The third of seven excerpts from C.J.’s chapter on modesty in the forthcoming book
April 29, 2008 by C.J. Mahaney
Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, Sept. 2008).
What do humble, modest clothes look like? First Timothy 2:9 tells us: “Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel … not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.”
To better understand this verse, let’s travel back in time to the early church. There had been some startling disruptions to the church’s meetings of late, and Paul was writing to Timothy “so that . . . you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth” (1 Tim. 3:14–15).
Clearly some people were not
behaving in a manner worthy of the church of the living God, thus necessitating this gracious rebuke from the apostle.
Paul begins, appropriately, with the men: “I desire that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Tim. 2:8). He’s saying, “Guys, quit arguing in church! You’re distracting from worship, teaching and prayer. Anger is always wrong, but especially at church, the household of God
, the church of the living God
. So you need to stop fighting and start praying!”
Then, Paul addresses the women in the verse we just read (1 Tim 2:9). He is concerned because some of them are imitating the dress and adornment of the ladies of the Roman court and the prostitutes. Those women were known for their expensive clothes and jewelry and elaborate hairstyles; they dressed, not only to attract attention, but to seduce as well.
When the women of the church arrived dressed like this, it’s no surprise that they distracted others from worshipping God. What’s more, through their ostentatious dress they associated themselves with the wealthy (thus separating themselves from the poor) and the ungodly (thus distancing themselves from their fellow church members). Their dress was distracting, and maybe even divisive.
That’s why Paul urges them to dress in “respectable apparel” and “not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.” He wants the Savior, not seductive style, to be the focus of the church gathering—and indeed, the focus of all of life.
So the real issue wasn’t actually braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly attire. The issue was—and is—clothing that associates with worldly and not godly values: clothes that say “look at me” and “I’m with the world.”
Let me be clear: Paul is not categorically prohibiting a woman from enhancing her appearance---on Sunday or any day of the week. In fact, you’ll find other places in Scripture where godly women wore fine clothing and jewelry.
The woman of noble character in Proverbs 31 dressed in colorful and high-quality clothing (31:22). Likewise the bride in the Song of Solomon adorned herself with jewelry (1:10). Esther had twelve months of beauty treatments (Est. 2:12). Obviously God isn’t opposed to women making themselves beautiful.
In fact, as my wife Carolyn has observed
God is the creator of beauty. God delights in beauty. All we need to verify this fact is to consider the beauty He created all around us: whether it is an elegant flower, or towering trees, or a meandering river, or billowy clouds or the majestic night sky. Every time we stop to take in one of these breathtaking scenes on display in God’s creation, we can’t help but be convinced that He delights in beauty!
[B]ecause we are created in the image of our Creator, each of us has this propensity to make things beautiful. That means, when we decorate our homes, or plant a lovely flower garden, or seek to add some form of beauty to our surroundings, even when we attempt to enhance our personal appearance—we are actually imitating and delighting in the works of our Great Creator.
I admire my wife’s feminine desire for beauty and her ability to make herself and her surroundings attractive. A woman can honor God by enhancing her personal appearance or bringing beauty to her environment.
John Angell James agrees, with qualification:
This taste [for beauty], however in many cases it may be altogether corrupted in its object, wrong in its principle, or excessive in its degree, is in its own nature an imitation of the workmanship of God, who, “by his spirit has garnished the heavens,” and covered the earth with beauty. *
Mr. James is right. A woman’s taste for beauty can be an imitation of God’s character, but it can also become corrupted. And such was the case in this first-century church. Paul exhorted the women who professed godliness: “You should not dress in a way that resembles those who are extravagant, or worse, intent on being seductive or sexy. You must not identify with the sinful, worldly culture through your dress.” Paul was writing not to condemn attractive attire but to address its corruption by association with worldly ideals and goals.
This truth has timeless relevance. Consider, who inspires your attire? Who are you identifying with through your appearance? Who are you trying to imitate or be like in your dress?
