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Mark Driscoll, the Church, and Family Idolatry

In a recent interview, Mark Driscoll makes the following comment describing how he understands the relationship of priority between the nuclear family and the church:

“There is no office such as pastor’s wife or pastor’s children and I work very hard to ensure that our family remains our top priority over the church. Too many pastors put their ministry above their family and their wives and children get active in the church just so they can be close to their husband/daddy which is tragic. We have a normal fun family life and by God’s grace my wife and kids love Jesus, me and our church.”

This, to my mind, is perhaps the most clear articulation of the kind of idolatry of the family that is common among evangelical Christians in America today.  For a lengthy clarifying discussion of this whole issue, please see this conversation between Craig Carter and myself.

For my part, Driscoll’s comments are perhaps the most horrifying thing I could expect to hear from the mouth of any pastor about the priority of the family.  It turns out that the Catholics have something going about clerical celibacy after all!

The problem with Driscoll’s statement is not just that its the standard conservative line, or that it is the battle cry of the Dobson’s and Robertson’s of contemporary evangelicalism.  The problem is rather the sort of moral universe that such comments presuppose.  Driscoll reifies the dominant notion that “natural” institutions like the family simply are the moral norm which have value in and of themselves merely by vritue of their existence.  The ethical vision of the New Testament, by contrast, is constituted by a radical interruption of all such “natural” conventions of morality and social life.  The scandal of the ethic of Jesus and the early church is precisely that all the commonly accepted priorities, allegiances, and social formations of this age are radically disrupted by the apocalyptic erruption of the advent of Christ in death and resurrection.

Bonhoeffer serves as a far better guide to the nature of the apocalyptic ethics of Jesus when he states:

“So people called by Jesus learn that they had lived an illusion in their relationship to the world.  The illusion is immediacy.  It has blocked faith and obedience.  Now they know there can be no unmediated relationships, even in the most intimate ties of their lives, in the blood ties to father and mother, to children, brothers and sisters, in marital love, in historical responsibilities.  Ever since Jesus called, there are no longer natural, historical, or experiential unmediated relationships for his disciples.  Christ the mediator stands between the son and the father, between husband and wife, between individual and nation, whether they can recognize him or not.  There is no way from us to other other than the path through Christ, his word, and our following him.  Immediacy is a delusion.”

“But it is precisely the same mediator who makes us into individuals, who becomes he basis for an entirely new community.  He stands in the center between the other person and me.  He separates, but he also unites.  He cuts off every direct path to someone else, but he guides everyone following him to the new and sole true way to the other person via the mediator. … Those who left their fathers for Jesus’ sake will surely find new fathers in the community, they will find brothers and sisters; there are even fields and houses prepared for them.  Everyone enters discipleship alone, but no one remains alone in discipleship.  Those who dare to become single individuals trusting in the word are given the gift of church-community.  They find themselves again in a visible community of faith, which replaces a hundredfold what they lost.”  (Discipleship, 97-98)

Too much of the contemporary evangelical church wants to rush to conclusions about having happy family, a comfortable life, a stable career, and personal security.  There is this angst amongst Christians when the inversion of Christ’s call is talked about too much.  Instead we flee quickly to the promises of abundant life that are given in the gospel as if they legitimated our current aspirations and dreams.  However, the promise of abundant life, as Bonhoeffer understood is nothing other than the complete annihilation and recreation of our current ideas about the good life.  What we need is not satisfaction, not the assurance that we can have it all.  What we need is the eviscerating call of the Crucifed and Resurrected One who demands that we follow in the path of his kenosis, and so, giving up everything, and only thus, gain everything and more.

48 Comments

  1. Hill wrote:

    That’s an incredible passage. I should reread that book.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Permalink
  2. Tim F. wrote:

    Hi, Halden,

    I just published a post on my blog arguing with a comment you recently made about Milbank, Christendom, and modernity at An und für sich. I thought it only fair to let you know, since it was a critical appraisal. :-)

    Also, I tried to write in such a way that I’m not just arguing with you, but with a larger argument that your comments represent.

