Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Is this the finest sermon you have heard?

My pal a preacher and theologian and author of the best eschatology book I know listened to the sermon about 'Heaven and Hell' by Mark Driscoll that I sent him and then posted it on his facebook wall with these words:

...can I encourage you to listen to this recent talk by Mark Driscoll on heaven & hell - in some measure replying to Bell's new book Love Wins. I think its perhaps the finest sermon I have ever heard - we are on holy ground with this one.

It has prompted quite fierce debate on his wall as you might imagine and I thought I would post some of his comments in defence of why he posted it.

Perfection is a predicate of divinity so I dont expect perfection in any sermon from anyone. And yes, this is not the finest homilietical masterpiece and yes some statements are left open ended. But as a biblically grounded, heart felt, prophetic word from a man ablaze - I thought it incredible. He didnt "name n shame" - he let the text talk. It was not a lecture from a theologian - it was a sermon from a man on fire.

I think Driscoll at times has been provocative to the point of offensive - but this was not a point scoring exercise -here was a different Driscoll, a deeper, a weightier Driscoll. It was a profound proclamation from a man who'd set himself on fire and we watched him burn in the Holy Spirit. I didn't even agree with everything, indeed, my book on eschatology certainly shows I have more "hope" for those who've never heard the gospel but look to God and love the needy to be "included" in Christ. But it was anointed - if only our seminaries and pulpits across this land had men and women with the same fire in their souls, the same love for scripture and love for the lost.

fascinating responses - as always, Driscoll divides :) One of my most trusted friends, evangelical/charismatic background - now broader, a professional theologian, widely experienced in church ministry etc etc has just written me and told me he thought it the worst sermon and worst violation of the teaching office he'd heard in a very long time. It incensed him!! So i'm asking myself why I was so profoundly moved by it. I guess, 1)"Content" (in the main I agreed with him and some of it I thought he handles brilliantly) 2)"Courage" to say things uncompromisingly, hard things we dont like to hear in our post modern politically correct age, 3)"Conviction" he told us what he thought, he didn't mince his words, no "on the one hand on the other"; 4) "Charism" - I thought he was as anointed by the Spirit as any minister I'd seen in a long time. Im not simply talking about the power of his rhetoric or the bullishness of his alpha male ego - I sensed God speaking to me through him, pleading with me to plead with people to come to Christ, in John the Baptists' words to "flee from the wrath that is coming" Matt3:7.

I listened to the talk again early this morning and again, was profoundly moved. My pal's criticisms were over the handling of the specific texts by Driscoll, making them carry more weight than my pal thinks the texts employed can hold. He believed his exegesis was eisegesis. He also thought the style was manipulative, affected and bullying - he's not heard Driscoll before :) He also thought Driscoll made definitive statements without supporting them, and rejected other positions without showing how/why they were wrong. And, on one level, I think my pal has a point. But this was not a measured seminar or a lecture or a book chapter going point for point - it was prophetic challenge, a marker in the sand, a rebuke to creeping error, a trumpet sound - as Driscoll said, he was shouting house on Fire. And it was certainly more faithful to scripture than some of the latest published offerings on the subject of heaven n hell. As I listened again, I realised it was the last 10mins which really hit me, when Driscoll seemed anointed and it really precipitated a response in my heart. I haven't been so moved by a sermon in year - and i've given and heard several thousand. But this one got me!

If we took the plain meaning of scripture and the long held belief of the church: that for those who dont trust in Christ, a terrible destiny for their sin awaits after death, we would live more righteously, pray more passionately, witnessmore eagerly, invest in missions more sacrificially and not sleep so easily. We would certainly not construct God in our image and posit on him a mushy sentimental love which overrides his revealed holiness, righteousness, justice and wrath. Questions like "what about the eternal destiny of those who've never heard the gospel" aren't directly addressed in Scripture - but we are directly told that "all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory - and the wages of sin is death". We are told that those who believe wont be condemned, but those who dont believe already stand condemned". We are told to escape from the wrath that is coming". Whilst we may "hope" that the benefits of God's Son's death for sin will be extended beyond the narrow limits of our little little fraternity, we are not entitled to use this as an notion to avoid our responsibility to witness. Words cannot bear a greater reality than that which they convey. Heaven is far more glorious than words allow our minds to imagine. Hell is far more terrible than. Driscoll understands this. You may not like his style, his vocabulary, his beliefs, or his shirts:) but he is seeking to be faithful to Scripture, his conclusions are the obvious implications of Scripture, even if he doesnt demonstrate this , and Driscoll may not "in this semron" tie up all the lose ends and demonstrate how he got to those conclusions, but I believe, he's right!

My contribution was a Piper quote I  read recently that seemed to speak to the heart of the debate.

"IS NOT OUR most painful failure in the pastorate the inability to weep over the unbelievers in our neighborhoods and the carnal members of our churches? A great hindrance to our ministry is the gulf between our Biblical understanding and the corresponding passions of our hearts. The glorious and horrible truths which thunder through the Bible cause only a faint echo of fear and ecstasy in our hearts. We take a megaton of truth upon our lips and speak it with an ounce of passion. Do we believe in our hearts what we espouse with our lips?
I know for myself that in order to be a true shepherd and not a hireling, in order to grieve over the straying lambs, and in order to summon with tears the wild goats, I must believe in my heart certain terrible and wonderful things. If I am to love with the meek, humble, tender, self-effacing heart of Christ, I must feel the awful and glorious truths of Scripture. Specifically:
•      I must feel the truth of hell—that it exists and is terrible and horrible beyond imaginings forever and ever. “These will go away into eternal punishment” (Matt. 25:46) . . .
•     I must feel the truth that once I was as close to hell as I am to the chair I am sitting on—even closer. Its darkness, like vapor, had entered my soul and was luring me down. Its heat had already seared the skin of my conscience. Its views were my views. I was a son of hell (Matt. 23:15), a child of the Devil (John 8:44) and of wrath (Eph. 2:3). I belonged to the viper’s brood (Matt. 3:7), without hope and without God (Eph. 2:12). I must believe that just as a rock climber, having slipped, hangs over the deadly cliff by his fingertips, so I once hung over hell and was a heartbeat away from eternal torment. I say it slowly, eternal torment!
. . . If I do not believe in my heart these awful truths—believe them so that they are real in my feelings—then the blessed love of God in Christ will scarcely shine at all. The sweetness of the air of redemption will be hardly detectable. The infinite marvel of my new life will be commonplace. The wonder that to me, a child of hell, all things are given for an inheritance will not strike me speechless with trembling humility and lowly gratitude.
John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals : A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 115-16.John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals : A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 113-15."
(H/T Adrian Warnock)
Thoughts or comments?


Chris61803 said...

Thanks for this Dave - can you confirm for us which Driscoll sermon this is talking about? I'd love to get a listen.

David Cooke said...

There is a link on the post but this is it


tallandrew said...

I've just listened to this today after reading your recommendation so many months ago. I agree - it is a very fine sermon. Again, not because I agree on every point, but he was clear about his reason for saying these things, he didn't point the finger at Rob Bell (which would have been very tempting, I'm sure), and he handled some of the questions excellently. I'm not always a fan of Driscoll and his style or comments, and I disagree with many thinngs he has said about men and women and about UK preachers(!), but this is certainly the best sermon I have heard from him.

He had a constant refrain: "My job is to tell you the truth, your job is to make a decision". Clear and challenging and I pray that many have made a decision on the back of his words.

thanks for directing me to it.