I’m finally reading through the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.This book is a response to “evangelical feminism” and it is now in its third edition. It is one of those books that I bought years ago. You know, one of those books that you mentally reference, look at on the shelf, admire, want to read… but alas.
I have been convinced for many years with the basic premise and thesis of the book, but now am greatly benefitting from reading through it. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of the book is how the authors handle controversy among Christians.
There is no doubt that feminism, headship, submission, etc. are hot topics. Yet these scholars are winsome, kind, and convictional. Below is a section from the concluding chapter that I resonate with regarding how to think about unity vs. controversy. Perhaps you will also find it helpful when it comes to processing controversial issues among believers.
“Yet one of the groanings of this fallen age is controversy, and most painful of all, controversy with brothers and sisters in Christ. We resonate with the Apostle Paul – our joy would be full if we could all be ‘of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind’ (Philippians 2:2).
But for all his love of harmony and unity and peace, it is remarkable how many of Paul’s letters were written to correct fellow Christians.… The assumption of the entire New Testament is that we should strive for peace by striving to come to agreement in the truth. Peace and unity in the body of Christ are exceedingly precious… “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17). But it is first pure. Peace is not a first thing. It is derivative. It comes from hearty agreement in truth….
For the sake of unity and peace, therefore, Paul labors to set the churches straight on numerous issues – including quite a few that do not in themselves involve heresy. He does not exclude controversy from his pastoral writing. And he does not limit his engagement in controversy to first-order doctrines, where heresy threatens. He is like a parent to his churches. Parents do not correct and discipline their children only for felonies. They long for their children to grow up into all the kindness and courtesy of mature adulthood. And since the fabric of truth is seamless, Paul knows that letting minor strands go on unraveling can eventually rend the whole garment….
The point is this: We do not love controversy; we love peace. We love our brothers and sisters who belong to Christians for Biblical Equality. We long for a common mind for the cause of Christ. But we are bound by our conscience and by the Word of God, for this very cause, to try to persuade the church that the vision of manhood and womanhood presented in this book is true and beautiful. It is a precious gift of God to the church and to the world.” (404-406, second edition)
Full disclosure: I really don’t like writing about controversial topics.
I’m sure part of it is my own sinful cowardice. Part of it is knowing I’m never the most articulate or knowledgeable on any given “hot topic”. Finally, I’m convinced that most “hot” topics, aren’t that “hot” and usually fizzle out after a few days.
Don’t get me wrong, I still felt a sense of cowardice creep up because I saw how hostile our culture has become to things I believe. I still don’t think I’m even close to the most articulate or knowledgeable on the topic (this article is the best I’ve seen explaining the heart behind the statement). What was different, however, was that I don’t believe this topic will fizzle out in a few days. In my short time working in ministry, issues related to sexuality are the most consistent, most confusing, and most urgently needing clarity.
So, as a rookie pastor reading this document, I was grateful. And I don’t say that lightly. I have friends who experience same-sex attraction. I’m not under the impression that reading this document was easy for them – even if they agreed with it. The Nashville Statement addresses topics that are tender, intimate, and for many, packed with pain.
When I read The Nashville Statement, my heart swirled with both gratitude and gravity. I see it as a gift to hold and a burden to bear.
The Gift: A Shaping Force, Not a Counseling Script
When I read The Nashville Statement I didn’t see myself reading a script for counseling situations. I plan to reference it in the future for its precise language and helpful summaries of what I believe Scripture teaches, but I didn’t see it as something to be memorized and quoted to friends who experience same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria. Yes, the truth is objective, static; but the people I minister to are dynamic and complicated. They need wise application of objective truth to their situation. I don’t envision myself sitting down with friends experiencing same sex attraction and reading them The Nashville Statement verbatim. It’s not a script to read for every pastoral situation, and I don’t think the writers of the document intended it to be one. Instead, I envision it as a foundation I can stand on that provides the nuances that match the complexities of some of the most difficult problems people face. I’m grateful for the clarity it provides on issues surrounded by confusion for many Christians.
