WATCH: Are Sexual Ethics Part of Orthodoxy?


With debates over sexuality roiling many denominations, many are calling for Christians to stop fighting and unite around the creeds. But can we so easily separate ethical and doctrinal orthodoxy when it comes to sexual issues? Brad Belschner and Alastair Roberts discuss.

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

00:01 – Why do we call God Father? Does it matter that we use this gendered term? Is it really that bad to call him “Mother”? Is this important?

00:30 – This Discussion’s topic is orthodoxy, particularly sexual ethics in orthodoxy. How does the creed help us to think about sexual ethics and things like homosexuality, fr example.

00:50 – It helps us to think about this issue in a positive way. We must first relate these issues to positive truths that we are living out. For example 1 Cor. 6: the body is the temple of the Lord. Our bodies are the limbs and organs of Christ. So we need to think of ethics first in this way, and not by the negative statements that we tend to think in terms of: don’t do this and that.

1:45 – So first relate ethics to things that we are living for. Truths about our bodies. Often we think of our bodies as repressed by Christian truth.

2:10 And how do statements like “father” and “Son” help us to think about God? Is this important?

2:30 – It is important, but also we must be careful of reading gender back into God. We do notice that when people push against Christian sexual ethics, we hear the creed droning. They write books and say that using the terms “father” and “son” are patriarchal and that we should move beyond these terms.

3:14 – When we put our cultural sexual ethics in the driver’s seat it tends to go upstream, and affect how we confess our belief in God.

3:40 – It seems that sexual ethics is distant from the creed. Is it what it’s talking about?

3:55 – 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 show us powerfully the proximity between the creed and sexual ethics. Paul alludes to key statements in the creed and relates them to the need to be first disciplined against sexual immorality, and secondly, to the need of a robust ethics of sexuality.

4:25- First, the oneness and holiness of the church. A little leaven leavens the whole lump: the church must be holy and purge out the old “leaven of wickedness.” Likewise, in Christ’s second coming “such will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This is truth that frames Paul’s teaching on sexual ethics. The fact that our bodies have been claimed by Christ’s death, one baptism for the remission of sins. Further, the resurrection of the dead: our bodies are for the Lord.

5:19 – Paul hangs his sexual ethics on these statements, not just left there all by itself, but hanging by the creed. And if you pull threads on theses statements, the creed also begins to unravel. And if you separate them from each other, the creed simply floats away because these statements weighs it down to reality.

5:42 – So then, it’s not that sexual ethics are spoken of in the creed, but that they are a requirement for thinking of the creed properly. And ultimately, the creed is based on Scripture, and if you deny Scripture, you will deny the creed.

6:08 – How do we think of situations where people assert the creed and also claim to assert homosexual marriage?

6:30 – First we make a distinction between the judgements we make on people and those we make on teachings. In this situation we see tensions emerging with the creed. In our age we have seen how closely relater are sexual practice and doctrine. It is because our bodies matter, which is declared in the creed.

7:40 – The creed is the story of Christ’s body, in large part. Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, baptized in the Jordan, crucified by Pontius Pilate, died, buried, rose on the third day. I this way it is the story of Christ’s body and this has implications for our bodies. So sexual ethics is where the rubber meets the road on this.

8:10 – This is why Paul in Corinthians relates Christology to sexual ethics, because they are intertwined.

WATCH: Is Ethics Part of Orthodoxy?


In this episode of Davenant Discussions, Brad Belschner and Alastair Roberts consider basic Christian ethics in relation to orthodoxy. Should these basics be considered a part of orthodoxy? How much can creeds simply assume? How much should they assume that a believer knows about Scripture? Watch the Discussion below!

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

00:01 – It seems we should have a category for talking of people who deny basic ethics in the church. Are they orthodox? Is ethics part of orthodoxy?

00:30 – Moral orthodoxy. Is ethics a part of it?

00:42 – In our creeds we have clear outlines for things like Trinitarianism, Christology, etc., but nothing about basic morality. Are people who do not believe this orthodox?

