Sex and Christ Crucified
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. You are not a free independent agent who is above God’s law, and God cares profoundly about what you do with your body. As a way to plant this in your soul, start your day with this summary, remember it, speak about it, and list a few ways that it could change your day: “This is the good life. It can only be found in Jesus. It is not found in splitting my allegiances between Jesus and an unconsecrated relationship (to use tabernacle language).
In our culture, sexual relationships are where Scripture seems most contrary to the majority opinion, and the majority opinion affects us more than we realize.
Cohabitation is an example. In my own lifetime, it has gone from shameful, to frowned upon, to “better than the alternatives,” to accepted, to a necessary phase of every relationship that is to be celebrated. Marriage, after all, did not seem to help many of our parents stay together.
As a way to revisit the subject, consider the apostle Paul’s thick and fresh pastoral arguments in chapter six of his first letter to the Corinthians. His purpose is important. He wants to show the connection between Scripture’s words about sexuality and “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). I have included the passage below, but since it presents some lesser-used reasoning, I will also paraphrase it, which I have found to be a useful practice with difficult passages. Paul, I hope, would approve.
Here is the original.
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:12–20)
Here is a paraphrase.
Notice how we can find a belief, somewhere in our souls, that we are independent agents, free to make our own decisions. This belief can be aroused when we hear that we “are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14). But be careful.
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A Response to Sojourners’ President Adam Taylor’s Call to Protect Abortion RightsBy Al Taglieri — 1 year ago
I noticed you feel great compassion for women in crisis. While this is commendable, I am concerned by the lack of similar concern for babies. You mentioned a woman’s right to abortion eight times and a child’s right to life once. And that your prescription for limiting the number of abortions is based on government welfare programs for the mother. I did not see any provisions for making adoption easier and faster. Nor did I see any provisions for the church to provide more support through pregnancy centers.
I read your article “As a Christian, I Want to Reduce Abortion, Not Overturn Roe.” I noticed you used the phrase “As a Christian” three times to buttress your moral authority in this area as you pled for both abortion availability and yet fewer abortions. As a brother in Christ, I have concerns over unbalanced compassion, exegetical acumen, and a surrendering of God’s Law to modern culture.
I noticed you feel great compassion for women in crisis. While this is commendable, I am concerned by the lack of similar concern for babies. You mentioned a woman’s right to abortion eight times and a child’s right to life once. And that your prescription for limiting the number of abortions is based on government welfare programs for the mother. I did not see any provisions for making adoption easier and faster. Nor did I see any provisions for the church to provide more support through pregnancy centers. It’s almost as if supporting government welfare policies is a key component of a compassionate character.
God has made each person as a free, moral being. Joshua commanded the people to make a choice about who they would serve: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Jos 24:15, NASB-95).
Each of us makes choices, Adam. Unfortunately, those choices often end with tragedy for ourselves and others. The Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 17 asks:
Q. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.
You pointed out cases of rape and incest. These are terrible tragedies brought about by sin that cause great misery, but why is the most innocent victim, the child, the one who bears the brunt of the tragedy? Abortion advocates often claim that every child should be a wanted child. So, is it compassionate to impose the death penalty on a child because the mom chooses not to love? We are told a child should not suffer from poverty. But that’s how we choose to treat suffering animals; we put them out of their misery because they cannot understand what is happening. Not so human beings. And God’s Word affirms that babies, even in the womb, are people:
“Surely I was sinful at birth,sinful from the time my mother conceived me.6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;you taught me wisdom in that secret place.” (Psalm 51, NASB-95)
People can choose to learn from suffering and can choose to rise above it, given the opportunity, unless that opportunity is pre-empted by another’s choice. Consider the story of Lazarus; a poor beggar covered in sores. He had a terrible life, and no one looked at him with compassion. In the end, for all eternity, Lazarus found compassion and comfort (Luke 16: 19-31).
I commend you on the compassion you have toward women in crisis but I implore you to extend that same compassion to the babies in the womb.
