Saturday, March 29, 2008

An Untraditional Tradition

“Where are you going to college next year?” is probably the number one question asked of high school senior women. Not, “How are you planning to serve Christ in his Kingdom after you’ve finished secondary education?” The less customary of the two questions, the second question, presupposes that the woman will, or at least suggests that she should, serve Christ in her near future endeavors. The question is one of how, not whether. Whereas at best, the more standard query even if it assumes without mention that the woman is to serve Christ in her future endeavors presupposes that she will do so only in the orbit of further formal education. At best the question becomes, “Where are you going to college next year so that you can best serve Lord?” Does that question sound strange only because it is not often asked? Or does it sound strange for some other reasons? Another question we might ask is why is it assumed that college is the defacto medium by which a young woman is to serve the Lord in her immediate post high school years?

As a general rule college affords the woman the greatest opportunity to land a career outside the home. Let’s even assume for argument sake that it affords the greatest opportunities across the board for pure education. Are these the only disciplines, career and academia, that the Christian woman is to pursue? Or is she to be active in pursuing other disciplines, such as the knowledge and practice of true holiness, righteousness and grace? Clearly a woman can pursue and practice godly living in the pursuit of science and a career. Yet she cannot pursue science and career if she pursues Christ centered living in a particular way that would exclude college and career. For example, a woman whose ambition is to remain in her father’s home in order to serve full time in the context of her family, church and community cannot pursue a career that requires rigorous formal education outside the home. So isn’t the obvious choice to pursue a formal education and career for the glory of God? Why not do it all after all?

God does not reveal to us the details of our calling. He gives us biblical principles to live by in order that we might work out our salvation, even with fear and trembling. As we walk along life’s path we are never, not even for a moment, to lean on our own understanding but in every way we are to acknowledge God and in doing that he will direct our paths. So right from the start we are not to come to God with our lawful desires and ask him to bless them. Rather, we are to strive to have our desires and affections informed, shaped and confirmed by the word of God’s wisdom and the Spirit of his grace. With that in mind, how many women seek God’s leading on whether or not to pursue the usual course of college? The answer is pretty much the same as how many fathers even consider any other option for their daughters? Apart from serious consideration, how can one feel confident that even an attempt at a godly pursuit of college and career is the choice God would have a woman make? Again, we are not to come to God asking him to bless our desires and choices until we have first come to him in a posture of humility and neediness, asking him to give us the desires of his heart.

So what’s a woman to do? Here are some ideas that are by no means exhaustive.

1. First off, a woman should think critically about the popular defenses for pursuing college and career. Any defense of college and career that makes appeals to blessings received simply begs the question of whether the decision is a wise one. God is gracious and good. Not only does he bless us in our unwise yet lawful pursuits; he even gives us good things in our rebellion. Accordingly, God’s kind providence that might follow any decision is never proof that the decision was a wise one. Moreover, any defense of college and career that points to the very desires for such pursuits equally skirts the issue. All our desires are tainted with sin and not all lawful desires are wise. Accordingly, lawful desires cannot vindicate the wisdom to pursue such desires. Finally, any defense of college and career that points to natural ability begs the question of how one should use those enabling gifts.

After coming to a greater appreciation that a career outside the home cannot be justified as the wisest decision based upon blessing, desire or ability, one can begin to evaluate a decision to go against older traditions that are now considered passé.

2. A godly woman would do well to acknowledge the opportunity cost of college and career pursuits. She should know, in other words, what she must reject in order to pursue college and career. There is a severe cost, namely a particular kind of Christian servitude, expensed by taking fifteen credit hours and studying two to three hours per week per classroom hour. The Apostle Paul is clear that a single person’s interests can be more narrowly focused on the Lord than a married person who must have his interests “divided” by focusing on his spouse. “The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit, but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.” 1 Corinthians 7:34 In light of this revelation, the godly woman would do well to know that in her singleness she is most enabled to pursue the Lord. Every godly woman with the help of her father would do well to wrestle with how she will spend her single years as a vessel of honor, glorifying God and enjoying him.

