Over a year ago, I tried to encourage a young Christian woman to dress modestly. You would have thought I’d counseled her to murder little children! All her friends wore their clothes that way, she reasoned, so who was I to tell her what to do? She was only following the fashion trends!
Fast-forward to Christian Twitter this past week, where a pastor bravely offered a man’s perspective on Christian women who dress provocatively. I’ve seen a lot of Christians vilified for standing on Biblical principles over the years, but never to this extent. According to his critics, he’s objectifying women while ignoring the responsibility men have to control their lustful thoughts. His critics ask what gives men the right to say when a hemline is too high, a neckline is too low or an outfit is too tight. They claim that, once again, men are oppressing women.
I have no problem agreeing that the Lord holds men responsible to control their thoughts. Jesus Christ certainly made that point abundantly clear:
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell. ~~Matthew 5:27-30 (NASB95)
That statement doesn’t sound to me like He winks at the sin of men who look too long and savor their fantasies. He has no trouble saying that such secret sin deserves damnation. So please don’t read this piece and decide that I’m beating up on women while saying “boys will be boys.”
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Having said that we should major on studying Scripture rather than focusing on educating ourselves on every false teacher, I also recognize that sometimes Christians really need to speak out against those who distort the Word of God. Plenty of Bible verses instruct us to do just that. Take, for instance, Paul’s closing directive to the Roman church:
17 Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. 18 For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. 19 For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. ~~Romans 16:17-20 (NASB95)
Obviously, we can’t avoid false teachers and doctrinal error without some idea of who and what to avoid. As I said Friday, immersing ourselves in studying false teachers holds serious dangers, but totally ignoring them also violates Scripture. And when we find it necessary to speak out against those people and trends that undermine doctrinal purity, it helps to remember the importance of speaking the truth in love.
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Does a Christian blogger really need to include a Statement Of Faith on his or her website? Strictly speaking, maybe not. There aren’t any actual rules or regulations for blogging — Christian or otherwise — because blogs are self-published, and therefore guided by the conscience of each author. From that perspective, one might argue that no one mandates that a Christian blog must include a Statement Of Faith, and thus one is unnecessary.
One might further argue that a blog itself is a Statement Of Faith since its individual posts over time reveal the author’s beliefs. I see merit in this supposition, particularly since a Statement Of Faith can’t possibly present every nuance of an author’s theology. Readers get to know a blogger over time, especially if articles cover a fairly wide range of subject matter. No writer possesses enough skill to condense all of his or her beliefs into a single webpage. If we want to fully understand a blogger, we have to read a good amount of that person’s work. Indeed, that commitment to read someone’s blog with a degree of thoroughness should be a priority in properly vetting that person. After all, anybody can copy-and-paste an orthodox Statement Of Faith from a website and then proceed to promulgate all kinds of error. For example, see Beth Moore’s What We Believe page and the About page for Joel Osteen’s church.
And yet, vetting a blogger (or any Christian ministry) begins with examining their stated doctrine. Look again at Beth Moore’s beliefs. Among all the points that do align with Scripture, she tucks in a crafty little item that demonstrates her lack of obedience to the very Bible that she earlier claimed to believe. She writes:
We believe we have been “baptized by one Spirit into one body” (1Corinthians 12:13) and recognize the value and equality of all members of the body of Christ. We are “all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
Did you notice that subtle opening to egalitarianism? It opens a big door to justify her unbiblical practices of preaching with men in the congregation. Thus, her Statement Of Faith drops a tiny clue that she’s not a teacher we ought to follow. Similarly, Joel Osteen’s page absolutely ignores the issue of sin. In fact, neither of them mention anything about judgment, hell or God’s wrath. leaving us to wonder why Jesus died on the cross. So their Statements Of Faith, while giving the appearance of fidelity to God’s Word, offer hints of doctrinal error,
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Each morning Daddy struggled to put on my leg braces. In an effort to move my leg into position, my muscles would tense to the point of becoming rigid and all but impossible for him to get into the brace. When I explained that I just wanted to help, he’d bellow, “Quit helping me — you’re making it harder!” My seven-year-old mind reeled with confusion and hurt.
