continue reading

Book Review: Why Can’t We Be Friends, Part I- Houston, Is There a Problem?

WCWBFWhen one writes a book addressing a specific problem instead of a general overview of a subject they must first prove that the problem exists. For example, if I am writing a general book on how a Christian should approach his vocation,  I might address the Biblical view of work, key passages such as Ephesians 6, some common workplace problems, etc. But if I think there has been a decline in manual labor among Christians and I plan to write a book addressing that decline, I must first prove that such a decline exists, then I must prove that it is a bad thing, and only then can I offer solutions.

Aimee Byrd’s latest book is not general, but specific. She believes there is a problem between men and women in the church. She believes that Christians are being taught by the culture that friendship between men and women is bad. She believes we have adopted the mindset of Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally where we let the threat of sex get in the way of friendship. Continue reading

Book Review: Searching For Adam

Searching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth About Man's OriginSearching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth About Man’s Origin by Terry Mortenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A long and difficult, but excellent book on the case for a historical Adam. It begins with Scripture, moves through some various theological and philosophical arguments, and then moves on to science. The exegetical part was interesting, though I find any exegetical argument against a historical Adam similar to the Cleveland Browns. They keep trying but always come up short. The Bible does not allow you to get rid of historical Adam. And by that I mean a man specially created as the first human to be the federal head of the entire human race.

But the sections most fascinating to me were the scientific sections where DNA, Neanderthals, human over design, comparison of humans to apes, and several other things were discussed.

As I continue to read young earth creationists as well as the old-earth guys and theistic evolutionists here is what I am noticing. For a long time YEC men have had a leg up in theology, Scripture/exegesis, philosophy, and church history. In other words, in each of these areas the YEC interpretation was more probable than the OEC interpretation or theistic evolution. The one area where OEC and theistic evolutionists had a leg up was science. This has led to some embarrassing YEC scientific conclusions, especially early on. (Though in fairness it is not as if evolution has been one long string of uninterrupted successes. They are constantly modifying as well.) But YEC is catching up. Men are getting advanced degrees in key areas from schools with secular pedigree and are using their knowledge to prove YEC instead of OEC/TE. The other thing I notice is that many YEC scientists interact regularly not just with Christian OEC men, but with secular evolutionists. They read their papers and books. This makes them sharper, clearer, and more precise in what they are arguing.

I do not see this same effort from secular evolutionists and even many Christian OEC men dismiss YEC scientists. This is a mistake. In the long run, taking your opponents seriously is a sign of respect and will help you grow. YECers do this better than OECers, though of course they are not perfect.

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Principles of Modern Thought: Just Being a Person

This is the final post in a series on Stephen Clark’s five principles that guide modern thought. The principles are listed below along with links to the previous posts.

The Principle of Equality
The Principle of Freedom
The Principle of Developing Full Potential 
The Principle of Authenticity
The Principle of Being a “Full-Person”

The Principle of Being a “Full-Person”-“This principle has two common formulations. The first formulation rejects personal subordination as a sign of immaturity and incompetence…To treat adults as subordinate in anything other than a functional relationship is to treat them as a deficient person. Thus a ‘full person’ is someone who is free from personal subordination, and is subject only to the bureaucratic forms of social control used in a technological society.

The second formulation of this principle of being a ‘full person’ grows from the ‘romantic’ reaction to a functional society. The formulation states that all human beings should be considered primarily as ‘persons,’ that is, as unique, individual centers of intentionality. To treat someone in terms of a social or a functional role is to treat that individual as an object rather than a person. For example, to treat a woman a particular way simply because she is a woman is to treat her as thing.

The scripture also teaches that each person has value, but the ideal of treating each individual person as a ‘full person’ is not presented in the New Testament. Instead, it allows for personal subordination of adults and various social roles. In fact, one’s status as a ‘full person’ is less exalted than one’s status as a son or daughter of God or as a Christian father or a Christian mother.

