Sarah Flashing is the founder and director of The Center for Women of Faith in Culture. A writer and speaker to women's groups around the country, she also writes for Christianity Today's Gifted for Leadership blog and is an adjunct ethics instructor at McHenry County College in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Sarah specializes in a range of topics including church doctrine, bioethics, and Christian worldview. The Flashings reside in Harvard, Illinois.
I don’t believe this book is really about biblical womanhood, or biblical anything. YWB is a book about the Bible and how we read it. To fulfill her objective to live out this year of biblical womanhood and prove that there lacks a complete of consensus on what it is, Evans employs a feminist hermeneutic of suspicion that begins with the assumption that instances of female submission in Scripture and as applied by the evangelical biblical womanhood movement are cultural artifacts rooted in the male pursuit of power and domination. But her fallacious methodology casts a shadow of mock and ridicule on a movement of men and women who seek alignment with the character of God in all manner of living.
The Bible isn’t an answer book. It isn’t a self-help manual. It isn’t a flat, perspicuous list of rules and regulations that we can interpret objectively and apply unilaterally to our lives. (294)
And yet, amazingly, scripture is clear enough to Evans that she can determine it has been misread and misapplied by the evangelicals who advocate for a biblical view of manhood and womanhood.
This is just one of many fallacies in YWB. It’s just not true that evangelical advocates for biblical womanhood view the Bible as merely a self-help manual or a list of rules and regulations. This sort of misrepresentation is foundational to YWB, but it needs to be clarified that as evangelicals, we do believe the Bible contains helps and rules in the form of principles and precepts found within the various scriptural genres.
It is the right thing to do. Listening to the questions and doubts of those who are struggling with belief in God, the nature of scripture, doctrine or how to think about the subject matter of the culture wars. No one truly begrudges the spiritual journey of another. But seriously, I think we’ve taken the principle of listening way to far. Have you ever heard a wife explain about relating to her husband that when she wants to share (that means ‘talk’ but it might mean ‘rant’), she just wants him to listen and not offer any solutions? I get it that everyone wants to be listened to because that’s a part of relating one to another, but this isn’t a biblical model of accountability. If the things we say or the questions we ponder aloud solicit a response, our responsibility–ironically–is to listen. Our questions and doubts should be with a goal in mind–the locating of truth and wisdom. But when we’re so focused on the journey itself, even to the point of making an idol out of our questions and doubts, then we’ve lost sight of Christ and made ourselves the focus of the journey.
Doubt seems to be the pervasive doctrine of the young “evangelicals,” many who self-identify as emergent. As appropriated by this group, doubt is probably better described as a virtue, because to have doubt means not having answers, and not having answers means not being right (or wrong). By not being right about anything means we can continue to converse about the questions and develop relationships around the common ally of curiosity. Doubt should be a welcome guest in the life of faith, but doubt should not be a permanent disposition. (more…)
Part of the responsibility of ministry leaders is having an awareness of influences that have guided the minds of our culture and, therefore, the church. No church exists in a vacuum and to varying degrees, everyone has had ideas and beliefs shaped by the world around them. So it is with great interest I often find myself reading the theological feminist writings because doing so helps me to discover the source of trends and vain philosophies that have their grip on the hearts and minds of Christians. And it seems that in the last two years or so there has been a fervent effort under the big tent of evangelicalism to usher in postmodern theologies with a clearly liberal feminist slant, seeking to normalize positions that undermine the authority of scripture.
On my book shelves are collections of great writings from early and contemporary Reformed theologians, books on women’s ministry, great biblical expositions, bioethics texts….and then there are the feminist writers. These are books I studied while in seminary, primarily for the purpose of completing my master’s thesis, though eventually I chose a different topic related to bioethics and presuppositional apologetics. (I feel like I have to explain why I have them!) But last week I decided to see if I could learn something about come present conversations from the writings of some of these clearly liberal feminist thinkers. Enter Carter Heyward. (more…)
Evolving in Monkey Town: How a Girl Who Knew All the Answers Learned to Ask the Questions By Rachel Held Evans (Zondervan Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI) 2010
Asking questions about what you believe can be a very good thing. This is a truth I share with Rachel Held Evans (RHE). Having our beliefs spoon-fed to us without question is a risky approach to anything, let alone our faith in God.
