Spiritual warfare. In Christian life, we often hear that phrase hurled down the hallowed halls of the church, either in sermons or common language. Within the imagination, several images often begin to manifest. Those images are depicted as a harrowing dark-voiced troll like figure we refer to as a demon or as a bright shining wing carrying giant called an angel—both engaged in all-out war. But buried beneath those images and that phrase is an axiom. The axiomatic reality is this – In order to make sense of spiritual warfare, one must presume the spiritual world not only exists but is also active in our physical world.
In Eph. 6:12 Paul writes, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Here we see Paul illuminates to us where our true enemy slithers. But many have been trained to live as though we do not believe in actual spiritual battle. Paul makes clear our battle is not against other humans but against the spirit world. But there is a problem. Many believers do not practice codifying the spiritual world into the natural. For most, it is because they do not expect any manifestation of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12). They do not believe sign gifts continue today. And if many of the spiritual gifts are not expected within the church, then it is no surprise they are not experienced. This lack of expectation has consequences for spiritual warfare. The saying isn’t always true, but in this case, it is – seeing is believing.
Hear No Evil See No Evil
In the world of theology there is a debate regarding spiritual gifts. The debate has those who believe the gifts of the Spirit, e.g., gift of prophecy and tongues, continue. This is called Continuationism. The other side of the debate says the sign gifts have ceased. This view holds they no longer are experienced as normative in the life and body of the church. This is called Cessationism.
In the famed fictional book called ‘The Screwtape Letters’, C.S. Lewis depicts the ominous banter of demons. Screwtape, the senior demon, is training his understudy Wormwood. In the quest to devastate the Enemy (God), Screwtape instructs with the aim to decimate, with specificity, the mind of man. On one such occasion Screwtape, steeped in pious perfunctory; preaches:
“An important spiritual law is here involved. I have explained that you can weaken his prayers by diverting his attention from the Enemy Himself to his own states of mind about the Enemy.”
This is what Cessationism does. It creates a state of mind about God that says he can do anything, but in practice, it expects nothing. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ lack of mighty works in his hometown. In Matthew 13:53-58 it says Jesus taught in the synagogue. The people were astonished at his wisdom they heard and the mighty works they heard about. But, because of their unbelief, it says, “he did not do mighty works there”. They had a mindset which allowed for the wisdom of God, because they heard it as he taught. Yet, they lacked the expectation of the divine Jesus because they didn’t believe him. This is the effect of Cessationism. As Screwtape points out, this mind of disbelief weakens prayer. To engage in spiritual warfare is to engage in prayer. When one fails to pray in a way of expectation, which enables the Spirit to move through his gifts, it is a weaker prayer.
Spiritual War with Joy
In Ask Pastor John, episode 1163 , “Do Cessationists Miss Out on the Full Joys of Christianity” John Piper says: “All things being equal, someone pursuing spiritual gifts can experience the goal of Christian Hedonism more fully… That’s because God has given spiritual gifts as a means of ministry to his people, and these gifts are points of supernatural encounter with the living God in which he shows more of his power, more of his wisdom, more of his love to his people.”
The practice of believing for a “supernatural encounter with God” provides a framework in which spiritual warfare can be realized. When the Spirit goes to war on our behalf (Rom 8:26-27) through prayer, and we have an expectation of God’s power on display, we get happier in God. We have a place where we know the power of God manifested is not only possible but expected. This joy is a building of our faith because his glory blazes all the brighter. That is, our joy in him increases as his gifts are manifested. It encourages us to fight against spiritual wickedness in high places, fully believing God not only can move supernaturally, but expecting he will.
Continue by the Spirit
The apostle Paul writes the following to the church of Corinth:
“earnestly desire the higher gifts.” (1 Corinthians 12:31)
“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)
“Earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” (1 Corinthians 14:39)
In part, Paul writes this because he wants them to be equipped to wage spiritual devastation by the Spirit. The word of God is the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), and his spiritual gifts are joy filled demonstrations to remind everyone, he is with the church. Through the gifts there is Gospel power unleashed into the cosmic corners of the realm of the deep. And when the power of God is ushered into the throughs of war his glory is displayed, our joy is more and the consequences of Cessationism cease.
We know the debate about women preaching/teaching in church is at the forefront of today’s discussions. Before we get to Jordan Peterson’s comments, I’ll provide a brief recent history overview. Back in June of 2019 Dwight McKissic debated Tom Ascol and the title was, “Should Women Preach in Our Lord’s Day Worship?” Part of Pastor McKissic’s argument was to cite the point of the late Dr. R.C. Sproul. R.C. argued what Paul forbid was women teaching and/or holding authority over a man from a position of juridical authority. R.C. taught women can, in some settings, speak on Sunday. What they cannot do in the church is hold juridical authority and preach/teach exercising that authority. The teaching from R.C. was titled, “The Role of Women in the Church” and was said it dates perhaps to the early 80’s. This was according to a statement made from Ligonier Ministries. After the debate, many from Ascol’s position, along with R.C.’s family, lobbied to have Ligonier remove the teaching from their website. They asserted R.C. no longer held that view – I might add no conclusive evidence was produced to show that was true. (I may write on that in a future post).
Out of that came an article I wrote called, “Why Biology Shapes Juridical Roles in the Church”. You can read it, but for those who choose not to, here is the synopsis. The reason Paul grounds the 1 Timothy mandate in the creation order is because, at root, men are biologically disposed to defend a truth (doctrine) in a way which is different than women. I concluded, at root, this was because on average men are more interested in things and women are more interested in people. Therefore, God instituted those who at the biological level was more likely not to relent on doctrine because in their minds they saw it as a “thing”. That was my conclusion and still is, but I did not know if the psychological literature supported the conclusion. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I asked Jordan Peterson what he thought of that analysis.
A few things you should know. We were in the large Chicago Theatre with no microphone. I used my iPhone to record his response and with coughing and rustling I lost some of his words, however I captured most of his replies word for word. When you see below (…inaudible) this will indicate that a word or two dropped. I typed everything that was said. I did not edit it to make it flow better, so if it is clunky, know it is what was said. Also, a friend of mind asked about part of my phrasing. Since she had the question, I thought others would too. In my question, I state Paul said men are to protect the doctrines of the church. I phrased it that way for time’s sake. That does not mean women are not to defend doctrine and I want to make that point clear. Finally, I want to call out that after I asked the question, Dr. Peterson paused for 31 seconds pondering and staring and I find that fascinating. Why do I? No idea, but I do.
Michael Goff Question:
“There is a theological question I have been wrestling with and I want to get your thoughts from a psychological perspective. In 1 Timothy chapter two the Apostle Paul states the juridical authority within a church should be held by men, that is the doctrines that are protected, should be led by men and he grounds that in two ways. He said in the beginning Adam was created first, not Eve, and I take that to be an argument from responsibility, it was his responsibility. And two, Eve was deceived, not Adam. You said in one of your talks this, “neither medicine nor clinical psychology are sciences, they are variances of engineering. They are attempting to build something, there is an end in mind, there is an ethical end in mind.” My thought was, is there any psychological data that says men process the defense of a truth, like doctrine, in an engineering fashion, so that they see it in their mind as a “thing”? Which, if you are trying to protect the doctrines of a church you would want the person at the biological level who is more interested in things, which are men generally, than women, who are more interested in people. What are your thoughts on that?
