Sunday, October 21, 2012

Esther as godless woman then Christ type: Mark Driscoll's interpretive mojo part 5

And now for the conclusion, which can be called: 
Esther Could Have Said No Cuz Driscolls Say So, and She's Also a Christ-Type

Number four: she could have said no. Now, some people want to say, “Well, she could have gotten punished.” Sometimes people in the Bible say no to rulers and they’re punished. Sometimes people in history say no to rulers and they’re punished. We call them bold. But the truth is, there’s no indication that she would have gotten punished.

This is the best one of the bunch, probably, and by “best” that means “most stupid”. Esther could have said “no” because there was no indication that Xerxes made any lethal gesture to punish Vashti for not doing what he commanded of her. This is where the more Driscoll tries to pump out how powerful and bad Xerxes was the more insipid Number four becomes.  What does Driscoll present as an actual argument that Esther could have said no?  Well, one is that Vashti was put away for the rest of her life rather than killed or sent away.  That’s not the most persuasive reason in itself but it has some modicum of plausibility if only for being derived from Xerxes actions and words observed within the book of Esther.

Now Driscoll can't have it both ways about Xerxes here.  A guy who castrates men and subjugates women should have been told "no", so Driscoll says, but in an exilic context in a setting where women were not exactly prized as having their own agency and autonomy claiming that Esther should have done something like saying "no" presupposes a great deal that has yet to be proven. Somehow being banished from the presence of the king for years is not considered punishment by Driscoll.  Did Driscoll forget those laws in the Torah related to selling daughters into slavery?  Did Driscoll forget the part where the prohibition against coveting lumps in wives with other property Israelites were not supposed to covet?  If even within a Jewish context women could be considered property and women captured in war could be taken as wives as long as there wasn't a command of total destruction then what does Driscoll think the options for Jewish girls in an exilic context actually were? 

Well, Driscoll also introduced this idea related to Number four, “She could have said no”.  This one you have to see or hear to believe. 

... I was talking to Ashley about this.  I was like, "Argh!" Because this freaks--as a dad, freaks me out. Some nasty pervert takes my daughter for a year at the spa to compete against four hundred women with one night in bed.  Okay. I asked Ashley, my sweet daughter.  I said, "What would you do?" She said, "I would say no. I would run away. I would move to another country. I would throw a fit. I would be so disobedient, basically, in the palace, they would send me home."  "Yes, okay. What do you think I would do?" "You would fight" "Yes I would" ...

So even though Driscoll has mentioned his degree in exegetical theology in press materials and has blogged mentioning a commentary on Esther he likes ... when it comes time to make a case for why Esther was not that godly in the beginning he comes up with "Esther should have said no".  His reasons for this view amount to 1) she might not have gotten punished and 2) his daughter Ashley said that, put in Esther’s position, she would say no.  If that’s the best Driscoll can do then he has no basis complaining about other pastors or scholars providing speculation about anything in any biblical text anywhere. 

Driscoll takes a step even further.  Having attempted to demolish the idea that Esther started out as a godly woman Driscoll nevertheless makes the following statement:

Well, ultimately, Esther is a type of Christ. She’s a portrait, a picture, a sign, a symbol pointing to Jesus Christ. The whole Bible is about Jesus. Now, it’s for us, but it’s about him. It’s not primarily about us, it’s primarily about him, and so at this point, they’re waiting for a greater King, and another kingdom, and a Savior, and a deliverer, and everybody and everything is yearning, and longing, and leaning toward the coming of Jesus. And so Esther is a type of Christ. She’s a little picture and a portrait.

Well, Mark Driscoll has said that Jack Bauer was a lot like Jesus. As typological comparisons go couldn't Esther, in a Jewish setting, seem more like a type of Moses who, though brought up in a pagan imperial setting, advocated on behalf of her people?  Or at a more mundane and plausible level in the order of books in the Tanakh Esther and Daniel could be described as Jews living in an exilic setting. It's not that Esther can't typologically be interpreted in some way, it's that Driscoll's Esther/Christ typology seems ad hoc. 

If Driscoll wants us to take Option #3 seriously how does Esther’s initial godlessness and nominal Jewishness fit into a Christ typology?  Considering all the labor Driscoll went through over ten years to make sure Jesus couldn't possibly be read into the Song of Songs by cracking gay panic jokes Jesus standing over him with a hard-on how, exactly, does Mark Driscoll rationalize making Esther a Christ-type? 

