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Archive for March, 2011

By the 1970’s passage of the Equal Rights Amendment to the federal Constitution was a forgone conclusion. Both parties had for years supported its ratification in the planks of their quadrennial platforms. The amendment was introduced first to the Congress in 1923, and by 1972 it had won approval in 28 of the 38 states needed for ratification. Within a few short years, five additional states had approved this brief amendment. It sounded innocuous, even common sense.

  • Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
  • Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
  • Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Who could be against something so simple and fair?

Well, in 1972 a leader, Phyllis Schlafly, rose in opposition. Fighting what seemed to be a laughably doomed campaign, she began explaining the implications of the amendment. No doubt initially regarded as a quixotic oddity, then as a serious challenge. Slowly the tide began to turn, and her voice slowly gained traction. As 5 additional states approved ratification, 5 states voted to rescind their approvals.

Oh, Mrs. Schlafly was hated. Critics lined up to call her hypocritical and anti-intellectual. In a 1973 debate Betty Friedan famously expressed her desire to see Mrs. Schlafly burn at the stake. She endured abuse ranging from a pie to the face to bomb threats.

But she just soldiered on. Cheerfully, clearly, simply speaking truth into the national conversation.

Eventually in 1982 the Equal Rights Amendment died of natural causes, despite the extraordinary chicanery of the US Congress in extending the ratification deadline by 5 years. Its demise was attributable in large measure to one courageous leader.

We find ourselves in similar circumstances today. Same sex ‘marriage’ seems to be heading for inevitable acceptance, even approbation of American society. Courts are ruling that direction, and numerous states are approving it for their own citizens.

What will be the outcome? Will America become the Holland of the western hemisphere? Or will someone stand in the gap, taking the slings and arrows of those opposed in order to speak truth into the public conversation?

Truth wins. It takes time, but you cannot build anything long-lasting with sin of any kind, least of all lies. So truth will win out, but how many lives will be devastated in the meantime? How many souls will be twisted and wrecked by the deceitful words of sin’s champions?

History shows us that many will oppose injustice and unrighteousness, but battles coalesce, seemingly on their own, behind one man or woman. We need that champion who is willing to withstand the focused vitriol of sinners and confidently wave the standard of righteousness.

We need a Phyllis Schlafly for our generation.

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O Love That Will Not Let Me Go: Facing Death with Courageous Confidence in God. Edited by Nancy Guthrie

What will happen to you when you die? Are you prepared to die? If you were to die tonight…? By and large modern Christians do not want to think about death, except as an evangelistic ‘tool’. We claim that eternal life with God is the greatest blessing, yet act as though death were life’s worst tragedy. But, Guthrie says, “[d]eath, for the believer, is no tragedy. And for the believer to die well–to live and die aiming to glorify God, confident that God will make good on all of his promises–this is a thing of great beauty.”

Several years ago I was struck by a Christian man who seemed to live in abject fear of sickness and death, so I developed several Bible studies about this important topic. When I saw that Nancy Guthrie edited O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, I knew that I wanted to read this book. Her desire is that “the truths in this book equip and embolden us to live and die well to the glory of God.”

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go is a compilation of 22 sermons and essays that shine biblical wisdom into sickness and death. Pastors, theologians, and thoughtful laymen from Reformers to Puritans to the present day unveil a wealth of Scriptural truth that leaves us “rubbing hope into the reality of death.”

