It's not up to you [3]

The last time I wrote about this was way back in March, and I was on a roll because of a thing or two I had been reading - mostly about people who had marriage problems or relationship problems. For anyone who wants to know, there is a part of me that gets sick-angry over failed marriages, and there's another part of me that is heartbroken. If I could do anything in the world besides lead everyone to Jesus (and I’m not doing that yet – not hardly!), I would save every marriage that's being driven on the wrong side of the road from its clear path of destruction.

And that said, I've already told you that the church has a responsibility to make a big, noisy sound of encouragement and discouragement to anyone in a failing marriage - because, as I have named these posts, it's not up to you to decide what marriage ought to be about. Marriage ought to be not just fidelity but covenant-keeping, and demonstrating our identity in Christ - that is, we keep our promises because of who we are. We do not break them because we have can not decide that the promises aren't who we are anymore - or who we think we ought to be. Thus: encouragement to keep the vow one has made before God and our fellow believers from the church.

But what about "discouragement"? I say that here to mean that there is a part of this that is up to you - which is, you personally. It is up to you to be conformed to God's word - especially if you are a Christian. In Romans 6-7-8, Paul makes the extraordinary case that we might sometimes do things we don't want to do, and that sometimes there are things that we don't want to do that we do, but guess what? You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

If you are alive in the Spirit, your body ought not to be dead in sin. Said another way, you won't have a hard heart - especially to someone to whom God has joined you. Because specifically, it is your hardness of heart that will not allow you to stay with that other person.

That's what Jesus said, isn't it? "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives". But what else? "But from the beginning it was not so."

"But cent, you insensitive Baptist slob," comes the reader who has been offended, "my spouse left me. My spouse is cheating on me. The Bible and Christ say without a doubt that I am off the hook, right? Or are you going to look down your nose at me for being the one who was violated?"

Listen: it is unequivocal that Jesus himself said that in the case of adultery, there is something else going on; Paul also said that if an unbelieving spouse leaves a believer, let him (or her) go. So it seems that cent's big mouth is bound to get him in trouble again, and I am sure it will. That being obvious, before I make my next two points, let me offer some caveats:

[1] if you are already divorced, and you divorced over adultery (one way or the other), I am not talking to you. I can't change the past, and neither can you. End of story.

[2] if you have been divorced by an unbeliever, I am not talking to you, either. Again, what's done is done, and you can't control somebody else - and you can't expect an unbeliever to act like a disciple of the living God.

That said, think about these examples for a second: how does Christ define adultery? Is it a very nuanced definition of adultery which includes all manner of sensual gymnastics, but excludes kissing, hugging, moon eyes, hand-holding and whatever? No: it's a sharp-edged definition that takes all doubt out of the picture --
    27"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

    31"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' 32But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Completely brutal! Where's the love in that, right? Your sin is in your heart, in your motives, in your lustful thoughts - so every man reading this blog is an adulterer, and many of the women are, too.

"yeah, but ..." right? Yeah, but that's not the same to me as if my spouse made kissy-face with another person, or worse.

Listen: it's not up to you, remember? It's not up to you to decide what the definition of adultery is. So on the one hand, it's not up to you to decide if your spouse is unfaithful, and on the other hand, it's not up to you to decide if you yourself are unfaithful.

It's not up to you. See: this is why this post is not for people already divorced. This advice has to start way in front of the place where you're trying to decide which lawyer you're going to call, or how you're going to goad your spouse into divorcing you.

The problem in marriage – which we will all have to deal with eventually – is that your heart is hard. You. You are the one with a hard, sinful heart. And the solution to hardness of heart is only one thing: Christ-likeness.

Wives: the church is the body of Christ, and submits to Christ the way His body ought to submit to Him. (Eph 5:23-24) Think about what a statement that is! In what way did Christ’s body submit to Him? It suffered an ignominious death when it in fact deserved glorious exaltation. Christ was obedient in spite of injustice and scorn from those who ought to be worshipping Him.

Now, the alarmist is going to say, “cent, you’re advocating that women stay with their husbands until they are killed by their husbands, aren’t you? Aren’t you saying that because a woman is a sinner she deserves to die at the hands of her husband to show her Christ-likeness?”

No, in fact, I am not. I’m not arguing about the extreme cases of violence and brutality, either physical or mental: I’m arguing about the average Joe-and-Mary cases of divorce which are, for the most part, for the emotional and social expedience of one or both of the people involved. These divorces are because of the hardness of the heart of one or both spouses, and they are a disgrace.

And that said, men, Paul has much more stern words for you: Love your wives as Christ loves the church, as you would love your own bodies. That is, love her in spite of what you think is sinful or offensive. Love your wives for the sake of sanctifying her. But notice: that’s not a love of attrition where you love her by correction and denial: it is a love of example (Eph 5:2), and sacrifice (1 Cor 15:3), and patience (2 Pet 3:9), and intention (Acts 2:14-41). Christ loves the church by giving himself up for her. What about you? Do you give up a round of golf for your wife, ever? How about even 10 minutes of TV at night?

What that takes is not a square jaw and a steel-eyed determination: what that takes is a heart of flesh which is willing to be poured out on purpose. That’s not a soft, soppy, effeminate view of the Gospel – because a soft, soppy man doesn’t have the heart to be a living sacrifice for his wife. He’s just a wet rag.

So my point is this: if you actually understand the Gospel, divorce ought to be out of the question. And be clear that it’s not out of the question because your spouse, by heavens, needs to be reformed. It is out of the question because you yourself need to be reformed, and the best place to do that is seeking Christ-likeness inside the bounds of the union God has established.

Marriage is the place for you to see what the love if Christ is really like by learning to demonstrate it to another human being. Can you do it? With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

That's what I'm tawkin' abowd

Controversy starts here.

HT: Bill Hubbs

Who thinks this is funny -- besides iMonk?

After sufficient hoo-ha has been raised, I'll post my e-mail to Bill here in the meta.

