You can read my review of Kevin DeYoung’s latest book over here at Reformed Perspective.
Tag Archives: Women in office
This past week, I shared the following links on social media and I think they’re worth sharing here too:
“This past week, Saddleback Community Church in California ordained three women as pastors. In a development described by the church as “historic,” the church posted a photograph of the ordinations with the text: ‘Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren and others pray over the first three women the church has ordained as pastors.'”
CE keeps breaking new ground in helping in the fight against this plague.
Unreal. This would be like your ward elder or pastor being a convicted sex offender and you, as an abuse victim, are expected to seek pastoral care from them. What was that doctor thinking?
We, the church of Jesus Christ, have to keep kicking at the darkness until it bleeds daylight. It starts with this kind of self-awareness.
The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church, R. Albert Mohler Jr.. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2020. Hardcover, 223 pages.
Albert Mohler has a well-deserved reputation as one of Christianity’s best culture critics. He has a daily radio program (The Briefing) with thoughtful worldview analysis. His blog (AlbertMohler.com) is on my must-read list. When Mohler speaks or writes on a topic, you can be sure of two things: 1) he’ll be starting with the Bible as his foundation and 2) he’ll be aiming for the glory of God through the advance of the gospel.
He does it in this book on our contemporary cultural challenges too. Here he’s addressing the overarching problem of secularism. At the outset, I should say he’s writing as an American for an American audience. I read it as an ex-pat Canadian living in Australia. Some of the material in the book may seem irrelevant to people like me — the Appendix, for example, deals with the American Supreme Court and the role it plays in political decision-making. You may have to stop and think about how that transfers to the Canadian or Australian situation (I think it does). That said, Mohler does pay attention to developments elsewhere in the world. He writes about situations in British Columbia, Alberta, France, and elsewhere.
The book contains both description and analysis. If anyone has been paying attention, a lot of the descriptive material is going to be familiar. He describes how secularism is a threatening storm in regard to civilization, the church, human life, marriage, family, and gender/sexuality. Mohler’s analysis of these trends is where I found the real value for money in this book.
Let me share a few points of appreciation that might whet your appetite.
Already in the Introduction, Mohler explains that secular doesn’t mean “irreligious” or “non-religious.” It means “that Christianity, which forged the moral and spiritual worldview of Western civilization, is being displaced.” In the first chapter, he elaborates:
Secular, in terms of contemporary sociological and intellectual conversation, refers to the absence of any binding theistic authority or belief. It is both an ideology, which is known as secularism, and a consequence, which is known as secularization. The latter is not an ideology; it is a concept and a sociological process whereby societies become less theistic, and in our context that means less Christian in general outlook. (pp.4-5)
Elsewhere in the book he illustrates how secularism and secularization have religious and theological values.
The second chapter is entitled “The Gathering Storm in the Church.” Mohler notes how the prophets of theological liberalism predicted that churches would need to adapt to the culture in order to survive. He quotes a Baptist minister and lawyer, Oliver Thomas: “Churches will continue hemorrhaging members until we face the truth: being a faithful Christian does not mean accepting everything the Bible teaches” (p.30). However, the truth is quite the opposite: “it was actually liberal theology that lead to the evacuation of these churches” (p.19). Mohler doesn’t discuss this, but I’d note that we heard the same canard from the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands about women in office. Some from the RCN argued that the church can’t survive and grow while restricting the special offices of the church to men. I wonder how that’s going for them. If you look at the Christian Reformed Church in North America, after their decision to allow women in office in 1992, they’ve been on a steady downward trend in membership. Adapting to the culture is not a recipe for growth.
That same chapter also issues a cry for the need for creeds and confessions. Says Mohler, “Churches and denominations that have no confession of faith, or have a confession in name only, disarm themselves doctrinally” (p.36). Quite right! Historic Christian confessions which faithfully summarize the Bible are indispensable for keeping our doctrinal heads screwed on straight as the storm of secularism starts blowing in.
