Driscoll and McLaren and the Six Degrees of Separation from Matthew Fox

The blogosphere is a weird place. And the conversation of the week concerned Uncle Brian McLaren’s posts on dealing with the issue of homosexuality in the church and Brother Mark’s rude and clumsy entrance to the blogosphere.

Lost

Here’s a couple of weird and interesting juxtopositions that have occurred over the past few days:

1. The often foul-mouthed, uncouth, and rude Australians (i lived among them once) claimed that Mark Driscoll’s comments were “offensive and depreciating” (Andrew Hamilton on JC) and the dry-witted tabloid-loving English told dear Mr Driscoll off harshly for ranting and using sarcasm. Now maybe its just me who sees something weird going on here?

2. Mark Driscoll posts a gentle apology and Brian McLaren posts a clear, concise answer about his beliefs. Who would have thought???

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3. Brian McLaren is submitting a paper to the conservative Criswell Theological Review and Mark Driscoll’s church (Mars Hill) is showing a film on Feb 10 about Lonnie Frisbee, the Jesus Movement prophet and evangelist, who died of AIDS and found himself conveniently erased from church history because of his struggle with homosexuality.

BTW – the films director, David Di Sabatino will be at the event. He is widely considered to be the leading historian of the Jesus movement in the 60’s and 70’s. I have mentioned this film before here and here and David has told me he is interested in showing it in Europe. Greenbelt???

4. Last Sunday, Reformed Pastor Mark Driscoll successfully refuted the reformed doctrine of ‘Theology of Glory’ from the pulpit (a ‘Theology of the Cross’ was his worthy update) while yours truly, Recovering-Backslidden-Refomed missionary Andrew Jones enjoyed reading Banner of Truth’s “The Sovereignty of God” by A.W. Pink while in search of the Reformed contribution to global missiology.

No don’t worry. I wont resort to any Schaefferian extreme and I DON’T believe you can win Europe for Christ by pulling your socks up around your neck.

Note to self – Write a book on reformed missiology for Europe entitled “How High Shall We Then Raise Our Socks?”

Anyway, the subject is interesting. I have chatted to both guys on email this weekend and I can tell you that they are still good friends and will continue to respect each other. But they are VERY different from each other. They both mirror disparate characteristics of emerging culture, particularly as found in video gaming culture

Mark Driscoll is the spontaneous, inituitive gamer who jumps guns blazing into a scene that he knows nothing about. But he is pressing all the buttons on his joystick at the same time and, like my son who masters video games in the same intuitive manner, very quickly finds his way around by the response he gets – either negative or positive. Hey – if you don’t know how it works, just shoot everything in sight and see where the penalties come from! After a while you figure it out.

Brian McLaren displays the other positive gamer characteristic which is the capacity to suspend completion of a game and endure mind-boggling lengths of time before arriving at the end. Some gamers have been working on Myst and Riven for nearly ten years and are still enjoying the discovery of the journey. They don’t want to CHEAT and arrive early in case they miss essential things on the way. Brian could easily cancel the tension by coming out with his own statements of what he believes, but he doesn’t want to rob people of the rich discovery process or the need for people to wrestle with deeper issues and arrive at a place themselves. Take his books – we still don’t know where he is going to end up.

Both men are disappointments. Brian McLaren is the worlds worst liberal – He may smile like a liberal and he certainly has the tone of voice of a liberal, he may even aspire to become a liberal to reach liberals but he frustrates his critics by not claiming to be a liberal nor holding liberal beliefs. He certainly reads their books and listens respectfully to their arguments – as we all should do – but at the end of the day, he is not a liberal and he certainly is not a pan-entheist. Many of his critics (who are many) solve this problem with a guilt-by-association game, which could be called “Six Degrees of Separation From Matthew Fox”, which is interesting but not always convincing. Because when Brian eventually comes to what he is trying to say, there is scant real evidence to back up the claims that he is heretical.

