Archives For Pastor Dad

SG_DriscollSo far as I can tell, the stars haven’t fallen from the sky, the Earth is still spinning, neither the sun nor the moon have turned to blood, hell hasn’t frozen over and I’ve not spotted one pig flying.

But, holy crap, Mark Driscoll is actually right about something?!

And tempered and measured in his thoughts?

What gives?

Many of you know, Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle.

For his neanderthal Calvinism and his barbaric misogyny, he’s often a punching bag of mine. Not every one can always be wrong about every thing I suppose. Below, Mark Driscoll rightly points out the moral dangers in the increasingly extended adolescence of guys (formerly called men).

Here’s an interview from Neue Magazine.

Controversy has never been far behind Mark Driscoll, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Most notably, his outspoken support of a complementarian view has sparked debates anew around gender roles within the Church. And his infamous comments on Jesus’ masculinity—he has written that the mainstream church has transformed Jesus into a “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy of pop culture that … would never talk about sin or send anyone to hell”—certainly pitted many against him. However, the reformed pastor has only risen in popularity and his loyal following has grown to include a large number of churches through his Acts 29 network, an average of 84,000 weekly podcast listeners and more than 61,000 Twitter followers. We talked to Driscoll recently about his new focus on doctrine, whether he regrets some of his more controversial statements and why he believes immature men are the Church’s most urgent crisis.

You are focusing on doctrine quite a bit right now in your writings and teachings. Doctrine seems like a word we should all agree on the meaning of, but that isn’t always the case. What’s your definition?

Doctrine is found, actually, in the Bible. Paul says, for example, at one point to watch your life and doctrine closely. So he connects how you behave and what you believe—that you need to pay careful attention to both because what you believe determines how you behave. So for me, doctrine are those core, essential, necessary truths of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation that help us understand who God is, and how the world was made, and our role in the world, and what went wrong, and how Jesus is our Savior and what God’s big plan is in the end. So it’s the big ideas that anchor the world, and God and our place in relation to God and the world.

What would you say is the difference between doctrine and dogma?

When I hear the word “dogma,” I think of the taking of secondary issues and making them primary issues. I always use the language that there are “open-handed issues” and “closed-handed issues.” Open-handed issues are those issues which Bible-believing Christians can debate over, disagree over, even discuss over, but not divide over. The closed-handed issues are those issues we really have to remain committed to, to remain Christian. So for me, in the doctrine book [Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe], I had to really work hard along with my co-author, Gerry Breshears, on those issues that should be in the closed hand, and also talk about the various issues that need to remain in the open hand. I think dogma is putting everything in the closed hand—being absolutely dogmatic and contentious about things that, quite frankly, aren’t as clear in Scripture as other things. So there are issues in the Bible, like eschatology issues surrounding Jesus’ return, speaking in tongues, some things like that where you can love Jesus, and believe the Bible, and disagree on and still be a faithful Christian. There are other issues, like the Trinity or the resurrection of Jesus, you have to be very clear on to remain Christian.

You’ve talked a lot about twentysomethings today living in a sort of extended adolescence. Why do you think that is?

I think, in particular, it’s young men. Perhaps to some degree it is young women as well, but we’re finding more women are getting better grades, more women are graduating high school, more women are graduating college, more women are buying homes, more women are doing things that are more adult and responsible. We’ve created this. It’s a sociological category. It used to be you go from “boy” to “man,” and now you go from “boy” to “guy” to “man.” There is this whole new creation of a “guy.”

It’s just extended adolescence, where 20s, 30s, sometimes even in his 40s, he doesn’t really want to get married, doesn’t really want to have kids, doesn’t really want to pursue a career. He has a lot of hobbies, got a lot of buddies, watches a lot of porn, gambles, has a lot of fun, maybe plays in some band or is in a guild of World of Warcraft, or something ridiculous like that. And they’ve even got little [mottos] like, “It’s all good” and, “Bros before hos.” It’s just this whole adolescent, juvenile culture. Kind of the Adam Sandler-esque view of life, and there is this whole genre of comedy movies built around these kind of inept, irresponsible, immature guys, and I think part of the problem is, as well, that the Church in large part has accommodated that.

Those guys tend not to go to church. If those guys do show up at church, it’s usually just to find a couple of gals to break the commandments with. And the Church doesn’t really know what to do with them, so the least likely person in America to go to church is a guy in his 20s who is single. Without knowing what to do with those guys, they commit crimes, they get women pregnant, they’re a drain on social services, they don’t raise their kids, they don’t contribute to church, they’re not getting ready to lead the next generation. I’d say it’s nothing short of a crisis, it’s a real problem.

What do you think has created this “guy” phenomenon?

Part of it is the unintended consequences of divorce. Forty percent of kids go to bed at night without a father. Not to be disparaging toward single moms, but if you’re a single mom and you’re working 60 hours a week, and you’ve got a boy, and he’s home all by himself with no parents and no dad, he’s just going to be hanging out with his buddies, feeding himself pizza rolls.

The number one consumer of online pornography is 12- to 17-year-old boys. What that means is he’s home eating junk food, drinking Monster energy drinks, downloading porn, masturbating and screwing around with his friends. That really doesn’t prepare you for responsible adulthood. That’s a really sad picture, especially if you’re a single gal hoping to get married someday. You’re like: “Seriously, that’s the candidate pool? You’ve got to be kidding me.” That’s why 41 percent of births right now are to unmarried women. A lot of women have decided: “I’m never going to find a guy who is actually dependable and responsible to have a life with. So I’ll just get a career and have a baby and just intentionally be a single mother because there are no guys worth spending life with.”

Several years ago, you were regularly in the press for your controversial statements on gender roles, but now it seems like you’re steering away from those conversations. Was that intentional?

I don’t know, I’m always getting in trouble for something. I’m just really focused on, at this point, men and women. It’s really interesting because if you took all the women in my church who were sexually abused, raped, molested, assaulted in some way, I’d still have a megachurch. I’d have a couple thousand victims. So a lot of my time is spent with women who are abuse victims, it’s a huge part of what we do, and guys who are totally responsible and part of the problem. That’s where my focus has gone in part because of the demand that’s in our church and because of the people who I’m dealing with.

Do you regret any of those statements about gender roles and Jesus’ masculinity?

Oh my gosh. I have been preaching and teaching now for 13, 14 years. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, he says it takes 10,000 hours of something to become an expert. Preaching and teaching, I’ve gotten in about 10,000 hours. I’ve published I don’t even know how many books, blogs—it’s a crazy amount of content. If I could hit control-alt-delete and go back and do like they used to in Men in Black and just hit a button to make certain people forget certain things, that would be awesome.

My hope, my prayer, my goal is to do better, by God’s grace, to learn, to grow, to be sanctified and mature—to be less shock-jock and more Jesus-centered. I’m turning 40 this fall, so I can’t get away with, “Oh, he’s young.” I’ve got five kids, I’m not young anymore, I’m a tired old man. But I’m hoping God gives me enough years, maybe 30, 40 more years of service, that when it’s all said and done, I will have had enough time to correct some mistakes I’ve made and learn how to more clearly articulate some things I believe. So I’m trying to learn as I go.

mainRather than break my promise (reading Mark Driscoll’s crap ebook, Pastor Dad, in a charitable spirit that’s open to learning) I decided to avoid my promise. That’s right, I’ve (e)shelved the book.

