Male Feminist Theology: a Vision; a Proposal


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Starting next week, I will be doing a blog series that walks through a framework for what I’m calling “Male Feminist Theology”. This series is based on a paper I wrote a few months ago. The paper itself is more technical than these blog posts will be and cites sources without giving any introduction or explanation. The blog posts will break it up into bite-sized chunks, and I will heavily edit them to (hopefully) make them more accessible to the casual reader.

But, if you don’t care about all the context and fuller explanation, and just want to jump to the end, I wanted to give you all a chance to read it in full if you wish. I’ve embedded it below, but you can also find it on Scribd and Academia.edu. Let me know what you think! Continue reading

Back on Track: The How (and Why) of Christian Male Feminism


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Remember the beginning of Lent, when I said I wanted to lay out a vision for how Christian men can think about God, the Church, and Theology in a way that takes into account the concerns of feminists? I said that these thinkers had been exposing the very real damage that has been wrought by us treating “White Male Theology” as default, neutral, objective “Theology”.

Well, believe it or not, we never actually got to what I wanted to write about. Full disclosure: that whole series was conceived because I had written a paper on this topic that I was proud of–a paper I wanted to edit down and make into a series of blog posts. And yet, before we could get to what amounted to a term paper, I had to take the reader through a lot of the other ideas that were in the rest of the class.
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NEW POST: Why Sleep is an Essential Seminary Course


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I have such a love-hate relationship with sleep. I love it when I’m in it, but avoid it at all costs. I also have a new post on Going To Seminary in which I talk about sleep and the seminarian. No, it’s not just about how sleep is good for you, but how it actually affects us spiritually. Check it out. Here’s the intro:

In any school, especially graduate school—including seminary—one of its greatest costs is to one’s sleep. At least, I know that’s the case for me. I spent most of my adult schooling years with an average nightly sleep duration of 4 to 6 hours. And let’s be honest, for most of us that find ourselves staying up late, it’s often not that we’re doing school the entire time. Sometimes we’re trying to recover from the school work we’ve already finished, or maybe further putting off the work we’ve yet to do.

Read the full post:
“Sleep: One of Your Most Important Seminary Classes

A Brief Theology of Stewardship


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Recently, for a class of mine, I had to think through what I thought about the idea of “Stewardship”, or how we relate to and care for the material things around us. The context for this was trying to think well and deeply about how we would attain and treat money being raised to plant new churches. Here were some of my thoughts.

Economics of Abundance

“It is here that the revolutions of empty and inordinate desires takes place: of the lust for a superabundance which is not the natural and beautiful abundance of life but the overflow of nothingness….” (Karl Barth)

“We live lives at the intersection of two stories about the world: the Eucharist and the market. Both tell stories of hunger and consumption, of exchanges and gifts; the stories overlap and compete.” (William Cavanaugh)

When it comes to stewardship, I have two guiding principles. The first is that the Kingdom of God is an economy of abundance that protests the dominant economic narrative of our culture that resources of all kinds exist in a state of scarcity. An economy of scarcity means we must compete in a zero-sum game to maximize our gains and defend against our losses.

To lead on the basis of scarcity is to seek excellence not to honor God, but to “compete” in the ecclesial marketplace for the most market share. It is to turn fundraising into conquests and battles, rather than a loving invitation into vision and mission (as Henri Nouwen beautifully reminds us). In my personal life, scarcity breeds anxiety, worry, and fear; letting the next pay-grade guide my job decisions more than vocational call. It puts a greater emphasis on saving now rather than spending wisely.

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New Seminary Post: Holy Week Music & Readings on Death


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I have a new post on the site Going to Seminary. I am putting up occasional posts giving different things to read around the interwebs, and this week focuses on Holy Week and its theme of death–Christ’s Death, Our Death, and Death conquered. I also give some classical music suggestions for this week (more Lent music suggestions here). I link to articles about a sister in Christ who recently died well, a New York Times piece about watching family die, and some writings by non-Christians about death. It ends with one of my favorite quotes ever. May these writings help you press into this time and our Savior all the more deeply.

Read the full post:
“Around the Web: Holy Week Edition

God & Her Glory: A Table of Contents


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As part of Lent in 2015, I built on my on-going series on Women and the Church, and did a little mini-series on using feminine language and images when speaking to and about God. This caused lots of discussion and disagreement, especially on Facebook. To help organize things, I wanted to put up this post to guide anyone who just now might be taking a look into this. I hope you find it helpful, and don’t forget to your thoughts below.

{1}: “Our Mother, Who Art in Heaven”

In this opening post, I give some background to my experience with this topic, as well as talk briefly about theological language itself and how it poses problems for us as we move forward in exploring this issue. I also introduce the main sources I used for this series, and try to mark a path forward.

{1b}: A Good Facebook Debate (for a change)

After that first post, I started seeing the passion many people had about this topic. The Facebook discussion especially had me thinking about angles and dynamics I hadn’t thought of before. So, because it was helpful to me, I thought it might be helpful to the blog readership.

