Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Prediction I Hope Will Be Wrong

Sometimes I really, really hope I'm wrong. Now, for instance.

Big news came from Seattle this week: Mark Driscoll is stepping down as pastor of Mars Hill. Well, for six weeks, anyway. Serious charges have been brought against him, and he will go on vacation or something while the Mars Hill elders weigh the charges.

Now it should go without saying that we all hope this is a true church discipline process resulting in his repentance. Unfortunately, I suspect the whole thing is a traveshamockery. My prediction I seriously hope is wrong is this: no positive change will come out of this, and in fact I believe this will only make things worse.

Why do I think that? Start with his positively Clintonian statement, carefully crafted to give a fa├žade of faux-repentance without actually repenting, twisting the facts, and making sure everyone knows the real villains are the people who have an issue with him.

Now consider the upcoming process and who will be administering it. Over the last few years, Driscoll has systematically eliminated elders who dare to disagree with him, smeared them as "divisive" per Titus 3:10-11, and stacked the elder board with personally-chosen sycophants. Now this collection of yes-men will choose between these "divisive" former brothers and their meal ticket. Pardon me for being a wee bit skeptical of the legitimacy of this process.

My prediction is that they will function like a "Blue Ribbon Panel" in Washington. Their primary job is to look like the issue is being taken seriously, give the aggrieved a chance to vent and 'be heard', and make sure no real consequences hit anyone important. They will issue a report vaguely acknowledging "mistakes were made", assuring us all that Pastor Mark is really, really sorry and truly, madly, deeply repentant for his minor imperfections (but reminding us again that those who said anything publicly are a million times worse), making vague claims of continued efforts towards restitution, and then reinstating him without consequence.

But it won't just be without consequence, you see. Now there will be cover as well. When the same things keep happening, and we go through this yet again, the Kool-Aid drinkers will point to this as indisputable, brave, humble repentance, and scold those who dare doubt it. Already instead of thanking those who warned them, the "don't you dare question him now!" scoldings and selective amnesia about their own culpability have flown freely. Next time we go through this, the chorus shouting that we have to pretend nothing before September 2014 ever happened will be deafening.

Again, I hope I'm completely wrong on every part of this. I hope there is genuine repentance, that elders hand-picked specifically for their ability to be spineless yes-men will suddenly become vertebrates and rule justly, and that true restitution is made. But nothing we've seen so far in over a decade of Driscoll makes any of that remotely likely.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm a Christian. Should I join a local church?

Since I don't have a ton of time to breathe write lately, I might start a really-occasional series where I give obvious answers to questions that for some reason people feel the need to ask. Up first, the question of whether a Christian should commit to a local church.

Now there are many ways to answer this matter, but I'll just break it down into 4 logical steps and let you take it from there. Here we go.

1) The first and most basic tenet of the Christian faith is "Jesus is Lord".
2) The New Testament is chock full of "one-another" commands which are impossible to obey apart from commitment to a local church.
3) By remaining uninvolved in a church, you declare that you have absolutely no intent of obeying these numerous commands.
4) Which is, shall we say, incompatible with the statement that Jesus is Lord.

And that's all you need to know my thoughts on this matter.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On Acts 29's blessed subtraction

If you're the type to follow the happenings of greater evangelicalism, you've no doubt heard that sorta-famous sorta-pastor Mark Driscoll received the boot of disfellowship to the hindquarters of his association with Acts 29, a church-planting parachurch group he helped start and until recently ran as its chief prophet-king or something. You might say Acts 29 engaged in blessed subtraction, and that he got run over by the bus, joining the mountain of bodies (by God's grace) - if you're the sort of person to make such jokes, and I most certainly am.

This story has been all over the Christian and pretend-Christian corner of the interwebs, so I won't rehash the whole thing. Here I'll just offer a few quick thoughts on the whole affair.

1) Before listening to Driscoll's horrendous "blessed subtraction" message again, I had forgotten it had been a speech to an Acts 29 conference. Am I a bad man for laughing?

2) It can't be easy to oust your group's founder, especially after sticking behind him for so long. As easy as it is to question the move - and we will - it still took some level of courage and/or conviction. On the other hand...

3) When Krusty the Klown announced his retirement, a reporter asked the pertinent question: "Why now? Why not twenty years ago?" Similarly, why was this move made now instead of five or ten years ago? What exactly has changed? Are these issues actually new, or are they just now too public to ignore?

4) To reiterate - there is very little new here. Nearly all of these issues have been knowable for years, for anyone who didn't actively try to not know. See for example here, here, and the multitude here. So again, what has changed? Why do Acts 29 and James MacDonald and Lifeway suddenly have to bail right now, when these sins and shortcomings have been obvious for around a decade?

5) Carl Trueman asks an important question: what did the major evangelical leaders who've been promoting Driscoll for a decade know and when did they know it? I would add, if they didn't know, what could explain that other than deliberate ignorance?

6) With all this happening in Driscoll's extracurriculars, don't forget he's still the sorta-pastor of a church with thousands of people. Having gone through a similar period a few years ago (when my pastor decided little things like "the Trinity" and "the gospel" are insignificant compared to "the Harvest brand" and his personal enrichment), I can tell you how easy it isn't. Disillusionment, confusion, "how could we have been so wrong?" - or the "how dare they attack our hero!" mentality of the personality cult. Pray for them, especially that they can break away and find an actual church.

7) As for Driscoll, he still has 'his' church, and now a bunch of extra fuel for his martyr complex. His two choices are to repent or double down (see Phillips' Axiom #2); early indications do not look good for repentance. I can't pretend to know how this will end, but without genuine repentance, more disaster is coming.