Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mark Driscoll, Pacifism & The Cross of Christ

I have a new policy. I used to write a response post to any post that offended/challenged me, and I would write it immediately. Instead, I am now trying a new tactic. I won't be writing and releasing posts daily that respond to instant current events. mostly because I want a cooler head to prevail. Its an attempt to avoid adding gasoline to an outraged internet firestorm.

So when well-known pastor Mark Driscoll decided to make pacifists angry enough to fight, I figured this was too interesting to ignore. I am not up to date on pacifist exegesis, and the strongest example I can cite that I've fully read is Richard Hay's "The Moral Vision of the New Testament." I found it compelling enough to recommend here, even if I'm still working through my thoughts on the entire topic of non-violence. So I'm a pretty big stranger to this discussion.

Below are several collected comments, written by various New Testament scholars. I will cite Richard Hays at the end to sum up. Pacifism shouldn't be assumed as my outright position. I'm merely collecting data on a debate (within evangelicalism) that I find fascinating and worthy of serious consideration, even though the framing text for Driscoll about Jesus is to be found in the book of Revelation. Personally, the Sermon on the Mount makes it somewhat difficult to see how Jesus restricts the Torah in regards to retaliation (Matthew 5).

But anyway. Each comment should be read by the links below, including Driscoll's:

Mark Driscoll:

One of the defining attributes of God’s coming kingdom is shalom—perfect peace untainted by sin, violence, or bloodshed of any sort. Such a kingdom is only possible if an all-powerful, benevolent Authority vanquishes his enemies. In other words, the Prince of Peace is not a pacifist.

God is the author of life and sovereign over death.

Those who want to portray Jesus as a pansy or a pacifist are prone to be very selective in the parts of the Bible they quote. But the God of the bloody Old Testament is Jesus Christ. When he became a man, he walked the earth as a working-class carpenter. The European, long-haired, dress-wearing, hippie Jesus is a bad myth from a bad artist who mistook Jesus for a community college humanities professor. But if we want to learn all about Jesus we have to read all that the Bible says about him. Here’s how Jesus will appear one day:

"Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia" (Rev. 14:14–20).

Today is a season of patience as Jesus Christ waits for people to come to repentance. Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist; he’s patient. He has a long wick, but the anger of his wrath is burning.

Once the wick is burned up, he is saddling up on a white horse and coming to slaughter his enemies and usher in his kingdom. Blood will flow.

Then there will be peace forever as the Prince of Peace takes his rightful throne. Some of those whose blood will flow as high as the bit in a horse’s mouth for 184 miles will be those who did not repent of their sin but did wrongly teach that Jesus was a pacifist.

Jesus is no one to mess with. 
Scot McKnight ("The King Jesus Gospel" and "Jesus Creed"):
Driscoll has a flat Bible. What is in the OT is the same as the NT is the same as Jesus is the same as Paul is the same as Revelation. It’s a Bible that he believes in a text of propositions, not a Bible with a Story, and because there’s no flow to his reading of the Bible he can choose which texts best fit his moods. So he omits important elements:

1. Why not discuss Matt 5:38-42? [See my new commentary on The Sermon on the Mount.]
2. Why not discuss the “passive” Jesus in the crucifixion scenes?
3. Why not discuss 1 Peter 2 which evokes the image of Jesus as suffering as a model for others absorbing suffering?
4. Why not examine the blood of Revelation and see whose blood it is … it is Christ’s?
5. Why not learn the stories of martyrs who conquered by suffering?
6. Why not look to Dietrich Bonhoeffer — talk about manly faith?


In other words, Driscoll needs a Story and christocentrism shaped by cruciformity to read the Bible well.

Shock talk theology demeans the gospel.
Preston Sprinkle ("Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence" and "Erasing Hell"):
I actually really like Mark Driscoll. He’s a former ball player, and so am I. He loves red meat, craft beer, and has no time for diaper wearing pansies behind the pulpit. Mark is a manly man, and since I was recently labeled a “manly pacifist,” I think we have a lot in common. Mark says it like it is. So do I. So let me say it like it is: Mark’s assumption that pacifists are pansies is historically na├»ve, theologically horrendous, and shows that Mark’s been more influenced by the worldview of those who put Jesus on the cross rather than the One who hung on it. Everything Mark says about violence is eerily close to what Rome said about it 2,000 years ago. Contrary to Rome, Jesus taught that suffering leads to glory, cross-shaped weakness radiates divine power, and loving your enemies showcases the character of the Father (Matthew 5:44-48).

