Saturday, May 26, 2007

"POMO"-Sexuality in the Church

In ecclesiastical news, the United Methodist Church has installed the Rev. Drew Phoenix as pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church in Charles Village, Maryland. Why is that a problem? Well, until recently the Rev. Phoenix was known as the Rev. Ann Gordon. You see, while Methodists allegedly draw the line with non-celibate gay clergy, they have no rules dealing with transgendered ministers.

"This is about more than me," said Phoenix. "This is about people who come after me, about young people in particular who are struggling with their gender identity. I'm doing this for them."

Phoenix went on to say, "The gender I was assigned at birth has never matched my own true authentic God-given gender identity, how I know myself. Fortunately today God's gift of medical science is enabling me to bring my physical body in alignment with my true gender."

Well, first, it isn't science that determines gender. Historic Christianity links physicality and gender. God creates man and woman and assigns distinctive biological traits and gender roles (see Genesis 1 and 2). It is we who turn this inside-out with our misguided and sinful conceptions of the alleged fluid and subjective nature of sexual identity. Such gender confusion is called an "abomination" in Scripture (Deut. 22:5).

Is there any doubt that we are living in an era of sexual and gender confusion? In our post-modern mind, we ourselves determine what it means to be man and woman, to be human. The Author of creation is cast aside as the goddess science is enthroned and worshipped, even in the "church."

Of course, such a thorough-going rejection of Genesis 1 and 2 begins by tossing aside biblical prescriptions concerning church leadership. That Rev. Ann was shepherding St. John's before becoming the Rev. Drew was simply a necessary first step in undermining biblical authority.

The wholesale rejection of biblical manhood and womanhood within the culture has largely been accepted within the institutional church. Having swallowed the egalitarian presuppositions of the Enlightenment, Christians routinely deny that there are in fact God-ordained sexual roles.

Take as one example the leadership of Willow Creek Community Church, one of America’s largest and most influential evangelical bodies. In January, 1996, John Ortberg, then a teaching pastor at Willow Creek, authored a position paper distributed to staffers at the Illinois mega church. Mr. Ortberg wrote that on the issue of gender equality, the church "has sought to insure an appropriate level of consensus on this issue with new staff members" in order to avoid a divisive environment that "would be destructive to authentic community and effective ministry." Ortberg goes on to say that "when the Bible is interpreted comprehensively, it teaches the full equality of men and women in status, giftedness and opportunity for ministry."

Christians who aren't embarrassed by their Bibles might beg to differ, and can claim the authority of the Apostle Paul:

If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap. Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything. A deacon must be the husband of but one wife and must manage his children and his household well. Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus (I Tim. 3:1-13).

The elimination and obliteration of distinctions between the sexes is rooted in rebellion against God's order. Indeed, such egalitarianism denies the very principle of order and attempts to arrange creation on its own terms. Equality thus becomes a philosophical and religious faith that demands the fidelity of every individual and institution. And since "conservative" evangelicals have been loath to do battle with the egalitarian ethos in our homes and churches, why are we surprised at the confusion endemic in our culture?

Where are the pastors, teachers and evangelists who will have the courage to proclaim the full counsel of God and call this confusion what the Bible deems it--an "abomination"? Where are the teachers who will call the doctrines of equality and radical individualism what they are—heresy?

Aaron Wolf on Church Growth

In the June issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, Aaron Wolf offers up part two of his analysis of the church growth movement. His essay primarily focuses on Rick Warren, and the influence of management guru Peter Drucker on Warren's "methods" of church-growth and evangelism. Wolf concludes that the hubris inspiring Warren's approach to ministry is not something new or unique, but is a manifestation of the heresy of "Americanism," defined as the perspective that "we are the terminal generation, that we are special on the stage of world history, that everything must conform to our vision of ourselves."

Anyone having even a passing familiarity with "conservative evangelical Protestantism" is familiar with the malady described by Wolf.

More: “How in the world did Saint Patrick evangelize all those Druid priests and clan chieftains without a mission statement? After all, history and tradition tell us that he walked around preaching and performed an occasional miracle. But how did he know what his mission was? And then, there are purpose and strategy and vision—all three which cannot be left to chance, if today’s business and Church-growth experts are right….

What, exactly, drew the Irish to Patrick? Was it the thrilling promise of a miracle? Did Patrick pass out vellums advertising a Three Night Life-Changing Crusade? “Watch Snakes Vanish, Before Your Very Eyes!” Did he carefully compose relevant, contemporary music (so as not to frighten away the hipster Celts) for singing “The Breastplate”? “Ooh, ooh, ooh, the splendour of fire!/Whoa, oh, oh, the flashing light’ning! [Repeat 6x’s.]” Did he speak to their felt needs, urging them to trade in all of their cares, anxieties, and their depression for a relationship with Christ?

