John Calvin on the Image of God in Men and Women

Man and WomanOne the advantages of reading those from the past is you realize that the question you are asking is not new and has been answered before. You may disagree with answer, but at least  you are kept from the proud idea that you alone or your generation alone has asked the question. For example, how can Christ be Savior of both men and women and yet Paul says in I Corinthians 11:3 that Christ is the head of man? Here John Calvin’s answer to that question. Brackets are mine.

There you have what we need to observe concerning St. Paul’s statement here, that the head of man is Jesus Christ. He is indeed the head of both men and women, as I have set forth. It is through him that we are joined with each other and united to God so as to be recognized and avowed as his children, and to have our refuge in him with complete confidence. Yet, be that as it may, as regards policy and order belonging to the present life, and without which men would be as dumb animals, Jesus Christ exercises the office of head over men. And let us observe that our Lord Jesus Christ thus affords us a double blessing: namely the eternal salvation of our souls [which applies to men and women equally], and the blessing  of order for this passing life [in which Christ is head of men and men are head of women]. Both of these things are quite useful, once one understands.

Calvin sees two levels at which Christ is working. First, Christ and the salvation he offers, as well as the benefits of that salvation are offered to and given to men and women equally. Men are not more saved than women. They are not closer to  Christ than women. We are all God’s children. But in this life order is required. Order demands hierarchy. This hierarchy is put in place by Jesus to guide us through this life with order and decency. Therefore men are the head and rulers in “this passing life.” Calvin states this another way in the next sermon on I Corinthians 11:4.  Continue reading

Conservative Moms & Stunted Masculinity

Weak Man 1

Earlier in the week I sent this Tweet:

As with most Tweets it lacks clarification and nuance. A friend of my said as much, so I decided to post a follow up explaining what I meant. By conservative, I mean religiously conservative, not politically. The description below will flesh that out a bit.

I have been a pastor in a conservative church in a conservative denomination for almost ten years. I home school and interact with the homeschooling community frequently. I have a wife and six boys. The point I made in my Tweet is one that I have seen in my own home, church, and denomination, as well as other conservative communities. Boys can have a hard time becoming men in conservative settings. The problem is not universal. Many, maybe even most, conservative moms and dads are doing a good job raising masculine boys. But the problem is not rare either.  This is not just the fault of these moms, of course. The culture, both broadly and in our churches, pastors, and dads all share the blame. However, mothers can and do undermine masculinity in boys.

Why did I single out conservative moms instead of liberal ones? Well first that is my audience. I would rather preach to the individuals I know than the masses I don’t know. But also because they have a difficult time seeing the part they play in the emasculation of their own boys. Conservative moms view themselves as going against the flow and fighting against the feminism in our culture. Many of them are stay at home moms or part time stay at home moms who have rejected a career to raise children. Most home school or send their kids to private school. They go to worship and are active in their church. They submit to their husbands. They read their Bible and pray. They dress modestly. These are all good things.  But as Doug Wilson has taught me when you go to algebra class you get equations. When you go to biology class you get problems about dissecting frogs. And when you have conservative Christian mothers you get women who do not see how they could possibly be a blockade to manliness in their boys and husband. They are the ones doing it “right.” These women are the ones least likely to believe they are the problem. I know many conservative mothers who are doing well at raising boys. But in conservative churches this is an issue and pastors ignore it to their own peril.  Continue reading

Book Review: Jesus, Justice & Gender Roles by Kathy Keller

Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in MinistryJesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry by Kathy Keller

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I knew I would disagree with Mrs. Keller before I started. However, I do not automatically give those I disagree with low ratings. If a person makes a concerted effort to address differing viewpoints, etc. I will give a higher rating to them despite my disagreements. I also realize this is a booklet and not a full length treatment of the topic. But this book does more harm than good by running with too many unproven assumptions to make sweeping generalizations about men, women, and the church. This is easy to do in a booklet of this size. But when your position is in a minority in your own tradition you should be more persistent in proving your point and address dissenting view points. Perhaps this comes from her own skewed view of her position. She sees herself as a conservative on male/female roles and in some ways she might be in our current context. But overall her position of a woman can do anything an unordained man can do is not conservative when it is placed against the backdrop of God’s people in the past. I might write a more lengthy review later interacting with her exegesis of the two passages she primarily looked at.

