The slaughtered Lamb

Recently, I have watched a few YouTube clips of Mark Driscoll and have been disturbed by a number of things about his brand of Christianity. The first thing that strikes me about him is his arrogance. He is certain he’s got the right answers when it comes to theology and biblical interpretation.  And there’s this quote by Mr. Driscoll:

Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wristed hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.  (this quote appears on p. 194 of the book Jesus for President)

There are many things I find offensive about this quote, but the most glaring thing is this: Apparently he has missed the overwhelming image of Jesus in Revelation… that of the slaughtered Lamb, who still bares the marks of his agony.  This is a conqueror who conquered sin and death, not through guns or muscles or any kind of force at all. Rather, He conquered through love. He accepted the ravages of sin, willingly allowed it to destroy him… and then he rendered it powerless by that very act of submission. He did not defend himself and did not lash out in anger or revenge.  He will certainly return as a judge, and I am not trying to deny that, but his tattoos are the marks of what he has suffered for others, they are NOT badges that proclaim his machismo.

If I could speak to Mr. Driscoll myself, I would ask him to lay down his arrogance and bitterness against those who believe differently than he does. I would ask him to consider for a moment that dispensationalists and fundamentalists don’t have everything figured out when it comes to the Bible or theology, and that they have something to learn from Anabaptists and Catholics and Methodists, from pacifists and even women.  I would ask him to take on the posture of the slaughtered Lamb, who BEFORE He ascended into glory, suffered and washed his disciples feet– even the feet of the one who would betray him.  THAT would be something I could respect, rather than the condescension and judgementalism he currently seems to be spouting.

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26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Robert Martin
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 08:20:14

    I would have to agree, to a point, with the quote that you put up from Mark Driscoll. While Jesus brought a gospel of love for God and love for your neighbor, we cannot forget that this is the same Jesus who took a whip into the temple and over-turned the changing tables. This is the same Jesus who will break the seals on the scrolls. We believe in a Triune God which means the Father = Son = Spirit. And in this mix of people, the same just and righteous judge that is in God the Father is also present in Christ the Son. We need to be careful that we don’t go too far the OTHER way and, in our worshipping of the conquering slaughtered Lamb, it is only by that grace and our belief in him that we escape the sword wielding conqueror that Mark Driscoll mentions.

    Reply

  2. krisanneswartley
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 08:52:07

    I still find his language offensive. I agree that God is a just and righteous judge, but there is NO NEED to use the kind of language Driscoll uses. He’s an extremist. He does not hold the tensions of scripture together, and you have to agree that there are tensions. I think it’s meant to be that way. And if he feels the need to be a “corrective” against the Emergent stream, then he should do so in humility, not in arrogance.

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  3. Robert Martin
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 11:45:39

    A good point that. We can point out the need for the tension between the righteous judge and the merciful saviour without pointing fingers. “Shock jock” tactics probably are not in line with Christ (although he did use terms like “pit of vipers” and “white washed tombs”).

    Conceded: Arrogance has no place in a Christian minister

    Reply

  4. Robert Martin
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 15:53:57

    A follow up:

    While I agree the arrogance has no place in a Christian minister, I wonder if there is a place for extreme statements? Is there some point in time when a Christian minister has to put things bluntly and in extreme fashion to get his/her point across?

    As example, I offer up the Message translation of Matthew 23:13-36

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2023:13-36;&version=65;

    I don’t know the right answer… but the question in my mind is: Which is more loving, to gentle call out to someone in danger, or to scream to them that they are about to die? If my congregation is going the wrong way and doing so head-long and pell mell, shouldn’t someone stand up and shout “What, are you BLIND?!? TURN AROUND YOU’RE HEADING FOR A CLIFF!”

    Maybe that’s what Mark Driscoll is doing. I don’t know as I don’t have first hand experience (yet). Is he truly arrogant or does it come across so because he is deliberately trying to get our attention? If his point is for the church to start talking about the tension between the Just God and the Merciful God, didn’t he achieve it just in the blogosphere reactions?

    Tough questions… and no answers from me on them… just something I started thinking about.

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  5. krisanneswartley
    Jul 31, 2008 @ 16:44:51

    Good questions… solid points made about warning people.

    A counter-question: Did God give Mr. Driscoll some special revelation that He did not give everyone else? And if not, what gives Driscoll the right to decide who, within the fold of those who are committed to Jesus Christ, is right and who is wrong?

    Has he considered himself with sober judgment, considered the plank in his own eye before pointing out the speck in his brothers’ and sisters’ eyes? I wonder… because he doesn’t speak as if he has. And if he wants me, for one, to heed the warning, then he needs to change his attitude. I would more readily stop if someone said, “Kris Anne, I love you! Stop right there!” rather than, “Kris Anne, you stupid idiot, stop!”

    Don’t forget that Jesus gave his life for that brood of vipers. I don’t see Driscoll laying down his life in love.

