Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Does Mark Driscoll believe in a God of Love or Hate?

Mark and I

Folks have been debating for about a week now on the whole issue of the wrath of God and how this co-exists with the love of God. Mark Driscoll's preach in Edinburgh on Friday touched upon this theme as a small part of a larger sermon on the atonement of Jesus. Many who were not present but read Adrian's synopsis have attempted to understand what Mark was actually saying. I have perhaps confused matters by putting in my thoughts, as I was also present at this meeting.

But rather than throw around opinion, what I offer now to help steer the debate is an almost word-for-word transcript of the controversial section of Mark's preach. I've cut out a few jokes and verbal slip-ups, but apart from that this is what Mark said. Please note that much of this was said with humour, which does change the way some of it is interpreted.

Jesus is our Propitiation

This word appears four times in the Greek New Testament. Most translations don’t include it, they say “people don’t know what the word propitiation means”, so they put in other words like “sacrifice of atonement.” People don’t know what that word means either! So I don’t think it helps. Use the word, it’s a good word.

1 John 4:10 is one example

“This is love, not that we have loved God”

- see that’s why I hate freakin’ religion – religion tells people, if you are a good person then God will love you. The gospel says, God has loved you, look at the cross, now you can live a new life. You don’t obey so that God will love you, you obey because God already does!

The gospel is so much better than religion. “This is love, not that we have loved God” – not that we went first, not that we initiated, but that God has loved us and sent his son to be a propitiation for our sins.

Stupid people – stupid theologians – but they say things like

“I don’t believe in propitiation because how can a loving God…”

Propitiation is how God demonstrates his love. Come on! We know God loves us because he propitiated our sin!

Here is what propitiation is: GOD HATES SINNERS. You’ve been told that God loves the sinner but hates the sin. No he doesn’t: Ghandi says that, just so you know, he’s on a totally different team than us.

14 times in the first 50 Psalms God says he hates somebody. Says he hates group like the Nicolations. Hates dudes like Esau. Hates those in Proverbs with haughty eyes. He hates all kind of people! When someone says “I hate the sin but love the sinner” that’s dumb because we are sinners. I hate the essence sum total of what you are, but I really like you!” What the! We do what we are: we have an old nature and we commit old acts of sin.

It says it in Psalm 5:5 “I hate -- or it says, You hate all who do evil”. Now let this settle. People say things like “God doesn’t hate anybody!” Yes he does! He hates tonnes of people! He does. Some people say “that’s not fair”. Course its fair! You hate people! And God’s far better than you and he knows a lot more people!

God hates sinners and he hates their sin. I preached this doctrine of propitiation. The third time I preached this … a guy pulled a knife and tried to get up on the stage to kill me. So people will respond to this doctrine … we grew the next week by 800 people [after preaching this doctrine…]

GOD HATES SINNERS. He works it out through his wrath. God wrath is mentioned more than 600 times in the bible. If you have a bucket of verses that say love, and a bucket of verses that say wrath, wrath is a bigger bucket.

The whole “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” -- that’s the wrong place to start. “God hates you and its going to go really really bad forever!” – hey now that is true…

What happens with propitiation is that Jesus stands in our place and the wrath of the Father is poured out on the Son. I want you to see the masculine suffering of Jesus. He is dying by suffering the wrath of God. And the wrath of God is poured out on Jesus and is thereby propitiated, diverted, taken away, from sinners who are in Jesus Christ.

I love this! People come up to me and say “How can a loving God send anyone to hell?” My question is, “How can a holy God take anyone to heaven?”…

People need to know how good God is, how angry God is, so that they understand how significant Jesus is. “I’m under the wrath of God? I need to go to Jesus and I need to be propitiated.”

This is shown in the Passover, when literally the wrath of God was going to visit every home except those who were covered literally by blood – substitution. And as they were covered by blood, so the wrath of God passed over them. Just as we are covered by the blood of Jesus. 1 Cor 5:7 “Jesus Christ the Passover lamb has been slain.” He is the blood that covers us, so that the propitiating work of God is accomplished, so that the wrath of God passes over.