01:30 – To begin with, the creed gives the grammar to the method. A shape within Christian ethics is articulated. For example: it gives us a clear image of who God is. Many of our ethics fail to take this into account, but true ethics is based around worship and an apprehension of who God is.

02:15 – True ethics gives us a world within which we act. It gives us a sense of who we are, who God is, a sense of where we exist within that in time, and what our actions mean within that context.

02:30 – It teaches the forgiveness of sins, which pushes back against moralism, which can be a problem in ethics. It tells us about the work of Christ in salvation. And about how our bodies have been claimed for him. It talks about the second coming and judgement.

03:06 – I see how the basics about understanding God can help us to obey him, but nevertheless we have important ethical questions that have been dealt with in a consistent way throughout the church, questions of basic ethics liberals today are asking once more. Can we add these today to orthodoxy as “moral” orthodoxy?

03:47 – The term “resurrection from the dead” does not define itself. It presumes a certain definition that we find in Scripture. Same situation with “sins” and “holy” in relationship to the church, which are terms that refer back to Scripture, and these give us the grammar of the Christian faith. It doesn’t necessarily fill in all the content, it simply expects you to know these things.

04:13 – Orthodoxy is related to ethics in another respects.  Sexual ethics was a part of the concern of the Jerusalem council.

04:27 – Are you saying we have a foundation that the creed is built upon, that the creeds assume?

04:50 – Absolutely. The creed demands certain ethical standards to be maintained within the church. If we’re talking about sin being tolerated within the church – that’s a challenge to the truth that we confess in the creed. The creed pushes us to acting against sin. Otherwise “sin” is a term that’s up for grabs.

05:34 – So ethics is part of orthodoxy, but not as a set of propositional claims, but rather along the lines of holiness? Honoring these beliefs means we have to be holy.

06:06 – Yes. And the creed was never meant to function by itself. We do not confess baptism for the forgiveness of sins and then list the sins which baptism covers. So the creed is not a summary of Scripture that allows you to throw out the rest; rather it’s more lie the 10 commandments as a summary statement giving us a sense of the wider body, giving you understanding as to how the law works. In the same way the creed allows us to understand how God’s truth works.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

WATCH: Is Biblicism Bad?


With all the Reformation celebrations, many critics of Protestantism pick on the Protestant commitment to sola Scriptura as the source of all kinds of chaos. But does sola Scriptura need to entail biblicism? And why might Protestants want to beware biblicism? Brad Belschner and Alastair Roberts discuss. Watch the discussion below!

HIGHLIGHTS:

00:20 – Biblical and Systematic theology. Is Biblicism bad?

00:33 – Biblicism is being used in reference to a specific distinctive of evangelicals. For many people it had been seen as a positive. Taking scripture as reliable and truthful.

01:18 – The question is what place does the Bible take in the larger framework of God’s revelation. Is it all we have?

01:28 – And how do you define “Biblicism”?

01:31 – Elevation of the Bible to such a high level that it precludes other things that we need to take into account.

01:40 – Example – The Bible doesn’t talk about something such as necrophilia, but none of us really need it to because God has given us revelation in nature.

02:11- To treat the Bible as the Bible ALONE leaves us without attention to these issues.

02:21 – Biblicism forces us to use verses or to force verses to argue things that we don’t really need the Bible to argue for.

02:34 – Take the Necrophilia example: people might get some verses and force them towards the end of arguing against it, because they feel like they need a verse in order to be able to speak.

02:48 – We don’t need a verse for many of these things, but when God gives us a verse, he gives it for a good reason, for things that we need to learn. The question is “What is the Bible here to teach us about?” and what does it assume we already know? There are plenty things that it assumes. Common sense, for example.

03:25 – There is no prudence when you are simply following verses like recipes.

03:49 – This elevation of Scripture eliminates common ground that we should be able to have with unbelievers. We should be able to appeal to “the way things are;” natural law.

04:45 – We can know many things by just reflecting upon nature.

