Is it OK for Christians to Use Gender Neutral Pronouns?

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Over the last couple years, Jordan Peterson, a professor from the University of Toronto has risen to fame over his controversial views on gender pronouns. The surprising amount of popularity and opposition he has received as a result of it is an indication that our society is in tumult. We have minority groups pushing their pronoun of choice, and we are expected to join hands with this movement. You can find his YouTube channel here.

Now, it is great to have a “no-nonsense” guy like Jordan Peterson refusing to use the vast variety of pronouns out there, and to be defending certain truths that even some Christians have in many cases grown confused about. But the question for Christians is: what will we do about this? What does Scripture have to do with this philosophy? What must the followers of Jesus Christ do to reach out in love to those who seek to utterly obliterate the image of God that is part of their identity?

Dr. Steven D. West seeks to answer some of these questions on the Gospel Coalition blog of Canada here. I respect Dr. West’s attempt to respond to this issue, and I’m sure I would find many opportunities to learn from his teaching at Heritage College in Cambridge Ontario, or Toronto Baptist Seminary in Toronto. Obviously, when we run into people who are struggling with their gender identity, we must respond in love and compassion, because in many cases these people have not lived easy lives, and more often than not have been abused and treated as the scum of the earth.

Dr. West engages his readership with a question: “Does a Christian have the liberty to discern which approach is most likely to give opportunities for the gospel to gain an audience?” He proposes a scenario of how people might think about us: “If people we meet in the transgendered community are convinced that Christians are hate-filled bigots, homophobic and transphobic, do we need to take our stand immediately on the issue of gender-neutral pronouns, or is that a secondary issue on which we can be flexible, so that we have more opportunity to share the gospel?” Then he proposes another question: “Can different Christians honor God by taking different stances?” In the end, he says: “But whatever our answer, it must be based on speaking truth out of love for God and love for our neighbor.”

I appreciate his questions, because he is asking what many Christians are asking, and ask in many more scenarios than just this one. But let us stick to the scenario on hand. Let us suppose a Christian wants to reach out to a person who want to be referred to as a ‘zher’. Can we be flexible on whether or not we refer to him as a ‘zher’, or can I be flexible about whether or my buddy in the pew over can refer to someone struggling with gender identity as a ‘zher’? The question isn’t about whether he is a ‘zher’, the question is about whether or not I can refer to him as ‘zher’. Or whether or not my buddy can do this for that matter.

I’m glad that Dr. West still recognizes that God made man ‘male and female’. But I disagree that you can speak the truth in love and call your friend who is disoriented on his or her gender a ‘zher’. I disagree, because this is not speaking the truth.

Let’s say that in this scenario, my friend was abused in some manner in his growing up years. He has not committed any crimes himself, but is really struggling with who he is. I want to love him, and prove that his identity is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3) if he is a Christian, or made in the image of God if he is not a Christian. I don’t yell at him, but I remain firm because I want him to know the truth rather than what his raging emotions are telling him. And then comes along another friend from church who starts calling my friend ‘zher’, and telling him that Christians who do not use that term are not being loving.

I believe that as a Christian I could soundly rebuke that friend for using the pronoun ‘zher’. I could rebuke him for a couple things. First, I could rebuke him for confusing my friend’s identity, by playing along with his confused pronouns. I could rebuke him for lying about what I am doing in my pursuit to speak the truth in love. Does this rebuke mean that I don’t love my brother in the Lord? Of course not.

Feelings rage in this modern debate, and it is not that our feelings are unimportant. But like the Psalmist we must turn to God when our feelings are trying to get the best of us. In His Word we find truth, reality, and life itself.

And so, it is probably best not to get caught up in the little corners of this debate. We can listen well, but then we can turn our focus on to Jesus rather than getting caught up in the hollow philosophies of 21st century North America. We can paint a more beautiful picture of sexuality than the lies of pornography and the horribly damaged image of God that is being so proudly displayed in our culture. Of course, the following verses talk about putting to death our fleshly lusts, but Colossians 3 begins with a beautiful portrayal of the good life, the best life, the most beautiful life: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Of course, these are words to Christians, but all men can know this life when they repent and believe in the Name of the Son of God. And then, wherever they are, whatever the consequences of their sins, or the forgiveness that they find in their trouble, they can know the glory of a life hidden with Christ in God. Ultimately, identity politics are put to rest at the cross and in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

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A Parable for Marxist Evangelicalism

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Let’s say you have a modern Pharisee and tax-collector come into one room. The Pharisee goes down on his knees and says: “I am a sinner, none of my works measure up to God’s glory, help me to use the blessings that You and You alone have given me to bless those around me, for your glory. Forgive me of all my sins through Jesus Christ and help me to live a life in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Meanwhile the tax-collector raises his eyes to heaven and says: “Lord, thank you that you have not made me like that Pharisee over there, without any tattoos, with all that money. Thank-you that you have made me more ‘real’ than him. Thank-you that you have not made me so legalistic and moralistic.” Who would go away justified?

