Friday, April 9, 2010

Oh My Gosh I Think I Figured It Out.


On Sojourn's discussion/message board, The City (think Facebook + old-school chat room + newspaper classified ads + online church directory), a few discussions of late have just caught fire -- one about John Piper inviting Rick Warren to speak at a conference, one about Dallas Willard and whether or not he's orthodox, and one about The Shack that only died finally because the "listen, it's fiction and it speaks to people's pain" crowd bowed out of the conversation. 

And ohmygoodness, I think I've nailed down what those three discussions have in common AND why stuff like that tends to be tinder just waiting to be set off.

What they have in common is what I'm going to call the "Driscoll" factor -- high profile, prophetic, controversial.  The reason Mark Driscoll chaps people's hides is that he's got a prophetic ministry, calling to folks from the front lines, being a bold voice in just a few areas.  The reason I love and appreciate him is that the Church needs men like that who are willing to take a whole lot of flak because they're passionate about seeing the gospel applied in places that we want to ignore.  We desperately need Driscoll and guys like him to shake us up about our self-righteousness, our confusion about sexuality, our immaturity.

When it comes to the discussions I mentioned above, the Driscoll Factor means that they draw people on both sides who are passionate, even outspoken and fiery, about that particular issue.  So, with The Shack, for example.  On one side you have people who say, "Look, not everyone resonates with the Puritans or a systematic theology text.  This book can speak to people in their pain, and that's a good thing."  What's at stake, to them, is the faith of their wounded brothers and sisters.  It's an issue of love.  On the other side are the folks who say, "We have to protect the body of Christ from error.  Letting heresy slip under the radar because it's in a work of fiction is not okay."  What's at stake to these folks is the Gospel, and it's an issue of Truth.

God bless my brothers and sisters at Sojourn, because a conversation like that could so easily have spiraled into name-calling and judgment-pronouncing, but the tone stayed civil and gracious.

And it occurs to me that we desperately need both those voices in the church.  We need people to stand up for the hurting, to encourage us not to snuff out the smoldering wick, to remind us of grace, to display mercy and demand mercy from us, as people who have received so much mercy from our loving Father.  Without them, we'd be a bunch of loveless, cranky pharisees nit-picking each other's theology until we all spontaneously combusted.  We need folks who will thoughtfully defend the Rick Warrens and Dallas Willards and C.S. Lewises of the church for the sake of adorning the Gospel with love.

And we need people to stand up for the truth, to encourage us not to settle for mediocre theology or a watered-down gospel, to remind us of reality, to display integrity and demand integrity from us, as people who have received the very counsel of God in his word.  Without them, we'd be a bunch of hippy-dippy weirdos, wallowing in our feel-good love fests while the blinding glory of the gospel slipped through our fingers.  We need people who will boldy stand up for the gospel and not back down from exposing error no matter what.

The reason these kinds of discussions get so fiery is because you've got people from both ends of the continuum calling to each other, often without realizing that they're all contributing to the life and health of the church just by having the conversation in a gracious, godly way.  

We need each other!


Brian said...

Amen, Laura.

I saw the conversations a little differently. I thought things were getting heated, and in fact I backed out of two of them completely. The Shack thing was especially personal to me, and I do not want that to be subject to the kind of criticism you see in the seminary.

Which is not wrong in and of itself, but when you put it into a forum where regular people are present, it can cease to be iron sharpening iron and instead turn into a sharp steak knife cutting into your brother or sister.

I still think the Pharisees are wrong. But I can be wrong, too, not just in what I believe but how I approach someone I disagree with.

I was encouraged the other day not to become a 'grace Pharisee', meaning to come at those standing against error in the same way I perceive them to come at those standing for love.

You are absolutely right. We need one another. We need to dialogue in a godly way. We do this by listening, through respect, and by not jumping on someone who has a different view than we do in order to correct them.

Laura said...

Thanks for your comment, Brian! :)

I'm definitely NOT saying that the "truth" folks are pharisees, though, not at all. And we do need to cultivate both truth and love, which is one of the major reasons that we all need each other in the church.

Andy H. said...

I think you are pretty well on the mark here, Laura. It might encourage you to know that I had a private email conversation with one of the truth defenders (this is not an insult, just using it for lack of a better term) that ended up being very edifying for both of us. We were better able to hash out our differences without the need to defend our pride on The City. We were both able to see where the other was coming from better. At the end of the day, I think we still disagree in part, but we get each others' motives better. I left the conversation encouraged.

Another quick comment on Driscoll. Part of the issue here (which you touch on) is definitely personality. The way he comments on things like The Shack is the way he comments on most everything. When you agree with him, you love to have him on your side. When you don't, it can be hard to take. Same with some of the harsher voices on The City, in my opinion. As brothers and sisters, we need both to sharpen and learn from the different kinds of voices in our churches. Love is big enough for all of them.

Laura said...

Thanks Andy. I'm so blessed by you and Scott especially and how y'all handle disagreements with such grace.

I fully agree about Driscoll -- and that's why even when he rankles ME a little bit I tend to just let it slide -- and about some of people on The City. Man, I want to encourage people to be willing to get fired up about truth, and I'm grateful that there's a safe, private place like The City where issues of tone and graciousness can get worked out.

Thanks for commenting, brother.

Christi Lee said...

Having not been in any of these threads, I'd like to thank you for posting this. I like debate from a distance only; like in church history. But I need to be reminded that I need it in real life situations to grow. I ..just ...don't ...want it!