05:00 – We can appeal to nature. There are things that are obvious.

05:20 – When we factor in the sufficiency of Scripture, we see that Scripture is not something in isolation from nature.

06:00 – Scripture reveals things that we would not have known otherwise.

06:25 – So yes to sufficiency of Scripture, yes to sola Scripture, but God gives us a lot more to live our lives by than just Scripture.

 

 

 

WATCH: Getting Beyond Headship Battles: Male and Female in Scripture


In this episode, Brad Belschner and Alastair Roberts discuss headship and submission in order to clear misconceptions concerning gender relations that are common even within Christian circles. While it may seem that Genesis presents man as the center of creation and woman as simply his sidekick or personal assistant, Alastair points out that man’s authority is primarily directed outward into creation (not over woman) and that he is created as God’s servant. The woman is his helper in this mission, of being God’s servant. Alastair again warns against “performative gender” and says man is the head in a marriage, not that he should be the head. The man must recognize his position and exercise his position, though he will either do it well or poorly.

 

 

NOTES:

00:01 – Intro

00:33 – Getting pas headship battles

00:46 – What does scripture tell us about things such as headship and submission?

01:01 – A mistaken view of Genesis: Man is center of the universe, and woman is a sidekick.

01:32 – Rather God creates man as his servant and woman as his helper. A helper in that task, of being God’s servants.

02:01 – This helps us on issues such as submission. Man’s authority is directed out into the world, not primarily over woman. So submission of a woman toward her husband is submission in that direction.

02:35 – This helps us in thinking about headship: Christ’s headship of the church is not just telling the church what to do. He is the pre-eminent of the church, in whom the church finds it’s authority in the world and who empowers the church as his people.

03:06 – This is an analogue of our own marriages.

03:15 – We are told that man is the head, not should be the head. Remember previous discussions on performative gender. The man doesn’t have to earn this position, though he must exercise his position well or badly.

04:20 – Many theories about gender relations among Christians have placed the weight of their understanding on those situations where there are differences, and headship there only become operative when there is disagreement, but that’s where it breaks down. This is not when headship and authority are truly working.

04:43 – King analogy. You don’t define a king as simply “that guy whom you’re not supposed to rebel against,” and it

WATCH: What is Masculinity?


In this video, Dr. Alastair Roberts reflects with Brad Belschner on how misguided many modern Christian approaches to masculinity are, urging us to put on or perform manliness in a way that encourages stereotypes. Rather, we discover what it means to be manly (or womanly) in the course of fulfilling the duties God has called us to. Watch it below:

Highlights:

00:28 – What is Masculinity?

00:50 – Commonly Attributed to Manliness.

01:15 – God creates us as either male or female. He doesn’t simply call us to be those things well.

01:40 – Because of insecurities we seek to be men by portraying manliness and pursuing it directly.

02:10 – When we pursue merely the appearance of men, we will push against a mere stereotype.

02:30 – But don’t we need to perform manliness at least in avoiding things like effeminacy?

02:43 – There is certainly a duty to be men well, but it’s not grounded in something that we whip up for ourselves, but in the fact that we simply are men.

03:00 – Helpful tip: think of the godly examples in our communities, men who are fathers, brothers, sons &c. in ways that are glorifying to God and in ways that fulfill their calling as men.

03:42 – You say gender is an inherent part of our being, but how is this different from when a Liberal says he is a wimp and obsessed with interior design, but that he’s a man.

04:12 – Such people often manifest disregard for being men more generally, and that is where the concern lies. Not in an interest in something like interior design.

04:30 – We need to be concerned to be the men God has created it to be. Doesn’t mean living up to stereotypes and it allows more latitude than we often think.

04:40 – For example, the great heroes of the Bible. David had a deep emotional life, he made music, he was passionate, engaged in the world in a way we may not consider as stereotypically masculine. But he is clearly a man, responsible in his duties, yet has intimate firendships, is artistic, etc.