    I’m curious for my seminary friend, Jason, to weigh in on this. Do you see something I’m missing, Jason? What do you think?

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  6. Jason
    Aug 02, 2008 @ 14:16:16

    Hey! I was browsing around, checking in as usual, and this post most certainly hit my attention 🙂

    Let me say that this isn’t an either or situation Kris Anne. God is not JUST a pacifist (grace/mercy) and he isn’t JUST a macho man (judge, anger, wrath). There are two sides to this coin. You mentioned being graceful and how Jesus washed his disciples feet. This is true. AND he is coming back with a sword coming out of his mouth. The point that Mark (yes I can call him Mark:)) is making is that too often we stay glued to the Jesus at the incarnation…Mark is simply saying that Christ is ruling in heaven now, in Glory, and is coming back to kick some tail.

    I’ve told you before that I know Mark and have had the chance to talk to him. He’s a humble guy. He comes across brash (he’s a preacher!), but a lot of people said that about Martin Luther and John Calvin and even a guy like Jonathan Edwards. Mark is from the Reformed tradition, very much Calvinist, but very much graceful. He would admit to you (and has at the Acts 29 bootcamps) that he went through a stage of arrogance because he was young and had to be strong while planting a church in Seattle (the least-churched city in America). All of that has changed since Mark has had guys like C.J. Maheney, John Piper, D.A. Carson, J.I. Packer and even Rick Warren step in and help him out.

    Mark is a very funny guy with pithy statements. He’s loosened up a bit because sometimes they come across offensive, but I want you to reallllly consider something. He’s from Seattle. If you know anything about Seattle, it is VERY liberal and VERY not Christian. I have a really good friend of mine who moved here (he’s at my brother in-law’s church in the city) from Seattle. He’s a VERY sarcastic, witty person. That’s just the context. So when Mark is saying these things, he is saying them to a crowd that is struggling with homosexuality, pot, and anything else you can think of in a liberal city. He’s speaking their language. If John MacArthur planted a church there, it wouldn’t make it because Johnny Mac doesn’t do it that way.

    Also, Jesus died for his elect. He didn’t die for the Pharisees because they were on a straight path to hell. Jesus had every right to call them that. He called them out because of their religious ideology and the fact that they rejected their Messiah. (I’m a Calvinist, can you tell??) 🙂

    I have more to say, but I’ll wait for a response at this point.

    Thanks for inviting me in to the conversation.

    Did you get your homework all done for this class?? I have 2 more papers to go!

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  7. krisanneswartley
    Aug 02, 2008 @ 14:23:28

    Thanks, Jason. I appreciate your comments and your gracious attitude.

    Yeah, I’m only somewhat Calvinist, so I need to pray through the whole idea of Jesus dying only for the elect. I’m not saying I’m a universalist and that everyone’s saved, even those who do not choose to follow Jesus. I’m just saying that all the Calvinist language is new to me and I need to think through it all. I guess this is the tricky part of the diversity within the Body of Christ… will we ever know who’s right and who’s wrong? Maybe not ’til heaven… 🙂

    But thanks again for weighing in and for your gracious attitude in doing so! Say more, please!

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  8. Jason
    Aug 03, 2008 @ 21:56:47

    The only other thing I was thinking about was the fact that Mark is taking the Gospel, contextualizing it for Seattle, and growing a Church that is literally baptizing hundreds of people each and every week. While you seem very apprehensive towards his sternness, most people in his context find it comforting. You know, and I do too, that postmodernism is a problem for evangelicals. The problem is, truth is being underminded and thus, according to David Wells, meaning has died.

    What I see to be needed in our churches is a strong reliance on Truth and that is found in our Holy Scriptures. Preaching it loud and clear is of the utmost need in our culture. Mark’s doing that. And while he is a complementarian, as I am, he is being faithful to Scripture and faithful to culture by teaching and preaching them the Truth. 🙂 I know you would disagree with that view on the role of women in the church, but hey, we can put that aside right! 🙂

    Thanks again for the invite. I would love to add anything more if need be. Let me know if you need clarification or if you have an questions/comments, concerns, etc. See ya!

    Reply

  9. krisanneswartley
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 07:23:19

    While I agree that there is a place for sternness (as well as a place for gentleness and compassion), my concern is this— that we get so caught up in OUR interpretation of the scriptures (I, too, believe that THAT is where we find Truth), that we cut off conversation with those outside our tradition.

