June 4, 2020

Riffs: Driscoll on the Incarnation; Slice’s Perfect Pharisaism

logo.gifFURTHER UPDATE: Piper and Driscoll exchange emails and affirmations. Next Week, Van Till will ask, “Was it a roaring debate, or a barking debate?” and I’ll consider finding something else to do with all my free time.

Challies liveblogs/summarizes Mark Driscoll from the DG National Conference. His comments on the incarnation are unfortunate, to say the least. I’m hoping that the liveblogging format has omitted something clarifying. (BTW, Tim Challies does a great job. I frequently disagree with Challies, but his journalistic skills are outstanding, and I commend him for the liveblog summaries.)

Driscoll spoke of the recent issue of “Christianity Today” which discussed the two hot theologies of the day: Reformed and Emergent. So what should the church have for its view of Jesus and how should we articulate who He was and is? Christology is what separates Reformed from Emergent Christians. These two camps are debating, in large part, over Jesus. The incarnation of Jesus is a popular doctrine in the Emergent circles, for they think of him primarily as fully human. The also stress His imminence, being here with us now. They gravitate towards the gospels which teach about Jesus in his humanness but avoid the epistles which have a different focus. We must believe in the incarnation of Jesus, but we cannot only believe in this. What is fueling the missional effort is a rediscovery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Jesus came into culture and entered into community with lost people. Jesus identified with people in their culture. The problem is that when we see Christ only in His incarnation, we are left with someone less than God. The result is that the picture of Jesus taught by some is little less than a humble, marginalized, feminized wuss. This cannot inspire life transformation because He is not big enough to be worshiped, feared, obeyed or respected. Men are told to be like this feminized version of Jesus and they have no interest in following such a man.

On the other side, Calvinists tend to focus on the exaltation of Jesus. It is not so much the imminence of God, but the sovereignty and transcendence of God. These people go to texts like Isaiah 6 or John 12. What is too often lacking in the church today is a rigorous combining of both Christologies. We need to combine the incarnation with the exaltation. We must avoid the theological error of reductionism which means we are not saying something that is unbiblical, but are saying something that is incomplete.

Seeing Christ only in his incarnation leaves us with someone less than God. What? The incarnational Jesus in the Gospels contributes to wussiness? ***crickets*** Please tell me this isn’t what Driscoll said.

“We need to combine two Christologies.” Huh?

BHT Lurker Keith responded to this in a comment at Challies. I couldn’t put it better.

The problem is that when we see Christ only in His incarnation, we are left with someone less than God.

I mean this with all due respect, but no, no, and a thousand times no. Was Jesus Christ God or not? Did God comes to us as a human being in Jesus Christ or not? Was it something less than God walking around for 33 years and dying on the cross or was it fully God?

Since Council of Chalcedon, Christians have taught that in the incarnation, we encounter Jesus Christ–the one fully God and fully man. This is what Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and all the great theologians of the past 1500 years have believed. As the Chalcedonian definition says, “Following, therefore, the holy fathers, we confess one and the same Son, who is our Lord Jesus Christ, and we all agree in teaching that this very same Son is complete in his deity and complete–the very same–in his humanity, truly God and truly a human being, this very same one being composed of a rational soul and a body, coessential with the Father as to his deity and coessential with us–the very same one–as to his humanity, being like us in every respect apart from sin.”

To say anything less is not to speak of Jesus Christ. To say that when we speak of the incarnation, we are left with someone less than God is to speak of something other than Jesus Christ. Such a statement is flatly false.

What is too often lacking in the church today is a rigorous combining of both Christologies. We need to combine the incarnation with the exaltation. We must avoid the theological error of reductionism which means we are not saying something that is unbiblical, but are saying something that is incomplete.

Again, we can only say no to this. We don’t combine “both Christologies.” The very act of combining them means that we have separated the two natures at a conceptual level and then attempt to put them together on our own, “applying” them, as it were, to Jesus Christ. But we can’t “combine” something to Jesus Christ which he already has. Jesus Christ is fully God and he is fully human–true God, true man. That’s what it means to be Jesus Christ. We don’t combine them. They are combined in him.

I understand that Mark was trying to say that we shouldn’t be over-emphasizing one side or the other. I know his intentions were good. But statements like these–that in the incarnation we see something fully less than God–would cause Athanasius, Cyril, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards and a host of others to turn in their graves. That is precisely the kind of views they fought against.

Athanasius’s On the Incarnation would be a good place to start to see why such views simply cannot be held by an orthodox Christian believer. Even a very well-intentioned and faithful one like Mark Driscoll.

John H at Confessing Evangelical blogged on this topic in a past Christmas post that could be called “The Incarnation Yawn.”

Meanwhile, Ingrid at the famous/infamous “Slice” blog- a blog that recently condemned the Veggietales for a weak view of scripture- has penned a perfect description of Pharisaism.

