Does God Create Division in a Marriage?

“I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!  

But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! 

Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth?

I tell you, not at all, but rather division. 

For from now on five in one house will be divided:

three against two, and two against three. 

Father will be divided against son and son against father,

mother against daughter and daughter against mother,

mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law

and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Luke 12:49-53

I was reading this to my daughter the other day, and it struck me that the one major family relationship not mentioned is Husband against Wife and Wife against Husband. That got me pondering as to why this is because I do not believe it was an accident that it was omitted.

Remember when God created marriage in Genesis:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

And then in Matthew 19, Jesus says:

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?  So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6

When God joins a man and a woman in marriage ~

which I believe God does supernaturally when a virgin woman has sexual intercourse with a man and therefore a woman is married to the man who gets her virginity at the moment he gets it, regardless of any civil or religious ceremonies that have or have not taken place or will or will not take place before or after ~

When God joins a man and a woman in marriage ~ God does not separate them, nor does God create division between a man and his wife or a wife and her husband.

And if her husband is an unbeliever?

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives,  when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.  I Peter 3:1-2

No where does it say a Christian woman is to leave her husband if he is an unbeliever. Because her husband is the man who got her virginity … because God supernaturally married them when the man had intercourse with the virgin woman and made them one.

There is one place where a caveat is given for a Christian woman to depart from her husband. If there is reason for a Christian woman to leave her husband – I would place abuse in this category – then she is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband if it becomes safe for her to do so. Other than that, a Believer is not to leave their marriage.

Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: 

A wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband.

And a husband is not to divorce his wife. 

But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.  

And a woman who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him. 

For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.  

But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. 

But God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? I Corinthians 7:10-16

Superpowers, Trust, and the Value of Being a Parent

A little over a year ago we were praying for Amir and Mrs. Larijani’s baby Abigail who spent 49 days, many quite scary, in the hospital before she could come home. I am over-the-moon excited to report that this little one is doing exceptionally well! She is a very happy, well-adjusted, healthy baby girl. This Mother’s Day her Mama, Mrs. Larijani, wrote the following:

“I am a Mom because of this sweet one.

“Most days, I feel unworthy to be the one that can comfort her when she needs it. Sometimes, she gets so upset and screams so loud. She will reach or crawl frantically to me. I scoop her up and in a minute she calms right down.

“I get to be greeted by her smile each morning.She will crawl around saying “Mamamamamama” and not need anything.

“She gives me superpowers I never knew I had.

“I scan a room before leaving it to make sure she is OK.

“I can see what she is doing sometimes with a wall between us.

I can’t sleep when she is awake (unless I have the flu).

“I am learning to move faster than I have needed to move in several years.

“I can make her mad only to have her giggle 5 seconds later.

“I so often feel the weight of how much she trusts me.

“I wanted [my Husband] to have the opportunity to be a dad. I totally downplayed how important I would be.

“This one made me a mom. Her birth mother gave me the weighty gift of motherhood.

“How thankful I am for the both of them.”

I love this. I love so much about it. Her first Mother’s Day was amazing. This, her second Mother’s Day, was more reflective, and while still delightful because she’s a Mom, she’s had more time to ponder the weight of it all.

Superpowers

“She gives me superpowers I never knew I had.”

Isn’t that an amazing thing as a parent … the ‘superpowers’ our children give us? The power to calm their storm, to heal their pain, to empower them in weakness, to encourage them in anxiousness. But there’s also the power to hurt them in ways no one else can because we’re Parent. That gives us the power to teach them how to fail – hopefully with grace … how to admit our mistakes and take responsibility for our own behavior, choices, and actions … to teach them that we’re all sinners, even Mom and Dad … and how to ask for forgiveness.

Not long ago my sister, who has been jealous of me all her life, made a snide comment about me in front of my daughter. She said something like, “Your Mom always thinks she’s right.” To which my daughter immediately responded, “Actually, no. My Mom knows she’s not always right and is very humble about it.” Shut my sister up. I taught my girls from the beginning that I’m not perfect, that I make mistakes, that I am in need of forgiveness, and I’ve had to humble myself many-a-time to tell them I’m sorry and ask for forgiveness. The beautiful thing about that? My girls have always forgiven me. Wow. So very powerful.

Trust

“I so often feel the weight of how much she trusts me.”

Trust is such an incredible gift. We can easily think it’s a given … that it’s owed to us simply because we are the parent. But that is not true. Trust is a gift … a very valuable, weighty, gift. One we should show great respect and handle with great care.

My daughter recently shared with me part of a recent conversation she had with a friend. She told her friend that she’s learned over the last couple years how much I protected her and her sister as they were growing up, and she said that while she thought I was the best mom ever before she knew, now she knows I’m the best mom ever to eternity and back.

