Monday, November 14, 2011

The Gospel According To Mark Driscoll: God Hates Us

If you’re going to be a Christian, I want you to really be one, not just another Judas who hangs out with the team and then hangs himself. To do that, you need to know who the real God is and how the real God feels. Some of you, God hates you. Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny. He doesn’t think your excuse is meritorious. He doesn’t care if you compare yourself to someone worse than you. He hates them, too! God hates, right now, personally, objectively hates some of you. He has had enough! He is sick of it! There’s no sense of urgency with you, but the cup is filled to the rim for him! The Bible speaks of God not just hating sin, but sinners, because sin is of our nature.
Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle

Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.

I don't really ever find myself watching a Mark Driscoll sermon online, but a fellow Fuller Seminary grad posted it on Twitter the other day and I guess my curiosity got the best of me. Driscoll is the senior pastor at a megachurch in Seattle and even has a colonial outpost ("church plant") just a mile away from where I live in Orange County (what Mars Hill calls "one of the darkest places in America"). Incidentally, their worship leader is the lead singer for the rock band Thrice. Driscoll is well known in evangelical/fundamentalist circles. Not everyone loves him, but he's very influential.

Driscoll's sermon is posted here in it's entirety with a little context added for clarity. Shorter clips are posted here and here to get a little taste (if you don't want to digest the whole Driscoll meal).

I asked some of our more critically thinking and passionate conversation partners to respond to Driscoll's sermon. Their responses are helpful and hopeful.

This is from Rev. Dan Jones, a college pastor up in the Seattle area:

First of all, I find it disturbing that this “God hates some of you” tangent comes from a sermon that is supposed to be from the Gospel of Luke. Driscoll must go to other texts (both in the Psalms) to emphasize his point that God hates some people. This particular notion is not found in Luke’s Gospel. In fact, how this “God hates some of you” tangent found its way into the presentation of the Gospel is stunning. The fundamental message of the Gospel is the good news of God’s coming kingdom, which is characterized by justice, life, peace and love, not hate.

In regards to the thought that God hates some people, I cannot say for sure if God hates or not. Scripture seems to suggest God does hate. However, if we are to resist the easy temptation to use proof texts, then we must do the hard task of asking more appropriate theological questions. What is the difference between God’s hate/anger and human hate/anger? God’s anger is often portrayed in scripture with redemptive purposes. For example, God often chastised God’s own people for the sake of their own correction. God’s anger had a distinct purpose.

What kind of people could God hate? Driscoll says from the pulpit that God hates some of you, referring to those hearing his message. This creates an uncomfortable ambiguity to the hearer. If God hates some of us, then why? Driscoll does not fully explain. Is it because I’m gay? Is it because I’m a woman? A minority? Because I drink or smoke or play cards?

Luckily, if God does indeed hate some, the Old Testament would suggest that it was often directed toward those in power who took advantage of the marginalized. The book of Amos does a great job of highlighting this point.

In reality, the apostle Paul taught that Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. Jesus’ message and ministry was characterized by radical, world changing love, which culminated in his own death for all humanity. Is this the action of a hateful God?

This from Tiffany Ashworth, an English teacher in Durham, North Carolina:

Several of his comments led me to think that his definition of justice differs significantly from mine and is mostly other-worldly. Perhaps this is why the idea of God hating people is not so troubling to him; he banks less on the hope for redemption of all things fallen than I do. To him, justice is about making sure people go to the right place when they die; this world then doesn’t mean much because what matters is the afterlife and the locations we find ourselves in—-outside this world—-at that time. But such a notion troubles me immensely because I do view God’s disdain for who we are as a sign of evil winning out. And his emphasis on where we go after we die also signifies to me a loss of hope, an implicit affirmation that God has given up on this world, his creation.