Jordan Peterson Response:
“I am at a loss really (… inaudible) you might think well, that might mean the church is, one of the things it might mean, is if a culture is open to the possibility of rectifying the situation with these roles and open to new ideas (… inaudible) the same thing… really let an outsider in so that is one question. There is big literature that shows that the education success of a child, the education success attainment of the mother, is a better predicter than the education attainment of the father. In fact, the data I know shows if you control for the mother’s education the father’s education (… inaudible) in addition to that, so that’s interesting – so that’s on the plus side. On the negative side, the research we did does indicate that being female was a much bigger predictor of the likelihood of holding politically correct views. So, we have no idea what large scale institutions run by women would look like because we have never had them before, and it could easily be that it would work just fine, and it could easily be that it would be a big bloody disaster and the truth of the matter is we don’t know. So, what do we do about that? That’s a good question, I really don’t know the answer to that, ya know. It looks to me that female dominated professions tend to place extraordinarily high emphasis on the virtue of compassion and that would be in keeping with temperamental differences between women and men. And it isn’t obvious to me that compassion is the right basis to run large scale social organizations. It could be a virtue (…inaudible) that is more suitable for (…inaudible) we don’t know… I can tell you something we do know though. If you look for what predicts performance in large scale social organizations it’s not compassion, it’s conscientiousness. Now men and women are both conscientious (…inaudible) so. I don’t think anyone knows the answer to your question, but that’s the best I’ve got – that’s a two-sided answer… There is a puzzle there and I am not quite sure how to address it, so.”
Over the years I have tried to interact with those who
hold a Cessationist view. Unfortunately, I have never met anyone who was well
versed on the arguments and willing to have a concentrated dialogue. I have
interacted a few times with people on twitter, but the conversation dissolved
quick. Therefore, I have decided to write this brief post in hopes it opens
future dialogue. This will be extremely brief and for many, unsatisfying in
argumentation. I understand, but in the age of short posts I’m constrained. If
you want in depth conversation, lets talk!
What is Cessationism?
is the belief that spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and
healing ceased with the apostolic age.
To clarify, within cessationism there is a spectrum of
ideas. Some hold to the above definition. Others hold to the idea that healing
can happen, and the other gifts have ceased. No doubt there are other views I
have not listed. What is most often agreed is the gift of Prophecy does not
continue and for our exercise I use this example.
The first reason cessationism has ceased is because it
never got started. That’s right, the Bible doesn’t say anything about the gifts
stopping until we are “face to face” with Jesus (1 Cor 13:8-12). If the texts
on spiritual gifts were believed like 1 Tim 2:11-15, hardly anyone would be a
cessationist, except perhaps liberal theologians and denominations. For some
reason, the plain reading of the text is discarded. This point was made by Andrew
Wilson in the 2018 ETS debate. If you are new to this discussion I recommend
I find it fascinating that certain theological circles where “what the text says” is what we should follow, is pushed aside when it comes to spiritual gifts. I don’t really understand how the “man/woman of the book”, discards so easily the text. To be fair, I think many feel this way because they have rarely seen gifts in operation as the Bible instructs. But of course, this does not justify disobedience to the word of God, does it?
Reason # 2
The second reason cessationism has ceased is because logic
demands it. I will provide a deductive argument, which means if the premises are
true then the conclusions follow necessarily. To defeat my argument one of the
premises must be shown to be false.
Here is the syllogism:
1. The gift of Prophecy continues if revelatory dreams occur
2. Revelatory dreams do occur
3. Therefore, the gift of Prophecy continues
The first question we should ask is this: “What is
Owen Strachan, on his City of God Podcast, had as his guest Dr. Tom Schreiner. I want to pause here and say what a gift Dr. Schreiner is to the body of Christ. I appreciate the way he disagrees with people and his love and pursuit of Christ likeness. He is a Godly man and a cessationist. I thought what better definition to use than his. On the podcast titled, “What is Biblical Prophecy? A conversation with Tom Schreiner”, he gave the following definition:
Prophecy: A reception of revelation from God and the communication of the revelation so received.
I think that is a fantastic Biblical definition. The next definition we need in the syllogism is “revelatory”. Here is the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of both revelatory and revelation:
or relating to revelation: serving to reveal something
a: an act of revealing or communicating divine truth
b: something that is revealed by God to humans
To defend premise one, I need to show that prophetic dreams,
as defined by the Bible, can fulfill Dr. Schreiner’s definition of prophecy. I
offer these two examples.
If a prophet or a dreamer
of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or
wonder that he tells you comes to pass…Deuteronmy 13:1-2b
And it shall come to pass
afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your
daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men
shall see visions. Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17
Here are two verses that show dreams are a means God uses to give prophecy. The Bible is replete showing this. For example, in the story of Joseph, we have multiple prophetic dreams. Joseph has them, the baker has them, the cupbearer has them, and of course Pharaoh. It is biblically clear prophetic dreams, per Tom Schreiner’s definition, is found throughout the Bible.
This takes us to step two of the syllogism. Step two must show at least one prophetic dream has occurred since the era of the apostles ended. As a reminder, the cessationist position is spiritual gifts like prophecy stopped when the last of the apostles died. If true, then not one single prophetic dream has happened in the last 2000 years. Is that true? As an aside, I have heard it said some believe gifts didn’t end when the apostles died, rather over time God “faded them out”. Back to the question, is it true no prophetic dreams have occurred? I have a friend who was in a Muslim country. He said a man came to him saying, “I had a dream telling me to find someone to tell me about Jesus, can you tell me anything about him?” You may dismiss this example—fair enough. This example fulfills Dr. Schreiner definition, but you may remain unconvinced. I will now provide another example, namely my own.
Please pause and watch this short video (runtime 4:30)
where I explain what happened to me when I received a reception of revelation
from God about moving and the communication of the revelation I gave to my wife
and kids, that is revelation so received.
Spiritual gifts are not something we possess. The Holy
Spirit bestows gifts to people to build his global church. It is He who decides
how, when, and where the gifts are needed. There have been gross misuses of the
gifts, but we should not let our feelings override what the word of God says. The
Lord uses spiritual gifts to guide his church and we suffer when we deny he no
Much more can be said, but I will leave you with the
words of the Apostle Paul
“Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21
Recently Jen Hatmaker had Max Lucado and Beth Moore on her “For the Love podcast”. Both can be found here: “Beth Moore Guides Us Through the Rocky Soil” and Max Lucado: “The Beauty of Disagreeing Agreeably”. For those who may not be familiar, Jen came out in 2016 denouncing the teaching of Jesus. Jen claims marriage is not reserved only between men and women but also available for same-sex relationships. You can find one quote here in this article, “Progressively Pseudo Christianity”. To be clear I appreciate both Beth and Max. Often when Beth is critiqued many accuse those doing the critique as having it out for her. I assure you; nothing could be further from the truth. I offer these two links. In them I wrote two songs meant to bring humor and highlight the logical inconsistency of those attacking Beth, both can be found here: “Brad Paisley Tune for Beth Moore” and “Beth Moore Go Home”.
