Category Archives: Rethinking Marriage

One challenge to “Broad Complementarians”

I would classify myself as a “broad” Complementarian, meaning I think God’s design for complementary men and women roles apply broadly, and not simply to just the husband-wife relationship and the pastorate. Jonathan Leeman wrote a great article to explain some of these issues.

To my broad Complementarian brethren, I want to challenge you in one specific way. In my limited experience, it appears that many (most?) of you are not willing to say “a woman should never be the President of the U.S.” (and by extension, the sole leader of any nation).

I could be wrong here, but that appears to be a very inconsistent view. I think we all want to be accepted by as many people as possible, and I think we are especially tempted  toward this when we have what is seen as “conservative” views.

But is this really that complex? God commands men to lead in the home and in the church. Does He not command men to lead countries?

It does not appear that there would be less need for complementarity on the level of civil government than there would be in the home. God calls men to lead the home and the church because the God calls men to lead society. I believe society will be changed more by Christian homes and Christian churches than a Christian President, but it doesn’t change what appears to be an obvious design.

Again, I would commend Leeman’s article to you, as well as this sermon  by Kevin Deyoung. As Deyoung said, this is a conversation among friends. I just want to challenge us to consistency. I think in every debate, there is always a sense in which inconsistency hurts a person’s argument. And I actually think when it comes to this issue, there is a beauty to God’s design that will be appreciated more the more we uphold the biblical vision– in our homes, in our churches. And in our countries.


How important is Complementarianism?

I was saddened this past week to hear about Beth Moore and some other women boasting about preaching at their churches. And then my sadness deepened after reading J.D. Greear’s views on women teaching in the corporate gathering. This has gotten even me and some of my friends bantering back and forth a bit on applications of Complementarianism. The reason this is a fairly big issue is because it is basically an integrity issue: is the Southern Baptist Convention (Beth Moore and J.D. Greear are both associated with SBC) Complementarian or not? J.D. Greear (current president of SBC) says it is. But it appears that the practices at his church are not. Not only that, J.D. is a great teacher and preacher with lots of influence in the evangelical world, and he is a known self-professed Complementarian. With all the problems with gender-confusion in this world, shouldn’t we all largely be on the same page as far as what is a Complementarian– especially within the Complementarian camp!?

A Complementarian is one who believes God has ordained men and women to have different roles in this world. There’s much more we could say  to fill that in, but that is the basics of it. And my contention in this post is if you have a woman occupy the pulpit during the sermon on a Sunday morning, you are NOT a complementarian. You might say you are, but just like liberals don’t like that we call them liberals, just like Mormons don’t like us calling them a cult, just like Fundamentalists don’t like us calling them that either, if you ever have a woman preach on Sunday morning, you are an Egalitarian. There is much more on application we could debate, but I just want to try and persuade people about the pulpit. Let’s at least get the pulpit right.

There are three major issues that I think guys like J.D. Greear get wrong when thinking about this issue. And I hope the Lord will use this to help correct them:

  1. The issue is not how often you have a woman preach, but whether you have women ever preach– in a recent blog post (endorsed by Matt Chandler), an SBC pastor said “Personally, I have always been a member of SBC churches, and, along the way I have seen women speak from the platform. I have seen them preach. I have seen them teach men. It did not happen often, but it did happen, much like [Beth] Moore preaching at her church on Mother’s Day. These churches were not unhealthy, nor were they unbiblical, nor is Moore’s church unhealthy or unbiblical.” Somehow, many Christians have come to see that as long as something unbiblical does not happen too often, then it is not unbiblical. That is folly. Just like any married person who commits adultery even once has been unbiblical in their marriage, if it is a sin for a woman to preach to the gathered congregation, then doing it even once makes you unbiblical. And on the flip side, if you do not believe it to be a sin to have a woman preach, then why limit it to once or twice a year?
  2. The issue is not really about who should or should not preach, but about worship– in that same article there was a call for “hard” Complementarians to make room for “soft” Complementarians. It was basically a message that says “you can do things at your church your way and we will do things at our church our way, and we can all still be happy under one umbrella.” And of course there are many things that we can do that with. But corporate worship–particularly preaching– is not one of them. The question here is not “has God ordained women to preach?” (though that is a good question, and I have an answer that you probably won’t like)  but “has God ordained women to preach in corporate worship?” I realize there are many who don’t give a hoot about the Regulative Principle of Worship, but I figure guys like J.D. Greear and Matt Chandler do. The corporate gathering is not a place for experimentation and boundary pushing and novelty. The corporate gathering is a people coming to “the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the Church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all” (Her 12.21-23). Will the Judge of all the earth find practices in our churches that He did not ordain?
  3. The issue is not about having the right doctrinal beliefs, but about telling the right story– many good Complementarians I believe have failed to connect the dots rightly for everyone, making it seem like Complementarianism can be detached from the gospel. The reason we must get this right is not because we want to be able to check off all the right doctrinal bullet points, but because we want to uphold our great gospel. We should not be Complementarians to show we hold to inerrancy or to show a highly questionable connection to the Trinity or because our favorite preacher says this is his camp. We should be Complementarians to make sure we are a part of the biblical narrative. That’s why Paul’s words to Timothy are so helpful: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2.12-14). Paul grounds his command in the biblical story. The first man and first woman rebelled against God’s created order, allowing the devil to subvert who leads and who follows. The first man failed his bride by letting his bride become the transgressor, and in doing so let the devil have dominion over themselves. By God’s grace, He restored His own order by sending His own Son to crush the head of Satan and redeem His Bride from the subverting power of the devil, laying His life down for her to make her holy and blameless. He empowers men in the church today to be the voice of Christ from the pulpit, where the gospel proclaimed continues to crush the head of Satan, and continually lets the Bride hear the voice of the Savior calling them toward the day of Redemption. He ordains men to serve the Lord’s Supper in worship, allowing the Bride to taste and eat in a way that trumps the devil’s first temptation to taste and eat, and to show Christ is continually calling His Beloved to commune with Him. And until that final Marriage Supper, men and women get to uphold the redemptive storyline by fulfilling men and women roles better than was done in the Garden.

