In light of the little kerfuffle that has broken out surrounding Mark Driscoll and Baptist Press these past two days, BtT recommends the posts written by J. D. Greear, Ed Stetzer, and Baptist21. For the J. D. Greear post, “Baptist Press Joins NYT in Driscoll-Bashing,” click here. For the Ed Stetzer post, “Friday is for Friends,” click here. For the Baptist21 post about The Generation Gap, Nathan Finn, and Mark Driscoll, click here.
I Have a Problem
By: Alvin Reid
I have a problem…
I have a problem with Martin Luther. Oh yes, I know he started the Reformation and we owe him much. Yes, he gave us great hymns, Sola Scriptura, and other important contributions. But he did not come far enough theologically for my tastes. And he liked beer too much.
I have a problem with John Wesley. Sure, he led a great awakening and helped to spare England from much the French experienced in the French Revolution. He led a missional movement that resulted in thousands and thousands of new believers and churches. But he quite frankly was a terrible example as a husband.
I have a problem with George Whitefield. Whitefield, that young, bold evangelist who came to the American colonies seven times during the Great Awakening, preaching to multiple thousands while only in his twenties, did much good for the gospel. He even started an orphanage in the colony of Georgia which is still in existence today. But he also had slaves at that orphanage. Though he treated them well and preached Christ to them, I have a real problem with that.
I have a problem with Jonathan Edwards. Sure, he helped lead a Great Awakening. Pretty impressive. He wrote some of the greatest writings on revival in history. He was a pastor, leader, missionary, and thinker. But he is just a little too Reformed for my tastes in his treatise Freedom of the Will.
I have a problem with Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon stands as one of the great Baptist preachers in history and is likely the most quoted. A pastor, leader, church planter, and soul winner, Spurgeon did much good. But he smoked a cigar, and I have a problem with that.
I have a problem with W.A. Criswell. The famous pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas, did so much good for the gospel and the SBC during his time. Criswell was more innovative than many know in evangelism, and had a constant burden to see people saved. He played a vital role in the conservative resurgence. But Criswell allowed his numbers to be inflated, particularly in church membership, which has not been a good precedent.
I have a problem with Mark Driscoll. Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and recent speaker on our campus, has seen possibly more hardcore unchurched young adults come to Christ in the last decade than any church in the US. He has led a church planting movement as well. But sometimes his language is a little edgy for my tastes, and I interpret the Bible differently than does he on the place of alcohol.
I have a problem with Alvin Reid. Yes, I have a problem with myself. I am pretty sure I really love Jesus and my main motive in life is to bring glory to God. I love my family, my students, and my convention. But sometimes I have added to the institutionalism and programmatic ministry that plagues us now. And I have a problem with that.
Finally, I have a problem with my convention. I am a Southern Baptist. I have blogged before on why I am a Southern Baptist. But I have a problem with my convention, when we seem more intent on witch hunts than on contextualizing the gospel in our time, when we love to pick at each other’s differences than unite for the sake of the gospel, when we are more concerned about our total receipts than we are the lostness of our nation, when we continually confuse personal preferences with unchanging truth, and when we castigate younger men who love Jesus and His truth for simply doing what we taught them to do: study and honor the Word (when they come to different conclusions than some of us on secondary issues, they scratch their heads at the response they get). I was a supporter of the conservative resurgence before it was cool. But the resurgence I supported did not include a Pharisaical legalism that expects conformity in nonessentials. I supported a resurgence to stand on the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, one that now has led me and many others to see the need for a Great Commission Resurgence to be built on the foundation laid by the conservative resurgence. I am tired of talking good younger men off the ledge from leaving the SBC.
So, I have a problem. I have many heroes. I did not name them all. But none of them are perfect. None of them are Jesus. I can live with that. I can honor people who may be more Landmark on the one hand or Reformed on the other than I am. I can learn from and respect people who love the Word and the Gospel yet who may do things a bit differently from me.
I wonder if I am the only one….
Last weekend, Southeastern Seminary hosted our fifth annual 20/20 Collegiate Conference. The conference theme was “The Gospel Comes to Life.” The plenary speakers included Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church and the Acts 29 Network, C. J. Mahaney of Sovereign Grace Ministries, Bill Brown of Cedarville University, and Southeastern President Danny Akin. Between the Times contributor Nathan Finn live-blogged the plenary sessions, which you can read here, here, here, here, and here. We had more attendees this year than at any of our previous 20/20 Conferences.