So, what’s the big deal? After all, it’s just a podcast,
right? Not quite. I mean it is a podcast, but the issue isn’t the podcast. The
issue is the affirmation by Max and Beth of someone who teaches the opposite of
what Jesus taught. If you listen to both conversations, you will see both Moore
and Lucado affirm Jen in all kinds of ways. My ask of them is to reconsider affirming
those who preach another gospel.
Here are a few of the affirmations offered to Jen.
Max had this to say, “Oh, you don’t know how honored I am. I’m just so thrilled. I think so highly of you. You energize me, to listen to your podcast…And your heart and you know what else I like, Jen? You bring me in touch with a circle of believers that I might not typically have contact with, you know?”
After the podcast Beth offered this, “It was a blast and an honor to be a guest on my beloved friend, Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” podcast… if you don’t want to love her, do not ever ever ever ever ever ever ever get to know her.”
Jen had this to say in promotion of the podcast, “The one
and only Queen is on the pod today. Let me tell you something about Beth Moore:
she is in possession of every single secret, heartbreak, and raggedy mess of
drama I have ever experienced… I have mountains of texts, emails, videos, and
notes she has sent me.”
Well what is wrong with affirming Jen like this? Sounds like
both Max and Moore are loving a friend, and are we not called to love our
friends? The answer is of course yes, we are. The problem comes when Scripture
informs how, in certain situations, love is to be shared with those friends. Sometimes
the Gospel calls us to true love and that is helping others see their sin and encouraging
them to repent.
of the Gospel
When leaders like Max and Beth affirm Jen, and others like her, they say Jen is OK. That is, her ministry is Christ honoring and worthy of others to listen to what she has to say. But this is not true. Jen is in need of guidance from people like Beth and Max. She needs to feel their love as they instruct her and plead with her to return to Christ honoring love. Of course, many take a dismissive stance like, “Hey we don’t agree with Jen on everything, but hey, I don’t agree with anyone on everything.” However, the problem is the Scriptures are clear how to interact with those who claim Christ but promote anti-Christ ideas. Though not popular, the clear language needed to explain is this—Jen Hatmaker teaches that which is evil and wicked, that is literally against Christ. That is, people who call that which is evil good and that which is good evil. The loving teaching of Jesus about marriage is found in the beginning of Genesis when there was one man and one woman.
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that
at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’5 and
said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to
his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they
are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let
no one separate.” Matthew 19:4-6
Jen discards this teaching from Jesus and offers a separate
plan and rejects the plan offered by the creator of all. Jesus said, let no one
separate, not even a great human like Jen Hatmaker.
So, what does the Scriptures have to say?
Authority of Scripture
In 1 Cor 5 there is a man who is in a sexually immoral relationship and he claims he is a believer. The key to understanding is remembering this is someone who claims the name of Christ, but lives against those claims. Paul says,
“It is actually reported that there
is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate:
A man is sleeping with his father’s wife.”
What does Paul say to do?
“I wrote to you in my letter not to
associate with sexually immoral people—” and
the wicked person from among you.”
Paul gives those two instructions to deal with someone who claims to be a believer but is involved in the promotion and/or participation of unrepentant sin. Of important note, Paul clarifies he is only speaking of those who claim to be a Christian.
But why does Paul give this instruction?
“hand this man over to Satan for the
destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the
“Don’t you know that a little yeast
leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old
yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ,
our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
Paul explains severing the relationship is the most loving thing to do. Further, without the covering of the community, he hopes the person will experience such devastation to their flesh that they turn and are restored to the church and God. Because of the rebellion at work, this drastic measure is the only hope of their soul being saved.
The second reason Paul provides is protection of those who
are part of the community. Paul uses the example of leavened bread to describe
what sin does. A little sin pollutes the whole community, just like a little leaven,
leavens the entire loaf of bread. Paul grounds this command in the death of
Christ. You were bought by the sacrifice of Jesus, dying on a cross for sin, so
now live as what He purchased on your behalf—a life not infected by sin.
As I have interacted on this topic with others, three claims arise. The first one is the most honest and revealing. It is the belief that what Paul said does not apply today. It often takes awhile to get people to admit it, but with some patience I got more than one to do it. I have no further commentary here. If one doesn’t believe all Scriptures are true and apply in context to the church today, then own that argument that the Scriptures are the opposite of what 2 Timothy says:
“All scripture is given by
inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for
correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be
perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
The second argument is something like, “This is a
non-essential matter, so we can agree to disagree.”
The problem with that argument is, yes you guessed it,
Scripture. Paul is clear on the matter of those who practice homosexuality and
other soul damning sins.
“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men” 1 Corinthians 6:9
The third and most bizarre response goes something like
this, “Jen only teaches that same-sex marriage is Holy before God, she doesn’t
actually participate in that activity.”
Instead of giving counter arguments which are many, I will offer the reality that is true, if that argument is also true. It would be true that Jen could promote, advocate, preach, help arrange, train, encourage, any and all things which lead to “others” practicing homosexuality and they be eternally lost, separated from God and she ushered into the presence of God, forever enjoying Him. I find that an impossible reality, if God is just, and my guess is those who are honest also feel the same.
Request to Beth and Max
To all leaders in the church, but specifically Beth and Max.
Please, for the honoring of Christ and for the love of the souls of those in rebellion
and the souls of those watching; love Jen and others like her the way Scripture
calls you. Be there for her, pray for her, be her friend. That of course
requires a very hard thing, separation so that Jen’s soul may be saved. As Jesus
love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15
In recent weeks the discussion around women teaching/preaching
in the church has captured many online discussions. Along the way there have
been some people who have confused the situation, so let me first set the
record straight. The debate has not
been about whether or not women can be elders. The Bible is clear that only men
can hold the position of elder in the church. The debate has been about whether or not women can teach/preach sometimes in
the church worship gathering or even in mixed gender adult Sunday school
classes—if what she is teaching has been evaluated by the elders, meaning her
speaking is under the authority of men (elders). This debate has ebbed and
flowed throughout the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), but most recently,
over the past few months, it has been aimed specifically at Beth Moore.
