My take on the Driscoll uproar

(I realize this is older material, but still)

I’m not old enough to read the Driscoll’s recent book on sexuality in marriage. In some ways the Mark Driscoll has to be an embarrassment to the evangelical community. Complicating this embarrassment, though, is the fact that most Evangelicals really can’t answer him satisfactorily. Doug Wilson comes the closest.

For at least five years Mark Driscoll has been taking the case that Evangelicals should really enjoy sexuality in marriage. Ok, fine. This isn’t particularly new or interesting. Others have said the same thing for hundreds of years. At worst Driscoll is guilty of being late to the party.

His recent book, though, has taken the discussion (or heightened the problem) to a new level. (Yes, I realize I quoted a largely non-Christian site, but it does a good job of collating all of Driscoll’s wackiness.) Most see this book as a bizarre Christian sex manual. While it certainly is that for a good part of the book, I think we need to be fair (at least at the beginning) to Driscoll. Driscoll’s congregation has many who do not have good, biblical backgrounds. They are coming out of the worst aspects of pagan sexuality. They are approaching Driscoll with frank questions that otherwise would not be answered.

This is not a defense of Driscoll, though. I think the man is a clown, and I’ve thought that for years. However, he does raise the huge problem of a “scripture-only” hermeneutics: using Scripture-only, it’s hard to pinpoint that Driscoll is wrong. Here’s the problem: Scripture never says, per the context of marriage, that “sexual act A” is wrong. Personally, given much of the discussion, I disagree with Driscoll’s conclusions. Contra Driscoll, I do not think married Christians should take their cue from the worst (will not provide examples because this is a family-friendly site) of pagan sexuality.

Doug Wilson gives an extended and somewhat thoughtful response. I agree with many of his conclusions and agree with the reasoning behind his conclusions, but in the end Wilson simply cannot deliver on his argument. Wilson wants to ask concerning said practice, “Is it wise/safe/possibly enslaving?” I think those are good questions. The problem is that Scripture doesn’t answer them specifically.  What Scripture does tell us to do is take its insights and, having your moral skills refined (Hebrews 5:12ff), apply them.

  • While it is good that Evangelicals in the past 30 years have proclaimed how clean and “good” married sexuality is, they’ve gone overboard. It is one thing to say that married sexuality is good, it is another thing to be unable to shut up about it.
  • The danger here is that marriage is being reduced to sexuality. Instead of the spouse, specifically the wife ala Driscoll’s book, being one flesh (and complementing the husband, and vice-versa), this new Evangelical emphasis fetishizes the female and makes her simply an object (nominalism and all its attendant evils keeps coming up again and again!). C.S. Lewis describes this beautifully in That Hideous Strength.
  • Presumably, there are also medical issues relating to many of the practices Driscoll endorses. Wilson is correct to say that natural revelation (e.g., these medical issues) will not correct special revelation (Bible). Therefore, if this act entails damage to the human body, it is probably the case that St Paul would have condemned it in his condemnation of pagan sexuality (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians). Here’s the rub: it is nowhere specifically condemned. You are getting the (right) information from natural revelation.

I say all of that to say this: the bible is not meant to be a checklist on what you can and can’t do in certain situations. It is a script that is performed in light of the wisdom of the Church. This is what St Augustine and many other fathers meant by freeing the will. When I participate in the sacramental life of the Church, I am being changed as a person. My will is being liberated from previous snares and entanglements. I begin asking different questions. Instead of “Can we outdo the pagans in pagan sexuality?” rather, “How can I uplift my spouse?” “How can I wash my spouse in the Word?”

That said, of course we can outdo the pagans in sexuality.  The Puritans provide an excellent meditation on it.

2 comments on “My take on the Driscoll uproar

  1. Chris Poe says:

    Ever noticed how many pastors today (mostly 40 and under) can’t help but talk about their “smokin’ hot” wives?

    You’re right that he’s being asked questions by non-churched (or de-churched and even some churched) people which naturally arise in our depraved porn-saturated culture. And “traditional” churches aren’t seen as being open to dealing with these issues. Sometimes that’s as much perception as reality, but there’s a reason why many have the idea that you have to clean yourself up first and be good enough to darken the door of a church. At his best he’s able to communicate truth to those who wouldn’t tend to listen to more “traditional” churches and pastors.

    Some have spun this in such a way that if you have a problem with any of his material then you’re just a legalistic 1950’s Old South redneck. My problem wasn’t that he was answering the questions. The issue is with some of the answers that he was giving, with approval of the practice that shall not be named being chief. A lot of the Southern Baptist YRR’s (especially about 4 years ago, along with the man himself) posit a false dichotomy with the two choices being a stereotypical “fundamentalist” legalistic revivalist and Driscoll. What’s sometimes lost is that in an apparent desire to be edgy or see what he wants to see, arguably he has engaged in the kind of Scripture-twisting that they decry when done by others. And in one specific controversial instance, the Bible was indeed turned into a checklist.

    A lot of the problems with evangelicalism (and fundamentalism) stem from a impoverished spirituality that often has been little more than “1, 2, 3, repeat after me, now you’re saved,” and now that you’re saved, “Don’t drink and smoke and vote Republican” etc. So you end up with things like the emergent church, the embrace of RC contemplative spirituality by Baptists and other evangelicals (whether “Calvinist” or not) etc. The Puritans weren’t perfect but they did have a lot of answers to these questions. But they’re neglected today even among many of the “Reformed.”

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