Egalitarianism

Does the evangelical egalitarian spectrum include those who affirm gay marriage?

The New Age of Parental Authority

Parental theory has undergone a paradigmatic shift in the last half century or so. Older baby-boomers in particular bear witness to the wide pendulum swing in our society’s prevailing opinion concerning acceptable parental expectations for children.

Older Americans remember maxims of the bygone era to the effect that children were “to be seen and not heard,” and were “not to speak [to an adult] unless spoken to,” and then only with deference and respect. In stark contrast, the prevailing persuasion of our times is that children are to speak whenever they wish, and to say just about whatever they want, whenever they choose to say it.

Some will remember a day when calling one’s parents by their first names was to risk great bodily harm. I remember the braggadocio of the bravest rebels of my peer group who dared, in a moment of unbridled irreverence, to launch such a sortie against parental authority. But today, increasing numbers of parents invite such first-name familiarity as an expression of their freedom from the dictates of authoritarianism.

In the older era, parents tended to unabashedly make decisions for their children. They set firm rules and enforced them—often harshly by today’s standards. They regularly told their children “No,” and suffered little embarrassment from doing so.

With rare exception, parents are not wound nearly so tight these days. The prevailing culture encourages parents to regularly defer to their children’s opinion, to withhold as little as possible, to keep rules to a scant minimum, and to specialize in overlooking or downplaying infractions. Children may be taught good manners, but only by way of gentle suggestion. Parents have generally evolved past the primitive days of asserting and enforcing strict standards of behavior for their children.

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Internet: the Great Leveler?

I was out of my usual haunts recently to speak at a young adults’ fellowship in what we call around here “The Cities.” Some of the conversation there had to do with SharperIron and, afterward, discussion with a few lingerers went to a familiar point. One young man observed that the trouble with Internet discussions goes beyond questions of the use of technology. The medium itself is a problem. It is inherently hostile to leadership because it erases distinctions and puts everyone on the same level.

A result, he said, is that “bad conversation crowds out good conversation.” A related thought from someone in the group was that so much of the dynamic of persuasive speaking and writing relates to who is saying it and not simply what is being said, and the Internet forum medium tends to neutralize the who factor.

These are thoughtful critiques of the medium and worthy of prolonged attention. I want to make a small down payment here toward that prolonged attention.

The question

The big question seems to be this: Is the easy-access discussion technology of the Internet (more precisely, the World Wide Web) inherently prone to an unhelpful or wrongful leveling effect?

I’m aware that many quickly react to that question in the negative. “Of course it doesn’t! Only elitists think that giving everyone even footing in a discussion is a bad thing.” But I’m sympathetic to views of the alleged elitists. It’s not immediately obvious to me that it’s a good idea to take a random sampling of a population, put them in an auditorium, give them all microphones and announce that the goal of the session is, say, to develop a good policy for peace in the Middle East. If the group consists of a hundred people, there might be two or three at most who could be expected to have the knowledge of history, politics, government and foreign policy to supply high quality ideas. (If peace in the Middle East doesn’t work for you, try brain surgery or rocket science.)

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Thinking Biblically about Poverty, Part 3: Why Shouldn't the Poor Be Poor?

Poverty is a bad thing in the eyes of most people—Christians included. But why do we see poverty that way? How we answer that question influences the kinds of things we do to try to reduce or relieve poverty. The why shapes the where, when and how.

So far in this series, we’ve considered briefly what poverty is (relative vs. absolute) and surveyed the causes of poverty in Scripture. We’ve assumed that poverty is a negative that should be reduced as much as possible wherever it exists.

But not everyone sees it that way. From the days of Benedict of Nursia to today,1 Roman Catholicism has included some who take vows of poverty, and many evangelicals teach that average Christians should increase their relative poverty in order to relieve others’ absolute poverty.2 A few imply that the relatively poor (all of us, compared to those who are richer) should become much more poor so that those who are relatively poorer than we are (“the needy around us”) can become less so.3

But Scripture provides reasons to view poverty as a condition we should avoid in our own lives as well as the lives of others.

A wrong reason

Before we consider some of the best reasons to fight poverty, we need to take one faulty reason off the table. Unfortunately, it may well be the most popular reason in the American mind today. The worst reason to fight poverty is, in a word, inequality.

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Book Review - Just How Married Do You Want to Be?


Paperback, 178 pages
IVP Books (September 2008)
ISBN-10: 0830833935
ISBN-13: 978-0830833931

Jim and Sarah Sumner knew from the start of their relationship that they were an unlikely match. A former male stripper and the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School were just not meant to be together—or so many people thought. But twelve years (and many counseling sessions) later, Jim and Sarah are still married, minister beside each other, and have recently released a book together. Just How Married Do You Want to Be? is the theology and story of how they’re overcoming massive differences to become one in Christ.

As the subtitle, “Practicing Oneness in Marriage,” suggests, their book aims to move beyond the classic stereotypes that characterize most Christian marriages. Instead of discussing gender roles within marriage, the Sumners focus on the biblical concept of “one flesh” union and its resulting implications. This approach allows them to attempt a middle road between the complementarian/egalitarian debate that has been raging in broader evangelicalism.

Theological Shift

Because the Sumners are attempting to establish what they term a “new paradigm,” a significant portion of the book is given to a theological overview of the concept of headship, especially as it is expressed in the head/body metaphor of Ephesians 5:22-33. In these chapters, they contribute an interesting, if somewhat novel, perspective to the current discussion. Rather than emphasizing hierarchy, the Sumners argue that the headship imagery of Ephesians 5 is primarily teaching the intrinsic “oneness” of a married couple.

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