Deconstruction? Why not just Doubt?

“I am weak, frail, sinful and ignorant.”  I wonder if that confession might save a lot of grief.  It isn’t an easy series of predicates, to be sure.  Few things in my upbringing (and our culture) promoted such an outlook on life.  But surely those things are true even if few admit it.

What a 23 year old can do at the gym, a 53 year old can’t.  What lingers in our genetic history only needs a certain provocation before its ugliness is revealed.  And is there a moment when I’m not either swimming in sin or drying off from it?  And, what do I really know?  I’ve been a life-long student even attaining to a doctorate but do I know the end from the beginning, the “alpha and the omega” of my life to say nothing of a stranger’s?  No.  Like it or not I am weak, frail, sinful and ignorant—and so is every single person who ever lived (save one).

But then what happens?  If we’re paying attention to the instruction God gave Noah—to build ordered societies out of families—then people like me make associations, organizations or denominations with others.  And, in those associations good things do happen.  Yet even with the best of intentions, we still cannot shake the things that will always be true of us: weakness, frailty, sinfulness and ignorance.  

Here’s why I think a confession like the one above will save us a lot of grief: institutional failure in inevitable.  By that I mean, we will fail to be who we are supposed to be and others will fail us as well.  Our churches, our schools, our parents, our mentors, our heroes—each will reveal its flaw(s).  And how will we deal with it then?  Do we give grace as we hope to receive in our moment of failure? 

These days not really.  Enter into common parlance, “deconstruction.”  An insidious once-literary conception has now been adopted culturally to guide us when we are let down, sinned against or offended.  You see, instead of holding fast to inherent human weakness, frailty, sinfulness and ignorance, we presume that all institutions should be flawless.  Or worse, that I deserve to have nothing arrayed against me.  

So then, when a pastor preaches something we don’t understand or don’t agree with or a spiritual mentor reveals he drinks to excess at times or the traditional marriage we grew up in seems “bigoted” or “stifling” instead of questioning our own perspective, we “deconstruct.”  We assume we’ve been duped or hoodwinked and we work to tear the whole thing down—we become cultural Marxists in our own souls!

It’s actually quite arrogant when we stop and think about it.  In some of its forms, we mock and scoff and demean the preacher, church or institution thinking we know best,  “I must cast off the bigoted notions of the Bible: how could a loving God condemn to hell?  Bah!  I’m done with God.”  In other forms, we were wrongly taught, erroneous (or sinfully led) and so we automatically assume it’s all wrong.  But the response is still the same, “I will not give charity or investigate; I will simply assume it is shot through with corruption and burn it down.”

Whatever happen to doubt?  I don’t mean skepticism or cynicism but rather the humble acknowledgement that I am weak, frail, sinful and arrogant.  We assume we don’t know.  We recognize bias is possible.  We leave room for (unfortunately) sin.  We adopt a real and abiding recognition that things just are not what they are supposed to be—including me.  

Sinners do sinful and destructive things, it’s true.  We cannot be naïve and expect all is always well.  We must doubt or, rather, question.  But deconstruction is predicated upon omniscience, right?  “I know what’s best and this isn’t it.”  That is as sad as it is arrogant.  Life is hard and we aren’t the Lord.  It’s high time those who claim to follow Christ act like it.

Seven Observations about our Culture

Here in America, we don’t face the same kind of pressure as our brethren worldwide or in history.  Our culture’s brand of hostility is quite different but just as threatening.  What does this mean for the church?  Perhaps the first step in answering that question is taking stock of our culture.  In the spirit of 1 Chronicles 12:32,[1] consider the very short cultural observations below as the springboard for a few ministry recommendations.  Our culture is:

#1: Individualistic.  

While it is always true that everyone wants to do what is right in his own eyes, this culture has made that a cardinal, that is key, virtue.  Each of us is to seek to be the authentic version of ourselves and no one knows what that means better than “me / I.”  Therefore, making judgments and accountability, in general, is viewed as out of place because only “I can know how I must live.”    

Perhaps this is no different than other times but this culture is zealous to cause us to make ourselves in ways that only the “I” thinks is appropriate, that is, in my own image.  The culture pounds directly on the door of what it means to be image-bearers of God.  No longer are the shaping institutions (i.e., church, tradition, nation, family or school) valued for shearing off rough edges on our ways to adulthood as we’ve historically known it.  Now, their role is to simply assist the “I” on my journey to whatever suits me.  

#2: Autonomous.  

This is, of course, connected to being individualistic.  Only here to determine who I am, I must be a law unto myself.  If push comes to shove, no one gets to tell me what to do or who to be.  I submit to others because, in my judgment, it is good for me to do so; it brings me advantage.  Our culture wants each individual to believe he is special, able to make his own uninfluenced decisions while being above correction (e.g., no fat shaming).  

Like never before, we have the pressure and the opportunity to “curate” our lives in almost any area: body art, social media, entertainment, college, jobs, food and drink and clothing.  As long as it “fits” it stays and the “other” can have nothing to say in challenge.  All of this is to say that I do not have to let anyone “in” who would endanger my efforts to be “me.”  I censor those who have different opinions or I block them from any influence on me.  

What does this look like?  Politicians don’t need their constituents—they do what they want to stay in power; schools don’t need their students—they do what is necessary to stay employed; women don’t need men—reverse sexism is the norm; children don’t need parents—reverse ageism at work; employees don’t really need to work—it’s just a necessity to buy an Americano with oat milk and two pumps of hazelnut.[2]  Forget people seeing the need for a sovereign, self-glorifying God who turns the clay into whatever He wants!

In our nation individualism has been valued and usually rightly directed because its pursuit happened in the context of shaping institutions that were allowed to guide our lives.  Now, “I” am my only shaping institution.

#3: Materialistic.  

American culture has always been consumeristic.  Now, with the focus on the individual so strong, accumulation and consumption are key parts of our cultural self-image.

Image maintenance requires materialism because we have to be keeping up with our “influencers.”  Now, malls no longer drive consumerism; it is social media.  With it, we have access to curated images of people and scripted “advice” from influencers about how to have our best lives.  Monetized offerings of influencers draw us in and open our wallets.

Without social media, we were content to “compete” with neighbors (who were mostly like us), classmates or co-workers.  We didn’t have access to the rich and famous on the coasts so we didn’t feel so much pressure to live their lives.  As we were exposed to more social media and the cultural drift to brazen self-expression, that changed (Is it strange how these days there’s never been more consumer debt: $841B in the first quarter of 2022?[3]).  Now, isolated and anonymous “influencers” are available immediately and they have become the gurus of culture.  With millions of “followers” how can we refuse to become like one of them?  

#4: “Sex-pressive.”  

This is now a gross obsession in our culture.  No culture is immune to sexual immorality but our culture has now endorsed and celebrates the expression of whatever sexuality a person deems necessary no matter how deviant (see #’s 1-2).  Public marches with naked men and women; Drag Queen shows in libraries and even “churches;” vulgar public signage about sexual body parts; sexually aggressive taunts by angry women—all of these are the currency of our age.

Sexuality has become the main way individuality is expressed.  For those of age, promiscuity, immodesty, TikTok videos or public protesting are common.  For the young, it is the more demure but more troubling pronoun choice.  No longer is it grades, income, possessions or intellect: no one asks “What’s your degree in?”  Instead it is, “What are your pronouns?” Given the pushback in our public schools over deviant “literature” (e.g., Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe) we are not far in our culture from mainstreaming some of the most obscene sexual deviancy: pederasty, bestiality,[4] polyamory, etc.  Children are being groomed in entertainment and in schools so that in the future what is deviant and destructive will be accepted or even cherished.

#5: Undisciplined.  

The disappearance of civil discourse and discussion is a symptom of waning self-control.  Respect, especially across tribal lines, can hardly be earned in such a climate.  (Indeed, it seems that the only thing that exerts discipline is power.[5])  

Moderation is no longer necessary.  Benders, getting high, changing jobs frequently, immodesty, slovenliness and aggressive language are all tools the culture has authorized so that the self can be expressed.

Women who are quiet, gentle or submissive are mocked; many are recklessly the opposite.  Men no longer take to themselves the responsibilities of leadership, strength or accountability: they actively seek to be or are content to be, passive.  Children act as if they have nothing to learn from their elders while they are also held up as paragons of courage or wisdom.[6]  Clothing styles, public language, a lack of discipline in public schools, violent public protests all point to an unchained culture that is no longer responsive to the need for self-discipline.

#6: Fearful.  

In a highly complicated magic act, expressive individualism is combined with terror.  The dose of COVID-19 reality has terrified people.  We have existed for far too long clinging to what we thought were immovable anchors: medical science and economics.  COVID pried the scales of self-sufficiency off our eyes.

Now, for various reasons, few want to be courageous.  Self-censorship, for example, in public spaces is the norm. While it would appear that the “speech police” courageously defend the marginalized against oppressive speech, they only protect the status quo of fear.  “I’m afraid of viewpoints that challenge my decisions, so I’m happy to censor you or submit to those who are censoring you.”  The utter primacy of living for self requires violence against opposing viewpoints (which is really acting in fear of them).  

Now, many scan for justification to stay afraid: coronavirus variants,[7] climate changes, elections, China / Russia, etc.  Why?  Ironically, it gives me excuse not to be courageous.

#7: Earthly.  

While it is not surprising the world would lack a sense of the eternal, the proliferation of the “nones” (those without any stated religious interest) is creating a not just a secular but also a suppressive culture.  In public spaces, it is now hard to conceive of why anyone would hold to an afterlife, a judgment for how we’ve lived or the necessity of prayer.[8]  

The reality is that everyone does know; no one is innocent (e.g., Psalm 19, Romans 1:19-23).  The apostle Paul tells us the worldly response to God’s creational witness is to suppress that truth (Romans 1:18).  That suppression has now become the majority view.  Our culture now demands no talk of the afterlife.  Actively denying any sense of the hereafter, by necessity the culture is preoccupied only with the here and now.  Like a child covering her ears so she won’t hear a train barreling down the tracks at her, all that matters in this culture is what can be made of the “now.”  

In the 1930’s, J. Gresham Machen once said on broadcast radio, “We are living in an age when men have forgotten God.  They have become engrossed in their own affairs.  They have been puffed up in their pride.  They have put God out of their thoughts.  The result is that our boasted civilization is rushing rapidly to its fall.”  That was close to century ago!

[1] “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…”

[2] I think the recent article where Facebook and Google warn their employees that they actually have to work is stunning.  



[5] For example, the recent effort by the FDA to control the health of black and brown people by banning Newport menthol cigarettes:

[6] Why suddenly do Greta Thunberg or David Hogg get to lecture the culture on the environment or gun control?

[7] For example, wearing masks in public.  It is remarkable to watch people re-mask after the effectiveness of masks to “stop the spread” has been utterly debunked:

[8] Aaron Renn calls this the “Third World” where the accepted norm is unbelief:  See also Carl Trueman, and in his book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self

Yes, Christian, do go and vote.

Asking someone whether he is going to vote has become like asking someone his income: we have a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy when it comes to our “involvement” in the political scene in this country. Among Christians this is unnecessary. We have the privilege of participating in our governance in this country. A privilege given to us by God and it seems to me we should all take advantage of it.

There doesn’t even need to be confusion on for what or whom to vote, either. Where do we look for guidance? How about Genesis 9?

And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon eery beast of the earth and upon eery bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And, as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. But, you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will requires and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed, for God made in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply and increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”

Far from some in the Twitterverse (or elsewhere) that flatly tell us we cannot vote Democrat or we cannot vote Republican, looking to the guidance we find here allows more accurate considerations.

  1. The centrality of building society out of ordered families. “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth….And you, be fruitful and multiply and increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.”
  2. Sustaining human life on the earth. “As I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.”
  3. The protection of human life on earth. “And for your lifeblood, I will require a reckoning.”

These three enterprises comprise the charge by God the Creator to all mankind at all times. Noah was to rebuild the human race: centered on families, their sustainment and their protection.

  • What is required to make and prosper families that fill the earth? Vote for that.
  • What is required to sustain human life on earth? Vote for that.
  • What is required to protect families? Vote for that.

There’s a lot found in each of these enterprises: schools, supply lines, police officers, etc. Sometimes this would mean voting Democrat and sometimes Republican. Don’t listen to the shrill and unbalanced voices out there that scream it is either right or left ONLY. No: that’s buying into an oversimplified and divisive narrative. We can do better. Look to Noah.

Tell the Truth, Christian

I spend some time on Twitter. For a short while I was hoping to be able to hear from others who view our culture, government, military or entertainment enterprises differently than me. I haven’t been disappointed. I have even (foolishly, it seems) thought that I could get into some meaningful discussion with some of these people. Truly, there are people who confess to follow Christ who believe some things and I don’t understand how or why.

As it stands, despite what Mr. Elon Musk might say, Twitter is a terrible public square. It’s a screaming square. It’s an ad hominem square. It’s a demeaning square. It’s a show-off square. Most disappointing is that it’s a place where people don’t tell the truth. Time after time self-confessed Christians (even pastors) flat out do no homework or truth verification before just spewing nonsense.

  • If you don’t wear a mask you want others dead.
  • If you don’t get a vaccine you are anti-science.
  • If you vote Republican you are pro-fascism.
  • If you oppose abortion you aren’t for women’s healthcare.
  • If you want to restrict immigration you are xenophobic.
  • If “Gender Queer” should be expelled from public school libraries you want all gay people to be stoned.

Nonsense. Christians, if you spew this type of drivel, stop doing it. What’s the point? Are we supposed to demean people to repentance? Are we supposed to scream people into correct theology? Will unbelievers who need the peace of God see our condescending tweets and be convinced they need what we have??

Forget the kingdom of God for a second. How can we build an ordered society when we are so disordered ourselves? Don’t we recognize that if we participate in this culture deconstruction that we might actually get what we want: a destroyed culture? This is so basic. It must mean we are cracked at a fundamental level. We are like a mind-controlled Theoden who no longer recognizes friend from foe; I suspect when many of us look in the mirror we don’t even know who is looking back at us.

Why are we like this? Many have given us answers: Carl Trueman, Charles Taylor, Jamie Smith, Aaron Renn. It is just so tempting, isn’t it? It is so easy to say something shocking and watch how it raises everyone else’s blood pressure. Yes! Let me try that again…

Instead, can’t we simply tell the truth? I don’t mean opinion or perspective but the truth. No one but God knows my motives. Yet a whole host of so-called believers want to tell me and others like me exactly what we’re thinking without asking. Can’t we be more humble than that? Or, are we afraid to be humble because if we are, we might lose / get run over / taken advantage of, etc.? That would be terrible, wouldn’t it? I guess all that I would have left is Christ.

A Christian thinking about A Nation

Tomorrow is the 4th of July. It marks the 246th year commemorating our nation’s independence from the Empire. What a history we have in such a short time (historically speaking)! Courage, wisdom, perseverance, kindness mingled with enslavement, greed, corruption and violence. We are not different from any other nation in these ways but we are different from them in others.

The founding DNA of our nation differs from that which established the kingdoms of old. Neither fiefdoms nor monarchies crafted our nation. Neither invasions nor gifts established America. No, it was a zeal for independence in many ways that did it; from: religious persecution, unjust taxation, squashed opportunity or even to seek a second chance. All along there was a sense of destiny, of hope, of boundlessness that carried the pilgrims and then pushed the settlers. That sense has not gone away. It is what supports concepts like the “American Dream.” That a refugee from Ukraine, South Sudan or Guatemala can come here and make something new and belonging to them is an inheritance from what founded this nation in the first place.

Not all have adopted such a sense; neither have all been in positions to achieve it if they had it. No nation’s history contains no dark, immoral or wicked spots–ours certainly doesn’t. But, it would not be appropriate before Almighty God to maximize our faults so that the good is finally eclipsed. We used to know this. I say “good” because what has been and is present in America is good: a Constitutional republic, a Bill of Rights to secure our independence from our government, the economic / medical / arts / engineering developments and the ability (for most) to walk the streets without fear or the oversight of an ominous dictator. Even those who are oppressed can find their way out of their oppression (that might be controversial for some but history doesn’t support such a view).

Our historic faults and their present impacts must not be minimized, to be sure, but neither are they to be what defines us as a people. America has been and is a good place to call “Home.”

