The Sacred Place of Hiddenness

I can't imagine today that anyone in our country has grown up without some passing knowledge of Jesus. Having said that I am pretty certain that most people have a fairly sketchy view of the basic information.

I recall once taking an assembly at a primary school and being informed by one of the younger pupils that the mother of Jesus was Mary Mandolin; which to be honest sounds more like a 60's folk singer than a Blessed Virgin.

Given his fame over the past two-thousand years it is interesting to consider that in his lifetime Jesus was relatively unknown. For sure a few thousand people in Palestine had heard of him but in many ways he was irrelevant to most of the world's population.

The incarnation sees God becoming man in relative obscurity; he could have chosen to become a Roman emperor but preferred to be the child of an unknown maiden.

The following decades saw his fame travel across the known world but his incarnation was rooted in hiddeness.

There were other babies born to young Jewish girls. He was just one of many carpenters. He would have been compared with other travelling Rabbis of his day. His cross would have blended into the background of the numerous crucified trouble causers on the hill of Golgotha. Even his resurrection was somewhat understated in that he could be mistaken for a gardener.

I write this not to undermine his significance but to highlight the hiddeness chosen by God in bringing hope to the world. This was God becoming like us not highlighting some kind of cosmic divide. God became so part of our story that he was able to feel our pain.

Consider this in stark contrast to the way that we evangelicals see success in a church context. We call for distinctive lines and a sense of being separate from the 'world'. We categorise people as being either 'in' or 'out'. We tell stories that emphasise that we are different.

I wonder whether our mission should be to discover the sacred place of Hiddenness? To look like other people. For our churches to merge into the background of life a little more.

Our ecclesiology makes us want to celebrate those who have done notable exploits for God; planted churches, written books, composed worship songs, run missionary organisations.

By doing so perhaps we miss those who are hidden yet still bringing the kingdom of God to their communities in an unnoticed way.

The single mother who fights to give her children a better quality of life. The worker who shows diligence in producing quality product. The project leader who draws lonely people into community. The person struggling through failure trying to make a fresh start.

None of these make the headlines but it doesn't mean that they are incidental in God's plan. It is tempting to think that the more visible expressions of church are the most successful. Perhaps, however, it is those churches who become so close to their communities that they are able to feel the pain of the world that truly mirror the incarnate God.

Its time for the Bishops to stop moving diagonally

It may well have been a close run thing, six votes in fact, but the possible consequences for the Church of England are huge.

Even though Rowan Williams was gracious in defeat it is clear that the bishops were frustrated by the behaviour of the lay members of the general synod.

It seems that some of the vocal evangelical wing exercised the kind of influence that the top leaders can only dream of.

Leading up to the vote the bishops were attempting to stop division within their ranks and where keen to work within the rules that govern changes for worldwide Anglicanism.

It may well be that playing within rules of the game feels better when one is trying to act in what seems to be a Christian manner.

There are times, however, when the matter at hand is so important that staying within the well-defined squares of the chess board seems distinctly not Christ like. There has to be turning the table moments in every journey towards freedom.

It may be the lay members who scuppered the plans for female bishops but it is the leaders of the church who have failed to make this happen.

Diagonal moves may seem reasonable but sometimes there is need to knock down a knight or two and move some pawns out of the way in order to do what is right.

Conspiracy Theories - Creationism

I did a recent post on different styles of debating. In it I describe the oft used tactic of Antithetical arguments; where too seemingly opposite view points are presented as the only available options. There was a perfect example of the problems caused by this in the BBC3 programme 'Conspiracy Road Trip - Creationism' At this point you may suspect that I am about to come down hard on the producer and presenter of the show, but hold for a moment. Granted, the television company did what they tend to do by creating space for maximum conflict, but the focus of my frustration lay elsewhere. It seems to me that some sections of the evangelical church have suggested (even taught) that there are only two positions available in the faith vs science debate. Namely; you either believe the bible or you believe evolution. I felt sorry for most of the participants because they had obviously not been encouraged to have an open mind about such things and so began to defend their faith instead of discussing science. And this is what I believe to be the problem. If we are told that there are only two options available then it is easy to conclude that accepting any alternative evidence is akin to 'letting the side down'. There are many evangelical Christians, who hold a considered view of the bible, and who are not uncomfortable with the idea of evolution. My frustration is that churches equip their members to take a stand on areas that do not necessarily undermine the Christian faith. There are more places to take a stand on the issue than simply the two options presented.

