Posts Tagged mark driscoll

The Light of Other Days (1)

Having seen all that went down at the Elephant Room last month, and all the ensuing discussion, some of the varied conclusions could be: 1) TD Jakes is still a heretic, and Mark Driscoll and James McDonald are heretics, 2) TD Jakes is still a heretic, and Mark Driscoll and James McDonald need to be careful, 3) Jakes is fuzzy and hard to nail down, and Driscoll/McDonald are at least unhelpful, or 4) Jakes is orthodox, and Driscoll/McDonald are heroes for having helped prove that evangelicalism is a centered set rather than bounded set. This is the standard way of talking about the event.

The purpose of the blog isn’t to discern which of the above actually took place, but rather to speak towards audience expectations behind events like the Elephant Room, and to a lesser degree the Gospel Coalition National Conference and the upcoming Together for the Gospel Conference. In short, private worlds are being invaded, and we’re opening the gates to others and demanding that others open their gates wider. Two observations along these lines:

1) The transaction of information has increased exponentially. The flood of technology in our lives means that we can observe vast amounts of information is short amounts of time and we are, in fact, creating this state of affairs by our own hands. The culture, attuned to the new means of procuring information through new technology, invites more and more information. The purveyors of information (for our purposes men like McDonald and Driscoll, etc.) appropriate the new technology to get their message out.

This is, of course, the normal state of affairs and there’s nothing in principle wrong with this. What intrigues me is less so that these men use available means to get their message out, but instead that the audience demands increasing amounts of information to consume. Another BCS student and I were discussing how amazing it is that John Piper’s entire life is practically recorded by Desiring God. Whether there’s a documentary that’s filmed in his home, or every sermon or he preaches, no matter the venue, it seems to be recorded. This is, again, not wrong. But it shapes the desires and demands of the audience that follows him.

There’s a deeper assumption, and the more concerning one:

2) The type of information being exchanged is increasingly private.  Consider Hollywood: internationally known figures are followed and their private lives photographed for all to see. The wider culture pines over comments about private lives. We need to know about Beyonce’s and Jay-Z’s baby, for instance.

But consider the phenomenon of evangelical celebrity: not only are their lives tracked, but their personal thoughts are queried at a much deeper level by the wider world. We want to know all about the inner workings or ministry, family, life, etc.

And the kicker is: they put it out there. The Elephant Room is a bigger example of this than the other conferences, but there’s still an application: the increasing exchange of information means naturally that more and more private information must be exchanged as public information is exhausted. The audience is both demanding such information and being shaped by the release of such information. 

Just think about the gossip machine that is Christian blogging. Or perhaps, better stated, commentators on said blogs. For instance, there were demands to know what was taking place behind the scenes leading up to the Elephant Room. The fact that more calls for discernment and information came after the Elephant Room certainly says something about the event, but doesn’t it say something about our being accustomed to desire and demand such information? The evangelical world mirrors the culture: many want private knowledge about the ins and outs of public figures and public events to be fully known.

In of itself, this could be a fine thing within reason. But the corollary is the most shocking thing: in being enamored with the private information of public figures, are we in fact ignoring what is most important: our own lives and the lives of those we influence? 

So, for public figures… I wonder if their lives so open and so directed towards the larger world that they cannot be helpful for those who know them personally. That’s just me thinking out loud. But for those of us who are observing… are our lives so geared towards information consumption in the wider world that we fail at knowing family, friends, and strangers? Loving and respecting our spouses? Our families? Our friends? Our churches? Our communities?

I feel like I’m looking back on a season of my life, especially when I was single and still in college, where I was overly consumed with things outside my immediate sphere of influence. Life moves on, and these things are less keenly felt now. But there’s another point I want to talk about tomorrow, one that strikes even closer to home for me.

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Your Jesus is Too Safe: An Interview

I’ve been following Jared for a couple years on his blog, The Gospel Driven Church. At this year’s Gospel Coalition, I happened to run into him while waiting in line for the Band of Bloggers luncheon. And then I won a copy of his new book. So, I figured the least I could do is review the book and interview him. And shamelessly demand his autograph in hope of a future cash-in.

You can see my review of the book here. For more info on the book, see the blog tour that’s currently under way.

Daniel: Give a little general background on yourself, and more specifically what drove you to write a book designed to clarify the biblical Christ.

