Monday, September 24, 2007

Open Discussion : Convergent Podcast

I have never tried this before, but I would like to open up discussion in the comment box about the message by Mark Driscoll outlining his concerns with Emergent and specifically with Brian McClaren, Doug Pagitt, and Rob Bell.

The podcast is approximately an hour and a half long. It can be downloaded here from itunes.

The reason I want to do this is because I had mixed feelings after listening to the message, and I am wondering what some of you thought. I will do my best to present a few facts as fairly as I am capable of presenting them, which I am sure is still biased.

I felt Mark's tone started off appropriately humble for the task he was undertaking. He became more bold with his comments as the message progressed.

1. Brian McClaren - Guilt by Reading and Footnoting
  • Mark is very concerned with Brian's influence from several authors. He spent considerable time explaining the questionable doctrines of the authors that Brian has referenced - Borg, Crossan, Chalke, and Wilbur. Based on Brian's association with these authors, Mark implied that Brian's belief in atonement is questionable.
  • The other concern that Mark has with Brian is his "increasingly obscure" stand concerning homosexuality based on quotes by Brian in Time Magazine and Christianity Today.

2. Doug Pagitt -
  • In the "Listening to the Beliefs" book, Doug said, "we should reconsider the idea that there is a necessary distinction between creator and creation." Mark explained that, according to Romans 1, this is by definition paganism and idolatry.
  • Also when he asked Doug if homosexual practice is incompatible with the christian faith, Doug's response was no.

3. Rob Bell -
  • Strike One - Brian McClaren covers Rob's pulpit when Rob is gone.
  • Strike Two - Rob uses rabbinical sources, and the rabbis didn't know or love Jesus.
  • Strike Three - Trajectory hermeneutic. Based on the "horrible" book - Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals - Mark says that Rob is guilty of theological evolution in arriving at the egalitarian position.
  • Strike Four - Because of Rob's remark about the virgin birth in the book Velvet Elvis, Mark said that Rob's theological method is frightening.

This is really condensed, but hopefully it is a fair representation of Mark's critique of the 3 men in this podcast.

Near the end Mark made a few general, unsubstantiated statements:

  • Emergents love Jesus the man, not the God-man.
  • Emergents are guilty of syncretism, blending Christianity with paganism.
  • Emergents have a low and diminished view of Scripture.
  • Finally, those involved in the emerging conversation don't have converts, just the disgruntled children of evanglicalism.

To be fair, there were points in the message when Mark talked about missiology, contextualization, and reaching the world with the message of Jesus, where I could clearly see why he has been so effective in his ministry. He is absolutely sincere about reaching the lost.

Near the end, he made some good points about not erring on either side of the spectrum, syncretism (liberal) or sectarianism (fundamental). He said that we shouldn't be wasting our time fighting over things that don't matter, but rather should be pursuing converts instead of conflict. Amen to that.

If you haven't listened to the podcast, feel free to comment on the ideas I have outlined. If you have listened, I would be very interested in what you thought. Opposing views are welcome. Please be respectful to other commenters.


cynthia said...

I haven't listened to the podcast yet ... that's a hunk of time for me to carve out. But, I will say that I have listened to Mars Hill sermons for the past couple of years and I don't recall any time that Brian McLaren has covered the pulpit when Rob has been gone. I know for a fact it hasn't happened in this year at all because all of the sermons are on my Itunes and I just checked. But I remember clearly the sermons from last Summer, Fall, and Winter and Brian Didn't speak then either.

I know it's a little thing but when Mark misrepresents on the little things it makes the rest of what he has to say suspect.

I will listen to the podcast later.

sonja said...

I haven't listened to the podcast yet. Like Cindy, that is a chunk of time to carve out. But I'll see what I can do.

To me the real heart of the problem is not the content of the criticisms but the heart of the man delivering them and his method of deliverance. If he truly believes that his brothers are erring to the point of walking in heresy, Jesus himself gave us the method in which we are to reconcile differences between us.

So, at the very moment that he is upholding the Truth of Scripture, Mark Driscoll is not walking by it. The men that he spoke in front of, who also supposed hold Scripture supreme, did not hold Mark accountable to that standard. They did not ask him if he had gone to his brothers in private with these accusations before he took them public in this manner.

No ... everyone was very happy with what happened. Mark got to have his back slapped and live in his beloved spotlight again. And the people attending the conference got to have their ears tickled with ugliness about men they already do not care for.

It really does not matter whether the accusations have teeth or not. The manner in which they were delivered was deplorable. How does any of this serve the cause of Christ whom all of us love?

rich said...

