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On Flourishing

oxnBUNQI love the idea of human flourishing.

I first stumbled upon the notion during my Master’s program, via a theologian named Miroslav Volf. Here’s what Volf has to say about human flourishing (from this article):

“I think in the Christian faith, human flourishing is life in which one receives oneself from God as a beloved child of God, and loves God and loves neighbor.

That’s a very rough definition of what it means to flourish as a human being. But I think it also has two significant components: The first component being that one leads one’s life well. The other component being that life goes well for one. So it has both active and passion dimensions to it. Health of the body might be a passive dimension of flourishing; aspects of moral responsibility are an active dimension.”

Human flourishing. I mean, the phrase even sounds beautiful.

From time to time when I’m asked what I’m studying in my current program, I reference this notion of flourishing. For me human flourishing is a God-given vision for life as God intends it, for individuals, for the community and for the systems of our world. Come to think of it, human flourishing is pretty close to the holistic Hebrew notion of shalom.

I heard a talk this week about human flourishing. Well, not explicitly, and the speaker never uses the term. And yet the story is certainly one of flourishing.

The speaker is Shauna Niequist and the talk is “What My Mother Taught Me.” Niequist is the daughter of Willow Creek’s Lynne and Bill Hybels, and in the talk she tells the story of how her mother went from flourishing to not flourishing to flourishing again. I think the talk provides not only a helpful snapshot of human flourishing, but it highlights what is at stake in a male privilege marked world where women are too often held back from flourishing.

Two short lines caught my attention, as I think they capture what flourishing is all about:

“I watched my mother become herself.”

and

“Make space for two callings in one home, in one marriage.”

You can find a transcript of the talk here on Niequist’s site. Or you can watch it below. As you watch it, let me encourage you to consider what flourishing could look like for you and your communities!

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Fully Released

Depositphotos_8465126_s-570x379This morning, I’m happy to be hosted over at the “Release the A.P.E.” blog.

What’s an A.P.E. you ask? It’s an acronym for apostles, prophets and evangelists, and the aim of “Release the A.P.E.” is to empower those offices in the church in greater measure.

I’m fully behind this empowerment, both for men and for women. In fact, my argument is that we need A.P.E.s of both genders in order to advance God’s mission in our world.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the post. Head on over to read the rest here.

I love the idea of releasing A.P.E.s into the world.

I also love the idea of releasing she-A.P.E.s into the world. In fact, I love most the thought of empowering apostlesprophets and evangelists of both genders to partner side-by-side in advancing God’s mission in the word.

And make no mistake about it, that’s the Biblical model for ministry. In spite of the overwhelming patriarchy embedded in the Biblical context, the Scriptures make clear that both men and women are suited for A.P.E. ministry tasks.

For instance, when it comes to apostles, there’s Paul (2 Timothy 1:1) partnering alongside Junia (Romans 16:7). When it comes to prophets, in the same passage in Luke 2, we have Simeon (v. 25-35) sharing the load with Anna (v. 36-38). And when it comes to evangelists, we can point to plenty of sinners of both genders who met Jesus only have their lives transformed; the demoniac from Mark 5 and the woman at the well from John 4 are just two examples.

And so the question bears asking: how can we do a better job of releasing male and female apostles, prophets and evangelists into mission in ways where both genders can flourish?

Read more here! And thanks to my friends over at Release the A.P.E.!

Theologizing

mgyU0scHave I mentioned that I’m seeking to enroll in a doctoral program?!?

It’s true. I’m applying right now for the Doctor of Missiology program at Fuller Theological Seminary. The DMiss is a four-year missiology degree. It’s designed for in-service leaders; as such it’s primarily online with yearly residencies in Pasadena. The big idea is to tackle a missological problem, with an eye toward practical and concrete solutions.

Sounds like a hoot, huh? More about this later on, but if you’re interested you can check the program out here.

Turns out that part of the application process is reading three missiology texts (this one, this one and this one), and then writing a 10 page paper that summarizes, compares and evaluates. It’s quite a project.

The other day I was reading one of the texts, and I came across this passage, about gender, equality and God’s nature:

“Human beings are sexually differentiated. It is significant that the only specific explanation of the image of God is that it exists as ‘male and female’ (Gen. 1:27). ‘The primeval form of humanity is the fellowship of man and woman’ (Jewett 1975:36)

In other words, the dynamic interaction and fellowship between men and women is a fundamental reflection of the divine image. We cannot conclude that the woman was inferior, either by nature or by function. That she was created to be man’s ‘helper’ (Gen 2:20) does not mean that she must be ‘subject’ to him. The word helper is used elsewhere of God as Israel’s ‘help and shield’ in time of trouble (e.g., 1 Sam 7:12 and Ps. 33:20). ‘It describes a relationship of mutual interdependence, rather than the woman existing for the male’s convenience, or as his underling’ (Kuhns, 1978:17).

