John Dickson, Senior Minister in the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and Honorary Fellow of the Department of Ancient History, wrote a wonderful e-book Hearing Her Voice: A Case for Women Giving Sermons. As of the writing of this book review, this ebook is available for free at Amazon. His central contention is that I Timothy 2:11-12 has been misunderstood by interpreters, and his main argument is that the prohibition against women teaching in the Church has little to do with their ability to preach a Sunday sermon in the modern context. He opines that I Timothy 2:11-12 does not require a wholesale shift from a complementarian to an egalitarian view of women in church leadership but a right understanding of scripture.
Category Archives: Books: Fiction and Non-Fiction Alike
Over the past few weeks, Pastor Louie Giglio’s name has risen to the forefront of the cultural mainstream, as many of the talking heads on the political left and right have sought to interpret his intended involvement with the inaugural activities of President Obama. Initially selected by the President’s team for his ongoing efforts to address human trafficking, Giglio quickly came under heavy scrutiny for a sermon he had once preached on the subject of homosexuality. Acting quickly and of his own accord, Giglio attempted to squelch the expanding brush fire by electing to withdraw himself from the planned activities.
For these reasons and more, I recently decided to read and review Louie Giglio’s I Am Not, But I Know I Am. For in these days where one’s understanding of homosexuality has become the new litmus test for one’s fitness to engage in the national discussion, it seems to me that we would all benefit from a conscious decision to spend some time with the debatable subject before we carelessly (and perhaps needlessly) jettison him or her overboard as some kind of cultural jetsam. Read the rest of this entry »
Here are ten books I read this past year provided in no particular order, with no pontificating on the nature of lists and the subjectivity of literary experience. Read the rest of this entry »
By nature, top ten lists are as personal as they are peculiar. One man’s “great read” is another man’s doorstop, and vice versa. Nevertheless, these often idiosyncratic lists are fun to compile. For in the assembling of the list, one has the chance to review much of what has shaped his or her thinking over the course of the past year; and in doing so, the chance to possibly shape the thinking of another. So here, once again, I offer you the very best of the books that I have read over the course of the past year. What about you? Have you read any great books this year? Anything that you think others should read? If so, feel free to comment below. Read the rest of this entry »
Today, I would like to introduce the “Saturday Afternoon Book Review,” a new series highlighting little-known books that offer valuable and often challenging insights into subjects that are sorely in need of genuine theological reflection. I begin with John Dickson’s 2011 release, entitled Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love and Leadership.
As I recently made my way through this slim, yet highly engaging, volume on the subject of humility, I was struck by one overwhelmingly convicting thought. This virtue, which in many ways encapsulates the “fruits of the spirit” described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians, has largely disappeared in today’s society. As the secular culture continues to promote thinking and behaviors that veer dangerously close to narcissism, the modern church has likewise adopted a similar culture whereby successful leaders and pastors are often given a pass on this characteristic so long as they can skillfully construct a wide-ranging ministry that is financially robust and openly admired.
But the interesting thing about Dickson’s book is that it does not pit humility against success or growth. Instead, it tries to make the argument that humility is often one of the most important characteristics of those people that have historically achieved the loftiest of goals. In other words, while people seem to be able to construct “empires” that “succeed” over a short period of time, very few construct anything lasting or memorable unless they are grounded first by the belief that it is not the individual that matters.
What a clarion call in an Enlightened society and church that seems ever more interested in elevating the glory of the individual over the needs of the community.
 The fruits of the Spirit are defined in Galatians 5:22-23 as follows: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
In the interest of full disclosure: I don’t watch Modern Family. I’ve seen it twice, and honestly, I just didn’t find it to be all that funny. And if a comedy wants my attention for 30 minutes every single week, it needs to do more than make me snicker. I want at least three good chuckles and maybe even – dare to dream! – some full-on, all-out, belly laughter. What can I say? The early years of the The Simpsons set an awfully high bar.
But today, I want to talk about a recent episode of Modern Family that first aired during “prime time” on January 18th. It was called “Little Bo Bleep,” and near the start of the show, 2-year-old Lily, daughter of Mitchell and Cameron, unexpectedly blurts out the “F-bomb,” which was bleeped out for the telecast. The rest of the scripted show revolved around her parents humorously attempting to clean up her language before attending a church wedding. Needless to say, their damage control is unsuccessful, and the wedding is colorful, to say the least.