Good Morning

Not so much the rest of the day. I have a project at work due today that impacts about everybody I work with, so I have to get off my blog and do that all day today.

I have a short list of things I want to blog about this week, and if you want to be prepared for them, you should read these posts:

This one on marriage (which I wrote 3 months ago)

This one on separation, which was written by a pretty smart guy

That's all for today. Have a nice day.

As if ...

I was policing the blogosphere's baptisms and confessions of faith when I ran into this post and read it with fear and trembling.

A few comments, in no particular order:

Yeah, Andrew Peterson can't sing a lick, but somehow all his CDs break my heart. I'd call him the CCM Bob Dylan if I didn't think that was an insult. He's not even 1% the phony Bob Dylan is.

Todd Agnew? pheh.

He listed Sara Groves and not Ginny Owens. What the ... ? Dude: I think that's some kind of blind-ism -- how do you say "is biased against jazzy blind white girls" in Greek?

GLAD dates you, iMonk.

the Watermark thing is killing me, even if they are nutty charismatics.

Caedmon's Call has gone soft, and Derek Webb somehow goes too far and not far enough, as if he's become the personification of CCM/CBA/ECPA; his problem is that he WANTS TO be the CCM Bob Dylan. Pheh.

Shane and Shane are playing at our church's summer picnic this year, and I'm completely Marcia Brady over it. Anyone who gets that joke is older than iMonk.

Note to Tim and Doug

I greatly want to have this discussion, so it is important that I front-up the disclaimer that if I say something here which appears to be mean baptistic intransigence, it probably is -- but it's not more than that. OK? :-)

You and I agree that God has not put a big gold fishy on all of the elect, right? That is to say, evangelism is not a matter of looking for the mark of Christ on others as if we were in a Tim LaHaye novel. In that respect, we agree that "God hasn't revealed the elect".

Problematicly, I think the Bible says that God has, in fact, revealed the elect. It's not (without getting mired in Enlightenment categories) in an a priori sense (which we agree on, above), but it is in an a posteriori sense. That is: we don't know ahead of time who is and is not elect, but we can know by their example or witness who they are. Hebrews 11 & 12 say as much.

For example, Heb 6 was turned over a few times in the JW/DW debate (as I remember – I should review it if we are going to chat about it some more) as evidence for both sides. And the irony is this: I think both sides agree that this passage talks about being inside the bounds of the church and then leaving those boundaries. The question is whether or not being inside the church constitutes the covenant boundaries of the New Covenant as the writer of Hebrews is expounding them.

See: from the intransigent baptistic hermeneutic, we want you to agree with us about something – the work of Christ is not about a series of covenants (plural) which are nested inside each other like matryoshka dolls: it is the new and everlasting covenant (singular).

It seems to some that DW’s view is that there is a covenant which establishes the church, but that covenant doesn’t necessarily save; then there is the covenant which actually saves, but its relationship to the church is where a lot of people get hung up. For example, it seems that a lot of people think that DW is advocating that if you break the church covenant, you are unequivocally out of the saving covenant – that there’s a causal relationship from “church” to “salvation”, thereby rendering to him the charge of being a works righteousness guy.

But – and this is the basis of my plea to please agree with me about one covenant – I don’t think that’s what DW believes. I think he believes that the covenant which establishes the salvation of the elect establishes the ground of the church. That is, a primary, time-and-space result of the new covenant in the blood of Christ is called out people who gather together in an orderly way because God is a God of order, and gather in a celebratory way because God is a victor and King who is generous and gracious and has poured out his gifts for us. But the basis for that order and celebration is, of course, the covenant which saves.

For as often as we – who are gathered together, right? – eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. “We”. The problem which seems to be looking for a solution is this: how do we reconcile the “we who are gathered” with the fact (which none of us would deny) that some gather who are frankly not saved?

I think a very generic baptistic response would be, “the church is a light on a hill, and some people get in in spite of our best warnings and circumspection to present a spotless bride to Christ because it really is a good thing. Some people gather not because of election or sanctification but because it seems to feel good for a season.” No reference to the one covenant which saves except that to admit that this one covenant has a really good effect on the world in the community it creates, and that can attract some people for mundane rather than salvific reasons.

And let me go on-record here to say that it would be a generous Baptist who would say such a thing. The average Baptist at Liberty University probably would be mad as hell to hear someone say that not all Baptists are Anabaptists who are constantly culling the flock to make sure we have achieved the right level of separation, but at the same time we’re not winnowing our roles because you know, the best prospect list for the church is the church rolls. Let me join you in saying “pheh! Baptists!” to such people.

That said, DW’s response is that there is a covenant which creates the church which is the result of God’s promise of salvation. That covenant is fulfilled by God because he is covenant-faithful, but that’s a two-edged sword. God is the one who also reprobates the unsaved, and they manifest that by being covenant breakers in the necessary effect of the church. In that way, God promises to do what he does, and he does it, and the cause and the effect are all part of the self-same one covenant.


Now, why go through all of that? Why not just break out the Baptist discipline canes and start administering the merciless beatings? Because what is at stake here is this matter of “what is church”. There is so much that we agree on that to simply start calling you and DW baby-baptizering heretics is grossly unjust to both your position and to mine – and to the huge expanse of actual agreement we share in this matter.

You may, in fact, be baby-baptizering heretics. But it’s not because you’re careless, thoughtless louts who spit on Christ in both active and passive disobedience. You do it because you frame the scope of the covenant as inclusive (in an objective sense, without flirting with universalism) and inviting, whereas I (the Baptist party-crasher) frame the scope of the covenant as exclusive (in the objective sense, particularly to avoid universalism) but yet still inviting.

