The Right Stick

Out here in Seattle, you can’t swing a cat without running into someone disillusioned with Mars Hill Church and Mark Driscoll. Not just any stick is good for beating on Driscoll or MHC, so we ought to make distinctions between the good and the bad, the helpful and unhelpful. Sincere Christians should shun gossip–negative speech that helps no one–and strive to edify each other. Here are three unhelpful types of criticism followed by an attempt at a constructive one.

Malicious   This point is obvious, but someone who tries to tear down the church with openly sinful motives shouldn’t be listened to. I’m thinking of one blog post where the author offered to fist fight Mark at the end of it–not very subtle. Open bitterness, violence, slander, all the obvious signs of people who pick at emotional scabs should be pitied, not promoted. It doesn’t mean they don’t have anything right; they might. It means they’re not judicious, their motives are twisted, and the author of Hebrews warns us that roots of bitterness spring up and defile many (12:15). Many sympathetic readers of these attacks would never talk or write this way, but they are lured into giving ear to it. The enemy of your enemy is not your friend. He may well be an enemy of your Savior, though.

Self Pitying  These are not necessarily scurrilous but still extremely unhelpful, and when they continue they can define someone. How would you counsel someone who blogged about their unfaithful spouse for years after the end of the marriage? What if they justified doing it as a warning to others because they too might end up marrying this person or someone like them? There is a deep temptation in the human heart to classify ourselves as victims and to run this line in our heads over and over. It’s plausible because we are truly victims to some degree of the sins of others. But forgiving and letting go, knowing everyone will answer to their own Master, is freedom. Of course this doesn’t preclude appropriate and productive discussion of situations that occur. The question is whether or not it’s productive. Should you tell the whole world about this?

If you want a test whether your complaint is edifying or not, ask yourself, at the end of your conversation or blog post, are you rejoicing in the work of Christ? Or are you feeling like a victim and pitying yourself? The apostle Paul tells the story about his enemies preaching the gospel to injure him as an occasion of joy: “Only in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that a I rejoice” (Phil. 1:18). A true victim of malice, he was anything but victimized, and his whole recounting of it makes everyone thankful for him and God’s greater purpose in his persecution.

Inaccurate   For those further away from Driscoll, bitterness is less of a temptation, though envy might well be at play. Who is this upstart who began with no seminary education? But I don’t want to read hearts–critic caveat. Still, some conclusions like Carl Trueman’s–”The overall picture is one of disaster“–are simply false. The overall picture is lots of evangelism, complementarian integrity, a call to masculine leadership, aggressive church planting, lots of outstanding books published, and who knows what other good fruit will fall off the young, restless and reformed tree. Of course, all of these virtues are imperfect since the church is run by people, but they are virtues nonetheless. I’ve met a lot of people who have outgrown the info-tainment worship and other immaturities at MHC, but were either wonderfully converted or discipled or both there. If Paul is thankful for his enemies, how much more should we be thankful for these brothers and sisters and the good work that continues there?

Trueman also makes the point that “there is no real accountability involved”. He refers to the incident where the executive elders at MHC approved the strategy of a marketing firm they hired to spend $200,000 getting Driscoll’s marriage book up the NY Times’ bestseller list. This was a bonehead move but for different, and actually more substantial, reasons than Trueman states. It goes in the same category as the recent exposure of MHC’s policy of having their pastors sign non-compete agreements: worldliness.

The problem is not lack of accountability. The elders took responsibility for the marketing move saying it was “unwise.” It’s not like this was a shotgun decision by a rogue elder. This was something they decided to do, and such elders must steward the large resources they’re entrusted with. What they didn’t confess, but should have, is not that it was unwise, but that it was worldy, wanting to become great by other means than those Jesus allows. He says to become the greatest by becoming the servant of all, not by marketing tricks or by implementing policies that ensure numerical growth in competition with other local churches (!). These are policies that dozens of elders and maybe hundreds of deacons tolerate and de facto endorse, and we don’t need one-sided accounts of private meetings to see it. It’s public.

This worldliness doesn’t ruin all the other good things that are happening at the church for which, like Paul at Rome, we can and must be thankful for, cynics notwithstanding. If we see the situation rightly, this gratitude drives our hope and prayers for this part of His kingdom.

 

 

Faux Tolerance & What It Means for You

It’s time for everyone to get out their copy of 1984 and read it. That CEO Brendan Eich treated everyone at Mozilla equally and still was forced out in the name of tolerance because he gave $1000 to a Prop 8 Campaign six years ago is official Newspeak, where a thoughtcrime is defined as the “act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts that oppose or question the ruling party.” The fact that at that time Eich simply agreed with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton who said “Marriage has a historic, religious and moral context that goes back to the beginning of time. And I think a marriage has always been between a man and a woman”,  is simply material for the memory hole. Clinton only came out last year in favor of homo marriage with no apologies for her past crimes against human rights.