I find it ironic that this book is consider non-egalitarian/complementarian when it is close to being full egalitarian and would not be recognized by most of our fathers in the faith as being true to the Scriptures or to the reality of the way God made the world.

My Rating System
1 Star-Terrible book and dangerous. Burn it in the streets.

2 Stars-Really bad book, would not recommend, probably has some dangerous ideas in it or could just be so poorly written/researched that it is not worth reading. Few books I read are 1 or 2 stars because I am careful about what I read.

3 Stars-Either I disagree with it at too many points to recommend it or it is just not a good book on the subject or for the genre. Would not read it again, reference it, or recommend it. But it is not necessarily dangerous except as a time waster.

4 Stars-Solid book on the subject or for the genre. This does not mean I agree with all that is said. I would recommend this book to others and would probably read it again or reference it. Most books fall in this category because I try not to read books I don’t think will be good. There is a quite a variety here. 3.6 is quite different from 4.5.

5 Stars-Excellent book. Classic in the genre or top of the line for the subject. I might also put a book in here that impacted me personally at the time I read it. I would highly recommend this book, even if I do not agree with all that it says. Few books fall in this category. Over time I have put less in this category.

View all my reviews

Women Staying at Home Not Sinful…Yet

 

FireChristianity Today continues to play the whore with our Babylonian culture.  The Atlantic just published an article where they interviewed Katelyn Beaty, the managing editor of Christianity Today, about her new book A Woman’s Place.  The article was written by Jonathan Merritt, in case you are wondering. Apparently Ms. Beaty has moved from considering work outside the home as a option to work outside the home as mandatory. Here are a few quotes from the article.  All the sentences with quote marks are from Beaty. The big block quotes are from the article.

Her new book, A Woman’s Place, claims to reveal “the surprising truth about why God intends every woman to work.”

Now you might think the “work” means work outside the home and inside the home, right? Right? Surely  bringing up immortal souls made in the image of God day after day is work? No. Let me translate this: “God intends every woman to work outside the home.”

After carefully studying the scriptures, she concluded “there is a very strong biblical argument for the notion that women and men are equal in worth and dignity.”

Ah yes, that careful study of the Bible where we find things that have always been there and then twist them to mean things they have never meant so that we can push our own agenda which will destroy families, women, children, culture, and churches. Apparently, she has never read any book by anyone who holds to traditional male/female roles. If she did she would know we all affirm this and have for quite some time. But alas, the echo chamber of  feminism requires you to read “equal in worth and dignity” as women are men and men are women. Glory only comes when we are all the same. And then comes the great slap at all mothers everywhere.  Continue reading

Dress, Manners, and the Created Order

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Stephen Clark’s book Man and Woman in Christ has been an excellent read. Near the end of the book he summarizes his conclusions from his study. One point is that Christians should use cultural expressions to express the role differences between men and women. Most societies throughout history, including Western society, have had ways of distinguishing between men and women and their roles. This was done in many ways, but primarily through different modes of dress and manners. Manners here would include what was done and said between men and women. An example my wife just read was how in the Civil War South women did not discuss their pregnancies in front of men. When they became visibly pregnant they stopped going out into society as well. Whatever we think of the practice, it was a way of women distinguishing themselves from men.

In our society there has been a breakdown of differences between men and women. (That sentence is like saying the Titanic was a ship that sunk.) There are coed bathrooms to go along with co-ed dorm rooms. Women can be firefighters, policemen, boxers, wrestlers, soldiers, pastors, football players, and presidents. Add to this the sexual confusion seen in sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuals, transgender, divorce, and abortion and we see a society that has lost any vision of the distinct, glorious, God-ordained differences between men and women. Therefore it is not a surprise that we have tossed aside cultural expressions of those differences. I want to briefly explore how we have done this in dress and manners.

Clothing for men and women has become more uniform. Can you imagine a store with male and female employees requiring their female employees to wear skirts? That thought experiment is enough to show how far we have come. Many movies depict women in pants and military style tank tops just like men wear. Men wear skinny jeans,which are basically yoga pants with buttons. There are still masculine and feminine clothes. But our culture does not demand or expect that. For example, a girl could wear a nice dress to school, but she should just as easily wear masculine clothes. Her hair could be long or short. Feminine dress has become an individual expression instead of a cultural expectation and norm. Many women dress feminine, not because they are women, but because it is an expression of their personal desires. There is no norm, just me dressing in whatever way makes me happy.

