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MLeary, exactly how much nuance does one need to employ before one can affirm that the Bible clearly teaches the Virgin Birth and affirm that this fact is crucial to our faith? That's the ultimate issue here. It's not how many creeds have the VB or don't have it. I will be the first to say that creeds are important (as I have in this discussion), but we must believe the Virgin Birth, ultimately, because the God whom we worship inspired the human authors of the Bible to include the Virgin Birth in the Bible in a very pivotal way.

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Peter, from what I have read in my studies, it is simply historically inaccurate to say that no Jews interpreted Isaiah's prophecies concerning the Messiah in that way, prior to the Christians. Jews today will say (as Jews have said for a very long time now) that the prophecies in Isaiah do not apply to Jesus as the Messiah, but the Jews of Isaiah's time did take these prophecies to refer to the coming Messiah. It was only after Jesus' actual coming and proclamation of His Messiahship that Jews started to deny that the prophecies applied to Jesus as the Messiah (including the Virgin Birth as a part of those prophecies).

Edited by Truetruth

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Truetruth wrote:

: Peter, from what I have read in my studies, it is simply historically inaccurate to say that no Jews interpreted Isaiah's prophecies concerning the Messiah in that way, prior to the Christians.

Can you cite any examples of Jews who DID interpret Isaiah 7 to mean the virginal conception of the messiah? I ask because I seem to recall N.T. Wright being pretty clear in his statement that no Jew had ever read the passage that way prior to Matthew, and I would be surprised if he had missed something in this regard.

: . . . but the Jews of Isaiah's time did take these prophecies to refer to the coming Messiah.

Well, maybe. But the immediate context of the prophecy in Isaiah 7 is an impending war, and God's assurance to the Judean king that the kings behind that war will be dead and forgotten by the time a child, conceived or born at the time of that prophecy, has grown to manhood. Jews certainly may have extended that prophecy beyond its immediate context to something more messianic and longer-term -- Isaiah 9 certainly points in that direction -- but if it's the virginal conception we're talking about, it would seem that they did not glean THAT message from the passage.

(If anything, Isaiah's words about sleeping with the prophetess, in 8:3, almost seem to refute a virginal interpretation of the broader passage; and yes, I do think that the child named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz in 8:3 is identical to the child named Immanuel in 7:14 and 8:8 (and, implicitly, 8:10); note the references to "King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah" attacking Judah in 7:1,16 and 8:4, and note the references to how the lands of these kings will be laid waste before Immanuel "knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right" in 7:16 and before Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz "knows how to say 'My father' or 'My mother'" in 8:4, and note the role that Assyria plays in laying waste to those lands in 7:17 and 8:7. The two chapters appear to be describing the same thing, in slightly different ways -- and with slightly different names ascribed to the prophesized child. Of course, it is always possible that there are TWO children here, rather than just ONE child with two names, but if that is the case, the two children seem to be performing identical roles within Isaiah's prophecy.)

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Guest stu

This is off the rails of the thread, sorry everyone.

The belief has no impact upon life, other than that it seems necessary to maintian other beliefs which do have an obvious impact upon life. In other words, you have a model of truth in which something can be true but not really matter.

And that's why it matters to question it. So that we have a approach in which truth is that which matters most.

What principle determines when something is true but doesn

Edited by stu

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Well, I finished Velvet Elvis last night. I can understand why people would be upset with Rob Bell's raising questions concerning doctrine. The problem Bell has is that he is a better pastor than a theologian. This is not to say pastors are not theologians. They are. However, Velvet Elvis shines in the latter half of the book where Bell focuses more on the pastoral implications of the Christian gospel. For Bell, Jesus Christ really is good news that provides hope and healing in all the best senses of the word. He attempts, and succeeds in my opion, of providing an unsystematic vision of what a church might be through Jesus Christ.