Does your hairstyle, clothing, or any aspect of your appearance reveal an excessive fascination with sinful cultural values? Are you preoccupied with looking like the latest American Idol winner, or the actresses on magazine covers, or the immodest woman next door? Are your role models the godly women of Scripture or the worldly women of our culture?
The women in the church should not look exactly like the ungodly, seductive women in the world. Women in the church are to be different. They should stand out not because of their revealing clothing but because of their distinctly modest heart and dress.
Taken from C.J. Mahaney’s chapter “God, My Heart, and Clothes,” in the book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, © 2008. The book will be available from Crossway in September. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.
* James Angell James, Female Piety (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria, 1860; repr. 1995).
April 25, 2008 by C.J. Mahaney
The second of seven excerpts from C.J.’s chapter on modesty in the forthcoming book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, Sept. 2008).
Any biblical discussion of modesty begins by addressing the heart, not the hemline. We must start with the attitude of the modest woman.
This emphasis on the heart is front and center in 1 Timothy 2:9. Note the phrase “with modesty and self-control.” All respectable apparel is the result of a godly heart, where modesty and self-control originate. Your wardrobe is a public statement of your personal and private motivation. And if you profess godliness, you should be concerned with cultivating these twin virtues, modesty and self-control.
Modesty means propriety. It means avoiding clothes and adornment that are extravagant or sexually enticing. Modesty is humility expressed in dress. It’s a desire to serve others, particularly men, by not promoting or provoking sensuality.
Immodesty, then, is much more than wearing a short skirt or low-cut top; it’s the act of drawing undue attention to yourself. It’s pride, on display by what you wear.
Self-control is, in a word, restraint. Restraint for the purpose of purity; restraint for the purpose of exalting God and not ourselves. Together, these attitudes of modesty and self-control should be the hallmark of the godly woman’s dress.
In Paul and Timothy’s day, modesty and self-control were foreign to many women walking through the local marketplace, just as they were to Jenni and are to the majority of women at the local shopping mall today. And these concepts are certainly foreign to modern fashion designers, whose goal in clothing design is sensual provocation.
But for godly women, modesty and self-control are to be distinctly present in the heart. The question is, are they distinctly present in yours?
Such an attitude will make all the difference in a woman’s dress, as pastor John MacArthur has observed:
How does a woman discern the sometimes fine line between proper dress and dressing to be the center of attention? The answer starts in the intent of the heart. A woman should examine her motives and goals for the way she dresses. Is her intent to show the grace and beauty of womanhood?.... Is it to reveal a humble heart devoted to worshiping God? Or is it to call attention to herself, and flaunt her…beauty? Or worse, to attempt to allure men sexually? A woman who focuses on worshiping God will consider carefully how she is dressed, because her heart will dictate her wardrobe and appearance.*
Any conversation about modesty “starts in the intent of the heart.” So consider for a moment, what is the intent of your heart in purchasing clothes to wear? Does a humble heart and a servant’s heart dictate your wardrobe and appearance? Is your shopping informed and governed by modesty and restraint? Or is your dress motivated by a desire for attention and approval from others? Does your style reflect a lack of self-control?
There’s an inseparable link between your heart and your clothes. Your clothes say something about your attitude. If they don’t express a heart that is humble, that desires to please God, that longs to serve others, that’s modest, that exercises self-control, then change must begin in the heart.
For modesty is humility expressed in dress.
Taken from C.J. Mahaney’s chapter “God, My Heart, and Clothes,” in the book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World
, © 2008. The book will be available from Crossway in September. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org
* John MacArthur, 1 Timothy,
The MacArthur New Testament Commentaries (Chicago: Moody, 1995), 80–81.
April 24, 2008 by C.J. Mahaney
The first of seven excerpts from C.J.’s chapter on modesty in the forthcoming book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Crossway, Sept. 2008).