    Blessings,

    Tim

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    Hill, make sure to read the new translations of Bonhoeffer’s works. They are infinitely better than the old translations. And yes, this whole section of the book is superb.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  4. John santic wrote:

    This is an amazing post. thanks for your thoughts. I find myself resonating with what you say and at the same time I realize my immersion in the illusion that you speak against. it is a bit of knowledge that makes for uncomfortable times…

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 1:59 pm | Permalink
  5. Dale wrote:

    The point about putting family before Christ is fair enough, but I wasn’t convinced that Driscoll’s words were worthy of being indicative of ‘family idolatry’?

    Surely Driscoll (whom I’m not at all at pains to defend from all criticism) has at least something of a point? Has not the Church seen too many pastors ‘married to their work’, resulting in hardships in marriage and sometimes divorce?

    Maybe Driscoll should have just warned against being overly committed to your work instead of ‘the church’? Something about “He that puts his hand to the plow and looking back”… :)

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 2:02 pm | Permalink
  6. Halden wrote:

    Yes, I think “work” and “church” are entirely different concepts. Work is one of those very same things that Jesus’ call to discipleship disrupts. Church on the other hand is the context of discipleship itself. To say that we should prioritize family above the church is to put something else above Jesus’ call to discipleship. I think its fair to call that idolatry.

    Though of course, another tack that I could have taken, and to which you allude, is the whole issue of the single pastor model of church in which the pastor, as a solo individual burns himself out being ceo of the church. That notion deserves just as much critique. John Howard Yoder’s The Fullness of Christ is a great book on just that whole issue of how we even conceive of “the ministry” vis a vis the congregation.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 2:08 pm | Permalink
  7. Teresita wrote:

    Paul said the husband stands between the wife and Christ:

    Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.

    1Cor.14:35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 2:18 pm | Permalink
  8. mike d wrote:

    Surely Dale is on the right track here. It doesn’t sound to me like Driscoll is making an ontological claim like “the family has primacy over the church and is all together un-interrupted by the Gospel”? Is that really what you take him to be saying?

    He’s just making a point about ministry and the life of a pastor and the affects that can have on a family. And that a pastor needs to be mindful to put his family first sometimes. As someone who is on the ministry track and volunteers at church quite a bit that can often be a helpful reminder. When a pastor is busy so is his wife.

    So do you take Bonhoeffer to be saying that specific allegiances (life family) must be reinterpreted all together within the context of the church? That sounds fine – but let me ask this: does Bonhoeffer’s view entail that my wife and children have no stronger moral claim on my time and allegiance than Billy’s (from the next pew) wife and children.

    That’s what I take Driscoll to be saying, his wife and children have a stronger moral claim on him than most others and that seems perfectly compatible with 1 Timothy 5:8 or Paul’s other teachings on the family.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  9. Dale wrote:

    Cheers Halden,
    (is ‘teresita’ serious?)
    My sense is that Driscoll’s comment was aimed (though perhaps confusingly?) at the ‘CEO’ scenario…

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 2:23 pm | Permalink
  10. Halden wrote:

    If so, Dale then I would have less problems with it. However, when it is easy for one to say “I work very hard to ensure that our family remains our top priority over the church” I still feel that the comment cannot be totally benign. Perhaps I am taking Driscoll too literally here, but I doubt I am that far off the mark of his views on the family.

    Regardless, I’m more interested in people hearing what Bonhoeffer has said on this topic. I know that’s what I and many of us need to hear.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 2:27 pm | Permalink
  11. I definitely think Driscoll’s “church” here is lower-cased. It is the physical building and administration of a 501(c)3 church.

    And I think Halden is right to criticize the single-pastor model of evangelical Christianity in the US. It is unbiblical, selfish and foolish.

    I also agree with the original post, the Church (upper-case) is more important than the family. So much that Jesus said to “hate” the family.

    I haven’t read the Politics of the Cross conversation, but Paul does say that leaders of the Church should be able to run their own home, otherwise how could they be trusted with the matters of the Church. Similarly, being bogged down with the work of the church can distract from taking care of business at home, thus affecting the real work of the Chuch. (Paying attention to capitalization here.)

    I’m also interested in Teresita’s point.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 3:30 pm | Permalink
  12. Nathan Smith wrote:

    Let’s continue the scripture hit parade:
    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn
    ‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
    a daughter-in-law against her motherinlaw—
    a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

    “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. ”

    As for Driscoll, I think he is reacting against a tradition among evangelicals where Pastor’s spouses are defacto (non-stipendary) employees of the church. Or sometimes the married couple as a whole is seen to fulfill the role. That, of course, is dangerous – the CEO model.

