As a follow up to the original piece John MacArthur on Mark Driscoll there has been a flurry of recent activity on several fronts addressing what seems to be fast becoming a latter day Great Downgrade Controversy of sorts.
Recently Phil Johnson, director of Grace to You, editor of several of John MacArthur’s books, co-pastor of the Grace Life Pulpit at Grace Community Church, webmaster of The Spurgeon Archive, and blogmaster of Pyromaniacs preached a scathing Biblical indictment against the “pornification of the pulpit” entitled “Sound Doctrine, Sound Words” at the 2009 Shepherd’s Fellowship Conference.
Now Dr. John MacArthur has weighed in on this important and timely issue in a series of four articles entitled “THE RAPE OF SOLOMON’S SONG” which zeroes in on the gross, heinous, and wholly unbiblical perversion of scripture perpetrated by Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church.
THE RAPE OF SOLOMON’S SONG PART 1
By John MacArthur – April 14th, 2009
Apparently the shortest route to relevance in church ministry right now is for the pastor to talk about sex in garishly explicit terms during the Sunday morning service. If he can shock parishioners with crude words and sophomoric humor, so much the better. The defenders of this trend solemnly inform us that without such a strategy it is well-nigh impossible to connect with today’s “culture.” (In contemporary evangelicalism that term has become a convenient label for just about everything that is uncultured and uncouth.)
Continue reading Part 1 here.
THE RAPE OF SOLOMON’S SONG PART 2
By John MacArthur – April 15th, 2009
It’s frankly hard to think of a more appalling misuse of Scripture than turning the Song of Solomon into soft porn. When people can no longer read that portion of Scripture without pornographic imagery entering their minds, the beauty of the book has been corrupted, its description of righteous love perverted, and its role in sanctifying and elevating the marriage relationship deflected. That preachers would do this in public worship services is unconscionable.
Continue reading Part 2 here.
THE RAPE OF SOLOMON’S SONG PART 3
By John MacArthur – April 16th, 2009
[Editor’s Note: Readers should be warned that this article contains offensive material. Nonetheless, it is included here for the sake of substantiating the thesis of this article.]
I emphatically agree with those who say the Song of Solomon is not mere allegory. It is best understood when we take it at face value, like any other text of Scripture. Many interpreters whom I otherwise hold in high esteem (including Spurgeon and most of the Puritans) have unfortunately done more to confuse than clarify the Song’s message by treating it in a purely allegorical fashion that eliminates its primary meaning.
Solomon’s Song is, as I’ve said from the outset, a love poem between Solomon and his bride, celebrating their mutual love for one another, including the delights of the marriage bed. To interpret this—or any other portion of Scripture—in a purely allegorical fashion is to treat the interpreter’s own imagination as more authoritative than the plain meaning of the text.
However, those who pretend to know the meanings of poetic symbols that are not clearly identifiable from the text itself commit the very same error. Their speculation is likewise a way of exalting their own imaginations to a higher level of authority than the plain sense of the text.
That’s a particular problem when the interpreter sees a mandate for oral sex in the simple metaphor of a fruit tree or imagines that the best way to contextualize and illustrate portions of the text is by verbally undressing his own wife in order to make the point as vivid as possible. In such a case, not only has the speaker given far too much weight to his own speculative imagination; he has given a fairly clear signal that his imagination is not altogether pure (Luke 6:45).
Continue reading Part 3 here.
THE RAPE OF SOLOMON’S SONG PART 4
By John MacArthur – April 17th, 2009
Before we close this brief series, I promised to answer as many questions as possible from people who have commented here, via e-mail, through Twitter, and at Challies.com.
I first want to thank Tim Challies for his courage in hosting a discussion about this topic. The very mention of propriety and language obviously stirs contemporary evangelical passions—and not necessarily in a way that is helpful. It’s not easy to find forums on the Internet where such a volatile matter can be openly discussed with profit. And because of some of the very problems this series has addressed, even Christian forums aren’t always safe havens from profanity and grossly carnal behavior. I’m grateful to Tim for sponsoring a more dignified level of dialogue.