When it comes to fashion, I’m deliberately out of step. I don’t care if what I’m wearing is trendy or not—in fact, it’s my goal to resist the influence of others (from Paris or Hollywood or anywhere else) over my wardrobe. Like any man’s man, I relish being out of style.
I want to feel comfortable in what I’m wearing, which is why my stained In-N-Out Burger T-shirt and old gray sweatpants are the most well-worn items in my closet second only to my single pair of jeans, which I wear any place a T-shirt and sweatpants would be inappropriate attire.
If you ever see me sharply dressed in public, it’s only because my wife and daughters, out of great concern for my appearance, buy me clothes on my birthday and for Christmas.
My wife and daughters, in contrast to me, do care about what they wear. They are lovely women with impeccable taste. Each one has her own unique style of dress, and I enjoy trying to find gifts that fit their individual styles.
“Adornment and dress is an area with which women are often concerned,” writes George Knight (who must have had teenage daughters). This is a good thing. God created women with an eye for making themselves and everything around them beautiful and attractive. But, as Mr. Knight goes on to observe, dress is also an area “in which there are dangers of immodesty or indiscretion.”
Many young women, though, are unaware of these worldly dangers. Several years ago I preached a message to our church from 1 Timothy 2:9 entitled “The Soul of Modesty.” Eventually, that message made its way into the hands of a young woman named Jenni. Prior to hearing my sermon, Jenni had no idea what God’s Word said about the clothes she wore, if anything at all. “Modesty used to be a foreign word to me,” Jenni later admitted in a testimony to our church congregation:
My friends aptly nicknamed me ‘Scantily.’ When choosing what to wear I thought only of what would flatter me, what would bring more attention my way, and what most resembled the clothes I saw on models or other stylish women. I wanted to be accepted and admired for what I wore. I enjoyed my attire, the undue attention I received, and the way it stimulated my feelings.
Perhaps you can relate to Jenni. Maybe modesty sounds unappealing to you. If we played word association you’d come up with “out of style” and “legalistic.” Maybe you think God is indifferent about the clothes you wear. What does he care?
But, as Jenni ultimately discovered, there is “not a square inch” of our lives—including our closets—with which God is not concerned. Even more, he cares about the heart behind what you wear, about whether your wardrobe reveals the presence of worldliness or godliness.
The evidence comes from 1 Timothy 2:9 where Paul urges “that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.” Like 1 John 2:15 this is a verse we’re inclined to ignore or reinterpret to escape its imperative. But we must not snip 1 Timothy 2:9 out of our Bibles. Rather we must carefully seek to understand how it applies to our lives, our shopping habits, and the contents of our closets.
Now, this chapter is primarily written for women, not only because that’s who 1 Timothy 2:9 addresses, but also because this is a topic of particular concern for women. George Knight is correct, and a woman’s experience will tend to confirm the relevance and importance of this topic. However, modesty does have application for men—increasingly so in our culture. And especially for fathers, whose primary responsibility it is to raise modest daughters.
I write this chapter as the father of three daughters, now grown. I write as a pastor with a growing concern for the erosion of modesty among Christian women today. I write because God’s glory is at stake in the way women dress. I write about modesty because God has first written about it in his eternal Word.
So let’s take God to the Gap.
Taken from C.J. Mahaney’s chapter “God, My Heart, and Clothes,” in the book Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World, © 2008. The book will be available from Crossway in September. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.
 George W. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992), 133.
At the Together for the Gospel
Conference in Louisville last week, attendees were each given a copy of In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement
by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever (Crossway, 2008). Not long ago, C.J. explained the relationship between T4G and the development of this book (see here
). And last week we posted one excerpt from the epilogue (“The Centrality of Christ”
). Here is another excerpt, this one on the eternal centrality of the cross and why it matters now.
