Despite having preached Christ for ten years, John Wesley found himself “fighting [sin] continually, but not conquering”; he had moved from choosing sin to being controlled by it. He struggled with feeling forgiven. It wasn’t until he’d long wrestled with sin, and failed, that God “strangely warmed” his heart, and he realized that his only strength was in full dependence on God. Though Wesley was continually banned from preaching the Christian truth he knew, and struggled with fear, doubt, and lack of joy at times, God taught him as he communed with God in prayer and through Scripture reading.
Even the profoundly talented John Wesley struggled to internalize the faith he’d adopted, though he grew up with his dad and maternal grandfather as Anglican priests and his mother as a regular (though unofficial) minister (⭐ see note below). Wesley graduated from Oxford and was ordained soon after, preaching a forgiveness that he did not yet feel to be true for himself. Was he loved by God? Was John Wesley “saved” though he struggled?
I believe that John was on a journey of “being saved” from disillusionment and self-trust (just like we all are), a way to describe the transformation that occurs by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2) and the sanctification of a well-run race (Phil 2:12-13; 3:8-14). He and “all [who believe] are justified freely by [God’s] grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom 3:24). It is difficult for some to accept that forgiveness is a free gift; it is difficult for others of us to lower our “bootstraps” and own our complete inability to do what we set our minds to.
I resonate with John’s continued attempts to beat sin in his own strength (even with prayer, it was a self-effort). Like John, I found victory only when I came to the complete end of myself and trusted God like a newborn baby trusts their mama (Isa 66:10–13)—now that is a single focus of dependence and adoration that having nursed four children, I will never forget.
Wesley’s journey briefly touched gives us comfort that we are not alone in lifelong need for growth. His path mirrors my own: self-effort to overcome sin bringing continual defeat, and God’s love finally flooding in (for Wesley, when reading Luther’s preface to Romans; for me, The Cure and God’s illumination of Romans 8:1).
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,
Like John, I will forever testify to the truth that my “strength lay in keeping my eye fixed upon him, and my soul waiting on him continually.” To get there it was helpful to internalize that there is no condemnation in Christ; peace and victory through continued reliance are only found when God (not sin) is our overwhelming focus.
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
Matthew 6:22 KJV
⭐ Susanna Wesley, John’s (and eighteen other children’s) mother was a faithful woman who followed God’s direction in her life, even when her conscience would not allow her to support the king whom her husband, Samuel, did. When her husband was away, an appointed man who was filling his pulpit wrote to Samuel that the congregants quit coming to morning prayers and were instead going to Susanna’s evening services held in the rectory’s kitchen. She filled the ground floor with 200 people!
Susanna wrote, “…in your absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my care as a talent committed to me under a trust by the great Lord of all the families of heaven and earth.” When told to stop preaching, she refuted his points line by line and finally wrote,
“If you do after all think fit to dissolve this assembly, do not tell me any more that you desire me to do it, for that will not satisfy my conscience; but send me your private command in such full and express terms as may absolve me from all guilt and punishment for neglecting this opportunity of doing good to souls, when you and I shall appear before the great and awful tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
She was allowed to continue. 😏🙌🕊 John Wesley later referred to his mother as “a preacher of righteousness.” It seems apparent that she “preached” a single-eye commitment to Christ by her lived life as well as her words. ❤
 Albert C. Outler, Ed., John Wesley (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964), 64.
 Ibid., 66-67.
 Ibid., 56, 58-59, 68.
 Ibid., 67, 68, 69.
 Ibid., 64.
 Ibid., 66.
 Ibid., 67.
 This information was given via lecture. I only have a pdf of chapter 2 of the book and quotes from Susanna from ppt slides.)
OH—oh 😔 Cue my ninth-grade realization that certain boys weren’t really interested in me. They saw the outside, and didn’t care what else I had to offer.
That same feeling of screaming sadness longing for the consummation of the kingdom Christ initiated so long ago, returned on Sunday when I saw the first half of the halftime show. Now having watched the full show (when impressionable hearts who lack the maturity to make the distinctions I’m laying out, weren’t around), I see more of the women’s empowerment and celebration of Latina womanhood that outfits and camera angles partially masked in the first half.