The Burden: Compelled by Constraints
The deeper effect the statement had on me was how it drove me toward my friends who experience the sins it describes. Most critiques I have read say The Nashville Statement is a constraining document. It will lead to even more isolation from Christians toward those in their communities who experience these sexual sins. I would argue the opposite. If the truths of The Nashville Statement do not compel me toward loving relationships with my LGBTQ neighbor, I obviously don’t believe what the statement says. My signature on The Nashville Statement is worthless if it results in me merely signing off on a document. If I believe that people flourish most when they embrace God’s good design for marriage and sexuality, wouldn’t that compel me into relationships with my LGBTQ neighbor? I feel the burden of this because I’m often better at articulating the truths of God’s good design and transforming grace, but often struggle to embody them by pursuing relationships with those different from me.
I believe that Jesus gives the most abundant life (John 10:10). I believe that when people delight in and obey God’s Word they flourish like fruitful trees (Psalm 1). I believe that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself and that it is perfect truth, and when that truth is grasped even by the weakest faith it gives joy, peace, hope, and freedom (Romans 15:13; John 8:32).
I’m grateful and burdened by The Nashville Statement – that’s why I signed it.I would encourage Christians to read it. My prayer is that as the cultural conversation moves on to the next “hot topic”, my heart will not. My prayer is that I’ll stay close to the truth of God’s life-giving word, and close to those who need it most – starting with myself.
How do people fall in love? Why are certain people attracted to each other? How can someone become desirable?
A recent article from Psychology Today called “The Laws of Attraction” by Wendy Paris touches on these topics. The article’s subheading reads
Who we desire is driven by powerful evolutionary forces, but while most of us are drawn to looks first (whether or not we admit it), human attraction is far more complex than it appears at first sight.
I’m the first to admit that the Bible never uses the word dating. It talks about romance in different categories than our modern culture has created. However, the Bible is the most important source of information about how and why people fall in love.
After reading the article, I was struck with how superior the law of God is compared to the psychological insights Psychology Today provided. I say this not to insult the author of this article but rather to highlight the helpfulness and relevance of the Bible. The plan for romance described in the pages of Scripture is not only sufficient for a healthy life, it is able to produce a beautiful life. Which makes it superior to any other resource.
Consider the following summary of the main sections of the “Laws of Attraction” article:
1) According to the article, the driving force of attraction in dating comes from evolutionary compulsions. Behind attraction is Darwinian evolution based upon natural selection and survival of the fittest. The people who are the most physically appealing are the most sought after because of reproductive qualities, but there can be other factors that contribute.
…it’s more important to be well matched with your partner than to catch the most beautiful person in your circle. Couples, whether same-sex or heterosexual, tend to fall within similar ranges of size, education, religious beliefs, values, and socioeconomic status.
2) The article attributes dating preferences to chemicals in the brain that compel people to be attracted to specific types of personalities. Chemistry is not a mere metaphor, but a driving factor in why people fall in love.
3) It concludes by giving tips and ways to improve your own attractiveness. It claims you can increase your level of attractiveness by improving how you handle your most compelling features. A person can make themselves more attractive by being confident and comfortable and by broadening social networks.
The problems of the article is not the observations from the psychologists. The psychologists have observed common occurrences and trends in romantic relationships. There is nothing wrong with pointing out the fact that attraction can develop by couples having intimate conversations or that there are a variety of chemicals in each person. The observations made by these psychologists are not wrong in and of themselves.
The areas mentioned in the article fall short primarily because they do not adequately understand how and why human beings function in romantic relationships. The psychologists have the wrong foundation (Darwinian evolution) instead of the biblical foundation which establishes humanity as created in the image of God. But it isn’t merely their foundation that is faulty. The conclusions and summaries from the psychologists fail to be beautiful. They miss the most central compelling realities of romance and blunt all the beauty behind it.
