June 6, 2020

Riffs: Remember the Faithful Remnant, Mr. Driscoll

logo.gifFurther UPDATE: Somehow, as usual, Phil Johnson feels the need to have some kind of last word about this post. So if you’ve been unduly influenced by my liberal rantings to love, pray for and appreciate your brothers and sisters still holding out in the mainlines, go get yourself vacuumed out real good at Phil’s blog. I guess my vast plan to make the TRs like Driscoll is working. Muhahahah! UPDATE: Well…I’ve managed to get everyone angry with me. It’s a good thing I don’t live off of your offerings. Thanks to all of you who’ve read this and commented. I look forward to YOUR posts on YOUR site about what Mark Driscoll should have said.

With the amount of time I’ve spent defending Mark Driscoll as a brother and his brand of evangelistic missionalism as a church model to be applauded, I suppose I’ve earned to right to disagree with Mark as well. It’s actually not the case that I disagree with Mark’s post on the death of the mainline denominations as much as it’s just that I need to say a few things in response, and in various levels of agreement and moderate disagreement.

1. He’s mostly right, and the mainline story is horrendous. “Ichabod” has been written over much of it, many people will never go back, and much of it is a wasteland. All that being said, there’s more to the mainline story than Mark has written. This is just too much shorthand, too much Driscoll-style analysis. We need to LEARN from what’s really happened. Many evangelical denominations- even conservative ones- aren’t out of the woods with much of what has gone wrong here. (Do you think the number of Calvinists in SBC seminaries matches up with the number of Calvinist SBC churches or Calvinists in those churches? Now why would that be?)

2. From what I’ve read and heard from Mark, his experiences in mainline churches were uniformly disappointing, and I can “feel” that with no trouble. The mainline leadership has lost their way and betrayed their constituencies. There are many apostates among them. Their seminaries are lost and most of their official actions, programs and pronouncements are an embarrassment. Ditto, high five and all that.

3. What Mark doesn’t mention are the amazing, faithful, brave, awesome remnant movements in those mainline churches. For example in the UMC there is a large and vital resistance in the Good News movement. In the PCUSA, there are many faithful evangelical pastors like Mark Roberts and Tod Bolsinger. Confessing Churches in the PCUSA are often healthy churches. The Laymen’s Committee has long stood bravely against the liberals in the PCUSA. Movements like Presbyterians for Renewal are doing great work. Yes, the power structures work hard to navigate around these conservatives, but they are tenacious.

I wish Mark had acknowledged that one doesn’t know everything about a mainline church by reading what goes on at a convention or assembly. The PCUSA still holds to the WCF and other orthodox confessions. Evangelicals and conservatives who have chosen to stay in the mainlines aren’t invisible. They aren’t to blame, and they shouldn’t be written off with rhetoric that sounds like the analysis of a youth director doing a comedy routine.

4. I appreciate Mark’s bluntness in talking to the Mars Hill audience, but what is going on in the mainlines is a tragedy. Good people whose parents and grandparents faithfully built gospel loving churches have watched as those churches were taken away, not just by liberals, but by unprincipled, evil people who had no respect for the people in the pews and no compunction about taking those denominations down radically different paths than they were built to follow. I have pastored these people, and their hearts are broken. They have no desire to become Baptists, etc. They are faithful, loyal and Bible believing. But they are also virtually powerless. To leave is to leave their property and buildings behind, and to eliminate the voice of Biblical faithfulness from the life of the denomination.

5. The logic of female leadership = liberal apostasy has a lot to commend it. I think, again, the situation is complex in the mainlines. Did the ECUSA and the PCUSA yield to feminists? Or did the seminaries start assuring the churches that they had read the Bible wrongly? If female leadership is a path to liberalism, what about Pentecostals and Charismatics? And just how important is the gay component of this struggle? In the PCUSA, gays are clustered in sympathetic churches and schools, but are not in leadership or influence in the more conservative PCUSA churches, which still support the ordination of women. I believe we are looking at denominations where minority points of view were able to gain undue power. While the majority of people in the typical pew still hold to Biblical positions in many of the mainlines (esp in the south and in rural areas), the leadership is no longer responsible to the people who write the checks. It was a hijacking, not just a slow slide.

6. Let’s support those still in the mainlines. Point out the churches that aren’t the liberal stereotypes. Encourage faithful pastors and elders. Young people who stay with these churches deserve to be seen as part of the evangelical family and encouraged rather than told they must leave their local church. The mainlines have many older members who are Biblically deserving of honor, not scorn.

We can do better to encourage the “remnant,” and to not make those who remain at those churches into fodder of our rhetorical denouncements of the mistakes of the mainlines.

