First Things RSS Feed - Sarah J. Flashing
en-usCopyright 2016 First Things. All Rights Reserved.firstname.lastname@example.org (The Editors)email@example.com (The Editors)Mon, 24 Oct 2016 12:01:15 -0400https://d25wp47b6tla3u.cloudfront.net/img/favicon-196.pngFirst Things RSS Feed Image
60A Review of Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womahood [excerpt]https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/10/a-review-of-rachel-held-evans-a-year-of-biblical-womahood-excerpt
Sun, 21 Oct 2012 15:40:27 -0400
I don’t believe this book is really about
womanhood, or biblical anything.
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
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
. 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
, but it needs to be clarified that as evangelicals, we
believe the Bible contains helps and rules in the form of principles and precepts found within the various scriptural genres.
Young “Evangelicals” and the Gospel of Doubthttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/06/young-evangelicals-and-the-gospel-of-doubt
Mon, 18 Jun 2012 12:56:46 -0400It 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,
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.
I Doubt, Therefore I Am
Over the weekend,
(son of Jim and the late Tammy Faye Bakker & gay-affirming pastor) appeared on CNN discussing the latest Pew Research report on belief in God. According to their 2012 findings, 68% of Millennials indicate they never doubt the existence of God while only 5 years ago that number was 76%.
Early in the interview, host Don Lemon posed the challenge “If God exists, prove it.” The point of the question was to elevate the reasonableness of doubt because if God can not be empirically verified then unbelief or doubt is rational. The question felt like someone knocked the wind out of me. Certainly Lemon wasn’t suggesting that our knowledge of God starts with us? Skepticism is not the result of investigation but the ultimate assumption, so its no surprise special revelation serves as no answer to the dilemma of knowledge of God. No wonder so much doubt prevails among the Millennial age group.
After catching my breath, Lemon continued his conversation with Jay Bakker, venturing into some areas even Lemon could not avoid describing as subversive. Bakker stated that even on the cross, Jesus doubted—“Christ was an atheist.”
I lost my capacity to breathe again. God didn’t believe in God (as Bakker put it). And this is based on what?
]]>Is Your Faith a Fraud?https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2012/04/is-your-faith-a-fraud
Wed, 18 Apr 2012 18:00:43 -0400
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
At the time her book “
Saving Jesus from Those Who are Right
” (SJTWR) was published, Carter Heyward was a professor of theology at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1974, she was one of 11 women whose ordinations eventually paved the way for the recognition of women as priests in the Episcopal Church in 1976 ( “The Women Priests”.
. August 26, 1974). She retired in 2006.
Aspects of her writing strike in me an odd familiarity:
]]>When Doubt Becomes Skepticismhttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/10/when-doubt-becomes-skepticism
Fri, 21 Oct 2011 11:46:33 -0400Evolving 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 ChristianityI 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:
. It’s difficulteven unfairto 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.
, RHE describes her upbringing as a child of Christian parentsher 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”
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?”
In chapter 3, she explains the history of Dayton rooted in the historical event of the Scopes Monkey Trial. She provides a portion of the trial transcript showing how attorney Clarence Darrow undermined the
interpretation of the Bible in his examination of William Jennings Bryan’s testimony. RHE then describes another “Monkey Town moment” (62) when political leaders “passed a resolution calling for a ban on homosexuality and an amendment to state law that would allow the country to charge gays and lesbians with crimes against nature” (62). She discusses the terrible behavior of people in Dayton during this time, saying that the city
“was again the laughingstock of the country, and rightly so.”
The chapter concludes with this statement, speaking to the apologetics movement she is about to discuss:
“The evangelical community has a curious reputation for resisting cultural movements before suddenly deciding to embrace them, and believers in Dayton are no different”
(64). She continues,
]]>What Biblical Womanhood Is Nothttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/10/what-biblical-womanhood-is-not
Tue, 04 Oct 2011 13:40:18 -0400
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.
Year of Biblical Womanhood
has actually been a year of an erroneous hermeneutic resulting in misrepresentation to the church and the public at large of what biblical womanhood actually looks like. She expanded on the literal approach of scripture practiced by complementarians by flattening scripture such that systematic theology is of no consequence. An initial statement at the front end of her post titled A
Year of Biblical Womanhood
is evidence enough of this.
]]>Putting On the New Self: An Introducton to Christian Ethicshttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/09/putting-on-the-new-self-an-introducton-to-christian-ethics
Mon, 26 Sep 2011 15:46:52 -0400
]]>Til ‘Lack of Consciousness’ Do Us Parthttps://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/09/til-lack-of-consciousness-do-us-part
Tue, 20 Sep 2011 11:18:53 -0400Last 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 lifeso 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 deadand so, too, is the quality of the relationship.
Though small or disabled, they are fully humana sufficient argument for defending their life (without a vitalist mentality that makes no room for death). The personhood debate has only done harm to the way we view and value these image bearers. As a philosophical term, “personhood” has been imported into our theological conversation to account for human capacities, not as a way to address ontology. The fruit of it is rotten and I believe this is what we are seeing in Robertson’s “kind of death” message.
In Robertson’s comments, we see the coalescing of views on marriage, divorce and human dignity that we should have come to expect because, as he so aptly demonstrates, evangelical Christians neither understand how to think about medical ethics issues nor how they impact other areas of the Christian life. Every day pew dwellers have been offered little in terms of framework for how to live through these types of situations to the glory of God. Instead, they get “pat” answers for how to make life more immediately pleasurable.
