I couldn't think of a more provocative title for this post, and I'm sure that I am stretching some of you by bringing it up at allbut today at TeamPyro you will learn a lot of things about the Christian life.
It's somewhat ironic, I think, that in the last week the soft and sensitive underbelly of the Christian blogosphere called us Pyros (and Phil in particular) "bullies." However, I think it also turns out that today is going to be a classic clinic in how men who love each other in Christ can disagree and still not violate that love.
And it's going to occur on so many levelsthe most obvious being that I disagree with Phil about whether or not Mark Driscoll is an "emergent".
But then there's the level of how to disagree with Driscoll and not take him out to the bone yard with the boys and have a blanket partybecause while I disagree with Phil's assessment Mark Driscoll is just another end of the spectrum which contains Rob Bell, I also do not think we should give the Pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, WA, a pass on his indulgent view of the culture of the grungy Pacific Northwest and how it may intrude on the ministry of God's word.
OKlet's agree that what Mark Driscoll does 3 times on Sunday is not secular stand-up comedy, nor should it ever be such a thing. You know: TeamPyro stands for the idea that God's word is like fire, and that it is a sharp sword that separates the parts of a man down to the soul and spirit. That means handling God's word requires some kind of care.
There's an interesting moment in the DGM 2006 National Conference audio. Driscoll set up the analogy in his hour that ministry has two handsone which is doctrine, and the other which is context. In that, he said that as long as we have everything in the doctrine hand correctly, we have a lot of liberty to manage what's in the context hand. The interesting part was when, later in the Conference, John Piper made the statement that it didn't matter to him what was in the "context" hand as long as the "doctrine" hand was soundand he made that statement acknowledging that some of "us" (the "TRs", the people who really care whether or not people are going to go to hell if the Gospel doesn't reach themincluding those who hear a false Gospel which they mistake for the true Gospel) think that there is a place where the "context" hand corrupts the "doctrine" hand.
Listen: I am one of those people. I have used this example elsewhere, but let's be serious for a moment. Let's imagine that some man has a past in which he was involved with the porn industry in that he was involved with women who are strippers and prostituteshe was friends with them, had relationships with them, and so on. Then, let's imagine that he has this thing happen to him in which he says that he recognizes that he's a sinner, and God is offended, but that Jesus Christ is his only salvationthat Christ died for his sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that Christ was buried and was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Amen.
In that confession, any Baptist church would baptize this man, yes? So he's saved, right? What do we make of it if, after making this confession, this man seems to find the liberty to stay inside that lifestyle while making only minor changesfor example, he abandons the drinking and the drugs and most of his former promiscuity, but he keeps his live-in girlfriend and he still goes to strip shows. What do we make of that even if he says, "Dudethis is the only way to reach these women for the Gospel?"
Those of you who are right-minded, of course, have just muttered a forceful expression of disgust consistent with the principle of Ephesians 4:29.
There's no question: the ruse that I can go ahead and, for example, attend strip club performances "for the ministry" is completely transparent. You can't go to a strip club under the auspices of 1 Cor 9 because, frankly, "all" does not mean "all" there, does it?
So how do we go ahead and apply that to Mark Driscoll? That is: he says 1 Cor 9 is a call to radical missionary zeal, and that we should become skate punks and Vidiots to the skate punks and the Vidiots. Is that a valid interpretationsince the Bible never tells us, for example, that skate punks are reprobate and should be treated as people who cannot receive the Gospel?
For those who haven't taken advantage of the ESV pop-up to read 1 Cor 9, here's the passage in context:
- For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
But what if we are called to a nation which, for example, accepts culturally the matter of prostitution? You knowlike in Ephesus where women who wore their hair up and with jewelry in it were recognized as prostitutes? How do we react to that? More particularly for our case here, how did Paulwho says he became all things to all men so that some might be savedreact to that?
It seems to me that he went to the culture but rejected all parts of the culture which manifested a rejection of the Gospel. For example, he knew how prostitutes dressedand he forbade women from dressing like prostitutes. So on the one hand, he wasn't ignorant of the cultureand on the other, he wasn't going to get fooled into being just like the culture. He wasn't going to put silver fish jewelry on all the prostitutes and claim he just added 500 to the body of Christ.
