Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tough Text Thursday @ Pastor Mark TV stumps for a stupid vow

... Now, I do believe there are times that God leads us to take oaths for various reasons. For example, when kicking off the Real Marriage sermon series at Mars Hill Church, I challenged the husbands in the room to stand up and take a vow that they would lead their family well. I then asked each of them to pray over his wife, to serve her Communion, and to worship together holding hands.

Just to be clear, he just told us there are times when God lets people to take oaths.  Since people still make wedding vows and nobody usually puts up a fuss about that we can grant that Jesus' teaching on divorce does not necessarily mean Jesus taught nobody should ever marry or avoid making a vow to the Lord. But obviously I'm setting aside Driscoll's reference to NT scholars who responsibly investigate the context and text now that I've mentioned that.  That's not really a point to belabor.

No, the point to consider is that having established a modicum of backing for the idea that sometimes vows are okay to make (let's remember Paul makes a vow in Acts 18, which means it's impossible to interpret even Paul's understanding of what he may have heard about Jesus' teaching on vows in a purely literalistic way) Mark Driscoll moves on.  Driscoll, without missing a beat, jumps straight into how he challenged men to take a vow.  Which vow? He meant this remarkably idiotic vow:

Yes, I realize the phrasing "remarkably idiotic" is pretty intense but it is pretty intensely justified and, arguably, a gentle way of making my point given the passive voice of the vow throughout and its the breath-takingly foolish final clause.  That final clause is (drumroll):

"And my grandchildren will worship the same God as me because my children will worship the same God as me."

So Driscoll has found a way to take the words of Jesus, consider what a few scholars said about Jesus' teaching on vows, and then rounded things off with generalizations about men and cowards and vows. I don't see how any man in his right mind can jump from Jesus' teaching about vows to Driscoll's vow from Real Marriage without skipping over the following passages:

Proverbs 27:1
Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth

James 4:13-16
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.”  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil.

Ecclessiastes 5:2-7
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart    to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

A dream comes when there are many cares, and many words mark the speech of a fool.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow.  It is better not to make a vow than to make one and not fulfill it.  Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?  Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God.

Matthew 5:33-37 (NIV)

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’  But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne;  or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black.  All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. [for another translation that renders "evil one" see the NKJV).

Keep that in mind, Jesus taught that the wrong kind of vows were not just vows to not be made, they were also utterance that came "from evil" or "from the evil one".  Just in case we're not clear on "the evil one" there's five books by Jeffrey Burton Russell on the devil you can read at your leisure.

Now it's perfectly fine to pray that the Lord will bless you with believing children and grandchildren, though it surely helps if you're already married when you pray such things. But to vow something when you cannot turn one hair black or white that involves the hearts and minds of people a generation removed from you is so patently stupid it bears repeating, such a vow is patently stupid even if by some magical technicality Driscoll and others would say this feeble-minded vow somehow does not constitute a form of boasting.

The self-referential justification of a stupid vow by saying it's the kind of vow Jesus wasn't teaching against does not make the vow any less assinine for prooftexting the words of Jesus without reference to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or James.  As Driscoll might put it, seeing as James was, like, Jesus' brother you'd think that the kid brother/apostolic author of a book of the Bible would trump Driscoll's application.

If Driscoll wants to have a Tough Text Tuesday that's actually about a tough text or two I suggest the story of Jephthah (Judges 11) cross-referenced with Hebrews 11. Quaintly enough that story involves a warrior dude who's also a daddy making a big vow to God that ends with him sacrificing his only child, his daughter.  It even says the spirit of God came on him and he made the vow. I'd also suggest the lying spirit who visited the prophets of Ahab, or the Levite's concubine, or the prophet who died after dining with another prophet, or the time where David took a census (alternately described as spurred by God Himself or by Satan in Samuel and Chronicles), or Josiah's death in battle.

Another option is actually exegeting the Light-bearer and prince of Tyre passages from Isaiah and Ezekiel in some setting other than the tossed off citations from the 2008 spiritual warfare presentation. If both are considered references to Satan how is it that in their original literary and historical references Babylon (light bearer in Isaiah) is going to be the one to destroy Tyre and its royals in Ezekiel? The Tyre passage in Ezekiel is particularly tough if you consider that the seige ended in a kind of truce and annexation of Tyre into Babylon rather than complete destruction.

Or how about Jude's citations of 1 Enoch or the account of Moses' burial? I know Driscoll listed Richard Bauckham's Jude/2 Peter monograph so I can be pretty certain Driscoll has access to a commentary dealing with Jude's prodigous use of apocryphal literature.  The commentary, by the way, is a fun and informative read.

Maybe Driscoll could explain how Christians field the reference to a prophecy in a work that never made it into any but the Ethiopian and Eritreaen Orthodox canons? Maybe Driscoll can't do better on his Tough Text series for finding actually tough texts and he's catching softballs gently lobbed his way by himself.  Or maybe he can do better and deal with some actually tough texts, not just texts that conveniently prooftext points he could make (and has been making) without any reference to a biblical passage at all.


Mara Reid said...

Excellent observations as always, WTH. I enjoy reading your thoughtful analysis.

I'm sure it hasn't escaped your notice that your internet persona initials are WTH which could also stand for "What the h@ll?"

And I guess when analyzing Driscoll, one often has cause to say "WTH?"

And this vowing for future generations that you have no control over is definitely a "WTH?" moment.

Juniper said...

Wow. That's like that whole positive confession thing. Its a little odd in a guy who's supposed to be a pillar of the newly reformed. I wonder if this struck any of his parishioners as a little odd.

As far as hard text days go, Dan Kimball does a much better job.