Arguing Against Atheists?

An important chapter in the narrative of my personal faith journey has been the influence of classical Christian apologetics on my life. What I mean by “classic Christian apologetics” or what I’ll just call apologetics is the systematic intellectual defense of the Christian worldview. Which practically comes down to Arguing Against Atheists (and other worldviews… I’m a pastor, alliterations are a requirement). Encompassed in the field of apologetics are a wide variety of intellectual disciplines- systematic theology, biblical theology, philosophy, science (particularly biological and cosmological), and rhetoric. Now, my personality has always been very investigative, and I tend to want concrete answers to everything, as much as possible. 

In coming to faith, I had some intellectual concerns with Christianity. I had an incredibly wild experiential encounter with the Holy Spirit where I spoke of things I’ve never heard of before. Sort of like a huge experience of deja vus. Though, I knew that my brain could have merely been playing some trick on me- I could have been having some psychological phenomenon happening to me that some scientist in a lab coat could have explained away. So that set off the alarm to go do some research. And research I did.

I began to read books by Christian apologists to provide me with a reasoned explanation of the Christian faith. And I also read books by anti-theists trying to provide a reasoned explanation for why theism was intellectually bankrupt. So began my affair with apologetics. Needless to say, the Christian apologists had more sound arguments to my teenage ears.

This relationship with apologetics has continued, even until now (for the most part). For my senior project, a state requirement for all public high school seniors, I taught a class on apologetics to my youth group peers. I even ran a college small group last year entitled Apologia, where a group of students gathered to reason through issues faced by Christians.

Lately, though, I’ve begun to wonder just how effective apologetics is. This isn’t to say that it is a useless field… no, it definitely helped me provide a logical framework for my new faith. But I wonder if while we logically oriented Christians are arguing away with atheists, we are subverting our own worldview. How often do we forsake loving and respecting our “opponents” for the sake of being right? 1 Corinthians 13:2 says essentially that all the smooth talking, brilliantly worded arguments (prophecies) in the world cannot get you anywhere if you don’t have love. I’m not saying that disagreement (argument) necessitates being unloving- hardly. What I’m suggesting is that perhaps in our efforts to bolster our faith we’ve forgotten that the best apologetic is a life well lived (1 Peter 3:15). I think an excellent work for every Christian who is interested in apologetics is a book called “Humble Apologetics” by John Stackhouse. My ever so wise pastor, Kevin, required me to read it before teaching my sunday school course on apologetics. If you’re going to do apologetics, do it with a sincere and humble heart, quick to forgive, slow to speak, and slow to anger.

I just wonder how much apologetics is still relevant. For a small percentage of western culture, apologetics may be relevant and valuable, but I really wonder if all apologetics is doing is sidetracking people from the truer reality. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve known who are more content to sit locked up in their house behind a computer arguing with people on teh interwebz then actually engaging with needs in their world. Yes, Christianity has logical grounding, and yes that may be what some people need. But far more people need to know that even though you have “answers” you aren’t too blind to see that they want someone to sojourn with them through the doubts, fears, and struggles they are experiencing in this scary world.

At this point, I don’t really have answers and I sort of waffle on the utility of classical apologetics anymore. I know they were valuable for me during my faith journey and for that alone I’m willing to consider that we still need people to hammer out “reasons” to believe. But I’m still uncertain whether or not the apologetic culture is really advancing the Kingdom of God.

I also wonder whether apologetics is the product of a sort of culture war mentality. The type where Christians have to go to battle with every other belief system to assert our intellectual superiority. The kind where we blatantly ignore scientific data simply to maintain our box that we keep God in. The kind where Christians create some dichotomy between faith and science- like we can’t believe in both evolution and Christianity (I have some students who are so staunch about evolution not having ever existed that I think it really puts off some youth who are not Christian… this isn’t to say evolution is necessarily correct, rather that the matter of factly assertion that it’s not “true” is just as incorrect as the matter of factly assertion that it is “true”). Aren’t we really just taking up our sword of intellect to attempt to slaughter our intellectual enemies, often to the neglect of people and their very real concerns and doubts?

I just wonder if we’re too busy arguing while the world is burning.

What do you think? Is apologetics valuable as a whole? Is it helpful in certain circumstances? Can we carefully and considerately propose our Christian worldview while still maintaining a loving attitude? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Beale on Typology

G.K. Beale sure to bring some revitalization on the topic of typology. Typology has been mostly forgotten or stayed alive only in Reformed traditions and is a vitally important piece of good exegesis in my opinion. Excited to see a forward scholar weighing in on such a vital topic. Beale is currently my favorite scholar for his impeccable work in digging deeper into the Biblical text while remaining faithful to the overall theological narratives being communicated in scripture. Thanks to Kevin Fiske for the heads up on a must purchase for pastors and scholars.