But what happens when Mark does try to speak with these folks and ask pointed questions and gets either no response or an answer like Padgitt gave him on homosexuality.

Look, I know those commenting here lean heavily against Driscoll in pretty much all things, but he is a truth seeking and he does love the gospel. I have followed these guys he critiques for years, and they are running from the truth many times. I enjoy a lot that they have to say and own some of their books, but at the end of the day, if Driscoll says they are X and X makes them heretical, they need to step up and say no, I am not X, I am indeed Y just like you. They will not do this and it is becoming very bothersome. For those who are not bothered by and stick to the "conversation" mantra, I pray that you'll become a tad more critical as well.

rich said...


Do a little more research, Mclaren has filled the pulpit at Mars Hill Grand Rapids...

Jeff Greathouse said...

I am listening to this as I type, it is in 30 mins into it so far.

So, far, it is a little interesting. I do find it interesting that this was not what he was going to speak on.

I think that STBS definitely wanted him to do this and bring the confrontation to the front burner.

Mark, there are individuals who are struggling on issues ( his comment on how can someone be in pastoral ministry and not know where they stand on homosexual ).

More after I hear it all

grace said...

I'll throw my opinions in here, although I don't desire to sway the direction of the discussion.

Yes, an hour and a half is a chunk of time. I stayed up too late last night listening.

I went into it pretty skeptical, but I believe that Mark at least attempted to approach this in the way that critique should be approached.

For the most part, he didn't resort to personal jabs or sweeping generalizations. He clearly outlined his specific areas of disagreement.

Concerning those areas:
I felt his accusations toward Brian were GBA. All of his comments and critiques were about the authors Brian referenced, not Brian.

I understand his worry about the homosexual issue. I also understand these guys' attempt to not have it be a litmus-test issue. I see this as an area of legitimate disagreement.

Concerning Doug's statment, I think this is a good example of how these issues should be approached. Mark asked, Doug answered, they disagree. Mark is free to state that disagreement publicly.

I felt that his accusations toward Rob were misunderstandings of his real position and exaggerations based on that misunderstanding.

I thought that his final generalizations were unfair.

I share Mark's opinion that on the basics of the gospel we should be clear, simple, and forthright. I see no reason to complicate or undermine the basics with a lot of other philosophies.

I haven't studied any of the 3 men enough to know if that is what they have done. If it truly is an emergent trend, then there will eventually be a clear division in the emerging church along this line.

Jeff Greathouse said...

Very interesting from Mark - 18 months ago .. at first I thought it was written yesterday after the message:

Some years ago I was part of a team that traveled around the country speaking about issues pertaining to the truth of the gospel, the condition of the culture, and the mission of the church to incarnate the gospel in the culture. I eventually left that team for a variety of practical and theological reasons. Since that time, much of that team has remained together and has evolved into the Emergent stream of the emerging church. Perhaps the best-known leaders in that network are Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt.

Since leaving that team I have been increasingly concerned about some of the theological conversations that are taking place, which has led to frustration and anger on my part. The result was an email I fired off in angry haste to the "Out of Ur" blog in response to a piece by Brian Mclaren in Leadership journal on his pastoral response to the homosexual issue. In short, I took some cheap shots at Brian and Doug.

A godly friend once asked me an important question: "What do you want to be known for?" I responded that solid theology and effective church planting were the things that I cared most about and wanted to be known for. He kindly said that my reputation was growing as a guy with good theology, a bad temper, and a foul mouth. This is not what I want to be known for. And after listening to the concerns of the board members of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network that I lead, and of some of the elders and deacons at Mars Hill Church that I pastor, I have come to see that my comments were sinful and in poor taste. Therefore, I am publicly asking for forgiveness from both Brian and Doug because I was wrong for attacking them personally and I was wrong for the way in which I confronted positions with which I still disagree. I also ask forgiveness from those who were justifiably offended at the way I chose to address the disagreement. I pray that you will accept this posting as a genuine act of repentance for my sin.

In the end, I do not want my tone and style to get in the way of important discussions and kingdom work. So, my intention is to lean into God's empowering grace to become a holy man who demonstrates greater self-control. In the future, my prayer is that I could continue to speak with pithy edginess and candor that is also marked by grace and appropriate words. I obviously failed this time. Please forgive me and pray for me.

Jeff Greathouse said...

I have to say, the one aspect that I was really upset with in the message was his last statements.

There are emerging churches, emerging conversations and emerging cohorts that are out there doing more than just being disgruntled.

They are out there being the hands and feet of Jesus because they have sinced that the "church" has lost their call and mission.

They are there in the community - they are doing what he says, "go and see".