But it is not a Christian nation. It is not a holy people. It is not the apple of God’s eye. It will not ever be those things because it never can be. It will not be a place of libertarian freedom nor will it be a place of pure justice. Independence Day isn’t the day to set our minds and hopes on these things hoping that America might one day resemble them (or that we did in the past and it must be reclaimed). The Fourth is a day for us to give thanks to God that He would give us such a gift as America. That it has been a place where injustice has been addressed; oppression has been broken; help has been administered; ignorance has been educated; compromise has flowed. What other nation has been called a “melting pot”?

Christians in America should give thanks to God that we have been born here. Our brothers and sisters worldwide might have some or none of what we enjoy. Our citizenship, therefore, should be a stewardship. That we use the freedoms we have for the benefit of others around us. Sometimes that will mean we work for the oppressed, for the unborn, for the widowed, for the refugee. Sometimes that means we will compromise for legislation that treats all people equally without trying to guarantee equal outcomes. Sometimes it means we say “No” to our selves and our tribe for the benefit of others.

I am convinced that Christians above all others should be active in these things. What have we got to lose? Since our Home is heaven and in it will be the perfections of everything we could ever hope or think, we can strive to make America a better place for all people–even if it is imperfect. America doesn’t need to be heaven; it needs to be a better America. God made a covenant with Noah wherein He promised to preserve the earth until Christ’s return and He calls us to build a civilization steeped in restraint, justice, enterprise and civility. For Americans, this means us in this place and time.

Some will want to include in this program lifestyles and commitments that all know are incoherent, wrong and harmful. It has always been this way. In our project, there will continue to be significant disagreement and fracturing and this should not be surprising. Some will not get “their” way even if their way is the moral way (the way commended to us by the very nature of things). Some will not get “their” way even if it held with exuberant passion. But neither should this surprise us. For those in Christ who have an eternal home, imperishable prepared for us by Christ, the faults in America are real but they are not ultimate.

Consider this: for those who do not know Christ, this place contains all the joy and happiness they will ever know. At the moment of Christ’s return, all who have refused Him in this life but have received His common grace will receive it no longer. Why can’t Christians work to make it a better place for them? Out of compassion? Most parents teach their children to leave a place better than when they found it. As Christians, set apart in the Church to be received as the Bride of Christ one day, shall we not work to leave America a better place than we found it?

Roe and Casey have fallen.

The “industry” of abortion has taken a major hit today and evil with it. It numbers among the greatest days of my life. It is hard to process the events of Friday, June 24, 2022: I have been thinking, writing, praying, preaching and teaching on this topic since 1994. (I point to that as my political self-awareness season.) Many like me weren’t sure we’d ever see a change in the horrific laws supporting the murdering of the unborn. The analysis, the jubilation and the outcries will be swift, detailed and dogmatic.

Where is our boast, Christian?

  • Is it in the decades of grass-roots work in prayer, policies and protests?
  • Is it in the slow degradation of abortion access through some incremental laws?
  • Is it in the growing scientific realization that viability is arbitrary and life begins at conception?
  • Is it in the actual silliness of the Roe and Casey legal grounding?
  • Is it with Project Veritas exposing PPA’s practice of selling aborted baby body parts?
  • Is it with President Trump who nominated Justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett?
  • Is it Mitch McConnell who steered them through the Senate?
  • Is it the brilliance of Justice Alito and Thomas (and Scalia before them)?
  • Is it with Mississippi changing their laws to disallow abortions after 15 weeks?

Where is our boast, Christian? Bible-believing Christians know our God is the God of the oppressed, the fatherless, the widow, the helpless. None are as helpless as the unborn. We have prayed and He has answered. It was His good pleasure to see to it that life would prevail on this day. We boast in Him!

But we have done more than pray. So again, is it sufficient to say our boast is in the Lord? In a way, no. Our boast is also in the innumerable opportunities men and women in this country have taken to see abortion outlawed and the distressed in pregnancy helped. All of the bullet points above are victories for life and we may boast in them! Is it God’s providence that has done this? Yes! His providence, however, was worked out in and through the acts of men and women.

I ask this because of what is now before our nation: a post-Roe world. Now that the fact there is no Constitutional basis for abortion has been exposed, we have to work with our fellow citizens to stop the practice altogether. We who believe must pray but also we must engage with those organizations and groups that care for life from womb to tomb. Roe and Casey didn’t just fall for no reason: but for 1000’s of reasons over 50 years.

Perhaps our greatest problem isn’t that abortion is still legal and encouraged in some states (though that is a problem). Our greatest problem is that there will still be a demand for abortion. Why might this be? I speak as a pastor. Here’s a non-exhaustive list to get us thinking:

  1. Believers undervalue having families and more greatly esteem careerism for men and women (especially women). Can we read the Old and New Testaments and conclude that careers are what God esteems most from men and women?
  2. Believers too often undervalue the created purpose for sex: making image-bearers. Sex means more than making babies, but not less. (As an elder shared with me, it’s “meaning” is far more than something physical or procreative but for my task here, I’m dividing “meaning” from “purpose” as I think the procreative purpose is more neglected in the Protestant church.) Simply put, when we counsel the young about sex, do we ask, “Are you ready to be a father?”?
  3. Believers don’t think long term: 9 months isn’t that long. (I’ve said this before.) A crisis pregnancy will come to an end in 9 months. For most women that’s .01% of the average life span for a woman in the USA (81.1 years). This isn’t to minimize the crisis nature either of how it started or its process. It is to simply say believers need to think in terms of a lifetime and then of eternity.
  4. Believers in churches don’t often make room for those in crisis. A crisis pregnancy might still carry the scarlet A in congregations but it certainly should not. Which of us has sin that is not (yet) for public view? How can we look down on those who can’t help but parade theirs in public?
  5. Believers can prioritize ease over perseverance and reputation over humility. It is one of the most tragic facts that church families often pressure their daughters in crisis pregnancies to get abortions. Why? The pregnancy would be inconvenient; it would ruin parents’ plans for their daughter’s future, etc. Why else? “If word got out that our son impregnated that girl, what would people think?” Reputation isn’t nothing but it certainly isn’t worth murdering a child.
  6. Believers too often don’t want to be bothered. We like our lives the way we live them. Unexpected pregnancy would be so disruptive. Or, making room in our homes or our churches for those in distress would be so exhausting. Someone else will handle this. Isn’t there a government program?

It seems we might be better at caring for our aging parents than we are in caring for our wayward sons or daughters; I guess that’s good. Yet, unless we look some of these reasons in the eyes and ask ourselves which applies to us, then we risk keeping the demand for abortion alive and too many still-to-be-born little ones dead.

Heaven soon,

Pastor Gabe

White Paper #16: Redemption!

When we begin discussing “redemption” and what that means for the sexually suffering and sinning, it is imperative that we remember why this all matters. Recently I came across a tweet by a man, John Pavlovitz.  He writes a blog, titled, “Stuff that Needs to be Said.”  Recently he wrote a post titled “Dear Phobic Christians: Leave LGBTQ People Alone.”   I can hardly resist addressing stuff like that so I replied:

“LGBTQ people will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.  For that reason alone, we will not leave them alone.”

Our approach to the sexually broken is as gospel mission. As any experienced missionary would agree, the mission must be wise and it must be patient.  We will be serving a community that is likely hostile to the Lord and His church—to be honest, the church does deserve blame for how it has treated those who are suffering and sinning sexually.

Let’s begin by returning to the doctrine of concupiscense.  

I mentioned the Roman Catholic church and some in the Protestant Christian community believe a sinful tendency that doesn’t get followed into actual sin is not sin.  The application of that doctrine to same sex attraction (SSA) was to assert SSA isn’t inherently sinful. The logic then goes: since it is not, it must come from my identity.  Following?  “If it isn’t sin and it is persistent in my experience, it must be part of who I am.” [Of course, this confuses identity with identifiers.]

Now this is exactly what the world believes: “I was born this way.”  The world doesn’t leave any room for any other explanation. The Bible and the Reformers disagree: desires that lead to sinful action are themselves sinful: we can’t rage inside or panic inside or lust inside and be without sin simply by keeping it inside.  One example from the Sermon on the Mount:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

How is it possible to have already committed adultery simply by the act of lust?  Lust is adultery in seed form—when planted, watered and full grown, it leads to adultery.  Fornication (including adultery) is the only way lust ends. The diagnostic question was:

  • …if the actions resulting from following the desire are themselves sinful, then the desire is also sin.

WCF 6.5 says this:

This corruption of nature, during this life, does remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ, pardoned and mortified; yet both the [corrupted nature] and all the motions that follow it are truly and properly sin.

The Confession is discussing original sin (“Corruption of nature”) and actual sin (“all the motions that follow it”) and say both “…are truly and properly sin.” Concupiscence is another term for original sin or “…an inward feeling, arousal or attraction before any conscious consent.”

Where Rome and some Protestants go awry is to say these disordered desires that spring from original sin (or concupiscent desires) are not, in themselves, sinful unless they are acted upon. There are two problems with this view.

First, using SSA as the test case, to take SSA out of the realm of concupiscence—out of the realm of sin—is to isolate it from Christ. Why?  To call what is sin “not sin” is to pluck it out of what can be redeemed by the blood of Christ.  What are the options for someone who experiences it, then?  

  1. Act on it and deal with the guilt and shame that comes from it because it is disordered.  
  2. Despair about its presence and dive into pain alleviation strategies including suicide.

Second, to take SSA out of the realm of concupiscence is to isolate it from the Church. Why?  To call what is sin “not sin” is to isolate a suffering sinner from others. Part of what makes LGBTQ community strong is a sense of shared persecuted experience.  This community is accepting, facilitating, affirming shared feelings (perhaps including hatred for the church and others who don’t accept it and so forth). The church too often has not offered its shelter to those who are struggling with sexual sin.

No: to call SSA “sin” is to expose it to the freeing light of Christ ministering by His Spirit, with the Word in the context of the church—the one place where redemption and freedom is found in the world. I find it to be remarkable that one might want to deny SSA, etc. is sinful.  

If we say it issues from original sin and can be mortified in Christ, then there is freedom and hope in that.  

To deny the truthfulness of the sin is to harden the enslavement to it. It was not God’s original design and it is part of what is fallen—why not be freed from its guilt and over time, its power?

The Ad Interim Committee report is particularly helpful in this area.   Let’s consider five (5) points it makes that are supported by our WCF and allow it be our framework for our mission to bring Christ to suffering sinners. These principles will help us be humble and persistent and will assist us in encouraging those who turn from these lifestyles as they confront the hardships.

First, “the common dynamic of concupiscence.”

The fact that we each share the experience of unwanted and disordered desires.

“…the dynamic of spontaneous sinful desire or attraction is not unique to those who experience homosexual desire. All people experience it.”

All who are descended from Adam have a corrupted nature and “the complex of disordered affections, desires and attractions that come with that corruption….The truth is that if we think humbly and carefully about our own spontaneous thoughts, feelings and desires, we would recognize that we are all much more alike than different.”

“Who has been a Christian for some length of time who is not aware of at least one particular area of struggle with sin in which whatever success is had in curbing behavior is nonetheless accompanied by a troubling inward draw toward the sin, like a stubborn memory of sinful pleasure that interrupts incessantly and uninvited?

“Even our lack of feeling is concupiscent: that which is most good and would glorify God does not delight us as it should; that which is evil does not repel us as it should.

The reminder that all who have descended from Adam experience individualized versions of concupiscence, can assist us in being humble and patient. After all, we are simply two beggars looking for bread.

Second, “Continued corruption.”

“According to the system of the WCF, we should not be surprised, but rather expect that concupiscence in general and specific instances like homosexual attraction, would continue in the life of a believer.”

We are not right to communicate to a believer with a history of SSA that this will simply disappear—the secret agent, the fallen flesh and the external temptations will not disappear in this life. “To teach that our sinful corruption must be entirely removed from any part of us in order to be considered truly repentant is a spiritually treacherous perversion of the doctrine of repentance.”

Third, “Real Change.”

“We should not rule out, but rather expect that concupiscence in general and specific instances like homosexual attraction, would be areas in which the believer would see some progress toward truly righteous feelings and actions.”

The hope of redemption in Christ is that change isn’t just possible, it is certain. Just like any sinner with a historic sin-struggle, “change” will be uneven (two steps forward, one back). But change must be expected and sought: the sanctifying Spirit is after the whole man.

Fourth, “Celebrating Sincere Efforts.”

“According to the WCF, the remaining experience of homosexual attractions notwithstanding, God is truly pleased with one’s sincere efforts to follow Christ in holiness because he looks on even those imperfect deeds as being “in Christ” and covered by the imputation of Christ’s perfect righteousness (WCF 16.6).”

This is tremendously important: we expect that perfect obedience is the only kind of obedience; so we don’t celebrate even the little steps of godliness that we make. And we turn on each other with that same yardstick of what qualifies as something to celebrate and we don’t encourage each other.

  • If my goal is to work out every day and I make it only three days instead of seven, should that be celebrated?
  • If I vow to eat no sugar because I used to eat a bag of Chips Ahoy at one sitting and instead I eat 4 instead of none, should that be celebrated?
  • If a man converted out of a gay lifestyle who regularly daily used to look at homosexual porn now has one day out of five he does not, should that be celebrated?

Gospel change in an individual’s life is always incomplete and mixed with corruption.  But:

“In Christ, every bit of progress, every moment of victory over temptation even victory over the temptation that comes from the sinful corruption remaining inside of us is to be celebrated as a gift of the new life of Christ with confidence that is pleases God as such.”

We should celebrate every moment of obedience even if it is imperfect because in Christ the imperfection is covered.

Lastly, “Moral Difference.”

“Even when original sin is manifested in the form of sinfully disordered desires or feelings, including homosexual attraction, there is significant moral difference between that initial “motion” of corruption and the decision to cultivate or act on it.”

“To feel a sinfully disordered sexual attraction (of any kind) is properly to be called sin—and all sin, “both original and actual” earns God’s wrath—but it is significantly less heinous than any level of action upon it in thought or deed.”

Once again, this distinction will allow us to think rightly about the progress of growing like Christ and help sinners celebrate where they should.

To Review:

  1. We share the corruption of original sin with every other human
  2. There is continued corruption which means progress will be uneven
  3. There is real change by the Holy Spirit
  4. Sincere efforts must be celebrated because they are pleasing to God in Christ
  5. There’s a moral difference between temptation and actual sin.

What do Christians do if Roe goes?

(Celebrate.) There is no doubt that this is a highly charged moment in history.  June is typically the month when SCOTUS hands down decisions and this is surely to be a hot one.  Overturning Roe and Casey would not outlaw abortion nationwide but require states to craft their own legislation. Several states already have “trigger” laws that will go into effect immediately if Roe is overturned.  These laws will make their own restrictions on abortion.  Other states like New York and California will be taking steps to legalize all the killing of the unborn—perhaps even after birth (“Sanctuary States” for abortion they call it; disgusting).

First, we recognize why this is so charged.  

Death and taxes aren’t the only givens in society: a stiff resistance to being told what to do against our will is just as certain.  In our time, being told “No” isn’t taken well at all.  “No” doesn’t mean “No” any more. Now it means something like “I hate you” or “You’re worthless” or “I’m better than you.”  At least that’s how it is received.  Take the radically overblown response of some teachers in Florida about being told what can and cannot be taught in their classrooms: Florida says, “No” and some teachers scream at their screens and show up on @LibsofTikTok’s Twitter feed.  

What do Christians do?  This is such a big deal because many who refuse to be told “No” may be about to be told “No.” We know what that’s like, right? Which of us is truly content with God’s frowning providence? When His word tell us “No”? We are more like the people who will go apoplectic about Roe and Casey being overturned than we’re not. It will serve us well to remember.

Second, we understand why there is a market for abortion.  

Abortions happen in part because we no longer believe the main reason for sex is to make babies.  Again: biblically, the main reason for sex is to make babies.  That’s why God gave it to us.  A (wonderful) by-product of the effort is companionship and pleasure.  But the purpose of sex is procreation (the Catholics have had this right for a long time). The modern view has been building for a long time: sex is recreational now.  It is disconnected from any responsibilities by birth control and…abortion.  Have sex, get pregnant?  Inconvenient?  How about RU-486 or Planned Parenthood?  It’s just money and it’s just cells. (Hogwash.)

Abortions happen in part because too many Christians are afraid to teach our children that some things are sacred and, until they’re ready for them, the answer has to be “No.”  It has to be “No” because you don’t get in Dad’s car until you can reach the pedals.  (Reminds me of the first Star Trek remake (with Chris Pine) when rebellious (and too young) Jim Kirk is driving his step dad’s Mustang flying down the country road.  He drives it to the end of a cliff and jumps right before it goes over the side.)  We take what doesn’t belong to us before it does and bad things happen. You just don’t get to have sex until you reach the marriage bed.  

