Sinners in the Hands of a …….. God, by Jason Micheli

Sinners in the Hands of a …….. God, by Jason Micheli September 2, 2013

“Sinners in the Hands of a ______________ God”

 By Jason Micheli, who blogs at The Tamed Cynic.

Who is against us? Who will condemn us?

Who can separate us from the love of Christ?

For the Apostle Paul, they’re rhetorical questions.

They’re Paul’s way of implying that if you sense any ambiguity about the answer, if you feel any uncertainty about the conclusion, then you should go back to chapter 1, verse 1 and start over.

Reread his letter to the Romans-because Paul’s left you no room for qualification. There’s no grist for doubt or debate or indecision.

Don’t left the punctuation marks fool you because there’s only one possible way to answer the questions Paul’s laid out for you.

No one.

No one is against us.

No one will condemn us.

No one- no thing- nothing can separate us from Christ’s love.

Of course, as a preacher, I know first hand the danger in asking rhetorical questions is that there’s always one or two listeners in the audience who don’t realize that the question you’re asking has no answer but the obvious one.

The danger in asking rhetorical questions is that there’s always one or two people who mistakenly think the question might have a different answer.

For example, take this response to Paul’s rhetorical questions from Mark Driscoll: Play Clip from ‘God Hates You.’

I thought that would get your attention.

Or at least make you grateful I’m your pastor.

Just think, I make a single joke on my blog about Jesus farting and some of you write letters to the bishop; Mark Driscoll preaches an entire sermon about how ‘God hates you’ and thousands of people ‘like’ it on Facebook.

If you read my blog, then you know I feel about Mark Driscoll the same way I feel about Joel Osteen, Testicular Cancer and Verizon Wireless.

But he’s not an obscure, street-corner, fire-and-brimstone preacher.

He’s a best-selling author. He’s planted churches all over the world.

The church he founded in Seattle, Mars Hill, is one of the nation’s largest churches with a membership that is younger and more diverse than almost any other congregation.

Ten thousand listened to that sermon that Sunday.

And that Sunday ten thousand did NOT get up and walk out.

That Sunday ten thousand listened to the proclamation that ‘God hates you, God hates the you you really are, the person you are at your deepest level.’

And that Sunday at the end of that sermon somewhere near ten thousand people said ‘Amen.’

Which, of course, means ‘That’s true.’

Except it isn’t.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

After all, technically speaking, it’s a ‘good’ sermon. It’s visceral. It’s urgent. It’s confrontational and convicting.

It’s the kind of preaching that demands a response.

Technically speaking, I bet the sermon ‘worked.’

I bet it scared the hell out of people.

But what did it scare them into I wonder?

Because when it comes to Paul’s rhetorical questions, Mark Driscoll gets the  response dead wrong. So dead wrong that anti-Christ is probably the most accurate term to describe it.

He’s wrong.

But you know that already.

I can tell from the grimace of disgust you had on your face while listening to him that you know that already.

You don’t need to be a pastor to know he’s wrong. And you don’t need to be a pastor to prove he’s wrong.

All you need are a handful of memory verses.

Memory verses like Colossians 1.15: …Jesus Christ is the exact image of the invisible God…’

Which means: God is like Jesus.

And God doesn’t change.

Which means: God has always been like Jesus and God will always be like Jesus.

So no, God doesn’t hate you. God has never hated you and God would never hate you.

You don’t need to be pastor to prove he’s wrong; you just need to remember that John 3.16 does not say ‘God so loathed the world that he took Jesus’ life instead of yours.’

No, it says ‘God so loved…that he gave…’

You don’t need to be a pastor to know that God isn’t fed up with you. God isn’t sick and tired of you. God doesn’t hate the you in you because ‘God was in Christ reconciling all things- all things- to himself.’

In case you forgot, that’s 2 Corinthians 5.19.

It’s true that God is just and God is holy and anyone who reads the newspaper has got to think God’s entitled to a little anger, but you don’t have to be a pastor to know that none of those attributes trump the Paul’s Gospel summation that ‘while we were still sinners, God died for the ungodly, for us.’

God has not had it up to anywhere with you.

You don’t need to have gone to seminary to know that; you just need to have gone to church on June 30.

That’s when we heard Paul testify from his personal experience that no matter how much we sin, no matter how often we sin, no matter how we sin, no matter how much our sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more.

So that,

     ‘There is therefore now no condemnation…’

     ‘We have peace with God…’

Whatever needed to be set right, whatever needed to be forgiven, whatever needed to be paid, ‘it is finished.’

