Mark Driscoll: "I murdered God", "God hates you"

If Adrian Warnock’s summary of his words is to be believed, in a sermon on the atonement, preached yesterday in Edinburgh, Mark Driscoll said:

A war is brewing over this issue. This is the issue we must be willing to fight over. If we lose this, we lose the gospel. … if you deny this, you have essentially lost the Christian faith …


Now Driscoll can confess this of himself if he likes, but he seems to require every Christian to confess the same. Now I have committed a large number of sins, but I do not confess to this particular murder, or indeed to any murder. Jesus, who is God, laid down his life voluntarily, so I am not sure we can say that anyone murdered him. Well, arguably the Jewish and Roman leaders of his time were guilty of his murder. But I am not. Even if “anger counts as murder”, I have not necessarily been angry with God, and I hope that Driscoll is not implying that everyone has been – many people’s sins are different ones.

All these legal fictions are getting silly. I have committed more than enough sins to deserve death. God has been exceedingly gracious to me in forgiving these sins. I don’t need to have extra sins which I didn’t commit, whether the sin of Adam or the sin of murdering Jesus, imputed or imparted to me to make me extra guilty, and to make God extra gracious in forgiving me. As Paul argued in Romans 6, there is no need for sin to abound so that grace may also increase.

If Driscoll really means that someone can only be a Christian if they agree with the proposition “I murdered God”, and that all who do not agree “lose the gospel”, then count me out, call me not a Christian but a Christ-follower. Driscoll simply cannot make up out of the blue this kind of non-biblical test for faith.

Yes, Jesus “died for MY sin! … he endured what I deserve in order to give me what I don’t deserve”. So I accept a form of substitutionary atonement. But that is not the same as pleading guilty to murdering him.

Now to move on to Driscoll’s astonishing summary of the gospel, in the same sermon:

God hates sinners. You have been told that God loves sinners, but hates sin. No, Gandhi said that! … The gospel starts with “God hates you and it’s going to go really really bad forever and ever!”

Yes, this is what he said, according to Adrian, with Adrian’s emphasis. Really? Ever read John 3:16 or Romans 5:6-8, Mark? It wasn’t Gandhi who said “God so loved the world” and “Christ died for the ungodly”, it was Jesus and Paul.

Of course there is something in Driscoll’s claim

“God hates all who do evil.” God hates a lot of people.

In Psalm 5:5 and 11:5 we indeed read that God hates all who do evil, and similarly in Proverbs 6:16-19, Jeremiah 12:8 and Hosea 9:12; see also Malachi 1:3 (quoted in Romans 9:13) which I take as a reference to a nation rather than to Esau as an individual. That is all I can find in the NIV. But that is only a few references, which need to be read carefully in context (remember that psalmists are expressing their own feelings rather than doctrinal truths), and I note that all are from the Old Testament. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that God hates sinners. (Romans 9:10-13, however it is understood, is explicitly nothing to do with sinful works.) There are of course plenty of Old Testament references to how God loves his people, but it is in the New Testament that we see clearly how God loves even sinners, as is clearly set out in John 3:16 and Romans 5:6-8, amongst many other places.

Now in many ways I appreciate Driscoll’s sermon, and particularly the way in which he recognises that there are many different aspects to the atonement, not just the penal substitutionary one. Unfortunately on a couple of points he has allowed himself to get carried away by the power of his own rhetoric, and these (like the yeast in the flour) are enough to spoil the whole thing.

20 thoughts on “Mark Driscoll: "I murdered God", "God hates you"

  1. Pingback: Mark Driscoll brings to my mind John Edwards « Come to the waters

  2. Surely to claim we all had a part in murdering God is not on the level that you see in the gospels. At that level Pilate was the one doing the final sentencing, with the Jews telling him it was the right thing to do (lucky Barabbas). But if it wasn’t for all of us, past us’, present us’, and future us’, Jesus would have never had to have gone through what He did. What I can see Mark Driscoll saying is, our lives are part and parcel of Jesus death. He didn’t die despite our sin, but because of it. If that doesn’t mean we have our share in the murder of God then what does it mean?

    Just a thought…

  3. I’m going to have to do some thinking. At some point I may blog. I’m interested to see where the alternate views are heading. It’s good to see people on both sides, though. What I do like about Mark Driscoll is his passion, N. T. Wright’s honesty, and John Piper’s unashamed backlog of 30 years of preaching.

  4. Driscoll says that God hates us and that there is ‘a sense’ in which He loves us. So, the basic emotion is hate and the partial and provisional emotion is love.

    This is the message that pushed me out of the church for decades. And then Satan came into my life and told me that God loved me and that my sins were forgiven.