As a brother in Christ, I was glad to see that you are meditating on Rom 12:12, and I hope you continue to mediate on this verse. By applying proper exegetical methods, you will discover that the word conformed in Greek is suschématizó and means to assume “a similar outward form (expression) by following the same pattern” (Strong’s). The word transform in the Greek is metamorphoó, which means “changing form in keeping with inner reality” (Strong’s). Paul is calling on each of not to copy the current godless culture, but to be transformed, truly, from the inside by God’s Word (properly interpreted). So, respectfully, I disagree with your conclusion that this is a call to be counter cultural. This is a call to be a genuine Christian, one who knows and lives by God’s law, regardless of the personal cost that might entail.
I found it ironic that you used Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees to make a point that by placing the health of babies in the womb in extreme jeopardy, i.e., death, we can avoid policies that place expecting mom’s health in jeopardy. A closer look at Luke 13:10-17 reveals that the Pharisees are hypocrites because they exult in manmade standards of righteousness that even they cannot keep. Has not support for abortion become the same litmus test for a righteous character in secular society?
As a brother in Christ, I plead with you to consider God’s law as opposed to man’s law. In Psalm 19, God tells us He has given us supernatural revelation:
“The law of the Lord is perfect,refreshing the soul.The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,making wise the simple.8 The precepts of the Lord are right,giving joy to the heart.The commands of the Lord are radiant,giving light to the eyes.” (NASB-95)
The more a society’s laws reflect God’s laws, the better, kinder, more compassionate that society is. I wonder if you ever researched how Greek and Roman cultures practiced their respective laws? There was a marked difference in culture as Christianity grew in influence and the moral authority of God’s Word was practiced. Here’s how Aristotle framed it:
“As to exposing or rearing the children born, let there be a law that no deformed child shall be reared; but on the ground of number of children, if the regular customs hinder any of those born being exposed, there must be a limit fixed to the procreation of offspring, and if any people have a child as a result of intercourse in contravention of these regulations, abortion must be practiced on it (the child)” (Aristotle, Politics 7.1335b ).
Or Cicero: “Deformed infants shall be killed” (On the Laws, 3.8). Cicero considered an unwanted child to be deformed.
God gave Moses this commandment: “You shall not murder” (Ex 20:13, NASB). I’d rather live in a society that respects life, protects its most vulnerable members, and has laws that reflect those values.
Al Taglieri is a Ruling Elder in the Providence Presbyterian Church in York, Penn.
The Current State of ComplementarityBy John Piper — 6 months ago
Complementarity, as it is unfolded in the Danvers Statement and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, is still as urgent as ever. The Nashville Statement may feel more urgent because it addresses the current tragedies of so-called same-sex “marriage” and so-called “transgenderism.”
In 1987, I wrote the first draft of the Danvers Statement. Thirty years later, I gave input on the final draft of the Nashville Statement (2017). The former was foundational for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; the latter expresses the Council’s abiding relevance and maturity.
Here at the five-year anniversary of Nashville, the leadership of CBMW asked me to reflect on similarities and differences between the two statements for their journal, Eikon (and allowed me to publish the article here as well).1 I address their question below, and then, as one of the early shapers and promoters of a “complementarian” understanding of manhood and womanhood, I also respond to some recent criticism.
First, as a shaper of both documents, I see a profound unity and prophetic difference between Danvers and Nashville. The unity can be seen, for example, in the following similarities.
The Danvers Statement affirms that “both Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their manhood and womanhood” (affirmation 1). The Nashville Statement affirms that “God created Adam and Eve, the first human beings, in his own image, equal before God as persons, and distinct as male and female” (article 3).
Danvers laments “the widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity” (rationale 1), and the tragic effects of this confusion in unraveling “the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood” (rationale 2). Nashville similarly laments the fact that “it is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, [so that] God’s good design for his creatures is thus replaced by the path of shortsighted alternatives” (preamble).