The chapter on gender and sexuality discusses the infamous Revoice Conference of 2018. This conference was held to support, encourage and empower “gay, lesbian, same sex-attracted, and other LGBT Christians so they can flourish while observing the historic Christian doctrine of marriage and sexuality.” This illustrates “the revolution’s demand on the church of Jesus Christ.” One thing Mohler doesn’t mention is the fact that this conference was hosted by a congregation of the Presbyterian Church in America. In fact, the epicentre of the Revoice controversy has been in the PCA and how the church and its courts respond to it.
One of the troubling things about the Revoice Conference was the idea that a Christian can identify himself/herself in terms of being gay or lesbian, etc. In other words, you can be a “gay Christian.” Mohler dissents. The most significant problem “is the idea that any believer can claim identity with a pattern of sexual attraction that is itself sinful” (p.108). Some associated with Revoice argue that the attraction itself is not sinful. Mohler’s response to this is worth a careful read:
The issues here are bigger than sexuality. As Denny Burk and Rosaria Butterfield rightly explain, we confront here a basic evangelical disagreement with Roman Catholicism. Ever since the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Roman Catholic Church has insisted that involuntary incentive to sin is not itself sin. In the most amazing sentence, the Council of Trent declared: “This concupiscence, which the apostle sometimes calls sin, the holy Synod declares that the Catholic Church has never understood it to be called sin.” Don’t miss the acknowledgement that the doctrine of Trent is contrary to the language of the apostle. (p.109)
That was new to me; both the connection to Roman Catholicism, and how explicitly the Council of Trent repudiated biblical teaching on this point.
Finally, Mohler has a great chapter on the challenges facing our young people. Again, the description is good, but the analysis is better. But best of all is the way Mohler lays out a way to “apply the gospel power in order to engage the storm gathering over the coming generations.” He argues that Christian parents have to lay hold of three things:
- Because it’s where the gospel is preached, church has to be the utmost and highest priority for Christian families.
- Christian parents need to both understand the challenge of technology, screen time, and social media and rise to meet that challenge.
- Christian parents have to disciple their children through family worship and quality family time. (pp.140-141)
If I could add one item to this list: recognizing the need for and value of Christian education. After all, public education is one of the primary ways secularism seeks to indoctrinate our children.
I first became aware of The Gathering Storm through its promotion online through Mohler’s blog and other sources. However, what really led me to buy it and read it was a friend and colleague from Canada who was doing a course for Christian school teachers on the biblical worldview and contemporary challenges to it. I’d say that it is a must-read for Christian educators. But no less so for parents and far more so for office bearers in Christ’s church. I do wonder whether the storm is still gathering or whether it is upon us. Whatever the case may be, none of us can be doing the ostrich thing. We need to see what’s going on and then also realize that if we’re truly Christians, we have the solid foundation under our feet to weather it — and even see the gospel advance despite it.
Though it’s not yet 2020, Synod 2020 of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands has begun in Goes. The first press release has been issued and can be found here (in Dutch). The big question many are wondering is whether Synod Meppel’s decision to admit women to all the offices of the church will be reversed. Certainly efforts are being made by some local churches — you can read here about Urk and its request for revision, and also its bold refusal to send delegates to classis in the meantime (a classis which recently gave preaching consent to a woman).
What are the prospects for a course reversal? The Synod has already been discussing the topic. The Synod spent some time first discussing the topic “Dealing with Diversity.” A couple of professors from the Theological University in Kampen came to make a presentation on that. Saturday November 23 was spent discussing explicitly the topic of “men and women in the church.” The deputies who wrote the report for the last Synod advocating for women in office came and gave introductions and workshops.
Reading the press release, one certainly doesn’t get the sense that the Synod is starting off on the right foot towards a course reversal. Moreover, one detail is easy to miss in the press release: the synod delegates consist of thirty brothers and two sisters. So this synod apparently has two female office bearers as delegates. Does anyone realistically think that this synod will come around later and say, “Sorry, sisters, the RCN made a mistake at Meppel and you really shouldn’t have been around this table”? Really?
I can’t help but think of a vivid Dutch expression that Klaas Schilder used at a certain point in his discussions with Herman Hoeksema: de kous is af. Literally, “the stocking is finished.” In English we would say, “It’s game over.” After this, I pray Urk and other concerned believers still in the RCN will see it and move out and move on.