Evangelical Morphodoxy

I have noticed a trend over recent days when engaging with the Christian blogosphere; it seems that some quarters find it all too easy to shout heretic at even the slightest questioning of any given evangelical construct. This is nothing new of course; the 'H' word has been used in all kinds of situation to silence dissenting voices so that those in power might feel safe in their chosen sphere of comfort. Thankfully nowadays we are more likely to be roasted on the Internet than burnt at the stake. It seems that some are afraid of the very idea of questioning current interpretations of orthodoxy, as if God might be offended by our need to understand. To a watching world it must make the creator of the universe look a little insecure if he has left the task of his honour being defended to the likes of us. Surely questioning is as much a part of the faith journey as any other spiritual discipline and yet you will be hard pushed to find it encouraged in some sections of the church. I can do nothing but take my lead from the incarnation; this moment when God took the ultimate risk of becoming human. In this act we see how full commitment to the idea of 'becoming' can have eternal consequences. It seems plain to me that the church, as Christ's body, should have the same desire to 'become' what it needs to be in every generation and to every tribe. The very notion that the church should look exactly the same in every context seems to ignore the Incarnational motif. By definition there needs to be difference: there needs to be change. For this to happen questions need to be asked. At times the kind of questions that risk the use of the 'H' word. The search for orthodoxy is perhaps subservient to the need for evangelical Morphodoxy.

Making an Argument

In recent theological discussions I have noticed that I and others fall into traps that are best avoided if we want to discover more truth. Here are my suggestion of arguing styles to be wary of.

1) Antithetical

This describes the tendency to imply that there are only two possible choices when discussing an issue.
This can be explicit like the response I once heard from a six day creationist who exclaimed that if I didn't believe in a literal six day creation then I was undermining salvation.
It can also be merely an implied argument like the Gospel Coalitions stance that being egalitarian was heading on a road to having a low view of scripture.
In both examples there are only two seemingly opposite options available when in fact the situation demands a more nuanced response.

2) Straw Man

This is when you hear someone's argument or reasoning then create a caricature of it. You then begin to argue against your own caricature rather than the other persons point of view.

We saw this a lot during the Rob Bell Love Wins situation. I heard one preacher take Rob's example of a single mum struggling to bring up her child. Rob had asked whether she might be one of the last who will be first. The preacher in question took Rob's single mum and constructed a whole backstory about her; listing things she had done wrong. Whilst he suggested to his audience that he was answering Rob's question he was in fact doing no such thing.

3) Thin end of wedge

This is where audiences are frightened into rejecting a particular view point by someone over stating where the said view might lead. For example suggesting that allowing for equal rights for gay people will lead to the dissolving of the institute of marriage. There is no real evidence of a link but the scare tactic means that people will reject the proposal and cease to engage from further dialogue.

4) Worst example as norm

This is where you find the most extreme example of an issue and bring it into the centre of the argument. Perhaps speaking about right wing issues and mentioning Hitler as his views are normative.

5) But he also says lots of good things

This is often used where people seem intent on supporting someone no matter what ridiculous ideas they are presenting.

6) We should all love each other.

This is the perceived Christian agape response - it is usually only used by those who don't have a strong opinion either way on the subject at hand.

7) Agree to disagree

This has the ring of openness about it but can often be said after a long discussion only to by a stinging parting shot.

It is like saying 'I don't wish to discuss this anymore, now take that and don't bother answering back'.

8) We need to be dispassionate.

This is used by the over analytical or rational types to seemingly silence those who are most affected by the subject matter. They talk in tones that try to undervalue the opinion of anyone who might passionately care about something and dare to show it.

What do you think?
Can you think of any other examples?

