Rethinking education

Here’s an interesting, animated lecture from Sir Ken Robinson on changing educational paradigms in America today. I actually meant to post this last month when Brian LePort commented on it, but I forgot. So, thanks to Daniel Kirk for pointing it out again.


Are men inherently better leaders?

Many people are going to read the title to this post and dismiss the question as absurd. Of course not. But, I often encounter people who assume that the answer to this question must be “yes” based on their conviction that God has ordained men to be leaders in the church. I’d like to address this latter group.

The question, then, is this: If you are a complementarian – i.e. if you believe that God has ordained men to particular leadership roles in the church – do you need to believe that men are inherently better leaders?

Let me make this easy….no.

The logic that seems to convince complementarians otherwise runs (loosely)  like this:

  1. Being a leader entails having certain qualities/attributes.
  2. God ordained men to be leaders in the church.
  3. God wouldn’t ordain men to be leaders unless he had given them the requisite qualities/attributes.
  4. Therefore, men have the requisite qualities/attributes for being leaders in the church.
  5. God wouldn’t limit these leadership roles to men unless they possessed the necessary qualities/attributes of leadership in unique ways.
  6. Therefore, men inherently possess at least some of the necessary qualities/attributes in a way or to a degree that women do not.
  7. And, therefore, men are inherently better leaders (at least in the church).

This argument, though, has a number of key problems, and several of them arise with the very first statement: “Being a leader entails having certain qualities/attributes.” Right away you’re faced with a number of challenging difficulties:

  • There is no agreed upon set of qualities/attributes necessary for being a leader. Just read the literature. Everyone who studies the question seems to have their own definition of what it means to be a leader.
  • There is no research to support the conclusion that men disproportionately manifest the qualities of being an effective leader (whatever those are). Here you realize that even if you manage to identify the qualities necessary for being a leader, you simply have no evidence for concluding that men possess these qualities any more than women do.
  • Even if you could find research to support the conclusion that men exhibit some leadership quality disproportionately more than women, you would still need to determine why that is the case. For example, let’s say that a study concluded that men are more decisive in decision-making than women. (I’m not aware of any such study, but let’s pretend.) That still would not prove your case because it’s entirely possible that the difference comes from societal expectations of how boys and girls should behave, how they should be raised, the kinds of decisions they should be involved in, etc. So, even a statistical variance would be a far cry from proving your case.
  • Descriptions of “leadership” are often driven more by culture than theology. If we change the picture and focus on the qualities that Jesus exhibited during his earthy ministry – for example, compassion, patient suffering, gratitude, humility, gentleness, nurturing, etc. – would we still be trying to argue that men exhibit these qualities disproportionately more than women? Good luck with that.

I could probably add other arguments, but these seem sufficient to establish that the first step in this argument faces some significant difficulties.

Skipping past the second assertion since I’m only focusing on people who believe this to be true, there are also significant problems with the third assertion: “God wouldn’t ordain men to be leaders unless he had given them the requisite qualities/attributes.”

Really? What would lead us to believe that this is necessarily the case? Throughout the Bible God apparently delights in calling people into positions of leadership who seem obviously unqualified for the position: Moses, David, Saul, etc. These were deeply flawed individuals who often serve as better examples of how to sin effectively than how to lead appropriately. Indeed, God’s grace is often displayed better by accomplishing his plans and purposes through the outcast, the lowly, and the ungifted. Viewed from this perspective, then, wouldn’t it be more appropriate for the complementarian to assume that men may actually be less gifted in leadership than women, but that God has called them into leadership anyway and that he will graciously empower them for and support them in this calling? Why presume that people must be gifted before God calls them to a particular task? Did the donkey have the gift of speech before God called it to speak to Balaam? (Yes, I did just compare Christian men to a talking donkey.)

And, once you’ve called into question the first and third assertions, the argument really has nowhere to go. (You could also pick on the fifth assertion if you really felt the need to destroy this argument a bit more.)

Now again, none of this has anything to do with whether it is correct to believe that God has ordained men to specific leadership roles in the church. That is a completely separate issue. I just want to point out that there is no necessary connection between complementarianism and the belief that men inherently possess some quality or qualities that make them better leaders. Leadership is a function, not an attribute. The real question is not whether you have the essential/inherent qualities necessary for being a good leader, as though God depended on our capacities and abilities to accomplish his purposes. The real question is whether God in his grace has called you to be a leader in his church and how you will do so as faithfully as possible with everything that he has given you.

