Category Archives: Marriage

A Secret Date: Panera and Ingrid

A few weeks ago I sprung a surprise on my wife just when she thought we were headed to the Y for our usual evening workout. “Change of plans.” With those words we made a few stops including home and then set out on our secret date. First stop…

Panera Bread. It just so happens that Panera is one of my wife’s favorite restaurants. Chances are good that you will find us there every couple of weeks scooping up our favorite soups (mine=Broccoli Cheddar; Annie=Baked Potato) with a French Baguette. Slam that home with half of a turkey sandwich and you have a winner. It’s a golden meal.

After picking two at Panera, we hit the road for destination #2. Annie tried everything to make me give up the location but I was rock solid. Initially she thought we were headed for a drive-in movie which would have been a great date. Nope…I had bigger plans. As we approached the spot, she caught a glimpse of the sign and broke into a high pitched scream with rapid hand clapping. Destination #2…Exit In for a live performance by Ingrid Michaelson. Annie is a big Ingrid fan and it was her first time to see Ingrid live. Ingrid is a very creative artist and the show highlighted her creative personality. She was telling stories and cutting up most of the evening. We felt like we were all just hanging out at a party or barbecue. It was a really good show. Most importantly, Annie had a great time.

 

At the end of the night we were exhausted but it was well worth it. The look on Annie’s face throughout the night was priceless. Secret dates are a lot of fun and a great way to keep your wife on her toes. Trust me, she’ll appreciate it.

(As you can tell, the guy who took this pic was a little tipsy. It’s hard to get that sixth finger out of the flash.)

Gushee Challenges Complementarians

I should begin this post with a word of gratitude toward Dr. David Gushee. Dr. Gushee was a professor of mine during my time at Union University. He is now the Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics at Mercer University. I am thankful for the influence he had on me during my time at Union. His ethics courses challenged me to truly consider the way I live out my faith in every day decisions. Furthermore, Dr. Gushee helped me to see the implications of my faith in regards to many difficult ethical issues. I have found his book Kingdom Ethics, co-written with Dr. Glen Stassen, to be extremely thoughtful and fair minded. It has become a useful resource in my collection of books.

Dr. Gushee recently wrote an article for the Associated Baptist Press called Opinion: Keeping complementarians true to Scripture. The issue of gender roles is a hot topic within the church today. The two views that are at odds with one another within this debate are complementarianism and egalitarianism. A summary of the two positions with objections and responses can be found at The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Dr. Gushee writes from the perspective of an egalitarian. As he puts it, “I am convinced that all positions of service and leadership in the life of the local church should be open to women or men based entirely on calling and gifts — an egalitarian view.” One of his main motivations in addressing complementarians is “to help you keep the application of your approach as biblical as possible.” With this purpose in mind, Dr. Gushee lays out four questions that he believes “expose weaknesses in complementarianism that cannot be mended from within that paradigm.”

  • Are you successfully communicating to young men the conviction that a complementarian perspective must elevate rather than diminish the dignity of women, and therefore inculcating a moral commitment on their part to act accordingly?
  • Are you absolutely clear on which positions of Christian service (you believe) are barred to women?
  • Once you have determined what positions of Christian service are barred to women, you have therefore also determined which positions are permitted. Are you active in encouraging women to pursue the positions that are permitted?
  • When women occupy positions of church leadership that parallel those of men, are their positions named equally and are the individuals involved treated equally?

I believe Dr. Gushee’s questions are extremely valid and appropriately challenging to all complementarians. As a complementarian myself, I believe we should be holding the dignity of women in high regard. I also believe that we should encourage women to use their gifts in service within the church. And I certainly believe that men and women in parallel positions should be treated equally. However, I believe Scripture is clear about the differing roles within the church for men and women. The role of an elder is to be reserved for a male who leads his family well and is able to teach. What about other positions? Are those reserved only for men as well? That discussion is for another time. This distinction does not make men better or greater than women, just different. We can see this same principle when Scripture speaks of marriage. Men and women are equal but different.

Though Dr. Gushee’s questions are very helpful, I believe his conclusion on complementarianism is flawed. His questions reflect experiences with the inconsistency of some who hold the complementarian position. He asks these questions not only to challenge us but to “expose weaknesses” through the evidence of practical inconsistency. However, the inconsistencies do not automatically discredit the position. As Denny Burk says,

Gushee assumes that the abuse of one’s principles (in this case Complementarianism) invalidates the principles themselves. But this premise is totally unwarranted and if applied to other principles would lead to totally absurd conclusions. Can you imagine if someone said the following: “Civil laws are constantly broken by those who otherwise say those laws are just. Therefore, the hypocrisy of the lawbreakers invalidates the laws.”

