Okay, It Is Time To Say It!

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As I reflected on the impact of watching what is happening in Ukraine regarding both Zelensky and its people over the past two weeks, I realized how stirring and personally challenging it is in a subtle and probably subconscious way.  It is persuasive and motivational to witness such true moral courage and strength or an individual and of a people!

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The Elephant In the Room: Okay, It Is Time To Say It! — Or At Least Say It Again!

The phrase “The Elephant In the Room” is a metaphor referring to an obvious problem, a significant problem that is being avoided or ignored.  No one wants to acknowledge or discuss it, but it is

So, let’s take the plunge regarding what has not been said concerning the controversies surrounding men such as John Mac Arthur, John Piper, and Mark Driscoll.[1]  They are connected! [2]

While Jonathan Leeman would like to call it “ironic”[4] — that a person like Mark Driscoll, a member of the new Calvinist movement (or the YRR – Young, Restless, & Reformed) would end up as he has — I think not!

It’s not authentic to simply call it “ironic” when in fact, it is all too predictive.

It’s not ironic; it’s all too consistent.

I think that such an evaluation is merely a refusal to address the elephant in the room.  Why do we keep seeing those in the reformed theological camp caught up in controversies involving the abuse of God’s people?  That is the question that again comes to mind — not only regarding Mark Driscoll / May 2021,  but John Mac Arthur / March 8, 2022.

Why does this keep showing up among those who are reformed?

“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river.

We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.”

― Desmond Tutu

The most recent and repulsive case involves John Mac Arthur. He is preceded by John Piper/BBC/BCS, preceded by Mark Driscoll, preceded by Paige Patterson,  preceded by C.J. Mahaney, preceded by . . . . AND those that have defended them along the way!

It might be fairly argued (and not the first time by me) that a theological arrogance accompanies those in the reformed camp — “We are the ones who have the doctrines of grace right!” That, along with the intellectual acumen that is requisite of reformed thinkers, further separates Christian leaders and pastors from the person in the pew. “They just don’t understand God, His Word, and the truths of penal substitution as we do!”

Likewise, complementarianism is the second elephant in the room that few want to connect with present-day reformed theology. The problem is not merely “Driscoll’s version of complementarianism.” [3]. Good try, but “complementarians aren’t off the hook” merely because Driscoll’s brand was the full version played out to its abusive end.

There is a spirit of spiritual superiority and a sense of administrative arrogance that accompanies those who travel on the roads of reformed theology (and I am far from the first one to point that out)! Too often, people are not as valued as they ought to be, and their struggles are marginalized from the pulpit, in the prayers, and during times of personal interaction.  The common person sitting in the pew is taught a form of “Stoic Christianity.” 

“Just grin and bear it!
(Just suck it up.)

He is in sovereign control of what is happening
and has brought this into your life for a reason!

 It’s not about you. It’s about Him. [6]

It is as if the Lord is so self-absorbed that there is only a single purpose in all that the Lord brings into our lives — His glory — almost to the exclusion of our genuine good and holistic well-being. Apparently, the Lord has little interest in our emotional, mental, or psychological condition or state. [7] [8].  Seemingly, He is not like us relationally, as fathers, mothers, parents, spouses, siblings, or now as grown children who are concerned about our parents.

We must be misunderstanding the account of the woman at the well, the good Samaritan, the woman caught in adultery, Peter’s denial of the Lord, the death of Lazarus (Behold how he loved him), His weeping over Jerusalem, His sacrifice for us as sinners, His incarnation, His patience with Judas, the doubting of Thomas, the rebuke of James & John about calling down fire, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, et al.

It’s a “Stoic Theology” that preaches and behaves as if there is only one commandment, rather than two great commandments– the second being called the Royal Law. The second one flows out of loving God. It instructs us about being like God Himself — caring about people in need, in pain, struggling, and not like Job’s friends! [8]

Perhaps a re-read of the Psalms would help!  A re-reading that realizes how many Pslams end with pain and no personal resolution!  A re-reading that see how often that His people water their couch with tears” and can only rest in the reality that God has heard those prayers and that He cares — that He genuinely cares about us!

. . . . 

Does Jesus care when my heart is pained
Too deeply for mirth or song,
As the burdens press, and the cares distress,
And the way grows weary and long?

