OPTION 3: Speculations and what-ifs are okay if Driscolls give them
Having looked a bit at how Driscoll deals with what he calls Options 1 and 2 we’re now finally ready to get to Option #3:
... I believe she started out as not the most godly woman, but by the end, she’s among the most godly of women. And here are my reasons.
Number one: at this point in the story of Esther, no one’s walking with God. I’m not just picking on Esther. Some of you are like, “You’re picking on Esther.” I pick on Xerxes, I pick on Mordecai, I pick on me, I pick on you. Like, everybody gets a fair crack, right? And just because we’re examining one woman doesn’t mean we’re criticizing all women. In the same way, if we criticize Xerxes, it doesn’t mean we criticize all men, though we can, because all men are sinners and all women are sinners. And all of us, if they took the story of our life and told it in painstaking detail, we’d all be a little bummed, right?
Bummed enough to remove wood-chipper anecdotes from sermons, maybe? Ripping on everyone is not the same as demonstrating a plausible interpretation of Esther. Now if Driscoll’s trying to say no one in Esther can be shown to be godly the burden of proof is on Driscoll. If Driscoll is (less likely) saying there are no white hats but Jesus, as he has often said in the past, then this calls into question his interpretive approach to narrative literature in earlier sermons. Back in 2007 Driscoll transformed the book of Nehemiah into an analogy about Mars Hill, implicitly presenting himself as Nehemiah. Nehemiah was obviously wearing a white hat in Driscoll's preaching on Nehemiah when he preached “Fathers and Fighting”, for instance. Earlier in 2007 Driscoll preached through Ruth and Boaz was presented as the great kinsman redeemer by Driscoll during his Ruth series without ever addressing how a Moabite was permitted to marry into Israel when, mere months later, Driscoll would preach "Fathers and Fighting" and also not address the Moabites as among the nations Israelites took wives from or whether there was a legal conundrum of why Boaz was permitted to marry a Moabite even though the Torah was clear Moabites were not to be added to the assembly, and that Ezra and Nehemiah were angry Israelites married Moabite women.
He also has not yet laid out a significant textual case for why his Number One for Option #3 about Esther is the most sensible reading of the text. Here he’s going to try to come up with a reason.
No one in the story at this point is walking with God. No one. No one’s praying, no one mentions God, no one’s worshiping God, no one’s tithing to God, no one is going to Jerusalem, no one is celebrating the feasts and festivals, no one’s offering a sacrifice for their sin. There’s nothing. Nobody quotes a verse. Nothing. Nothing spiritual. And so it’s not just that Esther’s not godly, no one is.
"Nobody quotes a verse"? Let's talk about that line of argument as it applies to books of the Bible Driscoll has preached from multiple times.
For instance, Mark Driscoll preached repeatedly that Ecclesiastes was written by King Solomon who, according to Driscoll, was working his way to repentance. Here's the thing, the book of Ecclesiastes not only does not quote scripture, even its allusions to scripture can be read as casting doubt on whether humanity bears the image of God. Driscoll simply can't sustain his argument that nobody walks with God in Esther because nobody quotes Scripture because it's not like Qoholeth quoted the Bible in Ecclesiastes, not even when Qoholeth refers to God as a distant and disinterested party who dislikes people making vows they can't keep.
Then there's Song of Songs ... which is not exactly exploding with references to Numbers of Deuteronomy. Oh baby, did you remember to not boil that kid in its mother's milk? Good, now let's meditate together on that passage where it explains that a wife should not grab the testicles of a man who is fighting with her husband.
If the proof of following God is quoting Bible verses what scripture could Abraham quote? None of it was written yet. The idea that Esther or Mordecai aren’t walking with God because the author of Esther doesn’t have them quoting Bible is nonsense. This test was conspicuously absent from Driscoll's teaching on Song of Songs or Ecclesiastes. Maybe the author of Esther didn't give us a great big litany of Bible verses quoted by Esther or Mordecai because that was not the point of the narrative? Out of respect for the observation that Purim was never a festival commanded in the Torah authorial piety would have been demonstrated by removing any potential for mistakenly thinking the God of Israel had commanded observance of Purim in some direct way. Part of how this could have been done would be to avoid mentioning that Esther or Mordecai made use of any texts considered authoritative or canonical. Just throwing that idea out there for consideration.
Now let's see what else Driscoll says, among other things, in defense of his Option #3:
Do you know what? I find great encouragement and hope in the story of Esther, because you know what? I'm like Esther. I grew up in a marginal Catholic home. My mom did love Jesus. I didn't worship God. I didn't read the Bible. I didn't pray except for when I thought I was in real trouble and I'd sort of throw out a fire insurance policy to God. "God get me out of this please! Thanks." Occasionally, I'd show up for a Christmas or Easter service at the church, bored to death because my mom wanted me to, and it was sort of tradition. ...
And I believe what happens to Esther is, in the story, God gets her heart and she has a conversion experience of sorts, and she starts to grow spiritually as a person. I experienced the same thing in my life at age nineteen. I don't want to condemn Esther. What I want to do is I want to invite everyone whose story is like Esther to meet Esther's God and to change like Esther did.
Driscoll finds great hope and encouragement in his version of Esther. He says that if we hold that Esther was actually a godly woman then the book is worthless (even though it’s in the Bible). If someone proposes that Esther persevered amidst a miserable exilic life that included sexual exploitation Driscoll says, “Well, see, the Bible doesn’t say she was raped so she wasn’t an innocent victim of sexual assault.” But if someone says Esther was a nominal Jew who began to take her faith seriously Driscoll finds hope and encouragement in that because he was a nominal Catholic who eventually became an evangelical Protestant.
For years Driscoll has said we need to not put ourselves above the Bible but to submit to the Bible. Notice the rhetorical move Driscoll has made to reject what he calls Option #1. If Esther was a godly woman and Mordecai was a godly man who held fast amidst persecution and plans of genocide then the book is “worthless”. Let the full significance of Driscoll being will to dismiss the legitimacy of an entire book of the Bible if it is predicated on a narrative and characterization he disputes.
Driscoll's likely to keep asserting his Option #3 to the point where people in Mars Hill are likely to agree that it's true by dint of hearing it preached month after month. After all he's been teaching the Bible for sixteen years. At this point the longevity of the career may be more important to emphasize than the actual handling of the text. Benny Hinn has been teaching nearly twice as long as Driscoll has by now and does this mean that makes Benny Hinn nearly twice as authoritative in expository preaching? That nobody was walking with God at the start of the story needs a clearer case than Driscoll simply saying so. That's what exegesis is for. Now if Driscoll can make that case he should make it. Saying "it's in the Hebrew" is just a punch line for Driscoll, can he tackle the Hebrew for real from the pulpit?