Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Tale of Two Kings

First off, apologies are in order for my delayed absence. Between wedding prep, a honeymoon and adjusting to a new house and schedule, writing sort of gets put on the backburner. But I am alive and ready to get back into the swing of things.

Being married has caused me to contemplate certain issues on a new level. Topics that were once theoretical concepts are now experiencal realities. Biblical manhood and family structure has been an important issue to me for a long time. It started out as the quest of a pre-teen boy trying to figure out what made me different from the girls I grew up with. It’s matured into a fuller understanding of masculine identity and responsibility. Now, these concepts have to be put into practice on daily basis.

It is out of this new experience that I’ve been contemplating an important distinction that needs to be made when we discuss issues like manhood and headship. This distinction is illustrated by comparing the rule of two kings. In about 483 B.C., King Xerxes of Persia made an interesting decree commanding that “all women will give honor to their husbands, both great and small” and “that every man should be the master of his own house.”On the surface, Xerxes’ decree seems Complementarian, even Pauline. In fact, the parallels in terminology are striking.

• Xerxes: “all women will give honor to their husbands” (Esther 1:20)
• Paul: “the wife must see to it that she respects her husband” (Ephesians 5:33)

• Xerxes: “every man should be the master of his own house” (Esther 1:22)
• Paul: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands…for the husband is the head of the wife” (Ephesians 5:22-23a)

At a glance, it seems like the Apostle Paul and King Xerxes are pretty much saying the same thing. But in fact the one is worlds apart from the other. The first rule in interpreting any text from the Bible, to a legal document, to a shopping list, is to consider the context. And in the contexts we find that Paul and Xerxes are describing two very different things.

Xerxes is describing tyrannical chauvinism while Paul is describing sacrificial servant-leadership. Xerxes’ decree was promoted when his wife refused to obey his stupid, self-serving edict (Esther 1:10-12). His ego offended, Xerxes throws a tantrum and banishes his queen. Still in an ill mood, he writes up a decree commanding all the women of the kingdom to shape up and “mind their man”.

Xerxes is the first king. He’s motivated by love of self. He uses his position of authority to fulfill his own desires at the expense of others. When his authority is maligned or questioned, he becomes angry and suppresses the opposition. This is the type of king all men are by nature. We all seek our own interests and our pride is angered when our rule is challenged. But thankfully, Paul gives us another example.

While Xerxes is the kind of king and husband we all are in our natural state, divine grace allows us to put on a different kind of King and Husband. Paul describes for us the rule and husbandry of King Jesus. While Xerxes cast his wife away, King Jesus is called “the Savior of the body.” (Ephesians 5:22) His rule is not based on petty edicts or vengeful enforcements but on the fact that “he gave Himself for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot of wrinkle, or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25-27) While King Xerxes degraded his wife, King Jesus presents His bride in all her glory.

And it is this Husband-King that Paul commands us men to emulate: “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,” (Ephesians 5:25) and again, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.” (Ephesians 5:28) This is the difference between pagan patriarchy and biblical patriarchy. The one is about the man seeking his own interests. The other is about the man giving up his own interests for the sake of others. The one is maintained through force and wrath. The other is maintained through love and self-sacrifice.

Therefore, let us resolve to put on the character of our Lord and lead as He led.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My Wedding Vows

On Saturday I had the privilege of being married to my best friend. I'm so grateful that God brought such a wonderful woman into my life. Throughout the wedding we tried to strike a balance between the traditional and the personal. These are the vows that my wife and I took before God and witnesses and now, by the Spirit's aid, strive to fulfill.

I, Joshua, take you, Alissa, to be my lawfully wedded wife. I promise before God and these witnesses and by the power of the Holy Spirit that I will love, honor and protect you. I promise to rejoice and delight in you, becoming one with you as God has ordained. I will endeavor to be a godly, self-controlled man acting with kindness, consideration, patience, and humility in the heading of our household. I will endeavor to bring up any children we may have with love, forgiveness, and discipline, always teaching and admonishing them according to God’s holy Word. I will endeavor to love you as Christ loved the Church, giving my life daily that you may grow in all that is pleasing to God, for as long as we both shall live.