Before we dive in, I want to make four things clear. First, I am addressing “why” Paul says what he says in 1 Timothy. Second, teaching and preaching are not biblically the same. I will not defend that idea here, however, I will use teaching/preaching language throughout this text but let the reader know I do not think they are synonymous. Third, when discussing this subject many make an error. The error is insisting we need to go outside the logical bounds of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 to other texts of Scripture to understand what Paul is saying. It is an error because in Paul’s mind the reader has been provided the specific reasons “why” he gives the mandate. In other words, if you want to understand why Paul gives the prohibition then understand his reasons; Paul’s argument stands on its own. If someone found a ripped-out page of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 on a beach they would have all the logic needed to understand Paul’s thinking. That person wouldn’t even need to know about the large creation story because Paul explains the two reasons from the story that grounds his argument. That point is often missed, and it is critical as we think about the “why” behind this topic. Finally, this isn’t an argument of what woman cannot do as much as it is an argument that men must do. If Godly men who are biblically faithful and biblically wise stand up and fulfill what God has ordained then both sexes will flourish and freedom in Christ will abound in the local church.
woman is to remain quiet (this reinforces the first)
Plus, he gives two reasons why: Adam was
created first, then Eve
1 Timothy 2:11-15:
When Paul said that Adam was created first, he was not being trite. Paul was not holding it over Eve’s head that Adam won the “firstborn prize.”. So, then, why did he say this? What about Adam qualifies his firstborn status as a reason for why women cannot teach while having juridical authority over men (more on juridical authority below)? There are a few things in play, but the primary reason is biology. A first-born son had the birth right in Jewish culture, that is, at a minimum, all authority over his siblings. The prominence of the firstborn male in Jewish history isn’t prescribed by God, without some reason. One reason is the biological traits of maleness. Men have different desires than women, and those differences are driven by biological factors. I will mention some of them in a moment, but my warrant for seeing Paul’s argument from a biological standpoint is because of his emphasis on Adam being formed first, Eve being deceived and Eve being “saved through childbearing.” Paul is connecting Adam’s firstborn status to Eve’s biological gift of childbearing. Look at the parallels:
15B If they continue in faith and
love and holiness, with self-control.
What does Adam’s biological makeup have to do with women not having juridical authority over a man? That is a great question and the connection can be found in an example documented in the psychological data.
Jordan Peterson and What We Know About Men
Today, we have two millennia of scientific research
and discovery that readers in the first century didn’t have. Because of this we
can sometimes see truths in Scripture more vividly. To be clear, I am not
saying science changes the meaning of Scripture; nor am I suggesting the Holy
Spirit did not allow Paul this same robust understanding. It is likely Paul understood
the specifics into “why” he gave the mandate. But those of us who are not
apostolically enlightened like Paul, which is all of us, can use scientific
knowledge to enable us to see the truth of Scripture in a more robust way. Scripture
truths are true with or without science however, God’s second book called
nature can confirm his explicit word; this is the case here.
I was listening on YouTube to the famed clinical
psychologist Jordan Peterson, and he explained that social sciences have
discovered two main reasons that men and women differ in temperament:
Some people think biology plays no part; they are called
social constructionists. They believe men and women are only different in
temperament because of environmental reasons. For instance, they think boys
like to fight because dads teach them to fight. They dismiss the idea that
there is a battle instinct driving them. The social constructionist hypothesis is
this: eliminate environmental variations, and the differences between men and
women would disappear or become minimal. But Jordan explained how the
biological differences in temperament between men and women are significant,
not trivial, and he also touched on how these differences maximize in societies
that move toward egalitarian states. This is often through laws which provide
more opportunity for women to choose what fields they want to pursue. He went
on to explain that the countries that were the most egalitarian (Scandinavian
countries)—those that eliminated the environmental variations—saw the
biological variations maximize. This has been demonstrated in the psychological
scientific literature for over four decades and was devastating to the social
constructionist hypothesis. But even with this evidence social constructionists
still think biology plays no part. To make my point plain I will say it like
this: If you eliminate environmental reasons men and women do what they do,
then the biological ones will become more robust. They manifest because they
are no longer kept in check by laws. This is because how we are wired as male
and female drives our desires toward what we like and do.
For instance, the biggest known difference is that men have an intrest in things over people and women have an intrest in people over things. Another known difference is women tend to be, on average, more agreeable than men. Given this information I will try and put the pieces together regarding how Paul is thinking.
Juridical Authority in the Church
In R.C. Sproul’s teaching called “The Role of Women in
the Church,” he uses the 1 Tim. 2 text and argues that Paul is speaking only to
juridical authority. He shows where judgements on doctrinal issues within a
church context are prohibited by women. He goes on to say that women can teach
on a Sunday if she is under the leadership of the elders and is not making
juridical pronouncements while teaching. What he says she cannot do is be an
elder, because an elder holds juridical authority. Summed up, women are
forbidden to rule on final doctrines within the body of Christ (the church). I
will not restate the reasons why juridical authority is what Paul is
referencing, but I encourage everyone to listen to the audio teaching because I
cannot argue it better than Dr. Sproul and it is key to understanding Paul’s
When Paul said the reason women cannot have juridical
authority over a man is because Adam was born first, he is saying authority is
tied to the biological makeup of Adam. To ground his argument Paul points to
the primary (first) biological specimen of humans, Adam. We know that a trait
of male biology is a war instinct to protect. In fact, in Jude 1:3 the author says
to “contend” for the faith. The word “contend” is the Greek word ἐπαγωνίζομαι
which has its root in the word fight. Paul doesn’t explain if the Holy Spirit
reveled to him, what we would call scientifically, that men have a war instinct
and women are biologically wired on average to be more agreeable than men, but at
least in experience he recognized this.
Paul then points out that Adam, the first human biological
specimen, who was pre-wired to protect things, wasn’t deceived. Rather, it was
Eve, the one who was not biologically wired to war to protect things. Knowing
that women are more agreeable than men and that women value relationships over
things we can see the key that unlocks Paul’s logic. Paul, in dealing with how
to pass down the knowledge of God to generation after generation, explains men
are biologically wired to do this. He demonstrates this by showing when Eve
tried to exert juridical authority over Adam—by asserting herself trying to war
against the temptations of Satan—she failed. She didn’t fail because she was
stupid, she failed because the desire to keep the peace (agreeableness), overrode
her desire to war with someone. Meaning, underneath the justification of seeing
the food was good and could make one wise was this biological drive which
justified those conclusions. In order not to slight women Paul then speaks
about her God given biological role. Paul cuts the pride of man at its root
when he points to Eve’s biological gift. He points out that life itself is
biologically wired within Eve. He is showing that even though she isn’t, on
average, wired the way necessary to war against false doctrines, which involves
juridical pronouncements in the local church, she is wired to produce life and
that “saves her.” Meaning, that is a biologically rooted reality that men have
no access to. It seems Paul is trying to level the playing field by saying men
are biologically wired to protect and war to keep doctrine even at the expense
of relationships (think Martin Luther) and women are not less than men, but
they are biologically different. Paul demonstrates her ability to birth life is
her redeeming quality, and oh what a quality it is.
Failure of Men to Fulfill Their Juridical
One test to see if this exegesis is correct, is to look at all the mainline denominations where men have failed to fulfill Paul’s mandate and women have been placed in elder/juridical roles. How is the doctrinal health of that church going? Although I am not a church historian, it seems many churches over time are not doing well contending for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Often, acceptance and “love” supersede the truth of what the Scriptures teach. Women are biologically wired to value people over and above anything else, so we should not be surprised they don’t want to war over doctrine like Adam, they are not biologically built to do that. But how does this biology argument come together using Paul’s logic?