    When I listen to preachers like Driscoll, I hear a lot of posturing and “demonizing” of the other side. I know we need to be careful and defend proper doctrine, but look at the two of us, Jason… we disagree on more than things than we agree on, I would bet. Yet I don’t hear you telling me I’m going to hell. And I haven’t told you that. I hear what you’re saying about contextualization, though. While some might find it comforting to listen to someone who has it all figured out, I find it frightening…

    Calvinists don’t have everything right and neither do Anabaptists. Maybe every preacher should be required to go to a seminary outside of their denomination. I know I’ve found it to be a very growing experience. It pushes me, and we all need to be pushed to consider other points of view. I worry that Driscoll isn’t listening to anyone outside his brand of Christianity, and therefore, is too proud in his theological position. Thus, in the global context, the disciples he’s baptizing will not grow in the exact way that he’s not growing. And they cannot contribute to the Kingdom in many ways because of that. How sad. And how frustrating. While drawing stark lines between right and wrong may be helpful in the beginning, it only serves to stunt one’s growth in the end.

    It’s the tensions, Jason. God is stern and just and jealous, also full of love and mercy and grace. We should defend the doctrine, but also not judge. Peace and judgment. Humility and confidence. We have to live IN the these tenions, not ignoring either side.

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  10. Robert Martin
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 09:51:44

    Hey, Jason,

    Thanks for the insight on Mark Driscoll’s contextualization of the gospel for Seattle. I hadn’t considered that aspect of things. Unfortunately, with one thing and another, I still haven’t had a chance to listen to any of his stuff first hand.

    As for the general idea of doctrinal differences, I lean towards what Kriss Anne is saying. No group of Christians can necessarily say they have a corner on the wisdom and understanding of God. So no group can act in an arrogant fashion and say “We have it right.” However, if we feel strongly enough about a certain aspect of doctrine, we should, within certain contexts, be open to discussion about them, “speaking the truth in love.” And when someone does so, we should not get offended, personally, about it.

    While I don’t agree with the Calvinist view of the elect, I do see the scripture passages that seem to indicate something on those lines. However, I see other scripture passages that seem to indicate the opposite view. To me, it’s obvious that NEITHER view is 100% correct. I know what my convictions are but this is not to say I have the big picture. This is one of those “disputable matters” that Paul wrote about in Romans 14. I can still worship with you and celebrate our Saviour with you even though we don’t agree on these specific points. The unity of the body can be preserved. We believe in one Lord, one body, one Saviour. I think that’s the most important thing to remember.

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  11. Anna
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 10:41:40

    The strong black and white statements like the one KA has quoted here were the sorts of things I found comfort in as a teen growing up in the church, but now they have the exact opposite effect on me. For someone struggling to find some reason to stick with the Church (aka organized religion), this sort of thing is a huge turn-off. Just some food for thought as you all head towards different paths of ministry — not everyone, even in “VERY liberal and VERY not Christian” towns, will respond positively to the image of Christ as badass warrior “commitment to make someone bleed” if they step out of line.

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  12. Mike
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 19:57:53

    I’ve gotta agree with Anna here—in fact, I’ll go one step further and say that those in “VERY liberal” places are more apt to react badly to the message of the kick-ass Christ, as liberal people tend to be opposed to militarism in all of its expressions.

    Beyond this, though, I have seen this sort of message—a message full of doctrine, rules, and behavioral checklists—do very well. I lived for two years within spitting distance of World Harvest Church in Canal Winchester, Ohio, where the Rev. Rod Parsley counts his congregation at 10,000+ every Sunday (and for the record, I drove ten miles to attend Redeemer Lutheran Church while I lived there).

    There is something very comforting, for many people, in strict, dogmatic doctrine—Do this, don’t do that, fill the offering plate, and you’ll be spared the wrath of God which will target the world’s sinners when Jesus comes back not as the humble, paschal lamb but as the King of kings, with a warrior’s grimace on his face and a blood-stained sword in his strong right hand.

    I’m sorry, but that’s simply not the Jesus I know. The Jesus I know is the fullest expression of love and grace. It will not be his pleasure but his greatest pain to sit in judgment of those whom he must deny. It may well be the last and greatest temptation of Christ for him to want to say, “You know, I know these people didn’t believe in me and know me in their lives, but I love them so much, let’s give them a pass.”

    That’s the Jesus I know. And love. And trust. And strive to be like.

    Though those who know me well know that I have problems with a lot of things that St. Paul wrote in his letters, there are things he had right, and one of those is this: “If you believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord, and confess with your mouth that he rose from the dead, you shall be saved” (my emphasis).

    The divinity and resurrection of Jesus are the only to doctrinal requirements on salvation. Beyond this, I tend to think that Luther had it right: sin is not what we do, it’s who we are—we are sin, and because we are sin, all we do, right or wrong, good or bad, with honorable or malicious intent, is sin.

    Period.

    But God, through Jesus, loves us, and blesses us—all of us. And God is prepared and able to transform who we are from sin into grace, from death into life, and from strife into peace.

    That is the victory that Jesus won at Calvary. That is the victory that the risen Christ continues to win in each of us day by day. That is the victory that was revealed to St. John and that he revealed to us. The victory is over strife, death, and sin itself, not over so-called sinners and non-believers.

