Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Who Would Jesus Smack Down? (NY Times Article)


"God called Driscoll to preach to men — particularly young men — to save them from an American Protestantism that has emasculated Christ and driven men from church pews with praise music that sounds more like boy-band ballads crooned to Jesus than “Onward Christian Soldiers.” What bothers Driscoll — and the growing number of evangelical pastors who agree with him — is not the trope of Jesus-as-lover. After all, St. Paul tells us that the Church is the bride of Christ. What really grates is the portrayal of Jesus as a wimp, or worse. Paintings depict a gentle man embracing children and cuddling lambs. Hymns celebrate his patience and tenderness. The mainstream church, Driscoll has written, has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”

Read the rest. It is actually a very good article and fairly balanced. Let's hear those thoughts! Agree with Mark? Disagree?


Chaotic Hammer said...

I've probably spent a grand total of about 15 minutes listening to Mark Driscoll speak on various YouTube videos or whatever. As such, I'm not sure that I'm qualified to have an opinion (at least not a well-informed one), even after reading the entire NYTimes article you cited.

I'm aware he is controversial, and have unfortunately stumbled upon quite a number of online discussions about him, which were being conducted mostly by others who had heard Driscoll speak for about as long as I have, but had already formed strong opinions for/against him.

Having said that, I'm sure we can opine about the issues he raises, which I think are certainly worth discussion.

My feeling personally is that he simply represents a particular branch of American Christianity that is sort of "the pendulum swinging the other way" on a lot of social issues within the church. Meaning, he is taking particular stands on certain doctrinal and practical issues within the framework of the American Protestant movement, but still not addressing the real root problems and weaknesses that I personally think plague American Christianity.

But if I start into that subject, I'm liable to end up being quite the armchair quarterback, as I really don't have any solutions to offer, just a lot of generalized criticisms. For the most part, I can only effect real change in my own life, and in the lives of my family and the people in my community.

I hope that doesn't sound like a cop-out on your invitation to discuss Mark Driscoll. I bet other commenters can think of interesting things to say about him.

Seth Ward said...

Not at all! My friend, you are one of the most level headed people I've met. I would actually love to hear your opinion of the root problems that you think plague American Christianity. In fact, I think you'd do a much better job expressing those than me, as I would no doubt sound nasty and critical after two sentences or so. So, fire away!

Seth Ward said...

As far as Mark goes.... you are going to faint, but I don't mind him so much.

I think he's a little over-the-top sometimes, but on the whole, he's alright, and pretty typical of the modern-day Reformed calvinist. Do I disagree with him sometimes? Heck yes. I also agree with him a bunch too. Again, typical reaction from me towards famous calvinists in general. So, he's a little macho man stud-buckets. Oh well. I suppose I'd prefer it to

Overall, people shouldn't judge the guy on the little snippets posted on the web. He's pretty sharp and gave a good description of why the Shack misrepresents the Orthodox view of the Trinity.

I'm not saying that I'd go to his church... Um, notachance. But, he seems to be doing a lot of good for a group of people who would otherwise not be listening. Also, I think his question/answer stuff is pretty ballsy. At least he's trying to answer some of those questions that Christians are too afraid to ask.

RAnn said...

I know nothing about Mark Driscoll, but surf the Cathoic blogs and you'll see plenty of people who make the same complaint about 21st Century American Catholicsm--it has emasculated Jesus and feminized the Church and hence is driving real men away.

Anonymous said...

Roger Olson, the theologian cited in the article, was one of my favorite professors in seminary. He can do a much better job of combating Driscoll's drivel than I could.

As for "feminizing" Jesus? "Emasculating" Christians? That's among the dumbest things I've heard in a while. It's a contrived outrage. "Masculinity," as Driscoll defines it, is culturally defined, not Scripturally defined.

Stephen said...

I've read Driscoll's books, traveled to a conference to hear him speak, listened to his sermons via podcast, visited his church a couple times, and even recommended that my brother attend his church when he moved to Seattle (and he is a member there now.) And the more I hear from him, the more I dislike him (for the record, I started out really liking him, about three years ago.)

Mark is, to put it simply, a fundamentalist. He, and he alone, holds the correct interpretation to every verse and the correct position on every point of doctrine. If you don't agree with him, you're a heretic. And that's probably the nicest of the names he'll call you. I've grew up around that kind of attitude, and I'm sick and tired of it.

The NYT article mentions a disagreement with a couple elders back in 2007. I visited the church while that was going on, and Mark's sermon that Sunday focused on how you were not allowed to question him. He said it was okay to ask one question, but anything more than that was out of line. He made it clear that if you didn't like what he was doing, "Leave. Now. There are other churches in Seattle." The next day, I attended one of their small groups with my brother, and a guy who oversees 4 or 5 groups was there that day. His role that day, it seemed to me, was to make sure that nobody questioned what Mark said or did. He wanted to make sure that people were not discussing the issue amongst themselves.

And Scott, I agree: "'Masculinity," as Driscoll defines it, is culturally defined, not Scripturally defined." When I try to sum up Driscoll's ministry, the first word that comes to mind is hypermasculinity. That informs everything he says and how he interprets scripture. The always-provocative Chris Hedges explores this mindset pretty well, I think, in his similarly provocative-titled book, "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America," and the chapter, "The Cult of Masculinity."

MamasBoy said...

