@JohnPiper, your hope is God, not the Bible

John Piper, the well known pastor, confuses me. Adrian Warnock, who is attending Piper’s current conference, quotes him as saying “Your God is whatever you find most joy in” and “We deserve to go to hell for not preferring God above all things”. Great! But on the same day Piper tweets “My only hope is The Book” – note the capitals. (To be precise, the tweet is from Piper’s ministry, quoting Piper.) Does this mean that the Bible is Piper’s God? Does it mean that he deserves hell for preferring the Bible to God? He certainly doesn’t deserve my respect as a teacher for this kind of heretical teaching.

John Piper preaching today

John Piper preaching today – how many feet above contradiction?

Sadly this kind of confusion is all too common in more-or-less evangelical churches, where the Bible is treated as God. We read in it that “the Word was God” (John 1:1), but forget that for John the Word or Logos was Jesus Christ, not the Bible. In fact nowhere in the Bible does the word “word” clearly refer to the written Scriptures, although sometimes it does refer to the gospel message or other teaching from God which is written in the Scriptures.

So let’s stop thinking and behaving as if the Bible is God. It is a book of words from God, and of words of men inspired by God. (I don’t want to get into a discussion here of exactly what that means.) Yes, we can find our hope in this book, but our hope is not the book, it is the God whose good news for us is written in the book. John Piper, you need to remember this, and preach it.

Did God sink the Titanic? Thomas Hardy and John Piper

RMS TitanicArchdruid Eileen has posted an interesting poem by Thomas Hardy, The Convergence of the Twain. And it seems that this is a genuine poem, not a Beaker Folk satire. According to Wikipedia, it was published in 1915. And it is relevant today because it commemorates the sinking of the Titanic, 100 years ago today.

What is shocking to read is that Hardy, the 19th century novelist who became a 20th century poet (his last novel was published in 1895 and his first poetry in 1898), clearly blamed God for sinking the Titanic. The iceberg that sank the TitanicIt is “The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything” who prepared the iceberg, and when “the Spinner of the Years // Said ‘Now!'” the collision took place. And Hardy seems to imply that this is judgment on “the Pride of Life that planned her”. But we also note that the poem depersonalises the disaster by saying nothing about the horrific loss of life.

Now Hardy was well known for his religious scepticism, and leaned towards agnosticism and deism. So it is hardly surprising to see a somewhat jaded image of God in his poem.

But I can’t help wondering what John Piper would say about the Titanic disaster. Well, he has tweeted the following, an argument ably demolished by Alan Molineaux:

When the Titanic sank 20% of the men and 74% of the women survived. That profound virtue was not nurtured by egalitarianism.

But that doesn’t apportion blame for the tragedy. Quite possibly Piper is preaching or writing on the subject today. But in the absence of any record of that so far, I can only argue by analogy with what he recently wrote about tornadoes:

Why would God reach down his hand and drag his fierce fingers across rural America killing at least 38 people with 90 tornadoes in 12 states, and leaving some small towns with scarcely a building standing, including churches?

… God alone has the last say in where and how the wind blows. If a tornado twists at 175 miles an hour and stays on the ground like a massive lawnmower for 50 miles, God gave the command.

Tornado near Dallas, Texas, April 2012So Piper’s God commanded these tornadoes to devastate towns and kill many people. Presumably he would also say that God told the iceberg to cross the path of the Titanic. But where Piper disagrees with Hardy is that he doesn’t see such disasters as judgment of specific evil. Rather, they are a word to everyone, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

But is this God who chose, for no fault of their own, 38 people to kill with tornadoes and 1,514 to kill with an iceberg really the Christian God we learn of in the Bible? In his article about the tornadoes Piper quotes verses about God sending winds and others about people being killed by winds and other disasters, but none of these passages say explicitly that God sent the winds or other means which killed people. He quotes Matthew 8:27, but ignores the context in the previous verse: if God sent that particular wind, why did Jesus rebuke it? The language used in such passages hints at demonic activity in that storm on the Sea of Galilee. And if in that storm, why not also in destructive storms and other disasters today?

I don’t claim to know what caused these disasters. Perhaps we should put the blame mainly on humans, who took the risk of living in areas known to be prone to tornadoes and of steaming at full speed across a sea known to be studded with icebergs. For some the risk did not pay off.

But in the end what matters is not the anyway inevitable death of our mortal bodies, but that through Jesus Christ we have eternal life and the hope of new and glorious resurrection bodies.

