In all honesty the debate is starting to grow cold. While Mark Driscoll keeps writing books that hipster conservatives want to read, gay and straight people of faith are starting to tune him out. The problem is, rather than diminishing, his popularity seems to only continue to grow.
In recent weeks Driscoll was awkwardly on The View and many of us watched painfully as he and his wife answered questions about “Christian sex”. Christian, that is, in his view of it (pun intended). And then there were the facial expressions of Whoppi Goldberg and other hosts: horrified, perplexed, and unsure if they could actually trust this man.
Then it happened, without a moments notice Driscoll parroted sections from his newest book (Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together) where he claims that while the Bible says nothing bad about masturbation or oral sex, he is certain of what it says about homosexuality. Namely, that it is wrong. Godly sex, Driscoll holds, is meant to be performed only between a man and a woman, married. He also noted, and I’m not kidding, that the Biblical model for Christian marriage is all about friendship. He was, as he put it, “a Biblical Christian” and Christian sex means friends first (according to the Bible) and then becoming devoted husband and wife second (according to the New Testament). Verse? Passage? Seriously?
The quickest way for me to get to the point is to just say it: not only is Mark Driscoll’s reading of Scripture shallow and off point, he is not a Biblical Christian. Rather, like a child given a hand-me-down iphone to play with, Driscoll neither fully understands nor utilizes the technology of Scripture in ways that are consonant with its design or intent. In fact, in some ways, one might wonder if his use of Scripture is more a kin to giving a child a loaded gun rather than a iphone.
Biblical Christianity holds the capacity of the living Scriptures to shape the faith of the community at a higher value than the authority Scripture to normatively dictate moral behavior. While traditions model and even shape behavior, the stories of Scripture narrate values and open up faith beyond singular interpretations.
Biblical Christianity attempt to listen to the writers of the Bible in their local context and in our present one. Tradition, reason, science, and real time community must provide the context in which Scripture is read and lived today. For Driscoll, who believes that certain parts of the Bible are frozen in time like Han Solo in the chambers of Jabba the Hut, the narratives of Scripture are clear about some things more than others. My issue is, these narratives are neither stuck in time, nor seeking to speak normatively for all time. If they were, then Driscoll should not have been wearing the jacket that he wore any more than he should eat shrimp, or pork, or allow his wife to speak to with authority, head uncovered.
Biblical Christianity holds all the teachings and stories of Scripture, the good and bad, the random and silly, the bloody and romantic in the context of our story as a people of faith today. The Bible itself can not be reduced to a singular theme. As hard as ethicists, theologians, and scholars have tried to reduce the message of the book to that of a single nature, by its very design it resists the capacity to be reduced. As Adolf Harnack would have us to consider, you can not separate the corn from the husk. And, while even Andrew Sullivan has suggested that Thomas Jefferson’s Jesus is more worthy of following than that of the faith of the church, Biblical Christianity can not be abstracted from its practice in community (the Church) any more than Jesus can be followed outside the tension of the whole of his remembered words.
At the end of the day we need to be very clear: there is a difference between Biblical Christianity and Christianity that uses (or abuses) the Bible to its own ends by claiming that it has clear cut answers to very complex issues that Christians face. Biblical Christianity, indeed Biblical faith, is not concerned with whether or not answers are made simple or questions are ever answered. Biblical faith recognizes what Luke Timothy Johnson so often points out to his students: that by its very design, the Bible canonizes a diversity of voices, opinions, and perspectives on how to follow the Risen Lord.
Joshua Case is an Episcopal blogger, creative, and public theologian. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama and the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. Known as “Josh” of The Nick & Josh Podcast, Joshua currently works at Holy Innocent’s Episcopal Church in Atlanta. When not curating things religious and cultural Joshua works as a professional golf instructor.