In response to a NYT article about Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill church, my friend Jim writes “I personally find it a bit of a mystery that some people find comfort and hope in that sort of theological framework”. By contrast, I can totally understand it. I understand it, but disagree with it. My experience as a Christian, and a little healthy doubt, has lead me to reject my one-time fascination for hard-core, predestined-from-the-womb Calvinism. But, while I’m not comfortable with a Calvinistic god who is completely arbitrary — one who has no real way of showing love — I doubt an individualized god who looks like a friendly neighbor who practices a “live-and-let-live” philosophy. It seems the Mars Hill congregation does not want a god who will smile on their imperfections, but what they’ve been offered, what they’ve found to fill their “God-shaped hole”, is indeed not anthropomorphic. It is true that anthropomorphizing God, making him like our tolerant neighbor, is dangerously wrong-headed. But just because we have an incomprehensible god does not mean that we have a view of the right one. A hint of what is so attractive about this “New Calvinism” can be found in Dostoevsky:
Taking freedom to mean the increase and prompt satisfaction of needs, they distort their own nature, for they generate many meaningless and foolish desires, habits, and the most absurd fancies in themselves. (source)
Mars Hill parishioners have pursued this false freedom and found it wanting. Naturally, they turn away from that. Of course, we are always in danger of following the wrong leader, but especially so when we feel weak and are offered something that looks unbending. By way of contrast, I offer this quote from Father Stephen. His whole post is an excellent defense of un-individual, Trinitarian Christianity, but this is quote seemed most relevant:
An excellent example of this occurred once in an inquirer’s class I was teaching before I was Orthodox (I was an Anglican priest). I was teaching a class on Christian morality and offered as authoritative the traditional teachings of the Christian faith in matters of sex and marriage, etc. One of the couples in the class seemed upset by my presentation and asked, “What right does the Church have to tell me how to live my life?” I admit that I was stunned by the question, if only because of its honesty. I gave them a short answer, “Because you are raising my children.” The complete answer has more depth, but I thought they might find it helpful to consider that the world included someone other than themselves.