Janie B. Cheaney, in her World Magazine post “How to lose an argument” seems to have just discovered that Mark Driscoll is a “lightning rod.” This is a surprise to her because in her mind Driscoll’s focus has always been on spreading the gospel.
She links to my piece on Driscoll’s dismissal of careful exegesis of controversial texts, labeling it as “rather creative.” Is that doublespeak for “deliberately manipulative”? It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of taking Driscoll’s words out of context, but I have yet to see someone explain exactly how I did so. The most substantive argument against my criticisms has been similar to the one Cheaney employs: that Driscoll is preaching the gospel so we should simply ignore his verbal faux pas.
Cheaney says we should focus on what Driscoll was focusing on in that sermon: Christ’s love. That by singling out his highly problematic hermeneutic I’m choosing to “leave Jesus out of it, and argue from the platform of social mores.” But that’s precisely the problem. Driscoll doesn’t talk about Christ’s love in an abstract way, he interprets it and applies it in what is, at the very least, a very particular manner directed toward a very particular conclusion that has direct implications for “social mores.”
To lead in to his discussion of egalitarianism, Driscoll frames the controversy not in terms of the diversity of Christian belief and the need for charity, understanding and love. No, instead he sets it up in terms of the disagreements on gender roles between Christians and non-Christians. For in Discroll’s binary world, there are but two options: accept the “biblical” understanding of Genesis 1.27 or accept “the culture’s.” If you come to a different conclusion than Driscoll when it comes to gender roles, it’s not simply because you’ve understood the text differently…it’s because you’re not really a Christian. You’re not thinking like God, you’re not “washed” in Scripture, you’re on the outside looking in:
See, the Bible says, Genesis 1:27, “God made us male and female.” The culture does not teach that we have sexual identity, male and female, but that God made us as persons, and then we get to construct gender. We get to decide if we’re male or female. We get to live out of whatever identity we choose for ourselves.
And the result is, it affects how we see gender roles, it affects how we see marriage roles, it affects how we see sexual roles. It affects everything. And this is because Christians and non-Christians don’t come to different conclusions. It’s deeper than that. They have different minds. The non-Christian mind does not think as God thinks. The Christian mind that is washed in the Scriptures and informed by the Scriptures, thinks as God thinks. So, they think differently, so they come to different conclusions.
Cheaney reaffirms this point: “in a discussion with unbelievers it’s not our conclusion that matters as much as our premise … ‘wives, submit’ is not a separate principle but an exercise of the gospel itself.” She’s saying that the drastic divide between egalitarians and complementarians isn’t simply due to differing understandings of the biblical text, it’s due to a failure to “exercise” and understand the very gospel itself. The reason egalitarians have gone astray is due to their failure to recognize, understand and apply Christ’s love.
Disagree with that conclusion? Cheaney has a response for you: Jesus “cares more about winning souls than winning arguments, and so should we.” That’s right, first, egalitarianism is a rejection of the gospel, second, if you want to debate the issue you’re not following Jesus’ example!
Cheaney concludes that there’s no need for change within the church because “Jesus already changed everything,” and that the church will always live as long as we’re true to him despite the “truthless time” we live in. But a recognition of what Jesus accomplished and continues to accomplish through the church doesn’t abrogate the need for self-examination and critical evaluation of where we are and where we need to go. Ecclesia semper reformanda est doesn’t mean we should arbitrarily toss doctrine and tradition out the window, but it’s an important principle that should undergird the continued mission of the church.
Let me leave you with this story:
The sixteenth century Spanish historian and priest Bartolomé de Las Casas describes the genocide inflicted by the conquistadors upon the native peoples of Haiti and Cuba:
And the Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against them. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing them and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughter house. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword, could split a man in two or could cut off his head or spill out his entrails with a single stroke of the pike. They took infants from their mothers’ breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags or snatched them by the arms and threw them into the rivers, roaring with laughter and saying as the babies fell into the water, “Boil there, you offspring of the devil!” Other infants they put to the sword along with their mothers and anyone else who happened to be nearby. They made some low wide gallows on which the hanged victim’s feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive.
Amidst these atrocities, a tribal chief (cacique) named Hatuey was captured by the Franciscans and presented with this offer:
When tied to the stake, the cacique Hatuey was told by a Franciscan friar who was present, an artless rascal, something about the God of the Christians and of the articles of the Faith. And he was told what he could do in the brief time that remained to him, in order to be saved an go to Heaven. The cacique, who had never heard any of this before, and was told he would go to Inferno where, if he did not adopt the Christian Faith, he would suffer eternal torment, asked the Franciscan friar if Christians all went to Heaven. When told that they did he said he would prefer to go to Hell. Such is the fame and honor that God and our Faith have earned through the Christians who have gone out to the Indies.
Before you take offense to my inclusion of this story, let me remind you: Jesus “cares more about winning souls than winning arguments, and so should we.”
Before you complain that comparing genocide to complementarianism is unfair, let me remind you: all Christians (including Franciscan friars) “have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2.16b).
Before you say that genocide and murder are wrong, let me remind you: you’ve “left Jesus out of it” and are choosing to “argue from the platform of social mores.”
Before you say that the Church has changed and put that sordid past behind us, let me remind you: there’s no need to change, “Jesus already changed everything.” As long as the church “is true to Him she will live and flourish eternally.”
It’s all well and good to say that we should focus on Jesus, but when that “focus” ends up marginalizing, suppressing, hurting, and in some cases killing people, it’s time to drastically reassess our understanding of the gospel.