06 February 2013

Driscoll, Osteen and Those Things That Are Worse Than Being Happy and Encouraging

*This article originally appeared here at Christian Research Network. 

A brief interview published last week between Mark Driscoll and The Gospel Coalition's (TGC) associate editor, Matt Smethurst, appeared to go unnoticed by many. That is, until The Christian Post (CP) mentioned it today in an article that primarily seems to discuss a 2007 sermon of Driscoll's wherein he references the smiling prosperity preacher. While the CP article reminds of some interesting points, it seems more prudent for Christians to examine what was said in this recent TGC interview.

Driscoll was asked by Smethurst,
You observe that "appreciated people" exchange grumbling for praying, competing for celebrating, bitterness for thankfulness, performing for serving, and boasting for encouraging. What's an "appreciated person"? Isn't that what Joel Osteen wants me to be? (Source)
The pertinent portion of Driscoll's response does not answer this question, but does raise some new ones:
I am aware of the theological differences that exist between our tribe and Pastor Joel. I also know my Reformed brothers like to treat Pastor Joel like a piñata, but there are worse things than being happy and encouraging at a time when the most common prescription medications are antidepressants. A few guys in our tribe could learn to talk about something other than painful, arduous suffering once and a while—if nothing else than for the sake of variety. Our identity is not in our joy, and our identity is not in our suffering. Our identity is in Christ, whether we have joy or are suffering. (Source)
This response warrants closer examination. For ease, it may help to work backwards through Driscoll's comments:
Our identity is not in our joy, and our identity is not in our suffering. Our identity is in Christ, whether we have joy or are suffering.
What Christian would not agree with this statement? Indeed, the identity of the redeemed lies in Christ, not in one's situation. The Christian has been crucified with Christ, and now walks in newness of life through Him (Gal. 2:20).
A few guys in our tribe could learn to talk about something other than painful, arduous suffering once and a while—if nothing else than for the sake of variety.
Mark Driscoll's "tribe" presumably is the young, restless and reformed (YRR) crowd. Nevertheless, even if one does not consider himself to be a part of the YRR, this again is a statement that most Christians would affirm. Yes, the Christian life should be preached truthfully. To live for Christ is to bear one's cross and surrender all before Christ in total submission and obedience to Him (Matt. 10:38, 16:24–25; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23–24). Yet, for the Christian, this is done with great joy and gladness. Paul's letter to the Philippians is a marvelous teaching on the believer's joy in the midst of trials (Phil. 1:18–21, 3:1, 4:4).
I am aware of the theological differences that exist between our tribe and Pastor Joel. I also know my Reformed brothers like to treat Pastor Joel like a piñata, but there are worse things than being happy and encouraging at a time when the most common prescription medications are antidepressants.
One would hope that there would be a great many theological differences between a "tribe" that claims to believe Reformed theology and Joel Osteen, whose sermons usually consist of unamusing anecdotes and the twisting of partial verses of Scripture.

Mark Driscoll most certainly is right when he says that "there are worse things than being happy and encouraging." Yes, Pastor Mark, there are far worse things than going through life with a constant, glowing smile on one's face. One particular "worse thing" that comes to mind in this context is the preaching of a false and damning gospel. Joel Osteen has yet to be heard to boldly, clearly and accurately proclaim the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. "Happy and encouraging" is nice, but it cannot save a soul.

Said Tim Challies in his article, "Smilingly Leading You to Hell,"
Christians can be nice, but so too can unbelievers. The Holy Spirit may help us be nice, but niceness is not necessarily proof that we are living in the Spirit and by the Spirit. Some of the most evil people are also the nicest people.... 
Is there anyone nicer than Joel Osteen? Yet is there anyone whose message has less of the gospel and more anti-biblical nonsense? You can watch him in this video, sitting with Oprah, receiving accolades, nicely, smilingly leading an eager crowd farther and farther from the cross. He is nice, but he, too, will nice you straight to the gates of hell, flashing that brilliant smile all the while. 
(Source)
While Mark Driscoll has not extended an outright endorsement of Joel Osteen, his words offer just enough latitude to lead some spiritually immature members of his "tribe" down a dangerous road. This brings to mind another "worse thing," and that is the failure of a shepherd to protect the flock.
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28–30)

Further Reading
Halftime and the Renewed Mind
Women Elders: the World vs. the Word
Rick Warren: "We Must Build Bridges of Friendship and Love" So Jesus Can Walk Across

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for that last verse - I had forgotten about that one. Apparently in his efforts to not take shots at others in the "Christian" camp (as he has said before), he also has forgotten that passage.

    Or, much more troubling (and more likely, I'm afraid), he has forgotten passages advising us that we know people by their fruits.

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  2. What is this "tribe" category all about? I don't get that. Is this like cowboys vs. Indians??? What does he mean?

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  3. Re: tribe terminology
    I think this stems from the Driscolese he's developed over time. It's rather sophisticated, if by sophisticated you mean obfuscating drivel that just aids and abets the false unity of the Elephant Room kind. Some related terms he uses (coined?) are "national and state borders" to differentiate between primary and secondary issues.

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  4. Thank you for covering this, Erin. I'm disappointed in Driscoll of course - it's tragically unbecoming of a preacher of the Gospel - but I'm not altogether surprised. Pragmatists must be willing to gain cred with other pragmatists in order to 'enlarge their borders' (to borrow the Jabezism of yesteryear).

    I especially appreciate the quote from Challies:
    Christians can be nice, but so too can unbelievers....He is nice, but he, too, will nice you straight to the gates of hell
    It's like the video that's making its rounds recently, showing a chain of kindness, one person's kind action leading to another's acting kind to the next person on the street, etc. What's wrong with that? This video would be readily accepted by a Muslim, Jew and Mormon. We all like nice people, but if they are unregenerate they stand condemned to eternal judgment. A distinctly Christian message is one that necessarily includes the Gospel.

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  5. Mark Driscoll is just plain smarmy. I can't believe he is regarded as a pastor. No dignity. I would like to see John MacArthur give him a good talking to.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous, you're in luck. Dr. MacArthur did address several of the issues of Mark Driscoll's preaching and his style, though not directly about this current issue. He took issue with Driscoll by name regarding his profane language at the pulpit and the wider issue he's enabled regarding the devaluation of the pulpit, in the essay called 'Grunge Christianity', here
      http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/a172

      Dr MacArthur took issue with Driscoll in a multi-part series directly sparked by the terrible sermon Driscoll preached in Scotland, the series is called The Rape of Solomon's Song, saying, "Mark Driscoll has boldly led the parade down this carnal path". That series beginning with part 1 is here
      http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A396/the-rape-of-solomons-song-part-1

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    2. Thank you, Elizabeth! Any chance you know of a resource where Dr. MacArthur addresses The Elephant Room or the issues associated with James MacDonald?

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