Through the years, I have disagreed with Mark Driscoll’s strong complementarian stance. Having written that, he has done great good in a city that truly needs the gospel. His critics err when they drag up past mistakes and sins which he has publicly apologized for- more than once. I honor him for the grace with which he is presently responding. Mark, keep preaching the gospel bro!
In a recent blog post for Patheos.com. Marcus Borg, Jesus seminar participant, wrote, “Jesus is not God, does it matter?” To put it briefly Marcus, “Uh, Yeah!”
Shane Claiborne and friends are currently raising money for women in ministry and have considered establishing the “Mark Driscoll Scholarship Fund for Women in Ministry”. Now that is creativity if I have ever read it. This irony made me howl with laughter!
Recently, Judy and I have been confronted with so many young people who love God and had a childhood where their father never told them that he loved them. This is so difficult and painful for these young people to be able to properly honor their father when they really do want to obey God.
Discussions of the Trinity, Christology and the nature of Christ require constant contending for the faith.
BURN IT TO THE GROUND!
What is God’s will for your honeymoon? I normally begin lectures and public discussions on relationships with that question.
I then put up a picture of a multi-story hotel on fire with raging flames shooting a hundred feet into the starry sky. This is an ideal metaphor for a sexual wedding night stretching right through the whole honeymoon!
We waited until marriage, 38 years ago, to have sex. I was 25 and my wife 26. We dated 5 months and were engaged for 6 months before our wedding. I had become an official “non- virgin” teenager six years earlier experiencing a somewhat normal 19 year old guy’s hormonal rampage. I am now 62 years old and look back thinking, “What would I say to my engaged friends contemplating marriage and also contemplating sexual behavior during their engagement?”
I think I would begin by talking about all of my promiscuity up through age 20. Looking back none of it was productive or healthy really. I would talk about the fact that I drank way too much up until then. Abstinence studies have chronicled the corollary relationship between alcohol and teenage sexual behaviors.
It was not all bad. I met some really nice girls back then too. But, all in all, there is some regret and I wish I could apologize to a lot of people. Some of it is downright embarrassing to look back on. The further difficulty was having to inform my wife of my former behavior before we were even engaged. I did not get tested for STD’s but probably should have.
These behaviors dramatically changed in July of 1971. I changed one Saturday morning after being out the night before drinking and smoking dope with my girlfriend. I decided not to do those things anymore because Jesus said people must change in order to follow him. I became a follower of Jesus and it radically altered my sex ethic. I did not really know what was happening at the time but I knew – something had to change.
Apparently all christians don’t have a dramatic change as I did. Two recent large surveys found evangelical christians participating in a lot of pre-marital sex. One survey found 80% of 20-30 yr. old evangelical christians involved and sexually active before marriage with 65% having had sex in the year previous to the survey. The other survey found 25% are sexually active as unmarried evangelicals. The disparity of these two surveys raised the angst level in the evangelical world to a fever pitch recently with a virtual “in house” war over the numbers. Christianity Today magazine chronicled much of the recent anxiety-laden discussion. Let’s just average the two evangelical surveys as both of them involved thousands of people. 52% of single evangelical christians ( in the west) between age 20 and 30 are sexually active.
So evangelicals are pretty much in step with the culture sexually in pre-marital behavior. Maybe a few percentage points behind but not much.
There is another religious survey out there which states that Muslims and Hindus are far more abstinent than evangelicals pre-maritally.
Paul the apostle wrote that, “Each one of you know how to take a wife in honor.” Sexual honor-Biblically- means abstinence before marriage. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 4:3,4: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each on of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor.”
This has implications after the wedding. One pastor interviewed and counseled many sexually frustrated evangelical men. Their wives had grown sexually disinterested after their wedding. This pastor found that 100% of these men had sex with their wives during their engagements. His conclusion was that the dishonor involved in violating their fiances’ conscience came back to bite them in the marriage bed. ”It created a distrust in me” wrote one engaged woman to me about a previous failed relationship. She had difficulty trusting men after that one.
Consider these 3 points:
1. Women suffer more depression and self-loathing at the break up of a sexually active relationship (McIlhaney, “Girls Uncovered”.)