Piper's God is right to slaughter women and children

John PiperHenry Neufeld quotes some words of John Piper as a post title:

It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases

This was Piper’s response to a question put to him in an interview in the Christian Post:

Why was it right for God to slaughter women and children in the Old Testament? How can that ever be right?

Well, that is a very good question, and it has no simple answer. To be fair to Piper, he does go on to explore in more depth some of the issues of why large numbers of people die, and why God has sometimes commanded people to kill them. In this post I make no attempt to offer my own answer.

Piper’s main argument is that God has the right to do whatever he likes. Well, I would accept that God has the power to do whatever he likes. Unlike the gods of the ancient Maltese, he is not constrained by some higher concept of Justice – and Piper would be right to reject any suggestion that Justice constrained God to send his Son to die on the cross.

Nevertheless, for God, just as for humans, might is not right. The determining factor for what it is right for God to do is not that he is almighty, but his character, defined in such terms as love and justice. He has made this character known to us in the created universe, in the Scriptures, and above all through his Son Jesus Christ. In the same ways he has also revealed to us how he expects us to live. And since goodness and consistency are part of the character he has shown us, it is no surprise to find that, in general terms and making allowances for human limitations, what is good and right for him to do is also good and right for us. Certainly we see no sign of Jesus doing things which it would be wrong for us also to do.

By contrast, the God described by John Piper has the character of an arbitrary despot, one who asserts the right to do whatever he wants, even when this entirely contradicts the standards of behaviour he expects from others. It rather seems as if the deity that he worships is not in fact the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

Piper’s God is right to slaughter women and children

John PiperHenry Neufeld quotes some words of John Piper as a post title:

It’s right for God to slaughter women and children anytime he pleases

This was Piper’s response to a question put to him in an interview in the Christian Post:

Why was it right for God to slaughter women and children in the Old Testament? How can that ever be right?

Well, that is a very good question, and it has no simple answer. To be fair to Piper, he does go on to explore in more depth some of the issues of why large numbers of people die, and why God has sometimes commanded people to kill them. In this post I make no attempt to offer my own answer.

Piper’s main argument is that God has the right to do whatever he likes. Well, I would accept that God has the power to do whatever he likes. Unlike the gods of the ancient Maltese, he is not constrained by some higher concept of Justice – and Piper would be right to reject any suggestion that Justice constrained God to send his Son to die on the cross.

Nevertheless, for God, just as for humans, might is not right. The determining factor for what it is right for God to do is not that he is almighty, but his character, defined in such terms as love and justice. He has made this character known to us in the created universe, in the Scriptures, and above all through his Son Jesus Christ. In the same ways he has also revealed to us how he expects us to live. And since goodness and consistency are part of the character he has shown us, it is no surprise to find that, in general terms and making allowances for human limitations, what is good and right for him to do is also good and right for us. Certainly we see no sign of Jesus doing things which it would be wrong for us also to do.

By contrast, the God described by John Piper has the character of an arbitrary despot, one who asserts the right to do whatever he wants, even when this entirely contradicts the standards of behaviour he expects from others. It rather seems as if the deity that he worships is not in fact the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

Mark Driscoll admits being "chauvinistic"

Mark DriscollMark Driscoll has written these words:

I grew more chauvinistic.

This refers not to a time before he was a Christian, but to a period when he was already pastoring Mars Hill Church in Seattle. This was a period when he was having marriage difficulties. I’m not sure if he says he has now become less chauvinistic again.

The quote is taken from Driscoll and his wife Grace’s book Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, and is quoted in Rachel Held Evans’ excellent review of the book, Driscoll, “Real Marriage,” and Why Being a Pastor Doesn’t Automatically Make You a Sex Therapist. I have not read the book.

Rachel’s review is by no means completely negative. She writes that

In places where Mark has been insensitive in the past, he seems to have softened a bit.

And Mark and Grace’s surprising candour about their sexual and marital problems reveals the background to that past insensitivity, explaining it although not excusing it. Mark writes of his own “bitterness” as he counselled couples enjoying very different sexual experiences to his and his wife’s. He also admits that this situation

affected my tone in preaching for a season, something I will always regret.

This leads Rachel to question not only Driscoll’s fitness for pastoring and counselling but also the whole celebrity-pastor culture, so prominent in the USA and growing here in the UK:

Meanwhile, evangelicals in particular need to do something about our celebrity-pastor culture. Mark Driscoll is simply not qualified to serve as a sex therapist—most pastors aren’t!

