Book Plunge: Engendered

What do I think of Sam Andreades’s book published by Weaver Book Company? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

As a married man, reading about differences in gender is very interesting to me. How is it that husbands and wives are to relate together? What is it that makes us so different? What makes a man a man and what makes a woman a woman? As a Christian, I am thoroughly interested in a Biblical perspective, especially in an age where we often get the soundbite that gender is a social construct.

Andreades’s book is an excellent one. It was one I looked forward to reading every night. It’s hard for some to imagine that someone could take gender and make it interesting, but Andreades makes it fascinating. Andreades pulls you in and if you’re like me, inspires you to be a better man. (The counterpart being a better woman of course.)

Andreades also deals with current issues. He has done interviews with men who used to be in homosexual relationships and are now happily married to women. The interview involves a questionnaire that he calls the “Does She Matter?” quiz. His interviews show that change is indeed possible.

He also deals with false ideas of masculinity and femininity. Some men, for instance, thrive on love more than respect. Does that mean they’re less of men? One favorite part of mine is where he says that he in his life although being a man has never drunk a can of beer. Do you want to step outside and make something of it? As a man who never drinks alcohol, I can assure him I don’t, and I’m also the man who gets absolutely bored at football games.

The book is biblical entirely. One interesting aspect is he’ll tell a biblical story, but you won’t know it is one. These will often open chapters. Then I tried to always find out if I could identify the story. Fortunately, I could. It does make the stories show up in a whole new light. One particular aspect I liked is his look at women in the book of Judges. What is that? I guess you’ll have to get the book to find out.

Andreades also deals with thorny issues like submission in marriage and what role leadership plays. These are handled delicately and I think both sexes can find affirmation in what was said. Both are repeatedly called to live sacrificial lives.

What also makes something masculine? (Or feminine) In a favorite illustration, Andreades asks men to imagine going to the big Super Bowl, promised to be the best one of all. You sit down at the fifty-yard line right up front. Then you look to your left and see a woman. There’s one to your right as well. You look around and the stadium is largely full of women aside from some isolated men wondering what’s going on like yourself. Do you suddenly feel masculine? Could it be the masculinity is not in football, but the men you are with?

Interestingly, Andreades doesn’t really get into sex until the final section and not much is said about it, and I would very much like to hear his perspective on the role of sexuality in marriage. There’s also then something for the single people. If male and female relationships are what define us, can single people be male or female? Of course they can, but again, that’s for you to find out.

If I could recommend one book right now on this topic it would be this one. Andreades is an excellent writer and treats the text seriously. I look forward to any future writings he has.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Royce Mann. I’m Sorry.

Do we need to apologize? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Sunday while heading home, my wife and I heard a story on the radio. It involved a 14 year-old who won a prize for best poem. When I heard what he was saying, I was aghast. It was so horrifying to think that someone was already living with this kind of idea. You can read about the story here.

I will quote what the cite has as well from the “poem.”

“Dear women, I’m sorry. Dear black people, I’m sorry. Dear Asian-Americans, dear Native Americans, dear immigrants who came here seeking a better life, I’m sorry,” Royce recited. “Dear everyone who isn’t a middle or upper-class white boy, I’m sorry. I have started life on the top of the ladder while you were born on the first rung.”

“When I was born I had a success story already written for me. You — you were given a pen and no paper,” he continued. “I know it wasn’t us 8th-grade white boys who created this system, but we profit from it every day.

“Dear white boys: I’m not sorry,” Royce declared. “I don’t care if you think the feminists are taking over the world, that the Black Lives Matter movement has gotten a little too strong, because that’s bulls—. I get that change can be scary, but equality shouldn’t be. Hey white boys: It’s time to act like a woman. To be strong and make a difference. It’s time to let go of that fear. It’s time to take that ladder and turn it into a bridge.”

“I know it wasn’t us eighth grade white boys who created this system, but we profit from it every day. We don’t notice these privileges though, because they don’t come in the form of things we gain, but rather the lack of injustices that we endure.”

Seeing all of this, it got me to want to give my own apology as well.

To Royce Mann,

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that you have bought into a lie about our great American country. I’m sorry that you think that if you are being successful, it’s not because of the work of you or one of your ancestors, but because you had to be privileged in some way. I’m sorry that you don’t realize that even before the passing of the Civil Rights Act, that the black community was working and growing and building themselves up.