God’s ideal is that human beings enjoy positive social interaction and ongoing cooperation with one another in spontaneous obedience to the will of God. Only thereby can they truly incorporate the image of God.” (emphasis mine)

Taken from Announcing the Kingdom: The Story  of God’s Mission in the Bible, by Arthur Glasser, p. 35.

2013 in Review

oosyYAoAs Challenging Tertullian steams into 2014, it’s good to look back at the year that was. Three observations:

First, it blows my mind that C.T. was viewed in 75 different countries last year. Top three were the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, but in this World Cup year, I’m glad to see people checking in from Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Italy. Most surprising countries? Probably Bolivia, Zambia and Myanmar.

Next, it’s clear that the blog’s front door is Facebook. At least that’s my top referring site. Second is Twitter, followed by (somehow) Pinterest.

Lastly, here are my top 5 posts from 2014, by the numbers. From looking at these topics, it seems clear you appreciate it when a take on male privilege in American pop culture!

1. On Really Respecting Someone. My post-Super Bowl brought in the most comments and readers.

2. And the Bummer is that I Really Like Those Western Bacon Cheeseburgers. Evidently, you all love a good boycott!

3. An Unwanted Conversation. Our 9 year old asked Amy, “Mom, when will I be allowed to dress sexy?” and many of you tuned to as I wrestled with the question.

4. On Mileygate. At the 2013 VMAs, Miley Cyrus was the one twerking, but in this post, I threw Robin Thicke under the bus.

5. On Really Seeing Someone. Almost a year ago, a good friend of mine expressed how she feels unseen when a letter arrives addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. <Husband’s Full Name>.’ Thankfully, Jesus really saw the women in his day, and he really sees women in our day.

Happy New Year, and thanks for being among the thousands of people who joined me in Challenging Tertullian in 2013!

Stop What You’re Doing and Read These Pieces!

miflA3iOver the last several weeks, I’ve been inundated by some amazing articles and blogposts on the topics of gender issues and gender equality. So, instead of cooking up my own stuff today, I thought I would curate a selection of material from others. Enjoy these terrific and thought-provoking links!

“The Incomplete Gospel of Biblical Womanhood”

By the Kate Wallace of the Junia Project. The perspective on “Biblical womanhood” that’s outlined in this post makes my blood boil. Here’s a quote from the piece: “That is why I do not buy into the “biblical womanhood” gospel, and why I cannot be a part of that movement – because it preaches a “to do list” instead of freedom; because it is gendered when scripture is not; because it demands uniformity instead of celebrating diversity; because it elevates married life over single life; because it doesn’t apply to everyone.”

“The Objectification of Women–It Goes Much Further Than Sexy Pictures”

From the Crates and Ribbons blog. When we talk about women being tragically objectified, we mostly do so with sexual material in mind. But according to “Crates and Ribbons” it’s so much more foundational than that. “The cumulative effect of all this is that we are socialising generation after generation to view the world, and the women in it, from the point of view of men. As a result, only men are seen as full and complete human beings, not women. Women are objectified — this means we are denied agency, and are seen from the outside, our own consciousness, our thoughts and feelings, utterly overlooked.”

Three Ways Patriarchy is Bad for Men”

How does male privilege damage men? Tim Peck has three reasons. The one that most grabbed me has to do with the tragic impact on our collective mission: “If one’s role in the church is based on gender alone, some men may find themselves in church leadership roles that they lack the competency to fulfill. By effectively disqualifying more than half of the potential leaders in a church by virtue of their gender, the need for leadership will necessarily be larger than the pool of available male leaders.”

“Only 19 Percent Are Women”

A few weeks back, I blogged about the lack of female speakers at Christian leadership conferences (here). Here’s a bit more perspective from Jim Wallis and Lisa Sharon Harper from Sojourners: “So, it is not only a sociological problem, but a theological one — an ecclesial one — when more than half the church is excluded from upfront leadership, prophetic ministry, and public teaching. This denial repudiates the power of the gospel of reconciliation.”

“Woman Pastors–I Just Couldn’t Picture It”

In her post this week, Erna Stubblefield eloquently captures what it feels like to be on the outside looking in in a ecclesiastical world dominated by male privilege: “I realized that though I believed in the Biblical basis for women in leadership I was uncomfortable with it in praxis. I was guilty of the same kind of subconscious male bias that I had experienced through others towards my leadership. I couldn’t picture myself as a pastor because I was woman.”

