Is God Sexist?

Is God Sexist?

If you are a woman reading this, I believe there is a pretty good chance that this question has run through your mind at some point in your life.

It was not until I was almost 30 before I had ever picked up a bible. Being new in the faith, and a busy mom there were many different issues I focused my attention on, but it wasn’t until my own daughters hit their early teens that I started delving into the topic of “God’s view of Women,” more deeply.

For me, at least for awhile, there were scripture passages that I had just put on the back burner, but I knew my daughters; I knew some of them were really going to have some serious difficulties with those tough passages we women all know – the ones that especially non-Christian women say prevent them from ever believing in the God of the bible.

And honestly, if not read in full cultural context, it is totally understandable why many women would feel that way. In addition, societally, within the church, this has not always been lived out well.

My goal in every post is to provide readers valuable and insightful resources on a topic. I thought these two recent podcast episodes with Dr. Jo Vitale, addressed this issue with breadth and depth.

Dr. Jo Vitale is Dean of Studies at the Zacharias Institute and an itinerant speaker for RZIM. Prior to joining the US team, Jo was a speaker for RZIM Europe, where she also served in teaching and pastoral roles at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics.

During her time in Oxford, Jo graduated with a theology MA, an MSt in Biblical interpretation, and a DPhil (PhD) in theology, each from the University of Oxford. Interested in the questions surrounding sexism and the Bible, Jo wrote her doctoral dissertation on women in the Old Testament.

Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, author, speaker and the president/co-founder of Authentic Intimacy – a ministry devoted to reclaiming God’s design for sexuality. She earned her college degree at Wheaton College, an MA in psychology from Biola University, and an MS and a Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology. Juli is the author of ten books, and host of the weekly podcast “Java with Juli.”

Here is the interview on “Javi with Juli”:

Here is the interview on “Ask Away”:

 

Both “Ask Away” and “Java with Juli” are two of my favorite podcasts as they deal extensively with the cultural topics of our time.

You can read about Juli’s book “Rethinking Sexuality” by clicking on the photo:

Another outstanding voice in this area is Dr. Amy Orr-Ewing. Amy is a senior vice president with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and Joint Director of the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. She leads a team of pioneering apologist-evangelists and speaks around the world on how the Christian faith answers the deepest questions of life. Follow her Instagram here.

A preface from Ann:

This past Tuesday evening, I was working on an article that I wanted to post in the Forti-fy’rs FB group for “Theological Thursday.” I knew I wasn’t going to finish it on time, and asked the Lord to bring something in my path that would be helpful to share, instead.

Wednesday morning, the following devotional was in my inbox from Trish.

And Wednesday was also what would have been Kyle and Hope’s 8th Wedding Anniversary. I was  “battling” a flood of emotions.

Trish didn’t know that when she wrote the words, “What battle are you facing today?”

But God did.

And Trish’s words were a great reminder to me what God has seen us through thus far, and that He continues to walk before us, never leaving us.

Be Strong and Courageous

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 NIV

The cancer is back.”  The words shot like an arrow though my heart.  I looked from the doctor to my son who was blissfully unaware out of earshot.  After a nearly two year battle, I thought we had conquered that beast.  The ravages of the past chemo, radiation, and bone marrow transplant were still evident on his weak body.  He had already been through so much!  I wanted to cry as the doctors discussed his new treatment plan.  We were entering into a new battle and I was afraid.

“Be strong and courageous.”

The Israelites had been through so much.  They had experienced slavery in Egypt, a traumatic escape, and decades of wandering in the desert.  As they stood at the entrance to the land God had promised them, they were preparing for a new battle.  The inhabitants of the land would need to be conquered.  It is in this moment God commands them, “Be strong and courageous!”  He reminds them of what He has brought them through and that He will never leave or forsake them. He will go before them.

We may not be Israelites, but God is still the same today as He was then.  We stood facing a scary battle, too, against my son’s cancer.  When my fear threatened to overwhelm me, God reminded me of all that He had delivered us through already.  We could still trust He would continue to walk beside us.  Like the Israelites, He would never leave us and He goes before us.  Because of His strength we could also “be strong and courageous.”  It was still scary, but trusting God made us brave.

What battle are you facing today? 

That same God who stood with the Israelites, stands with us today and calls us to “be strong and courageous.”  He beckons us to look back and remember all He has brought us through.  

Know He still promises to never leave or forsake His children, and He goes before us into our battle. 

Because of God’s strength, we CAN “be strong and courageous.”   

