Why Mark Driscoll’s theology of SUV’s matters

I don’t normally blast off a blog in response to a tweet, but this one has me fired up. As I nonchalantly swiped my thumb in an upward motion to keep my tweeter feed rolling I started noticing a number of tweets quoting @PastorMark (Mark Driscoll’s twitter account name) from the Catalyst conference.

Naturally, I stopped to see the trainwreck.

“I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to burn it all up. So yes, I drive an SUV.”

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Let me be the first to admit I am not an environmental junkie. I do own a Nissan Pathfinder which would be considered an SUV. However, I am a conservationist who believes the Bible has given us a responsibility to and a responsibility for the condition of creation. Regardless of whether you believe global climate change is a reality or if you believe it is part of the political agenda of some group of people, Christians must take responsibility for the condition of creation. It is what it means to be stewards. It is what it means to be created in the image of God who feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field.

But the lack of sound theology regarding creation isn’t what has me hot in Driscoll’s tweet.

It is the sheer lack of Biblical theology.

Granted, Christians disagree on what is going to happen to creation when Christ returns. Scores of people have read the Left Behind series believing they are a blueprint for what is to come. Far too many (according to my preferences) regard Revelation as literal rather than figurative; fact rather than symbol. So I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that I disagree with Driscoll. I probably disagree with a lot of people when it comes to this stuff. But when he speaks, so many people listen.

So many.

To say that when Jesus returns he is simply going to burn it all up (meaning earth and all that is in it) is to disregard a theology of resurrection, restoration, and shalom. At running the risk of sounding combative, Driscoll’s tweet is more infused with Platonic philosophy than Biblical theology.

Let me give you one example. Romans 8 is a well known passage where Paul exhorts us to endure our present sufferings for the coming glory. In verse 19-21 he writes,

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it. In hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

If you believe what Driscoll said, then this passage makes absolutely no sense. It would mean that creation is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to be revealed so that it can burn. So it can be annihilated. The liberation from decay and the “glorious freedom” awaiting the creation at the revealing of the adopted sons and daughters of God is that it would be thrust into the divine furnace and torched.

I don’t think that is what Paul was getting at.

Now some will point to the passage in 2 Peter 3 that says, “That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” Two things about this passage. One, when Peter tells us there will be a fire, think refiner’s fire (you can sing the song to an acoustic guitar if you want) not destructive fire. Two, we know we are to think of a refiner’s fire because of the Greek word Peter uses in verse 13 for “new.” In Greek there are two words for new. One means “brand new” and the other means something along the lines of “newly renovated.”

Guess which one Peter uses? The one for “newly renovated.”

We could go on. But I don’t need to. Everything I know about this has been learned from people much smarter than me. Check out N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, Michael Wittmer’s Heaven is a Place on Earth, or C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.

It is important for us as Christians to think about these things. Orthodoxy matters as right thinking impacts how we act. Orthopraxy doesn’t just happen. I know there has been a push in recent years to say that right living precedes right thinking and there may be some truth to that. However, Paul does not say we are transformed by the renewing of our behaviors. It is the renewing of our minds. Right thinking matters.

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Here is why this means so much to me. I woke my three year old son from his nap and took him fishing this afternoon. Today was one of those beautiful spring days in which the sun and the clouds take turns dominating the sky. When the sun was out and the wind died down, it was hot. But when the sun went away, it was just the right kind of cool. We grabbed our fishing gear and walked to the end of our cul-de-sac and cut through the neighbors yard. He pointed at birds, asked why God made fish to eat worms and stopped to pick dandelions. We sat down on the grass next to the pond and he took a worm and gave it to me so I could bait the hook. We watched the bobber together and it rose and fell with the small ripples created by the wind. We caught some fish. He laughed as the fish fought him through the rod and line. He held the fish after I took the hook off and threw them back. Some made it to the water. When it was time to walk home, we packed up, Luke stopped to pick up a rock and throw it in the water, and I started walking. He ran up and, as he got to my side, grabbed my hand and held it.

I want that to mean something. That’s why this matters.

  • http://www.alanmolineaux.com Alan Molineaux

    Great post Nate. Thank you.

    It makes you wonder how he would value human beings who (in his theology at least) are predestined to burn.

    It gives license to ruin the planet and dismiss people who don’t agree with us as having no value.

