The Weekend Wanderer: 15 February 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

Wright“Loving to Know” – N. T. Wright addresses the importance not only of what we know, but how we know.  Stepping into the divide between “subjective” and “objective” knowledge, Wright explores the ways in which not only his own discipline of New Testament studies has been impacted by this supposed distinction, but also our broader experience as religious beings. “The way out is an understanding of ­creation as the gift of love, to which love is the appropriate response. But we cannot reach that true understanding of ­creation by a direct approach, for it quickly leads us back to idols. We must start with the center of creation: Jesus himself.”

 

Walley, Thomas, 1817-1878; George Whitefield Preaching in Bolton, June 1750“The Political Captivity of the Faithful” – Here is Nathan Hatch, religious historian and President of Wake Forest University, on the way both conservatives and liberals are held captive to the politicization of our day. “Today, I look in vain for religious leaders whose theological convictions creatively bridge the chasm between conservative and progressive views of the world not for political reasons, but for religious ones. One regularly sees this point made about the conflation of evangelical and conservative values, but I think there is much the same pattern among mainline and progressive Christians. When mainline churches develop an agenda on social policy, it has typically gravitated to those issues, however worthy, that have been defined by others.”

 

Steve Timmis“Acts 29 CEO Removed Amid ‘Accusations of Abusive Leadership'” – It’s hard not to cry out when I read these articles, “Not again!” Lord, have mercy upon us. “As CEO of Acts 29, Steve Timmis was an effective and respected leader. During his seven years at the helm, the church planting network rebounded from the fallout around its co-founder Mark Driscoll and expanded from 300 mostly US churches to 800 around the world.A gray-haired British pastor with sharp Bible teaching and deep passion for mission, Timmis was known for the model of intensive gospel community developed at his 120-person church in the middle of England, The Crowded House. He emphasized ‘ordinary life with gospel intentionality.’ But while his international reputation grew, some who knew Timmis in his ordinary life—who prayed, fellowshipped, and evangelized with him in living rooms, offices, and pubs—saw a different side.”

 

DeGroat Narcissism“Narcissism is not a ‘leadership style'” – After that last article––and the apparent endless stream of similar stories––it’s probably as good an opportunity as ever to hear from Chuck DeGroat about narcissism in leadership. Speaking directly of Driscoll, Acts 29, and Timmis, DeGroat writes: “Let me be crystal clear: bullying, controlling, and scaring are not characteristics of any ‘leadership style’ I find worthy of ‘Christian” leadership. These descriptors do not remotely approach the character of a Jesus-following leader. These pastors described an abusive pastor and abusive culture.'”

 

Brooks - 5 lies“Five Lies Our Culture Tells: The Cultural Roots of Our Political Problems” – David Brooks addresses the deeper look at our political divides to address five core lies that our culture believes and lives by that are just, plain, wrong. Part of this material is drawn from Brooks’ book The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life.

 

Ross Douthat“Back to the Future” – Peter Thiel reviews Ross Douthat’s new book, The Decadent Society: How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success, which critiques our prevailing sense of inevitable progress over the years. “Douthat outlines four aspects of decadence: stagnation (technological and economic mediocrity), sterility (declining birth rates), sclerosis (institutional failure), and repetition (cultural exhaustion).” You can read a summary of Douthat’s argument in “The Age of Decadence” at his regular column in The New York Times.

 

Music: L.S.U., “Blame,” from Grace Shaker.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Hesed Prayer: inspired by the prophet Hosea

Almighty God,
You have loved us first
with an everlasting love,
showing us what love truly is.
You have shown us great mercy,
preeminently in the gift of Your Son, Jesus Christ,
who lived among us, died on the Cross, rose again,
and now eternally intercedes on our behalf at Your right hand.
You have invited us into loving relationship with You,
both in our daily lives now
and unto eternity as Your bride.
Because of Your hesed
Your steadfast love, mercy, and faithfulness –
make us people of hesed,
living in love and loving others,
receiving Your mercy and showing mercy,
held in Your faithfulness and living faithfully,
until the day we see You face to face.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

The Real, Eyes-Open Love of God

Fra Angelico - Annunciation

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed.” (Luke 1:46-48)

“Love is blind.” At least, that’s how the saying goes. The phrase means that when love is at work, a person is prone to overlook, or just plain fail to see, the problems within the person being loved.  There is some truth to that. We see it in good friends, family members, and even ourselves. “Hindsight is 20/20,” and we often ask ourselves after something has gone wrong in a relationship, “Why didn’t I see that?”