    My God, the Jesus I know, is not that petty. But to share in his victory, we must be in relationship with him, and that relationship is more than following a set of rules, believing a list of things. The relationship that will allow us to share in Jesus’s victory is a give and take, and a knowing and being known. It’s the same sort of relationship that allows us to share in the victories and triumphs of our parents and children, spouses and partners, friends and loved ones in this life.

    That’s what it takes. Not rules, dogma, or doctrine. The willingness to experience a transformative and reciprocal relationship with God, with Jesus. The sort of relationship we share with all of those closest to us.

    Our salvation lies in believing in Jesus, in trusting in Jesus, in loving him, and in being transformed by him.

    What more do we need than that?

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  13. Jason
    Aug 04, 2008 @ 21:41:20

    Kris Anne-

    I agree that we do get caught up in “our” interpretations and that causes division, which is exactly the opposite of what Christ wanted. We ought to dialogue and converse and mutually respect each other (which you and I have gotten pretty good at I’d say!).

    Driscoll wouldn’t say that he has it all figured out. He has hundreds of years of Reformed doctrine that he is standing on which ultimately goes back to Scripture. Thank God for the Reformers. But that doesn’t mean you don’t preach with confidence. You must preach, like Timothy was told by Paul (1 Timothy 4:13, 2 Timothy 3:16, etc.). Mark is very much listening to people outside of his circles. The Acts 29 Network is full of differing theological positions, and nobody divides over it; in fact, it strengthens it. But like Mark, I’m settled on a lot of issues. Some, not so much, but I can respect others who disagree and move on with my life. Souls are dying and going to hell. I’d be sinning if I didn’t take that seriously.
    I agree that we must live in the tensions because that is the way the Bible leaves us. And that’s okay. Some things we can go for certain on (close handed issues like Jesus is God). Some are secondary (eschatology) and others tertiary (preferences).

    Robert –

    Good insight. I would agree that we should be open for discussion, but when someone is preaching…you preach. It’s not a dialogue like some emergent crap I’m hearing about, it’s a monologue. That’s what the Bible teaches.

    I was never much of a Calvinists, but after actually studying Calvin and Edwards and our current theologian on the matter John Piper, I’ve found that those conclusions are exactly what I see in Scripture. And I’m going to preach it that way. And if someone doesn’t agree and feels like he/she can’t fellowship with my church, then okay. Go and serve elsewhere. I’ll still love ya. We have the same regenerate heart, but we differ on theology in our heads. And that’s just fine! 🙂

    Anna-

    I think you’re on to something. We have to be careful though because what you said made me uncomfortable. Reason being, is because you seem to be making truth move from the realm of objectivism to subjectivism. That’s not good. We must proclaim the objective truths of scripture. Postmodernism NEEDS it…whether in a liberal town or not. People still need to be told they are sinners (there’s a way to do this and a way NOT to do this) and they still need to repent and trust the savior. Pithy truth statements like this are true, if rooted in scripture, no matter WHO is listening…liberal or not.

    Mike-

    Accept this with love okay. But what you did in your post broke the 2nd of the ten commandments. Don’t make a god to suit yourself. You’re entire post consisted of “the God I know” or “the God I believe” or “The Jesus I know”. Be careful not to make Jesus the person you want him to be. I agree that he is loving and graceful and kind. BUT, you can’t just rest on that…Jesus is more than this. He is wrathful and has indeed been given the keys to the future judgement. He will cast people into hell without slight hesitation because he MUST. His character is Just and will send sinners to hell and not “feel bad” like you think he will. He must because he is Just and God has deemed sinners to hell and God’s Elect to heaven. It’s just Biblical my friend. Remember Matthew 7:23? “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness'”. Sounds to me like he’s going to be just fine sending sinners to hell.

    Just an encouragement Mike…the Jesus of the Gospels is still the Jesus of Revelation 19. You can’t go one way or the other and I know that Mark isn’t doing this with his preaching. He wants people to understand the Jesus in GLORY…at the right hand of the father.

    Check out Revelation 19:21

    “And the rest were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of him who was sitting on the horse, and all the birds were gorged with their flesh”. It’s not going to be a pretty picture.

    But Jesus is still beautiful and our Joy must be in Him and Him alone.

    Careful with your subjective remarks.

    —–

    Moving along. Kris Anne. If you go to the CCEF conference in November (the WTS thingy), I’ll see what I can do to introduce you to Mark. Maybe then you can ask him some questions 🙂
    My brother-in-law and I are going so hopefully if we get some time we could do that….

    Grace and Peace my brothers and sisters in our Lord!

    Jason.

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  14. Anna
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 11:05:53

    Jason: How do you know that your interpretation of scripture and your view of God is the only (right) one? We all experience Jesus in different ways.

