Thursday, August 01, 2013

Mere Orthodoxy--Jake Meador attempts to distinguish between speaking prophetically to the church and publicly criticizing it, using Rachel Held Evans as a case study

... It’s fine to speak of prophecy, but prophecy implies a place and a tradition. When the Old Testament prophets spoke against Israel, they were doing it from the vantage point afforded them by the Torah and their membership in God’s people. ...

RHE is a gifted writer whose work I’ve benefitted from on many occasions. And, as I noted above, I’ve personally benefited from her kindness to another Nebraska-based writer. And that is precisely why I swung so hard at her posts about millennials and the church. She is too talented (and her influence is too broad) for this ecclesiological issue to not be addressed.

The problems she is highlighting in her post are very real–American evangelicalism often does have a strikingly faddish, consumer-oriented feel. And as she’s written elsewhere, we do not always do a good job of answering questions well or of welcoming people who don’t look or act like the rest of us. Those are all fair criticisms and we need to reflect carefully on what is to be done moving forward.

But when you frame it in terms of how the church needs to change to adjust with millennials you are setting up a basically antagonistic relationship between the two parties. You are saying that the institution must change “along with” a generation, which, as I tried to demonstrate recently, is nonsense. Framing the issue as “the church vs. millennials” is a fundamentally problematic way to approach the issue, and so the best thing to do to promote the conversation is to dispute the framing of it and try to refocus the question in a better direction.

- See more at:

Having quoted extensively from Jake Meador's post I will add a few additional thoughts as a Generation X person who was around for the earlier days of some little place called Mars Hill Fellowship.  Whatever Millenials hope to do it would be good to study church history extensively.  If Wenatchee The Hatchet can provide a sort of informal history of MHC then maybe that can help Millenials.  The most important thing to bear in mind is that we actually thought we were doing something new and different and authentic and that, it seems, may have been the biggest self-delusion we could have put over on ourselves. 

Do Millenials want the freedom to grapple with doubts and questions?  Do they want to go for the authentic, the real, the thing which is not stultifying and old-hat but genuine and raw.  That's nice and that's what Mars Hill Church was intended to be.  Close to twenty years ago somebody here in Seattle didn't feel any of the existing churches had exactly what he was looking for that he felt was real Christianity and Christian community so he went and made one that would fit what he wanted.  The Millenials are not intrinsically different than Mark Driscoll and the people who founded Mars Hill.  Those of us present in the earlier years sincerely believed what was going on was new and different.  We just didn't know nearly enough church history to realize that we were just reinventing wheels. 

And reinventing wheels falls to every generation so it's not like reinventing the wheel is a bad thing.  But when you think that you've reinvented the wheel in a way that makes your wheel superior to other wheels, a huge temptation for each generation to resist, you end up congratulating yourself for doing things that aren't that special and aren't that new. 

There is as yet no reason to believe that whatever Millenials think they want and choose to pursue will be different from what Generation X has pulled off so far.  One of the advantages to embracing a tradition and recognizing that things aren't that new is that without an obligation to think that something needs to be reinvented you can actually refine something.  But I digress ... .


Alastair Roberts wrote recently about Evans, making the case that Evans' identification with Millenials and his own questions about claims attributed to them. Since there's only so many words that seem worth writing about this whole thing we'll settle for fewer of them rather than more.  There are other things to write about in life that are more interesting but we're admittedly not doing a ton of writing lately anyway.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Triablogue--Steve Hays discusses the popular Hebrews 13:17 prooftext and why ignoring the implied situation the text addresses distorts its real aim.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account (Heb 13:17).
This is often quoted by high churchman to keep the laity in their place. But it’s important to keep in mind that Biblical commands and prohibitions typically have an implied situation. An implicit or explicit situational context.

To be faithful to Biblical commands and prohibitions means we must make allowance for the implied situation, and apply those biblical injunctions to analogous situations. Far from honoring the authority of Scripture, to disregard the implied situation can make a mockery of original intent.

As I discussed recently, there are well-meaning Christians (e.g. John Murray, Wayne Grudem) who say there are no circumstances in which it is right to lie. They treat the Mosaic prohibition against perjury as a moral absolute.

But in so doing, they are decoupling the Mosaic prohibitions from the Mosaic law, of which they are a part, and reassigning them to any law code. But can you simply transfer those prohibitions from a just to an unjust law code? If a human law code substitutes darkness for light (Isa 5:20), if attaching the Mosaic prohibitions to an unjust law code would generate a Kafkaesque travesty of justice, are we really honoring the Bible? Or have we perverted justice?

Steve then goes on to raise two concerns about an unconditional prooftexting of Hebrews 13:17
1) there were no established and competing theological, confessional, and other traditions within the early church of the sort we recognize now.  There were no Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Coptic Orthodox or other easily identifiable strands of differing doctrinal approaches accounted for in the churches as we would recognize them currently. 
2) the passage does not condone unconditional obedience since earlier in the chapter warnings against false teaching as could be promulgated by leadership is brought up. It's possible for leaders to sin
3) the canon was not fully formed or canonized and literacy was significantly less common at the time Hebrews was written.  Now the Bible is available to read and study by vastly more people and the biblical texts hold precedence in a way that an ecclesiology won't.
4) Hebrews was written at a time when apostolic vetting of leadership was feasible which we don't have today.
Cumulative Steve Hays points out that the present day situation in any ecclesiology is sufficiently different from the setting to which Hebrews was written that it is not a matter of some pastor or fan of a certain ecclesiology to just prooftext Hebrews 13:17 to say that you should obey your elders.  If it turns out an elder has lied or committed an injustice there is no necessity to obey that elder, is there? 
... not that Wenatchee The Hatchet is necessarily going to cite any particular kind of case study ...