While reading Evolving in Monkey Town (EMT), I thought for sure I had read this book before. The nature of the questions, the concern for God’s reputation, the credibility given to arguments outside of Christianity—I was positive the book was already on my shelf. Then I realized, I had read it before, and you have too if you’ve read Rob Bell’s “Love Wins.”
Evolving in Monkey Town is divided into three parts: Habitat, Challenge, and Change. It’s difficult—even unfair—to try to summarize RHE’s journey, but at the same time, there are clues in her writing that point to the person she is becoming. So I will let the words speak for themselves.
In Habitat, RHE describes her upbringing as a child of Christian parents—her father a theologian and college professor. She mentions that she “never felt trapped in a world of endless churchgoing” (29). About her mother, she writes that she noticed and loved “when she got a little fidgety whenever the pastor discussed wives submitting to their husbands.” She also talks about some instances in these early years where she experienced doubt about whether God was actually listening or if he even existed, a question she explains stayed with her “like a rock in my shoe” (35).
She talks about the city of Dayton, how “Christianity was so infused in the culture…that it served as a kind of folk religion” (42), a great segue into the second chapter on “June the Ten Commandments Lady.” For RHE, June illustrated the hypocrisy of those in the church who “claim Christ in one breath and then curses her neighbor in the next.” She’s right. But, here we get the first clear indication that RHE is questioning the exclusive nature of Christianity. She ponders how God might consider the evil in believers vs. the goodness of those outside of Christianity. She wonders about June’s faith profession, “Is it worth more to God than the faith of a Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim who practices kindness and compassion?” (more…)
Most days I just don’t want to go there. While I disagree with my friends on the egalitarian side of the gender role debate, I think they know I respect them and their studious work on the subject. But I believe we have reached a point in the debate, at least at a popular level, where we find what’s being waged is an unfair fight of fallacious reasoning tactics. We keep hearing wait for the book (Thomas Nelson, 2012). In the meantime, some of the activities involved in her Year of Biblical Womanhood that are the basis of this book have nothing to do with biblical womanhood at all. So today I am going there, because a woman’s “blossoming career” should be based on hard work and intellectual honesty, not outright misrepresentations.
I have to admit, I was very intrigued by the idea of an evangelical feminist woman living out a year of biblical womanhood even as just a thought experiment. But what Rachel Held Evans has done is not that.This could have been an opportunity to discover and experience some aspects of complementarianism not otherwise understood. Her experiment, however, was little more than a piecemeal approach. As I understand it, she didn’t not live the year consistently (as in every waking moment) with this as her newly adopted (though temporary) view of women’s roles. Not only did she not live it consistently, she added practices that don’t belong (camping out in her front yard, for example). She was not faithful to biblical womanhood as taught by its adherents. (more…)
Currently I am working on a series of articles on Christian ethics with a focus on moral epistemology from, yes, a Reformed Van Tilian perspective. Would love to hear from you on this work:
When we hear the term ethics, our minds often race to stories we have heard about bank fraud and other financial scheming. Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme that stole billions of dollars from unsuspecting investors is one textbook example of unethical business practices. We also think of ethics in terms of doctor-patient confidentiality or client-attorney privilege. In both examples, the patient and client enter into a relationship with the professional having the expectation of privacy regarding their personal information. If this privacy fails protected, a breach in ethics has occurred and the medical or legal professional may be held legally accountable.
There is more to ethics than what goes on in the public realm. There is also a very personal dimension to ethical living and has everything to do with our walk with God. When we speak of the Christian life in terms of obedience to God’s commands and applying the teachings of scripture to our everyday lives, often it doesn’t cross our mind that this is the realm of Christian ethics. Throughout the pages of scripture we discover obligatory appeals to God’s law, not as a means of salvation, but as a matter of sanctification. The Bible teaches us that as Christians we are to
put on the new self, created after the likeness of god in true righteousness and holiness. (Eph 4:24)
Righteousness and holiness are moral categories that describe our guilt or innocence as it pertains to our keeping of God’s commands. These are terms that speak to moral purity with a correspondence to God’s character and the sinless life of Jesus. When scripture calls us to a life without sin, to emulate the holiness of God, we are being called to an ethical life—the good life.
