God Creates Dinosaurs

If you pay close attention, you’ll notice a book lurking around in two different scenes in Jurassic World (2015). Zara Young picks up Zach and Gray Mitchell at the Isla Nublar dock. Then she’s sitting behind the boys and reading this book on the monorail from the dock to the main complex. It’s also lurking on Lowery Cruthers’ desk in the control room. It’s the book God Creates Dinosaurs by Dr. Ian Malcolm.

I’m surprised Jurassic World employees are reading this book or are permitted to read it. But I enjoyed seeing it foreshadow the inevitable breakdown of the new theme park.

This title alludes back to Jurassic Park (1993). Dr. Malcolm, Dr. Grant, and Dr. Sattler are watching for the tyrannosaur with bated breath. Then Malcolm quips:

God creates dinosaurs.
God destroys dinosaurs.
God creates man.
Man destroys God.
Man creates dinosaurs.

Malcolm’s phrase “God creates dinosaurs” becomes the motto for his thesis. The use of genetic engineering to bring about the de-extinction of dinosaurs is unnatural, hubristic, and dangerous. Mankind has wielded power to do things we have no business doing. And we’ll dehumanize and destroy ourselves in the process.

This is the exact problem in the real world with another exercise of power. De-extinction of dinosaurs stands as a metaphor for a subject much closer to home in our culture. And the signs of this problem pepper the plots and the characters’ lives in the film franchise. It links the unnatural creation of dinosaurs by mankind to this pervasive cultural problem in a way that’s profound and not coincidental.

The Jurassic Park franchise is about the sexual revolution. And when I’ve explained this to you, you’re going to slap a facepalm and wonder how you never noticed this until now.

Long ago and far away … Okay, after college and elsewhere in town, my father-in-law and I would watch films once the kids went to bed. Afterward, we’d discuss cultural themes at work in the flicks. By 2:30 AM, we’d usually solved the world’s problems for the week.

We observed how the original Jurassic Park trilogy contained a lot of dysfunctional family dynamics. Also on display were the duties, expectations, and places of men and women in the modern social order. This trend has continued in Jurassic World series. Men, women, and children are in social distress, dinosaurs look to be the death of them all, and forming functional family structures saves the day. Our confrontation with the natural order run amok catalyzes this transformation and redemption.

The bold and defiant act of cloning dinosaurs and everything that results is an allegory. It’s an allegory for the sexual revolution and its repercussions. It’s about divorcing sex, marriage, and procreation from each other. About commodifying sterile sexual activity and commercializing child-making. About every sort of reproductive intervention and artificiality to create (or not create) children. About blurring the lines of male and female spheres of activity. About muddying up male and female agency. About human life in the modern world contrasted with human life in the natural world.

Think about it. Why clone dinosaurs? Entertainment. It’s the only effective motivation to fork over the funding. You could try to be noble and say it’s about research and scientific knowledge. But Dr. Henry Wu the chief geneticist tells you there’s nothing natural about this. And he knew this from the beginning. In the original novel, he even argues it would be a feature rather than a bug. He wants to make the dinosaurs less real, less natural, by making them more stereotypical to conform to our uninformed prejudices. Dr. Wu wants to create unnatural dinosaurs to be what we want them to be, not what they were when God created them. And we are to think of them as natural because they fit our fantasies.

You clone dinosaurs for the same reason you precipitate a sexual revolution. To denature nature and convert it into a commodity for our pleasure-seeking consumerism.

In the posts ahead, I will show how this plays out film by film.

Rival Bible Projects

There are two projects of biblical interpretation going on under the label of the Christian Faith and under the roofs of many Christian churches and denominations in contemporary Western culture.

Project 1: Listening to Scripture as not merely the words of men but the Word of God. It’s hearing and heeding the Voice of the Sovereign Lord, recognizing and submitting to the presence of his Person and Attributes. It’s a servant obeying his Master.

Project 2: Listening to Scripture as merely the words of men as they grow and evolve from generation to generation, slowly attending to their former ignorance and confusion, in their contemplations of God. It’s a consumer negotiating a deal.

Project 1 is the historic Christian Faith.

Project 2 is disguised heathen infidelity.

Project 1 is knowing that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and not leaning upon one’s own understanding. It’s about recognizing that one cannot trust one’s own impulses and intuitions. It confesses the need for God’s grace to reform one’s thoughts and desires.

Project 2 is treating all of one’s own internal impulses as beautiful expressions of authenticity and a fresh work of the Holy Spirit doing something new in the Church. It’s a failure to recognize the subversive and destructive reality of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Project 1 knows that there is a different Jesus, a different Spirit, and a different Gospel (all deceptive and malicious) than what the Church faithfully received from the Prophets and the Apostles and the Lord himself.

Project 2 is offended by this notion.

Project 1 is walking in paths of righteousness and persevering in faith.

Project 2 is horny faith deconstruction.

Project 1 is faith seeking understanding.

Project 2 is presumption seeking affirmation.

Project 1 is the Spirit and life.

Project 2 is the flesh and death.

So, in addition to saying what goes on under many church roofs, it’s important to say that these two projects go on in many Christian hearts.

Project 1 is seeing the invisible, hearing the inaudible, and touching the intangible.

Project 2 is being blind, deaf, and numb.

Speak Life

I spent time with a friend not long ago who grew up Roman Catholic but has been in the Assemblies of God since college. We were catching up in family anecdotes, and he used a phrase I haven’t heard in a long time and that isn’t typical lingo in my Christian circles: “Speak Life.”

He was telling me about the effects of speaking life over your children (and others) or failing to do so. Shall we call it a self-fulfilling prophecy? There really does seem to be something to it. Setting aside the kookiness of Word-Faith and other such bizarre distortions of Christian spirituality in the Charismatic movement, there’s still a particular sensitivity and emphasis on spiritual matters that I appreciate (even envy a bit) in my Charismatic friends.

I can understand what he’s talking about even within my own particular circles where we talk about the formative power of rituals. One of the things we say is that the ‘magic’ of how a ritual accomplishes the thing that it proclaims is that we all agree to act as though it does. Our habits of speech and the sort of content we speak into the world (even in our non-verbal communication) and over other people repeatedly are indeed social rituals that form or deform people. Words are indeed like food—either nourishing or corrupting. Speak life, not death.

(And trying really hard to keep the TobyMac song out of my head, cuz I can hear those words. Fortunately, I only know those words from a sound clip in a radio station commercial or something.)