    I guess there is no hope for me because I don’t rejoice in the fact that God hates me and because I don’t see how that could be remotely good news. There is no hope for me because I believe that God loves me through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

    It is a war. It’s the eternal war between those who say that God’s nature is love and those who say that God’s nature is not love.

  5. Hugh, I’d say he more asserts than explains here. But that may be semantics.

    His equating being a sinner with being an evil doer is one I have to wrestle over. I don’t think sin and evil are interchangable terms. But I have not thought hard enough about it to be sure that is what I think.

  6. Toby, I agree with you about Driscoll’s passion, Wright’s honesty, and Piper’s preaching. If you do blog on this, please send me a link.

    Hugh, thanks for the link. Driscoll describes for the first half of the video rather well the Old Testament persective on the life of someone who is not yet a Christian. Then he brings in Jesus. But he does imply that God only loves those who repent, which is thoroughly unbiblical, and especially wrong from a Calvinist viewpoint. I like the video’s title, although I wouldn’t have dared use it myself: “Mark Driscoll is Evil”.

  7. Pingback: Threads from Henry’s Web » Blog Archive » PSA: An Unbalanced and Ineffective View of the Atonement

  8. Excellent post!

    I’m looking into penal satisfaction vs. Christus Victor right now…very interesting…lots to mull over…

    From what I see right now, Driscoll is simply running penal satisfaction theory out to its obvious end.

    *shrugs* ???

    Btw, I’m with Pam, too.

  9. I was at this preach in person. I took this a measure of preacher’s hyperbole, something Wright, Driscoll and Piper are equally guilty of! I understood “you/we murdered God” to mean “it was my sin that caused him to die”. With others, I accept that Christ laid his life down by his accord (indeed this was also mentioned the following day at Men Makers). I chatted to my wife about this, she agreed that in the sense that our sin made it necessary for Christ to die, we “murdered God”. I agree that, in this case, the hyperbole may muddy waters which we should be working to clear.

  10. Maybe this is just a bit too lateral of a comment, but I started re-reading ‘Recovering the Scandel of the Cross’ by Joel B Green and Mark D Baker. I’d read it when it first came out but, at the time, I don’t think that there was so much brou-ha-ha around atonement theory.

    I’m only rereading the first chapters and they have posted that PSA is so important for people in our culture because we are a culture that is obsessed with determining fault and meting out punishment. I found this a helpful explanation as I never understood the high emotions around defending PSA.

    Alastair, I can accept that Driscoll may have been using hyperbole in the sermon you heard, but for me that still leaves the matter of the other video link where Driscoll seems very keen that we should understand that God’s primary motivation towards us is hatred and that we are only loved ‘in a sense’.

  11. I know there are those who feel obliged to mention God’s hatred of the sinner at great length. If they gave balanced weight to the part that, while we were yet sinners, while we were yet God’s enemies, Christ died for us, I would have less problem with the presentation. But it’s such a partial presentation. It’s the nature of a polarized argument, each side leaves out part of the message because they think the other side over-emphasizes it. The adventures of human nature ….

  12. Pam, I have posted my full response to the issue of “does God hate the sinner?” on my own blog.

    However, in summary, personally, I would say that God loves us absolutely, and only hates us “in a sense”. I do appreciate, however, that Mark is trying hard to combat the “Jesus love me and my sins” attitude so prevalent today, and we should also note that at the end of the day, Driscoll is just trying to explain propitiation in everyday terms.

  13. Alastair, part of the problem is when others report preachers’ hyperbole out of context. Adrian did this. I perhaps made things worse by giving even less of the context. But was “God hates you” also hyperbole? Well, I’ll read your post before commenting further.

    Pam, thanks for the mention of Green and Baker’s point. They suggest that “PSA is so important for people in our culture because we are a culture that is obsessed with determining fault and meting out punishment”. My own feeling would be that here in the UK this is true of one part of our society, basically the more conservative one, whereas probably the majority do not have this obsession and so do not relate to PSA at all except to see it as archaic and irrelevant. Not that I see PSA as such, but I do see it as being given a more important role than it deserves.

    Weekend Fisher, I agree with you. I don’t see that balance in what I see of Driscoll, but the problem may be partly Adrian’s presentation of his teaching.

  14. I do appreciate, however, that Mark is trying hard to combat the “Jesus love me and my sins” attitude so prevalent today,

    I’ve never encountered ‘Jesus loves my sins’ in church. Can you give me a concrete (even if hypothetical) example of how this plays out?

  15. Pam, I suspect that Alastair has in mind the affirming approach found in many liberal churches which refuses to condemn or use the word “sin” for so many practices, such as homosexual ones, that are clearly considered to be sinful in the Bible and in church tradition. This is not “love the sinner, hate the sin”, but “love the person, deny the sin”. And neither Gandhi nor Jesus said this.

  16. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom » “Children of wrath” and a puzzle over Calvinism

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