Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The neo-Reformed shock jock versus the neo-feminist egalitarian

In one corner we have the bad boy of the "young, restless, reformed" crowd, Mark Driscoll.

In the other corner we have the popular egalitarian blogger/author/speaker Rachel Held Evans.

The main event? A post by Mark Driscoll on Facebook that was supposed to be funny but came across as anything but:

So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you’ve ever personally witnessed?
Needless to say this didn't sit well.

This is going to be a long post, so I am going to throw a break in. If you are interested readig in the rest, follow the link below...

Mark Driscoll is an incredibly talented and engaging speaker, clearly a smart guy. He is very popular, as evidenced by the sizeable following that he has and the recent news that Mars Hill is expanding into multiple, very distant, satellite campuses across the West Coast. He also seems to have a need for attention that leads to sophomoric behavior and statements. It is really a shame because when he is on, he is on. He takes on issues that many people shy away from and when he is not trying to be the class clown he can be very profound as a thinker, speaker and writer. Unfortunately he is known more for his occasional outlandish statements than he is for his intellect. The above quote is a prime example, although hardly the only example. The response by Rachel Held Evans, Mark Driscoll is a bully. Stand up to him, has gotten (as of this morning) almost 200 comments, has been retweeted and linked to a ton of times and led to many people following her advice to contact the elders of Mars Hill to express their displeasure with what Mark wrote here and elsewhere. I am curious what the response has been in Seattle. Apparently he did delete the offending Facebook post but not before it was snatched off the web as an image.

(FYI, since Mark makes his statements publically and in forums (like this one) that are open to response, I don’t see this is a Matthew 18: 15-17 issue. I have not been personally wronged by Mark Driscoll and just as what I write here is fair game for criticism, so are his statements.)

What bugs me about this whole kerfuffle is that some people are using Driscoll as the poster boy for complementarianism when he is clearly not representative of those in that camp. Men like Ligon Duncan, Wayne Grudem, Al Mohler and John Piper, even if you disagree vehemently with their positions, are by any measure thoughtful and sober minded men who make their case without resorting to locker room humor.

Driscoll is to complementarianism what Glenn Beck is to political conservatism. He is all too often a shock jock who plays the clown in a bid to get a laugh from the other kids. Some say he is just keepin' it real. I say he is playing the fool. The issues of gender in the family and church are under relentless assault and are far too important to beat your chest and make locker room jokes in response. Perhaps he doesn’t care. That is his prerogative. I do care if only because it publically makes a mockery of a serious issue. While the "feminization" of the church is a valid concern, the response is not to embrace a worldly view of "manliness" that boils down to watching mixed martial arts and belching. It is to embrace a counter-cultural, Biblical manhood that sees men leading their families and the church, being servants placing the needs of others ahead of their own.

The responses to Driscoll brought me to the webpage of the other party in this tragic farce, Rachel Held Evans. The name is vaguely familiar to me although I have to admit I haven’t read much she has written or much written about her. She is clearly a passionate, bright young woman and she is correct in pointing out Driscoll's foolish behavior, even if some of her objections are way out in left field. As I read through the rest of her webpage, I came across something far more troubling. Ms. Evans, as research for a book, is going to live for a year following as literally as possible what the Bible has to say about gender relations and women/wives in particular. She calls it A Year of Biblical Womanhood. Seeking to faithfully follow the Biblical teaching on this topic is reduced to a cutesy experiment, something to provide fodder for blog posts and drive interest in her upcoming book. Here is her list of “The Biblical Woman's Ten Commandments”.

1. Thou shalt submit to thy husband’s will in all things. (Genesis 3:16, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:1, Ephesians 5:22, 1 Corinthians 11:3, Colossians 3:18)

2. Thou shalt devote thyself to the duties of the home. (Proverbs 14:1, Proverbs 31:10-31, I Timothy 5:14, Titus 2:4-5).

3. Thou shalt mother. (Genesis 1:28, I Timothy 5:14, Psalm 127: 3-5, Psalm 128:3, Proverbs 31:3-5.)

4. Thou shalt have a gentle and quiet spirit. (I Peter 3:3-4, Proverbs 11:22, Proverbs 19:13, Proverbs, Proverbs 21:9, Proverbs 27:15-16, Titus 2:3-5, 1 Timothy 2:22, 1 Timothy 3:11)