As Dr. Gushee mentions, the egalitarian position has many practical inconsistencies of its own. The argument against egalitarianism is not based on the inability of people to apply its principles. The argument against this view is rooted in the belief that Scripture does not teach it. I do believe Dr. Gushee’s questions are useful and challenging. However, I believe there are good answers to these questions. I also believe that there are good examples of churches and people living out the principles of complementarianism. It does not negate the fact that many are not consistent with their belief. Practical consistency is an issue for all positions because humans are inconsistent by nature. Yet we could apply this same concern and argument to many aspects of the Christian life. So does the struggle to live out Christian principles discredit a person from being a Christian? I think not. Otherwise our faith would not be based on the grace of God but on the consistent works of man. In the end, I believe Dr. Gushee’s argument falls well short of exposing flaws in the complementarian view. It does however reiterate the fact that inconsistency is a part of who we are as humans. Thus Dr. Gushee’s argument reminds us of our continued need for the transforming grace of God.

Internet Bride?

The internet is a wonderful thing if it is used properly. I confess that I love Ebay and frequently buy gifts for others from that blessed site. In fact, I do a lot of my shopping over the internet because the options are limitless. There seems to be nothing you can’t buy on the internet. You can even purchase a wife. Check out this article by Newsweek. Things aren’t always what they seem but often there is a lesson to be learned.

Lessons From The Life of Margaret Baxter

I am currently in the process of finishing J.I. Packer’s book, A Grief SanctifiedThe subject of Packer’s writing is Richard Baxter.  Baxter was a pastor and author during the days of the Puritans.  He had a wife named Margaret to whom he was married for 19 years before she died of illness.  Shortly after her death, Richard Baxter “produced a lover’s tribute to his mate and a pastor’s celebration of God’s grace.”  In A Grief Sanctified, Packer collects the memoir of Baxter during this time and reflects on his grief and example.

When reflecting on why he wrote the Breviate, Baxter outlined the many lessons he learned from the life of his wife that may bring hope and encouragement to others.  One lesson “that Richard aimed to enforce from Margaret’s story was also a large one, namely that struggles, temptations, and constant imperfect performance mark the lives of all God’s saints.”  Read Baxter’s own words as he reflects on this point:

Take heed of expecting too much from so frail and bad a thing as man….They that come near us find more faults and badness in us than others at a distance know….It is too common an error with honest souls to think that a hard heart lieth most in want of sorrow and tears, when as it lieth most in want of a tractable compliance and yielding to the commands and will of God,…and to think that a new and tender heart is principally a heart that can weep and mourn, when it is chiefly a heart that easily receiveth all the impressions of God’s commands and promises and threats, and easily yieldeth to his known will.

…Fear and avoid self-willedness….We must learn to follow and not to lead, and to say: The will of the Lord be done; not mine, Lord, but thine, and in every estate to be content.  There is no rest but in God’s will.

…God’s service lieth more in deeds than in words.  My dear wife was faulty indeed in talking so little of religion in company….But her religion lay in doing more than talk.  Yet her example tells us that it is one of Satan’s wiles to draw us to one sin to avoid another…and leave much undone for fear of doing it amiss….

…It is not God’s or our enemies’ afflicting us in worldly losses or sufferings (especially when we suffer for righteousness’ sake) which is half so painful as our own inward infirmities….My poor wife made nothing of prisons, distrainings, reproaches, and such crosses, but her burden was most inward, from her own tenderness, and next from those whom she over-loved.  And for mine own part, all that ever either enemies or friends have done against me is but a flea-biting to me in comparison of the daily burden of a pained body and the weakness of my soul in faith, hope, love, and heavenly desires and delights.

The nature of true religion, holiness, obedience, and all duty to God and man was printed in her conceptions, in so clear and distinct a character as made her…look at greater exactness than I and such as I could reach….And in this respect she was the meetest helper that I could have had;…for I was apt to be overcareless in my speech and too backward to my duty, and she was always endeavoring to bring me to greater wariness and strictness in both.  If I spoke rashly or sharply, it offended her; if I behaved (as I was apt) with too much neglect of ceremony or humble compliment to any, she would modestly tell me of it; if my very looks seemed not pleasant, she would have me amend them (which my weak pained state of body undisposed me to do); if I forgot any week to catechize my servants and familiarly instruct them personally (besides my ordinary family duties, she was troubled at my remissness.

I have gleaned much from Baxter’s reflections on his wife, his marriage, and his faith in the midst of grieving.  Churches and pastors should keep numerous copies of this book in preparation for those who are and will deal with the loss of a spouse or loved one.  May we all find encouragement in the words of Richard Baxter to the glory of God.