People Say Stupid Things: What Not to Say When a Baby Dies

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Years ago, when our daughter Bethanne was born, I realized that when faced with difficult circumstances people often say stupid things. I know that most of the time the stupid comments come from good intentions. People mean to be kind, generally. They simply just don’t know what to say. Here’s a small sampling of things I’ve heard people say:

  • It’s for the best.
  • God needed another angel.
  • You’re young. You can have another one.
  • At least you know you can get pregnant.
  • They’re in a better place.
  • At least you have other children.
  • It happened for a reason.
  • I’m sure you’ll get pregnant again soon.
  • It’s better than having a child born with problems.

My “favorite” one from when Bethanne was born was the mom who told me she understood what I was going through because her son had been born autistic. Apparently, having a child born with a disability or with some challenges is like having your child die. I don’t doubt that there is a mourning that parents of children with disabilities face. But I wanted to shake her and tell her that I would have given almost anything to have Bethanne here every day to hug and kiss not matter what challenges she faced. After my anger faded, I realized that I just felt sorry for her and especially for her son. She couldn’t see the joy of her son.

There are so many others, but most are basically versions of the same. It doesn’t matter that many of these things are true. None of these things are kind. As Christians, we should seek to comfort each other. While we don’t grieve as those who have no hope, it’s appropriate to recognize that death is sad. It’s wrong, it’s horrible, it’s painful. It’s right to acknowledge that loss and to mourn.

Consider Jesus’ reaction to the death of his friend, Lazarus. Jesus knew that Lazarus was about to be resurrected. He knew that the pain and loss was temporary. He knew that joy would soon follow. But faced with the death of Lazarus and the mourning of Lazarus’ family, Jesus didn’t offer platitudes. Jesus wept.

Mourn with your friends. Comfort them. Given them a hug. And if you must say something, here are my suggestions:

  • I love you.
  • I’m so very sorry.
  • I’m praying for you.
  • Can I bring a meal, watch a child, clean your house, etc?

If you can’t think of anything to say, just stick to these and offer your friend a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear. They will need, at some point, to talk about their child. You are not hurting them by asking if they want to talk. You are not hurting them by remembering their child. After a short while, it will feel to them as if no one remembers, as if their child is forgotten. Love them, encourage them, and listen.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 ESV

 

 

Why do Reformed Christians still support BioLogos?

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An new article at creation.com linked to an interesting article at BioLogos by Darryl Falk, former president of BioLogos. Falk’s article was written in 2010 back when he was still president of BioLogos. In the article, he attempts to show how difficult it is to walk to middle ground between young earth creationism and atheistic evolution. His point, apparently, is that neither side understands them (at BioLogos) and both sides disagree with them. What’s fascinating is the extremely clear description of what BioLogos, as an organization, believes and and what BioLogos exists to do.

Falk is referencing an article by Daniel Harrell on the only options he sees for those who insist on an historical Adam and Eve:

Option #1 is that Adam and Eve were created with apparent age; Option #2 is (in Harrell’s words) “Adam and Eve exist as first among Homo sapiens, specially chosen by God as representatives for a relationship with him.”

Option #1 is the standard argument put forward by those who believe in a young earth created by God in six twenty-four hour days less than 10,000 years ago. BioLogos exists in no small part to marginalize this view from the Church.A fundamental part of our mission is to show that Option #1 is not tenable. Daniel Harrell knows this. All members of the BioLogos community know this. And the leaders of powerful young earth organizations like Answers in Genesis, Institute for Creation Research, and, Grace to You know that BioLogos exists to show that Option #1 is not tenable. Reasons to Believe (RTB) knows that we are diametrically opposed to Option #1, just as we are diametrically opposed to their untenable position that there has been no macroevolution. Finally, the folks over at the Discovery Institute know that we exist to remove “apparent age” from the lexicon of evangelical Christianity. Such a view makes a mockery of the entire scientific enterprise and its ability to reveal truths about nature. (emphasis added)

So my question is, given that BioLogos exists to teach Christians not believe in the special creation of Adam and Eve as Genesis 2 details, why exactly do Reformed pastors and believers support and promote BioLogos?