So rather than posting another Driscoll rant, here’s a Father’s Day letter to my boys.

     Dear Gabriel and Alexander,

 

Another year has passed! Boys, the more I enjoy our time together the faster it seems to speed by. Even to the two of you- looking at the photos on our cork board recently, Gabriel, I mentioned how much older you look now than you do in some of the photos.

And you replied: ‘Yeah, you look older too.’

 

No matter how old I look to you, boys, I hope you’ll at least realize that in your Father’s eyes you two are perfect, just perfect.

 

I told you last Father’s Day how I stole this idea of writing you a letter from Dennis. I figure Dennis spends much of his time taking credit for my hard work and brilliance so turnabout’s fair play. Boys, the folks in the 8:30 service won’t realize I’m joking but I trust you do.

 

I also confessed to you last Father’s Day how normally I have strong convictions against celebrating cultural holidays in worship. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day…they’re not Christian holidays. Christians have a different calendar and a different story I’ve always believed.

 

So in one vein you could say my writing you this letter for worship makes me a hypocrite.

 

But in another vein I think its a faithful act because if you two are not a means of God’s grace for me then God never spoke a Word.

 

Alexander,

 

You’ve been with us for three years now. It feels like yesterday and like you’ve always been here.

 

No longer do I need to hold you at night and reassure you that ours is your forever family. Instead you’re now content to hug me, pray your prayer, roll over underneath your covers and drift off to sleep.

 

This year thanks to those annoying place-mats your Aunt Andi bought you, you’ve memorized seemingly endless, inane Presidential trivia. You can tell us which President kept goats, which President was single, which President killed someone in a carriage crash.

 

And you do tell us, over and over and over, at every meal.

 

Sometime during this year, X, you finally got the hang of sarcasm. It was an answer to prayer.

 

There was the night I made polenta and onions for dinner and you leaned over your plate, inhaled the rising steam and said: ‘Man, I love polenta and onions.’

 

And there was the night after Christmas when we were stuck in New York City during the blizzard. I couldn’t see because of the snow and wind and I got us lost. And you said from behind your frosted hood: ‘Dad, you really know your way around New York.’

 

I suppose some parents wouldn’t want their kids to be sarcastic, but I thought it was perfect.

This year, X, I watched you on several Sunday evenings sit down on a love seat next to Eleanor, our elderly friend, and read to her. You had with her the same endless supply of empathy I see you display with your baby cousins.

 

I will forever remember the day before New Year’s, standing in the back of the funeral home and watching you kneel at Eleanor’s open casket and earnestly pray for her.

 

Far from feeling concerned for you, in that moment I thought you were perfect, just perfect.

 

This year, X, you’ve gone from not being able to swim at all to swimming Butterfly with the grace of, well, a butterfly.

 

Watching you in the water, you look perfect.

 

You may not even remember, X, but one evening this winter after swim practice another kid looked at you and then looked at me, and he asked you if I was your “real” Dad.

 

I wasn’t sure for a second if you knew what the kid was getting at, but then you said ‘Yeah’ and you grabbed my hand and you looked up at me and you smiled and I knew you got it.

 

And in that moment I felt perfect, just perfect.

 

Gabriel,

 

I can’t believe the little hands I first held at Easter four years ago are now holding #2 pencils and doing worksheets at the kitchen table.

 

I can’t believe you’ve gone from playing with the plastic astronaut toys Charlotte Rexroad gave you to explaining the revolution of the earth to me.

 

I can’t believe that the Legos you used to shove up your nose you’re now using to do math problems. I wish I could take those Lego pieces and subtract the time that’s gone by too fast.

 

This year you’ve learned to make pancakes. And you’ve learned to ride your bike without training wheels. Actually, you didn’t learn. You just announced you didn’t need your training wheels anymore and then you did it.

 

Like so many other things, you did it on your own terms. That same quality that often makes me want to wring your neck I think will one day make you a leader.

 

This year, Gabriel, you gave me my biggest laugh.

 

When we were camping, one morning while I was making coffee you emerged from the tent with your hiking boots on, your footy-jammies unzipped and hanging down your knees, with no underwear on and, for some reason, wearing your enormous orange skateboarding helmet on your head. You stepped from the tent, gave me a knowing grin and then marched over to a nearby tree to do your business.

 

Your mother won’t like that I’ve shared that story and I’m sure someone in church will tell me it was inappropriate, but I think it was perfect.

 

Perfect because you make me laugh, Gabriel.

 

Whether its wearing your underwear on the outside of your jeans, putting on a red cape and pretending to be Nacho Libre as you jump off the back of the armchair or whether its the glee in your eyes as you ring Mark Gunggoll’s doorbell and then run away before he can answer.

 

Your sense of humor- it’s perfect.

 

For your fifth birthday, Gabriel, you asked for a kitten. You named her Karli, and you’ve displayed with her nothing but gentleness. It’s the same gentleness that wakes me up every morning with your smiling eyes on the corner of my pillow and your hand rubbing my hair.

 

Speaking of which, Gabriel, you keep telling us you’re too old to keep sneaking into our bed at night, but you’ve yet to make good on your words. As you get older, my share of the bed gets smaller and smaller.

 

Even still, waking up to your gentle, smiling eyes is perfect, just perfect.

 

One afternoon this April, Gabriel, you walked in on me while I was struggling to write a sermon and you found me crying. You asked me why and I told about you about a little boy who’d died.

 

 

You blinked and then gestured emphatically with your little hands and said: ‘Poor him. His poor family. It’s a good thing Jesus loves all the children.’

 

And you didn’t know it but you’d just given me my sermon and, just like that, you’d reminded me that you’re perfect, just perfect.

 

Boys,

 

A few months ago we were in the checkout line at Safeway. Sharon Perry was behind us. She hadn’t noticed us but, Alexander, you saw that it was her. I could see the little gears in your head turning.

 

Alexander, you pointed up at an issue of Men’s Health and you announced loudly so Sharon (and everyone else) would hear you: ‘Dad, his muscles are way bigger than yours.’

 

I feigned outrage and threatened to teach you a lesson. Alexander, you responded by saying: ‘Dad, you could not beat anyone up.’

 

Maybe that’s true now, but it wasn’t always true.

 

There’s a story I tell the confirmation kids every year. It’s more like a confession.

 

When I was in the sixth grade, I was bullied mercilessly for 3/4 of the year. I was the pimply, awkward, new kid on the bus, and every day- every day- a boy who was two years older and sat in the seat in front of me would shame me, spit on me, pick on me and hit me.

 

There are worse details I could share but if I did you’ll never go to middle school. He literally made that year Hell for me, and, as is the way in Jr High, I suffered it in silence.

 

Everyone called him Frog because he kind of looked like one. It never occurred to me that he was the way he was because he’d been treated the same way he treated me.

 

Anyway, after suffering nearly a year of his abuse, I decided to put a stop to it. One afternoon I didn’t get off at my bus stop. I rode for three more stops and got off at Frog’s neighborhood. And then I beat him up. Badly.

