20 February 2013

The Be-Happy Attitudes

by Frank Turk

So I posted that tweet a couple of weeks ago, and because I had other things to say I didn't comment further.

Here's my further comment:

The difference between the Gospel and the preaching of our identity (whatever its basis) is the difference between the preaching of God's supremacy expressed in Christ's superiority and telling people they can have their best life now.

I'm on an airplane again today.  Behave yourselves.


Tom Chantry said...

I do trust no one is going to argue with that. I mean, honestly!

Steve Berven said...

"he appreciates our grace-centered efforts to serve and obey him."

Not really sure how that jibes with "When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

But then, whom am I to judge? :~D

Seriously though, I can kinda see what he's trying to get at here, but it sounds a little too much like a name-it-and-claim-it kind of thing to me.

Yes, I am a new creation in Christ, but I am still dependent, day by day, minute by minute on Him. I can certainly see being liberated from guilt and shame through the redemption of Christ...right up to the point where I feel "empowered" to do all manner of things which may ultimately by works-based and un-Biblical.

FX Turk said...

Tom - not everyone is that kind of Puritan.

Steve - the wonder of it is how gallantly TGC is protecting us from the mistake.

David A. Carlson said...

yet the NT calls all believers Saints...exactly why is that not our identity? Is that not exactly what MD is calling us to recognize - exactly what the bible preaches?

Robert said...

Romans 8:29 says that God predestined us to become conformed to Jesus' image. Certainly that carries some type of implications in our lives while we are here on earth and not just when we get to heaven and are glorified.

Also, Paul writes that we should conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ in Philippians 1:27. Again, there are clearly implications in our day to day lives if we follow this command.

We are not only supposed to preach "God's supremacy expressed in Christ's superiority", but we are supposed to have lives that are marked by the work of God to conform us to the image of Christ. Part of that is losing some of our identity and becoming unified in Christ (and that means Jesus as He is shown in all of the Bible). All other things just tend to divide us.

James Scott Bell said...

I wouldn't conflate Driscoll and Schuller. Driscoll is still playing football (maybe arena football, but that still means pads and hits); Schuller just passed out Nerf footballs at the door. Nor is MD simply Joel Osteen with hair on his chest (in fact, the book cover is the anti-Osteen....no BriteSmile here, for which we can ll be thankful).

Have not read the book, but from the interview it does seem he's giving indications of moving from the arena league to the powder puff league. "Appreciate" is a squishy word that fails to capture the majesty of God's love, and the use of politically correct pronouns is like nails scratching a blackboard.

But I'm not yet ready to ban him for using performance enhancing verbiage.

Steven A Mitchell said...

Frank, so glad someone finally said this. I have a certain aversion towards trying to weave existential-esque identity issues into the gospel. A sermon here or there, fine. But an entire book, plus press junket tour? Eh.....

Michael Coughlin said...

Sometimes I think the best comments are those which refer to The Princess Bride or My Cousin Vinnie. As there appears to be no applicable quote from either of those movies, I humbly submit this comment which simply mentions each.

Jules' Diner said...

I seek to know who Christ is, and Christ alone. 1 Cor. 2:2

I know exactly who I am.

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, our identity in Christ is a declared identity, not so much an experiential identity.

So we do need to understand our identity, so long as we don't become confused into imagining that we are owed something or deserve something special because of it.

Spending too much time on our identity in Christ would, I suspect, tend to take away our emphasis on our dependency on Christ for everything and every moment.

There seems to be a parallel between talking about our identity in Christ and saying "thank you God that I am not like other men."

And yet, the Bible does tell us about our identity in Christ. So there is that.

FX Turk said...


What does the word "Identity" mean?

FX Turk said...

Let me advance this discussion two steps while DAC discovers the dictionary.

Identity: the sense of self, providing sameness and continuity in personality over time.

That's what Driscoll is talking about. I am looking forward to anyone trying to disambiguate that from the main focus of Robert Schuller's lifetime body of work on what people need.

Eric said...

He lost me at "tribe".

Word Verification: "pinkself"

DJP said...

Eric: YES.