    I have observed the idolatrous view of family – especially children quite a bit since Al Bayliss opened my eyes to it. I am married and will (Lord willing) have children, but I need to know that they cannot be the center of my life, especially over and against Christ.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm | Permalink
  13. Bec wrote:

    How do you reconcile this view with passages like Titus 1:6, 1 Tim 3:1-5 where there is a clear parallel with the way a man manages and loves his family with his qualifications for leadership?

    My understanding would be that God comes first, my husband second, my children third, and then the church/ministry ala 1 Tim 5:8.

    I think part of the issue here is making a demarcation between family and ministry, ie. the idea that when I am caring for my family I am ministering, and when I am ministering I am not caring for my family. This is a false dichotomy. Since one of the purposes of Christian marriage is the production of “godly offspring” (Mal 2:15) then family IS ministry, for to bring kids up godly means discipling them, which is exactly what we do in ministry – make disciples.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 4:31 pm | Permalink
  14. Halden wrote:

    Bec, to my reading those passages do not say anything whatsoever about whether the church is a more significant priority than the nuclear family. They merely call for people who are responsible in various spheres to made leaders. I am not advising that people with volatile home situations be thrust into positions of leadership. Ultimately I think it is irrelevant to my point, and, I think, the points that Jesus makes about families in the gospels. He is clear, as Bonhoeffer describes that his call to discipleship, which is simultaneously a call to be part of the body of his followers is the ultimate allegiance for our lives, which supercedes the family.

    Since you seem to be a supporter of the kind of stuff Driscoll is about, I wonder how you might justify his position in leadership on the basis of another part of the 1 Timothy Scripture which requires that a leader “must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace and the snare of the devil” (1 Tim 3:7)? I’ve never met an outsider who thought highly of Driscoll. He would not seem to be fit to be an elder, according to Paul’s qualifications!

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 4:52 pm | Permalink
  15. Is there an order of priorities we ought to observe?
    Forget that Driscoll is the pastor. Should he be more focussed on work or his family or church? As a Christian he has given Christ exclusive claim to his life. In marriage, Christ gives stewardship of this claim to each spouse for the other. In baptism, Christ gives stewardship of this claim to the church. Parenthood is a little different, but it does delegate stewardship of the lives of the children to the parents.
    If any of these stewardships is treated as an opportunity to exercise power, then it has ceased to be a sacrament. Each is to be a submission to Christ.
    Driscoll is speaking to a more reluctantly emergent audience. He is caught a little in some old paradigms. But his voice on preserving doctrine is essential among the many who would adopt heresies. On this issue, he is talking to pastors who are liable to overextend themselves. (Read Greg Boyd’s most recent post for an example of how this might happen.) Driscoll has been open and confessed his own tendency to work too much. This word is most likely just as much to himself as to any other. Let’s applaud him for that.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  16. By giving his live to Christ, he has given his live to the Church. For good or ill, better or worse, and till death does he part. Perhaps this is the proper way to understand family – through the church. In a very real sense, in the Church, the people steward you! Juris, you allude to this, but I think Halden’s point enlarges baptism and discipleship as it ought to, what kind of church are you in if they allow you to overextend yourself?

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 5:46 pm | Permalink
  17. Ken Smith wrote:

    I would agree with the various folks who think this post is an over-reaction to Driscoll’s comments. I’ve been to Mars Hill a few times, and more-or-less enjoyed my visits, but I have no particular ax to grind about whether Driscoll is or is not a good pastor or role-model. He’s doing some interesting things, things very much worthy of emulation, and he’s probably heading down the wrong path on some of the rest. In that respect, he’s no different than the rest of us.

    With respect to this particular post, it’s good to point out how Driscoll’s comments might point in the wrong direction: though of course, nearly everything someone says could be pointing in the wrong direction. But on the whole, I think it’s probably more charitable to interpret his comments as a very necessary corrective to the tendency of pastors (and students and academics and business people and programmers . . . ) to find their identity primarily in the work, rather than in their family, community of faith, and God. From my own perspective, this is much bigger problem in contemporary Western society than the one you point out, the possibility of treating family as more important than God.

