[Guest post by Wenatchee The Hatchet concerning Mark Driscoll's series on Song of Solomon, Part Four A]
ISSUE FOUR: DRISCOLL'S SELECTIVE APPLICATION OF THE BRIDE METAPHOR AND PASTORAL CONSEQUENCE
Driscoll readily grants the husband/wife metaphor everywhere ELSE in Scripture. He preached from Ephesians and Revelation and readily identified the husband/wife metaphor there. Yet Driscoll rejects the Groom/Bride metaphor in Song of Songs for the simple reason that if he accepts an allegorical or typological elements then he suspects Song of Songs promotes a weirdly homoerotic relationship between himself and Jesus. But Driscoll must surely know that Jesus Himself said that in the age to come no one will be given in marriage. Driscoll's jokes that Jesus might be having gay sex with him in Heaven if Song of Songs is an allegory about God's love for His people is simply a specious case of wanting to have things both ways. He literalizes a metaphor for the sake of illustrating why he rejects the metaphor. He never adequately addresses what the canon-wide basis for the metaphorical understanding would be. In fact, he affirms the metaphor in all other biblical literature, which makes his refusal to accept its application in the Wisdom literature even stranger. Where Puritans like Jonathan Edwards or Richard Sibbes or William Gurnall comfortably went Driscoll dare not go, apparently.
The metaphor of husband and wife in the Scriptures consistently reveals the marriage to be in a continual state of crisis. No sooner has Yahweh betrothed Himself to Israel in the wilderness than they create a golden calf. God appoints judges who turn Israel to idolatry. God grants a king and kings turn Israel away and become pioneers in idolatry. God sends prophets and the prophets are not heeded. Hosea and the other prophets take up the husband/bride metaphor to exclaim that Israel is a whoring wayward wife. Driscoll will never reject this metaphor.
Anyone who has ever attended a Mars Hill Church Good Friday service will see that the dominant theme is to reflect upon how our sins put Jesus on the Cross. Christ gave Himself up to death for the sake of His Bride, the Church. Mars Hill has emphasized this and it is part of the story. Yet it is not the whole story. That the Bride has been a wayward, sinful whore whose sin is so great it required Christ’s death is just half of Jesus’ heart toward His Bride. Driscoll's pastoral and poetic imagination falters at the point where hymnody often begins.
What wondrous love is this, o my soul, o my soul?
What wondrous love is this, o my soul?
What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul ...
Driscoll’s been unable to consistently articulate that Christ, in love, chose to bear the Cross for us and share death with us to reconcile us to Him. He has, however, been adept at going on at some length about the dreadful curse.
It is unsurprising that Driscoll confessed in early 2008 that he had been told by C. J. Mahaney and John Piper that he has failed to articulate the love of God for His people. This is not surprising. Let is consider the nature of the husband/bride metaphor in all of Scripture if it must be excised from the Song of Songs. Throughout the Law and the Prophets the husband/bride metaphor is used is in a setting where God’s people have to be rebuked for being disobedient to God in some way. In the Torah Israel is going to face the reality of apostasy and exile. She is already unfaithful and will remain unfaithful until disaster, rejection, and exile. In the prophets Israel is told she is a wayward, whoring wife. In the wisdom literature we get shown that if we do the right things we’ll avoid the wayward women.
In the New Testament Christ dies for the Church but the apostles, after going through what may be dubbed the honeymoon of Acts, pass through that honeymoon into the exasperating world of having to write epistles to real churches with real sins. A new Exodus has led to a new age of wandering through the wilderness of Sin until the Land of Promise is reached. Only now we do not go rushing to meet the Promise, the Promise will come to us. Yet even though in the book of Revelation we are told of the promised Wedding Feast of the Lamb, when the Church will be the spotless Bride of Christ, this is not who we are. Revelation opens with seven letters of reproof to the churches in Asia given to John the Revelator by Christ.
There is no present-tense expression in any age of the Church this side of Christ's Second Coming in which unreserved adoration and praise for God's people is given. Jesus is the Groom who rebukes and cajoles His bride for Her continual failures and worldliness and thus it is unsurprising that a man like Driscoll, in rejecting Song of Songs, can never ultimately have a vision of Christ's people that can exult in Her. It is only in Song of Songs where a husband and wife are shown speaking to each other with unbridled affection. It is only in Song of Songs where there is any "now" to the beauty of a marriage filled with mutual affection and by extension the marital metaphor for God and His people that Driscoll feels compelled to reject.
Thus a pastor like Driscoll only knows how to speak to the betrothed Bride as someone who isn’t worthy of the Groom. She’d better clean up, get her act together, and stop being so bad because her sins are bad enough that Jesus had to die for them … but it’s not quite clear Driscoll knows how to articulate the depth of the Bridegroom's love for the waiting Bride. Driscoll could preach for years on Hosea and mention the promise God makes to speak tenderly and winsomely to the wayward Bride. But where could we turn in the scriptures to see HOW God might speak in such a winsome and tender way to such a Bride?
Well, obviously NOT in Song of Songs as Driscoll expounds it because in it he sees only wifely stripteases and holy blowjobs. Driscoll’s understanding of how a pastor should speak to the Bride is as a Hosea or an Elijah telling Israel she’s a whore. Or an apostle telling the Corinthians they should be ashamed of themselves. In other words, at the risk of stretching the metaphors a bit, Driscoll is fine with the Hosea who says God “will” speak tenderly to His people but can’t accept that Song of Songs could be where God DOES speak tenderly to the Bride of His people.