A quick question for pastors and ministers


Reflecting on the past few years, I’m stunned at the lack of basic character in your profession.

If you scream from your pulpits about the sins of the world and unorthodox beliefs in other churches, when will you scream from your pulpits about the sins of Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, Bill Gothard, Bob Jones University, Anglicans in the U.S. supporting the jailing of gays in Africa, the startlingly non-biblical beliefs (before their son’s troubles) of the Duggars, Doug Phillips, and the Roman Catholic pedophile priests?

I know, you can’t because you’ve been too busy picking on Rob Bell about universalism — you know, universalism, an idea, a belief, a way of thinking that does not bully or degrade or sexually assault anyone.

You’re too busy critiquing liberal theology in the mainline Protestant denominations — much easier, granted, than addressing the real problems in your own conservative houses.

Or it’s simpler than that. You’ve been friends with the conservatives. You’ve been enemies of the liberals. Defend your friends and kick your enemies. Like Jesus said, you’re just like everyone else. You’re like this guy.

You frauds.

Your Bible says, “Moreover, [the Christian leader] must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.”

That’s I Timothy 3:7.

You’ve failed that standard.

You are not well thought of by outsiders or insiders.

You are a disgrace.

What John Piper’s selective outrage says about New Calvinists


The blogosphere and Twitterverse move quickly, but perspectives stick around and change slowly.

I went back to the search engines after the recent shocks of learning that disgraced and disgraceful Pastor Mark Driscoll spoke at the Gateway Conference and at Thrive Leadership Conference.

While searching the Internet for Driscoll-related material, I found a November transcript of a Desiring God audio interview with John Piper in which he claims “no regrets” for partnering with Driscoll.

That should be peculiar. Driscoll’s track record as an untrustworthy, vicious bully has been established by numerous people who used to work in his own organization. Read the evidence here.

It’s extraordinary to hear someone as revered as Piper give a pass to a bullying pastor — while banishing someone who has a different point of view.

Look beneath the surface of Piper’s handling of Mark Driscoll versus his handling of Rob Bell, and you’ll discover the operating principles of so-called New Calvinism as well as old-fashioned fundamentalism.

Those principles may be articulated as follows:

1. If you state the correct beliefs and ideas, you will be forgiven for any ethical violation.

2. If you do not state the correct beliefs and ideas, you will not be forgiven for your incorrectness, even if you have a good ethical standing.

If the above sounds a bit like political correctness or Soviet communism, congratulations; you’ve understood a foundational theme of this blog: instances of authoritarianism might be driven by different ideas, but the methods are still the same.

Piper, you might recall, famously tweeted “Farewell Rob Bell” with a link to Justin Taylor’s blog post entitled, “Rob Bell: Universalist?”

In that post, Taylor quotes — wait for it! — Piper, who once wrote:

“Bad theology dishonors God and hurts people. Churches that sever the root of truth may flourish for a season, but they will wither eventually or turn into something besides a Christian church.”

That sounds good. But let me point out at least two significant problems.

1. First, Piper’s selective banishment of Bell. Has Piper said “Farewell” to notable Christian universalist like Karl Barth, Jacques Ellul, William Barclay, and George MacDonald? (Notice, too, Taylor’s selective treatment of Marilynne Robinson.)

2. Second, Piper’s self-contradiction when the topic is hurting people. There ought to be no question that bullying and bad-mouthing one’s own ministerial staff and underling pastors “dishonors God and hurts people.” That’s what Driscoll did, according to accounts by more than 21 former underling pastors in his own organization.

In fairness to Piper, he says, nobly:

“My regret is that I was not a more effective friend. Mark knew he had flaws. He knows he has flaws. And I knew he had flaws. He knew that I knew he had flaws. There were flaws of leadership attitude, flaws of unsavory language that I think is just wrong for Christians to use, flaws of exegetical errors, say, in regard to the Song of Solomon.”

I admire this much about Piper: “…I was not a more effective friend.”

However, Piper does not say, “Farewell Mark Driscoll,” despite Driscoll’s horrible behavior. On a separate occasion, Piper said, “Farewell Rob Bell,” never mind how hard it is to love one’s enemies after banishing them.

Maybe all that can be explained. In New Calvinism, only bad ideas, like universalism, hurt people. Nothing sensory, like bullying, really matters.

A fundamental problem underlies that mode. Traditionally, the Incarnation was considered a guide against heresy. Jesus was considered fully God and fully human, the ultimate illustration of humankind’s both spiritual and organic natural.

When emphasis is placed on only the spiritual (including ideas) to the exclusion of the organic (including the senses), humans and the Incarnation are degraded.

The New Calvinist mode degrades the concept of Incarnation, making the sensory world less than valuable. It’s almost ghostly — did Jesus Christ really suffer? Well, only if He had bad beliefs! Nails and flogs and thorns are nothin’. Embodiment is nothin’.