Wow. I am so eternally humbled. That is a gift. And a responsibility. I do not take it lightly, nor do I mess around with it. I respect it. I handle it with care. And I treasure it deep in my soul.

Value

“I wanted [my Husband] to have the opportunity to be a dad. I totally downplayed how important I would be.”

It is a very humbling place when we, as parents, realize the extent of our importance and value with our children. Our children are born with a Mommy-Spot and a Daddy-Spot hardwired into the very depths of their beings, of their very souls, and if we don’t fill them, they will forever remain empty, abandoned, unfulfilled … and longing. No one else can fill that spot. That is a huge responsibility,

Now that my daughters’ father has passed, and I’m all they have left, they say from time-to-time, “Mom, you cannot die! You cannot orphan me!” I assure them that I pray all the time that God would let me live a very long time just for them. Neither of our families cared to invest anything in our children, so they don’t have any aunts, uncles, grandparents, or cousins who care one way or another whether that they’re even alive. This is a heavy burden for me that I pray about all the time … that God would enable me to be and become the Mother they need now and tomorrow and for as long as God would let me live on this earth. I pray that God would enable me to pour so much of myself into my daughters that, when I do pass someday, they will have enough to hold them over till they join me on the other side.

That’s … wow. That’s … humbling. Me? I’m not anything exceptional. I’m normal. I blend in. I’ve not done anything out-of-the ordinary in my life. I’m average. Except … to my daughters. To them, I’m everything. They not only need me, they want me and long for me.

That’s power. That’s trust. That’s value.

That’s me.

That’s a precious, priceless gift from Holy God, and I never, ever, ever want to take it for granted or to give it a value less than what it is.

That means I have to believe in myself and my own value. And that’s … huge.

A Christian Married Woman’s Priorities

It has been stated that a married woman’s priorities should be:
1. God
2. Husband
3. Children

I think that needs to be a bit more defined in the church culture these days. Women tend to skip Husband in there thinking that God is all they need, so whatever they believe God tells them, that’s what they should do.

God never ever contradicts Himself. He never changes.

In the Bible, God says in Genesis 3:16:

To the woman he said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

in Exodus 20, God says:

14 “You shall not commit adultery.

God tells the woman in Ephesians 5:22:

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

In Ephesians 5:33 God tells wives:

and the wife must respect her husband.

and in 1 Peter:3, God tells wives:

Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 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. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

Sooo … in order for a Christian married woman to honor God and put Him first, she MUST obey God’s commands which are clearly written in the Bible. If she ‘believes’ she’s ‘heard’ God speak to her anything that contradicts what is written in the Bible, then what she believes she heard is a lie.

Rachael Denhollander for SBC President

Paige Patterson’s remarks at a 2000 CBMW conference–about which I was unaware until almost 2 weeks ago, but which have resurfaced due to the work of some watchbloggers–have ignited quite the conflagration in the Southern Baptist Convention.

This is because it isn’t simply about what Patterson said in a sermon in 2000.

This is because:

(a) Paige Patterson was–and still is–a very powerful force in the SBC. He was a co-architect of the conservative movement in the SBC, he was President of Criswell College, he was a two-term SBC President, and was President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS), and is the sitting President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS). He and his co-architect–Judge Paul Pressler–are enshrined in stained glass at chapel at SWBTS.

Many SBC leaders today, including SBTS President Al Mohler, would not be where they are today without Patterson.

(b) What Patterson said back then betrayed the way many SBC churches are predisposed to covering up family jewels.

There are a plethora of abuse scandals–including sexual abuse–that churches have swept under the rug by “passing the trash”: allowing offending ministers to resign, where they can go onto another church to carry on their abuses.

There are also a plethora of abuses within the ranks of evangelicals who are party to alliances including SBC leaders such as Mohler and Patterson, and yet no one has called out the abusers.

There are countless instances in which divorces occurred, with no fault to the offended party, and the SBC pastors have shunned those parties.

There are also countless instances in which pastors–who knew better–failed to report sexual abuse allegations even when they were required by law to do so.

(c) While the SBC has long claimed that they have no contempt toward women, that claim is dubious. The recent letter from Lifeway author Beth Moore revealed an underlying contempt for women in the evangelical world, and the SBC in particular.

And the complaints in her letter were credible, as Thabiti Anyabwile conceded in his own apology in response to Moore’s letter.

With the Southern Baptist Convention coming up, that brings us to a couple of important issues:

(1) Does the SBC allow Paige Patterson to give the keynote sermon, as he is currently slated to do? (I sure hope not.)

(2) Given the spate of abuses in the evangelical world–and given that there is an epidemic of sexual misconduct among clergy, as the studies I’ve seen (which were “self-reporting”) put the number of offenders at more than one third–what kind of leader can truly provide a culture shift while not abandoning sound doctrine?

