Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Debate with Rachel Held Evans on Gender Roles

I recently debated the hotly contested theology of gender roles with Rachel Held Evans, a talented writer and speaker.  The forum for the debate is the UK radio show Unbelievable, which has hosted some memorable discussions in the past: Mark Driscoll on British Christianity and Rob Bell on Love Wins, to name two.  Adrian Warnock also joined the conversation and has released a chart on the differences on this matter among evangelicals.

Here’s the program info.  Click the “Listen Now” button to, well, listen.  This was a meaningful discussion from my view of things:

This Week on Unbelievable : Egalitarian vs Complementarian views of men and women

Listen to this featured programme!

A controversial blog post by Jared Wilson, quoting pastor Doug Wilson on the role of men and women in sex, recently reignited the debate between complementarians and egalitarians. Rachel Held Evans is a popular US author, blogger and speaker who believes the New Testament supports the equality of men and women in the church and in the home (Egalitarian). Owen Strachan is a theology professor at Boyce College, Kentucky and believes the Bible teaches that men and women have equal dignity but different roles in family and church (Complementarian). UK church blogger Adrian Warnock joins the conversation too as we discuss reactions to the Wilson blog post, how to interpret verses in the Bible about women “submitting” to husbands and “remaining quiet” in church, and more.

 Find out more:

For Rachel Held Evans, click here. For Owen Strachan,click here. For Adrian Warnock, click here

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Filed under gender roles, manhood, womanhood

The Monumentally Inspiring Example of Wilberforce

I don’t know about you, but if you’re involved in some way in the fight against abortion, it can be easy to get discouraged.

Usually I blog about a more current matter, but today I feel the need to go back and read a really encouraging story.  William Wilberforce labored for decades to see the slave trade–and slavery–abolished.  As many will know, his efforts proved monumentally successful.  I’m hoping that the Lord will raise up a Wilberforce in our day who will see us through to the outlawing of abortion.

Read more on Wilberforce’s life in Eric Metaxas’s dramatic and inspiring biography (and watch the well-done movie, too).  Here’s a brief snatch from the BBC about his life and work.  Read it and be inspired, and remember: it’s not the wicked who have grounds to be courageous.

In 1780, Wilberforce became member of parliament for Hull, later representing Yorkshire. His dissolute lifestyle changed completely when he became an evangelical Christian, and in 1790 joined a leading group known as the Clapham Sect. His Christian faith prompted him to become interested in social reform, particularly the improvement of factory conditions in Britain.

The abolitionist Thomas Clarkson had an enormous influence on Wilberforce. He and others were campaigning for an end to the trade in which British ships were carrying black slaves from Africa, in terrible conditions, to the West Indies as goods to be bought and sold. Wilberforce was persuaded to lobby for the abolition of the slave trade and for 18 years he regularly introduced anti-slavery motions in parliament. The campaign was supported by many members of the Clapham Sect and other abolitionists who raised public awareness of their cause with pamphlets, books, rallies and petitions. In 1807, the slave trade was finally abolished, but this did not free those who were already slaves. It was not until 1833 that an act was passed giving freedom to all slaves in the British empire.

Wilberforce’s other efforts to ‘renew society’ included the organisation of the Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1802. He worked with the reformer, Hannah More, in the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday. Its goal was to provide all children with regular education in reading, personal hygiene and religion. He was closely involved with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He was also instrumental in encouraging Christian missionaries to go to India.

If you’re out there and you’re in this fight, see it through.  Remember: the “righteous are bold as a lion,” Proverbs 28:1 tells us.  Wilberforce did not quit in his effort to oppose the scourge of racism and cruelty known as the slave trade–and slavery more broadly.  We should not quit either.

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Dear Christian: Making Money Is Good (So Is Workplace Dignity)

Do you ever think about the dignity of work, and the humanity of workers?  Christians have a powerful stake in this conversation.  The saving gospel transforms all of our lives, including the way we work, we are employed, we employ.

This article, “Productivity and Grace: Management and Labor at a Denver Manufacturer,” is about a Denver manufacturer whose leaders treat their employees with kindness and dignity.  From Christianity Today‘s This Is Our City project, it’s an inspiring piece by Chris Horst, and I commend it to you.  Much to chew on here.

Sandwiched between rail lines and a tire depot, the Blender Products factory hides in a quiet neighborhood in Denver. The nondescript warehouse looks from the outside as nondescript as most warehouses do. But the way Steve Hill and Jim Howey lead inside the building is unusual in an industry known for top-down hierarchies of management.

“The metal fabrication business is extremely cutthroat,” says Hill. “Workers are given a singular task, and maximum output is demanded. They’re simply a factor of production. As a general rule, they have no access to management. There is very little crossover between guys on the floor and guys in the offices.”

