For those who might not know it, Mark Driscoll wrote a blog post regarding Ted Haggard’s admission of sexual immorality. The post contains some comments regarding protecting pastors from such problems. While several of the points are useful, one point in particular offended many:
Most pastors I know do not have satisfying, free, sexual conversations and liberties with their wives. At the risk of being even more widely despised than I currently am, I will lean over the plate and take one for the team on this. It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that the Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.
Scot McKnight at http://www.jesuscreed.org/?p=1697 blogged on the topic and pointed to a Seattle pastor’s open letter to Driscoll, calling on Driscoll to offer an apology. Several responders to McKnight’s blog then took Scot to task for being easy on Brian McLaren’s “provocateur” style of writing/talking but being hard on Driscoll’s offensive remarks to women, especially pastor’s wives. These issues have made me think about a deeper issue: What is the difference between someone willing to speak up about difficult issues with a prophetic and provocative voice and a person who uses reckless words to slander individuals he or she does not respect or value?
Does Driscoll speak provocatively about the lack of frank sexual discussions among pastors and spouses? Or does he link a pastor’s indiscretions to his wife’s behavior even though he states that is not his reason? (Is it possible that pastors’ wives “let themselves go” because they are neglected and at the bottom of their husband’s ministry lists?) I Realize that every prophet may give in to the temptation to slander and every slanderer may speak prophetically. So the distinctions I try to make between the two cannot be categorical.
1. A prophet names things and people (especially opponents) in a way that they would agree or approve. A slanderer uses names to disparage and to smear opponents, even those who might barely be related to the issues at hand. (Scot McKnight, in a recent presentation at Westminster Seminary, offers some good advice in this area when talking about emerging/missional church authors and their critics. When you describe your opponents, you ought to do so in a way that the opponents says, “that’s me.”). A prophet does not stoop to build straw men.
2. A prophet highlights viewpoints in order to point out their possible logical conclusions while a slanderer takes another’s position to an extreme and paints the person as intending the outcome or so foolish not to see the result.
3. While pointing out possible outcomes, a prophet is still able to describe these outcomes with complexity and shading while the slanderer merely paints everything in black and white.
4. A prophet points to a better way, creative solutions, risky but realistic options while a slanderer wastes no effort trying to provide solutions, but is satisfied with producing only criticisms and tired stereotypes.
When I look at this list, I realize that I have slandered those less theologically astute, the biblically naive, and the psychologically narrow-minded. God has gifted me with some level of critical thinking. How will I use it to give Him the glory?