If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair. CS Lewis
We are still visiting in lovely Enid, Oklahoma, with Wade and Rachelle Burleson. We are having a wonderful time and are grateful to be in the presence of a real pastor, not just some talking head. Last night, we got to have dinner with Debbie Kaufman, who was instrumental in exposing the lies of Ergun Caner. What a courageous woman! Tomorrow will be an intense work day as we look at our project. What a trip!
This is the last installment of our guest poster, Wenatchee the Hatchet, on Mark Driscoll. We hope this will stimulate some good discussion. We appreciate his "insider's" glance at the oddities of Driscoll's theology. As with all guest posters, TWW does not necessarily agree with everything he says. However, unlike the hyper-authoritarian types who blog, we believe in exposing all sides of an issue. Besides, WTH has thought through this subject very thoroughly. Many Christians could learn from such a Berean. Always look at the Scriptures for yourself.
When the Bridegroom mustn't be literal and the Lake of Fire must:
Driscoll sees Satan in texts that clearly and literally refer to pagan kings
By now I've pointed out the historical challenge of Driscoll (or for that matter, John MacArthur) attempting to completely sidestep any typological or allegorical reading of Song of Songs. Millennia of church tradition are difficult to ignore. If millennia of church tradition are easy to ignore there's the realization that Jamnia consented to the canonization of Song of Songs on the grounds that an allegorical reading was acceptable.
The plainest reading possible of Song of Songs on the assumption that Solomon must have written the book runs into the problem of the sixty queens and eighty concubines and virgins beyond number. If this is Solomon, really Solomon, then a "plain" reading of the text that attempts to skirt how many women "Solomon" refers to in his harem is trying to have things both ways.
Not all scholars even agree that "the Song of Songs, which is Solomon's" necessarily indicates Solomonic authorship, only possible Solomonic patronage.
Having established that Song of Songs is a book Driscoll (and John MacArthur) think should not be read typologically or allegorically it remains to be discussed where Driscoll, particularly, lands on other passages that he chooses to interpret literally that may not be as literal. For instance, if Driscoll can joke that the Song of Songs cannot be literal because he'll be bummed if Jesus is preparing to have sex with him, why has Driscoll over the years been quite a bit more literal about "Hell" even within discussion of Revelation? If the Wedding Feast of the Lamb has to be a metaphor so Driscoll doesn't suffer an end-of-time gay panic moment why would the lake of fire be literal? Why would it be "hell" if "hell" is clearly described as being thrown into the lake of fire anyway? What is the basis for reading one apocalyptic passage metaphorically while insisting that the Lake of Fire has to be literal within just the book of Revelation?
To be sure Driscoll isn't the only conservative preacher who has done this over the years but in Driscoll's case his eagerness to reject typological or allegorical reading of the groom/bride metaphor in just one book of the Bible in favor of a literal reading raises the question of how, when it comes to Revelation, he selectively literalizes Hell where the other apocalyptic imagery is allowed to remain metaphorical so Driscoll doesn't get his gay panic moment.
For that matter while Driscoll has been eager to not see Jesus in Song of Songs, why shouldn't he then refrain from embracing the plainest, most literal, and least allegorical reading of other biblical texts? If Driscoll's hermeneutic is to avoid allegorical readings where he thinks they're not warranted it would seem he chooses to NOT see Jesus in Song of Songs while seeing Satan in two passages where Satan is not actually the literal and plain referent in biblical passages. Let's pick two non-random passages historically linked to Satan Driscoll referred to in his Christus Victor presentation on spiritual warfare.
Isaiah 14 is often cited as referring to Satan when it referred to the king of Babylon. Since in context Isaiah is referring to a long-since deposed pagan ruler why would Driscoll (or MacArthur for that matter) be so eager to accept a typological or allegorical association of the Morning Star with Satan when that is not what a "plain" reading would indicate? If Jesus "can't" be in Song of Songs why is Satan the Daystar in Isaiah?
Then there is the prince of Tyre and the king of Tyre passage from Ezekiel 28, which is in the broader context of Ezekiel 26-28.
Ezekiel specifically says Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, will lay siege to Tyre for its mockery of Jerusalem. I will note here that John MacArthur notes that Ezekiel 28 was incomplete, suggesting that the king of Tyre passage refers to Satan. Well, let's discuss what that really means in military/historical terms. Ezekiel predicted that Nebuchadnezzar would lay siege to Tyre and destroy it.
Well … Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Tyre for THIRTEEN YEARS and did not actually destroy it. A compromise was established in which Tyre agreed to be a Babylonian precinct in exchange for not being completely destroyed and Babylon could turn its attention to Egypt. The reason, skeptics may easily proffer, that the king of Tyre passage in Ezekiel 28 "has" to be interpreted by Christians as finding typological fulfillment in the final defeat of Satan is because Christians can't concede that a prophecy in the Bible made by Ezekiel regarding Nebuchadnezzar destroying Tyre could not have been fulfilled as written.
But this is where we get to the question of how the apocalyptic idiom, which for all intents and purposes Ezekiel started, should even be read. Even skeptical scholars and rationalist students of the Bible note that Ezekiel kept everything he wrote as it was even in cases where it would seem that doing so would have given people written evidence that Ezekiel was a false prophet and provided a basis for his being put to death!
Now another thing to consider is that at this point Ezekiel was prophesying in a completely post-exilic setting. In other words, even if the prophet Ezekiel made predictions in the name of God regarding events that failed to take place in his lifetime there was no covenanted people of God in a form organized enough to implement Deuteronomy 16-18 and those passages regarded how to approach prophets within a pre-exilic community anyway.