Many of these Reformed leaders assure us that they still believe in the special creation of Adam and Eve. But then why are they part of this organization devoted to undermining that doctrine? Two years ago at BioLogos’ third Theology of Celebration (hosted by Tim Keller in New York), Dr. Keller was quoted as saying:

To develop a Biologos narrative is ‘the job of pastors,’

Is it the “job of pastors” in the Reformed denominations to promote/defend/develop a “BioLogos” narrative that denies the special creation of Adam and Eve?

Did Jesus only preach about God’s wrath to the religious people of his day?

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Something that I’ve seen asserted in various books, articles, and sermons is the statement that Jesus only preached about God’s wrath to the religious people of his day. The idea is that Jesus had two basic messages: one of God’s wrath and the other of God’s grace. The first message was for the church and the religious. The second was for sinners. The application, then, is that we should also only preach grace to sinners.

While I absolutely believe that we should never preach about God’s wrath without also preaching of His grace and the salvation we have through Jesus, I don’t believe that this bifurcation of Jesus’s teaching is accurate. Jesus preached both God’s wrath and His grace to everyone, and so should we.

The first question to ask is did Jesus ever speak on wrath or punishment to sinners and those outside the religious leaders? To answer that question, we need to decide which portions of Scripture we should consider. Some believe that we can only look to the “red lettered” verses. But are those the only words of Jesus?

I think it’s important to remember that all of Scripture is God breathed. All of the Bible is the Word of God. The verses in the red letters are not more inspired than the rest. So, before we consider what Jesus spoke in the gospels, let’s look at some other portions of Scripture where there is a message or warning of God’s wrath to sinners.

One of the best known passages is probably from Jonah. After Jonah stops running from God, he spends days proclaiming a message from God to the people of Ninevah, definitely a group of sinners, no question. What’s the message God told Jonah to give to Ninevah?

Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4, ESV)

And what was the result of this message of impending destruction?

The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. (Jonah 3:6-10, ESV)

The people repented and believed in God. And the message God used to turn their hearts? One of wrath and destruction.

Of course, God’s wrath is a frequent theme in the prophets, but what about in the New Testament? Well, John the baptist (or baptizer) is called to prepare the people for the coming of the Savior. What is his message?

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him,“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn,but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. (Luke 3:7-18, ESV)

What was John’s message? One of coming destruction and wrath. Who was John preaching to? The people of Israel, certainly, but also tax collectors and soldiers are specifically mentioned. And these exhortations were considered “good news!”

This use of warnings and exhortations is the basis of the Reformed understanding of the first use of the law: to convict sinners of our sin. John Calvin wrote in his Institutes:

Thus the Law is a kind of mirror. As in a mirror we discover any stains upon our face, so in the Law we behold, first, our impotence; then, in consequence of it, our iniquity; and, finally, the curse, as the consequence of both. He who has no power of following righteousness is necessarily plunged in the mire of iniquity, and this iniquity is immediately followed by the curse. Accordingly, the greater the transgression of which the Law convicts us, the severer the judgment to which we are exposed. To this effect is the Apostle’s declaration, that “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” (Rom. 3:20). By these words, he only points out the first office of the Law as experienced by sinners not yet regenerated. In conformity to this, it is said, “the law entered that the offence might abound;” and, accordingly, that it is “the ministration of death;” that it “worketh wrath” and kills (Rom. 5:20; 2 Cor. 3:7; Rom. 4:15). For there cannot be a doubt that the clearer the consciousness of guilt, the greater the increase of sin; because then to transgression a rebellious feeling against the Lawgiver is added. All that remains for the Law, is to arm the wrath of God for the destruction of the sinner; for by itself it can do nothing but accuse, condemn, and destroy him. (Institutes 2.vii.7)

While the message of wrath should be tempered with the message of grace, to deny this first use of the law is to truncate the gospel. To understand our need for a Savior, we must first understand the depth of our sin. God’s reconciling peace means nothing until we know we are separated from God by the offense of our sin. Some say that sinners, especially those with no church background, are already well-versed in their own misery and have no need of being shown the truth of their sin. Certainly we should be gentle in our application here. Our message should be kind, but it isn’t kindness or love to not tell people that they are dying apart from Christ. Most people think they’re not that bad particularly when they compare themselves to others.