Consider now the following passages of Scripture in contrast to the three areas from the Psychology Today article I highlighted above:
1) “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6, NIV)
There are many things that could be said about the driving forces behind attraction, but fundamentally the article has “boxed-in” love. It relegates attraction to be a result of reproductive inclinations and calculations. People are attracted to the person they (knowingly or unknowingly) believe will best suite them for reproduction and survival. (I also find this perplexing because the article includes same-sex couples in its analysis and does not address the reality that same-sex relationships cannot biologically produce offspring)
When this Darwinian box is forced upon attraction, love is forced out. Real love is lost when driven by biological calculations. If the “Laws of Attraction” article is true, there really is no such thing as love – only sexual desires. The beauty of romance is removed from the box.
On the other hand, the Bible provides a flourishing framework that accounts for both sexual appeal and an authentic moral category of love. The “Laws of Attraction” assessment allows for one law – the law of self-pleasure, self-preservation, and self-gratification. Only the law of God can demonstrate the greatest and most fulfilling pleasure available to man is through self-sacrifice. Attraction is not merely a result of physiological instincts and urges. It can be a result of genuine care and self-less love.
2) “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves.” (1 Peter 1:3-5a, NIV)
The person who feels “ugly” reading the Psychology Today article should despair if they take it to heart. If they believe the article, they are truly hopeless because all the action is confined to physical or social sexual appeal. The person who feels “gorgeous” should also despair after reading the article. If they believe Psychology Today, they will be fooled into thinking that attractiveness is merely outward.
The Bible provides an accurate framework that does not dismiss outward beauty (Genesis 29:17), but places the emphasis on inner beauty. The Scriptures underscore the eternal value and attractiveness of holiness. In God’s economy, godliness is the goal.
Consider the example of Fisher and his date in the article, only the body exists in this Darwinian system. Physical chemistry has replaced the conscience, the soul, and morality. This runs contrary to the better and more beautiful picture presented in 1 Peter which discusses the adornment of the heart. The Bible isn’t as simplistic as this article in Psychology Today.
3) Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30, NIV)
The practical advice on how to become more attractive misses the target because it is aiming the wrong way. The goal is backwards compared to the biblical framework of attraction. The article assumes the goal is to become more physically/socially appealing and then proceeds to give tips on how to cultivate appeal with whatever body type or skills a person possesses.
Instead, the biblical goal is to glorify God by enjoying him and serving others. When a person seeks to serve others and bring honor to Jesus, they will naturally grow in faith and confidence of their standing before God. They will become bold and brave for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As they grow in Christian love and hospitality, this might increase their social standing and reputation. This confidence and growth in warmth might then increase their appeal to others who might be romantically interested in them. But this would be a by-product of faith and obedience. This would be a result of living in Christian community and could never have been the focus.
It could also be that confidence is boosted, social skills are enhanced, networks are broadened, and attractiveness is at it’s highest possible peak, but no one ever bites. No dates take place because no one becomes romantically interested. What then?
Only the Christian who sought the Lord with their whole heart can be radiant. The Christian is secure because their goal was never to maximize their attractiveness for the sole purpose of finding a mate. The Christian knows that charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a person who fears the Lord is to be praised. It is only the Christian, because of the Bible, who can obtain true and lasting beauty. The blessed (happy) person is the one who walks in the Law of the Lord and meditates on his Law day and night (Psalm 1:1-6). He will be like a tree planted by streams of water that produces fruit in due season.
In summary, if you are looking for a proper understanding into the mysteries of romance, you don’t need to read the latest in Psychology Today. Instead, you can mine the depths of the Scriptures to behold beautiful treasures. Romance is not merely about sexual attraction that is so easy to observe. Romance is about something much greater that only can be understood in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”(Ephesians 5:32, ESV)
Some books on my shelf function like journals. I can remember who recommended it, where I read certain sections of it, and how it changed specific aspects of my life. The best books I have read are books that read me. They inform my thoughts, change my feelings, and adjust my actions. God has used many authors and many books in my life, but these are the ones that have had the “journal-effect” from middle-school onward.
Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis. I believe I was in 8th grade when I read this book for the first time, and reread every year I was in high school. This was the book God used to help me begin to “own” my faith, and grow in my confidence that the Christian faith isn’t just good, but also true – which is what makes it the most beautiful news any person can hear. This book also is what inspired me to begin writing. Lewis’ clarity, beauty, and depth are remarkable and inspired me to want to give my life to sharing this faith that Lewis communicated so beautifully.
Don’t Waste Your Life – John Piper.This book had an explosive impact on my life my freshman year of high school. Piper gave me an all-encompassing vision of the Christian life and an all-satisfying vision of Jesus Christ that changed me forever. Like many, his chapter “Boasting Only In the Cross” wrecked me in the best way – I can still quote sentences from it.
Jesus Among Other Gods – Ravi Zacharias. I was first introduced to Ravi Zacharias through his preaching ministry, and was deeply struck by his ability to communicate the truth of Christ with conviction and compassion. He knew when to be sharp, and knew when to be gentle. This book contained that same flavor that first attracted me to him, and informed the way I did evangelism in my relationships.
The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis. This is a strange book, which is what made it so memorable and compelling for me. It opened my eyes to the reality that spiritual warfare is not primarily a reality of hobgoblins and goosebumps, but rather a war for our thoughts, desires, and loyalties that happen when we gossip with friends, indulge in anger, and immerse ourselves in worldliness. This book will make you vigilant over your soul and sensitive to the serpents schemes.
Future Grace – John Piper.When I was in college, I almost walked away from the Christian faith as a result of severe depression and doubt. God used this book to anchor me to his Word, refine me, and give me a deeper trust in his promises. This book changed and shaped the way I view the process of sanctification in the Christian life, and daily influences the way I fight sin and strive for holiness.
Total Truth – Nancy Pearcey.If I am asked what is the best book on apologetics, I say this book instantly. Pearcey argues for the Christian worldview as a comprehensive one that gives reasonable and compelling answers to all the objections the world brings its way. She demonstrates a confidence in God’s Word that I want to mark my ministry and life.
The Things of Earth – Joe Rigney.Ever since I read Don’t Waste Your Life, I struggled to find the balance of living a radical life for Christ and resisting worldliness, while still enjoying things like ice cream, laughing with friends, and going on vacation. Joe Rigney calls them “the things of earth” This book expanded my view of what it means to live faithfully toward God while also enjoying his gifts. If you read Don’t Waste Your Life, read this book right after it.
Do More Better – Tim Challies. I love thinking about and practicing the best productivity methods. I read Matt Perman’s “What’s Best Next?” and loved it, but found it difficult to recommend to busy Mom’s, men with full-time jobs, and even college students. Challies’ “Do More Better” explains basic productivity methods from a God-centered lens – and he does it in under 100 pages! I’d recommend this to any student beginning college or to a man at the beginning of marriage.
The Reason for God – Tim Keller. I have been hearing about this book for years, and finally picked up an old copy and am reading a few pages before bed every night. I’m about halfway through and have found this book compelling, creative, and winsome. Keller is clear and profound and, in my opinion, very convincing. I would give this book to any skeptic I know to begin conversations about spiritual things. Keller speaks the language of our culture.
A Pastor’s Sketches – Icabod Spencer.I’m finding that this book has not been widely read by many pastor’s today, but I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Icabod Spencer was a pastor in Brooklyn in the 1800s and has recorded two volumes of his conversations with people inquiring about the Christian faith. Spencer’s sensitivity to people, commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture, and pastoral concern for others is imitable.
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, 1874-1965. I’m almost finished listening to the second volume of William Manchester’s magisterial portrait of Churchill. All the leaders I respect have been influenced in some way by Churchill. Obviously, Churchill is a very flawed man, but his influence in WWII and his vision, foresight, and courage in the face of evil is remarkable and inspiring.
There are a thousand wonderful ways to spend summer. Parks, pools, parties, picnics, and people we love. The days just seem better in June and July.
This truth felt even more palpable when I was younger and in school. The only cloud that could possibly loom over my head was my summer reading. I was convinced my teachers cackled wildly when assigning me books over the break.