The convert issue is a difficult one for me because it is on the #'s and I thin #'s are "wrong" at times.

SBTS .. liked your announcement at the end. Too bad you wouldn't have me :)

Jamie Arpin-Ricci said...

I think that Mark has some valid concerns that he is addressing. Unfortunately for him, his prior words and actions within these matters makes it difficult to swallow what he is sharing, even when he is more reasonable. However, that is for us to overcome, I guess.

As I recently wrote about at my own blog, I do not envy Brian McLaren's position in the emerging church movement. He is looked at to represent a vast group of people who neither he wants to represent nor was asked to. Yes, he is an important figure, but critiques focus on him far too much to be fair. That said, knowing this climate, he does say things at times that make me wonder what he was thinking.

Doug pulls no punches. While I disagree with a fair amount of his theology and some of his practice, he has pushed me into greater depth as a result. I may end up siding with Mark on several issues where Doug is concerned, but I appreciate Doug's forthrightness in his answers to direct questions.

Rob gets the raw deal here. While I am by no means an authority on these men and their teachings, it seems to me that Rob is (at most) guilty of careless writing. At times, his lack of development and research leaves obvious holes in some of his otherwise excellent points. This makes him a target. However, I think that little of the critique of him from Mark is altogether fair.

Grace, I look forward to more of your own perspectives.


Pastor Astor said...

This is not critique, this is slander. A pastor should have more respect for the lectern and the entrusted authority it represents than to use it this way. Repent!

Rick Gibson said...

I'm not a fan of Mark, and I found it laughable that he called 'new-reformed' kinder and gentler. However, I did find myself agreeing on some points. Others, however, I think he is being a bit unfair by going the 'guilt by association' route, and there was at least on point where I am pretty sure that he is misunderstanding what was said -- Steve Chalke didn't question substitutionary atonment, he questioned penal atonement.

rich said...

I finally listened to the podcast. Here is what I think.

There are basically two lenses being used to take in what Mark is saying. Because of that, and the fact that one is conversational and one is not, makes this whole discussion nearly impossible.

I didn't find him as mean spirited as some. I do think that guilt by association is fair when you have a guy, BM, that will endorse almost anything he reads. If he was unfair to anyone, it would be Bell, but I for the most part I think that his critiques are appropriate in the area of trajectory theology. He does use this and he is very arrogant in the way he does so. It's a dangerous thing to do.

I hate that we are all having to choose sides, but that's just how we're built I guess.

paul said...

Thanks Grace for the link to the cast, i'll have to add it to my things to listen too...maybe :)

Critique is no bad thing and disagreement is no bad thing - Mark is entitled to his view point which lets face it is shared by quite a few folks and well brian, doug and rob are entitled to theirs.

The trouble with these things for me is that it all ends up about personalities and taking sides based on my own preferences for who i like or identify with more. All this i'm for Paul, i'm for Apollos et al is something i need to wean myself off

So i'll say i'm grateful for all 4 and all of their thought provoking contributions and how God has used them to give an increase in my life and the lives of others

Cynthia said...


I never said the Brian McLaren had NEVER covered the pulpit. I can verify that he hasn't covered the Sunday sermon since the first of the year and didn't in the Summer, Fall and Winter series before that .... wait I just checked my audio files. Brian McLaren spoke there once last Summer.... Ok, but does covering one Sunday constitute covering the pulpit when Rob is gone. The way the information is presented Brian is the full time fill in for when Rob is gone.

Again, it's not that big of a deal except it is one of his complaints against Rob Bell and I think he is stretching the information.

sonja said...

rich said (in part)
"... but at the end of the day, if Driscoll says they are X and X makes them heretical, they need to step up and say no, I am not X, I am indeed Y just like you.

Wow. So. Driscoll is now the heresy police. We're all answerable to him on issues of Scriptural truth. Is that what I'm hearing you say? Cause that's what I think I hear you say here. That Driscoll is the judge to which McLaren, Paggit and Bell must answer. And if they have to answer to him, I'd guess the rest of Christendom must as well.

Don't get me wrong. I am *not* defending the three gentlemen at question here. I've never read anything any of them have written. My only quibble is with Driscoll and the SB's eagerness to hold bits and pieces of Scriptural Truth dearly ... and they pick and choose which parts they're going to hold on to according to which day it is. So which group is more or less heretical?

I really can't tell ...

Paddy O. said...

This is kind of a weird project to me. I guess it's about choosing sides. My natural instinct would be to jump towards Pagitt and Bell as I've really loved their work. Haven't read McClaren, and have been sort of turned off by most of Driscoll's stuff, partially because he's been put, or put himself, in the supposed inquisitor role.

