Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Monday, April 20, 2009

Glamour Magazine Theology

A Rant

For a bit of background, it may be helpful for uninformed readers to check out these articles (including comments) by John MacArthur posted, here, here, here, and here. If anything, read the last one.

I will confess up front that I am a member of Grace Community Church and I work at Grace to You radio ministries. I would imagine that admission discredits any remarks I may make against Mark Driscoll in the minds of his supporters as the whining criticisms of another sycophantic MacArthurite. I guess that is to be expected; but my reaction is one of a Christian man who loves holiness and has a deep passion for personal holiness in the lives of God's people, and God's pastors are to set the example of holiness for others to emulate.

So last week, when I read with stunned dismay the comments left at the Shepherd's Fellowship blog in reaction to John MacArthur's articles on the Song of Solomon and his expressed alarm at the recent practice of preachers, most notably Mark Driscoll, to teach sexually explicit messages taken from the book, my passion for holiness was stirred and I had to speak my mind. I apologize in advance if my thoughts ramble. I have been mulling them over in my mind for a number of days, but that doesn't necessarily mean I will sound coherent. And they are certainly my own and I bear the responsibility for them.

The current trend in American "Christendom" is preachers basically scandalizing their congregations by talking openly about sexual matters from the pulpit. These lurid sermons are suppose to engage the culture by telling worldly people Christians aren't hung up about sex and God is cool about sex, too. The main culprit is Mark Driscoll, who presented a recent sermon series from the Song of Solomon as ancient sex-tips to spice up the bed room like those articles I see advertised on the cover of Glamour and Redbook magazines. But other pastors also believe they too need to be graphic in their discussions of sex, including the descriptions of anatomy and performed acts.

John is rightly concerned, because in addition to mangling the divine picture God paints in the Song of Solomon of pure, marital love between a husband and a wife by reading into it the most prurient images imaginable, there are Christians who genuinely defend such sex talk from the pulpit and dismiss these type of sermons out of hand as if nothing troubling has taken place. The real trouble maker, according to these people, are folks like John who is an old fuddy-dud man who is living in a past generation that no longer has a relevant thing to offer our world.

Laying aside the exegesis of the Song of Solomon, my rant is aimed at these defenders. Predictably, the vast majority of John's critics and Driscoll's enablers are college students or college graduates. They are young men who identify with being the restless and reformed "new" Calvinists. They think because Mark Driscoll also identifies with "new" Calvinism, claims to be orthodox, and has a popular ministry in Seattle, he is to be heard.

A few bloggers even annoyingly attempt to offer thought analysis of the whole Driscoll affair by framing the controversy he generates and the critics, like John who takes the time to respond, as disagreeing over secondary matters as to what methods one should use to engage the culture. Even more galling is how the bloggers will offer their pastoral advice as if they are speaking from a wisdom that transcends everyone who has provided an opinion on the matter, but in reality, their attitude shouts a hubris of symphonic levels. They challenge John MacArthur, a man who has been in ministry longer than any of them have been alive and treat him as if he were a Fundamentalist finger wagger decrying contemporary Christian rock music.

Speaking from personal experience, twenty years ago I was once a young Calvinist, but I sought to keep myself away from being influenced by a sex drenched culture (even in the Bible-belt state of Arkansas) and I would had been appalled to hear this kind of sexual stuff that is passed off as biblical preaching. In fact, I can remember vividly a presentation on pornography I heard at my Church that was similar in content as the messages Driscoll gave on the Song of Solomon. There was a local moral crusader who attended our Church. He believed it was his calling in life to make a nuisance of himself by going to every liquor store, quick mart, and mom-and-pop video rental place and make sure they weren't selling dirty magazines or X-rated videos.

Some how he managed to talk our pastor into letting him give a presentation on why pornography was detrimental to our society. For 25 minutes or so on this one Wednesday evening, I fidgeted uncomfortably as he graphically described sexual deviancy from the pulpit of my church. Being in mixed company with young children present as he describe porn was bad enough, but what made me sick was him dishonoring God's people by subjecting them to sinful images just because he thought "we need to know what's going on."

With that introduction I have some questions and comments I would like to share with the friends of Driscoll who think this guy is a qualified preacher who is doing much to further the kingdom of God:

- Why is it even necessary for him to graphically address the topic of sex from the pulpit? Take for instance the message he gave at a Scottish church which is the catalyst for a lot of the terse comments left at the Shepherd's Fellowship blog. Why was it necessary for him to name specific anatomical parts during his talk? Even if he used medical terminology, how exactly is describing reproductive organs a good thing for edification on a Sunday morning?