Now this brings me to the point of this article. Prior to the airing of last night’s episode, the Parents Television Council entered the fray by issuing the following public statement:
“It’s not suitable language for a child that young in the real world, and it’s not suitable language for a child that young on television, either … It is certainly in poor taste … The more we see and hear this kind of language on television, the more acceptable and common it will become in the real world. Since television is constantly adding to the likelihood that children will be exposed to this kind of language, we will naturally see more and more children eventually emulate that behavior.”
My point here today is not to debate whether a 2-year old swearing is appropriate or even funny. And my point is not to debate the role of Christian watchdog groups trying to censor or shape broadcast media. I just want to know who the Parents Television Council believes itself to be representing. In other words, I just want to know whether there is any sense of consensus amongst modern evangelical Christians as to what the Apostle James means when he says:
“If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile.”
To get you started on the discussion, let me introduce you to some research conducted by Dave Kinnamen and Gabe Lyons back in 2007. At that time, they published an excellent new book entitled UnChristian, which sought to explore the behaviors and attitudes of those within the church as compared to those outside. When it came to using “profane” language, they discovered that only 17% of older born again Christians claimed to use profanity, while almost two-fifths of the younger Christian generation claimed the same. So clearly, there is an emerging trend within the church that seems to think that the use of “profane” language is acceptable. But what I found to be really curious about their study relates to how both groups view the use of the word “fuck” on television. When asked to give their opinion on the subject, both young and old Christians alike almost universally rejected the notion that this would be acceptable. So while the younger generation appears to be more comfortable using “profane” language in their day-to-day life, they still believe in erecting certain barriers around certain words in certain contexts.
To me, this is absolutely fascinating, and I would love to hear more from those that read this blog regarding how they interpret that passage and how they try to live it out. As for me, I don’t tend to use profane language in my day-to-day life. But that statement may not mean the same thing to you that it does to me. You may be reading this blog and say to yourself, “I just saw you use the word ‘fuck!’” And to that, I would say that I stand in partial agreement with the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, who believed that words have power and that we neuter that power and even sanitize the concepts that lay underneath the harsh language when we opt for polite euphemisms. So while I would not say “Fuck you!” to anyone around me, I also don’t feel that we gain anything by typing “f—” instead of the word that we are actually quoting. For in doing so, I think we white wash the culture around us, and somehow fail to bear witness to it by refusing to reflect it back to itself.
But enough about me and what I think. What do you think? Do you think there is any sense of concensus on what is acceptable language? How do you use language? Do you agree with me? Do you not? Seriously, I am really curious to know more.
 Producers report that Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, who is actually 4, was asked to say the word “fudge” during the taping.
 James 1:26.
 Older Christians are defined as those older than 41 years of age.
 Younger Christians were defined as those between the ages of 23 and 41.
 93% of young Christians and 94% of older Christians were against it.
 Again, in the interest of full disclosure, that is not to say that I do not, on rare occasion, use language that I do not believe to be appropriate or in line with God’s call upon my life. Interestingly enough, of all the things that I had to leave behind when I became a Christian, language was the hardest thing for me to bring under control.
A few weeks ago, I picked up Scot McKnight’s new e-book entitled Junia is Not Alone. Interestingly enough, the very week that I purchased his book, the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly arrived in my mailbox, complete with a cover caption that read: “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: How an Intense New Thriller Brought the World’s Coolest Heroine to Life.” This, of course, got me to thinking.
Why would a magazine choose to describe Lisbeth Salander as the “coolest heroine?” What is it about Salander that has fascinated us as a society? What is it about her story that seems to ring so true? While the theories abound, I think the film’s director, David Fincher, gives us a great insight when he describes how they developed Salander’s look.
“Trish Summerville, the costume designer, and I talked a lot [about Salander’s appearance]. Trish has some of the most beautiful piercings and little studs in her nose, but that’s jewelry. By contrast, Lisbeth’s piercings – brow, nose, lip, nipple – actually look painful and self-violating. We went back to that first idea of Sid Vicious with a safety pin through his cheek and what it meant. That was not a way of saying, ‘Look at me, I’m special, I’m different, I’m committed.’ It was a way of saying, ‘Get away or you’re going to get blood on you.’”