 

Boys, when I tell that story to the confirmation kids, I always build it up in a deliberate way; so that, when I get to the part about beating Frog up the kids- girls as well as boys- they always applaud. They always cheer.

 

They always think the way I handled Frog was perfect.

 

And then I tell them the rest of the story.

 

I tell them how what I did to Frog made him a sad, timid person who never again looked me or anyone else in the eye. I tell them how I became a Christian some years after that, and I tell them about the Sunday morning I heard Dennis Perry read from the sermon on the mount at Woodlake United Methodist Church:

 

“I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you….Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Every year, boys, I tell the confirmation kids how, having heard Jesus’ sermon, I knew that if I was serious about being a Christian then I needed to ask for Frog’s forgiveness.

 

That’s what I did, in the parking lot of a grocery store where he worked as a bagger.

 

No one ever applauds when I end the story there. My Father’s Day wish is that one day you’ll become the sort of men who do.

 

Boys, in my eyes the two of you are perfect in every way. And I’ve no doubt God looks upon you with a joy similar to my own. But the hard Gospel truth is that the perfection God wants to see in us is a peculiar sort.

 

To be perfect is not to be sinless or without fault.

 

To be perfect in God’s eyes is to love those you’ve no inclination to love, to love those who do not love you, to love those who hate you and those you long to hate.

 

Jesus could’ve said it in so many other places in the Gospel.

 

When Jesus praised the generosity of the widow with her single coin, Jesus could’ve said: ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in Heaven is perfect.’

 

When the disciples ask him how to pray, Jesus could’ve ended his lesson with ‘Be perfect as your Father is perfect.’

 

Or when Jesus told the rich, young man to sell all his possessions or when he told the lawyer “to love your neighbor as you love yourself’ Jesus could’ve added ‘Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.’

 

But Jesus says it here about turning the other cheek and loving your enemies and giving the clothes off your back to the person attacking you behind your back.

 

Don’t think, boys, this is about the avoidance of conflict. Because nothing will make enemies for you like a determination to love like Jesus, and that’s where faith comes in, boys.

 

After all, if you really did give your clothes to the person accusing you, then you’d be left standing there before a judge naked and that sounds ridiculous.

Except that’s exactly what Jesus did. You see it’s about faith, boys. Christians love their enemies not because its a guarantee our enemies will cease to be our enemies.

 

No, Christians love their enemies because that’s the same love that was nailed to a Cross. That’s the love God vindicates on Easter.

 

It takes faith- faith that if we love as Jesus loved then God will vindicate us too. Of course, boys, this sort of love is costly and counter-intuitive and doesn’t come any easier for your father than for anyone else in this world.

 

So I’m not the example you should be looking to. Instead you should strive to be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.

-Dad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

imagesChapter 7 of Mark Driscoll’s ebook, Pastor Dad: Biblical Insights into Fatherhood, is entitled ‘Protecting from Sin and Folly.’

Predictably Driscoll focuses so much on sexual sins you’d think this is the only subject which parents need to teach their children.

As a counter to Driscoll, I thought I’d post this old Father’s Day letter/sermon to/about my boys from 3 years ago.

Everything We Need: Galatians 5.1, 13-24

Dear Gabriel and Alexander,

 

First, my apologies. I had meant to write this letter and give it to you on Father’s Day. Unfortunately I have this job where I have to work most weekends so instead you’re getting it a week late. In any case, I hope you will take this letter, tuck it away somewhere and save it for a day when you want some advice and life wisdom from your old man. I’m guessing that day will not come until you are in your forties so make sure you store this in a dry place.

 

You might be wondering if this should not be the other way around. Maybe you should be the ones writing me a letter. After all, what kind of self-aggrandizing, cheese-ball writes his kids a letter on Father’s Day and then reads it from the pulpit? Gabriel, if you do happen to ask yourself that question, the answer is your godfather, Dr. Dennis Perry. I got the idea years ago when I was just a teenager, listening to the letters he wrote to Jess and Ben.

 

You should know I went through a phase in my theological development where I didn’t think it appropriate to talk at all in sermons about mothers and fathers and children. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day aren’t liturgical holidays, after all, and Jesus seemed to have had a complicated relationship with his own family.

 

I can tell you I’ve disappointed no small amount of church ladies with my previous refusals to preach Mother’s Day sermons. Obviously its because of you two boys but these days my thinking is changed. I can’t help thinking that if the Gospel has no bearing on our everyday, ordinary decisions and relationships then the incarnation- God taking flesh and dwelling among us- was kind of a waste of time.

 

Alexander, by now you’ve spent not quite two of your seven years with us. Just as if I’d held you at your birth, I honestly can’t recall a time you weren’t with us. As much as the extra weight around my middle, the weight of your head on my shoulder feels a part of me.

 

X, when I think of how far you’ve come since you first came to live with us and when I think of all the obstacles you have overcome, I’m filled with pride for you. And my faith is reinvigorated. I know your success is not because of your mom or me or even entirely because of you. I don’t often talk about seeing God at work in my life for fear of intimidating people who don’t see their lives that way. X, you are one case where I feel no need to be reticent.

 

Since we promised to be your forever home I’ve watched you go from just a handful of English words to turning the pages of Roald Dahl. This year I’ve seen you step out from your fear of getting something wrong to try new things- and, okay, maybe you should’ve been more afraid of skiing.

And this year I’ve discovered just how empathetic you are Alexander. With everyone. I can’t guess what path you will choose when you are older, but I pray its one in which you get to exercise this gift that God’s given you.

 

Gabriel, you make me laugh. I hope you always will. Some parents wonder what their children will be like when they are older. Considering how often I catch you hiding in the closet eating cheetos and cookies, I mostly wonder how big you’ll be when you’re older.

 

Gabriel, this year you’ve learned to ride your bike, your skateboard and to jump in the pool- all with reckless abandon. As the Fantastic Mr Fox says, that’s your trademark. This year you’ve also developed your potty humor and sarcasm to heights previously unmatched for a four year old. While some will say you couldn’t have inherited this from me genetically, I like to think it certainly has come by osmosis.

 

I can’t believe you’re four years old. I already miss the sound of you tramping down the hallway at 11:30 at night, wrapped in your red Nationals blanket, asking if you can watch Deadliest Catch with your mom and me.

 

But this year we’ve noticed other things about you boys too. For example, Alexander I’d no idea you could recite the Lord’s Prayer all by yourself, and Gabriel I don’t know when you learned to hold your hands out to receive- rather than take- communion.

 

I saw signs of your spiritual development all year, such as the afternoon this spring I listened to the two of you arguing in the backseat of my car about the nature of the Risen Christ. Alexander, I heard you positing that the Risen Jesus is ‘kind of like a Jedi, like Obi-Wan after he dies.’ Gabriel, on the other hand, you felt the Easter Jesus had more in common with Gandalf from Lord of the Rings because when he comes back from the dead ‘he’s sparkly.’

 

That’s hardly all. There was the evening at the dinner table when you, Alexander, matter-of-factly explained that Jesus and God are one and the same and, in your own words, you explained how Jesus was present at creation. Not too shabby for a first grader.

 

And there was the Easter night this Spring when we were all serving the homeless in DC with some church people when you, Gabriel, looked at me with complete seriousness and explained that we were doing what we were doing because Jesus had been homeless too.