2. A Columbia University study found that those who live together are least likely to marry each other.
3. A University of Maryland study found that premarital sexually active people are 60% more likely to divorce.
I met my wife, 4 years after the promiscuity stopped. We got engaged in July of 1975. From the outset, we assumed that we would wait until marriage for sex. Having written that, looking back over all of these 38 years, I realize that I was not honest with myself. I was not honest about how turned on I was around my gorgeous fiance every time we got together. For two months, we acted like a fairly typical engaged and “waiting” couple in a western culture. We hugged, we kissed, we made out some. I found myself experiencing hormonal hell two months into our engagement ”waiting” time. I lived in a constantly turned on state. In early September of 1975, four months before our wedding, it was terrible. I compare myself to a caged orangatang looking for a mate. I decided to speak to my fiancé, Judy. I told her that I could not continue this way in a constantly turned on state. She clearly knew how attracted to her that I was.
I felt like the horniest person in church history.
So, I said to her, “From now until we get married, I am not going to kiss you, hug you, touch you- anything!” For the last four months of our engagement, we lived that way. The frustration and anxiety ceased. It was peaceful. I hugged her two hours before the wedding for a picture but that was it.
Honestly, my reasons for boundary re-adjustment four months prior to the wedding were self interest, but legitimate self interest. I wanted a perfectly blue sky with no clouds and no regrets going into our honeymoon. I wanted sex on fire with no ice water to put the fire out. Judy and I waited, and it was well worth it! Trust me!
Through the years, I have had the privilege to learn some wonderful lessons from people that Judy and I have counselled during their engagements. These people also waited and they have taught me a lot. Let me share some of their experiences and the lessons they taught me. All of these are real stories from real people I have worked with but their names have been changed.
COUPLE # 1
JOE & SUZIE
What they taught me: Engagement sexual Boundaries must be set at the raw “turn on” level-early in the engagement.
Both Joe and Suzie had asked me for advice as their relationship began at the dating stage and they invited my input throughout. I spotted him one afternoon sitting on a picnic table on our campus. I was in my car, heading to the airport to fly to Europe. I had just found out they got engaged. So, I stopped the car and asked them, “Have you guys set good physical boundaries for your engagement?” She responded, ” Yes, we are going to wait for sex until we are married.” I got out of the car and replied, ” that is not specific enough.” I usually encourage young couples to go to a coffee shop somewhere and make a memorable and wonderful event out of setting their physical boundaries together for their engagement. Then come give us feedback on what they decided. They really should set their own boundaries because everybody’s boundaries may be different.
Each couple should set their own physical boundaries to facilitate waiting. Sometimes, like I did, the boundaries have to be re-set mid course. But there was no time for that as I was on my way to Europe and they needed help, so I said. “Boobs are out, crotches are out, no oral sex. Do you understand?” They both said yes and smiled sheepishly. I got back in the car, hurriedly caught my plane and went to Europe. They stuck with it until their wedding. That was less than optimum, but it worked. They made it work at a very raw and very real level.
Couple # 2
LONNIE & KAREN
What they taught me: Sexual boundaries must be realistic during an engagement.
Lonnie and Karen were engaged with a beautiful relationship. They invited Judy and me to help them set appropriate engagement sexual boundaries. So we asked them where the “turned on” lines were in each of their bodies and minds? Lonnie responded, “We’ll, all she has to do is walk into the room and I get turned on. ” We responded and said, “Uh, Lonnie if you are going to get to know Karen you are going to have to be in the same room with her so you can talk with her and get to know her better preparing for marriage.”
At first, Karen was not honest about her boundaries and actually enjoyed getting turned on. That had to change, and it did. Her first set of boundaries were not reasonable and she was getting too stimulated to last for the longevity of the engagement. It is really not fair to either person, to knowingly turn on a fiancé or allow ourselves to be turned on when we have agreed to wait til marriage for sex. Getting turned on is like starting a rocket engine. Rockets are really not designed to shut off. Different couples boundaries are different, we must respect that. They waited and made it but it took reasonable boundaries.
Couple # 3
SAM & SUZIE
What they taught me: Boundaries may need re-adjustment.
They began their engaged relationship fairly normal with some kissing, hugging etc. Somewhere in there because of the physical chemistry, they decided to stop kissing. They re-adjusted their boundaries to rule kissing out. They continued hugging, holding hands etc. As the wedding approached, one day Sam came to me and said, “We crossed our boundaries last night and I wanted to let you know”. To which I replied, “What did you do?” ”We kissed.”, said Sam. ”Either re-draw the boundary lines to rule ‘kissing in’ or go back to the original boundaries. Stick to them.” Psychological studies have found that crossing internal boundaries carries real psychic damage.
