Partisan Theology

This is an excellent post by Krish Kandiah:

Its hard to find Christians leaders who are ambivalent about Tom Wright’s writings. You are either for him or against him, love him or hate him. Recognise him as a genius; the leading western biblical scholar of his generation or write him off as a pompous woolly liberal. I hadn’t realised the extent to which the former Bishop of Durham is a marmite figure amongst evangelicals until recently. I have friends on both sides of this debate. I must admit I am a fan but I really want to understand why he gets on the wick of so many of my friends.

1) Piper versus Wright

For some it is a matter of taking sides. There is a guilt (or glory) by association going on. For some of my friends to be wrong side of John Piper is to be on the wrong side.  Now as I have written elsewhere there is much to commend in John Piper’s work but he is neither omniscient nor infallible. Piper’s doctoral research was in New Testament studies but he has not remained in academic research he has chosen to invest his life in local church ministry. Now of course the academy and the church are not mutually incompatible and indeed there needs to be a greater interaction between the pulpit and the academy. But it is interesting that when the two disagree they tend to disagree on method. In my opinion Piper tends to read the NT through the lens of the reformers while Wright reads it through the lens of biblical theology. Neither the Reformers nor Wright’s  reading of biblical theology are inerrant but these men do tend to talk past eachother when they engage. My friends love the humility and graciousness of Piper and find NT Wright’s tone as pompous and arrogant. I guess this is where someone’s presuppositions come in to play, because I know a lot of people who have the exact same problem with Piper’s work. How can we get past perceived tone and engage with content?

2)   All or nothing

For some of my friends its all or nothing with the theologians they like. There’s a tick list – a writer needs to tick the boxes on a number of issues in order to have anything to contribute to a conversation. So for example if Tom Wright challenges views on justification he can’t have anything helpful to say on how to read the gospels. Strangely this thinking doesn’t apply to the great reformers – Luther’s anti-Semitism or Calvin’s encouragement to see Servetus executed as a heretic. It also doesn’t seem to apply to CS Lewis who is often loved by my friends who don’t like NT Wright. Because I do not share Luther’s antisemitism or Calvin’s willingness to execute dissenters or CS Lewis’ views on Heaven and Hell does not mean I can find nothing of merit in their work. I have been greatly helped by these flawed mens’ works and I find the same is true in NT Wright’s work. Some of it I do not agree with but I have still found much to treasure. Surely this is the mark of a discerning reader – scripture is our only infallible source, in all other writings we must apply a spirit of gracious discernment that seeks to pick the fish from the bones as my Albanian friends like to put it.

3)  Politics

The gospel coalition have recently published a pretty scathing review of Wright’s most recent book. After offering a few sentences of what the reviewer found helpful – which seem pretty minimal – namely that Wright draws on the Old Testament understanding of Jesus to set the context for Jesus’ ministry; that  he hasn’t taken a typically liberal approach by focussing on the ethical teaching of Jesus and that the incarnation reflects God dwelling with his people in his Son. Which apart from the emphasis on the Old Tetsatment context are not primary elements of this book. The bulk of the review is a vigorous critique where Wright’s “shoddy scholarship” and either “sheer chronological snobbery” or “plain ignorance” are highlighted. Wright is reprimanded for apparently “his loathing of democracy, particularly American democracy. Fox News, the killing of Osama bin Laden, small government, the system of voting on government officials, the separation of church and state, etc.”

No references are given – but to label the Wright a hater of democracy when he has played a significant role as Bishop in the House of Lords and has a theology and a practice of social engagement (see the new resource inside out featuring Tim Keller and NT Wright talking about evangelistic, social and political engagement) This is quite a telling critique – it reminded me of the work of another stalwart of the Gospel Coalition, Wayne Grudem’s lengthy explanation of why capitalism is the only biblically justifiable position. Is it possible to be a critic of some aspects of american foreign policy without being labelled a hater of democracy? Surely there is room for gracious dialogue on differences of theology and politics – otherwise how will we avoid reading our political persuasions back into scripture because of our cultural location?

I have been very provoked and helped by NT Wright’s works. There are flaws – he is not omniscient but I do enjoy reading someone who is trying to read the bible by paying close attention to its context, grand narrative and internal consistency.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://Whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    Nice. I’m baffled that anyone could see the author of “The Resurrection of the Son of God” (to take one very obvious example) as a woolly liberal; I just heard James Crossley call him an “ultra-conservative”. You can’t please everyone, obviously!

  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    I have recently been pondering the great divide taking place in evangelicalism, or American evangelicalism in particular. One one side, you have those appreciating the new perspective on justification, rethinking the gospel, rethinking hell, considerations of theistic evolution, and enthusiasm over the writings of people like Wright, McKnight, Enns, Kirk and others. On the other side, you have those appreciating neo-reformed perspectives, accepting the normative teachings of evangelicalism on justification, the gospel, hell, and great appreciation for Piper, J Taylor, DeYoung, Mohler and others.

    A great divide is taking place. I fall in the former group of appreciation, which is why I frequent this blog. But I so very much desire the stuff to stop where it begins to get nasty. E.g., I thought the TGC review of Wright’s newest book was quite off-base, missing the point. But maybe Wright’s next book need not mention anything about American politics or neo-reformed evangelicalism.

    Scot – I have the craziest of ideas. Could you not bring these 2 groups together, some of the forefront people, and have 2 or 3 days of dialogue, discussion and sharing of heart? I know, crazy idea.

  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    The links to Krish’s site do not seem to be working properly.

  • Jon hughes

    I think that Wright’s the best thing since sliced bread, toasted, with Marmite on top!

    Apart from anything else, he’s downright refreshing – free from the shackles of the interpretive grid of those Reformed brethren who (ironically) emphasize Scripture alone in their exegesis. It’s nice to see a change from the same old theology regurgitated again and again in every ‘new’ book that comes out.

    If Piper’s forensic understanding of justification is as essential as he maintains, then the vast majority of professing Christians throughout the history of the Church are condemned to hell because they could not articulate it in the ‘right way’. I’m profoundly grateful to Wright for reminding me that it is not faith in justification by faith that saves, but faith in CHRIST that saves!

    I’ve really appreciated a number of your books too, Scot, and enjoy your blog.

    Every blessing.

  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    Well, the links weren’t working on my iPad, but they are on my laptop. Ooops! :)

  • Jerry

    This is an important post and it goes beyond Tom Wright. It seems like everything today has been drawn up into camps of “us” vs “them.” I could say something about something about the YRR “Star Chamber” but I think that just proves my previous point. Thank God for Jesus Creed! Ditto to Scott L’s idea.