Hill and Howey aim to subvert the us-versus-them mentality. Many days they walk the shop floor, engaging their workers as peers. Employees on the floor are treated as importantly as the managers, undermining the adversarial culture simmering in many manufacturing businesses.

Here’s the whole shebang.

I am not one who would advocate for unions as a general rule.  But as I read up on progressivism, the history of American labor, and the captains of industry–an ongoing reading project involves the Industrial Titans of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries–I am keenly aware of the way some manufacturers and industry leaders of the last couple centuries have failed to treat their workers with appropriate dignity.  A figure like Andrew Carnegie, for example, shows us both the tremendous ingenuity of the capitalist and the shameful inhumanity every person is capable of.  Carnegie built libraries for his workers, but they had precious little time by which to visit them.

Christians who believe in the rightness of the free market nonetheless must also be known for their application of the doctrine of the image of God to labor and capitalism.  We don’t only care about making money in order to flourish domestically and societally (and globally); we also care about workers, people, those whom God has invested with meaning and purpose and talent.  The Blender Products leaders, Steve Hill and Jim Howey, clearly get that.  It’s beautiful to read their story along these lines.

With the above stated, don’t misread me.  I’m fundamentally for big business (and medium and small businesses), I generally trust the free market, and I think it’s intellectually facile to think wealth and wealthy people are bad.  The best program of social uplift I know of is one that involves marriage, hard work, and earning money, and there should be absolutely no shame in such things (contra what we are encouraged to feel today). But the Bible seems to be pretty clear about the need to be fair and even kind to others who need to earn money (see 1 Timothy 5:18).

In fact, let’s sharpen the point: Christian employers should be widely known for how well they treat their employees.  Failure on this point is not a small matter.  In the broader world and the political-cultural realm, we should be known not only for our belief in meaningful work and money-earning, but for our advocacy on behalf of the weak, including employees who are mistreated and who need appropriate representation. (By the way, for more resources on the goodness of work and much more, check out the Center for Faith and Work, affiliated with Redeemer Presbyterian Church of Manhattan–cool conference on this subject coming up in early November 2012.)

The image of God means that we can work, create, be entrepreneurs, be day laborers, be manufacturers, homemakers, bosses, ad consultants, teachers, and so much more.  The gospel creates a love for such work in Jesus’s name, and a desire to bring others to the flourishing and spiritual life they can never find outside of the workplace of God, the kingdom of Christ.

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Reflecting on Propaganda’s Fiery “Precious Puritans” Rap Song

The talented Christian rapper Propaganda just released “Excellent,” a strong new album on the Humble Beast label (buy it here).  Humble Beast is the home of Beautiful Eulogy, the group from Portland, Oregon that put out an excellent album this summer.

Propaganda is equal parts slam poet and rapper.  He hits hard in his content and is one of the most provocative rappers around.  I’ve listened to him since his Tunnel Rats days, and I’ve always enjoyed him.  His skill is undeniable, and he loves the Lord.  His new album, “Excellent,” includes a fiery song on the Puritans.  Here’s a sample (complete lyrics here):

Pastor, you know it’s hard for me when you quote puritans.
Oh the precious puritans.
Have you not noticed our facial expressions?
One of bewilderment and heart break.
Like, not you too pastor.
You know they were the chaplains on slaves ships, right?
Would you quote Columbus to Cherokees?
Would you quote Cortez to Aztecs?
Even If they theology was good?
It just sings of your blind privilege wouldn’t you agree?
Your precious puritans.

On Joe Thorn’s site, there are also some comments from Propaganda about this torch of a song (see some helpful historical thoughts here).

This song raises some very big issues for evangelicals.  It confronts us with our past, one that is chock full of racism and racist oppression; it asks us to think hard about how Christians of different backgrounds perceive one another; it wonders out loud how much we should listen to past Christians who sinned publicly; it drives us to think about how edgy to be in our quest to influence and edify one another.  I’m glad that Propaganda raised these kinds of questions.  His honesty is needed in evangelicalism.  Racism is real and awful, historically and now.

There is a danger here.  Specifically, I wonder if Propaganda isn’t inclining us to distrust the Puritans.  He states his case against them so forcefully, and without any historical nuance, that I wonder if listeners will be inclined to dislike and even hate them.  He groups all the Puritans together, which is problematic.  Not all of them were chaplains on slave ships, as he says later in the song.  Many were not.  But Propaganda blasts them so hard that, though he’s not ultimately dismissing them, it sounds as if he is.  He qualifies his words on Joe Thorn’s blog–pretty strongly, in fact–but what about all the people who hear his song but won’t read that specific blog?