That’s in red letters in my bible. Jesus said it.

His cross, the Letter to the Hebrews says, was ‘a perfect sacrifice, once for all.’

For all.

So there’s nothing in your present, there’s nothing in your past, there’s nothing coming down the pike- and just in case you think you’re the exception let’s just say there’s nothing in all of creation– there’s nothing that can separate you from the love of God.

You don’t have to be a pastor to realize that you can say this a whole lot of different ways, but it all boils down to the same simple message:

God is for us.

Not against us.

But you know that.

Mark Driscoll may have 10K people in his church but I’d bet every last one of you would run him out of this church.

You would never sit through a sermon like. You would never tolerate a preacher like that- you barely tolerate me.

You would never participate in a church that had perverted the Gospel into that.

     God hates you. God’s fed up with you. God’s sick and tired of you. God’s suffered long enough with you.

     God’s against you.

You would NEVER say that to someone else. Ever.

But here’s the thing- and maybe you do need to be a pastor know this:

There are plenty of you

who say things like that

to yourselves

all the time.

Not one of you would ever say things like that to someone else, but, consider it on the job knowledge, plenty of you say it to yourself every day.

Plenty of you ‘know’ Paul’s questions are rhetorical.

You know there’s only one possible answer, only one way to respond: God is for us.

And yet…

When it comes to you and your life and what you’ve done and how God must feel about the person you see in the mirror, your inner monologue sounds a whole lot more like Mark Driscoll than it sounds like Paul.

You may know this, but as a pastor I definitely do.

Even though you’d never say it in a sermon, you tell yourself that surely God’s fed up with you for the mess you made of your marriage or the mistakes you made with your kids or the ways your life hasn’t measured up.

Even though you’d never dream of saying to someone else ‘there’s no God will forgive that’ that’s exactly what you tell yourself when it comes to the secret that God knows but your spouse doesn’t.

Even though there’s no way you’d ever consider saying it to someone else, you still tell yourself that there’s no way your faith is deep enough, commitment strong enough, beliefs firm enough to ever please God.

Even though it would never cross your mind to say to someone else ‘God must be angry with you for something…God must be punishing you…’ many of you can’t get that out of your mind when you receive a diagnosis or suffer the death of someone close to you.

     God hates you. God’s fed up with you. God’s sick and tired of you. God’s suffered long enough with you.

I can’t think of one of you who would let a voice like Mark Driscoll’s into this pulpit on a Sunday morning.

And yet I can think of a whole lot of us who every day let a voice just like his into our heads.

So here’s my question: why?

I mean- we know Paul’s being rhetorical. We know it’s obvious. We know there’s only one possible response: God is for us.

So why?

Why do we persist in imagining that God is angry or impatient or wearied or judgmental or vindictive or ungracious or unforgiving?

If it’s obvious enough for a rhetorical question then why?

Why do we persist in imagining that God is like anything other than Jesus?

Is it because we tripped up on those bible verses that speak of  God’s anger?


Is it because we’ve all heard preachers or we all know Christians who sound a little like Mark Driscoll?

Sure we have.

Is it because we’re convinced the sin in our lives is so great, so serious, that we’re the exception to Paul’s ironclad, gospel equation: God is for us?

Is it because we think we’re the exception?

Maybe for some of us.

But I wonder.

I wonder if we persist in imagining that God is angry and impatient and unforgiving and at the end of his rope- I wonder if we imagine God is like that because that’s what we’re like.

I wonder if we imagine God must be angry because we carry around so much anger with us?

I wonder if we imagine there are some things even God can’t forgive because there are things we won’t forgive?

I wonder if we imagine that God’s at the end of his rope because there are plenty of people with whom we’re at the end of ours?

I’ve been open with you in the past about my sometimes rocky sometimes resuscitated relationship with my Dad.

I’ve told you about how my dad and me- we have a history that started when I was about the age my youngest boy is now.

And I’ve told you about how even today our relationship is tense and complicated…sticky- the way it always is in a family when addiction and infidelity and abuse are part of a story that ends in separation.

As with any separation, all the relationships in the family got complicated. And as with many separations, what happens in childhood reverberates well into adulthood.

What I haven’t told you before is that I had a falling out, over a year ago, with my Mom.

The kind of falling out where you can no longer remember what or who started it or if it was even important.

The kind of rift that seemed to pull down every successive conversation like an undertow.

