(Guest post by Wenatchee The Hatchet concerning Mark Driscoll's series on Song of Songs, Parts Two and Three]
ISSUE TWO: DRISCOLL VS THE PERSPECUITY OF SCRIPTURE AND CANONICAL METAPHOR
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.
ISSUE THREE: DRISCOLL VS A SCRIPTURE WHICH IS TRULY GIVEN TO ALL BELIEVERS
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.