The radical missionary zeal evident in 1 Cor 9 is not a fashion statement. Paul is not saying at all that when in Rome, he attended orgiesthough, of course, he only partook in the gluttony and not the sex. And what is most evident in 1 Cor 9, it seems to me, is by what standard he lived for the sake of other men.
That standard is evident in the sentence I underlinedhe became "weak" to the "weak". Now: what does that mean? Does it mean that he always acted inside a "mere" version and vision of the Gospelor does it mean something else? Let me ask those questions this way: who is the weak in 1 Cor 8?
For example, are unbelievers ever called "weak" by Paul? Why no: they are not. They are called sinners, and reprobates, and liars and murderers and adulterers. And particularly in 1 Cor 8, are the "weak" unbelievers, or people who have some relationship to the body of Christ but have a conscience which is "weak"?
The answer seems obvious, doesn't it? Paul is not saying, "to those who were immoral, I became a libertine of sorts to fool them into the Gospel which requires a death to self," but in fact he is saying, "to those who have a weak conscience and do not have liberty in (for example) dietary laws I became weak like them, extra sensitive to their conscientious observance." And in that, isn't there an irony that this passage is used to extol apparent moral laxity when Paul was using it to say that he served by being more sensitive to their moral standards?
The other way to read thiswhich is, I think, how Driscoll wants us to read thisis that Paul is saying to the Corinthians, "dude: you can't look down on me for being a guy who is rough around the edges. I'm a friend of sinners, just like Jesus, and if you can't handle that you're not really into missions." There's no careful way to read this passage that way. 1 Cor 9 is, from start to finish, Paul taking the finger some are pointing at him (cf. 1 Cor 9:8-18 ) and pointing right back by demonstrating he has never taken anything from anyoneeven that which is his by right in the ministry by the Law of Moses. If Paul's point through v. 20 is, "I have joyfully suffered for your sake in the Gospel," how can it be that suddenly he is saying, "and I have enjoyed all kinds of privileges and exotic customs for the sake of the Gospel"?
It can't be. So when we are talking "missiology" here, Paul isn't looking for an excuse to behave like a gentile: we are talking about the nature of the missionary as an ambassador for Christ who made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
Wow! Isn't that somethingPaul is actually talking about being Christ-like when dealing with other people. Christ-like! And being Christ-like, it turns out, means that we love God enough to refrain from our own weaknesses. We don't let people accidentally think that potty humor has a place along side the Gospel.
And Christhe didn't have to use potty language or dirty jokes or scatology to preach the Kingdom.
Our high-minded reformed doctrines may, sometimes, make us think of Jesus as some kind of soteriological Terminatoryou can't stop him, he doesn't really have anything to do with the world except his mission through it, and his catch-phrase is "I'll be Back." And there are real weaknesses in thatbecause, as Driscoll has pointed out, Jesus really did live, really did get tempted, really did suffer in every way as a man, really did die on a cross. But in knowing that Christ was a man, was made flesh and dwelt among us, we cannot trade in our reverence for him as King of Kingswho, in his own words (Luke 19:27), is going to have his enemies brought before him and slaughtered for failing to recognize Him as their rightful king.
If we are going to make the call on Mark Driscoll"we" being all of us in Christ, and "the call" being a call to real repentance and reconciliationwe need to make sure it's not because we think (or want him to think) that we want him to stop being "Emergent" "right now": speaking for myself, a man with unclean lips among a people with unclean lips, who is undone by the vision of God in his glory to whom the angels sing, "Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the Lord God Almighty!", I just want Mark Driscoll to speak of Jesus and his word in a way which reflects the stated belief that Jesus is worthy of all honor and glory and praise.
It's not "emergent" to use potty language: it's indiscriminate. It's immature. And it doesn't in any way reflect the missional servanthood of 1 Cor 9 to be all things in service to men who are weak and dying. If we, as men, are going to love them, we can't love them by being more like them. We have to love them by being more like Christ.
You want to dip yourself in Pop culture DVDs, CDs, TVs and podcasts to know what "the kids are thinking these days"? Remember that those things are not the Gospel, nor are they vehicles for the Gospel: they are the symptom of our need for the Gospel.
And with that, I leave the Meta open for your weeping and gnashing of teeth.