BTW: Brad at Broken Messenger has posted on the GBA situation as he sees it. Support this kind of truthful posting.


  1. iMonk,
    Thanks for saying something, althought I feel this was a little light. To be comdeming people to hell on a blog is just plain insane. Call them lost, call them unfaithful, call them wackos, call thme hertics, I don’t care, but comdeming them to hell? Not only to mention the amount of beauty evangelicals can learn from mainline churches, from speaking to liturgies, to understand communion and baptistism as more then a dedication.

  2. The conventional wisdom that the denominational leadership is out of touch with the average PCUSA church is overplayed in my opinion. Even amongst those members who are politically conservative, they aren’t necessarily evangelical. Many of them are bibically illiterate and just don’t want to be bothered with controversy.

    Even if they did get riled up about something, all it would take was for a liberal to say “we’re all one in the body of Christ” and that would shut them up. The sad truth is that the liberals in the local church are much more motivated than conservatives, and those who call themselves conservative aren’t biblically literate enough to fight back.

    When I suggested to our pastor nominating committee that we ask candidates to weigh in on the gay ordination debate, I was told by one of my fellow “conservatives” that my views were extreme!

    We left shortly after calling a pastor (who didn’t last two years) and nearly all of the evangelical members have since thrown in the towel.

    Like thousands of others, our family has found a safe harbor in the PCA. It’s far from perfect, but there’s something nice about not having to debate things that should never even be debated.

  3. jfred:

    I do not recognize your description of PCUSA conservatives as I know them in the Confessing Church Movement http://www.confessingchurch.homestead.com/
    Or Presbyterians for Renewal or in churches like Mark Roberts’ or Tod Bolsinger’s or in conservative dominated Presbyterys.

    I am glad that the PCA has been a home for you. The PCUSA church I pastored is 2 hours from the nearest PCA church.

  4. I should have stipulated the difference between the Confessing Churches within the PCUSA and non-confessing churches. The big PCUSA Confessing Church in my new city is a bonafide evangelical church and our PCA church has friendly relations with them. They even hosted a speaking event recently with Tim Keller of Redemmer Pres (PCA) in NYC.

    My church in the National Captial Presbytery did not have enough session votes to become part of the confessing movement, but we still considered ourselves to be center-right. Our pastor was on the board of Presbyterian For Renewal and we hosted many of their speakers. I joined PFR for ahwile, but came to the conclusion they were simply ineffective as they state up front that they don’t believe in leaving the denomination.

    PFR’s ineffectiveness was powerfully demonstrated at the PCUSA general assembly this summer when the vote to effectively throw out ordination standards won by more than 60 votes (give or take). Two years ago the same measure had been defeated by five votes.

    This was the big gay victory that the radical groups like “More Light Presbyterians” have been lobbying for.
    Once the openly gay ordinations begin, it will be interesting to see what the confessing churches do.
    How long can they justify having any association with this openly and proudly radical denomination?

  5. chrisstiles says


    I too would take some issue with some of what Driscoll said. In general I don’t mind his humour at all, but felt the targetting of it was a little off base here. The thing is, the line has to be drawn somewhere. When leaders in the church say things like “how one lives his life is more important than whether one affirms Jesus as Lord.” then the conclusion that some of them will be going to hell naturally follows. The alternative is to give anything that calls itself a ‘Church’ the benefit of the doubt, regardless of what they believe.

    Incidentally, I followed the link to your blog. The ‘answer’ to the purely secular observation that demands correlate with zealousness – up to a point – is not to reshape the Church to be more like Islam, but to return to a biblical christianity that demands our very self as a living sacrifice.

  6. Brian Pendell says

    First of all, I must note that I only know what happens in mainline churches from what I’ve read in the newspaper and the occasional mainline friend.

    But if the situation is as described, I would simply point to the letter to the church of Sardis in Revelation 3 —

    “4Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. ” (Revelation 3:4).

    There is a similar message to the people of Thyatira — “Now I say to the rest of you in Thyatira, to you who do not hold to her teaching and have not learned Satan’s so-called deep secrets (I will not impose any other burden on you): Only hold on to what you have until I come.” (Revelation 2:24-25).

    So it seems that apostate — or mostly apostate — churches were known in Bible times as well. The Spirit seems to recognize the existence of faithful believers among the sea of idiocy, and encourages them to remain faithful.

    That’s why I can’t agree with Mr. Driscoll. I don’t believe we should speak more harshly of a church than the Spirit itself does. And since the presence of a minority of faithful believers in mainline churches is obvious, shouldn’t we be approaching them more in sorrow than in anger instead of waving a self-righteous finger of condemnation ?