Forgiveness is not enough (When He Comes 5)

Pulling into the garage, I’m instantly annoyed. It’s a mess. I can barely get my car into its usual spot and I have to squeeze past boxes of Christmas decorations, piles of clothes and toys waiting to go to Goodwill, and other odds and ends strategically placed to create a nearly impassable obstacle course between me and the door into the house. I eventually make it, but only after one bruised shin (caused by getting my foot caught in my daughter’s bicycle), one aching head (caused by slamming my head into a cupboard while trying to regain my balance after being attacked by the bicycle), and three damaged boxes (caused, of course, by falling into them after my ill-advised attempt at performing a self-lobotomy with the cupboard). Needless to say, by the time I make it into the house, I’m annoyed. Clearly the garage did not get cleaned today. I’ve had a long day at work and I really hadn’t anticipated becoming a contestant in Wipeout as soon as I pulled in the driveway.

Suppose that walking into the house with my frustration, bruised shin, and aching head, I yell at my wife.

Bad move.

Keeping the garage clean isn’t her responsibility, and she’s probably had an even busier and harder day today than I have. But, suppose that I yell at her anyway.

Instantly, we’d have plenty of “tension” in our relationship. (That’s putting it rather mildly.) Things definitely would not be the way they’re supposed to be. Now I’ve added guilt to my frustration, and my wife would rightly feel hurt and angry by how I’ve treated her. All is not well.

Fortunately, my wife is an amazing person. After leaving me alone for a while to sulk, pout, and recover from my traumatic garage experience, suppose she seeks me out and tells me that she forgives me. Wow. I’ve nothing to deserve her forgiveness. Actually, I’ve done just the opposite. And yet, here she is, demonstrating unbelievable grace and seeking to restore our relationship. That’s incredible.

But, it’s not enough.

Let’s change the story a bit. Suppose I’m an alcoholic. On my way home from work that day, I stopped at my favorite bar like I often do and have a few too many. By the time I get home, I’m drunk. Of course navigating my way through the cluttered garage is difficult; I’d have a hard time walking successfully across an empty parking lot.

So, when I get inside the house and yell at my wife, that isn’t just an isolated incident caused by pain and frustration; it’s the act of a person caught in a pattern of addiction and abuse.

Now again, my wife is an amazing woman. So suppose that she’s able to wait until I’ve sobered up, walk into the room, and tell me that she forgives me anyway! That’s still an incredible gift. By reaching out in grace and mercy, she brings reconciliation and restores our relationship with one another. What a tremendous thing to do.

But, it’s not enough.

I’m still broken.

Remember, in this version of the story, I’m an alcoholic. My wife’s forgiveness is a gift to be cherished, but it doesn’t address the deeper reality of my addiction or the fact that I’m likely to do it again. I’m forgiven, but still broken. And, forgiveness without healing simply isn’t good enough. Indeed, forgiveness without healing just sets the stage for telling the same story over and over again.

That’s why God promised more.

Would it really matter that much if God forgave us and sent a new king, a new prophet, and a new priest to lead, guide, and direct us? Those would be great things, but if we remain essentially unchanged, we really wouldn’t have anything different. God has graciously forgiven his people time and time again. And, God has given us kings, prophets, and priests before. But none of them could deliver God’s people from the sin, guilt, brokenness, and alienation that has plagued God’s creation since the Garden. God’s people needed more than a new leader; they needed new life. Not just forgiveness, healing.

A promise of forgiveness doesn’t help if you’re still dead.

That’s why God promised more. God is not just going to send a deliverer, and then leave us mired in our brokenness. No, when his promised one comes, God’s people will be transformed from the inside out: “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezek 11:19-20). “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:33). This is forgiveness that reaches all the way down and re-creates a people after God’s own heart.

Forgiveness is great, but God promised more.

When he comes…God’s people will be changed.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/25)

Religious beliefs should never be privileged over other beliefs, simply by virtue of being religious. Either a particular belief is relevant to eligibility for employment or it is not.

So I’m beginning to wonder if it’s “a wrap” on this whole “missional” movement splash, especially in terms of church planting? I can definitely see the wind being taken out of the sails for some. I’ve been particularly curious about crickets I hear when bringing up a few issues among missional Christians:

More importantly for us, the interpretive principle by which one ancient interpreter handled this specific issue is a very common one in contemporary Christian interpretation: using other parts of the Bible to inform our interpretation of Genesis. The question, then, is: how our application of this principle differs from this one example below, if at all?

From the point of view of biblical faith, there is no inherent value in suffering. Like much that is evil in our world, human suffering is a perversion and a disruption of what should be. It has entered the world because of the dislocation of the relationship between human beings and their creator – the good God who purposed his creation for his own delight and that of his creatures. Suffering is an aberration – it has no value for its own sake. It is not good in and of itself. In the Psalms of the Old Testament, we read some impassioned pleas to God about the absurdity of suffering.

