Defending @PastorMark : Mark Driscoll, Continuation and Ezekiel's Oracles

On Mark Driscoll’s Message

No, I haven’t gone and accepted Mixed Martial Arts Jesus as my Manly Man. No, I have not reverted back to Calvinism, either–never will happen.

Here’s what I think, okay, Mark Driscoll’s emphasis on being a “manly man” in control of the social order is his response to the men he sees in need of Christ in Seattle. It’s not a universal solution for all cities and states, I would argue. While I disagree with his approach to the issue, Driscoll is poignantly addressing an issue we don’t like to talk about– reaching out to men.

Scott recently informed us of a post criticizing Driscoll for his continuationism (that the gifts of the Spirit still happen today) by the Pyromaniacs, who should have just gone on and accused Pastor Mark of witchcraft. I mean, that is what soothsaying is, yes?

Marv, Scott’s blogging partner on To Be Continued defended the gift of discernment in Christian theology.

“Whether the particular instances Driscoll cites are genuine or not, the practices he is teaching about in this video, discernment of spirits, revelation from the Holy Spirit, confronting another regarding sin, have a high Scriptural pedigree, the kind of actions engaged in by Christ and the apostles. Johnson’s charge is thus slanderous at best and perhaps even blaspemous.”

On Ezekiel’s Message

While Scott and Marv took up New Testament precedent for Driscoll, I would just like to look at one similar example in Ezekiel 16 & 23. Driscoll did use highly sexualized imagery in his lesson on spiritual warfare, but it is not to glorify sin, but to make us disgusted in it. The difference is key here. In Ezekiel 16 and 23 (I know, I know, I made it a talking point this year: I know you believe this, but have you read the book of Ezekiel, lately?) But I think Driscoll’s story is more than relevant in this case.

Katherine Pfisterer Darr notes in her commentaries that Ezekiel 16 and 23 give us disturbing images of God as well as the gory objectification of women in the priest/prophet’s allegories. Darr points out that Ezekiel’s view of the abominations that Israel has committed is skewered that he describes what he saw in unspeakable and raunchy term; Samaria and Jerusalem’s idolatry is compared to the most shameful form of adultery. The text, in Ezekiel 16:7, wants the audience to imagine Israel as a young woman in the nude and YHWH’s justification for his revenge for her unfaithfulness is “like mother, like daughter.” Likewise, Ezekiel 23 has just as gruesome depictions of the sexuality and humanity of women while it goes unexplained why YHWH is not able to control the behavior of his women.

Mary Shields, like Darr, takes issue with Ezekiel’s female imagery within the allegories found in Ezekiel 16 and 23. So much so, that Shield questions whether this text can function as God’s word. God’s character is questionable from the beginning in Shields’ view. The word used in Song of Solomon for erotic love is the same term used in Ezekiel 16:8. The woman’s blood and nudity become the primary euphemisms for Israel’s shame. Women are defined by male-constructed categories in Ezekiel’s world and the text makes it even that more obvious. The faithless wife can only find her identity in either her loving husband or her foreign male lovers. The two sisters, Oholibah and Oholah in Ezekiel 23, are not treated any better than the woman described in Ezekiel 16. Rape is used a both a military strategy and a punishment for adultery in Ezekiel’s historical setting; what is odd about Ezekiel 23 is that YHWH allows for Oholah and Oholibah’s lovers to violate them as the method for reinforcing YHWH’s ultimate control over Jerusalem and Samaria. The complex paradigms of sexuality and political power play a large role in Ezekiel’s foreign policy and his view of Jerusalem and Samaria.