The kind of argument that starts out in anger and then slowly advances on both sides towards a stubborn refusal to forgive and eventually ages into a sad resignation that this is what the relationship is now, that this is what it will be, that this thing is between us now and is going to stay there.

We had that falling out quite a while ago, and I’ve let it fester simply because I didn’t have the energy to do the work I knew it would take to repair it.

And, to be honest, I didn’t have the faith to believe it could be repaired.

There’s no way I can say this without it sounding contrived and cliche.

There’s no way I can say this without it sounding exactly like the sort of sentimental BS you might expect in a sermon.

So I’ll just say it straight up and if it makes you want to vomit go ahead. I read Romans 8 late this week and it…convicted me.

And so I called my Mom.

‘We need to talk’ I said.

‘You really think so?’

I didn’t know how to answer.

It was a rhetorical question. There was only one possible answer: yes.

And so I began by telling her that I’d been reading a part of the bible and that I’d just noticed something I’d never noticed before.

I don’t know why I’d never noticed it before.

Romans 8.31-39 is, after all, one of the most popular scripture texts for funerals. I’ve preached on this scripture probably more than any other biblical text.

Yet preaching it for funerals, with death and eternity looming, I never noticed how this passage about how no one is against us, how no one will condemn us, how nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus- it comes at the end of Paul’s chapter on the Holy Spirit.

It comes as the conclusion to Paul talking about how we are to live according to the Spirit- according to Christ’s Spirit.

It comes as the conclusion to Paul talking about how we are the heirs of Christ’s ministry, about how that inheritance will involve certainly suffering but that the Spirit will help us in our weakness.

This ‘nothing shall separate us’ passage- it comes as the conclusion to Paul telling us how the Holy Spirit will work in our lives to conform us to Christ’s image so that we might live up to and in to calling.

In all the times I’ve turned to Romans 8 for a funeral sermon, I’ve never noticed before that, for Paul, it’s not about eternity.

It’s about living eternity now.

Who is against us? Who will condemn us?

Who can separate us from the love of Christ?

Paul’s questions might be rhetorical.

The answers might be obvious and certain.

But that doesn’t make them easy or simple.

I’d never noticed that for Paul here in Romans 8- it’s actually meant to be the kind of preaching that demands a response.

Because if you believe that God in Jesus Christ is unconditionally, no matter what, for us then you’ve also got to believe that you should not hold anything against someone else.

If you believe that God in Christ Jesus refuses- gratuitiously- to condemn your life, then you’ve got to at least believe that it should be ditto for the people in your life.

And if you believe that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, nothing in all creation, then you must also believe that because of the love of God in Christ Jesus then nothing, nothing, nothing can separate us.

From one another.

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  • SteveSherwood

    Coming to the realization, as he mentions here, that when we see Jesus, we truly see God in action, revolutionized my faith. How would God respond to me, to sin, to all that is ugly and broken? Exactly how Jesus did. Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1 are right. Jesus is the exact representation of God’s being, the visible expression of the invisible God.

  • zaztrow


  • Susan_G1

    a beautiful, powerful, convicting message. Thank you so much.

  • I couldn’t open Mark’s clip so I don’t know who he is saying God “hates,” how that “hate” is defined (in the same way that it says God hates Esau?) or what text he is pulling from. There are plenty of passages throughout all of Scripture which describe God’s wrath. I just preached a sermon yesterday which highlighted John Wesley’s one condition for becoming a Methodist: showing “a desire to flee from the wrath to come and be saved from all their sins.” I wonder if Wesley, who also preached grace (though not cheap), would be likened today more to Driscoll or Micheli?

  • Darcy Knight

    Chad, I know you’re a Methodist, as I am. But as a person who spent years listening to Mark Driscoll on podcast, I’m voting that he wouldn’t be much like Mark. And I’m grateful.

  • Thanks, Darcy. And I suspect you’re right. I’ve never really listened to Mark apart from what those who hate (or despise) him share online and I happen to stumble upon.

    But I’m not certain Micheli is completely right, either. He quotes Paul as evidence that we can’t be separated from God’s love but leaves out the many places where Paul says God’s wrath is being stored up for the “sons of disobedience.”