I heard this “parable” while at college, which really made me think. It is in my own words here. I call it a parable for Marxist Evangelicalism. Whenever I hear a debate about God or morality, I always stop and listen with caution when I hear believers or unbelievers bring in Jesus and the Pharisees. We seem to have a misplaced hatred for the Pharisees in modern day evangelicalism, and this hatred of the Pharisees has resulted in a license to sin (I refer to evangelicalism as any church which is serious about the authority of Scripture and preaching the good news of Jesus). Because, if there is no other response to our issues, we can always blame it on those legalistic, self-righteous Pharisees in the other pew, or the other church. I have heard a number of people referred to as Pharisees and hypocrites and they turned out to be very godly people who desired to serve God and His people. There are Pharisees out there and they have to be called out for exactly what Jesus called them out for, not necessarily for what broader evangelicals wants to call them out for.

Back in College, we were required to read ‘the Communist Manifesto’ by Marx and Engels. Marx and Engels perceived a number of real trends in history, but then proceeded to reduce man’s identity to their class struggles. They begin their work with these words: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”

Now what does Marx have to do with broader evangelicalism? Well, I have seen an obvious trend among many serious Christians to tend in a direction of viewing the Pharisees and the people of Jesus’ time as a kind of class struggle. The analogy struck me in college, and I begin to see more and more how true this is. Through the eyes of ‘Liberation Theology’, a “Christian” off-shoot of Marxism, we read into the message of the New Testament as Jesus liberating the lower classes and challenging the ruling class (the Pharisees). But Jesus came to liberate both from their sins. The message of repentance went to all men.

This charge of Pharisaism has often been leveled at Christianity and morality in general. I know I have found myself in many discussions where the discussion devolved to that point. But Jesus wasn’t attacking morality in general, rather, He was attacking the moralism of the Pharisees. He had His own rebukes for the crowds, and even among those whom He healed there only stand out a few stories where there was real faith and He says “your sins are forgiven” (such as Mark 2). Jesus had his rebukes for the crowds and His rebukes for the Pharisees, which means we have to think through who is who and the fitting rebukes.

Jesus challenged the Pharisees many times. Jesus calls the Pharisees a brood of vipers (Matt. 12:34), because their hearts are evil, even though they try to sound good. Jesus rebukes them because when they pray, they want to be seen by men (Matt. 6:5). He pronounces woe upon them because they shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces (23:13). They do this by tying up burdens too heavy for people to bear (Matt. 23:4). Rather than serving the people, they lord it over them (Matt. 23:11).

So when we see Jesus challenges them, He does not challenge them for seeking to live holy lives. Rather, He challenges them for pretending to live holy lives, while lording it over people, and beginning with externals rather than internal things. He challenges them for shutting the kingdom of heaven to people rather than opening it up for them. They were called to be the servants of the people rather than weighing them down with burdens that they couldn’t even carry.

But Jesus also challenged the people to be better than the Pharisees: “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20). Jesus wants this righteousness to go right to their hearts. He wants them to clean themselves internally, rather than just washing their hands. He wants their hearts, not just their pious words. He wants them to know how deep His forgiveness goes before considering questions of tattoos and blue hair.

The Pharisees should have been among the masses helping out the wounded, the sexually abused, the broken-hearted, the tax-collectors and sinners, rather than piling on ritualistic and externalistic religion upon them. But the Pharisees couldn’t do this, because they thought that religion was all about externals, rather than being born again (John 3). And so they warranted the rebuke of Christ.

On the other hand, Christ came as the servant of servants. He really lived a holy life, both internally and externally. He served the broken and He served the Pharisee. He came to proclaim good news to the poor and liberty to the captives (Luke 4). He came to call the Pharisee to repentance (John 3). He came to call all men and women to repent and believe the gospel: both Pharisee and the people of Israel (Mark 1:15).

