Results tagged “Gender” from Reformation21 Blog

Complicating Manhood and Womanhood

|

For the majority of my Christian life, I was built up in the faith and nourished within conservative Pentecostal and Wesleyan-influenced churches. Within those circles, there were a number of topics that were constantly discussed, almost to the point of obsession (such as spiritual warfare, end time signs, dreams/visions, modesty, etc.). As I began to embrace Reformed theology and began to have more contact with the wider evangelical world, I noticed immediately that those aforementioned topics were hardly ever brought up.

Nowadays, the topic of discussion has invariably focused on biblical manhood and womanhood. When my wife goes on social media, she informs me of the proliferation of "mom blogs", which seem to spend almost all of their time focusing on the "pink passages". Along with these blogs are a large collection of books on "gospel-centered motherhood" or "serving God as a single woman". At times, it has given the impression that Christian women can only really openly discuss the safe topics of biblical womanhood, such as childrearing, submission, or serving God in the home.

From the male perspective, I've been introduced to a number of books on biblical manhood in which a Christian father is called to be a prophet, priest, and a king in his home. At various times, this has given me the impression that godliness for a Christian man is very different than godliness for a Christian woman. It has also given the impression that men need to fulfill these roles because women, in general, are delicate, frail, weak-minded, and are prone to deception. After hearing all of these discussions (which can be inconsistent or contradictory to each other), my wife and I asked ourselves the question: Is biblical womanhood and manhood meant to be this difficult? Are we making this a more complex topic than is biblically warranted?

The Marks of Godliness

First, it should be stated that many of the marks of godliness that are geared towards women are also geared towards men elsewhere in Scripture. For example, women are encouraged to adorn themselves with a gentle and humble spirit (cf. 1 Peter 3:3-6), but aren't these qualities simply the fruit of the Spirit for all believers (cf. Galatians 5:22-23)? Furthermore, Christian women are called to be reverent in behavior, sensible, and pure (cf. Titus 2:3-5). However, the same instruction is given to men within the same passage (cf. Titus 2:2,6-8). On the male side, men are encouraged to be sound in faith and in doctrine, yet Paul says throughout the epistles that believers (men and women) should encourage one another, admonish one another, and teach one another (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Colossians 3:16). In other words, the mark of biblical manhood and womanhood is simply this: godliness.

Biblical Roles and Culture

Second, I wonder how much of biblical manhood/womanhood is mixed with traditional American values. For example, many of the popular works on biblical womanhood place the identity of Christian women primarily (or solely) in the home. This is perhaps the strangest idea that has been attached to biblical womanhood because it is largely inconsistent with the history of women in the church and very culturally specific. It has also led to a number of speculative questions regarding biblical womanhood in the workplace (such as should a woman hold a position of civic authority). Within the New Testament church, there are numerous examples of women (such as Lydia, Dorcas, and Anna) who are described as doing significantly more than homemaking. I believe that Rachel Miller has said it best:

"But just as men are more than their careers, women are more than their familial     responsibilities. We are believers and fellow heirs. We may well be called to serve God in         additional ways. Taking care of our families can include discipling others as part of the family of God."

In this sense, I think there's an inconsistency on how women and men are treated in this area. Christian men are routinely warned of the danger of finding their identity in their careers, and are exhorted to treat their other callings in life (such as their role as husbands, fathers, and church members) as worthy of their attention. However, the overemphasis of the familial responsibilities for women has given the impression that women are defined primarily based on what on what they do. In other words, Christian men are admonished not to be workaholics in their careers (outside the home), but Christian women are generally encouraged to devote their energy and talents solely in the home. This raises some honest questions: Are women useful outside the home? Are women useful after the season of childrearing is over? Are women actually needed in the functioning and edification of the church (beyond nursery and potluck meals)?

Moreover, historical research has shown that women largely worked outside the home throughout Western history. The reality is that many Christian women work outside of the home not because of the appeal of feminism, but because it is necessary. For the male side, the duties associated with biblical manhood seem to have many similarities with stereotypical American chauvinism where men are characterized as quiet, aloof, and dominant. This may explain why there are few sermons at conferences geared for Christian men on developing gentleness and meekness or addressing gossip among men.

The Need for Older Saints

From my background, the question of biblical manhood and womanhood was rarely discussed because we were raised with "church mothers" and "church fathers". These older saints knew their role within the church, and they functioned as the gatekeepers of the local church (under the authority of the pastor). They were the individuals who modeled the standard for godliness. Whereas the pastor's role was primarily teaching and preaching, it was the "church fathers" who gave young men like me clear guidance regarding godly maturity. These men taught me how to be temperate, dignified, and sensible. My wife, like many young Christian women, learned how to be godly through the example of "church mothers". These older women modeled Christian conduct by exuding self-control (particular with their speech) and through their encouragement and exhortations. They also taught young women how to be teachable, how to be useful within the local church, how to be humble without being passive, and how to be confident without being prideful. For us, biblical womanhood and manhood wasn't a topic of endless speculation, but it was a modeling of Christian character as demonstrated by older godly saints. It has been my impression that older men and women within broader evangelical churches do not necessarily view themselves in the same light.

Let's not complicate a matter that is taught in a straightforward manner in Scripture. It is sinful to blur the distinctions that God has made between men and women as if gender/sex is fluid. However, it is also sinful to bind the consciences of men and women based upon extrabiblical hedges and cultural preferences. The pursuit of biblical manhood and womanhood is a pursuit for godliness.

Since the Garden of Eden and our first parents' "bite of the apple," gender confusion in its various forms has constituted one of the most significant assaults ever leveled upon individuals, the family, and culture. The terrible fallout from such confusion has wreaked havoc on countless lives around the world ever since.

