Jan

29

2012

Don Carson|10:15 PM CT

Reflections on the Church in Great Britain

In light of my friend Mark Driscoll's recent comments about pastoral ministry in Great Britain, I wanted to share a few of my own reflections on the diverse ministries that have prospered, or floundered, there. Between 1972 and 1996, I spent nine full years there, scattered over that range of years; and since then, I have been in the UK between two and six times every year. I am neither boasting nor complaining; I'm merely establishing that my knowledge of the country is not entirely superficial. I have no reason to doubt Mark's sincere concern for the gospel in the UK and for young ministers there. Nevertheless, you might be interested in hearing another perspective.

(1) Mark correctly observes the low state of genuine Christian confessionalism in the UK. Still, it varies considerably (as it does in the United States, though with lower figures over there). There's a ring around London in which close to 10 percent of the people go to church, many of them evangelicals; the percentage in Northern Ireland is higher, though falling. By contrast, in Yorkshire the percentage that goes to church once a month or more is 0.9 percent; evangelicals account for only 0.4 percent. Both figures are still falling. This is comparable to the state of affairs in, say, Japan.

(2) The phenomenon of the state church colors much of what is going on. Whether we like it or not, in England itself (the situation is different in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales) the Church of England is the source of most heterodoxy and of much of the orthodoxy, as well as of everything in between. It has produced men like Don Cupitt and men like Dick Lucas. Exactly what courage looks like for the most orthodox evangelicals in that world is a bit different from what courage looks like in the leadership of the independent churches: their temptations are different, their sufferings are different. Although I have found cowardice in both circles, I have found remarkable courage in both circles, and the proportion of each has not been very different from what I've found on this side of the Atlantic.

(3) As for young men with both courage and national reach: I suppose I'd start with Richard Cunningham, currently director of UCCF. He has preached fearlessly in most of the universities and colleges in the UK, and is training others to do so; he has been lampooned in the press, faced court cases over the UCCF stance on homosexuality, and attracted newspaper headlines. Then there's Vaughan Roberts, rector of St Ebbe's, Oxford, in constant demand for his Bible teaching around the country. I could name many more. In Scotland one thinks of men like Willie Philip (and he's not the only one). Similar names could be mentioned in Wales and Northern Ireland.

(4) More important yet, the last few years in England have seen the invention and growth of the regional Gospel Partnerships. In my view, these are among the most exciting things going on in England at the moment. They bring together Church of England ministers and Independent ministers who are passionate about the gospel, who see the decline, and who are crossing many kinds of denominational and cultural divides to plant churches (regardless of whether the new churches turn out to be Anglican or Free), and raise up a new generation of preachers. They are broadly Reformed. They are annoying the mere traditionalists on both sides of the denominational divide; they are certainly angering some bishops; but they press on. In the North West Partnership, for example, they've planted about 30 churches in the last eight years, and the pace is accelerating. That may seem a day of small things, but compared with what was there ten years ago, this is pretty significant, especially as their efforts are beginning to multiply. Elsewhere, one church in London has about 17 plants currently underway, all led by young men. The minister at St Helen's-Bishopsgate, William Taylor, was formerly an officer in the British Army: there is not a wimpy bone in his body. The amount of flak he takes on is remarkable.

(5) But there is a bigger issue. We must not equate courage with success, or even youth with success. We must avoid ever leaving the impression that these equations are valid. I have spent too much time in places like Japan, or in parts of the Muslim world, where courage is not measured on the world stage, where a single convert is reckoned a mighty trophy of grace. I am grateful beyond words for the multiplication of churches in Acts 29, but I am no less grateful for Baptist ministers like my Dad, men who labored very hard and saw very little fruit for decades in French Canada, many of whom went to prison (their sentences totaled eight years between 1950 and 1952). I find no ground for concluding that the missionaries in Japan in the 20th century were less godly, less courageous, less faithful, than the missionaries in (what became) South Korea, with its congregations of tens of thousands. At the final Great Assize, God will take into account not only all that was and is, but also what might have been under different circumstances (Matt 11:20ff). Just as the widow who gave her mite may be reckoned to have given more than many multi-millionaires, so, I suspect, some ministers in Japan, or Yorkshire, will receive greater praise on that last day than those who served faithfully in a corner of the world where there was more fruit. Moreover, the measure of faithful service is sometimes explicitly tied in Scripture not to the quantity of fruit, measured in numbers, but to such virtues as self-control, measured by the use of one's tongue (James 3:1-6).

(6) Even where some ministries are wavering, it takes rare discernment to sort out when there should be sharp rebuke and when there should be encouragement. Probably there needs to be more of whichever of these two polarities we are least comfortable with! But I would not want to forget that the Jesus who can denounce hypocritical religious leaders in Matthew 22 is also the one of whom it is said, "He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope" (Matt 12:19-21)---in fulfillment of one of the suffering servant passages. My read is that in some of the most challenging places of the world for gospel advance, godly encouragement is part of the great need of the day.

Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition.

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    • David

      Thank you for the gracious and throughtful encouragement that I have come to expect from you and have received on every occasion it has been my privilege to hear you. I guess we all fall into that trap of using cultural standards to measure spiritual progress - despite apparently embracing all the scriptural warnings about such dangers. I am contantly being encouraged by stumbling accross the many evidences of small faithful and yes effective work which never will make the headlines but has real spiritual impact and I expect heavenly recognition.

  • Daniel Garratt

    Thanks for these kind words, Don. You are spot on - there is much to be thankful for in the UK. Praise God!
    And, yes, there is much more to be done! Both in the UK and US, and around the world (particularly here in Norway, where we are based).
    May God have mercy on us. It is only by grace that we stand, and success, as you so helpfully said, is measured by our faithfulness to that grace, not by numbers of converts.
    Thanks for your wisdom and grace, Don. You are a hero of the faith.

  • Gary Brown

    Excellent article that as always with Dr Carson seeks to state the truth with both tact and clarity. As someone serving a congregation in the North West of England with a similar percentage of local Evangelicals as our brothers in Yorkshire I appreciate both the tone and the substance of the article.

  • http://martynlink.wordpress.com/ Martyn Link

    Thanks for this thoughtful piece Don. Enjoyed hearing you at Keswick two years ago on Matthew. The Wednesday morning when you explained how Jesus used the OT in his comment to John the Baptist was a lasting memory.

    God bless,
    Martyn

    PS I've been led to comment on the UK's post-Christian society recently in a couple of articles:
    http://martynlink.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/we-need-the-tears-of-the-prophet-for-a-broken-nation/
    http://martynlink.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/the-embracing-and-incisive-call-of-christ/

  • http://www.anthonysmith.me.uk/ Anthony Smith

    Many thanks for this constructive post. I'm curious to know where the figures come from. For example, recent Tearfund research seems to put the figure at 12% for Yorkshire, rather than 0.9%. I get that from p.32 of this: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/bsp/hi/pdfs/03_04_07_tearfundchurch.pdf

    • Timothy

      Anthony does raise a peculiarity in the Carson article. The numbers quoted by Carson seem all over the place. Also they would appear not only to be inaccurate but also possibly misleading. I live in London and lived for many years in the belt of upper middle class evangelicals to which Carson refers. It certainly does exist. However, it no longer represents where the majority of Christians in London reside. According to the Tearfund figures, London as a whole has around 20% churchgoing and much of this is NOT in the evangelical upper middle class heartlands but in the inner city. Sadly this does not represent a turning to God by the British but the remarkable number of Christian immigrants.

    • http://samisaacson.wordpress.com Sam Isaacson

      Do the numbers perhaps relate to people attending avengelical churches? I'm from Yorkshire and know from experience that probably closer to 12% attend church at least once a month, but the number of well-attended evangelical churches isn't that high. In Rotherham I can only think of one local church for the town of over 200,000. Just a thought?

  • andrew price

    Phew! Thanks for standing up for us this side of the pond, hard work over here.

    • Peter Charlebois

      Hang in there Andrew! I have a dear friend who hails from London - now serving over here in Canada (Northern Ontario) - who I know shares your heart for the gospel to advance yet again in his native land. Success is indeed determined by The One who gives iit - and The Lord will be pleased bny your heart felt service to im; whether He is pleased to grant results, as in Jospeh's ministry - or where He is not as in Isaiah's. Lord Bless you "Brother-of-the-pulipt"

  • Mark Howard

    Thanks so much for such a well rounded response to Driscoll's comments. I realize some of his comments were taken out of context and that he wasn't at all happy with the interview from which they were taken, but I think you've hit the nail on the head about what true courage is in Gospel ministry.

    One of the things I personally found most alarming about what Mark said was his comment about the lack of 'well known' Bible preachers in the UK. "Let’s just say this: right now, name for me the one young, good Bible teacher that is known across Great Britain. You don’t have one – that’s the problem." As a Brit who has served in Churches in the UK and now live in the US, I understand this particular phenomenon very differently. It seems to me that the Church in the US has a big problem with the cult of personality. I see the prevalence of 'big name' famous preachers who make a lot of noise (and thus make a name for themselves) to be a symptom of spiritual sickness rather than health. One of the things I appreciate about the UK is that there are many Gospel minded men who struggle in hard places with almost no recognition at all. Thats true courage.

    • CG

      I think you may be on to something... Driscoll seems to associate fame with faithfulness, which is an anti-gospel assumption. Praise God that he blessed Britain with Spurgeon a century ago, may he raise up another army of stealth Spurgeons today.

      • Mark Howard

        To be fair to him, I very much doubt Mark Driscoll would stand by what this out of context quote seems to imply about fame = courage.