  • Bob

    It’s a little hard to take Calvinist criticism seriously when the entire doctrinal stance seems premised on the “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy. Put another way, it’s probably going to be a cold day in a certain unpleasant place to find Puritan agreement with anyone from the Church of England. The currently objection of some to Bishop Wright is to be expected and discounted; the general tenor of it has its roots back to Elizabethan days.

  • http://www.allanbevere.com Allan R. Bevere

    Very well said! Thanks for calling our attention to it.

  • Rick

    ScottL-

    “Could you not bring these 2 groups together, some of the forefront people, and have 2 or 3 days of dialogue, discussion and sharing of heart?”

    Keller would be a key figure in that as well. He is involved (in various ways) with both groups.

  • Mason

    I thought one of the more interesting comments concerned the “arrogance” of N.T. Wright. I have met Wright on several occasions and have read at least half of his works. One of the things that I have found is that he is gracious to those who seek to understand, but he does not suffer the arrogant very graciously. Nor does he like bullies. Could he be a little bit more accessible and slow down a little during his book tours so that he could spend more times with us mere mortals?? Sure..but he is a very busy man. One of the comments that Wright uses frequently and I think is very telling is the following statement…”I am certain that 20% of what I believe is wrong, I just do not know what 20% it is.” That shows humility and a sense of humor. I wonder if the YRR crowd would say the same or are they 100% sure that everything they teach/believe is 100% correct. I have listened to Piper a lot, read a couple of his books and I have never heard him say anything about being wrong or uncertain about something. I think that that shows a lack of humility. So some may perceive Wright as arrogant, but I see him as a man who on task fulfilling his calling to challenge old paradigms. Do I agree with everything? No and I am pretty sure that I know the 20% that Wright is wrong about..but I have more pressing matters…I need to come to grips with my own uncertainties and have the humility to realize that I too could be wrong about some things. I believe Wright serves the Church faithfully and I believe Piper is serving faithfully. As an Open Theist I have gleaned so much from both and am indebted to both although our disagreements are significant in some areas. The issue for both camps (Piper/Wright) is that their ministry is so public that to be wrong could/would jeopardize their entire ministry; or so some believe. i pray for humility among both camps. we need to realize that we can learn so much from both camps. does it really have to be either/or?

  • Chip

    All three factors are indeed in play, with the first one being the most prevalent, IMHO (although I’d broaden it to Reformed critics vs. Wright, because it’s certainly not just Piper, even though he is the one who wrote a book-length response before Wright had written a book on the topic himself). I’ll add a fourth one for those of us on this side of the pond: Our American evangelicalism. It seems that Wright is not as controversial in his homeland because English evangelicals have had broader definitions of what they consider to be orthodox theology. I asked one British evangelical academic who is very Reformed about how he views Wright, and he expressed his belief that the idea that Wright opposes justification by faith alone is very misinformed, even though he had serious qualms with Wright on other matters.

  • Clay Knick

    Thanks so much for this, Scot.

  • Tim

    The Piper side and the Wright side both desire to be “right,” possess the “truth,” and to be counted as “the most faithful.” They both desire the same thing. They imitate the other side in their desire. They are caught up in a “mimetic rivalry” (R. Girard). There are many mimetic rivalries these days. Our media earns its bread based upon these conflicts. While the path out of this conflict is to follow the historic, biblical, incarnate Christ, this is tricky when who Jesus is and what he is all about is at the center of our rivalry. Perhaps we take a page from an early convert to the Way and read 1 Corinthians 13 again?

  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    So I decided to post some thoughts on this ‘divide in today’s evangelicalism’.

    Rick – Yes, very much so. Good point.

  • Mark B

    “How can we get past perceived tone and engage with content?” This problem is evident in every area of life-church life, family life, life in the work place, politics, local communities, Little League games, etc. The inability of Jesus followers to get past perceived tone reflects an inward problem-the dominance of self. When I am secure in my identity in Jesus Christ I can look through the perceived tone and engage the content. Whenever I find myself disturbed by tone (which is too often) I try to remember to evaluate me rather than evaluate “them.” Allowing Hebrews 4:12,13 to do it’s work in me gives me a better chance of living 1 Corinthians 13 (thanks Tim). How is it that in our quest to understand, live, and teach Jesus so well we so often fail at fulfilling his primary desire for us:

    “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
    John 13:35

    “20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through
    their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in
    you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
    John 17

  • Phil Miller

    I think it’s more basic than many of the reasons, actually. I think a lot of evangelicals like Piper because he affirms a lot of their pre-existing ideas. Sure, he’s more of a Calvinist than many of them, but, really, he’s not preaching a message that’s too different than what you hear in a lot of evangelical churches. It’s mainly centered on salvation as primarily personal event, and a lot of his books are focused on what you need to do to have a better relationship with Jesus. I always thought it was sort of funny and ironic that in the African American church I was a member of before moving that some of the students there were using Piper’s books for Bible studies. That church’s theology was probably as far away as it could be from Calvinism, but yet these students liked Piper because of his emphasis on personal piety.

    I just think that for many people read Wright for the first time, he presents the gospel in terms that are entirely new to them. And for many people that’s kind of scary. So they take the approach that this is different from what they grew up hearing, so he must be a liberal.

  • Holly

    Wright’s “shoddy scholarship?” Um…yeah. That’s a fair accusation. :)

    And “wooly liberal?” While I do find Wright unafraid to criticize the American evangelical marriage to politics – it is difficult to classify him as a liberal. I think he mostly defies classification – rather – forging some new trails. As someone above said – he’s refreshing.

  • http://renewing-your-mind.blogspot.com Kelly

    I’ve never read anything by Piper, but the first book of Wright’s that I read was “The Challenge of Jesus” and it was instrumental in helping me to understand–and keep–my faith. I haven’t found his tone to be arrogant but rather confident. I suppose that is because I am a fan; he is probably my favorite author and I love the way he looks at and presents things.

  • http://nateduffy.blogspot.com Nathan Duffy

    Scott,

    While it isn’t a central element of the book, TGC isn’t fabricating Wright’s ambivalence (at least) towards democracy. It’s in there. He doesn’t try to hide it. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call it ‘hating’, but he definitely isn’t a fan. So I’m not sure why you think he’s being “labelled”, rather than he himself self-identifying as ambivalent-toward (minimally) democracy.