If I may add a brief observation of my own, its clear that Mark is espousing a particular model of penal substitutionary atonement (PSA), a model which I have described in the past as "hard" penal substitution. I don't think I can fully agree with this, as it goes beyond what scripture actually says. I'm more comfortable with soft PSA, a somewhat more subtle model that theologians across the board can agree with, including Wright and possibly even Steve Chalk, although no-one really understands what he believes about substitutionary atonement these days!

UPDATE: Peter Kirk offers his revised response to this message, given the accurate transcript above.

UPDATE AGAIN: If you want to hear Mark's Friday and Sunday night preaches, you can can get them courtesy of Destiny Church Edinburgh: [ Sunday 10am | Sunday 12noon | Friday - leaders meeting]


jul said...

Interesting, I agree and disagree as well. I don't think Mark is taking into account that Scripture says while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. And it completely ignores the love Jesus clearly demonstrated for sinners, healing people first before saying go and sin no more.

Love what he said about religion though...

Adam A said...

"I murdered God!"

Of course, one of the problems with penal substitutionary atonement is that, under it, "God murdered Jesus!" since in this model it is God who punishes sin with death.

The issue of Hell was raised in the comments on the previous post. Another problem with PSA, if you believe that God's punishment for sin is not only death but eternity in Hell as well, is that the premature curtailment of Jesus' life and 24 hours of horrible suffering is supposed to be a reasonable exchange not just for 30 years of lost life of one person, but for the unimaginable eternal torment of billions. No matter how perfect Jesus was, I can't think of any justice system ever invented - even those of banana republics and corrupt dictatorships - which would accept such an exchange.

As for the verses in Psalms etc which refer to God hating sinners, just because a psalmist thinks something, that doesn't mean it's True. There were plenty of erroneous perceptions which various people back Old Testament times had of God: for starters they hadn't had the opportunity even to glimpse His fullest revelation of Himself in Jesus. And what does this great revelation show us? Far from hating sinners, Jesus, it would seem, passionately loves them - and, generally speaking, likes them as well! Referring to those who made themselves His, His Father's and humanity's enemies, e.g. the Pharisees, He says, "Love your enemies." Did He love their sin too? No, His words and actions demonstrate that He was radically opposed to any thought, action or belief system which alienated people from their God. Conclusion: Jesus loves sinners and hates sin. And, since I'm assuming that Jesus is God, the same can be said of God. Now where have I heard that before...?

Jesus doesn't just ask us to forgive sins without requiring punishment and retribution, He positively requires it. (See e.g. Matthew 18.) Moreover, His forgiveness does not seem to depend on any explicit request for it: to my recollection, none of the people to whom He says, "Your sins are forgiven" actually ask Him for forgiveness or even confess their sins. Mostly they are people who are confessing their disability due to an illness. More radically still, in at least one case, His forgiveness extends even to people who are, at the moment of forgiveness, quite positively rejecting of it: "Father forgive them," He says, as His murderers joyfully hammer nails into his wrists and ankles, before having a nice game of spin the dice to decide on who gets to keep His cloak: the token of their exercise of illegitimate power over, torture and humiliation of a fellow human being, which happens also to be Him.

And Mark Driscoll still thinks Jesus hates sinners? What more evidence does he want to the contrary???

Alastair said...

Thanks for your comments, Jul. Mark has preached on those verses as well, and I am sure he would agree with you. In fact, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" is another way of looking at propitiation: "God loves us so much he sent he son to die for us".

Nobody (I hope!) is debating the love of God, and no-one is saying God only loves those he has saved. The issue is God's hatred of sin and his wrath, and the thorny problem of (for non-Christians), their sin being infused into who they are, as the NT appears to teach.

Yeah, loved the anti-religion stuff too!

Alastair said...

Hi Adam, thanks for dropping in again! Some thoughts:

Of course, one of the problems with penal substitutionary atonement is that, under it, "God murdered Jesus!" since in this model it is God who punishes sin
with death.