When I hear of churches comprised of Christians with mohawks, body piercings, and worship music that sounds like a rehearsal for hell, I am concerned. Before we are Christians, we are all a mess, whether it shows on the outside or not. Nobody can criticize the unregenerate for observing pagan practices of tattoos, multiple piercings, and bizarre hairstyles and immodest or extreme clothing. With the rejection of God comes the rejection of moderation, modesty, etc. But what about after a person is converted? Should they continue to walk around looking like Satan’s own? Should there not be a transformation of appearance in those who have been converted by the power of God? If I dress like a goth with black eyeliner and black lipstick, wear black trench coats, etc., would you not wonder what was going on in my heart? Would not Jesus remove the desire to dress in extreme fashions that scream of alienation, hatred and evil? I say a resounding yes! If a woman is a prostitute, would there not be an immediate desire to cover her body when Jesus comes to reside in her? I am troubled by the idea that because it is “Seattle” or “New York” or any other urban area that somehow spiritual maturity and growth in this area is no longer expected. Our dress is not neutral. Goths and prostitutes dress in specific ways because they are sending a message. When I dress in the morning I send a message, whether I intend to or not. My children know that when I wear office attire, I have business to attend to that day outside the home. My clothing sends a message. If I show up at a wedding wearing jeans and a t-shirt, I am sending a message. Likewise, if after conversion, I dress like a pagan who has never met Christ, I am sending a message that meeting Jesus Christ has no practical effect on my life, that the moral anarchy of the world is still in my heart. People will frequently cite Hudson Taylor’s wearing the garb of the nation where he worked as an excuse to wear blue mohawks to minister to today’s youth. We are living in a country that still has certain norms. Blue mohawks, mercifully, are not the norm here. Hudson Taylor was simply acknowledging that he was working with the Chinese. His attire didn’t scream rebellion and hate and despair, it was simply Chinese. I doubt highly that his wife would have dressed like a Chinese prostitute to carry out her work there. If Jesus came to save us out of these lifestyles of sin, why would we want to dress that way to carry such a message? New believers need good discipleship and teaching after they are saved. If our pastors and church leaders patronize these people by attempting to look and sound like the world, how can spiritual growth and maturity take place? These are some of the issues that come to mind after watching Mark Driscoll’s video. I remember the maniac of Gadera in the Scriptures. He didn’t keep wearing the chains and rags he had on when he was demonically possessed. When Jesus came, he was transformed and he was clothed and clean and in his right mind. You cannot encounter Jesus and still remain as you were and I would think that would include your appearance to the world.

The idea that Christianity is, like Islam, a collection of cultural laws, dress codes and “badges” that prove one’s acceptance with God continues to have wide appeal among conservative evangelicals more interested in perpetuating their own culture war than in the Kingdom of Jesus. It isn’t that Ingrid’s completely off the rails- every part of a Christian’s life is subject to Christ- but when Slice heads to the specifics, it’s an almost perfect imitation of Pharisaism.

What haircut pleases Christ? Why does a mohawk not please him? Why do your ear piercings not bother God but someone’s eyebrow piercing does? What music sounds like a rehearsal for hell? How do you know? On and on and on we go. If you really are a Christian, you’ll look like me, agree with me and most importantly, you’ll establish your righteousness like a Muslim, by adhering to a code of cultural dos and don’ts, rather than completely in Christ.

“Looking and sounding like the world.” In other words, look, dress and sound like my tribe, my culture and my church. Then I’ll approve of your membership in the Kingdom.

Travis Prinzi responds to Ingrid, and suggests she needs some postmodernism.

Col 2:16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. Col 2:20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations – 21 “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used) – according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

Comments

  1. Driscoll said, “The problem is that when we see Christ only in His incarnation, we are left with someone less than God.

    Michael said, “The Incarnation leaves us with someone less than God. What? Please tell me this isn’t what Driscoll said.

    No, it’s not what he said. If you leave out the only, then yes, it’s what he said. But if you look at the entire quote: “when we see Christ only in His incarnation…”

    If all we look at is the incarnation, then all we have is the incarnation.

    Is that not “someone less than God”? I believe that Driscoll is preaching both man and God, not one or the other.

    Michael said, “We don’t combine “both Christologies.” The very act of combining them means that we have separated the two natures at a conceptual level and then attempt to put them together on our own, “applying” them, as it were, to Jesus Christ.

    Maybe you haven’t, maybe most haven’t. But I’m guessing that you know somebody who took apart the nature of Christ, left one nature or the other aside and then put Christ together in the image that is most suitable to that individuals desire for what Christ should look like. I know that I know a few.

    As far as “Slice”: I’m in trouble. I don’t have a Mohawk. But…

    The “music that sounds like a rehearsal for hell…” She surely must be talking about polka, right? (one of my favorite bands is a Christian Celtic Punk band – I’m sure they qualify for her “h-list”

  2. Hmmm…well, I have already posted on Challies about the Incarnation and Driscoll’s comments. I hope the upcoming mp3 clears it up but I have a sneaking suspicion Challies is reporting faithfully and so Driscoll’s troubles are just beginning here.

    In regards to the so-called Phariseeism of “Slice”–I think your comments may be a bit unfair. For one thing, Ingrid is talking about cultural transformation as a result of the work of Christ–a very real and appropriate subject in regards to this issue. It would be one thing if she said as the Pharisees did, the way to God is to follow our laws and traditions and not Christ–I didn’t read her comments that way. But maybe you’ve seen it differently?

    Her point seems to be that becoming a Christian means something well beyond the mere internals of being justified by faith and that it ought to have an impact in our culture even to the point of how we dress and live.

    And…given that Driscoll is having purported problems with the Incarnation and its relevance to the faith–I think it’s appropriate to point out here that an incarnational view would be one which would look not only at the matters of the heart but also at the ground level in terms of our culture and how it does or does not reflect the person of Christ and the implementation of His Kingdom.

    These external issues seem to be of little importance to the Seattle/Driscoll/Acts 29 crowd but perhaps it very much is due to a stunted and/or gnostic view of their understanding of Christ and the relevance of His incarnation to these issues.

  3. The correction is fair. I’ll edit. thanks.

  4. Kevin:

    Pharisees: Well motivated. Check.
    Loved God and his word. Check.
    Added commandments based on extrapolations and application. Check.
    Blissfully uncritical of themselves. Check.
    Concerned with boundary behavior. Check.
    Obsessed with survival of the true Israel in oppressive times. Check.
    Found Jesus followers to be a dangerous liberals selling out the real faith. Check.

    Actually, this is worse. This continues the reformed ridicule of counter cultural evangelicals, right down to hair, clothes, fashion, speech patterns, etc. It’s bully behavior.

