Toward Convergence–Part 2 [Revised]

As we continue to process what was experienced this past weekend at the Convergent Conference, (See my part one here), I believe that the conference made a positive impression on all of us. Though two of the speakers have diametrically opposing views on alcohol, Driscoll and Akin, the love and admiration that they demonstrated for each other was an appropriate picture of the intended consequence of the conference.

Believe it or not, right after Driscoll’s session, which received the most applause of the weekend, Akin publicly praised Driscoll and stated that he is welcome to return anytime to teach theology or hermeneutics at the seminary.

During Driscoll’s session, he confirmed what most people would gather from reading the works of the emergents, that some of the most popular of the group have serious doctrinal problems.

He categorizes the movement into three streams:

Relevants

Revisionists

  • Examples would be the Emergent Village (Youth Specialties), Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Doug Padgitt
  • He calls them the New Left. He compared them to Satan in the garden of Eden, wanting to converse on whether or not God actually said what he said. Striking comparison, but I think, right on the money.

Relevant Reformed

  • Examples here would be himself and others like Matt Chandler and the Acts 29 Network.
  • He calls them Confessional, Contextual and Calvinist. They believe in Expositional Bible Preaching, centered on Jesus and the cross (substitutionary atonement), and the call for repentance and trust in Jesus.

With both the Relevants and the Revisionists, he has two points of agreement:

  1. The world has changed
  2. Old Methods are not working

He disagrees with their answer. Their answer is to change the message, his answer is to retain the message. His answer is to go into the culture, look and see what is going on, have a broken heart over them, and then look to Jesus. The gospel is the timeless message in a timely manner. He held up two hands to illustrate the message. One hand opened represents an open hand to the world–a culturally relavent Contextualized gospel (timely manner). One hand closed represents a firm grasp on theological truth–an unchanging Scriptural message (timeless message). Fundamentalists are those that minister with both hands closed. The Relevants may also fall in this category in time. They have opened up to a particular culture that will change, and has already changed. The New Liberals, or the Revisionists, are like those who minister with both hands open. Very accepting of the culture, but also very loose with truth and scripture.

I think his idea of Contextualize (open hand) and Contend (closed hand) is right on the money. See almost anything written by missiologist Paul Hiebert. He has three categories as well: noncontextualization, uncritical contextualization and critical contextualization. Noncontextualization happens when the receiving culture is not considered when discussing the forms that religious meaning will be conveyed. In other words, it is like fundamentalism (in Driscoll’s categories) that blindly accepts its own cultural preferences as identical with the meaning of the gospel. Uncritical contextualization is the blind acceptance of the receiving culture. Thus, the New Liberals drink deeply of emerging postmodern culture and sift little or none through the truth (if they find any) of scripture. Ironically, as Richard Niebuhr pointed out in Christ and Culture, uncritical contextualization is the exact error that noncontextualizers make (though his categories were different). Critical Contextualization is skeptical of both receiving and sending culture and the word of God is the standard through which both cultures are sifted. Unfortunately, everyone and his brother claims that their methods are critical contextualization (some missional leaders, such as Frost and Hirsch in The Shaping of Things to Come, claim their methods are critical contextualization, but I would argue that they too have drunk too deeply of the culture. See my full review of their work here). In other words, Hieberts categories are getting overused. Driscoll’s terminology are a fresh version of Hiebert, so I applaud him for avoiding the verbal-glut and giving us new ways to discuss old issues.

He is taking  an incarnational, missiological approach. Every missionary has to be a learner before his message will be received. Christian communication must meet felt needs, or create a felt need, before it will lead to understanding. We present the gospel as an answer for our lives, but most people are still wondering what is the question. Until we understand the questions that are being asked, we will fall short in tailoring the gospel to their lives. I am not saying that we are to change the gospel, but we are to remove the cultural baggage that we hang on to the gospel when we present it. Let us wrap the gospel in a contextual bow. Because I believe the gospel does have something to say to moderns and postmoderns alike. The gospel breaks down all philosophical, cultural, emotional barriers, but it first has to gain a hearing.

Mark Driscoll has a method that is timely. It is needed for our generation. I believe this conference demonstrated to Southern Baptists that we can trust Mark Driscoll and work along side him and his church planters. I also believe we have a lot to learn from his methodology.

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2 Comments

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  1. This is very interesting. In fact, I want very much to know what was apparently omitted in a rewrite:

    He held up two hands. The New Liberals

    He is taking an incarnational, missiological approach.

    ???

  2. Mark, check out the revision.

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