Monday, September 26, 2011

a bit more from DG Hart on The Gospel Coalition

... Which is why it is possible that the problem afflicting the evangelicals at the Gospel Coalition is one of sentimentality. That is, they value feelings more than doctrine. This is what Ken Myers called orthopathy instead of orthodoxy. This does not mean that the folks at TGC ignore doctrine. Obviously, they promote it. But they never let it function in a way that might make leaders, readers, or bloggers uncomfortable — that is, doctrine will never be offensive, especially to the co-allies. But they seem to have no problem patrolling the Christian world for incorrect emotions.

This would apparently explain why the bloggers at TGC have yet to mention the two six hundred pound gorillas in the TGC parlor — C. J. Mahaney and Mark Driscoll. The former has at the very least created a ruckus about the kind of pastoral leadership within SGM circles, which would seem to undermine TGC’s commitment to promoting gospel-centered churches. And then there is Dricoll’s clairvoyance which in sixteenth-century Geneva would have gotten him drowned. I understand that these situations are delicate and that friends want to stand by friends. But to call Calvinists — yet again — angry when TGC has its own image problems is well nigh remarkable unless, that is, you remember the importance of feelings, affections, passions, and hedonism. A co-ally may not be able to spot Mahaney’s or Driscoll’s errors but can FEEL their pain

I've seen rows of comments deleted from articles at the Gospel Coalition. One of the more memorable ones was an interview with Driscoll where he explained that 1,000 members left Mars Hill because they ramped up their doctrinal requirements. They didn't, I was there and they didn't ramp up doctrinal requirements in any meaningful way. What they did do was insist that members of long-standing had to renew their membership and said (but did not enforce) the new policy was renewing members had to sign off that they agreed with all the new by-laws circa 2007. I didn't renew because I didn't see the point of having to renew membership on the condition of saying I agreed to a pile of by-laws I was not allowed to have any input or say about. It's not a matter of some populist democratic impulse, it's a matter that the previous three to four times I renewed my membership I wasn't given this new requirement. Some friends and family renewed their memberships and never even SAW the by-laws.

The ridiculousness of setting up a criteria that was never even enforced got to be a bit much for me. And then this is sidelined and the "real" reason for a loss of members is an increased doctrinal stress? Sorry, I wish that were actually the case but nothing changed. Now if Mars Hill doctrine specifically repudiated both postmillenialism and premillenialism on the grounds that theonomistic reconstructionism and Rapture-expectant apocalypticism do harm to the spiritual health of congregants THAT would have been a truly brave and more demanding stance on doctrine!

Even something as simple as telling paedobaptists to go find another church would be braver but I have known any number of closeted paedobaptists who have been at Mars Hill, some of whom baptised their kids at home in lieu of any hope that the church would accept that. Wanna guess how many paedobaptists are members or serving in paid positions at Mars Hill? I have no idea but I know there are probably at least a few more of them there than are willing to attempt teaching on the subject in a community group.

The clairvoyence of Driscoll is something I'll tackle later, God willing. The problem D. G. Hart may be roughly pointing out is something that other Christians have pointed out with varying degrees of anger or equanimity, which is that the new Calvinists may be very soft on touching the subject of double predestination but are even softer on the subject of whether or not there is a double standard in when they believe they are justified in using polemics vs whether there is any justification for a polemic against a position or practice they stake out (or don't, for that matter). Doctrine exists for "me" to make "you" uncomfortable about a failure on your part to truly love Jesus. And pertinent to what the GC doesn't address ...

That tallies up to Pat Robertson, Rob Bell, and angry Calvinists as all worthy of Gospel Coalition opposition. If I do my math aright, that means that TGC is against extremism and for moderation (read: nice). My calculations may be off. But I’m reasonably confident of my findings.

Robertson, Bell, and "angry Calvinists" do all seem to be fish in the same barrel. They are not risky targets because one of these targets has been the subject of worldly mockery for two decades and if the Wittenburg Door mentioned a guy at all in the past THREE DECADES that means a young, hip neo-Calvinist gains nothing by criticizing a crazy old man.

Rob Bell may just be another post-modern emergent sort of the type who a lot of people don't pay attention to but this lack of person-of-interest states cuts in several directions. I know a few Christians who will rhetorically ask "Who is John Piper?" To that I say "self-appointed Calvinist Baptist pope, maybe?" But unloading a few shots at Bell for his ideas about Hell seems easy. That doesn't mean it shouldn't have possibly been done, I guess. I don't think N. T. Wright was just wasting time writing his book on the Resurrection or replying to various claims made by people on the Jesus Seminar. The Body has different members locally and globally that do different things. But where Piper's "farewell Rob Bell" tweet may have had any relevance to me is not that he bid farewell to Rob Bell as though this were some big deal about Bell's ideas but that it was "farewell" at all. On what basis did Piper ever consider Rob Bell to be anything remotely close to being on the same team about anything? When were Bell and Piper under the same standard about anything anyway?

And last and lest "angry Calvinists". For Arminians and Lutherans and various other people who are not identified as "evangelical" Calvinist Baptists can be considered pretty angry. Various members of the Gospel Coalition writing about anything could be considered above the risk of "angry Calvinist" only on the basis of a generous sliding curve.

I've had friends run stuff by me that's at the Gospel Coalition and, well ...meh. It's just not quite my interest. I care about actual theological disagreements amongst sincere Christians. I also care about the disagreements and disputes over which Christians decide to start throwing around the word "heresy" because, as Carl Trueman put it, these were the kinds of differences about which self-professing Christians started killing each other over the last millenia. This is why a diet of polemic or "medicine" reveals itself in the end to be no diet at all for sustained life. It's not that there is never a place for it but there are a lot of Christians (and I have often seen how I am one of them) for whom polemic provides a kind of identity. I saw this a lot in the earliest days of Mars Hill but didn't recognize it for what it was because it was (and arguably still is) one of my weak spots. But it is why, quaintly enough, I fit in so very, very well there.


Anonymous said...

So what you are saying is this:

The pastor's statement, that 1,000 members left because they could not accept his new emphasis on Biblical doctrine, is a big, fat, lie.

[A]ll liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone...
-- Revelation 21:8

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Yes, I think the statement the pastor made is a lie. Whether it was some deliberate deception to cover something up or a self-deception through years of retroactive self-justifying pragmatism is immaterial to me.

I also think that thanks to some actual scholarly work done by Scott Bailey that what he said about the Targum Neofiti is either a lie at worst or, given the pastor's at times willful laziness about touching on all interpretive issues related to a text, at best a manifestation of overconfident textual imcompetence.

However, David was a polygamist, a mass muderer, a neglectful father who played favorites, and who did not punish one of his sons for an incestuous rape. He also spent some time lying, such as when he feigned madness to save his skin. He also conveniently interpreted a number of his promises in a way that let him avoid keeping them (though I'll just defer to Iaian Provan's observations there).

If we say that David can't be with the Lord for those sins he never seemed to show adequate repentence for we're going to have to explain to God why His mercy is too prodigal. Not only was David a murderer, a liar, a polygamist and a lax judge within his home he was also, as the apostle Peter calls him, a prophet.

Part of the scandal of the Cross and Christ's mercy is who ends up being with the Him in the end, and that's something we cannot completely anticipate in our lives. So while you can confidently prooftext Rev 21:8 it takes more than my stating I think a pastor has lied at least once to prove he's a liar of the sort that will end up in the Lake of Fire.