Teaching ethics has for me become more than an academic pursuit. I have discovered with delight and great satisfaction that the discipline plays an extremely important role in the church’s ministry of discipleship and evangelism. This is because moral questions prompt additional questions on authority and obligation. They invite us to think beyond doing the right thing to the question of how we know what the right thing is. What is our source for ethical knowledge? How authoritative is this source? Over whom is it authoritative? These questions exemplify the interplay of apologetics ministry with the task of ethics. (more…)
Last week, Pat Robertson told his viewers that he believes Alzheimer’s disease to be a “kind of death,” a basis for the un-afflicted spouse to seek divorce and move on with their life—so long as they act mercifully and provide a means for care of that spouse. This view logically corresponds with the evangelical expansion of views on divorce with very little to say on reconciliation. I never thought I would see the day when the difficult work of staying married is further undermined by an otherwise theologically conservative Christian. As a result of Robertson’s very irresponsible words, I’m sure there are many wondering if their situation equally represents a “kind of death” of their spouse as well. Don’t underestimate Robertson’s influence in living rooms everywhere.
On par with Robertson’s views on disease, dignity and death is the embrace of reproductive technologies that willingly and knowingly risk the lives of embryos (small humans at the earliest stage of life) or the Terri Schaivo’s whose lives are deemed without worth because the quality of life and the relationship has been compromised. Both examples speak to the lack of commitment by able, responsible agents in the relationship. Parents don’t yet need to act like parents to their embryos because the embryos are not yet warm, cooing little people to be physically bonded with yet. Spouses no longer need to abide by the marriage vows because the other spouse is, sorry to be crass, better off dead—and so, too, is the quality of the relationship. (more…)
“Christianity isn’t a list of rules, it’s a relationship” is how the cliché goes and I’ve never been very fond of it. While I agree that Christianity is about the transformative power of the gospel in the real lives of God’s children and not about keeping ice-cold rules without any practical meaning or relevance, in a very real sense a false dichotomy has been created between our “story” and what it means to live in a way that pleases God (ethics).
If you’re unfamiliar with her work, Rita Charon is Professor of Clinical Medicine and founding Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University. A general internist, she earned a Ph.D. in English when she realized the centrality of stories in medical practice. She directs the Narrative Medicine curriculum for Columbia’s medical school and teaches literature, narrative ethics, and life-telling (more info).
“Those who assist individual patients to navigate the moral channels of illness have discovered that training in health law and knowledge of moral principles do not suffice to fulfill ethical duties toward the sick…they also must equip themselves with sophisticated skills in absorbing and interpreting complex narratives of illness—the better to hear their patients, to accompany them on their journeys, and to assist them in making health care choices consonant with their values [emphasis mine]. Echoing its transformative force in other disciplines and professions, narrative practice has renewed and redefined the very enterprise of what used to be called bioethics.”
The goal of narrative ethics is a noble one—to create an environment conducive to showing value to the patient and patient’s family by listening to and honoring their story of illness. In agreement, Charon appeals to the thought of a bioethicist whose work I am intimately familiar with, H. Tristram Engelhardt,
Our culture seems to be in a tug of war over who represents the truest form of feminism. The political landscape has no doubt opened up this can of worms with Bachman and Palin discussed as examples of “evangelical feminism.” Both of these women have proven that women are capable and competent in politics, business and family. Perhaps they are the best possible portraits of “having it all” while “having it all” is probably the best definition of feminism. You can follow more of the conversation on “evangelical feminism” here and here and here.
At one point in my own life, I was seduced by the idea that maybe my views represented the truest form of feminism. After all, my view of humanity is one that embraces ontological gender equality. There is no qualitative difference between men and women and God’s love isn’t gender specific in application. Of course, my position as a complementarian is the cause for colleagues and acquaintances to wonder how I could actually claim the feminist moniker, because no one could possibly hold that there are different roles for the sexes while still holding a strong view on equality. But if complementarianism feels like inequality, it’s because feelings are the barometer. (more…)
The assertion that “all truth is God’s truth” obviously doesn’t reflect a relativistic outlook on the existence or nature of truth. Those who express this sentiment truly do believe there is truth to be discovered. In a pluralistic context, however, where the epistemological basis for knowing anything is constantly challenged, “all truth is God’s truth” serves to neutralize divisions among worldviews for practical purposes. It is rooted in the view that the unification of people around particular ideas is the higher value over and above the unification of people around the source of those ideas. “All truth is God’s truth” ultimately pays tribute not to the God of scripture, but to the individuals who consider themselves to be the arbitrators of truth. (more…)
The greatest truth ever known to man is quite obviously the Good News of our salvation. The Lord Jesus came to be our sinless substitute, providing the necessary payment for sin through his death, resurrecting three days later. Now, through the work of the Holy Spirit, those whom he calls may abide in him and he in them.