 

When people hear this about you, its possible they’ll chalk it up to you being a couple of preacher kids. They’d never believe that in our house we actually talk more about bluegrass, baseball and the X-Men. Despite wearing a robe once a week and having some people call me Reverend, the truth is I don’t know how to plant this faith in you any better than any other parent.

No, the growth of your faith is a testimony to the Church- not just to Aldersgate Church specifically but to the Church with a big C, to the Church as a sacrament, to the Church a visible means of a grace we can’t see with our own eyes.

 

You’ll learn one day, if you’ve not already, that the Church is often easy for people to mock and parody. The Church can be easy to criticize and it can be a convenient scapegoat for disillusionment. Nevertheless, its every bit as true that the Church can transform people. Of that, you are already exhibits A and B.

 

Gabriel, one afternoon this summer while we were at the pool you pointed out how I had a couple of gray hairs on my chest. You then said: ‘Daddy, you’re old. Are you going to die soon?’

 

I like to think the gray hair is just part of my plan to look more and more like Sam Elliot, but even if that doesn’t work out for me the gray hair at least puts me in a better position to begin offering you sagely wisdom. Are you ready?

 

Here it is:

When you get older, one day and probably many times thereafter, you are going to wonder: DO I HAVE ENOUGH?

 

Enough what? you might be asking. Enough of anything.

 

I’m starting my 10th year in ministry and my 6th year at Aldersgate, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about people its that there’s one anxiety we all share. Its an anxiety about not having enough: money, time, love, health, security, faith.

 

You should know, boys, that question’s as old as the bible; in fact, they even asked it in the bible. A teacher named Paul wrote a letter about it.

 

Gabriel, you already know some of it. Thanks to Mrs. Mertins and the Aldersgate Day School you know all about the fruit of the Spirit. But somehow I doubt Mrs Mertins taught you that Paul writes about the fruit in the middle of a long argument about circumcision. I imagine it is hard to explain circumcision with construction paper.

 

If you were to read Paul’s letter now, I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me it was confusing, that you tripped over words like Flesh, Law, Justification and, naturally, Circumcision.

 

Here’s the thing- when you push all the confusing parts to the side, what you discover is that Paul is writing to people who wonder if they have enough. Only their question is: Is Jesus Enough?

 

These people loved Jesus. They believed in him and had faith in him.

 

They believed Jesus was enough to get them into heaven; they just didn’t think Jesus was enough to make sense of their practical, everyday lives. They wanted something else that would tell them what to do and what not to do, who to be, and where to go with their lives. So they hoped that something called the Law could give them the answers that, let’s face it, everyone wants.

 

We do not argue too much about the Law anymore, but the fact is boys: every moment of your lives you’re being bombarded with messages about what to wear, what to desire and buy, how to think, who to fear, what to hate, where to belong, what is possible and what you should aspire to.

 

So its no different than it was in Paul’s day. Everywhere you are confronted with messages telling you that Jesus is not enough to make your way in the world.

 

In response, Paul says we should ‘live by the Spirit.’

 

X, you asked me not too long ago what the Holy Spirit is. And I said it was like wind or breath, something that is everywhere even if you can’t see it. I could tell from the look on your face that that was a singularly unsatisfying answer.

 

I think in general Christians are too sloppy when it comes to talking about the Holy Spirit because really its simple: the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus.

 

The Spirit is Holy because its Jesus’ Spirit. The Holy Spirit is how Jesus is at work in the world today. The Spirit does what Jesus did and if the Spirit allegedly does something Jesus would not have done then, chances are, its not really the Spirit.

 

When Paul says that we should live by the Spirit, he means we should follow Jesus: mimic his life, practice his teachings, apprentice our lives to his life. He is the mold we should pour our lives into.

 

That’s where the fruit of the Spirit comes in, Gabriel. Paul says that if we apprentice our lives to Jesus then our lives will be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faith, gentleness, and self-control.

 

Some bibles have Paul saying ‘There is no law against such things’ but, really, in the Greek, it says: ‘There is no shortage of such things.’

 

In other words, Paul is saying our lives will resemble Jesus’ life. And not only is that is enough for your life, really its everything you need.

 

God doesn’t give you everything you want- you’ve probably learned that already.

 

God doesn’t give you everything you need to be happy and free from disappointment and suffering.

 

But God does give you everything you need to follow him. That’s what we were made to do and that’s what the fruit of the Spirit means.

 

And that brings me back to the Church, boys- the Church with a big C. Because our lives are meant to bear fruit; our lives are meant to look like the life Jesus lived. So its not that your faith can ever be just one part of your life.

 

The moment you become a disciple your life suddenly becomes something for you to cultivate and grow. And you can only do that among the People we call Church. You can only do that by learning how to worship and pray, by learning how to give and forgive, by serving and sharing another’s burdens.

 

I hope when you are my age you have not forgotten that. I hope none of us have.

 

Love,

Dad

mainDick Cheney could’ve spared himself a lot of historical ignominy had he opted to force prisoners to read Mark Driscoll’s ebook Pastor Dad: Biblical Insights into Fatherhood rather than submit them to water-boarding.

The cumulative effect of Driscoll’s self-congratulatory screed has been to remind me of Robert DeNiro’s stepfather character in This Boy’s Life, the memoir/film by Tobias Wolf.

DeNiro’s abusive yet pathetically silly character, like Driscoll himself, haunted the Pacific Northwest.

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Chapter 6 of Driscoll’s ebook, ‘Instruction Followed by Correction,’ pretty much follows this theo-literary formula:

‘A wise and godly father SHOULD______________’ 

‘A wise and godly father MUST________________ ‘

Insert tenuous citation from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs. 

I began reading this book to anticipate Father’s Day but Driscoll is such a boorish nag the book is better suited to Mother’s-in-Law Day.

The model of ‘biblical’ parenting prescribed by Driscoll presents a telling contrast to that other sacred text opening in theaters tomorrow, Man of Steel.

People who know me or read me will not be surprised that in the comic pantheon I prefer Batman, well tied with Hell Boy actually. Batman is dark and damaged. Cynicism leads him to vigilantism. The costume reveals his true self rather than masks it.

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Superman, on the other hand, has always been a bit too bright, too optimistic and Americana kitsch for me.

Except, I guess I should qualify that by saying I never really cared for Superman until I had kids.

Until I adopted kids, I should add.

My oldest boy, I should specify.

Most reflections (of a theological bent) on Superman focus on how Kal-El is a graphic, American Dream projection of our need to have a Christ-like Savior figure, one whose character is as pure as his powers are mighty. And sure, you can interpret Superman that way. I mean it’s not exactly subtle; Kal- El is a loose play on the Hebrew for ‘voice of God.’

But to read it only that way is, I think, to miss something else entirely.

Superman’s goodness, his kindness and gentleness, his (often unfounded) insistence on believing in the good inside people- all those attributes that led me to dismiss Superman when I was  a boy are exactly those things that give me hope now that I have boys.

Because those attributes of Clark Kent I found so bland and corny as a kid are attributes Clark acquired from Ma and Pa Kent.

His adoptive parents. article-kent-2

This is clear to anyone who’s read the Superman comics- and it’s what makes Superman Red Son, in which Clark’s spaceship crashes not in the Midwest but in the Soviet Union, so interesting.