What we must remember is that for the priest-prophet Ezekiel, honor/shame as well as ritual holiness/ritual impurity remain legit theological categories when discussing notions of sin. That is why the Temple of YHWH imagery remains so vital throughout the book of Ezekiel. In our culture, if I may take Cessationists as an example, sin is simply breaking the law. This is a very different notion of what sin is than from how a priest would see it. Reasonably, this would lead to two very different approaches of confronting sin. In the first instance, where sin is breaking the law, remaining faithful to the rules as well as knowing the rules are of utmost importance. However, in the priestly view of dealing with sin, describing gross images (perhaps like a documentary on economic injustice or corporate greed may be another example outside of sexual sins) to make persons conscience of their own errors. While I believe that Scripture affirms both approaches, I prefer the holiness viewpoint as a continuationist. There is a freedom by the power of the Holy Spirit in that approach, because I would say continuationists who have this priestly view of the world are trusting God to change people, and not simply our rules, or interpretations or applications thereof.

For more see:

Katheryn Pfisterer Darr. “The Book of Ezekiel: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections.” in The New Interpreter’s Bible. Volume VI. Editted by David L. Petersen. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999.

Mary E. Shields. “Multiple Exposures: Body Rhetoric and Gender Characterization in Ezekiel 16.” the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion volume 14, no. 1, Spring, 1998.

0 thoughts on “Defending @PastorMark : Mark Driscoll, Continuation and Ezekiel's Oracles

  1. ScottL

    Interesting thoughts coming out of Ezk 16 & 23.

    I’m not sure if cessationists would agree on how you have distinguished their approach from continuationism (because there are plenty of Pentecostals and charismatics who would approach it like that). I would say there is a difference between a) sin management and b) Spirit-empowerd freedom. Something like that, but mainly noting how detrimental it can be to just approach our life in Christ as sin management.

    Reply
  2. Travis Greene

    All well and good until you are accused of molesting children based on someone’s vision. I believe in these gifts, but handle with utmost discernment and care. The most genuine examples I’ve seen are always accompanied by caveats and disclaimers, not declared like the absolute truth.

    Reply
    1. Rod of Alexandria Post author

      This is true, all of these gifts need to be used responsibly, with discernment.

      Yes, there should be caveats and disclaimers. I would get very suspicious if they are used as absolute truths.

      Reply
  3. Jim ~ Random Arrow

    Rod – Sarah Hrdy chronicles field observations on Hanuman langur polygyny under which violent alpha males murder infant offspring of now-displaced alpha males such that infanticide stimulates estrous and ovulation leading females to accept new sexual advances of the uprising murderous alpha males. I can’t fault Mary Shields too harshly for rejecting selected parts of Ezekiel. God must feel somewhere (if not that text, another) murderously like an alpha langur seeking infanticidal polygyny. I can’t fault Shields. Because several times daily I violate my own ethical prescription voluntarily chosen from Ecclesiastes – “a time for everything.” A time for everything (“dabar” – purposeful matter) except for all things I don’t like – at the time. Perhaps it’s dangerous or fatal to ethics to include temporal dimensions which shutter ethics into contexts? Dangerous to do so and fatal not to pay attention to temporal dimensions? Perhaps it’s less dangerous for Shields to shutter out — texts (key here: texts) – which she doesn’t like because they’re only texts? – we can take or leave texts (right? – little sarcasm here, but not much). It’s not like texts have formative power over identity such that texts get up and self-enforce, right? Our Constitution just sits there without our enforcement, no? The problem I see at the end of the day for those who do textual exorcisms ala Shields (again: this is not hostile – I’m quite like her) is that after our textual exorcisms of the temporally offensive texts we still return to Hrdy’s natural world where temporally murderous alphas vie for reproductive rights with infanticide as the entryway for reproductive love. I can’t shake my sense that the texts are smaller in domain than the natural world. Exorcize the texts only to face the world of langur polygyny. Or thereabouts. Save that in Ezekiel and in William Blake – I’m inexplicably in touch with Divinity. Somehow. That’s just me.

    Jim.

    Reply
  4. Jim ~ Random Arrow

    Rod, a postscript. Maybe fits better under your thread on white-contextual theology?

