Thursday, December 30, 2010

"The Legalism of Tolerance"

Derek Webb likes to stir it up every now and again. His favorite targets of disdain are those rascally conservative Christians. Recently he's made a few headlines by offering his troublingly thoughts on homosexuality. Along with his seeming agnosticism on that particular perversion, however, is an even more troubling lack of clarity concerning the Gospel. These tendencies are on full display in a recent interview he granted to the Huffington Post.

In response to the HuffPo interview, Frank Turk has written a thoughtful, helpful, and tough open letter to the singer. Frank has also posted a follow-up in which he further deals with the specifics of Webb's comments.

Among Turk's keenest observations about the trouble with Webb's perspective is what he refers to as the "legalism of tolerance."

Christ died to call out the Church. This is an unquestionable fact of the New Testament; it's the key-note point of Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, and also the "book ends" of Paul's letter to the Romans. Somehow, if Christ died for us, we are a new people set apart from the world and it's fallenness. Right? Colossians 3? So when we make the confession that we are sinners, we are also making the confession that we ought not to be sinners. Making allowance for the sins of others so that we can "love them" is unloving because it is spiritually deadly. It completely squashes the actual Gospel in place of a new kind of legalism. Rather than seeking to find out all the ways in which we ought "not to do," we are in fact seeking out all the ways we can allow all the things we ought not to do. It's a legalism of tolerance -- which you exchange in your interview into a legalism of love. It's not love, you might say, if it doesn't include those who mutilate themselves to justify their sexual urges. It's not love, you might say, if we can't bless the sexual union of two people who are sexually identical rather than sexually compatible. It's the legalism of permissiveness, which is merely license raised to a moral imperative.


case.jess said...

"So when we make the confession that we are sinners, we are also making the confession that we ought not to be sinners."

Very well said. I generally like Derek Webb, but his recent comments were rightfully rebuffed by Frank Turk on this one. Thanks for posting, Todd.

Also, did you know Mark and Brandon [former Sojourners] have planted Trinity Church in Philly? I know you met with them awhile back.


Todd Pruitt said...

I like a lot of Derek's stuff so I have been troubled by many of his public statements of late.

He seems to see himself over against the church rather than as a part of it. His statements take on the very tone that he condemns from others.

I knew that Mark and Brandon were in town but have neglected to get in touch with them. I definitely need to connect with them.

Harley A. said...

Exactly. Judging those judgmental Christians...