One of the speakers, Mark Driscoll, has received significant criticism from some Southern Baptists in recent days. At first the criticism was limited to ill-informed bloggers, but yesterday Baptist Press entered the fray with an article titled “Driscoll’s Vulgarity Draws Media Attention.” We were very disappointed in the BP piece, which we believe was inaccurate in content and harsh in tone.
We by no means agree with everything Mark Driscoll says or does. This is true of any speaker we would invite to our campus, including many Southern Baptists. But because we are not independent fundamentalists, we believe that it is profitable to invite speakers who do not agree with us on every jot and tittle. We are humble enough to admit that we do not have all the answers and we can learn much from brothers and sisters who are not part of the Southern Baptist family. We believe our students can learn from a variety of conservative evangelical pastors without slavishly copying the ministries or convictions of any one leader.
Per our mission statement, Southeastern Seminary remains committed to inviting speakers who we believe will assist in “equipping students to serve the Church and fulfill the Great Commission.” Mark is a leader who has much to teach us about how pastors can think like missionaries, interpret their culture through gospel-colored lens, and plant healthy churches that plant other churches. We suggest that those who have concerns about Mark’s ministry actually listen to his sermons and read his books. You may listen to Mark’s recent chapel sermon and two 20/20 addresses-and all of the other excellent 20/20 sessions-at Southeastern’s multimedia page.
If you are interested in reading more about Mark’s sessions in particular and the 20/20 Conference in general, we would recommend you read Southeastern’s press release, which we have reproduced below. We would also encourage you to read Melissa Lilley’s fine article written for the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.
Conference brings gospel to life, young people to seminary campus
By Lauren Crane
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s campus came to life over the weekend as 1,400 college students and young adults flooded the grounds to hear from well-known speakers about how to see the gospel come to life.
The February 6-7 conference, which sold out days in advance, was held on Southeastern’s campus in Wake Forest, N.C. Students came from around the country to listen to pastors Mark Driscoll and C.J. Mahaney, Southeastern president Daniel Akin and Bill Brown, president of Cedarville University, as part of Southeastern’s annual 20/20 Collegiate Conference. This year’s theme, The Gospel Comes to Life, allowed the men to speak to the students about how to radically transform their own lives by meditating on the gospel message, and allowing that transformation to affect the culture in which they live.
Friday evening, Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Wash., opened the conference by speaking about the differing views of culture, including how it is viewed within the Scriptures, how it has been historically viewed, the church’s response to culture, and the necessary missiological response to culture. The topic is one he said he has studied over much of his life as a believer. His church, which has a regular attendance of thousands, is considered by many to be on the leading edge of connecting the gospel with every facet of culture.
“This has been my whole life since I met Jesus: Applying the gospel with work, life, and various arenas of culture. Younger evangelicals have been having an enormous conversation about how the gospel and culture interface and how to live for Christ and live in the culture,” Driscoll said. Beginning with the first signs of “culture” in Genesis 3, Driscoll said that culture “reflects both the dignity of creation and the depravity of rebellion” after the fall.
Looking initially at the examples of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Driscoll said the Pharisees “loved the letter of the law but didn’t love the spirit of the law” so they went so far as to withdraw themselves from the culture, while still being in it. “We want to commend people like them for their zeal and their willingness to fight (the culture),” Driscoll said. “However, theirs were sins of omission. Pharisees don’t do what they ought to do. You’re supposed to make disciples of all nations.”
The Sadducees, on the other hand, became compromised cultural liberals. “They became cultural accommodators. They were very unfaithful, and are still very popular,” Driscoll said. Instead of following either of these examples, or the examples of the zealots or Essenes, Driscoll said modern believers should follow the disciples’ examples in our response to culture. “They followed Jesus.”
When the church follows the example of the disciples, it will not view the church as a bomb shelter or a place to hide from the world’s culture, nor will it view the church as a cultural mirror, reflecting the culture around it.
When church acts as a mirror of the culture, Driscoll said, “This is liberalism. Instead of reflecting God to the culture, they’re reflecting the culture back to the culture. The church should be a city within a city, a city on a hill.
“We do everything differently. We don’t do it in a way that is hidden, but in a way that is public, showing how life can be with Jesus. That is how it’s done: The church is a city within a city where there’s a counter-cultural kingdom community.”