And then He sent out His followers to preach the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Acts). Churches were then formed, and leaders were sent to train Christians in righteousness and patterns of Christian living (i.e. Titus and Timothy). Of course, this training was downstream from the preaching of the good news, but it was necessary because faith without works is dead (James 2). Someone might call that Pharisaism, but the Christian simply knows it to be gospel living and training in righteousness (Titus 2:12). And we don’t want anything different, because Jesus has redeemed us from all the power of the Devil, by dying on a cross and rising from the dead and ascending into heaven.

 

The Unity of the Church and the Glory of God

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The glory of God has always stood opposed to the glory of men and the institutions of men. God chose the foolish things of this world. The whole Old Testament is a massive glorious story of shepherd boys taking down giants, women crushing the skulls of evil kings, and a few despised young Jewish men putting the mighty Babylonian empire to shame. We see the weak and despised things of this work standing before emperors, witnessing to the kingdom of God in this world. I love the song of Mary: “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;”

The Church of Jesus Christ is not our institution, and because of the glory of the Lord who is the head of the Church, it must stand opposed to the institutions and the glory of man. When the Church becomes our church, our pitiful glory, then the glory of God will stand opposed to us. It will stand opposed to us, because we have taken His Holy Church and made it into an institution which defends my glory, my name, my renown in the world.

We all want to be like Martin Luther. But nobody wants the fierce opposition that Luther faced. We all want to be like John Calvin, but nobody wants to be expelled from Geneva for a number of years.  Nobody wants to be despised by the institutional church and the world, so that the glory of God might break free into His Church and His world. Rather, we align ourselves with that which is popular, that which is shiny. This is what Calvin and Luther absolutely refused to align themselves with. This is what so many unnamed men and women who gave astounding glory to God refused to align themselves with.

Our churches are not the institutions of Luther or Calvin, who laid down their lives and reputations so that God would get the glory. God is most glorified when we lay down our reputation so that the soul of an unbeliever might be saved. God is most glorified when His servants seek the unity and the up-building of the church even when they are despised as the folly of the world. God is glorified when His servants give their lives up to be the planks of the bridge for unbelievers to walk over into the kingdom. God is glorified when His servants use their reputation and standing as a bridge for two churches to walk over to meet each other and be united in the Spirit and by the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ.

The nature of a bridge is that it has to be strong. It doesn’t have to be fancy to do its job. It is trampled on, it is driven on. Cracks show up, and they have to be buttressed. Pillars grow weak under the load, and they have to be supported. Diesel and oil are spilled on it. There are collisions, and in the rush, people don’t think about the bridge. But the bridge is necessary for the meeting of two sides.

The question is: are we willing to meet Jesus outside the camp? Are we willing to follow His commands, take up our cross and follow Him? Are we willing to enjoy the glory of being trampled on so that we can see God magnified? Are we willing to face the thick of conflict head-on and walk away knowing that Jesus won and His Name was glorified as we subdued the lust for glory in ourselves by the blood of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit? Are we willing to face the scorn of our church family for seeking to show them that the family of God is massive and worldwide?

This is a tall order. For that the glory of God will have to take the center. I think about the words of George Whitefield. George Whitefield was an preacher in the Great Awakening in America. He had many weaknesses and faults. But he showed the way to Church Unity: “Let my name be forgotten, let even my friends forget me, if by that means the cause of the blessed Jesus may be promoted.”

May the cause of the blessed Jesus promoted, and may we press into that glory. And may the Church benefit as a result.

A Puritan Book Every Guy Under 20 Should Read

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I should do a book review on my blog. I must admit that I didn’t expect much from John Owen’s book ‘the Mortification of Sin’. I had read one or two Puritans and almost fell asleep. So being the labeller that I tend to be, I labelled John Owen as boring. Now, generalizations are a lazy way of arguing, and should not necessarily determine whether or not we should read a book. When I launched into reading this book by John Owen, I ended up being quite surprised and impressed and even a little shocked.

John Owen enters into a discussion of the Christian’s battle with sin, and he does this with zest and vigor. He uses military imagery, and casts all namby-pamby talk to the wind as he discusses the destruction and killing of sin. His vivid pictures and direct challenges, are pointed in such a way to make any man consider his pathetic attempts at killing sin, no matter what sin he is struggling with.

There are a lot of big words and some old English to work with, so the book might better be read between a father and a son, a young man and a mentor, or with a theological dictionary on the table. John Owen has a solid grasp of the Reformed understanding of theology. He also makes the good news quite clear as he reasons to the Christian’s warfare from the saving blood of Jesus Christ and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.

