Virtual Voices
Mark Driscoll
Associated Press/Photo by Scott Cohen (file)
Mark Driscoll

How to lose an argument

Religion

Mark Driscoll, megachurch pastor, conference speaker, author, husband and father, has added another facet to his job description: lightning rod. Wherever his name is mentioned, even among Christians, the word “controversial” often lurks nearby. His frank discussions of sex, both from the pulpit and in print, have drawn both fire and headlines. But Pastor Mark’s main focus for all his years of ministry has been the gospel of Jesus Christ: “timeless truth for truthless times.” Which is, when you think about it, the most controversial subject of all.

The latest dustup hit the Huffington Post a few weeks ago, after a sermon at Driscoll’s home church, Mars Hill in Seattle. The sermon text was itself a lightning rod: Ephesians 5:22-33, beginning, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. …” The Huffington Post took issue with the few minutes of the sermon that addressed nagging wives, while another blogger, rather creatively, attacked Driscoll for anti-intellectualism.

The actual sermon, as a whole, left a lot to think about besides dripping faucets and Greek etymology. The overwhelming emphasis was on verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. …” Pastor Mark then drew out of the text five specific ways Christ loved the church, followed by nine implications for wives and an equal number for husbands. The theme of Christ’s love was not mentioned in any of the criticism, but it was all over the sermon. Most critics of biblical Christianity would prefer to leave Jesus out of it, and argue from the platform of social mores. No way, said Driscoll: “Christians and non-Christians don’t come to different conclusions. They have different minds [1 Corinthians 2:16].”

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In other words, in a discussion with unbelievers it’s not our conclusion that matters as much as our premise. We begin with Christ, and we end with Him. We’ll never win any argument about Ephesians 5:22 in isolation, no matter how much word study and cultural analysis and exegesis come into play. That’s because “wives, submit” is not a separate principle but an exercise of the gospel itself—which does not begin with weak women giving up their individuality, but begins with Jesus Christ giving up Himself. He cares more about winning souls than winning arguments, and so should we.

We keep hearing that the church must change its attitude toward gender roles or sexual orientations or [insert current issue here] if it is to survive into the next century. But Jesus already changed everything—for first century Romans and medieval Franks and Renaissance Florentines and proper Victorians. Something about Him has always been offensive to somebody, yet His bride is still alive and even (in certain places) flourishing. As long as she is true to Him she will live and flourish eternally, after every “truthless time” has come to an end.

Janie B. Cheaney
Janie B. Cheaney

Janie lives in Missouri, is a columnist for WORLD, writes novels for young adults, and is the author of the Wordsmith creative writing series. She also reviews books at RedeemedReader.com. Follow Janie on Twitter @jbcheaney.

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