Sunday, November 27, 2011

a lengthy postscript to the wartburg watch republication of my writing on Driscoll and SoS

Seeing as Driscoll preached on the passage in Luke where Jesus explains how He fulfilled all the Scriptures I don't consider the subject of Driscoll on Jesus in the Scriptures exhausted.  Unlike certain folks in blogger land I may disagree with Driscoll's approach, and I may be skeptical about how likely he is to change, but I'm not interested in only ever assuming the worst about him all the time.  I do have slightly better things to think about during the holiday season than listening to one of his sermons for the moment.  I've got eye surgery and writing projects and other things to consider beyond listening to a sermon for upwards of an hour and if I'm going to listen to sermons I've got people I want to listen to more urgently than Driscoll.  Jerram Barrs, Sinclair Fergueson, and the pastors at my own church come to mind.

But in the interest of fairness to Driscoll's often changing theological and textual convictions (i.e. Schuller and Jakes as well as becoming more charismatic than cessationist, for instance) I will eventually touch on his preaching in the future.

But this post script I'm about to post deals not merely with Driscoll but with MacArthur.  I want to illustrate why, overall, MacArthur's rebuttal to Driscoll is ultimately pointless.  This is not a simple matter of Driscoll's take on Song of Songs insisting that oral sex is in SoS 2:3.  This is also not as simple as fanboys for MacArthur simply assuming that SoS can't be allegorical.  This is about the basis on which a whole book of the Bible has any possible reference to Christ scrubbed out of it in reaction to the Puritans and allegorists over millenia as being true to the biblical text ... in contrast to the same people endorsing without serious explanation or discussion how Satan is typologically read into prophetic texts where "the plain meaning of Scripture" couldn't possibly lead one to that reading.

I will say, out of consideration for MacArthur fans, that though I often differ with MacArthur on a few issues he's more responsible about bringing up some interpretive and historical issues connected to Ezekiel 28, which I discuss at some length below.  So between Driscoll and MacArthur the bigger contradiction is inherent in Driscoll's handling of biblical texts rather than MacArthur's.  MacArthur is also not as willing to claim that poetic images in Song of Songs refer to such specific things as Driscoll insists are in the text. 

With all that out of the way, here we go:

When the Bridegroom mustn't be literal and the Lake of Fire must:
Driscoll sees Satan in texts that clearly and literally refer to pagan kings

By now I've pointed out the historical challenge of Driscoll (or for that matter, John MacArthur) attempting to completely sidestep any typological or allegorical reading of Song of Songs.  Millennia of church tradition are difficult to ignore.  If millennia of church tradition are easy to ignore there's the realization that Jamnia consented to the canonization of Song of Songs on the grounds that an allegorical reading was acceptable. 

The plainest reading possible of Song of Songs on the assumption that Solomon must have written the book runs into the problem of the sixty queens and eighty concubines and virgins beyond number.  If this is Solomon, really Solomon, then a "plain" reading of the text that attempts to skirt how many women "Solomon" refers to in his harem is trying to have things both ways. 
Not all scholars even agree that "the Song of Songs, which is Solomon's" necessarily indicates Solomonic authorship, only possible Solomonic patronage.

Having established that Song of Songs is a book Driscoll (and John MacArthur) think should not be read typologically or allegorically it remains to be discussed where Driscoll, particularly, lands on other passages that he chooses to interpret literally that may not be as literal.  For instance, if Driscoll can joke that the Song of Songs cannot be literal because he'll be bummed if Jesus is preparing to have sex with him, why has Driscoll over the years been quite a bit more literal about "Hell" even within discussion of Revelation?  If the Wedding Feast of the Lamb has to be a metaphor so Driscoll doesn't suffer an end-of-time gay panic moment why would the lake of fire be literal?  Why would it be "hell" if "hell" is clearly described as being thrown into the lake of fire anyway? What is the basis for reading one apocalyptic passage metaphorically while insisting that the Lake of Fire has to be literal within just the book of Revelation?  To be sure Driscoll isn't the only conservative preacher who has done this over the years but in Driscoll's case his eagerness to reject typological or allegorical reading of the groom/bride metaphor in just one book of the Bible in favor of a literal reading raises the question of how, when it comes to Revelation, he selectively literalizes Hell where the other apocalyptic imagery is allowed to remain metaphorical so Driscoll doesn't get his gay panic moment.