This principle is trickier to grasp than the previous four. But the idea is that you are just a person or to use more common language, simply a human being.  To treat someone a certain way based on role, age, ethnic identity, gender, etc. is to make them less than a real person.

There is a reason why Christians follow this principle so easily: There is an element of truth to it. As Clark says, “Each person has value.” Kindness is due to all of God’s image bearers. In a sinful, fallen world people often get abused for being a different race. Women have been treated poorly simply for being women. Abuses like these Christians should avoid. All human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because they are humans.

However, there is no such thing as just a person. There is no “individual center of intentionality” divorced from all the other aspects of who I am. There is no me outside of my particular circumstances and relationships. I do not exist as an idea. I exist as a white, middle aged, American, male, pastor with ten children, and one wife. If someone treated me like a black, older, African-American woman they would be doing me a disservice and they would be lying about reality. To treat a woman as just a person without reference to her being female is to lie about who she is. If you treat an elderly man like he is fifteen you are lying about reality. The transgender movement is built on this idea. You are not male or female, black or white, young or old. You are just a “person.” Therefore this “person” can be male or female. This “person” can change races by trying to become more black or more white. This “person” can be fifty, but act seventeen because age does not define you. All distinctions are blurred and lost. Reality is what you make of it.

The Scriptures paint a different picture. All men bear God’s image. They are to be treated with respect and dignity. However, there are also distinctions that must be observed.  In fact, to treat a person with respect is to observe these Biblical distinctions. For example, husbands are treat their wives differently than their male friends. Why? She is a woman and she is a your wife. Respect for a seventeen year old grocery store clerk will not be the same as respect for a sixty-five year old CEO. Being kind to the single mother next door will not look the same as being kind to my grandfather. I should treat my ruling elders differently than I treat my wife. We do not get to define our existence. We do not get to say that treating me differently than others is a denial of my right to be a full person. As creatures we must submit to the Creator who made us a certain way, at a certain time in history with certain obligations to those around us based on who they are.  What is ironic about the “full-person” idea is that it ultimately hurts the weak, such as women and children. In our desire to express fully our own “person hood” we trample on the weak around us.

One Great Purpose

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Here is quote from Samuel Miller in his excellent little book, “Infant Baptism.”

The truth is, one great purpose for which the church was instituted, is to watch over and train up children in the knowledge and fear of God, and thus to , “prepare a seed to serve him, who should be accounted to the Lord for a generation.” And I will venture to say, that that system of religion which does not embrace children in its ecclesiastical provisions and in its covenant engagements, is most materially defective. Infants may not receive any apparent benefit from baptism, at the moment in which the ordinance is administered…still the benefits of this ordinance, when faithfully applied by ministers, and faithfully received by parents, are abundant-nay, great and important in every way. When children are baptized, they are thereby recognized as belonging to the visible church of God. They are, as it were, solemnly entered as scholars or disciples in the school of Christ. They are brought into a situation, in which they not only may be trained up for God, but in which their parents are  bound so to train them up; and the church is bound to see that they be so trained, as that the Lord’s claim to them shall ever be recognized and maintained.

In a word, by baptism, when the administrators and recipients are both faithful to their respective trusts, children are brought into a situation in which all the means of grace, all the privileges pertaining to Christ’s covenant family, in a word, all that is comprehended under the broad and precious import of the term Christian education,  is secured to them in the most ample manner. Let parents think of this, when they come to present their children in this holy ordinance. And let children lay this to heart, when they come to years in which they are capable of remembering and realizing their solemn responsibility.

This is why churches should be in the business of training up children through various means most notably through Christian schools, including children in worship, and catechism classes.  All churches cannot do all these things. But the church, as well as the parents, have the solemn duty to train the children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Principles of Modern Thought: Authenticity

This is the fourth post in series on Stephen Clark’s five principles of modern thought. The list is below along with links to the previous posts.

