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“Her very name evokes images of beauty and sensuality, yet when we look for this creature in the New Testament, we look for her in vain.” –Susan Haskins, Mary Magdalene: Myth and Metaphor Who is Mary Magdalene to you? Apostle or icon of penitence? The Feast Day of Mary Magdalene is on July 22. In 2016, Pope Francis elevated her memorial day from a celebration to a feast. He wrote, “Saint Mary Magdalene is an example of a true and authentic evangeliser.” In the Eastern Orthodox Church, she is “the apostle to the apostles” as one of the first women to witness and announce Jesus’ resurrection to the male disciples. Yet even with such official praise, and sainthood as well, Mary Magdalene’s name is still ta... Read more
The Bible’s Warning to Leaders From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture speaks emphatically about character alignment in leaders. It’s impossible to miss God’s point. Leaders have an impact on lives—sometimes for good and sometimes for harm. We will be held accountable by God when our actions are inconsistent with God’s expectations of leaders (Gal. 5:22-23, 1 Tim. 3:1-14). Passages like Matthew 18:6, Acts 20:28, Romans 2:21-23, and James 3:1 give sober caution to anyone eager to become a teacher or leader. Choose wisely, because the Bible also makes clear that those with power rarely manage it well. That’s why successful leadership depends on systems of accountability. Without accountability, bad leaders do enormous damage to decent people, to strugg... Read more
A couple days ago, my wife Jessica and I finished reading a rather depressing book: Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Evangelical Empire. It’s an academic work that includes countless interviews, field research, and eyewitness accounts of the dramatic fall of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church. The book does a great job dissecting the factors that led to one of the most notorious pastoral (and moral) tragedies in contemporary American evangelicalism. Truly, it’s difficult to overestimate the intoxicating effect of an authoritarian and charismatic leader, a cult-like church culture, misogynistic teachings, and state-of-the-art, profit-driven ministry media. The combination led to unspeakable trauma and plenty of evangelical embarrassment. Many of us... Read more
My church recently learned the song, “Sound of Adoration,” written by Bryan Torwalt and performed by the band, Jesus Culture. It begins like this, “When we were lost ones, You were the Shepherd that carried us home. When we were prodigals, You ran to meet us with open arms.” The opening sentence refers to Jesus’s parable of the lost sheep, and the following line comes from his parable of the prodigal son. Most people understand the shepherd of the lost sheep to symbolize God. One of the most influential books on Jesus’s parables (by Joachim Jeremias) supports this claim, calling the shepherd “an image of God’s activity of love.” Bible readers, ancient and modern, have made this connection—after all, “The Lord is my shepher... Read more
Imagine you’re Mary, the mother of Jesus. You just made it through an unplanned pregnancy. You’ve delivered your baby in less than ideal conditions and now you're mixed up in soreness and lack of sleep and awe over this new-to-the-world little baby. Eight days after giving birth, you go with your husband to present your son at the temple, as was the custom. A righteous man from Jerusalem named Simeon finds you there. You stand before him, slightly awestruck, as he speaks a blessing over you and your husband. But then, he says this: “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.” A sword will pier... Read more
In recent years, the term “toxic masculinity” became a part of the public conversation surrounding gender, power, and violence. Actor Terry Crews spoke to congress last week about his own experience with sexual assault. He took the opportunity to condemn what he called a “cult of toxic masculinity” and urged congress to implement the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights.   But what is “toxic masculinity”? Without a more detailed explanation, the term can leave us with a bad taste in our mouths. It can inspire defensiveness, largely because it’s been misunderstood to mean that all masculinity is toxic. But it actually refers only to negative cultural expressions of masculinity that encourage violence, aggression, misogyny, and entitl... Read more
In 2018, the #MeToo movement came to American Protestantism. Emboldened with the hope that they will no longer be silenced, women are speaking out to expose the misogyny and abuse they’ve long endured in Christian homes, churches, and seminaries.    In recent weeks, controversy swirled around Paige Patterson and the Southern Baptist Convention. As the Washington Post reported, the revered patriarch and now former president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary fell from grace in light of revelations that he’d counseled an abused woman to stay with her husband, provocatively drawn attention to a teenage girl’s appearance, and allegedly instructed a female student not to report her rape, but instead to forgive her assailant. Upon his removal, Patterson in... Read more
I was sixteen years old when Bill Gothard’s curriculum, “Basic Youth Conflicts,” came to the California Bay Area. For readers who don’t know, Gothard was a popular Christian minister and speaker in the 1970s-early 2000s in conservative Christian and homeschool circles. Gothard once filled auditoriums throughout the US with audiences as large as ten thousand people. He founded the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), which sought to educate Christians with conservative teachings on family, marriage, homeschooling, modesty, authority, etc. IBLP is also known for its strong emphasis on male authority and female submission. Many folks from my local church attended the seminar, including my family. I still remember the excitement in the air as the crowd gathered... Read more
Recently, the Gospel Coalition (TGC) published an article entitled, “21 Places Women Emerge Front and Center in Scripture’s Storyline.” While I often disagree with TGC, particularly their theology of women’s equality and leadership in the church and home, I really appreciated the piece. I read it in its entirety and found myself, apart from the opening few paragraphs, nodding along. Yeah, I wish the author recognized women’s countercultural leadership and ministry in the Old and New Testament, and its relevance for how we treat women in the church today. But still, I’m grateful to the author for this simple truth: women mattered in Scripture and they matter now. In such a time as this, it must be said, and said again. Amen, brother. Thank you for that... Read more
Many Christians, certainly most egalitarians, are familiar with Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (NIV). But as well-known as this passage is, it’s still common to wonder what mutual submission actually looks like in practice. Here’s my take on it: Isaac and Me A friend of mine, Isaac, and I recently went out for a meal together. Neither of us had an agenda. We ate our burgers and chatted for a while. Then we each paid for our own food and left. Isaac is the worship minister where I attend church and play in the band. At Wednesday evening rehearsals and on Sunday mornings, he’s my leader. His authority over me, of course, isn’t absolute. It also isn’t eternal. As a good leader, he has my best interests in min... Read more