Jared: The book really came out of a convergence of things in my life. Ten years or so ago a coworker in a bookstore handed me a copy of a book by N.T. Wright called The Original Jesus that really pushed my thinking about Jesus and the four Gospels. I really felt like I was seeing them for the first time. And that kind of began my intellectual journey in the historical Jesus stuff. And then about 5 or 6 years ago I began sort of a Gospel renaissance in my life, sort of a combination of embracing a more Reformed theology, getting under the mentorship of some really gospel-centered writers and pastors, and then a personal crisis the brokenness of which I cannot even put into words as of yet. But all of that left me with the stripped down all-importance of the gospel in my life and the preciousness of Christ.

So the book is sort of the outworking of my interest in the historical Jesus and my passion for gospel-centeredness in my life and in the evangelical church at large.

Daniel: You draw a lot of your thoughts on the kingdom of God from George Ladd. What was your introduction to his writings, and what steered you towards accepting his view of the kingdom of God?

Jared: I came to Ladd’s view of the kingdom completely by accident. I was still in my “end times” cage phase, in the process of trading in the pretrib, dispensational premil of my upbringing and moving to some sort of post-trib, historical premil. And I knew that Ladd was a historic premil guy with a post-trib view. I think I started with his book “The Blessed Hope” about the second coming. And that got me hooked on him. I read “The Presence of the Future” because it was about eschatology, assuming then that eschatology equaled “end times.” Between that book and “Gospel of the Kingdom,” I was hooked, and as Ladd dovetailed into my new reading of N.T. Wright’s stuff, my understanding of the kingdom really grew by leaps and bounds. Actually, I don’t know if I ever thought of “the kingdom” much before that.

And I’m an amillennialist now, so I think I was only an end times junkie by God’s wonderful irony, where he takes our dorkiness and turns it into good.

Daniel: Of the different legitimate portraits of Christ (King, Savior, Sacrifice, etc.), which do you think the Neo Reformers tend to overemphasize? Underemphasize?

Jared: I don’t know if I know who the neo-Reformers are — I once referred to myself as neo-Reformed and somebody (Bill Kinnon, I think) corrected me and said I wouldn’t want to refer to myself that way, as if they are like the Truly Reformed or something — but I think the guys in our tribe — the young, restless, Reformed or what have you — tend to overemphasize Jesus the Lord. Actually, it is not that that is overemphasized. I don’t think you can overemphasize Jesus’ Lordship. (I hope nobody takes that one sentence out of context to “prove” that I think that!) I just think that we can get off kilter when we underemphasize the incarnation, Jesus the Man. Mark Driscoll says some great things about these two opposite errors — focusing on one to the exclusion of the other — in his contribution to The Supremacy of Christ in the Postmodern World.

Daniel: In chapter 9 (Jesus the Sacrifice) you give two examples of persecution outside the United States. Do you see persecution coming to the United States for those who refuse to co-opt Christ into a mammon-mongering society?

Jared: No. Not anytime soon.

Most of us are too busy playing with a Jesus who’d never offend the powers that be anyway.

But I think talk of persecution in this country is extremely premature (and usually immature).

Target not honoring Jesus at Christmas gets whined about (as if we want some corporation commoditizing Jesus anyway) while believers in Pakistan are being burned alive in their homes. Christians in American can be such whiny idiots.

Daniel: In your context (Element and your new church) how have you seen the community of believers resist secularization/marginalization and be a bold light for Christ?

It happens any time we go serve people who aren’t like us. I see it when the Element community served monthly at the inner city after school program and the homeless mission, and when a few of our folks went to secular Japan gospel or to AIDS orphans in Africa.

Where I’m at now, dudes go finish homes for people in the mountains who have run out of money. Not church people. Just mountain people. And we’ve got a couple who run a community theater here that works with lots of kids from not only nonChristian homes but homes where, for instance, there are two mommies and what-not. People where I’m at now (Vermont) are missional without even knowing what “missional” means or that it exists as a word.

Daniel: In chapter 8, you share about your cousin Steve’s family, and how they’ve been drawn closer to Christ through the birth and growth of their son, Colton. Can you give an update on how they’re doing?

Jared: Doing great. Colton is ten now, I think. I know he loves MarioKart and swimming. He is in most ways a typical little boy: precocious, playful, boisterous, although he does use a wheelchair. I know they know God is sovereign, and they are just taking it a day at a time. They see him as a miracle. Because he is!

Daniel: In chapter 1, you state: “The promise is the king himself. The promise is Jesus.” This is an excellent thought: the promise to Christians is God Himself. Do the gloves have to come off to show that this is the true message of Christianity in a world of salvation prayers, prosperity gospels, and general man-centeredness? If so, how does the local church distinguish themselves from and deal with these other gospels within a community?

