Unbelievable as it sounds, this post is about The Gospel Coalition, but is about neither Mark Driscoll nor John Piper (at least not directly anyway). In fact, it’s not even a post about what’s wrong with TGC. Instead, this is a post about what they seem to be doing right—at least in areas that don’t have to do with women.
My primary problem with TGC has never been the fact that they are aggressively Calvinist and complementarian. My argument with them has always been that their marketing strategy and promotional materials—in fact, their very name—imply that if a believer is not both a Calvinist and a complementarian then he or she is not following the complete, robust Gospel of Christ. (An Armenian egalitarian might sneak into heaven, but only because God makes allowances for things like that.) This is certainly what the more extremist arm of the Young, Restless, and Reformed crowd believes and it infects much of TGC’s content.
I was also disheartened by TGC’s deafening silence during the most recent Driscoll flap when none of the elder statesmen of new Calvinism seemed to have a problem that one of their own had insulted an entire country.
It was a pleasant surprise, then, to finally read D.A. Carson’s articulate, heartfelt defense of faithful Christians laboring throughout the UK. I could sense the effort Carson was making not to sound like he was criticizing Driscoll, but he obviously wanted to make sure that TGC readers knew that not all of them agreed that celebrity is a sign of ministerial success. In one paragraph he writes:
We must not equate courage with success, or even youth with success. We must avoid ever leaving the impression that these equations are valid. I have spent too much time in places like Japan, or in parts of the Muslim world, where courage is not measured on the world stage, where a single convert is reckoned a mighty trophy of grace.
I admit that when I awoke this morning to news of John Piper’s latest sermon in which he effectively reduces women to distorted fun-house reflections of Christ, it did make me a little grumpy. The odd thing was that when I went to TGC to see if they were covering it, I found something else. Something oddly encouraging. I found three less-than-glowing critiques of The Elephant Room by TGC regulars Kevin deYoung, Justin Taylor, and Tim Raymond.
Lest I be accused of celebrating someone else’s misery, what I found so reassuring was not that The Elephant Room is having an internal crisis, but that three members of a Christian organization had been given the freedom to criticize their own administration in a public forum. While some of the criticisms were admittedly small, others ventured into larger issues regarding the vision and purpose of the Elephant room and whether it had ever been framed correctly.
And in addition to the three blog posts above, the official Elephant Room blogger, Trevin Wax, had also recently published a pointed critique of this year’s first session, including his disapproval at the tacit assumption that the shear size of a person’s ministry accorded them the occasional theological pass.
I am hopeful that these public criticisms of a TGC project from within its own ranks demonstrate an attitude of wisdom, humility, and self-reflection that hasn’t been on display much of late. While John Piper’s recent suggestion that God intended Christianity to have a “masculine feel” reinforces the perception that there is a certain wing of TGC whose primary goal is to marginalize women, there are also indications that maybe behind closed doors someone might be reminding them that it really is all about the Gospel.