15 January 2013

Before It Gets Big Enough

by Frank Turk

It's funny how topics can run together.  I was going to write a post-script this week about the response to last week's series on Passion2013, and it turns out Louie Giglio made headlines for another reason thereafter, so we'll talk about that for a bit as well.

You know, I thought that the key moment in last's week's posts was when I said this:
And I ask it for only one reason: Jeff is famous because he wanted to draw the thick black line between Jesus and Religion -- and I find myself in full agreement with that objective.  I find myself fighting that fight in my own life on a daily basis. 
It is a completely fair question -- and I think the answers are useful to all kinds of people, and not just the young person who found himself or herself filled with something which looks and feels pretty good. 
Somehow, that morphed in the minds a few people into my condemnation of young people, joy, singing … all the usual ways in which the internet turns into J. Jonah Jameson braying about a menace who must be stopped.

I was notified by many that they have personally witnessed real salvation at Passion events, and to that I say: of course you have.  Well, why not?  Piper has historically brought out the hammers and tongs at Passion; in spite of his flightiness Francis Chan almost always gets it right when it comes to traditional, TMS-oriented, exposition of the truths of faith (being a TMS guy, after all).  Some people are going to get saved or convicted when that happens.

The point of last week's posts was, frankly, to notice that even people who get the name of God right are likely to get the way to love and worship him wrong.  Nobody (well, not nobody, but …) gets their noses out of joint when it is pointed out that people who think God comes in manifestations and not persons have a religion and not a faith in Jesus.  Nobody certainly gets their noses out of joint when we heap scorn on legalistic types or libertines.  But when we find out that the young and hip crowd could possibly have a false religion, suddenly we just don't get it.  It's my fault for noticing.

Listen: if you personally can't imagine that you might possibly be the victim of your own personal idol factory, let me suggest that you don't know yourself very well -- and you'd do yourself a favor to review the bits of Scripture we ran past last week to see which of those weeds are creeping up your personal trellis of worship and devotion before it gets big enough to say to you, "feed me, Seymour."

But the other thing which needs to be clarified in the post-script is that the organizers of the Passion event(s) need to make sure they are calling people to the right thing, setting the right expectations.  It's one thing to say that some friends are going to get together to discuss the faith and offer the exchange as a way to edify like-minded people; it's the same sort of mundane thing to say that God's word is going to be laid open by men who have been tested and approved.  But it's another thing entirely to advertise your event (explicitly, or implicitly) as a place where there's something that happens that doesn't happen (or worse: can't happen) at your local church.  There's always something fishy about super-apostles, whether they are chest-kicking charlatans like Todd Bentley, or they happen to bring the light show and their catalog of CDs for sale.  The real supply-side problem is not the religion, but the celebrity which creates the religion, and I leave the rest for you to sort out.

That makes a keen segue to my concluding topic today: as I am sure you have heard, Louie Giglio walked away from praying at the inauguration for President Obama's second term because, it was discovered, Giglio preached a sermon against homosexuality once, about 20 years ago, as he puts it.

On one side, it's sign of the times we live in.  All religion but the historic Christian faith is welcome in the public square.  It's a pretty odd situation we find ourselves in when, 4 years ago, Rick Warren prayed at the inauguration in spite of his stand against sin; today, after 4 years of the post-racial President, Louie Giglio gets the side eye for one 20-year-old sermon, even if he has repositioned the Gospel away from the hard demands of God's Law since then.  And the really bothersome part of this is that there wasn't even much of a flap about it.  It came up, and Giglio folded -- didn't want to be a distraction, he said.

In that, Matthew Lee Anderson praised him in his premiere piece for CNN by saying, effectively, more Christians ought to just keep it down when they are challenged about the dividing lines of the faith.  After all, he reasoned, Jesus just took it until they put Him to death.  That's how we should suffer.  Somehow the examples of Paul and Stephen got past Matthew's radar, where we are shown that persecution is actually a place where the demands of Christ and the need for the Gospel are make crystal clear by proclamation, not by analogy.