1 Timothy 2:11-15 Explained
Given all we have seen, I will now go through the text
to make what I have already said, explicit.
At its core, the church is egalitarian. What I mean by
that is there are very little environmental commands from the bible placed on
those who have been justified. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor
free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians
3:28). Remember what Jordan Peterson said the scientific data has shown, if the
environmental factors are eliminated then the biological factors maximize. Emphasizing
again, what we see most often where women are pastors and elders are
denominations where the biological wiring pushes for more agreeableness and
relationships over the wanting to war to protect doctrine, because it would be
at the expense of those biological driven goals;
“14 and Adam was not deceived,
but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor”
This should be no surprise, after all,
“13Adam was formed first,
Adam is the one who is biologically driven to protect
things like the handing down of the words of God. Women elders are on average
more agreeable and would rather not war to protect the “things” within doctrine
at the expense of a relationship. Paul then knowing by the Holy Spirit that the
church has very little mandates specific to men and women, other than we are
all in Christ, invokes an environmental command.
“12 Woman cannot teach or
have Juridical authority over men.”
Paul must ensure that in the church the God given biological roles are fulfilled. Therefore, he gives the command in the egalitarian church that women cannot have juridical authority over men. We can see the practical nature of this mandate in implementing church discipline. Church discipline requires elders to sometimes sever relationships if there is a lack of repentance and that person claims Christ, in order to save their soul (1Cor.5). This is hard to do when underneath the facts lies a biological driver that pushes subtly toward not removing a person from fellowship.
Knowing how the pride of men can be puffed up, he points out that women have a different role that is also biologically driven which men share no part and that is the ability to create life and the curse does not have power over them.
“15 yet she will be saved through childbearing If they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control”.
The following explanation is from John Piper “How Are Women Saved Through Childbearing.”
“Henry Alford notices that being saved “through” something does not have to mean being saved “by” it, but may mean being saved through it as through a danger. He also notices that Paul does combine the two words (“being saved” and “through”) this way in 1 Corinthians 3:15. “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
Could “She will be saved through childbearing,” mean “She will be saved, not by means of, but through (that is, in spite of) the engulfing pains of childbirth”?
Alford draws our attention to the fact that in Genesis 3:16, after the fall, when God was appointing the devil and woman and man to their distinctive experiences of the curse, “bearing children” was the very point where God’s curse lands on the woman. “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.’”
Pause and feel the weight of this for women in the centuries before modern medicine. No hygiene, no spinal blocks, no episiotomies, no sutures, no caesarians, no antibiotics, no painkillers, and often, no recovery. Untold numbers of women died in childbirth and countless more suffered the rest of their lives from wounds that prevented childbirth, or any kind of normal sexual life.
In other words, even more than today, there were aspects of childbearing that felt like a curse from God — and often that burden lasted a lifetime, not just in the moment of birth. How easy it would have been for women to despair and feel that God was against them. He was their curser, not their savior.
To this sense of despair Paul responds with the hope of the gospel. No to the curse! The pains of childbearing — even if they last a lifetime — are not God’s final word to women. God intends to save women. He intends for her to be a fellow heir with man of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).
Henry Alford sums up his interpretation like this:
The curse on the woman for her “transgression” was, “in pains you will bear children” (Genesis 3:16). Her “childbearing” is that in which the curse finds its operation. What then is here promised her? Not only exemption from that curse in its worst and heaviest effects: not merely that she shall safely bear children: but the Apostle uses the word “will be saved” purposely for its higher meaning [eternal salvation], and the construction of the sentence is precisely as [in] 1 Corinthians 3:15 — “he will be saved, yet though as through fire.”
Just as that man should be saved through, as passing through, fire which is his trial, his hindrance in his way, in spite of which he escapes — so she shall be saved, through, as passing through, her child-bearing, which is her trial, her curse, her (not means of salvation, but) hindrance in the way of it. (Alford, H. . Alford’s Greek Testament: an exegetical and critical commentary [Vol. 3, 320]. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software)”
I have argued that Paul gives this mandate because men are biologically created by God to protect the handing down of the Word of God and perform juridical decisions within the role of elder that are in keeping with how men are biologically constructed. I came to this understanding because of the two reasons Paul provides for why he gives the mandate. There is an innate desire in men to protect the ideas of God in the church over and above all else, even risking relationships, thus warring to do it. Intellectual issues between the sexes are not in play here, it is biology 101.
Now what about women sometimes teaching/preaching on Sunday or in a mixed gendered adult Sunday school class? Could a woman at times teach/preach on a Sunday like R.C. Sproul and Dwight McKissic argue? That is the next question that needs to be addressed. This article wasn’t written to conclude one way or the other. I will say, it is not an easy answer if one is thinking carefully about the text and how we conduct church in America. Therefore, I will reserve my thoughts on that for another post. May I encourage all of us to think and pray carefully about the truth of Scripture and let God’s word be our guide. It is his name we live to glorify and in his ways we strive to live.
 R.C. Sproul, “The Role of Women in the Church”, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/series/role_of_women_in_the_church/role-of-women-in-the-church/
The other day I was on Facebook and Twitter having the
same conversation. To be clear, I didn’t plan that, it’s just how social media
presented itself. It was regarding the topic of intentionally pursuing ethnic
diversity in the church, if that church was in an ethnically diverse area. At
the end of both conversations the response was the same. It could be boiled
down to something akin to,
“We should NEVER pursue
ethnic diversity in the church. We should just preach the Gospel”.
One person who argued against me was a prominent black
pastor and the other was in a group where white people were the majority. I
point out these dynamics to show this was a broad conversation. So why write
about it? One reason is because I thought others may find this interaction
interesting and another reason is that I think this topic of pursuing
ethnically diverse churches is important.
What I proposed in both interactions hushed the
dissenters. My position was simple. If you are in an ethnically diverse community
the churches in that community should pursue ethnic diversity. This was not a
popular idea. At first, I thought the push back was due to terms and what I
meant, but no, after going through all the details it was clear, this was not considered
a Gospel pursuit. Here are some of the comments I received:
“Creating multi-ethnic attendance
as an issue is yet another way to undermine the gospel” or
“Last time I checked
there are no ethnic groups in Christ”
“Many consider the
intention to become a more diverse church, in ethnic terms, to be strange
because it is strange. Diversity is a secular and political concept that has no
place in church; once again, all are welcome.”
That last comment really makes one wonder what heaven looks
like for him, but for now, I will leave that aside.
As you can see the comments were used to enslave the diversity
idea. The consensus was clear, this is said to be a sinner’s game, not a God
honoring pursuit. Their goal was to beat the idea into submission and then to discard
it. They wanted nothing more than to shackle and lock it away into the chilling
darkness of worldly rhetoric, never to be seen or heard from again.
