Sunday, 23 February 2014

A Call To Resurgance By Mark Driscoll

I have benefited from the ministry of Mark Driscoll in many ways in the past including his writing. I especially have appreciated the humour and robust theology of his Vintage Church and Vintage Jesus. I stopped listening awhile ago because I found that he (like most of us preachers) was repetitive and more concerning I was finding his claims to a prophetic ministry out of step with my understanding of the gifts and his claims to 'pornographic clairvoyance' as someone called it off putting . Nevertheless a good friend of mine from church loved A Call to Resurgence and was suggesting that everybody read it so I thought I would give Driscoll another shot.  

The general thesis of this book is that for Christianity to have a future it needs to stop with the infighting,  seeing what is essential and what is non-essential. Being ready to fight with wolves and heretics who deny essentials but work together putting aside our secondary issues.  Some of these secondary issues are the Calvinist/Arminian debate, the role of the gifts today, the role of women etc. In many respects I agree with the general thesis, if we agree about the Gospel then we can and should be able to recognise each other and work together for the sake of the Gospel. Whilst recognising and even endorsing this general thesis I was concerned of some of the "tribes" that Driscoll wants us to recognise including, Joel Osteen, Joyce Myer and T.D.Jakes. I was surprised at this as Driscoll has been a big mouthpiece for rightly pointing out the errors of the prosperity gospel and these are three of its leading proponents. Jakes isn't even a Trinitarian being part of the Oneness Pentecostal movement.
Driscoll also says that Martin Luther caused one of the biggest tribes to come into being when he moved from Rome. Its unclear what Driscoll meant be this but in the opening chapter he identifies his Latin Mass loving Roman Catholic grandmother as a Christian alongside his R.C Charismatic experience orientated mother.

While arguing for a bigger more generous Christianity he then proceeds to take his own strand as the definitive form and belittles those who disagree with him on these secondary issues. He does also rightly champion orthodox Christianity as opposed to the liberalism of Rob Bell, he takes a stand against Bell and names him as someone who has moved out of the Christian camp. If only he had done that with Osteen and co too.
Driscoll places himself within the Reformed camp but his theology is more Amyraldian four point Calvinist, (he calls his understanding limited-unlimited atonement) that's not a problem for me so was J.C. Ryle and his writings are excellent.

Driscoll has been accused of plagiarism in this book I am not sure if that's true but he certainly has used most of this material before in his other bigger works.  

The book doesn't read very well and is a bit of a smorgasbord of stuff that he has said elsewhere. No wonder he was trying to give it away for free at the Strange Fire Conference. He may have been better off attending the conference than high jacking it for publicity purposes he clearly believes that experience validates experience.  I was greatly disappointed with this book and with the direction that Mark seems to be drifting.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Strange Fire by John MacArthur

I've just finished Strange Fire John MacArthur's latest offering on the Charismatic movement and it was an interesting read. I am not a Charismatic, not even one wearing a seat belt, I am not even a continuationist, its fair to say I place myself squarely in the cessasionist camp like John MacArthur. Yet this book is one that I nearly didn't finish as the first couple of chapters expressed MacArthur's distaste for the Charismatic movement with lots of words but very little reason. The only thing I got from these chapters is that MacArthur really doesn't like Charismatics. Also I felt that for some parts he was dependent upon Hank Hanagraaff's Christianity in Crisis. For me it the first two chapters were something of a paradox, I agree with his assessment: 'The "Holy Spirit" found in the vast majority of charismatic teaching and practise bears no resemblance to the true Spirit of God as revealed in Scripture. The Holy Spirit is not an electrifying current of ecstatic energy, a mind-numbing babbler of irrational speech, or a cosmic genie who indiscriminately grants self-centred wishes for health and wealth.' Yet before he gives any evidence of this he spends page after page saying the same thing so anyone who doesn't agree with him on this would struggle to go any further with the book. I know lots of Christians from the charismatic movement that are genuine believers who love the LORD and have a passion for the lost and that the first two chapters was unfair to them.

Much better for me was the history of the movement he points out that the original Pentecostal movement had strange beginnings and that what they experienced of tongues they thought was the gift of foreign languages so much so they thought they could go on the mission field and preach without language study. He rightly shows us that the name Pentecostal comes from Acts 2, which was languages understood by the hearers on the day of Pentecost. When their tongues was shown not to be anything other than gibberish they had to go back to the drawing board and come up with something else. 

He has been accused of concentrating on the fringes and revealing the most extreme forms of the movement. In some sense I can see this is the case as for large parts he concentrates on the Word Faith Movement, people like Benny Hinn et al, and I would argue that these people are not charismatics they are outside of the charismatic movement. However Charismatics are the people who keep buying their books and giving them airspace. Even good reformed Charismatics like Terry Virgo and Adrian Warnock have said in public that they believe the Toronto Blessing and Lakeland Revival are genuine moves of God. Yet Toronto was started by Rodney Howard Brown and the Lakeland Revival was centred around the "ministry" of Todd Bentley both Word Faith Movement, Health and Wealth preachers. 

On the morality of the movement I felt he was unfair as he said he could give hundred of examples, but the examples of lapsed morality he gave were the ones I also thought of Hinn and White, Bakker, Ted Haggard etc. Although he was right to point out these guys are disqualified from ministry but they don't stop, they just keep going and still claim to be anointed by God. 

As he worked through the book it seemed to be that he didn't see there was any difference between moderate reformed charismatics like Wayne Grudem and John Piper and that he was writing them off with the same brushstrokes as Hinn and the Word Faith Movement. However the closing chapter has a very warm pastoral letter to his continuationist friends, the book would have been better in my opinion if he had started with this letter. 

MacArthur closes with an appendix on the cessassion of the gifts throughout church history pointing out some key quotes from notable figures in the 2000 year history of the church. 

Much of what MacArthur says in this book has probably needed to be said for a long time, maybe he isn't the person to say it but no-one else has stepped up to the plate.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

major time with the minor prophets

Every year since I can remember I have read the Bible cover to cover every year,  yet at times it feels like I am flying through it especially in December when I at lightening speed race through all of the minor prophets. For this year I am trying something new, there are 12 months  and 12 minor prophets so I am reading one a month, reading it slowly meditation on and reading a useful book or two about it. The first month was dedicated to the prophet Hosea and this has been a prophetiable exercise (I groaned too).  I have read Hosea before I have even preached on his relationship with his wife Gommer and how that parallels God's relationship with his unfaithful people. However I have always thought of this in terms of God's extravagant grace yet the picture in this section of the prophet's writing and indeed throughout his book is one of extravagant love. whilst there is a major judgement theme in the book, judgement is coming because God is a lover scorned by an unfaithful people and yet the judgement's purpose is bring about a restoration and renewal of the relationship. Not that God has given up on love but is pursuing it from an unfaithful people who repeatedly make promises with their lips but their hearts are from Him. He doesn't want a half hearted response He wants a loving heart commitment just like His. So in judgement He promises to take the people back just like in the wilderness where He allured you, He promises to win them over in desolation again. Even though they have betrayed Him by kissing goats and worshipping at foreign alters.For Hosea God is one who relentlessly pursues His wayward people. commentator says Amos's message is turn and avoid destruction but Hosea's is turn and see God behind you. I have never liked those modern choruses that say that God's heart is breaking they aren't biblical but Hosea is as close as they come, God is one who is a lover scorned and yet will not stop revealing and wooing His undeserving lover. 

Looking forward to getting to know Joel better this month.

Stephen <><
ps coming soon a review of MacArthur's latest book Strange Fire