And all that to come back to the matter of the a posteriori revelation of the elect. See: I think you and I would agree that the non-elect really don’t belong in the church. Why? Because you and I would both agree that they get themselves into “more trouble” by being there. You would say that they bring the right judgment of being covenant-breakers upon their own heads, which frankly they wouldn’t have to be worried about if they just joined Kiwanis instead, and they’re not going to get the final glorification anyway. I would say that the church is supposed to be called out, and in being called it is actually culled by the effectual calling, and the culling is the culling of the elect from the non-elect in order to actually manifest the list of blessings Heb 6 gives us. I may be wrong about your view here, but I think in the end, theologically, you don’t really think that unbelievers belong inside the church even if we allow them inside the church.

So, again, I think this is about a pretty narrow point of contention which gets blown out of proportion a lot of times for sectarian reasons. Some people on both sides go too far, and we should be a little steely-eyed toward them as far as that is necessary or useful.

In that, let’s all spend the Lord’s day in the Lord’s house with the Lord’s people – and let’s pray for each other as we seek to do what God wants us to be doing thru his church.


Beer plus Wine (rabbit trail)

Just as a point of reference, beer sales in the U.S. make up about 60% of all sales of alcoholic beverages. Wine is another 15%, and hard liquor is the balance at 25%.

We need to think about something in those stats: more than half of the fermented beverages sold in the U.S. have less than 6% alcohol by volume, and 75% have less than 11% by volume. If we don't try to pick nits over whether 1st century wine was 5 proof or 3 proof and concede that it was watered down, more than 60% of the alcoholic beverages consumed in the US today are in that same range -- and another 15% are in striking distance.

Which is fine, I guess -- the problem for the prohibitionist is that if 40% of all alcohol being sold in the U.S. is in the category of "strong drink", why aren't 40% of all drinkers causing sociol-political havoc? Not to put too fine a point on this, but 40% is a pretty big minority. The alcohol industry is a $100 billion industry -- meaning that on-average, $333 is spent every year (about a dollar per day) in the U.S. for every man, woman and child inside our borders.

How can it be that, with that much hootch sloshing around, there are only 0.63 traffic accidents per 10,000 motor vehicles registered in the U.S.? How can it be that less than 2% of the total population suffers from alcohol-related liver damage?

The argument that beer and wine are causing social havoc is unsustainable -- because there's no havoc. It is certain -- indisputable -- that alcohol abuse causes some social instability. The question is whether or not someone who uses alcohol is more likely to become a danger to society and a moral scofflaw than not -- and it is equally indisputable that the vast majority of alcohol users are not alcohol abusers. They do not become reckless abandoners of families, and missers of work, and vehicular homocidal maniacs.

But how can this be? Isn't it possible that there's some moral force keeping them from choosing to abuse a privilege? You know: the same one which keeps most of them driving at safe speeds, and practicing ball with their kids in open fields, and eating hamburger rather than Frankburger?

To be as specific as possible, isn't it likely that one of the reasons people can have a drink or two over the course of a couple of hours and not let themselves get blown away is the fruit of the spirit which includes the astounding virtue of self-control -- and against such a thing there is no law?

Think about that. More later.


Hey: readers. Especially Arkansas readers.

We get a lot of traffic on this blog from Prairie Grove, AR (which I think I understand), Rogers (which I also think I "get"), but then our #3 reader point-of-origin is Subiaco, AR.

Subiaco? Listen: I can tell you your IP addresses, but that doesn't really mean anything to me. Who is reading this blog from Subiaco? Who knew Subiaco was a hotbed of reformed baptist insurgency?

Use of Alcohol (1A)

esterday in the meta, one of my fine feathered friends asked these questions:


On the Convention level, if we argue that there is no biblical precedent to propose said resolution does this not also apply to the local church? In other words, if we are looking at this as protestants a la sola scriptura, then on what basis does anyone make rules binding the consciences of men?

Also, the Convention could just pass another resolution saying that only members of churches with abstinence covenants are elligible for leadership positions. This would take out some of these arguments as they could then just appeal to the local church.

Bro. Mark
jM’s question is a pretty good one, so let’s think first about resolution #5. For example, it cites Proverbs 23 as an admonition against the use of alcohol. And there is no doubt that one kind of use of “wine” is here – but what kind of “use”? A glass of wine at dinner? No – it is the “use” of wine that the “drunkard” makes of it. And it is this pervasive conflation of “use” and “abuse” which is at the core of the problem with the resolution at it stands.

But jM’s question is this: “cent, if that’s the case, why can you admit that your church requires its employees to be alcohol-free and it not be a violation of the authority of the Bible?” There are at least two good reasons why.

[1] My church doesn’t make the case that the use of alcohol is forbidden by Scripture, or that all “uses” of alcohol are the same. It’s one thing to say, “we covenant together in ministry and promise each other not to use alcohol,” and another to say, “all uses of alcohol are the same according to Scripture, and Scripture warns us against any drinking-use of alcohol, and all Baptists should campaign against the beer, wine and hard liquor industry.”

[2] My church also doesn’t take a zealot-like vow to campaign against the use of alcohol outside the church or even outside the ministry: our ministers and their staff don’t drink. You can ask the question “why”, and they can give you the weaker-brother explanation which makes sense in our community and our city, which is in a dry county, btw.

The authority of the Bible may give us the liberty to do a lot of things, but that liberty comes with the responsibility to preach the Gospel and be all things to all people in order that some might be saved.

The scope of the SBC resolution is too broad and requires too much of too many. While its advocates seem to think that they are 100% inside the Biblical case regarding alcohol, they seem to overlook that the Bible was not written as a bartender’s handbook but as the revelation of almighty God which strongly warns those in church authority against binding people’s consciences with moral burdens that are unnecessary.

The same would go, btw, for your second question, jM: the resolution to think of churches with abstention covenants only as the “truly Baptist” (pheh) is equally too much for too many – it again overlooks the purpose and nature of church government, and the responsibility inherent in liberty in the life of the believer.

