Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tim Challies, slightly late to the Driscoll party about sex and marriage

It's understandable Tim Challies would only discover certain things about Mark Driscoll a whole decade after someone in Seattle discovered these things about him.  Such is life, such is the internet, and such is living in the real world without paying attention to a nobody who's trying to tell everybody about somebody when he was actually more of a nobody. If his first contact with the Driscoll's discussing sex is this book and not Peasant Princess or the 2002 sermon on sex (which, I know, you can't even find anymore since it got pulled, last I checked) or the 2007 stuff, then it's understandable that Challies is very late to what might be described as the Driscoll party about sex and marriage.

That's the thing about the speed of the internet, on some things it can be swift as lightning but on other things some things don't come to the attention of bloggers until somewhere between five to ten years have passed. 

Justin Barnard articulated what seems to be Tim Challies driving point of concern way back in 2009.  So props to Barnard for articulating his concern with a systemic problem in Driscoll's theology of sex almost a year after Peasant Princess began.  That may seem like a long time, especially given the proverbial speed of the internet, but it's faster than others. 

Of course the Driscoll's aren't the only ones selling a book about "real marriage".  Check it out

Looks like megachurch pastors are thinking the same things here.  The Driscolls have their book on marriage and so the Youngs also have one.  But according to Driscoll in that Rhoades interview preachers are talking too much about sex lately?  Can we  _______? 

Why, of course we can, as long as it's lawful, helpful, and not enslaving.  So I have permission to blog about this topic and note that some folks who are genuinely (and in some cases legitimately) concerned about Driscoll's weaknesses as a teacher are about a decade late.  Way, way back on the Babblerash days there were a couple of folks who said the bluntest way possible they saw how Driscoll's approach to Song of Songs worked itself out with reference to chapter 2, verse 3 and said they had concerns that the guy might be some kind of sex addict or pervert to so persistently see only the sexual side of the book from a pastoral perspective.  Now I know that it's popular to only see that side of the book these days.  It is, quite literally, sexier to do so.   Carl Trueman has noticed.

It seems to be the latest thing: middle aged pastors writing books about sex and/or talking about it in the pulpit all the time. Don't get me wrong: if you and your wife being "on the job" seven days in a row has revitalised your marriage and your spiritual life, nobody could be happier than yours truly. I am absolutely delighted for you. Really, I am. But I do wonder if the rest of us need to know about it. I especially wonder if your children and your parents-in-law and your congregation need to know about it.
Indeed.  The answer from the Driscoll and Young camps seems to be, "Why, yes!  You absolutely must know.  Let's make sure we've spent anywhere between 7 to 12 weeks telling you!  Be sure to buy the book and DVD series, too, and generously support our ministry so we can print a second edition. Don't forget to go to our websites named after ourselves and post comments thanking us for going to the trouble, if possible."

Trueman also touches on the recent rhetoric of envy.  A person who thinks maybe celebrity pastors are going to far or have problems could only be writing out of a sinful envy of the success of the megachurch pastor.  Not only is this not a particularly viable argument simply on its face it ignores the reality that not everyone who is critical of a megachurch/celebrity pastors is 1) even a pastor 2) ever wants to be a pastor.  Of course for that sort of person there's always the canard of "God appointed authority".  The thing about God appointed authorities, in case people hadn't bothered to read two paragraphs in OT narrative literature, is that not all people given authority by God are always in formal positions of leadership or power ,and not all of them are inside the beltway.  Not all God-appointed gifts and roles and offices are always at the center of power.

Of course it still leaves me befuddled that people have come to notice the obsession with sex and the branding of sex as the thing evangelicals are better at than the world, particularly in the case of the Driscolls, roughly a decade after this became part of the shtick.  I guess it's the nature of the press cycle and book deals and megachurches doing their thing with video clips.  It's the nature of book deals with attendent DVD study guides.  Such details as that letter at the end of "real" being tilted off to the right which just proves that it's all about keeping things real and talking about stuff that no other Christian authors have talked about. 

Steven Furtick plugs the Young book by saying most preaching and teaching on marriage isn't getting the job done.  What's the job? Why isn't it getting done?  Didn't Furtick listen to all of Peasant Princess?  After all, that was three months of hitting all the important topics about marriage and sex, right?  Or was Furtick just saying what would make for a good book endorsement blurb because Ed's closer to home and that book endorsement was easier to make for a shorter sermon series?  I don't know.