Some people will respond by saying, “Well, he’s an artist.  He’s supposed to provoke.  That’s like the Old Testament prophets.”  It is true that artists can provoke reflection that might not otherwise come.  I am a rapper myself.  I love art.  I love creative expression.  I love hard-hitting exhortation.  But the motive of edification does not justify any level of critique.  Artists are not exempt from giving account to God for every word they speak (see Matthew 12:36-37).  I don’t know when that idea got in the evangelical bloodstream, but it’s there, and it’s not helpful (this is not a veiled reference to Jefferson Bethke, whose controversial videos I liked).  Let me say it again: artists will give account.

Let me be clear: If young men are failing today, strong critique and exhortation are needed.  But as a Christian, there must be grace in the mix.  I am not justified at being so edgy, so angry, so authentically steamed, that I take my fellow sinners off at the knees.  I fear that, though Propaganda ultimately points the finger on himself in the last verse, he has been harsh against the Puritans, sinful as they were in being racist and not opposing racism in the power of the gospel.

Look–I’m for public criticism of evangelical “heroes” on this point.  See the biography of Jonathan Edwards that Douglas Sweeney and I wrote for Moody.  We strongly critiqued Edwards for owning slaves, as we should have.  But that doesn’t mean that we should tear him down.  He is a sinner like us.  Furthermore, if being a sinner in even a deeply regrettable way disqualifies you from being referenced by modern evangelicals, we are going to have a very difficult time finding anyone to emulate.  Luther was anti-Semitic; Calvin could be preening and cold; Edwards held slaves; and the list goes on.

Racism is awful.  Horrible.  Reprehensible.  It must be called out and condemned.  But one must do so carefully.  To tear the Puritans down with very little nuance of the kind I’ve offered here is problematic.  Propaganda wrote that he has learned a great deal from these forefathers despite their sins.  I fear that people who don’t have his prior appreciation will not do the same.  They will write them off.  That would be a mistake.  It would also seem to be counter to the general spirit of Galatians 6:1.  This is not a passage about who to lionize, but there’s a principle that seems to apply here:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.

And we take note of this:

Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

*****
(Cross-posted from Project TGM)

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Audio from the Moody Radio “Dad Mom” Debate Is Here

A good number of folks have asked about audio from my recent debate on stay-at-home dads on Moody Radio.  Click on this link to hear the debate: Listen.

Info on the conversation, hosted by the dexterous Julie Roys and joined by the good-hearted Matt Peregoy, is below.  I appreciated this discussion, even as I continue to view the trend of “stay-at-home dads” or “dad moms” as generally unbiblical and unhealthy.

September 15, 2012

Stay-at-home dads: they’re becoming more common, but does this model violate God’s design for men and women? This Saturday on Up For Debate, host Julie Roys discusses the issue with “The Real Matt Daddy”—a Christian stay-at-home dad who argues fathers can serve just as well as mothers as primary caretakers. Also joining Julie will be Owen Strachan, a theology professor at Boyce College, who says the “Dad Mom” is a “man fail.”  Don’t miss this challenging and lively discussion this Saturday at 8 a.m. on Up For Debate!

Featured: Dr. Owen Strachan , Matt Peregoy
Host: Julie Roys

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The Power of Forgiveness & the NFL Star Who Almost Killed His Son

I want you to know that as I am writing this, I am burning.  I have read this spellbinding, hard-to-read essay from Thomas Lake of Sports Illustrated about how a famous football player named Rae Carruth killed his baby’s mother, Cherica Adams. I have watched the video above which shows you the people involved (HT: JT).  There is nothing left to do now but smolder.

You see that boy’s beatific smile; you hear his mother’s dying words; you watch the father swallow hard as he says he didn’t arrange for the murder of Adams which left Chancellor, his son, his progeny, permanently disabled.  After seeing and reading things like these, there is little one can do but groan.  Not in the fleeting way.  The way the ancient Hebrews did: by lying in ashes, as if one could physically inhale the horror of sin and so come face to face with it.  The story by Lake is one of the hardest pieces to read that I’ve come across.  That’s because 1) it is so awful and 2) Lake is a poet who happens to write for SI.

Incredibly, though, in real life and in Lake’s telling, there is another element: forgiveness.  Saundra Adams, mother of the slain woman, has forgiven two men: the shooter and the man who arranged the shooting (Carruth).  There’s something in those acts that goes beyond words.  It shows that as much as evil may make us gasp when we look at it honestly, there is an infinitely stronger force in this world, a force that banishes evil, masters it, and makes a mockery of it.  Yes, it takes sin and makes a fool of it, because it shows it ultimately must give way.  It has no sting.