But the kind of love we all deeply desire is not a blind love, but a love that truthfully sees everything about us and still loves us. Love that is blind – that turns away from reality – is false love, while love that sees – that leans into reality – is real love. John 3:16 is such a revered passage of Scripture because it describes God’s love not as blind but as real love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17)

In the midst of a world stuck in the cycle of death, of blindness even to itself, Jesus the Son of God comes to bring liberating life and love. Even though the world could be condemned because of evil, sin, and injustice, God chooses a different route by sending Jesus to save the world. This is not because God is blind to the realities of the world, but because God desires a different way with the world. Jesus Himself echoes this later when He says, “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). We see in Jesus the Messiah that God’s love is an eyes-open love, leaning into the reality of our world and our lives. Jesus shows us just how far God will go to hold us in His loving embrace.

When the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, announcing God’s plan to bring the Messiah to birth through her, Mary was astounded. Her question, “How will this be?”, was both a question about the manner of the Messianic birth since she was a virgin and simultaneously a question about the possibility that something like this could occur in human history. When Gabriel emphasized God’s decisive plan to intervene through Jesus as Messiah, such knowledge eventually leads Mary to erupt with praise:

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. (Luke 1:46-47, 50)

That little word ‘mercy’ (Greek: ἔλεος) is an echo of the Hebrew word hesed, which refers to God’s uniquely steady and faithful love. Mary grasps, and shares with us today, that God sees what is really there in the world and still chooses to love humanity from generation to generation throughout the earth. Mary becomes a picture not only of humble obedience to God’s call, but also boisterous praise of God’s real, eyes-open love for humanity and all creation.

As we draw close to Christmas Day, let us join Mary’s wondrous call to praise our God whose love is not blind, but rather eyes-open about us and our world. Let us draw near with anticipation to experience once again   the tenderly tenacious love of God found in Jesus the Messiah.

Bibliography for Love-Sex-Body series

Here is the resource bibliography that accompanied the development of the recent preaching series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality.” I utilized many resources for specific messages within this series, and many, but not all, of those are included in this bibliography.

Bibliography for “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality”:

Alberry, Sam. Is God Anti-Gay? UK: The Good Book Company, 2015.

Butler, Brian,  Jason Evert, and Crystaline Evert. You: Life, Love, and the Theology of the Body. West Chester, PA: Ascension Press, 2016.

Coakley, Sarah. The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God. London: Bloomsbury, 2015.

Coles, Gregory. Single, Gay, Christian. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2017.

Collins, Travis. What Does It Mean to be Welcoming?: Navigating LGBT Questions in Your Church. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2018.

Comiskey, Andrew. “Design and delusion: God’s direction for gender identity.” Desert Streams Newsletter. Spring 2017, http://desertstream.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Spring-Newsletter-2017_WebV2.pdf.

Cortez, Mark. ReSourcing Theological Anthropology: A Constructive Account of Humanity in Light of Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2017.

Cretella, Michelle, M.D. “Gender dysphoria in children.” American College of Pediatricians. August 2016, https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/gender-dysphoria-in-children.

Davidson, Richard M. The Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007.

Dawn, Marva J. Sexual Character: Beyond Technique to Intimacy. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993.

Freitas, Donna. The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture Is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy. New York: Basic Books, 2013.

Gagnon, Robert A. J. The Bible and Homosexual Practice: Texts and Hermeneutics. Nashville: Abingdon, 2001.