I am not sure this is a problem with all models of penal substitutionary atonement, but it may be a problem with what I call the hard model, which appears to be what Mark is talking about.

That God punishes Sin with Death is surely one of the most established facts in the entire bible. That Jesus laid down his life as a sacrifice for us, and died for our sins, is also surely an incontrovertible fact. The exact nature of the transaction on the cross is somewhat a mystery though.

Wright translates 2 Cor 5:21 as "for our sake God made Christ, who did not know sin, to be a sin-offering for us, so that in him we might become God's covenant-faithfulness" -

And Romans 8:1-3 as "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus... By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as a sin offering, he condemned sin in the flesh [of Jesus]"

- clearly a different spin on the cross than the the thought that Jesus was condemned so that we don't have to be.

In other words, Wright believes that God did not condemn Jesus on the cross as such, but that the wrath of God was poured out on the body/soul/spirit of Jesus, and in his body sin was condemned.

The bottom line is not the PSA, or the reality of the wrath of God -- both are incontrovertible if you accept the text of the scriptures. The bottom line is whether God hates sin and condemned sin in Jesus, or the whether God also "hates" sinners and condemned Jesus himself on the cross, as per Luther's Divine Exchange. (Does Luther really say that? I don't know.)

In related debates on Peter Kirk's blog it has been said that the bible does talk about God hating people, but that its Semitic hyperbole for "love less". This too would change the whole drift of this current discussion.

Will continue a new comment to further dwell on your other observations...

Alastair said...

if you believe that God's punishment for sin is not only death but eternity in Hell as well

Thanks for bringing this up! I think we all need to be very careful about how we talk about hell. You are right, I can't see anywhere in the bible where it talks about hell being a punishment for sin. I guess we have the following data:

- We were created to live forever by partaking of the "tree of life"

- Death came into the [human?] world as a result of Adam's sin

- We were barred from Paradise because we had sinned. Note carefully: God did not want us to "live forever" in a state of sin. I think this is key to understand hell. One doesn't "live forever" in Hell: life is a gift from God.

- According to Jesus himself, Hell was prepared after the angelic rebellion.

- According to Revelation, Hell is connected with the outpouring of the wrath of God

- According to many other NT texts, the death of Jesus averts the wrath of God for those that accept his offer of forgiveness and trust in Him.

I don't believe Jesus suffered in hell as a result of the atonement, but that for a period on the cross he suffered the sum total of sin of the entire world, and therefore experienced the horror of hell.

I'm not sure that Jesus had to suffer hell in order for us to be counted righteous to be seen as just. I think that misses several elements of NT teaching concerning justification, the Spirit-filled life, and the final judgment.

- oh yes, so the last bit of data to mention now is the final judgment for all (not just non Christians). One way of looking at justification is to say that its the final verdict of that last judgment brought forward in time. Then to honor that verdict, God gives us the Spirit so that we can live the life that reflects the vindication we have received.

Nevertheless, a thought worthy of further reflection...

As for the verses in Psalms etc which refer to God hating sinners, just because a psalmist thinks something, that doesn't mean it's True.

I know where you are going here, and we certainly see this in places of the bible, but I am also wary of this position, because we can negate pretty much the entire bible apart from the words of Jesus with this hermeneutic. Given how extensively Jesus quoted from the psalms, and his statement about "scripture not being broken", I'm not sure I can go as this far and basically say that the psalmist got it wrong. We may as well start ripping psalms out of the bible! Nevertheless, I do see where you are coming from, and again this is worthy of further debate. Perhaps Peter Kirk may pick this one up?

I like your point on forgiveness. I love it when Jesus says that on the cross, about forgiving his tormentors. As you rightly point out, they were hardly repentant. Because of this aspect of the atonement, I think God's forgiveness may be offered to all (unlimited/universal? atonement for forgiveness only?) But we also need to balance out what he said to one of the criminals on the cross with him: whilst one slagged him off, the other was "saved" in a moment, and was promised to enter Paradise that very day with Jesus. The text leads us to assume the other non-repentant criminal did not get the same promise, even though I am sure Jesus included him when he cried out "forgive them Father". I really would like to develop these thoughts further, as I think that cry of forgiveness is often forgotten in debates about the cross.