Third, as Christians we start reminding each other that sex is for making babies.  That’s its purpose.  Right? So, Christian, what’s your view of the purpose of sex? Is it companionship, intimacy, bonding or whatnot? Or is it making babies with your spouse? Seems like we could use a revival of the telos of sex: procreation.

Many times we don’t even mention that sex is for procreation to say nothing of making that its purpose. Look back at Genesis 1-2. What was the Mandate? “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Again, to Noah, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” Sound like license for pleasure or a call to action? You want to have pleasure?  Eat some ice cream.  Instead, we must teach Children’s Sunday school, youth group, young adult Bible studies that sex is for making babies. It is a gift God has given to us so that He may see more image-bearers on the earth.  

You know, if the pregnancy is unplanned, it’s only 9 months of a young woman’s life: 9 months. Abortion trades in nine months of inconvenience for a lifetime of guilt. It is written into the human conscience that killing unborn babies is wrong–not just Christians reading their Ten Commandments know this. Everyone knows. Guilt after abortion is inevitable. Some of the circumstances that create an unplanned pregnancy can be heart-breaking, grievous or terrifying. A woman need not add to that guilt over an action that cannot ever be taken back. It’s 9 months.

Fourth, we use our opportunities as citizens to push for local legislation that makes abortion illegal—all of it.  Yes: even in the cases of rape and incest—why should an unborn child be the victim of life-ending violence even if that was how he was conceived?  If an abortion is needed to save the mother’s life, we’re talking about a different category (a medical category not a convenience one). Rape and incest are horrid, truly, but they are not as bad as murder. Abortion is murder. (In addition to using the rights we have as citizens to push for life-protecting legislation, perhaps we also need to revive our courage to tell the truth about abortion: it is murder.) We have the freedom to petition our elected officials or elect some who will protect the truly defenseless. If Roe goes and election season comes, we should keep that in mind.

Lastly, we act as the Christians did during the Roman era. Instead, let us be compassionate on mothers in distress, on babies that aren’t wanted, on kids born with birth defects, on single mothers struggling make ends meet, on single dads who experience isolation.  Let’s do a better job connecting infants with adoptive families or foster families. In Rome, a Christian would walk down the street and see an infant in the gutter, pick him up and raise him as her own. Are we as prepared to die to self in such a way if needed?

A Real American Dream

I wonder if any other country has such a thing as the “American Dream”? Is there a “French Dream” or an “Indonesian Dream” or a “Peruvian Dream” (I’d say lomo saltado with yellow sauce is close to my view of the Peruvian Dream!)? Perhaps what is typically comprehended as the American Dream exists in other places but not by that name: college graduate, well-paying job, home ownership, wife and kids.

As far as a set of goals for mankind these things are good. The problem with them from a Christian perspective is that they are too small. I’ve been reading in the book of Revelation and in one of the letters to the seven churches, we have what I call a “Real American Dream.”

And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life. I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not but the synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison that you may be tested and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

Revelation 2:8-11

Smyrna is one of the seven churches that receives no rebuke from the Lord: they are doing everything right. Yet, the devil, leashed by the Lord, will test them by throwing them into prison, torturing them and then killing them. With this advance notice from God, He exhorts the church to stand firm in the faith unto death and promises them the crown of life if they do.

Remember: they are doing everything right. He isn’t using the devil to discipline them for their sins; He is using Satan to test them further. This is the church-wide version of what happened to Job. Job was initially faithful–even rebuking his despondent wife–but he had a season of unbelief and sinful anger at God. The Lord exhorts the Smyrnan church to not have that season of unfaithfulness but be steadfast because the crown of life is waiting for them.

No promise to save them. No promise to judge those who persecute the church. No reminders of His presence or offers to be their refuge. (Now all of these things are found in God’s word which they would’ve considered; but they are not found here.)

The Lord puts before the church the real Dream that should occupy them: eternal life, paradise, the presence of the Lord. He doesn’t pledge to preserve their lives, their health, their families or their station: only their soul’s reward.

  • Is this the dream of American Christians? Are American Christians content that the One who is the “first and the last” is our true reward?

I wonder about these things in my own heart. Now, there is talk of upcoming food shortages, gas prices moving past $6 a gallon, increased inflation–we seem to be facing a pandemic of a different kind: threats to our comfort rather than our health. COVID proved much of the church’s commitment was to the American Dream rather than the hope of heaven. Have we learned anything? Is what lures in the future and promises to strangle our comforts another test from the Lord to wrest free from our grips the things that keep us from longing for heaven?

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

White Paper #15: How the Fall influences our Understanding of our Sexuality

In this final post about understanding our sexuality from the vantage point of the Fall, we will look at the teaching of Scripture and the implications of it in the current debates on human sexuality. Note: in this longer post, we will NOT deal with how Christ provides the freedom from both wrong thinking and immoral action–stay tuned for that very important series of posts!

First, what do the Scriptures teach about our sexuality? It has positive and negative principles to teach us.

Positive: the Bible explains man and woman have complementary design for procreative fruitfulness. Genesis 1:28

… “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God created male and female so that together they might procreate and fill the earth. This is restated at Genesis 9:1, 7—for us to fulfill our created purpose means sex between males and females. Genesis 2:18:

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” … So the LordGod caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.

She was made like him (human) but unlike him (female) so that he would receive the help he needs to fulfill his mandate from God. The marital union is design to replicate this intimacy. Genesis 2:23-24: bone of bone; one flesh

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

A man—seeing a woman and his destiny—would leave his family. The two would become one physical flesh in sex resulting in procreation. Matthew 19:4: Jesus confirms this:

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

Negative: post-Fall distortions of the complementary design. This first appears in Genesis 19:4-5 // Jude 7

1The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate. 

4But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 

8Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”

“Know them” means to have sex with them—men with men; they wanted to ravage the angels. Jude 7 confirms this is what was happening at Sodom:

…just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

In order to address this post-Fall tendency towards sexual perversion, that which is known by nature (but ignored) was written into the law. Leviticus 18:22, 20:13:


You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.


If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.

These verses capture moral law teaching.  While they fall into the law of Israel’s life, they are part of the holiness code that was supposed to define the people of God vs. the people of the world.  Mark 7:20-23

And [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality [porneia], theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality [aselgeia—licentiousness], envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Here is where we get to see sexual immorality isn’t simply what is done but also what is desired. Indeed, what is done is first desired (cf. James 1). Romans 1:26-27

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. … For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

The foundation of homosexual desire and behavior is the departure from true worship—from a Godward life. “Shameless acts” here is literally translated, “men in men.” What is tragic about this passage is that God gave people up to what they desired: unnatural relations: men with men, women with women. Only repentance from sin and faith towards God will begin the end of a life given over to degrading passions and despicable acts.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NASB

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

“Effeminate” were the passive recipients of homosexual sex. “Homosexuals” or literally, “those who take men to bed” were the active partners; this word is a compound work unique to Paul; it comes from two words found in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13. 1 Timothy 1:8-10 uses the “men who bed men” word:

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,

  • Under no circumstances does the Bible describe same-sex desire or actions in a positive light—it is always negative all the time.

Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.

The teaching of the Bible is very clear. While some try to address what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah as hospitality violations, the balance of Scripture (e.g., Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians 6 and Jude) do not allow such an approach. How, then, does perverted sexuality show itself?

We have already considered our new mission field to be sexual.  And those in that field are both sufferers and sinners. These are the two ways fallenness expresses itself.  It is important that we don’t ignore these two categories—they are related but should be treated differently.

Suffering patterns.

Suffering can lead to sin and it often does.  We rage against it; we seek to illicitly overcome it; we follow it into actual sin. Desires, the soul and temptations.  The Fall has affected the nature of our desires and temptations.  Remember the secret agent in our soul?

Desires.  In every fallen soul—redeemed and unredeemed—there are secret sin agents present that would not be present had it not been for the Fall.  Before the Fall, these were not present in Adam and Eve—though they could be.  These are not present in Christ and will not be present when we are with Him in paradise. But, the fact that they are present—despite what we would hope—means that we are sufferers.  We are suffering the effect of the Fall even before we prove that we are fallen.

Also because of the Fall, our souls are like “colanders:” they only offer mild resistance to sin’s entrance and usually let sin right in. The porous soul is the tool of the secret agent of sin in us.  So, when an external temptation comes, James 1 explains what happens:

… each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 

“His own desire” is the secret agent within—it works with the temptation; it partners with it.  

Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

The agent draws us to the temptation where it gives birth to sin and then, if unchecked, death. Temptations are the mechanism for this. It is best to understand temptations are either coming from outside the person or from within. The AIC statement #6:

We affirm that Scripture speaks of temptation in different ways. There are some temptations God gives us in the form of morally neutral trials, and other temptations God never gives us because they arise from within as morally illicit desires (James 1:2, 13-14). When temptations come from without, the temptation itself is not sin, unless we enter into the temptation. But when the temptation arises from within, it is our own act and is rightly called sin. 

External temptation. So, let’s say you are on Instagram and a woman in a very small bikini scrolls into view.  She would be a temptation and, since she is just a picture, to us, morally neutral. What happens next determines whether she remains an external temptation or not.  The AIC statement said, “When temptations come from without, the temptation itself is not sin, unless we enter into the temptation.” The fact that this can even be a sinful temptation is because of the Fall.  Adam and Eve were naked and not in sin but as soon as they sinned, they made loin coverings.

Internal temptation. Same scenario.  Only this time you desire to see  a woman in a bikini so you get on Instagram and you find one.  From the moment of desire to go and seek her, the desire was sinful.  Even before you found the picture, it was sin. Again, we would not have this issue were it not for the Fall.

There are some effects of fallenness categorized by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual that are pertinent to our topic to briefly consider.

“Body Dysmorphic Disorder.”

This is defined as a distressed preoccupation with a perceived defect in appearance or a slight physical anomaly (DSM-IV-TR, 508). Often, these people spend hours preoccupied with their “defect.” Our fallen society (especially on social media) highlights the perfect, the beautiful, the accomplished.  If a person (esp. young) has a slight physical anomaly (flared ears, shapen nose) it is easy to see how this can trigger (and sustain) hatred of a body part or appearance in someone. And, in some cases, support a view that the best way to deal with it isn’t just cosmetic surgery, but gender reassignment surgery.

“Gender Dysphoria.” DSM-IV (2000) didn’t contain this description.  There, it was called “Gender Identity Disorder.” It is thought to be a strong inner feeling persistent over time, an uncomfortable “feeling trapped in the wrong body.”  An “incongruence” or an internal confusion: “I’m a male but inside I feel like a female.” However—what appears to be a capitulation to the LGBTQ+ movement—in the DSM V (2013) “Gender Identity Disorder” disappeared and “Gender Dysphoria” took its place.

“Disorder” implies brokenness; in DSM-V it was changed to “dysphoria,” which Webster defines as, “a state of feeling unwell or unhappy.”[1]. “Dysphoria” implies not an internal disorder but the result of external pressures: a lack of acceptance or understanding. Gender dysphoria, “…refers to the distress that may accompany the incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and one’s assigned gender.”  (DSM, 51.)

In 2018, the WHO classified this under “sexual health” rather than “mental disorder.” The etymology of “gender dysphoria” began with G.I.D.  That disorder was described as “feeling trapped in the wrong body.”  Given the extent of fallenness in us, there is no reason to believe some people don’t experience this.

  • In other words, it is likely some people do experience a sense of incongruence psychologically.

“Same sex attraction.” It is often the testimony of those with SSA, that the thoughts and feelings come “unbidden” as if they issue forth from some deep, unconscious place or they come as a result of some type of trauma. From the AIC, 27

“Some experiences of sexual desire may come unbidden as a result of sins committed against a person, and while sinful, should be treated with great pastoral care for the person who has been victimized….The origins and development of sexual desire remain complex and, in many way, mysterious.  It is possible to conceive of the experience of SSA as simultaneously a part of the remaining corruption of original sin as well as the misery of living in a fallen world, one of the way our bodies themselves groan for redemption.”

Without agreeing SSA is good or godly, it is important to agree that SSA can come unbidden and, while not determined by genetics, etc. secular (and some Christian advocates) want to suggest this means some people are “born that way” but this is both unproven and biblically incorrect. Still, for some, it is a form of suffering such a person must endure.

Desires, our souls, temptations, B.D.D, G.D and SSA issue from the fallenness of the world.  Some people suffer from some of these types of fallenness simply because they are fallen. Not every person experiences these types of affliction; but all people suffer from some type of affliction. These are simply part of what it means to be alive after the Fall.

Therefore, a Christian approach to one who makes claims to these kinds of experiences cannot omit an understanding that for some, fallenness issues forth in these ways even before someone acts on the impulses. There is no room to excuse these things as they are part of original sin, but there is a call for a compassionate approach.

Sin patterns

Original sin leads to actual sin, especially sexual sin.  Some commentary on Romans 1:22-27 will unpack this.

1:22-23: “In Scripture, same-sex activity [All LGBTQ+] is one outcome, among many others, of humanity’s decision to exchange the glory of the immortal God for images of created things.”

1:24-31: “As a result, God gave us over to the lusts of our hearts (1:24), to dishonoring our bodies (1:24), to exchanging natural relations (1:26-27) and to debased minds that lead to all manner of sin and unrighteousness (1:28-31).”

“It is essential to note that ‘natural relations’ were exchanged for those that betray nature because we ‘exchanged the truth about God for a lie’(1:24-27).”

The root of illicit sexual desire and activity is disordered worship; cf. the woman at the well. To address sexual sin = to address unbelief in God; it is a missionary endeavor not an ethical one (at first). “In other words, disordered sexualities followed the disordering of our relationship with God.”[2]. Let’s further consider some definitions.

“Sex or gender.” Some use them interchangeably to describe male and female. However, it is more helpful to see “Sex” is your biological marker of male or female; it binary and it is biological. “Gender” (from the Latin, “set” or “kind”) has been borrowed from linguistics and has been coopted to describe a person’s sexual self-perception.

“Sexual orientation.”[3]

“Sexual orientation refers to an enduring pattern of emotion, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women or both sexes.  Sexual orientation also refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions, related behaviors and a membership in a community of others who share those attractions.”

What’s the problem with this definition? Note the definition depends on “a person’s sense of identity based on” emotional, romantic or sexual attractions. That is, a person gets to decide his or her identity. Basing identity on attractions—here’s where the Gender Unicorn comes in:

  • Emotional attraction
  • Physical attraction
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression

“SSA”: sexual attraction to the same sex.  Earlier we had placed SSA in the “suffering” category and that is correct.  To the degree it is an unwanted, unbidden desire, it is fruit of the old man, original sin and fallenness (cf. anger, panic). We might think, since each person who has these desires has them because of the Fall and we suffer as a result, that the SSA desires themselves are neutral.  But the Bible teaches desires for sinful ends are themselves sinful.  AIC Statement 4 on desire:

We affirm not only that our inclination toward sin is a result of the Fall, but that our fallen desires are in themselves sinful (Rom 6:11-12; 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11). The desire for an illicit end—whether in sexual desire for a person of the same sex or in sexual desire disconnected from the context of Biblical marriage—is itself an illicit desire. Therefore, the experience of same-sex attraction is not morally neutral; the attraction is an expression of original or indwelling sin that must be repented of and put to death (Rom. 8:13).

The Bible does not support the view that a desire is neutral—that only when we follow that desire into sin, does it become sinful. “Concupisense” is the term for this.  It is what Roman Catholics believe and it is what many in the Christian community believe about SSA. However, SSA is a “disordered” desire meaning the desire itself is sin whether it is acted on or not.  

  • In its unbidden, spontaneous form, it is fruit of original sin—and sin.  In its intentional form, it is actual sin.

This is important: in order to address the “born this way” argument, speaking theologically, “born this way” applies to fallen and subject to original sin, therefore sinful. For some, that fallenness takes the shape of disordered desires for the same sex—those, while unchosen, are inherently sinful. One writer says, “The Bible’s sober anthropology rejects the apparently common sense assumption that only freely chosen acts are morally culpable.”[4]  

Diagnostic question: is there any case when this attraction arises, that to submit to it and follow it to its natural conclusion it would be godly?  

  • Opposite Sex Attraction: Yes
  • Same Sex Attraction: No

To experience SSA is to experience disordered, inherently sinful desires that can never be allowed to rest but must immediately be repented of.