Danvers cites the “growing claims of legitimacy for sexual relationships which have Biblically and historically been considered illicit or perverse” (rationale 5). Nashville names them: “It is sinful to approve of homosexual immorality or transgenderism” (article 10). “We deny that God has designed marriage to be a homosexual, polygamous, or polyamorous relationship” (article 1).
Both statements challenge “the spirit of the age,” especially its encroachments into Christ’s church. Danvers warns of “the apparent accommodation of some within the church to the spirit of the age at the expense of winsome, radical Biblical authenticity which in the power of the Holy Spirit may reform rather than reflect our ailing culture” (rationale 10). Nashville sounds a similar alarm: “Will the church of the Lord Jesus Christ lose her biblical conviction, clarity, and courage, and blend into the spirit of the age? Or will she hold fast to the word of life, draw courage from Jesus, and unashamedly proclaim his way as the way of life?” (preamble).
The prophetic difference between the two statements is that Danvers confronts women who intend to be pastors, while Nashville confronts women who intend to be men. Danvers confronts men who are unwilling to lead their wives; Nashville confronts men who can’t lead their wives because they don’t have one — they are “married” to men.
As the term “complementarian” was coming into being in the 1980s, the antagonists were different from those of the Nashville Statement. For example, the subtitle of “the big blue book” Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is A Response to Evangelical Feminism. Thus, the antagonists that we were addressing in those days were voices like Paul Jewett, Margaret Howe, Gretchen Gabelein Hull, Gilbert Billezekian, Aida Spencer, Patricia Gundry, Craig Keener, Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, and Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen. I regarded all of these men and women not only as Christian but also as evangelical — at least at first. Danvers was, you might say, an in-house plea to family members to reconsider how they read the Bible.
Memorial Presbyterian Church Session Calls Congregation MeetingBy Memorial Presbyterian Church Session — 8 months ago
It is with a mixture of sorrow and hope that we, the elders of Memorial Presbyterian Church, after fifteen months spent fasting, praying, waiting, consulting and listening, now write to call a meeting of the congregation for 5:30–6:30 p.m. Friday, November 18, 2022, in the Auditorium for the purpose of deciding on matters pertaining to denominational alignment. We are recommending the congregation vote to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in America in accordance with Book of Church Order 25-11
October 18, 2022
Dear church family,
Memorial exists to bring the Welcome of Jesus through his Gospel as found in his Word to St. Louis. We have seen how he provides for us. We have experienced his Spirit’s work among us. We have had our hearts captivated by the gospel. We have had the privilege of being coworkers in what Jesus is doing on the earth. For the past 40 years, we have done so as a member church of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).
Since our first letter on July 13 and last letter on September 8, troubling new circumstances have arisen that move us to believe it is time for us to take the next step toward denominational realignment.
It is with a mixture of sorrow and hope that we, the elders of Memorial Presbyterian Church, after fifteen months spent fasting, praying, waiting, consulting and listening, now write to call a meeting of the congregation for 5:30–6:30 p.m. Friday, November 18, 2022, in the Auditorium for the purpose of deciding on matters pertaining to denominational alignment. We are recommending the congregation vote to withdraw from the Presbyterian Church in America in accordance with Book of Church Order 25-11, which states:
Particular churches need remain in association with any court of this body only so long as they themselves so desire. The relationship is voluntary, based upon mutual love and confidence, and is in no sense to be maintained by the exercise of any force or coercion whatsoever. A particular church may withdraw from any court of this body at any time for reasons which seem to it sufficient, provided, however, the congregation is given at least thirty-days’ notice of any meeting where the congregation is to vote on a proposed withdrawal from the Presbyterian Church in America.
Memorial exists to bring the Welcome of Jesus to sinners like ourselves, helping them embrace that Welcome, live out that Welcome and unleash that Welcome in the power of the Holy Spirit. Continued attacks from within our denomination have and continue to hinder and distract from that mission. We need a team that is for us.
This is a historic moment. As historic as our vote in 1980 to leave what was then our denomination. We believe this step is necessary to protect Memorial’s ministries and ministers from distraction and abuse. More details about our recommended path forward will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.