A few days ago, I posted this quote from N.T. Wright, in the Forti-fy’rs Facebook group:

“We have in the New Testament a vision of new creation. ⁣⁣⁣Paul says if anyone is in Christ, then there is new creation. ⁣⁣

Ephesians 2:10 We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ⁣⁣

The word for “workmanship” there in the original Greek is “poiema”. It is the word, which we get the word poem. We are, if you like, God’s ARTWORK, God’s POEM, God’s SONG, God’s SYMPHONY.⁣⁣

“We as human beings are to be the people through whom God’s fresh ordering of the world can take place. Paul does not mean we were made for just good moral works, that we should just do some good deeds here and there in order to earn favor, or indeed, we should just behave ourselves

He means we should also be creative.

We should be people of new creation, able to do new things – to write new books, to sing new songs, to plant new gardens, to do new building, to teach new things – that we should be people of new creation. That is the most amazing vision.”

“Really, if Christians knew what they were about, they should be people who are out there making the world COME ALIVE. Making new things happen, and opening new possibilities.”

Well, I think Tim Mackie and Jon Collins’s workmanship in developing “The Bible Project” displays all of what N.T. Wright describes above!

The duo’s combined creativity of Jon’s storytelling and Tim’s bible knowledge – and their awe and excitement for God’s word – delivers a very engaging and innovative medium for demonstrating biblical insights.

Tim and Jon note that the bible can be “confusing and intimidating for the average reader, and their goal was to create short animated videos to help the reader understand the structure and the themes of the bible.” And they accomplish just that – for viewers of all ages. I was so struck by the simplicity of their work, yet the breadth of material these videos cover.

They have produced videos for EVERY BOOK OF THE BIBLE!

They have also created a Series that showcase different Biblical books from Genesis to Acts, Themes that trace key biblical themes from their first appearance through the entire narrative of the Bible, and Key biblical words in both Hebrew and Greek to gain a better understanding of biblical language. Click on any of the photos below to get a sample of these innovative expressions filled with rich insights.

This is a terrific resource to use with your kids. The younger ones will enjoy watching the stories, and the older ones will be able to easily pick up on all the main themes. 

So head on over to the Bible Project and watch how the bible unfolds as a “unified story that leads directly to Jesus.”

(Please note: I know that there is no bible study resource that will not conflict with the finer points of someone’s theology,

however I think for a broad overview of biblical themes, this is a valuable resource.)

The Cup.

In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

Luke 22:20 NIV

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Luke 22:41-42 NIV

Both of these verses are very familiar to me but, when I read them recently, the cup caught my attention.  Jesus refers to the cup in each, but in very different ways.  In these verses we see both the authority, sovereignty, and deity of Jesus, but also His very real humanity.  Through this cup, Jesus shows us a beautiful example of trust and submission to God.

Jesus mentions the cup during the last supper as He and His disciples were celebrating the Passover feast, a time when the blood, which protected the Israelites from the Angel of Death, is remembered. Jesus introduces the significance of His own blood. He is telling them that His blood forms a new covenant that will save them from death.  In Old Testament Scripture the cup is used to represent God’s wrath and judgment. (Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15)  But now the cup is filled with a promise of redemption. Jesus is showing His deity, speaking with the authority of God. At the time, His disciples did not truly understood what He was explaining because they could not even imagine the events that would soon unfold.

Just hours later in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prays alone with the Father and mentions the cup again.

Despite understanding the significance of this cup, He begs God to take it from Him. Because of His deity, He understands fully what it means to keep that cup, but because of His humanity, it feels like more than He can bear. In fact it would be too much for any other man. He is God, yet He is also very human. He is praying so hard in this moment that He is sweating blood. This is followed by a beautiful act of submission and trust.  “Yet,” He says, “not my will, but Yours be done.” Jesus is willing to give up what He is pleading God for and submit to Him. If anyone had sway with God, it was certainly His Son, Jesus. Yet, He bows to the Father.  Jesus submits to the Father and takes the cup of God’s judgment and fills it with His own redemptive blood.

This prayer of Christ’s holds special significance for me. As my own son was barely clinging to life in a hospital ICU, I was also begging God in prayer. I was on my knees pleading with everything in me for Him to spare my child’s life. In that moment, the Spirit gave me these words to pray: “Lord, take this cup from me.” I was facing pain that I did not want to bear.  It was agonizing.  It felt good and right to beg God to change these circumstances and take this cup from me.  However, I found it impossible to pray for God to “take this cup from me,” without hearing the next words of Jesus’ own prayer: “yet not my will, but Yours.”   I had to wrestle with whether I could sincerely pray that part. Could I accept God’s will for my son’s life no matter what that meant?  Ultimately, God’s Spirit gave me the strength to finish that prayer and really mean it.  I bowed to the will of the Father even though I didn’t know what that would mean. That prayer fixed my eyes firmly on God and things eternal.

