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Archive for the ‘gender’ Category

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Episode 10: Gender

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Episode 11: Sex & Sexuality

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An evangelistic talk on gender, sex and sexuality.

 

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Wedding-rings-300x274Here is Andrew Errington’s Same-sex marriage – what is really at issue?

His central point is that there are two visions of marriage going on behind the same-sex marriage debate.  One is set out in the Book of Common Prayer, in which the three purposes of marriage are:

  • the procreation and nurture of children
  • as the only proper place for sexual intimacy; and
  • for the sake of lifelong companionship.

As against this, the modern, romantic view of marriage disregards the first two purposes and is, essentially, two ‘grown-ups’, part-couple-part-sofa, watching boxed sets till they fancy another sofa-mate. (That’s my cynical overstatement, not Errington’s.  But marriage-as-companionship reminds me of Alain de Botton’s comment that love today is about finding someone in particular to save us from people in general).

One implication at the political level is this:

The success of same-sex marriage will not only marginalise the principle that biological parenthood is normal and best. It will mean that the discussion of whether children need their biological mother and father is over for good, because such a claim will be regarded as discriminatory against the necessarily non-biological parent or parents in a same-sex marriage. To be as equally married as anyone else requires that we never again question the various ways children enter these marriages, and whether these means of having children are best for children.

So there are some sobering implications for society at that level.  And if Christians want to exercise their political freedoms in pointing such things out they should be able to do so without being called bigots.  Calling Christians homophobic for having a view on sexuality is like calling Buddhists carnophobes for having a view on meat-eating. Errington’s contribution is a model of clear-thinking Christian engagement at that political level.

On this blog, Paul Blackham has written Legal Recognition of Marriage and the Way of Jesus. Without denying the gravity of the social shift we’re witnessing , Paul’s introduction gives a much needed sense of perspective:

Pagan and non-Christian societies provide legal status and support for the kinds of marriage that express their basic beliefs about humanity, sexuality and marriage.  Pagan societies almost universally see marriage as polygamous [and occasionally polyandrous] with various legal provisions made for concubinage.  Under both communism and fascism, definitions of marriage have been used that were quite alien to the local Christian churches.  Greek and Roman definitions of marriage and sexuality are a well documented point of deep divergence with the local churches of the early centuries.  If Europe returns to its pagan ancestry then, naturally, it will return to those ancient, non-Christian definitions of marriage and sexuality.

Someone asked me, with evident shock, if I could imagine what would happen if the current redefinitions of marriage led to things like polygamy?  It was very sweet really.  Christian churches have often lived under legal systems that recognise polygamy and it has been [and still is] quite a common form of legal marriage around the world. Local churches have lived under legal systems that recognised same-sex partnerships in the ancient world and we are doing so again now.  Yes, it can be a shock to realise that we live in a non-Christian society and we do not have any privileged status or power.  Yet, this has been quite normal for local churches down the ages and it is, in fact, what Jesus told us to expect…

Paul goes on to hold up the local church as the place where the true meaning of marriage needs to be fought for and displayed (read here).

(If the consequences for the Church of England concern you, Jonathan Chaplin offers a solution that works just fine in many other countries – it involves getting out of the registrar business!)

And if all this sounds like a retreat from the public sphere, let me assure you I’m all in favour of preaching the gospel publicly.  Not the fruits of the gospel, mind you.  The gospel.

Here’s an evangelistic talk seeking to make sense of the Christian vision of sex and sexuality (and these are some other posts: here and here).  You’ll notice that integral to these approaches are beliefs about Trinity, creation, fallen-ness and union with Christ.  It seems to me this is the properly Christian footing on which to stand. But these things are not at all obvious to anyone debating at the political level!

So, yes, let’s grieve for a society that has drifted so far from the gospel. Let’s prepare for more of the persecution that is the norm all over the world (not to mention in the Bible). Absolutely, we can be concerned for the freedom of Christian expression – maintaining our right to ‘appeal to Caesar’ as Paul does at points. But let’s not be shocked that new generations, so ignorant of the gospel, find gospel living incomprehensible. Of course they do. And let’s not be under any illusions about how to “fight” this trend.  Let’s look at our own marriages, our own churches.  And let’s get preaching the good news of Jesus.

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The first thing to say is that the bible’s sexual ethic is different to the world’s sexual ethic.  And it always has been.   This might sound too basic to mention, yet the point is commonly forgotten.  Egyptian and Assyrian views of sex were markedly different from Israel’s.  As for the Greco-Roman culture surrounding the New Testament church… what’s the saying? “A woman for necessity, a boy for pleasure and a goat for ecstasy!”

Both Christians and non-Christians need to realise that the bible’s ethics were never the ethics of the surrounding culture.  Therefore Christians ought not to hearken back to some golden age when the bible’s norms were upheld by the culture.  Neither should non-Christians insist that “Christians move on from their conservatism and embrace a new golden age.”  The truth is that the bible never enshrined the culture’s sexual ethic – it always stood apart from it.

This leads to another basic observation… secularists need to recognize that they too have a sexual ethic. They are not champions of liberation – except in the most limited sense. They are simply trying to impose a different sexual ethic and therefore to define a different set of sinners.

The next point is the explosive one, but it needs saying in order to blow apart some suffocating assumptions: Jesus is utterly anti-heterosexual.  It’s difficult to think of anyone as anti-heterosexual as Jesus.