Heresy abounds in every direction. It's hard, once a person has a theological education, to not find a bit of heresy in just about every sermon. Some of it touches on the Evangelical list of Important Issues, a list of dubious ranking really.

I look back at the early church and notice how some of the most profound thinkers of that time were later condemned by someone or other. Which always seems to be more of a play for power and authority, to shove someone popular into obscurity. Label a person, brand them, and they get discounted.

I figure I'm orthodox according to Driscoll's views, but maybe I'm not. How long a list do I have to follow to get his seal of approval? It's tiresome really.

Knowing that so much of the emerging movement is reactionary, taking up positions to make a stand against Evangelical excess, even lessens my worry about emerging unorthodoxy.

My gosh, how wrong was Peter in the Gospels? Again, and again, and again, and again, and again, then he denied Jesus, again and again. Still he was chosen to help build the church. He fed the sheep.

Sorry, I'm ranting now. The mark of a heretic.

Oh, and Mark's wrong about Pagitt's view on Creator and Creation. Likely because Driscoll has a deficient pneumatology so doesn't see how the Spirit texts in the Old Testament strongly suggest a pervasive presence of God. Christopher Wright's book Knowing God Through the Old Testament helps make that clear. Driscoll is clearly a pneumatological heretic. :-D

Hey heresy hunting is fun!

Julie said...

I'm with Sonja here. Who gave Driscoll the right to determine what is heresy? Whose theology gets to be assumed to be orthodox?

Honestly I do disagree with a lot of what Driscoll believes. I agree with some of what Mclaren, Pagitt, Bell (and Crossen, Wright, Borg...) agree with. There are a lot of Christians out there who call me a heretic, and a lot of there who think I am a conservative fundamentalist. I'm a bit confused as to why everyone is making such an effort to align these guys with Driscoll - as if agreeing with Driscoll means one has the orthodox absolute truth. Hope about we say, guess what Driscoll we think you are wrong and unbiblical and therefore dangerous...

Kay said...

I posted an itty bitty response on my blog. :)

A Response and a Wink

Jonathan Brink said...

Here are my thoughts through the audio.

1. I wouldn't assume that Mark hasn't had significant conversations with McLaren, and Pagitt or others people already. He intimates in the audio that he has at certain times, especially Pagitt.

2. He says 19:50 of the audio, When God speaks, we are not to converse, we are to obey. This saddens me because it assumes that everyone understands the Gospel with perfect clarity and we don't. Jesus met with Nicodemus, as example. He gave the disciples three years of training. The very nature of discipleship and the journey is to seek and engage the questions and learn. Grace provides the framework for learning and failing so we can stay in learning. To not converse is to close dialog and learning.

3. Mark's concern for McLaren's relationship with Crosson and Borg (around 22:00) reminds me of the Pharisees concern about Jesus hanging out with sinners. He never calls out anything specific that McLaren likes about the book, just that he's associating and referencing them. His reference to an earlier work in Time assumes they are saying the same thing and that McLaren is agreeing to it. McLaren never said that.

4. I'm not going to defend McLaren's position on homosexuality. My responsibility is to love them, not change them. Sadly I don't think McLaren has communicated this well. Mark does use the term hammer as a way of communicating truth, which is why I think he doesn't get the emerging church.

5. Mark has mastered the pregnant pause well.

6. Again McLaren's use of footnotes (30:00) appears to get him into trouble. But in the same respect, Mark's concerns are with the book McLaren is referencing and he's making assumptions about what Brian means by the footnote. I just read it and its just muggy. Mark is again drawing conclusion based upon a tiny footnote, not with the words of the author. Again, guilt by association.

7. Doug's comments about sexuality are his.

8. At 37:25 Mark quotes Doug's word in a book. He says, "the idea that there is a necessary distinction of matter from spirit or creator and creation is being reconsidered." I don't know if Doug is referring to the nature of what he hears happening in the world or what his personal beliefs are. Mark doesn't provide the context, only the quote. (Help here).

9. Rob Bell - The McLaren comment (40:15) is flippant and I doubt he realizes what he said.

10. At 40:20 Mark says, (Rob) holds up rabbinical authority as the KEY to Bible interpretation and hermeneutics." This is just an absurd comment and shows that he doesn't know or listen to Rob. Rob looks at Scripture in light of rabbinical interpretation and context. But would he call it the KEY? Come on. Driscoll shows his weakness here. Rob absolutely holds Jesus as the key to hermeneutics. He doesn't cite anything Rob says, mind you. He just references a common misinterpretation of Rob.

