Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Marc Driscoll on Hell and Salvation

This week I stumbled across an article on CNN's belief blog that asks the question:  Should we abandon the idea of hell?  Now when an outfit like CNN endeavors to grapple with matters of the Christian faith, one should approach their commentary with extreme skepticism and discernment.  In my experience, a major news outlet's handling of matters of Christian doctrine and practice is a bit like watching a chimp on a Steinway: amusing to watch but hard to listen to.  It their simian attempts at handling the truth, they juxtapose yea and nay on the abandonment of hell.  In the yea category is Frank Schaeffer, son of Francis Schaeffer, whose thoroughly unbiblical perspective can be fairly well ascertained by his closing quote, "We need 'hell' like a hole in the head. It’s time for the alternative of empathetic merciful religion to be understood."  I submit that the very fact that we would know almost nothing of the doctrine of hell were it not for the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ himself so strongly contradicts this "Frank" assertion, that such a quote deserves no further consideration among God's people.

Having demonstrated the left hand of CNN's arboreal attempts at handling Christian truth to be woefully inadequate, we turn our attention to the right hand.  For the opposing view, CNN provides a commentary from "cussing pastor" and noted controversialist, Marc Driscoll. I have long regarded Driscoll's Calminian-hipster theology as a dangerous departure from the faith once delivered to the saints, and believe that this commentary on his response below will demonstrate some of the reasons why.  Driscoll's "truth" is particularly dangerous in that it nominally affirms numerous precepts that believers in sovereign grace theology would applaud, while denying them elsewhere in the more subtle aspects of his system.  Upon closer inspection, his NeoReformed theological affirmations of depravity and grace are found wanting when held alongside such novel concepts as "unlimited/limited atonement" and well-meant offers of salvation to all of humanity. 

In Driscoll's response he asks and answers six questions:
  1. What happens when we die?
  2. What does Jesus say about hell?
  3. What does the rest of the bible say about hell?
  4. Is there a second chance after death?
  5. How long does the punishment last?
  6. Am I going to hell?
We are comfortable with Driscoll's answers on 1, 3, 4 and 5 which we would summarize as: 
  1. Judgment.
  2. A lot.
  3. It's going to be very bad.
  4. No.
  5. Forever.
  6. ----
This commentary will focus on the errors promoted by Driscoll's handling of II Peter 3:9 in response to question 2 and also his answer to question 6 - Am I going to hell?  With that by way of introduction, I submit for your consideration, Marc Driscoll on Hell and Salvation along with TETH's commentary.

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT AND COMMENTARY---------------------------------------------

Marc Driscoll
"As a pastor, my job is to tell the truth. Your job is to make a decision. When controversies over biblical doctrines arise, it’s a humbling opportunity to answer questions about what the Bible teaches without getting into name-calling and mudslinging. Near the very top of the controversial doctrines is hell." (Driscoll)

What happens when we die?

"Human beings were created by God with both a physical body and a spiritual soul. When someone dies, their body goes into the grave and their spirit goes into an afterlife to face judgment. But death is not normal or natural—it’s an enemy and the consequence of sin.Think of it in this way: God is the source of life. When we choose to live independently of God and rebelliously against God it is akin to unplugging something from its power source.It begins to lose power until it eventually dies. The Bible is clear that one day there will be a bodily resurrection for everyone, to either eternal salvation in heaven or eternal condemnation in hell. Christians believe a person’s eternal status depends on their relationship with Jesus and that 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' Our lives are shaped by the reality that 'whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.'” (Driscoll)

While we might quibble over some of the language employed here, we will leave those observations to the poachers in the interest of hunting bigger game, and instead affirm that by-and-large we accept this statement.

What does Jesus say about hell?

"Jesus was emphatically clear on the subject of hell. He alone has risen from death and knows what awaits us on the other side of this life. A day of judgment is coming when all of us — even you — will rise from our graves and stand before him for eternal sentencing to either worshiping in his kingdom or suffering in his hell. The Bible could not be clearer: “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” These are not just obscure Bible verses. In fact, Jesus talks about hell more than anyone else in Scripture. Amazingly, 13% of his sayings are about hell and judgment, and more than half of his parables relate to the eternal judgment of sinners." (Driscoll) 
This is a very clear and strong affirmation of the biblical truth regarding hell which is unfortunately followed by...

"Keep in mind that Jesus’ words come in the context of the rest of Scripture, which says that God 'desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.' Furthermore, he 'is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.'" (Driscoll)

Driscoll draws upon two classic Arminian proof texts for "universal atonement" and fully promotes the Arminian interpretation of these passages as a right division of the word of God.  We would take this opportunity to provide a word of warning for any who believe themselves to be sitting under the teaching of salvation by sovereign grace: If the theology your pastor is touting as "salvation by sovereign grace" is promoting the Arminian, universal-atonement interpretation of I Timothy 2:4, II Peter 3:9, Matthew 23:37 and I John 2:2, he is NOT teaching salvation by sovereign grace but the very crafty form of Christian irrationalism better known as Calminianism, Fullerism, Both/And-ism, VanTilism, or NeoCalvinism.