At the graveside, neither optimism nor pessimism; sentimentalism nor stoicism, tell us what is happening here. Only Jesus’ cross and resurrection define the event for us. Michael Horton, “Death’s Sting is Removed, but It’s Bite Remains”

He calls us to die, but that call is a call to obedience to the final transition of life. Because of Christ, death is not final. It is a passage from one world to the next. R.C. Sproul, “My Father Taught Me How To Die”

Contrary to popular belief, God does not place us on the sidelines of life when we walk through hardship. Rather, he takes us to the center of the playing field, so that the world can watch and observe his faithfulness in our lives. John Eaves, “A Witness in the Way We Die”

These smaller, less noisy pleasures are rich because, unlike the fun on my feet, these things yield patience, endurance, and a spirit of gratitude, all of which fits me further for eternity. Joni Eareckson Tada

Mrs. Guthrie makes the important point that Christians must prepare ahead of time for this final battle. Rather than running from the thought of death, we must fully embrace the Gospel truths that redeem this fact of fallen humanity and turns it from ashes to beauty. O Love That Will Not Let Me Go provides Christians with rich resources to equip us in this good work.

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My father “is a good man. Most of you out there are good men who have been derided by a culture that does not care for you, that, in terms of the family, has ridiculed your authority, denied your importance, and tried to fill you with confusion about your role. But I can tell you that fathers change lives, as my father changed mine. You are natural leaders, and your family looks to your for qualities that only fathers have. You were made a man for a reason, and your daughter is looking to you for guidance that she cannot get from her mother.

“I want you to see yourself through her eyes. And I don’t want this just for her sake, but for yours, because if you could see yourself as she sees you, even for ten minutes, your life would never the the same.”
Dr. Meg Meeker
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. p.4.

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This from The WSJ. And, as Justin Taylor commented, where are the dads?

In the pale-turquoise ladies’ room, they congregate in front of the mirror, re-applying mascara and lip gloss, brushing their hair, straightening panty hose and gossiping: This one is “skanky,” that one is “really cute,” and so forth. Dressed in minidresses, perilously high heels, and glittery, dangling earrings, their eyes heavily shadowed in black-pearl and jade, they look like a flock of tropical birds. A few minutes later, they return to the dance floor, where they shake everything they’ve got under the party lights.

But for the most part, there isn’t all that much to shake. This particular group of party-goers consists of 12- and 13-year-old girls. Along with their male counterparts, they are celebrating the bat mitzvah of a classmate in a cushy East Coast suburb.

Today’s teen and preteen girls are bombarded with images and products that tout the benefits of sexual attraction. But must we as parents, give in to their desire to “dress like everyone else?” asks author Jennifer Moses. She talks with WSJ’s Kelsey Hubbard.

In a few years, their attention will turn to the annual ritual of shopping for a prom dress, and by then their fashion tastes will have advanced still more. Having done this now for two years with my own daughter, I continue to be amazed by the plunging necklines, built-in push-up bras, spangles, feathers, slits and peek-a-boos. And try finding a pair of sufficiently “prommish” shoes designed with less than a 2-inch heel.

All of which brings me to a question: Why do so many of us not only permit our teenage daughters to dress like this—like prostitutes, if we’re being honest with ourselves—but pay for them to do it with our AmEx cards?

I posed this question to a friend whose teenage daughter goes to an all-girls private school in New York. “It isn’t that different from when we were kids,” she said. “The girls in the sexy clothes are the fast girls. They’ll have Facebook pictures of themselves opening a bottle of Champagne, like Paris Hilton. And sometimes the moms and dads are out there contributing to it, shopping with them, throwing them parties at clubs. It’s almost like they’re saying, ‘Look how hot my daughter is.'” But why? “I think it’s a bonding thing,” she said. “It starts with the mommy-daughter manicure and goes on from there.”

I have a different theory. It has to do with how conflicted my own generation of women is about our own past, when many of us behaved in ways that we now regret. A woman I know, with two mature daughters, said, “If I could do it again, I wouldn’t even have slept with my own husband before marriage. Sex is the most powerful thing there is, and our generation, what did we know?”

We are the first moms in history to have grown up with widely available birth control, the first who didn’t have to worry about getting knocked up. We were also the first not only to be free of old-fashioned fears about our reputations but actually pressured by our peers and the wider culture to find our true womanhood in the bedroom. Not all of us are former good-time girls now drowning in regret—I know women of my generation who waited until marriage—but that’s certainly the norm among my peers.