Al Mohler may have had traction once upon a time, but that ship has long sailed. Mohler, who has failed to hold other leaders such as Mahaney, Dever, and Chandler accountable–the Deebs have more stones than Mohler on this–does not have the gravitas to deal with the SBC scandals. Given that he has said nothing about Patterson’s remarks for 18 years–and has said nothing since the recent revelations–tells me that, in spite of outstanding intellectual firepower, he is utterly unprepared for this task.

So who, on the horizon, can provide the combination of gravitas, sound doctrine, and firm understanding of the internal issues facing the SBC?

I present to you Rachael Denhollander, the Louisville attorney who blew the lid on Larry Nassar. If you haven’t watched her statement at the Larry Nassar trial, you need to. It’s gold.

In addition to being a survivor of Nassar, she also has called for a truly independent investigation of Sovereign Grace Ministries, providing a devastating legal case for why their “investigation” was not truly independent and why Mahaney and other leaders have much for which to answer.

Her speaking out on that matter effectively got her run out of her church.

But why do I think she should be the next SBC President?

(1) She’s theologically conservative;

(2) She has the desire and gravitas to push the Church to deal with the longstanding internal baggage, baggage which MUST be exposed and removed from the camp.

(3) For her, it’s not simply about exposing baggage; it’s about making the Church a refuge from the world.

If you go to a pastor today, it is nothing short of abhorrent that you could have about a 1 in 3 chance of being a sexual target.

While her husband, Jacob, has told me that they are members at a Reformed Baptist Church and not a Southern Baptist Church, I still think there is a compelling case for her to be SBC President.

Rachael, I don’t know you, and that’s okay. But the SBC needs someone who can bash some proverbial heads. (If you need to bash literal ones, I stand prepared to help.)

The SBC needs a cultural change. And right now, you’re the one who can do it.

Maybe your church can add an additional alliance with the SBC to make you eligible.

#DraftRachael4President

Abuse and Divorce: It’s Not An Exact Science

In the Twitter wars–in which I have been quite active–the Deebs, Amy Smith, and some other fairly knowledgeable folks–are pounding on the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Paige Patterson, John Piper, Matt Chandler, and other complementarian (comp) leaders over their position on divorce, particularly whether it appropriate to recommend, particularly whether the Scriptures permit it, and what the Church ought to do for one who is being abused. Most of the context is the husband abusing the wife.

My view: at the very least, the minister needs to help the abused spouse find safety, and report the abuse to authorities, encouraging the abused spouse to press charges and force him (or her) to face the justice process. The abuser must also be subject to Church discipline if indeed he (or she) is a member.

Once abuse becomes physical and/or sexual, the score gets lopsided in a hurry. Can the marriage be saved? Yes. But it would require that the abuser have a come-to-Jesus session and submit to accountability like he or she never thought possible.

But make no mistake, divorce is a possible outcome, and in fact may be a necessary evil. I don’t like that fact, but it is what it is.

On most of that, the Deebs and I–and most of the other watchbloggers–are in agreement.

OTOH, others weighed in, suggesting that emotional abuse and financial abuse are legitimate reasons for divorce.

On the financial front, what part of “for richer or poorer” don’t you understand?

As for emotional abuse, I don’t think that’s an exact science. Ame can chime in here–as she has been on the receiving end of such abuse by her late first husband, and also has seen no small number of women frivolously claim “emotional abuse” to justify leaving a marriage they simply didn’t want.

I will also chime in, as there is much talk about how we must support the victims.

I support the victims, every one of them, including the children.

And that is why I contend that “emotional abuse” isn’t an exact science, particularly when you consider the ramifications of what children experience in divorce, as well as post-divorce life.

Before you ladies start tagging me, I’m gonna tell you to shut up and read on before you pass judgment. And if you can’t do that, then GTHO.

I was one of those victims. As a kid, I went through two divorces.

In the first one, my mom claims my dad was abusive. I do not recall him being physically abusive in those days, although he definitely got loud at times. Even then, I’ll grant my mom the benefit of a doubt here, because–well–she is my mom.

What happened after that for me was, for lack of better words, a Charlie Foxtrot.

It was the early 1970s, the Sexual Revolution was on, and–after the divorce–my mom would get a boyfriend: DA.

I didn’t like DA, and the feeling was probably mutual. I say that because of an experience I had one night.

Connecting the dots, I can conclude with reasonable certainty that he drugged me with LSD.

That night, I was having what appeared to be a very bad nightmare. I was in a forest, and everything was attacking me.

I woke up, but it didn’t stop: everything was still attacking me. I remember walking, screaming, and still being attacked. I remember my mom telling me it was just a nightmare.