    It feels like from both sides (Mark and Micheli) we are being given a false choice

  • superbri

    Pretty sure Driscoll isn’t saying God hates us and there’s no hope. And I don’t think he was speaking to those who feel the weight and condemnation of their sin. He was speaking of the other half of the Bible that you didn’t prooftext… like the law, which exposes our guilt and is, what Paul calls, a “schoolmaster” driving us to Christ. Driscoll is showing us our need for a savior, because that’s what Scripture does. And that’s, honestly, what our narcissistic, self absorbed culture needs to hear today. Only then will we fully grasp and appreciate the love of God in Christ. The cross is where God’s holy hatred and wrath towards sinners, and His perfect love, intersect. The world will never appreciate the good news until they realize the bad news. So please don’t turn this conversation into an either-or thing. Its both. Driscoll, and those like him, would agree with most everything you’ve said here… they just wouldn’t leave off the first part of God’s wrath. Because the Bible doesn’t. Which means God doesn’t.

  • Billy North

    This is where hyper-Calvinism leads stemming from a warped view of total depravity.

  • Phil Miller

    The world will never appreciate the good news until they realize the bad news.

    I don’t believe this. People generally know the bad news. Sure, not everyone is dealing with a deep sense of dread (although some are), but people have generally gotten the idea that they’re a disappointment to God. Or they at least believe that the Church thinks they’re disappointing God by their actions. The message that God loves and does not condemn is something that people inside and outside the Church need to hear.

    The God of Driscoll and Piper is petty and retributive and not worthy of worship. They set the Father up against Jesus. They make the Godhead a good cop/bad cop type of situation where Jesus is the good cop – on our side, and the Father is the one trying to stand up for law and order. It’s messed up.

  • Joe Fisher

    I guess the writer forgot about the Jesus of Revelation 19 and didn’t use that as proof text for a robust understanding of Jesus. I am also wondering if he only listened to the sound bite or the whole sermon. Or the fact that Driscoll wasn’t speaking to Christian’s when he said those words since it is true that we have been reconciled to God through Christ and there is not condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

    Ah the straw man of hyper-calvinism which this is not. Take a reading of Iain Murray’s book Spurgeon vs. Hyper-Calvinism and you can get a real understanding of what it is.

  • Steelwheels

    I wonder how Divine Simplicity impacts Driscoll’s understanding of God.

  • Darcy Knight

    You have a point there.

  • attytjj466

    I am not a Driscoll fan. But I am also not a fan of bashing another ministry or pastor in a sermon. Make all the same points but leave all the references to Driscoll out and it would be a good message/ sermon.

  • Rick

    It is interesting to have two differing posts today: This one, and the “Many Beating Hearts” one.

    In the 2nd, it states: “evangelicalism is a village green, big enough for all those who want to picnic but there are separate tables for different families; it’s a big tent with plenty of booths inside for all.”
    But the tone, and at least one of the comments, of this post (Sinner in the Hands) indicates otherwise.

    Which is it? Is the village green really big enough? Or do some who qualify with the Bebbington description still get kicked out (“The God of” others such as Driscoll and Piper= a different God).
    The other post indicates that it is the Reformed camp that limits those who are on the village green. Apparently others are guilty of that lack of unity as well..

  • Phil Miller

    Saying you think someone is wrong doesn’t mean you’re not calling them a Christian. Thankfully, that’s not the standard for who is a Christian or not, or we’d all be doomed. Actually, one sign of highly dysfunctional families is the inability to actually deal with disagreements. Everyone simply pretends everything is great, but on the inside everyone hates each other. It’s much better to be open and honest than to put on a false face. I know open disagreement bothers some people, but I’ve seen the alternative, and I think it’s more healthy to hash these sorts of things out in the open.

  • Rick

    “Saying you think someone is wrong doesn’t mean you’re not calling them a Christian.”

    Yet earlier you wrote: “The God of Driscoll and Piper is petty and retributive and not worthy of worship.”
    Since it sounds like you are saying they worship some other god, it does seem you are doing more that disagreeing, It seems you are determining whether they are Christians or not.

  • David Lindsay


    That was one long blog article – but worth every word of it !

    The “God Hates You” video of Mark Driscoll is on YouTube at:

    The link at the start of the article to your Tamed Cynic blog is broken and the right one is:



  • “The message that God loves and does not condemn is something that people inside and outside the Church need to hear.”

    But that is only part of the story.

    “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:18

    I appreciate the likes of Piper, et al., because they remind a church that loves to appease the masses with sentimentality, who is overly concerned with people’s self-esteem, that God is holy and without holiness no one will see the Lord.

    It is true that there is no condemnation for those who are IN Jesus Christ. Wesley said we will never know the height of our cure (Jesus) if we do not know the depth of our disease. I think he’s right.

