Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) is widely acknowledged to be one of America’s most important theologians and considered a fountainhead of American evangelicalism. He not only played an important role in his own time but also influenced the generations that followed in profound ways.
Succinct synopses of topics large and small from his life, thought, and work
Summaries of Edwards’s ideas as well as descriptions of the people and events of his times are all easy to find
Suggestions for further reading point to ways to explore topics in greater depth.
Comprehensive and reliable, with contributions from the premier Edwards scholars in the world, this encyclopedia will be the standard reference work on one of the most extraordinary figures in American history.
What the bible teaches about same sex relationships sounds implausible to most people nowadays. It sounds totally implausible to ask people to turn their backs on same sex relationships and live a lonely life as a perpetually single person. Not only does it sound implausible, it sounds unhealthy. Listen to what Melinda Selmys, a Roman Catholic who experiences same sex attraction says:
“Though shall not,” has consistently failed to persuade the postmodern world because it is madness.
She’s right, it in our world the idea that someone should say yes to the single life is absolute madness. And this is exactly where the problem lies, the church has unintentionally perpetuated the implausibility of a same-sex, single, celibate Christian life through a number of misteps. Ed Shaw, a pastor and the author of Same-Sex Attraction and the Church, seeks to address this plausibility problem by making what the Bible clearly commands seem plausible again.
Shaw’s thesis is that,
The reason that the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality sounds so unreasonable is because of a whole number of misteps that the church ahs taken over the years; a whole host of ways in which evangelicals have become too shaped by the world around us. (22)
What Shaw does throughout the book is highlight 9 misteps that the church has made, unwittingly making the same sex celibate life implausible. He begins the book with a very personal chapter, describing what life has been like pursuing a life of sexual holiness as a pastor who has same sex attractions. This is an important chapter because the plausibility problem is a deeply personal and emotional issue for him, not only as a pastor but as a same-sex attracted Christian. This chapter really sets the context.
So what are the missteps? Here are the 9 incorrect beliefs that the church has adopted, thus perpetuating the implausibility of a single-celibate same-sex life:
Your identity is your sexuality
A family is Mom, Dad and 2.4 children
If you’re born gay, it can’t be wrong to be gay
If it makes you happy, it must be right
Sex is where true intimacy is found
Men and women are equal and interchangeable
Godliness is heterosexuality
Celibacy is bad for you
Suffering is to be avoided
Although these 9 topics have certainly influenced how the church processes issues of same sex attraction in the church, they have wide ranging implications. Personally, I have an ax to grind against belief 4 and 9. Even apart from issues of sexuality, the beliefs that “if it makes you happy, it must be right” and “suffering is to be avoided” have done so much to harm the mission of the church. Because the church has imbibed these values (especially the American church) people are slow to sacrifice for the sake of God’s mission. And perhaps even worse, students tend to abandon their faith in college precisely because they have bought into “happiness” as the goal of life, and hence their faith as well. I’ve seen it time and time again, people following Jesus because of the “happiness” and “blessings”
he has to offer them instead of simply following him because he is the Messiah. It’s a consumeristic view of faith. All this to say, the issues Shaw addresses have major implications even beyond the topic of same-sex attraction.
I highly recommend this book to those in ministry. I wish all my pastor friends would take the time to read it simply because I know that some of them unknowingly are perpetuating these harmful beliefs in their churches (2 and 5 seem to be especially common in the circles I find myself in.) This would also be a helpful book for all sorts of leaders in Christian ministry to read. We would really benefit from being more careful about how we address issues of family life and relationships, as elevating certain topics in sermons or bible studies can unwittingly alienate a large segment of our Christian brothers and sisters.
Even though you may not agree with the details of Shaw’s proposal, this is an invaluable resource for those seeking to disciple their flock in the areas of sexuality and beyond.
NOTE: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.
Among clergy, a 2009 study conducted by Texas Tech University of 460 male ministers revealed over 20 percent accessed pornography at least twice monthly. Older statistics on Christian clergy showed anywhere from 35 to 50 percent of ministers consider pornography a personal struggle, whether currently or in the past.
As Christian leaders these stats don’t really tells us anything we don’t already know. Porn is a significant issue for both Christian men and Christian leaders alike. And that’s just about pornography. This says nothing about our sexual integrity struggles with prostitution on business trips, strip clubs, affairs, masturbation, unbridled fantasy and checking out the sexy jogger in the rearview mirror.
At some level sexual integrity is challenging for all of us…. (13)
In Unburdened: The Christian Leader’s Path to Sexual Integrity, Michael Todd Wilson begins to address these challenges and provides guidance for those who happen to be Christian leaders and are seeking greater sexual integrity. Rather than asking “Do you struggle with sexual integrity?” he asks “How do you struggle with sexual integrity.” He takes an approach which recognizes that sexuality is an inherent part of our humanity and that at least some part of our sexuality has been marred by the fall. However this book doesn’t just say “change!” This book encourages Christian leaders to find growth in light of God’s grace.