I, Alissa, take you, Joshua, to be my lawfully wedded husband. I promise before God and these witnesses and by the power of the Holy Spirit to love, honor and obey you always. I shall leave my father and mother and become one with you. I will respect your headship, as I honor Christ’s headship over the Church. I will help you and work with you as a united witness of the love of God. I will endeavor to bring up any children we may have with love, forgiveness and discipline, always teaching them according to God’s holy Word. I promise to love and cherish you, preferring you to all others as long as we both shall live.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Review

I just got The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and so, like the little kid on the tricycle who gets to the park after all the big kids have had their fun and left, I shall write my humble review of the film.

-The overall tone was about what I expected. It certainly wasn't The Lord of the Rings, but I really didn't expect it to be. Even the books are very different. The Hobbit is a light read, almost bordering on comedy, as opposed the darker Rings trilogy. You could tell that the film makers tried to balance the lighter feel of the book with the grim epicness of the trilogy. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't.

-As a diehard Tolkienite, I quite enjoyed all the references to the Appendix and The Silmarillion.

-I thought Martin Freedman was terrific as Bilbo. Likewise, I was most happy with Richard Armitage. Having just finished watching North & South when I learned that he'd been casted, I thought he'd make a perfect Thorin and I was not disappointed.

-I really enjoyed the White Council scene. Saruman sounded like the Saruman of the book, perhaps even more so than in the LOTR films. He felt like the modernist wizard that Tolkien presented.

-Much has been made about the look of the film and I'm afraid I have to side with the detractors on this one. I thought the whole film looked rather plasticy (let's just pretend that's a word, okay?) and I found it rather distracting.

-Also, I really liked this scene and I think Tolkien would have liked the sentiment:

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

More Than Green Beer

As I'm writing this post I'm drinking a lovely shamrock shake and contemplating how on earth I can work green into my Sunday outfit. It's the St. Patrick's Day season which basically means people get drunk on green beer and wear green beads. Personally, I think that's a shame. I would like to argue for giving St. Paddy's Day a second chance at being more than a tongue-in-cheek tribute to all things Irishy.

I'm one those people that believes things like holidays and ceremonies matter. God seems to be of the same opinion. In the Old Testament, He established several holidays and ceremonies. In the Church Age, He gave us the ordinances (baptism and the Lord's Supper) and the Lord's Day.

Now, as a good Protestant I recognize that there have been many abuses of "saint days". Much of the struggle during the Reformation was to purge the Church of the ridiculous idolatry that so prevailed in Catholicism. Therefore, many fundamentalist and evangelical churches are cautious about establishing extra-biblical holidays. And they are right to be leery.

However, I still think that there is a place for honoring our past in way that points us to Christ rather than distracts us from Him. As a society, we honor past events (i.e. Independence Day, Patriot Day) and historical figures (i.e. MLK Jr. Day, Veteran's Day). Furthermore, even our neck of the Christian woods, we still celebrate Christmas and in a few weeks Easter services will be honored. Likewise, I think there is a place for the Church to honor her history and past heroes; not in a "hero worship" sort of way but in same way you would honor living people like your pastor or mentor.

I think that St. Patrick's Day provides us with just such an opportunity. For starters, the holiday is all about missions. Patrick, a Romano-British boy, was stolen away to Ireland as a slave. Proof that adversity can be used for God's glory, he eventually became a clergyman and converted the nation that enslaved him. His holiday ought to remind us of the urgency of our mission.

St. Patrick's Day is also a reminder of the potency of the Gospel and how lost we all are without it. My great-grandmother was the daughter of Irish immigrants and I have a head of red hair to prove it. Therefore, it's meaningful for me to note that the Irish that Patrick preached to were anything but civilized. The various warring clans were noted for brutality and immorality. As we turn our eyes to global missions is important to realize that we're all savages apart from God's grace.

In refuting his critics who mocked his interest in "savage people", the father of the modern missions movement, William Carrey, said in his marvelous book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens in which the Religious State of the Different Nations of the World, the Success of the Former Undertaking and the Practicability of the Further Undertakings are Considered (don't worry, the book's about half as long as the title!): "It was no objection to the apostles and their successors, who went among the barbarous Germans and Gauls, and still more barbarous Britons! They did not wait for the ancient inhabitants of these countries to be civilized before they could be christianized, but went simply with the doctrine of the cross." Carrey reminded his readers that we're all savages at heart and as converted barbarians were should be zealous the share the Gospel. The story of Bishop Patrick ought to remind us of the same thing.