Genetics Home Reference: Your guide to understanding genetic conditions. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/

Green, Daniel and Mel Lawrenz. Why Do I Feel Like Hiding?: How to Overcome Shame and Guilt Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1994.

Green, Joel B. Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008.

Grenz, Stanley J. Sexual Ethics: An Evangelical Perspective. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997.

________. Welcoming But Not Affirming: An Evangelical Response to Homosexuality. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.

________. The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001.

Henson, Bill. Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones, 2nd ed. Acton, MA: Posture Shift Books, 2018.

Hiestand, Gerald and Todd Wilson. Beauty, Order, and Mystery: A Christian Vision of Human Sexuality. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2017.

Hill, Wesley. Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, updated and expanded ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016.

________. Spiritual Friendship: Finding Love in the Church as a Celibate Gay Christian. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2015.

Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity–Dr. Mark Yarhouse’s website, which includes videos on various topics. http://sexualidentityinstitute.org/

John Paul II. Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. Boston, MA: Pauline Books, 2006.

Jones, Beth Felker. Faithful: A Theology of Sex. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

Longman, Tremper, III. How to Read Genesis. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

McMinn, Lisa Graham. Sexuality and Holy Longing: Embracing Intimacy in a Broken World. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2004.

Mayer, Lawrence S. and Paul R. McHugh. “Sexuality and gender: Findings from the biological, psychological and social services.” The New Atlantis, No. 20, 2016, pp. 4-143, http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/introduction-sexuality-and-gender.

Mead, Christina.  “What the Catholic Church wants the transgender community to know.” Life Teen Blog. 2017.

Owens, Tara M. Embracing the Body: Finding God in Our Flesh and Bone. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015.

Paris, Jenell Williams. The End of Sexual Identity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Pearcey, Nancy R. Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2018.

Roberts, Vaughan. Transgender. UK: The Good Book Company, 2016.

Smith, James K. A. You Are What You Love. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2016.

Sprinkle, Preston. People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015.

________. Grace // Truth 1.0: Five conversations every thoughtful Christian should have about faith, sexuality, and gender. Boise, ID: The Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender, 2017.

________. Grace // Truth 2.0: Five more conversations every thoughtful Christian should have about faith, sexuality, and gender. Boise, ID: The Center for Faith, Sexuality, and Gender, 2018. 

Van der Kolk, Bessel A. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York: Viking, 2014.

Walls, Jerry L., Jeremy Neill, and David Baggett, eds. Venus and Virtue: Celebrating Sex and Seeking Sanctification. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018.

West, Christopher. Theology of the Body for Beginners: A Basic Introduction to St. John Paul II’s Sexual Revolution, rev. ed. North Palm Beach, FL: Wellspring, 2018.

Wilson, Todd A. Mere Sexuality: Rediscovering the Christian vision of sexuality. Harper Collins Publishing, 2017.

Yarhouse, Mark A., Richard E. Butman, and Barrett W. McRay. Modern Psychopathologies: A Comprehensive Christian Appraisal. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity Press, 2005.

Yarhouse, Mark.  Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing CultureDowners Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015.

________ and Olya Zaporozhets. Costly Obedience: What We Can Learn from the Celibate Gay Christian Community. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019.

 

 

Specifically for Parents:

Clark, Chap. When Kids Hurt. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2011.

Hancock, Jim and Kara E. Powell.  Good Sex 2.0 Leader’s Guide: A Whole-Person Approach to Teenage Sexuality and God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2009.

Jones, Stan and Brenna.  God’s Design for Sex. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2007. Series includes:

  • The Story of Me (Ages 3- 5)
  • Before I Was Born (Ages 5 – 8)
  • What’s the Big Deal? (Ages 8-11)
  • Facing the Facts (Ages 11-14)

Yarhouse, Mark. Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends.  Bloomington, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 2010.

________. Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2013.

Restoration and Embodied Sexuality

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I concluded our series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality,” focusing on the fourth chapter of God’s Good Story: the Restoration of all things.