However, the first two or three chapters are a bit sketchy at best. Bell attempts to write his own prolegamma and gets in over his head theologically. I think its fair that Bell critically asks questions of the Christian faith. I think it is fair that he tries his best to deconstruct it. This is fair because its not empty nihilism. Bell seeks to provide a positive response to what essentially amounts to a critique of a fundamentalist position. However, in doing so he misses some important points here and there and over looks some either. The problem being he's writing a non-technical book in a highly technical area. His treatment of the trinity is a prime example. Bell is right to point out that "trinity" is not a Bibical word. However he underestimates the significance the one God consists in three persons and the three persons are one God. The differentiated unity is hugely significant because God's revelation to us must coincide with who he is ontologically. As Rahner well put it: the immanent trinity is the economic trinity and the economic trinity is the immanet trinity.

Again, I want to give Bell the benefit of the doubt on this one. I think its fair to ask critical questions. Sometimes asking "what if x, y, and z weren't true? What difference would it make for the Christian faith?" opens us to a place of greater place of worship and wonder. Even one of the greatest theologians of our era (in my opionion), TF Torrance, argues that the triune nature of God, more than anything, leads us to worship. Bell, according to the standards of his own church, holds these things to be true. Unfortunately, Velvet Elvis isn't the right medium to give the questions he's asking the nuanced answers they deserve.

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I'm not really sure, but this is what I would say at the moment: perhaps no principle determines what role a belief plays in someone's life. How one lives one's life determines what a belief is doing, and vice-versa. I don't know what principle determines how these two interact, or which has the upper hand and in what way. People are the product of ideas, and ideas of the product of people, etc.

There are a lot of principles that correlate a faith statement and action, or in contemporary terms - doctrine and praxis. Lindbeck's The Nature of Doctrine is still a good place to start assessing some of these principles/hermeneutics. My concern is that when people like Rob Bell start making these distinctions, he unwittingly points people back to Protestant Liberalism, which submitted faith statements to broader contemporary ethical concerns. I want to agree with some emergent church-like thinking (inasmuch as I espouse an ecclesiology that has done emergent-like things for a very long time), but I don't want to be a Protestant Liberal. Ultimately, this is where a great deal of emergent theology leads. I think one of the best "principles" around that defines a connection between doctrine and praxis is Vanhoozer's The Drama of Doctrine. He embeds faith and practice in a metaphors of narrative and theater that merges continental theology and evangelical thought. That book is a way forward that avoids the theological perils of most emergent literature. Once we start to downplay ideas like canon, authority, and ecclesiology, all we are left with is moral reasoning. Moral reasoning is no way to go about theology.

Well, I finished Velvet Elvis last night. I can understand why people would be upset with Rob Bell's raising questions concerning doctrine. The problem Bell has is that he is a better pastor than a theologian. This is not to say pastors are not theologians. They are.

Yes, which is why I also tend to give Bell the benefit of the doubt. So he says a few questionable things in a book, and a few short films that are half a bubble off. But I bet when push comes to shove that he would be a great guy to have in your corner pastorally. And he obviously is excellent at church leadership. These are qualities that we need to support and celebrate. (And a lot of these churches have enough money to hire a staff theologian.)

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Guest stu
I think one of the best "principles" around that defines a connection between doctrine and praxis is Vanhoozer's The Drama of Doctrine.

I read a good essay which I think must be a condensed version of that book recently, for a book review (the whole essay seems to be available here.

John Milbank's essay 'The name of Jesus' is the best thing I've read on this subject, I think, although it becomes quite opaque towards the end. Much of his criticism in this essay applies to emergent thinking, I think - basically that you can't get back to a non-metaphysical kernel.