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  15. Robert Martin
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 11:39:13

    Anna,

    There is a difference in personal experience of Jesus and the concrete Truth of who God and who Jesus is. Even in scripture, different people experienced God and Jesus in different ways depending upon personality, circumstances, and culture.

    However, the overall nature of God shows a consistency in scripture.

    Now, I will concede that I, nor Jason, nor Kris Anne have full, complete, 100% accurate knowledge of God (1 Corinthians 1:25 implies that God is bigger than we finite humans can understand). However, there IS a concrete Truth about who God is and what he expects. Sin is sin, grace is grace, God is God. While we disagree on the finer points of our understanding (predestination vs. free-will in our Calvinist discussions here), we recognize that there IS a concrete answer that we just may not fully realize yet.

    In the mean time, there’s this thing called faith which is defined scripturally as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” So, I don’t know the fullness of God. I do know what he has revealed to me right now. I have faith that my revelation, while incomplete, is a correct revelation of a part of the truth and my exercise of that faith should be to cling to it much like Abraham, Noah, and David did. God will continue to reveal to me more about him, which is where the humility aspect that Kris Anne mentions come to play. We need to be faithful to the revelations that we have received but humble enough to accept God’s continuing revelation, recognizing that each layer that is revealed does not necessarily negate the previous, but instead enhances and builds upon it to create a fuller understanding of our Creator, our Judge, and our Saviour.

    So… Guess what I’m trying to say is that we need to accept that Jason’s views of scripture and his interpretation are a revelation he has received of a Truth from God. Faith dictates that we do so. Humility dictates that Jason recognize that he needs to be open to the Spirit’s continuing revelation. I see, in his brief statements here, that he, through the grace of Christ, is doing so. He’s not perfect, I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect. So we will all make mistakes. But I am willing to accept that, while I may not agree with Jason and he may not agree with me, we share a common saviour and a common view that we NEED such a saviour and, from that firm foundation, we can, together, work to build God’s kingdom here on earth.

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  16. Mike
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 12:08:19

    Meanwhile, my comments have been categorized as “in error” and, thereby, dismissed.

    Because I am not a theologian by training, but a rhetorician, I find this example of the ad hominem fallacy problematic but unsurprising. After all, our brothers the Jesuits are traditionally extremely well versed in both disciplines and among Catholics (particularly), it is known that you “never give a Jesuit his first premise.”

    But because I wish to engage in the dialog, I will say that I beg to differ, Jason. I am not “creating God in my own image,” but describing my experience of God. The adage tells us that “experience is the best teacher,” and I have done my best to learn from that good, but oftentimes harsh, master.

    And I do not believe that God or Jesus can or will be anything but just in the final analysis, only that in meting what is certainly hard (if not harsh) justice, God will take no pleasure in it. The same way that all good parents take no pleasure in disciplining their children. God is Just, and, I agree, therefore MUST do perfect Justice in light of Grace. But even in the Matthew passage, there is no vindictiveness there, and no indication of pleasure—even schadenfreude—found there.

    As to the passage from Revelation, I agree, twofold. First, it is not a pretty picture. Second, it is a picture. Prophecy, visions, and revelation are hardly ever strictly literal. In all honesty, I imagine that the “sword” of the passage, emerging from Jesus’s mouth, will be those very words from Matthew—no less damning or damaging than a literal sword; indeed, perhaps more so.

    Finally, I do not mean to point anything I’m saying directly at Mark Driscoll, whose work, preaching, and ministry I am unfamiliar with. But I am speaking to general trends and other specific instances I have witnessed myself—trends and instances that make me very uncomfortable, mostly because I have seen, there, the sense of schadenfreude. Christians cannot take joy in the eventual fate of “sinners.” Christians cannot feel vindicated at the prospect of judgment. If we are to take seriously the fact that are unsaved souls in the world, we must take pains love them into the Kingdom, not to “scare the Hell out of them.”

    After all, Jesus died to demonstrate God’s love for all humanity. Don’t we, then, have an obligation to live, and if necessary die, as unfolding visions of that love, imperfect though we may be?

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  17. krisanneswartley
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 13:16:39

    Wow. There are so many things I could respond to here…. where to begin?

    First, just out of curiosity, where in the Bible does it say that a sermon must be a monologue and not a dialogue????

    Second, I would have to agree with Anna that while God reveals Himself in scripture, interpreting scripture is an extremely complex task… how do we know when we’ve got it right or not? Take, for a simple example, the 2 creation accounts (Genesis 1 and 2). Or, the differing accounts of the Roman Centurion story, one in Matthew 8 and the other in Luke 7— which is the correct account? Which got it wrong? They can’t both be right… either the guy went himself or sent servants. Scripture is messy, not easy to read and not easy to interpret. It is not always clear, even in the BIG things, like salvation. Is it merit (i.e. Matthew 25, the sheep and the goats), or is it faith (the Romans passage Mike cited)? Hmmmm… gets tricky, doesn’t it?