I resounded with the utter shock Tim expressed when he was exposed to some of the material from Driscoll’s Scotland sermon (the message that sparked this blog series). After reading some of Driscoll’s outrageous statements, Tim reacted the way any pure-minded Christian would react:
I have a real problem with anyone interpreting Song of Solomon like that . . . . To be honest, words fail me when I even try to explain myself—when I try to explain how I just cannot even conceive of Song of Solomon like that. The poetic nature of the Song is entirely eroded when we assign such meaning to it: such specific meaning. And I think as well of what it may do to a couple to be able to say “Look, this specific sex act is mandated in Scripture. So let’s do it.” That may be said to a spouse who has no desire to do that act or who even finds it distasteful. And yet with our interpretation of Song of Solomon, which we really have no way of proving (at least beyond a reasonable doubt) we are potentially bludgeoning an unwilling partner into doing something. I just … again, words really fail me here.
Tim, you were right to be shocked. The most shocking thing to me is that some people do not seem to be shocked at all. What would easily receive an NC-17 rating by the world is being heralded and defended by some in the church.
Continue reading Part 4 here.
In closing, among the many thought provoking comments, concerns and questions addressed by Dr. MacArthur is the oft raised objection that Mark Driscoll is secretly “being discipled” by the likes of John Piper and C.J. Mahaney, and whether or not he (John MacArthur) has attempted to contact Driscoll, Piper, or Mahaney directly. Dr. MacArthur reveals that he has in fact done so to no avail and he asks his readers directly to contact Piper and Mahaney and ask for their response to MacArthur’s inquiries. I leave you with MacArthur’s concluding comments, and I would encourage the interested DefCon reader to follow his advice on this subject.
MacArthur well says:
When 1 Timothy 5:20 says, “Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all,” it is talking about elders in particular. Those in public ministry must be rebuked publicly when their sin is repeated, and public, and confirmed by multiple witnesses.
Nevertheless, I have written Mark privately with my concerns. He rejected my counsel. As a matter of fact, he preached the sermon I have been quoting from seven weeks after receiving my private letter encouraging him to take seriously the standard of holiness Scripture holds pastors to. Here is a small selection from the six-page letter I sent him:
[Y]ou can[not] make a biblical case for Christians to embrace worldly fads—especially when those fads are diametrically at odds with the wholesome speech, pure mind, and chaste behavior that God calls us to display. At its core, this is about ideology. No matter how culture changes, the truth never does. But the more the church accommodates the baser elements of the culture, the more she will inevitably compromise her message. We must not betray our words through our actions; we must be in the world but not of it. . . . . It’s vital that you not send one message about the importance of sound doctrine and a totally different message about the importance of sound speech and irreproachable pure-mindedness.
Mark Driscoll’s response to that admonition and the things he has said since have only magnified my concern.
Mark did indeed express regret a few years ago over the reputation his tongue has earned him. Yet no substantive change is observable. Just a few weeks ago, in an angry diatribe leveled at men in his congregation, Driscoll once again threw in a totally unnecessary expletive. A few weeks before that, he made a public mockery of Ecclesiastes 9:10 (something he has done repeatedly), by making a joke of it on national television. So here are two more inappropriate Driscoll videos being passed around by young people and college students for whom I bear some pastoral responsibility. In their immaturity, they typically think it’s wonderfully cool and transparent for a pastor to talk like that. And they feel free to curse and joke in a similar manner in more casual settings.
It is past time for the issue to be dealt with publicly.
Finally, it seriously overstates the involvement of John Piper and C. J. Mahaney to say they are “discipling” Mark Driscoll. In the first place, the idea that a grown man already in public ministry and constantly in the national spotlight needs space to be “mentored” before it’s fair to subject his public actions to biblical scrutiny seems to put the whole process backward. These problems have been talked about in both public and private contexts for at least three or four years. At some point the plea that this is a maturity issue and Mark Driscoll just needs time to mature wears thin. In the meantime, the media is having a field day writing stories that suggest trashy talk is one of the hallmarks of the “New Calvinism;” and countless students whom I love and am personally acquainted with are being led into similar carnal behavior by imitating Mark Driscoll’s speech and lifestyle. Enough is enough.
Yes, I did inform John Piper and C. J. Mahaney of my concerns about this material several weeks ago. I itemized all of these issues in much more thorough detail than I have written about them here, and I expressly told them I was preparing this series of articles for the blog.
To those asking why pastors Piper and Mahaney (and others in positions of key leadership) haven’t publicly expressed similar concerns of their own, that is not a question for me. I hope you will write and ask them.