I mean really, can you imagine Jesus in the sermon on the mount turning to his disciples and saying “Let your sexual desire be unto the multitude of women.”  If you can imagine that sentiment on the lips of Jesus, you don’t know Jesus!  Christians are not – or at least should not be pro-heterosexual.  Lust is lust and never a positive marker of identity – no matter which cross-section of potential sexual partners are in view!

These modern taxonomies of sexuality are so limited, so unruly, so new, so western, so 21st century.  We struggle to apply them to other 21st century westerners, let alone other parts of the world, let alone other parts of history.  If you try to use our modern categorisations and apply them beyond our tiny blip in time and space you’re in for trouble.  If you want to actually listen to Jesus’ teaching on sex you’ll need to forget everything you think you know about “modern liberal” notions and “out-dated conservative” notions.  Because Jesus’ teaching is something else…

Jesus’ view of sex is crazy and it’s beautiful.  Same as everything else.  “Turn the other cheek?  Go the extra mile?  Love your enemies?”  Crazy!  Impractical!  Totally unrealistic!  But beautiful!  Let me explain…

Jesus only really said three things about sex, but on these three foundations you have a crazily beautiful / beautifully crazy view of sex.  In Matthew 19 He quotes approvingly from Genesis 1: “In the beginning the Creator made them male and female.”  Then Jesus quotes from Genesis 2 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh. What God has joined together let not man put asunder.”  Combine these two truths and what do you have?  You have humanity created as interlocking opposites who become “one flesh” when man and woman come together in an exclusive permanent marriage bond.  That’s his teaching on sex and marriage.  And to that He adds, in Matthew 5, that sex is not for any other context.  Not even in your thought life.  Don’t even think about sex outside marriage.  That’s Jesus’ sexual ethic.  It’s crazy, but it’s beautiful.

Because, according to Jesus, when you have sex with someone you are saying “I give myself to you utterly, exclusively, irreversibly and unconditionally for life.”  It’s the most romantic view of sex the world has ever seen.

This is sex as a Ferrari.  If I owned a Ferrari, you could not drive it.  Only if your name was Scrivener could you get behind the wheel.  But if I owned a beat-up old Lada – anyone could drive it.  The Christian view of sex is a Ferrari.  The modern view is a Lada.

But for that reason, this sexual ethic is for the followers of Jesus.  Explicitly the bible tells Christians not to bother non-Christians about their sexual ethics.  1 Corinthians 5 tells Christians not to worry about what people are doing outside the church.  God can worry about them, we’re meant to only worry about ourselves.  This point will be controversial among Christians but I suggest that, in line with the first truth outlined, we address ourselves with the ethics and the world with the gospel.

Which means that the question for the non-Christian is not “Can I live under this sexual regime”?  The question is, What do I make of Jesus?  If He rose from the dead as Lord of the world, then maybe He knows a thing or two about sex.  And if I come to Jesus – not as hetero-sexual, homo-sexual or bi-sexual but simply as a sinner – then there’s a place at His table equal to every other sinner.  And though I fail at His crazy-beautiful life in a thousand ways, He knows how to lead me, step by step, into greater and greater freedom from sexual slaveries as well as the other really dangerous sins – like greed, unforgiveness and moral self-righteousness!

For another approach, here’s an older post on the subject…

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“Equality” is one of the most loved and least understood values of our day.  It is considered to be an absolute and unquestionable good.  And yet… what does it really mean?

In a race between me and Usain Bolt… what would be equal?  A 70 metre head-start for me?  A 50kg weight for him?  Of course if we start equally, we’ll finish very unequally.  Equality of treatment will not lead to equality of outcome.  And that’s true in every realm.

Think of tennis. The men and women aren’t thrown into the same draw.  There’s a men’s trophy and a women’s trophy.  But not a “left-handers’ trophy” or a “Sagittarian trophy”. And there’s not a “trophy for whites” and a “trophy for blacks” either.  No, that would be “discriminatory” we feel.  But hang on – all these decisions “discriminate.”  They all seek to treat people differently according to real differences which those in question have no choice over.  Yet we consider differences in gender to be relevant, and differences in race and star sign to be irrelevant.  In other words we discriminate between our discriminations.  And such discrimination is absolutely vital for upholding  “equality.”

Different people do get different treatment all the time.  Sometimes this is negative discrimination (think of racism).  But actually we must discriminate in order to have true equality.  For instance, we ought to spend money on our buildings to provide equal access for wheel-chair users.  Yet as soon as we make this pledge, both the costs and the benefits of these expensive projects fall unevenly.  There is a certain kind of benign discrimination that happens which prevents another malign discrimination.  But discrimination – i.e. making decisions based on real differences, and discerning between relevant differences and irrelevant differences – is inevitable.  It’s part and parcel of true equality.

Now what kind of equality exists between male and female?  Feminism has gone through at least three “waves”, plus “post-feminism” and it’s taken in a wide range of differing political and social expressions.  The massive differences between those working for “equality” is yet more evidence that the meaning of “equality” is not at all obvious.  Yet the upholding of concrete differences as we work for equality is absolutely vital.  We should not want women to be equal to men on men’s terms.  We should not want them to “become more bloke-ish” in order to receive the same rights.  If there’s to be true equality, we should want women to be distinctly women and men distinctly men, and that they, in these differences, be one – completely equal in value and worth.  Is there a way of having both?

In Genesis 1 we have a consultation within the triune God: “Let us make humanity in our image… male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26ff)  The ultimate Union of Distinctions – the Trinity – is imaged in a humanity that is also a union of distinctions: men and women made to be one – and in their one-ness to be fruitful, making another.  A whole race of blokes would not image the divine life.  But men and women, in all their differentness, united in love – this pictures for us a true equality, one that respects and upholds concrete particularities.