    Travis Prinzi responds well, I think:
    http://www.restlessreformer.com/2006/10/01/who-needs-postmodernism-ingrid-does/

  5. MZellen, you said, “No, it’s not what he said. If you leave out the only, then yes, it’s what he said. But if you look at the entire quote: ‘when we see Christ only in His incarnation….’ If all we look at is the incarnation, then all we have is the incarnation.”

    MZellen, the “only” doesn’t make a difference–in fact, it makes it worse! The key question is this: was the incarnate Jesus Christ fully God or not? If he was fully God, then how can we say that if we look at only the incarnation, that we cannot see that Jesus was fully God?

    By saying that if “all we look at is the incarnation, then all we have is the incarnation,” you’re implying that the incarnate Jesus Christ is something less than fully divine. It’s denying the “fully divine” part of the equation. That has always been heresy, from Athanasius onward.

    Orthodox Christians have always affirmed that the incarnate Jesus Christ was fully human and fully divine. If we affirm that, we must affirm that even when we look at only the incarnate Christ, we can see him in both his full divnity and his full humanity.

  6. Michael,

    I think we need to remember that not everything the Pharisees held to was bad.

    I’m not arguing that Ingrid’s cultural preferences are the norm only that her argument in regards to Christian cultural transformation is sound and that on that basis–while we may disagree about the specifics of culture and what that means (ie. how to dress, etc)–on the face of it what she says is not wrong nor is it applicable to call her view “a perfect description of Phariseeism”.

    In other words, the incarnation and the transformative power of Christ is relevant to our culture, how we live, and how we dress. That doesn’t mean it has to necessarily look the way she envisions it, but her underlying argument is sound.

  7. I said they were well motivated and loved God. I’ve read a little New Testament backgrounds, and your point is well taken.

    What has to be seen is the difference in Jesus’ agenda and the agenda of the Pharisees. It’s at precisely the point of deviance (a la Mark 7 on clean/unclean for example) that the Pharisees failed. It was that failure that caused them to be blind to the fundamental cross cultural nature of the good news.

    Ingrid and the TR watchblogs that ridicule people who are different from themselves by making “Christian” justifications for denouncing evil hairstyles are dropping the Gospel for a cultural war stew that has no power to transform. It’s conformity to religious social pressure. they call it immaturity. I’d suggest that the weaker brother in this business is the person who stumbles at a piercing.

  8. Shiner wrote: By saying that if “all we look at is the incarnation, then all we have is the incarnation,” you’re implying that the incarnate Jesus Christ is something less than fully divine. It’s denying the “fully divine” part of the equation. That has always been heresy, from Athanasius onward. Orthodox Christians have always affirmed that the incarnate Jesus Christ was fully human and fully divine.

    Orthodoxy may go too far in this respect, though, and it deserves a fair look, rather than this kind of “brush off” of saying that “it’s always been believed this way”.

    The reality is that Philippians 2 has some bearing on an understanding of the incarnation. Regardless of which view of kenosis one takes, the truth still remains that, at least according to Paul, Jesus did not hold onto the full rights and privileges (power, perhaps?) of being divine, but humbled himself and took on the form of a servant.

    So, the “only” in Driscoll’s comment does make a huge difference, and not in the “worse” way that you indicate here.

    The “fully human, fully divine in the incarnation” is a construct of orthodoxy, not an explicit biblical teaching. It may, in fact, be correct, but it is not a slam dunk proposition of Scripture.

    Driscoll did not say (at least according to Challies reduction of it) that Jesus was not divine in the incarnation. He is saying that Jesus was revealed to us in the incarnation as human, and if we look only at that, we will miss aspects of his exaltation (actually, we’ll miss the exaltation entirely).

    This type of criticism of this comment is an overly zealous “overparsing” of Driscoll’s words here.

    steve 🙂

  9. Steve:

    Driscoll didn’t say “If we look only at the incarnation, we will see less than the whole Gospel” or less than all that we believe is true about Christ. He said we are left with someone less than God.

    That’s major. MAJORly significant, and it comes as a reaction against emerging Christians reemphasizing the incarnation (and good for them.) Somehow Driscoll thinks that emphasizing the incarnation demeans the cross. ***crickets*** Creates Wussy guys. ***more crickets***

    It’s an easy correction, but as reported, it’s a major gaff, and I am a big Driscoll fan.

  10. I’m just as stunned that he’s implying that all emergents have a deficient Christology. That’s true of the extreme left, and otherwise is simply not true.

    Apparently this:
    http://www.mtsi.org/node/8 is a defecient Christology. I’ll vote that its not a chapter of grudem’s systematic, but its not exactly rejecting the Biblical Christ either.

  11. Michael, thanks for your take on that. I’ll have to mull over that at more length. I’m not seeing the same thing you (and several commenters at Challies) are seeing, apparently, in Driscoll’s comment.

    I could very well be wrong (and probably am), but I’m just not seeing it that way yet. I’ll definitely ponder it.

  12. Steve, thanks for responding to me. Here are some comments. It’s to read tone in blogs, so please know that it’s written in a friendly tone.

    …at least according to Paul, Jesus did not hold onto the full rights and privileges (power, perhaps?) of being divine, but humbled himself and took on the form of a servant.

    Are you wanting to make the case that Paul did not think that Jesus Christ in his incarnation was something less than fully God? I personally don’t see that in Phil. 2 or anywhere else in Paul. I see the exact opposite.

    The “fully human, fully divine in the incarnation” is a construct of orthodoxy, not an explicit biblical teaching. It may, in fact, be correct, but it is not a slam dunk proposition of Scripture.