And before you think I am only speaking about other people, let me say that I challenge myself with these ideas too.

When taking the bible literally means NOT reading it literally

I have just listened to Mark Driscoll teaching from the book of Esther in a YouTube episode called 'Good leadership is demonstrating repentance' and I needed to exercise the therapy of blogging to get the frustration out of my system.

After a short pause during which I calmed down from my need to make a passionate response I realised that I still needed to blog about what I have just heard - so here it is.

If you listen to the clip you may notice that he makes a gigantic link between King Xerxes and 21st century marriage in a western context.

And herein lies the problem with those who take a literalist approach to the bible. Far from their stated goal of reading the plain text without adding meaning, he projects a whole host of ideas into a world that would know nothing of the ideas he is trying to prove.

It's as if the whole bible has become a personal parable to be used as a self-help resource to ensure we live as 'good' Christians.

In this episode Xerxes becomes an example of how those who are 'in power' (read husbands, bosses, patents, pastors, and presidents) should learn to repent when they get it wrong.

And this is why such an approach weakens the Bible as a sacred text:

1) His attempts to fuse current contexts with ancient texts means he is asking of it questions that mask any real truths that it might be saying. (we need to read the text and ask 'how am I like Xerxes')

2) He doesn't actually read the bible literally but imposes a pseudo-figurative framework on it. In his reading the main characters are recast: Xerxes the King becomes a complementarian husband, members of the harem become 21st century wives, courtly state events become 'a drunken night out with the guys'.

Somewhat counter-intuitively it seems that taking the bible literally means NOT reading it literally.

So can the book of Esther speak to us today: definitely - but only if we allow it to say what it originally said.

Why Mark Driscoll is bad for your sons

Mark Driscoll, the key leader of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, is about to begin a series of teaching about the book of Esther and has released a teaser highlighting the reasons why we may be interested. (Here)


Pastor Mark, who seems to get his understanding of gender from a James Belushi sitcom rather than the bible set in its correct context, speaks about Esther in a way that you may well struggle to recognise if you have ever read the seventeenth book of the Old Testament.


According to Mark; Esther is one of  ‘only two books of the Bible in which the human hero is in fact a heroine’. We better not mention Mary the mother of Jesus or Mary Magdalene in case we are mistaken in thinking that their actions of complying with the will of God in bringing about the incarnation or being the first witness to the resurrection were in any way significant.


According to Mark; ‘Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed.’


Really? You have read the book of Esther and that is what it made you think!


In light of this episode and the many others that have emerged from the lips and keyboard of Pastor Driscoll I feel the need to issue a warning about his influence on your sons.


My wife, Beverley (we have four daughters together), is writing one in a similar vein aimed at the danger caused to having such nonsense influence your daughters. (Here)


1) According to Mark; he couldn’t worship a guy he could beat up. He presents this notion to convince us that Jesus wasn’t some ‘hippie, diaper,halo Christ’.


Such playground argumentation leaves little room for the broad sense of what it is to be a man. Being male is not represented by either one personality type nor a set of culturally loaded activity markers aimed at ensuring ‘real’ men like hunting, fighting, and motorbike riding.


If you want your sons to be truly who they are meant to be, and not try to conform to someone else’s stereotype then keep them away from Mar Driscoll.


2) According to Mark; women who are caught up in a male dominated system are to be blamed and not emancipated. He presumes that Esther had the same type of choices that someone in a twenty-first century, western democracy might have.


Whenever people in general, and women in particular, are abused there is a tendency within the prevailing system to blame the victims. Mark is guilty of this here.


If you want your sons to value and respect women then keep them away from Mark Driscoll.


These two factors alone lead me to believe that Mark Driscoll’s teaching is dangerous for our sons (and daughters).


The first suggests the broad, and completely mistaken, strokes with which he paints Jesus. There is no sense of context, nuance, or depth to what he does. He takes his own limited view of maleness and projects this upon Jesus to conclude that he must be made in Mark’s own image.