I think women’s bodies, hearts, and brains are vast depths of amazing.
I want my girls to know that they don’t have to show their full beautiful selves to the world to be valuable. It’s a mixed message to say that alongside showing your crotch to the world over and over, and that is what I resist in the show. I love the empowerment and Latina aspects of the performance.
The same sinking desperation that hit me twenty-five years ago has surprised me in the church when my physical self is seen as what truly matters—not in the same pubescent manner of fixation as disappointed me in high school (perhaps, at least for some), but a lack of lens to honor who God is leading me to be, all the same.
This is in complementarian viewpoint, where women are not honored in all the ways God gifts. I dislike using that word, but it is a necessary distinction when I mention church. I know many men who do not (seem to be) sexualizing women in church, other than when gender is seen as a limit or a given, for how God can gift.
I see pure intention but a need for Romans 12:2 kind of transformation, which is never over for any of us in this lifetime.
My reaction to the halftime show was intimately tied to the reason I only began wearing leggings without shorts over, for workouts, in the last six months:
I feel ashamed and devalued when the physical body is the pinnacle of what is noticed.
Man looks at the outward appearance; God looks at the heart. Be like God. This is our unrelenting goal of transformation into Christlikeness.
But I realized yesterday that such evaluations are a choice of the heart. In the nineties, for example, I was wearing jeans and proper Minnesota winter apparel for most of the year. Every day I see college men through professors treat college women in leggings as full persons. (I am [partially by nature but] not completely naive to the male mind; I’m also a careful observer.)
It’s a choice of the heart.
Look at the person—look to God—then look back at the person through graced eyes. There will be a day when the Lord’s righteous rule is recognized by all creation, and God will be all in all (1 Cor. 15:27–28). Until then, let’s live into a Galatians 3:28 kind of kingdom, where ethnicity, gender, and status do not negate that we’re One in Christ. ❄❄❄
An intelligent friend who is likewise faithfully examining God’s design for women and men in leadership recommended this 5 minute video by Ravi Zacharias. I highly respect Mr. Zacharias and watched it right away.
My soft complementarian environment growing up did not push the idea that the husband is priest of the home (and my personal impetus for study arose in the church), but as I’ve examined the theological underpinnings, I sought biblical explanation and came across this article by ManInTheMirror.
Below are my thoughts on Ravi’s words and what I’ve found for explanation. Please consider what I present, and if there’s something I am missing, comment below.
Ravi’s description of how he lives his life sounds very egalitarian while his theology to support it sounds soft complementarian. He highly values his wife’s input, yet he doesn’t choose her advice in every aspect of everything he presents. Likewise, I find it ideal for a woman giving a presentation in her specific area of study to value her husband’s input but retain authority over the final presentation. Where I get most hung up is his statement that the husband is priest of the home.
In the explanation I found, there seem to be a few leaps made between the husband to love his wife as Christ loved the church, to then assume that since Jesus is high priest, the husband’s love includes a priestly role.
The husband-as-priest idea comes into practical difficulty for single women, in situations of divorce and/or abuse, and when a husband dies leaving a wife or wife and kids.
For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human,
1 Timothy 2:5
I respect Ravi’s implementation of his theology on this issue but wonder if there is any biblical support for the Priest idea beyond the inferences mentioned above. Can you supply any verses and/or resources that better support the husband-priest view biblically? Thank you.
Jesus in John 14:6 “I am the way” recalls Psalm 119:33 “teach me the way” where “way,” the Hebrew derek, means also road or manner.
“Teach me the road of your decrees,” the manner by which I am to live them out.
Jesus came and said “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also” (John 14:7) right after telling listeners that he himself is the Way.
How could they have known Jesus before Jesus came to live among them?
It seems that Jesus is telling listeners that if they had known—or if they do know—God’s manner for living they would have known (or will know) the Father as well Col 1:15-20. (Ancient manuscripts differ in tense used.)
