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Recently some fuss has been made over Southeastern Seminary announcing their new Chairman of the Board of trustees, Becky Gardner. The fuss is over her being a woman. According to one pastor,

“I just read that Southeastern Seminary elected a woman to be the chairman of the trustees. A woman now sits in authority over a seminary meant to train men for ministry. This stuff is one of the reasons I’m not Southern Baptist”.

It should be mentioned that this pastor is himself a student at Southern Seminary, though he denounces being a Southern Baptist.

The reason for not liking a woman as the Chariman the Board of the Trustees is one of pure Patriarchal imagination, “I cant imagine a world where Paul would tell a woman not to teach or have authority over a man except in a seminary”. What this pastor fails to connect is that a seminary is not a church and a Chairman of the Board of Trustees does not “teach” which is how a complementary understanding of Paul’s words understands authority to be expressed.

Here is a link to the job description of the Board of Trustees at Southeastern Baptist Seminary. Notice that teaching is nowhere in there.

To grant this extreme patriarchism would mean women can never be in leadership anywhere in the business sector. Chick Fil A has an amazing business model and they hire people who make the machine run smoother than any of their competitors. The location near me is run by a woman. She is always smiling and caring for her team as if they were her own children. She is not however, in authority over students and women, but grown men as well. They work I various positions and they all submit to her. The manager at Chick Fil A by my home practices authority over men!

Now here we have to make a choice. Do we boycott the greatest chicken sandwich ever made? Or do we read the Bible a little better? I heard that Greg Bahnsen often told his friends and family,

Never be afraid to go wherever the Bible leads you. But be terrified of going where it does not go.

When we condemn an institution and people for a women being a leader in business and education we are doing a scary thing. Calling something evil that God himself does not tell us is evil is dangerous. God has gifted women to lead in many ways. God has ordained them to be in positions over men and when he does, men must submit to them.

Seminaries and restaurants are right to have women in leadership.

Baptist Press: Female Board Chair

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There is a loud voice in Christendom that is denouncing Game of Thrones as pornography and therefore unfit for Christian consumption. They rightly point out the graphic content of some episodes as the nail in the coffin, the check mate of sorts for their perspective. For the latest of these see here

I am not going to defend Game of Thrones as wholesome, and a must watch for everyone. I do not believe one needs to watch it in order to minister and connect with unbelieving coworkers, or that one needs to see it in order to know whether or not it contains times of nudity and lewdness. I am here to simply point out that Game of Thrones is not Pornography, indeed it is antiporn in that it displays for it’s audience the raw truth of sin. Sin has terrible consequences and is disgusting. Pornography is a great evil, not due to it’s nudity, but due to it’s agenda 1. Pornography is to be defined as pagan fantasy of perversion for the political agenda of usurping God’s order and reality. In Porn the mantra is “monogomy is unnatural and oppressive”, supported by story lines consistent with protagonists that are liberated and free to enjoy wherever sexual pleasures they can imagine. When humans believe this narrative and engage in this fantasy, they are destroyed. Far from freedom and liberation, real people lose everything, including their humanness, when they attempt to follow the politic of Porn. As we shall see, along with individuals being detroyed by porn, pornography will take down a free society, building a Totalitarian state atop the ruins.

Even after seeing what pornography is and giving it up, many still deal with lasting effects including intimacy issues with their spouse and an addiction always flamed by past memory and experience 2. Pornography promotes and inspires adultery, perversion and is a leading component in the legalization and magnitude of abortions in our society. Wherever perversion prospers, for instance a billions of dollars industry, child sacrifice will be abundant as well. Children are born from “sexual fantasy” but are rarely included in the narrative. They therefore must be eliminated for the good of the agenda. Pornography is a culture of death.