    I read the book, and I liked most of it, but when Wright does go political he always goes completely off the rails. Blessedly, he doesn’t usually do it for extended periods (this couple of pages in ‘How God Became King’ which mention contemporary politics remind me of the fly-by assertion in ‘Surprised by Hope’ that 3rd world debt relief is the most pressing moral issue of our time, with no argumentation given). But it’s still worth vigorously dissenting against.

    The heart of the book I thought was quite good, for the most part, though, since Wright is taking a ‘big picture’ perspective, he often resorts to very broad generalizations that verge on caricature. They aren’t untrue generalizations per se, but they’re often too vague to be useful. And he seems to have difficulty making any point without some kind of foil (i.e. Group X thinks Y, Group A thinks B, but what they’re missing is M, L, K), which does grow rather tiresome. Anyway, I like Wright theologically but I don’t really like him politically or his style/tone.

  • Phil Miller

    I’ve got to say I didn’t notice anything that I’d call ambivalence towards democracy in How God Became King. Wright seemed to be addressing the issue more from the top-down, actually. His point seemed to be that when people are in positions of authority, regardless of how they got there, there are things that they should be expected to do.

  • T

    Nathan,

    I’m glad you’re giving thoughtful pushback, but your comment proves the point. The TGC review talks about Wright’s “loathing of democracy” among other things which the review says Wright thinks of “unforgivable sins,” mainly of Americans. Think about how many read that review that haven’t read Wright themselves. Do they have a fair picture of him or of his work? I don’t see how from this review.

    I know that the term “manifest destiny” isn’t popular anymore, but the theology behind it seems firmly planted within American evangelicalism. God’s special blessing and approval of our own nation (at least its founding and constitutional structure) is so fundamental to our faith that is difficult to imagine, let alone embrace, that the NT would offer a different political set of ideas. I don’t think that Wright is all correct on this, but the reaction against him on these issues shows me more about the strength and depth of manifest destiny religion and interpretation in Evangelicalism than anything else (other than Grudem’s book). This theology is far more disturbing, both for its lack of NT support and its dangerous implications, than anything I’ve seen from Wright, even the parts I disagree with.

  • http://nateduffy.blogspot.com Nathan Duffy

    Phil,

    That’s part of the problem; in so doing, he puts democracy on the same level as other systems, when in reality it’s superior to them. This is the problem with Wright’s quintessentially Anglican methodology; he’s always searching for a ‘middle way’, or looking to bring things into parity, even on issues where there ought to be no compromise. Again, thankfully this doesn’t really obscure the genuinely good things he contributes to the conversation, but he is wrong.

    And I’m not even a particularly strident disciple of democracy, but Wright literally doesn’t understand how a certain political process — division of powers, checks and balances, charters of rights etc. — can be inherently superior to other political processes, which don’t have these features and which, because they don’t, are inherently more susceptible to the corrupting influence of power.

  • John C

    I really resonate with what Rick said above – we could do with some rapprochement between these brothers. I prefer reading Wright to Piper, but for most folk in my church it would be the other way round – and plenty of people like both. The NT scholar Michael Bird, for example, cites his favourite authors as Tom Wright and Don Carson.

    I think Wright could be more appreciative of the strengths of conservative, pietist or Reformed Evangelicals. They are often really effective at evangelism and church planting, and that’s going to be crucial in the decades to come – especially in Wright’s post-Christian Britain. And I think Piper et al could be more appreciative of the ways in which our new understanding of Second Temple Judaism gives us a fresh perspective on what the Gospel meant when it was first proclaimed. There’s surely a problem with making the 16th/17th centuries (and the Reformers’ reading of the Bible) the touchstone for our Christianity. The church would be stronger if we could work out how to hold onto the best of the old Evangelicalism while reforming it too.

  • TJJ

    One significant weakness of The Piper/Kohler/Grudem crowd is that they too much see themselves as some kind of defenders of the conventional/traditional approach the theology, scripture, politics, etc. If someone explores or steps one of the boxes of convention in any way, they pounce on that and attack that like it is some big threat to Christendom as we know it. It tends to be so much over reaction and overstatement. Thus serious meaningful and respectful discussion and engagement is often simply not possible. I think many of us tire of this.

  • T

    Nathan,

    I think the point that Wright is saying is that all rulers, governors, etc., are answerable to Christ, whether they were appointed or elected. Being elected doesn’t change that Christ is Lord of all lords and King of all kings. The pol, of whatever stripe, is the Lord’s servant and will give an account to Him, regardless of whatever men they may feel accountable to in this life. I doubt that Wright is trying to do much in the way of comparative political analysis. He’s trying to drive the point, the gospel, home (“Jesus is Lord/Messiah”) and he knows that the increasingly secularized Western democracies have very old and very deliberate defenses to try to limit Jesus’ authority to heavenly rather than earthly affairs. But Wright is reminding the western Church that the Great Commission begins with a foundational summation by Jesus, which is also the thesis of the gospels: “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples . . .” All are called to obey the One God has anointed as King; all are called to gratefully accept his forgiveness and learn to obey all he commands (and this includes kings and commoners alike). That some countries or constitutions value other authorities more highly more is irrelevant.

    Now, as a lawyer (and one that really appreciates our constitution!) I find these claims disturbing, but I agree that they are thematic to the scriptures, especially the gospels, and must be answered. Democratically elected officials get no special exception to the Lordship of Christ, in their private or public lives.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    “Shoddy scholarship”? Sorry, but any review that makes a claim like that is automatically discredited. Disagree with his conclusions if you must, but the last thing one can accuse Tom’s scholarship of is “shoddiness”.

  • Luke Allison

    From what I can tell, Wright’s problem isn’t with the idea of democracy, it’s with the Enlightenment project’s trusting in democracy to solve all problems. Democracy as the savior of the world.

    You can’t get a much better picture of 2nd Temple Judaism and 1st Century context than you do in NT Wright’s work. The fact that Piper has repeatedly said that Jesus’ “Jewishness” and Paul’s “Jewishness” should not factor greatly into our interpretation of Scripture makes him nearly irrelevant to me. The fact that he teaches Jesus as nearly inhuman and certainly sovereign in the Gospels makes him completely irrelevant to me.

    Are we concerned about history? About truth? Are we willing to completely change our positions if evidence requires us to? Or are we merely fighting for our theological tradition?

    At this point in scholarly history, I don’t understand how we can still affirm the perspectives of the Reformers as the primary lens through which we see Scripture. We know Luther was wrong about the Pharisees. We know that the Reformers’ concerns were 16th century ones. I try to understand the perspective of men like Piper, but we’re like ships passing in the night. Totally different starting points.