Clark is the way he is, unfailingly kind (even to the point of naivete), gentle and good, not because he went to K-5 at the Fortress of Solitude Academy.

No, he is the way he is because that’s the example Ma and Pa Kent gave him as his parents.

Superman’s goodness is their goodness.

While Batman shows the life-long impact of tragedy striking a boy in one’s formative years, Superman, more so than any other comic superhero, demonstrates the power- the possibility- of nurture being just as formative in a child’s life as nature.

In the Church, we call that grace. It’s the good news behind Clark’s goodness. And it’s been the good news in our own family.

We adopted our oldest boy when he was a few days shy of his 5th birthday. His preceding years had given us every reason to expect that the proceeding years would be far from easy. Or happy.

The adoption world uses terms like ‘at risk’ and ‘special needs’ to name the possibility that whatever’s happened before this child crashed into your life likely cannot be undone by whatever love you nurture in him.

And often, sadly, that IS how the story turns out.

But I can give you at least two stories, one drawn in reds and blues and the other being told in flesh and blood, that turn out differently.

 

mainA friend recently suggested that reading Mark Driscoll is my guilty pleasure- he is, this friend observed, my Fifty Shades of Grey.

An apt analogy considering how, like Fifty Shades (I’m speculating here. It’s not that I’ve actually read it), Driscoll begins each chapter in a predictable, harmless way but before you know it you’re in the middle of something unholy that’s careening towards abuse and torture.

Even Hannibal Lector serves his victims dinner first.

Much in the same way, Chapter 5 of Pastor Dad comes with the title, ‘The Masculine Duty to Provide’ and begins with this sensitive, courting line:

‘It is dad who should be reading the bible with his kids, praying with them, and answering their questions- not just mom.’

But don’t be fooled.

Like the suitor of a torture-porn novel, this is just Driscoll’s way of hooking you so he can go on to his real interest of base objectification.  mark-driscoll

First, Driscoll cuffs women to his nostalgic rereading of scripture:

“Work is for a man an act of worship, just as his wife’s work is worshipful for her. this does not mean that it is a sin for a wife to work when a couple is first married, as they are getting ready to begin their family, or for a wife to make money on the side as a secondary priority while remaining at home with the children, or even for her to work once the children are grown if the motives are pure and her primary duties are not neglected.”

Ladies, don’t get your panties in a bunch because the only thing Driscoll is equal opportunity about is his reified gender roles. When it comes to gender stereotypes, Driscoll goes both ways:

“…there is no way anyone could read the bible and wind up with the silly notion that both the husband and the wife are to be providers and that daycares or relatives are supposed to raise the children of a christian couple. furthermore, it is completely impossible to read the bible and wind up with the inane idea that a christian father can be a stay-at-home dad while mom goes to work. anyone who thinks these things are acceptable is
by definition worldly.”

Inane?

Isn’t it more inane to impose your incredibly modern, incredibly Western notion of the nuclear family upon biblical texts that share no such presumption?

Isn’t it more inane to use scripture to privilege the Leave to Beaver ideal when a literal reading of much of scripture would mandate that Ward Cleaver enjoy the blessing of at least several Junes in his family?

But what’s the point of debating Driscoll? Like Fifty Shades, you don’t spend time with Mark for the thoughtful conversation. It’s the rough and tumble that his fans get off on. Take this role-playing experiment towards the end of his chapter in which Driscoll feigns a scene of domestic tranquility:

“One night while tucking my daughter Ashley into bed, I asked her, “what should a good daddy do?” Putting her finger on her chin to think, she said, “a daddy should make a lot of money, a daddy should read his bible, a daddy should teach his kids, a daddy should love his kids, and a daddy should be silly and have lots of fun.”

Fifty-Shades-of-GreyThat’s as misleading as Fifty Shades’ innocuous dust jacket. Just a normal Daddy-Daughter exchange you think at first, but before you know it you’re wondering ‘Wait, did his daughter just say a daddy’s first job is to make money?’

A lot of money even.

After reading that I asked my own boys (7 and 10) the same question, and I got this answer:

‘A good daddy loves his kids, teaches them things, teaches them about Jesus, farts (Gabriel) and buys us toys (Gabriel again).’

Maybe that’s not a Chicken Soup type answer but it’s real. Making lots of money would never cross their minds as a response.

So either Mark Driscoll is full of crap about that conversation, which would be sad to put such words in his daughter’s mouth.

Or, Mark is telling the truth and the first thing that struck his daughter about a father’s role is making LOTS of money.

While my boys included cracks about farting and toys, they also reflexively said something about Jesus. And that’s no small point of comparison when it comes to Driscoll’s Pastor Dad.

There’s nothing in it about Jesus.

Where I’d say my primary goal as a father is to nurture my boys into bearing the image of Christ to benefit the world, Mark argues its to provide- financially- for his children.

He calls his book Pastor Dad but in the ways that count there’s nothing really distinctively Christian about his book.

It just reads like a Dad, circa 1951, giving his son fatherly advice with a little scripture thrown in for gravitas.

What’s more, this and the previous chapters of Pastor Dad rely almost exclusively on quotations from Proverbs- a collection of pithy, koans of wisdom that have no context and are ripe for misuse.

When he doesn’t cite Proverbs, he defers to other Wisdom literature.

Fine. But thus far I’ve not come across a single reference to the Gospel stories. Nothing about Jesus- other than how a godly father’s job is to rear his children in the belief that Jesus died for their sin.

But there’s nothing here about Jesus as the 2nd Adam, a model or pattern for what it means to be human.

Surprisingly, a book ostensibly about fatherhood reveals the fatal deficiencies in Driscoll’s Neo-Calvinism.

Calvinism’s singular focus on justification by faith (which itself focuses exclusively on the death of Jesus) just has no other use for Jesus.

Like torture porn itself, once you get past the shock factor of Driscoll’s theology, you realize it’s pretty thin stuff indeed.

 

 

 

mainI’ve been marking the time up to Father’s Let’s Baptize Consumerism by Idealizing the Family Day by reading Mark Driscoll’s new ebook, Pastor Dad: Biblical Insights on Fatherhood.

On previous occasions, I’ve duly and honestly noted that, for me, Mark Driscoll is right up there with Joel Osteen, Bob Saget and Joseph Goebbels. While I’ve been accused from time to time of gross exaggeration, crass generalization and conceited dismissals of contrary views, I’m like a kid with sidewalk chalk to Driscoll’s Picasso.

A master of the arresting tweet and jaw-droppingly false assertions, Driscoll’s a one-man meme-maker with his straight-faced, ‘scriptural’ sermons about biblically-mandated BJ’s and liberal Christians’ limp-wristed,wimpy versions of Jesus.

While I get gripes from the bishop’s office for making a joke about Jesus farting, Driscoll gets ecclesial kudos and book deals for things that make George Carlin seem like Mr Rogers.

Despite the gag reflex Driscoll provokes in the back of my throat, I promised to read his book in a spirit of Christ-centered detente because lessons can be learned even from enemies. Right? mark-driscoll

First lesson learned- and a good one for fathers to pass on:

One should be wary of making promises they can’t keep.