See: what I find most troubling about Giglio's resignation is not that he was, in any way, challenged about his faith or beliefs.  Politically, I say open the marketplace of ideas and let's see who has the silver and gold and who has the filthy rags -- even if someone winds up acting like Cain when we find out that he has something unacceptable, either to God or to other people, when it is all laid out in the open.  And theologically -- that is to say, as I am instructed in my faith -- while I expect the Gospel to save many, I also expect that it may have to do so as I share in the suffering of Christ.  That might mean, on a small scale, that they don't promote me at work because I think there's one holy book which makes the others look like pulp fiction; it might mean, on a larger scale, that when it comes out that I believe this stuff, they hurl insults at me over the internet -- even and especially people who claim to believe in Jesus.  Or more spectacularly, it might mean that people who actually identify themselves with their sins will demand I be excluded from the public forum because I am turning the whole world on its head -- and in my own defense, I can therefore proclaim the true fame of Christ.

The problem really isn't that we live in a post-Christian nation.  We should accept that we do.  We should be convinced of it.  The problem is when we are therefore satisfied with that, and we find that Jesus is only our private savior, and our local comfort, and our homestyle god -- one not fit to proclaim or defend when it's His law and His Gospel which are being reproached by those who would rather see the world in tatters and in rags, headed toward a fire who will never go out. The problem is that we think the privilege of proclaiming the Gospel is that it should gain us privilege and not disrepute.  When the side-eye comes against us because the Gospel offends, we think we're the ones who have done something wrong.

Last week, I prayed for those at Passion, and for those who organized it and promoted it as something which ought to set us at least on our guard against our own native tendency to deceive ourselves.  This week, I pray for our nation which now can brand a man a bigot because he believes that sex is important enough to have inherent governing principles.  And I pray for that man, because he doesn't think those principles, and their creator and sustainer, are worth making a public fuss anymore.

Be in the Lord's house with the Lord's people on the Lord's day this week, and pray for all of us.  May God have mercy on us all.


INC said...

Passion Church has a statement by Louie Giglio in which he said: Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.

How can calling people to repent from their sin and turn to Christ not be in his range of priorities? He’s been in the Atlanta area since 1995, and it’s an area with a visible community of men and women in the homosexual lifestyle.

I know because my brother died of AIDS in the Atlanta area in 1995. Giglio cannot possibly call anyone to ultimate ‘significance’ or make much of Jesus Christ without addressing the issue—not only in the Atlanta area, but also to the thousands of college students that come to Passion, because believe me, homosexuality is definitely an issue on college campuses.

Giglio had an opportunity this week to speak to the entire nation and proclaim the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the most loving thing he could have done. The redefinition of marriage is a firestorm, and he also had a platform to declare God’s truth on that.

My love for Christ and my love for my brother drove me to witness to him over decades. I listened to him, suffered with him, and many times suffered because of him. It was costly in tears and rejection from various family members, but it was worth it. My brother would have died without Christ and remained under God’s wrath.

We make much of Jesus Christ when we declare the truth of the Gospel. My heart breaks for those need that truth. To me Giglio’s entire statement is so carefully drawn to try to sound spiritual while at the same time be unoffensive. Well, the Gospel offends, but the Gospel also saves.

FX Turk said...

Let's be careful in the comments today about a couple of things:

1. Let's please be sensitive to the way we say what we mean. Use this past post as a guide for your perspective and your filters.

2. Let's please not turn this into a beating for Louie Giglio. Yes: I think he did a really ill-considered and unfortunate thing. That's enough. You can agree with that, but let's avoid piling on.

Carry on.

James Scott Bell said...

This week, I pray for our nation which now can brand a man a bigot because he believes that sex is important enough to have inherent governing principles.

It's good to pray like this, for what nation has ever been without need of prayer?

And I pray for that man, because he doesn't think those principles, and their creator and sustainer, are worth making a public fuss anymore.

This is a little tougher to unpackage. I suspect Pastor Giglio wants his "public fussing" to be on issues other than homosexuality (e.g., slavery). Which is a personal and pastoral decision. He wasn't going to win this one. He would have been "disinvited." So he made the judgment not to make this the defining fight of his public life. I'm okay with that.

Matthew Anderson, in his piece praising Giglio's decision, said that by withdrawing quietly "we can hold out the promise of reasonable discourse and communication..."

That's also naive. There can be no "reasonable discourse" on this issue with those who refuse to reason or discourse and remain unregenerate.

So was Giglio right to withdraw immediately? I think so. I don't find Paul making a "public fuss" about sexuality in Corinth or Athens or anywhere else. He preached Christ crucified and made known their "unknown god." It was inside the church where he instructed with authority on matters of morality.

Nash Equilibrium said...

