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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Driscoll, the Bible, and Interpretation

I recently read a friend's post concerning a video of Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. (See the video here and my friend's blog here.) Just for a little context, in the video Driscoll is bemoaning the fact that so many churches are tackily designed, boring, and effeminate, Well, actually he says the reason they are tacky, boring, etc is because they are effeminate.

I think my friend has done a great job responding to such a ridiculous claim, and you should visit her site to read it. I want to focus on one part of that response. She notes that Driscoll is aware of the fact the he often offends people with comments like 'the church in bad shape because of emasculated men' . His response to this fact has been something like, "Dude, this is what Jesus said." So the claim is if Jesus says something then I shouldn't shy away from saying it too. I don't think that is problematic, but what is problematic is figuring out what Jesus meant.

For example, Jesus said "Turn the other cheek." Now if I go around saying that all the time, people are going to want to know what I mean by that. Unfortunately, Jesus didn't leave behind a copy of his systematic theology (and no, it wasn't a first edition Grudem!). If you've listened to even a brief conversation between a pacifist and non-pacifist, you'll realize that there is a huge debate in figuring out what Jesus meant when he said to turn the other cheek. (And given that Driscoll advocates beating up the bully of a playground, I'm sure he'd recognize the tension. See the Christianity Today article here.)

Driscoll's "Dude this is what Jesus said" comment highlights a major problem for the church today. There are many today that are likely to say something very similar. Usually it's conveyed in the evangelical maxim, "the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it." Unfortunately, that usually won't work. If we take that as our maxim, then there should be very few men with both eyes. Jesus said if your eye brings you to sin, then pluck it out. Well, we also know that if a man looks at a woman with lust in his heart, then he has committed adultery, which is a sin. So, if a man lustfully looks at a woman, then he has sinned. How did he go about looking at that woman? With his eyes. Therefore, he should pluck them out.

Not many would agree that this is the best way to interpret those passages. But notice, you're agreeing for the need of interpretation. That's a lot more than just saying "the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it." So, the next time you try to prove a point by using scripture, make sure that you've done your homework and have reasons for thinking that was the intended meaning.

I'll end this with a bit of a homework assignment. Luke 6:38 says, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Read that verse in context (the verses before and after it) and then try to convince me that it has anything at all to do with money. If you subscribe to the "the Bible says it" mentality, then you're likely to think it does. But, you would be wrong.

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