Saturday, September 05, 2009

first drafts, yeah, I know

You who still have the patience to read this may notice that these all read like first drafts lately, these blog entries. And you'd be right! I admit that I should be more responsible to the dictum that writing is rewriting and by rewriting prove myself more of a writer ... but I don't feel like it. There are many reasons I am not blogging quite so much as I used to and they are reasons I'm not going to blog about any time soon, if at all. Even i, of all people, recognize that the world of blogging is not the same as what most people a bit too sanctimoniously call "the real world". The truth is the real world is often as miserable and boring as the blog world but people are more likely to keep that to themselves than if they are writing blog entries. As the proverb puts it the heart knows its own sorrow and no other shares its grief (or joy), not even, really, in blogs.

So I have had a bit more to say than I have managed to say out of consideration for other things.

Judah, Samaria and the mystery of God's patience and discipline

Another title could be this one:

Yahweh doesn't believe in sympathtic magic but we Christians sure do

I have been immersing myself in commentary and in the reading of the biblical narrative of Israel over the last few y ears. I am not going to soft-sell this, Driscoll's almost total lack of responsibility in handling a responsible exegesis of biblical narrative books is what inspired me to go the other way and try to let the biblical text, so to speak, speak for itself rather than just continue to put up with fanciful self-indulgent agenda-pushing. Now, to be fair, I expect good things from Driscoll's teaching in Luke because he's actually got some competence in NT literature and his greatest preaching has come from Lukan texts. I'm not afraid to suggest that not only will a Lukan series be awesome but Driscoll and Mars Hill elders shouldn't feel afraid to tackle Acts while they are at it, so that the Lukan literature can be covered in its mind-bending fullness.

But I am grateful to the Lord Driscoll sucks so bad at preaching through Old Testament historical books because God has used that to remind me that preachers are just preachers, sinners like everyone else being saved by the mercy of God. They have strengths and weaknesses and what is weak in you the Lord can make strong and what is strong in you (so you think) the Lord can render powerless.

So as I have travelled through the history of God's people, Israel, up through to the exile I have been considering how even in that history it is wildly inaccurate to say that God has some one-to-one correspondence between wicked people and wicked leaders who get terrible punishments on the one hand and godly kings and godly people who get only blessings. Ahab tore his clothes and hit sackcloth and while God evebtually had him killed for his unrepentent sin ... God spared Ahab's life for quite a stretch of time. It was some time after Elijah's prediction of Ahab's demise that the demise happened.

And Elijah's life itself is fascinating because, as Provan so trenchently points out, Elijah was a prophet who actually DIDN'T DO several things he was told to do. Elijah was considered one of the greatest prophets and yet in his own way he could be as disobedient and recalictrant as Jonah! There were things llike annointing rulers that Elijah didn't do while he was on earth, things that were done by Elisha. And yet the Lord took up Elijah in a chariot of fire! You can't help asking yourself, when you think about it, how God could give such a spectacular exit from earthly life to such a stubborn and even disobedient prophet!

By contrast, at the end of 2 Kings we see that though Josiah was obedient to the Lord in ways unlike any other king in the history of Israel this obedience was not enough to save his life. He died in battle. Not only did he die in battle his obedience and even the repentence of the people were, good as those things were, were not considered good enough to compensate for the wickedness of Mannesah. Chronicles tells us something else, that when Neco came up to fight he explained he was not there to fight the king of Judah. Josiah didn't listen to the word of the Lord spoken through the Egyptian king and was killed in battle but was thereby spared seeing the full extent of Judah's destruction, humiliation, and downfall.

The words of the Egyptian king should be a serious warning to use who are in Christ. We must remember that God has at different times spoken wisdom through those who do not even know Him. God does reveal truth to unbelievers yet many Christians would say that this is not possible. In fact I heard a certain pastor say it's not possible to learn anything about the Old Testament from Jewish teachers ... which is about the speed of the simplistic reductionist thought that pastor tends to employ on Old Testament literature as a whole but, Lord willing, the Lord will soon have shown him the error of his ways and give him some actual humility before the text, if not before people. :)

But let me get back to Josiah--his life is a sobering notice that even if you do everything right you can still die a miserable death. If one is to speculate as to how Josiah could have lived or died differently we can reflect on Josiah meeting Neco on the battlefield. Josiah died, the Chronicler tells us, because he did not recognize or heed the word of the Lord through a foreign conqueror. He went out to fight a fight that was not his to fight. He went out, as it were, to defend a cause tha twas indefensible that did not warrant his endorsement. There isn't much indication that Josiah did or didn't consult a prophet regarding his military venture. Why Josiah sought to meet an Egyptian on the battlefield isn't explained directly and I am not yet at a detailed study of Chronicles so I'm not going to pretend I know.