But I was awake…and it wouldn’t go away.

I couldn’t [expletive or ten deleted] make it stop!

Eventually, it wore off, although I had occasional flashbacks until I was 13.

A year or so after that incident, my mom sent my brother and me to live with my dad.

And while I can say that my dad was far from perfect, I can honestly say that I was materially better off with him: he provided a household that had stability, he pushed us to work hard in school, and he was supportive of my choices in life. We even became running buddies later on in life. Yes, he could be difficult; that is why I enjoyed going to college away from home. He has mellowed out over the years, though.

I’ll grant that my mom was being emotionally abused. I would also contend that what I experienced after the divorce was worse than her emotional abuse. During that period between the divorce and the time we went to live with my dad, it was hell: lots of instability on top of what I described.

Some of you might say, “Well, that was just one incident!”

Yeah…and the flashbacks were a gift that kept on giving for several years. The worst part: not being in a position to defend myself, and not having anyone to defend me, and then being powerless to stop it.

But my case was miniscule compared to B.E., a former girlfriend and running buddy of mine.

When she was young, her mom was in a bad marriage, although it wasn’t physically abusive. She left her husband, claiming emotional abuse.

B.E., however got the bad end of that stick. Her mother would go from relationship to relationship, cohabiting with various men.

Aside from enjoying her mother, those men also helped themselves to B.E.

B.E. would grow up and embrace many self-destructive practices–drinking, cutting, drugs. She wound up in a homeless shelter where she would receive Christ and get clean and sober–she and I dated during that sober period–but would then float on-and-off into self-destructive behavior (hyper-spending, bulimia, and even occasional drinking). She mercifully broke up with me during the height of her bulimia bout.

So while I would grant that emotional abuse can be really, really nasty, I can also say that the threshold at which that becomes a trigger for divorce is pretty high.

I would also contend that we should have a marginal incentive to keep marriages together, particularly given that–from the stats I’ve seen–children generally do better with both parents at home. This is because crappy husbands can still be good fathers. And children deserve fathers and mothers.

Most of all, the Church ought to be marginally predisposed to keeping marriages together, because, well, Jesus taught exactly that: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” And no, there is no pretty way to spin our way out of what Jesus said on the matter.

That’s not to say divorce can’t be necessary in cases of abuse–divorce is evil, but it can be a necessary evil–but let’s accept that we must (a) hold abusers accountable to the extent that we can (including the justice process), and (b) still combat the divorce culture that gives the Church a divorce rate that is nothing short of shameful.

Class dismissed.

I No Longer Identify as Complementarian

For many years, I have identified as a complementarian. I did so because I looked at the term as just a modern way of referring to Patriarchy.

And, to be sure, at face value it has Biblical traction, as it rejects the attempts of the egalitarians to strip patriarchy from the Biblical text.

The problem is this: other than that, it is still short of the glory, as Piper, Mohler, & Co. have given us a framework that is just short of Islam in terms of its treatment of women, while way too soft on the men, all while imposing hard dogmatic gender roles that Scripture does not.

In fact, I would contend that complementarianism is a dysfunctional form of patriarchy that is cultural and not Biblical. It is akin to the type of patriarchy that we witnessed in Jesus’ time: Pharisees would not even speak to women in public (even though there’s no Biblical law against that) and wouldn’t let women learn the Torah (even though there’s no Biblical law against that, and even though women in the OT served as judges and even prophets).

Now some of you, reading this, will wonder, “Come on Amir, have you gone feminist on us? Are you an egalitarian?”

To that, I answer no on both counts. More accurately, HELL NO on both counts.

To be clear, I am a Biblical patriarch. As the Scriptures say, I am the head of my wife, just as Christ is head of the Church. It is on me to love my wife as Christ loved the Church.

What does that mean?

Well…let’s ask ourselves, how did Jesus love the Church?

Some would say that the “headship” is more figurehead than actual leader. I beg to differ. After all, Jesus didn’t sit around passively with the Disciples. He didn’t say, “I’m your head, but we are mutual partners.” No, he had headship and he was very intentional in the way he led.

He called out the Disciples to follow Him. Does this mean the man MUST do the proposing? No, but let’s be honest: it’s how we are generally wired. I’m not imposing a dogma–I’ve known couples where the wife proposed, and it’s rare–just acknowledging biology.

He taught the Disciples. You can do this even if she knows the Bible better than you do. That’s because it’s not about how much you know, but what you do with it. Seeking to rightly divide the word of truth is a lifelong pursuit, and as long as you are humble and bold–and committed to growing in your knowledge and wisdom–a good wife will generally give that a lot of deference.