If we follow the creation narrative we will see God place Eve – the bride – at the very pinnacle of the cosmos.  God’s creative work moves from the waters to land to plants to animals to man to woman.  It’s all heading towards woman.  As Matthew Henry remarked, if Adam was head over creation, Eve was the crown.  If he was dust, she was dust “twice refined”.  She was taken from Adam’s side to be his equal, from under his arm that he might protect her and from close to his heart that he might love her.  She is “opposite” to him – created to be very different – yet one with him (Genesis 2:18).

Just as the Father is eternally distinct from the Son yet utterly equal, just as Christ is different from His bride (the church) yet shares all things with her, so men and women are different but equal. (1 Corinthians 11:3)

What are those differences?  Well that can be for another time.  Perhaps click the “gender” tag to read more on the blog.  But we all agree that there are differences between the sexes.  Virtually every argument for why women should be better represented in the boardrooms of business cannot help but raise the different kind of contribution women bring to the table.  That’s fascinating – we think there should be more women “at the top” not simply because women are equal to men but, just as much, because they are different to men!  And no Christian wants to argue against that.  Many Christians think the gender differences have relevance within marriage.  Many Christians think they are also relevant in the exercise of certain church leadership roles.  That might sound  “discriminatory” – and of course it is.  But so is every argument for equality.  Even within the various feminisms there are huge disagreements over matters of positive and negative discrimination, for one thing.  Being alarmed by a different vision of equality and diversity should not put you off.  You’ll have to sit down and listen to the Christian arguments a lot longer before you conclude that this is malignant discrimination.

But then, where else will you go?  Christianity has an account of differentness and unity that accords with what we want from a vision of gender equality.  If all you have is unity, you’re left with a steam-roller, flattening differences.  If all you have is distinction, you’ve got a ladder – every difference an opportunity to rank people.  With the world’s philosophies of gender you will only find steam-rollers or ladders – or arbitrary balancing acts between the two.  Yet with the triune God you have a unity and diversity that mutually inform each other.  This unity-in-diversity and diversity-in-unity goes all the way down and all the way back.  In this God you can find that your gendered identity is acknowledged, celebrated and upheld.  It images the united love of God Himself!

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Recently I wrote about every husband’s temptation towards resentment.  Wives also have every inclination (as well as motivation!) towards sinful attitudes regarding their husbands.  (Mistrust and disrespect are perhaps chief among them).

But in my post I counselled husbands to die to their private ambitions and seek a fruitful union with their wives that acknowledges the completely new unit they’ve become.  Now, as I read back over that language of “sacrifice” and “death”, I have a fear.  My fear is that this talk of “death” will feed directly into the resentment I was highlighting.

I know this because for many years I considered myself to be a sacrificial head.  I took Ephesians 5:25 as perhaps my most basic calling as a husband – to lay down my life.  Trouble was – there’s always a counterfeit way to view marital roles.  The death I embraced was not the joyful abandonment of my rights to find a deeper joy in my wife’s flourishing.  Instead it was the proud martyrdom of the burden-bearing ox.  I’d trudge along singing “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen…”, just loud enough for people to notice.  But while-ever I was a burden-bearing ox, there was a deep sense in which I needed my wife to be a burden.

This is counterfeit headship and it comes in a couple of different flavours.  Some, like me, emphasize the “dying” part and spin it to mean ‘desire-crushing trudgery.’  Others emphasize the “saviour” role (Ephesians 5:23) and spin it to mean “knight in shining armour.”  But if you’re married to such a head, watch out.  The burden-bearer will (unintentionally) make you the burden.  And the knight in shining armour will (unintentionally) make you a “damsel in distress.”  In either case we have a sick perversion of roles masquerading as biblical faithfulness.  If you want to consider it in trinitarian terms (which I do here), you end up with Arian distinctions not Athanasian ones.

The terrible tragedy is that these marriages can appear to fulfil an Ephesians 5 complementarity.  And those who trumpet complementarianism as though it’s the key to gender relations can apparently justify their counterfeit roles as “Scriptural.”  I know I did.

But the husband is not simply called to a death, but to a happy death.  As with Christ, this death is because of love and for the sake of the joy set before him.  It’s the very opposite of resentment.  It’s acknowledging the indicatives already present for the husband:

* Christ has put me to death in His cross and I no longer live (Galatians 2:20)

* The Father has made me one with my wife quite apart from my efforts (Matthew 19:6)

* My wife is a gift straight from the LORD and she’s good for me (Genesis 2:18 ; Proverbs 18:22)

* There simply is no life without a good death (Matthew 10:39)

* God will make our sacrificial union fruitful (Genesis 1:28)

* Her beauty will be presented back to me, shining all the brighter for the love which nurtured it (Eph 5:27)

The husband’s death is not the sacrifice of a noble sufferer or the heroics of a brave rescuer.  It’s the grateful response of a guy who – in spite of how she may have hurt him – still counts himself “lucky” to have her.  And if he doesn’t, his need is not to stuff his feelings and die anyway.  He needs to go back to the 6 indicatives above and prayerfully ask for help.

No marriage needs a resentful martyr for a husband.  Every marriage needs Jesus to make husbands joyful self-givers.  And He will… if only we’ll drop our counterfeit roles and receive again from Him.