The first night of the conference concluded with Mahaney, former pastor of Covenant Life Church and president of Sovereign Grace Ministries, giving a message on the motivation behind why believers must infuse the culture with the gospel. Teaching out of Mark 14:1-9, Mahaney said it was his goal to make the students and young adults think on a truly profound moment.
“How can I teach you what is truly profound in an age of profound baloney?” Mahaney said. “How can I teach you about a truly historic moment from sacred Scripture when we’ve been conditioned to think of the Super Bowl as a truly historic moment each year?” The profound moment, Mahaney said, was the extravagant devotion shown by a woman named Mary to Christ as she poured the contents of the glass alabaster over his head as he reclined.
“There was no ignoring her. It was impossible to ignore this public demonstration of affection, this public and passionate display of affection for the Savior,” Mahaney said. “It is as fervent as any display of devotion as found in sacred Scripture.”
He said that Mary uniquely embodies the transforming effect of the Gospel, which is extravagant affection for and extravagant devotion to the Savior. “This is the transformation of the Gospel. Suddenly we hear a profound promise made to no other: She would be an example to the church universally.”
Mary’s extravagant devotion should also be evident in the lives of people who have been truly transformed by the Gospel, Mahaney said, as well as in the lives of those who are continually meditating on the transforming power of the Gospel. For modern believers to emulate Mary’s example of extravagant devotion and for it to be restored, Mahaney said we must meditate on the Gospel and listen to the cries of Calvary.
“Those cries were necessary because of our sin, and those cries are sufficient for our salvation,” Mahaney said.
Driscoll, in speaking to the conference-goers again Saturday morning, said it is this centrality of the Gospel in a believer’s life that should cause them to worship God alone. Speaking on the doxological view of culture, Driscoll said that after the fall in Genesis 3, humanity did not cease to be worshipers – as we were created to be – but instead began to worship the wrong things.
“Everyone worships,” Driscoll said. “The question is who or what. All unholy living is the result of believing the lie that it’s OK to worship something else in addition to, or in lieu of, the God of the Bible. The truth is you should worship the creator. The lie is that you can worship the creation.”
Driscoll challenged the conference-goers to look at what things they worship by determining what people or things are held in a position of glory in their lives.
“What is your real Gospel? Who do you look at as your savior? We make functional saviors to move us from our idea of hell to our idea of heaven,” Driscoll said.
He said many people in today’s culture worship comfort, possessions, status, sex and appearance, among other things. Driscoll said, “Christ has come to set us free. Idolatry both dishonors God and destroys us. Worship glorifies God and gives us joy.”
As Brown addressed the 1,200 conference-goers, he spoke on the topic of engaging the culture for Christ through the mission fields of the mind. Exploring some of the differing worldviews students and young people encounter today, Brown urged those in attendance to take advantage of a unique opportunity.
“I am so convinced that too often we don’t think like Christians. I believe God is giving you a great opportunity and an incredible responsibility to create a new generation of Christian thinkers,” Brown said. In addition to changing the scope of our thinking as believers, Brown said the church must carefully examine the attitudes of the heart.
“The most biblical approach is to be distressed by culture so that we get engaged,” Brown said. “It starts with a broken heart. I believe we should be passionate, don’t you? My goal here is that we must have a passion for Jesus Christ that leads us to a life of humility and a broken heart.”
“The time has come for us as believers to live out the gospel,” Brown said. “What a great privilege it is. Can we do it? Yes. Love the Lord with your heart and your mind for his glory.”
Akin closed the conference noting an important quote by Jonathan Edwards, “What is it that makes the church like heaven?” The answer is love, Akin said, and it is love that brings the gospel to life. Exegeting 1 Corinthians 13, Akin said, “If Jesus is right in saying ‘by this all men shall know that you are my disciples,’ then there is nothing more beneficial to having the Gospel come to life as love.
“Love is essential if we’re going to truly bring the gospel to life in the world in which we live,” he said. “Paul says without love it doesn’t matter what we say. Without love, it doesn’t matter what we know. Without love, it doesn’t matter what we do. If love is not a characteristic and component of your life, you’re lost.”
One day, Akin said, faith will give way to sight. Hope one day will give way to reality. “Love, because it is the very nature and character of God, is enduring. How does the gospel come to life? Jesus in me, loving others in a Christ-like, supernatural way.”