But the loss of manners, which distinguish men from women, is more pronounced that the uniformity of dress. Men used to open doors for women, give their seats up for women, wait for women, speak with careful respect to women, avoid certain topics when speaking with women, not lay their hands on women, etc. Men were careful about what they said in front of the ladies. Now we talk to them just like they are one of the guys. Men and woman playing each other in sports would have been unthinkable. Now it is normal. Men and women sharing bathrooms. We have flattened out the differences between men and women. Do we have any normal, social manners where we distinguish men from women?

There is no Biblical command that says, “Open doors for ladies.” However, it is a cultural expression of a Biblical truth: Women and men are different and are to be treated differently. We don’t have to necessarily hang on to opening doors for women. The problem is  that we have jettisoned our fathers’ cultural expressions of role differences without replacing them with new ones. Therefore we are left with little non-verbal language by which we say, “Men and women are different.”

Here is why many complementarians are so feeble in their attempt to hold back the cultural tide of egalitarianism. They believe that men and women are different. But they refuse to allow that truth to impact life in concrete ways. Women can’t be pastors and men should lead in the home….sorta, kinda, almost. But in most places they throw up their hands and say, “Who knows where the line is between men and women’s dress?”  “Is it really wrong for a woman to teach men in church when it isn’t the Sunday morning sermon?” When complementarians think women can be cops, bust drug dealers, and get in firefights they have lost the battle.

There are many people, including some Christians, who do not think there is much of a difference between men and women. They are happy that these walls have been broken down. These people are in rebellion against the created order.

But for those of us who still think men and women were created by God for distinct, glorious roles, then cultural expressions of these differences are necessary. Here I offer two suggestions. Dress in a way that says, “I am a man.” Or “I am a woman.” I am not saying women can’t wear pants or jeans. Nor am I saying that men must wear camo. But make sure your dress fits your sex. There is a lot of freedom here. I am not encouraging a return to all women or men wearing the same thing. I am encouraging men and women to wear clothes that distinguish them from the other sex. We are generally better at this than we are at the second point.

Second, we should bring back distinct ways of treating the opposite sex. The men are primarily responsible for this. We should open doors for the ladies, wait to sit until they are seated, not speak of certain things in front of them, smoke our cigars outside, run late night errands instead of sending our wives into the darkness, rise when they enter the room, protect our ladies physically and spiritually, pull out their chairs, put on their coats, etc. In short, we should find (or recover?) ways of saying, “Men are different from women.” Ladies should let men do this. Many ladies hate having a man give up his seat for them. Why? We don’t have to do all of these and we can create other cultural expressions. But for Christians who think men and women are different we need to have a cultural language that defies the egalitarian ethic of the world we live in. It is not enough to preach from the pulpit or write in books that men and women are different. We must reflect this truth in homes, churches, and communities in actions that say men and women are different.

Originally posted in August 2014, but there are some revisions to this re-post. 

Whose Daughters You Are

For in this manner, in former times,the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands,  as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror (I Peter 3:5-6).

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Few subjects are so fraught with danger as the teaching that wives should submit to their husbands.  There are numerous reasons for this. First, the church has played the whore with the world on this particular subject. Thus Christian women have been taught that Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18, and I Peter 3:1- 6  are irrelevant to their lives as Christians. Second, too many Christian men treat their wives like dirt in the name of submission. Third, too many Christian wives really don’t want to submit, though they want desperately to look like they are. Thus hypocrisy reigns. Therefore Ephesians 5:22-33 and passages like it are often torn to shreds or ignored. What our Christian fathers took as obvious, has become the subject of scholarly debate, which often means the plain teaching of Scripture is obscured by various academic studies showing that the text does not really mean what it says.  Scholars, and eventually pastors, throw just enough mud in the water so we cannot see what is plainly there. That way we can continue compromising with a clean conscience.

Here are some exhortations on submission I gave to my congregation in a sermon several years ago.

First, here is my definition of submission for a wife. A wife submits when she honors and obeys her husband with a respectful attitude and cheerfulness out of her love for Christ and trust in God. Submission does not mean a wife never speaks up. Submission does not mean a wife allows sin, such as abuse, porn, etc. to go on. Submission does not mean a woman never suggests to her husband a different option than the one he has recommended. But it does mean that a wife have an attitude of following, submitting, and obeying her husband which shows itself in the concrete action of you know, following him. He is her head, her lord (I Peter 3:6).