So here we are, the feminist and postfeminist and postpill generation. We somehow survived our own teen and college years (except for those who didn’t), and now, with the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don’t know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily. We’re embarrassed, and we don’t want to be, God forbid, hypocrites.

Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong. I don’t know one of them who doesn’t have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past. And not one woman I’ve ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she’d “experimented” more.

As for the girls themselves, if you ask them why they dress the way they do, they’ll say (roughly) the same things I said to my mother: “What’s the big deal?” “But it’s the style.” “Could you be any more out of it?” What teenage girl doesn’t want to be attractive, sought-after and popular?

And what mom doesn’t want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.

In recent years, of course, promiscuity has hit new heights (it always does!), with “sexting” among preteens, “hooking up” among teens and college students, and a constant stream of semi-pornography from just about every media outlet. Varied sexual experiences—the more the better—are the current social norm.

I wouldn’t want us to return to the age of the corset or even of the double standard, because a double standard that lets the promiscuous male off the hook while condemning his female counterpart is both stupid and destructive. If you’re the campus mattress, chances are that you need therapy more than you need condemnation.

But it’s easy for parents to slip into denial. We wouldn’t dream of dropping our daughters off at college and saying: “Study hard and floss every night, honey—and for heaven’s sake, get laid!” But that’s essentially what we’re saying by allowing them to dress the way they do while they’re still living under our own roofs.

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Will Bankston wrote the following article for The Gospel Coalition:

 

We all find ourselves in teaching situations, from the more structured platforms of the podium or pulpit to the more casual contexts of Bible study or even conversation. So how do we model Christ in our teaching? Is there a Christian way to teach?

Whenever Christian is used as an adjective, misconceptions arise. For instance, Tom Scovel, in his article “What is a Christian Language Teacher?” tells of a cobbler in John Calvin’s congregation who, when identified as a Christian, was sarcastically asked if he made Christian shoes. The cobbler replied that no, he didn’t make Christian shoes, but rather, made shoes well.

Similarly, in order to be a good teacher, you don’t have to be a Christian. But you must model Christian principles. For Christianity is not just a religion, or some compartmentalized facet of existence. Rather, it testifies to reality itself, the true nature of all that exists. So when we teach according to Christ’s example, we teach more effectively. As such, we shouldn’t be surprised when sincere secular sources echo biblical assertions. For instance, in the book What the Best College Teachers Do, Ken Bain concludes after much observation, research, and analysis that humility is crucial to good teaching. He found that unsuccessful teachers trade this trait for arrogance and pride. They desire to be “the star of the show,” working to impress students with their expertise and knowledge, all the while instilling in students a sense of insecurity at their own informational deficit. Ultimately this constructs a hierarchy of subservience with the teacher on the top and the students on the bottom, a comprehensive contrast to the model of Christ but quite in line with that of Pharisees.

This approach suffers one of the greatest miseries of pride, crippling the faculty for joy. For such pride desires nothing in and of itself, but only the admiration that possessing some coveted thing will bring. Teachers of this sort forfeit the love of learning for the love of being learned. They cannot impart love of the subject matter to the students entrusted to their care, for they themselves have lost it.

On the other hand, here is Bain’s composite picture of successful professor:

With that trust and openness came an unabashed and frequently expressed sense of awe and curiosity about life, and that too affected the relationships that emerged. It appeared most frequently and prominently in people who had a sense of humility about themselves and their own learning. They might realize what they knew and even that their own knowledge was far greater than that of their students, but they also understood how much they didn’t know and that in the great scheme of things their own accomplishments placed them relatively close to their students.

