Monday, December 19, 2011
Rev. Driscoll - the New Dr. Ruth?
Just ask Mark Driscoll, the controversial pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Driscoll came under fire in 2009 from several evangelical corners, including noted theologian John MacArthur, for preaching a saucy - some say heretical - set of sermons in Scotland from the Song of Solomon.
And I use the term "sermons" loosely. He's been quoted as recalling for his Scottish congregation, like a jock in a locker room recounting romantic conquests, the time he asked his wife to promenade in front of him down a supermarket aisle so he could admire her, um, assets. And that's just about the only family-friendly bit of the sermon I can relay on this blog. For an outline of Driscoll's sex-saturated theology, click here, but you have been warned.
Now Christian blogger Tim Challies reports that Driscoll and his wife have co-authored a new book entitled Real Marriage, ostensibly following in the footprints of Tim Keller and other popular Christian writers who've penned how-to tomes about the holy covenant between husband, wife, and God. Except the Driscoll's have thrown in a chapter they hope sounds smutty enough - without triggering morality censors - which they've entitled "Can We ____?"
Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.
Basically, Rev. and Mrs. Driscoll run through the broad spectrum of positions and practices available to lovemaking couples and then evaluate whether they're Biblical or not.
Let's think for a moment about all of the issues confronting the evangelical church today. Famine in Africa. War in Africa. Terrorism. Syria. Churches being burned and Christians being persecuted from Egypt to Indonesia. Gay marriage. National debt. Household debt. Unemployment. The collapse of public education. Elder care. Child abuse.
Into this vast panoply of ills and dilemmas, Driscoll thinks oral sex deserves a hearing?
Is this really what evangelical couples are worrying about these days? Of course, a lot of them probably did grow up listening to Dr. Ruth Westheimer on the radio.
When I first read Challies' gentle incredulity regarding some of Driscoll's theology, I half thought he was joking, until I browsed the reader comments and researched the racy Scotland sermons. Churched people, just like the unchurched, seem to really be taking sides on what Christian spouses can do to each other in the bedroom.
And, by the way, not to deny Driscoll any royalties from the book; but basically, Challies reveals that Driscoll and his wife finally say everything is good between the sheets - and anyplace else, for that matter - except the two things we already know to be wrong: abortion and abuse.
Thankfully, Challies points out that while actual practices may be both allowable and beneficial, the reasons why people pursue them may not be. Plastic surgery, for example. The reason why a person undergoes plastic surgery is more important to God, Challies rightfully clarifies, than whether the actual body part should be modified. What a critical aspect for any pastor to omit from a book about Christians and sex.
Granted, I don't agree with Challies about everything all the time, but in his three blog posts on Driscoll's book, he's crafted a careful rebuttal on a delicate topic with a genuine desire for truth and minimal confrontationalism that are worth the read.
Unfortunately, some of Driscoll's defenders can't appreciate that. Which only further highlights the possibility that we're getting to the point with this saint from Seattle where too many lines are being crossed for integrity to continue to be marginalized.
Back when another group of bloggers on Cripplegate had blasted Driscoll for yet another of his unwise ministry pursuits - at the time, Driscoll had become oddly obsessed with denouncing the Reformed doctrine of cessationism - they created a list of five ways many fans of bad theology insist on defending their favored preacher, whether it's Driscoll or anybody else. These were described as the "Five Uninvited Guests" on every blog wall where reader responses are welcomed. In their feedback, these readers regurgitate the same five spurious reasons why Christians shouldn't point out the errors in the theology espoused by other believers.
It's another clever read that helps explain why so much bad theology persists in North American evangelical Christianity.
Suffice it to say that while Driscoll has as much right to preach what he wants to preach, just as I have as much right to write what I want to write, there remains a benchmark of unwavering truth against which anybody can measure what we say and write. The Bible doesn't leave as much open to interpretation as we sometimes want to think it does.
For Driscoll and his wife to be enthusiastic about sex is one thing. Indeed, sex is a gift of God for marriage partners intended not only for procreation, but enjoyment and sharing mutual affection. And having yet another book about Christian marriage probably isn't the worst thing in the world, considering how weak many marriages of churched people have become.
Yet it's hard to corroborate Driscoll's juvenile libidenousness from his Scotland "sermons" with the legitimate pastoral advising he and his wife purport to provide in Real Marriage. He says his book answers all the questions parishioners wouldn't dare ask their own pastor, even in private.
Which makes me wonder: if those are the questions with which Driscoll's fans have been struggling, questions that have heretofore gone unanswered, then why hasn't their presumed theological astuteness in so many other areas - where they apparently have less urgent questions - been able to resolve their issues in the bedroom?
Challies says the new Christian sex book is due to be released on January 3. Just in time for the post-Christmas sales slump his publisher is probably hoping to avoid.