I’m sorry that you think you have to apologize for your existence. You have done nothing wrong. Even if you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, that is not wrong. You could use your wealth then to benefit others which is a fine usage of wealth.

I’m sorry that you don’t realize that in this country, you can work and be a success. Even if it’s harder for you, you can do it. My wife and I both have Aspergers, but I sure don’t plan to let that hold me back. If anything, it’s something I want to embrace because it’s part of the uniqueness of who we are.

I’m sorry that you have been lied to by the school district. I see that you have to take a class called “race, class, and gender.” I’m sorry to hear that. I’m sorry to hear the schools are moving away from subjects of reading, writing, and arithmetic. I’m sorry that they’re more interested in producing people that think like them instead of people that think.

I’m sorry that your parents aren’t doing anything to stop you from thinking you need to apologize for your existence. You don’t. You do not need to suffer guilt for how or where you were born. What you can do is to decide how you’re going to make the best of it for everyone else.

I’m sorry that you don’t realize you’re in turn being condescending. You’re saying that you have everything you need for success but minority groups don’t so you need to give them sympathy. Why? Are you saying they’re incapable of working hard and succeeding? If so, why would you think that?

I’m also sorry that you did not truly get a reward. Oh I know you took first place, but it wasn’t for you. It was for your judges. They wanted to celebrate that they are so awesome that they produced someone who can say that like you. They see you as a success of their “teaching” instead of someone who is thinking originally.

I’m sorry you have not familiarized yourself with the great poets of the past. You could greatly benefit by reading them. Go back several centuries and read what is there.

I’m sorry you have a problem with being a man as well. Why should a man act like a woman? Your society has sought to feminize you. That’s why we have things like sports games with no winners and look at any act of aggression as one of the worst sins ever. I’m sorry you’ve been a victim of that.

What I’m not sorry about though is that this is America. You can learn from this. You can grow from this. You can study and work hard. I recommend you take advantage of a place called a library. Go and read history about race relations and such. Read about the original women’s suffrage movement here in America.

You should also realize that success is not a crime. In the past, people who were successes would be held up as examples for everyone to follow. Today, it’s still hard to work to be a success, so we usually prefer pulling other people down. We prefer to look for ways that they cheated the system rather than do the hard work ourselves.

It’s understandable really. My work is in apologetics. There are many times I would rather be doing some other things for myself. Of course, we have to take time for play and relaxation, but we can take too much at times. I like to read, but at the same time I sometimes have to work to get myself to read. You know what though? It’s worth it. It’s worth it when I realize that when push comes to shove that I can contribute and that I can be looked up to and admired. It’s worth it when I get to have the chance to get to talk to some of the greatest scholars out there regularly for my show.

Royce. I can tell you that when I was getting ready to go to college, I was told to not go into ministry. You know why? Because I could not handle public speaking. It would be too difficult for me. I should go into engineering or something like that. Nothing against engineering, but I had no passion there. What happened? I went into ministry.

You know what? When I was a senior in Bible College, I gave a senior sermon. That was preached to about 1,000 people. I had no problem with it. Even a year later people were still complimenting me on that sermon. I wish my detractors had been there to see it.

I would also sometimes speak at the Sunday night services. Normally, we were to speak for 15-20 minutes. I spoke for 45 and no one ever complained. Students stayed afterwards even to talk about the Bible.

I have also done a number of debates and I look forward to my next one not knowing when and where it will be. At some other churches I have preached and taught lessons. It’s always a joy. I even spoke at a church once after having my gallbladder removed. I had to have a friend drive me there and to sit the whole time since I couldn’t stand, but it was worth it because I love teaching.

It would be easy to make excuses Royce, but excuses don’t make anything except more failure. It would be easy to blame others, but it won’t change them and it will only make me bitter. In fact, I could say that maybe I do have some natural talents, like a natural inclination towards intelligence, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have to work with that intelligence still.

You see Royce, you do have to work ultimately to be a success. This comes in everything you do in life. I am married right now and I love my wife, but sometimes it is work. You know why? Because my natural inclination is to be a selfish individual that focuses mainly on myself. Being married reminds me of that constantly. I have to learn to die to myself. I have to learn to put my wants aside especially when it comes to my wife’s needs. You know what? It’s worth it. It is so very worth it. My wife is an absolute treasure to me and I really have no mercy on those who hurt her. The worst thing anyone can do to me is to hurt my wife.