Driscoll’s chapter 5, ‘The Masculine Duty to Provide,’ is like spilling Maker’s Mark are all over a recovering alcoholic. But today instead of ridiculing Driscoll with a glee that will be enjoyed only by me and a few others, I thought I would offer something more thoughtful.

And more Christian.

282568_150937788316009_5326304_nA friend and neighbor, Chad Pecknold, is a theologian at CUA and has a post at Ethika Politika, contemplating fatherhood. I believe this is the argument that Driscoll (if he had the conscience of the average citizen and the IQ of a mole rat) is attempting to make in much his book:

I am haunted by an even deeper crisis that must at least exacerbate, and may even be a root cause of the fatherhood crisis: a loss of an embodied faith and an embodied understanding of God as Father.  As St. Thomas Aquinas taught, it is not from human fathers that we understand what it means for God to be Father, but it is from the revelation of God as Father that our understanding of fatherhood is elevated and perfected.  Is it so impossible to think that a modern vision of God as Deus Absconditus has, inversely, defected and devolved our understanding of fatherhood?

In Charles Taylor’s extravagantly illustrated account of why it has become difficult to believe in God, A Secular Age, he calls the Reformation a “disenchantment engine.”  Martin Luther had famously rejected every attempt of human reason to know God.  Despite the teaching of the Apostle Paul, who said that the invisible God could be known by the things that were made, Luther stressed the unknowability of God through things made.  The god of the philosophers is always a fabricated God of our own making.   Since only God can reveal God, Luther severed the ancient dynamic between Athens and Jerusalem.

For many, the “disenchantment engine” at first made “optional” but then broke the relation between God and creation, as well as the complementary relation between faith and reason.  Sometimes this “break” is blamed on nominalism, the view that universals (invisible things) cannot really be known as anything other than fabricated relations between particular, visible, made things.  How did this happen?  For the nominalists that trained Luther, God’s intellect was unknowable. And since God’s will perfectly expressed his intellect, it was argued that his ways were inscrutable. This made it possible for later thinkers—against the backdrop of the Black Death and other natural disasters—to think about God’s actions in a capricious way.  Instead of understanding God’s actions as fitting the goodness of his nature (as Aquinas argued), it became possible to think of God as an inscrutable and unknowable sovereign, as one who does not necessarily act in accordance with his nature, but may act solely upon his mysterious will.  Fear of this inscrutable God made it easier for some thinkers to descend further into what Taylor calls “providential Deism.”

Taylor rightly sees in this descent to “providential Deism” the eclipse of transcendent purpose, the erasure of supernatural grace in an immanent frame, the denial of mystery, and the refusal of a participationist understanding of our relation to God. No longer are we humans called to become “partakers of the divine nature,” or elevated by grace to become adopted sons and daughters of God.  Now God has become the Deus Absconditus that has created the world and simultaneously orphaned it.  Taylor argues that these shifts, among many others, are responsible for why it is more difficult to believe in God now than it was prior to the Reformation.  These shifts have not only made it difficult to know God as Father, but have also made it difficult for us to recognize the nature of human fatherhood in anything other than the basically nominalist and voluntarist modes of providential Deism.  That is at least one of the important reasons why Locke’s view of fatherhood becomes possible, and why liberal cultures that slavishly follow this trajectory will continue to want to hide the fathers.  The antidote is the revelation of the Father’s love for the Son.

 

mainI’ve been reading Mark Driscoll’s new ebook, Pastor Dad: Biblical Insights on Fatherhood. It seemed a fitting thing to read this time of the year. We’re a week away from Father’s Home Depot Marketing Blitz Day.

Thus has it always been so. Here’s the skinny on the origins of Father’s Day:

Americans resisted the Father’s Day holiday during the first few decades, perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. But the trade groups did not give up: they kept promoting it and even incorporated the jokes into their adverts, and they eventually succeeded

I read that on Wikipedia so it must be true, or at the very least-as the stats bear out- it was written by men and is more accurate than the Encyclopedia Briwhatchimacallit.

Frankly, I don’t care that much about the crass materialism of Father’s Day since it means I will, in all likelihood, receive something from Williams Sonoma my wife would’ve otherwise forbid me from purchasing.

What does p&** me off is how these fake holidays got put on Sundays so that now God’s People are saddled with the expectations created by non-Christian holidays and must, in at least some tacit way, participate in the cultural lie that we all live in the United States of Pleasantville, do not have emotionally complicated families and that what God most wants from us is stable family units that will create a stable civic order.

But I digress.

mark-driscollBut the digression is not my fault. Chapter 4 of Driscoll’s book, Cultivating Kids, reads like he’s finger-pointing and shouting down someone (a liberal Christian woman or effete man, no doubt) on the other side of the room. It’s exhausting. I should’ve saved this book for Lent ’14.

In chapter 4, Driscoll cites as the Christian father’s sole duty as cultivating obedience in their children. Obeying your father is second only to obeying your Father in Driscoll’s assessment of the canon. So important is our children’s obedience that scripture- the Book of Leviticus- stipulates:

“If a child verbally curses or physically attacks a parent, they shall be put to death. Their blood is on their own head.”

We all know Leviticus has some doozies in it that make you wonder why the ancient Israelites needed such peculiar rules- I mean, were there a lot of people misusing their foreskin?

We all know the skinny on Leviticus, yet Driscoll actually cites this stipulation about infanticide with nostalgic fondness.

Who needs a timeout mat when you’ve got ritual killing waiting to play as a trump card?

Cultivating godly obedience in your children means a Christian father must make sure the Lord is glorified in all aspects of the child’s upbringing, Driscoll writes. Okay, I’ll not quibble with him there.

He goes on.

A godly father discern what’s best for his children, home-schooling or Christian schooling.

Or…?

Nope, not on the list provided by Rabbi Driscoll.

Because, as Mark Driscoll says in an assertion that makes Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann seem nuanced:

‘…public education was birthed by atheists such as John Dewey and Horace Mann.’

Didn’t you know?

And, says Driscoll:

if it wasn’t for Calvinists no one in America would likely be able to read right now.

I promised when starting this book that I would be charitable, open to receiving some insight from my enemy.

Yes, well chapter 4 is all goose-eggs and turds.

Therefore, in the spirit of what Mark Driscoll seems incapable of expressing I will spend the rest of this day, which is a gift from God, with my boys, who are both gifts themselves.

Sabbath rest and then we’ll throw something in the smoker.

And if that doesn’t sound like a good idea to my boys, I guess I could always just stone them.

 

mainAgainst every natural and holy impulse within me, I’m marking this advent season before Father’s Hallmark Day by reading Mark Driscoll’s ebook, Pastor Dad: Biblical Insights into Fatherhood.

As I’ve oft noted, Mark Driscoll is one of those people who calls to mind that piece of scripture from 2 Peter:

 The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

For my response to chapter 3 of Pastor Dad, “The Fruitful Vine,” I thought I would attempt what Driscoll almost always fails to bother with : consider a woman’s point of view. My wife, Ali.

So then, I offer you both my reactions to Driscoll’s screed as well my wife’s likely reactions to what she surely would have a stronger and more derogatory term than screed.

