Who Would Jesus Smack Down?

This morning one of our small groups met and I started Joyce Rupp’s “The Cup of Our Lives” with them. It thought it went really well! I’m also now up to 5 youth and a male chaperone besides myself who are able to go on our youth mission trip this summer. Which is fantastic!

I ran some errands – including buying some good nutritious food to stock the fridge with, and then sat down for lunch with my computer. And came across this article:

Who Would Jesus Smack Down?
By MOLLY WORTHEN
Published: January 11, 2009
The Seattle minister Mark Driscoll is out to transform American evangelicalism with his macho conception of Christ and neo-Calvinist belief in the total depravity of man.

I know I said that I would be commenting on “The Shack” soon… and I hope to… but for some reason I stumbled across this today and just sat there with my jaw dropped staring at the screen.

I didn’t know anything about this church before I read the article and there are some things about how it is portrayed that make my blood boil and there are other things that really resonate with me. And so I’m going to talk about them in no particular order.

First of all, the Calvinist theology. It’s not me. I’m a die-hard Methodist. And while there may only be a hair’s breadth between Calvinism and Methodism, I would say that it’s a mighty thick hair. And to be fair to Calvin, this New Calvinism takes his attempt to hang on to the sovereignty of God and just runs with the unintended implications much more than Calvin ever would have. There is a determinism there that is extremely uncomfortable for me. Not because I’m a “limp-wristed liberal,” but because I want to leave room for God to do what God wants – and that includes redeeming the irredeemable.

Secondly, along with the theology comes an interpretation of the bible that is ironically more refreshing that traditional conservative literal evangelical spin… because it takes seriously the New Testament messsage that prohibitions against things like drinking and dancing just don’t jive with what Jesus tried to teach… that attempting to live righteously by the law is to live like a Pharisee. But, the interpretative framework doesn’t leave any room for the contextual explanations of Paul’s comments on the genders or leave room for the call of God to teach and preach to come to women. And I have a huge problem with that since I am a woman and have experienced that call. (Perhaps this is where I stick in a not so subtle comment about Wesleyan theology and the quadralateral of biblical interpretation: scripture, tradition, reason and experience.)

Third, and this is related to the gender discussion, Driscoll wants to basically save Jesus from the theology that has emasculated him. I want to both agree and disagree here. There is a lot within theology that does paint Jesus as the soft and gentle one who loves us. And there are some interpretations of the crucifixion that want to see pacifism as weak, as Christ’s refusal to fight back or stand up for himself as a feminine way of being (Not my interpretation). BUT, why are feminine attributes so negative in Driscoll’s eyes? Why can’t Jesus embrace both the traditionally masculine and feminine aspects of humanity? And the whole argument supposes that Christ’s form of resistance to power… his refusal to give in AND his willingness to die for sinners… is what has made Christ weak, or in the words of the article:

has transformed Jesus into “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that . . . would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell.”

On the contrary, the true power of Christ in my theology is described in terms of kenosis – of emptying himself – of pouring out himself for others. In doing so, he fully took on human existence and redeemed it, once and for all. He gave up everything in order that none would have to be condemned to hell. But, there is still a choice involved. Christ, God the Father, the Holy Spirit, continues to reach out to us but it is up to us whether or not we respond. That’s not weak. That is what love and relationship look like.

Fourth, I love the way that the church meets people where they are and believe that God is found everywhere within the culture. I can totally relate to the description of the people as:

cultural activists who play in rock bands and care about the arts, living out a long Reformed tradition that asserts Christ’s mandate over every corner of creation

I have no complaint here and applaud their ability not only to reach out to those who would be uncomfortable in a mainline church, but also to challenge them to live differently. In the words of Anne Lamott (or someone else if it came before her) “God loves you just the way you are, and loves you too much to let you stay that way.”

Fifth, the idea that to question authority is to sin. OMG. seriously. That paragraph in the article about made me scream. To start off with, since Calvinism is a REFORMED tradtion… there was some questioning of authority somewhere along the way. That being said, I have no tolerance for authoritarianism. (haha, i made a joke) Questioning is what makes us human, it is the gift of the Holy Spirit that allows the body of Christ to discern what is the will of God. I must admit here that Mr. Wesley himself could be fairly authoritarian in his own day, and he made some bad choices as a result of which (see his love life in Georgia for example). But to shun elders within the church because they opposed the new organizational structure? Are you serious? I guess that’s a long way from the idea of Christian conferencing that became a part of the Wesleyan tradition… Or maybe I’m just being limp-wristed again. GAH!

1 Comment

  • B Smith

    January 14, 2009 at 2:40 am Reply

    When I hear of a “dude” like this bringing in 7,000+ every worship service I want to run head first into a brick wall. He is selling entertainment not proclaiming the gospel.

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