Friday, February 19, 2010


Since I have no way of directly responding to pastor Mark Driscoll concerning his late review of Frank Viola and George Barna's PAGAN CHRISTIANITY, I wanted to respond to a few of his points here on my blog.

First of all, I must disclose that, although I love Mark as a brother in Christ, I am still struggling with his previous comments about our Lord. Specifically, where he has said that he "cannot follow a God I can beat up" and voiced his preference for an ass-kicking UFC-style champion Jesus. (Which only makes me think of Will Farrel's scene from the film "Taladega Nights"...but I digress).

Pushing this aside for now, I turn to Mark's recent review of PAGAN CHRISTIANITY. Most of his critique is based solely upon the response of New Testament scholar Ben Witherington, and while it's always good to rely on the wisdom of others in areas where we are weak, Driscoll makes the mistake of ignoring the very public trouncing of Witherington's arguments by Jon Zens over a year ago.

Anyone who would like to read Jon's rebuttal of Ben Witherington may do so

Honestly, if you will read the point-by-point response that Zens gives to each and every one of Witherington's arguments, you will pretty much have decisively answered every one of Driscoll's points (because they are one and the same).

I would also like to call out the section of Mark's review where he mentions me by name. By quoting from Belcher's DEEP CHURCH, Driscoll uses me as an example of why he has trouble with house churches. I'll quote from Driscoll's article here:

One glaring absence in this book is a lengthy discussion of how church discipline is done. How does an organic house church practice church discipline without any form of hierarchical leadership? Pastor and author Jim Belcher, in his book Deep Church, discusses this issue in the context of his relationship with a house-church leader, “My greatest concern about house churches like Keith Giles’s is that there is no formal structure for discipline. When I asked him how he would mediate a struggle between him and another member or leader…he really did not know. He would try, he said, to convince that person based on the strength of their relationship. But I have seen firsthand that this is not always enough. Sometimes a higher court, like an elder board or a denomination is needed.” This is indeed a major problem for house churches of the Viola and Barna mold as well. On the other hand, Belcher appeals to “The Great Tradition” and its “ordained office of elder/pastor” as being “charged with godly discipline.” This is not simply a tradition but appears to have biblical precedent as the nature of the pastoral elder’s governance extends to “refut[ing] those who contradict” sound doctrine (Titus 1:9), and “reprov[ing] with all authority” (Titus 2:15).

First of all, Driscoll omits the section from Belcher's book where the author agrees with my assertion that anyone in our house church family who will not repent based on their ongoing relationship with me, and the rest of the Body, will hardly respond to the voice of an authority figure they have no relationship with.

Allow me to share the entire quote with you for clarity:

"Keith would agree that they have no hierarchy, offices and fluid structures. But he would disagree that they have no accountability. When I asked about discipline, he said it is done through the relationships that are built in the house church. He mentioned a few times that he has had to confront wrong choices people have made.

'But what about when the leader is a lot younger and not as theologically trained? Would they be able to do the same? Or would they just let it go?' I asked.

'If they are not going to listen to me, when I love them,' he said, 'why would they listen to someone above me in a hierarchy?'

I would have to agree."

-Now, does that sound like what Driscoll reports in his article? Does it sound as if I have not thought of how to respond to church discipline, or make provision for it in my ecclesiology?

No. In fact, the actual quote from Belcher's book not only reveals that I have "had to confront wrong choices people have made" in our house church (church discipline) but that my assertion regarding the power of hierarchy to overcome sinful behavior is affirmed by Belcher, not contradicted.

In the actual interview between Belcher and myself for this book, the author went on to share several very specific instances where he personally confronted people in his church who were behaving sinfully and they did not respond. Nor did they waver when he brought in the denominational authority.

Granted, Belcher and I disagree on the importance of hiearchy, and Belcher does go on to say in his book that he doesn't feel comfortable without a hierachy in place, but Driscoll's pull quote is misleading and doesn't present the entire dialog in context.

Perhaps I will take the time to respond to a few more specific points of Driscoll's assessment of PAGAN CHRISTIANITY later, but I had to get this off my chest for the record.




Arnie Adkison said...

Bro, I had no idea the quote was pulled so out of context. Thanks for copying the whole section. I would be willing to bet Mark didn't get the whole context either; maybe he'll respond.

Keith Giles said...

Arnie- the biggest issue for me, personally, is that Driscoll leaves the impression (by ommitting the entire context and quote from DEEP CHURCH) that our house church (and by inference every other house church) has no grid for church discipline or accountability.

In a house church you have a thousand times MORE accountability than in a traditional church because you are known by a smaller, more intimate group of people.

The idea that there is less accountability in a house church is only true if you're just meeting to share coffee and donuts and never go deeper with anyone than this. And if that's the case I'd hardly call that "church" of any kind.

Debbie said...

Thank you.

Ron Dahls said...

Funny. But it just seems like the ones who keep harping on "accountability" and "church discipline" are the ones who hold themselves above all the others and when someone dissents, there "must be a strong mechanism for 'discipline.'"

Dan Benson said...

I am reading Pagan Christianity right now and finding it fascinating. Driscoll, who I generally admire -- including his UFC Jesus bit -- has some skin in the game here because, to his credit, he has built a network of churchs around the country after the "Pagan" model. As for church discipline, I was immediately struck by Viola's footnote in the forward "Pagan Christianity" that the modern church model actually is incapable of applying many of the Apostle Paul's teachings. Church discipline immediately came to mind because I've seen discipline exercised several times in both areas and the modern church model definitely makes it more difficult amd more traumatic to exercise. This is why we have so many church splits -- because the model institution interferes with the proper exercise of church discipline.

Anonymous said...

"...the ones who hold themselves above all the others and when someone dissents, there "must be a strong mechanism for 'discipline.'"

I've also noticed the same alarming trend--a greater concern for dissent within church ranks holding teachers to a higher standard. Which one has more potential to harm Christians?

Martin said...

Strange comment is he "cannot follow a God I can beat up". What about following a God he can crucify? Does that go down?

Mark AKA MrBadger said...

The early Christian church was almost entirely house churches. And we can date the drift of the Christian church toward becoming the Image to the Beast from the time when leadership was taken over by the "professional" class.