John Owen does not settle for an externalized and legalistic Christianity. He goes to the very heart of sin: pride, self-love, self-righteousness. Of course, he doesn’t deny that when internal sins are attacked and defeated, these actions will then have external manifestations. But he brings out an important point: sin will only be defeated when it is taken out at its root.

The author talks about starving sin, putting it to the sword, and perseverance in these actions. In fact, this work brings in the psychological effects of sin, and the way that sin seeks to deceive us. Owen warns about our sin “playing dead”, and how it can raise its head at the worst times. But his responses are quite practical and Christ-centered, without forgetting the work and power of the Holy Spirit.

My only critique is one of emphasis, because Owen does discuss driving out old desires with new desires. And from what I hear about him, he does discuss this more in other books. I would emphasize that while we can’t underestimate the power of sin, we also cannot underestimate the power of setting our mind on things that are lovely and noble (Phillipians 4:8). Only Christ and the Holy Spirit can change us. Building on this most firm foundation, I have also found good literature, good music, good conversation, good friendships of crucial importance in destroying the power of sin. Of course, Christ must be in all these things, and when He is, we can go out and create a culture for others to live in. This is a Christ-centered culture. I would definitely highlight this in a book on the mortification of sin.

In other words. Read your Bible first and foremost. Read John Owen on the mortification of sin. But go on to read and listen to audio books of Lewis and Tolkien, Dostoevsky and Augustine, etc. Listen to good podcasts, and good music. Sing Psalms. Go to Church. Have a beer with somebody who knows how to treat it well. Play a game of rugby, find a good board-game to play. Meet up at a classy brewery or coffee shop. Find out what a dusty old book smells like. And then go out and tell everybody why Jesus is the only hope of the world.

To conclude, here are a few quotes from John Owen:

“He that changes pride for worldliness, sensuality for pharisaism, vanity in himself to the contempt of others: let him not think that he hath mortified the sin that he seems to have left. He hath changed his master, but is a servant still.” p. 59

“So, when a man first sets on a lust or distemper to deal with it, it struggles with great violence to break loose, it cries with earnestness and impatience to be satisfied and relieved; but when, by mortification, the blood and spirits of it are let out, it moves seldom and faintly, cries sparingly, and is scarce heard in the heart: it may have sometimes a dying pang, that makes an appearance of great vigour and strength, but it is quickly over, especially if it be kept from considerable success.” p. 67

“This is the folly of some men. They set themselves with all earnestness and diligence against the appearing eruption of lust; but leaving the principle and root untouched, perhaps unsearched out, they make but little or no progress in this work of mortification.” p. 68

“Such a one never thinks his lust dead because it is quiet; but labours still to give it new wounds, new blows, every day.” p. 70

“Mortification consists in success: frequent success against any lust is another part and evidence of mortification. By success, I understand not a mere disappointment of sin that it be not brought forth nor accomplished, but a victory over it and pursuit of it to a complete conquest: for instance, when finding sin at any time at work, seducing, forming imaginations to make provision for the flesh to fulfil the lusts thereof, the heart instantly apprehends sin, and brings it to the law of God and love of Christ, condemns it, follows it with execution to the uttermost.” p. 70

“Secondly, the promptness, alacrity, vigour of the Spirit, or new man, in contending with, cheerfully fighting against, the lust spoken of, by all the ways and with all the means that are appointed thereto.” p. 72

“How shall he, then, mortify sin, who hath not the Spirit? A man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the Spirit.” p. 75

“I say, then, mortification is not the present business of unregenerate men. God calls them not to it as yet. Conversion is their work; the conversion of the whole soul, not the mortification of this or that particular lust.” p. 77

“No, he knew that was not their present work; but he calls them to conversion, and faith in Christ in general (v. 38). Let their souls be first thoroughly converted, and then, looking on him whom they have pierced, humiliation and mortification will ensue. Thus when John came to preach repentance and conversion, he said, ‘the axe is now laid unto the root of the tree’ (Matt. 3:10). p. 78

“To break men off from particular sins, and not to break their hearts, is to deprive ourselves of advantages of dealing with them.” p. 84

“Lust is such an inmate as, if it can plead time and some prescription, will not easily be ejected. As it never dies of itself, so, if it be not daily killed, it will always gather strength.” p. 95

Figuring out Theology

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Theology is essentially incoherent without Jesus Christ.