Driscoll begins the third chapter in the beginning of the bible, the book of Genesis, telling us that fatherhood and a “biblical family” are rooted in God’s command to Adam to be “fruitful and multiply.”

This means, Driscoll explains with breathtaking generalization, that “godly men desire to have children and that those children would have much fruit in their lives with God.” 

Jason’s Reaction:

Does ‘fruitful and multiply’ really mean having children, or do we read that in to the text because State’s more ancient than Rome have always had a stake in encouraging families? Might it just as easily mean our lives are to be about more than ourselves, having a multiplying, pay it forward effect? Does this mean Jesus was also taking about us spawning when he said we’re branches on his vine that should bear fruit?

Ali’s Reaction:

Nice, so Genesis is just a two-party conversation between God and Adam with Eve off doing….what? Doesn’t matter I suppose…to Mark Driscoll. Why in the ________ does he assume God only gave the command to Adam?

Next, Mark Driscoll cites the ‘cleaving’ passage in Genesis 2 to argue that only after a young man has grown up, started a career, and learned to govern his own life “is he qualified to pursue a young woman through father…young men continue to live at home, freeloading off their parents as boys who can shave, while they have sex with girlfriends that they one day may shack up with, and use birth control to prevent pregnancy or abortion to murder their own child because fools see children as a burden and not a blessing.”

Jason’s Reaction:

Let’s just ignore the unalloyed way he just equated all abortion with murder as though there’s no ambiguity on the issue. This is a surprisingly biblical justification for getting married later in life, but I wonder how he feels about the way this rationale rubs against the other biblical notion of chastity outside of marriage?

Ali’s Reaction:

Kudos for Mark Driscoll smacking down boys who want to remain boys into their 30’s, playing XBox, being mommied by women who should be grandmas soon, all the while having their ‘friends with benefits’ or their ‘baby mommas.’

Of course, any prophetic wisdom aimed at men who want to remain boys is lost by the way Driscoll treats women as completely passive objects in the transaction he calls ‘courtship, marriage, and fatherhood.‘

Pursued?”

Really, does this mean women who pursue men can never have a ‘biblical marriage?‘ No doubt Driscoll would have an S word for such women and it wouldn’t be ‘scriptural.‘

“As a general rule, single men should aspire to to marriage and fatherhood, and if they do not there is something seriously wrong with them.” 

Jason’s Reaction:

So, according to Driscoll’s construal of manhood, Jesus is extremely queer- definitely in one sense of the word and possibly in that OTHER sense of it?

Ali’s Reaction:

Weren’t the first Christians ALL single? As a way of expressing their commitment to Christ and their conviction that the community was now their family?

Don’t Christians believe we spread by conversion and baptism? New Creation rather than procreation?

mark-driscollNext Driscoll says:

“When I met my wife, Grace, I adored her and soon asked her how she felt about children, because if she was not interested in being a wife and mother who desired to stay home and raise her children, I was not interested in pursuing a relationship with her and did not want to waste my time.”

Jason’s Reaction:

As I often tell couples, your relationship with your spouse- not your kids- is your first priority. You didn’t swear a covenant with your children; you did with your spouse. You and your spouse are meant to be visible sign of God’s love for us all. Children are the fruit of parabolic, married love; married love is not the means to the end that is children.

Ali’s Reaction:

‘Waste my time…?’ Jason and I met when we were 15 and have been together over half our lives. We had no idea what the future held back then and we were no more naive than couples who meet in their 20’s or 30’s or 40’s. Love- and life- happens. It’s that willingness to step out into an unknown future with someone (whether it means kids or not) that is Christlike and faithful not finding someone to mate with. Did he inspect her teeth and forelegs first before breeding with her?

MD says:

“I wanted to have children and be a father who was the sole economic provider so that my wife could stay home with the children…[a wife whose] children praise her because she is a wise bible teacher who spends her time working hard to build their home and bless their father.”

Jason’s Reaction:

Isn’t ‘sole economic provider’ a bit of an anachronism? The cliche of the husband bringing home the bacon doesn’t really match the biblical context of an agrarian (not capitalist, market-based) economy where said bacon was literally bacon and was literally brought ‘home’ from the field next to the house, a field in which you can be damn scripture sure the woman worked in as well (see: Ruth, Book of).

Ali’s Reaction:

I’d LOVE not to have to work but pastor’s don’t make enough to support a family in an economy with an evaporating middle class. Not to mention, I reserve the right to work should I want to work and I claim the possibility that God might call me to do so in some particular fashion. If not everyone has the same gift from the Spirit, then why/how would God call all women to be stay-at-home moms? Some dads are superbly fitted to be stay-at-home parents, and homes with 2 working parents aren’t de facto bad families.

And then there’s this:  A WIFE’S JOB IS TO BLESS THE….

fATHER?!!!?

As in, her man not her God?

WTF?

Driscoll then moves on to discuss in nuanced, sensitive fashion the influence parents can have on their impressionable, ever-watchful children:

“If a wife is a nag who disrespects her husband by chirping at him all the time, then the children in that home will follow her example and become fools who ruin their lives by similarly disobeying and dishonoring their dad.” 

Jason’s Reaction:

Sigh.

Ali’s Reaction:

Nag?! %&^%&&&&^$^&&%$###%^&**^&((^$$##@#&**!

To buttress his claims about the devastating effects of nagging wives upon God’s good creation, Driscoll cites as evidence:

“…anyone doubting this descent would be well served to simply watch one of the innumerable popular sitcoms on television where the husband is an idiot and the wife trash-talks him in front of the children…” 

Jason’s Reaction:

Does anyone really think today’s sitcoms are anymore reflective of reality than Rob and Laura Petrie from the Dick Van Dyke Show? I wasn’t alive, but did married couples with children really sleep in twin beds and know absolutely no black people?

Ali’s Reaction:

Nag?! %&^%&&&&^$^&&%$###%^&**^&((^$$##@#&**!

Bravely though, Driscoll places culpability where it’s due:

“….whose responsibility is it? ultimately, it is men who are responsible because they chose their wives.” 

Jason’s Reaction:

It’s not my fault. I didn’t do anything but marry a great gal.

Ali’s Reaction:

‘Chose?’ Jason and I dated each other. We fell in love together. We decided to marry each other. It was mutual, just like our marriage.

Apparently Mark Driscoll chose his wife off a shelf at the mall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastor Dad

Jason Micheli —  June 5, 2013 — 2 Comments

main
Looking ahead to Father’s Day, I’m reading Mark Driscoll’s new ebook, Pastor Dad: Biblical Insights on Fatherhood.

I’ve not understated my frequent revulsion over the words that come from Mark’s mouth and pen; however, I did promise, perhaps unwisely, that I would read this new book in a spirit of charity and with a willingness to find wisdom in it.

Perhaps God’s rewarding me for my hospitable disposition because Driscoll’s second chapter offers a needful contrary voice to how many parents think of parenting and faith.  Driscoll unabashedly calls parents on the carpet:

‘Our ultimate goal must be that our children would grow to love and worship our God.

As Christian fathers, we should long to see our children worship the same God we do.’

There it is, and as much as I normally loathe Mark Driscoll he’s right on this count.

