Recently I spoke with a military chaplain who has a transgender soldier in his unit who identifies as a woman. The serviceman has gone through the hormonal and surgical procedures. Should the chaplain use the male or female name? What is the loving thing to do?
My purpose here is not to argue men are made men and women, women. Scripture is unmistakable and even in our crazy modern world, most evangelicals still agree. The confusion seems to rest on how Christians should address the transgender. In fact, many pastors in the chaplain’s conservative denomination were split on what to do.
Some Straw Men
Before we begin, let me give a few disclaimers. First, we’re not talking about scenarios of ignorance. If Mrs. Smith asks for the cereal and I say “in aisle three, ma’am”, I’m not complicit in the lie when I learn later it was actually Mr. Smith to whom I was talking. Because Scripture considers motive in moral acts, the scenario in paragraph one does not fit this description. Continue reading
Joseph Conrad, Penguin Books, 1899/2007, 115 pages, 2 of 5 stars
This is a book about the darkness of the human heart. And while the book explores the depravity of specific social evils like colonialism and the African slave trade, this is really a work about man’s soul—the heart of darkness.
Marlow is the narrator who while resting on his steamboat in England tells his friends of his experience in “one of the dark places of the earth.” It appears he was given a job along the Congo River searching for ivory. His real task, however, was to track down an eccentric but savvy ivory trader named Kurtz.
While Marlow repairs his boat, he begins to learn the mysteries surrounding the man who dominates everyone he meets. He is powerful, influential … and evil. The suspense builds as Marlow labors to find the European genius forgotten in Africa, a man apparently near death.
Marlow discovers that it was Kurtz who ordered the natives to sabotage his steamboat. At first the reader is made to believe that Kurtz was “shamefully abandoned” (76), but soon discovers he attacked Marlow in an effort to remain in the heart of darkness as a god to the natives. Perhaps he played this game to obtain more ivory. Maybe he began to believe it. Witchcraft was involved (“it had horns—antelope horns, I think—on its head… some sorcerer, some witch-man, no doubt”).
Dr. Joel Beeke is president at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, a pastor of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan and editor of Banner of Sovereign Grace Truth.
He’s written many books, including his magnum opus A Puritan Theology, an overview of the Puritans called Meet the Puritans and an invaluable guide for family devotions, Family Worship Bible Guide.
Recently I sat with this godly man for two days as he lectured on Experiential Preaching, which he defines as preaching from the heart of the minister to the heart of the people through the Word. Here are 20 insights:
- “If there is one book on the ministry you must read, let it be Charles Bridges, The Christian Ministry.”
- “A Puritan was like Jesus—common people heard him gladly.”
- “Of the 75,000 books in our library, we determined the text the Puritans preached about the most was John 17:3.” (This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.)
- “If I go into an old bookstore and find an antique book in good condition, I know the author is Anglican. No one has read it. Puritan books are tattered from being passed around.”
- “I started reading the Puritans when I was 9 years old at the advice of my father.”
- “The best compliment as a pastor I ever received was from a young, unbelieving girl in my catechism class. She told her mother, ‘The new minister has more concern for my soul than I do.’”
- “I’d often rather work with Hyper-Calvinism than Easy-believism. It is more difficult to evangelize the latter group.”
- “When I travel, I do lots of reading and writing in airports and planes. Stuart Olyott, a great preacher and friend, does no reading. He only studies people. This is why he preaches so well.”
- “My wife calls me her BMW—Best Man in the World.”
- “It drives me crazy when pastors release the children to children’s church. Sometimes those as old as 8-9 are leaving the sermon I have prepared for them.”
- “Most ministers don’t pray immediately after the sermon because they are more concerned about how they are viewed in their sermon. If you are more concerned about how the Lord fares, you will pray afterward that Satan doesn’t steal the seed away.”
- “The average Puritan home had 9 children.”
- “For families that don’t yet do Family Worship, I encourage the father to get started by reading to his family a few verses from a Gospel, then using Expository Thoughts by JC Ryle to guide them with warm, biblical insight.” (Get Ryle’s Mark for $.99)
- “My pet-peeve is when pastors begin their preaching with humor to lighten up people. Never use humor just to use humor.”
- “If people’s natural tendency is to talk about how great a preacher you are, you haven’t preached correctly. After a 19th century pastor preached, people said: “Wow, what a preacher.” After Spurgeon preached, they said: “Wow, what a Christ!”
- “Regarding what to look for in a prospective pastor, look at how he treats the children.”
- “On Saturday Family Worship, I get the children excited for the Lord’s Day. On Sunday morning, I go to each child’s room and say: ‘Time to wake up; it’s the Lord’s Day!’”
- “It’s very important I write. If I don’t write for two weeks, I feel far from God. I am called to this.”
- “I always try to be reading one Puritan book at a time because they are so full of godliness and Christ. I have received more from this spiritual discipline than any other in my life.”
- “The absence of chastening in the ministry should be a disturbing sign.”
Some in African culture believe that barrenness is a curse and that procreation is the primary purpose of marriage. A barren marriage is a marriage that did not achieve its goal. Samuel Kunhiyop gives a practical example:
Among the Bajju of Nigeria, [a barren woman] is referred to as anakwu, meaning “one who is distressed for a child.” The word is closely related to the word dukwu, meaning “death”, and indicates that she is as good as dead. When she does die, a priest steps between the legs of the corpse and says, “go away, you worthless woman.”
The thinking in some cultures is that because labor is difficult, having multiple wives (and thus more helping hands and more children) will help alleviate some of the work responsibility for one family.
John Mbiti writes of African culture: “Within the context of life, polygamy is not only acceptable and workable, but is a great social and economic asset.”
Here are several objections: Continue reading
Because infidelity is relatively common among married men who work far from home, John Mbiti suggests polygamy is the best solution.
For [men who work a long distance from home] the most practical way of leading faithful lives, is to have one wife looking after the family on the land, while the other is with him in the distant town or city where he works. This to me seems like a very plausible, practical and understandable way of facing the situation of life honestly and fairly. It is more sensible and moral than chasing after prostitutes.
Some argue that love thrives in polygamous unions just as it does in monogamous marriages.
John Mbiti argues: “I believe that where there is deep love and understanding on the part of the couples (or triples) concerned, and where their community accepts and assimilates them, polygamous marriages can be as successful and happy as monogamous ones, even if monogamy is ideally better.” Elizabeth Isichei agrees with Mbiti: “Missionaries familiar with the story of Jacob and Rachel were, for the most part, blind to the way in which love could flourish in a plural marriage.” Continue reading