As I sit here, I’m surrounded by books. Most of them I have read. I regularly go to the library and read books. For my podcast, I get in touch with major publishers and read the books that they send me and get the authors on my show. That takes time, but it is worth it.

And you know what? You can do the same thing. If you want to make the world a better place, well that’s wonderful, but you’re not going to do it by tearing yourself down. Build others up, and you won’t do that by having them keep think they’re victims of birth. Show them not by an apology but by living a life of success. You don’t benefit anyone by refusing to use the gifts you have to the best of your ability. You don’t benefit anyone either by trying to get them to think that the reason they’re not succeeding in America is because the system is rigged against them.

Stop the apology tour. It helps no one. Start living a life of success. I will be striving to do the same all the more. The best way you can help others is not by having them think they’re victims. It’s by encouraging them to see themselves as successes in the making. Which one are you doing?

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 5/14/2016: Walt Heyer

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Target. Say the word and immediately the thoughts of boycotts comes into your mind. Why? Because of a bathroom policy. Women who identify as men are allowed to use the men’s room and vice-versa. This has led to many protests by others. There is a fear about predators taking advantage of the law, but something that is not discussed often is the people themselves who are claiming to be transgender.

This is a concept that strikes most of us as something that doesn’t make sense. We are living in an age where you cannot tell a woman that she must be a woman. If she identifies as a man, well that’s okay. Many of us are stunned that this is even being seen as a debate today, but lo and behold it is. What are we to do about this?

Why not have someone on who knows about the transgender viewpoint? In fact, we could say he knows about it so much because he was a transgender and then with  the surgical reassignment became a transsexual. That’s why this Saturday I am going to be interviewing Walt Heyer.

WaltHeyer

Walt Heyer is an author and public speaker with a passion to help others who regret gender change. Through his website, SexChangeRegret.com, and his blog, WaltHeyer.com, Heyer raises public awareness about the incidence of regret and the tragic consequences suffered as a result. Heyer’s story can be read in novel form in Kid Dakota and The Secret at Grandma’s House and in his autobiography, A Transgender’s Faith. Heyer’s other books include Paper Genders and Gender, Lies and Suicide.

So we are going to be talking about what so many of us really have a hard time wrapping our heads around. Are we really going against the scientific establishment? What is the cause of suicide in the cases of transgender people? Is the condition really a mental illness or is it something bona fide and the only way to help these people is to have them alter their bodies to become a person of the opposite sex?

What was it about Walt’s experience that brought him to this realization? What was it like to “become a woman” and then go back to being a man? What does he think should be the best approach to helping people who are struggling with thinking that they are the wrong sex. If his case is a negative one, is that just an isolated incident while most cases seem to work out for the good of those involved?

This is a big issue that is going on and I do believe that there is more at stake than just using a bathroom. We are calling the very identity of male and female into question. Perhaps I am mistaken in my approach and Walt can show that or perhaps there is in fact more than just the surface level debate that is going on.

I hope you’ll be listening next Saturday either way as Walt Heyer joins me!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships.

What do I think of Brownson’s book published by Eerdmans? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’ll say at the start that of Christians trying to write from a position that is affirming of same-sex relationships, Brownson’s is the best that I have read. I think if you want to tackle a position that is affirming, this is the best one to read. He deals with a lot of the critics of his position and tries to pay attention to relevant scholarship.

And still, it just falls short.

Let’s start at the beginning. On page 9, Brownson tells us that we do not interpret rightly any Scripture until we locate the text within the larger fabric of the Bible. To an extent, I understand, and my disagreement could be what Brownson would agree with as well. I think a text can be understood on its own. If I read a Psalm about David drowning his couch with tears, I think I understand that alone. I think a deeper understanding for a fuller Biblical understanding could be found by comparing that with all of Scripture. I doubt Brownson would disagree with a point like this.

On the next page, he tells us that often, people have had to go back to Scripture when changes take place in society and culture to see if they were wrong. Again, I have no problem with this. It could have been that in the case of the passages seen as espousing the traditional view of homosexuality, that our interpretation was wrong. We should always be willing to go back to the text and examine it.

