Quoting from Driscoll’s blogpost:

Kingdom: The problem with the older generation of strong dispensationally minded evangelicals was that they had an under-realized eschatology. By this, I mean that they saw the kingdom of God as an almost entirely future event. The younger generation of evangelicals are more prone to embrace an over-realized eschatology whereby the kingdom of God is essentially here already, so talking about heaven, hell, and the eternal state is not important. On this point, Smith Jr. echoes a drum regularly beat by McLaren and others affiliated with the Emergent group. The problem is that the kingdom of God is not yet here, but it does break in through the church, the preaching of the gospel, and the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, a balanced eschatology that holds the “already/not yet” tension of Paul is the only hope for a biblical position on this issue.

This critique has a bit more of a leg to stand on. Important as eschatology is, and I believe it to be one of the most important of the secondary (“right-hand” is the Piperism) doctrines of the faith, it is secondary. I think I stated it in a previous post, but here it is again: I believe Creationism to be more foundational than one’s eschatology.

Even so, much like how one’s approach to the first chapter of the Bible ultimately dictates one’s approach to the rest, I’ve found that one’s eschatology can tend to determine his approach to the rest of
Scripture, too.

Somewhat of a side note: “Secondary” does not mean unimportant or even less important. All doctrine is important, all doctrine should be taken seriously and prayed through & thought out thoroughly, and not be considered “disposable” – otherwise, why bother? “Secondary” refers to the nature of the doctrine as not being definitional to Christianity – Biblically faithful Christianity, anyway. We can disagree all day long on secondary points of doctrine and still be brothers. Primary doctrine, by way of comparison, are those which define what a Christian is. Differ on primary points of doctrine, and now we’re no longer brothers in Christ.

Incidentally, I find it more than slightly disingenuous that Driscoll consistently (albeit, gently) chides Chuck Sr. for holding “right-hand” doctrines like eschatology too tightly when he himself puts things like Calvinism in the “left hand” (see his session at the recent Desiring God conference). Ooops. My faults always look worse on you.

Now, on the subject of the Kingdom, Driscoll demonstrates a penchant for Laddian thought. George Eldon Ladd was a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary who taught (in a nutshell) that the Kingdom of God is both a future hope and a present reality. In effect, that the Kingdom is “now and not yet”. The defining element of his thinking is eschatological tension. However, Ladd’s recognition of eschatological tension – in and of itself – is not unique; only in its scope and application.

Perhaps the most prominent of his doctrinal scions was John Wimber – and through him, the Vineyard. (Interestingly, the Vineyard and Calvary Chapel share a common history. The Vineyard broke away from CC early in the 1980’s over the issue of the primacy of experience over the Word.) Wimber took Ladd’s eschatology and ran with it, and paved the way for the Vineyard’s current (in my opinion) de facto abandonment of the Blessed Hope – among other things, this comprises perhaps one of the greatest weaknesses/shortcomings of the Vineyard movement, which in turn stems necessarily from “the” issue which led to the Vineyard breaking fellowship with the Calvary Chapel Movement: a sidelining of the Word in favor of experience. But I digress.

The Achilles Heel of Laddian thought is the same one shared by virtually all non-dispensational theologies: a failure to properly distinguish between Israel and the Church. Coupled closely with this is a tendency to equate the Church and the Kingdom (though, admittedly, less so than Kingdom Now or more magisterio-temporal groups like the Roman Catholic Church). This twin failure leads directly to an abandonment in effect and practice of the “Blessed Hope” of the Church – note Driscoll’s commentary on dispensationalism: “[t]he problem with the older generation of strong dispensationally minded evangelicals was that they had an under-realized eschatology.” The very fact that “looking unto and hastening” the Day of the Lord can be called “under-realized eschatology” by Laddites is quite telling.