Over the years, the definition of justice that has most compelled me is one that prompts us to care deeply about this fallen, broken, despised world and our equally depraved selves within it. It is one that urges us to bear God’s image through probing others to embrace the healing and humanizing divine image present within them. And, in the process of returning to our true selves, we tend to this fallen creation in its various capacities while clinging adamantly to the hope that God’s justice is, indeed, real. Evil will not win. His kingdom will indeed reign, judging the evil in all levels of creation. So we work with urgency toward being God’s image-bearers now because when the time of final judgment inevitably comes, we want to be sure we are fit for the radical kind of holy life to which it does and will ultimately call us.

And this from John Mestas, a pastor in Orange County offering us a Christian formula for deciphering God's wrath in the biblical text:

To understand God's wrath, look to the occasions in which Jesus was brought to anger. To understand God's love, look to the times Jesus extended, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion. As Driscoll is so fond of doing, add up the times Jesus was angry, and add up the times Jesus was loving. Are you surprised by the results? Jesus literally died trying to display God's love. God created this world, God is sustaining this world, and God is redeeming this world. These are not acts of hate or wrath but of love.

Here's why we EasyYolk Christians find Driscoll's voice to be so horrendous:

1. His paycheck and patriarchialism lead him to take himself far too seriously:

My job is to tell you the truth and your job is to make a decision. (repeated later)

Where's the accountability, dialogue, etc? His congregation is apparently filled with passive decision-makers whose only role in the community is to decide between two equally disturbing options: either Driscoll's Version of God (salvation) or Hell.

2. He takes a lot of pride in "telling the truth" but his bluntness is never combined with a truthful telling of other equally historic brands of Christianity that disagree with his (and there are many). He has no room for the contested nature of Christianity (his Neo-Reformed perspective, dominated by a God of wrath, is the only Christian way, according to him). Augustine and John Calvin, those giants of the Christian sub-tradition that Driscoll claims to be a part of, undoubtedly would be troubled by much of what he says and how he says it.

3. He's hateful and divisive:

Don't let your hippy, hackey-sack Jesus be a replacement for the King of kings and Lord of Lords.

There's a lot to unpack in that statement. He's using a propaganda device to cater to conservative (politically and theologically) congregants who have been trained to feed off caricatures of "liberals" and "socialists" who are destroying America and the Body of Christ. They get the exact same language from Fox News as well as other conservative pastor heroes.

4. As stated before, the harm in his message is that he's got such a large pedestal within American Evangelicalism/Fundamentalism:

We started with 10 people in a living room and God-willing we will have 10,000 here today.

10,000? Lord, have mercy on us all.

5. Where's the Love? Driscoll infuses anger and hatred into a God enfleshed in the man who was defined as "a friend of tax collectors and sinners" and even forgave those who conspired to kill him. Jesus put a stamp on the very heart of God, who's tender mercy and forgiveness are poured out on the whole world and whose followers, likewise, are called to love "neighbor" and "enemy" alike. Driscoll, unfortunately, limits the vastness of God's overpowering love by using fear and manipulating a condition into God's unconditional grace and love.

6. He seems arrogantly (ignorantly?) sure about where people are destined after death:

If you die without Jesus, he will pour out that cup of wrath on you forever and ever and ever and ever and ever.

What exactly does it mean to "die without Jesus?" I'm sure Driscoll spells this out in his sermons and writings (over and over again), but this is worth considering here. The power and love of God in Christ is severely limited if some people have Jesus (folks who believe in the same things Driscoll does) and others do not. Especially since God desires for "all people to be saved" (I Tim 2:4).

7. Lastly, Driscoll's understanding of God's wrath is misunderstood in light of the entire biblical narrative. God's wrath is consistently poured out on the people who are supposed to represent God's Dream of redemption for the entire world: Israel and the Church. In Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Vol. 1, biblical scholar and activist Ched Myers writes that, in Scripture, God’s Wrath is an “expression” not “negation” of love. Because of a radical dedication to unconditional love, God refuses both retributive violence and inaction. In Christ, we see the culmination of God's design for the healing of the cosmos: redemptive nonviolence and restorative justice. Myers concludes that God wrath is holistic, allowing us to reap the destruction we all consistently sow:

...this “judgment” looms in the end-game of our addictions or infidelities in the personal sphere, or of the arms race or environmental destruction in the collective sphere.