    Now, of course, the Church (big-C) is more important than one’s family, and I doubt Driscoll would ever say otherwise. But the Church is quite different from my small contribution to it. Even if I sometimes act like my family is less important than my work, even if that work is for the Church, I’ll never be convinced that this is the right order of priorities. Creation (family) doesn’t trump New Creation (Church), but neither does New Creation annihilate Creation. Rather, it extends it, takes it to a new level, raises it with a resurrected body.

    And of course, it’s not just contemporary American Evangelicals who think the family is important. Try poking through Chesterton (an early 20th century British Roman Catholic) sometime.

    That said, having recently stumbled onto your blog, I have to say, I like your writing and the way you think. Looking forward to reading more.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 10:20 pm | Permalink
  18. Hill wrote:

    I think in general the problem is in setting up the family as something to which one devotes “resources” that might otherwise be directed towards the church. I find the “family as ecclesia domestica” strand of theology explicated both in the Catechism and in much of the writing of JP II. After all, the Church is not some organization in which we are all laid bare to encounter each other as unmediated monads. The Church is the ground of all proper relationality, and understanding both the family and the Church rightly reveals their ultimate harmony. I think what Halden, Bonhoeffer and the Bible are emphasizing is that there is a necessary double movement of giving all things over to Christ, in this case, the family, so that one might receive it back from him properly ordered to the glory of God and the salvation of all mankind.

    Monday, July 14, 2008 at 11:16 pm | Permalink
  19. John wrote:

    As a Catholic it occurs to me that what you point to in Driscoll’s comments may be more a problem of thin ecclesiology than “idolatry ” of the family.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 7:34 am | Permalink
  20. Geoff Smith wrote:

    Halden,
    I love making fun of Mark Driscoll, though he preach that Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead, he is unbelievably easy to find stuff about, but I find something good in what he says here:

    “Too many pastors put their ministry above their family and their wives and children get active in the church just so they can be close to their husband/daddy which is tragic.”

    I get the distinct impression that Driscoll is partially trying to protect leaders from leading their family into idolatry, if husbands or wives spend no time loving or providing for their family but instead spend time in ministry, then the family may start doing church work, just to be close to mom or dad, husband or wife, rather than to be followers of Jesus. I grew up in south Texas evangelical culture, this happens all the time down here, presumably it could happen in Seattle as well.

    As for the Bonhoeffer, he’s correct about all of this. I’ve noticed that at work my behavior is necessarily more Christ like when I labor to remember him as my mediator in relationships with my co-workers and customers. In the church it makes more sense too, of course, it is easier to love the weird people Jesus calls to follow him with you when you realize it is Jesus who called them.

    As for Steve’s view that the single pastor model is unbiblical, selfish, and foolish, I would say that making incendiary comments like that accusing a model with no moral or intellectual capabilties is a bit more foolish, especially when you could end up insulting large numbers of people who use or get stuck in that model because it is the best that can be done at the time. I know too many single pastors who don’t perfer the model, that teach, preach, counsel, and live with congregations who do prefer that model, and stay with the church because they don’t want a “better job,” they want to follow Jesus. I can’t think of anything foolish, selfish, or unbiblical about said situation.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 8:55 am | Permalink
  21. Ted Salas wrote:

    “Too many pastors put their ministry above their family…”

    The real problem is that we use this language all the time, and it is ingrained into Churchianty’s psyche.

    We speak of their ministry.
    So-and-so’s ministry.
    My ministry.

    We need to be about Jesus’ ministry – as servants, not kings and lords of our own fiefdoms, enjoying all the perks and benefits of our privileged position.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 10:28 am | Permalink
  22. I’m just curious. How many here have families and are engaged in ministry at the same time? Both my parents were in full-time ministry and balancing family and ministry were very difficult. Looking back I do have a lot of bad memories of times where family was sacrificed for the Kingdom. Pontificate on that last statement all you like, but I say at least be honest about your own family in this discussion. Also, as a fellow lover of Bonhoeffer I find it painful whenever I see his name pitted against that of any other public figure. Bonhoeffer was painfully aware of how fast he grew intellectually compared to his life experience. On many issues he knew to keep silent.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  23. Halden wrote:

