Denny Burk

Taking a Dog by the Ears

Egalitarians and progressives have learned a lesson. They have learned that they can manipulate TGC with unfounded mob accusations of misogyny and harm. This is not good for [Joshua] Butler. It’s not good for TGC. And it’s certainly not good for the truth.

Last week people kept asking me if I was going to weigh-in on the drama du jour generated by a salacious post at The Gospel Coalition website. My response was that there was no way I would be taking this dog by the ears (Prov. 26:17). As far as I could tell, this was “strife” not belonging to me, and there was no sense in making it mine for no good reason. Nevertheless, over the weekend it became clear that the conversation had taken a turn in a way that implicates not just me but all complementarians. So here I am now.
The controversy concerns an essay that Joshua Butler wrote for TGC’s Keller Center last week. The essay is an excerpt from Butler’s forthcoming book Beautiful Union (Multnomah, 2023). Butler’s overall point is that the marriage relationship is an icon of the gospel. In other words, God has ordered the covenant of marriage such that the husband’s relationship to his wife images Christ’s relationship to the church. That much is boilerplate Christian typology that anyone who has ever read Ephesians 5 is well aware of:
Ephesians 5:23-32, “23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26 that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless… 31 For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”
This typology is not a New Testament innovation but is the extension of similar typologies from the Old Testament in which God is portrayed as the husband to his people Israel (e.g., Isa. 54:5-7; Jer. 31:32; Hos. 2:19; Ezek. 16:8-14).
Had Butler’s article stopped there, it probably wouldn’t have spawned such a backlash. But it didn’t stop there. The article goes on to press the analogy in explicit, sexual terms. I’ll refrain from describing those terms here because I do believe that they are unseemly. Suffice it to say that it sexualizes Christ’s relationship to the church in a way that Scripture seems to carefully avoid. It presses biblical metaphors and types beyond anything reasonably warranted by the Bible’s own language. For me anyway, it made my skin crawl to see Christ depicted in this way. And just about everyone of nearly every theological persuasion seems to be in agreement on that much.
After a sonorous outcry, TGC pulled the article and replaced it with a link to the first two chapters of Butler’s book in hopes that greater context would lessen the offense. It didn’t work. I read the two chapters, and if anything they made matters worse. The outcry from critics then reached a fever pitch and pivoted from constructive to destructive. Many progressives and egalitarians in particular accused Butler and TGC of mainstreaming misogyny and abuse. They called not merely for a correction but for a cancellation. They wanted Butler’s head on a platter, and they got it.
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An Ecclesiastical Shot Heard Round the World

A masterpiece of courage, clarity, and conviction. Conservative Anglican churches in Africa represent nearly half of the world’s estimated 100 million Anglicans (source). Who knew when Europeans brought Anglicanism to Africa that God would one day raise up those Africans to save the church from the heterodox Europeans?

No doubt many of you have already read about the Church of England’s recent decision to bless same-sex marriages. The orthodox leaders of the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) have responded with a declaration that is nothing less than an ecclesiastical shot heard round the world. These leaders are largely from Africa, although other regions are also represented. They have set forth a series of resolutions that effectively declare their independence from the heterodox Church of England.
Rather than explain it, I will let you read the powerful declaration in their own words:
As the Church of England has departed from the historic faith passed down from the Apostles by this innovation in the liturgies of the Church and her pastoral practice (contravening her own Canon A5), she has disqualified herself from leading the Communion as the historic “Mother” Church. Indeed, the Church of England has chosen to break communion with those provinces who remain faithful to the historic biblical faith expressed in the Anglican formularies (the 39 Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal and the Book of Homilies) and applied to the matter of marriage and sexuality in Lambeth Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference…
As much as the GSFA Primates also want to keep the unity of the visible Church and the fabric of the Anglican Communion, our calling to be ‘a holy remnant’ does not allow us be “in communion” with those provinces that have departed from the historic faith and taken the path of false teaching. This breaks our hearts and we pray for the revisionist provinces to return to ‘the faith once delivered’ (Jude 3) and to us…
The GSFA is no longer able to recognise the present Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt Hon & Most Revd Justin Welby, as the “first among equals” Leader of the global Communion.
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Answering Objections to Saddleback’s Removal from the SBC

To be in friendly cooperation, a church must have a faith and practice that is in step with the BF&M [The Baptist Faith & Message]. Contradicting what the BF&M says about female pastors is by definition not “closely identifying” with the BF&M. Indeed, it’s a direct contradiction of the BF&M.

