It is ironic and possibly prophetic that the Nashville Statement (NS) was published the very same day that I released a short film on LGBT people in the church titled Dear Church: I’m Gay. I think these two “statements” represent two brands of evangelical approaches to questions about faith, sexuality & gender. These two brands overlap quite a bit; they both agree that marriage is between a man and a woman and that all sexual relations outside this type of marriage covenant are sin. That’s a big overlap. However, there are many differences in tone, rhetoric, and how to go about this whole conversation. In some ways, the Nashville Statement brought these differences to light.
I know I’ve been blogging a lot about sex recently. I hope you don’t mind. But if you’re reading this, and therefore human, my guess is that you probably don’t mind at all. Sex and sexuality are rarely met with disinterest. Unfortunately, my recent geeking out over sex is more of a scholarly venture. You can Google elsewhere if you want the steamy stuff. (Actually...please don’t.)
As a father of five, I rejoiced every time one of my kids became potty trained. Whenever I would hear that marvelous sound of a toilet flushing, I would exult: “Praise God through whom all blessings flow!” There were, however, some post-potty obstacles. For example, one of my sons refused to wipe himself, and instead he would merely stand up and trumpet, “I need somebody to wipe me,” until someone came to clean his bottom. On the other hand, one child wiped way too much, so that I had to bolt to the bathroom to plunge the commode after every attempted flush. Then again, another kid could never remember to flush, and my youngest son is still terrified that the potty is going to flush automatically (He had a bad experience!).
In my last post, I reviewed part of Stan Grenz’s book on sexual ethics, focusing on the purpose and meaning of marriage and sex. I want to spend this blog looking at what I found to be one of his more fascinating sections—the sexuality of singleness.
As you may have gathered from my previous few blogs, I’m combing through various books on sexual ethics and related topics. The list of potential books is endless, and I’ve already read a decent number over the years, but I’m committed to reading through as many significant books on sexuality and gender over the next few years.
I am not content. I’m not even content with that sentence. I should’ve written: “I am discontent.” But that’s not really perfect either, since I’m not always discontent. Perhaps I needed to write: “I am almost never content.” Although why would I use two words, “almost never” when one simple adverb – such as “seldom” – would have sufficed? Let’s start over, then.
Of course, every friendship will not contain the same depth of relational intimacy or commitment. Casual friends are inevitable and can be good, joy-filled relationships. However, my concern is that we use the term “friend” so willy-nilly these days that we have become unable to imagine something richer. There is a level of deep, biblical friendship that I fear has become totally lost in our modern, transient, superficially intimate context.
Kuehne (pronounced “Keen”) examines three different types of societies, which he labels the tWorld (t = traditional), iWorld (i = individual), and rWorld (r = relational). Specifically, he looks at how these three different worlds understand sexuality, along with related topics like anthropology, identity, relationships, and morality as a whole.
I’m not sure how it happened, but the modern picture of slightly inebriated jolly old St. Nick, with rosy red checks, ear to ear smile, and a belly like a bowl full of jelly and beer, couldn’t be further from the truth of who St. Nick really was.
The day after Thanksgiving , my wife pulled out our Christmas decorations as usual. In response, I trumpeted to my children: “Come on, it’s time to deck our halls with boughs of jolly.” Disgusted, one of my kids asked why we would adorn our halls with bowels. “Is that like a Passover thing?!”
I’ll wrap of my review of Jonathan Grant’s Divine Sex by looking at how he articulates a Christian vision for sexuality. As with any review, there’s always a danger of truncating the author’s argument due to the nature of picking out which parts to emphasize. I hope I’ve represented Jonathan’s argument well, and I know there’s many things I had to leave out. That’s why I want to give you one last encouragement to buy and read Jonathan’s book.
In my last post, I began a multi-blog review of Jonathan Grant’s book, Divine Sex: A Compelling Vision for Christian Relationships in a Hypersexualized Age. Grant’s book is “an attempt to describe the significant ways in which our cultural lens is shaping our identity and relationships and how we can refocus the church’s vision through the lens of the gospel” (p. 24). Christian formation must include cultural counterformation—undoing the cultural script that’s kidnapped our desires—since we’re all shaped by our cultural on some level.
I want to write a few blogs (not sure how many yet) summarizing, explaining, and interacting with Divine Sex (killer title, by the way). Part of my motivation is that writing a multi-blog review will force me to go back through his book to synthesize and summarize his main points. If you’re anything like me, it’s super easy to blow through a great book, only to forget what you read 2 weeks later. This is why it’s always good to interact with a book through writing and dialogue to help solidify the content in your own heart and head.