Wilson encourages Christian men to take small but intentional steps toward integrity. He encourages men in leadership to take the risk of forming relationships with safe men who can encourage them toward greater sexual integrity. He encourages the reader to learn from others who have experienced victory in this area. He also encourages honesty and confession.
Ultimately what I like the most about this book is that he encourages the reader towards a grace-based approach rather than a duty/works based approach to growing in integrity. He argues that doing the right thing simply because its what we ought to do or because we feel guilty won’t sustain lasting change. He says that we need to be motivated by grace and not law. We need to be fired up by a passion for what’s right rather than merely the call of duty. His Grace-based approach is what makes this book stand out above other books about sexual purity.
I highly recommend this book for any Christian leader who wants to grow in their sexual integrity (there is always room for growth). But the group I would most highly recommend this book to is small group leaders (especially of men’s groups). I can see this resource being used to great effect in men’s small groups or as a resource being used to equip small group leaders who are constantly faced with the sexual integrity issues in their small group.
Note: I received this book courtesy of IVP in exchange for an impartial review.
WBC has more #1-rated volumes than any other commentary series (source: BestCommentaries.com, view the top commentaries). These essential resources feature top-rated scholarship by Richard J. Bauckham, William D. Mounce, Gordon J. Wenham, John E. Goldingay, Richard N. Longenecker, and many others.
Word Biblical Commentary delivers the best in biblical scholarship, featuring an international team of over 50 top scholars. These are the leading scholars of our day who share a commitment to Scripture as divine revelation.
The WBC series emphasizes a thorough understanding of textual, linguistic, structural, and theological evidence – equipping you with judicious and balanced insight into the meanings of the biblical text.
These widely acclaimed commentaries will help you build deeper theological understanding from a solid base of biblical scholarship.
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Last year our church transitioned from having a “children’s ministry” department and a “student ministry” department to having a “family ministry” model. Instead of seeing these two stages of life as two-clear-distinct-separated stages we came to the realization that we can minister more holistically to parents and their children with the understanding that the development of a child’s faith is a process that really begins at birth and continues on even into the college years. In the process of transitioning into a “family ministry” model we have sought to discover ways that we can help parents cultivate environments and experiences that can help their children’s faith flourish – because the truth is parents can often feel overwhelmed by the idea of being their child’s primary source of spiritual care, its easier to outsource that to the kids ministry pastor, small group leader, or youth pastor.
Parents can often feel overwhelmed by the idea of being their child’s primary source of spiritual care.
As we have been trying to figure out how to practically help these parents we have been scouring all sorts of resources that we can use to create resources for parents – that is when I came across The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family by Kara Powell….
The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family is an easily readable, easily accessible, and entertaining collection of “Sticky Faith” research findings partnered alongside of “Sticky Ideas.” Youth pastors know that the Sticky Faith team is at the forefront of youth culture research, so you know that the findings you are reading in this book are very well researched and are the latest-greatest thing. Youth pastors also know that the Sticky Faith team isn’t simply a group of theoreticians, the Sticky Faith team is a team run by practitioners, so you know that the practical advice offered in this book is tested and tried.
The Sticky Ideas Seep Into Every Area of Life – Its easy to think of a child’s spiritual formation as simply something that happens on Sunday’s or Wednesday nights at church or possibly around the dinner table at home, but Powell does a good job pointing out that faith develops at home, on vacation, in community, in our mistakes, in our transitions, and even in our times of service. Basically if you are looking for “sticky faith ideas” to start applying to many areas of life, you will find them here.
It is Super Practical – The cover of the book states that there are “over 100 practical and tested ideas to build lasting faith in kids.” 100 ideas! Trying to implement 100 new practices in your family can seem overwhelming if not impossible. However Powell is pretty clear on the fact that parents can’t implement all 100 ideas, they probably can’t even implement 10 ideas really well! She recommends that you aim for 5, 3 or just even 1 idea before you start to implement new ideas.
The Chapter on Transitions – Transitions between elementary to jr. high to high school to college can be some of the most difficult seasons in a child’s life and even in a parent’s life. But one thing that is often underestimated is how difficult those transitions can be for youth pastors. As somebody who had the difficult task of helping high school students transition into our college ministry I certainly appreciate any help I can get. Powell provides plenty of practical advice for making that transition. She also provides (in the appendix) an overview of the College Transition Project – within this appendix she provides research criteria for “vibrant faith.” College ministers will definitely appreciate this criteria, not as a fool proof list of things to judge one’s student’s faith but as a helpful guide to evaluating where your students might be at.
I highly recommend this book – and that isn’t just me saying that – I actually liked this book so much that I gave it to our family ministry’s pastor as a possible resource for equipping parents to instill vibrant faith into their student’s lives.
(Note: I received this book courtesy of Zondervan in exchange for an impartial review.)