So apparently Mark Driscoll recently went on a rant that was just silly, ignorant, and flat-out stupid. Frank Turk as usual does a masterful job of dissecting the absurdity. It's worth a read. Pack a lunch.
Now, out of that whole mess, there's one particular argument I'd like to take a closer look at. The discussion regards the issue of cessationism, the idea that miraculous spiritual gifts ceased with the end of the apostolic period. After effectively calling the vast multitudes of Christians throughout the ages who've held this position the same as atheists and deists, Driscoll backs it up with this:
"So within that God's not really speaking, God's not really working and the supernatural gifts are not in operation; Healing, revelation, speaking in tongues, those kinds of things they are over in the God-used-to box. Even though I was reading this book that said he was the same yesterday, today and forever."
The 'book' he read that said that is of course Hebrews, specifically 13:8. His argument seems to be that based on this verse, if God has ever done something some way, He must forever keep doing the same thing the same way.
The book of Hebrews has 303 verses. This attempt to use this verse is so spectacularly awful, you have to wonder if he's ever read any of the other 302.
Honestly, if you were going to make this argument, is there a worse book you could possibly use than Hebrews? OK, maybe Revelation might be up there with it, but Hebrews is about as bad as it can get for this position. It's hard to find a portion of the book which doesn't fight against this silly argument. Consider:
Hebrews 8:13 - "In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." Though God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, he apparently had no problem replacing the obsolete old covenant with a new, better one.
Hebrews 7:11ff - Remember the Levitical priesthood? The unchanging God gladly replaced it with the superior Melchizedekian priesthood of Jesus.
Hebrews 10:1-18 - Based on Driscoll's argument, we should still be worthlessly sacrificing bulls and goats, and verses 9 and 18 are practically atheistic or deistic.
Hebrews 9:11ff - That old tabernacle and associated stuff? Gone. Buh bye. Replaced with the heavenly, better versions. But I thought God was the same yesterday, today, and forever...?
So yeah, the meat of the book is all about the old and obsolete being replaced with the new and better. What else do we find?
Hebrews 10:19-20 - "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh..." Whoa, wait a second, what's all this "new and living way" stuff? I thought God was unchanging!
Hebrews 3:7-11 - "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says..." What does he say? A long scripture quote! Interesting, isn't it? It's almost as if Driscoll's larger argument, that if you don't believe in perpetually ongoing fresh revelation you believe God is silent, is completely and utterly demolished by this single passage. But that would be a silly thought, that God speaks through scripture, AKA His Word.
Oh, how about one more? Let's look at the first couple verses of chapter 2, with my comments in brackets.
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels [the Mosaic law, Acts 7:53] proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It [the gospel] was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard [the apostles], while God also bore witness [to what? the gospel proclamation of 'those who heard' Jesus!] by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
Folks, this is perhaps the #1 cessationist passage regarding the purpose of the miraculous gifts. It very explicitly ties them to the initial proclamation of the gospel by those who heard it directly from Jesus.
So this book, basically from beginning to end, is opposed to the point Driscoll tried to make from one poorly-applied verse. That leaves us with a couple options.
(1) He simply doesn't know any better. The pastor is so unfamiliar with this magnificent tome of Christology that he has no idea how contrary his point is to the central themes of the book.
(2) He knows better, but is fine with completely misusing scripture to make a minor rhetorical point.
(3) I'm so completely far off in my understanding of these fairly plain and straightforward passages from Hebrews that I should really just give up blogging, teaching, or even commenting on scripture until I get my mind right.
(4) ???? I dunno, help me out here.
I'm fairly sure it's not 3 - otherwise, I wouldn't have written this all. 1 and 2 are both simply ghastly options, completely unfitting for a pastor, and really could disqualify one from eldership at all. So someone please tell me it's 4, and figure out what that could possibly be. 'Coz I'm kinda stumped.
4 hours ago