Poor Advertising

Natural Marriage and Side B Reluctance

Much of the church practices a revisionist view of marriage. If you suggest to the average chaste gay Christian that he ought to consider the possibility of getting married, it’s likely to be the revisionist view of marriage with which he’s going to wrestle. And he’s probably going to be dealing with an understandable level of frustration and bitterness at well-to-do suburban evangelical lovey-dovey couples who have baptized revisionist marriage and made it shallowly outwardly conform to a paper-thin image of marriage in Scripture. This is my own experience over the years.

A fulfilling romantic desire for a spouse (though good and welcome) is not a constitutive element of natural marriage. Telling that to a Christian with same-sex attraction is a hard pill for him to swallow, because few people in our culture ever swallow it. It’s implausible. Nobody is living it in sight of us. It’s not commonly promoted. Even the idea of marriage as hard and ugly and covenantally locked down is absent in our culture.

Lax divorce laws signal to everyone that we don’t have to and aren’t expected to maintain marriages when they becomes too much frustration, or we become disillusioned that the fairy tale didn’t last. A celibate gay Christian is likely to think you’re asking him to go into a marriage in a condition emotionally comparable to the condition in which most people nowadays are getting out of a marriage. Who can blame him for thinking that?

Difficult Unweddedness

Pauline Vocational Celibacy and Side B’s Framework

In my pushback on Reformed and Side B, I wrote:

And I push against some of my sexual minority traditional Christian brethren for conflating a difficult native state of unweddedness with Pauline vocational celibacy.

This requires some explanation.

Marriage and celibacy are mutually illuminating vocations. There’s no generic celibacy. It has a backdrop that structures and orients it. And the backdrop given by the Apostle Paul in his discussion in 1 Corinthians 7 is natural marriage. One could view both vocations as institutions. Perhaps ideally so. Perhaps a stricter formal celibacy needs to be established by vows, and it needs the recognition and support of the church in order to give it a more substantial public reality just like marriage. Permanent celibacy should be publicly vowed celibacy in which the community has a vested interest.

Apart from that, one is in a state of native singleness that’s about being sexually faithful in that season of life (however long it may be) and isn’t committed one way or another to a vowed state of monasticism or marriage. In any event, celibacy is about forgoing natural marriage for the sake of service to the Kingdom. It involves recognizing a sort of default general call to marriage and procreation as the majority expectation (I won’t call that the normative expectation) for how people must still live and yet will also have to submit to having their marriages subsumed under the priorities of the Kingdom. But the celibate Christian forgoes that path and embraces another path for subsuming his life under the priorities of the Kingdom.

As far as the backdrop of celibacy being marriage, I sometimes hear Side B folks slip into a mode of speaking about celibacy as if the backdrop is self-denial from entering into a same-sex marriage. Of finding a partner of the same sex and building a home and family through additional acts of defiance of the created order with that person. When that slip happens, and insofar as it’s regularly at work in the mind of the individual, that denial isn’t celibacy juxtaposed to natural marriage. It’s sexual fidelity and obedience to Christ in contradistinction to sinful rebellion.

This is a potential pitfall I see lurking in the ambiguity of talking about sexual fidelity as “costly obedience”. What does it cost that is of value? Being a faithful gay/SSA Christian by living a chaste life in celibacy is “costly obedience” only if the measure of cost is the wealth of sin forgone in the form of a same-sex marriage. It’s not “costly” obedience. But it’s hard obedience which is legitimate, respectable, and bears much fruit.

Now, of course, if we’re talking about someone forgoing the vocation of natural marriage, then that’s another story. There are real costs attributable to that. And there are real costs attributable to people who forgo the vocation of celibacy for marriage.

Refraining from sin is not the same as forgoing the dignified calling of marriage. It’s not an honorable deprivation in the sense that refraining from sin is some form of glorious calling. Refraining from sin in all its forms is just universal obligation to Christ. But I do affirm, respect, and champion the unique hard obedience of chaste gay Christians. Often a harder obedience than many other Christians practice. I would do the same for any gay Christian who entered into natural marriage as a particular hard obedience.

I get the impression from some Side B folks that their gay self-conception is an automatic sign that celibacy is the only true and lifelong vocation available or seriously considered. Some Side B folks in their push against Side X (which is conceived according to the rules of the Side A/B game) do not sufficiently seriously consider natural marriage as a viable option for them. I get the sense that such an outlook is fortified by thinking according to the sexual orientation paradigm (Freudian clinical psychology) too heavily.

It’s also fortified by the assumption that a gay man, for instance, must become attracted to women in general before he can become attracted to and marry a particular woman. Except that’s not how attraction usually works. And it’s cynical about what can happen when another person loves us first, what being loved first can bring out of us.

As I read Paul’s comment that remaining unwed is good, but because of intemperance toward sexual immorality, one should marry rather than burn, I don’t think homoerotic and homosexual desires and inclinations are an exception in his opinion or teaching. I wouldn’t grant such desires and inclinations as automatic disqualifying exceptions from the long list of life’s hardships that hinder individuals from marriage. I’d just say life is ugly and messy and complicated and harsh. And it’s differently so for different people.

When Paul affirms the goodness of a man remaining in the calling (e.g. bondservant or freedman, Jew or Gentile, wed or unwed) in which he is called (i.e. into the Faith), those callings are significantly involuntary in their origins. It’s going to mean learning to live with them and live into them even though we’re already planted in them as conditions.

The same would hold true if anyone changes callings. I wouldn’t presume a change of callings puts someone in an inherently easy new condition. It’s more straightforward to say of all faithful single Christians, regardless of personal circumstances, that they are living faithfully in a hard or complicated state of native unweddedness.

Impoverished Conceptions

Some Pushback for the Reformed Tribe and the Side B Tribe

Circumstances being what they are, I’m often forced to think about the collision between the most outspoken elements of the Reformed tribe and the Side B tribe. I’m forced to do so, because I have an awkward foot and vested interest in each one’s territory. And I have my pushback for both tribes.

On one hand, I have the impression that ultraconservative Reformed culture warriors push too hard on the vocation of marriage and family as the universal expectation. Any concession to a vocation of celibacy has so many strange qualifications it becomes non-existent in practice.

Many in the Reformed tribe have a poor conception of the complexity of sexuality and the inner workings of men and women when it comes to affections, attractions, aesthetics, disabilities, deficiencies, dysphorias, disorientations, sufferings, self-denial, chastity, and social structures and needs.