Am I justified? If so where does election fit in? Wait you are saying a baby is elect when he/she is baptized? So where does union with Christ fit into all of this? Is sanctification a part of justification or a consequent of justification? Where does the calling to repentance and faith fit into all of this? Am I saved? How do I know I am saved?

These are some questions that us seminarians scratch our heads about during the more dogmatic/theological part of our seminary education. If you find yourself confused by some of this terminology, I think we might have something to learn from you! This is definitely an important part of seminary and learning theology and learning how to explain the gospel in the churches. And yet…

Systematic theology can feel like it is wearisome, burdensome, and grasping after wind. Sometimes it feels like we are trying to shepherd the mist.

How do I dig through all this terminology and nuance as a seminarian, or as a church member??!!!

2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

This verse really is one of the thesis statements of Paul’s theology. This struck me as I was reading Richard Gaffin’s perspective on Paul’s doctrine of salvation. There are a lot of big words in Reformed theology that come straight out of Scripture in no particular order: repentance, faith, calling, justification, sanctification, election, glorification. We are called to come to a deeper understanding of the Scriptures and so we are called to come to a deeper understanding of what these things mean. But we can only understand them in Jesus Christ. Justification, sanctification, glorification, can all be understood in the life of Jesus Christ.

Now, this is not ground-breaking thought. But when you think about this deeply, it has massive implications for who we are as Christians. It is not any particular genius, but it brings us to the person of Christ. When we are baptized into the church, we are not just coming to a theological or moral or experiential system, but to Jesus Christ Himself. Our baptism is into His death and we are called to look to Christ as our lives are conformed to His resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4).

When we find ourselves battered by doubts, sins, temptations, and the pain of life we can look to Jesus Christ. When we find ourselves confused by the theology of Scripture, and how Reformed preachers try to explain it, we can look to Christ in whom all things make sense (Col. 1:17). He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Remembering Margaret Sanger and our Loss of Freedom on November 11

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Margaret Sanger wrote: “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it,” She said many things like this, which you can read here.

She said this particular statement in the 1920, just two years after World War I. She died in Arizona in 1966, but Planned Parenthood became the vehicle to push her ideas on American society. These ideas ranged all the way from the extermination of people groups, and the infirm.

Her life spanned two world wars, and she died in the middle of the war with Vietnam. On November 11, we remember many of these soldiers who fought over seas while she was fighting in North America. There are challenges when it comes to the morality of foreign intervention in certain cases, but we can still have a high regard for our soldiers who died to defend the peace of our country. There are a lot more things that we can say about the morality of Sanger’s ideals. But what she defended and fought for hits us in the gut a lot harder when we realize that this is an aspect of the “freedom” we are giving thanks for on Remembrance day.

This should bring us to tears.

Abortion has snuffed out millions of little lives, the most helpless lives out there. These babies have been burnt, ripped apart limb from limb, they have had their brains pulled out of their little heads with hospital scissors. And we think we are free?

Dostoevsky’s Underground Man writes:

“I am a sick man… I am a spiteful man. I am an unpleasant man. I think my liver is diseased. However, I don’t know beans about my disease, and I am not sure what is bothering me. I don’t treat it and never have, though I respect medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, let’s say sufficiently so to respect medicine. (I am educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am.) No, I refuse to treat it out of spite. You probably will not understand that. Well, but I understand it. Of course I can’t explain to you just whom I am annoying in this case by my spite. I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “get even” with the doctors by not consulting them. I know better than anyone that I thereby injure only myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t treat it, its is out of spite. My liver is bad, well then– let it get even worse!”

We call it science, but it is murder. We think we have kept our clinics sterile, but the blood is seeping out into the public square. Our stethoscopes are positioned nicely and our hospital gowns are pretty and white, but our hearts are filthy. We are diseased, and yet we speak blithely and comfortably about some fantasy of freedom.

There is a war being waged at home.

It is a war being waged for the hearts of men and women. We’ve had enough of formulaic lines and nonsense about being free when we are captivated by the lies of pseudo-science telling us that the fetus isn’t a living being, that there are multiple genders, and that it is OK to kill an older person the minute that he/she has a hard time communicating. We are a culture of death, and nice words about soldiers sparing our freedom doesn’t change any of that.