[Later Edit: Looking at The Greek New Testament, the oldest copy (P66 from 200 AD), reads “If you have known me, also you will know my father.” Here the Alands and Bruce Metzger, et al., are very undecided on the best verb forms to use. The first “if you have known” in P66 is the perfect tense which carries two ideas: (1) completed action and (2) continuing results.]
What is God’s manner?
God is love and truth (1 John).
God is humble (Phil 2, Matt 11:29).
God exists in a state of mutual boosting (Phil 2, John 17).
God said to Moses, I AM WHO I AM. This אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה from the verb hayah (הָיָה) which means “to be, become, happen, occur” is a present and future tense statement that “I am and will be whatever I am and will be.”
God is God and is not bound to human confinement or assumption; Jesus shows us God.
The congregate message of Scripture shows me that God is the giving pure flow of relational unity and mutuality—and we are invited in!
I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
Jesus (John 17:21)
Those gifted to lead (1 Corinthians 12 & 14) cannot do so without the love of 1 Corinthians 13. This love does not have a self-initiated, pride of life origin—I have seen this kind—but comes from the steady grace found in Jesus’s manner of connection with the Father, which I have also witnessed in leaders.
Their humility pointed me to Christ.
Psalm 119:33 and John 14:6:
“Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.”
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Anyone gifted to lead who is not humble and others-boosting, who does not walk as a servant leader (διάκονος) like Jesus and Phoebe (Romans 16:1), is not leading in God’s Way.
Abide and lead in The Way of Christ through the all-surpassing power of God’s Spirit in you (2 Cor 4:7).
If you’re like me, somewhere along the formative venture of childhood you learned that we base our concept of God on our earthly father. That seemed logical, but at the same time I recognized that it wasn’t entirely true for my own view of God.
It turns out that our internal images of God are formed through a combination of our relational experiences, including those with mothers and fathers, based on study of “in-depth interviews” of the psychological and religious histories of adults, together with their drawings of God.
Source: F. LeRon Shultz and Steven J. Sandage, The Faces of Forgiveness: Searching for Wholeness and Salvation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 88-89.
As a young mom I found that mothers are highly valued, but at the same time the true significance was given to fathers to impact their children for Christ (in popular thought). The mixed message was confusing, and I remember devaluing my own importance.
I find this study to be empowering to both mothers and fathers, and to all caregivers.
Argentine born Ana-María Rizzuto, M.D. is an Adjunct Member of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and a Training and Supervising Analyst Emerita of the PINE Psychoanalytic Institute. See more in her book Birth of the Living God.
As Shultz (a theologian) and Sandage (a psychologist) conclude, mothers and early caregivers form a “pivotal unconscious influence on later representations of God.”
This also makes sense.
This helps me to understand why God “gently lead[s] the nursing ewes”—the mothers nursing babies (and by extension, mothers who bottle feed; the point is the connection and development of trust).
Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Isaiah 40:11, NASB
Mothers and Fathers doing your best for your families, caregivers and teachers who invest so much of yourselves in other peoples’ children—be encouraged! Your patient leadership, wise guidance and constant love are imprinting God to the people you serve.
What an astounding responsibility we all have for those who come after us. ❄
“Who said that again… C. S. Lewis?” I thought as I was (finally) cleaning my house between a semester of seminary combined with full family life, and Christmas.
No, it was Gamaliel, the wise rabbi at whose feet young Paul had learned, before breaking off at God’s stark intervention and invitation (Acts 9, 22:3). The warning Gamaliel uttered about the nascent Christian rising still looms today. It hangs heavy over the Christian women’s leadership movement in the church.
“For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5:38–39
I don’t want to fight against God.
Repeatedly God has reminded me to wait on him, that this is his burden to carry, not mine. Yet I have a desire to share the aspects of my story that may matter to the denominational discussion over where women can serve as Christ’s body. The fulcrum upon which the lever rests of my being for or against God, is love. Truth is easier for me than love, but I’m allowing God to heal past wounds and trusting him into the unmasked terror of vulnerability.