The Centrality of the Cross
Early in the visionary chapters of the book of Revelation, where images are prodigally piled up, one on another, in order to convey thoughts to readers' minds, the Lord Jesus is announced as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” who will open the scroll for the consummation of world history (5:5). But the Lion appears not as a lion but as “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (v. 6 ESV). The Lamb appears thereafter twenty-eight more times, battling, conquering, shepherding, and finally functioning as the lamp that gives permanent light to his bride, the holy city, new Jerusalem, that is, the church perfected in glory (21:23, cf. 22:1-5). In this book, then, the slain Lamb is a key image for the Lord Jesus Christ. Where did it come from? Clearly, from (1) the Passover lamb, the blood of which shielded Israel from the destroyer at the time of the Exodus, plus (2) the God-prescribed ritual of killing a lamb, with the transgressor's hand on its head, as a sin offering (Lev. 4:32-35), plus (3) the required daily sacrifice of two lambs as sinful Israel's offering to its holy god (Ex. 29:38-42; Num. 28:3-6), plus (4) Isaiah's description of God's servant, the vicarious sufferer who became a sin offering, as being led "like a lamb … to the slaughter" (Isa. 53:7), plus (5) John the Baptist's identification of Jesus as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29, 36). And for the Lamb to be the lamp of the city of God means that the thought of the Son of God made flesh and slaughtered for our sins in order to save us will never leave the minds of glorified saints as they fellowship with the Father and the Son and will frame all their thinking about everything else.
So all we who hope for the life of heaven ourselves, and especially those among us who as pastors are statedly committed to prepare others for that heavenly life, will do well to adjust our thinking here and now to the absolute and abiding centrality of the atoning cross in Christian life here and hereafter and to labor to express this awareness in all our preaching, teaching, and modeling of Christianity, day by day.
Taken from In My Place Condemned He Stood
by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever, pp. 150–151, © 2008. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.
April 17, 2008 by C.J. Mahaney
From the time I entered public ministry 35 years ago, I was attending conferences. The sum total of conference messages I’ve heard and taught—by my rough estimate—is somewhere near 1 gazillion (which is 1,000 zillions).
Some conferences were average, some good, and some excellent. But New Attitude is special. Here are a few reasons why.
First, the New Attitude conference was designed, and is brilliantly led by Joshua Harris and Eric Simmons, to reinforce several important objectives for college students and single adults. These include transferring the gospel to the next generation, reinforcing sound doctrine, spreading a passion for the local church, and encouraging personal evangelism.
The Psalmist captures the priority of entrusting: “One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4 ESV). At my age, whatever remaining moments, days, years, decades I have left, I want to represent one generation commending the works of God—and in particular the gospel—to another generation.
Benefits of the Conference
And there are plenty of immediate benefits to the conference as well. In my experience, young adults who attend the conference will experience God’s nearness during corporate worship, the gift of illumination during each sermon, and opportunities to cultivate friendships with other young adults.
Preaching is a priority at this conference. The preaching at this conference is excellent. It makes an immediate impact and has an enduring effect, too. Although world-class teachers are invited to address those at the conference, the conference leaders recognize and express their appreciation for the local pastors—those who are doing the most important work.
The conference is carefully designed not to build young men and women into well-known speakers, but to build them into their parents, their pastors, and their local church.
New Attitude and the Local Church
The effects of the conference continue as young adults return home from Louisville, inspired to invest in their local churches. And that is why, when I was pastoring Covenant Life Church, I used the New Attitude conference strategically. I viewed this event as a unique opportunity for college students and single adults in the church to be equipped to serve the church. So I did all I could to inspire them to attend, knowing the difference this conference would make in their lives and the life of the church.
I would encourage pastors to announce this conference, feature this conference, encourage all to attend this conference, and find ways of supporting young adults in their churches who are limited financially from attending.
This conference will not only prove formative in the souls of those who attend, but will also transfer the gospel to the next generation, and I think you will find it to be a fruitful investment for your own church.