Later that very day my son died.  He was ushered into heaven and was perfectly healed.  When I said those words to God, I did not know I would be required to relinquish my son to the Father. But God did. That prayer prepared my heart for what would happen next. It allowed me to walk forward through the most painful event of my life with my faith intact.  That moment of submission cemented my hope and trust in God.  There was power in that prayer.  It reminded me that no matter what happens here, my hope is in the eternal with God.  So, I can still trust in the goodness of God even if I do not understand it in the here and now.

Jesus gave us an amazing example of trust and submission to God when He wrestled with the cup and prayed that hard prayer.  I am convinced that His words are among the most powerful any person can utter to God: “Yet, not my will, but Yours be done.”

As we approach Easter and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, let us not forget the cup.  Let us remember its significance, the pain poured into that cup, and the redemptive power it now holds.  Let us embrace Christ’s example of submission to God and trust Him with the cup in our own lives.  Then the hope born in the resurrection will have an even greater significance as our eyes are lifted beyond our circumstances to the eternal.

The motivation for writing this post is my son, Kyle.

I know if he was still alive, Kyle would have already composed an insightful, thought-provoking Facebook and Instagram post for the movie, “Just Mercy”, a real life story of our broken humanity.

Kyle’s words would have undoubtedly spurred us all to dig a little deeper into our consciousness, to stir us out of the recesses of our mostly comfortable lives, compelling us to confront the painful reality of the struggle we face in our society for justice and mercy.

If not for Kyle, I don’t know if I would have ever heard of Bryan Stevenson, lawyer and author of the book “Just Mercy”, and the founder of the Equal Justice Initiative.

There are probably a great many other things I would not have known about, or thought about, if it were not for Kyle. One thing that marked Kyle was simply that he was a “Mercy”. In fact, my friend, Linda, texted me a few days after Kyle’s memorial service saying that she saw Kyle as a “True Mercy”. It is still a bit incredible to me that “Mercy” is the name that Kyle and Hope picked out for their unborn daughter – before they knew their little baby was a girl – and before Kyle died. Given all the circumstances that surrounded his death, and her birth – and the weeks and months that have followed – her name almost seemed to be somehow supernaturally chosen.

Kyle had first mentioned the book “Just Mercy” to me back in early 2018, after I had sent him a news story that ran on Bryan Stevenson’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice.

After I read the book, I sent him a message him saying, That book changes your life.”

He messaged me back and said:

Thank you so much for reading it. The world would be a pretty different place if everyone one read that book.”

I then posted the book on my FB page:

“The real life stories in the pages of this book will change you. Please consider reading it and then sharing it. Humanity needs it.”

The dilemma for how mercy needs to be given, and yet justice upheld, in so many areas of life, are the conversations that kept Kyle and I up until late in the evening, for so many years.

On January 10, the movie “Just Mercy” was released nationwide. When I sat down to write this post to review the movie, the first thing I did was go looking for a copy of the book on one of our bookshelves…to peruse through all my underlined passages. I had bought several copies so my kids could all read it, and so we could loan it out to others. And apparently we did, because I could not find any of our copies. My daughter also gave two of her university professors each a copy.

Click here for more info.

The basic synopsis of the book and movie show the work of Bryan Stevenson, who has dedicated his life defending the poor, the incarcerated, and the wrongly condemned.

Just Mercy” tells the story of EJI, from the early days with a small staff facing the nation’s highest death sentencing and execution rates, through a successful campaign to challenge the cruel practice of sentencing children to die in prison, to revolutionary projects designed to confront Americans with our history of racial injustice.

One of EJI’s first clients was Walter McMillian, a young black man who was sentenced to die for the murder of a young white woman that he didn’t commit.

I am not a movie critic, thus will let you review it for yourself by clicking on the photo below for the trailer:

I few poignant quotes from the book reflect the heart of Stevenson’s work:

 “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.”

 “We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated. An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, a nation. Fear and anger can make us vindictive and abusive, unjust and unfair, until we all suffer from the absence of mercy and we condemn ourselves as much as we victimize others. The closer we get to mass incarceration and extreme levels of punishment, the more I believe it’s necessary to recognize that we all need mercy, we all need justice, and-perhaps-we all need some measure of unmerited grace.”