I love those who view this issue of God’s call on women differently than I do and especially those struggling with questions of meaning, purpose, and calling when their intellectual understanding of God’s ways doesn’t match what it seems God is leading her to do and be. This letter is to any with ears to listen because my perception is that God has orchestrated my life to offer unique perspective on this issue. More on that here and here.
I am for women and for men; I am against the spiritual forces and ideologies that combat God’s purposes and blunt human flourishing.
My goal is to present observation and experience from a seasoned journey with God which includes years of exegetical research.
Through my study of biblical Hebrew and Greek I’ve come to realize that the semantics of language can be incredibly difficult to translate well: meaning, sense, implications, conceptual links, and the role of cultural understanding shape just as much as word for word transference. See PART 2 below for links to topics and exegesis, continued text, and recommended resources.
If I do not share my words now, in this crucial moment of decision for the denomination, I feel I would not be faithful to my Lord, Leader, and lifelong Love.
As I see it, as a denomination we are currently discussing the following possibilities:
Grant the title and respect of “elder” to women who serve as pastors and to faithful laywomen gifted to serve in this capacity.
Continue to allow the teaching and preaching of Scripture by gifted, called, and certified women (in some locations) but withhold eldership from these women—who have already met the requirements and who are already doing the work—and from faithful laywomen; or
Leave the decision of how women are allowed to use Holy Spirit’s gifts up to the men of each region.
The way I state the issue betrays my take on it: willGod and the scriptural witness be our active leader, or will our comfortable tradition take precedence?
If you are unsure about how to distinguish the line between Complementarian and Egalitarian or see some ideas as “too Egalitarian,” find explanation here.
I have lived 39 years surrounded by a (soft) complementarian worldview at church. For eight of these years I have also been immersed in an egalitarian church culture at college and seminary (and in my marriage). Experience as a woman in both allows me to offer this perspective: I have found that trusting God to overcome my unconscious bias allows me to see people more as God does. Through his eyes I am reaching for the goal of valuing people as the gifted image-bearers God has made them to be.
Here is what I have observed:
If equal respect is not foundational to individual or institutional theology—the latter, in organizational structure and written policy—human nature, pride or insecurity (those are not mutually exclusive), or simply ignorance, will at times determine behavior. Policy does not dictate such unholy treatment but can allow and even foster it. Hence we see evidence of abuse of different kinds under complementarian ideology. In the C&MA, I have been respected at times and have seen God work mightily. I have also witnessed and experienced emotional and spiritual abuse from men (not my husband) who thought they were being loving, but did not know what they were doing. All abuse scars the soul; only one form is legally accountable.
I have owned my part in the spiritual abuse done to me—and to my family—and am trusting God as he shows me who I am. I hang in the balance of no longer allowing fear to run my life and growing in emotional maturity; I have forgiven those involved. It has been a slow but steady process of recovery over the past four years.
Before God opened my eyes to other views, I had no idea about the different lenses people use to read Scripture. I’ve had to learn an entirely new framework, and I link to helpful articles, videos, and books, in PART 2 of this piece.
I have seen women honored for their insight, preaching, and leadership gifts by egalitarian Christians—treated as capable equals with no gender hierarchies to uphold. I have never heard an egalitarian male professor (some are ordained, too) speak with a derogatory tone, sense of dismissal or one-upmanship, or “joking” stereotype to me, or about a woman colleague (some are ordained, too)—whether she’s in the room, or not. Those are regular occurrences under complementarian theology, subtly and overtly.
More of my story and experience can be found here and here.
If spiritual abuse is a new topic to consider click here for explanation.
I have found that the complementarian view of women affects many outliers. Recently I was told that it was a man’s role (not mine) to speak up to defend others. Last month a (disproven) gender stereotype was said to me as a dismissive conversation point.
I felt conflict between what God prompted me to do and these viewpoints, and I no longer internalize that conflict but recognize the harmful nature of ideologies that are not of Christ.
While mutual submission can happen with male-only elders to a degree if the men are of such a posture, if the men are not so inclined toward mutuality the system allows (“sanctifies”) human nature: explained here. This structure also works for all of the women who are not called by God into the elder role; for those who are, it causes a spiritual frustration that runs to the essence of their being.