{2}: How our Words & History Affect Women

Here, I showed the connection between gender and language, trying to talk about how the way we talk about God can subtly, unconsciously, even, affect not only women, but how we all think about God. I think tried to go through some history of how this has played out in the Church and the world.

{3}: The Biblical & Historical Evidence

Here, I simply lay out the best possible comprehensive case I can for the Scriptural and historical references to God in feminine imagery and terms. After going through Scripture and some historical context, we then look at important figures and references throughout the early church through the Middle Ages.

{epilogue}: MORE Faithful, Not Less

In this conclusion to the series, I acknowledge some of the prevailing critiques, and try and cast a vision for how brothers and sisters in the Church can move forward on this, both practically and in disagreement. I make the case that fighting for broader language when talking about the Divine is an attempt to be all the more faithful to Scripture and the Church, not to change things because of the wider cultural discussion.

BONUS: Does it Matter that Jesus was a Male?

This is a relevant post I had done another time. In it, we look at some art that depicts Jesus as a female and explore what theological significance (if any) there is that our Savior was a male. Again, the debate was feisty.

[image credit: “Vessel”, by Meinrad Graighead]

God & Her Glory {epilogue}: MORE Faithful, Not Less


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Throughout this series on feminine language for God, I’ve been shocked at how incredibly passionate people have been about all of this. I promise I don’t try to write for controversy’s sake; I genuinely want to serve and help the people of God, not divide them.

But perhaps I was naive not to anticipate it. A friend of mine put it well on Facebook (edited for clarity):

In Postmodern thought, language always encodes how we see reality. One can only perceive reality with words because people always think in words. This…is probably a big reason why the fight over gendered pronouns is so fierce. Mess with the language and you mess with people’s narrative-making apparatus.

It’s true: language is reality. I don’t want to imply that language doesn’t matter, that people are making too big of a deal about it and should just lighten up, or that there should be a free-for-all in our language about God. Rather, my desire to broaden our words for God is precisely because I see the power of our language to shape how we see reality.
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God & Her Glory {3}: The Biblical & Historical Evidence


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Having gone through this series on feminine language for God, I realize now I should have started with this post rather than ended with it. Following an almost Lutheran model of Law then Grace, I wanted to impress upon us the depth of the problem first, and then give us the “Good News” that the solution is both available and faithful. This may not have been the most helpful way to do it. My apologies.

Nevertheless, here I’ve tried to provide a comprehensive list of Biblical and historical references to the Feminine Divine. The Biblical texts are mostly in order that they appear in the Bible, the historical quotes are roughly chronological. Some pieces may seem stronger than others. I offer them with little or no commentary. Due to the length of this, significant quotes are in bold. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below and I can provide further sourcing, answers, etc. as needed. I hope this helpful. Continue reading

God & Her Glory {2}: How our Words & History Affect Women


Bartlett-The-Brooklyn-Crucifiction_BoBartlettI have been surprised about how strongly people have responded to this little series on using feminine language to talk about God. I want to make clear the audience I have in mind. I am talking to people that either haven’t really thought about this before, or feel a little weird about it but don’t have a strong opposition to it. If you believe that this is actually wrong, sinful, and deeply unfaithful to the nature of God, then these posts probably aren’t for you. We’d have to go much deeper into a theology of Scripture, Sexuality, Humanity, and Gender. I may do that another time, but not right now. Today, I want to talk about the way our language about God speaks to gender and some history of how we use gendered language.

Theology of Gender Language

For the longest time, the way I would have defended masculine language for God would be with an appeal to the idea of “headship”. This is the idea that different systems and ways of human relating have people that “head” them–like a “head” of State, for example. And as the “head”, this leader stands as the representative for everyone they lead and care for.

Conservatives on this issue (as I used to be) believe that husbands act as the “head” of their family unit, including their wives. Most of these conservatives would be the first to tell you that this does not mean that women in general should see men as their “heads” in general. And yet, there is still this idea that “maleness” serves as the “head” of “femaleness”. In other words, “maleness” serves as the representation of all humanity, whereas “femaleness” does.

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New Post on Why I’m Terrified of Seminary


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I have a new post on the blog of Best Seminary. It’s on the heart and soul that one brings into seminary and the hard things one wrestles through when considering it.

My biggest fear going into seminary (and perhaps it’s yours, as well?) is the whole question of whether it is my “False Self” that is called to it and pastoral work, rather than my “True Self”. I have spent much of my life following Spurgeon’s (I think) advice that if you feel called to ministry at all, try to do everything else in your life you possibly could do. If you still end up in ministry, then congratulations, you were called.

Read the full post: “Terrified of Going to Seminary? Join the Club.”

God & Her Glory {1}: “Our Mother, Who Art in Heaven…”


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Well, they warned me.