- Do any of Driscoll's defenders even care if young children were present with their parents to hear his sexually charged talks? I would imagine not, seeing a good portion of them are probably not married. I happen to be a parent of young boys. My wife and I do all we can to protect them from our sexually perverse culture, but now, parents have to protect their children from a Church service, too? Will church services be subject to a rating system so I can know whether or not I should attend the particular service? I am amazed that parents who would otherwise be outraged if a radical teacher exposed their 10 year olds to sexual material in a public school class room want to give Driscoll a pass on his sex talks because he is supposedly a gifted communicator and has a big ministry in Seattle.

- I am personally troubled prominent men like John Piper and D.A. Carson are not as disturbed as I am with Driscoll's antics. The first time I heard Piper preach he gave a blistering exhortation for pastors to conduct themselves with holiness in the pulpit. Has he forgotten this sermon? I take the idea of "holiness in the pulpit" as abstaining from the use of sexually suggestive material during a sermon that utilize illustrations of human reproductive functionality.

- I am equally tired of Driscoll defenders claiming his conduct in the pulpit is off limits from public criticism because he has allegedly repented from his crude speech and his supposedly being discipled by men like John Piper. First, I have yet to see any signs of genuine repentance on his part. I am sorry, but the so-called "Spring Cleaning" post where a few links are removed from the internet does not equate biblical repentance. I thought everyone here were Calvinistic in their soteriology. They ought to know what true repentance entails. A complete putting off of sexually charged speech and the putting on of righteous speech demonstrates true repentance. Driscoll has yet to show me he has repented.

Additionally, I don't care who is mentoring him. He is a public figure whose influence sways thousands and he speaks his sex talk in a public forum. That makes him open for any and all criticism. If Todd Bentley, the grandma smashing evangelist in Florida, were being discipled by a fellow Pentecostal like Gordon Fee or Michael Brown, I don't believe any of Driscoll's defenders would insist Bentley was above public scrutiny and would demand we talk with him privately first before we pointed out his ministry was clownish.

- Then lastly, and I say this with sober-faced fear and trembling: I am fearful Driscoll is in danger of rushing headlong to a scandal. I do not wish at all a calamity like that to befall him. I pray it will never happen, because it would be more than just grievous, but could possibly have catastrophic consequences. But let us be frank: many of the major scandals in the past 20 years or so involving pastors falling from ministry revealed later an unhealthy preoccupation with denouncing sexual sin or secret sins in their sermons. I truly hope I am overreacting, but I don't believe the Proverbs speak in vain on the urgency of guarding our hearts.

I am reminded of what the Scriptures say of Rehoboam in 2 Kings 12:8, But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. The new king rejected the wise words of his elders and heeded the foolish naivety of his young and restless friends. As a result, the nation was divided and set in motion patterns of rebellion which only plunged the people of Israel into judgment. I do hope these young men who are enamoured with Mark Driscoll's notoriety will come to hear the warnings of their elders.

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Blogger Greg said...

Yeah, I read those through the cal.vini.st blog. I think John MacArthur really handled his critics nicely in the final post, especially by pointing out how they are guilty of doing the very thing they criticized him for in his public rebuking of Driscoll's dirty mouth.

As a young, unmarried man - I have to be on guard daily against the sexual assaults culture throws at me...telling me to sleep with many women, buy products that will make women sleep with me, and to turn women into my personal objects or I will be rejected wholesale from this society as some kind of leper. If I were to then walk into a sanctuary, where I would be going to praise my Lord for this desire to keep myself pure of worldly influences, only to be further assaulted with the same filth I just abandoned...what impression would I be left with?

How is it edifying to single men and women - to children and teenagers - to tell them about all the "great sex" supposedly found in scripture, which they are not to partake in. Are we not just throwing them back out into the world, lusting all the more because the thought is now in their head that scripture ORDERS them to go out and "get dirty" with whoever?

I read the sermon in question by Driscoll, and found no solace in his wise cracks or half-hearted apology to his single congregants. Like I said, it is hard enough to have the media saturate your brain with this stuff 24-7. When you go to the scriptures for solace, what will you find - the perverse imagery of Driscoll or the promise that a marriage is something sacred, worth setting aside your impure lusts for?

I'm glad people like John MacArthur are willing to throw down the gauntlet on these sorts of issues.

10:51 AM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger JOYce ~♥~ said...

Amen, Fred. God bless you...and Greg.

11:04 AM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I appreciate the insights. I have had my admiration of John increase tremendously over the last few weeks as he is the one big name preacher who has taken such a strong stance against Driscoll maintaining a pulpit after the hundreds of crude comments he has made in his sermons. Though he is pictured as out of touch by his critics, as John has said in the past, "truth and time go together."

11:06 AM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger Greg said...

The criticisms leveled against MacArthur remind me of something John Flavel once said, "...and howbeit you be nicknamed a Puritan and mocked, yet care not for that, but rejoice and be glad, that they who are scorned and scoffed by this godless and vain world, and nicknamed Puritans, would admit you to their society..."

