September 29, 2008

Theology of the Blues Brothers...sort of

From the first verse through 2:10, Paul is quite clear in his letter to the Ephesians that there is nothing that goes on in our process of redemption that doesn't have God's fingerprint all over it. He is the author of life, not just our physical life, but also our spiritual life, even suggesting that our wisdom and knowledge of God is due to God's supernatural enlightening of our "hearts."

The attention to the details of our salvation by grace through faith is joined by an emphatic declaration that it is not by anything we have done that we can claim to be saved. We haven't been given life in Christ according to our own good works, but by God for good works "that we should walk in them" (2:10).

We can agree with Jake and Elwood that we are "on a mission from God." But that is where we should discontinue any comparison with the Chicago nobility of '70's folklore.

What we need to think about is the plural nature of these good works and our responsibility to "walk in them." Our sanctification is synergistic in that we comply with the Spirit and revelation of God in willing obedience. So while you live life, pursuing matters of this world, it should be with the desire to imitate God--imitate His holiness.
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September 22, 2008

Ephesians Part 1: God's Might, Man's Need

The letter to the Ephesians, written by Paul while under house arrest in Rome, contains 3 prominent themes: God's grace, Christian unity, and the Christian life that glorifies God in both word and deed.

Chapter 1 states so clearly that God chose us before we even existed, but the emphasis is really on how the great power of God overcomes our sinful natures and allows us to stand before Him through Christ's righteousness, "holy and blameless" (Eph 1:4), our ultimate sanctification. The power of God that has brings us to our knees is the same power that created the earth and resurrected Christ.

Paul speaks for himself better than any of us can paraphrase him, but take note of what he says should be a primary focus as a result our believing in Him--that we might know the hope to which we have been called, the riches of our inheritance as saints, and the greatness of his power to those who believe (v. 2:18-19). Our focus must be on the Lord for who he is and for what he has accomplished for those he chose before the foundations of the earth.

Tomorrow--Ephesians 2: Created for A Purpose

September 20, 2008

Gospel Today, Southern Baptists, and Theology in the Pew

Reportedly, the SBC's Lifeway Christian Bookstores have removed the current issue of Gospel Today from their sales shelves in more than 100 of their stores. Chris Turner, a spokesman for Lifeway Resources, said the cover was not the reason the magazine was pulled.

The buyers said the statements that were in it took positions that were contrary to what we would say...It wasn't so much that there were women on the cover.

What I find very interesting is that the contents of Gospel Today should have been in question in the past. Prior to this issue, other cover articles have included prosperity teachers Bishop T.D. Jakes (who rejects the doctrine of the Trinity) and Pastor Paula White. Yet the same folks who are up in arms over the current cover article don't seem to have an awareness about other equally important--likely more important--doctrines this magazine highlights, or else we would have heard about their concern before. This ultimately points to the overall ignorance of the market at Lifeway Bookstores, certainly not their theological sophistication, otherwise this would have been off the shelves a long time ago.

On the other hand, there is something to be said about having materials available to the Christian community that provide first-hand knowledge of what other schools of thought are teaching. I've never read Gospel Today and don't expect to even pick up the most recent copy. But sometimes people need to read things for themselves instead of being coached on the beliefs of others.

I am not an advocate of women as pastors or elders, but I don't believe a person's salvation or commitment to Christ is or should be in question when someone holds an opposing view on this particular issue. This is not a matter of heresy and certainly not worth the negative publicity that will result, especially in light of the current cultural discussion of women as leaders. For the SBC, this is an embarrassment. For Gospel Today, it will sell more magazines.

September 19, 2008

What is a Woman?

My dear friend Karen likes to provide me with material to blog about at Flash Point. Her latest contribution is from her days in a well-known Bible college in the 80's. On 3 pages are contained what are referred to as sex role differences. Typically, I cannot be found to argue against gender roles, but this list should ruffle a few feathers of both men and women. FYI, this list is not exhaustive, there is plenty more that could be shared from the pages.

