Around the Interweb (02/07)

Preacher-Idolatry and the Promise of “All Things”

From David Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan:

What do you do if people start idolizing you or your preaching? “I wouldn’t mind some of that!” you retort. Well, okay, maybe it won’t happen to many of us on a large scale. And most of us have the opposite problem. But, if even one person starts to “follow” you or your sermons excessively (and that can happen in the smallest of congregations), how should you respond?

The Apostle Paul’s answer to preacher-idolatry was, “All things are yours” (1 Cor. 3:21). I was first stunned by this verse 17 years ago when Don Carson lectured on 1 Corinthians 1-3 at the Free Church College in Edinburgh. It began a revolution in my worldview that continues to expand and develop to this day. All things are mine! It’s almost unbelievable, isn’t it? I think Paul knew that too. That’s why in the next verse he expands and underlines it. “Whether Paul or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours.” No wriggle room there is there. He covers everything. But why does Paul introduce this huge truth here? He is primarily addressing the Corinthian problem of idolizing preachers…

Read the whole article.

In other news

This month’s free book at ChristianAudio.com: Religions Saves by Mark Driscoll. Use the download code FEB2010 when purchasing.

Albert Mohler: Hijacking the Brain — How Pornography Works

Tim Challies: On Endorsements

A video update from Matt Chandler on his ongoing battle with brain cancer

An update from Michael Spencer, the Internet Monk, on his cancer battle. Michael’s income ran out in January and his health insurance runs out this month. If you feel led to help with his ongoing medical expenses, you can donate here.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts

A review of Angels by David Jeremiah

No Gospel, No Purpose – A review of The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton

On Suffering Well and the Wasted Life

Fear the Boom and Bust

Charles Spurgeon on the wretchedness of pride

Religion Saves: For Your Consideration

Religion-Saves-conclusion

Be sure to read parts one, two, and three of
my review of this book’s content.

After roughly 4000 words over three posts examining what I appreciated and what I found lacking in Mark Driscoll’s latest book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, what have I learned?

Three positives:

  1. Overall, this book is truly the most mature of Driscoll’s books to date
  2. Driscoll has a great deal of passion for seeing men and women live a life of holiness—especially living lives of sexual purity, an issue that is particularly prevalent for the members of his church
  3. Driscoll is brilliant at making difficult theology accessible for the average person

Three negatives:

  1. Driscoll, despite his passion for holiness, tends to be a bit too flippant when talking about sexuality at times
  2. His sense of humor gets a bit tired at times
  3. He sometimes tries too hard to prove a point, which can actually distract from his point (as is the case with humor)

Religion-SavesOf the nine chapters in Religion Saves, I felt the strongest were Birth Control, Predestination, Grace and The Emerging Church. The weakest, despite still being quite profitable was Humor. There is enough valuable content in every chapter for anyone who find a great deal of benefit from reading this book. I would particularly recommend this book to any pastor, small group leader and fathers. There’s a great deal of rough terrain that is covered in the book that affects all of our churches from sexual sin and confusion in acceptable dating relationships, and especially the pervasiveness of questionable teaching and false doctrine that is increasingly present within Christian churches.

The one thing you can always be sure on with Mark Driscoll, whether you love him or loathe him, is that he’s going to try to point people to the risen, glorified, Jesus—the King of kings, and Lord of lords. His big issue is that his sense of humor gets in the way sometimes. As Michael Krahn astutely pointed out in his review of Vintage Church, “In one sense, you could say that Driscoll is trying to augment the offense of the Gospel with his own form of offensiveness.” And as Michael rightly says, the gospel requires no such assistance.

You will not find someone who sits idly as false teachers confuse our brothers and sisters in Christ, nor will you find someone who is eager to shoot people simply because he disagrees with them. You will find a man who loves God, loves the Bible and wants to see people meet Jesus.

And I believe there’s a great deal in Religion Saves that will encourage people to grow in their love for Him.

Purchase your copy at Amazon.com or Amazon.ca

Religion Saves: Humor, The Emerging Church, The Regulative Principle

Religion-Saves-humor

893 questions posted. 343,203 votes cast. Nine controversial subjects. The resulting sermons were then reformatted and expanded in the book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, released in June, 2009, through Crossway and RE:Lit.

This post will be dealing with three subjects from the book: Humor, the Emerging Church and the Regulative Principle.

Humor

There are few things about Mark Driscoll more talked about than his sense of humor. He’s got a sharp wit, is quite cutting in his delivery… but sometimes he’s just downright mean. And the question that prompted this chapter is a great one:

Why do you make jokes in sermons about Mormon missionaries, homosexuals, trench coat wearers, single men, vegans, and emo kids, and then expect these groups to come know God through those sermons?

Generally speaking, I appreciate Driscoll’s humor. Most of the time he avoids the edge of completely inappropriate, although there are times when he skirts dangerously close to the edge. As he says in the opening of the chapter, “I am on a mission to both put people in heaven and put the ‘fun’ back in ‘fundamentalism'” (p. 45). This is a noble goal to be sure; we can all stand to laugh at ourselves a little bit. In my younger days, I was a pretentious, trench coat wearing, comic book reading, intellectual snob who used a lot of big words to show off (and divert people’s attention from my insecurities).  I can laugh about that and poke fun a bit. And truly, there are some things that we do that are simply ridiculous and do need to be made fun of.