Game of Thrones in contrast has no such agenda. It’s agenda is entertainment and art. Again, I’m not condoning nudity or lewdness, I only want to be honest, and call for others to be so as well, that GOT cannot fit in the category of pornography. Take for instance the perverted relationship between Cersei and Jamie Lannister, sister and brother and also mother and father to their three children. An icestuous relationship is a perversion and against God’s Law 3. GOT does not deny that reality, indeed the Lannister siblings are cursed for their relationship and their perversion results in the death of all three of their children. There is no glorifying or deception here, incest is not celebrated as normal or liberating. In this regard, GOT, though not always wholesome, is always antiporn, for it’s narrative is the exact opposite of what the porn industry seeks to push on society.

Nudity is not necessary for the pornographic agenda to gain hold in our culture. Many programs we watch and even allow our children to watch have no nudity, yet they promote the idea that the individual is autonomous and free to do whatever they want with their bodies, and even with others. The smash hit TV show Friends for instance, carried within it’s hilarious dialogues and hip themes the promotion of fornication as a needed and good thing. I remember seeing one scene where the guys were discussing how crazy it was to not have sex with a woman before marrying her, otherwise “how do you know what your getting?”. This is the heart of pornography and Friends has peddled it into our homes for years without nudity. Many other shows do the same and an entire network, Freeform, has made it’s profit from no-nudity porn. This is possible because the Pornographic agenda is one which uses immorality for the puposes of doing away with the human individual’s moral liberty and therefore will give way to another Ruler. For if we cannot rule over ourselves, we will seek others to rule us. Porn seeks revolution against liberty and nudity and explicit sexual displays are powerful tools to reach this goal, but they are not the only tools. The greatest deception the Devil ever achieved was convincing people he wasn’t real. And his genius in porn is convincing pietists that as long as private body parts aren’t showing, then it’s not wrong.

Pornography is too vile a thing to be used as a banner for anything the religious Christian doesn’t like or think to be wholesome. Though piety pushing sells and can get a good number of clicks, we must be more discerning and careful. While we condemn Game of Thrones, real Pornography is continuing to grow it’s influence in our culture right under our noses.

1. See Law and Liberty by Rushdoony, Chapter titled, The Politic of Pornography

2. See my article When the Porn Star Marries

3. Leviticus 18:8-10

The title of this post is not click bait, it is however what many American Evangelicals actually believe in practice. The great issues that are so fiercely debated usually come down to this question, “does Jesus really want us to love (blank)?” 

I was pretty taken back by the hostility shown when my community, Grace Church, decided to come alongside Syrian refugee families living in our city. In every conversation I had with people who were against it, I never once heard a biblical objection. Usually it came down to fearing a terrorist was hiding among them and would soon figure a way to commit a terrible atrocity in our own back yard. In the end, fear was the driving force behind the opposition.

A biblical sermon on the Good Samaritan(1), from Luke 10:25-37 will make a room full of American Evangelicals visibly squirm. The message Jesus is delivering in that parable is a brutal critique of our current world and culture. For one, Jesus was teaching that a Samaritan could know God better than a Jew demonstrated by the Samaritan’s love of the injured Jew and the hatred shown by the Jewish characters in that parable. This was a very bold claim to make a claim that alone would instantly make him many enemies in the Jewish leadership. Jesus does not end on that note however, but instead drives the lesson deeper under the skin of his hearers. The Jews and Samaritans were more than neighbors who didn’t get along, they were enemies. In the Jewish mind, the Samaritans would always be the ones who defiled the Temple and attacked them; they were terrorists. Jesus chooses this current conflict with which to answer the question, “who is my neighbor?” So Jesus teaches the Jews that the Samaritans, who may or may not be terrorists, are their neighbors. In fact they may also understand and love God more than they do. The bottom line is, the Samaritans were their neighbors, regardless of their rough history. Taking this teaching into our own world, indeed parables are meant to be teachings with handles so we can carry them away with us, a Syrian family is our neighbor and we are commanded to love them. I can’t see a way out of this one. 

