Monday, October 10, 2011

WTH on Driscoll's SOS, Intro & pt 1

[Guest post by Wenatchee The Hatchet concerning Mark Driscoll's Song of Songs series, Intro & Part One]

Mark Driscoll has been a polarizing figure for years and if the sound bites associated with him any given year are any indication he plans to be a lightning rod in American Christianity for as long as he can. Though there are number of topics about which he has chosen to say controversial things that he says are simply statements in the Bible, he has become most famous for his remarks on sex and gender.

I intend to summarize a few observations about what Driscoll has said about Song of Songs. Though Driscoll presents himself as just preaching what is in the Bible Christians have questioned the viability and propriety of Driscoll's handling of Song of Songs. In the last few years there have been two objections. The first is that Driscoll's approach to Song of Songs is so explicit as to turn Song of Songs into a kind of Christian porn. The most famous exponent of this first objection is John MacArthur who, in "The Rape of Solomon's Song" accuses Driscoll of transforming a biblical text into Christian pornography. The second objection is that by being deliberately cavalier about allegorical typological interpretations of Song of Songs Driscoll is choosing to ignore a venerable interpretive tradition within the Christian faith.

Here I intend to demonstrate that while both objections have their merits there is a third objection to make to Driscoll's handling of Song of Songs. The problem in Driscoll's handling of Song of Songs does not reside in his emphasis on marital love; it also does not reside, strictly speaking, in his refusal to concede a metaphor in Song of Songs for God loving His people. The problem resides in Driscoll's hermeneutic of erotic at the expense of both the perspicuity of scripture and of Jesus' own words about His fulfillment of Scripture. This can be broken down into four issues:

1. Driscoll's rejection of Christ typology in Song of Songs forces him to reject the words of Christ about scripture regarding Himself.

2. This rejection also compels him to reject the Bridegroom/Bride metaphor only for Song of Songs while affirming it in every other genre.

3. This rejection of Christ typology in Song of Songs transforms the book into a type of Christian porn that has no teaching value for the unmarried, for the widow, or for a child. In Driscoll's hands Song of Songs is no longer a gift given by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the whole church and instead becomes a sex manual of special value to the married.

4. This rejection of Christ typology in Song of Songs of necessity rejects the one place in the Scripture besides the eschatological Wedding Feast of the Lamb in which the marriage between God and His people could be presented in a positive light.


The first and most difficult issue is that if the Song of Songs cannot in any way refer to Christ then Driscoll must account for Jesus' words in John 5:39-47. Jesus declared that the scriptures pointed to Him. In Luke 24:25-27 Jesus is described as explaining the things concerning Himself in Moses and all the prophets and in all the Scriptures. Now if Luke and John testify that Christ said the Scriptures pointed to Him before His death and explained to disciples after resurrection how the Scriptures pointed to Him, then the only way Song of Songs could be omitted from these two statements by Christ about Himself and the Scriptures is if Song of Songs ISN'T SCRIPTURE.

Driscoll can't resort to such a claim because he affirms Song of Songs is canonical. After all, he wouldn't preach the book if it weren't in the Bible. He even mentions in his preaching about the book that Song of Songs has been read at Passover so one could make the case that the association of Song of Songs with Passover even predates Christ Himself. Driscoll, generally, has been eager to say that all Scripture properly understood points to Jesus. As Driscoll is so fond of saying, "It's all about Jesus!"

Except for Song of Songs, which has to be about wifely stripteases and holy blowjobs and date nights. In fact Driscoll has joked that if the Groom in Song of Songs is actually Jesus then Jesus is doing things to him (Driscoll) that make him feel uncomfortable. Driscoll has so sexualized the content of Song of Songs in his personal handling of the text he actually CAN'T let himself see the book as a testament to Christ. If this is so then Driscoll testifies against himself about whether or not he believes all Scripture is ultimately all about Jesus.


Don said...

All Scripture does point to Jesus, but that does not EVERY particular part of it does, that would involve forcing a text to say something it does not say.

Don said...

Another aspect of SOS is that the Hebrew is euphemized and then the English typically gets euphemized itself. So after such a double euphemization, what is being said may not even be recognizable.

In other words, it is true that the primary meaning of SOS is about love in general and sex in particular. So much so that some groups say that the only valid way to read it is thru allegory. Allegory is another way to read it, but that is not the primary way.

Don said...

