Monday, July 17, 2006

Wide Asleep?

Just finished Mark Driscoll’s Confessions of a Reformission Rev. This is a popular new book concerning the history of Mars Hill Church, which has grown to over 4000 members in secular Seattle under Driscoll’s driving leadership. “Driving” as in “driving rain.” As you learn through this autobiographical tale, Driscoll nearly destroyed his health and marriage, and certainly destroyed a variety of relationships, as he surged forward with his vision to plant and grow a missional church.

(NOTE: I posted a full review on Amazon here. A longer review by Steve Camp here.)

Near the end of the book, after the chaos has seemingly ended and the church seems relatively stable, Driscoll writes:

“I was sitting at my new desk… I was sitting on a nice office chair, which someone had anonymously left with the note “For my pastor.” We owned our church building outright and had money in the bank. I had a large staff for a church our size and was sleeping like a Calvinist at nights because things were under control.” (page 140, emphasis mine)

I must admit, I laughed out loud when I read that line…but I guess you had to be there.

Let’s analyze this metaphor.

What is a Calvinist? In general, a Calvinist is someone like me – and I think like Driscoll – who affirms the biblical doctrine that everything that happens is under God’s dominion; nothing happens apart from his will. In this case, a Calvinist sleeps well because he knows he is not working to earn his salvation or to seal the fate of his fellow men – that is God’s domain.

But there’s another meaning, it seems. In Driscoll’s world, a Calvinist is someone who debates (Calvinistic) theology rather than practicing it, someone who is more interested in controversy than in evangelism. For example, here’s what he says elsewhere about some Calvinists who advocated theonomy – the view that (in his words) “the church should rule the world”:

The young rabid Calvinists who were pushing for this doctrine did not yet own homes, most did not even have wives, and some still lived with their mothers. I tried to set them straight by telling them to get dominion over their room before they took over the world, but like most fools, they were not deterred. (page 130)

In this case, to “sleep like a Calvinist” would mean to relax from the demands of the gospel, to live in comfort rather than maintaining a missionary mindset. It reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s words:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10)

If anyone was a Calvinist, it was Paul (though of course we should say that John Calvin was Pauline). Paul reveled in the truth the God refused to advocate his throne, including his Lordship over who is and is not saved (see Ephesians 1, Romans 9). Yet he also said that he worked harder than the other apostles. He was a driving rain in his own right. Yet refusing to be misunderstood, he adds a qualifier: “Not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Yes, God remains in charge – but this doesn’t slow us down, it speeds us up!

So this leads to the natural question… How hard am I working for the gospel? And how about you? And if you are working hard, is it a matter of sheer will power – or can you say, like a good Calvinist, “though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me”?


Joseph Adrian said...

I love your definition of a Calvinist.Resting in God's Sovereign control over all things and how that is worked out in your daily life(is really the essence of Calvinistic theology).When many (who are not Calvinists)refer to Calvinistic theology it is usually a caricature of 'The Doctrines of Grace'(a label for Calvinistic theology,which I prefer).

Joseph Adrian said...

The understanding of God's Sovereignty(to rightly understand that is)'The Doctrines of Grace'is indispensable. Thats why I believe A.W.Pink's 'The Sovereingty of God' is such an important(and has been an extremely influential book in the 20th century). It is IMO the best book ever written on the subject and has been the most influential book ever written on the subject. The connection between this book and Calvinistic doctrine is undeniable. The book was greatly used of the Lord to bring about something of a revival of 'The Doctrines of Grace' in the 20th century.