        Rather, I suspect in context he meant that no one was making such a public stand for the Gospel in the UK as to become nationally notorious for their Gospel convictions. If so, my come back is that even in America, there are few outside of the Christian sub-culture who have heard of men such as Driscoll himself. Being famous in the Church is a very different thing from standing up for the Gospel in the public square.

        I for one am grateful for people like Driscoll (and Carson) who are willing to make a public stand here in the US. Equally, I am grateful for those who make a public stand in the UK. My point is, for all kinds of reasons, this rarely leads to wider national recognition. The reality is, as Carson points out, that godly young British leaders like William Taylor have faced public opposition in the press etc. and to my knowledge have also faced strong opposition from the liberal establishment in their Church planting initiatives. On a local level many British ministers make a costly stand for Christ and need our encouragement rather than chastising.

        Another alternative is that Driscoll was suggesting that the lack of a well known young Christian leaders means we aren't developing good models of Gospel courage for the next generation. If so, not only do I disagree (since there are many such models!) but I also think the Gospel Partnerships Carson refers to set a great example of what it means not only to be courageous but to 'strive side by side for the sake of the Gospel'. Rather than Gospel hero's, God seems to be growing up networks of Gospel men who are able to help one another remain strong and courageous in hard places.

        • http://www.jedimoose.org mrben

          I think it's a tricky balance to get. For instance, I've never heard of either of the 2 men that Dr Carson mentions, despite being in the UK Christian scene my entire life. When it comes to large national conferences, the primary speaker is often not from the UK. Driscoll is not the first person I've heard question why this is the case, and whether or not it is healthy. The additional worry is that, more often than not, when someone like Dr Carson says "ah but there's so-and-so" there are a number of people, like myself, who say "Who?", indicating a potential fragmentation amongst the evangelical church.

          I think the other thing worth noting is that the statistics given are not a proper reflection of the "post-Christendom" nature of the UK, compared to the US. My impression of the church in the US is that there is still a large amount of nominalism, and "Christian identity" or even "Christian nation", whereas in the UK we're now dealing not just with de-churched, but with 2nd, 3rd and even 4th generation unchurched.

        • http://sheridanvoysey.com Sheridan Voysey

          Guys, Mark Driscoll was not taken out of context - the full audio of the interview is posted, unedited, at the Premier Radio website to counter this claim.

          I for one am thankful that Dr Carson has provided this alternative view. Even better will be to listen to British church leaders on the topic :). And we still await an apology from Mark Driscoll about his highly uncharitable words.

          • Joanne

            Cant we listen to hard words from the likes of Mark Driscoll and be mature enough to weigh it up, acknowledge there is some truth in it and look to how we can move forward? I dont think he and Dr Carson are coming from so different a point of view, and whilst I am not a church leader in the UK, I think they both have valid ideas we need to listen to. We need both, Mark Driscolls "stick" and DR Carsons "carrot!!!"

      • Phil

        CG writes: "Driscoll seems to associate fame with faithfulness, which is an anti-gospel assumption."

        No, he does not. This is slanderous and unfounded. You have no quotes, no proof, no citation to support your statement. If you actually listened to him (no, not just out-of-context quotes on the Internet!) you'd know that Driscoll comments very little on his notoriety other than to note the burdens of it.

        Prov. 16:
        16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
        seven that are an abomination to him:
        17 haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        and hands that shed innocent blood,
        18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
        feet that make haste to run to evil,
        19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
        and one who sows discord among brothers.

        CG, you're sowing discord, through lies and bearing false witness.

        • CG

          I think you're overstating your case. It's not like I said he was more interested than glorifying himself than in glorifying Christ. If I had said that, it would certainly be slanderous and untrue.

          Driscoll is a great guy in many ways, and I'm thankful he's on our side. But I cannot recommend him without reservation, because I think he puts too high an emphasis on numbers and notoriety. This is not slander, it's just an observation. Another example would be his discussions in the past about multi-site churches, which tend to revolve around an assumption that one extremely visible central church is more effective than dozens of smaller churches flying under the radar. Again, don't get me wrong, the man is doing a ton of great work, and I think his heart is in the right place. But I disagree with some of his assumptions. That is not slander or false witness.

          • http://www.jimjacobson.org Jim Jacobson

            When you say, "I cannot recommend him without reservation" - that's really the issue for me. As a pastor in the Seattle area, I hear from lots of people who are going to Mars Hill, they all say wonderful things about Mark. But, they are, for the most part, unaware of his controversies, and they have never actually talked to their "pastor." I always kinda just keep my mouth shut, but his teaching on sexual issues really creeps me out.

            • Lettie

              Wow talk about supporting a brother in Christ. I wonder what consequence there will be for that kind of sin in your life.

        • Gary

          LOL...what a joke. It's an excuse as old as time. Whenever you get caught saying something stupid, just cry "I was misquoted. It was taken out of context." Poor Mark, he's always misquoted, always taken out of context and just so darned misunderstood.

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  • Oliver Crisp

    A much more balanced account of things. Thank you for making the time to post this, Don.

  • James Spence

    Thank you Dr. Carson for your qualified and very accurate perspective on this.

    I am a younger middle-aged life-long American (have lived in Pittsburgh all my life) who loves to listen to sermons and good bible teaching every chance I have, whether at work, shopping or washing my clothes at the laundromat, or just sitting in front of my computer at home.

    Many of my favorite teachers are from Britain. In fact, the majority are from Britain.
    No offense to Mark Driscoll (whom you're not likely to ever find on my Ipod), but if someone were to confiscate my Ipod, they probably aren't going to find any 'young American' bible teachers on it.

    What they are mainly going to find on it are british preachers Dick Lucas, (over half of my Ipod storage is devoted to him), Edward Lobb, Mike Reeves, Willie Philip, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Eric Alexander, Paul Blackham, Christopher Ash, Simon Manchester, and many more.

    Oh yes, there is going to be some Don Carson on there as well. Also on it are the many excellent british-born current Americans such as Carl Trueman, Alistair Begg, Liam Goligher, Sinclair Ferguson, Derek Thomas, Mark Johnston, etc.

    Sure, there will be a few Americans such as Greg Beale, John Gerstner, and Thabiti Anyabwile. But what little room is left on it will always be devoted great music from the two best bands ever, Deep Purple, and Rush...(also not young or American).

    • mel

      James

      Whenever someone prefaces something with "no offense" it is a lie. It's a chance to say something hurtful and unedifying and make your excuse ahead of time. If you search your heart then you will realize that what I say is true.

      You could have shared who you listen to and it would have been encouraging. By sharing who you make a point of not listening to you have made yourself attractive to those that are like to say negative things about brothers and sisters in Christ.

      It certainly isn't a positive recommendation for the people that you do listen to.

      • Marty

        Mel,
        Certainly, I could make a case that your email - sans a "no offense" line - is more offensive than James. So, it would be good not to play these games. Of course, you are correct that sometimes people use the line to be offensive. But is isn't always the case. What in James' post is offensive? Something said negatively is not always offensive, morally wrong, or unchristian, is it?

        I can truthfully write that on my ipad are sermons only by Phillip Jensen, Vaughan Roberts and Peter Adam. With that, it is obvious there are no Americans there, even if I wouldn't have stated as such. So, what is the difference between stating positively that I only listen to these guys and stating negatively that my ipad has no American preachers on it?

        As an aside, I've lived in American - near Pittsburgh, in fact - all of my life. And I don't even know James. Though, from knowing who he listens to, I'd probably like to.

        It truly is to no offense to John Piper or John MacArthur and other fine and faithful American preachers that I don't have them on my ipad. I choose not to listen to them for various reasons and none of them are really offensive to them or necessarily negative about them.

        Finally, even after a searched heart, it could be fair to say that there are legitimate "negative" reasons why one would not listen to many or no American preachers just in the same way one could say why they don't listen to Australian or British or Ugandan preachers. Perhaps James could have listen one or two reasons.

        It would be great to get James to chime back in to see if I am reading him properly.

        • mel

          So to point out that something is hurtful and offensive is offensive? Well then how can anything be corrected?

          If you can give me a better way to say it, I'll listen.

        • James Spence

          Thanks Marty. I also want to say that the three preachers you mention have been found on my Ipod at one time or another. That's the problem with making such lists - many very good preachers are always left off. I afterward thought of SO MANY more good British preachers that I listen to.

          My main point was to encourage British preachers. I am not concerned about how old they are either. Young or old, I appreciate good preaching that is true to scripture first and foremost.

          I just don't want them to think that Mark Driscoll speaks for a consensus of all Americans. And I don't dislike Mark Driscoll. I pray that he will be true to the bible in all his preaching so that those who enjoy his preaching will be theologically sound.

          I want the British preachers to know that they are appreciated and even sought after. I want them to continue to post sermons on their church websites, or post lectures from conferences like the Proclamation Trust does and to know that this life-long American appreciates and has been edified by their hard work of producing biblically accurate sermons and lectures...and yes, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I enjoy their accents.

          Another thing is I like preachers who speak normal and don't yell, or raise their voice. On an ipod with headphones on, this can be very annoying to have to continually fiddle with the volume control.
          In this day and age of microphones and not sounding boards, there is no earthly reason to shout. So one may notice that all of those I have listed are people who speak as if they are standing next to me carrying on a normal conversation.

          One more thing is I like preachers who are not afraid to preach on God's wrath such as Romans 1:18-32. And the more often, the better. Too many preachers these days are into a kind of touchy-feely 'positive' preaching that ends up being inaccurate. I say that the good news cannot be understood properly unless we first know the bad news of sin and what it has caused.

          And don't get me wrong, I listen to plenty of other speakers from not only America but all over the world (as long as it's in english). The fact is, I have close to 1500 preachers and theologians in my audio collection, and it takes over 2 terabytes to house it.

