More from Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Watershed”

I just couldn’t leave it at that last post – there’s just so much more! Here are some of the remaining best parts:

“Oh, what a fool the modern man is! What a baby he is, even in the realm of thought. Fancy bringing his abilities and his methods into a subject that, by definition, excludes it all! If people could understand God, they would be equal to God. God, by definition, is altogether ‘other.’ He is the absolute and the eternal, the everlasting God. That is the subject matter of the gospel.” (p 40)

“This is the subject matter of Christianity – the mystery of Christ, God and man, two natures in one person, the incarnation. Here is our theme. It is so entirely different from everything that man is interested in and is competent to deal with.” (p 40)

He says about the death of Christ:

“All this happened that we might be redeemed. The Son of God died that we might be forgiven, that we might be reconciled unto him. And the Spirit is sent, and he comes and does his amazing work of regeneration. God puts his Spirit into us and give us an understanding that we never had before. And so we have the mind of Christ. This is what the gospel is about. And the moment you realize the essential character of this gospel, you see how utterly monstrous and ridiculous and foolish it is for men and women to come with their wisdom and learning and understanding and apply it to this…”

“When you come into the Christian church and listen to this gospel as it is in truth, you must realize that everything you are in the world is of no value…It is all useless to you…It is the failure to see this basic, elementary truth that the very character of the gospel makes it impossible for human truth that the very character of the gospel makes it impossible for human wisdom ever to understand it or to be competent with respect to it” (p 41-42)

I’ll end with my favorite:

“Thank God that his way of salvation is so utterly and entirely different from ours. Human wisdom and science postulate ability in our effort and seeking and searching and striving. But what does the gospel demand of us? Simply that we know that we are paupers, simply that we repent and admit and confess that we have nothing at all, that we are blind and lost and damned and hopeless and helpless. Oh, the tragedy that men and women should object to the most glorious thing about the gospel, that it is ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (Rom. 1:16) and not the power of man. Because it is the power of God, there is hope for all of us.

I’m praising God for his perfect plan of salvation. His thoughts are too wonderful for me.


The Great Watershed

Every year, Desiring God holds two conferences in Minneapolis — the national conference in the fall, and a conference for pastors and other church leaders at the end of January. Every year they give their attendees and exhibitors a bag full of books, and as an exhibitor at both conferences, I usually rake in about 10 books a year from the conferences.

I always have good intentions to read at least some of them, but what really happens is that they go in the bookcase (or, in the case of the most recent conference, in a pile beside my recliner) and every now and then I’ll pick one up and read the first chapter.

But sometimes I really do read a whole book, and keep up with it. The one I’ve just picked up and am supplementing my scripture reading with is a book called Setting Our Affections Upon Glorywhich is a compilation of nine sermons by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I had never read anything of his, and still don’t know much about him, but so far I have really enjoyed his sermon style and have been helped by the content of the messages I’ve read. I thought this last one was especially helpful, and thought I might share some nuggets. These quotes are from his sermon entitled, “The Great Watershed,” a title which comes from what he believes is the watershed “that divides Christian people today.” He says that this watershed is that “We are on one side or another. We either believe in God’s wisdom and revelation or else we submit to the wisdom and philosophy of man.”

“The scientific method is based on human ability – man’s brain, man’s understanding, man’s power to experiment. It is based entirely on man’s capacity, and it really believes that there is virtually nothing that is impossible to human beings…Now modern people are controlled by that outlook. That determines their attitude toward everything. And that is why they reject the gospel. For here we have something that, as I want to show you, is the exact opposite of the approach I have just been describing to you.” (p. 33)

Much of this sermon is Lloyd-Jones taking the hearer verse-by-verse through I Cor 2. Listen to what he says regarding  vs. 6-10:

“‘Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect..yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but’ — but, oh, the contrast, the absolute contrast — ‘we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.’ It is altogether different. And then, to make absolutely certain that everybody has grasped this, Paul says, ‘which none of the princes of this world knew.’ Remember, when he says ‘princes,’ he is not thinking so much of members of royal houses…as of the great men…the great philosophers, the great thinkers, the great religious leaders, all of them. These are the princes who did not know God’s wisdom…

…Observation is the first rule in the scientific approach. But the apostle tells us here that it is no good. ‘Eye has not seen.’ Man is very proud of his seeing, is he not?…But concerning the truth of the gospel, our [seeing is] useless. ‘Eye hath not seen,’ and never can see…The truth is entirely different. The things you rely on in the realm of science are already ruled out of court here. They are useless.