Jared: I’m gonna come at this question from another angle, if that’s okay. Because I think what you’re essentially asking is this: How do we get this message into more churches (or every church, if that’s possible). And I think that will take, yes, gloves coming off within pastoral tribes. It’s trickle down. Most evangelicals have no idea how big and how central the gospel is, and they won’t know because our sort of tribe for all intents and purposes exists in a vacuum. They don’t know we’re here, and when they do, they see we’re critical of what they’re involved in, so they tune us out. But they love their dynamic, engaging pastors who CEO their big churches. If we could get to THOSE guys, we could revolutionize evangelicalism with the gospel. (Or God would, not us, but you know what I mean.)

The cynical will say it cant’ be done. And they’re probably right. This is why Bible Belt evangelicalism will supposedly be gone in a generation. Or one of the reasons why evangelicalism is collapsing (if you’re an iMonk fan).

But if we could somehow reach and convince all these movers and shakers in other pastoral tribes, we could reach the majority of evangelicals.

I see some positive signs. That Francis Chan and Matt Chandler speak among the Catalyst and Exponential crowd bodes well. And likewise that guys like Driscoll are buddies with guys in the “arena church” crowd. That could be one of the weird benefits of the multi-site church movement. I’m not a fan of the whole video venue thing, but it has caused a blending of pastoral tribes, and I’m hoping the Driscolls, Chandlers, and Chans of the world are having great, respectful, fruitful influence on other leaders. And I hope they’ll be willing to go knuckle to knuckle when the glory of the gospel is on the line.

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Your Jesus is Too Safe: A Book Review

Jared Wilson knows how to crack a joke. Never heard of him? Go watch. Then come back.

Needless to say, Jared is not your standard, everyday, run of the mill, grits and butter sort of preacher/teacher. He’s the former pastor of Element, a missional church in Nashville, as well as a blogger over at The Gospel Driven Church. And now, with the publishing of his first book, Jared is a first-class author. How do I qualify this? I mean, come on, how many authors of what is essentially a systematic theology include references to Strong Bad, Die Hard, The Kid, My Buddy, and the Grateful Dead? I mean besides Mark Driscoll, of course. Or Todd Bentley. If he ever decided to write a systematic theology. Which would probably look pretty wild.

The qualification for my above assertion comes in Jared’s systematic presentation of the biblical claims about Christ. Unlike so many who have remade Christ to fit their message, Jared’s innovation only extends as far as the presentation. The Christ of the Gospels is examined from twelve different perspectives (shepherd, promise, sacrifice, etc). As each is considered, a full picture of Christ’s message and mission for His followers comes into view.

Content

The picture of Christ that Jared paints is robustly biblical with some hints of Reformed theology (which, in my view, makes it even more robustly biblical). NT Wright and George Ladd are definitely influences here, the former informing Jared’s thoughts concerning Christ’s mission and the latter shaping his view of the kingdom of God.

In the intro, Jared sets us up by surveying Christianity in America. Each subsequent movement, whether it be the prosperity gospel, the altar call gospel, or the guru gospel, has rewritten Christ to fit their message. As such, Christians that wish to proclaim the true Christ must know Who they are serving in the midst of so many counterfeits. Enter this book.

The book could be a mash-up of Driscoll’s Death by Love and Phillip Yancey’s The Jesus I Never Knew (you can guess which of those two I recommend). This is definitely theology leading application. I’ll highlight what I enjoyed the most, and then talk about a couple potential misfires.

Pros

Jared is at home talking about Christ. Each chapter opens with an examination of the historical background surrounding that aspect of the Savior’s ministry. Thus, the chapter on Christ as shepherd examines what it meant to be a shepherd, or the chapter on Jesus as the promise looks at the Messianic expectations of first century Judaism (Messiah was to come in the wilderness, etc.). After conducting this initial foray into the history behind the theology, Jared examines the text of the Gospels, showing just how radical this Jesus was.

The conclusions he comes to, although not shocking to any orthodox believer, are still penetrating for us American Christians who have never known the kingdom life that Christ talked about in the Beatitudes: Jesus came to bring the reality of God’s kingdom to earth. We’re firmly in already/not yet territory here, which is refreshing to find serious theology at the heart of such a radical presentation of Christ.

