Tuesday, November 26, 2019

It's Not Enough: Dustin Kensrue's Turning Away

By Dmileson - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49962067

Background

Mars Hill Church in Seattle was once a surprisingly powerful influence in the Pacific Northwest. In the fall of 2014, the whole thing came tumbling down as the founder and senior pastor of the church, Mark Driscoll, was forced to publicly step down amid controversial financial dealings and interpersonal sin issues. You can read my thoughts about Driscoll and that whole ordeal in one of my blog posts from that time (now over five years ago -- wow!).

Many good things came out of the imperfect ministry of Mars Hill Church and high-quality, original Christian music is near the top of that list. The Sing Team, Citizens, Kings Kaleidoscope (see this article also), Ghost Ship, and The Modern Post were all Mars Hill guys. Dustin Kensrue, front man for Thrice, was also the front man for The Modern Post.

Over the last 18 months or so, Thrice has released a new album and The Modern Post has remained stagnant. Interestingly, the Gospel Song Union web page linked above still describes The Modern Post in this way:
The Modern Post is a band who believes that the good news of Jesus should forever be the headline. Band leader Dustin Kensrue, frontman of the critically acclaimed alternative band Thrice, crafts lyrics that challenge believers and non-believers alike to grapple with the gospel of a God who owes them his justice, yet gives them his grace.
Sadly, these words are no longer true. God's gospel is still the same -- and justice and grace are still fully found mingled together in the cross of Christ. But Kensrue's belief system has changed dramatically. He no longer encourages people to consider a God of grace. Instead, he challenges Christians to rethink Christianity completely. He challenges Christians to believe in a god who is just like them because he now professes such a faith.

I'm writing this article because it seems to me that one hasn't been written yet. I'm not trying to drag his name through the mud or discourage people from engaging with his content. In fact, our church still sings some of his songs. However, Christians need to know who he is and where he is now. Here's an overview of what Kensrue believes today.


Tiny God Theology

Dustin Kensrue now believes in Process Theology, a teaching that is not nearly as popular as many other unbiblical systems, mostly due to its comparatively young age. Developed in the 20th century, this worldview teaches "that the only absolute which exists in the world is change. Therefore, God, too, is constantly changing."

Process Theology is just one of many wayward teachings that Kensrue has embraced. Below is some Twitter documentation where he expresses his beliefs in his own words. These snippets are obviously very limited in their scope; however, this is the closest we can come to understanding Kensrue's newfound religion, as Twitter is his main mode of public communication.




Although these tweets weren't really a "coming out" for Kensrue's new worldview, they did prove to be instructive for those seeking to understand his worldview more comprehensively (or as comprehensively as a series of tweets allows). The middle tweet, the third of the five in the screenshot, tells us what we need to know.

Notice what he says in his analysis of the Bible's presentation of who God is and who man is: "It never sat well with me."

Here, at this most basic level, we know all that we need to know. God says one thing, man thinks another. Therefore, God must be the one who is wrong. May it never be! A healthy dose of Romans 9 is in order.

Yet, Romans 9 means nothing to someone who abandons the idea that God would and could reveal Himself through human authors, just as He desires.




In this very recent tweet (which contains a typo), Kensrue is essentially stating, "The most destructive thing I used to think was that the Bible is inerrant." His rejection of Scripture was elaborated more clearly in earlier tweets.






In his own words, Kensrue's worldview has been deconstructed. What has replaced his former beliefs is an understanding of the Bible as a flawed, imperfect, uninspired, and, thus, non-authoritative series of documents. Yet, he doesn't believe this separates him from Christianity. And yet still, he doesn't know if that's right or not. He is trapped in a postmodern conundrum from which there is no exit. He knows nothing, other than the fact that he knows nothing. And you don't either.

This system of thought is fundamentally incoherent. Notice he says that the abandonment of Scripture as inerrant was the "foundation" of his "deconstruction." Laying a foundation is a constructive act, not a destructive act. Perhaps a better way of putting it would have been, "Rejecting inerrancy was the first step in leaving Christianity to believe what I wanted to believe." What we discover when we examine those who apostatize is that they know where they want to go, but Scripture is in the way. Therefore, to get to the god of his own choosing, he has to suppress the revelation given to him in the Bible.

It all becomes clearly seen when examining Kensrue's other tweets. When asked about the doctrine of God's immutability (His unchanging nature), he responded this way:




His objection to God's sovereign control over the world seems to be rooted in his perception of morality as opposed to his philosophical preferences. The problem of evil has brought him to this point, as illustrated in the following tweets.






Kensrue was "never satisfied" with orthodox Christianity; thus, he had to get Scripture out of the way to clear a path for a more desirable understanding of the world. He was unable to get the worldview he wanted by using the Bible, so he moved the goalposts, so to speak.

The Bible teaches that God is absolutely sovereign and ordains whatsoever comes to pass. Nothing is outside of His control and every event that occurs in His world is an outflow of His will (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28-30). He is not caught off-guard and He doesn't change. This has been Christian doctrine for as long as there have been Christians -- because Christians get their doctrine from the Bible.