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9 ESV)
But this Good News is not always received as such. All who reject the gospel do so because they have some other explanation for ultimate reality. But there are those who, in the name of spirituality, reimage the gospel to make it fit a particular moral view of earthly living. Redemption in this sense takes on the form of compassion in the name of neighbor love, but that’s as far as it goes. This essentially describes the social gospel, a public ethic concerned specifically with justice and generosity. The social gospel usually finds its basis in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6) and other famed passages of scripture that reflect on peace, justice, and generosity toward others. Unfortunately, these passages of scripture are taken out of their original context and presented to both church and culture without reference to the Author of our salvation. The renowned quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi sums up well the social gospel paradigm: “Share the gospel, use words if necessary.”
Women need to hear from other women. This is a truth impressed upon us through stories in scripture about women like Ruth & Naomi and Mary & Martha. In scripture, we see that women are called to teach and influence other women about how to live out their lives to the glory of God, and scripture illustrates well the impact of studied woman on other people in her life. The truth is, as women we are called to relationships with a purpose that invites us to a true knowledge of God which both sustains and transcends these relationships. But we might think of these relationships as an oasis, a “place’ to find rest and nourishment through the biblical truths which ground the friendship and all of the joys and other residual benefits that result.
On a larger scale in our contemporary context, women are seeking other women’s voices to speak wisdom and insight into their lives. Though we don’t endorse them, this is why organizations like NOW and other feminist student organizations continue to make such an impact on younger, college-age women. It isn’t necessarily because these women are open to their ideologies from the start, but these organizations present themselves as a resource to fill the emotional, intellectual, and professional needs of women at this particular stage in their life, no matter the faulty philosophy they seek to advance. This is one of the reasons I started The Center for Women of Faith in Culture, and since its founding I’ve had the blessing, from a biblical worldview, to speak into the lives of women across the country on a wide range of issues including marriage, family, and career to questions in bioethics and theology. Recently, however, I’ve been disappointed to learn of a women’s center in Denver that could have a similar influence on the lives of women in their vicinity, being a source for wisdom from a Christian worldview, explicit or implicit. After all, their founder at the helm professes to be a Christian and has earned a Christian studies degree at a top-notch evangelical seminary. However, while receiving endorsements from other evangelical entities, this particular organization has opted for a pluralistic approach in its mission to women.
Generally I don’t write from the perspective of my personal experiences, at least to this degree, but based on events last Friday in suburban Chicago, I wanted to share a couple of spiritual insights. In doing so, I hope you can get a glimpse into this life-altering experience that three days later I am still very shaken by.
At approximately 8:40 am on Friday, May 13th, the Metra train I was riding struck a dump truck carrying a load of concrete that had managed to navigate onto the tracks at the very instant we were passing through the intersection in the city of Des Plaines, the train going roughly 50 mph. No horn, no breaking to avoid impact—it was as much a surprise to the train engineer as it was to the passengers. The impact was followed immediately by an explosion and fire pouring up through the train car vestibule floor. During these first seconds after impact, the train engineer in the lead car where I sat was struggling to gain control, the train violently lurching and jumping while trying to remain upright. From my vantage point—first seat in the upper deck by a southern facing window—my thoughts were in multiple directions with zero clarity. There was the real and strong possibility that the train car would tip over onto the center track and dozens, if not hundreds, would be hurt or killed due to the derailing itself or even the threat of oncoming train traffic. (more…)
There is no shortage of reviews on Rob Bell’s recent book Love Wins, so I am almost apologetic for writing another. But it is because of my work in apologetics I find myself compelled to participate in the conversation. My concerns go beyond his conclusions on matters of heaven, hell, and salvation because it seems that many of his probing questions depend upon a view of human logic that does not properly account for the noetic effects of sin.
Love Wins is a difficult read—not to imply it was written for an academic audience, certainly it was not. The portrait of God in scripture is a bit more complex than the picture that Bell has painted. Scripture communicates different senses of God’s will (perceptive & decretive), different senses of God’s love (general love for creation, special love for the elect), different types of God’s self-disclosure (general & special revelation), and the aspects of God’s personality that show him to be both just and merciful without moral compromise. Bell’s rendition of God appears to be flat, and that is what makes the book so difficult to read. What I mean is that Bell is very often unable to comprehend how it is that God is perfectly able to transcend human limitations of rationality and being. This is because his starting point appears to be that God is simplistic (not to be confused with the doctrine of divine simplicity) therefore there aren’t different senses of God’s love or God’s will. For example, since Scripture teaches that God desires for all men to be saved, Bell argues (through his use of question) that according to traditional views of heaven, hell and salvation, what God desires cannot be achieved.
