One of the goofball conundrums in evangelical circles involves the issue of accountability. Since Protestantism grew out of rejecting the Catholic hierarchy and evangelicalism, especially non-denominational churches, grew out of resisting mainline Protestant hierarchies and accountability structures, the question of how and to whom evangelicals should be accountable is a commonly discussed topic. They have a proclivity toward giving lip service to “accountability” as an important task, especially young evangelicals concerning sex and sexuality (i.e. porn use, masturbation, and sexualities alternative to heterosexuality). They often quote Proverbs 27.17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another,” as the biblical basis for making one another “better” or, at least, more inter-subjectively ethical.
What becomes confusing for me is how one evangelical leader, like Rob Bell, issues a question as a way toward sharpening followers of Jesus, and he immediately is told by other leaders that some knives are already sharp enough—of course, the knife is a great metaphor since these leaders try their hardest to cut out as many people from the love of G-d as possible. One of these leaders who I frequently discuss and decry recently appeared on my radar: Mark Driscoll, preaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle,
WA. I think it is only fitting that we look closely at Mark’s response to all the Rob Bell hullabaloo since they both pastor Mars Hills and Mark is the most visible and influential leader in my immediate vicinity to have anything to say about it.
Let me say, Mark’s sermon on Heaven and Hell never mentions Rob Bell by name once. Additionally, he did not decide to preach this sermon simply because he wanted to. It fit into his 2-year series on the Gospel According to Luke, and he used the passage he was preaching on as a launching off point to combat Bell and his “controversial” ideas. While this may appear to be a Mark Driscoll bashing session, the intention is for the sake of talking about eternal salvation, who gets in to heaven, and what kind of G-d are we dealing with if people go to hell forever.
One of the most difficult problems with Mark Driscoll and his preaching lies in his approach to the Bible. In this sermon, he preaches on Luke 16.19-31. He claims right away that his job is “to tell you [the listeners] what Jesus said and to tell you the truth. Your job is to make a decision.” Furthermore, Mark seems quite intent on insisting that he only repeats what Jesus says. He claims he looks at what the Bible says. He notes the usefulness of interpreters and scholars, but he mainly wants to look at what the Bible says in its own words. On this point, Mark buys into the classic misconception that if only everyone read the Bible without anything obscuring their viewpoints like he does, we would all get the same interpretation. 500 years of post-reformation schismatics has pretty much proven this wrong. Still, he does his best to not sound ignorant.
Mark gives 6 different views on heaven and hell. He divides these 6 into 2 groups: those going to hell and those going to heaven. On the hell side, he posts naturalists (those who do not believe in an afterlife), universalists (those who believe G-d will let everyone into heaven and this list includes Rob Bell’s point of view which is that everyone will be given the eternal opportunity to reconcile to G-d after death), and the reincarnationists (those who believe you come back after you die as something or someone else). On the heaven side, he places annihilationists (those who believe that “unsaved” people will just stop existing), Catholics (who believe some people will suffer for a little while in Purgatory and then go to heaven while others burn forever), and the Bible (also known as what Mark thinks). Within the first 10 minutes of the sermon, he repeats that he tells the truth, the Bible tells the truth, and everyone else is a liar. His sermon plays on this simple fact: everyone already knows what he is going to say. Mark Driscoll will say that those who believe in Jesus will go to heaven, and those who do not, will burn in hell. Forever.
In the sermon, after he explains 5 of the afterlife ideologies, he proceeds to do a long exposition concerning the 6th viewpoint, the Bible. This, supposedly, is the content of his sermon. Nonetheless, it is nothing of the sort. I will approach the content of his sermon and what it means in my next post.