And Mark Driscoll still thinks Jesus hates sinners? What more evidence does he want to the contrary???

Well, he also believes God loves them as well. But I am not sure I can go as far as to say God hates sinners. The catch, as discussed in my previous blog post, is that he is mad at both their sin and their sin nature "what they have become", and the only solution is found in Christ. God's forgiveness alone is not enough (stay with me!): God's solution involves dealing with Satan, evil powers, cleansing us and rebirthing us from above so that we that follow Him become a new creation in Christ.

Of course if this is true then we have the thorny issue that those who are assigned to hell (whether they are alive, eternally dead, or whatever) were forgiven. Which makes hell even more sad than it already is.

One further thought: is it 100% just to forgive those that have no intention of repenting, no intention of changing, and have no remorse for their sins?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Adam said, "As for the verses in Psalms etc which refer to God hating sinners, just because a psalmist thinks something, that doesn't mean it's True. There were plenty of erroneous perceptions which various people back Old Testament times had of God: for starters they hadn't had the opportunity even to glimpse His fullest revelation of Himself in Jesus."

Are you serious? The Psalms are the insired word of God. Who wrote the Psalms? GOD!!! Every word is written by the finger of God. YTou think you murdered Jesus? Truly shows you dont understand to whom the penalty had to paid to. God had to be satisfied. God had to be paid for our sins. You didn't kill Jesus. God did. What about Acts 4,

"Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people[a] of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen." Acts 4:27-28 (NIV)

Who killed Jesus? Pilate? Jews? Gentiles? No. God did this. Why? Because sin has to be punished. And because God Hates sin, then He had to punish it. God sent Jesus to die for sinners, not all sinners, but those whom He called and predestined to life (Romans 8: 30).

What about Isaiah 53:10,

"Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt,he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand."

The word there in hebrew is caphetes (transliterated) which means to please. The correct translation is :"Yet it pleased the LORD to crush him..."

How can you say God hates sin but doesnt hates sinners? It is just not possible..of for that fact biblical. God hates the whole sinner. Yet He has in eternity chosen some sinners to salvation, and that is why Jesus came to bear their sin and die for that they can have eternal life. That is why sin is so horrible. And that is why the cross manifests God's love for sinners. The sinners that dont repent and submit to Jesus as Lord will suffer eternal punishment in Hell. Not because they had any saying in it, but because God cannot have any relationship with sin that is not propitiated or paid in full (Revelation 13:8).

Anonymous said...
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Alastair said...

Anonymous from Melbourne, Australia, wrote:

The fact of the matter is that Mark is completely deluded full stop!

Please check out these related references on the origins of churchianity.


And on Real God.


Thanks again for dropping in and thanks for your links. Unfortunately I cannot keep your links as they link to what would be offensive to most Christians. To comment on the first two sentences of one of your links:

The Message (or "Gospel") of Jesus of Nazareth is the universal Teaching of ego-transcending love of the Spiritual and Transcendental Divine, to be practiced directly as well as in self-transcending love and tolerance of all living beings.

This is commonly held to be true, but is in fact a complete misunderstanding of the Jewishness of Jesus and his mission on earth. He was a not a universal truth-sayer, but rather came as a Prophet, Priest and King; further more Jesus himself saw his ministry in terms of defeating the Evil One and rescuing humanity. He saw himself as identified with the one true High God of Heaven and Earth, which makes his either God, a liar, or simply crazy. He was not preaching some universal religious message: please simply pick up one of the gospels and quickly read through to discover this.

Christianity [via Paul] was transformed from the culture (or Spiritual practice) of self-sacrifice to the cult of vicarious salvation.

Again, nonsense. We see in the gospels that Jesus was aware of his mission to lay down his life for all mankind. What Paul did was to unpick the theological and corresponding practical IMPLICATIONS of the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

VinnytheViking said...

Hi. Just a quick note to say the messages have been moved to this address

This contains all 3 messages Mark did at Destiny Edinburgh



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