For that matter while Driscoll has been eager to not see Jesus in Song of Songs, why shouldn't he then refrain from embracing the plainest, most literal, and least allegorical reading of other biblical texts?  If Driscoll's hermeneutic is to avoid allegorical readings where he thinks they're not warranted it would seem he chooses to NOT see Jesus in Song of Songs while seeing Satan in two passages where Satan is not actually the literal and plain referent in biblical passages. Let's pick two non-random passages historically linked to Satan Driscoll referred to in his Christus Victor presentation on spiritual warfare.

Isaiah 14 is often cited as referring to Satan when it referred to the king of Babylon.  Since in context Isaiah is referring to a long-since deposed pagan ruler why would Driscoll (or MacArthur for that matter) be so eager to accept a typological or allegorical association of the Morning Star with Satan when that is not what a "plain" reading would indicate?  If Jesus "can't" be in Song of Songs why is Satan the Daystar in Isaiah?

Then there is the prince of Tyre and the king of Tyre passage from Ezekiel 28, which is in the broader context of Ezekiel 26-28.

Ezekiel specifically says Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, will lay siege to Tyre for its mockery of Jerusalem.  I will note here that John MacArthur notes that Ezekiel 28 was incomplete, suggesting that the king of Tyre passage refers to Satan.  Well, let's discuss what that really means in military/historical terms.  Ezekiel predicted that Nebuchadnezzar would lay siege to Tyre and destroy it.

Well ... Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre for THIRTEEN YEARS and did not actually destroy it.  A compromise was established in which Tyre agreed to be a Babylonian precinct in exchange for not being completely destroyed and Babylon could turn its attention to Egypt. The reason, skeptics may easily proffer, that the king of Tyre passage in Ezekiel 28 "has" to be interpreted by Christians as finding typological fulfillment in the final defeat of Satan is because Christians can't concede that a prophecy in the Bible made by Ezekiel regarding Nebuchadnezzar destroying Tyre could not have been fulfilled as written. 

But this is where we get to the question of how the apocalyptic idiom, which for all intents and purposes Ezekiel started, should even be read.  Even skeptical scholars and rationalist students of the Bible note that Ezekiel kept everything he wrote as it was even in cases where it would seem that doing so would have given people written evidence that Ezekiel was a false prophet and provided a basis for his being put to death!

Now another thing to consider is that at this point Ezekiel was prophesying in a completely post-exilic setting.  In other words, even if the prophet Ezekiel made predictions in the name of God regarding events that failed to take place in his lifetime there was no covenanted people of God in a form organized enough to implement Deuteronomy 16-18 and those passages regarded how to approach prophets within a pre-exilic community anyway. All that to say this, a preacher like Driscoll who simply affirms that Ezekiel 28 refers to Satan has not bothered to engage with what Ezekiel was really writing about in his own lifetime, let alone how the typological introduction of Satan as the ultimate referent point for the "king of Tyre" prophecy constitutes an apologetics question.  MacArthur does at least grant the issue comes up since the king of Tyre was not actually destroyed in the manner described by Ezekiel. 

However, merely to suggest that the king of Tyre had to be Satan because the king of Tyre wasn't in Eden is to miss how hyperbolic apocalyptic language is. David's account of God's rescue in Psalm 18 is far more flamboyant than the much more prosaic account in Samuel of the troubles God actually delivered David from. 

Preachers like Driscoll and MacArthur can say that Isaiah 14's reference to the king of Babylon and Ezekiel 28's reference to the king of Tyre refer to Satan.  There's just a problem of exegesis involved.  The problem is that the Babylonian king whose fall is anticipated by Isaiah 14 is the same king who will be the cause of the fall of the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28.  Now, sure, we can say that typologically there's reference to Satan and typology can account for a lot.  But if that's the case then why COULDN'T Christ be the bridegroom in Song of Songs if conservative preachers who reject an allegorical or typological reference to Christ in Song of Songs insist on a typological reading of Satan into both Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 when the context of both prophetic passages forces us to say that one "Satan" is prophesied to destroy the other "Satan"?

