“Where ya gonna live?…The best thing you can do is buy a home. From an investment standpoint, from a tax standpoint, from a security standpoint, particularly you single guys…” -Mark Driscoll 18 Oct 2008

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” -Luke 9:58 NASB

I have long hesitated to this blog. This is mostly because I try not be totally negative. It’s also because the podcast that motivates this blogs annoyed me. There was so much fail in it that I didn’t know where to start. Then again, I might just be being hissy. I digress a bit.

Anyway, it was very strange when Christianity Today included Mark Driscoll in their list of hipster, cutting edge, pastors. Every time I listen to the guy, he sounds like a stick-in-the-mud conservative. Nowhere was this more evident that his Biblical Man Sermon. This teaching starts with a few verses from proverbs, and then continues with practical advice for about an hour. This “Biblical” teaching is so deeply seated in cultural assumptions, self-help wisdom, and patron-saints of middle class that it raises the question: what does “Biblical” even mean?

When I ask that question, it is not for you to think it is a joke. This is serious. What do you think of when you attach the word “Biblical” to a term? What synonyms would you use? How do you define that adjective as you understand it? Maybe you would agree that it means something like “from the Bible” or maybe “in adherence to the Bible”? Whatever it means when said in the evangelical vernacular, I think we can all agree that it recognizes the Bible in some sense because of its very spelling.

In listening to this sermon, it is hard to understand how Driscoll can mean Biblical in that sense. Now, the sermon is not bad rhetorically. It is sprinkled with stimulating, engaging, questions. The problem is with the answers. The idea is that we need to set goals, and make plans to achieve those goals. We need to think about what lives we want in the future and “reverse engineer” it so that we will arrive. For instance, in planning our lives we must understand what is urgent and important. We must get the job and own the home. We must also make a list of appliances, furniture, and other such things that we will have in our home. In that home we must also be prepared to add equity and value to it so we can buy a bigger home, so as to make our wife and children happy. Sound good?

The problem with all of this is that it it is not “from the Bible.” The first chunk of advice seems to come from an amalgamation of books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and probably a dozen other books of the same genre. He even cited Stephan Covey at the end of the sermon, who by the way, is a Mormon! The other huge chunk are anecdotes of Driscoll’s own success. It probably does not count as bragging, but Mark Driscoll did not write an Epistle. So do not think this is biblical.

Now, understandably, some might think that I’m endorsing laziness, sloth, or perpetuated adolescence. You might be thinking, “so you don’t think setting goals is good? Do you believe that developing plans is bad? Setting yourself up to build wealth or provide for yourself and others is evil?” To all this I answer an emphatic, “no of course not.” I think a books like 7 Habits or Getting Things Done, are great reads. Rich Dad/Poor Dad gave me a lot to think about. Of course all these things are good, but they are not biblical.

So why bother writing this blog? Well, because it is important -for Christians- to know where their values come from because God might challenge them. Some of the things we hold as Biblical might not be so Biblical after all. Take the whole home-ownership issue. Does owning a home, building equity in the home, and buying a better home make you a Biblical man? Is it a necessary goal for the Biblical man? Well, interestingly enough I know lots of men in the Bible who had no homes. Most of the patriarchs were nomads, and Jesus as cited above, warned those who sought to follow him that “the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Let’s not forget that he was born in a stable.)

It seems that Jesus is not a Biblical man. Furthermore, he seems to caution would-be disciples that if the follow him, they may not have homes either! I can imagine that many missionary families understand what this means. So what about the denizens of Seattle?

But maybe I am being harsh? It wasn’t as if Driscoll didn’t use some distinctive Christian topics in his sermon. Driscoll did, after all, talk about God as a gracious God. He also encouraged men to “walk with God” in this sermon. Yes he did. God is so gracious, that he might get you into the home of dreams (complete with white picket fence!). “Walking with God” means prayerfully setting up your plans. If you think this is hyperbole, listen to the sermon yourself.

It seems so blindingly obvious that the pervading culture, not an exegesis of scripture, is what is authoritative here. It leads to the bizarre conclusion in which Jesus wouldn’t live up to Driscoll’s standards. I am not the first blogger to notice this either. If hipster Christianity is the liberal-arts student, who smokes clove cigarettes while reading “the Imitation of Christ” at an indie coffee shop, than Mark Driscoll is the transparent poser wearing his high-school letterman jacket over a Radiohead t-shirt. According to Christianity Today, the Christian hipsters want a faith that distinguishable from the values of suburbs. They probably need to look outside of Mars Hill.

So what does the word “Biblical [man]” mean? As far as I can tell, it is nothing more than a synonym for “upright middle class [man]” or “socially and fiscally, conservative [man]” or maybe just simply “right.” It is nothing here than a staple phrase for the American Civic Religion. And you know what? Let’s go for it. I am not against the nuclear family, setting goals, or steadily building financial success. There’s nothing wrong with finding the right career and being nice to your neighbors. I wish that all guys reading this would pick up 7 Habits and all those other great books to enhance their relationships, careers, and share such guidance with others. We can all be on the suburban band wagon and our kids can play little league together.

But when we do, let’s drop the pretense. Let’s remember that the civic religion is nothing more than that. Let’s discard the illusions that it is “from the Bible” and remember it has but a thin connection to the Christian faith.

Thanks for reading, and your comments are always welcome here.

  1. Dan says:

    >Man, I can't tell you how much I agree with this. I think some of the stuff Driscol puts out is actually great. However, one cannot pretend to model Jesus if the western suburban life is what Jesus supposedly taught. Just not possible. Makes me sad.

