- Book Reviews
- About me
Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.
DG06 - Session 4
September 30, 2006
This afternoon Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle will teach on “The Supremacy of Christ and the Church in a Postmodern World.” He was introduced by John Piper who said that never before had a speaker gotten him in this much trouble even before he had spoken! Mark took the stage and introduced his speech around the framework of two issues regarding Christology and two issues regarding missiology.
Driscoll began by telling the story of Jesus, despite its familiarity. He described Jesus much as he must to his largely unchurched congregation in Seattle. He described Jesus “mean and wild,” saying of the all-too-common feminized view of Jesus: “It’s hard to worship a guy who you can beat up.” The point of the story was that Jesus is as hot as ever, still appearing constantly in popular culture, from “The Simpsons” to “Rolling Stone” covers to Madonna concerts. Jesus is popular, but the majority of people do not know Him as He truly is.
Driscoll spoke of the recent issue of “Christianity Today” which discussed the two hot theologies of the day: Reformed and Emergent. So what should the church have for its view of Jesus and how should we articulate who He was and is? Christology is what separates Reformed from Emergent Christians. These two camps are debating, in large part, over Jesus. The incarnation of Jesus is a popular doctrine in the Emergent circles, for they think of him primarily as fully human. The also stress His imminence, being here with us now. They gravitate towards the gospels which teach about Jesus in his humanness but avoid the epistles which have a different focus. We must believe in the incarnation of Jesus, but we cannot only believe in this. What is fueling the missional effort is a rediscovery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus came into culture and entered into community with lost people. Jesus identified with people in their culture. The problem is that when we see Christ only in His incarnation, we are left with someone less than God. The result is that the picture of Jesus taught by some is little less than a humble, marginalized, feminized wuss. This cannot inspire life transformation because He is not big enough to be worshiped, feared, obeyed or respected. Men are told to be like this feminized version of Jesus and they have no interest in following such a man.
On the other side, Calvinists tend to focus on the exaltation of Jesus. It is not so much the imminence of God, but the sovereignty and transcendence of God. These people go to texts like Isaiah 6 or John 12. What is too often lacking in the church today is a rigorous combining of both Christologies. We need to combine the incarnation with the exaltation. We must avoid the theological error of reductionism which means we are not saying something that is unbiblical, but are saying something that is incomplete.
Reading Luke and Acts show that Jesus was empowered by the same Holy Spirit who leads and guides and empowers us today, meaning that we can identify with Jesus in this. The draw towards Jesus’ incarnation is having a model we can follow. If we hold the incarnation and exaltation of Jesus we have everything we need for a robust and biblical missional theology. The humility of the example of Jesus in His humanity and the authority of His divinity. In addition to the gospels we must add the book of Revelation. This is not a book primarily about the Antichrist and suffering, but about Jesus Christ. It is a book about Christology - about Jesus. The book breaks down into heavenly scenes and earthly scenes. The heavenly scenes are centered on the throne where He reigns as king.
Jude 3 tells us to contend for the faith. This is an absolute assault on postmodernism, for there are not multiple faiths or truths. Reformed folk are good at contending and here are some issues that most be contended for: 1) Scripture is truthful, authoritative, meta-narrative. Pastors then need to give their people the story of the Bible and need to begin where the Bible begins. Smaller stories always need to be plugged into the bigger story. It is easy to give systematic theology without also continually tell people the story of the Bible. 2) The sovereignty of God must be defended against open theism. 3) We must contend for a God who has authority and absolute sovereignty. 4) We must contend for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. “Don’t mess with Jesus’ mother. I doubt he’d take it kindly.” 4) We must contend against pelagianism. 5) We must contend for penal substitutionary atonement. There is debate about this, but there shouldn’t be because this is the best part of the Book! This doctrine tells us that we are saved from God - from his anger and justice and wrath. “If we lose the exclusivity of Jesus, we lose Jesus.” 6) We must contend for gender distinctions. 7) We must contend for the exclusivity of Christ. 8) We must also defend the doctrine of hell. “People don’t like hell! They’re not supposed to!” That’s the whole point! But to deny hell is unconscionable. Everyone believes in hell and we see this in advertising where advertisers tell you who you are, what you will become, and how they can save you from this hell. Everyone is running around trying to get out of their personal hell. Everyone is talking about hell except the church! We must contend for the importance of kingdom over culture. It is more important than culture. “We are seeing an over-realized eschatology.” This is an old problem. Emergent, emerging, incarnational Christians are Corinthians and have fallen into the same problems. They are, in many ways, reacting to a dispensational theology that had no concept of the kingdom here and now. The focus is on the impending rapture. This is where we see the tension of the “already” and the “not yet.” “I’m sick of talking about the kingdom without the king!”
The second point is that we must also contextualize. This is where there may be a proverbial fork in the road where people often begin to disagree with Driscoll. We must communicate this message in ways appropriate to different cultures and people groups. Jesus incarnates into a culture and we look to His example to see how He interacted in that culture. We have no problem seeing that kind of missional movement overseas, but when it comes to our own culture it is more difficult. Missions is to happen not only around the world but across the street. The church must do more than evangelize, but be missionary in its orientation. So what does this look like to an indie-rock subculture or an urban hip-hop culture? 1 Corinthians 9 tells us that we must contextualize. “I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel.” Do you care about the gospel? Do you really care? Then you’ll contextualize, won’t you? You won’t just contend, but will contextualize as well. You’ll contextualize so as many cultures and subcultures as possible will meet Jesus.
In one hand we put timeless truth. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. In the other hand is what is timely and contextualized. Timeless truth and timeless ministry. So what does this mean? He is not arguing for relativism, but for “relevantism.” Is he arguing for seeker sensitive? Not that we be seeker sensitive, but seeker sensible. We don’t lose theological vocabulary, but take the time to explain to the people in terms they understand.
In every culture there will be things to reject, things to receive, things to redeem. Sadly, many in the Emergent stream do not reject anything. Reformed people may be guilty of not receiving or redeeming that which ought to be received and redeemed.
Is this a new wind of doctrine? Is it the newest, latest, newest fad. “Yes, we are on the cutting edge of the sixteenth century. We are riding the sixteenth century Genevan cutting edge.” John Calvin was not just a contender but a contextulaizer, so we must redeem what it means to be a true Calvinist. When persecution happened in Europe, people flocked to Geneva. Calvin trained them and then sent them out to share the gospel. If you are a true Calvinist you are not just a contender, but also a contextualizer.
Driscoll closed his speech with these words: “The gospel is the power of God. We must contend for it and then we must contextualize it, because we get to. It is Jesus’ gift to us.”