Apparently, we are supposed choke-down Driscoll's rotten pottage - a nonsensical mixture of monergism, absolute sovereignty, and a hearty dose of "God desires that all men get eternal life."  One might well ask:  If God does ALL the work of salvation, and he's got all power, and he desires everyone's salvation - why aren't all men saved?  Understood in context, neither I Timothy 2:4 nor II Peter 3:9 teach that God desires the salvation of all men.  The bible teaches "our God is in the heavens, he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased." (Ps 115:3)  If God does whatever he pleases, and salvation is the work of God alone (Heb 9:12, 10:14, Rom 5:19), and is based on the pleasure of his good will (Eph 1:5), and not all men are saved (Matt 25:41), it is therefore evident that God does NOT desire the salvation of all men.  (For more on this topic check out the video:  Office Theology 109 - II Peter 3:9 available on my YouTube channel.)

"God is far more loving, kind and patient with his enemies than we are with our enemies." (Driscoll) 

That is certainly true, but one should never lose site of the fact that his chosen people were his enemies and that he chose to love them, to be patient toward them and to show the kindness of providing them salvation by grace.

What does the rest of the Bible say about hell?

"The Bible gives us many descriptions of hell including (1) fire; (2) darkness; (3)punishment; (4) exclusion from God’s presence; (5) restlessness; (6) second death; and (7) weeping and gnashing of teeth in agony. A common misperception of Satan is that he’s in a red suit, holding a pitchfork at the gates of hell. But Satan will not reign there. Hell is a place of punishment that God prepared for the devil and his angels, and it’s where those who live apart from God will, according to Revelation: ...drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb [Jesus Christ]. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night. At the end of the age, the devil will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.' Hell will be ruled over by Jesus, and everyone present — humans and demons and Satan alike — will be tormented there continually in perfect justice.  Jesus says, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. ... And these will go away into eternal punishment.'” (Driscoll)

Is there a second chance after death?

"The Bible is clear that we die once and are then judged without any second chance at salvation. As one clear example, Hebrews 9:27 says, 'It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.'  We live. We die. We face judgment. Period." (Driscoll)
It is certainly true that there is no "second chance" for men to obtain eternal salvation after they die. What Driscoll fails to understand is that there is also no "first chance" for men to obtain eternal salvation before they die. The bible NEVER speaks of the salvation of God's people as resulting from chance. The salvation of God's people is the result of an eternal covenant ordered in all things and sure (II Sam 23:5). When Driscoll speaks of "chances for salvation" he is revealing that his doctrine of salvation is not founded on a covenant of grace but on a provision of opportunity.

How long does the punishment last?

"Some argue that the punishment of sinners is not eternal, a view called annihilationism. This means that after someone dies apart from Jesus, they suffer for a while and then simply cease to exist. Annihilationism is simply not what the Bible teaches. Daniel 12:2 says, 'And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.' Jesus speaks of those who 'will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.' Grammatically, there is no difference here between the length of time mentioned for 'life' and that for 'punishment'; rather, there is simply eternal life and eternal death." (Driscoll) 
All true.

Am I going to hell?

"The good news is that the closing verses of the Bible say, 'Come!' Everyone is invited to receive the free gift of God’s saving grace in Jesus." (Driscoll)
After having done so well in establishing the biblical reality of hell, when it comes to the matter of salvation, Driscoll opts for crass reductionism. A closer look at the passage he is grossly misrepresenting is revealing:  And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. (Revelation 22:17)

In this passage there are three that say "come" - the Spirit, the bride and those that hear. The address is made to "whosoever will" and "him that is athirst." For this verse to be addressing all of humanity, Driscoll will have to prove that all men are thirsty for spiritual things and willing to come to Christ. Ironically, the very affirmation of the doctrine of hell and the everlasting punishment of the wicked he only moments before labored to establish rises up in defiance to the ludicrous assertion that all men are thirsty and willing. As a result, Driscoll's doctrine is an house set against itself, bound to collapse under the sheer weight of its own folly.

Moreover the bible itself clearly establishes that not all men are thirsty or willing:
  • The wicked through the pride of his countenance will not seek after God, God is not in all his thoughts. (Psalm 10:4) Are these men thirsty and willing?
  • Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD. (Is 26:10) Are these men thirsty or willing?
  • Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (John 5:39-40) Are these men willing?
  • The natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (I Cor 2:14) Is the natural man thirsty or willing?
Biblical proofs of this magnitude and certainty could be multiplied, but suffice it to say, Driscoll's handling of Revelation 22:17 is a common and unscriptural misrepresentation of the gospel which does a great disservice to the faith once delivered to the saints.
"Jesus is God become a man to reconcile mankind to God." (Driscoll)  
Jesus reconciled mankind to God? Why then do you insist that some portion of them are going to hell for all eternity? This is the sort of nonsense that is embedded into the warp and woof of Driscoll's NeoReformed, ersatz "sovereign grace" theology. When it comes right down to it: Driscoll either believes that Jesus reconciled mankind to God, and his case for hell collapses - OR - Driscoll believes that Jesus's work is looking for you to provide its reconciling efficacy, and his claim to be preaching salvation by sovereign grace collapses.