  • scotmcknight

    Rick, I can’t speak for Jason and so I won’t. My own take is that Village Green must include the Driscolls and the Michelis (though I’m not sure if Jason wants that label). But on the Village Green there will be some sharp disagreements, and what I heard in Driscoll’s talk/sermon was too harsh and way too easy to misunderstand. “Jacob have I loved and Esau have I hated” or “You must hate your father…” — that language not only has a Semitic comparative context but it is also nearly impossible to use in our world without having to run up five or six flags of nuance. Driscoll, so I think, needed more flags up the poles around that idea.

  • LF

    Not referencing who preaches lies about the living God is choosing the coward way out. What we believe about God determines how we live. Driscoll is responsible for leading people astray. In my opinion this is an excellent message. I wish more people were as courageous as the author of this message.

  • Phil Miller

    I appreciate the likes of Piper, et al., because they remind a church
    that loves to appease the masses with sentimentality, who is overly
    concerned with people’s self-esteem, that God is holy and without
    holiness no one will see the Lord.

    But what is holiness? I grew up in a church that seemed to equate it with moral perfection. While I’d say that’s part of it, I think that focusing on that side of it largely misses the boat. Holiness is being transformed into the likeness of Christ.

    The thing is we don’t really ever see Christ being repulsed by people’s sinfulness. We see Him repulsed by their religiosity, though. It seems the thing that really ticked Him was people being sure they spoke with the mind of God but really having no clue.

  • Rick

    Thanks for your feedback, and I agree with your take on what he should have done/said..

    I am not a big fan of Driscoll, but as you said, the Village Green must include him. Sharp disagreements on the green will happen, but are still centered around core common beliefs.
    However, there is a difference between sharp disagreement (such as interpretation) and claiming someone preaches “lies”, leads people astray, and worships another god.
    I am just plain sick and tired of disagreements (even sharp ones) turning into a lack of unity, even though hold to common, orthodox, teachings of the faith.

  • Phil Miller

    I’ll grant you that I could have been more careful with that language, but I do think that the way Piper and Driscoll describe God is fundamentally flawed. I don’t doubt they’re Christians, though. They think my view of God is fundamentally flawed, too. It’s a disagreement that goes way, way back in Church history (at least the Protestant branch of the Church). I don’t suspect it will be going away soon.

  • I agree that holiness is being transformed into the likeness of Christ. And yes, he was repulsed by religiosity, which is also sin, so it’s not exactly accurate to say Christ was not repulsed by people’s sinfulness.

    Religiosity is simply a symptom of pride. Pride affects us all, from the overtly pious who think he/she has something to offer God to the fool who says there is no God. And God hates pride. Scripture says God opposes the proud.

    Perhaps I should not have said holiness above, but rather the fear of God. The antidote to pride is a proper fear of God, which is sorely lacking in American Christianity. A proper fear of God will reveal the pride in our hearts, making us humble, and therefore holy. I think Driscoll is simply making a wake-up call. Perhaps he is not saying it the way you or I would, but nonetheless, a wake-up call is necessary. I need reminded of it, anyways.

  • attytjj466

    There is nothing courageous about bashing someone on the internet. And Driscoll is an easy target. If you or whoever really truly believes Driscoll is lying to people and leading people astray as in being a false prophet then go to Driscoll and rebuke him appropriately and face to face.

  • Phil Miller

    But saying “God hates you” isn’t a wake-up call… It’s simply not true. It’s one thing to say that their actions will have consequences, but to say that God is taking a stance towards them that He doesn’t is something else altogether.

    Personally, I suspect that when people make such statement they are projecting their own insecurities onto others. Usually when people are convinced of God’s hatred toward others, it’s because they aren’t convinced of His love towards them.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Well I strongly disagree with Scot and others. IMO the “village green” (and I’ll paint that as a metaphor for American Christianity in general as I’m not evangelical) has no place for people like Driscoll. Just because you declare you are on the same team doesn’t mean you are. Driscoll’s God conception is pathological and spurs forth hate and intolerance, period. It actively opposes the Gospel (although to Driscoll and other ‘new Calvinists’ he IS preaching the Gospel, which shows how widely divergent and incompatible people calling themselves Christian can be with each other) I also don’t think the early Church Fathers would’ve considered Driscoll and Piper orthodox in their beliefs at all; frankly I think they would’ve been placed on the heretic rolls.

    Yes he’s leading people down a dark path and I’d be more than happy to tell him he’s nothing but a charlatan bully face to face.

