Video: The Challenges of Gender in the 21st Century

This is the first of twelve videos in which I discuss various cultural and theological subjects with Brad Belschner. Within this video we discuss the challenges of gender in the 21st century. Visit the Davenant Institute’s site to find out more about their work, to watch more videos like this, and to discover many further resources.

Posted in Christian Experience, Culture, Economics, Ethics, Interviews, Sex and Sexuality, Society, Theological, Video | 2 Comments

Podcast: Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ Book 1

Mere Fidelity

We have just started reading through Augustine’s Confessions together on Mere Fidelity. This week we discuss the first book, in which Augustine talks about his childhood.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

Posted in Christian Experience, Church History, Podcasts, Prayer, Theological | 3 Comments

More Answers to Questions

Since my last post linking to some of them, I have answered hundreds of further questions on my Curious Cat account. Here are some more:

How do you feel about utilizing term “gospel-centered” as an adjective (gospel-centered marriage, life, church, parenting, sex, finances, etc.)? … [Answer]

The term ‘gospel’ seems to be utilized a proxy for individual salvation (perhaps this is another American issue). Can you speak to the relationship between the gospel and personal soteriology? How would you suggest we go about maintaining a robust, comprehensive definition of ‘gospel’? [Answer]

… I was wondering if you would be willing to “fill out” or present a “thicker” Gospel on here, and recommend some good resources (books or articles) that do this as well. Thanks! [Answer]

Is believing in god good? I don’t believe, I wasn’t raised religious, so I don’t know what it feels like to be religious. [Answer]

Which book or resource would you consider to be most closely aligned with your views on soteriology? I would like to learn more about your perspective. [Answer]

Perhaps one of the issues I was questioned most about was my view of election, which is rather different from most Reformed positions:

Romans 9 says God created some to do evil (‘vessels of wrath fitted for destruction’) so they’ll just end up going to hell. This happened to Esau, whom God hated even before he was born. [Answer]

Following your answer regarding Romans 9 – how, then, would you fill out your understanding of how corporate and individual election are taught in the New Testament and the relative emphasis given to each? [Answer]

If Romans 9 is primarily about corporate election, do you think it can still speak to individual election in some sense, seeing that groups are comprised of individuals?
If not, what passages would you turn to for a discussion of God’s election of individuals? [Answer]

(read your views on Election, and Romans 9). When all is said and done (the “objective” reason for Election and all that), how different your answer to “Does God elect some to salvation and not others?” could be from that of a Classical Reformed guy? [Answer] [Follow-up] [And more] [Yet more]

Have you ever interacted with John Piper’s “The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23,” or Tom Schreiner’s exegetical work on Rom 9? … [Answer]

You’ve said a few times in your ongoing posts about Romans 9 that “before the foundation of the world” and “in eternity past” are different things. Could you elaborate/point to some sources? … [Answer]

I am having trouble following your perspective on election. Would you consider yourself a Calvinist? [Answer]

Hi I am doubting if God wants to save me and my brother. Also because of the whole election topic. What to do? [Answer]

What is your opinion on supralapsarian Christology? Have you read van Driel on the subject? Do you think it is too speculative? [Answer]

Verses that point to Jesus Christ as the elect one into whom we are incorporated as God’s elect? Isn’t the direct object of “chose” in Ephesians 1:4, “us,” and then described as “in Him”? So we are elect, in Christ; not that Christ is elect, and then we are put in Him. [Answer]

What do you think has been the fallout from the ESS debate/debacle from last summer? It’s hard to know what kind of consensus has emerged, with both sides claiming points. I’m interested in your take [Answer]

Is it okay to not be very clever? That sounds silly, but I am not very intellectual and I find it really hard to talk about religion and Jesus. Sorry if I’m not explaining myself well. [Answer]

What are your thoughts on Christians using profanity, vulgarity, coarse language, etc. in measured, judicious, or otherwise intentionally thoughtful ways? … [Answer]

Is abstaining from profanity a Christian virtue? [Answer]

Why doesn’t John ever use the word “gospel,” unless you count the one time it’s used idiosyncratically in Revelation? [Answer]

If God knew people were predisposed towards legalism, then why did He give the Jews so many rules? … [Answer]