Driscoll is somebody who has seen something wrong with the Church in America (a feminization and emasculated theology), but doesn't see the solution to the root cause, acculturation and cafeteria Christianity. It has been correctly pointed out that Driscoll’s idea of masculinity is culturally defined, but are we really going to argue about the picture of Jesus in our culture being one of a wuss who would never dream of sending someone to hell? The article talked about Driscoll being a reaction to consumer driven Christianity. In many ways that’s true. For instance, regarding divorce and remarriage, he probably has one of the more orthodox, Biblical, counter cultural positions that I’ve read. However, in other ways, he’s just another independent pastor picking his way through Scripture on his own. At times he gets things tragically wrong (e.g., masturbation). Also, the basis of his authority is really thin. Seriously, the guy wields more authority in his church than the Pope does over the Catholic Church. Excluding the Holy Spirit, at least the pope is held in check by the magisterium and sacred Tradition: that magical democracy of the dead that keeps us free from the tyranny of those who happen to be walking about. I would be really curious to see how Driscoll’s church matches up compared to Hybell’s church on basic measures of conformance to widely acknowledged orthodox Christianity. One thing I gotta give to Hybels, is honesty, releasing the results of an internal survey that made his church look so bad. I suspect Driscoll’s flock would be better on a variety of fronts, but not by much.

Seth Ward said...

Great stuff to think about here fellas. I suppose I'm getting a little more laid back in my old age and things aren't riling me up as much as they used to. However, that whole scriptural masculinity thing is a bunch of hogwash. For instance, I don't see Mark encouraging men to "weep and passionately kiss" as David and Johnathan did when they had to say goodbye for good. Now, no doubt, they weren't soap-opera kissing or anything, but in America, men don't greet each other with a kiss, even though Paul encourages it. And I'm not really complaining. I'm sure I'd get used to it, but its not something I just wish I could do all the time to be more masculine like Paul and Peter and David.

Not only that, I've met quite a few homosexuals that could kick Mark's ass right off the stage. I suppose since they could kick his ass, he cold worship them.

That being said, I've yet to visit a church where I didn't have some beef with something about it. It's just the way of things. I guess I'm just getting over that.

Mark's power in his church is disturbing. He is setting himself up for a HUUUUUUUGE fall if he is that untouchable.

If ever I come in contact with a pastor who believes he is absolutely right about everything, then the red flags go up all over the place.

Here's the saddest possibility. Most guys who go around joking about not being gay... well... one might say that there is some overcompensating going on there.

Just sayin'...

Again, I'm generalizing here. I've heard Mark answer questions about Homosexuality and refuse to focus on homosexuality as THE sexual sin. He was very careful, respectful and even gentle in his explanation of why it isn't God's plan for mankind.

One thing I know about guys like Mark: They beg to be polarized. They know that some people hate them. But that's what they are aiming for. The result is that they get the people that would never been "gettable" before because of their extreme lifestyles or ideas. In being so radical (good or bad) they build a niche.

Stephen said...

About the niche: I have relatives in Seattle who think that people like Mark should be ignored, that they're not even worth responding to, because fundamentalism is dying out. And I disagree. Fundamentalists - extremists of all stripes - will always be around because there are types of people who gravitate toward that kind of mindset.

Seth Ward said...

Stephen, gotta agree with you there about the fundamentalists... I'm afeared that like the poor, they'll always be with us. I'll have to take your word for it on the Mars Hill thing. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to see what you are saying.

Again, let it be said that I'm not saying that I've got Mars Hill posters up in my apartment, and I haven't experienced his church first hand... so I'm going a little more lightly on him that I normally would. Hey, if I'm going to give Osteen some grace, I better give Studbuckets some too. I think he is dead wrong on many, many things. But I agree with a bunch of stuff too. Again, I am not a 5 point Calvinist. I find myself disagreeing with Piper on a bunch of stuff too, however, I'm more likely to listen to Piper than Mark and 10 times more likely to listen to Tim Keller than any of them,

But who am I? I'm no supreme judge.

Oh, who am I kidding... I know I'm right and that's all there is to it. Except on the things I'm not sure about. But I'm sure that I'm supposed to be unsure about those things too so I'm right there again.

Serious question though... What does distinguish a fundamentalist from a moderate, as far as "being right?"

Stephen said...

I'd like to hear Scott's take on this, if he has time. In my thinking, it is humility, an acknowledgement that you could be wrong. It's 2:00 in the morning here in Nashville, and I decided to take a break from getting music ready for a country music string session in the morning to respond here. I was trying to think how best to respond, and as your blog page was loading, Seth, I hear N.T. Wright say the following in an interview I'm listening to with him and Anne Rice, reminding me why he is my favorite theologian.

"The one thing I want to add to that is humility. And humility includes intellectual humility. And it's difficult, because within our rationalistic western world, people assume that if you say that, you're a relativist. I'm certainly not a relativist. Jesus is the Lord, and I worship Him, and He is the center of my life. And that's non-negotiable, actually. I know I could no more step outside that than I could step outside my own skin. But precisely because it is Jesus who is the Lord, it behooves me to say, as I used to say to my students when I was teaching in the university, "Listen, a third of what I'm telling you is badly flawed in some way. But I don't know which one third it is." So you need to live with those questions and puzzles." (at about the 47:00 mark)

Seth Ward said...

Stephen... Great way to put it. Hadn't thought of it that way before.

I love the N.T. Wright. In fact, there's hardly a thing that that man says that I don't think is pure gold.

Chaotic Hammer said...

Seth - Sorry, I had a busy week, and now I'm back here after the conversation has already ended. I enjoyed hearing everyone's input.

I read your invitation to elaborate on the root problems with American Christianity, but I just can't manage a sensible answer in the space allotted. Like you, I fear being critical and harshly judgmental, and don't want to offer endless criticisms without any solutions.

I do see a lot of reasons for hope, though. It seems to me like there's been quite an awakening among many Christians in the U.S., who are no longer willing to settle for comfort, pat answers for everything, and the status quo.