Same thing happened to us in London when we went to the Evangelical Alliance’s grilling of Steve Chalke, now known as Chalke-gate. It was a fun night out, and thought provoking, but we left with our stones still in our pockets.

Mark Driscoll is also disappointing as a radical. His emerging church has an unexpectedly traditional structure. And, moreover, his angst-ridden antics on stage (and now the blogs) attract those looking for blood but it turns out that he is actually a big softy and a loving pastor and friend – a nice guy who enjoys riveting, extreme conversation bordering on the violent.

Rude? Yes.

Spiteful? No!

Up to something? Probably, but love believes the best.

So I am hoping that through all of this, we can appreciate each others differences and grow up a little more together into one body. Maybe we will even learn to like each other’s weirdnesses.

Related: The Grilling of Brian

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Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

30 Comments

  • Good stuff and good perspective, Andrew…
    You rock, man… 🙂
    And now Mark will probably jump start the whole video venue debate with his latest?

  • I wish evangelicals were as rabid about racism and poverty as they are over the homosexual issue. But I guess that would take some of us out of our comfort zones.
    Should a racist and social darwinist be allowed to pastor a church? be a member of a church? partake of Eucharist?
    Because these issues don’t get as much attention as the homosexual issue I wonder if what is driving this is homophobia or a serious passion for truth and justice? One wonders…

  • Hi Andrew,
    You say: “Brian McLaren posts a clear, concise answer about his beliefs,” but the link is just to the main “Out of Ur” blog URL. Did you just mean his “Part 4: McLaren’s Response” posting, or was there something more clear and concise somewhere?
    Thanks!

  • Hi Andrew,
    You said that MD is hosting a film about “Lonnie Frisbee, the Jesus Movement prophet and evangelist, who died of AIDS and found himself conveniently erased from church history because of his STRUGGLE with homosexuality.”
    Curious. Is it a STRUGGLE with homosexuality? Or was it a STRUGGLE with the ultra conservative church’s stance? I wonder how MD will present his views?
    I’ve read about the guy. It sounds like his STRUGGLE wasn’t with homosexuality.
    His STRUGGLE was to be who he was and as he was created, but his church wouldn’t allow him to be fully human.
    The STRUGGLE wasn’t homosexuality; the STRUGGLE was love, acceptance, and compassion. (IMO)

  • thanks rick
    good question: did he struggle?
    David Di Sabatino says yes:
    “Lonnie is not the poster child for gay Christianity. That would be a horrific thing to do to his memory. Voltaire said history is playing a pack of dirty tricks on the dead—turning Lonnie into a “gay preacher” would be a horrible thing to do to him. But neither is he this kind of Damascus-Road, I-once-was-gay-and-turned-away-from-this-lifestyle guy. He struggled.”
    Link to quote here on Christianity Today”
    Have you read otherwise?

  • Ooops! One other thing…
    I’m wondering why Driscoll doesn’t show a movie like CRASH and then dialogue about our prejudices of those who are different? How our prejudices hurt, wound, and crucify Christ and humanity.

  • Thanks for your response, Andrew.
    By the little bit I read, Lonnie WAS a GAY preacher or perhaps better said, he was a preacher, prophet and follower of Jesus Christ who just so happened to be gay.

  • Thanks Andrew .. you always have a way of lifting us out to see a wider perspective. 🙂 I think you are playing an important role by helping us see things broader especially when we might be tempted to not just miss the point on the issues, but also the contexts which the issues are discussed in, and the manner (as well as the personalities) that engage the issues at hand.

  • “Six degrees of separation from Matthew Fox,” ha!
    Just out of curiosity, what is your understanding of panentheism? It need not be non-conservative and/or noxious to orthodoxy.
    The church’s mystics throughout the ages have long had an intuitive sense that God was not some distant Deity watching from afar; God in Christ is imminent, indwelling those who trust Him and even in some way interpenetrating all matter and reality– “in Him we live, move and have our being;” Paul approvingly quotes the pagan poet. God is “all, and in all.”
    Missionary biographer Norman Grubb even explicitly identified this look at God’s intimate presence in all reality as “panentheism,” or “God in all things.” This need not be confused with pantheism, which says the cosmos=God. Rather its the Cosmos are in God; God’s transcendence comes out intact, and even enhanced through the beauty of the panentheist vision. Monotheism is magnified, and God is praised.
    I’ve always thought of George Fox as promoting garden-variety pantheism, whatever he happens to call it.
    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a Planetary Mass to attend.