    I’m still reviewing the underlying data-set. I see this sociological study trumpeted around the blogosphere uncritically. I’m not suggesting the study is well grounded science. There are a few questions that the authors didn’t ask. Questions which need factoring-in. At least among the poverty/low income people who I serve. IMHO. But here’s for your enjoyment on the possibility of white contextual theology –

    “Our results suggest that the bourgeois and familistic moral logics that have long been linked to religious institutions are now less powerful in the lives of working class whites than they used to be.” Source, “No Money, No Honey, No Church: The Deinstitutionalization of Religious Life Among the White Working Class,” Wilcox, Cherlin, Uecker, Messel. I’ve got a “pdf” in full if you need one emailed. Others on the web. More fun because these sociologists quote crusty Richard! – Niebuhr, H. Richard. 1929. “The Social Sources of Denominationalism.” Amazing, Richard lives.

    Just to whet your contextual appetite. Use with caution. The findings need replication. And post-pub hammering.

    Possible these displaced whites are doing no theology at all? – that contextual white theology for these whites is no-theology? – that these ‘working class’ whites are wandering in the economic wilderness for 40 years? – or is non-participation in churches a form of, “screw you churches, God doesn’t keep covenant?” – what thousand other questions would you ask about the contextual theology of these displaced whites? – the new non-class of ‘working class whites’? Or, what?

    Rod, it’s not an academic question for me. I’m seeing them show up in practice. They don’t look pretty. Scared. Lost. Confused. Alone. Broke. No job. No work. No money. No honey. Some say they felt Obama would save them.

    My praxis focus is too narrow. Narrow to blind. So I’d like to see contextual theologians take this up in a serious way. Based on the data. Not on polemic theology. Maybe you and Roland will get to it? Truly, what’s contextual theology for these particular dying class of ‘working class’ whites? – even survey-feedback would be a starter, no?

    Beats me.

    How would Richard contextualize these new whites? – if these whites aren’t in a denomination (‘denominaltionalism’) would Richard the great catechize a new whole category of displacement for them?

    Jim

    Reply
  5. Jim ~ Random Arrow

    … call me a chicken and coward, Rod, I’m too scared to go over to Roland Boer’s house (blog) and ask these questions! … it’s not Roland’s wimpy pathetic excuse for a moustache bothers me, it’s the formidable moustache on the particular guy behind Roland in the pics at Roland’s blog … THAT .. is a moustache … okay, that does it, I’m going over to Boer’s house and bother him now … ~ Jim

    Reply
  6. J. K. Gayle

    Rod,
    Interesting discussion comparing Mark Driscoll with Ezekiel. So, if God is talking, and these men are listening, then anything goes. For that latter man, it’s the canon justification. I’ll just not speculate here about the former except just to exclaim Driscoll is no Ezekiel.

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the book-length project by Julie Galambush, her 1992 Jerusalem in the Book of Ezekiel: The City as Yahweh’s Wife. One thing worthwhile about Galambush’s approach is that she takes the Book of Ezekiel not as allegory but as “narrative metaphors.” Notice, we’d be hard pressed (even if continuists and not cessationists in 2011) to read Driscoll’s visions as anything like that. Secondly, Galambush considers the abuse in 16 and 23 to be pornographic and voyeruristic. It says something about us readers, makes us a bit complicit, depending on how we find ourselves sympathizing with either the woman or her husband. Galambush gets into what she thinks the writer of the Book is trying to do, how he positions himself, and works to “demystify” the woman eventually “saving” her. Does Driscoll go this far? I don’t really know. I do know that the text can’t be forgiven just because it’s canon; which is like the cliche, “God said it, I believe it, that settle it” for the domineering man who hears God saying that he’s positioned, naturally, over the wife in his marriage and that she was made for him, to submit to him, to obey him. We could get into enslavement of human beings and what the canon says about that too. So what hermeneutic justifies our readings?