What is interesting is that despite Josiah's genuine love for the Lord and despite the reforms these were not considered good enough. It seems that Israel was still a profoundly idolatrous nation. Taking Kings and Chronicles together forces us to recognize that God can choose to crush His people despite their being led by the best of leaders. To put it another way, an unusually sinful church can be crushed by the Lord even if they have the best pastor on earth. Conversely, even the worst pastor can have moments of repentence for which the Lord will delay a judgment. But nowhere can we say with certainty that there is some formulaic, simplified one-to-one correspondence between a great pastor and a great church.

I understand the skepticismof those who suppose that the Chronicler "has" to find some sin to account for the fall of any Judean king or any Israelite king. There is room for the editorial agenda of a biblical author while still having it be scripture. Taken together, however, it seems that we get a warning that God's ways with respect to judging humanity can be, have been, and are mysterious in many ways. If the Chronicler locates Josiah's fall in the sin of not heeding the word of the Lord through Neco and the author of Kings locates the fall of Josiah in punishment on Judea for the sins of Mannaseh (who in Chronicles is shown to have repented at the end of his life) then it reveals that in our day and age simply asserting that someone met a miserable end or met with disaster because of some sin is not a wise path to take.

But we as Christians can so easily persuade ourselves and others that if someone is a failure it is because he or she or they happen to be a loser. We can still look on outward appearances as Samuel did even after the disastrous consequences of annointing Saul king over Israel. God had to remind Samuel that appearances are not what they appear to be and that God assesses a person's heart. The spectacle of Elijah's greatest accomplishments may blind us to his great failures. Josiah's goodness as a king did not mean he wouldn't meet his end in battle, and yet the fate awaiting Israel was so terrible that compared to the fate of Judah as a whole Josiah could be said by the Lord to have died in peace!

Throughout the narrative of Samuel and Kings we see the Lord's most powerful and disturbing form of discipline is to give His people what they say they want. Then they buckle under the weight and shame of getting what they wanted and discovering it was not as good as they hoped it would be. Saul was a self-aggrandizing madman. David was a man after God's own heart and yet also a man of bloodshed and multiple wives. Solomon continued this path and eventually became an apostate. And when Solomon's son listened to the voice of his peers and not the voice of the old men who served in his father's house his vanity and brutality brought with it the division of the kingdom, which was threatening to divide into the northern and southern kingdoms even at different points throughout the officially united kingdom.

I don't think this means that God is actively stomping on people so much as I have come to believe that there is a mysterious sense in which we reap what we sow but God sees to it that there are, to invert the metaphor, some tares of His mercy among the wheat of destruction we sow for ourselves. We are often fortunate the Lord does not LET us reap the harvest of what our heart and actions would produce. Think of it this way, how many sinful kings and sins of even God-fearing kings in Israel and Judah did the Lord tolerate on the throne before the final, full exile took place? Centuries passed! Just as it is foolish to suppose there is a magical formula that sin=God's active wrath or God setting up laws of cause and effect to bring punishment it is also foolish to suppose that success is proof of God's favor. Saul was successful in many campaigns but nowhere does it say the Lord was with him as it says about other kings in the scriptures. Success is not a proof of divine blessing.

There are Christians who think that Obama being in office is a sign of divine judgment against the United States for choosing the godless path. Never mind that both parties have a less than sterling record where godliness goes. Would Christians who seriously propose that God has some cause-and-effect punishment for wicked people who vote for Democrats or Republicans look at their own lives and surmise that their bankruptcy of physical ailments are God's judgment on them for their unrepentent sin and choosing a path of wickedness? This is not usually what I see.