Such is the dilemma of men who claim to embrace salvation by sovereign grace but who fail to embrace a biblical understanding of the atonement and the nature of the gospel.  
"He lived the sinless life we have not lived, died a substitutionary death on the cross for our sins. He endured our wrath, rose to conquer our enemies of sin and death, and ascended to heaven where he is ruling as Lord over all today." (Driscoll) 
So you're saying Jesus did this for everyone? Tell me again, why some are going to hell? Driscoll's theology ties him into knots of irrationalism. I'll grant Driscoll this much, at the risk of justifying the foul-mouthed preacher's aforementioned penchant for obscenity, the frustration of dwelling in the midst of such religious nonsense is enough to make a man cuss. God is not the author of confusion (I Corinthians 14:33). He is therefore not the author of Driscoll's gospel of confusion which insists upon defining "reconciliation" as "non-reconciliation" for untold millions of people.
"He did this all in love." (Driscoll)
Did he do it for Esau? (Romans 9:13)
"The stark reality is this: either Jesus suffered for your sins to rescue you from hell, or you will suffer for your sins in hell." (Driscoll) 
But Marc, you just said that, "Jesus is God become man to reconcile mankind to God." Now you're saying I'm gonna go to hell? Again, the ugly truth here is that Marc Driscoll is not preaching salvation by sovereign grace, but salvation by man's willing improvement of God's grace. He is not promoting salvation by the atoning work of Christ alone, but salvation by man's ratification of Christ's universally potential provision.
"These are the only two options and you have an eternal decision to make. My hope and prayer is that you would become a Christian." (Driscoll)  
Precisely, salvation by decision, pure and simple.  
"Have you confessed your sins to Jesus Christ, seeking forgiveness and salvation? If not, you are hellbound, and there is no clever scholar who will be of any help when you stand before Jesus Christ for judgment. You’re not required to like hell as much as you need to believe in it, turn from your sin, trust in Jesus, and be saved from an eternal death into an eternal life." (Driscoll)
It doesn't take a "clever scholar" or a Seattle hipster to figure out that Driscoll is preaching the gospel of well-meant offers and decisionism. It is cloaked in a lot of sovereign grace language, and is promoted as extreme, hyper-relevant, in-your-face Christianity, but in the final mix it is just another form of bad doctrine that has departed the gospel precept that Jesus Christ got the job done for his people (Matt 1:21) and that as a result they will live in Glory based on what he did on their behalf plus absolutely nothing else (Romans 5:19, 8:29ff, Hebrews 9:12, 10:14).

Driscoll's doctrine is the result of an illogical interpretation of the bible which runs counter-clockwise to sound doctrine and herein lies its danger.  Because of its Herculean efforts to appear aligned with sovereign grace precepts, Driscoll's theology seems to share many points of intersection with the faith once delivered to the saints.  Upon closer inspection, however, one finds that:

Broken clocks are right twice a day, 
and those that run backwards, 
three or more times.

1 comment:

  1. Mark Driscoll’s book Death by Love
    This book, in 12 chapters, presents the common false gospel that the application of what took place at the cross depends on the sinner. Driscoll has no idea of an atonement in which the application of the atonement is secured by the atonement. To the question of why can’t God simply forgive sins without punishing Jesus for sins, he correctly answers that somebody has to pay for sin for God to be God and to be just. But then he undermines the justice and satisfaction of God by saying again and again that Jesus died for all sinners and even paid for all their sins. But then he assumes that this justice and satisfaction for sins will not be applied unless the sinner accepts it.
    Notice that this is something different from saying that the application does not happen until the time of hearing and believing of the gospel. Certainly the elect are under the wrath of God until the time when the righteousness of the cross is imputed and applied to them (baptised into the death). But Driscoll is saying that many for whom Jesus died will go to hell. He is saying that even though Jesus died to pay for the sins of Judas, that justice and satisfaction will not be effectual for Judas in hell. So contrary to Romans 8:32, God will not freely give all things along with Jesus to all those for whom He gave His Son.

    So this is not a good news message about what God has done, but only a message about what God will do if you do something. For example, on p 193, Driscoll writes, “it all comes down to you and Jesus”. But in fact his message comes down to only you, the sinner. Jesus according to him has paid the ransom from hell for every sinner, so it most certainly does not come down to Jesus. It depends on the sinner, and then God will respond by applying it. Even though he writes about “efficacious” love (p240), the success all depends on “if you turn”. He has no desire to tell the sinner that turning to the true gospel is a result guaranteed for the elect by the cross.

    This is not a straightforward Arminianism. He does not say stupid stuff like: Jesus will die for you if you… But he does say: Jesus died for all of you. He is offended by the cross making the difference. How can the cross be the difference between saved and lost when you have a cross which is saying that God loves every sinner? Yes, Driscoll is clear that God hates many sinners in the end. But he contradicts this with his constant assurance to all sinners that Jesus has already paid for their sins. Either Jesus has or He has not, and that already.