And how did he ensure that those he persuaded to make Life-Changing Decisions to keep coming to church? Did he create special ministries for Celtic youth, for young Irish families, for the mothers of Preschoolers? “Today, after mass, Pastor Pat will be talking with the Nifty fifties about living with osteoporosis.” Or “Irish Youth in Service (IRIS) will be having its annual God-Hain bonfire this Saturday night. (Parents, please: No devil masks.)”

No, Patrick preached. He evangelized (“gospelled”) as he went, wherever he went. He did not have a mission statement: He had the Great Commission. He did not have marketing techniques: He had the Holy Ghost, the word of God, and his ordination. He did have slick music or a “relevant message”: He had the Body and Blood of Christ, the stern rebuke of God’s Law, and the promise of the forgiveness of sins”

Friday, May 25, 2007

This Week in Calvinism - May 25, 2007

  • The Expositor has some great quotes on Calvinism.

  • John Piper on the sufficiency of Christ's obedience in his life and death.

  • Steve Camp talks about Arminian IDLE: Initiated by man, Dependent on free will, Lip service enough, and Evidence not necessary.

  • As is typical of Arminians, this guy believes that while God chose all people, "all have not chosen Him." He says that God elects only those who He knows will believe in Him. And here I thought 1 John 4:19 already answered that theological "chicken or the egg" argument.

  • "Zen-Calvinism"?

  • Michael Bauman comments: "Not all atheists are nihilists; in fact, I suspect that many of them have become atheists to escape the nihilism inherent in the Calvinist approach to God."

  • Calvinist Ben House has some nice things to say about Arminian Jerry Falwell.

  • Triablogue presents a Calvinist case against a Lutheran's case for Catholicism.

  • Rhett Snell thinks that Calvinism is "one of the stupidest doctrines" he's ever come across.

  • Steve Camp again, this time on the Doctrines of Grace. (Maybe Rhett should take a peek at this.)
  • Friday, May 18, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - May 18, 2007

  • Sam Waldron is currently on Chapter 4 of his "blog book" MacArthur's Millennial Manifesto.

  • Over on MySpace, one Reformed evangelical is writing about A Kinder Gentler Calvinism.

  • The Shepherd's Scrapbook is already 19 posts into a series called Humble Calvinism, a study through John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.

  • What's this? "Calvinism is a sign of a sick mind"? Perhaps it is.

  • Does Reformed Theology reduce man to little more than a robot? Absolutely not.

  • "Unlimited atonement"? Now that's what I call Controversial Calvinism!

  • "Has Allah randomly selected some people to be righteous and others to be the sinners! No, never is this 'calvinism' a fact. In fact, Allah has bestowed human beings that unique quality which the other part of the creation (except jinns) lacks. This unique quality is 'FREE-WILL.'" So writes one Islamic Arminian.
  • Friday, May 11, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - May 11, 2007

  • Does Calvinism get you so depressed that you find it hard to get up in the morning? Well, try starting your day with new Arrr-mini-ohs! It's all part of a balanced theological breakfast.

  • Yesterday was the 121st birthday of Karl Barth. He was the main author of the Barmen Declaration in 1934, which was written in opposition to the Nazi-supported "German-Christian" movement.

  • "Islamic Calvinists"?

  • Trevin Wax reviews Richard Mouw's Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport.

  • Nathan White talks about the appeal of Calvinism and the deceitfulness of unbelief.

  • Yet another bizarre link between the modern political climate and Calvinism.
  • Friday, May 04, 2007

    This Week in Calvinism - May 4, 2007

    Sorry. Not much happening here in Calvinism this week, but here's what's happening elsewhere...

  • Joshua Hitchcock has some excellent tips on how to attack Calvinism effectively. A must-read for every Arminian, Falwellian, and Canerite.

  • Dr. David J. B. Trim, professor of history at Newbold College, England, writes of the violent struggle between Catholics and Calvinists in the 1500s.

  • Guy Davies, a Welsh Calvinist preacher living in "exile" in England, explains why he is a Baptist. (I plan on explaining why I am a Baptist sometime in the near future.)

  • Caleb Kolstad reflects on Baptists and Calvinism.

  • Dave Hunt continues to believe that man has the power to undermine God's divine plan.

  • Brent Thomas, Teaching Pastor and Elder at Grace Community Church in Glen Rose, Texas, responds to Garrison Keillor's faulty understanding of Calvinism.

  • Protect yourself and your loved ones from the harmful effects of online Calvinism with Net Finney with TULIP Control!

  • Calvin College purchases a rare copy of John Calvin's book Congrégation sur l’élection éternelle de Dieu. "The book was printed in Geneva in 1562 by Vincent Bres and only five libraries in Europe are known to own it and none in the United States."
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