I can still hear Third Day’s soaring rendition of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in God the Father/Almighty Maker of heaven and Maker of earth.” Mac Powell’s tempered baritone sent this millennia-old confession, the very first line of the creed, up to the rafters and beyond, rendering that elegant historic statement an anthem of praise.
Christians have sung and exulted in this creed for centuries. Martyrs have recited it as they walked to their deaths; humble believers across the globe have cherished these biblical truths in their workaday lives; countless churches have incorporated the creed into weekly worship, connecting their local assembly to thousands of others.
But all this must now give way in America. A great movement to transform the West is afoot, one that is sweeping away distinctions between the sexes and authoritatively dynamiting any vestige of authority and hierarchy (these being tools of oppression, we are told to believe). This does not only relate to quotidian matters, the public restrooms we use, for example. Even that which is sacred is not sacred. God himself must be altered and edited to fit our cultural revolution. Instead of confessing belief in “God the Father Almighty,” Minnesota Methodists will now apparently speak of their faith in a degendered “God the Creator Almighty.” According to the Christian Post, they have also edited language spelling out the Father-Son relationship: no longer will they speak of “Jesus Christ His Only Son,” but rather the gender-neutral “Jesus Christ God’s Only Son.”
Please note: to edit the identity of God the Father is to deny who he is. To deny who God is means that you blaspheme God. You do not submit to his revelation; you do not honor his Word. How tragic this is. We see in instances like this that there is a terrible momentum in our time. Paganism is on the march. This is in truth not a new struggle; in his 1898 Stone Lectures at Princeton University, Abraham Kuyper said as much: “Do not forget that the fundamental contrast has always been, is still, and will be until the end: Christianity and Paganism, the idols or the living God.” God originally makes a world brimming with beauty and diversity, with the eternal Godhead grounding all things ontologically, metaphysically, and epistemologically. The serpent and his anti-wisdom seek to tear this order apart, make everything the same, and deny the vibrant glory of the God-made world. This is the conflict of the ages: God versus Satan, beauty versus drudgery, pagan androgyny versus biblical manhood and womanhood.
Our secular culture is putting tremendous pressure on us to rework all our thinking. This includes every facet of our theology, up to and including our theology proper—our doctrine of God himself. Again, please understand: nothing, truly nothing, is sacred today. This is a major part of what the serpent seeks to do. He wants to take what God has enchanted—mankind as his image—and deface it, denude it, erase the artistry of divine design. Satan wants a genderless, androgynous, featureless, diversity-less world. Satan hates the man, and he hates the woman. He always has, and he always will. Satan hates the Father. He hates the Father’s plan of salvation (Ephesians 1:15-20). He hates the Father’s headship (1 Corinthians 11:3). He hates those who in a particular way get to image the Father’s glory, earthly fathers, and especially Christian fathers, who worship the Father consciously.
This is an important word as we celebrate Fathers’ Day. It matters not, really, whether you buy a Hallmark card on a specific day (though I recommend this!). The key question is this: do you love the biblical vision of fatherhood? Do you love the vision of manhood behind biblical fatherhood? Do you see men and women as uniquely imaging the glory of God through fidelity to God in their God-given roles?
The first revelational truth we learn about humanity is that man and woman image God, being made in his likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). The man and the woman thus possess absolute equality and infinite dignity. But you cannot in any way stop here, for the Bible does not. The second truth we learn is that the man and the woman, though of the same kind, are not given the same roles. The man is made first; he names his wife; he has the leadership role in the home, being called to leave his family and take a wife and “hold fast” to her. The woman is the man’s helper, his ezer, and as such follows and honors and joyfully receives his leadership (Genesis 2).
The New Testament only heightens and expands this glorious teaching. The marriage relationship is a picture of the Christ-church relationship (Ephesians 5:22-33). The call of men to teach and exercise authority in the local church is predicated upon divine order in the home (1 Timothy 2:9-15). Women in the church do not occupy the teaching and shepherding and authority-exercising office; they serve and bless the church in many ways, and are shown tremendous grace by the Lord of the church in his ministry. They are called to disciple one another, a discipleship which zeroes in on childraising and homemaking (Titus 2). In the church as in the home, they are called to submit to and support their godly leaders.
These fundamental truths lay out the different callings of men and women in the God-ordered world. Christians do not raise their boys and girls as the world does, as if there are no meaningful distinctions between the sexes. Christian women model for their daughters a “gentle and quiet” spirit (1 Peter 3:4). Christian men train their sons in the very mold of Christ himself—they raise their boys to protect, lead, and provide for women (Ephesians 5; 1 Timothy 5). All this represents an absolute inversion of worldly wisdom and pagan teaching. The pagans, we know, encouraged women to sexualize themselves, robbed women of their rights, and trained men to prize effeminacy, homosexual decadence, and chauvinism. Christ and his church taught a worldview in which God ordered the world, God gave men and women valuable callings, God called the sexes out of sexual wickedness, and God made people of every group and tribe one new man in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 2:11-19).