Christ sorta suffered — but then how could He possibly have suffered, when He had all the right beliefs?

Bell causes suffering through expressing Christian universalism, which at least has a precedent in Protestant theology (Barth, Ellul, Barclay, MacDonald).

Driscoll causes suffering through repeatedly degrading his spiritual flock, which has no justification anywhere within Christianity.

By most accounts, Bell is a sweetheart.

By most accounts, Driscoll is a narcissistic, unrepentant sociopath.

But, Driscoll has the right New Calvinist ideas, so who cares what he does?

Sure, Driscoll has faced his critics and lost his post at Mars Hill Church. But then he got speaking gigs at Gateway and Thrive.

And Piper came down oh so softly on him, calling him a friend, admitting he knew about Driscoll’s leadership problems.

Which suggests to me that abhorrent behavior gets a pass from New Calvinists, at least among New Calvinists.

Apparently, sensory suffering under Driscoll isn’t real suffering — otherwise, leadership problems would be seen as a real threat to real people, not a minor issue far, far underneath Correct Belief.

Furthermore, as Piper says, God made it all happen anyway. All sin has its source in God, according to Piper.

So this doesn’t make sense to simple-minded folks like myself: God made Driscoll into a bully, and God made Bell into a heretic, but only one matters to the people who insist God not only predestined individual souls but also preordained everything that happens in this (lesser, non-spiritual) organic realm.

Oh wait — God set up the contradiction, too. My fault.

God set up the selective outrage.

God set up this post.

God set up your reading of this post.

So quit complaining — it’s all God’s idea, from peonies to pedophilia.

He cues the earthquake and then He cues your tears — and He’s creating your sense of outrage at Rob Bell’s universalism and your lack of concern with Mark Driscoll’s vicious bullying.

It’s like your complaints and comments implode into nothingness. They weren’t even yours to begin with.

But rest assured — you’ll be held responsible for what your Almighty Creator made you do, whether He made you believe the wrong ideas or He made you bully people.
 
 

Creationist Finds 60 Million Year Old Fossils In His Basement But Maintains That It Proves Nothing


Originally posted on JONATHAN TURLEY:

imrs.phpWe have previously discussed the struggle that creationists have with the daily disclosures of scientific research, particularly the discovery of fossils and other items that are dates in the millions rather than thousands of years. It is hard to maintain that the Earth is less than 6,000 years old given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. However, Canadian Edgar Nernberg has shown just how easy it is to live in denial. Nernberg was not just confronted with a fossil from over 60 million years ago, but he actually found it in his basement. However, Nernberg does not think God is trying to tell him something. He maintains that “There’s no dates stamped on these things” and it proves nothing if you just reject isotopic dating and basic geology.

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NSA spying is breeding anti-American sentiment in one of Europe’s most powerful countries


Colin Foote Burch:

Authoritarianism Fail. (America’s “soft totalitarianism.”)

Originally posted on Rare:

A leading German columnist accuses America of governing via “soft totalitarianism.” A German academic claims many of his countrymen think “Putin is simply the mirror image of the United States.” Only 35 percent of Germans say Americans can be trusted. Demonstrations protesting the “Americanization” of Europe sprout up from Erfurt to Berlin.

What’s going on here? The United States has always regarded Germany as a crucial ally, the bulwark between West and East. And the Germans, ever-wary of nascent nationalism and mindful of America’s role in defeating the Nazis, have usually been loyal partners. But lately our relationship with Germany has been coming apart at the seams.

Alex Berezow surveys the damage and posits its cause:

Polling has shown a calamitous drop in support for America in Germany. A recent high point, achieved in 2009, was in reaction to the election of Barack Obama. Then, more than 75% of Germans saw America…

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Evangelism and apologetics fail in our time — here’s the social science explaining why


What I see of evangelism and apologetics are essentially debate tactics and marketing strategies. In other words, they tend to speak to less than the full scope of human experience, so by themselves they cannot convert humans.

Granted, I’m looking at evangelism and apologetics through a skeptical lens right now, and I’m looking at persuasion as an ongoing subject for learning and research.

I want to learn good persuasion strategies to attract my university students to topics I think they need to know, and I want to learn bad persuasion strategies to filter the political, advertising, and religious messages. (I’m spending more time on that general project at TwistedSpeech.com.)

What’s missing from evangelism and apologetics? Probably a long-game perspective (instead of a quick-sell agenda), but most certainly attunement. And my guess is, attunement is missing from attempts at evangelism and apologetics because attunement probably takes time.

We Americans, we Westerners, myself absolutely included, love technologies of any sort — mechanical technologies, political technologies, psychological technologies. We like to set up assembly lines, literally and metaphorically, and then to sit back and watch the work get done. Technology is not unlike magic.