The second suggest that we can view the exploitation of women in a conditional way. His focus on Esther as being complicit in the circumstances of her inclusion in a male dominated system suggests that context means nothing. He reads the story and feels no horror about the shameful way that women are treated but projects his twenty-first century context onto her to condemn her behaviour. (it saddens me that some key leaders fail to call Mark out on such behaviour - I guess we all have a constituency)


So again I advise you to keep your sons away from Mark Driscoll’s teaching.


And if you don’t; then keep your sons away from my daughters.

Do you have a Constituency or a Community?

Following my recent blog in which I declared that I had fallen out of love with creationism (link) I feel the need to write about my subsequent observations.

Having held this belief for the last couple of decades it seems strange that it should take me so long to write about it.
And yet deep down I think I know why.

It was interesting that following my blog a good friend, a great church pastor who I respect, should message me. In addition to appreciating my ideas he said that I was 'brave'.

Wow! What an interesting word to use. I didn't feel brave and he didn't elaborate on his choice of words but deep down I knew what he meant.

The problem with saying what you really think, especially when what you really think goes against the perceived wisdom of your group, is that you take a risk that all too often you are not willing to consider.

You see we all have a constituency. And having one means that our behaviour will be affected.

For church leaders their initial constituency is the congregation. In this context it is often too costly to say what you really think. This is not all negative; sometimes the reticence to speak is a genuine pastoral concern for those who come to hear you speak. Other times it's just easier to not rock the boat especially if your livelihood depends on it.

But there is another constituency that has a greater control over the leader than that of the congregation. Our peer group, denomination, church stream, or even the wider evangelical church can sometimes be our constituency.

There are many things I might like to say. Many questions I might like to ask. But I know to do so could risk losing face with this peir group.

Following some self reflection I have thought of a few things that might help me to judge when I have a constituency.

1) I am more likely to be political than principled.

2) I am more likely to distance myself from friends and colleagues who don't tow the party line.

3) Even if I agree with what is being said I will only ever admit it in private.

To not follow the above is to risk losing friends. In fact I noted that in the few days after my creationism blog my twitter followers list yo-yo'd up and down in a way it had never done before.

I did, however, have quite a number of messages from people who felt the need to thank me for speaking out. Anyone would think I had fought against drug traffickers or something equally as inspiring.

All I did was say what I really thought. I wonder what would happen if I continued in this vain.

Of course the real goal of a church leader should be to serve a community rather than appeal to a constituency.

In a community one might be able to have the kind of honest conversation that doesn't demand either perfection or certainty of belief all of the time.

In a community the leader might be able to create an environment where every person can be honest about their thoughts and feelings without having to look for the acceptable answers in order to feel accepted.

In a constituency, however, we will always be drawn towards saying the 'right' thing.

I am challenged by the thought of how many subjects I would be reluctant to write about in case I might find myself on the wrong side of the line of evangelical acceptability.

And if you think I am overstating the case think about what happened to Rob Bell when he dared to ask questions; when he dared to say what he really thought.

A prime example of having a constituency directly affecting behaviour is the recent arguments about Doug Wilson's view of male/female relations.
I have been struck by how many of the voices who critiqued Rob Bell have remained silent about Doug Wilson.

It makes you think; in fact I almost wish I hadn't written this blog - but then, as my friend said - I am brave.

Accusing women of being emotional

I have just been in blog conversation with blogger Alistair Roberts @zugzwanged

He has taken to commenting on Rachel Held Evans and her excellent stand against the recent writing of Jared Wilson on the Gospel Coalition Website.

He seems to take the view that Rachel has been overly emotional.

Here is my response to him on this:

I appreciate your response.

I dont want to talk past you on this (as so often can happen when we come from different positions) so I hope my next bit will come across well.

I spent many years in industry and witnesses the dismissive way that women were treated (often over sexualised).

When I raised my voice in objection to such behaviour I could only do so as an engaged observer.

If, however, a woman stood up in such circumstances she would do so as a first hand person in the issues involved.

As such I had the privilege of being able to make comment in a more detached way. My female colleagues were not as free to do so for understandable reasons.