    Chris, I wasn’t trying to say that such things are not hard, merely that to state that the family is more important than the church is theologically wrong. If that’s pontificating, then so be it.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 10:38 am | Permalink
  24. Well, the family can’t be more important than the Church because the Church is made up of families. But all the time, as members of the Church, we are faced with difficult situations, wherein we’re called to choose between time watching children or counseling someone. Christian community further blurs the time away from 9 to 5 hours and time becomes a different sort of resource. The Church itself should function to help sustain the family while continuing the ministry. Sadly, this is often not the case, either because we take too much on ourselves, or because we hide from people behind our families.
    Thanks for stimulating these ideas. Bonhoeffer’s dedication to his own family is a fascinating topic. (He was so much better at letter writing than I.) His writings reveal that the nurturing he received as a child emboldened his longing for the Church as a social unit in Sanctorum Communio.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  25. Halden wrote:

    I don’t know that I like the statement that the church is made up of families. The church is made up of people. Some of whom have families and some of whom are single. Moreover, just because I am in the church that does not necessarily mean that my family is automatically included therein. We cannot be born into the church, we must be reborn into it. In short, what makes up the church is not families, but Christians.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 10:56 am | Permalink
  26. mike d wrote:

    “Moreover, just because I am in the church that does not necessarily mean that my family is automatically included therein.”

    I predict this conversation will quickly turn to infant baptism and covenant theology :)

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 11:10 am | Permalink
  27. Doug Harink wrote:

    Halden,

    Thanks for your post, and especially for the powerful quotes from Bonhoeffer. I have also read a good deal of your conversation with Craig Carter. At the heart of your views on the family seem to be some of Jesus’ statements in which the radical call to the kingdom interrupts and relativizes such “natural orders.” I agree. And I also agree that the apocalyptic revolution which Jesus inaugurates and Paul proclaims is rarely sufficiently taken into account in theology and ethics. At the same time, I think it is sometimes quite difficult to grasp the character of that apocalyptic revolution in its ethical character. Bonhoeffer is, I think, on the right track. I would also recommend Barth’s commentary on Rom 12-13 in the Romerbrief, and, for what I think is an outstanding discussion of Jesus and the “natural orders,” see CD IV, 2, pp. 173-179. Barth is particularly concerned to differentiate the ethical character of the Christ-apocalypse (my phrase) from conservatism, progressivism, and revolution. From each of these perspectives, the gospel life looks strange indeed, perhaps most like a “not-doing” — that is, a failure to conform to the ‘normal’ expectations in any of these ways. In Barth’s terms Christians would be neither pro-family, nor anti-family, nor something in between. The gospel interrupts, cancels, reorders and establishes such institutions on its own basis. But then they are no longer “natural orders,” looking just like what might be found in the wider world, but odd witnesses to the truth of Jesus Christ, displaying how the gospel opens them up to a truth and an end beyond themselves (perhaps “mandates” in Bonhoeffer’s sense).

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 11:23 am | Permalink
  28. Chris wrote:

    It seems to me that Driscoll and Bonhoeffer are not speaking about the same things at all. Driscoll’s stating plainly that he doesn’t want his wife to resent him and his children to grow up hating him as they look God-knows-where to find a substitute for him in his absence, indeed, in the idolatrous “busy-ness” of ministry work. The (biblical) fact is, a husband and a father is responsible coram Deo for his family’s spiritual and physical well-being. There are some things Bonhoeffer didn’t know (experientially), and this is one of them (this isn’t to say that Bonhoeffer’s quote above is disagreeable. No, rather, he’s spot on! But he’s not contradicting what Driscoll was quoted as saying, for the simple reason that the two are speaking about completely different things).

    I’ve seen it over and over. Pastor’s kids, in this American culture, often have a rough go at it.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  29. Halden wrote:

    Thanks for the comment Doug. I agree very much with how you bring Barth into the conversation. And indeed too quickly many of us ignore the apocalyptic character of the ethics of Jesus and the church. Differentiating ourselves from conservatism, progressivism, etc is indeed vital to the doing of Christian ethics today. Bonhoeffer and Barth are good guides to this, though of course it may be that Yoder has grappled with the nature of New Testament apocalyptic most thoroughly as far as the contemporary church’s needs are concerned.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  30. Geoff wrote:

    Hi Halden, I enjoy your blog, keep up the great work!