11. The trajectory stuff seems personal and esoteric. I've actually talked to the elders of Mars Hill personally about how this topic came out and they worked it out. It is clear he hasn't.

12. (44:16) He actually insults Rob. Wow.

13. (44:35) Velvet Elvis and Virgin Birth conversation. Mark obviously missed the point of the chapter. Rob doesn't draw the conclusion in the book that Mark draws. Lots of big words and misunderstadning. Again seems personal. (Earlier in the audio he expressed his frustration at Rob regarding the use of Mars Hil).

14. (49:50-52:45) Again, hanging with the sinners. Is it possible that Wilbur and all got some stuff right? I've actually read some of the people he references and he's throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Sweeping generalizations here.

15. The New Reformed. All of his friends. Sounds like an interesting crowd.

16. He talks about the need for new forms. Loved it.

17. Look to Jesus. Love it.

18. (1:02:09) "The emerging crowd loves Jesus the man. Not Jesus the God man." What is he smoking? Cites no reference here. Sweeping.

19. (1:06:50) Incarnational. Nice. I wish he had stuck with this. It was really good because what he doesn't realize is that so many in the emerging church are saying this same thing.

Paddy O. said...

Jonathan, thanks for the great comments! Regarding your point 8. My suspicion from reading some of Doug's work is that he's making a reference to the idea of panentheism, likely as it is found in the writings of Jurgen Moltmann. Again, an Old Testament pneumatology seems to very much support that idea.

rich said...

Julie asks:

"Whose theology gets to be assumed to be orthodox?"

Isn't this the problem with Emergent and Postmodern thinking as it applies to Biblical truth? If we live by this statement does it mean we are all orthodox no matter what we believe? I don't understand how we can have a truth, if we aren't ready to say that someone else has something wrong.

If it doesn't mean this, then please Julie, you answer your own question. I seriously would like to know your answer.

ScottB said...

Julie wrote: "I agree with some of what Mclaren, Pagitt, Bell (and Crossen, Wright, Borg...)"

I actually found this amusing - I can't think of anyone who has disagreed with Borg and Crossan as strenuously as Wright. He's close friends with Borg, but he takes him to task (and Crossan as well) quite rigorously in numerous occasions in his writings.

andym said...

I think we use the word Heresy too much...

(my post on this here if you're interested)

Anonymous said...

Rich says:

Whose theology gets to be assumed to be orthodox?"

Isn't this the problem with Emergent and Postmodern thinking as it applies to Biblical truth? If we live by this statement does it mean we are all orthodox no matter what we believe? I don't understand how we can have a truth, if we aren't ready to say that someone else has something wrong.

It's the problem (sorry folks) with Protestant thinking. This conversation will never end because in a religious tradition in which everyone is their own authority (no matter what you say about Scripture, because if interpreting Scripture were that clear, I guess there wouldn't be thousands of PRotestant denominations) can't. It just goes on and on and on and on.

And the question asked, basically, who made Mark Driscoll the judge of orthodoxy - is an important one, and worth contemplating beyond even the specifics of Mark Driscoll.

Steve Sensenig said...

I haven't had the time to listen to the audio yet. Not sure if I'll be able to, or even if I want to spend that time.

But this quote has surfaced a couple of times: The emerging crowd loves Jesus the man. Not Jesus the God man.

This is such an odd statement. Because if I wanted to make an equally sweeping statement based on my own experience, I would say this:

The reformed crowd loves Jesus as God. Not Jesus the God man.

I have been in conversations where I have been cautioned against referring to Jesus as "friend" because he deserves to be treated as Lord and Master and King.

Think about that! Jesus himself called us friends, yet we're not allowed to view him as such? He is our friend, he is our brother...

Personally, I think that the New Testament does a whole lot more talking about Jesus the man than any other aspect of who Jesus is.

Paul even stated (ironically at the original "Mars Hill"!) that God worked out his plan of redemption through "the man Jesus".

I guess Paul was a bit too "emerging"... (Just like Peter was a bit too "Mormon" for saying that we partake of the divine nature)

Julie said...

ScottB - that's why I said some. I don't think any of them have the corner on truth, but they are all not utterly wrong either. I've managed to learn about my faith from all of them. As I have learned from Driscoll if only to help understand what I really don't buy into.

Rich - you asked "If we live by this statement does it mean we are all orthodox no matter what we believe? I don't understand how we can have a truth, if we aren't ready to say that someone else has something wrong.

At some point we all make the choice to affirm a particular set of beliefs. We align ourselves with others, but in a way it is all about choosing our own personal orthodoxy. Once we align we can and do make statements about who is right and wrong.

