There are only a few articles of faith worthy of public debate in, what some might characterize as my atavistic worldview; a precious few things that I believe are of consequence to the culture – right, true, and infinitely unimprovable by man. This, however, is one of them: a properly defined family – in this case, two people of opposing genders – fulfilling their God-given roles, a complete and stable foundation for any society, a thing of beauty to be admired, an institution that sweeps away many, if not most, of societal ills.
And, of course, the best context to fully appreciate the state of enlightenment that comes from a properly aligned husband, wife, and children is that vital, life-giving institution, the church.
So, if there is any takeaway from the recent response the Christian Standard has given concerning gender issues, it is that the Restoration Movement establishment is moving further and further away from the authority of scripture as a basis for gender roles – or anything else, and many are frustrated that our national institutions repeatedly demonstrate no interest in doing anything about it. Leroy Lawson (given all his credentials) was commissioned by the Christian Standard to refute these charges, and was so incautious so as to write a rebuttal that underscored rather than subverted that thesis.
And I can only assume that the article which appeared here has been unofficially adopted by the NACC as its showcase defense. In it, Lawson crowd sources his theology, witlessly endorsing the principles of secular humanism as a prescription for Christian unity. It is irresponsible for a biblical scholar like Lawson to dignify these authors as important and thought provoking, or to shower them with adulatory adjectives. And yet he does just that, beginning with:
Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart
Downers Grove: IVP Books/Intervarsity Press, 2013
Lawson remarks “Christena Cleveland is a Christian social psychologist with a passion for unity in the body of Christ…”
Disregarding for the moment the question of class, gender, and racial unity, and the desirability of a complementarian guide to church administration, what can not be overlooked is the way Lawson appeals to the department of social sciences over and above the authority of scripture. Any conviction about Biblical gender roles should come from a more intellectual appraisal of theology rather than from the secular humanistic worldview of social psychology.
And I find it painful to have to make points that are so obvious.
It is a foregone conclusion that the department of social sciences, as a matter of principle, makes value-judgements that either ignore or are made inimical to the Judeau Christian mindset. In fact, most instructors are overtly or covertly hostile to any religion, whether through the “silent treatment,” active opposition, or supercilious disparagement. Those rare teachers who are conspicuously pro-Christian, far too often, harmonize their Christian bias by reading their Bibles through the lens of political agendas – resulting in the church being manipulated by the desires of the state. They are a kind of Christian modernist that believes that the road to Christianity on earth lies through the federal government. Their religion is liberal, their outlook modern, and their sensibilities elitist. To them, our beliefs are lower class – publicly tolerated but privately derided. Christena Cleveland is no exception.
For example, after the recent turmoil in Ferguson, MO, African American Pastor Voddie Bauchman offered these Biblically-based thoughts, published here by The Gospel Coalition:
“Rest assured, I do believe there are systemic issues plaguing black men. These issues are violence, criminality, and immorality, to name a few. And all of these issues are rooted in and connected to the epidemic of fatherlessness. Any truly gospel-centered response to the plight of black men must address these issues first and foremost. It does no good to change the way white police officers respond to black men if we don’t first address the fact that these men’s fathers have not responded to them appropriately.
Thus, if I am going to speak out about anything, it will be black-on-black crime; not blue-on-black. I want to apply the gospel and its implications in a way that addresses the real issue. If a few black men being killed by cops requires a national “dialogue,” what in the world does the overwhelming number of black-on-black murders require? If the police do not see black men through the proper gospel-centered, image-of-God lens, what does the black-on-black murder rate say about the way we see ourselves?”
Here was Ms. Cleveland’s “unifying,” “highly-educated,” and “smart” response, entitled, Pastor Voddie Baucham’s Assualt on Black People.
“As black evangelical leaders, we believe it is important to respond to The Gospel Coalition’s publishing of Pastor Voddie Baucham’s Thoughts on Ferguson, a perspective we deem to be extremely anti-black. First, we condemn The Gospel Coalition’s editorial leadership for its moral and pastoral failure in publishing such an anti-black viewpoint. . . Second, we lament the internalized anti-black racism that Pastor Voddie conveyed in his article and the fact that it has been used to further support White-on-Black violence among Christians.”
There’s a flamboyant, but unsurprising, contrast between Christena Cleveland’s call for toleration, and the toleration she showed to a man who was faithfully offering a Biblical prescription for public consideration. Cleveland not only condemned Baucham – questioning his mental health – but went on to accuse him of engaging in black-on-black violence. So, it is difficult to take Dr. Lawson seriously as an authority on how to successfully resolve church disunity when the judgements and actual methods of his star witness contradict Jesus’ instruction in John 4 to make cultural differences subservient to spiritual truth. Understanding this would require cracking open a bible, but referring to oneself as a
“chauvinist” and preening about gender appropriation is, apparently, far more rewarding.