One of the most controversial and potentially difficult issues within the realm of biblical interpretation is that of typology.  How are the people, places, events, and circumstances of the Old Testament text to be interpreted and understood insofar as their connection to subsequent people, places, events, and circumstances is concerned; especially as they relate to Christ and the church?

Greg Beale, in his forthcoming book, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation (Baker Academic, 2012), provides a helpful definition for considering that which may be properly understood as having typological significance.  He defines biblical typology as:

The study of analogical correspondences among revealed truths about persons, events, institutions, and other things within the historical framework of God’s special revelation, which, from a retrospective view, are of a prophetic nature and are escalated in meaning. (p. 14)

After defining biblical typology, he offers…

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Environmental protection, Animal abuse, and the Christian

There is someone who attends my youth group casually who is very passionate about protecting animals and the environment. These are two areas where I think Christians by and large have failed to live up to the standards of the Bible (particularly the environment). I was asking for this student to provide a reason why animals (and by extension the environment, though not the subject of our discussion) should be treated fairly and equitably. It was hard to provide any reason beyond the fact that they deserve to be treated fairly/they feel pain. Though I agree that pain is a driving factor in why animals should be treated equitably, I believe there are more systematic reasons why. So to be fair to my student who I pestered for a number of comments, here is why I believe animals and in turn the environment, ought to be treated fairly and justly.

 

As a devout Christian, I believe the Bible is the record God left of his interactions with humans. I believe that, though it was physically written by the hands of men (and some women!), the thoughts and principles contained within it were inspired by God’s Spirit. Thus, I think that when the Bible sees fit to discuss a topic, it is important we listen. One challenge that is present when dealing with the Bible is interpretations of what it actually means! The Bible is written in 3 different languages, with the oldest sections being written likely over 3500 years ago and the newest being written about 2000 years ago! That’s a lot of time to pass between then and now, and it’s a lot of time to pass between the beginning phases of writing and the final phases! That being said, one of the oldest sections of the Bible we have is what is called the Pentateuch, or the first five books of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible.

 

Though there is much disagreement in the scholarly community about the dates/authorship of the Pentateuch, I believe it was primarily written by Moses in the period of time when the Israelites were leaving Egypt through Moses’ death. The first book of the Pentateuch, and the Bible, is the book of Genesis. Genesis begins at the very beginning- with God creating. In that beginning God gave form to everything- he gave it a purpose and a job. The light-bearers (created on day 4) were supposed to contain and harness the light (created on day 1) the land to hold animals, etc. The final day, day 6, God created both animals and humans. The charge God gave to humans? Multiply and “have dominion” over both the land (environment) and animals.

The problem is- for the longest time Christians read “have dominion” as- “do with it whatever I so please” rather than the more accurate understanding of the word which is to “steward.” To steward means to care for and protect- like the Steward of Gondor was responsible for carrying on the business of the kingdom of Gondor as well as protect it while the King was away. This is precisely the sort of work that we humans were supposed to be doing in the Garden of Eden: taking care of it for God, because it is His temple.

So Christians misunderstood what the term “steward/have dominion over” meant- but there is also another problem. Christians throughout the world believe that Jesus will absolutely come back again to this earth. The book of Revelation speaks of Jesus returning riding a white horse and a sword coming from his mouth. There are also some passages in Revelation that speak of 1/3 of the earth being consumed in fire, as well as 1/3 of the stars falling from the heavens, etc. Many Christians have thought that when Christ comes again, he will just transport us into heaven- where we live on fluffy white clouds playing harps all day. Unfortunately, this is a misinterpretation (in my opinion) of the passage of scripture that speaks to the “rapture” mixed in with a healthy amount of Hollywood’s version of heaven rather than the Bible’s. So, you have people who not only think the earth was made just for us to use it to our absolute benefit without looking at the cost, but they also think the earth will just be replaced when Jesus comes again. So they engage in what is known as a “scorched earth” mentality, where they believe that since the whole earth will be destroyed, then you might as well live it up and use up all the oil you possibly can!!! Beat all the animals! etc.

So, why do I think that it’s important to be good stewards of the environment as well as animals? Because God made us to protect and guard the animals and environment. He made this earth to be His temple- it’s our job to take care of it and prepare it for Him. When the Fall happened, we were broken and ashamed… but so was nature. We deal with a broken world as well, until Christ comes to renew the world (rather than throwing it away and starting over!). We need to be treating it with respect and love rather than with contempt (no matter your view on Global warming!). We need to treat animals with love and dignity because they were created by God, and part of our calling in life is to treat them with equity and fairness. Animal abuse is more than just a shameful activity- it actually subverts human nature, because we were made to protect animals. When we batter the environment for a little American comfort, we aren’t just being irresponsible- we are being irreverent and we defile God’s very temple.

So back to my student: why do I believe we should treat animals and the earth well? Because it’s what we were made to do!