I’ve since learned that the cloud of summer reading is actually a rainbow that leads to a pot of gold. I’m now able to look back at books I’ve read and see how they charted my course. The summer winds of reading have often set my sails in the right direction and taken me places I would never have gone.
The summers I have spent well are the summers I’ve read. Reading doesn’t suck the fun out of things. It enhances everything. You can dive into a book in between dips at the pool. You can bring your kindle on a trip with the people you love. You can have the best of both worlds without skimping on either one.
In honor of summer, Spencer and I are going to blog about some of the books that have impacted us at different stages of life. This list isn’t comprehensive of what I would recommend and is more biographical of what has shaped me in life. Perhaps you will find one or two on this list that you want to explore these next couple of months. Here is my list:
A Call to Die is a 40 day crash course on how to read the Bible. I’m not even sure if it is in print anymore, but it changed my life. My youth pastor recommended this book to me and I’m confident it is still bearing fruit in my life.
This was the first theological book I remember reading. I still remember staying up in bed reading and underlining sentences from the chapter on baptism. This book gave me a starting place to begin thinking about key doctrines of the Christian faith.
The book has been billed as “The Best-Selling International Adventure of All Time” and it captivated me. I loved the conviction and boldness of the young preacher. He was willing to share the gospel with gangs and risk everything. Even as a middle schooler I thought the speaking in tongues and the second blessing of the Spirit was wrong (and still do), but the story of courage shaped me.
I needed this book. It was refreshment to my bones and a balm for my soul. I was drowning in temptation. I wanted something different that what I was seeing all around me. This book gave me conviction and clarity about how to live in “the world” in a way that honored Christ. I can’t recommend it enough.
I read this book in High School with a group of students and sections of it have stuck with me to this day. It isn’t a gripping novel to be consumed in a night, but it is a steady diet of meat and potatoes that strengthens essential skills.
When I read this book, it was actually 5 Who Changed the World and it was published by Southeastern Seminary. I’m thrilled it was picked up by B&H and expanded. The stories in here are truly compelling and life changing.
This is my favorite book outside of the Bible. It changed how I think about God and how I think about life. My only complaint is that this new edition removed the incredibly helpful appendix “Are There Two Wills in God?” Thankfully, you can now buy that appendix separately in a new book.
This book has helped me think deeply about the flawlessness of the Bible. If you have ever wondered about the accuracy of certain passages in Scripture, you will find this book thought provoking and helpful. The chapters are no more than four pages. I’ve been nibbling on it for a while now.
I’ve always been interested in politics and this scratches that itch. I’m reading this book on my kindle and it has actually been a problem because I can’t put it down at night. I’m enjoying evaluating the different White House Chiefs of Staff and whether or not they are good leaders. The author seems to have a liberal political perspective and there is some language in the book as he recounts history.
Sean Perron is the Chief of Staff at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors and is the co-author of On Dating and On Engagement.
I finally got around to reading Animal Farmby George Orwell. The book is a political parable using pigs, humans, and other farm creatures. Perhaps you hated the book because a high school teacher forced you to read it (hopefully they didn’t look like a pig). Or perhaps you have never heard of the book until now. Either way, the book is worth reading (or re-reading) and I have been challenged by it.
5 Takeaways from Animal Farm:
Knowledge, intellect, and critical reasoning skills are essential for a healthy society.
It is imperative to hold politicians to the original guiding documents of a society and to beware any reinterpretation.
People who stay silent when evil unfolds are responsible in the end.
Anyone who believes that human nature (or animal nature) is naturally good is deceived.
Tyranny and abuse of power does not happen overnight and is often slowly unveiled in public overtime.
I won’t go into all of these themes in this post, but I want to briefly address #1 and #3.
The “common person” often has untapped potential. Knowledge, intellect, and critical reasoning skills are essential for a society to have a healthy democracy. Many of the animals start allowing the pigs to overreach their authority because they either cannot read or cannot articulate their concerns properly. When they do articulate their concerns, they are unable to counter any reasonable explanation given to them. They are also unable to discern when the pigs make illogical conclusions.