A person who can say without batting an eyelash that God is punishing the United States because people are voting for Democrats may have racked up a pile of debt in bad real estate or other investments or may even blame someone else as the bad guy for their own lack of competence in the job market. Instead of admitting that you just aren't qualified for this or that job you might find it easier to blame the other people who are getting the job. I could easily see how an old white person who has no real competitive job skills or history would decide to resent Hispanics who are bilingual for somehow "stealing" the jobs that white person thinks he or she should have. Thing is I work with bilingual people and it is just smarter business strategy to have people who are bilingual Rather than consider his or her own lack of marketable job skills and experience a person, especially an older person whose health may not be very good and who feels over the hill, can find themselves blaming the people who are getting hired because they are more qualified for simply being of a different race, ethnicity or gender.

It would be easy for an older man to resent a young bilingual Latina getting hired on the supposition that she only got hired because she's young and cute and has somehow compromised true Americanism by knowing another language besides the "real" language of America. This is, by extension, ,wanting an Israel in which God "only" reards the people who jump through the right hoops. This way of thinking would claim that Josiah should not have been killed in battle for being so obedient to the Lord. This is the kind of thinking that woulld say that Ahab should have been killed by the Lord right away instead of being allowed to live on for years after the warning of judgment.

What these sorts of Christians want to do is to imagine that Obama is some kind of Ahab who deserves to be destroyed. But who knows, Christians, whether or not Obama might be spared because he got into office, found out the war on terror was not what he thought it was, repented, and decidd to continue policies set in place under the Bush administration? Suddenly the black Democratic president is considered evil for continuing policies that weren't seen as dictatorial when a white man was ehind them. No offense, but that's funny. As a wise man once said, don't get giddy about power for yourself you wouldn't be happy for someone else to have. Republicans who dread the power Obama has now should have recognized that it was creepy when Bush had it.

In fact amidst all this study of God's mercy toward Judean and Samarian kings this is why I find Piper's comments about a tornado to be so odd. Piper knows the scriptures and knows how long-suffering God was toward His people at their most disobedient. It would be nice to claim there's some clear-cut connectiono because that would make life simpler but the scriptures already are what they are. Jesus told a parable in which he pointed out that those who ignored Moses and the prophets would ignore even someone who came back from the dead. In other words, it doesn't matter what signs are sent to those who don't believe, they won't believe, and if the ELCA put themselves in the position of not believing the scriptures about homosexuality within the church then really there's nothing a tornado would accomplish. Sure enough, some Lutherans seem to have taken that tornado as a sign of the wind of God's approval lilke some kind of Pentecost moment. As I was just saying ... .

Now I have had more than a few words to say about how Driscoll isn't so hot as an exegete from the pulpit or how he has embrodiered biblical narratives with his own brand of pietistic legalism in which the married-with-children set are more godly and responsible than unmarried people. I used to answer theological questions the pastors thought were important enough to get answered but not quite important enough to get answered directly by Driscoll so as an unmarried man I admit to being just a teensy bit cynical about that simplification. However, Driscoll has been right to say that our problem as people is that we want mercy for ourselves and justice for everyone else.

I used to know Christians who seriously proposed Samson went bad because his parents dropped the ball. I used to know Christians who just said that Saul wasn't elect and that was that without really discussing how praiseworthy Jonathan was, Jonathan who actually did the things Saul was commanded by the Lord through Samuel to do. I have seen countless Christians overlook David's sexual life and bloodshed and still imagine that somehow leaders of God's people are called to a higher standard. Well, yeah, and that means they are are even more likely to FAIL to meet that standard than those to whom (we are told implicitly) are NOT called to that standard, never mind the "royal priesthood" and "holy nation" discussion, never mind the priesthood of all believers that suddenly isn't a priesthood of all believers if you think someone else isn't qualified to be a pastor because they hurt you.

These things all point to ways in which Christians employ double standards. Samson went bad? Blame the parents even though the scriptures say God had a purpose for it. Jonathan was noble? Well, maybe he wasn't after all. Samuel's sons were so bad it inspired Israel to ask for a king? Well, Israel was sinful (sure, and so were Samuel's sons). It's fascinating how people want one side exonerated no matter what when it suits them but won't brook the slightest failure from the other side. Even within the scriptures the painful realization that God allowed utterly depraved men to lead his people doesn't mean people had to be happy about it. It also did not mean, however, that that line of reasoning automatically applies to a church now (though if you're Catholic or Orthodox or Anglican I get the argument that the sacraments are blessed even if depraved priests adminster them. This is waht an application of "mercy for me, justice for others" approach can look like. The man who says Samson's parents dropped the ball may not feel like they dropped the ball of his daughter abandons the faith and shacks up with some non-Christian guy. The mother who thinks that God punishes the sinful by visiting disaster on society may be left wondering how she failed if her son comes out as gay. What sins did she commit that warranted her son being gay?

