[@] Dueling diagrams (3)

So I left off saying: But that is hardly the end of the story – because the matter is not just about the eternal meaning and nature of Christ: it is also about the incarnation of Christ – and it is in that we find that Christ brings the Gospel to “culture”. When I say “culture”, I mean any culture – but as Paul says, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek or Gentile. That’s what that whole dotted line is in my diagram: it is the palpable place of contact that Christ makes in order to bring the Gospel to culture. And when I say culture, I also say this: any culture that Christ is coming to is inherently sinful, inherently lost, and needs Him a lot more than He needs them.

He’s God. They need Him whether they recognize it or not, and whether, when they finally are touched by the Gospel, they receive it.

So this hokey diagram is about the necessity of the incarnation – about God Incarnate being the centerpiece of the whole church-gospel-culture thing. If the incarnation is not in the center of it, then it’s just religious talk. Jesus is somebody personally; Jesus wants some things personally; Jesus did (and does) something personally; Jesus comes to us personally.

That’s not the whole deal, but that’s the important deal when we start talking about interacting with culture. See: my diagram makes it clear that there’s something Jesus does inside culture which has an effect that leaves the culture behind – literally, if we use the words from Genesis 3, in the dust. There is an eternal thing about Jesus because He is God, but that “eternal thing” is not just philosophical talk or metaphysical bonus cuts for the collector’s edition DVD about Jesus. For us who are created and find ourselves in culture – that is, in the thing which man has built up that is not necessarily about or from the Creator – that “eternal thing” has to have some relationship to the non-eternal thing which we have to live through right now.

Again, it sounds like I’m about to cave in and simply start wearing the Mars Hill t-shirt and giving away copies of Driscoll’s book, but this is exactly where I part company with Driscoll. Here’s what he says on pp 65-66 of his book:
I was unsure of how to begin a church, and so I simply read the Bible and tried to imitate how Jesus gathered the first workers for his ministry. In the opening chapter of John’s gospel, I saw that Jesus began his ministry not with a large crowd, a formal program, or an organized event but rather by informally building friendships with a few men. Once those men trusted him, their friends, family and co-workers also became his followers.
That’s interesting because even in the most liberal rendering of the part of John 1 you can find (that would be the Message), you find this description of those events:
    John 1: 6God sent John the Baptist 7to tell everyone about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. 8John himself was not the light; he was only a witness to the light. 9The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was going to come into the world.
    … 15John pointed him out to the people. He shouted to the crowds, "This is the one I was talking about when I said, `Someone is coming who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before I did.' "
    … 26John told them, "I baptize with water, but right here in the crowd is someone you do not know, 27who will soon begin his ministry. I am not even worthy to be his slave." 28This incident took place at Bethany, a village east of the Jordan River, where John was baptizing.
    29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30He is the one I was talking about when I said, `Soon a man is coming who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before I did.' 31I didn't know he was the one, but I have been baptizing with water in order to point him out to Israel."
    32Then John said, "I saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove from heaven and resting upon him. 33I didn't know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, `When you see the Holy Spirit descending and resting upon someone, he is the one you are looking for. He is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' 34I saw this happen to Jesus, so I testify that he is the Son of God."
    35The following day, John was again standing with two of his disciples. 36As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and then declared, "Look! There is the Lamb of God!" 37Then John's two disciples turned and followed Jesus.
    38Jesus looked around and saw them following. "What do you want?" he asked them.
    They replied, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"
    39"Come and see," he said. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon when they went with him to the place, and they stayed there the rest of the day.
    40Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of these men who had heard what John said and then followed Jesus. 41The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother, Simon, and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means the Christ).
    42Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, "You are Simon, the son of John--but you will be called Cephas" (which means Peter).
    43The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Come, be my disciple." 44Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter's hometown.
    45Philip went off to look for Nathanael and told him, "We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth."
    46"Nazareth!" exclaimed Nathanael. "Can anything good come from there?"
    "Just come and see for yourself," Philip said.
    47As they approached, Jesus said, "Here comes an honest man--a true son of Israel."
    48"How do you know about me?" Nathanael asked.
    And Jesus replied, "I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you."
    49Nathanael replied, "Teacher, you are the Son of God--the King of Israel!"
    50Jesus asked him, "Do you believe all this just because I told you I had seen you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this." 51Then he said, "The truth is, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down upon the Son of Man."
Now I admit something: I have stripped out the high incarnational language in John 1 to try to help Driscoll’s point along. But even in excluding those passages, does this read anything like Driscoll’s account of the Jesus method for forming a church? The answer has to be “No”.

Driscoll says Jesus just made some friends, and then they told their friends, and so on and so on and so on as if he was an Amway salesman – but that’s not what happened at all. The account of John is that the Baptizer did, in fact, draw large crowds because he was preaching as the prophet Isaiah had foretold. These people came to this place seeking the Messiah or his prophet.

Then at some point John personally names Jesus as the one who he was telling them about – and in an extraordinary way: “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! He is far greater than me!”

Listen: John wasn’t waiting for people to be comfortable in order to them tell them that there’s a problem called “sin” in the world and that maybe we should get comfortable with that before we think about what can be done about it, and then after a seminar on the human options to deal with sin he springs on them that God actually has a better plan. John’s message was “it is time to change right now! Make a straight path for the one who is coming!” and then “Look! He is here! If you think anything of me, He is greater – follow Him”

The response might be, “Well, John had a different culture to connect with, cent. They were waiting for a Messiah. Our culture is waiting for the first showing of Star Wars today – they’re waiting for Darth Vader.” Well, not to be too earthy, I call bullshit.

Sure: some people just stood in line for a week to make sure they get in for the first showing of EIII today – missing church, I might add – so that they get to see ***SPOILER*** Anakin Skywalker get his arms and legs chopped off after almost killing his wife, only to be saved by the evil Palpatine/Darth Sidious. /***SPOILER*** (and no, I wasn’t one of them; I don’t take vacation days off to see movies) But even if we can say that these people were “waiting for” Star Wars in the same way that those listening to John were “waiting for” the Messiah, trying to translate the Gospel into Lucas-ese misses the point by a long shot that Jesus is incarnate and Star Wars is fiction.

To say that whatever superficial expectations our culture has for material things in any way is a good place to start preaching the Gospel – except as a negative example – sells the Gospel not just short but not at all.

Returning to the diagram, when Jesus penetrates the culture, the Gospel penetrates the culture – and there is a result: an indwelling, and an out-calling. Both of these results *together* are what we ought to call the church: the church is in the world, but not of the world, and has its fullest manifestation in its holy separation from the world. The great cloud of witnesses, we can note, are not those who are hanging out in lesbian coiffeur shops or microbreweries: they are those who are traveling through with their eyes set on the land promised to them, knowing that this world is not their home.

More on this tomorrow. It seems like every time I get on a roll I have to go to a meeting.
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