I will leave this with one of my favorite quotes from G.K. Chesterton!

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate. This gives to the typically Christian pleasure in this earth a strange touch of lightness that is almost frivolity. Nature was a solemn mother to the worshippers of Isis and Cybele. Nature was a solemn mother to Wordsworth or to Emerson. But Nature is not solemn to Francis of Assisi or to George Herbert. To St. Francis, Nature is a sister, and even a younger sister: a little, dancing sister, to be laughed at as well as loved.” Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton

Prayer Labyrinth, burnout, and other things

This design is an ancient labyrinth design

Over the past month or so, I have been extremely busy (hence why my blogging has dwindled, as it always seems to do). I have an incredible amount of things going on- I have 16 credits at Northwest, plus debate there which could theoretically add 4 more credits, I am a youth pastor at Everett Family Church, I lead worship fairly regularly, and I have a pregnant wife that I have to make time for. I’ve struggled, at times, to make sure I am balancing my time budget well, and I feel like I have been approaching the borders of burnout. Do I do everything as well as I could? No. But sometimes its overwhelming to try to keep everything straight.

That being said, God has been reminding me through various avenues that I need to slow down and take time for him. So, I’ve been very intentional about spending more time with him. I think it’s really helped my productivity, oddly enough as that may be. When you struggle to find time to do everything, and you don’t make your relationship with God the primary concern, you WILL burnout- and much faster than normal.

One of the ways I have been intentional about making more God-time is to focus on praying. It’s been one of the areas I’ve struggled with, constantly praying as 1 Thessalonians 1:17 reminds us, so I’ve really been trying to deepen that time with God. So I’ve done a few things to help me along this path- 1.) I’ve been attending dedicated prayer times at church, 2.) I’ve been spending more God time at home, 3.) using a prayer labyrinth.

Now, most of you are totally comfortable with the first 2 things on this list- me too. Those are my defaults, my comfort zones if you will. The third thing on this list will likely elicit one of two responses- what the heck is a prayer labyrinth? or dude, that stuff is like weird mystic, new agey BS (or maybe you just think it’s dumb).

Let me tell you how I became acquainted with the Prayer Labyrinth. I first heard of it this school year. One of my professors wrote a blog on it and mentioned that he thought it was silly. It did, indeed, sound silly. Basically, a prayer labyrinth is a maze-esque design either inlaid on a flat surface (painted, built with brick, etc.) or a raised wall structure (like a corn maze, or even just rocks outlining a path) that is laid out in a twisted, convoluted path always moving towards the center of the labyrinth. Labyrinth’s are distinct from mazes, however, in that they only have one path and are not meant to confuse the participator. So basically, you walk along this path, making a fool of yourself to anyone who doesn’t know what you’re doing (perhaps a fool even to those who do know) while praying/reading scripture.

Well, I later enrolled in a class with my professor and one of the books we read for that class is by Tony Jones called The Sacred Way. The book is a compilation of spiritual practices that one can use to help deepen their faith, the faith of their students, or the faith of congregants. In The Sacred Way is a chapter dedicated to the prayer labyrinth. Now, my more conservative (read: Calvinist) friends react pretty strongly against the name Tony Jones. He’s one of the leaders of the Emergent movement, especially in youth ministry.

One of the things that categorizes the Emergent movement (as much as this wide-spread, largely diverse movement can be labeled and categorized) is a rejection of modernity’s influence on Christian thought. This influence has lead the church, they claim, to over emphasize propositional truth (truisms, statements, creeds, etc- i.e. you have to believe core doctrine x, y, and z to be a Christian) over the personal and relational truth that exists in Christianity. Their strongest argument, I believe, is that Jesus says that He is Truth. Truth is a person, not necessarily a proposition (that doesn’t mean that truths can’t exist in proposition, however). This challenge is very post-modern (or at least, not modern… the romantic period developed much of the same existential tendencies as the post-modern period has) so much of the church, particularly fellows in the apologetic realm, have come down hard on the Emergent movement and anything that doesn’t fit within their systematized, well thought-out, intellectual perception of Christianity. Thus, practices like walking the prayer labyrinth are considered non-Christian or anti-Biblical- because they emphasize relational truth over propositional truth.

Perhaps I need to rephrase this- the prayer labyrinth is distinctly existential. When I say existential I mean that the meaning and value of a prayer labyrinth is expressly created by the participator. That means that each person develops their own understanding of it and how it relates to their relationship with God. Everyone’s relative truth meters are starting to freak out. It’s okay. It’ll be fine. Bear with me.

The reason this is so, is because ironically, prayer labyrinths are old. We have examples of labyrinths from 1000 BCE. In Greek mythology, it was said that the Minotaur was trapped in a labyrinth and could not escape. Theseus went in after a few failed attempts by others, tied a string to himself so he could find his way out (Hansel and Gretel, you thieves) and successfully killed the Minotaur. The church began to use them as alternatives to pilgrimage in the 14th and 15th centuries, however, in which pilgrims would couldn’t afford the travel to the Holy Land would go to the closest cathedral and walk through a prayer labyrinth on their knees (ouch!).

