Monday, October 10, 2011

WTH on Driscoll's SOS part 4b

[Guest post by Wenatchee The Hatchet concerning Mark Driscoll's series on Song of Songs, Part Four B]

By now the massive audio library of sermons at Mars Hill Church demonstrates that Driscoll has absolutely no problem at all invoking the biblical metaphor of husband and wife when it deals with the ancient near-Eastern AUTHORITY STRUCTURE within marriage. He can accept the part where the Groom dies for the Bride. He can accept the part, certainly, where the Bride must submit to the Groom, not least in his various teachings on male headship and the authority of church leaders. He’s got problems if that conjugal metaphor ever breaks the bonds of propriety, service, and obligation to take on an element of ecstatic, self-forgetting admiration for the other. Driscoll may think he's secured himself from imagining a Jesus who wants to sexually penetrate him, but he may have done so at the expense of allowing the canonical comprehensiveness of the conjugal metaphor to have it's Spirit-inspired way. Christ choosing to die for the Bride on the Cross expresses a love that has no sense of discretion or restraint. The love of Christ for the Church was so strong he embraced the Cross, scorning its shame, and He conquered death by death because of His love for us.

In Song of Songs we are told that love is as strong as death. We know what love that is most obviously and immediately talking about, even if we subscribe to an allegorical second meaning. We can see cases where an old spouse dies and the widow or widower dies within a year of that death. We all get that love is as strong as death in that way! But Christ’s love is stronger than death.

By rejecting a typological approach as even possible in Song of Songs what we may be seeing is that Driscoll has granted the high flown poetic hyperbole as being legitimate for erotic love but shudders at the thought that a comparably powerful, or even more powerful love animated Christ to go to the Cross for us. After all, Song of Songs CAN’T be pointing us to Jesus now that Driscoll has established it’s about techniques and positions. It CAN'T be about Christ's love for the Church because Driscoll interprets that as Jesus preparing to have homosexual intercourse with him.

For a man who has said "It's all about Jesus" he sure seems to have managed to transform his teaching about Song of Songs into a kind of "It's all about Driscoll" hermeneutic. As I said at the beginning, Driscoll must know Jesus said there would be no marriage in Heaven. Why would Driscoll even think a joke of this sort would even make sense? Those who interpret Song of Songs typologically aren't imagining genital penetration are they?

Well, to the degree that anyone can begin to guess at an explanation, let me refer to Driscoll's 1999 sermons on Song of Songs. Driscoll has been steadfast in revisiting this material. Driscoll's persistent introduction to Song of Songs includes his speculative fantasy that Solomon and Abishag were sitting in a tree k-i-s-s-i-n-g. This is fanciful nonsense. Solomon’s first wife mentioned in scripture was an Egyptian and that was, as scholars such as Iain Provan pointed out, a foreboding of how bad things would go in Solomon’s reign where faithfulness to the Lord was concerned.

Iain Provan and V. Phillips Long, both of whom contributed work to the study notes in the ESV translation, have addressed Solomon's accession in ways that show the Abishag fantasy to be particularly silly. Provan, in his commentary on 1 & 2 Kings, notes that Abishag was chosen to assist David because he had trouble keeping warm at night. Abishag’s presence in the court highlights what ends up being a story, at every level, of royal impotence (of every kind) in David’s final years. The narrative thread from “could not keep warm” to “did not know her sexually” to Adonijah deciding he had a shot at the throne is strongly implied in the narrative.

Provan and Long have both broached what Driscoll avoids--rumors of David's sexual impotence were taken as a sign of administrative impotence and failing health. At this Adonijah, like his brother Absalom, sees in his father's weakness a shot at the throne. Nathan and Bathsheba get wind of this and trick David into formally appointing Solomon as his successor both to save Solomon's life and to perform an end-run around Adonijah.

The idea that Solomon killed Adonijah because he was in love with Abishag himself is pure fantasy. Absalom (under Ahithophel's counsel) took some of David’s concubines and had sex with them in public both to shame his father and show that he was made of kingly stuff at the crudest level. By this time in Israel there was a precedent that if you took any woman who belonged to the king you were making yourself known as a claimant to the throne. Solomon didn’t have his brother killed because he and his father’s servant girl were carving their names in some nearby tree. It was a bluntly political gesture. Solomon knew his brothers had habits of forming insurrections to get power or were rapists. If he didn’t put his foot down in the sternest and most irreversible way possible he’d lose the kingdom and it would divide.