It’s when we get into the arguments that I start to wonder. For instance, Brownson on pages 29 and 33 wants to say marriage is not trying to get back to the primordial garden. There is some truth to that. Marriage also looks forward to the new creation found in the new Jerusalem. It is used at the end of Revelation and in Ephesians 5 with this in mind.

What I disagree with him on is that marriage is simply a kinship bond. Of course, marriage establishes a a new kinship bond. Brownson says that what is important in Genesis 2:24 is the kinship bond and that does not necessitate male and female. I find this a bit problematic. When Jesus speaks of the passage after all in Matthew 19, he refers to the male and female component which he didn’t need to do at all.

Second, with regard to kinship bonds, if all this is is about forming new relationships, I have to wonder why it is that this is supposed to be an exclusive kinship bond. Why limit it to one person? Why, unless the sexual union does a bit more than that? Of course, some Jews did not do that, but Jesus held to the strict interpretation and said male and female are joined together and what God has joined together let no man separate.

Third, Brownson thinks physical differences cannot be in view since this passage is used to describe Christ and the church and obviously, that church is composed of men partially. I do not think that this is a convincing argument. The same could be said of God and Israel, but the point is that the man is in the giving position and the woman in the receiving in the paradigm. It’s using the patriarchal system of the past to make the point and it does not require a one-to-one correspondence. In relationships with God, we are all on the receiving end and we receive the life of God in us.

Finally, it looks like sometimes the Bible has a problem with kinship bonds becoming too close. That’s why we have prohibitions against incest and lo and behold, when we get to the list of sexual practices that are condemned, we find homosexual practice right there. Of course, Brownson has something to say on that and we will have something to say in response.

Now to be fair on the patriarchy point, Brownson does rightly point out that one sees exceptions to patriarchy. He is indeed correct. You have Deborah in the book of Judges, Huldah at the time of Josiah, and of course women like Ruth, Esther, Rahab, and others being glorified. We also find right in the beginning that male and female are created in the image of God. When we get to Jesus, Jesus regularly associates with women openly. When we get to Paul, Paul has women in the church in positions of authority like Phoebe and Junia. In the house rules in Ephesians 5, it is true women are to submit, but men are given a much longer list of what they are to do.

When it comes to slavery, we find something similar. Slavery is a sort of necessary evil in Bible times, but as we keep going, we find a change going on. Compared to the society of the time, ancient Israel was quite progressive. Philemon can be seen as the Emancipation Proclamation of the New Testament. All of this can be found in William Webb’s excellent, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals. What do we find with homosexuality?

We find no homosexual couples looked at as examples in the Bible. We find no change moving along those lines. We find the New Testament is even stricter on sexual matters than the Old Testament is, such as polygamy is not really an issue in the New Testament and Jesus ups the ante of adultery to not even looking at another person’s wife with lust. On a traditional interpretation, matters are exactly the same. While there is a line for slavery and women moving towards more freedom and dignity, the line on sexual practice is getting tighter.

In fact, Brownson realizes a danger. On page 83, he tells us that when we get to Romans 1, he realizes that if it refers to lesbian intercourse in the passage, then his interpretation of patriarchy would be ruled out. He will argue he finds this unlikely. I will argue that I find it very likely.

On page 91, Brownson tells us that divorce is essentially the severing of kinship bonds and the obligations that come with them. I find this still odd. Why is it then that we only find divorce going on with marriage? Do we find siblings divorcing one another or parents divorcing children or vice-versa? It looks like divorce refers to one thing specifically. Brownson thinks that this is confirmed in the Jesus tradition, but again, I frankly don’t see it. When Paul talks about one flesh, he talks about sexual union between a man and a woman. When Jesus talks about one flesh, he references Genesis 1:27 with it.

While I am disagreeing for now, I want to say that on page 103 he quotes Rowan Williams before he became the Archbishop of Canterbury. I have to quote the passage in full. It is a passage about the sexual bond and it is simply too beautiful so that paraphrasing would not do it justice.

“Any genuine experience of desire leaves me in this position: I cannot of myself satisfy my wants without distorting or trivializing them. But in this experience we have a particularly intense case of the helplessness of the ego alone. For my body to be the cause of joy , the end of homecoming, for me, it must be there for someone else, must be perceived, accepted, nurtured. And that means being given over to the creation of joy in that other, because only as directed to the enjoyment, the happiness, of the other does it become unreservedly lovable. To desire my joy is to desire the joy of the one I desire: my search for enjoyment through the bodily presence of another is a longing to be enjoyed in my body. As Blake put it, sexual partners “admire” in each other “the lineaments of gratified desire.” We are pleased because we are pleasing.”

