Saturday, 18 October 2014

The dangers of being inoffensive but ineffectual

This post started life as a reply to a friend on Facebook but my wife suggested I should make it a wider blog post and so here we go.

I do not intend to get into the specifics of Mark Driscoll's position as it is an issue for him and Mars Hill to address. What does trouble me are the wider group of people who have never met Mark Driscoll and are unconnected to Mars Hill but seem to wish to take the opportunity to help bring him down because they disagree with his theology or preaching style.

For example, a number of articles, apparently from Christians, criticise Mark Driscoll for issues such as what they (inaccurately in my view) call his  'rigid gender rules' and 'homophobia'.Now, whatever individuals happen to believe about such issues, what Mark Driscoll teaches about them is well in line with what would be recognised as the same conclusions from scripture as many, many others have reached over the centuries, and so to target him on this seems irrational and unreasonable.  Moreover, I don't see his critics on this issue in the main expressing a respectful disagreement on theology. Rather they seem to be arguing from a viewpoint that Driscoll's position is offensive to the modern day world-to which he simply joins the club of many, many Christians in history.

What in some ways I find puzzling are the people who have criticised him for using 'profanities' and being sexually explicit. From the Driscoll books I have read and his sermons I have listened to, I cannot think of any instance where he has sworn. As for being sexually explicit, I don't hear anything in what he says that is any more explicit than the Bible is in books like Song of Songs and Leviticus, that is any more direct than statements such as the apostle Paul wishing that those who teach that Christians should be circumcised would go the whole way and emasculate themselves. I can only conclude that those making such criticisms live in a much more genteel world than I, and read a different Bible than me, as their threshold on such issues seems incredibly low.

In short, half his external critics seem to be arguing from a worldly viewpoint, the other half seem to be arguing from a very genteel viewpoint that is shocked simply by statements that are in line with scripture.

The real danger in all this is that Mark Driscoll was reaching people who the church doesn't normally reach. People from tough, urbanised backgrounds who could relate to someone very straight talking who addressed the real issues in their lives. It would be a tragedy if the church retreated into using safe men who don't offend any Christians but don't win any people from non-middle class backgrounds either.