Have a look at this tweet.
Now think it through carefully. Is there any bit of it that we might consider true? The answer is “no.” If a young person in your church said it, you’d pull them to one side and chat with them about the risk of attempting to put out provocative messages to provoke a reaction.
You would then have asked them. Does God actually “stake” anything. They would have of course responded by saying that he doesn’t. God is not a gambler who needs to stake everything. He is the Sovereign, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God who rules his creation effortlessly. However, if we want to use the language poetically to make a point then we might say that he stakes everything on Christ.
You would then have gone on to work through the list. What is the foundation of a good healthy marriage, a strong home, a faithful fruitful church, even a strong society? Each time you would come back to one name. It is not strong men that are the foundation of this but rather it is Christ and Christ alone.
Supposing them that it was a well known liberal or ex-Evangelical, maybe one of the recent authors identified as “deconstructionists” saying something similar, replacing “strong men” with their own preferred word -maybe feminism, inclusion whatever. Key Christian leaders would be out of the blocks to address the seriousness of their error. We would be clear that the statement was blasphemous heresy. Remember the way that we robustly confronted Steve Chalke when he compared the truth of penal substitutionary atonement to cosmic child abuse? Remember when Rob Bell went all universalist on us and John Piper’s short and to the point tweet “Farewell Rob Bell.”
Well this tweet came from no stray deconstructionist ex-evangelical and no gung-ho hot tempered youth in the church. Owen Strachan is a professor of theology and provost at Grace Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written for The Gospel Coalition and for John Piper’s Desiring God. He is a former president of the Campaign For Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
Now, I want to give Strachan the benefit of the doubt for the moment. I suspect that if you got him on his own and sat down with a cup of coffee and had the same conversation with him as you did with the hypothetical young person that you’d reach a similar conclusion. Of course he wouldn’t say that God gambles and of course the correct word in each of those statements is “Christ.”
In fact, he has attempted to row back with this follow up tweet
Perhaps if he had simply said this at the start then we might have been closer to a discussion. Though even still, as a reformed evangelical complementarian I would have identified some issues to tease out. Is it really accurate/helpful to talk about men as anthropological foundations? They are described as “the head” in a marriage but that’s not exactly the same thing. Are elders the foundation in the church? And to keep coming back to a crucial point, there is already an “anthropological foundation” the MAN Christ Jesus. We shouldn’t attempt to take positions already filled.
But no, this isn’t what he did say and nor is it another way of saying what he did. It is saying something different.
So, what caused him to say something so stupid and as I have said so blasphemously heretical? How has he managed to end up replacing the Gospel in his tweet with an idolatrous focus on an idealistic image of manhood?
I suspect that he is trying to be provocative and that he is attempting to make a point in favour of his particular view of men and women. Strachan holds to a particular version of complementarianism emphasising the distinction between men and women. He goes further though and believes that there are particular ways of being men that conform to a Biblical vision of manhood and similarly for women. Further, he sees things in terms of a culture war where that vision is under attack by a woke agenda. I suspect that he is kicking back against it.
And further, as with any falsehood, somewhere buried deep in the statement may be kernels of truth. First because marriages, churches and communities need the men in them to step up. We might say that this is about being “strong men” though I would prefer to avoid a word open to various interpretations and say that it is about “godly men” stepping up. Indeed, we might also go so far as to say that there are not strong men but the strong man at the foundation of all of this, the man Christ Jesus.
Yet, those were not the things Owen said. And for what? Has his provocative statement got people thinking more clearly or more deeply? Not from what I have seen. He’s managed to create a lot of heat with little evidence of light. That’s the problem when you get caught up with an agenda other than the Gospel and attempt to be provocative.
Now, if this were just a case of a hot headed youth saying something stupid on social media, we’d ask them to take it down and be wiser in the future. However, I believe this is a little more serious. Christian leaders carry an extra level of responsibility for what they say and do. Strachan needs to take that responsibility for what he has said and others need to hold him accountable.