When Fighting for God’s Glory Puts You at Odds with Christ

At first, the tweet below didn’t bother me. But the more I sit with it, the more I felt like I needed to write something in response.

Here’s the questionable, 140-characters-or-less message with which I have an issue:

Driscoll Tweet on Not Forgiving Oneself

I understand what Driscoll is trying to say here. His concern, like that of his neo-Reformed colleagues–and, really, the entire church of Christ–is to defend God’s glory in the face of human betrayal. God is the most beautiful being imaginable, and to spite Him is a crime. (Or, as the Bible would put it, “sin”.) So when someone like Driscoll is confronting what he sees as an erroneous attitude, I think he’s responding this way because he cares about God being honored as He deserves to be honored.

That said, I think Driscoll’s post is misguided, if not toxic. While I can see good intentions behind it, a person’s intentions don’t always translate into that person being helpful.

Let’s say someone comes to you and says that they can’t forgive themselves for something they’ve done. If they’re genuinely at this point, then you know they feel bad. People who don’t struggle with self loathing typically don’t have much of a problem giving themselves a pass on their shortcomings. So when you encounter someone who’s actually in the place where they feel they could never let the past stay that way, you’re not dealing with someone who’s taking a lighthearted approach to their sin.

And using that opportunity to tell them they’re even WORSE than they thought because they questioned God’s offer of forgiveness isn’t going to help.

Yes, God’s glory is important and should be defended, but we have to ask ourselves, what type of God are we looking to defend? Because if we’re talking about Jesus–the Word made flesh, the Immortal who died, the Crucified King who was raised to life–then we have to defend God’s glory on His terms. We can’t operate in a way that was completely foreign to how God acted and what He’s like and still (rightfully) claim that we’re serving Him.

Fortunately for us, we know what God is like because He gave us Christ. And this same Christ never took the opportunity to beat down sinners because they had a hard time believing that grace could be extended even to them.

When Jesus encountered the woman whose perpetual bleeding had resulted in her losing her savings, and she refused to identify herself after touching his cloak, he didn’t take the first chance he got to accuse her of having another god because she didn’t immediately come forward to brag about how God had healed her. Jesus didn’t accuse her of pride or of letting her fear get in the way of giving God glory.

Instead, Jesus told her that her faith had made her well and to go in peace.

When the woman (most likely a prostitute) interrupted Jesus’ dinner with a Pharisee, weeping and wiping his feet with her tears, the Lord didn’t berate her for not trusting God enough to ask for forgiveness. (In spite of all her tears, she never once requested to be forgiven of her sins.)

She didn’t have to, because Jesus assured her that her many sins were forgiven.

Maybe, back then and even today, the best way to defend the glory of God is to exhibit and show the things that make God glorious and beautiful–and if God is anything, He is love.

Again, I understand Driscoll’s desire to uphold God’s glory. But when that desire puts you at cross purposes with how Jesus actually lived and interacted with people, you need to pause and reconsider your approach.


5 thoughts on “When Fighting for God’s Glory Puts You at Odds with Christ

  1. Ryan Robinson July 18, 2013 / 12:35 pm

    A big problem I see with neo-Reformed theology is that while they rightly criticize pride and point out how that can separate you from God, they have no idea how to discuss shame and how that can just as easily separate you from God (see Adam and Eve, for example). Here we see somebody who is suffering from shame and Driscoll’s response is to offer more shame. If the person truly was having an issue of pride, knocking them down a peg as Driscoll loves to do could actually be helpful and the most loving thing to do. In fact, I think that’s a big part of why his ministry is so successful – there are a lot of people that actually do benefit from his approach. But it’s a matter of having a hammer (that aggressive humility talk) so thinking everything is a nail (pride).

    • Justin Boulmay July 18, 2013 / 12:42 pm

      I think that’s part of it, Ryan. I think another is how sin is approached through the Reformed lens. The emphasis is overwhelmingly on how we’re criminals who deserve a spiritual death sentence. And while I don’t dispute that we are accountable for the evil things we do, I also think that what that group sometimes misses is that human beings are also the slaves and victims of sin. We’re not just criminals who have no claim to God’s mercy. We’re slaves to an evil power and are in dire need of an exodus.

  2. Andrea July 18, 2013 / 10:24 pm

    I didn’t take it that way at all but probably because I have felt that way before. I knew the truth of the gospel in my head long before I could accept it simply because I felt my sin and past far too big for God. I still *feel* that way a lot, but isn’t that taking God down a peg. Aren’t I saying that though he says He covers all, He really can’t? Aren’t I saying that my feelings about my sin and unworthiness are bigger than everything else He says in Scripture? Should we really be relying on our fickle feelings anyway?

    • Justin Boulmay July 18, 2013 / 10:51 pm

      I understand what you’re saying, Andrea, but I think this can be a dangerous thing to say to someone who’s continuing to struggle. Maybe if you wait for a person to come out of their struggle, then that could be a good time to bring up this particular aspect of what if means to accept forgiveness. But while they’re neck deep in it is not, in my opinion, a good time.

      • Andrea July 22, 2013 / 7:57 pm

        Perhaps. I am not sure what his audience is.

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