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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Authoritarianism and The Right of Private Judgment

Does Paul advocate authoritarianism? To Titus he says:

Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2:15

and to the church at Thessalonica he says:

... test all things; hold fast what is good, 1Th. 5:21

So how is it that those who hear the word proclaimed are responsible to "test all things" but those who proclaim are commanded to "Let no one disregard you." It would seem that testing would, on occasion, lead to the discovery that some aspect of what is proclaimed does not pass the test. At this point those who hear would disregard that which does not past the test. But Titus is told to let no one disregard you. Is this just personal instruction to the historical Titus, not to be intimidated by opposition? Is there any warrant for those who proclaim the word today to use this as a general principle?

After four decades of immersion in street level secularism, social "sciences", literary criticism, biblical studies and linguistics, I have become thoroughly acclimatized to the culture of doubt. Forget Derrida and Foucault, lets talk about linguistics. In the last twenty years Relevance Theory (RT) has entered the bible translation mainstream, to verify this, try a search on Ernst- August Gutt or Reinier De Blois or Margaret G. Sim.

RT maximizes the role of inference and cognitive "frameworks" while drawing attention to radical semantic indeterminacy in spoken language as well as texts. So let us say that an exegetical checker, armed with RT undertakes a study of the Song of Songs in preparation for a translation into several Turkic languages. While home on leave, exegetical checker visits Seattle and sits in on a sermon preached on the Song of Songs by a mega church pastor in Ballard. The pastor delivers his exposition and application with great authority. Exegetical checker, aware of the radical semantic indeterminacy of the metaphors and figurative language in Song of Songs, wonders if the authoritarian style of delivery is really warranted by the biblical text.

What we have here is a conflict of cultures. The exegetical checker is a scholar trained to understand the ambiguities of language and texts. The pastor is tasked with proclamation of divine truth in the face of post-modernism and the relativizing of all truth claims. The pastor is armed with Titus 2:15 "Let no one disregard you". The exegetical checker is armed with decades of language study, a massive theoretical framework and the biblical warrant to "test all things".

Where do we go from here?


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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

On the passing of Peter Toon

In the mid 1970s I attended a week long lecture series given by Peter Toon on the right of private judgment. I purchased the transcript and toted it around for decades. Gave it to my father who read it several times. Those lectures became a permanent part of my thinking.

There was a second (unpublished) set of lectures during the evening which I also attended. I talked to Dr. Toon after one of the evening lectures for half an hour. The evening lectures were about dogma and frameworks. Toon probably didn't use the the term "framework" which is borrowed from linguistics. Nor did he used the term paradigm which was popularized by the publication of Thomas Kuhn's most quoted work. As a young man, two years short of my first serious encounter with postmodernism, the ideas presented by Peter Toon in the evening lectures would turn out to be very significant.


Sophocles Ajax

After a week or so of wasting my time blogging about the problems in a local church, a topic I am sick to death of, I am now back to work on language which is what I do. So far today I have spent five hours working in Ajax one of the less popular works of Sophocles. What I have always liked about Greek Tragedy is the lack of sweet, sticky, sentimentalism. There is a harsh barrenness in Sophocles, like a desert landscape. The depiction of Ajax, driven insane by Athena, slaughtering livestock, the spoils of war and then sitting down in his hut, confused and disoriented, while Ahtena and Odysseus talk it over.

Working in ancient texts has a way of focusing the mind, tuning out all the superfluous noise like the blog wars between Tim Challies and the "discernment ministries." One quote from Challies I intend to keep: "there is really no value in watching the worst pastors in America preach to the worst churches in America." I certainly don't know who are the worst pastors in America. I rarely listen to any of them.

Give me that old time religion, Zeus, Athena, Apollo, ...


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Monday, April 27, 2009

the cult of personality & the mega church pastor

Some years ago while I was attending a bible study lead by Wayne Taylor at Calvary Fellowship in Seattle, after one our sessions a grad student came up to me with a question about the Greek text of 1Thessalonians. At least that was the pretext for striking up a conversation that ended up taking more than an hour. It turned out that grad student was a devotee of John MacArthur. I had never read or heard MacArthur but I could remember some fuss about his views on "Lordship" when I was in graduate school over 30 years ago. The dispute didn't hold any interest for me. I was reading a lot of Emil Brunner at the time in preparation for my thesis, MacArthur was not the sort of stuff you read in graduate school.