The risk is mindless ritualism, but I can’t help but wonder if the benefits are so much more that the risk worth taking. T’is the season for many blog posts on Lent, but my experience last weekend demands I say something on the topic.
Invited to St. George’s Anglican Church in Colorado Springs to teach women core Christian worldview content to launch their season of Lent with a renewed focus on the life of the mind, I came home with a longing for Lent and liturgy. As I prepared for the conference, I focused on ways to communicate that Lent is about orienting the whole life toward sacrificial living, not simply a small sacrifice for a short season to launch diets or meet personal challenges. This I had always known, but as a generic-sort of Baptist, Lent is not a part of our calendar and, frankly, fairly easy to ignore. Prior to the conference, my new Anglican friends were reminding themselves that Lent is not just a time to remove something from their daily routine, but an opportunity for greater sacrifice by replacing one or more things with other things that will nourish them in the immediate and longterm. We all seemed to be on the same page…but in different books?
The richness of Lent and the Anglican liturgy was unmistakably rich, offering an opportunity for a deliberate reverence that was impossible to not be fully engaged in. I’m inspired to a new way of embracing my faith as I return to my life this week and to church on Sunday…with another perspective on worship and sacrifice.
In an interesting new e-book by Carl Trueman called The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Trueman revisits the question originally posed by Mark Noll, but with an emphasis not on the mind of the evangelical, but with the term evangelical itself. Trueman writes,
For there to be a scandal of the evangelical mind, there must not be just a mind, but also a readily identifiable thing called ‘evangelical’ and a movement called ‘evangelicalism’–and the existence of such is increasingly in doubt.
In evangelical churches today, a great deal of ministry focus is grounded in what we call the doctrinal essentials because these essentials have historically been the foundation for the meaning of evangelical. These essentials include personal conversion, sharing the gospel, biblical authority and inerrancy, and the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Among these essentials, is there truly agreement on those who identify as evangelicals? At the most basic level, while there is agreement on the need for salvation, how salvation occurs is the never-ending debate. Surely we can come to some agreement on the doctrine of election and the age-of-accountability…or can we?
This will definitely be a topic of discussion among evangelicals and non-evangelicals for some time, but it raises an important question for us as a church that we need to consider now. How important are doctrinal distinctives among Christians? Does it matter what we believe about baptism, the meaning of communion, or when/if Christians will be raptured? I believe that by not answering the question, we are answering the question: doctrinal distinctives are of little importance. While these are complicated doctrinal questions, we run the risk of not standing for anything at all as 21st century, not evangelicals, but Christians. Perhaps the term “evangelical” has served as an umbrella term to provide unity among Christ followers, but has actually been a detriment and caused us to compromise our doctrinal reality.
“The behavior of our employee, as portrayed on the video, if accurate, violates PPCNJ policies, as well as our core values of protecting the welfare of minors and complying with the law, and appropriate action is being taken,” Phyllis Kinsler, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central New Jersey.
While personal agendas can overtake the mission of any organization, I’m left to wonder how this Planned Parenthood employee was able to become so comfortable so as to offer the kind of advice that she did to this “pimp” and “prostitute.” It wasn’t as if she was a random receptionist and this is the girl next door, she is the office manager. Even more chilling, she also was comfortable enough to recommend another employee that the “pimp,” “prostitute,” and the young girls could trust not to expose their enterprise. Sadly for these young girls, there would be no advocate for them at a facility that claims to have an interest in protecting the welfare of minors. Proof positive–Planned Parenthood is about perpetuating an agenda at the expense if its professed mission.
It isn’t something that suddenly happened in 2010, people have been compromising truth since the early days in the Garden. But never has it seemed so clear that people actually lack knowledge of right and wrong. Of course, most people know that murder is wrong, but few could provide a substantive reason why they know this other than appealing to some self-oriented ethical theory. When it comes to sexual ethics, plenty of books have been written on the topic. But in practice, sexuality and ethics have been deemed mutually exclusive categories. This is because the sexual revolution has accomplished what it set out to do—remove stigma from all sexual situations. Today there is almost no instance in which sexuality is subject to ethical inquiry except perhaps the if it feels good, do it hedonistic point of view.