But it's another thing entirely to advertise your event (explicitly, or implicitly) as a place where there's something that happens that doesn't happen (or worse: can't happen) at your local church.

Yep, that's it, isn't it?! The bigger the show, the more Jesus there must be there. There must have been therefore 12x as much Jesus at Passion as there was at the miracle of the loaves and fishes (60,000/5,000). Except that there wasn't.

PS: Is Warren going by Rock Warren because he wants to be some kind of Peter wannabe? Or was that a typo? :)

Kerry James Allen said...

On the Giglio Imbroglio (did DJP use that word yet?): It kind of reminds you of the Groucho joke about not wanting to go to any party that he was invited to. I guess they thought Giglio was a "safe" pick, but why would you even want to go where one of the 2009 "prayers" was V. Gene Robinson? Giglio probably could have done more good by a public refusal of the invite.

FX Turk said...

I have no idea why Johnny reads this blog.

Cathy said...

The problem starts when Christians, in acquiescence to the culture, redefine sin as social issues or social causes. Once you do that, you are at the mercy of the culture and you lose your only message to the world.

yankeegospelgirl said...

Frank, what's your position on Giglio's initial acceptance of the invite? My take is he should have said "No" upfront. To quote myself from another blog:

"I do advocate praying for the President. We should pray that he would be convicted of his sin and that God would prick his conscience in some way so that his eyes will be opened. However, that’s not the sort of prayer that goes over well when you’re invited to the inauguration. The idea isn’t supposed to be 'Come and pray that I will rule with wisdom and righteousness when by your standards there’s small chance that I will be doing any such thing.' The idea is that you’re making a gesture of friendship and that there’s still some level on which you respect the President and have confidence that he will do some good things. When you have a President as blatantly evil as Obama, that becomes very difficult."

Unknown said...

I wish pastors I know in my community spoke with such clarity and conviction as you do, Frank. I have been a long time reader since there was only one Pyromaniac. I always enjoy the spirited debate and the cogent thinking as you and Dan apply The Word to issues we see and hear about every day. Please continue to be engaged. God bless you, one and all.

Unknown said...

BTW, I was a promoter of Christian concerts in a major city from 1987 to 1995. Though I saw crowds as large as 30,000 from time to time, I never fooled myself into thinking that Jesus was blessing the event based on the size of the crowd or number of tickets sold. Some CCM artists believe they are spreading the Word and some think of themselves as a Christian alternative to secular entertainment. I have seen God move in groups of 300 and 20,000+, there was obviously no correlation. Some artists clearly preached the gospel at the end, some avoided it (in fact, some demanded I NOT open or close with prayer). In any case, the Spirit moves where He wills, as He pleases. Even Balaam's ass served a purpose in God's plan. I like to think I am at least as useful. Or try to be.

DJP said...

Kent, Frank is awesome and indispensable. If there weren't a Frank, we'd have to invent one. But who'd be smart enough?

Bill said...

The discussion of whether or not to have accepted in the first place coupled with the redefinition of sin gains greater clarity when one realizes just a few years ago, the "One" being inaugurated said sin was his own inability to meet the standards he set. Praying for our leaders as we are commanded, absolutely. Being forced to pray an ecumenical prayer that offends God but not man, absolutely not. Our pastor was asked to pray at the opening of our state house but had to submit his prayer before hand. He declined. Even if Pastor G did not withdraw, my guess is the administration would have to put their stamp of approval on the prayer. We Christians must pray earnestly for our nation, it is our duty and privilege to do so. A prayer for show, as the inauguration obviously has become, is not necessary.

FX Turk said...

I think Christian pastors should pray in public as often as they have the opportunity to do so -- provided they pray to God the Father, God the Son, God the Spirit, and not some nameless, faceless secular statue labelled, "to an unknown god."

Kerry James Allen said...

I think Stan Lee could have invented Frank.

Nash Equilibrium said...

MenaceMan, and his arch-nemesis, OneStarHaterman.

DJP said...


Not "RaisedPinkieMan"?

Chris H said...

I'd happily submit a prayer for approval. And they can even suggest revisions if they'd like. No problem. I wouldn't ever agree, but they can make any suggestions they want.
And then, of course, no one can stop me once my mouth is going from doing what God asks of me: to preach Him and make Him known. Unless they want to tackle me and pull me off the stage (which would be fine with me too), I'd throw down some Gospel and let God be glorified however He will.

