Category Archives: Family

10 Resolutions for Raising Daughters in the “Go Home” Era of Evangelicalism

Christian Twitter blew up last week as John MacArthur, a prominent Bible teacher, said that Beth Moore, another prominent Bible teacher, should “go home” primarily because he disagrees with her regarding whether an unordained woman can teach the Bible during a Sunday service. Hardliners on both extremes have caricatured the other side or claimed misunderstandings of both parties. More middling voices have entered the fray, trying to argue for nuance or liberty. But most of the dialogue/monologue I’ve seen speaks in regard to Evangelicalism-wide issues that are beyond my control. My hope is to speak to an issue that is within the scope of my influence: how I, as a father of three daughters, should raise them in light of this “go home” mentality that’s present in some sectors of Evangelical life. To that end, I offer these 10 personal resolutions:

Resolved, to give the benefit of the doubt to women who minister in public. In order to create a healthy environment for my daughters to serve and minister, I want to lead by avoiding caricatures of women who minister and write and serve the church. This would involve more than avoiding slander but also avoiding quick sound-byte caricatures and denigration-by-meme behavior. Instead, I will treat my sisters as innocent until proven guilty of heresy (by confessional standards, not the whims of Twitter). Benefit of the doubt is an aspect of Christian love (1 Cor. 13:7), but it also mitigates against the reality that a large swath of Evangelicalism assumes that women doing public ministry are guilty of false teaching until proven otherwise, and the slightest amount of information that confirms such suspicion will be cited as gospel-truth.

Resolved, to avoid supporting ministers who demean orthodox women. Not every strong complementarian has spoken harshly or dismissively of orthodox sisters in Christ, but those who do will not be quoted favorably by me or given any honor in my household or teaching. While there is space for confronting heretics with boldness and with tears, women who differ with us on secondary matters should never be rebuked as if they have violated primary doctrines of the faith. In order to avoid sending mixed signals to my daughters, men who use positions of power to make these sorts of attacks will be marked and avoided.

Resolved, to support and promote women who minister well. I want my daughters to hear the names of well-aligned women in ministry such as Nancy Guthrie, Jen Wilkin, Jackie Hill-Perry, Trillia Newbell, and many more frequently mentioned in our household. I want them to see orthodox women who aren’t fully aligned with us on secondary and tertiary matters treated with respect and welcomed into the dialogue and bookshelves of our home.

Resolved, to use the Bible and doctrinal statements more than labels such as “complementarian.” While the label “complementarian” has been hijacked by those who see no role for women leading outside the home and church and those who see no vocal ministry for women where men might be able to listen (albeit inconsistent in that practice themselves), I find more stable teaching in the Bible and more helpful systematization in doctrinal statements. Instead of a complementarianism that only portioned off “some teaching” in the Danvers Statement and reserved gender distinctions in the home and for pastoral office in the BFM2000, we find a more restrictive version from its most vocal proponents. Instead of a sort of complementarianism that welcomed an R. C. Sproul who advocated women teachers in many aspects of church life, we find a more sectarian ideology that has calcified an array of male-only avenues of service in the church.* Instead of the Paul who found room for women who prophesied and prayed publicly (1 Cor. 11), encouraged them to participate in mutual teaching in the gathered local assembly (Col. 3:16, cf. v. 18), wanted them to “teach what is good” (Titus 2:3), and relied on them for critical and vocal ministry roles in local churches (e.g., Rom. 16:1–2, 7; Col. 4:15), we find a small window of women’s ministry that primarily relies on a singular interpretation of Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2 in exclusion from the rest of the Pauline canon. Instead of a Jesus who included women in his ministry in important ways and extended a call for all his disciples to make disciples, baptize, and teach, we find a truncated Great Commission that allows women to only participate in ⅓ of its activities. If the latter is the new meaning of “complementarianism,” then I will not publicly use that label to define my theology even though I assent to the Danvers Statement.

Resolved, to show unequivocal support for the abused and disenfranchised. As women young and old are frequent targets for abuse and inequality, I want to live in such a way that demonstrates that no quarter will be given to injustice or abuse. My words and actions must convey that my daughters can turn to me for support first upon the occasion that they might receive harassment or abuse.