“Lesbian” / “gay” describe the lifestyles of those who seek to act on SSA. “Bisexual” this describes a person who seeks sexual gratification from either a member of the same sex or opposite sex.

“Transgender.” Chaz Bono,

“There’s a gender in your brain and gender in your body.  For 99% of people, those things are in alignment.  For transgender people, they’re mismatched. That’s all it is,  I’s not complicated, it’s not a neurosis.  It’s a mix-up.  It’s a birth defect, like a cleft palate.”

Transgender Remembrance Day poster, “34% of trans people attempt suicide.  64% are bullied.  73% of trans people are harassed in public.  21% of trans people avoid going out in public due to fear.” Transgender slogan, “Some men are born in their bodies, others have to fight for it.” Andreja Pejic, “We’re human beings, and this is a human life.  This is reality for us, and all we ask for is acceptance and validation for what we say that we are.  It’s a basic human right.”

This is the hot topic these days. “Transgender” is an umbrella term that is used to describe people who feel “any dissatisfaction with their biological sex” as well as those who cross-dress.[5]. Why might they be dissatisfied with their biological sex?

  • Gender Dysphoria, sexual abuse or trauma, being unpopular, bullied or unsuccessful (Lia Thomas?)—and many more.

The reasons for dissatisfaction cannot be ignored or minimized—especially with youth in-and-around puberty.   Social media bullying or guilting is real.  I am not on Instagram or TikTok anymore but recently I took about 3 minutes and I scrolled through whatever came on my TikTok feed.  I wrote down descriptors for what I saw on display:

Exposure, flaunting, excitement, individuality, shocking, creative, independent, boastful, alluring, trivial, powerful, thrill-seeking, minimizing serious matters, self-expressive, selfie-obsessed, image-obsessed, pose-obsessed, objectifying, women-power, lingering sex-saturated

Social media like TikTok, Instagram and the others promotepush and attempt to algorithmically persuade the user to imitate these very things. And, if they cannot—what happens?  Dissatisfaction with their sex.  A sense of unhappiness about their sex with culturally open doorways into the transgender world.  

  • Trans- however is fake.  It is made up; it is a fiction created by the devil to attack our identity.

Men and women who believe in this are like people wearing VR googles walking around and narrating to us what they see and then demanding that we call the pretend world they are in the real world that we are in. But it isn’t real.  The sense of dissatisfaction or unhappiness about the body might be real—and there are ways to handle or counsel that. But to claim to be transgender is to make a false, unsupportable claim. A claim whose only foundation is the mind of the one making the claim.

The transgender world demands people make their bodies match their unhappiness; their bodies must be the means by which they deal with their unhappiness.  They don’t work to get their minds in concert with their bodies. “Transgenderism” implies gender can be transcended—that it has no fixed walls that cannot be breached—the effort to transcend the body starts in the mind and, if enough energy, drugs, surgery, counseling and money is put to it, the body is can be overcome.

Transgenderism is a fabrication in the mind of one who has looked at her internal struggle and swallowed the cultural dogma that to be who God made you is insufficient, unsatisfying, unhappy. But this is the lie as old as time:

Has God really said it is OK for you to be a man?  Isn’t He just denying you and holding out on you?  He knows that you’d be happier as a woman.

So this world now includes:

  • Transsexual: those who are “born in the wrong body”
  • Transvestites: those who cross-dress usually with no desire to transition
  • Genderqueer, gender fluid or gender expansive: Genderqueer is a term that some people use who identify their gender as falling outside the binary constructs of “male and “female.” 

Gender fluid or nonbinary is a rejection of male and female; a way to stay agnostic. But each of these further detailed descriptions do nothing to change the fact that they are describing a world that doesn’t really exist anywhere except in their minds and the minds of those like them.

Sam Allberry says, “Our culture says: Your psychology is your sexual identity—let your body be conformed to it.  The Bible says: Your body is your sexual identity—let your mind be conformed to it.”

[1] Websters, 391.

[2] Bullets 1-4 come from the “Same-Sex Attraction Study Committee Report” from North Florida Presbytery, 1.

[3] “Answers to Your Questions: For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality,” APA, 2008,

[4] Denny Burk, Heath Lambert, Transforming Homosexuality (P&R, 2015), 30.

[5] Sharon James, Gender Ideology: What do Christians Need to Know?  (Christian Focus, 2019), 25.

White Paper #14: The Fall’s Effects on our Bodies and Fellowship

The Fall recorded in Genesis 3 certainly effected our souls. We are not, however, simply souls housed in human flesh. Our physicality is part of our design–it is a part of what the Lord came to redeem. Our bodies are certainly effected and we could summarize it in one word: expiring.

Back to Genesis 3. The first thing we learn is that we are physically exposed: we are not in the safety of Eden but in the dangers of the wilderness. The world and its forces was no threat to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Yet, when they were cast out (and we, in them) now all is a potential threat. Nature is periodically our enemy since it, also, is fallen and groaning under the weight of our sins.

We are exposed but we are also embattled: the curses placed on mankind because of the fall strike us right where it is most acute: work and family life. Work: Genesis 3

To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

There are at least three potential impacts on our work.

First, work for all is monotonous, drudgery, fruitless or physically painful. We bemoan work when it is like this but we shouldn’t: this is part of its design now. The difficulties of our work are now purposeful; they remind us of the Fall.

Second, not only is legitimate work burdened, but we also have the rise of illegitimate or dangerous work: theft, prostitution, pornography, computer-hacking, etc.

Lastly, success in work is often hindered or impossible. Our hope that we can make a difference in our work is often dashed. I’ve told our congregation that commencement speakers give rise to false hope when they tell young adults they can “do anything” or “change the world.” Mostly likely not but perhaps.

Family life is also a battle-ground. Marriage-sin is often power contests rather than outdoing one another in love and honor.  To Eve the battle is first against her husband (and this battle is woven into every marriage since):

…Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.

The Bible now must teach wives to submit to their husbands rather than seek to rule over them (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18). Likewise, rather than passivity or domination, husbands are exhorted to love their wives as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25; Colossians 3:19). Child-rearing (following the promise of pain in child birth) is hard creating strife and difficulty. Now, the Bible warns us that fathers can exasperate their children and children can shame their parents. While these are all relational issues, they are supported in our disordered emotions and our runaway physicality.

Our fellowship, as we’ve seen above can be summarized as: conflicted.

Think of it: the post-Fall foundation of our human fellowship is betrayal and blame—our natural inclination is to repeat these original sins. Husbands and wives struggle to model Christ and the church: husbands can be passive or violent; wives can be domineering or back-biting. Children are disobedient and defiant; parents are overbearing and exasperating. Employers exploit employees; employees cheat their employers. There is inherent suspicion in our relationships—all of them.  We naturally believe that others are using us; we naturally believe it is OK for us to use others.

  • Our souls are alienated from God.  Our bodies are suffering and expiring.  Our fellowship is conflicted.

White Paper #13: The Fall’s effect on our Souls

There were six key takeaways from our initial consideration of the Fall’s impact.

  1. Sin is always speaking a challenge to God’s ordered world: its nature is to twist what God has made and said and bend it to its opposite.  All sins are lies.
  2. When we add to God’s word, we subtract from the freedom we have in Him.
  3. Our enemy will work hard to soften the edges of his allurements: he will work to convince us what he proposes is just a version of what God does.
  4. We are at risk of being deceived by him if we depart from God’s word and forget God’s character.
  5. Sin will cause us shame that we will work to hide.
  6. Sin will lead us to blame others.

What does this all mean?  Three things. Let’s first consider the impact on our souls: alienation from God.  Genesis 3:22-24

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

We are born separated from God; alienated from Him; without access to Him.  Theologically, we call this “original sin.”  The Ad Interim Committee Study paper says the following:


We affirm that from the sin of our first parents we have received an inherited guilt and an inherited depravity (Rom. 5:12-19; Eph. 2:1-3). From this original corruption—which is itself sinful and for which we are culpable—proceed all actual transgressions. All the outworking of our corrupted nature (a corruption which remains, in part, even after regeneration) are truly and properly called sin (WCF 6.1-5). Every sin, original and actual, deserves death and renders us liable to the wrath of God (Rom. 3:23; James 2:10; WCF 6.6). 

This separation / alienation from God leaves it mark in loneliness, addictions, promiscuity, fear of man and anxiety. Original sin doesn’t end the image of God but makes the image a battleground.  You understand?  Because original sin goes to the bottom of who we are, it effects all of us—it makes holding to our identity very difficult. This is why so many caught up in sexual sin describe themselves by their sin—who else does that?  Alcoholics?  Drug addicts?  Fornicators?  No other sin pattern reaches so deep and is so persuasive as to convince us to relabel who we are.

Identity aspect #1: “Male and female”

The goodness of maleness and femaleness is in question: God made male and female and called it “good.”  The Fall calls it “not good.”  All of the sex and gender issues at root are assaults on the goodness of maleness and femaleness—they all act as correctives on what God has made.

The rightness of upholding (protecting, honoring) maleness and femaleness is suspect: God blessed male and female as male and female.  The Fall blesses opposites: male-as-female, female-as-male. Transgenderism captures the concept of fluidity so that no one has to hold one pole or the other—now it is right to not be one or the other.

The roles of male and female are uncertain: God gave us bodies that lead to complementary roles.  Male bodies are made for work, strength, protection, provision; female bodies are made for life-giving, nurture, development. Life is closest to its intended design when these two are working together. Now, it is not accepted to go from biology to role. It is anti-woman to suggest she stay in the sphere of life-giving, nurturing or development—she must be allowed to transcend her biology. It must also be allowed for a man to transcend his biology—even if it means he crushes biological women in sports or gets them pregnant in a woman’s prison or rapes them in a hospital.

Do you see how this is just plain demonic anti-human? This is the assault on maleness and femaleness.

Identity aspect #2: What about “Image-bearer”? 

God made us to resemble Him, be like Him, represent Him. But now, we decide to bear no one’s image except whatever we choose, right?  The Gender Unicorn helps me decide. In this, we necessarily hide from God while we work to remake ourselves—is it any wonder that the younger generations are both religiously unaffiliated and turning to LGBTQ+ so rapidly? God making us directly breathing life into us is challenged by evolutionary theory. There is no soul since there is only animated matter; there is no image we are perpetrating since we are just clumps of cells that exist randomly.

  • We have no responsibility or accountability to God for who we represent: I get to choose.

Identity aspect #3: “Subject to sin / fallenness”

Fallenness is something we seek to mortify in our flesh; something that makes us long for heaven. But now, we accept fallenness and rebuke godliness: we seek happiness in the brokenness. Since fallenness “feels” natural and godliness doesn’t, fallenness must be true and celebrated.  This is seen in the “I’m born this way” argument for Same Sex Attraction. We ignore sin or we attribute bad action to something else: lack of education, poverty, access to resources  We aren’t content in suffering or having perspective in it; we work to alleviate its pain without dealing with its source through medicine, therapy or even surgery.

Identity aspect #4: “Worshipper”

God made us to worship Him and Him alone. Now, in our fallenness, we worship the created thing rather than the Creator. And in fallenness, we are enslaved to sin rather than bondservants to God.  Peter wrote this (2 Peter 2:17):

These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved. For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

In each of these four ways, the Fall causes alienation to take root at the deepest level of our identity.

We have Lost our Children to the Matrix

I love the Matrix movie. I’ve probably watched it three-dozen times since its release. (I had a college buddy who could recite every line of Chevy Chase’s movie, Fletch. I might be able to do the same with the Matrix!)

One scene intrigues me: when Morpheus or Trinity, in the Matrix would dial up the “operator,” in putting the phone to their ears, they would then dissolve. The pixels of themselves in the Matrix would get reorganized into the flesh and blood in the Real World. Of course, they never left the Real World physically, but mentally, they would “jack” in to the Matrix and do their thing–except that their thing only happened in the minds of humanity jacked in at the time.

This is why Morpheus calls the real world (the non-jacked in world) the Real World. Of course, the Matrix was actually a part of the Real World though it couldn’t be accessed except via computer. Neo would sit in what looks like a barber’s chair while Tank would shove a huge probe into the hole on the back of Neo’s head and voila: Neo closes his eyes to the Real World and opens them to the Matrix.

The Real World was a post-apocalyptic world and it was bad in every way. Those who lived in the Real World had been set free from their role in the Matrix: they are no longer “connected.” They were free but not everyone liked that: Cypher didn’t. He longed to get back in; the Matrix was the escape because in it one could do whatever came to mind: dress, eat, play or kill. Someone jacking in from the Real World curates his experience however he wants. Everyone connected to the Matrix had roles to fill, families, friends, jobs, etc. so there were some limits for them. But not for those set free–they could jack in and be anyone and do anything. (Cypher wanted to be someone important…”like an actor.”)

In our reality, none of us is captive to the Matrix though many, many of us seek to be jacked-in to escape the Real World. Our children–from the young Millennials through to the three-year old sitting in the dentist office with her own iPad–jack in to social media, multi-player games or YouTube for h.o.u.r.s. Just as the thought of a steak was alluring enough for Cypher to return to his pre-Real World slavery in the Matrix, the personally curated online experiences of our children draw them in further and further.

But there’s more. Michael Toscano wrote in First Things an opinion piece titled, “Ensnared in the Web.” He highlights the fact that “Big Tech” hires top neurologists, psychologists and behaviorists to create a product that stimulates an endless supply of addictive Dopamine. He writes of the “search” bar:

The search is presented to us as a tool for looking outward, but in fact is is a biopsy. It “extracts” our interests, habits, convictions, hopes, friends, purchases, politics, exact location and much more….The vast ocean of digital information which requires tools to navigate became the pathway for control.

Michael Toscano, “Ensnared in the Web” First Things, May 2022.

On organizational levels, Big Tech is afflicted with the same tendencies of manipulation, greed and power that each of us has. Only armed with the right algorithm and we go where it wants us to go. And those most affected? They are the least wise and therefore most unsuspecting: tweens, teens and young adults.

Instead of taking the blue pill they turn on the blue lights of the screen. And no sooner than a swipe and voila! They are jacked-in. In the Matrix, to be jacked-in meant you were at risk of discovery by the Agents. Once found it was run or die. At one point Neo asked Morpheus what happens if one dies in the Matrix. “The body cannot live without the mind,” he answered. The one killed in the Matrix slumps in his chair in the Real World: his eyes closed, lifeless, breathless–captured by the Matrix never to be released again.

  • How many of us have walked into our children’s rooms to see them: eyes reflecting the blue light, virtually breathless, apparently lifeless, slumped–captured by the online world (maybe) never to be released again?

What is there to be done? How many of us realize there is no neutral ground anyplace in Creation–including the Web? Do we instruct our children on its dangers? Do we believe there is danger there? Are we suspicious enough of Big Tech? The whole world is moving everything possible online in the vain belief that perhaps it can be a place of utopia. Free speech! Freedom to browse and surf! Freedom to comment! Freedom to vent and curse! Freedom to perform without risk–a place where “I can be somebody important…like an actor”!

The reality is that smartphones don’t belong in the hands of children. They hardly belong in the hands of young adults. Perhaps it’s true that parenting has never been so hard. It is two voices (hopefully) against a Legion of them: truly, what can be done? Pray. Pray for what the apostle Paul warned in Colossians:

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Colossians 2:8

Take your family to a confessing and faithful church. Put the kids in Sunday school and youth group. Encourage other adults to commit to friending your kids. Toss your kids outside and tell them to play. Limit the time they spend on devices and limit the places they can go when they’re on them. Go camping or biking or long-boarding. Educate yourself on the dangers of social media.

You can do it. They won’t like it but what do they know? We might not be able to reform Big Tech but we can educate our children and grandchildren and “play the man” like we’re supposed to do.

White Paper #12: Our Framework: the Fall

With this paper, we jump into the second major part of our framework for considering sex and gender: the Fall. For those who aren’t familiar, an overarching way to view the story of redemption in Christ is “Creation, Fall, Redemption and Glorification.” This white paper begins our look at the Fall.

First, a review. We start with the six (6) facts of Creation:

  • We are all made in God’s image
  • Each person is either male or female
  • God blessed us in our maleness and femaleness
  • To be male and female is necessary for the work the Lord has for us
  • Male and female highlights the relationship between Christ and the church
  • There is no interchangeability between the sexes

Then, from there we recognize “Biology is apology”: It tells us our sex and it tells us our roles. Next, we consider how these things speak to us about “identity” and “identifiers.”

  • Identity is what we have in common with every other man, woman and child: male or female, in God’s image, subject to the Fall, worshipper.  
  • Identifiers are person-specific and can be good and godly or bad and sinful.  