      • James Spence

        Mel -
        By saying 'no offense', I meant "no personal offense".
        I am saying that I am not a fan of Mark Driscoll's preaching, but I would hope that he would not take personal offense to my feelings about how he does his job. I still respect him as a person. I would hope that we would be able to sit and eat together or play a round of golf together should the opportunity ever arise. I am saying there is no hate here. You may have heard certain people say "Hey haters!" to a critique of their actions. what I am saying is I am not a hater of persons just because I disagree with a person's actions.
        I am not telling any lies.

    • Timothy

      While I agree that Simon Manchester is very good it ought to be acknowledged that he is Australian.

      • Jim

        British, Australian... It's all the same ;)

        • James Spence

          I knew Simon is Australian. I guess I just had senior moment because he has done so much work in England in the past. He used to preach regularly at St.Helens bishopsgate when Dick Lucas was rector.

    • http://www.evedyahu.wordpress.com Cristian Rata

      Well said. And I do not say that as a British...but as a Romanian-American! Some of the deepest messages I get are from the Brits (I like Dick Lucas etc)! Sure - throw Piper in there too! :)

  • Steve

    The quote about controlling one's tongue from James was exceptionally clever.

  • Vinod Anand S

    Fantastic! Thought provoking! Vindicating!

    Thanks Dr.Carson

  • Sally

    Thank you Dr Carson.I live in Wales (pembs) and we are so grateful to be able to listen to great preaching via the internet and to be able to read/listen to TGC and others...Wales may have had revivals in the past but it is desperate now...We are greatly in need of good preaching and spirit filled churches...

    • Henry

      I'm from Pembrokeshire and second that. Which church are you a part of? My perspective is that there are not really any churches in Pembrokeshire that have been affected much by the resurgence in good theology seen in the US.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    I'm glad and mightily heartened that Mark Driscoll and you are friends.

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  • Allison Enos

    Terribly eloquent and persuasive as usual Dr.Carson.
    :)

  • Jay Beerley

    A nice round-house kick to the throat of pragmatism. I believe that is the great danger in all areas and corners of evangelicalism. And it's very hard to combat in our own hearts (at least in mine). I pray men like Driscoll and MacDonald will cease reporting numbers and "success" and just get back to faithful gospel deliverance. I know both men are very eloquent and have done such before.

  • http://www.solascrittura.it Pietro Ciavarella

    I too labor in a ‘Japan’ or a ‘Yorkshire’. My concern about Christian workers (not only Driscoll) who are involved with successful ministries is that they become models (for the wrong reasons) for people who want to labor in hard fields. In God’s mercy, I’m too old and have been in Italy too long to be tempted to fall into such traps...today. But as a young American on a short-term summer mission in ’87 I was, in some way, in the grips of such a ‘success’ model. Now over many years I’ve see the same thing happen season by season with (mostly, but not exclusively) young American missionaries, as well as missionaries from some other countries. They end up wasting their own time as well as that of other people, thinking they can import their success-oriented models into a difficult field (such models go by new ‘bright’ and ‘shiny’ names with each new wave). But it just doesn’t work. I don’t know Driscoll and am not interested in giving him advice. But I would invite young people who want to serve Christ in a hard field, including Italy, to read thoughtfully and prayerfully the biography of Don’s father. D.A. Carson, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson, Crossway, Wheaton, 2008 (you can read it free via the link at Andy Naselli's web site). I write books and read many others each year. I read Tom’s life in 2011. It was the most useful book I read in that year. It gave me food for thought and reflection on numerous issues in the Italian Church as well as both encouragement and rebuke for my spiritual life. I believe I wept several times as I read it and I’m not a big crier. I carry two passports. I was born with a US one and (by choice) acquired an Italian one. When I see the influence some American ministers have, for the wrong reasons, as well as the negative effects that influence has for the spread of the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in Italy—sometimes, I’m ashamed of my first one.

    • http://bibliatheologica.blogspot.coom A. B. Caneday

      Greetings, Pietro. I just wanted to greet you. We met at the TEDS breakfast in San Francisco. Blessings upon you and your labors in the kingdom there in Italy.

      • http://www.solascrittura.it Pietro Ciavarella

        Hey Ardel, I remember warmly our chat. Blessings on you and your labors for Christ in Minnesota. Don't forget to look me up if you get to Firenze. Your brother in Him, Pietro

  • http://justaftersunrise.wordpress.com/ Stan McCullars

    It seems odd that Driscoll would complain about a lack of well known Bible teachers in the UK when he recently announced to the world that heretic TD Jakes is a Trinitarian. His "questioning" of Jakes did little more than demonstrate Driscoll's own lack of understanding, Biblically and historically, of the Trinity.

    Two well known "Bible teachers" and so little cumulative Bible knowledge. Tragic.

    • http://myredeemerlivesministries.blogspot.com/ Mary Elizabeth Tyler

      Thank you, Stan McCullars. It is indeed tragic!!!

    • Lettie

      So if someone says that they believe in the trinity, that isn't enough for you? I don't understand.

      • Chris E

        I would ask them how they'd define 'trinity'. Roman Catholics also believe that we are 'saved by grace' - they just define grace differently than we do.

      • Gary

        Sorry, but no, it's not. We each don't get to define vital theological terms the way we want to.

  • http://www.gospelgrace.net/ Luma

    Dr. Carson, I appreciate your irenic spirit and in particular your quotation of Matthew 12:19-21 which I have been meditating on lately. As part of a sermon on Philippians 1:12-18 my pastor brought up the fact that many of the criticism leveled at Mark Driscoll were used against Spurgeon back in his day–speaking of courageous British proclaimers of the gospel. Here is a small portion of an 1855 newspaper article which I have copied over from my pastors blog:

    "Mr. Spurgeon preaches himself. He is nothing unless he is an actor--unless exhibiting that matchless impudence which is his great characteristic, indulging in coarse familiarity with holy things, declaiming in a ranting and colloquial style, strutting up and down the platform as though he were at the Surrey Theatre, and boasting of his own intimacy with Heaven with nauseating frequency."

    It seemed appropriate under the circumstances to share this here. Thank you for the clarity and the hope about the work of the gospel in Great Britain. Our God is sovereign and this is his work, we must all labor in faith in the work that is set before us. Indeed, godly encouragement is desperately needed today.

    • http://awildernesslife.wordpress.com laura grace

      That quote is fantastic.

    • http://justaftersunrise.wordpress.com/ Stan McCullars

      Spurgeon and Driscoll in the same sentence...

      There went my lunch.

    • http://www.jimjacobson.org Jim Jacobson

      Wow, great quote.

  • Ash

    In light of what I'm about to write, I hope very much that I haven't misunderstood what Don is trying to say here. The nature of many of these comments has alarmed me.

    This is not a call to arms against Driscoll or his style, and our focus should not be drawn to the chastisement for the rash nature of his comment. This is not a 'how you like them apples?' throw-down of cards like we're playing cross-Atlantic Top Trumps. This is an encouragement and a warning.

    The encouragement is that there are bold preachers in our midst who will stand up for the gospel. The warning is that our churches are indeed suffering, and the further north one may travel the more apparent this will be.

    When we are accused of something it is our duty to reflect on ourselves - if the accusation is well placed, we are better equipped now to combat our weakness; if it is ill-placed then we shall be more on our guard against that weakness.
    Are we cowards?

    Evangelical conviction did not trip and fall in the UK, it was dropped. Many still hold it up, but many more are needed.
    Names such as William Taylor's were not mentioned so that we could push him forward and say that we're not cowards because he isn't. His name is there so that we might fall in line behind him.

    So, instead of reacting to Driscoll by saying that he's not on our ipod playlists, allow the accusation to cut a little. Weigh it. Worst case scenario - he's wrong and you are all the more on your guard to be courageous.

    That's step one. Step two is to thank God for the people who Don mentioned, and many besides. Step three is to join them...
    ...and whether we like their style or not, many American brothers and sisters are standing there already. Let's try some of that godly encouragement from point 6, and thank God for them too.

  • Afro-Anglo-American

    For the past year, a gifted young British pastor has been working in the heart of London. Tom Drion and his associate Ross Orgill certainly have their work cut out for them and need our prayers and encouragement. They lead the flock at Grace Life London and have sermons online for those who would like to add another sound expositor to their playlist.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    The U.K. sounds like a rough row to hoe.

    We have a similar situation in the Newport Beach area of Southern California. Nobody here needs anything. And they've done it all 'themselves'.

    But there are outposts.

    Wasn't Jesus who said, "When the Son of Man returns to earth with His holy angels, will He find faith?

    There will be lots of religion (no doubt), but what about 'faith in what Christ has done'?

    .

  • Scott Shahan

    I live in the US, and listen to Dick Lucas every day. =)
    I like the Proclamation Trust.

  • lander

    Driscoll gave an outstanding interview to Justin Brierley marked by self-control. Driscoll's thoroughness and clarity in the interview is wonderfully refreshing with no PoMo vagueries or wishy-washy yes-buts.

    Listen here: http://www.premierradio.org.uk/listen/ondemand.aspx?mediaid=%7BB568EE6E-C425-4285-BCE0-BE1CF6A6DF31%7D

    Brierly asked questions of Driscoll that reflect Brierly’s center-left egalitarian stance. Driscoll patiently answered every question for 50 minutes and was thorough, biblical, balanced and friendly. Brierly pecked away at Driscoll’s conservative evangelical and complimentarian views which he labeled "controversial".

    Brierly wondered if Driscoll's views and style appeal to "beer swilling truck drivers". Driscoll calmly responded that Seattle is regarded as the most liberal, literate and artsy city in the USA.