In Driscoll's spiritual warfare presentation he affirms without the slightest hesitation that Ezekiel 28:14 refers to Satan.  But if Ezekiel 28 refers to Satan what about Ezekiel 26-28 as a whole, which is obviously referring to Tyre?  Why does a snippet of Ezekiel 28 get to refer to Satan while Christ can't possibly be referenced in a Christian's reading of Song of Songs?  Well, the history as to how and why Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 came to be read as referring to Satan is rather lengthy and historian Jeffrey Burton Russell published no less than five books on the history of Christian and Jewish thought about the Devil (all of which are very useful references and are considered standards on the subject).  The shortest practical answer for the present discussion is to say that a great deal of the ideas associated with the devil/Satan and demons developed not within the actual canonical books themselves but in intertestamental literature.  This is a subject which Catholic and Eastern Orthodox scholars are a bit more familiar with, and Christians in more "mainline" settings. 

Now the reason I bring all of this up is to point out that when a preacher like Driscoll (or MacArthur) rejects an allegorical approach to Song of Songs on the grounds that that is not the "plain" reading of the text here's a question you can ask them, if that's true, why should people trust that their take on Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28 is "really" referring to Satan when that is not the "plain" reading of the text?  If you should avoid allegorical readings of biblical texts because, as MacArthur said in his response to Driscoll, that opens up all sorts of room for huge mistakes, why would both Driscoll and MacArthur stick to a view of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 that developed within the medieval period, when it would seem that those pesky Papists were super-imposing their ideas on to the Bible.  Don't people get sent to Hell for imposing their own ideas on the Bible?  Well, if that's the case couldn't it be said that those who claim Satan is being referred to in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 have sent themselves to Hell for claiming God's word talks about Satan when a literal and plain reading doesn't establish that? 
Satan is referred to in the book of Job, where he proposes a bet that God accepts. 

Satan is also referred to as accusing the high priest in Zechariah 3.  Satan is described as inciting David to take a census near the end of his reign in 1 Chronicles 21 while 2 Samuel 24 tells us that God Himself was the one who incited David to take a census of Israel because the Lord was angry with His people.  Considering all of these issues if Driscoll thinks Song of Songs can't possibly refer to Jesus under any reading then he's welcome to take that approach. 

But it would help if he could then also explain how, by the praxis of rejecting all allegorical reading of Jesus on to Song of Songs, he has so simply contented himself to accepting that Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 refer to Satan when that isn't a plain reading of a biblical text in either case.  How does "Satan" cast out "Satan"?  After all, Jesus said that if Satan is casting out Satan his kingdom is divided against itself and cannot stand.  And, of course, this is right.  But that would be true regardless of how Mark Driscoll or John MacArthur handle Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. 

Particularly in the case of Ezekiel 28 Jewish scholars have noted regularly that the literal fulfillment of Ezekiel 26-28 didn't come to pass.  They don't fret about it.  Christians introduced a typological reading of Ezekiel 28 to refer to Satan over time.  Now if a guy like Driscoll claims to "just preach what's in the Bible" he may just have to avoid ever actually unpacking the exegetical and textual issues of Ezekiel 28 and avoid any comparison of what Ezekiel wrote to what can be established by archaeological evidence regarding the military campaigns of Babylon at that time.

Or ... if he can grant that Ezekiel 28 DOES refer to Satan he can ALSO grant that it is within the scope of historic Christian thought to take a typological approach to Song of Songs in which the woman is God's people and the man is God.  After all, if what's good for the goose is good for the gander then Driscoll's goose could be cooked when he tries to apply his "just what's in the Bible" approach to Song of Songs (with no possible reference to Jesus) to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 (in which a Babylonian king who is supposed to be the Devil destroys the king of Tyre who is supposed to be the Devil, too).  Apparently the Devil gets to show up in some places where he isn't literally mentioned in the text but God Himself, who inspired Scripture, can't be bothered to show up in the one book Driscoll and his critic MacArthur say has to be read mainly about marriage and sex.


Mara Reid said...