This is an example of my reasons for being concerned about your comments to do with emotion.

You and I have the privilege of not being subject to the results of being conquered etc in a way that a woman is in her context.

Rachel and others ( including my wife and four daughters) do not have the same emotional distance from the subject in hand as you or I or either of the Ps Wilsons.

If a woman speaks about the subject and engages her emotions in doing so it does not undermine her point of view.

And to be honest I think you have been somewhat guilty of the same condescending and patronising behaviour I saw in the male bosses who trivialised the complaints of females in similar ways.

You may detect my tone is somewhat passionate. You may say I am being emotional but I am not willing to let women be silenced by shouts of emotionalism.

Creationism: A Bridge Too Far

It should be a given that theological students are taught early on to consider the historical context, writing style, and author intention when trying to understand the bible.

It seems somewhat surprising to me then that evangelicalism is still having debates about creation and evolution.

It is clear that those who find it necessary to defend creationism are concerned that any limiting of a literal view of Genesis is an attack on scripture as a whole.

I don't share this concern because I am comfortable with the idea that different parts of the bible exist to perform different tasks in communicating the good news message the church has been entrusted with.

The analogy I use in order to help navigate a way through understanding scripture is that of bridge building. Using the idea that - you can't drive a two ton truck over a one ton bridge - I ask of each part of scripture a key question. What size and type of bridge can we build from it?

I have used this analogy to influence my thinking in business as well as theology. When considering the viability of a particular business system it has been good to evaluate the weight of the process that will be using the system. That is to say: what is riding on this process. What have we got to lose if the system should fail.

If there is only a small risk associated then it may be fine to use a limited system. If however the risk is greater we might want to ensure that our system, or bridge, can take the load.

The analogy also works when considering relationships. It is not unusual to meet a couple where the expectations of one party are greater than the other. In these circumstances the relationship bridge can only be as strong as the commitment offered by the weaker expectations. In these circumstance one party is inevitably attempting to drive a two truck of expectation over a one ton relationship bridge.

When it comes to scripture in general, and theology in particular, we do well to ask whether we are able to construct a strong enough bridge with the evidence available in order to deliver our doctrinal statements with confidence.

If we take for example the gospel of Luke we see that from the writing style, the content, and the author's intention we should be comfortable building a bridge that can take a significant amount of historical enquiry.

The gospel of John however does not provide us with the materials for such a bridge. His writing style, content, and presumed intentions lead us towards a more theological enquiry.

It's not that Luke contains no theology or that John offers no history but we should take care to build the right kind of bridge with each.

To say this in no way undermines either the inspiration or the effectiveness of either books. In fact it adds to our appreciation of scripture.

If we then use the above method to shed light on the creation accounts in Genesis we are liberated from trying to build the wrong type of bridge.

Firstly, if no human author was present at the creation of the cosmos then we have to see these early stories as revelation and not history. This in no way undermines their usefulness but leads us to ask the right questions of the text.

To create a historically centred understanding from the text in order to argue against science is to try to build a one ton bridge only to drive a two ton truck across.

The use of terms such as scripture or inspired tend to lead us towards a view that all the words found in the bible have the same function. Note here I said function and not value.

I am comfortable to state that both Genesis and Luke are inspired whilst maintaining that their function is different. It seems clear that many creationists would see this as belittling the bible; indeed I have heard it said that to fail to believe in a literal six day creation is to weaken the message of Christianity.

I do not share this view and would go as far as to say that the weakening of the presented message is far more to be associated with a flat reading of the bible as if culture, context, writing style, and author intention were of no value.

Let us then construct the correct type of bridges for the correct type of theology.

Dialogue has been eaten by a Straw Man

Mrs M is a member of a Facebook discussion page aimed at allowing Christians to share ideas and discuss important issues.

She regularly reads excerpts to me and we continue with our own discussion.

I have been saddened recently with the direction some of these web based discussions have been heading which I believe reflects a wider trend.

It seems that regularly someone will take the discussion off at a tangent to an altogether different topic.