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Hillsong is one of Australia’s most well-known exports. They’re known not only for their praise and worship music brand, but also for attracting celebrities like Justin Bieber. Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently spoke at a Hillsong Conference. He’s a member of a church that belongs to the Australian Christian Churches, to which Hillsong also belongs.
Hillsong is not just a church – it’s a global phenomenon. Around the world, over 130,000 people attend Hillsong each week. That could be a great thing if Hillsong was faithful to the Scriptures. If they were faithfully preaching the gospel and following the Word of God, Hillsong could have a powerful impact. But are they?
Last week, the ABC featured a piece on modern Pentecostalism in Australia. This is how it opens:
It is Sunday morning at Hillsong’s megachurch in the Sydney suburb of Alexandria, and Pastor Natalie Pingel pauses mid-sermon to conduct an impromptu Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson look-a-like contest.
She selects a group of buff parishioners and members of the band to line up on stage. Each takes turns flashing the crowd the actor’s signature raised eyebrow, to approval and gushing laughter.
Pastor Pingel then leads the congregation in prayer, the band plays anthemic rock music and the big screens either side of the stage light up with suggestions for what people can pray for.
The suggestions include financial stability, luck with job applications and visa approvals.
In these few words, there’s plenty indication that things are seriously wrong with Hillsong. Even though they’re Pentecostal and, as such, claim to give more attention to the Holy Spirit, in reality they’re missing some key things the Spirit says.
Let’s start with the pastor. The Holy Spirit says in 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.” Yet Hillsong flouts the Holy Spirit’s teaching and has a woman delivering a sermon.
What about the “look-a-like” contest? Search the Spirit’s book to see if any such thing was ever done by the apostles. In the Bible, did the apostles pursue “approval and gushing laughter”? Surely not. Instead, the apostles preached the Word of God and left these sorts of comedic antics for the theatre. They followed the leading of the Holy Spirit who said, simply, “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2) – they didn’t add or take away from that. They simply preached the Scriptures.
Next, notice the stage and “anthemic rock music.” What associations do we commonly make with such things? Entertainment. Together with the comedy act, this doesn’t portray serious Christian worship in the presence of the Holy God, but an entertainment event. What is this but “the itching ears” described by the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy 4:3?
But most concerning of all in the ABC article is the portrayal of Hillsong as a purveyor of prosperity gospel teaching. This is well-known. Hillsong teaches that God wants believers to experience prosperity in this life. This can manifest itself in different ways: financial, health, relationships. Becoming a Christian opens up access to all these blessings. Christ died and rose again victorious to give Christians these blessings. From time to time, they may still talk about the cross and give something of the true biblical gospel. However, the emphasis falls on prosperity and success as the good news.
Even though the Spirit says it (Isa. 45:7, Lam. 3:38, Ps. 60:1-4, Ps. 66:10-12, Ps. 119:71), the idea that God would send adversity into the lives of believers because he loves them and wants to shape them is foreign to prosperity gospel churches. The Holy Spirit made most of the Psalms laments, but the prosperity gospel doesn’t know what to do with them. In the New Testament, the Spirit-filled Jesus told his disciples that they would have to take up their cross and follow him (Matt. 10:38). In Acts 14:22, Paul and Barnabas told the early Christians, “…through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” But the idea of bearing the cross before wearing the crown doesn’t register in the prosperity gospel message. Instead, it’s all about glory here and now.
Moreover, what’s missing is the biblical gospel message which the Spirit gave through Paul: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). And what did he come to save us from? According to Romans 5:9, we are saved by Christ “from the wrath of God.” That note is rarely, if ever, heard in prosperity gospel churches.
Let me conclude with a question someone is sure to raise: could someone be genuinely saved at or through Hillsong? Perhaps. God can do amazing things despite people. He does amazing things despite me. So he could save people through Hillsong too and I sincerely hope he does. But that’s beside the point. If a Christian is looking for a more consistently biblical, gospel-preaching church, I’m afraid Hillsong just doesn’t fit the bill. If a Christian is looking for a church aiming to follow what the Holy Spirit teaches about worship and the offices of the church, one can do far better than Hillsong.