    • Nate Pyle

      Thanks, Alan.

      I’ll admit, I am reformed in my theology, and the idea of double predestination is one I continually struggle with. In all honesty, TULIP would be the thing I struggle the most with when it comes to reformed theology. It saddens me to see TULIP be what reformed theology is known for, and that the neo-Reformed are most noted for people like Driscoll.

      • http://www.alanmolineaux.com Alan Molineaux

        Thanks Nate.

        My struggle is not so much with the idea of being reformed. It is more the brand that Driscoll represents.

        I enjoyed your blog

      • http://gravatar.com/davenporter Benjamin Davenport

        What does it mean to be Reformed in your view?

        • Nate Pyle

          Sovereignty of God, Authority of scripture, Salvation by grace, necessity of evangelism as Christians are in the world for the good of the world.

          Many see reformed theology as Calvinism. While Calvin has deeply impacted reformed theology, reformed theology is broader than Calvin. And Calvin is broader than TULIP.

          Check out anything by J. Todd Billings. He is as good a scholar on Calvin and reformed theology as there is out there.

          • http://gravatar.com/davenporter Benjamin Davenport

            Thanks Nate, I asked because I always thought that Calvinism was the bare minimum for being considered “Reformed”, and more properly and historically, being Reformed has also implied the subscription to one of the historic Confessions of faith (e.g. the 3 Forms of Unity, Westminster Standards, or 1689 London Baptist Confession) and also a belief in Covenant Theology. It seems the definition keeps changing. Driscoll isn’t really a Calvinist, either – he waffles on Particular Atonement.

            Thanks for the recommendation of J Todd Billings; I saw this article which is helpful to get a glimpse of his view of Reformed Theology: http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=7222

            On another note, I am not a fan of Driscoll whatsoever. The above comment by Alan, however, is a complete misrepresentation of Driscoll and very unfair to him. Alan said:

            “It makes you wonder how he would value human beings who (in his theology at least) are predestined to burn.”

            “It gives license to ruin the planet and dismiss people who don’t agree with us as having no value.”

            Driscoll doesn’t believe that we can know who is elect and who is not elect while we’re here on earth. He would suggest that the gospel should be preached universally, and God will save whom He pleases. I’m not a fan of Driscoll’s ecclesiology (church structure) along with many other things Driscoll does, but in practice he would not dismiss or neglect someone because he thinks that person is reprobate, destined for Hell, and therefore he shouldn’t waste his time on her. I believe that he values all human beings as people made in the image of God, and therefore people to whom God freely offers the gospel of Jesus Christ. Driscoll believes that people are eternal, even if the world is not, and they will spend their eternity in Heaven or Hell, and therefore he sees people as being the priority, rather than the environment.

            The issues of people burning up and the world burning up are two completely different issues, and I don’t think we should take Driscoll’s view of the destruction of the world and his lackluster view of taking care of it to mean that he couldn’t care less about people, either. They are two completely different issues.

  • Fred

    Driscoll does say wild things, but are we sure this wasn’t a joke or satire? Sounds like it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mary.demuth Mary E. DeMuth

      I was in the audience. Yes, it was meant as a joke, but followed by this: “If you drive a minivan, you’re a mini man.” His style tends toward shocking his audiences.

      • Nate Pyle

        And that is part of my problem. He’s a pastor, not a shock jock. Those jokes, when repeated from the pulpit in the context of Biblical exposition, have impact in the way people think about gender or the environment or whatever else he decides to mock.

        • Parshooter

          He is not a Pastor. If he is a shepherd he does so by beating the sheep. Hearing is not all that is important for those who hear the Good Shepherds voice. Equally as important is the emotions that are generated by the sound of the voice. If Mark Driscoll had been in the garden of Gethsemene, his Jesus would have paralyzed the troops so that Peter could not only slay them but cut them into itty bitty pieces. Those who hear Mark’s voice for the most part fall into three camps – those who are afraid, the self righteous who feel vindicated and the zealots who hate the “others”. He reflects the brokenness of his followers much more than the one who let Himself be broken to demonstrate His love for those who knew (and know) not what they do … all of us (and them).

          • http://therealmofgrace.wordpress.com John Hundley

            well said.