Forgiveness, we remember, is at its peak linked indissolubly in the Scripture to death.  The highest acts of forgiveness come when the price of death is paid.  Somehow, despite walking with Christ our Savior for years, that can seem academic.  Then you read and watch material like this, and you are reminded that it is not.  Death is real.  Forgiveness is too.

It is stronger than death.  And it has overcome death.

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The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England

I just received a brand-new book in the prestigious Oxford Studies of Historical Theology series.  It’s by an accomplished young historian by the name of Paul C. H. Lim

At Vanderbilt University, Lim is Associate Professor of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, and Affiliated Faculty in the Department of History.  His scholarship is animated in many cases by the intersection of Christianity and rationalism, a subject I find myself regularly pondering (though my ponderings have not yet been published by Oxford!).

Lim’s newest contribution is Mystery Unveiled: The Crisis of the Trinity in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2012).  I am just beginning to make my way through this meaty book (the best kind–give me hundreds of pages and I am a happy man).  I cannot therefore comment on all its facets, but I can say that I am finding it stimulating, richly sourced, and historically illuminating (the material on Richard Baxter, for example, will surprise many familiar with his orthodox pastorate).  Pick it up here.

Here’s a blurb from a Cambridge University professor that should entice you to buy if you’re on the fence:

“This is unquestionably a book of very high intelligence and immaculate scholarship, equally impressive on Late Reformation biblical and patristic hermeneutic and on the work of Hobbes and other proponents of heterodoxy. Although on one level this is an engagement with a limited number of very difficult texts, the contexts are exceptional in range and importance. This is a profoundly resonant study.”–John Morrill, Selwyn College, University of Cambridge

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Scorching New Flame Song: “Trap Money”

This one goes very, very hard, as the rappers say.  Flame and his colleagues tear this song up.  Good to see Young Noah get some shine.  Believe it or not, I have rapped–in public, no less–with Flame and Young Noah. 

And that is all we shall say about that.

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The Unbelievably Cool New Hobbit Trailer

Here’s the newest trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  It releases December 14, 2012.  I don’t know about you, but I could just about camp out in the wintry cold for this one.  It looks flat-out amazing (and there are going to be three, not two, Hobbit films!).

How strange that Bible-influenced stories continue to captivate a world losing its connection with the Christic narrative.  It’s not that other stories don’t fascinate us; it’s that the ones that mirror the biblical story, however directly or more abstractedly, blow the others out of the water.

We don’t need sex in our films.  We don’t need filth.  We don’t need bad language.  We don’t need amoral, amorphous characters.  We need beautiful stories that flame to light.  I know I sound like a broken record.  But when The Hobbit banks a billion, that will become clear once more–and then many studios will go back to the latest bad story filled with bad content that has a bad effect on moviegoers.  How does this happen?

The first Hobbit trailer is also pretty amazing, by the way.  The song those dwarves sing makes my bones grow cold.

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The Book You Need Right Now: Kingdom Through Covenant

It seems to be book week at this humble blog.  I’ve got a great one for you today: Kingdom Through Covenant by Steve Wellum and Peter Gentry (Crossway, 2012).  If you lean toward covenant theology but are a credobaptist (practicing believer’s baptism), then this very well may be the book that defines your position.

Here’s the book description:

The disciplines of biblical and systematic theology join forces to investigate anew the biblical covenants and the implications of such a study for conclusions in systematic theology.

By incorporating the latest available research from the ancient Near East and examining implications of their work for Christology, ecclesiology, eschatology, and hermeneutics—Biblical scholar Peter Gentry and systematic theologian Stephen Wellum present a thoughtful and viable alternative to both covenant theology and dispensationalism.

Here’s where to get the book.

The Gospel Coalition has smartly published no less than three reviews from expert theologians on this book, which is now–already–the standard text for a covenantal baptist position.  Here’s Michael Horton’s, Darrell Bock’s, and Doug Moo’s.  Anytime three reviews are published on a book, you know it’s consequential.

As I said, this is the new standard for a Baptist covenantal position.  The authors call their outlook “progressive covenantalism,” which I like.  Other helpful resources if you want a Baptist take on the covenants: Steve Wellum’s chapter in Believer’s Baptism (edited by Tom Schreiner and Shawn Wright, two great Baptist scholars), and Paul Jewett’s classic Infant Baptism and the Covenant of Grace.

There are abundant reasons to be a Baptist yet to be covenantal–not least because of Scripture’s emphasis on God keeping covenant in creating a people for himself, and also because the New Covenant is a better covenant (2 Cor. 3, 5).  Any theological system that works from the Bible but takes little notice of covenants needs careful handling.

Wellum and Gentry will lead you along good paths.

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