Anyway, it was plain to me that grad student was a fervent disciple MacArthur. For some reason this sort of thing irritates me. I get put out about uncritical devotion to christian leaders, it is cultish and I had my fill of it growing up in a church were there was plenty of this sort of thing. So I did a little baiting, told grad student that MacArthur's soteriology (doctrine of salvation) was considered by some a minor departure from orthodoxy. This discussion didn't go anywhere since I didn't remember the details of the controversy.

Some time later, grad student went to Wayne Taylor and reported that I was a despicable heretic because I dared to question MacArthur. I found this out months later chatting with one of the associate pastors at Calvary Fellowship. This illustrates a very unhealthy aspect of mega church pastors. It isn't John MacArthur's fault that grad student had this attitude but the mega church model which focuses a great deal of attention on the the super star pastor promotes a sort "big brother" scenario. If the name on the lips of nearly every member is the name of the head pastor, if most discussions center around the person of the head pastor, at some point this becomes idolatry.

For those of use who grew up with a cultural memory of el Duce, der Fuhrer, Stalin; reading 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451 ... walking into a "church" which seats thousands of people with a huge stage and a projected image of "the anointed" preaching from a dvd or a live feed from the central campus ... all of this is pretty unsettling. But what is most disturbing is running into "the faithful" who like grad student are uncritical, unthinking, mindlessly devoted to a man who is a sinner saved by grace but far far far from perfection. People like grad student should give mega church pastors nightmares. But they don't seem to. These pastors seem to be more worried about their critics, how to silence them. When they should be worried about their non-critics.


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Sunday, April 26, 2009

complimentarianism is not the issue ...

I am a card carrying complimentarian and you can ask a couple of my linguist friends Peter Kirk (Chelmsford, Essex, UK) or Cindy Westfall (Hamilton ON) who are both militant egalitarians with whom I have had a few run ins over gender issues, but not recently.

The problem I have with Driscoll is the way he manifests complimentarianism. After listening to him speak for fifteen years I have concluded that he is working for the other side. His teaching on "real men" is right out of a b-grade western from the fifties, one cliche after another, hopelessly trapped in the narrow little blue collar world he grew up in, an easy target for egalitarians. Driscoll's notion of "real men" reminds me of some guys I worked with long ago who were reading Robert Bly and would go into the woods on weekends, sit around a fire wearing breech clothes beating tom toms.


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Saturday, April 25, 2009

In the presence of HaShem (The Name)

The prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and John of the Apocalypse all experienced theophanies. Their response to this experience had some common elements. Falling on their face and becoming speechless. In the continuing controversy over the words and actions of Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, I have been told to be patient and watch how this trial by fire will purify Mark's ministry. My question in response to this is, how long should we wait. The person who told me to be patient was introduced to Driscoll at my suggestion some time in 1993. We met him one morning for coffee at Seattle U. I only had one other face to face with Driscoll which was right after he had been on Dobsen's show. But via radio and Internet I have kept track of what he was doing and teaching, not obsessively, sometimes I would go a year without listening once. In 2006 I took some interest in the Desiring God conference, TIm Keller, John Piper, David Wells, Mark Driscoll, and others. I was particularly interested in David Wells strong and negative reaction to the presence and performance of Driscoll. It was at that point that I began, once again, to wonder if there was something not just right with Mars Hill Church. The thought had certainly occurred to me before. Driscoll's pre-MarsHill radio show with Leif Moi "Street Talk" was a foretaste of his sermons at MHC. I remember Mark saying on that show that "Street Talk" had been dumped in Huston Texas because of the teaching on sexuality.

I was reading in the epistle of Jude today where he was describing the sins of the opponents. Two major issues were blasphemy (angels) and promoting immorality. The recent controversy over the Song of Songs sermons at MHC seems to focus on two issues. One is appropriate speech in the pulpit. Another is Driscoll's teaching about sexuality. In other words, some critics seem to focus on how the message is packaged but others are also concerned about the message itself, not just the packaging. The question about packaging, how Driscoll's expresses his ideas raises the issue of blasphemy. Driscoll defends himself by arguing that he doesn't intend to blaspheme. I find that argument weak. The effect is that blasphemy occurs regardless of Driscoll's "intent".