Fearing terror is the opposite of wisdom. Fear is the inseparable fellow of hatred and it seems that biblically it can be argued that fear will become hatred very soon if it is allowed to grow. Perfect love casts out all fear, or rather, the Spirit of God indwelling his people, will make them love, for God is love. Love is the only godly response to neighbors. And the only option apart from love, is hatred. The Christian must make a choice, hate or love? Fear or compassion? (2)

The same parable and teachings should guide us in how we respond to racial injustice as well. When an entire community is crying out for justice, how can the Church ignore them? Or even worse, deny the injustice? Its like a man calling his friend a liar for comaining of a stomach ache, because he himself doesn’t have one. The Gospel of Jesus commands us to be a people of justice. The Christian’s allegiance is to never be given to a ethnic or social group, political party or nation. The Christian is to follow Christ and to pay homage and worship to him alone. Nationalism and racism is a false religion precisely for this reason.

I pray we as a people become fierce in our compassion and active in our casting away of fear. May we be intentional in our refusal of hatred, repenting of our fears until we are a people who love, for God is love.

Jesus actually means it when he commands us to love our neighbors and even our enemies. Indeed it is love that brings the Kingdom of God into this broken world of hate. 
1. This is a link to a sermon by Pastor Heath Watson, whom I serve Grace Church with, on the Good Samaritan. This sermon actually did cause us to squirm. Please take a listen.

2. See I John 3&4. Here are two sermon I preached on these texts that further expound upon my points here.

A New Commandment

God is Love pt.1

The Gospels present a Jesus that is intentional in his agenda. Jesus in the New Testament is on a mission of the Kingdom of God (1). Indeed much of Jesus’ miracles and teachings serve to unpack what he means by “the Kingdom” (2). This dedication to the Kingdom by Jesus results in him possessing a temultuous presence in his worlds, that of the Second Temple Jewish and the Roman Empire (3). 

Just like in our world, people wanted to know where Jesus stood politically. Was he conservative or liberal? Or more likely, was he Sadducee or Pharasee? Was he sympathetic with the Herodians? Or was he in league with the Zealots? What were his views on taxation, resurrection, the very deep Jewish/Samaritan conflict and more? Like our day, actually perhaps even more so, the world of Jesus’ was a political fire storm and if one would lead people, they would need to choose a side.

My argument is that Jesus refused to play that game. Not only did he not play political ball with the Scribes and leadership, he seems to intentionally go out of his way to demonstrate his disagreement with them. He wanted to make it clear that he was not a part of any political party, he was not representative of any sect of his time. He was radically and intentionally, non Partisan.

One example I would like to offer is a very popular one. When Jesus is asked about taxation in Matthew’s gospel, he was being asked to choose a party, or reveal which sect he is in league with. His answer is not what anyone would or could predict, he asks whose face is on the coin. “Caesar’s” is the brief answer. “Then give to Caesar what belongs to him and give to God that which belongs to God (4)”. Boom goes the dynamite. We must keep in mind the context. Matthew has just spent a good deal of time recounting three parables of Jesus, all coming in answer to the question posed “By what authority…?”. And after his taxation answer he is approached by the Sadducees who question him regarding one of their most definitive positions, resurrection (5). The literary structure reveals Matthews message, Jesus was a King beyond that of any of the current or even ideal and hoped for leaders of his day. He was a King beyond even the power and scope of the Empire. He was King of the nation’s and he would not follow any party or sect, he would critique them and call them all to repent and follow his lead (6). 

His answer is that Caesar does not have the authority he claims to have. The Empire has coins. Fine, pay them their coins. God however is over all and to him we owe our absolute obedience. This type of thinking did not sit well with Rome (7), and it would make Jesus even more enemies. Perhaps some of his own disciples would hear this and begin to rethink their role as one of his inner circle (8)?

Jesus was radically non Partisan because if he was truly bringing the Kingdom of God with him, how could he agree with or ally with any of the systems of this world? He certainly agreed with aspects of certain parties. He agreed with the Sadducees on resurrection, at least that there was resurrection. He agreed with the Zealots in their shared hated of Roman oppression and he had good things to say concerning the Pharasees. Yet he would call them all to repent and follow him. They all failed to see the true reality of God’s coming Kingdom. Not one political party understood how God worked in his creation and this would result in great errors. 