Looking back on this time in his life, Sam sent me an email this morning which I found both enlightening and he reminded me of something I had forgotten about their engagement. I quote his email of this morning verbatim: ”We decided to hold to the no kissing thing-and as I remember it – about three weeks out from the wedding we had to go to no touching whatsoever. Basically at that point the temperature was so hot that we felt like it was the best way to just keep away from temptation. Whenever we were walking together and Suzie would loop her arm in mine, she was innocently thinking ‘we are walking arm in arm’ – while Captain Hormone was thinking, ‘My arm is touching her boob’. So we just went to a total no-fly zone for the last three weeks. It actually created MORE freedom in our relationship those last three weeks.
I probably said some things to her verbally about how much I was looking forward to our wedding that would have caused the wallpaper to peel, but we kept it nonphysical and it was really freeing and actually enjoyable.
And that is to say NOTHING of the payoff on the wedding day and after. Wow!” Sam and Suzie re-adjusted their boundaries and Sam now says, “Wow!” Many years afterward!
Couples # 4 and 5
MEL & TRACY and RICK & MICHELLE
What they Taught Me: When it is time to burn it down, burn down the hotel
Through the years, Judy and I have received some of the most amazing feedback from couples we have counseled. Many times, while they are still on their honeymoon. We have been notified by phone, email, voicemail or told in person! These couples are so happy that they waited. Sometimes it is the groom and sometimes it is the bride. They are all celebrating some awesome sex!
4. Mel and I stood in the back of the congregation as the entrance music for his wedding started. He and I began to walk in to the service but as we did he stopped me and stated. “Bro. I am on fire!” I looked at him and literally began to laugh out loud as we walked down the aisle together and I turned and said to him, “That is the whole point!” The point of waiting until marriage for sex is precisely so that it will be wonderful and as Mel said, “on fire”.
5. Rick married his beautiful southwestern girl. They waited until marriage for sex. I saw him later, in another part of the world, he said to me- first thing. “We burned the hotel down, we burned it to the ground and torched it!”
Let’s celebrate the flames made hotter by the wait!
Chuck Smith fed a whole generation of christians in the late 1960’s and beyond. He fed me, he fed my brother and his disciples have born incredible fruit. Thank God for raising up such a giant of a Bible teacher and a man who dared to show grace to a generation who really needed it.
Get free May 6, 2013 on Amazon.
Private Prayer, Public Power [Kindle Edition]
Ron Smith (Author)
5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
Digital List Price: $7.99 What’s this?
Kindle Price: $0.00 includes free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
You Save: $7.99 (100%)
Length: 135 pages (estimated)
Don’t have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here.
By Tom Petter
Old Testament Professor
Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
To discuss the quesiton of complementarian versus egalitarian views of women in the ministry is one issue that fits squarely within the “let’s not get into it” category among well meaning Christians. There are very strong opinions on both sides held by equally committed believers who would otherwise wholeheartedly agree on substantial issues: inerrancy of Scripture? Check. Deity of Christ, Trinitarian theology, commitment to world missions and evangelism? Check. Salvation through Christ alone, by grace, through faith alone? Yes, yes and yes. The list could go on. These are folks who stand shoulder to shoulder in their understanding of the Gospel.
Of course, differences come about when questions of church governance and ecclesiology are raised. Believer’s baptism vs infant baptism is obviously the main one, but episcopal, presbyterian and congregational forms of governance rank high as well. The same can be said regarding spiritual gifts. For some, miracles of the apostolic age do not occur today. Others tacitly believe God to perform miracles today, but it’s not really expected. Yet others seem to be always actively looking for signs. In the real world, I suspect many people find themselves somewhere in between. We would not presume to limit God in anything he wishes to accomplish today, including supernatural interventions and the bestowing of spiritual gifts. However, neither would we want to dictate terms to Him and demand He shows up, say every Wednesday night at 9pm to perform some power healing in our midst. A gift ceases to be a gift once it becomes an entitlement.
So it seems there is some room to move about within the safe confines of orthodoxy. In principle we are happy to live under a big tent as Presbyterians, Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Anglicans and independents, as long as the essentials of the faith are preserved. Of course within this eclectic bunch, there will always be some who are willing to die on the smaller hills, but overall I think there is a general consensus that we are fighting on the same side on the essentials, right?
Well, up to a point. These neat boundaries somehow get blurred when the topic of the role and function of women in the church gets a hearing (somehow the topic of women in the market place and politics takes a markedly greyer shade: no-one seems to question Margaret Thatcher’s gift of leadership). Here it seems the topic is treated along the following lines.