It should only be said in a Thurston Howell III voice.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

But Frank--you menace--what good does it do to make me listen to another message about God's supremacy expressed in Christ's superiority when I'm taking anti-depressants?

Nash Equilibrium said...

I don't "get" the tweet; I am obviously the only one here who is not spending his evenings watching The Driscoll Channel. Is he a person I should be paying attention to?

Merrilee Stevenson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Merrilee Stevenson said...

Okay, I'm really just taking anti-biotics. So you can blame my sick mind for thinking of this clip in conjunction with the anti-depressant outbreak Driscoll refers to. They must be some church members waiting to go in to his office for a counseling session.

Aaron said...

I don't see the comparison between Driscoll and Osteen. Osteen's theology seems to boil down to "just be happy because God loves you." Driscoll on the other hand, has turned the simple message of the gospel into nonsensical psychological babble. At least that is the conclusion I reached just before my eyes glazed over while reading that nonsense.

aaron said...

oh, I'll argue with this tweet. . . all day.

Driscoll is talking about Ephesians, aka, our identity being "in Christ". That has everything to do with the Gospel, as that's the result of the Gospel, that we have a new identity.

I don't like everything Mark does, and I don't know a ton about Robert Schuller's ministry, but anyone who thinks MarsHill doesn't preach the cross in excruciating detail, preach repentance, or talk about the importance of our new identity in Christ (which the Apostle Paul spent a verse or two discussing). . isn't paying attention.

I'm not a Mark apologist, don't agree with him on some foundational things. . . I just think this book and this campaign from his church is the wrong thing to go after. Never stopped you guys before though, so, alas. . . .

Aaron Snell said...


Not to clutter up the meta with Aarons, but I'm having trouble connecting the dots here.

Are you saying that, in principle, we cannot talk about our identity, whether in Christ or otherwise, without sliding into Schullerism/Osteenism?

Halcyon said...


I second what Aaron...er, Mr. Snell, asked. Exactly what was Driscoll's faux pas?

(1) Reducing our identity in Christ to Osteen-esque "psychological babble" (as someone here put it)?

(2) Making the supremacy of God in Christ about us (our feelings, our well-being, our advancement, etc.) rather than either God or Christ?

(3) Talking about "identity" at all?

Be a menace, but help a brother out.

FX Turk said...

Aaron Snell:

I'll bite: Yes, that's what I'm saying.


I don't think that's what Ephesians says -- not that way, and not with that intention. Here's what I think Ephesians says, insofar as one sentence can do it justice: Knowing the Gospel completely by viewing Christ completely causes the church to develop completely.

It's odd that the idea of "identity" is not mentioned by Paul at all -- instead he mentions "election." What do you think the different is between being "identified" and being "elect"?

aaron said...

Frank, are you arguing that Mark has not spoken enough about election in his ministry? I'd just argue that that's simply not the case.

Regarding the issue at hand. The 1st chapter of Ephesians, . . . (to speak nothing of other parts of the book) is talking about election, yes. But, election to what? Here are some statements from that chapter:

"adoption as sons" , "holy and blameless", "uniting all things in him" "in him we have obtained an inheritance"

Of course we should talk about the theological issues of election and salvation from the 1st chapter of Ephesians. . but discussing what we're called TO, and what being called MAKES US (i.e. sons) certainly isn't out of bounds.

aaron said...

Also, to say that we can't speak of identity without veering into Osteen-ism is to rip 2 Corinthians 5 out of the bible.

Those things should be discussed under the doctrines of salvation and election, yes. But, someone show me where Mark D. doesn't believe in election, or is veering towards universalism (i.e. Osteen) where everyone is a "new creation", etc. . . I think Mark is pretty clear on this topic, and happened to agree with him that too many Christians don't live as the called adopted children of God, made new "in Him". That's a good category to remind the modern church of, in my opinion.

Unknown said...

all three i would say.
#1, because that incorporates a level or of comfort with relativism that is cool and stuff but not good.
#2, because that is what he is reducing the work of the gospel and Christ to in most everything he has done in the past several years.
(because of the work of Christ at the cross, we can have better sex, more fun, expectation of all awesomeness etc)
#3, because like so much of the soft edge style, he can claim cover from non-supporters like one of the Aaron's, because it can mean all the right stuff as easily as all the wrong stuff.

so don't be pinata hunting y'all


aaron said...