Back to our question, I believe that Jesus spoke throughout the Scriptures on both God’s wrath and God’s mercy. But what about in the gospels. Did Jesus preach on God’s wrath in the gospels? Certainly. But who was the audience? Let’s look at some passages.

In Matthew 13, Jesus is preaching to a crowd by the sea. He gave the following parable:

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9, ESV)

He explained the parable this way:

And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9, ESV)

In Luke, when Jesus is sending out the 72 disciples, He speaks of the destruction of whole cities:

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:13-16, ESV)

Again in Matthew, Jesus is speaking to the crowd in parables:

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14, ESV)

And in Luke, Jesus is speaking to the crowd:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5, ESV)

And again:

He went on his way through towns and villages, teaching and journeying toward Jerusalem. And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:22-30, ESV)

This is a small sampling of Jesus’s teaching recorded in the gospels. While it is absolutely true that Jesus spoke with great kindness and gentleness to His people, His message to the crowds, both sinners and religious, was one of both God’s wrath and God’s mercy. We should be equally kind and gentle in our gospel presentation, but we should not shy away from speaking the whole truth, preaching the message of reconciliation we’ve been given.

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21, ESV)

If it looks like Rome …

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I’ve been noticing a trend within the Reformed Presbyterian world. Many churches seem to be drawn to practices that have more in common with Rome than with Geneva. I’m not really sure what exactly the attraction is, but here are some of the things I’ve noticed, in no particular order:

  • Eucharistic liturgy
  • Intinction
  • Monastic Retreats
  • Contemplative prayer
  • Vestments
  • Observance of Ash Wednesday/Lent

It seems worthwhile, given the current fascination, to consider these practices and to ask whether they are in keeping with Scripture and our Reformed Presbyterian heritage.

First, while there are many opinions and preferences on liturgical style in worship, there is more going on here than simply responsive readings. Some churches have begun to borrow liturgy from the Catholic Eucharist mass to use in their own communion services. Most often what is used is the “mysterium fidei”

Minister: Let us proclaim the mystery of faith:
All: Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.

These words are absolutely true. Christ has indeed died, risen, and will come again. But it’s important to consider the origin and meaning of this piece of liturgy.

This liturgy comes from the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The purpose of the liturgy is to consecrate the host or Eucharist for the celebration of the communion rite. The mysterium fidei comes from the part when the priest consecrates the wine, turning the wine into the blood of Jesus.

This is important because the “mystery of faith,” according to the Catholic church, is that once the bread and wine have been consecrated they are transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. Which is why the consecrated elements, bread and wine, are held up for veneration. In fact, the entire celebration of the Eucharist liturgy is to offer up Christ as a sacrifice to God each and every time.

John Calvin wrote in his Institutes:

Does not each mass promise a new forgiveness of sins, a new purchase of righteousness, so that now there are as many testaments as there are masses? Therefore, let Christ come again, and, by another death, make this new testament; or rather, by innumerable deaths, ratify the innumerable testaments of the mass. Said I not true, then, at the outset, that the only true death of Christ is obliterated by the mass? For what is the direct aim of the mass but just to put Christ again to death, if that were possible? (IV.18)

Why would any Reformed Presbyterian believer want to return to Eucharistic liturgy in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper? We certainly don’t believe that the bread and wine become the actual body and blood of Jesus. Words have meanings, and liturgy has a history. Is our own liturgical history so empty that we need to borrow words from a ceremony whose very meaning is contrary to all we believe?

John Calvin, like many of the Reformers, had a liturgy. It was Biblical and beautiful. As the author of the article noted, John Calvin believed that simplicity was good in liturgy:

Liturgical practices that call attention to themselves obscure God, kill worship, and subvert the life of faith. One must understand Calvin’s long passages against images, relics, veneration of the saints, sacramental ism, and all human ceremonies as his conscientious effort to restore direct, simple fellowship between God and his people. What was at stake was the renewal of spiritual life. For John Calvin, the true preaching of the Word, heartfelt prayer, congregational praise, and proper use of the sacraments were the liturgical means for joining the believing worshiper to the living God.