It was my first year at my first seminary. I had the honor of being chosen for an “Inter-Seminary Seminar” course in which people from five very different seminaries got together, were given a topic they all disagreed about, and then spent a semester writings papers to and debating with one another.

One of those seminaries was a liberal Lutheran one. I was told ahead of time that the students (usually women) from this school, every year, always made a big, emotional deal about masculine language being used in the papers. And indeed, at the beginning of every single paper discussion, the first comment was always a tear-filled lament over the use of masculine pronouns throughout the paper.

And so, when it was my turn to write a paper, I tried to be sensitive to this. I changed “mankind” to “humanity”, “brothers” to “brothers and sisters”, etc. And yet, when my paper came up for discussion, they opened up once more with an impassioned complaint against the male-centered language. I told them that I had tried to be sensitive to that. They said, “no, the problem was in your use of the masculine pronouns for God!
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My Sermon on Judgment, Poverty, Sheep, & Goats


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Yesterday, I got to preach the hardest sermon I’ve gotten to preach (so far).

The text is Matthew 25:31-46, what is commonly called “The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats”. It’s also the one where Jesus shows up as a naked and hungry beggar and prisoner. It’s one of the most difficult, confusing, and doubt-inducing texts in the Gospels. Let me know what you think. Sermon cameos include Albert Camus, Samuel Beckett, Martin Luther, and homeless Jesus. Here’s the audio:

You can also download it here, or subscribe to our podcast. If reading is more your style, here is my manuscript for your perusal. Continue reading

5 Advantages & Disadvantages of Distance Seminary Education


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For the site Best Seminary, I recently wrote two pieces about Distance Education. As I begin:

When I originally entered seminary, it was in a pretty traditional setting. A walled-in, ivy-laden campus with bearded men roaming the grounds, coffee-in-hand. We had a set schedule of classes that we dutifully went to, staring at Powerpoint presentations of varying quality, accompanied by live lecture and in-the-moment Q&A. My classmates and I would spend all our free hours together debating, arguing, refining, and sharing all our theological growth and such.

But after one year there, circumstance and convictions led me to leave that school. I worked for several years, but now I’m back in seminary, in a distance program. These two schools have similar doctrinal convictions, professorial pedigree, institutional history, and such. Therefore, I feel that I’ve been able to experience distance seminary education in a way that hopefully can give insight to anyone out there considering what sort of program to enter.

The first post gives “5 Advantages of Distance Seminary Education“:

  1. You make your own schedule
  2. You can stay invested in your church community and ministry
  3. It’s often more thoughtful and grace-filled
  4. The depth and diversity of community
  5. It’s Incarnational and humbling

The second is “5 Disadvantages of Distance Seminary Education“:

  1. You have to create your own structure
  2. You have less immediate access to the professors—or none at all
  3. It’s greater temptation to be dishonest
  4. Reading, reading, and more reading. Oh, and writing
  5. The experience is less cohesive

Click on those links for more thoughts on each of those points. And don’t forget to leave your own thoughts!

On Theology: Choose Your Own (Feminist) Adventure


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I recently told some friends about this year’s Lent series on “Male Feminist Theology”. One of them looked at me suspiciously and said, “I know what each of those three English words mean by themselves, but I have no idea what they mean together; it sounds like you’re fitting together things that don’t naturally go together”.

People often hear phrases like “Black Theology”, “Liberation Theology”, or “Feminist Theology”, and feel like there is a profound arrogance at play–isn’t simple “Theology” enough? Why must each group have their own pet theological opinions that belong only to them? But this is to profoundly misunderstand these theologies.
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Let’s try this again: “Going (Back) to Seminary”


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Years ago, on my first go-around with seminary, I wrote for a website called Going To Seminary. The site was started by an old campus minister of mine, and it was meant to be a place for wisdom and encouragement in seminary life. Looking back on the posts I wrote then, I still can’t believe how overzealous and eager I was, just six years ago.

Anyway, the last post I ever wrote for them was called “Realizing Seminary’s Not For You“, in which I wrote about my experience of deciding to drop out of school. Many people found this post encouraging, but astonishingly, the post inspired some comments that were some of the harshest I’ve ever received online for something I’ve written. People couldn’t imagine that God could call someone to seminary and then call them out before it was finished. Surely it must be a lack of trust and faith on my part, right?

Well, I still stand by that decision, and one of the main reasons why is that it set me up to now return to seminary with a much more clear, gracious, and (hopefully) mature mindset on the whole enterprise. Since I’ve been going back to seminary, I suppose it’s time for me to go back to writing on Going To Seminary. And so I have. Today marks the return of my writing on that site (I gave y’all a heads up last week).

Appropriately, my first post is an update and follow up to that previous piece. It’s called “Going (Back) to Seminary“.

It goes through each of those reasons why I left seminary and talks about how God worked in me and my life to lead me back, albeit to a different school. I hope each of you are able to be encouraged in your own journeys with God. Also, leave some comments and let us know what you think!