The New Attitude conference runs May 24–27, 2008, in Louisville, Kentucky. For more information, see the Na website: http://www.newattitude.org/
Together for the Gospel 2008 begins here in Louisville today. Over 5,000 men (mostly pastors) will be assembling in the Kentucky International Convention Center, celebrating the glorious atonement of Jesus Christ.
During the conference attention will be directed to a new book titled In My Place Condemned He Stood: Celebrating the Glory of the Atonement by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever (Crossway, 2008). Not long ago, C.J. explained how this book and T4G are closely connected (here).
The discerning content of this book is a gift to all Christians and pastors in particular. Here is one excerpt from the epilogue.
The cross of Christ is the heart of the apostles’ gospel and of their piety and praise as well; so surely it ought to be central in our own proclamation, catechesis, and devotional practice? True Christ-centeredness is, and ever must be, cross-centeredness. The cross on which the divine-human mediator hung, and from which he rose to reign on the basis and in the power of his atoning death, must become the vantage point from which we survey the whole of human history and human life, the reference point for explaining all that has gone wrong in the world everywhere and all that God has done and will do to put it right, and the center point for fixing the flow of doxology and devotion from our hearts. Healthy, virile, competent Christianity depends on clear-headedness about the cross; otherwise we are always off-key. And clear-headedness about the cross, banishing blurriness of mind, is only attained by facing up to the reality of Christ’s blood-sacrifice of himself in penal substitution for those whom the Father had given him to redeem.
Why then is it that in today's churches, even in some professedly evangelical congregations, this emphasis is rare? Why is it that in seminary classrooms, professional theological guilds, Bible teaching conferences, and regular Sunday preaching, not to mention the devotional books that we write for each other, so little comparatively is said about the heart-stirring, life-transforming reality of penal substitution? Several reasons spring to mind.
First, we forget that the necessity of retribution for sin is an integral expression of the holiness of God, and we sentimentalize his love by thinking and speaking of it without relating it to this necessity. This leaves us with a Christ who certainly embodies divine wisdom and goodwill, who certainly has blazed a trail for us through death into life, and who through the Spirit certainly stands by each of us as friend and helper (all true, so far as it goes), but who is not, strictly speaking, a redeemer and an atoning sacrifice for us at all.
Second, in this age that studies human behavior and psychology with such sustained intensity, knowledge of our sins and sinfulness as seen by God has faded, being overlaid by techniques and routines for self-improvement in terms of society's current ideals of decency and worthwhileness of life. It is all very secular, even when sponsored by churches, as it often is, and it keeps us from awareness of our own deep guilty and shameful alienation from God, which only the Savior, who in his sinlessness literally bore the penalty of our sins in our place, can deal with.
Third, in an age in which historic Christianity in the West is under heavy pressure and is marginalized in our post-Christian communities, we are preoccupied with apologetic battles, doctrinal and ethical, all along the interface of Christian faith and secularity—battles in which we are for the most part forced to play black, responding to the opening gambits of our secular critics. Constant concern to fight and win these battles diverts our attention from thorough study of the central realities of our own faith, of which the atonement is one.
Fourth, heavyweight scholars in our own ranks, as we have seen, line up from time to time with liberal theologians to offer revisionist, under-exegeted accounts of Bible teaching on the atonement, accounts which in the name of Scripture (!) play down or reject entirely the reality of penal substitution as we have been expounding it. The effect is that whereas from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century evangelicals stood solid for penal substitution against unitarianism (Socinianism) and deism, and taught this truth as no less central to the gospel than the incarnation itself, today it is often seen as a disputed and disputable option that we can get on quite well without, as many already are apparently doing.
What in the way of understanding our Savior and our salvation we lose, however, if we slip away from penal substitution, is, we think, incalculable.
Taken from In My Place Condemned He Stood by J.I. Packer and Mark Dever, pp. 150-151, © 2008. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org.
When I was the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church
, I scheduled the entire pastoral team to attend at least one conference, or an abbreviated seminary course, per year. Looking back over the years, this practice has borne much fruit—personally, relationally, and theologically. Together we were sharpened in our doctrinal discernment and were deepened in our love for the Savior and his church. The fruit from these times has been immeasurable.