  • scotmcknight

    Jason can defend himself, but I’ll say this again: without a boatload of pastorally sensitive nuances, which Driscoll did not give because he in part loves angular theology and provocations against his perception of liberal cultural trends, saying God hates you is perceived by many as a lie to the truth of God’s love for us.

  • scotmcknight

    And I’ll turn it around: those who preach nothing but love and grace and tolerance by God end up creating a false god, not the God of Jesus. These themes require nuance: love means tolerance means God loves us no matter what we do forever and ever and God’s holiness means wrath and wrath means hate and that means God hates you. This kind of theology is bad theology.

  • Rick

    I rest my case.
    What position in orthodox Christianity does he deny? Which early creed does he deny?
    In regards to the gospel, Driscoll says the best definition is Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, and Paul’s description in 1 Corinthians 15.
    Do you have a different definition?

  • Andrew Dowling

    It goes beyond “not denying” creeds; the denial of free will, the focus on total depravity and the description of the cross as being the necessary judicial sacrifice to the wrathful God would’ve not been supported by the pre-Augustine Fathers and likely condemned by them.
    IMO the Gospel is what Jesus preached; a complete paradigm shift in terms of what God is and our responsibilities as people of God. The Reformed notion of God rests the entire notion of the Gospel on a particular interpretation of the atonement (which contrary to their claims, is not how Paul understood the atonement) and basically ignores Jesus’s actual ministry, or if it ever is cited, its always force-filtered through the lens of the former.

  • Rick

    He holds to Christus Victor, ransom, etc… theories of atonement.

    Are you saying that any theory that adds to, yet maintains, the early church’s understanding is wrong? Anselm, etc… is out? Augustine is out because of his views on free will?

    Your definitions, and expansion of essentials, so limit orthodox Christianity that is leaves many here out. Possibly including Scot.

    “IMO the Gospel is what Jesus preached”. No doubt. It is also who He is and what He did. And as Scot described in The King Jesus Gospel the sermons in Acts were summary sermons of what Jesus preached, who He is, and what He did. 1 Cor. 15 is a even tighter summary.
    Do you reject that gospel?

  • Rick

    Chad is on the right path there though. Driscoll probably mean holiness, yet for shock value used hate. As I have stated elsewhere, I am not a fan of Driscoll, and this is one of those reasons.
    However, in the book he co-wrote, Doctrine, he uses the word “hate” only 3 times, and all in relation to people feelings towards God, not God’s view towards man.

  • Rick

    I don’t disagree, but we need to be careful about the “false god” language.
    Driscoll, in his book Vintage Church, wrote: “Jesus is our revelation, and on the cross we see God’s wrath and love, justice and mercy, holiness and compassion revealed in perfection.”
    He holds to nuances, but sometimes does a poor job of communicating that.

  • Rick

    Then let’s dialogue with those who promote such views, express our concerns, advance common positions, and develop a deeper understanding of the challenging positions. Let’s not kick them off the green. Let’s go for unity.

  • Rick

    Correction: The book was Vintage Church.

  • Phil Miller

    I don’t have a problem with unity, but it has to be a two way street. I personally don’t see a lot of graciousness coming from the neo-Reformed position. It seems to me that they are the ones wanting to “kick others off the green”.

  • Rick

    I agree, although it seems that some in that camp are more open and willing than others.

  • Andrew Dowling

    “Anselm, etc… is out? Augustine is
    out because of his views on free will?”

    IMO yes. Augustine didn’t “add yet maintain the early Church’s understanding” . . his theology was a major departure in many ways from the beliefs of Christianity’s first 200 hundred years. Reformed theology is essentially Augustine on steroids. And I don’t think we should “restrict” all of our ideas about God to end at 200 a.d. but the post-Augustine theologies basically invent a whole other universe of Christianity’s purpose and message and then insists that its interpretation is infallible. Which is ridiculous.

    “the sermons in Acts were summary sermons of what Jesus preached, who He is, and what He did. 1 Cor. 15 is a even tighter summary.”

    I would disagree the sermons in Acts and 1 Cor. 15 summarize what Jesus preached (although there are traces of Jesus’s teachings throughout Paul’s letters and bits of Acts) and in terms of who and what, I don’t “reject it” but I do think it places too large an emphasis on the cosmic soteriology of the crucifixion and resurrection at the expense of Jesus’s Kingdom message. It makes sense that Paul emphasized the former because he never witnessed Jesus preach (and Acts, which IMO is a much later document than most evangelicals concede, is a Pauline-infused document through and through).