I believe this is a lesson we also need to hear and accept. We are surrounded and bombarded by voices telling us which way we should go. None of them knows however. They may get somethings right, but they fail in their dedication to the Kingdom of God. I hear everyone say, “my party isn’t perfect, but it’s the best we got.” There are a couple things that come to mind when I hear or see this. The first is, what do you mean by “perfect”? If a Christian is saying this then we can agree that perfection is defined by God. We see in the Bible that politics is the legislating of morality for a community and society. We have laws against theft and murder because God hates them and tells us to not murder or steal (9). Perfect politics is something only God can do. And we rely on his Word to teach and guide us in how to govern as well as be governed. If your party isn’t perfect, why join? If they aren’t following God’s word and his perfect politic, why would you want to be associated as one with them? The second is, what are we suppose to do with imperfect and ungodly systems? Daniel and his friends did not join the “better” party or the “less of two evils”. Instead they stood as representatives of the Kingdom of God and his politic (10). None of the prophets or Apostles joined the party “closest” to God’s word and politic. Why do we not follow in this practice? We are so scared of either terror or liberals or conservatives that we fall into a snare of fearing man rather than God. 

Your political party is evil. It condones stealing and murder in the name of national security or “patriotism”. Your political party supports bigotry and racism, even slavery in various forms. Your party is party to blasphemy and idolatry and yet we don’t care. It is time to follow Christ. He alone is the good King and he alone is worthy of our allegiance. 

How can we help the poor? The first century church had nowhere near our resources and wealth and they created a welfare system that flabbergasted and frustrated the Romans (11). How do we support our troops? Teach them God’s word and what it says regarding war. What of Police brutality, education, abortion, prisons and more? The Bible speaks on them authoritatively and we who claim to follow Jesus must begin to read and obey. The Republican and the Democratic party are both equally antitheitcal to God’s politic and mission. It’s time to call them out and seek true Justice.

Leave your political party and follow Jesus.
1. Matthew 4:17

2. This is particularly the case with Matthew. He seems to paint Jesus as the promised King as well as the final and head Prophet. See Kistermakers commentary.

3. See ‘Simply Jesus’ by NT Wright. He argues in his introduction that Jesus was actually born into the perfect storm created by the collision of three worlds.

4. Matthew 22:15-22

5. The parables of the Two Son’s, the Landowner and the Marriage Feast all come after Matthew records the authority of Jesus being questioned by the chief priests. Also, after he is approached about taxes Matthew immediately has him aporaoched by the Sadducees regarding resurrection. This is a clear case for my interpretation.

6. When Jesus called for people to “repent” it had primarily political ramifications. Repentance was, “stop following them and that way and I stead follow me and my way.” See Matthew 4:17 and also Matthew 23:37-39.

7. Paul would later find himself arrested and even executed by Rome for his echos of anti empire thinking like that recorded in Romans 1.

8. One theory I have come across is that Judas “the dagger” as a member of the Zealots before following Jesus never actually left that sect. Jesus’ radically different views on how to deal with Roman occupation and specifically taxation, may have been part of motivating Judas to betray Jesus. This of course does not discount the Divine decree that Judas would betray Jesus. 

9. Exodus 20:1-17. 

10. See Matthew Trewhella’s, ‘Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrate’.

11. See Rodney Stark, ‘The Rise of Christianity’

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In relationships to be serious is to be monogamous or dedicated. One cannot be serious about someone and at the same time seek to be with others in the same way. Faithfulness is equated with being serious, as I think it should be. In one’s art, career or sport, to be serious is to be disciplined and dedicated to the mastering of that thing, to being as successful as possible. Practice, honing of the craft and constant improvement are the lifestyle of one who is seen as serious.

There seems to be a discrepancy with how we view a seriousness of faith in our culture today. One who goes to church on Sundays is considered one serious about their faith. Praying, knowing Bible verses and even showing a passion for certain issues such as abortion, sexuality, poverty and others, are all indications that one is serious about their faith. There is however a great distinction between being serious about the Gospel and being serious about Spiritual discipline and some theological, cultural and social issues.