What is a woman?
1. Mother-A woman develops her womanhood through motherhood...she is womb-centered...She may choose not to mother a child; but mother something or someone she will; her husband, her boss, her poodle. A man prefers a feminine, womanly woman. One reason: such a woman makes him feel more like a man.

2.Subjective-Feelings come first. More attached. Makes much of things and events and what they may mean in relation to herself.

3. Nags-Her mother-instinct, her emotionalism, her concern for detail all combine to make her a fault-finder. Nagging is a device that can get her the attention that she wants.

4. Intuitive-Often knows without knowing how she knows. Relies on instinct, on emotion.

5. Sensitive to people, and environment. She shifts her emotional gears more frequently and abruptly.

6. A Follower-Feels secure when relying on a man (but with a womanly, not childish, dependence). Must feel needed as a helpmate to her husband. Her femininity demands reassurance that she is the "Heart of the House."

7. Jealous-She wants all of her husbands love, all of the time. In her craving for attention she is monopolistic.

It's a good thing the church has moved beyond some of these generalizations, and I believe the evangelical community is in a much better place now than it was 20 years ago...but when these generalizations come up, it is better for everyone--church and culture--that they are appropriately addressed.
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September 18, 2008


In the coming weeks I will be unveiling a Women of Faith in Culture study called Her-spective. This will integrate biblical studies with discussion on contemporary issues ranging from marriage and family to reproduction, birth control, education and careers. Will keep you posted here at Flash Point on the availability of this study, but be sure to sign up for email updates.
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September 15, 2008

The Modesty Revolution is the 4th Wave of Feminism

At the 2008 VH1 music awards, singer Jordin Sparks challenged show host Russell Brand on his ridicule of promise rings, rings that signify a pledge to remain sexually pure until marriage. Standing up to the lies of 2nd and 3rd wave feminism, Sparks is one of many young women demanding a change in perspective. For them, the spirit of feminism is about opportunity and freedom, not rights at the expense of dignity and self-respect. This is the essence of what author Wendy Shalit calls The Good Girl Revolution.

Shalit's book, by the same title, documents story after story of young women who are tired of the sexual exhibitionism that defines contemporary feminism. They understand the backwards logic of this in that it cancels out the work of the early feminists who wanted to be taken seriously as intellectual equals instead of merely objects of sexual gratification.

The Girlcotters are a group of young women known for their objection to the Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts for girls that say "who needs brains when you have these." A young group of feminists, Shalit spends many pages telling their story, leading up to their invitation to be guests at a NOW conference. Here is what one of the girls had to say about the conference:
We went to the NOW conference last week, and I support equality and would never like to be controlled by a man, but the NOW conference was more like a brainwashing feminist summit than anything else. They had this artistic performance that was so much about sex and how much all men suck; it really made me feel sick...Those three days were awfully confusing for me...I mean, we got the Women of Action award for what we've done, but...I think we've been misunderstood. Everyone thinks that we are so feminist, but, frankly, most of us are not that radical. We just want to be on par with men...I thought that they were very reasonable, middle-of-the-road like me, but I guess I was somewhat mistaken. (page 235)
The Girlcotters are evidence of NOW conferences hard at work to exert their influence on young women (where is the church????). It's exciting to know that this young woman could think for herself, that she could be confident and retain her self-respect when clearly NOW was going to be no help in that regard.

What Shalit points out in numerous ways in GGR is that 2nd and 3rd wave feminists cannot accommodate today's young feminists who embrace modesty as a way to value themselves. The feminists of previous generations hold that promoting modesty is a sell-out to patriarchy, but I can't understand how young women giving themselves over entirely without emotional or commitment safety is of any benefit to woman.

Desiring fair and equal treatment between men and women is a noble pursuit, but women have deceived themselves into thinking that being bad, engaging in casual sex and and other forms of exhibitionism puts them on par with men. In fact, it accomplishes quite the opposite and the evidence is that sexism is still a serious problem in our culture. I believe we can place the blame on women who have made it easy for men to not take any of us seriously.