Eventually, they fell into disuse, and were almost forgotten until a lady in San Francisco began to really push for them to be picked up again in Christian spiritual practice.  Now, they’ve really gained some steam amongst more mainline Protestant denominations (PCUSA, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc.) and the emergent church.

I find them valuable for a couple reasons, but first I need to point out that they aren’t for everyone. That’s the biggest thing for me- they work for some and not for others. Particularly if you’re in ministry, labyrinths will work more for some than for others. If you live in an area that doesn’t really buy subjective reality like the country, or in urban contexts working with minorities, or in poorer communities, this would probably flop. Because, let’s be honest, this whole prayer labyrinth thing will only work for yuppie white people who drink lattes and pretend to be socially and environmentally conscious. That being said, I find value in it for a number of reasons.

Number 1- it forces me to slow down. I live in a busy, loud, crazy world where technology exists only to help you be even more busy. Silence is something my generation cannot stand. We don’t do quiet. Our brains have been rewired so that if we don’t have something to do for 5 seconds (literally, there is research to back this up) we get bored and start trying to find something to do. I struggle with this, and in my loud city I need quiet.

Number 2- walking in a labyrinth is monotonous, so you can focus on God. My brain likes to be doing something menial in order for me to reflect on life. That’s why I like doing yard-work or something simple with my hands. It allows me time to reflect.

Number 3- it’s uncomfortable. This, perhaps, is the greatest benefit to the Labyrinth. When’s the last time you did something uncomfortable? The main reason I chose to do the labyrinth was because it was weird. I thought it was uncomfortable (also, my professor not liking it presented a challenge… what, don’t judge me, I like a challenge). Sometimes we need to challenge ourselves and step out of our comfort zone- you just might be surprised.rd-work or something simple with my hands. It allows me time to reflect.

Are you busy? Does it feel like you rarely have time to breathe? Do you sacrifice your relationship with your Creator for the other things in life? Maybe you too should step out of your comfort zone and walk a labyrinth. Here’s an easy way to find one close. Also, if you’d like a little more info about the Labyrinth, just ask me. I have more resources that I’ve worked on, or I could even do more blog posts about it.

About a Boy- Themes of Christian Discipleship

 

One of the classes I’m taking this semester is called Youth Discipleship. It’s been an engaging class that I’ve very much enjoyed- especially because it has immediate implications for me, since I have the privilege and honor of discipling some awesome youth at EFC. One of our assignments for class was to watch the move “About A Boy” and analyze how it may relate to Christian discipleship. I submitted my paper and my professor, knowing I do a bit of blogging, encouraged me to adapt it for a blog post, so here it is.

The move stars Nicholas Hoult as Marcus and Hugh Grant as Will, the main characters of this dramedy about the evolution of a relationship between a socially awkward boy (Marcus) and a man (Will) who seemingly has it all. Interwoven into the tapestry that composes the plot are a few bright threads that bring a subtle critique of the American individualism that disregards the needs of others, the struggles of an essentially parent-less boy (he has an absentee father and a self-absorbed, hippie mother) caught in the throes of a vicious social atmosphere, and the blatant apathy of of today’s adult male towards familial responsibilities. This scenario is now the norm for Christian youth workers, and we must adapt and learn to address the issues facing us today. There are 3 main principles that show promise for Christian leaders to draw principles of discipleship from: 1.) the vacuum caused by absentee fathers, particularly for boys, 2.) the mimicry process that occurs in relationships, regardless of intentionality, and 3.) the mutual transformation that occurs in discipling relationships.

Within the last five years or so, there has been a lot of research regarding the male decline in society- which has lead to the question of how the church ought to respond appropriately.  “About A Boy,” clearly shows traces of this theme, as the lead character Will has no job, no commitments, and dates casually (going so far as to join a single parents’ group to pick up the ladies). Similarly, Marcus’ father also rejected his responsibilities to his son and comes around only for holidays. This leaves Marcus with very little idea of how to relate to society, except from what he has learned from his “crazy hippie” mother. This leads us to ask, how can we help fill this gap in students’ lives, particularly the boys with absentee fathers/male role models. Much of our job is not only to teach them about Jesus, but now includes teaching them what it means to be a man in an evolving world that seems to be rejecting any sort of masculinity of old.