Well, none. A parent may model that the sexual relationship is the highest and greatest good and thereby promote an idolatry of the sexual relationship as THE defining relationship for all of life but that STILL doesn't mean that if that parent's child goes off and sins that there is some magical correspondence that says "Because you have made an idol of sexual fulfillment, John Doe and Jane Roe, the Lord is going to punish you by making your children sexual profligates." There is an appearance of wisdom to that, folks, but in the end it can simply be a form of sympathetic magic. If I just jump through all the right hoops and home school my kids and don't let them hang out with godless Democrats and prepare them to work as housewives and tradesmen then I will ensure all my kids are good little Christians who have lots of grandchildren and vote Republican and are straight. Well you can do all that and raise a bunch of atheistic gay activists, too. You can't control your life, let alone the lives of others, with that kind of precision and power.

I see this all the time among American Christians and their politics. A person who wants "justice" to pour out against Obama wants mercy for themselves rather than consider the possibility that their health and financial disasters are strongly self-caused. It's more fun to say the country is being destroyed because evil people voted for an evil man than to admit you're dying of something like diabetes of heart failure because of a life of gnostic spirituality that allows you to ignore the long-term consequences of what you do to your body. It's easier to plead spiritual warfare or demonic attack than just admit that your family has a significant history of mental illness and neurological disorders or sexual abuse and get some actual treatment for that stuff. Christ bis us to repent of OUR sins not to keep telling other people what sins THEY need to repent of. If even the most wicked of Samarian kings can find mercy from the Lord despite their apostasy how much more will someone who loves Christ find mercy by continuing to seek the Lord for liberty from the bondage of sin?

Don't we then have to admit that sin is slavery to us? This is exceptionally hard to do. A lesson we can draw from Kings and Samuel and Chronicles is that we are not alone, and have never been alone in our slowness to recognize how powerfully sin is at work within us and how powerfully we can delude ourselves into thinking we are all right with the Lord when the Lord is letting us slowly reap the consequences of our own sin in bits and pieces rather than bringing the full weight of our sin upon us. Even in His judgments God still reveals His love and this is soemthing I wish more Christians might discuss. Just as Job was not showing he deserved punishment through what he suffered so we may find that when God permits disaster it may not merely be to punish us for sin but test our faithfulness. We as American Christians can often struggle to admit that God's ways are mysterious. But I have rambled enough for aw eekend.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

on Frank Turk and Michael Spenser on Driscoll, a ramble

Meh, I thought about seriously engaging that discussion but have wondered if it is even worth the immense amount of time it would take. What I write here will be an utter ramble of the things I have considered in the wake of the point and counterpoint series. Unfortunately Frank Turk's points about Driscoll are basically worthless because he conflates style with substance and doesn't bother to address Driscoll at an exegetical level. If all he's going to do is complain about the style of delivery and not the substance of Driscoll as an exegete Frank's just another blowhard blogger. It's not as though Driscoll is the first pastor to have a brusque way from teh pulpit. Conversely, while I sympathize with Michael Spenser's belief that a blogger like Frank Turk simply isn't in a position to offer a meaningful rebuke to someone like Driscoll I believe that where Driscoll is weak there are no signs he's going to get better any time soon.

At the same time, Driscoll's real weaknesses are weaknesses so many other pastors have I'm hard pressed to say he's somehow not fit to pastor. God has a history of allowing spectacularly flawed leaders retain their position of leadership, after all. Most people who are conservative in their theology obsess about the style rather than the substance, and liberal theologians obsess about the substance (which they disagree with mightily) and find the style makes it that much more offensive to them.

What neither man has time to discuss is that despite the crude delivery Driscoll's biggest problem isn't necessarily that he's vulgar (i.e. common or coarse, and while we're on that Steve Hays indicated that Mordecai Ham proves that there have always been vulgar or coarse spiritual leaders from time to time) but that he's got flaws as an exegete. What liberal Christians and unbelievers observe in Driscoll is what they consider his legalistic holier-than-thou streak and I submit that while I don't agree with the alternative they propose I believe they are actually right in terms of the core of their criticism. Marx was right to diagnose the problem but wrong about his solution.