The Kingdom of God is “now” in the sense that a “kingdom” is anywhere a king reigns, and so we as Christians do experience a foretaste of the Kingdom now in the Person of the Holy Spirit. But it is “now” only in the most anticipatory sense. The Kingdom was offered to and rejected by Israel, and awaits its fulfillment in the end times when Israel calls for her Messiah-King to return [cf. Luke 13:35… note it says until, directly implying that the time will come when Israel will reverse her corporate rejection of the Messiah, an event which signals the end of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble and the commencement of the Kingdom Age]. It is the “not yet” aspect of the Kingdom which Ladd, in my opinion, didn’t adequately appreciate, and which his spiritual sons likewise miss.

The problem with most of the critiques I’ve read of the dispensational position from Laddites (such as Driscoll) is that they tend to set up, then promptly and with aplomb proceed to knock down a straw man. Note Mark’s contrasting of an “under-realized eschatology” (i.e., looking for the Blessed Hope) with the “over-realized eschatology” of liberals like MacLaren & Co. Inherent in the contrast is the supposition that unlike liberals, dispensationalists aren’t getting involved in social works, and are thus missing it RE: the “now” aspect of the Kingdom (liberals, on the opposite end, miss the boat on the “not yet” aspect). It is only the erudite Laddites who have a properly balanced view, and we should all lock arms and sing We Shall Overcome while keeping a vague notion that “one day” Jesus will return, but there are far more pressing things to concern us in the meantime, thank you very much. The implication is that dispensationalists are generally unconcerned with temporal issues and are just waiting around for the Rapture.

Here’s the problem with that: it ain’t so. Not with consistent dispensationalists, anyway.

Consistent dispensationalists take Jesus’ command to “occupy ’till I come” seriously. We are to “look for and hasten” that Day, but we are to be about our Father’s business in the interim – and that business includes clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and giving cups of cold water. This is because of the doctrine of immanency.

Basically, that means that Jesus can return at any time. Corollary to that is the fact that if He can return at any time, then it necessarily follows that He does not have to return at any specific time. Hence, no consistent dispensationalist will be caught dead date-setting. And, it’s why we “occupy ’till He comes.” Calvary Chapels are and have consistently been at the forefront of humanitarian causes. Note that one of the most active (albeit unassuming and self-consciously “under the radar”) expressions of the Body of Christ in post-9/11 NY and the post-Katrina Gulf Coast has been the Calvaries (we’re still in both places – long after the TV crews and disaster paparazzi are gone, long after the ADHD-like attention of the American people have turned elsewhere). And just “everyday” feeding the hungry and clothing the naked? Yeah… we do that, too. We just generally don’t toot our own collective horn about it and seek to show everybody just how compassionate & relevant we really are; we’re just quietly taking our King’s command to occupy ’till He comes literally and applying it without a whole lot of fanfare.

But a more full analysis of Driscoll’s analysis of the place of the Blessed Hope will be taken up in a later blogpost dealing with his treatment of the Rapture.

The real problem that a Laddite (and, by extension, Driscoll & other more conservative ECM types) has with consistent dispensationalism is the fact that we dispies view social justice & similar subjects as inevitable consequences of the mission of the church, but not the actual mission of the church itself. In other words, we see the Bible as giving the church a tightly defined mission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…”

Matthew 28:19-20

The mission of the church, which the Head of the Church deigned to deliver to the very ones He selected to lay the foundation of that church, is to go into all the world and make disciples.

Thus, the mission of the church is not:

  • evangelism
  • worship
  • political activity
  • feeding the hungry
  • clothing the naked
  • succoring the poor
  • uplifting the downtrodden
  • righting wrongs
  • correcting injustice
  • leaping tall buildings in a single bound
  • group hugs
  • finger painting

The mission of the church is to go into all the world and make disciples.

Now, as a necessary consequence of living out that primary mission, these other things may naturally flow. As we seek to make disciples, we will naturally evangelize the lost. In the process of becoming disciples, we will naturally become worshippers. As disciples who worship the King, we will naturally desire to reach out and do His works – which include feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc. And as a natural result of walking with our Master (which is what a disciple is, by the way – one who walks with and emulates the life of another), we will increasingly see beauty in His world, and as stewards over that and created in His creative image, we will want to improve and beautify the world around us. In reaching out, we’ll seek to engage the culture… yadda yadda yadda. You get the picture.