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Ah, so apparently we read all the same stuff. Excellent. I second the Milbank essay recommendation. A snippet about the essay from a radical orthodoxy conference a few years ago - Milbank is tough:

"On christology: "The name of Jesus" is my most difficult essay. It is always misread, and now needs to be read in conjunction in my most recent book, Being Reconciled--Christ is the exception, and his crucifixion obscures deliverance, where I show a passionate concern with this historicity of narratives about Jesus and the passion narratives. So, this should not be read as a change of mind, but as two sides of same picture. I defend historicity because the meaning given in Christ is meaningless without historicity. Part of the meaning we are given is that this meaning is entirely real, an absolute event. Incarnation is absolutely a meaning event and is also absolutely real. The meaning of the Incarnation is that it surpasses our usual distinctions between fiction and reality. Like a true fairy story, it is the arrival of a realm beyond our distinction of real and imagined. A recreation of the world, a restoration of a pre fallen order, bound to seem like an entry to the magical-- like in Shakespeare's late romances.

So, no wonder the problems about handling this text are bound to be massive. It defeats the considerations one normally makes. It is a unique kind of event, which lays down its own conditions for likelihood and evidence. Nonetheless that should predispose us towards taking seriously the historicity. So, with the passion narrative, there's a prejudice against the exceptional event or against the typological repetition. (If it echoes what comes before, we think it can't have happened; if it's peculiar, it can't have happened). I try to make plausible the features which seem exceptional and are not surprising in the passion. I try to relate to Jesus's exceptionality and the procedures of Roman law which has actually has procedures for exceptional emergencies. These chapters show I am indeed concerned with historicity.

In "The Name of Jesus," the real Christ is the textual Christ, not a division between textual and original, not denying the original.

What we know about Jesus isn't a lot. It is often presented in general metaphors, not as a character in a novel (as the Yale school suggests. . .), but as an absolute beginning--an absolute beginning will be like this. To talk about an absolutely new event has to establish a new context, like a saturated and blinded phenomenon. You can only see the newness. It's from this new beginning you get to a high christology.

I am pushing the bounds of orthodoxy on Christ and the church and the role of pneumatology, wanting an orthodoxy beyond orthodoxy, a more adequate account of the role of the Holy Spirit. The more we see that God was incarnate, the more we see the incarnate as a person in history and society, so from the beginning, we are indissociable from the reception of Christ. Even the possibility of Christ depends upon the reception of Christ."

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Bell hypothetically conjectures that perhaps we should still "follow Christ" if we were to be "proven wrong" about these Christian doctrines. My brother, this is not just an exercise in asking questions about our faith in order to get to a deeper place with God. This is downplaying the importance of doctrines that are in the earliest Christian creeds-- because they are in the Bible. Again, I want no part of it. I have read these statements (or questions) in Velvet Elvis, and I have not willfully misunderstood them. They are dangerous. Downplaying Biblical doctrines about God is dangerous.
Sorry but I simply do not understand how saying I would still follow Jesus even if this was disproved is "downplaying" such doctrines and therefore "dangerous".

Just out of curiosity, at what point in your collection of beliefs do you reach a point where you would say "if I was proved wrong about X I would still believe"?

Matt

Edited by MattPage

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Matt,

I would not cease to follow Christ if I were proven wrong in my convictions concerning what the Bible teaches about baptism or church government or eschatology (beyond the fact that Jesus will physically return to judge the world). The Virgin Birth and the Trinity are doctrines which speak to the nature of God and to the Incarnation. They are doctrines which are foundational to Christianity. Early Christian creeds are concerned with doctrines such as these and not church government. This is so precisely because these doctrines foundational to the faith. If foundational doctrines of Christianity were proven wrong, I would not continue to "follow Christ," as there would be no reason for me to do so.

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Matt,

I would not cease to follow Christ if I were proven wrong in my convictions concerning what the Bible teaches about baptism or church government or eschatology (beyond the fact that Jesus will physically return to judge the world). The Virgin Birth and the Trinity are doctrines which speak to the nature of God and to the Incarnation. They are doctrines which are foundational to Christianity. Early Christian creeds are concerned with doctrines such as these and not church government. This is so precisely because these doctrines foundational to the faith. If foundational doctrines of Christianity were proven wrong, I would not continue to "follow Christ," as there would be no reason for me to do so.