True maturity is marked not by how much a person knows but by the wisdom he or she shows in discerning when to speak with authority and when to hold back.  And when it comes to maturity, I’m afraid that Pastor Mark still has a long way to go.

Yes, Rachel, I agree with you.

Meanwhile Mark Driscoll needs to examine himself more carefully, to look for any ways in which he might still be even a little bit “chauvinistic”. Then he should examine his teaching and particularly his complementarian position, to see how much of it is based on the Bible and how much on his past chauvinism. This book seems to show signs of him moving in the right direction. Let’s hope and pray that he will continue this journey, and that before long we will see a new Driscoll whose teaching undermines chauvinistic stereotypes and exalts women as well as men, as equally made in the image of God.

Mark Driscoll admits being “chauvinistic”

Mark DriscollMark Driscoll has written these words:

I grew more chauvinistic.

This refers not to a time before he was a Christian, but to a period when he was already pastoring Mars Hill Church in Seattle. This was a period when he was having marriage difficulties. I’m not sure if he says he has now become less chauvinistic again.

The quote is taken from Driscoll and his wife Grace’s book Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, and is quoted in Rachel Held Evans’ excellent review of the book, Driscoll, “Real Marriage,” and Why Being a Pastor Doesn’t Automatically Make You a Sex Therapist. I have not read the book.

Rachel’s review is by no means completely negative. She writes that

In places where Mark has been insensitive in the past, he seems to have softened a bit.

And Mark and Grace’s surprising candour about their sexual and marital problems reveals the background to that past insensitivity, explaining it although not excusing it. Mark writes of his own “bitterness” as he counselled couples enjoying very different sexual experiences to his and his wife’s. He also admits that this situation

affected my tone in preaching for a season, something I will always regret.

This leads Rachel to question not only Driscoll’s fitness for pastoring and counselling but also the whole celebrity-pastor culture, so prominent in the USA and growing here in the UK:

Meanwhile, evangelicals in particular need to do something about our celebrity-pastor culture. Mark Driscoll is simply not qualified to serve as a sex therapist—most pastors aren’t!

True maturity is marked not by how much a person knows but by the wisdom he or she shows in discerning when to speak with authority and when to hold back.  And when it comes to maturity, I’m afraid that Pastor Mark still has a long way to go.

Yes, Rachel, I agree with you.

Meanwhile Mark Driscoll needs to examine himself more carefully, to look for any ways in which he might still be even a little bit “chauvinistic”. Then he should examine his teaching and particularly his complementarian position, to see how much of it is based on the Bible and how much on his past chauvinism. This book seems to show signs of him moving in the right direction. Let’s hope and pray that he will continue this journey, and that before long we will see a new Driscoll whose teaching undermines chauvinistic stereotypes and exalts women as well as men, as equally made in the image of God.

Packer: "A totally impassive God would be a horror"

J.I. PackerFollowing the death of John Stott, J.I. Packer is surely now the unchallenged elder statesman of Anglican* evangelicalism. He is a special hero among the “Reformed” Calvinists, whether Anglican or not. But is he in fact a Calvinist? Or is he more an Open Theist?

According to traditional Christian theology, one of the key characteristics of God is that he is “impassible”, i.e. he “does not experience pain or pleasure from the actions of another being”. This view has its origin more in Neo-Platonism that in biblical teaching, but came to dominate Christian thinking through the influence of Augustine. The Reformers such as Luther and Calvin took on this idea, and it has become enshrined in “Reformed” theology through doctrinal statements such as the Thirty-Nine Articles (1562) and the Westminster Confession (1646), which both describe God as “without body, parts, or passions”.

Most of today’s “Reformed” Calvinists would follow their heroes and their confessions and teach that God is impassible. But in recent years many other theologians, evangelicals among them, have challenged this doctrine. Some of those making this challenge are associated with Open Theism, a teaching which is anathema to Calvinists.

It is in this context that Roger Olson has had some interesting things to say about Packer.

A few days ago Olson quoted Packer as writing that “Arminianism is an intellectual sin”, and so writing off Olson, and myself, as sinners. Ironically Packer justifies his position by quoting the Arminian Charles Wesley. But this is from something which Packer wrote in about 1958, and so may not represent his current views.

Today Olson shows he bears no grudge for being called a sinner by posting And now…kudos to J. I. Packer for this brilliant article, about a 1986 article in Christianity Today. It is this article which is relevant to the impassibility debate, because in it Packer seems to reject this doctrine, at least in its classical form. Olson quotes him:

Let us be clear: A totally impassive God would be a horror, and not the God of Calvary at all.  He might belong in Islam; he has no place in Christianity.  If, therefore, we can learn to think of the chosenness of God’s grief and pain as the essence of his impassibility, so-called, we will do well.