05:16 – These are things that we often put off-limits because we are more concerned with the appearance of manliness rather than the substance.

05:26 – Though isn’t it more helpful to have a more concrete list of attributes, like assertiveness, confidence, be a good leader &c.? How do I use what you’re saying to “be a man”?

05:48 – Instead of the list that creates a stereotype, we need a more concrete list. E.g. for the duties of a father, of a son, of a good worker. THESE are the contexts where you will find manliness. It is in your relationship as a father, as a son, in how you relate to your wife and your children.

06:24 – So this list is more concrete than stereotypes. More helpful for each man, because it has to do with real roles and duties that a man has.

WATCH: The Challenges of Gender in the 21st Century


Progressives today are determined to reconstruct the concept of gender wholly on individual preferences. Conservatives, meanwhile, struggle mightily for models by which to meaningfully live out gender roles that were second nature to most of their ancestors. How have changes in technology and society conspired to make something as basic as gender such an enigma to us today? Brad Belschner and Alastair Roberts discuss in this first of a new set of Davenant Discussions videos. Watch the video below:

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VIDEO: Pillars in Practice IV: Should Christians Avoid Public Schools?


The issue of Christian education is one of the most important questions most Christian families face, and also one fraught with controversy, that has often divided churches. In this video, Brad Belschner and Brad Littlejohn explore how we can navigate the principled and prudential questions surrounding this issue, and in so doing, illustrate how one might apply Davenant’s focus on “essentials” vs. “non-essentials.”

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 Discussion Points

00:26: Should Christians Avoid Public Schools?

00:45: Should the Government be in the business of educating?

1:00: Increasing Centralization of our Education System

1:55: The Reformers’ view

2:32: Aren’t parents responsible for education?

3:45: Should we have only Christian teachers?

4:47: The biggest problem – the environment of immorality.

5:30: Even some Christian schools are no better.

6:45: Why isn’t it it a black and white question?

8:25: Avoid making pronouncements on Christians that are divisive.

8:50: Essentials and Prudentials.

VIDEO: Pillars in Practice III: What is Natural Law?


In recent years, many Christians have turned to the notion of “natural law” as a way of engaging a hostile culture or secular political sphere. But how does natural law work? How does it fit with total depravity? Is it supported by Scripture? And is it really useful? Brad Littlejohn addresses questions such as these in this video.

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 Discussion Points

00:40: What is natural law, and how does it function in everyday human ethics?

1:40: Natural law is the awareness that, as a certain kind of creature, there are certain things that are good for us, and certain things that are bad for us.

2:35: What about total depravity? How has sin snuffed out our moral instincts?

3:15: There is no part of our nature that has not been touched by sin, and when it comes to our relation to God, sin has entirely incapacitated us.

4:05: The doctrine of natural law recognizes that sin has not snuffed out all awareness of our moral good.

4:55: What does the Bible say about natural law?

5:35: The Book of Proverbs takes for granted that we can discern something about moral order from the world.

6:05: How do we use natural law in Christian engagement with a hostile culture?

6:55: C.S. Lewis’s notion of the Tao; different moral values all find their basis in a common foundation.

VIDEO: Pillars in Practice I: Why Should Christians Study Pagan Philosophy?


Many Christians question the value of pagan philosophy as a useful tool for Christian theology; at best, they think, it can serve as a foil to show the dead ends that a false worldview leads to. But most of the Christian theological tradition leaned heavily on the insights of Plato and Aristotle. In this video, we discuss why they did, and why we should continue to today.

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 Discussion Points

00:45: Isn’t the Gospel foolishness to the Greeks? So what can we gain from studying them?

1:15: The danger of knowledge that puffs up, the value of philosophy that reminds us of our ignorance.

2:15: Biblical wisdom literature as an example of philosophy.

2:45: So why Plato and Aristotle in particular?

4:15: It’s not a question of whether you’re going to have a philosophical framework, but which;

5:25: Theologians who drew on Greek philosophy did so critically and thoughtfully, rather than adopting it wholesale.