I have seen a variety of responses to the news yesterday that the SBC has found Saddleback Church to be out of step with “the Convention’s adopted statement of faith” and now no longer recognizes them as a “cooperating” church (Art. 3, SBC Constitution). As many of you know, the presenting issue is Saddleback’s recognition of a variety of female pastors, including one of their new lead teaching pastors. Having female pastors contradicts our statement of faith, The Baptist Faith & Message (BF&M), which says, “While both men and women are gifted for service in the church, the office of pastor is limited to men as qualified by Scripture.”
As you can imagine, many of the public responses have been negative. On social media, some of the commentary has been incendiary and dismissive and therefore not worthy of serious engagement. Other critics simply do not like what Southern Baptists believe. Still, there are two objections that I thought it might be worth the effort to answer.
The first objection appears in a social media thread that Rick Warren himself “liked” on Twitter. The author shares a series of quotations from around the time that the BF&M was adopted in 2000 and observes how many SBC leaders at the time said that the BF&M would never be used to “coerce” Baptist churches. He quotes from one 2000 Baptist Press article which has compelling comments from both Albert Mohler and Adrian Rogers:
“We don’t have the right, the authority or the power to limit anybody,” Rogers noted. “We would resist that. What we are stating is what we believe mainstream Baptists believe…It is not a creed. It is a statement of what most of us believe.”
Other media questions focused on the new BFM’s stance against women serving as senior pastors.
“We would never presume to tell another church whom they may call as a pastor or tell another person whether or not they may serve as pastor,” Mohler said. “We’re not trying to force our beliefs on someone else.”
The author highlights these remarks and others like them to show that the BF&M was never meant to be “binding on individual SBC congregations” (source). He concludes from this that the BF&M was never intended to be a “parameter for cooperation” (source). Both of these observations are wrong and represent a serious misunderstanding of our polity.
Right now in 2023, I heartily affirm what both Adrian Rogers and Albert Mohler said 23 years ago. The SBC does not have the right or authority to tell any church whom they may call as pastor. The SBC has zero authority to tell a church what they can or cannot do or what they must or must not believe. How a church governs itself or chooses its pastors is not what this dispute is about.
This discussion is about whether the SBC has a right to recognize which churches are in friendly cooperation with the convention. Our polity says that the SBC does have that right. Furthermore, the SBC Constitution defines some parameters for determining which churches are in friendly cooperation. The Constitution says it this way:
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Report Says Revoice Embraces Radical Gender Ideology

According to WORLD, this year’s conference encouraged attendees to leave churches that do not affirm their orientation/gender identity and to form LGBTQ “affinity” groups in their local setting. Revoice doesn’t aim merely at being a conference. Its organizers aim at being a movement that spreads in churches throughout the country. And if your church doesn’t agree with Revoice teachings about affirming LGBTQ+ identities, then people should leave your church and find one that does.

When organizers announced the program for the first Revoice conference in 2018, the controversy surrounding the meeting was sharp and protracted. It was a conference appealing to so-called Side-B “gay Christians,” and it was founded in part as a repudiation of the Nashville Statement. Indeed, founder Nate Collins told Religion News Service in 2018 that he viewed the Nashville Statement as “pastorally insensitive” and as a form of “spiritual abuse.”
If the organizers of Revoice were trying to repudiate the Nashville Statement, they did a good job of it from the very beginning. The part of the Nashville Statement that seemed to offend so many of them was Article 7, which says, “WE DENY that adopting a homosexual or transgender self-conception is consistent with God’s holy purposes in creation and redemption.” Article 7 was trying to communicate that followers of Christ must not construct an identity for themselves that contradicts God’s design in creation. And yet, forging and expressing LGBTQ+ identities seems to be a central focus of Revoice.
A lot has changed in America and even among evangelicals since that first Revoice conference. Since 2018, Bible-believing Christians have been put on notice about the dangers of Critical Theory and its offshoots in queer theory and third wave feminism. In 2020, Carl Trueman published a watershed book explaining how people in the West have come to think of maleness and femaleness as social constructs—malleable concepts that individuals can shape and adjust by an act of the will. We have all been witnessing radical gender theory trickle down from the ivory tower to main street as countless public schools and HR departments are force-feeding this ideology to their charges. There has been as much as a 4,000% increase in adolescent girls identifying as transgender—many of them still minor children and undergoing destructive “medical” interventions, including double mastectomies and puberty suppression.
In this context, one would think that Revoice might retreat from radical gender ideology and its denial of the male-female binary. And yet, WORLD magazine reports that the most recent Revoice conference—held a couple weeks ago in Plano, TX—has launched headlong into this error. The report says that Revoice has changed, but not for the better:
Revoice has changed, too. Speakers have always emphasized homosexuality as an identity, not just a behavior. But this year, such assertions from the dais seemed more insistent, with speakers assiduously using civil-rights language to present radical change as settled truth. That identity rhetoric extended to transgender ideology. Speakers frequently referred to “sexual and gender minorities” and used preferred pronouns, along with terms such as women “assigned female at birth.” The group’s reach and influence are growing, but leaders now emphasize parachurch activities. Speakers frequently referenced ongoing rejection within the church and encouraged attendees to form their own spiritual communities in local Revoice chapters.
This doesn’t sound like a retreat from radical gender theory, but a doubling-down on it. The report goes on:
On the conference’s first night, attendees formed lines at registration tables.
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Destroying the Healthy Bodies of Minor Children