    After all, if there are churches in America like Sardis or Thyatira — recall that Jesus threatened both of them with terrible punishment if they didn’t repent. I don’t think said churches need us putting the boot in on top of whatever discipline God decides is necessary. We should rather be trying to draw them to repentence, rather than rejoicing in OUR righteousness. It’s not as if He doesn’t have things to say to us too.

    And what would he say to us? I suspect we’d get the same message as the church of Ephesus — we’re doing a lot of good things, but in the midst of our works we are losing sight of our first love and of the things that really matter. In the doing, we are just as much in danger of losing our candlestick as any mainline church.


    Brian P.

  7. The sad thing to me is that the people who read Driscoll’s ranting, slanting and meanness will have even more reason to thumb their noses and flip their fingers to the churches that are on their faces before God praying for the least, last and lost. Praise God for women who have had enough and are willing to risk persecution from those on top in these bully churches. Mark Driscoll is a bully and he’s teaching his son to hate what God loves by telling him that these precious (yes, precious, if we can forgive such a sissy word) faith communities do not believe in sin or repentance. And, Michael, please, with all respect, I ask that before you lift up Good News as a vibrant and redemptive movement ask church leaders who have had their ministries torn apart by those fear mongers.

  8. iMonk said:

    If female leadership is a path to liberalism, what about Pentecostals and Charismatics?

    Dude: there is a kind of liberalism that thinks it is conservatism — but when it starts making individuals of equal quality to Scripture in terms of their ability to provide revelation from God, they are as liberal as anyone in a church which marries two gay people.

    I’d be careful with the broad brush on “charismatics”, but the Pentecostals are not conservatives who have, by some hermeneutical loop-hole, also found female eldership (via the offices of prophet and pastor) in the bible.

  9. bookdragon says

    I’m really disappointed that your criticism was so light.

    Here we have a prominent pastor literally slandering millions of other Christians in ways worthy of a TR watchblogger and this is all you have to say?

    Yes, there are problems in the mainlines, as in any large organization (is the leadership of the SBC really devoid of the sort of stupidity that misreads the bible?). The Dilbert Principle applies to churches as well as businesses.

    Now I’m an Episcopalian who frankly considers her bishop to be a borderline biblically illiterate idiot. But some of the best educated and simply best all-around Christians I’ve ever met are in the pews. Mark Driscoll wantonly slandered those people and if he really is serious about taking the bible seriously, he ought to review what Paul said about slanderers because according to the bible he has placed himself right in the same catagory with the gays he’s complaining about.

    Moreover, many of the criticisms are based on things that have been completely blown out of context. For instance, the Episcopal bishop who made reference to ‘mother Jesus’ was NOT doing something new and feminist/radical. Devotions to ‘mother Jesus’ can be traced back to at least the 12th century. Only a historically illiterate Protestant who thinks anything he didn’t see in American churches in 1950 is a liberal innovation would make that sort of dumb mistake – let alone publish it in an online sermon.

    Then there’s the criticism of the ECUSA bishop who said “Actions speak louder than proclamations” when it comes to showing our Christian faith. Guess what? If ‘biblically literate’ Driscoll bothered to read the gospels he’d find Jesus Himself saying the same thing. See for ref. the parable about sheep and goats and the statement that there will many who say ‘Lord, Lord’ but be sent away precisely because their proclamation counts for nothing if loving action isn’t there. (There is more to the up-down vote controversy too, but that’s a much longer discussion.)

    Oh, and then there’s the Sophia-worshipping pastor is the PCUSA. Guess what? She was disciplined by the church for that, repented and apologized. Had he bothered to learn the truth before running on at the mouth he might have noticed that (but ‘biblically literate’ Driscoll apparently isn’t familiar with the book of James either).

    Not only that, but for someone vigorously criticizing everyone else’s theology, he drops this into his rant:

    “See Jesus pull rank, judge you, and send some of your pastors to hell to be tormented by Him forever…”

    So now Jesus is the one tormenting souls in hell? Gee, I thought that was Satan’s job. Isn’t confusing Jesus and Satan just a little bit of a problem theologically???

    Driscoll needs to pull the giant cedar trunk out of his own eye before laughing about the even the 2X4s in anyone else’s.

  10. Histrion (Jay H) says

    To chrisstiles: humour? Driscoll was trying to be funny? Wow, I completely missed it. Hang on, I’ll read again. Nope, still not funny. And I don’t think I’m missing anything.

    Maybe it’s a tone of voice issue. Maybe I need to imagine Mark Lowry saying “See Jesus pull rank, judge you, and send some of your pastors to hell to be tormented by Him forever because He will no longer tolerate your diversity.”

  11. First off, I think monk is basically right in what he says. People are complaining that his condemnation of someone making a nasty condemnation wasn’t nasty enough? That doesn’t jive people.

