Saturday, November 16, 2013

Chris Rosebrough at Fighting for the Faith recaps the Act Like Men Conference, describes Mark Driscoll as a preacher of Law rather than Gospel

Warning, unless you're already familiar with Lutheran terminology and discussion of homiletics there is a good chance you've already misinterpreted and misread the title of the blog post.   For the rest of you, that's the summation of something Rosebrough gets to in the first half hour of this podcast.
The aim here is not to do too much summarizing of what Rosebrough was perfectly articulate about.  This post is going to be a few running thoughts of the moment about what Rosebrough had to say, and most particularly about the Law/Gospel distinction as he's applied it to Driscoll.

But first, the suggestion that having James MacDonald as the final speaker at the conference was disastrously ill-advised and that MacDonald seems too enervated by controversy around the fiscal problems and morale decline in Harvest Bible Chapel to have been useful is something I'm simply going to accept as Rosebrough's probably decently informed opinion.

Rosebrough's observations about Driscoll are striking, particularly that Driscoll is a great preacher if we restrict the definition to a great preacher of Law who never gets around to Gospel.  This is, to be blunt, a point Wenatchee The Hatchet has been circling around for quite some time.  Driscoll's most potent tools for inspiring action can be summed up as appealing to precisely two imperatives. anger and shame.  That Driscoll knows this may well be tipped off in how he's choosing to promote his new book A Call to Resurgence, making the appeal that stirring things up and getting people angry enough to do something is part of the aim in the new book and its appeal.  As for shame ... how dare you!

Those two isolated points of speech alone could be provided as emblematic of Driscoll's entire approach from the pulpit.  Driscoll doesn't have it in him to be a Fred Rogers (not that there was going to ever be more than one Mr. Rogers anyway). 

Now for the sake of throwing a considerably big bone to the history of preaching there are a variety of settings in which appealing to anger and shame not only makes sense, it works.  There are things to be ashamed of and things to be angry about.  It might be worth noting that anger at injustice done to others presupposes empathy and sympathy for the wounded rather than justifying anger in the bosom of the angry person who is not himself necessarily a victim.  And an appeal to shame only works if the person who is supposed to feel shame is even capable of remorse and regret at having taken advantage of someone else.  If Driscoll has gone his whole pastoral career attempting to make frat boys feel guilty for behaving like frat boys only time will tell if he has succeeded or if this is necessarily the most accurate way to describe how he teaches and preaches. 

Years ago Driscoll wrote and spoke as though the death of Christendom was a wonderful opportunity for missional communities to engage culture.  And for that matter Christendom, Driscoll used to say, was marred by a propensity to encourage nominalism and the conflation of genuine Christianity with merely nationalistic interests.  Go see pages 16-18 of Confessions of a Reformission Rev on that score.  So ... what happened in the last seven years? 

Whatever happened Driscoll as a preacher, that Chris Rosebrough has described as specializing in Law without getting to the Gospel, has remained steady.  This uniquely Lutheran critique of Driscoll's strengths and weaknesses is arguably the simplest and most informative distillation of Mark Driscoll's entire homiletic approach out there.  Driscoll himself, if he were attempting to boil everything about a person's life and doctrine, could not possibly have done better than Chris Rosebrough's assessment of Mark Driscoll as a preacher. 

And if it is true then Mark Driscoll's entire pastoral career is one of Law with virtually no Gospel. 

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