    I appreciate that Driscoll gave balanced answers to gotcha questions. When many questions were framed by beginning with some form of "you are controversial" Driscoll carefully gave a gentle answer with firm convictions undergirding it. He pointed out--over and over--how he teaches men to love, serve, protect women. There was nothing controversial in Driscoll's biblical complimentarianism at all!

    Mars Hill started 15 years ago with 12 people in a Bible Study led by a 25 year old who. Brierly showed no interest in asking thoughtful questions as to why it mushroomed to 12,000 people. His only angle was to focus on Mark's supposedly controversial views—which conflict with his own.

    Driscoll did not sound braggadocios or out of control in the least. It sounds like he fully recognizes that his moderate Calvinism, mild Charismatic views, conservative doctrine and cutting-edge style are nowhere near enough to explain the providential or miraculous (take your pick) fruit that is A29.

    Brierly demonstrated no intellectual curiosity and no journalistic curiosity. He asked no questions that a church leader might benefit from, like, “Mark, under God, many downtrodden people as well as intellectuals have come to faith in America’s most secular city. Does this still amaze you or did you assume it would happen because of your approach?”

    Driscoll's question to Brierly to name one young Bible teacher in the UK went unanswered by Brierly who was flustered by a few other simple, specific questions. Brierly gave vague center-left answers that confirmed Driscoll's point in asking them: lay off the de-caff; take the Bible at full-strength and see what happens.

    Did Brierly aim at buttressing his tribe’s views by diminishing the person being interviewed with “others say you’re controversial”? Listen and decide.

    Christian journalists of yesteryear generally aimed at discovering the good that God was doing in their subjects lives, books and ministries. Times have changed.

    It’s not just that Driscoll has a provocative agenda (what movement leader doesn’t). The press seek controversy to promote their agenda, not just their circulation. All journalism now is tribal perspectivalism or opinion journalism.

    Driscoll exposed Brierly's vantage point in the last four minutes of the interview and it was clear by Brierly’s responses why he was keen to make Driscoll appear controversial and intemperate.

    Driscoll is comfortable enough in his own skin that he doesn't feel his views need watered down. He explained them in a balanced way. He was never out of control. The absolutes were clearly defended and anchored in the Bible. Everything else was left to the person’s conscience to sort out in their home or church.

    Prayer: Father, raise up Spurgeon-like leaders in the UK who call men and women to Christ and earnestly attempt to fulfill 2 Tim. 2:2, without fear.

    • Chris E

      In what sense does Brierley reflect a "center-left stance." in the interview? Or is this just a dog-whistle phrase?

      • lander

        "Center-left" is a fair description (not an aspersion) of a man whose pastor is his wife.

    • Sarah

      "Did Brierly aim at buttressing his tribe’s views by diminishing the person being interviewed with “others say you’re controversial”? Listen and decide"

      In my opinion the interviewer gave Driscoll ample opportunity to answer his critics, who do say he is controversial, in his own words.

      If anyone 'diminished' Driscoll, he did it himself by being rude and combative without provocation.

      • lander

        Was Driscoll rude and combative in the interview? I missed it.

        He was calm and thorough throughout. And he did answer his critics, the interviewer included.

      • http://www.thinktheology.org Luke Geraty

        Driscoll's interview on Brierly's show was grieving. I think Driscoll was arrogant and rude and did not represent well.

    • Dustin

      Lander,

      Before I respond to your comment, I would like to emphasize the gratitude in my heart for Dr. Carson's thoughtful reply. The interview you mention is at the heart of a controversy that many in the missional theological camps have been discussing for two weeks now. (See David Fitch's and Bill Kinnon's blogs for this perspective.)

      Now for the matter at hand: your comment suggests a notable inability to empathetically understand what has happened surrounding the interview. Brierley's podcast, unbelievable, has always been an apologetic show which defends the viability of Christianity in the contemporary UK. He has interviewed Druids, Psychics, Atheists, and Wickens in order to uncover the deeper issues his cultural context has concerning Christianity. He asks Driscoll these "controversial" questions because these are the issues he expects his cultural context has trouble understanding in Driscoll's theology.

      Secondly, Driscoll blogged that the interview was "the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective" he had ever taken part in. Thankfully, Brierley made the entire, unedited interview available to allow us to think for ourselves (as I believe we all should...therefore I will keep my opinion aside.)

      Lastly, the controversy does not merely stem around Driscoll's "intense" or "outrageous" personality. The real controversy lies in the "fruit" of Driscoll's theology, as Dr. Carson suggests, in the form of virtuous character and a controlled tongue. The question is, "Is there something inherent in pastor Mark's theology which enables him to continue -slipping up- like this?"

      I will end with another nod to Dr. Carson. Although I do not agree with all of the finer points of his theology, I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from, follow, and submit to the teachings of such a wise, and older, man of God.

      • lander

        My abiblity to empathize is not the issue. I based my comments on the interview not blogosphere reactions, which no doubt are all over the place.

        Brierly, a Christian brother, interviewed a Christian brother--not a druid or wiccan. If he were trying to build an apologetic bridge why major on the most difficult aspects of the conservative evangelical views (celibacy before marriage, complimentariansim) of his subject?

        He asked no questions about the thoughtful, creative, life-altering ministry at Mars Hill. Driscoll has written loads of books, planted churches, and taken strong stands on serious justice issues, produced music, etc. He reaches younger people despite long bible-based sermons and traditional theology. Yes his methods are innovative and provocative and irksome to some traditionalists.

        But Brierly, whose minister is his wife, is not a traditionalist fan of MacArthhur--is he? In point of fact, Mars Hill is a wonderful bridge for the gospel to a hard-left city, nearly every bit as sophisticated and liberal and literate as London. God has done a nifty work there among those "beer swilling truck drivers" (Brierly's words) that Brierly assumes are the only kind of people who resonate with Driscoll's conservative controversial views.

        Instead, the interviewer aimed, not at building a bridge to unbelievers, nor at understanding what God was doing in Seattle, nor at the contents of the book. He attempted an expose'. He wanted Driscoll's complimentarian views to seem more controversial and less fruitful than they are, when Driscoll's complimentarianism is softer than (or close to) Tim Keller's.

        You imply there is something inherent in Mark's theology which causes him to slip up. My response is: where did he slip up in the interview? Should he have whined on Twitter for not being embraced by an egalitarian journalist asking gotcha questions? No. He should not have expected fairness in a fallen world of warring tribes, especially if he bold enough to be a conservative evangelical in public.

        I did not suggest Dr. Carson wrote a rebuke of Mark for lack of self-control. You did. Carson implied a rebuke for lack of self-control. You took it that way. And that does seem to be his intent. But Mark did not lack self-control in the interview. In fact, he represented himself and his positions quite well, in the face of 50 minutes of questions aimed, not at helping build the church's bridge to outsiders, but at minimizing Driscoll's position.

        It is a matter of opinion, based on observation, that there are no YOUNG Spurgeons or J.C. Ryles who are prominent Bible teachers in the UK (yes, we all love Proclamation Trust). For Carson to say the field is too rocky, and 'my dad had it rough', is a bit of a dodge.

        Where ARE the conservative evangelical Plaths, Chandlers, Patricks, DeYoungs, Driscolls in the UK? With Stott, Gumbel, etc., going with the Bishops and seminaries on egalitarianism, look for the young, restless and Reformed to learn from Driscoll and plant churches in rough areas of London based on unabashedly conservative evangelical views.

        Prayer: Lord, raise up more robust, gospel-centered, manly J.C. Ryle-like preachers in the UK.

        • Chris E

          Your original unedited comment contained the following:

          "Would he have asked Keller a similar set of questions? No. He would have asked him about why so many thoughtful people in NYC come to his church..."

          Which is in itself telling. If I take it that you believe that Dr Keller is faithful to the conservative evangelical cause, then part of the problem is Mark Driscoll and the way in which he chooses to conduct himself.

          And incidentally, Gumbel is no complimentarian.

          • lander

            I said Gumbel was egalitarian. BTW, I love Stott, Gumbel, Keller and all God's children.

            You want me to comment on what I deleted? I deleted to avoid a rabbit trail comparison of Keller and Driscoll.

            The reaction to Driscoll is piling on by egals. When one of the "world's greatest NT scholar" sort of rebukes a brother for saying clearly what he himself teaches, it's ok to point out that Driscoll did not lack self-control.

            Driscoll calmly answered the gotcha questions in the interview. He should not have whinned on Twitter.

            Reminder: his views are similar to, or at least influenced by, Carson, Kostenberger, Grudem (who spent time in Europe--as have I).

            Mark Driscoll has the audacity to not be gelatinous. But he should not be surprised when people peck away at him. I love his Irish-Catholic working class brawler with brains persona because it is authentic. People who keep harping about it just need to let the brother be who he is.

            I hope he keeps at it and can bear up under the withering scrutiny that his views trigger. He is dangerous to the incipient/soft liberalism of egalitarians. He is hated by the GLBT community. He is excoriated by the MacArhtur crowd.

            And being a partner in the firm of Short, Nasty and Brutish, I feel like defending the fellow.

            • Robert

              I found out "lander" is really Driscoll posting under a pseudonym. that's lame. dont let this stuff bother you, man. you are better than that.

            • lander

              That made me smile. To be mistaken for Mark is an honor.

              I post under a pseudonym, perhaps for the same "lame" reasons you do.

              Have a terrific day walking with Jesus by the Spirit! Or, 'one day at a time' under your own self-control as you try to be virtuous and not tell goofy lies.

            • Dustin

              I have never heard someone describe the Jesus they have come to love as "Short, Nasty and Brutish."