And just to make a point here which I have made a few times since I have started on about this, I find it incredibly ironic that the people pushing this resolution out are somewhat-obsessed about the factualization of man’s freedom in choosing salvation, and that salvation would be anything but holy and just and wonderful unless man chooses it of his own free will, but a glass of beer? Good heavens man! You can’t use your free will to have only one beer – or half a beer, or use a beer in cooking Italian sausage with onions and green peppers – and demonstrate that you have a good conscience by demonstrating restraint in your enjoyment of a beverage which is clearly of the same alcoholic content as “oinos”.

All adults have the freedom to drive, but we don’t lump driving at double the posted speed limit in the same category as driving at a reasonable speed. All adults have the freedom to play baseball if they want to, but not to set up batting practice that is knocking holes in our neighbors’ windows. All adults have the freedom to grill meat and eat it, but not to be cannibals. Eating is not the cause of cannibalism; baseball is not the cause of vandalism; driving is not the cause of traffic accidents.

Until the advocates of resolution #5 can recognize these issues, they are not even lecturing: they are posturing, which ignores justice, and mercy, and faithfulness.

The use of alcohol (1)

Really, this topic wears me out. Here’s what I don’t think: I don’t think it’s very sophisticated or modern or hip or whatever to have a positive opinion of alcohol. You’re not a hick if you think that the use of alcohol can and does hurt people.

I have a friend who (a long time ago; like a decade ago) used to drive a beer truck, and while I haven’t asked for his permission to use his testimony, he was actually saved in the back of a beer truck – heard the Gospel for the first time, realized that Jesus was Lord and Savior, and asked God for forgiveness for his sins and for a new life in Jesus Christ.

That’s good stuff, no? But there are some who would then ask the question, "so when did he stop driving the beer truck, cent?" because the answer "like a decade ago" is not good enough for them, and I would answer, "shortly after getting saved."

And some of those people are clever – because then they would say, "AHA! He quit driving the beer truck because he got saved," and I would say to that, "yes, that is a fair interpretation of the facts."

And yet again they would say, "AHA! So because he wanted to be more holy and live a clean life, he wanted to steer clear of the alcohol industry and stop selling licker for a living!"

"Why yes," I would say, "that is a very fair interpretation of the facts."

"AHA! So why is it then, cent," comes the closer, with the thought that I have not considered my argument very well, and where exactly are we having brunch after service this Sunday, "that you are so angry at the SBC for resolving to do everything in its power to jump-start Prohibition?"

That’s a great question! I’m glad you asked.

Let’s think about something for a minute. Let’s assume, for example, that you are driving a beer truck in Albany, NY, and your major stops are SAM’S Club, BJ’s Wholesale, and Hannaford Supermarkets. You make a nice living, and for the most part what you see are somewhat-educated upper-middle income people shopping and buying things including beer which you were glad to sell to your retailers at the state-required prices, and you get paid with a check that day. Booyah. Middle-class Americans make everybody happy.

That is to say, it is extraordinarily obvious that selling beer in Albany NY is not hurting anybody on a statistical basis – the ones who drink in NY drink less on average than the ones in Georgia, Tennessee and Texas (for example). Georgia and Texas, btw, also report more people who are heavy drinkers than NY as a percent, so you don’t worry about it very much. NY also has the lowest rate of deaths due to alcohol per million when compared to AR, GA, TX and TN (TN and AR have nearly 3 times as many deaths per million; you can that info from this pdf and population info from – and the lowest population of Baptists of the 5 states. Isn’t that astounding?

So a guy selling beer in NY doesn’t have the problem of, say, the guy selling beer in Little Rock or Memphis or Atlanta or Dallas who knows for a fact that the people buying his beer are 2 to 4 times more likely to be problem drinkers, and the median income of those folks (except maybe in GA and TX in urban areas) is significantly lower than the educated, well-heeled class in Albany NY.

The guy in these predominantly-baptist states has the problem of considering that he is actually doing harm because he knows who is buying his beer, and they are not one-beer-with-dinner drinkers. So the question is not, "what about the demon likker?!" but "What about my weaker brother?"

When my friend who was a beer driver in one of these states realized he was a stumbling block for people he ought to be helping – lower income, more likely to binge, more likely to drive when drunk – he ought to have quit. But does that mean that nobody should drink alcohol?

Here we have covered the statistical reasoning. Next time, we will cover the comparative reasoning. And the biblical/moral reasoning is also forthcoming.

Stay tuned.

So you say

On Friday, I wrote about some trouble I’m having personally with understanding this fellow who is pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Mark Driscoll. As I wrote it, I knew two things were going to happen:

[1] Some people were going to be mad at me for bringing it up because Mark Driscoll is not that bad.

[2] Some people were going to be mad because Mark Driscoll is not really that good.

Seems to me this is what happened, but it turns out I am a lot more unhappy about it than I started out to be. I also caught a big dose of conviction on Sunday while I was in Sunday school and then again in church listening to my pastor preach (which I may yet blog about – we’ll see), so I’m going to do this.

Here is the link to podcast Mars Hill. You listen. My personal feeling is that you are going to hear something you don’t hear every day, one way or the other.

And you can put your thoughts in the meta of this post to see what people think.

heapin' helpin' of hospitality

So are you shocked that I am troubled by the Driscoll links I posted yesterday? Yeah, I didn’t think so. Most of you are ready to click next blog, especially those who have clicked through from Seattle, and for wading through the rest of this rather than doing so, I say God bless you.

Now, what is so troubling about Pastor Driscoll’s interview at DGM? Let’s be clear that one of the things which is troubling is his theology -- but it’s troubling in the same way my theology is troubling (I hope), and TeamPyro’s theology is troubling, and Doug Wilson’s theology is troubling. It’s troubling in that it causes troubles. Personally, I think there’s something pretty interesting going on when a guy can run a techno-goth dance club for a church and still get people angry enough when he preaches the Gospel to make them want to picket his church or punch him in the face.

And I’m a little off-kilter because Pastor Driscoll and I agree that America is not being evangelized. Listen: for all the alleged 16-million Southern Baptists and all the alleged non-denominationals and what have you, there’s not much change of heart going on in this country. If we are doing anything, we have a really nice bunker, and if that’s Driscoll’s point, I guess we agree.