He prayed for the Disciples. You don’t have to be a great Bible scholar to do this. You do need to be intentional, however.

He gave them specific instructions as to what to do. He sent them out; he warned them about issues to come; He told them what it meant to represent Him and what it would be like.

He comforted them. He warned them that things would get bad. He also promised that He’d be at work on their behalf.

He put up with them. The Disciples were always failing, almost always getting it wrong, always feuding over petty matters, overreacting, disbelieving. When He was in agony, they were busy snoozing. When He was arrested, they ran like cowards. When He was on trial, Peter denied Jesus. With the exception of John–who was there with Mary–and Judas, who hanged himself, none of the Disciples were around when Jesus died. But Jesus was patient and forgiving.

He had the guts to call things what they were. When Peter tried to keep Jesus from fulfilling his mission to die for our sins, the rebuke was as blunt as anything in Scripture: “Get thee behind me, Satan.”

Even then, Jesus was graceful and patient with Peter, restoring him after the Resurrection and charging him: “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus did not have a passive bone in his body. And when he saw abusers and thieves perverting that which was holy, He ripped them hard and even physically drove them out. He told the Pharisees and Scribes where they stood (with Satan) and even derisively called Herod a “fox”. He was tough when the situation called for it.

Speaking of being tough when the situation called for it, Paul called out abusive husbands, even suggesting that God wasn’t answering their prayers due to their abuses. He also called out wives who were not respecting their husbands.

(Now let’s be honest here: how many pastors do you know who have the guts to call both husbands and wives in the same sermon, and if they do, minus a thousand disclaimers?)

Paul even had the audacity to call out Peter “to his face”. Imagine the stones it took for Paul to face down the ringleader of the Twelve!

And that’s what I don’t see from ‘complementarians’ like Piper, Mohler, Duncan, Dever, Anyabwile, and even Patterson!

In their world, kiddie-diddlers get deference: as long as they pass the background check, it’s “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” When accusations arise, they either intimidate the accusers or force them into silence by insisting that they forgive their abuser, while the abuser gets little or no punishment and no accountability to the justice process.

In their world, abusive spouses–especially when they are the husbands–get free reign. Even when they peruse child porn. The women get told to submit and pray, but not pursue legal recourse to hold him accountable. And divorce? That’s never on the table, no matter how many times he puts her in the hospital.

I mean seriously, a Biblical patriarch would at least beat the [excrement] out of the abuser, but Piper & Co. are too soft for even that.

Goodness, they lack the balls to even call out each other for abuses or severe missteps.

You want an example: Al Mohler, the foremost culture warrior in the theological world, never wastes time when an issue of major importance arises. When SCOTUS declares gay “marriage” sacrosanct, he’s on top of it. When it’s abortion, or feminism, or communism, he’s Johnny on the spot, and rightfully so.

But when Paige Patterson, at a Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood conference, intoned about how he told an abused wife to “submit and pray”, all while not at least referring her to a shelter or advising her to seek recourse, and then–in a “clarification” after the Internet lit up–totally contradicting himself, MOHLER STILL HAS SAID NOT A FREAKING THING ABOUT THIS.

How about this: Hey Al, it’s YOUR Southern Baptist Convention. You have a HOUSE THAT IS BURNING DOWN. You may have a great relationship with Paige Patterson, and that’s all well and good; I’m sure Paul had a great relationship with Peter.

But now, it is on you to confront Paige Patterson, and publicly. His missteps were public; his rebuke needs to be public. And it needs to come from you, because–well–you are, fairly or unfairly, the spokesperson for the evangelical conservative world regarding theological matters.

It is on you to confront C.J. Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries, as they are your friends, and call for an independent investigation of them. It is on you to confront ARBCA and Tom Chantry, calling on them to uncover the bodies and get the abusers out of their camps, and quit imposing dogma where Scripture does not.

But you guys–Piper, Mohler, Chandler, Duncan–won’t do that, as you aren’t Biblical Patriarchs.

You are cultural patriarchs, just as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were cultural patriarchs.

And we are seeing the fruit of that.

As for me, count me out of your cultural patriarchal game.

Sorry, Dee, but I am a Biblical patriarch.

We’re in agreement, however, on one thing: complementarianism is load of crap.

Toys R Us Reaps Whirlwind

This week, Toys R Us anncounced that they will be closing or selling all of their stores, effectively liquidating. Their Chapter 11 Banruptcy will almost certainly become a Chapter 7 liquidation, which means that the brand, as we know it, is done. The WaPo, surprisingly, has an insightful piece on the downfall of Toys R Us. In their public announcement, TRU said:

The decrease of birthrates in countries where we operate could negatively affect our business. Most of our end-customers are newborns and children and, as a result, our revenue are dependent on the birthrates in countries where we operate. In recent years, many countries’ birthrates have dropped or stagnated as their population ages, and education and income levels increase. A continued and significant decline in the number of newborns and children in these countries could have a material adverse effect on our operating results.