You see, in many ways, Lisbeth Salander, as first conceived by Steig Larrsen, represents the next step in the cultural evolution of the female archetype. She is the post-feminist, warrior – the literary and celluloid sister of Lara Croft, Buffy Summers, Angelina Jolie, and even the pre-pubescent Hit Girl. But is that all that there is to her character? Is she nothing more than an avenging angel? Again, Fincher and his team are right there to help us understand.
“She’s not an avenging angel. We were never interested in that. We never felt this was Dirty Harry or Death Wish. She’s a person who has to deal with a lot of things … Psychologically, she has to work on two currents. One of them is saying, I don’t trust anyone, I don’t want to have anyone in my life, and I’m willing put on this garb that says, “Stay the fuck away from me.’ And at the same time, it’s almost as if she’s in agreement with what everyone has always said about her, which is that she’s trash. She’s perfectly willing to look like refuse in order to be left alone.”
So who is Lisbeth Salander? She’s the new 21st century female role model. She’s a deeply scarred and troubled young woman, sexually aware, outwardly self-confident, inwardly bruised, and profoundly violent. In many ways, she’s a male fantasy – a millennial Cinderella who, while awaiting her knight in shining armor, has the courage and the moxie to take on all comers. Sure, she’s in need of rescue, but she’s not about to sit around twiddling her thumbs.
So with this cultural story as a background, I picked up McKnight’s new e-book, in which he lays out a devastatingly brilliant argument regarding the neutering of the Apostle Junia. So well-documented and so airtight was his argument that I found it astonishing that we, as a church, have not heard more about the lone female apostle in the New Testament, a woman described by the Apostle Paul himself as being “prominent among the apostles.” Now I’m not going to bother you with the details of McKnight’s argument. Quite honestly, if you’re really that interested in this subject, you should just pick up the book for $2.99. It’s only 35 pages long; and it’ll excite your imagination in ways my reductionist summary never could.
But my point is simply this. We know that the cultural story is a damaging story that offers little in terms of real hope for young women in the world today. We know that sexualizing your body for the sake of marketing yourself isn’t the answer. And we know that vengeance for all of the abuses suffered – both large and small – will never lead to closure or reconciliation.
But as McKnight so clearly illustrates, we also fail to tell a different story! We make sloppy hermeneutical decisions to violate the text and propagate the false idea that Junia was a man. We rarely speak on Hulldah. We barely touch on Deborah. In fact, about the only thing we tend to offer is a vision of the “godly wife” from Proverbs 31 – a vision that is often carefully edited to omit the fact that she works outside of the home, earning her own income even as she built a public reputation that is so sound, that it’s praised by the leaders of the community.
It has been said that nature abhors a vacuum. And I fear that if the church does not begin to seriously take up the task of offering a truly counter-cultural image of what a female disciple might actually look like, if the church continues to let silence be its guiding principle on this subject, than we are likely looking at a future where the vacuum will be filled – not by the likes of Junia, Hulldah, and Deborah, but by the likes of Lisbeth, Buffy, and even the young Chloe Grace Moretz – women left with no choice but to “kick ass.”
 Sid Vicious was the iconic base player for the seminal punk band, Sex Pistols.
 Lara Croft is the fictional main character of the Tomb Raider video game series. First released in 1996, the character has become so iconic that it has spawned 11 video game sequels, two film adaptations, a series of young adult books and even a few academic monographs seeking to understand her influence.
 Buffy Summers is a fictional character first developed by Josh Whedon in a 1992 film entitled Buffy the Vampire Slayer. While Whedon’s film was essentially dead-on-arrival, he resurrected the character in a breakout series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. The series ran for several years, and gave birth to a spin-off program entitled, Angel, as well as numerous non-canon material such as comic books, novels and video games.
 Angelina Jolie is an Oscar-winning actress who first came to international fame playing Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider series. Although she has flashed serious talent in numerous smaller projects, she is most well known for playing the type of woman described in this article. Films in which she is depicted in this fashion include: Gone in Sixty Seconds, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Wanted and Salt.
 Romans 16:7.
 Proverbs 31:24.
 Proverbs 31:16.
 Proverbs 31:31.
 One of the most shocking, and provocative examples of this new female archetype is represented by Chloe Grace Moretz in Matthew Vaughn’s film, Kick Ass. Here, the young Ms. Moretz plays a 10-year old girl who is trained to be a killer by her ex-cop father, played by Nicholas Cage. While the film was ostensibly about the titular hero played by Aaron Johnson, the phenomenon was built around Moretz’s breakout performance as a young girl, deeply scared, but able to take on all comers.