 

 

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I’m always hearing about the benefits of “accountability.”  Men in particular, apparently, are meant to get together… for accountability.  (I think it’s “men in particular” because women already actually share life with each other.  Men have to be corralled under false pretences).

It’s not so much that we’re meant to meet for fellowship.  Not so much to speak the good news to each other, but to hold each other to Christian standards.  We’re being called to mini-communities of law, where a combination of fear, pride and resolve dis-incentivise the appearance of sin.  Not “sin” itself.  I can easily survive an accountability group while nurturing a love for sin.  It’s the “not appearing to commit sin” that counts.

Behind this drive towards “accountability”, so often there’a a vision of the Christian life as sin-management.  It’s not even that we’re aiming for Sinlessness.  We’re aiming for Sin Less-ness.  We’re trying to keep the ‘flagrant transgression count’ down.  That way we won’t have to appear before our brothers and sisters as “a sinner.”    Phew.  That’d be awkward.  Having to confess I’m a sinner – Yikes!  No, that horrible feeling becomes the dis-incentive to transgress.  What’s important is avoiding the need for, you know, confession, grace, forgiveness, the blood of Jesus.

And even as men herd together for accountability – the big issue we’re meant to drill each other on is… the dreaded P word.  No, not Pride.  How intangible!  How can we measure progress in that?!  And no, not Prayer.  Goodness me – let’s not over-spiritualize things here.  We’re after indicators of performance.  No, no, every man’s struggle is Porn.  Obviously.  (Of course with every man who’s ever confessed struggles with porn to me, it hasn’t taken long to establish that pride and prayerlessness are way bigger problems contributing to the mess.  And yet, those are problems it never occurred to them to confess.  It’s “Porn” that’s the issue, right?? That’s by the by…)

What am I saying?  Stop meeting up for accountability?  Well look if you’re a guy in an “accountability group” – well done.  Everything you love about this group is good and godly and biblical – you enjoy brotherhood, you enjoy sharing life, you enjoy another human being speaking forgiveness and grace into your life.  Hallelujah!  That’s what fellowship is meant to be like.

But “accountability”?  Thing is – it doesn’t even work.  But confessing your sins to each other… speaking words of forgiveness in Jesus’ name… opening up to each other as a fellowship of the broken… having a cry… having a laugh… that’s the Christian life.  And guess what?  It doesn’t have to be gender specific!!  Cos, heck, you don’t have to “fellowship” around “men’s problems” or “women’s problems.”  You might just be able to, you know, be family together in Jesus.

And at the end of it all, you’ll almost certainly sin less.  But that’s not the point.  The Christian life is not sin management.  It’s life together in Jesus.

 

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I guest posted for Emma on headship and submission and all that.

Stuff like…

The Father is the Head, His Son is the Body (1 Corinthians 11:3)…

Christ is the Head, His Church is the Body (Ephesians 5:21-33)…

Ephesians 5 says that  Head and Body roles are taken on by husbands and wives…so it seems clear that there is a place for roles.  But what place?

If you only study Christ on earth, you might see a passive Father and an active Son.  If you only study Christ exalted to God’s right hand, you might see a busy Father and a resting Son.  If you only look at Christ in Gethsemane you might see a sweating Saviour and a sleeping church.  If you only look at the worship of heaven, you might see worshipping servants and a seated Lord.

Freeze-frame a marriage at any one point and either spouse might look like the active partner, either spouse might look like they are ‘taking a lead’.  And that’s a good and healthy thing.  It’s the nature of a proper relationship which thrives on give-and-take.

The thing is – and finally I’m getting to my point – we just can’t insist on one kind of action for one member of the relationship. In fact, to worry about specifics is a big mistake.  Roles is about an overall shape to the relationship in which the Head serves in love and the Body encourages and receives that serving love.  And when this shape is even approximated in human marriages, something wonderful happens.  Suddenly the  caricature of marriage is over-turned.  You know the picture – rightly derided in our culture: there’s a  good-for-nothing husband, half-man, half-sofa, watching Top Gear repeats on Dave while his embittered wife taps her foot and nags him into submission.

The gospel redeems this shadow of marriage as partners embody the true roles of Head and Body.  Where Adam was silent and Eve grasped, now husbands step forward and wives receive.  It’s a beautiful thing when true roles are played out.

But… resolving to take on these roles is not where the revolution lies.  The roles are an expression of the revolution, not the cause.

The gospel is the cause and Ephesians 5 (the passage on roles) couldn’t be clearer about it….

Read the whole thing here.  And perhaps if you want to comment, do so there to keep them all together.

 

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This happened two years ago.  Revealing!

Finally!  JW’s knocked on my door this morning.  First time ever.  An older guy and a younger Polish woman.

So I threw some Genesis 19:24 shapes their way. “To which Jehovah are you witnessing, the LORD out of the heavens or the LORD on the earth?”

The woman seemed quite interested.  The man said “Trinity?  Rubbish.  Paul refutes the trinity in 1 Corinthians 11:3.”  So we went to 1 Corinthians 11:3

But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

“How does this refute the trinity?” I ask.

“Well,” he explains, “God is the head over Christ.  Which means Christ is less than God.”

I say “So the Father is the head of Christ the way I’m the head of my wife?”

“That’s right”

“Let me ask you, Is my wife less of a human being than me?”

“Yes” said the man.  “N..” said the woman and then changed it to a faltering yes.

I check I’ve heard them right.  “So my wife is less of a human being than me?”

“Well,” reasons the man, “you make the decisions.  You’re in charge.”