Andrew Van Dam of the WP adds:

It may not have been the biggest existential threat confronting Geoffrey the Giraffe (the store’s mascot), but it’s the one with the broadest implications outside of the worlds of toys and malls.

Measured as a share of overall population, U.S. births have fallen steadily since the Great Recession. They hit their lowest point on record in 2016 — the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has comparable data.

What IS interesting is that, for many years, TRU supported Planned Parenthood; they ended that support in 2010.

In other words, over the course of decades, TRU provided financial support for a cause that served to erode their market base.

Sow the wind..reap the whirlwind.

The Eagles Finally Did It!

Having finished high school in suburban Philly, I have an affinity for the Eagles. I also have gained an appreciation for the hard luck that Philly has endured on the sports front. I lived there when Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and Bobby Jones–with Marc Iavaroni–delivered the long-awaited NBA title in 1983. The days of “We Owe You One” were over.

In football, however, the Eagles have been a very hard-luck team.

In 1980-81, they made it to the Super Bowl, but the Raiders–led by Jim Plunkett and Lester Hayes–were just a notch too good.

In 2003-04, they were within an inch of denying the Pats a Super Bowl, but Donovan McNabb ran out of gas down the stretch.

Since then, the Eagles failed to make a serious run at the Super Bowl.

Until 2017.

For most of the regular season, QB Carson Wentz carried the Eagles to their best season in history. When he tore his ACL, thrusting backup Nick Foles into the starting role, many experts wondered if the Eagles would be able to salvage their season.

The Eagles, despite some minor sputters, forged on.

In the playoffs, the Eagles notched an unimpressive 15-10 win against the Falcons. While that catapulted them into the NFC Championship game, it became debatable whether (a) they would be a match against a Minnesota Vikings team that was strong, or (b) whether they could mount a serious challenge against a team like the Patriots.

Against the Vikings, the Eagles had their coming out party: they destroyed the Vikings 38-7, setting up a Super Bowl date with the Patriots, who squeaked by the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-21.

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This time, 40-year-old Tom Brady was supposed to come home with his 6th Super Bowl ring. He had the corps of receivers to be able to score at will; the Pats defense wasn’t great, but was underrated. The Eagles had little Super Bowl experience among their team. While most of the country was pulling for the Eagles, the Patriots were the rational, statistical favorite.

In many ways, this one reminded me of the Bills-Giants Super Bowl in 1991, or the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl of 2008, or the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl of 2011. The Giants have a storied history of sending hard-charging teams against heavy favorites, and coming back with the Lombardi trophy.

The Eagles had a chance. But in order to win, I figured:

(1) Foles would need to play mistake-free football, but would also need to produce. Unlike Trent Dilfer–who won a SB with the Ravens–Foles couldn’t expect the Eagles defense to score 20 points against New England. Foles needed to make big plays.

(2) LeGarrette Blount would need to produce on the run. He didn’t have to run for 150 yards, but he needed at least 80.

(3) If the Eagles get a lead, they need to stay aggressive. In the 4th quarter, you’re going to need to keep scoring. Brady is going to torch your defense for long yards. The Pats will find ways to score down the stretch. You will not win by “not losing”. You will only win by playing hard, aggressive football. If you’re up by 10, you still need at least two more scores.

(4) They need at least one big defensive play down the stretch. A stop on downs, an interception–preferably a “pick 6”–or a fumble recovery. The Falcons couldn’t do that last year; the Jags failed to do it on 4th down two weeks ago; The Eagles needed to get it done in the Super Bowl.


The Eagles got every one of those things.

Foles played like an All Pro. He threw for over 370 yards, with 3 TDs and only one interception (and that wasn’t even his fault).

Blount complemented Foles with 90 clock-eating yards on the ground. The Eagles dominated on time of possession.

The Eagles got the first lead. Whenever the Pats would answer, the Eagles also answered. The Eagles, unlike last year’s Falcons, never let up.

Their trick play on 4th down–for a touchdown at the end of the half–showed the grit of a team that came to win. Many teams would have kicked a field goal, but Head Coach Doug Pederson went for the jugular.

As the British Special Air Services says: “Who dares wins.”

The Eagles took a 10-point lead into the half, but there was plenty of time left.


As expected, the Patriots didn’t go down quietly. Brady found his storied tight end, Bob Gronkowski, for a touchdown, cutting the lead to 3 points.

But the Eagles answered: Foles would toss a touchdown pass to go back up by 10.

Then Brady threw another touchdown, cutting the lead to 3.