So what story are you telling at your church? Letting Beth Moore or Elyse Fitzpatrick talk on Sunday morning might edify people well enough. It might even make a few women feel affirmed. But is that all you are trying to accomplish? Or might there be bigger snakes to kill?

Most visited blog post on this site is…

It’s a little post from about three years ago. It is an issue that I know I could be wrong about, but it is not an issue, as a pastor, that I can be on the fence about. I have, however, come to see the issue in what I believe to be a more mature light. I used to kind of have a mindset that I wanted to correct everybody in the Christian church on it (so immature!). God has helped me to repent from that. I do not ever bring it up anymore unless asked. In fact, if I could do it over, I would not have written that post (as if anybody really cares).

I am in a very small minority as far as I can tell. My view may be more popular in more Fundamentalist kind of circles, but not in mainstream Reformed circles (again, so far as I can tell). And certainly I am like an alien in the mainstream Evangelical tradition.

That is why I find it fascinating that people keep clicking on that post. Now, to put that in perspective, we are talking an average of about 3-4 views a week. But no other post from this site even comes close.

Just a few thoughts in reflection:

  • Marriage/divorce/remarriage issues are way more personal than they need to be
  • I am guessing a lot of people are wrestling with the meaning of “one-woman man” because my view is a lot stronger than people wish
  • People from all over the world have clicked on that post; people all over the world are wrestling with that issue
  • Christians have a good sense that “one-woman man” cannot be separated from the rest of the Bible’s teachings on divorce/remarriage
  • I want someone to shoot my view down. Really.
  • If you can’t shoot it down, I want people to stop getting mad at me about my view. Really.
  • You should never leave a church over this issue. Never.
  • Regardless of what God’s view of divorce/remarriage is, all believers– regardless of marriage history– are completely forgiven in Christ, clean, righteous, holy, perfect in God’s sight. That truth should make everyone sing, regardless of what I think “one-woman man” means, regardless of whether you or I ever become elders or deacons in a church. Do not let this issue distort all the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ.

How far is too far?

Stop asking that question. Stop thinking that question. It almost always comes in the context of young people wondering how much physical intimacy unmarried people can have before they cross the line of sinning. Perhaps many Christians wonder that question in regards to alcohol or smoking or other supposed “vices.” For our purposes, let’s just think in terms of physical intimacy before marriage. That’s one we can sink our teeth into, and then I think it would apply to all other areas of life.

For a Christian to ask that question reveals at least two things:

  1. A legalistic heart- Classic legalism believes a person can be righteous in God’s eyes through good works. It also believes every sin you commit makes you less righteous in God’s eyes. In other words, legalism completely ignores the gospel of Jesus Christ, which says, “God considers you righteous no matter what, all and only because of the righteousness of Christ!” A “gospel” heart will not mess around with questions about “how far is too far”, or “how much more can I do to make God even happier with me” for that matter. A “gospel” heart will overflow with a passion for upholding marriage in high honor, at all costs, because marriage promotes the gospel, and because a redeemed heart wants to obey God out of love.
  2. A legalistic church- if Christians are messing around with that question it is probably because the culture in their church is one promoting the above heart.

