Thursday, October 27, 2016

Clement of Alexandria on Transgenderism in Ancient Rome

In an age of gender dysphoria, it is tempting for many Christians to assume that we are living in unexplored waters. We are not. The Bible addresses gender confusion and the early Christians were thrust into a sexually confused society much like ours. Consider the following passage from Clement of Alexandria taken from his book Paedegogos:
But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly! And, in truth, unless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women. For although not allowed to wear gold, yet out of effeminate desire they enwreath their latches and fringes with leaves of gold; or, getting certain spherical figures of the same metal made, they fasten them to their ankles, and hang them from their necks. This is a device of enervated men, who are dragged to the women's apartments, amphibious and lecherous beasts. For this is a meretricious and impious form of snare. For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts—a sign this of strength and rule. So also cocks, which fight in defence of the hens, he has decked with combs, as it were helmets; and so high a value does God set on these locks, that He orders them to make their appearance on men simultaneously with discretion, and delighted with a venerable look, has honoured gravity of countenance with grey hairs. But wisdom, and discriminating judgments that are hoary with wisdom, attain maturity with time, and by the vigour of long experience give strength to old age, producing grey hairs, the admirable flower of venerable wisdom, conciliating confidence. This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature. In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man's whole body. Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he (for he had parted with all smoothness) remained a man, and shows himself man. And to him has been assigned action, as to her suffering; for what is shaggy is drier and warmer than what is smooth. Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than females, animals that are entire than the emasculated, perfect than imperfect. It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness. But the embellishment of smoothing (for I am warned by the Word), if it is to attract men, is the act of an effeminate person,— if to attract women, is the act of an adulterer; and both must be driven as far as possible from our society. "But the very hairs of your head are all numbered," says the Lord; Matthew 10:30 those on the chin, too, are numbered, and those on the whole body. There must be therefore no plucking out, contrary to God's appointment, which has counted them in according to His will. "Do you not know yourselves," says the apostle, "that Christ Jesus is in you?" 2 Corinthians 13:5 Whom, had we known as dwelling in us, I know not how we could have dared to dishonour. But the using of pitch to pluck out hair (I shrink from even mentioning the shamelessness connected with this process), and in the act of bending back and bending down, the violence done to nature's modesty by stepping out and bending backwards in shameful postures, yet the doers not ashamed of themselves, but conducting themselves without shame in the midst of the youth, and in the gymnasium, where the prowess of man is tried; the following of this unnatural practice, is it not the extreme of licentiousness? For those who engage in such practices in public will scarcely behave with modesty to any at home. Their want of shame in public attests their unbridled licentiousness in private. For he who in the light of day denies his manhood, will prove himself manifestly a woman by night. "There shall not be," said the Word by Moses, "a harlot of the daughters of Israel; there shall not be a fornicator of the sons of Israel." Deuteronomy 23:17

But the pitch does good, it is said. Nay, it defames, say I. No one who entertains right sentiments would wish to appear a fornicator, were he not the victim of that vice, and study to defame the beauty of his form. No one would, I say, voluntarily choose to do this. "For if God foreknew those who are called, according to His purpose, to be conformed to the image of His Son," for whose sake, according to the blessed apostle, He has appointed "Him to be the first-born among many brethren," Romans 8:28-29 are they not godless who treat with indignity the body which is of like form with the Lord?

The man, who would be beautiful, must adorn that which is the most beautiful thing in man, his mind, which every day he ought to exhibit in greater comeliness; and should pluck out not hairs, but lusts. I pity the boys possessed by the slave-dealers, that are decked for dishonour. But they are not treated with ignominy by themselves, but by command the wretches are adorned for base gain. But how disgusting are those who willingly practice the things to which, if compelled, they would, if they were men, die rather than do?

But life has reached this pitch of licentiousness through the wantonness of wickedness, and lasciviousness is diffused over the cities, having become law. Beside them women stand in the stews, offering their own flesh for hire for lewd pleasure, and boys, taught to deny their sex, act the part of women.

Luxury has deranged all things; it has disgraced man. A luxurious niceness seeks everything, attempts everything, forces everything, coerces nature. Men play the part of women, and women that of men, contrary to nature; women are at once wives and husbands: no passage is closed against libidinousness; and their promiscuous lechery is a public institution, and luxury is domesticated. O miserable spectacle! Horrible conduct! Such are the trophies of your social licentiousness which are exhibited: the evidence of these deeds are the prostitutes. Alas for such wickedness! Besides, the wretches know not how many tragedies the uncertainty of intercourse produces. For fathers, unmindful of children of theirs that have been exposed, often without their knowledge, have intercourse with a son that has debauched himself, and daughters that are prostitutes; and licence in lust shows them to be the men that have begotten them. These things your wise laws allow: people may sin legally; and the execrable indulgence in pleasure they call a thing indifferent. They who commit adultery against nature think themselves free from adultery. Avenging justice follows their audacious deeds, and, dragging on themselves inevitable calamity, they purchase death for a small sum of money. The miserable dealers in these wares sail, bringing a cargo of fornication, like wine or oil; and others, far more wretched, traffic in pleasures as they do in bread and sauce, not heeding the words of Moses, "Do not prostitute your daughter, to cause her to be a whore, lest the land fall to whoredom, and the land become full of wickedness." Leviticus 19:29

Such was predicted of old, and the result is notorious: the whole earth has now become full of fornication and wickedness. I admire the ancient legislators of the Romans: these detested effeminacy of conduct; and the giving of the body to feminine purposes, contrary to the law of nature, they judged worthy of the extremest penalty, according to the righteousness of the law.