In an effort to preserve Christian values in culture, there is often an appeal to Judeo-Christian traditions that have long been the source of societal values. But before our very eyes, these traditional values are disintegrating and are being replaced by a new vision of how we should live. The reality is, a new set of values has been established by a culture whose worldview is no longer dominated by a Judeo-Christian ethic. New traditions are replacing old ones. An interesting evidence of this turn is the meaninglessness of symbols. While these may seem like innocuous examples of the culture wars, they are quite pertinent to understanding the cultural influence of Christian tradition and values. A local newspaper recently reported that the first baby born in 2011 was delivered to couple with different last names. I continued to read without pause, but then stopped to assess my own reaction—even I had experienced a degree of desensitization to this issue. After regaining my sensibilities, I recalled that in our culture there is no longer a stigma associated with having children outside of marriage. Though possibly the mother of this newborn is simply making regular use of her maiden name for professional reasons (another recent shift), it is more likely this unmarried couple is completely unaware of the idea they have helped to cement: a child is no longer symbolic of the marital union of man and woman.
Christian women don’t need any new sources for inspiration or therapy, and while the gender discussions are important to have, there’s a lot more to discuss–a lot more Bible, a lot more theology, and what seems to be a never-ending need to make disciples. Since that day at TEDS when God prompted me to the work of ministry to women, it has become clear that there are women in the church in different life situations, professions, and age-groups who acknowledge the importance of studying theology. They desire to develop a Christian worldview that they can bring with them on the job, in their homes and their community. These are women who want to engage their world at all levels. This is the mission of The Center for Women of Faith in Culture, to equip women to love God with their heart, soul and mind–to help them to look beyond their subjective experience to know and love God in submission to the authority of Scripture.
April 30, 2011 marks the first annual God, Faith & Culture Evangelical Women’s Conference hosted by The Center for Women of Faith in Culture. To be held at the Arlington Countryside Church in Arlington Heights, IL, the speakers are excited about this opportunity to impact women’s minds with theological truth, developing them in areas including apologetics, bioethics, worldview, and theology proper. Check out the speakers here. Because this is the first time an event for CWFC–where we’re not focused on our emotions or our gender–we’re not entirely sure what to expect. Many of the speakers are sacrificing their own time and expense for this event–this movement–because they believe that there is a segment of women in the church that are missing out on some important theological conversations, and that the God, Faith & Culture Evangelical Women’s Conference can be an important resource them. We’re very excited, because it doesn’t end with the Conference, either. At the same time, we are launching Intersect: The Journal of The Center for Women of Faith in Culture. No pictures of flowers or crying ladies hugging each other in this journal…from the website:
Intersect: The Journal of The Center for Women of Faith in Culture is an evangelical publication written for women by women. It exists to encourage today’s Christian women as present and future theologians, apologists and philosophers, bringing faith and reason to their own sphere of influence. Each journal will feature established and emerging thinkers from church, the academy, business, etc with articles reflective of intersecting theological themes including Faith and Reason, Church, Culture, and the Academy, and the theological influence of women in all parts of society.
Please consider being part of this movement by making a contribution. If you are interested in being an official sponsor of this conference, please click here. But if you can make a contribution–no matter how big or small, your gift will go directly to conference expenses with priority given to speaker compensation. The Center for Women of Faith in Culture is incorporated in the State of Illinois but is not yet a 501c3. Obviously, if you are a woman and interested in attending the conference, don’t forget to register! Media are also welcome and need to contact me directly.
The New York Times’ profile of evangelical women’s speaker Priscilla Shirer by writer Molly Worthen (Housewives of God) raises some interesting points about the complementarian view of leadership in church and family, intimating that a functional egalitarianism may more accurately describe the life structure of some popular women leaders in the women’s ministry subculture. An unpopular assessment, but not a new insight. However, what Worthen does accomplish with this piece, unbeknownst to her I suspect, is the uncovering of a related issue for evangelical women—a problem this piece intends to address with Worthen’s help because there is so much more to this story. Worthen writes,
Conservative Bible teachers like Shirer have built a new paradigm for feminine preaching, an ingenious blend of traditional revivalism, modern therapeutic culture and the gabby intimacy of Oprah.
