[Originally published on thegospelcoalition.org]
With recent church sex-abuse scandals, unprecedented numbers of Christian couples living together before marriage, and the #ChurchToo movement, there’s no doubt the church needs reform on sexual issues. But what kind of reform?
Nadia Bolz-Weber, founder of the House for All Sinners and Saints, The New York Times bestselling author, conference speaker, and public theologian, answers this question in her latest book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation. She argues that Christians need to abandon what the church has traditionally taught about sex and gender and to forge a new Christian sexual ethic.
Endorsed by progressive heavyweights such as Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey, Richard Rohr, and Austin Channing Brown, I predict this book will be wildly popular. It’s well written, funny, down to earth, and peppered with F-bombs. If someone is looking for a way to hold on to the title “Christian” while being able to freely indulge their sexual appetites in any way they believe promotes their sexual flourishing, Shameless will be their manifesto.
I have some exciting news!
For almost the whole of last year, I have been buried in research. (Don't worry, that's not the exciting part. Wait for it.)
I've been reading progressive and liberal books, listening to lectures and podcasts, and generally trying to immerse myself in the progressive world. I believe God has called me to write a book that will provide a biblical response to this rapidly-growing and influential movement within the church.
"Once upon a time, there lived a girl with a magic book."
The opening line of Rachel Held Evans' new book, Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again—resonates. Like Evans, I grew up in the Evangelical subculture of the eighties and nineties, replete with sword drills, purity rings, and scare films about the rapture. We were well aware of the dangers of playing Dungeons and Dragons, listening to secular music, and backward masking. Like all good Christian kids of this era, we sang "Friends Are Friends Forever" at the end of summer camp every single year.
Evans describes her childhood affection for the Bible which told tales of "kings and queens, farmers and warriors, giants and sea monsters, and dangerous voyages." (She forgot unicorns, but we'll let that one slide.) She walks the reader through her stages of disillusionment, as she began to notice things like Abraham being rewarded for agreeing to commit child sacrifice. She notes the horror of the Canaanite conquest and the dark side of the Noah's ark story. She wrote, "If God was supposed to be the hero of the story, then why did God behave like a villain?" (p. xii)
I once sat with another parent at a playground making small talk about religion. (I know, right?) He was a Progressive Christian who didn't believe in Original Sin. He pointed to his daughter playing sweetly with another girl and said, "See her? She's innocent. She has to be taught to do bad things." At that very moment, I kid you not, she had a Toddlers and Tiaras-level meltdown, tantruming all over the playground. He sheepishly chuckled and said, "Well, maybe you're right."
As I revealed in my last post, progressives typically deny the doctrine of Original Sin. But historically, Original Sin is how Christians have answered the question, "What's wrong with the world?" In today's post, we'll look at the historic and progressive understandings of redemption and restoration.
"I've got bad news and good news."
I'll never forget sitting in the dentist's office awaiting "the news." For the record, I am an utter wimp when it comes to my teeth. Sure, I gave birth to two babies with nothing more than a stick to bite on, but threaten me with a dental drill and I'm out the door faster than you can say, "laughing gas"— if I don't pass out first. Just hearing the phrase "dental pulp" makes me want to crawl under a rock the size of Wisconsin.
"The bad news? You need a root canal. The good news? We can sedate you so you won't feel a thing. "
Sedation. The good news—the transcendent glory of this invention of modern medicine would be lost on me if I didn't first understand the bad news—that I needed a root canal. But once I knew "dental pulp" would be involved, sedation suddenly became the best. News. Ever.
Misunderstood Bible Verses With Clark Bates (Part 3): Proverbs and Promises—The Alisa Childers Podcast #33
In my last post, I reviewed the book, Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. It struck a chord with some, and clanged like an out of tune banjo with others. Sure, there were some fence-sitters who just wanted everyone to get along, but for the most part, people either really really loved it, or they wanted to burn it to the ground. Here are two comments I received that represent the reactions:
When I read your post, a few silent tears ran down my face. It was full of grace. Full of truth.
You are a judgmental bit*h. (Yes that was the message in its entirety.)
One book review. Two radically different reactions. I noticed that a number of the divergent comments and messages were centered on my explanation of the gospel.
Rachel Hollis is taking the world by storm—and I get it. She's beautiful, smart, ambitious, funny, and a crazy good writer. I mean, the girl can tell a story that will have you crying one minute and shooting Diet Coke out of your nose the next.
She's carved out a nice little corner of the internet for herself, cultivating a community over a million strong and growing. She cooks, decorates, gives advice, and is known for her no nonsense honesty and humor. "I love Jesus, and I cuss a little. I love Jesus, and I drink alcohol. I love Jesus, and some of my best friends are gay," she recently posted on Facebook. She and her husband invite couples of all stripes (unmarried, married, same-sex) to take part in their couples conference, where the participants are encouraged to "learn some tangible advice. . .and make-out like a couple of teenagers."
Let me start by saying I like Rob Bell. (You didn't think I was going to say that, did you?) As a part of some research I'm doing on Progressive Christianity, I've spent quite a bit of time with him lately—listening to lectures, interviews, and reading his books. Of all the Progressive authors I'm currently reading (Rachel Held Evans, Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Steve Chalke, and Pete Enns among others), I enjoy Bell the most. This doesn't mean I agree with much of what he says, but he's articulate, clear, engaging, and seems like a genuinely nice person.