For it is not lawful to pluck out the beard, man's natural and noble ornament.

"A youth with his first beard: for with this, youth is most graceful."

By and by he is anointed, delighting in the beard "on which descended" the prophetic "ointment" with which Aaron was honoured.

And it becomes him who is rightly trained, on whom peace has pitched its tent, to preserve peace also with his hair.

What, then, will not women with strong propensities to lust practice, when they look on men perpetrating such enormities? Rather we ought not to call such as these men, but lewd wretches (βατάλοι), and effeminate (γύνιδες), whose voices are feeble, and whose clothes are womanish both in feel and dye. And such creatures are manifestly shown to be what they are from their external appearance, their clothes, shoes, form, walk, cut of their hair, look. "For from his look shall a man be known," says the Scripture, "from meeting a man the man is known: the dress of a man, the step of his foot, the laugh of his teeth, tell tales of him." Sirach 19:29-30

For these, for the most part, plucking out the rest of their hair, only dress that on the head, all but binding their locks with fillets like women. Lions glory in their shaggy hair, but are armed by their hair in the fight; and boars even are made imposing by their mane; the hunters are afraid of them when they see them bristling their hair. (3.3.16, 21)

All Around the Web - October 27, 2016

Rod Drehrer - The Religious Right: A Eulogy

Russell Moore - Can the Religious Right Be Saved?

SBTS - Does the Bible Predict the Coming of Muhammad?

Chuck Lawless - 10 Ways to Fight Becoming an Arrogant Leader

Sean McDowell - What Are the Two Most Important Christian Virtues Today?

Thom Rainer - Five Ways to Stop the Decline in Your Church 

Grace to You - High Crimes Against God

The Gospel Coalition - How to Live Your Faith in a Digital Age

Tim Challies - Death to Clickbait!

NBC News - Internet Outage Shows How Sophisticated Attacks Can Target Your Home

Babylon Bee - Join Me, Christians. I Promise To Grant Your Religious Liberty A Quick, Clean Death.

Denny Burk - Meet the baby born twice

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

From Spurgeon's Pulpit: A Real Gospel Sermon

From his sermon Adorning the Gospel:
"None but Jesus, none but Jesus, Can do helpless sinners good" and, therefore, to this Gospel we must adhere with all our hearts! It is the Doctrine of God our Savior, for He is the substance of it!

Yet again it is the Doctrine of God our Savior because He is the object of it—it all points to Him. If you hear a real Gospel sermon, it directs you to look to Jesus Christ. That teaching which leads you to think of the priest and to think of the church, whatever there may be about them that is good, is not "the doctrine of God our Savior." "To Him give all the Prophets witness," to Him the Gospel continually points and this is the preacher's one cry, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world."

All Around the Web - October 26, 2016

Beth Moore - The Scandal of Election 2016

Joe Carter - What You Should Know About the Constitution Party Platform

Chuck Lawless - 10 Warning Signs that Your Pastor’s Getting Burned Out

The Gospel Coalition - On My Shelf: Life and Books with Tim Challies

Eric Metaxas - Chinese Government Urges People to Make Babies

Sam Storms - 10 Things You should Know about Interpreting the Bible

BreakPoint - Remaking Lewis

The Gospel Coalition - Is Your Church Ready for the Future?

Christianity Today - Died: Jack Chick, Cartoonist Whose Controversial Tracts Became Cult Hits

Arc Mag - What I Have Learned From Photographing 400 Towns in Iowa

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Ecclesiology

Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Introduction to Theology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - One-Volume Systematic Theologies
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Bibliology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Theology Proper
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Christology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Soteriology
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Atonement
Where to Begin: Books for Budding Theologians - Ecclesiology

Some time ago I came across a list of 25 theological books composed by Bruce Ashford he believes young theologians should read and invest in. I share my enthusiasm for most on his list and would recommend his post (you can read it here) but felt that for those brand new to the study of theology, many of the writings would be overwhelming and perhaps not the best place to start. For example, Augustine's City of God is a classic but is also an academic work that is over 1,000 pages with a unique historic context. I would not recommend a new theologian to begin there.

With that in mind, I want to compose my list of books for young theologians in various categories of theology of mostly modern books for young, budding theologians that I believe may be easier to understand. They are not classics, but I do believe they will be helpful resources to sink your teeth into.

In this eighth installment, here is a list of helpful ecclesiastical books.
From my experience, the best place for works on ecclesiology is 9Marks. Before taking the full plunge though, one must know up front that 9Marks is very Calvinistic and believes in congregationalism, baptism by emersion, and elder rule. Nevertheless, they continue to offer some of the best material on the church and have done so for years.