Mike, show me where Mark thinks the work of Christ leads to better sex, more fun and expectation of awesomeness? The marriage book (lamentable at parts) did not claim that Christ's work won better sex for us. Where did you get that?

You guys need to help me with where "identity in Christ" preaching, with a clear basis in election and ecclesiology (i.e. our identity is also communal) from Mark D., Tullian T., and Matt Chandler is anything like Osteen, or anything to be argued against. I don't read Osteen as having anything to do with an identity fix, as much as a "positive thinking" fix and having a good attitude. That's not what Mark is saying, just because he had a sympathetic sentence towards Osteen last week.

FX Turk said...


I am saying he is taking a turn for the worse here. If you think he's not, then you are welcome to your opinion. The proof is in the Elephant Pudding.

aaron said...

Well, agreed that the last Elephant Room was a disaster. Disagree that this book is turning towards anything but the text. Thanks for letting me have my opinion. . haven't seen that alot around here. I sincerely appreciate it.

James Scott Bell said...

Yeah, I don't see Driscoll talking about "sameness and continuity in personality over time."

"There is still a seed of rebellion from Adam in us, the temptations of the world around us, and the snares of the devil set for us. In this life we continually grow to live out our new identity as new people in Christ through a process called sanctification. In this process we learn more about Jesus and become more like him by the power of the Holy Spirit..." (p. 152)

I'd like to see more comparison. Schuller preached a "gospel" of "possibility thinking," i.e., you can do anything by thinking the right way. Driscoll at least starts in the right place, the need to be rescued "from the terrible fate of sin, death, hell and the just wrath of God." (p. 16) I can't imagine finding that in a Schuller book.

Aaron Snell said...

I, for one, am glad that aaron has adopted e.e. cummings' aversion to capital letters.


OK, then tell me why the charge of Schullerizing the Gospel shouldn't be equally leveled here, here, here (see Part One in the ToC), and here?

Look, I'm usually right with you, Frank, but I'm having trouble following your logic here. I'll not deny problems in that interview. And usually even your harder-to-understand-at-first-blush points are well worth the effort, so I'm assuming you're seeing something that I'm missing. If my clarifying question IS what you're saying, then how did you come to that conclusion? And how does it not level the same criticism at the links above?

Jeremiah Greenwell said...

The problem with mistakes like this is that they always have a basis in truth. For example:

"...there are worse things than being happy and encouraging..."

Agreed whole-heartedly, but when the context is in reference to a false teacher who's waving sinners on in encouragement over the cliff of death into Hell and promising them peace with God all while wearing a broad smile on his face, we might need to rethink the application.

As has been the case for a while, Mark Driscoll has often taught very true and very biblical things, but his misapplication of that truth has enabled all sorts of errors and he's gradually been distancing himself more and more from the true Gospel. And the true gospel says "Woe to the prophets and priests who have healed the hurt of the daughter my people slightly by proclaiming 'Peace, Peace!' when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 8:11-12, paraphrased).

One more thing:

"In any case, the big idea in my book...is that God loves us, he is aware of our life, and he appreciates our grace-centered efforts to serve and obey him. When we grasp this, we're free to stop seeking appreciation and adulation from others and to work from purer motives without being discouraged or devastated when we're unappreciated by people. This contributes to our ability to be saints who persevere."

How on earth can a sanctification that ignores both criticism and praise (or reality) which is solely based on motives (which are unseen) in a "it's just me and Jesus" mentality contribute anything to a real ability to persevere and not a misguided delusion? Or how will ignoring the reproof of someone like my Pastor because it's all good between me and Jesus help me be a better Christian?

I don't think "our tribe" is an apt description for him to use at this point.

donsands said...

After I read the post and Mark's words, I was still foggy.
But, as I read thru the comments, then I thought of some thoughts I had today. Not sure if they fit really.

I was saying to my friend today that I am way more like a Pharisee than Christ.
I have been regenerated, and have Christ in me the hope of glory, but why He would want to take residence in me, I cannot know. The animal stall where he was born was cleaner.

yet, with all my ugliness, I am washed in the precious blood, and given the robe of righteousness to wear, because of His amazing grace alone, through faith alone.