The Demographics Argument
Upon listening I asked a question that no one would
answer. Except, there was this one poor fellow that made a comment to undermine
the argument, but alas, he failed. (more on that in a bit).
I began with these questions:
your church intentionally pursue teenagers?
your church intentionally pursue singles?
your church intentionally pursue people who can sing?
Knowing most every church has pursued these
demographic groups I then asked, “Can anyone explain to me why the demographics
of Age, Marital Status and Talent can be pursued but not ethnicity? We have
youth events to bring them into the church, right? We have singles nights to
bring people in the church, right? How is this demographic of ethnicity
different, I asked? One response was to reject the definition of “demographic”,
but a quick copy and paste of Webster stopped that in its tracks. The next
response said no group should be pursued. That response seemed a little extreme,
but if true, it would defeat my argument; however, I have never heard anyone say
the youth outreach downtown is a worldly idea that dishonors Christ, have you? Finally,
I received this response when I asserted that what we see in Rev 7:9 is that diversity
starts now, not somewhere out there in the future.
it started the moment Jesus Christ was resurrected. The first example being
when God told Peter in a vision that “you shall not make unclean what I have
made clean.” Shortly thereafter Peter went to the house of the Roman centurion
Cornelius and baptized him and his family. Thanks be to God!”
To which I responded:
“Oh yeah, when Peter
sought out on purpose with intention the ethnic Greek? Yes, I remember that 😉”
Evidence of This Pursuit
As I was watching them struggle and squirm trying to
find some difference in the ethnic demographic versus the others mentioned I
gave them evidence. In my church it was found that the Hispanic community (some
argue this is a race some say it’s an ethnicity) was large and growing. Our
church made intentional plans to pursue this demographic based on their ethnicity
and guess what? It exploded! They have grown into the thousands and it was all
because they were sought out because, in part, of their ethnicity. To be clear,
ethnicity isn’t the only criterion, but it is one the church can use to glorify
Make no mistake, if the end of this pursuit is just so
we can say we have a multi-ethnic church, then secular and worldly that pursuit
would be. But if the pursuit is to provide a picture of the kingdom of God here
on earth, now, to the Glory of God, then that is a Holy pursuit. That isn’t a
secular or worldly idea, that is a God idea.
After this I looked, and
there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every
nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the
Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.Rev.7:9
I often hear those in the Progressive “Christianity” crowd say they are Christian. In fact, John Pavlovitz said this: “My new friend, the Reverend Vince Anderson took the mic and said, “Let’s be clear: Progressive Christianity is just Christianity. We are Christians—and we are progressing in our knowledge and understanding.”
That is the stance they champion, but is it true? Are they truly Christian? To find out, I decided to pick a few Christian doctrines and compare answers. We will see what Progressive “Christianity” says versus what true Christianity says.
The Holy Scriptures
What true Christianity
says: All Scripture is God breathed, without error in all it proports to be
true and used for rebuking, teaching, correcting and training in righteousness
(2 Tim 3:16). It was God’s word given by the Holy Spirit to men (1 Cor 2:13 and
“Tradition, dogma, and doctrine are all fair game, because
all pass through the hands of flawed humanity, and as such are all equally
vulnerable to the prejudices, fears, and biases of those it touched.” John Pavlovitz- Progressive “Christian”
“The Old Testament is the inspired telling of the story of
Israel coming to know their God. Along the way assumptions were made and they
didn’t get everything right.”
Brian Zahnd- Progressive
To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but
just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together
anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and
‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to
us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries” Richard Dawkins- Atheist
Christianity says: All sexual relations are to be expressed in love through
marriage between a man and a woman. (Gen 1:27-28, 2:24 and Mark 10:6-9).
Progressive “Christianity” says:
“I get divorced, like the most amicable divorce you can
imagine…It was great, right, it was like actually really lovely. But I get
together with my boyfriend and start having sex and it was like ‘********,’ I
was like, it felt like an exfoliation of my whole spirit. I’m like ‘This is so
good for my brain chemistry, and my body, and my heart…why in the world would
the Church say ‘Don’t do this?’ Like I could tell it was what I needed, and it
was so good.” Nadia Bolz-Weber-
Progressive “Christian” Speaker/Pastor
“If same-sex relationships are really sinful, then why do they
so often produce good fruit-loving families, open homes, self-sacrifice,
commitment, faithfulness, joy? And if conservative Christians are really right
in their response to same-sex relationships, then why does that response often
produce bad fruit-secrets, shame, depression, loneliness, broken families, and
fear?” Rachel Held Evans- Progressive
“I do think a LGBT
relationship can be holy. And my views here are tender. This is a very nuanced
conversation, and it’s hard to nail down in one sitting. I’ve seen too much
pain and rejection at the intersection of the gay community and the church.
Every believer that witnesses that much overwhelming sorrow should be tender
enough to do some hard work here.” Jen
Hatmaker- Progressive “Christian” Speaker/Author
What true Christianity says: God sent Christ to pay the penalty of people’s sin in His flesh through His death on the cross and became our substitute and anyone who trusts in Him will be saved (Rom. 8:3-4, Is. 53, Heb 9, Rom 3:21-26, 1Pet 2:24, 2 Cor 5:21).
“I would love to hear more artists who sing to God and fewer
who include a Father murdering a son in that endeavor. If you can’t think of
anything to sing to God other than gratitude for taking your shame away through
bloodshed, stop singing and look around.” Michael
Gungor Musical Artist- Progressive “Christian”
“The theological problem with penal substitution is that
it presents us with a God who is first and foremost concerned with retribution
flowing from his wrath against sinners… In The Lost Message of Jesus I claim that penal substitution is
tantamount to ‘child abuse–a vengeful Father punishing his Son for an offence
he has not even committed.’ Though the sheer bluntness of this imagery (not
original to me of course) might shock some, in truth, it is only a stark
‘unmasking’ of the violent, pre-Christian thinking behind such a theology. And
the simple truth is that if God does not relate to his only Son as a perfect
Father, neither can we relate to him as such.” Steve Chalke- Founder of Oasis Charitable Trust and British champion of
What true Christianity says: Hell is a place that was originally created for the eternal confinement of Satan and his angels (Mt. 25:41). As Scripture revels, those who do not trust Jesus for forgiveness of sin and become justified, by grace through faith, will be eternally separated from God. This separation is described as an eternal torment along with the devil and his angels (Rev 14:11)
Progressive “Christianity” says:
“A loving heavenly father who will go to extraordinary
lengths to have a relationship with them would, in the blink of an eye, become
a cruel, mean, vicious tormentor who would ensure that they had no escape from
an endless future of agony… if your God is loving one second and cruel the
next, if your God will punish people for all eternity for sins committed in a
few short years, no amount of clever marketing or compelling language or good
music or great coffee will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring,
untenable, acceptable, awful reality…” Rob
Bell Progressive “Christian” Speaker/Author
“…I’m intrigued now, so religion could be a good thing
after all, sometimes, we think, is now the proposition. What would a religion
have to do to get that far? Well, I think it would have to give up all
supernatural claims. It would have to say no, you are not to do this under the
threat of reward, heaven, or the terror of punishment, hell…find me the church
that will say, “Forget all that.” Christopher
What is now obvious is this movement called Progressive “Christianity” is anything but Christian. For even atheists’ champion many of the same doctrines as the Progressive crowd. It is important to point out this isn’t an interpretation issue, rather it is a heart issue. Some refuse to believe what Christianity says, they lack the courage to own that decision and be brave in their rejection. It is a deadly game Progressives play, one that not only devastates the church but also eviscerates the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I would like
to end by allowing Christopher Hitchens to preach. Yes, you read that right, he
is preaching. In an interview with a Progressive pastor Christopher sets the
Christian record straight. The famed atheist seemed to have little tolerance
for those who entertain the radical ideas of Progressive “Christianity”. In
fact, if he were alive today, I think he would replace the Progressive language
with another word—Pseudo-Christianity. Not only is it a more fitting
description but one I think Christopher would approve.