I have been a member of these boards for a long time. I am going to go ahead and blow whatever capital I have gained to say: The above is total crap. "Truetruth," you have consistently missed the point of this thread. And to spend whatever I have left, "Truetruth" is an awful handle.

MLeary, exactly how is what I wrote "total crap"? Are you sure that you understood my post correctly? I was writing about what would, or would not, cause me to cease being a Christian. The doctrines of the Virgin Birth and the Trinity are foundational to the Christian faith. If these doctrines were "proven wrong," (an impossibility) I would cease to be a Christian. Particular understandings of baptism (paedo or credo) or of church government (congregationalist, elder rule, etc.) are not foundational to the Christian faith. If I were proven wrong in my understandings of these matters, I would continue to be a Christian, because these things are not foundational to the faith.

I chose the username "Truetruth" from Francis Schaeffer's description of Christianity as "true truth, truth about total reality, not just about religious things." What in the world is wrong with that?

Also, how have I "consistently missed the point of this thread"? Do you get to define the point of the thread? The point of the thread is to discuss what we think of the content of Rob Bell's works, which is exactly what I have been doing in my posts.

Edited by Truetruth

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Truetruth wrote:

: Early Christian creeds are concerned with doctrines such as these and not church government. This is so precisely because these doctrines foundational to the faith.

Um, well, this is so ALSO precisely because the principles of church government were already pretty well established. I mean, how could the Church have produced creeds in the first place if the Church did not already have a sense of how it should be producing them? The first version of the Nicene Creed was passed by the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea; it was expanded and revised by the Second Ecumenical Council in Constantinople. How could the Church have held these ecumenical councils -- both of which pre-date the finalization of the New Testament canon -- if it did not have a sense of how these councils should be governed? The creeds didn't deal with these things because there was no need to deal with them; they were already assumed, just in the process of coming together and composing these creeds.

Granted, matters got complicated sometimes, and so, when a local council in Spain added a revision to the Nicene Creed in the 5th or 6th century, and then this revision migrated to Rome within the next few centuries, you then had a big falling out between the Roman patriarch and the Eastern patriarchs over whether this local revision should be accepted in an "ecumenical" creed, etc. And not coincidentally, the division over this revision coincided with a massive disagreement over church government; the debate over the filioque was tightly bound to the debate over the papacy. So it's important not just to read the creeds as abstractions, but within the context of the history of the Church.

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Peter, the simple intention of my statement was to say that these early creeds deal with matters that are foundational to the faith, not with secondary matters, such as the mode of baptism (yes, I know that paedobaptism was generally the accepted mode from at least the third century until the seventeenth century) and church government. I wasn't even attempting to make a precise, detailed statement about the historical underpinnings of these secondary matters and their outworkings in early Christian history. I was simply differentiating between foundational doctrines, included in the creeds, and secondary matters, left out of them. I do know that these foundational doctrines were already assumed by the councils. Again, I'm a former Catholic. I suppose that I should have picked secondary matters other than baptism and church government to make my point...

Edited by Truetruth

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Yes, what I said was harsh and I think it was inconsiderate. It lacked the candor of humility, and I apologize to the A&F community. I hate ad hominem Christians, and I just became one. I do know where your name comes from and am I bit sore that your reasoning does not live up to its predecessor, as I am a massive Schaeffer advocate. On the other hand, when do we get to just stop and call obviously comabative and fallacious argumentation "stupid" or "crap"? How are we supposed to respond to people who are obviously out looking for a debate? I am typically too reserved to call people out even though it sometimes needs to happen - I guess this time I stepped up to the plate to see what it is like. (It is unpleasant.) You keep using "I am a former Catholic..." to justify a host of ideas. On a very ecumenical discussion board, this is not a good way to proceed.