By what I said earlier about Driscoll I don't mean he doesn't handle scripture properly, he's great at explaining NT literature. He's a sorry excuse for an exegete on Old Testament literature overall, excepting precisely two aspects of the literature, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Both of these play more readily to his propositional/expository approach. In other words there's no NARRATIVE and not a great need for a poetic sensitivity, which is good because Driscoll has the world's biggest tin ear for poetry or narrative flow since he's studied the stand-up comics and obviously not storytellers. If you claim that respect for the inspiration and authority of scripture is an all or nothing deal then you're falling for a trap, a false dichotomy believers have. As I've blogged earlier if you say that all scripture is divinely inspired and then despite a decade-long career don't bother to preach from some of it then that stuff in the scriptures that's not important enough to teach from reveals that it's not enough of a priority for you to share with the flock. Ergo Driscoll has a high view of the epistles and OT books that back him up on his pet topics and has a high view of the minor prophets but isn't up to tackling major prophets, psalms, or narrative. I would also propose that Driscoll is a surprisingly staunch teacher of Law rather than Gospel. This is something you don't figure out until you have listened to about a decade of his teaching.

Thing is Driscoll's biggest weaknesses are weaknesses common to many other pastors which blinds both his critics and supporters. Now it's true that he sucks as an exegete of Old Testament literature and he tends to just read his own pet social and sexual agendas on to biblical texts. He did it with Ruth not once but twice (how to get married took precedence over a meaningful discussion of God's love through providence half the time and his best teaching came from focusing on God's providence itself and the subject of bitterness). He did it with Ecclesiastes where he cast himself as Nehemiah, Mars Hill as ISrael returning from exile (really, which) and the renovation of the church as a city within the city as rebuilding the broken down walls. This was just a long sorry excuse for Driscoll to eisegete for about half a year. People who object to how Driscoll handled Song of Songs need to realize that he's had that exegetical approach since practically the dawn of of his pastoral career.

Thing is Driscoll wouldn't be the first pastor I've heard just read himself and his own cause onto an Old Testament narrative book. What is fascinating is that while a pastor like Driscoll would rip on The Prayer of Jabez being used as a way to rationalize God's favor for a given project that is nevertheless exactly what Driscoll did with the whole book of Nehemiah. Just because one author proposed universalizing the application of Jabez beyond warrant doesn't mean Driscoll didn't essentially do the same thing by casting himself as Nehemiah. The principle is the same, you read yourself onto a biblical figure and thereby justify yourself as having the same divine warrant to basically do whatever you already want to do. Driscoll doesn't have the place to criticize Joel Osteen's health and wealth approach to the good news if he has, in turn, rationalized himself to be Nehemiah as though Mars Hill were Israel returning after decades in exile.

All this is to say that if a blogger like Frank Turk wants to make a serious case that Driscoll needs to repent of sin the case should not be that he has a crude approach to joking about sexuality but should make the case that Driscoll takes a dangerously low view of scripture when he's not handling apostolic writings (e.g. NT literature). Based on Turk's critique of Driscoll I doubt he's competent enough as a biblical scholar or as someone who has paid sufficient attention to Driscoll's teaching to have anything useful to say.

What we need to remember is that David stayed on the throne for a good long time even after doing things that warranted capital punishment. He was not killed for abusing his royal power to take a man's wife and then kill that man. He was not killed for anything. He was allowed to retain royal power for much of his life and while there was an insurrection foretold by the Lord through Nathan this did not mean David was considered completely unfit to lead God's people. This means that even if Driscoll never repents of something Frank Turk thinks he should repent of it doesn't mean Driscoll is not fit to be a pastor. Conversely, given Turk's series on church-leaving he would be obliged for the sake of consistency of self to say no one should leave Mars Hill even if Driscoll is constantly sinning because Frank Turk has a Catholic view of ecclesiology and the sacraments--e.g. as long as the sacraments (whichever they are) are administered the character flaws of the people who mediate the sacraments are not important. So gay bishops would suit Frank just fine, I guess, but it's not my interest to reconcile the logical and scriptural loopholes in Frank Turk's ecclesiology or sacramentology.