September 14, 2008

Relationship with Jesus vs. List of Rules: An Unfair False Dichotomy

Have you ever heard or read the statement that the Christian faith isn't a list of rules to be followed, it's a relationship with Jesus? I've been hearing it a lot recently and I think it deserves a bit more nuance than what it seems to be receiving.

Where we begin is in understanding what exactly Christianity is. It is the one true religion. It is a system of thought based on the activity of the Triune godhead throughout history. It is the story of creation, fall, redemption, and consumation. It is about Jesus, God incarnate, who satisfied the demand of justice by paying the price for our sins. Christianity is the story of love of the Creator for his creation, and creation's love in return.

What Christianity is not is merely a set of do's and don'ts that provide a framework for salvation. Our faith is a gift from God, not something we receive for good behavior. We don't find our election dependent upon anything we do, and our salvation is not maintained by certain acts of obedience. But does this mean that "do's and don'ts" aren't a part of living our our faith? This is where I take issue with casually stating that Christianity isn't about following a list of rules, because in fact, the Christian life is all about loving God so much that we seek to reflect his goodness in all areas of our life with loving acts of obedience. By de-emphasizing rules, we over-emphasize an easy-believism that says it doesn't matter what one does from day to day, as long as they love God and are sincere. This doesn't seem dangerous? To say that Christianity isn't about a list of rules is to create a straw man argument. But for the younger people and younger believers who hears this, what they really hears is that we need not struggle with the ethical issues of our day.

As we prepare members of the community of faith to live in this world, we find that we are preparing them to encounter another set of moral precepts. Sripture tells us to avoid any resemblance of evil and to live our life in such a way that we bring glory to God. So how is it that we can have a relationship with Christ without our faith having a relationship to every day do's and don'ts? It is impossible to pursue a biblical faith--our relationship with God--without thinking Christianly about our every day activities. When we encounter dilemmas in life that the Bible speaks nothing about specifically, we have to reflect on biblical principles to determine the next step. But to say bluntly that Christianity isn't about a list of rules undermines a significant amount of scripture that emphasizes obedience and the pursuit of sinlessness. Perhaps, it over emphasizes a positional perfection over an ongoing sanctification. I think we need to use more care in how we communite this "relationship with God" that is becoming more and more abstract as we move further and further away from discussing ethics and morality among the community of believers.

September 13, 2008

Christian Charm: Loving God with the Heart, Good Posture, and a Clear Complexion

I know now I'm not crazy and that I've understood and perceived matters correctly--this book affirms it. Ministry to young women is in trouble. My friend Karen introduced me last night to a little booklet called the Christian Charm Notebook. Her copy is from 1972, but you can--shockingly--still purchase your own copy on Amazon and I am greatly disturbed by the fact that it is still available. So if you're looking for a book to help you grow young women who love God with their heart, soul, and mind, then this book isn't for you. Not a single mention of the life of the mind is to be found in it.

The book is full of a lot of advice on posture, hair styles, and manners. Not bad things to know about I guess. It begins by describing the inherent beauty of being born again, contrasted with the unattractiveness of unbelief, utilizing storm clouds, sunshine and heart-shaped faces to depict this distinction. Unfortunately, it all goes downhill from there, because what it accomplishes is equating godliness with physical attractiveness, aka Christian Charm. In lesson 1, the student is encouraged to consider her inward appearance:
I want to be lovely and beautiful within, so that I will please God. I realize that I cannot change my heart merely by self-effort. I realize that I must allow God to enter my life and do His transforming work within me.
And then, she is encouraged to consider her outward appearance:
I want to be attractive and charming, so that I will please others. I realize that this will not come about through wishful dreaming. I realize that I must work toward that goal diligently and steadfastly.
So then the students are asked to fill out of things they would like to change inside and out. Remember that the goal is to please others--when did it become ok for women to be the church?!?