An interesting part of the movie is how Marcus picks up Will’s mannerisms and demeanor. Marcus begins to glean social cues from Will’s interactions- even if Will did not intentionally go about teaching Marcus societal expectations. Human beings, but particularly young human beings, are naturally mimics. Infants learn by observation and mimicry, they do not understand language yet, so traditional oratory learning is impossible, it’s all mimicked learning. This means that the actions of Christian leaders will likely be passed on to our students- both the good and the bad. This is a powerful tool that can either lead to particular harm or good- if used well, a leader can do positive discipleship simply by being rather than actively pursuing a goal. This leads to stronger affirmation for the student because they do not feel like a project, but rather feel like a valuable human being. Alternatively, however, students can also mimic the negative actions of leaders, which can lead to negative growth in students- thus leaders must be conscious that their actions have behavioral implications for their students.

Finally, this movie clearly illustrates the transformational nature of discipling relationships- not only the character/intellectual transformation of the student, but the transformation that also occurs for the teacher. Not only does Marcus go from the nerdiest kid on campus who gets others beat up for merely hanging out with him, but Will also goes from being the guy that hits on college girls in the bar to bearing the guilt and shame of humiliation with Marcus during the school talent show. Will’s sacrifice of character in that scene has faint echoes of the sacrifice and humiliation of Christ on our behalf. This is the distinguishing factor that separates Christian leadership from other leadership types. Most corporate leadership encourages leadership that ensures the dignity of the teacher isn’t lost- that he/she maintains their power. Christian teaching, as Will picked up on, is based in serving. It requires us to get messy, to get deeply involved with the needs and desires of our students. Much like Christ had to enter into the human condition in order to bring redemption and to teach us the value of life, Christian leaders should make sacrifices in comfort and position in order to ensure the spiritual well-being of our students. Christian discipleship, then, often transforms the teacher as much as it changes the student. When we can model the love Christ has for us, it grows us and teaches us that much more about the nature of Christ’s sacrifice.

The Yo-yo Gospel?

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Yes. The Yo-yo Gospel. Sure, it may sound ridiculous but hear me out.

Lately, in a fit of nostalgia and more probably, childlike glee, I have had a renaissance with the yo-yo. I was first introduced to the yo-yo in the second grade when I saw some kids on the playground with the Yomega X-brain. I begged my mom to get me a Yomega Fireball and she finally caved. I came home from the mall with my newfound source of joy and ripped it open. When I finally removed the pesky packaging from my coveted prize I quickly put the end of the string around my finger and in one fail swoop managed to tangle my precious yo-yo in a rat’s nest of frustration. But, over time and with much practice I was able to finally throw a yo-yo and get it to do the most important of all things- to sleep. You see, the sleeper is the foundation for almost every trick you can do with a yo-yo.

After a while I developed some significant skills with my weapon (legend has it the yo-yo developed as a weapon in the Phillipines), at least I thought so anyway. I could walk the dog, go around the world, rock the baby, scale the Eifel Tower and even ride the elevator. After a while though, I lost interest in my yo-yo because I encountered a few problems. Number 1 was that I was in second grade, thus the maintenance regimen for my yo-yo was dependent upon my mother’s subsidization, number 2 was that tricks got increasingly difficult, and number 3, finally, was that my yo-yo strings broke while performing around the world indoors and I broke one of my mother’s favorite picture frames. Whoops.

Life moved on and I duly forgot about my yo-yo. Then I encountered it again through my students at EFC. I saw them doing some crazy tricks and asked if I could see their yo-yo. To my surprise I found that yo-yoing is similar to riding a bike. My wife was shocked that I had this secret “talent”. So I got a yo-yo and I am now able to do some pretty advanced tricks.

Between homework assignments I will intersperse some yo-yoing. This means I get lots of practice… cause I have lots of homework. Anyway while I was doing a particularly involved trick called Cold Fusion I got to thinking. I realized how absurd it was that I’m doing such a complicated thing with string and a piece of metal/plastic.

See, the yo-yo is extremely simple. It’s a classic toy- one that has been around for centuries and has entertained even my grandparents. The basic premise is that a circular object descends down a string and returns back up the string. Fun. Simple. The yo-yo is a giant paradox. It is simple enough for a child to pick up and use and complex enough for the masters to baffle everyone with.

The Tuesday after next I will begin a new teaching series at Praxis Youth Ministry. I will be teaching through the book of John. The book of John is the yo-yo Gospel, for it is simple enough that a child can understand what it says and complex enough to have warranted the largest body of Biblical scholarship throughout history. This Gospel is perfect because it is a great entry point for anyone and it is deep enough to keep even the most seasoned Christian on their toes. When you read through John’s account of Jesus life, you WILL encounter Christ. You cannot get around it- Jesus is the center of John’s Gospel. It teaches us more about the person of Jesus than any other body of scripture, in my opinion.

John begins his narrative of Jesus with the beginning. He takes us on a journey through the magnificent work of Christ and the story of His redemption of humanity through history. It begs us to ask ourselves where we fit within the narrative of salvation. How is the story of Jesus continued with us? John’s Gospel will ask these questions of us- even if they are just implicit questions.