All that to say this, a preacher like Driscoll who simply affirms that Ezekiel 28 refers to Satan has not bothered to engage with what Ezekiel was really writing about in his own lifetime, let alone how the typological introduction of Satan as the ultimate referent point for the "king of Tyre" prophecy constitutes an apologetics question. MacArthur does at least grant the issue comes up since the king of Tyre was not actually destroyed in the manner described by Ezekiel.
However, merely to suggest that the king of Tyre had to be Satan because the king of Tyre wasn't in Eden is to miss how hyperbolic apocalyptic language is. David's account of God's rescue in Psalm 18 is far more flamboyant than the much more prosaic account in Samuel of the troubles God actually delivered David from.
Preachers like Driscoll and MacArthur can say that Isaiah 14's reference to the king of Babylon and Ezekiel 28's reference to the king of Tyre refer to Satan. There's just a problem of exegesis involved. The problem is that the Babylonian king whose fall is anticipated by Isaiah 14 is the same king who will be the cause of the fall of the king of Tyre in Ezekiel 28.
Now, sure, we can say that typologically there's reference to Satan and typology can account for a lot. But if that's the case then why COULDN'T Christ be the bridegroom in Song of Songs if conservative preachers who reject an allegorical or typological reference to Christ in Song of Songs insist on a typological reading of Satan into both Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 when the context of both prophetic passages forces us to say that one "Satan" is prophesied to destroy the other "Satan"?
In Driscoll's spiritual warfare presentation he affirms without the slightest hesitation that Ezekiel 28:14 refers to Satan. But if Ezekiel 28 refers to Satan what about Ezekiel 26-28 as a whole, which is obviously referring to Tyre? Why does a snippet of Ezekiel 28 get to refer to Satan while Christ can't possibly be referenced in a Christian's reading of Song of Songs?
Well, the history as to how and why Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14 came to be read as referring to Satan is rather lengthy and historian Jeffrey Burton Russell published no less than five books on the history of Christian and Jewish thought about the Devil (all of which are very useful references and are considered standards on the subject). The shortest practical answer for the present discussion is to say that a great deal of the ideas associated with the devil/Satan and demons developed not within the actual canonical books themselves but in intertestamental literature. This is a subject which Catholic and Eastern Orthodox scholars are a bit more familiar with, and Christians in more "mainline" settings.
Now the reason I bring all of this up is to point out that when a preacher like Driscoll (or MacArthur) rejects an allegorical approach to Song of Songs on the grounds that that is not the "plain" reading of the text here's a question you can ask them, if that's true, why should people trust that their take on Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28 is "really" referring to Satan when that is not the "plain" reading of the text?
If you should avoid allegorical readings of biblical texts because, as MacArthur said in his response to Driscoll, that opens up all sorts of room for huge mistakes, why would both Driscoll and MacArthur stick to a view of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 that developed within the medieval period, when it would seem that those pesky Papists were super-imposing their ideas on to the Bible. Don't people get sent to Hell for imposing their own ideas on the Bible? Well, if that's the case couldn't it be said that those who claim Satan is being referred to in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 have sent themselves to Hell for claiming God's word talks about Satan when a literal and plain reading doesn't establish that?
Satan is referred to in the book of Job, where he proposes a bet that God accepts. Satan is also referred to as accusing the high priest in Zechariah 3. Satan is described as inciting David to take a census near the end of his reign in 1 Chronicles 21 while 2 Samuel 24 tells us that God Himself was the one who incited David to take a census of Israel because the Lord was angry with His people.
Considering all of these issues if Driscoll thinks Song of Songs can't possibly refer to Jesus under any reading then he's welcome to take that approach. But it would help if he could then also explain how, by the praxis of rejecting all allegorical reading of Jesus on to Song of Songs, he has so simply contented himself to accepting that Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 refer to Satan when that isn't a plain reading of a biblical text in either case. How does "Satan" cast out "Satan"?
After all, Jesus said that if Satan is casting out Satan his kingdom is divided against itself and cannot stand. And, of course, this is right. But that would be true regardless of how Mark Driscoll or John MacArthur handle Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. Particularly in the case of Ezekiel 28 Jewish scholars have noted regularly that the literal fulfillment of Ezekiel 26-28 didn't come to pass. They don't fret about it. Christians introduced a typological reading of Ezekiel 28 to refer to Satan over time. Now if a guy like Driscoll claims to "just preach what's in the Bible" he may just have to avoid ever actually unpacking the exegetical and textual issues of Ezekiel 28 and avoid any comparison of what Ezekiel wrote to what can be established by archaeological evidence regarding the military campaigns of Babylon at that time.
Or … if he can grant that Ezekiel 28 DOES refer to Satan he can ALSO grant that it is within the scope of historic Christian thought to take a typological approach to Song of Songs in which the woman is God's people and the man is God. After all, if what's good for the goose is good for the gander then Driscoll's goose could be cooked when he tries to apply his "just what's in the Bible" approach to Song of Songs (with no possible reference to Jesus) to Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 (in which a Babylonian king who is supposed to be the Devil destroys the king of Tyre who is supposed to be the Devil, too). Apparently the Devil gets to show up in some places where he isn't literally mentioned in the text but God Himself, who inspired Scripture, can't be bothered to show up in the one book Driscoll and his critic MacArthur say has to be read mainly about marriage and sex.