    As to Driscoll’s actual message, I won’t deny that the tone is pretty bad, though I think much of the substance rings basically true. Did he overlook all of the wonderful Christians in the mainline churches, and the good movements within them? Assuredly so… Was he overly harsh and condemning. I think so, though at the same time he has valid points, expressed what I believe is an unacceptable way.

    If you have read much about Driscoll though or have seen his interactions, you will notice that he often does seem to shoot from the hip and quite often steps in it so to speak. But what I like to see, and perhaps hope to see in this case is that he has the humility to say, whoops, I screwed up, and do so in a public context. He has done so in numerous cases where he has badmouthed some of his old emergent cohorts, and I hope to see some of the same here.

    And bookdragon, whatever gave you the idea that Satan is the ruler of hell…Christ is the ruler of all the universe, satan will not have dominion there, he is not carrying out God’s work there or anything… I don’t mean that to sound snide, but your point was one of incorrect theology, something that I think you and not Driscoll are guilty of in this case.

  12. to iMonk’s critics:

    One of the problems you have to sort out in your own thinking is this — is a heirarchical church represented by its leaders and their actions, or by the faithful laymen who are trying to reform their apostate or nearly-apostate leaders?

    A heirarchical church is representetd by its leaders — in the same way Jerusalem was represented by the Pharisees in Mt 23. I have sympathy for the faithful remnant, but let’s remember that if they are a faithful remnant, they are faithful to God and not the denomination. The faithful remnant inside Anglicanism (for example) would agree with Pastor Driscoll’s son — knuckle-bust hand shake included.

    And bookdragon needs to read the book of Revelation — Satan winds up in the same place as all the condemned, under the same fate.

    Back to your work.

  13. oh, and iMonk: you’re a wuss for employing the smiley-face.

    C O N T R O V E R S Y !

  14. Bookdragon—you wrote: “So now Jesus is the one tormenting souls in hell? Gee, I thought that was Satan’s job.”

    Hell is the place of God’s wrath, not Satan’s. Satan’s receiving torment, not dishing it out. So anyone who is there, whether fallen human or angel, will “drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night” (Rev. 14:10-11).

  15. chrisstiles says

    “Driscoll was trying to be funny? Wow, I completely missed it. Hang on, I’ll read again. Nope, still not funny. And I don’t think I’m missing anything.”

    I don’t think that means that the intention wasn’t there.

  16. Brian Pendell says

    Gonna disagree slightly with the criticism of bookdragon …

    … while it is true that the Lake of Fire was constructed by God or his agents as a place of punishment “for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41) — Isn’t it true that the Holy Spirit is totally absent from Hell? God is in His city, and to be outside of it is to be cut off from him completely (Rev. 22:14-15).

    Meanwhile .. what is the Enemy doing in his eternal prison? Making life easier for everyone else there? I think not. I suspect that the presence of the other inhabitants is not least among the punishments of Hell.

    As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego show us, no place is truly Hell of God is there, even if it’s in a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:19-30).

    But in a world where the spirit of God is totally absent … where rage, strife, selfish ambition, and internet flamewars are all there is, and love, joy, peace, etc. are totally absent … that is Hell. The flames and sulfur et al are simply icing on the cake. The true Hell is what you suffer from your fellow prisoners, for all eternity. Think the biggest dysfunctional family you ever saw, where everyone’s in pain and the only solace is taking it out on the people around you or under you.

    No, it probably isn’t Satan’s “job” to torture people in prison with him. But volunteer labor is a wonderful thing. It seems to be his nature to dominate and to rule those around him, not withdraw from them. I don’t believe he could stop from adding to the torment of those around him any more than I can stop breathing.


    Brian P.

  17. Brian Pendell says

    One last question …

    … is Mark Driscoll’s post an example of “masculine” Christianity?

    ‘Cause if “masculine” Christianity means to tar with a broad brush, to speak harshly and brutally rather than softly, and to congratulate each other for having better than theology than the losers down the street, I’ll take the current feminized version, thank you.


    Brian P.

  18. My childhood pastor used to always say, “Young preachers are like wasps. They’re bigger when they’re born than when they grow up.”

    There are many, many things I really like about Mark Driscoll. As a former pastor of a mainline church (UMC) and a graduate of a liberal mainline seminary, I concur with many things he said in his post – I’ve been there, seen and heard that.

    Still, there is a certain spirit that comes across in his words that is less than productive and is more preaching to the choir than any genuine attempt at reforming denominations that long ago went adrift on the sea relativism. It doesn’t even sound like a final appeal for the remnant to leave Babylon. Is it possible to speak the truth in love? Where’s the grace?