Oconee ARP Church (121 Rochester Hwy, Seneca, SC 29672) is hosting a conference which intends to lay a biblical foundation for understanding many of these gender-related issues. They have invited Rosaria Butterfield, Richard Phillips, and Derek Thomas to examine various aspects of gender confusion alive and well (and increasing) in today's world. They will then also seek to formulate a God-honoring way forward, asking how the church should respond with clarity and grace in the midst of such confusion.

Join them on Friday, Feb 14 through Sunday, Feb 16, 2014. You can register online through the Alliance at http://www.alliancenet.org/CC_Content_Page/0,,PTID307086_CHID810294,00-sen.html

The PC(USA) Inches Closer to Ordination of Homosexuals

|

From the Charlotte Observer:

In a close vote that reflected deep division, Presbyterian church leaders representing the Charlotte area signaled their support Saturday for ending their denomination's longstanding ban on gays and lesbians becoming pastors and elders.

In past years, the Charlotte Presbytery - the fourth largest in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) - had backed the prohibition. But after a spirited, civil debate in the chapel at Johnson C. Smith University, the presbytery voted 133-124, with one abstention, to reverse itself.

That means that the seven-county Charlotte Presbytery is now on record as backing a proposed amendment to the denomination's constitution that would open the door to - though not automatically guarantee - ordination of homosexuals.

In a bit of irony, the paper quotes a female Assistant Pastor in opposition to the move:

"It was the right thing for the presbytery to do," said the Rev. Tom Tate of Charlotte's Plaza Presbyterian, one of four pastors - two on each side - who addressed the gathering. "While I am glad for those affected, I am sad that the close vote says the church may be so divided."

The proposed amendment weakens "The Fidelity and Chastity" section (G-6.0106b) governing the moral conduct of church officers.  The task force's recommendation, report and rationale are available here.

The revised section deletes the following language:

Those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman (W-4.9001), or chastity in singleness. Persons refusing to repent of any self acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin shall not be ordained and/or installed as deacons elders, or ministers of the Word and Sacrament.

While retaining the language below:

Those who are called to ordained service in the church, by their assent to the constitutional questions for ordination and installation (W-4.4003), pledge themselves to live lives obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church, striving to follow where he leads through the witness of the Scriptures, and to understand the  Scriptures through the instruction of the Confessions. In so doing, they declare their fidelity to the standards of the Church. Each governing body charged with examination for ordination and/or installation (G-14.0240 and G-14.0450) establishes the candidate's sincere efforts to adhere to these standards.

It's not at all clear to me how an ordained minister can pledge to live a life obedient to Jesus Christ the Head of the Church while simultaneously refusing to acknowledge or repent of extramarital, pre-marital, or homosexual sin. 

But then again, the task force arrived at this recommendation by allowing each individual uninterrupted and unlimited time to state their opinion and desired outcomes.  What emerged, in their opinion, was "a Spirit filled revelation of persons, including a broadly diverse viewpoints and positions, that was received by the group with respect and awe. The very simply process of self declaration without interruption was profound, validated persons and led to an ethos of mutual respect even though those declarations were very different."

A "revelation of persons" that "validated persons" is bound to lead to plain contradictions of the word of God and rebellion against the Head of the Church.

Results tagged “Gender” from Through the Westminster Confession

Chapter 4.2

|
ii. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.  Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

The Westminster Confession's second paragraph on Creation fittingly centers on mankind. An important emphasis is on the distinctiveness of mankind versus the other creatures. One of the great problems with the evolutionary dogma so dominant in our culture today is that it strips mankind of the special dignity that comes with being made in God's image. It is interesting that the Confession itself does not deal directly with the details of Genesis 2:7, "the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."  The Larger Catechism is very clear, however, that "God formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man" (WLC 17), which clearly rules out any theory of evolutionary processes involved in the creation of Adam and Eve.

Whereas the secular humanist would have mankind look downward to the beasts for his identity, the Bible would have man look upwards to God. Psalm 8:5-8, for instance, places Adam in a mediating position between the angels and the lower created order: "you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea." Notice that while Adam is placed between the heavenly beings and the earthly beasts, his identity is found above rather than below. He was made "a little lower than the heavenly beings" rather than a little above the beasts. Moreover, Adam was invested with authority on God's behalf to rule the creatures of the earth. This doctrine makes a world of difference in how we think about ourselves. We are special among all the other beings of the earth, "crowned with glory and honor," and have special obligations to God as his vicegerents in the world.

The Bible's teaching on creation further assails the secularist mindset in the clear ordering of the beings that God made. Neo-pagan culture is determined to eradicate all biblical distinctions: the distinction between God and man, male and female, humankind and the beasts, good and evil, etc.  But the Bible's teaching establishes a clear order. What a mistake it is, therefore, when Christians think it helps our witness by downplaying the Bible's distinctions, especially when it comes to gender. Instead, we bear testimony to God the Creator by wholesomely emphasizing the gender pattern which is essential to God's good design in Creation. Christians should therefore not accommodate the cultural demand that men and women be treated as if they are the same. At the same time, the Bible does clearly show the fundamental unity and shared dignity of men and women within humanity. Similarly, the Confession emphasizes that man was made with a God-given awareness of moral truth. There is good and evil and mankind was made to know them, "having the law of God written in their hearts."

The Confession presents a strong doctrine of mankind as bearing the image of God. By stating that men and women were created "with reasonable and immortal souls," the divines point out that mankind was made to understand and know God.  We were created to worship and were obliged by our creation to obey and glorify God.