Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Grace According to the Soup Nazi

The writers of mega-successful TV sit-com Seinfeld were masters at creating believable and hilarious characters. They were dramatically "over-the-top," but we all know somebody in our lives that we can identify with all of the characters. George reminds me of me. Premature male pattern baldness and all. Kramer reminds me of a kid I grew up with. And Jerry, believe it or not, reminds me of a pastor I look up to. True story. My South Florida readers can probably guess who.

One of the most popular Seinfeld episodes is the Soup Nazi. The show opens with one of the characters sharing some soup with another. The soup is exquisite. Never in all of human history was anyone able to bring ingredients together to create such a melodious mouthful. Once the soup is sampled, there is mountain high enough, no river deep enough to separate one from the broth.

The Soup Nazi put in place protocols similar to the ones I followed in Marine Corps boot camp for proper soup acquisition: Form a single-file line. No talking is necessary and, therefore, not tolerated. Step, step, step to the counter. Once facing the counter, side-step, side-step, side-step. Sound-off and place your order. No "please." No "thank-you." Make your request known. Take your soup. Pay your money. Get out the door. "Next!"

George, that buffoon, decided to make small talk with the chef - the Soup Nazi - after he got his cup. The Soup Nazi snatched back the food and shouted, "NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!" George left the store bewildered and confused.

That is how I view my relationship with John MacArthur. When I was in bible college, I loved to read his commentaries. His study Bible is amazing. His commentaries are easy to read, in depth, and designed to help the regular guy understand the Bible. That's his approach. In my opinion he imparts Bible truth exquisitely and expositional expertise... Until he gets to a topic that he seems to have pre-determined to be un-biblical. And then allowing the Bible to simply speak for itself is quickly chucked out the window and arguing in a circle becomes the tactic. This is the case when MacArthur discusses the spiritual gift of "tongues," a gift about which the Apostle Paul says, "God has appointed these in the church..." (look up more verses). MacArthur doesn't believe it or like (and I really don't blame him) current expression of the gift in modern churches, so he dismisses it as "pagan use of ecstatic speech."

I liken my study with MacArthur to an exquisite multi-course meal that with "NO SOUP FOR YOU! for dessert.

Lately, MacArthur has taken a verse from Jude 1:3: "I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" and write another book that once again takes his brothers to task. He's taken the word "contend" as marching orders to market a book called The Truth War. And on his current "hit-list" are guys like Mark Driscoll, Brian McLaren, Spencer Burke, Eddie Gibbs, Tony Jones, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, Chris Seay, and Leonard Sweet. I think MacArthur is fighting his "war" from a control room lobbing bombs at guys. He's armed himself with verses like 2 Corinthians 11:13 & 14 and saying that the guys he doesn't agree with are like "Satan himself [who] masquerades as an angel of light." At other times, when MacArthur has written other books, guys like Robert Schuller, Bill Hybels, and Rick Warren appear on his "hit list".

There's a picture in the word "contend." Jude 1:9 gives us that picture: the arch-angel Michael is wrestling with Satan over the body of Moses. Even then Michael wouldn't use the language against Satan that MacArthur uses against his foes.

I like that word "contend." It means that people in the contest may get bloody. Someone might get dead. But people on opposite sides face each other. They don't launch bombs from deep inside a Seminary of their own making.

I like Mark Driscoll's approach to the same issue. Yeah, he's mouthy. Yeah, he's obnoxious toward those he disagrees with. But at least he faces them, debates them, and even collaborates in writing books with them.

It seems to me that MacArthur should be setting this kind of an example.

So I've made a flawed attempt at lampooning this in previous and subsequent blog posts. I guess if I have to explain myself, there isn't much punch to the punch-line.

1 comment:

Carole Turner said...

ok, I get it now :-)

It's so funny because I spent some of last night looking up Emergent, Emergent church, etc. because I read Velvet Elvis and well, Rob Bell is supposably "Emergent" but then I read that he has distance himself from that movement. I also read that Driscol is Emergent and then again read that he too had distance himself from that movement. I get tired of all the labels really, I say I hate all that but then I find myself sucked into reading about it all.

My dad loves MacArthur but we also went to Jimmy Swaggarts church for 4 years (1984-1988)so that says it all.

I watched a little video of Driscoll talking about his distance from the Emergent movement, it was pretty good, I like him a little more now :-)

Healing Place, where I serve, is probably more like what Driscoll and his version of "Emergent" are trying to achive. We are very focused of "being Jesus" to our community but also telling the community about Him as well. Seeker sensative yet gospel sensative too. I figured all this out by reading the definitions of all these "Christianeze" terms so I don't speak for HPC, this is just my opinion.