And this incredible grace is working in me to bring glory and honor to the One who gives this grace upon grace to wretches like us: Mercy is given to whom God chooses.

FX Turk said...


I think "identity" theology is problematic because, at the end of the path, it is about how we feel about us rather than how we belong to and worship Christ. You will find that the NT doesn't discuss "identity" but "election". The difference is between how we see ourselves (identity) and how God sees us and sets us aside (election).

The former is prone to being mired in our problems; the latter is the solution to our problems.

CCinTn said...

I found myself going back and forth on the wrongness/rightness of the use of identity during this thread. I see some valid points or observations made by some of the aarons but I think that Daryl's 7:08 comment and Frank's last comment helped to clarify the issue for me: Whatever identity we think we "have" in Christ is a declared state because we have been elected.

Frank's statement of identity being how we see ourselves and election being how God sees us and sets us apart is golden.

I wonder if much of what folks point to in the NT when they think of their 'identity in Christ' lies in the 'already but not yet' realm.

To build a doctrine or theology on our identiy too often takes people down the path that many took in the '70's and '80's when some folks began proclaiming that they were a child of the king (or king's kids). That reasoning soon led to the excesses we saw at PTL, 700 Club, Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts ad naseum

I do not think our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Sudan, Iran or North Korea would be edified much by reading Mark's lastest book, however, I'm certain that Christian bookstores here in the States will see them fly off the shelves. Maybe we understand our position in Christ better than they do?

FX Turk said...

It's important to note, btw, that every time someone starts preaching/teaching on "identity" theology, they are inevitably preaching about how to feel and how to overcome our feelings. You know what? Our feelings are not the measure of anything -- nothing objective, anyway. Feelings ought to be the trailing indicator of our lives, not the leading indicator.

Addressing the trailing indicator seems to me to be missing the point entirely. It means we are looking at the wrong end of the problem. It's like taking aspirin for a brain tumor. Maybe you can fix the way you feel about the problem with the medicine, but you aren't fixing the problem.

Robert said...

I think that Calvin does a good job of dealing with identity in the very beginning of the Institues. We identify God as being totally holy and ourselves as being totally sinful. God chose to save some through His own will in order to display His glory. I'm a sinner saved by grace...I'm not proud of the label of sinner, but it is who I am. God sees me as a glorified saint, but I won't truly realize that until I am with my Lord and Savior. I think that David nailed it when he asked who is man that God would even consider him.

Now, I do realize that Jesus has paid the price for all of my sin and I am free to go and serve Him. And I will make mistakes, but He has already paid the price for them. I don't go seeking to sin more, but I also am not crippled by the worry over how much I am going to blunder things...so long as I am staying in His Word and applying it faithfully.

So who am I? I'm a sinner saved by the grace of God through His sovereign election. All of these other things he is identifying are just a result of God's election. They all come with salvation and, for me at least, only make me more humbled, convicted, and grateful because of the grace He shows me in spite of my sinfulness.

wv: Dactory (where DACs are made?)

Nash Equilibrium said...

Who is Driscoll, that Christians are mindful of him?

Stephen said...

To make a couple minor side points, one to aaron and one to Aaron.

"in him we have obtained an inheritance." For what it's worth, both instances of 'inheritance' are only ambiguously about the Christian having received something or waiting to receive something later from God. As the HCSB translates it, "In him we were also made an inheritance...[The Holy Spirit] is the downpayment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession" (1:11, 14). In the second instance, 'our' could be a subjective genitive, we inherit and redeem a possession; or an objective genitive, God is redeeming his future possession, us.

To Aaron and his linked examples of preachers/bloggers talking about identity, I would say there is a vast difference between talking about "identity" as wretched sinners in need of a Savior or our posture of obedient humility before the Sovereign God, and the identity Driscoll and others are teaching. I am not sure Frank wants to rid "identity" out of a Christian's dictionary, but the popular proud use of it.

donsands said...

This subject has been excellent for a good friend of mine, and so thank you Cent for the once again good exhortation and edifying post.