GK Chesterton said, ““If men will not be governed by the Ten Commandments, they shall be governed by the ten thousand commandments”? But isn’t this quote a little deceptive? For one, the OT had far, far more than 10 commandments. And even today, when you apply the commandments to real life, you end up with so many applications that it is effectively the same thing as having 10,000 commandments. [Answer]

… What resources on the Proverbs would you recommend? … [Answer]

Does Jesus really mean it when he says that rich people should sell everything they own? I mean, reading it it seems pretty clear, but no one ever does it. [Answer]

What if Romans 7 isn’t supposed to describe the life of the believer and all this sin we find ourselves burdened with is strange to Paul’s theology? [Answer]

Can you help me figure out the difference between the believers pre and post Pentecost experience of the spirit? … [Answer]

What are your thoughts on the so-called “Federal Vision” controversy? Do you believe “Federal Vision” adherents stand opposed to historic, reformed faith on various aspects? Should our understanding of Federal Vision influence how, or whether, we read Leithart, Jordan, Lusk, Wilson, and others? [Answer]

R. Scott Clark writes of the federal vision, “The central FV error is really their doctrine of baptismal union with Christ, that every baptized person is, by virtue of their baptism, united head for head to Christ and thereby granted a conditional, temporal election, justification, adoption etc which is retained by grace and cooperation with grace and lost by virtue of ones failure to do ones part (i.e., cooperate with grace).” What do you make of this assessment? [Answer]

You wrote in a recent answer on FV, “The real differences here lie at the deeper level of theological method and the fundamental architectonics of the theological system.” Do you have any recommended readings, either by you or someone else, where these “real differences” are explicated and expounded? [Answer]

Why are Peter Leithart and James Jordan so good at reading the Bible closely? … [Answer]

As a fellow Leithart admirer, do you have any thoughts, or insights, on his most recent work “Delivered from the Elements of the World”? [Answer]

… Do you think that the Calvinist understanding of perseverance creates problems in dealing with people who are in serious sin or who are struggling with their faith? … [Answer]

If Mormonism is so wrong (which I think it is), then why are the lives of Mormons so full of happiness, joy and general stability? I’m a Mormon who is now an agnostic, but I find it hard to believe in Jesus given that people believe in Joseph Smith (making their lives better) despite him being a criminal charlatan [Answer]

Are visions of god real, or just hallucinations? [Answer] [Follow-up]

What is the bottom line age threshold you would accept for an elder? … [Answer]

…how best would you evaluate the merits of ’house church movements’ in the face of the general decline in / disregard of institutional church in the West? [Answer]

What do you think about ecumenism? Does formal / structural unity among churches matter to God? [Answer]

… What do you think of this, in my opinion horrifying, cult of celebrity within the U.S. evangelical church? [Answer]

Is the idolatry metaphor overused in Evangelicalism? … [Answer]

Is the Pope the whore of babylon? [Answer]

… Assuming I have the support of the elders, how would you recommend I should go about changing [a poor form of practicing Communion] to something more biblical? … [Answer]

What do you think about plastic shot glasses for communion? Would you prefer them to intinction? [Answer]

When is someone a theologian? … [Answer]

Have you read the CREC presiding ministers report to Christ Church and Trinity? Do you have thoughts on their social media recommendations? [Answer]

Could you please explain your upcoming book on gender? [Answer]

Do other animals have gender differences or just sex differences? … [Answer]

Would feminists say other animals and plants are literate? For instance, are gender differences in dioecious plants performatively established texts? … [Answer]

In one of your answers you quoted Judith Butler. I wasn’t sure if you were doing so positively. Either way do you think Christians have anything to learn from Her work? I’m asking because I have ‘gender trouble’ on my reading list but so many have poo-pooed it that I wonder if I should bother. [Answer]

I am interested in the best sociological/political argument against same-sex marriage — *not* theological, *not* scriptural. What do ‘ya got for me? [Answer]

So my Mum (not a Christian) points out that my aunties’ same-sex relationship seem to make them so much happier, stronger and fulfilled. What would be your response to this sort of argument? [Answer]

Why are the churches I visit so unmanly? … [Answer]