Thinking of persuasion, how can I forget: The Apostle Paul once wrote to the early Christians in ancient Galatia, referring to them as, “…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you!”

I doubt anyone can “form” anything inside another person without cultivating real empathy and attunement.

Daniel Pink explains attunement in part of the below short video from The RSA.

Are Pink’s “attunement, buoyancy, and clarity,” as described in the below video, their own technologies? Maybe so. But I think attunement requires some genuine humanity, corresponding to the best of reality, whereas some psychological technologies are attempts to “subdue reality to the wishes of men.”

(Also see this Jacques Ellul passage on Christianity as propaganda.)

Calvinism leans on this fallacy


Thanks to Randy Ferebee for sharing Ben Irwin’s series on his departure from Calvinism.

In Part 9 of the series, Irwin says something that deals with part of the backdrop for my post about the John Piper-Charles Spurgeon perspective on predestination and predetermination.

That backdrop deals with how language is used, and whether language can be used, to discuss an inspired text with any sense of clarity.

On a related note, Irwin writes:

“In linguistics, there’s a fallacy known as illegitimate totality transfer. It’s when you take one possible meaning of a word and read it into every occurrence without regard for context. (For example, ‘green’ can be an idiom for money. But that doesn’t mean ‘green’ always means money.)

“We run a similar risk when we read the accounts of people like Abraham and Moses. We see they were chosen by God in some way, so we assume everyone who comes to know God was predestined in exactly the same way. But on what basis?” — from The day the tulip died, part 9, by Ben Irwin

“Illegitimate totality transfer” sounds a lot like a particularly philosophical use of “equivocation” and “equivocal” meanings.

As I noted in my post, John Piper seems to think along the following lines: if God predetermined certain things, like Jesus’s betrayer, then God must have predetermined everything.

He goes on to say some people have driven themselves mad by trying to figure out how God can predetermine (not merely predestine) everything, even the position of a dust speck in a sunbeam, thus nullifying all human choosing (while still holding humans responsible).

Maybe that’s because pondering madness begets madness.

Chuck Swindoll anticipated Mark Driscoll’s type — in 1981


In his 1981 book Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living, revered evangelical minister and author Charles R. Swindoll identified the human psychological problems that — decades later — would allow Pastor Mark Driscoll‘s abusive leadership.

But if you’re not informed about the Driscoll situation and the disaster he left at Mars Hill Church, please read about them so the below Swindoll quotation can make sense in this context.

In Improving Your Serve — which incidentally is not entitled Abusing Your Serve — Swindoll writes:

“No, blind loyalty is not servanthood. Believe me, not only am I strongly opposed to the ‘mind bending’ employed by cultic leaders, I see dangers in other ministries that take unfair advantage of people — ministries we’d certainly not think of as cults. Any ministry that requires blind loyalty and unquestioning obedience is suspect. Not all gurus are in the eastern religions, you know. Some discipleship ministries, quite frankly, come dangerously near this point. I am not discrediting all discipleship programs! To do so would be unfair. As a matter of fact, I personally benefited from an outstanding ministry many years ago. Furthermore, I have always encouraged discipleship programs in churches where I have pastored or schools where I have taught over the years.

“My main concern is the abuse of power, overemphasis of loyalty to a human leader, an intense and unhealthy accountability that uses intimidation, fear, and guilt to promote authoritarianism. Weak and meek people can become the prey of such paranoid, self-appointed messiahs, resulting not in spiritual growth, but in exploitation and the loss of human dignity….

“People in the pew and pastors alike need to beware of ‘bionic’ leaders with an abundance of charisma. We need to watch out for the highly gifted, capable, winsome, and popular superstars who focus attention on themselves or their organization.”

I still feel relief when I read or hear someone with evangelical credentials make clear statements against spiritual abuse.

Deluded, delusional, or devious?

I’m guessing — just speculating — that Robert Morris, other Gateway Conference leaders, Bayside Church ministers, and Thrive 2015 Leadership Conference organizers haven’t read Improving Your Serve.

Or, maybe they’re genuinely ignorant of the wake of Driscoll’s disastrous ministry.

Or, maybe they’re completely duped by Driscoll — and hope to turn his influence into high attendance numbers for their conferences.

We all know God cannot succeed without big conferences because God needs big-time help from Gateway, Bayside, Thrive, and Driscoll.

Omnipotence ain’t what it used to be.

And, if you’ll forgive this well-worn commonplace, the inmates are running the prison.

Sarcasm aside, the quick, blind rehabilitation of Driscoll’s ministry is short-sighted and irresponsible.

Hats off to Chuck Swindoll for his prescient critique of American ministries. Even when I’m more skeptical than faithful, I appreciate anyone who really understands abuse of power in the ministry.