When Old White Men Talk About Sex

It is my contention that one of the foundational problems with the conservative arm of the Christian church is a seriously problematic relationship with sexuality. This affects everything from the church’s views on contraception and abortion to female leadership and gay marriage. Each of these issues is huge, of course, and deserving of in-depth discussion and consideration. That is not the intention of this post.

What I did want to point out is that the conservatives (mainly the Reformed conservatives) don’t even know what they don’t know about this issue. And I want to ask all of you who are willing to engage with discussions about sexuality (especially female leadership and homosexuality) to ask whether you’re happy being in the same camp as Reformed conservatives.

look at Exhibit A: this photo:

ETS Panel of Gender and the Trinity 2016

This picture was taken last week at The Evangelical Theological Society’s 68th annual meeting in San Antonio, November 15-17, 2016. It was a panel discussion on the topic of “The Trinity and Gender”. Participants were (pictured left to right): Bruce Ware, Matthew Emerson, Malcolm Yarnell, Wayne Grudem, Fred Sanders, Paige Patterson and Evan Lenow.

The whole conference was on the topic of the Trinity (largely in response to the work of Wayne Grudem over the past year or so – download the conference agenda here or here), and this panel was focused on issues of gender in light of these theological debates. The ETS describes itself as a professional, academic society of Biblical scholars, teachers, pastors, students, and others involved in evangelical scholarship, who serve Jesus Christ and his church by fostering conservative, evangelical biblical scholarship. Most of the members are Reformed as far as I can tell.

There were no female presenters at the event, and as far as I could tell, only four women included on any of the many panel discussions. That’s four women amongst close on 200 men. But the photo above is everything that is wrong with Reformed Christians. On a panel discussion about gender issues there are seven old white men in suits and ties. What could they possibly say that would be relevant to the people they’re talking about?

My mind goes to the organising committee as they were putting the panel together. No alarm bells rang. My mind goes to the convener of that panel as he looked at the men taking their seats. No alarm bells rang. I wonder if anyone in the audience had any alarm bells ringing? Did anyone even ask about the panel make up? I doubt it.

These people should not be allowed to speak on behalf of evangelicals. Those of us who hold the Bible as the basis of our faith and life should not allow this Reformed faction to define what it means to be an evangelical. This is a faction who deny women a voice, who distort sexuality in all its forms, who misuse the Bible to shame those who are not like them, who espouse an alpha he-male version of masculinity that positions the testoterone-filled male above all others, and who deal with homosexuals in disgraceful ways.

I want to be known as an evangelical. I believe in the Bible, and I take it seriously. But I will not be lumped in with this version of it. This is shocking. And disturbing.

If you are a conservative Christian who is maybe battling with issues related to sexuality, please ask yourself whether you want to be aligned with the faction of the Christian church who would put together a panel on gender and fill it with old white men talking about sex. That can’t be right, can it?

Gender discussions

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9 thoughts on “When Old White Men Talk About Sex”