  2. Draw2much says:

    >I had to delete my previous comment because I forgot to link to my page that's respond to this! GAH!Anyway, snippet below. You can read the whole post if you like by clicking the link at the end. I really liked your original post! :3"I don’t know how to describe it exactly but there’s been a blurring of the lines in what feminine and manliness means in our culture. Men don’t know what it means to be manly because the women they look to to define that term don’t even known. So of course men will ask “What makes me a man?” (Other than the obvious male parts of the human body.)The matter is further worsened by the fact that conservative Christianity is trying to use an idealized 1950s definition of manliness. Which for all it’s apparent perfection just deepens the confusion and causes people to ask “Well, why should we act that way? Is that even Biblical?”In response to these types of questions you get sermons like Driscoll’s. Because the question is cultural in nature, there is no real way to answer Biblically. So rather than try, they go to long lengths to justify why they use this ‘50s idealized model of manliness. They can only do it by pulling from non-Biblical sources."http://draw2much.blogspot.com/2011/02/question-of-biblical-manliness.html

  3. April says:

    >Good book to read in response to Draw2much's comment: "Tender Warrior: God's Intention for a Man" by Stu Weber.I agree with you all, that having goals is not a bad thing, but watering down The Word is a great way to let the Enemy chip away at how much we really value the Word and how much truth and stock we put in it.

  4. Jonathan says:

    >You got it Joel. It's the pretense – the sanctity of the 21st century, American lifestyle – that's the problem here. It may not be evil, but it is not Biblical. Good job.

  5. Sam says:

    >Hey Joel,I really appreciated your post. It seems to me that the "way of life" of Christians cannot be summed up in one particular scheme, whether "you must own a home" or "you can't own a home." Following Jesus is exactly that, following a living active Person as He leads you through life and not following a handbook.I cannot help but think that Jesus' call to missionary itinerancy would have been more shocking in the first century than the twenty-first. At that time, local community was particularly strong, travel difficult, and correspondence irregular. To willingly leave one's hometown must have been a decision of radical sacrifice.Today, it is not particularly difficult for an American Christian to either own a home or to refrain from owning a home. There is a sense of ambiguity, though, as either approach may be done in a distinctly Christian fashion or in a worldly fashion.For example, a Christian may abstain from home ownership because of a call from God to serve as a foreign missionary, or in order to keep oneself free to follow God's leading at any moment without having to worry about a mortgage. Conversely, that Christian may refrain from home ownership simply out of a desire to keep their options open, to never have to commit to anything.Just so, you are right that a Christian might pursue home-ownership as a middle-class American and not as a Christ-follower, by wanting to do what is expected by their peers, keeping up with the Jones family, and always pursuing bigger, better possessions.Alternatively, a Christian might pursue home ownership in obedience to Christ. How? In our current culture where people in general are reluctant to commit themselves to anything (a person in marriage, a specific community, a place), a Christian can purchase a home with the intention of going against the grain by committing to a community in a specific place. It is easy to portray a sparkling image of ourselves when we people barely know us (as is the case when we move every few years) but by committing to a community in which we live day in and day out we open ourselves up to sanctification and learning to forgive and be forgiven as we cannot long hide our own flaws or ignore the flaws of others. By committing to one home that you can afford (i.e. paying off in maybe 10 years rather than 30) and refusing the temptation to always "trade up," Christians can liberate themselves from the constant pursuit of shinier possessions; free up a large portion of their income (once the mortgage is payed off) for Kingdom work; use the home as a place of hospitality to others; and use the yard to produce fruit and vegetables that can be given to those without enough food.All that is to say, though, that I agree that middle-class or 1950s values are by no means "Christian" or "Biblical" left to themselves.

  6. Jin-roh says:

    >Sam,That was a great response. It is also an blog post unto-itself. :-)Why not collect your thoughts and write one up?

  7. >Sam, that was a great response!Joel, while I do believe "Biblical man" has become to mean something like "middle-class suburbanite" I don't think originally it meant that at all. It's a shame how watered down Christianity has become in the western civilization. I know it's not quite the same thing as what you're saying, but I also feel this way about political parties. No one in the church could sit down with me and answer questions I had because, "why do you have questions, don't you know Brandi all Christians are Republicans? It's sin to be something else!" So, where is it written in the Bible that God calls us to be Republicans, then?! I had to do all my research outside the "Christian realm" and I think it partly falls under the same topic-middle-class suburbanites are generally, though not always, Republicans, so therefore, it must also be Biblical to be one.(I'm not bashing Republicans, it's just something I've gone through recently that I can relate this blog to, seeing as I'm not a man in search of buying a home lolz)

  8. >Hey Joel! Thanks for leading me to this post; and yes, as an MK, it is pretty obvious that Mark Driscoll's view of the 'Biblical Man' is just cultural. I mean….yeah. Hardly needs to be stated. We didn't even own furniture until a couple of years ago, and tons of Christians who are wholeheartedly following the Bible around the world have very unstable financial lives. This doesn't excuse poor financial stewardship, obviously. But as people are faithful to what they're given, God may lead one person to go on support and another to build a multi-million dollar company. It's all God's money, and will be used for God's means as long as it's all submitted to him. I think the more we connect with the Global Church and are reminded of the millions that are, this very second, in prison or being tortured for their faith, we will be less enamored with white picket fences. Again, I don't think that stability is bad, but I honestly think that it can be. I don't want to get too comfortable. Just reading the gospels (and look at Paul's lifestyle!! good grief) is not a pain-free experience, and I hope that I never rationalize away costly discipleship, but am constantly challenged with how I live my life. Life intentionally, even urgently. That seems Biblical to me. Also, I wouldn't listen to more Driscoll if I were you. It would just make me grumpy. 🙂

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