So I want to encourage you- if you’ve never read the Bible before, start with John’s Gospel (4th book in the New Testament, about 3/4 of the way through the whole Bible). If you’ve read through the Bible more than once- read John’s Gospel again. Meditate on it. Let the presence of the Word saturate you in the Gospel story. If you are just checking out Jesus for the first time- John is a great place to start. If you’ve gotten a little distracted from your relationship with Christ by the busyness of life- John is a great place to re-encounter Christ. If you’ve been a faithful Christian for a long time, John has a wealth of spiritual depth to discover and mine.

Let us ultimately remember the words of John (The Baptizer), “He must increase, I must decrease.” Amen.

Oh, Mark Driscoll!

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Mark Driscoll, you never fail to stir controversy!

With the release of his new book “Real Marriage” Pastor Mark Driscoll- lead teaching pastor at MarsHill church here in Seattle- has elicited a whole new batch of scathing criticisms.

The genesis of this blog post came from a friend who asked me my opinion of Driscoll and specifically his book Real Marriage. My friend has a few friends that are big fans of Driscoll and are going through the book in a small group format. My friend read through about 4 chapters of the book and found them to be “a piece of trash.” My friend is not a Christian and is gay, so naturally Driscoll would not speak to his/her experience too much.

First of all, I need to commend my friend for being willing to read through 4 chapters of a book on sexuality by Driscoll who is very vocally opposed to the lifestyle he/she lives. I am always pleased to find people who aren’t so entrenched in their own world that they refuse to research a differing opinion.

I need to come clean- I have yet to read his book and probably will not make time to do so for a few months. My reading time is jam-packed with school/ministry related reading. That being said, I am fairly familiar with Driscoll’s theology of sexuality, having read a few of his resources on the topic.

So, here goes!

My relationship with Driscoll goes back a number of years. My first introduction to him was in my junior year of high school.

As a Christian guy in high school one of the major issues you deal with is sexuality and how to reign it in in a healthy fashion. I attended a number of small groups that dealt with sexuality and how to properly handle it. I read through one book called “Every Young Man’s Battle,” which was, in my humble opinion, terribad. Then my roommates and I read through a free e-book published by RE:lit, the publishing section of Driscoll’s ministry The Resurgence, called “Porn-Again Christian.”

The booklet was everything that EYMB wasn’t. Frank, honest, insightful, and helpful. He didn’t just say, “the Bible says no, so that means no.” He gave solid psychological, medical, and relational reasons for his positions, grounded in the theology in the Bible. It changed my life for the better.

Before becoming a Christian I held a very poor view of women. My friends and I had a very detailed rating system for how attractive women were, based on categorical areas (butt, boobs, etc.) and an overall ranking. No semi-attractive girl escaped our scrutiny. This was an incredibly destructive view that robbed women of their status as a human being made in the image of God. It took me a long time to rid myself of this view- it required a lot of close friends being willing to walk down a difficult road and me yelling at myself quite regularly. Driscoll’s teaching in this area seriously helped me make sense of what I was experiencing. Driscoll has always been extremely good at speaking to young men, especially ones who are lost in a world that is increasingly hostile to traditionally masculine views of men. I know that statement alone is enough to frustrate some people, but bear with me.

One of the strongest criticisms leveled against Driscoll is that he subjugates women to a pre-feminism era. Driscoll holds what Christians call a “complementarian” position. For those who aren’t familiar with Christian positions on sexuality and gender roles, it is a very diverse “field” if you will. In terms of gender roles there are 3 major areas: 1.) Hierarchical 2.) Complementarian 3.) Egalitarian. In terms of sexuality there are pretty much 3 categories regarding homosexuality as well: 1.) Reparative (no better way to describe this, basically it’s the idea that you can become “ex-gay”, i.e. Exodus International) 2.) Semi Gay Affirming 3.) Gay affirming. The gender-roles debate has much more concrete terminology and is a much more developed field. The Christian gay debate is much younger and doesn’t have particularly well developed groups just yet- in fact my nomenclature is sort of made up for it, so don’t hold on too tightly to it.

This is an incredibly deep topic. Far far too deep for me to attempt to address in a single blog post. The topic of gender-roles/sexuality is so intimately related to the human experience that it has massive implications for a variety of areas. I will try to give a brief overview of the whole topic and hopefully provide some resources for further study. I’m also willing to write further posts expanding my views if anyone is interested.

I don’t have time to outline each of the 3 positions for both gender-roles and homosexuality, so I will pick the ones I think Driscoll fits best. He is a self-identifying “Complementarian” and is a regular contributor to that conversation. I would also say Driscoll likely holds a semi gay affirming position, but I’m not going to hang my hat on it.