    While I sympathize with those who interpret Driscoll’s comments in light of the proper care and responsibility one ought to have toward one’s family, I do think that Halden may be onto something, especially given the number of comments Driscoll has made over the years with regard to the necessity for Christian men to find a good woman, get married, and have lots of kids. I hate to say it, but I think that there is evidence that a sort of “family” idolatry that has become part of the generally presumed morality at Mars Hill. I’m sure it’s not all detrimental, but it has the potential to lead in unhealthy directions. I am also worried by what appears to be a truncated Christology (Jesus primarily as “tough guy”), and I wonder if any connections can be found between the two… not sure.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 12:10 pm | Permalink
  31. Hill wrote:

    Halden, I think there is a kind of atomizing tendency in the way you conceive of how we relate to one another within the context of the Church. While the Church may be the archetype and ultimate ground of all human inter-relationality, our phenomenological understanding of what the Church is is actually contingent on some proper understanding of what families are. We are children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, but the concepts literally mean nothing if the family isn’t to be esteemed in some measure beyond what you seem willing to grant. I think it’s problematic to suggest that the Church “supercedes” the family. There is no reason to invoke supercession. The exist as concentric circles, one within the other. I think due to the unavoidably “familial” character of the Church, when one is exalted (the Church), the other must enjoy the same graces and nobility.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 12:14 pm | Permalink
  32. Hill wrote:

    I also think that you tend to use the word “apocalyptic” as a kind of rhetorical cipher. It has very little substantive content in the absence of some further elaboration.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 12:16 pm | Permalink
  33. “I don’t know that I like the statement that the church is made up of families. The church is made up of people. Some of whom have families and some of whom are single. Moreover, just because I am in the church that does not necessarily mean that my family is automatically included therein.”

    You’re making this either/or and being completely unbending in your line of thinking.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  34. Halden wrote:

    Hill, I don’t think the statements of Jesus and the gospels lend themselves to your concentric circles idea. That’s just too seamless a garment. On this one I’ll go with Bonhoeffer. I think the call to discipleship is atomizing in a sense. But it is separation for the sake of a new union. And I don’t think that this reunion disincludes families. Only that its basis is different and it reorders how we think about families.

    Also, I don’t necessarily exhaustively define all terms used in every blog post. The genre must be taken into account. I feel like I’ve defined the term apocalypse adequately in past discussions, nor do I think its a mere cipher here. However, check out my newest post and see if that does it in better ways for you.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2008 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  35. Robert wrote:

    Wow – this kind of Wahabi-style Gnosticism is rather fun, isn’t it?

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 1:41 am | Permalink
  36. Hill wrote:

    Nonsensical blog sniping is pretty fun, too.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  37. Nathan Smith wrote:

    (more scriptures to ponder) Mark 10:

    Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!”

    “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 8:53 am | Permalink
  38. Geoff Smith,

    My comments may be incendiary, but it’s still true. The evangelical model of pastorship is not biblical, it is modeled after the pagan business world with a CEO as executive of the board, and the elders (board members) are basically there as accountability for the pastor. It is a cult of personality, it is unbiblical and foolish. When a leader falls, the community falls. If the congregation is built in a biblical manner, the teacher’s falling will not destroy the community.

    Part of this is because the government of the USA has determined that a 401(c)3 organization much have this structure. Now the Church is subservient to the pagan worldly powers.

    I’m not quite sure how a church modeled after the bible would ever end up in that situation, especially if you “don’t prefer” it.

    A funny anecdote, I heard an evangelical radio call-in program answer a question about this. The caller said his pastor left the church and the elders decided to not have a “head pastor” and to have the church ran by the elders with rotating preaching amongst them. He said he searched his bible and couldn’t find this model and said the church needed a single figurehead leader. Obviously he hadn’t read too much in his bible. The response was out of Revelation 3. They said the “angels” of the various churches were “pastors.” That was the extent of their defense for a single figurehead.

    Now, back tot he topic of Family. Yes, the family can be an idol. But so can the church (lower case). Our religious duties can be idolatrous, and Jesus certainly pointed this out to the Pharisees.