        • Dustin

          Lander,

          I appreciate your intensity, fervor, and respect for Mark. I have taken some time to reflect on your words in order that I may understand you more clearly and try to see where you are coming from. I pray you offer me the same hearing now.

          You said, "I based my comments on the interview." Therefore, I will base most of my response in the form of quotes taken from the interview.

          Pastor Mark said that he preaches for the young men who are tired of hearing "guys in dresses preaching to grandmas.” Although I understand most people do not see the purpose of vestment robes as culturally relevant, Mark's language here does not merely focus on the awkward cultural context non-believers have, but this language emasculates these pastors. As Dr. Carson pointed out, some of these pastors who are doing good things in the UK are of the state-church and probably preach in vestments. How does Mark's theology and the interview interact with this statement?
          Much of the discussion around Brierley's wife stems around the question "Who has the Authority?" Although most of the earlier part of the interview about complementarianism was the softer, “Men need to be the type of men who women can submit to,” emphasizing that Mark seems to say women should not submit for submission’s sake. Yet, when the conversation moves to talk about a real relationship where the wife is a pastor, Mark’s language and conversation does not encourage Brierley to honor and love his wife. Rather, Driscoll focuses on attempting to emasculate Brierley by 1. Attacking the ‘manliness’ of the men of Brierley’s church (including Brierley himself). 2. Attacking Brierley’s wife’s effectiveness by her inability to talk about inappropriate, sexual things. 3. Attacking Brierley’s theology.

          Brierley: … Up to the point my wife took over, it had been run by men. Since she’s come, lots of new families, lots of younger people, both men and women, have come. I wouldn’t say the balance is right perfect yet by any means. But it’s certainly a lot better than it ever was. And so I don’t necessarily see quite the same situation that you paint there in terms of men not relating. I see more men in the church since she’s been there than before she was there, in a way.

          Driscoll: What kind of men? Strong men?

          Brierley: Well, men. I mean, men come in different shapes and sizes. I mean, yah, both really. Men who are very masculine, men who are, I guess, on a spectrum, more effeminate. But I couldn’t say that there’s been a sort of dearth of men in the church since she’s arrived. I mean, Mark, I don’t want to get into a sort of argument.

          Driscoll: No, no, you don’t want to sit in my seat, I understand. So does your wife do counseling with men? Sexual counseling? Does she talk about masturbation, pornography, the stuff that I do?

          Brierley: Well no, she doesn’t.

          Driscoll: Well, who does talk to the men about those things, especially the young men?

          Brierley: Well there are other people that she can pass them on to. We have male elders in our church who, you know, would be able to tackle those kinds of questions. I mean, but would you speak with those kinds of issues to a female in your church?

          Driscoll: Uh no. If they’re a married couple we might meet with them as a couple. But if it’s a woman, we would have women leaders meet with them.

          Brierley: Sure, well it’s the same scenario in our church really.

          Driscoll: Well except for who’s in charge.

          Brierley: Well what’s wrong with… I mean, I agree, obviously theologically we’re not on the same page here Mark in terms of…

          Driscoll: Do you believe in a conscious literal eternal torment of hell?

          Brierley: What has that got to do with the issue of women in leadership, if you don’t mind me asking?

          Driscoll: It does. It depends on your view of God. Is God like a mom who just embraces everyone? Or is he like a father who also protects, and defends, and disciplines? If you won’t answer the question, I think I know the answer.

          It seems to me, Landers, that if anyone is trying to build a bridge here, it is Brierley. He states that he and Driscoll will probably not agree, but he still tries to create an analogous situation for Driscoll in the approach of discipling people of the opposite sex, and Driscoll only answers with “Authority.” Driscoll is not attempting to interact with Brierley in any type of building way. For you to say Driscoll does not lose control in this interview, I ask you to read this interaction and ask yourself how Driscoll is using his questions. He does not seem to be sincerely asking questions, but merely using questions to inappropriately label Brierley with derogatory terms. For example, his switch to hell seems odd—especially because Brierley is well known of defending a traditional doctrine of Hell in his interview with Rob Bell— this question is confusing unless you listen further to how he accuses Brierley of not believing in the substitutionary atonement, even though Brierley clearly states that he does believe it, in order to label him as a heretical liberal theologian that nobody should listen to (once again, emasculating). Even though Brierley said that penal substitution is a way to describe the cross, the fact that he does not believe it is not the only way (as most orthodox Christians believe in multiple ways to describe the atonement), Driscoll told him to “stop drinking decaf”….man up. The implication is clear. Driscoll is the leader, and if you disagree, if you don’t want to submit, he doesn’t respond in love, he responds with attacking and tearing people down. The last I checked, someone said you shouldn’t submit unless they are worthy of that submission. Hmm……

          • Joanne

            Can I ask maybe a very simple question? Do any of you guys really care about the actual content of THIS blog? As a Christian in the country discussed I find it very sad that rather than expressing support and discussing what could be done to support your brothers and sisters in Christ you seem to be taking this as an opportunity to take potshots at Mark Driscoll, each other etc. Maybe if people put more of their energy into writing as much as you have in defense of the Gospel OR a letter to a struggling Pastor or church in the UK (I could let you have plenty) then mnaybe you would achieve what DR Carson speaks of, the need to proclaim the Gospel in the UK and encourage Christians who are faithfully!

            • Dustin

              Joanne, I hear your wisdom. My focus on this situation is because of the community I serve. The body of Christ in my community is strongly influenced by Driscoll and this blog.

              I would love to pray for and encourage those who serve the kingdom in the UK. Those few friends I have from there were on my heart and mind as I read this.

              At the same time, I do not walk through life with them because I do not live among them. The ideas I discuss and emphasize hear are in the hopes that there are some in my community, who I do walk with, will read this and learn how to discuss the practice of our thinking theology.

              Yet, your comment is dualy noted, and I repent.

              Also, in some ways I feel like Dr. Carson's focus on this blog is a pseudo-attempt to talk about what I am discussing also.

          • lander

            Dustin - I'll respond to your points, not because I'm fervent for Driscoll's honor. Aiming hire than that.

            I'm willing to be contrarian for the sake of the obvious: the reason Driscoll is a lightening rod is he’s speaking truth to power.
            Have a sense of humor please: being a partner in the law firm of “Short, Nasty and Brutish” is what we call a conservative joke in America. To translate, it means, my New York lawyer can smell a case of piling on from a mile away and he fancies a fight. I was not calling Jesus names.

            We use rugby-like language in America. They do in the UK too I understand, but not in churches, which is part of the reason so few go to church in the UK. Lay off de-caff, means, well, you can handle regular.

            Look, this whole thing is real simple. You’re probably in the egal majority and want to win. I’m in the complimentarian minority (but growing?) and think my view is right. See you in heaven. But before we debrief over a de-caff on the new earth, there's some serious work to do.

            The liberal egal pack (in power in most institutions in both the UK and USA) has a worldview they will defend and a proven track record of using subtlety or raw power. If you doubt this, ask any ex-mainline pastor who got thrown out on his arse for saying he didn’t want a female bishop.

            If you still doubt that egal/liberalism/feminism leads to power grabs, check with the good folks in the 7 Virginia parishes that just got booted off their church property—property they held before the Revolutionary War.

            So, anyone who thinks their side is not pushing, straining, pulling, cheering for their agenda is lying. Brierley was not on a mission to promote Driscoll’s views. He hid his own view.

            What bugs people about Driscoll is that he is TOTALLY upfront about his views. Being upfront is not rude. It’s honest. Sure, Driscoll can improve on eitquette and he needs to not whine about not getting big love from center-left journalists. But give Driscoll credit for discerning that his interviewer was most likely an egal. and likely an annhilationist and calling him out to be forthright about it.

            To your points:
            First, taking umbrage at Driscoll's poke at vestments is thin skinned. Everybody makes fun of vestments--especially those who wear them (you assume I don’t wear them; but I might--and I assure you, I can take it).

            Second, where would be without praying grandmas! But aren't you concerned if they’re the largest constituents in churches? Any grandmas having babies in the UK?

            Driscoll said in a pithy way—acceptable to most Americans and football loving beer swillers across the globe—what Carson’s cold stats confirm: a 1% churched population (mostly elderly) in some areas means it’s time for brother Theoden to shake off Wormtongue’s liberal’s whispers. If it takes a brash American (or Brit) to barge in and say, “I adjure you to King Theoden to wake up”, so be it. [That was an analogy you’re local Tolkien nerd can explain.]

            Second, to your point of the way Mark questioned Brierley in the last 4 minutes, which is what you assiduously quote above: there is more than one way to debate a philosophy you find alien and harmful.

            One way to conduct an interview (or win a point in defense of you and your wife’s liberal position against a brash leader of a movement that threatens it) is to ask, in a way that, to most “non-egal/non-Brit” ears, sounds like a subtle or even snide and disrespectful attack, again and again, that could be summed up with: “Prove you’re really not a controversial extremist.”

            There’s a proper British way to insert a debate stiletto in an interview without revealing your position. It's not hard to read between the lines and interpret the questions fo mean something like: "Those philistine fundy 'beer swilling truck drivers' aren't terribly smart are they? Rather boorsish one should think? Don't speak French do they, like respectable conservative Cambridge men like Uncle John and Don?"

            [Yes, I’m mocking here to point out the effect such questions have on people like me who are committed to a 2,000 year biblical tradition that was just thrown out by nice, smiling liberals in power, cheered on by journalists whose pastors are their wives.]

            The other way to debate, or persuade, the Driscoll Method, is to tell like it is. Straight up. Both barrels. Decide your side. Say it. Own it. Again, he should not have whined.