But those things aside, he did say this:
And so for me, it’s a hospitality issue. Our building is black on the outside. There’s no natural light. The ceilings are black. There’s half a million dollars of sound gear ... I mean, we started as a Bible study with 10 people in my living room, I’ve seen this thing grow to almost 5,000 in 9 years and plant, in our network now, a hundred churches. So, I mean, God has certainly blessed it in every way, but, um, as far as our style goes? It’s real Seattle vibe. Seattleites walk right in, feels like home. It’s high-tech, it’s industrial, it’s urban, it’s arty, it’s highly educated, it’s literate, it’s sarcastic. All o’that works, but at its core it’s reformed classic Protestant theology just presented in a way that non-Christian arty tech single, sexually-active universalistic non-christian would actually feel welcomed into the church style-wise, and then hear the truth of the Gospel.
And before we take out the decapitation cloppers on this quote, let’s consider a few things.

For example, let’s consider that the reason we have this interview clip is because John Piper’s DGM has invited Pastor Driscoll to the fall conference. Now, why could this be? One of the reasons could be, of course, that Dr. Piper has gone soft. I doubt it, but it’s in the logical deck of cards, right? But isn’t it at least as-likely that Dr. Piper has had more than a passing conversation with Pastor Driscoll and has found something compelling and resonant in the view of men and the Gospel that he is elaborating here? And can we take a minute and trust John Piper -- listen, why should I have to say “trust John Piper” out loud unless we (the people of the blogosphere) are considering to distrust him in this matter in spite of the credibility and reliability he has as a christian, a baptist and a pastor -- enough to at least give Mark Driscoll a fair hearing when he has been civil enough to make his case in a very calm and rational way?

Let’s also consider that I am the one who has gone on-record to say that conducting witch-hunts is a disreputable past-time. Trying to find ways to take away somebody’s “truly reformed” decoder ring over what are secondary matters -- even if they are important secondary matters -- is exactly what the New Testament is warning us about when it says not to be or associate with men who are divisive and quarrelsome.

So as we cast a steely baptist eye upon what Mark Driscoll says here, let’s continue to have a little grace for the guy who said (as I would have said in his place) that Brian McLaren’s take on the morality of homosexuality was “gay”.

So is there anything right about what he said here? For example, is hospitality a Christian virtue? Well, of course it is -- and I would agree with Pastor Driscoll that what is hospitable in Beijing, China, is different than what is hospitable in Owasso, OK. No question: culture makes a difference in that example.

And is there actually anything wrong with a half-million dollar sound system? Man, after spending 500-Large, I sure hope not -- it would be a shame if it didn’t shock and awe, to be honest ... oh, you meant “morally wrong”. Let me say it this way: there is not anything any more or less wrong or right with that sound system than there is, for example, in buying the Compaq Center to worship in, or building your own civic-arena-sized building in which to do what you do on Sunday morning. Meaning: if it’s OK for there to be churches the size of the town that I live in, then it’s OK that they have a sound system that does not require cheerleader megaphones.

So what’s left? I have a short list.

[1] I think there’s a question -- which never gets resolved, so I am not going to try to clear it up -- about whether we can measure God’s blessing on a church using a census (you know: our growth rate is 50,000% over 9 years, so God is blessing us). My suggestion is that it is possible that God is blessing Mars Hill, but that the raw numbers are not any more or less indicative of that than they would be at any given SBC church that has rolls filled with “members”.

The flip-side of the question is this: dude -- 100 church plants in 9 years? That’s of the chiz-ain. Even if Mars Hill winds up, in the final account, being a trendy Dolly Madison cake with a secret Gospel filling, and it is planting churches exactly like itself, that’s a lot better than, say, my home church can muster. (no offense, Tad -- you’ve only been here 18 months)

[2] I don’t think corporate worship is the time in which we ape the culture -- even under the cover of “hospitality”, and even if it is to “welcome” people in order to make them hear the Gospel (even if they won’t listen).

The flip side of that -- which I admit is a very challenging flip side -- is that there is no doubt that every tribe, tongue and nation will give praise to the Lamb in the final account, though it might be a little proof-texty to say that “punk rock culture” is what the Holy Spirit had in mind when He got those words penned for the NT. And I say that as a guy who was affiliated with the punk scene in the mid 80’s through college radio -- that is, for such a one as these surely I used to be.

In that, all the hymns and gospel songs and choruses we sing in church are unquestionably products of cultures which may or may not have been associated with the apostles. It’s not a sin, for example, to read the Bible in English. So is it a sin, for example, to praise God with a spiritual song which requires power chords and a drum kit? Can we redeem not just the men and women in a culture, but the culture itself for the work of the Gospel?

[3] Last of all, this “redeeming the culture” stuff seems pretty good as an idea, but does it mean that the Gospel has to be delivered in a package that a “arty tech single, sexually-active universalistic non-christian would actually feel welcomed into the church style-wise”? this goes back, unquestionably, to my post of witch hunts and the use of non-christian ideas to advance the Gospel: what does it mean, for example, to adopt a “style” for the Gospel which is “welcoming” to the “fornicator” (read: “single, sexually-active universalistic non-christian”)?

This is the troubling thing for me, at its core: there is a big difference between getting a Chinese haircut and wearing Chinese clothes and eating Chinese food for the sake of saving some, and finding innovative ways to make the fornicator feel welcome just as he is right now.

Hear me clearly: the Gospel message in undoubtedly repent and be baptized because Jesus is Lord and Christ. It’s not, “first clean up you act and then we can talk about Jesus.” But the message “repent and be baptized” is a much more powerful message than “Just as I am” (no matter how many stanzas you sing) -- and it is a message which is an affront to the fornicator (isn’t that funny? That word sounds like an argument against preaching sin because it’s a word that the fornicator would take as fundy extremism and irrelevance) because it demands that he give up his porn and his hook-ups because Jesus is Lord and Christ. If you dress the Gospel up like a whore to tease him into your event, but when she does her stripe-tease and she kicks him in the mouth for looking at him that way, I suggest that style is, in fact, not compatible with substance. I have no particular examples of Mars Hill doing something like this, but taking Pastor Driscoll at his word it is modeling its style after what the culture thinks looks good to them and draping the gospel in that. I think the metaphor stands.