In our last letter, we explained that there were some questions about which we still needed further information. Two questions related to our reception into another denomination. We are still working on those questions and hope to have full answers for you soon.
Two other questions were related to timing and unity. We heard the congregation asking:
If Greg is tried (or re-tried) by the PCA sooner rather than later, will that hold up the church’s denominational realignment until after the trial and ruling has come—a judicial process that can take months or years?
We have now learned that, yes, once a court of the church (whether local Missouri Presbytery, denominational supreme court or General Assembly) takes a case, thereby entering into judicial process, the pastor involved must see the case through unless another denomination receives him into it. Other denominations can be hesitant to receive a pastor under such circumstances, and would likely require a supermajority vote to receive him. This could hold us all up.
Greg was exonerated by our denominational supreme court a year ago. But his critics have been busy retargeting him and—just this month—now targeting other Memorial pastors.
Our denominational supreme court already has requests from several regional presbyteries to try (or re-try) Greg in an attempt to reverse last year’s ruling. They could vote to accept this case as early as this weekend or as late as February. If they refuse to take the case, a minority report is likely, setting Greg up for a possible trial on the floor of General Assembly next June in Memphis.
Additionally, our local Missouri Presbytery has received a number of new requests for investigations even since our last letter to you. One misrepresents Greg’s views and involves accusations that his 2021 book doesn’t properly reflect the nuance of the Westminster Larger Catechism.
And yet another most recent one requests that pastors Sam Dolby and Keith Robinson also be investigated—alongside Greg—concerning their Christian character due to their support for our Chapel ministry to artists.
Other possible cases against our pastors are also developing. The flow of these baseless judicial attacks is unlikely to slow down. We are being deliberately targeted. To protect our pastors—and to keep our presbytery from having to do multiple formal investigations of baseless accusations—we therefore think it wise to take this next step in realignment sooner rather than later.
We also heard you asking, whatever we decide—and it will be the congregation that decides, not the Session—we are your servants—how can we do it together as a family, with love even when perspectives differ?
We are therefore scheduling two additional fireside chats, which also will involve intercessory prayer for our protection and unity as a congregation.
This will not be an easy decision for some of us. Greg has shared how deeply sorrowful this decision is for him. Greg is not alone in these feelings. This will not be a time to celebrate.
While Memorial will continue to send students to Covenant College and continue to support our MTW missionaries and especially our RUF minister at Wash U, many of us and many of our Memorial siblings are already grieving a loss. Please be in prayer for them. Speak kindly to them. Reach out to listen and to love. And respect your sibling’s perspective, especially if it differs from your own.
Also, realize that it is common to experience feelings of anxiety during periods of uncertainty or transition. We encourage you to channel any anxiety into prayer for the church.
We will have a Fireside Chat and Prayer Gathering Monday, October 24 at 7:00 p.m.
We will have another Wednesday, November 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Our intention has been to bathe this process with prayer and with love. We believe this decision to be the most loving option for Memorial, for same-sex oriented believers, for our pastors and, yes, for the PCA itself.
We hope that Memorial’s withdrawal from the PCA will strengthen the hands of our friends within the denomination. As their opponents have capitalized on the “wedge issue” they found in knowing the PCA had a celibate same-sex oriented pastor, we can now remove Memorial from that equation. Critics will have to find some other cause with which to rally their troops. Lord willing, that will help our friends in the denomination as they work hard to once again take leadership to ground the denomination in a humble, winsome and missiological grace.
We believe Jesus is walking with us through this process, as is our current presbytery. The gospel is at work among us. The Lord’s Spirit is within us. We are not afraid.
In this letter, we have described what we believe we must move away from to protect our mission. In a fourth letter, we hope soon to offer a clearer picture of what we hope to move toward. We are still discerning that matter, and we are excited by the possibilities. Jesus loves Memorial, and we are confident that he will preserve us in our mission as he pours his love and Spirit out upon us—and through us to others.
We love you and thank God for you.
Your servants in Jesus,
The Session of Memorial Presbyterian Church