    Reply
    1. Rod of Alexandria Post author

      Hey JK,

      “I’m surprised you didn’t mention the book-length project by Julie Galambush, her 1992 Jerusalem in the Book of Ezekiel: The City as Yahweh’s Wife. One thing worthwhile about Galambush’s approach is that she takes the Book of Ezekiel not as allegory but as “narrative metaphors.” ”

      Actually, I did not because KP Darr actually does in the NIB commentary I recommended. It’s a short excursis within her commentary on Ezekiel.

      “Interesting discussion comparing Mark Driscoll with Ezekiel.”

      As far as the comparison goes, I would say that only to the extent that both Ezekiel and Driscoll use graphic imagery in their “oracle” that there is any comparison. The social meaning (the sexualized individual woman of Driscoll’s versus women representing cities in Ezekiel) of each mentioned oracle will be different. Driscoll isn’t an exile talking to other exiles on the River Chebar, right?

      “I do know that the text can’t be forgiven just because it’s canon; which is like the cliche, “God said it, I believe it, that settle it” for the domineering man who hears God saying that he’s positioned, naturally, over the wife in his marriage and that she was made for him, to submit to him, to obey him. We could get into enslavement of human beings and what the canon says about that too. So what hermeneutic justifies our readings?”

      And that exactly the problem with oracles, yes? It is not meant for us first, but first and foremost, for Judeans in exile in Babylon. As far as the sexual imagery goes, it is horrific, for Ezekiel wants to scare the living daylights out of his fellow exiles. If you notice, I keep trying to push the point that Ezekiel is preaching to exiles, because he is. The problem I see with us setting ourselves as judge over brother Zeke (as weird as he is) is that the subject of the oracle is YHWH, and humanity cannot be YHWH, for we are ontologically different. The idea of a narrative metaphor I fear comes close to confusing Ezekiel’s point in this regard. Could the marriage between YHWH and Jerusalem be seen as a model Judean marriage? Um, not unless you claim that every 8th century BCE man adopted his wife from out of Egypt first, and then married her, because that’s exactly what Ez 16 & 23 tell us.

      Yes, I see the sexist imagery in Ezekiel’s vision. I am not trying to pull some relativist trick here. I am not trying to say forgive Ezekiel, for his book was canonized (and Judas of maccabee wasn’t), what I am trying to say is that we must take Ezekiel in his own context. Is our western anti-sexist gaze absolute? Are we morally superior to Ezekiel? Are we trying to colonize this exiled priest as Nebuchadnezzar did?

      In other words, God’s covenant with Israel should be seen as a model for us Gentiles. We must recognize our Gentile place in our hermeneutic first, yes? Is that not what leads to supersessionism, that we forget where we are in Israel’s story? I am asking for a recognition of particularity here, not just gender, but peoplehood as well. “Galambush considers the abuse in 16 and 23 to be pornographic and voyeruristic.” And rightly so, not gonna argue that point, but pornographic by whose standards? Is it ours? In the ancient Near East, right, temple prostitutes was part of the norm in Babylon. So is Ezekiel’s vision universally acknowledged as sexually objectifying? Or is it objectifying in a particular place and context? I would argue the latter, otherwise, we would be using an anachronism. And that’s what I am trying to avoid here in my view.

      Feel free to correct me.

      Reply
  7. J. K. Gayle

    Driscoll isn’t an exile talking to other exiles on the River Chebar, right?

    Ezekiel is preaching to exiles, because he is. The problem I see with us setting ourselves as judge over brother Zeke (as weird as he is)

    what I am trying to say is that we must take Ezekiel in his own context. Is our western anti-sexist gaze absolute? Are we morally superior to Ezekiel? Are we trying to colonize this exiled priest as Nebuchadnezzar did?

    In other words, God’s covenant with Israel should be seen as a model for us Gentiles. We must recognize our Gentile place in our hermeneutic first, yes?

    objectifying in a particular place and context

    Amen and amen. Very thought provoking and very well said, Rod! Amen and amen.

    Reply
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