Lie to your professors, risk being eaten


You’ve been fairly warned. HT

White as Snow (When He Comes 4)

A man walks into the temple. At his side, a spotless lamb. He has sinned…again. And, the lamb is his sacrifice. Blood shed. The man leaves. But, he knows he’ll be back. Sacrifices don’t last forever.

The priest turns to the woman next in line. Two doves. Another sacrifice. More blood. Later he knows he’ll need to bring his own sacrifice to the temple. Priests aren’t perfect either.

The high priest watches it all. Things are going smoothly. Everywhere he sees God’s people and their sacrifices. The chaotic sensory jumble produced by so many people and animals provides an interesting contrast to the underlying order of cultic ritual. All is well. Next month is Tishrei, and the high priest knows that once again it will be time for God’s people to celebrate the Day of Atonement, Israel’s holiest festival. The sacrificial goat and the scapegoat will go before the Lord as an offering to purify Israel from the sins it has committed that year. It will be a time of solemn repentance as Israel remembers both its own sinfulness and God’s gracious mercy. As high priest for the last fifteen years, this will be the fifteenth time he has performed this ritual. It must be done every year. Because even this sacrifice offered by Israel’s highest priest doesn’t last forever.

As we discussed in the last chapter, God in his grace and mercy provided to his people a way of expressing their faith in him—the sacrifices of the Old Testament. But, these sacrifices were necessarily limited and imperfect, offered by limited and imperfect people.

God promised more.

The coming king will not be just another ruler, broken and corrupted by sin. No, when this king comes he will also be the new priest for God’s people, a true priest, one who will represent his people forever: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever'” (Ps. 110:4). And, he will build the true temple of the Lord (Zech 6:12) so that God’s glory will return and God will again dwell with his people.

A new priest is coming.

And God promised that this priest will be very different from the priests who came before. Unlike them, he will not just offer sacrifices on behalf of the people, he will be that sacrifice. That is the picture Isaiah gave of the servant who is to come. Just like a priest, he will offer a lamb “to the slaughter” (v. 7) as “a guilt offering” (v. 10). But, here the priest is the lamb, he is the offering. He will be “pierced for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities” (v. 5). This, then, is a new sacrifice—a sacrifice in which the righteous priest will offer himself on behalf of the people.

And the result of this sacrifice will be a true holiness. Because of their sin, Isaiah compares God’s people to a body riddled with disease (Isa. 1:5-6). We have been polluted by sin and we are dying. But, by the sacrifice of this righteous priest, “we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). God will lay on him “the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6) so that God’s people may again be “accounted righteous “(Isa. 53:11). With this sacrifice, God will cleanse his people from “sin and uncleanness” (Zech 13:1; cf. Ezek. 36:25, 29). So, instead of being black with the ink of our sin, God promises that one day he will again make us “white as snow” (Isa. 1:18).

When he comes…God’s people will be pure again.

Writing tip of the day – avoid distractions

If possible, there should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with. If there’s a window, draw the curtains or pull down the shades unless it looks out at a blank wall. For any writer, but for the beginning writer in particular, it’s wise to eliminate every possible distraction. If you continue to write, you will begin to filter out these distractions naturally, but at the start it’s best to try and take care of them before you write. I work to loud music – hard rock stuff like AC/DC, Guns ‘n Roses, and Metallica have always been particular favorites – but for me the music is just another way of shutting the door. It surrounds me, keeps the mundane world out. when you write, you want to get rid of the world, do you no? Of course you do. When you’re writing, you’re creating your own worlds.

………………………~Stephen King, On Writing (Pocket Books, 2000), 156.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/24)

Arminians affirm everything necessary for a fully evangelical soteriology; Calvinists require more.  Why?

I simply want to introduce you to a side of him that you may not know, and hopefully to persuade you that he does, after all, belong to the human race. And I want to do that by focusing on two of his close friendships.

I have been taught the historical-grammatical approach to biblical hermeneutics both as an undergraduate student and as a graduate student. It has been useful, but it always left me wondering how this approach allows for the Scriptures to be the book of the church rather than merely an open source. It was not until this last semester when I encountered the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer that my paradigm was shaken.

  • Denny Burk offers a lengthy discussion of the textual problem in Luke 23:34 and why think thinks many experts are wrong when they conclude that Jesus’ prayer “Father, forgive them…” was not original.

Is social media making us “alone together”?

Are technologies like Facebook and Twitter destroying intimacy and contributing to social and personal breakdown today? That’s what one prominent sociologist, Sherry Tuckle, argues in her recent book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other.

As an article in the Guardian noted yesterday, Sherry Turkle’s argument is pretty simple:

Turkle’s thesis is simple: technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world.