His application is taken directly from Christ’s person and work; this isn’t nebulous application that gets pulled out of the sky somewhere. It’s firmly theological, and shows our obligation in light of Christ’s kingship and sacrifice. I was very much reminded of Death by Love, where Mark Driscoll examines the different pastoral applications of Christ’s work on the Cross. This is similar, but expands the examination and application a bit.

His fresh way of writing also helps me understand theology. For instance, when we say that Christ was all God and all man, what we’re saying is that He was fully God and really a man. He had BO, struggled with sexual temptation,  etc. Or the way in which God’s kingdom is explained will be helpful for those who are struggling with an overworked version of eschatology.

Cons

There’s perhaps two misfires, and they’re relatively minor… so I’m expecting a second edition. Planning on writing one, right Jared? He does well to fill in footnotes with all kinds of Scripture references; provides good backup for the rest of his arguments. What isn’t so common are the footnotes that support his assertions concerning early Jewish life and other historical background. I remember when the reformed evangelical community lambasted Rob Bell for not providing proof for his points in Velvet Elvis concerning the Judaism of the OT and NT. I thought about this as I was reading… a bunch of backup citations will help those who are doubtful, especially those coming from a Jewish background. A second edition of Jared’s book should include such footnotes.

Also, some of Jared’s thoughts concerning the applications of Christ’s kingdom were too abstract for me. He talks about the “already” gradually expanding into the “not yet”. Partially because I’m weary of a Gospel that takes on more than Scripture mandates, and partially because I’m just too abstract for my own good, I would want to see more clarification of what our part in the ministry of reconciliation is. Are we part of God’s redemption of Creation? How does that fit into Romans 8:19-23? Or are we part of His reconciliation between God and man alone, and He will redeem Creation Himself at His coming? These are all questions that could be worked out in a conversation, and I invite Jared to respond with what this would practically look like.

To summarize: Jared writes a great overview of the biblical Christ. Useful to have before stepping into Systematic Theology at school, or before trying to explain the Gospel’s implications to a new convert. Or a congregation. Very practical and powerful; it’ll likely be our helper to examine Christ at my church’s small group this upcoming fall. There are other books that will dig deeper, but as a popular introduction to Christ I can’t think of a better book.

For more on this book, see the blog tour. To buy a copy, go to Amazon.

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A New Trial for the Local Church?

Sat tonight with my old roommates and my wife, reenacting the time honored tradition of watching Mark Driscoll sermons. Back in the dorm, we would crowd around and watch Driscoll or sometimes Piper. Driscoll said what we were saying, and indeed what much of conservative evangelicalism was saying, just in a fresh way. His theology seemed spot on, and his exegesis meant proper application to today’s situations.

The last several months have seen some change, either in my perception of him, or in what he’s actually doing. Increasingly, his sermons have been generalized pieces of eisegesis. Was anyone else concerned… even grieved… as he went through the list of twenty “negatives” based on 2 Timothy 2 at the Gospel Coalition? There were many laughs, plenty of imprecision, and a lot of imposition on the text. I was continually reminded of John Piper’s sermon from the 2006 Together for the Gospel conference, where he strongly warned against making the pulpit a place for overabounding humor. That is primarily what Driscoll did that night, and many other nights. Do any of his mentors talk to him about this?

And then, tonight’s viewing of last Sunday’s sermon at Mars Hill. There was massive eisegesis of 1 Peter 5:2, where he applied a Prophet, Priest, King model to divide elders into three different types, essentially denying “able to teach” from 1 Timothy 3:2 and siding with the Presbyterians who have a ruling/teaching elder model. He essentially took the ways that Scripture identifies our Lord, and applied them to a business model for a healthy megachurch. Very discouraging.

But even before that, and by far the most serious… Mars Hill has for years practiced a multi-site approach to their church plants in Seattle. Each church gets to see Pastor Mark preach live across the city. I have mixed feelings about this, but it could possibly work. 9 Marks wrote a recent eJournal arguing in favor of the idea. I need to think about it more. But when he announced that one of their new campuses would open in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and that his sermons would be recorded and then given to that church a week later… and that this would be the model as they expanded to other places… my heart literally skipped beats. Not to mention that this was a local church that was now going to be airing Mark’s messages as part of their main service.

What about the local church? One of the other people in our group echoed my thoughts… even if it’s not intended, it casts an awfully suspicious light on Pastor Mark’s motives, which is ironic if not outright sad on a Sunday where the sermon title was Humble Pastors. The series is on trials for the local church from 1 Peter… but I wonder if Mark hasn’t created a new trial for the local church by essentially signaling that he’s okay with undermining its autonomy.

