Our basic premise is that we are all jackasses. Myself especially. One specific type of jackass that I have given much of my life to embodying is the Conservative Jackass.

Ryan and I are blog buddies and we pastor together now, but we actually met in college. Ryan was my mentor for a couple of years and had a major impact on the depth and direction of my life. During this time, I was introduced to Conservative Neo-Reformed TheologyTM. As I began learning theology with a depth and intensity that’s difficult to imagine now (I’m still thankful for this season for this reason), I began to notice that Ryan resisted the militarism with which I began holding specific doctrines.

This was difficult for me to process. I really looked up to Ryan, but he couldn’t see The TruthTM! What was I supposed to do? It seems crazy for me to write it now, but I was honestly concerned for Ryan’s salvation.

How could he resist what was so clearly written in Scripture?

This is the heart of the Conservative Jackass. No, I’m not talking about a high view of Scripture. Ryan had that then and still does now. Same here. I’m talking about the inability to respect someone who disagrees.

This is as good an example as any, from the teaching of one of my theological heroes from this period:

“Either you believe the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 or you don’t.  And if you don’t believe the Genesis account, then I just, I have to tell you, you have no hope of coming to the truth.”

-John MacArthur

He said this in the context of explaining why it’s essential for a person to believe that God created the world in six literal 24-hour days rather than believing in any form of theistic evolution. The problem is not being a creationist. That’s a fine position to hold. The problem is insisting that anyone who has less than 100% certainty about your specific reading of a passage couldn’t possibly be a Christian.

My question is: what the hell?

I’m serious in asking that. There was a time when I held this very position. But man—I was being such a jackass. How could I have assumed that total conformity to the way I saw things was necessary for salvation?

“The Conservative Jackass is an excluder. A person who knows the Truth and is unwilling to acknowledge the validity of any person or position that differs. His argument of choice is the slippery slope.”

I think the answer to that question is that I was my own God. And this is an important point. Anytime God agrees with 100% of our conclusions, then without a doubt we are our own Gods. When this is the case, either we have perfectly understood the mind of God—which, without question, is impossible—or our conception of God is simply: “He’s a deity who agrees with me on everything.” (Incidentally, there’s a great Bob Dylan song about this.)

The Conservative Jackass is an excluder. A person who knows the Truth and is unwilling to acknowledge the validity of any person or position that differs.

The Conservative Jackass’ argument of choice is the slippery slope. Leave room for disagreement on one tenet of your fundamentalist beliefs and pretty soon you’ll have slid all the way to liberalism (the dirtiest word imaginable: worse even than “unloving”). Allow for the possibility of some non-scientific terminology in Genesis 1–2, and pretty soon you’ll be asking Richard Dawkins into your heart. Question the traditional assumption of what “male headship” entails and before you know it, all of our superheroes will be replaced with women. Acknowledge that Paul warns against getting drunk but that the Bible nowhere prohibits drinking and—POOF!—the pulpit in your church will be replaced with a beer pong table.

I’m being super snarky (another form of jackassery, without doubt), but I’m just trying to illustrate how illogical and dangerous the slippery slope argument is. And yet the Conservative Jackass lives in constant fear of “if we allow ________, then _________.”

Just as with every type of jackass, this is so unlike Jesus. He said the greatest commands were to love God and love people. The Conservative Jackass minimizes this passage (a command which Jesus said was the most important) and acts as thought the greatest command is to develop and then insist upon perfect doctrine (a command which literally does not exist).

I realize I’m coming down pretty hard here; it’s because I am the Conservative Jackass. The problem isn’t being conservative, it’s being a jackass about it. But good news: the solution isn’t a big mystery. Simply spend time focusing on Jesus. Take a year to read the Gospels more than you read Paul’s letters, for example. Pray that God will allow you to see other people as he sees them. Try prioritizing love over doctrine. The best news of all is that ultimately, the solution is Jesus. He’s the cure for every type of jackass.

Mark has been serving in pastoral roles for over 15 years. After a decade in various teaching and administrative roles at Eternity Bible College, Mark now works with Ryan as an associate pastor in Sacramento, California. His books include Resonate: Enjoying God’s Gift of Music and the New York Times bestseller Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples, which he co-authored with Francis Chan. This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. There are costs associated with running the blog. These links help to cover overhead.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I literally LOL’d on this one. So cathartic to read a little Johnny Mac reality check from a fellow recovering conservative college jackass.

  2. Hi Mark
    I’m praying for you, Ryan and Creekside. It seems you’ve taken a sharp left somewhere. I don’t see how your “jackass” message glorifies God or grows His people. It appears you want to water down truth in the name of love but God’s love always includes his truth. I suppose you’re going to think of me as just a jackass. 😐

    • Hi Deni!

      Thanks for your prayers. We need them! I definitely do not think you are a jackass, Deni. I think we all have that side to us, and Ryan and I are trying to share specifics about how it comes out personally in our posts, but I have never personally witnessed you acting that way. I’ve been very blessed by you and your family.

      I pray that we’re not watering down God’s truth. Our goal is to dive deeper into it. We don’t want to negate a single word that God has spoken; we’re actually just trying to follow the priorities as God spells them out for us. As I tried to explain in this particular post, I have up until recently acted as though God said that what matters most to him was that we sort out doctrine regarding conservative emphases and make sure we oppose everyone who disagrees. I even pushed Ryan away at the tail end of college because I thought he lacked certainty regarding God’s sovereignty and some other Calvinistic doctrines (doctrines I still believe). But when I look in Scripture to see what God prioritizes, he says the two greatest commandments are love toward God and neighbor (Mark 12:30–31), his parting prayer for his disciples was that they stop dividing and be united in love (John 17), and he even commands us to love our enemies and those who oppose (Matt. 5:44). Anytime he gets into a prioritization, it’s things like these.

      The reason I wrote this post is because I have previously made statements like the one I quoted here, where I haven’t loved those who differ but have instead broke fellowship with them because they didn’t agree with me.

      It really isn’t about calling people jackasses, but confessing this in myself and calling others to name their own jackassery and move closer to the heart of Jesus. You may find it helpful to listen to the two sermons Ryan preached to Creekside on the topic (Part 1:http://jackasstheology.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Creekside-Jackass-Theology-Part-1-031719.mp3 and Part 2:http://jackasstheology.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Creekside-Jackass-Theology-Part-2-032419.mp3). We love you, Deni, and we continue to pray for your family as well.

  3. “Question the traditional assumption of what “male headship” entails and before you know it, all of our superheroes will be replaced with women.” at the risk of becoming more of a jackass … I have to point out I really liked this line!

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