I also agree with Brownson’s commentary on this:

“Sexual desire, on the other hand, requires another person, and if sex is to achieve what the body most deeply longs for, one must enter into deep communion with the other — the kind of communion that the Bible speaks of as a one-flesh union. In that union, one relinquishes self-determination , and one’s own happiness is bound up in the happiness of the other.”

I often tell men who are about to get married that they certainly desire sex, but they really don’t have a clue. You don’t know how much this experience will change you until it happens. Once you get caught in the world of another person on this intimate level, life is never the same. Brownson is right on 104 when he says that the language of the body cannot be avoided. Our faithfulness as Christians depends in part on how we use the bodies that God gave us. We will either use them to speak love or use them to speak destruction.

When we get to Romans 1, Brownson’s argument is that the passage condemns excessive lust and this excessive lust leads to homosexual practice. I do not see how this can come from the text. Paul does not really speak about excessive desire anywhere else. Where in a passage like 1 Cor. 7 do we see “Now you married couples, do not be getting it on too much in the bedroom. Your desires don’t need to be excessive!” In fact, he says they should come together and the only reason they should avoid it is by mutual consent and then only for a short time and then only devotion to prayer. If someone in the church is burning with desire, he doesn’t say to shut down the desire. He says to get married. Keep in mind all of this is also without mention of procreation.

If anything, it also looks like Paul is condemning the result of what has happened and if it is excessive lust he’s saying “Do you see where it gets you? It gets you to homosexual practice.” A Jewish audience would look and say “Yep. Sure does. Our Scriptures are crystal clear on that. You tell them Paul!”

Brownson also wants to see this as an indictment of the emperor at the time. Again, I don’t see how this follows. Paul is writing about the whole of the Gentile world and not one small segment, even one as important as the emperor. In fact, as people like Gagnon and Sprinkle have pointed out, the language of Romans 1 several times mirrors Genesis 1. You have terms like creator, creation, male and female, and the idol descriptions match the descriptions of creatures in Genesis 1. Paul is making a contrast with creation. What he is saying is that when we look at the creation, it is apparent that there is a creator, but mankind in wickedness chose to make images of created things rather than honor the creator, which is a disruption of design on the vertical level. They then did the same on the horizontal level and the clearest example of this is homosexual practice.

For the lesbian issue, Brownson points to “their women” and says that the women are being thought of in relationship to men. Unfortunately, there is no interaction with someone like Bernadette Brooten who has shown that yes, female same-sex eroticism was indeed a part of the world of the New Testament and it was known about. I can’t help but think that Brownson approached the text wanting to find what he found and then found it.

When we get to a passage like 1 Cor. 6:9, on page 271, Brownson says that attempts to link the word translated to refer to those who practice homosexuality to Lev. 18 and 20 is speculative. Really? Let’s take a look. Here’s the Greek word.

αρσενοκοιται

Now let’s go to Leviticus 18. When we get to verse 22, what do we see?

και μετα αρσενος ου κοιμηθηση κοιτην γυναικος βδελυγμα γαρ εστιν

And when we get to 20:13….

και ος αν κοιμηθη μετα αρσενος κοιτην γυναικος βδελυγμα εποιησαν αμφοτεροι θανατουσθωσαν ενοχοι εισιν

Yep. That’s speculative alright. You don’t have to be a Greek scholar to see that relationship. By the way, I also find the idea of Leviticus 18 and 20 not referring to homosexual practice but cult prostitution also highly speculative. Am I to think that the writer of Leviticus would have no problem with bestiality or incest or child sacrifice if they were done at home instead of in a cult? (Sprinkle has also called into question that cult prostitution was around.) I also question that it has anything to do with pederasty since from what I understand, that was a later Greco-Roman practice.

In conclusion, Brownson has made the best case that there is, and yet he has still fallen short. If you want to tackle a case for same-sex relationships, this is the one to tackle. I still walk away convinced that those who affirm same-sex relationships are reading something into the text.

In Christ,
Nick Peters