Picture Mark Driscoll in the shoes of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel or John of the Apocalypse, standing in the presence of The Glory of HaShem (The Name). Having had this experience, can you picture Mark Driscoll getting up on stage and talking the way he does? Using The Name of the Messiah in contexts that are both lewd and disrespectful. I find it impossible to picture this. Anyone who had stood in the very presence of The Glory, would, like the prophets be afraid to speak at all.

The second issue is more difficult. Is Driscoll's teaching on Song of Songs advocating immorality? Forget about his pseudo exegesis of the Song, it isn't worth refuting. Richard Hess (Song of Songs, BakerAcademic 2005) in his introduction outlines several ways NOT to read the Song. Driscoll's approach is right there, several places in the list of how NOT to read. Setting hermeneutics and exegesis aside, I don't suspect there would be any hope of reaching a consensus on the activities Driscoll advocates. Some would accept them and others would not. It is too bad we don't have a Pope to settle the issue. I think the very least that could said is that Driscoll is setting up wives who don't agree with him for a falling out with their husbands over this issue. The subtext of Driscoll's message is that wives need to "put out" to keep their husbands out of trouble. There is an implied threat there.

See Bart Barber's Driscoll promote[s] fellatio to the status of Christian ordinance


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Friday, April 24, 2009

Howlers - the driscolls on gender roles

If you were so unfortunate to have subjected yourself to the whole series on Song of Songs at Mars Hill last year it would have been easy to over look some really serious distortions of the New Testament because you were overwhelmed by the truly breath taking exegetical abuse of the Song of Songs.

I have it on very good authority that Grace Ann Driscoll is an intelligent and highly capable person who was on her way to a stellar career in the secular job market when she decided to say home and be a mom. So when I listened to the opening remarks in this clip from the Stay at Home Dads Q&A session, I was suffering some cognative dissonance when she made an allusion to 1Tim. 5:8 to support the Driscoll view on gender roles.

I spent the morning looking over the greek text of 1Tim 5:1-16. There are some really interesting problems in this passage, for example the identity of subject for manthanetwsan "learn" in 5:4 is not perfectly clear. The subject could be the widows or the members of the family. The way you read verse eight will be entirely dependent on how you solve this problem. I.H. Marshall (ICC) gives a thorough discussion of the issues. There are a number of other ambiguities in this text which require substantial linguistic and hermeneutical analysis to resolve.

One thing we can be absolutely certain about. This passage says nothing, zero, about stay at home dads or wives who go to work.

Grace Ann Driscoll is certainly smart enough to understand this. If she had sat down with her English bible and taken the time to read a chapter or so of the context it would have been very plain that the issue here is how to minister to widows in the early church. There is no mention of bread winners or housewives. The two groups involved are widows and family. The only gender roles in this passages are widows and the pressing question is what qualifies a woman to become an official widow in the church, supported by the church.

So I suspect that what goes on in these Q&A sessions after Mark Driscoll's sermon is a sort proof texting of the party line. We have an official MHC position on house husbands and we have our list of proof texts. No one dares to actually do any exegesis. That would be dangerous. You might come up with the wrong answer.


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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Pure Water

It is late summer. You are hiking through a wilderness in north eastern Siberia with a local guide. You come to a mountain stream and ask the guide if it is safe to drink. He tells you the water has been tested and it is ninty nine percent pure. Has the guide really answered your question? Should you drink the water?

In 2006 John Piper told us that he drew a lot of flack when he invited Mark Driscoll to speak at the 2006 Desireing God conference. Piper's defense has been repeated and quoted so many times that it should be inscribed on a brass plaque and mounted on front door of his church. The essence was that Mark Driscoll was "sound" on the essentials of reformed dogma.

I have been periodically sampling Mark Driscoll's teaching for over fifteen years. My question to John Piper: How much poison does it take to kill you?

Mark Driscoll seems to have a policy of mixing a little poison into each message. His argument is that our culture is addicted to poison and you will get a bigger audience if you mix a little poison with the water. This small amount of poison isn't going to hurt these people since they have developed a high tolerance to these substances. This is pragmatism, the worst kind.

Titus 1:9 NRSV: He must have a firm grasp of the word that is trustworthy in accordance with the teaching, so that he may be able both to preach with sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict it.