On the other hand, I have the impression that activist Side B posterboys and girls push too hard against the vocation of marriage. If not against the “cult of the family” found in suburban Pop Evangelical churches, then against the natural institution in their own lives in a few forms.

Many in the Side B tribe have a poor conception of the complexity of sexuality and the inner workings of men and women when it comes to edification and transformation (i.e. vivification and mortification), self-discovery, self-conceptions, social presentation, and the resulting feedback on oneself.

As someone who’s a fairly conservative Reformed man who experiences and navigates persistent same-sex attraction, I sympathize with both camps, and I push back on both camps. I push against some of my ultraconservative Reformed brethren for being naive and thickheaded toward fellow Christians who don’t neatly fit the former’s personality enclave. I push against some of my sexual minority traditional Christian brethren for conflating a difficult native state of unweddedness with Pauline vocational celibacy.

In many ways, I’ve come to view both excesses as complementary counterparts mutually shaped by the same distorting influence of our culture. Our culture is one of corporatistic consumerism. Highly untethered from nature writ large (creationistic teleology) and our own human natures as embodied males and females who have roots and bonds.

Identity self-construction and curation, i.e. personal brand development, as consumers is a force at work in every decision we make. So, the ultraconservative Reformed Christians who are being countercultural by emphasizing rigorous federal headship, single-income households, and quiver-fulls of homeschooled children are developing and promoting brand loyalty. And the activist Side B Christians who are hashtagging, rainbow-flagging, and bumblebee-stamping mini-bios and daily social media activities are developing and promoting brand loyalty.

There’s an insecurity on both sides where the constructed and curated identity must be affirmed publicly in a free market of self-identification. No one can just live a vocation where the social context of doing so is its own reinforcement and reassurance. There’s more concern about tribal signalling for market share than their is with contentment in the meaningfulness of daily practice.

War Horse Begets Unicorn Colt

When Our Covenant Children Experience Same-Sex Attraction

We’re at a cultural moment in the American Church where we have staunchly conservative Christians at loggerheads with a highly adolescent Gay Christian movement. That conflict extends to conservative criticism of the way in which even a subset of self-described celibate gay Christians (who claim they hold to traditional biblical sexual ethics) are advised or allowed to express themselves and have a cultural conversation.

How did we get here?

Our sad history of callousness along with its fearful and presumptive “project management” approach (if not outright disgust and dismissal) on the part of conservative Christians is much of the driving force behind the dynamics and conversation being where they are now on this subject and phenomenon.

Real individuals — sons and daughters of the Faith who’ve been baptized and raised to love Jesus — did and still do enter their adolescence only to discover dark and confusing things about themselves in a Christian climate and context that doesn’t take our own teachings about the sinful corruption of our human nature seriously or consistently. We ended up signaling to these teenagers in no uncertain terms that they’re the embodiment of shame and had better keep silent about their particular patterns of perverse desire.

Conservative Christians have fostered a climate that tells their own children they have more solidarity with those who bear the weight of their particular sexual brokenness and disorientation than they do with those who bear the weight of the same confession of faith and manner of life set apart from this present world.

Conservative Christians have offered a new life hidden in the closet, empty promises of conversion therapy, deliverance ministry, and other quick fixes amounting to a prosperity gospel of dramatic sexual transformation. We’ve failed to develop and promote a vision for a plausible life of slow and steady obedience on a long hard road of uneven, incomplete, yet real sanctification.

Conservative Christians have failed to create an internal platform where this conversation could’ve happened under our own communal roof with our own participation as the whole body of believers with all members contributing. Instead, our children resort to conferences just to know they’re not alone.

All the eyes gather together and think that only eyes can understand and help each other. They say to the rest of the body, “We have no need of you, because you made it clear that you have no need of me.” This is profoundly unhealthy for the severed members of the body and pathetically negligent on the part of the scarred and calloused body that remains.

Conservative Christians have failed to provide a climate that says, “You’re one of ours, and we won’t give up on providing you with all of the encouragement, compassion, nurture, exhortation, and admonition you need.” We’ve failed to create an atmosphere where anyone would actually want to ask us for help.

Or so all of this was in recent prior generations. With our culture being where it is now, these things can no longer easily be ignored. And a new generation of conservative Christians are facing this reality as the culture has forced us to face a whole host of challenging and troubling new issues.

Thankfully, the negligence of the past isn’t the case among all Conservative Christians. But it’s a pervasive reality. And I know from experience. There’s been great help to be had. And there’s been great neglect and injury as well. But by and large, it’s been a lot of them or rather a lot of us — Christians who experience same-sex attraction and submit ourselves obediently to the Faith — on our own, figuring much of this stuff out for ourselves and teaching our helpers how to help us.

Conservative Christian community is absolutely where I call home and where I want to be for a lot of good reasons. But this community has certainly made it difficult at times to feel welcome or even simply understood well.

Life of the Bee

A Primer and Critique of the Side B Movement of Celibate Gay Christians

The Side B Movement, which is (now) largely synonymous with Celibate Gay Christianity, isn’t something particularly recognizable or familiar to most folks, even most Christians.

I want to make a sketch of it as I’ve observed the colony living and evolving over the past several years. I hope to be essentially informative in my sketch of the movements of the beehive. But I know I can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t avoid expressing my concerns and criticisms.

I playfully use bee and hive imagery because it’s common playful imagery used by many folks in the Side B Movement to identify themselves.

So, is Side B actually a movement? There’s been some debate about that. In my opinion, when it’s got a recognized hashtag (#LGBTinChrist as distinct from #FaithfullyLGBT for Side A) and emoji combo (🏳️‍🌈🐝), a large Facebook Group (ASBC: A Side B Community), Bee merchandise, and regional and nation conferences, gatherings, and retreats, then I consider it a movement.

The prior map of the terrain from about a decade ago was Side A vs Side B. The imagery of a classic cassette tape meant as neutral terminology that came out of conversation at the Gay Christian Network by those willing to engage with one another as fellow professing Christians. It’s neutral terminology in the sense that it was meant to provide a common deflationary verbiage and avoid inciting continual disputes about “homophobic” vs “loving” or “faithful” vs “revisionist” language. It wasn’t and isn’t meant to imply the equal validity of the two views.

The divide between Side A and Side B was a question of the sanctifiability of gay marriage as a viable context to express gay romantic and sexual passions and find fulfillment, i.e. the ethics of sexual conduct. In that discourse, Side A was the affirming side; Side B was the non-affirming side that held to traditional biblical sexual ethics. In its (now) more traditional usage — if you can actually call ten-years-ago “traditional” — Side B refers to anyone affirming the traditional biblical sexual ethic. The old and new usages have to be borne in mind, because equivocation happens, which can and does lead to bait-and-switch maneuvers and motte-and-bailey fallacies.