On several occasions, convincing the common farm animals was all too easy. The pigs would remind them of a legitimate threat they all felt. No one wanted Mr. Jones (the human) to come back to the farm. Therefore, the pigs were able to use this real threat as a means to justify a lot of questionable activity that was, in reality, unrelated to the return of Mr. Jones. For instance, the pigs worked hard planning the farm schedule and “therefore” needed milk and apples. No one else got those treats even though “All animals were equal.” When asked why the pigs got special food, the Mr. Jones card was played. “You wouldn’t want Mr. Jones to return now then would you? Mr. Jones is going to return if X-Y-or-Z doesn’t occur.” The pigs took a genuine threat – Mr. Jones returning – and used it to persuade the animals of their slowly unfolding unjustifiable actions.
The pigs were always able to persuade the animals on the farm to their side. The person with the most persuasive argument in the moment won the day. Whenever something smelled foul, all it took was a reasonable explanation to satisfy. The pigs could easily flip-flop on their ideas for the farm as long as a reasonable explanation – asserted in a sincere and authentic way – was presented after the fact. A “reasonable explanation” was always able to convince those who raised questions and cover up the inconsistencies of the pigs.
It seems the only one who could reason critically against the pigs was Ben the donkey.
The Dumb Donkey
Ben the donkey could read and was intelligent. Yet he was silent. He wasn’t dumb but he was dumb. Always kept to himself and didn’t want to interfere. This all came crashing down when his friend was taken to be slaughtered.
Those who are quiet will not escape and they will reap the consequences of their non-actions. The silent only pave the way for the wicked to rule and spread. The silent knowledgeable ones are not innocent. In the book, the one who kept his mouth closed, actually played into the hands of those who want all mouths to be closed. A closed mouth is an open hand to oppression.
These are just a few of the thought provoking elements of the book. I found Animal Farm to be an invigorating read with a challenge to sharpen my reasoning skills and to speak up for the oppressed (Proverbs 31:8). You have my permission to pig out on it.
We have been working on a project together over the past two years. We have been writing two books that are expanded versions of our Letters to a Young Engaged Man blog series. These books are being published by P&R and will release simultaneously in the Fall of this year.
The book On Dating begins with topics related to singleness and then covers a wide range of topics such as breaking up, physical affection, early marriage, and discussing sexual history. Some chapter titles include:
Marriage vs. Singleness
Should We Be in a Relationship?
Do We Have a Bad Relationship?
What if I am not a Virgin?
Should I Guard My Heart?
The book On Engagement walks couples from the time right before a proposal all the way to their wedding night. Some chapter titles include:
The Length of Engagement
Till Death Do Us Part
Loving Your New Parents
Should We Elope?
On Birth Control
The chapters are designed to be short and can be read individually or together as a couple. Even though we don’t know the specifics of your situation, we have made a concerted effort to make each chapter as practical as possible. It is our prayer that this content feels immediately helpful and comes from a refreshing peer-like voice. Our wives have also contributed to many of the letters and provided their own warm touches throughout the books.
Our prayer is that your plans for dating and engagement would begin aligning with God’s plans to glorify his Son in the world. We pray that these letters will tune your ears to hear God’s voice in his Word and that these letters will provoke many conversations between you, your partner, and godly mentors in your life.
We are not relational gurus. Quite the opposite. We would be the first to admit to you that when we follow our own wisdom… we get lost. We are sinners who are desperately in need of God’s illuminating Word in every facet of our lives. We have simply tasted the goodness of God’s shepherding voice in our romances, and we want you to taste it too. We pray that you fall in love with hearing his voice in the Bible so that it guides you in singleness, dating, and engagement – and every other season after that.
In the meantime you can check out the recent Truth in Love podcast with Dr. Heath Lambert and Sean on the topic of Physical Boundaries Before Marriagethat discusses a controversial portion of the dating book.
As we continue to write to you, we always want to hear your letters. Don’t hesitate to send us your feedback and share your story with us.