(by Tim) Sadly, reformed pastors identify less with those who live in rural communities and make their living as sheep farmers (what used to be called "shepherds") than with those who live in books and make their living as academics. So this story from today's New York Times is particularly instructive.
There's a big stink over a psychology prof at Northwestern University named J. Michael Bailey who's gored the ox of transexuals around the country. But before we get to Prof. Bailey and the transexuals, a few comments about the lesson Christians should learn from this battle.
For decades, freedom of religion and freedom of speech have been under a sustained attack and the content of the books we read, the sermons we listen to, and the Bibles we carry to church Sunday morning all bear witness to the attrition of these freedoms.
Speaking only of our Bibles, did you know that millions of Bibles used by evangelicals have had words deleted in order to avoid expressing incorrect opinions deemed to have the potential of being hurtful to women and Jews? Evangelical Bible scholars, linguists, translators, graphic designers, publishers, bookstore owners, and pastors all joined together to produce and sell Bibles that would not be vulnerable to charges of sexism or antisemitism. Many hundreds of times, the original Hebrew and Greek words were changed or deleted so the Bible would be less offensive to moderns...
To take just two examples, the Hebrew word 'adam' used by the Holy Spirit throughout the Old Testament to refer to both the male and female of the race was deleted and words less explicitly connected to the male of the species were substituted for it. God named the race, men and women together, 'Adam,' but finding God's usage offensive, card-carrying evangelicals who subscribe to the plenary verbal inspiration of Scripture gagged God and replaced 'adam' with words they claimed were more culturally sensitive, more evangelistic, less open to misunderstanding than the word the Holy Spirit chose. And this same tactic was employed many hundreds of times across the text of Scripture. Every vestige of that "ancient patriarchal culture" that corrupted and misled Scripture's authors had to go so that Scripture would be able to communicate in our own utopian egalitarian age without being misunderstood.
Similarly, the Greek word 'Ioudaioi' used by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John to refer to those who hated Jesus had to be changed or deleted in order to end the charge of antisemitism being leveled against God's Word. In a number of places, the Holy Spirit identified the group that hated and called for the persecution of Jesus "Jews," so prominent Jews attacked those places saying the Gospel of John expressed "antisemitism" and they publicly called for evangelical Bible publishers to tone down the rhetoric. Fearing the Jews, evangelical Bible scholars, translators, graphic designers, publishers, printers, bookstore owners, and pastors gave in to the extortion and the word was changed. No question that the text read "Ioudaioi." No question that 'Ioudaioi' means "Jews." No question that some places where Jesus is persecuted, the group doing the persecuting is identified as "Jews"--not "they" or "Jewish leaders." Nevertheless, out with the Holy Spirit's word and in with the word chosen by unbelieving Jews and the evangelical publishers who were their willing helpers. So the Hebrew word 'Ioudaioi' was changed to "Jewish leaders," or simply "they."
Throughout Bibles such as the New Living Translation and Today's New International Version, the Holy Spirit has been censored.Those who do not understand the terrible implications for the souls of Christ's sheep are culpable for their lack of understanding and ought not to be ordained or installed as officers in Christ's Church.
Those who do understand need to be on the watch for the next dogmatic intolerance that aims to silence the servants of God and the Word we proclaim.
Back, then, to Northwestern's J. Michael Bailey.
Bailey published incorrect opinions a couple years ago in a book he wrote about men who claim to be "transgendered." In The Man Who Would Be Queen, Bailey made the case that some men who claim to be "transgendered" aren't who they say they are. Whereas they claim nature made a mistake and locked a woman in a man's body, Bailey argued that some of these men are really guys who get sexual pleasure from posing as women. Then all Hell broke loose.
As you read the New York Times' account of this battle, a couple things are noteworthy.
First, Bailey's chief critic defends her actions with this statement: "Nothing we have done, I believe, and certainly nothing I have done, overstepped any boundaries of fair comment on a book and an author who stepped into the public arena with enthusiasm to deliver a false and unscientific and politically damaging opinion."
Make no mistake. Ministers of the Word and Sacrament who preach the Word of God faithfully concerning a whole host of matters addressed in its sacred pages are, in these United States and other nations around the world, under attack for promoting "politically damaging opinions." Consequently many of those ministers have learned their lesson and no longer use the word 'sodomy' in reference to homosexuality; no longer require that brides vow "to obey" their husbands; no longer plead with God, during the pastoral prayer, for an end to the slaughter of unborn children; no longer condemn the use of women as military combatants; no longer practice discipline for anything other than sins so blatant that not initiating discipline would render them shameless in the eyes of the congregation; no longer condemn the use of birth control by Christian couples wishing to avoid God blessing them with more children; no longer call men to lead and women to follow; no longer evangelize Jews or expose the heresies of Roman Catholics; no longer require those coming to the Lord's Table to be a member of a church, and thus in submission to that church's officers... We could go on at length.
What did we think the Holy Spirit meant when He warned us against pastors who have no shortage of sheep in their flocks because they've learned how to scratch their sheep's ears where they itch? If we've been keeping track, we would have noticed that we can't put this sin off on the mainline denominations any more. They're small and dwindling precisely because they've lost their touch at knowing where to scratch. So now, where are the pastors that all men are speaking well of?
Second, it would be hard to come up with a better description of one of the more trying aspects of the work of preaching than this description of Bailey's work by Ben Barres, a neurobiologist at Stanford:
Bailey seems to make a living by claiming that the things people hold most deeply true are not true.
"The things people hold most deeply true?" You know, the truths always being played in Borders, Barnes and Noble, and Starbucks like "there's no Heaven, no Hell below us, above us only sky."
And third, on the matter of how far these gentle people are prepared to go in silencing those who are politically dangerous, an LA "transgender advocate and consultant" named Andrea James "downloaded images from Dr. Bailey’s Web site of his children, taken when they were in middle and elementary school, and posted them on her own site, with sexually explicit captions that she provided." (James defended her actions by saying that) Dr. Bailey’s work exploited vulnerable people, especially children, and that her response echoed his disrespect."
Utterly, utterly despicable. May God judge her for this sin against the precious little ones.
By the end of the article it's clear the attacks against Bailey didn't quite carry the day. And yet, many of us serving the Church as pastors and elders wince as we read this statement found near the end of the article:
In October 2004, Dr. Bailey stepped down as chairman of (Northwestern's) psychology department. He declined to say why, and a spokesman (sic) for Northwestern would say only that the change in status had nothing to do with the book.
"Nothing to do with the book?" Sure, just like all those pastors' resignations being submitted every day around the country have nothing to do with the pastor's recent discipline of the woman who's a charter member of the church, nothing to do with the pastor's recent private rebuke of the rich man, and nothing to do with the pastor's recent sermon about the coming judgment and the eternity of Hell torments. No connection at all.
Men, we must take to heart the following exhortation of the Holy Spirit, and not allow fear to silence God's Word. We have a sacred trust and must desire, above all else, to be found faithful.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin... (Hebrews 12:1-4)
(Thanks, Dave Curell.)