Rapidly over a handful of years, this landscape has changed significantly; it’s developed more features, contours, and ecosystems as the locus for Side B thought has further distinguished itself from other groups occupying the shared land of traditional biblical sexual ethics.

The terminology has shifted from Side A and Side B of a cassette tape to the buttons on a video game console. I’m pretty sure it’s an Xbox controller even though I see “GayStation” mentioned. What would I know? I’m a classic Nintendo nerd.

So, here’s a current map of the terrain as I’ve straightforwardly received it from Side B folks who are in the know. I’ve simply visually adapted it to a honeycomb motif.

Cell AAffirming a gay identity through a fully expressed sexuality
Cell C1Transition zone of uncertainty between Side A and Side B
Cell BAffirming a gay identity while rejecting all gay sexual conduct
Cell C2Transition zone of uncertainty between Side B and Side Y
Cell YRejecting a gay identity while admitting to homosexual inclinations
Cell C3Transition zone of uncertainty between Side Y and Side X
Cell XRefraining from discussing enduring homosexual desire or “ex-gay”

This is a statement about the cartographer as much as (or more so than) it’s a statement about the landscape. This is the framework by which Side B sees itself and its neighbors.

This is a map of the same terrain previously mapped as Side A vs Side B only a few years ago. Old Side B has become a spectrum of gradations delineated by the priorities and the interests of those in the new Side B group. Side Y and Side X aren’t the self-conceptions of the people categorized in those groups; they’re the conceptions which Side B projects upon those they classify as Side Y and Side X.

Note that Side A hasn’t been broken down into any sort of spectrum. Perhaps it could be. Perhaps to the folks on that side, there’s some meaningful difference between sanctified gay marriage and sanctified polyamory, etc. But that’s their cross to bear, and those are their mind-games to play among themselves.

This expansion of detail in the cartography of the same sexual landscape tells me that the basis of surveying and landmarking has changed. It’s becoming far more subjective, and it’s being driven by those for whom a subjective sexual sense of themselves is critical and fairly central to their overall self-conception and identity curation and presentation.

The fact that this framework recognizes its transition zones as identified positions speaks to its inherent subjectivity as a product of personal self-perception and self-understanding more than a representation of one’s public professions and practices, even if the former doesn’t rule out some engagement with the latter.

This layout also aligns with the theologico-sociopolitical landscape; it’s openly affirmed as such. It’s a spectrum from progressive to conservative. The sheer fact that religious and sociopolitical convictions map neatly onto this spectrum of sexual identification in itself merits any number of questions and concerns about its implications. One fairly obvious implication is that conservatives have no comfortable or functional place in Side B. And Nick Roen said as much when he distanced himself from the Side B label in June 2019. I can readily identify with Nick’s thoughts and concerns.

I’m not trying to be the language police about what particular words Christians with this particular lived experience can or should use in expressing ourselves to other Christians or to outsiders. But I do believe words are not benign. Neither is the way in which we use and inhabit those words. I’m not concerned about incidental words. I’m concerned about the sort of ethos and micro-culture that the Side B Movement is continually constructing and inhabiting. My concern is that the evolution of Side B is in the hands of folks who are truly Side A Lite.

This reminds me of the modern Reformed proverb: There’s a reason it’s called semi-Pelagianism instead of semi-Augustinianism. We know what the underlying driving motivation is.

I see that trajectory when I see a notable attrition rate from Side B to Side A but little or no attrition from Side B to Side Y or Side X. Or maybe the attrition’s form speaks for itself. Attrition from Side B to Side A is a(nother) coming-out ritual while attrition from Side B to Side Y/X is a quiet withdrawal. That contrast is informative.

The Side B Movement isn’t about affirming a particular sexual ethic; it’s about embracing a particular micro-culture. Insofar as predilections for certain music and hobbies and the possession of culinary skills constitute prominent subcultural features, Side B is a part of the broad and vague Gay Culture that is juxtaposed to a Straight Culture. Personally, I’d say what Sue Sylvester said about it to Kurt Hummel on Glee:

See, that’s the problem with your generation. You’re obsessed with labels. So you like show tunes. Big deal. That doesn’t make you gay. It just makes you awful [or awesome if you prefer].

I get concerned when I encounter fanciful queer theorizing about present, prelapsarian, and post-resurrection anthropologies and an attendant assortment of polysyllabic sexual neologisms among Side B folks in dialogue with Side A Lite folks and Side A converts. It leads me to my ongoing concern that the Side B subculture has a pervasive problem with malakia or moral softness as understood in ancient and medieval Christian ethics. It’s not exaggerated performative hyper-masculinity and hyper-femininity focusing every effort on picking the low-hanging fruit of personality traits and quirks as easy targets.

The chief forms of moral softness among Side A Lite that alarm me are manifestations such as:

  • Queer theorizing about human sexuality before the Fall which seeks to subvert any reasonable and responsible construction of it as functionally heteronormative, and doing so apparently so as to avoid reckoning with the profoundly disordered nature of homosexual and transgender impulses and inclinations according to traditional Christian sexual ethics
  • Tabling vital discussions of cross-dressing, drag behavior, pride marching, celibate partnerships, bro-cuddling, and the like as though it’s sexual adiaphora when it’s all very plausibly sexual immorality deserving of ecclesiastical rebuke and discipline as understood by those who are theologico-sociopolitically conservative
  • Transgenderism and Queer Culture generally receiving a free pass from scrutiny or special privileges of victimhood empathy and never being addressed with regard to Christian sexual ethics concerning appropriate gendered behavior
  • Recurrent public displays of acedia and bitterness that chip away slowly at biblical convictions, the fear of the Lord, and the attendant holiness he expects from those who bear and are called by his Name

These manifestations of malakia make it hard for me to trust the worth and substance of any claim about holding to a traditional biblical sexual ethic that amounts to anything more than crass notions of who can or cannot rub genitals with whom and under what circumstances. That’s simply nowhere near a comprehensive Christian sexual ethic. To me, this is looking less like a docile beehive and more like a hornet’s nest of trouble.

Some Follow-Up Comments on Terminology …

The Side B Movement … is largely synonymous with Celibate Gay Christianity

Yes and no. It’s complicated. Generally and increasingly, yes. But not exhaustively. I don’t regard the Side B Movement to be the same thing as a group like Spiritual Friendship for instance.