    I’m only 45, but whenever I read or listen to Driscoll, especially after reading his Confessions, I always keep in mind that he is still in his mid 30’s and has only been a pastor for 10 years and a Christian for just a few years longer.

    While he has been incredibly used of God to bring thousands into the kingdom and he is saying and doing many, many things that the larger church desparately needs to hear and see, he still hasn’t passed his 40th birthday. Wisdom and discretion come with age.

    Recently I started listening to the music of Keith Green again. It doesn’t seem possible that he’s been gone for nearly 25 years or that he was only 28 years old when he died. In many ways, Driscoll reminds me of Keith Green.
    Green could be abrasive, divisive, hard to get along with and often came across as judgmental and arrogant. But when his fingers hit the keyboards the Holy Spirit moved and God only knows how many people are still being called to a deeper walk and a life of service in Jesus’ name through Keith’s music.

    I often wonder what Green would be like if he were still alive. Today he would be 52 years old. Would his incredible passion and zeal have turned to vinegar or fine wine? We’ll never know for sure, but I want to believe that he would have kept growing but still calling people to follow Jesus.

    I also want to believe that Driscoll will continue to grow and learn and lead. So, I can handle an occasional rant that goes over the top. Scripture certainly records more than a few of those, and I think that there is a certain office for rattling our collective cage in order to keep the church on task.

    I don’t think Driscoll is destined for the fate of the wasp.

    If you want to read a considerably more in depth critique of mainline drift and a blistering but accurate assessment of the culture and methodology of mainline seminaries, I would suggest reading Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements by Tom Oden.

  19. centuri0n said:

    Dude: there is a kind of liberalism that thinks it is conservatism — but when it starts making individuals of equal quality to Scripture in terms of their ability to provide revelation from God, they are as liberal as anyone in a church which marries two gay people.

    I’d be careful with the broad brush on “charismatics”, but the Pentecostals are not conservatives who have, by some hermeneutical loop-hole, also found female eldership (via the offices of prophet and pastor) in the bible.

    Not quite sure what you’re saying here, but be careful. I’ve been in the Assemblies of God for 31 years (with a short stint at a Foursquare). I will freely admit that there are some troubling practices that seem to go around in charismatic and Pentecostal circles. Some folks of the Benny Hinn crowd might even grant “personal prophecy” (or other euphamism), or a preacher’s opinion, or a caffeine-inspired dream, the same authority of scripture. This, however, is NOT an official view; to the contrary, the Scripture is the final– indeed, only– authoritative word of God to man. See http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Statement_of_Fundamental_Truths/sft_short.cfm for a place to read up on AG beliefs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard pastors and preachers make this same point.

    On the topic of women elders and pastors: this was fairly common back in the formative days of the movement, say 1900 through the middle part of the century. By the time I came into it in 1975, there were no women pastors that I ever saw. I knew a few ordained women, but they were nearly all elderly, and not practicing. Today it’s not even a consideration. That particular little practice has gone from unremarkable to basically nil. I can’t speak for other denoms, but beware of painting all Pentecostal groups with that broad brush you speak of.

    So, if Pentecostals have ever found a place for women in leadership, that makes us all “not conservative” in your book? Which also equates us all with, I assume, being apostate or seriously in error? Hmm. I think I’d be more worried about the ULI in TULIP than about ordaining a woman who’s WAY more conservative and legalistic than any one of your grandmothers! (yeah, I don’t buy the Dutch reformed version of protestantism, can you tell?

    That said, I’ve had a 12-year-long ulcer about the Toronto/Pensacola Signs and Wonders movement (I call it Pensacolitis), a three-decade-long headache about the prosperity “gospel”, and am completely fed up with the Modern Worship Cult. I grieve for my co-religionists. But: precisely because there’s a great deal of autonomy at the congregational level, our churches aren’t all the same, nor guilty of the same errors, nor GBA. Some of us can even read our bibles.

    Oh, and Benny Hinn is a boob.

  20. bookdragon says

    Is this really the only reply you can offer to my other criticisms of Driscoll’s rant against mainline churches?

    Okay, I may have Satan’s role in hell more from tradition than scripture, but can I say that I am appalled by the folks who see nothing wrong with the idea of Jesus in the role of active Torturer (and worse yet those who sound like they enjoy the image)?

    If that is the vision of Jesus held by non-mainliners, I’ll stick in my mainline church despite all its other problems thankyouverymuch.

    Seriously, I know there are plenty of people outside mainline churches who aren’t into throwing stones and actually view Jesus as a loving Savior (hi Brian!), but those of you defending this image what does it say about your theology?

  21. bookdragon says


    You really hit the nail on the head wrt ‘masculinized’ Christianity.

