Short Answers to Tough Questions | CBE International

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Short Answers to Tough Questions

When I critique oppressive systems and ideologies, I generally ask two simple questions: Does the system or ideology give one group unearned power over other groups, and especially over others who already have less social power? If the answer is “yes,” then I ask a question I already know the answer to: Is the system safe for the less powerful? Naturally, social hierarchies are safe for those at the top. They’re designed to preserve the existing social structure, which already prioritizes the needs and perspectives of the group with power. Social hierarchies don’t make less powerful people and groups safer. Rather, they exacerbate any vulnerabilities and pose danger and harm to marginalized people. If a system relies on the powerful group behaving rightly and n... Read more
This is an entry in the recent conversation on authority, women, and online writing. We appreciate all who have contributed to this discussion so far, including the controversial article that sparked the debate: Who’s In Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?”, a Christianity Today opinion piece by Tish Harrison Warren in CT’s new Amplify Women series. We’d love your thoughts and also invite those who agreed with the original article to offer theirs. Every time I fly into Santiago, Chile, I jump at the chance to meander through the public plazas. There, I encounter something that has nearly disappeared in my own Western context: street preachers—mostly men—perched on boxes, waving black bibles, and sermonizing with megaphones. These evangelists find their... Read more
I cannot express how much I appreciated Tina Osterhouse’s recent essay, “Why Christians Can Do Better Than The ‘Billy Graham Rule.’” I have been confronted with this rule growing up in a Christian church, participating in various venues at a Christian college, serving as a youth pastor, etc. And every time, it's baffled me. “What am I, an animal?” Of course, there was no room to ask that simple question, for to even doubt such rank legalism was immediate evidence that I was ripe for the fall, pretending to be “wiser than Solomon and stronger than David.” It was only a matter of months before I’d be “purpling” with some temptress who was also apparently as mindless and indecent as myself.   The rule had the... Read more
A tidal wave of confusion is rocking the world of young evangelical men. Evidently, increasing numbers of men are questioning if gender-based roles are as clear as some proclaim. Recent studies suggest that an onset of doubting occurs in males between the ages of twelve and eighteen. Social scientists suggest a possible link to the age of accountability observed by varying evangelical churches. “What this could mean,” one researcher explains, “is that a boy who reaches the age of ‘manhood,’ as determined by his community, is prone to confusions about what it means to exercise male leadership.” Ralph, twelve, sheds light on questions he faced after reaching the age of accountability. “After a baptism ceremony, the church threw me and... Read more
Recently, a friend asked me an unexpected question. “Do you identify first as a Christian or as a feminist?” I was surprised by but not unprepared for her question. I’d considered it before, and the answer is complicated. Stick with me here. Many Christians believe that Christianity and feminism are incompatible. But this assumption is drawn from biased definitions of both feminism and Christianity. Some Christians have an extremely negative perception of feminism. Feminism conjures up images of angry, man-hating, bra-burning women fighting for unnecessary ends. After all, they argue, what more do women need when they can work outside the home and vote? They believe that women are already equal, but need to accept their different roles. With this skewed definition of f... Read more
In Part 1 of this series, I promised to further explore two questions related to a core resource on male-headship theology, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (RBWM): Does male-headship theology have overtones of male superiority?   Does male-headship theology dehumanize women in anyway? (As covered in Part 1, dehumanization requires oppressors to rob the oppressed of their human qualities, personality, and/or spirit).   There is an ongoing debate in the church around the role and nature of women. Two groups aim to answer this question, each very differently: complementarians and egalitarians. Complementarians believe that men and women are equal in value but called to different roles in the home and church, namely that men are called to leadership and women ar... Read more
In Part 1 of my response to Kevin DeYoung's article, "Our Pro-Woman, Complementarian Jesus" I note DeYoung's failure to provide biblical evidence in support of his claim that Jesus intended "only men" to be in "positions of leadership." I argued that Jesus never stated that his choice of twelve apostles was meant to exclude women, nor does the Bible ever clearly teach this. Part 1 establishes that, to the contrary, Jesus did appoint women as his authoritative messengers, and both the Old and New Testaments affirm many women in authority and leadership. DeYoung makes two other assertions. First, he states, "The Jewishness of the apostles is linked to a particular moment in salvation history, while their maleness is not. After... Read more
As its title implies, Kevin DeYoung’s article, “Our Pro-Woman, Complementarian Jesus,” makes two main assertions. First, Jesus was pro-woman. In support, Kevin DeYoung cites thirty passages from the Gospels. Virtually all scholars agree that Jesus was pro-woman. Second, Jesus was complementarian. DeYoung does not reference a single passage in support of this from the Gospels except, “Jesus never rejected biblical teaching from the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17).” This verse, however, does not even mention women or anything about being “complementarian,” nor does its immediate context, Matthew 5:1-26. DeYoung acknowledges that the foundation of his argument is his understanding that God’s original design was for gender-based role distinction in... Read more
This is Part 2 in a series on Evangelical Feminism. See Part 1.  For a long time, I distanced myself from feminism. Mostly, I didn't want to be labeled by it, or any other human-made category. Growing up in the latter part of the 20th century, I heard more than a few jokes about "women's libbers" and "femi-nazis." It shocked me when some heckled feminism for "bra-burning." It wasn't difficult to steer clear of a movement that was the butt of so many jokes. Back then, I didn't know any feminists, and I didn't think it was possible to be a Christian and a feminist. It didn't occur to me until years later to think critically about the jokes, or to question why so many—including evangelicals—write of... Read more
The church is an imperfect institution—filled with imperfect people, imperfect traditions, and imperfect theology. We live in the kingdom of earth, and not the kingdom of heaven. So, we have to deal with all the messy, torn, smudged realities of a body of Christ that will always fall short. The church may not answer every question correctly—because sometimes, it simply doesn't know the answers. At times, our theology may falter and fail to explain, comfort, and liberate in an imperfect world. There are many people who have felt alienated by the church. Some have been patronized by promises of tangible success, security, and rewards in exchange for unwavering belief and prayer. Others have screamed so loud and long at injustice that their spiritual voices are sore and thr... Read more

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