In the short and rapidly paced history of things, the Side B Movement has some relationship with Spiritual Friendship. But Side B is going placed that SF hasn’t gone and isn’t going. I have the sense that Side B has presently purchased or co-opted the “Celibate Gay Christian” brand name from SF. And I think it’s a matter of deserved recognition and respect to distinguish men and women at Spiritual Friendship and their efforts.

In the marketplace of movements, the majority shares in the “Gay Christianity” brand are held by the affirming theologically revisionist camp. In the older Side A vs Side B dialogue and framework, Side A had and still holds the larger numbers. ‘Celibate’ was the modifier that folks like those at Spiritual Friendship chose in their efforts at careful articulation of language and a presentation of their concept and framework. The newer Side B wave isn’t as careful and conservative in its language and self-conception.

There’s a reason it’s called semi-Pelagianism instead of semi-Augustinianism.

– Reformed Proverb

The underlying driving motivation of the evolution of Side B is Side A Lite in my opinion. Would Side B like the label or wish to own the idea that they’re Side A Lite? I highly doubt they would. The folks on the leading edge of Side B probably don’t want to think of themselves as Side A Lite. But Side B has an excessively minimalist definition of traditional sex ethics, and it doesn’t have the same perspective as I have on how far gone from a robust traditional Christian sexual ethic it is.

In some ways, Side A Lite seems to like the fact that it’s a murky place but doesn’t think of it as a mess. I get the impression that it’s regarded as a place of freedom, creativity, and dignified diversity. And I see that made possible by a low view of scriptural inspiration and the accompanying theological revisionism and progressivism that come into play. They do so by thinning or emptying out a traditional biblical anthropology with its emphasis on corrupting sinfulness.

Many Side B folks seem to be comfortable being experienced as affirming by Side A folks or expressing how they’re comfortable having fellowship with Side A and Side B equally. This goes hand-in-hand with the perception and the confessions of Side B folks that they don’t regard the Side A position as spiritually perilous and devastating. This adds all the more to Side A Lite being an apropos characterization.

Side Y and Side X aren’t the self-conceptions of the people categorized in those groups; they’re the conceptions which Side B projects upon those they classify as Side Y and Side X.

If you ask me, the way Side B often makes distinctions between itself and Side Y or Side X and between Side Y and Side X, it’s sometimes just a metric for how annoyed Side B folks get or how hurt they feel with what you tell them they can or can’t do or how they should or shouldn’t express themselves. When it’s not that, it’s merely a charitable disagreement about those same do’s and don’ts.

Side Y means Christians who are willing to acknowledge and speak (usually publicly or in a less guarded or closed off fashion) about the fact they experience same-sex attraction or homoerotic and homosexual desires. But they don’t adopt a gay identity, whether a public presentation or a private self-conception. Again, “traditionally” for Side B, Side Y is about an unwillingness to describe oneself as gay.

But more and more, it’s not a matter of one’s willingness to use stipulated language in conversation; it’s an insistence or urgency about whether or not to adopt a “gay” brand identity as a prominent feature of your public self-presentation. Side B does that. Side Y does not. Because Side Y doesn’t operate according to the extent it desires to embrace a gay self-conception, a Side Y individual doesn’t think about himself or herself in the way a Side B individual thinks about a Side Y individual.

Frequently, Side X functionally means those Christians experiencing same-sex attraction who annoy and upset Side B people. Side X means Rosaria Butterfield, Christopher Yuan, and so forth. And Side X means any number of ultraconservative Christians who oppose the Side B construction and trajectory.

To Side B folks, Side X means people unwilling to candidly vulnerably talk about the fact that they still experience same-sex attraction. It tends to amount to Side B folks disliking the fact that Side X folks won’t talk in the way Side B folks desire to hear.

To Side B folks, Side X also means folks who insist everyone says “same-sex attraction” because any talk about being “gay” or more so the self-conception of identifying as “gay” is sinful.

Or it’s X for Side X folks, because it’s the new ex-gay meaning advocacy for conversion therapy or promotion of efforts at orientation change. It’s supposedly also a category for those who claim or give the impression they are no longer same-sex attracted.

I personally suspect that’s a misunderstanding or self-deceit on the part of Side B folks in some cases.

So Side X is a catch-all for a lot of things. A lot of things that Side B folks don’t like. And a lot of things that have genuinely hurt Side B folks in the past. There’s no denying that.

I don’t see many of those who are categorized as Side X as being Ex-Gay 2.0, a rebirth of the debacle that was Exodus International. Can you find plenty of Christians who talk as though homosexuals should or will become functioning heterosexuals as a part of their genuine repentance and conversion to the Faith? Yes, you can find those. And they’re a sect that’s quite out of touch with what we know about the anthropology of this matter along with the anthropology the Scriptures give us about this matter. And they always have been out of touch in these ways.

More and more for younger people who are Side B, “gay” language is about how you see yourself. But for the wider culture, and especially for an older generation, being gay has much more to do with how you live.

So for folks like Rosaria Butterfield and Christopher Yuan who lived for a time in their lives in active rebellion against God and carried it out in sexual immorality, it’s a very different experience from how they were living then to how they’re living now. It’s not confused and angst-ridden Christian teenagers who are regularly lamenting an urge for gay intimacy that they’ve never experienced and aren’t allowed to experience. There’s no sense of what they’ve escaped and renounced, only a sense of what they’re experiencing.

More and more, it seems that a ritual of the Side B Movement is wearing one’s weighty homosexual burden as an odd badge of honor or special privilege due to victimhood or grievance status. It’s not intended that way, but it comes across that way. It’s a felt need to signal about the unique burden. But someone who won’t do that and insists that it’s inappropriate for Christians to make such public displays of acedia about it will get categorized as Side X.

So, a trajectory from the old Side B to the new Side B is a growing matter of the Side B folks finding and expressing solidarity in the shared sexual self-perception with those who are Side A. It’s the solidarity of shared sexuality that Side X and Side Y Christians don’t want and find distantly secondary and rather fleeting compared to the solidarity they have with fellow Christians as fellow members of one Body and one Faith.

Glimpses of the Imago Dei

A Sketch of the Biblical Meaning of Divine Image-Bearing

My developed impression is that most Christians think being made in the image of God, aka Imago Dei, is a broad, flat, and generic affirmation of the universal intrinsic dignity and worth of humans as the special creatures God made us to be. I don’t think that’s the meaning of the Imago Dei in Scripture. I do think that the teaching of universal human dignity and worth is something that can be derived from the doctrine of the Imago Dei, but that’s not the heart of the matter.