    If the model for being a ‘real man’ in Christianity is acting like a character in a Blue Collar TV skit, there is something seriously wrong with the concept.

    If the problem is that he’s trying to be ‘macho’ instead of be a ‘mensch’, he has a lot of growing up to do.

  22. bookdragon:

    I have heard of some who believe that hell is being eternally in the presence of God’s love and hating it. In that sense, Jesus could be considered the tormentor, but it’s really the man/woman bringing the torment upon him-/herself. Not that any of this really matters…

    Though I would address some of your other points:

    First, “Devotions to ‘mother Jesus’ can be traced back to at least the 12th century.” I would note that many recognized heresies can be traced back further than that, so the fact that the concept appears in the 12th Century, by itself, isn’t a very good argument. In what literature did this concept appear? Was this literature deemed heretical by the Church, or was it accepted as orthodox, or at least mostly orthodox? Obviously, if the concept doesn’t appear in any literature that was received by the Church, there’s a problem.

    Granted, the 12th Century was rather late. If there were something earlier, say, 4th or 5th Century, there might be more weight to the argument.

    “Only a historically illiterate Protestant who thinks anything he didn’t see in American churches in 1950 is a liberal innovation would make that sort of dumb mistake – let alone publish it in an online sermon.”

    I happen to know of at least one Catholic who would side with Driscoll on this point…

    “Then there’s the criticism of the ECUSA bishop who said ‘Actions speak louder than proclamations’ when it comes to showing our Christian faith. Guess what? If ‘biblically literate’ Driscoll bothered to read the gospels he’d find Jesus Himself saying the same thing.”

    Yes and no. I agree with you in the sense that many Protestants tend to minimize the sayings of Christ in the Gospels, and I agree that “faith without works is dead,” and that one who loudly proclaims orthodox doctrine but doesn’t “work it out” is merely a clanging symbol.

    At the same time, the Church has always believed that right doctrine is important. Otherwise, there would be no Nicene Creed, Apostle’s Creed, Ecumenical Councils, etc. Orthodox doctrine has, historically, been important enough to the Church that many believers have risked everything to ensure that the Church doesn’t lose it.

    Granted, the statement doesn’t have much context, and that’s important. Without the context, it could easily be heard as, “Proclamation isn’t important; actions are,” and to suspect that the speaker is promoting something that he/she knows is diverging from historical Christianity, but believes is “right” anyway. Perhaps that’s not what was being said (maybe he/she was reacting to the clanging symbols I mentioned earlier, and, if that were the case, I’d be one of the first to agree with the statement).

  23. Jim Nicholson says

    This is perhaps the most cogent and important post on InternetMonk.com I’ve yet to read. Keep up the good work. I’ll keep adding them to my “read these some day when life makes sense again” list.

  24. bookdragon says


    Actually I tend more toward the Orthodox description of hell you cite, but what I objected to was the image of Jesus actively torturing people following some sort of Alpha-male take down right out of a nature special on social structure among chimpanezes (one of the few species where the winner actually savages the loser(s) rather than simply killing them outright or releasing them after they show submission, btw).

    As to the image of ‘Mother Jesus’ it was completely Orthodox. There’s even a book by the title that traces its history within the church. It reached it’s highest expression among Cisterian monks, but references to Christ’s blood as mother’s milk or images of the Passion as travail go back much farther into the early centuries of the church. And Jesus in the gospels described Himself using the image of a mother hen longing to take her chicks to safety under her wings (something people with no church history, but familiarity with the bible should have known). So the concept was never considered heretical by the church and it’s origins date back to the earliest literature of the church.

    If you have a Cathoic friend who agrees with Driscoll, I can only say there’s a share of poorly educated Catholics too.

    It’s not that doctrine isn’t important. (Even in Judaism where action is paramount, if you believe God is anything other than One, perfect orthopraxy counts for nothing.) But note that the bishop Driscoll was (mis)quoting did not say that it didn’t matter. He said that how we lived in response to following Christ (which rather presupposes holding a Christian view of Jesus) is more important. The sad thing is that bishop McDowell is being reviled as a heretic for saying something that is plainly in the bible. If Jesus came back today and said the same things He says in the synoptics, I can’t help but think that it would be the so-called bible-believing Christians who would be the first to reject Him (‘Just look at that parable He told about sheep and goats! Judgement depends on how you acted toward others? Not a word about what you believed? Heresy!’).

    BTW, the up-down vote issue (context of the bishop’s quote) was a matter of political manuvering and frankly had about as much to do with orthodoxy as quite a lot of votes in Congress on bills with lofty-sounding names actually have to do addressing issue in their titles. It was prevented from coming to the floor because it was clearly designed to be nothing more than an instrument for tarring others in the church-equivalent of campaign commercials. For that reason, I am actually rather proud of my church for quashing it no matter how others may twist that fact to make us out as apostates.