  • Rick

    Even the Regula Fidei (as well as other pre-creedal formulations), pre-Augustine, stresses what is found in the sermons in Acts and 1 Cor. 15.
    The focus on Jesus is the point of those statements. We are drawn in to a lifetime of learning about His kingdom and message.

  • Andrew Dowling

    Again, I didn’t say 1 Cor 15 or the Act sermons were “incorrect” or not apart of the Christian message (but I will contend that they don’t reflect Jesus’s earthly ministry) but in any case, the Neo-Reformed theology goes well beyond those creedal statements into territory that would be foreign to the authors of those early creedal statements.

  • Susan_G1

    I don’t think it’s a great idea to criticize Christian brothers and sisters in public as a rule; far better to take it up with the person. If that fails, take two or three and try again. That tendency, however, to keep quiet in the face of wrong-thinking (and acting/speaking), is perhaps what lies at the heart of the silence of our leaders concerning the Sovereign Grace Ministries scandal. (I would much rather it were that than trying to hang on to churches and power.) Sometimes, however, we need to be willing to speak out against what is wrong. I’m not Christ-like enough, but He certainly had no problems calling out in full view those with wrong theology.

    I have watched Mark Driscoll as one who watches a train-wreck; I am horrified by what I see: his rants about gays and effeminate men, the appearance on The View promoting his marriage book, etc. I am grateful to see someone courageous enough to dispute his claims in print.

  • kenny Johnson


  • Hamrick

    A Biblical response to this post.

  • Hamrick

    What would you say in reply to Platt’s excerpt?

  • Phil Miller

    Meh… Same old, same old…

    I don’t think PSA is the best way talk about the Gospel, but my main problem with presentations like this is that they seem to think that saying contradictory things about God is OK. God cannot love and hate us at the same time. God either loves sinners or he doesn’t. A kindergartner understands this.

    So if he’s trying to say “God did hate sinners until Jesus died on the cross, but now He’s cool”, that’s one thing (still kind of dumb), but he’s trying to have it both ways.

  • Andrew Dowling

    PSA is one of those things that preaches so well on an emotional level but if one actually thinks about it it’s full of so many logical fallacies as to make one’s head spin . . .

  • Tom F.

    Wow, in some ways an excellent sermon. Basically: we can’t deal with a God so loving and so forgiving because we project all of our anger and hate onto God. Fair enough. But sometimes these sort of sermons frustrate me just as much as Driscoll.

    The truth is, I became a Christian based around a sermon like this, and ever since, I’ve been trying to make sense of it.

    Thing is, when push comes to shove, its a bit thin. I feel like you can’t actually do anything with a sermon like this. By the time you get to actually laying out a theology, nearly everyone of any orthodox stripe will have shredded the basic gist of this with footnotes and addendums.

    And we orthodox folks will (joylessly) do this because we have to preserve a final judgment, where some are lost (never mind “hell” or whatever, “lost”, at least, is in the creed). Since some will be lost, how can Jason tell people not to worry? How does he know they won’t be lost?

    I don’t understand how one can hold all these ideas in their head:
    1.) I have no chance of falling from God’s love.
    2.) There are some others who will be lost from God’s love.
    3.) I am the same sort of person as anyone else.

    (I guess one can pull it off with a strong doctrine of election (i.e., remove 3): but “on the ground” I don’t think it can sustain. Clearly, there are many who subjectively thought they were “in” within scripture who were mistaken. A subjective sense of election just can’t really cut it if any substantial number of people can be mistaken about their elect state.)

    I don’t want to bash Jason (or celebrate Driscoll): I just get really frustrated with these sorts of sermons. They seem to offer peace, and then they feel like they can’t deliver for me, and finally I feel like there must be something wrong with me.

  • Eric Boersma

    The mental gymnastics you’re making in this post to justify what was apparently quite the dreadful sermon would win you a gold medal in the Olympics.

  • Eric Boersma

    The number of people who’ve gone to Mark Driscoll to attempt to get him to reconcile his theology with what God is actually like could fill a number of NFL stadiums.

    At a certain point, you just need to start standing up and saying “This guy does not speak for all of us, he is hateful and spiteful and you shouldn’t listen to him” from the top of every rooftop you can climb on.

  • What sort of “mental gymnastics”? Can you be more specific?

  • Robin

    I didn’t listen to the sermon but I think I know what it contains, I came from a fundamentalist Baptist background where this type of preaching was the norm. I have come a long way from that but sometimes I wonder why people who read the Bible come up with so different views of God. I think when you look at specific verses (especially in a literal translation) you can end up with these views. But if you look at the sweep of Scripture and place yourself in context to the text then you get a different insight.