You probably think that this book can only get better. Trust me, it doesn't. Lesson 6, page 31 is titled Femininity--My 'Crowning Glory,' stating that to be truly feminine
  • See that you look like a girl--not a boy! (1 Cor. 11:15; Deut 22:5)
  • Don't usurp the role of the male (1 Tim 2:12-13; 1 Pet 3:7)
  • Cultivate a quiet, gentle spirit (1 Pet 3:4; Titus 3:2)
  • Value your chastity (Prov 31:10; 1 Cor 6:19; 1 Tim 5:22)
The next page then provides a chart that shows those things that destroy femininity, and those things that increase it. Some on that list described as destroying femininity include "a bulky, flabby figure," "a dead-pan face," "a slouching posture," a "raspy, gravelly voice," "mannish attire," and "pessimism." Some that increase femininity include "a trim, disciplined body," "dainty, pretty clothing," "a lovely, graceful walk,"a queen-like posture," "modest self-confidence," and "ladylike reserve." For women of all ages who haven't been groomed for beauty pagents, this material could be devastating to their walk with Christ. If my spirituality is measured by the cleanliness of my cuticles (yes, page 35) then we have serious problems.

Some would immediately look at this book and just chuck it aside, regarding it as outdated. In fact, a review at Amazon said just that. "This is a sadly outdated book...a waste of money." I want to suggest that this book was NEVER dated. When it was first published in 1967, it was irrelevant. In 1950, it wasn't appropriate for girls. And in 1900 it was still a shameful attempt to box up femininity. This book affirms so many destructive behaviors that cause many young women to become obsessive, and then self-destructive when they learn how hard it is to please everyone else. Yes, a woman should care about her appearance, but any more than a man? If she has short hair, is she any less loved by God?

This books claim to fame is that it "exalts TRUE FEMININITY--modesty, purity and honor, rather than a bold outward display!" The problem is, it fails to counter culture's obsession with appearance in that it actually adopts similar standards. Christian Charm is clear that they are obsessed by appearance and equate it to a certain level of spiritual maturity. But there is truly nothing modest about this, and it will destroy the esteem and faith of so many young women exposed to it.

September 8, 2008

Women's Rights: Defined by Who?

Political commentators, popular feminists, and many writers in the blogosphere are pressing the issue of unfettered reproductive freedom as a fundamental, agreed upon right for all women and that anyone who disagrees with their views can not be pro-woman or an advocate for women's rights. The problem is, we don't all accept abortion and infanticide as a fundamental right for women, we see those as a violation of fundamental human rights, acts against human dignity.

No doubt inequalities exist between men and women throughout the world, and we can speak together against the atrocities occurring in the Middle East and other parts of the world against women in the name of family honor. But there is nothing in the core of our humanity that even implies that killing the unborn is a good thing, let alone a right for anyone. There is neither pride nor fulfillment in the destruction of our own kind, yet it is believed to be a universally understood human right.

Women's rights ought to be only those things that build character and bring the opportunity for peace and fulfillment to women's lives, the ability to pursue happiness without doing harm to others. Right now, abortion is legal, and as a result it is inferred as a fundamental right, but what is legal is not always moral or good. Once it was the case the slavery was legal, or that it was acceptable to discriminate on the basis of race. Appealing to the laws of the land is not the best argument for women's rights, and neither is the radical, seared conscious of those who promote abortion as a woman's fundamental right. I have little hope for a society that grounds women's rights in the willing and active violation of human rights.

Gllian Parrillo, the chair of NOW's pac, stated
We recognize the importance of having women's rights supporters at every level but, like Sarah Palin, not every woman supports women's rights.
Reproductive inequality may have been the thrust of 2nd wave feminism, but the pursuit of this these so-called rights has tipped the scales and prevented fathers of the unborn to keep their human rights intact. There is nothing right about these "women's rights" and the term is in need of some serious redefinition.

Men's and women's rights should not differ in any significant way, but perhaps if our laws were tougher and enforcement less lenient, women might enjoy a life of less physical vulnerability and violation. We should understand women's rights as something more decent and beautiful in juxtaposition to that which is proclaimed by extreme feminism.