We live in the aftermath of the Enlightenment. One consequence of this is that many of us live our lives day by day unknowingly following the rules and principles that that movement has set for our Western world. We are children, in a sense, of the Enlightenment and therefore have inherited the good and the bad that worldview has produced. One of these rules states that religion is good only for one’s individual private spiritual practice. This rule made it possible for great minds like that of Ben Franklin, to confess a faith in God and yet act and behave politically and scientifically as one free of that faith. For the Enlightenment, God and his Law have no place in the public square, the classroom or the laboratory.

I believe this has had a great affect on our world, the world we have been born into and have grown up in. This world, where many of us have raised and are raising children, operates under the premise that God is not concerned with, or involved in it outside of one’s church walls or prayer closet. What we do in the world outside of our spiritual disciplines and church fellowship, doesn’t really matter much. We are waiting for God to fix this broken world, we are waiting to live in an eternity where our faith matters. It is the longing of every Christian to see the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells this same thing to Nicodemus in their secret meeting one evening in a garden, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”. We who have been awakened to the grace of God in Christ see the Kingdom, and we long for it. Every Sunday together we pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. If this is your longing, your heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, as we long for the Kingdom, we have been told this Kingdom is not a present reality and cannot therefore be the hope and life of our world today. We are waiting.

To be serious about the Gospel is to believe that the Gospel informs, renews and has power in every aspect of life and society. If the Gospel we believe is true, then there cannot be anything in all of existence that it is not good news for, either in the condemnation and defeat of the wicked or in the redemption and renewal of the creation. If Christ is King, which is the good news of the Gospel, then he is King over all without exception.

Serious faith is not only a pious one. Morality, rules, passion for good causes and even a confidence in the forgiveness of sin and an afterlife with God are not the same as a serious faith. A serious faith is one that encompasses all of life and reality, it is a faith that leads one to live there today fully for the Kingdom of God.

Science, politics, art, education, justice and everything else are under his rule and wisdom. May we all begin to throw off the shackles of the Enlightenment and embrace a full and confident faith in Jesus who is the King of the nations and the Lord of all of life and society.

hospital-scutari

“To arms! To arms! The Christians are attacking!” Prince Valiant (?)

“The Church is not the Church unless it is the Church militant”. R.C. Sproul

 

It is easy to understand that the Church is an institution ordained and formed by Christ to invade the realm of hell, extinguishing it from the earth. Our Lord himself says that the “gates of hell shall not prevail” against us. Paul concludes his letter to the Ephesians, after he has expressed the power and benefits of Christ given to all who have been delivered through his exodus from death and sin, with an appeal to put on the whole armor of God, Ephesians 6. The Church is indeed an army and all who are called by Christ have been commissioned into its service. The vocational callings of the Church such as pastors and teachers are ordained for the dedicated job of equipping the saints for the battle, the labor of the ministry, Ephesians 4. It is important to express that the battle we fight is not with guns and smart bombs, but with the power of the message that Jesus is the victorious King of the nations. In our fight we are ordered to “overcome evil with good”, and to “love our enemies”.

I have heard it said by many, I do not know by who originally, that the Church is the only army that shoots its own soldiers. This is a sad reality. I myself have seen this done. The Church is not only an institution called for battle, it is also a community formed for service and renewal. I would actually go so far as to suggest that the Church cannot succeed in the battle if it does not also fully embrace its calling to be a hospital, caring for the wounded and broken, regardless of who they are or how they got there. The same Apostle who calls us to gird our loins for the battle also calls us to be a people that gently and humbly restore our fallen brethren, Galatians 6.

The ability to fight the good fight, while caring for the wounded is a mark of maturity and wisdom according to the New testament. Jesus was a master of this. Dispelling evil and humiliating it, while restoring the woman caught in adultery so that she would “sin no more”.

So is the Church an Army or a hospital? According to Scripture it is both, and this is part of its practical strength. May we who are called to serve the Kingdom of God, fight the good fight as we serve and renew our world.