Maybe we should look to our own history and liturgical tradition first when considering our order of worship.

A related topic is the practice of intinction. Intinction, or dipping the communion bread into the wine, is a practice that originated with the Catholic and Eastern churches. One of the most common reasons given for the practice within those churches was to reduce the risk of spilling the consecrated wine. Remember, once the wine has been consecrated it is believed to be the actual blood of Christ.

Most of the current arguments for intinction, such as reducing the time it takes to celebrate communion and being more hygienic than drinking from a common cup, are more pragmatic. Some ask why it even matters how we celebrate communion. Rick Phillips answers:

Still, people will say, “Okay, but why does this really matter?” The first answer is that it always matters greatly how we respond to the clear teaching of our Lord. A spiritually-alive church will “rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11) at the Word of God. We should joyfully desire fully to obey the Scriptures and fearfully tremble at the thought of doing otherwise. This is a very big matter for any church and denomination, and it makes the intinction debate important.

Second, intinction matters because the Lord’s Supper is important to the life of the church. To say that this is a “silly” debate that “wastes our time,” raises questions about what our ministers think is important to the spiritual life and health of our churches.

Another curious trend within the Reformed Presbyterian world is the fascination with monastic retreats and the related focus on contemplative prayer. Several churches have begun having silent retreats at monasteries and abbeys. What is the purpose of such a retreat? According to one abbey:

PRAYER & RECOLLECTION
The monastic milieu offers a place apart “to entertain silence in the heart and listen for the voice of God – to pray for your own discovery.” (Thomas Merton)

Communing with the Lord requires a measure of solitude, a stillness and an emptiness, a waiting on and attending to the Spirit. Silence fosters and preserves the climate of prayer and is thus a fundamental part of the Gethsemani retreat experience.

Prayer is necessary and silence can be blessing, but the mystical approach approach inherent in listening for the voice of God is not in keeping with what the Bible teaches. Contemplative prayer and mysticism are becoming increasingly popular within the Reformed Presbyterian world. Consider the popularity of Sarah Young’s book, Jesus Calling. Mrs. Young, wife of a PCA missionary, wrote her book as if Jesus were speaking directly to her:

Increasingly, I wanted to hear what God had to say to me personally on a given day. I decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever I believed He was saying. I felt awkward the first time I tried this, but I received a message. … I have continued to receive personal messages from God as I meditate on Him. (Introduction to Jesus Calling)

Meditating and listening for a private, direct message from God is contrary to what the Reformers taught regarding the sufficiency of Scripture:

God is a speaking God to be sure. He has spoken and continues to speak to his people. In past days of redemptive history God spoke in various ways through the prophets and apostles (Heb 1:1-2). But the canon is now closed. We live in that privileged age of redemptive history where we possess God’s completed and inscripturated Word. It is a living and active Word. It is an unerring and authoritative Word. It is also a sufficient Word not needing to be supplemented by extra-biblical voices, messages, revelations, or vague murmurings.

As the saying goes: If you want to hear God speak, read the Bible. If you want to hear God speak audibly, read the Bible aloud. We have Scriptures which are the inspired, inerrant Word of God. Why would we seek something more?

Equally curious is the move towards wearing Catholic style robes and vestments, including the increasingly popular clerical collars. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with robes and stoles and collars of various shapes and colors. However, certain styles are strongly associated with particular religious traditions that we are not part of as Reformed Presbyterian churches. While I agree that these robes, etc. are visually striking, if a pastor wants to wear a robe, why not a traditional Geneva gown? Why look like something we aren’t?

Last, an appropriate one for this time of year, many churches have begun celebrating Ash Wednesday and Lent. I have absolutely nothing against prayer, fasting, and reflecting on Jesus and His death and resurrection. However the historic practice of observing Lent is more than that:

However, the observance of Lent in the life of the church of the Middle Ages was a required fast, not voluntary or optional as it is in many churches today. In fact, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) has made the observance of Lent obligatory for all its members. This is well established in the Canon Law of the RCC. …

Therefore, according to the RCC, to fail to observe Lent and its required fasts is a violation of established church law and sinful. While it is certainly appropriate for Christians to observe times of fasting and sober reflections as an expression of their devotion to their Lord, it is quite a different matter for the church to bind the consciences of believers with observances which are not mandated in Scripture.

