The easy answer here would be to simply state that some teachers both emphasize and model discernment while others do not. The reason some authors are “orange” or “red” (or whatever you’d use to indicate the category that comes after the moderates) is precisely because they lack discernment! In the resources section of the book I even mention John MacArthur as a teacher who always emphasizes discernment, mentioning that his books and commentaries never miss the opportunity to make note of the call of the Christian to spiritual discernment. I tended to rely on authors who have emphasized discernment in their ministries.
I can’t speak specifically to Rob Bell’s approach to Scripture or the Assemblies of God approach to spiritual gifts as they did not factor into the book. But I can say that I relied first and foremost on Scripture and, beyond that, on teachers who love Scripture and who seek to accurately convey what God teaches through it. I think you’d find that the “green” authors in the book are the ones who love Scripture and who skillfully teach it through the books and through their teaching ministries.
We’re probably walking a little outside my area of expertise here. While I’d acknowledge that these men (and women) do share a common hermeneutic, I guess I would see it as a better hermeneutic (or a biblical hermeneutic). Not all hermeneutics were created equal. Whether I’d consider other approaches to Scripture as viable would really depend on the approach a person took. It’s rather too broad a question to just assign a yes or a no, I think.
To be honest, this is a question I’ve been thinking about for several weeks now. I do not remember putting a lot of effort into determining whether I would write in a serious or a more light-hearted tone (though, to be honest, it was almost two years ago that I began to write and I’ve got a poor memory. Putting those two factors together means I may have spent all kinds of time thinking about it but such thoughts have long since slipped my mind). But I do know that I did not expressly set out to create a book that was serious in tone. Rather, I set out to write a book that would share what the Bible says about spiritual discernment. At my blog I write from a personal perspective, often basing theological lessons on my own experiences and simply sharing things God has taught me. But when it came to discernment, I did not want to share my perspective on discernment, as if that would be of any value. Instead I wanted to share the biblical perspective.
I recently discussed this topic with my editor (as I begin to think about future writing projects) and her words rang true when she said that perhaps some of the feedback about stylistic issues came from people who were expecting “Tim in print rather than the need for and instruction on how to be discerning.” I did not want to interfere and did not want to inject too much of myself into the book. At the same time I did want to maintain a personal rather than a scholarly tone. How well I’ve succeeded in that will probably become more clear as I gain more feedback on the book.
I would be surprised to hear that my book is not relatable. I was deliberate about writing in a way that was accessible and I often relied on what I think are helpful illustrations to try to give something memorable that they can hold onto. In fact, the whole Preface is nothing but a story for that very reason. If a person felt that I was not relatable, what could I say, really? I guess I’d suggest they read another book about discernment. Oh, wait…
I may have more to say about this when I post a review of the new book by Mark Driscoll. It is something I’ve thought about quite a bit, and especially so as I read his book.
I believe there is a time and a place for humor. I believe humor can be effective in teaching and in communicating even something as serious as theology and spiritual matters. Of course there are times when humor is inappropriate (as comedian Brian Regan has aptly pointed out, greeting card stores have no “humorous sympathy” section). I’m sure Jesus had a terrific sense of humor and I don’t know that He would have been truly human if He hadn’t shared some good belly laughs with His disciples on those long, hot and dusty walks. Yet our society, I think, has been prone to elevating humor and levity. After a while, it seems, we are no longer capable of taking seriously much of anything. So while there is a time for humor, and while laughter is a gift from God, there is also a time for soberness and a time to be serious. There ought to be a kind of gravity surrounding Christians, I think, that proves that they take life seriously and that they are aware of their own sin and aware of the state of the world around them.
Even while we do laugh and have fun, our humor must be sanctified. We can use humor to point to what is ridiculous and can use it just for the sheer enjoyment of laughing, but we must be careful that we do not make light of sin. This is, I think, where many Christians abuse humor. When we laugh at what God has forbidden, we make light of sin. So let’s laugh and let’s have fun and let’s be something other than somber and pious when necessary, but let’s be careful all the while that we take seriously what is important to God.
You have a blog? Anyways, it just so happens that I listened to Mark’s sermon and Q&A this afternoon, before you sent me this comment. I think you’re right—some things are very easy to laugh about but could probably be treated with a bit more seriousness. Issues regarding sexuality definitely fall in this camp. It is easy (very easy, even) to get laughs when it comes to sex. But I think we might do better to treat the subject with a bit more soberness at times.
* Favorite TeamPyro Post/Series, – I guess I’d probably vote for all those Emergent Demotivation posters as my favorites. They weren’t the most edifying things you guys have ever produced, but they were good for some laughs.
* Favorite TeamPyro Contributor (Doh!) – Darlene (by far!)
* Most puzzling criticism of your book – Even I was taken aback by the level of some of the criticism lodged against me because of my lack of credentials. The early comments were fairly innocuous, but as people got warmed up, the comments got pretty dark. It bothered me far less than it surprised me.
* Best reason to live in Canada – There is almost no such thing as evangelical politics up here—at least not compared to what goes on in the U.S.
* Favorite place to eat in Toronto – I don’t actually live in Toronto proper and rarely eat out. But if I do venture downtown and get a bit hungry, I generally grab some of Toronto’s finest street meat from a hotdog/sausage vendor outside Rogers Centre (where the Blue Jays play).
Challies is on a blog tour for his new book.