Two thoughts I had: 1) that I really hope I’m wrong. Perhaps Mark’s sermon in Albuquerque will just be an add-on, something people can stick around for but isn’t the main preaching time. Otherwise, this is basically subverting the autonomy of the local church. 2) I know from Reformissional Rev that Driscoll essentially adopted a model that was more suited for a megachurch that would be run like a corporation. That always irked me… the last 1/4 of that book really made me wonder where the church would go. And I think this is some of the fruit of that: when a church takes on business principles instead of Scripture as its modus operandi, something will always be compromised.

Pray for them… for the witness of the Gospel in Seattle and wherever Acts 29 church plants are found, not to mention the upcoming conference on the resurgence of the “local church.” Will this just undermine the message of that conference? I am weary of pragmatism, and really was hoping its fruit would be curtailed in Mars Hill’s ministry. This may be the event that many who were once ardent supporters of Driscoll will look back on as the moment when the ministry visibly made a major turn for the worse. I really pray I’m wrong, and that others in his circles will have the gumption to write and talk to him about this.

Am I going overboard? What thoughts do people have?

Pertinent blog posts here and here. The sermon that we watched tonight can be viewed here.

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The Gospel Coalition (1)

In spring of 2008, I wrote a series of posts on the relationship between fundamentalism and evangelicalism as it related to Together for the Gospel. In them, I pointed out how liberal fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism, as movements, could learn much from each other. I saw Together for the Gospel as a perfect venue for this, and in many ways I still do. 

In the intervening months, my opinion has changed somewhat. As I’ve reached the end of my undergrad studies, I’ve seen less value in the convergence of movements and more value in the protection and cultivation of the local church. As far as the convergence of two movements can facilitate this, I’m all for it. But if this perceived convergence only strengthens a movement and decentralizes the local church, I’m very much against it. As such, I want to write a few blog posts on what can be learned from such conferences about keeping the main thing the main thing: the Gospel. 

But before doing so, there’s something in my soul that’s been bothering me. It’s my propensity to get excited about the speaker instead of the message… it’s something I hear often in my casual conversation with my friends. And I know I partake: we get excited about people, sometimes in such a way that it practically eclipses the message.

I see Advance 09 and the Acts 29 network as good forces in highlighting the resurgence of the local church, and Gospel Coalition is a great conference for maintaining the centrality of the Cross. However, some of the superstardom in evangelicalism seems to be imported with these conferences and movements… and it’s something I must be on guard against. Mark Dever said it himself at the opening of Together for the Gospel… they were using this stardom in evangelicalism as a tool to deliver a message. Is this not pragmatism? And if it is, what should we do to combat it?

While there will always be some people who are in the spotlight more often, it would behoove us to not get swept up in that mentality. It happens whenever what Piper says goes as Bible without thought, reading, and prayer. It happens whenever Driscoll is defended for turning people’s minds towards crudeness on his way to Biblical truth. It happens whenever I check out and am not a Berean simply because someone resonates with my theological position. In this way the local church can be hurt by following individuals instead of the message of the Gospel.

Fundamentalism seems to be less tied into superstardom. First, it’s not very theologically unified compared to the New Calvinism, which at least has a starting point. Second, the mentality in fundamentalism tends to cause cautiousness when leaders speak. This leads to the theological impreciseness found in the first point. Third, the movement is so fragmented that when one leader speaks, fewer listen. So for us, who are coming out of fundamentalism into conservative evangelicalism (or the “convergence”, if you prefer to see it that way), let’s be careful to not even come close to enshrining men. Instead, let us always point to the message of the Cross. What can we be doing to highlight the message instead of the messenger in America’s (and evangelicalism’s) star-centric mentality?

My original T4G posts are linked to here, here, here, here, and here.

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Unlimited Limited Atonement?

Does Mark Driscoll’s declaration of “Unlimited Limited Atonement” amount to Amyraldism (i.e. 4-point Calvinism)? Or is it just a different way of stating Reformed soteriology?

Related blogs here (claims Mark is a modified Arminian on the atonement) and here (claims Mark could still be properly called Reformed in soteriology). Mark’s own stuff is here. Thoughts?

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Destroy to Prevent

“Sometimes the most loving thing you can do is destroy someone before they go to hell and are ultimately destroyed, suffering forever.”

– Mark Driscoll, How Sharp the Edge: Christ, Controversy, and Cutting Words

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