  • Joshua

    Haters gonna hate.

  • CGC

    Wow, after reading some of these responses to Tom Wright, it seems like American ideas are as much wrapped up with the Bible and the American church, and the gospel itself! Wright is not an American so why people are surprised Wright giving prophetic critique to what appears to him at least, some of our blindspots and reaching too far as a country is beyond me.

    Hey, here is another recommendation: People not just read N. T. Wright but how about add Stanley Hauerwas to your list? If N. T. Wright has rocked a some people’s world, how about reading Hauerwas’s “After Christendom: How the church is to behave if freedom, justice, and a Christian nation are bad ideas.” Maybe Hauerwas will rock a few more worlds?

  • Mason

    in America you would have a more luck removing the Bible from the pulpit than the American flag from the sanctuary..if you do not believe me..try it. remove the flag and see what the response is..i long for the book “Jesus is Lord and Caesar ain’t” it will be eye opening to many Americans as we have been trying to “scarf up a morsel of power that falls from Caesar’s table”..we are too easily satisfied…

  • CGC

    Okay, does that mean Mcknight is anti-American and against democracy? :-)

  • Joshua

    I have to say this: what happened to the numbers besides comments! It makes responding to people a huge pain in the rear.

    #darnyoupatheos!

  • Luke Allison

    Mason,

    That depends on where you’re from. The church I’m a part of does not have any nationalistic imagery inside its walls, and it would fit the mold of “conservative mainstream evangelicalism”.

    I agree with your general point, though….clearly there’s far more more of an “American values system” at the core of much American theology than we would be led to believe.

    Here’s a good question: What is it that the YRR WANT? What is their telos? I’m becoming more and more convinced that what they want is 16th century Geneva or Puritan colonial America. Interestingly, their critique of American culture (almost comically serious at times) never extends back to the founding fathers or the building blocks of paleo-America. They have to do with the way things have “gone bad” (usually due to a combination of sexual license, pluralism, materialism, and hedonism), and how we need to “get back” to something. Always a focus on “getting back”.

    Wright, in contrast, seems to be expounding a forward-looking perspective. Wright is primarily futuristic, even in his exposition of 1st century texts. That’s a huge difference. When Wright critiques the idea of democracy as cure-all, he’s critiquing the very sacred building blocks that many conservative thinkers want to return to in their “unspoiled” form.

  • Bev Mitchell

    For those who don’t like a Brit critiquing US politics and some folks pre-assumptions (presumption?) of being a chosen nation, have a look at Greg Boyd’s “The Myth of a  Christian Nation” and “The Myth of a Christian Religion”. Or, if you prefer a neighbour’s view, try Bruxy Cavey’s  ”The End of Religion”. Being a good neighbour,  Cavey doesn’t criticize directly, but covers some of the same problems in a more general way.

  • James

    As a 20 something neo-calvinist….I feel neither men are arrogant…both care about truth so you’d expect to get some reaction. What I don’t enjoy are when people continue to say, there’s some great divide in evangelicalism as though we need to stir up division to fuel our faith (like how partisan politics can be in the States).

    Even N.T. Wright had said his heart has warmed to Piper in recent years and commended him as a pastor. Piper as well in his critique would often attach a friendly personal note to outline his intent.

    No one needs to vilify anyone here. Seek to understand, critique the points, and if you’re still not happy with people who follow the reformed tradition, then just let us be. Consider it as being cultural sensitive to our traditions.

    Just my two cents…

    N.T. Wright on Piper:
    “The trouble is, this is not a fight that I wanted to get into because Piper is a good, beloved brother in Christ, doing a good job, building people up in the faith, teaching them how to live. I would prefer that he exegete Paul differently, of course, but the people I really want to fight are (like for Paul) the pagans out on the street who are reordering society in ways that are deeply dehumanizing. The gospel is for the pagans. It’s the reflex of the gospel to have the in-house fight with the Judaizers as it were.”
    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2008/04/24/trevin-wax-interview-with-nt-wright-on-surprised-by-hope/

  • MWK

    I must be one of those rare birds who likes most of what Piper has to say and most of what Wright has to say. Weird.

  • James

    Besides as a lay person, I don’t see much difference when Piper says, ‘God is the gospel,’ and when N.T. Wright says, ‘Jesus is Lord.’

  • Kaleb

    Tone is 99% of the message. “Farewell Rob Bell” is not the tone that I am drawn to for any author, especially that of a supposed ‘Christian’ author (can’t be sure if Obama is a Christian and so I guess I can be certain with Piper either, right?) . Not only did Piper allienate a single person in his statement, but also any other person who has ever found value in Bell’s teaching. NT Wright may feel attacking to some people with paticular world views, but he is never as caddy to write someone off based on percieved differences. Nothing Piper can say or do will repair his image for those that he has been less than gracious to; this extends well outside the Rob Bell stuff he said.

  • http://krishk.com krish

    Thanks for reposting my blog – sorry my blog was down when it first went live – talk about bad timing! It’s all up and running again now. Looking forward to catching up with the discussion – every blessing
    krish

  • James

    @Kaleb, I’m sorry you feel that way towards Piper. Not sure if it means much, but there was an article in Christianity Today where Piper clarified how his tweet wasn’t intended to attack Bell nor even his views on hell.

    I can’t speak for what Piper was thinking, but I know few of the pastors in the TGC were praying for Bell that he not stray from his reformed faith and upbringing. Maybe just maybe, the promo fed their worst nightmare that he had totally ditched his reformed faith. I understand how some may perceive this sort of prayer as prideful, but for some reason in all its imperfections, I see love.

    Also, here’s Piper’s last tweet to Rob Bell when he announced he’ll be moving to L.A.

    ‘Seriously, as before, may you fare well, Rob Bell.’ (Sept 23rd, 2011)

  • Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

    MWK,

    I’m with you.

  • Phil Miller

    James,
    I think your responses are illustrative of what sticks in people craw regarding Piper and TGC. They equate the “Reformed faith”, as you put it, as “THE faith”. By doing so they’re treating all sorts of other Christians either like they’re not Christians at all or at best, second-class or deluded Christians.

    In one of your previous comments you admonished, “Seek to understand, critique the points, and if you’re still not happy with people who follow the reformed tradition, then just let us be. Consider it as being cultural sensitive to our traditions.” Well, that’s all fine and good, but it would be nice if the favor were returned. Personally, it gets tiring when people insist that you’re not the right type of Christian.