But all of this flows from and is a consequence of the real mission of the church: Making disciples.

These are not in themselves that mission.

And when these things – or anything else – begin to supplant the real mission of the church (and make no mistake: they will supplant that mission, eventually), we have problems.

So should the church clothe the naked, feed the hungry, etc.? Answer: Yes and no.

GAAAAAAASP!!!

Allow me to explain.

The church, Biblically, should be about making disciples.

CHRISTIANS should be about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, evangelizing, worshipping, etc., as an outgrowth and expression of their relationship with Jesus and as a fruit of their growing in Christlikeness (i.e., discipleship).

Thus, social works, social justice, and all other “extra-curricular” activities are the jurisdiction of Christians, whether individually or in aggregate; but the job of the church is to make disciples. To the extent that that disciple-making works itself out in doing all these right and lovely and good things, all is well. The problem arises when these things begin to be viewed as being the raison d’etre of the church, rather than an auxiliary of its mission. Subtle distinction, perhaps, but utterly vital.

The question has arisen in Calvary Chapel on the Lakeshore as to why we don’t do ____________________, and usually involves something like, “why don’t we dance during worship?” or “why don’t we allow utterances in tongues during our corporate gatherings” (usually asked by those who don’t come to the Sunday night prayer meeting, which is also our time set aside for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, but I digress), or something similar. What I’ve noticed is that usually people want to do in public what they are not doing but should be doing in private. You want to be very expressive in your worship? Great! Go to your prayer closet. In corporate worship, we want to make sure the attention is on Jesus and not drawn to any individual, so we voluntarily refrain from flamboyant expressions of worship there, out of love for our brother who will certainly be distracted by our “Holy Ghost Jackhammering.” Why insist on doing it in public – is it less worshipful if it is done in private? Is it more valid if everyone can see how spiritual we are because we dance before the Lord? Where’s my heart and what’s my motive?

The same applies to acts of social justice & the like. Why does it have to be an official instrument of the church? Why can’t Christians, as a holy outworking of the Spirit’s work in their hearts as He through His church makes them disciples, just go out and do it? Individually, or even as groups? Hey – as a church, we (and by “we” I mean CC Lakeshore) get behind the saints when they step out in faith to minister to the hurting. We come alongside the Muskegon Rescue Mission, the Crisis Pregnancy Center, and other ministries and groups that are doing the grunt work of reaching out in physical/material ways. We have gone to Ground Zero after 9/11, we have supported those who ministered and continue to minister to the Katrina victims, and we seek to meet the needs of those within our body and others within the household of faith…

…but all of this comes as an outgrowth of focusing on the primary mission of the church, making disciples. None of it is that mission or supplants it in any way.

Now, for the Laddian, this does not compute. Because of their peculiar view of eschatological tension (which we dispies, incidentally, recognize, but see from a very different perspective), the church’s function is to… do a whole lot more than what Jesus actually gave her to do. So even though we dispies are doing these things, since we’re not self-consciously (the ECM Dilbertism for it is “intentional”) focusing on them as our sine qua non, we’ve got an “under-realized eschatology.”

Ppppthphtphphtphphtphphtthtphtphttt.

The Kingdom of God is present in the Person of the Son as mediated through the Person of the Spirit; but it also is not, in a very profound way that your typical Laddian can’t wrap his mind around, and attempts to make it otherwise end badly.

And we dispies (Calvary Chapel is decidedly dispensational in eschatology) focus unapologetically on the “not yet” aspect of the Kingdom, recognizing that the “already” aspect is really a “preview of coming attractions” and is not the main event.

I’ve said it before: I predict that the ECM will eventually and inevitably (and in the none-too-distant future) either re-merge back into more mainstream evangelicalism, or continue its leftward gallop and become fully liberal. Or both.

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