That said, this chapter is by far the weakest in the book, for a number of reasons. [Read more...]

Religion Saves: Predestination, Grace, and Faith & Works

Religion-Saves-predestination

893 questions posted. 343,203 votes cast. Nine controversial subjects. The resulting sermons were then reformatted and expanded in the book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, released in June, 2009, through Crossway and RE:Lit.

This post will be dealing with three subjects from the book: Predestination, grace, and faith & works.

Predestination

Always a lightning rod for debate is the subject of predestination. Particularly over the past 400 years, the mode and meaning of predestination has been divisive among some Christians. In this chapter, Mark Driscoll shares an overview of the history of the two most prominent positions on predestination, going back to the second century. One is what Driscoll refers to as the two-handed position (synergism); that God reaches out his hand and we choose to reach out in response. As stated in the book, “God does not predestine us, but rather God foreknows who will choose him of their own free will, so in essence God chooses those who choose him” (p. 70). This is the heart of what’s referred to as the Arminian position on salvation (although there’s still more too it). The other position is what he refers to as the one-handed position (monergism): “That everyone is a sinner by nature and choice and therefore fully deserves nothing more than the conscious eternal torment in hell; nevertheless, in pure grace, some wholly undeserving sinners are predestined for heaven and saved by Jesus Christ” (p. 71). This is the heart of what’s commonly called the Calvinist (Reformed) position on salvation.

Digging into the content a little more, I really appreciated the explanation of the concept of prevenient grace, which, as described in the book is grace poured out by God on all mankind kind giving everyone the ability to make a free will choice to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. In essence, it negates the total depravity of man and moves us from being spiritually dead, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:1, to spiritually neutral—a concept, to borrow the words of Millard Erickson as quoted in the book, “appealing though it is in many ways, simply is not taught explicitly in the Bible.” [Read more...]

Religion Saves: Birth Control, Sexual Sin and Dating

Religion-Saves-Birth

893 questions posted. 343,203 votes cast. Nine controversial subjects. The resulting sermons were then reformatted and expanded in the book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, released in June, 2009, through Crossway and RE:Lit.

This post will be dealing with three subjects from the book: Birth control, sexual sin, and dating.

Birth Control

Method or use of birth control is a subject that is almost always sure to bring up a great deal of heated discussion. For Catholics, to use any form of birth control would be unthinkable. At the risk of oversimplifying, it strikes me that many Catholics would believe that to use any method of birth control would actually be an attempt to thwart the sovereign will of God (this is certainly the impression we got from reading some Catholic literature on the subject).

For Protestants, however, there’s a great deal of debate on appropriate methods. In this chapter, Driscoll addresses five types of birth control: None, natural, non-abortive (barrier methods), potentially abortive, and abortive murder.

When reading, I was struck by how, with few exceptions, gently this subject was handled. Because there is a great deal of contention surrounding the various birth control that exist, it is one that requires delicacy. This is not something that Driscoll has historically been known for, but he did very well. [Read more...]

Religion Saves: Why a Week?

Religion-Saves-intro

Inspired by 1 Corinthians, in which the Apostle Paul answers a series of questions posed by the members of the Corinthian church, Pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church in Seattle began the “Ask Anything” campaign on their website. Here, online listeners and church members could pose any question they wanted (subject to moderation for inappropriate content), and readers would then vote for their favorite questions. In the end, 893 questions were asked, 343,203 votes were cast and the top nine questions were selected for the sermon series, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions.

This series, covering birth control, humor, predestination, grace, sexual sin, faith & works, dating, the emerging/emergent church, and the regulative principle (!), also included a new feature: Attendees were permitted to text message in any question they had during the sermon and Driscoll would answer, on the spot and off the cuff.

The resulting sermons were then reformatted and expanded in the book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, released in June, 2009, through Crossway and RE:Lit.

I read this book over the course of several days in August, 2009, not only because I enjoy Driscoll’s teaching and writing, but because I wanted to see if it differed much from the sermon series itself. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was far more in-depth, and many chapters were far more thoughtful than the initial sermons themselves.

I also found that I had so many notes, there was no way I could contain them all in a single post! (In case you’re wondering, I had six pages of notes covering all nine subjects. The only book I’ve ever had more on was The Shack—and no, that’s not an indication of the quality of this book.) In light of this, I am devoting the week to my thoughts on Religion Saves.

When reading, I also noticed there were a few interesting patterns that developed, with several themes being interconnected. And because I enjoyed the interplay which occurred, I’ll be grouping my comments on each section thematically, rather than in order of publication.

Tuesday’s post will feature Birth Control, Sexual Sin and Dating. Wednesday is Predestination, Grace and Faith & Works. Thursday is Humor, the Emerging Church and the Regulative Principle. And Friday will be a wrap up and final thoughts.

In the end, I hope that this week will be enjoyable, grace-filled, thought-provoking, and, ultimately profitable for everyone.

At the very least, I hope it’s not boring for those who stick through it.