Yesterday, I got into a heated discussion with someone I consider a good friend, Jared Wilson. It was around Dave Fitch’s post on the Neo-Reformed Movement in light of the most recent Driscoll brouhaha, and Jared’s take on what Dave said.
I didn’t think that Jared was accurate in his Tweet obliquely commenting on Fitch’s post. But the discussion quickly turned to it being about “my team” against “Jared’s team”. And then to my recent posts on Mark Driscoll, where Jared identified me as an “enemy” of Mark Driscoll.
I confess that I was completely taken aback by that and lost my cool with Jared. Another person on Twitter DM’d me and gently upbraided me, suggesting I was responding to Jared in a manner similar to how Mark Driscoll had responded to Justin Brierley. He was right.
Jared and I both apologized and continued our discussion off-line. I value Jared highly as a thinker, a writer and my brother in Christ and it was a good conversation off-line. (Heck, Jared and I even share a birthday, All Saints Day – totally appropriate.) But I do want to respond to the language of “friends” vs “enemies” in theological discussions.
Rightly or wrongly, Jared felt that my responses to Driscoll were inappropriate in tone. To him, the language that I used and the way that I expressed myself stated that I felt Driscoll was evil and needed to be stopped. (In the future, Jared has committed to contacting me and letting me know if he feels this about something I’ve written — if and when I do it again.)
So let me say this. Mark Driscoll is not my enemy. Neither is he my friend. He is, however, my brother in Christ. I view his theology and primarily how he presents it as deeply flawed — and damaging to many — including himself. When I “go after” Mark, I’m going after what he said publicly and responding in a manner that, for better or for worse, is not atypical for me. I’ve used this manner in response to public statements or writings from people at all positions on the theological spectrum. None of these people are my enemies. Whether they be Noble, DeYoung, or from the Clans MacDonald or McLaren.
And I find the language of enemies vs friends on separate teams distressing. I make no bones about the fact I’m not into sports. From the time I was 8 until I was 13, I lived in Europe on Canadian Air Force bases. My family didn’t have a TV and neither did any of my friends’ families. If I listened to any sports, it was on Canadian Forces Network radio—a week tape delay of Hockey Night in Canada. And as much as I love the sound of Foster Hewitt’s voice, I rarely listened to him. So I guess I was never predisposed to view life through the lense of professional sports.
I, therefore, don’t find what appears to me to be the language / actions of team-loyal sports fans being applied to theological discussions as particularly helpful. ( I must note that, though Jared’s and my Twitter interaction yesterday provoked this post, I do not find his writings exhibiting this on any kind of regular basis, if ever. He is a strong, opinionated but irenic writer in my never humble opinion.)
I think Paul addresses the issues of “being on teams” in 1st Corinthians when he talks about one being of Cephas, the other of Apollo etc. We are, in fact, on one team. That would be Team Jesus— or if you’re afraid I’m sounding a little too Oneness Pentecostal — Team Trinity.
At this liminal time in the church’s history, where there is much change and much confusion, people want certainty— there seems little room for nuance. It is easier to join a particular side or team and pledge your allegiance thereto. But might I suggest that this only increases the confusion as we must all, together, seek the Holy Spirit and listen to what’s being said to the Church Universal — and when I say universal, I mean universal — what’s being said to the Church around the globe. This will not contradict the Scriptures but it may well give us deeper insight into them. (And yes, we can all hope and pray that I learn to do this with more grace and less snark. Though I fear it will require fervent prayer on your part.)
I realize it’s naïve to hope that in the midst of robust discussion we can actually hang on to that understanding that we are on the same team — especially as many want to make themselves arbiters of who is and is not on the team — and this is not unique nor exclusive to the neo-Reformed camp. (I need to note that I use neo-Reformed or new reformed interchangeably. This is not to be confused with the Neo-Calvinism espoused by Kuyper, Bavinck, Dooyewerd et al as unpacked by my friends, Gideon Strauss, Jonathan Chaplin and Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin.)
At the end of the age, Jesus won’t be giving Super Bowl Rings to the Theological Championship Team as the rest of us — the losers — slink off to our shacks in the less bright parts of heaven.
Hopefully we ALL will be hearing, “well done good and faithful servant” — as we have been clothed in Jesus righteousness rather than our own, being seen through the Blood of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
On this we may all have hope.