Monday, October 10, 2011

WTH on Driscoll's SOS, parts 2 & 3

(Guest post by Wenatchee The Hatchet concerning Mark Driscoll's series on Song of Songs, Parts Two and Three]


Driscoll notes in his first sermon in the Peasant Princess series that Song of Songs is traditionally read during Passover, and that excerpts of the Song of Songs are sung in public settings. This, he would have us believe, shows that Jews are not as squeamish about sex as many Christians historically have been. Driscoll grants that there are some spots where there can kinda sorta be some typological things about Jesus and the Church in Song of Songs but that this is not primarily what the text is about.

But if the Song of Songs isn't about God's love for His people why on earth has it been read as part of Passover celebration? The whole point of Passover is to celebrate and remember how Yahweh delivered Israel out of bondage in Egypt through His servant Moses, and the Passover is the highest feast day in the Mosaic covenantal community. Does Driscoll just expect all Christians everywhere to NEVER connect the dots here? Throughout the prophetic literature Israel is described as a bride who has become wayward. Driscoll can accept that metaphor because it's in the Bible. If the Bible says God views Himself as a husband and His people as His wife that's in the Bible. We better stick with it.

All right then, when, exactly, did this courtship and betrothal of Yahweh to Israel happen? The whole of the Prophets and the Wisdom literature (i.e. Psalms, Job, Proverb, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs) seem to suggest that the beginning of God's relationship to the nation of Israel had to begin with the Exodus and the time in the wilderness. In other words, the exodus and the encounter with Yahweh through which the covenant was given constitute the beginning of the marriage. If Song of Songs were merely a celebration of married life it would have no plausible role in the corporate worship of Israel, still less as part of its most sacred celebration. It makes far more sense to understand Song of Songs as a poetic reflection not merely on a generic marriage or a specific human marriage but also as a reflection on the marriage of Yahweh and Israel as His people. If that's NOT why it is integrated into Passover than Driscoll has to assure us that all the rabbis and all the people who observed Passover even before the coming of Christ were just horndogs who took time off from revering Yahweh to consider wifely stripteases.

Curiously (or not!) the Puritans had no problem affirming the allegorical element of Song of Songs. They had no trouble at all affirming the book as describing the love of God for His people. Jonathan Edwards, Richard Sibbes, William Gurnall and other Puritans (whom Driscoll claims to admire) happily affirmed the value of Song of Songs as a meditation on God's love for His people. Now, to be sure, there are allegorical interpretations of Song of Songs that have peculiarities. To suggest that the woman's breasts represent Moses and Aaron is stretching things quite a bit. But if allegorical interpretations err in transforming the breasts of the woman into Moses and Aaron, Driscoll errs in his resolve to insist that Song of Songs 2:3 has to refer to oral sex.


Driscoll has happily justified teaching on Song of Songs by citing 2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is God-breathed and suitable for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be fit, equipped for every good work." On this rationale Driscoll spent 11 weeks discussing Song of Songs and the nature of marriage, with a few occasional remarks about how singles should be sexually pure in their singleness.

Yet how does Driscoll's interpretive gloss on Song of Songs 2:3 constitute the use of Scripture to equip all the saints so as to be fit for every good work? Is this the interpretation of Song of Songs 2:3 that Driscoll will present to his daughter Ashley? If all Scripture is divinely inspired and given to us as a gift through the Holy Spirit then the Scriptures are a gift that should be of benefit to every believer in some way. I don't see how Mark Driscoll's daughter Ashley is likely to benefit from knowing that some day, if she gets married, she can give her husband oral sex because "Papa Daddy" says that Song of Songs 2:3 says she can totally go for that. I don't precisely see how Driscoll's son "Buddy Zach" has any reason to study Song of Songs now if Song of Songs 7:2 can only be interpreted as the husband admiring his wife's genitals. Prepubescent children have no need to have the Song of Songs mentioned to them if in Driscoll's hermeneutic the only role book has is as sanctified erotica.

Christians have affirmed for millennia that the Scriptures are a gift given to all the saints to tell us about Christ and that all the scriptures, properly understood, can be read in this way. Yet Driscoll's interpretive approach toward Song of Songs not only makes it a problematic book to discuss with children, it also transforms the book into a rhapsodic account of sexual techniques and positions that not all Christians participate in even within marriage, and which, expounded at any length, present unmarried Christians with a host of potentially new temptations.