And for the record, Rob Bell was pretty much just trying to say this: "Doctrinal rightness and rightness of ecclesiastical position are important, but only as a starting point to go on into a living relationship - and not as ends in themselves."

That was said by Francis Schaeffer.

And for some reason I am reminded in this post by Augustine: "If two friends ask you to judge a dispute, don't accept, because you will lose one friend; on the other hand, if two strangers come with the same request, accept because you will gain one friend."

Edited by MLeary

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I was reading TF Torrance's Reality and Evangelical Theology this morning and came across a passage that I think is relevant to our discussion. Torrance is commenting on Anselm's understanding of absolute or supreme Truth (captial "T") and its implications for theology, specifically its relevance to doctrine.

Torrance writes:

"The truth of theological statements is to be found not in themselves but in the truthfulness of their relation to the realities they signify."

Here Torrance is drawing a distinction between truth and truthfulness. Truthfulness (i.e. doctrine) is truthful to the extent that it truthfully refers back to the truth of being (i.e. who God is Himself, God's ontological being.)

Later:

"It is clearly essential to the truthfulness of theological cocepts and statements that they distinguish themselves from the Truth of God, who has laid them under obligation to him, and that they direct us away from themselves to him as their Source and Ground."

I think this is what Bell was trying to get at even if he was stumbling in the dark and bumping into a few pieces of furniture here and there. Torrance, who himself is a huge fan of doctrine especially Patristic theology from the 4th to 6th century, is suggesting that our doctrine or theology is useful and true only to the extent that it accurately bears witness and identifies who God is in His own being and how that being has been revealed to humanity through God's own redeeming action first through covenant relations with Israel and second through the incarnation in Jesus Christ and in the power and witness of the Holy Spirit. Torrance is suggesting that he hold on to our doctrine's lightly because by holding too tightly we run the risk of believing our doctrine and beliefs have "truth in themselves" and fail to "point away from themselves to Christ the One Truth of God." Thus, any doctrine - be it the virgin birth, the trinity or the communion of the saints, baptism, whatever must not be an end in itself resulting in from our logic but must be held up agaist the Truth of God. This requires constant asking of questions making a theology a critical science. We as theologians - and we're all theologians - must be constantly holding our beliefs up against the self-revelation and communcation of God ready to make adjustments by the grace of God.

In this instance I think Torrance is a good voice to hear because he is so committed to Nicene theology and the triune nature of God. For Torrance, everything goes back to the triune nature of God and the hypostatic union of Jesus Christ's full humanity and divinity - doctrines to be sure - but doctrines that are not immune to critical questioning.

Perhaps Bell's biggest sin is that he's not Torrance, he's not Millbank. But who is? I don't think we can fault Bell for asking questions of things that he holds to be true.

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Truetruth wrote:

: I was simply differentiating between foundational doctrines, included in the creeds, and secondary matters, left out of them. I do know that these foundational doctrines were already assumed by the councils.

Well, it was the "secondary" matters that were "assumed" by the councils, was the point that I was making. It was because the Church had an understanding of how it should be governed that it had a way of dealing with heresies as they arose.

Alas, there were indeed problems when heresy arose as to the nature of church governance ITSELF -- Catholics believing it was heresy not to submit to the papacy, and Orthodox believing it was heresy for the Roman pope to assume authority over all other popes and patriarchs -- but those issues didn't really come to a head until hundreds of years after the Trinity and other basic doctrines had been hammered out.

I think we always have to remember that the creeds address specific problems, specific heresies in fact, and are not simply dropped out of the blue as timeless abstractions. It is very tempting for some people to say, "This isn't in the creed, so it doesn't matter." A gay evangelical who I respect a fair bit once told me that homosexuality wasn't all that important an issue because it never comes up in the creeds or even in more recent evangelical statements of faith such as the Lausanne Covenant. Some might argue that it never came up because there was simply no controversy around the issue; everybody knew what to believe, so there was no need to issue a statement that took an explicit stance on the issue. But others have said that the absence of such an explicit statement means the issue is up for grabs. When I was a Protestant, I inclined semi-strongly to the idea that this was an issue where Christians should agree to disagree, just as they do on the ordination of women and various other issues; it was, to me, a "secondary matter". Nowadays, well, I wouldn't call it a "foundational" matter, but I don't see why it HAS to be "foundational" in order for us to say that the question is basically settled.