            At his best, Mark is willing to say the emperor has no clothes publicly, instead of hiding behind pseudonyms like you and me. He cares more about growing healthy, happy churches and families than being buddies with Bishop Obsequious or Pastor Gelatinous or the newest Nooma Guru. Driscoll doesn’t give a fig what those wonderfully balanced and thoughtful opinion makers at the Seattle Times think. Or maybe he does... and is trying not to.

            Guys like me expressed complimentarism in a gentle, reasonable way to those in power. Those wonderfully loving, broad-minded, accepting egals were so embracing… as they pushed me out the door to go be with the other “truck drivers and beer swillers”.

            The truth is, Mr. Brierley’s parish will not thrive over the long haul if the Bible is twisted to mean that Jesus and Paul were egals.

            Every honest scholar (e.g., R. Hays at Duke) acknowledges they weren’t. Jesus and Paul were soft patriachialists. But then those same wise men follow the herd and decide it doesn’t matter what Jesus and Paul practiced or believed because, “the Spirit is doing a new thing, blah, blah, blah, and our shrinking, lifeless churches are proof of it.”

            You kids on here, be smart and listen to an old curmudgeon. If you want to feed your family and get the best appointments and rise in this world, be a liberal egal. If you want to join Polycarp in the public square and burn for Christ, read “Women and the Church” by Kostenberger and Schriener.

            But kids, if you do, and you’re persuaded, make sure you have some place to land, like Acts 29 or the PCA, or have some alternative means to feed you babies. You will not be welcome at the faculty tea—unless you keep quiet.

            • Dustin

              Lander,

              Thank you for the context of the "Short, Nasty and Brutish" statement.

              Also, I am sorry for any pain you have experienced by being pushed out of a congregation (if that is what you are saying?). I too have experienced this, and for the same reason of interpreting the scriptures a different way than the lead pastor did.

              I think you are hitting on something powerful here when we cut lines and choose sides on issues like this that are in-house. My heart breaks anytime the body fights in an "us vs them" mentality. Don't get me wrong, we do need to have good theological discourse to distinguish orthodox theology from heresy. Yet, I fear that many on both sides - Liberal and Conservative - have thrown in some open-handed issues into the "Fundamentals" of Christianity (I studied at a Dispensational/Fundamentalists Bible Institute).

              We should focus more on the 2,000 year old doctrines like you suggest. The apostles creed stands as the most concise statement of the Gospel I have seen outside of 1 Cor. 15. (See Scot McKnight's great new book, The King Jesus Gospel). Other factors are the doctrine of the Trinity, the nature of Christ, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the missional call of the great commission.

              What I am afraid we do too much of is the in-house fighting over debatable interpretations of certain texts. Reading ALL of the church fathers (Western and Eastern) shows us the multiple voices, interpretations, and applications of texts.

              And I agree that ANY time people go on a power trip to kick brothers and sisters out of community for disagreeing with them is an ill-display of worldly power. As Mos Def has said, "true power don't power trip".

              My fear hear is that I do not see Driscoll and those Acts 29 churches I have been a part of (I was asked to leave one for not agreeing with specific interpretations) as using power any differently than the churches in the wrong you speak of.

              I pray we can love through the discourse rather than bully, berate, emasculate, mock, and tear down. The world has enough of that already.

              *and if you are wondering what the interpretation I had trouble with, the pastor was interpretting the marriage statements by Paul in 1 Corinthians (and elsewhere) as suggesting it is the Norm for men and women to get married. He emphasized this through the traditional ACTS 29 focus on restoring Christian "Manhood". I disagreed with this interpretation because I interpreted these passages as suggesting Paul encouraging those who are not married, to not become married so they may become focused on the kingdom. I then emphasized my main concern was that his interpretation would make the singles in our congregation seem like second-class citizens in the kingdom until they were married (Which I feel our society already does enough of.)

              Although there were other hiccups, this discussion resulted in the ensuing meeting where I was encouraged to find another congregation where I would be "happier."

            • lander

              Dustin,

              Ouch. Sorry the shepherding you got in that A29 church was not flexible enough to allow for your interpretation of those passages--which is surely correct. Not good shepherding.

              A good case can be made from Scripture for getting married and making babies, and going against the current trend to wait until 39 and a half. The stats on the trend, in, for example, Italy will result in massive social upheaval if the USA follows suit.

              But you are correct that singleness, like marriage, is also a gift.

              So I'd suggest that a counter-cultural message to 'get married, get a job, and make babies' is probably the right emphasis in most churches today, if it does not make singles less than fully human.

              A word of caution from a "seen this 14 times before" hired hand: People like yourself who launch from very conservative places often overcorrect. But trust me: there is no life in liberalism. It's all cut flowers. Machen was right: it's a different religion and parasitic. And it has many guises, which change and adapt.

              Fundamentalism rots too, btw. But you already know that.

    • http://anchorforthesoul.org Daniel

      When the interviewer asked Driscoll to defend his outrageous views about what constitutes appropriate sexual behaviors within marriage, Driscoll answered, "I'm a Biblical teacher." As if that settled it, no further defense required.

      The interviewer was fair. Driscoll was the one who appeared immature.

  • graham and nicola

    Could we also draw attention to the work of Michael Ramsden and John Lennox? We'd also like to point out that the quiet work of editors like Phil Duce at IVP (UK) often goes unsung. He, and other like him, have kept UK evangelicalism on a conservative path.

    G&N

  • mel

    For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not being merely human?

    What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.

    I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.
    So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

    He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.

    For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.

  • Barbara Kidder

    This is in response to Mel's last gentle rebuke, "...are you not being merely human?" if one says, "I follow Paul" or, "I follow Apollos".
    It seemed, from reading all the previous comments, that by naming a particular local pastor or preacher, these writers were singling these men out for commendation and acknowledgement, not as teachers of their own strain of Christian dogma but, rather, because they wanted to recognise them, publically, as a way of showing respect and appreciation.
    God forbid that we should cease to say "Thank you" to our host, after enjoying their tasty, carefully prepared meal, for there not being any need of such superficial flattery, as we all know that God has made everything!
    Respectfully,
    BAK

  • http://www.evedyahu.wordpress.com Cristian Rata

    P.S. I meant "well said" to James Spence!

  • http://www.immanuelbc.net Robert Briggs

    Excellent perspective from Dr Carson, as a Brit in the US I am very glad Dr Carson took the time to write this. If you have not read the book he wrote about his father's ministry, 'An Ordinary Pastor', I heartily recommend it, great lessons regarding pastoral faithfulness will be gleaned from it.

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  • http://saintsandsceptics.blogspot.com Nicola and Graham

    Barbara
    Thank you. That was the spirit of our post. There are many faithful Pastors who are overlooked; and if Pastors are overlooked, what hope have the laity?
    We think here of Tommy Manson and Jimmy Muholland who laboured for years with a small childrens work in Belfast. Many were saved. As Protestants we are not meant to value one calling above another. Yet Pastors are "holier" than faithful lay workers, and "Superpastors", who (allegedly) preach with more "power", are holier than ordinary Pastors. Or, if not holier, more honorable. We have three tiers of spiritual service. At least the Catholic Church merely confined themselves to two....

    G&N

  • Sally

    Henry,

    You are right about the churches in Pembrokeshire not having been influenced by the resurgence as far as i can see. Maybe best not say what church i go to! .it's mostly good teaching, very stuck in it's ways and hasn't had a pastor for years.Most that preach are over 70. The elders don't trust younger men!! Where else is there!! Thank the Lord for Dr Carson, Mark Driscoll and the like...

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  • Barbara Kidder

    Whilst it is up to the theologians amongst you to evaluate Mark Driskoll's "fruit", may I remind you that, from a marketing angle, being viewed "outrageous" is anything but a negative!
    These two paths are not necessarily mutually exclusive; but, like the moth that risks singeing its wings the closer it moves towards the flame, Christians who take up the tools of the world to promote their crops, sometimes reap more tares than wheat!
    It's finding the right balance that is the challenge for each one of us...

    • Dustin

      Barbara,

      thanks for your comment. Your emphasis on using the "tools of the world" is extremely relevant here. In some ways we really are asking what the crop actually is. If the crop is the number of proclaimed converts in a congregation, then it seems we fall into the temptation similar to Charles Finney's by any means possible! If the crop is the growing of mature christians into the walk of Christian faith (which includes conversion), then the tools must be those of Scripture and the Holy Spirit - not marketing.

      • http://www.jedimoose.org mrben

        Does Mark Driscoll get a lot of press because he has a big church, or does he have a big church because he gets a lot of press......?

        Having followed his progress for the last few years, and been very blessed by his teaching, I would suggest that it's probably a bit of both, but his tools for the vast majority _have_ been Scripture and the Spirit. When you hear some of the testimonies of people who have not only been "converted" but have grown into maturity at Mars Hill, I think it would be very difficult to suggest that it's all been about marketing.

        • Dustin

          Mr. Ben,

          I know about the good things that have happened through the Spirit and Scriptures at Mars Hill, in no way am I trying to discredit that. For all the people who have found a home there, I am sincerely happy.

          Yet, there is a lot of formation, in Mark Driscoll and his Church Body, that has been founded on good marketing rather than scripture and the Spirit. For example, the controversy over their suing other churches using their logo "Mars Hill" railed against scripture, and thankfully brothers and sisters in Christ lovingly corrected them. Also, this infatuation with Celebrity Preachers/Authors/Pastors creates a risky place for self-righteousness. See Bill Kinnon's blog about it.

  • http://triablogue.blogspot.com Patrick Chan

    By the way, I also appreciated Carson's past articles on the topic.

