Monday, September 24, 2012

At TWW: Nick Bulbeck discusses smallpox, genetic overlap, and other things

As Driscoll's dog and pony show about Esther kicked into gear and he let slip that the earlier bit about Esther beginning as a godless beauty pageant mistress/queen was one of a few views and that he was "leaning" toward that view, questions have arisen about who keeps Driscoll accountable and who ordained him.

In purely temporal terms he ordained himself by nominating himself for the job he has.  As to who keeps him accountable, the question might be better reframed as who currently gets the potentially thankless job of being described in public or to members of Mars Hill as keeping Driscoll accountable, who may or may not still have that role within mere months of having been credited as having that role even if that role could be demonstrated to mean anything to begin with.  Even the +10 friend on Driscoll's scale, if a wife, has to submit to the husband's authority and respect him even if the wife ends up being a "functional pastor", which makes it hard to imagine why a guy who does that wouldn't just admit to being a functional egalitarian.  But what do I know?  Single guys don't know anything about "relationships", after all. :)

But all that is too mercurial to discuss in much detail.  Things change so swiftly at Mars Hill that even people who are paying attention can wonder what happens to people there.  Longtime readers of this blog may be aware that a Jeremy Echols seems to have had a roller coaster experience at Mars Hill going from (apparently) an advocate of pastoral shufflings in 2008 to definitely getting ordained as a pastor at Mars Hill West Seattle in 2011 to abruptly disappearing from any pastor listings in earlier 2012.  Most people would have no idea who that person is or why the name would be of any significance.  Understood.

But at a larger level the question has kept coming up how so many big names in evangelicalism and the broadly Calvinist American church keep thinking Driscoll is the bee's knees (though not everyone seems to be so into saying this kind of thing since Driscoll shook hands with T. D. Jakes and said he was open to learning from other "tribes").

Now earlier I quoted from Nick Bulbeck's comment at Bill Kinnon's blog in which Bulbeck proposed that Mark Driscoll has transformed the Bible into a sock puppet that always agrees with him.
But that, surely, is not all that might be said for the rise of a man like Driscoll in the realm of megachurches.  Men like this do not become superstars overnight or without the investment of countless people.  It takes a village to raise a child as the old axiom goes; it takes a village to appoint a superstar no matter how badly the self-selected superstar may have had ambitions of being one.  As was discussed in a podcast about Driscoll's popularity his most basic soteriology holds up and so because of things like that he's welcomed with open arms.  Bulbeck proposes an analogy from medicine and human physiology to provide a somewhat different but overlapping possible explanation.

Nick Bulbeck UNITED KINGDOM on  said:

As you state in the article:

I once again ask, “Where are Driscoll’s advisors hiding?”

You might rephrase that question thus: How does someone so lacking in understanding of what the Bible says, and of why God gave it to us in the first place, gain such a devoted following as a great “bible teacher”? Bear with me a moment here – and apologies in advance if all this is merely a verbose statement of the obvious.

When researchers a few years ago analysed the genome of smallpox (strictly speaking, of the variola virus), they found something that surprised them: it shares many of its genes with us humans. This was thought to be a major reason why smallpox is so virulent and so contagious; it is able to produce proteins that are familiar in the human body, thereby evading the immune system and binding to the cells themselves. You might say that, while smallpox is anything but human, it imitates a few crucial elements of the “technical specification” of humanity at the molecular level.

In the same way, our friend from Seattle is loud and effusive in his profession of support for a number of crucial doctrines that are beloved of conservative Christians. To name a few: the authority of scripture; penal substitutionary atonement; total human depravity. And one more: an implicit faith in the primacy of doctrine over, say, character or fruit.

Now, all these could be said to have come under attack, in the last two or three generations, from liberal theology and “higher criticism”. I don’t doubt that a proportion of liberal theological academics were, and are, secular intellectuals with no particular resonance with the gospel or kingship of Jesus, who instinctively reduce him to one more specimen to be studied and labelled to fit their anthropological theories. (The same is probably true of some conservative theological academics. And it could be that the same is true of me – in a way, I hope that never ceases to scare me.)

In this context, someone who comes in and makes a big thing about defending traditional conservative doctrines is ticking some very important boxes. He’s defending true Christianity against those evil liberals, after all. Thus, he gets a free backstage pass into the inner circle, with or without Christ-like character, and regardless of what kind of fruit his ministry produces.

As long as you bang on, and on, and on, and on, about how you’re just teaching the biblical bible according to the scriptural scriptures, and keep ticking a few important doctrinal shibboleths, then you must be “sound”. Few will look behind the curtain to observe that the bible is a mere ventriloquist’s dummy in your hand, speaking only with your voice and saying only what you tell it to say. And it seems that very few evangelicals accept that, as per Mark 3:11, you can have (some) accurate doctrine but an unclean spirit.

Belief in “PSA” is no test for whether I am a genuine disciple of Jesus. The question is: Does my belief in PSA move me to self-righteousness and pride, or to worship?

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