May our Savior help us grow in His grace as we seek His wisdom from above, and not the wisdom of this world. Amen James our Lord's brother, 3rd chapter

Gabby said...

The article lost me at 'Vision Pastor'.

Nuf said.

Word Verification: heritic

Aaron Snell said...


Let me just preface this by saying that you don't owe me an answer to any question I pose here on your blog. I'm a guest, and a grateful one at that.

However, I can't see how what you wrote answered my two questions. If talking at all about identity leads to the gospels of Schuller and Osteen, doesn't your critisim apply then to the teachings of Piper, MacArthur, and DJP?

Are you trying to make a distinction between "identity theology" and simply speaking of one's identity in Christ? I concede that there is a way in which focusing on identity can be thoroughly anthropocentric. But does it have to be? Why can't we talk about the objective realities of what God in Christ has done for us and in us, and what they mean for how we see ourselves, and remain totally and thoroughly biblical?

I agree that the NT doesn't talk about "identity" (using that term or a corrolary, at any rate) and does talk about "election." However, when you define your terms, I see a problem - when you say, "The difference is between how we see ourselves (identity) and how God sees us and sets us aside (election)" the content you assign to "identity" is present in the NT. Scripture does talk about what we should do in light of how we see ourselves. Take, for example, Colossian 3:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.

And if you want to get real nit-picky and say that this is really about how God sees us, not how we see ourselves, then fine - but should we view ourselves the way God views us? No one can escape the existential reality of seeing himself a certain way, right?

Look, I share your concern about the way in which certain teachers focus on identity such that it sucks the hearers into the black hole of anthropomorphism. I just think you might be painting with too broad a brush, and making "identity" and "election" into hermetically-sealed compartments, when in fact doing so leads to the exact error you are (rightly) decrying. I'd hate for the baby to get thrown out with the bathwater.

Aaron Snell said...


A definition of what you mean by "identity theology" would be helpful, such that when Driscoll talks about identity, he's doing it, whereas when Piper, MacArthur and DJP do it, they're not.

FX Turk said...

Aaron Snell:

//If talking at all about identity leads to the gospels of Schuller and Osteen, doesn't your critisim apply then to the teachings of Piper, MacArthur, and DJP?//

Why, yes it does. Of the three you listed which are supposed to abash me in some way, which one is it that turns out to have a lit tied up in identity theology? Hint: which one is consumed with "fighting for joy"?

//Scripture does talk about what we should do in light of how we see ourselves.//

Um, not so fast. Scripture does tell us what it means to live as if it is really true that we are in Christ -- but what it says is not emotional counselling or advice about how to feel better about ourselves. Your example would be my example of how to read the NT discussion of identity: it speaks to our /holiness/ not our /positive attitude/.

//I just think you might be painting with too broad a brush, and making "identity" and "election" into hermetically-sealed compartments, when in fact doing so leads to the exact error you are (rightly) decrying. I'd hate for the baby to get thrown out with the bathwater.//

Nope: I'm making the point that the things we should get obsessed about are not related to how we feel about us. They are, in fact, exactly the opposite: how we feel must be the trailing indicator, the hair at the end of the tail of the dog, and not the tail which wags the dog.

Aaron Snell said...


>>Scripture does tell us what it means to live as if it is really true that we are in Christ -- but what it says is not emotional counselling or advice about how to feel better about ourselves. Your example would be my example of how to read the NT discussion of identity: it speaks to our /holiness/ not our /positive attitude/.

Bingo. Wholehearted agreement, and if this is what you've been trying to say all along, thank you for spelling it out for me so clearly. So there IS a New Testament discussion of identity, one which we can have as well, when properly done.

>>I'm making the point that the things we should get obsessed about are not related to how we feel about us.

Again, agreed. I guess my concern was that the language you were using or affirming seemed to make identity-talk only about "how we feel about us," rather than allowing for a biblical "who am I objectively" take on it. Your above statement clears that up for me.

Thanks for taking the time with me.

Robert said...

I think we can see this discussion between Frank and Aaron as the difference between how things are handled here and at other prosperous blogs with rock star types on the marquee...this interaction would never have taken place with Terribly Gargantuous Comrades.