Christians too often ignore questions related to national allegiance, or they get mad when people raise them. Try blowing up your next Bible study by asking the question: Should Christians stand for the national anthem or recite the Pledge of Allegiance? You might just start a brawl.
When Jesus was born, Caesar Augustus had recently ushered in a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity that would make the Reagan years look like the Great Depression. Roads were built, robbers were kept at bay, the military was invincible, luxury was all around, and distant nations that would otherwise pose a threat kept to themselves. This was the Pax Romana—the “peace of Rome”—and Jesus was born smack dab in the middle of it.
Christians everywhere have debated whether violence is ever justified. Some make the case that it’s never okay to use violence, while others say violence is necessary as a last resort to stop evil. For the most part, both sides agree that the general rhythm of Christianity should be one of nonviolence. We love our neighbors and enemies alike, and we give our left cheeks to the one who strikes us on our right cheek. That’s the general posture of the Christian faith, and most Bible believing Christians agree with this.
Throughout Christian history, alcohol was rarely a taboo as it is in some circles today. John Calvin had a stipend of 250 gallons of wine per year written into his church contract. Martin Luther’s wife was a famed brewer of beer, which certainly won Martin’s heart. And the Guinness family created their renowned Irish Stout as an act of worship to Jesus. From Bordeaux to Berlin, wine and beer have always been part of church tradition. But what was once considered the nectar of heaven was later condemned as the devil’s libation.
This is a bit of surreal announcement. I’ve been involved in education as a student or teacher since I entered Kindergarten at the age of 6. I’m now 40. And as of last month, I’m no longer a formal educator.
When I was in seminary, my professors taught me how to defend the faith. I learned how to navigate questions about the apparent contradictions in the Bible and how to respond to scientific and historical problems related to the Christian faith. I became skilled at proving Jesus’s resurrection and the superiority of the Christian worldview over other religious views. I studied the history of the Bible and could prove that it was true. I became an apologist—a defender of the Christian faith.
God loves sex. The first two commands recorded in the Bible are “have dominion over creation,” and then “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:26-28). In other words, rule the world and have lots of sex. Not a bad day at the office.
Every church has outliers—people who don’t quite fit the mold. I’m not talking about unbelievers who try out church for a while but then leave because they don’t actually love Jesus. I’m talking about zealous Christians, passionate believers, people who would much rather feed the poor than listen to yet another sermon.
He was an unmarried peasant who was executed by the state for treason. Many of his friends were criminals, sinners, thugs, and misfits. Few of them were religious. He got kicked out his home church (or synagogue) after saying things that offended the status quo. He spent most of his time with drunks, gluttons, fornicators, and thieves. He was so close to “sinners” that the religious leaders thought he was one. And nearly everything he said and did made religious people mad. Like when he told them to turn the other cheek, love their enemies, and give their money to the poor.
Celebrations ignited across the Roman world at the news of Emperor Vespasian’s recent bloodbath in Jerusalem. The Jewish revolt had been crushed by Rome, and pride wafted through the Mediterranean air, especially in patriotic towns like Corinth, where Erastus was the city treasurer.
Loving people is hard. Loving unlovable people is particularly difficult. But loving your enemy? The command seems insane! But this is the love of Christ: “While we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10). And this is why God calls us to love our enemies. He doesn’t call us to do something that he hasn’t already done.
But religious people have been covering up obscene language in the Bible for years. Jewish scribes in the middle ages, who copied the Hebrew Old Testament used as the base for all English translations, edited out some vulgar words and replaced them with nicer ones. For instance, God originally prophesied through Zechariah that women in Israel would be raped by wicked, invading armies. The word God inspired is shagel, and according to Hebrew linguists, shagel is an obscene word that describes a sexual act.
Americans have many earthly freedoms. Freedom to vote, freedom not to vote. We are free to marry, have children, own property, travel across the country and into most countries in the world. We can bear arms or not bear arms; we can even hunt bears if they’re in season. America is, as the saying goes, the land of the free.
God’s scandalous grace invaded Portage, Wisconsin, with unwelcomed splendor in April of 1994. It targeted a criminal serving multiple life-sentences in the Columbia Correctional Institution. It’s not uncommon for thieves and murderers in prison to receive God’s grace, but this day was different. The person who attracted God’s love was a man who killed 17 young men.
Christian subcultures are an entertaining phenomenon. Multiple brands of Christianity claim the same Lord and read the same Bible, and yet they promote a set of values sometimes as different as apples and orangutans.