 “There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.”

 “The true measure of our character is how we treat the poor, the disfavored, the accused, the incarcerated, and the condemned.”

 As with many movies, and is true of ‘Just Mercy”, it is difficult to capture all that is written in a book. The book is filled with so many stories – true heart wrenching stories – and that is what makes it a very hard read at times because you just don’t want to believe that this is the way things are. The movie does an excellent job in focusing on the main story of Walter McMillian.

This is a book I would encourage you to have all your high school kids read, in addition to watching the movie. Go together with your family. Suggest to your kids to have a group of all their friends go together. There is so much that needs to be discussed. And if you are anything like my family, you may not all agree on what the best solution is, but I think we can all readily identify the problems, and know for sure that some things absolutely must change.

In the cinematic world of over-hyped and idolized superheroes and Hollywood superstars, it is a welcome relief that “Just Mercy” shows a real-life, flesh and blood ordinary man in Bryan Stevenson, who has awoken every day for many years to fight real evil and heinous injustice. His work has produced extraordinary super power results in taking 125 men off death row – truly life-saving power.

We all have an opportunity to do the same thing.

This movie, and even more so the book, will encourage you to do so.

In all of this, I was reminded of a message I heard years ago by author and apologist, Ravi Zacharias:

“When you can see horror and grace side by side, you realize there is no place, humanly speaking, where we can find an absolute way to understand these things.

• We pervert love.
• We distort justice.
• We multiply evil.
• We fail at forgiveness.

Only on the cross of Jesus Christ do love, justice, evil, and forgiveness converge.

The good news for every child of God in Christ is that God’s mercy toward us will triumph over His judgment of us (see Romans 8:1). Our sins may argue against us, but Christ is our loving Advocate who argues for us and prevents us from receiving the judgment we deserve. We, in turn, display God’s type of mercy toward others.”

“Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment

James 2:13

 As I expressed at Kyle’s memorial service, he would encourage us all to show up and “do something.”

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

Matthew 25:40

#justmercy

While my son, Kyle, was alive, we spent many hours, over many years discussing a wide swath of theological questions. However, after his death, and the subsequent events of his new baby daughter, Mercy, almost dying, followed several weeks later by the death of his and Hope’s close friend, Eric, (also Max’s Godfather)…those questions discussed in Kyle’s living room, over text messages and late night phone calls, have had to be answered and lived out in the reality of daily life.

I have been a skeptic most of my life…always asking question after question…followed by more questions. Before I make a decision on something, or gain trust with someone, I need a lot of questions answered. That has been true of my worldview as well.

Every one of us has a worldview, or in other words, a “religion”. A worldview is, in a sense, the lens through which you ultimately look at reality. Every worldview has to answer these four foundational questions:

Origin – How does your worldview explain the origins of the human race and creation?
Meaning – Where  is meaning anchored within your worldview?
Morality – What is the moral foundation of your worldview?
Destiny – What is the ultimate destiny of your worldview?

Faith in a worldview – really in anything, or anyone – is built on the gathering of facts. Most of us want some sort of surety that we have enough evidence that will hold up that which we base our decisions, our relationships and our lives on.

 “Faith is a foot bridge that you don’t know will hold you up over the chasm until you’re forced to walk out onto it.

I’m standing there now, over the chasm. I inspect the bridge.”

Nicholas Wolterstorff “Lament For a Son

I have been inspecting the “footbridge” – Christianity – for many years now. I am certainly not alone in those who have questioned, and wrestled with, the claims of the Christian faith. Do claims of Christianity correspond to reality? Are they logically consistent? Are they experientially relevant?

After all these years of examination, I concur with many others who state, “I am convinced that Jesus Christ alone uniquely answers the deepest questions of our hearts and minds.”

The 6-part series I am posting here addresses all of the above questions, and the challenges that come with the Christian faith. The series lays a solid foundation where further studying and examination can continue to be expanded upon.

After listening to these, I hope, that you might consider the evidence that Christianity offers the best explanation of man’s condition, and Christ is the healing balm for man’s maladies. He brings forth the abundant life – through both the coalescing of unfathomable sorrow, and ineffable joy.

The footbridge of Christianity, that is holding the weight of all humanity is…I have found to be…firmly established.

 May you have a truly blessed Christmas knowing what love was born into this world – for you.

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