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The body is what is seen by sighted people, and maybe here lies a clue! Sight-impaired people have a distinct advantage in that they are not affected by what people look like, and even the expression on a face is lost to the blind person. I know that when I was marking correspondence lessons for overseas students it was a relief to know that my physical presence was not going to adversely affect their consideration of the Christian faith. Now, if we could only learn to look beyond the physical appearance of a person and get to know the heart it would solve a lot of issues including those of pornography, lust, objectification, etc. God chose to give us a human body for our limited time on earth, so it must be a good thing in itself. However, the body has been affected by sin just li... Read more
'If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty placed on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.' (Deuteronomy 24:5) This was actually the second instance of Scripture I noticed in my reading of Deuteronomy where allowance was made for the priority of marriage over the duties of a soldier (cf. Deuteronomy 20:7). But, what strikes me particularly about this verse is the latter half. In a completely patriarchal society, one would expect for the exhortation to be 'so that his wife can bring him happiness' - but instead, the opposite is being commanded. Why do you think this is the case? To me, it reveals that the idea of marriage being created for the enjoyment of... Read more
"Jesus called them together and said, 'You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many'" (Matthew 20:25-28, TNIV). How many of us feel uneasy when we are told that men, rather than women, are called to be "servant leaders?" Perhaps we are confused by this notion—that men alone are to be "servant-leaders"—because it contains an important truth though it carries that truth only part of the way. What do I mean? Scripture speaks... Read more
How many of us come from traditions where we have been told that women cannot serve in positions of leadership because Jesus was male? And, as denominations consider where women may hold positions of service, inevitably the gender of Jesus becomes a consideration. Previous generations of Christians have also asked important questions about the gender of Jesus. Here is one example: Gregory of Nazianzus, who lived at the end of the fourth century stated to gar aprosleptom atherapeuton, which in English means, "What is not assumed is not redeemed." His words remind us that Christ came to represent all of humanity on the Cross. Thus, if we absolutize one aspect of Christ, such as his gender, ethnicity, or class, we run the risk of excluding people without those char... Read more
I came across a young woman's blog the other day who wrote about how much she appreciated and was impressed by the guys in her group asking that all the girls be careful about the way they dressed so that they wouldn’t cause the brothers to 'stumble.' And with great endorsement, she exhorted, 'To all my sisters out there: dress responsibly.' Back in the day in my youth group as well as my college fellowship, I heard the same kind of rhetoric being promoted. In talks about purity, it was always the girls who were called out. Fingers were wagged at the girls to be selective about what they wore in order to keep guys pure. And the message was clear: girls, it's your responsibility to keep the guys from lusting, and if they do end up sinning (lusting), it... Read more
"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" (John 4:23, TNIV). Very often the questions asked by those struggling with the gender issue are quite profound. For example, after leading a workshop at the last Urbana Missions Conference, a graduate student from Harvard told me, "If the Bible really teaches that all women must be submissive to males, and men will be the final arbiters of women, then God is basically saying women are inferior to men. And I cannot be party to such an system that places women under the permanent jurisdiction of a male, not because of a man’s character, or intellect, or walk with God, but simply because he is male. Th... Read more
Thanks to John for pointing out a recent poll in Christianity Today that asked the question 'Is it unfair discrimination for a male pastor to refuse to serve with a female pastor?' The results were as follow: 45% said that it is not unfair discrimination if a male pastor refuses to serve because of his convictions. 25% said that it is unfair discrimination if a male pastor is serving in a church that officially ordains women. 20% said that it is unfair discrimination, and that it is unacceptable behavior even if it is based on a male pastor's understanding of Scripture. 10% said that it is not unfair discrimination, and that it is okay as long as a male pastor does not stop a female pastor from doing her work. And finally... what are your... Read more
How many of us have become passionate and informed egalitarians as we observed the challenges godly women faced as they tried to use their God-given gifts in the church? Their pain inspired those close to them to reexamine their own perspectives on the gender issue. And, in doing so, many discovered that the arguments used to exclude women’s gifts were based on moral, theological, and often logical errors. Consider the following: Many of us know talented women on mission fields around the globe. These women are passionate, gifted, and able leaders and teachers. Their tenacious service has and continues to lead whole communities to Christ. Yet, the very churches that pay their salaries deny them opportunities to exercise their gifts in their home pulpits. Does this m... Read more
Mimi wrote in Arise last week that baptism rather than circumcision had, in Christ, become the expression of a covenantal relationship with God and life. She pointed out that “just as Christ rose victoriously over sin, we too rise out of the waters of baptism, symbolizing our rising victorious with Christ over sin.” What I can’t help but notice is how the imagery of circumcision and its newfound irrelevance in the light of baptism ties to the bit of handwritten script posted at the end of the book. In Galatians 6:14-15, Paul writes: May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.... Read more
Joy Fenner of Gaston Oaks Baptist Church in Garland was elected president of the Baptist General Convention of Texas (BGCT) earlier this week, narrowly defeating BGCT pastor David Lowrie by a margin of 900-840 votes to become the first woman to occupy the post. The Baptist General Convention of Texas is the largest Baptist state group of its kind in the nation, with over 5,000 affiliated congregations and more than two million members. Despite its size, less than one percent of BGCT pastors are women. A former missionary to Japan, church secretary, and executive director emeritus of the Women’s Missionary Union of Texas, Fenner has been involved in missions work for over thirty years. Many in the BGCT working in recent years to increase BGCT missions work and multicultural aw... Read more