Some assure us the matter is a non-essential of the faith. We can’t place teachings on the role of women alongside, say, the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. Thus, as the saying goes, people then should be free to disagree on the matter. Others of course, are quick to point that this secondary element of doctrine involves a substantially large population, who, regardless of where we fall on the issue, hardly fit within the non-essential category.
So is there a way forward? Can we come to a place of consensus in this very personal matter? My answer comes in three parts: No, no and maybe. The answer will be no if we go after the exegetical question. People have drawn some strong conclusions from Paul’s intended meaning out of the key texts in 2 Timothy 2, Ephesians 5, 1 Corinthians 11, and others. I don’t think any amount of new lexical data will persuade them that we should view Paul in a different way. Positions, whether complementarian or egalitarian are pretty much established at this point (to outline the views wouldn’t fit in this post).
When we turn to the hermeneutical question (i.e., synthesizing biblical data into a coherent system), the answer, I’m afraid , will also be no. People approach the text with different systems and these usually compete with each other. For example, monocovenantal theologians focus on the unity between the covenants. For them the law-gospel contrast as envisioned by Martin Luther simply doesn’t exist. On the other hand, covenantal theologians and dispensational theologians would uphold a different covenantal relationship exists between the OT and the NT. There is in fact a law-gospel difference. Yet all these schools are equally convinced their system is the best to understand the overall biblical data. Thus, systems will go on competing with each other, each arguing their exegesis is the proper one and providing the most consistent way to read the biblical data, etc.
The same seems to be true with the issue of women in the ministry from a hermeneutical standpoint. For example scholars will interpret the ministry of Deborah as prophetess and judge very differently, depending on whether they restrict women from performing certain ministerial roles today. In other words, even with the best exegetical intentions, there are certain hermeneutical instincts we all carry to individual texts that will cause us to read certain passages with different outcomes. So what we know from past debates in church history still holds true: while we may all share the same view of the Scripture as the inerrant Word of God, our interpretations of the Word of God are unfortunately not all equally infallible! Nevertheless, as one committed to the task of exegesis, I refuse to capitulate and will continue to search the Scriptures for their intended meaning. But it is also wise to pause and realize we all suffer from the occasional bout of exegetical and theological myopia.
So is there a way out? This is where the answer “maybe” comes in. In practical terms, it seems that it is usually on the basis of differing ecclesiologies that contrasting views on women’s role emanate (and of men’s role in the church, the order of service, the kind of music we play, who officiates, who gets to be a deacon, elder, etc.). Thus, functionally, these decisions tend to fall under the rubric of governance. Of course we strive to draw our ecclesiology from careful exegesis, theological and hermeneutical reflection and historical traditions. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove, these categories of ministerial roles remain subservient to the larger theological essentials such as the Trinity, the authority of Scripture, holy living, etc.
While arguing from silence is not a strong way to make a case, I find it interesting that in Paul’s clearest articulation of the Gospel in Romans and Galatians, if anything, he is making the case for inclusivity rather than exclusivity in terms of ministries, roles and functions. Likewise, in the practice of the early Church, there is considerable freedom expressed in the ministry of say, Priscilla who, along with her husband Aquila, ministers at certain important junctures in the narrative history of Acts (e.g., 18:26).
The question then becomes, could we not apply the same broad-mindedness we seem to have concerning ecclesial issues such as baptism to the question of the ministry of women? If we recognize plurality in governance, perhaps we should also entertain a similar inclusivity by accepting one another’s contrasting views of the place and function of women in the ministry.
Some will be quick to point out that for them the ordination of women goes to the heart of our identity as man and woman created in God’s image (based on the order of creation in Genesis). So governance and theology can’t be separated. And they would add, there are fundamental differences, for example between Baptists and Presbyterians, which would be considered essentials. Evidently, such objections mark the end of the experiment for them. For some of us, however, we may be willing to set aside these differences for the sake of the proclamation and the defense of the Gospel, emphasizing our diversity of opinions on the matter yet without violating our own consciences along the way.
In practical terms, then, the matter becomes one of submission (e.g. Phil 2). If we are led to serve in a certain body of believers, for instance, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), then we will need to be prepared to submit to a Presbyterian form of governance, along with specific views concerning deacons (men only), ordained ministry and elders. Likewise if we join an organization such as YWAM, which holds the role and ministry of women in high regard, we will need to submit to that body. And if we find ourselves wishing to impose restrictions as to what women can or cannot do, going against the governance protocol of a particular body, we should probably seek to fulfill our ministry in other pastures. In the heat of the debates, we sometimes forget how God’s green pastures are vast and expansive. There is plenty of room for all of us to teach and preach the Gospel to a dying generation.