And when the Eagles answered with only a field goal, the Pats had their opening: Brady found Gronkowski, and put New England on top, 33-32.

And there was still plenty of time left.

—–
At that point, the Eagles were in a very tough bind. They had played all-out, had done almost everything right, and yet they were down by 1 and their defense had showed no sign of being able to hold.

Brady torched the Eagles for an astonishing 505 yards, with three touchdown passes and no interceptions. His QB rating–115.4–was phenomenal. And he would have more chances to score. He had made only one mistake–dropping the pass from Amendola in the first half, but that was then.

He now had a lead and would get at least two more chances. A rational man would say the Pats were back in the saddle.

Would the inexperienced, underdog Eagles–led by a backup–be able to answer?

Foles didn’t blink. On a drive that featured a 4th-down conversion, Foles threw a touchdown–in the middle of the field–to take the lead back.


After a failed extra point, the Eagles were up by 5, 38-33. And Brady had two-and-a-half minutes left to get down the field and score a game-winning touchdown.

The Eagles had only stopped the Pats once all night–the defense held them on downs once in the first half–but had produced no turnovers.

The Eagles needed a stop; the Pats needed a touchdown.

On the second play, the Eagles did something that neither last year’s Falcons, nor the Jaguars of two weeks ago, could do: THEY SACKED BRADY, STRIPPED THE BALL, AND RECOVERED.

The Eagles would convert that into a field goal, giving them an 8-point lead. The Pats would still be able to tie, and send the game into overtime.

And, as the Falcons learned last year, we know what the Pats can do if they get the ball in overtime.

Brady, true to form, put himself in position for one last Hail Mary for the chance at Overtime.

It was a good throw, exactly the kind that produces bobbles and miracle touchdown catches.

This time, the Eagles got an extra hand on the ball, and Danny Amendola could not save the day.

High Point, Andy Savage, The Southern Baptist Convention, and The Gospel Coalition

On January 5, the Deebs (TWW) and Amy Smith teamed up to blow High Point Community Church pastor Andy Savage out of the water, telling the story of Jules Woodson.

High Point is a Southern Baptist Convention affiliate with NeoCalvinist ties. Savage was rising star in the NeoCal circuit, with a book slated for release this Summer.

Since then,

(1) Savage has attempted to minimize what he did;

(2) Savage has attempted to deflect blame for what he did;

(3) Savage has gone of radio to make his case;

(4) High Point provided Savage a standing ovation in their ensuing worship service;

(5) Austin Stone Community Church–where Savage’s assault of Woodson took place–placed pastor Larry Cotton on leave while they investigate his role in the Jules Woodson case;

(6) Savage has seen the loss of his book deal, as Bethany House cancelled it;

(7) Larry Cotton has also seen a book deal go up in flames;

(8) Commentators from Boz Tchividjian to Ed Stetzer have weighed in, condemning the response of High Point.

But you know what? The Gospel Coalition and The Southern Baptist Convention have been quite mum on this.

The same SBC that rightly kicked out member churches for endorsing gay “marriage”, has been silent regarding a megachurch that coddled a pastor who crossed a severe ethical line, and has not so much as provided guidance for how churches ought to respond.

And The Gospel Coalition? Also nothing but crickets.

But I’ll bet you that if High Point called a woman to be pastor, they’d be all over that in milliseconds.

While I’m opposed to women pastors, and while I definitely oppose any Church tolerance of gay “marriage” within their ranks, I also would suggest that we must call evil for what it is, even when it involves people whose theology is more in line with mine.

If anything, I’m more angered when conservatives actively or passively green-light sexual immoralities or abuses of any type.

Orthodoxy is all well and good, but if your church doesn’t take the protection of children and teens seriously, then your Orthodoxy doesn’t rise to the level of the Scribes and Pharisees.

Dee, High Point, and 22-Year-old Youth Pastors

Most of the time, I tend to be on the same side as TWW when it comes to exposing abusers and calling out a system that coddles them. In the Andy Savage/Jules Woodson case, I have had their backs 99% of the time.

This is the 1%. And I’m not talking about their take on those who slut-shame Jules–I agree with the Deebs on that one.

I’m talking about the wisdom (or lack thereof) of putting 22-year-olds, who have little spiritual mileage as adults, in an office of pastoral authority over teens.

While Dee seems to make a good case when she discusses 22-year-old teachers, 22-year-old nurses, even 18-year-old firemen, I would contend that she is comparing apples to oranges.

Teaching English or science or mathematics is not on the same par as being a youth pastor.

If I’m a school teacher, the chances of me being alone with a student are going to be pretty remote. If I’m teaching, the classroom will be full. Even if students have questions after class, it’s a simple matter to keep the door open, or only entertain questions while there are others in the room. To be alone with a student–while possible–requires effort.

