I decided to begin the “Ask Me Anything” feature as a means of answering some of the questions I receive from readers of this site. Over the past few weeks I’ve received mountains of them, so please forgive me if I haven’t been able to take a shot at answering yours. Meanwhile, here are a few more attempts to answer a few more questions.
I serve as pastor of Congregational Care in a large evangelical church. Recently our lead pastor and elders promoted the egalitarian position to our congregation. A vote was taken as to whether our church should include women as elders, and it was supported by 80% of our membership. My wife and I are grieved. Women elders will be elected in the fall. We don’t know how we will be able to minister under the authority of women elders, yet we sense the Lord is directing us to stay. This is a real dilemma for us as we love the church but want to remain faithful to God and His Word. There are a few other red flags that concern us as well; ALPHA theology regarding filling of the Spirit, experience-oriented services, contemplative prayer, lectio divina staff devotionals, an expressed desire for “more” (evidence of God’s power in services), expectation of healing for all, etc. We would appreciate your opinion and advice.
There is a lot to consider here, but for now, let’s consider just the issue of women serving in the eldership. I think this is an ideal place to apply what Al Mohler calls “theological triage.” Theological triage allows us to examine an issue to determine its importance. It sorts doctrine into three levels.
First-level doctrines are those that are those that are most central and essential to the Christian faith. These are doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture—doctrines that demanded councils and are encoded in creeds. You cannot consider yourself an orthodox Christian if you deny them.
Second-level doctrines are significant issues, but ones for which there is still disagreement among gospel-believing Christians. We can still affirm the faith of those who believe the opposite of what we believe, but we may not be able to enjoy denominational or local-church fellowship with them. An example of a second-level issue is the meaning and mode of baptism—do we baptize infants or do we baptized professed believers?
Third-level doctrines are those for which Christians may disagree, even while maintaining the closest kind of fellowship. You and I may believe different things here, but it will not diminish our fellowship and we can easily participate in the same local church. Eschatology is an example of this kind of doctrine, where as long as we affirm the bodily and victorious return of Jesus Christ, we may disagree on exactly what sequence of events will lead to it.
I tend to believe that female eldership is a second-level issue. This acknowledges it is a position that can be held by true believers, but that it is significant enough that a complementarian would have difficulty experiencing true unity in an egalitarian church and an egalitarian would have difficulty experiencing true unity in a complementarian church. When you add to this all the other issues you laid out, it seems to me you have very good grounds to consider moving to a new church.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that this situation is not your fault. The people who leave a church are often considered the ones who are divisive. After all, they are the ones who have chosen to walk away which sure seems like division. But the fault is actually with those who have embraced faulty doctrine and then taught it to the church. In such a case, leaving the church is a mark of faithfulness, not weakness.
I am a Christian. My husband claims to be a Christian but no longer goes to church or shows any signs of honoring God. He has gone back to daily, heavy drinking which repulses me, especially sexually. Am I obligated scripturally, to have sex with him? I am not doing that by the way. I don’t think I can. It makes me physically ill.
I am so sorry to hear of your situation. Your letter conveys the disappointment and heartbreak you’re experiencing. I know how it weighs on you that your husband has made choices that are so selfish and so destructive not only to himself but to you as well. I’m grieved on your behalf.
I don’t really know how to answer your letter from afar, except to say this: If you are a Christian, God has given you a local church. This local church is where you have fellow believers who can weep with you as you weep and minister God’s grace to you. This local church is where you have elders who can hear what you are going through, pray with you, and counsel you. I hope that in your grief you can express your need to your church and experience God’s blessing through it.
I wish there was more I could do or say, but the distance between us and the little I know of your situation really keeps me from being confident offering more specific counsel on so difficult a situation.
I often find myself in doubt of what God might want for my life. How can I be confident in the future when it seems so uncertain, especially in regards to what God wants for my life to be?
I am convinced we make knowing and doing God’s will far more complicated than it needs to be. We tend to think God has a very detailed and specific will for our lives that we are responsible to discover and pursue. In other words, God has a secret will for us that we need to find through prayer, through Scripture, through circumstances, or maybe even through miraculous means. If we don’t find this, we will somehow be living outside God’s will, living a kind of second-class life. We may even think God is going to punish us in some way if we’re not finding and living his will.
I believe the reality is far simpler and rather freeing. God’s revealed will for us is godliness. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3, Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.” He describes that sanctification as involving sexual purity, love for others, and hard work. From this and other passages we learn God wants us to continue to grow and mature in godliness, to walk closely with him and to express love for others. Beyond that, he does not tell us a whole lot about his will. He certainly never tells us that he has a secret will we are responsible to learn and obey. Instead, he gives us freedom to live in such a way that we pursue our interests, whatever those interests are. So long as we do not ignore what God has clearly commanded or do what God has clearly forbidden, we have tremendous freedom.