This also exemplifies, in no uncertain terms, the inherent problem of allowing Social Justice advocates to redirect church attention and resources. Namely, that these janissaries don’t just seek to have an influence on the spiritual lives of others but also on their political convictions. Thousands of Christians are proving to be useful idiots in promoting what is nothing more than thinly veiled social and economic collectivism. A reality made more sad with the realization that our leaders are adopting Social Justice causes, not because they are concerned with social justice, but for the expedient purpose of ingratiating Millennials.
Similar conclusions can be made of Lawson’s second recommendation:
Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women
New York: Howard Books, 2013
Departing from the didactic approach you’d expect to find when to talking about the gender debate, Jesus Feminist is little more than a story. It’s an account about how the author came to harmonize her Christian faith with her feminist sensibilities. She discredits herself, however, by presenting complementarianism in such a way that she manages to reduce women’s ministry to craft parties and fashion shows – a straw-man argument if ever there was one.
Lawson invites us to revisit this subject as though something new can be gleaned, but his recommendation fails to deliver. Rather than embarking on new territory, Bessey rehashes William Webb’s “redemptive movement hermeneutic.” In talking about submission, she employs the implausible egalitarian conclusion that God’s plan for marriage is for men and women to lead together. In many ways, the book is a simple compendium of the various voices of egalitarianism.
Indeed, the most troubling, and most telling aspect of her argument is her heavy reliance on her own story. Don’t get me wrong, story is important. Story moves us. But story isn’t absolute truth. Our experiences don’t make things right and true—even with the best of intentions.
The bottom line? Lawson’s recommended works undermine the reader’s faith in the supremacy and sufficiency of God’s Word.
Lost on the Social Justice Movement is an understanding of the nature of the real problem. God has called His church to conduct a spiritual warfare – our primary weapon being sound doctrine.
No one else sees that. Social Justice warriors along with their corresponding NGO’s (Non Governmental Organizations) think people are the problem. The church is the only entity that understands that people are simply tools for the problem. We wrestle against spiritual wickedness in high places and we are never to become so blind that we think people are the ultimate problem. Because then we will only lash out against people.
Which, by the way, is why 2016 NACC main speaker, Naomi Zacharias, will never solve the issue of human sex-trafficking. Because all she and her NGO partners see are the people of sex-trafficking, they do no understand the spirit of sex-trafficking. And when all you see are the people, you may incarcerate one trafficker, but you have not dealt with the spirit that will affect the next one (which explains the high recidivism rate of sex-workers – returning by their own volition – in spite of the time, attention, and largess used to rescue them). Indeed, before we usher in the New Gospel of Social Justice we might just take a moment to appreciate the advancements traditional missionaries have made in our past.
None of this, by the way, is easy to chronicle. It is intimidating to point out, precisely because LeRoy Lawson is one of the biggest, and most important ministers of our movement in the last several decades. What you think of his recent article is, in some ways, beside the point. Lawson long ago did enough important, kingdom-advancing work to ensure his status as one of the Greats. He was an important part of the RM’s church-planting revolution. He made serious contributions to the phenomenon of growing lightening-fast mega-churches. The ministers and church leaders who came up with and graduated from Lawson’s school of ministry (so many of them) make for a breathtaking lineup. His is a major tree trunk in the genealogy of ICC ministers.
With who knows how many published books and scholarly degrees and everything else going on in LeRoyLand, presumably, Dr. Lawson has plenty to show for it. He is, inarguably, BIG. Maybe the Big Tuna – in an association of big fishes. He is a powerful, influential, and deservedly respected minister and one of the most recognized names in the brotherhood.
So, I was really disappointed, felt . . . betrayed, when he knuckled under to the Social Justice agenda.
When more vulnerable, less well-capitalized, less famous peers were standing up – when some ministers were being marginalized – why would anyone go over to the other side? It seems that of all the ministers in our movement, he was best situated to simply say “No!” to the Forces of Darkness, and tough it through.
Anyway, I’m not as upset as I was. Just really disappointed. Because if not Lawson – then who?
Terry Sweany serves as Senior Minister of Playa Christian Church. He received his Bachelor’s in Christian Ministry from Cincinnati Christian University and a Master’s in Marriage, Family, & Child Counseling from Hope International University. He and his wife, Patty, reside in West Los Angeles.