Your submission is ultimately to Christ and His Word. To submit to your husband is to submit to Christ and trust God. You cannot reject your husband’s leadership and claim to be under Christ. Ladies, Satan loves to drive a wedge between love for Christ and practical obedience.  He tells you that you can love Jesus, but not submit to your husband. He is a liar.  Love for Christ always shows itself in concrete obedience to the Word of God. For a wife part of her obedience to Christ is submission to her husband.

In general, the only time you should not submit to your husband is if he is asking you to do something unbiblical.  Just because he says it rudely, you think he is not loving you enough, you mother or girlfriends think it is a bad idea, or you don’t want to do it does not mean submission is optional (I Peter 3). A submissive heart is proven at those moments where you don’t feel like obeying.

Submission should be willing and cheerful. Grumbling obedience is not obedience. A wife who follows, but with a nagging, complaining attitude is not really submitting.

Submission should be sincere, that is from the heart. There are many women who submit publicly when all are watching, but privately they pull all the right levers to get their way. This is hypocrisy and the Lord hates it.  A husband who is kind to his wife in public, but berates her in private is an abomination. So too, a wife is an abomination who pretends submission, but really functions as the head.

Practice submitting when you don’t have to. When you know you could get your way, don’t. Learn to follow.

Submit when he is not around. What does he want you to do? View yourself as under his authority. When he leaves for work or you are out with your friends you are not free to do as you please.  Can he trust you while he sits in the gates (Proverbs 31:11)?

Ask him for his opinion. Bring him questions. How you are doing with the house, the meals, and the children? Be ready to receive his answer. Be active in your submission, not just responding to his suggestions, but seeking out his input.

Submission is good for you. God knows what is best. Submission is not God’s cruel trick to keep you in your place. Submission is God’s perfect will for you. Do not buy the lie that submission is a grievous burden laid on you by a patriarchal society.

Expect the world to hate you for submitting to your husband. The world loves independent women who don’t need a man. A wife cheerfully submitting to her husband is one of the most mocked characters in our cultural landscape. Even many Christians believe a woman like this is weak. But you are not. Sarah trusted God, obeyed Abraham, and called him lord. She is your mother in the faith. Be a daughter of Sarah by submitting to your husband.

Are You Embarrassed?

In Judges 4 Deborah, Barak, and Jael defeat Jabin King of Canaan and his military leader Sisera. Judges 5 is a song celebrating the great victory Israel had over her enemies. Judges 5:1-23 describes the need for deliverance (vs. 6-8) and the rounding up of various tribes to fight (13-23).  So far so good. But then we get to Judges 5:24-31 and God goes off script. First, he says the Jael will be blessed among all the tent dwelling women. Why? She is good with a hammer:

He [Sisera] asked for water and she gave him milk;
she brought him curds in a noble’s bowl.
She sent her hand to the tent peg and
her right hand to the workmen’s mallet;
she struck Sisera
she crushed his head
she shattered and pierced his temple.
Between her feet he sank,
he fell,
he lay still
between her feet he sank,
he fell
where he sank,
there he fell—dead.

Judges 5:1-23 is a quick paced narrative describing the gathering of troops and the battle. In 24-27 everything slows down. God wants us to stop, bend over, look inside the tent, and see the details. Jael’s husband, Heber the Kenite, had a peace treaty with Sisera and Jabin (Judges 4:17). Sisera had probably been in Jael’s house many times over the 20 years of oppression (Judges 4:3). But the times of easy money from the Israelites was over. God had raised up a savior. Jabin and Sisera were soundly defeated by Barak and his army (Judges 4:15-16). Sisera fled the battlefield and went to a place of safety: Heber’s house. Jael even invites him in and gives him a blanket (Judges 4:18). He was thirsty and needed water. Jael gives him milk. She gives him milk in a noble’s bowl (maybe to stroke his ego). She reaches out her hand to the tent peg. In the Middle East women set up tents. Jael was no waif super-model nor a Victorian shrinking violet. My guess is she was bulky and strong. She quietly reaches out to pick up a stray tent peg. Then she gets a mallet. Then she strikes, crushes, shatters, pierces his temple. He dies (understatement?). But before he dies he sinks, falls, lays still, sinks between her feet and falls. Sisera’s place of safety became his grave. Jael stands over him in triumph. God wants us to glory in the gruesome death of this general at the hands of a housewife. But do we? Aren’t we a little embarrassed by all of this fuss? Did God really need to tell us twice that Jael killed Sisera with a mallet and a tent peg (Judges 4:21, 5:24-27)? Yes, we know Jael is blessed. But do we really accept our blood spattered heroine as an instrument in God’s hand?