Here are a couple of resources regarding the gender-roles debate. The hierarchical position honestly isn’t held very often and in my opinion is not Biblically tenable in any way, shape, or form. For transparency’s sake, I will come out that I am a complementarian in the area of family. Not sure about ministry just yet. Anyway, here are the resources:

Complementarian position:

http://www.cbmw.org/

Egalitarian position:

http://www.cbeinternational.org/

Driscoll’s theology of marriage and family would no doubt start in Genesis 1 and 2. Since this part of the Bible deals with original creation, it is the place to find out what the ideal is. Creation was made perfect (in the most sense that perfect can describe finite things like creation), so for the Christian it is the place to find the original plan for humanity.

Genesis 1:25 tells of God’s plan to make mankind to “rule” over creation- the implication is that “ruling” is to be done together. Then in v. 26 it says God created man (humanity) and he created them “male” and “female.” Driscoll and complementarians would look to this passage as an example of “equality in essence.” What that means is that male and female are equal in created worth. Meaning that men and women are equally valuable in the sight of God and each are made uniquely by God. Later on, in Chapter 2 we find a more detailed record of how man and woman were created. God formed man out of some dust and placed him in the Garden of Eden. God then decided it wasn’t good for man to be alone so he performed surgery on man, took a rib and made a woman out of it. Then man saw her and named her “woman.”

This naming bit is important, because in ancient near east culture, the ability to name someone/something designated authority over him/her/it. This is why God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, Jacob’s to Israel, Saul to Paul and plenty others. An egalitarian would say that this hierarchy only existed because of the Fall, but the naming occurred both before (man names her woman) and after the fall (Adam names her Eve). This would mean that the ability to name, and thus have some measure of “authority” is given to man in the ideal condition.

Woman is also said to have been given as a “helper” to man. This word, in the original Hebrew is etzer. It is the same word used to describe God as “helper” later, so it shouldn’t be interpreted as a helper from a position of inequality. This part of the text has been used in the past to abuse women and tell them they’re lesser- this is flat-out wrong and extremely damaging to women. It does give some measure of justification for Driscoll’s position of women sacrificing some of their own ambitions for the goals of the family/ marriage. This is not a popular position in society anymore, especially given the rise of second/third wave feminism that has had a very heavy emphasis on women climbing the work-place ladder. Christians have to be careful not to anachronize their interpretation of the Bible, however, so Driscoll and complementarians would argue that it is short-sighted and misplaced to assume that women’s sole role is to be in the workplace.

Furthermore, Driscoll would probably look at Gen 3:8-9, after the eating of the fruit by man and woman as an example of man’s responsibility to his wife. After they ate the forbidden fruit, God came looking for man. God who already knew what they did came asking for man, “where are you?” Even though woman ate first, God expects man to give an account of their actions, meaning that he was responsible for his wife’s actions. This is where complementarians would see men as completely responsible for the well being of their families- not women. Later, woman was punished for her misdeeds, but man was ultimately held responsible for her actions.

Later, in the New Testament Driscoll would look to Ephesians 5:21-33 as another example of where gender roles are clearly outlined in the Bible. Verse 21 starts out, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is really important to keep in mind, especially for you Christian men out there. You are to submit also to your wives. It’s not like you get to have all the say and she has to just follow along like a sheep. You are responsible for your family’s well being- that means when you screw up, you are held to account for it.

Then it goes on to tell wives to submit to their husbands like the church submits to Christ. This one is pretty clear. Neither Driscoll nor I will make apologies for the Bible. Christian wives are to submit to their husbands “in everything.” Doesn’t sound good to our modern, progressive ears but it’s there and I won’t make any bones about it. More importantly though, especially since Paul spends a lot more time talking about it, husbands must love their wives like Christ loved the church… which last time I checked required an incredible amount of sacrifice and finally death. That’s the funny thing about the complementarian position: it gets marked as being misogynistic, but really it places far more responsibility and weight on man’s roles. Men are supposed to sacrifice their own lives for the good of their brides and families. That means putting down your controllers, stop watching porn, get a job and take care of your family (wow… I feel like Driscoll right now… but he’s right on this).

This is where Driscoll would get a lot of his theology from. It’s not progressive in any sense and may not even be conclusive. The Bible can often be taken out of context, but I’ve tried to give the clearest Biblical reasons for his position. Since I hold this position myself, I don’t think it’s exactly a straw man.

Now the next part is far, far, trickier. The debate on how Christians ought to address the issues brought up by the queer community is a very delicate one. The thing about these theological positions is that they aren’t simply mental assents to doctrinal positions- they intimately effect every aspect of people’s lives. Brian McLaren put it best when somebody asked him where he stood on the issue of homosexuality when he said, “No matter how I answer this question, someone will end up being hurt.” This question deeply affects many people, many of whom are my close friends. When addressing this question, a grace-filled heart and understanding mind are the best tools to dialog without offending.