During these trips, we’ve heard great preaching and teaching. But we’ve also used our meal times (and late evenings) for discussion and application. We spend time encouraging one another, at times correcting one other, and contemplating the future together. We think much, laugh much, and eat much—all to the glory of God.
Something is built during this time together that makes a discernable difference in our relationships with each other and our service to the church we love.
Conferences like Together for the Gospel
provide a unique (and all too rare) opportunity for pastoral team building, for deepening friendships, unhurried discussions about doctrine, and strategic planning for the church. Is it my hope that this will be the experience of all pastors attending the conference.
To benefit from the time together, you cannot lead a group through a conference or class without strategic planning. On the road I kept a theme with the guys—“What we do, we do together.” When attending a conference or a class, I was responsible for planning our time, and planning the time together was critical. I was always alert to the spontaneous, but prior to the trip there was research to be done on the schedule and various options.
My goal was to build us together relationally. I used meal times for the review of content and the specific application of content to each pastor’s life. I sought to hear from each pastor what they were learning and how they were applying that teaching to their lives. So I would make sure that several times together—at least one each day—were intentionally led.
But it wasn’t all study and conversation. There must be athletic competition in some form! There must be winners and losers. Pride must be weakened and humility cultivated. And there is nothing like competition to build character and build a pastoral team together as friends. What you do depends on the collective athletic ability of your pastoral team. Pastoral teams that are athletically inclined can play basketball or football together. For the less coordinated teams, there are miniature golf and Monopoly.
Finally, these trips also provide time to specifically honor and encourage a particular pastor and a great opportunity to identify evidences of grace we observe in each other’s lives. If possible, make sure time is set aside for this practice.
Together for the Gospel
Now, senior pastors, don’t get too excited and jump into your planning if you are attending T4G, because you have been relieved of most of your scheduling responsibilities. It appears my good friend Mark Dever has scheduled T4G tight (but he’s left the schedule pretty free between midnight and 6:00 a.m.).
I had a friend email me inviting me to play basketball at T4G, and I had to sadly email him back and communicate there is not a free moment available! There would be if I were planning the conference.
Oh, how different T4G would be if I were leading the conference (and probably less effective and fruitful, too). Yes, there would be teaching, and plenty of it. But there would be blocks of time for athletic activities. But given the absence of athletic interest and ability that seems to characterize most—but not all—of those participating in T4G and particularly our leader, Mark Dever, there will be NO TIME for anything athletic in nature. (I wish more smart guys were good athletes.)
The Wives and Children
What about the wives? Whenever the Covenant Life pastoral team attended a conference I seized it as yet another opportunity to thank their wives. They are the ones at home sacrificing and serving the children while we are away. So I made it a practice to express my gratefulness for their example and support while the men were away. On the day we left I would have gifts ordered for the wives (like flowers and Starbucks gift cards) and gifts for the kids (like Hershey chocolates) to be delivered at the homes as a small expression of gratefulness from Carolyn and me.
When we returned home, I insisted the guys take an extra day off to care for their wives and spend time making memories with their children.
And I know there are pastors traveling to T4G on their own. You have no team, no staff, no one to share the pastoral burden. You have my deepest respect. Though you are traveling alone, you will not be alone at this conference. I am certain you will meet and make new friends during the conference. And if you can make time, introduce yourself to me. I’d be honored to meet you.
So I would encourage all pastors to build into their schedule and church budget at least one conference a year for you and your pastoral team. And if you are leading a church alone, I would encourage you to attend at least one conference a year with a pastor (or pastors) from another church.
As I look back and consider all the wonderful memories and important conversations I’ve had at conferences with my friends, they have been among the richest and most memorable experiences I’ve had in ministry. And I am certain T4G will be no different.
Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III recently traveled to Sovereign Grace to teach on covenant theology at the Pastors College. Dr. Duncan currently serves as senior minister of First Presbyterian Church (Jackson, MS) and as an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, MS). In late March, Dr. Duncan generously opened his schedule for me to ask a handful of questions on the value of the early church fathers, especially for busy pastors. Patrology, or the study of the early church fathers, was the topic of Dr. Duncan’s PhD thesis from the University of Edinburgh.
The interview answers questions like Why should a busy pastor invest time in reading the patristic authors? How will a pastor benefit? Where should he start? What cautions should he be alerted to?
Download the full interview MP3 (14.4 MB).
Outline of interview questions [with time markers]
[00:00] – Intro
[01:30] – Define for us patristics or patrology.
[04:28] – Why should busy pastors read patristic literature in the first place?
[09:29] – What hurdles do pastors face in reading and benefiting from patristic writings?
[14:13] – For the busy pastor, recommend a few specific patristic titles covering history, biography, and primary sources.
[26:52] – What contemporary debates reflect controversies addressed by the patristic authors?
[32:00] – Our culture appears to be growing increasingly secular. If it's true that secularism is on the rise, what can we learn from the church fathers on engaging a “pagan” culture?
[36:06] – In patristic literature, a reader will be faced with thoughts or practices of the early church fathers that were incorrect. What concerns do you have for a pastor getting his feet wet in the patristic writings?
[41:46] – Would you agree that in patristic writings we see a stress on ethics over and above the gospel?
[45:08] – Dr. Duncan, you are a gifted patristic scholar and have been pastoring at First Presbyterian in Jackson for over twelve years now, preaching on a regular basis. How do your preaching and pastoral ministry reflect the impact of patristic authors?
In early March, C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney addressed a room full of couples being trained for pastoral ministry at the Pastors College. Soon these couples will return to their home churches to begin (or resume) the public and transparent life of pastoral ministry.
A question asked by one of the wives was simple: How should a wife respond when her pastor-husband is criticized? The question was asked in the context of pastor’s families, but the answer will likely benefit all married couples.
Question: Carolyn, as a pastor’s wife, how do you handle situations where your husband is criticized or there is grumbling in the church about your husband?
Carolyn: Obviously, it certainly isn’t easy to have your husband criticized. But as wives, we must recognize our role as our husband’s helper and make sure we don’t take up an offense, which would not be helpful to our husbands. And that does not take place without a fight. This is the person you love the most in the whole world, and if someone is criticizing him, you can be easily offended and want to defend him. Yet, I must realize that taking an offense would be a disservice to my husband. So it’s important that we as wives guard our hearts, making sure we don’t take up an offense, seeking to serve our husbands as helpers.
C.J.: Your point is an excellent one. There have been many times that I have desired Carolyn to take up an offense—“Join me in my offense against this individual.” I’m not immediately happy that she hasn’t taken an offense, but I have learned that eventually she has served me invaluably when she does not take up an offense. In no way is she defending or justifying what others have said or done, but helping me monitor my heart, and impressing upon me that a sinful reaction from me would be more serious than whatever they are saying or doing, are the most effective ways she can serve me.
Sadly, over the years we have witnessed couples in ministry where wives have taken up an offense.
And this doesn’t just apply to sinful criticism, but also to when a husband is legitimately corrected by a member of the pastoral team or a member of the church. So you need both those categories. It’s difficult when those serving with your husband correct him in a certain area or bring an unfavorable evaluation. A wife might find herself more vulnerable to taking up an offense when her husband has been corrected. I am grateful for the way Carolyn has served me by not taking up an offense. And numerous times she has agreed with the correction, protecting me from arrogantly dismissing the correction and preventing me from sowing discord among those I serve in ministry.
So, whether it’s sinful criticism or legitimate correction of me, how do you guard your heart, Carolyn?