5. Thou shalt dress modestly. (Genesis 24:65, Deuteronomy 22:5, 1 Timothy 2:8-10, 1 Peter 3:3).

6. Thou shalt cover thy head when in prayer. (1 Corinthians 11:3-16)

7. Thou shalt not cut thy hair. (1 Corinthians 11:15)

8. Thou shalt not teach in church. (I Corinthians 14:33-35, 1 Timothy 2:11-12)

9. Thou shalt not gossip. (Numbers 12:1-10, Proverbs 26:20, I Timothy 5:13, 1 Timothy 3:14)

10. Thou shalt not have authority over a man. (I Timothy 2:12)

It would be great if she were trying to literally follow the Biblical teaching on womanhood because of a desire to be faithful rather than a social experiment, something to do for a year and then go “Whew, glad that is over!”. Whatever your view of Biblical womanhood, I think it is tenuous ground indeed to make a mockery of it. In her announcement of this project she even says:

Think of it as John Piper meets Martha Stewart meets Julie & Julia meets A Year of Living Biblically. Just enough crazy to interest everyone.
I am not sure what is crazy about sincerely studying the Bible and seeking to faithfully follow its teaching. Perhaps commandments that specifically speak to women should be treated differently than every other commandment in the Bible?

Ms. Evans has put together a decent list of what the Bible teaches about women, one that even many conservatives and complementarians would do well study and heed, but she misses the mark by a mile. While the commandments are important and the observance of certain standards are likewise vital, what she is missing is that this ultimately is a heart issue. Submission has very little to do with the external and a great deal to do with the internal. The internal, "heart level" attitude will manifest itself externally in the way a woman behaves, dresses, etc but the order is crucial: changed hearts lead to changed behavior. Likewise there are lots of commandments to men, things like loving your wife as Christ loved the church and teaching your children and the list of qualities of an elder that men would be well advised to seek to follow, not because they make us right with God but because we are right with God we seek to please Him and show our love for Him by keeping His commandments.

As my wife said when we talked about it, perhaps something good will come of this. Perhaps in the midst of a “look how quaint the Bible is, glad we don’t need to live like that now!” experiment, the Word of God will transform her. I can only hope.

The Bible flies in the face of our cultural norms. Women being submissive to their husbands? Quietly keeping the home and raising kids instead of pursuing a career and self-promotion? Who wants that?! Likewise for men. Not seeking to stand up for our rights, being meek and humble, desiring to be a servant instead of a ruler? Those are not the sort of characteristics that are going to make for a good action movie or a beer commercial. Isn’t that all sort of part of the package for being a follower of Christ, that we are not conformed to the world? There is little room for someone who wants the benefits of being a Christian, i.e. avoiding hell, and embraces some of the teachings of the Bible like a buffet but by and large wants to live their lives on their terms.

Here it is in a nutshell. Both Mark Driscoll and Rachel Held Evans are way off base about gender and the way the Bible describes and commands us to relate to one another. God is not calling men to be dirty joke telling dudes who brag about being able to beat up people and hollering at the TV while watching mixed martial arts fights. Nor is He calling women to demand some sort of culturally based ideal of “equality” that is derived from modern feminism instead of Scripture. I sincerely pray for Mark Driscoll and for Rachel Held Evans, that God would conform them to His Word.


James said...

I read Rachel's post just today I think. I actually subscribe to her blog.

To be perfectly honest, I think she is more biblically accurate than Driscoll in so many ways it is saddening.

Too bad for the reformed camp...the poster boy for acculturated Christianity really is a good summary of most of those who inhabit it.

In spite of the 'year of biblical womanhood' thing, Rachel is faithful to engaging the topics at hand honestly and willingly.

I must say, I have to admire someone who isn't a slave to dogma.

Arthur Sido said...


She certainly is honest and open. I think she is way off base on many areas but I found the whole year of biblical womanhood thing to be insulting to women who actually are trying to be faithful.

Driscoll would be far more profitable to the church as a leader if he wasn't so famous. Of course that is true for lots of supposed leaders in the church.