However, the song, given by the Spirit, does not end there. If it did we could perhaps we could handle it. But the song gets worse. It goes on to mock Sisera’s grieving mother.

Out of the window she peered, the mother of Sisera wailed through the lattice: ‘Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why tarry the hoofbeats of his chariots?’ Her wisest princesses answer, indeed, she answers herself, ‘Have they not found and divided the spoil?— A womb or two for every man; spoil of dyed materials for Sisera, spoil of dyed materials embroidered, two pieces of dyed work embroidered for the neck as spoil?’ 

Sisera’s mother wonders why her son is taking so long to return from the battle. She sits on the balcony watching the horizon for the dust of his chariot (Judges 4:3). “What keeps him?” she asks. We know. He has been nailed to the ground. His head was struck, crushed, shattered, and pierced. He is not coming home. Her maidens answer her concerns with words of encouragement. “Oh, don’t worry,” they say, “His victory has been so great that he needs days to divide the spoil. No doubt right now he is raping (a womb or two) various Israelite women. He is going to bring home riches beyond measure.” But this is false hope and empty words. How long did she wait? When did this mother find out that Sisera was dead? When did she find out that he did not die heroically by an arrow or spear on the battlefield? A woman, an Israelite woman, killed him with tent peg and a mallet. God does not want us to feel sorry for Sisera’s mother. We are not to grieve with her. He wants us to rejoice at her grief. He want us to sing a song mocking her.

The song ends with a cry for all of God’s enemies to perish just like Sisera:

So may all your enemies perish [like Sisera], O LORD! But your friends be like the sun as he rises in his might. 

Sisera is not a one time event, a strange anomaly in the history of God’s work. He is a model for all those who attack God’s people and reject God. They will be judged. God’s flaming sword will come down and wreak vengeance on those who do not trust Him (II Thess. 1:7-10). The Holy Spirit want us to pray for the enemies of God to be destroyed like Sisera.

In our age of ease, comfort, and tolerance it is easy to be embarrassed by God’s Word, especially passages like this. We love Psalm 23, John 3:16 and Galatians 3:28, but our effeminate age is not so fond of passages like Exodus 15:3, II Kings 9:30-37, Mark 9:48, Revelation 2:16 and Judges 5:24-31. God is a God of vengeance and bloodshed. He is not all peace, love, hot chocolate, and marshmallows.  We want a soft God. We want a God who will never threaten us or anyone else. We want a God who does not get angry and kill people. We want a God who has been sanitized and sprayed with Lysol and whose instruments are clean, not covered in blood. We want a tame Lion who is safe, easy to talk about, and will not get us in trouble.

But that is not the God of the Bible. That is not the Jesus of the Bible either. The God of Scripture is the one who signed off on drowning millions of people, including women and children (Genesis 7:21-23).  God killed Saul (I Chron. 10:14).  God wanted a queen to be eaten by dogs and she was (I Kings 21:23 and II Kings 9:36). God cursed Israel with a siege and famine for her disobedience (II Kings 25:2-3). God killed a couple for lying about money and church members for corrupting of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 5:10, I Cor. 11:30). God delivers people over to Satan (I Tim. 1:20). Jesus promises to come and kill a modern day Jezebel and her children (Revelation 2:22-23).  God created the lake of burning fire and Jesus will send people there.

God wanted his people to sing this song. He wants us to lift our voices in praise for the tent peg, the hammer, and the grieving mother. Moses loved this God. Joshua served this God. Deborah sang about this God. David delighted in this God. Isaiah saw this God. Paul preached this God. Jesus was the exact representation of this God (Hebrews 1:3). When we get done with Judges 5 what does God want from us? He wants us to worship Him, to glorify His great name, and to love Him more. Do we? Do we love, sing, delight in, and preach the God of Jael, the God who kills men with a tent peg and then writes a song about it?  Do we worship the God of Genesis 7, Judges 5, and Revelation 2? Or are we just embarrassed by Him?