Pronouns matter—but not that much.  And, in this mission, we accept people with an agenda.

Why is all this necessary?  Man’s original disobedience.

The impact of the fall cannot be underestimated. Now, thorough-going fallenness is everywhere.  We have only short glimpses of holiness and wholeness, but they are quickly eclipsed by pain, uncertainty, sinful thoughts or persecution. In the Reformed faith, we categorize the impact of the fall as “total.”  Every human born is born with the indelible imprint of the fall upon his or her soul.  David recognized this in Psalm 51:5

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

His mother didn’t conceive him sinfully—from fornication—but having been conceived, he was already infected by sin. Every part of us has been infected with sin and, while we are not as bad as we could be, every part of us has been tainted. How did this happen?  This is probably the most important interpretative key to our day-to-day experiences: Genesis 3:1-12.   Let’s look at the progression from sinlessness to sinfulness in these verses.

#1: The challenge to God’s honesty and provision: 3:1

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

This is a fundamental charge against God that is inherent in sin: He is not telling us everything, we deserve to know more, He is depriving us, He is not good—sin speaks all of this all of the time. We have to take matters in our own hands because we know better

#2: Eve’s repetition of God’s words + an interpretation: 3:2-3

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”

We don’t know why Eve added the prohibition of touching the tree; perhaps she and Adam agreed that’s what God’s command required. Do we know better than God such that we can add to His word?

#3: Serpent’s challenge: 3:4-5

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

What is interesting about the serpent’s challenge is that it is so close to the truth that it seems compelling. If they ate, they would know good and evil, but if they ate, they wouldn’t know it sinlessly because the process of knowing it was sin.

#4: Eve’s deception and disobedient action: 3:6

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Eve was deceived into thinking, (a) the tree was actually good vs. deadly, (b) it was beautiful as a tree planted by God so it couldn’t be all bad, (c) it should be taken so that she could be wise like God—why wouldn’t God want that? Her deceit led to her sinful thoughts which led to her sinful actions—including giving some of the fruit that she knew was forbidden to her husband. In this action, she prioritized her flesh over her soul; as did Adam.  The physical / mental took priority over the spiritual—sound familiar?

  • This is sin’s pattern: the flesh over the soul, what I want over what God says I need. 

She sinned against God and then against her husband.  He followed suit by sinning against God and his wife.  

#5: The result: the serpent was right 3:7

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Isn’t it interesting that their recognizing their nakedness made them want to cover it?  Previously, they were naked and without shame. Their bodies were now a problem, “Simply put, spiritual sin has physical effects.”[1]. They each covered the one thing that was central to how God made them and what He made them to do: be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. The Fall creates inherent opposition to how we are made and what we are made to do.  Each of us is inclined—naturally—to oppose how we are made and what we are made to do.

#6: They hid themselves from God: 3:8

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Them hiding from God is odd since they ate of the Tree believing it would make them like God. They knew they weren’t like God but were guilty before Him—so they hid in order to act like God wasn’t there. The apostle Paul picks up on this in Romans 1:18.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

#7: God forces Adam to take responsibility for what had happened: 3:9-11

But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

He should’ve guarded the Garden including Eve: he did not. He disobeyed God and His command and, as the leader, he would stand before God and admit it.

#8: God calls them both to account and no one took responsibility! 3:12-13

The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

God called the man to accept responsibility: he blamed the woman. God called the woman to accept responsibility: she blamed the serpent. No one took responsibility for what they did. The Fall makes us inclined to blame someone else for our actions, to defend ourselves as right and not take responsibility: “admit nothing, deny everything and always make counter-accusations.”

Key takeaways

  • Sin is always speaking a challenge to God’s ordered world: its nature is to twist what God has made and said and bend it to its opposite.  All sins are lies.
  • When we add to God’s word, we subtract from the freedom we have in Him.
  • Our enemy will work hard to soften the edges of his allurements: he will work to convince us what he proposes is just a version of what God does.
  • We are at risk of being deceived by him if we depart from God’s word and forget God’s character.
  • Sin will cause us shame that we will work to hide.
  • Sin will lead us to blame others.

[1] Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock, What does the Bible teach about Transgenderism? (Christian Focus; 2020), 43.

White Paper #11: What can we do about pronouns?

During the seminar, I was asked how should we handle a person’s request that we use a specific pronoun even when it violates the person’s biology?  My initial answer was to refuse to accept the request to use preferred pronouns: “It isn’t speaking truthfully,” I reasoned–and I’m correct, almost.

However, as the questioner and I spoke further off-line, she told me that with a relationship in progress and trust being built, it might bring the whole house down if she were to change in mid-stream.  I think there’s wisdom in that. Indeed, the priest in me agreed while the prophet frowned.  I’d suggest to you that it should do that to all of us: create a tension, a grace-truth tension.

This issue might be analogous to Jesus’ approach to the Samaritan woman.  He did not start the conversation with a discussion about her marital status; what may be analogous to our “pronoun issue.” He was ultimately more interested in her soul than her sexual habits.  However, neither did He ignore her marital status: He eventually asked her to go get her husband.

The apostle Paul did something similar at the Areopagus in Acts 17:22-24:

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription: ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.

Paul’s first words weren’t, “My what a bunch of pagans you are!”  Though he would not have been wrong!  He met them where they were—in respect and dignity—and proceeded from there. If we are thinking biblically, we know we should be referring to ourselves according to how God made us: biology is apology. However, those walking in darkness by definition are ignoring and suppressing how God made them.  

Their demand that we use their preferred pronouns is a statement of three rebellious things:

  1. “I refuse to accept how God made me.”
  2. “I am sovereign over my life.”
  3. “You will help me be happy.”

Yet they are statements made by one captive to do the devil’s will—a sinner and a sufferer, remember? Where do we start?  What do we address?  We “accept them with an agenda” (I first saw this phrase in Paul David Tripp’s book, “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.”)

  • We accept them: they are like us: male or female, image-bearing, subject to sin and worshippers.  They have inherent dignity and value and worth.  

We were just like them in our sins when we were unconverted—and we are more like them than unlike now. We accept them (even, at times, agreeing to use their pronouns) but with an agenda.  What is the agenda we must have with those who are seeking their happiness in sexual brokenness and expressive individualism? Is it simply to get them off their crazy pronouns? No: that they become worshippers of God through Jesus Christ. 

Remember our new mission field—as needy as any mission field—is characterized by confusion, anger and misdirected joy-seeking in distorted sexuality. The most loving and compassionate thing we can do is lead those who are broken to wholeness in Christ. This agenda sets the boundaries of our love: we are ambassadors of Christ. So:

  • We won’t follow them into sin—we won’t become like them
  • We won’t forsake our confession of Christ or our walk with Christ
  • We won’t minimize the biblical teaching on sexuality
  • We will be honest about our perspective
  • We will be earnest about our interest in getting to know the other person
  • We will display the fruits of the Spirit

What cannot be part of our agenda?

  • Celebrating brokenness as normal and desired: brokenness isn’t normal—it is not God’s design and shouldn’t be celebrated
  • Advocating for policies or actions that make brokenness easier or more acceptable
  • Shaming those who are broken as if something weird is happening to them

What an agenda like this means is that we go at God’s pace in the relationship. This is very hard especially if the one we are working to accept is dearly loved: we want them to be free and the time is NOW! That is normal and it is good but we can’t step into God’s providential plan apart from the fruit of the Spirit and wisdom. Jesus’ work with the Samaritan woman is very instructive.

Even in the midst of a patient pursuit of a person’s worship well-being, there are at least seven reasons why we need to have an agenda: 7 TRUTHS.

#1: God chose the person’s sex, the parents chose the person’s name—our pronouns are received not declared: it is sin to ignore those.

#2: We cannot accept self-sovereignty: the Bible tells us we are not gods over our lives. 

#3: Happiness in this life will not translate to eternal life apart from Jesus Christ; eternal life for the soul has to be our focus.

#4: Is it loving and respectful to God to ignore how He created the person using pronouns that aren’t true?

#5: Does it speak truthfully to the person about who they really are?  

#6: Is it dignifying to them —does it honor them are created image-bearers—to speak falsely to them about them?

#7: What is to be gained by continuing on without confrontation?  For us or for them?  Eventually Jesus spoke to the woman; eventually Paul spoke to the Athenians.  So must we.

To accept them with an agenda is what Jesus did with the woman at the well—He did not shame her or mock her or condemn her, remember? He was willing to engage her.  He dignified her by speaking to her crossing over a number of cultural taboos. He preached the good news to her before addressing her sexual sin. In His honesty, He called her out eventually. He didn’t ask her to leave the man she was living with but rather leave the false religion she was committed to.

Jesus had an agenda—and that agenda meant wisdom and patience in not immediately addressing something that was sinful and obvious.

Pronouns matter yet souls matter more than what pronouns someone chooses to use about themselves.  If we accept people with an agenda—and that agenda is to get them to see who they are based on what God’s word says—them we might have to wade through and compassionately tolerate things we know need to change.

White Paper #10: Creation: Our Identifiers (and a teaser about pronouns)

In White Paper #9, we discussed “identity.” Identity properly answers the question, “Who am I?” in categories found in the Bible. Specifically in our being, our experience and our purpose. In sum, we are “male and female made in God’s image, subject to the fall and its miseries engaging in worship.”

But, that is insufficient to fully answer the question, “Who am I?” There are things about me that are not true of you and vice versa. Those things have come to shape how I approach the world, relationships with men and women, politics even food choices. These are true of me but are not true of others. Identity is what we share with everyone else ever born or will be born but “identifiers” are what is specifically true of me.

Identifiers answers a related question, “What else is true about me?”  Here is where we can avoid some category confusion. Identifiers are things I do not necessarily have in common with others but are true of me.  Identifiers can be good things or bad things, godly things or sinful things. For example, here are some of my identifiers:

My name, Spanish heritage, child of a divorced home, oldest sibling, left-handed, near-sighted, truck-owner, father of 5, husband of one wife, Presbyterian, pastor, American, conservative. I once was a resident of MO, then SC, then NY, then GA, then KS, then IL, then VA, then SC and now, NC.

You following?  All of those things have left a mark on me—more than a mark, they have shaped me; they color the filter that I use to look at life.  They influence how I make decisions.  They are experiences, part of my upbringing, God’s specific providence for me.

In a real sense they are “me” but only in a sense.  Identifiers don’t extend all the way down to identity though they run deep. This is where some who want to call themselves “Gay Christians” get it wrong: homosexual interest and practice is an identifier not an identity. At the same time, to answer the “Who am I?” question, if I only used identifiers, my answer is inadequate.

As I mention, there are good identifiers and bad, sinful ones. In my example above, I explained what could be called “good” identifiers.  Nothing about how I describe my experiences can be called sinful. Inappropriate, sinful identifiers are those things about me and my conduct that do not glorify God, that is, are contrary to His word.  

There are things in my past that have had shaping and influencing effect on my life that are not good: sport idolatry, achievement idolatry, views of sex, drunkenness, aloofness, rudeness and manipulation.

These have taught me ungodly lessons and habits—all of which I have had to learn from and some of which I have to regularly mortify. Things like these that, if taken from desire to act, would be sin. Paul gives us a list in Galatians 5:

…the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these….those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Any one of these (and those like these), from desire to act, is sinful.  These need to be mortified whenever they arise; not contemplated but killed. Each of these, when they become lifestyle choices, aren’t part of our identity but are identifiers—things uniquely about me. If we mis-categorize them as part of my “identity” then we make an error since they might be true of me and not you.

Want to end this post with a little pizzaz? Let’s talk about pronouns. “What are your pronouns?”  Is that a question of identity, identifiers or both. It matters, doesn’t it?  If it is a question of identity, then I answer, “I am a male, image-bearing, living in a fallen world worshipper of Jesus Christ.”  That’s who I am: I am a “he, him.”  It’s what the Bible and my biology tell me.

I am more than that but I am no less and those are the necessary basics that without them I am not speaking truthfully about myself.

White Paper #9: Creation, part 6 “Identity”

How God has created us male and female with distinct but overlapping responsibility is the essential starting point for discussing identity.  In order to best understand the biblical teaching, we need to consider the difference between “identity” and “identifiers.” In this post, we’ll look at identity.

Strictly speaking, identity answers the question: “Who am I?”  It is this very question that so polarizes people: am I my sexuality? Am I my ethnicity? Am I my nationality? These aren’t unimportant questions but they aren’t answered by appealing to identity. The answer our culture gives is some form of “I am whoever I want to be—whoever it is that makes me feel happiest about myself.”

That’s a key point in our culture: we answer the identity question in light of my happiness. To tie happiness to my answer to “Who am I?” is treacherous. Instead, the Bible answers this very profound question in a three-part answer. I draw from the Ad Interim Study Committee Report on Human Sexuality.

There, we find three strands that are woven together to answer the identity question.

#1: Ontologically: “in our very essence” we are male and female in the image of God. This is our non-reducible, common-to-all-mankind answer.  We are no less than male and female in God’s image—all of us.  One writer calls this “indelible, central and direct from God.”

  • In other words, when we are answering the identity question, we must search for what all mankind has in common.

The study report says, “We are made male and female and therefore these categories are not merely cultural constructions or fluid components of our self-understanding—they are identities imprinted upon us in our creation by God.” In our very essence, we are male and female in the image of God.

#2: Phenomenologically: “in our experience” of the world we are beset with original sin and actual sin that flows from it as well as the miseries of this life.  We cannot think of ourselves simply as male and female image bearing soul carriers—we exist in time and our time is fallen. In fact, it is not possible to extract who we are in our essence from who we are in our experience.  I’m not trying to be abstract or philosophical.  I’m simply saying it is impossible to think about “me” apart from “me—in my history and in my present.”

#3: Teleologically: “in our purpose” we are to be worshippers of the God who made us. Again, not just male and female image bearers subject to sin and misery but also worshippers—we were made to worship. All of mankind’s purpose is to give worship to whom it is due, namely our Creator.  Yet the Fall corrupted our ability to fulfill this purpose.  

It doesn’t mean, however, that fallen mankind don’t worship—they do!  Paul tells us they do in Romans 1:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Men and women who do not follow the one, true and living God of the Bible now worship the creature and created things and are enslaved to what is false. Now, only those in union with Christ are rightly ordered to our created purpose.  For we have been born again and are being renewed in the image of our Redeemer.   Our fundamental purpose is worship of God through Christ Our Lord.

Identity—a summary. Identity is what all mankind shares with each other:

  • We are male and female created in God’s image—ontologically, “in our essence.”
  • We are male and female created in God’s image in a fallen world—phenomenologically, “in our experience.”
  • We are male and female created in God’s image in a fallen world and worshippers of God (or of the creation)—teleologically, “in our purpose.”

White Paper #8: Creation, part 5: Eve’s distinct calling as a woman

First, as with men, God, also, reveals His purpose for Eve in the story of her creation: Genesis 2:18

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

How God made female was that she is “a helper fit for him” which means she is like Adam, she corresponds to Adam, she is useful to Adam and his task. Here’s a quote from Gary Yagel’s book:

She is to be for the man as an ally to benefit him in the work they were given to do.  Just as ezer [the word for helper] tells of God’s relatedness to Israel as the necessary support for survival and military perils, the woman is the ally to the man without which he cannot succeed or survive. Unlike “helper” which could seem optional and allow the man to think he’s otherwise adequate for his task without the woman, the distinction of “ally” marks the man’s dependence upon her contribution. The dependence is plain when we consider Israel’s need for God’s contribution as her ally. What sort of ally is the woman to the man?  She is a necessary ally, the sort without which he cannot fulfill humanity’s mission.

Several times in that quote, he referenced God as helper. Indeed, God is called “helper” in many circumstance thereby dignifying that role.

Secondly, importantly, the essence of her femininity is found in her biology.  Her essence is not in her function—it is her femaleness. She is created to be a giver of life, a nurturer.  Genesis 1:28:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it….”

Genesis 3:20:

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

“Eve” sounds like the Hebrew, “life-giver” and resembles the word, “life.” Dr. Yagel, “She is designed to receive her husband and surround him with love.  Her breasts as made to nurture and her life-giving womb nourishes and surrounds the developing child.”

This is how women are made: their biology—from birth—carries the potential to give and nurture life.  That is the role they have based on their biology. Now I said, “potential” because the fallen world often wars against a woman’s opportunity or ability to marry or to have children. In those cases, a woman is no less a woman than a married woman with 5 kids.  How do we know? That woman, made in God’s image, is female, and her virtue and worth is in that.