Resolved, to encourage my daughters to use their gifts to the utmost in the home, the church, and in society. Outside of the case that can be made for the male-only pastorate and a unique kind of authority and teaching that comes with that office, I see no biblical restrictions that would restrict my daughters from selflessly exercising their gifts in every sphere of life. To that end, I will do whatever is in my power to help them walk in the Spirit and serve the church in a variety of ways in a variety of spheres.

Resolved, to coach and disciple my daughters to be meaningful disciple-makers and thoughtful theologians. Although never yet having been ordained, I have been blessed with opportunities to pursue doctoral studies in theology, to teach on the mission field, to contribute to published theological works, and even to speak as a lay leader in mixed audiences. Speaking as a dad, these are all opportunities that I hope and would be honored if one or more of my daughters may aspire to in order to serve their brothers and sisters in Christ. Whether they function as disciple-makers and theologians from the home, in the workplace, in the academy, or in the church, I intend to impart whatever training I can in order to make them successful at those tasks.

Resolved, to defend my daughters from misuse of Scripture. I’ve heard 1 Peter used to support requiring a woman to remain with an abusive husband. I’ve heard adult women (but not men) told that they need to submit to their dads until they marry. I’ve heard pastors extend gender roles into the workplace, arguing that women shouldn’t have leadership roles in business and government. As a father, I must proactively dismantle those misapplications of the Bible and help my daughters develop a strong heremeneutical toolkit necessary for them to apply the meaning of Scripture properly.

Resolved, to leave a legacy of healthy, biblical masculinity that neither caves to present culture nor idolizes stereotypes from other eras. I can finish a basement, hit a target, and split wood with the best of them, but I never want my daughters to associate these behaviors with masculinity. I want them to know see in their father a masculinity that restrains power and serves the powerless. I want them to see a dad who loves their mom and loves Jesus. In these ways, I want to counter cultural assumptions (old and new) about how men should behave and live according to the supra-cultural norms of Scripture.

Resolved, to never give the impression that the domestic sphere is the best place for a woman or of lesser significance than other spheres. Complementarians frequently claim or imply that the domestic sphere is the best place for women to minister (“go home”); egalitarians frequently claim or imply that the domestic sphere is a lesser calling (“why would a woman have to give up a career to raise children”). Instead, I want my daughters to know that all spheres belong to God and, as such, are good places to serve others. Should God lead them to use their gifts primarily in the home, that’s a wonderful calling. Should God lead them to use their gifts in the business world, in the church, in the academy, in government, etc., this would be an equally wonderful calling. In no way should women exclusively feel the responsibility of domestic ministry.

Note: I’m fully aware that I have and will fall short of these ideals. I want my friends to know that they may call me out when I do. I’m also fully aware that a group of evangelicals will take issue with being “too soft” on 1 Timothy 2, and I suspect that another group will be upset that I’ve made mention of any gender distinctions in the home or in the church. To both parties, I welcome respectful dialogue on your differences and welcome the opportunity to refine my views on this issue. Grace to you.

*Update (1/30/2020): The teaching video by R. C. Sproul that I initially referenced in this article has unfortunately been removed by Ligonier and the following statement has been posted in its place: “This content has been removed at the request of the Sproul family. Ligonier Ministries cannot account for the date or occasion of the comments, which makes providing a context difficult. The original content was a lecture that was likely delivered in the 1970’s or 1980’s expressing views that do not accurately represent Dr. R.C. Sproul’s later views on the subject.”

Following this statement, they include four links to sources related to the subject of the role of women in the church. I would just like to point out several observations about the suggested resources and this retraction:

  1. Of the two alternate resources written or spoken directly by Sproul:
    • Neither retracts what Sproul taught in the original video regarding the ability of women to teach/preach the gathered church in a Sunday service less the “juridical authority” in back of such spoken ministry.
    • Both underscore what Sproul taught in the original video regarding the particular kind of authority Sproul understood to be off limits to women, namely “juridical authority.”
    • Both deal more with issues of ordination to pastoral office, which has not been the focus of the intra-complementarian debates. But even here, Sproul clearly treats the ordination of women as a secondary issue–one that doesn’t demand separation.
  2. Of the two alternate resources written by others:
    • The first (published while Sproul was still editing Tabletalk) is certainly tighter than Sproul’s original video position, noting that “women are barred from preaching and teaching in worship.” The author then goes on to cite one of the key claims of Sproul in the original video, namely that the authority in the passage is “juridical” or “governing” in nature. We are left to wonder whether Sproul left the devotional note by the contributor (obviously not Sproul) unedited while disagreeing with it, or whether he let it stand because he had changed his position over time.
    • The second (published this year and after the death of Sproul) represents the current orthodoxy of the more restrictive camp of complementarians.
  3. The date of the teaching is hinted at as diminishing the accuracy of Sproul’s beliefs. While we want to give space for peoples’ theology to shift somewhat over time, we should note that (a) the 1980s were the breakout years for Sproul’s ministry, the decade in which he published The Holiness of God, and (b) as indicated related to the previous sources, Sproul never clearly or publicly indicated a retraction or even a modification of his position.
  4. The allegations of “the Sproul family” is intriguing. While they certainly can appeal to private conversation that R. C. Sproul never published regarding his “later views on the subject,” I tend to question the source for several reasons. First, in the 2016 Q&A video that is referenced, Sproul had a late-in-life opportunity teed up to set the record straight on whether a women could speak, teach, or preach in a church. Instead he dealt only with ordination and “juridical authority.” Second, if “the Sproul family” is indicative of self-identified “Christian patriarchalist” R. C. Sproul Jr., I wouldn’t put too much stock in this allegation.
  5. Lastly, and most importantly, this retraction is case-and-point of what I originally claimed in this article, namely that a movement is currently afoot to purge the ranks and create a monolith of “complementarianism” that never existed. Until any further evidence comes to light to the contrary, we should see this move as a bit of 1984 historical revisionism and an unfortunate move to censor modern theologians’ access to the progress of Sproul’s theologizing.

Three Reasons I Tell My Kids “I Like You”

I caught myself doing it again. My lanky 4-year-old was grinning from ear-to-ear as she showed off her latest skill she’d learned in dance class. I tousled her hair and whispered it: “I like you so much!” I remember one of the first times I said it to her, and it just felt right. I have always told her “I love you,” but now there’s a fresh word in my vocabulary that completes the picture. This isn’t to say that I verbalize either of these words enough, I’m probably about average when it comes to husbands and fathers who fail to speak words of affection to their spouses and kids. But it’s something I want to grow in. And to grow in it, I need to think about it (and write about it). So, after some time pondering why “like” felt so different, here are a few reasons that inspire me to use this word more frequently.

“Love” overlooks the bad; “like” revels in the good.

Deeply rooted in the Christian faith and in western culture more broadly is this notion that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The power of love is found in its ability to forgive, to heal, and to restore relationships marred by our inevitable human tendency to hurt others. But “like” shows approval in what someone is doing. We frequently have to remind our kids that we do still love them after they’ve done wrong and experienced consequences for their wrongdoing; however, there needs to be a way to high-five them in the good stuff they’re doing. For example, I “like” someone’s Facebook post because it’s something I agree with. So when I tell my daughter that I like her, I’m affirming that she’s doing what seems right to meI want her to feel validated and valued in her father’s mind for the good that she does. There’s nothing more she needs to do, no look she has to achieve, no academic award she has to win, nothing. You’ve got my thumbs up, girl!

“Love” can be done out of duty; “like” demonstrates delight.

You can tell a husband to love his wife. We make this unilateral promise at the altar to love each other until death parts us because love is a volitional responsibility that can be maintained regardless of physical intimacy or emotional connection. Love is a sacrificial and big word that means a whole lot more than we’d often like to admit. But because of its bigness, we can be lulled into feeling that we’ve done our job when we don’t walk out, keep paying the bills and save up for their obscenely expensive college tuition. I understand that love should be more than this, but sometimes we’re too satisfied with achieving the bare minimum of the Great Commands.

So kids need to hear that you delight in them beyond the mere daily obligation you have to them. I “like” my morning cup of coffee because it gives me joy and makes me feel human again. I “like” a good book because it satisfies an intellectual or emotional need. My girls need to hear that I like to see their smiles, to hear them sing, to watch them dance, to comfort them when they’re sad, and to celebrate with them in their successes. Just as I need to know that my Heavenly Father rejoiceshe sings and shouts and claps his handsover me (Zephaniah 3:17), my kids need to know that I feel the same way about them. I don’t begrudgingly carry them, wake up for them, or clean up after them; I exult in them.