In this passage the words rendered "sound doctrine" could also be translated healthy teaching. My question to John Piper: Is Mark Driscoll's teaching healthy?

Mark Driscoll's forays into marriage and family topics sound to my ears extremely unhealthy. It isn't just Driscoll's ludicrous misreading of the Song of Songs. His whole program for remapping the gender roles in the family is bad medicine which will kill the patient.

Driscoll is attempting to baptize the "traditional values" of the 1950s small town working class (blue collar) culture. That project isn't going to fly and a lot damage will be done in the process. I can remember the impact Bill Gothard had forty years ago promoting a similar agenda. Every time "Basic Youth" came to town, the mental health professionals would see a huge aftershock of confused, depressed and troubled people.


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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

singing to her dog

Monday, April 20, 2009

post fundamentalist-traumatic syndrome

I was just talking to my 90 year old mother on the phone. I was telling her that some of my old friends seem to be wandering in a deep fog incapable of seeing night and day, high and low, right and wrong, good and evil. I suggested that this problem was linked to growing up in a strict, legalistic, repressive religious subculture and spending the rest of their life over reacting. I thanked my mother for not being that way. She told me that her parents were not that way. They moved around a lot and attended services at churches of different denominations in each location. The communities were small and they generally had little choice where to attend church. In Montana the pastor came to them, he was circuit rider.

More on this later --

Friday, April 17, 2009

why so long ?

Tim Challies says he was shocked by what Driscoll said in Scotland. My question for Tim and others like him, where have you been? Mark Driscoll has been teaching this since the early Street Talk days before Mars Hill Church was founded. Driscoll's essential message from Song of Songs hasn't changed. What has changed is the scope of his audience and his more outrageous packaging of the message. Why did it take a over fifteen years for the evangelical leaders to wake up and hear what this guy was preaching? Unlike the Colonel, Driscoll's ideas and methods were always unsound.

"After that, his ideas, his methods became unsound, unsound."

Tim Challies Missing the Forest for all the Trees

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Song of Songs - MacArthur

The most signficant point made by John MacArthur in
The Rape of Solomon's Song
was one on hermeneutics. Be sure to print this statement on paper and fold it into your bible at the first page of Song of Songs.

We're assured moreover that the shocking hidden meanings of these texts aren't merely descriptive; they are prescriptive. The secret gnosis of Solomon's Song portray obligatory acts wives must do if this is what satisfies their husbands, regardless of the wife's own desire or conscience..

MacArthur has nailed it. Pay attention.

Old Testament Poetry:
Psa. 137:9 Happy is he who
takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!

As I have stressed several times in this blog, I am culturally a great distance from John MacArthur. I am not an evangelical. My concern about this is Mark Driscoll's egregious abuse of scripture. The points MacArthur makes about hermeneutics and application are the same points I would make. Driscoll's treatment of the Song of Songs is both ridiculous and profane. The point I want to stress is that his exegesis is silly. He should be laughed at as well as anathematized. I will leave the anathemas for the church leaders. I am content to just laugh at him. Driscoll is doing something really stupid and he is doing it in public. Ignorant people are buying into it.

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Personal & Public Virtue in Titus

The Epistle to Titus is a difficult book. It isn't hard to read or understand. The teaching is hard to accept. IMO, if the church was filled with people modeled after the virtue lists in this epistle, the cultural impact would be close to zero. When Phil Johnson took his stand against Mark Driscoll on March 9th (see Pork Roast) he quoted from Titus. I had not recently done any work in the Pastorals so I decided to take a new look at Titus. I will be honest, I find the book offensive. It seems like it is written by some goody two shoes with a list of rules; Do this, Don't do that. While I agreed with the main thrust of Phil Johnson's critique of Driscoll, I inhabit different galaxy from Mack Arthurism. With regard to Driscoll's trip, I am a co-belligerent with Johnson, not an ally. I started reading anarchist poetry in my early teens, believe me I am not on the same page with Phil Johnson or Mark Driscoll.

Driscoll's model of apologetics is to win arguments against famous opponents. The dragon slayer approach. This is high school football captain mentality at work here. I am not impressed. A lot of other people are not impressed. I know, they tell me. Some of them are 25 years old. The idea that Driscoll is doing a perfect job communicating the "gospel" to the youth is a bit naive. Talk to someone from a racial minority who has attend his church.