In an earlier post you noted that the Christian faith has a “natural character.” Can you explain that further? [Answer]

What advice would you give a married man who feels unattracted to his wife and stuck in a lackluster marriage? [Answer]

What are the biblical thresholds for breaking an engagement? Is it comparable with divorce? [Answer]

Why does god make paedophiles? Granted, some of them are horrible people, but why give them the urge in the first place? Seems bizarre. [Answer]

What, if any, are the differences between male and female brains? Many are claiming that we now know there aren’t any, and that the male/female brain idea is nonsense, but there seems to be much evidence to the contrary – that there are real and fundamental neurobiological differences between the sexes. Thoughts? [Answer]

Could you comment on the gift of the the apostle today (Eph 4), particularly how as a complementarian you might see (if any) different gender expressions of this gift. I.e Pentecostals connect oversight of church networks to this gift. Does this not unhelpfully appear to make the gifts gender specific? How is apostolic ‘authority’ defined and expressed and again, does expression differ for genders? [Answer]

Why is it better to be married in your 20’s than later? It seems like most stats suggest marrying later is better. [Answer]

Is porn use grounds for divorce? [Answer]

[Question about the validity of a marriage undertaken to deceive the authorities] [Answer]

Capital punishment? [Answer]

Do races vary in IQ? I am not asking this from a malicious standpoint. I affirm that all humans are equally made in God’s image. [Answer]

What you think of Dr. Jordan B. Peterson in Toronto and his work on the psychology of religious beliefs and meaning in mythology? [Answer]

Do you believe that Europeans will increasa in fecundity? To what extent do you believe the increase in immigration and willingness to accept refugees stems from the need to import young workers to sustain the welfare state? [Answer]

Would you support a single payer health care system? [Answer]

Spiral Dynamics seems to be a hot heuristic tool in certain church circles, especially progressive ones. It seems ripe for creating easy intellectual and moral caste systems into which groups, individuals, and styles of belief can be easily dropped into, and thereby ‘explained’ (or explained away). But what do you make of it? [Answer]

The trend of people getting tattoos and large numbers of them is clearly pernicious, and I wish it would stop but what can one practically do? How can one move a culture on this? What is behind it all or does that even matter for solving it? [Answer]

Can you distinguish among different US dialects? [Answer]

… why is the principle ‘death is better than suffering’ applicable to animals but not humans? [Answer]

You’re in Nazi-occupied territory. No one is allowed to harbor Jews, on pain of execution. You hear a knock on your door, and when you open it, a Jewish family pleads with you. Your house has a cellar that can hold them. You take them in. Later, the Nazis come and ask you where they are. Should you lie? [Answer]

Is baldness really debilitating? [Answer]

How did y’all start Mere Fidelity? [Answer]

What are the three happiest days of your life? [Answer]

Feel free to ask any questions of your own!!

Posted in Questions and Answers | 1 Comment

Podcast: The Value of Controversy

Mere Fidelity

I join Derek and Matt for the latest Mere Fidelity episode, on the subject of the value of controversy. We discuss whether controversy is worthwhile and how to go about it well.

You can also follow the podcast on iTunes, or using this RSS feed. Listen to past episodes on Soundcloud and on this page on my blog.

Posted in Controversies, Ethics, Podcasts, Theological | 2 Comments

New Book on Charles Taylor with an Essay of mine on Liturgy in a Secular Age

A new book edited by Collin Hansen on the tenth anniversary of Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age has just been released by the Gospel Coalition. There are a number of thoughtful and stimulating essays within the volume, which would be very rewarding of your attention, even if you haven’t yet read Taylor’s book yourself (if you haven’t done so, you might find James K.A. Smith’s introductory book a helpful companion).

I have a chapter within it, in which I discuss the significance of liturgy in a secular age:

At the heart of Taylor’s work in A Secular Age is the question of the “whole context of understanding in which our moral, spiritual or religious experience and search takes place.” Although Taylor foregrounds the conditions and framing of unbelief, the cultural shifts he identifies are also critically important for understanding contemporary forms of Christian faith and practice. If the social imaginary of paganism framed much of the Constantinian reception and development of the liturgy, the secularism Taylor’s work explores plays a corresponding role in our own social environment.