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For what it's worth, I attended Bell's church one week this past year, the Sunday of the Festival of Faith and music at Calvin College. I wasn't keen on going initially, but half of the 10 or so students wanted to, and strong-armed everyone else (including me, the only non-student!) to go.

Anyway, it was really interesting. I appreciated some things: the church-in-the-round atmosphere, the musicians in the band all facing inward so that it didn't have a 'rock show' like atmosphere, some things here and there. But it also really turned me off. I'm really neutral on Bell, as in I don't know enough about him to critique too much, but his sermon was....something, for lack of better words. It was short (a fact that I'm OK with!), but almost a third of it dealt with a running Larry Bird joke. Maybe half of it? And then, he was prooftexting like crazy. I won't rattle on.

I was at that same service, Jason, and really liked the sermon. Partly because I couldn't help but compare it to a sermon I had heard a couple months earlier by Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill in Seattle, also from Philippians 2 (side note: Mark publicly called Rob a heretic at another sermon I heard him preach, in North Carolina). What I remember from Rob's sermon is the encouragement for Christians to work together, even when they don't agree on everything. He quoted another passage (I don't have my notes in front of me right now) where Paul said that he trusted the Lord would persuade others where they were wrong, that it wasn't all up to him. And the main quote I remember from Mark's sermon from the same chapter, after telling people they were allowed to ask one question of the leadership but anything more than that was complaining against the Lord, is, "Leave. There are other churches in Seattle." I grew up around the type of preaching Mark represents, and at this point in my life would much rather expose myself to the emphasis coming from people like Rob.

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MLeary, Peter, and Kyle (hoping to address your various points in one post here),

Mleary, brother, first of all, I accept your apology. Second, in humility, I pray, I do know the intent of my posts in this thread, and the point of my reasoning in the posts, and I think that you have misunderstood both the former and the latter.

Again for MLeary, I did not enter into this thread looking for a fight. I entered into it to give my honest, carefully thought-through (whether or not you think that I have carefully thought them through) observations on Rob Bell's printed work. I have not been "combative" in my argumentation. If you are going to make that charge, I would like for you to point out specific examples of where I have been so. About my continuing statement of "I am a former Catholic who loved Catholic apologetics," I have been saying that *not* to deride Catholicism or individual Catholics. I have been saying it to indicate that I *do* understand the issues that I have been addressing, in the contexts of Church councils and Church history.

I honestly do think that the hypothetical questions that Rob Bell is asking about the Virgin Birth and the Trinity ("What if Christians turn out to have been wrong about these things? Should we still follow Christ?") are dangerous. I think that Athanasuis, who suffered so greatly to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, would agree. The contents of the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed should not be conjectured about carelessly, as Rob Bell does in Velvet Elvis. These creeds have helped centuries of Christians understand what one must believe in order to *be* a Christian. The creeds have also helped these earlier Christians (and Christians today) to find "common ground" on which to stand and agree. The creeds are not inspired, as the Bible is, but the content of the creeds comes from doctrines which have been believed by Christians, everywhere, from very early times in the Church's history. In the case of the Apostles' Creed, we are talking about fifty years from the last writings of the New Tesament. So, yes, in that light, I think that asking the *particular kinds* of hypothetical questions that Bell is asking about some of the content of these creeds is dangerous.