So my reaction is really two-fold. On the one hand, I honestly think that Mars Hill has a legitimate challenge for American christianity -- and at its center is the right-hearted, right-minded complaint that we are not speaking to the culture but, in many ways, past the culture and around the culture in order to stay safe. It also betrays the idea that we think we are Christian culture, all arrived and be just like us, which is completely stupid.

But on the other hand, there’s a lot more to talk about here. I would agree with Pastor Driscoll that reading the Bible in English is a concession to the culture – but is it the same kind of concession as playing punk rock hymns, or being “welcoming” (whatever that actually means) to the sexual transient (how’s that for a substitute for “fornicator”)?

Here’s what I don’t think Mark Driscoll means: I don’t think he means we need to be permissive with people about sin. But what he does mean seems to be obscured (to me anyway – maybe someone can clear it up for me) under what is frankly still a work in progress on his part. I am interested in what he is doing, and frankly I’m interested in him personally because I think he’s going someplace that is worth going – which is the evangelization of this generation. I would love to get him in the DebateBlog over this stuff and give him a chance to give a little back for all the grief I have (at least inside the walls of this blog) given him. That’s not likely, but I leave the door open.

Have a nice weekend, and spend the Lord’s day in the Lord’s house with the Lord’s people. Not on the couch reading blogs in your underwear.

Who didn't see this coming?

Go and read this article, and then ask yourself: who didn't see this split coming from like 500 miles away as the "easy way out" for those who oppose Reformed doctrines in the SBC?

I have A LOT more to say about this, but I need to finish up yesterday's business first.

HT: Mean Gene.

I had a minute

Here's the 'script of the Driscoll video I linked to for those of you who are broadband-impaired. The time stamps are at what I guestimate are the paragraph breaks, in case you want to scroll through and hear him say these things for himself:
I was raised a Roman Catholic. I … God saved me when I was in college at the age of 19; I was reading Augustine and the Bible. Um, felt called back to Seattle, which is where I had grown up. Moved back here, uh, got married at 21, graduated from college at 22, moved back to Seattle at 22 with my wife, worked in a church for a coupla years – more volunteer than intern basis in the college ministry, uh, had a heart for the city of Seattle.
It’s one of the least “churched” cities in America, 7.8% evangelical. There’s more dogs than evangelicals in Seattle. There’s not one Christian bookstore in the city of Seattle. It’s the 15th largest market in the country: there’s not enough Christians to keep one bookstore open.
I’m one of the few heterosexual male pastors, uh, we’ve now got the biggest church in the state. I mean, it is not Christian at all. Um, it’s very gay, very liberal, very universalistic. A lot of the pastors in the city are gay, I mean it is just … even the two Baptist churches that I know of in this city have gay pastors. So you’re looking at a thoroughly unchurched area that’s not post-christian: it’s still pre-christian. The seminaries never got here, the Bible colleges didn’t get here, the denominations didn’t set up shop here, we’re kinda in the middle of nowhere.
And so my thought was: what would it look like to plant a church in this city knowing that we can’t just set up shop and bring in all the “Christians” ‘cause there aren’t many, if any. The question is, how do we set up a church that effectively uses the, uh, the culture of Seattle to communicate the truth of the Gospel.
So, naturally, this is a very educated town. Uh, It’s one of the most literate cities – if not the most literate city -- in America. So it’s got to be teaching-heavy, which is a biblical principle. Um, So those are corollary.
Ah, another one is it’s a very arty, creative, music-based town – huge club scene. So, we have lots of musicians, lots of concerts, we write a lot of songs, we have our own style … the bible says to, you know, to sing songs to the Lord, it doesn’t say … what instrumentation or which style, there’s a lot of freedom, so that’s something that we do as well, lots of concerts, lots of music, lot o’ worship (clears throat) stuff goin’ on.
Uh, it’s a big city on the arts, so creativity, architecture, gallery showings, all of those kinda things … I think there is plenty of room in Scripture for creativity, beauty, uh God is create-tor, made us to be create-tive. So at those points, even the using of technology, pod-casts, vod-casts, great sound system, web site, all that kind of stuff … we see those as translatable values. There’s other things that are not translatable.
The city is pro-gay: we’re not. The city doesn’t believe in the exclusivity of Christ as necessary for salvation: we do. The city doesn’t hold to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture: we do. So there are points that we’re culturally contextualized, there area points that we’re counter-cultural and we just don’t agree. Um, But what we want people to know is that if they reject our church, they should do so because they reject the truth claims of the Gospel, not because our “style” is ineffective at welcoming them and practicing hospitality.
And so for me, it’s a hospitality issue. Our building is black on the outside. There’s no natural light. The ceilings are black. There’s half a million dollars of sound gear … I mean, we started as a Bible study with 10 people in my living room, I’ve seen this thing grow to almost 5,000 in 9 years and plant, in our network now, a hundred churches. So, I mean, God has certainly blessed it in every way, but, um, as far as our style goes? It’s real Seattle vibe. Seattlites walk right in, feels like home. It’s high-tech, it’s industrial, it’s urban, it’s arty, it’s highly educated, it’s literate, it’s sarcastic. All o’that works, but at its core it’s reformed classic Protestant theology just presented in a way that non-Christian arty tech single, sexually-active universalistic non-christian would actually feel welcomed into the church style-wise, and then hear the truth of the Gospel.
They tend to have varying reactions. I mean, I have security on the front of the stage ‘cause I have people come up on the stage try to fight me, or picketers, protesters, I mean … the responses are severe. But the responses are not to the style, they are to the content of the Gospel: that we are sinners, and that (clears throat) God demands from us repentance of sin, and faith in Jesus. And anything beyond that is eternal damnation. (4:48)
Uh, we’re, I would say we’re theologically very conservative, and culturally pretty liberal. Um, Politically, is another matter, but theologically conservative and culturally liberal.
Um, You’ll see kids with Mohawks and piercings an tattoos playing in punk bands and drivin’ up on scooters and smokin’ cigarettes and carryin’ an ESV translation of the Bible arguin’ about propitiation. That’s Seattle.
That’s Seattle. But we don’t want those kids to all convert to Christian culture once they meet Jesus. We want them to stay in their tribe and be missionaries to their tribe. In same way, if I went to Africa, converted a 20-year-old kid, the last thing I’d do is dress him up in a suit and tell him to learn proper English. I’d make him remain African culturally and bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ as far into African culture as he could.
When this happens overseas, we say they’re a good missionary. right? When, um, when Hudson Taylor shows up in China and dresses in Chinese dress and learns Chinese language and eats Chinese food and gets a Chinese haircut, everybody says, “there’s a good Christian”. When we do that in punk rock culture, people think it’s capitulation. I think there’s hypocrisy there. That’s why we’re not reaching Americans. We have a double standard, and we get stuck on style and forget the substance of the Gospel.
You want to know what I think? Stay tuned.