It’s not accurate to identify the ruling party as homosexuals because they aren’t ruling and they are only 2-3% of the population. The president of the old homosexual movement was Andrew Sullivan who said the firing of Eich disgusts him as it should anyone who wants a tolerant and diverse society. Sullivan is what used to be known as a liberal, that is, someone who can actually stomach the views of those who disagree with them without calling for their careers and heads. He also continues to admirably stand against the defenders of Gaystapo coercion. 

Some will think that this heresy hunting is limited to the upper echelons, CEOs and lawmakers and such, but it’s not. People in the grip of this myopia are willing to go after florists and photographers, and most recently a local grocer in Sellwood, OR–what were they thinking trying to move into an “open-minded” neighborhood with all that dissent and diverse thought? Irony is lost on these people.

Mainstream news networks didn’t mention the Eich story last week, and this tell us the shaming of faux tolerance is working. Cowards fear shame and will ignore injustice, shouting down voices who stand for it, even when the voice in Andrew Sullivan’s. Anyone who believes in freedom of speech, much less freedom of religion, has no option but speak up when they have opportunity. They must speak first to their own children and not refrain due to the idea that “this is just politics.” No, this is the freedom for your neighbor to own or work at a grocery store while holding the opinion that sodomy isn’t a good idea. This is the smallest example of live and let live. So first, you must speak . Second, you should know what’s coming when you do, when you profess to agree with Hillary in early 2013. You’ll be labeled by Newspeak with all of your hate speech and unevolved opinion. But that’s okay. The opinions of those quashing diversity in the name of it are hilarious and need to be laughed at and pitied, but not taken seriously as every insecure bully demands.

 

Healthcare Alternatives

Hundreds of thousands of people, soon to be millions, are losing their health insurance. More will see their costs go up. I was talking to a woman last week who told me her costs were going from less than $400 a month to over $700 a month, an increase of over 70%. I’ll let others describe Obamacare for the disaster it is, but this post is about true alternatives that actually exist for people in need.

Soon after my youngest daughter was born, my wife I were leaving the doctor’s office after a routine check, I noticed up on the wall a sign to the effect of “HB 3426 Requires the Costs of Care to be Disclosed.” This struck me as hilarious. What business has to have a law requiring it, good consumer, to tell you its prices? Would you shop somewhere that didn’t disclose the cost of goods and services? And how long would such a business last that refused to do so?  Continue reading

Why Communion

It’s out now that at this year’s triennial Council, the seven presbyteries of the CREC voted to become the Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches, leaving behind the word Confederation in the denomination title. Although many were not, and are not, entirely satisfied with the Communion, it was by far the lesser of two evil. “Confederation” is a good word, stemming from “con” (with) and “federation” which comes from the Latin word foedus, which means covenant. In this respect, our group of churches remains very much covenanted. But for churches in the American south, “Confederation” connoted neo-confederate, something we want nothing to do with.

For those very much not satisfied with Communion, consider it comes from the Greek koinonia, the word often translated fellowship in English, said of the early Christians who devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and fellowship (Acts 2:42). It’s also not a word without ecclesiastical precedence. We speak of the Anglican Communion. Among the options on the table, this was my preference. Options regarding a new name entirely (not conforming to the CREC acronym) were not on the table. If you ideas for that, well, speak up!

Effemigate

Mark Driscoll, as usual, telling it like it is, recently posted on his Facebook page “So what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?” He did this as the result of a conversation he had with a non-Christian, blue collar man who asked him if the Bible allowed for effeminate worship leaders like the one he currently encountered at church. Actually, Driscoll replied, it doesn’t; David the warrior-king wrote the book of Psalms.

The post set off a storm of criticism which you can read about here and here. Brian McLaren and others take issue with Driscoll’s tone and message, which is why I think it was a good one. Throw a rock into a pack of dogs and the one that barks is the one that got hit. Shouldn’t all the people promoting effeminate worship leaders get their hackles up when they are made fun of?

One blogger called Driscoll a “bully”, a truly odd accusation. He didn’t name any particular leaders or encourage people to go smack the most effeminate worship leader they knew. He simply asked for stories. God writes comedy in the contemporary church, and you’re a bully for wanting to hear the jokes? Driscoll wrote a subsequent post describing his comments as flippant. His elders challenged him to say these things in an environment where people can be persuaded. I’m not close enough to the situation to understand all their rationale, and I’m thankful for faithful elders who are willing to call pastors out. But I do doubt whether many of Jesus’ offensive statements could be described as persuasive or made in a context where they could be persuasive. He makes fun of the Pharisees’ robes, prayers, tithes, oaths, devotion, and grooming. Did it get him anywhere? No where but up on that cross.

Not all prophetic speech is meant to be persuasive to all people. Sometimes it’s meant to offend the right people, and to encourage others. None of this excludes the motive of love, but it excludes a sentimental definition of it. We need more of these challenges.

