(For you non-geeks out there, “!=” means “does not equal”. We now return you to normalcy.)
Please hang on with me on this. This may, at first, come across as simply an apologetic for Mark Driscoll. But I’m merely using him as an example — that we recently cited, no less — for a much broader point that I’ll get to.
In Tim’s recent plug for Mark’s message on the first part of Philippians 3, one commenter jokingly said:
That’s the first Driscoll sermon I have heard, and there was a disappointing lack of potty language and emerging concepts. Not like what I was told by ODM’s. I liked it.
A couple follow-up comments were made stating (accurately) that Driscoll has distanced himself from the EC, but doesn’t toss the whole thing out the window.
If I may paraphrase Barbara Mandrell and George Jones, Mark was emergent when emergent wasn’t cool.
He was in the movement back before chunks of it developed some of the beliefs with which he is in disagreement. Because of this, he had the advantage of seeing that there are aspects of the movement with which he does still agree. And so his later distancing himself was not a wholesale “baby with the bathwater” thing. He hung on to the parts that he still agreed with, and maintains friendships with those with whom he theologically disagrees.
Many today don’t have that advantage. And, to be honest, it’s human nature that if the first thing you hear from an ECer is something with which you strongly disagree, you may ignore him completely thereafter.
Note that I said it’s “human nature” — I didn’t say it was “right”.
This is, unfortunately, how many Christians operate. They equate being in non-agreement with something to being its enemy; sometimes, even when the stuff that they don’t agree with is non-essential. (And, no, I’m not getting sucked into an argument over the definition of “essential”.)
I have to count myself among the “many Christians”, as I know that I am sometimes guilty of the same thing. Whether it’s Steve Camp telling us that Driscoll is lying when he says that he wants to pursue humility or John MacArthur unequivocally telling us that Doug Pagitt is going to hell, my tendency is to ignore (or severely discount) anything else that comes from the mouth, pen, or keyboard of these men.
And even from a pragmatic standpoint, that’s wrong. Steve was a great songwriter (I’m not familiar with his current work, or I might say “is”). And when he’s concentrating on exposition, there are very few that hold a candle to the vast majority of MacArthur’s teachings.
But let’s delve even deeper. Scripture is loaded with examples of God using the most unlikely of vessels. And lest we think that we are reading too much into that, 1 Corinthians 1:27-29" href="http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%201:27-29;&version=50;" target="_blank">Paul tells us explicitly:
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
We see, then, that it’s not just the great songwriter or the solid teacher through which God speaks. So, I would caution us not to shut out someone with whom we disagree, because what we are doing when we do that is bordering on blasphemous — as we tell God that He is incapable of speaking truth to us through anyone that He pleases.
God is not simply truthful — He is Truth. So when truth is spoken, He is in the midst of it. Now this is not an argument for a “divine spark in everyone” or pantheism. There is (obviously) a great distance — in logic, if not solely by definition — between omnipresence and pantheism. So if we shut out someone who is speaking the truth, we are really shutting out God.
That’s not something that I think we really want to do.