    And this is why I was making a case about capitalization. We’re called to love God, and this is our first duty. And to love God we are to love others, and follow His commands. This love of others certainly includes love of family. And I know you’re making a distinction here between family as an institution and family as individuals. We’re not necessarily to hold our family together for the sake of family, but we’re to raise our Children and love our wives “as Christ loves the Church.” If our involvement in the church (lower case) interferes with our love wife, or our duties in disciplining the children, that’s not a good thing. It not only hurts the relationship within the family unit, it reaches over into the ministry of the Church.

    How do we answer the call to ministry of reconciliation with the world while the family is falling apart? I think this is why Paul said the leader should have his house in order.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  39. Scott wrote:

    Driscoll is so far from the “abundant life” gospel. What he is simply stating is, that too many pastors sacrifice their families for the “church” or “ministry”. That’s why in the Bible where it gives qualifications for an elder/pastor/overseer, it says that he must be able to rule his family well. If he cannot do this, then he is incapable of truly leading his church the way God would have him. As a pastor, I resonate with what Driscoll is saying, that we (pastors) need to make sure that God comes first, then our families, then our ministries. To think otherwise is foolish. We are in need of pastors who think this way, otherwise, families will be lacking leadership and fall apart, and churches will suffer due to lack of example and good leadership. I don’t understand how one can take Driscoll’s statements so negatively, unless you have beef with him already. I don’t agree with everything he says or how he says it, but I am not following him, I am following Christ. Just some thoughts.

    Friday, July 18, 2008 at 1:16 pm | Permalink
  40. Scott, your main concern seems to be here:

    “otherwise, families will be lacking leadership and fall apart, and churches will suffer due to lack of example and good leadership.”

    The question/critique that Halden is putting together strikes at the notion that churches are built on families. Rather, he argues, it should be the other way around. When this happens, specific concerns or questions just cease to exist. Certainly other questions will arise, but those can be taken care of in due time, especially because the pressure is somewhat relieved — the burden is shared and defined by the church.

    Friday, July 18, 2008 at 3:29 pm | Permalink
  41. J. Barrett wrote:

    Halden, I think you have some good points here. These are certainly things we need to take note of, but I still see a problem. One thing lacking in your post is any sort of understanding of what Driscoll was getting at. I think it is fair to say that you interpreted him in possibly the worst light possible. Not very charitable. It would be great to see you try and understand the person (or view) you’re about to criticize. Perhaps you could even give them the benefit of the doubt and give them a charitable reading (not letting them off the hook) and then begin to describe the problems you see. Again, I like your points, but I don’t think they translate from what Driscoll said as easily as you want them to.

    Friday, July 18, 2008 at 9:44 pm | Permalink
  42. Nate wrote:

    Not sure how you get Dobson and Robertson out of those few lines, or how what Bonhoeffer says addresses Driscoll’s comments. Bonhoeffer’s subject is Christ vs. family, Driscoll’s is church(mechanism, leadership, office, “doing ministry”) vs. family. Christ simply does not equal Church, and Church simply is not the mediator of relationships. Is this a total misreading of Driscoll? or of Bonhoeffer? Or is there actually a case I’m not seeing for involvement in ministry being a priority over one’s family?

    Saturday, July 19, 2008 at 7:51 am | Permalink
  43. Geoff Smith wrote:

    Steven Kipple,

    I think we’re talking about different church models then. I’m talking about the one pastor model such as one might read about in Baxter’s Reformed Pastor or Spurgeon’s Lectures to Students, or perhaps the model provided by Georgre Herbert or even Gregory the Great. These books existed before CEOs had any opportunity to influence the church, and though the models provided are not preferable(Baxter mentions dividing payment to divide the work), they are workable, and are not the self serving device of a Type A personality who likes to control everything. So I guess by single pastor model, you meant “mega church model,” where as I meant, “the Baxter method.”

    Sorry for the misunderstanding.

    Tuesday, July 22, 2008 at 12:27 am | Permalink
  44. Lau wrote:

    I dearly hope you have tried to ask Driscoll what he meant before posting this… Mind you don’t sin by gossip Holden. With respect, you have committed hermeneutic violence on DB and MD, de-contextualizing their words to fit your pronouncements.

    Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  45. Is it too much to ask of you, Lau, what you condemn Halden for? Minus the gossip quip, because to hold a theological discussion isn’t gossip.

    Thursday, July 31, 2008 at 5:20 pm | Permalink
  46. J. R. Miller wrote:

    Halden, I appreciate your article and challenge to the typical approach to pastors and family.

    I have been thinking on this for a bit now and agree with some observers here that Driscoll has confused the word “church” with his “job” He misunderstand the church as being a corporation instead of a Family.

    Driscioll has been best known for his Elder polity, but his recent changes to place himself as the Elder ABOVE all other Elders in his vision to have 100 video campuses with 50,000 people watching him on video screns, has severely undercut his Elder approach and put him in the camp as the CEO pastor.

    If you are interested in a genuine discussion of what Eldership should be about, please check out this blog series entitled “Elders Lead a Healthy Family”
    http://www.morethancake.org/2008/07/elders-lead-healthy-family-my-story.html

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink
  47. parishioner wrote:

    It seems like there is some recognition of symptoms of disease here, but differing diagnoses . . .

    I suspect Kippel/Miller are correct in diagnosing the problem as modern church structure. If we were willing to follow the NT instructions for elders doing the leading, these problems wouldn’t be at the forefront. Instead, we think some other “church model” is equally valid, especially if it means we have to do less ourselves. Israel was supposed to have Yahweh as their only king, but they refused, wanting to be like other nations. And God put up with it and let them have a human king, though he knew they would suffer for refusing an opportunity for further dependence upon him.

    In the same way, I think God allows us to ignore the call on all Christians to be ministering as vital parts of the body of Christ. We’re mostly lazy, and we’d rather look at the OT and say, “Golly, let’s do that instead! Put one priest/pastor in charge, and let him take care of most of the responsibilities, with a little help from a board of ________.” And He allows it, because we’re as hard-hearted about it as we are about divorce. It’s amazing what He grants because we won’t listen . . .

    Clergy either see no other option in spite of druthers they might have, and so they struggle to do much and be appropriately present at home. Or they’re like Driscoll, who with his personality and sinful tendencies considers being CEO and chief bully just swell. (Yes, Geoff– I think there’s a definite connection between having a truncated Christology and error in many other things.) The usual model produces either cults of personality, or suffering, overly burdened servants.

    BTW, Driscoll says there is no office such as “pastor’s wife,” but that hasn’t stopped the two of them from behaving as such. She gets trotted onstage to support his teaching on sexual gymnastics and “complementarianism,” and has written and taught in support of his views. (I have a family member who was a part of the church when it was starting years ago, and she has disturbing memories of watching his wife Grace sob because she said she felt like she existed only for cooking, cleaning, and sex. Fame and fortune have a way of seducing one into eventually taking pride in denigration . . .)

    When churches decide to make changes more toward the NT model, these types of problems have a way of resolving. Previous dichotomies dissolve, bullies are relieved of the platform their egos crave, and what Halden refers to as “the eviscerating call” underscored by Bonhoeffer becomes that much clearer . . .

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm | Permalink
  48. parishioner wrote:

    J. R.

    Just checked out your excellent series. You go, goy!

    Monday, February 23, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Where Is Our Allegiance? « Promise & Pleasure on Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 8:32 am

    [...] this post accused Driscoll of “idolatry of the family”. Here is a summary of what he meant: The [...]

  2. [...] Does Mark Driscoll promote the idolatry of the family? One blogger thinks so. What do you think? Posted by: TommyMertonHead @ 9:59 am | Trackback | Permalink [...]

  3. Mid Week Round Up | Byrnesys Blabberings on Wednesday, July 23, 2008 at 6:19 am

    [...] Inhabitio Dei posted some interesting thoughts on the idolatry of Family in Evangelicalism, the post discusses Driscoll, but I am really more interested in the wider concepts of family that are being discussed. [...]

  4. The Christian Life: The Comedy of Death « flying.farther on Friday, September 19, 2008 at 2:03 am

    [...] of the three movies relies on not the nuclear family, but an extended family. Halden has touched on the nuclear family, to which I am quite sympathetic and would like to build upon it a little. Importantly, the only [...]

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