The article goes on to summarize a number of other recent books that have come out in criticism of social media and their impact on us today. But, the article also goes on to explain that this “backlash” against social media has it own critics and that there is much work yet to be done. 

If you’re interested in this, you should also check out Stephen Colbert’s interview with Sherry Tuckle. Colbert, of course, plays devil’s advocate and argues that constant use of social media is a good thing.

That’s multitasking; that’s productivity; that’s how we’re going to beat the Chinese.

Tuckle responds  by arguing that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with social media. She isn’t arguing that we should get rid of social media, but she does think that we have to come let it dominate our lives in some extremely unhealthy ways. So, she calls on us to “take a step back” and reconsider the role social media should play in our everyday life.

And, she makes an argument at one point that any educator should take note of. In response to Colbert’s suggestion that her book is too long and should have been written in 140 characters or less, she responds:

We have lost our respect for the fact that some arguments really do take…the long form.

Now, as one who blogs regularly and has both a Twitter and a Facebook account, I definitely think that social media can be used in a balanced manner that leads to greater communication and creativity. But, I do think we need to be aware of the  problems that an unbalanced use of social media might be causing in society. So, books like this are worth paying attention to, regardless of whether you agree with the alarms being raised.

A Jerk after God’s Own Heart (When He Comes 3)

[Read When He Comes part 2 here.]

If only they had known.

The simple truth was that in both of these stories, the kings were deeply flawed. King Arthur was often naïve, jealous, and angry—eventually tearing his own kingdom apart and driving it to destruction. Richard the Lion Hearted, the real-life king of the Robin Hood stories, was so focused on crusading and gaining power in France, that he completely neglected his own kingdom. Neither of these guys was someone that you wanted to pin your hopes on.

Too bad they weren’t like King David.

David, of course, was the great king of Israel, a man after Gods own heart (Acts 13:22). He defeated most of Israel’s enemies and established a kingdom of note in the ancient world. Indeed, he was such an amazing king that after his death, all future kings of Israel would be measured against his standard. Did they love God as much as he did? Did they rule as wisely as he did? Were they a king like David? David was the gold standard for kings in Israel.

David was a jerk.

You heard me right. David spent most of his life killing people. He got so good at it that people sang songs about how many people he’d killed. Now, you might want to excuse all the killing because he did most of it in battle. Still, you don’t get to be really good at slaughtering people by being a nice guy. Nice guys get dead. David was not a nice guy. Indeed, he even stole another man’s wife. As the king, he could have had any number of available women. Instead, he chose a married woman. And, to make it worse, when she got pregnant and his attempts to cover up his adultery failed, David had the husband killed. Even late in his life, David was still making decisions that ran contrary to God’s will. Just before he died, he led Israel to do something that he knew full well God did not want him to do. The result? Thousands of Israelites died (2 Sam. 24).

So, David was a violent, adulterous murderer who repeatedly acted against God’s will.

David was a man after God’s own heart.

What? How can that possibly be? Surely God does not want us all to be violent, adulterous murderers. Of course not. David made some terrible mistakes. But, what made him a man after God’s own heart was that he understood grace. David knew full well that he was broken and sinful, unable to love God perfectly, and prone to error. But, David also knew that God was loving and gracious, always ready to forgive, and constantly calling his people to return to him. So, when David blew it, he threw himself before God and called on his mercy and grace (Psa. 51). Even in his brokenness and sinfulness, he was a man after God’s own heart.

So, Israel had a pretty good king. He was a great warrior, a talented leader, and more importantly, he was a man after God’s own heart. But, he was still flawed, broken, and sinful. David defeated Israel’s enemies and established his kingdom in the land, but David could not restore shalom. Indeed, his life often resembled shoah more than shalom. And, like all of us who are locked in bondage to sin and death, David died. His reign ended. And soon after, his kingdom shattered. David was a great king, but the people needed more.

And God promised to send them precisely what they needed. God promised that one day he would establish David’s kingdom forever (2 Sam. 7:16; Ps. 89:29; Dan 2:44). And, the king who would sit on this throne would be unlike any previous king. This king would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” and there will be no end to his government and his peace (Isa. 9:6-7). His reign will be characterized by true righteousness, leading God’s people into the kind of security that only a perfect king could provide (Jer. 23:5-6).

Just as he did in the Garden (Gen. 3:15), God looks at the plight of his people and he promises.

I will send someone. And, when this one comes, everything will be better. I will establish my king on my throne, and he will accomplish my purposes. David was good, but the coming king is far, far better.

When he comes…God’s kingdom will be established forever.

[This is the third part of a chapter on OT promises for the future of God’s people. Read the rest here.]