First off, I cannot apologize enough for how the church at large has treated the queer community. We have isolated homosexuality in particular and it’s been detrimental and harmful at best. I have a great number of friends who have been so turned off from faith because of how Christians have treated them or others they know who are gay, so to them I apologize. Also, there is a lot of language that needs to be learned to adequately engage in this dialog. I find that’s the most difficult thing for me. Political correctness is probably one of my least favorite things on the planet, yet I know the impact that language has on people, so I really try to make sure I’m not saying anything flippantly or without thought. If I offend anyone I apologize. If Driscoll offends anyone… well, let’s face it, offending is what he does best, but I apologize for him too.

Now, on to this issue, and hopefully painting Driscoll’s position the best I can. In places where I’m not sure about his position I’ll give my opinion.

This debate about how Christians approach this topic has often been sidetracked by stupid side debates that are absolutely unhelpful. I always try to be careful about which hills I’m willing to die on as a Christian. I hate culture wars. I think they’re so stupid and I think Christians waste valuable time engaging in culture war that they could be spending ministering to the poor, broken, disenchanted, or the hurting. That being said, one of the biggest and most ridiculous of all parts of the culture war of this debate is the “born/not born gay.”

I cannot tell you how ridiculous this is. For the Christian, absolutely NOTHING rests on proving this. In fact, it actually works against us. The logic for many Christians is this: God would never create someone in such a way that they would be gay, therefore it must be a choice, therefore gays are all choosing to be in sin.

This logic, frankly, sucks. It won’t work in any other area of people sinning. ALL have sinned! Not a single person is without it. God created us all and we are all sinful. God’s original plan for us was not to be sinful, but we screwed it up. Adam sinned and we have all chosen to walk in his footsteps. So Biblically speaking, you should have no problem accepting that gays are born with the natural predisposition to sin in such a manner (if you hold that it’s a sin), just like teenage boys are more likely to sin sexually in general. Also, psychology is pretty much conclusive that homosexual feelings are not behavioral/chosen, but are feelings that cannot be stopped. Gay folks cannot escape those feelings- they are often genetic even. I have a number of family members who are gay or bisexual at the least, genetics can play into the equation.

That being said, Driscoll would argue that any sexual activity that is outside God’s original design pre-fall is sinful. This means lustfully looking at people, fantasizing, viewing pornography, homosexuality, premarital sex ,and adultery. It is essential to view homosexuality in light of what the Bible says about sexuality as a whole. This is why it can’t be isolated. That means that homosexuality is absolutely no different, Biblically speaking, than checking out a woman and thinking about her sexually. That being said, Driscoll would say that homosexual activity is not permitted by the Bible (I would agree). Similarly, however, that doesn’t mean that those who have same-sex attractions cannot be Christian. I hate that so much. Christians talk about how we are saved by grace and not by works all the time- if you have lied, cheated, stolen, slept around, whatever it may be, then Jesus is enough. If you do it while you’re a Christian, just repent, get some accountability and keep going. But if you’re gay, you’re pretty much lost. I HATE this so much.

Anyway, this is still extremely difficult for the queer community especially because it leaves you with two choices, really. You can find a completely gay affirming church and pray that God sees your heart, or you have to basically live a celibate life. I can’t imagine what that must look like. I truly feel for those of my friends who have faith in Christ but are unable to engage in relationships with people they are attracted to.

That being said once again Driscoll and I can’t apologize for what the Bible has to say on this topic. Obviously there can be a difference of opinion on interpretation, and I’m totally up for debate on that subject. I’ve earnestly reviewed gay affirming interpretations, yet I cannot see how the position can be held with any consistency on how the Bible is interpreted.

That being said, here is another good resource for people with questions regarding this topic:

http://gaychristian.net/greatdebate.php

All in all, this topic is very delicate and I pray that everyone can talk about this with gentleness, love, and humility.

Regarding that… Driscoll recently was interviewed by a British journalist and made quite the fool of himself. Granted, the blogger clearly had an agenda and was badgering Driscoll to the point of losing his temper. I don’t think the way Driscoll handled himself was Biblical, since I was asked to give my opinion of him. Too many people idolize Driscoll and think he is practically divine. Driscoll is often wrong. He’s often right though. I try to take both the good and the bad from people. 🙂 Anyway, here’s the link to a small excerpt from the interview.

http://cognitivediscopants.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/driscoll-brierley-on-women-in-leadership/

Okay, I’m closing this up. This is waaaaay too long. I’m pretty sure nobody will actually have finished this, so I apologize for the incredible length of this post.

I would love to hear opinions! If you would like me to write some more on this topic, please let me know and I will try my best. I hope that this has helped clear up some of Driscoll’s positions. I pray that everyone can be encouraged by this dialog, even if you may disagree with me. I love when people can disagree without getting too offended. That being said I know the highly personal nature of this post may stir some strong emotions. I apologize if I have offended anyone, and if I have please let me know. My goal is to show Christ like love to everyone, regardless of lifestyle, beliefs, or values.

In His grace,

Maxwell Mooney