Many articles have been written about Lent and why Reformed believers should question the practice, but what is important to remember is that the purpose of Lent, historically, is penance and the earning of merit towards salvation. It is a practice so antithetical to the doctrine of justification by faith alone. If something is a sin, we should stop doing it, but not just for 40 days. If something is not a sin, we are free to enjoy it or not. Our lives should be always marked with sober reflection of our sin and of our salvation.

In the end, I’m not sure why so many Catholic practices are finding their way into Reformed Presbyterian churches. It seems to me that these things have the “feel” of worship, and maybe that is the attraction. Maybe there is boredom or discontent with our own traditions. Maybe there is a desire to “do church” differently. Whatever the reason, maybe we should stop and reconsider. All of these things are part of a religious tradition that our spiritual ancestors broke away from. Maybe we should give more thought as to why.

A Response to the He-Man Women Haters Club

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I really wasn’t planning to make a full response to the boys over at that blog that shall remain nameless. My general approach with them is “don’t feed the trolls.” However an astute reader, Kassandra, has written an impressive reply that addresses the brothers and their concerns with my post on Biblical Patriarchy. Here is her reply in full, posted here with her permission.

Kassandra:

Interesting post from Bayly. Completely unresponsive to yours, of course, but the patriarchy set are often like old-fashioned communists. In response to any argument as to the flaws in their theory and its unpleasant consequences, they’ll usually settle for calling you a capitalist, short-hand for self-deluded, power-hungry oppressors of mankind. I find this sort of response unpersuasive, unhelpful, and irritating.

I first got bogged down in Bayly’s spurious “I met this minor theologian that you quoted in passing as making a point with which you agreed, and he was a feminist.” Ugh. No one cares what this fellow we’ve never heard of said at dinner…with nuns (Why mention the nuns? As they say, if there’s a nun over the fireplace in the first act…). Why didn’t Bayly address Bloesch’s thought? He was cited for his idea, not as someone we can all agree is an authority. So what if he’s a feminist? Even a feminist might stumble upon a good idea every once in awhile, like a blind pig. What Bloesch says appears to be true, feminist or not. But labels, and their misuse, are the sin qua non of Bayly’s post.

Bloesch’s claim is pretty modest–some men are tyrants that leave their families in “servile dependence and submission.” A claim that humans abuse power seems modest enough. No one who bothered to read a bit of Proverbs and a minor prophet or two could seriously claim that abuse of the people one has power over is not wrong. It is therefore perplexing that instead of telling us why the patriarchy movement is not subject to such abuse, or no more subject to abuse than usual, Bayly settles for labeling everyone involved a feminist, as if that settles the question.

On this point, I have bad news for Bayly. Outside the patriarchy movement, those of us who think the gals shouldn’t be church officers and should be submissive to their own husbands are pretty much never referred to as feminists. By anybody. Especially actual feminists. Slapping a label on someone that doesn’t suit is the essence of Bayly’s entire post.

Interestingly, Bayly labels Sproul Jr. and Doug Wilson complementarians, while you, with your more generally accepted version of complementarianism, must be a feminist. While I’m sure both chaps claim to be complementarians, they are also leading lights of patriarchy. If they were totally in the camp with the rest of us lesser complementarians, they wouldn’t have to have a separate name. Which they gave themselves. This “have my cake, eat my cake” predilection is also something FV is predisposed to. Teaching something rather different while insisting on keeping the old label is not just confusing, it can be fraudulent. Slapping a Gucci label on a Walmart handbag doesn’t make it a Gucci bag.