  • Hey Andrew. I’m curious why you’d call Mark’s response a “gentle apology” — it seems to me that he’s eager to entrapt Brian and avoid the issue McLaren raised in the post. It also seems like Driscoll wants to emphasize the us/them, by forcing Brian to answer — taking him (Brian) down to a level of negativity.
    I’m just confused on why it’s SO important that we all know, one way or another, where Brian (or anyone) stands on this issue.
    Isn’t it far more important to treat people with the respect and love that is deserved them — before castigating them out because of who they are, or what they believe (in terms of the rightness/wrongness of homosexuality)?
    I’m with Anthony, above, who wishes we’d focus more on the greater social issues of poverty and racism — rather than getting so bend out of shape over these few verses.

  • I think McLaren’s response rises above a pluralist or agnostic embrace on this controversial issue. It appears to me, his pursuit is a pursuit of respect.

  • ahh…
    a foul mouthed, uncouth Australian is sitting here trying to think of something suitably offensive to say that will get thru spam filters, raise a laugh and keep a friendship intact.
    reality: its 7.15am, play school is on TV in the background and its my little girls first day of school and I am finding it hard to focus.
    so my ability to string together thirty 4 letter words into a coherent sentence is a bit limited at the moment!
    md still sounds like a wanker to me, but then again I’d probably like the fella if i ever meet him. maybe he’d even be a good aussie…
    our mutual friend gw offered a similar explanation to yours when we had dinner last friday night.
    have a good one mate. i am off to pre-school!
    (BTW – funny thing is i was more pissed at the eds of CT who edited the original post and then offered some spon doctor reason for it.)

  • Hey, Luther called a Catholic guy an “arch whore” and some other preacher said:
    “Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. YOU SERPENTS, YOU BROOD OF VIPERS, how are you going to escape being sentenced to hell?”
    This is more aggressive than Mark Driscoll’s humorous rudeness.
    (No, I am not trying to condone unkindness or spite – I don’t think that was Driscoll’s aim)

  • Here’s a post you will not see in the McLaren-Driscoll conversation.
    It has been submitted to the Christianity Today blog….but you’ll never get to read it.
    “It’s interesting to see who’s really hypocritical in this whole conversation.
    The true hypocrites are the moderators of this blog.
    They allowed through any number of malicious comments about gay people…in the guise of Christians…’standing on the bible’ (which they don’t ..because pride is an abomination too in proverbs 16:5….but THAT kind of abomination is actually ‘Godly’ in Christian circles)..but as soon as Mark Driscoll is described as a ‘wanker’ which he is….they suddenly get all judicious and concerned.
    The editors of Christianity Today are the same whitewashed tombs full of dead mens’ bones as the Pharisees who now dominate the American church.
    It’s not a fair discussion.”
    Lance.

  • i am with becky, andrew. how can you honestly call MD’s comment a “gentle apology”? he even backs up his tone as being “biblical” and therefore renders his apology totally empty. if his tone was “biblical” then he’s ok in using it. therefore he shouldn’t have to apologize to brian or doug, correct? but he apologizes anyway but not to really show remorse. rather he uses this hallow apology to continue to badger brian on his “official stance”. do you honestly think this is progress in the conversation?
    i’m just blown away at so many people who’ve displayed such sound wisdom on a regular basis (such as yourself) who have sat on their hands with little to say about MD’s accusation of Doug Pagitt. I guess you may have to wait until driscoll starts publicly suggesting that you like to have sex with animals before it really hits close to home.