It is my hope that some of what I’ve shared here may become a spark for renewed conversations around issues that are not being addressed.
PART 2: A resource for new voices about God’s call for women and men to co-lead in the home and church.
Arranged as TOPICS – TEXT Part 2 – BOOK LISTS – ONLINE RESOURCES: Save and Share this post, and read in manageable chunks through the year. There is pertinent information below. May the love and truth of Christ be with you. ~K. S. Lassen
If Paul’s statement that the man/husband (ἀνήρ) is the head of the woman/wife (γυναικὸς) is your baseline, please read the articles found here about the Greek kephale (head) and it’s meaning to the original audience.
Translation choices in the Septuagint of Genesis 1-5 (the Greek translation approximately 250 years BC) greatly influenced perception of gender as it was the primary biblical text for many in the early church. See information here.
Church structure cut women out of leadership in the 3rd and 4th centuries: discussed here. This information is explained in my Church History textbooks (but I can’t link to them).
ACCOMMODATION TO CULTURE, HISTORICAL QUESTIONS: Janette Hassey presents the movement for women’s equality since the mid-nineteenth century as rooted in Scripture and evangelical Christian faith. Her book No Time For Silence includes discussion and quotes from A. B. Simpson. Those who endorsed women’s public ministry were convinced that a literal approach to the Bible, and especially prophecy, demanded such leadership by women.
GOD’S TRINITARIAN ESSENCE: I’ve come to see the roles in Christ’s body as directlyrelated to God’s Trinitarian essence. Please read What Makes God “Other”? for how this is related to women in God’s church.
If you’d like a quick read about women leaders in the Bible, find links here.
WOMEN AND MARRIAGE: Find extensive example and exegesis well-organized by topic and reference, from Genesis 1–6 and related Old Testament passages into God’s redemption of relationships throughout the New Testament at Women and Marriage throughout Redemptive History.
The false creation myth and power structure in Ephesus that Paul was likely addressing in 1 Timothy was new to me and is detailed in the following well-referenced article: The Cult of Artemis.
After a fascinating talk given by expert on Artemis Dr. Sandra Glahn, Dr. Cynthia Long Westfall drew me in to conversation (before I knew who she was!) with her obvious knowledge on authentein, a key word in 1 Timothy 2:12. See page 333 of Paul and Gender for the index of where she addresses it in the book, or google westfall on authentein to find her pdf in the “Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism.”
In sum, “this verb should not be used to exclude women from appointment or election to any aspect of church ministry or leadership, because that class of action is never in view in the occurrences of the word,” which is likely addressing a domestic situation in 1 Timothy (Westfall, JGRChJ 10 (2014), 172-173).
The most important conclusion of this paper is that, according to the 60 samples in the data base, when αὐθεντέω occurs with a personal/ animate actor and a personal/animate goal, a negative evaluation is given unless the actor has a divine or ultimate authority. This appears to be because it has a destructive force when applied to an animate goal, and it is an inappropriate action for those who do not have the authority of life and death. There were no examples in the sample occurrences where a man did this to another person in a positive way in the register of church leadership. Forcing a person against their will in a destructive way is inconsistent with pastoral ministry as practiced in the first century or as practiced in the twenty-first century.
No person should take this kind of action against another person within a church context, because no one should have the power to harm or force another person in the church, and exercising that sort of power would be abusive by virtually any standards.
Westfall, JGRChJ 10 (2014), 171.
LOCAL OR UNIVERSAL APPLICATION IN 1ST & 2ND TIMOTHY: Dr. Craig Keener discusses the historical view of women in the church and particularly addresses local versus universal application of 1st and 2nd Timothy in this video.
1ST CORINTHIANS 14:34–35:
Mid-Eastern scholar Kenneth Bailey explains the cultural situation 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 is addressing, particularly on pages 6-7 of the pdf found here.
Philip B. Payne explains the scribal markings on the original manuscripts, here.
Exegetical giant Katharine Bushnell pioneered this interpretation, that I have read from modern scholars, that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 was a quotation of societal thought, that Paul then countered. Greek doesn’t have punctuation to make a quotation clear, and given contextual evidence, it’s highly probable.