The issue is that there are so many camps to be a part of (even for Catholics). So why are we here assuming that Driscoll's camp trumps all others in the role of heresy police? Even when I was a very conservative evangelical, I wasn't in Driscoll's camp. I'm not a reformed Calvinist and never was, so the radical reformed mafia would have labeled me a heretic even before I had ever heard of the emerging church. And these days it is generally the reformed camp making the strongest cries of heresy and the need to communally affirm a set of doctrines. My mom read those articles and sends them to me saying "see!!" I respond to her by reminding her that her doctrine is very very different that the guys who wrote that article. Whose set of doctrines is she wanting to affirm? And that is the question I am asking here.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Brian McLaren, it's worth pointing out that he has spoken more than once at Open Door Community Church, a gay-affirming church in Arkansas. This gives you an idea of what his views really are. He sanitized it for the CT article, big time.

Jeff Greathouse said...

Yup, he may be doing what Jesus would be doing.

The church today is just like the Pharisees of His day.

We (all across the board) crucify those who are trying to do the Work of God.

grace said...

Interesting comments everyone.

Special thanks to Jonathan for supplying additional specific content from the podcast.

I really have enjoyed reading everyone's commentary and links. It has provoked some serious thinking about many issues for me.

Patrick, your comment about Mark as the inquisitor reminded me of Brother Maynard's latest post. You might enjoy it if you haven't seen it yet.

While Mark was somewhat humble and specific in his critique, I would not say that this was an example of how disagreement or critique should be handled.

My first concern is with the context in which he chose to stage this message. What was/is his motive in pursuing this in the public arena? What is the desired or intended result?

I am also concerned with the presumption and arrogance required to step into that role and especially to add weight to his message with the claim that it was God's spirit-inspired word for this event.

In remembering the podcast, I have great concern about the underlying messages being given. For example, the result of spending the time that he did spelling out the "heresies" of the authors he mentioned only serves to imply that McClaren, Pagitt, and Bell are guilty of things that they themselves have not said.

Also, so much of his language was intended to sensationalize and provoke fear. It reminded me of when people throw around phrases like "jezebel spirit". There are quite a few incendiary terms included along with the frequent implication that association with these men or their ideas is a slippery slope.

Personally, I have a problem with someone assassinating another person's reputation to this degree under a pretense of love and humility. I hate the "I really love these guys, BUT..." method of stabbing someone in the back.

Finally, I do not believe that any of these men would see themselves or their beliefs in Mark's description of them. In my opinion that is the biggest failure in Mark attempting this kind of a public critique.

While I don't have a problem with stating disagreement, I believe that we must seek first to understand the other position to the point where we can articulate it in a way that the other person could agree with what we are saying about them.

I don't see that Mark is interested in understanding these guys or in presenting their differences in a way that respects their ministries. It seems that his intent is to create distance so that he isn't assumed to be guilty of the same heresies that he believes are true of them.

Maybe we need some sort of orthodox badge or code phrase so people could label us in/out more easily. Maybe something simple that even us common folks could understand, like John 3:16.

Do Brian, Doug, and Rob believe John 3:16? If so, 'nuff said! Let's quit calling them heretics and accept the idea that we will not all agree completely on other doctrinal issues.

Brother Maynard said...

I haven't listened to the podcast, and probably won't. My response is 3,464 words and I think I've given it enough. I'm particularly down on the improper use of the word "heretic" and the emerging notion of the emergents vs. the reformed. Sigh. "How long, O Lord?"

Jeff Greathouse said...

My first concern is with the context in which he chose to stage this message. What was/is his motive in pursuing this in the public arena? What is the desired or intended result?

Grace, unfortunately, I think that it was a push from the seminary.

Bob B. said...

Listened to the podcast really late last night, or early this morning, depending on your view. Ummm… Isn’t that part of the overall conversation, personal views? Not having read the written or spoken words of all involved – I just know reputations and blurbs of quotes I’ve seen along the way - I found the whole message at once interesting, deeply disturbing, amusing, and very informative for one just getting into the conversation. Here's a few thoughts.

Since the writings and interviews of McClaren, Bell, and Pagitt are public, it is appropriate for Driscoll to respond publically. A personal conversation with them first might have been nice, but as someone pointed out, we don't know whether or not that in fact took place. In most cases I would agree that there is a need to follow Jesus' procedures in Matthew for resolution of differences between individuals or groups. I'm not sure this applies to the writing of an author or their very public statements however. IF Driscoll believes that the individuals cited are wrong in their thinking, then he should call them on it. Now this might be old school thinking, but we need to hold each other accountable and correct each other. Not in a condeming way, but with love. I think Driscoll intended to speak with love, but at times he didn’t come off that way. His comment about McClaren’s SHIFT was cute, but not in love.