In other words, Packer agrees with the biblical text that God suffers grief and pain, and tries to turn the definition of “impassibility” on it head. In doing so he goes not only against Islam but also against the Westminster Confession, and against the Thirty-Nine Articles of his own orthodox Anglicanism. Olson comments,

In fact, I believe IF that article were to be published today WITHOUT the author’s identity attached, many conservative evangelicals would assume it was written by an open theist or a “leftwing evangelical” and attack it as dangerous.

Personally, I do not see how the article’s central thrust can be reconciled with classical Calvinism. … Classical Calvinism is closely tied to classical theism.  It certainly does not believe that God can change his mind or “make new decisions as he reacts to human doings.”

So what can we conclude? Is Packer’s thinking inconsistent? I suspect not in quite the same way that Olson claims. Clearly the mature Packer of 1986 is not the same as the young Packer of 1958. But even while misrepresenting Arminianism in 1958 he could agree with the Arminian Wesley that a key effect of God’s grace is “my heart was free”. And by 1986 his position seems to have embraced much more freedom and openness than classical Calvinism would seem to allow.

Packer is a hero of “Reformed” Calvinists worldwide. No doubt he would still reject with horror any suggestion that he might be an Arminian or an Open Theist. But what he has written seems to put his current position closer to Arminianism and Open Theism than to Calvinism. It is also further from Neo-Platonism and closer to biblical Christianity.

* Packer is apparently still an Anglican, despite leaving the official Anglican Church of Canada in 2008. The church where he is Honorary Assistant Minister, now known as St John’s Vancouver Anglican Church and meeting at a new location, states that “We remain in communion with the greater part of the worldwide Anglican Communion through the auspices of the Anglican Network in Canada.”

Joel Osteen: human but not a false prophet

The sidebar of Joel Watts’ blog Unsettled Christianity currently lists as “False Prophets” about a dozen named Christian leaders, along with some Christian ministries and some less Christian ones. Among those named as false prophets are Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. And that is typical of the kind of criticism which many Christians routinely heap on well known megachurch leaders like these two, often without any real basis in fact. I can’t help suggesting that the reason for much of the criticism is jealousy of their success.

Joel OsteenSo it was interesting to read the post by Gez today on that same blog Philip Wagner defends Joel Osteen, with a long quotation from Wagner giving an essentially positive picture of Osteen and his church, including the following:

Joel does not teach classes on theology, the differences of Mormonism and Christianity or a thorough presentation of the foundational beliefs of Christianity. He’s a pastor with an evangelism gift.

Pastors at Joel Osteen’s church, Lakewood Church, disciple people, teach doctrinal truths of the Bible and train people for ministry. They teach people truth from error.

Indeed. The substance of most criticisms of the much maligned Osteen, apart from that he has enviably good teeth, is that his teaching is weak. Yes, perhaps it is, because his ministry is not that of a teacher. He is primarily an evangelist. Those who become Christians through his church and ministry then receive good teaching.

Philip Wagner, whose post Gez quotes, has a lot more to say about criticism of Osteen in his post What’s the Problem with Joel Osteen? He notes how “a well-known pastor in Seattle” (he means Mark Driscoll) used YouTube to “tear Joel apart” for “what he did not say” – the reference is probably to the same video that I discussed here in 2007, when I was perhaps trying to be more conciliatory than I am now. Wagner also writes:

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion – even if it is ill informed.
The disappointing thing to me is that Christian leaders speak out publically against Joel and thereby encouraging other Christians not to respect him or to doubt his authenticity.  They feel the liberty to publically attack those whom they don’t really understand or know.   It’s embarrassing.

As a Christian, I’m discouraged by the behavior of leaders who criticize, attack or diminish the significance of other Christian ministers. 

This behavior and attitude is why many people do not want to be a part of Christianity or go to church because they feel that when they go to church they will be criticized the way our leaders do to each other.

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.  Gal 5:14-15 NIV

I believe the main thing leaders should be “called out for” is the arrogance and the divisive example they promote by publically dismissing the relevance of another person’s ministry.

Have these very public leaders, who take the liberty to bring these unfair assessments of Joel Osteen, spoken to him or one of his pastors in private about their concerns?