Interview with Christopher Hitchens:
“The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist
faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal [Progressive] Christian, and I don’t take
the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of
atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make a
distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?” Marilyn Sewell
“I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth
was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his
sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a
Christian.” Christopher Hitchens
It is no secret that progressive “Christianity” has
gained a lot of exposure over the past week. When I first heard Rachel Held Evans
had died, I fought back tears. A life lost so early is tragic. The deep sadness
of knowing two children and a husband will be facing life without their mother
and wife consumed me. I prayed and will continue to pray for her family and
friends. In the days following some evangelical writers took to Twitter and
blogs discussing her impact upon them and within progressive “Christian”
thought. What I didn’t expect was the incongruence of taught theology vs applied
theology. Some leaders were theologically consistent, but others were vague and
confused. More on that in a moment, but for now I want to state explicitly why
I write this. I do not write this as a critique of Rachel. I write this as a
critique of theology applied in evangelical circles. Although Rachel is
involved, she is not my focus. I think Anne Kennedy said it best in her recent
article titled, “Answering a Kind Comment.”
“If the election of Mr.
Trump was one kind of evangelical crisis, the death of Rachel Held Evans is another. Both brought into the light
the deep-rooted troubles that have been long growing. Both are forcing
Christians to show to themselves, and to each other, and to the world, their
true theological cards.”
What is Progressive “Christianity”
Progressive “Christianity” encompasses many subjects
and invades critical areas of theology. It challenges the authority of
Scripture and redefines Christian sexual ethics to name a few. Alisa Childers,
a rising authority on the topic, defines progressive “Christianity” this way:
is a theological progression beyond the historic Christian views of the Bible
and essential doctrines of the faith. Progressive Christian beliefs tend to be
in step with cultural norms, rather than biblical mandates.”
A trademark of this ideology is the seductive allure of boundless inclusivity for any and all. It sounds enticing to imagine. For instance, a person can focus on social issues by making a change in the world without being forced to change themselves. This isn’t to say a person doesn’t change in the process, make no mistake they do. The issue isn’t at root change, the issue is the change isn’t prescribed. One can be changed by dusty scrolls found in the desert we now call Scripture, but one doesn’t have to be, at least not in the way the Scriptures intended. The only change required is the change you want. It doesn’t have to be anyone’s path it only needs to be your path.
The sentiment expressed in their public speakers is a thin veneered hope. The call heralded is to break out of the tyranny of the patriarchal shackles of a 2000-year-old religion and help usher in a new form of Christianity. The stories are essential to selling this idea. The picture is painted with the wide brush strokes of pain and hurt. Who hasn’t been hurt? Then they draw correlations to Scripture being followed a particular way that has brought about this suffering. Of course, it is true some people take some Scriptures out of context and hurt others. But progressive “Christianity” often discards nuance for emotional appeal. If someone is hurting, nuance needs a swift kick in the butt and self-healing and acknowledgement of the pain often overrides any logical appeal. As this develops into a system of thought it is concluded there can and will be a new church. Progressive “Christianity” promises a church community where you will not be judged but you will be embraced. After all, Jesus had a message of love and this acceptance of “you be you” is seen as a beautiful expression of love. For what could be more loving than inviting the disenfranchised to the table of Christ? At least that is how it is put on display to the masses. It sounds so freeing and of course loving. But any true freedom isn’t boundless. If something is boundless that is true anarchy. To be fair, it isn’t as though there are no rules within the progressive crowd, rather the rules are different. The perceived broken ideas of the past have healed in the soothing balm of redefinition.
Evangelical Theology Applied
Albert Mohler once spoke of 1st, 2nd,
and 3rd order issues within theology. The idea here is there are
somethings a person can believe and do (1st order) which exclude them
from salvation through Christ. There are other things a person can believe and
do (2nd & 3rd order) which isn’t a salvation matter
but a freedom in Christ matter. The conversation over the past week has shown
some in the evangelical world think there are no issues which separate from
Christ. One can be in “error”, say with sexual ethics, yet still be a “Sister
or Brother” in Christ. One prominent evangelical wrote this:
“As evangelicals, we can
respond better when our brothers and sisters have serious doubts and ultimately
end up on the other side of the line as us on certain issues. We must do
better. J.R.R. Tolkien, one who believed differently than me on many
theological issues, once said, “Not all those who wander are lost.” This I
To be fair, I asked the author to clarify, but he
never did. To be more generous in my reading of the author I acknowledged this could extend to a general group of people;
however, the article was about Rachel. It is hard to know if his spoken
theology is different than his applied theology. But I write to raise the flag
of awareness to this kind of response. If people who preach same-sex marriage as
a Holy and God glorifying institution are only on “the other side of the line” then
I understand very little about Scripture.
Two Tables of Christ
Moments ago, I mentioned that proponents of progressive “Christianity” pride themselves on the idea that it invites the disenfranchised to the table of Christ? However, what I want to leave you with is this question. Is Christ at their table? Scripture is clear, the table where Christ sits calls for the disenfranchised, not only to come, but to deny themselves and follow Him. I will again quote Anne Kennedy from the same article listed above:
“And so we are not
sitting at opposite sides of one long table. We are not eating of the one bread
and drinking out of the one cup. We are talking about two different faiths, two
different kinds of love, two different lords.”
And I conclude we are talking about two different tables.
LISTENING TO MY FRIEND I was stunned in silence. While his eyes leaked, and his soul gasped for breath I was still. He gushed out the emptiness which filled him to the brim. It was overflowing and spilling out. Words crashed one on top of another as he blurted out his depressive state.
“I don’t wanna die but I don’t wanna live either!”
Immense suffering had overtaken him. Apathy was his new home and black darkness the color of his rainbow. He went on to tell me that ending his life was constantly on his mind.
A day earlier his family left the house and he was alone. He was overwhelmed with grief as he thought about his life. His failures capsized the boat of hope. His thoughts turned toward self-harm, that of the most heinous kind—suicide.