The Principle of Equality
The Principle of Freedom
The Principle of Developing Full Potential 
The Principle of Authenticity
The Principle of Being a “Full-Person”

Here is what Clark says about the principle of authenticity:

The Principle of Authenticity-“It states that each individual should express his or her true feelings and preferences at all times so that one’s ‘authentic’ personality might develop and be seen. Closely related to the principle of authenticity is the notion that each person should express his or her unique personality and gifts as fully as possible. The ideals of authenticity and uniqueness lead to a dislike for the type of social structure taught in scripture. To accept a role which does not fit one’s feelings or preferences would be inauthentic.

While scriptural teaching allows for individual differences it does not idealize them, since sin finds authentic and unique expression in the lives of most people.”

Authenticity has been mocked more and more lately, which is a good thing. Yet the central idea holds on with vehemence in our culture. Dress, sexual identity, job choice, education, spouses, are all often chosen based on what makes a person feel authentic, whatever that means. The key, as with the other three principles is that of individualism. We have a right to express ourselves in “authentic” ways. No one can fence us in or put us in a box. There is a real “me” that must come out and you cannot stop it. I have a right to be me.

Biblical structure, order, submission, and obedience reject the absoluteness of this idea. You may have dreams, desires, personality traits, giftings, that cannot be developed without breaking God’s commands or that are outside of God’s providence for you. The idea of women preaching and having authority is, in part, rooted in this idea of authenticity. A woman has the gift of teaching. Why shouldn’t she be allowed to express that gifting? Often authenticity is just an excuse for selfishness and a refusal to submit to God’s Word. Authenticity does not equal righteousness. For a Christian the question is not, “Am I expressing the true me?”  Rather it is, “Am I conforming to Christ and His revealed Word?”

Principles of Modern Thought: Full Potential

Here is the third post in a series on Stephen Clark’s five guiding principles of modern thought. The list with links to the previous posts can be found below.

The Principle of Equality
The Principle of Freedom
The Principle of Developing Full Potential 
The Principle of Authenticity
The Principle of Being a “Full-Person”

Here is Clark’s description of the third principle that drives modern thinking:

The Principle of Developing Full Potential or Achieving Self-Fulfillment-“This an individualistic principle closely related to the principle of freedom. Self-fulfillment and full potential become ideals under conditions of little social cohesion where each individual feels the need to watch out for himself…It emphasizes gifts and abilities rather than personal relationships.

A principle of self-fulfillment cannot be found in scripture. The scriptural teaching presumes a cohesive communal lifestyle and sets forth an ideal of servanthood. The scripture allows Christians to seek reward, but the criterion for action is love, that is, laying down one’s life for the Lord and the brothers and sisters.”

The thought here is that anything or anyone that prevents me from achieving what I think is my full potential is restricting  my freedom and ultimately harming me. People and things exist to give me fulfillment and make me happy.

Perhaps no principle on this list is as thoroughly rejected by Scripture as this one. The Christian life is one of love and service that is focused on giving of our life, time, money, and energy to others. A principle of achieving full potential runs hard against that truth. It is impossible to live like Christ and still be focused on achieving your full potential. Yet because this is the air that we breath we still function this way. Popular Christian preachers make millions promising people that if they come to Christ he will help them fulfill their potential. On a more day to day level, we assume that if I am not becoming who I think I ought to be then something has gone wrong.  How many “Christian” men have left their wives because they felt held back by them? How many college children reject their parent’s faith because it keeps them from “stretching their wings?” How many pastors have stopped preaching the hard truths of service and sacrifice so their people will be happy and feel fulfilled? How many young men enter the job force expecting it to help them fulfill their potential? How many young ladies bear children for the same, ungodly reason? The Christian life is one of service. The minute we make our personal satisfaction and fulfillment the goal then have abandoned the narrow path.

I would add that when we follow Christ we will ultimately find happiness and satisfaction. We were made for God and in him we will be filled. But that satisfaction comes from the well-done at the end. And that well-done comes from living for Christ, dying to self and serving others. It does not come from putting our own personal fulfillment at the center of our existence.