  • James

    @Phil, I’m a 20 something year old, but the way I see men like Piper, Keller, and the rest of the gang is as how I see my father who is well is in his 60′s. For me, I imagine if you’ve grown up in a faith tradition whereby you studied theology all your life and became convicted that the reformed faith was true, of course I expect them to see it as true-er (otherwise they wouldn’t be reformed pastors).

    At the same time, I never heard Piper say arminions or non-reformed Christians are not true Christians. Even in that CT article regarding Bell, Piper stated how he disagreed with John Stott’s view on hell, but he kept learning from him. He then cited Francis Shaffer saying, “our differences in the church are a golden opportunity to show love.” Even when I first got into Piper’s books.. I didn’t even know what reformed theology was and what the big deal was. Like the essential thesis in Piper’s books is to enjoy this great God we have and we can trust Him that His plans will succeed.

    As a lay person, my agnostic friend could also say the same thing about my Christian faith. He may totally see that my conviction in the resurrection Jesus as being arrogant of other religions. So, I guess my question is, would the only way to show humility is to show doubt and less conviction in your theological differences?

    I’d hope that if we come up with different theological positions, you’d try to persuade me based on the points and vice versa, but would you then think I’m a “2nd tier” Christian just because you think my reformed faith is not as accurate as perhaps the NPP? I would love to learn and be challenged though on the pts and I’d try to persuade you otherwise as how I see it as more true.

  • http://www.soulation.org Dale Fincher

    Here’s a different take:

    I would not be surprised if, one day, we find out that these issues were not theological but psychological. Before I even knew of this divide, I noticed many years ago a certain neurosis emanating from the neo-reformed subculture and it’s leaders… as if, for many, it drew people with certain mental conditions to it. I had friends who started drifting into the camp. They began to call me names, warn me of dangers, use political terms (“liberal”) without caring about pushing and exploring ideas as we had always done (They had now “arrived.”)

    You cannot argue neurosis with theological systems. That, on my view, is why we see so much talking past one another in the above example. It’s like trying to tell my relatives they are co-dependent. “No, we are not co-dependent,” they say, “we are loving one another!”

    Remember when Jesus said, “he that has ears to hear…”? He wasn’t speaking of learning theology.

    The irony is that many of the neo-reformed actually have theological safeguards that condemn the need for psychology and therapy.

    Pray for the souls of emotionally unhealthy leaders that hide in their theology and the safe harbors of tradition… many of whom have promoted spiritual abuse unawares.

  • James

    Just of curiosity, what in the neo-reformed/calvinist theology do people have issues with? I till don’t understand this backlash.

    Just to clarify about what I wrote before… , why I see love in the prayers for Rob Bell is the same reason why I may see a group of Muslims who were praying for me to be a Muslim… though it may be arrogant for them to think their faith is the “true” faith but within it, they want me as part of their family. It also reminds me of my friend whose mother is a faithful Christian but wants to see her son (my friend) become Christian. He sees no reason for faith, but I’m sure he sees the love in those prayers.

  • http://www.soulation.org Dale Fincher

    James, when it comes to theology, the problem is the starting point: when anyone draws all of their theology through the lens of the reformation there will be problems. I thought it was standard hermeneutics to interpret scripture in light of the historical context in which it was written. Abraham should be understood in light of 2000BC, not in light of 1500AD. David should be understood in light of 1000BC, not 1500AD. Jesus should be understood in light of 30AD, not 1500AD. Politics, gender, law/grace, salvation, all of it is drawn through the keyhole of 1500AD. That’s the identity of being “reformed.”

    The other issue I personally have is what I commented 11 minutes before yours. There is a general unhealth that oozes from the sub-culture. I’ve only been theologically bullied by people in the neo-reformed camp, literally surrounded with verbal lashings. I’ve experienced intimidation control tactics by neo-reformed pastors. The Bell issue was a good example of this writ large. It has nothing to do with Piper’s tweet. Mohler and company were creating video responses to Bell’s marketing video before they even read Bell’s book or could sympathize with those who do struggle with Hell and choose not to follow Christ because they cannot make sense it. They were congratulating themselves for being the self-appointed watchdogs, for pretending that if they don’t speak up then no other theologians and pastors will have the guts (this kind of exclusivity is actually a hallmark of a spiritually abusive culture) It has to do with ganging up on Bell and then not even reading Bell’s intention, as if the culture that Bell is trying to reach is not a culture that exists. There’s a certain ivory-tower disconnect lodged there that resembles one step removed from the fundamentalist baptist upbringing I had. It comes across, in many ways, as an emotionally immature faith.

    When I was neo-reformed (which I think is the first step for many out of a fundamentalist background) my identity was wrapped in bible knowledge, though we said its was wrapped in Christ. I could hide behind bible verses and theology all day long, thinking that this was how a soul was transformed, thinking this was the Jesus way to live. I was wrong. It was the way to hide. And I’ve seen many friends hide similarly in this pseudo-intellectual pursuit. That’s why it is a neurosis for many.

    These words are strong, but they need to be said. As I’m working on a book of spiritual abuse, I see these tendencies as groundwork for spiritual abuse which is growing more common in these circles. And since evangelicals rarely call out the psychology of such groups (sticking only to theological debate) then the bigger issues are missed and people continue to be hurt and the battle continues to be heated.

    I disagree with many different areas of evangelicalism. But the neo-reformers have a special flavor. They are the only ones that I consistently bump into with these unhealthy approaches.

  • wolfgang

    I no longer care to read anything by Piper and one reason is his ‘my way of the highway’ type attitude. I feel he is arrogant. Too many of his words (along with Wayne Grudems) criticizing the TNIV/NIV 2011 were less than charitable and mean spirited. CBMW and TGC come across as if they hold to the Truth, the Whole Truth and nothing but the Truth and all others are the on the wide path that leads to destruction. I guess we should be thankful they do not want to burn dissenters at the stake, drown them in the nearest river, behead or torture them.
    I agree with Phil M…too many in the Reformed tradition act as if their Christian walk is on olier ground. Read some Puritan Board posts or listen to the White Horse Inn to see what I mean.

    As far as Wright…I have read some of his writings. Would like to read more.

