God, gender, and transsexuality

I appreciate the Westminster Faith Debates, and I think well of them. They were generous to me when I spoke at one. Linda Woodhead, who organises them, is someone I have known, if not closely, for years, someone who I respect enormously academically, and someone who I enjoy interacting with personally when our paths cross. I believe in the programme of making discussion of faith and public life far more intelligent and far more central than it currently is. There is a lot of good here. The most recent debate generated a lot of notice, but I am sure that this was not the primary intention. I have no doubt that Linda and her team welcomed the extensive media engagement that followed; I imagine a text message or four has been exchanged mentioning the word ‘impact’;...

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Lucy Peppiatt on 1 Cor. 11 and 14

Lucy Peppiatt’s Women and Worship at Corinth (Eugene: Cascade, 2015) is a very good book. I don’t say this because I agree with the conclusions, although I do; I don’t even say it because Lucy is a good friend and a former student of mine, although she is; I say it because her book is comprehensively researched and carefully argued, and that combination is what makes a book ‘good’ in the academic world I inhabit. Lucy treats three difficult texts in 1 Corinthians: 11:2-16; 14:20-25; and 14:34-36. She proposes that they may be best read by assuming that in each case Paul is in part quoting his opponents’ views back at them. For this argument, she draws gratefully on Douglas Campbell’s major recent work on Romans, and his extensive investigations into the nature of...

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John Chrysostom on 1 Cor. 11:3

One of the things that struck me in reading the Ware and Starke book was how much this sort of defence of complementarianism depends on 1 Cor. 11:3 – ‘But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God’ (NIV). Simply put, even if we could demonstrate an eternal functional subordination in the triune life, we would have no warrant to draw an analogy to gender relations apart from this single verse. But the verse cannot bear that weight: however we read it, ‘head’ is being used in (at least) two senses. Particularly if we are talking about things like authority, the Father-Son relation is just not the same as the Christ-human relation. That surely does not...

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Reflections on a new defence of ‘complementarianism’

I recently picked up a new book arguing in more detail than I have seen before the thesis that the doctrine of the Trinity, specifically the Father-Son relationship, gives warrant for what tends to get called a ‘complementarian’ understanding of gender relations – the idea that there is something inherent in human nature and intended by God in male authority and female submission. The book is: Bruce A. Ware and John B. Starke (eds), One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015). I did not expect to agree with the various authors: not only have I taken a fairly straightforward stand against ‘complementarianism’, I have argued even more forcefully that analogies from the triune relations to...

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The name ‘Easter’ and internet misinformation

Suggestions that the word ‘Easter’ represents some syncretic paganisation of Christianity are not new, but seem to be becoming more common, at least on the various social media feeds that I receive. They are unconvincing. One line seeks to link the word ‘Easter’ with the Babylonian fertility goddess Ishtar. There is a meme circulating that this was some sort of papist plot, replacing the proper link of Easter to the Jewish Passover, and instead linking it to some pagan fertility cult. This is just prejudice. Really straightforwardly, the word ‘Easter’ is English, not Latin; the Church Latin word for the festival is ‘pascha’, which is obviously and directly linked to the Passover. In traditionally Roman Catholic...

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On Nationalisms, Christian, Scottish, and British

Can ‘nationalism’ ever be Christian? Brian Stanley has recently answered that question negatively in a blog for the Edinburgh Centre for World Christianity. He defines nationalism as ‘the elevation of one’s own nation over all others’, which I suspect many who call themselves nationalists would not recognise as an account of their position. He rightly highlights, however, that the two presently-plausible outcomes of the present Westminster election both involve a nationalist party holding some measure of the balance of power: If the polls are even close to correct, and if they do not shift significantly in the next thirteen days, then it seems that a Labour minority government, relying on the support of a large SNP block, and perhaps also...

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At Lazarus’s Tomb: An Easter poem

He wept, the man who I had learned to trust, And spoke: ‘he who believes will never die.’ My brother, who for four dead days did lie, Rose, stripped, and lived again. This we discussed Endlessly – how could we not? The years went by He married, prospered, then, as all men must Grew old. He stooped and sickened. Returned to dust. And now once more we watch his tomb and cry. ‘The resurrection and the life’ he said, But I await the last of days again. ‘Though die, will live’ – strange words he spoke, and hard; What has he changed, who on the cross once bled? He rose. And rose. Made gates of death, through pain, A door held open by the hands still scarred.

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