..Then Paul caps it all off in this mighty statement: ‘but God hath revealed them unto us…’ This is not about seeking or searching. It is not research. It is not trial and error…It is revelation – ‘by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.'” (p 34-35)

He just keeps it coming!

“Men and women believe they can arrive at any knowledge…but they cannot, by definition. As a dog can never really know a man, so a man can never know God in and of himself. The Spirit of God is essential.”

“Verse 12:…’Now we [Christians] have received, not the spirit of the world’ – that is no good – ‘but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things’ – that we arrive at as the result of research? No – ‘that are freely given to us of God.’ You do not do anything about them. You just receive them in your utter helplessness.” (p. 36)

You want more, you say? Oh, alright.

“Every discipline has it’s appropriate language. The scientist speaks in his scientific terminology. The poet speaks in his particular way. And these cannot be mixed…You do not express love in scientific jargon. You do it in words that convey love and that can be understood by the object of your love…People will handle spiritual things in scientific and philosophical terms, in terms of human wisdom. But spiritual understanding requires God’s wisdom, and this wisdom can only be spoken in the words, ‘which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.'” (p 37)

“Some Christians are troubled that these great men with their great brains should not believe the Christian truth. My dear friend, you should not be surprised. ‘The natural man receivith not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him.’ …It does not matter how great we may be, nor how great our brains: if we are lacking the Spirit of God, we cannot understand the things of God and of necessity find them foolish. The modern scientist who denies the gospel is confirming the gospel.” (p 37)

And there is more! But this post is going to be ages long, if I keep this up. Keep an eye out for a follow-up post or posts soon!

Complementarian Questions

I am a theologically reformed complementation. And if you define those terms like I do, I’m unashamed of those labels.

But I have a lot of questions. I’m doing what I can to answer these questions, but it’s been difficult to find good answers, and to be honest, I still have far more questions than answers. Here are some of my questions:

1) What does it look like in a complementarian marriage, when the wife has more of a inclination toward theology? Is it wrong for the wife to pursue theological education beyond what her husband has?

What I think is the right answer, but am not sure of: I think that no, it is not inherently wrong. But, it might be if it makes the man’s job of leading more difficult. It seems that it’s a wife’s responsibility to aid her husband – which means not being intentionally difficult. So education might fall into that category in some marriages.

2) What does it look like in a complementarian marriage, when the wife has more of an inclination toward learning in general? Is it wrong for the wife to pursue education at a level beyond her husband?

What I think is the right answer, but am not sure of: No, with the same qualification as number one.

3) What does it look like in a complementarian marriage, when the husband is the “feeler” and the wife is the “thinker?”

I honestly have no idea what this should look like. Sometimes it feels like we’re doing everything wrong. We’re learning slowly, though I think.

4) What does it look like when a complementarian wife struggles to feel competent and excited to keep up a household?

Possible Answer: I don’t have an answer. But what I think it looks like is to at least make an effort. Do what you can, and accept help when it’s offered. I’m thankful for a gracious husband. 

These are hard questions with difficult answers. But let me close with a list of people and resources that have helped me with some of these questions.

  • Margaret Kostenberger. The wife of a New Testament professor at Southeastern Seminary, she holds a Ph.D. in Thelogy and Women’s studies from a seminary in South Africa. She’s currently piloting Women’s Studies program at Southeastern. Her very existence is inspiring to me – a conservative, complementarian, woman, scholar?? Unheard of.
  • Mary Kassian. Also pursuing a Ph.D. from the same seminary that Dr. Kostenberger received her degree from. She’ll be professing at Southeastern as well, I think.
  • Carolyn Mahaney wrote a book called Feminine Appeal. I didn’t find all of the book helpful, but there was one part where she describes the authority that women are given over the home. It helped me begin to see the home as something not to manage in a “chore” sort of way, but as a sort of kingdom under my rule. I’m not sure what it says about me that it helped me so much, but it really did help, and I feel much more excited about taking care of my home now.
  • Rosaria Champagne Butterfield. I can’t even begin to express my appreciation for this brave woman. She’s smart, with conviction borne through an intense struggle. I can’t wait to see how her ministry develops over the next several years. I bought two copies of her book, Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert, just so that I could lend one out. I’ve never done that before.