When the Tolerant Aren’t

From a great post at Blog & Mablog:

A staple argument of homosex apologetics is that when the Bible condemns the vile behavior of the residents of Sodom, it was addressing the violent side of it — the attempted rape of Lot’s visitors. It does not address at all, so the argument goes, the kind of loving, caring, mutually affirming same sex relationships that we are are talking about today. You have to take context into account, you see, and there have been those who bought this argument. Simple Simon, after all, did go to the fair.

“But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (Gen. 19:4-5).

But let us pretend to accept this for a moment, for the sake of argument. Let us pretend that mutually affirming is the way to go, so long as you avoid that kind of violent hate sex that so unfortunately characterized the men who surrounded Lot’s house.

Comes now Bill Maher, who struts like a crow in a gutter, and is considered to be a leading humorist by the other crows. On a recent show, he had on comedian Marc Maron, who said that he thinks about “angrily f**king” Michele Bachman. He said this, not wanting “to be crass.” Oh, good. For a minute there, we were worried. And then, just to cover their stunted little tails, another guest said, to deflect accusations of sexism, that he would like to do the same to Rick Santorum. So fine then. You guys are willing to engage in hate sex, violent rape, against members of both sexes? And this makes it good, how exactly?

Summer Music Camp in Lynnwood

For anyone in the area, Trinity Church is sponsoring its 8th annual Summer Music Camp on Monday, June 20 through Friday, June 24 for grades 4-12.

The theme of this year’s camp is Christ the King! Students will sing several settings of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs based on this theme. The various classes relate to what the students are singing, enabling them to examine the music from multiple angles (Scriptural, musical, conceptual, etc.) as well as covering the fundamentals of singing technique and musical theory.

The camp will be held at Providence Classical Christian School in Lynnwood (21500 Cypress Way). Classes run from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. On Friday, June 24, there will be a dress rehearsal at 6:00 pm, followed by the final concert beginning at 7:30 pm at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood (6215 196th St. SW).

For registration forms and more information, please contact Jordan Doolittle at jordandoolittle@gmail.com.

Walid Shoebat on Radical Islam

For those in the Seattle area, at 6pm on Sunday, May 15, 2011 Walid Shoebat is speaking at Cedar Park Church in Bothell, WA on the topic of radical Islam. From the flyer:

Walid Shoebat, born in Bethlehem of Judea, is a former Muslim terrorist. His grandfather was the Muslim Mukhtar (chieftain) of Beit Sahour-Bethlehem (The Shepherd’s Fields) and a friend of Haj-Ameen Al-Husseni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and notorious friend of Adolf Hitler.

Walid’s great grandfather, Abdullah Ali Awad-Allah, was also a fighter and close associate of both Abdul Qader and Haj Amin Al-Husseini, who led the Palestinians against Israel. Walid lived through and witnessed Israel’s Six Day War while living in Jericho.

You have seen him on the news, now hear this insider’s wake up call about radical Islam.

War Dogs – Soldier’s Best Friend

From a fascinating article on the increasing use of dogs by our military: “The scent of war: According to Mike Dowling, a former Marine Corps dog handler who served in Iraq, there’s a simple explanation for why the Navy SEALs took a dog along on the Osama raid: “A dog’s brain is dominated by olfactory senses.” In fact, Dowling says, a dog can have up to 225 million olfactory receptors in their nose — the part of their brain devoted to scent is 40 times greater than that of a human.

“When you’re going on a mission,” Dowling says, “a raid or a patrol, insurgents are sneaky — they like to hide stuff from you. But a dog can smell them. …. [Think about] Saddam Hussein … what if Osama had been [hiding] in a hole in the ground? A dog could find that. A dog could alert them to where he’s hiding because of the incredible scent capabilities. … You can only see what you can see. You can’t see what you don’t see. A dog can see it through his nose.” HT: D. Lance

2011 State Pastor’s Conference: “Understanding the Times”

This looks like a good conference, put on by friends at the Family Policy Institute of Washington in Bellevue on May 16th. One day, Wayne Grudem, and free–hard to beat. Sign up here. From the flyer:

The purpose of the conference is to help church leaders think biblically about the relationship between the church and civil government.  During the course of their ministry, every pastor is forced to deal with people in their congregations to have different opinions on controversial issues.  They are also required to make a decision about how they will deal with, or not deal with, these cultural issues.   Dr. Grudem is one of the most well-respected theologians in America today, and his knowledge and insight into scripture will provide revealing, and perhaps surprising, answers to these question.

Topics that will be discussed include:

  • Will my tax exempt status be threatened if I discuss political issues?
  • What does scripture say about civil government and the church?
  • Should I care how my church votes, or if they vote at all?
  • Should I speak to my congregation about political issues?
  • Is it biblical to say “We don’t discuss political issues”