    The reason why the church held this position is because they quickly realized that (a) we cannot make sense of what scripture teaches about Christ if this were not true; and (b) anything less than a fully divine and fully human Jesus Christ could not save us. We cannot make sense of the Trinity, the cross, or the resurrection if it wasn’t for Jesus’s full humanity and full divnity in the incarnation. Is there a single verse which says directly that Jesus was “fully human and fully divine.” No. But is that in the Bible? I point to nearly 2,000 years of Christian exegesis which explictly makes that case, starting with Athanasius’s “On the Incarnation” and continuing through the works of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and a host of others. They all believed that the incarnate Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human or he could not save us at all–and they all believe that this was the clear message of the Bible.

    Driscoll did not say (at least according to Challies reduction of it) that Jesus was not divine in the incarnation. He is saying that Jesus was revealed to us in the incarnation as human, and if we look only at that, we will miss aspects of his exaltation (actually, we’ll miss the exaltation entirely).

    To me, these two sentences contradict each other. The first says: Driscoll thinks that Jesus was divine in the incarnation. The second says: Driscoll is saying that Jesus was revealed to us in the incarnation as a human being, and so if we look only at the incarnation alone, we don’t see his full divinity. So was the incarnate Jesus Christ divine or not? If he was, then why can we not say that we see his full divinity in the incarnation? If what was revealed to us in the incarnation wasn’t the true Son of God but only a partial revelation of him (i.e., “someone less than God”), then what was revealed to us wasn’t God at all. If that’s the case, our faith is in shambles. The church fathers recognized this and fought it their whole lives.

  13. I would not say it is a deficient Christology, but that it is a weak statement of Christology. If the divinity of Jesus is worth just a couple of quick words at the end, rather than the starting point and core of the statement, it is very weak on something that really matters. Without Jesus’ divinity the one thing which distinguishes this description from the descriptions of any number of kind-hearted would-be reformers of the way the world is run, Jesus dying for us on the cross, is a sad waste. That is why Moslems, though they honor Jesus as a prophet, think that he ultimately failed — because they do not believe in his divinit, and thus his death is worthless.

    Concerning Driscoll’s statement, I suspect from the thrust of what he said he didn’t mean “incarnation” in the controversial sentence, but “humanity” — when we only look at the humanity of Jesus we see less than God.

    My own feel for the word “incarnation” is the same as I guess Michaels: incarnation is more than humanity, incarnation is God in human form, and thus to say that looking at the incarnation we see less than God is problematic.

    But I have noticed that a lot of people, even preachers and teachers and others who ought to know better, no longer pay CAREFUL attention to the FULL meaning and ALL the implications of the words they use, and thus they end up saying things that are meant well but are open to interpretations which they are not even aware of. And frequently, when you challenge them on it, they turn huffy and defensive and accuse you of nitpicking: “You should know how I meant it!” — “Honi soit qui mal y pense” as the motto on the British coat of arms says, “Evil he who evil thinks”. I hope that Driscoll will not react like that.

  14. Jeremiah Lawson says

    Michael, I think that people are looking at the wrong passage to determine what Driscoll meant by “emphasizing only the Incarnation”.

    “The incarnation of Jesus is a popular doctrine in the Emergent circles, for they think of him primarily as fully human”

    Doesn’t THIS seem to be more what Driscoll means in saying emphasizing only the Incarnation is problematic? It’s a sloppy way of putting it but anyone who reads it closely can see that what Driscoll means is that “Incarnation” is sometimes a shortcut for people who want to say Jesus was human without saying Jesus was divine.

    And it isn’t as though Driscoll were the only famous preacher who said something like this that people have misunderstood. Didn’t Bonhoeffer say that holding up the Incarnation without holding up the Cross and the Resurrection is advocating an incomplete and finally damaging Christology? The incarnation of Jesus is a popular doctrine in the Emergent circles, for they think of him primarily as fully human

  15. I understand (and share) the concern about the “left with someone who is less than God” comment. Jesus is God. (Period). I wonder if Driscoll could have better worded the point I think he may have been trying to make. I’m going to take a stab at it.

    If we look at the triune God only in the incarnation entered into by the second person of the trinity, how adequate is our picture of the second person of the trinity (never mind the whole triune God)? God incarnate–Jesus–is fully man and fully God, but are we looking at him–fully–if we only look at the incarnation? If we confine ourselves only to looking at the incarnation, where is Logos who is with God, was with God in the beginning, and is God? Where is he who was begotten by the Father, before all worlds? Where is David’s Lord of Psalm 110:, to whom YHWH said, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool?”

    I may well be reading Driscoll’s use of “incarnation” incorrectly, or at least differently than you, because it seems possible to me that if/when we look only at the incarnation, we are looking at that which had a beginning. The Son has always been God, but the Son’s incarnation began in time. If our focus were to be always, only incarnational, how would we keep our understanding of God from including a beginning?

    Was the second person of the trinity always the incarnation? I’m not a theologian; I’m a 39 year old housewife whose question is not rhetorical, nor is it some sort of intentionally obtuse remark, intended as bait. In reading the main entry and many of the comments, I feel like I’m missing part of some understanding of “incarnation” that everyone else here knows (seriously–I may well be).

    I will say though, that if you had asked me if the second person was always incarnate, before I read this post, and I had to give the first answer that came to my mind, I would have answered, “No.” If you asked me if studying only the incarnation was adequate, I would have answered, “No.” Later, my mind might have wandered and wondered about what exactly Adam heard when he was hiding and heard the Lord walking in the garden, and I would have wondered about the OT theophanies, and then I would have gotten dizzy and put on the TV. My own wandering mind aside though, I wonder about any Christology that restricts itself to the incarnation, because he says, “Before Abraham, I am,” and we know that’s true, even though we recognize that the incarnation itself had a starting point, after Abraham.

