Sunday, July 10, 2011


Whenever we have to go and purchase a car or some latest IT gadget from Harvey Norman, it is almost always an opportunity to reflect on my response to the apporach taken by the salesperson (usually men).  The aggressive, in-you-face types just don't do it for me - I firmly reject their advances and tell them I am 'just looking' in the hope that they will leave me alone. If they do drop back, I inevitably seek them out and ask for advice - if they push harder, I am likely to just leave the store altogether. In the devloped world there are always other options!

The worst examples are, of course, the real estate salesmen who seem to stalk you through a house inspection, following you from room to room, pointing out what they consider to be the salient features of the house that make it a must-have for your family even though they know nothing about you.

I find myself asking if this is just a personal preference or do others feel this way?  Is it simply that my personality/style prefers a more laid back, 'can I be of help' style of sales pitch?

What got me thinking along these lines was a post by friend Andrew Finden about Mark Driscoll's latest Facebook post where he says: "So, what story do you have about the most effeminate anatomically male worship leader you've ever personally witnessed?"   At last count the post had generated nearly 700 responses (no - I have not read them all) many of them aggreived at the tone and nature of the post. 

My mind went back to another recent tweet from another darling of what some call the neo-Calvinists, John Piper when, in response to Rob Bell's new book 'Love Wins', he tweeted, "Farewell Rob Bell".

On the other hand, I was fascinated to read in Christianity Today a Q&A session with Francis Chan and CT editor Mark Galli.  Both  Galli and Chan have written books in response to "Love Wins".  While taking on Rob Bell's arguments, to me they have done so with humility and grace rather than the in-you-face style of Driscoll 

I owe much to the reformed tradition in my own faith journey - I would affirm that theologically, I remain attuned and aligned even with the emphasis on God's grace, on the priority and importance of Scripture and the atoning work of Christ. 

But increasingly I find myself repelled by the strident nature of the commentary by some of the neo-reformed proponents - the salesmen if you like of the neo-reformed movement.  I find myself wanting to move away and try a different 'store'. 

On the other hand, I find Tim Keller a most winsome and winning advocate of key aspects of the reformed tradition.  I have not read any of Francis Chan's works but the interview referred to above carries the same sense of humility that I find attractive.

So my questions are:
  • Is it just me or do others feel this way?  Is it a personality issue rather than a theological one?  While clearly some are attracted to Mars Hill of Driscoll fame, others are attracted to Mars Hill of Bell fame!
  • What is the impact of this sort of internal critique and carry on both inside and outside the church?  Doe it really help to promote the gospel and the kingdom or just the profiles and empires of the various protagonists?
  • Is this a feature of American evangelical debate in particular - the home of individualism and celebrity?  My spiritual hero John Stott (English), while never backing away from an opportunity to present a biblical perspecte on any issue, never seemed to indulge in the sort of vitriole that now seems to characterise much of the debate.
  • And finally, is it somehow related to the new world of the blogosphere - a place where you can say anything, anytime about anyone without fear of real retribution, hiding behind the relative anonymity?  These couple of paragraphs on a David Nilsen's guest blog at Rachel Held Evans site  captured some of this for me:
If I were not privileged to be in these relationships, it would be easy for me to demonize or belittle people who hold theological beliefs more conservative than my own. But when the person who holds some doctrinal position diametrically opposed to my own is sitting across the table from me eating chicken wings while we watch football, laughing at the joke I just made, it becomes a little harder to start a flame war with him online. We're friends, so when we find ourselves stuck between parting ways or talking out differences, we've so far been able to choose the latter.

You will not always like the people who disagree with you, and you will not always be able to have civil disagreements with them. But if you can start and maintain relationships with Christians who see things differently than you do, you'll discover they are real human beings who care about other people. When they think a lot of the same things are funny, and when they like a lot of the TV shows you like, you'll have a harder time calling them (and people like them) Pharisees or Heretics or Nazis or whatever else you are tempted to call the people with whom you disagree.

I know that there is more at stake here than the purchase of a new house or car ... just wondering though ...