“Love” is for the long haul; “like” is in the moment.

Love has this durative capacity that makes it essential for families to work. I will always love my girls regardless of what career choices they make, who they date, where they move, or what they come to believe. But liking someone is an expression of the more fickle sort. It’s here one moment and may be gone the next. While that quality may lead us to devalue telling someone we love that we also like them, I think that it adds a fresh dimension to our value of someone we love. We are souls that exist within the confines of time and space, so there is value in speaking pointedly and exclusively to the present. Telling my girls that I like them speaks to the moment we’re inright here, right nowand tells them that I think they’re wonderful. When I want to speak beyond the long-term and say something intensely appropriate for the present moment, “I like you” is a perfect way to express that feeling.

The Other Brother

Yesterday I read a helpful article guiding parents on how to respond to their children who walk out on Christianity – prodigal behavior as it’s often called.  I found the insight helpful, but there are a couple additional angles that could be addressed.  Many times, in a situation when a child decides to turn their back on God and family, we tend to zero in on the prodigal and the parents.  But there are often other participants in the process who don’t get addressed.  I’m talking about the other brother (or sister).  Here are some considerations for you:

1. You are not alone.

Yes, behind the veneer of self-righteousness, pleasant overtures, and smiles, there are people in your church, school, and extended family who are experiencing the same thing that you are experiencing right now. No, you’re not the only one to have a dysfunctional family. The worst you’ve seen has been experienced and seen by countless scores of kids in Christian homes across the planet. This is no unique problem experienced only in your family, your church, your denomination, and so on. The feeling of loneliness will only eat at you during the months and years ahead. So remain encouraged by knowing that you are not alone. Remember: even Jesus had prodigal siblings.

2. You are not doomed to repeat their mistakes.

Especially has a younger sibling, you’re going to be tempted to dread each successive year that brings you closer to the age of your sibling’s departure.   You’ll wonder how much longer you’ll make it before you make the same mistake yourself. You’ll wonder if your brother’s proclivities are genetic. You’ll begin to freak out when you realize that you experience the same types of temptations your sister experienced. But the fact is that you are not them. You’re your own unique person, and you have your own relationship with God. You’re your own person who has your own set of struggles and your own difficulties. Don’t waste the upcoming months and years projecting their problems into your own life and living in fear of them. You’re only responsible for your own actions – not theirs.  By God’s grace you don’t have to fall where they fell.

I think of Cal in Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  Upon seeing that a great evil ran in his family, pitting brother against brother and spouse against spouse, he sees the same potential in himself.  This fear drives him to prayer – prayer that God would keep him from destroying his family and brother like others in his family had done.  Pray, and pray earnestly that you don’t repeat their sins.  But in the end, there is a danger of obsessing on this.  If you obsess over avoiding their mistakes, you’ll be tempted towards pessimism and depression when you end up having their flaws or extreme pride when you feel like you’ve beaten their sins.  The Gospel gives you hope beyond the pull of your genetics.

3. You’re not free from making their mistakes.

I know that on the one hand, there’s the danger of obsessing over their mistakes – the danger of assuming that you’ll do the same thing. But there’s another danger too. That’s the danger of thinking that you’re better than them – that you’ll never make the same mistakes or fall to the same sins. The reality is that we all have the same sin nature. Under the same conditions you and I are prone to make the same decisions that we hate seeing our childhood friends make. So when that moment comes, that moment when you look at your siblings’ terrible choices and ruined life and immorality, stop saying: “I can’t believe you did that.” Instead, start saying, “but by the grace of God, there go I.”

4. Your church and family love you too.

Let me spend a little more time here, because this really needs to be said (maybe because no one else will say it to you).  I know that over the next few months and maybe years, everyone’s going to be talking about your brother or sister. They’re the big news. You may be known from here forwards to your youth group or in your school as nothing more than “the other brother.” Every time there’s a family reunion, everyone will want to talk about what she’s up to.  They’ll ask about her finances, health, kids, and lifestyle choices.  They quiz you about your brother’s job and girlfriend. But in the midst of the crazy, I’d like to make a couple points about the interlopers.  More often than not, they don’t really care about your brother or sister.  They’re looking for a little dirt or something to make themselves feel better about their failures.  Don’t play into this desire for scuttlebutt.  Even if you’re ticked at your sibling and want to run them into the ground…don’t!  You’ll only regret your participation in the feeding frenzy.  Pray for him.  Don’t prey on him.  You’ll make her road back home a lot smoother if there aren’t as many obstacles in the church and extended family.  But in all this attention, remember: don’t conflate interest with concern.