Mark’s selection of passages that talk about violence has been violently ripped from the cruciform flow of the New Testament itself.
Gregory A. Boyd ("Myth of a Christian Nation"):
While the OT allowed for, and even required, retaliation, Jesus commands us to instead love and pray for our enemies. (In Luke 6 he adds “and do good to those who hate you” [vs 27]). Rather than to ever respond to violence with violence, we’re to instead love like the sun shines and like the rain falls – namely, indiscriminately. Whether the person is a friend or life-threatening enemy, we’re to love and bless them. And Jesus makes our willingness to love like this a precondition for being considered a child of our Father in heaven – “that you may be.”  By the standards of Jesus’ teaching, therefore, anyone who obeyed the OT laws requiring violence could not be considered a child of the Father in heaven.

It’s also important we notice that Jesus never qualifies who the “enemies” we’re to love are (nor does Paul in Rom 12:14-21). Indeed, his instruction to love indiscriminately rules out any possible qualifications. What makes Jesus’ teachings even more radical is that any talk about “enemies” to a Jewish audience in first century Palestine would immediate call to mind the Romans – the one’s who unjustly oppressed, abused, and often randomly killed the Jewish people. Jesus’ command to love enemies and to never respond violently to them thus includes the very worst kind of enemies we can imagine: the kind that threaten us, our country, and/or our loved ones. It includes the kind of enemies people naturally feel most “justified” killing, if they need to, in order to protect themselves. But these are precisely the kinds of enemies we’re to always love and never retaliate against.


As radical as this teaching might sound to us, however, I don’t believe it should surprise us that we’re commanded to love this way. For God loved us to the point of death when we “were yet enemies,” (Rom 5:10), and we are commanded to “imitate God” by living in this same kind of love, “just as Christ loved us and gave his life for us” (Eph. 5:1-2).


To sum it all up, in this passage Jesus is doing nothing less than telling us that our willingness to set aside a violent OT law in order to obey his new command to love and refrain from violence toward even the worst kind of life-threatening enemies is a precondition for being considered a child of God. And this, folks, is why I don’t believe Driscoll’s argument about the sixth commandment allowing for some forms of killing is relevant to followers of Jesus.