Resources

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge and advertise a number of resources on this subject. The primary source for much of this is the book Images of the Spirit (1980) by Meredith Kline. Alastair Roberts does an excellent review of Images of the Spirit as well as two follow-up sessions on being created in the image of the angels and women and the image of God.

Imago Dei and the Divine Council

Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.

Who is the “us” and the “our” in God’s utterance here in the creation account? I am of the opinion it’s the Divine Council that we see pictured in several places in Scripture. It’s God and the gods. The one true and eternal God and his heavenly angelic host. It’s the tribunal that renders judgment and instructs in the discernment of good and evil.

Let them have dominion … Fill the earth and subdue it …

Genesis opens with God who makes the light shine in darkness and has all authority. He speaks, and creation obeys. He establishes lights in the firmament of the heavens to rule over the day and the night and demarcate time. Luminaries are symbols for the angelic host and for the kings of men. This connects the Imago Dei to kingship and judgment.

Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.

For the longest time, I read this passage as though the emphasis was on the image of God conveying a certain worth upon mankind and therefore demanding the blood of the one who sheds the blood of man. I don’t dispute the truth of that. It’s there. But now I wonder if the emphasis here is on man as the avenger of the blood-guilt of his fellow man. That a man exercising kingship and judgment must avenge the bloodshed of the innocent. The Imago Dei is being evoked here to explain why man is being made the avenger.

The word of my lord the king will now be comforting; for as the Angel of God, so is my lord the king in discerning good and evil.

The angels of God in the old order were intermediaries and teachers of judicial wisdom. The Angel of Yahweh (who is most likely a theophany and specifically a christophany) in particular is connected with being an agent of judgment. So much so that King David is repeatedly compared to the Angel of Yahweh in his power to execute wise judgment. The king by definition is the man required to discern good and evil, i.e. judicial wisdom.

Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?

The prophet also has a connection to the Divine Council. The prophet by definition is the man who is brought into the Divine Council and is sent to represent the Divine Council.

Imago Dei and the Glorious Spirit

In various places in Scripture, we see the Spirit as the visible Glory and Presence of God. The Prophet Ezekiel recounts this shrouded Glory in vivid detail as wheels and cherubs, beastly faces and multitudinous eyes, an altar and a throne, and a man of fire and metal beneath a rainbow. It’s blanketed in clouds and thunders as it moves here and there.

This is the same Glory shrouded in darkness, full of fire, and resounding in thunder that descended upon Mount Sinai. This is the Presence that was the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night that would go before the Israelites. It brooded over Israel like an eagle over her chicks and bore them on its wings, just as it brooded over the waters in the creation.

The words used to describe the way the ominous cloud moved and sounded upon Mount Sinai are the same words that describe Yahweh moving and speaking in the Garden to the man and his wife. In fact, Yahweh comes in the “Spirit of the Day” in the Garden.

By threading all of this biblical information together about the Spirit as the Glory and the Presence of God, there are a few things to draw from it about the image of God.

Firstly, the Spirit as the Glory and the Presence is the pattern on the mountain that Moses saw and used to build the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle is made in the image of the Spirit. Likewise the Aaronic high priest is an inside-out version of the Tabernacle. He belongs to the Tabernacle and is a part of the furnishings and a member of the court. He is made in the image of the Tabernacle and is thus made in the image of the Spirit who is the Glory and Presence of God. The Spirit is the pattern for the image.

Secondly, the phrase “Spirit of the Day” connects the Spirit with the Day of visitation and judgment. And rendering judgment has already been shown to be a defining aspect of the Imago Dei. The Spirit as the Glory and the Presence is the pattern for the Day of the Lord.

Imago Dei and the Threefold Office

It’s been shown that the Imago Dei is tied to aspects of functioning as king (through the exercise of judicial wisdom), as prophet (through the invitation into the Divine Council and the dispatching from the Divine Council), and as priest (through mediation of the Glory and the Presence). So, the Imago Dei is filled with connotations of functioning as prophet, priest, and king. All three of which are anointed offices, and together are the threefold office of Christ the Anointed One. The First Adam is called the image of God. And unsurprisingly, the Last Adam is wrapped up in being the Image of God.

Imago Dei and Sonship

And Adam … begot a son in his own likeness, after his image …

God makes Man in his own image and likeness. And Man begets a son in his own image and likeness. The function of imaging is caught up in the idea of sonship. The title Son of God is routinely synonymous with being the Davidic King.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

So here we have Christ named according to two references to a Son: image and firstborn. This is Christ as the Last Adam, the New Man, the New Creation.

For whom God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that Jesus might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Being the Image of God is tied up in being the Son of God. And those who are in Christ are the sons of God who are being made into the image of the Son of God. We are made sons in the Son. We are made images of the Image.

And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

All those who are in Adam bear the image of Adam who was in the image of God. But he transgressed and marred the image with sin, the image which all those in Adam likewise bear. But all those who are in Christ bear the image of Christ who is the image of God. He has succeeded as fully faithfully functioning as the image of God. And all those who are in him are being conformed by God to that image of the Son.

Imago Dei, the Man, and the Woman

So God created Man [Adam] in his own image;
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

In the day that God created Man [Adam],
he made him in the likeness of God.
He created them male and female,
and blessed them and called them Man [Adam]
in the day they were created.

Along with the flat claim of universal human worth and dignity, I also commonly hear the claim that the Imago Dei is a broad, flat, generic claim of the equality of men and women. I also don’t believe that to be the heart of the idea, though equality of worthy and dignity can also be derived from that.

Upon close inspection, it’s clear that the man is in the image of God and can stand for the whole of mankind as a male and female population in a way that the woman cannot. The man is the image of God in a more direct fashion than the woman, but the woman is also involved in being the image of God.

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. … For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. … Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

The Apostle Paul makes this asymmetry and directionality of representation explicit. The man is the image and the glory of God, but the woman is the glory of the man. The man is not made for the woman, but the woman is made for the man.

And the purpose of this asymmetry and directionality of representation finds its ultimate fulfillment in the Whole Christ that is Head and Body, Husband and Bride. We can look to the Book of the Revelation to see this motion pictorially.