I spent a lot of attention in this message on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15, which draw together Adam and fallen human bodies (ch. 2 – the Fall), Christ and His resurrection body (ch. 3 – Redemption), and the hope of future resurrection bodies for all those who belong to Christ (ch. 4 – Restoration). I connected that with the calling of the church to be a community marked by resurrection hope, living in holiness and love, touching upon Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 6. The conclusion of the message directed attention to the ultimate consummation of Christ and His bride, the church, with the new heavens and new earth described in Revelation 21.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

Read More »

Redemption and Embodied Sexuality

Love Sex Body Series GFX-05I continued our series, “Love-Sex-Body: Toward a Biblical Theology of Embodied Sexuality,” this past weekend at at Eastbrook Church by turning to the third chapter of God’s Good Story: Redemption in Jesus Christ.

This message builds off of previous messages on Creation and the Fall, looking at Christ’s redeeming work as outlined in Romans 5. I take some time to reflect on the significance of Jesus’ incarnation for redemption from John 1 and 1 John 4. I then examine the reality of Christ’s bodily redemption in relation to our bodies, sexuality, and love with reference to various passages of Scripture, including John 8 & 9, Romans 6, 1 Corinthians 6 & 13.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

Read More »

Sin’s Disruption and Disordered Love: Insights from St. Augustine

image 1 - Adam and EveWhen Adam and Eve turn from God and His will by choosing for themselves and their own will, they were in essence choosing to love themselves over God. Sin can be both the decision for and experience of disordered love.

Saint Augustine, the 4th century Bishop of Hippo in present-day Algeria, described this reality when he wrote: “virtue is nothing other than perfect love of God” (On the Morals of the Catholic Church, XV.25) Augustine is telling us that the good life – the virtuous life – is formed around well-ordered love of God. 

In light of that well-ordered love of God we learn to love everything else, whether people or things. He writes:

though [something] is good, it can be loved in the right way or in the wrong way – in the right way, that is, when the proper order is kept, in the wrong way when that order is upset. (City of God, XV.22)

This helps us to understand what happens to our love through the Fall.

It is dislocated from its proper center in love for God, and then, being out of order, it leads us to love people and things in wrong ways. And so, impacted by sin, we try to love things in ways that do not give us life:

  • A father tries to feel love and acceptance in life through others’ acclamations of his child’s athletic accomplishments 
  • A daughter tries to receive love from her mother by always doing the right thing or pursuing goals her mother likes but the daughter does not
  • A man tries to feel loved through serial sexual experiences with others but finds intimacy and love elusive
  • A woman escapes an unhappy marriage through an emotional affair but still fees empty

The catalog of ways we experience disordered love could go on and on. It is because love is disordered that the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 are so powerful and praised: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast.” The very fact that this passage is so revered tells us just how special – and perhaps rare – ordered and right love truly is.

But it is not only that we love things wrongly in our Fallen state. We also, apart from God, evaluate love wrongly in ways that reveal our utter disorder:

  • someone’s love for sports overruns their priorities and ruins their marriage
  • someone’s love for their work becomes obsessive, ruining the family they are trying to support with that work
  • someone’s love for interacting with others on social media loses all bounds, ruining their actual face-to-face friendships 

As Augustine writes elsewhere, real love knows how “to love things…in the right order, so that you do not love what is not to be loved, or fail to love what is to be loved, or have a greater love for what should be loved less” (On Christian Doctrine, I.27-28).

This attention to disordered love is foundational to our discussion about the ways in which we experience disorder in our sexuality and our bodies because, as Jesus says, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45). That is, our outer life of action flows from the inner life of the heart and its related desires. Or, as Jamie Smith says, “you are what you love.”

We were made by God for loving relationship with God and others, but the Fall sunders that relationship and creates disorder in love.

God made us with the creational good of love to sustain and hold together every aspect of our identity, including our sexuality and bodies. But sin dislocates us, leaving us confused and muddled in the way we love things. All of this has tremendous impact for our bodies and our sexuality.

[This blog post is excerpted from my message, “Fall and Embodied Sexuality.”]