“Hmmm (I hum non-commitally).  And so I’m a greater being than my wife?”

“That’s right” said the man.  The woman frowns.

I turn to her and say “You realise you’re in a cult don’t you.”

The man grabs her by the arm and they start to make their escape.

“Keep reading the bible and keep thinking about marriage,” I call to her as they move down the street.  “You know women are equal to men… AND JESUS IS EQUAL TO GOD!”

Don’t think they’ll be back any time soon.

But it goes to show that Arians are misogynists whatever the PC gloss.  And of course misogynists are Arians, whatever the Christian gloss.

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Is she a doubler?

The Gospel of the Blokey-Hearted doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, so maybe I need to bang some old drums again.  For those who missed the rants first time around, here’s

Models of masculinity

Some manly things Jesus did

He said – She said

Spouse speak

Three thoughts on Headship

Is the fruit of the Spirit too sissy for real men?

Arian Misogyny

And here’s a repost regarding a distinct but related problem: when blokey attitudes define marriage…

Today I heard one more story of a keen young gospel soldier recently married.  From what I can tell the wife is feeling abandoned, isolated and increasingly desperate.  And the husband is pressing on in his ministry service for the Lord!

If I had a minute with the young gun I’d ask him to read about John Wesley’s disastrous marriage. Just after John married Molly he wrote to her from the road to inform her of his views on marriage and ministry: “I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less, in a married than in a single state.”  (Read more here).  It should be a cautionary tale for every young gospel soldier.

But the Wesley model is not dead.  I still remember the ringing endorsement our own marriage union gained from a leading UK evangelical while we were still engaged.  “You’re marrying well there Glen,” he said, “She’s a doubler.”  He was referring to a calculation that there are (apparently) ministry doublers and ministry halvers.  Thus the question to be asked about every prospective bride is, “Is she a doubler?”

Now that might be a question you ask a prospective PA or church worker.  But if that’s the first question you want to ask your bride-to-be then, seriously, that’s the proof right there.  It’s not meant to be.  And you’re the problem!  If the prospect of being fruitful and multiplying with this woman inspires a ten year business plan, call it off now.  The kind of multiplication God has in mind is multiplication in which you commit to each other for their sakes.  And, fellas, the more you want to use her for other ends, the less multiplication’s gonna happen!

And I’m not just trying to make a cheap gag here.  The Lord has designed marriage to be a multiplying union.  But in His economy it turns out to be fruitful as and when you are brought to commit to each other in deep oneness.  I mean this physically but I mean it in every other way.  The way to ministry multiplication can only be through marriage multiplication which can only happen in and through the union and communion of husband and wife. That’s got to be the beating heart of it all.

Single people should definitely seek the Lord’s wisdom about who to marry.  Wesley should definitely not have married Molly.  If two people have massively different expectations of what Christian service will entail then that’s a real warning sign.  But what first needs to be sorted out in our thinking is the very nature of marriage itself.  It is not a ministry multiplication venture.  It is a covenant union, joined by God, reflecting Christ to the world.  And out of this union comes a multiplication of spiritual and physical children.  Under God it cannot help but be fruitful and multiply.  But under God He will bring fruitfulness in very unexpected ways.  It will not be a multiplication one spouse’s prior ministry plans.  The old individual plans must die.  This will be a new union with a totally new kind of fruitfulness – much of which simply cannot be predicted.

But an understanding of marriage that is anything like a contractual business partnership will strike at the very heart of the covenant union.

I pray for this young couple, that there would be a death to the old individualist/contractual understanding.  And that out of that death would come new life in their union and communion.  And, yes, that out of that there may even come a wonderful fruitfulness.  But it will be His fruitfulness His way.

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A repost from two years ago…

Over the summer we got Sky Sports so I could watch the Ashes (I still think I should ask for a refund).

One morning I turned on to watch some highlights and caught the end of  ‘Aerobics Oz Style.’  I immediately laughed remembering the show from my youth in Australia.  As I recall, the whole thing was basically an ultra-gay fitness instructor in ultra-pink lycra teaching ultra-fat housewives to star-jump.

But it seems Aerobics Oz Style has changed.  The gay guy in spandex has been replaced by 5 supermodels – part silicone, part botox, part peroxide, all legs and boobs and hair and teeth – gently stretching in the Australian sunshine.  I stood there holding my remote – my laugh of recognition turned into this boyish burble.  “Hur hur hur- the purdy laydies with their purdy hair, hur hur.”  After a few seconds of slack-jawed, misty wonder I snapped out of it and changed channel.  But I couldn’t help asking myself – What just happened?  How did I go from grown-up to idiot boy in the space of 5 blondes?

Well here’s my quick answer: when women uncover themselves to serve passive men some fundamentals of masculinity are reversed. Or to put it another way: pornography turns a man into a child. (I’ll leave to one side women and porn here – though that needs thought too.)

Think about it:  A man is meant to go out from himself and win a bride.  He is meant to proactively serve an actual flesh and blood woman with real and costly service.  He – and he alone – is to uncover her nakedness (a common biblical phrase, see Lev 18) and enter into a deep oneness, not only of flesh but of soul and spirit also.  The woman is to be discerning, to give herself only to the one man who lays down his life for her.  She is to warmly receive him (and him alone) with single-hearted faithfulness.