You have a minute?

I'm not promoting anything by giving you this link. I'm sharing information.

Specifically about Mark Driscoll. You should listen to this and then compare it to what you think you know about him. I think (again) it raises more questions about what he's doing (not all of them damning questions; most of them are consistency questions), but I thinik it's worth thinking about.

UPDATED: If you don't listen to any of the other clips, listen to this one. It's about 6 minutes of video, and it is either brilliant or troubling. I'm going to try to transcribe it and then talk about it.

Since Carla knocked me off ...

... I'm knocking her off.

The Fruit Salad

ow long, do you think, will it take for those who poke a finger at the "truly reformed" to read this blog entry and start complaining that seriously: the TRs have completely lost it for demanding that we cannot accept professions of faith at face value?

OK: now, when they do that, who's going to point them back to my post on witch-hunting and ask them if the shoe feels pretty good on the other foot?

Common Defense

I wrote a post last week about why we shouldn't be on witch hunts in the Christian life, and now I have another suggestion for the world to pay attention to and be properly admonished about: discernment also means knowing when not to defend yourself from scratch.

I bring that up because I want to sell you a book which is what I would call a common defense of the doctrines of the Bible. The book is Easy Chairs, Hard Words: Conversations on the Liberty of God, By Douglas Wilson. On the one hand, I owe Mr. Wilson a coupla reviews/rebuttals for his To A Thousand Generations and the Paideia of God, but since I can't seem to find it in me to make significant responses to those books, let me instead help you buy a book of his that I have now read twice since buying it and will go back for thirds.

As a book which is what I would call biographical fiction, it's not very glamorous prose. It's readable, and it has that down-home flavor Doug Wilson always seems to muster (especially when he's trying to completely annihilate someone for disagreeing with him), and it does something which a lot of people would be interested in: it defends the faith of the reformation as it is laid out in Scripture.

It would do the book an injustice to merely point out that it covers all the major doctrines of Protestantism, and a further injustice to say merely that the book takes to task 20th century ideas about the Gospel and the cross. This is a conversation resonstructed by a man who is an ardent lover of these truths, and the conversation was (as he tells it) formative in his understanding of the faith.

Now, let me tell you something before we go much further: don't read this book in order to start your own blog. And if you're a Southern baptist, don't read this book to prepare for the impending "business meeting" in which you will have to defend yourself against people who think you are the devil (which happens on both sides of the "calvinism" debate).

This book is written for one express purpose: to answer the common questions people have regarding the matters of the nature of man, the freedom of God, and the matter of salvation as expressed by the cross.

The irony of this book, however, is that it's not meant to start a fight. The spirit of this book is affirmative and loving, but it is also uncompromising. It is hardly high-brow or academic, but it is articulate and (I think) compelling. This book is not a debate but a declaration, and it is not a brow-beating but a brotherly exposition about what God has done.

Which brings me back to my original point -- discernment means knowing when not to defend yourself from scratch. Don't try to invent new arguments in order to defend your faith when the questions you are hearing are 2000-year-old questions (or older). You don't have to -- and you're likely to get yourself into trouble if you try. We have a faith which, in many ways, defends itself. If you read this book in a way which seeks to understand what it is saying first -- whether you agree with what it says or not -- you will be a good bit closer to being a more discerning person. Whosoever you are.

Endorsed by my pastor

I gave a 4-week series on how to approach the DaVinci Code for the purpose of delivering the Gospel, and it's available as audio files from my church.

There are a couple of minor gaffes, if I can admit to that before you listen -- for example, someplace in there I said that the numbered verses came into the text of the Bible in the 4th century when it's more like the 14th century (which is what I get when you step off of my notes), and I also said someplace that there was "never any controversy" about which books comprised the NT, when in fact there were some controversies,and I mix up the words "Scripture" and "literature" a coupla times in the course of the total 3-ish hours -- and I'm open to criticism on these 4 presentations. However, they were well-received at church and they are available to slake your curiosity.

throw 'em a bone

It's a new design at the pawn shop. Somebody e-mailed me and thought something I said would make a nice shirt, and I did this to their idea.

This is what you get for helping around here. Nothing personal, I am sure.

I thought PAL-TALK was bad

Dude: avoid Yahoo! Answers like the plague. It's like dawn of the intellectual dead over there - and you can't kill something that's dead already.

Sheesh. I thought it was going to be a good idea. Nice try, anyway -- it's a snappy interface.

Don't start with me

While I link to my Homeschool Mom sidekick Carla in the sidebar, I don't link to her blog Emergent-No. That's not a value judgment: that's a clutter judgment. She's linked at TeamPyo, and TeamPyro sends traffic to everyone they link to, so I feel good about that. I also support the work of Emergent-No because friends don't let friends drive pomo.