  25. bookdragon:

    Yeah, I was mainly only citing the Orthodox description of Hell for fun. I’m not really sure where I, personally, stand on that, though I will admit to really liking some of the ideas expressed in Lewis’ The Great Divorce.

    As to the ‘Mother Jesus’ idea, I am aware of the Biblical symbolism of ‘travail,’ the hen, etc. I also believe I have heard the symbolism of Christ’s Blood as mothers’ milk. I would be interested in references to some of the earlier texts, if you have them.

    Though, I would point out that a ‘Mother Jesus’ idea, is not one commonly known among modern Christians—especially among modern Protestants. In addition, the context of the “conservative” hearer is one that has had to put up with such things as liberals/feminists wanting to rename the Trinity things like Creator/Redeemer/Teacher or Mother/Child/Womb or other such things (note that the first isn’t necessarily wrong, though it does draw some false distinctions, but it defines God in his relation to us, rather than in relation to Himself). So, calling Christ ‘Mother Jesus’, in the current context can easily be taken for an attempt to redefine God. The fact that the comment comes from an Episcopal bishop, for conservatives in other denominations (and probably some conservatives within Anglicanism), makes it seem that much more likely that this is what’s going on.

    Regarding poorly educated Catholics, as a Baptist, I’ve always been told that almost all Catholics are poorly-educated about what their Church teaches/what the Bible says/etc. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, however, in my recent discussions with Catholics to learn that this is as true of Catholics as it is of Baptists (i.e., I’ve met some very knowledgable Catholics).

    Regarding doctrine vs. actions, for me, the problem is that, as an Evangelical, I’ve heard very often that docrine is divisive, and as long as we love Jesus, and trust in Him alone, we’re okay. This ends up leading to doctrines that were declared heretical over 1500 years ago being widely taught without anyone knowing the better (modalism seems to be the most common example of this). When I’ve challenged this, I’ve been told that, as long as you believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you’re okay, and that having a proper view of the Trinity doesn’t affect how we live as Christians anyway.

    Given that, perhaps you can better understand my sensitivity to someone appearing to dismiss orthodoxy as unimportant (which is rarely done outright).

    And the “bible churches” definately have a hard time with a lot of what Jesus said, mainly because a lot of what Jesus said doesn’t easily jive with evangelical soteriology.

    I’m not sure what the up-down vote issue was. Not being Anglican, I’ve not kept up with everything going on there as closely as I’d like. What was the issue there?

  26. bookdragon says


    We seem to have a lot in common. I loved the Great Divorce too. That’s also a pretty viable idea of hell for me. However motherhood tilted me toward the Orthodox view. Spend enough time holding a 2 yr old in full-meltdown tantrum mode to keep him from hurting himself, and you begin to understand the idea that being embraced by a loving God could really be hell for someone trapped in their own ego and rage.

    We also have a bit in common wrt sensitivity to orthodoxy. I grew up in the Bible belt and largely walked away from that version of Christianity as a young adult. Only when studying Judaism led me to studying traditional Christianity did I realize how much of what I had grown up hearing was at least borderline heresy. So I am sensitive to that. What we believe is the grounding for how we live – perhaps one of the reasons I’ve reacted so strongly to something being called heresy which is not.

    “I would be interested in references to some of the earlier texts, if you have them.”

    The image of “Mother Jesus” was used widely among patristic and Medieval theologians and Christian mystics including: Julian of Norwich, Adam of Perseigne, Aelred, Albert the Great, Anselm, Aquinas, Augustine, Bernard of Cluny, Bonaventure, Bridget of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Clement of Alexandria, Dante, William Flete, Gilbert of Hoyland, Guerric of Igny, Guigo II the Carthusian, Helinand of Froidmont, Isaac of Stella, Margery Kempe, Peter Lombard, Ludolph of Saxony, Marguerite of Oingt, Mechtild of Magdeburg, Richard Rolle, and William of St. Thierry, as well as in the Ancren Riwle and the Stimulus Amoris. (Most comprehensive summaries I’ve found are by CW Bynum: ‘Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality ofthe High Middle Ages’, 1982 – Berkeley: University of California Press and also ‘Jesus as Mother and Abbot as Mother: Some Themes in Twelfth-Century Cistercian Writing’, The Harvard Theological Review, 1977). I can’t find the links right now, but mother imagery of God/Jesus also appears in writings by St. John Chrysotoam and Clement.

    “In addition, the context of the “conservative” hearer is one that has had to put up with such things as liberals/feminists wanting to rename the Trinity…So, calling Christ ‘Mother Jesus’, in the current context can easily be taken for an attempt to redefine God.”