    I believe it is the incarnation that gives us the best (for our finite, temporal) understanding of our eternal triune God. Furthermore, it is beause of the incarnation that I am able to love God; I love Jesus, so I love God. And we’re probably all far enough away from understanding God that if any one of us had a complete picture even just of the incarnation, that one would have a better understanding of God than anyone else. Ever. But, still I question any theology (and Christology) that limits itself to the incarnation, or to any one person of the trinity. I’m probably in error somewhere here, and blind to it. I welcome any clarification or direction you can offer.

    I should add I do think the ‘feminized wuss’ claims are way off base, but I need to qualify even that, by saying Jesus is so often infantilized (baby Jesus; meek and mild) or feminized (I mean, Gibson’s Jesus is the only film potrayal that comes to mind, where the actor who played Jesus wasn’t British, and didn’t come off as effete) in popular portrayals, if not in actual theology. Aren’t the film makers getting that idea from the church, at least indirectly? Isn’t the public buying it, at least in part, because of something we’re teaching? What are we missing? What are we failing to put out when we spread the good news?

    Apparently this:
    http://www.mtsi.org/node/8 is a defecient Christology. I’ll vote that its not a chapter of grudem’s systematic, but its not exactly rejecting the Biblical Christ either.

    The Jesus Creed is beautiful, and is not rejecting the Biblical Christ, but it is (to me) incomplete–ignoring some of the nature of the second person of the trinity, and our triune God–both (see ‘Logos’ and ‘begotten before all worlds’).

    To be an agreeable newbie, I will add that I am right with you, Michael, and with Prinzi, on Slice. Of course I wore black jeans, a black sweater, and black ankle boots to church, today. Also, I do dye my hair (but a dark brown) have piercings (two–one in each ear) and wear jewelry (a cross and my wedding and engagement rings).

  16. Just for the record, Islam is not simply a set of cultural laws anymore than Christianity is, on some interpretations. One tradition, the Ismailis, do not take such an approach to their faith.

  17. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Islam, but I’m sure my college/seminary courses and reading are past the average person. It’s always been a fact that Mohammed taught that religion dominates culture and that Muslim Law covers specifics in culture. Obviously there are various streams of Islam that differ on how that is applied, but Jesus never taught anything like this, and Biblical Christianity is cross cultural, with very few transferable cultural requirements.

  18. I am deeply disturbed by your assessment of what Ingrid over at Slice wrote. Having read her blog for a while now, she seems to be coming from a transformational view, NOT a Pharisacal view. In other words, she isn’t saying here is what you are supposed to do if you are a Christian–let’s follow these rules. THat is legalism. She is saying, IF you are a Christian, why are we not seeing a transformation in all areas of your life? I agree with her assessment 100% and thank you Kevin J. for your comments.

  19. Unlike Slice, your comment will stand here, as is. I won’t tell you to “back off” or otherwise insinuate that you are attacking me or aren’t a Christian.

    No one who writes at Slice would consider me a Christian. Silva has proclaimed me the “Spirit of the Anti-Christ” once, so my anxieties about what fans of Slice think of me are pretty low.

    Transformational view? From what to what? From haircuts Ingrid doesn’t like to ones she does?

  20. MZellen, the “only” doesn’t make a difference–in fact, it makes it worse! The key question is this: was the incarnate Jesus Christ fully God or not?

    If Driscoll had ever (EVER) denied the diety of Christ, we’d all have a beef with him.

    But he hasn’t. I have heard him preach about the end of time, when Christ returns as judge and king – we like to forget about that part, don’t we?

    We like to think of Christ during His incarnation – we picture him; we’ve all seen the “images” of Jesus exactly like the ones Driscoll describes. “Our” Jesus, the shepherd.

    When we focus on the incarnation (fully God and fully man), do ever (well, hardly ever) think of this:

    I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:
    KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

    I think that this is what Driscoll thinks that many Christians are leaving out.

  21. You know folks, if Driscoll said that we need to emphasize thje deity of Christ more, I’d say amen and there wouldn’t be a post here.

    Driscoll said that if you only look at the incarnation, you have less than God. I agree with the commenter in the post: that would blow away a lot of people in Christian history.

    What’s going on is that “incarnation” is becoming a code word for these guys. I’ve read it all over the net for the past year, and it’s getting worse. They are the one’s dividing what isn’t divided in scripture. And adding the “wussy” business is demeaning theological dialogue with schoolyard insults.

    Driscoll has a lot of strengths. I’ve posted many posts defending and supporting him. In this case, he got in over his head. Like Macarthur’s early statements denying the eternal generation of the son, Driscoll will clarify this I’m sure.

