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Thursday, April 16, 2009

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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