[@] Dueling diagrams (4)

One of the things that might be said about yesterday’s rant is this: “Cent, you obviously haven’t read Chapter 5 of Driscoll’s book.” Well, I don’t have an editor, but in spite of what some Wesleyans and Catholics think about me, I’m not an idiot. Not in the sense that I’d write about something I haven’t read yet, anyway.

One of the spectacular features of Driscoll’s Chapter 5 (“spectacular” in the sense that you cannot miss it; it is a spectacle) is that it is one of the places Driscoll goes to Scripture as if he meant it. On pages 123-124, Driscoll cites Scripture (as footnotes) 23 times to warn about the pitfalls of “worldliness” – Peter, Paul, James and Jesus all warn us, he notes, that worldliness is a sin. So everything I said about his book, his borrowed diagram, and his view of the church and the Gospel has to be tossed out the window, right?

Let’s see if that’s true. After making stern points about pastors who have become “adulterers, divorcees, alcoholics, perverts, homosexuals, feminists and nut jobs”, Driscoll points out that “while culture certainly contains elements of worldliness, the two are not synonymous.” He says that the image of God is not completely absent from those who are in worldliness, and of course we have to agree with him if we are going to stay inside the bounds of orthodoxy.

But then he says this:
Last, it was God who created cultures at Babel when he scattered people across the earth with various languages. It was God who worked through cultures as varied as Babylon, Israel, Nineveh, and Egypt to redeem his people.
This passage is, of course, begging for a footnote to cite Scripture, but there’s not one. I think it is interesting that, in order to make his point, Driscoll ignores that in his first example (Babel), God does what He does as a punishment on the men of Babel for being impudent and striving to be as great as God. What Genesis 11 says is not that God created cultures for a particularly “redeeming” purpose but
    6And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." 8So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.(ESV)
Now you could turn into a Reformed wonk at this point and say, “well, what men intended for evil God intended for good,” and you might even be right in the eternal view that it was God’s purpose even then to have every tribe, tongue and nation ultimately give Him praise. But here God is confusing men’s languages because they are over-reaching the boundary between God and man. To use this as a stepping stone to say that “God created culture” for the purposes Driscoll intends is not reasonable but misdirective – and I choose my words carefully here because Driscoll is a pastor even if in a non-denominational church.

But the second part of this digested version of what Scripture says is just as troubling. God was certainly working (and is still working) to redeem His people Israel, and he sent Jonah in order to show mercy to Nineveh. But in what way can someone say that Babylon and Egypt are cultures God used to “redeem” anybody? The only way to say that is to frame what those cultures did to enslave Israel in punishment in the first place – that God was redeeming Israel from the punishment that Babylon and Egypt inflicted upon them.

The reason I point this out is that Driscoll is trying to say that equating one’s involvement with culture with worldliness is not only silly but “condemns the life of Jesus and compels his followers to be unlike him.” The problem is that the examples Driscoll tries to milk for this bucket of cream is not the right kind of cow. If the didactic assertion is “God divided the men of the world into cultures so that God could save the cultures of the world,” then somehow Driscoll had better do more than say God divided Babel into every tribe, tongue and nation.

So yes: I have read Chapter 5, and for all its pre-qualifications of what it is trying to say, it doesn’t do anything for me regarding what Driscoll thinks being in the world but not of the world means. As he has in other sections, he sets up definitions that do not prepare him to make his point. Propositional statements may not be all they claim to be cracked up to be, but when one is trying to argue or explain a radical view of the church, one better pony up something propositional that makes some sense.

I’m blogging this now and expect to blog the balance on Chapter 5 a little later today, because it deals with a topic very near and dear to me (nearer and dearer than most topics) because it shows so much about what we are talking about in a context every single person reading this blog can relate to.
OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 intro