You may benefit from reading a book like Kevin DeYoung’s Just Do Something or John MacArthur’s Found: God’s Will. Both books are tremendously challenging and liberating.
I would like to study further your “Why I am Not” topic regarding Roman Catholic Church. I have many friends who misunderstand the Church’s teaching. Can you provide clear and concise resources for us to study? Thank You!
Sure! We are well served with some excellent resources.
- Are We Together? by R.C. Sproul
- The Unfinished Reformation by Gregg Allison & Chris Castaldo
- Roman Catholic Theology and Practice by Gregg Allison
- A Christian’s Pocket Guide to the Papacy by Leonardo de Chirico
- Talking with Catholics about the Gospel by Chris Castaldo
These will get you started, at least.
What is the best way to fight evil thoughts that we confront daily, because they are hidden unless they are revealed no one knows only God?
I believe there are two kinds of evil thoughts we confront day-to-day. The first kind are the meditation of our hearts. We think these thoughts because we want to think them. We fill our minds with evil and then find that our minds continue to dwell on it. The man who watches pornography shouldn’t be surprised when he finds his mind is filled with pornographic thoughts and desires. The teenager who watches a horror movie shouldn’t be surprised when she lies awake at night with a mind filled with terrifying fantasies. This is where Philippians 4:8 comes into focus: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We need to actively consider what is good, pure, and lovely and actively reject what is ugly, impure, and awful. We fight these evil thoughts by putting sin to death and by flooding our minds with light.
The second kind of evil thoughts are satanic, planted in our minds by the enemy. We may not talk about these ones enough, but I’m convinced they are real. I think we can all think of times in life when it seemed like we were being afflicted or attacked with an assault of negative thoughts or images. Suddenly we were overwhelmed with horrifying or impure thoughts, even though we hadn’t been dwelling on such things. I believe we best fight these thoughts with prayer, fasting, and help from others.
There was a time in my life when I was dealing with such thoughts. I spent time praying about it and searching to see if I was fooling myself and actually allowing something into my life I shouldn’t have. But I became increasingly convinced this was something extrinsic not intrinsic to myself. I went to my elders, spoke to them, and asked them to pray for me. They did, and the crisis soon came to an end.
I got saved and baptized 4 years after I was married to my ex-husband. He also got baptized but says he “didn’t really believe.” He cheated on me and left 6 years later and is now remarried. I struggle with whether or not Matthew 5 applies to me since I didn’t cheat and was “put away.” I would like to remarry, but fear I will be in adultery and so will the man I marry. Thanks for your help in sorting this out.
There are various ways in which Christians interpret what the Bible says about divorce and remarriage. In general, they break down between the minority view and the majority view (which is to say, the views held by the minority and majority of Christians). The minority view insists that remarriage following divorce is always wrong. The majority view permits remarriage in many circumstances. At their best, both are equally firm on insisting on the sanctity of marriage.
The difficulty some people encounter with the minority view is that many of those who hold it have informed themselves very well which allows them to speak with great authority. Meanwhile, many who hold to the majority view hold to it because it’s the majority view and not because they have carefully researched their position.
While I have respect for the minority position and for those who hold it, I hold to the opposite position. Based on my understanding and on your account, it seems to me that you are eligible before God to remarry. His adultery broke his marriage vows and gave you legitimate grounds to divorce him. He only compounded his sin by deserting you and marrying someone else.
My counsel to you would be to study both positions, pray earnestly, and then trust your conscience. An excellent new book which fairly describes both positions (but then defends the majority position) is Divorce, Marriage, and Remarriage by Jim Newheiser.
In one of your latest articles, you stated that your primary income comes from sponsored posts. What are sponsored posts? I’m working on getting a blog going and planning on signing up with different affiliate programs. But I would like to know what other options I have to make an income from a blog. And I had never heard of sponsored posts before. Could you please explain this?
One of the long-term difficulties for bloggers and other Internet-based publishers has been monetization. It is easy to make a little money through a blog or other website, but typically quite difficult to make more than a little. For a time banner ads could be lucrative, but those days have long since come and gone. Many sites tried moving to a paid model, but that largely proved ineffective. And this is where sponsored content began to grow in importance.
Sponsored posts are essentially paid content that appears within a site’s normal stream of content. In other words, an advertiser prepares an article or blog post which is posted to a blog like mine. I don’t think too many bloggers or other publishers especially like sponsored posts, but we support them because they are effective. They are far more effective than banner ads or most other forms of advertising.
Speaking personally, I adhere to a few principles. First, I turn down any sponsors I do not know or trust. I will not advertise content that I think may be destructive or just plain dumb. Second, I am always careful to mark such content as sponsored. The little “sponsored” tag appears over the graphic on the main page, and the first line of the article always declares that it has been prepared by someone else. Third, I am always hopeful that my site can actually make a bridge between interested Christians and helpful companies or ministries. Advertising can be a blessing when it links people to items or services that can prove a blessing to them. I hope this proves the case with my sponsored posts.