  • James

    @Dale,

    i)Ok yeah so being surrounded and receiving verbal lashings, yeah I agree, that’s just simply abuse. I would be out of that church in an instant as well. I’m curious what the other intimation methods were…but yeah, overall that church does sound brutal. So, this church I’m assuming was a church associated with the neo-reformed camp?

    ii) Al Moher? Yeah, I haven’t really listened to what he said about Bell. But if I can ask a tough question… why would you even care what he thinks? The way I honestly see it, especially with the younger crowd is that Rob Bell has more appeal anyway. I’m not sure if Mohler’s words will effect the crowd Bell’s reaching or does it?

    iii) Let me ask another tough challenging hard question if I may… Just as you said in the top paragraph about the importance of context.. , do you think maybe your experiences of abuse could have led you to make a bit of a generalization? For example, how do you see guys like Tim Keller? or a guy like Jeremy Lin who’s a avid Piper fan as well?

    iv) As for reformed theology itself, you said one of the key characteristics is seeing things though 1500.. so with that said.. what maybe 2 big things have we got wrong b/c of seeing the Bible with that lens?

  • Beakerj

    As a Brit who has heard Tom Wright speak (about 10 years ago, at a film festival) I would have to say that the British/American divide does come into play here – we certainly ( & the Aglican church itself) does indeed have a wider view of orthodoxy than many Reformed Americans, certainly Piper et al. We are also more prepared to allow indivuality, I think, whereas maybe certain churches would feel that was individualism. And I utterly agree with Wright that we need to be bringing all the knowledge we have now, to our task of interpreting Scripture, just as the Reformers brought their best knowledge. Where I think some people don’t like him is in his belief that we are still about this task, it didn’t stop with the Reformers & we may well review or discard some of their ideas because we have resources they did not.

    Dale: I’m SO glad you brought that up. That has been a subject of discussion amongst friends before now…a certain type, especially a certain type of male, is drawn to YRR & Piperesque circles, & a study of this would be really helpful.

    James: I’m going to weigh in with irresistable grace and double predestination for starters. Others better qualified may come up with others.

  • Beakerj

    Excuse spelling! In real Greenwich mean time it’s actually 10.33pm & I’m weary.

  • http://www.soulation.org Dale Fincher

    @James… these are just my answers. I’m sure many others, including Scot, would have more to say.

    i) it wasn’t a single church… it is pieced together experience through a decade of ministry where I’ve overlapped places they were. I’m an itinerant speaker / apologist / writer by trade, so I see a spectrum of sub-cultures within evangelicalism. One of the controlling tactics involved obscure questions of theology, screening and censoring metmy talks before arriving, making sure I used only their translation, keeping me from talking to people in the church… it was freaky. That is one example of many.

    ii) I care because many of my fellow brothers and sisters take him seriously and follow him without question… I see people in ministry mimic him and do damage to others (we work with teens through 20-somethings often who are reeling from growing up in those environments). If were trying to share the truth that sets people free, then I care what Christians holding a microphone say. I cannot ignore it, even if I do not often publicly speak out against it (this is an exception at the moment). I see people who want to be more free but feel ensnared socially by these groups. They raise questions but cannot get the bullying voice out of their heads. This is common. Better to find the source than just find casualties to rehabilitate on the side of the spiritual road.

    iii) I don’t think my experiences have caused too much generalization. I was more reactionary in the early years after being abused in a system. It has been many years since those days, two therapists, and a lot of soul-searching and healthy community. It’s like someone who has been raped, returning 15 years later and pointing out signs of rape abusers. We wouldn’t call them reactionary. We usually thank them for raising awareness. It was Elie Wiesel speaking up about the concentration camps 10 years after the Nazis fell. Some actually called him bitter and on a tirade. Can you believe that? Often, in abusive situations, the victim gets blamed for the abuse. After recovering from fundamentalism, I was surprised to find similar trademarks in the neo-reformed and my friends who followed it. I didn’t expect that. As for Keller, I like him as a person, in general, and think he’s a good guy (yet he’s an exception… I hear because he’s more kuyperian than puritan). When he speaks he seems to clean up the spills that his fellow neo-reformers make. I don’t agree with his theology of gender nor of church polity. Everything I’ve heard him say in terms of gender tells me he hasn’t taken the other side seriously. I don’t know Jeremy Lin enough to answer.

    iv) I mentioned a few above: “Politics, gender, law/grace, salvation..”… I can add a few more: all jewish contexts in the new testament, our concept of church and church polity, the concepts surrounding the Acts 15 council, supercessionism and the place of the Jews (calvinism defining the “chosen” people rather than the Jews), determinist view of human agency (which is foreign to Jews), views of sola scritura that over-emphasis the Bible (sometimes higher than God in some debates they’ve tried to strike up with me), natural revelation (some neo-reformed groups are suspicious of philosophy, humanities, psychology…. ) etc.

  • http://www.soulation.org Dale Fincher

    Beaker, thanks. I would like to see more study on the psychology behind these matters. I’m come at it as a apologist who values healthy souls with a background in philosophy and the humanities. But I’m not socio-psychologist which is what is needed to study these matters.

    Like why are the neo-reformed so eager (and loudest) to associate the subordination of women with the gospel? Is it a power move for men to attach it to a non-negotiable in order to maintain status? And then, when you’re on the inside, you find all sorts of peculiarities about manhood and womanhood that should raise red flags… serious red flags! And it’s all protected with a certain view of scripture even when real life shows otherwise. I don’t think this is about theology… but something more. It is easy to attach our psychology to our doctrine and pretend it should remain unchallenged.

  • James

    @Beakerj

    Double pre-destination and irresistible grace? (again, I’m no bible college student but here’s my ramblings how I see it)

    a) Jeremiah 1:5 says God knew Jeremiah before his mother’s womb? And it says he had a plan form him? Does this not mean God can set out plans for someone before they’re born? Even when they’re born like knowing the date and year of when Jesus would be born?

    b) Rom 3:23 says we’re all sinners. To me, this means that our behaviors are largely motivated by our primitive brain. (for those theist evolutionist guys… almost like pre-Adam/Eve humanoid like). E.g. For fear of death, we crave for power, become greedy, and even exploit others in order to avoid dying. When I look into this world, I see how this world runs on survival of the fittest (with flashes of common goodness), but if I’m honest I say, fear motivates a large chunk of the world, which leads to a lot of chaos.
    c) If I grew up in the Iraq, 99% chance I’d not know Jesus as Lord or Savior.
    d) If I grew up in China in 500 AD, I would not be a Christian.

    So put a,b,c,d together:
    –My survival and fear instincts dictate my actions more than God and they would not compel me to seek, follow, or love God. On top of that, if brought up in a totally different nation like a predominantly Muslim nation, any slim chance I may have got to know Christ decreases even more. Then, on top of that, if I was born in 600 AD in some Chinese Kingdom, the 0.1% chance I get to see Christ becomes 0%. All these things, I have no choice in.