But Jesus can change that. We can pursue those headed to death. He died so that we can rise to new life, so that we can be appalled by the massacres around us, so that we can tell that young man and young woman in the church that even though she has a baby in her womb, they can change their ways and live to the glory of God in true freedom and joy. So that we can come alongside the broken-hearted young lady who has murdered her baby, and show her the love of Jesus Christ.

The message of Jesus’ death and resurrection has always been a message of hope for a dying world. And so when we see our hypocrisy we can return to Him. When we see the stains of sin in the Church of Jesus Christ, we can return to Him, and pray for His Spirit to bring times of refreshing. And we can pray that this stream of living water would flow out of the church for the world to taste and be refreshed and join us on the highway to Zion.

Come, let us return to the Lord!

Pornography Culture and the Hollywood Scandals

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These days new names from Hollywood hit the news, one after the other. Harvey Weinstein, James Toback, Kevin Spacey, now I just saw another article on National Post about Dustin Hoffman. I didn’t know any of their names until they hit the news. All of these men are facing similar allegations for sexual harassment, and I don’t doubt these allegations. I have no desire to talk about any of these allegations or read any deeper. But since it is continually on the headlines of the news, it will either bring feelings of despair for those struggling with such sin, feelings of hatred for the abusers, or just simply lack of feeling for our culture.

But we must consider what is going on here, because this is what we are confronted with every time we entertain ourselves with Hollywood. Hollywood has set new norms for our culture. It has set new norms for what we are comfortable with on screen. For example, the couple in bed in that movie you just watched are really in bed together. It’s not just artful camera work. Hollywood is inundated with prostitution and pornography. And it’s all done for the dollar signs.

Recently, I watched the movie Passengers, not realizing that it had a number of such scenes. I just covered my eyes and moved on with life, until this article on Reformed Perspective made me feel sick inside for even watching the movie: Here’s the Problem with Just Covering Your Eyes During the Sex Scenes. Jennifer Lawrence writes: “And it was going to be my first time kissing a married man, and guilt is the worst feeling in your stomach. And I knew it was my job, but I couldn’t tell my stomach that.” She goes on to describe how horrible these scenes were. The author of the article goes on to describe how nudity and this kind of prostitution and pornography is the norm in Hollywood.

The problem is that men like Weinstein and Hoffman are the norm for society, and this norm finds its way into the Church. We mock and taunt them for bringing out the horrors of Hollywood, or we cover our eyes and we try to ignore what is going on. Why? Because these debauched actions are happening in our living rooms, in our bedrooms, and everywhere else. Maybe we haven’t done things as bad as Weinstein and Hoffman. But we’ve seen as bad or even worse, because pornography is everywhere. And pornography involves real people like those shots of porn in the movie Passengers. And we justify it because everybody does. We very easily forget that this is the culture of Hollywood that has also created the world that Weinstein, Hoffman, and Jennifer Lawrence are living in.

Of course, we have a whole new culture in Hollywood that has resulted from this cultural confusion. This is the culture of homosexuality, lesbianism, transgenderism. Take, for example, Kevin Spacey and his homosexual sex assaults on younger men. The porn shots on the tv screen have confused what masculinity and femininity really is, and you get a whole hodge-podge of confusion. And not just over there in Hollywood. Sexuality is a mess of confusion in our day and age, and while we scape-goat men like Weinstein and Hoffman, we also should recognize our responsibility for this culture.

But lets stop talking about this for a minute. 2000 years ago, a man named Jesus walked the dusty roads of Ancient Israel. He resisted temptation, and was single for His whole life. He treated women with respect. When a bunch of leaders hauled in a woman caught in adultery to condemn her, Jesus said to her: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11b). He healed many women, and the first people to meet Jesus after His resurrection were women (John 20). He then called His 12 disciples to preach His gospel the ends of the earth (Acts 1). He died for the sins of those who repent of their sins and believe in His Name, so that in Him they can be new men and women.

Are you wallowing in the shame of pornography addiction? Put it to death. Make a covenant with your eyes. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. When you think about those scenes pray for the Weinsteins and the Hoffmans and the Jennifer Lawrences of this world. Pray that they would be liberated from their captivity. Have you committed sins similar to the sins of these people? Defiling the image of God for a few bucks that will rot in the ground with your coffin? Repent of that sin. Turn to the forgiving blood of Christ and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit. When you give yourself over to those sins, plant your feet on the redeeming blood of Christ, and ask His Holy Spirit to go to war with those sins, and to be used to bring those scandalous adulterers of this world to the cross of Jesus Christ.