  22. Michael S,
    I think you are right about Driscoll simply speaking in a way that was not able to communicate the “spirit” of what he was getting at. If I could throw in a few more cents…
    Jesus purpose in the Incarnation was to point to the Father. That is it, even he says that he has come to show us the Father, and remarkably he does this through himself (“if you know me you have seen the Father”). If Jesus comes across to us a effeminate, than maybe he is; as we are always saying God is neither male nor female (though we all really think God is male). The part where he says Jesus is presented as a wuss… um this is the kind of thing that drives me to distraction. Is Neslon Mandela a wuss. The white South African Racist “just doing their duty” (Dutch Reformed Christians by the way) beat the crap out of him, imprisoned him, and treated him worse than we would treat an animal… now it takes courage to be Nelson Mandela, and he says he is following the path of Jesus by getting the crap kicked out of him. I think Mandela has moral courage, the kind that guns and fists know nothing about, the kind that rescues lost children (us) by taking the abuse and torture (often that we commit in the name of righteousness or orthodoxy) we deserve upon himself. Does anyone who uses the term “wussy” even know anything about the persecuted church?
    My God is the one who got the crap kicked out of him… yep, the one who made all, he got abused and spit upon by both Jewish rules and Roman soldiers. He was also abused and taunted by the crowds who love an execution…
    This is the guy I follow, he is also God, he also says if i want to follow him I should expect the same sort of thing… wussies we may be called, but moral courage requires a transformed living which is the opposite of which “Slice” was referring to. So the two actually pair nicely, let me explain:
    Thesis- Jesus seen only in the incarnation keeps us from seeing God, only because we can not get outside of our “cultural prejudices” about what God should be like. Consequently, it is the outside observable differences that signify such “apropriate and Godly” behavior. So your hair cut demonstrates transformation. Now put that way we realize that such demonstrations are just a different “perverse generation that seeks a sign”. My point is that as long as we apply such thinking, whether it is the wussyness of Christ, or even begin to think clothing is significant then we miss the radical change that Christ wishes to make in transforming our lives. Sure there are culturally accepted practices, and in the pluralistic scene in America lots of subcultures. We believe fundamentally the idea of the incarnation means Christ is accesable to all peoples all cultures all over the word. Uninformed positions like “slice” are the reasons why cultural Christianity gets exported as “the Gospel”, why Ugandans wear European suits (which they can’t really afford) to church and a host of other “foreign behaviors” if they want to be Christians.
    It is true Pharisism because it mistakes the surface, the appearance of a Galilean carpenter; instead of its substance, the person of Christ (i.e. fully man and fully God, elder brother, cocreator of all, unbegotten son etc.).
    Side reference to Islam, if you are not familiar with the Muslim view of Jesus, please do not comment. I have spent a long time researching both the “sacred texts” and the tradition on the role of Jesus in Islam and it is very high, they do not believe he was crucified and they believe Judas was put in his place. Also, a significant aspect to Islam is orthopraxy (like in the Eastearn Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches), it is easy enough to confuse that with legalism. Islam is not the sole proprietor of legalism in the arena of religion, despite what much of the Christian church seems to want to proclaim. As a person who has Muslim friends and wishes to minister to Muslims it is important to me that the Christian community does not do what many Muslims do of Christians, misrepresent the view by virtue of ignorance.

  23. I hate to quibble with someone clearly smarter than me, but Driscoll seems to be forgetting that without the incarnation, without God becoming man in the first place (and all that means to and for the Church), the ‘exaltation’ of Christ would be meaningless and without merit. The whole mess statement seems more like heckling from the bleachers than well-thought out theology. And we ‘wussify’ Jesus if we focus on the Incarnation? Wha? That just doesn’t make sense…

  24. It seems that part of the problem with some views of the incarnation is that they come from a standpoint that the incarnation happened for 33 years or so, 2000 years ago, and now that’s over and all we have now is exalted Revelation Jesus. That is, once the cross and resurrection happened there was no further need for the incarnation, or at least not nearly as great a need. As a result, Jesus’ life and teachings get de-emphasized as some nice ethical sayings to tide us over until we die or the Second Coming (whichever comes first). This is a general observation and not a critique of Driscoll, but I have to wonder how it might apply to him.

    And a big AMEN to the poster above who gave an analysis of the cross and Jesus’ being beaten and the natural deriding he received as a wuss. I’d add that many people fell away from following him once they realized that he wasn’t the Ultimate Fighter Messiah they were expecting to bring in God’s new reign by force.

  25. No one seems to be completely clear what Driscoll said, but this can be said:

    If he said the emergents are affirming the incarnation, then they are affirming not that Jesus was human but that God became human, that Jesus was God-man, and that’s as orthodox as it gets. To affirm incarnation cannot be a way of denying deity — it affirms both humanity and deity so that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God-Man (Check out Ephesus Council for how we have to make this one.).

    I think, rather than using “incarnation” for what some emergents are saying, he should have said that some emergents are denying the deity (not “diety” as someone here wrote) of Christ. To affirm the incarnation is high christology; his point seems to me to be that some are dealing with Jesus as only a human.

    If he said something like that, then I’m sure he’s probably right about some — but who are the “some”? To implicate a movement (or conversation or a church movement) by not citing author, chapter and page is not the best way to proceed and it works by way of guilt by association.

    There can be nothing wrong with affirming incarnation; there can be nothing wrong with emphasizing Jesus’ humanity; there can be nothing wrong with emphasizing Jesus’ deity. We need each of these affirmations and emphases.

  26. Forgive this quibble/correction about form, not substance. (I guess you are quoting Challies, so I am really correcting him, and he is writing on the fly.)

    They also stress His imminence, being here with us now.

    I think that he means immanence (here with us now)
    not imminence, which is his soon return.
    Similar but not the same.

  27. One day God just up and became man. The gall of it! He must think He’s God!

    The notion that God could not become man without ceasing to be fully God belongs to the Platonic and later Gnostic notion of the intractable alienation between the metaphysical/spiritual world and the physical/ material world. This notion became, in the words of Karl Barth, an alien norm which the activity of God trumped and Biblical authors, such as John in the first chapter of his gospel, were bound to set aside.

    When God just up and became human without going through the Platonic committee protocol, we learned, among other things, that becoming incarnate was never a danger to deity but rather was always an appropriate expression and action of the divine freedom.

  28. Michael,

    It’s always nice to find fellow Christians who have been banned from slice, as they tend to be some of the most reasonable bloggers I’ve read on the ‘net. On the other hand, I’ve been on the abusive end of the Apostle Ken multiple times recently…

    John at Verum Serum has done a nice job documenting some of the recent (and accurate) pharisaical demonstrations of both legalism and hypocrisy there, along with some really long discussions we’ve tried to hold with Ken & some of the most virulent defenders there.

  29. Michael,

    As I still am an avid lurker, this issue tripped my trigger and thought hmmmp, the Council of Chalcedon settled this a long time ago.

    “We teach . . . one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, known in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation”

    So, I followed the bunny trail and ran across Mr. Driscoll’s clarifying comment from the site you have referenced “Challies”. I’d like to note a portion that I find interesting:

    Driscoll:

    “What this means is that we must see Jesus before His incarnation, and after His exaltation to get a clear picture of who He is. My entire point is that if we do not we are being reductionists and like many do limit him to only a really good man and not King of Kings and Lord of Lords as God over all.”