There are plenty self-described evangelicals who likely agree with Robertson on the diminished moral obligation in an Alzheimer’s (or cancer) relationship. In fact, I’m sure some are grateful he is taking the heat for a stance that they have been secretly embracing. Some evangelicals, of course, have rightly come out in defense of sacrificial living within marriage, a position summed up in the age-old
vow “til death do us part.” But with the recent tendency toward emotional-therapeutic approaches to ethical discourseto the Christian life in general“til ‘lack of consciousness’ do us part” is likely to become a morally sufficient argument for how Christians can choose to cope in similar circumstances. So as a matter of consistency, if our individual situations are going to have any determining weight in the rightness or wrongness of beginning of life questions, then Robertson’s view fits well within this new theological schema for end of life scenarios. If disease warrants the end of a parental relationship through diagnostic testing
or in the petri dish, certainly the prospect of terminal illness can justify the end of the marital relationship. May it never be.
]]>The Moral of the Story Is There One?https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/08/the-moral-of-the-storye280a6is-there-one
Wed, 24 Aug 2011 16:39:03 -0400“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 (
]]>On Rejecting “Evangelical Feminism”https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/08/on-rejecting-evangelical-feminism
Mon, 01 Aug 2011 11:10:03 -0400Our 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”
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.
As a seminary grad, I was proud to say I could play with the “big boys” in the world of evangelical theology. While many of my male peers in seminary were primarily focused on getting into the field to pastor without much concern for their grades, my desire and ability to excel academically proved that I was far from intellectually deficient. My appreciation for the authority of God and Scripture, however, set me apart from first wave feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton who struggled with the idea spiritual authority to the point of believing that the Bible was the primary cause of the subjugation of women. This sad legacy from the first wave of feminism gets little acknowledgement from any kind of feminist today but certainly deserves bold rejection.
My claim to feminism also depended on my unapologetic pro-life stance with derivative positions against the use of IVF, egg donation, surrogacy, etc. If women have ever been the target of objectification before, what the fertility industry is doing at the risk of women’s health is sinister and hardly pro-woman because each year billions of dollars are made on the backs of financially and emotionally vulnerable women. The irony of it all is that the fertility industry finds its justification through the cultural legacy of secular feminism. If women had not been encouraged to aspire to career before or in place of family, or if women had not come to embrace the new concept of family without father, likely science would not have had the market motivation to provide for every possible situation of childlessness (at this point, not necessarily infertility). Certainly rejecting anything harmful to women in any manner makes me a “true” feminist.
After seeing the recent discussions on the rise of “evangelical feminism,” I have finally concluded that evangelical women are being taken for a ride in this conversation on who is the true feminist. To take cultural ownership of the term “feminist” seems to suggest that secular feminism has been disarmed and left powerless. Maybe this is some of what’s going onwomen are wising up and finding the virtues of secular feminism really aren’t so virtuous after all. But perhaps in this conversation there’s been too much emphasis on “feminist” and not enough on “evangelical.” There is a sense of credibility with culture tied to who actually has the most right to the term “feminist,” but that plays into the hand of secular culture entirely. While the gospel-centered ministry of the church cares about conversations with culture, we ought not actively make secular culture more alluring through our dependence on language and definitions rooted in secularism.
While I don’t know anything about the spiritual lives of Bachman or Palin, I am pretty sure they are Christian based on things they have said or I have heard said about them. Whether they claim to be “evangelical feminists” is also unclear to me. But they are merely a blip in history and the course of women’s lives is not best impacted by the best representations of feminism, but rather the best representations of Christianity. I’m not sure that Bachman or Palin are the best representatives of either, but I do know that evangelicalism with a respect for the authority of scripture is the best there is to offer to any woman.
]]>All Truth is God’s Truth - So?https://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2011/07/all-truth-is-gods-truth-so
Wed, 13 Jul 2011 13:47:22 -0400The 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.
As written by John Calvin, we can embrace the view that truth is to be found among believers and nonbelievers alike. In his Commentary on Titus, Calvin wrote “All truth is from God; and consequently, if wicked men have said anything that is true and just, we ought not to reject it; for it has come from God.” Notice that his emphasis is not on the bearers of truth but on the source of truth. The point I am raising has nothing to do with the desire to reject true statements from unbelievers, or unbelievers embracing true statements from those who are expressly Christian. Having been created in the image of God, being the recipients of God’s common grace, we can all know that a square has four sides, the sky is blue and that the killing of innocents is wrong. Accounting for how we know each of these to be true is the challenge. One might argue that we know these things empirically. We can observe that a square has four sides and that they sky is blue. But where does the assumption of reason find its source? It gets a bit murky with the skyhow do we account for blue? And while I’m grateful believers and unbelievers can agree that the taking of innocent human life is wrong, without a basis for this knowledge, this is a position can turn on a dime. God’s truth is always under the threat of attack and distortion.
In response to my recent article,
When an Oasis is Really a Mirage
, one individual commented about the work of Pomegranate Place, that “We believe that all truth is God’s truth, and that all women have truth and wisdom to share. We listen intently and acknowledge the good we see in others and in our world.” There is nothing to argue with in this statement, except to say it is insufficient for truly reaching into lives of anyone. Certainly, in the course of ministry it makes sense to build bridges and create opportunities for the truth of Christ to eventually be presented. Paul modeled for us in his conversation with the Athenians at the Areopagus, ultimately answering for them the identity of their
(Acts 17). Paul could have left them with the limited truths that they understood, but he knew the insufficiency of this knowledge. When the goal is spiritual care to any degree, leaving Christ out of the conversation is never an option.
So what assistance is it in ministry to perpetuate the understanding that “all truth is God’s truth?” As the example in Act 17 proves, it can be helpful. But to use it as the reason to avoid any proclamation of Christ is erroneous. Of course, all truth is God’s truth, but without any acknowledgement of the source of truth, not only do the worldview divisions remain intact, but the contention of “God” remains ambiguous at best. Ironically, the assertion of “all truth is God’s truth” creates more questions than answers.