You can buy copies of the book for yourself and for all of your friends and family members here.

Posted in Christian Experience, Church History, Culture, Ethics, Liturgical Theology, My Books, The Church, The Sacraments, Theological | 8 Comments

People of the Promise Released!

People of the Promise, in which I have an essay, has just been released by Davenant Retrievals. You really ought to buy a copy for everyone you know, because, whoever they are, they could probably benefit from thinking more about ecclesiology!

A number of smart people have already said nice things about it. Here’s Kevin Vanhoozer:

“I believe in the church.” You might think this is the easiest article in the Creed to affirm because we see and experience it, but you would be mistaken. It is precisely because we are familiar with the phenomenon that its reality eludes us. The fact that there are so many theories as to what church is and what church is for only complicates the matter. I therefore welcome this first installment of the Davenant Retrievals for its fresh and often illuminating presentation of the magisterial Protestant position to these questions, particularly their insistence that the church is a people assembled by God’s Word and Spirit. The authors use exegesis, church history, and systematic theology to make a compelling case that the church is the people who trust the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the fellowship of all who, through the Spirit, live out their “in Christ” reality together.

The essays contained in the book are as follows:

  1. “The Church Question in a Disoriented Age,” Joseph Minich
  2. “The Protestant Doctrine of the Church and its Rivals,” Bradley Belschner
  3. “Finding Zion: The Church in the Old Testament,” Steven Wedgeworth
  4. “Excursus: What is the Church? Etymology and Concept in Classical Antiquity, the LXX, and the New Testament,” E.J. Hutchinson
  5. “Pentecost as Ecclesiology,” Alastair Roberts
  6. “Simul Justus et Peccator: The Genius and Tensions of Reformation Ecclesiology,” Bradford Littlejohn
  7. “‘A Heavenly Office, A Holy Ministry’: Ordination in the English Reformation,” Andre A. Gazal
  8. “Excursus: Church Discipline as Public Good,” Jordan J. Ballor
  9. “Protestant Ecclesiology as Good Theory,” Andrew Fulford
  10. “Protestant Ecclesiology Among Contemporary Political Theologies,” Jake Meador

Buy your copy here!

Posted in My Books, Public Service Announcement, The Church, Theological | 4 Comments

Answers to Unusual Questions

Over the last few days, I have answered about a couple of hundred questions on Curious Cat, on a host of different topics. I’ve particularly tried to answer questions on various issues that are taboo or difficult to discuss in many fora, especially on the subject of sex and race. I’ve also tried to answer a few unusual questions. Here are a few examples:

What were you impressions on the different parts of the US. Were some regions weirder than others? To which do you plan to eventually move? [Answer]

Why are you an Anglican? [Answer]

Why are you Anglican rather than Presbyterian? [Answer]

Is it okay to be bored by theology? This isn’t a wind-up, I just don’t know whether it’ll make me a better Christian. I try to follow the commandments as best I can. [Answer]

Following up on a previous question about baptism, I’m interested specifically in your formulation of the relationship between paedobaptism and faith. Does your position have affinities with the “presumptive regeneration” stream in Reformed thought? And how does your understanding of the (dis)continuity of the covenants shape your reflection on the practice of paedobaptism? [Answer]

Can you define patriarchy and if/how it differs from complementarianism? [Answer]

Much of the scientific literature around gender suggests that there are real differences between men and women when considered broadly, but that there is some diversity within the genders when considering particular individuals. You’ve used the analogy of “family resemblances” to describe how people of the same gender are both similar to each other but can also be different.

How do we understand the relationship between the particular differences between individuals of the same gender and the universal commands to men and women in the Bible? Does the Bible call men and women to strive towards a kind of archetypal man or women or are the Biblical commands (like the scientific literature) speaking in generalities as well? Ie. women shouldn’t be in leadership “in general” but there may be outliers and exceptions? Curious to hear your thoughts! [Answer]

You argue that “Men and women are different kinds of persons, the bearers of different symbolic and relational meaning.”

What symbolism and relationships are you referring to? (Between God and humanity? Between Christ and his church? Within humanity? Within marriage?)

What are some of the key characteristics for each of the sexes? (I’ve heard you mention things like forming, naming and combat for men and filling, giving life and communion for women.)

