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 …
I MURDERED GOD!
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.