A professor who teaches well approaches students with humility and vulnerability, realizing that man-made merits pale in comparison to the great reality. Bain’s description resonates well with the method of seminary professor Howard Hendricks, who states that, “I, as a teacher, am primarily a learner, a student among students.” A good teacher must always be learning, a process best facilitated by a natural wonder and reverence for the world around us. Christian teachers, in particular, are called to cultivate an awe of creation, as all the universe was made through Christ and, even now, he sustains each aspect of its very existence (Col. 1:16-17). In contrast to prideful professors, Christ delights in the knowledge of his creation, and he willingly forfeited his superlative status to walk among us in it. Philippians 2:5-7 exhorts us to follow his example:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

In his book Teaching to Change Lives, Hendricks recalls an encounter with one of his own professors who models well the humble service of Christ. The professor’s habit of studying both early in the morning and late into the night piqued Hendricks’s curiosity. When he asked his professor about this practice, the professor replied, “Son, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.” In the same way that Scovel’s account conjures up images of the faithful cobbler searching out the best materials for his shoemaking, this story brings to mind scenes of the committed professor searching through libraries for the finest information to present to his students.

Therefore, out of reverence for Christ, let us also teach in a Christian way. That is to say, let us teach in a way that corresponds with the true nature of the universe made and sustained by Jesus Christ. Reality mandates that pride destroys and humility strengthens. Anyone who recognizes this law can certainly be a good teacher, but Christians should be be the very best teachers. For only Christ can grant us the true humility necessary to count our students more significant than ourselves, preoccupying us with his glory rather than our own.

 

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A while back I read Eric Metaxas’s biography of Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and was both fascinated and confused. Metaxas writes extremely well, and his description of the daily events in Germany, particularly the German church, of the 1930’s and 40’s sheds light on things overshadowed by world events.

However, his silence and even whitewashing of Bonhoeffer’s neo-orthodox theology left me quite puzzled. In the months since the publication of Bonhoeffer, numerous scholars also have weighed in on this, as Tim Challies notes in this column.

I ran across an interview that Metaxas gave in which he was asked about the controversy, and I found his answer to be a lengthy example of ‘begging (evading) the question.’

4) There has been some criticism that perhaps you paint Bonhoeffer as “too evangelical”. I thought this was unfair, that you had painstakingly given the whole of Bonhoeffer’s theology, even quoting lengthy excerpts. How do you respond to this criticism?

I find the criticism hilarious on the one hand, and tragic, on the other.  Bonhoeffer and any other serious Christian is less concerned with being an “evangelical” — whatever that really means — than with being a Christian, a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.  One thing I have said over and over:  I never set out to paint any portrait of Bonhoeffer other than what I saw, for good or for ill.  That some seem to think that I have put some English on the ball seems to say more about their expectations than about the reality of his life.

Note how Metaxas 1. invokes personal feelings to point attention away from the real issue. 2. blurs the term ‘evangelical’. 3. conflates orthodoxy (right beliefs) and orthopraxy (right conduct). It is possible for a person to do right, but believe wrong (Mtt. 7.21-23). 4. uses an ad hominem attack on critics rather than deal with the substantive charges.

The facts are what they are:  Bonhoeffer thought of the Bible as the living “Word of God” and prayed every day and pointedly criticized the regnant theological liberalism of his era (both in Berlin and at Union in New York) and called abortion “murder” and advocated a traditionally biblical view of sexuality and called for the Lordship of Jesus Christ over every realm in history and culture, and advocated obedience to God under all circumstances and spoke against mere “religion”…  so, yes, he tends to look pretty “evangelical.”  But that really is a label that is unhelpful when trying to understand him.   Bonhoeffer was a devout disciple of Jesus Christ.  That should suffice, I think.

What does Metaxas mean by “the living ‘Word of God'”? Particularly, what did it mean to Bonhoeffer? The charge is not that he was a liberal theologian, but that he was neo-orthodox in his beliefs. Note again Metaxas conflating orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

Not that some ideologues on the left and right haven’t been annoyed, as you mention.  But they are annoyed at reality, not at my depiction of reality.