Thanks JOYce, God bless you too.

11:13 AM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger donsands said...

"Do any of Driscoll's defenders even care if young children were present with their parents to hear his sexually charged talks?"

I thought about teenage girls more then anyone else. Ad=nd i thought if I were to sit there with my Mom. Boy! That got me nuts.
I guess those who think it's good, would just label me a prude.

Thanks for sahring your well spoken thoughts. It helps.
This is a spiritual wrestling going on.
And I also thought of Jimmy Swaggert way back when, who was too explicit with sex at times. And then we all know what happened.

11:32 AM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Fred, were any of my comments ungracious? I am confused as to why you assumed that I was speaking from a "wisdom that transcends everyone". I never said that, nor intimated such a thing. Also, to be fair, I addressed both John and Mark, not just John. Do you really mean to say that since John has been in ministry twice as long that no one can really challenge him? If you read my tone, I was very careful with all my words and non-judgmental and harsh or overly critical. I would appreciate if you would seek to represent the spirit of my blog in a more balanced way.

12:12 PM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger Kim said...

I am amazed that parents who would otherwise be outraged if a radical teacher exposed their 10 year olds to sexual material in a public school class room want to give Driscoll a pass on his sex talks because he is supposedly a gifted communicator and has a big ministry in SeattleThis is an excellent point, Fred.

I,too, am troubled that many of Mr. Driscoll's supporters believe that he should not be addressed publically despite the fact that his words are very public, indeed.

12:37 PM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger The Squirrel said...

Amen, Fred! Well said.

I thought Dr. MacArthur's comments were balanced and well thought out, and was also disappointed at the tone of many of the comments. As the teacher, so the disciples?


12:42 PM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Fred, were any of my comments ungracious? I am confused as to why you assumed that I was speaking from a "wisdom that transcends everyone". I never said that, nor intimated such a thing. Also, to be fair, I addressed both John and Mark, not just John. Do you really mean to say that since John has been in ministry twice as long that no one can really challenge him? If you read my tone, I was very careful with all my words and non-judgmental and harsh or overly critical. I would appreciate if you would seek to represent the spirit of my blog in a more balanced way. Jonathan,

It was not that your comments were ungracious. You were certainly gracious and charitable. In fact Phil told me you are a nice guy. However, your posts, particularly the final one, gives the impression you see this "disagreement" between Mark and Phil as some difference of opinion concerning a secondary matter and you are attempting to provide much needed clarity as a neutral outsider evaluating the evidence.

But Mark's preaching style is far from being a disagreement over the homiletic styles one employs when engaging the culture. This isn't like a debate as to what one should believe about the Christian Sabbath, the recipients of baptism, or courtship vs. dating. What Mark says in the pulpit is blasphemous and attempts to try to help others see his side of the issue are in my opinion like trying to help people see Bart Ehrman's side of his issues. Mark needs to repent. A repentance that goes beyond just taking down a web page or two. He needs a complete overhaul of his preaching ministry. He needs to trust God for the success of his ministry in downtown Seattle, not whether or not he is being just worldly enough to get the Goths and anarchists to come to his Church service. Of course, that certainly would change the entire make-up of his church and the people who come around because they hear the preacher say outrageous things on a regular basis would probably stop coming around.

Is John above criticism? Certainly not, as he himself would attest. However, in this instance, he is correct and I believe the young men who have been criticizing him because of their infatuation with Driscoll, rather than dismiss what he is saying as a man with 40 plus years of preaching in the pulpit as an effective minister, should seriously consider that he may just be right in this instance.

1:41 PM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Thanks Fred. Look, I am not Driscoll's blind advocate by any stretch of the imagination. I think he has been careless and his careless statements I do not condone. With that said, I am not sure I can characterize Mark's speech as blasphemy. I am not comfortable with that heavy of a charge. I think he totes the line when he makes comments like he did in Vintage Jesus about Christ's humanity. While I am not comfortable with all of that, I am also not comfortable avoiding clear and plain talk about the humanity of Jesus, discretely. To avoid talk about Jesus and even his most raw forms of humanity can be dangerous as it can lead to Docetism. I do believe however, that this most be done reverently and carefully.

3:22 PM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger donsands said...

"..comments like he did in Vintage Jesus about Christ's humanity."

How about Jesus' death on the Cross?

"Perhaps most peculiar is the fact that the cross, which represents Jesus' trotutous death, has become the most famous and opular symbol in all history. ...In our day, this would be akin to an AIDS-infected drug needle or used condom becoming the world's most beloved symbol".

I'm not sure what he means, but to me this blasphemy, no matter what he means.

5:42 PM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger P.D. Nelson said...

Fred I am not a fan of Mark Driscoll, nor am I member of his church or the Acts 29 network. And I agree totally with you regarding the holiness of the pulpit and the inappropriateness of such discussion in front of children or singles.