I can’t even begin to count the number of ‘Christian’ parents I know whose immediate reaction would be to resist this conviction as indoctrination. Driscoll is a far cry here from the dominant American (mainline liberal) ethos which instead advocates introducing our kids to Christianity- but not enough to be harmful to them- but not not inculcating the faith in them.

‘I/We want them ‘to decide for themselves…’ I hear from parents (and engaged couples) all the time. While this is typically presented as caring for the best interests of the children, it’s most often rooted, as all things are, in self-interest.

‘I want them to decide for themselves’ really equals ‘I’m not sufficiently committed to the faith to persuade any one else to it much less my children.’

I mean, think about it. If you really believe your life is a gift from a good God, that the story of Jesus is the truest story of how we’re to live in the world and that the most important possible thing in the world is what God calls us to do in it, then why would you not want that above all things for your son or daughter?

I’m a huge fan of baseball; I love the Washington Nationals.

My children have no absolutely no choice, based on how I’m raising them, to be anything but Nationals fans.

They know the lineups, the stats, the radio commercials in between innings. I’ve exposed them to it and slowly I’m raising them into what it means to be a baseball fan.

Most Dads out wouldn’t quibble with this one iota. Cowboys fans would never think of raising their kids in such a way that they’d not grow up to be Cowboys fans.

But when it comes to Team Jesus most moms and dads are ambivalent.

Nice if it happens maybe but…

This isn’t me being cranky right along with Mark Driscoll. It’s empirical. The recent Survey on Religion and Youth found that the majority of young Christians in America actually practice what sociologists had to describe as ‘Moral Therapeutic Deism.’ 

 

God as a cosmic butler rather than an incarnate messiah that calls you to give up everything and follow him with your life.

Why do the majority of young ‘Christians’ practice MTD?

Drum roll…

Because their parents do.

Children don’t grow and drift away from Church to rebel from their parents.

Children grow up seeing whether or not their parents really walk-the-talk believe and, concluding not so much, they conclude the Church isn’t worth much of their time.

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas calls bullshit on this cultural cliche about ‘letting everyone make up their minds.’

In addition to BS, he calls it moral cowardice, frequently telling his students that ‘they don’t have minds worth making up until he’s formed their minds and conformed them to his own.’ 228958_10150729303960096_564145095_20288493_4614542_n

Master teachers should care enough about the life-changing potential of their material to pass it on to their students. Once their students have ‘mastered’ it then by all means their lives can take whatever turns and detours an earnest life brings.

Likewise, Christian parents shouldn’t be letting their kids ‘make up their own minds about Christ’ until their kids have mastered the messiah’s material. Of course, that’s very likely the rub. The Church has failed too many, letting parents’ languish so that they’re still no more than novices.

I’ve taken to applying Hauerwas’ wise (seriously, it’s wise) crack to rearing my own boys, making sure they’ll grow up knowing both the OBP of every starting Nats player and also knowing exactly what Jesus told another young man what he should do to inherit eternal life.

I should point out: my boys can only learn from me what I already know.

 

imagesAdvertising tells me that Father’s Day is fast approaching, that market scripted day of the year when I feel emasculated for desiring neither ties nor power tools.

In anticipation of this Father’s Day, I’ve chosen to do something against type. I’m reading a book about ‘Biblical F/fatherhood.’

Okay, it’s not completely against type. For one thing the book was free, a new ebook entitled ‘Pastor Dad: Scriptural Insights on Fatherhood.’ For another thing the book was written by Mark Driscoll, the rapid, hyper-Calvinist pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Seattle.

You can read it here.

The size of Driscoll’s church, 10K plus on weekends, is an auspicious reminder that the line between discipleship and delusion is a fine one indeed. I once mentioned one of Mark Driscoll’s sermons to my wife, in which Driscoll argued that it’s the Christian wife’s ‘biblical duty’ to give her husband a BJ whenever he wanted it. Seriously. And I got a call from the bishop for making a fart joke. Ever since I mentioned that to my wife any mention of Mark Driscoll sends her into a rage.

mark-driscollTo some Mark Driscoll is this century’s Billy Graham. To other, sane-minded people he is a hipper iteration of Pat Robertson- albeit a Pat Robertson who was dropped on his head too many times as a kid.

Jesus himself said that the word is like seed scattered on all kinds of ground, rock, sand and soil. Truth can sometimes take root in the unlikeliest of places- isn’t that the offensive lesson of grace?

So while I fess up to the honest disclaimer that I think Mark Driscoll is a d*&^%$ bag (a revulsion grounded in both my love of Jesus and my neighbors of the opposite sex) I will also begrudgingly admit that Mark Driscoll sometimes knows what he’s doing.

He certainly knows how to get his thoughts retweeted. He obviously knows how to build a large, other-focused church, and maybe, just maybe, in this Knocked Up, extended adolescent culture there’s a missional need to knock the heads of some ‘godly men.’

All this is to say, I’m reading Pastor Dad prepared to scoff and deride but also willing to be surprised.

Chapter 1: The Good Life

Driscoll’s first chapter is just 2 paragraphs, really it’s only worthy of 1 paragraph if you abide by the traditional rules of the English language. The concision of his opening paragraph has less to do with minimalist art and more to do with not allowing any ambiguity to enter what is his massive, controversial contention:

‘before a man can be a good father, he has to be a good Christian.‘

For a father to know best he must first know his Eternal Father.

Only good Christians can be good fathers, Driscoll contends. And a good Christian, he argues, is one who ‘realizes that God is his Father.’

Driscoll premises all this on the words of the Psalmist (David) that the good life for a man is to be blessed by God, a blessing that takes the form of worshipping God and caring for your family.

It’s barely 2 paragraphs worth of words, but already Pastor Dad is like Whack a Mole, provoking me with the dilemma of which target to strike first.

To go after the suggestion that only good Christians can be good fathers seems too easy. We all, I suspect, know good fathers who are not good Christians or even if they’re Christian they’re not ‘good’ Christians. Even if we don’t know any such people, I daresay we all know some good Christians who are not in any way good fathers. That Christians perform no better as parents or spouses is as well-documented as it is lamentable.

To go after Driscoll for extrapolating a rather large and incendiary contention from a Psalm (a poem written NOT by God but TO God) seems both a flimsy foundation and a misuse of the author’s intent. It’s like reading Catcher in the Rye and coming away with ‘principles’ for how teenagers should respect their elders and authority.

To go after Driscoll for basing this all on a patriarchal hierarchy that sets up a self-serving analogy between fathers and God is ground others have well trod before me.

It’s barely 2 paragraphs in so I’ll withhold judgment, but my first reaction is to rub against Driscoll’s view of and use of scripture. The Bible, as Richard Hays likes to quip, is about God. It’s about Jesus Christ and what God has done and is doing in the world.

To pilfer scripture for ‘principles’ for anything- parenting, marriage, success, happiness, serenity- is to profoundly misuse scripture even while appearing more ‘scriptural.’

Scripture DOES echo from beginning to end that our life is gift, that creation is what happens when God’s love pours out and that in the fullness of time God poured himself out completely, first in to Jesus Christ and ultimately upon a Cross.

It doesn’t make for an easy verse X of passage Y says Z therefore fathers should… principle, but it’s the most faithful approach, I think, to anything resembling ‘biblical’ parenthood.