Ok, so in response to the only comment from the last post, I thought I would elevate the response to another post.
First, I just want to say that this is about the Challies dot com review of One Punk Under God and Jay Bakker/Revolution Church, not Scott or his post. I think the world of Scott and will miss he and his family when when they move.
A caveat would be that if I had been more clear, myself, in the previous post, I probably wouldn’t have to clarify. To correct myself, I stated that Bakker “knows his poo” and didn’t provide sufficient supporting evidence. Well, I hope you’ll be satisfied with this.
I also understand the concern about over-emphasizing grace in the church. Paul did also. I don’t think that’s the issue here, and at this point, personally, I think I’d rather err on the side of grace and love than turning people off to God. I’ve experienced too many people recently being turned away from the church altogether without an appearance of the love that is supposed to define it and bind it (and draw people into it).
The review initially seems ok to me, but as I kept reading, I grew more and more disappointed with it. For the record, I don’t know Challies, as far as I can remember, I haven’t met him, nor have I read his blog recently enough to remember ever reading it. I don’t have anything personal against him or his blog, I’m just going by his review and my experience.
The main thing that bothers me is that he doesn’t back up hugely flagrant statements like, “With theology that often bears only a passing resemblance to the Christianity of the Bible, neither does his preaching fit the image of what we would expect from a Christian preacher and evangelist.” Unfortunately, that’s not a complete sentence, but my point is that it’s not a completely accurate statement, either. It is, however, highly condemning – describing someone’s theology as only a passing resemblance to the “Christianity of the Bible” (presumably the writer’s Christianity, I’m not sure which translation or denomination, though, I’m guessing King James) is quite a slap in the face.
I guess that’s why I’m responding with this post. I don’t see a reason or convincing argument for such rudeness and I’d like to see it stop. Critical evaluation is great, but pot shots are not hot (to trot).
The second part of the statement is quite true, Bakker doesn’t look like what you would expect from a Christian preacher, but my expectations for Christian preachers have also changed quite a bit. I think I would typically go out of my way to avoid what my expectations have become of Christian preachers and evangelists. And anyone (of the millions and millions) who reads this blog knows I listens to some preachin’ and does my share of readin’ on the subject.
A further reading of the review reveals that Challies hasn’t done his homework and expects to fully examine Jay’s ministry through the Sundance Channel’s filter. He makes no reference to listening to the sermon that he criticizes nor researching Baker’s theology beyond what Sundance put together for the show. Not that I have theological problems per se with the Sundance Channel or it’s editing…um, whatever. You don’t even get a full 5 minutes of any sermon from the show, let alone the one Challies takes apart based on what he’s watched. That saddens me, especially as it seems to exemplify Christian writing all over the place (case-in-point: ever read a review from Christianity Today? They don’t seem to even spell check – not that I’m a shining example; but, well, I’m not an organization representing the religion of millions either).
“This series, though often poignant and interesting, is a sad testament to a tragic situation. We might have hoped that the fall of Jim Bakker would help his son return to the Bible his father so clearly forsook. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case. Jay Bakker seems to be wandering further and further from biblical Christianity, defining his ministry with theology that is far from what the Bible teaches.”
It’s interesting to me that clearly Challies hasn’t listened to any of Bakker’s podcast sermons – of which there are PLENTY (i.e. more than 10) to get a sense of Jay’s theology. Even a cursory listen of his sermons reveals an obvious thorough searching of scripture and mainstream commentary. Disagreement is certainly a possibility and he regularly invites civil discussion.
The structure of Bakker’s most recent series on Galatians is fairly inductive with references to several mainstream commentaries – Martin Luthor is a recent favorite. The passage is always read through directly and then broken down and discussed, contextualized and applied in a fairly traditional manner. I don’t think he’s breaking new ground with his preaching style, but what he is doing is preaching the gospel in a straight-forward way in a unique context – mostly to people who won’t go to your church. This is pretty easy to see if you listen to it yourself. Yes, he is crass at times…so what. I prefer to let him work out his salvation in the open with the rest of us than try to pretend he’s perfect.
Challies’ laziness combines with his pension for bold assumptions to form a poor/misleading review. He sounds like he knows what he’s talking about and we should think so. I hope this isn’t a tendency for him. I’ll have to read more of his writing to find out.
This isn’t to say that I agree with everything Jay says. He invites discussion and civilized (and intelligent) disagreement. This is another element that seems to be lacking in the church at large – the ability to question anything (or think critically, for that matter) or have co-existing disagreements.
I think it is important to challenge people’s theology if it seems out of line, but do it intelligently and with respect. Pray for those who you disagree with and, here’s the shocker, don’t forget that, ultimately, we’re probably on the same team. A team we didn’t pick in the first place and don’t deserve to be on – except by God’s grace.