Thirdly, the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 teaches us that to be a necessary ally—inclined towards life-giving and nurture—is done in many activities.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life. She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens. She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard. She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:

This isn’t a picture of a single woman—this is a picture of the essence of femininity is action.  The proper leveraging of her biology.  This is what life-giving and nurture looks like in many forms. Where is weakness?  Where is frailty?  Where is second-class citizenship?  Where is the door mat and the helpless? They are utterly absent. 

To be made female is to possess a strength and glory that is on brilliant display when a woman chooses to live consistently with her biology!  That manner of life isn’t frittering along in all the greatest shops and salons and exquisite parties: it is a giving of oneself as a servant and partner to a husband, to a family, to a church.

Lastly, a woman is called to inner beauty and external modesty: a message utterly lost in the culture of our day. 1 Peter 3:3-4:

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

What do we make of this?  If we could make a class, “What makes a woman?” We would answer with “a gentle and quiet spirit.”

Gentle is not weak—it is meek.  That is humble.  It isn’t outwardly showy, loud or arrogant. Doesn’t even a woman’s biology urge her to such a thing?  A life-giver and nurturer is gentle, no?  

Quiet isn’t silent—it is at rest.  That is confident.  It isn’t demanding or offensive. How might she raise up her children and assist her husband unless she is at rest in her soul—convinced (and resting in) God’s love and purpose for all things. And, if she is unmarried or childless, will she be humble and at rest in the Lord?  Dedicating herself to the service of the church as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 7? As 84-year old Anna in the Temple (Luke 2:36-38), who had dedicated her life to the Lord for probably over 60 years?

A gentle and quiet spirit is a thoroughly theological spirit that’s why it can rest.  Such a woman knows: 

  • The greatness and steadfast love of God
  • The unassailable salvation and intercession of Christ 
  • The ever-present help of the Holy Spirit.  
  • You know God’s providence.  
  • You know adoption and sanctification—that God is at work changing you and all those around you into degrees of glory.
  • You know it is only a matter of time until we receive all that Christ earned for us.

And as the context of 1 Peter 3 bears this out, a gentle and quiet spirit rests in the control of the Lord over all things in her life—just as Sarah did when Abraham sinned against her and sent her into a harem. 

All Christian women possess the potential to live as Peter insists.  The only issue confronting women today (as in every age) is will a gentle and quiet spirit be your aim, your study, your practice? Humble and confident.  Patient and trusting. Asked another way: will you allow your biology to constrain your expectations and your conduct?  

Where feminism has failed women is convincing them they can (and should) do anything a man can do.  Perhaps that is physically possible, but is it right?  Indeed, that’s not the issue. Sisters, God has made you female—a life-giver and nurturer with a calling to a gentle and quiet spirit—will you act as a female?

White Paper #7: Creation, part 4: Adam’s Distinct Calling as a Man

From the Genesis creation account (Genesis 1-2), we see Adam’s calling as a man in four parts: provide, protect, pursue and strength.

#1: Adam was put in the garden to provide by causing it and its inhabitants to flourish: Genesis 2:15

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it… 

Men are to provide what is needed to flourish physically: God has built the male body for hard work in order to provide; “work” means cultivate. God’s expectation was that Adam would have dominion over creation, that is, cultivate, develop and build it. He was to establish structures so that the inherent fertility of the Garden was produced for the good of all.

Also, Adam was to provide what their families need to flourish spiritually. As the priest of his family, he was given instructions on what to do and how to live. Further, in the New Testament, all married Christian men have this role: Ephesians 5:27 (for wives), Genesis 18:19, Colossians 3:21 (for children). This calling to provide for the flourishing of others is a sacrificial one. Once again, drawing from Ephesians 5:25, just as Christ sacrificed for the church, husbands are to sacrifice to provide for the good of their families. 

#2: Adam was put in the garden, also, to protect it: Genesis 2:15:

The LORD God took the man and put him the garden to…keep it.

“Keep” means to guard, protect and watch.  The need for this role was very shortly seen with the invasion into the Garden of the snake. As we saw when we discussed biology, Adam was specifically and physically built to have this role. As Eve would be mothering and raising children, for Adam to be the guard and provider for them is an apt display of their complementary relationships. This same dynamic is seen in the story of Boaz caring for Ruth and Naomi. Indeed, one reason why God confronted Adam in the garden was he failed in his duty to “keep it” or “guard it” from intruders like the snake.

#3: A man is called, also, to leave his home to pursue a wife: Genesis 2:24:

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” 

This isn’t just rapturous prose or poetry.  It isn’t just a man amazed at what he sees.  He sees in her a profound purpose for his life—thoughts of family, flourishing, vocation possible because he was made male.

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Our biology demands we pursue a wife so that we can consummate how were are made in every way.  So that a man may use his maleness to be who God designed him to be—made possible because of his wife. It is a great coup of our enemy that young men are convinced to forsake pursuing young women in marriage.  They act as if their purpose in life is simply a hedonistic enjoyment of Halo.

Ever thought of that?  It is by design and it is right that a young man must look upon a young woman and see in her, the means to fulfill how God has created him. Now, one caveat, there is no shame in singleness—indeed there is glory in it if it is chosen for the glory of the Lord and the good of His church. Apart from a spiritual conviction to singleness, Adam’s distinct calling (as ours is today) is to pursue a wife in order that, with her, he can be all who God made him to be.

#4: Lastly, men are called to strength.  

We are made physically strong. Men have:

  • 20% more muscle mass
  • 40% more upper body strength
  • 33% more lower body strength
  • Larger fast twitch muscle fibers
  • Larger heart, lungs, legs

What is this for? This isn’t simply an accident of creation that has somehow endured to this day. Men are called to strength so passages like this make sense:

1 Kings 2:2-3

When David’s time to die drew near, he commanded Solomon his son, saying, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn,

1 Corinthians 16:13

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

1 John 2:14

I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

1 Peter 3:7

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

As we could see from the verses cited, we cannot misunderstand the strength of men to be physical only.

I’ll call your attention to two things. First, the qualifications for elder and deacon: is physical prowess listed among them?  No.  You might summarize what is found there as faith, courage, godliness and service–strong in humility and faith. Second, this picture of strength was perfectly modeled by the Lord Jesus who displayed strength of courage and resolve more than the physical dominance we typically regard as masculine. Remember, though we are biologically stronger, our strength must be in the courageous and faithful service of our families and our Church.

These are four created areas that give men our distinct calling in this world.

White Paper #6: Creation, part 3: Biology is Apology

Biology is apology.”  Biology is our apologetic–our rationale and our foundation–for charting a path through the slough of sexual despondency. You know the saying, “All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten”?  Well, in a similar manner, almost all we need to know about being male and female we learn from our biology. The modern trend is to bend biology to whatever conceptions the mind has about what it means to be male and female.

This is wrong: God has determined who we are when we are conceived and then born male or female. One significant step to clearing away confusion and creation a starting point for restoration is found in the primacy of biology. Our biology tells us two things.

#1: Biology tells us our sex—whether we are male or female. Our biology tells us whether we are male or female: hormone level, genitalia, reproductive organs, chromosomes and muscle mass. This is an obvious point, to be sure. “What is a man?” or “What is a woman?” in one sense is answered by a biologist (though it is not needed, strictly speaking).

A biologist would have to report that there are measurable differences between men and women—some of which cannot be altered by hormone blockers or gender reassignment surgery.

[By the way, Matt Walsh at the website, “The Daily Wire,” has written an article and is producing a program called, “What is a woman?”; it is from there that I pulled these pieces of data.]

  • .5% of women are over 6 feet tall; 20% of men are
  • All men have the XY and all women have the XX chromosomes in every cell
  • Women have 20% less muscle mass
  • 40% less upper body strength
  • 33% less lower body strength
  • Smaller fast twitch muscle fibers
  • Smaller heart, lungs, shorter legs
  • More estrogen than men but far less testosterone (men have a 1000x more)
  • Lower capacity to make oxygen when they are exerting themselves.

In rare cases some image bearers are born with ambiguous genitalia; “intersex” is what they are called. This physical abnormality is medical and very rare (less than 1 in 5000).  This condition is clearly a result of the Fall’s impact.

No one gets to redefine his biology—rather we only accept it or reject it.

#2: Biology gives us our roles. As I mentioned above, biology tells us almost all we need to know about how to live as male and female. Gary Yagel, in his book, “Anchoring Your Child to God’s Truth In a Gender Confused Culture,” writes this (24):

God’s idea of womanhood is expressed in the physical body He has designed for her.  God’s idea of masculinity is revealed in the carton masculinity is delivered in—his male body.

When we suspend historic debates about the roles of men and women and we step back and look at our bodies, we can be greatly helped. Our roles in this world are fruits of our biology—God has made man’s body in such a way that he can do what God created him to do.  What was that?  Genesis 2:15:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

“Work” or cultivate; “keep” or guard. These are the categories of work Adam was made to do. Indeed, when we look at Genesis 3:17-19 we find what was cursed due to Adam’s disobedience was his work. 

Likewise, God makes a woman’s body in such a way that she can do what God created her to do.  What was that?  Genesis 1:28:

…Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.

Physiologically, this is obvious. There is much more biblical data to assimilate but we can’t ignore God made woman for a specific function captured in this verse. Again, how do we know?  Genesis 3:16.  What is cursed there?  Family building.

I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.  Your desire shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you.

There is more to say about men’s and women’s created roles, but we cannot rightly understand more until we have accepted the foundational data from Genesis.

White Paper #5: Creation, part 2: Six Facts of Creation

We are about to meet the 4th challenge we wrote about previously: putting our sexuality in the perspective of the whole Bible.  Any discussion of human sexuality in its proper or improper expressions has to start with Creation. The aim of this post is to teach a positive and thorough (not exhaustive) view of male and female. 

#1: All are made in God’s image: 

Genesis 1:26-27:

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 

Each human is made in the image of God, after His likeness.  The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 4 states it this way:

After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness and true holiness, after His own image…

The image of God is remained even after the Fall. Genesis 5:1, 9:5:

When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. Male and female He created them and He blessed them and named them Man when they were created…Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.

The point here is not to dig into what defines the image of God. Other writers have aptly worked through that issue. What is germane here is that however we define the image of God in man, each human being has it.

#2: Each is either male or female.

27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

To be human is to image God; to image God is to be male and female.  That is, male as male and female as female.  Our sexuality—our maleness and femaleness—is not an accident of nature nor simply biological: sexual identity and function are part of God’s creation; His will for His image bearers.

  • In other words, having been made female (or male), to live consistently as female (or male) is God’s will for female (or male) image-bearers.  

The sex we were given at birth is God’s will for us; it is the means by which He will accomplish His will using us: me as a man, my wife as a woman. Indeed in verse 31, God called male and female, “very good.”  For Adam to live as a man and Eve as a woman was “very good.”

Since our culture has rejected God and the church, it has rejected its origin story.  Now, thanks to evolutionary theory, we are simply the result of mindless, random acts of chance: blobs of matter coalesced into man and woman.  If that is true, then it doesn’t matter what we do with our bodies—we are male and female by accident so…live it up!  And our souls (if they exist) don’t matter, either.  All that matters is that we maximize our happiness because, in the end, who cares.  

God cares because He made us male and female.

#3: God blessed them after He created them male and female.

28And God blessed them. 

Being male and female is the blessed state.  This is important: being male and female in the fallen world is sometimes very hard for people—there is such a thing as “gender dysphoria” and, while very rare, is real.  Helping bring people back to realize celebrating created maleness and femaleness is the blessed state is an act of love and compassion.

Experiencing the blessedness of created maleness and femaleness is behind biblical commands to maintain the distinction between male and female.  One place where this is stated is in Deuteronomy 22:5:

A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.

To obscure the maleness and femaleness by our choice of clothing is to dim the blessedness of what God has created.  This is very popular today among youth—especially young girls.  They now wear clothing that resembles their brothers or fathers.  In a previous post, we linked to that article about Gucci designers: they are committed to putting men in skirts.  To try with clothing—or hormones and surgery—to obscure or hide created maleness and femaleness is not only an abomination it is not the state of blessedness.

Another place is 1 Corinthians 11:14-15

Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? 

In that text, Paul is correcting a practice at Corinth that minimized maleness and femaleness—Paul even refers back to creation as the corrective.

What is very important in this point is the principle that God has never wanted men and women to obscure their maleness or femaleness with clothing and, by implication, our actions. Different cultures will define cultural expressions for men and women; these historic traditions had been well established. Nonetheless, the Bible doesn’t give dogmatic instruction on what constitutes male or female clothing simply that however we work out the principle, we cannot purposely obscure or hide the blessed states of maleness and femaleness.

#4: To be male and female is necessary for the work the Lord created us for:

28And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

This mandate was restated after the Fall with slight modification. Genesis 9:7:

And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.

Our created design was purposeful: God has specific work for us to do that requires we be male and female.  It is especially obvious that to be fruitful and multiply and increase greatly requires the binary male-female.  It is our design in order to image God and it is our design to accomplish God’s purposes for us.

#5: Paul highlights that this being made male and female was designed to display the complementarity between Christ and the church.  That is, the created differences between man and woman and how we are designed to be together—this is illustrated graphically in marital sex–displays the relationship between Christ and the church.  

From the very beginning of creation, God made us in such a way that the glory of the union of Christ and the church could be seen in the union of male and female—husband and wife.  Ephesians 5:32:

This mystery [of marriage] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

God’s intent with creating male and female was ultimately so that the complementary relationship between Christ and the church could be seen.  Christ would never trade places with the church; the church could never trade places with Christ.  The Person of Christ and the Bride of Christ are not interchangeable: we could not be Him nor He us.

  • In this way alone, we see all sexual deviation from maleness and femaleness is against nature and against redemption.

#6: There can be no interchangeability between male and female.

  • For the accurate imaging of God our Creator, there must be male-as-male and female-as-female.
  • For the experience of the created blessedness, there must be male-as-male and female-as-female.
  • For the work that God has created us to do, there must be male-as-male and female-as-female.
  • For the proper representation of Christ and the church, there must be male-as-male and female-as-female.

White Paper #4: Creation, part 1

A culture that ignores God replaces Him with something lesser.  Much is lost as a result.  Our enemy in the Garden deceived Eve into thinking she could replace God.  She fell for it, Adam did nothing about it.  This has devastated every culture since.

Let’s review:

  1. What is now driving our culture?  The pursuit of happiness.
  2. Where is our culture now looking for that happiness?  Sexual  brokenness.  
  3. What is the main means our culture uses to ensure it can achieve what it seeks?  The sovereignty of personal “Choice.”  

No longer is faith, hope and love animating our approach to sexuality.  Now, the three guiding tenets of our culture are “happiness,” “brokenness” and “choice.”

God created us to seek our joy in Him.  So in our fallenness that inner drive that should be seeking to accelerate towards God is bent inward instead.  Its main pursuit and preoccupation is happiness found in the things of this world—the broken and fallen things of this world.  While this has always been the bent of man’s heart, now, it is even more a prime motivating factor for how people live. 

Keep in mind also, every other person in my orbit is responsible to participate in my drive for happiness.  Not by simply allowing me to do what I want but cheerleading me as I do it, making obstacles disappear for me, allowing me to be sovereign over the pursuit including how you are a part of it.  

  • This is what makes our cultural moment so tense and volatile: we fear that unless we can get others to validate our pursuit of happiness that we won’t be happy.

Our discussion of human sexuality must begin at creation: Genesis 1-2.  

A main reason why the modern discussion about sexuality is so fractured—why the sexual acronym now officially is LGBTQQIP2SAA which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, intersex, pansexual, two-spirit (2S), androgynous and asexual—why this is so fractured is because the culture is looking to answer a fundamental question about humanity apart from any influence of the One who made humanity.

Imagine an aborigine who was scooped up from the Australian outback, taken to LA and given keys to a mansion and a Rolls and then left there.  What’s the likelihood he would know what to do with anything in that house or with that car?  Probably 0%.  Why?  He has no idea what these are—they are foreign to him—he doesn’t know how to use any of them because he has no experience with any of them; he has no instruction manual for them.  And, apart from a long process of education, he would likely end up sleeping in the backyard, eating the squirrels and setting the place on fire—just like he’d do at home.