Oh, yes, He cares, I know He cares,
His heart is touched with my grief;
When the days are weary, the long nights dreary,
I know my Savior cares.

Does Jesus care when my way is dark
With a nameless dread and fear?
As the daylight fades into deep night shades,
Does He care enough to be near?

Does Jesus care when I’ve tried and failed
To resist some temptation strong;
When for my deep grief there is no relief,
Though my tears flow all the night long?

Does Jesus care when I’ve said “goodbye”
To the dearest on earth to me,
And my sad heart aches till it nearly breaks—
Is it aught to Him? Does He see?

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Let me close with saying that there is a woeful lack of recognition that reformed theology, even in its best and highest expressions, cannot shield, and has not safeguarded, a ministry leader or pastor from some of the most egregious expressions of abusive behavior!  —  Dabney, the Puritans, Edwards, and Calvin himself [5] are but a few of the reformed thinkers and preachers who loaned their voices to support and/or explain justify slavery!

It is not that reformed preachers and/or theologians were the only religious leaders who supported slavery, but that their reformed faith did not safeguard them from taking such a repulsive and unbiblical position!  It did not because it cannot!  It cannot protect them from propagating terrible positions on the role of women in the church, in society, and/or of a wife in the home and in marriage — i.e complementarianism, and specifically men like Mark Driscoll.

Not only can reformed theology fail to safeguard, but it has the real potential to exacerbate some of the most odious actions and ministry behaviors.  The proof is not in the denials, but it is the pudding — John Mac Arthur and John Piper — two of the loudest voices in our religious culture today, two of the most prolific disseminators of reformed thinking for decades — both of who are reformed in their theology and in the practice of that reformed theology!

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1. The Rise & Fall Of Mars Hill

2. John Piper was a supporter (and, to say the least, a latecomer to the condemnation of Driscoll) of Mars Hill / Mark Driscoll’s toxic ministry!

3. https://www.9marks.org/article/an-ecclesiological-take-on-the-rise-and-fall-of-mars-hill/

4. “The ironic thing is, Driscoll rose up in the Young, Restless, & Reformed world, a world that is supposedly theologically driven and knows you should spit when you say “pragmatism.” Driscoll himself called church consumerism “a sin” (Vintage Church, 252). But a dynamic young leader drawing big crowds and reaching new groups makes us lose our heads. He exposes how much pragmatism remains in us, since pragmatism, in the final analysis, means living by sight and not by faith. Sight says, “Look at those polling numbers! Tell everyone it’s a movement of God.” Faith says, “But is he wise? Is he building with materials that will stand the test of time?” — https://www.9marks.org/article/an-ecclesiological-take-on-the-rise-and-fall-of-mars-hill/

5.– https://www.christianityapplied.org/john-calvin-on-the-lawfulness-of-slavery/

6. The danger is always that there are elements of biblical truth and principles in such statements and that such statements leave much unsaid.

7. There is a reason that Dane Ortlund’s book has been such a best seller — “Gentle & Lowly.”  It is because there is such a lopsided view of God being presented in today’s pulpits!  It is not a stoical view of God or the Christian life!

8. It is a “Stoic Christianity” that speaks against even allowing our situation to bring any happiness,  joy or comfort.   We can have joy, but not happiness.  Happiness comes from the situation.  Therefore, we are to find no comfort in our situation, only in Him.

As if what is happening around us should have no impact — both good and bad.  As if a warm sunny day should not affect our minds and hearts.  As if a word of encouragement should be emotionally dismissed as sinful pride.  As if the birth of a child is not a situation that brings happiness, and loss of a loved one should not be painful — as often stated — not “we sorrow not,” but we sorrow not as those who have no hope!

John rejoices over the reality that his children walk in the truth.  It is painful when the situation is otherwise!  Naomi came back to Bethlehem after a terrible situation in Moab.  She rejoiced over the situation that Ruth was with her and the more when Jesse was born.  Jesus wasn’t sweating drops of blood a year before Gethsemane.  The situation He was facing was agonizing and painful.

Situations do affect us, and should affect us — surely the good and helpfully the bad.

It is stoicism, not Christianity, that teaches that we are just to grin and bear whatever happens!

Since every man who lives is born to die,
And none can boast sincere felicity,
With equal mind, what happens, let us bear,
Nor joy, nor grieve too much for things beyond our care.

— John Dryden —

This is not Christianity!



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