    Only if those conservatives rush to judgement – something a good Christian conservative should know is far more against scripture than any feminist re-imagining. If you read the whole of the bishop’s sermon, the reference to Jesus as mother is hardly the dominant theme. She also uses ‘King Jesus’, for instance (something no truly radical feminist would do). In context, the reference to Jesus as mother appears mid-way through:

    ‘That full measure of love, pressed down and overflowing, drives out our idolatrous self-interest. Because that is what fear really is — it is a reaction, an often unconscious response to something we think is so essential that it takes the place of God. “Oh, that’s mine and you can’t take it, because I can’t live without it” — whether it’s my bank account or theological framework or my sense of being in control. If you threaten my self-definition, I respond with fear. Unless, like Jesus, we can set aside those lesser goods, unless we can make “peace through the blood of the cross.”

    That bloody cross brings new life into this world. Colossians calls Jesus the firstborn of all creation, the firstborn from the dead. That sweaty, bloody, tear-stained labor of the cross bears new life. Our mother Jesus gives birth to a new creation — and you and I are His children. If we’re going to keep on growing into Christ-images for the world around us, we’re going to have to give up fear.’ (http://www.ecusa.anglican.org/75383_76300_ENG_HTM.htm)

    There is nothing there that is not completely orthodox and biblical. Only those looking for something to rocks about could see a problem there.

    But of course most of the folks getting their knickers in a twist about this haven’t bothered to read the whole sermon or even the ‘mother’ quote in context. Instead, they’ve latched onto one word and and run out to spread the fiction that the new presiding bishop is some sort of militant radical feminist and/or heretic. Given the frequent biblical injunction against gossip and rumor-mongering, it seems to me that the bishop is far more in the right wrt following scripture here.

    “I’m not sure what the up-down vote issue was. Not being Anglican, I’ve not kept up with everything going on there as closely as I’d like. What was the issue there?”

    In Driscoll’s article he claims the ECUSA proved its lack of orthodoxy by defeating a resolution that declared an “unchanging commitment to Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the only name by which any person may be saved” by not allowing it to come to a floor vote.

    But that phrase was not the source of the problem and his summary considerably less than the whole story. The discussion about this resolution pointed out that the church had already committed to these concepts when it approved the Book of Common Prayer and Catechism, and, more importantly, raised objections to another section of the resolution that insisted on a specific (substitutionary) interpretation of the Atonement, noting that it was not in the Anglican tradition to insist on a single interpretation of basic doctrines. The resolution was discharged as handled at a previous convention. (See http://gc2006.org/legislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=322&type=ORIGINAL.)

    It also contained language that could be interpreted as running counter to the widely held Anglo-Catholic concept of ‘baptism by desire’ (since you’re a CS Lewis fan, you’re probably most familiar with this thru the allusion to it in the Last Battle). Since that would not allow for an understanding that God as Sovereign is the final judge when it comes to who is going to heaven/hell (and therefore Jesus can mediate where He choses and is not bound by formulatic profession), it was more than a little problematic.

    So rather than showing the ECUSA to a bunch of liberals playing fast and loose with theology, the vote actually demonstatred just how seriously they take the details and implications of their theological statements.

  27. Just a note on women pastors in the Assemblies of God:

    I know quite a few ordained women. I went to an Assemblies college; women tend to get ordained right out of college. The trouble is, there are very few opportunities for women in leadership… in the United States. In the States, they’re allowed to run children’s ministries and women’s ministries. In the mission field, they’re allowed to run whatever needs running. So that’s why you don’t see too many women ministers in the Assemblies anymore: We export them. (Or they get frustrated and quit trying to get jobs in the U.S.)

    On the quote, “How one lives his life is more important than whether one affirms Jesus as Lord”:

    Actually, I find myself agreeing with that statement. “Why,” pointed out Jesus, “do you call me Lord, Lord, yet don’t do what I say?” (Lk 6.46)

    In our churches we have lots of people affirming that Jesus is Lord, affirming the Apostle’s Creed, affirming the authority of the bible, but not living in any way that indicates that these things are more than myths. Christians don’t love their neighbors, love their enemies, and love one another as Christ has loved us. They don’t follow commandments. They don’t radically alter their lives to conform to the will of God. They think that saying the magic words, “Jesus is Lord,” or some form of the sinner’s prayer will get them into heaven; yet they display none of the fruits of the Spirit that are meant to indicate whether God has left His deposit of the Holy Spirit in His children. Magic words are no substitute for a relationship with Christ.

    One affirms that Jesus is Lord with one’s behavior, not just with one’s mouth. When Paul said “if you confess with your mouth…” I don’t think he was talking about hypocrites.

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