This technique is known as creating a straw man. It describes how an individual might seemingly answer a posed question by creating an associated scenario. She/he then begins to dismantle their own construct as if offering an answer to the original proposition.

My wife recently posted a YouTube clip of a church leader describing how we should force children to display appropriate gender behaviour.

He asserts than boys should dig ditches and girls should smell good. He says that a father should hit his son if he develops a limp wrist.

He does this with what his audience appreciate as humour so you could be forgiven for assuming he is not too serious. Unfortunately I suspect he believes what he says.

Now you might think that the subsequent discussion on the Facebook site might centre on discovering what truly represents male and female behaviour.
After all the whole thrust of his argument is that parents should rightly define whether their offspring is acting appropriately.

Unfortunately a straw man has been created and the discussion effectively diverted to become centred around whether it is acceptable for parents to use physical punishment towards their children.

This may well be a worthy subject for debate but it is not the central question being posed by either video content or by my wife in posting it.

Following this discussion was another about the recent rape of a young woman by a footballer.

The original discussion was raised about the abuse of women and the general treatment of women.

Once again a certain commenter decided to create a straw man about the foolishness of young women getting drunk. Again this may well be subject worthy of discussion but it is not the central theme of the argument.

The discussion was about the treatment and abuse of women. The creator of the straw man wants to almost ignore this and focus on women getting drunk.

So let us stop creating straw men and focus on the main topic at hand; perhaps then we can get back to a proper dialogue.

Complementarian Values and the Titanic

Titanic - further thoughts

I am amazed that people are still retweeting John Piper's recent comments linking the Titanic Disaster with the benefits of complementarianism.

Here is the tweet for those who missed it:

'When the Titanic sank 20% of the men and 74% of the women survived. That profound virtue was not nurtured by egalitarianism.'

In my original blog I tried show the nonsense of linking this tragedy with either the defence of your theological position or the critique of an opposing one.

Here I want to consider a few more of the generally accepted facts of the Titanic disaster and see whether it is fair to view it as decrying egalitarianism.

Whilst some numbers cannot be given as absolute (there may have been unregistered passenger etc) It is said that the following is a well accepted assessment of the survivors.

200 of the 319 First-Class passengers survived (63%)

117 out of 269 Second-Class passengers survived (43%)

172 out of 699 of the Third-Class passengers survived (25%)

It is hard to resist the thought that in an egalitarian environment the percentages would have been similar for each class.

In light of this it is hard to take seriously Pastor Piper's comment. I remain amazed that he would not consider the wider picture before trying to attack egalitarianism in such a fashion.

Egalitarianism is not just a moment to allow women to find equality with men but also a valuable force that has allowed for the possibility that class will not be the currency by which people, including Pastor Piper, will be judged.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

John Piper using a Titanic Iceberg to Sink Egalitarianism

In a recent, Tweet Pastor John Piper (@johnpiper), made the following comment:

'When the Titanic sank 20% of the men and 74% of the women survived. That profound virtue was not nurtured by egalitarianism.'

I could comment on the ludicrous nature of his logic or the lack of sensitivity in using the death of so many people as a parable for his theology. But I won't.

I was trying to think of a theological argument to make but I feel weary by the very fact that he feels comfortable reducing the complementarian/egalitarian debate to the construction of such a feeble argument.

If I, a fully signed up egalitarian, were to adopt a similar approach to that of Pastor Piper, I might be tempted to make the following observation:

If women had been allowed into key positions in the Titanic project I wonder whether:

- They might not have felt the testosterone filled need to call it 'unsinkable'.

- They might not have tried to push the ship too fast to prove how good they were.

- They may not have even hit an iceberg.

But I wouldn't make these points because they have nothing to do with either the sinking of the Titanic or the frailties of the Complementarian position.

Women in Ministry: A Question of Womanhood

It is very difficult to consider a subject like this without projecting ones own prejudices upon the topic.

Perhaps, however, a healthy starting point is to acknowledge the drivers of these possible projections in advance.

I am a man; I am the husband of a very capable wife; I am the father of four excellent daughters.

I became a Christian in a denomination that had egalitarian roots (although in practice this was not always actively encouraged).

