Lessons from Driscollgate

Yesterday I posted about the kerfuffle that arose when influential US pastor Mark Driscoll published an article calling pacifists “pansies” and citing a passage from Revelation to support his view that, when Jesus returns, he will do so as an avenging warrior. To quote Driscoll, “There will be blood.”

Today I want to add a couple of further thoughts related to this issue.

First, we need to realise that, while all scripture is God-breathed, not all scripture is equally authoritative. If this seems scandalous to you, just stop and think for a moment. Consider the following passage from the book of Hebrews:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. (Hebrews 1:1-4)

See that? Jesus is the express image of God’s person. Or, as Jesus said to His disciples, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). In other words, Jesus is the full and complete revelation of who God is and what He is like. When you understand that, it will seriously mess with how you read the Bible – in a good way.

You see, one major implication of this understanding is that biblical texts that speak directly of Jesus carry far more authority for us than those that don’t. Of course, there is much to be learned about God through all of scripture, including even the most obscure Old Testament writings. And I’m not for one moment suggesting that we’re free to ignore passages that don’t speak of Jesus. But it’s vital to remember that the Bible is a narrative record of God’s progressive revelation of Himself to His people, and that as such, the revelation of God found in, say, the OT prophets is less complete than the revelation of God given through the person of Jesus.

So how is this relevant to Mark Driscoll’s rant about pacifists being pansies? Well, as I pointed out yesterday, Driscoll quotes liberally from the Old Testament books of the law and from the apocalyptic literature of Revelation to support his case against non-violence. But it’s very noticeable that he makes no reference whatsoever to Jesus’ life, teaching or death. Sermon on the mount? Not a mention. Teaching on self-denial and loving one’s enemies? Nada. Jesus’ own example as he was led like a lamb to the slaughter and opened not his mouth? Radio silence.

When you see the Bible simply as a reference manual in which each component carries equal weight, you’re likely to end up reading it in a way that supports your own personal and/or cultural prejudices. When you understand that it’s the story of God’s self-revelation down the ages, culminating in the full and final revelation of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ, you’re much less likely to fall into that same trap – because you’ll read all of scripture as pointing towards and to be read in the light of Jesus. And you’ll realise that, where there are apparently conflicting pictures of God, the picture of God revealed in Jesus is the authoritative one.

Second, those who are looking for a conquering Jesus who will slay his enemies with great bloodshed at the end of the age are making the same mistake that so many of Jesus’ contemporaries made, and for which they came under judgement. They knew Messiah was coming, and that he would deliver them from their enemies, but they were so busy looking for a conquering king that they failed to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

In John’s vision recorded in Revelation, Jesus does indeed appear clothed in a robe dipped in blood (Revelation 19:13) – but it is the blood of his own sacrificial death, not that of his enemies. The enemies He defeats are satan, death and hell, not the human race he came to save. If Jesus returned in glory today, I wonder if Driscoll and those of like mind would even recognise him?

So remember: always read scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ. And look for the king who rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, not on a white horse wielding a sword.

What do you think?