3. Finally, it would seem wise for the woman to consider her probable future calling as a wife and mother as she considers her intermediary years between high school and marriage. There are generally two types of considerations, one positive and the other negative. Will the woman’s post-high school, pre-marital pursuit positively impact her ability to serve as a wife and mother? Will she pursue domestic skills and learn hospitality in those years of singleness that will enable her to fulfill her calling before God? On the negative side, will the woman’s post-high school, pre-marital pursuit negatively impact her ability to prosper in her future calling, for instance by taking on financial obligations that will leave her no choice but to work outside the home and utilize day care, if not even prolong marriage and child bearing? In a word, the godly woman should be prepared to answer the question of how a college and career path or a more domestic pursuit will prepare her for her probable calling in the Lord. Maybe spending the money that would otherwise go to college for supervised travel abroad might be more beneficial in the long run!

In summary, a godly woman should think critically about the popular defenses of college and career in order that she might evaluate the prospect of college and career truthfully, without being pressed into any particular philosophy of calling. Simultaneously, the woman of excellence will weigh in the balance the opportunity costs of choosing one pursuit over another while considering the positive and negative impact any given pursuit will have upon one’s ultimate goal.

Not trusting in one's own understanding and desiring that the Lord direct one's path will no doubt require a tuning out of the world's agenda and a tuning of the heart to God's ways. Because Christianity is a radical religion we should not be suprised that choices rooted in the principles of the faith will appear extreme even to Christians - especially as the church becomes more at home in the world.


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Monday, March 24, 2008

Wright, Obama, Hannity & The Church

Jeremiah Wright has many problems rooting from deplorable theology. Notwithstanding, my concern is neither with Jeremiah Wright nor his undiscerning spiritual protégé who is incapable of distinguishing between covenantal obligations toward honoring one’s bigoted grandmother and the lack of obligation toward a reckless pastor. What is much more tedious is Sean Hannity’s abhorrence with Wright’s indexing of the 9/11 attacks to the United States military involvement on foreign soil. I could support a criticism by Hannity if it were grounded in the premise that Wright’s bald assertions are not philosophically defensible due to an apparent lack of revelational justification. After all, how does Wright know that the 9-11 providence was God’s judgment due to the mistreatment of innocent people, let alone the mistreatment of other God hating nations? How does an Arminian even come up with any God ordained purpose given their view of free will? Yes, Jeremiah Wright cannot reconcile his conclusions with his governing presuppositions. That much is obvious. What is more remarkable in this current political divergence is not that a prospective president might have a bigoted spiritual mentor but rather that the conservative right, which Sean Hannity fairly represents in his ideology, completely discounts the possibility that the United States deserves God’s judgment and that 9-11 might have been the finger of God pressing in on a rebellious nation.

If our nation is arrogant it is because its leaders have lost their way. If our nation is arrogant it is because its leaders do not plead the mercies of Christ. Any nation is arrogant that does not desire to submit to King Jesus, the head of nations. (Psalm 2) It is not only the duty of all nations to take heed to Psalm 2, it is wise to do so. If our leaders have lost their way, then it is most likely because the church is not the salt and light she is called to be. For instance, the United States has no just-war theory that is justifiable but how can she when the fragmented Christian church has none? Even should the United States ever enter into a just war (and even if it is in one now), it is not in a position to justify its actions due to its commitment to natural law theory. Does the church have good answers for a government with no guide? Not being able to justify killing should be a terrifying proposition for those who are called to wield the sword. It’s not, however, neither for most American Christians nor their elected officials. The church by and large wants to be pluralistic in the realm of civil government because the church, as a general rule, opposes the general equity of the civil case laws of the Old Testament.

Those with a high regard for Old Testament civil law do well to be politically involved. But they are not to overdue it because another principle abides, which is our kingdom is not of this world. It is more biblical to place the accent on educating the church and making disciples of all nations than to trying to persuade the irreligious how they ought to govern society. The Reconstructionist often needs balance whereas the American evangelical needs a more Puritan understanding of the universal relevance of God's law.


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