September 4, 2008

Feminism's Fatalities

I commute to work everyday by train. I see lots of people of all ages and ethnicities. Its fun to take the same route each day and connect with other regular riders.

Today, I saw a young woman in her early 20's who stood out not because of her striking beauty, but because of the tee-shirt she so proudly modeled for each of us to appreciate. On the shirt, it stated "I kiss better than I drive." Immediately I was overcome with a sense of this what feminism has been fighting for? The freedom to be stupid? Granted, it was just a tee shirt, but there is nothing about it that inspires this girl to greater things--or keeps men from objectifying her. If feminism is teaching women that equality is the logical equivalent to self-deprecating stupidity, its time to take over the feminist cause.
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September 3, 2008

Obama: No Longer 'Above My Pay Grade'

On the way home from work I received an interesting email on my blackberry. From Obama's campaign manager, I was informed that I am one of the "most extreme" people ever to be seen in America because of my view on the nature of human life. Apparently it's no longer above his pay grade, he's quite clear here that big people have more rights than little people. I wonder if that makes him a 'size-ist.'

The issues of life and human dignity are now front and center again and the next 9 weeks are crucial on the political front on the issue of protecting human life. Obama should be held accountable for avoiding the question of human rights for the unborn and not understanding Bush's position on embryonic stem cell research at the Rick Warren discussion.

Here is what the email stated:
He [McCain] doesn't want Americans to notice that the Republican platform is the most extreme we've ever seen -- opposing stem cell research, denying a woman's right to choose no matter what the circumstance, and continuing to spend $10 billion a month in Iraq. 
To that, I ask with the greatest of profundity I can muster...huhOf conservatives--some of which Obama is trying to court--the letter explains what makes us "most extreme." I have included appropriate responses which reveal where the extremism actually rests.

They've come out against the life-saving possibilities of stem cell research. 
  • Conservatives want to save lives and are driven to compassion by an understanding of human dignity that transcends the pragmatism of liberalism. 
  • We stand against any research that demands the death of human life at the earliest stage and the exploitation of young women from whom eggs are required in order to pursue embryonic stem cell research. 
  • Conservatives fully support non-embryonic forms of stem cell research, note the recent news in the area of induced pluripotent stem cells.
  • Thus far, the "life-saving possibilities" are just that, possibilities...aka HYPE. There is no good science to back up such political pandering.
  • The above suggestion by the Obama campaign is dishonest in that it lacks of specificity. Perhaps they didn't get the press releases about the different areas of stem cell research.

And they make zero exceptions for a woman's right to choose -- even in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother. 

  • Conservatives who understand the inherent dignity of all persons at all stages recognize the dignity and value of life as a first order principle. Any "rights" that exist can only be derivative of this higher view of life. Without it, "rights" have no foundation and are stipulated only by the winds of the day.
  • For those of us who are prolife in every situation also recognize the difficult but rare cases. When a woman's life is truly at risk, and not from low self esteem or financial considerations, but when she may actually die, realistic steps are pursued by even the "most extreme" prolife individuals.
  • Sadly for those who have been victims of rape and incest, once again, we point to the inherent dignity of the unborn child. It is not her fault that the world in which she was conceived has become overly sexualized and disrespectful of the dignity inherent to each of us. We will continue to fail as a society to protect women and children from these great harms if we can't even recognize each person's worth.
  • Promoting the destruction of the smallest people perpetuates the problems stated above.
The "women's right to choose" is not a human right, it is a legal right. And as we know, bad laws are often repealed. It is my hope that Sarah Palin will bring to Washington D.C. a fresh perspective and contagious zeal for the dignity of all persons. It is my "most extreme" wish that she will inspire life to be granted to the 80-90% of Down's Syndrome babies who are currently being aborted by the women emotionally manipulated into being a "good mom" and sparing their children from a "life of suffering."

Obama is clear on what he believes about when human rights are conferred to people, and it isn't before they are born. 

Evangelical Women...Leaders?