    Lastly, I understand what you’re saying, Jason, about the differences between the absolutes, the doctrines and the preferences. The problem is, we all can’t seem to agree on what goes into which category. Is hell=place or hell=an experience a “preference” or a doctrine or an absolute? Is following Jesus’ command to love our neighbors and serve those who would abuse us an absolute or doctrine? I wonder…

    One more thing before I go– I apologize to you, Mike, if you felt that your point of view was dismissed in this discussion. I appreciated very much, a number of things that you mentioned… especially the notion that God takes no pleasure in meting out justice on those whom he did not know, even though He will do it.

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  18. Jason
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 16:59:07

    Mike, your post was not dismissed. I am sorry if that came off harsh. Honestly my friend….I didn’t intend to hurt you. But too often in the postmodern world I’m hearing about “feelings” as if they take hold and determine truth. You did tell me your experience, and that’s great. I appreciated your humility. But I would ask that you base your feelings on all truth in scripture and not just separate what you might like or dislike (not saying that you meant to do that…but that’s the way I read it) 🙂

    Anna, I think that this is where I would say that yes, we all do “experience” Jesus in different ways. And I’m not willing to admit that I have the correct view all of the time. But I think Scripture teaches that this is where the importance of community comes in. Where we can agree to disagree, remain in fellowship, yet continue to be diligent towards the reading of the Scriptures (and not just reading, but interpreting). Truth has to remain objective and therefore we submit to it (Scripture) not the other way around. I don’t think you would disagree…

    Sermons are monologue not by virtue of scriptural command, but by historical understanding. It’s been that way since the early church. Scripture doesn’t tell me how to fix my brakes on my car, but from history, I can learn how to do so. I’m inclined to think that we ought to adhere to those who have gone before us as they have faithfully carried the Word throughout the centuries. And by the very nature of the word “preach” it is proclamation, not conversation. Jesus was the first preacher when he spoke the world into existence! 🙂 It’s beautiful really.

    Salvation issues are absolutes. The secondary and tertiary issues are preferential and therefore, people can prefer where they want them 🙂

    I’m a little nervous about this “ongoing revelation” thingy that is being tossed about. Can you guys define what you mean by that?

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  19. Mike
    Aug 05, 2008 @ 17:22:03

    It’s funny, “ongoing revelation” is a term that I think Robert was the first one to use here (please correct me if I’m wrong), in Jason’s defense. But I would like to think we can all agree that this is where the test of community that Jason references comes in. Again, I think we all agree that we must base our ideas of truth in scripture, but we are left, even then, with the gargantuan task of linguistic translation and hermeneutical interpretation. Much of what we believe about the scripture is received tradition—again, as Jason references, but much is open to continued interpretation, as well. Just as more recent translations of the Bible can continue to improve the translation process (older manuscripts, the benefits of years of further study of the original languages), so can years of additional and sustained meditation on and conversation about the text itself by believers lead to “ongoing revelation” of the insights the text contains.

    The canon of scripture may well be closed (that’s a matter of some debate, of course), but prophecy is among the spiritual gifts of the New Testament, which points, in my mind, to the fact that God, through the scripture and the Spirit, will continue to be revealed, in greater depth and wonder, to believers for all time.

    Reply

  20. Jason
    Aug 06, 2008 @ 07:19:26

    Correct me if I’m wrong on this, but this is the vibe I’m getting (as if you can truly get a vibe from letters on a page/computer!) Honestly though, if I’m off base, please let me know. I just want to make sure I’m hearing everyone correctly. It appears that we have a few Red Herrings on our hands, which I’m to blame for that as well 🙂

    It seems that our epistemological, post-enlightenment, modern structures have disappeared and thus we can’t really know anything. We can’t really know the correct interpretation, so it wouldn’t be fair to preach as if we know anything true because after all, preaching might not be what we have traditionally understood it to be. We shouldn’t worry about giving people the Law, then Grace, because let’s face it, we wouldn’t want to offend someone with the idea of hell. All we really need is love because after all, God is love. Maybe it’s time for us to rethink, reimagine, and repaint the Christian faith because after all, 2000 years of history hasn’t taught us anything and we must depend on the spirit to give us new revelation because the bible isn’t really enough because again, who are we to interpret it correctly?

    PLEASE don’t read this and think I’m being a sarcastic jerk. It is sarcastic, and the only reason I’m writing it, is because these are the things that the Emergent’s have basically said about the Faith and thus have let the postmodern ethos sweep in to our churches and have let it taint us. Some of those things I wrote above are the very things that I’m hearing on this weblog and I’m just wondering, is it true? The questions that you are raising, is it true? Is what I said accurately stating what you some of you think?

    🙂 Look forward to the responses.