I particularly enjoyed Bayly’s nonsense about your being “inconsistent” because you recognize some authority relationships as valid and others as invalid claims to authority unsupported in Scripture. To make this point, he grossly mischaracterizes your argument as one that implies inequality any time an authority relationship exists. This is rather like saying that because I believe I have a duty to submit to the President of the United States that I also have a duty to submit to the local mob boss. Not everyone who claims authority claims it validly. False claims of authority, because they cannot be claimed on the basis of Scripture, are often based on vague references to nature and inherent inequality. Valid claims of authority don’t need the trappings of inequality because they are supported by the text.

If Bayly believes the claims of patriarchy as to all male authority in civil society are valid, he needs to support the claim, not just attack your Reformed bona fides. Again, using labels in a way no one else seems to use them, he appears to imply that you can’t be Reformed unless you agree with Knox and Calvin about everything. The Reformed Baptists would be surprised. Generally, when the rest of us refer to the Reformation, we’re predominantly talking about the radical shift in soteriology and ecclesiology of the period, not haircut regulations (seriously) and not theories on government (in which the Reformers were much-surpassed by their successors a century or two on).

Support for patriarchy’s claims about civil authority would preferably come from Scripture, not the Reformers (medieval theocratic government models haven’t aged well, even the Protestant ones). I’m afraid Knox and Calvin, impressive beards aside, are not our Apostles (or popes). Reformers are not infallible, not sinless, not always right. Luther, also a Reformer with a capital R, said some downright vicious things about, and advocated some downright vicious actions against, Jews. Take from the Reformers what is good, what stands the test of Scripture, or of time and prudence if Scripture is not implicated, and leave behind the wicked, the culturally dictated, and the downright silly (haircut regulation falls squarely in this category).

The most disturbing thing over at Bayly’s blog, though, was not his silly post about how disagreeing with him (or Doug Wilson) makes you a feminist. Far more disturbing was the January 19 post, where he felt the need to point out that women are, in fact, moral agents…twice. In what sort of subculture is this a point worth making and not just assumed without discussion? Perhaps the kind that treats women as less than fully human.

Body Image

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One of my most persistent struggles in life has been over body image. It started in elementary school when one of the girls called me “fat.” It’s amazing that one girl’s cruelty could have a life-long effect, but it has. For the record, here is a picture of me in early elementary school. (That’s my sweet little brother in the picture with his dear friend, Ivy. Aren’t they cute!)

Having decided at an early age that this cruel girl was right, I went through most of my childhood and teen years convinced that I was fat. And since guys rarely asked me out (I can count the number of dates I had before I met Matt on one hand), I felt like I had good evidence that I just wasn’t at all attractive.

So, I have struggled for many, many years with how I see myself. Being married to Matt has done wonders to my self-image. It still honestly amazes me that Matt thinks I’m beautiful, but I’ve decided to accept that he does and not question it. Which brings me to my point in writing this.

Ladies, it’s time to stop listening to the “world” and it’s values in determining our worth and our standards of beauty. A woman’s worth and beauty are not determined by a number on a scale or a size on a pair of jeans. While I completely agree with the importance of being healthy, eating balanced meals, and exercising, it’s time for us to stop being so critical of ourselves and so discontent with who God made us to be and what He made us to look like.

For most of us, at our age and stage of life, we owe a good bit of our current “shape” to having had children. Why is this a bad thing? I wouldn’t trade my children for anything, not even the 28-inch waist I had before they were born. And, if “Spanx” means anything to you, you know exactly what I mean. Ladies, we are not rounder and saggier because we’ve “let ourselves go.” Our bodies bear the evidence that we are moms. Society doesn’t value that. Somehow, we are supposed to have either the bodies we had as teenagers or the bodies of anorexic, teenaged boys. But, why? Why should we look like we never had children? Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. Being healthy, eating well, and exercise are good things. Unrealistic expectations, aren’t.

As a side note, do you know why women have cellulite and men don’t? (No, I don’t think it’s because of the Fall, although maybe indirectly.) Women store fat in neat little pockets so that they can access them for pregnancy and breast-feeding. Cool, huh?

So, let’s stop the fad diets, the quick weight loss fasts, the diet drugs, and the self-loathing. Let’s remember that God made us as we are and that His love for us is not based on how much we look like the latest air-brushed model on the magazine.

Do your past experiences affect your present Church membership?