When a person explicitly rejects an allegorical reading of Song of Songs in favor of techniques and positions this can be construed as a hermeneutic of erotica or pornography. Driscoll used to advise that a Polaroid of the wife as a Bible bookmark was a great idea so long as nobody else read that Bible. Driscoll’s handling of Song of Songs reveals a peculiar contradiction between his formally stated view that all scriptures points to Christ while denying allegorical or typological elements pointing to Christ in Song of Songs because of his commitment to a strict hermeneutic of erotica toward the book. The case that Driscoll has pornified Song of Songs derives from Driscoll’s own contradictory hermeneutic toward Song of Songs in contrast to other biblical texts and not from any simplistic accusation that Driscoll encourages people to go expose themselves to porn.


Don said...

The Bible is for adults. Not all of it is for kids, as some parts are simply not appropriate. There are parts of the Bible that can with some editing be made into Bible stories suitable for kids. But thinking that the whole Bible is for kids is a mistake.

Don said...

It is true that in some of the prophets God and Israel in the Mosaic covenant are said to be husband and wife in a marriage covenant.

Don said...

There is a difference between erotic actions in a marriage and porn. SoS is not porn but it does contain erotic actions, which other parts of the Bible indicate are reserved for the marriage bed.

Don said...

P.S. The Perspicuity of Scripture as formulated by the original Reformers was a way to counteract the claim by the Roman Catholic church that one could not be saved without the church; the Reformers instead claimed that the Scriptures were "clear" in how to be saved, while admitting that other parts might not be so clear.

Some think that the doctrine means that ALL Scripture is clear, which is not the case, but is taught in some circles.

Mara Reid said...

Concerning your third comment and it was something that I will address in a later post...

I have no problem with pastors and counselors using SOS for helping couples with sex.
I can't speak for WTH, but I get the feeling he doesn't have that issue either.

The problem with Driscoll's take on it is that he makes it ALL about sex, including parts that clearly aren't about sex.
AND because he goes so overboard he makes NONE of it useable for children, singles, widows, etc. He makes it so that NO part of SOS is capable of being able to point to Jesus, therefore making it the one book in scriptures that CAN'T EVER be about Jesus.

It's an all or nothing thing with Driscoll, and I like WTH's way of dealing with it.

It's kind of like, really, MD? "His banner over me is love" CAN'T be about Jesus and the Church? If children sing it in Sunday School, are they really singing about marital love between married adults and it can't be about Jesus loving people, including children? Really?

That's what WTH is coming against.

Don said...

In answer to your question, "His banner over me is love." IS primarily about married love. This does not mean it cannot be used elsewhere appropriately and even used with kids in some ways. Kids should know that mom and dad love each other and express that in physical ways, like kissing, holding hands, snuggling, and unspecified more. Public displays of affection around one's kids are appropriate if they do not go too far.

Anonymous said...

I think the Puritans took the position that SOS could *only* be allegorical, so I see Driscoll's position as no worse than the Puritans'... but also no better, just the opposite extreme.

I think it's hard to reasonably defend the only-allegory view or the only-literal view. So when reason doesn't work, often people resort to mocking or some form of a can't-talk rule. I wonder if Driscoll's homoerotic comments are more lazy than fearful -- a cheap shot to discredit other views (without having to actually think about it).

Either way, it's a poor example to the flock of how to approach the word of God.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

I'm not suggesting that all childrens' studies start with 1 Kings 22 or Judges 11, Don. :)

I'm trying to point out two things in this section. First, I'm trying to point out is that Driscoll has paid lip service to loving the Puritans while ignoring what they had to say about Song of Songs.

Second, I'm pointing out that for unmarried people, for children, for the widowed, or for those Christians with same-sex attraction issues (and I know sincere Christians in all categories and happen to be in category 1) three months of Driscoll focusing on the sex-only interpretive approach to Song of Songs is little better than a publicity stunt. Driscoll reserved most of his famously racy teaching for marriage and pre-marriage classes prior to 2008's Peasant Princess and the Scotland talks. Had Driscoll not decided to go for broke and spend a quarter of a year going with the sex-only approach I would not have seen any need to make any public remarks about problems in his handling of Song of Songs within his own established theological approach.

Don said...

Yes, I agree that Driscoll pulled a stunt by focusing so much on the sex aspects of SoS. There are ways to present this info in an appropriate way to adults and Driscoll's example is not it. It did make some headlines, so he has his reward.