WTH, this was definitly one of my main issues with Driscoll. How he arbitrarily declared that SoS couldn't be allegorical and how he mocked the notion all together. Just as he declared, arbitrarily, that SoS absolutely wasn't chronological. No support for the declaration, just take his word for it because he knows and you don't.
Even though I appreciated MacArthur coming against the outrageous aspects of Dricoll's teachings and condemned Driscoll's blatant mockary of those who hold to some allegorical view, you are right, MacArther and Driscoll are inconsistent and arbitrary in deciding what gets to be allegory and what doesn't.
But whereas MacArthur has some grace to those who don't fall in step with his version, Driscoll has none.
Like you, I don't see Driscoll as evil incarnate. But when dealing with Dricollites or Martians, as you call them, I pull no punches. Driscoll and his followers don't. So neither will I.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

As Michael Spenser put it years ago, the problem is that even though a lot of what Driscoll had to say was actually genuinely useful and sensible advice about marriage it was still something that had nothing to do with the actual text of SOng of Songs. Driscoll discussed the problem of men sexually assaulting, abusing, using, and raping their wives in one sermon in Peasant Princess. He never discussed that in the original series at all. So there are some things that have changed for the better.

If anything that makes Driscoll's attitude toward typological reading even more silly. It becomes nothing more than a shtick to get attention.

Driscoll's gearing up for a book tour and a 13 week sermon series called "Real Marriage". It would seem he's a quintessential Seattle pastor who believes in going green and recycling as much material as possible. I'm willing to grant he's grown and matured a lot. He and Grace have been together for two decades.

But I believe that one of the dangers, maybe even deceptions with Driscoll, is that he believes that because his marriage is better than ever and that he would never use his wife that he doesn't use people. If his +10 friend is his wife then the highest friend is the one who bears his offspring. "Friend" in any other context seems to mean someone who promotes his books or whose books he can promote. Okay, but that is surely not all there is to friendship.

As Lewis and Keller and other Christians have put it, friendship is unique among the loves a Christian can experience because it is not predicated on a biological tie. You don't choose friends because of sexual attraction or because you have blood ties to them. Friendship was valued in ancient societies because it was regarded as a love that could transcend other considerations. Yet in our age, as Lewis remarked, eros has been elevated above the other loves.

So in that respect the more Driscoll's marriage improve the more deceived he may remain about friendship because he conflates "real friendship" with marriage. A real friend is not simply someone who spawns a brood with you. How many "friends" has Driscoll written off, forsaken, forgotten, abandoned, or cast off when they stopped being useful?
Has Driscoll spent even five to fifteen minutes at any point in the last six years talking to guys like Mike Gunn or Lief Moi, whom he described as in the "good friend" category? I wouldn't be a lot of money that he has.

We know David, as he grew older, never really became a better husband or father. By extension, it's not mine to imagine that Driscoll will become a better friend as he continues to focus on being the best lover and parent he can be. It may be his emotional energies and reserves just aren't big enough to call anyone a friend who isn't useful to him at the moment or who has borne his kids. I'm not sure, but I'm throwing this out as someone who's observed him and his ministry for 11 years, for what little it may be worth.
We American evangelicals seem to be so family-focused that we don't care if a preacher has no demonstrable idea how to really be friends with someone as long as he tells people to keep their pants on; yet paradoxically he's trying to explain how real friendship is vital to making a marriage last. This is another point at which I think Driscoll's fans should be cautious. We like to say, amongst evangelicals that a marriage should be founded on friendship and not just visceral attraction. But if a preacher has no friends but the woman with whom he's agree divorce is not an option how would this guy know what real friendship is like? Just an idea for consideration.

Mara Reid said...

I agree with you and Spenser. When I was challenged to listen to the peasant princess series part 2 (that contained the infamous SoS 2:3 teaching) I had rather few places of disagreement concerning Driscoll's talk about marriage. He had some good advice.
It was when he got into SoS and started teaching on THAT that I couldn't stomach. It was what he did to SoS to form it into what he wanted it to be rather than leaving it alone and letting it be what it was that got my goat.

Very interesting thoughts on his lack of understanding of what a friend is.
Very good insight on how he uses people along with scripture to build his kingdom on earth.
Might be worth its own post.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

If you read much faster than you listen there's also transcripts of sermons now, which I find more useful.

Plus, the recommended reading lists MH posts for sermon series are often very useful. Of course they often include books I already own, like Richard Bauckham's commentaryon Jude and 2 Peter mentioned in the Peter series; or Klyne Snodgrass's Stories With Intent about Jesus' parables. I did used to be on the theology response team, after all! :) Just because I think Driscoll's weaknesses are too big to ignore doesn't mean I can't notice when he recommends some great books. It's thanks to Michael Spenser I was reminded that Snodgrass is still active as a scholar.