I'm not setting the creeds, or the Bible itself, above God in saying what I have said above, and elsewhere in these threads, and I am also not treating the creeds as absolute abstractions, removed from Church history. In the end though, the creeds do speak of things that are foundational to our faith, not of secondary matters (whichever ones they may be), and these foundational things speak of God, who *is* above history. I'm not saying that the content of the creeds (and how the creeds came about) can't, or shouldn't be viewed, *in part,* in the context of church history, but the content of the creeds also can't be reduced to a *mere matter" of Church history, Church politics, power grabs, and subjective understandings, as Rob Bell at least seems to hint at in parts of Velvet Elvis.

I absolutely agree with Francis Schaeffer that doctrines are not ends in and of themselves, but that they lead us to the God who is *the* End, in and of *Himself.* I pray that I am a worshipper of God, not "doctrine." However, certain doctrines, such as the Virgin Birth and the Trinity, tell us extremely important things about the God whom we worship and about His nature. Compared to these doctrines, issues such as the correct mode of baptism and the most Biblical form of church government, are secondary matters. Why is it fallacious reasoning to say that I would cease to be a Christian if the first-order doctrines were proven wrong (which is, again, an impossibility), but I would not cease to be a Christian if I were proven wrong about secondary matters? How is this not very sound reasoning?

Edited by Truetruth

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after telling people they were allowed to ask one question of the leadership but anything more than that was complaining against the Lord, is, "Leave. There are other churches in Seattle." I grew up around the type of preaching Mark represents, and at this point in my life would much rather expose myself to the emphasis coming from people like Rob.
Man! You don't say! What happens if you make the mistake of ever saying to him "how are you?" or "do you want a coffee?"

Matt

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Yeah sorry, my sarcasm doesn't always come out too well over the internet. Still two strikes and you're out. Does someone keep a list?

(Answer "no" because when you set that culture then no-one dares ask any questions at all)

Matt

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after telling people they were allowed to ask one question of the leadership but anything more than that was complaining against the Lord, is, "Leave. There are other churches in Seattle." I grew up around the type of preaching Mark represents, and at this point in my life would much rather expose myself to the emphasis coming from people like Rob.
Man! You don't say! What happens if you make the mistake of ever saying to him "how are you?" or "do you want a coffee?"

Matt

Matt,

I'm not saying that Mark Driscoll *didn't* say what Stephen says that he said (obviously, Stephen was there, and I wasn't), but there is always a possibility that we can misunderstand even the things that we hear in person. I'm not saying that this is the case with Stephen, but that it is a possibility. (I'm not picking a fight, Stephen! Please believe me! :) )

At my former church, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, the main preaching elder, Mark Dever, firmly believes that Sunday morning and Sunday evening church services are primarily for the edification (and challenging) of the saints, and therefore, he designs the services as such. At the same time, in every sermon, he welcomes any non-Christians who may be present, and he also includes in every sermon a careful, thoughtful presentation of the Gospel, to hopefully stir the hearts of those non-Christians to repentance for their sins and to trust in Christ for forgiveness.

The above being true, I once read a visitor to the church say of Mark Dever that he stated in a Wednesday evening Bible study that he doesn't care whether non-Christians are present at the services of the church, because the services are not "for them." I *know* that this is not Mark's heart (precisely the opposite-- he is the most warmly evangelistic Christian I have ever known), and I know that he would never make such a statement. The visitor simply misunderstood him. Now, if Mark Driscoll actually made his statement in the way that Stephen describes, with the intent that seems clear from Stephen's account, then Mark Driscoll should be rebuked by the other leaders and by the congregation of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. However, it is possible that Stephen might have misunderstood him. I hope that this is the case (again, I'm not at all trying to say anything bad about Stephen!). :)

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Yeah, I was sure it was. I just thought I'd add the clarification for other who stop by and read this thread.

A friend of mine who is a singer, performing mostly in churches, always says toward the beginning of his concert, "I have the spiritual gift of sarcasm, and if you don't have the gift of interpretation, you might misunderstand a lot of what I say tonight."

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