Recently, Carla's cohort at E-No had a few words to say about John Piper's liberal quotation of Dallas Willard in, of all things, When I Don't Desire God.

Listen: while I agree with the point that you have to exercise some spiritual discernment in your Christian life, spiritual discernment is not a black-and-white issue. Now, what do I mean by that? I mean that, for example, it would be a bad thing in general to endorse Nietzsche as a spiritual mentor. But we can also take a look at some of the things he said and weigh them on the spiritual scales and find out if it's quotable and usable. If you'd like an example specifically, I think it is wholly-Christian to think well of the maxim, "that which does not kill you makes you stronger." It is a poor sister of what James is elaborating on in James 1 & 2, but it'll do in a pinch.

Even the Apostle Paul cited pagan poets when preaching the Gospel. And by "pagan" I don't mean "people with a shifty view of the Scriptures": I mean "guys who disavowed God the Father and rejected God the Son and would hear nothing of God the Spirit in favor of a pantheon of gods who are frankly dramatic jokes." But Paul cited poets of this stripe when speaking to the Greeks.


It is because Paul was trying to show them that they were not in utter blackness on the topic of God. If Romans 1&2 means anything, it means that men are not in utter blackness but have in fact turned away from the light that they have in order to be more and more disobedient to a law they know they ought to obey.

In that, when Piper cites Willard -- about, of all things memorizing Scripture (!) -- and we see that as John Piper compromising the Gospel by a poor association, maybe we ought to take a day off or something. Piper is not endorsing ECM by citing Williard: he is underscoring the benefit and necessity of Scripture memorization.

Please: let's not confuse John Piper -- of all people on earth -- with the likes of Doug Pagitt or McLaren. Let's also not confuse him with the confused Mark Driscoll or the confused me. Blogging is blogging, and discernment is important, but let's not turn ourselves into pitchfork-wielding caricatures.

Solid Husband

I forgot to metion that we were in a bit of a hurry on Saturday to get "chores" done because we had a wedding to go to. It's one of the benefits of being an employer of people who need an entry-level job: you get to see their lives get started.

The Bride was a former employee who is frankly sharp as a tack, and she has netted a fine young man who is a "PK" (pastor's kid) who turned out real good -- he's an engineer and a great guy.

Anyway, his dad presided and spoke to the issue of godly marriage. Particularly, he was very much on about conforming our ideas about marriage to what God has said about marriage, and not trying to make marriage into something we think it ought to be. It was very touching hearing a father exhort his son to be like Christ to his wife, and to sanctify her through sacrifice of self.

My point, of course, is that while it may be charming and funny to think of something as "liquid husband", it is far more important to be considered a "solid husband" by one's wife. If you're a man who is reading this, and you are married, you should think about how solid a husband you are right now.

And I mean right now. Roll back from the keyboard and think to yourself, "when was the last time I sacrificed myself to sanctify my wife?" I am sure the answer is humbling, because even a guy like me who has a wife who calls coffee "liquid husband" is not half as good at this as he ought to be. God be willing that I will listen to and obey the Holy Spirit to be a better husband today than I was yesterday.

Liquid Husband

Since my wife will not blog, let me blog this conversation we had this weekend.

Saturday morning we were cleaning the house and cutting the lawn (you can imagine who was "we" in those tasks), and when I can inside from pushing the lawnmower around, I heard the coffee pot doing its thing. Now, keep in mind that it's like 95 in the shade outside and the A/C in the house is struggling to keep the temp at 72.

"Having a cup of coffee?" I ask as I pour a glass of water for myself over ice.

"Ugh," she says. "I have a headache, and I tried a Coke but it did't work. It doesn't give me that feeling of warmth and comfort and security that coffee does."

Hmph, I thought. And I didn't get to finish my thought.

"It's kinda like liquid husband," she said, "except that it can't cut the lawn."

Another link

Just for kicks, you should read this link, which is an overview of Finney and his theology which anyone can find quite useful.

Especially, for example, Baptists. Of all stripe.

I'm a phony

On Monday, I blog by linking to a short blog by Mark Dever rather than turning out my own thing.

However, if you read that, I could not have said it better. And it makes my blog look more like InstaPundit.


What "clutter"? I have no sidebar "clutter".

And the bottom of the right-side sidebar is not properly rounded for your ocular and aesthetic pleasure. Which, I realize, may be illegal in some states, but I say fie on North Carolina and Utah!

The curse of a short week

Assorted readers: I didn't blog or consider the blog whilst on vacation, and I have no baptism post this week to show for it.

Please place your concerns here.

Get serious for a few minutes

Michael Spenser's mother is having some kind of medical emergency this morning -- he thinks it might be a stroke.

Please pray for Michael and his mother before you click next blog. Because you're a reader of mine and that's what we do here: pray for all people in all stations and walks of life.

UPDATED: Michael's mother suffered a massive and fatal stroke, and went to be with her Lord last night around 2 A.M. Prayers for the family would be great.

It's a strong word

I'm not sure I'd use the word "redeem" regarding Hugh Hewitt's performance in the last 2 weeks, but he sure has been a kind of voice crying out in the wilderness on this SWIFT program thing.

Friday he said this:
Well, I've only been doing [journalism] for 17 years. But before that, I spent 6 years in the government, and I've handled a lot of classified information, and I am confident when I say that 95% of America's journalists don't have a clue about intelligence, and how it works. And they are not in a position to judge the impact of these stories, because they don't get out much. They live in little bubbles, and they're not that well educated to begin with, and they're not very good thinkers. Correct me if I'm wrong.
I won't correct him. He's right, and journalists deserve our contempt for thinking they are smarter than the average person, given that most of them are barely average people.

They also deserve our pity and our prayers. God willing they can come to grips with the fact that they are just like the rest of us -- including the kind of danger their lifestyle and culture is currently in.