DebateBlog: Male Eldership

For those of you wondering how much of a glutton for punishment I am, I have opened up a new D-Blog exchange, this time with a fellow who calls himself "CD-HOST", on the topic of male eldership in the church.

The thesis is:

The Bible, particularly the NT, is clear about the God-created differences between men and women; those differences normally have consequences in ecclesiology.

I am, of course, defending that thesis.

Use the comment thread in this post for your peanutery galleriations. If you're wondering why I'm not blogging, that exchange is a full-blown debate with opening statement, 2 rebuttals, 10 cross-ex questions each, and a closing. So I have a full plate.

the other thing today

I know some of you think I have drunk the Obamaniac Kool-Aid because I keep pointing out why Senator Obama is a better candidate than Senator Clinton. Yeah, listen: if you're excited about a McCain presidency, I think that you're probably a little stupid and a little naive. Senator McCain is a war hero, a veteran senator, he obviously married well. McCain is a republican (small "r", and only in the sense that he's been nominated by the party), and in that he at least has an active and vocal constituancy on the Right to Life movement, and as far as I'm concerned that's all he's got going for him: he's associated with (even if he does not agree with) the right wing of the Republican party.

So I'm not going to vote for Obama in November. Relax.


Now, that said, even though Obama has married himself to negotiating with evil men like Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe (but apparently not evil men like George Bush with whom he has much more in common), I read this analysis of the DNC process this election cycle, and it speaks to something that is important for those of you who are voting Democrat this year.

Here's what I think about this: I think that the data in that article indicates that Senator Obama will be a far more gifted politician than Senator Clinton because he knows how to get people who will actually do the work necessary to get things done. In that, he's your better choice for the DNC nomination.

And for those who are curious, here's what that has to do with the Gospel: Christ died for our sins, but he didn't die to make any person the inevitable candidate for any political office. Those who think that he did, or wish that he did, need to take a decade off to get his priorities straight.

From the Archives ...

It's been a while since I posted a "best of Cent" look backwards, and today I have exactly enough time to make one post. This may be my favorite post I made in the first 3 months of my blogging. It's from my extended review of Tony Campolo's book, Speaking My Mind.

Here’s a sample of some of Campolo's anecdotal framing of one topic:
Some {homosexuals} said they were happier with the church and God out of their lives, while others ached for the spiritual connection they no longer
had. I found the strict Calvinists had an especially hard time dealing with their homosexuality. Believing in a God who predestines all things, they concluded the He predestined them to be gay and hence to damnation.
They cite Paul's writings in Romans 9:19-24:
… {the text of Rom 9 is omitted
by centuri0n} …
Believing that God created them for rejection, many homosexual people reject the God whom they believe has rejected them. The despair that such a theology can create has driven some gays to suicide.
Anyone who is reading this blog and has any kind of basic understanding of Reformed/"Calvinistic" theology has to read this passage and wonder if Campolo has ever actually encountered the systematic teaching of Calvin at all. Perhaps Campolo means hypercalvinists when he says "strict Calvinists", but he hardly makes an attempt to draw that line.

I think what bothered me the most about this anecdote is that I have no doubt that it is true and it represents something Campolo has witnessed in his career as an American Baptist minister. But it offered him the opportunity to provide a two-fold response. First, he could offer the Gospel to those who were standing before him misusing Romans 9 in that way. Second, it gave him the opportunity to defend those whom he claims to call brothers in Christ from what is either ignorant misrepresentation or rank slander. It appears, from his discussion of the topic, he does neither.

The reformed response to this problem is so much more significant than his hypothetical example that I list it here to make sure it is offered at all. There is no man, apart from Christ, who fails to sin. Those who commit sins of heterosexual lust (or any other sin) are in the same boat as those who commit homosexual sin(s). All men are sinners; none seek Him; all fall short of the glory of God.

To be 100% clear, in Matthew 5 Jesus unequivocally says that adultery is something that occurs in a man's heart and not just in the act of bedding a woman. In Romans 1 & 2, Paul is making the case that no man on earth has ignorance as an excuse. He says plainly that those who judge others demonstrate that they should be judged when they sin. Equally, those who do not have the Law demonstrate they understand God's moral decrees when they act inside the bounds of their conscience.

In that, we are all sinners. The reformed position is clear that the unrepentant homosexual is not any more or less a sinner than I was when I was an adulterer and a pervert, or for that matter than I am today -- and I use myself as the example to make my point plain. When I was unsaved, and unregenerate, it wasn't that I didn’t hear God, or that I didn’t know about God: it was that I rejected God for my own desires. And they were my desires, make no mistake: in the same way the homosexual can say, "I don't remember a time when I wasn't gay," I say in response, "I cannot remember a time when I didn’t have my sinful desires."