But then, what happens with the man who indulges in pornography?  He doesn’t go out from himself but turns in on himself.  He pursues nothing but his own desires.  He woos no-one but himself.  He is not the active servant, he is the passive recipient.  He doesn’t uncover her nakedness, she indiscriminately uncovers herself.  He doesn’t engage her mind or heart but merely consumes her flesh.  This image calls forth nothing from the man except his credit card details.  And the habituation of this selfishness will only shut him down further.  Pornography turns a man into a child.

Which is why the male icon of the porn industry pads around his mansion in his jim-jams.

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Happy Friday

Some Adam Buxton goodness.

The last few videos on escaping to the shed nails masculinity better than anything I’ve ever seen!

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Abuse – sexual and verbal

Emma points to a harrowing art project:  Project Unbreakable.  Victims of sexual abuse are photographed carrying placards of what their attackers said to them.

It’s made me think again of the deeply entwined nature of sexual and verbal abuse.  In both you have, typically (though by no means exclusively), a man wielding power over a woman for his own benefit.  The words of a stronger man are forced on a woman just as his body is – often together.

Here’s an excerpt (lightly edited) from an older post I wrote on the awful similarities between both kinds of abuse – He said – She said.

Men are designed to move towards their woman – their one woman, the one they have pledged their life to.    They enter their world for their woman’s benefit and not their own.  Men do have have fruitful, life-giving words to bestow (note how often ‘seed’ and ‘word’ goes together in Scripture: Mark 4:14 ; 1 Cor 3:6; 1 Peter 1:23; James 1:21).  The woman is to trust one man and one man only – the one who has pledged his life to her.  She receives her man’s approach to be blessed by his words….

In all this we see the parallel between sex and words…

A woman has commonly (I’m tempted to say, universally) been on the receiving end of soul-piercing death-words.  And they have experienced them as violations in a way different to how men would experience those same words.  Stronger men (often fathers) have used their strength to either shout down, belittle, intimidate, out-last or otherwise out-argue them.  There are painful feelings of being bullied and disempowered associated with the words of men.

Don’t men have similar experiences of being silenced by the words of others?  Yes.  Are they painful?  Yes.  But my contention here is that women experience those pains deeper and more sharply.  I could be wrong  but that’s my contention.

Something that’s confirmed my suspicions has been hearing three different women speak about conversations with men.  All three conversations happened in the last month.  And all three women said that the words of the man stronglyreminded them of encounters with their fathers.  “And it didn’t seem to matter what I said, he just kept on making his point… It reminded me so much of my dad – he was clearly in the wrong but he just kept going, bullying me with words.  I was powerless, it made me so angry…

And men for their part use words for their own benefit – not to give life but to self-please.  This weekend I was away with a group of teenagers and youth leaders.  My ears pricked up every time an older male ‘teased’ a younger female.  There was a war of words (all in jest of course) and a truce was called only when the girl was exasperated, silenced and everyone had a good laugh.  That was the dominant form of male-female communication over the weekend.

Which means, men can be horrendous abusers – and often are – without ever touching a woman.  But when both kinds of abuse come together, the results are devastating.

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From a letter to an American woman, 31.7.62

I have a notion that, apart from actual pain, men and women are quite diversely afflicted by illness.  To a woman one of the great evils about it is that she can’t do things.  To a man (or anyway a man like me) the great consolation is the reflection “well, anyway, no-one can now demand that I should do anything.” I have often had the fancy that one stage in purgatory might be a great big kitchen in which things are always going wrong – milk boiling over, crockery getting smashed, toast burning, animals stealing.  The women have to learn to sit still and mind their own business: the men have to learn to jump up and do something about it. When both sexes have mastered this exercise, they go on to the next.

A clarification written 03.09.62

[this] is simply my lifelong experience – that men are more likely to hand over to others what they ought to do themselves, and women more likely to do themselves what others wish they would leave alone.  Hence both sexes must be told “mind your own business” but in two different senses.

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I think that’s very incisive.  By the way – how serious do you think he is about “purgatory”?

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jesus gun

Three pictures of manliness in the gospels:

ONE.  Jesus, pictured as the father in Luke 15, (seriously the father is Jesus.  Just straightforwardly and obviously Jesus.  There’s no question in my mind).  Where was I?  Oh yes, Jesus, pictured as the father, is turned in his stomach with compassion, hitches up his robes, runs to his good-for-nothing son, flings his arms around him, falls on his neck and smothers the boy in kisses.

Here is the most poignant picture of Jesus’ love for sinners.  And Jesus chooses a patriarch to show it.  We might think he looks pretty motherly and not fatherly.  We might question the masculinity of this scene.  We’d be dead wrong.  Here is a picture of total Jesus-shaped manliness.

TWO.  Jesus gets up from the evening meal, downs his drink in one, belches and then challenges Judas to a cage fight.  No wait.  That’s not John 13.  In John 13 He gets up from the table, takes off His robe, picks up a towel, and He gets down on His hands and knees to wash and pad dry the dirty, naked feet of His friends. 

Was this a detour from His otherwise robust masculinity?  No, it was the expression of it.  Here was Jesus showing the full extent of His love (v1) – the Bridegroom washing His bride in sacrificial service. 

THREE.  Gethsemane: Jesus, overwhelmed with sorrow, actually lets His friends in on His distress – inviting Peter, James and John to watch with Him.  The Passion of the Christ gets this wrong – Jesus does not say ‘I don’t want them to see me like this.’  The only reason we know about this episode is that Jesus must have told them all about it.  Desperate praying, sweating blood, heart poured out, never has Jesus looked weaker.