If, at the end of the day, you are trusting in Christ alone for salvation, and you in response to the gospel want to honor marriage, and if you are curious what you should teach others about pre-marriage relationships, just see my previous posts about holding hands 🙂

But seriously, stop asking that question, and stop cultivating that question.

Do you really mean “till death do us part”?

I know that none of us stick to our covenants perfectly. We all make promises– even covenantal promises before God– and break them, maybe even break them daily. This is why the gospel is so great! Jesus died for all my sins, including my breaking of promises.

Still, it is one thing to have my broken covenants forgiven; it is another thing to not really mean what I say when I made a covenant. I wonder how many married couples really mean “till death do us part” when they stood before the altar. If you are considering marriage, is that what you intend to say at the altar?

It sounds pretty straight forward: “I am committed to you until death.” In other words, “this marriage is created by God, and God is the only one who can end it, and the way He ends it, is death.” Not only is that straight forward, I think it is the biblical teaching on marriage. And it is a great picture of Christ’s commitment to the Church, a marriage which beautifully was created by the death of the Bridegroom, and will never end.

So is that what you mean when you say, “till death do us part”? Or do you actually mean, “till death do us part, or till you cheat on me, or till you do things that make me never able to trust you again, or till God leads me away from this marriage, or till (you fill in the blank for all of your “acceptable” separation/divorce clauses)?

I am not here to argue divorce-remarriage issues today. I just am trying to argue for a little more honesty at the ceremony. Then through God’s means of grace stick to it.

It is a sin to hold hands before marriage, part 3

“Why is it ok to hold hands during engagement?” You don’t get to ask that until you agree with me. If you want to charge me of inconsistency within my view that’s fine, but my view is not wrong because I might be inconsistent within it. If you say, “ok, I’m persuaded,” then you can help me think about consistency. Until then, let us just keep trying to persuade each other of  the truth.

Some have accused me of adding to the Law of God. I get it. But is that a fair critique? I believe God wants us to uphold the sacredness of marriage, for the sake of Christ and the gospel (Hebrews 13.4). Implication: any affection that you would show only your spouse should be reserved for your spouse. Hardly a stretch, is it?

But you might say, “no, having a girlfriend or boyfriend is ok.” Please show me the text of Scripture that talks about girlfriends and boyfriends.

You might say, “holding hands is ok, as long as you don’t kiss.” Or, “kissing is ok, as long as you don’t french kiss.” Or, “French kissing is ok as long as you don’t touch private parts.” Or, “anything is ok as long as you don’t have sexual intercourse.”

Where do you fall in that spectrum when it comes to dating relationships? And how did you come up with that standard? Am I really the one adding to the Law of God?

It is a sin to hold hands before marriage, part 2

I have chosen the title that I have chosen to get more people to read. And I think it has worked. I do believe what I have posted as the title of this post, but I also am using “holding hands” as representative of the greater problem, namely, romance outside of marriage.

This is a part of my repentance. I do not believe I upheld marriage well before I was married, so I am simply trying to live out repentance here. It has been interesting in some of the pushback and some of the conversations that have sprung from the last post. A couple issues worth tackling:

  1. Christians seem so afraid of the “sin” label– we sin way more than we realize. So it is really not that shocking to me to call something sin if it does not meet God’s standard of perfect righteousness. I believe the only way to uphold the sacredness of marriage is to reserve all the benefits (that are exclusive to marriage) for marriage. Anything outside of that is sin. Some have accused me of adding to the Law of God. I would simply respond by saying that none of us believe we are only commanded to obey the things that are explicitly stated in Scripture. We all believe that the necessary implications of Scriptural commands are also commands, don’t we? That is all I am arguing. If I am wrong, I will repent. I am open to being persuaded. But I am not wrong just because you disagree with me, or just because most of 21st century Christian America disagrees with me, am I?
  2. Christians have gotten very confused on the issue of commitment– I understand this whole thing is not a simple issue, but I do think the idea of commitment is fairly simple. When two people are dating, they are not committed to anything but finding out if they want to marry each other. They are not committed (or intending) to marry each other. If you were intending to marry each other, you would marry each other. So engagement is the intent to marry. Dating is not the intent to marry. And until you actually intend to marry, you should treat each other like brother and sister. But once you decide you want to marry, then go for it, by God’s grace. Don’t commit to commit to marry; commit to marry! What am I missing here?

I would highly recommend Sex, Dating, and Relationships by Hiestand and Thomas. They do a good job of laying out all the ways God intends for men and women to be in relation to each other.

I really do invite feedback and pushback. Please do not just tell me you disagree with me. Tell me why. Use Bible. And certainly, please do not just tell other people that you disagree with me and get mad about it. Let’s try and think through this together. The glory of God in marriage is at stake.