Anyone who is reading this blog has heard of the reformed TULIP -- Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the saints -- and recognizes the traditional, unadorned "T" teaching here. But how does that translate into the hope of the Gospel? Is it that we will lead perfectly sinless lives? No -- because we will not. The first hope of the Gospel is that we can see our sin as God sees it and repent -- that is, turn away from sin and its lure and turn toward God Himself as the answer. If we look at our sin and say, "it's not so bad," or "I'm no worse than anyone else," or even "I think I can beat it if I try harder", we are still sinful men who are relying on our own power to achieve; we are still victims of our own vain reasonings. When we see that our sin is our own by nature and by choice, and that God is right to judge it, we are on the road of repentance. That's really the heart of the "T" in "TULIP": man must admit he has no standing before God except as a sinner, and deserves no better. God is the standard, and God is also the answer to our failure. Since I have it handy, Reymond puts it this way:
It is only when man knows that he is sinful and incapable of helping
himself that he will seek help from outside of himself and cast himself upon the
mercies of God. Nothing is more soul destroying than the sinner's belief
that he is righteous and/or is capable of remedying his situation himself.
The second hope of the reformed advocation of the Gospel is that God has already chosen to save. God has already decided in an unalterable and complete way that even though men choose to sin, He is going to do something about it. The heroes of the faith, if we believe the book of Hebrews, looked forward to God's certain promise that He would deliver; we have the benefit of looking back at Christ on the Cross -- and coming out of the empty tomb -- to see that God has already delivered. That's the "U" of TULIP: there are no human conditions in God saving but only the Divine condition that God chooses to save. Reymond’s definition is clear:
Before the creation of the world, out of His mere free grace and love, God
elected many undeserving sinners to complete and final salvation without any
foresight of faith or good works or any other thing in them as conditions or
causes which moved him to choose them. That is to say, the ground
of their election is not in them but in him
. {Emph. Added} (1125)
For me, it is somewhat astounding that Campolo can let the characterization of this key matter of reformed theology be represented as “God made me a certain way so He must want me to go to hell.” Is this what Campolo would say to the murderer, the thief, the person caught in adultery – that if you sin and you want to sin, then God must want you to go to hell? I think that even if Campolo completely rejects the reformed position, the least he can do is represent it – both to these people who are apparently agonizing over their sinfulness and to his readers for the sake of a balanced presentation – with some kind of fairness both to the passage of Scripture he cites and to the doctrines which are being represented. In no way does man’s sinfulness indicate that God intends for that individual to go to hell – because God is not choosing people because of their “sin+virtues” scorecard. God is choosing (and frankly has chosen) because God is willing to save.

The third hope of the Gospel is that God's choice to save is out of love. While the TULIP paradigm calls this “limited atonement”, Reymond prefers “definite atonement” or “particular atonement” or “efficacious atonement” for the sake of clarity. (1125) God has not acted in a way to cause me to be savable: God has acted to actually save, and has saved those He intends to save.

Think about that: God does not save out of obligation of debt (which would appeal to us, wouldn't it? Doesn't the atheist complain that God owes him an explanation or some kind of remuneration?) but because He loves in particular, not because He loves hypothetically or in a way which allows Him to stand off in the distance. I think that is the most staggering aspect of the Gospel, frankly: God saves individuals because God loves. That is the "L" in "TULIP": the intentional and specific nature of God's saving act, which humbles man and gives him everything but a reason to boast.

The fourth hope of the Gospel is that God calls in a way that not only requires a response, but is certain to elicit the affirmative response. God didn't make a rope we have to climb to be saved; God didn’t build a bridge (as the 4 spiritual laws state) that we can cross to be saved. We were dead men in a well who were cursing Him for even looking down at us, and He dove in to pull us out one at a time. The Cross is not only a sign pointing upward: it is the place where the question of sin is settled forever. That's the "I" in TULIP: all that are given will come; all that will come will not be turned away.

The final hope of the Gospel is the ultimate nature of it: not that I have a perfect knowledge of all whom God has saved or will save – or that I can know, as the example Campolo cites apparently knows -- but that if God worked it out it will stay worked out. That's the "P" in TULIP -- that, as James says, the testing of faith brings perseverance to those who have the true faith. Their faith is proven by its final result.