I may be wrong – but I don’t think they have.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.  Matthew 18:15 NIV

Now Joel Osteen is not perfect. After all, he is human. I happen to think that his remarks about Mitt Romney’s Mormonism were unfortunate, although that could be because they were reported out of context.

I also think Philip Wagner is wrong about this: it is a major election issue, because many evangelical Christians will not vote for Mitt Romney simply because he is a Mormon.

Nevertheless this does not warrant Osteen being demonised in the way that he has been by so many Christians. He may be a flawed prophet, but that is not the same thing as a false prophet.

So, Joel Watts, please can you now take the lead of your friend Gez and remove from your sidebar the accusation that Osteen and other respected Christian leaders are “false prophets”. I don’t expect you to take down old posts, but I would like to see a new post expressing your regret for what you have written about these people in the past.

And please can that be an example to other Christian bloggers, and writers in other media, who are bringing the Christian faith into disrepute by their often ill-informed mud-slinging.

Did God kill Jesus? Olson and Caiaphas vs. Piper

One of my first major posts on this blog, in June 2006, tackled the controversial question Did God kill Jesus? See also the post which led up to this, “The Father killed the Son”: the offence of the Gospel?, and the follow-up Did God kill Jesus: should I post like this?

Today Roger Olson is asking exactly the same question, Did God kill Jesus? He writes that

Recently a leading evangelical pastor and author has declared publicly that “God killed Jesus”–meaning, I suppose, the Father killed Jesus.  That’s his way (I assume) of emphasizing the penal substitution theory of the atonement.

Personally, I think some “friends of penal substitution” are its worst enemies.

John PiperA little Google research reveals that the pastor and author that Olson refers to is none other than John Piper, who in a sermon this Sunday said, with reference to John 11:50,

In the mind of Caiaphas, the substitution was this: We kill Jesus so the Romans won’t kill us. We substitute Jesus for ourselves. In the mind of God, the substitution was this: I will kill my Son so I don’t have to kill you. God substitutes Jesus for his enemies.

God Killed Jesus?

I know it sounds harsh to speak of God killing Jesus. Killing so easily connotes sinning and callous cruelty. God never sins. And he is never callous. The reason I say that God killed his own Son is because Isaiah 53 uses this kind of language. Verse 4: “We esteemed him stricken, smitten by God.” God smote him. Verse 6: “The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Verse 10: “It was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief.” God smote him. God crushed him.

My first response to this is an exegetical one. If we look at Isaiah 53:4-5, in Piper’s preferred English Standard Version, we read three propositions about the Suffering Servant separated by other material, which we can summarise as follows: “Surely A; yet we esteemed B. But C”. In other words, A is certainly true, and B is our own human estimation of the situation, which should be rejected in favour of C. That is to say, B is a false proposition, or at least inadequate one, according to the text of Isaiah itself. And what is proposition B? That the Servant was “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted”. Thus the verse Piper quotes to prove that God smote Jesus in fact says the opposite. It is redundant to note that the Hebrew verb translated “smitten”, although sometimes used in the context of homicide, does not actually mean “killed”, but only “hit” or “beaten”.

Meanwhile, when the apostle John (11:51) writes that these words of the High Priest were a prophecy, Piper dares to declare that Caiaphas was speaking his own mind, not the mind of God, which Piper claims to know better the prophet does!

Olson, eirenic as always, declines to name Piper. But he makes a strong case for a proper understanding of penal substitutionary atonement. He agrees with the prophetic words of Caiaphas rather than with Piper’s speculation:

Men [gender inclusive, surely?] committed the violence against Jesus, not God the Father, and the actual suffering of the atonement was the rejection Jesus suffered by the Father.  “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was the moment of atonement.  God did not kill Jesus (at least in my version of penal substitution); people did.  The Father did not inflict punishment on the unwilling, innocent Son as his victim; the Son volunteered to suffer the Father’s wrath.  The Father’s wrath was not physical violence; it was the rupture within the Godhead suffered by both the Son and the Father (in different ways).  The atonement was that he (Jesus), who knew no sin, became sin for us…., with the result that the Father had to turn away and forsake him.  The penalty for sin is spiritual death; separation from God, not physical death.

This presentation of penal substitutionary atonement, with the Son suffering as a volunteer, avoids any suggestion of the split in the Trinity which is implied by Piper’s version. It refutes Steve Chalke’s accusation of “cosmic child abuse”. The focus is no longer on the Father’s wrath but on his love. This seems similar to J.I. Packer’s view of the atonement as “planned by the holy Three in their eternal solidarity of mutual love”. It is also compatible with the Christus Victor model of the atonement, differing from it in perspective more than in content. Most importantly, it is far more biblical than Piper’s caricature.

