Dec 31 2010
If you want to understand this post, check out what’s happened the past couple days by reading these articles (in this order)…All of this will be totally boring to a lot of people! I totally get that, it’s cool! You can stop reading now and I’ll still love you!
This Webb/Turk episode powerfully demonstrates a new class of Gospel ship is being built and sent into this world. Turk represents the old guard, Webb the new. But there’s a catch. This new Gospel ship is BASED UPON the old one. It’s not a completely different ship. Here are some thoughts on this whole episode.
Turk is frustrated that people like Derek Webb “lead other people astray” by their lack of gospel understanding. It’s not true! Derek doesn’t lead people astray. Do we have any idea what Derek speaks to “sinners” in their private conversations? When Jesus met Zacchaeus on the road, He didn’t explain the gospel right away. Though Jesus DOES do this immediate preaching sometimes (the woman at the well in John 4), Jesus said to Zacchaeus that he was hungry and then went in to have a meal with a short dude. Next time we see Zacchaeus, he’s making it rain, showering money on people he’d cheated and on the poor. Derek’s public statements are not ANTI-GOSPEL – just as Jesus’ weren’t. They’re just incomplete. As, too, are those of critics preaching beautiful truth with vitriol. Derek doesn’t preach a DIFFERENT gospel. He preaches a more COMPLETE one that includes relationship with real people. What the old guard teaches publicly on blogs to a largely homogeneous audience I imagine Derek teaches PRIVATELY in relationship to people very different from him – just like Jesus did.
Halves and Wholes
Want to see a fallacy? Frank Turk’s letter to Derek mentions nothing about the Second Coming of Jesus. Therefore, he doesn’t believe in the Second Coming. Fallacy. Here’s the principle: exclusion does not imply negation. In other words, Webb spoke about 1,000 words in his interview with Chris Stedman. He mentions Jesus by name 14 times. Turk faults him for not explicitly covering the whole gospel. But Derek’s omission of The Romans Road doesn’t mean he believes a different gospel than Frank Turk does. Again, Webb’s gospel is more complete because it includes something the old guard too often lacks – love. It’s not that Derek is preaching a half gospel. It’s that, in the format of an interview, there’s often not room to preach the full gospel. That’s what relationship is for!
Love and Love
That brings us to this: Love is a trojan horse. It knocks on the door of people who routinely shut down Jesus and discussion about sin – people who shut down the Frank Turks of the world. The old way of preaching the gospel is violent – like what’s represented in Frank’s post. That method is like Stinger missiles shot from an Apache helicopter – hit-and-run. Sometimes it’s effective and brings people to know Jesus. Not just BECAUSE of the beautiful gospel but also in SPITE of it. Somehow the real gospel is seen amidst the cloud of rubbish. This happens at a cost. It lacks love in the real sense of the word because the love of Jesus is preached unlovingly out of pure duty. And that cycle is continued by the converted. People like Derek are bringing us to what my generation has long-desired but been unable to name. It’s LOVE!!!
Love requires LIFE INVESTMENT not just blogging. While the old guard writes blogs and defends the castle walls, sending out occasional Apaches, the new guard is following Christ to the places He would go – to the front door of the “sinners.” Our generation doesn’t desire blog readers but the friendship of real people living real lives in real life – all kinds of people. We hang out with them. We do life with them. We “carouse” with them. We go to bars. We listen to their music. The old guard back at the castle looks through binoculars at this scene, muttering judgments about how we minimize sin and avoid theological accountability by doing whatever we please. The Pharisees said the same thing. They did. The new guard should shrug and remember that we’re not accountable to the standards of the old guard. We’re only accountable to them TO THE EXTENT THAT THEY TEACH WHAT JESUS DID. For all the good the old guard has done (and they HAVE done lots of good), many in the old guard fail to consider this possibility – that they’re not WRONG, but NOT WHOLLY RIGHT. That’s what Derek Webb is fighting for – completeness! LOVE!