The gospel did not demolish all differences or even all authority structures. It fundamentally transformed them. A man was called to be the head of his wife, for example, but not in a pagan way. He was a uniquely Christlike head, called to lay down his life for his wife just as Christ sacrificed himself to purchase his bride, the church (Ephesians 5:25-26). The gospel thus supercharges creational distinctiveness with the awesome power of divine grace. Once, in Adam, men abused and preyed upon women; once, in Adam, women fought and disdained men. Now, in Christ, men honor women in their role, and women honor men in their role, in the home and the church and wherever possible in society. This is complementarity.
In this biblical vision, this worldview of ordered love, fathers fill an essential role. This is not the case, increasingly, in America and the West, however. Divorce has ravaged the American home. Young men, far more volatile in general terms than young women (they on average have 1000% more testosterone than girls), rage in response. They are 97% of public shooters. They commit 9 out of 10 of the most violent crimes. All too often, they prey upon women, do not marry the mothers of their children, do not hold stable jobs, and end up a destructive force. Other men—thankfully most—do not embrace a life of crime. Raised either without a father or with an indifferent one, they remain in a state of perpetual boyhood. They have no idea what it means to be a man, a father, a provider, a protector, a Christlike head. This is true even among evangelicals, in evangelical homes. Some pastors, sadly, shy away from biblical exposition of texts on the sexes. As a result, many professing Christians have little idea of the numerous teachings that unfold biblical faithfulness for men and women. Single men and women languish; they have no idea how to interact. Even outside of marriage, single men should model biblical manhood, and single women should take joy in biblical womanhood. But some churches do not even touch on these matters, and so in some congregations, single Christian men and women are as confused as non-Christian singles.
In an increasingly pagan, secular, order-denying, doxology-compromising context, what on earth should the church do? The church should celebrate the God-made order. The church should glory in biblical manhood and biblical womanhood. The church should connect the gospel to the unique calling of men and women. The church should honor and train up fathers and mothers, providers and homemakers. The church should encourage boys and girls to dress in different ways and love the distinct form and frame God has given them. The church should preach the grace of repentance for all sinners, and teach that once we are converted, we are a new creation, and have decisively broken with our sinful identity and practice. The church should guide single men and women through the chaos of our divorce-ravaged, maturity-delaying, sex-focused culture (as this book does).
The church, in sum, should not shy away from these things. The church should teach, and teach, and teach some more, all with joy, all with a sense of exulting in God and his good design. The church should recommit itself—the elders leading here—in helping the people of God, fighting many battles and facing many trials, to fight for holiness. We are not victims, as our culture tells us; in the Spirit, we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).
All this leads us to one last matter. God the Father loves fathers. He delights in fathers who love their children, for he is good to his chosen (Ezekiel 16). He rejoices when a man leaves father and mother, rejecting a sinful and pagan sexual ethic, and takes one wife. He is richly glorified when a man—usually an anonymous man—searches out the Scripture and devotes himself to the biblical priorities of a husband and father. Whether anyone else sees it or not, the Father loves it when earthly fathers image his goodness and grace, and provide for their family, and lead their family spiritually, and protect their wife and children. Fathers’ Day reminds us just a little of the Father’s delight in covenant leaders of the home.
The culture is not trending this way. The culture is driven by an energy that seeks to destroy what God has ordered. Even religious groups are following this anti-wisdom. They are playing down God the Father, the first person of the Trinity. They are even revising the very doctrine of God himself. A terrible momentum swirls all around us, urging us to deny the very identity of the Father, to embrace androgyny in thought and practice, to detest authority and hierarchy, to see roles given to the sexes as chains placed on us by an unkind deity.
The church must spot the lie. The church must preach and teach the truth. The church must celebrate God-made order. We do not all have Mac Powell’s voice, alas. (I certainly do not.) But we can all confess and love what the church has said for millennia, defying a fallen world and a pagan culture in so doing:
I believe in God the Father
Almighty Maker of heaven and earth.
We, the true church, will never give up biblical complementarity. We shall never give up this confession. We shall recite it, and sing it, and love it until the Father brings us into our eternal rest.
For more on these doctrines, see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by Bruce Ware; the excellent new work That God May Be All in All by Ryan Rippee; The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them by Gavin Peacock and me; the practically rich Raising Men, Not Boys by Mike Fabarez; and my forthcoming book Reenchanting Humanity: Biblical Anthropology for the 21st Century (B&H Academic, 2019), just sent in draft form to my editor.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at the website for the Center of Public Theology.