    -J

    Reply

  21. Robert Martin
    Aug 06, 2008 @ 08:10:03

    Jason,

    While I can see how my comments about “ongoing revelation” can be seen in that light, and I hear your concerns about the Emergent movement and the implication of the post-modern thought, I think that you may not need to be as concerned as you are, at least concerning my views.

    I agree with you 100% that there is a concrete-ness to our faith. There are truths that are Truth that cannot be changed and that some of what we believe from the 2000 years of church history are, in fact, that Truth.

    But at the same time, much like our reformationist fore-fathers such as Luther, Zwingly, and Grebel, we recognize that some of the ways of looking at things and doing things may be more centered in human traditional views and not fully on scriptural Truth. So, we take a fresh look at Scripture and, as Mike points out, lean on the community and the Spirit to help us discern whether or not an aspect of our faith is that Truth or if it is human tradition.

    This is what I meant by “ongoing revelation”. Not that God is “changing his mind” and revamping what we are supposed to believe, but more that God is cleaning the mirror a bit more. As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 13:12, now we see things through a blurry mirror. There will come a day when we will know more clearly, but for now its a bit foggy. The “ongoing revelation” is the Spirit helping to clear up the fog, giving clarity to what we know from Scripture, and helping us to understand more fully, as far as we are able in our finite fallacy, the infinite nature of God.

    I share your concerns with some of the Emergent movement. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, sometimes I feel that the church as a whole swings like a pendulum between one extreme or another. Meanwhile, at the bottom of the arc stands Christ, waving his arms and yelling at us to jump into His arms where we can find comfort and complete Truth and understanding. There are hard things in Scripture that are definitely not comfortable. And too frequently we gloss over or discard those hard things in favor of adding to our ranks and, in the process, end up with less than the Truth.

    But at the same time, as Anna pointed out, by being too “hard”, we end up alienating the people to whom we are called to reach. I don’t know the correct answer. Perhaps it’s neither being “hard” or being “soft” but some point completely off that continuum that we cannot grasp yet (this is an image from Maclaren that I find profoundly true). In the meantime, we who are ministers, theologians, and preachers lean heavily on the grace of God to bless our efforts to bring in the harvest with the understanding from our humility that, in some ways, we have it wrong. Our faith tells us to keep going and our humility allows us to accept correction from Scripture, the community, and the Spirit.

    Reply

  22. krisanneswartley
    Aug 06, 2008 @ 08:25:37

    “It seems that our epistemological, post-enlightenment, modern structures have disappeared and thus we can’t really know anything.”
    **I certainly have not ever said that. What I have said is, I have learned in my life that my point of view and culture and the assumptions that grow out of that, have tainted the way I read the Bible. I have learned to question myself and listen to a wide variety of authorities, and therefore, I can uncover my assumptions and with the help of others and the Holy Spirit, discern Truth. It’s not that we CAN’T know anything, but rather, it is difficult for us to get past ourselves and our assumptions, more difficult I think than you are willing to admit, Jason.

    “We can’t really know the correct interpretation, so it wouldn’t be fair to preach as if we know anything true because after all, preaching might not be what we have traditionally understood it to be.”
    **Again, in our preaching, we should make sure we’re taking our notes from a wide variety of historical and cultural authorities… always questioning ourselves and what WE are bringing to the text (i.e. Mary’s donkey… remember Pete Enns’ class?). We should preach with humility and confidence, and when it comes to the texts where orthodox Christians disagree, I would even say we should SAY THAT and present all sides and encourage discussion on the topic instead of spoon-feeding people only our tradition (the issue of women, of pacifism). You like to throw the words “history” and “tradition” around, Jason, as if at one point, all Christians believed the same thing… don’t forget our history classes! There has been great diversity within Christianity from the beginning and some good fights from the start! The Reformers also didn’t agree on everything.

    “We shouldn’t worry about giving people the Law, then Grace, because let’s face it, we wouldn’t want to offend someone with the idea of hell. All we really need is love because after all, God is love.”
    **Law and Grace, Justice and Love, Perfect Righteousness and humility! Yes, absolutely! We must give people all of it! I would say, however, that we often give people the Laws we like to pick on… while the Law condemns sexual sin, it also condemns greed, pride, a selfish life NOT poured out for the poor and marginalized in society. When we point out humanity’s sin, I fear we often leave many of the sins out… we forget to confess ourselves.

    “Maybe it’s time for us to rethink, reimagine, and repaint the Christian faith because after all, 2000 years of history hasn’t taught us anything and we must depend on the spirit to give us new revelation because the bible isn’t really enough because again, who are we to interpret it correctly?”
    **Again, I would say, be careful how you throw around that 2000 years of history idea. There’s been a lot of diversity in that 2000 years. I certainly am not saying “let’s rethink it all…” What I AM saying is that in America at least, we have embraced some things with the Enlightenment that have crippled us. We need to go back and look again at some of the voices in orthodox Christianity that have been lost. We need to ask “Why do we do THIS???” and really explore the reasons behind things, especially when we meet people who love Jesus but disagree with us, even on some of key topics (like Matt 25 and James, held together with Paul in Romans).