Let's consider some of these other authors or teachers who haven't been getting the job done all these years, shall we?  If Furtick thinks most teaching/preaching hasn't gotten the job done what's he referring to?. Song of Songs?  Paul? The Reformers?  Church fathers?  The Puritans?  Am I supposed to believe that James Dobson has never fielded any of these subjects in the last forty years? Tim LaHaye never published a book dealing with marriage or sex?  We only just got two millenia away from the resurrection of Jesus and NOW we have pastors and their wives making it all real for people about marriage, whether it's Ed Young or Mark Driscoll? 

Maybe I could throw these guys a bone and say that no one has written a book for post-internet limitations in attention spans in American evangelicals.  There have been books written on the subject of sex and marriage but they were published before the Google search destroyed our capacity to go to a library and actually research something for longer than 85 seconds.  Besides, I've gone through eye surgery recently so,honestly, I can actually understand why reading for long periods of time can be challenging.  I'm serious about that.

Now having written at some length on what I consider to be problems in Driscoll's approach to Song of Songs within the context of broader Christian interpretation I'm the last person to say that Challies' concerns have no merit.  But it is too bad that people, whether they're John MacArthur or Challies, articulate their concerns years after Driscoll has already transformed Song of Songs into odes to wifely stripteases and oral sex.  And, really, how could they have headed something like that off at the pass when this has been Driscoll's approach to the text for the last decade? 

Then again, if Driscoll had actually submitted himself to someone's discipleship and teaching, some pastor who could keep him accountable for anything, this might have been avoidable.  The overtures of humility or repentance withstanding, this is precisely what Driscoll has not been interested in at any practical level over the last fourteen years.  True, he loves Jesus and all that, but when the rubber met the road and he had his wife in a position to be the bread winner when he believed that was wrong he didn't resign his pastoral job because he failed to manage his household well; was worse than an unbeliever; and therefore by his own metric was certainly unfit to be a pastor.  No, he just kept on keeping on until Mars Hill could pay him a salary.  Then he repented, just in time.

Now since I don't think a pastor must necessarily always ever be the breadwinner, and the passage Driscoll famously warped to refer to stay-at-home dads is about the care of widows and anyone who won't take care of family anyway,  I don't actually think Driscoll was in a position to have to step down.  I am, however, saying that if Driscoll took his own overheated rhetoric seriously on its own terms he should have resigned his pastoral role rather than continue.  Driscoll's not a hypocrite on the basis of what Jesus and the apostles taught, he was a hypocrite for laying out a set of rules he didn't bother to keep himself that he has since insisted others keep.  If a person repents in time to be paid a salary that's repenting in time to have one's cake and eat it, too, to keep being a pastor despite being unfit for it by the measure of one's own conscience.  Or, perhaps, Driscoll's conscience wasn't that stung by the realization that he was letting his wife be the breadwinner.  He stayed on the job, after all.

That Driscoll has become a lightning rod about sex and marriage now is because he exonerated himself from the sternest application of his personal convictions about husbands as bread-winners in the context of being a pastor a decade ago.  Who was it that said, "They sit in the seat of Moses"? And "You should do everything they tell you to but don't follow their example"? Here's the thing, the Pharisees were certainly zealous for the keeping of the Law, getting back to the Bible, and promoting good things.  They just did this at the expense of justice and mercy. 

Well, at least the Youngs have a book out in January 2012, too.  And I suppose, in all fairness, Driscoll spent three years in Luke after Peasant Princess wrapped up.  So if he's recycling material for the Real Marriage sermons and the book tour I guess he at least waited three years.  One could suppose that with the new thousands of members who weren't around since the record attendence levels Peasant Princess got that it could be time for a fourth time around.  1999, 2002, 2008, why not 2012?  Once more, and toned down a little more?  Maybe by the time the Driscolls are in their sixties they will have reached James Dobson family friendly levels. 

Meanwhile, maybe someone can keep track of which book sells better, the Driscoll's Real Marriage of the Youngs Sexperiment.  I'll leave it to other people to actually read megachurch pastors' books on marriage and sex.  I've still got that Adolph Schlatter commentary on Romans to keep reading through.

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