Q. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
A. That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.
So begins the Heidelberg Catechism, a 16th-century document written under extraordinary circumstances. Long story short, after the counter Reformation, different “princes” over different regions were allowed to declare what “denomination” their region would be. The problem for Frederick III? His region was split pretty evenly between Lutherans and Calvinists. And so, he brought together some people from different traditions, and had them write a document they all agreed upon. The Heidelberg was born.
This document is one of the main doctrinal statements of my denomination, the Reformed Church in America (RCA), and my church. I’ve read little bits and pieces of it in the past, but I recently sat down and read the whole thing. And I was pretty surprised.
“Quote of the day: “The difference between a Barth and a Piper is that the former glorifies God, the latter deifies Glory.”
–Kim Fabricius, via Ben Myers’ blog
A few people have asked about my blogging absence (I have felt honored that they have noticed!) Anyway, I’ve been sick, first with a stomach flu, and now with an upper-respiratory thing. I lost my voice last week and am only now recovering it. It’s weird; I hardly ever get sick.
Anyway, this has kept me from blogging, but it’s given me the chance to watch and read some amazing things (about which I’m sure I’ll write more in the weeks to come). One of the highlights of my time was this video, An Evening of Eschatology, hosted by Bethlehem Baptist Church and moderated by John Piper (here’s some background to this talk):
This is an amazing discussion, and very insightful for those of us Christians that either have passionate views on the end of the world or don’t think about it much (as a friend used to say, “I’m a ‘pan-millennialist’: I believe in the end it’ll all just pan out.”).
Women, and their role in shaping society’s power structures, are at the fore-front of our nation’s consciousness and cultural discussion right now–Evangelical and otherwise.
Socio-politically: Maureen Dowd wrote about it this past week. Hanna Rosin wrote a book about this happening. Sandra Fluke got Rush Limbaugh into a tizzy and then spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Republican leaders, for some reason, could simply not stop talking about rape. Mitt Romney bragged about his binders full of them. Last week, Americans elected the largest number of females to Congress than it ever has.
In Evangelicalism: Rachel Held Evans brought attention to misogyny and patriarchalism at one of the bastions of the Neo-Reformed. Her new book, which already carried some controversy, has been criticized and patronized by conservative evangelicals, including one of the top female thinkers of that flock (Evans’ response, a scholar’s rebuttal). Concerning said bastion, after a rough search and count for the phrase “Complementarianism”, it seems that over half of the results appeared this year alone. At the time of this writing, a different bastion of the Neo-Reformed, upon visit to their site has as the featured video: “Complementarianism: Essential or Expendable?”. The Church of England just announced their new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and one of the main issues being talked about is his views on women’s ordination.
And so, I’m starting a series of posts (as I usually do) to offer up some of my thoughts on the Christianity side of this discussion–thoughts which I hope are helpful to us all. But first, I find it only fair to tell you all my journey into this and where I stand. I’ve hinted at it before, but a fuller treatment might be in order.
Yesterday, I talked about a recent brouhaha over some comments by Douglas Wilson and Jared Wilson (no relation) over at The Gospel Coalition about gender and marriage. Jared quoted a book by Douglas where he says, among other things, this:
…the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.
His (and Jared’s) main point was that they believe there’s an inherent “loving” “authority” exercised by men in marriage, even in the sexual act. Further, this is God’s loving design that Christians are to embrace. They believe that some of our culture’s male addiction to porn and female addiction to S&M bondage fantasies stem from our culture’s rebellion from this “proper” and “loving” exercise of male authority over women, causing them to turn to “improper” ways of exercising these God-given drives.
Needless to say, they got a lot of flack over this. They insisted time and time again that they are not advocating forcible marital sex or that women should just be treated as passive “receivers” of sex. They defended themselves, attacked their critics, and yet, (inexplicably, to them) critics kept saying these harsh things about them. Yesterday, I wrote about the background of this, the responses, and then wrote some words to Jared Wilson. Please go to that link for that relevant information. Today I want to give more of my specific perspective on this:
[Read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series]
Finally, this is done. This is the last post in a three-part series that’s been walking through my development as a thinker and feeler in this world. The first part, at its core, was about the culture and world around me as I grew up that helped cultivate the arrogance I still war against inside me. The second part was about the things that have humbled me and showed me my finitude. So where does that leave me now; and why does it warrant this little series?
The confluence of all of these forces (of arrogance and humbling) has made a very interesting creature out of me as of late. A recent trip back home to visit my parents found me getting into several vehement fights with them over (of all things) politics. It’s not even that I disagree with them very much! It was mainly a frustration over just how unwavering and (I felt) naively arrogant their commitment to these ideas were. In short, I was getting mad that they seemed to allow no room for disagreement or for them to be wrong. A couple of times my Dad asked me, well what do you think? And I realized I had no answer. All I knew was that no one could know so surely what was right. Why? Because God had showed me in the past several years that I couldn’t. And if I (of all people) couldn’t know with certainty, then surely no one else out there could, right? (P.S.- that was sarcasm) It all culminated in a moment where my dad pretty much said that my writing had been steadily losing it’s quality ever since the “pinnacle of my writing”: a post I wrote called “On Holy Week, Suicidal Ideations, & My Heart“.
Don’t worry, the title is not referring to this very blog post you are reading right now. It’s actually referring to this article at Christianity Today by Brett McCracken:
Wrightians & the Neo-Reformed: ‘All One in Christ Jesus – A dispatch from Together for the Gospel and Wheaton’s Theology Conference with N.T. Wright
The article compares and contrasts the general ethos of two very different conferences that occurred very close to the same time. One conference was the Together for the Gospel Conference and Wheaton College’s Theology Conference with N.T. Wright.
I try not to bash pastors that I know have good intentions. Those pastors that have demonstrated a desire to be biblically sound and pastorally sensitive, usually get the benefit of the doubt from me, even when I don’t think they are at the moment being biblically sound and pastorally sensitive. I also know that well-known pastors probably get far more useless and inane criticism from young twenty-somethings that think they know everything (myself included, far more often than I’d like to admit). But this went a bit too far. Tonight, John Piper put up the following tweet:
"Andrew Murray" by Amy Roberts
Just wanted to drop a quick plug for a new article I posted yesterday in the online magazine I run, Reform & Revive. The article is on the topic of Christians that curse and explores the issues that surround it. It’s received some really good, really helpful feedback and comments, so I wanted to post something here as well letting people know about it so they can join in on the conversation.
Remember to leave comments and retweet.
Here’s the link:
Also, if you want to write for Reform & Revive, you can either get in touch with me here or use this form. We are always looking for more content and new ideas for the site.
You can find more art from Amy Roberts here.