It all really is somehow funny, though.  It has to be noted that theologically liberal Bonhoeffer scholars have kept deadly quiet for decades, while chest-beating humanists like Christopher Hitchens and “Bishop” John Spong have claimed Bonhoeffer as one of their own.  But when  Bonhoeffer is portrayed as the robust and serious Christian that he was, they have howled with all their might and main and have practically scampered up palm trees to cast down their cocoa-nuts of bitter fury.  One wonders where their priorities lie.

Fussy theological conservatives, on the other hand, who have accepted this false theologically liberal view of Bonhoeffer, are another story, no less tragi-comic.  They bring to mind the guy on the beach with the metal detector and headphones, oblivious to the staggering beauty of the sand and sea and sky.   They seem bent on discovering any scrap of evidence that “proves” Bonhoeffer was neo-orthodox, and if not that, then something else unpalatable — anything!  I think even a cigarette butt in the sand would thrill them.  They sometimes seem to be worshiping an idol of theological purity.

But to have perspective on it all, we must remember that both types, left and right, have always been with us.  As a friend of mine once said:  ”They are like the children in the marketplace who say, ‘We played the pipe and you would not dance; we played a dirge and you would not mourn!’”   Quel domage [what a shame!].

~~~~~~~~~~~

Nowhere does Metaxas begin to deal directly with the question of Bonhoeffer’s theology, which was controversial while he was alive as well as in the ensuing years. Setting aside that specific issue, it is irresponsible for a biographer to avoid dealing with this specific point which is undeniably a substantial part of Bonhoeffer’s life story.

Metaxas’s book is well written, but flawed for the gaping hole at a crucial juncture.

His response here does, however, serve Christians well, for he highlights a necessary question: What defines an evangelical? Orthodoxy or orthopraxy?

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In the years I lived as a single man, I had opportunity to observe many couples, and one of the most disconcerting habits I noted was so many couples who made disparaging comments about one another. These ranged from innocent teasing to unintentional slights to rather vicious slurs. I was left wondering why they married if they didn’t even like each other.

As one who is too easily given to sarcasm, I also realized how much I needed to change, so I began to note those couples who speak well of one another.

Michael Hyatt, head of Thomas Nelson publishers, regularly writes about leadership on his blog. He recently wrote an excellent post titled, Why Speaking Well of Your Spouse is So Important. I encourage you to read his entire post, but here are five reasons he gives to speak well of your spouse:

  1. You get more of what you affirm.
  2. Affirmation shifts your attitude toward your spouse.
  3. Affirmation helps strengthen your spouse’s best qualities.
  4. Affirmation wards off the temptation of adultery.
  5. Affirmation provides a model to those you lead.

Here are several more thoughts that occurred to me as I read this essay:

  1. It’s just a whole lot more fun to speak well of Jill. When I make those cutting slights, I gain the immediate gratification of having made people laugh…at her expense. Then I see the guardedness that comes into her eyes, and the humor fizzles.
  2. Speaking well of your spouse strengthens marriages you may never know. I can’t begin to think of all the couples whose chance commendations warmed my heart and encouraged me to build constructive speech patterns. Who are you influencing? How are you influencing them?
  3. Genuine appreciation nourishes your spouse and you, while selfishness withers both your souls. Have you ever noticed how small you feel when you do something for yourself to the exclusion of your spouse? Have you experienced the warm glow when you overhear some affirming comment from a close friend, or parent, or your spouse?
  4. Habits of positive speaking provide much ammunition for training your children to speak rightly. Every parent has had the disconcerting experience of hearing his children parroting some expression. How much easier is it for me to be able to ask our children, “Have you ever heard me speak of your mom like you are speaking of your brother/sister?”
  5. Speaking as a man, there is nothing more energizing than knowing that Jill is proud of me, is proud to be my wife. It is at one and the same time, humbling because I know how much I don’t deserve it, and exhilarating because she believes in me. A man whose wife affirms him will accomplish more, quicker, and better than he ever could alone.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Pr 25.11

To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is! Pr 15.23

The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. Is 50.4

 

 

 

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