Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Marc Driscoll on Divine Election

Last week I stumbled upon this YouTube video of cussing preacher Marc Driscoll's Neo-Calvinistic take on election.  His explanation is problematic on several fronts which we will endeavor to correct in our commentary.

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT---------------------------------------------------
"Every single human being has chosen to sin against, rebel against, run from, God. And God lets them go. And everyone, except the Christian, gets exactly what their will chooses. It is the Christian who would have the declaration that God is being unjust because he’s not giving them what they want, not the non-Christian. The non-Christian runs from God, ends up in hell, that is exactly what they wanted. The Christian runs from God to hell, he grabs them and takes them to heaven. If anyone should complain, it should be him. 'You violated my free will!'” (Marc Driscoll)
This is an interesting and true observation.
"Some of you are still there. You’re like, 'I’m that Christian. I know I’m saved, I’m just not excited about it. I was hoping to be naked for longer and he ruined everything.'” (Driscoll)
Though Driscoll preaches against fornication, this light-hearted treatment of the topic is also a common theme in Driscoll's preaching which undermines the gravity of the subject.
"I’ll close with a serious story. Here’s how I see it. I was listening to the radio some time ago and this preacher, pastor, bible-guy, on the radio – he normally does a pretty good job – he said quote “the doctrine of election presents God as a rapist and not a lover” end quote. I freaked out. I always do. And his point was, it is rape for God to override our will. And my answer is, God in fact does override the will of the elect. But he does so not as a rapist abusing a victim but as a loving father saving a foolish child." (Driscoll)
Ok. I find no pleasure in viewing election through a rape metaphor - but the point is not lost on me.
"Some years ago, my wife and I, Grace, we lived on Montlake Boulevard right next to Husky stadium.   Four lanes of traffic, people flying by really fast, school lets out, game lets out, tens of thousands of people – and on one occasion my daughter Ashley was young at the time, perhaps two or three years of age. We were going to put her in the car and she turned and ran away from us toward the traffic. And it was very close distance from our house to the street.  And we grabbed her, sat her down, said “Honey, it’s dangerous out there. There’s cars, they can’t see you, you’ll die.  You – Will – DIE!”  We continually explained this to her – “Don’t run away.  Stay with mommy and daddy.  Don’t run into traffic.” She obeyed for some time. 
And then one day, I had my hands full, I was going to put something in the car and then I was going to grab her and put her in the car and I glanced out of the corner of my eye and she was running as fast as she could with her little pony-tail bouncing right into traffic on Montlake Boulevard. Cars flying by at like 40 miles an hour. And here goes my baby running into traffic. Completely disobeying her dad. She’s exercising her free will." (Driscoll)
So far so good, I'm tracking....
"She was unregenerate at that point, she now is regenerate, and her unregenerate will was disobedience." (Driscoll)
The assessment of a child's state of grace crops up a great deal among the Neo-Cals and it makes me uncomfortable. Disobedience is not ironclad evidence of one's state of regeneration. The reason this is a sensitive point with me is that I have seen it played out in the context of a NeoCal church. If a child has their "evangelical moment" they're now regenerated. But if they disobey, or persist in disobedience sometime thereafter, well, they must not be regenerated. Time to put on the "repent or you're going to hell, full-court press." And back and forth it goes.
"And as she ran I preached to her repentance.  “Ashley, stop!  Ashley, Stop!”  “Come back to your Daddy.” That is repentance – coming back to your daddy. And I looked and she was getting near the street and I start running immediately. And I’m preaching at her and I’m pursuing her. And parked right in front of our house is a car – and she so little she’s running in front of the parked car right into traffic which means that any on-coming car will not see her coming. She will be in the line of traffic before they see her <hits hands>.  My little girl is gonna die. And I see this enormous truck barreling down the street going perhaps 40 miles per hour. Now I have, I’ve revealed my heart – I love her.  I’ve presented this free invitation to repent. I’ve called her back to myself. And she is exercising her unregenerate will. And so I exercise my loving father desire and I pursue her. I’m calling to her and I’m pursuing her." (Driscoll)
It's a dramatic story. What parent cannot relate this to some similar experience? The example draws in the audience and tugs at their most sensitive heart-strings. Let's listen on....
"And she steps out in front of the car into traffic and I grabbed her, literally, by the back of her little coat and I yanked her, literally, right out of the way of the oncoming truck – it seriously was inches that she was missed by a truck going 40 miles an hour that didn’t even hit the brakes because it didn’t even have time to see her. My daughter barely lived. THAT…. is election." (Driscoll)
Stop the presses. THAT is election? THAT? THAT most certainly is NOT election, for a variety of reasons: 
  • ELECTION is an event that took place outside of time (Eph 1:4). God's people were chosen before the foundation of the world. Driscoll's daughter's "salvation" was an event in time.
  • ELECTION is unto sonship (Eph 1:5) Driscoll's act was on behalf of one who was already a daughter.
  • ELECTION is the purposing and predeterming of the provision of salvation (Rom 8:29-30). Driscoll's act was the actual execution of a plan of salvation.
That said, there is an event in the salvation of God's people that more closely conforms to Driscoll's story. The THAT in Driscoll's story is sovereign, immediate, holy spirit regeneration. While sovereign regeneration was purposed in election, it is NOT election per se. It has the following characteristics that fit Driscoll's story:
  • REGENERATION is not through the message of the gospel but through an immediate intervening acting of grace on the part of God alone. Just as Driscoll's admonitions and warnings to his daughter had NO EFFECT on her, the gospel is likewise regarded as foolishness by the unregenerate (I Cor 2:14). It took something more than a message to turn her around, it took an act of power contrary to her natural inclination.
  • REGENERATION is to a son (daughter). Election makes one a son by adoption. In contrast, Driscoll's saving act did not make Ashley his daughter, but rather revealed that she in fact already was his daughter. Just as Driscoll's act of intervention was to one who was already his daughter, sovereign regeneration is likewise to those who are already in a familial, covenant relationship with God." And because ye are sons God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts crying, Abba, Father." (Gal 4:6) 
  • REGENERATION is effectual. Just as Driscoll's act delivered (saved) his daughter in time, likewise regeneration delivers the child of God from a death in sin to a life in Him.
  • REGENERATION does not involve the will. Just as Ashley's rebellious will had to be overcome by a greater force, so the Spirit of God must overpower the rebellious will of the unregenerate, and thus... 
  • REGENERATION is in spite of rebellion. It is not the result of repentance and faith, it is rather the preceding event which supplies repentance and faith born of a new heart that is created in Christ Jesus unto righteousness. 
  • REGENERATION is not conversion. It is NOT the result of an intellectual receipt of truth but rather is that event whereby one is given the capacity to see and obey such truth.
Let's listen on...
"Where the father, in love, pursues foolish, obstinate, disobedient children who have chosen death, and he decrees that more important than their will is his love." (Driscoll)
Again, if Driscoll was talking about regeneration we would be inclined to agree. Regeneration is part of the blessing of sonship founded in election. "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the spirit of his Son into your hearts crying, Abba, Father." (Gal 4:6)