I Am a Feminist. Am I?

Actually, to be exact, I am a pro-life, complementarian feminist.

Webster defines feminism as:

“the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”

And to that I say, “Amen, brother!”

So why do I not actually go around telling people that I’m a feminist?

Well, that’s both easy and complicated. It’s easy: feminists are loud, mean, pro-choice, man-eaters. But are they? That’s what I think most people would say. And I’m not at all prepared to deal with that label. Don’t fence me in!

But people assume things that are not nice or true of me when they hear the label “Christian” too, right? So here’s the complication:

Why do I accept the label “Christian,” but not the label “feminist?”

That’s a good question, I’ll admit. And honestly, I’m still working out the answer. Here are a few of my thoughts. If you have thoughts, feel free to weigh in.

  • Christianity is who I am – the very core of my being is Christian. I belong heart, soul, and mind to Christ. I have Christ’s righteousness, I am God’s child, and I take his name. If there was another good way to say this, I would, but they all sound hipster and cheesy, so “Christian” is the way to go.
  • Feminism is something I believe. It’s a biblical belief – God created the sexes with equal dignity and honor, and they deserve to have the same basic rights (God just gave us different jobs). But it’s not quite at the core of who I am. It’s something I choose to put on.

Yes, but they’re still both labels. Calling yourself a Christian or not has nothing to do with your identity and salvation. Christians have done a lot of evil things in the name of Christ but you’re still willing to wear the label.

  • I think that the difference here is that yes, even Christians have done some awful things. But despite some people’s horrible feelings about Christians, most people recognize that there is diversity within the church. Calling yourself a Christian begs for further description.
  • There are a lot of nuances in feminism as well. The difference is that people don’t seem to be aware of them. The vocal feminists are often pro-choice, sexually inclusive, and, if they are in the church and all, egalitarian. And that’s what people expect of them. This isn’t necessarily safe to assume, but because that’s what most people think, I don’t feel comfortable donning that label.

Okay. So why do people have a narrower view of feminists than of Christians? Where does this come from?

I wonder if it comes from the church. I live in a bit of a Christian bubble, and I wonder if the outside world sees feminists the way Christians seem to. The church’s view of feminism seems to be fairly monolithic, which I would argue is untrue and unfair. Christians have denominational lines, and they’re helpful for distinguishing theological differences. But we (Christians) don’t seem to distinguish between different kinds of feminists, and I think that we might be missing out because of it.

The only place I would feel comfortable admitting to feminism is a place where I can define my terms (like here on this blog). In the church, my announcement would be looked at with skepticism and I wonder if anyone would even ask me what I meant before assuming that I was biblically out of line.

But I do think that women are just as valuable as men, and I do think that we have wonderful, God-given talents and abilities! And I think that the church, by viewing the feminist movement through such a narrow view has kept women from embracing the strengths of their womanhood. For example – I really don’t like women’s Bible studies. I’d rather study hard theology with a group of men than sit in a small group eating brownies and discussing how my husband reacts when I need a good cry. But I’ve always felt like a little bit of a failure as a woman because of this. I’m also more rational than emotional, and honestly don’t always get along with girls that well. I also hate small talk and talking about feelings takes some serious effort. So when people talk about how much women like to talk about feelings I feel out of place and not like a real woman.

This is wrong! Why aren’t we celebrating the differences among women? Why aren’t we proclaiming the excellencies of the Creator who made the fine and delicate women as well as the women who have blazing wit and a fiery disposition? Meek doesn’t mean low-volume or timid. It means patient, kind, and slow to judge. These women can change the world, and I don’t think God wishes, or that the Bible demands, that they sit quietly at home with their knitting instead of using their feisty qualities to serve him.

Women’s rights do matter, and it is not a bad thing to fight for them. And we need women who will fight for them.

Do you really think that pro-choice, man-hating, feminists will listen to a man telling them to submit to their husbands? We need godly women who are smart, strong, wise, bold, meek, and humble to engage this facet of the feminist spectrum.

So. I’m a feminist — but one who gladly submits to my husband (the God-made manager of our marriage and family institution), who claims my God-given authority over the care of our home, who celebrates womanhood in all its forms, and seeks for both sexes to be valued and honored as equal creations made in the image of God.

But don’t tell anybody, because I’m still not ready to admit it.