After initially being rejected by over 60 publishers, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help was finally published in February of 2009. Since that time, this incendiary tale of the small and not-so-small abuses suffered by black housekeepers in the 1960s has gone on to sell over 5 million copies, as it spent over 100 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Set in Jackson Mississippi during the early 1960s, the film tells the story of Skeeter Phelan, a young southern society girl who longs to become a writer. When Skeeter’s beloved housekeeper is suddenly dismissed under pressure from her mother’s society friends, Skeeter is concerned and begins to document the stories of her friend’s domestic workers. As one black woman after the next courageously steps forward to tell her tale, the book begins to take shape, and a town will be forever changed.
My reaction to this film is somewhat hard to pin down. On the one hand, I am always drawn to stories where someone has the courage to swim against the stream, and in so doing, brings justice to those that have been oppressed. These are important stories to tell, for they remind us that change does not often begin in the corridors of power. Change begins when insignificant people dare to speak prophetic truth into a world that is desperate for truth to be spoken.
On the other hand, movies like this sometimes feel “safe” because they are told from a distance. Fifty years after the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, how many people would genuinely argue that black people did not suffer under white society? So it’s easy to root for the heroes, demonize the villains, and feel as if “the job is done.” And there is a danger in that feeling as if the “job is done” because we are encouraged to believe that we can sit safely in the comforts of our own homes.
How much more exciting would it be to see a story set in the contemporary world in which someone dared to tell the story of the plight of modern day Native Americans or modern day slaves? How much more compelling would it be to have to face our own complicit guilt in avoiding the issues and burying our collective heads in the sand?
In the end, I strongly recommend viewing The Help, and dare you not cheer as Hilly eats the pie.
This film has been rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for thematic material and language.
Earlier this morning, as I perused the usual websites I tend to haunt over my morning cup of coffee, I encountered a news item entitled: “Pastor Ed Young, Wife to Stream Time in Bed on the Internet.” Needless to say, I did a double take.
Apparently, Ed Young, who is the Founding and Senior Pastor of the multi-site Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, has a new book to sell. This book, which he co-authored with his wife, is called Sexperiment; and it encourages married couples to commit to having sexual relations every day for seven straight days. Now please understand, I am not questioning a pastor’s decision to teach on the subject of human sexuality. Far from it. What I am questioning here today is the seemingly boundless lengths to which we are willing to go to market Christianity to a Modern, presumably disinterested, culture.
Back in 2008, Paul and Susie Wirth released a book entitled, 30-Day Sex Challenge. It was marketed with the tagline:
“Every man’s fantasy: 30 days of sex! Every woman’s dream: 30 days of intimacy!”
Now I want you to stop and look at that for a moment; and I want you to ask yourself: what is being “sold” and who’s “selling” it? While I don’t know the sales figures for the book, its basic premise caught fire, as it was used as the inspiration for many “challenges” delivered in numerous churches across the nation.
But as we all know, news cycles move on, and Modernity is always anxious to discard the “old” in favor of the “new.” And so now, just three years later, capitalism once again rears its ugly head within the church, and two new books are released. The first book, Young’s Sexperiment, promises to do in seven days, what the “old” book could only do in 30. And as for Mark Driscoll’s book, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship and Life Together, it promises to tell you all sorts of explicit things, the likes and details of which I will leave for you to investigate.
Here’s the problem. Not only are we, as Christians, caught in the lie that the “new” must be better than the “old,” we’re also caught up in constantly struggling to find new and “innovative” ways to market our materials. If N.T. Wright goes on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, than Driscoll has to show up on Dr. Drew’s Loveline. And if Rob Bell previews his book, Love Wins, with a catchy video, than Ed Young has to one-up him and stage a “Sexperiment Bed In.” You read that right. In an effort to generate some serious sales volume, Ed Young and his wife, are camped out for 24 hours on a bed on the roof of their church. And you are invited to witness this live event through this link.
The question are numerous. Where will this all end? Is it even possible for this to end? Or are we all caught up upon a wave – a wave that leaves us flailing about as we wait to be dashed upon the rocky shoreline? I guess only time will tell.