Driscoll's statement creates problems in other areas of his doctrine - namely in his belief that God loves everybody and that the gospel is a well-meant offer of salvation to all of humanity. Driscoll says God intervened "in love." Well, if God loves everyone, why does he not intervene for everyone? It is this question that undergirds the MacArthurite Two-Loves of God theological position, which states "God does love everybody, but not in the same way." As we have previously demonstrated, Two-Loves theology does not cut the Gordian knot of the love of God, but actually raises more perplexing theological questions.
"And anyone who is here and is a Christian should thank God that not only did he call out to them, but he pursued them and that in Jesus Christ he extended the hand and he grabbed them and he yanked them unto himself. And anyone else who would run from God has no right to declare him unjust – they’re morally responsible for their own rebellion." (Driscoll)
This is certainly true.
"And if you are here tonight and you are a Christian you should praise God that you have a loving father who has grabbed you by the neck and has spared you from Satan, sin, death, wrath, judgment, and conscious eternal torment in hell. He owes you nothing – but he has given you all things. And if you are here to night and you are not a Christian, don’t play philosophical games with the living God. Don’t argue with him about him not being good. Don’t argue with him about him having no right to judge you. You are revealing the same hardness of heart as Pharoah. And this sermon may be God’s means by which your hard heart becomes revealed to you so that you would take God seriously, you would take yourselves lightly, you would come to your senses and that you would return to your father. That you would receive his hand of salvation extended to you through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus." (Driscoll)
Here Driscoll really jumps the shark and the issues with his strained metaphor become painfully apparent. Driscoll's daughter was saved from destruction by an immediate, sovereign act, performed by another on her behalf, while in a state of abject rebellion in spite of a lack of repentance. But apparently, in the starkest of contrasts, for YOU to be saved you need to repent and believe and return to your father. What?
"The question is not 'is God unjust?' The question is 'Do we trust him?' That is the question." (Driscoll)
Did Ashley have to trust Driscoll in order to obtain the salvation he describes as election or did the plan and purpose of her loving father save her in spite of her abject rebellion?

THAT, brother Driscoll, is the question.

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