  • Eric Boersma

    I’m going to make the same argument you did, but on a completely different topic. Football season is about to start, so I’ll use that.

    Let’s say that I’m not a fan of the Green Bay Packers. I enjoy watching football, but I really don’t like Green Bay, and by extension, their Quarterback, Aaron Rodgers. You hear me talking about how much I dislike watching Aaron Rodgers play, and you correctly draw the conclusion that I dislike Aaron Rodgers. Nothing wrong at this point.

    Where you become wrong is where you draw the conclusion that I am repulsed by football because of my dislike for Aaron Rodgers. That’s the logical step that you took in saying that Jesus was repulsed by sinfulness because Jesus was repulsed by one very specific subset of a specific sin.

    Edit: This doesn’t even mention the part where you literally say that you think Driscoll meant something that he never said, implied or otherwise hinted at. That’s a class of mental gymnastics completely separate.

  • Eric, thanks for clarifying. I believe you more or less made my point for me. In the same way it would not be accurate to say you love *all* football players, it would not be accurate to say Christ is *never* repulsed by the sinfulness of others. Both statements say more than they ought.

  • Hamrick

    But his words are completely grounded in Scripture.

    The Bible is clear God hates those who sin.

    Deuteronomy 18:12
    Deuteronomy 25:16

    Jesus absorbed the wrath of God due us. That’s the point of the Gospel. That Christ died to save us ultimately for the Glory of God.
    2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

    Christ’s death was a propitiation for us. We sinned therefore we deserved the wrath of God. If Christ didn’t come down to die and make a propitiation for us, WE would be in hell, not our sin, us. That is why we are called sinners. You can’t separate the sin from the sinner. It takes death. It took the death of Christ to absorb the just wrath of God toward sinners.

    Isaiah 53 clearly spells that out.

    “Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
    yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.

    “But he was wounded for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
    upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his stripes we are healed.

    “All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
    and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.”


    “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
    when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
    the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

    “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
    by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.

    Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
    because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
    yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

    Galations 2:20

    “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but
    Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by
    faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

    We have been crucified with Christ.

    Colossians 3:5-7

    “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
    On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them.”

    Read Colossians 3:1-17 as well for a broader picture.

    Romans 8:1-4

    “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

    No room left for pride when God has mercy on us by placing His wrath on His only begotten Son. We didn’t deserve it.

    That’s what makes God’s love so beautiful! Is that before the foundation of the world, He chose us sinners, who have done all the things God said He hates and deserve everlasting punishment for. In love, He predestined us for adoption as His sons, and it took Him pouring out His wrath on His beloved Son.

    Ephesians 1:3-10

    “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
    to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
    making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

    He does all this to the praise of His glorious grace.

    When God saves us He no longer sees our sin worthy of judgement, He sees us as His adopted sons because of the atoning work of Christ on the cross.

    Colossians 1:11-14

    “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified youe to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

  • Phil Miller

    It’s one thing to say Jesus absorbed the wrath for our sins, and if that’s what people actually believe they should act like it. On one hand they Jesus absorbed God’s wrath, but on the other hand they say it’s not enough because apparantly God is still ticked off. This is why I’m saying they want it both ways.

    To me it comes to this question. What is God’s stance toward humanity at the present time? Is His grace available to anyone or is that a lie? Or does He really hate some people at the present? Again, these shouldn’t be hard questions to answer, but for some reason neo-Reformed folks seem to not give straight answers to them.

  • Hamrick

    What is your stance on salvation? Who’s wrath do you think Christ absorbed?

    Isaiah 53:12

    “Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
    because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
    yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.”

    Please read that in its entirety.

  • thank you. I left the church a long time ago, in a world of pain, and that was like a very kind hand on my shoulder.

  • Phil Miller

    I knew this would end up with someone bringing up limited atonement… Sigh… I really don’t have the energy to debate it at the moment, but I’ll just say I consider it a near heretical doctrine.

    If you believe in limited atonement it seems that the best you can tell people is “God might love you, and Jesus may have died for your sins… Good luck!”

  • Hamrick

    I would suggest you read “All of Grace” by C.H. Spurgeon.

  • I stumbled on Finney’s distinctions between the love of God which is general and that which is particular and shared a little of what I learned on my blog. It may not be the same as Driscoll saying “hate,” but I think this is close to the same thing, at least if we give Mark a more charitable read.