      • http://www.redemptionpictures.com Micah @ Redemption Pictures

        Even though it was meant as a joke, it reveals the underlying theology, right? Unless Driscoll was satirizing the very idea he was expressing, it seems like the “joke” is based on a ridiculous exaggeration of something he actually believes, no?

        • Nate Pyle

          I completely agree, Micah. Joke or not, I think it displays an underlying belief, or at minimum a “I’ll do what I want” mentality.

  • http://coolingtwilight.com/ Dan

    Thanks for your careful explication of the relevant issues. Though I disagree with his quote for largely the same reasons you do, I would like to point out that we don’t have the context of the quote, or indeed any audio or video of it. Driscoll didn’t tweet it himself as you imply, it was people listening to him. Though I find it hard to imagine any context that would justify this quote, it does seem a bit hasty to respond this forcefully based solely on secondary sources.

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  • http://www.redemptionpictures.com Micah @ Redemption Pictures

    Love this. Thank you. I’ve sometimes been called a “Driscoll basher” for my strong condemnation of his words and attitude from the pulpit, but this so well articulates what’s so troubling about an off-the-cuff “shock jock” statement suck as this.

    • http://www.about.me/micahjmurray Micah @ Redemption Pictures

      *such

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  • http://www.laddermedia.co.uk rogerharper

    I know who made the environment and he’s coming back and going to ask me how I cared for his great gift of a good earth. Those who are not faithful stewards in small things will lose out on the big things – enjoying the new earth, the new heaven with Jesus forever.

    • http://gravatar.com/davenporter Benjamin Davenport

      I find this interesting that someone would make a statement such as this. Are you suggesting that Mark Driscoll or anyone who is not a green nut has no part in the Kingdom of God? Where does it say this in the Bible, that if you drive an SUV you’re going to Hell?

      • http://www.laddermedia.co.uk rogerharper

        Thanks Benjamin. I’m glad you found it interesting. I was using concise dramatic language, similar to language Mark Driscoll uses sometimes. You know Jesus’ parable of the talents? That indicates that when he returns he will ask us what we did with his gifts. The earth is a great gift to all of us. We must care for it wisely, but not leave it as it is, as some environmentalists want. Each os us will do this in our own way, according to where and how we live etc. Jesus also said that those who have proved faithul in small things will be entrusted with great things.

        As you mentioned Hell, can i darw your attention to the fact that Jesus used 2 different words, Hades and Gehenna, which have been commonly translated with the one word, Hell? Reading how Jesus used these words, and the rest of the Bible, it really doesn’t make sense to say they are 2 names for the same place. Much follows from this. See the hell posts at rogerharper.wordpress.com or my book ‘The Lie of Hell’ http://www.laddermedia.co.uk.

        All the best…

  • http://differentparent.wordpress.com Wick

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.modra.5 John Modra

    Why do you waste so much time on select secondhand comment – its not sound or scriptural cause YOU have better things to do . The bible is clear ( Genesis is full of responsive repair care from the Creator )

  • http://www.mikalatos.com/ Matt Mikalatos

    Great post, Nate. I was inspired by your post to do one of my own. I think you’ll enjoy it. :) http://www.mikalatos.com/2013/05/what-car-you-drive-reveals-about-your.html

  • http://www.jesusreligionphilosophy.com John Hundley

    well said.

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  • http://gravatar.com/suzer suzer

    I wonder how Driscoll would respond to Louis CK on this matter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrahQpIWD08

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  • krissy

    Rapture Christianity can be very dark and nihilistic.

  • http://luciewinborne.wordpress.com Lucie Winborne

    Would Mr. Driscoll use the same type of logic in relation to our bodies? That is, since they’re perishable and God will replace them with new ones, we shouldn’t take care of them here on earth?

  • http://www.duchasaquarium.com.br Aquarium

    Good!

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  • Rick Luiten

    This is a pretty simple subject. The Bible tells us that we have been given dominion over the earth and all therein. Jesus tells us that if we are to rule then we should do so through service. I have no problem with the SUV, I drive a truck but I do have a problem with the notion that its all going to burn so we have no responsibility to our God’s creation, each other and those who will come after us and will live on this earth.

  • Joel Kessler

    Randy Alcorn’s book ‘Heaven’ is also a believer that God is going to restore our earth, and not just burn it up; but bring the “New Jerusalem” down from heaven to be established on earth. And Randy is a Calvinist just like Driscoll.