Therefore, as you drink your shamrock shakes and put on green beads, remember the bigger lessons of March 17th. St. Patrick's Day has the potential of reminding us of the task at hand. By looking at the past, it can motivate us in the future.


See Also: A St. Patrick's Day Roundup (2011)

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Kids Are Right

British apologist G.K. Chesterton said something to the effect that the most important truths he ever learned were learned in the nursery and that his conversion from atheism to Christianity was simply a rediscovery of those childhood doctrines. I feel no shame in admitting that I can relate to Chesterton. It seems that all my study and ponderings have simply led me back to what I always assumed to be true as a child. It seems that, in many respects, children have a better understanding of reality than we do. Perhaps this is why our Lord put such value on children and child-likeness (Matthew 19:14, Matthew 18:3) while on earth. Here some examples of truths that all youngsters know to be true but that we seem to lose grasp of as we get older.

-The world in a magical place, more incredible than the wildest fairy tale. Bean stocks aren't magical because they lead you to giants and geese that lay golden eggs. They're magical because there's these things called bean stocks that start out as little round dots and though some strange wizardry they turn into living, growing green objects that actually produce life. Weird, right? The kid with a magnifying glass understands the miraculous nature of the universe better than most scientists with PhDs.

-When Daddy's around everything is going to be okay. This one is beginning to hit home for me because in a month I'll be getting married and leaving home. As I've begun to take on more responsibility, it's occurred to me that in twenty years of living under my dad's roof I never once worried about where my meals were coming from, where I'd get clothes and how my needs would be taken care of. Why? Because Dad had it covered. Most children, assuming their father was halfway decent, felt safe and secure in his presence. Lately, I've been impressed by the fact that as a child of the living God, I should feel equally safe before my Heavenly Father. The security felt by a child in his father's arms is a shadow of the reality that God's children are perfectly safe in His arms.

-Boys and girls are different and that's cool. Little boys and little girls are fascinated by the fact that boys and girls are different. They don't know how to describe it in any terms that adults would accept but it's known to all children. Unfortunately, this is stamped out pretty quick. These differences either become degraded as gross or trivialized as unimportant. And yet, the basic observation is true. Boys and girls are different and that's cool.

Now, I'm not arguing for a Pelagianist view that thinks child are born perfect and then corrupted. Rather, I'm saying that there is a child-like worldview which more closely resembles reality than the cynical adult-ism that so many of us get caught up in.


See also: Butterflies and Growingdown

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Meanwhile in Bristol...

Peter Hitchens has the tenacity of his late brother but with much better values. If you want to see where America is headed take a look across the Atlantic.

"The bigoted defamation of an opposite opinion, rather than a willingness to listen to it or pay any attention to it. Liberal bigotry is the worst of all, as it thinks it's so enlightened."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why I'm Watching the Super Bowl

I'm rather hit and miss when it comes to watching the Super Bowl. I like football well enough but I'm not a die-hard. I got burned out on too many boring, shutout Super Bowls that most people would have turned off had it not be the Super Bowl (all rise). And as a half-hearted Colts fan (your sympathies are appreciated), I don't really have a preference for either team. But I am most definitely watching the Super Bowl this year for three reasons.

1. I just like football. It's far and away my favorite sport to watch for a number of reasons. For one thing, it's possibly the most truly team-centered sport. It's possible for one star player to carry a team in baseball or basketball. But football just doesn't work without a collective effort. Football’s a little nudge in our individualist society’s side, hinting that teamwork still matters.

2. It's one of the few elements of our culture that still honors masculinity. Hard work and hard hits are exalted rather than frowned upon. Incidentally, I think this explains two things. It partially explains why the sport is so popular. It's a little remnant of something that is lacking in most people's lives. But it also explains the attempts to tone-down the sport. After all, we can't have people start thinking that hard work and hard hits are okay.

3. And this is the real reason - my fiancĂ©e’s family is having me over to watch it. And they have good food. :-)