On the other hand, I would say that Spenser may not live long enough to hold his breath for Driscoll to change his tune and substance about gender roles and sex. Driscoll was seeing holy blow jobs and wifely stripteases in Song of Songs as far back as 1999 and no one corrected his tone or content or exegesis back then. I would propose that no one has adequately addressed the incoherence in Driscoll's view of the scriptures that flows as a natural consequence of how he does and doesn't exegete Song of Songs. Christ said that all the scriptures point to Him and that the scriptures said what had to happen to the Son of Man. This means that in Driscoll's view all scripture properly interpreted points to Christ and that would of necessity point to the Song of Songs having to point to Christ. Yet despite the fact that Driscoll affirms the metaphor of Christ as groom and Church as bride in Revelation, Ephesians, and all the prophetic literature he explicitly rejects that metaphor and typology in Song of Songs so that Jesus isn't gay. What no one as yet has pointed out is that this reveals an incoherent view of a recurring view of metaphor across scripture. Driscoll rejects in only one book a metaphor/typology that he accepts everywhere else it appears in Scripture. If the groom/Christ metaphor was good enough for Jonathan Edwards and Richard Sibbes and Driscoll loves the Puritans why reject what they affirm? I wrote elsewhere that the only solution Driscoll has out of this trap he's set up for himself is to say that Song of Songs wasn't scripture at the time Jesus spoke, an option he's not likely to take. That means that despite the clear statements by gospel authors that the scriptures point to Christ and that all the scriptures do so Driscoll has to make an exception for the Song of Songs that demonstrates that he has to either explain how Jesus wasn't referred to in Song of Songs or explain how Song of Songs is not really scripture like the other scriptures.

The real question behind this question is whether Driscoll has a consistently high view of scriptures throughout in terms of their pointing to Christ or whether he sets aside some scriptures as not really pointing to Christ. People have partly addressed Driscoll's failure to discuss God's love for His people (Piper, Mahaney) but people have not addressed Driscoll's failure to deal with biblical poetry as a whole or his cavalier approach to biblical narrative or his omission of dealing with major prophets. Driscoll as yet may simply lack the training and knowledge to field this, in which case it's right to wait for him to develop the competence as a biblical scholar to get to those things. In this respect Spenser is right and Turk is irrelevant.

As I wrote earlier, Driscoll is not demonstrably a very responsible or thoughtful exegete of Old Testament literature once you get out of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. Genesis was another exception that proved the rule.

So while I get why Spenser hopes Driscoll will improve on subjects like sex and gender roles we shouldn't expect that. With mentors like Piper Driscoll's brand of complementarianism won't change precisely because his mentors hold sufficiently similar views that Driscoll will feel pretty safe saying stay-at-home dads deserve church discipline. He probably still feels guilty for letting his wife work to financially support them in the earlier days of the ministry and lets that cloud his judgment about 1 Timothy 5.

The problem with Turk is he can't be bothered to engage Driscoll's exegesis and the problem with Spenser is he's hoping that what hasn't changed in Driscoll after 13 years will change. He's right that Driscoll has things he needs to repent of but misses the boat entirely as to what the most pressing problems are, problems that have been more saliently addressed by John Piper (Driscoll sucks at talking about the love of Christ for His people) or Mahaney (Driscoll isn't humble). Some things, like Driscoll's bitterness toward people he considers foes, Driscoll has simply alluded to and only recently, possibly without anyone even mentioning this to him, certainly not Frank Turk or Michael Spenser.

Both men have valuable ideas about what is and isn't so cool about Driscoll but in the end I don't think they are the people who can offer a meaningful constructive criticism of Driscoll either way. I agree with Spenser that Turk's case of Driscoll's sin is essentially pointless. I also believe that while Turk is right that Driscoll needs to repent of sins Turk fixates on the lowest and dumbest aspects of what he considers Driscoll's sins to be and doesn't demonstrate a serious enough of a mind to engage Driscoll's real pastoral and exegetical weakness. Spenser may be right that Driscoll's attitudes about gender roles and family may be tilting toward legalistic nonsense but with mentors like John Piper this obviously won't change.

This last part gets to a thing I noticed at Mars Hill, namely that fanboyism kicks in and the harshness of the leader inspires the followers to take a similarly dismissive path. It's not Driscoll's fault that Mars Hill men could be proud, dismissive jerks as though it were his fault but he knows (now) that he set the example for them to follow. What he doesn't seem aware of is that they will not just follow his example in terms of pride and dismissiveness towards insufficiently "masculine" conceptions of church or doctrine but will also tend to co-opt his sloppiness as a scholar on Old Testament literature.