    Reading this type of Christological thinking seems to lead me to view it as being isolated from historical councils and considerations of the Church’s nearly two thousand year battle against heresy specifically concerning the Person of Jesus Christ (not that any Catholic “progressive” theologians may not journey this way in our day, GOD FORBID!).

    And as history shows, folks touting we need to “know THIS to REALLY understand and know Jesus” often leads one straight into the nasty bossom of all those differing gnostic heresies concerning the Person of Christ.

    Give me a Christiology converging in the gospel and apostolic witness, keep me protected by the Tradition/Councils of the Church and I’ll keep myself a happy, just give me the Body, Soul, Blood and Divinity (not a wuss Jesus) Loving Christian.

    Best,
    Jenny
    currently baking as she writes:
    Cocoa-Espresso-Pecan, White and Dark Chocolate Chip cookies for our Chief of Police, who was born an Italian Catholic 😉

  30. Michael:

    I think the audio should be up in the next day or so and then we can check the record. But I think we need to give him the benefit of the doubt. If he really thought that “if you only look at the incarnation, you have less than God,” then he’d be a heretic. Assuming he’s not a heretic, then either he misspoke or was misunderstood–the latter I think is true.

    I don’t really mind the word “incarnational,” but it does create confusion because of its verbal similarity to “incarnation.” My recollection is that Driscoll was talking about the former, not the latter. In other words, he’s talking about Jesus’ missional method, not his conception as the God-man.

    Trying substituting the phrase “missional engagement” for “incarnation” in Tim’s quote and I think you’ll see that it works just fine.

    Hope that helps.

    JT

  31. To begin speaking about incarnational theology by saying that “Jesus became human” is to start off already in the wrong direction. Incarnation means that God became human IN the person of Jesus. This is cornerstone to Christian theology, and without it, it all crumbles. So if this is the case, how in the world can “incarnation” be separated from “exaltation”? They are each impotent without the other. And isn’t the incarnation about God accomodating (Calvin) himself to humanity? And not just humanity in general. We see, it is true, in the life of Jesus in the gospels, that he accomodated himself to sinners: prostitutes, tax-collectors, publicans. He was known as a wine-bibber and glutton who shared his meals and fellowship with what were considered the lower strata of society. Should we be disturbed by people accomodating themselves to niche cultures within the broader culture? Jesus… he started it! thus spoke churchpundit!

  32. Justin: I don’t think he’s a heretic. Nor do I think the vast majority of emerging folk are heretics either. This business of making “incarnation” a suspect term is a bad road to go down, imo. I do believe it is not too constructive to imply that most emergents are heretics, which I have to say I am reading loud and clear in the Challies summaries. Can we all just sing the Nicene Creed or something?

    BTW- I am on the road speaking for OBI and I have limited opportunities to moderate, so please forgive the lag in posting your comments today folks.

  33. housechurchman says

    Driscoll often puts his foot in his mouth as he will admit, but perhaps we could read what he is reported as saying as a whole.

    Perhaps I am misreading, but Driscoll defines the way he is using “incarnation” a few sentences before the sentence of major discussion:

    “The incarnation of Jesus is a popular doctrine in the Emergent circles, for they think of him primarily as fully human.”

    So when Driscoll uses incarnation a few sentences later I suggest an equivalent sentence based on his earlier definition:

    “The problem is that when we see Christ only as fully human, we are left with someone less than God.”

    This seems to me the point that Driscoll is making. Focusing on only the human aspect of Jesus leaves out the fullness of the deity which dwelt bodily.

    I can take many quotes of the Bible out of their immediate context and make Peter, Paul, and even Jesus seem heretical or unbiblical (although I am not putting Driscoll’s words on par with Scripture). Just food for thought.

  34. NewlyReformed says

    As someone who sat in the assembly and heard Driscoll I can say this will all be like so much vapor in the wind when the audio comes out. There was no confusion in what he was saying.

    He was speaking of incomplete Christologies on both sides. He then went on to explain that a FULL Christology should include both the incarnational and exalted Christ. At least that is what was in my notes. I am interested now to hear it again.

    BTW – The word used by Mark was effeminate. not wuss (at least if he said it I missed it, doubtful considering crowd reaction to his other Driscollisms). A little editorial license was taken there. Otherwise great job by Tim.

  35. Jeremiah Lawson says

    I’m glad I’m not the only person to specifically point out the earlier qualifying definition of “incarnational” in the presentation.

  36. Maybe I am naive…but I am really having a problem seeing why anyone has a problem with what Driscoll says.

  37. I can’t speak for anyone else, but my problem is simple. (And I have been a big defender of Driscoll, so don’t misread me here.)

    In this “battle” between the reformed and their perception of the emergent movement, the word “incarnational” is becoming a label meaning “heretical liberal who rejects the full truth about Jesus.”

    I don’t care if there was a clear set up for how he was using the word, “incarnation” is not a word that needs to become identified with some kind of apostasy on the person of Christ. The statement that the incarnation only is less than the full doctrine of Christ is not helpful, and in terms of the person, not the work, it’s way off base.

    The same thing happened with the term “missional.” The reformed seem quite happy to toss off these terms and tell their followers that they are emerging code words. Just QUOTE the emergent author abusing the term. Just CITE the refernece. Don’t poison an entire word used by thousands of Christians.

  38. NewlyReformed says

    So we should not be concerned when people wrongly emphasize one aspect of who Jesus is? If one holds wrong views of the person and work of Jesus, but still holds to an incarnational view of Christ, is that person seeing Christ or an imposter?