    –Yet, Jer 1:5 tells me God actually fore-plans my birth.. that God knew. So though I may have somewhat of a ‘free-will’… my will is largely driven by factors that are totally out of my control and the only way I’d know Christ is because of factors only God knew of and even fore-planned… like where I was born, what time period, and putting his Spirit into me in order that the fear of death that governed my life now dissolves with faith in the ressurection and in Christ paying for the death that I deserved for being like a cancerous cell that was breaking God’s shalom, vandelising God’s creation and harming others whom God I’m sure cares about deeply.

    So I know Christ because of grace alone, where if it wasn’t for God’s plan and intervention, I’d not know Jesus.

  • James

    @Dale,

    All I can say really is I’m sorry you had to go through what sounds like some brutal times. I’m not going to pretend these things occur more often from the neo-reformed camp, but I guess prayer for us is what may be needed?

    I guess for me.. I sometimes feel, the neo-reformed camp gets misunderstood… I actually think some are out to purposely vilify pastors like Piper in order to fuel their own faith or perhaps to create a division to allow another camp to rise up, as how it is in politics (I may be totally wrong though).

    Another consideration of why the neo-reformed may be so ‘tough’ on matters of faith is for eg..female pastors… . to say you don’t favor women pastors in today’s age will bring a lot of dirty looks… So maybe part of the make up in us is to be more defensive and more cautious. For example, if you grew up in a non-Christian town, you may need a bit of ‘stubbornness’ as a kid to say, ‘no, I am going to pray and I don’t care what others think.’ Then that sort of fighting sort of spirit carries over into adulthood.

    I grew up with women pastors, but the way I see it that men being pastors or headship in marriage is just different roles with equal dignity and worth. One plays the role of showing sacrificial love while also bearing the responsibility of the sins of others as like the captain of a team. Women serve as how Jesus served the Father or how Jesus served the disciples out of a position of power and strength. I’m personally more flexible on this issue.

  • http://windschurch.net David Drake

    @Wolfgang: If Piper is arrogant you must despise Wright lol…there may be no author who comes of as more arrogant…

    In general I am not sure how true this is for younger reformed types…I pastor a evangelical, baptistic, reformish church and Wright is highly influential in who we are. I don’t love him on NPP stuff but on eschatology and such he is formative for me. Just saw him speak recently and it was amazing. On the other hand we love Piper too.

    D

  • Phil Miller

    I’ve never thought Wright to be arrogant. Actually, I think he goes out of his way to not be so. Apparently putting forth an assertion that some people or ideas may be wrong is enough to get labeled as arrogant. I think Wright’s style is very much influenced by his time in academia, and that environment is generally more cutthroat in nature than ministry. You are expected to be honest about what you think about other people’s work, and how that affects their feelings isn’t much of a consideration.

  • Nik

    Lately I have been reading everything I can of Wright. I just think he’s the bomb (bomb in the theologian’s playground, wink wink)! I also happened to enjoy Piper’s Desiring God books, devotionals and sermons (have not heard or read them all, and its been a while). I am about 75% of the way through McKinght’s King Jesus Gospel and I love it (the first book I’ve read of his… now I read his blogs). :o

    And… I have heard the haters on all sides.

    So, for me, my experience is as follows: grew up in an Evangelical charismatic church, then softly wandering, then dabbling in emergent BS, then Russian Orthodox, then young restless and reformed, and then settling down to good theology and a little bit of who-cares. I have been so many places that I just don’t care anymore and find it hard to see why the bickering continues. Growing up in a church that had no doctrinal standards, no structure, no liturgy, and no connect to the historic church made me feel at home with an eclectic approach to theological development (for better or worse).

    One thing I do see, and I think being an outsider helps, is that the Gospel Coalition (God bless em’) and Westminster west crowd (American established Presbyterians and reformed Baptists) talk over their opponents. I don’t think they are taking time to read and listen to Wright. I don’t think they show a history of it (Norman Shepherd, FV, NPP.. or any other scary abbreviations I can come up with).

    So…
    I guess all I’m saying is that Scot is 100% right (like always… oh whoops) and I appreciate this blog post :D .

  • http://www.soulation.org Dale Fincher

    @James, thanks for your reply. I would see these points from a different angle. On one point, I do not see people giving dirty looks, by and large, if you do not permit women pastors. Jim Henderson’s newest book, The Resignation of Eve, cites that among evangelicals the overwhelming majority have men at the top leadership roles (I believe his stat is 9 out of 10). If the neo-reformed are playing the “it’s not popular” martyr card regarding men excluding women from leadership, it isn’t in the stats and becomes another rhetorical power-play that reinforces all I said above.

  • Mark

    @James
    A minor point: Jer. 1:5 does not tell YOU that God fore-plans YOUR birth. It says that of Jeremiah. One cannot automatically apply that to every individual human, one cannot assume that.

  • James

    @Dale, I’m being candid in saying I wasn’t purposely trying to play any sort of martyr card. Where I live, the first instinct is if a church refuses women as pastors, in my circles it’s considered bigoted. To be honest, the debate where I live has moved on to the question whether pastors should marry two homosexual men or women if they promise to remain monogamous. The pastor who would refuse two men seeking to be married at your church is seen as narrow-minded or even bigoted especially from talking to the larger LGBT community in our city. (I’m from Toronto if that matters or not).

    Again, I feel the issue of women pastors or men being the ‘head’ of a family is a peripheral issue in Christianity that allows for diversity among churches. If your church has women pastors, then fine but if others find the males taking the ‘headship’ role and women consent and are supportive of that, then what’s wrong with that? It’s not as though the neo-reformed have a monopoly on all churches, so what they practice won’t effect how you do church even if two churches feel their position is more biblical. Debate is welcome though of course where we can persuade one another why biblically one is more accurate than the other but I don’t see the reason again not vilify each other.

    Again, the way I see it is different roles, but equal in value and dignity. I don’t want to generalize but they say girls are from venus and I do notice they have this uncanny emotional ability to influence and empower men- i.e. they have this special ability to make the guys feel accomplished without the need to being recognized or praised. It doesn’t come out of a position of inferiority (like it’s not as though they don’t have the ability to be the head pastor), but out of this strength of theirs. Sometimes, I even think if the roles were reversed where I take on this role , I wouldn’t have a beef with it especially knowing Jesus (who was of course perfect) was able to take on this role in relation to the Father and served while empowering his disciples.

    Men on the other hand may have the role of being like the coach of a team or a captain. If the team (or church, family) is becoming dysfunctional, the G.M. or God) may place a heavier burden on the coach (or head teacher or pastor) to do something. It’s like how God approached Adam first not Eve.