And if anyone criticises me, I'll just do what DJP would do and say that "God told me to say this. Touch not the Lord's anointed."

DJP said...

There y'go.

Kerry James Allen said...

"RaisedPinkieMan" is the nemesis of DJP, AKA "The Tilter."

Tom Chantry said...


Bill said...

Frank: agreed. Properly reverential, properly biblical public prayer is great. I was noting simply that many invocations, especially at Gov’t functions, are an offense to God, not glorifying.
Chris: while not in front of the state chambers, I recently gave a “holiday” invocation for a federal gov't event. Upon agreeing to pray, I let the organizers know it would be a uniquely Christian prayer and if they had trouble with that to uninvited me. They decided to send me a canned prayer from the chaplain’s office. You would not believe the pap coming from military chaplains (I can post the canned prayer if you'd like). Anyhow, I withdrew upon getting the canned prayer only to be told I didn't have to use it. So I reaccepted. Yes, some were offended by my prayer but so be it, I do not believe God was offended. No one tackled me but there were whispers and people are treating me differently. I was known in my local section as one who honors Christ but now have wider infamy. Looks like I’ll be living up to Frank’s passed over for promotion disdain which, come to think of it, is an oxymoron. As a child of God what position on earth compares?

JohnnyAngel Advocacy said...

I don't like to argue points in other people's beliefs and therefore do not get into arguments over what I see as their frailties. I believe that if a person in all honesty tries to find the path to Jesus and winds up following a different path than what I believe is the truth,how can I tell them that they have NOT found the truth without hurting them or worse yet,seeming like a know-it-all and making an enemy?Doctrine is a meandering path at times and the Gospel seekers and preachers,prognosticators and teachers may all have their heart in the right place, but their head in the wrong place,though not completely.Ending I'll say, if I met a Jew and a Catholic and a Protestant and I was protestant raised, would that mean I must agree with the Protestant even though the demeanor of the Jew and Catholic is nicer? It seems that to know how to DO Christian works and less talk will show the true light of a Christian.

Eric said...

After all, niceness is how to earn favor with God, hence the modern American funeral = ode to (fill in the blank)'s niceness.

Robert Warren said...

Probably better to leave acts of public ecumenical worship, like prayer at an inaugural event, to schnooks like Vicky Gene Robinson, who prays to GOOMU, "god of our many understandings".

Solameanie said...

Amen and amen again. Five stars.

Solameanie said...

As an aside, I see the comics have franked the meta in a Frank post. I can't adequately describe how satisfying that is in a humorous way. ;)

FX Turk said...


How long have you been a Christian?

FX Turk said...

Bill --

I'm pretty confident that I wasn't endorsing an ecumenical, interfaith prayer with this blog post.

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

"...all the usual ways in which the internet turns into J. Jonah Jameson braying about a menace who must be stopped."

Wait a minute...did you just compare yourself to Spider-man? Sorry, but "Frank Turk is a web-slinger" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

FX Turk said...

Seriously: nobody has yet put it together that my trope about being a menace who must be stopped was taken full cloth from JJJ ranting about Spidey?

Nobody? Wow.

Tom Chantry said...


I don't want you to be upset about this, so take a deep breath...count to ten...

We don't all care about comics like you do.

We don't all even read comics.

Some of us don't have a clue who J. Jonah Jameson is.


Aaron Snell said...

Well, I did, from the get-go. But then, I thought I was Spiderman until about the age of 8.

Paula Bolyard said...

If you haven't seen Lawrence O'Donnell's screed about Giglio (and the Bible and Christians) it's worth a look.

Though O'Donnell's scorn sounds extreme, I think he's merely more open about his views than the large number of cultural and political elites who believe the exact same things he does. I suspect O'Donnell knows exactly what he's doing in misquoting the Bible and misconstruing its meaning. Though most 4th grade Awana students could debunk his idiocy, his low information viewers enjoy that sort of fodder.

But this is a taste of what's to come. Very soon, I suspect, messages like this will be coming down as the official word of our government. Speaking publicly (biblically) against homosexuality will not only be marginalized (as Giglio found), but it will be illegal in most contexts.

I think churches ought to start planning now for a time when they will have to choose between keeping their tax exempt status and preaching the whole counsel of God.

Rhology said...

Duh. J Jonah Jameson is the mild-mannered alter ego of Iron Man.