I am a bit puzzled as to why Driscoll didn’t address any of this material in his attempt to refute the idea that “God is a pacifist.” One might have thought it would be relevant since Driscoll is, after all, a Christian pastor, and he’s addressing a Christian audience.  Instead, to prove that “Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist” (one wonders if the two are not synonymous for Driscoll), he cites one passage from the book of Revelation (14:14-20). To address this, I will offer some reflections on the nature of this book in my next post, and I’ll then conclude my response in a third post by addressing the specific passage Driscoll cites.
While the OT allowed for, and even required, retaliation, Jesus commands us to instead love and pray for our enemies. (In Luke 6 he adds “and do good to those who hate you” [vs 27]). Rather than to ever respond to violence with violence, we’re to instead love like the sun shines and like the rain falls – namely, indiscriminately. Whether the person is a friend or life-threatening enemy, we’re to love and bless them. And Jesus makes our willingness to love like this a precondition for being considered a child of our Father in heaven – “that you may be.”  By the standards of Jesus’ teaching, therefore, anyone who obeyed the OT laws requiring violence could not be considered a child of the Father in heaven.
It’s also important we notice that Jesus never qualifies who the “enemies” we’re to love are (nor does Paul in Rom 12:14-21). Indeed, his instruction to love indiscriminately rules out any possible qualifications. What makes Jesus’ teachings even more radical is that any talk about “enemies” to a Jewish audience in first century Palestine would immediate call to mind the Romans – the one’s who unjustly oppressed, abused, and often randomly killed the Jewish people. Jesus’ command to love enemies and to never respond violently to them thus includes the very worst kind of enemies we can imagine: the kind that threaten us, our country, and/or our loved ones. It includes the kind of enemies people naturally feel most “justified” killing, if they need to, in order to protect themselves. But these are precisely the kinds of enemies we’re to always love and never retaliate against.
As radical as this teaching might sound to us, however, I don’t believe it should surprise us that we’re commanded to love this way. For God loved us to the point of death when we “were yet enemies,” (Rom 5:10), and we are commanded to “imitate God” by living in this same kind of love, “just as Christ loved us and gave his life for us” (Eph. 5:1-2).
To sum it all up, in this passage Jesus is doing nothing less than telling us that our willingness to set aside a violent OT law in order to obey his new command to love and refrain from violence toward even the worst kind of life-threatening enemies is a precondition for being considered a child of God. And this, folks, is why I don’t believe Driscoll’s argument about the sixth commandment allowing for some forms of killing is relevant to followers of Jesus.
I am a bit puzzled as to why Driscoll didn’t address any of this material in his attempt to refute the idea that “God is a pacifist.” One might have thought it would be relevant since Driscoll is, after all, a Christian pastor, and he’s addressing a Christian audience.  Instead, to prove that “Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist” (one wonders if the two are not synonymous for Driscoll), he cites one passage from the book of Revelation (14:14-20). To address this, I will offer some reflections on the nature of this book in my next post, and I’ll then conclude my response in a third post by addressing the specific passage Driscoll cites.
- See more at: http://reknew.org/2013/10/responding-to-driscolls-is-god-a-pacifist-part-i/?utm_content=buffer06a2d&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer#sthash.0viZbXkh.dpuf
Richard B. Hays ("The Moral Vision of the New Testament" p317-346, 344):
If we live in obedience to Jesus' command to renounce violence, the church will become where the sphere of the future of God's righteousness intersects -- and challenges -- the present tense of human existence. The meaning of the New Testament's teaching on violence will become evident only in communities of Jesus' followers who embody the costly way of peace.
While the OT allowed for, and even required, retaliation, Jesus commands us to instead love and pray for our enemies. (In Luke 6 he adds “and do good to those who hate you” [vs 27]). Rather than to ever respond to violence with violence, we’re to instead love like the sun shines and like the rain falls – namely, indiscriminately. Whether the person is a friend or life-threatening enemy, we’re to love and bless them. And Jesus makes our willingness to love like this a precondition for being considered a child of our Father in heaven – “that you may be.”  By the standards of Jesus’ teaching, therefore, anyone who obeyed the OT laws requiring violence could not be considered a child of the Father in heaven.
It’s also important we notice that Jesus never qualifies who the “enemies” we’re to love are (nor does Paul in Rom 12:14-21). Indeed, his instruction to love indiscriminately rules out any possible qualifications. What makes Jesus’ teachings even more radical is that any talk about “enemies” to a Jewish audience in first century Palestine would immediate call to mind the Romans – the one’s who unjustly oppressed, abused, and often randomly killed the Jewish people. Jesus’ command to love enemies and to never respond violently to them thus includes the very worst kind of enemies we can imagine: the kind that threaten us, our country, and/or our loved ones. It includes the kind of enemies people naturally feel most “justified” killing, if they need to, in order to protect themselves. But these are precisely the kinds of enemies we’re to always love and never retaliate against.
As radical as this teaching might sound to us, however, I don’t believe it should surprise us that we’re commanded to love this way. For God loved us to the point of death when we “were yet enemies,” (Rom 5:10), and we are commanded to “imitate God” by living in this same kind of love, “just as Christ loved us and gave his life for us” (Eph. 5:1-2).
To sum it all up, in this passage Jesus is doing nothing less than telling us that our willingness to set aside a violent OT law in order to obey his new command to love and refrain from violence toward even the worst kind of life-threatening enemies is a precondition for being considered a child of God. And this, folks, is why I don’t believe Driscoll’s argument about the sixth commandment allowing for some forms of killing is relevant to followers of Jesus.
I am a bit puzzled as to why Driscoll didn’t address any of this material in his attempt to refute the idea that “God is a pacifist.” One might have thought it would be relevant since Driscoll is, after all, a Christian pastor, and he’s addressing a Christian audience.  Instead, to prove that “Jesus is not a pansy or a pacifist” (one wonders if the two are not synonymous for Driscoll), he cites one passage from the book of Revelation (14:14-20). To address this, I will offer some reflections on the nature of this book in my next post, and I’ll then conclude my response in a third post by addressing the specific passage Driscoll cites.
- See more at: http://reknew.org/2013/10/responding-to-driscolls-is-god-a-pacifist-part-i/?utm_content=buffer06a2d&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer#sthash.0viZb
McKnight. Sprinkle. Boyd.

--Nick

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