  • Good morning everyone.
    Heres a mixture of answers.
    – Mark’s gentle apology. Did you read it in the comments?
    “I would like to simply ask your forgiveness if your have been wounded and get to the point of all this controversy. People like me who have known you, followed you, and learned from you for many years would simply like to know the bottom line for you personally with all of the other issues set aside for the time being.”
    Hamo – both are probaby true – md might indeed be a wanker and yes, i think you would like him. thanks for taking a joke and allowing me to get stereotypical about aussies – many of whom are not uncouth (i know one or two that are not – my mother is one of them)
    Brian’s concise statement – anytime you get Brian to complete his thought in the same year is, to me, concise.
    Pantheism – I have read a number of Matthew Fox’s books, including his autobiography. I agree with his critique of the evangelical church as not having a strong cosmology (things are improving) but disagree with his pantheistic (God in all things) view that says God and his creation are not seperable. I am a theist who beleives God the Creator is involved in his creation, delightfully so, but that He remains ‘other’ and distinct from what he has created.
    Christianity Today is a very conservative organization (its founders include Billy Graham) and they are taking a bold step to allow interaction on this level. I criticized their previous “blog” which i felt was a collection of articles and no allowance for interaction. now that they are doing it right, and taking a risk, I want to strongly support and encourage them.
    If they want to take out a reference to bestiality because they dont want their readers first experience with a blog to be highly offensive, nor do they want bestiality to be the first conversation their readers experience on a blog, then i understand their censorship.
    easy for us to allow offensive words and concepts on our blogs – they are just journals and conversations. we dont have as much to lost as CT or Leadership Journal.
    Welcome to February, everyone! Shalom.

  • Hey Andrew, I’m sorry for beating this poor horse again, but the gentle apology you’ve quoted of MD is only a PART of it. Again, like his earlier post, he’s got a disclaimer before his apology, which in my eyes — completely nullifies what he’s saying.
    Anyway, shalom back to you. I’ll leave that poor horse alone now. 🙂

  • The crux of the issue is that emergent types have been correctly called to task for their embracing of an epistemology of doubt and uncertainty. McLaren’s inability or refusal to answer the question directly only proves the point. Both feet are planted firmly in mid-air, as the saying goes.
    True biblical humility recognizes that Reality can be known and that it is revealed to us in Scripture as what Schaeffer called “true Truth”. We can have certainty in what God has said on this issue. That McLaren apparently does not is extremely troubling.

  • Lance nailed it! CT who printed this crap in the first place is the main problem. Like Lance said they acted as gatekeepers not aloowing posts that called them on the carpet.
    Why do folks bother to read their crap. Is this the idea of leadership they support and endorse?
    Boycott Christianity Today.

  • With all the uproar over Driscoll’s rudeness, coupled with McLaren’s prophetic utterance against sarcasm, scorn, mockery,, insults and name-calling (all of which was based on his understanding of Ephesians 4 and 2 Timothy 2), I think a moratorium is in order on making pronouncements on the issue for at least five years. If by then we have “clarity” on this issue, we can act accordingly. If not, we’ll set another five years for ongoing reflection. During that time we will wrestle with the issues many of you have brought up in your postings, but we will not pronounce such action to be sin. Maybe you believe that all such scorn is wrong at all times. Or perhaps you believe that there are some contexts in which mockery can take place in a healthy way. Either way, can’t we just agree to the ongoing struggle?
    I do hope the above reflects clearly how absurd I feel this whole conversation is. Assuming he meant it as an insult, Mark was wrong to forward his views in this way, but his views are Biblical. Brian, as a PASTOR who has the awesome and solemn responsibility of teaching the Word of God to his congregation, has shirked the clear teaching of the Biblical text regarding homosexuality, and as such, is not preaching the Word accurately. Brian’s concerns about the particular’s of how to “flesh out” how the church faces homosexual behavior are legitimate, but they need not be coupled with uncertainty where Scripture is clear. Strange to me that as I have read the posts here, I see enormous criticism of Mark, but little if any of Brian.

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