Then I’d be at the school for handicapped children, working on an arithmetic problem or an art project. The volunteer assisting me, out of the kindness of her heart (or maybe impatience to get the job done), would do just a little something that I could have done myself. Invariably, Mrs, G. (one of the aides that took care of our physical needs) would see the infraction and give me a big scolding for accepting unnecessary help.
So what was a seven-year-old to do? Should I obey Daddy or Mrs. G.? Was I supposed to relax and let able-bodied adults take over, or was I supposed to do whatever I could? I loved and wanted to please both these adults, and yet carrying over the principles one taught me seemed to violate the principles that the other taught. I tried to be obedient, but it was genuinely difficult to discern how they wanted me to behave.The two scenarios happened repeatedly, and neither adult had the slightest idea that I found their instructions contradictory.
At that age, I hadn’t yet been introduced to the concept of context.
But I am not writing about my childhood angst for the purpose of talking about myself, Rather, I want to use my experience to illustrate the importance of understanding things within their appropriate context. As adults, we chuckle at my childhood dilemma because we see that trying to help Daddy with my braces was vastly different from letting volunteers do things that Mrs. G. knew I needed to do for myself. Context should have shown me how to respond in each situation.
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You don’t have to belong to the Southern Baptist Convention to have heard that its newly elected president, Ed Litton, preached a sermon almost word for word that outgoing SBC president J.D, Greear had previously preached. A simple Google search will verify this fact. Justin Peters put out a video showing both sermons, which you can view here. And this scandal most assuredly needs much discussion, especially because (in the words of the more liberal element of the SBC) the world is watching.
Although the concept of the watching world was used at the SBC meeting in June primarily to excuse a refusal to deal with Critical Race Theory directly, I believe more conservative Christians should turn it around. The world is indeed watching, and it sees a new SBC president who passed off another pastor’s sermon as his own. My educated guess is that the world will see this situation as evidence of Christian hypocrisy. But others have already written about that aspect of Litton’s actions, so I feel no need to join that echo chamber.
Instead, I want to apply this situation to Christian bloggers. I’d already been thinking about writing an article on the matter, and a recent email Justin Peters sent to me and a few others confirmed to me that such an article should be written.
Bloggers, my sisters, aren’t pastors. But because we supplement the ministry of pastors, we must hold ourselves to the moral and ethical standards that God expects of pastors, elders and teachers. James 3:1 states that teachers will incur a stricter judgment. Writing a Christian blog, regardless of how small a readership one has, demands moral integrity.
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What qualities should we look for in anyone (male or female) who professes to teach God’s Word?
Before I profile women bloggers and teachers that I believe merit our attention and trust, I would like to invest a little time in giving you tools for vetting such people for yourselves. In fact, you should use these tools to evaluate me! Discernment doesn’t come from letting someone tell you who to follow and who to avoid. Rather, it comes from knowing what characteristics God says a Christian leader should have.
As obvious as it seems, the most important characteristic of a sound teacher is her ability and obedience to handle the Word of God responsibly. Every teacher makes an occasional misstep, but a good teacher works diligently to apply proper hermeneutics when she presents a text.
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, ~~2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NASB)
Good Bible teachers find their doctrine from the Word rather than using Scriptures (usually out of context) to support their assertions. Not only do they depend on the immediate context of the verse or passage, but also the genre of the book they teach. For instance, Psalms is a collection of poems originally set to music, so often it uses metaphorical language. Trees do not literally clap their hands and believers are not literally sheep. Yet the four gospels record actual miracles, most notably Christ’s literal resurrection from the dead. These miracles must never be taught as metaphors or allegories!
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