  1. Hey, Grame. I live about 100 miles from Wayne Grudem. I left my Calvinist leaning church in 2014 not long after they required every member of the church to vote to prohibit marriage ceremonies in the church between two gay men or two lesbian women. I could not do that. My best buds are gay. I and some other Christians I know no longer call ourselves “evangelical” because the term has been hijacked by the conservative faction. This same faction thinks a ” gay Christian” is an oxymoron. Christianity is not about behavior modification. To me , this same group , including the likes of John Piper and John MacArthur, is mixing Olde Covenant and New Covenant. Over the last year , God has led me to Paul Ellis and Andrew Farley. It’s as though I have been born again again : ) I’m currently reading Andrew Farley’s Naked Gospel and before that Paul’s book The Gospel in Twenty Questions.
    Before I was saved , I trusted in my good works for entrance to Heaven. I was saved the night I realized perfection was God’s standard and that I had broken His laws an uncountable number of times. I saw my need of a Savior and gladly accepted the Jesus portrayed in the Bible as my Savior. But it wasn’t long after being saved and having committed some of those same sins that I began believing that my current sins and behavior now disqualified me from Heaven. So then I began for decades to promise God I’d do better , do more to show my love for Him and to escape the flames of Hell. I could no longer share the Gospel with anyone because I didn’t want them to become as miserable as I had become. The fact escaped me that I wasn’t trusting God but my behavior before being saved which I thought was at least as good or better than most people and then not long after being saved I was trusting in my sins and bad behavior to disqualify me from Heaven. I finally realize it’s never been about ME but about HIM. That IS the Good News. But I was mixing Old Covenant with New Covenant and Brie much of the New Testament through the lens of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant did not begin with Jesus’ birth but with His death. Much of what Jesus said was Old Covenant and meant for that audience. We should not as believers be living by the Old Testament or by much of what Jesus said in the New Testament because that was for Those under the Old Covenant , which was do, do, do not done, done, done which characterizes the New Covenant.
    I submit that people like Grudem and millions upon millions of others are mixing Old and Nes Covenant and preaching a gospel that the Apostle Paul said was false to the Galatians. Jesus Himself said you can’t put new wine in old wine skins , an allusion to mixing the Old and Ned Covenants.
    Jesus was not a coservative but a rebel . He reserved his harshest criticism for those who were religious and obeying the law more than any others. I would highly recommend Paul Ellis from Auckland, New Zealand and Andrew Farley from Lubbock , Texas. God had used them to teach me the fallacies of the old white men you discuss above. I probably qualify as an old white man but my ideas don’t match theirs but probably would have less than 10 years ago
    :-> Unbelievers need to hear the Naked Gospel which has no additives. That Gospel can truly bring joy and set us free from religion and ourselves and point to the One who has done it all and continues to change us day by day as our minds are transformed. Mixing the Old and Bew Covenants has deadly consequences which we are now seeing in this conservative faction.

  2. In Cynthia Westfall’s new book, “Paul and Gender,” she points out that “. . . the traditional male-dominated readings of passages about men and women have been effectively executed and maintained unilaterally. Women have been explicitly excluded from explaining the texts to men or in many cases from even sharing or verbalizing their understanding of the texts, even though [the texts] primarily address women’s culture, concerns, and practices. In other words, women have not been fully included in the interpretation of their own mail” (pg. 4-5).

  3. I appreciate your allegiance to the identity of being evangelical and your desire to safeguard its founding ethos. I’m wondering if it matters if we call ourselves evangelical in the first place? It feels like the evangelicals that want to defend gender prejudice take pride in their version of evangelical identity as defenders of the truth (even though they are irrelevant old white men). Then there are others, like you and me who want to defend a ‘liberal’ brand. Then there are the women and other marginalised whose identity is not in their brand of Christianity but tied up in their struggle ‘woman’, ‘gay’, black’, ‘Arab’. On whose behalf are we speaking on?

  4. Why do we presume to suppose that old white men are less qualified to speak to these subjects than anyone else – as if gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity have ANYTHING to do with the self-revelation of God? The infinite, immutable, transcendent God chose to reveal himself, finally and most fully in His Word. Holy men were moved by the Holy Spirit to pen the God-breathed Scripture that we might have a more sure word of prophesy. Though we cannot grasp the infinitude of God, yet what God has revealed about himself, his world, his will and ways is true and can be known with accuracy, even if our knowledge is not exhaustive. To suggest that one must be a woman to understand God’s revelation regarding women or practice homosexual behavior in order to speak to this community is grossly unbiblical and undermines the authority of the Scripture, the teaching ministry of the Spirit of God and places man (or woman!) over God’s word as the final authority and interpreter.

    You asked, “What could they possibly say that would be relevant to the people they’re talking about?” The question itself belies your previously statement that you take the Bible seriously. Obviously not.

  5. That’s a good point, Brian, and maybe I overstated my point. Thanks for the correction. However, I do think that when people put panel discussions together and feel no need to include the voices of women, young people or different races and cultures, that it indicates something problematic. And although I agree in part with your point, I hope you’ll agree with me that no-one interprets God’s Word perfectly. This is why we are required to interpret the Scriptures in community. If that community is not represented when we do our interpretation, we’ll end up with a skewed view of a perfect source. That’s not the Bible’s fault – it’s ours. A more diverse panel would have made a big difference.

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