In a response to Sally Quinn, a journalist at Newsweek and at the Washington Post, I supplied the following brief commentary about the evangelical perspective on Sarah Palin as VP. There is much more to add and I hope for the opportunity to say more:

I am a conservative evangelical woman who eagerly supports the Palin nomination, yet also believes only men are to hold lead pastor positions in the church. The difference? The church is not the same as the workplace. Women hold positions of authority in the workplace, something Scripture does not speak against. So if a woman can be a manager at Burger King, certainly she can be a VP.

The issue about womens roles in the home is a bit more fluid. In the Palin marriage, obviously there is some agreement on who does what. The same is true for my own home. That doesn't mean children/family do not come first for Sarah Palin. If the implication is that she cannot be putting her children/family first in her political ambitions, we are forced to say the same thing about husbands and fathers who pursue careers and provide for the home.

I hope I've adequately responded to your request to hear from evangelical women. Please feel free to contact me with further questions.

--Sarah Flashing,

(Find Quinn's blogpost and comments here:
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September 2, 2008

Where Women's Ministry Meets Youth Ministry

I've been reading The Good Girl Revolution over the weekend and will be posting a review of it in the coming days. Due to all the issues that young people face today, having to contend with an overly sexualized society and made to feel bad about being good, it's no wonder there is so much depression and despair among our youth. But I can't help but to probe a bit deeper into the disconnect between those who should be our role models and those who actually are--if this is a core issue with regard to this dilemma. In fact, the problem is not just within pop culture where young people admire the the Paris Hilton's and Brittany Spears' for their trendy clothes and rebellious spirit, the problem may also exist within the church. In what I'm about to say in no way suggests that the evangelical community is perpetuating the problem of sexualization, it's a different problem but is at its foundation fundamentally the same...a lack of appropriate role models.

Let me first begin by saying that I understand and value the existence of powerful youth ministries, and I'm familiar with many leaders in this area who are doing marvelous work. But....yes, there's a but. I can't help but wonder if the existence of youth ministry is in some way preventing the older women from having a Titus 2 influence on the younger women in the church. And this is a 2 way street...maybe the older women just aren't interested in influencing the younger generation. That's a problem.

I've attended a lot of women's ministry events over the years, and only a few have had a focus on the older women relating to the much younger women. We spend a lot of time talking about how we need to bridge the generational gaps, but often we end up not pursuing anything with the much younger women not involved in women's ministry. The excuse is that they are involved in youth ministry. It's not our job. They don't think we're cool. We're too old. We do things differently. Change how we do women's ministry? I think not. These are some of that attitudes, conscious or unconscious, that impact our inability to reach the younger women in the church.

For the biblically instituted ministry between women to occur, access needs to be granted and coordinated within the local church. Younger women (teens, high school, college) should not be viewed as aliens to the women's ministry, as too immature to be involved. No, the women's ministry should view their role as equipping young women for successful, godly living in all areas and spheres of life. From dating to homemaking, cultural issues to biblical studies, older women need to be actively influencing other women, cultivating an environment where positive and significant role models are readily found.

With this view of ministry in mind, women's ministry had to change. No longer can it be exclusively about the social activities and daytime bible studies. Engaging the young women means engaging their world, knowing everything about it and being ready to give an answer to them for the hope we have in Christ. It's about knowing theology and engaging cultural understandings of God and spirituality. It's about knowing the self...the sinful nature and our need for a savior, and how man seeks continuously to be autonomous from God's sovereign hand. In other words, women's ministry has to broaden her understanding in order to broaded her audience. Leadership teams need to invite younger, godly women to help bridge the generational gaps (intellectually/functionally) and youth ministry needs to encourage the development of young women in the context of women's ministry. Some churches might even consider a youth women's leader who is also a part of the women's leadership team. The bottom line is, if women's ministry wants to continue having a real impact on the lives of women into the future, it must consider new avenues of action.

This is a topic I often speak about. Should you have any interest in this message being communicated to your women's ministry, please contact me to arrange for a time.