What grounds can be used to identify appropriate characteristics? [Answer]

Benefited from your labors on work and gender (e.g., Davenant lecture). You’ve mentioned Luce Irigaray before, and I’m wondering if any of her oeuvre would tie into your comments on creational gender differentiation in Gen 1-2 or the fragmentation seen in modern economic approaches (such as her work in je, tu, nois and her writing against some streams of capitalist feminism, if I read her correctly)? Apologies for the longform question! [Answer]

How does the Evangelical church decide what is appropriate male and female behavior? For example, I can do construction type work, and I mow the lawn and know more about what’s under the hood of vehicles than a guy might. Do evangelicals relegate women’s roles to that of Suzy Homemaker? Seems to me that a woman who isn’t quiet and in the kitchen making homemade bread would be excluded from evangelical community. [Answer]

Alastair, do you agree that procreation is a fundamental purpose of marriage, and secondarily, that there is something lacking in marriages without children? [Answer]

A recent Duke dissertation complains of the Christian “tendency to sexualize women’s bodies far more than men’s bodies.” This is a common complaint; I feel there is something underneath it that I cannot cut down to. What is that thing? =) [Answer]

Why do gay people ‘look’ gay? (Serious question I’ve always had, reminded of it by the recent face scanning article) [Answer]

Is onanism a sin? [Answer]

What do you think about the concept of “rape culture”? On the one hand, there have been numerous scandals in the church of sexual assault allegations being hushed up and handled inappropriately, but at the same time the language of rape culture comes out of an unchristian ethical system where consent is the only thing that matters. How can we humbly accept outside criticism of the church without unconsciously adopting unbiblical categories? [Answer]

Is the manosphere / red pill view of male-female religions correct? Do women crave control from their men? [Answer]

Why are a substantial minority of women attracted to psychopaths and men of violence? What is the theological purpose of this? For context, I know someone who use to deal with Ian Huntley and he apparently would receive hundreds of letters a year begging for sex / maintaining that he was innocent. [Answer]

Is there an alternative to capitalism that Christians can support? [Answer]

Any thoughts on what governments, institutions, and individuals should do about the (probable) coming mass displacement of workers via automation? [Answer]

What advice would you give to an orthodox Christian man aged 30 who is (almost) exclusively same-sex attracted, who has stayed completely ‘in the closet’ about this fact and remained celibate, but who is increasingly finding the isolation and the lack of any sense of meaningful vocation despair-inducing? Should such a man disclose these attractions to his family and friends? And is it wrong for a man in this situation to seek marriage (with a woman, obviously) and fatherhood, despite the lack of instinctive physical attraction to women? [Answer]

If God wants men to remain virgins, why would he make male virginity so unattractive to women? [Answer]

Thanks for the long answer on virginity. But what about men who are too ugly or idiosyncratic to find a wife? [Answer]

Would, uh, would you mind giving the single guys some advice–practical or other–about “how to master oneself and be chaste”? [Answer]

Is ethnic nationalism incompatible with Christianity? [Answer]

Are jews culture annihilators? [Answer]

Do you accept the HBD premise that certain racial groups are genetically more intelligent than others? [Answer]

Is there any sort of Christian position against race-mixing? I would really like my grandchildren to be white, and I would regret if my son marries his Chinese girlfriend, as they will look nothing like me, or any of our ancestors for thousands of years. [Answer]

Is western civilisation a product of the white race? [Answer]

But why isn’t race decisive in forming western civilisation? Of course, I wouldn’t regard myself as simply a deracinated white man: I am English. But it is obviously the case that, for instance, you and I are white. An Italian is white, a German is white, a Frenchman is white. The white race is the soil out of which western civilisation sprang. [Answer]

Follow-up to those questions here, here, and here.

What do you make of Chesterton’s contention in chapter 5 of Orthodoxy that suicide is “the ultimate and absolute evil”? [Answer]

Is lifting a Christian thing? [Answer]

I have a huge backlog of questions that I’ll probably never get to answer, but ask any question you’d like answered here!

Posted in My Doings, Questions and Answers, Sex and Sexuality, Society, Theological, What I'm Doing | 16 Comments