Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Men for God: How did we get here?

In my early years as a Christian, in the 1980s, 'Christian feminism' was fashionable. I was an avid reader of Christian books, and I read a number of books stating that the church had been too male dominated and we need to invite the ladies into our leadership teams. For sometime now, sex discrimination had been outlawed and there was a push for women to have equal rights in all parts of society, including the churches. But was the church following the spirit of the age or the Spirit of the Lord?
Of course, the Brethren and the more Reformed churches stood against this along with the odd Pentecostal church and House Church stream, but from mainstream Evangelicalism, leader after leader fell into line with the feminist viewpoint and the vast majority of churches proudly got to work appointing female Elders, Priests, Ministers and Pastors. One of the few nationally known leaders who swam against this tide was David Pawson, who wrote a small book, 'Leadership is Male' in contrast to the flood of literature on the opposite side, thus making himself quite unpopular for a while. At about the same time, a much heavier volume came out across the Atlantic entitled 'Restoring Biblical Manhood and Womanhood' by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. I read both of these books and found their arguments far more convincing. But going with my convictions on this one left me in a lonely minority in the churches I was part of.
Meanwhile, in the rest of Christendom, not only were the ladies being ordained, not only were they revamping the Anglican Service Book with 'inclusive language' but they were retranslating the Bible itself to change male pronouns with neutral language. So, for example, the NIV no longer read:
A wise son heeds his father’s instruction (Proverbs 13:1), but
A wise child heeds a parent’s instruction.
My old NIV says in Matthew 4:19:
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I make you fishers of men.”
It now says:
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
I find this very concerning. Systematic mistranslating of the Bible to suppress a teaching is a grave error.
Have another look at the two scriptures above. Both of them, if taken at face value, would have serious implications about how we live our Christian lives. Fish for people. To keep to the fishing metaphor, we are letting the men off the hook. So in our evangelism, we no longer go hard after the men, seeking specifically to win them. Parents? So as a father, it is no longer primarily my responsibility to instruct my children. I can let the wife do it all. These mistranslations fit in well with our modern women and children centred churches. Jesus made it his top priority to reach and disciple men. Our churches no longer do. Our Bibles no longer tell us to.
This issue has revealed how deeply the church has lost its way to:
1. The fear of men...or cowardice ('What do people think?' rather than 'What does God think?')
2. Pragmatism ('Is it blessed?' rather than 'Is it right?')
3. Subjectivity ('What are my feelings about this?' rather than 'What does God say about this?')
4. Rebellion ('What do I want to do?' rather than 'What has God commanded us to do?')
5. Marketing ('What is our outward image?' rather than 'What is our inward reality?')
We have reaped our harvest. In our churches, women normally outnumber men. In some cases it's by a factor of 2:1 or even 3:1. And the men we are left with are frequently weak and passive. What is to be done?
Watch this space.

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