If you bring your gender-confused child to one of these clinics, they will put your child on the path to destroying their fertility, to mutilating their sexual organs, and to a hundred other long-term physical problems due to suppressing puberty, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries. So-called “gender affirming healthcare” is a nightmare, and it is claiming the lives and health of children across this country. 

Matt Walsh has posted a thread on Twitter that is currently going viral. It features videos from the transgender clinic at Vanderbilt in Nashville. You need to watch these videos to understand just how disturbing the treatment of gender-confused children really is.
The videos reveal that the doctors are performing gender “affirmation” surgeries on children because it’s a “big money maker.” According to Vanderbilt, surgeries removing children’s healthy sexual organs are lucrative because they require a lot of “follow ups.” Which is another way of saying that cutting off healthy organs often results in life-altering, long-term, painful complications. That’s why “follow-ups” are required. But it’s a big “money maker” for the doctors, so no problem as far as they are concerned.
The videos also reveal that Vanderbilt has warned medical providers not to have any conscientious objections. Any medical provider raising religious objections to sterilizing and mutilating children will be deemed “problematic” and will face “consequences.” Vanderbilt also has partnered with a group of transgender activists who will police medical providers to make sure that they don’t step out of line.
I am going to post the videos below so that you can see them all. As you do, keep in mind that what you are seeing has been going on for years. You are seeing what is called “gender affirming healthcare.” It is not based on science but on transgender ideology and propaganda. If you bring your gender-confused child to one of these clinics, they will put your child on the path to destroying their fertility, to mutilating their sexual organs, and to a hundred other long-term physical problems due to suppressing puberty, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries.
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Sincere and Pure Devotion to Christ

How many of you are taking your eyes off Christ to see if there are any other cute alternatives in the room? Paul says that he is jealous to make sure that he presents Christ’s bride to him not as a roving-eyed adulteress but as a single-minded, pure bride. Paul means for all of us not to be roving-eyed adulteresses but to be single-minded in our devotion to Christ. We never take our eyes off the prize, and the prize is Christ. 

For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  –2 Corinthians 11:2-3
The law of Moses implies that it is the father’s responsibility to present a pure bride to her betrothed husband (Deut. 22:13-21). Paul says that he plays the father of the bride in Christ’s “betrothal” to his church. His goal is to present God’s people to Christ a as pure virgin at the wedding ceremony.
Even in our own modern wedding ceremonies, we at least symbolically portray the same thing. A bride wears white to symbolize purity. A father walks the bride down the aisle to present her for marriage to her fiancé and to say that the responsibility of care and protection now belongs to the groom.
One of the best parts of a wedding ceremony is watching the faces of the bride and groom when they first see each other as she comes down the aisle. Their eyes lock, they are looking at one another, and everything and everyone in the room fall away from their attention. All of us watching are craning our neck to see the beautiful bride. Then we are leaning and looking to make sure we see the look on the groom’s face as his eyes meet hers. We want to witness the mutual delight reflected on their faces.
But imagine for a moment what it would be like if while walking down the aisle, their eyes don’t meet.
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Parents, Don’t Be Gaslighted by Biased News Reports

Christian parents have to stand in the gap for their children. Christian parents must not delegate the moral formation of their children to those who are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, which is what so many public schools across the country are doing right now.

