In recent weeks both Tim Tebow and Marc Driscoll have been hot button topics of conversation in my circles. The whole thing peaked this week when Tebow was knocked out of the playoffs and Driscol was interviewed on a popular British radio show.
In the Driscoll interview (he was going after the host because his wife is a pastor) he said something that is hugely troubling about its implications for the value of certain types of people. Driscoll was asking about how many young single men have come to Christ in the past year. Not how many people, but how many of them were men. Still not satisfied, he asked about what kind of men they were – were they strong men?
Do you see the sequence? (some might call it a pecking order)
He asked not about numbers of people who came to Christ, not about Church health or the British context (ie. implications of having a Church of England)
- How many were men … specifically young single men.
- Not men in general, but a specific type of man (strong)
Some may want to simply dismiss this as an eccentric fascination of an isolated mentality. I beg to differ. I see this as a ongoing, if below the surface, mentality that is pervasive in the North American Protestant-Evangelical-Charismatic camp (also known as ‘my people’).
I have written recently that we may worship success more than any God – and I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations about the fallout of the 20th centuries rejection of the Social Gospel or the inherent downside of anti-intellectualism that is still widely pervasive – what I am saying is that Driscoll’s views and Tebow’s fans are not an anomaly. They are the logical end expression of an underlying belief about who God is and how God works.
The Driscol-Tebow controversies are merely the public manifestation of an underlying theology surfacing in examples that bring to the public’s attention to what is always bubbling just below the surface – or behind the closed doors of the sanctuary.
The Gospel as it is configured in some quarters is surprising to those who are outside this stream. Does Jesus love everyone? Technically, yes. Is there a type of person that Jesus loves more … or a part of that person (soul, gender, etc.) that Jesus is more interested in?
If this concept is completely foreign to you – I may need to come at this a different way:
I had a chance to talk to a faithful saint who suffers from a chronic degenerative disease. She found a piece that I wrote about why we need to move away from old understandings about curses. She had undergone more than a decade of people ‘discerning in prayer’ that someone had placed a curse on her when she was younger and then attempting through intercession and deliverance to break the enemy’s power over her.
She was intrigued by my insistence that God was not picking and choosing who to intervene for and which situations to interfere in. She had heard last week’s interview with John Cobb where he said that we believe that God is doing in every situation all that God is able to do that in situation.
This is a radical assertion and a sharp departure from the common belief about how God can and does work in the world.
I told her about an old interview that Tripp did with Bruce Epperly where Tripp paraphrased him by saying “God does not hold out or run out”. Think about the implications of those two statements:
In every situation God is doing everything that God is able to do
God does not hold out or run out
I love this view of God. Some people get really upset because God is not as powerful as the Zeus-Caesar (theos) character they have been told lives up in the heavens watching us all and intervening/interfering according to ‘His’ will. But we are actually saying that God is powerful – its just that God’s power is a different kind of power from the unilateral and coercive power that has classically been ascribed to the Divine Being.
In this past week’s TNT I said that I thought something really positive came out of the pushback we got from our cross-efforts with Rachel Held Evans and Kurt Willems. It became clear that Process-Relational thought really is saying something quite different than classical theologies based on Imperial assumptions and Greek metaphysics.
This is not a simple tweak of the existing system (like Open theology). This is not a program that you just download and install into your already in place operating system. It is not a patch that employ to get rid of the bugs and kinks in the classical program. Relational thought is a different operating system (to use the fun Mac v. Microsoft Windows analogy).
I am excited about the upcoming Theological Conversation Jan 31-Feb 2 between the Emergent Village and Process-Relational thought. I am not under the impression that P-R is for everyone or that many folks will ‘convert’. But I am hopeful that we can engage, in a significant way, the ongoing and persistent glitches that (while they may rarely come to full blown Driscoll-Tebow levels) are perpetually just below the surface.