Before I begin writing what is on my mind, many thanks to the Tall Skinny Kiwi for this reflection on Christmas. No I'm not converting to Emerging. But what a great quote:
"We Protestants place a lot of importance on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Sometimes we neglect the other aspects of the finished work of Christ in order to keep the cross central, and we minimize the incarnation. Taken to the extreme, our theology might suggest it is always Easter and never Christmas ... If the work of Christ was only the cross, He could have done his job in 3 days. Without the incarnation, we would not understand what Jesus meant when he said "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you".
Does that explain why Christmas is such an unbearably nauseating time in relation to church? David Holden asked the excellent question why as so-called charismatics, the Presence of the Holy Spirit seems to go on standby over Christmas. To great laughter he described the unusual experience of finishing singing "Once in Royal David's City" at his home church in Sidcup and then hearing a tongue break out! Oh for more of the manifesting of the Spirit this Christmas!
I'm a fan of Wayne Grudem.
Let me get that out of the way first. I hugely admire his intellect, his fierce devotion to truth and his openness to the Holy Spirit in an theologically academic world that remains suspicious of anything subjective. Let me state also for the record that if put on a lie detector I would agree with his position on biblical manhood and womanhood - simply put that the role of a teaching elder is for men. So I will be buying his latest tome; "Evangelical Feminism - a New Path to Liberalism?" and look forward to reading what he has to argue.
But the whole issue is not one that I am particularly passionate about and it certainly isn't a "hill that I would die upon" (as I heard C J Mahaney once declare at an SGM Leadership Conference). I've read the response to Piper and Grudem's magisterial book that Gordon Fee helped co-edit - "Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy" - and was impressed by some of the arguments. By the way keep an eye open for Fee's new large book coming out called; "Pauline Christology - An Exegetical-Theological Study". Very exciting! I guess I would call myself a moderate complementarian.
However having read a recent interview that Wayne Grudem gave on the subject, I'm not sure that we will have the luxury of having feet on both sides of the fence. He seems to me to be arguing that to hold an egalitarian position will result in the denial of anything uniquely masculine then progressing to a call to address God as our Mother resulting in the gradual approval of homosexuality. In his own words; "The arguments of evangelical feminism are leading people to deny the authority of Scripture and to move to theological liberalism including the approval of homosexuality". He names and shames Dr Roy Clements as proof of his deductions.
What can we say and what can we do in such a concerning position as this? I guess we can most certainly buy Dr Grudem's books on this topic and reassure ourselves that we are doctrinally correct. Maybe we could pay out and go to conferences like Together for the Gospel 2008 where this doctrinal position is part of their statement of faith. We can argue about it - One bold lady called Suzanne from Vancouver has taken Grudem on and is debating with him and being persecuted for it by the complementarians. But is this achieving anything? Is it advancing the Kingdom of God? What does the world make of this - if they even care?
Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones identified two problems with the evangelical church. Orthodox we are - but the two errors can be "Defective" and "Dead". Much concern is given, it seems to me, to the "Defective" aspect of our orthodoxy. A concern for the truth! Adherence to various statements of faith! And this is true and right and good. Dr Lloyd-Jones wrote of this concern:
"It is the condition of people who believe the truth and know that they believe the truth. There is no question about that. You question them, you catechise them and you will find that they are correct and orthodox. There is no fault to be found with their creed or their belief".
It's interesting to me that in the various sweeps of church history there is a glaring problem that we don't like to talk about very much. God, for some reason known only to Him, doesn't seem to always respect the fact that we have got our creeds and beliefs spot on. Annoyingly He has often brought revivals upon those who quite frankly might be liberals, Arminians or just those who we don't agree with. Is this an excuse for liberalism in our orthodoxy? Of course not. But I am just wondering whether in our passionate pursuit of truth - we are forgetting that we need life too. Dr Lloyd-Jones said;
"And therefore I come finally to this point. There is nothing vital in the religion and worship of such people. They expect nothing and they get nothing and nothing happens to them. They go to God's house, not with the idea of meeting with God, not with the idea of waiting on Him, it never crosses their minds or enters into their hearts that something might happen in a service".
"But the idea never even enters their imaginations that God may suddenly visit His people and descend upon them, the whole thrill of being in the Presence of God and sensing His nearness and His power . The whole thing is formal, it is this smug contentment".
"We must examine ourselves. Do we go to God's house expecting something to happen? Or do we go to just listen to another sermon and to sing our hymns and to meet with each other? How often does this vital idea enter our minds that we are in the Presence of the living God, that the Holy Spirit is in the Church, that we may feel the touch of His power?".
"The question is, are we giving the Holy Spirit an opportunity? Are we so tied down by our programmes that He is excluded? Why this formality? Why this tying down of everything? What if the Spirit should suddenly come? I do commend this matter to you very seriously".
"But in the name of God, quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesyings, and let us come to God's house in freedom, ever expecting the power to descend upon us and to have an experience of God and of Christ that will melt us and move us and break us and make us forget ourselves".
So I think for now I will leave evangelical feminism to Wayne Grudem. God has gifted scholars who have the liberty to devote themselves dogmatically to their key concern and I'm grateful for them. For myself I would rather restrain myself from irritating and offending evangelical feminists by writing and instead seek to demonstrate the joy, power and life in truth by living as a truly Christ-obsessed man doing what Christ told me to do and loving as Christ told me to love. Maybe if we stopped talking and starting living then people might start taking notice.
After all I can't change people's minds - neither can Wayne Grudem for that matter. But what I can take notice of is my expectation of God and the Spirit when I come to church. And I can pray and plead for a "coming down" of the Spirit where I live. That will make people sit up and take notice! Life! Isn't it the Holy Spirit who can change people's minds?
So back to where I started: oh for a drenching of the Spirit! Let the tidal wave arrive soon! Dr Lloyd-Jones said once that revival was the only hope for the Christian church. I think it is still the only hope.