05 December 2012

How to Relate to the Story

by Frank Turk

Let me start by saying two things:

[1] Yes: I read Mark Driscoll's horn-tooting about the "New Calvinists."  He's already a disgrace, so piling on that post at the Resurgence is like trying to clean out the cat lady's house. First: remove all the cats.  I leave it to the staff at the Resurgence to begin the cat removal before we bother to attempt any other excavations.

[2] This post is, materially, a repost from 2008, but it is entirely worth it.

You know: the Gospel of Mark is the only Gospel which doesn't really give a "Christmas" account. Some people may say that John doesn't either, but maybe those people don't really understand why John goes from "in the Beginning" to "the Word became flesh".

At any rate, Mark has other fish to fry in telling the Good News of Jesus Christ, starting here:
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,

"Behold, I send my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way,
the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,'"

John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, "After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Now, when Mark wrote this, Leviticus and Deuteronomy would have been books ~1400 years old, (thanks Dan!) right? And Isaiah would have been a book about 700 years old. And the last OT prophet would have spoken about 400 years previous.

I mention that because even 400 years is a long time -- especially in an age with no internets and blogs, no printing press for weekly news magazines, no technological tools for preserving cultural foundations except pen and paper. Yet Mark makes a point of starting out his view of the Gospel by showing that in fact there is no Gospel without these pen and paper artifacts.

Think of this as a devotional moment for us as we consider Christmas -- because what we really want to do at Christmas is sort of close the Old Testament and get on with the angels, and the shepherds, and the girl with the forgiving fiance, and the stable, and the idea or the story that this Jesus fellow was relatable and therefore we should at least give him a chance to say what he has to say.

But when Mark starts his story of the Gospel of Jesus, he says first of all that this three thousand year old story is where the story of Jesus begins: the story of Jesus begins in the Prophets.

And in that, what the Prophets were saying about Jesus was not something like, "well: your view of God is evolving, Israel, and one day someone will help you to come to a more human way of relating to and thinking about God other than this sacrificial system you are bloodying the place up with today."

In fact, the Prophets were saying, "God Himself is coming, and you should 'make straight his path'."

What a thing to say, right? "Make straight His path".

Listen: Jesus is the one whose sandal we are unfit to untie, and we ought to be preparing the way for Him -- through repentance  through connecting to the Old Testament, and through the tutor of the Law which God gave us so that it will do good for us.

There's a voice crying out in the wilderness: make a straight path, for God is coming to dwell among us. Don't change the channel. Listen to this voice because it is good news -- even if it means that you have to admit that it is not the good news you were thinking you wanted to hear.


FX Turk said...


FX Turk said...

I think Phil Johnson is the One Star Hater.

James Scott Bell said...

Does this star rating matter at all to anyone or thing or bot? I never look at it. I see the word Turk in the byline, and I read the article.

I was planning, at our Christmas devotion, to read from Isaiah, Psalms and Luke. Your post is a good and timely reminder about the Christmas story being part of a bigger story from actual history. Thanks.

lee n. field said...

Yes: I read Mark Driscoll's horn-tooting about the "New Calvinists."

Oh, what now? Never mind. In a week it will be forgotten.

Nash Equilibrium said...

Dan will have to add "Old Calvinist" to his one-star hater profile, now.

DJP said...

Phil Johnson, eh?


Tom Chantry said...

Frank Turk, 7:17 AM, November 28, 2012:
“One-star hater cannot be triangulated. I am convinced that if I posted a Anglo-Catholic ecumenical piece which deplored meat, white people, sobriety, and so on, this person would click one star.

I think I know who it is, actually, and this person is so petty and small this person cannot hold a job in a family-owned business. However, I endorse all attempts to make fun of one-star hater since this person obviously is funny.”

Frank Turk, 4:19 AM, December 5, 2012:
“I think Phil Johnson is the One Star Hater.”


FX Turk said...

Now that Chantry looks like DJP, do I have to grow facial hair to stick around here?

Michael Coughlin said...

Found "One Day a Year" in Google reader today, can't find it on pyro.

Nevertheless, thanks for what you shared in that piece and this one as well.

DJP said...

FT: < shrug >

It'd be fun to watch you try.

Rational νεόφυτος said...

Wait, if Driscoll is right, and being a new Calvinist means you can be a continuationist "joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit", then maybe my Pentacostal neighbor has it right and worship should be little more than a euphoric rock concert for an hour with lots of cool new revelations that I can add into my Bible - and you can still be a Calvinist at the same time! The best(?) of both worlds!

FX Turk said...


That's next week's post. The posting date misfired last night.

FX Turk said...

Facial hair is for supervillains and professors, for the record.

DJP said...

Hunh. That so?

Kerry James Allen said...

Don't do it Frank, I'm with you.