Yet, I recall back in the 1970's that the LaHayes wrote a sexual manual for Christians that I no longer have but "I think" made similar exposition of the Song of Songs. If anyone knows different please correct me. Now that was a book I understand and not a series of sermons preached from the pulpit. But could it not be said that the foundation was laid years ago and this is but the fruit?

6:47 PM, April 20, 2009  
Blogger JOYce ~♥~ said...

{{{♥†♥ HUGS}}}, you're welcome, thanks, Greg.

One of the ways of the mind is that what goes in isn't easily erased by a delete button click; like with a computer, it gets stored and can resurface and why it is important to settle on God's Word before rather than after the fact. That reality, this issue, and these discussions convict me mightily. It isn't those externals that in and of themselves defile but rather there is a heart...mind that needs guarded even with what is set before eyes. Ears.

There are men that I've found over the years to be those that love the Lord and care for the purity of God's Word and you and me in the faith. John MacArthur happens to be one among those men of God. Truly, our childhood and adulthood...marriage would have been very much different for the good if he had been my husband's or my very own father in the earthsuit; in the faith, he's to yet point me toward the ways of the world...of the adversary and that speaks to the will and power of God.

Sadly, there are those that defraud taking what is holy and morphing it prurient...sadly some are in the pulpit. Because of those that are protecting who God loves, it is possible that many may never choose to know straight from Mark Driscoll's unbridled mouth what isn't wise or Philippians worthy of peace and joy. I chose not to partake of what obviously isn't true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, etc.; there but for God's grace...

May God grant Mark Driscoll and us all wisdom unto correct perspective followed by righteous action.

Press on gentlemen...God richly bless you.

3:41 AM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...


I believe we are working under two different definitions of blasphemy. Blasphemy entails more than just thinking and teaching wrongly about God or Jesus. It can involve turning men's hearts from God. I understand folks criticisms of Vintage Jesus, but that is not at all under discussion here. My concern is with Driscoll invoking unnecessary sexual imagery from the pulpit; unnecessary sexual imagery that certainly can lead to blasphemy in the lives of those following his ministry. The situation is similar to Eli's sons in 1 Samuel who dishonored the sacrifice of the Lord and as a result the people abhorred the the offering of the Lord (1 Samuel 2:17). By treating sex talk so openly, crudely, and flippantly, Driscoll risks turning men's heart to not only lust at the images he invokes, but to treat sex as something flippant. That is how he is blasphemous.

5:24 AM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

PD wrote,
I recall back in the 1970's that the LaHayes wrote a sexual manual for Christians that I no longer have but "I think" made similar exposition of the Song of Songs.That may be true. I recall a similar book by Ed Wheat that approached the Song of Solomon in a similar way, too.

I will just say first, those were books intended for married couples, not sermons preached on a Sunday morning to a diverse congregation.

Also, I think the primary purpose of the SoS is to picture faithful, committed marriage as God intended it to be. I reject the traditional Reformed interpretation of the book that it is only meant as a poetic type picturing Christ and the church. That said, some of the poetic language could imply the joy a couple experience during intimacy, but the language is vague enough that it is left to one's personal imagination, and is not meant to be outlined in explicit detail from a pulpit.

That doesn't mean we can never preach the SoS. I have heard many good series on the book. But the pastor needs to treat the subject reverently and honor his audience by respecting their sensibilities.

5:42 AM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Greg said...

"But the pastor needs to treat the subject reverently and honor his audience by respecting their sensibilities."

That's simple, rock solid advice that I think a lot of pastors zoom right past in their attempt to connect with a fallen society on an extremely base level. We get it, people are sinful, lusting wretches...let's not take that and use it as an excuse to turn the pulpit into a license for lasciviousness.

6:30 AM, April 21, 2009  
Blogger Hayden said...


I too have had the same reaction that you have. I wrote a favorable review on this here blog a couple of years ago and now see how far Mark D. has taken this language. For those who want to trumpet that he has radically changed I say, poppycock! I have followed him for close to 3 years and this is not true.

I also noticed that the guys on the Shepherd's Fellowship that wanted to 'set John straight' were you Calvinist. I actually emailed one of them to meet face to face and I am hoping it happens because I would like to talk more about this topic. I think that problem frankly is 'zeal without knowledge' with young Calvinists. (I mean the use of the knowledge that they have)This is nothing less than 'youthful lust' as described in 2 Timothy 2:22. (For all who only think this is talking about sexual lust, study it first before you come to that final conclusion, it is alot for inclusive)

I no longer am going to recommend Mark Driscoll's ministry. He surely has done some good things and ACTS 29 is pretty good, but I would love to see repentance demonstrated for all to see because that would really help the young Calvinists as much if not more than his ecplanation of Song of Solomon.

7:11 AM, April 21, 2009  

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