    Reply

  23. Mike
    Aug 06, 2008 @ 12:21:29

    “All we need is love”—sounds like you’re channeling John Lennon, there, Jason; or, maybe you think the rest of us are. 🙂

    And I would say, the problematics of John Lennon aside, that I probably would say that love is most, if not all, of what we need, because there is such a thing as “tough love.” It is the tough love that physically yanks a wayward child out of the path of a moving car. Jolting and jarring, frightening and perhaps painful, yes, but necessary. But that same love does not frighten or injure continually, and to no purpose—it nurtures, protects, and cherishes, and most often corrects much more gently.

    As to the question of postmodernity… I’ll admit it is an issue that I have struggled with. In graduate school, ten years or so ago, I reacted badly to it when I first encountered it. It seemed to me that the agenda of postmodernity generally and deconstruction in particular was the radical undermining of all truth, all knowledge, everything. When everything is open to question and critique, it seemed to me, it rapidly becomes impossible to know anything.

    I must admit, though, that my opinion on the postmodern condition has changed in the past decade. Instead of finding it utterly nihilistic, I now find it incredibly liberating. (Bear with me here, because I don’t mean liberating in a free-for-all sense.)

    If we accept, for the moment, the premise that there is no objective, foundational TRUTH from which we can proceed, that all Truth (or TRUTH or truth) is subjective—”local and contingent” is the phrase the theorists like—we are left in a space outside the Enlightenment model of disputation, in which everything must be proved in order to be accepted, the model which says that every conclusion we reach must be based on premises which are verifiable, factual, and true.

    This Enlightenment model has done much more damage, in my view, to our faith communities than postmodernity could ever do. The very existence of God is not objectively verifiable. So, in that model, every argument we would make necessarily unravels.

    The postmodern moment, instead, returns us to a pre-Enlightenment (pre-modern, if you will) epistemology, in which there is room for faith, room for us to be “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” No doubt, there has always been this space within the Church, but now it exists outside the Church, as well. The very uncontrolled multiplication of faith perspectives and “alternative” religious practices in our culture today points to the fact that people want to believe in something. And our—Christians’—position is that we’ve got something great to believe in.

    We are then able to engage in discussion, debate, and disputation—argument, even—rooted in faith; how cool is that? We can draw on our personal experiences of God, our faith traditions’ teachings, and all the other components that faith comprises.

    We are liberated, by our postmodern culture, to engage in faithful critique—that is a critique both powered by faith, and one in which we engage with the object of critique on its own terms. It frees us to be passionate and compassionate.

    And this idea of “faithful critique” itself has a long history. It comes from the intellectual tradition of Plato (that “righteous pagan”), and from him into Christian tradition through St. Augustine (bishop, preacher, and Platonist). Just before we lost this possibility to Modernity, it fueled the Lutheran Reformation (it’s no coincidence, I think, that Luther was an Augustinian monk and priest); Luther’s goal was not, after all, schism, but reform: he wanted to take scripture as a commonly accepted starting point and dispute with other Christians the interpretations of the Word common in the Church. To start, in other words, from common ground, and instruct each other, in an open forum, on interpretation; to interpret together; to work together, with no one relying on authoritarian fiat, to determine which interpretation was most in line with the Faith.

    Of course, fiat won out and that debate never happened.

    But we are left, with many of the trappings of Enlightenment Modernity swept away, in a position to take up the intellectual and disputational tradition of Plato, Augustine, and Luther; and the ministerial tradition of the latter two. We can argue based on faith, based on belief, based on what can, at its root, never be proved in an Enlightenment sense.

    As I’ve said, that, to me, is liberating in the extreme!

    Reply

  24. Mike
    Aug 06, 2008 @ 23:40:08

    Uh oh…. Did I kill it? 🙂

    Reply

  25. Robert Martin
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 08:07:41

    “But we are left, with many of the trappings of Enlightenment Modernity swept away, in a position to take up the intellectual and disputational tradition of Plato, Augustine, and Luther; and the ministerial tradition of the latter two. We can argue based on faith, based on belief, based on what can, at its root, never be proved in an Enlightenment sense.

    As I’ve said, that, to me, is liberating in the extreme!”

    By no means did you kill it. In fact, this last paragraph and statement, I believe, sums up the Christian role in the post-moderne, post-Enlightenment culture very nicely. Thanks for an excellent summation, Mike.

    Reply

  26. Jason
    Aug 07, 2008 @ 17:01:13

    You didn’t kill it, we just had so many rabbit trails that I sorta gave up lol. Good discussions though. Thanks brothers and sisters.

    Reply

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