Driscoll is, I believe, called to be a pastor, but as I have said a few times the tension between Driscoll the person and Driscoll the persona is still a potentially huge long-term threat and nowhere will this be more apparent than in how scholarly he is or isn't in his pet subjects of marriage, sex, and family. He is in sporadic places getting some serious and constructive cricitism about his weaknesses and, obviously, I don't see any of that constructive criticism coming from Frank Turk, who isn't capable of it. Conversely, Michael Spenser also doesn't look like he'll be a source of heavy constructive criticism and he's smart enough to know that no one will care what he thinks at Mars Hill anyway so why bother?

Too many of the handful of folks offering criticism of Driscoll's flaws on-line have tended to be of the ex-member variety who are so burned by him or his leadership team they are incapable of seeing the good because they themselves were part of so much of the bad but respect for privacy means I won't belabor that point beyond a general observation. It's tougher to rake Driscoll over the coals for brutality in church discipline if you exemplified it yourself or saw fit to make yourself a self-appointed thought-constable on patrol. I used to be part of a team like that and rather than attempt to out-do people within that game I have been struggling to just not play that game.

Someone on the blogsophere mentioned that Driscoll employed special pleading to make a dishonest point. Special pleading is arguably one of the biggest long-term problems that not only Driscoll has but lots of people currently, formerly, and presently at Mars Hill. For instance Driscoll has long since his calling eliminated the incoherency of pleading his divine calling from God while joking that OTHER people who claim divine visions or dreams must have just had bad pizza.

The long-term problem is that Driscoll's precedent of special pleading isn't being addressed as an overall pattern. He can denounce the culture of pornography in this culture while talking about oral sex from the pulpit. He can simultaneously claim all scripture points to Christ except for Song of Songs. He can't rip on Joel Osteen for selling a false gospel and he can't rip on a Prayer of Jabez book with consistency if he's guilty of the same essential methodological error of reading himself and his own agendas on to Old Testament scripture. He doesn't submit to the scriptures in the Old Testament so much as he forces them to say what he wants them to say and this is a very, very serious problem, a problem that, nevertheless, is fairly typical of pastors. We can't be great at everything and we shouldn't pretend we're great at everything in expounding on scripture. Neither Spenser or Turk could stand any chance of observing this pattern and the only reason I've noticed it is because I've heard a decade of Driscoll preaching and have begun to notice the pattern, and I have also noticed my own weakness in appreciating the Psalms and some other parts of scripture. I don't offer this criticism of Driscoll as someone who doesn't suck but as someone newly discovering his own failures in appreciating and understanding some of the scriptures that Driscoll, frankly, shouldn't be preaching or teaching from until he gains more competence in exegeting Hebrew texts (Targum Neofiti really doesn't count).

I both believe that Spenser is too optimistic and Turk is too pessimistic and that Christ is able to display this. I can share Spenser's optimism that Driscoll is eventually going to get better not because there is evidence for it but because Jesus is risen. I can trust that Driscoll will figure out he needs to repent of this or that sin but not the sins Turk is obsessed with but the ones the Lord will lead him to repent of. The Lord loves to use liars and braggers and murderers and adulterers and people with delusions of grandeur who brag about their dreams and cowards and cranky hermits. The people who blog on the sidelines are not the people (for the most part) who have been in the fray, in flesh and blood, at and around Mars Hill.

Finally I'm stating the obvious, two guys practically on the other side of the country blogging pro and con about Driscoll is just two guys blogging about people they've never met. One of them understands how pointless that finally is and the other doesn't. I'm willing to return the favor by doing for them what they've done for Driscoll. Ultimately God probably has better ways to either approve or disapprove of Driscoll's life and teaching than through bloggers and Driscoll knows this better than anyone. It doesn't mean people can't or shouldn't blog and that there is no possibility for speaking the truth through blogging, I just have my doubts about how effectively speaking the truth with love is going to happen that way.

WHy write my blog entry? Well, I hope that's obvious. As much as Spenser and Turk have gone back and forth on Driscoll I figure someone who has had some actual connection to Mars Hill can contribute something. I don't think insiders alone have insight but I also think too many outsiders have acted as though they know the score. None of us really do, only God knows all things. I'm adding my perspective in case, for some reason, God might choose to use it but I also can't say that makes it valuable.