Thanks to Alastair Roberts, who was there and has presumably now transcribed a recording, we can now read what Mark Driscoll really had to say at the Edinburgh conference about God and hate, as part of his talk on the atonement. Previously we had to rely on Adrian Warnock’s summary of his words. And it turns out that Adrian’s summary was rather misleading.
Part of what Adrian reported from Driscoll was this (Adrian’s emphasis):
The gospel starts with “God hates you and it’s going to go really really bad forever and ever!”
- and Adrian does not say how Driscoll said the gospel continues or finishes. But this is what Driscoll really said about the gospel in that same section of his talk, the section on propitiation (at least, according to Alastair, his emphasis):
The gospel says, God has loved you, look at the cross, now you can live a new life. You don’t obey so that God will love you, you obey because God already does! …
Propitiation is how God demonstrates his love. Come on! We know God loves us because he propitiated our sin!
Here is what propitiation is: GOD HATES SINNERS. …
The whole “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” — that’s the wrong place to start. “God hates you and its going to go really really bad forever!” – hey now that is true…
Note that the words “The gospel starts with …” reported by Adrian were apparently not spoken by Driscoll at all. He did say “God hates you”, but only after saying “God loves you” about six times in this section, although Adrian reports only two of them. When he Driscoll said “God hates you”, it was obviously as a counterbalance to the preceding “God loves you …” statement which he considers “the wrong place to start”. But in the context this is the obvious hyperbole which Alastair already claimed to have found in Driscoll’s words, but which was completely lost in Adrian’s summary – which, to be fair, is the best he could reasonably do in taking notes live and probably in longhand.
In fact just now I wrote the following in this comment:
I realised I had not done justice to Romans 9:13, and Malachi 1:2,3 which it quotes. But I think there is a special hyperbolic sense of “hate” when used in parallel with “love” in this kind of context, also in Luke 14:26 and perhaps 16:13 || Matthew 6:24, where “hate” must mean something like “love less”.
Perhaps when we read of God hating people it is always to be read as hyperbole, in the Bible as well as from Driscoll.
Well, Driscoll was also using “hate” in parallel with “love”, and this affects the meaning of the word.
All this makes me wonder if I can trust any more what Driscoll is reported to have said about singleness, for the source was the same Adrian. Well, the apparent unreliability of his reports, and his refusal to accept comments, is yet another reason not to read Adrian’s blog.
But I have not suddenly become a supporter of Driscoll. Even as reported by Alastair, there are still a number of undesirable things which he said.
He really did deny that “God loves the sinner but hates the sin.” He claimed that God hates a group like the Nicolaitans, when in fact what the risen Christ says is that he hates the works or practices of the Nicolaitans, Revelation 2:6 – in other words, he hates their sin, but we know that he loves them because they are part of the world he loves.
Even more seriously on a theological level, Driscoll seems to deny the reality of regeneration and the new nature we have in Christ when he says, apparently of Christians,
we are sinners. … We do what we are: we have an old nature and we commit old acts of sin.
No, if we are Christians we are a new creation and we do new acts of righteousness, the fruit of the Spirit – and if occasional “old acts of sin” take place that is not because of “what we are” but because our old nature has not been fully put to death. So, either Driscoll’s theology is seriously adrift, or he is indeed, as I suggested before, assuming that the audience is made up of unbelievers and identifying himself with them. Well, the latter may be a good preaching strategy, but surely not at what was supposed to be a Christian leaders’ meeting!
Also, Alastair has not yet confirmed whether Driscoll actually said “I MURDERED GOD!”, the words which I first found objectionable especially as they were (as reported by Adrian) linked with “if you deny this, you have essentially lost the Christian faith”.
In summary, then, I find that Adrian has quite seriously misrepresented Driscoll’s teaching. I’m sure he didn’t do this deliberately, but he has made the matter far worse by his refusal to accept correction or comments pointing out problems with his report. If I had read first Alastair’s report, I might not have made such an issue of this.
Nevertheless, I continue to have serious issues and reservations with Driscoll’s teaching. But I respect him for his willingness to speak out, and to break the mould of traditional Christianity to present the gospel in a relevant way to the unbelievers of the least Christian major city in the USA.