Recently, my husband and I were talking about the things we’ve been through with churches and with other church members in our past. We have both good and bad experiences, and I suspect that that is true of most people. One of the things we’ve heard over the years is how many people say they reason they don’t attend church anymore is that they’ve been hurt or offended by a church or by people claiming to be Christians. By the way, I don’t mean physically abused here, although that certainly is part of some people’s history.

I wondered how many people have bad church experiences and whether or not they still are members of a church. So, I’ve put together this little poll. The answers are anonymous, so feel free to be honest.

Misunderstood Verses

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One of the lessons that I do with the boys for school is memory verses. I have a great book with Bible verses, catechism questions, and such by age. I’m really enjoying it, and the boys are doing well with memorizing. (Of course, young brains have so much less information to remember, so it’s so much easier for them.)

One of the verses is Psalm 23:1. Since we are using the ESV, the verse is “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” This is the same as the NAS verse I memorized as a child. I remember very, very well that this verse confused me.

I heard it this way: The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. As in, He is the Shepherd, but I don’t want Him. Now, even in my very early understanding of the Bible, I understood that everything in the Bible was true, so I knew this had to be true. I knew that Jesus was our Shepherd, and that that was a good thing. So for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why we would not want Him as our Shepherd, not to mention why we would say such a thing in Scripture.

Every time we talked about the passage or did the memory verse, I would puzzle over it. I finally came to the understanding that it must be part of our sin nature, that He is our Shepherd (a good thing) but that we often don’t want Him (a bad thing). Never once did I ever ask a single adult about it. Not my dad (the pastor). Not my mom. Not my Sunday school teachers. No one. Why? Beats me.

It wasn’t until I was considerably older and had studied more literature that I discovered the other meaning of “want.” Between that and reading the punctuation of the sentences I FINALLY understood what the verse was really saying.

So, when the boys read the verse, I stopped to make sure they understood it.

Do you have any similar misunderstandings from your childhood?

The Danger in Hedging the Law

hedgeShortly after Moses came down from the mountain with the Law, the people of God began to try to understand what it meant, how it applied to their lives, and how to obey it. They were very serious about obeying God’s word. So serious, in fact, that to protect themselves from disobeying, they set up “hedges” around the laws. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain became don’t even speak His name. Don’t boil a calf in it’s mother’s milk became don’t eat dairy and meat at the same meal.

Those who built the hedges were really good, godly people. They acted out of love and respect for God and for their fellow believers. They wanted to be obedient. But what they did was create an onerous, impossible system of rules and regulations that no one could hope to keep. The hedges or add-ons became equal to the laws that God had given. The people were hurt two-fold by these extra rules.

On the one hand there were so many rules that they hung around the people’s neck like a milestone. On the other hand, the Pharisees added a whole layer of self-righteousness in their mistaken belief that they were so much better than everyone else because they kept these laws (or so they believed). They missed the point of the law, which was to drive them to God in recognition of their need for a Savior.

So what does this have to do with us today? Quite a lot actually.

As Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun.” There is always a tendency to “hedge” God’s law. There is always a trend towards self-righteousness. We want rules that are easy to follow, check lists with bite-sized pieces of law that we can obey and feel good about ourselves and how we match up to others. Not sure what I mean, well, think about these topics.

-How we worship God. A very important topic, and one many disagree on. What style of music is right? Contemporary? Traditional hymns? Psalter only?

-”Godly dating” Only group dates? Only courtship? Girls can’t ask guys out? No kissing before the wedding?

-Disciplining our children. Spanking? Time-outs? Consequences?

-Schooling our children. Private school? Public school? Home school?

-Drinking, dancing, smoking?

And those are just a very, very few issues. Everyone has opinions about all of these issues. Who’s right? Well, I don’t know. That’s why I read my Bible, pray, listen to good advice, and talk to my pastor. Then I make my decisions, but that’s all they are.

The problem comes when we take good advice and elevate it to the level of Scripture. I’m not arguing for moral relativism. There are absolute rights and wrongs in life. But there are also lots of grey areas where I believe God has called on us to use our best judgment, and not judge others who decide differently.

Colossians 2:8,16-23

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

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