Jesus Needs New PR

Aaron sent me this link to me last night. I watched it. And then I re-watched it. And then I woke up this morning and watched it again.

And I’m just going to share a few thoughts…

Now, before I do that, let me offer a disclaimer:

A) I don’t know Mark Driscoll personally. But I’ll be very honest: Mark’s public persona rubs me the wrong way. Seriously, I think the man could be discussing nursery rhymes and I’d somehow be just a little irritated by it. And while I do think that some of my frustrations are warranted, I do realize that a part of the reason that Mark’s public “voice” gets under my skin is my problem (not his). So I think it’s only fair to confess that upfront.

Okay, now for my thoughts.

Arrogance isn’t faith. And Mark’s arrogance makes me cringe. Again, that could be me. Regardless, the truth is, standing up on a platform and yelling “Yes! Yes! Yes!” does not make “yes” the answer to the question. Mark’s certainty for who will go to hell only implies his perspective on the text. Millions of Christian people agree with Mark. And millions of Christian people disagree.

But let’s face it; shouting and stomping and swinging your arms around like you’re the one who gets to make these decisions doesn’t make your perspective correct. Mark believes that, if you don’t ask Jesus into your heart (or engage in some relationship with Jesus in some way, shape, or form), you will go to Hell. And he can present it as plainly loudly “lovingly” as he wants, but he doesn’t get the final say in such matters. Thankfully.

Passive aggressiveness isn’t faith. Mark brings a big ole elephant in the room by mentioning a “pastor… an author…” who goes on national television and doesn’t present Mark’s version of the truth like Mark thinks he or she (but mostly Rob Bell) should. But guess what?! Mark will tell you his truth! He’ll scream his truth! He’ll jump up and down and get all red-faced and tell you his truth!! And that makes Mark better than those wimps (psst: Rob Bell) who don’t scream and shout and frankly tell the world that Mark says they’re going to hell.

To support his belief, Mark uses John 14:6, the verse where Jesus is quoted as saying, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is where Mark and I agree. I believe wholeheartedly that Jesus is the only way to God. I believe that what Jesus did on the cross was a powerful (and yes, strange) miraculous event. But I also believe that it’s not my job or my right to limit that miracle, to put definitions around the “who” and “what” and “how” that miracle affects Muslims or Buddhists or atheists. Many of us Christians speak of an “irresistible grace,” but then we put fences up around that grace and protect it or we add stipulations to it and define it to fit into our worldview. Because our faith MUST fit into our worldview or it might change us or make us uncomfortable. In a way, we sort of make the grace we proclaim rather resistible.

But what about all of the verses within scripture that seem to imply a truly irresistible grace?

John 17:2: For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
Luke 2:10: But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
In John 1:9, the gospel’s author writes: The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
Romans 5:18: Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
Romans 8:20, 21: For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
Acts 3:21: For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets.
1 Timothy 4:9-11: This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things.

And I could go on and on. But my point in listing those verses isn’t to argue theology, it’s only to point out that there IS indeed biblical support for Jesus-centered redemption that is bigger and more merciful and gracious than what most evangelical theologies proclaim.

Do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men?

Or do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men who ask him into his heart?

Or do we believe that Jesus is good news for all men who follow some sort of evangelical equation that proclaims (in an earthly sense) that he’s a follower of Jesus?

Who are we to put limitations around the words “all men” or “all people”…

I’ve said this before, but I think sometimes the “evangelical God” we boast about is quite small. Or at least… how we talk about him is small.

Of course, Mark could be right. The God that we boast about, that we love, that we worship could be ready and willing to send BILLIONS and BILLIONS of people to the flames of hell. All in the name of justice baby! But then why does God ask us to care for the sick, the weak, the hungry? Why does he tell us to love one another? Why does he care about the relationships we pursue and value? How can we boast about a God who values unborn life but is fully willing to send 11-year-olds from India to eternal torment?

Now, I know all of the pat answers that evangelicals give to these questions. But rather than offering answers to these questions because our current faith so often hates unanswered questions, let the questions simmer a bit.

I’ll end with this (because this post is getting long!).

I’ve probably heard some version of this exact sermon more than 500 times over the course of my lifetime. People respond to these kinds of messages. They’re compelling and passionate and emotional. Why? Because ETERNITY is at stake! And any time somebody as direct and certain as Mark stands up and loudly proclaims “truth” as he sees it, people will respond. And I’m sure this talk moved people to make decisions for God. (And there’s nothing wrong with people making decisions for God.)

But are people responding because they love God?
Or are they responding because they fear Mark is right?
Are people responding because they believe that God offers a hope that will restore them?
Or are they responding because nothing sells God better than hell?
Are people responding because Jesus is the way, truth, and life?
Or are they responding because Mark says that followers of Jesus have nothing to lose and those who don’t follow Jesus have everything to lose?

Is that our good news? Is that any way to introduce somebody to the way, truth, and life? Does that put hell above Christ?! Hosea 13:14a says, I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.

Does that sound like a God that’s planning to send a multitude of people (the majority!) to Hell?

In truth, it’s hard for me to believe that.

I believe in a God who makes things right. I believe in a God who will leave the 99 to find 1 lost soul. I believe in a God who is my shepherd. I believe in a God who manifested himself through Christ to bring redemption to the world.

I believe I shouldn’t redefine that God.

Let’s face it; this spiritual truth that we seek through Jesus is not an easy equation that we can simply learn to factor, because equations don’t set people free. The kind of spiritual truth that sets people free isn’t the kind you chain yourself to and defend come hell or high water; it’s the kind that you never stop seeking, the kind that is considered and then reconsidered, questioned and then re-questioned, and it’s a kind that, in the end… might be wrong.

I tend to think that, more than knowing what’s absolutely true, having faith is becoming okay with what you don’t.

But then again, I could be wrong.

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