It is true that Driscoll words things in outrageous ways. He is selling a package of ideas, mostly to down and outers. My take is there are ways of explaining the truth of Scripture without being outrageous.

Mara Reid said...

Don, again, on your second comment here, I'm pretty sure WTH isn't coming from the "Allegory is the only way" position.

He's coming against the SOS=SEX and SEX ONLY, no allegory allowed stand that Driscoll is taking.

Don said...

Yes, it seems that Driscoll is concerned about a possible homoerotic reading of SoS by a male believer. I simply think he is wrong about that aspect.

God created sex as a part of Creation and it is very good. But in the new Creation people will not marry and since marriage is the only righteous way to have sex, I think it is not too hard to draw conclusions.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

My position is that a typological reading is predicated on a literal one. The conjugal relationship has to be a given before a typological or allegorical interpretation is even possible.

I lean much more toward a rudimentary typology than an actual allegory. The breasts of the woman can't really be construed as Moses and Aaron, for instance. However, I think Driscoll works too hard at skipping the question of why SoS would be read in public observance of Passover.

The sexual content can make it seem as though SoS as a typological reference to God and His people is a huge stretch, but in that respect it's no bigger a stretch than NT authors claiming Isaiah found fulfillment in Christ (beyond what Jesus said in his sermons). For that matter, most Christians accept as given that the light-bearer passage in Isaiah and the prince of Tyre passage in Ezekiel refer to Satan when this was not what the original point of either of those passages was. Driscoll happily accepts that those passages refer to Satan and doesn't bother to ever discuss hwo intertestamental literature informed progressive interpretation of those passages. If anything a mere typological association of God=husband/God's people=wife is the simpler and more defensible typological gloss than the traditional Satanic glosses on Isaiah and Ezekiel.

Driscoll's gay panic jokes about any non-literal reading of Song of Songs have been a staple of his for a decade. Given that he knows Jesus said no one will be married in the resurrection the coarse jokes come off as excuses for coarse joking. If Driscoll wants his jokes about gay sex with Jesus to have any weight he might have to retract his rejection of the angel/human hybridization that early Christians believed occurred in the Gen 6 narrative, as attested by Jude's reference to 1 Enoch. Not that all Christians think Jude was citing 1 Enoch as an authoritative book but I'm not going to get into that rabbit trail here. :)

Don said...

I agree that a literal reading is primary and then others are possible.

Anonymous said...

I"m not sure that Driscoll ever says the Song isn't about Jesus at all. Rather what he says is that the bridegroom in the Song isn't Jesus.

It's all very well complaining that Driscoll's references to oral sex are distasteful (and I'd certainly agree he want to tie down far too many of the details in the Song). But proponents of other views do have to explain why, for e.g., the apparent dream sequence in chapter 5 deliberately conflates the man breaking into the house with the idea of the man breaking into the woman and the hints of fingers in intimate places. If this passage ISN'T about sexual intimacy why does it look as if it is? If it IS about sexual intimacy in what way can it be appropriate to transfer the details of that to the Lord Jesus?

I would agree that all bride/bridegroom references in Scripture point in some way (by similarity or contrast) to Christ. But that doesn't mean that every detail of every reference to brides and bridegrooms can be pressed to teach a detail about Christ ans the church, which is the majority "technique" amongst allegorists and even many who hold a looser typological view.

Mara Reid said...

Andrew, I don't have time this morning to address what you have to say very thoroughly because I have to get to work.
If WTH gets a chance I hope he drops by and addresses you.

All I can say for now, until I get more time, is that I view SoS as a very big and very full book.
I have no problem with marriage counselors using it to help couples with their sex lives. There is plenty of room for that.
BUT DRISCOLL PRESSES the book down to be ONLY sexual and some sort of manual when it is poetry and CAN'T be a manual in a modern sense. Plus it is so much bigger than just it's sensual overtones.
THIS is what I'm addressing. I'm not trying to press it into allegory alone. I have far too much respect for the magnitude of all that this beautiful piece of poetry can be.
Hope to get back to more of your concerns later.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

"Rather what he says is that the bridegroom in the Song isn't Jesus."

Which is Driscoll rejecting a typological interpretation, sometimes accompanied by gay panic jokes.

There are problems with Driscoll's interpretive approach even if one grants that sex is the "only" way to interpret Song of Songs but that gets discussed a little more later in the series.