In that, Campolo’s gay friend who says, "well, God made me a sinner so He wants me to go to hell," has never heard the Gospel. When I was saved, I knew that night that I was not being saved from ever failing again: I was being saved from having to rely on myself for perfection. I didn't stop wanting to sin that night because I admit – as Paul does – that I still have a desire to sin. What I gained that night, and every night since then, is 100% reliance on God to reform me into what He wants and needs me to be. And in that, I have seen the fruits of God’s work as some sins have been overcome in my life.

What I gained that night was the power of the Holy Spirit through the work of Christ and the loving will of the Father to be a new creation. That is the reformed Gospel that Dr. Campolo does not represent -- and I suggest that it meets all the criteria lists in the balance of his book for the future of evangelicalism. But because his book treats it as a kind of cartoon theology -- an embarrassing and cruel cartoon at that – he does not see the value of it. For the record, it was the theology of Jonathan Edwards and Charles Spurgeon (not to mention Calvin, Luther and Zwingli) who in their day changed the world by changing the hearts of men. When they preached the Gospel, the Holy Spirit worked on men's hearts. And if I read the rest of Campolo’s book correctly, that is his stated goal: changing men's hearts for the sake of Jesus Christ.

I know -- I'm shocked

Iran may be withholding information about its intention to build nuclear weapons. You know: they promised they had only peaceful intentions.

We should negotiate with them some more. I'm sure that'll patch things up.

We remember your sacrifice

To those who have served, and are serving, and to their families, we thank you for the price you pay for the freedom of us all.

Just stop a minute

I was reading Tim Stevens' blog when I found this piece about a tragedy in Steven Curtis Chapman's family.

All jokes are off today. We should mourn this tragedy with the Chapman family and pray for the healing of this terrible accident in their family's emotional and spiritual lives.

    Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away; blessed be the name of Yahweh."

Perfectly relaxed?

If people want to know why Hillary Clinton can't win this primary season, here's why. In that link you'll not find a list of mistakes or strategic errors, but a frankly-clear view of what her husband has been doing for he all year.

Of particular interest in this little blurb:

Now, think about this -- what a great opportunity for "master communicator" Bill Clinton to paint his wife in rags-to-riches detail in wholly-sympathetic terms. But what the ex-president does instead is paint his wife's point of origin as if she was nothing before she met him.

You know: the narrative should be that she's a self-made midwesterner who overcame class and gender to become an influential and change-making Senator. Instead her husband says, in effect, that she used to be an introvert without self esteem "when I met her" and now (after "I met her"), she's, well, losing so gracefully.

I have a theory: Bill Clinton doesn't really want Hillary to win this thing because he's afraid, because she's smarter than he is, that she'll be the more effective president with the better legacy. But it's not a conscious thing: it's a deeply-unconscious thing which he is trying to mask over, and it's driven in part by the guilt he feels for having a debt to her for not divorcing him during the Monica Lewinsky thing.

It's just a theory. Do with it what you will.

Judas Priest -- GUMMBY!

I almost forgot -- Gummby e-mailed me three weeks ago (maybe longer) to suggest that you people with your fat Stimulus Checks ought to get on this link and build a well in Africa.

I told him I'd blog it, but I have been stupid-busy, and I'll be too stupid-busy to track whether we got any play through the link. You do what your conscience tells you to do with your fat G for people who don't have a water cooler or a Brita filter within 1000 miles.

Shack Attack version 2.0

Tim Challies has self-published a PDF revision of his review of the Shack.

Very frankly, it is one of his best pieces ever. I highly recommend anyone reading the Shack or thinking about reading the Shack or has had the Shack recommended to them download that PDF (that's what your right-click button is for), read that, and then read the book to see if Challies has treated it fairly.

Excellent format. Great resources listed in the back. Tough on what ought to be treated with toughness.

On a related note ...

A lot of people have said to me that the Shack is a harmless book of fiction which has edified them or given them a fresh look at their spirituality. A lot of people.

When I start asking them questions about the book and the things I found troubling with it, they all have a very unanimous answer which comes in various forms. They all say, in words to this effect, "doctrine isn't everything; sometimes it's OK just to enjoy something for what it is."

You know: I play video games. I admit it. I am currently addicted to Team Fortress 2, in spite of its apparent datedness. And when I'm spawned as a Fatty in order to "move little cart" and mow down the opposing players with my chain gun, I'm not thinking about doctrine. I admit it: I have moments when I'm not thinking about doctrine.

But here's the thing: I can promise you that the disconnect from TF2 to my Sunday School class is entirely mutual. In the same way that my doctrine regarding God's covenants with Israel does not effect whether I will heal opposing players when I'm a Medic in TF2, I can promise you that whether or not I dominated my friend Josh this week does not effect my ability to teach right doctrine in Sunday School.