He begged God for relief, but in that moment none came. Instead he found a pistol and a pen. Wailing on the floor of his living room his heart pounded. In rhythm he mimicked the drum beat of his heart by punching the couch until he was exhausted. He said it was an, “acting out of the fight inside.” As I listened, I was filling up with throat griping emotion. He continued and said, “the first time I thought about doing this I was between eight to ten years old. It has never been a single moment for me but a way of living.” Having heard that confession I was exhausted. My boys at the time were eight and ten years old. I grabbed a tissue and wiped away the tears which had escaped my grip. That was too much for me to dam up. He went on to explain that he had to choose between a gun or a pen. Of course, he was sitting across from me, so I knew which option he chose. He then handed me a poem. He said, “Here, take it. Read it if you like.”
In the pale blue haze of clear non-existent white veils the hideousness of gross meanderings. Calling out of the shadows deep within, shattering all the frozen years of emotion. Waging a war by the reappearance of apathy and waste. From the belt loops of yesteryears balanced needlessly on a foundation of shaky steel, stir deep groans of wounded heel.
Not for all, yet all for not. Climbing and dancing and sheading all that traps and ensnares.
Dreaming awhile of lavish lights and suns and moons and rings of Jupiter stare in a cosmic speck of dust on my soul.
Oh, my soul! This gut-wrenching soul filled with all that I am and all I will ever be.
Ever be because of nothing less than a challis full of bitterness and pain.
Pain like that of a cold titanium tip of a chiseled edge piercing that which is hidden, and then gone.
Gone again, fleeting and drifting back into the long halls of sadness.
Impregnated upon the broken pieces of shattered visage.
Contained in this moment is the elation of euphoria, pure bliss like that of an exhilarating ride.
A ride that lasts but for a moment, yet a ride that cannot and should not ever be forgotten.
That moment where once again there is a knock on the door.
A tug on the rope wrapped around my neck.
That moment that just left but is back again fighting and wasting away like a bag of rotten potatoes in the missing eyes of a dead corpse.
And I wonder, will it ever be back?
Ya know, that day when all was good?
After reading it I wiped yet another tear away. Now composed he said, “See, God did show up.”
With eyes full of life, he pierced my soul with these words,
“God gave me strength to pick up a pen, not a gun. At the end of the night I spilled ink, not blood. What I wrote was devastating to my case thinking I wanted to die. From the depths of my soul I penned that poem. What stunned me was I wrote the words, this was a moment. This wasn’t my life. Life is moment upon moment. And the next moment might be different than this one, unless I make this moment my permanent future. I realized no one would ever say one moment should define someone’s life, yet if I do this, that is exactly what I would be saying.”
He went on to tell of how hope everlasting is found in Jesus Christ.
My friend and I haven’t spoken since that day. I am confident in Christ he and I will never speak again, after all, it was only a moment.
If you or anyone you know struggles with thoughts of suicide, please give life a chance:
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline— 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)— Open 24-hours and its confidential.
Have you had a life-long dream? Aspirations of, you can become anything, fed by the encouragement of family, school and all the rest? Have you relished the day when the world will take notice? The day when history pages will be filled with the advancements made by your efforts? Did you find as time passed your dream seemed a certainty? Then it happened, like a ravenous wolf tracking and taking down its prey, the dream was devoured. It’s rotting carcass lay in a pile of steaming stench, either due to unexpected job loss, a health loss or simply realizing it couldn’t be done. The dream died the death of a thousand deaths. The death of a salary. The death of fame. The death of world change. Gone like a whisper with no recognition, no statesmanship, and no powerful influence. Only the realization of a normal, everyday human existence remains. Now what?
A Dreams Death is God’s Grace
In the darkness of that reality is where I found myself. As I began to recover from the tyranny of what seemed like life’s cruel decree, God showed up. He used the death of a dream to birth the life of another. What seemed to me a horror, played out in a night terror, turned out to be a new script. The author and finisher of my faith brought forth a sanctification revelation. He exposed my sinister heart’s desire. It longed for significance, not in Christ, but in my dream. My longing for living the dream was to be noticed; to be thought of as a life well spent. Blurred reality became clear, realizing the power of God’s grace superintended the entire process. My loss wasn’t lucks deficiency, it was God’s supremacy. As hope in self-significance took its final breath I mourned in self-pity. I threw a childish fit. “I could have been something… I could have made a difference… I could have had what I always wanted, significance.”
Strong pride says I am better than you. Weak pride sulks because it didn’t get its way. Weak pride becomes strong when the pity for oneself is made into an identity—its idolatry. Paul tells us God did not create our work to identify who we are. God created who we are to identify his work (Ephesians 2:10).
Many times, I have wallowed in the prideful pig sties of the prodigal, scavenging for my idol of significance. Feeding on the slop of what will never be always starves the present moment and hinders future grace. But grace wouldn’t be grace if it could be so easily thwarted. By grace in him, Jesus offers us an everlasting significance. Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
My hunger and thirst for significance is always satisfied when in Christ. Knowing he gave me eyes to see this truth reveals he is doing what he promised—making me into his likeness; conforming me to his image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Glory of God in the Simple
I am reminded of so many in Scripture who, by worldly standards, failed the significance test. Ruth, a Moabite widow. David, a simple shepherd. Peter a feisty fisherman. And one I often identify with, Balaam’s donkey.
Paul’s words echo here:
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (1 Corinthians 1:26).
In summary, not many were significant.
God uses the worlds standard of insignificance, in significant ways (1 Corinthians 1:27). God has made clear his power is perfect in [our] weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because we are in him and his Spirit is in us we can rejoice! We are heirs of the world and fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 4:13) (Romans 8:17). That is the good news of the Gospel. Not the here and now significance, but the imperishable, undefiled and unfading inheritance of him (1 Peter 1:4).
Often, we are cut when we pick up the splintered pieces of broken dreams. The tiny slivers are painful. The effort required to remove the soul piercing fragments, seems at times, hopeless. But hopelessness is dead. We serve a God who hung death on a cross and birthed hope. And this hope found in the risen Christ calls out to all who hear his voice. So those who have ears, let them hear. Arise! Let us awake from sedated apathy (Isaiah 60:1). We cannot afford to sleep in the place God has called us. It may seem our current occupation is of little regard, but this too is a lie. We must meditate on the blood bought promises of God (Joshua 1:8). To work as unto the Lord and not unto men (Colossians 3:23). Serve people with the love of God in the strength he supplies (1 Peter 4:11). Realizing when we do something for one of the least of these, we did it for the Lord (Matthew 25:40). Giving all glory to him, even in the simple, like eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is what significance looks like for the redeemed. Serving the Lord with gladness and loving others as yourself. What could be more hope-filled than that?
Fuel for the Battle
Remember, we are in war. We make war against our sin by putting it to death, by the Spirit. Our fuel for the battle is the sword of the Spirit. Therefore, never forget, it isn’t the number of pages written about you or me which bring significance, it’s the words found in the pages written about him. Our life long significance can only be real, if Christ’s real significance is in us. Run the race. Press toward the mark. It’s reality, it isn’t a dream, and its significance rests in him.