"But Spurgeon had a beard."
"Well, if Spurgeon jumped off a bridge, would you..."

Tom Chantry said...


I can't see how anyone who still has his TOTH hair (top of the head) really has much to say in this discussion.

Do it, Frank.

Kerry James Allen said...

Hmmm. I think I need to think this through...

A recent study in the Journal of Marketing Communications found that men with beards were deemed more credible than those who were clean-shaven. The study showed participants pictures of men endorsing certain products. In some photos, the men were clean-shaven. In others, the same men had beards. Participants thought the men with beards had greater expertise and were significantly more trustworthy when they were endorsing products like cell phones and toothpaste.

But, oddly, men with beards were slightly less effective than smooth-cheeked fellows in underwear advertisements. Apparently we don’t want Zach Galifianakis selling us boxers.

Kerry James Allen said...

Chantry: Hair hater!

Tom Chantry said...

It's simple. No one can really look dignified in an underwear commercial, thus undercutting the natural dignity advantage of the bearded.

Michael Coughlin said...

I find men with beards to be less effective in gillette commercials, as well.

If you have time to shave, you ain't busy enough. --CHS

DJP said...

Michael Coughlin FTW.

Kerry James Allen said...

Michael: Source of that Spurgeon quote please.

And this is definitely worth a look and a hoot.


But I'm still with Frank and maybe we have a future in underwear sales.

Michael Coughlin said...

Kerry - What Spurgeon quote?

I just coined my own phrase and then followed it with an acronym for Can't Help Smiling. :)

Tom Chantry said...

I know Frank is loving all this interaction with his post.

(And I never even declared an "open thread.")

Eric said...


Good post.

Aaron Snell said...

I think an actual post on facial hair is warranted to determine if One Star Hater is bearded or not.

Facial hair is for supervillains and professors, for the record.

And sea captains, lumberjacks, and Doug Wilsons, of course.

jmb said...

Why are you mentioning a post that Mark Driscoll wrote in March, 2009?

Nash Equilibrium said...

Why does anyone mention Mark Driscoll at all? That's a more puzzling question.

Andrea said...

Well, I've read and reread the original post (very, good, by the way) and have found no referrences in it to most of the subjects in these comments: hair (facial or TOTH,) the identity of the one-star-hater, the usual comment traffic on Mr. Turk's posts, or even Phil Johnson.

And everyone's *OKAY* with this?

I either need some aspirin or closed captioning for the humor impaired.


Kerry James Allen said...

Hey, at least we avoided female hirsutism.

Nice post, Frank.

Aaron Snell said...

Well, we did until now, KJA!

Aaron Snell said...

OK, to actually get back on-topic, the idea behind this post is one of the blessings I and my family have experienced since we started really celebrating Advent (both Sunday nights and in our evening family worship/devotion time) a few years ago. It's all about the build-up to the coming of the Messiah as revelaed in the Prophets. Glad my kids are growing up with that sense of scope in the story.

Unknown said...

I surmise this discussion illustrates why women shouldn't attend seminary...?

DJP said...

Comment of the Day goes to DebbieLynne.


Rachael Starke said...

@ DebbieLynn - Exactly. Mens need to be mens by just being with mens in seminary so they can have deep, meaningful conversations with women about facial hair and potential for stardom in underwear commercials.


SamWise said...

Turk's insight on the nature of "Advent-us" illustrates Mark's succinct style. God's unending Word will not return void but produce in His time the promised and sure result--The Incarnation!

Will the Redeemed see the "Consolation of Israel," the Mighty "Annointed One" when "He appeareth?" Or will the market-driven leaders see an unncessary upheaval to their revenue stream?

As Edersheim's classic "Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah" begins, the context of the Gospel is set with the need for Redemption by a perfect Redeemer--the Very Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the World!"

We need John--in the "Spirit of Elijah" to reveal to us that Jesus is the One promised by the Prophets and Moses. There is no contradiction but completion by the "Logos of Theos."

Terry Rayburn said...

Really good, Frank.

One of the greatest gifts a Bible teacher or Pastor can give folks is insight into Christ in the Old Testament (it's FULL of Him), and not just as academic facts, but is the life and glory which God has laid out there.

I love your analogy of "the cat lady", because it applies to so many things in this world.

We can't "clean up" the world, because there are just too many cats, and the cats are not going away. All the more reason for our focus to be on Jesus and His Kingdom in the midst of cat-world.

Okay, do what we can in our little corner to foster biblical morality, economics, politics, etc., but time is too limited and life too short to devote our lives to cat clutter.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom advances in His plan, at His rate, and it just might be more in a wilderness town in China than in Washington or New York.

Well, I've gone to babbling, but Isaac Watts didn't write "Joy To The World" about the birth of Jesus.

It's easy to get bogged down and forget maranatha.