I like Dricsoll's statement that homosexuality is no worse than any other sexual sin. I applaud Pagitt for giving a straight forward answer to the question, even though I think he has no Scriptural basis for his view. McClaren needs to take a stand, either yea, nea, or I don't know. Not, "I don't want to hurt anyone." Loving someone and not wanting to hurt is commendable, but his failure to take a stance is possibly even more hurtful.

So what is wrong with rabbinical sources? I missed Driscoll's point totally. Paul was a rabbi and some of his writings can best be understood in light of that background. How did the rabbis understand their Scriptures? That is a very valid question and goes a long way to understanding Paul, not to mention the Old Testament.

Did I get this right? Driscoll sees three groups? Heresy espousing emergents, spiritually abused protestants (Calvinists) in rebellion, and those who are truly trying to reform the Church. I hope I fit into the last grouping, although there is a lot of the spiritually abused in me that empowers the reformer. That abuse came from a Methodist church by the way, so Driscoll’s Calvinists are not the only abusive ones. As for the "New Reformed," I've read some of those he mentions and would not at all recognize them as new reformers. I thought most were evangelical, fundamentalists of the modern school.

The last 5 or 10 minutes of the message were the best. Loving Jesus as man and God, being incarnational, maintaining Scriptural theology, and reforming our praxis to be culturally relevant seem like a better conversation. That I could relate to and would have liked to hear more of.

One final thought. Regarding the virgin birth of Christ. It seems to me, based on what Driscoll said, that Bell is simply asking a good question. Driscoll makes great points about the virgin birth and the resurection of Christ, and they provide a good solid modern answer to the question “is the virgin birth necessary.” Those of you who have read it, help me here. What's wrong with asking the question? I would think that how Bell answered this question is more important and that was not made clear to me.

Andrew Martin said...

[Grace, hi. I'm new to commenting, but I've dropped in on your blog for a while.]

Thank you for raising this: it's very timely for me. I've been trying to catch up with reading on emerging church (Bell, McLaren, Chalke, [Carson], Miller ...] and this last weekend just got around to engaging with Driscoll's writing: I nearly fell out of my armchair when I encountered a majorly-reformed, 'literal' inspiration adherent ...

But enough of me.

I agree with a lot of what Bob B wrote above: I don't think you can naively apply Jesus' teaching about reconciliation of differences within the community to a "community" of publishing, blogging, and podcasting. Moreover, if one were only "allowed" to do theology by taking each argument/refutation back to its original proposer, the whole thing would get stuck in the sand rather quickly. [To turn it around: if you want to play that game, you should be contacting Driscoll directly, not commenting here.]

That's not to say that the principle behind Jesus' teaching is not relevant, and as others have said, we cannot know the extent to which Driscoll has taken up these issues with the individuals concerned.

My biggest problem with the talk is the frequent use of straw-man arguments. I heppened to have a copy of "Velvet Elvis" right beside me when I was listening to the section about Rob Bell. I turned up the "father named Larry" paragraph while Driscoll was talking about it. Sure enough, he inserted a punch-line where Rob Bell didn't. Bell asked the question "would it matter?"; Driscoll put words in his mouth, and then denounced them.

One poster above suggested that Bell had been careless in his writing. I don't know for sure, but he strikes me as someone who uses words very carefully; who really understands the medium as the message: I think he chose every word carefully, particularly in "that" passage.

As far as I can see, quite a few of the things he complains against are places where he has "joined the dots" in a way that the original author has declined to do.

Now, you might think it irresponsible of the original authors to leave such things open and unresolved - but a great deal of life is open and unresolved. They are humbly reflecting that, and we have to live with it.

I'd love to live with the certainty Driscoll exhibits. I did once (not that I've ever been quite that reformed). But the complexities of life - and the breadth of God's grace - never seem to fit quite into such a well-defined box.

I think I'll have to listen to the podcast again sometime, nevertheless.

andym said...

Umm... minor point, but Steve Chalke is really not part of the emerging church movement.

(I should know, I work for him!)

Mike Todd said...

Can't bring myself to listen to it.

Jeff Greathouse said...

Can I just say that chapter 10 in McClaren's new book "Everything Must Change" is fantastic and lays out the difference between orthodox / emergent in a great way.

Andrew Kenny said...

Thanks for the summary of the Conference: it saved me listening to the podcast for two hours. Every blessing.

daniel said...


Thanks for the link to the McLaren sermons; I'm checking them out.