  • Deborah

    I think your last line "that in some of the most challenging places of the world for gospel advance, godly encouragement is part of the great need of the day" is so important to remember. We need to encourage each other to persevere in the face of what appears to be failure to the statistic minded. From the Lord's perspective, all the blood, sweat, and tears bringing just one soul to salvation is reason to stir each other up with godly encouragement. It's tough enough to battle those who reject the rule of Christ, but to be beaten down by each other just makes the enemy smile. But having said that, we have to "hear" what the Lord gives our critics to speak to us. There's a reason those words come to our ears--He is sovereign. That goes both ways concerning the subject of the blog. Instead of increased debate, we need to take a Selah, think about it, and ask the Lord "What?" That's my prayer--both sides will listen.

  • Barbara Kidder

    Marketing is not a dirty word; it is a vital part of any commercial endeavor, because it is what pays the bills. Magazines sell advertising, authors sign contracts and sell books, artists sell reproductions and camps and colleges charge room and board, etc.! This holds true for Christians, too!
    The rub comes when we confuse ministry with commerce; and some of us don't always know the difference. We are willing to contribute to ministries who main thrust is outreach and who are, also, good stewards of their funds. To add to our confusion, there are many ministries that start out weighted in favor of outreach, and then 'morph' into a more overt commercial venture. These hybrids only have a limited life and their demise is often sudden and spectacular!
    Those of us of mature years (that is, on Medicare!), have witnessed this life-cycle often. Once again, I believe that the crucial ingredient is balance. The men that head up these ministries (and there are always more than one, even in solo ventures), have always to balance the desires of their heart to do God's work, their strength and loves vs. their weaknesses and personal dislikes, the financial support they can rely on and the need to raise additional funds, on an on-going basis, the need to stay current with the world's means of communication, the need to be seen and heard by the worldwide church, the wish to labor in the fields of their local congregation, the 'down time' necessary to take care of personal and health matters, the needs and obligations of family, and, of course, the prayer life that is the underpinning of all the above.
    Why are we surprised when some go off course; we should beware of this in our own lives, however ordinary they are!
    Respectfully,
    BAK

  • Sally

    Why is there so much about Mark Driscoll on this blog,most of it
    negative....
    Come on, he is a great preacher and I have been greatly blessed by his preaching.

  • http://www.jimjacobson.org Jim Jacobson

    Thank you for this well balanced article. It's nice to read a thoughtful counter-point.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Perhaps Mark Driscoll had read this article by Albert Mohler prior:

    It Feels As If the Soul of Britain is Dying.

  • Paul

    For what it's worth here are the thoughts of a British pastor working in a conservative baptist church in rural England. I have the advantage of being an English pastor married to an American wife - so understand both cultures pretty well.

    Some preliminary thoughts -

    Reading some of the posts I can't help but feel that there is a little more heat than light.

    It's always helpful to have people from other cultures look at your own. It's all too easy to be blind to your own faults. One blindspot of English culture is the English reserve that often fails to call a spade a spade. My wife was told by another american missionary, 'If you want to know what an English person thinks, ask someone else.' I must say that there is a degree of truth in this. I am happy to take Mark's words as an encouragement to defy the temptation to be all things to all men being bold and uncompromising in our preaching and engagement with the world.

    There are many evangelical churches that would share his concern about the influence of liberal theology in church doctrine and practice. I am grateful for the clear stand that he took with regard to the complementarian position.

    I am also thankful for Don Carson's article - I think that he survey's the British church scene helpfully and accurately. I suspect Carson understands British evangelicalism better than most North American church leaders. I appreciate both the affection that Carson clearly has for the UK church and his concern for the welfare of the gospel here.

    If British evangelicals are tempted to avoid offence at all costs what of American evangelicals? I think that over the other side of the pond the temptations would include, equating success with faithfulness (read the story of Robert Morrison - first protestant missionary to China as an antidote), veneration of figurehead type preachers (yes we do this in the uk as well - the difference being that ours are no longer alive!!!!) and a over reliance on programmes. I think of the apocryphal story of the Korean church leader who visited various churches in the States. Upon completion of his tour he was asked what he had learnt from his trip, he replied, "It's amazing what you can achieve without the Holy Spirit."

    There are many faithful ministers and gospel preaching churches in the UK. However they are not evenly spread geographically as Carson states. Many rural areas (Yorkshire, Norfolk, Cornwall) and large cities like Manchester are gospel wastelands. These areas were dominated by Methodism which was a great thing in the days of Wesley - but not so great in the days of the liberal Lord Soper.

    Yes there is much cause for concern but...

    It is wonderful to see gospel partnerships and other strategic groups beginning to plant churches in these wilderness areas. There is a very encouraging work of evangelism going on under the auspices of UCCF and university CU's (there are no 'Christian universities'!). Many evangelicals in the Church of Scotland are considering leaving the denomination at great cost to themselves and congregations. There's courage if you were looking for it!
    And has evangelical, reformed publishing been as strong as it is in the UK at the moment? God has turned around the spiritual state in the UK before (read the introductory chapter of Dallimore's biography of George Whitfield). Surely our prayer should be that of William Booth, "Lord won't you do it again".

    One more point, most of the finest UK preachers today (Alistair Begg, Sinclair Ferguson, Liam Goligher to name but three) are not in the UK. Where are they? Gracing the pulpits of churches, seminaries and conferences across the US often much to the frustration and cost of British Christians. This is not to call into question the integrity of such men who believe God has called them across the pond. It should however cause US Christians pause for thought before asking, 'where are all the well known British preachers'!!!!

    • Charles Twombly

      Paul, helpful words here. My own attempt could probably use some of the qualifications you add.

  • Barbara Kidder

    Paul: What county in England do you live/work? I live in the US, but grew up in England.
    Thanks for taking the time to write an interesting post.
    BAK

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  • EAJ

    "Moreover, the measure of faithful service is sometimes explicitly tied in Scripture not to the quantity of fruit, measured in numbers, but to such virtues as self-control, measured by the use of one's tongue (James 3:1-6)."

    Excellent! and maybe an "Ouch" as well for someone.

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  • Jennifer

    Dr. Carson, I really appreciate this post. Glad to see you in the blog world!

  • Sangster

    Dr. Don Carson, thanks for the encouragement, I did read, The Ordinary pastor. an encouragement for faithful work than a fruitful multiplication.!! Since our world is looking for "how many"!!

  • http://www.mzbaptist.net Jason

    Thanks DR Carson for bringing to the eyes of the world the desparate need for Christians in rural and towns in Yorkshire, I am grieved that so many do not see the need. I would love 'normal' Christians to plant themselves into Yorkshire's dying villages and towns (You would not believe the difference one family can make to a tiny Yorkshire church!) My town is 10,000 souls as far as I know less than 40 would claim to be Gospel/evangelical in the widest sense of the word and I know it is virtually the same for the neigbouring towns, my church is trying to reach this vast field. This is a place crying out for christians to move in, to be salt and light, A place crying out for church planters to hook up with the tiny churches that are faithfully keeping the light burning, and just need that fresh drive to keep them going, yet because of size, financial difficulties or location are so often overlooked.

    DR Carson, Your wisdom and balance is so much valued, thank you for this article - It makes a tiny church feel less alone when people know our need.

    God Bless and if you can remember us in your prayers

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  • http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com andrew jones (tsk)

    good article. it should also be said that many of the 5000 fresh expressions of church (emerging church UK style) meet in pubs and it takes a different sort of COURAGE to host a service in a pub in the midst of secular and antagonistic onlookers than it does to preach to the "faithful" in a church building where no one insults or argues publicly with the preacher.

  • Charlie Fadipe

    Great and welcome reflections by Don Carson. I found it refreshing, balance and right. Let's honour our Lord faithfully, and He will make names great, if He so chooses. It's been great to read so many posts that reflect the same thing. Keep serving the Lord brothers and sisters.

  • http://about.me/samgreenlee Sam Greenlee

    Thank you for this response, Mr. Carson.

    While studying abroad in Oxford in 2008, I had the privilege of worshipping at St. Ebbe's for a semester and found it to be a vibrant, faith-filled community dedicated to Christ and His Gospel.

  • Joanne

    Firstly thank you Don Carson for this blog post, as an evangelical christian in Yorkshire I think you expressed very accuratly the situation here in the UK.
    I have read most of the previous comments, and one thing that saddens me is that the debate is focussing a lot on Mark Driscoll and many side issues. The fact of the matter is that Britain is and has been for many years growing darker spiritually by the minute. One of the reasons there are so few "big" evangelical speakers is that they have not got time to be doing the conference rounds, instead they are faithfully preaching the Gospel and teaching the Word week in week out, the task is so huge in some areas there is not time left for anything else!!! They are not wimping out in any way, in fact, it takes great courage and perseverance to stay faithful and go against the prevailing tide of liberalism and post-modernism.
    However, I do thank Mark Driscoll for his comments too, we need people like him to stir up the debate and get us to face the reality of the spiritual situation here.
    One thing i would like to add is probably a very feminine view/plea. In amongst of all of this are precious people. Old saints who despair at the decline of the church but still need to be cared for. Children, like my own three, who for several years were the ony kids in our church and bible believing kids in their school. Women, like myself, who battle with loneliness due to lack of fellowship. The list could go on... BUT most of all the thousands in my town who are heading to a Godless eternity in Hell. Please in all your debates about this subject PLEASE do not forget the real people. A wise women's teacher and ex-missionary from the Phillipines once said "If you have truly seen the need then you need to seriously ask yourself, have you heard the call." That is why I am still here, I see the need, Ive heard the call, I am trusting that the Father will be faithful to His promises both for me, my family and my town. The question is if you have read this blog post, especially if you have commented have YOU seen the need, have YOU heard the call, if not here then maybe to some other HARD place that will take you way out of your comfort zone but right into a deeper understanding of what it is to "trust in the LORD with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight!"