Let’s begin our study of creation citing statement #2 from the Ad Interim Committee Report on Human Sexuality:

We affirm that God created human beings in his image as male and female (Gen. 1:26-27). Likewise, we recognize the goodness of the human body (Gen. 1:31; John 1:14) and the call to glorify God with our bodies (1 Cor. 6:12-20). As a God of order and design, God opposes the confusion of man as woman and woman as man (1 Cor. 11:14-15). While situations involving such confusion can be heartbreaking and complex, men and women should be helped to live in accordance with their biological sex. 

Nevertheless, we ought to minister compassionately to those who are sincerely confused and disturbed by their internal sense of gender identity (Gal. 3:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). We recognize that the effects of the Fall extend to the corruption of our whole nature (WSC 18), which may include how we think of our own gender and sexuality. Moreover, some persons, in rare instances, may possess an objective medical condition in which their anatomical development may be ambiguous or does not match their genetic chromosomal sex. Such persons are also made in the image of God and should live out their biological sex, insofar as it can be known.

White Paper #3: Our Challenges

Challenges Ahead of the Church

With the Lord’s interaction with the Samaritan woman in mind, the faithful Christian Church faces several challenges.

#1: Address the driving force behind the narrative: pursuing individual happiness.

The modern sexual narrative clearly differs from God’s word in its propositions and practices.  At some point, that must be addressed.  Why?  To win?  No—that’s not why Jesus addressed the Samaritan woman.  We must do it because compassion calls for it: if it is sinful, it is also enslaving.  John 8:34:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.

Romans 6:16

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?

The main reason we cannot just “live and let live” or celebrate sexual diversity is because to live in a way contrary to God’s word isn’t freeing—it is enslaving.  Love demands that we not turn away from those who are sexually broken.

But it is more than sinful: it is sinister.  It co-opts God’s design in us that our souls would be joyful in the Lord.  That principle in us is perverted into the pursuit of physical happiness.  In effect, we must keep in mind that the soul is more important than the body—because as we see in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus: it is.  This will keep us away from potential pitfalls like an over-emphasis on the person’s lifestyle—something the church has historically been rightly blamed for (like when the disciples returned to Jesus at the well they wondered why He spoke to a Samaritan woman.)

  • Sure trans and bi and homosexual is sin and no one who practices these as a lifestyle will be saved (1 Corinthians 6:10—is very clear) but helping someone turn away from brokenness requires more than using the Law.

Remembering the soul is more important than the body will also help us rightly categorize their anger, their insults and their efforts to cancel us.  In other words, those things come out of a sinful, suffering soul that has been challenged. It is sinful and sinister and yet it issues from a soul that is convinced happiness—now—is the highest good and not the greater joy in the pursuit of God now and heaven in the next life.

  • It is looking for happiness in brokenness and it will fail in this life and be condemned in the next.

#2: Breaking down echo-chambers.

The modern culture can be compared to a mason jar filled with glass marbles.  Each marble is next to but not in the next.  Rub them hard enough together and they won’t join (like Play-Doh)—they will shatter.  Our culture has become like that mason jar: each marble is a person who curates his life including in it only those voices and influences that make him happy.

This is especially obvious on social media.  Indeed social media has been training our culture to make echo chambers.  TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat—not a single one of the most popular social media apps makes our community for us.  This is also true for music and video streaming services.  These each require us to make our own community—that’s part of why they have become so popular. It makes sense then if I’m looking for influences that will make me happy I will include only those and actively exclude those that don’t. Hence, I am sovereign over my marble—I am the god of my life.

There are a number of problems with this (obviously).  One of the largest is this cannot cope with reality.  God hasn’t wired this world or His providence so that we can act like gods over our lives.  No one can do this.  This is why, as a culture, we have never been angrier.  We have never so lacked the ability to disagree.  We haven’t had so much difficulty just speaking to each other.  We can’t have conversations in which we disagree without the threat of getting canceled, ignored or marginalized. 

  • People will not be coaxed out of the so-called “safety” of their echo chambers.

The one way to break down the echo chamber is the gospel.  The gospel shatters my small marble that I am protecting with huge emotion with a message that tells me what’s in my marble is actually garbage—and real beautiful and free life is found somewhere else.  Of course we know this is the path to freedom but it is destructive before that.  

#3: (AIC, 35) Addressing the modern identity narrative: identity, freedom and power.

Identity. Christian teaching about sexuality no longer makes sense because the modern view is that “…sexuality is crucial for the expression of identity.”  Our sexuality is the pathway to unlocking our true and deep feelings and desires—to be authentically “me.”  “I am truly who I am when I am having sex with whomever I choose or I’m expressing whatever sexuality makes me happy.”

  • “…identity is now found in one’s desires, while in the past it was found in one’s duties and relationships with God, family and community.”

“Be true to yourself” and “live your own truth” or “no one can tell you who you are but you” are the repeated mantras and they are everywhere. The modern self is based on feelings and there is nothing rock solid or unchanging about feelings—feelings can change depending on what we eat. This is all very fragile, isn’t it?  My choice and my feelings are supreme and it is up to me to pursue what makes me happy. And everyone needs to get on board with making me happy.  

Freedom and power. Believe it or not, it is no surprise that this is also Critical Race Theory’s ascending hour.  CRT supercharges all of this: the CRT lens says the world is made of the oppressed (who are unhappy) and the oppressors. In a culture committed to personal happiness, of course it makes sense that those who stand in the way of this pursuit are actually “oppressors.” The sexual traditions and teaching from ancient texts are repressive and constraining: they are oppressing our ability to express ourselves sexually so they must be ignored

Is it any surprise the millennials and younger generation consider themselves religious  “Nones” or no religion? “The meaning of life is to determine who you are and to throw off the shackles of an oppressive society that refuses to accept and include you.” Isn’t this the message of the Oscars, The Little MermaidFrozenMulanMillion Dollar Baby, RuPaul, Caitlyn Jenner, Lia Thomas and “Be all you can be”?  

There is a power element here as well.  This we see in categories like “micro-aggressions” and safe spaces, statue removal and approved censorship. For the so-called “oppressed” their use of language trumps all others—try refusing to call a person by his chosen pronouns: there have been educators fired for that!   Our culture is now giving power over to those who are consumed with personal happiness uninformed by reason, wisdom or religion.  The young now dictate to the old.  It is a Machiavellian culture modeled after the Lord of the Flies.

#4: Rooting the church’s teaching in its full theology rather than simply its ethics: placing human sexuality in the broader framework of the Bible.

Historically, the church has had mainly one sexual message: No sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman. While that is a true representation of biblical teaching, it minimizes all the rest of the Bible’s teaching on sex and sexuality. This was pointed out in an article written by a woman struggling with homosexuality written to her pastor: “Seven Things I Wish My Pastor Knew about my Sexuality.

From the AIC, 40:

Christian theology answers that sex is part of the image of God–it must image God and in particular, His redeeming love. Sex is not about enhancing one’s power but about mutually giving up power to one another in love, as Christ did for us. The Christian answer to “Why must sex be within heterosexual marriage?” gets us into the very heart of the gospel. We should not, then, present the sex ethic without rooting it in the Bible’s doctrines of God, of creation and of redemption….So what is sex for? It is a signpost pointing to God’s design of saving love, and it is a means for experiencing something of that same pattern of love at the horizontal level between two human beings that we know at the vertical level in Christ.

This is our missionary moment.

White Paper #2: Our Cultural Moment

Recently, Rev. Dr. Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, NC, wrote an article for World Magazine online titled, “We live in confusing times: the progressives can’t keep their story straight on sex and gender.” It is very much worth reading because Kevin assimilates many of the messages the LGBT advocates push here and there. Indeed, what the article points out is both the very confusing and irreconcilable differences that exist in the modern sexual messaging.

Here is a short list of other online articles, each of which adds a brick to the overall sexuality structure:

I found these articles in one day. A single day cannot pass without just as many and more articles pushing, defending, advocating or decrying the ubiquitous sexual messaging. What is clear enough is there is no real clarity to be found in our culture regarding sex and gender. We are living in the fruit of expressive individualism, post-Christian and post-modern thought and the abandonment of those ideas and institutions that has carried the West.

In must the church step. My denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America, commissioned a group of pastors and scholars to do a study paper on human sexuality. It can be found here (abbreviated AIC, hereafter). It is biblical, pastorally sensitive and widely accepted in our denomination. The authors summarize the modern sexual messaging in five statements that read as if they are being spoken by an advocate:

The oppression of the past. In the past, ancient cultures surrounded sex with all sorts of taboos. In general, sex outside of marriage was forbidden in order to control women, to help men protect their daughters and wives as their property. 

The need for authentic expressionIn modern times, however, we have come to believe in the freedom and rights of individuals, including the right to love whomever we choose in a consensual relationship. Science has shown us that sex is a healthy thing and a crucial part of one’s identity. It is also a human right, and therefore we will only thrive and flourish as human beings if that right to choose is equally available to all people. 

The fight to love whom we want to loveOver the past century a number of brave individuals—usually women, gay, and transgender persons—have heroically stood up to the oppressive culture and said, ‘This is who I am! Don’t let anyone tell you who you can or cannot love!” Many of the early heroes of this movement were marginalized and many died for their willingness to challenge the cultural elites. 

The hard-won rights of today. But today we have a culture that affirms the right to have sex outside of marriage, to conduct same-sex relationships and include them in the legal institution of marriage, and to allow people to choose their own genders. In all these changes we are forging the first human society in history which is sex-positive and in which all persons can live as equal sexual beings. 

The continual dangerDespite these great accomplishments, most places in the world, and many places in our own society, still resist this healthy culture of sexual freedom and justice. Indeed, there are those who would try to turn back the clock and roll back these rights. Under no circumstances must we allow regressive forces—the foremost of which is religion—to take this away from us again. 

The bottom line (35), “This modern moral story about sexuality creates a plot-line of a struggle between courageous heroes and bigoted oppressive villains—all toward a  happy ending.” Happiness is the goal.

The modern sexual narrative is driven largely by people seeking to be happy and thinking expressing their individualism in sex is the way to get there.  “If you want to use sex for the development of new human life, that’s an option and your choice, but it’s not the primary reason people have sex.  Rather, sex is for individual fulfillment and self-realization” (AIC, 34).  In a word, “happiness.”

Among the bulk of the present young generations there’s been an abandoning of the church. In this way, finding true and lasting joy in our created sexuality is impossible. In its place, many are turning inward and seeking happiness in self-expression.  As a result, we are witnessing the success of the Freudian paradigm—happiness through sexuality.

Just a sample of the evidence of this carnal pursuit of happiness:

  • Centenary University in New Jersey just announced a master’s degree in “Happiness Studies.”
  • The intersection of happiness and sexuality is seen in Lady Gaga’s song, “Born this way” in which she equated being gay, bi-, lesbian or transgender with being black or white… “I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way!”

The Gender Unicorn is a case in point.  The “Gender Unicorn” is a soft and friendly picture created by the Trans Students Educational Resource group to be used in schools at the lowest levels.  It teaches a “fractured” view of human sexuality and identity.  According to the dogma behind the Unicorn, now, when it comes to sex and gender, each person has five (5) decisions to make:

  1. What gender identity will I take: male, female, neither, both?
  2. What gender expression will I make?  How will I live this out?
  3. Who am I physically attracted to: boys, girls, both?
  4. Who am I emotionally attracted to: boys, girls, both?
  5. Will I live consistently with the sex I was born with?

With the Gender Unicorn, there are sex-ed courses of instruction for high schoolers, elementary school–even three year olds. Mark Bauerlein in his excellent book, “The Dumbest Generation Grows Up,” reports having taken his child to music camp at a school in Vermont, he was sitting with other parents waiting for a particular workshop to end. While he waited, he heard a 30-something choral teacher leading a song with 5-7 year-olds that had this chorus, “It doesn’t matter who you love.” He writes:

“I peered through the small window in the classroom door and saw her clapping and singing and swaying back and forth with the kids repeating the refrain with a kindly maternal glee, everything about her posture, countenance, motions and voice reinforcing the warmth of the message.”

Recently on an NPR podcast “Embodied,” host Anita Rao in the podcast titled, “Parented: Raising A Gender-Expansive Kid,” lamented that she was guilty of perpetrating the gender binary problem with her nephew.  (“Gender binary” refers to the male-female distinction.) She said it was not by denying him the opportunity to try on lipstick or a headband but by not offering them to him. Further, she calls organizing our experience using gender is “limiting at best and harmful at worst.” Why? She reports (with no empirical evidence) gender binaries are not helpful for kids exploring who they “are.” 

Further, she interviewed a family in Raleigh, NC, whose daughter just decided to be a boy.  At some point the daughter (still believing she was a boy) asked her dad how to dress like a man and he said affirmingly, “However you dress is how a man dresses.”  This child is 14.  She has a 5 year old brother who is willing to correct people when they don’t follow the pronoun change of his big sister.  A five-year old correcting people.

Another part of the podcast recorded a conversation between an adult and a 6 year old boy—who had decided that when people called him a boy it made him sad but now that people call him a girl he’s happy because, “Now I feel happy that they understand.” He was asked about his favorite thing about being transgender.  He said, “I’m myself now.”  Ten years later, the same host interviewed the same boy because in a week he was going to get puberty blockers.  Here’s what he said,

“A lot of trans people, people who want this can get a blocker because it can block the wrong puberty…so that I don’t grow a beard and my voice doesn’t deepen…and I can grow some breasts and I can go through the puberty I want to go through.”

The program closes with advice from the 16 year old about so-called trans youth, “Hearing what they need is the most important thing ever and simply just using their preferred name and pronouns.” I can’t tell you the number of times I heard the word, “happy” in that podcast.

This fractured view of human sexuality, driven by the pursuit of happiness is united only by one thing: choice.  The highest good in today’s sexual narrative is choice: “I get to choose and no one can tell me otherwise.” With a prior commitment to personal happiness this makes sense. But of course we can see how problematic this is for young people. Think about that fractured view of sexuality and identity: what if they choose wrongly?  The current cultural indoctrination says authentic humanity depends on them making the right choice: that is a lot of pressure.

But what is the right choice?  It isn’t what is historic or traditional.  It isn’t what Mom and Dad and Nana or the pastor says.  So is it: What feels good?  What is accepted by friends or on TikTok or by Lady Gaga (or whoever is popular)?  And, how on earth is a teenager, with a dozen and a half years of life—whose sexuality is under hormonal assault anyhow—supposed to make an informed decision about his or her sexuality?  

  • These facts don’t matter for two reasons: Happiness is all that matters. And our culture is telling them that it is their right to make and theirs alone.

White Paper #1: Our Approach to our Gender Confused Culture

A Forsaken Moment?  Psalm 10:1-11

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised. For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.” His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them. He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.” His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless; he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket; he lurks that he may seize the poor; he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. The helpless are crushed, sink down, and fall by his might. He says in his heart, “God has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

The writer didn’t understand God’s absence from his experience.  In this lament, he records situation after situation where it appeared the wicked was unhindered in his evil.  One poignant reference is “…in hiding places [the wicked] murders the innocent.  His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless…”

It’s true: when righteousness wanes and wickedness waxes, the righteous can be bewildered.  Let’s jump ahead: rampant sexual immorality flows through our culture unchecked, unhindered.  The Bible is clear in its condemnation of the behavior while holding out hope in Christ for those who perpetrate it.  Let’s call it what it is: evil.  

In this social-media saturated environment, it certainly seems that we are in our own version of a forsaken moment.  Where is God in this confusing cultural moment?  How do we live in the “forsaken-ness” of it? 

Preliminary Principles

The goal of this White Paper isn’t yet to lay out our moment, but rather our approach to it.  Unless we are certain ofhow to approach our moment, we may certainly not live in it as we should before the Lord.  Here are a few preliminary principles.

First, only the kingdom of this world—common to all mankind—is in decline.  Even as immorality seems to be running the place, it has not and will not penetrate the redemptive kingdom.  That is not to say the church is immune for we are not; simply, the gates of sexual hell will not prevail against the church.

Second, when God made the covenant with Noah, He did not promise to save the common kingdom but to preserve it until the return of Christ.  As we see in the steady circular movements of history John records in the Revelation, we inch closer and closer to the return of the Lord.  In other words, the degradation is part of the birth pains the Lord promised (Matt. 24:8).

Third, for a long time in the West, Christendom influenced the cultures of the West—there was a shared sense of morality.  This is a large topic that is beyond the scope of this paper.  As Aaron Renn wrote recently in First Things, (“The Three Worlds of Evangelicalism,” Feb. 2022) and as Carl Trueman has written in his latest book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, the trappings of Christendom that had given the Western world a common moral lexicon, is dimmed.