“A Lament for Women in Leadership”

Sit with this reflection on Psalm 40 and let your heart engage this issue. “My sisters and I have cried when we’ve been told “no”, “be quiet”, “this is not your place”. We need your rescue, God. We desperately need you to bring good news in places where we are pushed down, snuffed out, and negotiated around. Your Kingdom suffers when we are relegated to roles and ministries and places where we are not gifted or passionate. How long?”

“How I Became a Jesus Feminist”

Micah Murray went from being “least likely person to ever become a feminist” to someone who could write this: “I realized that the “Gospel-centered manhood” promoted by so many leaders didn’t always have much to do with the Gospel. I realized that the violent masculinity that I’d admired wasn’t consistent with the Jesus who showed us that God can bleed.”

Last but not least I present you with…Goldiblox. And the Beastie Boys. What’s not to like?!? Here.

Good Words

mhXYyFUThis Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for…words.

As a blogger, perpetual grad student and as a campus minister who communicates best in writing, I love the process of wrangling a jumble of words into something meaningful. So I’m grateful today for words and the beauty that comes when they are well-shaped.

In that spirit, I present this particular collection of words, from former President Jimmy Carter. President Carter has featured on this blog before (here), but today I want to share these words with the hopes that next Thanksgiving we’ll be able to say that gender-based injustices have been lessened, and this vision of gender equality is nearer.

“One of the most powerful truths in my Christian faith is that I and all other people are equal in the eyes of God. Many believers of all religions – Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists – violate this basic premise by claiming that men are exalted at the expense of women.

Several years ago my wife Rosalynn and I decided to sever our ties to the Baptist denomination to which I had given allegiance for seventy years because its leaders decided to depart from this principle and to deprive women of equal rights to serve as ministers, deacons, chaplains, or in other positions of leadership. We continue to worship in our local Baptist church that is served by both a male and female minister, where I teach Bible lessons and Rosalynn is a deacon.

Devout Christians can select specific verses from the Holy Scriptures to justify this claim of masculine superiority, but their premise contradicts the incontrovertible fact that Jesus Christ never condoned the subservience – or inferiority – of women. It is well known that there were many examples of women leaders in the early Christian churches.

This prejudice, unfortunately, is extremely common. Men who wish to abuse women physically, deprive them of equal pay or exclude them from the same opportunities in political or economic affairs tend to justify their actions because of this misinterpretation by men who are in ascendant religious positions.

The abuse of women and girls is the most pervasive and unaddressed human rights violation on earth.”

Happy Birthday CT!

mhgnDJmSometime midday on October 7, 2012, I did one last proofread, took a deep breath, uttered one final fervent supplication to the Almighty…and launched Challenging Tertullian.

And in my first post, I wrote the following:

“With this blog, I want to challenge Tertullian. Or, more to the point, I want to challenge the system of male privilege. I want to think about it, understand it and then discern how Jesus would have me respond to it. And I invite you to join me.”

One year into this adventure, let me share a couple of reflections.

First, I think I’ve done a pretty thorough job expositing male privilege. What I mean is that I’ve offered plenty of examples of male privilege in action in our culture and in American church culture in particular. A quick look at my dashboard reminds me that “Gimme Some Examples…” category is by far my biggest category. Looking around the blogosphere, I don’t see many people (other than Ryan Gosling) who are trying to call this stuff out. So I’m glad to be serving in this way.

Next, I think I’ve been less helpful offering solutions. Faithful readers will remember my three-fold rubric–Admit, Submit and Commit. Basically, I think I’ve given you good material for the “Admit” step, but I’ve been more sparse with the other two. As Challenging Tertullian rounds the corner on year one and heads boldly into year two, I’d like to balance out this ledger a bit.

Finally, you’ve joined me, but I’d love to have you join me more! Blogging faithfully twice a week has been an interesting enterprise, one thats been simultaneously natural and awkward. Natural, because I remain convinced that I am supposed to be thinking, writing and leading in this area. Simply put, to have fidelity to what God has called me to, I have to take the risk to challenge Tertullian, and this blog is one way I can do that.

And yet it’s also been awkward, because when you blog, you send something out into the world and you know not where (or to whom) it goes. It’s very weird. So, I send off a post and hope it hits the mark somewhere and with someone. All of this makes comments so key. Thanks to those of you who have commented here and on facebook. Please keep them coming. In fact, I’d love it if you’d take a second to comment on this post and let me know what you’ve been learning this year on CT.

Thanks everyone! And here’s to another year of challenging Mr. Tertullian!