To the new guard, I say this…it would be awesome if we didn’t have to spend so much time on this episode. But keep this in mind: for years, we’ve been confused and felt somewhat alienated from the gospel and the world even though we believe many right things about the gospel! We’ve felt something missing! Events like this serve to CRYSTALLIZE truths that have been fuzzy to us for a long time! It’s so worth it to do the hard work of reading, thinking, and writing about this. It brings order! The goal isn’t winning debates. Paul himself said, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6). THAT’S WHAT WE WANT!!!! IT’S WHAT WE’VE LONGED FOR!! To love God, love ourselves, and love our neighbors!! Like FOR REAL!! These types of discussions can get us really riled up and angry. But God is PROVIDING this as an opportunity for us to come into a deeper knowledge of the gospel! That’s beautiful! It’s an answer to many of our prayers!
In the end, Paul’s simple adage and Derek’s core point is correct. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1). Dear, dear Jesus – bring us into a deeper knowledge of love. We trust You for that! We believe You’ll do it! For Your name’s sake! Amen!
Why The Old Guard Seems So Odious
Many in the old guard immediately discount our generation. They often attempt to discredit us on the basis of our age and length of time following Jesus (which is not a wholly reliable basis for judgment, 1 Timothy 3:6 notwithstanding). It’s good to remember that Peter and Jesus’ other homies led the Church after following Him for merely 3 years. The old and new guard alike are the legacy of those first Jesus followers. The old guard should never feel justified in discrediting people on their age or time in the faith.
At one time, Paul told Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young” (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul continues by saying, “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” Posts like Frank Turk’s don’t display this. What he wrote and the comments he appended to the post make him appear an uncharitable, arrogant bully. Jesus doesn’t want it to be that way! Turk’s letter is a study in one of the reasons people of our generation have left the church in droves. It’s not because we disagree. It’s because others act infallible and jerky with little to no real love for the people they’re trying to “correct.” The new guard is open to tough love and tough rebukes. But we’re not keen on being shredded apart for “offenses” that aren’t offenses. That’s what an enemy does.
Many in the old guard use Paul’s word to Titus as justification for their behavior: “rebuke [those in error] sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). There’s two problems with that. First, there’s a specific group of people Paul intended SHARP rebukes for – those who are “always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.” That not the new guard. It’s not us! It’s not Derek Webb. Second, the new guard is not in error. The wrong stuff is being rebuked! Jesus didn’t give interviews! He lived life with people! They got to learn over time, from Him PERSONALLY, what it meant to live in the kingdom of God! That’s what Derek is advocating! The exchange of the gospel happens best there. Not on blogs or in interviews! Why rebuke something like that!? It’s not wrong! It’s biblical!
Have Two Paths Diverged in the Wood?
One of the banner bible verses that Frank Turk’s blog lives by is 1 Peter 3:15 (it’s on the Pyromaniacs logo), which reads, “in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Old guarders nail the first part of the verse – they do love Jesus and they give excellent reasons for the hope they have in Him. But they destroy their own work by failing the second part of the verse – to speak “with gentleness and respect.” They’re often harsh and disrespectful, wielding words as weapons. That’s why Chris Stedman doesn’t interview old guarders. It’s why most “sinners” wouldn’t want to grab a bite with the old guard – because God wired human beings to respond to love and resist hate. The new guard is slowly discovering that truth and love are not antithetical. We can love real people and still disagree with them on issues and sin. That’s why Derek gets interviews with secularists/atheists like Chris Stedman and the old guard doesn’t. It’s not because Derek is unfaithful to the gospel (as Frank Turk believes), but precisely BECAUSE he’s being faithful!
The tagline for Frank Turk’s blog is “setting the world on fire.” In this case, the fire is not the holy, consuming fire he intends. His letter makes him seem closer to the Civil War’s General Sherman, pursuing a scorched earth policy, destroying anything that gets in his way. James told us the tongue is a fire, setting the whole course of a man’s life on fire (James 3:6). I don’t think the old guard is as right as they presume. The Derek Webbs of this world are taking the Water of Life – Jesus Christ – to douse the flames set alight by the old guard and by hell and sin. A whole generation of people are beginning to follow Derek, preaching the same message the old guard does, but doing it in true love and concern for actual “sinners” in real life by becoming (and staying) their friends instead of alienating them. We care to learn about their hearts, lives, and struggles and, in turn, for them to learn all about us! We interview each other every day – not for a blog, but for the happiness of really knowing another person. So the old guard can stay on the castle walls if they please. As the rhetoric increases there, love wanes. No one should be surprised that Derek doesn’t come back around for the interview Mr. Turk offered. The new guard would rather hang with people slapping us five not slapping us in the face.