Carolyn: Wives should carefully listen to what’s being said. If there is something legitimate, bring that lovingly and carefully to your husband. I don’t think it serves a husband for a wife to just take the side of the person bringing criticism. But if there is a degree of truth, bring that in a way that serves him.
And just helping to mirror back to him what you are hearing him say. If he is sinning in response to the criticism, where appropriate, lovingly mirror that back to him: “It seems like this is how you are responding. Is this true? Are you offended at this person? Are you bitter?” Asking skillful questions.
It takes a lot of prayer and soul-searching in our own hearts to keep our hearts free from taking up an offense. But we must have a conviction about our role as our husband’s helper and ask, “What will truly help my husband?” It will not help him if I’m adding to the temptation he’s already experiencing. If he is being corrected or criticized, he’s already got a battle he is fighting. And if I come along and agree and participate in that, it makes his battle more difficult.
My husband has gone through seasons of correction, and it’s a temptation and fight. So I find myself having to pray for those who bring criticism or correction and filling my own heart with appropriate Scriptures so I can be a true helper to him during that time.
C.J.: Yes, but where they have been accurate observations—whether critics analyzing or friends correcting—you have courageously transferred that to me. Too often I have not been grateful in the moment. Eventually, I am grateful.
Would you say that one of the biggest challenges these ladies will confront as pastors wives is will be—when they hear the criticism or correction and they find there are aspects they agree with—how to inform their husbands of that without appearing to support any sinful attitude of others?
Carolyn: Yes. And I have through the years seen wives not do that, I’ve seen the effect and the outcome, and it has put the fear of God in me. At the moment it’s not always easy to take a stand and say, “I don’t think you’re responding humbly to this situation right now.” And it takes courage. Yet we’ve seen, because we’ve been in ministry for as many as we have, some very sad situations where I think wives really could have been the difference-maker if they would have challenged or confronted their husbands.
C.J.: So wouldn’t you say that over the years that some wives misunderstood submission and honor (or so it appears)? I think that has played a role. And for some it could be fear of man—fear of husband.
I can tell you this: For any marriage, correction of the husband by the wife would be one category on my short list of most important. If I observed a wife who was reluctant to correct her husband I would be concerned with that marriage. Obviously, I’m not arguing for a contentious marriage, but correction, humbly communicated, must be part of every marriage.
Part of what Carolyn has modeled personally and taught well is what she taught at the last Leadership Conference—“Watch Your Man”—in broadening an understanding and application of “helper” to include appropriate correction. I would argue that correction is not just part of marriage but an aspect of what it means to be fellow heirs of the grace of life.
Carolyn’s encouragement has been of immeasurable benefit to me, but equally so or more, on balance, has been her correction. She has protected me when sin was deceiving me. What a gift this has been to me!
April 3, 2008 by Tony Reinke
Over the past week we have been posting small excerpts from C.J.’s rich interview with pastor and author Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. Here is a complete index of those blog posts. Also, we’ve included the full audio recording from the two-hour interview.
Blog Post Index
1: Intro to Sinclair Ferguson interview
2: An Awkward Intro
3: Looking Outward
4: Legalism in Eden
5: Jesus Grows in Favor with God
6: God’s Love for Us Displayed in the Cross
7: More Full of Grace than I of Sin
The interview was recorded on location and is, in my opinion, of poor audio quality. However, others have given a listen and say the recordings are intelligible and worth offering. So if you are interested in taking in the orchestra of sounds—Scottish accents, boisterous laughing, echoes, the clanking silverware of a restaurant, and background music—pull your chair up to the interview table and have a listen for yourself. The full two-hour audio recording, from which the above blog posts originate, is broken into four bite-sized episodes.
Episode 1 of 4 (43:22; 10 MB) download or listen …
Episode 2 of 4 (31:39; 7.3 MB) download or listen …
Episode 3 of 4 (11:44; 2.7 MB) download or listen …
Episode 4 of 4 (30:44; 7.1 MB) download or listen …
Photo © 2008, Lukas VanDyke