What Worthen has observed about the essence of the women’s ministry paradigm is precisely what many women in the evangelical community are resisting, both complementarian and egalitarian. I’m not so sure, however, that contemporary teachers like Priscilla Shirer have “built” anything as Worthen suggests, but are simply expanding on what was passed down to them from the existing women’s ministry culture. What use to be the church women’s ministry brunch or tea party with an inspirational speaker has evolved into conferences of a much larger scale, but little has really changed. They are so noticeably an amalgamation of an immediate emotional experience (revivalism), pop psychology (modern therapeutic culture) and girl-talk (gabby intimacy). Worthen continues,
Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning, by Nancy Pearcy (2010)
Broadman & Holman Publishers: Nashville, TN
“Today’s global secular culture has erected a maze of mental barriers against even considering the biblical message.” (15) Nancy Pearcey writes in the opening pages of Saving Leonardo the fundamental reason for worldview education and analysis. The church must understand that barriers to the gospel are often deeply embedded ideas about metaphysics, epistemology, and the origins of the universe. But breaking through these barriers means seeing how they have developed over the course of history and manifest in areas such as art, music and film. Through these media forms, the academic ideas discussed among the educational elite filter down to the general population, becoming embedded in the minds of people around us. “The lesson is that philosophical ideas do not stay contained in ivory towers. They affect the way people think and live–and even the kind of buildings they construct.” (165) (more…)
American culture seems to be most interested in who God isn’t. Many hold that claims made about God put him in a box and because we really can’t know anything about him (so they say) we should avoid claiming any knowledge of or about him. Of course, that argument works for less than 10 seconds because to say we can’t know anything about God requires some knowledge of God—and that is where such claims reduce to silliness.
On The View yesterday, America’s love affair with religious pluralism took the conversation in a direction that deserves further reflection. During the show, Joy Behar and Whoopie Goldberg took issue with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, stomping off the stage in protest after he explained that 70% of Americans are against the building of the Mosque near Ground Zero because it was Muslims who attacked America on 9/11/2001. In all the clamor, O’Reilly defended his statement with a follow-up rhetorical question, “were they not Muslim?” On his own show last evening, however, he capitulated and said that he assumed the ladies on The View would get that he was referring to the Muslim terrorists who are also extremists, but Muslim nonetheless. (more…)
It’s confusing yet strangely gratifying all at the same time. We live in a culture that is moving further and further from the exclusive claims of Christianity yet almost equally—and inconsistently—holds select passages in the Bible in high regard. They hold forth as though they cling tighter to the red letter words of Jesus than those who claim to be Christians. Of course, it’s true that many who call themselves believers fail to live in a way that reflects how we are suppose to live, but these failures are not indicative of a bankrupt theology but rather our need for a perfect Savior. Perhaps this is why Scripture, in various ways, implores us to guard our testimony as unbelievers struggle to separate the message from the messenger. In contrast, while the work of many social justice advocates may encompass a zealous neighbor-love approach, it often neglects a gospel-centered focus and lacks any risk.
As a Christian and a conservative, I believe we have reached a crossroads where we need to seriously reconsider our approach to cultural engagement. The swift undercurrent of moral decay continues to take most Christians by surprise while our pragmatic approach to morality rooted in tradition and dependent on consensus forces us down the slippery slope of relativism. As much as we want to protect our freedom of speech, have we really had all that much to say? As much as we want to protect the right to life, have we been focused more on the right than the life created in the image of God? And in all of our efforts to defend traditional marriage, have we capitulated to non-biblical perspectives in our appeal to the safety of tradition instead of a risky appeal to Scripture? An explicitly Christian worldview has not been welcome in the marketplace of ideas for some time. As a result, believers have caved to society’s demands for a secularized message under the guise of “public language,” an attempt to give the appearance that morality can be dislodged from its worldview foundations. This enterprise has been anything but successful. Yet Christian conservatives continue to clamor for moral revival in pluralistic setting that might, for only a short time, reflect certain values consistent with Scripture. The problem with this conception of moral revival is that it is about as effective as yo-yo dieting.
A few months ago, I began writing a piece on the teachings of Beth Moore. The fine writers at CT were working on a similar project which became a recent cover story and companion article. There is much to be said about Beth’s influence in the Church that I believe male and female leaders need to take a second look at. Well, when my article is published, I will provide a link to the full text, in the meantime, take a look at how Beth handles Paul. Keep in mind what she is ultimately saying about the insertion of sinful attitudes as part of the biblical writers’ instructional material. (more…)