CHRIST AS THE SECOND ADAM: For how Paul’s reference of Christ as the Second Adam relates to gender relations, read Effects of the Fall Reversed.
MASCULINE PRONOUNS IN ENGLISH BIBLES:
For grammatical information about pronouns in Hebrew, Greek, and English click here for Marg Mowczko’s research and additional resources.
BIBLICAL PRECEDENT and EVERY REGION DECIDING: Please consider biblical precedent for who is sacrificed if the current male eldership of each region decides how the Holy Spirit is allowed to manifest in women; in other words, all local men are kept happy.
As a denomination, a time of mourning over past sins of patriarchal policy is needed before new life can sprout and flourish. Are you up for this wild ride of humility and growth, with eyes wide open as we fly down the freeway without a seatbelt and with unclenched fists wide open to receive?
“Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46 displays God’s refuge and strength not in a time of ease but amidst vast upheaval. In that context we are invited into the stillness of God’s presence, the God who is and will be exalted above all.
Or, you can take on the Gamaliel challenge with fingers crossed. The choice is each of ours to make. What I write is undoubtedly hard to hear. I mean to say the truth in love, love for those who understand this issue as I used to see it, because
when every part of the body of Christ is not functioning in their gifting, every person loses.
And most utterly I ache for the women who stand to be dismissed or abused if full recognition of equal standing before God is not made in institutional policy. Well-meaning, God-hearted people have misunderstandings; we must all continue to grow. My early worldview was an unfortunate result of the reality of sin; my intellectual understanding even supported it—let us all continue to be transformed in the Lord as our minds are renewed! I did not recognize what was happening with my pastors five years ago as spiritual abuse until later on, but I knew immediately in my spirit that it was wrong.
Is the movement of women stepping boldly in faith a rebellious upstart or the clear direction of the Spirit? Is God a God who upholds human power structures or subverts them? Is the biblical support for women leading God’s people “as strong as an avalanche,” or are Greek scholar Philip Payne and his 36 years of supporting research simply wrong?
Such arguments that treat each piece of opposing argument in isolation are like a person caught in an avalanche thinking, “I will jump out of the way of each rock or clump of snow as it comes, and none of it will hit me.” But in an avalanche the rocks and snow do not come in isolation. Just as the totality of the avalanche is inescapable, so the totality of the Scriptures’ affirmations of women leading God’s people is inescapable.
Philip B. Payne, Man and Women, One in Christ, p. 462
At age 33 I was seeking God fully and trusting him well beyond my comfort zone. Numerous factors led to spiritual abuse; this is not the space for details. Reading Philip Payne’s work as I tried to figure out what God was doing in my life, brought joy to replace the inner dissonance I’d felt over my previous intellectual understanding of God’s design for gender, when reading through the Bible at age 10. The Holy Spirit was telling me that though my high regard for Scripture was right, my understanding of what select passages said, was wrong.
The question is not if God-through-women will continue to lead God’s people; those snowballs were formed thousands of years before Christ with Deborah, Huldah, Miriam, etc., and women are faithfully serving as leaders in many places.
The question is if the Christian and Missionary Alliance will grab a snowboard, be buried, or simply miss out on the opportunity to join in.
Choose wisely. ❄
Consider reading some of the following:
How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories from Prominent Evangelicals, Edited by Alan Johnson – ZONDERVAN / 2010
Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy, Edited By: Ronald W. Pierce, Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Gordon D. Fee – IVP / 2005
In response to MacArthur read this from Todd Still, from Truett Theological Seminary (whom I met and learned much about 1 Corinthians 11 from, at CBE last August… scholars are sort of like rock stars, to me).
* Endorsed by: Carl E. Armerding, Stuart Briscoe, F. F. Bruce, Gary W. Demarest, Gordon D. Fee, Kevin Giles, Vernon Grounds, Richard C. Halverson, Arthur F. Holmes, David Allan Hubbard, Alan F. Johnson, Kenneth S. Kantzer, Walter L. Liefeld, Richard N. Longenecker, Richard J. Mouw, Grant R. Osborne, Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., and many more.