    It may sound patronizing at first, but I just imagine God being tougher and more stern in general on guys than women. In the same way, hypothetically speaking if an intruder comes into the house, I’m so traditional (or reformed) minded that I feel (after calling the cops) the husband has the role of investigating and finding out the problem if they feel the family’s safety in that moment is in jeopardy. I.e. if it comes down to it, the man ought to get injured for his family, not the mother or wife. So, if there’s dysfunction or a problem, God addresses the man first. And among us younger types, I know you guys may despise Driscoll but he poses the question whether young millennial guys like myself flock to video games because in playing them, there may be some sort of biological need that God placed into guys in creation…. like a deep longing for mission, a need for accomplishment, a willingness to fight and die for someone bigger than ourselves? (not saying it’s exclusive to guys, but could headship be a place where guys can fill that need and realize their potential?

    Yet while I make these generalizations of men being being from mars and women are from venus (whether it be physiological or psychological), again I really do see the guy and the girl being equal in worth and dignity. Going back to sports, the coach or even the captain may have a different role, but he’s not superior to the role players or even the trainers on the team but the first person who gets fired is the coach. Everyone on the team according to their natural strengths have various roles they can find their fullest potential. I guess for us, neo-reformed types, we just think the headship role is the ideal environment for those strengths of men and women to be fully realized. (I know I’m repeating myself).

    It’s a dynamic like any structure that can be abused and has its cons with its pros of course. And I’m also not saying women in the general workforce can’t be presidents or be a C.E.O, and I do advocate for policies that make it easier for them to reach those positions if they want to (like better maternity leave coverage, etc), but regarding religion, I feel there’s room for diversity where people can find their niche and practice their theology according to their convictions. If you don’t like your local church structure, then I’m sure there’s another one you can find, or start up another one.

  • Tony

    “Neither the Reformers nor Wright’s reading of biblical theology are inerrant but these men do tend to talk past eachother when they engage.”

    This. Yes. I felt like I was going crazy as I was reading through both men’s work on Justification at the same time. As I would chase down all of their references I kept feeling like each one was doing an (unintentionally?) selective reading of the other. Piper would overstate an issue in Wright’s writing that Wright either balanced or toned down himself in the same, or a subsequent essay. Wright would say that Piper didn’t deal with an issue at all, when he had just a few pages over from the citation in question.

    Most of the folk that I’ve talked to tend to have only read one of the primary readings on this subject and spot-read the other at best. I think that if you read everything at once, and chase down all the references (admit tingly a big task), reading them in context, you will see how much they talk past each other–to the point that the engagement becomes unhelpful (in my opinion, anyway).

  • James

    @Mark, you’re right. Maybe my birth wasn’t fore-planned by God. Even on earth, many times, pregnancies are not planned, where ideally they are in order to take the proper pre-conceptual counselling and proper vitamins and folic acid… and to ensure that the environment and situation is suitable to raise a child.

    But, even if not every birth was fore-planned by God, the fact though remains he has that ability so to what degree does He? And if anything, I’m sure God can at least prevent a birth from happening can he not? And I’m sure God (and let’s for the sake of argument say he doesn’t know the future) is smart enough to assess how our environmental and biological factors will determine we becoming followers of Christ. If you’re some policy maker of some NGO, even you could sort out based on risk assessment and statistics, know the chances of what religion you’d be in or even the types of diseases you would pick up if one was born in let say…. Iraq. I just have a feeling God is so smart, he can easily assess our future by looking at the various factors, like some multi-statistical program. Yet even if God knows and doesn’t intervene, we still have ‘free will’ in making decisions and are responsible for our actions. But I’m saying, for any of us who knows the joy of loving Jesus in the present moment, when I consider all the factors that are out of my control and my default mindset of the ‘flesh,’ I can only look to God’s hand of intervening in my life and His Spirit awakening my soul, as the reasons why I follow Jesus. The only explanation is that it’s a miracle. And because it was God’s planned initiative for me to now have this undeserved privilege of knowing Jesus in this life time, I call it grace. Is it irresistible? I just think if God wants and then decides to act, He gets.

    Why doesn’t then God act for everyone if he says he wants all? To me, it’s almost the same type of question as ‘why is there suffering in this world, why that child and not me especially when God could have prevented it or just stop all suffering now.’ To the neo-reformed like myself, more important than the why is that having experienced grace and knowing God has a plan in this world, having confidence it will succeed, knowing He is moving to fulfil His vision, knowing that God in His sovereignty can manoeuvre any intended evil event for good (e.g. Jesus’ crucifixion) we’re now called to join him and need not even fear our failures will thwart His plans. We’re motivated by knowing Jesus wins.

    ok… I’m out. feel like I’m flooding this wall now.

  • James

    Just to go back to one point of male headship or pastor,

    For me, I consider this role as not of privilege or power or money (that’s why it’s different from a C.E.O. where income plays a role in how much leverage you have in society and where may perks can offset the sacrifice), but a head pastor’s role may be filled with costly sacrifice and much burden (without compensation), even bearing the target of the Ememy’s attacks (if you believe in Satan). For example, I don’t know if I would be comfortable if in place of Stephen being martyred, if it was one of Jesus’ female followers. I don’t know what my response would be if God’s first martyrs were mostly women and not Jesus’ male disciples like Peter.

    When Korean missionaries for example were captured in the Middle East, it was the head senior pastor who was the oldest who offered his life in exchange that everyone else goes free. That’s the sort of burden I imagine comes with being the head pastor. As we may know of that story, he indeed was beheaded but the team was sent back to Korea.

  • kevin peterson

    Um, Luke:
    you said, “The church I’m a part of does not have any nationalistic imagery inside its walls.”
    Have you been in room 15? Does that painting of the US flag there not count as nationalistic imagery? Or has it been recently removed?

  • P.

    Very interesting conversation. My experience growing up among Reformed people was very much like Dale’s, so I’m intrigued by the idea of the psychology behind those who choose the Reformed way (the Reformed religion?), particularly when it comes to the men who choose this ideology.

    No matter what feel-good terms the Reformed people use to describe their views on gender roles, the men still come out on top power-wise. Men #1, women #2. That goes back to the psychology of the type of men who are attracted to the Reformed movement. That also relates to looking at the Bible, and the “women” verses, through the culture of the day. I have to disagree with Piper here. Every person communicates through a perspective, and to see what Paul is saying to us today, we must see what he was communicating through the culture/perspective of back then. I think this is where the proof text people get things wrong.


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