This last week I talked to a man involved in the new, hottest, local, hopeful mega-church, and he described its new meeting space at a vacant Circuit City. 39,000 square feet of space. They didn't have to set-up, take down their stage. They have room in the old warehouse for their "kidzone," with its own stage and game space. Folks stuck in line at IHOP decided to come to church and afterwards probably didn't have to go back because of the free donuts, coffee, and then ice cream afterwards. As we conversed, I asked if his pastor was Calvinist---thought he might be because he graduated from Trinity and D. A. Carson's there. He said he didn't know. I told him I'd asked because I knew of "new Calvinists" like Mark Driscoll, who utilized new measures (slipping in Finneyism for my own enjoyment, because he wouldn't catch it), including the kegger party for the church social and the grunge band, hoping to attract adolescent males. He said that went too far from him. He knew about Driscoll. I mentioned Driscoll's statement of "theologically conservative and culturally liberal." He laughed.
How can anything be "too far," when you've already decided that your boundary line, your only prohibitions, may be set only by express and clear wording of Scripture? And then anything else adds or takes away from the Word of God. If it's "too far for you," and it's not mentioned at all in the Bible, then you're joining those applying some sort of scriptural principle. You too are drawing a line, just further to the left. Based on your own standard, you are "exceeding that which is written" and elevating man-made tradition to the level of God's Word. It reminded me of another longtime mega-church in our area, where a man participating in the band took it past a point of the comfort of the audience, so he was asked to stop. They do draw lines, just ones of pragmatism. Their methods already "exceed what is written" in Scripture, crafted to lure and keep an unsaved audience. "Exceeding what is written," to them, ironically applies only against actual application of the Bible, not to their own pragmatism.
Two thoughts bounced around in my mind after our talk. First, this is Jack Hyles on steroids. All the people who would have mocked Hyles now walk in his Barnum and Bailey path, except worse. Second, was the contradiction of theological conservatism and cultural liberalism. I brought that up because I didn't think it would sound acceptable to him, even though it's how his church actually practiced. And his laughter indicated to me that I was right. It's not going to stop them because it works, people like it, and since it works, it must be that "God is working." It's a form of continuationism.
Can you be a theological conservative and a cultural liberal? Driscoll says he is. Grace Community Church and John MacArthur won't stop rock or pop music there because they say to do so would "exceed what is written." Know this, cultural liberalism is nothing more than "fleshly lust," "worldly lust," "making provision for the flesh," "loving the world," and "conforming to the world." It is conduct unbecoming sound doctrine. None of those phrases exceed what is written---they are what is written. We've got to apply Scripture, and this is what cultural liberalism fails to do. Cultural liberalism is an attack on the application of the Bible for pragmatic purposes. It is what God's Word calls "licentiousness" and "using grace as an occasion of the flesh" and "turning the grace of God into lasciviousness."
You can't be a theological conservative and a cultural liberal. The two cannot coexist. In essence, being a theological conservative is the "saying you know God" and the cultural liberal is the "not doing what He says." You are not a friend of God, which is the theological part of it, and you are friend of the world, which is the cultural part of it.
If you say that you are a cultural liberal, then you are borrowing a Christian worldview for theological conservatism. Theological conservatism says that there is one God and one doctrine, God cannot deny Himself. Cultural liberalism says that God can deny His own goodness and beauty. There is one Jesus and He isn't a goodymeister. He isn't a genie in a bottle, who will pop out to give you all your wishes. You can't believe in Jesus and separate Him from culture. Your culture will conform to that Jesus, to that one and only true God. And if your culture doesn't conform to the one and true Jesus, then it conforms to another Jesus, and then you're not a theological conservative anymore. You have a different Jesus.
When the culture isn't changed by the theology, people will not see the one and only true God in the culture. Whatever theology one says He believes, others will not see it in a culture that denies that very God. The travesty is that a conservative theology has already changed with a liberal culture. It just isn't admitting it. In the end, a liberal culture will change a conservative theology into a liberal one, in deed and in faith.