Driscoll's message is offensive both in content and style of delivery. It isn't how he says it that bothers me. It is what he is saying, the subtext of contempt for christians that disagree with his worldview. I am a pacifist. I didn't go to Vietnam. I was a CO and did two years of alternate service in a residential drug rehab center which was established and ruled by Driscoll's father-in-law in the late '60s. When I listen to Mark Driscoll talk, I hear a constant subtext of hatred directed at my generation and what we stood for in the late 60s. I have every reason to be annoyed at Driscoll's arrogant presumption that he has a corner on the market when it comes to biblical truth. To my ears, he sounds like a deputy sheriff from Alabama during the race riots in the early '60s.

But Driscoll has an audience, he gathers crowds that would not listen to my generation. I think this is the main reason why John Piper puts up with Mark Driscoll. To set aside the message of Titus because Driscoll is a crowd pleaser is typical evangelical pragmatism. The end justifies the means. I am of two minds about this. A straight forward reading of Titus seems to require a church leader to be a sort of bland conformist inoffensive cultural nonentity. I noticed that I.H. Marshall tried to do an end run around this but it wasn't successful. I would be willing to accept a confrontational style of delivery, but one in the tradition of Francis A. Schaeffer, which identifies with and participates in the secular/pagan culture, suffering along side of those who are lost and hurting, without the subtext of contempt for the other christians who don't agree with you. That subtext has to go, or Driscoll will remain on my hit list.


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Alice Cooper in the "Pulpit"

Take all the worst qualities of Bob Jones Sr., Robert B. Thieme and package them in the stage presence of Alice Cooper and what do you end up with? Mark Driscoll. This is neo-fundamentalism with all the authoritarian despotism of 50's style KJV thumpers dished up with the legendary stage presence of Alice Cooper.

I have been working my way through the greek text of Titus with a little help form I.H. Marshall and slogging through the tedious lists of virtues while in the back of my mind I see Mark Driscoll up on the stage presenting to all the world the perfect anti-model of what we find in Titus. Driscoll's rhetoric is abrasive, foul mouthed, confrontational, rude, crude, blasphemous, bigoted, nasty, pornographic and occasionally mean.

This appeals to a certain kind of person, the kind of people who want to be told what to think so they don't have to do any thinking of their own. In every age there have always been hordes of people willing to follow and submit to "Big Brother" so they can turn their minds off and suck up the party line, the propaganda, without question.

The main reason I find this so disgusting is that friends of mine who used to have good sense are buying it. They must have, quite literally, lost their minds.


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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tribal Power Structures and the Mega Church

In the summer of 1968 I did my obligatory out of culture experience by spending two months in El Salvador living with a missionary in Gotera and basically wasting time since I was not fluent in Spanish. I was a hiker and mountain climber so I spent a lot of time walking the roads and the trails early in the day before the heat became intolerable and before the afternoon thunder storm. It was a drought year and people were starving. The thunder storms were only once every three days which is too dry for the rainy season.

On one of my walks I encountered another gringo, which was truly a rare event in '68. Always happy to speak some english, I chatted with him for a while. He was an anthropologist working for the peace corps. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was studying tribal power structures. I thought that was a bizarre way to spend your time but didn't say as much.

That fall I enrolled in a cultural anthropology course and began to get a better grasp on tribal power structures. The Mega Church phenomenon has been studied at great length using numerous different frameworks for analysis. The Tribal metaphor seems a very useful one. We have a chief, the senior pastor, we have a counsel of elders, "the board". The management style can differ dramatically from tribe to tribe. The elders have a substantial authority in some tribes but in others they are pawns who bow to every whim of the chief.

The word on the street is that Mars Hill Church is headed in the direction of one man rule. Mark Driscoll has been accused recently in the NY Times of centralizing his authority by removing elders who disagree with him. That is certainly an old story.

On the other hand, who trusts the NY Times? Certainly not me. The news media are always lairs, gluttons, evil beats. I can picture a scenario where a leader of a church might be compelled by a conflict between the vision which is central to the ministry and several elders who were disrupting things to take action to keep the ship on course. The picture that the NY Times presents isn't the whole story, it never is.