One of the hardest things to read today are biased news reports aimed at gaslighting parents who are concerned about LGBT indoctrination at public schools. Case in point: A headline in The Washington Post yesterday reads “Claim that sex ed ‘grooms’ kids jolted Nebraska politics a year before it swept the nation.” The story goes on to describe the efforts of parents in Nebraska to push back against the state’s efforts to introduce LGBT propaganda into their children’s public school curriculum. Lest you think this an unbiased report on a bellwether social issue in Nebraska, the subtitle reads:
The unsubstantiated claim led to a backlash against sex ed that helped topple local Republican Party leaders and propelled a wave of far-right candidates for local and statewide school board [emphasis mine].
The authors want readers to know up front that the parents opposing LGBT sex-ed in public schools are doing so with claims that are “unsubstantiated.” After all, parental concerns must be “unsubstantiated” because (according to The Post) there are no large-scale studies showing that LGBT-indoctrination “grooms” children. You know, the Science™.
What a farce. Do parents have to wait for large-scale studies before they can know that it’s wrong for their children to be force-fed instruction about “orgasms” and “masturbation” (both of which were a part of the proposed curriculum)? I haven’t seen any large scale studies on the effects of eating tide pods, but no responsible parent feeds their kids tide pods until the right studies get published. And believe me, there are plenty of “tide pods” in Nebraska’s proposed curriculum.
The Washington Post really buries the lede on this score. The story is long, and the entire first half of it portrays parents as wacky and extreme for opposing the curriculum. You have to read about half way through this marathon of an article before finding out what’s actually in the curriculum. The Postdescribes the curriculum this way:
Kindergartners would learn medically accurate terms for body parts, including genitalia, and about interracial and same-sex families. They would also learn about “consent” and “how to clearly say no.” First-graders would learn the definitions of gender identity and gender-role stereotypes. The meaning of sexual orientation would be explained in third grade.
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Homosexual Immorality Driving a World Health Emergency

There are consequences to sexual immorality. The most severe consequences are eternal for those who do not repent and turn to Christ. But there are temporal consequences as well, and diseases like Monkeypox are evidence of that. 

Rod Dreher wrote yesterday about the hypocrisy of public health authorities in 2020 who mandated lockdowns for COVID but who made exceptions for Black Lives Matter protests. Our ruling class’s inconsistency during the summer of 2020 was obviously not being driven by hard science but by social concerns. If you belonged to a favored group (like a BLM protest), then you were allowed to gather. If you belonged to a disfavored group (like a church trying to gather for worship), you were not allowed to gather. While churches were being harassed by local governments for continuing to meet, enormous BLM protests continued apace. The entire spectacle demonstrated in spades that public health authorities are not always basing their guidance on “the science.”
To some extent, it seems like public health authorities may be at it again with their response to the Monkeypox outbreak. Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Monkeypox to be a “Global Health Emergency.” The director general of the WHO overruled a panel of advisors to get this done—a panel that remains divided whether Monkeypox is an emergency. The director general explains his extraordinary decision, “We have an outbreak that has spread around the world rapidly through new modes of transmission, about which we understand too little, and which meets the criteria” for a public health emergency.
Monkeypox is a disease that causes flu-like symptoms and causes excruciating rashes and lesions on the surface of the skin. It is spreading primarily among gay men through sexual contact. The Washington Post reports, “Infections in the ongoing outbreak are reported overwhelmingly among men who have sex with men, and experts believe close contact during sexual activity is a major driver of transmission.” Likewise, The New York Times says, “As of Friday, New York City had logged 839 monkeypox cases, nearly all of them in men who have sex with men, according to the city’s Department of Health.”
The New York Times continues:
Many patients in the current outbreak have developed lesions only in the genital area. Some — especially those who develop sores in the throat, urethra or rectum — have suffered excruciating pain.
“I was scared to use the bathroom actually,” said one recent patient, Gabriel Morales, 27, a part-time model based in New York City. “I can’t even describe it. It feels like broken glass.”
This is only the seventh time in the last 15 years that the WHO has declared a worldwide public health emergency with the most recent being the COVID outbreak in 2020.
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The Illiberal Left and Abortion

This posture on the left makes their position look brittle and indefensible. I don’t see how it wins anyone over to their side—especially since common sense is working against their position. No reasonable person believes that a person’s right to life is based on their location vis a vis the birth canal. Their right to life relies entirely upon whether or not they are a person. But many on the left cannot tolerate a reasonable discussion about that. They want to sneer and emote as a substitute for reasoned arguments in defense of their position.

Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the consequences of the Supreme Court’s abortion decision in Dobbs v. Jackson. The Democratic majority called three pro-abortion witnesses, and the Republican minority called two pro-life witnesses. I watched most of the hearing and listened to sworn testimony from all five witnesses. You would be hard-pressed to find a more stark expression of the division in our nation than what is on display in this testimony.
Three witnesses lamented the overturning of Roe and argued in favor of new federal legislation to ensure abortion rights through all nine months of a woman’s pregnancy. They also argued that restricting abortion rights in any way is an expression of racism and misogyny. An abortionist from Planned Parenthood testified that she is angry and made the incredible claim that the Court’s overturning Roe is “a stain on our history as a country” and that “Abortion is normal. Abortion is an act of love. Abortion is health care.”
The two pro-life witnesses were worlds apart from the abortion activists who testified. They defended pro-life crisis pregnancy centers against the scurrilous claim that they didn’t really offer healthcare. They showed that crisis pregnancy centers offer medical services to women for free, whether or not those women choose to have an abortion. They also showed that crisis pregnancy centers care for these women for years free of charge after their abortion. After the angry abortionist testified that abortion is loving healthcare, the director of a crisis pregnancy center testified that abortion is anything but healthcare and is the taking of a human life. She shares a powerful testimony about a young woman forced into an abortion by her parents. It is worth watching:
At one point during the hearing, Senator John Cornyn of Texas asked the pro-abortion witnesses when a human child’s life begins to have value. He pressed them about why a newborn child outside of the womb has value but 24 hours earlier while in the womb didn’t have value. None of the pro-abortion witnesses would even acknowledge the question. They simply continued with their pro-abortion platitudes about “choice.” Senator Cornyn’s reasonable question was essentially met with the mind-numbing mantra, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians” (Acts 19:28-34). See below:
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An Appeal to Southern Baptists to Support the Pro-life Cause

If you are a Southern Baptist and you care about the pro-life cause in the SBC, now is the time to make your voice heard. Speak up for the incremental gains we have made over the last several decades, and keep pushing the ball down the field until we get into the endzone.

I am writing this short essay as an appeal to Southern Baptists who care about the pro-life cause. Right now, there is an effort underway by what I believe to be a tiny minority in the SBC to reverse the SBC’s longstanding commitment to the pro-life cause. They call themselves “Abolitionists,” but they are not the only ones who support the abolition of abortion. All sides of this debate want to see abortion abolished. The Abolitionists, however, condemn and repudiate the pro-life movement’s efforts to restrict abortion in whatever measure possible.
After the Roe decision in 1973, the pro-life movement eventually coalesced around an incrementalist strategy to abolish abortion. Pro-lifers realized that because Roe prevented them from passing laws to outright end abortion, they would have to take whatever ground they could to save as many unborn lives as possible. So we have tried to pass parental notification laws. We’ve supported the Hyde Amendment to prevent taxpayer funded abortions. We’ve supported fetal heartbeat laws in an attempt to outlaw abortion. We supported and passed a ban on the reprehensible procedure known as partial birth abortion. Etc.
The so-called Abolitionist movement condemns all of these measures as compromises with evil. The abolitionists even oppose any exception to save the life of a mother. The only laws or public policies they support are ones that completely abolish abortion all at once. Anything short of that fails to honor the humanity of the unborn. Not only do Abolitionists oppose pro-life policies, they also publicly condemn and shame pro-lifers as compromisers with evil.
To use a football analogy, pro-lifers would love to have a 100-yard touchdown run. But if that isn’t possible, then pro-lifers are eager and willing to take 5-10 yard runs in a sustained drive down the field toward the same end. Abolitionists only accept 100-yard touchdown runs. Anything short a 100-yard touchdown run should be condemned and repudiated as a grave compromise with evil. That’s the difference between the pro-life movement and so-called Abolitionism. It’s not about the final goal of abolishing abortion but about how to get there. Pro-lifers will take whatever ground they can get. Abolitionists are all-or-nothing.
If we had followed an Abolitionist strategy, we would not be on the cusp of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. The Mississippi fetal heartbeat law that is the basis for the Supreme Court’s recently-leaked Dobbs decision is a pro-life, incrementalist law. Abolitionists oppose that law and thereby support an all-or-nothing approach that would have undermined the most significant pro-life victory in two generations.
Southern Baptists have expressed themselves clearly decade after decade in resolution after resolution to be on the side of the pro-life movement. Southern Baptist resolutions have long supported incrementalist measures to abolish abortion. We have put ourselves on the side of those moving the ball down the field 5-10 yards at a time. We would welcome a 100-yard dash for the endzone. But short of that, we’ve been more than willing to support measures to take whatever ground we can get. That is why we have supported legislation to outlaw partial birth abortion, to keep the Hyde Amendment in place, to pass parental notification laws, etc. Our record on this goes back at least 41 years.
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