If you run out of things to read, I can send you more. Please ask!
The joy of covering familiar (snow and ice packed) suburban trails over Christmas, is palpable. Thankfully I’ve only felt the wrath of slick surfaces about 2x in my life, which given the odds is near nil. I didn’t grow up on these trails but since my feet have found themselves in the southwest Twin Cities metro the majority of the past 20 Decembers, there’s a feel of home to this wonderland.
There are two parallels between this wintry fun run and the express lane God has taken me on these past five years. It’s not a stroll on the beach, and some of it may be hard to hear. But I invite you into this journey, for the beauty.
Analogy #1: visible darkness and beliefs about gender roles
Last evening while running in the dark (not on trails but a well-populated area), this song about God as our light inthe darkness played as I hit a short stretch with no street lights, and
The parallel to standing with my beloved Christian and Missionary Alliance as they reconsider the place women have as part of God’s people, shone in like the noonday sun.
The darkness is the pervasive acceptance of gender stereotypes being used in attempt to shut down women’s voices (happened to me earlier this month) and the way good, well-meaning men—and women—diminish women’s call (happened to me bluntly in September, but it’s in the water), let alone the outright dismissal of agency and personhood I experienced five years ago due to accepted complementarian church policy.
The church is rightfully wary of cultural influence. Therefore we must not forget the 2000 years of culture that have undeniably influenced the church. Despite noble efforts, even church fathers had blind spots (like many church leaders today who never studied the church mothers such as Junia, Phoebe, Priscilla, Macrina, Catherine of Siena, Hildegard of Bingen, Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila…to name a few).
Click here to learn how ancient platonic philosophy survives in many minds and church structures and here for the difference of God’s mode of power, from that of humans and pagan gods.
Sometimes the church has gone down ominous tunnels that now feel familiar, like home, but God is the Way Maker Miracle Worker Promise Keeper steadily working to bring Light to the Darkness.
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8).
What’s comfortable is not always right.
Analogy #2: turning back from lifelong-held beliefs can seem like running down an icy staircase
Today I finally broke from my ravenous devouring of information (dressed for my run, standing by the door; there’s just so much worth reading!) when Rend Collective drifted in from the next room, because God is setting his church on fire to burn away the lingering influence of human sinfulness, where difference is seen as ground for ranking.
(So it was time to put that song in my earbuds and run out of the celebration in my heart!)
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28 To read how N.T. Wright exegetes this verse, scroll down to point 2 here, and go here for more on Paul’s use of the created order.
I came to a fork in the trail on the way back and didn’t know which way I’d come. The least likely route was easily ruled out when coming upon this new masterpiece of a challenge.
Of course I took the bait before turning around and “ran” the steps, while visions of analogies danced in my head. Let me tell you, going up was a lot easier than coming down!
We often waltz into falsehood without intending to. Coming back to the truth can look threatening, with risk to fall at every step.
If you have unintentionally followed the destructive teaching around gender hierarchy (and it is so very destructive—let’s talk about that sometime), the biggest risk is surmounted by recognizing that
We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. There is nothing progressive about being pig-headed and refusing to admit a mistake. . . .We’re on the wrong road. And if that is so we must go back. Going back is the quickest way on.
C. S. Lewis, The Case for Christianity
Writing this run’s analogies lengthened the planned distance (love when that happens); they were put into prose until first-stage frostbite rendered my fingers unable to swype.
Now for the beauty: The beauty is mutual freedom and humility with God (not gender) as the ultimate determining factor for personal gifting and the agency of every uniquely crafted human being.
Before writing this, a YouTube ad interrupted my songs with “The greatest hindrance to quality writing is getting interrupted….” “No kidding,” I thought, “that’s why I write on my runs.” Multitasking is a must for seminarian moms who also like to blog. I figured I better start this post that was unintentionally formulating, instead of following my plan to enjoy music and scenery!
No more time to make this better [now many edits have helped to make this better]… I hope it comes together in a meaningful way for you. ❄ K.S.L.