To sum, the wrath of God is another way of saying that God is defined by a commitment to covenantal love, bringing justice & healing to the world. God is both pissed off and grieved to the heart when people suffer at the hands of oppressors and abusers. God actively prods and compels us to join in the realization of the healing of the world as modeled and empowered by Jesus.


  1. Wow, this is chilling. Thanks for sharing, and for reflecting on what is taking place here.

  2. Didn't the King of Kings and Lord of Lords say to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." And in Mt. 5: "Blessed are the peacemakers."

    We've known for a long time that if a pastor keeps preaching on the same topic in Ad nauseam that it typically comes from their own darkness and hidden sin. That's all I've got to say about it...there are people to love on and canvas to paint.

  3. Apparently that wasn't all I have to say about it...for I find Rob Bell founding pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan and Driscoll are seemingly polar opposites on this top. Uncanny...

    OK back to my canvas...

  4. Wow, this post is exactly what I needed to hear. You above are all speaking deeply and convicting my own crooked heart with the truth I need to hear...which, like Gandhi's truth (in the quote above about the power embodied in unconditional love vs. obtained through fear of punishment), I find much more difficult to practice than Driscoll's. I am a therapist and currently counsel kids...and... confession time: I had a horrible day at work today. I will spare you all the gory details (my mom and husband had to listen to all those tonight already - thank God for THEIR patience and love! Driscoll probably would have told me God hates me for being so weak, or better yet, not to worry about my kids not falling into line and getting better - a.k.a. 'behaving' 'cuz God hates them anyway and I am probably justified in my attempts to wield power over them - a.k.a. try to control them and make them into little 'behaving machines').

    In reading this, I realize how much I was grasping for control with my students today ("'cuz I'm just trying to get them to do what's 'best' for them!" right...) vs. building relational power (influence) through a genuine love for and interest in them (helping them tap into their own motivation and inner teacher to know and do what's best for them). Though I would never say with my lips that I buy into Driscoll's God, I sure do fall into those fear-driven, grasping for control, power-mongering ways. Thank God for showing us a better way and giving us hope. Driscoll's God is basically me on my worst days, where I give into my bitterness and resentment, and basically decide to do whatever I can to manipulate people to do what I want/"need" them to do so I can feel better... and when they don't conform? Throw a temper tantrum. Driscoll's God in a nutshell: emotionally unavailable, creatively constipated, full of fear and anxiety which leads to rigid control... could it be that Driscoll is so uncreative in responding to the complexity of life and human behavior that he can only envision God as a rigid, mostly disappointed despot?

    Anyhow, thank you all for your challenging words...they remind me of the grand vision that leads me to keep hoping all things really will be made new...the vision of God's kingdom which represents a reign of and by love, peace, kindness, justice, mercy, healing and redemption. I will reset my eyes on this vision, that I may soak it in and spread its healing power to those with whom I have been entrusted.

  5. Oh, and Ty - excellent psychological insight about the repeated topics being an insight into Driscoll's own troubled soul. If only he would be open to therapy...but I'm sure he just makes fun of it and dismisses it. He and all those Glenn Beck types prey on the vulnerable because they can't bear to be vulnerable, admit they don't know, and have a good long cry about all the things they need to grieve from their life that have been (and still are) out of their control....I really feel bad for them because being given all that power is only aiding them in running further and further away from their own souls... but make no mistake, Driscoll, I am not being "oowey gooey" in my "understanding" and letting you off the hook, the culture of hate and fear you spew is indefensible and I pray for the day your "Nathan" is able to get through to you the despicable nature of your ways.