But if Driscoll were going to sustain a Christ typology for Esther why would his Option #3 make that work better than either Option #1, Option #2 or a combination of 1 and 2?  Who's to say that Options #1 and #2 don't overlap once we define them beyond straw man terms?  We're basically told that because Esther didn't say "no" and because the book of Esther doesn't tell us she was sexually assaulted she wasn't sexually assaulted. But then she somehow ends up ultimately being a Christ type in the same sermon where Driscoll says “She could have said no” because apparently it’s smarter to rely on the sentiments of a 15-year old girl in Seattle who is his daughter than to demonstrate that he actually earned a degree in exegetical theology.  Mark Driscoll seems to have made a point of including his children in public settings to address something considered controversial, in some settings, before, but he hasn't made things one of his children said quite so central to a sermon purporting to explain a biblical text and proposing that a biblical figure was of less than estimable character. 

So what good does it do for Driscoll to refer to Karen Jobes' commentary as the best one he'd read on the book of Esther if he's going to ignore what Jobes wrote and come up with his own take on things?  Since Rachel Held Evans already referred to Jobes' commentary and quoted from her work let's link to that.  Go see for yourself that what Evans quotes contradicts even the possibility of Driscoll’s “She could have said no” claim.  For Driscoll to tout Jobes' commentary and then say what he's said about Esther from the pulpit he has to practically pretend that Jobes didn't say anything about whether or not Hadassah had any say in the matter; he can then say the girl should have said "no" even though Jobes' commentary, as quoted by Rachel Held Evans, shows this was not a compelling interpretive option.  Driscoll's use of Jobes' commentary comes off as nothing more than using the halo effect of a specific biblical scholar, who happens to be a woman, as a way to set up Mark Driscoll saying just about anything he wishes to say. 

When Driscoll has the chance to make his big point about Esther's imperfect early character, and her “could have said no” option, who does he appeal to?  Himself and his daughter Ashley Driscoll, a fifteen year old girl who, as yet, has not completed a degree in exegetical theology.  Mark Driscoll made a case that a teenage girl should have said "no" to an internationally famous and powerful leader who was seeking his own glory and renown for his name and achievements, and who claimed divine authority and sanction for his decisions  ... by using his teenage daughter and his own personal story as the basis for saying Esther and Mordecai made bad decisions?  Driscoll has not only done this from his pulpit, it's been made available for the whole English-speaking world to listen to or download.  

The irony of all that seems too meta for mere words. 

Then after all that, after attempting to spell out why Esther was godless at the start of the book, Driscoll tells us she is ultimately a Christ-type.  


Anonymous said...

I have problems with this line of exegesis - as you do - but imperfection need not necessarily rule out also being a Christ-type.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Very much agreed, Esther's shortcomings, whatever they may have been don't preclude her being a Christ type.

An overarching problem with Options 1-3 as Driscoll presents them is that none of them are necessarily separate or conflicting possibilities just because he presents them that way. David sinned a lot but was considered a prophet in Acts. Moses failed to enter the Promised Land but delivered the law to Israel. Elijah did not annoint rulers he was instructed to appoint but was still taken up in a chariot of fire. And, of course, both Moses and Elijah are presented with Jesus at the Transfiguration.

Building this sermon on a false trichotomy was a disappointing move. He could have done better and if he'd zeroed in more on Esther as a Christ-type without spending so much time saying other views besides his about Esther were "possible" but not "probable" he could have had a solid sermon instead of a bag of rhetorical cheap tricks and lazy anecdotes. :( He really, seriously, could have done better than this if he actually wanted to.

Anonymous said...

"Building this sermon on a false trichotomy was a disappointing move."

Really? You were disappointed? Were you actually expecting scripturally and historically faithful biblical exegesis and eisegesis? I doubt it.

So "a disappointing move" probably is not the right expression. Perhaps a more accurate statement of your feelings would be "Building this sermon on a false trichotomy was to be expected."

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Well, "disappointing" and "expected" are not mutually exclusive, especially not where Driscoll handling OT literature is concerned. :) A person can anticipate that Driscoll might make the Bible into a sock puppet that always agrees with him (again) and still be disappointed that this keeps happening.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your analysis. My own personal belief based on listening to a number of his sermons is that he is a preaching narcissist. The Bible will mean what he chooses it to mean (much like Humpty Dumpty in his speech to Alice). Actual support and valid exegesis is not necessary. A mere appearance will suffice. You'd think I'd have gotten used to this by now. Besides, how do you miss the fact that this story is told as a farce with a lot of adult beverages at Purim? I'd have thought he'd tack on to that one right away.

Anonymous said...

By the way, do you think Driscoll's ever heard of form criticism?

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

It's possible he's heard of form criticism but he might associate that with liberal scholarship and avoid it.

Headless Unicorn Guy said...

I said, "What would you do?" She said, "I would say no. I would run away. I would move to another country. I would throw a fit. I would be so disobedient, basically, in the palace, they would send me home."

In the palace of Xerxes, Padishah, Shahanshah, Shah of Iran and Not-Iran, make that "be so disobedient, basically, they would impale her. On a blunt stake."

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

It's probably a given that significant research into Persian/Iranian history wouldn't be one of Ashley's strong points.