When you’re a youth pastor, it’s a different ballgame.

(1) While churches often have a “two-adult rule”, I can also tell you that, in smaller churches, that is not always feasible.

That means you’re going to need a youth pastor who has reined in his lusts sufficiently that he does not see the youth to whom he is ministering as potential girlfriends or conquests. Can a 22-year-old have that kind of maturity? It’s possible. But most of the men I’ve known in that bracket–and yes, we’re talking Christians–are either (a) looking to get married, or (b) still trying to learn self-regulation, or (c) both (a) and (b).

(2) Rightly dividing the word of truth–and teaching young people how to do it–requires more knowledge than you’re going to get in a 4-year-degree.

Coming out of college, I had an aeronautical engineering degree. I also had experience working in the math and science tutoring center, and had taught physics labs. I knew algebra and calculus and Newtonian mechanics like the back of my hand. I probably could have walked into any high school math or science class and started teaching.

When it comes to teaching Scripture, it’s a different ballgame. I was active in the Christian Fellowship Club at my alma mater. I also attended church regularly. I wasn’t a dummy when it came to Scripture–I won all those Bible Trivia games–but when it comes to teaching, it’s more complicated than, say, algebra.

In my 51 years of life, I have met only one 22-year-old whom I think would have been capable of being a good youth minister. And he was a lot like me: very un-polished, not a lot of charisma, but teaching was his gig. He also was serious about self-regulation.

When I was at SBTS, I had classmates who served as youth ministers and pastors. The ones in their early 20s were very shallow and struggled in their classwork. I often ended up tutoring them. They were in no position to be teachers to teens.

The ones older than 25 tended to be better-grounded, not just in Scripture but in their ability to provide strong counsel from Scripture.

I guess my larger problem here is with what I call the Ministerial-Industrial Complex.

It is the standard model by which churches build up their ministers. It has become a game of (a) take a young adult in or just out of college and make them a children’s minister or a youth minister, (b) send them to seminary to get an MA or MDiv, (c) have them do some part-time pastoral gigs during that time, (d) get them into a small bivocational or full-time position once they are newly-minted MDiv grads, and (e) as they “grow”, move them into senior positions, larger churches, etc.

What’s wrong with that picture?

(1) It treats the ministry like a corporate ladder. Just like the world

(2) It puts inexperienced young adults in positions of teaching teens, at a time when teens need very knowledgeable teachers who will challenge them and push them hard in these formative years.

What happens when a 10th-grader starts asking you questions about evolution? Or abortion? Are you ready to answer those matters intelligently?

What happens if a teen in your youth group tells you of the atheist teacher who is always trying to sow the seeds of skepticism? Are you ready to provide a reasonable case for Christ?

What happens when a kid tells you that he (or even she) is struggling with same-sex attraction? Or is fixated on porn? Are you ready to counsel someone in that kind of cesspool, and help such a one navigate these very unpleasant topics?

What happens when you have a youth whose home life is hell, whose parents are addicts, who asks you what “honor your father and mother” looks like in a case like that?

What if a 16-year-old girl tells you that one of her relatives is having sex with her?

Do you know the wisdom literature well enough to convey Biblical truths in ways that are understandable to a teen?

What if you have a teen who tells you she is pregnant, and her parents are trying to force her to have an abortion?

What happens when you have a youth who is struggling with drug or alcohol issues?

At 27, I could handle those things reasonably well. At 22, I would have been in over my head. The hormones of early adulthood would not have made those other challenges any easier at 22, either.

Like I said, I have only known one person in my life who, at 22, would have been qualified to do that job. And it wasn’t me.

Yes, I was a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center at age 24. But I also had a lot of supervision, too, and wasn’t too proud to hand off tough cases to more experienced counselors. The director–who had a son my age–was like a second mom to me.

(I also kept the door open when I was the only counselor in the room.)

I didn’t start teaching in church until I was on the tail end of 25. And I didn’t take on any ministerial positions until 27.

By that time, I had seen a plethora of ministers go down in scandal. I got a front-row seat to what was possible if one did not learn to master their lusts.

And while I knew of big scandals during my college days, I can tell you this much: very little discussion in church circles ever involved the reality that such things begin with very simple lusts.

Andy Savage may have understood those truths on an academic level. But there is a world of difference between that and being able to flesh that out and teach others in the process.

Nothing says “you break it, you own it” like sex. And, sadly, with sexual sin, you can’t just take it back. As King David said, “my sin is ever before me.”

Unfortunately for Savage, he understood that a minute too late.

And while that is his baggage for which he is ultimately responsible, I also say that his church bears responsibility for conforming to a paradigm that is predisposed to putting unqualified people in very critical ministerial positions.