But what about your parents?  They’re going to be very distant and tied up in dealing with these new challenges.  Your parents will always pray for your sister. Your parents will cry for your brother. They will talk to each other about your sibling and their problems and the latest updates on their struggles and challenges in life. In the midst of all the chaos in all the concern, it may seem like no one cares about you. It’s easy for you think your parents are only concerned about the prodigal. But this simply isn’t true. Your parents do care about you. They’ve always cared about you.

What you absolutely have to understand is that they’re going through some things that are flat-out impossible for you to sympathize with. As much as it hurts for you to see your best friend leave the family never to return, you’re only experiencing a fraction of what your parents are experiencing. Their little son or daughter, the one whom they held close to them, swaddled, and changed, is not coming back.  The little newborn daughter who they cuddled and lovingly placed in a crib is now in bed with a man who only cares about what he can do with her tonight. They helped their little boy ride a bike and now he’s driving off into the sunset to spend another night in reckless drug-hazed partying.  They helped him learn to read and write, but now he’s enslaved to typing in another URL of a porn site. They’re watching their little girl struggle how to deal with an unplanned pregnancy. And they just don’t know what to do.

As you see your parents react to this situation, you’re seeing the depth of their love for you too.  They held you and taught you just like they did your sibling.  They have hopes and dreams for you just like they did for your sister.  Next time you watch your mom cry or your dad vent his sorrow, just remember: this is how they really feel about you too. You get to see an angle of your parents’ love for you that some of your friends will never see from their parents.  The kids in your school who don’t have brothers or sisters who leave home simply never get to see the depth of concern that their parents have for them.  Remember and treasure what you see.

Let’s tie this point back to the Gospel too.  In the Gospel, we see a God whose love is seen at the highest when we are at our farthest from him.  Just as Jesus weeps for his people, your parents weep for their children.  We really wouldn’t understand God’s love if we only saw how he treated those who loved him back.  Instead, we appreciate God’s love all the more when we see how he loves those who turn their backs on him.  The dark times only make the light of love that much clearer.

5. Break into the life of your sibling.

As the sibling of a prodigal, you’ve been through a lot. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. You’ve seen things that your prodigal brother or sister will never see. You’ve seen your family torn apart from the inside out. You’ve seen your dad cry. You’ve seen the pain and stress aging your mother’s face. Your prodigal brother sees only the stage where your parents put on their best faces and try to confront the impending calamity in his life, but you see what happens behind the scenes. You see the anguish and the fear. You see the sadness and the chaos. And with a backstage pass like this, it’s so easy to get bitter. It’s so easy to see the hurt that your sister has brought into your life and want nothing to do with her ever again. After counting the losses and surveying the damage, why would you ever speak to them again?

This is when we need to remember the Gospel. Jesus wasn’t the Word, the Message of God, speaking into a world that wanted to listen to him. Jesus didn’t come chasing after us when we were chasing after him. He didn’t pursue those who lived perfect little lives and do everything just right. The Gospel is all about God breaking into the lives of those who hurt him in the deepest way imaginable. We’re all God’s prodigals. And now God wants us to model his pursuit of us in the way we pursue our siblings. He’s calling you to move through the hurt and the pain, and out into their world.  He’s calling you to love that brother who has betrayed your trust and has let you down. The Gospel calls us all to break into the prodigal’s life to show them what the Gospel of Jesus Christ really looks like.

A Final Word

I always fear coming off too preachy, but these reminders are things that I wish someone had told me when I experienced what you’re experiencing.  I’m not writing these thoughts because I did it right.  I screwed up in all of these areas, so I’ll be the last to recommend my own example.  My hope in writing these thoughts is twofold: (1) to help kids like me wrestle through how to respond as their family crumbles into chaos around them, and (2) to help people on the outside better appreciate and understand what happens in the life of the other brother or sister.

God bless!