    • Dustin

      Joanne,
      once again, thank you for this post. I have served in cities where the church of God has been proclaimed, but social ills have yet to be dealt with (I am writing this as a bi-vocational pastoral type, and a high-school teacher in the inner-city.) I will be the first to say I DO NOT know about the UK. What I do KNOW about is the pain and hardship of serving in a city where people proclaim with their mouths (in loving and unloving ways) the greatness of God, and what others SHOULD be doing about it, but these speakers rarely live out their faith IN LOVE.
      I consider myself a conservative Christian because I believe in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I do not believe in hard-postmodernism, but I do believe in being cautios with proclaiming a single interpretation of a text that has been disputed for centuries. Therefore, I have learned from postmodernism to be humble and cautious with these "open-handed" issues - Like complementarianism - and stake my theology on the culmination of God's mission through Jesus Christ's life, death, resurrection, and continual rule of the world until his return.

      Peace be with you,
      and thank you again.

      • Joanne

        God bless you Dustin. Your gracious reply is much appreciated. One thing you learn to appreciate in a small church is genuine fellowship wherever that comes from, so thank you again! My husband is currently a Supply Teacher and Pastor. We both trained in Birmingham UK and have some experience of Inner City work having both vounteered with Birmingham City Mission. We are now in a Rural Town in Yorkshire which despite all appearances has as serious a problem with alcohol and drugs as many Inner Cities in the UK, a recent article in the Independent (5th Dec) highlighted this. So we probably have much in common!! To be honest this blog was posted at a time when we have been wrestling with God over the call to be here, BUT you know what, we have eternity to look forward to when people from every tribe and tongue will gather to worship the Saviour PTL! Its a privilege to be serving Him now and lets pray for genuine Revival in both our countries, that the Holy Spirit would move amongst us and that many would be saved. God Bless you and all in your care.

        • Dustin

          Joanne, this is how the internet is a great opportunity. I often forget how good it feels to be connected to other communities of Christ. I grew up in a small farm town (that my wife and I are considering moving back to in order to serve in the areas of hurt you mentioned in Yorkshire). In many ways, with the movement to love cities, many of us in the Kingdom forget that the rural towns and villages have been hurting for just as long (in some similar, and some different ways.) Keep up the great work!

  • Jeremy

    It seems that maybe the most popular fairly conservative churchman/theologian in the western world, N.T. Wright, was omitted. While he certainly does not want to be a celebrity pastor-theologian, he is wildly popular.

    • SeekTruthFromFacts

      Tom Wright isn't really a pastor, he a scholar. He's been a good a bishop, but hasn't really got any experience of running a church. I don't think either Carson or Driscoll were thinking about theologians.

      • Charles Twombly

        Strange to say Tom Wright "isn't really a pastor." In the Anglican communion, a bishop is the chief pastor of his diocese; he's not "merely" an administrator. There are scores of notable preachers among the bishops over the years. On top of that, Wright was at one time the chaplain of Worcester College at Oxford (a real job!)and then became dean of Lichfield Cathedral, a job as much pastoral as administrative. In addition, I doubt that few who have heard Tom Wright preach failed to see what a powerful and persuasive proclaimer of the gospel he is.

        This discussion seems to be dealing with the irresolvable tension between "pure church" folks and "wheat and tares" folks. The New Testament reflects both views. The Apostle Paul embodies both strands: on the one hand, he can tolerate those in Corinth who seem to believe the resurrection has already taken place; on the other hand, he can have a brother tossed out for gross immorality and others cursed for "preaching another gospel." There's elasticity, but it's far from infinite.

        Elsewhere in the NT,there are mixed congregations with strong lines drawn in extreme cases (as in the Johannine letters). The offenders in John's epistles separate themselves; the Elder says they were never really "insiders" to begin with. He identifies "outsiders" as those who don't acknowledge "the Son" and who don't love the brethren.

        I'm sorry I've failed to get anyone to engage my point (elsewhere in this thread) that the C of E has clearly "produced" an amazing share of preachers, biblical scholars, and theologians who have enriched the whole body of Christ. It would be hard to find another denomination (evangelical or mixed) that can equal the impact of Stott,Packer, Lewis, Sayers, Wright, Thiselton, Bauckham,McGrath, and so many more on the Church Universal. I don't think this is mere coincidence. There must be something in the faith and prayer of Ecclesia Anglicana that causes so many to rise to great heights with such devotion and depth.

        In the parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13, the amazing leavening power of God is often invisible to the very end. Let God (and his angels) be the sorter; those who try to do his job for him often end up in groups where constant strife and division take place. Too many think of themselves as Mr Valiant-for-the-Truth and end up getting shot or shooting others with "friendly fire." The Anglican Communion has its own strife, of course, but up until recently the strong tendency has been to stay together, just as the strong tendency of many Reformed groups has been to split into smaller and smaller divisions, often separating from those just as conservative and "orthodox" on most points as they.

  • Todd

    What I can't figure out is how Dr. Carson can have all these associations with leaders in the U.K. who remain part of denominations that have leaders in them who are heterodox or have embraced or allowed for unbiblical morality, when Pastor James MacDonald was pressured here to not have associations with such alleged leaders and compelled to leave TGC. As I see things, the Anglican Communion and Church of England may be orthodox on paper, but in many quarters are far from it in practice.

  • James Spence

    Todd -

    Actually to me it would seem that on paper the Anglican Communion and the Church of England are more and more Un-orthodox, yet many of the preachers within them are in fact very Orthodox and theologically sound.

    It's long been asserted that if a biblically sound orthodox christian finds themselves in a church that wants to teach unbiblical things, that rather than leave, is better to remain in that church to point out the errors and teach truth to overcome the lies being taught.

    This is what I find most comforting about those two organizations in Britain (and also so many preachers and theologians in the Anglican churches of Australia, who are highly orthodox as well). I have always been amazed at how many excellent, biblically sound preachers and theologians there are within those two organizations, and it's what drew me to listen to the sermons of so many of their preachers and read their books and commentaries.

    For example, the bible commentary series called 'The Bible Speaks Today' was written by many Anglican authors, yet the books have long been the most biblically sound and orthodox commentaries you will ever find. It's my favorite set. (it's also very non-technical and great for beginners).

    • Todd

      I do not at all disagree that there are heterodox and orthodox theologians and preachers within the Church of England. To my point, Dr. Carson chooses to associate with those who are orthodox though they are in a denomination that has heterodoxy in it. That is inconsistent with James MacDonald being pressured to leave TGC over the Elephant Room event because of his perceived heterodox associations. It would seem that what is sanctioned on one side of the Atlantic, is condemned on the other.

      • http://thegospelcoalition.org Collin Hansen

        Todd, if James MacDonald was pressured to leave over the Elephant Room and perceived heterodox associations, then why weren't Mark Driscoll and Crawford Loritts pressured to do likewise?

        • Todd

          Collin, that would be a great question for you to ask the Coalition members. I don't know the answer.

          • http://thegospelcoalition.org Collin Hansen

            I guess that was my point. Speculation about problems with "associations" doesn't square with the facts of this particular situation.

            • Todd

              No speculation necessary. James MacDonald graciously bowed out under pressure from TGC leadership. Seriously, ask them. I appreciate them as godly men and am certain they will give you an honest answer.

            • http://thegospelcoalition.org Collin Hansen

              As a Harvest pastor in Canada, you have heard one perspective. But if that view were correct, then Driscoll and Loritts would have the same associational problem. They don't, so the problem can't be associations.

            • Todd

              Facts or simply an inconsistency? Are you saying James was not pressured to resign by TGC leadership? Because that's the only perspective that's out there. As a leader in TGC you could clarify this for your readers and followers.

            • http://thegospelcoalition.org Collin Hansen

              Thanks, Todd, for the advice. We'll publish a statement shortly.

  • Charles Twombly

    Don Carson's piece is just the word we need here. American mega-churches may be as much or more reflective of the American love for spectacle and numbers as they are of God's blessing. On the basis of numbers, the Jehovah's Witnesses and the LDS can assure themselves of divine favor.

    As for the UK, the "moribund" C of E and the struggling free churches are nonetheless producing a disproportionate number of biblical scholars and theologians proving to be great blessings both in North America and in the Two-Thirds world. How can such vitality come from the "valley of bones" that Driscoll and others believe they see? My guess: the witness and faithfulness of Billy Graham in fifties (through his London crusade), plus the decades-long labors of John Stott and FF Bruce (both "voices crying in the wilderness" at one time), among many others heralded or unheralded, is bearing bountiful fruit at long last. Tyndale House in Cambridge is part of that fruit. In God's grace, those very churches that seem in steep decline nurtured these scholars and preachers and the flowering we see today in the academy is stunning.

    Why there is not a comparable flowering in congregations is an important question. But perhaps those who will be here fifty years from now will look back at the coming years in Britain as a time of amazing revival and rebirth. (My mentor, Geoffrey Bromiley, was once asked, during a panel discussion at Fuller Seminary, why he remained Anglican since "Anglicanism was so dead." With his theological acuteness and long-view of history, he reminded the audience that today's "dead" church may be tomorrow's leader in spiritual renewal. While the Holy Spirit works like leaven in the lump, his activity can appear to be invisible. Judge nothing before the time.)

    • Ken Stewart

      As a former Anglican, I must say that the Anglican Church had serious inherent errors from its inception. Over time, they intensified, and have now reached the point of toxicity. The C of E is lost in so many definitions of the word; although in view of the parable of the wineskins, is very likely a step in the right direction.

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