But in Driscoll’s make-believe Song of Songs Abishag is the peasant princess who won the heart of the king. Why? It's a fantasy he seems to have come up with back in 1999 when he first started reading, studying, and teaching Song of Songs. As he put it in his book Confessions of a Reformission Rev, Driscoll was very unhappy with his marriage and particularly the state of his sex life at that point in his life. He thought he'd go through Song of Songs and see if it could improve his marriage. He went into the book with an agenda that colored his approach. Now, it seems, Driscoll can't disengage from his love affair with Song of Songs as the canonized sex manual that fixed what he wasn't happy with in his marriage. Driscoll's hermeneutic of erotica toward Song of Songs is such a treasure to him he can't see that what it has done to his view of a biblical book is transform that book's message within the canon. Instead of "It's all about Jesus!" it must now be "It CAN'T BE about Jesus!" Yet the Lord’s words in Luke 24:25-27 and in John 5:39-47 aren’t going anywhere and must be accounted for, even when we’re discussing Song of Songs. I propose, in Driscollian parlance, that this is the Big E on the eye chart that has been missed for a decade not only by Driscoll's critics and fans but by Driscoll himself.


Don said...

I do not think there is any question that Driscoll does not suffer from an inferiority complex.

I have not heard of this Abishag theory before, but it is clearly just that, a theory.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Unfortunately the Abishag theory has been the linchpin of his teaching on SoS since as far back as 1999 and he has stuck with it since. Sure, he can joke as of 2008 that if he had to bet "your mortgage" he'd wager the woman is Abishag, but he doesn't even get around to subjects such as whether the man is Solomon and whether or not, as some scholars contend, Solomon is probably the villain in the poems trying to steal the shepherdess from the shepherd. There's not discussion of the possibility that make-believe as part of the play among married people could account for Solomonic references in the work. Driscoll also skates past the polygamy and references to concubines in his effort to build his interpretive approach around Abishag and Solomon being in a monogamous relationship when the songs were composed. Even if I were discussing Driscoll's interpretation of Song of Songs as JUST being about sex I would have issues with how he approaches the text.

If Driscoll had a history of introducing any of the above points instead of hanging his whole expository approach on his Abishag/Solomon theory I'd be able to take him ever so slightly more seriously. By his own account he turned to SoS because he was frustrated by the lack of sex he was getting in his marriage. He has been vocal in proclaiming that 1 Timothy 5 says that stay-at-home dads are sinning and this demonstrates a history of reading his own conscious and personal concerns into biblical texts and then applying them as universal precepts. I'm glad that he felt guilty that he let his wife be the breadwinner at the expense of her health but attempting to claim that 1 Timothy 5 speaks against stay-at-home dads is a free-spirited extrapolation from Paul's isntructions to Timothy about who should and shouldn't be on the list of widows taken care of by the church in Ephesus.

Don said...

There are many ways to read SOS, and even more assumptions apparently on how to read it. It is not even clear how many parties are in conversation, that is how many actors there are to be when it is put on as a play.

Driscoll made a hack of 1 Tim 5 by wearing his blue lenses, he should remove them so he can see more clearly.

Kristen said...

I have really enjoyed your series, Wenatchee, and I really appreciate Mara's putting you on as a guest blogger.

I have not heard any of Driscoll's teaching about SoS, but it sounds like what he has been doing is using it as a tool to get his wife to do whatever he wants in the bedroom. Whatever SoS is, it is NOT about "you'd better do this for me, wife, because the Bible says so!" Such an attitude goes completely against the spirit of giving with which Paul told married couples to approach sexual relations in 1 Cor. 7. Me-centeredness, rather than, "how can I show you love?" is inappropriate in marriage.

If I'm understanding Driscoll's interpretation correctly, I think Driscoll completely fails to understand how poetry works. SoS is, first and foremost, a poem. There is a primary meaning of romantic love, and certainly we can move from there to metaphorical meanings. That's part of what poetry does.

But this whole business about homo-eroticism in the application of the metaphor to Christ and ourselves, shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the community vs. the individual. It is not as individuals that we are the Bride of Christ. Is is the church, the community, that is the Bride-- therefore, literalizing the husband-wife metaphor into something physical between Christ and any individual, simply falls apart. Jesus deliberately refused to go there, by never taking a mate on earth. Driscoll has no business going there, and then rejecting where he just went in order to strip the poetry of any typological application. The poetry needs to be allowed to bless us with its beauty, not be reduced to a sex manual.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I have been convinced for years that Driscoll has the world's biggest tin ear for poetry. He doesn't think in poetic terms but in terms of propositional statements and formal arguments. This isn't just manifest in his approach to Song of Songs, it's also revealed perhaps even more tellingly in the fact that in fifteen years he's never done any substantial preaching from the Psalms. He did some okay work in the 2004 Advent series going through the songs in Luke but that was obviously more than half a decade ago.