I’ve heard Driscoll repeatedly describe Gethsemane as a portrait of femininity – Jesus in submission to His Head, the Father.  Of course both men and women need to look to Christ as Model.  But frankly I think Driscoll is avoiding something that ought to challenge his macho-man masculinity. Here is Man in submission to God.  This is what man is made for.  The Ruler under God, in the garden, obeying submissively in total dependence and willing to die for His bride – here is the Last Adam, the true picture of manliness.   

Of course it doesn’t look very macho.  It isn’t.  But it’s what Jesus-shaped masculinity looks like.

To be a man like the Man doesn’t look manly to men.  A man must be man enough to reject men and follow the Man.

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Some more posts on gender here.

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[A repost]

And I quote:

Real manliness is defined by Christlike character, and not just the Gentle-Jesus-meek-and-mild-style character, but the full-orbed fruit of the Spirit rounded out with strength, courage, conviction, strong passions, manly love, and a stout-hearted willingness to oppose error and fight for the truth—even to the point of laying down your life for the truth if necessary.

From TeamPyro’s More on the Sissification of Church

Just the other day I was going to post on the fruit of the Spirit – wondering whether ‘real men’ would find Paul too feminized at this point.  All that girly ‘patience and gentleness’ and nothing about mechanical, athletic or barbecuing ability.

Then I read the quote above. Now I think I agree with much of what the author says.  He himself is reacting against a kind of John Eldredge ‘wild man’ myth.  And who could disagree that manliness is defined by Christlike character?  But to say the fruit of the Spirit requires ’rounding out’ when it’s applied to real men….  ??

Does this mean that ‘faith, hope and love’ are a bit ‘chickified’?  Perhaps they require rounding out with ‘strength, honour and belching’?  Or maybe ‘be joyful, pray and give thanks’ (1 Thes 5:16-18) need augmenting with ‘build, fix and kill.’

Oh look, I’m all for stout-hearted fighting spirit.  I know that men are cowards.  I know what a problem this is.  After all, the silence of Adam got us into this mess in the first place.

But when true, stout-hearted, courageous manhood is expressed, you know what it will look like?  Cheek-turning, cloak-giving, rights-yielding, foot-washing, burden-bearing, shame-absorbing, sacrificial love.

It will look like the fruit of the Spirit.  And even though these qualities may look sissy to the world – well…  Real men don’t care about looking sissy.

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Other posts on men stuff:

Models of masculinity

Three thoughts on Headship

He said – She said

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Forgiveness

I preached on the unmerciful servant from Matthew 18 last Sunday.  (I’ll post it up when the audio comes available).  Let me give one reflection on how the whole subject was received…

There were two groups of response.  Group A were those who struggled to forgive (I was expecting that).  But I was surprised there was also group B – those who longed to be released by unforgiving friends and relatives.  Now take a wild stab in the dark – what gender do you think were all the members of Group A?  And what gender do you think were all the members of Group B?

Why do women and men seem to struggle with forgiveness in different ways?  These are wild generalisations but, what are blogs for eh?…

Thought 1 – women are often more open relationally and therefore the wounds go deeper

Thought 2 – reconciliation will be more costly for women where there’s a higher expectation of openness in the future.

Thought 3 – mostly when we “forgive” we don’t write off people’s debt we write off the people.  This false forgiveness goes a lot more unnoticed among men than women.

I have other things to say on forgiveness, but do you have other thoughts on this seeming gender disparity?

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I first posted this after attending the 2009 London Men’s Convention.  I’m genuinely looking forward to the 2011 London Men’s Convention (with Mark Driscoll!) and will be going with 25 guys from our church.  I’m sure I’ll learn loads and be encouraged.  But I’ll still be asking the same questions I did two years ago…

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It’s an age-old question, but it’s taken the Flight of the Conchords to pose it again with aching poignancy:

What man?  Which man?  Who’s the man?
When’s a man a man?
What makes a man a man?
Am I a man?
Yes… technically I am.

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On reflection there were two models of masculinity on show at the London Men’s Convention on Saturday.

The first was communicated in mainly non-verbal ways.  As John has put it, there was, at times, a ‘Top Gear’ spirituality (Top Gear is a popular British TV programme where middle aged men salivate over an array of sports cars).  You can guess the kinds of things – jokes about sports teams, jokes about baldness (lots of them!), jokes about scrotums.  All the usual stuff.  There was an uncomfortable insistence on making fun of the main speaker (Tim Keller) in a laddish kind of, ‘Hey, you big bald son of a gun.  Not much hair on you is there? Baldy.  You big bald son of a bald man. Ha!’  That kind of thing.   Graciously Keller did not call down bear attacks as was his right as prophet of the LORD.  Now that really would have sorted out the men from the boys.

(Just as an aside – British men, the cruelty that passes for ‘banter’ among men is quite shocking for foreigners to cope with.  On one hand I speak as someone who’s lived here half his life and, for better and for worse, speaks the lingo.  I also speak as an Australian male.  But I confess that even we hard-headed convicts gape in wonder at the incessant jibes about ‘Fatty’ and ‘Who ate all the pies?’ when the man in question is only slightly overweight.  Or ‘baldy’, when we’re really dealing with a high forehead.  Or – and I dare not even name what red-heads are called in this country.  I would try to dissuade anyone with auburn hair or lighter from stepping foot in the British Isles.  The word “Ginger” could be followed by any number of appellations, most of them four-letter.  And this kind of culture is rife in the church too.  Last night in the pub I heard two Christian men speak about another Christian friend in shockingly unChristian ways.  But it was completely in keeping with this lads culture.)

