"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Thursday, October 26, 2006

All Things to All People

A Two Point "Sermon"

One night, after the flood, and the ark, and the rainbow, Noah decided it was time to uncork the good stuff. So he put on his George Thorogood records (they didn't have CD's and MP3's back then) and listened to "I Drink Alone" while he, well, you know. The album played over several times, including "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer", which isn't a great combination, and Noah passed out.

What happened next, I'll let Moses say:

Genesis 9:22And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. (ESV)

Point One: Respect for One's Betters

The simple message of the text, given the curse placed upon Ham in v.25 and the blessings pronounced on Shem and Japheth in v.26-27, is that some things are just not seemly. Especially with respect to those whom we should honor, we shouldn't go there. Notice that Shem and Japheth didn't just cover their father, they walked in backwards so that they themselves would not see their father's nakedness.

Okay, so let's admit this line of thought was brought about by the Mark Driscoll sermon being discussed at Pyromaniacs. Let me also say that I really wanted to stay out of the Mark Driscoll debate, because, well, I've been there, done that, and nobody's opinions change. But since I have defended him in the past, let me say that I think this sermon crosses the line.

There are ways to make the point Pastor Driscoll wanted to make about Jesus without discussing the things he discussed. What may be acceptable topics for a group of guys who are smoking stogies and playing cards (no money involved, I promise) may not be appropriate when referring to your father, or to your Lord.

Point Two: The Right Hand Giveth . . .

But I still like Mark Driscoll. If he truly represents a stream of the emerging church, then the emerging church isn't all bad. And I'm not talking here merely about his Calvinism, which definitely helps. But he is passionate about the Triune God and theology, he's passionate about the church, and he's passionate about the lost.Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists have become Pharisees in too many ways. We have created a culture where we can pat each other on the back for living up to our own ideas of righteousness, which mainly have to do with externals.

One of the things with which I disagree is the conclusion Frank draws from 1 Corinthians 8 and 9. Frank wrote:
That standard is evident in the sentence I underlined—he became "weak" to the "weak". Now: what does that mean? Does it mean that he always acted inside a "mere" version and vision of the Gospel—or does it mean something else? Let me ask those questions this way: who is the weak in 1 Cor 8?

The answer seems obvious, doesn't it? Paul is not saying, "to those who were immoral, I became a libertine of sorts to fool them into the Gospel which requires a death to self," but in fact he is saying, "to those who have a weak conscience and do not have liberty in (for example) dietary laws I became weak like them, extra sensitive to their conscientious observance."

The problem is, if this is the Biblical standard, then Peter should have told Paul (Galatians 2), "Paul, you're the missionary to the Gentiles. I'm the missionary to the Jews. When the Jews show up, I have to be weak like them, extra sensitive to their conscientious observance." Oh, you say, but these were Judiazers, and they had to be resisted. But who determines who the Judiazers are?

I think too many today have become Christianizers. There are people who, if they are called to Christ and become like we are, they're welcome. But we don't personally want to reach them, and they definitely need to "clean up" before they come to our church. A question: how do we react to the convict who was called to Christ in prison. He's out now and wants to be a member of your church. But his conscience will not let him join without admitting to the congregation who he is. What if he was in jail for tax evasion? Assault and battery? Dealing drugs to children? Pimping? Child molestation?

Now, I'm not recommending that a guy who pilfered from his company should be on the finance team. A child molestor should have no part in children's activities. But what if a former pimp wants to help organize food delivery to women walking the streets?

At the DG'06 conference, David Wells noted:
Actually, you know, it was really funny, as I was listening to Mark, because he sounded so far out, so testing the boundaries, so pushing the envelope. Now when I say those very same things, I sound staid...and tame.

I point this out to say, language issues aside for a moment, that Wells is approving of Driscoll's philosophy, if not his approach, to cultural engagement. I have to agree. And I think both are saying this is Paul's philosophy. In response to Frank's "So you ask how can it be that suddenly he is saying, "and I have enjoyed all kinds of privileges and exotic customs for the sake of the Gospel"?" I have to ask, "do you not think Paul enjoyed the exotic privilege of eating unclean foods when he was among the Gentiles, but then would refrain from carrying pulled-pork BBQ back into Jerusalem?" This is what I see the Paul saying in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

Frank may be right that the larger context of 1 Corinthians 8 and 9 deal with Paul's relationship to believers (at least I think that's the point of 'And particularly in 1 Cor 8, are the "weak" unbelievers, or people who have some relationship to the body of Christ but have a conscience which is "weak"?'). But the paragraph he focuses on (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) seems to me to clearly be speaking of Paul's method of reaching the lost since he uses terms like "win" and "save" to describe the result. In light of Galatians 2, it seems that this does not mean capitulating to the weakest conscience. Jesus ate with tax collectors. I have a good friend that works for the IRS so that doesn't seem like a big deal to me, but to the Jews in the time of Jesus . . .


(1) So, when Frank says "So when we are talking "missiology" here, Paul isn't looking for an excuse to behave like a gentile" I can only think, "But he did." Not that he looked for an excuse, because it wasn't an excuse, but he acted like a Gentile. He ate their diet, and when Peter stopped eating their diet (Galatians 2 again), he slapped him around (figuratively, though he probably wanted to do it physically). And, therefore, a careful reading of 1 Corinthians 9 in light of Galatians 2 would allow one to say, "I may not be living up to your standard of righteousness, but I'm fulfilling my call to reach the lost."

(2) My admittedly lame attempt at humor in this post is to say I don't have a problem with humor when someone is teaching. So when Pastor Driscoll talks about his son peeing, I don't have a problem. But, and it is an important but, I think there are still subjects that are taboo and I wish Pastor Driscoll would have found a better way to make his point about the humanity of Jesus.

But, hey, that's my interpretation and I'm only an engineer; humor and philosphy are not my forte. So take it for what it's worth.

PS - Special edition "Thankful on Thursday Friday" tomorrow


Blogger Even So... said...

I am glad you wrote this, and I will have to meditate on it some more...

12:47 AM EDT  
Blogger Taliesin said...

Let me know your thoughts. This is the way I see it, but I could be wrong (it's happened at least once or twice).

7:57 AM EDT  
Blogger Even So... said...

Yeah, it may take a while...I oike Driscoll, my wife thinks he's pretty good too, for the limited exposure she has had. i also have a "potty mouth", in the sense of the fact that I too have wondered aloud about Our Lord and his humanity on a crass level, perhaps...

The cool thing is that we get to see our mistakes and correct them, sometimes...like Paul says (wild paraphrasing) in Philippians 3: I aon't there yet, I haven't arrived, but at least I've left where I was...

9:46 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really appreciate this post. I think you have made a really great point and your rebuke does not come across as an attack on Mark, nor do you come across as someone who blindly supports his every word. Bravo!

10:40 AM EDT  
Blogger Taliesin said...

I have to admit that I found it hard to believe when one commentor at Pyro said they'd never even thought of it before. When your reading that Jesus was tired, hungry, thirsty, I just don't see how you can help but wonder.

I keep coming back to if it was important, we would have been told. And I agree that grace is a blessed thing, because sometimes I feel like I have so far to go ....

Anon: Thanks for stopping in and the kind words.

8:26 PM EDT  

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