Fourth, the influence of Christianity over culture is declining but its power to grow the redemptive kingdom is not—the power of the gospel to save is not weakened.  This might seem like a contradiction.  But the more Christendom is stripped from our culture, the more the real thing will shine.  We don’t need to lose hope that things are beyond the reach of God and the gospel—indeed, they are not.  

Lastly, sexual brokenness is not new.  Our cultural moment is new to us but as we see from the Scriptures, sexual brokenness seems to define every age in some way.  

Governing our Approach: Jesus with the Samaritan Woman

These preliminary principles lay out some of the landscape of our approach.  Still, we have to be careful and compassionate upon those who are lost or wayward as seen in their sexual choices.  Dr. Gary Yagel, in his book, Anchoring your child in God’s Truth in a Gender Confused Culture, began his study very helpfully in John 4:7-26, the Samaritan woman.  Some of what follows will resemble his work.

What we see with the Lord’s interaction with the Samaritan woman is at least five things that should mark our approach to the sexually broken.

First, His willingness to engage her (John 4:7).  He didn’t turn away from her but took the initiative to engage her.  It is quite likely this took her by surprise given what she said about the standard interactions between the Jews and the Samaritans, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?”

Second, His willingness gave way to His interest: He spoke to her.  In speaking to her, He dignified her—he treated her as an image-bearer worthy of the Lord’s interest.  Indeed, by speaking to her He transgressed a number of cultural taboos that John even mentioned (John 4:27).

Third, His discipling: He cared for her soul.  It was evident very quickly that He was prepared to present to her living water even if she didn’t quite grasp the concept (John 4:10, 13).  He preached the good news to her before addressing her sexual sin and situation in life.

Fourth was His honesty: called her out for her failure to live by the law of God: she had five husbands and the one she was with was not her husband (John 4:16).  He didn’t do it to win points or prove Himself but because her sin was enslaving.  He accepted her with an agenda.

Fifth, His commitment was her true worship.  He didn’t ask her to leave the man she was living with but rather leave the false religion she was committed to.  All of the sexual brokenness will come to an end if she turned to embrace the gospel.  It might not come to an end in her lifetime—like Gomer the harlot, she may return to sin again and again—but its grip on her, broken by the gospel, will be weakened over time by the Spirit.

In all of these ways, we see the Lord Jesus model for us how to approach those who are broken and lost in sin, specifically sexual sin.  Our mission field has changed—now our “new” cultural field is sexual.  

Sinners and Sufferers

The last part of our approach is to recognize two truths about those we may strive to serve and help.  Our attention is to people who are, at the same time, sinners and sufferers.

First, they are sinners, indeed, they know the truth and choose to suppress it (Romans 1:18ff).  As sinners they need to repent of their rebellion against God that is witnessed in their lifestyle choices and embrace freedom from sin and judgment by faith.  We have a duty to share the converting and free gospel of grace.

But secondly, they are, at the same time, sufferers.  They are blinded by the prince of the power of the air (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1-4).  They do not know what they are doing.  They are captive to do the devil’s will (Romans 7:5-6) and so they need to be rescued.  In this way, the sexually broken and wayward are the new “widows, orphans and sojourners” who need protection from those who would subjugate them further.

In this way, they are subjects of our mercy and our interest—just as the Lord modeled with the woman of Samaria.  We cannot categorize the sexually broken and wayward as untouchable outcasts; they are not.  They are suffering at the hands of their sin and our enemy.

In a word, our approach is grace and truth (see John 1:14).  

Christians, churches and culture

Today is the March For Life in Washington, D.C. For 49 years Americans have been killing the unborn out of convenience. It’s no surprise our culture is a mess of contradictions and conflict. Is American culture by and large sick? Yes. Why? Perhaps because it has been growing in the blood of 60+ million abortions.

What do we do? It depends on who’s asking.

If “we” is a man or woman committed to following Jesus Christ and the Bible’s teaching that the strong must advocate for and even fight for the helpless, then vote, blog, podcast, canvas neighborhoods, run for office, call your political leaders, share the gospel, create school clubs or non-profit organizations, hold conferences, write books and pray–all for the purpose of seeing abortion end.

We happen to live in a culture (mostly) governed by the Constitution that makes all of this possible and even desirable. I’m often surprised that Christians somehow don’t believe we have power enough to effect cultural change. How did the culture get the way it is? Men and women of all political inclinations and religious persuasions have done all the things I listed above. There is no special power to change culture: it is done by the consistent use of the opportunities and freedoms we have at our finger tips.

If “we” is a local church then preach the full counsel of God’s word, eat the Lord’s Supper, pray together (all from Acts 2:42) and plead for the Lord to return and roll up the evil world like a scroll (2 Peter 3:10) delivering the New Jerusalem.

You’ll notice the scope of activity is very different than the first? The business of the church is to grow a different kingdom in a different manner. The Bible tells us the power of the Holy Spirit is not for the sake of building worldly institutions: family, school, government or culture. It is for the building up of the church, the Temple, the House of Living Stones whose Cornerstone is Christ.

Why is it that there are some in Christendom who believe there aren’t two “we’s” here? That the work of the church and the work of the Christian aren’t distinguishable? Would they have the State ordain Ministers? Then why would they have the Ministers give orders to the State? “State Church” experiments in human history have rarely produced faithful churches–they still don’t. Have “Church State” experiments fared any better?

There simply is no benefit in conflating the work of a Christian in the culture with the work of the Church in the culture. There is no greater power for the Christian if this was so; indeed, there is only the danger of the culture contaminating the church (the mainline churches who have abandoned Apostles’ Creed Christianity for some social variant is proof of this).

It is also not true that if the Church were to build its house in the ways mentioned above and stay out of political or cultural advocacy that becomes a version of isolationism. Culture changes from the inside-out, not the outside-in (education is far more effective and long lasting than litigation / legislation). Faithful churches make cultural change each Lord’s Day as the word and sacraments tinker with the souls of the redeemed to give them courage and Christlikeness. As a result, individual believers are subjectively motivated to glorify God in all we do and objectively equipped by the truth of God’s word.

Our culture doesn’t need the church telling it how to behave–that’s not the church’s role. It needs individual Christians motivated and active in making change to unjust institutions working with men and women of all stripes.

Seven reasons why I need the church

According to a Christianity Today (CT) publication (November 2021), the abandonment of organized religion is a new “public health crisis.” That got me thinking because anecdotally I know this to be the case. We are a committed individualized culture and that has inevitably spilled out into organized religion. We go where we want (not necessarily what’s close). We leave when we want (despite membership vows). We give what we want (instead of pitching in the tithe at least). It can be a lot more than this but it isn’t less.

We have to be taught to be corporate. CT and other publications discuss the very practical benefits to going to church (e.g., reduced health risks, happier marriages, reduced risk of divorce, reduced rate of adolescent depression, etc.). These things are good as we make our way in this world. Yet, these things can be sought and found (at least in some measure) outside the corporate body of Christ.

I’m not sure the church spends enough time self-consciously reflecting on what makes the church unique in the world and why it is necessary (in a logical sense: essential) in a person’s life. Below are seven reasons why I need the church.

#1. I will hear messages I need but wouldn’t seek.

I preach every week. Early on in my professional ministry career, I decided that I (with the elders) would choose whole books of the Bible and preach through them. Once I’d complete a book, I’d move on to the next one. What I have discovered is this process doesn’t allow me to linger on texts or on points that are “hobby horses.” This doesn’t allow me to hammer a topic endlessly–unless the topic is in the text or flows from it naturally.

So, not only do I not choose the text, I am subject to the movement of the Holy Spirit’s illumination as I write a sermon. Many times before worship when the elders gather to pray, I’d say with fear and trepidation, “I’m not sure about this one!” Without trying to sound mystical, the text and the sermon choose me not the other way around.

This is in stark contrast to my Twitter feed, Facebook friend-group, news outlets I choose and Instagram account. Each one of those does what I tell it to do (usually). I work to curate every aspect of my life (as we all do) with the one exception of Sunday morning worship. I don’t even know how much I need messages I would never seek.

#2. I will have fellowship (community) with people I wouldn’t otherwise choose (mostly).

I think it’s fair to say that each of us has a picture in our minds of what kinds of people we’d choose to be in our community. It varies depending on each person but all of that is obliterated at church. God brings to our local church exactly who is supposed to come to our church. One downside of large churches (and I’ve served them) is you can still curate your fellowship by surrounding yourself with people you’d choose. Not so at 90% of all the churches in this country.

And not true at our church. At our small church, we have a large variety of ethnicities, education levels, career choices, family sizes, schooling choices, preferences for food and drink and sports teams. We have every age and have much of the United States represented. What is probably true at most churches is true of us: we are a group of people thrown together by the grace and mercy of God and that’s all. Since this is true, we all have to learn to live with that.

#3. I am lifted out of the common into the covenantal.

I share a street with neighbors. If I “tagged” people, I’d find we all go to the same grocery stores, restaurants, hospitals, movie theaters, coffee joints, beer pubs and bathrooms. What God is preserving through the covenant He made with Noah is all around us. We share it in common and it has many really good things about it (I had some shrimp and cauliflower grits the other day…OH MAN…).

It is common all around us except at Sunday morning church. At church, I step into the Embassy of the Eternal. There is nothing common about the Call to Worship, the invocation, the confession of sin and affirmation of faith, the assurance of pardon (!), the prayers, the preaching and the weekly Lord’s Supper. You can’t find this anywhere “out there in the world” because these things are not of this world.

It isn’t just that by being a church-goer I might have a better marriage or less depression; if God wills it. It is that I step out of the matrix and into the real world; that is, with the entrance fee paid by our Savior, we get to stroll in the halls of the “not yet” with the Lord by His Spirit. We step into the rest that He has earned for us that He gives us through the means of grace. It is for these reasons online worship isn’t worship; it is being a spectator as worship is happening. Sure, there’s a time and place for such a thing but it isn’t the real thing!

#4. I am reminded of my citizenship.

I’ve traveled widely on this continent and in Europe. I have been regularly amazed at what happens when I come back to the States and I go through customs. “Welcome Home” is one of the sweetest phrases there is. I remember once I came back from abroad and went through some electronic customs situation and was greeted by no one. It was a dejected feeling to have lost the opportunity for someone to welcome me home.

I’ve been to some wonderful places but I am a citizen of only one. Sunday morning worship is the only place in all of creation where I’m truly “home.” I wonder if we spend enough time contemplating that fact. At church, I am reminded that I am a citizen of heaven–the new heavens and the new earth waiting to be revealed at the return of the Lord.

I like America (a lot). But living here can be hard; harder for some than others. All human communities are like that. I am a citizen of this country but I’m really just a sojourner, a resident alien, a stranger here. These true facts can easily be obscured if we minimize Sunday morning worship.

#5. My sojourning in this life gets fresh perspective.

I mentioned my Twitter feed. When I read it, I feel like Gollum did with the Ring: I love it and I hate it. I try to populate my feed with opposing viewpoints to mine. On those and the others similar to my own, so much seems so daunting, divisive, dangerous. The globe is warming and we’re all dead in a generation; Iran-NKorea-Russia-China all seemed poised to pull the trigger and blow it all up. Gas prices, inflation, national debt, abortion all just pile on and pile on.

Turning away from Twitter doesn’t solve much. The gloomy messaging is all around us. Almost. Inside the halls of the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, there’s no gloom: resurrection. There’s no despair: salvation. There’s no alienation: community. There’s no poverty: depth of soul. There’s no wandering: glory of God. There’s no threat: Christ, the Head of all.

We step into church and these are the emblems and they give perspective on all the rest. Yeah: there’s a lot that sucks out there and there always will be. But inside, where Christ is by His Spirit, I recognize that one day, what is common will be rolled up like a scroll to make room for what is new. I have a stake in that and I am reminded of it each Sunday.

#6. I receive God’s grace.

God is kind and merciful to His people all the time. He even upholds creation for the good of all those made in His image and by His hand. But there is only one place where full measures of grace is dispensed: in the community of the faithful on Sunday morning through the means He has chosen: prayer, preaching, fellowship and the sacraments.

Only on Sunday morning is God invoked to attend to us. Only there do we pray as a body for His help, saying, “Our Father….” Only there is the word of God preached with power by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Only there will we find the Supper table set and the Spirit ministering more sanctifying grace to the worthy eater.

The teaching of Scripture is that we must not forsake the assembling together. To do so, we constrict the grace of God in our lives: He has designed us to worship together and receive His grace. Only in individualized Western countries have we compartmentalized God such that I think all I need is “me and Jesus.” Hogwash. Jesus is with me, true. Yet when I am with His Body, He is there in ways I do not receive when I am alone. If there is fuller measures of grace to be had in the corporate worship, why wouldn’t I go regularly?

#7. I minimize what should be minimized.

I will take with me through the grave only one thing: the righteousness of Christ. In heaven, I will greet those rewards that I have earned in obedience to Christ in this life. But those are prepared for me “over there.” That means the things that I have “over here” are important but not ultimate: my health, my wife, my children, my roles, my job and on.

Too often, in the church, we maximize what we should minimize: COVID sure made that obvious! In the church, where all the things of this world hold no place of prominence, I am reminded of what I should give my life to. Serve my wife, love my children, work hard – of course! Live for them? No. I’d never hear that if I didn’t go to corporate worship every Sunday.

Aggregation of COVID Articles: UPDATED 12-6-21

It is easy to find pro-vaccination articles on the mainstream media. Stopping at the CDC website, the WHO website, state COVID-19 websites, etc. provide articles and exhortations to be vaccinated. I have been vaccinated.

At the same time, to be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated has left the realm of individual conscience into the world of Christian love, civic duty, “following the science” etc. In other words, now, vaccinations–an extremely private concern–is now everyone’s business. The government (including leaders who claimed mandating vaccines would never happen or is unAmerican, etc.) is mandating vaccines. Businesses are mandating vaccines for their workers. Families mandate vaccines for each other as conditions of fellowship.

My intent with this post isn’t to debate these matters; others have done so. Neither is it to minimize the dangerous nature of the virus. In the congregation where I serve, our leaders (elders) have neither minimized this issue nor made this issue a public one but have encouraged our people to make their own decisions. We believe that is both biblical and practical as church leaders.

Still, I have this insatiable appetite for research and information. I am a man of science in the sense that I feel obligated to know as much as I can so that I can lead my own family and, if asked, advise the church members where I serve. For this reason, I have been collecting articles that present data (and some opinion) about being vaccinated with the COVID vaccine. It seems, now that we’ve been in this season for some time, studies are producing data that should further inform our decisions.

Below, I have linked to a collection of articles that I have read that I consider worthy enough to present so that any interested reader could view them. As I mention, it is easy to find pro-vax information and opinion. What I present is data that might challenge many of those often strident pro-vax assertions.

As I said, I have been vaccinated as have many others I love and respect. Yet also, men and women I love and respect have not been. I leave it to the reader to decide.

UPDATED: December 6, 2021. “Simply put, the very best scientific evidence currently available to mankind does not support the widely held contention” that these vaccines lower the risk of death in the studied time period.”

Current data suggests vaccines are less effective than previously thought:

Vaccination rates do not correlate to lower to lower virus transmission:

Why are we vaccinating our children?  Having and recovering from COVID provides more protection than the vaccine NEJM on the quickly waning efficacy of the vaccine over time Questions the appropriateness of vaccinating children against COVID; important article showing the flaws in the clinical tests linkage between higher vaccination rates and lower COVID cases questioned documents the connection between COVID vaccine development and the use of aborted fetal tissue “Great Barrington Declaration” doctors and scientists with “grave concerns” about COVID policies This researcher highlights the results of a study done in Qatar that says after 20 weeks post-jab, the vaccinated are as likely to get COVID and transmit it as the unvaxed. No evidence has been found promoting the use of masks in schools reduces infection or transmission rates. US county masked-schools were compared to European unmasked ones Mask mandates in a large Texas county were not found to reduce COVID cases From Lancet showing data that say vaccinated patients with breakthrough cases transmit COVID at similar rates as unvaccinated patients

Vaccinated people carry as much of the virus as unvaxed people A new paper in the European Journal of Epidemiology that analyzed 68 countries and 2,947 US counties found that higher vaccination rates were not associated with fewer COVID-19 cases. Here’s a quote, “In fact, the trend line suggests a marginally positive association such that countries with higher percentage of population fully vaccinated have higher COVID-19 cases per 1 million people.” (emphasis in the original)

CDC data which shows only 6% of all deaths are directly attributed to COVID-19 alone. In all the other deaths, each patient had at least 3 other comorbidities

November 9, 2021