Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Still Mired In Clay?

So the conversation has begun. Just how much tolerance are we to have concerning questionable associations between pastors when one pastor has been thought to be in doctrinal error? Judgments abound about the controversies between the mega pastors, to the point where even just being a mega pastor has been frowned upon.

DA Carson, in his book, The Intolerance of Tolerance, points out that the very meaning of tolerance has changed over the years. It used to be that you could disagree with someone, even strongly, but not be accused of intolerance. This left the discussion open for civil discourse on what the differing issues are, and look for common ground where you can then proceed to explain/persuade your opponent of their possibly errant ways. He was mostly speaking of issues between the church and the secularized world. But the new definition of intolerance is that if you disagree with someone, you are intolerant. This causes the discussion to be shut off, and no further conversation is possible since each side of the argument has turned into condemnation of the other person, not just the issue. His book is worth reading!

So how does this affect the Christian to Christian dialog, which it certainly has? The reasonable discussion of issues is virtually stopping, and the possibility of understanding another’s point of view, with or without an aim to correct, vanishes. This cannot possibly be good. For instance, John Piper is still being condemned for inviting Rick Warren to speak at the Desiring God conference last year. Rick Warren is being condemned
for his “reaching out” to Muslims, whatever that entails. Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald are still being pounded for the mistakes of ER2. And ALL are being criticized for being “mega pastors”. The young, restless, and reformed movement is criticized for being shallow (read young), the neocalvinists are criticized for being too accepting and immature, and if your church is multi-site, you supposedly are being led astray by a selfish pastor who won’t plant new churches cause he wants his flock to be all about HIM. The gospel centered movement, which often includes all of the above, is criticized for not preaching the whole council of God. And this new definition of intolerance has pretty much stuck all of these important issues in never-never-land, with no end in sight to the controversy. The real need here is to solve these issues, and face the real issue, which is to face the unsaved world and tell them that the voice of the church is NOT the Christless gospel that has become the face of the modern church. Christianity is not about what they see on TV, or hear mocked at the coffee shop. A more to the point discussion might be- did people leave the true church because it stopped presenting a powerful gospel of grace, thus allowing people to become prey to mock gospels of fun, fantasy, and excitement? Or did the mock gospels become fashionable and powerful and draw people away from the true church? Notice I said, “True Church”. This is the question that needs to be answered before the more to the point discussion can take place, but our intolerance has prevented us from even agreeing on what the True Church is!

Here’s my humble take on this, from the pew. Fame in itself is not wrong. John Piper’s books make it clear that he has something important to say and to give to the church. One can easily believe that the gospel he preaches is true. Our job as hearers, is to discern where he is coming from in his relationship to Rick Warren. For that matter, our job in all of the reformed controversies is to discern where people really are coming from. The Gospel Coalition has been criticized for being too slow to condemn, too filled with young, restless, and reformed pastors and contributors. Mega pastors have been criticized for there para-church associations. Everyone likes to beat Mark Driscoll up for being an author of a controversial book and taking it “on the road”, enhancing his celebrity status, as well as taking a lot of liberties in his approach to ministry and his pastoral duties. James MacDonald gets beat up for having a foot in the true gospel camp, and a foot in the fake gospel camp. Well you know what? These people don’t have to stop what they are doing and explain to me what they are up to. Figuring it out is MY responsibility. I wouldn’t go to James MacDonald’s church, but I’m not sure I’d skip a chance to visit Driscoll’s Mars Hill campus. I haven’t a clue how far out in left field Rick Warren really is, but I like John Piper, and HE likes something about Warren, so until I figure differently, Rick Warren is okay by me. I've just a feeling Piper is someone I can trust.

In our own town, there is a very orthodox Baptist Church. Hymns only, no earrings, etc. They adhere to the “no ecumenism”, no civil suits between members, etc. You probably know the type. And they have a right to be that way. I tolerate them completely. I suspect that they are more about Law than Grace, but only by tolerating them could I hope to discuss that issue with any of them. Truly some pastors and mega pastors have crossed into the grey zone. There’s no way to discern what the grey area really is, though until the church finally decides what we can safely accept, what the non-negotiables actually are. Something has got to push back against the tide of modern Christless evangelism that currently represents our church to the whole world. And I hate to say it, but its not going to be the little corner churches like in our town that probably have the gospel correct, and are making disciples. It’s going to be large para organizations, large denominations, large churches, even mega-churches, famous authors, celebrity pastors, and scholars who actually have the resources to join together and become the new face of the American church. And the key is to actually join together. Finally we are using the social networks and media to start joining together, but right now we are taking one step forward and two steps back! We must drop the intolerance so we can define and solve the real issues, join together and get out of the shadows and into the daylight where we can be seen. And no, this is not an acceptance of heresy, but an acknowledgement that we can’t even agree on what really constitutes heresy. Are there some leaders out there that see the wisdom of presenting a unified face on the true church to the world, or is that too all about us?

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