This is why the Apostle Paul says that He is not ashamed of the gospel. Because he knows full well that it is the power of God to salvation for you and me and Hollywood stars. If we believe.

“Masculinity” vs. “Femininity”

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The Masculine

I work my butt off. I don’t cry, and I will never admit to crying. Yeah, I’ve got a temper, but everyone has one, right? And look at that weenie over there! I bet he has never done a good hard days work in his life!

Oh, and I have a Bible. And I go too church, although I miss a service here and there. My favourite Bible verse is: “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” (Eph. 5:22) And I love those passages that rebuke effeminate men. Ugh. Gross. Christians aren’t like that, right? And feminists, they drive me crazy. Wasn’t feminism the original sin?

That pastor… He gets on my nerves. He keeps on telling the men to be gentle and self-controlled. What a sissy. Jesus flipped tables in the temple. That’s another one of my favorite Bible verses…

Every once in a while I have to lay down the law. Spare the rod, spoil the child, right? Wait, there are people in the church who are against corporal punishment? Just hold onto my beer for a moment while I express righteous indignation… Alright, where were we? Oh, and that beer I gave you. I have the Christian liberty to drink it. I really do.


The Feminine

Oh my goodness! What’s wrong with men in the church? How can they actually believe that Titus 2:4 applies today, teaching us that women ought to be home-makers! How archaic and traditional. There are men who spank their children? We need a law against that or something… Here hubby, hold my coffee while I express all the holy anger within me, with myself and my enraged sisterhood.

BTW. My hubby is a nice guy. I like quiet guys. My favorite verses is where Paul tells men to be gentle. Jesus was gentle. I hate the patriarchy. That pastor believes that the man is supposed to be the head of his house? Ugh. I can’t even… I just… can’t even… And those ladies in that church. Gross. Allowing themselves to be a doormat for a male dominant church government.

What? An older lady just rebuked me! How dare she! Probably controlled by her husband or something. Ugh. Patriarchy is so gross. How dare she tell me how to love my husband! How dare she!


Rewind.

As in every age, there are a huge hodge-podge of issues. No less in our age. There is male-chauvinism and feminism. There are men who are effeminate and women willing to be over run. The layers of radioactivity here could poison a man or a woman in full protective wear.

Usually the first place people go is to turn it into a theological discussion. If someone calls you a male-chauvinist show how it is her problem. Pull out that Bible verse that makes the other person repent. Or you can shift the hermeneutics (Biblical interpretation). Tell everybody that Titus 2:4 is bound by the culture. But of course, be prepared to say that Titus 2:6 is bound by the culture. Maybe home-making and self-control are both cultural phenomenon that was only commanded in the Bible days. Or maybe we can just say that the Apostle Paul was a male-chauvinist.

Ummm. If you believe the Bible has any integrity, no. What I appreciate about the Bible is that it speaks to everybody. This all comes from Titus 2:

  • Older men: sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.
  • Older women: reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children…
  • Young women: self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
  • Young men: Self-control
  • Last, but not least the pastor himself: teach what accords with sound doctrine. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
  • Everybody: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.

These are no easy commands. This is boot-camp. This means that both masculinity and femininity at its inception begins by killing sin as God commands in His Word.

This is no longer some weird form of masculinity versus some weird form of femininity.

This changes everything.

Boasting in Weakness on the Eve of Reformation

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There are many things that we can boast in as Protestants. We can boast in our large tomes of theology. We can boast in the massive extent of the Reformation that happened 500 years ago. We can take pride in the all the beuautiful work written by Calvin, Luther, Turretin… We have produced some of the greatest intellects in history. We have launched mission projects across the world. And yet…

We are divided. We have infighting. Many of our ministers fall. Satan throws up walls against the advance of the gospel. We are reluctant to call each other to repentance. We are reluctant to repent. Our theology isn’t as developed as we want it to be. There are still so many people who need to believe in the gospel. We really have a very hard time finding unity in doctrine and in life.

But maybe our only boast is in the cross of Jesus Christ. If so, then we really can boast in our weaknesses, so that the power of Christ might rest upon us (2 Cor. 12:9). “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” When we boast in the cross of Jesus Christ, we really can turn, look our weaknesses in the eye, and build on the foundation that He has given us.