In the opening chapter, we learn that this vision happens in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. This sets the context as one of God’s visitation and judgment, which is in the image of the Spirit. Christ is present as the Son of Man, a new Adam and priestly figure moving in the midst of the seven lamp stands that are the seven churches. He is arrayed as a priest and is a man of fire and light and metal in the same manner as the likeness of a man in the heart of the Glory Spirit that Ezekiel saw. This evokes the symbology of the high priest as being a walking inverted tabernacle in the image of the Spirit. So at the opening, Christ is the man in the image of the Spirit.

In the closing chapters, we hear of the Lamb’s Bride who is prepared for him. The City of God comes down to earth. The Bride is from the Lamb and for the Lamb (the Husband). He has given his Spirit to the Church. The Church as his Bride in him has the Spirit. The Spirit and the Bride together say, “Come!” The Bride has become conformed to the image of her Husband and is his glory. She too is depicted in images of precious refined metal, a rainbow of gemstones, and light. She is full of the life and light of God and the Lamb.

Imago Dei and Corporate Worship

In the Reformed and other traditions, the first two of the Ten Commandments are:

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image …

By distinguishing the first two commandments in this manner, the Reformed tradition is making a distinction that some have called covenantal apostasy vs liturgical apostasy. In the First Commandment, the service and prostration to all false gods is forbidden. To do so is to break covenant with the one true God by covenanting with another false god. But in the Second Commandment, any representation of the one true God using false images is forbidden. To do so is to profane the worship of the true God and to mislead the people in their understanding of God.

There are several reasons to not make images of God for use in worship. But one reason is that there is no need. There is a lawful image of God already present in worship: Man. If man is present in the worship of God, then God’s appointed Imago Dei is present. And this is true at several levels.

Firstly, all worship in the New Covenant happens in heaven. On earth, it need only be in Spirit and truth and doesn’t depend on geography. By faith through the Spirit, we ascend into the Presence on the true Mount Zion and in the true Jerusalem where we find Jesus the High Priest—Mediator, Minister, Intercessor. He who is the ultimate Image of God is already front and center in our worship by faith.

Secondly, when we gather for earthly worship which is patterned after heavenly worship, there’s a Man, a liturgist or minister, who functions as the local representation of Christ at the head of local worship. In his ordained office, the minister on earth visibly images the one who is the visible Image of God ministering in heaven.

Thirdly, the Holy Congregation (all those who are in Christ) are being transformed from glory to glory and are being conformed to the image of the Son who is the Image of God. The Totus Christus (the Whole Christ) is the Head and the Body and is the Great Mystery of the Ages. All those in Christ are being transformed and conformed to the image of the one who is the Image of God. Christ is the Head and Husband of the Church who is the Body and Bride. He is the Image and the Glory of God, and she is the image and the glory of the Man.

The false images of our own devising in worship (or elsewhere) are a distraction from the ministry at work in all the functioning and faithful true images of God who are present in worship and life.

And He Gave Gifts to Men

A Sketch of Offices and Functions in the Church

What follows is a sketch of the various offices in the church. I gathered these details from looking at Scripture and pondering how the institutional church in her various locations and forms has implemented and developed her offices through history.

The most basic idea behind offices in the church is a recognition of qualified individuals being specially invested with authority and responsibility to carry out a function as their calling. Just how “official” that process becomes leaves some room for interpretation and implementation.

I offer one caveat about studying the offices of the church in Scripture. It’s true that God has given us all that we need for life and faith. Scripture is sufficient for us. But that’s a far cry from Scripture being an exhaustive “How To” manual about anything. What we know about church offices in Scripture comes to us as situational details in the context of stories and occasional letters. The raw data is messy. Christians can wrestle in good faith about how to more formally develop and apply the teachings and can come to differing conclusions.

The Threefold Work:

The scope of the work of church offices comes from the threefold office of Christ and the threefold marks of the Church. Christ, i.e. the Anointed One, occupies the three anointed offices seen in the Old Testament: the priest, the king, and the prophet. The three offices are all representatives and representations of God to the people and of the people to God. Each does so with respect to its core functions.

A priest is one who leads the worship and service of God. He tends to the Lord’s Table by bringing food from the people to God and from God to the people. He comforts the people and leads them through their alienation in weaknesses and failures to restoration.

A king is one who exercises judicial wisdom over the people and is accountable to God on behalf of the people. He is the agent of God’s justice among the people. He must lay down his life for the sake of the people. He is enthroned upon his suffering for the people.

A prophet is one who is called into the divine council and speaks for the divine council as a covenant lawyer on behalf of God. He calls the people of God to covenant faithfulness and reminds them of their covenant with God. He also advocates for the people to God.

The classic threefold marks of the church are the right teaching of the Word, the right administration of the Sacraments, and the right tending of the Flock. These display the prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices respectively. The establishment of these functions by Christ as marks of his Body the Church necessarily implies a fourth mark: the right appointment of the Officers.

The various church officers are oriented to these various functions and identity markers.

The Gifting Principle:

In Ephesians 4, Paul describes the unity of the people of God (vss. 1-6). There is one Body. It is filled with one Spirit. It is ruled by one Lord. It is expressed as one Faith. It is marked by one Baptism. It is birthed by one Father. But there is a great diversity of individuals in this unity of the people. And it sometimes leads to striving which calls for peace.

One cause of diversity is the grace of God given in different measures (vss. 7-10). Christ has given gifts to his people, and they are not all the same gifts distributed to all the same individuals. And some of the gifts he’s given to his people are the officers of the church for the purpose of edifying the Body (vss. 11-13).

Therefore, officers are those given their offices by Christ based on the different measures of grace given by God. Not all are qualified because not all have been given the same gifts.

The Servitude Principle:

In Philippians 2, Paul describes the humiliation of Christ and his subsequent exaltation by the Father (vss. 5-11). Although he was in the form of God, he did not cling to equality with God. He effaced himself. He took the form of a bondservant. The bondservant or slave is the lowliest of the various kinds of servants.

Christ taught that rising to greatness (i.e. status, agency, authority, and influence) in his kingdom is measured by sinking to servitude. Those individuals given greater positions and influence over his people must adopt a mindset and lifestyle of faithful servitude to the people. This is why the traditional clerical collar is a stylized shackle.

Therefore, officers should understand their offices as a calling to a heightened form of suffering, self-effacement, and burdened obligation to those whom they are bound.

Office of the Elder:

The elder is an old man. He ought to be elderly. The rationale behind that qualification is that wisdom rarely comes without age and experience (even if it sometimes doesn’t come with it). And there are general behavioral expectations for godly elderly men and women in Scripture (Titus 2:2-3).