There are other aspects of Mars Hill Church which raise a concern, reports form eye witnesses and participant observers. People talk about Mark ... Mark ... Mark, not about Jesus but Mark. After the service, away from the church, it still goes on, "kissing up to Driscoll" , never a critical word, never a doubt or a question. This sounds a lot like Community Chapel, a sad tale, which was over with before the Mars Hill babies were born.


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The Right of Private Judgment & Totalitarian Mega Churches

In the mid '70s I heard Peter Toon a church historian form the UK give a lecture series on The Right of Private Judgment and the Reformation. Toon focused on the rights and responsibilities of private judgment. What some people are calling the "New Calvinism" has a deeply ironic twist in that it is being promoted by Papal Pastors at totalitarian Mega Churches where the right of private judgment has been taken away. The head pastor has replaced the Pope and his interpretation of the scriptures has been put above criticism. Anyone who dares to openly question his teaching is ostracized or removed from membership.

Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle is a case in point. Driscoll's exegesis is generally pretty loose. He assumes that his audience is too ignorant to see this. He supports his questionable teachings on sexual ethics, marriage & family, gender roles, and many other popular themes with highly dubious exegetical tactics. He would be blasted out of the room if he presented these readings in a scholarly forum. But at Mars Hill Church his teaching is above criticism. If you are a member of HIS church you do not question HIS teaching.

This is a very common scenario at mega churches. These fellows are not capable of dealing with dissent. When they step into the pulpit they are infallible. They may not claim this in so many words but their policy of repressing dissent carries a subtext of infallibility.


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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who Does Mark Driscoll Hate the Most?

Who Does Mark Driscoll Hate the Most?

Why do I want to push the stop button when I am listening to a web cast of Driscoll preaching? Well, quite frankly, I get the felling that I am being attacked by someone who hates people like me. I don't get it. I am not gay. I am not fat. I don't vote democrat (or republican). I don't have an inferiority complex. I don't do kiddie porn. I never was a 'hippie'. What is it about people like me that Driscoll hates. The answer is simple: The 1960's, the people who were part of the cultural revolution.

When I first met Driscoll he was clerking in a bookstore in Greenwood (North Seattle). I had heard about him. He makes a lot of noise. I knew his father-in-law very well when I was in my teens and 20s but I was long gone when Mark became a regular visitor in that household. When Driscoll came back from college and started doing "street talk" on the radio I would tune in now and then and listen. I noted right away that Driscoll was a generation bigot. He hated 'hippies' with a passion. I suppose this has something to do with growing up blue collar in Seattle which is a northern clone of San Francisco. The war between the hard hats and the flower generation was still in progress when Driscoll was born into the world of hard hats. In the end the hard hats lost the war. The flower children and the neo-pagans took over the culture and nowhere is that more evident than in Seattle. So Driscoll hates what he calls 'hippies' because his people lost the war and now he would like to put the culture back where it was in 1955 and it just isn't going to happen.

Driscoll seems to have adopted the notion that the hard hat world view is somehow connected with Jesus. This is so silly it hardly deserves refutation. Jesus didn't join a union, watch football, drink bud, have a dragon tattooed on his biceps, wasn't a carpenter, didn't have a job, took his disciples away from their jobs ... and generally caused a social disruption where ever he went. Jesus was the antithesis of Mark Driscoll's model of "true manhood".


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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Affirmations and Denials in John's Gospel

Everyone who has ever read a commentary on John's Gospel knows about the "I Am" egw eimi sayings of Jesus. What many people do not see in their translation is that Peter's first and second denials of Jesus (John 18:17,25) the wording used to deny Jesus is the complement of the "I Am" formula. When the girl at door puts the question to Peter in Jn 18:17 Peter says "I Am Not" ouk eimi. R.E. Brown in the Anchor Bible mentions this and cites some other works which discuss it.

Jesus and John the Baptist also use the ouk eimi formula for denials. When John the Baptist is being questioned about his identity he uses the expression to deny that he is the Messiah. Jesus uses it to deny that he is "from this world" Jn 17:14, 16. He also uses a similar expression when Pilate asks him if he is a king, Jesus replies my kingdom is ouk estin ek tou kosmou "not from/of this world". More on this later.