It's also worth noting that Tony and Peggy Campolo have spoken there, too. The Campolos famously disagree over the issue of same-sex unions - Tony does not believe that they are ever acceptable within committed Christian lives; Peggy does. They're a great example of disagreeing without losing relationship, which is what I hear when I read McLaren's words.

anselm13 said...

Concerning the recent comments, I'm a married heterosexual, but I do not believe it is sinful to live in a committed monogamous homosexual relationship.

I suspect I'm a minority here, but I suppose I'm just curious. What are the thoughts of the others who have commented here on this matter?

David Charlton said...

So Brian McLaren likes to read Marcus Borg and John Crossan; so do I, and it doesn't mean I have to agree with everything they have to say. I enjoy reading McLaren, Borg, and Crossan and learn a lot from them.

Andy M. said...

In response to Bob B's question about what Rob Bell said about the Virgin birth, I would say that anyone who criticizes Rob for what he wrote didn't actually read what he said, or didn't continue reading. I'll quote Velvet Elvis just to show, but I suggest reading the book in full.
"What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry's tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin, you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word virgin could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being "born of a virgin" also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse?"
and then he wrote on the very next page,
"I affirm the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the Trinity and the inspiration of the Bible and much more."
Rob's point is why should all of Christianity fall apart if one of our beloved "doctrines" is left out? I mean if we really have to get down to it, I could question Jesus' role as Messiah because Mary herself was not of the bloodline of David, Joseph was, and so Jesus was not biologically descended from King David. I have friends who would have trouble answering this one to me because I could say, "but the bible is 'literal' right? so Jesus actually wasn't fully descended from David, just married into the family, so Jesus doesn't fulfill the prophecy, thus the whole Christian faith now falls apart, because Jesus wasn't from the right family." Does our faith fall apart because of that?
I've heard Donald Miller admit that he, at least at times, can't accept the 6 day creation as literal. Now while I think that he might should believe in it, I don't think of him as less of a Christian. If someone has trouble accepting that this virgin teenage Jewish girl had a baby without having had intercourse, I wouldn't think of them as less of a Christian. Some of the stuff in scripture is hard to swallow, and I don't think that if someone questions something in scripture that they aren't a Christian. I think that that is more the point Rob is trying to make. If a friend of mine doubts something from scripture, I'm not going to give him a lecture about why scripture is authoritative, and why we HAVE to believe in it or we are going to hell, because that is not going to help that person to accept Christ as the Savior and King. It will more likely push them away from Jesus.
Mark makes good on reasons why we should believe in the Virgin Birth, but what Rob is asking isn't "is the Virgin Birth really true or necessary?" but can a person be a Christian without believing in the Virgin Birth? I would say, and I believe Rob would too, yes they can be a Christian. If that is not the case, then a person isn't really a Christian until they have memorized every single church doctrine and believe in every last detail. Now this might be me, but I don't remember anybody in the New Testament handing out a bulleted list of doctrines to new believers of Jesus.

On the topic of the emergent's believing in Jesus the man, not Jesus the God-man. I think that, by what I have heard and read of Mark, that he believes in Jesus the God-man, rather than Jesus the God-Man. Jesus was just as much a Man as He was God. And Jesus was much too human to make people who believe Jesus floated around with a halo comfortable. While we must give reverence to Jesus, we must also see Him as a friend. Jesus had personality. Did the disciples have solemn reverence for Jesus all of the time, or were they friends of Jesus as well as followers. The reverence was there, but you don't follow a guy around for 3 years without having a few laughs. Emergent's have remembered Jesus the God-Man, which seems like irreverence to Jesus the God-man.

grace said...

Thanks everyone for all of the great comments and discussion.

Anselm, some of the best discussion that I've seen on the topic of homosexual relationships has been at Jesus Creed. He is currently doing a series on Ex-Gays, and I'm sure that his previous posts on the topic are linked in his sidebar.

Anonymous said...

2 Timothy 4: 3-5 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Anonymous said...

Bob B - Paul was a rabbi???


Kyle said...

Anonymous said...

2 Timothy 4: 3-5 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Not to trivialize scripture, which I regard highly, but I suspect the same verses were used against Luther and others involved in the reformation...

David said...

As others have mentioned already, public comments get public responses. Mark is not out of line to take these points of view to task, particularly with the heavy influence these men are having on the church. What would be great would be to have a public debate and Rob, Doug and Brian could all respond. Invite Matt Chandler and a few others and have at it. I'd pay a hefty admission.

I find it odd that several have declined to listen to the podcast but have something to say about it? Surely you can carve out an hour or so away from watching the forecast of super tuesday 2 and give it a listen?