My practice my be, um, unsanctified (we can talk about that if you want to try to get me there), but what I teach to others doesn't get scuttled by my enjoyment of TF2.

Let me suggest that it is at least suspicious that a book wants to call itself Christian fiction but, in fact, dismisses or diminishes almost every single foundational principle of the Christian faith. It is possible to "enjoy" such a thing, I am sure. The results of "enjoying" it, it seems to me, are a little more invasive than enjoying a couple of rounds of Goldmine.

So I recommend Tim's review to enhance your enjoyment of the Shack. If you find that affirmation troubling, tell me why in the meta.

How to be a perpetual loser

Briefly, this morning: it's patently stupid and short-sighted to cast Hillary Clinton as "every woman" and morn the state of feminism and the feminist ideal as this piece from the NYT. If Hillary had been more like Obama in the first place, she wouldn't be getting shuttled off the stage at this point.

That is to say, if she had a compelling vision, the appearance of integrity, and a disdain for business as usual in government -- or if she was perceived that way -- she'd have been the nominee months ago and she wouldn't be shilling for every vote and voter to count today. 6 months ago I promise you she didn't think she'd have to compete in Kentucky; today she's there as if it's a moral imperative.

That link you're looking for

Several of you have asked about the segment on Paul Edwards' show in which I was a guest.

Here's the link to that segment of Paul's 5/1/2008 show.

Merrry, um, Cinco de Mayo.

Culture Vulture (1.8)

Yeah, you’re wondering when I’m actually going to get to part 2 of the “culture vulture” series and stop with the graded sidebars.

Me, too.

Anyway, Steve Camp has stopped by to, um, do what he does, and in it he said this:
I don't think contextually that Jensen was making a mandate for engaging culture. It sounded more like to me that he was sharing personally his own struggle with fear with those at the University to whom he was battling with. IOW, it was his personal testimony; not a strategery for how we view the "culture" discussion.
And on the one hand I’m edified that someone else uses the word “strategery” in English sentences, but on the other hand, I think that Steve is missing my point here rather broadly.

Before this appears to be a merciless beating, let me say that it’s likely that I haven’t made my point clearly, so Steve’s missing it isn’t really his fault.

My point in posting Philip Jensen’s quote there was –not- to say “engage the culture”. In fact, I’d say that my point is sort of perpendicular to “engage the culture”.

Seriously: it’s sort of stupid to deny that “culture” exists or that people are in it. If there are people living together there is a culture among them. Period. No question.

But what I think Jensen was saying was that the Gospel ought to overcome our fear of these people and their culture. I think one way of saying that – and it’s a sort of old fashioned way of saying it, if johnMark will forgive me for saying so – is that we fear God and not man. Yes: true enough.

But I think what Jensen was saying is that if we fear men, thinking they have something we don’t have which they will not or should not reject, we don’t have any interior basis for preaching the Gospel to them.

I realize that’s a very Baptistic way of saying that, but here’s what I mean: the Gospel is the Good News. There is no better news; there’s nothing like it or which really competes with it in terms of “what’s in it for me”. And when, for example, we are afraid that someone has something smarter to say than we do in the Gospel (the Gospel is foolishness, after all), or something more economically-enriching (all who seek to live a Godly life will, after all, be persecuted), we can not preach the Gospel – because we do not actually know the Gospel.

We lack it if we think that it needs to make us sound smart or that it needs to improve someone’s financial portfolio.

So as we still think about what’s coming in part 2 of this series, let me say it frankly: if you are afraid of somebody, you can’t preach the Gospel to them. If you think their kung fu is actually better than the Gospel kung fu, you don’t have the Gospel kung fu.

Culture Vulture (1.75)

So I was listening to the 9Marks podcast, and Mark Dever was talking to this Aussie -- Phillip Jensen, Dean of St. Andrews in Sydney -- and Jensen said this:

"You can't preach the Gospel to people you are afraid of."

That, my friends, is a statement that ought to change the way we view the "culture" discussion.

Since you asked ...

... I know you saw the Yahoo! headline in which Siloam Springs was, apparently, subjected to annihilation by tornado and thunderstorm.

Well, not true: we did have some weather damage around town, and there have been several buildings damaged to the place where the tenants had to leave while the building is repaired. There were also, sadly, two deaths due to trees falling on things.

But 99.9% of us are in fine shape. Many of us played make-up kids' league baseball today in spite of unseasonably cold weather.

Thanks for asking.