“When I am weak, then I am strong.” This is a boast that looks up to the cross of Jesus Christ. It isn’t a whiner trying to find comfort in the fact that he is whiny and the Bible allows it. It is a bold boast and a desire to grasp onto the power of Christ and claim it as his own. But in order to do that, he must look his weakness in the eye, and in its place see the power of Christ.

When I look at the weaknesses and sins of the Reformation, following its inception 500 years ago, I also see the power of Christ in the work of many pastors and leaders in reformational churches. I grew up in one such family. I grew up recognizing weaknesses, because you can’t get away from them. But I also never stop being astounded by the power of Christ. This is why I can boast in the work which I saw growing up, because at every turn I saw the power of Christ at work in preserving His servants and His Church, in advancing His gospel, in softening hearts and ears to the message of the gospel. All of a sudden His work takes the foreground, and our work is small because He is great.

Notice that in the title, I referred to it as “the eve of the Reformation.” I did not refer to it as “the eve of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.” We are always on the eve of the Reformation because we look to the power of Christ and His ability to fill the abundant weaknesses of Protestantism with the power of the gospel. The Church in the West might be on the cusp of its death, but when it is on the cusp of its death, it is also on the cusp of new life, because that is the pattern that Christ established for His followers: death and resurrection.

I am reminded here of the words of Latimer to Ridley as they prepared to be burned at the stake underneath the fierce reign of Mary Queen of Scots who hated the work of Reformation and the advance of the gospel in England. It is an example of Christ’s power in weakness, and as such is a cause for us to boast in the power of Christ. As they were being burned as heretics outside of Balliol College in Oxford in the year 1555, Latimer encouraged Ridley to persevere with these blood-chilling words: “Play the man, Master Ridley. We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

May we too play the man as we face head-on the temptations and dangers of our own time including money and sex and fame, and the desire to keep our mouths shut and/or change the message of the gospel rather than face the scorn of the academy and those in positions of cultural and political power. May God fill our abundant weaknesses in the midst of this with the power of the gospel. And may we light a candle in North America, which by God’s grace, will never be put out.

Luther, Lewis, and the Laughter of the Christian

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One thing that C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther taught me about the Devil is that the old geezer takes himself painfully seriously. Luther once said: “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to the texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” Thomas More once wrote: “The deville… the prowde spirite… cannot endure to be mocked.” Lewis quotes both these men in the opening to his book The Screwtape Letters, and then enters into a discourse wherein he openly ridicules the devil, and shows the ugliness of the Devil’s schemes.

One of the privileges of the Christian when he is found in union with Christ, in union with the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ is that he can, with Christ, mock the Devil. In Colossians 2:15, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” In Christ, and in His armour we go up against these rulers and authorities: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:11-12)

We know from Psalm 2, that the Lord sits in the heavens and laughs at the schemes of men. In the Gospels, Jesus drove demons into the sea, cast them out, triumphed over them, making a public mockery of them. Following His death and resurrection, His disciples did the same thing, casting out demons and preaching in the name of Jesus.

Fastforward to the 21st century. We live in relatively easy times, but we also live in a time when the devil is at work. He is a proud, arrogant prick and he wants men to serve him rather than the Living God of heaven and earth. And so I’m tickled pink when I see him ridiculed, when I see churches continue to grow and people are forgiven of their sins, when families gather together and have holy laughter rather than cackling over the dirty jokes of the devil.

I honestly believe that the devil loses his hold when he is mocked. Of course, it starts from the basis of God’s Word. As Luther once said: “The Devil fears the Word of God, He can’t bite it; it breaks his teeth.” Again, Luther advises: “The best way to get rid of the Devil, if you cannot kill it with the words of Holy Scripture, is to rail at and mock him. Music, too, is very good; music is hateful to him, and drives him far away.” And then when Christians enjoy God’s world within the bounds of His Word, the Devil is at a loss. Luther says again: “So when the devil says to you: do not drink, answer him: I will drink, and right freely, just because you tell me not to.” This is the way in which Jesus disowns him and puts him to open shame when Christians take themselves less seriously, and engage in Christian joy, and fellowship and live in harmony. Of course, within the bounds of God’s Word, because the Devil breaks his teeth on that.

Another way to treat the Devil is to call him names. Martin Luther writes again: “I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him.” Names show that he is despised, etc.

“Come, let us sing a psalm, and drive away the Devil.” Again, Luther conjurs up another weapon against the Devil’s schemes. Against the temptations to worldliness, the desires of sin that lead to death, the desire to leave the gospel. Come, let’s sing a song and drive away the Devil.