    Driscoll’s point concerned reductionism. If we teach that Jesus was fully man, hence our great example to follow and that only, we are in error. This is an under-realized eschatology that was manifest in the Corinthian church. We do whatever we want now because there is nothing beyond. Kingdom work here and now is all that matters: not judgment, not hell, not heaven. Driscoll pointed to those who are in the midst of denying these Bible truths. If you read many blogs you know this is out there.

    Conversely, if we teach that Jesus is fully God, and that he is pissed and coming back to open a can of whoop-ass on the world, and that only, we are in error as well. This is an over-realized eschatology that was manifest in the church at Thessalonica. A person would receive Christ, then sit down and wait for his soon return. No kingdom-work here because we are going to see the King. Said person stores up Moon Pies and Coca-Cola in case the rapture catches him on a bad day and he has to do the “Left Behind” thing. In the mean time children are starving to death around the world…

    All Driscoll was calling for was balance on both sides. His message was an open rebuke of those who would err on either side. We need to do the kingdom work now, but we also need to know that there is a king coming to judge the living and the dead. If we meet a “heretical liberal who rejects the full truth about Jesus” that person should be confronted with the true Jesus. By the same token, if we meet a heretical conservative who rejects the full truth about Jesus, he should be confronted as well.

  39. Heres the entire quote from Driscoll’s comment at challies:

    “I just got home from a 7 service 10 year anniversary Sunday and need to crash. I did say that Jesus was God during His incarnation and said that, for example, He forgave sin which is only what God can do. I believe that Jesus was and is eternally God with all of the divine attributes. I believe that in His humble state of incarnation it is harder to see His divinity as he is not, for example, omnipresent. What this means is that we must see Jesus before His incarnation, and after His exaltation to get a clear picture of who He is. My entire point is that if we do not we are being reductionists and like many do limit him to only a really good man and not King of Kings and Lord of Lords as God over all. If I was not clear, I apologize as that was not my intent. Next week I start a 12 week series called Vintage Jesus and begin by arguing for the deity of Jesus if that is of any help. To be honest, I likely bit off more than I could chew for one session and may have rushed. Blessing and Jesus love.” Pastor Mark Driscoll

    I realize it doesn’t speak to exactly what you’re saying Michael, but thought it would be good to mention Marks humility too.

    Also, in other news (good news), I don’t know if anyone saw, but ENo is shutting up shop.

  40. Right. Good. So Mark shot his mouth off and ended up in serious theological error. I suspect that if confronted personally with these things in the right way, Mark would line up right where Spencer and others in this discussion are at.

    But what about the more pervasive element in Mark’s rants–the one you could find in any other topic the man speaks on? What about the idea that “men” need Jesus to be a bad-ass in order to worship him? Is it too much to ask “men” to humble their WWF expectations of God? Is Mark not implying that women (who are aparently soft, delicate and weak minded by nature) are fine with worshiping a “wussie” Jesus? Am I a “wussie” if I read Scripture in a way that confirms Jesus was marginalized and humble?

    For someone who rants so much about other people’s “versions” of Jesus, Mark’s version tends to look a lot more like Mark Driscoll that Jesus of Nazareth. It almost seems that when Mark wants to think of Jesus, he looks in a mirror. Yeah, Mark’s a tough guy. Mark’s a strong, white, male, intelligent, wealthy, traditional American bully–how could he worship someone who was less than that?

    Consider some non-gospel Jesus images (Phil. 2, Isa. 53, Rev. 5): And yet, being in very nature God, Jesus took the form of a servant. He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows. There was nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. And then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.

    Well, I’m through. Reading those wussie Jesus passages almost made me want to become humble myself. I guess I’ll get over it the way Mark might suggest–by working out, asserting my manhood on all passers by, and by downplaying the strength and equality of women.

    Out.

  41. I think this incident is symbolic of the mess the Christian blogosphere has become. We’re constantly looking through microscopes trying to find cracks in this person’s theology or that. Meanwhile, we’re too worried about secondhand reports of what one guy might have said, but meanwhile our unsaved neighbors may never have stepped foot in your house or mine.

    Like a few other commenters, I don’t get the fuss. I know what Driscoll’s trying to say. I understand. But I’m also not trying to look at his comments through a microscope. I don’t think a microscope is necessary here. I wish we’d all put the microscopes away for a while. We’ll find cancer in every cell if that’s all we’re looking for.

  42. Jeremiah Lawson says

    MIchael, if I understand your concern it’s that Driscoll is taking a word that SHOULD have only positive associations and meanings within orthodox Christianity and using it as a short hand buzz term to describe errant theology.

    TO some degree I think I understand your concern. Coming from a Pentecostal background I know I’ve heard people use terms like “the annointing” with disdain either because they don’t like P/C churches or they have found the term so abused that a real biblical term and concept can no longer be used because of abuse or scorn.

    I know people who are so offended by churches they refuse to use the word “church” even though Jesus used it. The Incarnation isn’t one of the words we want getting a bad reputation. I think I’m getting it now, maybe.

  43. This post really resonates with me. I’m not sure if you’re still reading new comments on a post this old, but here is a related paraphrase I wrote on September 24th;

    Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. Don’t follow the rules that someone else made up. Don’t do something just because someone else says you have to. Sure, those rules represent something good, but Jesus lived that out for us. Don’t let people who pretend to be humble and worship church take advantage of you. They brag about their experience with God. But they’re full of crap, they’re just out for themselves. Jesus is nothing more than a facade for them, but for you he is freedom. They say their lives are all about Jesus. But for you, Jesus made you able to face your life and all that you are, without worrying about whether or not you’ve got it all right. So don’t worry about the rules anymore, they won’t last anyway. Why bother? Following the rules might seem like the smart thing to do. It might make you look like a good person, like someone who’s got everything together, but the rules can’t control who you are.

    Colossians 2:16-23