Under this first model of masculinity we’re told that we have a God given masculinity to be lived out.  Which is true.  We’re told what a huge problem it is when men aren’t real men.  Which is true.  But then it’s basically assumed that everyone knows what a real man is.

So Mark Driscoll bemoans the prevalence of ‘chickified’ men in church.

Apparently the real men are those “watching a ball game, making money, climbing a mountain, shooting a gun, or working on their truck.”  And these are the men that are getting it done in the world.  So Driscoll wants these kind of men in the church.

Well.  Alright.  It’d be great to have them in church.  And yes, in some limited sense they’d make a welcome change from the other kind of false masculinity that abounds.  But let’s be clear – all natural masculinity is wicked.  Masculinity as it occurs in its natural state is horribly and dangerously perverted.  Whether the perversion occurs in the cowardly retreat direction or the aggressive domination direction, it’s a perversion.

The other model of masculinity came in Keller’s talk on the cross.  He took us to Gethsemane where Jesus was at His wits end, craving the support of friends, crying, sweating blood contemplating the cross.  The furnace of God’s wrath lay ahead of Him.  He begged His Father for another way.  But there was no other way to save us.  The prospect was simple: It was Him or us.  And so Jesus said ‘Father, Let it be me.’

That’s a man.

Laying down His life for others, bearing shame in their place, accepting weakness to strengthen them.  None of these things looked impressive.  He looked like a total failure, naked and choking to death on a cross.  He did not look manly.   And men from all sides told Him so.  They had all sorts of opinions about what Jesus needed to do to be a real man.  They were all wrong.  He reigned from that tree.  Here was the manliest thing ever done.

And it has nothing to do with back-slapping dudesmanship.  It’s not about being mechanical or sports-loving.  And it’s not threatened by aesthetic sensitivity or quiet thoughtfulness.  It’s defined by heart-felt, loving, sacrificial service.  It’s stepping into the roles Christ has for us and saying ‘My life for yours.  My weakness for your strength.  Father, Let it be me.’

Oh for real men!  Oh to be a real man.  But not like those ‘real men’ we’re told to be.

More posts on masculinity:

Three thoughts on headship

He said – She said

Is the fruit of the Spirit too sissy for real men?

What real men look like

Larry Crabb on gender

Spouse speak

Arian misogyny

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This is the third of a three part article by Rich Owen,
minister at City Evangelical Church, Leeds.

 

In the first post, we saw how the creation was a magnificent preach. It’s pinnacle moment was in the creation of a uniquely vivid image and witness to the Divine Life, Man and Woman. A loving community of persons, ordered, relational, loving and *echad* in union.

Then we saw how Satan moved in to destroy that witness. His plan to seize power was to break this image. Corrupt the Doctrine of God and it all falls down into his greedy hands.

So today we will reflect on this:  The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work.

Jesus is the dazzling, glorious and eternal image of the Invisible God. He is the Lord, the Living Word, the eternal expression of the Father, the Anointed One. So how does he pulverise Satan’s head?

The Angel of the Lord who ascends and descends in heaven’s fire, the Living Rock upon whom and in whom all creation holds together, this time descends as baby.

He sums up the human race into himself, assuming, owning, taking responsibility for humanity’s sinful self-love. He came from the Father’s side and became incarnate of the virgin Mary, fully divine, fully human so that as an Adam, He could live a human life from beginning to end in total devotion to his Father and in totally ecstatic (that is, out from Himself) love, a love for the poisoned race of Adam.

Satan even presented him with his master plan. Do what Adam did. Take your lead from another, one who is not your head… me. Take my lead and serve yourself. Become like me, a needy monad. A power hungry, glory seeking parasite and give yourself what YOU want.

But He destroyed the Devils work. He continued to love, He continued to do his Father’s will. He continued to pour himself out even to death, delighting even in that moment in his Father and with joy in His great heart as He considered His eternal inheritance! A Bride. A new Eve!

He wasn’t going to betray who He is. After His resurrection, He carried on. At His Father’s command, He breathed out His Spirit onto the old Adam so that it could be joined to the new. The loving Two sent out the Third. And they gave out the Third. The Living God went forth and multiplied!

The Father gives us the Son. The Son gives us the Father. The Father and the Son give us the Spirit and the Spirit gives us to the Father, in the Son.

He set His love upon the unlovely, so that the unlovely could be made lovely in Him.

So lets draw some points for rumination:

  • The Trinity is the gospel. God’s triune life is good news for a monadic, image-of-Satan world.
  • The life of God is love – other centred, generously giving love
  • Satan wants you to believe God is not loving, and not Triune. That’s all.

So perhaps you might want to ruminate in the following direction. Knowing is not enough. Live it:

  • Are you Trinitarian?  I don’t mean in theory, but in practice. Do you read, preach and speak as a Trinitarian? Reading the OT as a Trinitarian will minister to your soul and give such freshness and light to your study as you never had before. Remember – God didn’t suddenly declare his Trinitarian nature 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. He declared it when He spoke in Genesis 1.
  • Do you give yourself in love to others? If you are married do you serve, love and cherish, *know* and delight in your spouse?  Whether married or not, do you give yourself to those who are not like you – in church and where you live and work? Do you go out of yourself, seeking to beatify and serve the really nasty people? The “chavs”, the office weirdo? Do you do the unglamorous jobs at church *because* there is no glory for *you* – putting the chairs out, washing the cups, cleaning the loos?

Know and live the Trinitarian life. Image Him – be who you ARE.

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