Dear Brothers and Sisters in my Forever Family,
This week in our “Family Matters” series, we’re talking about gender (gulp), which we know is a controversial and painful subject in today’s culture. When one of my kids asked me what this Sunday’s message was about, and I said, “gender,” she winced visibly. I knew what she meant.
Yes, it’s an awkward issue to discuss, because we’re either protecting the feelings of others, or we’re protecting ourselves from being pigeonholed as bigoted, intolerant and hateful if we say something that’s out of line with the prevailing orthodoxy about what, if anything, it means to be male or female. But speak we must, but only with Daniel-like wisdom and tact (Dan. 2:14).
And let me say this: Valley Leaders are “Contentedly Restricted Communicators,” meaning that everything we teach must conform (to the best of our abilities) to the Bible. What a wonderful freedom, because the Bible is matchless!
Again, we’re not at liberty (nor would we want to be) to anchor our messages in psychology or psychiatry textbooks, medical journals, in philosophical works or the California Healthy Youth Act. We’re not opposed to these resources – we might learn from some of them — but they’re not our authority.
Rather, our authority is the Bible, The Essential Sixty-Six. And this commitment is written right into our doctrinal statement, which states:
“We believe in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as being inspired by God and completely inerrant in the original writings and of supreme and final authority in faith and life.”
Now, to admit that we’re bound to a source for all that we assert about life and faith, is to admit that we…are…biased. We have an outlook. We see the world through a particular lens.
However, by no means are we alone. Every single person who makes pronouncements about sex and gender (whether formal or informal) is equally biased, because everyone has an outlook (call it a “worldview”) based on some source or sources.
No one is “objective” or free of bias. Everyone (both secular and religious) has an outlook, informed by sources of authority. Those sources could be their parents, the Quran, Disney Corporation, William Reich, the founder of the Sexual Revolution, or more recently Judith Butler at Cal who is a prominent gender theorist. Everyone has sources which determine how he or she makes determinations about right and wrong.
I got an email today from my daughter’s elementary school with a message from the Mental Health Expert. I’m interested in WHAT this person has to say (I’m all for mental health), but I’m more interested in learning WHERE this person got, what he or she has to say. Again, I’m interested in the sources that this expert is using to make authoritative statements about emotional well-being. That would help me understand the nature of his or her advice about mental health.
What’s more, every worldview needs to be tested and sifted for truth, to evaluate whether it’s consistent, empirically verifiable (to the extent that that can be determined), and practically lived.
So, as an ever-striving-to-conform-to-the-Bible church, our rallying cry is “Ad fontes,” which is a Latin phrase popular during the Reformation, meaning “[back] to the sources,” that is, the Bible, The Essential Sixty-Six. And not The Sixty-Five, because we dislike a particular book. (One famous Reformer wasn’t too keen on the Book of James.) Nor The Sixty-Seven, because we’d like to add our favorite author [Rom. 15:4; Rev. 22:18]). Yes, everything that we present (if it’s legitimate) must flow from our close reading of the Scriptures in their entirety.
Now, our assertions from this book about life and faith aren’t equal with the Book itself, and so our statements can always shift or be nuanced, based on a more accurate understanding of what The Essential Sixty-Six have to say. So, that’s why we study the words, the syntax, and the historical/cultural worlds of the human authors, who were inspired by God. As every pastor, Bible study leader and Sunday school teacher knows, this is a hard and humbling task.
People can find other churches that appeal to other ultimate sources and authorities, but for Valley Church, it’s the Bible. This will never change. So, if any leader at Valley church teaches something that doesn’t accord – or is an inaccurate synthesis – of all that the Bible says about a particular subject, kindly tell the person. You’re doing him or her a big favor.
“…test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thes. 5:21).
OK, now for some fun! Here are some shots that I took recently of our family playing KanJam in the backyard. Basically, you try to throw the Frisbee into the black can. Your teammate can deflect it in as well. Here are Anna and Caroline.
In this next picture, we’ve interrupted play so Ethan can do a quick rules check. Notice he still has that cast on his left arm. The doctor said the bone hasn’t healed completely. (Please say a quick prayer for him and especially for all our brothers and sisters with more serious ailments and illnesses.)
Finally, here’s Rachael striking an “I’m-a-Can-Do-KanJammer” action pose.
I’m looking forward to worshiping with you in spirit on Sunday morning. Can I please encourage you to make pancakes or something special and talk about the message after the service? Discussing what you’ve heard (“test everything”) is an excellent way to keep the wheat and “KanJam” the chaff. Please pray for me that there won’t be too much latter!
Your brother in Christ,
Let me remind you about some PRAYER GATHERINGS that you might want to join as we continue to raise a humble cry to the LORD.
Sunday Night Prayer Gathering at 6:00 PM on Zoom: Meeting ID: 365 557 968; Password: 070752
Wednesday Morning Prayer Gathering at 9:00 AM on Zoom: Meeting ID: 873 490 563; Password: 031164
Joel Moment Prayer Gathering at 3:00 PM on Zoom: Meeting ID: 315 346 841; Password: lament