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Friday, April 10, 2009

Mark Driscoll and the New Fascism

I listened to the first five minutes of the sermon Marriage and Men starting with the opening prayer and Mark Driscoll wasn't even half finished with the prayer before I was already thinking of Mussolini. I did a google on Mark Driscoll and fascism found out that I am not alone. What really blows my mind is the friends of mine who were on the extream left of the evnagelical movment about forty years ago are now falling down and worshiping Mark Driscoll. Reminds me of Rinocerous by Ionesco.

I have been keeping an ear tuned to Mark Driscoll since he first went on the radio in Seattle in the early '90s. I now see something like a neo-pagan fertility cult packaged in an authoritarian rhetoric which would make Joseph Goebbels sit up and listen. This fellow Mark Driscoll isn't just a pastor at Mars Church in Seattle, he is the leader of an international movement. Driscoll isn't "nibbling at the edges of stale ideas" he has consumed and digested the rotten beast tusk and all.


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Monday, April 06, 2009

Samuel Beckett

Samuel Barclay Beckett (13 April 1906 – 22 December 1989)

Forty years ago, I was kicking around the dorm at SPU one Friday night and picked up a little paperback book I found laying around in my neighbor's room, it had a black and white picture on the cover and a strange title. Took a look at the first page decided to take it somewhere quiet and read it. I walked down the hill to the loop and notice the SUB was more or less empty so I went in and read the book cover to cover in one sitting. It was Samuel Beckett's most famous play.

A few weeks later during Christmas break, I went to the Seattle library and walked off with two arm loads full of Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, ... It was something like a religious conversion. I started reading anarchist poetry in my early teens, my favorite book in the bible was Qoheleth, I read Sophocles in high school, and now I had discovered modern drama.

I was amazed to discover that last fall, a theater company in Seattle had produced a whole series of plays by Beckett. How could anyone in this era be interested in "the last modernist"?


Friday, April 03, 2009

Blasphemy: Naming the Name

In Leviticus 24:10-16 we see a case where a man of mixed heritage commits a capital crime by naming the name and cursing. As always, there are disputes about what exactly this text means, but one thing seems clear, the crime committed involved dishonoring HaShem (The Name).

This is at the heart of the issue involving pastoral discourse at Mars Hill Church. Phil Johnson focused on language and topics that he considers unfit for pulpit ministry. But Mark Driscoll's regular habit of invoking HaShem Yeshua in the context of disparaging off color, lewd, sexually loaded language, aimed at belittling other peoples faith in Yeshua, is an egregious violation of the principle in laid out Ex 22:27 MT (English Ex 22:28).


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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Blasphamy: What is it?

Phil Johnson has accused Mark Driscoll of blasphamy, see Pork Roast


What sort of act/speech is being prohibited in Ex 22:27. Cassuto "this admonition includes every utterance or act which detracts from the divine glory..." in other words any speech or act that dishonors God, which is a much broader prohibition than saying you must not "curse God". If we go with the broader reading any speech which would treat God in a disrespectful way would fall under this commandment.

In Ex. 22:27 the LXX renders the piel form tqll as kakologhseis were as Symaccus renders it atimaseis. Cassuto appears to be in agreement with Symaccus, reading tqll as the antonym of kbd, which would be comperable to atimaw and timaw in Koine.

In Philo and Josephus we find a new element being added to this definition. Playing off the plural form theous (gods) used in the LXX, they understand this prohibition to include the gods of the gentile (pagan) world.

"Our legislator has expressly forbidden us to laugh at and blaspheme those that are esteemed gods by other people, because the name of God is ascribed to them." Josephus Ag Apin 2.237. See also Philo, Life of Moses 2:166, Questions and Answers on Exodus 2.5.

This reading has direct application to Mark Driscoll's speech acts which include the name of Jesus where he is casting disparagement on other people's christology. In other words, even if you are making fun in a crude way of what you consider to be a false understanding of who Jesus was, to perform a speech act which can be interpreted by others as dishonoring Jesus is blasphemy.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Pork Roast

Phil Johnson's March 6. 2009 discussion of the Mark Driscoll phenomenon is worth hearing. Here it is Pornification of the Pulpit [The introduction by Mack Arthur and greetings are a waste of time so fast forward about a quarter of an inch to the substance. Ditto with the follow up interview.]

The follow up discussion with Phil Johnson is here: interview with Phil Johnson.

NOTE: The only safe way to cook pork is well done, so be sure to listen all the way to the end of the message.