These factors probably fuel my passion for the subject, yet I have genuinely tried not to let them blinker me from seeking an honest answer to the question of male and female relatedness.

Evangelicalism tends to be drawn towards the making of definitive statements. Indeed the consideration of orthodoxy often hangs upon the making of, or agreeing to, such statements.

I am happy to say that I no longer feel the need to make such definitive statements the starting point in such matters. Indeed it seems that such a position, heavily dependent upon definitive statements, could be prone to it's own amount of projection.

My starting point, however, is the journey to find the question rather than the need to make the right statement. To my mind it is the search for the correct question that should be our goal.

In this regard I feel comfortable putting aside such questions as 'should women be elders/preachers/bishops' in the search for a deeper ontological question such as:

'What is to be found in the biblical narrative the reveals the very nature of personhood?'

There is much we could say in this regard but I will focus in on the revelation of God as Father and at sometimes Mother (Consider Jeffrey A Benner's work on translating el Shaddai as 'mighty teat').

The climax of this revelation is seen in the teachings of Jesus who encourages us to pray 'Our Father'.

None of these representations seem to indicate a different approach to, and relationship with, God for men and women. In fact the very notion of Fatherhood gives way to the picture of us as children.

In this regard it does not seem wrong to declare that our gender is not a defining factor. The kingdom of God, inaugurated by Jesus Christ, does not allow for anything other than equality.

For sure, in his ministry Jesus used the cultural language and norms of his day; he adopted a rabbinical position and drew to himself a group of men to learn his new teaching. Yet for every social norm that Jesus seems to adopt he brings a challenge to the very core of local sensibilities.

We could look at the honoured place of Mary and Martha, and the formers lead role in proclaiming the good news of the empty tomb; but that would be to become too mechanical.

It is the ontological truth of personhood revealed in God as divine parent, and we as his children in the Kingdom, brought through Jesus, that is the marker for how we are to move forward.

Whatever the difficult passages mean, they cannot mean a change to the equality revealed in the gospel.

It is at this point that we have a choice. We can either chose to approach such passages by seeking to implement seemingly restrictive roles upon women.

Or we can hold on to the motifs of equality as we seek to understand them.

I feel comfortable that scholars have shown that the difficult texts can be read in a way that does not contradict the equality brought by the gospel.

I am comfortable that this is the bigger story and that the other verses are representing some cultural context that our distance can only glimpse.

In light of this I choose to be part of the call for liberation. And personally to continue my cry against voices that seek to confine women in the name of Christ (or any other name for that matter).

In this context my wife and I, and my four daughters for that matter, can approach the Father God, revealed in Christ, as children without reference to our gender.

I could break my own rule at this point and make a definitive statement, but I would rather ask a question:

What would it look like if we tried to live out the equality brought about by God being our Father?

Would we limit the role of women or would we cry freedom.

Message from a Coward

According to the ever manly Mark Driscoll I and my fellow British preachers are a bunch of cowards who need to man up.

You might forgive me for feeling a little offended at this point but I don't. That may well be because I am a coward and I would rather not cause a fuss. Or it may be due to the fact that Mark really doesn't know what the heaven he is talking about.

I was tempted to think that he was accusing us of cowardice because we are afraid to stand for the gospel, or that we were silent on such issues as human rights or social justice; but no!

We are lily-livered, no good, sons of Brits, because HE hasn't heard of us.

'Name one' he says in his call to find brave British preachers. Well I could name thousands and I don't know all of them.

Mark has offered a defence on his website that seems set to placate his many fans here in the UK and suggests that it was all the interviewers fault because he is a liberal; and probably a Brit, and by implication a coward.

In his web statement, however, Pastor Mark reveals something that may well be at the heart of both his recent statement and his style of speaking.

He tells us that he and, his wife Grace, are both graduates in the ultra modern subject of communications. He confesses that when it comes to the way the media works he knows his stuff.

Could it be that sales of his recently launched book will be helped by some free twitter publicity if he makes a few controversial statements.

You gotta admire his bravery.