Yet Kensrue has forfeited this understanding of the divine and has embraced an understanding that aligns with his presuppositions. He has a preconceived view of who God should be even before he opens the Bible. So, it's entirely reasonable to challenge him on this presuppositions, as one Twitter user did in October 2018:




This, of course, is personal, subjective, shooting-in-the-dark, uncertain drivel. "As a species" is a tip of the cap to an atheistic understanding of the universe. "Spiritual consciousness" is a tip of the cap to Eastern philosophy. "Other strands of wisdom traditions" is a tip of the cap to universalism. The only direction his cap doesn't tip is toward biblical Christianity.

He can't tip his cap toward the faith once for all handed down to the saints because it absolutely repulses him. He hates the God of the Bible and he hates the Christian faith. He loves his own understanding of the universe and God's book is not allowed to challenge him on it.


Sad Irony

I've said this before and I have no problem saying it again: Dustin Kensrue is one of the best songwriters of this generation. I could point to Exhibits A-Z to prove my point, but if you've listened to his music it's likely that you realize this. I should also note here that he seems like a genuine person who would make for great coffee shop conversation.

His 2013 album The Water and the Blood is one of the best Christian records of this decade. One of the originals from that collection is "It's Not Enough" and in that song he states this:
It's not enough, it's not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It's not enough, it's not enough
Though I could live for all to lift them higher
Or spend the centuries seeking light within
Though I indulged my every dark desire
Exhausting every avenue of sin 
It's not enough, it's not enough
I could walk the world forever
Till my shoes were filled with blood
It's not enough, it's not enough
I could right all wrongs, or ravage
Everything beneath the sun
It's not enough, it's not enough
Though all would bow to me
Till I could drink my fill of fear and love
It's not enough, it's not enough

The philosophies of man and the "light within" are not enough. What he sang in this song is true, but it has become clear that he never believed it. When challenged with his understanding of the lyrics he used to belt out, he said this:




This is a sad irony. Scripture tells us that there's a way that seems right to a man, but its end is death. Kensrue formerly professed to agree with that. Today, he rejects the notion. It's like he reversed his regeneration. It's more accurate to understand that he was never born again.

Consider the closing lyrics from one of my favorite songs from that aforementioned album, "Grace Alone": "So I'll stand in faith by grace and grace alone / I will run the race by grace and grace alone / I will slay my sin by grace and grace alone / I will reach the end by grace and grace alone."

Grace -- and grace alone -- enables the believer to stand in faith, run the race, slay his sin, and reach the end. Dustin Kensrue has never been changed by such grace. His relationship with it has been purely theoretical and academic. He prefers a religion fashioned with his own thoughts under his own authority. What a shame.

Now when I listen to these songs or sing them in church, there's something that rings hollow. These beautiful arrangements of words, certainly a reflection of the image of God found in Kensrue, are not truths embraced by their author. Instead, they are a facade of a past profession lacking any real substance. When I see his name at the bottom of our screen where the lyrics are projected, I feel bad. I know he's not my brother. Yet he knows exactly what the gospel is. And this is tragic.


Conclusion

The takeaways here are quite similar to the takeaways from the Joshua Harris situation. As I wrote in a previous article, "Our trust is not in man who changes, but in God who cannot change. We do not trust in ourselves, but in the One who has saved us." These words are even more applicable here, considering Kensrue does not believe God is unchanging.

Yet, the application here has a deeper impact as I consider the circumstances. Joshua Harris rose quickly to fame writing a book that many Christians never agreed with. He joined a pastoral staff and got an education, always being led and guided by others before deciding to craft his own version of reality. He wrote some other things (notably and ironically among them was a small book on orthodoxy that I found to be helpful), yet he was always known for that first book that skyrocketed him to stardom.

Kensrue was a rocker who found God in the Pacific Northwest. He has never been famous in the same way Harris was famous. And Kensrue wrote lyrics to songs that enriched all who sang them. Words were put together carefully and biblically so as to remain faithful to the gospel, to Scripture, and, ultimately, to the church. He was never a blind follower of Mark Driscoll, but showed the ability to discern for himself as he joined with other pastors to call for his resignation. He eventually stepped down from his position as pastor at Mars Hill because of his correct convictions.

And even so, here we are. Kensrue has denied the faith and followed after his own heart, which is deceitful and sick. He, like Mars Hill Church in 2014, is not on a good trajectory.

In a day and age where good Christian music is as abundant as three-leaf clovers, it's heart-breaking to see that such a talented songwriter has no intention of continuing his songwriting ministry. What's the worst, though, is that this lack of intention stems from a hatred of the God he once professed to know.

So let us be reminded, once again, that our trust is not in man. Let us be reminded that many people are not only deceived, but self-deceived. And let us hold fast to the confession of our faith, even as many among us fall away.

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