The title of elder is functionally interchangeable with the titles of pastor/shepherd and of bishop/overseer. Those titles and the related functional terms are used interchangeably in Scripture (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). They are spoken of as ruling and as those who have the rulership of congregations. They keep a guarding watch over the Flock of God.

As such, they are representatives and representations of Christ in his kingly rule. They are his undershepherds. He is their Arch Shepherd. When the sheep look at the elders, they are not to see oversheep (fellow congregants) but rather undershepherds. They are to be recognized as office-holders set apart from the flock.

Elders in the New Testament aren’t all that different from elders in the Old Testament (Exodus 18). They are men of qualifying character who can be trusted with exercising and enforcing judicial wisdom in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-16).

Office of the Teacher:

The teacher is listed closely alongside the pastor in Ephesians 4. And in 1 Timothy 5:17, the elders are to be commended if they rule well and especially if they labor in the word and teaching. So, there is some measure of association and yet distinction between pastoring and teaching. Some elders focus their activities and giftings as ruling elders. But others labor in the word and doctrine in a way that ruling elders don’t. These are teaching elders or teachers. Traditionally, this has sometimes been recognized as a distinct office called the doctor of the church.

In James 3:1, teachers of the church are said to be subject to stricter judgment. Therefore, their skill and substance demand the highest quality as those whose teaching bears more weight in the church. As office-holders with authority and responsibility, they’re subject to the character qualifications just like their fellow officers of the church.

Office of the Minister:

A minister or liturgist is one who does the work of the people, i.e. a public servant. In the civil realm, the governor is called a minister of God who enforces justice (Romans 13:1-5). In the ecclesial realm, the minister is the governor of our gathered public service.

The work of the ministry or liturgy is mentioned a few times in Scripture. As an office, it’s never directly addressed. The office is deduced by necessity from various principles which govern and inform earthly gathered worship on the Lord’s Day. The Letter to the Hebrews has repeated warnings that we must learn the lessons of the Exodus Generation, because we are subject to something superior to what they had. Their worship was patterned after the things in heaven (8:5). How much more so should ours be? They came to a mountain to serve God and hold a feast to him. We come to the heavenly mountain by faith (12:18-24). The worship of the Israelites had a high priest called a minister just like our worship does with Christ in heaven (8:1-3).

Therefore, it’s fitting that our gathered public worship should be led by one who serves as a representative and representation of Christ in his priestly ministry.

Office of the Evangelist:

An evangelist is one who proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom. He is a herald. The office of the evangelist is listed among those in Ephesians 4 and is distinguished from apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers. Philip the deacon is also called an evangelist (Acts 21:8), and certainly, he did that work when he went to Samaria and when he met the Ethiopian Eunuch. Timothy is also called to do the work of an evangelist (1 Timothy 4:5). Evangelists appear to be or can be missionaries in practice. The work also seems to involve a degree of apologetics with outsiders as evidenced by the work of Stephen and Philip.

Office of the Deacon:

A deacon is an attendant or one who runs errands. The office first appears in Acts 6 as the size and needs of the church become unmanageable for the apostles alone. The apostles recognize they are to focus upon the ministry of the word and prayer. Seven deacons are appointed to attend to matters of mercy ministry in the church. But some of the deacons like Stephen and Philip go on to do evangelism and apologetics.

Like the elders or bishops, deacons have character qualifications (1 Timothy 3:8-13). And those qualification resemble the expectations for younger men and women (Titus 2:4-8).

In light of the diversity of what they do, the office of the deacon appear to be that of the assistant to the offices of the elder, the teacher, and the minister. Deacons are prospective elders, teachers, evangelists, and ministers in training. And some deacons simply remain as such. They assist and have a proven character to be appointed to a place of assistance.

Office of the Widow:

A widow is a woman who’s dependent upon the church for her life and who has devoted herself to the service of the church and the ministry of prayer. The office of the widow has character qualifications similar to those of elders and deacons and even involves official registration (1 Timothy 5:3-16). This is a distinctly female office whereas many of the other offices are prominently male offices. The widow is a counterpart of sorts to the elder.

One Last Thought:

As I said earlier, the raw biblical data is messy. It shows offices as less objectively formal than we often see now. Or a bit more fluid. There is a high degree of recognition of God’s giftings connected with functioning and office. Offices in Scripture have a certain degree of fluidity in their informality.

One outcome of that fluidity and the variability in God’s giving of different gifts is that some individuals can and do function in more than one office. Peter is an apostle, but he calls himself a fellow elder. Timothy is an elder, and Paul tells him to do the work of an evangelist. Paul says he’s been appointed as a preacher, apostle, and teacher.

And to a certain extent, simply exercising the function of God’s gift is a statement about the place and purpose of a member in the Body. And the Body has a vested interest and responsibility in encouraging and regulating that function for the sake of all.

A Note of Apostles and Prophets:

I do acknowledge the offices of the apostle and the prophet that are present in the New Testament. They’re named among the offices given by Christ in Ephesians 4. But for the purposes of this sketch, I omitting them from discussion. There’s much controversy as to whether they’re relevant in the present time or are essentially historical and presently defunct. Personally, when I read about “the household of God, having been built on a foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-22), I get the sense there’s a significantly historical progressive aspect to the spiritual construction project.

A Note on Ecclesial Gender Roles:

A brief word on sexual distinctions in church offices. I didn’t focus on addressing it in my post, because it’s a fairly complex conversation to have. It’s one I certainly want to be having and think we need to be having. And Lord willing, I’ll manage to capture some of my thoughts on liturgical and ecclesial sexuality in writing one of these days.

My short(ish) answer is that if we were to operate in a far more natural cultural context (one in which our creationistic embodied teleologies were more immediately obvious to us), then we’d see a distinctly male ruling eldership emerge. At present, we live in an anti-creationistic cultural context that has thoroughly infected the church. The perceptions of church office have changed as significantly as the perceptions of man, woman, and marriage have. It’s an odd game to play, arguing about male-only leadership when the game is being played by incapacitated players on a misshapen field where the structure and function of ecclesiology and the pastorate have been revised and hollowed out.

I do think woman are naturally oriented to some sort of eldering and deaconal duty. It’s not a statement of office as much as it is one of natural function. If the elders are the spiritual fathers of the church (as they should be), then the church needs spiritual mothers as well. Fathers are not mothers, and mothers are not fathers. There needs to be an effective natural patriarchy forming the structure of the church. And there needs to be an effective natural matriarchy filling the substance of the church. Again, sexual distinctions would be obvious if we lived in a natural context that made sexually differentiation readily apparent.