The only major negative point I would make about Olson’s critique of Piper’s position is that Olson follows Piper in focusing too much on personal sin and justification, on what Scot McKnight calls the “soterian gospel”. Thus Olson’s gospel seems a little unbalanced in the way that I described in my post this morning Which Gospel? Justice or Justification? Olson doesn’t seem to have commented on McKnight’s book The King Jesus Gospel . I would be interested to see his response.

Driscoll's two faces: God loves you, God hates you

JanusWhich does Pastor Mark Driscoll believe? That God loves everyone, or that God hates most people? Like the Roman God Janus he seems to have two different faces, and he can’t make his mind up which to present to the public.

Scott Bailey has quoted from a video by Driscoll, which was formerly posted at his church’s website but has since been taken down (annotations apparently by Zack):

Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is “meritous” [the word he’s looking for here is “meritorious”]. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you, He hates them too. God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you.

The sermon this is taken from is new, but there is nothing new in Driscoll’s sentiments. Here at Gentle Wisdom I reported him saying much the same in 2007, in my post What Driscoll really said about God and hate, which included

GOD HATES SINNERS. …

The whole “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” — that’s the wrong place to start. “God hates you and its going to go really really bad forever!” – hey now that is true…

But a completely different face of Driscoll is seen in his response when Fred Phelps and his family threatened to picket his church, a blog post from June this year with the long title Westboro Baptist Church, This False Prophet and His Blind Lemmings Welcome You to Our Whore House for God’s Grace and Free Donuts. (Thanks to Jeff commenting on Scott’s post for the link.) In this post when Driscoll writes:

God does not love everyone—in fact, He hates the majority of mankind, and has purposed to send them to hell when they die.

he is quoting, and then rejecting, the teaching of Westboro Baptist Church. Driscoll continues:

The whole ”read-the-words” of the Bible thingy is actually pretty good advice. And in reading the Bible, we see that it says everyone is loved by God, and though not everyone is saved, anyone who turns from sin and trusts in Jesus will receive eternal life. Additionally, we know that it’s not God’s hatred that leads people to repentance but instead his kindness (Romans 2:4). Here are some Scriptures that speak plainly about God’s love for people:

  • John 1:29: “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
  • John 3:16–17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
  • 1 Tim. 2:3–6: “God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…”
  • 2 Peter 3:9: “He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Good teaching! Here Driscoll sounds almost like an Arminian, choosing to quote the Bible verses most commonly used to refute Calvinism.

Driscoll offers a more nuanced presentation in his recent FAQ: Predestination and Election. Much of this is a fair presentation of the issues between Calvinists and Arminians. In it he mostly avoids the “hate” word. But the generally Calvinist tendency becomes clear in the section “Answers To Common Questions About Predestination & Election”, which omits from its long list of Bible verses discussed the “Arminian” verses Driscoll chose to quote to the Westboro Baptists. Just before he confirms that his own position is more or less Calvinist (although he calls it Augustinian), Driscoll writes:

Does God love the non-elect?

Yes, he does, and does so with common grace (Matt. 5:45). Yet he also has a special affection for the elect. So, God loves everyone in a general way, and also loves the elect in a saving way.

In other words, as 4xiom interprets this in a comment on Scott’s post,

God brings a person into the world to be tortured endlessly as an object of his vindictive hatred, but his love for said person is clearly demonstrated by a brief period of ‘common grace’?

If Driscoll really believes what he wrote to the Westboro Baptists, why isn’t this material included in his FAQ? And why is there no explanation of how he apparently believes in two contradictory things, that God hates many people and predestines them to hell, and that God loves everyone and wants them all to be saved?

So why the contradiction? Could it be that Driscoll is just so naturally combative that he always takes the contrary position to anyone he is discussing these matters with? Perhaps more probably he does in fact take the moderate Calvinist position outlined in his FAQ, but sometimes in his preaching he gets carried away with “God hates you” type language and so goes against his own theology. That would explain why the offending video was taken down.

But what does it say about Driscoll as a preacher if he is so little in control of what he says that he makes unintentional public statements like this? With this hate speech he is not only denying his own theology, he is bringing the Christian faith into disrepute. At least Fred Phelps is consistent in how he spews out hatred. If Mark Driscoll really doesn’t have the same beliefs, why does he sometimes say the same things?